Friday, November 30, 2007


I called my parents today to share with them the completion of my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel. They were on the phone with the wife of one of my childhood friends who was delivering the news that her husband---my childhood friend---had died yesterday.

He's my age. I'll be 43 next month.

His daughter is not yet six months old.

Who cares about a stupid book?

Thursday, November 15, 2007


MistakesMistakes are a hell of a thing, aren’t they? Without an ample serving of mistakes, there’s no real learning that takes place in life. Of course, some mistakes are so costly, they take life and turn it on its side.

I don’t remember the moment I began to understand the true nature of mistakes, but I do remember the moment I began wishing I’d handled a few of mine differently.

My history with mistakes began the day I sold bought Tom Rucker’s farm. I was a real estate man back then: I sold the land and homes of people in the county whose lives had fallen on misfortune. In essence, I was a huckster.

Tom Rucker had fallen on the best kind of hard times for a guy like me: he’d up and died and left no one but the U-S-of-A to claim his things. That gave me the green light to step in and sell his place on behalf of the government—a service for which I would receive a reasonable fee, of course.

The morning after I put Tom’s place on the market, I got a call from a nice young couple looking to move away from the city and into the country. We set up a meeting for later that afternoon, and I gave them directions to the Rucker place: one of the nicest spreads of land in Draden County.

* * *

It didn’t take long before I could smell a sale coming. I’d already started counting my commission as we headed for the barn. I was running through my there’s ample space for a number of horses and other animals if you choose speech when I opened the barn door.

I had an odd flash—a premonition maybe—but in the moment I opened that door, I knew I had to do whatever was necessary to dissuade those youngsters from buying. I got a feeling so strong it about knocked me to my knees, and the feeling was crystal clear: I had to buy the Rucker place myself.

Without missing a beat, I began pointing out the little things about the barn that might turn the sale on its side, and when I got to the part about rats in the rafters, I lost that sale smell.

The once-eager young couple no longer had any interest in the purchase: after my spiel about the rats, the “quaintness” of the house faded, and their “we-don’t-mind-a-fixer-upper” attitude vanished.

The couple left after a series of polite but hasty thank-you’s, and I found myself staring at an empty barn that I knew had changed my life.

* * *

Soon after I bought the Rucker place, I got a notion I needed to live there, and once I’d moved in, my life began to turn good in ways too large to count. Little things happened at first, but when sales began falling into my lap, I knew my good luck had something to do with my new home.

I even became a better man. I was no longer as eager to make sales that weren’t beneficial for the involved parties, and I found myself more inclined to tell the truth when dealing with clients. Oddly enough, my new approach didn’t seem to hurt business; in fact, for the first time in my career, I began to get referrals and return customers.

One thing that didn’t change was my ex-wife. She was as nasty a bitch as ever, and when she got wind of my increased income, her greedy mitts were all in a twist to get some more of a share that was never fair to begin with.

You should probably know, my wife left me, and not because I wasn’t good to her. She left me for a dentist, and she didn’t leave out of love or a lack of it. She left for greener pastures: the money-green kind. (Of course, as long as my wallet was in play, there was no reason for her to consider marrying the dentist, and when she heard about my sudden successes, there was even less reason for her to marry Mr. Dental Man.)

She came to me one morning demanding more money. Even though my ex-wife didn’t deserve the grand I gave her on the first of every month, the better man in me offered her an extra $500 per.

I told you she was a greedy bitch. She wouldn’t settle for a fixed amount: she wanted a percentage of my earnings each month.

Even a changed man can’t abide a cheating, good-for-nothing, money-hungry, ex-wife’s unreasonable demands, and I told her it was the extra $500 or nothing. She gave me her usual dose of mouth, and then she left.

This morning, I woke up to the sound of a delivery truck pulling into my front yard. When I looked out of my bedroom window, I saw a guy unloading a truck filled with cement blocks. He dumped ten palettes of these things even though I tried to explain to him they weren’t mine.

His order had my address as the delivery point. The new man in me couldn’t argue with the guy, so I signed the order and let him get on with the rest of his day.

I called the only person I could thing of who'd do such a thing: my ex-wife. After a minute or so of laughter, she got on me again about the extra money. I told her to blow off, and she said,

"If I were you honey, I’d start getting rid of those blocks before the cops get to your place. If you won’t give me my share of your money, I’ll make sure I get it all."

Then she hung up.

I took a good look at the blocks, and some of them seemed to have been cracked open and then repaired. I took a hammer and chisel to one of them, and when it split apart, there was a small bag filled with what I am pretty certain is cocaine.

I broke open a few more, and so far, along with the drugs, I’ve found a considerable amount of cash and what appears to be a severed finger.

I have no idea what to do, but the sirens are getting closer, and if I know my mistake of an ex-wife (and I do), that bitch has gone and done me good.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It Appears a Theme Is Emerging

Sans the baseball bat, this so captures the last few days of my life:

I have got to remember to wipe the sucker from my forehead: there is a helpless animal network in my neighborhood, and all the signs point directly to my home.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kitty Haiku

12 am
They settle at last
My fitful sleep returns then
The short lived calm expires

3 am
Slicing through the night
A mixture of soft and sharp
Kitty claws my nose

6 am
Tiny bodies hide
Tightly wedged beneath box springs
Laughter in their eyes

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Creator

The CreatorHe was an old man and feeble. Then one day, he awoke in a strange place feeling less old and more like the self he’d known years before. He stood in a brightly lit room with vaguely familiar objects all around him. Outside, there was more light and the distant sound of laughter.

It occurred to him, as he stood looking about, that he didn't feel the aching in his knees nor was it there in his back or his feet. He smiled to himself—something he hadn’t done in years. He noticed, too, that his eyesight was sharp. Then he fancied he could smell the freshness in the air. Another smile.

He decided quickly it was a dream. He tried to focus on the sagging mattress he knew himself to be sleeping on, but try as he might, he could not feel the springs rubbing annoyingly on his right hip—for he always slept on his right side, and the springs always stung him.

He took to counting: it was a trick he used whenever a bad dream took him over. He first pictured the number drawn in large, bold strokes on a blackboard. Once the number was fully formed, he thought it out in his head as loudly as he could. Then he went to work on the next number. In this manner, he was able to awaken himself before reaching ten. Only this time, he was nearing twenty, and he was still standing in his dream surrounded by brightness and things somewhat familiar.

“I’ll try another tactic,” he said aloud, and the words seemed to echo and vibrate and send ripples though the air and the room. The leaves of the plants rustled every-so-slightly, and for a moment, he felt fear.

In the middle of the room was a large easel with paper, and all around him were brushes and paints and sticks of charcoal and pastel. He would make the numbers himself he thought, and so he did. But as he reached five, it occurred to him he might make other things, and so he began by imagining the smile of his long-dead wife, and as he imagined, his hand moved the brush on the paper and before he knew it, he heard her voice.

He opened his eyes expecting to find her, but he remained alone in the room, and he felt a deep sadness. Then he noticed the paper in front of him was blank, and his sadness turned to fear.

Surely, I’ve gone mad, the man thought to himself. He looked for a door to exit the room, but saw he was closed in. I'm mad and I’m locked up. That's the answer.

But in his heart, he knew this wasn't true, and as frightened as he was, he returned to the easel and took up another brush.

I shall paint myself a door, he thought, and then I shall walk though it and awaken. And so he painted a door. And as he painted, he heard the creaking of the hinges, for it was the door from his father’s workshop he had imagined, and the basement door—his father’s workshop was in the basement—had always squeaked eerily.

The man opened his eyes, and there was, now, a door in his room, and it looked just like the door he remembered leading down, down, down to his father’s workshop. He stepped to it, and reached out, but the door had no knob, and as he examined it, he saw it had no dimension: it was but a false door painted on a real wall.

“What am I to do?” He shouted out in anger, and the sound of his own voice rang so loudly in his ears it took him to his knees.

“You must decide” came the answer—and the answer was in his own head, and it helped soothe the pain there.

Decide what?
He thought. What must I decide? He waited for an answer, but none came, and so he listened more intently. He concentrated and slowed his breathing and willed the voice to answer him. But there was nothing. The voice was gone.

The man walked around and around the room, and time passed. He began to cry—something he hadn't done since he was a small boy—and his tears soothed him like the voice in his head had done.

Finally, the man sat cross-legged on the floor. He looked directly at the easel, and as he watched, one image after another appeared and then vanished from the paper. The images had a familiar quality to them, but the man could not put his finger on the reason.

Occasionally, he would recognize an image outright: his son; the tree he had climbed as a child; the first home he and his wife had bought. But mixed with these images were the faces of strangers and places and things he did not remember.

The images stopped, and the man wondered if it were a sort of intermission. He looked around and listened—for what, he wasn't certain, but it seemed the thing to do.

Presently, he arose from where he sat, took up a brush, and painted a brilliant and beautiful sunset. This time, he did not close his eyes as he painted, and as each stroke hit the paper, the image came more and more alive until the walls of the room dropped away and the heat from the setting sun washed over him.

The man finished his painting and carefully washed the pigment from the brush. He took a step back to admire what he'd done, and felt satisfaction. He watched the paint dry, and when it had, he reached for the paper, tore it from the pad, and rolled it into a tube which he tucked under his arm.

Then he was back in the room, but this time, his wife was there and the door to his father’s workshop had depth and a knob, and as he reached for his wife’s hand, he felt a deep sense of joy as together, they stepped though the door.

Outside, in a world that no longer mattered, the man lay in a hospital bed and took one final breath. Situated on his face was a smile, and all around him were the many paintings he had created while awaiting this day.

The Creator

Wednesday, November 7, 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

15,874 / 102,000 (15.6% of Goal)

Keeping things honest, this is where I should be:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter

24,000 / 102,000 (23.5% of Goal)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Real Thing Two—Well, Sort Of

A few days ago, I didn’t write about the snack-factory next door, instead, I wrote about a little program that helps keep my fingers moving along as I write.

Today, what I am not going to write about is my theme crashing on my fiction-only site. If I were going to talk about that, I’d have to mention the hours I spent trying everything I could to fix it only to repeatedly fail. I’d have to mention finding several viable replacement themes and settling for my second choice because it would require less tweaking to make me happy. What I really would have to mention is how the designer used base64 encoding in the footer to try to eliminate the removal of the “sponsor’s” pop-ups and ads. Of course, if I were going to write about this, I’d have to brag about ripping that code apart and putting what I wanted there despite the gibberish that is base64 code.

Instead, I’m going to write about The PC Timer: it’s the other little program I use to make my writing time more efficient.

The PC Timer

This program is just what its name implies: it’s a timer/alarm that runs unobtrusively in the computer’s background. The user sets the time and then forgets about it: when the set-time expires, the program comes to the front of the computer’s workspace and alerts the user her time is up.

I love this for two reasons: first, it keeps me from having to worry about the time I’ve budgeted to write—I don’t have to clock-watch because this program takes care of it for me. This means I don’t have to worry about getting so caught up in what I’m doing that I forget to leave for the day job. Second, when things are going slowly (or I’m in the middle of, say, NaNoWriMo), the compulsion to check my word count can be overwhelming. Using the PC Timer, I can set thirty-minute intervals and make a mental deal to check my count only after the timer goes off.

There is a similar device available for the Mac, and as Mac things tend to be, it’s much prettier:

The Mac Timer

The best news about each is that they are priced right: they are FREE.

Happy times, no?

Monday, November 5, 2007

But, I Don't Wanna!

Anyone out there who's paying attention to the blogging schedule will note today's post is supposed to be an excerpt from a work-in-progress (WIP).

The title of this post, however, says it all: I am up to my neck in NaNoWriMo work, and along the way I am Sweating with Sven, so instead of sharing a part of myself, I am going to share a site you must visit.

Go to Coudal and take a look at the Layer Tennis Matches they are running. Basically, two artists (or two art teams) and one writer are invited to each weekly match. The artists trade volleys via a design layer file that is swapped back and forth in fifteen minute intervals. Like a real tennis match, the object is to take what's hurled at you and smash back. The writer adds commentary, and the whole thing is real-time.

New matches are played each Friday, and the old matches are available for view.

My opinion: it's stuff like this that makes the mixing of art and technology a wondrous thing.


I only know about this site because I read Dooce which proves once again just how great a site it is.

Sunday, November 4, 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

14,118 / 102,000 (13.8%)

Where I should be:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter

21,000 / 102,000 (20.6%)

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 Unearthed
  6. Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter

    6,607 / 50,000 (13.2%)