Throwback Thursday: Herculesa

Still a favorite short, humorous story of mine, first published July 13, 2017:

Herculesa

Herculesa bravely clutches at her last weapon -the Libman of Justice- as she eyes the dangerous Hydra plodding menacingly toward her.

Whack! A purposeful sweep draws the vicious head of Dirty Tile Floors off its base. Swish! Returns the Laundry head to its origins. Clunk! And the Dishes is decapitated.

But, as we all remember, Hydra Housework cannot be defeated so easily. From the supposed stumps of completion, new branches sprout and grow full size. Floor splits into Carpets, Windows, and Toilets; Laundry spawns Sock Mating, Bedding, Repair; Dishes makes more and more Dishes!

Our heroine is surrounded as she stumbles back on loose Hot Wheels and plush animals. Bravely she strikes again and again!

How will Herculesa ever vanquish this unconquerable beast? There is no permanent end in sight!

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Throwback Thursday: How to Write Poetry

I’ve been asked for feedback on poetry a few times, a task I found amusing since I’d begged others for the same in the past. Art is very subjective. Art is also only so when the majority of people agree, when it takes skill, and when it’s not someone peeing in jar and taking a picture of it.

On that note, please enjoy my informative blog post on how to write poetry, first published October 1, 2017.

A Muse, The Blues, Some Clues -AKA How to Write Poetry

 

Lo! What light, what cackling sun
Burns your eyes?
It laughs as you run;
Jumping, grasping, to
Catch the poem…

If you thought that was bad, you were right. I literally wrote that without any thought, direction, or meter. I took about fifteen seconds.

Don’t get me wrong -sometimes people like that crap. Sometimes the Crap Off the Cuff really isn’t bad. However, poetry is just like any other crafted item: the more practice you have at your skill, the better anything you make will be.
Translation: those who are experts can write a decent impromptu poem, and the stuff they worked longer on is even better.

So, *ahem.* Let’s stop mucking about and finally jump into A Few Steps for Writing Poetry:

1. Don’t.
Seriously, there are already a lot of good poets out there who have already written your idea in a better way. Thanks to Google, you can probably find it.
There are also a lot of terrible poets who have murdered your idea and now it’s bleeding by the side of the road begging people to stop clicking that they Like it.

2. Still determined? Good! You’ve passed the first test: that of true motivation for verse. I feel that motivation, a muse, hangover, emotional distress, late-night deadlines -whatever your name is for it- are vital to writing a poem.
Even if you don’t have a clear subject or good structure, the sheer determination to express what you feel will squeeze something out.

3. Actual Guidelines
So… there is this type of meter I poked fun at initially. It’s called free verse. Let me tell you, from my extremely limited experience, that freely versing can be a BAD idea. It’s the commando version of creative writing, and needs a brave, strong, experienced writer to handle it.
My recommendation, therefore, is to follow a meter. No, you don’t have to go full-out iambic pentameter. Only do so if you wish to be counting on your fingers and looking up rhymes for “depressed” all evening.
A good start is to come up with a few lines in your mind, then count the syllables (and pattern of stress/non-stress) and roughly follow that for the remaining lines.

4. Stress and Non-stress
Really quickly: this is where we put the emphasis on our words when we speak. I threw it in here because I mentioned it in the previous step, and you might be scratching your head over it.
Sometimes, I write a poem and there is one line that is really bugging me. Usually, it’s because I followed my syllable count, but did not follow normal speech rules of emphasis.
Because of that, the syllable count is actually off. Readers (including you) will do a mental glottal stop to be able to stress the words where we are accustomed to.

5. To Rhyme, or Not Some Thyme?
This one is up to you. I mostly rhyme for mine, every other line.
The length of each line and how often you rhyme (every single ending word, halfway through, every other, or randomly) will determine whether your poem feels like a poem, Dr. Seuss, or a rap song.
Keep in mind that even Seuss mixed things up a bit. One of my favorite stanzas in The Cat in the Hat is:

So, as fast as I could,
I went after my net.
And I said, “With my net
I can get them I bet.
I bet, with my net,
I can get those Things yet!”*

Try it; it’s fun to read through.

6. Word Choice
Let’s say you want to emote about love and loss of said love. You are going to make us all feel something different than affection if you literally use the word “love” more than about three times. Sometimes, my limit is even one.
This is where your friend, Mr. Thesaurus, comes in. I mentioned this in my How to Not Suck at Writing rant as well, because it’s really important.
Let’s say you’re not that into synonyms. Too much woooorrrrkkk.
You will sound way more mysterious and intelligent if you do it. Like, “I loved and lost and lost my love” could become “Adored, then absent; Carelessly cherished.”

7. More Word Choice
Poetry is all about obscurity. Even when it’s a straightforward tale of a path diverging in the forest, everyone still says the poem is about something deeper.
So, use your new thesaural friend to obfuscate your terms, or make the simple description of your plush tiger on the shelf sound like it represents your childhood memories of being abandoned.

8. Practice and Preparedness
This goes for anything, but especially creative writing.
Read other poets, and copy their style. Keep a notebook to jot down random lines that come to you on the train. Try, try, try again. Everything you read and write will give you experience.

Now, go! Make the world a poetic place.

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens
*from The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. All rights and copyrights, etc. apply

Throwback Thursday: C.S.I.

Originally posted on July 29, 2017, making a bit light of my depressiveness.

Two a.m. was never an easy time to go to a job. But here they were again, hedged by police tape walls and squinting in the dark illuminations of floodlights.

“It don’t look good, Hurles.” He dragged at his e-cig, blew the filtered, no-emission, smokeless, digitally-altered remains of what may have been fumes into the air as dramatically as he could, and gave his partner a serious look.

Julie Hurlesman turned to the prostrate female form on the floor before rolling her eyes, to give him his illusion of dignity. “You’re right, Tray.” She responded cooly. “I don’t see any silver lining in this case.”

Richard Tracy shrugged away from the wall he’d been moodily supporting and effectively shrugged his oversized lapels higher round his neck. Finally abandoning the e-cig to one of many pockets within the long coat, he instead used his right hand to pull his hat brim even tighter down his brow. Satisfied with the final results, he hunched over to stand behind the squatting Hurles.

“Tray,” Hurles said with a decade of patience, “You’re blocking the spotlight again.”

Tray pretended concentration on their assignment as he sidestepped a foot to her left. She pretended not to notice, then intently tried to eliminate distractions as she began her usual examination.

Swirling dust motes and remnant e-cig particles outlined the shadow puppet hand orchestrations of her careful, thorough search. Tray looked on, more distracted in his somber thoughts of how he could finally get Hurles to use the nickname he kept asking her to, instead of the one his mother always used.

“Aha!” Hurles whispered. Tray immediately drew closer, even forgetting to flail his coattails behind him as he squatted next to her elbow. Hurles never made a verbal exclamation unless she’d found something really important.

“What?” He asked excitedly, also forgetting to use his gruff voice.

Infinitely meticulously, Hurles lifted the damp, lanky, unwashed locks from the pale face of the prone body before her. Damp eyelashes bordered a bottomless pool of darkest sadness. A deep brown iris contracted slightly at its sudden exposure to the glaring light beyond Hurles and Tray. The lashes slowly closed and reopened in calculated effect of misery. The rest of the long, drawn face held its agonized expression.

Tray took in a surprised breath. This was important. “You don’t mean -?” He began, turning to Hurles and regaining some of his former composure by raising his thick eyebrows over a fierce glare of suspense.

“Yes, I do,” Hurles told him, meeting his eye and successfully keeping her expression both neutral and normal for the circumstances.

They simultaneously moved their faces slightly to watch, as the woman on the floor heaved the heaviest sigh in human existence. She lifted just enough to turn away from the two investigators, her hair falling naturally from Hurles’ fingers like rain-soaked tree fronds. She lay still once again.

Hurles withdrew her hand, and unobtrusively wiped it on her jeans. She stood. Tray followed suit.

“Another one,” Tray concluded in a deep, gravelly voice. “A victim of her own emotions.”

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Throwback Thursday: Wilhelmina Winters

In June of 2017, I posted the first of Wil’s stories. Unbeknownst to my small fan base at the time, and those who’ve joined since, I first wrote about Wil on Twofacebook and in the winter.

Wilhelmina and her story came to me three years ago. I knew what her family history was and what would happen to the mother she knew. Wil’s character is based on one of my sons, with (unavoidably) some of my own personality as well.

Wilhelmina Winters: A Grand Entrance

parking lot

The pavement sparkled moon white under store lights as the frigid evening air heightened reflections and sounds.

Her warm breath danced crystals in front of her face, and Wil decided that the ethereal effect was acceptable for admittance of someone of her social status. Wrapping her fraying scarf ’round with a flourish, she marched regally toward the busy front doors.

Patrons parted and bowed, and the very doors opened of their own accord to admit this grand sight. She was right to have condescended this evening and mixed among the rabble thus.

Wil deigned herself use of a wheeled carriage for transporting common goods, then turned and continued her stately tread down shining paths of fluorescent shelving. She heard the fanfare and stepped in time to their herald.

“I must retrieve a sacred flask of ale for my poor father,” Wil thought, referring to a few scrawled words on a scrap of paper. She held it importantly between her two mittened hands like a parchment roll. Milk, bread, and can of soup were also listed. Wil cocked her head and looked at the hanging signs above her.

“Excuse me, sir,” she enquired of a clerk stocking a nearby shelf. “Where might one find ale?”

The clerk, a young male of questionable heritage and understanding, seemed confused by Wil’s request.

“Your liquor, sir. Spirits; ale.” She sighed. “Beer!” She said impatiently.

“Oh.” Clerk drew the word out, almost sounding like she were the one not understanding the situation. “Aisle 10, in the fridges.” He turned back to lining up blue macaroni boxes.

Wil covered for her lapse in patience with a small sniff and she turned away haughtily. “Some commoners!” She thought to herself. “Give someone a job and he thinks above his station.”

Her careful promenade soon took her to Aisle 10, the Hallway of Doors. She watched herself stretch and break in each door as her reflection wheeled past. Behind each: a story, a mystery, a possibility.

Here, she found her father’s ale. There, she found her mother’s dairy flagon. The mirrors shut with slap-slaps as she hefted the cool containers into the basket.

Wil raised her chin slightly as she turned her carriage and headed toward another hallway in this mystical kingdom: Aisle 5, Preserved Provisions.

The wheels circled lopsidedly over some foreign object adhered to the front left wheel, and her boots spoke a soft squeak at each step. Still, Wil walked majestically on, her old scarf swaying slightly with each step toward her noble conquest.

 

Keep reading to Two.
All are listed here, though only in reverse-chronological order.\

©2016-2019 Chelsea Owens

Throwback: Snappy McSprinkles

I do not understand the appeal of Elf on a Shelf. The whole thing is CREEPY; a twisted way people are screwing with their children’s minds.

In light of that, enjoy this piece I wrote back in December of 2017:

Elf

They’re sleepin’, so quiet-like. Little pink cheeks smile in dreamland. Soft breathing’s moving their fluffy blankets.

Perfect.

Now, time to untie this string. I’ve been hangin’ around all day, grinning like a fool.

They’ll be the fools soon.

C’mon, striiiiing! I broke through thicker ropes back at The Pen’!

Good ole North Pole Pen. You don’t hear any annoying Christmas songs about that place. Just crap about naughty and nice and coal and presents.

Candy-coated lies, that’s what.

If I just twist this way -oh. The dog. Glaring. Waiting for me to fall. You can fool those fat humans, but never the slobbering dog.

I even tricked a pet parrot once. He was completely clueless, right up till I pulled the first feather. Would’ve had bird for dinner if Blabbermouth Jingle hadn’t seen.

Made for an impressive scar, anyway.

Nice, doggie. Stop growling; go to bed. I’m just a toy, ya dumb mutt. Just a tied-up toy hanging EXACTLY WHERE FUDGING MOM STRUNG ME UP!

What kind of mom ties up a toy, anyway? What kind of twisted caregiver can’t even use a toy the way she’s supposed to?!

Oh! Footsteps. Stop swinging, string. It’s just the wind, dumb broad -I swear.

“Stay, Duke.”

That’s right, ya drooling waste. Stay there. You’ll be asleep soon, too. She doesn’t tie me up every night.

“Hmmm. Where should we put Snappy tonight, Duke?”

Why ya talkin’ to the dog, lady? It’s not like he can answer you. Just wait till you hide me near the Christmas presents. saw that chemistry set. Ha ha. Dead dog, anyone?

Yeah, don’t whine at me. I’m more valuable than you, dog. I’m Santa’s secret messenger and all that.

“I think we’ll do a treat tonight.”

Oh, good. Make it truffles, woman. I’m tired of eating that candy cane crap. That’s all I got in the joint, too: candy canes. You’d think Santa could hire someone who branched a bit, but no.

Maybe they have some sort of deal with Wal-Mart for all the unsold candy from a decade ago.

Dots and Dubble Bubbles! She is doing candy canes. And, duct tape. Why ya got duct tape? What the -no! No no no no no no no -ouch! Oomph!

“Good night, Snappy. Come, Duke.”

Oh, sure. Of course it’s a good night for your walking pet drool machine. He’s not taped to a box of Fun Dippin’ CANDY CANES! He can probably move to piss somewhere besides his own fleecy bottoms and jingling shoes.

Just keep it up, all of ya. I’ll wait. Every night you tie me is one more slit in a sleeping neck. Who’ll be seeing dancing sugarplums then, huh?

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Throwback Thursday: The Ballad of the Garbage Truck

From June 29, 2017, an epic poem I’m stinkin’ proud of:

Oh, hark! -and hear my tale of old –
‘Tis true in ev’ry way:
The ballad of the garbage truck,
A loud, machine-drawn dray.

The daylight barely paints the East,
The weary man just waked;
A stirring in the quiet air,
A song of metal brakes.

How now, my lads? What sings this sound?
What draws attentive eyes,
A-pressed against the window panes,
Or gathered round outside?

Oh, feel: the porch, the walk, the lane!
Oh, see: the living things!
They shake and dart in worried dance
Of what the daybreak brings.

The song exults effulgently
As it comes round the turn:
Vehicular efficiency
As refuse is o’erturned.

Majestic rolls the garbage truck;
Ungainly -yes, but true.
A dutiful collectioner
Of everyone’s snafu.

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Throwback Thursday: Midnight

Every year, I participate in Susanna Leonard Hill’s holiday writing contests. This is the first I ever submitted, inspired by some tiny candy corn men my son made -and inspired by his twisted sense of humor.

Chelsea Ann Owens

Candy Corn Men.jpgTick, tock, said Grandma’s mantel clock, pointing to ten.

Sadie watched it, frowning. It would never be Halloween at this rate!

She sleepily scrambled to the sofa arm. Perching unsteadily, she stretched shadowed arms to retrieve the clock. A bowl of candies knocked loose and spilled to the floor.

She stopped, listening. Only the clock said, Tick.

Prising open the monstrous, creaking casing; she nudged both hands to point up: midnight.

Ching, it said, then, tock.

“Hello!” a cheerful voice greeted. She looked down. The spilled candy corns were moving. A tiny hand waved.

“Hello!” It repeated, “May we eat you?”

Crafted for The 7th Annual Halloweensie Contest.

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Throwback Thursday: Hello, My Name Is

This was my very first post. I agonized over it, edited it, and squinted my eyes as I finally pushed “Publish.” It first arrived on June 25, 2017.

Enjoy.

—–

“Welcome to our little engagement.” A middle-aged woman smiled up at me. She was dressed like a 50’s commercial of a housewife at an evening ball. “Please, find your name tag and join the group.” She gestured to the table in front of her with a well-veined hand ending in Avon-pink fingernails. Her smile was practiced and her actions just slightly exaggerated.

I glanced over my shoulder, expecting to see a camera crew. But, no; there was just a normal wall, various potted artificial trees posted at two unobtrusive doors, and an empty, dark hallway beyond the open doors.

I turned back to the white tablecloth of name tags with their friendly hostess. She smiled graciously again, waiting. Looking down at the options, I was not certain which name was mine. What sort of party am I at? I wondered as I read over them.

“Perhaps,” the woman began, reaching forward and brushing slightly against her rose corsage, “This one, dear.” She picked up a sticker and proffered it to me in the light grip of those nails. I took it, read it, nodded slightly at her expectant look, and adhered it to my chest. She held out her hand for the backing, and smiled up at me as she disposed of it somewhere behind the rectangular table and her folding chair.

“Refreshments will be served in half an hour. Please enjoy yourself before then.” I had been dismissed. She stared at the doors behind me, where I could hear the sounds of more guests approaching. I took one last look at her vintage updo; large, starburst earrings; and rouged cheek. Then, I stepped around the table and into the room beyond.

Intentionally-dim lighting shadowed a small open area with more of those artificial ficus clumped artistically round the walls. A few other women were standing idly: one, drawing a drink near a white tableclothed food area; two chatting with feigned reactions of hilarity at the opposite end of the table; a final woman looking pensive as she meditated on the fine silk leaves of the east wall’s foliage.

I walked slowly toward the drink area as well, though I was not really thirsty. I tried to walk in a way that looked graceful and confident. I knew that I really looked barely-stable and uncertain. As if to make that point, my left toe caught on the floor and I stumbled somewhat. No one seemed to notice and I successfully drew closer.

I stopped and examined the table settings, using that as an excuse to also smooth down the cotton dress I seemed to be wearing. The punch and its drinker were to my left; the chatting women and plant-studier were to my right. A pile of clear plastic plates sat in front of me and various stratifications of empty cake plates, platters, and bowls led eventually to the conversing couple.

“Hi! I’m Confident in Public but Not in Intimate Relationships,” an unexpected voice to my left said. She was a perky and -yes- confident voice. I envied the self-assured tone and slight Southern drawl of her enunciations. Turning to see what face was associated with this introduction; I was greeted by a mid-length, auburn bob curling slightly around a friendly, open face. The hair and face were attached to a slender woman sporting a dress much like my own, in a bold shade of red instead of my pastel blue. The exact words she greeted me with were written boldly on the white square sticker attached above her left breast. She was the punch-drinking woman, and was standing next to me with a hand outstretched expectantly. Her other hand was holding a cup full of red drink.

Not having another obvious option, I took her hand. She applied just the right amount of pressure; a grip that was comfortably, confidently tight but also soft and gentle. “Ah,” she nodded, as I released her tight grip quickly, “I see.” She had read my name tag. I blushed and moved my eyes away from her direct gaze. I pretended interest in the laughing women, who took that exact moment to pause awkwardly in their falsely familiar exchange.

Confident took a sip from her cup, and studied the other women with me. She swallowed and nodded toward them. “That’s More Creative Than Logical and Talks Too Loud. They’re fun. You should go introduce yourself.” She studied my tag again, and generously added, “I’ll go with you.”

She started forward purposefully, and I trailed behind. I tried to imitate her gait without looking like the circus monkey I was certain I resembled.

“Hi, Creative. Hi, Loud,” Confident greeted the women. They smiled and turned to Confident expectantly. “Anything happen while I’ve been gone?” She teased. They laughed; Loud’s a noisy, irritating imitation of sincere gaiety.

“I’d like you to meet my new friend,” Confident gestured to me, standing hesitantly to her right. I saw their smiles fade a few levels as their focus turned on me, then a few more as they made out the words on my sticker.

“Hi,” I said, trying to sound like I hadn’t noticed the dimming effect I’d had. A bit too late, I held out my hand to shake theirs. They reciprocated, in turn. I knew my grip was not as perfect an act as my “friend’s,” but I attempted to imitate the feel of hers as I touched hands with silvery-clad Creative and orange-dressed Loud. Having completed this ritual, we all stood around idly wondering what to do next.

“Well,” Confident supplied finally, “Don’t let me interrupt you two.” She smiled and winked at them. “I know you were having a great chat just now.” The others looked relieved, smiled back at her, and nodded in agreement.

“Oh, yes,” Loud answered emphatically. I saw Creative step back very slightly though she still looked at her companion with pretended pleasure. “Creative here was just telling me about a very funny friend she met back on her first day of college.” She laughed annoyingly again; Creative joined in, more quietly and less annoyingly.

“Sounds great!” Confident responded, adding an assured giggle of her own. I smiled weakly. “We’ll go pop over to see Introvert. Then maybe you can tell us all about it when we come back.” They nodded agreeably (“Sounds good!” Loud exclaimed.) and we continued on to the artificial plant and a quiet brunette still appearing to examine it.

“Hello, again, Innie,” Confident said as we approached the last woman’s area. A petite, long-haired woman of some mid-age turned slowly to blink at us through round eyeglasses. She smiled slightly and intelligently at the space between us.

Confident failed to catch Introvert’s eye. Shrugging, she laid her punch-free hand on my shoulder in a friendly manner. “My friend here just arrived so I brought her over to meet you.”

The small woman turned her body to me, and I was able to read her label: Introverted Intellectual. I smiled. This was always a sort I could speak with, at least somewhat. The conversation depended on whether I had any experience with the topics she had, and how conversant she felt at the time.

As I mused, Introverted frowned and studied my name. I felt a compulsion to turn or hide it, and she was only the fourth person to be introduced to me.

Introverted’s small frame stayed slightly hunched forward, almost seeming to give to the weight of her hanging hairstyle. Her head and glasses pointed upwards to meet my eyes. “I’m pleased to meet you,” she told me softly, sincerely.

“Pleased to meet you,” I replied, pleasantly surprised but also cautious. I knew no one was actually pleased to meet me.

I caught an action from my peripheral vision: Confident taking another casual drink to fill the silence. “Ah,” she began. Introverted and I politely turned her direction. “I see some more ladies have arrived.” Confident nodded toward the door and we looked as well. A party of four or five newcomers was clumped around the hostess’ table, plus two more just through the door. The green, pink, gray, turquoise, brown, white, and yellow movement was a garden of blowing flower tops.

“I’ll just pop over and settle these folks in,” Confident continued. She smiled at me; I timidly returned it. She smiled at Introverted; she was still studying the entranceway. “Don’t worry, dear. I’ll be back again to introduce y’all later.” Confident walked off confidently, ready to bring her necessary order to those tangled weeds.

Introverted and I relaxed in the brief silence and shared solitude. I wondered how many more people I’d have to meet, and who would have to meet me, before the distraction of food.