29 August 2010

*Law of the City

Intro: I'm not exactly sure where this story came from. It was just my brain wandering. I may do something with the setting but I don't know if I will do something with the exact characters.

Heber City celebrated the nation's 700th birthday like every other city. People moved through the streets in herds. Even with the fast paced life, traffic was slow. More than once traffic jams occurred for weeks on end.

The small section of railroad tracks divided the city like an invisible wall. Though the unused track only extended a a short way through the buildings, the line continued to either end. No one crossed the tracks. There wasn't even danger of being struck by a train. The tracks hadn't been used for years. No vehicle needed tracks, or even roads, to move.

The city extended for nearly a hundred miles on either side of the track. From end to end the small city stretched for a hundred and fifty miles. Yet that number came from an old survey and it didn't include the suburbs which grew every year.

There are two different social groups: homies and drifters. Homies have a place to live. Drifters live on the tracks. They are one of the safest places in town.

Jarryn liked living on the tracks. Today, more than every, it was great. With the celebration going in town he had a great views. All he had to do, was get to the old railroad station before anyone else. With his pack slung over his shoulder, he jogged between the rails. Other drifters were already setting up to watch the parades go by on either side.

Blankets spread across the tin roof but Jarryn's small corner remained clear. His power was complete. Limited but satisfying none the less. He had been accepted as a drifter. Some of the others on roof nodded to him as he sat on the edge, his legs dangling off. The person next to him had the boots Jarryn drooled over every day in one of the nearby shops. By living on the tracks they saved more on rent and put it towards other items.

The parades went on for most of the day. The hover cars and floats were packed with people all dressed in some form of red, white, and blue. When the parades finished on one side, everyone turned and watched the other side of the city's display. The two sides always competed. That was why it was so great to be a drifter. The best of both worlds. And the worst. Get to cozy with one side and it would be dangerous.

As Jarryn and the rest of the drifters collected their stuff, a noise broke out in the crowd. A figure jogged through the milling bodies and up to the track. The drifters raised a hand in greeting but the figure kept going up over the tracks and into the other side of the city. Immediately a cry broke out and the man had to run for his life through the buildings. The Jarryn kept his head down and moved on. No use getting involved. It wasn't worth it.

That was the law of the city. People may live together but they did not share lives.

25 August 2010

Writing for Charity

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend a writing conference. The convention wasn’t large and mainly focused on the purpose; all proceeds went to purchase books for underprivileged children. A good cause in my mind but what really drew me was the opportunity to talk to authors. Those who know me know I like to talk, to those I know. Talking to strangers, let alone people I admire, is very difficult. This is difficult for most people. I didn’t want to go alone and ended up convincing one of my friends to come with me. It was a two hour drive both ways. We left early and got home rather late. Do we regret it? Not in the least.

I am pleased to report I learned some new things, won (by sheer pestering it seems) a reviewer copy of an unreleased book (which I finished in three days. It would have been less but I was needed at church and work), and talked (without too much stammering) to a half dozen authors for an extended period of time.

I’m headed to a (much) larger conference later this year and this whole conference was in preparation to go to that one. I’m raring to go, even more than before, which I didn’t think was possible. The only problem now is to finish editing in time and I’ll be required to talk to editors and agents as well as authors. There’s always something.

22 August 2010

*Perfect Chord

Intro: I helped accompany a musical number in church today. While I'm not truly an accomplished musician, I can preform moderately well. Though I have experienced many of these same feelings, I've never had this particular terrifying experience.

The lights are dim. The piano squats in the center of the stage. There is a breath of anticipation as the lights slowly brighten. Squaring my shoulders, I step from the side. The smattering of applause did nothing to still my heart. It drove the beating faster until it felt like my heart would exploded. The sleek hulking figure drew nearer with every hesitant step.

I adjust my skirt with shaking hands. Perched on the cushioned leather seat my hand pause over the keyboard. The audience breaths deep and waits. The notes, the rhythms jumble together. I can't remember the first note. My fingers, still inches above the keys, twitch. What was that first note?
The pause stretched on for eternity. My brain is racing. I close my eyes and breath deeply.

Gently I lower my still shaking fingers to the keys. The first chord is strong. It activates my memory. The notes, learned from hours of practice, flow freely. Even the tricky passage runs smoothly, though not perfectly.

There is only the piano and me. The song has never sounded more beautiful. Now, for the final chord, the mot often missed note. My fingers never want to play it right. Holding my breath I crescendo up and smash my fingers down. The applause is thundering yet all I can hear is the perfect chord. All of the hours, the tears, the frustration, and the money is finally worth it.

18 August 2010

Technology and Reading

I understand that many people are interested in purchasing eReaders. Here are my four reasons why I would not purchase one:

1. I prefer not to be restricted to an outlet. Though eReaders may have a long battery life, I can guarantee that my paperback book will last longer.

2. I don't want to worry about something happening to it and I never want to ever tell someone they can't borrow it because they might break it. If I drop it in the bathtub, a child scribbles on the cover, or someone accidentally knocks it off the counter, my paperback will be far less expensive to replace.

3. I don't want to worry about the books not being compatible with the next released model. I am tired of losing files due to corrupted files, I don't want to repurchase books because the next new thing isn't compatible with my current library. Unless I somehow forget to speak English, my paperback book survive the next technological advanced.

4. Last but certainly not least. How are eBooks suppose to be signed by the author. I have multiple books on my shelf that have been signed by the author. I will never forget waiting anxiously in line to get a chance to talk to one of my favorite authors and now having a personalized copy of their book.

With that all said, I'm not against owning an eReader. If someone were to give me one I'd certainly use it. They are handy for travel and when I need to travel light. However, in my mind, eReaders will never replace paperback books. It just doesn't seem practical.

15 August 2010

*The Yellow Duck

Intro: I wasn't sure what to write so I decided to take an ordinary object, a rubber duck, and turn it into something extraordinary. I hope you enjoy it. This is my first time writing in present tense. Well, that I can remember.

The yellow duck bobs in the water. I sink low. The water barely teases the bottom of my nose as I blow out my mouth. The bubbles from my flapping lips send the duck into another spin. I can never get him to fall over.

“Are you done yet?” My older sister asks.

The water in my bath is room temperature, the cue to get out. Mom never likes it when we take too long. Four children, two parents, a cousin, and a visiting family friend limit bathroom time. I scoop up Mr. Duck, I named him when I was only three, and dry off. With the towel around my waist and the duck in hand, I leave.

I keep the duck with me so my younger sister won’t play with him. She nearly broke him a couple of weeks ago. Made his squeaker blubber. Dad only fixed him because I was in tears. I never cry.

“No self-respecting nine-year-old would cry over a duck.” He murmured. “Would you like a matchbox car? How about some army men?”

I took the repaired duck and left. Mr. Duck has an honored place on my shelf. Dad still grumbles but never does anything. The shelf is high enough that I have to stand on my bed to reach it. If I don’t’ put him up high, he won’t be safe.

Technically, everyone else in the family had ducks. Well, everyone but the little destroying monster who always gets into my stuff and wrecks it. She wasn’t born yet when the packaged arrived on the door step. It had enough ducks for everyone in the family. A typed note lay on top.

“Please use daily. Thank you.”

Everyone in neighborhood received a box and a note. I know because everyone still talks about it. There was no trace of where the boxes came from or why. Some people threw them out immediately. My family brought them in. I immediately took one out and named it. My older sister and brother fingered them and said no thanks. I think sis said it because brother did. She always tries to imitate him.

All the ducks in the city are long gone, except mine. Well, I think Krissy down the street still has one but I don’t really know. Neither of us mentions the ducks because they aren’t cool.

Sometimes men in black suits come into town but they’re always thrown out. They talk about the city being dangerous, or something. Even I know that’s a lie. I sometimes wonder if they left the ducks and that’s why people hate them.

With Mr. Duck safe I go outside. The trees are bare, but everyone hopes the leaves will come back soon. It’s warming up. I don’t know when the leaves are coming back and I don’t care. Doesn’t change my life whether they’re here or not.

Since school’s out, there’s not much to do. Mom and Dad are always working or sleeping. My sisters are always busy in their rooms and even my cousin, who moved in a couple of years ago, rarely leaves the house. Mom says it’s because of the machine. The way she says it makes me laugh. I’ve seen the machine; it’s nothing more than a computer. I use to watch him play but Mom found out and made me stop.

We have a guest staying with us but he only sleeps here. I heard Dad complaining to Mom that we weren’t a hotel and they were either going to get paid or the friend could find another place to live. The friend came, the friend stayed. Dad always looses the argument against Mom. I once asked the friend what he did. He explained something regarding something. It has a long name and I don’t understand. I don’t ask for an explanation. People like him always talk a lot and never make sense.

I wander down the street with my hands in my pockets. There are only a few people on the street. Most of them move slowly about their yards. A few wave. I wave back.

No one answers at Henry’s house. Henry’s my best friend. Well, more of my third best friend but Steve and Charlie are sick. I’m Henry’s fourth best friend so it works out. I like his house. His mother always offers chocolate chip cookies. I don’t know who doesn’t like being here.

I try knocking again and press my face up against the glass. A figure moves slowly to the door.

“Robert.” Henry’s mom says. She coughs a couple of times then adds. “I’m sorry but Henry can’t play today.”

My face falls and I mumble my thanks. I jam my hands in my pockets and kick a few pebbles as I walk back to my house. If Mom and Dad find out Henry’s sick too, they won’t let me go back over. Once my friend’s get sick, I’m banned from their house. That’s the reason school’s out. Too many sick kids. At first it was fun, not having school. Not anymore. Now there’s nothing to do.

I spend the rest of my day in my room. Mr. Duck watches me read a few books and color. Later, as I help set the table for dinner, someone knocks on the door. I reach the door first; no one can keep up with my quick feet. Two men stand on the step, looking down at me.

“Robert?” One of them asks. “You need to come with us.”

I furrow my brow confused. “I need to ask Mom.”

“No.” The man says, grabbing my arm. “There’s no time, the filter won’t help anymore.”

My family only watches through the window, their faces blank. I’m set in the back of the car and Krissy looks at me her eyes red and swollen. We drive out of town. A man pounds in a large sign. Do Not Enter. Radiation.

The first tree we pass is completely covered with leaves.

11 August 2010

Summer Employment Part 2

With summer coming to a close, I figured I would have one last post about my joyous experience as an amusement park attendant.

Our uniforms were really simple. They gave us a colored button up shirt (pale green in color) and we had to provide khaki trousers. Nothing fancy really. I was glad that the shirts were light colored. One of the other sections (food if I recall right) had to wear navy blue shirts. As one who does terrible in hot weather, I was glad for the light coloring.

Another aspect of our uniform was name tags which had our pictures. I don’t know how many times that summer someone would call me by name and I would look at them expecting to see a familiar face. They would smile and I would remember I was wearing a nametag. The next year my family went to another amusement park on vacation. Oh boy did we have fun calling people by name.

Did you know there are height restrictions on rides for a reason? That there are some rides that are dangerous if someone is too small or too large. I worked a couple of rides that had minimum height requirements. You would not believe what parents tried to get past us. Little girls with their hair piled on top of their head, boys with hats perched extra high, children walking through on their tip toes. I don’t know why they got mad when I caught them. Then they would argue that this child rode on other rides with the same restrictions. Great. Many of us wished they would measure everyone at the front and give them different wrist bands coordinated with exactly which ride they could go on. That would make things much easier. (Can you tell I wasn’t really impressed with this employer?)

I once had a family boo me for not allowing their son (who was six inches too short) on the ride. Another set of parents complained to a manager because I put my hand on the top of their child’s head. They argued that I treated her like a doll and it was inappropriate. Oh, what happy days. Thank goodness for desk jobs.

08 August 2010


Intro: This story is like the Brothers story. It's a short story that preludes one of my novels. This one is from “Warehouse Seventeen.” And I'm sorry but it's a little longer than a thousand words. Not by too much but I didn't want to cut anything out. I hope you enjoy.

Jabber rubbed her eyes angrily. Blood dripped on her shirt from a split lip and her ear was sore because someone had torn out her earring in the fight. It was yet another injury that would be futilely explained away by lies. Not that Mister would believe the lies but he always pretended he did.

Traveling to Mister’s shop was easy for her. The city of catwalks and bridges was the only place she knew. Rising three floors and moving four buildings to the south east took nearly three hours. That was only because she had to avoid populated areas. Most people avoided her but there were enough that went out of their ways to find her. She always played it safe.

Mister’s shop was just around the corner. There was a group of several kids sitting lazily against the building and railing. Some dangled their feet into the open air while others let their legs stretch out nearly the length of the walk. Before she could turn and walk around another way, her vision changed. Red became green and the clear of the sky a shocking orange. The boys were no longer in sight. A lone figure ran away, their face hidden by strange white shadows. Another figure came around the corner, dressed in the sharp cut of a sentinel uniform. The sentinel looked her direction and his brow furrowed. He moved closer and reached out a hand. There was no pressure as his finger tips moved down her check but his fingers were coated a bright green.

He walked away, wiping his hands on his trousers and disappeared around the corner. Only then did she look down at herself. Before the colors righted she saw green covering her front and dripping onto the catwalk. Most of her shirt was gone and yellow and orange splotches covered her visible skin. With a blink, the shirt was whole and the splotches gone.

The visions were a part of her life. They'd always been a part of her life, and she hated them. Life would be better if she didn't know the future. Or rather, if she didn't know what wasn't going to happen. The visions never came true. Knowing what wasn't going to happen didn't make life any easier, or more pleasant.

Footsteps on the catwalk brought her out of her musings.

“Heya, cutie.” One of the boys. “Looking for a little fun?”

There was rattle as he held out a bag. Little white pills shifted together. She stared at the bag. Drugs were nothing new and every time someone offered, she refused. As she glanced up, the boy took a step back muttering a curse. Quickly looking down again, she moved backwards, raising her hands defensively.

“What's wrong with you?”

She didn't say anything and continued backing away.

“Freak.” The boy murmured. He stuffed the bag into his pocket but there was a faint clink.

She paused for a moment tilting her head to the side then moved away. It took another twenty minutes to get to Mister's shop. The boys didn't even look her direction when she ducked into the store.

“Happy Birthday, Jabber.”

An elderly gentleman stood behind the counter, a dusty apron tied around his waist. A small cake sat on the counter. She was amazed he fit ten candles on such a small surface. It was the biggest cake they'd ever had. Mister and her could each have several bites.

“Jabber? What happened?” Mister moved forward and gently brushed her hair out of the way.

She shook her head and the long hair fell forward, covering her eyes. “Nothing. Don't worry about it.”

Mister sighed and smiled softly. “How about I close up shop and we start celebrating?”

“But it's still early.”

“Don't worry about it. Today is a special occasion. Closing up early isn't a problem.” Mister smiled and moved towards the front to lock the door. “Just head on back.”

While Mister's back was turned, Jabber glanced in the till. There were only a few bills. The same amount that had been there for the last week. Once again, they were broke. With her heart in her throat, she moved to the back.

A small table was set with two plates and a small wrapped box sat on one side. She froze in the door but a gentle hand nudged her forward.

“Come on, hurry up.”

Mister's chuckle turned into a bone rattling cough. The cough had persisted for two weeks now but there was no money to visit the doctor. Neither of them mentioned it.

After a light dinner of cold cut sandwiches, she picked up the small present. Mister was grinning broadly as she carefully unwrapped the paper. She'd be able to use it for his birthday in a couple months.

“Lewis Carroll.” She said softly and carefully flipped through the book. “Thank you.”

Someone knocked on the door. “Leave the dishes where they are.” Mister instructed as he walked to the front. “I'll do them. You enjoy yourself.”

She looked through the book reverently.

“Where is she? Where are you hiding her?”

Mister answered in a murmured and there was a crash. She ran forward and saw Mister hunched on the floor, blood flowing freely from his nose.

“There she is.” One of the men called out. Without looking at Mister, she ran through the door. The men followed as Mister cried out behind them.

“She's done no wrong.”

Only by hiding in trash shoot did she finally loose them. It was nearly midnight when she stumbled back towards the shop. She stopped around the corner and hesitated. The image of Mister on the floor blood pooling under him brought tears to her eyes. He'd taken her in when no one else had and his shop suffered because of it. For nearly ten years the patrons visiting slowly dwindled.

As she sank down against the wall, something caught her eye. A small white pill rested on the center of the catwalk. It was the same type of pill the boy offered her earlier. A pill that could make her forget. Forget the screams of those who met her gaze and those who hated her.

It went down her throat easily. She leaned her head back against the wall and waited for life to improve. Her vision changed. It didn't invert it swirled. How long she sat there, she didn't know but strange visions passed through her eyes.

“Hey, look what we have here.”

“Mister's freak.”

A rough hand grabbed her hair but her limbs wouldn't obey. Something slammed into her stomach and she vomited the little dinner she had. As strange visions passed in front of her, the pain nearly blinded her. Finally she was dropped to the ground and the figures moved off. She glanced up through swollen eyes and saw a sentinel approaching. He knelt down and gently picked her up. As she was carried away she heard someone say.

“Thank you for finding her. She's my life.”

04 August 2010

Writing Process

My paternal grandfather has always been a big supporter of my writing. Whenever I would tell him something that happened he would nod his head, wave his finger and say “You know, that would make a good story. You should write that down.”

One day he made the comment that I should explain my writing process. So that is today. Not that many people are too terribly interested; I’m writing this for my grandfather.

At this point I’ve completed three novels (roughly 90,000 words each), halfway through three (all between 40,000-50,000), a handful of short stories (5,000-ish words), and a couple dozen flash fiction stories. I have plenty more ideas written down in my little book. Who knows when I’ll get to those but by golly, I’m going to try. So now that shows you how much/little I’ve actually written.

My writing process is as follows and I’ll use my novel Warehouse Seventeen as an example. First is to come up with an idea that can actually be intricate enough to reach 90,000 words.

I’ve always been fascinated by the ancient city of Mesa Verde. It was a Native American village built into the cliff face. The idea that everyone in the entire city moved around using long ladders and occasionally skinny walkways fascinates me. But why with rock, why not skyscrapers with catwalks and ladders? That was my first idea.

I’ve always wanted to write about bounty hunters. They are very hard and tough people and in the past they were kind of like SWAT, in my mind anyways. If there was someone who was extremely dangerous and the police couldn’t get, just put a bounty on their head and some tough hunter would take them down. So in my mind SWAT can be replaced by the Bounty Hunters. That was my second idea.

Ever read a book where there is a vision or prophecy and it basically spells out the rest of the story. All you have to do is figure out how to interpret the vagueness. While seers are really neat, they have become somewhat predictable. I created a seer that always sees false. The consequence of the action in her vision is always wrong. She doesn’t know what will happen but she knows exactly what won’t happen. That was my third idea.

So at this point I have my setting and my characters. Now all I have to come up with is plot. (In some of my books I come up with the plot first. Like a plague that is wiping out the population in a certain way, or a witness protection program to another dimension.)

From here I like to develop the characters even further. When I have all their stats figured out and neatly organized in a web, I try putting them in different situations. With the two main characters as a seer and a bounty hunter I needed to determine what could connect them both. The villain.

With characters, plot, and setting I begin to write. I am most definitely a discovery outlinist. I discovery write the first half of the book towards an ending. It’s clear in my mind and I know exactly how it is going to end. However, it never fails that once I get to about 40,000 words the ending always changes, dramatically.

Once I figure out the real ending I outline towards it. My outline just consists of writing the order in which things need to happen. Never in much detail but enough of an idea of how to get from point A to B.

(I really didn’t mean for this post to go on for so long, sorry.)

I learned recently that I’m really odd in how I write. I write from beginning to end. I never jump around and I rarely go back and add things until the whole book is finished. I’ll make notes of what I do need to add and when I start revising I’ll go back in. Every book I’ve tried to write in segments has never been finished. (That isn’t why the three aren’t finished. I still plan on working on those but other projects got priority. I have plenty of notes on how to finish them. One of them is my current project and is coming along great.)

I hate letting people read stories that are incomplete. Now that I’ve said that, I’m in a writing group where I am writing a story and letting them read it. Though what they’ve said hasn’t been detrimental, or even influenced my story, I hate telling them one idea then telling them a new idea the next week. I told you, I’m a discovery writer. I have no solid idea of what is going to happen next. People suddenly get girlfriends, and others suddenly die. Hey, I’m just as surprised.

My other writing groups get to read chapters of books I’ve already finished. I like listening to them trying to figure out where I’ve gone with it. If they can guess the ending too soon I know I need to change it.

So anyways, long post, that’s how I write. It is the same whether I’m writing a novel or a short piece. For great ideas on writing try listening to the Writing Excuses podcast.

01 August 2010


Intro: This story is not what I usually write but I wanted to try something different. For those who are interested, I’ve had three jobs where I’ve worked in cubicles, and while I don’t truly mind working in a cubicle, I’d much rather work in an office. I think most people feel that way. However, I’d much rather work in a cubicle than outside in an amusement park. *shiver*

You ever go to an office and see all the little ants, working hard, nose to the grindstone. Living in those ‘idea friendly’ dedicated spaces, also known as cubicles. Maybe you are an ant, plugging away, day after day, in a small box. If you’re lucky the walls are short enough to look over when standing on a stool but tall enough to pretend separation of groups. Never you mind that every little spoken word can be heard; from one seat over to across the room. As is always pointed out, the open space invites brainstorming, when talking is in moderation.

Doesn’t matter how the ‘portable office’ is presented: fancy cloth coverings, non-rectangular design, optional add-in shelves, and white boards. They will forever be a box. Not everyone needs and office, not all the little peons need a door, but there should be the small decency to call it what it is. Cubepolis.

Work is for work. Play is for home. That is clearly understood but unless robots are doing all the work, there will be conversation. If the company is lucky, the majority of the conversation will revolve around work and the occasional personal conversations will help boost morale. If the company’s not so lucky, they get to post signs, hold meetings, beg, plead, threaten, and bribe their workers to keep everything business related. But, in Cubepolis, that is impossible, for the human nature is not one to be squashed by three walls, no roof, and no door. No, there is a coping mechanism in place, the ability to converse.

Cubepolis can be considered a pleasant place, the fewer the stories the better. When people discuss living in Cubepolis, there are problems. This is part of the squeaky wheel idea. Talk long enough and maybe your punishment will be separation from the others. Locked away in the corner office where no one comes to visit. But then you have a door.

No one truly likes living without a door. With so many interruptions, other people, beeping devices, more beeping devices, having a door is a security blanket. Think about it. So much can be said with a door. Slamming it shut, leaving it wide open, listening through it. The thought brings up the question of how we ever survived without them.

Enough about Cubepolis. The ants will continue to work, even if two of the three walls are taken away. Projects will be finished. People will forever complain. Life will go on. But don’t worry; all of these will be discussed, in Cubepolis.