Writing Practice – 6/9/2019

Writer about a log floating in the water…

Can you see it? There! About twenty feet out, it’s longer than your arm – thicker than your leg. Do you see how that branch comes out from the side, and looks like an arm? Can you see how the fingers stretch and reach towards the sky?

I imagine most of it is below the water line. If there is one branch sticking up, how many more must be reaching down? Three, four maybe. Big, hairy, gnarled arms trailing into the water.

Do you think there are fish swimming in and out, like a playground? This is a pretty big lake, after all. I bet there are some bluegill down there, maybe a sunfish, or a bass. Have the Asian Carp made it here yet? They were all over in that last place we went, remember? Such a problem, though I didn’t understand why. Couldn’t we just catch a lot of them? Maybe eat them, too. You know hwy they’re always talking about starving children in Africa? We could catch those Asian Carp and send them over there so they could eat them.

Do you know how deep this lake is? I bet it’s at least like ten feet deep. I dove in off the back of my friend’s boat last summer, and I tried to touch the bottom, you know, like you do when you’re at the pool? I went down and down, reaching with my fingers. I knew I was goin to touch the mud, but I never felt anything. I felt my ears get tighter, you know, with the pressure and all, but it never stopped. I probably kicked five or six times, and when I do that at the pool I only need to kick two or three and I can touch the bottom. That’ about eleven feet deep. So this is probably a lot deeper. Maybe I was going sideways, but then the pressure wouldn’t have been getting stronger and stronger, would it?

I wonder if we could dive off this boat now, what we would see. Would we scare those fish away? Do you think they would let us touch them? I think it would be creepy to touch a fish. Do you think they can feel things through their scales? Do they have nerves out there? Can they move those scales? You know, like birds can ruffle their feathers. That would be cool! Imagine if you saw a fish, just swimming in its tank, and then it ruffled its scales when it got scared, or threatened. That would look pretty exciting.

Oooh! What if you saw a dragon do that? Can you imagine, a forty-foot long dragon ruffling its scales, and breathing fire, and flexing its wings, and clenching its talons? I bet you’d crap your pants, you’d be so scared.

When You Go And Do A Thing

So, yeah… A while ago, and pretty recently, I wrote stories, and this year I put them together, edited them, formatted them, got a cover, went through the rigamarole of signing up on Amazon, added things like bank account numbers for payment, ordered proof copies, marked them up, resubmitted texts for print and ebook, reordered proof copies, marked those up, re-resubmitted texts, ordered more proof copies, got e-mails from Amazon that my cover was wrong by 0.05 fucking inches!, stressed out, freaked out, ordered a new cover from my cover designer, got antsy, did it myself, reuploaded the cover and resubmitted the book, got antsy and called Customer Service to see if I could expedite processing and approval, got shot down, had to learn how to sit on my hands to wait, RECEIVED APPROVAL!!!, ordered 50 copies for the Book Launch party, freaked out that they wouldn’t arrive in time, calmed down once they’d been finally shipped and scheduled for delivery, FREAKED OUT AGAIN when the delivery was delayed due to “inclement weather” (pfft – natural disasters, who the fuck cares?), called Amazon already like seventeen times [yes, I exaggerate. It’s a coping mechanism] this morning to learn that indeed, the delivery is scheduled for today, FREAKED OUT YET AGAIN upon learning that the delivery window is anytime between 8 am and 9 PM {FFFFFffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu………….}, took a deep breath, and said, “I believe it will all work out.”

And so, there you have it. That’s how you publish a book, my friends. Thirty-seven simple steps, and you only have to freak out like nineteen times! Why wouldn’t everyone want to do this?

 

PS: Never in my life have I been prouder to be ranked #6,846! (as of 8:35 am Central Standard Time, Monday, March 4).

Writing Practice 2/27/2019

What is this? See YouTube video:

Something Strange This Way Comes

This is a single sperm of a gigantic rubber monster. It’s about 600 feet tall, and it lives generally in the Amazon rainforest. Last month it was on a multi-national trek, on a press tour or something, and it got kind of antsy. The handlers realized something was wrong, so they jerked it off. These things are the result. They spew out ten million at a time, and when this one here was blown up into the air it caught the attention of an eagle, who mistook it for a fish. The eagle grabbed it in its talons, and returned to its nest, whereupon it found that there was no way in hell that that was a trout or a bass. Instead of returning to the jungle where it was caught, the Eagle simply dumped the rubber sperm over the side of its nest, where it fell to the ground a couple of hundred feet below, then tumbled down a hillside and landed in a stream. This is all in Mexico, remember, because that eagle has quite a wide territory.

Well, about three days of floating in this stream, the rubber sperm ends up in a larger river, which ends up in a larger river, which eventually ends up in the ocean, in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, this wouldn’t be so bad, except the giant rubber sperm got caught in a blue whale’s mouth as it opened and sucked in [illegible] to capture & eat plankton. That’s all well and good, and would have been fine, except that this rubber sperm didn’t dissolve in the whale’s stomach, and was, in fact, shat out by the whale two days later.

You know what’s gross? Sharks eat whale poop. Yeah, they do. Not on purpose. But they do. So there was a whole colony of sharks following our hero whale with the rubber sperm in its tummy, and when the whale had a massive bowel movement those dudes went crazy; They sucked up all the little half-digested-whale shit they could, and this thing ended up in one of them. Not that bad, really – we find sharks with license plates and buoys in them, for Pete’s sake. But anyway, the shark was going on his merry way, enjoying the Gulf of Mexico, when all of a sudden the producer of Sharknado decided they needed some realism. So they got an artificial typhoon maker and sucked up ten million gallons of water, including our friendly rubber sperm-infused shark. Then they took this artificial dumping ground to Nebraska, no, North Dakota, and dropped it into a tornado, and filmed SharkNado 5 – The SharkPocalypse.

All was well and good until the shoot wrapped, and then the sharks were free to go. One of them decided to make his way to New York to become a dancer, a few went into investment banking, and a couple got married. Our special little guy, though, ended up traveling down the Mississippi River, until he ran smack into Hurricane Ivan, or Whatever it was that hit Texas in 2017. This thing poured a Great Lake’s worth of water on the Mississippi River basin in a day, causing the river to flood. It overflowed all the banks, all the way, inundating all the places. Hell, even out by my house got a foot of standing water, and, unfortunately for the shark, she got caught up in that and stranded on Baxter Road.

She died about three hours later. It took six months, but the scavengers around finally picked off all her flesh, scales, and internal organs, leaving, you guessed it, one Rubber Monster Sperm lying in the gutter, just so I could find it. Isn’t that a coincidence?

Writing Practice 8/10/2018 – Destroy a childhood fantasy

Destroy a childhood fantasy…

Santa – been done.

Easter Bunny – Done.

Your parents are happily married – Done.

Your teacher loves you and reallylikes your stupid drawing of a cat – Done.

Doggie Heaven – well, now here’s a promising topic. Let’s see:

“Okay, Kevin, you know how you really love Barney over there, right? And Barney, well, he’s getting a little old. Remember how grandma got old and when her body couldn’t work any more, she went to Heaven? For dogs, there’s the same thing. Big fields to run around in, birds to chase all day, naps in the sunshine. It’s fantastic. Barney’s going to love it there. You want that for Barney, don’t you? You don’t want him to be in pain like this any more, do you? You want him to have the chance to be happy and playful again, just like he was when he was younger, right?”

Ah, the bullshit we spew at the younger, naive generations in order to ease our own trauma. Why lie? Because it makes us feel better. We empathize with our youths’ sorrow over a pet’s death. So we must attempt to alleviate our own suffering by first alleviating theirs.

Here’s the real deal, kid. Your dog doesn’t have a soul. There is no distinction between “Barney, the basset hound” and “Barney the doggo spirit inside”. Barney himself couldn’t tell you where he stops and another dog starts, outside of the physical limitation / barrier / known divide of his nose and ears and paws. So to presume that there is something different from the aging, failing, tumor-ridden body that can barely get up off the couch to pee, is a rather egregious transgression of adultory responsibility.

Instead of lying to you, to try to minimize your sorrow, we should instead be telling you the truth, and helping you to process the sorrow, to help you to understand and properly grieve the loss. Here it is.

Barney is dying. Barney’s body does not work so well any longer. Pretty soon, maybe today, maybe next week, but certainly not much after that, Barney’s body will not work at all. Then Barney will be dead. He won’t run and jump. He won’t chase birds and squirrels and eat treats all day long. His body will just be there, and the personality, the “spirit’ that you have called Barney, the one who, yeah, did like to lay on your bed at night, and who did like to eat Hormel Chili but not Manwich, and who, yeah, did get into the neighbors’ trash once in a while, that “personality” will die with the body. It’s impossible to separate them. They are a whole, a togetherness, and integrated union. Take your hands – lock them together in two fists. Can you figure – that’s it. See how, together, they make a strong, tight, compact bond? Well, take them apart, and what do you have? An empty palm. Nothing. Blankness. What used to be something.

And that’s how it’s going to be with Barney. His body will be “done”. His spirit will be “done”. At that point we can give him a burial, if you’d like, and I think it would be very appropriate to write a good-bye letter to Barney. Hey, you may even want to do that now, so you can read it to him. That way he can hear it, before he disappears, and then that can be your last, best memory of him. What do you think – are you up to it?

Composing a Story: Part 1 of X

Recently I have been writing a new story. Fantasy-horror, I suppose, though much more fantasy and not much horror. This is my first completed genre story in a while. I edited one in January, and have written some smaller things here and there, but this is the first time I’ve gotten to “THE END” of a story on my “potential topics” list in a while.

I won’t say much about it, but I will use a few posts here and in the next couple of months to chronicle how I’m going about crafting this story, how I’ll revise it, how I’ll plan to submit it. So: since I just completed the first draft and now plan to let it sit, I’ll just give a few thoughts right now.

Working title: Death at the Door

This will certainly be changed. “Death at the Door” was just a way for me to name it so I’d have something other than just a story number to remember it by.

Word count: About 11,400

So this is “long short story” or “short novella” length. But I like what has gone into it so far. My plan will be to cut at least 10% of the words for my next draft, then get some feedback, then rewrite as necessary. Sometimes this adds words, sometimes cuts. My expected final word count is somewhere between 9,500 and 13,000.

Writing days: 16

Started January 29, finished February 18. Skipped 6 days in the middle. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t writing. Most days I was working on something else.

Writing sessions: 17

I was aiming for 500+ words each day. Got that on Feb 13 with 2 sessions. Two days, on Feb 15 and 16, were 330 and 220 words. I was dealing with some other crap those days and didn’t make quota. All the rest were pretty solid. Today I made a big push for the end and got 1,900 words to finish it out.

Next Steps

I’ll let this sit for a while. I think in the rest of February I’m going to do a lot of writing practice (exercises, free writing, etc.) and also look back through some of my older, unsubmitted stories and see if I can pick out one to edit and finalize. Probably won’t come back to this until the end of March. After my revisions I’ll throw it out to a couple of review groups – maybe my Odyssey friends, maybe an online forum. Maybe by then I’ll have a local writers group who can critique for me.

After revision, I’ll start submitting. Because I would be thrilled to win, I’ve found myself submitting to Writers of the Future first for most of my stories recently. This one is no exception. But since I don’t expect to win, I’ll then send this on to Fantasy & Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, etc. Watch for updates later on this process.