creative

What’s In A Name, Part 2: Assignment 1

week2

Check out the details for this week’s challenge here.


The crystal pins pricked against Niven’s scalp, and her eyes strained in the corners at the tightness of her swept back hair. Normally, she preferred the more relaxed style of the court – the flowing locks, dresses that didn’t suffocate. slippers instead of rigid heels with laces that pinched her smallest toe. But tonight was her brother’s night. His coronation. The highest ranking lords and ladies had traveled weeks to be here. They all had to be at their best. Even three-year old Letta.

Niven smiled as her sister pranced regally behind their mother, greeting each arrival with a clumsy curtsy and a twirl of her skirts. Her smile relaxed into a resigned sigh. To be that free again.

A light finger tapped Niven’s shoulder, and she sucked in a startled breath, spinning around. A half-quirked smile greeted her, and she laughed, bumping playfully into her brother.

“Jumpy tonight, I see.” Stefan swept her a bow, and Niven returned a curtsy. She couldn’t dip as low as she normally did, the boning of her corset digging into her ribs.

“It is a big night, brother.”

“For me, or for you?” Stefan winked and stepped away, letting himself be swept into the meandering crowd.

Surely he couldn’t mean her engagement. This was his night. If their father had orchestrated this night for that… well. Niven didn’t want to think about it.

Trumpets sounded from the dais and the crowd turned in a hushed wave of rolling attention. Niven shifted her way towards the back of the room, weaving through their guests with nods and half curtsies. She would make her way to the front of the hall from the sides of the room. Slip into her spot at the table with out anyone noticing. Niven was good at avoiding attention. Or maybe everyone was good at ignoring her. Either way, her parents preferred it that way, especially on a day like to day.

For me or for you?

Niven frowned, excusing herself as she trod on a young lord’s foot. What had Stefan meant by that? She glanced up at the head table, and stopped. He wasn’t there. Of all people, he should have been right there, standing next to their father. Niven’s frown deepened and a twist of anxiety clenched her stomach. Her father maintained a perfect court mask as he welcomed the lords and ladies to the event, but even from her spot half way through the room, Niven could see the telltale twitch of his left eye. Concern? Or something else.

A cloth pressed roughly to Niven’s nose from behind as a hand yanked her back.

“For Valen!”

Niven’s ears rang from the yell. Sinuses burned, clouding her vision. The room swirled in a blur of color. Someone screamed. Niven tried to scream, but an arm had looped around her throat. Spots joined the clouds in her vision and she tried to kick back with her feet, but she couldn’t find them.

The force at her throat pulled her away from the crowd. Her eyelids fluttered as she tried to keep them open – but they were so heavy. A moan of despair escaped her lips, the failing of her breath giving in.

“Just relax, love,” the voice whispered in her ear. A familiar voice. A warm voice.

“Stefan?”

The light disappeared.

Advertisements

What’s In A Name: Writing Challenge Week 1, Sample 1

We are moving on to  a new set of writing challenges for a few weeks, this time focusing on characters and setting while applying our study of POV. Details for this week’s assignment can be found here.

week1

Chipped chrome glinted like diamonds in the glaring Florida sun. Ron reached up and shielded his eyes, despite the dark, thin-wired aviators. He pulled in a long breath, tasting the oil and gasoline on the breeze. The exhaust of passing cars. The pungent smoke of a cheap cigarette. He followed his nose to the shack on the corner of the lot. Two of the four windows on the rusty garage door had been broken out and taped over with plastic bags that pulsed in the raking wind. They framed the source of the cigarette, the king of the car lot on his throne. His mesh-backed hat perched loosely on the top of his balding head, a chrome nameplate flashing like a silver crown.

Ron had found his kingdom, now he needed his steed.

Inspiration: Opium Dollars

I have worked in a coin store for about 4 1/2 years. The job came about after I jokingly mentioned to a friend, “Hey, you need someone to photograph all those coins, right?” A couple weeks later I was offered the position. For the first few years, my sole mission was to photograph various coins for our eBay store and then ship out said coins. Last year, I started working the retail side in front of the store as well. It has been an interesting experience, and there are days I come across something I never even knew existed.

The first jarring experience came from holding a roman coin from AD 330 in my hand. Yes, you read that right. AD 330. The second most jarring was how inexpensive a 1,686 year old coin actually was to buy. Aside from that, I have discovered that from a collector’s perspective I prefer old currency, though I loath it from an imaging/sales perspective. Same goes for foreign coinage. I came across some coins from Norway once that were made from iron. I thought they were pretty neat, so I bought them from my husband. Still, I am not a huge fan of coins in general. I may or may not feel a slight animosity towards specific USA coin types due to the difficulties that arise when trying to photograph them efficiently and attractively. My favorite coins are Franklin halves, which are universally accepted as probably most lame coin variety to have an interest in. I like them because they almost always photograph beautifully. The way a coin photographs is about as complex as my interest in numismatics gets. It photographs nicely? Cool, I like it. It’s a pain to photograph? Burn in a fire. 

That being said, every once in a while something truly interesting comes into the store. We buy a lot off the public, and you never know what you are going to get when a customer pulls a little felt bag out of their pocket with a handful of coins they inherited. Most of the time the coins are common, worth a few cents or even a few dollars. Most of them come in with a story: a father fought in this war and brought these home from overseas; a grandmother has been collecting since she was a child; grandparents lived during the Great Depression, etc. etc.  Usually, whoever brings in the coins has no idea what they have inherited which leads to low, or occasionally very high expectations.

A gentleman came in recently with the usual, “These were my dad’s, I have no idea what they are, etc.” leading into a small felt bag with a handful of assorted coins. At this point, I can’t even remember what else he had save two particular items of curiosity. First, he had a small handful of sales tax tokens. These were interesting because I had never seen them before, but as tokens they fell quickly into the “these are neat but they aren’t worthy anything” category. Next, he pulled out what looked like an old trade dollar. Trade dollars are the predecessors to the silver dollars that most people are familiar with today, and also a type a coin I know very little about, aside from having some numismatic value. More interesting than the type of coin itself, however, was what had been done to it. In my experience, when coins are used for something other than a coin, it typically involves turning said coin into a piece of jewelry – often necklaces or bolo ties, occasionally rings. In other cases, people turn the coin into art such as hobo nickels or recently discovered (for me) some beautiful engraved coins like these.

This particular dollar had been cut open, hollowed out, hinged and made into a box that with a little compartment just big enough to fit a quarter. When closed up, the thing looked just like a normal trade dollar, which was the entire point. My analysis immediately gravitated to, “This is fake.” But as I looked at the coin itself, there were no immediate giveaways to an untrained eye to signify that this was not a genuine coin, despite it being able to open up like a box. Having never seen or heard of such a thing, I showed it to my co-worker who said we would have to wait for Boss-man to take a look at it before we could buy it. I took down the man’s phone number and sent him away with the coin and a promise to let him know what we found out about it, though not before taking a few pictures.

img_20161109_122154 img_20161109_122215 img_20161109_122204

While waiting for Boss-Man to return from lunch I started googling this strange little coin that had come across the counter. It turned out that it used to be common practice for people to hollow out the insides of old silver dollars and turn them into boxes. Today, they are known most commonly as “Opium Dollars,” an alleged smuggling device for small stashes of opium. I was immediately intrigued. It turned out that the “Opium” part of the history was mostly false, as the pocket inside the coin would barely hold enough opium to do any good. Instead, the coins were most often used to hide away a trinket of picture of a loved one. Like a locket hidden in your pocket. The stories instantly started brewing.

Unfortunately, the coin them man brought in turned out to be a fake. Which saddened me because I wanted to buy it, fake or not, but my measly personal offer wasn’t enough to bring the coin back to the store. However, Boss-man happened to have the real deal.

img_20161109_131640 img_20161109_131418 img_20161109_131540

 

While I had a hard time picking up the differences between the two, the interior of the coin sold me on the lack of authenticity on the first coin. In the end, despite that fact that I didn’t own even a fake one, I still found myself daydreaming about such a piece’s history. I still think about it, honestly.

I suppose that is one great thing about working in a coin store: you never know what you are going to find and what stories may lie hidden inside it.

 

 

POV Writing Challenge: Week 1, Sample 3

challeng-banner-pov

Hot on the heals of NaNoWriMo and determined to keep the energy flowing, a group of writers and I have decided to take up a 4-week writing challenge. After a month of spewing words out as fast as possible, we are taking a step back and focusing on craft, specifically looking at point of view through flash fiction. If you are interested in how the challenge works and want to follow along, check out the details here.


2016-04-18_231429552_5dee7_ios

© Katie Rene Johnson, 2016

Wind lashed against Brant’s cheeks jetting pellets of river water into his skin with needle pricks. He hated the wind, especially in the city, though the way it thrashed the Brooklyn bridge edged its way up for a close second. Brant looped his thumb through the keyring in his pocket, flipping the two small keys around each other. Top to bottom. Bottom to top. A chill spidered down his neck. Nerves or wind – he couldn’t tell the difference.

A shoulder bucked into him from the left, and Brant’s toe caught on an uneven plank as he stumbled. His eyelid twitched. Safety hazard. Priority seven. His free hand flicked to the railing and he steadied himself. The wind choked out his calming breath and he exhaled in a sputtering cough. The planks might as well have been wet concrete. Each step sucked him down, heavier and heavier. Impossible to move. He inched his hand further up the rail, dragging his feet forward. The rail held his weight without a tremor. Satisfactory. The keys in his pocket tumbled over one another. Bottom to top. Top to bottom.

The wind kicked an empty water bottle along the walkway barrier. It skittered to a stop against an overflowing garbage bin. Health violation. Priority three. Brant tipped the water bottle into the less full recycle tub and skirted around them both. A paper bag made its escape on a gust of wind and Brant clenched his teeth. Not my problem. Not my responsibility. Not anymore. Almost there.

Tucked against the brick of the support tower, the wind seemed less belligerent, and Brant rolled the tension out of his shoulders. A dozen paces away, chains of padlocks encased the bridge support cables. The keys in his pocket bit into palm of his hand. The lock pushed against his leg, suddenly heavy and unwieldy. Pulling his feet out of the concrete, Brant stepped forward.

Up close, Brant could read the names drawn onto the locks with paint or marker: Danny, Joe, Sharon, Casey. Ribbons tied to various shackles clipped back and forth in the wind, edges frayed and disintegrating. He couldn’t count how many locks there were. Dozens? Hundreds? Enough that the weight had built up for sure. Safety hazard. Level four. Priority five. Brant traced his fingers up and down the cables, reaching, testing. The higher the stack, the more solid the the stands of locks. They gripped one another, locked together by downward force. One cable, two.

The third was shorter, newer. Colors hadn’t faded yet in the sunlight. The ribbons less frayed. Brant could almost reach the top of the stack. He pushed up on the one of the locks and it gave, opening a small gap on the cable. He let it fall back into place, taking a step back. The wind raced against his ears, blurring out the traffic below, the hum of passersby. His own breathing cut in and out, catching on the rise and fall of the wind. Reaching into the heavy pocket, Brant pulled out the lock. Candy apple red. Gold shackle. One name.

One of the keys slid easily into the lock, and he heard it click, even over the drone of the wind. The body rotated to the side as the shackle pulled free. Brant pulled the key from the mechanism, and reached back up the stack, pushing the same forgiving lock out of the way. The gold shackle looped around the cable, and Brant twisted the body back into place. The lock snapped shut and he exhaled sharply. The sounds of the city wedged their way into the place over the breath he had been holding, and he took a step back from the rail.

Brant glanced over his shoulder, first right, then left. No one seemed to have noticed what he had done. Easing the keyring from his finger, Brant let the keys rest on his palm, holding his hand up to eye level. He closed his eyes, drew in another breath.

His fingers wrenched shut and he pulled his arm back. Swing, release. The keys flipped through the air and over the edge of the bridge.

Inspection passed.

Save

Save

Save

Save