Vanilla

Exercise:

  1. Think of a scent
  2. Write all words/phrases associated with it
  3. Write a scene with the same emotions

Scent: Vanilla

Words/Phrases: Her, high school, band bus, color guard room, skipping class, taste, cake, frosting, firsts

Scene:

          Jenny was mid-sentence when she caught a whiff of the perfume. She paused and looked around for the source. It was like dessert… Sugary, sweet, frosted cake dessert. But Dianna was nowhere to be seen.

          “You okay?” Sean asked to draw Jenny back to the conversation.

          “Huh? Oh, yeah, fine. I just thought – Never mind. What was I saying?” Jenny flushed. Dianna had this effect on her; even when she wasn’t there.

          “Something about going out with me this weekend?” Sean said, pulling up on the end to make it a question. He wasn’t quite confident enough to pull off just telling her.

          Jenny smiled but she shook her head. “I’m sorry. I started seeing someone.”

          “Oh, sure.” Sean tried to play off his disappointment. Of course. Jenny was seeing someone. “Well, I guess I’ll see you in class later?”

          “Um, I think I’m gonna skip today, actually. I don’t feel like pretending to care about computers.”

          “Oh, okay.”

          Jenny fought the urge to ruffle Sean’s hair as she walked away. He just looked like a defeated little kid. He asked her out at least once a week. This time, though, she’d been able to give him more than just an “I’m busy” response. Even though she had been busy. Busy hanging out with Dianna. They’d been testing the waters. Exploring their depths.

          Jenny stepped into the band hall and cast her eyes around to see who was in the room. No blonde hair stood out to her. She crossed the room and went into the color guard room. And there she was. Sprawled on the floor with a book open in front of her.

          “Hey,” Jenny said. The scent of vanilla perfume filled her nose and she felt a little dizzy.

          “What’s up?” Dianna flashed her brilliant smile up at Jenny and patted the floor next to her.

          “I was hoping to find you here. No math today?”

          “Not for me there isn’t.”

          Jenny laughed as she sat down. “No computer for me either. I’d rather hang out with you.”

          “Don’t be compromising your GPA for little ol’ me.” Dianna teased and pushed against Jenny’s leg, hand lingering on her thigh.

          “You’re more important.” Jenny rested her hand on top of Dianna’s and fought to keep the blush from her cheeks. “Whatcha reading?”

          “Hamlet. For class.” Dianna flipped the book closed. “Wanna make out instead?”

          Jenny giggled.

          Cookies, and cake, and all things sweet filled her mind as Dianna leaned into her for a kiss. The aroma enveloped them and Jenny became intoxicated with it. With Dianna.  

*

Ghost Stories #1

The Elementary School

                They said the school was built on a cemetery. Not something we were eager to believe, but we couldn’t deny the strange things that happened.

                For starters, there was the cat. No one knew where it came from, or how it had gotten inside, but everyone had seen it. It would be rounding a corner as you passed a hallway. Or pacing in front of the stairs as you went into your classroom. If you tried to get close, it would be gone in seconds. Off to its hiding place.

                Then there was the creature. At the back of the field there was a sewer grate. We used to drop berries through the holes, until we heard the growling. The older kids would warn us about losing our fingers if we stuck them down there. No one could tell us what it was exactly, but we all knew there was something.

                Not to mention the time the fire alarm went off in the middle of winter. Us kids stood shivering in the snow for over an hour as the grown-ups tried to find out what had happened. It wasn’t a drill. No one had pulled it. Even the fire fighters couldn’t figure it out.

                But worst of all was the girl’s bathroom on the first floor. We were ignorant little kids. We tempted fate. We turned out the lights and played Bloody Mary. Now, everyone knows what’s supposed to happen; or at least a few different versions of it. But we didn’t see a face in the mirror or anything like that. Instead, the lights would start to flicker. The stall doors would slam open and closed. And then there’d be a girl’s voice, calling to us to come and play. Most of us would run for it by that point; screaming and laughing in the hallway. We thought we were so clever. So cute.

                But one day, Anna didn’t run out with the rest of us. She wanted to be brave. She wanted to prove herself. But all she proved was that it was possible to drown in a toilet.

Writing Exercise- Lost

*Exercise from The 4 A.M. Breakthrough. #188 Lost*

                “What are we doing here?” Jenna asked her great grandfather.

                Elijah put a gnarled hand on her head and smiled down at her. “This is my old home.”

                “You lived here?” Jenna’s eyes widened as she looked down on the city again.

                It was strikingly empty. There wasn’t a single car or person to be seen. Buildings were in desperate states of dilapidation. Some had crumbled, some were decorated with graffiti and broken windows, and others were covered in vines and other plant life.

                “I lived there,” Elijah said. He pointed to the east, where the businesses ended and what used to be a cookie cutter neighborhood began.

                The houses were worse off. Few were still intact; most had collapsed in on themselves. There were trees growing through some of them. You couldn’t tell where the street ended and the yards began. Almost like someone dropped green paint over the whole place.

                “I remember the last few weeks I was here. Most everyone had already moved on. Well, not that there were many left after the incident.”

                “Incident?” Jenna said the word slowly, not really knowing what it meant.

                “The terrible accident that killed a lot of people. Including your great aunt, my little sister. You were named after her, you know.”

                “Yes.” He’d told her that many, many times. It cropped up in most of his stories.

                “But, yes. When I was getting ready to leave… some of the town was already broken. The incident caused it. Most of the businesses were boarded up. The only people downtown were the misbehaving youth. They broke into buildings and are responsible for the first layer of graffiti.

                “But I think the worst part was the quiet. I might have stayed if it hadn’t been for that. No sound of cars driving past. No kids playing in the streets. No one mowing their grass on Saturday mornings… Silent. Enough to drive a person mad. So, I moved away with the rest of them.”

                Jenna watched her great grandfather with wide eyes. He was always telling her great stories about when he was young. But this one seemed different. She didn’t want him to be sad.

                “What about before?” she said.

                “Hmm?” He’d been lost in thought, staring out at the houses.

                “Before the incident. What was it like?”

                “Oh, it was a fantastic little town. You knew your neighbors. There was always some kind of community activity on weekends. Movies in the park, parades on the square, fundraisers and car washes for the kids… All kinds of things meant to bring people together. Jenna loved it here. Even after our parents died and it was just us. She didn’t want to leave…so we stayed.”

                Jenna reached up and tucked her hand inside her great grandfather’s and gave it a squeeze. He smiled down at her.

                “But enough of this. Let’s go get ice cream.”

Experiment TCA-276 (pt 6)

                “What’s that noise?” Rita asked as Morgan re-entered the office.

                “They’re, uh, they’re cutting at the loading dock door. Sounds like a power saw.”

                “They’re going to get in?” Rita tried to move but then clutched at her leg again.

                “Probably, yes. But I called for help.”

                “The police? But I thought –“

                “No, my neighbor.”

                “What’s he gonna do?”

                “He’ll get us out of here.”

                Before Rita could ask anything else, there was a loud crash as metal made sudden contact with the ground.

                “They’re in.” Morgan leaned her back against the door.

                “They’re going to kill us!”

                “Maybe. I don’t think they’re here for us.”

                “The cadavers?”

                “Yes. Whatever that drug trial was… Whatever it did to them… That’s what they want. I’d bet my life on it.”

                There was shouting in the hallway now. Morgan put a finger up to her lips and pressed her ear against the door to try and hear what was being said.

                “Help me with this!”

                “Get the ropes ready!”

                “Everyone get set!”

                Thuds echoed down the hall, Morgan assumed from the filing cabinets being pushed out of the way.

                “On the count of three!”

                “They’re about to let them loose,” Morgan whispered.

                “We need to move!”

                “What?”

                “To the breakroom. There’s a fire exit, at the back of the pantry. It’s also around a corner. We can hide there ‘til your friend comes.”

                “You never mentioned the fire exit before –“

                “Help me up.”

                “Three!”

                Morgan swallowed her objections and hoisted Rita out of the chair, taking on most of her weight. They cracked the office door and peaked out. There was an undulating mass of bodies down at the end of the hall in front of the OR. The men were wrestling against the reanimated bodies, attempting to subdue them. The cadavers were proving to be quite strong.

                “Quick, while they’re busy.” Rita nudged Morgan forward.

                They took off in the opposite direction at as fast a pace as Rita’s injury would allow. Rita was gasping and whimpering with each step, but she refused to slow down. They were turning the corner, the breakroom doors in sight, when Rita slipped from Morgan’s arms. Morgan spun around and stifled a shriek.

                A corpse was pawing at Rita, crawling up her body, jaws snapping, drool and blood dripping from his lips. Rita attempted to push him away, but it was no good. He bit her hand, tearing a chunk of skin away as she swiped at his face. Then he clamped down on her arm, pulling skin and muscle away from the bone. Rita screamed, but he didn’t stop there. He continued until his face was even with hers and took a bite out of her cheek.

                Morgan was rooted to the spot, mouth hanging open. Then one of the black-masked men rounded the corner and shot the body on top of Rita. The bullet passed through the zombie’s back and into Rita’s chest. They both quit fighting and lay limp on the floor.

                The noise startled Morgan out of her trance. She took another step back, eyeing the man’s gun as he raised it towards her face. But before he could pull the trigger, another zombie crawled around the corner and took him down at the knees.

                “Fuck!” the man yelled, but Morgan took the opportunity to sprint the rest of the way to the breakroom and didn’t see what happened next. There were two gunshots, but the man was already yelling in pain. She didn’t look back.

                She locked the door behind her and began shoving all the furniture across the room to block the door. Once she’d moved everything she could manage alone, she collapsed against the opposite wall and pulled out her phone.

                “I’m two minutes away,” Dale said when he picked up.

                “Zombies,” Morgan sobbed out the word.

                “What?”

                “There’s zombies. In the morgue. They got Rita.”

                Dale didn’t respond right away. Morgan tried to catch her breath as he decided whether or not to believe her.

                “Are you safe?” He said at last.

                “For now.”

                “Hang tight. Find a weapon.”

DIY MFA Book Prompt

Use Description to Reflect Emotion

*Describe the way a character sees a room. Three separate occasions with the character in different states of mind. The mood influences how they see the room*

-The room: The Kitchen-

Mood 1: Being chased by someone and is terrified

                Shana dashed into the kitchen. Looking over her shoulder, she didn’t notice the barstools pulled away from the counter and ran into them. They crashed to the floor, but she paid them no mind as she began to search for something to defend herself. Pots and pans from the night before were in the dish drainer; she picked the largest one up and tested its weight. Maybe.

                Something thudded above her head, but she only glanced up for a second. Pulling open drawers, she searched for the kitchen knives. There were footsteps on the stairs as she grabbed the butcher knife and went for the sliding glass door. The backyard was filled with ominous shadows from the trees lining the fence. Shana hesitated. What if there were more of them waiting outside?

                The loose floorboard in the hall creaked and she decided she would take her chances. She flung the door open and took off across the yard.

Mood 2: Just met the love of her life

                Shana spun in a circle, cradling the vase of flowers she’d found on the doorstep. The sun’s brilliant rays lit up the room. The bright colors of the appliances on the counters reflected the light. She passed over these gleaming surfaces to place the flowers on the kitchen table. A light breeze passed through the open sliding glass door and Shana smiled at the way it made the flowers dance in the vase.

                Birds out in the yard sang and Shana hummed along with them as she returned to her baking. The aromas of vanilla and cinnamon filled the room as she prepared cookies.

Mood 3: Suffered a significant loss

                The kitchen curtains were drawn, blocking out any sight of the sky. Shana wasn’t even sure of the time of day. She’d been sitting at the table for hours. All night possibly. She tilted the cup in her hand to examine the last bit of whiskey. The empty bottle on the table was taunting her.

                She stood and went for the liquor cabinet, hoping against hope there was another bottle there waiting for her. Her eyes passed over the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, ignoring them as she had done all week long. As she pulled on the door to the cabinet, her free hand knocked over the mountain of unopened mail next to her. The bills and letters of condolences fell to the floor. Shana only managed a glance down at them before grabbing the bottle of vodka from the top shelf.

This was the last of it… She’d have to venture out in public after this one.

Experiment TCA-276 (pt 2)

 

              “This is case number 55-8360, Robert Holt. The body is that of a malnourished and diseased seventy-two year old Caucasian male with grey hair and brown eyes. The body is 73 inches long and weighs 145 pounds.” Rita spoke into the microphone clipped to her lab coat as Morgan took notes. “Diagnosed with leukemia in March of 2017. Treatments of chemotherapy and blood transfusions were unsuccessful. Participated in drug trial, TCA-276.”

                Morgan rubbed her eyes as Rita took a breath to examine the case folder. When she looked back towards the body of Robert Holt, the hand twitched against the table. Morgan wondered if she’d finished her cup of coffee as Rita picked up the scalpel.

                Morgan stepped closer to observe the Y-incision being made, knowing Rita was going to have her perform the action on the next body. She’d barely pressed down, however, when a knock startled them both.

                Rita turned towards the stairs with a frown. “That was too close to be the door.”

                The knock came again and Morgan pointed. “It’s coming from in there.” One of the doors on the cold locker rattled as the knock sounded a third time.

                Rita started to walk across the room, but Morgan grabbed her arm.

                “What?”

                “Don’t open that drawer.” Morgan’s eyes were wide and fearful.

                “But what if- “

                “No. We checked in all of the bodies. It’s not possible.”

                Another door rattled, and then another, the knocking becoming more persistent.

                “Wh-what do we do?” Morgan asked.

                A low growl made them turn back to their table. The body of Robert Holt was sitting up, eyes open. As though in slow motion, he turned to look at them and reached out a hand. He overbalanced and fell over the edge, but he kept his eyes fixed on the two of them.

                “Morgan, run!” Rita shoved her forward and they took off for the door.

                Holt crawled after them and got one gnarled hand around Rita’s ankle. She jerked off her feet and landed hard on her knee, a crunch echoing around the room.

                Morgan turned back and scrambled for anything that could be a weapon. She settled for a hammer and laid into Holt’s skull. She didn’t stop until a large crater formed over his eyes and his body dropped back down to the floor.

                Rita was groaning in pain, holding onto her leg. “Oh, Morgan, just leave. Go get help.”

                “I will, but I have to help you first.” She hooked her hands under Rita’s armpits and dragged her out of the room. She closed the door and locked it, then continued to drag Rita down the hall to the office.

The sound of knocking and growling was sill coming from the other side of the door.

DIY MFA Book Club Prompts

I’ve gotten a little behind on the book club prompts, but only because I had to honor my reality for a bit. We just moved into a new house, and that takes up a lot of your free time. Especially when I didn’t have any time off from the day job to get things done. But we’re mostly settled in now and I can devote some time to playing catch up.

                Besides, since I don’t update my blog daily, it was a little hard to keep up with the frequent prompts and this way I can tackle several all in one go.

Prompt #6: Tell us about a time when resistance pointed you toward a juicy writing project

“Resistance comes from fear, and fear has a purpose.”

                In 2013, I got divorced. It was a messy process that left me emotionally scarred. I was unsure of who I really was anymore and if I was even worth anything to anybody. I didn’t like myself and I couldn’t see why anyone else would.

                After some time went by, I began to journal. I hadn’t written anything the entire time I was with ex-husband (one of the reasons I knew that it was toxic and I needed to get out) and I thought this was a step in the right direction to get myself back on track. These journal entries ranged from rants about my feelings or the way he’d treated me, to poems and scenes played out in my head. As I got back into “dating” the entries became about these boys that came and went faster than a revolving door.

                Until one day, I decided to write a story again. My first thought was to make an uplifting book about my experiences and how you can pull through even when you’ve been smashed to a million pieces. It was supposed to be fiction with pieces of my real life threaded through it. I wasn’t sure I could write it as a true story 100%. So, I made up names for the “characters” and gave them descriptions loosely based off the real people in my life and I started in.

                It didn’t take me long to realize this wasn’t going to work. The resistance began almost as soon as I finished the first few pages. It felt forced and unrealistic. This was just not the way the story needed to be told. I gave in to the truth. I sat down with a box of tissues and typed up what had happened to me. All the terrible things ex-husband said or did came flowing out onto the page like it had just been waiting for me to let it out.

                After that part was done, I started in on my journal entries. But any time I got too ahead of myself, trying to “wrap up” the story, the resistance started again. I didn’t know how to end the story, but I found that setting it down and coming back later gave me more perspective on what I was trying to say. The story itself still isn’t quite finished, but that’s okay. Maybe the next time I sit down to it, I’ll know how.

Prompt #7: What’s your favorite supporting character archetype, and why?

                My favorite would have to be the best friend character. I feel that a best friend is very important to real life people, so why not in the fictional world too? It’s good to have someone that you know you can fall back on and they’ll be there for you no matter what. They’re the person that is going to question why you’re acting so strange lately. They’ll notice when you aren’t quite yourself. They’ll bring up what you said you were going to do last Friday, but you never got around to. The BFF knows the protagonist almost better than they know themselves and I feel like they can help the reader get to know your main character without just info dumping.

                In my current WIP, the BFF Robin calls out Whitney for her stutter when she gets nervous in a way that is natural and playful instead of trying to explain her personality traits through flashbacks or boring inner monologue.

Prompt #8: What’s your favorite story type?

                I tend to lean toward the underdog themes in my stories. I like to write about the little guy standing up to the man. There’s almost always some stronger power standing in the way of my main character.

*

                I’m still thoroughly enjoying this book club. I’ve been reading the DIY MFA book a little bit every day and I listen to the podcast all the time. I’m glad I found out about this website at this point in my career, it has proven to be helpful in so many ways.