‘The Silver Lining Syndrome’ by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “A character faces an important decision” with bonus  points if it doesn’t mention COVID. This week’s contribution comes from Chiara De Giorgi.

Chiara is currently in Berlin, Germany, doing her best to catch up with semi-abandoned writing projects. Her YA novel “Mi chiamo Elisa” was published in Italy by “Le Mezzelane Casa Editrice” in September 2020.

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The Silver Lining Syndrome

by Chiara De Giorgi

Every cloud has a silver lining. Or so they say.

I’ve focused on silver linings my entire life: no situation was ever grim enough for me not to stubbornly search, find, and hold the silver lining up, like an insignia, for everybody to see. I’ve always been known for my smile, my positive mood, my happiness, my ability to always rejoice no matter what. The “half full” glass kind of person.

There were times when I was feeling incredibly hopeless, or angry, or resentful. Because of people, things, or life in general. But I trained myself to find that damned silver lining, and find it I did. Every single time.

I’ve always been proud of the way I faced challenges and difficulties, refusing to be miserable, rejecting those feelings of desperation that threatened to overwhelm me. I would look into the mirror and just think, Well,  that’s the hand you’ve been dealt. How can you make the most of it?

Now, don’t get me wrong: I honestly believe that this is a great way to go through life.

However.

Sometimes you have to step back, look a situation in the eye, and admit that, hell it sucks and you aren’t going to put up with that shit anymore!

We all make choices. There aren’t right choices or wrong choices. Nor better or worse ones. They’re just that: choices. Choices we make because of some reasons that in that moment somehow make sense. Choices are what make you, you.

I think choices and silver linings may be connected.

Suffering from what I’ve come to think of as the “Silver Lining Syndrome”, at one point I realized that, in the attempt to defend some choices I actually deeply regretted, I fabricated silver linings. Because to disown one of my choices was to disown myself.

Being at war with my choices was being at war with myself. My sky was suddenly dark, with no clouds and no silver linings, it was foggy, impenetrable. I despised both my choices and my silver linings. I hated my unshakable happiness, I wanted to slap everyone who had ever thought me a “positive person”. I wished I could wipe out all my choices and my silver linings.

I had always wanted to see my life as an endless string of silver linings, but life is an endless string of choices. A silver lining is there one moment, and the next moment it’s been swallowed by its cloud. A choice? It stays with you forever. I was aware that, sometimes, I would have to make tough choices, choices that scared me, but I thought, it will be okay, because: what is worse? Sorting out the difficulties that might follow the tough choice I was too scared to make, or living my entire life hiding behind a (possibly fake) silver lining?

So I was finally able to make the decision that would change my world. From that moment on, my life has been a choice, and not a silver lining anymore.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

Preparing to Launch

I’m almost ready to publish The Souring Seas, book one in my series of climate fiction novels on the perils of ignoring climate change. It is now a more complex story with two interwoven layers. The main story, as before, follows the exploits of Tony Atherton and Beth Manville as they investigates the consequences of increasing ocean acidity and fight for increased awareness of climate change’s harmful effects. The timeline for the story runs from 2022 to 2027.

The new layer I’ve added to the story is told by Tony, the main character in the central story, in first person in 2049 to 2051. His observations in these segments interspersed through the text as prelude, interlude, and postlude include observations about life after poorly understood conflicts bring civilization as we know it to an ignominious end. He also provides insights into how the various parts of my climate change story fit together.

I’ve posted the latest versions of the first few chapters of The Souring Seas on theNextBigWriter, an online writing workshop I’ve belonged to for years. I’m looking for the reactions of my long-term reviewers to the new layer. So far, the response has been encouraging. If anyone else wants to read these first few chapters and comment on the interleaved post-apocalypse part of the story, send me an email.

These comments by reviewers on theNextBigWriter, comments and discussion with members of the Evergreen Writers Group, and interactions with others have encouraged my efforts to expand my Road to Environmental Armageddon saga and alter the way it’s heading. It now looks like it could comprise five books. What does that make it, a pentalogy?

The first two, The Souring Seas, and Building Houses of Cards, are written and have been revised several times. They describe the evolving climate change science (fictional, but I hope realistic) that’s the basis for this extended saga. The time frame for these two is 2022 to 2027, and 2027 to 2032. Book three, still a work in progress, is more political. It chronicles the problems society faces as countries refuse to heed the warnings and address the problems generated by neglecting climate change. The disaster this book builds up to has neglected climate change impacts as an underlying cause, but the immediate causes are more political and economic. It takes us from 2032 to 2049. Book four, outlined, first few chapters drafted, follows developments in the immediate aftermath of the disaster that occurs in 2049. The fifth book, set some time in the future after the major climate crisis predicted in The Souring Seas generates a new ice age, brings my saga to a close. Despite all the disasters and apocalyptic nature of my saga, I’ve been encouraged to give it a more optimistic ending than my original efforts had. I’m working on developing a light at the end of this centuries-long tunnel for the final book.

The last steps before I publish The Souring Seas will be formatting for publication and generating a killer description to go with the book. Unless I get blindsided by something unexpected in this last series of reviews, that should be sometime in the next month or so.

‘Could He Do It?’ by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month “A character faces an important decision.”

In December 2018, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/. He’s currently working on a saga about the hazards of ignoring climate change.

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Could He Do It?

by

Phil Yeats

Leonard was a lost soul in the heady days of hippie mania, free love, and every sort of relationship. He couldn’t join the culture, living in the moment like so many others. He always worried about the consequences. Loving the one you’re with if you can’t be with the one you love didn’t work for him.

Five years after he graduated from university, an old friend appeared while he sat outside his neighbourhood pub, enjoying a solitary after-work beer.

“I always admired the way you ignored everyone and followed your muse,” Susan said after a brief hello, how are you.

Len stared, bewildered. Since high school, he’d lived in fear of bullies insisting everyone adhere to their narrow definition of proper behaviour. “Nothing admirable about my conduct. I was a misfit who avoided interaction with others.”

She shook her head. “You stuck to your principles, but I didn’t. For years I lived a lie, pretending to be someone I wasn’t. But let’s not argue. I need your help.”

She sipped the glass of wine she brought to the table while he nursed his beer. He’d applauded her bravery when she acknowledged a lesbian relationship during their senior year. Hiding her orientation earlier when it was illegal was sensible, not cowardly.

“What sort of help?” he asked.

A smile brightened her face. “You remember Patricia?”

He’d met her partner in 1969 at their university graduation ceremony. After the diploma presentations, they bypassed the formal reception because he wasn’t comfortable with crowds, and they wanted to avoid bringing attention to their relationship. They sauntered to an off-campus pub for a quiet celebration before he flew away to graduate school. He’d returned when he found a home town job three years later.

“You’re still together, living happily ever after?”

“And we need your help with baby-making.”

Len damn near dropped his glass. “You mean sperm donation?”

She smiled. If he was an imaginative sort, he might have called it mischievous. “Come for supper tomorrow. We can discuss it.”

A few minutes later, she strolled away. He ordered a second beer and contemplated what could become his first serious, open-ended commitment to anyone. Have courage; this may complicate your simple, well-ordered life, but it’s the right thing. And how difficult can it be?

The following evening, Patricia returned to the kitchen after some small talk.

He got down to business after taking a deep breath to build his courage. “So, you want a baby and need a sperm donor,” he said to Susan. “I’m honoured you’ve chosen me. What do I do? Visit your favoured fertility clinic, squirt some into a beaker, and leave everything else to the experts?”

“Not on. In our backward province, the clinics only accept married couples. And a gay couple, no chance!”

“Trip to an out-of-province clinic? Could get rather complicated, couldn’t it?”

Patricia arrived with three glasses of wine. “We thought we could cut out the middleman.”

He hesitated after taking his glass. “At-home, do-it-yourself insemination using a turkey baster?” he asked.

Susan put her glass on a table and snuggled close to him—an intimate gesture and unexpected with her partner standing only a metre away. “Guys have built in turkey basters,” she whispered.

He choked on his wine as he squirmed away. He could handle a sterile, mechanical process in a clinic. Masterminding the manoeuvre in their apartment might also work, but Susan’s whispered suggestion went too far.

He’d only tried twice in his miserable life to establish a relationship with a woman. Both attempts ended in disasters. He was so worried about getting them pregnant, he couldn’t perform. This time, getting her pregnant would be the idea so no impediment, but could he make love to an avowed lesbian with her lover hovering nearby?

Susan disappeared when Patricia nodded toward the kitchen. She turned to Len. “You’re uncomfortable with this idea. I am too, but think back to 1967. Susan in her threadbare tie-died T-shirts and long, flowing skirts, no bra, long brown hair. She was into pushing sexual boundaries, trying anything. She wanted you, even after we were a couple, but you remained aloof, unassailable. Now, if you’re willing, we could have our baby, and Susan could have her old friend from college back. A friend she’s never forgotten. This could work out. We could develop a beautiful relationship.”

“But—” She held her fingers against his lips.

“Think about it. That’s all I ask. We’ll get together on the weekend, and you can give us your decision. Now, we should forget all this and enjoy dinner.”

A few hours later Len wandered to his apartment. He had a decision to make. It could mean very little if he treated it cavalierly with the love ’em and leave ’em mantra many guys favoured during college. Not that he really believed most guys meant what they said. Or it could mean a great deal if he fell into his normal habit of imagining all the consequences. Could he even pull it off? It wasn’t like he had any experience or success in this whole business.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

‘Decisions, Decisions’ by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month “A character faces an important decision.”

Bonus points if it doesn’t mention COVID! (Cathy’s post does not mention Covid! Give her those bonus points, haha!)

Cathy’s novels, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, and MISTER WOLFE, the darkly dark sequel or stand-alone (18+), are available on Amazon. MY BROTHER, THE WOLF, the last of the series, is scheduled for release in 2022/2023.

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“Decisions, Decisions” by Cathy MacKenzie

“I can’t do it alone,” I said, gripping my handbag to my chest as if it’d sprout wings and fly far, far away.

Sally’s face turned white. She glanced at me and looked away. Had I said too much? She wasn’t my closest friend. Didn’t know my husband that well, so I felt safe confiding in her, but in that split second, I wished I hadn’t.

Still, I plodded on. “You won’t help me?”

She turned and glared at me as if I were bonkers. Perhaps I was.

Can’t you speak? I wanted to scream my thoughts, but I didn’t. Would only hinder my request, and she was my only hope.

She sighed. “I think this is bigger than me. I…”

I what? I hated when people stopped sentences midstream.

“Dunno,” she said, as if I’d spoken out loud. Was she psychic? She picked up her purse from the picnic table. “I gotta go.”

What? “Yeah, okay.”

She sped off.

Obviously, I’d made a huge mistake, but not ready to give up, I raced after her. “Sally, wait.” 

She stopped and faced me.

Breathless, I asked, “You won’t tell anyone, will you?”

She smiled—albeit a slight smile. “I won’t.”

“I’ll walk with you to Oak Street,” I said. I needed to get inside her head. Why wouldn’t she help me? Maybe I expected too much from her. After all, I’d propositioned murder. Not everyone’s cuppa tea—if you drink tea. I don’t; I prefer the hard stuff: Gin. Vodka. Whiskey. Wine, even. Whatever’s offered.

We walked in silence until we reached the intersection at Pecan and Chestnut, where she gripped my arm and examined my face as if it were full of pimples (it wasn’t). “Are you serious? Really serious?”

“Serious?”

“Yeah, what you want help with,” she said.

“Of course. I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t.”

She stared into my eyes as if trying to enter my soul. “Okay. Let’s do it. But on one condition.” She grinned.

The shape of her mouth and the baring of her teeth reminded me of Jack Nicholson in The Joker. I rubbed my arms, trying to quell my tremors. “What’s the condition?”

“That we kill my husband first.”

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

‘Spud’ by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “A character faces an important decision” with bonus points if it doesn’t mention COVID 😊

This week’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, who is in the home stretch of the longest and weirdest year of her teaching career. She wrote this tale while driving (composed via speak-to-text) during a particularly stressful week. If you’d like lighter fare, you can check out her Corgi website at www.corgicapers.com.

Spud

By Val Muller

When I was ten, I had a dream—a nightmare, really. There was this creepy glowing clown. It happened the one time I watched a scary movie from the top of the stairs while my parents thought I was in bed. I swear, as I crouched at the top of the banister to peer at the television, I heard breathing behind me. I never turned to look, and the breathing left me too terrified to return to bed. I only sprang back to my room on an adrenaline rush when I heard my parents coming up for the night.

I’m sure it was the clown breathing behind me, toying with me. He certainly came to me in that dream, where he showed up, laughing maniacally, and told me I would always choose the potatoes.

I was terrified of that clown, let me tell you. I don’t think I can really put it in words. It’s not circus clowns and super-slow kid songs sung off-key. That’s the fun kind of scary. This clown wasn’t the fun kind. He’s sort of like zombies—the idea of being dead but not. Souless, maybe. A monster. The whole something-beyond-mortality… or maybe nothing. The way he said potatoes. I know it sounds comical when I say it out loud. Believe me, if I could erase that dream from my life, I would. And I only wish this were funny instead of pathetically terrifying. When he said potatoes, his voice was the grizzled rasp of death. His assertion—that I would always choose potatoes—was a threat I didn’t understand.

Starting that next morning, whenever I had an option to choose potatoes, I chose them. I mean ridiculously so. It earned me the nickname Tater in school because every day at the cafeteria I would choose tater tots. I mean, I would have potatoes covered in ketchup, tater tots on my salad, mashed potatoes with a side of French fries. If potatoes were offered—on a menu, in a conversation—I took them.

I never actually told anyone the reason for it. Everyone just thought it was my quirk. I can’t tell you how many potato gag gifts I’ve received over the years. Potato figures, t-shirts, plushies. To be honest, I don’t even like potatoes that much. They remind me of a grave—you know, how the dirt kind of piles up and is clumpy but moist. That’s what potatoes are like. A freshly-dug grave.

When I went away to college, I promised myself I would start fresh. But every line in the dining hall has potatoes of some sort. I could hardly disguise my strange choices, and though I managed to shed my “Tater” nickname, my freshman hall affectionately called me “Spud.” Now, after my second year of college, I feel like I’m at that point where something has to be done. Am I really going to let a dream from when I was ten dictate the rest of my life?

Dad came with the SUV to pack up my sophomore year dorm room. I would be living off-campus the next year, and I had fantasies of going grocery shopping and not buying any potatoes every again. But the back of my mind wondered: if I walked past the potatoes, or a box of potato flakes, or a frozen case of French fries, would I have to choose them? I imagined my future apartment’s freezer, packed full of frozen spuds.

Things were becoming ridiculous.

We loaded Dad’s SUV with all my stuff, and then I fell asleep on the way home. I woke when we took a sharp turn off an exit ramp. My dad kind of reached over and kept my whole body from sliding too far to the left on the leather passenger seat. He said “Good morning, sunshine” the same way he said it when I was a kid. And then he offered me the choice.

It was a split-second decision I had to make while still not fully awake. He said we were stopping for lunch. There was a food truck with lobster rolls advertised with hand-written signs along the highway. Then there was the typical fast-food corridor that I knew would be chock-full of potatoes. My dad smiled sadly at me.

“I know you have a thing for potatoes, and since you’re the guest of honor this summer, I’ll let you choose, but I sure could use a good old New England lobster roll.”

“Does the food truck have fries?” I asked.

Dad shrugged. “I need to know. This is our turn.”

We approached a traffic light. On the light post, a handwritten sign pointed left with “lobster rolls” written in permanent marker. Metal signs with all manner of fast-food logos pointed to the right. I looked left, down what seemed to be a country road. Dad hovered between two lanes, and the car behind us beeped: we had to choose a lane.

It was a split-second decision, and I said “Food truck.”

I imagined how the lobster roll would taste—the delicious sweet lobster meat, the friend butter-grilled roll with its subtle crunch. There would be no need for French fries. In fact, I hoped there would not be any.

Dad shifted to the left-turn lane, which had a red light. The right lane, where the impatient car behind us sped, had a green arrow. I watched him turn, and I watched as out of nowhere, a huge truck barreled through the intersection just as the car in the right-turn lane turned right on the green arrow.

I’ll never forget the crunch of that truck hitting the car. Hitting the car that would have been ours if I had chosen the potatoes.

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

‘We are Artists, You Know’ by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month, the task is to use the five words: toilet paper, TV, midget, flamenco, dragon. This week’s contribution comes from Chiara De Giorgi.

Chiara is currently in Berlin, Germany, doing her best to catch up with semi-abandoned writing projects. Her YA novel “Mi chiamo Elisa” was published in Italy by “Le Mezzelane Casa Editrice” in September 2020.

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We are artists, you know

by Chiara De Giorgi

We were out of toilet paper. Again. Not the best way to start the day, if I may say so.

I stepped into the shower, brooding. The midget, our newest roommate, spent the day in front of the TV and was always coming up with new excuses not to do his chores.

It was a tough time for artists, and I couldn’t argue with that, but each of us was trying to find a way to fight back, to still express our creativity in a world that was increasingly doing without art. Of course, it has to be said that his field of expertise was quite niche. He painted with his toes and specialised in portraying flamingo rock bands. In the previous years there had been a real boom and the music of famous bands such as “The Pink Feathers” or “Adorable Beaks” was played in all the clubs.

After the record company crisis, though, the flea mafia had taken over and, not too slowly, the cormorant bands had supplanted the flamingos. (I hope none of my friends are listening to this, but the “Cormorant Knocking” are f*ckin’ brilliant!) Anyway, finding a rock star flamingo became impossible, they had all been intimidated or bought off. The fleas were terrible. It was said that their leaders were the most ruthless.

With the flamingos gone, the midget had also lost his job. My partner and I had agreed to let him have a room in our flat because we believed that a gesture of trust would help him get back on his feet. He was a nice guy after all. Unfortunately, however, he had become discouraged.

I sighed again and got out of the shower.

I was immediately aware of the noises coming from the living room. What was going on in there? I could hear thumps, loud laughter and Spanish music blaring.

I quickly wrapped myself in a towel and ran into the living room to see what was going on. I was so curious!

I froze in the doorway. The midget was standing on the armrest of the sofa, inciting my partner to dance a flamenco. The result, between us, was hilarious. Did I mention that my partner is a dragon?  No? Well, I’ll tell you now. He is a medium-sized dragon with blue scales and wisps of silver fur over his eyes. He’s charming. Normally.

Unfortunately, flamenco was not really his thing, and he even had to attach castanets to his front legs because his fingers are too thick.

Because of the confusion, even the family of mice to whom we sublet the baseboards (don’t judge, we all have to make a living), who are generally very tolerant (living with artists always involves some compromise, after all), had come to see what all the excitement was about.

And so, the day had started off unpleasantly, but soon turned into the most fun any of us had had in a long time. In the evening we were still in the living room dancing flamenco together, including the mice, laughing our heads off. Maybe all those energy drinks made from bat liver soaked in alcohol had something to do with it. But then again, we are artists, you know.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

Next Step along The Road …

I’ve weaved another layer into my The Road to Environmental Armageddon saga. It’s based on the Tony’s Story posts I drafted on this website over the past weeks. In these new chapters, Tony Atherton looks back at the events chronicled in my trilogy. It features his description of the world he faces in the years after the apocalypse the world endures in 2049 and speculations about the chaos they’ve witnessed.

Book one, The Souring Seas, is virtually complete. It needs final copyediting, and maybe a few tweaks of the three chapters I’ve added. Here is the cover.

The Souring Seas focuses on two characters, Tony Atherton and Beth Manville. It describes my imagined impacts of ocean acidification on primary productivity. Book two, Building Houses of Cards, shifts the focus to an attempt by industrial leaders and world governments to implement a technological ‘cure’ for global warming. Here is my cover for book two.

The first part of this second book follows the exploits of two new characters, Dan Delacour and Elena Llewellyn, as they investigate the scientific basis of the cure and its geopolitical implications. The second part introduces additional characters. It focuses on scientific and geopolitical developments in the United States.

I’ve almost finished The Souring Seas and Building Houses of Cards. The third book in my trilogy, They All Come Tumbling Down, remains a work in progress.

‘200 Word Story’ by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month, the task is to use the five words: toilet paper, TV, midget, flamenco, dragon. This week’s contribution comes from Phil Yeats.

In December 2018, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/. He’s currently working on a saga about the hazards of ignoring climate change.

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200-Word Story

Phil Yeats

He woke with a start. It wasn’t anything on the TV that woke him. It was the dream, the dream of being in the grocery store with empty shelves looking for toothpaste and toilet paper.

“Damn COVID dreams!” he said to no one in particular. He was alone, as always. Even the cat was off somewhere looking for mice or birds or lady cats or whatever sparked its interest. One thing was damn sure, the stupid cat wasn’t worried about coronavirus avoidance.

He turned down the sound and settled back, intent on resuming his nap. Soon enough, he was dreaming again. He’d turned the clock back fifty years and entered an orgy from Federico Fellini’s Satyricon. There were giants and midgets, flamenco dancers and erotic pole dancers, and sexual deviants of all kinds. The scene dissolved as a dragon breathed fire on everything and everyone.

“Damn,” he said again. “I might as well pretend I’m actually working for a living.”

He started hammering away on his laptop. Yup, I can do it, he decided. I can turn the Satyricon dream into a flash fiction story for 200-Word Stories. It just needs a little pizzazz to snazz it up a bit.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

Elena’s Story, part two

Today’s post is a continuation of my mini-autobiography of Elena Llewellyn, one of the main characters in Building Houses of Cards, the second book in my The Road to Environmental Armageddon trilogy about the hazards of ignoring the climate change threat. Part one of Elena’s story is here.

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Elena’s Story (continued)

The six years from December 2026 until December 2032 were the happiest of my life. They made up for my four years at a Swiss finishing school and the London School of Economics. I spent those years fending off my uncle’s well-meaning but misguided attempts to marry me to a European aristocrat. I rejected the bastions of a bygone aristocratic era and the life of a socialite and sought a serious role in Uncle Gareth’s grand adventure.

I regained my uncle’s trust and developed an active and growing role in his grand plan to save the world. During the first seven months of 2027, I lived a romantic adventure. I became a modern-day Mata Hari, ferreting out critical secrets and winning the affections of my dream lover.

From 2027 to 2032, Dan applied his scientific expertise to the tricky task of stabilizing temperatures. He also manipulated reflectivity to minimize extreme weather events. I applied my economic and philosophical training in the political arena. I struggled to understand the changes we were seeing in America. Together, we lived our fairy tale romance.

The movers and shakers in the Company of Gentlemen Entrepreneurs in the first decades of the twenty-first century were Europeans. Their governments supported them. The launch in 2025 was led by Germany, Britain, and Japan. By 2030, the United States and China had assumed major roles. The nanoparticle reflector program became part of their battle to dominate world commerce and diplomacy.

Between 2032 and 2036, the denizens of planet Earth sleepwalked into the future. The nanoparticle seeding program managers gazed into their crystal balls. They made esoteric computations and manipulated the world’s weather. They created an extended period of stable temperatures and placid weather. The focus in the second half of the 2030s should have shifted into the second part of Uncle Gareth’s grand plan—the shift from fossil fuels to other forms of energy. This didn’t happen. Was it the calm before the storm as the Americans and Chinese ratcheted up the intensity of their Battle of Titans?

By 2040, we’d reached a critical point in our grand plan to control global warming. The Company of Gentleman Entrepreneurs initiated it in 2020. Many experts played key roles. Together, we stabilized global temperatures at two degrees above preindustrial levels. We kept them steady for fifteen years.

Dan, more than anyone else, deserved a medal, or perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize, for his management of the nanoparticle seeding program. His team stabilized temperatures, and he fine-tuned the seeding to reduce extreme weather events. The 2030s saw fewer hurricanes, droughts, floods, and wildfires than we’d seen for decades.

Those fifteen years should have given humanity time to wean itself from its dependence on fossil fuel-based energy. They should have provided an opportunity to build a robust global economy based on other energy sources. That part of Uncle Gareth’s grand plan didn’t happen. Europe and Japan were the main proponents of that shift to cleaner energy. Their influence waned as the political and economic cohesion of the European Union disintegrated. As we move into the 2040s, global cooperation falls into disarray. It becomes obvious humanity will not reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

The program to control global temperatures was the first victim of our failure to work together. It should have been a crutch. A temporary phase on the road to a future with slowly decreasing carbon emissions. We observed the opposite, and the stresses became unmanageable.

China and the United States must accept blame for this failure. Each sought domination of our highly integrated world. The Americans defended their model of freewheeling capitalist democracy. The Chinese offered a new world order based on their totalitarian model of state-controlled capitalism.

Their Battle of the Titans relied on cheap energy. Everyone and everything became hostages in their epic clash. Our efforts to control carbon emissions were trampled. The world would never recover.

*****

There you have it: Elena’s perspective on a global environmental engineering program she and her uncle Gareth Llewellyn contributed to for many years. Unfortunately, it went very wrong, and the consequences were draconian.

‘A Silly Ditty’ by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month, the task is to use the five words: toilet paper, TV, midget, flamenco, dragon.

Cathy’s novels, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, and MISTER WOLFE, the darkly dark sequel or stand-alone (18+), are available on Amazon. MY BROTHER, THE WOLF, the last of the series, is scheduled for release in 2022/2023.

***

“A Silly Ditty” by Cathy MacKenzie

I have a dear friend

Who talks of midgets

And silly sillies, widgets,

Whatever tales she can blend.

*

She spiels many words,

Stories of dragons

And fire-red wagons,

Even bizarre birds.

*

She likes to dance

Flamenco style

Down the grocery aisle,

As if in a magical trance.

*

Once during a crazy caper

She tangoed and twirled

And appallingly hurled,

Cleaning up with toilet paper.

*

If I’d had a camera near,

I would’ve taken photos

For she’d staged such a pose

That made my eyes tear.

*

I said I should film her,

Put the footage on TV

For all the world to see,

Create a comical stir.

*

She changed her ways,

Watches what she does,

Not wanting to create a buzz

For the rest of her days.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

Elena’s Story

This week I’m continuing my idea of providing mini-autobiographies of central characters in The Road to Environmental Armageddon, my saga about the hazards of ignoring the climate change threat. I’m thinking about using these biographies as glue that provides some continuity to a story that extends over a rather long time frame with several intersecting sub-stories. Tony’s story (final segment is last weeks post on this blog) would go in The Souring Seas, the first book in this trilogy, Elena’s story would go with the second book, now tentatively titled Building Houses of Cards.

*****

Elena’s Story

My name is Elena Llewellyn. I learned about my uncle’s battle to address the climate change problem after my parents died. I was eleven years old.

They were wealthy adventurers, wastrels in some people’s eyes, visionaries in others. They died under suspicious circumstances whilst trying to save the Amazonian rain forest.

I can’t say their deaths devastated me. They were strangers who appeared from time to time at Hafen Ddiogel, my grandparents’ country estate near Winchfield, Hampshire.

Hafen Ddiogel was the only home I’d ever known. When I wasn’t away at school, I lived there with Sir Owen Llewellyn, a financier who built a small Welsh bank into a major financial institution, and his wife, Lady Maude Llewellyn.

My only other family was my father’s older brother, Gareth Llewellyn. He became my guardian after they died. He taught me about our family’s commitment to the fight to wrestle climate change into submission.

Uncle Gareth described my grandfather as a Renaissance man with a strong sense of moral duty. He convinced fellow industrialists and government leaders that everyone must buckle down and solve the climate change problem.

“He committed our family to this fight,” my uncle said. “It’s become my life’s prime focus. In time, it will become yours.”

In the years after my parents died, my grandparents treated me like a little girl who needed constant coddling. Uncle Gareth treated me like a little adult. He provided information on the grand adventure my grandfather embarked upon. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell me everything he should have told me. I struggled through the early years of this story, trying to understand the family’s real motives.

My bachelor uncle did one other thing that bears upon this story. The money I inherited from my parents was in a trust he would manage until I turned twenty-five. He taught me about money by putting several hundred pounds into an account every month. I could draw on it without restrictions. It accumulated because I had little to spend it on.

When my parents died, I was in the lower fourth at one of England’s premier boarding schools for girls. I’d moved up from the preparatory school and was unhappy because the senior school girls wouldn’t accept me. I was born and raised in England but considered inferior because of my Welsh name. They dismissed me because we were bankers rather than members of the landed aristocracy. Worst of all, they thought my father wasn’t a gentleman in the vanguard leading Great Britain to greatness. Their prejudices were confirmed when my parents died under dubious circumstances in Brazil.

My closest friend was Penelope Fitzwilliam, another Welsh girl whose family was in trade. She grew up in Wales and had a Welsh accent. She was proud of her Welshness and stood up for her heritage when anyone tried to demean it.

Pen was a rebel, spurred on, I’m sure, by the other girls’ attitudes. By the lower sixth form, she was one of the few girls with a serious boyfriend. She became pregnant, intentionally, I believe, and insisted she’d keep the baby. The money Uncle Gareth deposited in my account every month became invaluable. I bankrolled her effort to birth and raise her daughter, Claire, complete her A-levels, and gain acceptance to Oxford.

Apart from the support I provided for Pen’s rebellion, my progress through senior school was traditional. I finished my upper sixth year at the top of my class and spent a year at a Swiss finishing school. Cultural studies, they called it, but I thought of it as my punishment for helping Pen. Punishment wasn’t fair because Pen paid back every pound I gave her, but Uncle Gareth always considered it a black mark on my record. Would he have been less unhappy if I charged her interest?

After my year in Switzerland, I attended the London School of Economics. I graduated with a first in political philosophy and joined the bank. I spent my first year doing tasks Uncle Gareth assigned to teach me about commercial and investment banking. Then, in December 2026, he took me aside and spent days describing the Company of Gentlemen Entrepreneurs’ quest to save the world from climate degradation. In January 2027, I joined the crusade and marched forth to slay the climate change dragon.

*****

That’s an unpolished start. More to come next week.

‘The Corgi Princess’s Streamers of Victory’ by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story using the words TV, flamenco, midget, toilet paper, dragon.

This week’s piece comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series. This piece is actually a scene coming from the in-progress Corgi Capers book 4 (slightly modified to fit the prompt). You can learn more about the series at www.corgicapers.com.

The Corgi Princess’s Streamers of Victory

By Val Muller

Sapphie lowered onto all fours, eyeing her people. That box was making noise again. What did they call it, a TV? It usually distracted everyone, but these kids seemed to be paying extra attention to her. She needed them distracted now, now, now! She could see it there through the open bathroom door, the object of her quest: toilet paper.

Glorious.

Chewy.

Pully.

Delicious.

It wasn’t Adam and Courtney. It was the midget, the little one, the one who wasn’t part of the family. What did they call him again? Cousin, that was it. Cousin didn’t have a Sapphie of his own. Cousin only had a Paxton Glen, and that pup was not nearly as cute or amazing as Sapphie. No one was! So of course Cousin couldn’t look away. But it was sure becoming annoying. Sapphie needed a distraction.

Courtney was pushing that thing that made different colors appear on the TV. First, bright, flashy ones. Then, dark, calming ones. Then—a doorbell!

Sapphie, Zeph, and Paxton all skittered on the cold floor toward the front door.

Paws.

Claws.

Howls.

Who, who, who? Sapphie wanted to know. Paxton howled too, his voice becoming more like a corgi’s.

“It’s just on TV,” Adam said over the noise. “Quiet.”

It’s just on TV. Those words were possibly the most disappointing words people ever said. All manner of things were “just on TV.” Cats, dogs, doorbells, beeps, horns.

Still, the command to be quiet was perhaps just what Sapphie needed to regroup for her mission. The people seems calmer now. Cousin was laughing at the commotion. Courtney and Adam had turned back to the TV.

“Oh, look,” Adam said. “A commercial for the new Logan Zephyr film. Let’s watch this one!”

Zeph, hearing his name, trotted over to Adam like the Goody Two Shoes he was. Paxton trotted to the couch, where her hopped up to cuddle with the delighted Cousin. Courtney pulled out her phone.

Sapphie tested the waters, skittering back and forth behind the couch. Like a flamenco dancer, she floated across tiles, eyeing Courtney for a reaction.

None.

She ran to the water dish and dipped her front paws in it, splashing.

No response.

The boys were lost in the TV. The world belonged to Sapphie. She danced her way toward the bathroom, leaving wet pawprints everywhere. And then, next to the toilet, the object of her quandary hung, swaying in the gentle rush of hot air from the heating system.

First, like a mischievous fairy steed of lore, deftly she tiptoed across the tile. Then, like a dragon, she leapt in the air and landed victorious, a soft white square gripped firmly between her teeth. The toilet paper pulled easily off the holder. With no one to stop her, she twisted it around her neck, her collar, her stubby little legs. It just kept coming, a streamer of victory, unending. Her tail wagged a million miles an hour as she ate several pieces of the white fluff.

Yum, yum, yum! she barked, dancing across the floor with her streamers of royalty celebrating her reign as they trailed behind her on the paw-printed floor, reflecting the colorful glow of the television.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

Tony’s Story: the final installment

Here’s the final segment of Tony Atherton’s story. He’s the central character in The Souring Seas, the opening part of The Road to Environmental Armageddon, my climate change saga. It carries on from my posting of two weeks ago.

*****

Tony’s Story (concluded)

Over the next few months, we saw more interesting developments, ones that suggested our corner of the world was settling into a slow recovery. Zeke Barlow’s arrival on Michael’s doorstep illustrated this positive trend. He’d joined the first group escorted along the new trail from Toba Inlet to the Pemberton Valley.

After the firefighters attempting to save Vancouver gave up the fight, Zeke and a friend sailed along the BC coast. They rescued people trapped by the ever-expanding fires and, in one case, survivors from an overloaded boat that sank. His description of the destruction augmented reports I received from Bill Robertson on Haida Gwaii. The entire BC coast from Vancouver in the south to the Alaska border in the north was a wasteland. Gibsons, Sechelt, Powell River, and Prince Rupert, and dozens of small, mostly indigenous, settlements were destroyed. Vancouver Island was no better. Nothing survived along its entire eastern side.

“Bella Coola?” I asked when Zeke finished his description. “It’s at the head of an inlet protected by the mountains that saved us. We thought it might be okay.”

“So did we. We sailed up the entire length of the Burke Channel. When we saw trees in the North Bentinck Arm, we were hopeful, but it wasn’t to be. Fires from the interior engulfed Bella Coola. Same thing happened farther north. Fires spread from the interior toward Prince Rupert.”

Zeke brought us information that helped me understand why we were so alone in our little world. Places like Bella Coola and Prince Rupert had been attacked from all sides. If the fires spreading north along the coast didn’t get them, those spreading west from the continent’s interior did.

In Pemberton, new industries were popping up everywhere. One example was the business of escorting visitors along the trail from the Toba Inlet. Another was the abandoned sawmill resurrected by Michael and a colleague. Every town in a lumbering area once had a sawmill. Wood they supplied had long since been replaced by finished lumber brought in from away. Products supplied from larger centres were no longer available. Michael’s sawmill was supporting the growing demand for housing for the new arrivals in Pemberton.

The caravan that brought Zeke to Pemberton brought me an important package. Michael joked it was the first piece of mail delivered in post-Apocalyptic Pemberton. Dan Delacour’s package contained copies of environmental monitoring data he’d collected from the Northeast Atlantic into the first months of the disaster. He was more knowledgeable than I on many aspects of our problem. When I added his data to mine, I’d have a more comprehensive picture of the history. It would become my gift for posterity.

The package was delivered by Claire Fitzwilliam, a young woman I’d met during our visit to the UK in 2036. She’d sailed a large sailing yacht, Merlin’s Childe, through the northwest passage in the fall of 2049. She spent the winter somewhere along the Alaskan or British Columbian coast. This spring, she’d found our settlement and delivered the package Dan entrusted to her. Her note said they’d been unable to contact her mother, Penelope Fitzwilliam, or Steve and Anna Matthews. Two of her crewmembers, Tomas Matthews and Luna Grange, would be leaving Merlin’s Childe in Alaska. The rest would return to England, departing in early July.

By the summer of 2052, we’d survived three years in our post-Apocalyptic world. Pemberton had become a strange amalgam of almost modern town and pioneering village. We’d established modern benefits like reliable electricity and late-twentieth-century landline telephones. Communication was improving as communities established themselves in enclaves that could support human life. But we relied on animal power for most transport and labour.

We conducted almost no trade with outsiders. We depended on the resources of our small community. In that respect, we resembled a preindustrial town with cottage industries and complete reliance on the food we could grow in our valley. Growing more and more varied food was a constant battle.

The ten thousand plus denizens of Pemberton were optimistic about their future. They were pioneering folk and quite happy to make do and develop inventive solutions to the problems we faced.

I wasn’t as optimistic. Two problems weighed heavily on my mind.

Everything I learned confirmed we’d suffered hundreds of nuclear explosions. The amount of atmospheric radiation was much less than the amount calculations predicted. I suppose I should have been happy. If radiation levels were as high as expected, we wouldn’t have survived the exposure.

Radiation levels in the ocean, however, were much higher than anyone expected. That raised an academic question. Why were atmospheric levels too low and oceanic levels too high? But more importantly, it raised a practical problem. High radiation in the ocean made seafood unsafe to eat. It also meant people living near the coast were subject to contamination by aerosols stirred up by wind and waves. Would some natural process strip the radioactivity from ocean waters and bury it in deep sediments? Or would humans be stuck with dangerous levels of oceanic radiation for centuries?

The marine radioactivity problem changed our ideas on where we should live. Landlocked Pemberton was good. Masset, by the ocean on Haida Gwaii, was not.

My other problem was the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide. Bill Robertson’s measurements of oceanic CO2 and pH showed much higher carbon dioxide levels and pH lower. The worldwide forest and brush fires would have released an incredible amount of carbon. That explained his observed increases.

Bill’s latest pH numbers said we were on the brink of the massive plankton blooms I’d been predicting for years. Would they extract so much carbon dioxide from the ocean-atmosphere system that we experienced serious global cooling? Could we survive a prolonged shift to colder temperatures?

*****

Where do I go from here.?

I could work, as I suggested in my post of two weeks ago, on the mini-biography of Elena Llewellyn, a central character in An Industrial Solution, the second part of my saga. Or I could devise some way of incorporating Tony’s biography in The Souring Seas. This biography would provide useful foreshadowing of the disaster to come after the end of The Souring Seas. It might entice a few extra readers.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll probably work on both of these. More to come next week as I plod down The Road to Environmental Armageddon.

‘Love Poem’ by Chiara de Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme is “All the pretty things.” This week story comes from Chiara. Chiara is currently in Berlin, Germany, doing her best to catch up with semi-abandoned writing projects. Her YA novel “Mi chiamo Elisa” was published in Italy by “Le Mezzelane Casa Editrice” in September 2020.

Love Poem – Possibly About My Cat

by Chiara De Giorgi

I’ve always known to look for pretty things

Sometimes I catch them with a single glance

Sometimes they just appear out of the blue

But I would never want to miss the chance

To spot one pretty thing when I’m with you.

I lose myself into your lovely eyes

And I forget about the world around

Because of all the pretty things I’ve seen

For me you are the prettiest one, hands down

And I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been.

It’s not that hard to look up at the sky

And recognize how beautiful it is

By day, the sun, the clouds, and all the birds

By night, the moon that shines over the trees

Competes with stars, too elegant for words.

And yet, when I’m with you, I can’t look up

I only hear your voice and feel your heart

It beats with mine, it is a symphony

And it is never right to be apart

The greatest gift for me’s your company.

So let us look at pretty things together

I bet they’ve never looked so nice before

We’re holding hands and it’s spellbinding

The way waves sound when crashing on the shore

Just everything, with you, is more enchanting.

So, to conclude this poem about good things:

I like to spot them when I’m on my own

But what I truly, really love to do

Is do the same, but when I’m not alone:

Watch all the pretty things and be with you.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

Mister Wolfe by C.A. MacKenzie

This week in my writing journey, I’m returning to something I haven’t done for some time. I’m writing a post about a novel recently published by one of my writing colleagues. It’s Mister Wolfe, the second of a trilogy written by my fellow Evergreen Writers Group member, C A MacKenzie and available on Amazon.

Wolves Don’t Knock, the first book in this trilogy, was interesting. The story of Miranda, a young woman who’s abducted by a psychopath and held captive for six years. It focuses on her recovery in the first year after her escape. Not surprisingly, for someone subject to such an extended traumatic experience, her memories of her six years in captivity are a jumble of fact and fiction, real and imagined experiences, many of which I struggled to find credible.

Mister Wolfe is Ms. MacKenzie’s fictional biography of Paul Wolfe, the psychopath who kidnapped Miranda. It’s written in an easy-to-read style with a plot that develops in a way that’s very reminiscent of Wolves Don’t Knock.

I anticipated being drawn into Miranda’s story and feeling sympathy for the victim of such a horrible crime. Mister Wolfe comes across surprisingly similarly. Paul is portrayed as more victim than criminal. It’s often unclear what portions of his biography are real events, and what are in his tortured imagination. He leads a sort of charmed life, getting away with a series of crimes that included kidnapping of Miranda and many other violent crimes that cannot all be in his imagination.

The story kept me engaged throughout, but I was left wondering where it was all going. Who’s the real bad guy in this long saga? Will it be Pauline, Paul’s sister and the focal character of My Brother the Wolf, the third book in this series.

That would be a surprise from an author I consider a writer of women’s fiction, albeit often with dark overtones. But then, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? C.A. MacKenzie has produced an intriguing tale that keeps the reader engaged and waiting impatiently for the next volume to appear.

Next week, I’ll get back to my Road to Environmental Armageddon.

‘Where Are the Pretty Things’ by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme is “All the pretty things.” This week’s contribution comes from Phil Yeats.

In December 2018, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/. He’s currently working on a saga about the hazards of ignoring climate change.

*****

Where are the Pretty Things?

Some see the bright side, others the dark.

I tend to the latter, with COVID it’s worse.

Crocuses have bloomed, but now they’re done.

Snow has returned, but it won’t stay.

Spring is coming, it’s here everywhere else.

April in Nova Scotia, what more can I say.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/