Tag Archives: muse

News and vignette

I got up late today and procrastinated with various forms of social media. I always flip through them before starting a writing day, but I lingered long enough to know I was goofing off. I still managed about 2800 words of The Yak Guy Project.

Yak Guy is the one where I’m trying to use the Major Arcana of the tarot as my story structure. I’ve had to meld some characters, and take a few out of order. Several things go on at once, and it doesn’t make sense to take them one at a time. For instance, the Empress character is also one of The Lovers. This overlaps the training of the Heirophont. I already had some of The Lovers, so I kind of moved faster on this section. It’s time for Strength, The Hermit, and the Wheel of Fortune. I may take some of these out of order, because it makes more sense to my story. I kind of want The Hanged Man before the Wheel. Right now I need to dwell on it some.

In other news, I woke up with a character and setting again. I don’t particularly want to dwell on her for weeks, and sometimes writing a vignette will get them out of my head. Here goes nothing, and remember I’m free writing this one:

Barbi Baronski awoke with a ringing in her ears. It was dark and dusty, and every muscle in her body ached. She stretched and her hands touched concrete overhead.

She’d driven into the city to model a new line of fitness wear, but couldn’t remember if she was going to the shoot or driving home. Daylight was visible if she looked along the ground above her head. She tried to rollover and crawl, but it was too tight in here. She slid along on her back using a kind of frog kick with her legs.

The ringing faded a bit, and Siri’s voice asked, “What can I help you with? What can I help you… What can I… What?, What?, What?…” Barbi kept sliding. Her back became a slow motion road rash of cuts and dirt.

Fresh air seemed like a wonderful thought, but it was dust, smoke, and grime. The sky above was brilliant blue, but there were no contrails, birds, or even trees. She pulled herself out of the rubble and sat upright.

The remains of her tattered top fell on her lap. Her $200 jeans were mostly threads, but clung together by some miracle. The entire world was silent except for the ringing in her ears. She covered herself with her right arm and stood up tentatively. There was nobody around. The place looked like a gravel pit, except for a twisted streetlight that snaked through the rubble.

She always drove home on 76, and thought she recognized some of its outline. Thank God her trainers survived. She walked for miles through the rubble. Pieces of automobiles dotted the landscape, and tiny bits of building foundations started appearing. The farther she walked, the more the rubble started to look like something. She stopped covering herself, because nobody was around at all.

By mid afternoon, her stomach reminded her that she was starving. She spotted a few walls and veered off her path to investigate. It turned out to be a family restaurant of some kind. A shard of mirror showed her that nearly six inches of her brunette hair had been singed away. A copper pipe produced a small blue flame at the end. The gas lines were still on out here.

She dug through the rubble and found a single can of refried beans, a tiny frying pan, and a bent chef’s knife. She used the heel of the knife to chop the can open enough to get it in the pan, then held it over the open flame until it smelled edible.

She kicked through the rubble and turned over a small table. A piece of concrete served as a chair. She managed to bend the tines of an old fork into a relatively useful position and ate in silence. Hardly health food, but it was food and that’s all that mattered now.

Across from her on a piece of remaining wall were three huge frames. Two were missing everything, but the third one appeared to be the dinner menu. It read:

  • Meatloaf $6
  • Prime Rib $13
  • Rack of Ribs $11
  • Sides…

The rest was torn away and it appeared to be cloth of some kind. Threads dangled in the breeze. She finished her beans, and used the bent knife to cut away most of her fancy jeans. $200 custom cutoffs? She split the pants legs and used some electrical wire to make them into a purse of sorts. She placed the pan and the old fork inside.

 

A rock smashed the remaining glass from the menu and she removed the cloth, cut a hole for her head and used more wire to stitch the sides closed. She looked down at her new shirt which now read:

 

Prime

Rack

 

Barbi tucked the bent knife into her belt and headed into the setting sun. Home was important, but if it wasn’t there any longer, she would head west until she found a new place to call home.

 

***

I have no idea what caused the disaster, aliens, war, the refried bean festival. I also have no intention of finishing Barbi’s story, but something may come to me in the future. These vignettes are a way of retiring some of the ideas I get. Sometimes it works, and sometimes I have to revisit them even years later.

There was more too it, like a dried up river, and talking to a snake. The snake represented an ancient survivor, and Barbi drew a parallel to herself as a survivor. I figured the post was long enough, and maybe Barbi could go on her adventure without me.

How about it you writers? Do you ever wake up having been visited by the muse? Do you make notes, forget about it, start another project? I can’t write all of mine. Barbi could be a good character, she’s obviously strong. Maybe she can be a side character one day, or maybe her story will come to me later.

It appears my muse is getting back into shape. Back to the paycheck job tomorrow.

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Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes, Writing

I want a new drug

Thanks, Huey Lewis, I'll take it from here…

This is a writing related problem, don't panic on me.

Yeah, there was research involved, so I have a tiny bit of knowledge about HGH, methamphetamines, desoxyphedrine, and a few more. It's time to write the story about the drug abuser in my Enhanced League book.

Here's the background. This fictional baseball league doesn't care about performance enhancing drugs. In fact they have medical personnel who administer and monitor them.

The two stories I'm writing next will draw a distinction between medically administered PEDs and illegal street drugs. My newscasters will draw some of the conclusions in a second story, the first one will involve the actions leading up to the bust. The underlying theme is that someone will always look for an edge, even if you legalize something for them. They'll just move to the next edge.

Anyway, enough about that. I need an illegal street drug, and it needs a street name. It can be somewhat science fiction, in fact I think it will be a cocktail of several things. I'm nearly committed to make it a sinus spray just because it sounds even more dangerous.

But it needs a cool name of some kind. I kind of want to call it Superman, but really don't feel like getting sued. So I am in a struggle phase here, and hope I come up with something that doesn't sound too stupid. It should sound enticing to the bodybuilders and athletes who might dope with it i.e. Tinkerbelle won't work.

Power, muscle, endurance, enduro, mass, force; some sexy combo of these words could work. I have to be a little bit careful and Google whatever I come up with. I don't accidentally want to call it super soldier serum or something that's been used in another comic book. (Although illegal producers and abusers could very likely call it Superman.)

This is a different kind of struggle for me. I've worked on gas weapons, parasites, how to keep corpses from floating, freezing in outer space, and others. Drugs are kind of a new path for me.

The way this is working out, a whole new government agency might be interested in my browsing history.

I also have a couple to write that involve the downside of using the PEDs we have available now. This one is going to involve careers ending and others beginning. More research involving micro-strokes and such. I'll weave in some League evils like getting the new kid started on PEDs right away. (Might require another fictional drug name.)

The struggles of a fiction writer. My next writing opportunity is next Monday, so I don't need the name before then. Even then, my focus is the Yak Guy. Maybe my Muse will help me out somewhere during the week.

Any ideas, let me know in the comments. Got some strange research stories, share those too. Back to the grind tomorrow.

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Shifting Gears, again

With the end of October, and my first day off in November, I found myself out at the writing cabin once more.

Lisa Burton, my robotic assistant, had on her skull jeans but this time they were tucked into some knee-high black boots. That's as good a sign of the changing seasons as any.

“Are you tired of your Morticia dress now?” I asked.

“No. I love the dress, but I'm not in love with the straight hair. I think I like my curls more than I thought. Besides, Macabre Macaroni is over and it's time to move on.”

“Yeah, my promotions are over too. There is an extended blog tour, but I have very little to do with that now. It will run without me, other than checking comments.”

Lisa went about her chores, dropped off some coffee for me, and I dug into an advanced reading copy of a great novel a friend provided.” I made it through four chapters when Lisa interrupted. “Lorelei is here and she wants to see you.”

“She knows where my office is. Tell her – ” I yelled down the hall, “Come on back, Lorelei.”

Lorelei wore dirty sweats and her hair was a mess. Her feet were tucked into a pair of old slipper socks. This is the beautiful Greek Muse who inspired so many wonderful ideas. The classic beauty who enjoyed being looked at.

“Um, hi… That's a new look for–“

“Go ahead and say it. I'm fat!” She collapsed onto the sofa in my office. Lisa sat beside her and hugged her while casting me a concerned look.

“What's new in your life? It's been a while since you visited us.”

“Nothing's new. You've been out promoting since September. Lisa went on her tour for the second Experimental Notebook. Even your Macabre Macaroni stories were written months ago.”

“Look, I've been writing, I swear.” I opened the app on my iPad and turned it toward her. “See, these are the short stories about The Enhanced League.”

“Oh sure.” She wiped a tear away. “I can still inspire a decent bit of micro-fiction. Maybe a short story on a good day. I get tired even thinking about novels.”

“I intend to get back to the Yak Guy this month. It's languishing at about forty-two thousand words. It needs another fifty-K or so to be finished.”

“I'm sure you'll come up with something. At least you have your outline to go off of.”

“Sure, I have an outline, but the story drifted back in Act one. I need you to get me through it.”

Lorelei wiped her eyes and sat a little straighter. “You do? I mean, that's more than a short story, but since it's already started I might manage it. It's going to require a bit of working out, maybe some fruits and vegetables along with all the ambrosia I've been drinking.”

“Yeah, it's going to take an effort on my part too. I haven't looked at it since the first promotions back in September. I need to read it, check the outline, and get back to work. It's going to be different than guest blogging, working on short stories, and all that.”

Lisa said, “Sounds like things are going to get lively around here.”

“I have a list of short stories, and I can't promise they won't get some keyboard time too. Is that alright?”

“Of course,” Lorelei said. “I sent them to you.”

“You sent me some bigger ideas. I don't know if I can make them into novels though. I made notes, but they might only make it to novella length. Is that okay?”

“I don't know. I just want you to be creative. You have to decide if there's a market for them or not. Let's work through The Yak Guy Project. If you get it finished, maybe I can figure out how to make them longer.”

“I think they have merit. I like the one about a story from the monster's point of view. I just don't know if it should be a tragedy or have some kind of heroic ending to it. I also like the one about the couple who have to live underground for three months to avoid the parasitic sun.”

“Parasitic sun?”

“Yeah, that's what I decided to call it. A gas giant planet ignited. It's much larger than the planet with people, but dwarfed by the real sun. That way it only becomes a problem when the two pass each other in orbit. It's like two suns for a short period of time. I even came up with a title, Estivation.”

“I like it. I'll work on them both, but let's get Yak Guy finished first.”

“I'd better make some time to read through it again.”

Lisa took Lorelei's hand. “You'll be back in goddess shape in no time. In fact, let's give Craig some space so he can read. I'll do your nails, it will make you feel better, I promise. Maybe we'll look at your hair too, if that's okay.”

***

There you have it. Looks like I have some work ahead of me, but it's fun work. There could be some word metrics this month.

*For all the new followers, Lisa Burton is my personal assistant and the spokesmodel for my writing career. She's also a robot. Lorelei is my Muse, like actual classic Greek Muse.

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The Idea Mill #23

It's been a while since I ran one of these out, but the news has been a little bit slow lately. I collect articles that pique my interest as a writer of speculative fiction. I have used some of the things from these posts, and might will use some of the stuff I bring you today.

Let's start out with the Tree of Death. The manchineel tree is a tropical plant that can even be found in Florida. This thing has more defenses than the acid filled creatures in Alien. It appears that everything about it is toxic; its fruit, sap, bark, leaves, everything.

It is written here that natives used to stake people out under the trees as a form of torture. The frequent rains would wash across the leaves and an drip onto the victims causing acidic type burns. Read the article I saw here.

From my point of view, this becomes a great murder weapon. Murder happens in all kinds of fiction and isn't limited to just mysteries and thrillers. It also lends some credence to any kind of alien environment you might want to create. These trees could also play into a global warming kind of story. They push their way north and south of the tropics to drive the people away as nature tries to recover some room for itself. Could be an interesting magical ingredient too.

The next section is a combination of two articles. Neural Dust is the name given to tiny implants into potentially human brains. There are two hopes, the first one being a way to treat some impairments like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The second part appeals to me, where it may allow some patients to control various robotic items. Here is the link to the first article.

The second article doesn't seem to come right out and name the technology, but appears to be the same idea. It puts a different spin on things with a warning about protecting our own brains from hackers. Here is the link to the second article.

These two really appeal to me, because I outlined a novel last summer about bio-hackers and grinders. I have a hunch these ideas will work their way straight into that book. (I just need to get finished with The Yak Guy Project.) It also fits right into something I was working on yesterday about a futuristic baseball league called The Enhanced League.

So what would you do with these? There are any number of mind control ideas that could happen. Need an innocent person to pull of the heist of the century, drop off the ransom, commit a terrorist act. Here's the reference point to make it work. It gives a whole new spin to date rape drugs, political puppets backed by corporate entities, or even a cyber-zombie outbreak when long term implants go wrong.

Finally, the US has authorized researchers to implant human stem cells into the brains of animal embryos. They've even dubbed the creations as Chimeras. Again, the hope involves various brain disorders and extends to growing transplantable organs. Read it yourself, right here.

What could possibly go wrong? Let's explore that. Need some science to back up your Planet of the Apes science fiction, here it is. Need spies to infiltrate a secure government facility? How about some human intelligent rats, or aerial ravens. Nobody would look twice at the sparrow outside the White House.

Part of these posts involves me describing a schlocky story using all the elements. This is always tough, but this one comes with special problems. The Enhanced League and the Grinders novel are screaming at me, and I don't want to spoil anything. Top that off with the manchineel tree not fitting into the science fiction base of the other articles and it gets exponentially tougher. Let's see where this goes…

Iguanas are immune to the poisons of the manchineel tree. A group of genetically enhanced iguanas are forced to plant the poisonous trees around a perimeter to build an invasion camp. Might as well use Florida since they already have iguanas.

The President's brain has been hacked via the national security Neural Dust chip he is required to have. He authorizes a secure facility inside the perimeter where evil scientists will create an army of chimera cyborgs who control their weapons via their own neural chips. Imagine cyborg gorillas and minotaurs marching upon Washington.

The only hope is an ethical scientist who must break her personal code and accept her own Neural Dust implant before it's too late.

Okay, that sucks, but individually there are some great story elements here. They might not drive an entire novel, but a couple of them could. I know I'm going to use neural dust in one, if not two, stories. I may use chimeras too if only as designer pets to do some world building.

What would you do? Manchineel smoke in your voodoo? Designer organ farming for the super rich? A cultural rift between those who are all born lithe and beautiful due to embryo manipulation and those who have to take what God gives them? Let me hear it in the comments.

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Filed under The Idea Mill

Wednesday efforts, robots, sirens, the works

I wanted to make it out to the writing cabin once more before going on vacation. The puppy saw to it that I got a good early start.

I found Lisa doing her nails in the front office. “What are you doing? I told you I was coming today.”

“I expected you later. I have a show to do tomorrow, and need to look my best.”

“It's a radio show.”

“I don't care. I do my best work when I feel confident. What's our plan today?”

“No plan, really. It's summertime, and I only want to keep the projects moving forward. I'll grab coffee and be in my office.”

I struggled with ideas for Halloween themed stories. For some reason, my Muse (Lorelei) hasn't been sending me much stuff along those lines. I finally gave up and started making a pass through The Yak Guy Project. I haven't done much with it, and wanted to get back in the swing. I need to completely rewrite one character to avoid him resembling the other characters. Anyway, my idea was to study the previous characters.

This story is based loosely around The Fool's Journey, from the major arcana of the tarot deck. The character I want to repair is the heirophont character. Yak Guy Ted (the fool) meets a lot of mentors along his journey. I have too many of them sounding like Miyagi.

It's probably poor planning, because at 50,000 words, there was no way I was going to get completely through it today. Then there was the idea of going on vacation for ten days.

I surrendered and went back to short stories. I wrote two of them. Word count came in at about 2700. They are too big to call micro-fiction, but too short for my determination of a short story at 5000. Whatever, I wrote 2700 new words, and one of them might deserve to be a little bit longer.

These are stories for my baseball project, called The Enhanced League. This is proving to be a challenge, because there is a lot of world building going on. Each story is supposed to stand alone, but support a longer book of short stories. This means my normal twist endings don't apply in every story. Like I said, a challenge. Actually writing them helps me with the clarity.

Does anyone out there still enjoy a tale with gobs of world building? They used to be pretty popular.

I looked up and stroked my beard. “Lisa, do you know where Wiki is hanging out these days?”

Lisa came into my office all in a flurry. “Don't even think about it. You remember how mad Lorelei got when you hung out with the Sirens.”

“It isn't like Lorelei's been around a lot lately. Probably hanging out at some Olympic beach party, or getting ready to go to the actual Olympics. Now answer my question.”

Lisa's eyelids fluttered ever so slightly as she checked the tracking data. “Wiki is hanging out at a coffee shop about thirty miles away.”

“Is she alone? She's more dangerous with her sisters.”

“She's alone, for now.”

“Pull the old Land Rover around. You can provide security.”

***

We found little hipster Wiki in the coffee shop hiding behind a huge mug and her iPad mini. She wore a long tee-shirt with a skull pattern over black leggings, with army boots. She had a cluster of colored string friendship bracelets on one arm, and two watches on the other. I have to admit, she looked adorable, but all of the Sirens do.

Wiki jumped up and squealed. “Hi you guys. What brings you here?”

“We're looking for you,” I said.

Lisa simply crossed her arms, lifted her chin, and said, “Wiki.”

I turned to Lisa, “Are the others nearby?”

“No.”

“Wiki, I want to do some baseball research. Stuff like bullpen carts, city populations, pitch velocity, left handed catchers, all kinds of stuff.”

“Easy- peasy.” She typed on her iPad and showed me an image of the Mr. Met bullpen cart. “This kind of stuff?”

“Exactly that kind of stuff. When did they quit using them?”

Wiki made a few more keyboard strokes. “Looks like the last one was a Harley Davidson with sidecar, in 1995.” She made a few more keystrokes. “Check out this kitty on one of those Roomba vacuum cleaners.” She wrinkled her nose in that adorable way she has.

Lisa slipped her hand inside her purse and stepped forward. “I don't think so.”

“Can't blame a girl for trying,” Wiki said.

I grabbed a large Americano while Lisa stood guard. Wiki found me stuff on PEDs, ways to throw the curveball, how domed stadiums can move the grass outside for natural sunlight, and much more. I thanked her, and she hugged me with Lisa looking on like a prison guard.

We left, and I waited until we pulled away from the curb, before asking Lisa, “Is your gun in that purse?”

“Yup, sure is. The Research Sirens are supposed to trap you in an endless research loop. They wreck careers on the cliffs of cute kitty videos.”

“But she's only one.”

“Right, but she's a Siren and knows how to flirt with you. Thank God I captured Libraria's and Consultia's cellphone data when they came to the cabin. Now I can track them. All three of them could be deadly.”

“You aren't going to tell Lorelei, are you?”

“Heck no. We're friends and all, but you're my employer. This is like confidential business data.”

***

There are several new followers at Entertaining Stories. This tale involves quite a few recurring characters, and it's easier to explain this way than with a simple asterisk and footnote.

Lorelei is an actual Greek Muse who sends me an endless stream of ideas. They aren't always what I'm looking for, and a Halloween idea or two would be appreciated.

Wiki is one of the Research Sirens. She is the youngest, and more internet based than her sisters. The sirens are dangerous, but one at a time they aren't quite so bad.

Libraria and Consultia are the other Research Sirens, and you can guess what their individual focus is. They are mentioned, but do not appear in this story.

Lisa is my robotic personal assistant, and the official spokesmodel for my writing career. For more of Lisa, come back tomorrow for another episode of Lisa Burton Radio. Apparently, she'll have cute nails, but I have no idea how you'll see them over the radio.

Special aside: Lisa is always looking for more characters to appear on Lisa Burton Radio. If you'd like one of your characters to appear, drop me a note.

***

The Enhanced League is going to be science fiction of the near future variety. It has no deadline and will be a collection of short stories and micro-fiction. I wrote one about the umpires, and another one called Banned in Salt Lake City today. SLC is known for doing this on occasion, most famously with Olivia Newton John's song, Physical. The stories need some work, but they exist now.

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Filed under Muse, Writing

The opposite of writer’s block

I've been seeing a lot of posts about writers block. Since joining Facebook, I've noticed a few over there too. I'm almost ashamed to say I've never experienced this before.

My critique group brought this up by asking, “Where do you get all these ideas from?” The short answer is my Muse, Lorelei. I believe in my Muse, and trust her. She throws things at me with the idea of seeing what sticks.

My mind looks something like this:

I have more ideas tugging at me than I can use. I've developed yet another living document for short stories. The rare one moves to a novel list. I refer to the list as soon as I finish one of my stories.

Is this a problem? It might be. I have story issues going through my head several stories ahead of where I'm typing. Some of these stories already have characters with traits and quirks. I might be better suited to develop tunnel vision and focus on the story on my iPad. It would probably speed the process up.

Right now, I'm writing a novel called The Yak Guy Project (for now). I'm also writing a retro science fiction story tentatively called Backwater Diner.

While all this is going on, I'm working out some great stuff that will see the return of Jason Fogg in another short story. I might let Jason go, but he's the best character to address a human condition that I want to talk about. His special condition lets him see a part of our makeup that others cannot. In order to do this he needs some fatal flaws to address himself, and I have some decent ideas on that front too.

I also have a great idea that involves a grown up Pete Rogers. Pete was a supporting character from Will O' the Wisp. Apparently all the scary stuff up Bergamot Holler hasn't been addressed yet.

My short story list has 26 items on it. I've already written some, and may never write them all. Newer items will hit the list, and maybe one of those is a better idea.

The plus side is that I can put out another Experimental Notebook eventually. I get to explore more conditions and situations than if I limited myself to novels. I'll need some Macabre Macaroni stories next October, and maybe some of these will fit that bill.

The down side is focus. It's hard to concentrate on Yak Guy and do his research when Jason Fogg is haunting my thoughts.

I'm glad I don't get writer's block, but my mind comes with its own special needs. Does anyone else have this problem, or am I the only one?

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Productive day, finally

My wife had an early appointment for her first service on her new car. She left the house early.

Lorelei, the Muse, arrived just as my wife’s car disappeared. She strolled in the house wearing black tights under a grey mini skirt. She wore a leather jacket and boots.

“It appears your last excuse is gone. You need to start your novel now,” she said.

“I know, but you haven’t actually gone easy on me. I have all these characters fighting in my mind now. You keep sending them, and sending them.”

“I only do it because you’ve been stalling. Maybe one of these characters will appeal to you more.”

“It isn’t that, actually. I like the novel idea, I’ve just been waiting –”

“For your new keyboard?”

“Yeah.”

“And now it’s here.”

“I know. I need to get the Angel out of my head first.”

“Is that another excuse?”

“No. She’s just been lodged there, and if I give her some micro-fiction she will go away.”

“Then what?”

“Then I’ll start my novel.”

“Is that a promise?”

“That’s a promise.”

“Good, I didn’t want to take more drastic measures.”

“I’m glad it didn’t come to that. I’m not in the mood for noogies, or a purple nurple.”

“I only do it to drive you to new heights.” She stood and headed for the door. Her skirt hugged every curve. She cast an eye back over her shoulder. “Write the Angel. Then get started on the novel. Don’t make me wait.”

“I gave my word didn’t I?”

“You did.”

And just like that she was gone. Her sandalwood perfume lingered as I attached my keyboard and went to work. The Angel story has a very slight Christmas bent. I’ll share it with you, but reserve the right to put it into a second book of micro-fiction and short stories. Let me know if you like it.

Angel

She descends from the heavens, folding her wings back into a stoop. As she gains speed, her blonde locks pull back from her face.

A flick of one wing adjusts her path toward the old part of the city. The bad part of the city.

She rolls sideways between two tenement buildings that nearly touch, and alights on the roof of a liquor store.

Freezing rain pelts her wings, and the white fabric of her tunic clings to her body. She turns toward the sound of a garbage truck lifting the round bins toward its gaping maw. Still a block away.

She steps from the roof and lands delicately in the alley. The stench overwhelms her. Diesel fumes mingle with garbage, and the odor of human waste. She walks past ramshackle shelters made of cardboard, stepping around hypodermic needles and a puddle of vomit. She moves toward one of the round garbage bins.

A faint cry rings out from inside, a cry of fear, loss, and uncertainty. She opens the bin and touches the baby inside. “Rest now. Be brave. Things have not yet been decided. If this is your only time on Earth, look at the clouds above and know there is more to life.”

The baby calms and smiles at the angelic face above her. She kicks her feet and wriggles.

The garbage truck rumbles closer. It lifts a bin and the echoes of the spilling garbage break the pre-dawn. The machinery crushes the trash with a sound of breaking glass and crumpling metal.

Voices reach their ears. “I hope we find some more pumpkins, Joe. I like it when the pumpkins squish like grapes.”

“Not likely, Chuck. The winos eat the damned things. I’ll bet half the drunks and junkies down here had barbecued pumpkin this week.”

Chuck walked to the next bin while Joe moved the truck forward. When the truck was in position, Chuck attached the hoist and lifted the bin toward the crusher. He moved it backward and forward several times with a resounding clunks. “I hate it when they pack stuff in so tight. It gets stuck, because they’re too cheap to rent a second bin.”

“Way of the world, Chuck. I can almost understand it down here, but it’s the same way out on Commerce Boulevard. They have money, but an extra nine bucks per month kills them.”

She lowers the lid over the baby and steps off to the side. The rain picks up and her hair slicks down over her forehead. She pushes it back, and ice already formed at the tips.

Joe moves the truck into position, and Chuck approaches the bin.

She squats down beside the bin, and moves her face to the side. “Fight back now. Nobody will give you anything in this life, you must make your own way. Cry out! Be defiant. Give it everything you have, because there are no second chances tonight.”

Chuck attaches the bin and lifts it off the ground. The baby cries out.

Chuck stops. He lowers the bin to the ground.

“What’s the hold up?” Joe asks.

“Keep your pants on. There’s one of those crying dolls inside. Mary Lou’s daughter might like it.”

“You still trying to plug Mary Lou?”

“Yeah, and giving her kid a Christmas present is going to make it happen.”

“Hurry up then. If we fill up in time, we can beat the rush hour traffic back to the dump. Maybe they’ll still have doughnuts.”

Chuck opens the bin. The baby cries even louder, and Joe’s head emerges from the truck window.

She puts her hands over her chest and a single tear rolls down her cheek, freezing before it reaches her chin. “Good baby. Brave baby.”

Chuck reaches inside the bin. “You aren’t going to believe this. I think we need to call someone.”

“We will, but get her in the cab, it’s freezing out there.”

She unfurls her wings and shakes the rain off them, before climbing back to the heavens.

***

This is probably a good time to mention that my Experimental Notebook is a book of similar short stories and micro fiction. If you click on the cover in my sidebar, you can read it for the princely sum of 99¢.

It may not seem like much, but I managed a page or two of my new novel after I got the Angel out of my head. Yak Guy is off to a good start.

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Break from the Internet

I decided to leave my iPad at home this camping trip. I have a half read book on it, but wanted to avoid the temptation. I took a couple of short story magazines instead. I needed to recharge my soular batteries. (Get the spelling joke?)

Here was my office for the weekend.

We wound up seeing a flock of turkeys, a few deer, and a dozen or so rooster pheasants. Made me wish I’d brought my shotgun. We had this entire Forest Service campground to ourselves.

I wound up taking a nature walk. Idahoans are notoriously dirty people when it comes to the wild places. You’ll find beer bottles everywhere. Here is a shot of an ancient gas tank deep in the forest, accompanied by a beer can. Why is this so far from any road?

My Muse accompanied me on this walk. I’m reminded of John Dillinger’s missing suitcase of money. This is near the original shore of an old lake that is nearly dry. The forest has taken over now.

Then I spotted a trail that went deep into the forest. By this time I was half way around the lake.

How could I not take this wonderful trail. It beckoned me to some amazing discoveries. While I was walking along I heard one lone rifle shot. I wondered if I just heard the shot that killed my wife who was alone back at the camp. (Of course she was safe. This is the mind of an author at work.)

The rifle probably signaled that some lucky hunter filled his freezer with venison for the winter.

It rained a few days before our camping trip. It turned out to be a wonderful time for mushrooming. I found some amazing things and decided to share a bunch of them with you.

I eat wild mushrooms, but I’m very particular about which ones. There are more gilled mushrooms that are dangerous, deadly even, than the other kinds. I never eat gilled mushrooms from the wild. I know how to identify several of the odd varieties and stick to those.

My Fall mushrooming has been a virtual bust so far. Most of the varieties I know are Spring or Summer varieties. I dream about a secret patch of golden chanterelles or hedgehog mushrooms, but they continue to elude me. Here are some of the nameless finds from my nature walk.

Then this wonderful trail led me to something amazing. The King Bolete is the largest mushroom I know of that actually looks like a classic mushroom. I’ve gathered and eaten them many times, and prefer one of their many European names, porcini. They are usually about the size of a pancake, and the underside resembles a pancake or a sponge.

This awesome specimen was past its expiration date. The bugs made a meal of it, and it was quite dark underneath. It looked like an end table about a hundred feet off the trail.

Still, it made for a fun image to share with everyone. There was another one nearby, but it was also spoiled. It was more standard sized.

I plucked this one up and carried it back to camp. It just begged for a scale photo. I lugged it to our picnic table and placed my tin coffee mug beside it.

That is a standard large tin mug. It’s bigger than my fist. Those squares on the table cloth are about 1.5 inches.

The stock is about the size of my upper arm.

To eat one, the stock is usually discarded. The spongy layer is removed by scraping with a spoon. The cap is the part you eat. You could have tossed this one on the grill and stuffed it. It was about the size of a young pizza.

This one was inedible, but that doesn’t mean its offspring will be. I carried it reverently into the forest and propped it in the upright position so it could release its spores.

I wondered if some supernatural creature might come looking for it that evening. I hope I didn’t steal her throne or anything.

Hopefully, by placing it back in the woods, my karma will lead me to a few patches of those wonderful Fall mushrooms.

I tried to catch up with your blogs, but may have missed a thing or two. That’s what happens when you avoid the Internet for a few days. I hope my iPhone photos came out. It’s the only camera I have and the images are passable from my end. That’s all it was good for with no cellular signal and no WiFi.

Quick Edit: this walk occurred on my 55th birthday. I’m probably lucky that Mario and Luigi didn’t try to jump on me.

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Lisaville

Lisa* and I wound our way from the river toward our tents. We spent the morning watching the buffalo and wildebeest go to water. A few small crocodiles sunned on a sandbar, while hippo eyes watched the ungulates drink.

Lisa’s normally pristine safari outfit showed the wear of countless encounters with the thorns that seem to grow everywhere here. The smell of smoke and the oppressing heat became the norm.

We stopped to let a small group of buffalo pass in front of us. “I don’t trust those things,” she said.

“You shouldn’t. Robert Ruark once said they look at you as if you owe them money.” I took off my hat and wiped my brow as they filed past. “What do you think about a trip to town?”

“There’s a town out here? Why couldn’t we stay there? Do they have WiFi?”

“WiFi, a spaceport, and best of all an air conditioned library.”

We made our way to Camp Research, as designated by the sign Lisa made. She used the hand pump to fill the Land Rover, while I gathered my iPad and some notebooks.

“What’s the name of this place?” She asked.

“I don’t know. My imagination just goes on and on. Sometimes a town pops up.”

“Lisaville.”

“What? No, seriously?”

“Yup. The town is called Lisaville. Now get in the car.”

The drive involved a dirt road and one stop for a mother elephant who seemed more angry with her calf than our car. We merged onto a tiny paved road, followed by a four lane highway. Ours was the only car on the surface. Everyone else flitted overhead on the Skyway system.

“Why didn’t you get us a Skyway vehicle?” Lisa asked.

“Ambiance. I’m trying to get the flavor of Africa. Today is all about the other outlines. I’d kind of like to get back to science fiction.”

Lisa pulled to the curb in back of the library. “Robot girls are all in favor of science fiction. You have your phone. Let me know when you’re ready to go.”

“Where are you going?”

“There has to be a shower around here somewhere, and a store, and an Internet coffee shop.”

We parted ways, and I started my research. I found a bio-hack to include in my Grinder outline. I’m going to include this article in the next Idea Mill post. It basically has the potential to not only become the next street drug, but to invade the very food we eat. I’m going to use it, but others may get some ideas too.

Research into the story about yak guy is almost impossible. His growth has to be more spiritual and I need to find that without a book or deep research. I stumbled across a book of magic items, and may use one in my fantasy outline.

It’s getting to the point where each idea, and potential outline has merit. They all have at least one big flaw too. This is the thing about outlines. They never come completely together until you start writing. Getting a chapter down creates new ideas. Character interactions and situations build fences that limit possibilities. This is a good thing.

I packed it in for the day and took a walk. A bar, decked out in neon, caught my eye. Cars descended from the Skyway into its parking lot.

Humans and aliens of every stripe filled the place. I made my way to the bar and looked at the menu. Some of it was in a language I didn’t understand. I told the bartender, who had four complex eyes, to give me the house special.

While he worked on my order, I watched a multi headed slug thing swim across a bowl of something blue atop the bar. I didn’t know if it was a living garnish in someone’s drink, or a patron small enough to swim inside his own drink.

My order was green and bubbling, and served in a frozen erlenmeyer flask. It looked like something right out of Mad Science 101. I carried it to a quiet table in the back and decided to people watch, thing watch. I took a sip. It was cold, refreshing, and tasted slightly of licorice.

She just appeared out of nowhere. Green, transparent, beautiful. She never said a word, but slid into my booth and leaned her head on my shoulder.

Ideas flowed. I knew the yak guy would be attracted to a place like this, and made a few notes. Grinders and bio hackers would like this place too. I made notes. Characters could get in all kinds of trouble in a place like this.

A barmaid came by and topped off my drink, using a hose from a brass backpack she wore. I watched her tail wag as she made her way to the other tables. My new companion slid in closer, and wrapped her arms around me, as I sipped the top off my flask.

Lisa came through the door, looking like a page out of a safari clothing catalog. Her clothes were pressed and snag free. Even her pith helmet had been cleaned. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Having a drink. Are you ready to leave so soon?”

“I’ve been texting you for hours.” She stuck a freshly painted nail in my flask and placed a single drop on her tongue, swirling it about. “Ethanol, propanol, butanol, and…yup, thujone. This is absynth.” She pointed a finger at my companion. “And your new friend is your old friend, the Green Fairy.”

I slid away from the fairy and looked at her. She made a pouty face.

“Lorelei told you years ago she would be your Muse, but you had to choose between her and the Green Fairy.” She grabbed me by my shirt and yanked me from the booth. The fairy wiggled her fingers in a seductive bye bye.

She dragged me out to the Land Rover. It was already dark outside. She made a u-turn on the empty surface street and headed for Camp Research.

“So what did you do today?”

“I found a public bath house. I needed to get the sand and woodsmoke out of my hair. The people there were so friendly.”

I looked at her perfect torso in the moonlight. “I’ll bet they were.”

“Then I bought some new clothes, got my nails done, backed myself up to the cloud, and downloaded everything I could learn about Africa. It’s a good thing you sent Lorelei over to Charles Yallowitz’s blog. If she found you cavorting with the Green Fairy again, she might just quit.”

“I just ordered a drink. I didn’t know what was in it.”

“In a science fiction town? You really ought to know better by now. Maybe you really are better suited for a tent under the stars.”

“I wonder why there’s no bourbon fairy? Maybe I should write one.”

Lisa slapped her own forehead and groaned.

*Lisa is the main character in my first book, Wild Concept. She’s a robot, and works as my writing assistant these days.

 

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Coaching from the Gods

I sat behind my desk at the writing cabin. Lisa* asked for the day off to celebrate with Bunny. She believes today is a holiday for rabbit lovers everywhere. She filed back and forth from the basement to her upstairs room with boxes to build a fort for her beloved pet.

Lorelei** walked in and paused in the doorway. She wore a purple Easter dress with small white polka dots. The low-cut collar was framed by a ruffle of the same material. It cinched tight around her athletic waist. She wore a straw Easter bonnet with a large brim that turned up in front. The backlight made it look like a halo. She manipulated the light so the halo remained no matter where she went.

“You always knew how to make an entr–“

Squee! That dress is so cute!”

“Good morning, Lisa. I'm here to see Craig. I'll send you a link where I bought it.”

Lisa thanked her and carried a small basket of fresh vegetables upstairs.

Lorelei sat on the couch and crossed her legs. “Vacation's over. How do you think you did?”

“Bad.” I picked up my cup and moved to the easy chair beside her. “I tried to finish my novel, but didn't even get close.”

“I was watching from Olympus. I think you're being too hard on yourself. You did some good work.”

“I just didn't do enough of it. There were whole days where I didn't write.”

“Was that your fault?”

“No, but–“

She held a finger up to silence me. “Things happen. You don't control your own destiny, so you have to make the best of the time you get. I saw new chapters, and some of it's very good. I also saw new short stories.”

“Maybe I should get rid of the short stories for a while. At least until I finish my novel.”

“I send you ideas. You've been discarding those that can't carry a novel. That was fine, but now it's time for you to grow as an author. Those ideas are good, but sometimes a shorter tale is better suited. I like the idea that you've been writing them.”

“I think I have too many ideas. I could have spent that time on my novel.”

“But you wouldn't have. You like to write in quiet and solitude. You always have, and probably always will.” She uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “I saw you writing at the same time as your lovely wife was watching television.”

I paused and thought before I spoke. “I'm just having fun with the short stuff. There are less plot points to work out, and generally fewer characters. I can free write them, and edit them later.”

“You're on the verge of a breakthrough. Let me help you here.” She steepled her fingers and chose her words. “You started writing, because you love it. You are the one who turned it into a job. I had nothing to do with that, and am trying to support you. Your own mind rebelled, and gave you something to write for fun once more.”

“Wait, wait, wait! How can I improve if I don't take it seriously?”

“I never said not to take it seriously. You simply need, a bit, of fun. All work and no play makes Craig a dull boy.” She reached over and lifted my chin with a perfectly manicured nail. A shiver ran down my spine.

“Maybe if I had less ideas I could take some time away after this novel is finished.”

“But you won't. You'll get all worked up over marketing, or some new project you want to outline. You're even talking about making the short stories into a book. I need you to write for fun too. If some of the shorts are good, I'll let you bundle the good ones together for others. Just consider them as personal entertainment for today. Write many, and harvest the best. Enjoy yourself.”

“Doesn't the blog do that?”

“It provides you with interaction, something you also need. It requires participating in comments, and even hosting friends. Those are important, but different than we're discussing today. You could easily be a hermit, because that's your nature. I won't let that happen.”

I emptied my coffee and retrieved the pot, along with a cup for Lorelei. “Sorry, Lisa usually does all this. So what's next for me?”

“Keep writing. Keep including a personal challenge in each story.”

“What challenges do you have in mind?”

“You still like the epistolary style. Maybe it's time you tried it. You could try an omniscient narrator, that would be new. Maybe you should write the story of an extroverted character.”

“Maybe somewhere down the road.”

“That's the point. Now you get to think about these things, and someday later you challenge yourself. Right now, your lovely wife just put the ham in the oven and you'd better get back. You have company coming.”

* Lisa Burton is the main character in Wild Concept. She's a robot and works as my personal assistant.

* Lorelei is my Muse. She's from Olympus, and takes my writing very seriously.

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