Google

If I ever get a call from the FBI, not sure I’d be entirely surprised. Over the course of the last 13 weeks, I have Googled some pretty interesting things:

  • Stab wounds – severity, and length of time to heal (I also learned that it is actually pretty hard to stab someone to death. Doable, but not for the amateur).
  • Gus shot wounds
  • Arrow wounds
  • Chest wounds- which led to
  • Sucking chest wounds and how to treat them differently
  • Effects of blood loss
  • Aortic regurgitation
  • How long germs live outside the body
  • How fast a bear runs
  • Vampire castles
  • Middle Ages city planning
  • Planting seasons

Interesting as I mostly write Romantic Fiction.

I find a learn a lot on these Google missions, and sometimes, I spend far more time delving into the details than I ought. I lie to myself and say it makes the story better.

It doesn’t, because really, how many people know or care that a Grizzly bear can sprint 50 yards in 3 seconds (which is 40 MPH) and a polar bear can lope along at 25 MPH? No one, but hey, I learned why they say to play dead with a bear because there is no way my desk jockey legs are going to outrun them.

Threes

Things happen in threes, usually bad things. Like the week David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Glen Fry from the Eagles all died. Yes, I know, humans are so programmed to look for patterns, that we often find them where they don’t exist.

Doesn’t mean the universe isn’t laughing at me anyway.

My three started after an piece of essential software broke at work. Then someone hit my car in the grocery store parking lot and left it. Finally, the baby decided sleeping at night was for chumps (again).

As I am working through these issues, I was excited and ready for a “me” day. A day where I take vacation from work but my children are still in daycare. A day I could spend hours writing without interruption. Maybe even read a grown-up book.

A few days before this amazing treat, daycare calls me to come pick up my sick child. If you have children in daycare for any length of time, you know they get rockin’ immune systems. The kind that laugh at most germs because they’ve seen soooo much worse.

I hoped it was nothing as sometimes daycare errs on the side of caution. I picked her up and brought her home, tucking her onto the sofa with some television where she promptly fell asleep.

Uh, oh. She was sleeping through TV. Not just any TV, but My Little Ponies. She must be really sick.

By the next day, she was all but bouncing off the walls to go back to “school”. I thought we were in the clear. Just a little bug.

And then that “little bug” hit me. I spent my day of writing sucking down cold medicine and lying in bed, just glad that I had a few hours to rest before I had to go get the germ bringers from daycare.

Looks like it’s going to take a little longer to work through my Roadblock.

Creativity

Finding a creative solution to a problem, or a solution at all, tends to involve my more creative side.

We all have our special places where our thoughts flow, and we are able to really create.

When the blank screen is staring at you, daring you to put electrons to work but you have nothing to give, where do you go?

I’d love to give you a pretty answer and say I go for a long walk in the woods or take a soothing bubble bath. In actuality, the most walking I do with two small children is out to the mailbox, and I feel lucky most days if I get 5 minutes in the shower with only one of my children banging on the door.

For me, I find myself the most creative when I am in the car alone. I’d say it was because of the kids, but it’s been true as long as I’ve been driving. I’ve solved a problem that plagued me half the day at work on the commute home, or devised a way to handle complex transactions on my way back from lunch.

The same is true for my writing. I have whole conversations go through my head in the car that dissipate like water vapor once I’ve stopped the car. I may have even solved world hunger and fixed student loan debt while driving, only to forget it once I’ve turned off the engine. I’d like to say I keep a pad of paper in the car for just such musings, but writing is worse than texting so I don’t do it.  I really need to join the modern era and get an app that will just write down what I’m thinking.  Gotta be an app for that.

The Apocalypse Ticket

My first attempt at Flash Fiction. The challenge was given by Chuck Wendig here.

 

The Apocalypse Ticket

I looked at Mac and she looked at me, both of us sucking in one last clean breath as the doors to the bunker opened. The rest of the team stood behind the blast shield, ready to flood the area with gamma rays if anything forced its way in.

Nothing did.

We hefted our packs and walked out, the doors closing with an ominous and final thud.

Following the concrete tube, we walked into a brilliant light that seared my eyes and forced me to turn away.

Tears ran down my cheeks as Mac touched my shoulder. “Put on your Uplink.”

The moment it settled over my eyes, the light dimmed and a pre-war map displayed our destination and directions.

“Bet none of those streets still exist,” Mac said.

“It’ll auto correct as we go and send updated information back.”

“Let’s hope they don’t need it,” Mac said.

I swallowed and nodded. We needed to survive and bring back the needed components so we could all make it another hundred years.

Mac and I worked our way down the mountainside, but the endurance training hadn’t prepared us for the uneven terrain, choking undergrowth, or burning sun. After a few hours, I was sweating, my legs ached, and my feet hurt.

“At least the chiefs were right about nothing surviving,” Mac said. “Haven’t even seen a squirrel.”

Peering through my Uplink, I wondered if it would be able to identify a squirrel if we saw one.

As the sun dipped low, Mac pointed to a dilapidated shack in the distance.

Fear filled my throat and tightened my chest. “It’s not structurally sound.”

“Nothing’s gonna be, and there might be tin, iron or gold.”

I thought back to our training. The risk was minimal, and the training said people had kept gold and silver jewelry before the war. I followed Mac.

The front steps had rotted away and the door hung off its hinges. Mac stepped inside, her weapon drawn. I drew mine and followed behind her, the weight of the gun cold, slick and foreign.

After a hundred years, there was little to find. Tattered drapes twisted over broken windows and trees sprouted up between rotted floorboards. Bits and pieces of debris littered the floor, but I couldn’t identify most of it and neither could my Uplink.

“Over here,” Mac said.

I followed her to what had once been a kitchen. Cans of foodstuff lay scattered across the floor, their exteriors corroded and labels worn away.

“Lots of metal in here,” Mac said. “Looks like copper plumbing too.”

“No neodymium.”

“Didn’t expect there to be. Let’s hope the chiefs are right and there’s still some in that battery factory.”

“Assuming it’s still there.”

“Better be,” Mac said.

I opened my magpack and withdrew the despacer. After a few minutes, I’d reduced the usable metal down to the size of a fork and loaded it into my magpack.

“Curious?” Mac asked as she held up a couple of rusted cans.

“Not really.”

Mac grinned and popped open the can.

“What is that?” I grimaced. The smell was nauseating, and the greasy brown contents looked worse than the smell.

“Looks like canned meat product.” Mac stuck her finger in the gelatinous goo.

“Do not eat- I can’t believe you just did that.”

“Tastes better than it smells,” Mac said and grinned as she offered me the can. “Sure you don’t want to try a bite?”

I shoved it away and swallowed back bile. “Positive.”

Mac sat down beside me and we split a tube of foodpaste.

I glanced over at the can of gooey meat. “Could you imagine eating that?”

Mac shrugged. “They needed more calories than we do.”

“They weren’t confined to an underground bunker.”

“Or modified.”

I rubbed my legs. “We should find a place to spend the night.”

“This seems as good as any.”

“Sure the walls won’t come down on us?”

“Haven’t come down in a hundred years. Doubt tonight will be the night.”

I considered that for a moment, and while it wasn’t a logical argument, I was too tired to argue.

 

The high pitched chirping of our Uplinks woke us and warned of a huge creature moving at 25 mph in our direction. Fear swallowed me as a huge mass of fur and claws barreled through the rotted walls.

The beast gobbled the contents of the meat can and swung its shaggy head towards us. Mac stood frozen beside me as it snarled and reared up on its back legs.

Gunshots deafened me and pounded through my head as a pre-war robot shot the creature.

The creature roared and charged the robot.

I steadied my breathing and aimed my weapon.

As the creature knocked the robot to the ground, I pulled the trigger.

The creature flew across the shack, knocking down the rear wall, and then exploding as it smashed into a tree.

“What the hell kind of gun is that?” the robot asked as it stood up.

“Wait, you’re not a robot?”

“No,” he laughed as he removed his helmet. “Knight-Captain York reporting for duty.”

“Knight-Captain?” I looked up at the strange man. The top of my head barely reached his shoulders.

“You’re not from around here,” York said.

“But you are. We thought no one survived the war.”

He gave me a lopsided grin. “Glad to prove you wrong. But we should move before the smell of blood brings something nastier.”

“Where to?” Mac asked.

“There’s a checkpoint not far from here. On the way there, you can tell me what two civilians are doing up here in the wilds.” He motioned to their strange weapons, the Uplinks over their eyes, and their odd gear. “And you can explain all of that.”

Civilians. So more than just the military had survived.

I looked at York and then back over at the dead creature. Those of us in the bunker were supposed to be mankind’s ticket past the apocalypse, the start of a new future. I thought about what we’d been sent to retrieve and what we’d found.

There were other people. People that lived outside the bunker.

The future of mankind had happened, and it had happened without us.

Finished Manuscript

I finished a manuscript. Not my first, but my first in 15 years.

I have “wanted to be a writer” since I was ten. My family was poor, and they neither understood nor supported this strange passion. I plunked away for hours in ratty notebooks or on ancient word processors. When I got to college, I managed to get a computer and pounded out two full novels between classes. But I never found real support for my passion even in college, and financial necessity (read looming student loans) sent me down a very different path. I became a CPA. Yes, you read that correctly. From aspiring writer to CPA.

And I was good at it. Not great, but damn good.

I worked in public accounting for three years, putting in grueling hours at distant clients. I went back to my lonely hotel room and pounded out a few words every night. But lack of success in publishing wears on you, especially when you are experiencing success in your “other” career, and eventually, I sidelined writing for other pursuits. Sure, I would pick it up and dabble with it here and there, but never seriously.

When I was home on maternity leave last year, I watched a lot of TED talks. One of them was on passion. What was your passion? What would you do even if you weren’t paid to do it? And why aren’t you out there pursuing it?

For me, that passion was writing. Always had been. So, I picked up pen, paper, and iPad and got to work.

A year later, I have finished a manuscript, revised it seven or eight times, had 2 beta readers read it and give me feedback, and then revised it another two to three times. I feel like it’s as good as I can make it right now.

What I haven’t achieved is thick skin. Not yet. Perhaps I shall save publishing for later.

Road Block

I have been working on a manuscript for over a year. I took a break from it when I hit around 45,000 and started another book. I finished that book, revised it, and turned back to the 45,000 words.

Those words stared at me for a few days. Then I scrapped them and started over.

I  am now at the 25,000 word mark and again wondering if I should start something else.

But I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to quit. That’s not who I am.

Time to analyze.

Thinking through the issues the past few weeks has helped me hone in on where my trouble is.

  • The manuscript in question is a romance novel and the male lead is someone I wouldn’t like in real life. At least, not at the beginning of his character arc. Maybe even not at the end. But he is interesting.
  • The heroine is “nice”, and in my world, that has meant someone who tends to be a victim. But she isn’t, and I can’t let myself write her that way.
  • The hero has to be kept out of his center of power or the story ends. I had foolishly planned much of the story to happen after her returned to his center of power.

I am not sure I want to give up yet. This is a story I want to tell or I wouldn’t have invested so much into it.

I can’t change the hero’s basic ruthlessness or he’s no longer the hero. I can’t make the heroine less of a kind person, or I rob her of an innate part of herself.

So, I have to revamp where I think the story is going and stretch my writing muscle to get there. Being true to both characters the whole time.