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!

NaNoWriMo 2016

National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, happens every November. The challenge is to start a novel on November 1 and write 50,000 words by November 30. There’s a website with a supportive community, forums, locally hosted write-in events, and swag to buy. If you hit the target, you’re considered a winner and for that you get bragging rights.

Ever since I heard about NaNoWriMo, I’ve made annual excuses as to why I couldn’t possibly participate. This year was shaping up to be no different.

Excuse #1: I need to finish editing that book I already wrote.

Excuse #2: I need to spend my free time preparing for the pending move.

Excuse #3: I…need to…um…

But the fact is, I haven’t touched my old book in months, and there’s not much more I can do to prepare for the move short of packing all the things, but since the move is still a few months away there’s only so much packing I can do. And honestly, I could use the distraction.

So I grabbed my trusty notebook full of book ideas and picked my favorite.

book-ideas

Any time I have an epiphany or an idea for a story, I jot it down in this notebook. I love this little book even though it’s pretty darn impractical. It has stone paper, which means it’s made of limestone and resin. It feels incredible and is virtually impossible to tear. But it’s also nearly impossible to write on. Fountain pen ink puddles on the surface. It will dry eventually, but the one and only time I used my fountain pen in this book I had to leave it open overnight to dry. Ballpoint pens don’t like to work on it either, and they etch the letters into the paper in addition to ink. Fortunately I also love felt tip pens, and they work on this paper no problem.

Idea chosen, I started to prepare. That meant picking out a blank notebook (my favorite part).

nanowrimo-notebook

This is one of those Denik notebooks. They have a lot of fun covers and a portion of the profits goes to schools. Unfortunately the binding is pretty awful. It won’t lay flat, and it will barely stay open. I have to use an alligator clip to keep it open to the page I want.

Anyway, I rewrote my initial idea on the front page. Then I made a list of characters and named them. My book takes place on a cruise ship, a submarine, and an island, so I gave each location a page and did some research on each so I would have some idea of what I’m talking about. And then I came up with a rough outline for the story.

I added a brainstorming page, for all those times when I get ideas for the story and need somewhere to jot them down. I have a page filled with questions that will need answered. And I’ve started some character sketches.

I numbered 30 pages with the intention of putting 1/30th of the outline on each page. I thought that way I would have a set number of scenes to write each day. But then I remembered that sometimes I get into a rhythm and will write for hours. If I got “ahead” on my outline, my procrastinating brain would take that as an excuse to take a few days off. Don’t want that! Instead I’ll use those pages to summarize each day what parts of the story I wrote. Then I can refer to it the next day rather than rereading what I wrote which would lead to compulsive editing.

nanowrimo-tracker

I plugged this graph into my bullet journal so I can keep track of how I’m doing word-count wise. To hit 50,000 words, you should average 1,667 words per day. But I’m not going to cling too closely to that. If I hit 1,667 and still feel like writing, I’m going to keep writing. Fifty-thousand words doesn’t make for a very long book, and I want to actually finish the story by the end of the month. I want to prove to myself that I can write a book quickly.

My last book (which I’ll talk about in a different post) took me three years to write just the rough draft. I’ve now been in editing mode for more than a year. That’s pretty discouraging. If I can crank out this rough draft in thirty days, I might start to feel like a writer again.

Short Story Exercise: Fly a Plane

(using this book, set timer for 10 minutes and wrote a story using the phrase “fly a plane”; lightly edited)

This was the first time Janet was able to sit in the cockpit.

She’d read all of the manuals, she’d attended lectures, and she’d watched a flight happen from the control tower. But today it was her turn to sit in the copilot’s seat. She wasn’t supposed to touch anything, and that was fine with her. Janet wasn’t in any hurry to crash her first plane.

Her instructor, Randy, took the controls. He pointed out the dials and the switches and gave his pet names for the various instruments. Janet did her best to absorb everything he said, blending what she’d read with what she was seeing in front of her.

The engines started, clearance was given from the tower, and the plane lurched forward. Janet obediently held the co-pilot controls, but her gaze was focused on Randy and everything he did. He seemed to operate on instinct rather than actual skill, as though the plane was just an extension of his arm.

The speed picked up and Janet was pushed back into her seat. She felt every bump in the runway through the stick and her stomach tingled nervously. Finally, they achieved lift and soared into the golden blue sky of dawn. Janet laughed in spite of herself. This was a feeling she could get used to.

Randy expertly banked the plane pointing out the flat farmlands spread like a quilt beneath them. They then climbed higher and higher until they hit cruising altitude.

“Janet,” Randy said casually. “You’re flying this plane.”

“What?” Janet laughed. She looked over and saw Randy’s hands folded neatly in his lap, his feet tucked under the seat. Janet screamed and jerked in her seat, and the plane immediately responded.

The nose pointed straight down and they were picking up speed. Janet, still screaming, could hear Randy chuckling in her headset. “YOU ASSHOLE!” Janet yelled.

Right before they reached the point of no return Randy took hold of the controls, rolled the plane on its side, and pointed the nose back up.

“And that,” he howled, “is why every wannabe pilot should spend his first year in a crop duster!”

Meanwhile Janet, her hands clamped to her seat, heart in her throat, started crying, which only egged him on. He made loopty-loops and repeatedly dive bombed towards the ground. When they finally landed, Randy obligingly stuck out his chin to her. Taking the cue, Janet slapped him as hard as she could.

Short Story Exercise: Cross a Street

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

John stepped out of the Grand Hotel and looked at The Oriental across the street. It was mid-afternoon, but the saloon was already bustling. The wind, hot and dusty, pushed against his face and tugged at the brim of his hat. His guts churned and his palms were sweaty. His left eye was still swollen from the swing Curly Bill had landed the night before. If John didn’t show his face in The Oriental tonight, he might as well get on out of town and that right soon.

John crossed the narrow porch and descended the wooden steps. He held his chin high as a group of men on horses trotted past, eyeing him curiously. John forced his shoulders back and stepped onto the dirt.

Measuring his pace as he crossed the road, he met the eyes of each man lounging on The Oriental’s porch in front of him. He brought up one corner of his mouth and gave a small nod to Mrs. Jensen peeking through the curtains of the general store. She pursed her lips and shook her head at him.

John casually glanced over his shoulder and saw the coach racing towards him. The horses looked bound and determined to trample him. But John remembered his audience and maintained his pace.

The driver shouted. Mrs. Jensen pounded on her window. John stepped onto the boards of the sidewalk just before the coach lumbered past.  He waved to Mrs. Jensen and tipped his hat to the dumbstruck men on the porch.