Good Cardio and Intuition

Yesterday as I went out to my car thunder rumbled in the distance. Just after steering onto the main road, about fifty yards or so away, what I saw coming toward me didn’t look like a wall of rain but a shiny curtain of silver pebbles falling from an almost sunny sky. Falling in such a number with such force that they bounced and scattered. In that moment between dry road and a flash flood the sky went from almost sunny to navy blue. In that moment, I wanted a good camera in my hand, to keep the inch or two of space separate for just another moment. A clean dry line of just before …

The space closed quick, the sky went black then solid white foam. Within a mile I was no longer a perfectly capable driver in a perfectly safe car, but a first time kayaker on wild white water rapids with great waves splashing and pushing and trying to pull me under. The easy going twenty minute commute became thirty-two minutes of heart-hammering guess work, too blinded by white foam to pull over to the side of the road—was the side of the road still there? Flashers on, I made it to the day job as rumbling thunder closed in all around and a parking lot tidal wave soaked me from the knees down.

Was this in the weather forecast? Of course not. But the worst that happened from all of it was soaked jeans and sandals and a few minutes docked on the time clock. I’ll count the heart-hammering as a day’s worth of cardio.

Yesterday I also started The Witch Elm, by Tana French , and found the DIY MFA podcast , featuring Gabriela Pereira and some good interviews with published writers. I haven’t yet purchased any of the offered goodies, but I have enjoyed insights from some of the visiting authors. Good advice always inspires me to take notes and get started with new vigor on a project. Yesterday’s listen, along with comments from a current reader of my recently completed novel, gave me much needed confirmation that I made good choices.

Those choices were intuitive. The intuition was borne of years of reading, of writing practice, of listening to the characters that live in my feverish writer brain. I really love being a writer, loved it before I realized the thing had indeed happened—it all came together by hard work and tenacity and by some gorgeous magic that I reached out for without knowing what exactly it was. Still don’t know what it is, but I’m comfortable with the mystery.

Now if only that intuitive magic could kick in as I continue to ride the rough waters of querying and writing a decent synopsis. If only. Four of six agents have passed. I hope the other two are reading, getting to know Holly, right now.

How To

How do you get over this? How do you go through the motions of being a responsible adult? Pay the bills, clean the kitchen … carry on as if you didn’t just create a living breathing multi-faceted heart racing story rich with blood and bones and human foibles. How do you step away from the page?

How do you stay with the page and fight off the creeping sensation that you are the only fan of this story? All that will ever be, because it won’t see the light of day. You’ll fail somehow. Fall on your face when an agent rejects it. Maybe never send it to an agent or a writerly reading friend, or anywhere at all.

The story full of fear and hope and shame and memory will sit in a doc file until doc files are obsolete, and you never really accomplished anything other than spending hours, weeks, a year of your life wanting. In between the day job days and the chores and hitting that submit button for yet another of all the online payments in your life, maybe what you really did was waste daylight and ink.

In between sporadic bouts of self-care and wish lists, and allergy attacks, you have handmade characters so real all there is to do is reach out and touch, say good morning. Good night. Sweet dreams until tomorrow. Everything will be okay, eventually. Tell me how to keep them alive.

Tell me how to get to the end. Not THE END. That’s just around the corner. But the end of the process, the culmination of imagination, inspiration, hard work. What’s next? What comes after the end?

The Road of Learning. And Learning.

In the way way back, back when LiveJournal was my schnizzel, there was a game that came around every year … June 2oth, I think. It went something like this: A commotion outside wakes you, so you take a peek out the window. It’s the Zombie Apocalypse! Oh no! Your mission is to journal throughout the entire day about what you see, what you do, how do you handle this dire set of circumstances OMG WHO IS GOING TO DIE NEXT.

Of course, I find out about this FUN game that first time a an hour before it ends because I was out all day running relatives to the airport, etc. That’s okay though because the game I totally missed gave me a great idea:

My name is Holly and I have a bizarre story to tell …

I diddled with the story here and there, then put it away because it needed to be a novel and I kept shouting at it you’re a short story, and it would say no, novel, and so on. Took it out of the drawer in 2015 thinking maybe I could actually write the novel, but I sucked at writing novels so back it went. Last month I decided to stop sucking at writing novels. Novels are now going to be my schnizzel.

And since the decision has been made, I downloaded Scrivener once Word began to drive me to murder, now Scrivener has me scared to death I’m going to click the wrong clicky, and if I dare veer off to write by hand I doze off.

Uh …

Tonight no dishes will get done, not one floor will get swept, not one plant watered, or hubby conversed with because I’ve got to go show Scrivener who’s boss.

The Walking Dead Keep On Walking

Every new season I wrestle with myself over whether to continue watching, and every year–though I hate myself for it–I go ahead and watch. Another season is bearing down, according to continuous facebook reminders yesterday, so I thought of this piece. Rick Struggles To Cope was written a while back for a prompt related to the third season. Here’s my take.


How To Cope: Chop Until The Screaming Stops


How does one cope with loss after loss after horror after horror in pursuit of one half of a half of a tenth of a percent of humankind’s preservation? Bludgeon a monster. Bludgeon another. Chop, chop. Shoot. Build something. Tear something down. Follow instinct: Hunted become hunter. Hunt for killers and for precious remains to bury. Keep moving.

Keep moving or regret and fear will do terrible things to tender psyches.

Rick is the leader, the father, the enforcer. He’s the guy with the ax, the hammer, the six shooter. He’s the guy responsible for the safety of his family. He cannot fathom a newborn life won by the sacrifice of a woman — that freckled bride he moved heaven and earth to keep alive. Everyone, every member of this tattered, nomadic community who’s followed Rick through rural post-apocalyptic Georgia bears witness to the moment his mind … breaks.

Is Rick a metaphor?

Meanwhile, not so far away from the prison where a redneck warrior and a nubile young couple join forces to defend fencing, daring to count blessings, one of their reluctant fair-haired friends (thought lost months before) is on the verge of learning not all monsters wear decayed flesh and shamble around in search of fresh flesh. Some monsters might drawl and swagger and hold the key to a room accessorized by an aquarium swimming with heads.

Some monsters have lonely smiles and keep a good supply of sipping whisky nearby.

It’s the enigmatic Michonne who reviles that swagger and drawl. Suspicion raises her fight or flight response. Or, maybe she’s just jealous; maybe she wants the blonde all to herself.

Is Michonne a metaphor?

Is the Governor really good at heart, another poor schmuck left alive to mourn the loss of real children and the real world?  Could be he just needs a little patience and trust from a smirky blonde (unfettered by sharp-edged friends) to make him feel all better.

Will the real monsters please stand up?

Observers of both sides of this story will undoubtedly wonder how Rick and Michonne might get on … if they ever cross paths. Would Rick and the Governor sip whisky and ponder the burden of losing everything?  Would they, in friendly familiar tones, verbally analyze the sensation of going completely mad?

Back at the prison, there will be possum for dinner. A kid who just killed his mom is reciting names. Lots of names. There’s a one-legged preacher vet standing by silent and wise, and a skinny little girl with the voice of an angel seems to be out of songs.

Rick is wandering in the dark all alone, talking to ghosts, in desperate need of a grave to visit: Here Lies Lori, My Beloved.

How does one cope?

A few miles down the road strangers drink lemonade and play twisted summer games. While an aquarium swims with heads. You’ll want to keep that ax handy, Rick.

Status Interruptus

The past five days have involved everything but writing. While frustration overload threatened many times, a lot of good has come from Life stomping on the pause button without my permission.

Day Eight will happen. Eventually.

Meanwhile, I am toying with a few ideas that might help me organize and propel this story forward. A visual tool of some sort might be best… a storyboard, maybe. The more I think about employing such a tool, the more I like the idea. Especially after a particular breakthrough that came while on the phone with a friend Thursday night. Something she said made me realize that a huge hangup I have with the story is that I keep trying to justify Holly’s actions.

This is a ridiculous, time-consuming, wasteful, distracting endeavor. Her motivations and the end results don’t require justification — I just need to tell her story and get over my personal inclination to interject reasoning. If I do this storytelling thing right, her motivations should be clear enough to keep readers interested.

Day Seven

The Second Project’s z-fic now boasts an 8k word count… that would be better news if I hadn’t skipped working out a large chunk of Chapter Two. Chapter Two will be ridiculously long — this said by a person who is satisfied with a Prologue and Chapter One that, combined, total 5k and change.

Apparently I am compiling a collection of novella-length fictions, not short stories.

So far this morning I’ve just been reworking dialogue between Holly and Stephan. As I mentioned before, it’s necessary to keep a close eye, and ear, on Holly. My dangerous protag can cram more clichés in a paragraph than the worst of the best old hard boiled detectives. Ugh.

I can put one more daylight hour into writing today, after that, it’s a full day of real life adulting — paying bills, buying food, job hunting, making doctors’ appointments for MIL, etc. Another thousand words should be possible later tonight, then some research. There is a brand new shiny notebook just waiting for all that research.

What are y’all writing?

Day Six

The writing positively flowed yesterday. Which is good news. I was beginning to fear that this herky-jerky two hundred words per day was the best I could hope for until my head exploded and ended everything. Good news! I put about twelve hundred brand new words down and cleaned up dialogue from a previous session.

I love days like that, because when everything is flowing a new little tidbit of information usually pops out. In the initial episodic pieces of Holly’s story (written in 2009) I only gained a vague sense of her true nature. The writings were brief and rushed back then, and that vagueness was a delicious tease. Yesterday, late into one huge chunk of dialogue, her best friend revealed what I always wanted someone to say out loud — Holly is a born killer. Her best friend, Stephan, has known it for years. As far as he’s concerned, it’s one of her best qualities.

I like Stephan.

Stephan’s true nature was even more vague than Holly’s until yesterday. And though I learned a lot about him, his back story isn’t vital to the progression of the overall story, it won’t be discussed. That’s kind of a shame, really.

Day Five

According to that tidy little schedule for The Second Project, I am now three thousand words behind and lacking at least one day of necessary research. Not bad.

Yesterday was all about the dialogue. This project has a LOT of dialogue, which wouldn’t be a problem if not for Holly’s propensity for cliché. I have to keep a close eye, and ear, on her. So far, so good. I think.

Well against the advice of many writing bloggers, I have jumped into this project without a clear plan for what is to be done with it, exactly, when it’s finished. Initially I planned to research publishers of speculative short fiction collections and practice query letters in my free time — I have since realized such places might not exist. The only similar collections I have read were penned by well-knowns who already had publishers firmly in hand before they ventured into speculative short fiction.

I am not well-known.

Sorry. That was a bit Captain Obvious.

Also, there has been the toying with the idea of e-publishing. I have the title of the collection in place, an inkling of what the cover art should look like. However,the last time I researched e-publication formatting issues alone were enough to make me run away screaming. Maybe options have improved in the last three years?

I can’t think about that right now. The dialogue is calling.

Today’s portion of the project includes a lot more dialogue, some intense gun and ammo info, and a few exploding cars.

Day … Two?

Writers often advise other writers to just get the words on the page—hammer it all out, don’t worry about format, grammar, whatever. Hammer it all out, and don’t bother reading until the story is done. I am incapable of this.

Regardless of the type of project, be it an academic assignment, a poem, an email, I mentally compose a few lines,write a few lines then read them back, then edit/revise, then write a few more. My writing is a task of fits and starts.

The index cards have been shredded. At least two notebooks are full of messy strike-throughs and scribbles, and I have added all of one thousand words to the word document begun on Day One. Now I’m rewriting half of what was written on Day One.

That first person present is still nagging. I’ve worked out a tentative plan to soften the worst of that, but there’s still the problem with lack of setting and those sweet little details that flesh out a character. Holly doesn’t like those, and I am so set in my ways that I can’t stop rereading and worrying over the flow.

Thank God I have this place to come to, where I can whine, bitch and moan in print, because no living person wants to listen to me. Even Oliver, my trusty pup and bff is hiding under the bed with his paws over his ears. I probably over did it with the apologies to him after writing a brief but gruesome, heartbreaking scene in which Holly discovers a child has been gnawing on the family pet. Oliver doesn’t want to listen to me prattle on about my writing projects anymore.

Those Boring Writing Assignments …

Last night got a little weird. I had work left to do on the manuscript, had neat little lists all written out, and was very excited about getting so close to being done. Then, shortly after surviving a trip to the grocery store I just… blanked. I suppose it could be described as a “stupor” from which I woke at 11 p.m.

I was eye level with the computer screen, sitting in my office chair. Netflix was playing an episode of Jericho. To my left was a stack of print outs from the z-fic I’m not scheduled to work on until Tuesday (wait, what). And to my right was a saucer of chocolate cake scraps.

I brushed my teeth and went to bed.

Dim and early this morning it was necessary to take care of a writing assignment I’ve been putting off for weeks—revising my resume. As of 7 a.m., I officially joined the job hunt.

Now that’s out of the way, I think it’s time to get back to my carefully plotted weekend schedule. The Table of Contents must be completed today, a final read-through of the manuscript, then a little happy dance toward the laundry basket that’s piling up and the kitchen floor that needs mopping.

As for the Netflix and the cake scraps, well, that will all have to remain a mystery. Apparently I left no witnesses to what transpired between 6 and 11 p.m.