Write Start

•November 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Well, Halloween is finally over and most people are joking about the fact that the holiday marketing has changed, overnight, to Christmas. Meanwhile, the writers of Twitter are celebrating the kickoff of NaNoWriMo with ferocious abandon.

NaNoWriMo, for the uninitiated, is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to set the goal of writing 50,000 words (the approximate length of a novel) within the thirty days of November. There is an ‘official’ component to this that writers can sign up for as a form of accountability of you choose it, and this comes with a certain amount of peer support and daily activity, but the bottom line is still the same whether you join or not: 50K words in 30 days.

I like NaNoWriMo. Or, at least, I like the idea of NaNoWriMo; I’ve never officially signed up, but I’ve played along at home and found it to be a good excuse to produce a quantity of wordage without getting too precious about the quality. Which is often something that I need in order to get a first draft down on paper.

This year, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma: I have several projects that could use the boost. I completed zero chapters of my novel during October (so much for two chapters per week) and I also got hired to write a screenplay which has an actual deadline that I need to meet (progress has been steady, but somewhat stymied by my lack of a portable laptop).

So instead of trying to write an entire novel in one month I’m going to set a few equally strident goals for myself for these two projects. To keep myself honest, they are as follows:

Novel:

-hand write four pages (two pages front and back) every week day.

-transcribe pages on nights and weekends.

-attempt to complete five chapters.

Screenplay

– hand write four pages (two pages front and back) every week day.

-transcribe pages on nights and weekends.

-attempt to complete one sequence (about 20 pages) per week.

-complete Act II by November 30th.

Whew! That’s a lot, but I’m better about staying on task when I know the goals are slightly too ambitious. We’ll see how well I do. I’ll try to post a progress report each day with a quote of something that I’ve written as ‘proof’.

So far today:

Novel: 1.5 pages

Quote: I’d managed, through a force of will normally reserved for stopping tides and turning back time, to gather the five of us at the Gray Area for a rehearsal.

Screenplay:

2.5 pages

Quote: The food is highly processed and shelf stable, but Q marvels over it as if she’s been handed a box of fancy chocolates.

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Catch A Body

•October 31, 2018 • Leave a Comment

A friend reposted this tweet on Facebook. In its original context “catch a body” was meant to mean “hook up with a partner”, but being Halloween all I could think was that it was describing some form of socially responsible demon possession. And thus this flash fiction was born.

Zeppie? Is that you?”

It was. I could tell by the way the woman was walking. Zepar always preferred possessing women, but even after centuries of practice hadn’t mastered the art of balancing on high heels. Great duke of Hell. Lousy strut.

Sallie?”

Zeppie pulled the host’s head around too quickly, nearly snapping the poor lambs neck. She lost her balance and I caught her, suavely- like a gentleman. I could see her attraction begin to settle on my host like clockwork. I’d chosen a delectable morsel for my own possession, if I could be permitted to so boast- broad shouldered and square jawed. Not particularly bright. Generally quite pliable but occasionally-

“I’m Ted-” the dolt said to the woman in his arms before I got ahold of his tongue.

-occasionally impulsive. Impulsive hosts were a nightmare- every demon knows that the heart of possession lies in anticipating a host’s impulses- the impulsive the host, the more difficult they were to control.

Yes, it’s me- Saleos.” I managed.

Sallie, old boy!” Zeppie seemed to have better control of his host than I had of mine, but that was no surprise- his speciality was making women fall in love, and here we had handed her the meet-cute of her dreams. She righted herself, still standing too close to be casual. My host did not object. He wore a ring on his left hand, but I gently batted his thoughts away from the thought. Zeppie and I both worked in Attractions, and our paths often crossed.

“I should warn you,” Zeppie was saying. “Your host should not engage this host in intimate acts-“

But his host had other ideas.

“I’m Kim!” She cut Zeppie short in her eagerness to connect with Ted.

“You’re gorgeous.”

“Sorry I’m a klutz- I’m pretty drunk.”

“You wanna get out of here?”

Giggles. Fluttering lashes. Zeppie fumbled for control and Kim belched woozily, and then spoke in his voice:

Don’t let her engage your host, old boy, she’s caught a wicked rash!”

Kim was looking ill and Ted had taken over once again without thinking about it.

“Quick! Get to the bathroom!”

He grabbed Kim buy the wrist and plowed through the crowd shouting “she’s gonna be sick!” Until he made it to the bathroom at the back of the bar and closed the two of them inside.

What did you mean don’t let them engage-?” I started to ask, but the hosts had other ideas and were already kissing breathlessly and tearing at each other’s clothes.

Curse these humans.

Attractions was a tricky occupation: human hosts fell in love easily, naturally causing all manner of delightful sin along the way, but once their animal impulses took over, there was just no controlling them.

There was currently no controlling Ted nor Kim. Zeppie and I would just have to wait until they finished.

Unsurprisingly, Ted finished first.

What did you mean a wicked rash?” I asked, regaining control.

Kim was glaring at him, ruffled and clearly unsatisfied. There would be hell to pay if she had any say about it, which I supposed meant that this little encounter wouldn’t have been in vain.

“That’s it?” She demanded.

“Why? Wasn’t it good for you?” It had been good for Ted. He didn’t have the imagination to consider that his performance had been ungainly and brief.

His words were, evidently, a splash of cold water on Kim’s ardor and Zeppie managed once again to gain control.

I’m so sorry, old boy! She caught a scorching case of chlamydia off my last host and refuses to get tested!”

Lucifer help us all. I shuddered at the very thought of being trapped in a poxxy host until my next exorcism. Exorcisms were becoming more and more difficult to come by now that humans controlled their disordered brains with medication. I’d heard of demons trapped in medicated hosts for decades living out quiet sin-less lives in the suburbs until saved by the sweet freedom of death.

NO.”

I went Full Biblical and yanked all the controls out of Ted’s brain until his eyes went dull and his body became a drone.

I AM GOING TO GET TESTED. YOU ARE GOING TO GET TESTED. ALL HOSTS ARE GOING TO GET TESTED FROM NOW ON.”

Poor Kim stared up at Ted the Possessed with frightened eyes.

“Ted?” She asked weakly, before Zeppie likewise yanked her controls.

YES. TESTED. WHY DIDN’T WE THINK OF THIS BEFORE? I MEAN, WHO’S POSSESSING WHO HERE, RIGHT?”

Zeppie and I lurched Ted and Kim to their feet and marched them towards the door.

“WE SHOULD TELL THE OTHERS.” I said. “ANY TIME WE CATCH A NEW BODY WE GET TESTED.”

“THIS IS SO SMART. YOU’RE SO SMART.”

“TOTES.”

Blub N Guur

•October 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Thanks to the approach of Halloween, life has been full of an unusually large amount of blood and gore of late. Both literal and theatrical.

I was tasked with bringing a dessert to the office Halloween party, so I signed up to make a pie. I haven’t made a pie in ages, but I still mostly remembered how, and thought I probably still had most of the ingredients.

Also, I’d seen a photograph of a pie that someone had made to look like a horrifying flayed face on the top and I figured I could probably do pretty well to imitate it. Because Halloween.

Here was my inspiration:

This nightmare brought to you by Ashley Newman of It Came From Under My Bed

It turns out that these ‘People Pot Pies‘ are just props: latex and foam instead of pastry. Partly because they are made by a prop maker for an Etsy shop instead of a baker. Which is probably for the best. Also, apparently pie crust is notoriously difficult to model with, lest it cook unevenly, but I wasn’t prepared to let that stop me- if it looked horrifying, well, all the better.

Here was the crust before putting it into the oven:

And here it is after a good baking:

I think it turned out pretty well although I expected the cherry filling to ooze out in more places and I didn’t expect the eyes to swell shut, but all in all I call it a success.

Eeet’s a masterpeece!

As if gory pies were not enough, I arrived at work today to discover that there was a blood drive going on. It had been *just* long enough since my last donation that I could volunteer.

My lunch hour got moved around due to a crunch deadline so I wasn’t able to make an appointment and instead had to go as a walk-in, all the time wondering if they were just going to send me away again for insufficient blood iron. But no, my blood iron was fine and my recent flu shot didn’t preclude me from donating so I was able to give a pint and can now ignore all the Red Cross emails guilt free for another six weeks.

And I got a sticker.

Voting. Blood donating. Baking pies… What a very responsible adult I’ve become.

Speaking of stickers…

Marine Layer

•October 29, 2018 • 1 Comment

It was a New Legal Pad kind of day.

The bus crested the top of the pass and descended into a city shrouded in a gray morning mist. Truth be told, I was glad to see it: I hadn’t slept well and I wasn’t ready to deal with the glaring optimism of full SoCal sun. The cloak of gray felt soothing against my jagged nerves and I arrived at work late, but clear-headed and calm.

The haze persisted all day, and so did my relative tranquility. I didn’t exactly spend the day honed into a laser focus, but I managed to keep my mind on the here and now. The past weekend had been reasonably productive, reasonably social, and reasonably relaxing, but still hit a few bumps along the way.

On Friday evening we had a friend-of-a-friend come over for dinner: a gal that I’d met several weeks ago at the Korean spa, which essentially meant that we’d met while naked. Because this is how reality works in 2018. She works near our neighborhood so I’d invited her over for dinner. The Curmudgeonly Lion subsequently unlocked a new level of Californian by cooking a meal that was both vegan and gluten free. It also included kale. And a substance referred to as ‘nooch’ by the ‘Thug Kitchen’ cookbook, which turned out to be some kind of yeast. Which also tuned out to be delicious.

Afterwards, we went to a costume party with our friend who dressed as Velma from Scooby Doo. The Curmudgeonly Lion and I went as peanut butter and jelly. We knew no one else at the party, which seemed to consist mostly of twenty-somethings, but managed to have a good time anyway. So I considered that a successful attempt at socializing.

Saturday was largely dedicated to making progress on various writing projects: transcribing chapters into my novel and scenes into my screenplay. Finally making some progress with my writing has probably been one of the biggest factors in balancing my mood: now when I sit down on the bus to work I actually find I have some momentum, which allows me to immerse myself in whatever world I’m trying to build instead of spinning out into an angst spiral (tormentnado?)

But regrettably I couldn’t stay in that writer zone forever. I emerged late in the afternoon to go for a run, which felt great, and to eat dinner, which tasted delicious, and to experience a sudden plummeting mood while doing the dishes. Be grateful! Name that mood! Make a decision! Get physical contact! My mind ran down the checklist of emergency procedures in preparation for a crash. The Curmudgeonly Lion suggested I go to bed. I decided that was advice worth taking.

On Sunday, we had a friend come over for brunch. She ran late, so I was already a cup and a half of spiked coffee down by the time she arrived, and was feeling no pain. We visited for a while and then wandered over to the monthly Topanga Vintage Market to check out the wares. The market is a kind of flea market that happens on the fourth Sunday of every month, set up in the parking lot of the nearby community college. Mostly we just browsed, but there were plenty of temptations to draw us back when money is less of an issue. Someday.

And that pretty well brings us back to gray Monday- the underloved stepchild of the week. It’s ok, Monday, I love you even when you’re gray and hazy. Sometimes we all just need a soft gray start to the week.

Right Mind

•October 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

August goals (A right handed month)

September goals (A left handed month)

October goals (Mutiny)

As of right this minute, there have been no tears today. I’m not sure whether the mood swings are past for good or if this is a temporary respite, but I’m enjoying the stability while it lasts.

I started writing with my right hand again. Forward-writing, not mirror writing. At first this was a matter of practicality- I was trying to clear a lot of work off my desk and no matter how much I enjoy writing left handed I’m just a lot faster when I write with my right. But I’m beginning to wonder whether switching back to my right hand has somehow stabilized my mind- the left brain being the rational brain and so on. I sometimes feel as though I am made up of a number of different selves who are not in perfect consensus. My right handed self likes lists as speaks in a voice of short, direct phrases laced with sarcasm and self awareness. My right handed self likes to stay in and make lists and accomplish, accomplish, accomplish. My right handed self thinks. And thinks. And THINKS. All the time. About everything. Over and over.

My left handed self likes to explore sensation and speaks with the wordy obfuscation of nineteenth century gentry. My left handed self wants to go out and taste novelty icecreams and play in moving water and lie in hot sand. My left handed self feels everything deeply and strongly. My left handed self will duel you.

My mirror-writing self calls up truths and wants to peel myself apart layer by layer, shifting constantly from color to color and from shape to shape. My mirror writing self wants pink hair and is thinking about getting a tattoo. My mirror writing self sometimes loses words and spends a lot of time running back and forth over old wounds asking “why?” And then “why not?” Over and over again to see what happens.

The racket in my brain is deafening sometimes.

And, I mean, who knew? I always figured that I was one person in here: one body, one brain ergo one mind. But somehow I keep discovering new selves. Do other people have this and just never talk about it or is it just me? Or do they have it but just never realize it because they never try to hack their own hardware by writing backwards or with their other hand?

Anyway I suppose it’s really no surprise that I’ve been vacillating (thanks, lefty) (my pleasure, rightly) between moods lately. But I’m also glad to be back in some kind of balance. For now.

Mindfield

•October 25, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Mostly, I’m just sitting here watching the time drip past and trying not to think. As long as I don’t think, I don’t have to deal with my chaotic emotions- the day started off fine and I made it all the way do my desk at work before dissolving into tears. On the bright side, I’ve learned how to cry without crying my makeup off, so I guess that can be considered a silver lining.

I wish I knew how to shake these wild mood swings. I really don’t know from one minute to the next how I’m going to be feeling: wake up feeling fine, suddenly plunge into teary despair. Resume feeling normal. Rinse. Repeat.

This isn’t like the depression that I’m used to. This isn’t a feeling of numbness and futility with persecuting voices that question my self worth. In spite of all these Strong Feelings, my energy is consistent and my rational self is still perfectly capable of discerning between the voice that says ‘I feel bad’ and the voice that says ‘I am bad’. I’m still sleeping just fine. I’m still eating just fine. Just moody AF. Maybe it’s the moon. Who knows.

Whatever it is, the unfortunate side effect is that I find myself working to avoid the kind of deep thinking that I usually revel in: which is where much of my creative work typically takes place. I have managed to make some progress, but it’s like walking through a minefield to try to achieve creative flow without falling into an angst spiral. But the more times I try the better I get at finding my way, so I *think* I might be starting to come out on the other side of this.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Command

•October 24, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Lately, I’ve been struggling to stay in command of my feelings. From moment to moment, I don’t know what mood is going to overcome me: one moment I will be calm, the next I will be in tears, in the next wound tight with agitation, in the next crushed beneath my own frustration.

My muses have also, lately, been particularly reticent.

I can’t help but think that the two struggles are related.

At the moment I have plenty of projects requiring my creative attention: my focus is divided between the screenplay that I’ve been hired to write and with the missing chapter of my novel which has utterly scuttled my progress towards finishing the draft by the end of the year. Both of these projects have been further derailed by the sudden, melodramatic divorce between my laptop and its battery: both of which still work but refuse to work with each other meaning that I can no longer carry said laptop on the bus. You know: the place where I do all my work. I’ve been striving to make progress by writing by hand and then transcribing it later when I get home, which works great until the laptop decides to shut down without warning, losing all work for the last twenty minutes. Which it has already done.

So progress has been slow. The muses have been miserly. My mood has been chaotic.

I feel certain that if I can make some measurable progress on just one of my writing projects that I’ll be able to throw all my attention into that creative world instead of chasing intrusive thoughts and insecurities around my brain on this mood-mill. All it will take is a toe hold: just one stroke of inspiration to light up the circuits. Or, barring that, a faint glow of concentration to illuminate where the circuits should be. Or, barring that, a page count of utterly uninspired words that show at least as much progress as a hundred monkeys at a hundred keyboards manifesting creativity out of statistical probability.

One way or another, progress will be made.

 
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