Top 100 by Rotten Tomatoes

Along with never finding enough time to read 100+ books, whittle down 160 Netflix queue picks, watch my growing Blu-Ray and DVD collection, write my short stories and novels, I find making lists are not only beneficial but calming.  Some Hollywood fans will have seen all of these films and for that I am a little jealous, but here they are nonetheless.  I will post more Top 100 Films later. 

Rotten Tomatoes Says…

100RT2100RT100RT3

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Top Ten Lists from AFI and RT

Because it is much more time consuming and fun to compile lists of already decided upon top films, which I only included the first ten in the categories. 

best2016best2010best2010best2006best2004best2001

sports10scifi10animation10epic10

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Reflections of My Hollywood Experience in March 2017

I came to Hollywood in late 2006 wanting to live the big Hollywood dream as a screenwriter.  I went to an immersion program and ten years later I have written a few screenplays that went nowhere… really, really fast.  Fast forward to ten years later, which was the end of 2016 so I’m well on my way to making Los Angeles my home for eleven years.  I learned the hard way even if you believe in yourself 110% does not mean “it” will happen.  I’ve always been interested in movies, but I also enjoy the process of film making from the skill of actors/actresses to the strength and stamina of the DP and Director to the creativity of the production and set designers to the way sound effects can enhance a movie.
colors11Image by Will Direct
Tinseltown was a small community with a cut throat atmosphere and even more so today.  It is hard to get into and even harder to sustain it.  The new best thing is always around the corner and someone will take your place.  You need to be relevant and want it on many levels.  Those people who continue to work in the film industry, I commend them in every way possible.  It was not enough for me to learn all about below the line and above the line career opportunities, which none I was so lucky to be hired.  If I could do it over again, I might have delved into producing, but after a while I gave up on it altogether.
hollywoodlandImage by Schmoop
This made me feel like a complete failure many times over until I realized putting my eggs in one basket was never the way to go.  It doesn’t mean I gave up my creative endeavors, but I have a different spin on it compared to my early 30s.  I never took life for granted, but being in my early 40s I understand how important it is to “truly” live your life.  Being that I’m creative and ever the thinker, this page is dedicated to movies or if you prefer, film.  I usually watch movies long after they have come to and gone from the theaters.  I’ve become more selective and it takes a special kind of film, theme, actor/actresses to make me not see driving to a theater as a chore.  No matter if it bombed or excelled over the weekend, if I am interested in the movie, I will watch it, absorb it, and then comment on it.
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Image by Forbes
I’m not interested in being the most knowledgeable and well-rounded film guru because I’m the farthest thing from it.  There is no snootiness to this page and blogs/reviews posted will be humble.  I don’t need to show I’m well versed in this kind of genre or have seen every movie out there imaginable about X or Y or Z because I haven’t.  I soon will post personal top ten lists.  The genres I prefer are dramas, musicals, epics, horror, political thrillers, and documentaries along with some comedies, westerns, and fantasy so be sure to tell me of any good movies you’ve seen because suggestions are always welcome.  It will break up the 160 Netflix choices in my queue.
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Short Story: Turnaround Farm

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We had spent many good years on this farm. The animals were taken care of, by far the best, compared to what it could have been. There was enough food for all of my family and abundance was enjoyed by every relative whether cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and step children. Even the piglets were happy at that time as they were regarded as family. They sat with us at the kid’s table for holidays, but as we grew older and they grew larger, we realized one of them became our family dinner for Christmas. That was the only year my younger sister cried during this holiday.

We would watch my father grab a pig by its legs, wrap the rope around its ankles, and string it up in the air by both feet. He would produce his sharp knife at the last second from behind his apron and slit the pig’s throat with such precision and depth. We were in awe of his ability to kill pigs at such a quick rate. He could corral any medium sized animal, string it up, and cut its throat. The animal would bleed out, which we would collect for my mother. She loved making those sausages during the summer time. They were so tasty and every time I eat one now, it reminds me how special my mother was in the kitchen. I have never tasted better sausage since her passing.

My brothers were involved in the skinning and butchering process. They were happiest when my father was showing them how to butcher the pig where the least amount of meat was wasted. Nothing was ever wasted in practice, thanks to my parents, as they used everything from all animals. The bones left over were boiled down for various soups or given to our wild, crazy dogs. Some of them scared us, but they protected the livestock when it counted the most, against the coyotes and wolves.

My oldest brother shot a wolf in the head when it came too close to the livestock, but regretted it soon after. The mother wolf was only trying to get food for her pups. He heard them crying for their mother on a walk the next day to clear his head. They all survived thanks to him. He became their provider by throwing them raw beef after he ate supper and did his chores. My father found out and wasn’t too happy about it, but there was nothing he could do about it. My brother was as stubborn as my father was, and this included his decision to leave the family business, and apply to college. His interest was in European history, given he was European himself, and became a well-respected professor among his colleagues and students.

The year we lost much of our fields to a fire, spreading quickly during the summer I was fifteen, was the worst for us. Some of our beloved livestock was killed. It sent my parents into a survival mode, and had a hard time recovering from this disaster. My father never walked the same way, he never whistled anymore, and in his free time all he did was stare into empty space. He did not view life as something to be enjoyed as he once had. He went through the motions for a few years and doubt he realized that he killed more animals in those two years than he had in the previous five years before that. The shack behind our house was filled with more bones than any of us knew what to do with, but we dared not throw any of them away. My father had a knack for knowing when something was missing.

Those two long, hard years was when we changed the name of our farm from Pritchard Farm to Turnaround Farm. We all survived because we asked our extended family to help us during the early morning hours and when they had to leave to tend to their own families and jobs midday, we asked for other members to carry our progress into the night. We all worked hard hour after hour, day after day, month after month, and when one year became the end of two years, we had made our money back. We were in a better position than when we started in some respects. My parents had more dollar bills in their pockets, and our family members wanted nothing in return when offered; but our bodies suffered in the process. Everyone hunched over a little more including myself.

It was many years later when I voiced to my father to sell his farm. I was the closest living kid to my parents along with my younger brother who was about an hour away. He was proud of his green pick-up truck. The rest of my siblings were much more adventurous and moved to other parts I won’t visit. He didn’t listen to me and said I was being a knot headed pig, which is what he said when any of his friends or family said something he disagreed with. It was after his stroke that he stopped being rational. When he could not talk, those were some of the most relaxing times for me as an adult. I had a hard time understanding him, and this frustrated both of us. He kicked me than once because of his inability to speak well. When he had his second stroke and could not talk at all, the frustration between us evaporated.

My father liked to compare us kids. My older brother was book smart. I was not. My older sister had the looks. I did not. My younger brother had both smarts and looks. I did not. My younger sister had the face of Shirley Temple and was bound to be a child star. She never became a child star, but she was in a many films as an extra with speaking parts and then made a name for herself in theater and independent films. They had things I would never possess. I never wanted to be in front of a camera or prance around on stage, which is what I imagined my little sister doing when she rehearsed.

My father told me I had things none of my other siblings possessed. He said I was the closest to him, but just happened to be female. He said it was neither here nor there. He didn’t blame me for my inability to be as tough as my brothers. He said I could do anything I wanted in life, and said he was the most proud of me because out all his kids, I was the one who never left his side. This was where the fork in the road between him and my siblings became wider. I took the left and all my other siblings went right. I felt a duty to stay by his side until the end.

My father told me on his deathbed a story when I was five. My mother had planted flowers with yellow petals and a black center. I took one look at them and hated the color. I wanted them to be purple. I made a sign that read, Purple Flowers, but they weren’t exactly purple after I was done. My collection of magic markers went from ten to nine. It didn’t take long to notice this was going to take forever. I replaced my original idea with a new one. I hid this puke yellow color as best I could on the petals with purple polka dots. He said I had imagination that was hard to harness.

When my mother came home, she was horrified. She took out the paddle my father only used on rare occasions and more so on the boys than the girls. She hit my behind several times, and each time I heard the whack, I gritted my teeth as my mother cursed at me. My father told me to apologize to her for what I did. I readily said, “I’m sorry” over and over, but deep down I hadn’t wanted to apologize. I felt she was mean to me, and I don’t remember crying although my father said I did. He stated it took quite some time for me to calm down. What I do remember was him picking me up and holding me as he walked among the cornstalks. He pointed toward the direction of his recently acquired land and spoke about his vision for his family’s future. Even though I was born right in the middle of it all in so many ways, he made me feel as if I was an only child.

This was what I wrapped my beating heart around as my father grabbed my hand and squeezed. He told me everything was okay back then and everything would be okay now. I told him how much his recognition of me carried me throughout the years. He never let my hand go until he died later that night. I had wanted other family with us, but he said I was the only one good enough to be with him during this time. The actual reason was he did not want others to see him as frail. He told me I could handle it. After placing his bony arm beside him, I left his bedroom where he had slept over fifty years.

I sat down at the table where all us kids sat and thought about the memories of this farm. We lived here, through the good and bad, and best of all we continued in our own ways. We did not agree upon many things as we grew older, but my siblings would eventually meet with me to discuss the best way to divvy up our parents’ land and house.

I took this time and sat alone collecting my thoughts before calling my younger brother first. I intended to honor my father’s wish and did. I buried his secured box in a thick plastic bag where no one would find it except me. We could see what was inside, but not a day sooner, and could not tell my siblings about it until five years had passed.

It was in short time I heard my younger brother’s truck barrel down the gravel driveway and come to a halt much too close to the house. This always bothered our father in his later years. Even though Conrad had lived close to us, I hadn’t seen him in a few years. He looked the same, but wore a different cowboy hat. Being the bigger sister, I held the door open for him and gave him a big hug. He picked me up much like my father did when he was still able to lift me up. It was so good to see him.

I took his hand and walked toward our father’s bedroom. He knew what had happened and stood taller. My chest tightened and wondered was I doing our father justice by keeping his box a secret. I stopped at the door and waited for Conrad to enter. I waited until he had said his goodbye, much like I would do with my other siblings when they arrived. I never told any of my siblings about the box and never thought otherwise when we buried our father.  When the five year mark had passed by, it was apparent to me the box should stay hidden. We had spent many good years on this farm and wanted to keep it this way until our end.

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Short Story: The Killer in Delilah’s Dream

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This was not one of those dreams where the person wakes up in the middle of the night wiping the sweat from one’s forehead. This was not one of those dreams where the person wakes up just in time before the knife plunges into one’s chest. This was not one of those dreams where the car moves just in time before a train smashes into it, or the wife senses something wrong and dodges her husband’s attempt to shove her from the cliff. This was one of those dreams where it matters more on what day it is and how the events of the day factored into the sleep patterns of the person.

A woman named Delilah had been waking up every hour on the hour for a few minutes at a time the past few weeks. She was not certain what had triggered her eyes to flutter and stay open. She only heard the normal ambient noise one hears at night once fully awake. She managed to close her eyes before the thoughts of days past flooded her conscience, and before long she was asleep and moving back into her dream.

Her dreams, this week, allowed her a bit of solace throughout the night. She was able to rest without her sleep being disrupted for a few days. It came to a halt on a Wednesday. The dream was nothing out of the ordinary. There was no reason to have alarm, but some women fear the cliché. A man in a black trench coat, sporting a felt hat with a tan ribbon wrapped around it, and wearing sunglasses even during nightfall may look threatening at first glance, but that stranger often becomes a friend after the initial greeting and introductory handshake. Different styled men go about their lives without wanting to harm women, and nothing evil is in their facial expressions. There was nothing to be feared among these men in Delilah’s mindset. Many men had followed her in the past, in her days as a prostitute. It seems most men wanted a free handout if they could get it.

On the other hand, the man who averted his eyes when Delilah spotted him across the street sent tingles to the base of her neck, down her arms, where it entered into each finger and expelled at the tips. He held one commonality with other dangerous men of her past, and that was the urge to fulfill his desire. The butterfly excitement they felt did not differ from this man. His taut belly had the capacity to hold as many fluttering wings as possible. She maneuvered through the crowd, and at certain points she had no choice but to elbow those that did not move after her initial insistence. She feared she knew this man, and soon felt his presence close by.

A second of time turned into two seconds and two more turned into four as the crowd seemed to hold her back. It took him a short span to be in arm’s length away from her long ponytail. His hand moved effortlessly and grabbed her wrist, instead. He forced her body close to his. She tried, unsuccessfully, to dig her fingernails deep into his flesh. She thought. He must’ve done this before. He’s quick about what he’s doing. She looked down and glimpsed the long scars on his hands. He used her arm for leverage and forced her through the crowd. His other hand pressed menacingly against her back.

When she opened her mouth, her sound drowned in the laughter and screams of nearby children. Each passing moment her opportunities to escape dwindled. Before the throng of people seemed to hold her back, but now they moved out of the way for him. Crisscrossed arms spread apart to let him pass. Life hardly ever worked in her favor, much as it had been as a little girl, when she was told her body was for sacrifice. Her mother neglected this truth to her, and had to learn about it firsthand. When she was thrown her on top of the small table, her father imparted the answer with condescension each time. This duty was expected of her more frequent as years passed.

The point when her dream twisted into a nightmare was when the man shoved her into his apartment. Her knees landed on the chill of the linoleum floor with a thud, the cold seeping through her thin cotton pants. He decided this was not suitable anymore and yanked her by the ponytail. She had no choice, but to follow him into his bedroom where he threw her into his closet, as it brought him the added layer of security. He wrapped his hands around her neck and squeezed. His murderous grip held tight as she lost sense of the surroundings. The lamp bulb hanging from the ceiling was what kept her from losing complete consciousness.

He gave her some reprieve when he loosened his grip. She had the opportunity to damage him with her nails, but it proved fruitless. They struggled against each other, but soon he overwhelmed her. The best alternative was hoping she would be able to rip into his flesh at a later time, and then have another day to live. Her predicament reminded her of the nights she had to defend herself from johns with a viciousness only reserved for those special people.

She lay in the closet, trying to suck in as much oxygen in her tightened windpipe. She wondered when her body morph into a skeleton. How long would it take for a person or people to find her body? What level of decomposition stage would it be? Would they kick dirt over her bones because they viewed me as less than? Would they volunteer to cremate or bury her after the autopsy? Or would they just leave her for the animals to destroy further and not report it? Would she end up in the morgue for a long time because the detectives had given up finding her killer? She condemned herself for thinking about her body’s disposal right now instead of fighting for her life. She should have figured these details before finding herself under the foot of this man, but one rarely cares about death when she has such a hard time carrying out the process of living. Would it be wrong for her to give up the struggle and allow him to kill her? What would God think as the last little bit of life left her body?

Sensing a change within her, his rough hands completely moved away from her neck, giving her a brief reprieve to catch her breath. Yet, her body did not feel like her own, and he slapped her a few times and brought her back to her reality. She thought, I’m in deep trouble. As quick as he released his grip, his hands tightened around her neck again, his fingers burrowing deeper into her neck. Was he trying to produce excess fat when there was not any? Am I so bad that he feels it necessary to excavate the sides of my neck? She had done questionable things in the past, but her past actions were not so severe to equal death, let alone this kind of death.

Delilah teetered between leaving her living world behind and embracing the new world much darker and permanent. His body no longer looked like a man’s body upon glance. He now wore a robe, the darkest black she had ever seen. The hood brought a long shadow to his face.   The thick folds of crushed satin hung peacefully on his robe that covered his now transparent skin. He floated above her, not wanting to violate her quite yet.

There was much more playing to be done, and he wanted to engage in this fabrication until the end. She felt the weight of him on her again, but this time only bore half the previous weight. Her survival instincts betrayed her, and soon found herself waiting to be extinguished, her chest lifting and falling heavy, knowing it would be her last breaths. He copied her movements, in a mocking way. She had no idea what his name was and before she could demand it from him, Delilah woke up and found her hands clutching her neck.

Image by getbetterhq

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How many faces do you wear?

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I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while.  How many different faces does a person wear in his or her life?  This is similar to the different personalities one has in their lives.  Most of us have different personalities or faces when in public (walking on the street) vs. private (walking around your apartment or house).  Most of us have a different personality when it comes to how you act in your job vs. in your home.  The concept weighing on me is how can I bring my public and private life more in unison with each other so I can have less white or black and more grey.  Or if you would like me to state it another way, less red and yellow and more orange. 

The heart of the matter is that the face a person wears, it is really their face?  Or is it the face he or she perceives as what others want it to be and so wears it with some hesitancy?  Or it is a face that the person wears but has more characteristics of a mask as to hide something they are ashamed of or afraid of?  Or another option is the face might have been a mask for so long that it has turned into a face that feels so real, that he or she constructed, but really was not his or hers to begin with because some kind of brainwashing she or he allowed makes it feel and appear real inside and outside?

I see happening quite a bit lately.  I think a person needs to have at least a few different faces to wear so to speak.  It serves to protect that person and allows him or her the comforts that is necessary to survive.  I also think certain people use the different faces and masks to hide the truths before them whether it regards their physical, social, mental, emotional, and familial areas of their lives.  I’m not immune and recognize it wholeheartedly.  My life has been spent much of the time trying to strip away the layers that do not serve my highest purpose or good.  I’m fully aware that people are complex and varied.  The amount of complexity one possesses is as far as one is willing to take it, push it, stretch it, and make it his or her own. 

This goes hand in hand with eliminating the naysayers while still keeping an open mind and non reactive stance when there is criticism involved.  How does one disengage from gossip and drama when seems to be all around you?  How does one release this negative energy at the end of the day?  How does one relax enough before resting your head on your pillow so you are not up for two hours trying to get to sleep?  Balance is a definite must for people who are well rounded.  This doesn’t mean one hundred percent perfection every hour of the day because that doesn’t exist, but what does is the ability of all of us to include a variety of tasks in one day or one week that allows us some sense of accomplishment.  Yet, freedom within this week must also be sought as well.  If you change your mind not to do X on Tuesday, well then, SO BE IT.  Fill it with something else and if it means relaxing, SO BE IT.  This is what I’m learning to do for myself.  In essence, I’m learning to take care of myself better on my own terms, but always keeping in mind pro-activity and some activity is better than nothing and being a slug. 

Have a good night everyone and for those who have read some of my blogs or browsed my site, a huge thank you and a good week ahead for everyone.

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The LA Chill

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It is cold in LA.  Well, duh natives say or maybe it’s just me saying it to myself.  It shouldn’t bother me, but it does.  I used to live in a place that could get to -20 and that was just the air temperature.  I worked on my blog until 2 in the morning (Saturday night).  I was not able to get to sleep due to my feet cold and achy muscles due to weightlifting a few days ago.  On top of that, my sinuses have been taking my head and eyes hostage.  My eyes don’t see right and as I look at the screen right now it is a little blurry.  The thing is it took me two hours to fall asleep and then I didn’t get a good night’s rest.  I woke up with guess what?  Cold feet.  They still are cold.  I’m about to stick them in a pot of hot water although a shower seems to be the better choice.  I never thought I would be this chilly living in LA when I moved here in late 2006.  So much for stereotypes because I learned a long time ago that “sunny California” does not exist all the time especially right now.  Good thing I can always put on my partly wool socks and whatever else material used to warm up my feet. 
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Excerpts from two stories I’m currently writing and rewriting

Excerpt from Jagged Korean Lines

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     Hae Won was born in the late 1960s in the second largest city.  It was once controlled by the North Koreans when they tried to overtake the nation to make it fully Communism.  Her father had done his part to help the South Koreans by feeding the soldiers during the war.  This had made her father proud to be born and raised in this fishing port city despite the poor living conditions he was raised in and lived in currently.  His good deeds during the war was one of the few things he spoke of incessantly to his children.  There were four of them: Dak Ho, age ten, Hae Won, age nine, Kyung Soon, age two, and Chin Hwa, age six months.
     Up until the very end of their time together, Hae Won regarded her father as someone to be loved and feared.  She wanted him to protect her from all things dangerous, but instead it was her mother who took on this vital role.  Her mother was the one who gave her the foundation to stand on some thirty-five years later, long after her father was absent from her life.  Her mother was the one she felt most connected with spiritually and mentally.  They were the most like-minded out of all the family members.  This deep connection brought on bigger responsibilities even though Dak Ho was a year older than her and a male. She took great pride in the fact her mother regarded her at the child to go to when things needed to get done especially during situations where thinking quick on your feet was warranted.  One second meant the difference between being in trouble versus being in a whole lot of trouble.  Her mother did not need to tell her this as she had plenty of experience.  
     She knew what the look her mother gave her weeks prior meant while eating dinner.  It was a bittersweet glance she gave her.  It tore Hae Won’s heart open a little bit, but she quickly patched it up with a smile.  They ate heartily that night.  They had feasted on foods most Koreans ate every night, but because of their financial situation, the fish and pork had become a rare occurrence for them.  They savored every bite of it on this particular night.  They did a lot of things out of the ordinary too. Their guard was still intact, but their protective walls were knocked down enough for them to laugh at heartfelt stories by Dak Ho and bad jokes by Kyung Soon.  As food disappeared from their plates and settled into their stomachs, reality pulled back Hae Won and her mother.  No one else knew about their plan except them.  They verbally rehearsed the timing of each action for everything to go as planned when her father and siblings were not present earlier in that day.
     This night would hold the most risk from all the other nights combined.  She must not fail or else there would consequences not even she wanted to entertain.  As she picked at the white rice in her bowl, now all alone, she hardly tasted its flavor as it went into her mouth and down her throat.  It only made the knots in her stomach grow larger and remind her the importance of what she must do.  Her successful completion of rescuing her baby sister was her mother’s dying wish.  There had been so much heartache already.  She could not bear anymore.  She had to honor her protector.  Her mother spoke to her in silence.  Hae Won solemnly nodded and whispered words of encouragement to herself as she prolonged her gaze at the wall.
     Hae Won father’s temperament recently had been withdrawn and his early drinking that night made him pass out shortly around nine.  She needed him to retire to his bedroom for the plan to work.  Her wish came true when he woke up to smoke a cigarette, drink another beer, and stumble into his bedroom where he passed out around nine forty-five.  She waited thirty minutes before leaving her bedroom.  If her father did not get up in thirty minutes, he more than likely would sleep through the night.  There had been only a few nights where he woke up looking for trouble.  She prayed tonight was not one of those.  
     The moon was at its fullest and brightest when she looked out the window.  She held her breath as she shook her younger sister awake.  She was ready to cover Kyung Soon’s mouth if she spoke, but did not have to as she was half asleep during the dressing stage.  The thought of her being a deep sleeper made her smile.  There was not much her younger sister would wake up to until she was good and ready.  You could not force her to do something.  She beat to her own drum.  She walked to her own pace.  She would miss this about her.  Yet, this reminded her of someone, and that person was their father, and because of this it had worried their mother.  She did not outright state this apprehension, but sometimes it flickered here and there with a tap of her fingers or scrunching of her face when Kyung Soon demanded something.  Hae Won put this out of her mind as she dragged her younger sister by the hand across the room with a tattered cotton bag slung over her shoulder.
     She composed herself at the door and listened.  She heard her father’s snoring.  It was loud and gravelly.  It would take a dump truck to wake him, but he had the uncanny ability to wake up at the slightest noise, so when he stopped snoring her heart skipped a beat.  She took a hesitant step when  he resumed his snoring, and held her breath again when she passed her father’s door.  It was now only a few paces from her parents’ bedroom to the front door, but tonight it seemed a football field length’s away.  They tiptoed as quietly as the wooden floor allowed.  Once at the front door, she shook Kyung Soon.  She half-opened her eyes and closed them again.  Hae Won was about to say something like, we are leaving now, but decided against it.  Her younger sister would get the point eventually that she was not going to carry her once outside.  She dared not look back toward her parents’ bedroom, but envisioned her mother waving encouragement to her.  She swallowed hard and held back tears.  The only thing she wanted was her mother at her side and to feel safe.  She repeated her mother’s mantra under her breath.  You are strong.  You can do this.  You have all the faith within you.  You are the right choice.  Now go do what you have to do. 
     The bag dangled from her wrist.  She thought briefly how much of a nuisance it would be on the journey.  The bag remained where it was, uncomfortable and cramping her forearm, as she was afraid to adjust it at the moment.  She pressed onward. Placing her hand gently on the front door handle, it was difficult to turn with her sweaty palm.  She smelled the outside air.  Damn the mugginess out here, she thought, as well as what she was leaving behind.  The new life she hoped to have made her uneasy and excited at the same time.  With great intention she had opened the front door, and with equal purpose she closed it behind her.  
     It was outside her younger sister decided to assault her with questions.  “What are we outside for?  I wanna sleep.  Why you carrying a bag?  I’m sleepy.  Where are we going?  I’m tired.  I wanna sleep.”  Hae Won had to be careful to not let her sister know what was happening or else the journey would not be taking place.  Known as the most inquisitive and stubborn sibling, she told her with emphasis, “you need to listen to me now more than ever now.  We need to get away from here as quick as possible.  I can’t explain it right now, but I will when we are safe.”  Her younger sister nodded and did as she was told.
     Hae Won gauged an hour had passed based on the fact there wasn’t any feeling in her arms.  She could not know for sure but decided either way it was a good time to take a break. She plopped down and removed a water bottle from her bag. She was so thirsty but took a small sip as this water had to last her quite a while.  She handed it to Kyung Soon who also took a small sip, then asked, “Where are we going?” Her thoughts went from her younger sister to her mother to her father to what would happen if they didn’t make it to what would happen if her father found out they were gone.  Maybe, he was giving chase right now.  This reality made her look in all directions.  He was no where in sight.  The thought still unnerved her and scrambled to her feet, grabbed Kyung Soon’s hand, and darted off with renewed energy, dragging her younger sister behind her.  
     It was during the second break she was able to answer her younger sister’s questions.  “I’m doing this so no one will hurt you.”  There was enough space in between them and their father.  He probably wouldn’t find them if he were looking. She continued.  “You remember what I told you about mother? She wanted me to keep you safe.  This is why we had to leave. This is why I’m carrying this bag.  To keep you safe.”  She knew she was three-quarters to the police station, but there were still dangers.  They for sure would bring them back home if they were discovered.  The thought of returning made her shudder. Kyung Soon asked, “safe from father?”  A wave of fear moved throughout her body when she thought of what her father would do to her the second the police left.  She again looked in all directions for him.  Hae Won uttered, “yes, safe from father.”  
     The chill still remained inside her as they made their way to the police station. She had brought food with her to last a few days after she had fulfilled her mother’s promise, but it was her luck a stray dog appeared looking for a handout.  She tried to get the dog to leave, but it kept coming back. It would get close: twenty feet, fifteen, ten, five, but dart off when she moved toward it.  She eventually threw a bit of her food and called it stupid as it devoured the rice.  It continued to beg.  She yelled, “that’s all I have, go away, and don’t follow me.”  The dog half obeyed.  After a while, it chased after her, keeping its distance so she could not see it.  The dog saw and heard everything she saw and heard: cars zooming by, empty buildings, street lights, insects buzzing around, and random people here and there.  A dog is a dog and when it barked, Hae Won whipped around to see it chasing something down the sidewalk, opposite of where she was going.  Good riddance, she thought. 
     Pain stabbed the length of her arm from shoulder to fingers while her legs were rubbery and was sure the blisters on her feet were bleeding when she reached the police station steps. There was time for tending to her physical wounds later.  The sun would be appearing soon and darkness would no longer be able to hide them. She removed the blanket from her bag and wrapped it around her exhausted younger sister.  She instructed her to use her legs as a pillow and stroked her hair as her younger sister fell asleep.  She removed a note from her bag and tucked it under the blanket.  She stood up carefully not to wake up Kyung Soon and kissed her the last time.  She whispered, “I will never forget you.  I will always love you. You will be my younger sister forever.”  
     She did not know exactly where she would go after the journey, but her exhausted body took her in the direction not intended.  She stopped in her tracks.  Her legs buckled and her knees landed hard on the concrete.  The pain radiated through her legs.  Her arms raised into the air as she screamed, then brought her fists down hard.  Pain radiated into her hands and then up her arms.  She pounded the concrete again, and again, and again until her hands were bloody. Tears flooded her eyes and dripped off her nose as she stood on wobbly legs.  She unclenched her bloody fists.  She had fulfilled her duty, but she was not sticking to the plan.
     Time was again important to her and noticed the same homeless dog staring at her.  She threw the remaining food at the dog despite being hungry.  It devoured it without hardly a bite.  She took a long drink of water and left the rest in a littered cup for the dog.  After the generous handout, the dog barked as if to say, thank you, and ran off, leaving Hae Won alone again.  She stood there knowing the plan was worthless now without food and water.  She scurried home as fast as her tired and broken body allowed her.  She knew the punishment was inevitable and tried hard not to think of it, but every second counted when it came to her father.  She could not get the words her mother told her out of her memory soon after Chin Hwa was born.  You must stop him at all costs.
Excerpt from The Forever Stairs 

stairs

        It was not much past eight at night, but it may as well have been nearing midnight. There was not much light inside the empty apartment complex. The light bulbs that had once been hanging by yarn from the ceiling were either broken or burnt out.  Yila had walked down these halls not too long ago, shortly after she had given birth to her daughter. She had been hired to clean the common areas and took to wiping the walls with great precision back then. She acted as if she was cleaning a building that held importance instead of one that soon would be condemned. The owner had the building for a long time and had ignored his tenants’ requests to improve their living situations. Over a short period of time, there were not many people living at the complex anymore, and this made her job obsolete, even though it hardly paid.
       She would have given anything to have one of those rags in her hand at this moment, in the hopes it would take her mind off of the current events. She did not think she would ever set foot in this building again, but here she was with shaking hands, going down these wooden stairs, creaking each time she took a step. She gripped the handrail tighter, hoping this would stop her hands from shaking. It did little to steady herself and found her knees weakening until she was unable to move her legs at all.
       She was barely able to hold herself up, and when she thought of what had recently happened, her body wilted into a heap on one of the steps. The enormity of what she had lost loomed over her like an invisible cloud. She breathed in deeply and exhaled deeper, in the hopes this would prevent her from bursting into tears. Her face tightened, holding back tears as best she could, but a few made its pathway down her cheek. She pawed at her cheek, wiping them away. She remained on the step, her buttocks planted firmly on the wood, as if she was meant to be there permanently.
       As she tried to compose herself, the thought of never seeing Laurence sent her hands over her face, and she broke into an uncontrollable sob. The reality was so unbearable that she choked on her pain. Her hyperventilating lasted for a few moments until her mind focused on something else, her daughter.  She had to be strong for Yanyu.  She focused her watery eyes and could barely make out the front door. She chose to pay attention to its edges. Once I get to the door, I will be okay, she thought. I only need to take one step at a time. I can be strong. I have no other choice.
       She stood, wiped her face, and made her way down the stairs. She was making good progress, but her accomplishment held less importance when the image of Laurence’s face entered her mind again. This time, instead of feeling sorrow, she felt regret. She had wanted to tell him so much more as he stood before her moments ago. He had been looking for honesty, and all she could give him was lies. She glanced behind her, as if maybe he was still in the empty room upstairs, even though she had watched him leave.
        Her footsteps became sluggish for the remaining descent. This would be the last time she would be close to him. He had been adamant he did not want to see her ever again. His cologne still lingered in the air, and wished she could take a piece of his scent with her. 
       She was now at the bottom step and rested her hand on the doorknob in a kind of bittersweet farewell. She whispered even though no one was there. “I should have told you I loved you, but I guess it doesn’t matter now.”  
        She did not see him in the shadows. He had listened to her walk her deliberate steps, heard her every cry, and knew what she was thinking during her every footfall. He knew her better than she knew herself. He had tried over the weeks to convince her of his love, but she had retreated to where they had previously been when they first met. He waffled between letting her go forever or trying one more time to get through to her. He had told himself many times that he was strong enough without her, but it was complete foolishness because when she was not with him, he became a fragile and afflicted man unable to sleep well at night or think hardly during the day.
        He came to the conclusion that regardless of how she felt he could not let her leave without saying a proper goodbye. A part of him hoped there was still a place within her heart, as even the tiniest of spots would have been sufficient at this juncture. He needed only a small amount of space to strike a match and create the spark between them again; and after hearing her say those words, he was convinced the fire between them had never burned out.
       As her hand twisted the knob, his arm extended out of the shadows. When his hand rested over hers, she did not recoil as he thought. Maybe, she knew he was still there, but either way the situation remained in front of them. She gave no indication of how she felt at the moment, and as she stood there, her heart-beat pounding quicker by the second, it became clear to Laurence another piece of her defense had softened. He leaned closer to her, his lips grazing her ear lobe, and whispered, “It always matters.”
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Re-post from Kristin Lamb’s Blog

It doesn’t matter if we strive to have a healthy marriage, strong kids or a killer career, these tenets cross-apply to all areas of life. Mental toughness is a key component to being successful. Yes, even for writers.

via 13 Things Mentally Strong Writers Don’t Do — Kristen Lamb’s Blog

Re-post from G.L. Cromarty

Some writers (A) are very open about putting people they know in their book, whether it is revenge (never be mean to a writer), or for less nefarious reasons (I admire you, I love you, I like you, you are fun, you are interesting). Some writers (B) deny all, even vague, linkage between real people and the […]

via Do writers really put you in their books? #amwriting #writing — G.L. Cromarty

Poem: Yellow Bird

yellowbird

If a bird landed on my shoulder, what color would it be?  And what would he do? 
It might defecate on my new white crispy shirt from my favorite brand name store. 
It could stand on one foot attached to a spindly leg, then the other as if life were only a game to him.
But when he appeared, he did neither.
Instead, took one glance at my eye wear resting ever so peacefully on my nose
And then tried to lift the frames off my ears, hopping from one side to the next.
This continued much to my mixture of delight and slight irritation until I was consumed with irritation alone. 
I made limited contact with his frenetic body after a few misses. 
I concluded with a purposeful swat to his body. 
Quite stunned by what I had done, he collected himself and flew away. 
I blurted rather loudly, “good riddance,” and went along my intended path.
But when I turned my head to make sure he was gone, he was about twenty five feet away
And flying towards me with his wings flapping in a state of what appeared to be sheer panic or rage. 
Maybe, this yellow bird has something to tell me. 
“That can’t be,” I said with emphasis.   Birds can’t talk.  Sure, they can chirp.  But talk to a human being? 
Absolutely not!
I turned back, hoping I would only see a dot in the sky,
With thoughts of what my body must do and my mind should release from the past week. 
It was no such luck because he was still there, only closer.
And as I continued onto the next physical destination,
My mind clearly was not in sync with the next task before me.  
I was flustered from head to toe and beyond.
If only there were repeats in one’s lifetime.
If another bird landed on my shoulder, would the color be different? 
Would he be a she this time? 
Would she peck my eye out? 
Females tend to be more aggressive than males or what I noticed as of late. 
Would she take something away?  And not return it back? 
Would she return it to me in a million broken pieces? 
Would she succeed?
The bird, at hand, must be paid attention to instead of wondering about hypotheticals. 
The future may hold many possibilities but not currently. 
I straightened up as much as my crippled back allowed, and
Prepared for another duel with this stinking yellow bird.
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Old Reflections of a Writer

I wrote this in December 2015.  I am not the same person.  I am in other ways.  Cheers everyone.
The last few weeks I have been giving EL James’ books much thought. I have not read any of them, but the few pages I have read online did not have much content. I wonder does she care that people including established writers think she is a terrible writer. She probably does not given she is worth 80 million dollars (net worth) and was able to do what few are able to do. She has amassed much wealth that I can only dream of in the writing world. Maybe, it is jealousy of other writers for this backlash. Yet, in all honesty, she has broken some cardinal rules writers should never do, at least when it comes to sex scenes. Then again, rules are meant to be broken at times. It works for some. She was one of them.
I have lived much of my life with so much inner turmoil. It would make the average head spin in circles infinity because it has made my head spin in circles as well. My head still spins at a rapid pace. This has also allowed me to access my emotions, raw and pure, which is what you need as a writer. By no means, am I well versed in the writing process as say Stephen King who continues to baffle my mind from a creative perspective, but I do know some stuff.
As the days pass by and weeks turn into months, I hope the next ten years of my life are filled with progress I expect of myself and drive I utilize for the best possible outcome. Yes, the four books I need and have to write has turned into five more, totaling nine books, and now that I have gone back to my original goal, it is fourteen total books that I hope to write. My alarm clock nears one o’clock, and I sit here writing about something that few people want to hear or will probably read. I guess this is more for me than for you. I guess this is a little reminder for me not focus on other writers, successful and struggling, and keep the eye on my own prize.
After I finish the majority of books I want to write, then maybe I will write a book along the lines of EL James. Maybe, I should write this book after I am done with my current book. Maybe, I should not listen to my gut and not follow my heart. Maybe, I should weave all over the damn place and not stick to the spine of the story. Maybe, my desire to be published will become a reality. The million dollar question is will I be able to live with myself if I do this? Will I be straying from my true self?
I am more lost than ever in my life when it comes to my purpose and worth. The possibilities and turmoil within myself never ends. The universe does not open its doors just because you want it to open. The world does not revolve around your platform. Wishful thinking never works, at least not in my life. Personal and family past mistakes still are a part of me. I try to live in the present as much as possible. I am thankful for air in my lungs every day. Life is truly what you make of it and coasting by is not a part of my vocabulary. I retire for the night, keeping the end goal always in sight, but focusing more on the little steps one needs to take in order to reap the large reward after the road has been trampled on, ripped up, patched up, and hopefully still in tact to be the gateway to another adventure.
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