Monday, January 30, 2017

today's google doodle

Today's google doodle is featuring Fred Korematsu, a civil rights activist who fought against the internment camps set up by the USA, within the USA, to hold our citizens of Japanese heritage.

We must not forget that we are not above doing atrocious acts, but that we must strengthen our resolve to learn from our mistakes, and to do better, and be better. And then, to not repeat our mistakes.

Friday, January 27, 2017

a little less writing a little more ACTIVISM

This week I've not been working on the craft of writing very much at all. I've been over at twitter as @TrayEllisWrites and more engaged in the past 7 days as a citizen who is Very Concerned, than as a writer.

I think the next four years will be a mix of activism and writing, because both are important to me.

Free Fiction: Work To Do II

Even with Chaz's help, it took six hours to clear all the walkways on Knute's list.

The snow brought in by the snowstorm was heavy, wet, clumping snow. Every shovel full dragged with weight, but the solid clumps of snow were easier to shuck off to the sides.

Chaz followed Knute to each walkway and after the first few, they fell into a pattern. Chaz whistled while he worked, a perfectly in-tune, trilling whistle with high notes and low notes. Knute didn't recognize the tune, but he enjoyed the music.

Normally he tucked his ear buds in and listened to something with a pounding beat to help energize him through the difficult shoveling hours, but Chaz's infectious whistling was too interesting to miss out on. Knute wanted to hear how the whistling moved along. Would Chaz stick to the same tune, or change it the entire time?

By the last walkway, Knute had his answer. Chaz progressed through an entire litany of musical themes, a few Knute had recognized, although most he had not.

Knute flung the last shovelful of snow to the side and stopped to admire their handiwork. "Man, that was a lot of snow. I couldn't have done it without you."

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a curtain twitch inside the house. A woman with bright eyes and gray hair peeped out at him. When she realized he'd seen her, she gave him a flash of a smile and a thumbs up signal before pulling the curtain closed again.

Chaz swept his gaze down, in an aw-shucks move that made Knute's stomach squeeze.

"Weren't nothing. Glad to help," Chaz said.

Knute checked the time. "Noon," he said. "Lunch time. Do you want to pick up something on the way home? Pizza?" The restaurant where he worked would be open now and Knute could pick up a pizza for cheap. He turned away from the condo area they had been shoveling and set out toward the restaurant, which was in the same direction as home.

"Sure, that sounds good." Chaz starting walking beside Knute.

"So...." Knute gripped the handle of his shovel. "About payment? What were you thinking?" He figured he should probably offer half of what the jobs were worth, except that the shoveling gig kept him afloat. When Chaz had offered, it had felt more like a friend doing a favor, but as they'd worked through the walkways, Knute realized it wouldn't be fair if he didn't pay Chaz fairly. "I don't get paid for this until the end of the week, so we both'll have to wait a little."

"I didn't help you because I wanted the cash," Chaz said.

"Yeah, but it's not right if you did half the work," Knute argued.

Chaz reached out and put his hand on the handle of Knute's shovel and they paused in their walk to face each other.

"I was hoping to spend some time with you. Get to know you better," Chaz said.

Knute swallowed hard. "What--"

Chaz's hand slid up the handle until it covered Knute's. They both had on thick winter work gloves, but Knute could feel the pressure of Chaz's hand. "You work all the time. How else is a guy supposed to get some of your time?"

"Oh," said Knute. He hadn't dared to hope that might be the case, and here it was. "I--"
He struggled to know what to say. "I guess we'll have some time to talk over pizza."

"That'd be nice." Chaz removed his hand from the shovel handle. "Anything but onions. They give me heartburn."

"And bad breath," Knute added.

Chaz looked sideways at him, a hint of a smile at the corner of his lips. "Anticipating a kiss?"

"Maybe. Maybe not," Knute said. "But everyone knows you don't order onions, either way."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March

While I generally try my best to not go into political issues because this blog (and my twitter, and my FaceBook, etc.) are about my being an author and my writing, sometimes the world outside the writing cocoon cannot be ignored.

Strength, love, and peace to those marching today.

I do not believe in hate. I do not believe that assault and sexual assault are acceptable. I do not believe in lies. I do not believe in being a bully. I do not believe in being nasty. I do not believe in an ego so fragile that instant negative and harsh retaliation is always the answer.

I believe in kindness and acceptance. I believe in love.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Free Fic: Work to Do

Knute plunged his hands into the hot sudsy water. A few months ago, he would have grimaced, but now he could take the punishment. His hands reddened but he pushed the discomfort to the back of his mind to focus on the job at hand.

Four tables full of people were still loitering over their dinners and desserts. He'd have to go collect the used plates and silverware and transport everything to the back of the kitchen. Jason should be helping him, but the guy had called in sick. Again.

Knute was really tired of Jason calling in sick.

Knute had to pick up the slack, and that really stunk.

He pushed those thoughts away, lest he spend the rest of the night stewing about it and getting himself into a righteous snit. He didn't have time to get worked up about the injustice.

The four tables were finally emptying of people, an hour later than usual, and Knute needed to finish this job so he could go home and catch a few hours of sleep before he started on his other job. Shoveling people's walkways.

A deep blanket of snow had been forecast to begin just after dawn. He'd need all the sleep he could get because once it started, he'd be on his feet for hours.

He needed the money from both jobs to pay rent, otherwise he'd have been happy to work just one of them.

Less than half a year ago, he'd been in college, mounting up debt as well as below-average grades. After freshman year, he couldn't hack it anymore. If he got out, he could pay off the chunk of debt he'd accumulated. If he'd stayed in, he could have dug himself deeper into debt while waiting to flunk out. He'd left of his own accord.

Knute finished cleaning up the dirty dishes and wiped his hands one last time on a nearby towel. His bones ached from the physical exertion and he knew he smelled of sweat, soap, and smoke from when the cook burned some bacon.

Nearly two in the morning. Knute sighed and began walking home. He only lived a quarter mile from the restaurant, in a house that he shared with three other guys all trying to make something in life work out better.

Ten minutes later, he opened his front door. Light flickered and the sound of people yelling and cars speeding around let him know at least one person was up late watching a movie. He looked into the living room.

"Hey," he said.

Chaz was sprawled on the couch, looking barely awake. "Hey," he said. He checked his watch. "Late night."

"Yeah. Group came in twenty minutes before closing." Knute waved a hand. "I gotta get some sleep. Shoveling." He plodded to his bedroom.

When the alarm went off in the morning, it felt like he'd been asleep for five minutes. Knute dragged himself out of bed.

He sniffed. The scent of fresh coffee lingered in the air.

Knute pulled on his work clothes and made his way downstairs.

Chaz was there, frying eggs in a skillet. "Hey," he said. "I heard your alarm so I knew you were getting up."

Knute noticed an extra shovel leaning against the corner near the door. "What's going on?"

Chaz shrugged. "Thought you could use some help. It's my day off." He turned back to tend to the eggs. He poked at them with the spatula, not actually doing anything. "You looked really rough last night."

"Huh." Knute ran a hand through his hair. He did need help with the shoveling. A glance out the window told him the snow was starting to fall faster. People got royally pissed if their walkways weren't done lickety-split. "I'd appreciate that."

Chaz abandoned the eggs for a moment, facing Knute. He looked like he wanted to say something, then turned back around to poke at them again.

Bewildered, Knute went searching for a clean coffee mug. Chaz was a nice guy. They got along well and Chaz never left dirty laundry in the common areas. But they hadn't ever made a lot of conversation together. Knute didn't know that much about Chaz. He turned to ask Chaz why he'd be so helpful, but lost his courage the moment he saw the side of Chaz's face, scowling slightly down at the eggs.

For the moment, he'd be thankful. Later, when he wasn't so tired and worn out, he would figure out what Chaz was up to.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Free Fic: Tea and Cookies

I love to write about people having tea. So I keep imagining so many different scenarios where it happens. This is yet another one!


"The water will boil in just a minute." Janice, Kirk's mom, bustled around her kitchen. She fished cloth napkins from a drawer and a beautiful silver tea service strainer that nobody ever used because Janice bought tea in tea bags. She placed it gently on the table between her china cup and Kirk's. "There. That looks nice."

"Mom, it looks beautiful," Kirk agreed.

The table did look nice. Instead of the usual untidy mess of magazines, oil-stained placemats, half-opened mail, and various left-behind silverware there was a clean and open space. Only their two china cups, mismatched but both lovely, with cloth napkins, a silver spoon for each, and the tea strainer perched on the tabletop.

"Oh. I forgot the milk and sugar." Janice hoped to her feet again and began bustling around the kitchen. The moment she'd grabbed the sugar jar from the counter, the kettle began to whistle.

"I've got it." Kirk pulled the kettle from the burner. He searched for the teapot and found it neatly tucked away in the far cupboard. He also dug out the tea bags from the plastic container where they were stored.

"Thank you," his mom said as she sat down again.

He put teabags in the pot and poured in the hot water. "Do you have a timer?" he asked

She moved to jump up again and Kirk waved her down.

"I've got my phone." He pushed a few buttons. "How long?"

"Three minutes, I think?" She sighed. "Better make it four. I hate weak tea."

Kirk started the timer and sat down at the table. "It's been a while since we've had tea together."

"I know," she said. "But you texted me this time that you were stopping in to grab some of your old things, so I figured you could spare a few minutes to catch me up on what's going on with your life. FaceBook is nice. I like the photos. But it isn't everything."

"I only live fifteen minutes away," Kirk said. "I'm not that far."

Janice shrugged. "Sometimes close is just as far away as far." She stood up and rummaged in a nearby drawer, the lowest one that was slightly deeper than the others. She pulled out a package of cookies. "Look," she said. "Your favorite."

Kirk tilted his head. "Coconut macaroons. Mom, those are Joe's favorites!" Joe was his older brother, and the shining star of the family. He was off to law school after having earned a scholarship to his undergraduate university. Kirk was just starting to see the bills from his college education, and still didn't have a full time job with which to pay them. He was looking, but times were tough. It was just like his mom to get Joe's favorite cookies.

"What? No. I got yours." Janice looked at the package. "Wait a second." She went back to the drawer and exchanged packages. "Here we go." She showed the cookies off with a flourish.

Gingersnaps. Kirk smiled. "Thanks."

His phone buzzed, signaling the tea was done.

His mom clasped her hands together. "Now. I'll pour. Tell me everything that's been going on."

Monday, January 2, 2017

holiday hangover

Headed back to the humdrum work-a-day life starting tomorrow. I feel a little out of sorts since I've been gone for so may days. The re-entry into that go-go work-work life will be harsh, I think, and a change from my recent activities. I probably do need to have some more structure going on in my day, so by the end of the week, I'll be ship-shape again. And very much ready for the weekend!!