What to eat…

Shared this on a friend’s page.  Decided to share it here.  Take what you need, leave the rest. PLEASE NOTE: This is my (educated) opinion based on what I’ve studied and my own experience.  It is NOT medical advice.

(Edited to fix typos and formatting issues.  Let me know if you find anything I missed!)

___________

It is time for people to stop obsessing over salt. JUST stop obsessing. If you like salt, eat it.

*Sugar is the poison* Not fat. Not salt. (The US sugar industry don’t want you to stop eating sugar – they are the ones that promote those low fat foods that are full of sugar!)

Salt is not a major culprit in health issues unless you have certain very specific problems (and even in some of those cases, the link of harm is not clear). Any problems are ONLY for those already ill.

Salt does NOT *cause* any disease.

Sugar causes diabetes
Sugar causes heart disease
Sugar causes obesity
Sugar leads to cancers

Sugar is a drug. Just like other white powders, it is addictive and mind altering!

 Lack of exercise and the consumption of sugar, white flour and all refined carbohydrates DOES do a lot of damage.

Studies are at best equivocal about salt in people who already have cardiovascular disease, and more and more of them are finding NO evidence salt is harmful.

When you sweat a lot, you lose salt. We in the hot countries tend to sweat. You like salt? Eat it.

When you remove fat and salt from food, it doesn’t taste good. Most processed foods add sugar and chemicals to replace the taste. If we don’t taste our food, we tend to eat mindlessly… and eat MORE!! Especially if the food is full of sugar.

Refined carbs are higher in calories per ounce and much lower in nutrients.
Refined carbohydrates are usually less filling AND they make us crave sugar, and they leave us HUNGRY.

Sugar rush leads to sugar crash, which leads to HUNGER.
Then you overeat… and the cycle starts again.

Avoid sweet drinks of all kinds. Sodas are evil. Juices are not good either b/c they are refined to be mostly sugar. They do not fill us up but they do make us fat b/c they are delicious, high in calories and we crave them. And they don’t give us ANYTHING healthy.

Unless you are Usain Bolt, you should never even drink Gatorade. Why? Because you don’t need to sugar load. Gatorade is for REAL athletes. It is less bad than soda, but we don’t need added sugar. Gatorade gives us ‘energy’ for a few moments, but it doesn’t do us good unless we are exercising for *hours* daily.

The rest of us should just drink water and when we want something more, coconut water is just fine. (not sweetened)

Instead of adding condensed milk to our tea, coffee or cocoa, use full cream milk, cream, half and half, or take it black. Use a tiny amount of brown sugar or use artificial sweeteners. (I find i need less sugar even in coffee if I take it with a little cream or ‘half and half’) Avoid skim milk. The obsession with low fat is actually contributing to obesity.

Give up on low fat. If you eat foods with fat, you will feel full longer and take longer to feel that ‘let down’ you get when you eat sugar. You will eat less because you don’t crash.

If you eat plant fats (nuts are great sources of healthy fats!) the fat is actually beneficial! And sources of plant fats are also often high in fiber and minerals and vitamins. In other words, healthy, filling and usually they taste great!

****Science does NOT support the low fat diet*****

It was promoted as a marketing scheme by the US sugar industry to sell sugar products!!

Full fat milk (compared to skim or low fat) is actually (a) more nourishing (b) easier to digest. (c) associated with weight loss!!

Instead of low fat, go to low sugar (or better NO added sugar.) (Yes, you can have ONE slice of Christmas cake, birthday cake and Easter bun… but don’t eat any of these things on a regular basis — they are TREATS, NOT FOOD)

Instead of candies and cakes, eat fruit. That is the best source of a sweet treat… And fruits also have other nourishment than just sugars… fiber is essential and great for prevention of colon cancer. So go out into the yard and pick some fruit… get sunshine and eat healthy!! Make your colon happy, maybe never take a laxative again if you eat fruit regularly.

*Eat everything in moderation.
*Exercise daily.

Even a SMALL amount of daily exercise is valuable. Exercising only once a week is USELESS – you will not build your body this way, even if you overexercise on that one day!

Exercise, to be useful to the BODY must be a regular activity, a minimum of 3 days weekly – 5 is better.

NOTE: Going on a weekly walk with friends is good for the spirit, however!

So.. exercise. That is the best way to make your heart healthier, improve blood flow to the brain and your extremities (this keeps them healthy) and it lowers cholesterol and in most people also lowers blood pressure.

Our bodies were designed to MOVE.

If you do not exercise, you are harming yourself.

If you don’t do anything to change your diet, DO exercise anyway. Your mind will thank you. Your body will thank you. Your bank balance will thank you. Your spirit will thank you!!

Walk to work if you can. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day IN ADDITION TO your normal activities such as cleaning your house and making meals for yourself. That is not exercise, even though it is hard work. Walk, run, swim, ride a bicycle… these are not that expensive. If you are elderly, simply doing calisthenics will get your heart rate up and improve your mobility… You can do your calisthenics from a chair!

Work up to 30 minutes a day if you are starting from zero, especially if you are older (or if you get out of breath walking up one flight of stairs). If you are younger, do 30 easy minutes until you find that becomes too easy.

Eat high quality protein (lean meat, fish, seafood and beans and peas). Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Don’t drink soft drinks at all. Avoid fruit juice… eat the fruit instead. (fruit juice is a refined food and mostly sugar).

Eat healthy carbohydrates: sweet potatoes, yams, and what we call ‘provisions’. Don’t eat white potatoes – they have been over ‘bred’ until all the goodness is gone and they are basically a refined good. Yam, cassava, eddoes, all those things you grew up on… those carbs are good for you… Eat all of these in moderation.

Eat fat. Best sources of fat are things like nuts and seeds and of course, dairy and eggs. Eggs do NOT cause cholesterol to go up. That is sugar and lack of exercise! Meat fat is less good… eat lean meat, but don’t sweat it too much and do listen to your body.

When we ate all those UNPROCESSED foods we were healthier and thinner!!  Healthy options include — vegetables, pumpkin, breadfruit… things like spinach, callaloo, pepperpot soup. All our naturally colorful vegetables and leafy greens are great for us!

Now we are eating dyed food in PACKAGES… and it is killing us. Packaged food is often processed. Sometimes it isn’t food at all, though we eat it anyway!! That is what we need to stop!

Eat food your grandmother or great, great grandmother would have recognized as food. It is what your body can handle. ‘Modern’ processed food is often not really food at all. And it is NOT healthy.

Bottom line:

1) Exercise regularly
2) Eat what you like in moderation — don’t fret the fat or salt.
3) Reduce (eliminate) refined sugar and refined carbohydrates (‘white’ foods) eg: sugar, flour, Irish potatoes, pasta.
Sources of info on fat, salt info and general health:

http://www.cardiobrief.org/2017/02/27/top-cardiologist-blasts-nutrition-guidelines/

https://theskepticalcardiologist.com/category/diet-and-heart-disease/salt/

https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/news/20151228/reducing-salt-intake-might-harm-heart-failure-patients-study-claims#1

https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryhusten/2014/08/13/new-studies-fuel-the-debate-over-sodium/#2d269a04d6ba

BTW: I lost 20 pounds after I quit refined carbohydrates… without changing anything else in my life. The doctor is happier with my blood work too!! I am not even all that strict about it…

(c) DBJGold,
June 2019

NOTE: the perspective is Caribbean as am I.  Foods mentioned are called by their Caribbean names.

SWF Alumni-made Forum… Some Assembly Required

OK, so…  here’s the link for the software and free hosting folk for our little project….

Currently, I’m not in a position to do this myself.  Life on life’s terms doesn’t allow it right now.  I will assist anyone who is willing and able.

https://proboards.com/

Sorry this is going so much more slowly than we’d hoped.  I’ll attempt to liaise with some of the other folk who’ve been interested in helping put this together and report back.

If you have availability, please let me know here.

Thanks,

Blue

START WRITING FICTION ALUMNI-MADE FORUM

COMING SOON! (we very much hope!)

If you’re interested, please indicate here in your comments, and please share it with your various followers and any fellow SWF course alumni you’re in touch with.  If you have technical abilities and especially if you know something about running any kind of forum, we need your help!

See my continued activity on the SWF site for further information.  Once we’ve got things going, I’ll post a URL for the site.

Thank you,

Blue

https://ugc.futurelearn.com/uploads/images/c6/f0/profile_image_c6f04ccf-74ef-4748-9658-84e49a74cd95.jpg

 

Plot can drive story or reveal meaning.

I learned from Joss Whedon that plot can serve personal development and reveal so much about a person – put them through hell – and you learn who they are, and *they* learn who they are!

I learned that the best ‘adventure’ stories are about people. Not pointless melodrama just to ‘gin up’ interest, but deep interior questions and the interpersonal relationships that make life worth living or can break you when they fall apart.

In recent years I’ve learned a lot about writing from analyzing the kinds of choices that some of my favorite writers have made for their stories and their characters.

There can be ‘victims’ strategically ‘placed in jeopardy’ – this is supposed to make one ‘sympathetic & worried’, while giving your hero a chance to ride in and save the 2D cardboard cutout – or you can have real people in a horrendous predicament and watch them fight to survive while the hero also fights to save them. Then it becomes a story of humans’ fight to survive and the choices real people make.  It gets complicated. You’re on the edge of your seat watching life unfold and you’re utterly engaged.

If the ‘victim’ dies, you’ll feel sad and the hero will pause meaningfully before moving on, but if the ‘person’ dies, you’re devastated & your hero questions herself. You have REAL.

You may have had a devastating fight with big monsters or terrible criminals, but you’ve also had a human struggle.  The first kind can be diverting, but like a cupcake, it’s not deeply satisfying, there are no complex flavors to savor.  The second makes you come back again and again because it answers a hunger that’s deeper than the moment.

_____

This is an edited version of a OU SWF post.

https://ugc.futurelearn.com/uploads/images/c6/f0/profile_image_c6f04ccf-74ef-4748-9658-84e49a74cd95.jpg

Don’t screw it up.

I actually like writing sex scenes. Most times, however, I leave my couple at the bedroom door and pick them back up next morning.

IMO, the sex scenes that tend to matter are first sex (either first time ever, or first time for a couple), last time – because last times matter, particularly when we know it’s the last time because the relationship is over or one person’s leaving for reasons that mean they probably won’t be able to see each other again.  They especially matter when the next scene (though the reader doesn’t know it yet) will be something traumatic and there needs to be one last moment of sweetness.

Other sex that matters is ‘getting back together sex’ not just ‘make up sex’, but ‘rebuild from the ground up’ sex.

Then we have ‘life is changed because of this sex’, sex.

Or ‘life is coming apart and sex is the “attempted glue” sex’ – mostly unsuccessful.

**Sex scenes are really studies in your couple and their relationship.**

How a man treats a virgin can tell you a lot about what and who he is.  The same is true of a woman… maybe even more so.  That can raise so many interesting issues in a relationship and in terms of sexual politics.

Sex is the most exposed we can make our couple. IF we do it right.

Sex, if done well can also be incredibly funny – and this works best with ‘sex as a bonding activity’ type sex scenes.

Humans are weird. Go with it!

(c) DBJ Gold

https://ugc.futurelearn.com/uploads/images/c6/f0/profile_image_c6f04ccf-74ef-4748-9658-84e49a74cd95.jpg

 

This is not a complete list! 🙂
This is my opinion.

What doesn’t work for me in a story:

Mean and ‘small’/small-minded characters as protagonists.
Overly descriptive stories, particularly in the introductory chapters.
Info dumps. (show me as we go along if it matters. If not, leave it out.)
Death & gore for its own sake.
Rape ‘sex’ lovingly described.
Writing of author’s *unprocessed* personal issues – especially rage/self-pity/self-hate/resentment.
Stupid victims. Most people want to live.
Troubled people who give up (easily).
Uselessness, helplessness.
Unthinking ‘followers’, slaves to fashion, fashionable books and ‘cool’ people.
Careless errors.
Dumb medical mistakes (eg: slow cpr (on film or tv))

Instant genius, just add water.

What works for me:

People who care about others.
Friendship/family.
People do don’t take themselves seriously even when life is rough.
Humor.
Intelligent plotting.
Getting it right. If you include a fact, get it right.
Sex is fine if it adds something – don’t ‘sex it up’ to make it saleable.
I love ‘characters’.
Heroism – incl. ‘Small’ heroism .
Survivors.
Fighters.
‘Victims’ who try to stay alive.
Troubled people who try.
Resourcefulness in my writer and in the characters.
Willingness to learn even if you are clueless.
Iconoclasts.
Independence of thought.
Writers willing to take risks.

Writing is hard.  Story creation is hard, but I’ve read a lot over the years and I’ve come to the strong opinion about what I think works in a story and what doesn’t.  This isn’t a definitive list (not even MY definitive list, I suspect) but…

The presence of certain things in a story means I probably won’t finish reading it (or watching it on a screen).

The presence of the things that work for me won’t guarantee a great story, of course, but several (sometimes most) of them always seem to show up in the better ones.

Stupidity is NOT a good plot device: if your otherwise intelligent character has to be a complete idiot in order to get into the difficulties you’ve created, you’re probably under-thinking things.  There’s plenty genuine bad luck in the world.  Or situations that simply don’t match the skill set of your protagonist.  Or impossible choices where both outcomes are going to be bad (run into burning building without gear or let baby die, for example).  Use those instead of stupidity if you don’t want to design a complex situation that would stump a person who has decent common sense.

I don’t feel ANY empathy for people who are just too stupid to live.  (probably why I don’t watch ‘slasher’ horror movies!)

The smart cop doesn’t run into the ‘suspiciously open door’ without calling for backup first… unless the building is (or appears to be) on fire and/or someone’s crying for help.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen/read where the cop go into the dark, empty building, simply in order to put a ‘hero’ in jeopardy.

It makes zero sense.

Day one of any first responder class is: Is the scene secure?  Failure to ‘secure scene’ is a fail point in every first responder testing scenario I know of.

Incidentally: uber-genius is not a great plot device either… not as a neat ‘solution to everything’ anyway. Note well: being a genius is hard – but please don’t create a stereotype ‘outsider genius’.  True genius is rare and bright people seldom fit in perfectly, but sometimes that very big brain also allows for interpersonal insights.  Genius doesn’t equal social idiot savant.  Genius is like being average in at least one way:  Everyone is an individual.

Note: this was a OU/SWF post and the formatting/punctuation are imperfect.

Please live with it.  Thanks!

How do you get to Carnegie Hall… or Prentice Hall?  Practice! Practice!  Practice!

https://ugc.futurelearn.com/uploads/images/c6/f0/profile_image_c6f04ccf-74ef-4748-9658-84e49a74cd95.jpg Just take it one day at a time and practice (writing) until you feel inspired. Brilliant musicians are seldom inspired before they master their craft. Why? Because in order to even comprehend the color and the nuance that one is trying to create, one must first be able to perceive it.

I think that one reason a lot of non musicians find they like simple music rather than the complexity of either jazz or classical music is that they don’t really perceive what is there. I’m not saying there’s no value in simplicity (I’m miss pare everything to the bone girl). Even creating perfect simplicity, the right spaces, takes mastery.

What I’m saying is that that mastery – which most writers want, whatever their writing goal is – is only achieved by the same things that create a great athlete, scientist or musician. Many hours of study, practice and training.

Then, some day, you strap on the writing shoes, and you run the creative 100 meter dash in a world record of perfect words…

You dance in your literary toe shoes until your toes bleed but the audience sees only grace.

You find the Higgs Boson of verbal artistry because you built the perfect equipment.

Write your heart out, then edit the #%@ out of it – (c) DBJ Gold

Search… and Seizure (Post # 10)

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Notes:

  1.  This, strictly speaking comes before the last ‘cracks’ piece I posted – that (previous chapter) may not appear in the final story.
  2. I’m not totally sure how I feel about this, but I’ve massaged it enough for now. When you knead flour too long, it gets tough, so I’m gonna stop for now, leave it and see if it ‘rises’.

– DBJ

I crave your feedback.


She woke to the sound of voices. Anna had cultivated the habit of sleeping with one ear open. It was born of many nights spent in the open. Spent in dangerous places. There were several people wandering around, but two caught her attention because they were nearby and because they were talking.

“Of course he has permits for his guns,” said the female voice. “That’s your focus? My brother’s missing, his wife’s about to drop, and you’re worried about whether he’s got gun permits?”

“We don’t know if foul play’s involved, ma’am,” said the male voice. “We’re just covering your bases.”

“He’s a hunter,” said the female. “He’s been around guns all his life. We grew up on a farm. What is it with city people that they think everyone with a gun is some kind of nut or is up to no good?”

“Experience, maybe?” the male voice was droll, unimpressed.

“I told Angela this was a waste of time,” said the female voice, clearly annoyed.

Anna thought fast. She was in the hunting blind and they hadn’t seen her yet. The last thing she needed was to be caught in a strange world with her gun and without whatever these permits were… some kind of permission, apparently. Anna pulled herself to her feet silently. Almost as an afterthought, she picked up the rifle, spreading the slit in the back of her heavy jacket. Working by feel, she quickly tucked the heavy stock into the pouch in the back of her work pants made for just that purpose.

It was a little loose, because this stock was slightly narrower than hers. She pulled the shoulder strap tight. Then she pulled the jacket down, so the rifle rested against her shoulder and the cold metal rested against her neck as she quickly shimmied as high in the tree as she could safely go. Then she sat astride a sturdy branch and got to work, quickly using her rifle sling and holster to improvise a wrap that held both her handgun and rifle firmly in place, with the rifle along the branch so it wouldn’t be easily noticed from the ground during daylight.

The worn leathers would blend well with the tree branch. She would be unhappy if she never got them or the gun back. Other than the gun, Cilla’s leatherwork was the most durable memento of the world she had left and the friends she’d never see again. Suddenly, she found herself missing home and Cilla. Tears welled up before she quickly blinked them away, forcing herself to focus. If she didn’t come back here, the leather would eventually rot and the guns would fall, but that wasn’t the plan. Right now there were people and she needed to talk to them.

It wasn’t the first time she’d shed her guns in order to be non-threatening.  She felt the bear knife on her thigh and decided that completely disarming herself wasn’t her best idea. She would have to hope there were no rules about knife permits. She pulled the jacket back on and tied her leather belt outside, though she usually wore it on the inside, to keep her shirt in place. The reason for this change was simple. It would show she didn’t have easy access to more weapons. The bear knife was visible, the bulge of the tools at her hip easy to detect, but not easy to unwrap without removing the heavy fur-lined jacket.

They were walking away from her location back in the blind, having shone a light up through it while she was in the upper crown of the tree. She lightly touched down, and moved in a wide arc to where they would intercept her some distance from the blind. Then she lay against a tree root that was free of leaves where snakes might lurk. She folded her arms and pretended to be asleep. The two arguing people almost walked right by her, but at the last moment, the light that one of them carried shone directly into her face.

She ‘startled’ and sat up, automatically shielding her eyes.

“The light!” she said. “It hurts.”

“What are you doing here?” asked the man, still pointing the torch in her direction, but not directly into her face.

“Trying to catch some sleep,” said Anna, not having to pretend her irritation.

Whatever torches they had in this world, this one was painfully bright.

“In the middle of the forest? By yourself? Are you nuts?”

“Nuts?” Anna had no idea why she would be foodstuff. “I’m a person, not food.”

“Yup, nuts,” said the man, more to himself than to anyone else.

Anna decided she didn’t like him much.

“You woke her up,” said the female, her tone incredulous.

“She shouldn’t be sleeping in the forest by herself,” said the man, his tone dismissive.

“What a sexist thing to say!” said the woman. “She’s probably a hunter too.”

“I am a hunter,” said Anna, standing slowly, pulling her jacket down and checking that the belt was still secure.

She would never have slept like that of course, with her clothing strapped so tightly, but they didn’t seem to notice. Their clothing was quite different from her own; though not entirely unfamiliar. Their clothing resembled garments of some who had come through the fractures. Perhaps they didn’t notice anything odd.

“Where are you from?” asked the man.

“I am of the Hill Grove,” said Anna automatically, forgetting for a moment to mention the fractures.

“Hill Grove?” said the man, puzzled. “Is that in Maryland?”

“Mary-land?”

“You know; the state of Maryland, where we are, right now? Are you high on something?”

“I am on the ground. Have you taken leave of your senses? Have you perhaps consumed some strong drink?”

The woman started to laugh.

“Stop!” the man commanded.

“Why? The two of you are the funniest thing about this whole situation! Y’know, I think that’s the first time I’ve laughed since Angela called me and told me that Saul hadn’t come back home.”

“Ms. Greene!” said the man, sharply. “Has it occurred to you that this woman might have something to do with your brother’s disappearance?”

“No, really not. Does she really look like some kind of psycho killer to you, officer?”

“I don’t know. What about that huge knife?”

“My bear knife?” Anna asked. “You may relieve me of it, if it pleases you.”

The man couldn’t seem to figure out how to unfasten it, so Anna quickly loosed the loop of leather that held it in place and handed it to him. He grabbed it from her, nicking himself in the process. This seemed to make him angry.  He stared at it, realizing for the first time just how large and heavy it was.

“Have you caused yourself harm?” asked Anna, unsurprised.

“This thing is sharp. It cut me.”

“Apologies. A weapon must always be kept…” said Anna, biting off the word sharp, knowing that would probably only make him more hostile. “Care must be taken with weapons.”

“Who talks like that? And those clothes!  Are you some kind of ren fair freak?”

“I do not comprehend the question,” said Anna.

“That’s it, put your hands on your head, Miss,” said the man.

“I have already offered you my weapon,” said Anna, though she complied anyway.

She did not like this man. He was a fool. Still he had his gun and her knife. She did not like her odds in a fight.

“You’re under arrest,” the man said, quickly taking Anna’s unresisting hands and fastening them behind her painfully.

“What are you arresting her for?” said the woman he had called green.

“How about suspicion of murder?” said the man.

“Saul’s not dead,” said the woman with him.

“I did not kill anyone,” said Anna, a knot appearing full grown in her gut.

“Did you see my brother?” asked the woman.

“I did not,” said Anna. “Why am I your prisoner?”

“Her brother’s missing. You’re here,” he held up her knife and played the light along it. “With this big-ass knife with blood on it.”

“That is the blood of the rabbit I ate for dinner. I did not have much water. I have lost my water skins. I was unable to clean my knife properly. The stream is some distance.”

She had cooked, eaten and buried the remains of the carcass, using what little fur the tiny creature had to clean her knife. Had she been home, she might have finished off with leaves, but these were unfamiliar plants, and poisoning herself did not hold much appeal. What water she had managed to collect at the stream in a small container she’d found in the blind, she’d consumed with her meal. She’d doused the fire she’d cooked on, so the embers would not reignite and cause the woods to burn. Then she’d gone up to sleep in the relative safety of the blind.

“I don’t believe you,” said the man.

“Officer!” said the woman. “Maybe we should just talk to her?”

“I intend to! We’ll get her to tell us what she knows. I know she’s hiding something.”

“Hiding what?” asked the woman.

“What would I be hiding?” asked Anna at almost the same time.

Since she had guns hidden in the treetop she was indeed concealing something. She wasn’t about to give up any further advantage however. Her weapons might be her only option for defense or escape – assuming she could figure out how to defeat her restraints. Her chances of having her cherished bear knife returned seemed to be rapidly diminishing and that was loss enough. Anna was like a lot of people who worked with tools and weapons – she had used and carried her favorites; some for years. Some were made by friends, others inherited from them.

Her situation did not seem to represent an immediate threat to life, but her hands were painfully fastened behind her in some sort of metal shackle and she didn’t like that at all. She had tried, but failed to unfasten them. She had no idea what their intentions were, though the other woman was calm, and that was a good sign.

This was not a situation she usually found herself in. Then again, the rules here appeared to be different. She had hoped by not resisting, she would garner goodwill. Goodwill had not been forthcoming. Perhaps things were not that different, given the negative reaction from the young woman to the actions of the man. He seemed to be some sort of representative of authority. She appeared to be the sister of the missing man, very probably the same man in whose blind she had been sleeping. It was beginning to seem quite unlikely she would receive assistance from these people. It was a good thing she had not allowed herself to be discovered in the blind.

“Good question,” said the man. “Let’s get you back to the others. Then we can search you properly.”

“I will go with you.”

“You seem to think you have a choice,” said the man. “Walk!”

He pushed her ahead of him, causing her to stumble slightly. Although she knew it would irritate him, she closed her eyes for a moment before starting to walk. Fortunately, her night vision was beginning to return. That was a good thing since although the man’s torch had been bright enough to blind her, it only cast a narrow stream, and he appeared to direct it primarily at the ground. Behind her. A better strategy would have been to have her hold the light, since he’d insisted she walk ahead.

He was evidently the sort with more pride than common sense. Anna walked ahead, her feet sure and nearly silent, though her balance was impaired by the position of her hands. From the sound of it, he was unaccustomed to walking in the woods after dark. Somehow, every few steps, though he had the light, he managed to catch his feet and stumble, complaining to himself angrily as he went. He made no effort to move quietly. The woman by contrast, made almost as little noise as she did. Perhaps she, like her brother, was also a hunter.

Anna recognized the direction they were traveling. It was the clearing where she had earlier discovered the large metal wagon with the strongbox of tools in the back, from which she had borrowed several items. She heard voices ahead. In the distance, there appeared to be light in the clearing. Perhaps someone with more reasoning than this fool might be amongst them. If not, she would have to escape and somehow free herself from the miserable metal traps that were beginning to cut off her circulation. She tried to hold her hands differently, but the position was rapidly becoming quite painful.


A/N: Chapter title is a play on the words of the  US 4th Amendment.

https://ugc.futurelearn.com/uploads/images/c6/f0/profile_image_c6f04ccf-74ef-4748-9658-84e49a74cd95.jpg I think of a stereotype as a personality skeleton. We wouldn’t expect a physical skeleton to get up and walk around. We shouldn’t make the psychic skeleton wander around our stories either.

https://ugc.futurelearn.com/uploads/images/c6/f0/profile_image_c6f04ccf-74ef-4748-9658-84e49a74cd95.jpg  Journalists of the imagination

Anytime people are telling stories it is a form of ‘writing’ even if it’s an oral tradition — storytellers are what we are, after all, if we create fiction. The oral tradition simply ‘writes’ it to the next generation by passing on the story.Drama, TV and film are just other ways of sharing stories. Journalism is also telling stories, but those must be true and backed up by evidence (proof, preferably) and good research.

We are journalists of the imagination… we’re trying to create something that is as real as we can make it…. as true as we can make it, even if it’s all from the inside of our heads. Just because it is psychedelic and fantastical doesn’t mean it’s ‘untrue’.

In fact, the best fantastical worlds are sometimes the truest. Example is of course, something like One Hundred Years of Solitude ( Cien años de soledad) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His work touched so many because it was so real, even though it went to places that (we don’t think) 😉 actually exist in the concrete modern world most of us inhabit.

Fractures (Post #9)

 

Final assignment submission
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This may or may not happen in the story if it continues.  This was the best way I could think of to introduce all the story elements in 1000 words.  Submitted as my final assignment for the Start Writing Fiction course that got this whole universe going in the first place!  This is exactly as posted.  An edited version will follow at some point, maybe later today.  See if you can spot why!!


“What do you mean, you came through a crack in the sky?” asked the man in the black jacket, clearly frustrated.

“I did,” said Anna. “I woke up in the hunting blind. I suspect that is where the man – Saul?”

The detective nodded tiredly.

“I suspect we exchanged places,” she said. “In fact, I am certain of it.”

“So you didn’t butcher him with those tools of yours and bury his body?”

“Are you quite mad?”

“I’m not, but you might be,” said the man.

“I carry my tools so that when I hunt, I can butcher the kill and we carry only the meat we can use back to our settlement. But I have already explained that.”

She stood up, but of course, she couldn’t go anywhere since she was tethered to the table and the floor. Even so, he stood up and stepped back from the table and his hand went to his hip.

“I know you refuse to believe anything I say, but tell me this? Why would I remain in the blind with his belongings if I were his murderer?”

“Maybe you didn’t think anyone would come looking for him?”

“If any hunter is missing for more than one night, settlers send out a party to search for him or her.”

“You said that.”

“Because it is the truth,” said Anna, insistent. “I have authorized too many such parties. I have led many of them. I have found my friends dead, or signs that they were killed by animals… or taken by the fractures.”

“No, not that again! No more damn fractures!” he said. “What did you do with the woman’s husband?!”

“I did NOTHING!” She shouted her answer, and she was on her feet so fast, the pain in her shoulders as the chains snapped taut almost made her scream. “This is a pointless exercise. Do you truly believe that by tormenting me with questions for many fractions of sun travel that my answers will change?”

“Stop that nonsense! It’s hours. You’ve been here 12 hours!”

“That is of no import! I killed no one! I abducted no one! I am from the other side of the fractures. I am Chief of my people. I am Anna of the Hill Grove Peoples! I do not have a last name! I do not have a number! Cease your pointless torment! This is an illogical, immoral procedure. No decent people would allow such conduct! I refuse to continue this pretense of an investigation even one moment longer! No more of these questions without reason! We are finished here!”

As she’d slowly grown slightly calmer, she’d begun to speak in what she thought of as her ‘chief’ voice. The calm, commanding voice that declared her words with absolute authority and clarity.

Suddenly, he was seeing her with new eyes. He stared at her in shock.

“Are you… asking for a lawyer?” His expression was one of confusion.

“A lawyer?”

Anna had no idea what a lawyer was. She glared at him and sat back down on the uncomfortable metal chair, crossing her arms. She was tempted to say yes, since he looked very unhappy about the whole idea. Instead, she did what she had long learned could be her most effective tactic in ignorance. She simply said nothing. Instead, she held his gaze until he looked away, smacking his hand onto the table sharply, clearly frustrated. Anna flinched, but she was unafraid. Unless she was very mistaken by her measure of the man, he would not strike her.

“Great!” he said. “Now she wants a fucking lawyer! My day is complete!”

He stood up, turned abruptly and left the room, closing the door with a bit too much force.

“Greene’s wife wants to talk to you.” The man who called himself ‘detective’ had returned. “Will you speak to her?”

“I will.”

“Her name is Angela. Angela Greene. I question the wisdom of this, but I’m not the boss.”

Angela waddled more than walked, her hand pressed into the small of her back. She sat heavily. Anna suspected she was only days from her delivery. A wave of sadness hit Anna. Angela was far from the first to have lost a partner to the fractures. Women had gone into early labor or miscarried after such a loss.

“I am so sorry,” said Anna.

“Then you admit it!” Angela’s voice was angry.

“I’m sorry you’ve lost your husband,” said Anna evenly. “I did nothing to him. I truly would exchange places with him if I could.”

“You really believe this bullshit, don’t you?” she said.

“That is…” Anna smiled. “Our expression is rat shit… but I’m afraid it’s the truth.”

“If it wasn’t impossible, I’d believe you,” she said.

“I cannot prove it to you, but I can show you my tools. They are… different.”

“They showed me your clothes. They say you’re some kind of historical reenactor. But you’re not, are you?”

“We have an expression… that the simplest expression is usually the truth,” said Anna.

“We have one much like it,” said Angela. “Ockham’s Razor, we call it.”

“Ack-ham?”

“Close enough,” said Angela. “Problem is; I’m a scientist. An engineer; actually. What you speak of — well, there are theories… but there’s never been any evidence…”

“Evidence?”

“I shouldn’t tell you this, but the cops don’t have any evidence against you.”

“You mean proof?”

“Yes,” said Angela.

“That would be difficult, as I’ve done nothing,” said Anna. “The only evidences as you call them… might be partial remains of items that did not pass through the cracks completely.”

“You mean, like this?”

Angela produced a Nikon camera that looked exactly as though someone had bisected it with an impossibly sharp knife. Both lens and the camera were cleanly cut with no signs of tool marks. The cut wasn’t quite square, so all that remained of the lens when viewed from above was a triangular wedge of glass and plastic.

“I believe you,” said Angela softly.

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Excise. Exorcise. Eviscerate.

Though there are beautiful phrases that stay with me, often the most effective passages are the ones that get me by the innards… I don’t even notice the words… most often they’re small, effectively used words.

Save the flowers for the date. Flowery language seldom serves narrative. It occasionally has a place in dialogue of certain kinds of characters.

If it serves the narrative, keep it. If it doesn’t, excise it.

If necessary, exorcise it. 🙂

Posted January 28

https://ugc.futurelearn.com/uploads/images/c6/f0/profile_image_c6f04ccf-74ef-4748-9658-84e49a74cd95.jpg Analyze Everything!

I read a great deal – my reading is catholic – as author Patricia Duncker says.

My reading has changed since I began to write more seriously, and especially since I started to have analytical discussions with other writing friends. I’ve become very analytical and very critical of writer choices.

My Questions: Does it work? Why does it work? What doesn’t work? Why? What are they trying to accomplish? Are they minority friendly or do they just think they are? What axes do they have to grind? Are they writing their unprocessed ‘issues’? (not a fan!)

Incidentally, I also watch everything more critically than before. When I watch an episode of a favorite show, or a movie, I find myself saying ‘well, that would never happen’ or ‘I know what’s going to happen next’ because they have to wrap this up in ten minutes. If the suspect is caught too early in the 42 minute period (the length of most 1 hour shows w/o ads), it either means they’ve the wrong suspect or there’s going to be another element introduced. Structure became ‘visible’. As did plebeian, predictable writing vs well thought out, creative choices.

I don’t think I’ll ever see another TV episode or read a book with an uncritical eye again.
(Posted February 1)

She was going to die on Tuesday. She didn’t intend to die. She didn’t want to die. She just knew it would happen. Emma didn’t think of herself as a seer. Emma just knew things. And everything she ‘knew’ happened. It didn’t always happen in one specific way, though. So she knew it was going to happen. That’s why I was carrying around my jump bag and the county’s AED (Automatic External Defibrillator). It might get me fired, but I didn’t care. If Emma died, there was no reason she had to stay dead, right? Emma just shook her head when she saw what I was carrying and opened the door to her car. Yes, I was going to drive today. If she died, hopefully, I wouldn’t… and I had all my gear.

(January 19 post)

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Originality

For me, originality is in keeping it simple, writing with passion, and finding a voice that is me, not a pretentious voice that “says something” but that strips away all the bullshit and says something true about things and people I care about, in a way that reaches people.

Precisely because my words don’t get in the way.

Some of the most original voices in literature are the most unadorned and the least pretentious.

 

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On Simplicity

There are beautiful works of art with words out there, but most of the best are not complicated, they are true.  If we can keep trying to be true – in emotion and in every aspect of our creations, we won’t have to be unnecessarily complicated.  We will touch our readers and we won’t have anything we need to hide.

 

I tried to examine Thomas’ neighbor Mary Frances Grace Keeley a bit, to see if I could create a more three dimensional character.  I’m not sure she works, but this was my experiment.


Grace locked the doors to her house carefully. She’d seen him again. Thomas. When he’d first moved in, she’d been so reminded of her friend Joe. Joe who had died of AIDS. Joe, who she’d been half in love with since high school. Joe, who’d been her brother’s best friend until he’d suddenly vanished from all their lives only to turn up in the same drama class in New York.

Grace had been so happy to see him. She’d found out why he’d left Atlanta. His family had disowned him. She’d thought them mean spirited, but then as he was dying, she and her brother the only ones from home to visit, she’d found herself back at church somehow, looking for comfort — and she’d found it — and anger. His curse had killed him. He’d lived a wild and destructive life in New York.

Now men were getting married and living ‘normal’ lives in her neighborhood. She resented it. Thomas who even looked a little like Joe had before he’d turned into a living skeleton, his skin gray and ashy instead of rich brown. She wanted to reach out. To explain she wasn’t really a bigot. That she resented their happy lives. That she wished that for Joe. That she wished it for herself.

She felt so alone.

NOTE: A shorter version of this was posted as an assignment for Open University/future learn’s free class ‘start writing fiction’ (week five)


 

Thomas was a big man. His skin was mahogany dark, his eyes deep brown. His hair was close cropped; his expression usually serious.  He was the kind of man who got noticed; and often feared.  He had a big head to complement his substantial, well-muscled shoulders that told tales of many hours working out. Slim hips topped strong, toned legs.  His physique was part of why he intimidated some people.

This evening Thomas wore a ratty gray hoodie, old sweats and a pair of athletic shoes. His body gleamed in the early evening streetlights due to a light film of sweat. The underarms of his old top bore signs of his exertion. He had to have run quite hard.

He passed an elderly man. The man stared at him, his glance assessing, but almost furtive. When Thomas caught him staring the older man smiled nervously and quickly looked away. Thomas nodded, but he didn’t smile back. Mostly, he’d found it was just simpler. When he walked down the street, people tended to stare or to give him a wide berth. He was used to it. He’d been six feet at 14 and he hadn’t been anywhere close to done growing. His voice had dropped past baritone that year; all the way to bass, long before he’d had any facial hair.

The neighborhood changed almost imperceptibly. The cars were more expensive. The houses further back from the street.

A woman crossed the street as he approached. She gave him a frankly hostile look. He tried to ignore her, but just for a moment, he glanced in her direction. She was texting. Good. He walked a little faster. The Atlanta night was warm, but not uncomfortable.   He turned onto the driveway of one of the nicest houses on the street, walking quickly up the slight incline. He bypassed the front door and its brilliant designer lights, heading instead for the back gate. He entered quickly, latching the gate behind him, and making his way up the back steps. The security lights activated. He bent, feeling under the heavy decorative sculpture by the door. A key. He quickly let himself in. The security light went out even as the door closed behind him, leaving the kitchen in complete darkness.

Then he was tackled. He found himself pushed roughly against the door. Then there was a low rumble of laughter. His husband Alex kissed him affectionately on the neck, relaxing his hold. Thomas’ arms instinctively went around his partner. He found the shorter man’s lips, his mouth gentle and familiar.

“Hey, you!” he said, his voice betraying amusement.

“I woke up,” said Alex.

“I had kinda noticed that,” he said against the other man’s lips.

“Had a good run?”

“Yeah,” he says, “Old Edwards was checking me out. Again.”

“Again? Bad man!”

“Yeah,” says Thomas, laughing. “Mary Frances crossed the street again.”

“Didn’t accuse you of living in sin this time?”

“Nope, thankfully, not this time.”

“I think she likes you,” said Alex.

“So you keep saying,” said Thomas.

“Well, she did date that cute brother that time,” said Alex.

“I think you just like letching on our neighbor’s boyfriends.”

“You wound me!” said Alex. “I’m a one man boy.”

“Yes, you are!” said Thomas. “This man’s.”

“I can live with this,” said Alex.

“So, who’s making dinner?”

“Yum Yum Chinese?” said Alex.

“I knew I should have found me a husband who liked to cook.”

“I like to cook,” said Alex.

“Uh huh. Christmas and Valentine’s day do not constitute liking to cook, Alexander!”

“You’re a fine one to talk, Thomas William,” said Alex.

“You know the rules, dude! It’s not summer. If you can’t grill it, I ain’t cookin’ it!” said Thomas. “Ma daddy is duh barbecue king! I follow in his footsteps.”

“Your daddy has your momma,” said Alex.

“Your point is?” said Thomas, gently massaging the muscles of Alex’s shoulders and upper arm in a gesture that was much more caressing than therapeutic.

“Never mind!” said Alex, his breathing hitching just a little.

“We could always get Indian food?” Thomas whispered against Alex’ cheek.

“I can live with that!” Alex pushed him away, chuckling. “Nope! Not starting anything until you take a shower. Go, get unstink. I’ll order. The usual?”

“The usual is fine. Since when don’t you like my manstink?”

“Since you decided to starve me to death. How far did you go this time?”

“Ten miles,” said Thomas.

“That’s a long way… Wait, I thought you were going to the Rainbow Teen Center tonight?”

“No. It’s the first Wednesday. Jake’s gonna do the PTSD thing tonight. Not everyone has families like ours.”

“No,” said Alex. “Not everyone’s blessed.”

“You’re right,” said Thomas, leaning in to give Alex a gentle peck before he turned to head down the corridor, removing his hoodie as he walked away. “We’re totally blessed.”

In addition to having a glossary, one way to introduce our readers to words that they may not be familiar with is to have our characters react to them as well.  This works especially well with words that are foreign or foreign slang and not so well if there’s a simpler word that would work just as well (unless you want to mark your character as pedantic and pretentious).

______________________________________

“Don’t be a bloody berk!”

“What? What’s a berk? Damn! Why don’t you ever speak proper English!”

“This from an American?! It’s not my fault you’ve lived your entire life in one country!”

“Hey! Don’t you get started on that again! Y’know, I’m gonna bet a berk is something really bad. You don’t want to tell me, do you?”

“Not particularly, no,” admitted Rupert.

“Fine, I’ll just look on the internet,” said Jim.

“You’re not really a berk,” said Rupert.

“Sure,” said Jim, shaking his head.

Jim started to read about cockney rhyming slang.

“You called me a what!!!” said Jim, both pitch and volume rising. “You bastard!”

“Nobody uses it that way anymore!”

“Yeah, right!” said Jim. “We’re not talking right now.”

“I’m sorry, Jim. I didn’t mean anything, truly I didn’t. ”

“Oh and I’m not stupid either, just for the record!” Jim left the room in an apparent huff, but as he shut the door he began to chuckle. Rupert was so easy to play!

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On Editing

Sometimes words feel like jewels, and we get attached. The truth is that words are more like steps in a choreography – a dance – and we know that a dance is only beautiful if the steps flow together.

No choreographer would keep a step or a turn or a jump if it didn’t serve the dance… because if the step is wrong, then the whole dance starts to hiccup and eventually, if enough of the steps don’t work, then the dance isn’t beautiful or lyrical.

I am always saying editing is my friend… and editors are my friends. The best feedback I can get is someone who says kindly: “I don’t think that works quite right” “I don’t think that belongs there”.

Of course, before we give something to an editor and torment them with our most nebulous ideas, we need to work on it ourselves and get it to a place where we’ve done the ‘heavy lifting’.

I’ve come back to some of my earliest stories a year later and ended up doing so much editing that it constituted a rewrite. But I’m much happier to have people read it and know it’s my work!

Rosalie loved Michael. Friends laughed when they found out she’d named her dog Michael, but Michael Collier was her favorite movie star. Her little dog had hair as silky as Michael’s might be and it was that same rich caramel brown. Michael was a champion too. Her Michael, that was. It was annoying that she had to take the bus to the dog show, but it couldn’t be helped. Her car would not start. It was only a mile to the dog show. She hoped no one would notice. Dog people were so snobbish. Her friends were right about that. She would never be one of them. She ‘just’ a middle aged nurse who lived alone now her Bertie was gone.

But Michael loved the attention. Loved when she groomed him. And even though it wasn’t one of those fancy New York shows, he always did well. He always won something. So Rosalie always showed Michael, even though it was just once a year. To hell with the ‘dog’ people! She was ‘Michael’ people. That was enough for Rosalie!

Explorations (Post #8)

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It had warmed up nicely as Anna reconnoitered. The woods extended for a while, so she’d walked for nearly ten minutes without seeing a break in the tree cover, though it wasn’t very heavy and the sun filtered through.  She began to hear an intermittent sound that she didn’t recognize, so she walked cautiously forward, her hand close to her weapon, though she didn’t draw it.

Anna felt unnerved.  She was in a truly foreign world.  Abruptly, the trees ended and she found herself in light brush that bore signs that someone kept it low with some sort of blade.

Suddenly, the brush ended  and Anna found herself facing a smooth black strip that was obviously man made. It was the width of a large stream, but the material was solid and quite hard.  It seemed to continue for some distance in each direction. Along the distance it traveled were two parallel yellow stripes, in one direction, as the black curved, the lines were unbroken, in the other direction, where it was straighter, the stripes broke intermittently, but in a regular pattern.  These stripes seemed to divide the black into two roughly equal halves for reasons unknown.  She was about to step onto the black to examine it further, when a rumbling sound made her stop and step back onto the grass.

A massive object, she guessed was some sort of conveyance came hurtling around the corner at a high rate of speed, faster than any carriage she’d ever seen.  This was some sort of carriageway, then.

In spite of the fact that there were no beasts of burden pulling the large conveyance, it rumbled past her so rapidly, she felt a stiff breeze as it went by.  Instinctively, she stepped back even more.  It wouldn’t do to be trampled by one of these huge wagons before she even figured out just what it was.  Had she seen a person seated inside as it flashed by, or had that been her imagination? Several more wagons went by, most much smaller than the first one.  There were definitely people controlling them.  Even though the people managing the conveyances were not driving animals, apparently, they needed to be controlled… So they were some sort of mechanical form of transportation… run by means that weren’t immediately apparent.

One thing was definite.  This world was in some ways quite different from her own.  She turned and headed back toward the blind, for now, the closest thing she had to a home base.  Perhaps there would be a settlement in the other direction.  The hunter must have come from somewhere.  She had waved to a few of the people who’d gone by on the black carriageway, but other than one person who’d waved back, no one had responded or even slowed down.  It seemed unlikely she would get assistance from the people traveling the carriageway.

The Girl Who Fell Through The Crack In The Sky. (Post # 7)

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Anna woke up in a strange but familiar place. Strange because it was like nothing she’d ever seen before… but familiar because she knew exactly what it was. It was a hunting blind. She’d built hunting blinds herself. Places, usually in trees, away from predators, but best of all, usually safe from microfractures. Microfractures usually occurred on the ground. This blind was different because it wasn’t made of twigs and wood or lined with straw. It wasn’t covered with leaves. Well, not real ones anyway. This one was made of some sort of sturdy, but quite lightweight fabric – with what looked like blurry images of leaves.

This blind was off the ground.  It surrounded most of the tree, and there was a ladder made from some kind of brightly colored rope of a texture that she’d never seen before. Still, it was clear it was a rope ladder. It was pulled up and suspended off the ground, hooked on a small branch that had been cut with a knife of some kind, precisely for that purpose. Good!  No one else would easily follow her up. Now, she had to figure out where she was. What world this was, and whether she was ever going to get back to the closest thing she had to a home.

Since no one else had ever come back, she considered it unlikely. Of course, since the fracture had opened here, and she knew that when people vanished, others often appeared, it was entirely possible she could wait here and a new fracture might take her back. It was a long shot, however. Microfractures never seemed to happen in quite the same spot, though they happened more frequently in some areas than others.

She needed to survey the area. Anna knew one thing. She couldn’t afford surprises. Hunting blinds meant hunters.  Hunters with weapons. This one contained a very nice rifle. Therefore, the hunter would return.  Unless he or she had been taken to her world. She would have to figure out how to convince him or her that she was friend, not enemy, and try to meet the community leader. Assuming there was a community leader.  Things might work differently here.  People who came, spoke of very different places, with very different styles of governance.  Some sounded quite unpleasant.

She looked longingly at the nice rifle. It wouldn’t do to steal it, if she wanted to make friends. Maybe, if she found danger, she could retreat here and attempt to enlist the hunter’s assistance, or if all else failed, she might have a second weapon. She did a quick self-assessment. Her rifle was nowhere to be seen, but her handgun was secure in its holster; her bear knife strapped to her leg. Throwing knives and other tools rested heavy in her hip pouch. Thank goddess she’d brought them with her today! It would have to do.

A Request and a Question – (second draft) (Post #6)

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“Saul,” said the Assistant Chief, Mike.   “We need to talk.”

Saul sighed and stood up.   He really didn’t want to have this conversation.

“I don’t want to be Assistant Chief,” said Saul.   “I know you’re being promoted since Anna has been gone four weeks today, but I’m sorry, I just don’t think being one of the leaders is the best use for my time. Besides, I’m not good at morale boosting speeches. They tell me I’m too cynical. Too twisted in my sense of humor.”

From the look on Mike’s face, he wasn’t going to take no for an answer.  Saul was beginning to feel a headache coming on.  He was not a man who enjoyed being pressured.

“Maybe that’s what we need, Saul.   There’s precious little humor in our little group these days,” said Mike.

A tiny part of him was tempted, of course.  It was, after all, flattering to be regarded so well.  Of course, he was used to being regarded well.  Still, these were new people, and it was nice to be appreciated.  It was one good thing about being here…  but he had plenty of responsibility.  He worked from sun up until pretty much everyone but Mike was asleep.  He would have to give up some of the engineering work he was doing if he took on the day to day administrative duties that Mike did.  He’d heard of the Peter Principle.  Tempting or not, this was one promotion he didn’t need!  He’d be bored.  He’d be covered in mindless detail.  He’d be mired in petty politics.  No.  There was nothing in it for him.

“No,” said Saul. “Still not doing it.”

“You’re a good man. You know your way around tools and guns. You’re a hard worker.”

“So let me work,” said Saul. “Just because I arrived the day Anna left, doesn’t mean I need to become one of your leaders too.”

“But we need you!” said Mike, looking frustrated.

“I’ll be here,” said Saul, stubbornly, smiling a little. “At least until one of those stupid things opens up and eats me.”

Mike scowled at him.

“If we’re lucky, there won’t be any more of them near here for the next few months.”

Something like hope flashed through Saul, but he tamped down his reactions and forced himself to speak as calmly as he could.

“What do you mean, near here?”  he asked, hoping he sounded more curious than accusatory.

“Well…” Mike hesitated. “That’s why we ask people not to go into the mountain caves.”

Saul had apparently missed that particular memo.  Probably because he tended to tune out administrative announcements after a few minutes.  They did drone on.

“There are more fractures there?”

“There are nearly constantly opening up,” said Mike. “At least, that’s what Anna said. She’s the one who forbid us from going in there.”

“Have you been in there?” Saul asked.

This time, he knew from the look that Mike gave him that he’d asked the wrong question the wrong way.

“Of course not!”

“Then, how do you know it isn’t something else in there?” Saul couldn’t help asking the question.

“Something else?” asked Mike. “Like what exactly?”

He was being defensive.  Saul could tell.

“That’s what I’m going to find out.”

Mike’s dismay and displeasure was almost palpable.  Saul smiled, trying to seem much more relaxed than he felt.  Some day soon, he’d recharge his solar lights and use them to go into the mountain.  He’d been lucky, those were the same lights that had conveniently come through the fracture along with almost everything else that had been in the hunter’s blind with him.  Thank god no one had tried to drink the stuff in the glass jar before he woke up!

“I really wish you wouldn’t do that,” said Mike.

“I know.  Don’t worry about it.  I’ll be careful.  I just think we owe it to ourselves to study the phenomena.  After all, it keeps fucking with us.  We don’t have to be helpless victims, right?”

“No, I suppose not,” said Mike.

A Request and a Question (Post #5)

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“Saul,” said the Assistant Chief, Mike.   “We need to talk.”

“I don’t want to be Assistant Chief,” said Saul.   “I know you’re being promoted since Anna has been gone four weeks today, but I’m sorry, I just don’t think being one of the leaders is the best use for my time. Besides, I’m not good at morale boosting speeches. They tell me I’m too cynical. Too twisted in my sense of humor.”

“Maybe that’s what we need, Saul.   There’s precious little humor in our little group these days,” said Mike.

“No,” said Saul. “Still not doing it.”

“You’re a good man. You know your way around tools and guns. You’re a hard worker.”

“So let me work,” said Saul. “Just because I arrived the day Anna left, doesn’t mean I need to become one of your leaders too.”

“But we need you!” said Mike, looking frustrated.

“I’ll be here,” said Saul. “At least until one of those stupid things opens up and eats me.”

“If we’re lucky, there won’t be any more of them near here for the next few months.”

“What do you mean, near here?”

“Well…” Mike hesitated. “That’s why we ask people not to go into the mountain caves.”

“There are more fractures there?”

“There are nearly constantly opening up,” said Mike. “At least, that’s what Anna said. She’s the one who forbid us from going in there.”

“Have you been in there?”

“Of course not!”

“Then, how do you know it isn’t something else in there?”

“Something else?” asked Mike. “Like what exactly?”

“That’s what I’m going to find out.”

Angela (Post #4)

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She was often in his thoughts.  Angela.  He’d never liked her name, but he had never told her that because from the very first day she’d walked into his very first class in engineering school, he’d known he had to marry her.  It had taken him the entire semester to come up with a way to ask her out.  In the end, though, he’d run out of time.

By that point, of course, she’d already staked her claim.  He’d become her primary study partner and the person she demanded walk her home after late night study group.  By the time he’d finally found the courage to tell her he wanted to go out, he was utterly and completely in love with her and he was the only one in his class who didn’t know she was just as in love with him.

Today he stood on the ridge overlooking the settlement, but his eyes saw only a row of desks in a darkened lecture hall… one frighteningly brilliant red dress in a sea of jeans and  washed out t shirts.  The day she’d decided to cut to the chase and asked him out instead of waiting for him to find his tongue.  The first day she’d called him Saul.

Saul (Post #3)

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Saul Green was a complex man, but for all that he was straightforward.  He was a country boy.  Practical and used to hard work.  Used to dealing with whatever nature and life on a farm threw his way.  His life as an engineer only rounded this practicality out.  What was he supposed to do in this new and sometimes hostile world?  He had no vision of how he could get back home.

There was work to be done, circumstances to face, and he saw himself with few choices but to be as productive as possible.  It had served him well on the farm.  It had served him well at work.  It served him now.

Was he lonely?  Did he miss Angela?  Did it hurt that he’d never see his son born?  Of course!  Still, there was no point in useless fuss.  It wouldn’t serve him.

He didn’t particularly want to make close friends.  He might not be here long.  In fact, that was the plan.  He would work as hard as he could and keep his mind occupied… and maybe, by being outside all the time, the right fracture might take him home… or some other place… hopefully, some place better.  He couldn’t bring himself to hope.  So, he worked and he endured.

The New Man. (Post # 2)

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He wasn’t overly tall.  He wasn’t overly ‘anything’.    He wasn’t thin exactly, but he certainly wouldn’t qualify as the beefy kind either.  He was a stringy, sinewy man, with hair the color of dirty twine – blond, but not quite blond…  His hair that was curly enough to become unmanageable unless it was very short… so, it was.

His face was thin, but his nose wasn’t.  It was prominent and rather round at the end.  His complexion was indefinite too.  Not quite white.  Not quite anything else.  He was somewhere between pale and brown…  dark enough to be considered swarthy or some other euphemism.  Fair enough to burn.  Lips wide and as red as a woman’s, but set to a harder line, except when he laughed.

He was the epitome of ordinary, which meant of course, he was quite the opposite.  Few people got along with everyone.  He somehow managed it.  Mostly by not caring what people said.  Yet, after saving enough of them, it was hard to hate him or feel much of anything about him, actually.  He managed to be remarkable by being unremarkable. To affect others without really trying to.  To work harder than most of the other men his age, but without developing an ego about it or demanding anything in return.

In fact, the most remarkable thing about him was the fact that he never seemed to stop smiling.  Unless someone died.  Then he was serious and helpful.  Otherwise, he worked and he socialized just enough not to be considered standoffish.  He made as few waves as possible.   He was a good friend, without becoming a best friend – or having one.

That was the man who called himself Saul Green.

Saul, who’d appeared when Anna left.  Appeared, and managed to take up a lot of the slack she’d left, though, even with his ready smile and helpfulness, he hadn’t managed to develop the following or the close friends who still mourned her… because he managed to stand just a couple inches outside of ‘arm’s length.  He was there for you, but no one knew what it was he needed, who he missed or if he felt alone with his guns and knives, becoming their best hunter and warrior, protecting the young and the old, and working shoulder to shoulder with the rest.  He would have been ‘perfect’ except he was just a little too distant for that.

It had taken months for Anna to gain friends, but only a few days to become a part of the community.  Saul had been here a month, yet no one knew more than the fact that he came from ‘earth’, from a place called ‘Maryland’ and that he was something called an ‘engineer’.  Once he’d figured out that no  one knew about any of these things, Saul had stopped talking about them.  His job, he’d decided, was to work hard, make as little trouble as possible and get up the next day and do it all over again.

(first draft, unedited)

World Origin – Post # 1

IMPORTANT NOTE: this post was written before the previous two, but not posted.  I’ve changed the post date so that it appears before the other two posts.  Its original post date was not Jan 17 but Jan 19 after the second post.  No intent to deceive.  DBJ.

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It had been a tough day for all concerned.   The weather was awful. The animals were restive. The food was scarce and no one knew what was coming next. The hardest part was that they’d lost Anna. Anna had been their strongest fighter. She’d been experienced, committed and caring. She’d had a way of calming everyone. She understood the fight they were in. She’d been fighting even before they arrived. Now, thanks to yet another microspasm, she was gone.

No one really understood the microspasms. Yet, nearly every time they occurred, someone new joined them… or they lost someone. Some of the people they gained were even more useless at surviving the tough, mountain winter than they were. A few, like Anna, were warriors, survivors… and they made things easier.

The newest arrival had yet to awaken.   That was the way it sometimes was. People came through the rifts violently, sometimes so violently, it killed them. This man looked strong. For one thing, he was armed . They’d learned quickly that those who came through armed tended to be more useful in the fight… but also more dangerous.

They didn’t tend to react well to being dragged headfirst into a new world – and some of them seemed to have no idea how it had occurred or even to have any knowledge of the microfractures in reality that occurred whenever the microspasms began.

So, for now, the newcomer’s weapons were stored. His Beretta, his backpack full of rations, ammunition, knives, and a journal that suggested he might come from a world very different from this one… but one where survival skills were apparently just as valuable.