Friday, September 9, 2016

Why It's Hard To Write: Douchebags & Jackholes

I'm sitting in the break room at work, trying to write on my own time, when these three knuckleheads come in and start debating last night's Panthers game.

Fine. It's a free country. Knock yourselves out. Had I watched last night I might even care. I focus and press on.

Then, Mr. Most-Vocal blurts out, "They should just do away with the extra point. It's irrelevant anyway."

Uh, no. The game is called "football". They'd have to change the name if they took away the only foot-driven way of scoring. What are you, a tourist?

Then, as part of his bloviated airtight theory on how team X can be invincible, he blurts out, "Irregardless..."

My knuckles whiten. 

Then some other douchebag walks in with a handheld coffee grinder.

And so, having had these stakes driven through its inspirational heart, my writing session has been thoroughly assassinated. Thanks, jackholes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Developing the New Book, part 3

Got so excited planning I couldn't take it anymore. Wrote just shy of 1000 words today. The spreadsheet is around 90% done in terms of major story beats, and about 30% done in terms of minor ones. Thinking through that much has motivated me so much. Today's writing has gotten me through a prelude and a scene. 

I may have even decided on a title. I'm fighting the urge to share it since it's way too early!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Developing the New Book, Part 2

As of this afternoon I've roughly mapped out all the beats of this new book based on Snyder's story beat approach, except for the opening and closing images. I figure I'll add them later on as the writing progresses.

This evening, I created an excel spreadsheet based on the handwritten one JK Rowling used to develop her Harry Potter work. I'll use this to fine tune the beats, sequencing details, and character activity as I finalize the plan for the book. Columns include Chapter, Scene, Day, Beat, Plot Summary, and a column for each character.

Using this method has helped me envision a story more completely than I ever have before. I'm very excited about it. My next step will be to complete the spreadsheet, use it to complete the plot and work around any holes, then begin the writing process.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Started Writing a New Book Tonight

Tonight, I started work on what I hope will be a new novel. After spending about 2 weeks learning about Blake Snyder's story beats, I spent this evening developing the first several beats of this new work. I'm about halfway through mapping it out, and I can see the rest of the story quite clearly. 

I am using a well-known story as a template of sorts (think O Brother Where Art Thou?/The Odyssey and Ready Player One/The Wizard of Oz), which feels kinda like cheating, but also not. Snyder teaches that most movies (and I see this readily applying to any kind of story) have the same structure of beats. In this sense, coupled with the fact that all characters, settings, and actual writing are entirely my own, I feel quite comfortable with the approach.

Not only is the approach entirely new for me, so is the genre and subject matter. Needless to say, I'm quite stoked. Let's see if I can keep that fire alive!

Monday, July 11, 2016

For the Convenience of All 3 of My Fans

If you're interested in a convenient listing of stuff I've written that's available on the interwebs, I'd like to invite you to visit my Stuff I've Written page.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

New Story Finished and Submitted

Tonight I finished a new story I started during the StoryADayMay challenge. "Throwing Shade" is only 780 words but I'm so happy with it I went ahead and submitted it. Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

K & T & the Sixteen Boxes

This story was my entry in the 2016 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. Contestants were given 3 bits of info to build a story from over a set number of days. There were three rounds. I didn't make it past round 1 but I got a story out of it in a genre outside my wheelhouse. My assignment included: Genre - caper; Subject - password breach; Character - ski instructor; Length less than 2500 words; Duration - seven days. The result is the following underappreciated classic caper.

“K? K! Get up! What the hell happened? You’ve been out for three minutes!”
The woman in the lodge’s security center stopped pacing, slammed herself into her chair and leaned close to the monitor, shouting into her headset microphone. The women on the black-and-white security feed slowly pulled herself into a sitting position in a corner of the vault.
“Ow. Ow. Ow,” she groaned.
“K! Answer me! What happened? You fell and you were out for three minutes! You were convulsing or something, but I couldn't really see you since you fell with your back to the camera! I thought I'd have to get you to a hospital, and was freaking out since I don't even know your name! I thought I was going to have to abort!”
Oh thank God she’s not dead. I am way too deep into this to abort now, T thought.
K turned to the security camera at the ceiling to her right. “Just a minute, T,” she whispered. T could make out K’s eyes beneath the gas mask. She watched K wince and twist her slender frame slightly as she reached for something under her hip against the vault door. With a grunt, she pulled out a blocky device and let it fall to the floor in view of the camera.
T leaned even closer to the monitor and gasped. “Is that a taser? That’s your taser! You tased yourself with your own taser? How the hell does that even happen?”
I’ve partnered with a moron and I’m so, so dead.
“Ug,” K groaned as she pulled the barb-tipped wires from her black equipment vest. She pulled foot upon foot of the wires from under her hip. “Unbelievable. I just bought this vest and now it’s torn.”
“K! Focus!” T yelled, her blonde ponytail quivering with rage against her gray parka. Her extra makeup was starting to streak from the sweat.
“Yeah. Focus.” K looked around the room. “There are a couple of canisters by the door. My guess is I didn’t see them and I fell.”
“You fell and tased yourself?”
“I fell. There’s stuff on the floor and I tripped or something. I’m sorry I didn’t fall as correctly as I should have and oh by the way go fuck yourself.”
T relaxed a little. “Ok. That's the K I'm used to. It’s a good thing you didn’t knock your mask off when you hit. You’re breathing okay? Where’d it hit you?”
You can’t die yet. Just finish the job.
“Right at my hip. The barbs just got my vest, but got close enough, I guess. I’m breathing fine but I’m a little dizzy. How long was I out?”
“I just told you. Three minutes.”
“Jesus. And you didn’t abort?”
“I just spent an entire year of my life teaching these criminal assholes and their little brats to ski. I am not about to leave empty-handed.”
Not until the job’s done and I can pin it on you.
“You're right. Sorry. I'm getting it together. Thanks for the concern. Still not exchanging names. How are the guards doing?”
In the lodge’s security room directly above the vault, T checked each of the other monitors. “You’re fine at the moment. They’re down. The gas is still pretty thick, but with three minutes down you’ve got to work even faster, I don’t care how good a safe hacker you are.”
K got herself to her feet with some effort. She took in the room.
“Lots of safety deposit boxes. One-sixteen?”
“Again, a lot of safety deposit boxes. We’re sure we only want this one?”
Stop thinking.
“Yes, just the one. The rest of the stuff is traceable, but no one’s going to report a missing drive, full of personal data and passwords for a criminal clientele, stolen from a fake ski lodge.”
Jesus H. Christ just do what you’re fucking told!
“Hm,” K said as she moved toward the target box, just out of the camera frame.
“Hm? What hm?”
“T, your plan was great except for the fact that they’ve got a lock we didn’t know about on this one box.”
“What? You’re kidding.”
I’m way too panicky now, that didn’t sound very authentic.
“Uh, no. That’s a pretty important minor detail. Who was in charge of the intel oh by the way go fuck yourself some more?”
Do not lose my shit. Do not lose my shit. Do not lose my shit.
 “See? That’s what I've been saying all along. Hannigan is always neglecting some important detail. He’s great at design, but he sucks at implementation. That’s why he can’t keep a legit Head of Security job and has to keep working these underworld gigs. That’s why I like to hit his clients. He always leaves some key little chink in the armor open to exploit.”
“Yeah, right, but there’s still a device on this one box. Looks like a purposeful upgrade, not a chink.”
Shit. She’s not buying it.
T chewed a fingernail while K fiddled with something off-screen. “Wait, what kind of keypad is it?”
“Touchscreen. Looks pretty cheap.”
“Does it look new?”
“I guess.”
“I bet it still has the cling film on the screen.”
“Huh. Yeah, I can see the little bubbles trapped under it.”
“It has to be brand new. That would explain why it wasn’t in any of the specs I found. The owners here probably asked Hannigan for a backup recently.”
Ok, that’s all I’ve got. She either buys it or I’m fucked. T chewed her nail again.
“Is Hannigan the kind of guy that would even neglect to change factory presets when installing stuff like this?”
“He is. He’s certainly planning to get around to it, but for something like this it’s not surprising for him to take weeks. You beat the card swipe and retina scan modules outside. Those would’ve given him a false sense of security.”
“But he was smart enough to put this in and have the door shut automatically when someone gets in.”
That was my idea.
“Like I said. Great design, suckass follow-through.”
K got quiet. T glanced nervously at the monitors again.
“This smells very bad, T.”
“Believe me, I know this guy. It’s his classic m.o.”
“I dunno. First, the canisters on the floor, now this. And he just happens to be off-site?”
“I know it looks bad, K, but he’s never double-crossed anybody, and when we finished last night he absolutely swore to me he was going home to get his divorce moving.”
“You should get a little extra for sleeping with him. He's gross, dumb, and angry.”
“I showered.”
“You sound like you’re over it.”
“Yeah. This and your bad news boyfriend. So, one two three four?”
“That’s my bet.”
“Okay. Here goes.”
There was a pause. On the monitor, K’s shoulders moved slightly.
“That was it. Neon green thumb drive?”
“Neon green thumb drive. Thank God. Now, unlock that door and get out of there.”
“Lots of safety deposit boxes, T.”
“Move, K!”
T watched on the monitor as K turned, put something in a pocket in her vest, and headed out of the frame in the direction of the vault door.
“Standard keypad. One minute and I’m out.”
T scanned the entire bank of monitors again. The guards outside the vault were still on the floor. Same for the guards outside the hallway door leading up to the lodge. She pulled her phone out from her coat pocket.
Once the door’s open, I sound the alarm, Hannigan and his guys mop up, K eats it, I get stinking rich.
“K, you’re golden.”
“Good. Just got the lock. Opening up.”
The monitor screens for the vault and the hallway outside it lit up with the fireball that came next. The blast lifted T straight up out of her chair and threw her backwards against the wall.

When she awoke, a man was sitting next to her. He was reading a magazine, though the light was just a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling.
“Wha…” she mumbled. The man looked at her, set his magazine down, and looked more closely at her. He got up and left the room.
“Where am I?” she asked, blinking.
The man returned with another man. She recognized him.
“Hannigan, I don’t feel right,” she said weakly.
He scoffed. “No, shit. You’ve got some broken bones. Other stuff too, probably.”
“I think I need a doctor.”
“Yeah. You do, Tracy. And you’ll need one even more after you’re done doing some explaining.”
He laughed. “Hell yeah, explaining. Like how I thought we were supposed to catch whoever’s been hitting my jobs all these years, and how somehow all my boys here got gassed to death, and how my vault got blown the fuck up, and how I thought we had a thing, and what the hell these emails and videos I got mean!”
T coughed and spat some blood. “I-I don’t understand.”
The other man took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeve.
“Oh, yeah,” Hannigan said darkly. “You’ve kinda been out of the loop. While you were unconscious, you and some of my clients got these emails with videos of you and me talking about how things have gone wrong with my security in the past and I needed to catch whoever was causing me problems. Even caught the conversation about the thumb drive. That was very expensive for me. Whoever did it hacked the security system here. The emails sent to you came via your account here at the lodge. We got into them after some of my clients started cancelling. Some of them mentioned the girl in the videos—you—a few times.”
T froze.
Hannigan unfolded a paper he pulled from his pocket. “Yeah, here’s a printout of the only message besides the videos in these emails.”
 “Tracy, when you see H., don't use a taser. Tricky if you don't know how to use one. Some boxes weren't traceable. Thanks for fucking him for the intel. It was a good start, but I had to fill in a few blanks myself. Go fuck yourself some more. K.”
She knew my name! She faked the taser! She played me!
“H-Hannigan,” T stammered.
“Whoever sent these emails was really good, Tracy. Can’t trace any of it past a set of dead ends. Very clean. Weirdest thing is that sixteen of the deposit boxes, with untraceable contents I never told you about, had been opened before the blast. Of course, you and my security office were pretty much wrecked. There's no footage from the vault before the explosion.”
It would’ve saved my ass!
“Shit,” T hissed.
“There wasn’t a body, Tracy. I believe you and your friend set me up, and things didn't work out as you planned.”
She wasn’t my…
She didn't see it coming when the other man slammed his fist into the side of her head, knocking her over in the chair she was tied to.
“Why wasn’t there a body, Tracy?”
The other man picked her up, still in the chair, and set her upright.
“Why wasn’t there a body?”
The man punched her in the mouth. She fell backward. Her ponytail settled onto her bloody face. He didn’t stop for a long, long time.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How About a Cat Limerick?

There once was a cat named Mouse
Who lived with us in our house 
She would often invite me
To pet her, then bite me
So now she is part of a souse

Thursday, May 5, 2016

StoryADay, Day 5

So far I'm meeting this challenge 100%. Results have been mixed, but I'm doing it! #storyadaymay #amwriting

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

StoryADay, Day 3 - My First Drabble

Today's StoryADay challenge was to write a drabble. A drabble is a story of 100 words. This is what I ended up with for my first attempt. Your feedback would be appreciated:

When I Became

“First, there must always be magic,” she said. 

She glowed in concentration as she held my hand. Her power searched through me for whatever power of mine lay dormant. I hadn't believed when she told me I had something, but she'd since taught me trust. 

Then came the moment I became something else, something new. It was so distinct. It felt like both a tearing and an awakening. It was only then I realized I wasn't ready.

It terrified me.

She recoiled. So I was powerful, then.

Since I could, I rose into the air and decided to take everything.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

It's the Joy, Stupid

Ernest Cline speaks at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC, 4/20/2016

I'm a writer who isn't writing. For the last several weeks I've been in a rut, possibly due to the umpteen rejections I've been receiving, perhaps due to mental fatigue, perhaps due to a lack of motivation. This period follows an intensely productive period where I started and finished half a dozen stories, took a class, and attended a workshop.

Then, kablooey.

I hit the proverbial wall. My motivation dried up. My creativity went dormant. 

Last night I may have gone and gotten myself all reinvigorated. I listened to Ernest Cline speak at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC. If you're not familiar with him, you should know he's the author of Ready Player One, a fantastic book that is essentially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory except it involves virtual reality instead of a chocolate factory and the contestants must know all kinds of stuff about the 80's.

Cline told his "origin story". He grew up on a farm in the 80's in the same pop culture I did. He wrote a sequel to Buckaroo Banzai for fun. He wrote a movie entitled Fanboys about being a huge Star Wars nerd...and it got made! He wrote RPO, then sold the rights for both the novel AND the film within a 48-hour period! He set up a brilliant scavenger hunt contest with clues in his book but didn't tell anyone until the eve of its paperback release. The grand prize was a DeLorean. Stephen Spirlberg's directing the RPO movie. His second book, Armada, is a bestseller right now.

As I listened to him speak, I started to get a little annoyed about how much he was talking about himself. It then dawned on me that of course he was talking about himself because that's why the people came to see him speak (some drove as many as 5 hours). It then dawned on me that the reason I was getting annoyed was because I was straight up jealous! Ernest Cline is living my frickin' dream.

His talk was full of absolute joy, with the primary theme being, "Can you believe all this awesome stuff is actually happening to a schlub like me?"

At one point he stopped to say that he isn't able to write for some imaginary audience. He writes things that, as a reader, HE would find awesome and exciting and cool. 

By golly, that's why I do it. That's what I'd forgotten. That's what I'm going to do again.

It's the joy, stupid.

Written April 20, 2016, but posted later due to life and reasons.

StoryADay, Day 1

Tonight I started the StoryADay challenge. The challenge is to write a story every day for the month of May. Details can be found here.

The first challenge was to write a story in 30 minutes, about a character created with traits you like to read about. The story should explore the idea of something that character would never ever do, while putting them in a situation where they are faced with the choice of having to do that thing. All this must be accomplished in 30 minutes, no more.

I did it. I have a complete story that I'd say is a solid first draft. It may be one of the scariest things I've ever written. My character is one whose life is about taking care of kids. He's a Cub Scout Pack Leader, on a camping trip with his Pack. Things go horribly wrong and he has to make a terrible choice.

A couple of things I learned:

  1. The StoryADay folks did a good job setting up a well-structured prompt. The time limit and the instructions on how to handle it were great.
  2. A story can be written in 30 minutes.
  3. I experimented with what I thought was Hemingway's suggestion to write drunk. As I researched to write this post, it looks like that quote might've been incorrectly attributed to him. In any event, a couple of whiskey shots followed by a nice glass of Frangelico shots seemed to do the trick for me. In fact, I'm writing this post while still slightly buzzed. Wheeee!!!
I'm glad this started on a weekend. Who knows if I'll be able to actually pull this off for 30 days straight, but we'll see. Right now, I'm stoked.

Friday, March 18, 2016

I Do My Best Thinking When I'm A Whiny Bitch

For most of this week I've been sick with a very bad cold. It was one of those where I coughed so hard I pulled a gut muscle, was super tired but couldn't sleep, had a sore throat, wah wah waaaah, yadda yadda yadda.

During one of those semi-lucid napping-until-I-cough-my-butthole-loose periods, I tried to settle my mind by silently repeating the mantra, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Well, my unwell mind did what unwell minds do and gradually lost its grip on the original idea and added a little mental flem until I ended up saying to myself, "That which does not thrill us takes us longer."

In retrospect, it's actually kinda cool. In fact I think it's downright profound! Now why the fuck can't I do that shit when I'm sitting at my laptop?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Submitting the Heck Out of 2016

Yeah, so I just submitted two stories for publication today. "Meanwhile, at the End of the World..." is the story that didn't win the Writers Digest Popular Fiction Awards. I sent that to, continuing to aim high instead of wallowing in my self-pity. "Save Often" is the story I wrote after my Christmas story crashed and burned thanks to technology. I sent that to Daily Science Fiction.

Can't wait to get those rejection notices! Keep your fingers crossed!

Happy New Year