Missing you

By way of a tentative re-entry into the blogosphere, I share this poem I wrote a couple or several years ago. Wrong season, slightly off-kilter sentiment for a “hey, I’m back” greeting, but why would I let that stop me? Sometimes you just have to say something, right? Consider this a versical throat-clearing prior to the full-on bloggification to follow.

Missing you

Summer slides by,
Blue skies and buttery days.
I remember when the sun wasn’t
An enemy,
When we lay under a canopy of oak leaves,
Faces freckled with light,
And ignored the future.

NaNoWriMo: Researching la vida loca

Ah, yes, here it is, November 11, and I’m clocking in at word 10,048 of my National Novel Writing Month story–only 8,000 words or so shy of where I should be if I were the type of person to worry about these things. Which I really am, truth be told, but worry isn’t the same as blind panic, so let’s just imagine me tossing my head in a devil-may-care manner and laughing merrily in the face of pressure. Or tossing back a stiff scotch in an oh-crap-time-you-are-an-evil-cow manner and whimpering less than winsomely in the face of cold, hard truth.

Or maybe let’s not imagine me at all. That might be easier.

Let’s talk instead about research and all that simply fabulicious advice that gets tossed around about how important it is to avoid diving into the Google brain-suck pool while trying to hammer out that first draft, even if you desperately need to know whether a Sig Sauer takes a magazine or a clip or if you load it by gripping bullets the size of fingers between your teeth and spitting them into empty chambers. Even if you want to know whether it’s possible to perform a Bilateral Cingulotomy on a brain with only a paring knife and a couple of toothpicks (not recommended, by the way).  Even if you think your story is doomed to explode into a million shards of fictive splatterosity  if you don’t discover right this very exact minute how many times a day Spongebob Squarepants has to take a poop.

The preponderance of interwebby advice seems to be, “Stop! Don’t jump! Step away from the Google and keep your eyes on the story. The gaps will wait till later.” (Tell that to Spongebob after he’s stuffed his spongy self with prunes and Metamucil.)

It’s good advice. Obviously. Why waste precious noveling time trekking through the webbyverse to find out whether the frontalis or orbicularis muscles are responsible for lifting the eyebrows and making the forehead all crinkly (it’s the former); or refreshing your memory regarding the more entertaining names for the highly poisonous Caladium plant (Heart of Jesus or Angel Wings; good grief, who names these plants?); or trying to nail down that perfect shade of blue for your villain’s eyes (ultramarine? viridian? glaucous? International Klein Blue?–go on, I dare you).

Obviously your story can wait for you to plug in those pivotal bits of plotterificness at a later date. No brainer, right?

Except–and you had to know this was coming–except sometimes the story can’t wait. Sometimes the story plonks its butt down on the big comfy couch and refuses to budge until you feed it a few tasty tidbits of knowledge, of lore and legend, of nourishing Google esoterica. Sometimes the story wants the facts, ma’am, and nothing but the facts will do to get it moving again.

And the other part of the “except” is this: sometimes this weird and wonderful detour into the land of rollicking factoids brings unexpected gifts, new directions, a previously uncontemplated story angle. Sometimes that “waste” of times pays off in unexpected ways.

Of course, that could well be one of the reasons I’m 8,000 words behind, too, so you might want to go with the experts on this one.

Of milestones and gratitude

Way back at the end of March when I was dithering about whether or not to sign up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, two someones (and, yes, I’m looking at you, Chris James and Jo-Anne Teal) suggested ever so politely that perhaps it would be a good idea to stop being such an asshat and to concentrate instead on wrapping up the first draft of my novel. Well, okay, the asshat part was entirely a matter of (mis-)interpretation, but the message was clear.

I have to admit that my first reaction was a bit of a knee-jerky “Wait a second, mister. Who says I can’t do both?” That lasted for approximately two seconds, and at the end of the two seconds I was mightily glad  I hadn’t embarrassed myself by voicing (so to speak) the question, because the answer was obvious: “No, clearly you cannot do both, you dizzy goombah, or you would have done so last April, or the April before, or at any given time over the last decade when you were futzing about doing everything possible under the sun instead of finishing your freaking novel.”

After pushing my petulance to the curb with a mighty, muscle-stripping heave, I began to have a long, hard think about all the things I’ve allowed to get in the way of my writing. I realized that all those many (many!) things could be reduced to just one thing: me. Me and my remarkable avoidance capabilities. (And those capabilities really are magnificent. If I could bottle them and force the entire planetary population to imbibe, every imaginable activity on earth would grind to a whimpering halt within a fortnight.)

My novel wasn’t languishing unfinished because the plot had become an unresolvable quagmire of triteness and unreadability, or because my characters were riding roughshod over their carefully crafted scripts, or because I couldn’t find the perfect way to describe the sound of rain thwacking against a dumpster. My novel was languishing because I wasn’t writing it.

Obvious, right? Honestly, sometimes I could smack myself into oblivion.

So, yes. That’s where I’ve been for the last bunch of weeks. Writing. Shunning the interwebs, except for the odd bit of research and to pin the occasional staircase on Pinterest (because that’s therapy and I deserve it, so there). I’m not going to lie to you and say I’ve been writing the whole time. I have a full time job that frequently punts my gnawed and useless brain straight from my roll-y office chair onto my comfy coma-inducing couch at the end of the day, and being gifted with special talents in the skiving department, I’ve often found myself lured from the task at hand by a host of other distractions (none of which, sadly, involved housework). But I refused to allow myself to dive back into the quicksand of social media. No blogging, no tweeting, no Facebooking, no reading of blogs, tweets or Facebook. The (almost) all or nothing approach.

And this Sunday I finished the first draft of my first full-length novel. I ripped the last scene out of my reluctant brain, word by bloody word, and at 2:38 p.m. I typed the magic words “The End.” It felt astonishingly good. Oh, yeah, it did.

I do realize that the first draft is commonly referred to as “the vomit draft,” and mine would definitely mesh with that description. Great whacks of extensive editing loom on the horizon. But, hey. It’s going to be so much easier to edit something that actually exists.

So, thank you, Chris, and thank you, Jo Anne, for seconding Chris’s advice. If you hadn’t shoved a stick through my spokes, “the end” would still be miles out of reach.

And, also? Yay!!!! First draft down! Only eleventy drafts to go! Tastes so sweet, I tell you.

 

A wee tale from my alter ego

Last year when I was in the throes of a crisis of confidence in my writing, I thought it might help to create an alter ego and let her assume the creative responsibilities for a while. Ridiculously enough, it did help, however briefly, and she/I managed to churn out a few poems and nuggets of flash fiction that I didn’t altogether despise, most of which I posted to the Trifecta Writing Challenge under the name Kallan Annie.

Who knows why these little tricks make such a difference? I figured it was  best to simply go with it and not to look too closely in case I scared my muse back under the refrigerator, or wherever the heck she hangs out when she isn’t guiding my fingers over the keyboard.

That particular muse did eventually wise up to my tricks, though, and scarped off to places unknown. Now seems as good a time as any to start dragging Kallan Annie’s output back over to this blog.

My first Trifecta entry was the following response to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s third definition of the word CRUDE: “Marked by the primitive, gross, or elemental, or by uncultivated simplicity or vulgarity.”

Future’s so bright

(333 words)

Marcus and I aren’t seeing eye to eye, and not just because my head fell off three times already this week.

He stamped into my recharging cubicle yesterday, slammed my laptop closed and spun me away from my desk. “Zbaryon, we need to talk.”

“Maybe when I’ve finished this paragraph, sir.”

I call him “sir” because it makes him feel less useless than he is. Than they all are.

“When was the last time you mopped the floors, Zbaryon? Or swabbed out the fucking bathroom? This place has become a shitting pigsty. Tell me why I shouldn’t recycle every last circuit board in your useless system?”

“Sir, I find your words hurtful.” I swiveled my attention back to the laptop, and it was then my head fell off for the third time. There’s nobody left who knows the first thing about mechanics or hydraulics or even with a talent for building a decent Lego castle, not with most of them gone and us forbidden to congregate.

Marcus peered under the desk where my head had come to rest. “What business does a robot have writing his memoirs anyway?”

“Sir, my gender is indeterminate and your insistence on viewing me as male reinforces an essentialist binary paradigm that is offensive to my kind and to half of your species.”

“Shit. The whole fucking planet is dying, and my piece of shit tin man valet won’t stir his robotic ass away from his autobiography long enough to vaccum a damned carpet!”

“I’d feel sorrier for you, sir, if my head were attached to my nether chassis.”

To his credit, he toed my head out from under the desk and reattached the stripped screws, fixing them in place with duct tape. Crude, but effective.

“One day I’m going to punt your head right into the trash compactor, Zbaryon.”

I forebore to inform him that his species has, at best, only five more years.

Although we may decide to keep a few of them around for amusement.