One more trip around the sun

Yeah, today is that day. Fifty-four laps and counting. I’m about to have a houseful of company for the weekend, then a week long business trip to Columbus, Ohio.

It’s going to be hard to stick to my blogging schedule this weekend, but I’ll try. I’m taking my iPad to Ohio, and have some cool things planned for next week. Watch for my collaborative Macabre Macaroni story with Mari Wells on Thursday.

I really need to work on getting The Cock of the South published, but it’s not going to happen PDQ. I may plan a huge giveaway to celebrate getting it online.

This weekend is going to be about shopping, food, the World Series, and beer. I hope there’s good beer involved.

I’ll try to keep up with everyone’s posts, and will post on Sunday. No promises about Saturday.

Is there anything interesting about Columbus, Ohio?

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Another helping of Macabre Macaroni

Robbery

Carl still wore his work overalls. I slid over one barstool and made room for him. The bartender brought us each a longneck and I took a swig.

“This is the one,” Carl said. “If there’s ever going to be another one, this is it.”

I told him it’s too risky. I’d already served eight months for grand theft.

“You’re some rule follower, alright. When did you get permission to hang out in the bar, or with me, for that matter?” He asked.

I hung my head. “It’s not the same. They yell if I break those rules. I go back inside if we pull another stunt.”

He called me a pussy. Said it was a rich old lady, with no security and no dogs. He cleaned her rain gutters last week. She offered him lunch, and the house is full of antiques and has a safe.

We worked our way through a dozen more beers. The old lady has a caretaker that comes on Tuesday and Thursday. Carl goes back to patch the basement concrete on Friday.

“Look, she knows me. I can’t go inside, but I can drive,” Carl said. “I’ll leave the basement door unlocked and it’s all yours.”

I promised to think about it, and headed for the homeless shelter. You have to get there early to get a cot after it turns cold. I sat through the revival meeting, but couldn’t help thinking about having enough money to make a clean start.

Thursday I went looking for Carl. He said it was a cinch and told me about the jewelry in the safe. I’m not a safe man, but he said it’s small enough to take the whole thing.

I paused and rubbed my eyes.

“Look, man. This is happening,” Carl said. “If you don’t want in, I have another guy. I’m only going to get one chance at that basement door, and she can’t get up and down the stairs to lock it.”

“It isn’t like she needs all that stuff, does she?”

“She never leaves the house. Probably hasn’t worn jewelry in ten years. You can leave her a tea set or something.”

“Pick me up two blocks down from the shelter. I’m in.”

It wasn’t right, but I’d done it before. Maybe this would be the last time. We’d done a lot more that I never had to answer for.

Carl pulled his work truck up to the curb, and I climbed inside. It was better than I hoped. Big yard, lots of trees, no close neighbors. Best of all, nice and dark. It was perfect, but then Carl knew his stuff. We watched for an hour and no lights came on. No one moved behind the curtains.

I grabbed my flashlight and hurried across the back yard. The door was one of those that sloped away from the house and had stairs leading down. It didn’t even squeak as I opened it. Carl must have oiled the hinges. I left it open for my escape.

Once I was down the stairs, I turned on the light. The basement was empty and Carl’s fresh patch showed up on the far wall. One flight up, and I was inside.

It was cold inside, but there was sweat on my brow. I made my way to the safe room and looked around. Six chairs surrounded an ancient dining room table. The safe was in the china hutch.

“You’re late,” a feminine voice said.

I froze. I swear there wasn’t anyone here. I even shined my light around the table. I turned slowly and there she was. Long dress, expensive shoes, beautiful.

“That will be all tonight, Carl.”

He must have followed me inside, because he said, “Yes, Ma’am,” and filled the door way that was my only exit. He closed the door and locked it.
She took down two wine glasses and opened a bottle of wine. “It’s so hard getting in homes any more. No one will invite me inside these days. Too much crime.”

I worked my way toward the window. She filled the glasses and pushed one towards me.

“But you aren’t burdened by such restrictions, are you. You can rob any old woman you like.”

I fumbled for the window latch. It was stuck and I glanced down. When I looked back up she was right beside me. She hadn’t made a sound.

She grabbed my shirt and nearly lifted me off the ground. “Have a glass of wine. We have all night.”

She tossed me into one of the chairs and smiled. Her fangs must have been three inches lon–

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Let’s get ready for fantasy

Lisa* texted me, “It’s getting colder and the mice are invading the cabin.”

That’s all it took to motivate me. I told her to dress for the outdoors. She met me in the basement of the writing cabin. She had on cargo shorts and hiking boots along with a khaki shirt she tied around her waist. It noticeably highlighted certain features.

I handed her a pack frame, a selection of old pots, and a shovel. “I’ll need a sandwich too.”

“So what are you doing?” she asked.

“Just waiting on you.”

She pursed her lips and crossed her arms.

“Look, I’m an old fat guy. You’re the robot, and I’ve seen you lift about eight hundred pounds like it was nothing.”

She grabbed an old pith helmet from the shelf and pulled her hair back before placing it on her head. “So your solution to the mouse problem is gardening?”

“Carnivorous plants. There’s a nice spring a few miles from here where some good mousers grow. It’s still Indian Summer and it should be a nice day.”

We picked up a game trail near the same beaver dam where we set off our flash bombs a week or two ago. A few buffalo tracks showed up, but nothing scary.

Lisa pointed, “What’s that?” A slowly moving hill of grass moved from side to side. “I don’t like your imagination sometimes. All kind of weird crap lives in your forest. I like things I can Google.”

“Buffalo grass. Check it out with your ultraviolet and infrared. I sure don’t want one of us to wind up like that buffalo.”

“Seriously? There are plants out here big enough to eat a buffalo?”

“You should see the snapdragons.”

We followed the trail and listened to the migrating geese high overhead. Brilliant yellows from the aspens mingled with the green of pines. Squirrels ran back and forth in an attempt to cache as much food as possible.

The bog was covered with good sized mousers. “Time for my sandwich,” I said. “Dig a few up while I eat.”

Lisa pushed her helmet back with one finger and looked at me. “How do I pick a good one?”

I wandered over near the spring and showed her the right plant.

She snatched a pod off one and said, “This one has a leg sticking out of it.” She tore the pod apart and dropped a fairy on the mossy ground. The fairy was dark with a shock of thick brunette hair.

“Iris**, Is that you?” I knelt down.

“She isn’t moving.”

“I picked her up and shook her back and forth.”

Iris sucked in air and yelled, “Stop, stop! Haven’t you ever heard of shaken fairy syndrome?”

I sat her back down. She rolled in the moss and moaned. “It burns, it’s burning me.”

“It’s the digestive fluid.” I grabbed her and dunked her into the spring up to my elbow, rinsing her side to side. Then I placed her back on the moss.

Iris coughed and sputtered. “Thanks, I think. Those damned things look like a flower full of drinking water.”

One of the plants turned toward her and opened its trap wide. Its stamens wiggled back and forth, tasting the air around it. Iris pulled a tiny sword and started toward it.

I placed a hand between them. “I need them with traps.” I unwrapped my PBJ and sat on a log. “What are you doing way out here?”

“Looking for you. Cobby said to help you out, he’s too busy to come right now.”

“Typical dwarf. They’re always too busy. I’m publishing The Cock of the South soon and need you to check some facts. Why don’t you fly on out to the cabin. Lisa will be done soon and we’ll head back.”

“Can’t. I pulled some muscles in my back.” She wobbled her wasp-like wings. You’ll have to carry me.”

Lisa plopped one of the mousers into a pot and glared at me. “These things better not hurt Bunny.”

“If one of them gets big enough to eat Bunny, I’m going to be scared. Make sure he doesn’t nibble on my plants either. Dig up one for each office and one for the front and back doors.”

Lisa finished her potting and lashed everything to her pack frame. She shouldered her load and adjusted the straps.

I picked up Iris and sat her on Lisa’s pith helmet. “There you go. Let’s hurry up now, I want to set them out before dark tonight.”

* Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She’s a robot and helps me around the cabin these days. She’s obsessive about her pet rabbit, Bunny.

** Iris the fairy is a supporting character in The Cock of the South. Coming soon to a Kindle near you.

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Just popping in

I’ve been incredibly busy since last week. I had a house full of company until mid day Sunday. Today was a busy work day.

After work, I went directly to my critique group. All of us were a bit grumpy this month, me included. I delivered a couple of harsher critiques and received some too.

All in all, I think the critiques were beneficial. I have some new things to think about on Will ‘O the Wisp. Joining a critique group isn’t for the faint of heart.

I’m a big believer in critique groups, and am grateful to have a good bunch. Anyone who is looking to improve their writing would be well served to join or start a group.

In other news, I have cover art for The Cock of the South. I have some work to do on it still, but it’s getting published soon. I’ll probably make a separate post about the cover art. Once I get finished traveling, in early November, I’ll work on publishing it.

There will also be another Macabre Macaroni post on Thursday. I admit to missing a few of your blog posts. I promise to make a stab at catching up sometime this week.

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How did that happen?

Old What’s Her Face* took the grandkids to the movies. Something about box trolls or something. I passed, no Clint Eastwood or Bruce Willis.

I wound up finding some writing time. I answered a few more questions for my heroine, and allowed her to flex a little backbone.

Then I tortured my little girl victim some more. She keeps going deeper down the wormhole.

All told, I added 2912 new words to my story. Total word count is 35,220.

Now, of course, it’s an evening of The Garfield Movie, Scooby Doo, and Sky High. (Thank God for Bruce Campbell, and that hot chick who played Velma in Scooby Doo.) Lots of squealing, refusing to eat, and Ninja Turtles all over the floor. I suppose it was about my turn. Pass me a Ninja Turtle.

* Not my wife’s actual name.

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Living documents for writers

This is something I do, and I wondered if anyone else does something similar. The electronic age makes this so easy. It evolved from a work habit at the paycheck job.

I keep living documents in my Pages (Think Word) program. I have one called Writing Lessons, I have others for Paranormal, Editing, and a new one called Cryptids.

Whenever I learn something, or it feels like I’m very close to learning something, I add it to a living document.

Remember these things are only for me, so they aren’t organized in any fashion you would recognize. If you decide to follow suit, you can use Roman numerals, alpha characters or whatever floats your boat.

Here’s an example from one of mine:

Writing Lessons

The Writing Monomyth:

1.) The ordinary world. Show what’s at stake, what might be lost. Think about Dorothy in Kansas.

It goes on through the entire sequence. I add a little reminder to each section that helps me remember, like I did with Dorothy.

After I work through all the steps, I add some notes. Many of these are added later as I pick up new information. They aren’t formal, they’re just notes for me. Here’s some examples at the end of the monomyth section:

Not every step is used in every story. The best stories are about death and rebirth, whether that death is literal or figurative. Westley died, got miracled, and lived happily with Princess Buttercup.

Note: The inciting incident and the call to adventure are usually the same time, but don’t have to be. The shark ate the blonde skinny dipper. Brody is called to the body on the beach later.

Consider using a “Herald” for the call to adventure. Brody (a different Brody) pulls Indy out of class. Someone wants to talk to you. Go to church-like auditorium and meet with Army Intelligence. It build tension and anticipation. It allows for a set piece too.

I get information all kinds of places. I frequent Zite magazine, I have RSS feeds, visit writing bulletin boards, and follow hundreds of blogs. I also own a bunch of instructional books, and my notes go in the living documents.

Earlier this week, I reblogged some good advice from Kristen Lamb’s blog. I added a few lines to my living document.

My living documents always get browsed while I’m at the planning phase. Maybe I need to ramp up the suspense in a story, there’s a category in my living document. If I need Voodoo paraphernalia, consult the Paranormal living document.

Today, Rochelle Deans posted some good advice on theme in our stories. I already knew some of this stuff, but the way she explains it appeals to me. I’m adding more notes when I finish up here. Here’s the link to Rochelle’s blog for you writers out there.

Some of my notes are in the miscellaneous category. They aren’t big enough for a separate category. One example:

Many good main characters are a mix of two helpers. Kirk is caught between McCoy’s have fun spirit and Spock’s logic. Luke is a mixture of Obi Wan & Han Solo.

I embellished, but didn’t write this stuff. Does anyone else do something like this?
***

My wife took the grandkids to some sort of Disney Princesses on Ice show. It’s right next door to the BSU game, and my son and his wife are at the game. I hope my wife found a parking place about 10:00 this morning. That left grandpa with time for a longer blog post.

(An aside: can you imagine the kind of story I could write using the name Disney Princesses on Ice? I’d need to order a lot of body bags.)

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Follow Friday Draft: Travel, Taking a Family Abroad, and Stories

coldhandboyack:

Hey gang, Entertaining Stories got a little blog love today. Pop on over to Grasshopper Girls and check it out.

Originally posted on Grasshopper Girls:

The first blog I’d like to take you to in this week’s edition of Follow Friday is Tanto Verde.  This is a food blog started by a young woman to support her vegan friend.  Now, I’ll be honest.  I’m no vegan.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy these recipes, right?  To me, labels like “vegan” or “vegetarian” don’t draw lines of exclusion.  Rather, I view them as just another tab in my mental cookbook.  I mean, just look at this pesto recipe!  The other thing I really enjoy about this blog is Anna’s unique perspective.  She was born in the USSR and she talks about travel and actually does travel with a fierce need.  Don’t just read this blog for the recipes.  Read it for the commentary that Anna gives us on culture and multiculturalism.

Next, let’s go to Australia to visit A Momma’s View

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