Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Little Merry for You

I LOVE CHRISTMAS!

And to celebrate, I've changed things up a little for you.  Below are two very different short-stories that I've written with a Christmas theme.  I hope you enjoy them.

I've also included just a few of the digital snapshots I took of the tree I designed and decorated for my friend this past Saturday.  The full array will be posted to Facebook.

Blessings from the insane one,
Carla



You Have a Thumb On Your Nose




The day after Thanksgiving



“Trust me, it’ll be great. What have you got to lose?”

As Regina remembered these words spoken by her husband, she was finding it hard to control the urge to shove the remote control up his ass, thus forcing him to change channels only when he had cramps.

Jim had brilliantly talked her into hosting Christmas at their house rather than pile the kids, the dog, and the Iguana into the car and subject everyone to ten straight hours of “Who-Gives-A-Damn How Many Beers’re on the Wall?” Had the law recognised drinking and driving as a viable form of family therapy, the song would’ve gone down much smoother.

But, being a modern-day woman, wife and mother, she loved a challenge.

The first thing she did was organise the celebration, from the time the out-laws arrived, to the heavy drinking that would ensue once they left. With Christmas being on a Saturday, she would invite them to drive in on Thursday. Very wise: By the time they arrived, half the day would be gone, and then bed early.

Friday, they’d all be busy with preparing last-minute packages, leaving little time for curses and reminders of what happened during the great religious debate of 1967.

Which left Christmas day, breakfast, the main 2 p.m. dinner, and mandatory caroling.

Sunday they would voluntarily leave, as Jim’s father needed to be at work the next morning at 7. She’d always found it funny that while he’d been retired for years, that had never stopped him from showing up at his old job anyway.

Next, it was on to sleeping arrangements. They had 4 bedrooms and 5 children, and as she had finalised a plan, she said, “Crap!” She’d just remembered that the last time his parents had visited, Jim’s mother ended up looped like a gymnast on muscle relaxers because of the back spasms.

Onto plan B. If they moved Christina, their teenager into the baby’s room and put her on a cot, then Jim’s folks could move into her room, but that would mean Lizzy would end up having to sleep on the sofa. Yes, that might work.

God, if I could only get them arrested, then I wouldn’t need to worry where they slept.

She then realised it was time to pick up the kids, so grabbed her keys and headed out the door, putting her West Point manoeuvrers on hold.

During her drive to the school, she began running over a possible menu, and by the time the last child was strapped into the backseat, she had chosen full menus for two meals.

Why was I worried?



The day before Christmas Eve



With the children dressed in the hideous matching orange sweaters Jim’s parents had given them for Christmas last year, and promissory notes signed by the children vowing never to disclose what they thought of them except by penalty of a fiery death that would keep them from ever seeing middle school, the grandparents were welcomed into the home with hugs, giggles and much cheek-pinching (this action alone, forced an addendum that promised no artificial or live reptile would be placed between anyone’s sheets without their express written permission).

Jim’s mother spoke first. “Regina! Your home...well, you’ve almost got it. Thank goodness I’ve arrived,” she said, while kissing Regina’s cheek.

Just as Regina moved both hands toward Ruby’s neck in order to choke her, Jim saw it and grabbed his mother away. “C’mere, you sexy thing, I haven’t hugged you all year.”

Regina knew she’d be having sex that night as a thank-you, but it was a small price to pay.

The rest of the evening was fairly civil, with the next day’s itinerary going surprisingly according to schedule, although Ruby couldn’t help but criticise every little thing Regina’d done.

That evening, as Regina sipped her GF International Coffee and celebrated the moments of her life, she felt uneasy, wondering when it would happen, how, and *who* would end up being responsible for screwing up her perfect Christmas. Well, besides Jim. He was always a contender.



Christmas Day



At 5 the next morning, she arose and stuffed the turkey, and put it in the oven for 6 hours. Then concentrated on breakfast, as no doubt, the children would be up at any moment to see Santa’s offerings.

Not more than ten minutes later, she heard excited screams coming from the living room. God, how she loved her family.

At 11, after presents and breakfast dishes, she butter-basted the turkey, now beginning to turn golden brown. However, when she returned for a final baste at 1, she noticed the oven had no heat. Beginning to panic, she checked the burners, but the stove was ice-cold. “JIM!” she shrieked.

“Yes, pumpkin?”

“Why is my stove as dead as your mother’s eyes?”

“How am I supposed to know?”

“Well, fix it!”

“I’m an attorney, not a caveman. Call someone.”

“Have you been drinking?”

Ruby entered. “What’s wrong?”

“Dinner’s ruined! And I blame you, Jim, just as I did at the birth of our children.”

He merely shrugged.

“That’s it. Everyone in the car.”

“Honey, calm down.”

“Nope. This was the stupidest idea you’ve had, and I went along when you decided to quit law school and sell fake vomit.”

“It’s not so bad.”

“SCREW CHRISTMAS!” She picked up a butcher knife, and said, “MOVE!”

4 minutes later, they were on their way to Denny’s. Ruby leaned up to Jim in the front and said, “Is she okay?”

Jim shushed her. “I don’t think we’re allowed to talk until the festivities begin.”

After a dinner of Rootie-Tootie Fresh ‘n Fruity, and a solemn ride home, Regina was in such a state that Jim put her to bed.

While telling his parents good-bye, he said, “Well, I had fun. Let’s have you here again next year!”

Suddenly from behind, Regina charged at him with an uncooked turkey.
 
 
A Sleep to Startle Us




"Do go on, mama!" said Monica, clapping her hands. "You never finish your stories."

"Very well," said Mrs. Dickens. She tucked the blanket tighter around her daughter's rosy cheeks, for their old chambers, while the envy of many, carried winter's drafts in its cracks and sills. "Do you remember where I left off?"

"You were about to tell me the manner in which grandfather happened upon the idea for his now famous story."

"Ah yes, and here we go. Mind! This is the way it was relayed to me by my father, and you, should you have need, shall, hand it down by rote with much the same façon de parler.

"By the year of our Lord,1843, your grandfather's fame had spread throughout Europe and the Americas, his articles and essays appearing weekly in London's periodicals. He was never in want of a story idea, for he loved to take long walks through the city streets, and one would never need ask what it was his eyes saw during those walks, for the details would appear in print in his next work.

"However, just before putting his pen to paper to write his now famous story, a period of time in which no ideas came almost finished him. Nothing flowed; nothing sparked inspiration; no muse touched his shoulder lightly in honour of a fresh scheme. For many months this artistic vaccuum continued, nearly sending your poor grandmother to take spirits, which, she could never do since the Dickens family had long been people of temperance . . . ."

"Mama! Please! Do not torture me further by prolonging the tale!"

"Alright, done. It began on an unusually frigid night in November . . . ."




Charles Dickens sat alone in his drawing room, staring transfixed into the flames, as if, by sheer force of his gaze, maintaining eye contact could draw the warmth from the grate. So caught up in his own thoughts, was he, that his wife's entry behind him went unnoticed.

"Will you spend yet another evening in thought," she asked, "deserting your one true passion, which is to write?"

He said nothing, but continued to stare.

"It happens to everyone, I am sure," she continued.

"Never to me," he said, with much melancholy. "I have made a decision: I will never put pen to paper again for as long as my days on this Earth remain."

Catherine had never heard such lecture from him before, and this news, while possibly nothing more than a plea for sympathy--even though her husband was not prone to it--rattled each sense to her marrow, and she decided it serious.

"I am sure you do not mean this, Charles. It will pass. You must give yourself time."

"Time? One word I have written not these past eight months. I feel as if the well of my very soul has been emptied, for I have nothing left. I have stood idly by, helpless as a newborn, watching the hearts of the thousands of homeless children, wanting for shelter as well as mercy, while many of them remain disabled from ordinary life, who seem to drift across the landscape of the nineteenth century, discarded and forgotten."

"That visit to Field Lane ragged school in Saffron Hill in September really rent your heart," Catherine said, almost in a whisper.

"And did it not yours as well? Pray tell me, why, in God's infinite wisdom, does He allow such rapacity--at the cost of such undeserved suffering? I tell you, I cannot bear it further." He returned his gaze to the fire once more.

"Are you unwilling to allow your pen to feel what your heart is incapable of articulating at the moment? The Charles I married was a radical to the marrow, and oh, my, what power that pen, which you are unwilling to wield, doth possess."

He sat in silence.

Catherine kissed his cheek, and said, "Dearest, retire. Rest will relieve your suffering's severity in the light of morning."

He merely patted her hand and let his eyes stray back to the fire.

Now it is to be said, as you have probably well guessed by now, that Charles did not have fitful repose that night, as he drifted off in that very armchair, and who of us can rest easy in a chair?

He had been asleep not one hour and twenty, when a loud thud startled him to an upright position. He looked around, but finding the drawing room empty of inhabitants other than himself, drifted off again, when a second thud interrupted. Again, a cursory examination of the room yielded nothing but Porkchop, the family tabby, who appeared unaffected by the sound, as cats have never been a worthy barometer for much, other than an empty food pan. Convincing himself that the wind had blown a shutter from the chambres loose, he again stared into the fire. A full five minutes passed before the thud sounded again, and this time, as it did, the flames of the fire rose to a height of three feet and their volume increased two-fold. Charles was unsure if he should run for water, but just as he decided to do so, a strange, ghostlike and grotesque face appeared among the roaring flames, freezing Charles in his seat. As he stared at the face, which was now staring back at him, he realised that perhaps he was still in his dream.

But spirits, being as they are, heard his thoughts and said, "No, Charles, you are not dreaming."

"H-h-how did you know my name?"

The spirit beckoned him with a boney finger. "Come."

Returning to his senses, he replied, "No. Whoever you are, I will not come with you, not for your whim or mine." But as he finished, his body was pulled toward the flames and he could do nothing to stop it. He could feel the heat enveloping him and finding his voice, began to scream, which seemed to amuse Porkchop, as she had never liked her master.

Just as Charles was certain that he would be cremated alive, he heard a whooshing sound, and felt himself falling; falling down a cold dark tunnel, with the spirit flying at breakneck speed in front of him. After what seemed like several minutes, he landed on a pile of straw in a strange field. Pulling straw from his hair, he rose to his feet and said, "And now that I resemble the family ox, I demand that you tell me where you have taken me."

"I am the Spirit of Regret."

"And I am Charles Dickens. Pleased to make your acquaintance. Now what in the name of Victoria are we doing here in the dead of this wintry night?"

"You have a heavy heart.

Startled by this oblique response, Charles said, "Why, yes, I suppose I do. But did you really have to remind me of it in a deserted field? Surely my armchair would have sufficed."

Without another word, the spirit pointed directly ahead of them, and a barn suddenly appeared where there was none before. Intrigued, Charles walked through its open door and espied the scene. A young family--mother, father, and two small girls--were huddled in the corner of a cow's stall. They had no heat, no food, and wore only thread-bare coats.

"Spirit, what is the meaning of this?"

"Listen further," the spirit commanded.

"But daddy, how will St. Nick find us here? We do not have a chimney like we did at our house."
The father looked into his daughter's sweet face. "Do not worry, dearest, he will surely find us. He always does."

This seemed to content his daughter, and she curled her head on his shoulder, shutting her eyes and the cold of the world out with them.

The father looked at this wife imploringly.

She said in a whisper, loud enough for Charles and the spirit to hear, "Dear, you know how the Church feels about Christmas. Why must you continue to placate her fantasies?"

"The Church?" said Charles. "What does the Church have to do with it?"

"You have a deep heart for people in this most dead, most uncomfortable time of year, when they would suffer greatly from their poverty and the cold, yes?"

"Rightly so. If they have not hope, good cheer, warm fires, and Christmas Gambols to support them, they have lost the race entirely. Now, pray tell, what part does the Church play in this poor family's welfare?"

"All in good time," said the spirit. He waved the scene away with his hand.

Next, the spirit showed him a crowded street in downtown London, and this warmed Charles's heart, for he would never live anywhere else. But this London looked vastly different from the one he knew; there were no holly sprigs, no chestnut vendors, no shoppers crowding stores in hopes of finding the perfect gift, no fires for the homeless by which to warm themselves. In fact, it was a desolate and depressing place; the people in the scene appeared to carry nothing but contempt for their neighbor.

"Again, spirit, I implore you: what is the meaning of this?"

The spirit said nothing, but washed the image away, immediately replacing it with a new one. This was of his own drawing room. In the corner was a coffin, and standing over it, a much older Catherine.

"Spirit? Who is she mourning?" said Charles, his breath catching in his throat. A strangled cry escaped him as he realised who lay in the coffin.

The spirit pushed him toward the coffin, and the corpse that awaited him was more horrific than anything he could have dreamed to write about. For inside, staring back at him, was himself!

He let out a startled yelp and stepped back. "That cannot be me, spirit. Oh please tell me it is not. Importune and torture me no more. What have I done to set this course?"

"It is what you have not done that seals your fate."

"Then reveal to me what I have yet to do--and I will but do it, posthaste."

"It was your destiny from birth that you should be a great writer, but more than your amusing anecdotes and stories, that you should champion the less fortunate and indigent against the tyranny of avarice that runs so rampant in society today."

Charles steeled his eyes and refused to be swayed. "Did Catherine pay you to do this? I am not sure how you achieved it, but I know you must be one of her friends. Reveal yourself. I demand it."

"Numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas brings a brief season of happiness and enjoyment.... How many old recollections, and how many dormant sympathies does Christmas time awaken!"

"I still fail to see what I have neglected to do that would cause this to pass."

"You revealed to your wife, only hours ago, that you would never pen another story so long as you lived. I am here to show you, that the very next story you write, shall be the greatest champion for the cause you hold so dear to your heart."

"Nonesense. I am only a writer. What can my pen surely do that my radicalism has not?"

"Your pen can do exactly what your radicalism cannot, and that is bind the two together. Remember when your first manuscript was dropped stealthily one evening at twilight, with fear and trembling, into a dark letter box, in a dark office, up a dark court in Fleet Street?"

"I do."

"That young master Dickens wrote with zeal and passion. It was that passion that got your book into the hands of a publisher. And now that same passion shall be a voice for the voiceless; a bludgeon against the rich man's hobby, greed. The first scene you saw this eve was of a typical English family whose Christmas had been removed by the dogma of the Church. Without your story fueling men's holiday hearts, there was nothing to stop it from happening.

"The second scene was of the future streets of London, again--abiding in desolation because no story gave them hope.

"Now listen once more to the scene in your own drawing room."

A young girl approached Catherine, and with tears streaming down her face, she said, "Dickens dead? Then will Father Christmas die, too?"

The spirit wiped the scene away and stood silent.

After a long moment, Charles said, "Spirit, will my work have that large an affect on the people of London?"

"Sir, Dickens, your work will have that large an affect on the people of the world. Happy, Happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home! But it will never happen, unless you write the story that has been stewing in your breast since September."

At that, the spirit transported Charles back through the tunnel, depositing him in the armchair from whence he had come. Charles opened his eyes. The hands on the clock showed him to be gone a mere five minutes.

"Catherine!" he bellowed. "Do you know not to where my quill and ink have retreated?"

"No, sir, and I assure you that waking the dead will have no more effect," she said, exiting her bedchambres.

"Come here, you saucy wench," Charles said as he hooked an arm around his wife's waist, pulling her to his lap. Catherine shreiked and they both dissolved into peals of laughter.

"What has you in such good spirits, pray?" she asked.

"The world, my sweet; mankind, Christmastide, my ability to write. All of it. For a fire is burning in my belly, and I must needs quench it with ink. I must fulfill my destiny with paper. Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, I will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in my Christmas heart, and by my Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, I will shut out nothing."

"Know you what you shall call it, yet?" Catherine said.

"Aye. It will be A Christmas Carol to those with no song in their hearts."

*****

"And that, dear Monica, is how your grandfather wrote his famous story. Now, time for sleep."

"Mama? Do you know what I want to be when I grow up?"

"What is that, dearest?"

"A writer, just like grandfather, for it was he who kept the spirit of Christmas alive for all of us."
 
 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Twenty-Seven, and I'm a Winner, along with first chapter free

Just about one hour ago, I crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line with a validated 51,625 words.

This has been an incredibly weird journey, to say the least.  But one that I'm very pleased I took.  I've learned a lot about myself as a writer, as well as writing a novel and the approach to that process that works best for me.  I've also learned that if I participate next year, then I will have a better detailed outline from which to work instead of merely a detailed plot. 

By working so fast and forcing myself to keep pace, I've realised that with my last novel (The Gaslight Journal--what?  You don't own it yet?  Stop reading and go buy it:  NOW!) there were some passages that needed more thought in order to make them better, and that was something I did not allow myself to do on this one, and for good reason:  I am too much of a perfectionist, and spend far too much money on lavish luncheons with my nasty bitch-ass critic.

I must say, that writing a novel in this fashion was very different.  I know in my head it works as well for approaching comedy, with everything I know about comedy, but in my heart I SO wanted to go back and edit/pick/re-write, and that's not necessarily a good thing.

Thanks to all who told me I could do this, and encouraged me without abandon.  And special thanks to my word-war buddy, Kevin, who assured me he would continue to stay on my ass until all of Father Jack's story was told (I have another 20,000 words to finish the book).  He beat me to 50,000 words, but in a very sweet letter, he credited me as the reason.





And now, for your amusement, chapter one.

A Most Devout Coward

by

Carla René


Copyright (c) 2010.

Chapter One


Jack Ryan O’Donnell had sat down to a nice, quiet lunch of steamed organic broccoli and distilled hot water; his usual. As he was about to send the broccoli back a third time, a bullet went whizzing by his right ear. Not hearing the actual shot and thinking it was just a fly, he swatted it away when another came very close to shaving his sideburns. This time he looked up from his meal.

Directly across from him at the farthest table with his back to Jack, sat a burly-looking man who was now slumped over his sweet potato pie, and a second who faced the sweet potato-man; leaning back against the wall with his chest contents now being used as a garnish for the pie.

Without registering what had just occurred, Jack noticed a waitress hovering beneath the edge of the lunch counter. “Excuse me, miss!” What an odd time for this woman to be on break.

She yelled back, not daring to leave her spot. “What is it, sir? Kinda busy here.”

“I believe that gentleman over there has spilled all over the table. Would you kindly clean it?”

She could hardly believe what she’d heard. “You have got to be kidding!”

“Miss, I don’t have to tell you how quickly a health inspector will shut you down for this sort of code violation.”

As the waitress was about to rip him a new one, a third shot sent her diving behind the counter. The shooter had turned toward Carlos, the chef, now hiding behind the counter, and put the third slug into his head.

This time, Jack noticed the shooter.

As he turned to make his getaway, he saw Jack staring at him and froze as if contemplating whether to put a .9mm round into him.

Jack noticed every detail of his face: ugly red scar on his left cheek, bulbous blue fish eyes, and black hair with that ugly David Schwimmer haircut from the first season of Friends. I always hated that haircut. Now Matthew Perry--that guy, had a haircut.

Little did Jack realize, these details would come in very handy in the near future.

But before the gunman could eliminate Jack as a witness, a voice in the crowd screamed for someone to call 9-1-1, thus jarring the shooter back into reality and out the door.

Suddenly, the events registered with Jack, and he stood at his table and screamed like a pre-pubescent cheerleader, “Oh my God, we’ve been hit!” Certainly not one of his more attractive qualities.

Slowly, everyone retreated from their positions on the floor, from behind chairs, and lunch counters. As the diner staff made their rounds to see if everyone was okay, the waitress came straight to Jack.

“Sir, are you hurt?”

Jack continued to scream.

This time she shook him. “SIR! Are you hurt? Your screaming is annoying the children.”

Jack calmed himself and shook his head. “I’m all right. What just happened?”

“Well, I’m no forensics expert, but I’d say we just had a gunman blow away two of our patrons.”

“But why? If you’re that unhappy with the food, you don’t blow away the person sitting next to you eating it, you kill the chef.”

“They got Carlos, too.  Is that really what you want to complain about right now? We’ve had two men shot to death and you’re still bitching about your broccoli?”

“I...”

But she had already turned to attend to customers who needed serious attention.



*****



Twenty minutes later, Jack was sitting in the back door of the ambulance wrapped in a blanket, a paramedic taking his vital signs.

“So, Mr. O’Donnell, let me get this straight. You were just getting ready to return your organic broccoli for a third time, when you noticed bullets flying past your right ear? A person eating in public has a reasonable expectation of peace and quiet. That’s disgraceful.”

“I know. I never have to send my broccoli back more than twice.”

The paramedic rolled his eyes, and said, “Okay. You’re fine. I think that detective has some questions for you.”

Jack walked over to the tall man with the brown tweed jacket and green tie, his gold shield displayed prominently on his lapel. “You wanted to see me?”

“Oh, yes, Mr. O’Donnell. Let’s walk over here so we can have some privacy.”

They strolled over to the other side of the street and sat on the steps to a three-story walk-up.

After Jack described the events again, the detective questioned him on the man’s physical details.

“He had this huge, ugly red scar on this face.”

“Right cheek or left?”

“Oh, I never saw his butt.”

After killing his urge to laugh out loud, the detective said, “I mean was it his right cheek or his left on his face?”

Jack blushed. “Sorry. I’m still in shock.”

The detective was unconvinced, but played it straight.

“It was on his left cheek, going down from his cheekbone to his jawbone. About two-inches wide. Looked like somebody got in there with a spoon and...”

“...that’s fine, Mr. O’Donnell, I think I get the picture. What else?”

“His eyes. They were ice-blue. Looked like that fellow from that old frankenstein movie.”

“You mean Marty Feldman?”

“No, I mean Young Frankenstein. You never saw the movie?”

Again, the detective had to stifle the urge to laugh. “So you mean he had prominent eyes?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Anything else you can remember?”

Jack crinkled his nose in disgust. “Yeah. His hair.”

“You mean he had some?” The detective now chuckled at his own joke.

“It looked like Ross from the first season of Friends. Black, combed straight down and very short.”

“Yeah, I hated that haircut, too. Now Matthew Perry--that guy, had a haircut.”

“Exactly."

“Can you think of anything else that may help?”

“Not right now.”

“Okay. Well, since you seem to be the material witness to this crime, I’m going to need you to come down to the station.”

“You mean I’m under arrest? All I wanted to do was send the broccoli back! I mean, I wanted to kill Carlos, but I certainly didn’t shoot him!”

“Calm down, Mr. O’Donnell. You’re not under arrest. I just need you to meet with my Lieutenant. Apparently, no one else but you noticed this man until he had fired 3 shots and was out the door. You’re the only one to get a good look at this hump, and we need you to make a formal statement.”

Jack thought about this for a second, then said, “Um, no way. Ain’t no way I’m going into that dirty station. Nunh-uh.”

“Dirty? What are you talking about?”

“With all due respect, Captain...”

“...it’s detective.”

“With all due respect, Captain detective, I’d rather just have an officer come to my house. There are very few places I go in public, and a police station with filthy criminals is not one of them.”

“Mr. O’Donnell, you’ll be protected--those felons will be behind bars.”

“No, I mean they’re filthy. All that gun powder residue on their hands, bare feet on their bunks, hookers with who knows what. No sir.”

“Oh, I get it: germophobe.”

“And claustrophobe and OCD. What’s your point? Why do you think I drink distilled water? It’s certainly not because it rivals the taste of new Coke.”

“Well, I do understand, but unfortunately, that’s the place where we keep all the pens and paper.”

Jack sighed, clueless that he was being mocked. “Oh, alright. But tell me you’ve cleaned that interrogation room within the last six weeks.”

The detective chuckled. “Not even within the last six months. But I’m certain you’ll survive.”

After forcing the detective to wipe down the back seat of his car with a stack of wet naps, Jack slowly slid onto the lemon-scented seat, but certainly wasn’t happy about it.

“I’m certainly not happy about this,” he said to the detective.

“I’ll make a note of it in your permanent record.”

“Oh dear Lord,” said Jack, “If this goes on my permanent record, I’ll never be able to show my face at that diner again.”

Up in the front seat, the detective could only laugh to himself. Was this rube for real?



*****



Boston’s 12th Precinct was everything the detective made it out to be: loud, noisy, and with a smell that rivaled that of a New York cab. He led Jack through the main lobby and down the hall toward a free interrogation room.

And as Jack had feared, there were no shortage of hookers awaiting their turn for booking. As soon as Jack and the detective walked by, the girls let out cat calls and whistles, with promises of ‘It’s so hot you’ll never go back to your wife.’

As Jack slowed to eye one shapely blond in particular, the detective pushed him forward. “Forget it: that ones a tranny.”

“Excuse me?”

“Tranny. Y’know, a transvestite.”

“Oh, dear Lord. You mean a...”

“That’s right, cupcake. She’s a he.”

“Is that even legal?”

This time, the detective laughed out loud. “Dorothy, where did you grow up, Kansas?”

They reached the empty interrogation room, and again, after forcing the detective to clean the table and chair, Jack took a seat, but refused to rest his hands on the table.

“Would you like something to drink? I’m afraid we don’t have any of that fancy distilled stuff you drink, but I do have some day-old coffee and a doughnut.”

“No thank-you. I’m fine. But I would like to get on with this, if that’s okay. I have things I need to do this afternoon.”

“Oh, sure. Wouldn’t want her highness to be late for tea with the Queen.”

“I’m beginning to think you may be having a laugh at my expense.”

“Naw, that was just sarcasm for no good reason. Of course I’m having a laugh at your expense. We don’t get too many of you “dainty-men” down here.”

“I believe I take offense at that. OCD is not something one chooses, like being gay.”

The detective chuckled. “Well, your sexual proclivities aside, we need to get a formal statement from you about exactly what you saw. I need you to begin writing down everything on this legal pad, and I’ll be back with my Lieutenant and a sketch artist.”

As the detective was ready to exit, Jack stopped him. “Excuse me, Captain detective. But I need some gloves.”

The detective turned to face him. “You need what?”

“Sterile gloves. I’m afraid I just can’t do this without them.”

The detective let out a low whistle. “You have got to be kidding!”

“Funny. That’s the second time I’ve heard that today.”

“Go figure. Look. This is a police station. We don’t have sterile gloves. Just fill out the paper and I’ll be back,” he said while closing the door behind him.

Ten minutes later, Jack, now done recounting his story to paper, used the last of his wet naps to do so.

The detective entered with a tall, skinny man and the sketch artist.

“Mr. O’Donnell, I’m Lieutenant Marcus Grey. How do you do?” he said, while holding out his hand.

“I don’t shake.”

This caught the Lieutenant off-guard. “I’m sorry?”

“I don’t shake. More germs are transmitted through someone’s handshake, than if you were to lick the sidewalk.”

The Lieutenant glanced over at the detective, who simply shrugged his shoulders.

“Alright then, we’ll forgo the handshake. Do you know why you’re here?”

“Yes, I believe I do. Captain detective mentioned something about being a material witness.”

“Yes, that’s right. Do you know what that is?”

“I was the witness to a crime?”

“Yes, that’s partly true, but there’s more. In this case, not only did you witness a crime, but the perpetrator saw you, plain as day.”

“That’s how I was able to describe him in such detail. He turned to directly face me, and that’s when I noticed his features.”

“And that’s very good work. A lot of witnesses are too scared to be able to remember their attacker. But, I don’t think you’re really getting the implications here, and I need to make absolutely sure you know what’s happened.”

Jack felt tired. “Lieutenant Grey, I am very tired. When can I go home? This place is beginning to make me itch.”

“Well, Mr. O’Donnell, that’s what we need to discuss. You were clearly able to identify this perp. Do you know what that means?”

“I’ll have an easy time of it in court?”

The Lieutenant was incredulous at this man’s dimwittedness. “Well, yeeeeeeeeeees, but it also means that while you saw the perp, the perp also got a very good look at you.” He paused to allow ample time for the truth to sink in.

It didn’t take long until Jack’s mind had wrapped around the truth of the matter. He felt sick to his stomach, but didn’t want to vomit, because the thoughts of having to clean it up would make him even sicker. “Do you mean...”

“...that’s right, Mr. O’Donnell.”

Jack was now screaming again. “THAT GUY KNOWS WHAT I LOOK LIKE!”

As dim-witted as this guy was, Lieutenant Grey felt a bit of pity for him. He’d always felt genuine pity for witnesses whose lives got turned upside-down by perps.

“I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Would you like a glass of water?” said Lieutenant Grey.

“I'm not going to vomit into a glass of water!  But distilled if you've got it, thanks.”

Again, the Lieutenant looked at the detective for confirmation, and only received a shrug.

After Jack took a minute to calm down, he said, “So, Lieutenant, what’s going to happen to me? I can’t get killed; I’d die of fright from all the germs before I’d ever die of the wound.”

“I want you to meet someone.” He tapped on the glass, and sixty-seconds later, another tall, dark-haired body-builder man entered the interrogation room. He stood at attention with his hands folded in front of him, and waited.

“Mr. O’Donnell, I want you to meet Special Agent Sharks Avery of the WITSEC program.”

Jack said, “WITSEC? I don’t understand.”

Avery spoke. “Witness Security. Most vulgarly refer to it as Witness Relocation. But, the good news is, you’re now my new bitch.”

Jack could feel the room spinning, and was certain he might pass out, so he made sure to slump his body over the table to keep from falling to the filthy floor. He didn’t need that flesh-eating bacteria in addition to being what most referred to in the hit man business as “next.”

The detective was at his side in a flash, and offered him one of the station’s wet naps to wipe his forehead. “You alright there, dainty-man?”

Jack was certain he was dying. He began mumbling.

“What is it? What’s he saying?” asked the Lieutenant.

The detective bent closer to Jack, then raised his head in anger. “Oh crap. He’s still bitching about the broccoli.”

“Mr. O’Donnell, I don’t know anything about broccoli, but I do know that Avery here is an excellent agent and will do everything in his power to make certain you are safe while you await trial.”

Jack raised his head. “But I didn’t kill that chef! I wanted to, but I didn't!  Why am I going to trial?”

Now, all four men looked at each other. Finally, it was the Lieutenant who spoke. “This is going to be one helluva long case.”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Politically-Correct Thanksgiving Wish

I've decided to wish everyone a Politically Correct Thanksgiving, in only a style unique to me. So here goes.

I hope your germ-free table is filled this year with the following (you mean besides antibacterial hand sanitiser?):

A nice, juicy turkey alternative that once assembled clearly resembles a turkey. (And on a bad day, so does my sister.)

Grandma's "Hearty Stuffing" made with sage, thyme, rosemary, sausage-style meat alternative, egg substitute, greased with the "I NEVER believed this was butter" vegan-appropriate butter-imposter, and bread that contains the following which may or may not be derived from animals: mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono and diglycerides, glycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, emulsifiers and DATEM (Di-Acetyl Tartrate Ester of Monoglyceride). (WOW. Whose mouth is watering over those diglycerides?? Can't you smell it in the oven NOW?)

Cranberry salad with oranges, apples and pecans, but jello-free. (Okay, so this one isn't so bad.)

Top it off with a flourless, eggless, milkless pumpkin pie. (And gutless. Don't forget gutless.)

Hmmn. Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends, no matter what you eat.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Twenty, and...Cyanide, Anyone?

As you will notice, I now have a spiff new NaNoWriMo word war widget in the upper left corner of my screen.  WrytingBear is my writing buddy who threw down the gauntlet earlier this week when he realised I was suddenly beginning to catch up to his word count. He may have thrown it down, I simply chose to write about it.  "It's ON baby, like mascara on Prince."  That's what I told him.

About an hour ago, as you can see from the real time widget, I hit my 40,000 word mark.  My original plan was to push through to 70,000 words.  I'd still like to see that happen, but I've been so tired lately, that I'm afraid my first instinct will be to just stop when I hit 50,000 and leave it at that.  I can't do that--I've already got folks waiting on the mss.

During this week when I was churning out word after word, and thus, kicking WrytingBear's arse (and it was gravy, really), I began to realise something about this process:  In my zeal to metaphorically give him a beat down as we were running neck and neck in word counts, I ended up writing 15,000 words in 4 days. That's more than twice my regular pace, and besides churning out crap I won't be able to use, I completely fried my brain and I was SO completely worn out yesterday that I refused to write and took the day off.

But no more marathon sessions for me. There comes a point when it's good to be writing, and then another point when you're doing it for the sake of a word count that won't mean anything if you churn out nothing but a piece of crap. I'm sticking to my normal chapter length of 2,300 words and pushing through even after it's over for my 70,000 words. That way I'll have a rough first draft, AND I won't fry my circuits in the process.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Today's Featured Author at The Indie Spotlight

http://www.theindiespotlight.com/?p=3475

I did a great and funny interview, discussing my short-story collection, Zen In The Art of Absurdity.

The Indie Spotlight was begun by Edward C. Patterson and Gregory Banks as a completely free way to highlight and showcase independent authors, so please do stop by and drop a comment in thanks for their wonderful efforts.  As a thanks, you get treated to one of the collection's stories for FREE!

And then, get thy butt over to the widget at the right of this screen and purchase the book, already!  Momma needs some new cat litter.

On an unrelated note, today is day 18 of NaNoWriMo, and after doing nearly 15,000 words in under 5 days, I sort of burned out my brain, and yesterday could only get out 2,500.  So I took last night off.  I caught myself beginning to wonder if I've veered too far off my outline and if my plot is developing right and at the right pace.  I wonder if I've been lingering on interesting passages for too long, and skipping over other crucial, yet less interesting ones that are more difficult to develop.  I guess time will tell.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Eighteen: cruisin', featured author, and GASLIGHT RELEASE!

Just a few minutes ago, I reached 37,178 words.  EPIC, BABY!  Is all of it going to be usable?  I doubt it, but at least I've got the basic framework for some great comedy, and that was my only purpose in participating. 

I've also made some fantastic friends--one guy in CA who is a writing buddy, somehow threw down the gauntlet, and now instead of being involved in a race to finish our own novels, we're now in a race to see who finishes their own novels first.  Which is spurring me on to write even during the days I'm tired and really wished I could write Father Jack as being electrocuted because I'm simply tired of him.

On Friday, November 19, I will be the featured author at TheIndieSpotlight.com site.  Edward C. Patterson and Gregory Banks have devoted their precious time to help the independent author.  They feature a different author each day of the week, so please stop by and support their tireless efforts.  And read my interview--funniest thing since M*A*S*H.

As of yesterday, my short-story collection, ZEN IN THE ART OF ABSURDITY (link available to the right of your screen in the Amazon widget) hit #76 in the books > humour > essays category for TOP PAID KINDLE DOWNLOADS, and just a little while ago I, out of curiosity, checked the status of GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE...MY UNCLE DOES, and it is now sitting pretty at #66 in the books > entertainment > humor > crime&mystery category.  That is the second time that particular book has cracked the TOP PAID KINDLE DOWNLOADS for that category.

And finally, exactly one week from today on US Thanksgiving Day, my historical fiction novel, THE GASLIGHT JOURNAL, makes its Amazon Kindle debut, and I couldn't be happier!  Again, if you're a beta reader and need a place to slap up your review, simply go to the top of this page, and click on the GASLIGHT link.  It will take you to a dedicated GASLIGHT page that I've set up specifically for your reviews.

That should do it for now.  Keep at it, and remember you CAN do this!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Sixteen, and STILL having to defend it??

Just because I'm in the Xmas mood
As we walk along Planet Earth, we do a lot of stupid crap from which obviously no one is exempt.  We run out on dates at the last minute because we didn't realise the long line across his forehead was one, big eyebrow, and not the shadow from a ball cap.  We measure our entire lives in dress sizes:  "I'm losing ten to fit into my prom dress."  Then, "I'm losing ten to fit into my wedding dress."  Me?  I'm losing ten to fit into my burial dress.  And finally, and this is my favourite, we buy a snack of a Snickers bar and a Diet Coke.

But the one thing I'm seeing a lot of, and am beginning to get a wee bit hot under my collar about, is that those of us who are participants of this year's NaNoWriMo, are now getting burned for such participation by "real" writers.  I've spent two days of this week alone addressing half-considered comments on another forum in which I'm a contributing author, from writers too proud to admit they don't know everything there is to know under the sun about writing.  Or, about Nano.

"Mandatory word counts?  Ah--that would then explain the myriad sub-par material lining bookstore shelves."  This paraphrased comment from one writer.

Then another, less-snarky author who genuinely questioned the process said this paraphrased comment:  "Seems the only goal of this event is to get 50,000 words in any order saved to a file.  Big deal."

In short, I am a comedy writer.  I love writing comedy--it makes me happy.  So when I sit down to tackle yet another brilliant comedic essay, or my comedic novel (of which I'm currently writing for Nano), for someone like me who deals with the negative effects of a high-IQ to be able to simply sit and write with the express intent of only getting the story out onto the page is extremely liberating!  Comedy writers often employ something I've spoken about before, called a burn draft.  You sit and write your story as quickly as you can with no thought for content, or even quality.  Then you go back and really work it into something of brilliance when the draft is done.  Do you know how often I deal with that bitch editor of mine?  Too often to count.  So when the chance came to sign up for this event, sure, I had my own questions at first, but decided for once in my life not to over think anything and just jump in with both feet and let 'er rip.

And I'm SO glad I did!  This morning before heading to bed at 4 a.m., I hit the 30,000 word mark.  And looking back on it, while there is one scene of dialogue interaction between the two main characters that I've never been so happy with, most of it will remain after the final draft is done, only to be shaped, molded and worked like fine clay into something of brilliance that my readers/fans have come to expect from me (I'm so full of it I sicken myself sometimes).

So let the LA Times columnists of the world roar, I say. Let those who consider themselves to be NOVELists of LITerature piss all over your efforts.  We both know that those who are participating will only take away from the event only what they were meant to:  If you're not a serious writer, then come December 1 you'll end up trashing what you've written, and if you are a serious writer, as I am, then come December 1 you'll put the work away, have a cookie, and then a month later let the revisions begin.

But in the meantime, the next time someone snarks at you for writing a novel that chances are will never see one of those bookstore shelves, just remember this:  with your metabolism, YOU will still be able to enjoy that Snickers bar and Diet Coke, and that snarker?  In about five years when they're too old to remember their name, they'll be gumming their food.

Life's good, innit?

Monday, November 15, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Fifteen and Kicking It Up The Arse



Father Ted kicks Bishop Brennan up the Arse
 That's right fans and Twits:  I'm kicking bishops and taking names.

I just LOVE the Britcom Father Ted, and since one of my chapters from this evening introduced my own Bishop Ted Macguire, a MAJOR antagonist to my Father Jack, well, I thought this photo rather fitting.

By the way, did I tell you I have procured special permission from the Graham Linehan to not only reference Father Ted in my novel, but to also quote parts of the series?  I never, ever get starry-eyed over famous people.  Mostly because to some I am still famous from my television and stage work, but also because the friends I've worked with and are colleagues of, are, to me, simply brilliant and talented friends, but to the rest of the world, they're Kip Wingers, Brett Cullens, James Strausses, and yes...Graham Linehans.

However, I was so honoured that Graham not only gave me permission, but SPOKE to me, that I nearly fainted when he replied to my Tweet.  I felt like I'd just met the Pope himself.

Days fourteen and fifteen have blissfully blended together, because yesterday at 9:30 p.m., I went on a marathon writing session with the sole purpose of getting caught up.

As of thirty minutes ago, I had not only accomplished that goal (our cumulative word count up to today was supposed to be 25,000 if we were writing according to their schedule), but surpassed it by 1,063 words (ending up writing a total of 7,605).  Well, one of my writing buddies had topped out at 25,139 and I simply could not be outdone.

So then, what's in store for today?

More writing, of course.  I may now be caught back up with the Nano guidelines, but I'm still sorely behind on my own.  For a 70,000 word comedic novel to be written in 30-days, I need to be writing a solid 2,333 each day, which is about the average length of one of my chapters.

And like the last time the words and story idea simply poured out of me, today's writing was no different because these chapters had little to no research required.  And I've realised that since my Father Jack has severe OCD, I need to incorporate some of those details to make him authentic, as well as make the comedy spark.

However, I've decided to hold off on doing this, until time for the rewrites.  In fact, there's a lot of detail that I'm purposely leaving out until the rewrites.  I think for a novel to be written at his pace, it's the only way to accomplish that and stay sane at the same time.

On a related Nano note, one of my writing buddies that I whined to early on during my dark days of not being able to find my way, sent me a sweet, oh-so-sweet note yesterday saying he'd been watching my word count progress, and was proud of me, and wanted to encourage me to keep going.  Now THAT, is what I call a writing buddy who knows how to encourage you, even when you didn't ask for it!

Off to bed.  Talk tomorrow.  Have a great day, everyone, and keep at it; you can do it!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Thirteen and in Labour

What do I constantly preach here, other than a story should begin at the story, and there is never enough conflict? That's right--that you should shut up your internal editor until after you've completed your first draft. Engage that sucker too soon and you're setting yourself up for nothing more than a hefty dose of writer's block.

So, will someone kindly tell me what the hell my problem is, then? Every time I sit down to write another chapter, all I can hear is my mum snarking away at me from my right shoulder: "This is crap. It isn't funny, and you write comedy. What the hell were you thinking? Macy's is hiring; get a real job. You do know, you're a fecking mad eejit, don't you?"

Well, okay. Mum never used the word fecking and she wasn't Irish, but follow along.

Usually when I sit down to write comedic essays or short-stories, I make them funny as I go. And they come very easy to me. I don't think I've ever had to go into labour for a joke with such pains it feels as if I'm blowing a Saint Bernard out my ass.  Can't remember ever writing a piece in which I needed an epidural.

But with this novel, I'm trying to just create a good, solid story--get that out of me first, and then go back and add the funny--like John Vorhaus and any good comedy writer will tell you to do.

So then, why am I not being able to mentally get past the fact that so far, this is nothing but a right piece of shite? I wrote at least 2,600 words every day back in July and August when I finished GASLIGHT, and it pretty much came out close to the way I wanted it.

But on this, my dialogue sounds forced, the writing seems quite stilted in some places, and there are damned uninvited characters popping up all over the place, wrecking havoc by creating scenes that I haven't even authorised! It's nothing but anarchy in Father Jack's world, and frankly, he's making mine a living hell.

HELP! Tell me how to shut up this urge to want everything to be absolutely perfect before it's time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure

I have decided to forgo my usual update on my Nanowrimo writing experience, for something of more import.

I will make this short and sweet:

http://www.amazon.com/Pedophiles-Guide-Love-Pleasure-ebook/dp/B0049U4CF6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1289435393&sr=1-1

Amazon, when I called them on it during a phone call about an hour ago, refused to take down the book, citing censorship. Shouldn’t there be a line between common censorship, which rests only on the opinion of the public based on subjective taste, and in disseminating information that can be used in the commission of a crime? What the HELL is Jeff Bezos thinking?

You can damn-well bet that if any one of us types “The Anarchist’s Cookbook” into Google, the FBI and about a dozen other government agencies, including INTERPOL will flag our account and we’ll get a nice little visit.

But let a pedophile do a sneaky search for criteria that will bring up this book, and watch how they get by with it. Frosts my weenie, it does.

MSNBC has now picked up the story. And I’ve watched the reviews grow from 880 when I first pulled up the book at 5:00, to 1,323 just 90-minutes later. And now, as I post this, the count is at a staggering 1,418.

Where do we draw the line?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Nine, and getting tired

When I finally put the manuscript away last night at 4 a.m., I'd written a total of  6,734 words, thus completing chapters three, four and five.  My total word count thus far:  11,807.  In one week.  ONE.

I'm beginning to get tired (I'm a very light sleeper and hear the least little noise in the house), but have 2,500 words to complete before bed this evening, and I intend to keep the pace.

It seems that switching my writing location has really made this much easier.  And I'm also now hitting parts of the story that do not require quite as much research--I'm simply free to play with the characters and let them run into scenes and burning buildings where they may.

I will say, that it's not funny yet, but that's completely normal.  When you're writing comedy, you don't shoot for funny first--you shoot for a plausible story.  Then you spend your re-writes making passes that concentrate on adding more jokes into the mix.  In the meantime, I have what's called "placeholder jokes;" an unfunny line that merely marks the place where a real joke will go when it's time.

I do, however, have a few places of brilliance, and that keeps me going.

And if you'll excuse me, now that our hero has settled in and had incredible luck so far, I'm about to make his life a living hell, and laugh all the time I'm doing it.  >:D


Honeybump begs the salmon from my Sashimi


Monday, November 8, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Eight, and finally hitting my stride

Word count totals so far:  8,326.  I'm still behind the average, but have now knocked out 3,355 today alone, with another thousand to come later tonight, thus finishing chapter four.

Now that I've changed my normal writing place from the sofa with a cat and a laptop to my desktop where I have readily-available research at my fingertips, the writing is going much more smoothly with less hiccups than before. 

Research always trips me up, and it's never one of those things I can do before-hand, since I never know until I actually sit down to write just how I might need certain information or how I might incorporate that into the writing.  So I usually avoid it until it's needed.

Anyway, pushing forward, and should be caught up again by tomorrow.  Have a nice evening, peeps.


And for your viewing pleasure, yet another photo of my Honeybump (next week, Playdoh).

NaNoWriMo--Day Seven, and too sick to write

Feels like I've been trying to get the flu all day, as I'm achy with a stuffed up nose and fever. So, I availed myself of a day off on the couch, curled up with Honeybump, and watched the SVU marathon.

Later today, will resume.  (This really isn't going as well as I'd hoped, is it?)




Saturday, November 6, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Six, just skipped right over day five

Nothing happened yesterday, anyway.  OH, except I put up some new Christmas lights around my desk.  I usually save decorating till my birthday on November 11 (make note:  I like Snickers and Broccoli), but just got hit with the festive mood early.

Anyway, so yes, I spent yesterday goofing off again, and trying to amp myself back up for writing.

And today, I did it.  I finished chapter two, thus writing another 2,400 words, and am now pushing ahead through chapter three, with an attempt to finish by tonight so I'm not too far behind on my NaNo word count.  Instead of NaNo's requisite 50,000 in 30-days, I'm shooting for a complete novel at 80,000.

I've often wondered during the last few days the point of pushing ahead with a novel that obviously isn't very good when you first hork it up.  And then I remembered all the trouble I had with continuity on The Gaslight Journal (Making its Kindle debut on Thanksgiving Day!), and found myself grieving because I hadn't written that in close to one sitting and just kept pushing through with it.

Which is, I guess, the reason the experts tell you to write your essays and spec scripts for sitcoms in what they call the "burn draft" style.  Meaning, you park your ass in the chair, and just write--you "burn" through it.  Then once you're done with your literary projectile vomiting, you go back and employ all the techniques you've learned for revisions and edits--thus, shaping it into a thing of beauty that will obviously be ready for human consumption. 

I never knew if that technique worked for novels, but for me, at least on this one, it sorta does.  I'm finding that I'm having much less trouble with details of specifics in previous chapters, thus, less re-reading involved, because I've got Frank Caravechi's younger brother Vinnie already locked in my short-term memory.  I already know when I delve into chapter three in about ten minutes that Sharks Avery is the US Marshal that will help Jack set up his temporary home in South (And not Southwest) Boston.  I automatically know that if Jack takes a tour of his new city, that his severe OCD and claustrophobia will preclude him from riding in a dirty, smelly cab.  Although, if I want to be a real bastard about it, that might create a nice piece of comedic tension.  We'll see what kind of mood I'm in once I finish my Snickers.

So, yeah--it's got definite advantages.

And now my break is over.  Will check in tomorrow.  And thanks for following this sordid saga.  We'll call it, "As The Colon Churns."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Four, and Past the Crisis

I've had some time to calm down, think incessantly about everything, analyse it to death, bring in experts to interpret everything written between the lines, read advice from friends, and have arrived at this sole conclusion: I'm an idiot.

That was a joke.

Actually, I'm tired and sleep-deprived.  But, thanks to the advice of some caring friends, have decided that even if I have nothing but a piece of shite on November 30, at least I'll have something I can revise and re-work.

Thanks all.  Later tonight, I play catch-up and will comment on progress tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Three, and the End

Well, I gave it my best shot.

Today was even worse than yesterday.  After I made my blog post, I at least was able to write another 1,200 words, but for what?  The comments came in this morning on the first chapter for critique that I'd posted yesterday, and the consensus?  Bin it, nothing worth saving.  One guy said there was absolutely no grace to my sentence structure.  In other words, can't string together two words.

I am now giving up writing, period.

Thank-you for reading.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo--Day Two of the Village Idiot-a-thon

You probably can't tell I'm now sleep-deprived.  I know--I'm a rock and hide my feelings well.

Well kiddies, day two hasn't been quite as stellar an experience as day one.  Last night after posting my blog, I went right to work and cranked out a 2,200 word short-story that I have some waiting for, and posted it this morning at my normal bed-time of 6 a.m. for critique.

At 7 this evening, the reviews were in:  bin it, it sucks with no redeemable qualities.

Now.  I'm not ashamed to say, this stung me just a wee bit.  I may be an idiot with delusions that she can make it as a writer, and I may have smelled my socks a time or two before I put them on, but I have my pride.

Needless to say, now I'm completely doubting everything I put into chapter one last night, and as of this minute, I've written all of one sentence in chapter two, with no immediate plans of continuing.  Why should I?  If I can't even get a teeny 2,200 word short-story right, what chance do I have with an 80,000 word novel?

I'm currently so aggravated that if given the chance, I'd put my computer through its appropriate "Windows," and bite the head off nails.  Eh, why not.  I don't get enough iron in my diet.

Until tomorrow.  Hopefully you won't have to peel me from the keyboard shrieking, "Why me, God, WHY ME?"

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rumours of my death are greatly celebrated....

Well, mostly by close friends and family, but follow along.

Today was official kick-off day for NaNoWriMo.  Well, actually, it was last night at local midnight time.  And if you're not a writer, or you are and living under an inkwell, then you might not know that this oddly-difficult to type acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is to get you to park your ass in a chair, wipe the potato chip grease from your fingers, place them over the keys and PUSH.  You write 50,000 words (and to my credit, the rules didn't really say they had to be in any specific order) in 30 days, which roughly comes up to be 1,666 words each day.


Steve Warburton as Jack Ryan O'Hanlan
Original design copyright (c) Carla René.
2010.  All rights reserved.
 About 30-minutes ago, I finished chapter one of my NaNoWriMo novel, entitled, A Most Devout Coward.  I always push for about 2,500 average words for each chapter, give or take 2-300 in either direction.

On a side note, comedy-writing legend John Vorhaus, loved my comedic premise when I ran it by him two weeks ago, and has enthusiastically agreed to read the finished MS and offer me a blurb.  I'm so excited.  Might try and snake a forward out of him while I'm taking advantage of his talents.

I had taken great pains to plot this novel over the last month (while getting my advanced readers' copies of The Gaslight Journal out to my beta readers) and to outline it in great detail.

And yet at 5 p.m. when I sat down to actually write, aside from the opening scene of my protagonist in a diner, I had no clue how I would arrive at the only other scene I knew--the last, with him in the interrogation room at the 12th Precinct.

So.  Day one down, and twenty-nine more to go.  But I think I'll be fine.  I cranked out 2,600 pages every day of Gaslight and had it finished in 6 weeks, so I'm not worried about meeting my quota.

But come back tomorrow.  I may be drooling into my keyboard, screaming for coffee that I don't have, and certain I've seen D.B. Cooper at the local Piggy Wiggly in my sleep-deprivation.

(But I'm having a fantastic ride!)

P.S.--if you or anyone you know is interested in bettering your comedy-writing skills, and you're a member of either Goodreads.com or Shelfari.com, then do a group search my newly-formed comedy writing group, called Writing With My Colored Pencil.  Group name is the same for both.

I started both of these groups, because lately I've been hearing a lot of beginning and seasoned writers say things like, "I wish I were funnier," or, "I wish I knew how to write comedy."  We will be discussing all sorts of comedy writing tools that will make you funnier, even if you don't think you are.  And let's face it:  humour is one thing we all have in common, and apart from sex, it's the one thing that is proven to sell.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Last Call for Beta Readers (and other surprises!)

No, I'm not dead.

Although with my porcelain skin and blue lipstick, I think the kid in Walgreens last week got the wrong impression--must've scared him.  I can't think of another reason he'd go racing from the store screaming, "Mommy!  It's gonna eat meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

Everyone's a critic.

I've just been busy and hard-at-work with in getting The Gaslight Journal manuscript ready for its Thanksgiving Day release, and I still need your help.

Would you like a free advanced reader's copy of The Gaslight Journal?

Here's what you do:

Click on the "Contact" link in the upper right of this blog, and then send me your e-mail address to that e-mail listed, with the subject heading, "I want to be a beta reader."  I will then send you an e-mail with the links to the appropriate downloads with further instructions on what I need you to do once you have your review ready, and where to put it.

Currently, Amazon is working with me on setting up a pre-order page for the Kindle release on Thanksgiving Day.  I received an e-mail from them earlier this week.  And up till now, they've only accomplished this for two other authors:

Stephen King and J.A. Konrath.  Seems I'm in pretty good company.

You'll also receive a free press release.

The e-mail I will send you goes into more detail, but my goal is to hype the book, and treat it like an published release, rather than an indie release.  I just saw my friend J.A. Konrath do this, and I'm certain with your help, I can do it, too!

And now for the goodies.

I have two interviews in store for you, just in time for Halloween.  I'm sorry they are a few days late.

And without further ado, here we go!

Chester Campbell has written five Greg McKenzie mysteries featuring a retired Air Force OSI agent and his wife. A Sporting Murder, the latest, came out in September. The first book in his Sid Chance mystery series, The Surest Poison, was published in 2009. The books are set mostly in the Nashville, TN area. Chester has pursued (meaning chased all over the map) writing in various fields for more than 60 years, including newspaper and magazine journalism, advertising, public relations, and political speech writing. An Air Force intelligence officer in the Korean War, he retired from the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. Currently secretary of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and president of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Sisters in Crime (the only male chapter president in the international organization), he lives in Madison, TN with his wife, Sarah, and an 11-year-old grandson.

Me:  What’s you current book?


Chester:  It’s A SPORTING MURDER, which answers the question: “Can sports lead to murder?”  Nashville Predators hockey fans think “this town ain’t big enough for three of us (pro sports teams),” and somebody is willing to commit murder over the prospect of bringing an NBA team to Nashville. It’s the fifth in my Greg McKenzie mystery series, featuring senior PI’s Greg and Jill McKenzie. Along the way, a bomb explodes under Greg’s Jeep, with the two of them inside.  Lots of skulduggery afoot.


Me:  I know a few of those Predators' games I went to sure looked like they could lead to murder.  Made me afraid to go in the parking lot.  Why did you become a writer, when you could’ve been a garbage man or President?

Chester:  Some folks probably think I’m a creator of garbage. I’ve certainly got more sense than to want to be President. Actually, my Mom probably got it right when she said, “I’m not surprised he became a writer since he doesn’t like to get his hands dirty.”


Me:  What sort of odd jobs did you do before becoming a writer, and how many of them were you fabulously fired from?

Chester:  All my “odd” jobs took place while I was a teenager. The first was bicycle delivery boy for a drugstore. Got quite a shock when a female customer answered the doorbell sans clothing.  Another was clerk in a women’s shoe store. You should have seen the feet I tried to cram into a size 9 narrow. The one I got fired from was my second writing job, for writing too much. I loved newspaper reporting, especially feature writing, but the higher-ups discovered I knew grammar and how to spell. They put me on the copy desk. In lull times after an edition went to press, I turned to my typewriter and worked on freelance articles for magazines. The managing editor took offense at the practice and showed me the door.


Me:  With the explosion of Amazon Kindle and other eBook readers, what are your thoughts on the whole thing? Do you have any predictions about it?

Chester:  I’m a lousy prognosticator, but I’m taking advantage of the eBook explosion while it lasts. All my books are in the Kindle Store at $2.99, and I’m gradually getting them on Smashwords. Who knows what the next electronic marvel will be? I’ll try to be ready for it.


Me:  What is the most scathing, hateful and hurtful rejection letter you ever received (I’m sure you remembered a few)? How many have you gotten? Do you keep them?

Chester:  Fortunately, I’ve never received a snarky letter from an agent. I have tons of form letters that  tell how my novel “does not fit our list…isn’t what we’re looking for…doesn’t meet our needs” and every other excuse you can imagine. Just as deadly are the occasional letter about how they enjoyed the story and liked my writing “but it isn’t for us.”


Me:  Heh; received one of those myself just last week.  You live in the heart of the Bible Belt, and yet you write crime fiction/mystery. Have you suffered any grief over this?

Chester:  Au contraire, some of my most ardent fans are members of my church. I’ve had several signings at the church and launched my first Sid Chance mystery there last year. One staunch member says his mother told him he should never buy anything at church, but he buys them outside.


Me:  What is your process for a book? From where you get the ideas, to how often you write, if you use outlines, to publication?

Chester:  Ideas can pop up anywhere. My first published novel came from reading an in-flight magazine on the way home from a Holy Land trip. Another resulted from watching high-rise condos go up on the beach at Perdido Key, Florida. A neighbor contributed one when she told about visiting the old Marathon Motor Works buildings just outside downtown Nashville. A PI friend told me about a case she handled around Jackson, Tennessee. It became THE SUREST POISON, re-located closer to Nashville. How often I write is a sore spot…not often enough. With all the on-line and area promotion I do, I find it more difficult to settle down to writing the next book. I’ll get started soon, though, and it’ll take off. I’m a “pantser,” no outlining. Give the characters a nudge and let ‘em go. I’m with a small press that gives me lots of freedom to pursue the publication process, from titles to covers to whatever.


Me:  How many novels had you written before you found an agent? How many queries had you sent?

Chester:  I have a penchant for doing things in reverse. I started writing full time when I retired. I got an agent with the first book. No sale. Ditto with the second book, different agent, who died on me. The third landed with a major New York agency that took the next three books and, for reasons too involved to go into here, sold none. My eighth book brought a three-book contract from a small press run by the husband of the agent I had sent it to. I have now published six books agentless.


Me:  What do you tell others (hot new authors like myself) just beginning that they won’t learn anyplace else?

Chester:  Surprise, there ain’t any new advice around. It’s a tough business, but it’s doable if you prepare yourself and stick with it. In the mystery field, you’ll have no trouble finding successful authors willing to help. If you can take criticism (and you’d better be able to) find a critique group of knowledgeable writers and let them offer suggestions. You won’t agree with everything they say, but you’ll come away with lots of helpful ideas to improve your writing. And finally, write, write, write. Hopefully you’ll be published before you’re seventy-six, like I was.


Me:  What did you have for breakfast?

Chester:  What I have most every morning. That way you don’t waste a lot of time figuring out what to eat. For me it’s a bowl of oatmeal (maple and brown sugar) and coffee. Sometimes my wife will throw in a muffin or cinnamon bun. The important part comes after breakfast. When she gets back from taking the grandson to school, we have a tall travel cup of cappuccino. Just like my characters Greg and Jill McKenzie (I taught ‘em to love it).


Me:  What other profession do you still regret never having pursued?

Chester:  I would have made a great secret agent. I can sit behind a table at a bookstore and never be seen.

Just kidding, I may not be a standup comic, but I’m a standup book signer. I never sit behind the table, even to sign a book. That I don’t regret.
 
For places you can purchase Chester's books, visit his home on the web at:  http://www.chesterdcampbell.com/
 
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And now for part II of our journey.
 
Simon Wood is an ex-race car driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. Originally from the UK, he lives in the US with his American wife and way too many pets. He's had over 150 stories and articles published. He's an Anthony Award winner and a Crime Writers Association Dagger Award Finalist. He's the author of numerous thrillers. His upcoming titles are the Lowlifes and Asking for Trouble. Writing under his horror identity, Simon Janus, he’s the author of The Scrubs and Road Rash. Curious people can learn more at http://www.simonwood.net/ .



Simon Wood



TERMINATED (In bookstores now)


www.facebook.com/simonwoodwrites


Scaredy Cat




People ask me what scares me, what my deepest fears are, and what sends me into a panic. Austin Powers says he fears only two things: nuclear weapons and carnies. I’m different. Pretty much everything frightens me. I think people are usually looking for a man-of-steel kind of an answer. But I have to disappoint. I’m scared of my own shadow. Literally. It’s always there, behind me, creeping up on me. There it is. Arrrrhh!!


I’ll go into a cold sweat at a Starbucks. The choice dazzles me and I can’t make up my mind what I want. Suddenly that long line looks real short. Now the choice isn’t the scary thing, but what happens when the green aproned personage asks for what I want and my answer is “Er, I need some more time.” I know the people behind me are going to start gnashing their teeth and all because I don’t know what fancy coffee I want. Eek!


Everyday things scare me. I lived in an apartment where the shower curtain had a habit of clinging to me when I got within a foot of it. The material had an odd texture that felt like skin when wet, which was a distinctly unpleasant sensation. I got to fear that damn shower curtain and avoided using it (and my wife got to hate that I didn’t shower). But that was enough to spur a story about a haunted shower curtain. Incidentally, that story spooked a reader sufficiently that they are afraid of their shower curtain now. That’s the power of our fears, I guess.


A few months back, my Sisters in Crime chapter volunteered to man (or woman) the phones during the local PBS pledge drive. I feared my phone would ring, because I might get someone with a weird name I couldn’t spell. I thought, if I screw up the donation, PBS won’t get their money and Yanni won’t get his funding and he’ll hunt me down like a dog.


So yes, I can make anything scary. It’s a talent. Don’t applaud me all at once. You can’t all be like me.


I made author fears a topic at a World Horror Convention panel a few years ago. It proved to be a really interesting panel. A number of the authors discussed their darkest fears. Some were parents were frightened by the potential loss of their children. Several had had incidents that led them to write stories.


Fear makes for great storytelling. It’s a fossil fuel with an inexhaustible supply. It drives stories. It forces the reader, the writer and the characters to face what frightens them full on. Stories thrive on conflict and facing your fears is the greatest conflict. No one is fearless, so everyone can relate.


The best scary writing explores our archetypal “core” fears. People fear the unknown, the loss of a loved one, loss of liberty, loss of control, their position in the world. The point is that to write scary stories, you have to be fearful. The adage goes you write what you know and fears are very real and accessible. Horror stories just don’t explore someone’s fear of vampires, werewolves and Freddy Krueger. They explore a power stronger than the individual and that overwhelming power has the ability to rob you of what you hold most dear or thrust you into an environment you desire least. No one fears Freddy Krueger. Everyone fears what someone like that can do to them.


So my myriad of fears are good for my writing. They keep it real (scary). It’s easy to see what I, the writer, you, the reader, and they, the characters have to fear. For me it’s easy to slip into a fictional situation. My collection of supernatural short stories, Dragged Into Darkness, deals with my various neurosis that everyone can relate to from flying to public embarrassment. If I examine all my work, fear stains it all in some shape or another. Life is scary and scarier the better when it comes to fiction.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m next in line at Starbucks and I don’t know what I want.


Yours cowering under the bedclothes,


Simon Wood
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Thanks, guys!

Join me beginning on Monday, when I begin my new novel, A Most Devout Coward for NaNoWriMo, and I blog about my progress.  Can't wait!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Interview with Horror Author, Robert W. Walker

Hey gang!

The Eleven Questions to Fame Blog Tour continues with five-and-a-half questions from Bram-Stoker-nominated horror author, Robert W. Walker--a man who has described himself as Stephen King's illegitimate son.  I met Rob when he hired me to design his first web-site, and it's thanks to him passing along some information about an anthology being put together that I ended up 24-hours later with my first publication credit.  So we go way back.

But I try not to let anyone know.

And here we go!

Wednesday, October 27, will see book release #50, Titanic 2012:  Curse of RMS Titanic, from prolific, and slightly-twisted horror author, Robert W. Walker.  Being released exclusively on Kindle, Rob has some specific thoughts about the way the publishing market is going.

Join me now for this probing interview.

Me:  Titanic 2012: The curse of RMS Titanic is your 50th novel--congratulations. Why another book about the Titanic?

Rob:  There have been a great deal of books and films made about the Titanic and its fate, as it is one of those archetypal tales that people do not want to see end. In fact, like Elvis and Marilyn, Titanic will never fully be in its grave and gone. The allure is there and a ready-made audience, yes, but for me it was a chance to turn so many of the myths grown up around the ship and its shit luck that I couldn’t resist placing one of my patented disease-spreading monster aboard for the fateful night when the X factor aboard leads to a Cabal bent on bringing the ship down. It was no accident in my scheme of things.

Me:  You write horror fiction. Did you always want to be a horror author? Why horror? Why not become president, or a garbage man?

Rob:  I soooo respect what garbage collectors, now environmental engineers I think they are called, DO.  I couldn’t do that in the heat and the cold world…hanging onto the back of a truck. I went into horror for good reason, early in my writing career, after failing to sell any of my young adult historical novels. After making the Underground Railroad as scary as it gets but getting nowhere with it, and knowing all editors were seeking a Stephen King mirror image to love and promote, I got into horror in a big way, but you know working with monsters is a great deal easier on one’s psyche than with serial killers. The creatures tale direction and stagecraft a good deal more seriously.

Me:  Do you generally use detailed outlines when plotting your books?

Rob:  No not ever have I used detailed outlines, and I struggle with outlines as it is an art in itself—how to recast the story in brief. However, that said, I enjoy allowing the story to dictate itself to me and grow exponentially as it comes to me and as I convey it to the reader here and now. Doing an outline kills my energy, strangleholds my imagination. I like to “write where no man or woman has gone before” so I never know where I am going until I arrive. I don’t know what I think until I see what I say – a line I stole from someone somewhere but it sums it up for me, my reckless abandon and reckless method. It takes patience of Job and a willingness to go on a wrong turn or binge and having to write oneself out of that problem. BESIDES “once a story has been told” even in outline, “it can’t help but get old.” I like the way I work, not knowing what will happen around the next page until I write it. I suspect I am not the only author who likes the idea that a novel is episodic and as such should be organized episodically by its creator.

Me:  Who are your favourite authors and who have inspired you the most?

Rob:  Mark Twain, my spiritual mentor, James Herriot, Robert Bloch, Shakespeare, Dickens, Doyle, Dumas, Martin Cruz Smith, Katherine Anne Porter, the Bronte Sisters, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Increase Mather if you can believe it, as well as Thomas Thompson, Charles Grant, Harper Lee, Margarite Mitchell, James Clavall and many more. Too many to count, I fear.

Me:  What are you wearing?

Rob:  Jeans and T-shirt, all rather drab in blue as we are moving down the street and am beginning to feel a shower in order!

Me:  Please.  Do us a favour and opt for the shower.  Your wife is an author, too. Does she help or inspire you in your stories?

Rob:  Miranda writes under Miranda Phillips Walker (no hyphens), and she has her own stories to deal with; she is working on a sequel to the ebook Absolution which was formerly....

It was at this point in the interview, Rob literally fell asleep and didn't answer the other questions.

Nothing surprises me from this man.

So.  You in for the best story about Titanic ever written?

Check Rob's web-site for news of the official release, and the first fourteen teaser-chapters, free!

Thanks for the time, Rob, and good-luck with the book release!

Coming up on Wednesday, we have a double-whammy for you:  a fellow Nashvillian who writes crime and mystery, Chester Campbell, and a former Brit who now publishes humour and horror in the US, Simon Wood, so don't forget to join me for that!