The cool people had a meeting last night. We decided there were some things everyone ought to be kept up-to-date on. In the interest of facilitating our readers' second-hand coolness, I am going to provide the following information;
1) I have indeed started writing on something generally related to “the novel”. Despite the need for extensive editing, I think it's short-story-ish presence should be available for perusal shortly.
One of my suggestions at the outset of this project was that we (H and I) write short stories in various styles, to fill out the back story. This particular story is directly related to the development of one of my main characters. I'm rather excited about it.
2) Contrary to popular belief, dogs are NOT man's best friend. I suggest the following supporting material for my assertion.
Coolness is now assured. Assuming you have some cheap sun glasses.
- When I'm awakened at 2:50am to something akin to a sheep dog practicing its herding technique on a gaggle of clipped-winded buffalo-geese, I am unhappy with said dog on a very singular and extreme level.
- When I am expecting to enjoy a peaceful afternoon and am suddenly accosted by a cacophony of noise while entering my surrogate “house” such that I feel I ought to bag the silver and china, and make a mad dash for the back door ... I am unhappy. (No animal should push one to criminal urges.)
- When I think I can take the trash out, barefoot, without feeling the least unpleasantness on a warm, sunny day (assuming, of course, a normal level of awareness as to what might threaten the sanctity of my bare feet) only to discover I must spend twenty odd minutes trying to find my way through a maze of dog feces... I am unhappy.
- When I am freshly bathed, dressed and smelling as sweet as a newborn babe in a bed of roses (kindly ignore the obvious issue of myriad thorns puncturing my baby soft skin) and then a dog adoringly places its muddy paws and fetid mouth on my thoughtfully chosen attire... I am unhappy.
(P.S. Reformatting these blogs from open office is a pain in my rumpial region.)
My subconscious must lack confidence in my dream interpretation skills because last night’s message was about as subtle as a 16-pound sledge to a freshly painted toenail.
The dream begins with a blatant simile of our current project:
Eric and I are roommates. It’s a drab one-room studio with leaky faucets, no heat and twelve flights of steps.
Eric typically walks (or bikes) to work each day, but this morning the winter weather is particularly nasty. “Work” is Amigos, of course. It’s the only job between the two of us and pays the rent since I sit at home on my ass all day, clipping coupons and pecking away at the novel.
So, this morning Eric needs a ride to work. Actually, I insist on it (even in dreams my OCD/mothering gene cannot be suppressed). He’s wearing his usual tee-shirt, gym shorts and sandals and a blizzard has been forecasted by our 12-inch black and white with rabbit ears.
We traipse out to the parking lot where BB sits under a blanket of ice. In real life BB was … is … was … my prized possession. A black Mazda Protégé with sharp custom wheels, a snappy stance, and predictably reliable engine. My first car. I sold BB to Eric two years ago and ... for those of you not quite following the complexity of this dream analysis ... I've regretted letting her go ever since.
Five minutes later we have BB scraped clean. The roads are clear enough. It’s a straight shot to Amigos. Eric is due at work in fifteen minutes. We should get there in ten. But I have important business for us to discuss, which we do while standing beside the car, stomping our feet to stay warm. There’s a scene in the book that’s just not working. We’ve been over it a hundred times. I have to finish the scene today while Eric is at work. The deadline is looming, our editor impatiently waiting with a scowl on his face. I have never actually seen our editor scowl. I’m not sure he’s capable of it.
Eric patiently listens, only occasionally and politely mentioning his need to get to work. There is a huge letter “M” on his tee-shirt which, as everyone knows, stands for “Martyr”.
“We have plenty of time,” I say.
“It looks like the storm is almost here,” he says.
“Have I ever let you down?”
“Well, no, but maybe we can talk while you drive.”
“Can you just pay attention for a minute? Let’s finish out this scene once and for all and then we’ll go.”
“Okay, sure.” His letter “M” begins to glow red.
And just like that, in a manner possible only in dreams, the sunny sky turns dark, heavy snow presses the clouds low over our heads and they let loose their burden. The wind speed jumps from 5 to 35 in the space of a heartbeat. And by the time I turn to gauge our exit from the parking lot, it’s covered in snow piled five feet high.
Yes, I understand clearly that leaving five minutes earlier would have gotten Eric to work on time. Of course he can't go now. I've likely gotten him fired. But, it's too late to worry about any of that.
Without a word, we turn and head for the studio. Nothing left to do now but work on the novel.
More than that. Gale winds crashing. Slashing through ideas as if they had no lashings. Concepts held once concrete, mutilated by shredding force like a time-lapse mountain erosion. Shape takes form and holds a moment, perhaps quickly but in slow motion, before the mind blasts fierce and cold like the north wind, smashing from every angle with dashing force.
Then flashes. Flutter of eyelashes as concepts burn through ocular cavity and directly into the skull. Too quick for the eye to react. There is no protection. Later inspection may show the mind's own cunning direction guiding these lavish bolts of brilliance. The dry corners of the mind catch fire, burning wild and free, as winds wax and wane in strength; blaze blown here and there at the winds whim till every useless bit of brown is scoured clean.
A dark rich windswept scene of fertile. Soil soon to be planted. Soon to be gleaned.
Torrential rain. Clouds bursting like a busted water-main. (Don't brave this storm if you've got a lame brain. Brain strain will be your only gain. I'm just say'n) Life-giving-water soaking dark parched ground with roaring sound.
Flooding. But not faster than green ideas bursts forth. Dark soil splits as emerald, and jade spires thrust themselves arrogantly skyward, with branches sprouting random and prolific. Rushing flood waters gushing with every bit of force against those foundling tender concepts. Some wash away. Others grasp firmly by firm roots, bending maybe but struggling upward still.
Finally, storm having passed, the sun can shine bright and strong. Every lasting plan and scheme stretching toward that glowing disk, fighting no longer, but thriving only.
For your consideration:
Exhibit A) Circuit training is insane.
12 different lifts. Three muscle groups. One set per lift, max reps. Cardio ab exercises between sets. Rest every three lifts.
50 minuets later. Two large pan pizzas with extra meat. A gallon of milk. Two quarts of ice cream. And a health shake (I am not going to offer free advertisement here so the type of health shake is going to be top secret).
Exhibit B) Writing at The Mill is NOT insane.
I'm sitting here thinking that I may or may not be clever. Unfortunately no one will ever think I am more than the second - on account of my massive failure when it comes to blogging lately. So, while contemplating this lack, I am sitting next to my girlfriend (Yes, girlfriend. Shut it.).
She is scooting to the left.
I am slowly scooting after her, pretending that nothing is happening, naturally. Alas, my plans are foiled. Now she is reading my stupid blog post. I will have to come up with some other ploy.
Exhibit C) Finally after a few weeks...
I may finally have an angle from which to write. I'm sure Hilary may be elated to find that I didn't totally throw in the towel, especially since the towel had been hanging in a moist hot environment for like three days, and it was starting to smell.
Not only am I nearly ready to start writing on our co-authored novel, I have a few other things in the works. I think my near death experience with death had me feeling a little under the weather. Oddly, everyone is always under the weather.
Who ever came up with that saying was a moron.
Digression aside, with my new found superiority to weather, I have rediscovered some smidginish bit of creativity. This means blog posts will be forthcoming.
Don't expect them to be good. Your expectations are not up to the challenge of predicting this impending domination.
Personal Writing Spaces - How important are they?
Blogs, interviews and documentaries show that thousands of authors agree; the space in which you choose to write directly affects your creativity and performance. Sure, it sounds good. I even agree with the theory. And I am still the last writer on the planet without even the semblance of a personal writing space.
It’s my own fault. I’ve managed to find an excuse each and every time the prospect has occurred to me. And, so, I’ve done all my writing in cars, in bed, at restaurants, in waiting rooms, at my day-job desk, at the kitchen table, on the floor and in the front porch swing. I found the most success when sequestered in the den with a bean bag for a chair and a leather ottoman for a desk.
But, all of that is over. I’ve finally seen the light … and the potential for devastating psychiatric bills if I attempt to tackle our absurd year-long project without the order and safety of a designated writing space. It just so happens (yes, I’m ridiculously lucky) that we have a currently unoccupied room in which to spread my literary wings. Yippee! Time to unfurl!
I need your help, authors! What are some absolute “must haves” in your writing spaces? What works? What doesn’t? Is there a good color for creativity? How important is a good chair, really? Because those things are PRICEY!
Hilary's Writing Office
Contests: I love to hate them and hate to love them.
I'd forgotten about my local group's annual short story contest deadline which is coming up QUICK! Please keep in mind that I pounded out this (my first foray into YA) first draft just this AM. Other than that, be brutally honest. I need it.
PleaseCLICK HERE to read the entire story. It's only 2300 words. Won't take long. Promise.
A random ray of dazzling sunlight caught and held a wave’s crest as it rolled into shore and the jib sail snapped sharply above my head. Heading and speed looked good. Engines idled in neutral. Props were raised. All clear.
I’d spent the second half of my nearly sixteen years living at sea, wondering how I had ever survived the first eight on land. The prospect of going more than a day without the humid spray of Caribbean water or hypnotic lull of waves seemed simply unimaginable.
“Take us on in Angel,” dad called as he cleated off the main halyard and secured the boomvang.
“Ready about!” I called to everyone.
“Ready what?” seventeen-year-old Anya Crete demanded.
“Ready about,” her younger brother repeated. “It means we’re turning around.”
Anya crinkled her petite nose at him. “You are just loving this, aren’t you?”
Tyson simply grinned at her and leaned into the wind. Answer enough.
A few of Eric's short stories ... as evidence of Split Fiction's drastically differing writing styles ... Here's to hoping, praying and begging we can find a single, clear voice for the novel. Life & Times of an Amigos Manager A True Story
"Yeah, but there's no control." It was a feeble argument, but handily offered.
"What kind of control is there in politics? It's a free country. People say what they want to. Trouble is, you can say whatever worthlessness comes to mind, and if you get some other people to go along with it, then that's it. The intelligentsia of a culture shouldn't be ruled by a pop culture, but in a democracy, they necessarily are. It's a degradation inherent in the system." Eric delivered the final words and hurried off. His timing was perfect with the 5/4 rhythm that had been pounded into the floor and dishes and utensils since he got there. He grabbed a box. Feet slid in pivot, sounding somewhat akin to a brush on a snare. Footsteps resumed, and a hand tapped some shelving to pick up the place of a cymbal.
"Here's the thing..." Eric stopped.
Jon looked at him with that singular sort of look that clearly meant, what's the thing?
Eric opened his mouth to continue, but there was a peculiar sort of sizzling coming from the back door, just more than 6 feet to his right. His head turned. The box dropped from his hand and time slowed as muscles began to work. The box hit the floor and burst as plastic-ware exploded across the tile. At the same instant, a larger explosion ripped through the store as the back door was blown clean from its hinges. Time slowed further. The pounding of feet at a dead run resonated loudly for a full three strides before Eric lunged and threw himself clear of debris. Head tucked, he landed and rolled, springing instantly to his feet.
"Get in the cooler."
The discussion of politics was obviously over, suddenly ended by the entrance of several militants with the look of business about them.
"More Runza employees," muttered Eric. "Just what I need." READ MORE The Frantic Adventures of Little Red Robin Hood (and her various battles with the misaligned Sheriff Wolf McClainne)
Chapter 1: In which the fair little red trips to see Grandma for her 84th birthday, and is then waylaid by two of King-Corperation's men, and is then, quite by the happenstance of escalation, put into the position of becoming an outlaw.
It was a bright, crisp, fall morning in Arrowhead. Silence was broken by an even more crisp sound as Robin's alarm clock erupted into noise. She opened her eyes and sat up, instantly awake and only slightly less instantly on her feet and moving. She stretched in a teasing manner, as if to remind her muscles that they may or may not have some work to do, but not seriously preparing them for the prospect.
In two small steps she crossed the room while holding her arm stretched over her head, body swaying slightly to work the stretch into her back. She looked over the rough sketch of a schedule that played itself over a dry erase board like a mix of art, mathematics, shopping list, and chaos. Her eyes worked over the barely organized notes that penned the month, then smiled and sighed.
“Red, are you up? Oatmeal's getting cold!”
Robin groaned and ran a hand through her curly, dark red hair. “Oatmeal. Ugh.”
She sighed again, then switched off her alarm, ending its insistent brrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
so it could finally fade away with a iiiinnnnggggggg.
“What's the diff if it does?”
The house she shared with her older sister was small. Two bedrooms. Kitchen and bathroom were combined in the middle. In the back was a pantry. The only luxury items were the toilet and shower. Both had the latest hand-pump-pressurized system that ensured the water came out at good skin-scouring strength, or flushed completely assuming one spent a bit of time on the hand pump.
Robin sauntered across the kitchen to the corner bathroom and pulled the curtain mostly into place. It's not like it hid THAT much. The pump squeaked. Ten pumps for number 1. Eighteen for number 2. If you wanted a shower, you had to put some work into it, but hell... it was better than hanging a bucket. READ MORE
Writing isn't always all glam and shimmer. Sometimes there's an ugly side effect: bloody forehead and matching face print on a brick wall.
Since Hilary is a bastion of writing excellence, I thought I would offer a counterpoint for comparison, and display the darker side of writing. For your viewing pleasure, two failed short story attempts. They are temporarily in the “Dead End” folder.
It is absolutely the case that I have been somewhat negligent of late. Several people have cast doubts as to my intent to write on this blog. This and other accusations I hereby rebut, hoping to assuage doubts and set right my account.
Many will likely find my tale too incredible for belief. I, too, would discount the events I’m about to recount as fantasy or lies (is there any difference?) had I not experienced them with my own senses! My purpose here is not to conjure unreasoned conviction, but to accurately detail the last two weeks of my existence: the very same two weeks which have been so invariably scrutinized, questioned and otherwise contested.
I dare to hope my sincerity and candor will prevail if, perchance, my credibility be stretched on other counts beyond conventional bounds.
It was the Monday of January the 16th to be exact, and a poor one at that. Counting inventory at 4 a.m. is never pleasurable, but 4:30 a.m. found itself providing the very best company possible, given the circumstances. Honestly things were off to a good start till I received the phone call.
“Eric. Rodger Moore. Are you busy?”
“No, Rodger. Just inventory.”
“Ok.” A taciturn pause.
I knew he would wait me out. “How can I help you?”
“I need you in Morocco. By 1700 tomorrow.” Mr. Moore paused again.
As the statement sank in, I began to calculate cost and time against my store's budget and my own schedule.
“Ok. I won't be able to leave till 3 p.m. Inventory and Monday books will take till 9:30. I also have to get all the other Monday paperwork done and place an order.”
I paused as my feet carried me just outside my office where an eight-by-eleven sheet displayed the week’s schedule and random splashes of dried taco sauce.
“I’m cooking for lunch. Can we book a flight between... 1500 and 1600?”
“That will be fine. Fax me the schedule changes.”
“Ok. I think I’ll need help with a couple shifts.”
“Ok. Very good.”
Silence. No click. Just silence.
To be continued ...
So now for fail number two:
(Good grief, someone throw me a freaking bone here!)
“So I live with my brother's ex girlfriend in our old house. And my ex lives with my brother.” She paused to take a long pull on a Sam Adams. “We’re neighbors.” She looked up, eyes focused. “Do you think that's weird?”
I chewed my chicken artichoke pizza with the stoic focus of an Ascetic monk while desperately hoping my phone might ring and offer an escape from what had started as a blind date and quickly morphed into a scene from Dante’s Inferno or Voltaire’s Candide, I’m not sure which.
I opted to lie this time, hoping to avoid another pointless argument. I just wanted to eat in peace. “No. It's not weird at all. Sometimes you do what you have to do.” I took another bite and gauged my success.
“So, what about you? What did you do in high school?” Score one for me.
She had already told me about being a gear head. I knew about the fast cars, and the drag racing, and the multiple tickets -- “One more ticket and I lose my license”, and the ex totaling her awesome mustang which ran high 11’s in the quarter, the domestic violence, and the breakup, and the periodic one-night hookups after the breakup, and the periodic domestic violence after the one-night hookups, and the restraining orders…
I had always known blind dates were risky, but hadn’t expected a train wreck.
“Hm... in high school?” I paused to think.
Her eyes were crouched like a house cat waiting to pounce with ferocity on loan from a long forgotten maternal ancestor, the pet tigress of an ancient Persian king who met his demise at the swipe of her paw, oblivious to the fact that millennia of poor breeding and the lack of claws would fate this particular scheme a harmless foray of tawny fluff and whiskers.
“I was really big into music and writing. I think my senior year I had like, three band classes, a creative writing class, and philosophy.”
“Seriously?!” She looked at me as if I had suddenly morphed into a space alien with green skin, antennae and a long insect-like proboscis. To her, my response constituted a romantic mega-fail and I couldn’t have been happier about it. Death was the only honor to be found in this battle.
“Yeah. I have always liked music and literature. I used to cut class and go to the library to read or study philosophy.” I smiled smugly. Low blow to the spleen. Score two.
“So, you were pretty much a nerd in high school?”
“Yeah. I was a big band nerd. I really enjoyed learning.”
Awkward silence. I smiled.
More awkward silence as my smile began to hint at sardonic humor.
“You have a Wii?”
I definitely had her on the ropes now. “Yeah. I have one. I love DDR. Play it all the time.” I took a bite of pizza. It was still delicious. No need to let a nerd-hating-gear-head-tramp ruin the flavor.
Silence. Was that fresh oregano?
“I play Mario Kart on mine. I like to play online against people since I can't street race anymore.”
I snorted a little to myself, high up in my nasal cavity. She may or may not have heard. “Wait a second...”
“...did you just call me a nerd?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Ya...”
“And... playing Mario Kart competitively online isn't nerdy!?” I replied, then continued, “I mean... it's awesome but...” But being a gear head and racing till your license is nearly revoked and living with your ex's sister, and racing Mario Kart competitively online doesn't make you feel slightly less critical of others!??”
Righteous indignation crept in as she replied, “No. I don't think so. I'm really good at it. And I use the Wii Fit for exercise too. There's nothing wrong with that!”
“I didn't say anything was wrong. I think it's awesome. But it seems a little...” I shrugged and paused as my phone rang.
Her eyes narrowed further as I took a bite of pizza before answering. “Hello?” I paused to listen. “Yeah... I am kinda busy. Is it really an emergency?” She glared for all she was worth as the conversation continued. “Well, if you really need me, I guess I’d better get over there. Can I finish dinner or...” I trailed off to silence and looked up in time to catch the rage building just behind her eyes. I smiled warmly at her and concluded, “alright. I'll get a box and be there in fifteen.”
“Did you just lifeline me?” She was pissed. Her pizza dropped to her plate, and her elbows thumped the tabletop hard enough to leave ice clattering in my empty glass.
“No. I actually have to go. It's an emergency.” I nabbed the waitress. “Could I get a box and my bill?” Then back to my date, “I’ll get the tip.”
“What kind of emergency?”
I grinned. “I would tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.”
She gave me a vacuous look. It suited her.
So, obviously I am suffering writer's block. This may clear up soon. Who knows. In the meantime I guess I will continue to play with ideas.
In less than four weeks we’ve created a writing partnership, embarked on a very public project and begun the tedious process of nailing down a solid novel framework. To say we are overwhelmed would qualify as the understatement of the year, if not decade. Did I mention that we’re attempting this while living 1000 miles apart? Bring on the Thorazine and straight jackets. No really, does anyone have any Thorazine?
Week 1 was spent nixing countless ideas for back story, novel setting and characters. This has to be the most depressing aspect of the process because it takes a hundred “hell no, are you kidding?”s to reach that single “holy hell, that’s perfect!” (Notice that Hades is involved either way.)
Week 2 had us doubting the plausibility of the entire idea. We hung up the phone, stopped texting and told each other we would NOT talk about the novel and simply let the book marinate.
Week 3 proved that we are tenacious, if nothing else, because the “marinating” didn’t last more than 36 hours. I began a picture timeline, nailing down events and dates. Eric got a firm grasp on a character that had been eluding him.
And, week 4 looks to be spent doing my best to get a single blog post out of Eric because the man is showing all the signs of blogaphobia.
So, yes, it’s glaringly obvious that you can’t erect a 45-story glass and metal mega-skyscraper without first pouring a solid foundation. I know that. We know that. Which is why we’ve been slaving away to perfectly mix the concrete.
But, someone should check the receipt because I’m beginning to wonder if we accidently bought Bisquick instead of Quikrete.