Short Story Exercise: Swim Laps

(using this book, set a timer for ten minutes and wrote a short story relating to the phrase “swim laps,” edited lightly)

Lester kicked off the wall to begin his third lap. As the cool water flowed over him, the stress from his day melted away. Joining the YMCA near his office was probably the best thing he had done for himself in years. In the evenings, the pool was deserted. The loiterers and the screaming children had all gone home, allowing Lester to exercise in peace. 

At the end of his eighth lap he rested his arms on the edge and peered through the dark windows as he bobbed up and down in the water. What few stars he could see twinkled at him, and the pine trees in the parking lot swayed in a gentle breeze.

Lester rolled back and leisurely swam to the other side of the pool. Using a variation of playful strokes he made his way back towards the window, anxious to gaze at the stars a little longer. But when he got to the other side, he forgot all about the stars. Two shadowy figures were standing on the other side of the glass. Just then, the parking lot lights blinked out.

There was knocking on the glass, each blow louder than the last. It took Lester a moment to realize these people were not knocking; they were trying to break through.

Panicked, he started for the other side of the pool, the side closer to the locker rooms. But it was too late. The glass splintered, and with a final blow it shattered.

Two men in ski masks pushed their way through, dragging a large black bag behind them.

Who would rob a YMCA? Lester wondered as he tried to maneuver himself into the center of the pool where he was confident he would be safe. They won’t jump in, he reasoned. Not to rob a man in his swim trunks.

In fact, the men paid him no attention. They pulled the bag to the far edge of the pool, unzipped it and slowly tipped it over the water. Lester couldn’t be sure, but he thought he could hear them chanting. Curiosity took over and he watched with wonder as hundreds of furry brown balls dropped into the water. The second the balls touched the liquid they erupted into foamy, hissing bubbles.

Lester, understandably alarmed by the foaming balls in the pool, resumed his escape plan.

Planning 2017 In My Bullet Journal

This is my first New Year since I started using a bullet journal. A lot of people highly recommend starting a fresh journal for the new year, but as I’m not even halfway through my Leuchtturm 1917 I’m going to stick with my old one.

Here are the spreads I’ve come up with:

2017-goals

Whenever I set tangible goals or deadlines for myself, they tend to have the opposite effect. Read twenty-six books in a year? my brain says incredulously. Ha! Try none-six!

So I’m trying to simply adjust my attitudes and expectations rather than hold myself to a hard target.

peace-of-mind

With that in mind, I’ve added these quotes from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. When the world is getting me down, re-reading these will help reset my attitude.

I hope.

books-read

In an attempt to trick myself into reading more (because I honestly do want to read more), I made this grid. My brain loves to fill in boxes, so having this ready and waiting to be filled out throughout the year should make the prospect of reading regularly more appealing.

I hope.

 
money-challenge

I heard about this over on Boho Berry’s blog. It’s a financial challenge. Every week, you put a certain amount into your savings account and then color in the box. For example, if money’s tight, just toss an extra buck in and color the “1” square. If you have extra, throw in one of the bigger numbers and color in that square. By the end of the year, you will have tricked your brain into saving more money than you normally would have.

I’m sensing a pattern, my brain grumbled silently to itself.

 
i-am-what-i-eat
Being healthy is a nonstop goal. I’ve told my brain that my body is a hoarder. Anything I eat that can’t be used immediately is stored as fat, so let’s maybe only eat stuff I can use, mmkay brain? To that end, I’m going to fill in this grid with my diet staples, then in my daily spreads I can make bar graphs to keep track of how much I’m really ingesting each day. Sticking to this one will be tough.

Of course it will be. It’s probably the most beneficial spread in my entire journal.

 
wanted-spread

With the pending move, the list of things that we need is growing ever longer which means all the goodies that I want will have to wait. But my compulsive brain occasionally gets fixated on things and complains that if I don’t get it right now I’ll never get it. So this will be a place to list all of that “wouldn’t it be nice” stuff. Hopefully this will help me stick with that 52 week challenge as well.

month-in-review
My January month-in-review. I’ve started using an “If, Then” motivation system. I look at the previous month’s habit tracker and anything that I’m routinely skipping (like, reading and writing), I’ll offer myself a reward as motivation to do more of that thing in the coming month.

 
accountability-january

And here’s my habit tracker. I used to do this in a landscape layout but I got tired of turning the notebook all the time.

 
supplies

If you’re curious, here’s a list of the supplies that I use. Links are all via my Amazon affiliate account, but you can of course get most of these things anywhere. I actually got my notebook from Goulet Pens. Their prices were better and they have a much better color selection. And really all you need for a bullet journal is a notebook and something to write with; these are just the things that I use.

Leuchtturm 1917

Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens

Koh-I-Noor woodless colored pencils

Stainless steel ruler

Thanks for reading, and I wish you all the best in the coming new year!

Short Story Exercise: Escaping the Farm

(rolled a D12, took that number of random Rory’s Story Cubes, shook ’em up, dropped on table, arranged in order they fell top-to-bottom, wrote short story)

When Brandon came home from the bank, he walked straight past Daisy in the kitchen and entered his bedroom. There he emptied the envelope’s contents onto his old comforter and started counting. The teller had counted it, too, but he wanted to see it stacked, wanted to feel each piece of money in his hands. He formed a pile of twenties, a small pile of ones, then arranged the coins in descending stacks.

“So that’s what a summer of mowing lawns gets you,” Daisy said from the doorway, smiling and shaking her head in that sisterly condescending way.

Brandon crossed the room and shut the door in her face. She didn’t understand. Daisy had never had a problem taking money from their parents or their grandparents. But to Brandon, every cent he took hurt like a bruise, a mark of weakness and greed. He gazed at the money on his bed. He had earned every last cent himself, and no one could take that from him.

After a moment’s hesitation he toppled the neat stacks and swirled the money into a large pile. He pushed his fingers through it, squeezing an odd bunch of coins, crumpling a few bills together. He scooped it into his hands and rained it down onto the bed with a laugh. Satisfied, he gathered up his bounty and stashed it in the piggy bank hidden in his closet.

***

Brandon rose with the sun the next morning. There were chores to do before he left for school and the farm house was already humming with activity. Dancing around his siblings in the kitchen, Brandon managed to gulp down a mug of coffee and put a square of toast in his mouth before going outside. The older girls took care of the cow and the chickens and his little brother was on hog duty. Brandon was in charge of the sheep and horses. Their father was already in the fields riding the old John Deere and their mother, once breakfast was cleaned up, would tend to the dogs and the cats.

By the time his work was finished, Brandon barely had time to clean himself up and catch the bus. But he still rode to school with a smile on his face. This was the first day of his last year. One more school year, then he was free to leave.

After school he met up with two of his friends. They took turns riding a dirt bike until one of them managed to wreck it, dislocating his shoulder in the process. Brandon made it home in time for dinner, and then it was up to his room to count the money he’d been saving for years once again.

But when he pulled the giant plastic Coke bottle out of his closet, it was no longer full of money. In the poor light Brandon couldn’t tell exactly what was in the bank, but he knew his cash was gone…and he had an idea who took it. He hoisted the bottle over his shoulder and strode to Daisy’s room.

She was sitting on her bed painting her toenails with Katy Perry blasting from her stereo. 

“Give it back,” Brandon said, snapping the stereo off.

Daisy shrieked when she saw the Coke bottle. “No, don’t! I’m sorry, okay?! I thought it would be funny. Please don’t dump that in here!”

Still not knowing what was in the bottle, Brandon tipped it over her bed and said, “Give it back. Now. Or else.” He gave the bottle a little shake and a dead cockroach dropped onto her bedspread.

Daisy screamed and kicked, dumping nail polish onto the carpet. Brandon stared wide-eyed at the piggy bank. Now he could see the little legs, the brown masses, and he roared with laughter. Daisy tried to run out of the room, but Brandon blocked the exit, pointing the bank at her like a weapon. “Where’s my money?” he demanded.

“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry!!!!” She yanked open her closet door and dug through piles of clothes, shoes, costume jewelry and old Barbies. Finally, she dragged out one of her tall boots and upended it. Coins and wads of cash fell onto the floor.

“Where did you even get this many dead cockroaches?” Brandon asked, curious.

“My boyfriend. He got them. And filled the bottle up,” she said, red faced.

“You have a…boyfriend?” Brandon’s voice dropped an octave. “What’s his name, and where is he right now?”

Daisy made an exasperated noise. “You’re so stupid! I can have a boyfriend if I want. I’m old enough.”

Brandon put the Coke bottle on her dresser and calmly picked up his money. What wouldn’t fit in his pockets he could carry in his hands. He stood and said, “I’ll give you one more chance. What’s his name, and where is he?”

Daisy stuck out her tongue.

Brandon shrugged, called out, “OOPS,” and hit the Coke bottle with his elbow. When it hit the ground, the lid broke off spilling hundreds of dead cockroaches onto the carpet. Daisy screamed louder than Brandon could laugh, but at least he had his money back.

***

The following spring, Brandon was ready to go. He’d graduated from high school and had packed the few things he wanted to keep in a single sturdy suitcase. He said goodbye to his sisters and spent an extra few minutes with his kid brother to give him a “you’re man of the house now” pep talk. His mother was crying and his dad, well, he gave him a gruff “See ya later, kid,” before passing him a sweaty twenty dollar bill. Brandon’s gut ached at the idea of taking the money from his father, but he swallowed his disgust and thanked him. With a final nod to his siblings, Brandon stepped onto the green and gray striped bus that would take him far from the farm, all the way to another planet.

***

Eight months later, Daisy got a package in the mail. When she realized it had shipped from New Venus, she squealed and ran to her mother who was in the backyard hanging laundry on the clothesline.

“Mama! It’s from Brandon!”

Mother gasped and hollered for the other kids to come and see what Brandon had sent. To date they had only received signed postcards and the occasional money order, always with a promise that he would send more when he could.

Once everyone was gathered around, Daisy opened the envelope taped to the box. Brandon wrote, “Daisy, here’s something I picked up for you that reminds me of home. Love, Brandon.” There was also a money order, made out to his mother, and another promise that more was on the way.

Daisy handed the papers to her mother then tore into the box. Inside she found chocolate brown tissue paper, folded and closed with a fancy foil sticker that read, “Dark Chocolate Confections.”

“Oh my gosh, yum!” Daisy ripped apart the paper…then screamed at the sight of a dozen eight-inch Venusian cockroaches, dipped in chocolate and covered with sprinkles.

rory-escaping-the-farm

Short Story Exercise: Give Birth

(using this book, set timer for ten minutes and wrote a short story relating to the phrase “give birth,” edited lightly)

Henry stared at Callie. Callie stared back and grimaced. A small plop echoed through the chamber.

“How many does that make?” Henry asked.

“You expect me to count, too?” she growled back.

Henry shrugged and brought his foot to his mouth. After carefully sniffing it, he bit at one of his claws then began to lick the pads.

“Pay attention to me!” Callie hissed. Another plop.

He looked at her coolly. “You know the more of those you squeeze out, the more food I have to find.”

“Shoulda thought of that before you ate their daddy! Unh.” Plop.

Henry listened to the sounds of the tiny, squirming, hairless bodies beneath them. One squeaked pitifully. Already they were hungry. With one paw, he casually traced circles over his oblong belly, slid his tongue over his teeth, and sighed.

Plop.

“Henry,” Cassie warned, “I’ll give you the damn afterbirth but you are not eating the babes. Not again.”

He smirked. “Like you’d miss ’em.”

Cassie frowned and adjusted her bulk over the birthing stool. Gingerly she poked at her womb. Empty, finally. She raised herself up and looked into the pot. “Seventeen, eighteen…twenty two, twenty three…”

“One for you, one for me…” Henry muttered.

Cassie swung her hips towards him and with a grunt dumped the afterbirth into Henry’s lap. Then she covered the pot with her cape and rolled it to the back of the cave where she wouldn’t be able to hear him eat.

Short Story Exercise: Draw

(using this book, set timer for ten minutes and wrote a short story relating to the word “draw,” edited lightly)

It was high noon and the hot sun beat down on the quiet town of Burrville. At the south end of Main Street, Brawn McTuffest stood stock still, his hand poised over the six-shooter hanging from his hip. Facing him, roughly thirty yards away, was Tiny O’Smallhans. Tiny hastily wiped the sweat from his forehead then waved his right hand over the old Colt he’d shoved into his belt not twenty minutes before.

On the far side of the dusty road, women and children and mischievous old men waited for one of the gunslingers to make their move. The old men whispered back and forth as they placed their bets. The bored children kicked their feet in the dirt. And the women, careworn and hard-nosed alike, looked from one man to the other, and finally they looked across the street at Honey Flower.

“This is all that Honey’s doing,” the women whispered, clucking their tongues.

Brawn took a confident step forward.

Tiny shook in his boots and wiggled his fingers some more.

Honey, meanwhile, alone on her side of the street, considered her two heroes. Each had certain attractions to counter their flaws. She smiled across the street at the townsfolk who were plainly bothered by this display. Honey blew a kiss to the small group of young boys and then returned to her work.

Putting pencil to paper Honey continued with her drawing. She colored in Brawn’s dark hat and added droplets of sweat to Tiny’s face. She was just starting to sketch in the crowd when a gunshot rang out. Honey screamed when she saw Brawn drop to one knee. But the townsfolk erupted in laughter once they realized he’d shot himself in the leg.

Thanksgiving

I’m not very sentimental when it comes to dates. But I do appreciate the idea of the Thanksgiving holiday. Taking time to truly be grateful for everything that we do have is wonderful. Especially considering the year we’ve all been going through.

Here are the main things I am grateful for:

  1. My husband Jason.wedding
  2. My kitty Chloe.img_2250
  3. My counselor Erin.
  4. My parents.
  5. My job.
  6. My home, with it’s running water (that gets hot whenever I like), electricity, indoor plumbing, appliances, big trees in the yard, furnace and air conditioning.
  7. My reliable car.
  8. My access to the internet, and the way I get to decide which parts of it I see (mostly).
  9. My working computer and smart phone.
  10. The freedom to spend my free time as I like.
  11. The freedom to vote.
  12. The freedom to be disappointed in my government.
  13. The freedom to read and write and watch what I like.
  14. The ability to buy the medications I need to function.
  15. The promise of a better future.

I try to be considerate and thoughtful of everything I have each and every day. Some days it’s hard to see the good in anything. But as many have said, we each get to decide how compassionate we are every single day. We can choose to be kind, to avoid confrontation while defending what is right, to be accepting and welcoming of everyone and everything without judgment. And we don’t have to wait for a holiday to be the best version of ourselves we can be.

We’re all in this together, and if we work together, there will be plenty for everyone. I hope that someday everyone is able to be grateful for all of the things I am grateful for today.

 

Short Story Exercise: The Bugs on New Venus

(using the original set of Rory’s Story Cubes, I shook ’em up and dropped them on the table, arranged them in the order they fell top to bottom, and wrote a short story)

If there was one thing New Venus was famous for, it was the bugs. The insects that thrived on the blisteringly hot jungle planet were large, colorful, aggressive, and surprisingly tasty. In fact, the first successful locally owned business was Cho’s Chewy Blatts! Six-ounce bags of the sweet and salty treats disappeared from store shelves and were even highly sought after back on Earth. Other food companies have since descended on the planet, and now every conceivable type of food is made using Venusian insects and sold at high prices throughout the galaxy.

This consumption of insects was borne from necessity. There are indigenous stock animals on New Venus, like sheep and goats and something that resembles a pig. But they are smaller and more intelligent than their Earthly counterparts which makes them tough to catch, let alone domesticate. And so the immigrants survive by eating indigenous plants, insects, and food stuffs delivered from other planets. No one is hungry, but very few are satisfied with their new diet.

Carrie had refused to eat bugs from day one. She would raise her chin and loudly insist that all the bugs should be exterminated.

“Technically, the bugs are being killed…to feed us,” Aidan replied calmly.

Carrie hated his relaxed attitude. She hated the way he would try every new thing that was offered to him. She hated that he had taken a job on New Venus without even asking her first. And when he, calmly, told her that she didn’t have to go with him, she had burst into tears. And now she was living in this ugly dormitory with only freeze dried beef stew and ramen noodles to eat.

When she complained about that, Aidan would remind her that she could eat the local vegetables. But plants on New Venus were chock full of waxy fats to withstand the planet’s heat and humidity. Vegetarians on New Venus notoriously gained twenty pounds within their first month. Carrie wasn’t about to let that happen to her figure.

Before Aidan left for work that night, he kissed Carrie on the forehead and said, “You know, if you hate it here so much, you should just go home. It’s not like we’re married.”

“You want me to leave?” she sniffed.

He shrugged. “I think you should be happy.”

All alone and miserable, Carrie paced the apartment. She longed to go home, but she couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing Aidan again, or worse, seeing pictures online of Aidan with another woman. By midnight she was out the door and headed for the square. In an effort to avoid slashing and burning a large area, the company had arranged for the dormitories to be situated around a square. In it were the shops, offices, and  entertainment venues for the residents. The square was always open and always crowded. Carrie, stomach growling and drenched in sweat, marched across the square to the small shack in the northwest corner. There was only one sign on the door, a drawing of an eye.

Madame Serena had no other customers and listened patiently while Carrie described the ridiculous predicament she’d gotten herself into. When the girl finally stopped talking, Madame Serena patted her hand and said, “The fates tell me that you belong to Manhattan. A large, wealthy man waits for you there.”

“No!” Carrie wailed.

Madame Serena considered the girl, shrugged, and then waved her hands dramatically over the crystal ball on the table between them.

“Oh, look!” Madame Serena whispered. “There is another path you must take first.”

“Tell me!” Carrie cried.

“You will go on a journey,” Madame Serena said mysteriously. “You will cross a river, but do not let your feet touch the water. Then you must run, quickly, south, along the river bank. And when you cannot take another step, your heart’s desire will appear before you.”

Carrie stared at the old woman in horror. Run? Outside?

“Ah, our time is up,” Madame Serena said with a smile when the overhead light blinked on. “Good luck to you, child.”

Carrie regretted the seventy credits she had given the fortune teller. She trudged into the humid square with slumped shoulders. She didn’t even know if there were any rivers on New Venus, but the last thing she wanted to do was try to cross one. She wandered through the square, shying away from the endless vendors selling fried insects on sticks and congealed insects in cones and blended insect smoothies. She paid little attention as the path rose and fell signaling that she had, in fact, just crossed a bridge over a stream without getting her feet wet.

A flying orange earwig buzzed in her face. Carrie shrieked and swatted it away. Then she saw a crazed black billy goat running towards her from the thicket of palms. Panicked, Carrie turned south and ran through the crowd. Her fashionable stiletto heels prevented her from getting very far before she had to drop onto a bench, panting and sobbing.

Suddenly people were running around, pointing to the sky and shouting. Carrie looked up to see a man frantically waving and kicking as he descended on a torn parachute directly above her. The last thing Carrie heard was a man shouting, “Watch out!”

Paramedics rushed Carrie to the army field hospital where Aidan was called. When the doctor explained to him that Carrie’s head injury was too severe to treat on New Venus, Aidan signed the release forms to have her frozen and sent home to Manhattan.

rory-bugs-new-venus

About NaNoWriMo…

If I have to do something, I don’t want to do it. Doesn’t matter if it’s something I usually enjoy doing or if it’s a chore. Deadlines are a heavy weight that keep me camped on the couch doing anything but the thing I should be doing.

And so it’s day 17, and I’m still at 5,537 words. Only 44,463 words to go!

Technically reaching that 50,000 word goal is still doable, but I would make myself sick, miserable, and grouchy if I vomit-typed that many words in that short of time.

I’m still working on the story. My little notebook (with a fancy new spiral spine thanks to Office Depot [never buying a glue-bound notebook again]) is all decked out with backstories and character sketches and ideas.

nanowrimo-bolt

My daily total tracker. I planned to use red if I was below goal, and green when I exceeded the goal. The green colored pencil has become dusty. (Check out my new Bolt G2 pen from Karas Kustoms! Just got it today and I’m in love. Maybe if I was hand writing my book I’d be more willing to bust out those 40k+ words in a week and a half…)

But the next few months are going to be pretty dang stressful for me and I need to give myself plenty of downtime to do whatever will relax my brain.

So, NaNoWriMo, maybe next year. xox

Another NaNoWriMo Update

If you want to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you divide 50k by 30 and get 1,667 words written each day. And if you’re hitting the 1,667 daily goal, by day nine (today) you should have 15,003 words.

I’ve been sitting at 3,473 words for a couple of days now.

I could list many excuses as to why I’m not keeping up with my writing, but suffice to say, life happens. Writing is a great distraction, but lately my brain seems to prefer being distracted by reading, knitting, and drawing mandalas.

But don’t count me out just yet. The goal is still achievable. I just need to rally.

Buffering…

Quick NaNoWriMo Update

Day 3 of NaNoWriMo, and my word count is where it should have been yesterday morning.

Drat.

I didn’t plan well enough. I have a very basic outline: A to B to C, etc. I’m trying to segue into B right now, but I’ve written myself into a corner.

Should I tell the story from multiple points of view?

Or should I stay focused on my heroine and hope for the best?

The problem is, she’s basically a bystander that gets thrown into the story. But to set the story up will take more than she could possibly know during A. So, do I keep the reader in the dark and hope they don’t get bored, or do I make her a Mary Sue who can figure out what’s going on and/or magically get all of the players to confide in her? Or do I need to simply bounce around to different characters, major and minor, to paint the bigger picture?

Yep. Need more planning.

mandala

Spacing out while drawing a mandala is my favorite way to plot. If you’re interested, I use this circular graphing paper and these pens. Happy plotting and writing, folks!