Coffee? Yes, please. Can I have some chocolate to go with it? No? That’s ok, no worries. Some chocolate cake perhaps? No cake either? Ah, well (sigh) let’s get on with it then.
Do not let yourselves be distracted by the drama. Or, by all means do! It spices up who I am or who knows; perhaps it brings out the best in me. I find that a bit of drama can’t hurt: it flavors life and helps getting through the day. As an introvert or “hedgehog” (someone that keeps to themselves and drives everyone else away – as lovingly described by a very close family member when I was about 18), I still get the occasional bouts of needing to hide away.
Misfit throughout the biggest part of my teens and tweens.Closeted nerd and gamer. Trying to adapt just to please others and be accepted only succeeded in scraped knees and a wounded soul. So, what’s a girl to do? Tell them all to go fish and just be you, do a bit of drama, enjoy the day. After all, if you feel comfortable in your own skin, no one should tell you otherwise.
So, here I am now. Open nerd and declared gamer. Wannabe writer, dividing my time between my day job, family and children, (neglected) hobbies and writing. I love the theater but haven’t seen a play in the last five years. Cinemas make me slightly claustrophobic, so if I have to go, I pick a morning show, with a half empty room.
I have many faces. One of then spent about 14 years being a teacher, which is not much different than telling stories: why you’re supposed to do things this way or why it would work better the other way around (yes, this also applies to Math). After a while I decided that sugarcoating the educational curricula is not suitable as a long term plan unless you have an overwhelming desire to go mad. I don’t.
The Drama Queen spent every Saturday with the drama club and the Singer used to go to church choir rehearsal every Thursday; the latter sang every Sunday during Mass.
The Crafter in me sat down with needlework, crochet and knitting, paper, scissors and glue, paints and inks, pencils and markers. Oh, to wander through a well-stocked stationary store!
The Baker baked three tiered chocolate cakes decorated with marzipan roses and was able to bake cupcakes with her eyes closed and one hand tier around her back. Her Christmas coconut meringues were gone in seconds. Did I mention that she made mean profiteroles?
The Chef cooked salmon en croute and slow cooked roasts, made soups and sauces like a pro. The Child went out to play in the virtual realm of fantasy and fiction. The Scholar went to college and the teenager was yearning for love and understanding.
All these faces are still neatly squished together in my head, however they need a playground otherwise they wreak havoc. Someone had to take hold and let them out, one by one, to hone their skills. No one was strong enough, so the Scholar picked up the challenge and lets the others come out to play, one by one. So, if today I’m the Drama Queen, do not worry, I might be the Baker on the weekend and I am definitely the Singer once a week.
#FP: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?
LC; I love the way a whole world starts from an idea, from a spark in the dark, much like every journey starts with a first step. It’s also a bit like knitting: you start out with a few balls of yarn and slowly transform them into something you’ve set you heart and soul into.
I love the clicking of the keyboard in a completely silent house or the scratching sound of a pen on paper. It’s so satisfying to see a new world unfurl from your fingertips!
Funnily enough, I get the best ideas when doing repetitive motions: cleaning dishes, mopping the floor, knitting, cooking. Then it’s just a matter of trying to remember everything after I’m done with my chores!
#FP: So, what have you written?
LC: Ah well, about that… I have written a few poems, some of them are on my blog, others still on paper. I also have a few WIP’s such as the first part of a children’s story that I had to make up on request, at bedtime.
Nothing is finished yet; I probably need another few gentle pushes from @Melfka to finally get things done.
#FP: When did you know writing was for you?
LC: I was always a storyteller but rarely wrote anything down; I didn’t think it was worth it and besides, no one would be interested to read my ramblings anyway. It dawned to me in my early twenties that maybe writing some of the ramblings down wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.
By then, my head was filled to burst with stories and I needed space for new ones. I was afraid I would forget the nicer parts of my stories or a certain twist that I considered being unexpected, so I started writing them down and the act of writing opened a whole new world of possibilities for me: you could say I got hooked. I do wonder sometimes how come it took me so long to get started.
In my pre-laptop era I used notebooks and pens; I probably still have a few forgotten notebooks hidden in my book case, with stories in various stages of progression.
#FP: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?
LC: At the moment I have a few WIP’s that I try to tend to at least once a week. One of them is a series of short stories about fairies (not the traditional fairy tales, though), originating in requested bedtime stories, such as “Tell me a story about the [insert object name here] fairy!” I am trying very hard to keep them as children’s stories but sometimes they have a will of their own and go mad!
The first one is about a fairy (what else!) that has to bring embers through a dark forest as part of an old coming-of-age ritual. The embers are used to light small beacons in the forest, for the fairies to find their way home at night.
She gets lost in the woods at night time, she is alone and cold and decides to use the embers to warm herself. The forest is pitch black; she feels a thousand eyes watching her, critters are crawling on her skin and something or someone is tugging at her hair and her wings. She is too scared to go ahead or go back, so she sits down and opens the box with the embers. The embers are glistening and glowing and she is mesmerized by them. She tilts her head into the box to get a closer look and a strand of hair is falling in, touching the embers. The little specs of light and heat are caught in her hair and while she is shaking her head, trying to remove them, they cover her dark hair with a warm golden glow and rain down onto her wings, lighting them up. The fairy is now very scared, as she fears to burn her wings and she’s fluttering around, up and down, trying to put the fire out. When she finally sits down, crying from fear and exhaustion, she is amazed to notice a glowing light that seems to come from behind her. She tries to turn her head half expecting to find her wings burned down, but her wings are there and they are glowing! She touches them carefully, as not to get burned but the light is cool and won’t harm her. The darkness surrounding her slowly gives way to the mellow light from her wings. She picks up the now empty box and continues her path through the woods.
Upon arrival, everyone gasps in amazement at her new wings but they are concerned that the ember box is empty and that they wouldn’t be able to light the beacons. The fairy goes to the final beacon and opens the ember box, hoping to find one last ember, but there is none. As she turns away from the beacon, one of her wings lightly touches its surface and lo and behold, the beacon lights up in a blaze!
Followed by her friends, the fairy goes back into the forest and is able to light every beacon along the way using her wings.
I haven’t decided yet whether the fairy will be the only one with the magic wings, or if she will be able to pass on her new found powers to other, so that they might light up the beacons at night.
“The Violin” (this one actually has a title) is about a boy who’s very close to discovering his quite unique legacy. He comes from a long line of gifted people with roots in the past and a very uncertain future. He’s torn between his passion and the need to keep it under control and hidden as much as possible, knowing to well that too much success would cause not only his downfall but endanger his family as well.
And thanks to #FP prompts, I have another few WIP’s that originated there; “Dishonorable”, “Troubles thoughts”, “Prophecy”. Everything else is still waiting to emerge on paper.
#FP: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?
LC: Pantser it is …Mostly I start with a first sentence then let the story unfold and carry me away. It can take twists and turns and I usually let it have its own way. Sometimes I do change the story line and rub my hands thinking: “Let’s see how you get out of this one!”
The fairy stories have an outline, as they have to be fun, time limited (suitable for bedtime tales) and contain at least one (preferably female) fairy. Everything else is relative.
#FP: How do you find #FP helps your writing?
LC: One of the best things that I learned to appreciate at the #FP prompts is the character limitation per tweet: it pushes me to compress my thoughts and get right to the point; otherwise I would go on and on rambling.
I’m tickled pink every time I am feature in the weekly collection. Thank you so much for that: boosts my wannabe-writer’s confidence.
#FP: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?
LC: I like the challenge of telling a story in as few words as possible (well, sometimes more). I love to read entries from all the other #FP addicts and I am thankful for the received feedback: shows me that my writing goes the right way.
#FP: What inspires you most about writing?
LC: That’s a difficult one: I suppose it’s to see the way a story flourishes, to see it grow from a seedling into a fully-fledged tale. Oh, and I like the idea of leaving something behind when I’m gone, even if no one’s going to read it apart from family and friends.
Have I mentioned that I’m not brilliant at gardening?
#FP: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?
LC: In terms of authors, I’m drawn to sci-fi and fantasy. I remember my first contact with sci-fi; I was twelve and I discovered “The Cyberiad” by Stanisław Lem. The cover looked nice and I had a brief look inside and before I knew it, I had read the whole book. It was fascinating to read about fairy tales with robots, cogs, planets and creational dilemmas.
Once a sci-fi fan, always a sci-fi fan. Further down the reading road followed Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Isaac Asimov, Fredric Brown, Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin and A. Heinlein, just to name a few.
I’m also inspired by tales of myths and magic; I read “The Mists of Avalon” at least a dozen times and I still manage to find new depths and undiscovered phrases.
My aspiration is to successfully combine fantasy, myth, magic, sci-fi and elements of the pagan religions (which I find intriguing and fascinating) in an amazing story which will knock everyone socks off!
#FP: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
LC: Finding time to do some actual writing would be a first one. Next in line is the actual typing of the story; this is always somewhat of a struggle, because I tend to get distracted by adding this and that to the sidelines instead of focusing on what I actually want to say in my story. The stories sound so much better in my head! The lazy part in me is considering speech recognition software, but then I wouldn’t be able to get anything done when not alone. But still, so very tempting!
And once I actually manage to finish typing the story out, editing is not that much fun either.
#FP: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?
LC: Apart from secretly wishing everyone was in bed and asleep, not much. Even then, I find that the ideas I was pondering upon earlier had just flown away as soon as I have time to do some actual writing. So I just stare at a blank page and start typing out random words, hoping that one of them will light a spark.
#FP: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?
LC: I’m a cat person and a story idea is very much like a cat. You don’t own it, it owns you. If you are too insistent or too pushy, it will arch its back and hiss at you. Be gentle and bribe it with some (brain) food, such as chocolate or cake and wait until it grants you permission to pet it or scratch it behind the ears. Once the story idea has nestled comfortable in your (brain) lap, feel free to explore it at leisure, knowing that it has accepted you as its master.
In other words, do not lose faith and do not despair. Take it one day at a time, wait for it. Patience and perseverance will be rewarded in the end.
#FP: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?
LC: I like the possibilities that fantasy and fairy tale have to offer; also the way a tale can take an unexpected turn and go in the opposite direction. I find that adding a shred of every-day life to a fantasy story makes it sound that much more real. A hero has to do chores after all; otherwise he’s not too credible.
#FP: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
It is one of the first memories I have of the new house. It stood on top of a soft hill, was built from brick and wood, painted powder blue and white, and had large airy rooms and windows overlooking the hills. On clear days you could see the dark edge of the forest from the kitchen window.
The house came with a huge garden with vegetable and flower patches and a handful of trees in the back, growing behind a downtrodden shed. Later that year, in autumn, Dad would discover the grape vines embracing the outer fence.
We had just moved in that summer and I spent the first days running around the garden and climbing every apple tree in the small orchard. I chased butterflies and looked for hedgehogs, shrieked when spiders crawled up my shoes and collected snails in an orange bucket, to make my own snail farm.
I started school a few weeks later and I felt excited and nervous at the same time. We were still new to the parish and I hadn’t really met any other children my age so I was looking forward to new friends and playdates.
I remember waking up on the first day of school to the smell of cinnamon waffles and coffee. I ran barefoot downstairs into the kitchen, where Mum lifted out the last waffles and placed the heaping plate onto the table. She smiled and opened her arms; I flew into her embrace and buried my face into her long auburn curls. She smelled of lavender and cinnamon and I didn’t want to ever let go.
Dad stepped into kitchen and poured coffee and tea into powder blue mugs; coffee for them, peppermint tea for me. The scent of the hot beverages, mum’s lavender and Dad’s aftershave blended together into the smell of my childhood; my safe haven.
My brand new school bag was waiting on my chair, together with an oddly shaped wooden box. I didn’t know yet what it was, but I felt strangely drawn to it. I reached out to touch it and was surprised to find that the surface wasn’t cold, as expected, but mildly warm. I ran my hand along the raised parts of the box and looked up to see Mum and Dad smiling:
“It’s a violin,” she said. “Your new school will teach you how to play it.”
My hand was still resting on the violin box and I could feel the wood getting hot under my palm.
“Why is the box so warm?” I asked. Dad’s brow furrowed but he was quick with a smile. “It’s ok,” he said, “That’s a sign that the violin likes you!” The box was starting to burn my hand but I couldn’t let go; tears were welling up in my eyes. Mum gently lifted my hand from the box and handed me the schoolbag: “Now, who wants to go to school?”
The rest of that day and the weeks afterwards are a blur. I remember sunshine and red maple leaves in the school yard, the pitter-patter of raindrops on the windowsill at night, the smell of freshly picked apples, ink and new books, morning mists rising from the valley and flocks of geese flying south. Strangely enough, I can’t remember any music or learning the violin.
On a Sunday in October, Mum baked her famous apple pie and Dad cleaned the whole house, from top to bottom. Aunt Morag would pay us a visit.
“You have clearly not given this decision enough thought,” Aunt Morag was sitting at the kitchen table, her back perfectly straight in the oaken chair. Mum and Dad were sitting on the opposite side of the table, looking nervous, yet determined.
“Have you considered the implications?” she asked.
“We have, “said Mum. “He always reacted different to music, even as an infant.”
Aunt Morag pressed her thin lips together. “Yes, well, Julia, infants react different to a whole range of things. There is no way of knowing yet and this is just calling it out. He may not be a Musical. David here liked music too, but that was not his calling.” Aunt Morag turned to Dad.
“David, you of all people should know that the Calling cannot be determined this early. Have you forgotten that already?”
Dad reached out to hold Mum’s hand. “I haven’t forgotten,” he said in a firm voice. “And I won’t let anything like that happen to him. If he’s not a Musical, we won’t force it upon him. He’s free to find his own Calling.”
Aunt Morag did not seem pleased: “Fine, and what if he is a Musical? How will you be able to contain it? It’s far too early for him to master it and it will only be a matter of time until it consumes him or worse, expose us all! There is a very good reason why the first step on the path to the Calling starts when the child is ready! Are you willing to risk his sanity and our safety?”
Mum sat up straight in her chair: “We are not going to risk neither his sanity, nor our safety. If Music is not his calling, he simply won’t follow that path; we will teach him to look out for signs and guide him towards them.”
Aunt Morag shook her head: “I pray to the gods that you are right,” she sighed. After a few moments of silent brooding, she turned to Mum and smiled: “Now, Julia, give us a slice of that glorious apple pie. All this worrying has made me hungry!”
I remember the very first violin lessons; there was no music-making involved and I was somewhat disappointed. We were taught how to get the violin out of the box, how to hold it under the chin. We had to memorize the parts of the violin: the scroll, the pegbox, the turning pegs, the neck and the fingerboards, the upper and lower bout, the waist and the F holes, the bridge, the fine tuner, the tailpiece and the chinrest. The strings are E, A, D and G. The bow had a stick, the bow tip, the bow grip, the frog; the adjusting screw and the hair were horsehairs.
At first, I didn’t want to touch the violin box again; I was afraid that it would burn my hands. I discovered that once I had opened the box and taken out the violin for the very first time, the box would never get hot again. The violin was smooth and nestled comfortably under my chin and in my hand. It felt like a part of me.
It was a misty morning in November when Miss Matthews, our violin teacher, said that we were going to listen to our violins today. We were each told to take our violin out and place it under the chin. Then Miss Matthews whispered: “Your violin will now speak to you. First, make a fist with your right hand. Now stretch out your pointing finger and bend it to make a little hook. Move your arm, your fist and the little finger hook over, above the strings and carefully pluck one string.”
The silence was broken by a cacophony of sounds, a storm of buzzing pizzicatos, as each one of my classmates plucked wildly at the strings of their violin. I was ready to pluck a string too, but I couldn’t make up my mind which one to choose. They are looked equally enticing and I didn’t know how to choose one. As I looked down at the strings, with my index finger in the air, one of them seemed to vibrate, emitting a low hum. I lowered my finger and the humming stopped; when I lifted my hand, the hum was back: it was like the violin was telling me which string to pick, so I gently plucked the A string.
The string vibrated under my touch, filling the room with a sound that reverberated into every corner. As all the other violins went silent, I could see the sound roll up from the violin, touching my finger and unfolding into bubbles of crimson hues and deep reds. The room suddenly smelled of apple pie, cinnamon and lavender. The bubbles looked very real and I reached out to catch one, dropping the violin.
The bubbles were suddenly gone, together with the smell of apple pie, cinnamon and lavender. I couldn’t hear anything, except the roaring laughter of my classmates. I couldn’t see or feel anything, except the hot tears running down my cheeks. I turned around and ran out of the classroom, ran blindly out into the street until I couldn’t breathe anymore.
I’ve tried so often to think back to what happened next, but I can’t. The only thing I can remember is that after running until out of breath I suddenly smelled lavender and found myself nestled in my mother’s arms. I cried uncontrollably while she was holding me on the way home, when she put me to bed and while she sat with me, holding me tight until I drifted off to sleep, dreaming of our apple orchard and of blue lavender fields on the horizon.
I woke up briefly that night to hear loud arguing downstairs. I could make out Mum’s voice, then Dad’s, and then Aunt Morag’s, then Mum’s again and then another voice; it sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. I couldn’t understand what they were saying and I was too tired to get out of bed and go downstairs, so I closed my eyes, conjuring up the apple orchard and the lavender fields.
Later I would learn that Aunt Morag stayed the night and the voice I couldn’t quite place was Miss Matthews’. Aunt Morag summoned her to the house, planning to triumphantly lay the blame on my parents for making me attend violin classes and to forbid Miss Matthews to ever teach me again. It could have gone very bad that night. Surprisingly, it was Miss Matthews who achieved the impossible: she and Aunt Morag talked for a long while after my parents went to bed and it was agreed that I would not attend the violin classes in school anymore. Instead, Miss Matthews would come to the house once a week and teach me. Either Mum, Dad or Aunt Morag would have to be present as well; for my own safety, as I was later told.