Death Charms

She added a charm to her bracelet for every life she took.  They clinked along as she slide her hand on the bannister.  The sound of her boots on the stairs cut sharply into the scraping.  Once she reach the top and started walking across the hall, she idly twirled the charms around her wrist.  The Eiffel Tower, a Christmas tree, a Celtic knot… the memories swirled around her, death dancing in pirouettes as she made her way to the door.

She stepped up and placed her hand on the door, pausing to watch the charms gather at the bottom of the bracelet.  The reverie was broken by the sound of steps down the hall.  “Valentina, how interesting to see you here today.”  Without taking her hand off the door, she turned to face the newcomer.  With that accent it could only be one person.  Such an odd accent, she imagined multinational parents, maybe British and Scandinavian?  For herself, she had trained out her accent, no connection, no past.

“Hello Sebastian, I didn’t realize there would be gathering.  Otherwise, why have you come?”

Sebastian didn’t reply, he just smiled and continued to walk down the hall toward her.  Valentina waited, watching, one hand still resting on the door.  Details drifted by her as she waited.  The dark suit was tailored, the custom fit outlining his lean figure perfectly.  His blonde hair was pulled back, neatly tied at the neck.  Nothing unusual, except for the gloves.  Sebastian never wore driving gloves.  Just as she focused on the gloves, he began taking them off.  He placed them in his left pocket and continued to make his way down the hall.

In his left pocket…  the sound of the gunshot briefly drowned out the clamor of her bracelet as she dove to the floor.  Her eyes never left Sebastian, even with the gun lowering to line up another shot.  Squeeze… and jump!

The charms scraped across the stone as Valentina slid over the ledge, dropping into the courtyard below.  She grimaced.  When did she get so careless?  No time for that now, time to get out of the villa before Sebastian moved to the edge and took another shot.

The click as he checked the gun.  “Valentina, my dear.  You cannot be surprised, can you?”  Sebastian taunted her from the balcony.  East through the archway to the outer hall.  The charms jangling, a dissonance for the rustle of leaves as she cut through the bushes.  “Your bracelet has been filling rapidly as of late, and not all from our contracts.  How curious, suddenly working for free.”  North to the exit.

Sebastian’s laughter in her ears, a counter beat to her steps echoing behind her down the hall.  Her nerves were rattling in tun with her bracelet, sliding up and down her arm, her whole body having taken up this sprint for her life.  Had they found out?  When did she slip up?  She shook her head and continued to run.  If they knew the truth, it wouldn’t be Sebastian here, and she wouldn’t get away.

When she got to the entrance, Valentina hesitated on the threshold just a second.  A bullet shattered the silence as it impacted the sidewalk.  Just as she thought, he stayed on the second floor and went around, she hadn’t been quick enough to get outside first.

Valentina twirled onto the sidewalk, the move becoming a mad pirouette, her arms working to get above her head, increasing her momentum.  The boleadora swirled around, the three weights now fully spread.  It left her hand as her foot came down.

Her arm back down at her side, the bracelet crashed against her thigh as one of the weights crushed his throat.  Valentine tilted her head to the side.  “Hmm, I think yours will be a necktie.  I did always appreciate your sense of style.”

Memories… and Writing… and writing memories down…

I was recently reorganizing my journals.  In all truth I am trying to consolidate a jumble of unrelated thoughts and pull them together in some organized fashion.  Unfortunately, so far the result is a jumble of cutout pages from two journals that were tossed, another set of journals where I have tried to keep related thoughts together, two new journals, of which one is already christened with a new book idea, and my loose-leaf journal in which I’m supposed to be organizing the ideas for my “main” book.

One of the journals I kept is the closest thing to what you would consider to be a diary.  Now, I don’t write in it every day, the writings aren’t even dated, and it’s not necessarily a ‘what happened’ kind of thing, it’s just random thoughts.  In this journal I write a lot about family, different memories and other things that grab my attention for more than a fleeting moment, but definitely a lot about family.  I do it because they are important to me and because I sometimes have trouble with the depth at which I keep my family, the emotions, what it all really means,  and because it can be tough with the little time I do get to spend with them all (I live half a country away from my mom’s side).  Back to why I brought up the journal though.  I came across an entry where I write about one of my cousins.  I can tell it’s from a couple of years ago.  I talk about seeing “J” during the trip.  On my previous trip out west, he was away for work, so it really had been years since the last time I saw him.

Now J and I only got to spend a few hours together.  He got back from a work trip the day before I was leaving to come home.  However, in that few hours, and even now rereading the entry and describing it here, it reminded me of everything that IS him.  On the one hand, we were there, sitting at his mom’s dining table, and on the other hand, we were kids again, playing and laughing.  Even then you could see the caring man he would become.  He was there with me, even though he had just gotten back, had only briefly seen his wife and kids and had only said hi to the siblings he had chanced to see.  He had specifically come to see me, the cousin from a million years ago.  He didn’t know it then, but he was just what I needed.  While some of the discussion was a subject I avoided around my family (my mother), I could sense the love and concern.  For those few hours, J wasn’t just my cousin, he was my big brother.  Some of it was annoying, because well, it’s annoying when siblings are right, but it felt good.

Authenticity at its most intimate.  People like J are who they are, regardless of whether or not you sit with them for an hour, or interact with them all the time.  The love, care and concern were real, not just because we are cousins, but because J is who he is and nothing can disguise it.  It makes the memory so vivid.  For me, that memory underscores the importance of family, and memories like it are why I now go out of my way to visit every year.

Memories are important to who we are, they can also be important to who we want to be.  In writing, they can be important to who we shape our characters to be.  I want to build a character that reminds me of J, reminds me of that moment, in a scene as authentic and thought-provoking as it was with us.

So why did I bring this up?  Because coming across that entry, I’m glad I wrote down that memory.  To be honest, it’s only six lines in the journal.  But look at this post.  Out of those six lines, I can write over 600 words.  And in the end, the most important piece, what started the whole thing, those six lines, were written down on a whim, in a journal of random thoughts.  And now, those six lines make me remember.

Do you write down memories?  What thoughts capture you as you stare out a window, wind down for the night, or as you shower in the morning?  My suggestion? Write them down every chance you get.  Six lines, six words, or six paragraphs.

Curiosity… Why didn’t I think of that?

Last week I attended a Women’s Leadership Conference in Springfield, MA. The theme was “Be Curious.” Now, I really do enjoy going to this conference and have gone the last three years. It is very inspiring, motivating and I always have some takeaways. Being who I am, of course I run things over in my head continuously, especially after the high of the event has settled back down. Almost a week later, this has led me to different takeaways, one big one in particular.

Random drives. Before my husband and I landed on opposite work schedules almost every weekend was an adventure, even to destination nowhere. We would drive for hours. If we left early enough, it might’ve been a day for Maine, Lake Champlain in Vermont or a scenic drive through upstate New York. Leaving later in the day meant maybe we had dinner on the Cape. Yes, we would drive a couple hours for Wendy’s or Subway on the water at our favorite spot and then drive home an hour or two later.

My point is, those random drives fed my curiosity, my sense of wonder. The only time we were glued to our phones was when it was getting late and we really needed to figure out how to get home. Although, his mother or grandmother has a saying that you’re not lost if you haven’t crossed any oceans. Any way. I also wasn’t glued to my camera. It’s important to SEE what’s around you and not just worry if you got the perfect picture.  Don’t get me wrong, I take a lot of pictures, but I don’t hold it up constantly and only look for good pictures.

I realize now part of what could be missing with my writing is curiosity. For me, curiosity and imagination go hand-in-hand. I see an old house and imagine what it might’ve been like to live in that time, or imagine the wildlife that could be hiding in the forest, or what is that hawk thinking as he sits there on that stump… Those random thoughts don’t fly through my head as much as they used to, so I find it harder to focus on the stories in progress. I know it sounds like an excuse, but it’s the best reason I’ve got, because I have *tried* to get those stories moving.

I think I need to find a way to feed my curiosity the way those trips did before. I need to find a way to balance the activities that sap my energy with those that feed it, find more time for activities that make me feel like I’m thriving, not just surviving. Even as I say that in my head, the phrase “find more time” bothers me. It’s more that I need to ditch the activities that don’t add value. A topic for another time…

What if I try mini trips on my own, not as far, but with local parks or sights in mind? The key will be finding a way to make the trip an exciting prospect even though I’m going alone.  While I’m not an outgoing social person, I find more reasons to be lazy than to go out when it’s just me.  Anyone willing to adopt a thirty-something year old for family outings?? No?  If someone won’t adopt me for day trips, maybe I’ll adopt someone else.  As odd as it sounds, my mother-in-law may be a good one for that, maybe I can steal her away every other Saturday…  Hmm.

Now, to make this work… Mother Nature, can you let it be spring so I can be out and about? Thanks, your trying-to-be curious child.

Blog Reboot! And Using Anime as a Writing Tool

I have decided to reboot my blog.  In order to get better at writing, I have to, well, write!  The new format will be a combination of fiction and creative nonfiction short stories.  Some will be personal, or just observations of the world around me, and some will be light and fun.  I hope you’ll stick around to find out and provide great feedback along the way.

One of the things I’m trying is to take a scene from an anime and re-describe the scene in my own way.  I’ll give an example.  Recently I watched (again) an anime called Vampire Knight.  The anime is not what I would consider to be a fast-paced anime, with a lot of emotional scenes.  Some of these scenes don’t have a lot of dialog so it’s a lot of internal thoughts of the character and visuals that drive the scene, the emotion, and the tension.  What catches me is some of the non-verbal interaction between the characters.  There is one scene where the main character, Yuki, turns aware from Zero (one of the main male characters) and he walks up to her from behind and grabs her hands.  It is not one of the most intense scenes in the series.  In fact it took me forever to even find a fan-made recreation of it on the web.  However, there are so many aspects of the physicality of it that intrigue me.  I’ve done a quick re-description below, taken out of context and with my own embellishments, so if you’ve seen the anime, know up front the scene won’t quite match.

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Yuki turns away, takes a few steps and then stops.  Why does he act like this?  They’ve lived together for all these years and yet sometimes he could still be so frustrating!  He didn’t need to remind her of the way the world fit together between humans and vampires.  He especially didn’t need to remind her of what Kaname meant to her.

Without warning, Zero comes up behind her.  He slides his hands down her arms to her hands, covering them in his and pulling her back.  It throws her off balance a bit and she leans back against his chest to avoid falling over.  He starts to lace his fingers in hers but stops.

The silence between them hangs in the air.  The only sound is his heavy breathing as he leans over her.  She can sense the jumble of emotions vibrating in his chest as she continues to rest her head there.  Standing there a few moments and she can feel her frustration fade a bit.  It’s comfortable to just stand there with him.  If only she knew what was going on, what he was thinking, maybe she could help.

Yuki can feel Zero calming down.  Before she can muster any words, he lets go.  She doesn’t really hear what he says as he walks away and by the time she turns around, he’s gone.  What is this she’s feeling?  And what was wrong with Zero?  Was everything really going to be okay?

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Now, I can tell you I haven’t done the scene justice, and on screen I think it is less than 10 seconds, but I want to be able to take a scene like that and make it have impact.  So, time to keep writing!  And time to keep watching anime too!

How do you hone your creativity?