Writin’ Update (No Turkeys Required)

So, November 30 has come and (almost gone) and I did not reach the 50,000-word mark to win the #NaNoWriMo challenge. However, I have nearly 40,000 words of a first draft that I will turn into a fully formed book someday soon, something of which I can be proud. The first draft of “Exit Oasis” will be finished before New Year’s Eve and, hopefully, a real book will be done by early Spring.

On another note, several months ago I was asked to submit a short story to an anthology assembled by a friend of a friend and he liked it. That book, “Losing the Map” by Jim Corrigan, Editor, is now ready for purchase/download. Jim put a great amount of work into this during some difficult times, and the fruit of his labor is outstanding. I’m proud to be a part of it. My small contribution was fun to write. It’s a fun piece inspired by a crazy diner conversation about two years ago. Someday, it will appear in a novel in a different form, but the story stands on its own for now. The theme of “Losing the Map,” was, loosely, travel, and since I never take the easy or most direct path… well, my story comes from the fringe.

I encourage you to check it out, whether by ordering the printed form or the E-book, not only to ready my insane ravings but also to read some pretty good stuff by a good group of writers.

Here are the links:

Booklocker — http://booklocker.com/books/7792.html

Barnes and Noble — http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/losing-the-map-jim-corrigan/1120832500?ean=9781632635952

Amazon — http://www.amazon.com/Losing-Map-Jim-Corrigan/dp/163263595X/

If you do read “Losing the Map,” please let me know what you think and, if you like, spread the word.

Cool. You can get back to your life now.



8 Days Remaining, I Win AND Lose

With just over a week to go in the #NaNoWriMo challenge, I fear that I will not reach the 50,000-word goal, which means I would lose. Well, that I won’t win #NaNoWriMo2014.
However close I get, I’ll also win because I’ll finish with a cohesive and clear first draft, the kind that draws out the beginning, middle and end. It will mean that I can comfortably spend the next few months bleeding onto the page with a purpose, polishing and expanding the little world I’ve created called, “Exit Oasis.”
This is good, win or lose. It’s all in how you play, right? Or, in how you write, right?
Carry on.

November Writing Progress

I’ve been plugging away, sewing together and rewriting some random scraps in hopes of producing a fully formed first draft of a novel, which I’m currently calling “North Bradley Grocery,” or “Exit Oasis.” I know. I guess I’ll have to pick just one. I don’t like those pretentious double titles, the ones that scream, “I couldn’t pick a title, so I used two!”
As of today, I have written more than 10,000 words. I know where the story is going and I know exactly how it will end. Today. Of course, all of that might change by the end of the month or upon future rewrites. Still, I think I have something.
If nothing else, I have this pretty cool icon that I am allowed to use on my blogs or anywhere else.
Maybe a tattoo?
More to come. At some point soon, I will post a summary of what this thing is all about. In the meantime, I have at least 40,000 words to go and 25 days to do it.

Ready to punch out the letters in November

Along with about 200,000 other writers, I will embark on the road to writing a 50,000-word first draft of a novel as part of the November’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It should be fun, grueling, scary and, hopefully, fulfilling. I’ll try to update my progress here, though I’m responsible for about 1,600 words a day.
Now, if I can only pick one of five fairly solid ideas to go with…

Fun with Fiction: Behind the Cheese

He was upset and she knew it.

Life was slow and boring and he couldn’t take it anymore. She never really knew what to say to him when he was like this, so she stopped herself before speaking. Maybe he would snap out of it. Maybe he would smile and let the so-called problems roll off his back like the rain.

He kicked a clump of dry dirt away. There was no escaping it now.

“I am sick of this place.”

She held her tongue a little longer, hoping, praying, that he would come around.

“Wish I was never born,” he whined. “The boredom of modern life is too much. I don’t do anything. I don’t have any say in what goes on. Nothing much is expected of me. I have no skills. No function, really. It’s like I am part of the background. The color. Wallpaper.”

He looked at her with disdain and she knew what was coming next.

“At least you can do something,” he said and she nodded. “Dairy products. You make cheese. At least that’s something to hang your hat on. I just loll around, make a few new kids once in a while with you or that scene queen, Darla, and that’s the extent of it.”

He kicked a little more dirt around and sighed.

“Otherwise, I have no life.”

That was enough. Betty thought there was something wrong with him, but she’d heard this song before. Many times.

“Look, Billy, I’m sick of hearing you bitch about your life, day after day,” she said. “Year after year. If you hate it so much, get out. Leave. You know where the door is. Do it. Live on your own, but you won’t find it any easier out there, past the gates. You’ll be alone. Out in the cold. Chased by wild animals. Eating whatever scraps of food and who knows what else you’ll find on the ground. Tin cans! You’ll be back.”

Betty was right. He did say the same things and complain all the time. It was so easy for her. She had a career. A function in life. He didn’t and it was time for a change. He knew it. Maybe he was just trying to find the courage to do something new and take control of his life. Couldn’t she understand that?

“Betty, I’m scared,” he said. “I’m not happy with myself and I don’t know what to do. I would love a new life, but I’m too afraid to leave the farm and strike out on my own. I don’t know what I would do somewhere else. I mean, there’s gotta be more to life out there in the world, but what would I be? Who would I be?”

She thought about that for a bit, ate a little salad, and spoke.

“You’d still be Billy,” she told him. That clanged Billy’s bell. He kicked over pail of old rainwater with his hoof and chuckled. The bell around his neck clanged again. Betty smiled.

“Hah! I’d still be Billy with no life, no job, no home and no clue. What good is that? I’d rather be Billy the One and Only, so’s I can drop my seed all over this farm, so’s that we can have more milkers like you, so’s that Hank and Emily can make more cheese and sell it to that snazzy gourmet shop down in Topeka for who knows how much than be Billy With Nothing.”

Betty was happy. She’d seen this conversation with Billy wrap up the same way countless times. Even down to the “drop my seed all over this farm” part. He was over it, she reckoned, for another few days or so. She thought he might be getting horny again. A good sign, and after a few minutes, conception. Betty wasn’t that impressed, but was glad she was able to help Billy out.

Soon after they were done, one of the farm hands came over and filled the trough. There was a scream and he went running over to the sty. Later, Billy and Betty heard that Dottie, that whiny little twerp who sang all the time out by the tractor had fallen off the fence and into the pig pen. Justice served. Of course, someone pulled that vapid simpleton out of there eventually. She was still singing about somewhere over the rain cloud or rain bucket or something as her auntie wiped the pig shit out of her hair.

Then the dog ran away.

A couple days later, a big tornado came and tore the place up. Dottie got knocked out and was in bed for a while. The guys drew a mustache on her face while she was sleeping. Her Uncle Hank was in there a little too long one night with her and Aunt Emily gave him hell the next morning.

Billy thought that it was all very funny, but Betty was too busy feeding the kids to notice. After a few weeks, one of the pigs came around talking revolution.

Billy was up for it.

Finally, there would be something to do.

This vs. That

Early morning, hot coffee, flipping through a food magazine and I noted some food-porn pictures of glorious edible artwork served at some of the nation’s best restaurants. Really, looked like the kind of stuff that people always say, “it looks too good to eat.” I’d be afraid to eat some of them, afraid in the same way I’d be afraid to to touch a painting in a gallery to check out the texture. These chefs go to great lengths to display perfection, using tweezers and paint brushes, sometimes creating food that doesn’t look real, other times putting something that seems casual and random but is actually choreographed chaos.

And then there was the picture of a roasted maple-miso salmon head (this was in Bon Appetit), adorned only with a few sliced radishes and scallions, a dusting of sesame seeds and a brush stroke of white sauce and a few dots of red (each of those last two might taken a little too much thought, but you get the idea). Bold. How dare a chef put such food on a plate? The outright balls of it! The audacious, mad genius!

Somehow, that picture reminded me of a trip to Paris, 10 years too long ago, when after trying this pretentious restaurant and that, we stumbled on a bistro and after a few glasses of wine, I found myself facing down a bowl filled with incredibly rich and simple lentils topped with a pork shank. Bread on the side. A jar of grainy mustard on the table. More wine. That was it, in all of its enlightened simplicity.

So I’ve been thinking about differences this morning, differences between simplicity and complexity, chaos and order, overrated and underrated, boldness and subtlety. For example, Fred Gwynne was funny and bombastic and over the top in “The Munsters,” but he was controlled, understated and far superior in “The Cotton Club.”

Are flaming Thai Bird Chiles really better than jalapenos, or just hotter? Is truffled lobster mac-and-cheese better than a grilled lobster with lime and butter? Is a short rib/brisket/sirloin burger with foie gras, a fried egg, edible gold leaf, guanciale and wine-braised ramps on a house-made pretzel roll better than a ground chuck burger with American cheese on a potato roll?

“Voodoo Chile” or “Little Wing?” “Born in the USA”or”Nebraska.” Buck Cherry or Jeff Buckley? The Jam or Pearl Jam?

“The Lords of Discipline” or “The Prince of Tides?” “Twilight” or “Dracula?” “The Beach” or “At the Shores?” “The Good and the Ghastly” or “Brave New World?”

Does any of this make sense, yes or no?

Flipped switches

The Zumba girls were dancing badly to The Pretenders‘ “Precious.” Terrible. No sense of rhythm.

Wait a minute. “Precious” was blasting through my headphones. Blasting through my headphones as I worked on the elliptical machine. It was the only machine available and I felt funny taking it since it was the closest to the classroom where the ladies of the day were grooving to some anonymous song. I had never seen Zumba and was curious. I also found it distracting that they were all dancing so badly to the song running through my head.

Call me The Sweaty Voyeur if you must, but I am pure of heart and soul.

Someone on an elliptical machine two spots to my right was apparently running from hungry wild animals, all settings on full blast. On another, a twenty-something woman was walking backwards while talking on her wicked-smart phone. People of all shapes and sizes, rippled dudes in Iron Man t-shirts, lithe women sweating after seven hours on the treadmill, gym employees checking out the crowd, men of my certain age and older in various stages of health and acceptance, some bewildered that health and conditioning had become so impossibly out of reach, passed as I trudged my way up and over an imaginary, hilly path.

The silent dancers in the glass-enclosed classroom struggled to find the groove of The Pixies‘ “Where Is My Mind” that now sluiced from the iPod Shuffle through my cheap headphones and into my sweaty ears. Didn’t they hear it? What was their problem?

For the record, my playlist today on the elliptical and the torture machines, went like this:

The Pretenders, “Precious”
The Pixies, “Where Is My Mind”
Jimi Hendrix, “If 6 Was 9”
The Rolling Stones, “All Down The Line”
The Rolling Stones, “Brown Sugar”
Faces, “Stay With Me”
Bush, “Everything Zen”
David Essex, “Rock On”
Living Colour, “Back in Black” (cover)
Screaming Trees, “Shadow of the Season”
Band of Skulls, “The Devil Takes Care of His Own”
Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City (Live)

Today, somehow, switches flipped in my head to the “on” position.

This was Day 1 in search of health and Day 1 of coming to grips with the concept that I will be doing something new for a living, leaving some things behind while mining for new crown jewels. I had been orbiting these ideas for weeks, months: lose weight, get healthy, keep writing the book, reinvent yourself, study hard that social media and believe you can play that game. Get your boots on and your big boy pants and stop whining and worrying, start doing and trying and taking aim.