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Taking a Step Back

August 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Courtesy of BJ Jones Photography

Ever wonder why we use this expression this way? I know, you’re asking “What way?”

I say, “Every way.”

Think about it. What is a “step back”? Something leaps onto the path we’re walking. We step back; from startlement, fright, consternation, you-name-it.

We make use of this step to re-evaluate, to make a split-second decision whether to fight or flee. We need to know what we’re facing before making a leap of our own. This may be our only chance consciously to decide.

This stepping-back behavior for decision making permeates nearly every corner of our lives. We may or may not realize it at the time. On some occasions we don’t have the leisure to recognize the process or the maneuver.

“Let’s take a step back and look at this situation.” How many business meetings have paused after a similar statement while those in charge review options, repercussions of those options, or the people, places, and procedures involved in those options?

I dare say that few meetings get to an end without some variant of these words, especially interdepartmental meetings. “Shall we table this and regroup after everyone’s had a chance to take a good long look at it?”

See what I mean?

The question of pausing to consider plays a role in individual lives as well. It can be as minor as “cantaloupe or honey dew” while in the produce aisle of the grocery store or as monumental as “chemo or radiation.” Each decision event has impact; large or small.

“Shall we make it illegal for citizens to grow some of their own food?”

This pause has happened–is happening in Washington–at least according to the media. I don’t bring this up as a political statement, but rather as a demonstration of how vast an impact such a question—such a pause for consideration—can make. One question can force an entire country’s population to reconsider many things impacting their lives.

You might ask why this is on my mind right now. That’s a valid question.

I’m in pause mode because I made a major shift in my mindset throughout this summer. What and how I write has shifted; not because I didn’t like what I was writing before, but because I like writing in this new way much better. My approach to both life and writing was in need of an evaluation.

With the shift in my writing, my attitude about life and how I was living also shifted. That change warranted a continued attitude adjustment in my writing. I got to that old “chicken and the egg” portion of life.

Priorities became more pronounced. Life paths suddenly had the full light of purpose shined upon them. How could I not stop to consider or ponder my direction?

The Step became necessary to fully appreciate where I’ve come from and where I’m going. More importantly, I discovered some of the why’s in my life, and those always necessitate a pause. Hence, I arrived at this doorstep.

I have no clue where I’ll travel on this new path. I’m only sure that the ride will be memorable. I’m looking forward to new discoveries.

With Two Voices, One Song I expand horizons and understandings. With my poetry I explore new audiences while enjoying those who’ve willingly been here all along. With my newly acquired thrill of flash fiction I can grow faster along channels of fantasy.

Claudsy’s Blog and Claudsy’s Calliope remain corner stones which anchor my new forays into the writing experience. I’m so grateful for all of those who’ve encouraged me to explore, whether through poetry and photos, flash fiction, or other genres. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow as a writer.

As far as I know, I’m not moving out of these digs here. I’m merely refining the edges, smoothing out the throw rugs, and adding the occasional knick-knack.

Until we meet here again in a few days, a bientot,

Claudsy

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Flash Fiction Day

July 5, 2012 12 comments

Flash Fiction Prompt

Each day a lovely little website referred to as Flashy Fiction offers a writing prompt to a photo. Today’s prompt was a two-fer because it’s been combined with Friday’s prompt.

I had to do one for today. The opportunity was too good and the prompt too right-up-my-alley. So, this is what I wrote for the photo above. I hope you enjoy it. And please, stop by to see all the offerings on Flashy Fiction. You’ll be glad you did.

The Light of Meaning

Within me grows a tension I cannot place. What could cause this sensation of impending destiny, which perches like a vulture just out of visual range? Does my breath come short and quick because of unexpected claustrophobia at the looks of this canyon before me?

My friends don’t seem to notice how silence surrounds this place, how the scent of dust carries with it a hint of the ancient. Their shouts fall short of my space, leaving me in a personal bell jar inside these striped red walls.

Illusions of undulating Dune’s Shai-Hulud flash across my mind. I wonder if this was how Paul felt the first time he waited for that beast to rise from the desert floor. Would there be such a ritual for me to perform for the coming secret to reveal itself? And how do I know there is a secret?

Footsteps echo. Shock sweeps through me. I recognize them as my own, though I don’t recall moving into the inner recesses of a side chamber. Dim illumination draws me forward, faster as hesitation drops away. I must know this thing that would be.

Twists and turns, dried water channels of exquisite sandstone, bring me, at last, to the chamber. I burst forth from the passage, panting in excitement and terror. Finally, I see what has haunted my vague dreams for longer than memory reaches. It waits; one glorious beam of pure light.

Within that circle of illumination is the future I’ve tried to escape from and now run to in a sprint of desperation. Could my heart beat any harder and remain caged within my body? Could my responding body contain so much light?

A jerk, like that of a tether drawn forward suddenly, pulls me into the beam of sunlight that squeezes through a tiny overhead opening. My head arches back. My chest swells and rises, as if I’m a mere marionette and someone has yanked my string upward. My mind is filled with music, sweet and gentle, as it ebbs and surges through the channels of my soul.

Home comes calling. I have been away longer than I can imagine right now. My mind registers the knowledge of a previous, though, different life elsewhere; a knowledge that explains so much that has confused me during this life.

The music and light fill me with the purpose I’ve been seeking. All is clear now. I have come this far to learn that only one act of mine is necessary for my life to have meaning for this world; to learn that with that act, I have completed my purpose here and can go home again.

Is there any better bliss than such sure knowledge?

Flash Fiction is Everywhere

June 25, 2012 2 comments

If you’re looking for a lunchtime break with a little fiction of a different type, head over to Two Voices, One Song. I’ve posted a new bit of Flash Fiction there this morning titled “Choices.”

Later today, I’ll have a new, regular post here with pics, but I thought I’d give you all a heads-up about a quick read. Hope you enjoy it. While you’re there, and if you have time, take a look around. There’s plenty to see.

Here’s the link.

http://2voices1song.com/2012/06/25/886/

See you all in a bit. Have a great afternoon, peeps.

Claudsy

June 10, 2012 8 comments

Good Morning, all. I’m excited this morning. A bit of shameless promotion here.

 

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

My Science Fiction Fantasy short story“Destiny’s Decision” was released this morning on Ether Books for download onto iPhones.

 

 

 

It’s a powerful little story that I think you’ll enjoy. To get the app and the story, please look here. Enjoy!

http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/id362070951?mt=8

 

 

 

Have a terrific and relaxing day, peeps. Give your bodies engine a reason to feel good tomorrow and your mind a reason to surge forward with creativity.

 

A bientot,

 

Claudsy

 

It’s a Cluster Out There

June 3, 2012 14 comments

Today, I want to show you how many writersgo about clustering ideas for

Blank Mind Map–Clustering

story development.

The process is simple. Daydreams draw on it all the time. Draw a circle, square, whatever you like in the center of a piece of paper. Go ahead, draw it. Inside that shape, put a word or group of words designating a specific something; desire, idea, plan, objective, goal, or whatever.

For our purposes here, I’ve put “Main Character—Isabel” in my circle. Now, all I’m going to do is let my mind provide everything it can think of that could be related to this character named “Isabel” and draw a line radiating from the circle to the new word. “short” “dark hair” “tanned skin” “Speaks with an accent” “watery eyes” “clubbed foot” “Orphaned” “City dweller” Hates mice” “Can’t read” “generous nature” “hears voices” “Knows the king” and on and on until I fill the page.

I do this exercise quickly. (Most of the time I do this on the computer with my eyes closed.) I don’t stop to ponder any of my associations or to question where any came from. I only write whatever word comes to mind as quickly as possible to make way for the next word.

When I look back at what I’ve written, I will find anomalies. In the example above, some items are capitalized and some aren’t. Why? What is it about the ones with caps that make them important enough to warrant a capital?

Isabel speaks with an accent. Where does she come from if that is true within this story?

Isabel is an orphaned city dweller who can’t read. Why is it critical that I know this about this character?

Isabel knows the king. How does she know the king? Now that’s helpful and important. So, why are the other pieces important, too?

Without answering these questions, I’ll move on to the plot cluster to see if I can find answers there.

Plot Idea Cluster center–(Isabel’s story) “Taken from the king’s household during infancy” “Related to the king” “lives in the weaver’s quarter” “indentured to Master Weaver Challen” “Doesn’t go out in the daytime” “King has ordered a celebration for his son’s birthday” “City faces a dread disease”

Lots of capitals here. Let’s see what I have now. Isabel, disabled with a clubbed foot, lives in the capital city where the king has just ordered the celebration of his son’s birthday and at a time when the metropolis faces a dread disease. An indentured person to Master Weaver Challen, Isabel lives in the weaver’s quarter and doesn’t venture out during the day. How she was stolen from the king’s household during infancy is unclear as yet or what blood relationship she has to the king remains a mystery. Why she was stolen may be a much more important question to answer.

As you can see, clustering works well to find interesting characters and plots. What is done with these ideas determines the final story. More clustering will come, I’m sure. There’re still items to explore like setting, environment (social and physical,) other characters, etc.

Each writer has a unique way to play with ideas. Each has a different perspective on clustering and how it’s used. And each decides for her/himself how deep into it to go. The plot cluster above can be an effective part of a story synopsis, which is critical for the writer. That’s why I’ve come to enjoy them.

There you have it. One technique that’s pliable, friendly, and recyclable. Give it a spin if you don’t use clustering on a regular basis. See if it can work for you.

Tell me your take on this technique and about your experience with it.

Until later, a bientot,

Claudsy

Happy to be Sad

May 19, 2012 6 comments
Writers Museum

Writers Museum (Photo credit: estorde)

For the past few weeks I’ve been part of a group that started out calling itself SAD (Submission A Day.) The name has since changed to J2BL. Strange, isn’t it?

The point was for each member to submit a piece of work each day, to always strive toward publication in whatever venue desired. We have member writers of all sorts, and we’ve had great success in our latest endeavor. We recognize that some cannot manage that kind of time table and it’s okay that they only submit once a week, a month, or whenever they can.

We cheer each other on, congratulating the member for each submission, and cheering but supporting when a rejection comes in, because it means that the writer sent something out, took a chance, and is willing to do so again. (We’ve decided to use rejection slips as wallpaper in our office areas to stimulate new growth in our craft.)

We share resources, new venues and their needs, successes (that’s when we celebrate), and all other aspects of this industry we love and can’t live without. Along the way, we help each other. Ours isn’t a competition. It’s more a team effort where each team player is given whatever is needed to succeed. When a member gets an acceptance notification from a publication, it validates all of the members.

In the past week or so, our efforts have steadily come climbed into the higher acceptance zone, which gives everyone a boost in morale. Sure there are still rejections. Those will never go away, and I’ve received my fair share since we started the group. That hasn’t and won’t change.

What has changed is an attitude toward the entire submission process. Whether we’re talking poetry or prose, letting go of a finished piece is never easy for many writers. Each piece is a child. The writer knows, that for that child to be appreciated fully, it must be allowed to roam the outside world. The submission segment of the writing process, for the writer, amounts to putting her small, innocent baby onto the school bus for the first time.

Once the writer has made a habit of seeing a baby onto the school bus often enough, the need to hold onto a piece is broken. And this habit is what J2BL is all about. This is a mechanism to create a submissions habit.

If the past few weeks indicate nothing else, it shows us that we can work as a team to see to the success of each member; to support each other with resources, confidence, and camaraderie. In a world where the term “It’s every man for himself” rings through the streets, our method seems so much better.

I hope for a time when everyone can call such a group their own, to experience the unique closeness of our group, most of whom have never met face to face. I hope that everyone can have someone in their corner, cheering them on, and patting their shoulders when success isn’t instantaneous. Most of all, I hope that everyone learns that life doesn’t have to be a competition, with winners and losers.

This last week, I’ve submitted poetry, essays, and short stories. Today more poetry will go out. I’ve had a short story accepted, and not heart yet on the others. Editor response times vary greatly. Tomorrow I’ll send out something else. Online submissions allow for any day, any time. And for the first time, I’m enjoying the process and the pace. That’s saying something for a writer.

Have a great weekend, all. Relax, if you can. Laugh and enjoy the people you’re with. A bientot,

Claudsy

Character Building from Hurdles

May 10, 2012 9 comments
choices

choices (Photo credit: WhatiMom)

During the past few days on Claudsy’s Blog, discussions have risen about many issues. Definitions and roles began this journey of the week. A killer interview with Walt Wojtanik kicked over a massive rock to cause a landslide of hits and comments for both Walt and me.

I announced a guest blog that I’d done over in Pat McDermott’s kitchen, and took on questions about illiteracy in America yesterday. Sort of looks like I’ve been spinning the wheel of subject chances, doesn’t it?

The idea of subject chances sums it up very well. Claudsy’s Blog has always been a morphing kind of place. Like most people, I have whims. At present I’m redefining parts of blogs, types of writing projects, and future possibilities. I’m exploring both the writing world and myself.

My explorations have created a need to jump hurdles of my own making. Trained as a sociologist, with degrees in psychology, etc., my vision of the world tends to be a bit more esoteric than some people’s. I can’t look at something and see only one aspect. Too many factors go into the overall impact of each subject’s aspects.

Character building, for instance, by my current definition, refers to characters created for my stories. Developing a teenager for a short story or novel, as one example, requires knowing how a child is likely to live in a specific region, with specific types of parents, living with specific limitations, boundaries, etc. Every good writer builds a character with care and craftsmanship.

Finding character traits and circumstances doesn’t always take vast amounts of time. This afternoon a story came across my news feed, which carried one of the strongest characters I’ve seen in a very long time. The young lady in question was perfect for an idea that I’d been working on for a while.

A 15 year-old girl suffers from a rare, debilitating disease that has determined her entire life. She cannot eat as others do. A combination of an autoimmune disease and severe food allergies forbids her to eat anything by mouth other than potatoes. Sounds fictional, doesn’t it?

Her hurdle of choice is to become a professional chef. This lovely young woman wants to cook for those who can enjoy the food she’s denied. And she’s well on her way.

Talk about character. This is the type of model that makes for exquisite story characters. They are real, living and breathing in the world.

You might ask what kind of story can be built around such information. Here are some of the plotlines already under consideration.

  • YA—female lead enters cook-off where one of the requirements has the chef sampling her own developed recipe concoctions
  • YA—female lead suffers from condition which forbids eating—must come to terms with the social ramifications of the condition
  • Woman in late twenties who’s never gone out on a dinner date of any kind finds herself in a mandatory situation where she must attend such a function—perhaps work-related–and she either eats and becomes violently ill; or refuses to eat but must explain why to the other attendees; or she attends and explains her situation and proceeds to show everyone how she eats through a feeding tube. I know, drastic but doable
  • YA—female lead who develops a close friendship with a boy, and then must disclose her situation when she won’t eat his birthday cake at a party.
  • Additional scenarios can make for uncounted possibilities

Choosing the most viable scenario for the proper market is the key to succeeding. If this type of character is used wisely, several stories could come from it without having to change many of the social details. I would change quite a few of the personal details for reasons of sensitivity. Believe it or not, I don’t like exposing real people to unwarranted scrutiny.

The original story, I believe, was released so that other possible sufferers of this often misdiagnosed condition could check into its possible connection to them. I have nothing but the highest respect for this young lady and the struggle that she faces in coming years.

“Characters” like her keep my faith in human kind from sinking into the abyss of cynicism. I thank the heavens each time I find such a model for some of my characters. The next time you read a book with a character in it who keeps flashing through your mind for days or weeks afterward, stop for a moment and contemplate. Who was the model for this unforgettable character; what was the whole of her/his life?

Share your thoughts on this question of character hurdles and what they represent. Comment with your ideas, methods, and formulas.

Until then, a bientot,

Claudsy

For the story of Samantha Pecoraro and EoE (eosinophils of the esophagus), follow the link below.

http://news.yahoo.com/teen-eosinophils-esophagus-food-forbidden-142642060–abc-news-wellness.html