Writing

What’s in a Name? Part 3: Assignment 1

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I’m running a bit behind this time around, but post 1 for the Week 3 challenge is up. Check out the details of challenge here.

 


 

Silence. Blissful silence broken only by faint lap of the water as the oars moved in and out. An easy motion, practiced and fluid. Caesar’s shoulders tightened and released, propelling the small boat languidly through the predawn mist.

The edges of the night glowed in pale light, revealing the horizon through blurred shadows. Caesar pulled in the oars, resting the heavy wood handles on his knees. He inhaled, the coolness of the mist clinging to to his breath. A shiver crept up down his neck and out his arms in a pleasing reflection of his efforts.

This morning, he had rowed to the middle of the lake, trading the shelter of his favorite cove for the vastness of the open sky, though the mists hadn’t begun to pull away just yet. They wrapped him in a comforting embrace.

Caesar pulled in another long breath, locking the oars in their bindings on the exhale. He reached for the long, wooden fishing pole at his feet. Primitive. Old. Simple. Not unlike himself. Pinching the rod between his knees, he reached for the small container of worms. The moist soil clung to his fingers as he poked around, feeling blindly for the telltale smoothness of the bait. He had only stolen a few nightcrawlers from their respite in the garden, but he had chosen them particularly.  Plump. Long enough to wrap easily around the hook without stretching them too tight. .

There. He clamped his fingers around a worm and pulled it slowly out of the soil. It coiled around his finger as he settled the container back on the floor of the boat and pulled the hook from its clip. Bait set, Caesar swung the pole back and then flicked it forward. The line spun out, the tension of its loop around his finger carrying the tension of the cast. A plop sounded in the mist, and he pulled back on the line, adjusting his grip on the rod.

A smile quirked the corner of his lips as he leaned forward, elbows on his knees. Caesar closed his eyes, breathing in the morning quiet. A bird called out somewhere in the distance, greeting the rising sun. He was home.

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WHAT’S IN A NAME, PART 2: ASSIGNMENT 2

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


 

The rich aroma of sweets and fresh baked break mixed with coffee wafted through the open glass door. Almost strong enough to cancel out the city stench. It had been over a year, and I still couldn’t get used to the smells that came with the crowds. Maybe it was the acclimation to the craft services tables on set. They never smelled… edible, and they reminded me of the city, even a thousand miles away.

Today wouldn’t be the first time I considered offering the staff of Whistle and Thorn a position on my team. And it wouldn’t be the first time I talked myself out of it. I needed something to look forward to when I came home.

The hairs on the back of my neck ticked up. I had hovered outside for too long. The eyes had found me. I flipped up the collar of my blazer and the prickling dissipated. With a side-gaze over my collar, I spotted a trio of teenage girls hovering two stores down. They seemed indecisive enough. I might be able to slip inside without them following. Or I could acknowledge them. The choice was always a gamble.

I had hesitated to a further point of awkwardness. More eyes would follow if I didn’t make a decision. One of the girls had pulled out her cell phone, and was trying to discreetly take a picture. Honestly, it was more obvious that way than if she had just held the thing up in front of her.

Smiling to myself, I popped my collar back down and turned to face them. The one with the camera froze, cheeks flushing. I dug out my best publicity smile with a touch of snark. Feet spread apart slightly, back straight. Hand raised to my brow with a look into the distance. Hold. If their hands weren’t shaking too bad with excitement, they should have been able to take a few photos. Three, two, one.

I rolled out a sweeping, over-exaggerated bow, and with a wink, I stepped inside Whistle and Thorn. I could see the girls’ silhouettes through the squares of privacy glass that made up the street-side wall of the cafe. The girls had moved closer, but I had judged correctly. They wouldn’t follow me inside.

Turning to the counter, I pulled off my blazer.

“Afternoon, Mr. Walker. Your usual?”

“Yes, please. Thank you, Jane.” The ladies behind the counter were always so sweet. I couldn’t guarantee that they didn’t dissolve the facade behind the kitchen doors, but they treated me like a human. They welcomed me home. I smiled. “And please, call me Vance.”

 

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

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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.

What’s in a Name: Writing Challenge Week 1, #2

Running behind this week, but here is #2 for our first week of Character Names Study. Details for this week’s assignment can be found here.

 

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Sunlight seeped through the small, barred window on a mist of yesterday’s rain. At least Poliquin had a window, though he was almost sure he would have preferred the darkness. A window counted out the days of his imprisonment, which had lasted longer than it should have. He picked at the frayed hem of his tunic, cringing at its filth.

Poliquin stretched his legs out and leaned back into the damp stone wall. He supposed the window was a luxury for most, but really, he could have used a cot, or a chair. Even a straw mattress would have been nice, provided it was free of maggots and vermin. No, a cot would be better. He would put in a request with the guard, next time he came by. The man had seemed reasonable.

Or bribable.

They had, of course, taken his coins when they locked him up. And his ruby earring. He would have to talk to Kraz about that. Rubies were hard to come by these days. Regardless, the coins would be unnecessary. His name would be enough.

He was Poliquin Vane.

 

 

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.

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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.

POV Challenge: Week 3, Sample 2

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The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.


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The viewing deck was too empty. The pale, wet weather obscuring the view of the city had kept the crowds away for days. The plan had seemed like a good one. Tourist traps were the best feeding grounds – so many people, so many distractions. Easy accidents. But there had to be enough people.

Skell tightened the hood over his face with gloved hands, pressing himself further into the corner. He pulled the newspaper from a pocket of his jeans and flicked it open. Inconspicuous. So far, he hadn’t drawn the attention of security. With the crowds so thin, they seemed more concerned with last night’s game than the creeper in the corner. They should be fired. The might be, by the time the day was over. Or, one or two of them might be missing a limb. Skell clicked his jaw in amusement. He had to feed on someone.

POV Challenge: Week 3, Sample 1

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The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.


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Cam Cross paced her finger along the rim of her glass. She should have passed on the wine, two glasses ago. The third rippled red waves in tune to her movement, and she chewed her lip, tasting the heavily applied lipstick. She had chosen the restaurant and the table for the vantage point, not the overpriced liquor, which she would be billing to her client. Necessary expenses.

Three people leaned against the two story windows below, looking out over the city. The view sucked, clouds and fog rolling in and out. Rain pelted the windows, but Cam couldn’t hear it over the spattering of tourists. Either that, or the windows were too thick. She couldn’t decide. She preferred the sunshine.

Ghosts preferred the mist. The thought bristled hairs on the back of her neck and Cam sipped at the wine. Ghosts were bad for business, or so said the tower manager. They were good for Cam’s business, when she could stomach it, but she took the hunter jobs as a last resort. Demons,witches, vampires, whichever – no big deal. Cam took a longer pull than was acceptable on her drink, avoiding the gaze of the waiter as he passed by. He didn’t know why she was here. To him, she was just a lonely, over-makeuped patron who had spent too much time at his table already. Not that there was a line waiting at the door to get in.

Cam signaled him for another glass of wine, chugging the last few sips. The waiter filled the glass without a word, and Cam felt the judgement rolling off of him in a wave that prickled her stomach. Maybe she should have ordered an appetizer. Except, she maintained a purely liquid diet on a ghost hunt. Less temptation for her stomach to turn itself out. She nodded her thanks and the waiter walked away. Cam tried to ignore the looks between him and the other man behind the station. They weren’t even trying to hide it at this point.

Grumbling to herself, Cam returned to the finger pacing along the rim of the freshly filled glass. The air around her shifted, sharpening as the sounds of the tourists below faded out. The rolling mists outside the windows were suddenly inside, undulating around Cam’s table in a damp, cold breath. Her skin prickled with goosebumps and the hairs on her arms stood straight up. She looked up from her wine glass straight into pale, transparent eyes that glowed with a tinge of red.

Cam’s elbow slipped on the table and her wine glass toppled over, spewing wine over the fine white linen. The bowl of the glass bounced once and then shattered, and somewhere outside the mist, a man cursed. Across the table, the ghost chuckled breathily and the mists cleared in a snap. The waiter had returned, and was sopping up the spilled wine. He brushed the bits of glass onto an empty plate, and Cam forced herself to look at him.

“I am so sorry. Such a klutz.” She couldn’t hide the shaking in her voice, and the waiter hesitated for a moment, then shook his head and walked away. He hadn’t noticed the entity sharing the table with her. Or the mists. Or the icy note to the air. Cam turned back to the ghost, fingers gripping the edge of the table.

The ghost tipped an invisible hat at her and smiled. “Caesar Frayne, at your service.”

POV Challenge: Week Two, Sample 2

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The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.


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The phone dinged relentlessly in my pocket. I had been away from the office for five minutes. Clients, associates, the dry cleaner reminding me for the fifth time this week my suits were done. I hadn’t changed out of the one I was wearing in three days. Hell, I hadn’t left the office in three days. Ding, ding, ding.

Knuckling my temples, I stepped into the only empty pocket of the revolving door. It bumped me from behind, the worn rubber seals squelching across the marble floor in a lego-sized tidal wave of rain water. It spit me out under the protection of the bronzed awning.

“Afternoon, Mr. Angelo. They let you out of the cage for a bit?” Bruce tipped his hat and pulled an umbrella out of the bin. He shook it once and rain flicked off the black nylon. The umbrella popped open and Bruce held it out to me.

“Jailbreak. Keep the suits of my trail?” The glossy rosewood handle met my skin like an ice cube. I left my gloves on my desk. Again. I wasn’t going back up.

Bruce chuckled and clasped his hands behind his back, the sleeves of his rain gear bunching up at his elbow and making him look twice his size. “I never saw you, sir.”

I nodded my thanks and tucked myself under the umbrella. Once around the block. Ten minutes of fresh air. My feet sloshed through standing pools of water on the sidewalk. I didn’t try to avoid them. Every calculated detour around added a fraction of a second to the time I had already stolen. My cell phone still dinged and buzzed in my pocket. I could turn it off. Drop it down a gutter maybe? They would have a new one on my desk in an hour if I did. The effort would be a waste.

Gains, Gains and Andrews occupied an entire city block on the edge of Central Park, a cosmetic marvel on the shoulder of a tamed wilderness. Anymore, the city seemed the wild thing – unyielding, unforgiving. A spreading virus of discontent bred by suits, greed, and bitterness.

My fingers clenched around the umbrella handle as I trudged on. I had been gaining on the hunched trench coat in front of me for half a block. We had the sidewalk to ourselves, apparently the only two people in the city who hadn’t opted out of the rain. The man had seen better days. A frayed shoelace trailed behind him. The oatmeal tan of his coat barely showed through the spattered stains and the rain had soaked through. He had flipped the collar of the coat up around his ears, and with the cap pulled down to meet it, he looked not to have a head at all.

I jogged to catch up to the man and water spattered up my legs, soaking my socks. “Excuse me. Sir?” He kept walking, either ignoring me or oblivious. I reached out and tapped his shoulder and the man jerked away. “I don’t mean to bother you, sir. I just wanted you to have this.” I held out the umbrella.

He stared at me for a moment, cool grey eyes narrowed beneath heavy eyebrows dripping water onto his cheeks.

Rain dripped down the back of my neck, pooling above the collar of my shirt where the tie cinched it tight against my throat. I pushed the umbrella at the man, hoping he didn’t notice the shiver in my jaw.  “Please, take it.”

He reached forward hesitantly and I slid my hand up from the handle so he could grab it. Rain raced up my jacket sleeve and I shook it out as the man took the umbrella.

“Thank you.” A flicker a smile ticked the corner of the man’s lips and I nodded.

Rounding the corner to the front of the building, I smoothed out my sodden suit jacket, readjusting it on my shoulders in a half-assed attempt to make it presentable. I would have to send Julie to pick up my dry cleaning.

“Ah. Back already, Mr. Angelo?” Bruce cocked his head to the side as I approached. “Your umbrella, sir?”

I smiled and shrugged. “Wind turned it inside out half way around the block. Dropped it in a bin.”

“You have terrible luck with the wind, Mr. Angelo.”

“Indeed.”

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POV Challenge: Week 2, Sample 1

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The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.

 


 

 

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Rain crawled down my skin like sweat, warm and salty, vile with the city’s acidic stench. I pulled the collar of my trench closer around my face, but the damage had already been done. Piss water. That’s all the rain was. I had been pissed on by every agent in the city, and now the city itself was pissing on me too. I didn’t have what it took. I had played a hundred shows back home. Sure, it was the same 50 people in the same shitty bar,  but I couldn’t even get ten minutes on a stage in the city. 

No. I had it wrong. The city was my stage.  

 

POV Writing Challenge: Week 1, Sample 2

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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.


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© Katie Rene Johnson, 2016

Attempt #2

The Brooklyn Bridge steeped history into those that cared to look for it, a handful of the millions of feet that crossed its planks reveling in the grandness of it all. Its dual arches dwarfed the ambling procession below. Couples peeled off to the side where the walkway widened, snapping photos and posing for the city in the background. Evan Thomas stepped off to the side, eyes tracing along the spiderweb of cables and hangers that gave the bridge its strength.  

A woman’s laughter lilted over the wordless drone of the crowd, as her boyfriend dangled one-handed from a hanger cable, feet dangling inches from the ground. The boyfriend flashed her a grin and swung forward as he let go of the cable. A small velvet box pressed into his shin as he dropped, and he thought for a second it might tumble out of his sock and spoil the surprise. Only half convinced it would remain, the man swept his girlfriend up in twirl, her feet lifted off the walk, hair flipping around at the spinning breeze.

The woman’s laughter tingled against Evan’s heart, and he stepped further down the into the arch’s shadow, leaving the couple behind. A bronzed nameplate at the base of the bridge tower caught his eye, and he traced a finger along its edges, reading the inscription. The bridge spoke to him, sharing its knowledge and history with him in waves of goosebumps, and he closed his eyes.

A few yards away, Sarah Ray wedged her way through the crowd. She had wanted to be home an hour ago, but her boss kept her late again. If she had left on time, she wouldn’t have been caught in the pedestrian rush heading over the river, but things never seemed to go her way anymore. The tower congestion cut off her path and a the young man bumped into her as he put his girlfriend back on the ground.  Sara spun around to give him a piece of her mind, but the mob propelled her straight into Evan.

Evan’s eyes shot open as Sarah’s briefcase collided with him and fell out of her hand. It broke open on the slats of the walkway, spewing its contents in all directions. Directing her anger at Evan instead of the young couple, Sarah shrieked, “What is wrong with you!” and fell to her knees, fingers chasing papers and dodging footsteps. The swelled migration of feet split around the two of them as Evan dropped to his knees after her, sweeping up errant pages.

The two reached for a blueprint at the same time and their hands brushed. Sarah pulled away as heat rose up her cheeks, and Evan hesitated with eyes only for the plan laid bare on the wooden plank. He moved it carefully into the suitcase as Sarah watched with incredulity. If that piece had been ruined, she would have been ruined.

Evan looked up, eyes catching Sarah’s gaze and he cocked an apprehensive smile. He held out his hand and helped her to her feet. The crowd behind them cheered as the young man behind them dropped to a knee, velvet box in hand and Evan pulled Sarah out of the way as the group swelled beyond the pedestrian lane. He hadn’t let go of her hand, and she didn’t pull it away.

“Let me make it up to you?”


Attempt #1

133 years of foot-tracked history seeped into Evan’s veins the moment he stepped foot on the Brooklyn Bridge. Millions, maybe billions of footsteps had walked there before him. He wondered over each past step’s intention: commuting, touring, exercising, escaping. How many laborers had left a trail of sweat and blood over the monument’s worn wooden slats? Evan hummed to himself as the flow of traffic pushed him along the pathway. He had dreamed for nearly a decade of crossing the bridge, and he savored each step.

Beneath the first tower, its dual arches dwarfing the ambling procession, the pathway widened and couples peeled off to the side, taking in the view of the city from vacant pockets along the cement barrier. A young man stirred nervous laughter from his girlfriend as he hung one handed from a sweeping hanger cable, feet dangling mere inches from the ground. Behind them, a man with a speckled mustache tilted his camera to the side to better catch the performance.

Evan chuckled to himself as the young man dropped down and swept his girlfriend into a gallant, dipping kiss. A small crowd cheered as he spun her around like no one was watching. It was not unlike something Evan would have done, when he was younger.

The spiderweb of cables converged on chapel peaked arches framed in a perfectly lain stacks of towering brick and mortar. A bronzed nameplate had been set into the base of the tower, and he traced his finger along its edges as he walked by.  He would have given anything to be part of the team that designed the bridge in a time without modern technology – all numbers and angles from a hand-drawn dream. Goosebumps spread up his arm and he closed his eyes for a moment, letting the the resonance of the image overtake him.

A harried woman crashed into Evan from behind. Her briefcase caught on his hip and slipped out her hand, cracking open as it landed on the walk. Papers scattered under passing feet and a week’s worth of late nights and headaches crumpled and tore apart.

“What are you doing?” she shrieked, dropping to her knees and reaching frantically for the papers that evaded her at every turn.

“Oh! I am so sorry!” Evan dropped down beside her, turning the briefcase over and scrambling after papers himself. The woman scowled at him and dropped a tattered sheet into the open case. They reached at the same time for the next sheet, and her heat rose up her neck as her hand brushed across Evan’s.  He barely noticed the touch, eyes focused on the blueprint laid bare on the wood plank.

The woman pulled her hand away, and Evan picked up the plan, setting it carefully into the briefcase before finally looking up into cyanotype eyes. He held out a hand and helped her to her feet. “Let me make it up to you.”

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