Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WARNING: This post breaks most of the writing rules. Every rule broken was done on purpose.

Chapter Four

Brenda spun around and planted both fists on her hips. "Penny, why are you lollygagging? You've been holding us back for an hour."

"It's not easy to walk and type. Gimme a minute, I'm almost done."

"Walk and… what did you sa—"

"Type. I'm working on something really important. I gotta get this done, I'll just be another minute." Penny hoped to assure them, but the looks on their faces betrayed nothing but impatience.

She had mumbled something about mother, necessity, and invention, then had proceeded to fasten some kind of contraption to Raef's back. He wore a shelf for her mini laptop. It stayed in the perfect position to type as they cruised down the forest path. Well, cruise might be the wrong word.

The group had grown to twenty-four plus Cindy's commandos. Size already hampered their progress on the narrow path. Add to their predicament, Penny's less than graceful attempt to type and walk simultaneously. They raced along at a crawl. That was the wrong answer when everyone wanted nothing more than to reach THE END.

Everyone stopped to glare at Penny and Raef bringing up the rear of the caravan.

Angels were flapping. Vamps were hissing. Even the commandos, who'd been stealthily patrolling the woods, started to sound distressed. Prima donnas carried on about scuffed shoes that should never have seen the floor of a forest to begin with. Over the din, Cindy's tummy grumbled.

The crowd broke into laughter. One peek at Cindy's red face, and tears started to roll. Some did the pee-pee dance. Others bent to clutch their ribs like they would pop out any time.

"Maybe we should feed her," Tabby laugh-snorted through her words. Then she resumed laughing, because the disease had taken hold of everyone. They couldn't quit. 'Cept Cyn.

Cindy crossed her arms over her chest, cocked one hip, and fixed Tabby with a menacing glare. "Like I could have stilled my stomach, Ms. Manners."

"Whew! … too funny, I almost peed myself." Brenda lapsed into another fit of laughter. When, at last, she again found an ability to stand upright, she said, "Maybe we should break for dinner."  She tossed a knowing look at her vamp troupe who were mingling with Tabby's vamps. "Dinner is in the woods, would you bring some back for us?"

"You bet ya!" Mel led the fang gang into the trees.

Tabby addressed her angels and their admirers. "Honeys, would you be angels and gather some wood for a fire?" She gave a little shudder. "I can't imagine how vamps drink blood, rare is not even an option on my menu." The angel clan fluttered off to do her bidding.

The hubbub died down. Cindy, still looking a bit sheepish, dug in her bag. She tossed out a garment here, and a shoe there, until she emerged with a big wad of plastic shopping bags. As she unwrapped her treasure, she said in the tiniest of voices, "I guess I am a little hungry."

Miles, Andros, Raef, and the women burst into another round of giggles. Miles froze when Cindy shot him an icy stare.

She'd liberated something from the grocery bags, sort of like an alien weapon. It was housed in clear plastic, had all kinds of gizratics inside, and looked pretty lightweight for its size. She flung her right arm out, and whopped Miles in the chest with it. "Always misbehaving."

Andros, the orange Adonis, took the alien toy from Cindy. "Oh. I wondered what happened to my fire starter." His cheeks dimpled into an irresistible smile that lit up his whole face, and knocked the scowl right off of Cindy's. "Thanks, Cindy-Poo."

While everyone else bustled around preparing to cook, Penny sat on a boulder behind the netbook-harness-wearing Raef, clickety-clacking away. Raef whittled some nearby branches into spears. Every now and again, Penny would hiss, "Be still, would ya."

Nobody cared what the reasonable pair were up to; they had enough hands on deck. If she finished whatever she was doing, journey through Writer's Block Forest could finish faster. So, they rolled their eyes collectively, and let her be.

The winged creatures began to drop twigs and limbs in a neat pile.

Andros stepped up with his crazy alien contraption, and in an instant the branches were ablaze.

Fang gang trotted out of the trees, followed by the commandos, all bearing small game. Raef began spearing the game onto spits. Miles put them on the fire.

"Hey, we found some salad greens and root veggies too." Mel squared his shoulders, and wore an ear to ear grin.

Cindy grabbed a notebook from her purse, and scribbled a pot over the fire. She doodled a huge salad bowl upside down on Miles' head. Tabby snatched the bowl, and cleaned it with some wet-wipes from her clutch.

Brenda patted him on the back. "What a talented vampire you are." That instant, her gumboots started to turn into pom-poms. She glanced down and shook her head. "I meant, what a big, bad, hunk of a scary vampire soldier you are." The pom-poms melted back into gumboots.

Penny's keyboard fell silent. From her rocky perch in the clearing, she had an unimpeded view of the strange assemblage. As she observed them, certain realities began to surface in her mind.

Certainty dawned on her. Cindy wasn't blocked at all. She stood amongst 6 characters, plus commandos, and never broke a sweat. With no visible effort on her part, she bent them to her will. They did as she bid without the slightest hesitation. But Cindy never took a breath. Her face was flushed, and her words ran on and on. Sometimes they tripped over each other, got tangled up, or lost their meaning in the disorder.

Penny's intuition had never let her down before. She stood up on the boulder. "I've got it!" Everyone shushed and faced her. "Cindy doesn't have writer's block."

The crowd rumbled, and muttered exclamations of incredulity.

Penny soldiered on. "I had an overpowering urge to create a new character. That's why I fitted Raef with my netbook. He didn't make sense in my head. He didn't seem to have a place in any of my stories. Yet, I couldn't stop creating him."

Brenda stepped up, and smashed Raef's sexy foot beneath her boot in the process. When he winced, she stumbled back and apologized. "Girl, is this another one of your tangents? We don't have time for your scatterbrained ideas right now."

"No, wait, hear me out."

A bright spotlight angled down from the trees, and lit a circle between Cindy and her characters. A studious looking fellow, complete with pocket protectors, materialized next to Cindy.

Penny wore a huge grin "Cindy, I'd like you to meet P. Mark Grammarian. I wrote him for you."

Cindy eyed the nerd with more suspicion than a pair of eyes should be allowed to hold.

P. Mark bowed, and with a flourish of his hand, wiped away her fears. "At your service, Madame. Never fear, I won't dampen your creativity. You can write as many run on sentences, and fragments as you like. When you're finished, I'll be here to help you clean them up."

Cindy heaved a huge sigh of relief. "Penny, I'm speechless." She beamed up into the face of the handsomest geek to grace the planet. "I hope you know what you're in for, P. Mark."

"It will be my pleasure, Madame." No sooner had P. Mark's lilting British accent stopped echoing from the woods, his spotlight went out. The haunted trees around the group started to shrink back to normal size. Some grew as small as ornamental shrubbery. The sunlight filtered in to reveal the forest floor had morphed into a beige Berber carpet.

The crowd exhaled a collective sigh. A sense of hope and relief settled over them.

Brenda jumped up on the boulder, and if Penny hadn't been quick on her feet, she would have bulldozed her right off. "I solved Tabby's problem!" She thumped her forehead. "I should have known. The block is in her head."

"Wait a minute, fang girl. I AM NOT el loco." She started to put her fists on her hips, slowly opened them, and dropped them to her side. Tabby hung her head, and her shoulders drooped. "Maybe… maybe I am."

Brenda jumped down, raced over to Tabby and wrapped her in a big bear hug. "No, not in your head like crazy. In your head like one of those songs you can't turn off." Bren searched the crowd and found recognition and support in the eyes of Tabby's characters.

"Tell her Bren, she needs the truth." Lyric's singsong voice spurred Brenda on.

"You know how you are always reading everything you can put your eyeballs on about writing?"

Tabby appeared a bit doubtful, but nodded.

"You read about presenting a professional image. You try to follow the advice. You read about when to show and when to tell. You burn those concepts into your brain. You're always pondering over voice, and looking for new ways to make your characters as realistic as vamps and angels can be."

"True." Tabby grinned at Brenda. "Where are you going with this, Ms. Dracula?"

"Well, lately, a whole rash of writers have been whining about being blocked. What to do, how to, and why blocks happen have been hot topics lately."

"I still don't get your point, Bren."

"You've trained your brain to absorb all of the information you absorb every day to help you on your journey to publication." Brenda just paused and locked eyes with Tabby.

"Oh! I get it. So, I must have stored the Writer's block information in the to-do side of my brain instead of the not-to-do section."

Brenda hugged her. "Precisely. It's the power of suggestion at work. Fabulous writers get blocked; you want to be one. Tabby, your subconscious got confused, translated input as 'you can't be a writer without a block.' So, you parked a block in the middle of the process."

Tabby's face lit up, and she did a happy-happy joy-joy dance. She addressed her angel vamp, and their human counterparts, and said, "I know exactly what you guys will be up to next."

The sun got brighter, and exploded into a star-shower that transformed it into overhead fluorescents. The trees faded into a wallpaper border that wrapped around pale blue stucco walls.

Cindy ran over to Brenda. "It's starting to get a little crowded in here… I better hurry up and spit this out… but Brenda I think I know what's been stopping you from taking the next step… wait until you hear this…"

P. Mark laid a gentle hand on Cyn's shoulder. She paused, inhaled, let the air whoosh from her lungs, and winked at P. Mark.

"You aren't blocked either." Cindy paused, and took regular breaths for the first time in eons. At first the practice was foreign, but after a few tries, bewilder left her features, frazzled scurried away with it. "You are pulled in too many directions."

"Sing to me, girl." Brenda started counting on her fingers. "There's the kids, the husband, the animals, the house, the yard, that escaped rooster we never caught, blogging, crittin—"

"No, no, no, Bren. Not like that. We all have gobs of real stuff to clutter up our fantasy worlds." The silence from the crowd was almost tangible. Cindy stared into Brenda's eyes, and placed her hands on her shoulders. Breathing was starting to come more naturally to her. "Your other character's want their stories told too."

"Oh, yeeaah, they really-really do." Brenda turned and gazed at her toothy soldiers. "Guys, I promise, I will write everyone's story. Each of you sexy studs is going to encounter a leading lady who stops you in your tracks like Bree did for Mel."

Sin stepped forward. "We get it, Brenda. You need all of our ideas, but if we don't wait until you're ready for them, none of them will get written. We're so sorry Bren, we didn't realize we were overwhelming you with our chatter. We'll be more patient," Sin gave them an all-business, commanding nod, "won't we guys?"

A chorus of gruff male voices chattered a slew of yeps, yeses, an uh-hus, nodding all the while. One sweet female voice floated among them, but Bree had been swallowed by the blood-thirsty crowd.

Brenda ran over and bundled them all in a group hug. Well, as many as her arms could reach around. It was quite a mountain of maleness she'd created. "Thanks guys. You can't imagine how much this means to me."

Brightness lifted their spirits even higher, as the sun kicked up a notch. Smiles were on everyone's faces. The remnants of the forest faded, and the twenty-four of them now stood in Tabby's overcrowded office.

Cindy searched the room. "Where'd the commandos go?"

Andros stretched to his toes to peer over Mel's shoulder, and tried to nudge him out of the way. The guy was planted like an ancient oak. "They left when the carpet appeared. Squad Leader One told me they didn't seem needed anymore. I agreed, so they went on their way. I hope I wasn't out of line."

Cindy patted him on the shoulder. "Not at all... I don't know where we'd put them in here… I mean they're amazing at blending into the background… but I think Tabby's office is more of a challenge than—"

P. Mark had elbowed her. Everyone laughed, Cindy took a breath.

Tabby moved to the center of the group. "Hey, wait. What about Penny? How'd we get back here if she's till blocked?"

Brenda smirked. "Penny's never been blocked. She simply finds too many other things to do. She dances back and forth between impatience and procrastinating. I swear she's the Princess of Procrastination."

Penny just nodded. An argument couldn't be found to stand up to that observation.

Cindy chimed in, "Yeah, didn't you witness her writing in the forest? Mick asked her to, and Jo had suitable shoes. She got obsessed with my punctuation disability, and strapped a keyboard on Raef for Gemini's sake. She's never been blocked."

Penny agreed. "Nope, never blocked. Just distracted. Bren gave me a deadline."

"Yep, I did. I noticed that she always has time for whatever anyone asks. A blog, a crit, an edit, or an ear for a rant. I asked her to post her first chapter by the middle of next month." Brenda looked extremely proud of herself, and she deserved to.

"I think I needed someone to expect something of me, so I feel a little pressure. Thanks Bren."

"Don't forget you one upped me, and said you'd have chapter one in the group folder by the end of this month."

"Yeah, about that—"

"No buts!"

"What happens if I don't?"

"I'll send Mel and the gang to cause a serious coffee shortage in the whole state of Missouri."

Penny paled. "Oh my."

All four women giggled and brainstormed on their stories. They were excited to get back on track. Finally, they paused long enough to hear silence.

Cindy laughed. "I guess they could tell the danger was over. We don't need to be rescued anymore, and it was kind of crowded in here."

Tabby watched her feet shuffle for a moment. "Ladies, I hate to be a bad host—"

"Say no more—"

"We're out of here—"

"Writing to do, ya know."

By Penny Barber

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