Quick Fix Story: Galactic Goo

Thank you, Taylor Eaton, for the writing prompt this morning.  It made scrubbing Norm’s slobber goobs off the wall much more entertaining!

Galactic Goo

A human’s natural instinct is to take cover when danger appears. Solid walls and a ceiling are preferred. This is what they did the first time the ships descended and hovered over our city. The vast circular shadows triggered street lights and pandemonium.

People crushed each other in their haste to cover themselves in hopes of becoming invisible and thus safe from whatever may emerge from those flying plates. In under and hour the streets were silent. Humanity held its breath and waited.

All at once, beings with octopus legs and bodies bounced from the ships, dangling from bungee like ropes, or were they extra tentacles? Each blobby body had one bright green eye and seemingly no other features. They were silent as they swayed on their cords.

People pressed their faces to windows, surprised the things hadn’t attacked yet, then stumbled backward in terror when the first blasts struck the panes. Loud smacks filled the air as mucousy slime slapped the surfaces of each and every building. I remember catching a glimpse of cavernous maws gaping on the octopus bodies after a thick loogie slid down the sliding glass door of my duplex apartment.

The aliens’ barrage lasted no more than twenty minutes, then they bounced back into their ships and disappeared. By the time they left, every surface was coated with their goo. Horrified and disgusted, no one emerged from their safe hiding places. Power flickered on and off due to the weight of the slime on the lines. Calls were made, and soon crews in hazmat suits appeared to take samples.

I decided the best thing to do was to get comfy. I pulled out my ancient typewriter, grateful to my newspaperman grandfather for hanging onto the beast that didn’t require electricity. I clacked away, describing what I had just witnessed. This was unreal. I was freaked beyond measure, but the rhythmic beat of my words hitting paper was soothing and I was soon lost in my story. Until a chunk of ceiling crashed onto the dining table across from where I sat. Upon impact, the plaster disintegrated. First it was powder, then simply gone.

My eyes flew to the watermelon sized hole over my head just in time to see the cracks beginning to race along the surface of what was left of my ceiling. The place was coming down. I bolted. I slipped and fell in the slime that coated my small courtyard, and as I regained my balance, I watched as all the buildings around me crumbled and vanished.

The screaming was overwhelming. I covered my ears and slogged through the mess, not sure where I was going. I was exposed, and who knew if those bouncing beasts would return. Surely they would, I realized. Whatever secretion they used to plaster our shelters was meant to eat them away, thus exposing the people within. We were ants without a hill, just waiting to be stepped on.

I wondered if buses could be used to transport people away from the site, but then became aware that all the vehicles were gone too. Curiosity overrode fear bringing me to a halt. I looked down at my bare feet. The crowd continued to churn around me, individuals knocking into me as I studied my toes. There was no pain. In fact, the slime was solidifying. I was standing on it, rather than in it now. It was tacky like a booger, and I grinned as the light bulb came on in my brain. This stuff was not toxic to human flesh.

I raced over to the closest hazmat suit, waving my arms and yelling frantically. “It’s not toxic!”

The giant yellow figure turned to me, holding me at arms length with a covered hand. “Stop right there,” the muffled voice commanded.

I looked around to see the other suits avoiding being touched by the hysterical masses. They thought they were the only safe ones and feared being stripped of their protective barriers.

Something wet splatted on my face. My stomach clenched and my heart raced. Certain I would see dangling octopus aliens when I looked up, I was surprised only to see raindrops and clouds. The drops grew larger and fell faster, soaking us all. The dousing slowed the crowd, and the noise died down. The coating under my feet began to feel wet again, and soon the mess was viscous again. I wasn’t the only one who was noticing. Others were staring at the sidewalk. Within minutes, the mucous began to dissolve and the concrete of the sidewalk dug into my skin. I laughed because there was no other response that fit.

Walking a slow circle, I observed those around me making the same conclusion. If water could dissolve the goo, could it also defeat the aliens? Hope and determination replaced the terror in the people’s eyes. Those ships would return, but we would be ready.

 

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Awkward

Swept Up is done-I think.  There’s the awkward right there:  I think it’s done.  The beta readers have spoken.  They love it, there were just a couple parts that needed some fleshing out.  I’ve fleshed, reworked, and smoothed the rough spots.  Now it’s just sitting in my computer waiting to make it’s way into my editor’s hands.  Meanwhile I should move on…

I started drafting my second novel in early December.  I love this project, I think about it all the time, but for some reason I’m unable to really dig in.  You see, I’m a finisher.   I don’t start a new book until the last page has been turned in the one I’m currently reading.  This seems to be carrying over into my writing.  Swept Up is as done as it can be right now, but it’s not OUT THERE yet.  I worry I should be doing something with it, checking it one more time to make sure it’s the absolute best it can be before Angi sees it.  However, I’m in that dicey place where too much tinkering will wreck it.  I stress about if I get involved in my new manuscript, I will overlook something in my first one.  So, I will just sit here and be awkward for a couple more weeks, putting words in my journal, reading, praying that Swept Up is as awesome as I think it is.

Back to Basics 2014

For some reason this year end post is not coming together.  This is the third time I’ve written it.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m exhausted from Christmas fun or I’m just in a different state of mind.  Since my writing plan for 2014 is to return to the basics, really dive into working on my craft and not getting overwhelmed by the rules of self-publishing and all of that, I am posting a list of things I’m going to do and some resources that inspired this list.

1. Re-read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

2. Remember even if I never get paid for my work, it’s still worth doing.  Writing is my passion.  I’ve been telling stories my entire life.  I can’t stop now.  Thanks for the reminder, Hugh Howey.

3. Words on a page, any page, count as writing.  It’s okay to leave the laptop at home and spend vacation time simply journaling.  There is something about a pen on real paper that restores my creativity.

4. Work on my stress management.  I’m starting my year out by taking Sandra Pawula’s Living With Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress e-course.

My hope for this time next year is to be celebrating two published novels, or be very close to that goal.  I have finally been able to embrace my writing career and I cannot wait to see what it holds!  I realized in the latter part of 2013 that staying calm, managing my stress, and being true to myself allows my creativity and productivity to soar.  I look forward to applying those principles in the upcoming year.

Sending Out My Baby and What’s Next

I finished the first draft of Swept Up about a month ago.  Then I dove right into the editing process.  Some people call this entering the revision cave.  I’d hoped to have first round edits complete by December 1, but with Thanksgiving and other life crazies it took me an extra ten days.   The process was intense, but very satisfying.  I got to know my characters on a whole new level and the story really fleshed out.   Last night I pressed send releasing my baby to seven trusted beta readers.  Now I wait while they decide if this piece has what it takes to fly.

Releasing my manuscript doesn’t mean I’m just sitting around the house waiting to hear back from my readers.  I have a whole list of writerly things to do.  I’m in the process of putting together an interview with my editor, Angi Black.  I can’t wait for you all to meet her.  She hasn’t even seen my manuscript yet, but she’s already become a cheerleader/therapist as I go through this process for the first time.  I also have a holiday themed Quick Fix Story rattling around in my head, so stay tuned for that.

In between making my own words, I’m planning to settle in with some Christmas stories.  At the moment, I have Shanna Hatfield’s Christmas Cowboy queued up on my kindle.  Debbie Macomber’s Starry Night: A Christmas Novel is on deck.  I hope you all take some time to pour a glass of wine or hot chocolate, snuggle in a warm blanket, and read a good book during this cozy season.

 

Grateful for My Writing Tribe

This week promises to be chaotic for me.  C is out of school all week for Thanksgiving.  Even though we aren’t traveling and plan to keep the celebration low key with just a few close friends, I feel overwhelmed.  I love having the extra time with my daughter, but my stomach hurt before bed last night wondering how I was going to do it all: entertain her, clean the house, errands, and make progress on the novel’s edits.

My Spark and Tinder group has been focusing on the word priority this month.  Knowing this week would be nutty, last Friday I decided I would skip a blog post so I could devote all my work time to the book.  That helped my stress some.  Then I got up this morning and put on an EntreLeasdership podcast with Dave Ramsey and Seth Godin while I cleaned the kitchen.  They got to talking about generosity in business, which made me start thinking about all the kind and generous souls I have met in the writing world this last year.  I knew right then I had to write this post.

When I decided to indie publish my work, I stepped into the deep end of a pool.  The idea seemed so simple until I really delved into it.   Because someone said I needed to, I started a twitter account.  Slowly I made friends, read their books, and started asking questions.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  In many industries new faces mean more competition.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover the writing community to be open and excited to help.  So, I’m going to use my little corner of the Internet to thank the people who took time out of their busy lives to answer my constant questions with patience and grace, allowed me a little time on their blog, and those who jump in the writing trenches with me to keep me motivated and encouraged.  I am truly grateful for you all.  Thank you!

Angi Black

Leigh Ann Kopans

J. Elizabeth Hill

Courtney Carver

Hugh Howey

Robert Wall

Elayne Griffith

Simone Linke

Jason Cantrell

Von Malcolm

Skye Fairwin

AnalyticalAnna 

Tim Oliver

Maria Mora

 

What Schedule?

When you decide to work for yourself, people tell you that you need to set aside work hours.  You must show up at an appointed time, do your business, and move on.  That’s what happens out in the public domain, right?  I’ll admit, I have never thrived with a rigid schedule.  Now, I know my mother is laughing her head off right now, because I’m such a planner, but hear me out.  I’ve had some great jobs working for other people, but I always felt stifled, especially creatively and over time I grew to resent my lack of freedom.  Looking back it’s obvious because I wasn’t doing the work I was created to do, however each of those experiences shaped me so I could be ready for where I’m at now.   Since I came home over two years ago, I realized I kinda liked the free flowing rhythm of my day, and I got  irritated when people messed with it.

About a year ago, I decided to make writing my job.   I battled with when to clean the house, do errands, and where to squeeze in some writing before C came home from school.  Those were all issues when I worked outside the home, but since I was here and writing wasn’t paying me yet, I felt obligated to get those tasks done first.  I scoured books and blog posts about how to set up the best writing schedule.  Most writers insisted early morning was the best time to write.  I should have known right there that I was going to buck the system.  I am not an early riser and can barely think myself into a pair of slippers before seven a.m.

Since August, I’ve loosened the reigns on my work schedule.  Who am I kidding, I just let go of the reins!  And you know what happened?  I finished my novel’s first draft in record time!  I found myself drawn to my office and the words tended to show up then too.  I released my need for a model home clean house and found I was able to keep up with my chores without being stressed by them.  My whole self was flourishing.  I worked when the muse moved me, and the more I wrote the more ideas I had.  Which, in turn meant I spent more time in the office.  The job atmosphere I had been trying to build for months just created itself when I let go.

Being the over achiever that I am, I started to wonder what would happen if I could take this success to the next level–carve out more writing time and increase my productivity.  That would get me through this book process faster and onto the next one.  Brilliant idea, Kayla!  I was so excited I shared my plans with my Spark and Tinder group.  They applauded my commitment.  Within twenty-four hours I hit a wall. The constraints I put on myself sent my creativity into lock down mode.  My brain was so consumed with trying to figure out how to fit everything in there was no room for words.  Work became a struggle.  My anxiety began to rear its ugly head.  Add that to some other things that were floating around in my life at the moment, and I had set the perfect storm for a meltdown.  It culminated with being awake most of the last two nights.

Once again, I approached my faithful Spark and Tinder group.  They came along side me with encouragement and reminded me there was nothing wrong with what I was doing before.  This morning I took a nap after C went to school.  I did some reading in The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer (highly recommend to those trying to break free from anxiety), and I spent an hour doing yoga.  I interspersed writing in my journal throughout the morning.  A few hours of self care, and though I still felt a bit hollow and sore, I was ready to rejoin the world.

My lessons:

1. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to mess with a good thing!

2. Not every formula works for every person.  We can read how-to books until our eyes dry out, but at the end of the day we have to embrace what works us.  I tend to take snippets from several people’s approaches and cobble my own.  This is not only true for my work “schedule”, but also for my writing style and technique, parenting, you get the idea.

Do you abide by a strict work schedule or are you a free spirit?

Quick Check-In: Some Firsts

Hello, friends!  Popping in real quick to say I’ve been buried in finishing the first draft of Swept Up.  Whoops!  There it is…the title of my first novel.  I’m hoping the first draft will be complete by November 25, then it will be time to crawl into the infamous revision cave.  I hit 50,000 words on Tuesday and had a mini celebration before I plowed forward toward the real finish line.

One of the tools I’m using to keep my momentum going is NaNoWriMo.  I mentioned this a few posts back, but at the time I wasn’t planning to participate.  Shortly afterward, Stefan Bolz asked me to be one of his writing buddies during NaNo.  His invitation felt like such an honor, I hated to pass it up.  The opportunity to work alongside authors who have done exactly what I’m doing made me a little giddy–I’m less giddy now that we’re all in the trenches working away.  Knowing I didn’t want to start something new when I was so close to finishing Swept Up (hee, hee, I said it again), I decided to participate as a rebel.  Turns out a lot of people do.  Anyway, committing to NaNo got me intensely focused.  I figured out how many words per day I needed to write in order to hit my target of 65,000.  The answer was 870.  So, since November 1, no matter what is going on, at some point I sit my butt down and churn out my requirement plus some.  I don’t know if the story will play out at exactly 65,000, but it’s good to have a general goal.  Stay tuned for more progress updates.

I had another first last week: my first blog interview!  Elayne Griffith was kind enough to invite me into her blog space to answer a few questions.  Thanks for the opportunity, Elayne!

Yesterday brought a really fun first, but I will reveal that later…  So, for now, it’s back to Scrivener and the final words of Swept Up.

Quick Fix Story: Narrow Miss

The last several weeks I have been buried in the home stretch of finishing the first draft of my novel. The other night I found myself resting my brain—clicking around on Twitter. I came across a writing prompt posted by Jason Cantrell. The prompt itself was enough to get my writing wheels turning, but the story behind it was just too cool to pass up.

Jason found a slip of paper in a used book he was reading for one of his classes with the following words scribbled on it: Have a stranger come to the bar-tell her he loves her-asks her to go to Chicago with him the next weekend-she doesn’t go. There was no way that note was left there by chance. Was it for Jason to tackle? Maybe. Perhaps it was there to inspire a bunch of us to take off down a rabbit trail, take a break from our WIPs and flex some underutilized muscles. Thank you, Jason, for sharing this nugget of inspiration. Not only did it spark an idea for a short story, I came up with a new element for my blog: Quick Fix Stories. Quick Fixes will give me a place to address those random plot bunnies that turn up in my head. Working on this short story greased the wheels of my imagination for my novel as well. Sometimes stepping away for a bit is the best thing we can do for our work.

All right, Jason, this one is for you.

 Narrow Miss

Tequila twang hit the back of my throat. I fought the urge to grimace and twitch, grabbed my glass of orange juice and took a slug. Ahh, much better. The tequila warmed all the way down, the juice softened the blow. I indicated to the bar tender I needed another round.

A short, but built man took the stool beside mine. He had clipped military style hair and a close fitting gray t-shirt. The bartender brought him a beer from the tap. He took a sip then looked over at me and my fresh glasses of tequila and orange juice.

“Interesting combo,” he said. Then his eyes slid over my fitted white halter dress. He didn’t know the tie was cutting into my neck. I’d cinched it down tight in a desperate attempt to keep the girls corralled. I never knew when I’d have to launch into sudden, quick action.

“It works,” I replied. I had no desire to get into a conversation with this guy. I had a job to finish tonight. Technically, I was still on the clock. It was one of those “let him sweat” breaks. I checked the time on my phone. There was no doubt in my mind Mr. Mendezo was sweating right now. Smiling to myself, I tipped back my second shot.

Military Hair ordered a tequila and orange juice for himself, one for me too. What the hell. My job bordered on legal, why not drive a little tipsy while I’m at it.

We clinked shot glasses. I sipped my orange juice and watched him experience the combo for the first time. He smacked his lips. “Pretty damn good. Thanks for the tip.”

“Thanks for the drink,” I said.

“I’ve seen you in here before. I just haven’t been brave enough to approach you,” said Military Hair.

I noticed the white tan line where a wedding ring should be. Wise choice.

He ran a hand over his buzz cut. His biceps bulged. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to help myself. I would have touched those muscles. Now, they just irritated me.

“Can I order you another round?”

“No. I have to get back to work.”

His eyes bugged a little. “You get to drink on the job?”

“I work for myself.”

He nodded. “Look, I can’t let you go before I ask you something.”

“Shoot.” I was pretty sure I knew what was coming. This wasn’t my first rodeo. In fact, these moments were what kept my rent paid.

“I have a conference in Chicago next weekend. I’m a personal trainer. We have conferences regularly. Keep up on what’s new in the industry, you know.” That explained the muscles. “Anyway, I would love it if you came with me.”

“Is that so?” I lifted a brow. I wonder how many conferences he’d been to this year. Had his wife attended even one of them?

He blushed a bit, reached out to touch my hip. “Yeah.”

My phone dinged signalling a new text message. I glanced at it. Mrs. Mendoza was ready for her delivery.

“I’ll think about it,” I said. “Do you have a card?”

Eagerly, he pulled out his wallet while I paid for my earlier drinks. He slipped a card for well known meat head gym into my hand. “Call me.”

“Oh, I will,” I said turning so his hand grazed my butt. I gave my hips an extra little twitch as I left the bar.

My car was silent when I reached it. I pounded on the trunk and was greeted with a startled thud. No doubt Mr. Mendoza’s head. My parents had been surprised when I sold my sporty little Mazda for this grandma style Buick. It was deep red in honor of my former ride, but it’s huge trunk served my needs.

Mr. Mendoza and I headed out of town to the meeting place. Mrs. Mendoza would be waiting down by the river about twenty miles from town. Her father owned a large onion farm, many of the fields along the river. The Buick bumped down the skinny access road. A gorgeous Hispanic woman perched on a large rock. She’d followed my instructions to the letter. Her curves poured into a black outfit Cat Woman would envy. Her long, dark hair had been curled and was tumbling down past her breasts. We grinned at each other and hugged in greeting.

I popped my trunk. Mr. Mendoza lay bound and gagged, staring at me with terrified eyes. That look was nothing compared to what passed over his face when Mrs. Mendoza stepped into his view.

“Hola, mi marido,” Mrs. Mendoza purred.

Together, we wrestled him from the trunk, flopped him into a pile of leaves near the river bank. Sheer panic crossed that man’s face. He wasn’t my problem anymore. Mrs. Mendoza handed me an envelope. I peeked inside to glimpse the cash then stuffed it into my cleavage.

“He’s all yours,” I said. “Have fun.” I hustled to the Buick. I never stuck around to see what happened after I made my delivery. I returned the cheating bastards to their wives and they did whatever they deemed necessary.

My mind wandered to Military Hair. I began thinking about how to track down his wife. The set-up was already there. It was too easy.

My phone launched into “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature. I grabbed it from the cup holder. “This is Jenna.”

The caller was sobbing. They always were. She’d walked into the house to find her husband serving up her best friend on the kitchen table. The kids saw it too. I have a special package for that violation. Could we set something up for next Friday? Of course.

Guess I won’t make it to Chicago after all. Military Hair was off the hook. For now.

Get Out of the Vacuum

For hundreds of years writing has been qualified as a solo endeavor.  Tortured souls holed up deep in the woods and in attics to bleed words into their pieces.  These days, however, writing has become a contact sport.  No, we aren’t tackling each other–most of the time–but we are making contact with other writers and our readers.

There are countless articles out there comparing the traditional and indie publishing worlds, and the line between the two is becoming increasingly blurry.  As a result, writing and publishing is becoming more accessible to more people.   Some see this as tragic market saturation.  I view it as a word renaissance!  I love words.  I love getting my own on paper and manipulating them, and equally love reading others’ creations.   Over the last year, I’m finding most writers are the same way.

Last spring I participated in Courtney Carver’s Goodblog Project.  I was–and still am–working on my first novel with the intent to self-publish.  I’ve been a blogger for years, but I knew it was time to trash the self-absorbed site and put together a professional blog that would offer something to others.  Courtney is a connection genius, and helped me discover how I could help people with my writing.  She taught me to value my work and the time I put into it.  Just because I’m not getting paid for it now doesn’t mean I never will, or that I don’t have something to offer the world.  As a result, this blog is here chronicling my journey to becoming a published author in hopes of encouraging others to reach for their dream.

I began reading Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga and went bananas for his writing.   When I discovered he was indie published, I started researching his story.  I discovered a very down to earth guy doing exactly what I want to be doing.  People say you should emulate those who are successful at what you want to do.  Like Courtney, Hugh is big into connection with his readers and fellow writers, and is probably has the most integrity of any celebrity out there.  When I grow up, I want to be like Hugh.

I mentioned in an earlier post the connections I’m making on Twitter.  My Twitter writing group has taken me out of my daily writing vacuum.  They give me encouragement to keep producing words, even if they aren’t all winners.  We love having new people join us.  You can find us at #SprintDaily.

I’ve also connected with newly published authors via Twitter and had the privilege of helping with their book launches and promotions, another way my blog is able to serve others.

I’m a very social person, so it quickly became evident I would not thrive in a writing vacuum.  I’m so grateful to Courtney, Hugh, and my #SprintDaily crew for getting me out of the vacuum.  My writing and my life is flourishing.  How will you step out and get connected?

Freedom to Write

We’ve all hear the saying, “We make plans and God laughs.”  I know I’ve treated God to a lot of giggles over the course of my life as a planning addict.  Someone has to keep Him entertained up there right?

A few weeks ago I blogged about not taking days off from writing and shared my current goals.  Then life started happening, and I had to rearrange my life a bit to help some friends.  Usually I get frustrated about how things are not working out for me.  This time around, I gained some perspective.

I’m sure some of this wisdom has come from my reading of The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, which teaches the reader how to stay present and centered on what is going on around her.  I’m learning (slowly) now to allow myself to be swept up in the crazy of the world around me, to anchor myself in what is real and true, and see how I fit in.

I have been blessed with the gift of time.  Time to pursue my passion (writing), and time to be available to help those in need.  This last week the call has been to reach out to others.  Yes, this slowed my work on my novel, but in a way it has been a gift.  I’ve been forced to stand back and be grateful for the hand I’ve been dealt at this moment in time.

I also began re-evaluating my goals for my work.  This doesn’t mean I’m backing off or stopping.  I’m just getting more creative with my time and giving myself grace for days that don’t go according to my plan.  Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits wrote an article about working without goals a while back.  At the time, I could never see myself doing that.  It was much too loosey goosey for my structured personality.  I was pretty sure I’d never accomplish anything.

What seemed like a blow to the perfect little schedule and my pretty list of goals, turned out to be the teaching moment I needed.  I love my work, and because it feeds me (hee hee, not financially yet), it will get done.  I’m drawn to my desk each and every day.  That in and of itself will get the work done.   Removing the pressure of goals has actually freed up more space in my mind for creativity.  I had a huge day last week where I wrote just under 2,000 words in one session (a personal best) and crossed the 30K mark in my WIP.  Because I wasn’t stressing the numbers and the clock, I was free to just write.

My writing has value to me and others.  It’s not something I have to plan to do or justify doing.  It’s just something I do.  It’s part of who I am.  I haven’t always been able to say those words.  They are life giving to me right now.

Is there something in your life–a passion–you feel you don’t have time for, or have to justify devoting time to it?  How can you allow yourself to embrace it and let it nourish you?