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A River Adventure

 Mum always liked to listen to the radio while they were having their breakfast. 'One of the thieves, who has been robbing jewellery ...

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Haiku - First attempt(s)

Haiku baffle me, I must confess.
And how does the «cutting word» really work anyway? Even after these two humble attempts, I'm not quite sure whether I used it correctly or would actually be able to identify it.



Fat frog on a pad
one less dragonfly around -
Just life on the pond


Don't you vanish now
What of your honey so sweet?
My tea forever bitter




Somehow I feel tempted - Oh so tempted - to give each of these samples a title.  If so, would they still be considered haiku

As they are, can they be called haiku or is it too audacious or over-ambitious of me?  

Your help in clarifying these questions is more than welcome - and obviously needed.



Sunday, 26 July 2015

Why do I write?

Reading has always been an essential part of my life, therefore my inspiration must be  linked to the desire of one day having a positive effect on someone, anyone,  just as my favourite authors have had on me.  Otherwise, I don't walk around with a notebook where I jot down feelings or describe landscapes or random situations - I wish I did!  I also wish I were self-disciplined enough to write on a regular basis.  I'm embarrassed to say that I've been relying on people challenging and egging me on: 'write a story for someone who's afraid of...' And I do it, no problem.   (cf. http://thoughts-dreams-tales.blogspot.com.es/2015/07/sophia-meets-fireman-oscar.html)  
I think about the topic, read about the phobia or whatever the subject is about and I sleep on it.  Before I actually sit down and write something I've already come up with many possible storylines, scenarios, etc...Next, I write the first draft on a piece of paper (which I'd never show anyone out of sheer embarrassment) and which is torn as soon as the text is copied onto a word document; the fear of someone finding and reading that first draft outweighs the pity felt for the deformed notebook. As I'm typing the text, I'm actually rewriting and editing the story.  Then I make some more changes until reason tells me it's time to stop.  So I stop.  In short, once I have a writing topic (or challenge) I read non-fiction books/articles in some way related to the topic and rely on the power of thought and, especially, dreams, where I can have as many takes as I need.  Finally, there are some posts that hit a nerve and compel me to write.  This comment is actually part of a comment I left on one such post about «inspiration». (http://daniellestejust.blogspot.com.es) 

And you?  What triggers your need to write?

Friday, 17 July 2015

Target Audience

Establishing the right target audience is what I sometimes struggle with. While some of my short stories are clearly aimed at a more mature readership and others were clearly written for younger minds, there are a handful of tales of mine that would easily fall under a new reader category altogether: that of a universal target audience. As far as I know, publishers are still reluctant to accept and/or introduce this new category so, in the meantime, I try to read articles on the topic to try and stay grounded and not lose sight of my target audience.  
Today I'd like to ask you to help me qualify the target reader of the following short stories:

The Golden Key:  http://thoughts-dreams-tales.blogspot.com.es/2010/12/golden-key-complete-story.html

Playing the Harpsichord of life:  http://thoughts-dreams-tales.blogspot.com.es/2010/10/playing-harpsichord-of-life.html


Thank you for your help.
Paula

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Inspiration


           A few years back I was into meditation and in those 30 minutes of relaxed concentration I would have visions or flashes of images that I would later make sense of in stories. Then one day I moved and stopped meditating altogether, and that was the end of my free inspirational ride. Now most of the time I only seem to find inspiration when I am under pressure to get something done, when someone challenges me to write a story with certain elements or on a certain topic and, especially, when I know someone is waiting to read what I have written. So go ahead and challenge me: become my inspiration muse if only for one story!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

A River Adventure

 Mum always liked to listen to the radio while they were having their breakfast.

'One of the thieves, who has been robbing jewellery shops in the Barcelona area has been arrested and is awaiting trial under preventive custody. Kirsten Hoffman was caught red-handed while trying to fence one of the valuable diamonds from their first heist two weeks ago. The public defender has announced that it should be a cut-and-dried conviction as they also have the defendant caught in the act on one of the jewellers' CCTV...'

'Well, there you go,' said Mum. 'Crime never pays.'
'Have they found the rest of the diamonds yet, Mum?' asked Mariona, the elder of two children.
'I don't think so, hon. According to the 9 o'clock news last night the police are still looking for their loot along with a second accomplice.'
'And what will they do when they find the rest of the stuff?' inquired Mariona, feeling oddly curious about the case. She was thirteen and lately she felt there was not enough common ground or shared interests to be able to hold a conversation with her mum.
'I suppose everything will be returned to their rightful owners. The jewellers have lost a lot of money and I'm sure the insurance companies are also doing their bit to recover the jewels, diamonds and gold. It's in their best interest after all...They'll make a huge loss if they end up having to cover all those insurance policies.
'And what will happen if it's not the police or the insurance companies who find the treasure?' asked Sergi, suddenly also feeling very interested in the conversation.
Mum and Mariona looked at each other and burst out laughing.
'Oh, Sergi,' said mum trying to be serious. 'That person or people might get a handsome reward. Who knows?'
'And why do you care,' asked Mariona rolling her eyes as she always did when her brother butted in on their conversations. 'Are you planning to look for the treasure yourself?' she added ironically.
Sergi chose to ignore his sister and doubled his concentration on the bowl of cheerios in front of him. He decided then that he would speak to his friend, Gerard, instead. Gerard would understand his excitement about the wonderful treasure hidden in or somewhere very near Barcelona. He would tell him that same day after they put up the tent in his room.
n
'The tent looks great. Thanks Gerard. I couldn't have done it without you.' said Sergi, still in awe at what they had managed to do.
'It was nothing really. I'm used to helping my dad pitch the tent when we go camping. And, yes, it does look fab. All things considered, it turned out better than I thought it would.'
'Have you heard about the stolen jewellery, diamonds and such?' asked Sergi.
'Do you mean the robberies in Barcelona?' replied Gerard. 'Yeah, they don't seem to talk about anything else now on TV.'
'Or the radio.'
'What about it then?'
'Nothing much. I think it's kind of exciting to know that the robbers have hidden the stuff somewhere in Barcelona, or in the surroundings of...'
'Do you think they could have stashed it in Sabadell?' asked Gerard, with a thrill of excitement in his voice.
'I don't know. But if they say the treasure could be anywhere in Cataluña, why not in Sabadell?
'So what are you saying? Do you know where it is?'
'Of course not. How would I know that, Gerard? All I say is that it's nice to believe that it is somewhere close. Why don't we make ourselves some pirate hats and pretend we're pirates looking for a treasure?'
'Cool! Let's find some newspaper to make the hats then.' Gerard could feel his heart race with excitement. No wonder he loved coming round to Sergi's – there was never a dull moment around him.
n
'...and the way he shakes his hair back is so cute...No, do you really think he likes me?' Mariona was on the phone with her best friend when Sergi and Gerard came into her bedroom with part of a newspaper in their hands.
'Get out! Get out of my room! How many times have I told you my room is off limits to you? Moooooooooom!'
'Sorry, Mireia. I'll have to get back to you...It's the same old story – my brother just doesn't know what boundaries are.'
'I'm sorry, but...'
'But nothing. You know I don't want you in my room – ever!'
'All right. But now that I'm here, can you help me make a pirate hat?'
'Okay, I'll show you how to do it just one more time and then you must never...'
'Yes, okay, I'll knock next time.'
'There won't be a next time. Do you hear me?...There – it's done. See how easy it is?' said Mariona once she had finished making the second hat.
'Great! Thank you Mariona.' said Sergi, with a big smile on his face.
'Yes, thank you so much,' echoed Gerard.
'Hold on!' said Mariona. 'What's this?'
On one of the leftover sheets she saw a poem. Poetry was not really her thing and some other day it would have gone unnoticed, but something about the name caught her attention and compelled her to read the poem from the small ads section.

In the strong brown god
Lies the key to my release.
Find the shiny pebbles –
Prized gifts to share with the
Black robed man.

If not, dear Quixote,
Behind this cold sullen cage
Without you will I fade.

                                                            Find the shiniest stone
Within the god that has:
A bank that does not store money,
A bed but never sleeps,
A mouth but never eats,
A head but never weeps.

                                                            My dear Don Quixote –
Ask the brown, murky god
to return the freedom
rocks that it hides within

                       your Dulcineia


'What does it mean?' asked Sergi
'I don't know. It's so cryptic. Why would anyone sign off as Dulcineia. And who is this Don Quixote person?'
'Do you think it has anything to do with the jewellery thieves?' asked Gerard.
'Why do you ask?' Mariona wanted to brush the question off as silly but something inside her told her that the idea might not be that far-fetched.
'It's the mention of shiny pebbles and rocks...' replied Gerard, hardly containing his excitement.
'...and there's also the shiniest stone...all these things could refer to diamonds, couldn't they?' added Sergi.
'I guess so. But what on earth is the 'strong brown god'? And why would someone pay to have this poem published in the newspaper?
'I know,' said Sergi with enthusiasm. 'Perhaps the woman who's in prison – Dulcineia – is trying to contact her partner, Don Quixote!'
'Yes, yes, yes! That must be it, Sergi,' Gerard jumped up and down as he said this. 'Your mum is a teacher, isn't she?' Gerard said, heading towards the door, 'Let's ask her what she thinks the 'strong brown god' is.'
The two boys and the young teen rushed out of the room to go and find Mum. Mariona no longer remembered she was upset with her brother for barging in on her room uninvited.
n
Mum was in the living room with Gerard's father and little sister, Martina.
'Mum, look what we found in the newspaper,' shouted Sergi and Mariona at the same time.
'Please, children, there's no need to shout. We're right here.'
'We think the jewellery thief is trying to communicate with her accomplice,' blurted out Gerard.
'What on earth are you talking about?' asked Mum and Gerard's dad simultameously, which made them all giggle.
Five minutes later the children had shared their suspicions and mum was browsing through her books on the bookshelf. The words 'strong brown god' rang a bell. She was certain she had read them somewhere before.
'Here it is, guys! I've found it. 'Strong brown god' is what T S Eliot calls the river inFour Quartets,” The Dry Salvages . Listen: I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river / Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable.'
Sergi felt very proud of his mum. She was so intelligent.
'Okay. Let's have a look at the rest of the poem.' proceeded Nerea, the teacher.

A bank that does not store money,
A bed but never sleeps,
A mouth but never eats,
A head but never weeps.

'A river has banks, doesn't it? The right bank and the left bank.' said Gerard.
'It also had a mouth – the river mouth is where the river flows into another body of water, like a lake or an ocean.' added Mariona, realising that what she had studied in geography was not as useless as she had thought.
'And then there's the river head, which is where the river begins,' chipped in Gerard's father, Jordi, gently stroking little Martina's head.
'That's it. If this is indeed a secret message from the woman who's currently in prison to her accomplice, she must be telling him where to find their loot: Go! Find the shiniest stone / Within the god. She was probably the one in charge of hiding it.' Mum said pensively.
'At the bottom of a river!' cried out Sergi and Gerard together.
'That's right. But if Don Quixote is her partner, who is the 'Black robed man'? Asked Mariona, once again catching everyone's attention.
'That's a good question,' said Jordi. 'Find the shiny pebbles – / Prized gifts to share with the / Black robed man...Do you think it might be to pay for her defense?'
'You mean, like a lawyer?' asked Nerea. 'You know, that must be it. Goodness, never in my life did I think I'd be involved in solving a crime. What do you think we should do now, Jordi?'
'Let me go down to the police station and speak to the chief.'
'Please can we go with you? Please, take Sergi and me with you! Please, please, please dad!' pleaded Gerard.
'I'm afraid not, children. This is serious business and if we all go there and start telling our story the police officers might not believe us. Tell you what, why don't you all prepare a picnic basket and when I come back we can all go and have a picnic by the Ripoll river? I have to go check on my crane, which is on a construction site nearby anyway. What do you say?'
'Yes!' they all said in unison.
'Perhaps we'll find the treasure there,' said Martina, speaking for the first time and surprising everyone.
'Ha, ha!' laughed Jordi. 'Well, I don't think that'll happen! That would be too much of a coincidence, wouldn't it? Nah! Nobody would hide anything in this river.'
n
'Well, guys, here we are. Let's see what you've prepared for our picnic.' It had been a very eventful and exciting morning and Jordi was starving.
'What did the police chief say?' asked Nerea, unable to hold back her curiosity any longer.
'As I had expected he wasn't too receptive at first, but he came round to the idea when I showed him the newspaper clipping and told him what we had discovered. He said he was going to look into it.'
The two families enjoyed their sandwiches and fruit in joyful chatter. After lunch, the two boys, wearing their pirate hats, said they were going exploring. Mariona began playing with Martina and Nerea and Jordi lay on the picnic blanket talking about how fortunate they were that their children seemed to have hit it off so well. They were both divorced and until then they had not been very fortunate in their post-divorce relationships. What is more, they felt they could only be happy if their children were fine with the new situation. They seemed to be and that made the couple very happy. They still lived in their own separate flats but with things going so well they thought it might be the right moment to go on a short holiday together, both families together. From there they would see where life would take them. The important thing was to take it one day at the time and enjoy the moments of bliss – such as this one – that came their way.
'Daaaad!' cried Gerard.
'Mum!' yelled Sergi.
The peaceful silence of the afternoon was broken by the boys' shouts.
'Calm down, boys.' said mum. 'Don't try to speak at the same time.'
'There's a man in a wet suit diving in the river over there.' said Gerard without taking a pause to breathe.
'It must be Don Quixote...' added Sergi, his cheeks flushed with excitement.
By then dad had already started moving in the direction the boys said they had seen the diver.
Five minutes later he was back, picking up the picnic basket and the shoes lying around.
'Quick, everyone, get into the car. Now!' His voice sounded worried.
They drove off and when Jordi thought they were far enough from harm's way he pulled over, called the police station, and asked to speak to the chief.
'Yes, it's urgent. I spoke to him earlier today. It's related to the jewel thieves.'
n
Later that afternoon the police chief himself called to give them the news. They had caught the second accomplice. He had been trying to open the boot of the car to get hold of the diamonds and gold they had stolen.
'The only problem now is that we have to wait until tomorrow for the police crane to arrive. Only then will we be able to retrieve the car along with the valuables,' said the police chief.
'I have a crane. You can actually see it from the river. I can pull the car out of the water for you if you want,' offered Dad.
'That would be great. When can you come?'
'I'll be there in twenty minutes.' Dad said before he hung up. 'Nerea, kids, we're going back to the river.' Jordi knew he could not leave them behind. After all, they had solved the mystery of the stolen jewels.
n
Two police divers had already put a giant chain through the windows of the submerged car and were hooking it onto the long crane beam. Now it was Jordi's turn to slowly control the lever and cables, and lift the car gently out of the water.
Gerard could not be prouder of his father at that moment. Neither could Sergi.
As soon as the car touched the ground and the chain was removed, the chief of police moved towards the car and forced the boot open. Inside there was a big black metal steamer trunk with two huge padlocks, one on each side.
A police officer approached with a huge bolt cutter and snapped the padlocks in half and the two boys were ecstatic when they saw the shiny gems and all the gold inside the trunk. In the end, they had found their pirates' treasure.
The police officers laughed when the boys started jumping up and down, clapping and hugging each other in sheer happiness and with a look of disbelief on their young faces. This would certainly be a day to remember.

And was there a reward? Of course there was: a university trust fund of two thousand euros was set up for each of the four children, and to their utter delight that was not all of it. The jewellers got together and offered the two families a one-week, all expenses paid holiday in Disney World, Orlando, USA! Jordi and Nerea's family holiday plan had become a reality sooner than expected; they could not have been given a better prize. This was possibly the beginning of a new family path, a new family adventure.

- COPYRIGHT/Registado no IGAC


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Sunday, 5 July 2015

Sophia meets Fireman Oscar

For O. M. -
Thanks for your support

Lights out. It was time for some shuteye.
Sophia's eyes felt heavy, very heavy, and her body was becoming one with the darkness in her bedroom.
Click.
A sound broke the silence of the night. A sound almost inaudible but just loud enough to jerk her back to reality.
Sophia sat up with a start and rubbed her eyes. It had almost sounded like the gas stove being lit. It couldn't be that, could it? Her bedroom was too far from the kitchen for her to be able to hear anything that happened there. Her heart started racing. To her horror her eyes caught sight of a huge bright flame dancing in the corridor just outside her bedroom, which threatened to invade her room as well.
'Daddy, daddy,' she cried out in fear.
Soon her father was by her side. Well, on the floor to be precise. He was trying to coax her into coming out from under the bed.
'The fire,' she said hugging him tightly and sobbing in despair. 'I don't want it to gobble me up.'
'There. There.' said her father softly. 'There's no fire here, sweetheart.'
'There is. There was one.' she continued with thick tears rolling down her cheeks. 'It was outside my bedroom. I could see two huge arms of flames beckoning to me...'
'Calm down, sweetie. There's no fire. When you feel like it we can go and check it out. We'll go together. Okay?'
They sat on the bed very close to each other for what seemed like a very long time until Sophia finally mustered up all her courage and, hand-in-hand with her father, walked towards the door.
Only when she had confirmed that there was indeed no fire did she loosen the grip onher father's hand. She was safe. Her dad was safe. Her toys were safe. Her house was safe. The world as she knew it hadn't disappeared into a pile of ashes.
*
'So, are you having cheese or jam with your toast today?' asked Dad.
'Jam, please.' replied Sophia eagerly. She always felt so hungry in the morning!
In the meantime, Dad figured this would be a good time to speak about what had happened. She had been too caught up in her nightmare the night before to have accepted or understood any kind of explanation then, so they would have to speak about it now.
'Sophia, honey, I'd like us to talk about last night.'
Sophia frowned. She didn't want to relive that horror, but she could see her father meant business and would not back down. So, she nodded slightly giving him the cue to proceed.
'I can see that you're afraid and it's okay to be afraid...and I want to help you feel safe.
'It's fire I don't like. I don't like it when you use the stove either...'
'Yes, I've realised that too. You know that if it weren't for the stove we wouldn't be able to cook our food, don't you? What is more, I've already shown you that everything is done in a very careful way and that we never leave anything that is flammable, anything that burns easily, nearby...There's no need to be afraid.'
Sophia bit hard on her toast. Dad could see that she was fighting back the tears.
'Sweetie, yesterday there was no fire in the corridor or anywhere in the house for that matter. You know we have to turn on the lights when we move around at night. Otherwise, we'd always be bumping into things.'
Sophia said nothing but her father could see that she was paying attention, so he continued.
'At school you've also talked about what to do in case of a fire, haven't you? You've even had a couple of fire-drills. And that's very important...It's important to be prepared and to know what to do in case of an emergency, but you mustn't live in fear. Fires don't just happen like that. Indeed, people have to take some precautions but it's actually very rare for there to be a fire, especially house fires.' Dad paused for a short moment to collect his thoughts and then continued speaking.
'You wear your helmet every time you ride your bike, don't you?'
'Yes,' said Sophia, startled at the apparent sudden change of subject.
'Well, you wear your helmet as a precaution, in case you fall. Of course it doesn't mean you're going to fall off your bike and hurt yourself every time you go for a ride. Do you see what I'm trying to say?'
'I think so. I've never fallen off my bike yet I still wear my helmet.'
'Good girl. That's why children mustn't play with matches, lighters or candles. It's also a precaution against starting a fire.'
'I don't play with any of that, daddy.'
'I know you don't, sweetie...Tell you what, why don't we go and visit the fire station this afternoon? I'll phone the station now and see if Fireman Oscar can show us around. He's a friend of daddy's. You'll like him.'
*
'Hello. You must be Sophia,' said the fireman. Stretching his hand out to greet her. 'I'm fireman Oscar.'
'Hello,' said Sophia in a small voice.
'Put on this safety helmet, Sophia. This is what all firefighters wear...It looks very good on you!'
The girl blushed with pleasure.
Sophia and Fireman Oscar went around the fire station looking at all the strange equipment and meeting everyone that was there. They all smiled broadly at the young visitor. They were used to having children come to the fire station.
'Sophia, your father told me about what happened last night...' said Fireman Oscar.
Sophia blushed again – this time with embarrassment. She didn't want to seem weak or cowardly.
'Don't worry. It's okay to be afraid. Fire isn't something anyone should treat lightly. You do need to be careful with and around it. It's not something children can control and they're not expected to either. That's what adults are for. And to keep you safe, too.'
Fireman Oscar's voice was serious but his eyes were kind and sincere. Sophia had taken to him. She felt he could be trusted.
'I was so scared of the dancing flames that I hid under my bed.'
'Oh dear,' said Fireman Oscar. 'Sophia, have you learnt what you should do in case of a real fire?'
'Yes, I have. My teacher told us that we should find the nearest exit and that if we can't do that we must keep the door shut and put some towels, cloths or clothes under the door to prevent the smoke from coming in.'
'That's right. However, Sophia, and this is very important, you must never hide under the bed or in a wardrobe...'
'Why not?' asked the girl feeling a bit confused.
'Well, if you do, firefighters won't be able to find you so easily.'
'I see. So what should we do then?'
'You should stay close to the ground and cover your mouth and nose with a cloth so you don't breathe in the smoke – and never hide.'
'I didn't know that. Thank you, Fireman Oscar.' Sophia felt reassured now that she knew that fire-fighters would come to their rescue should her father and her ever be in danger.
'Now, would you like to climb onto the fire engine?
Sophia's eyes were wide open in sheer happiness.
'Ooh, yes please! May I really? My friends will be so jealous when I tell them about this!'
'Daddy, daddy! Look at me! I'm a firefighter. This is so much fun!
Dad smiled. It had been a good idea to visit the fire station. Hopefully Sophia would not be so terrified of fire anymore. If anything, he hoped she had learned that it is always wise to respect fire and that if people are careful they might never have to fight against one.
And perhaps one of these days he and Sophia could actually enjoy some toasted marshmallows. That would be fun!
*
It was almost time to go back home, but before they did Dad bought a fire-extinguisher, which Fireman Oscar had said was useful to have at home and to contribute to the firefighters' annual fund raiser he got Sophia a stuffed toy dog, called Captain Sparks.
Sophia was over the moon. What a wonderful afternoon they had had. She flung her arms around the surprised fireman and said goodbye.
'Thank you so much. I had a wonderful time today and I don't think I'm that scared of fire anymore!'
'Goodbye, Sophia,' said Fireman Oscar, with a twinkle in his eyes.

- COPYRIGHT/Registado no IGAC


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