Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Did You Know?

It takes frighteningly little to make me happy; for example, getting my coffee for free will make my whole day.

Once each week, on my way to the day job, I stop at the same Starbucks to treat myself to a tall latte. I haven’t paid a dime for my cup-o-joe for the past month.

The reason?


My Starbucks has begun posting occasional trivia questions, and not only have I been lucky enough to patronize the store on trivia day, but also it seems the individual choosing the questions believes the crap sitting in my head qualifies as arcane.

Here are the questions that have garnered me free lattes for the past few weeks:

1. Before it was a movie, Psycho was a story. Who wrote the original tale?
2. Who was the host of the show featuring both J.P. Morgan and The Unknown Comic?
3. What is an Onomatopoeia?
4. Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

Question number four was featured today, and even better than the free drink was the look on the barista’s face when I came up with the answer. According to her, no one had even guessed the line was from a song, let alone been able to follow up with the answer.

I can tell she thinks it’s a bit weird I seem to know the answers to all of the trivia questions.

I think it’s a bit weird they keep picking stuff I would have to have lived my life under a rock not to know.

I can take being thought weird as long as the free lattes keep flowing.

For those of you who don’t know them, here are the answers:

  1. Robert Bloch wrote Psycho.

  2. It was called The Gong Show.

  3. An Onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the sound it symbolizes: the words buzz, zip, purr, swish, and boom are examples.

  4. Just like me, they long to be close to you. (Drag out your Carpenter LPs!)

Monday, October 29, 2007

As Yet Untitled (WIP)

The first time I saw Sunny Glade, she was arguing with the postmaster in my father’s store. I was seven, and what my uncle, the postmaster, always called precocious. When he said that word, there was just a hint of a snarl in his voice, the outside corner of his left eye pinched up in his face, and he pronounced it with three distinct syllables: pre-CO-shuss.

When you’re seven, the world passes you over with little more than a glance. Counters are too tall, conversations are too adult, and your opinions are of no consequence. So when I heard Sunny growl,

“Ah shit Roy, even Janey could do better than that,”

I waited for the trouble that was sure to come my way—somehow, I’d been unwillingly placed right in the middle of Grown-Up-Things. The store got very quiet as Sunny looked at me, nodded her head, and winked.

For some reason that I can’t really explain, Sunny’s voice was the sweetest thing I had ever heard, even if the words that came out of her that day (and most others) were the same ones I got a mouth full of soap for saying. Uncle Roy shot a glance in my direction, his left eye beginning to pinch, and then he muttered something under his breath to my father. Both men disappeared into the back of the store, and I tried desperately to make myself as small as possible while they were gone. After several minutes, I was beginning to think I had believed myself into to being the size of an ant, and that when my pa and uncle returned, they wouldn’t even notice me. The voice in my head was chanting “go on now—get smaller, go on, go on now—get smaller,” and as I began to shrink, you can understand why I jumped a full foot in the air when Sunny’s big hand landed on my (dwindling) shoulder.

“My goodness Janey Bell, you really have grown up.”

All I could manage was a squeaky “Yes, ma’am.”

“Do you remember me?”

The voice in my head was part way through a sentence about everyone knowing who Sunny Glade was when I realized that using her first name wasn’t polite, and admitting that I listened to gossip would be even worse.

“No, ma’am, I’m sorry, I don’t.”

As the words rolled out of my mouth, I silently hoped that it was better to forget meeting a person than to admit to only knowing her by what I overheard in the store.

“It’s okay, Janey. When we met, you were much younger.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Well, then. Let me reintroduce myself. I’m Sunny Glade.”

The large hand that had been on my shoulder moved and floated in the air before me, but I stood motionless and in silent wonder of the woman who was before me.

“Young lady, how about a proper handshake?”

She was not at all what people said. She was tall and pretty, and though I couldn’t have named it then, there was a toughness about her that was powerful and compelling. My mother would have called her an example of nature’s elegance. It was a term she only used in reference to women, and only to those who clearly held their own in the company of men.

As I began to reach out to put my small hand into hers, my father and uncle came back to the front of the store. Before I had time to shake hands, Sunny’s arm was back at her side. She had moved to the front of the store, and I thought I saw her face change. As she stood at the counter, it seemed to me that she became a bit more like the woman I had heard described, and a bit less like the woman I had just met.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Summary

Total Word Count Goal for 70 Days of Sweat (10-15-07 through 01-15-08) and NaNoWriMo (11-01-07 through 11-30-07):

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
7,511 / 102,000 (7.4%)

Where I should be:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
7,511 / 12,000 (62.6%)

Project Goals—Contests
  1. Writers' Journal Write-to-Win (October 20, 2007): "Minty Fresh Death"
  2. Zokutou word meter
    1,031 / 1,031 (100.0%)
  3. Common Ties Workplace Mistakes (October 24, 2007): "Neither Bird Nor Plane"
  4. Zokutou word meter
    1,018 / 1,018 (100.0%)
  5. Byline Magazine Personal Memoir (December 5, 2007)
  6. Zokutou word meter
    0 / 1,000 (0.0%)
  7. Writers' Journal Write-to-Win (December 20, 2007)
  8. Zokutou word meter
    0 / 1,500 (0.0%)

Project Goals—Manuscripts
  1. Test Case
  2. Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
    5,462 / 12,000 (45.5%)
  3. In What Remains
  4. Zokutou word meter
    0 / 10,000 (0.0%)
  5. The Well
  6. Zokutou word meter
    0 / 50,000 (0.0%)

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Pick up any book or magazine or journal focused on writing, and at least part of the subject matter will deal with strategies to plot a piece, but I’ve never placed a great deal of stock in many of the super-structured methods described. (I’ve never doubted their value, but I’ve never felt the need to integrate them into my work.)

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer: I get some type of idea and go with it without spending a great deal of time concerning myself with where it goes or whether or not it actually gets someplace. This has been relatively successful for me in terms of where I’ve been with my writing.

It’s one of the beauties of my not being a full-time writer: I have the luxury of writing for the sake of writing, and if what I begin fizzles out, I’m not really any worse off because of it.

But I want to write full time, and I’m realistic enough to know the job of writing full time means there can’t be much fizzle when it comes to putting words on paper.

This is not to say I expect everything I write to work or to sell or to please me, but I’ve been giving a good deal of thought to my seat-of-the-pants approach as I visualize the moment I can quit my day job and focus on my writing, and I’m intelligent enough to know I’m going to need to learn to write with a greater degree of organization while retaining the joy of letting a story and its characters have their (necessary) share of control.

There simply won’t be time in my upcoming, full-time writing life to let things meander and fizzle: I intend to have deadlines (and a good many of them) whether self-imposed or by virtue of a contract.

I’ve begun the transition by making certain I submit at least one piece each month to a contest or publication. Because these are shorter works, it’s been an ideal way for me to begin the process of balancing my whims with a plan. At a once-per-month pace, I simply don’t have as much time to meander: I have to have a solid idea and work on fleshing it out before it turns to mush and too much time and effort have been invested in a piece that never had a chance in my hands.

Enter Holly Lisle’s Clinic Series which covers plot building, character building, language building, and culture building.

I’ve read and heard a lot about Holly Lisle lately: it seems most of the writer-owned sites I frequent rave about her clinic books as well as her fiction, so I wandered over to Lisle-land to see what all the fuss was about.

It’s taken me about a month to look through the vast array of stuff she’s made available to readers and writers and other passersby, and it’s been time well spent.

She also does something I applaud: she offers free previews of her work, and because of this, I downloaded and tried Holly Lisle's Create a Plot Clinic and Holly Lisle's Create a Character Clinic. The previews are substantial: forty pages and three chapters, respectively, and these freeviews resulted in my purchasing both books.

(I likely would still be considering their purchase had the freeviews not been available—even with all of the positive feedback I’ve heard.)

Which brings me to my point: I’m currently working through the “Tools” section of Holly Lisle's Create a Plot Clinic, and I already see how the strategy she describes in the book is going to help with the story I’ve been bouncing around in my head.

Like my other ideas, this one came to me as a basic premise with a very clearly defined scene during which the protagonist and antogonist meet. The old me would have simply thought the scene through until it became agonizing not to write it—two to three weeks at the most—and that me would have taken the plunge and written whatever came while caring little about where it went until I felt it was a “story.” (I want to emphasize this me did not simply let things go: she is good at tracking a great many elements in her head and can generally take a basic premise such as this to at least 20,000 words with little story-building effort. From there, she decides whether it was meant to be a short and cuts and edits and adds and such; or she decides it’s a novel, and she fleshes out and adds and edits and such. Occasionally, she has 20,000 words that lend themselves to nothing more, and that is what the new me wants to avoid.)

The new me has thought this thing through, but she is going to build her plot as described in Holly Lisle's Create a Plot Clinic, and she is going to flesh out her characters as described in Holly Lisle's Create a Character Clinic, and then she is going to release the hounds.

In the meantime, the hounds are feeding on the submission deadlines; although, they now have to take the time to order their meals.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Package

The PackageIt lay on the doorstep of 54 Hulstone Place. Non-descript and brown, the package looked as if it might have been dropped accidentally or tossed aside by a passerby too lazy to find a trash can.

There was no return address, and the edges of the package were worn as if it had had a long and arduous journey. Whatever its history, the package had indeed found its home, for the top of the box contained carefully penned letters identifying its destination:
Podderson Family
54 Hulstone Place
Pittsburgh PA

When Amanda Podderson returned from her shift at the diner, she kicked the package before she noticed it. It slid noisily across the concrete stoop and came to rest with a clunk at the edge of the threshold to the front door. Adjusting her armload of groceries, Amanda peered down at the box, rolled her eyes, and thought, “Not again, George.”

After unloading the groceries and changing, Amanda returned to the front stoop, picked up the package, and put it in the laundry room. George would never find it there, and it’d serve him right, too.

By the time her husband got home, Amanda had forgotten about the package: George was drunk and late. In unplanned unison, George slammed the front door closed, and Amanda slammed their bedroom door shut. Amanda’s slamming was followed by the click of the lock being thrown. She’d be damned if that drunken no-good got into bed with her that night.

George didn’t notice the slamming of either door, nor was he aware of his wife’s banning him from their bedroom. He was ripped and only cared about hitting the sofa squarely before he passed out.

The next morning, George was up and gone before Amanda finished her shower. Had Amanda known this, she’d have skipped practicing the speech she planned to yell at him about his continuing to order things they couldn’t afford.

Thankful in part that he was gone, Amanda went to work and forgot all about the package.

When she got home that evening, she was surprised to find George sitting at the kitchen table. Even more surprising was his fist not being wrapped around a can of beer.

“Why ya home so early George?”

“I went in early, put in my eight, now I’m here.”

Amanda heard the smugness in George’s voice before she saw it hanging on his face.

“Since you’re here. . .”

“Since I am here, I wanna know why you ride me all the time about buying things when you bought that light and had it put in without saying nothing.”

Amanda followed George’s outstretched arm which ended with his pointing finger that was aimed at a light installed in the ceiling over the kitchen table.

“I had nothing to do with that. What’s this about, George?”

George grunted before answering, “That ain’t your light?”

“No, George, that ain’t my light.”

“So, what? We both go off to work, and some fairy comes to our house—puts in a light? What do you take me for?”

“I take you for a no-good drunk, that’s what I take you for.”

“What’d you say?”

“I said, you’re a no-good drunk, George. You forget coming home last night all tied up in a knot?”

George sat up in the chair, drew in a breath, and in a tone as condescending as they come replied, “I had a beer with the boys after a long day. A man deserves a beer with the boys now and again.”

As he spoke, the light the two were fighting about flickered and buzzed.

“There you go George. There’s proof I had nothing to do with that light getting put in. If I’d have had it done, it’d work right. Just admit you bought the damn thing and installed it wrong. And fix it before it burns down this house.”

“I had nothing to do with that light, Amanda, and you know it.”

“Well I’ve never seen it before.”

As Amanda spoke, the light flickered and buzzed again.

“We can fight all night about the light, George, but for now, you need to fix the damn thing.”

“Can’t. I got a meeting with the union boys, and I gotta leave right now.”

More flickering and buzzing.

Amanda gave up on the light and George and headed for the bedroom to change. Over her shoulder, she called out,

“Just make sure you’re quiet when you drag yourself home.”

Her words were punctuated by George’s slamming the front door as he left.


“Ma’am, can you tell me what happened?”

“Yes, detective. My husband came home from a meeting. I guess he’d been drinking a bit. I was already in bed, and the next thing I knew, I heard a crash. I called out to him, but he didn’t answer. When I got up to see what was wrong, I found him lying there. That’s when I called.”

Detective Westgrove looked up from his notepad as Amanda Podderson spoke. The out-of-place light that hung above the kitchen table was flickering and buzzing, and it was annoying.

“Ma’am, is there anyone we can call for you?”

“No. No Detective. I have no family other than George.”

“A friend perhaps or a neighbor?”

“You’re very kind, but no. I think I need to be alone right now.”

“Well, if you change your mind, just let one of the officers here know. It’ll take them another thirty minutes or so to wrap things up, and then you’ll have your house to yourself.”

Amanda nodded her head at the detective.

“And Mrs. Podderson, I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you detective, you’re very kind. I really don’t know what I’ll do without my George.”

As Amanda Podderson spoke, the light that had arrived in a travel-worn package flickered and buzzed its response.

The Package

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Word Count Wednesday

My progress towards my Total Word Count Goal for 70 Days of Sweat (10-15-07 through 01-15-08) and NaNoWriMo (11-01-07 through 11-30-07):

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter

4,768 / 102,000 (4.7%)

Keeping things honest, this is where I should be:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter

8,000 / 102,000 (7.8%)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's in the Mail

You know the saying, right?

The check’s in the mail.

Well, there are times this isn’t a brush off, and one of those times happened to me yesterday.

Mixed in with the junk I retrieved from my mailbox yesterday was an envelope that held the money I made for selling something I wrote.

I’ve done many things in my life to earn money—all legal, I might add—but this certainly beats them all.

I wish I could bottle what that felt like. (I have every intention of repeating the process so many times I forget that first-time feeling.)

Now, I suppose I’ll need to be certain not to spend it all in one place!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Summary

The starting gun fired October 25, 2007 for the Seventy Days of Sweat—Round 2.

I'll be posting updates here on Sundays and Wednesdays to coincide with Sven's check-in schedule.

Here goes:

Total Word Count Goal for 70 Days of Sweat (10-15-07 through 01-15-08) and NaNoWriMo (11-01-07 through 11-30-07):

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
3,311 / 102,000 (3.2%)

Where I should be:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
3,311 / 6,000 (55.2%)

Project Goals—Contests

  1. Writers' Journal Write-to-Win (October 20, 2007): "Minty Fresh Death"
  2. Zokutou word meter
    1,031 / 1,031 (100.0%)
  3. Common Ties Workplace Mistakes (October 24, 2007): "Neither Bird Nor Plane"
  4. Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
    1,143 / 1,200 (95.3%)
  5. Byline Magazine Personal Memoir (December 5, 2007)
  6. Zokutou word meter
    0 / 1,000 (0.0%)
  7. Writers' Journal Write-to-Win (December 20, 2007)
  8. Zokutou word meter
    0 / 1,500 (0.0%)

Project Goals—Manuscripts

  1. Test Case
  2. Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
    1,137 / 12,000 (9.5%)
  3. In What Remains
  4. Zokutou word meter
    0 / 10,000 (0.0%)
  5. The Well
  6. Zokutou word meter
    0 / 50,000 (0.0%)