Monday, August 30, 2010

Fairy Tale Blogfest!!!

So... Rebecca sent me the link for Emily White's Fairy Tale Blogfest on Friday, knowing I'd totally have a BLAST writing a twisted fairy tale flash fiction.  Of course, I didn't get around to catching up on email until this afternoon and the blogfest ends TODAY.  So, without further ado, here is my entry... at 11-something PM... hope it still counts!


“You don’t have to do this.” 

My eyes flicker toward the clockwork detailing of Damon’s mechanical legs, at rest in his wheelchair.  Though I remind myself quickly to bring my gaze back to his face, the misstep has already registered in his taut mouth.

“It’s not about me, Fauna.”

How do I tell my brother, who has already lost half his natural body in the WOLF War, that sorry as I am for the way it has crumpled his body and soul, it really isn’t about him? 

“It’s about the book, Damon.” 

I don’t explain further.  As I tighten my bootstraps, my entire person constricts.  There is no room for excess clothing, excess baggage, and so my words naturally limit themselves.  Besides, he already knows.  In fact, he holds the book gingerly on his lap, its frail binding flaking at his touch.

Neither of us opens the book anymore.  We haven’t in years, since Papa passed away, leaving Damon and me alone.  Even in our youth, we knew the day would come that we would fight to defend the book.  Papa spent every spare moment teaching us language, movement, how to listen, when to strike.  We are well prepared to carry on the battle in his absence.

“Hide it.”

These are my last words to him. He nods as I pull the red cape across my shoulders.  It is much like the one in the book, the one meant to help a watchful mother keep an eye on her playful child as she wandered the forest.  It is with grim irony that I fasten mine as camouflage.

I step out of the cottage, knowing that I will not see Damon again.  I close my eyes and press my fingertips upon the lids, in part to imprint his face into my memory, and in part a natural reaction to the smoke. I push the door shut, tense fingers gripping the latch until it fastens soundlessly.  I back away and survey the cottage, satisfied that it is completely hidden by thatch.  Thatch that will burn if the fires come.  We’ve been over this.  He knows where to hide the book in the metal storage box so that it won’t be consumed along with him.

The soles of my boots are made of soft leather, but the dryness of the forest assures that every twig I step upon snaps like bone.  Although I’ve practiced this, my eyes still tear at the smoke and the nearness of flame.  Lovers’ Forest burns around me, the scarlets and crimsons, bricks and burgundies of my clothing hide me well.

I travel for an hour, my throat singed, my back wet with perspiration.  In the book, these woods were green.  Princes and princesses held secret rendezvous here while animals masked their footprints with leaves and acorn tops.  Alliances were formed here, witches betrayed, poisoned apples shined to seduce foolish girls.  Wombs were filled on moss carpets, dragons slain by petite princes. There was evil in the world, to be sure.  But there was respite.  There was balance.  There were wolves, but today’s WOLFs, Watchers Over Lovers’ Forest, were nowhere to be seen.  Perhaps they were already here, waiting. Perhaps not.

I stop against a tree.  The WOLFs will find me if I linger, their tiny metal scanners gathering as much information as they can before tearing me to shreds.  My head is spinning, dehydration setting in.  I cannot carry water, Damon has warned.  I must be as light as possible.  He has told me where flasks are stashed, but I can’t remember.  I wanted him to draw maps on me, but he said that if the WOLFs find me, they will get too much information.  If I die, any resistance knowledge must die with me.  I know this, but thirst scrambles my senses.  Although he has detailed it for me night after night, I cannot imagine how he survived nine days in the forest.

Nine days.  The number nine materializes behind my eyelids, a circle and a slant.  I focus on the shape, the simplicity of its form, and remember that I must not allow the haze of thirst to cloud my senses.  I begin to count slowly.  One.  Two…

Four days later, I stumble toward the large tree.  I think it is the one in Damon’s stories.  The one in the book.  The one with the hidden door.  I cannot remember the code words.  I cannot remember my name.  I know only the numbers that I have repeated in my head to keep out the smoke.  I reach seven, as I have countless times, and I cannot remember the next.  I fall to the ground without the smallest idea how to open the tree.  So close.

It is only moments before the WOLFs arrive.  I hear their scuttling across barren leaves.  They poke, prod.  I cannot remember what they are looking for.  If I want them to find it.  I feel a sudden tearing pain as my leg is sliced neatly from hip to knee.  Warmth pours out and I wonder if it is water, if they will let me drink.

Moments before the world goes black, the spiderlike creatures are ripped from my limbs.  Voices pierce the blur.

“Is it Fauna?  Is it her?”

“It is her.  Can you hear me?”

My eyes open but my vision is so blurred by pain and waves of heat from the  encroaching flames, I cannot see. I feel my arm being lifted, my hand spread, my fingers straightened, and a burst of clarity graces my mind.  Under the third fingernail, the chip is embedded.  Only Grandmother would know to look there immediately.  Grandmother, the one Papa told stories about.  I have found her.  I have delivered Damon’s message about where the book is hidden to the leader of the resistance.  I wonder for a moment if my brother is still alive.  I close my parched eyes to the smoldering forest and join him if he is not.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yay! Mockingjay!

Got my copy (with free tattoo, lol), now just have to get the kiddies into bed...

Thank goodness school doesn't start until next week! :D

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mockingjay TOMORROW!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sunday Scribblings #225 - View

(I had such fun with Rebecca's flash fiction contest that I scooted back over to Laini Taylor's Sunday Scribblings for another topic.  This week's topic is "view".  Anyone can post - writing, a photograph, whatever the topic inspires in you!  If you haven't stopped over there, it's great for flexing those writing muscles!)

"A room with a view," I commanded to the woman behind the desk as I rifled through my carry-on.  Two larger pieces of luggage waited behind me.  I was tired from a long flight and I just wanted to get into my room, soak in the tub for a while, and collapse into the deep sleep necessary to clear my mind for the next day's presentations.  Established clients, my first time pitching to them - it was clearly a test, and I was determined to pass with flying colors.

The receptionist slid a set of card keys across the counter in a small cardstock envelope, her eyes still trained on her computer.  "Room 215.  Up Elevator B and to your right, the room is on the left."  Her French manicure gestured in the direction of the elevator.  I nodded, thanking her, and in that moment it occurred to me that with her navy blazer lined in red piping and neat bun at the nape of her neck, she could easily have been one of the flight attendants who had herded me cross country on the red eye last night.  I considered the logic behind the "service personnel look", and assumed that the reasoning was that she was there to attend to my needs, not draw my unneeded attention.  The thought was lost a moment later as I pulled my luggage toward the elevator, the carry-on bumping uncomfortably into the small of my back.  I was relieved that no one tried to join me for the short ride and no pimply teenage bellboys clamored for my tip.

The card key slid in easily and I propped the door open with one foot as I rolled my bags inside.  The heavy door swung to a quiet close on its own, and I smiled.  I appreciate small details - well oiled hinges, muffled fixtures - the types of things that are supposed to go unnoticed but make one's stay calmer.  I am willing to pay extra to stay in places like this.  This attention to detail that serves me so well in advertising - noticing things purposely meant to go unnoticed but that still tweak an experience - is, unfortunately, not something I can turn off outside the office.  Loud hallways and dripping faucets are dealbreakers for me.

I stepped into the bathroom to the right and flicked on the light.  Everything seemed to be in order.  I turned off the light and moved into the larger room, admiring the thoughtful touch of fresh irises in a marbled glass vase on the nightstand.  The room was done in neutral colors, so as not to grow dated too quickly, and it maintained an equally professional and comfortable tone.  The ivory curtains were drawn across large, commanding windows, and I moved through the room to open them before even removing my shoes.  As my fingers pulled the chain and the curtains parted smoothly, I breathed in, as though inhaling the view of the Capitol Building that the online travel broker had promised.

Instantly, my breath caught in my throat.  The large white dome I expected was nowhere to be seen, and instead I had a breathtaking view of an alley and the entrance to the parking garage of another hotel. 

"Oh, no."  My head shook with distaste and my eyes scanned the room for the phone.  "No, no, no."  I dialed '0' for the front desk and half perched on the window ledge while the ethereal hold music pleaded with my frayed nerves. Thankfully, my bags were still fully packed and at the door, but the very idea of more time coming between me and a pillow irritated me.  I recognized the stewardess/receptionist's lilting voice and wondered for a moment if she had been trained to talk that way or if it were her natural cadence.  In a split second, I imagined her peeling off this light condescention with her uniform and collapsing onto a worn couch next to her husband, leaving this persona behind the desk.

I glanced out the window again and my eyes were drawn to some movement in a rusted green dumpster that sat at an unflattering angle to the hotel across the alley, resembling bad modern art. "Yes, this is Karen Madsen, Room 215."  My voice remained even, commanding.  I, too, had a voice reserved for my profession, one that refused to rise at the end of sentences, thereby turning them into unintended questions.

"Yes, Ms. Madsen.  What can I do for you?" I imagined this was tiresome for her, the phone call as soon as a guest enters his or her room, her brain flipping through the rolodex of possible issues - not enough towels, an allergy to irises, a favorite drink missing from the mini bar.

"I requested a room with a view.  A view of the Capitol.  Not of another hotel's valets sneaking a smoke by the garage." I hadn't actually seen that, but I have learned that the more specific a complaint made, the more quickly it gets rectified.  After a slight pause and the quiet clicking of computer keys, the receptionist responded,

"Certainly, Ms. Madsen.  There must have been an error in the reservation.  I've made a note.  Please remain in the room and I shall send a bellhop to escort you to your new room momentarily.  Is there anything else I can help you with?" 

My brain said, yes, please also make a note that it is improper to end a sentence with a preposition, but my mouth said, "No, that will be much appreciated.  Thank you."

I settled the phone into its cradle, noting that it must be theft and guest incompetence that prevents hotels from updating to cordless phones.  Settling back onto the window ledge, I scanned the alley once again for movement.  A bird startled out of the dumpster as I caught a shadow behind it.  A small frame, not large enough to be an adult, skittered around to the front of the dumpster, looked both ways and up toward the windows of the hotel across the alley.  Small hands beckoned a larger figure, who next appeared from the shadows. 

The smaller figure lifted its arms and the larger figure, its shape defining it as a man, gently held the child at the waist and hoisted it into the open dumpster.  I could feel frown lines form between my eyes as I watched the child disappear.  Soon I watched the child's hand appear up through the open dumpster holding what looked like discarded bedsheets.  The man took them from the child's hand and stuffed them into a bag.  Several minutes later, the small hand appeared again, though I couldn't make out what type of object it transferred to the man before he stuffed that into the bag, too.

My eyes closed and I pressed my fingertips into my eyelids to relieve the ache that had begun to form with my frown lines.  The pressure brought back the stress of the flight, the room change, tomorrow's presentation.  Moments later, a knock sounded at the door.  "Ma'am, bellhop here."

"One moment," I responded, my eyes readjusting to the light as they opened on the alley scene once more.  The man was lifting the child out of the dumpster carefully, a smile on his face.  After a high five, he hugged the child and raised and lowered the bulky bag that held more than it had a moment ago as though he were lifting weights, clearly miming a job well done by the child.  The child slipped its hand into the man's and they began to move down the alley, a team, the bag flung over the man's shoulder.

"Ma'am?"  Again, this time shaking me back to the moment.  This room.  The error in my reservation, quickly redeemed by the quality service of the hotel.  I walked to the door and opened it, nodding briskly at the young man in a navy blazer with red piping that matched that of the receptionist.  Noting the brassy luggage rack in the hallway slightly behind him, I responded, "One moment."

I turned from him and fumbled through my purse for a tip, which I handed to him, bringing a slightly baffled look to his face.  He was not a career hotel employee who had learned to mask judgment.  I smiled. 

"Thank you.  Very much.  I won't be needing a room change after all.  The view is quite..."  He quirked an eyebrow, and I wondered if he knew the rooms well enough to know what I could see outside my window.

"Thank you.  This room will do."  He smiled and tipped his hat as I closed the door, forgetting tomorrow's presentation altogether, at least for a while, as I planned instead a shopping trip and a quiet evening walk through the alley to drop a bag into a dumpster.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Flash Fiction FUN!

Just finished my flash fiction for Rebecca's contest.  Handsome Hubby is visiting family so once I got the girls to bed, I had a quiet house in which to let my crazy out onto the laptop.  I totally realized I need to do writing exercises or flash fiction WAY more often!  It's such a good writing muscle stretcher for me because it is nothing like my WiP (or, rather, my W that has not been "iP" for far too long).  Will share this one with you at the end of the month, can't share until her contest is over! :D  Go enter!  No!  Don't!  I want to win! :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Princeton Rocks.

What's sad about Princeton is that Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital, the hospital on the tv show House, does not really exist (although Princeton and Plainsboro exist and are, indeed, right next to one another). 

What's happy about Princeton is that our Barnes and Noble ROCKS.  Did I say ROCKS, I meant, like ROCKS BOMBASTICALLY AND EXPLOSIVELY!  Wanna see their upcoming lineup?

Sept 21 - Tony DeTerlizzi of The Spiderwick Chronicles fame is launching his new book, The Search for Wondla

Sept 30 - Mo Willems launches Knuffle Bunny Free, the third in the series.  MOOOOO WILLLEMMMSS!  And he's giving away autographed books to two kiddies - one who draws Trixie's new best friend and one who writes an essay about her new best friend... when Knuffle Bunny "goes free".  (Is it a bad thing if I seriously nudge my 7 yr old... who will just have turned 8 by then... to write an essay?)

October 5 Doreen Cronin and Scott Menchin (Click Clack Moo, Diary of a Spider, etc) launch their new book, Rescue Bunnies

Oct 20 Rob Scottin of Splat the Cat launches his new one, Scaredy Cat Splat

And Oct 30 APOLO OHNO.... only the most highly decorated Olympic athlete of all time.... launches his new book, Zero Regrets

Plus next Thursday is their teacher Open House, which is always nice.

Is it crazy that I haven't been to any of their writing groups?  I think I am afraid of the massive talent.  I know Bob Krech (Rebound) does some of their first page critiques and stuff and he is a friend and colleague of mine, so that should theoretically make it easier... but he has an ALA Best Book and, um, kinda fits in with the amazingly talented writerly types round here in the Princeton area.  One day when I have enough written in a somewhat presentable form, I will go! :)  But until then, I will just bask in the glory that is constant awesome book launchage at the Princeton B&N!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Contesty Love

Ok, my link is not working but fear not, you can click their names below to enter!
Nope, it's not MY contest... you have to wait till the end of the month for that when I should be back full swing into Blogland.  I'm creeping back slowly but surely as summer begins to wind down.  But this contest is Rebecca's and Naomi's and you can enter in both places.  And win lots of fun stuff.  And if you don't already know those two, stay awhile on their blogs... it'll be worth it! :) 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Helloooo Out There!

Howdy, Blogland!  Popping in to say hi... Rebecca has drawn me out of unpluggedness with her superfun contest (what else would you expect from her and her sister?)  More on that soon when I actually sit down to write my entry.  Yippee!  It's been an amazing summer, just squeezing all the kiddie time I can get before all 4 of us head back to our respective schools (including myself and Handsome Hubby) in September.  We just returned from a mini family vacation to Washington, D.C. and tonight HH and I are headed to see Green Day (yippee!).  What's left on the summer agenda are lots of pool days, a trip to the PA Renaissance Faire, hitting the beach for a day or two, school shopping... oh yeah, and I guess since I moved to a new classroom, I should probably go in and set up sooner or later.  But we'll leave that for the end of the month since teachers report Sept 1 and I am marinating in summer for as long as I possibly can. :)  Reading lots of books, too, which is a simple pleasure that is surprisingly difficult to find time for during the school year.

So stay tuned, kiddies... I will be posting more about the sisterly contest, a little summer montage of pics sooner or later, and I have a little birthday/return to blogland CONTEST brewing for the end of the month!!!