A Day Late!!

Bah! I totally meant to post this yesterday, but a Saturday Halloween party more or less threw off my whole weekend, and I didn’t get home until Sunday afternoon. Needless to say I feel bad about being late, so instead of a Short Story Sunday, this will be a Short Story Monday. My bad….

At any rate, I’m trying to challenge myself more, especially on weeks where I’m just find spending a lot of time on my main WIP. As both a ‘punishment’ and a way to keep writing, I’d like to pump out a short story for those weeks. Nothing over 5,000 words, but always over 1,000, and for inspiration I’ve made a sort of ‘prompt’ sheet.

The prompt sheet as 4 categories/columns: person, action, location, object. Using an online dice roller I’ll pick one randomly from each category and use the four of those to create a story. Today I’ll share the first attempt with this method, and hopefully it’s entertaining.

Here are the words for this short story:

Astronaut | Sing | Jungle | Shovel

     Marty felt the stress of his morning melt away as he opened the door ahead of him with the press of a button. The corridors behind him were an endless stretch of gray metals and white plastics, but across this threshold was a living, breathing mass of every green shade imaginable; a perfect man-made jungle created to save the world. He stepped through, and the door slid shut with a quiet whoosh of air behind him. Humidity wrapped around him, and for the next minute he just stood there and listened. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath of warm air.

     Insects and camouflaged AL-Amazona chirped and sang, their tinny voices filling the space with a song never heard before on Earth. It was a fusion of nature and the unnatural, something all too familiar and yet strangely alien. He smiled, and a moment later their noises were drowned out by the sudden mechanical rumble of thunder, one of the hidden speakers crackling with a burst of static as its broken parts shook.

     Marty sighed and opened his eyes. He grabbed one of the ponchos hanging by the door and slipped it on just as another rumble filled the room. The soft patter of water against leaves quickly followed. The drizzle fast turned into a deluge, and with a growing smile, Marty grabbed a shovel from the nearby tool rack. He pulled his hood up and headed into the downpour, the jungle foliage enveloping him with a whispering rustle.

     With a spring in his step and the sweet smell of damp earth and decaying vegetation filling his every inhalation, he felt the sudden urge to sing. His smile grew into a grin and he lifted the shovel, holding the handle near to his mouth as he waved his imaginary audience to silence.

“You’re just too good to be true,” he spoke softly at first, only the slightest hint of a musical lilt to his words. “Can’t take my eyes off of you—”

     He caressed the space around the handle of his shovel as if it were the back of a lover’s head, his voice steadily getting louder and more rhythmic.

“You feel like heaven to touch.” He bopped the handle on its imaginary nose. “I want to hold you so much. At long last love has arrived, and I thank God I’m alive. You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you—”

     Marty spun the shovel in a circle then continued his trek forward at a faster pace as he sang more loudly than before.

“Pardon the way that I stare. There’s nothing else to compare. The sight of you makes me weak. There are no words left to speak. But if you feel like a feel, please let me know that it’s real. You’re just too good to be true; can’t take my eyes off of you.”

     As he reached the chorus, Marty jumped on top of a large root that stuck up from the soft ground, his arms spread wide as if to embrace the jungle in return. As loud as he could, he sang the words out to the trees with all the passion he could muster.

“I love you baby! And if it’s quite all right, I need you baby, to warm the lonely nights. I love you baby, trust in me when I say—” he stretched the last word out, but before he could continue further a voice called out to him.

“Jesus Christ Marty, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

     The voice appeared out from behind some underbrush, and Marty grinned at Jim before jumping down from the root. He shrugged, giving the man a quick once over. Jim’s fingers and uniform were dirty, but otherwise there was nothing else to note.

“Just felt like singing is all.”

“Yeah well, you know damn well that extra noise is gonna piss Marie off when she checks through the video later. She—wait, wasn’t she supposed to be on shift with you? Where is she?”

     Marty’s grin damped a little, and he shrugged again.

“She wasn’t feeling well. I told her I’d handle everything. Where’s Kate?”

“She’s just packing up the samples.”

“Well let’s not keep her waiting.” He motioned for his colleague to lead the way. “I’ll help.”

     Jim nodded and turned, and when he took a single step forward Marty’s grin bounced back onto his face. Before his friend could take one more stride he lifted the shovel and swung it forward as hard as he could.

     Metal smashed into the back of Jim’s skull with a sickening crack, and the man fell forward before he even knew what had happened. His face landed into wet soil, and Marty pulled the shovel close to his mouth again.

“Oh pretty baby, don’t bring me down I pray. Oh pretty baby, now that I’ve found you stay—” he walked forward as he sang softly, stepping across Jim’s back as he headed towards Kate. “And let me love you, baby; let me love you…”

     Marty hummed the next bit as he closed in on the woman. Her back was turned to him, and her hands were buried in a box as she sorted small biological samples. When his feet crunched against a branch she looked over her shoulder. Kate gave him a quick acknowledging nod before facing her work again.

“Heard you howling from all the way over here,” she commented as glass clinked at her fingertips, a small piece of tarp supported on poles keeping her hands, and the samples, dry. “I’m surprised Marie didn’t tackle you down and shove a ball-gag right in.”

“Oh,” Marty stepped up behind her and lifted the shovel to rest against his shoulder, his grin so large and constant it was beginning to hurt his cheeks. “Marie didn’t come with. She’s in bed right now; wasn’t feeling too good.”

“She’ll be giving you hell later then. Better get ready for it.”

“I don’t think she’ll mind so much,” He argued, bursting back into song a second later. “And I love you baby—!”

     Kate jumped and turned in surprise at the sudden outburst, but she only managed to open her eyes wide in surprise just before the shovel slammed across the side of her head. The metallic thunk rang out in time with her grunt of pain, but unlike Jim she didn’t fall. In shock, Kate stumbled to the side and grabbed her head as a line of blood appeared on her brow, the rain quickly washing it down the side of her face in a steady pink stream. She swayed and looked up at Marty in horror, but he merely sang and walked closer.

“—and if it’s quite all right, I need you baby—” he swung again.

     Kate’s hand was quick to block him, but as he made contact with her fingers they folded backwards and a strained shriek escaped her mouth. She staggered backwards and clutched her broken hand to her chest, her head shaking in furious denial as she blinked rain and tears and blood from her eyes.

“Marty, no—please, no—what are you—”

“—to warm the lonely nights. I love you baby—”

     He sang over her words and pulled the shovel handle to his mouth again as winked at her.

“—Trust in me when I say—”

“You crazy son of a bitch!” Kate looked up to the cameras on the ceiling as she continued to backtrack. “Fucking help me goddamn it!”

“—Oh pretty baby—!” Marty rushed her then, leaping forward as he stabbed the shovel straight at her chest.

     The tool’s head sunk into her torso with a wet crunch, and his song stopped as abruptly as her pleas. Kate’s head dropped to stare at him in surprise. Mouth gaping, her unbroken hand lifted to feel the new wound as if she couldn’t’ believe it was real. They stared at one another, the clink of rain on metal louder than the wheezing that escaped with Kate’s every labored breath.

“B—B—I—Why?” It was the only full word she managed, her tears disappearing into the reddened rainwater on her cheeks.

     Marty’s grin wavered, and he licked his lips. Why indeed, he thought. He looked up at the cameras, then back down and past Kate’s tortured face, out to the beautiful green that surrounded them on every side. He sighed.

“They just don’t deserve this.” He answered, thinking of the dying planet below them.

     Kate tried to speak again, but as her mouth worked wordlessly, Marty decided that he was done with the conversation. He still had work to do. His grin returned, and as he held the shovel tightly, he planted a boot against his colleague’s stomach and pushed. Her body fell into the mud their feet had trampled up, and with his weapon free, he held the handle back at his mouth and sang softly.

“Oh pretty baby, don’t bring me down I pray. Oh pretty baby, now that I’ve found you stay. And let me love you, baby; let me love you…”

     Kate let out her last gurgling breath, and once again Marty was alone with the beautiful sound of rain and the quiet lull of insects and their aluminum hunters. All he had left to do now was head for the airlock. He didn’t deserve anything either, and with the entire crew of the space station resting peacefully, his work would finally be finished.

     Marty smiled and headed for the door, humming all the way.

Short Story: The Monster

Since I absolutely can’t think of anything to write today, I decided to just share another short story.

See my writing group has held quite a few short story competitions between group members, and I figured I’d share some of mine. They aren’t anything near publishable (all first drafts), but they were all fun to write, and hopefully fun to read. We allow a period of one week for the stories to be written, and it must be between 1 and 5 thousand words. Our competitions are based on a prompt given by another member, and the prompt for this one was:

Someone has been following me for a long time. Now I’m finally going to do something about it.

So, here is my take on that prompt.

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Bordeaux Glass Thoughts

Of all the hands to touch me throughout my life, his I remember best.

Always gentle, always confident; he filled me with comfort, and I knew that he would never let me fall, never break me. There was never a moment when I questioned whether what we had was right or wrong, even when he would forget about me for hours, days, or even weeks. It didn’t matter. Whenever his eyes sought me out again I was only too happy to obey. I was too lonely without the warmth of his touch, and only when he would fill me to the brim did I feel complete; whole again. I think I was in love with him.

I must have been.

Even know, in the hands of another, he’s all I think about. His lips—oh they were the lips of Adonis. He knew how to taste of me in a way I’ve never seen or felt matched before or since. Like a connoisseur, he’d press his lips to mine and drink deeply, pouring my very spirit into his. He could leave behind impressions that would last until dawn, so powerful I thought I could feel them even after they were washed away.

And oh the nights we would spend together.

His fingers could—and would—cradle me until completion, but often we would spent hours together doing nothing more than holding one another. He would gaze into the distance and dream, whispering his hopes and fears and wishes into my ear. I was just happy to be wrapped in his warm embrace. We would stay that way until dawn, lazy lovers as we kissed our way into a haze of happiness.

It was bliss.

It’s only as this other man holds me that I reflect upon those hands that I truly long for. Hands that knew how to hold me. Hands that cared. This new man is careless; clumsy fingers and all teeth. Worse than even that, he often leaves me naked and alone without a whisper of affection to sooth my aching soul. I fear for my sanity; for my life, but I don’t believe that I can survive on my own. The mere thought of being thrown out is unbearable, even though it hurts me when he tosses me from his embrace like something dirty and disposable. I am no longer treasured.

And so I miss him

He’d never treated me this way, but he’s gone now. My emptiness is all I have left to remind me of him. I still remember the last time he held me. It was a cold night, one I won’t ever forget. We’d spent hours together already, his lips and hands and trembling fingers touching me in the ways that only he could, touching me until I was exhausted and satisfied. Laying beside him then, he whispered, drowsy and heavy lidded, about decisions he would have to make soon, about things I couldn’t understand. Things I didn’t want to understand. I watched in silence as he spoke, stilled by my fears as he said his goodbyes. Only; I hadn’t known they were goodbyes then.

To this day I still don’t understand why he left me.

Hours, days, weeks, months later I still lived in that pained memory of his gentle farewell, my lips cold and my soul empty. His friends came. They spoke in hushed voices, afraid, I suppose, of telling me the truth. Of telling me how it had ended. It was in the hands of one of those friends that I found some small comfort again, however cheap and bitter the taste.

But still I miss him.

As the days pass and I grow more brittle with age, I keep my hope that he will walk back into my life again; kiss me again. Fill me again. Maybe he could rescue me before the loss of his care causes irreparable damage. I know that he won’t—that he can’t—but I also cannot give up the hope, not when I’m already chipped and so near to shattering.

Hope is all I have left.

So in these hands I find my temporary reprieve, but never will I forget him. He was bliss. He was love. He was the sweetest wine and the warmest touch. He was my everything. I could only hope to cradle his spirit each chance that I was able, but he—he managed to consume all of mine.

Switching to Sundays

In light of the fact that I work a full time job and all that, I think I’m going to move blog posting day to Sunday. I want to challenge myself to try and push out a short story every other week, and that’ll fit in perfectly with the “Short Story Sunday” tag I already have created. So with that change in mind, I’m keeping this post super short, and I’ll see you back here on Sundays!

Hint: it’s going to be a short story.

Adding Magical Realism, Plus NaNoWriMo Hopeful

I finally made my decision on whether or not to write a MG ghost story with magical realism or not, and I’m pleased to say that I am going forward with it. Ever since coming across the term I’ve been sort of enchanted by idea, and while I started out wanting to write a kid’s horror, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not very good at creating horror. I love reading it, and I love to watch it; however, when it comes to producing horror of my own I don’t seem to have any sense of what’s needed. I may have a passion for it, but I just don’t have a knack for writing it, at least not that I’ve seen so far. I might try again eventually (got a couple ideas floating around), but right now I’ll shelf them and move on.

SO…. with that finally off my chest, I’m pleased to say that now my efforts will be to write something vaguely reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth but for children, so obviously with far less horrifying moments and themes. I’m now rewinding a little to add in these new elements. What I’m really hoping for is to be finished with my planning and outlining before the end of October so that I can participate in National Novel Writing Month finally! I’ve never really been in a good position to join, so fingers crossed I get a chance to this year.

Will I be able to finish this been before the end of this year? Sweet Christmas do I hope so 🙂 I’ll keep the blog updated on my progress in the meantime.

In other news: I’ve been slacking a little on the Querying front… definitely need to remedy that soon…

IT

I have loved horror my entire life, all the way from the womb and up until today, and likely until the day I die. I say the womb, because apparently when my mother was pregnant with me that was all she watched, and I’d like to think that led to my life-long love of the genre. I think the only horror I don’t like is the stuff people call ‘torture porn,’ and I’m honestly inclined to agree with the term. I love watching (as god-awful as this sentence sounds) the suffering and terror of horror movie characters, but I don’t want to just see them get hurt as the focus as the film. I’ll take Nightmare on Elm Street over Hostel any day of the week.

That said, I’ve always been a fan of the old IT mini-series. Sure it was cheesy with all it’s wonderful Stephen King campiness, but that didn’t make it less enjoyable. Was it scary? Well… I mean not really. I absolutely adored Tim Curry as Pennywise, and the child actors were great, and I loved so many of the scenes that took place in their childhood years. And I think that the people who worked on the new remake movie really understood that those things were what most people liked about the original. The clown, the children, and the interaction between them.

My spoiler free review:

The movie is good. I only had two negative thoughts through the entire thing, and neither of them is at all a ‘deal breaker’ that detracts from the movie. My first ‘con’ to the movie is the length. It seemed just a little too long, and I think this might have been a pacing issue in the middle. I understand that they wanted to give every kid a unique experience with Pennywise, but after a while it was just scare after scare after scare and I thought at one point, “how many more times can these kinds be scared before they aren’t scared any more??” So yeah, just a little too long, but I really can’t think of what I’d cut either, because individually I really enjoyed all the scenes.

My second issue was really only one scene in particular, and not because it was bad in any way, but because it seemed to be the only ‘cheesy’ moment. It sort of took me out of the movie for a second because it just didn’t seem to work as well as the other Pennywise interactions.

Seriously though, go see it. While I still adore Tim Curry’s Pennywise, Bill Skarsgård did some an incredible job that I really have to give him some serious kudos. I think of the two Pennywise interpretations sort of like how different actors gave us different Jokers. Jack Nicholson’s Joker was to Tim Curry’s Pennywise what Heath Ledger’s Joke was to Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise. Two very different versions of the same character, but both equally for all their differences. Skarsgård was creepy as fuck, and I loved him every second of it.

I also can’t leave out what an incredible job those kids did! There wasn’t a single moment any of those children were on that I rolled my eyes or thought they weren’t believable. Their interactions and dialogue actually had me laughing out loud, and I can’t even begin to say how glad I am that this movie didn’t hold back, not on the language or the blood. Where the original was made for TV, this one was most definitely not.

So yeah. Go see this! It’s good, it’s great, and it’s well worth the admission cost.

Spoiler Review Below!!!

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Death

So I ended up skipping my entry last week, but not without reason.

A girl died last Sunday.

Well, thousands did all over the world, I’m sure, but the girl I’m referencing specifically was a daughter to one of my co-workers. I won’t give any details, but this girl was too young for anyone to ever say, “well at least she lived a long life,” and really it just isn’t fair. She didn’t deserve it, and my co-worker certainly didn’t deserve to endure it. So, out of respect, and quite frankly my distraction at the events, I decided to skip the entry altogether.

It’s been a week now, and while life has gone on for the rest of us here in the office, I can’t help but think of how my co-worker must be doing. I imagine that waking up each day must be the hardest part. To sleep and forget about it must be such a relief; then comes that single second of amnesia just after waking, only to have that followed by the most gut-wrenching punch of realization that it wasn’t just a bad dream. I’m not a parent, and I can’t fathom that level of heartbreak, but it does make me think about all the people in my life who I love.

Events like that really make people stop and consider what’s really important in life. It isn’t your job, it isn’t your possessions, your value or your debt. What’s important are those you love and the time you get to spend with them. As obvious as that statement seems, so many of us forget it anyway as we stress over work or bills or broken things. 

It’s easy to put death and loss in the background of your worries (and seriously, that isn’t a bad thing because thinking about it all the time would be unhealthy as hell), but just remember to tell everyone you love how you feel. Ask him/her out. Call the people you care about if you haven’t talked to them in a while. Go out for coffee. Go on a date. Send a text to remind them that you are thinking of them. Write a letter. Start a video chat. Go visit. Whatever you do, just do something.

Time is fleeting, so don’t waste it on shit that doesn’t matter.

Still going

Needless to say, PitchWars was a bust. Thankfully the world moves on, and I’ve begun to query again. I’m 6 rejections in, all of them basically saying the same thing: thanks for the query but no thanks. I think I might go up to 15 rejections before I sit down and maybe revisit the manuscript. I have some notes from my writer’s group and a potential prologue just sitting off to the side right now; once I hit 15 I think I’ll make some adjustments and then try some more.

Work on the current WIP continues. I’m right at the halfway mark, so that’s nice. Unlike so many of my other projects though, this one is far less wordy. So much so that I might actually have to go through and add more words. Insanity! I think though, that because I’ve chosen to try my hand at MG instead of adult, I’ve also been trying to avoid going too deep into the descriptive rabbit-holes I tend to get stuck in.

Also, the big question on my mind is how different I’d like to make this WIP once the rough draft is done, if at all. Currently it’s just a simple premise: children’s ghost story, but I keep asking myself if I should add something extra. Ghost story in space? Ghost story with magical realism? I think my biggest worry is the notion that perhaps a simple ghost story just isn’t enough. I should probably start scouting out the MG market to see what agents are looking for and what’s overly-saturated right now.

Ugh.

At any rate, work continues and the world moves on.

WIP Word Count: 19,424

Change in adaptations

Change is good.

At least, that’s my opinion . I had a very interesting debate the other night regarding change, specifically that which comes when adapting books or comics to movies or television shows. The crux of the debate circled around whether or not it was ‘okay’ to change the race (or gender) of an iconic character. It revolved specifically around that of Roland Deschain from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, and the Doctor from Doctor Who.

On my side of the argument I said yes. Yes, it is okay to change race/gender so long as the character is still intrinsically similar. Do I think that a retelling of the classic Captain America story should have the role filled by a woman? Well, maybe not. It would be a different story simply because of the time and place that Captain America originates from. With a different race/gender, the character would have a much different experience of events, and while the personality might survive, it would still be a different story. But then again, maybe even that’s okay – a new take on an iconic character could be a breath of fresh air and allow the movie to touch on new issues.

But Captain America example aside, when the race/gender of a character has NO bearing on personality? At that point I think it’s a FANTASTIC idea to break the mold. I love re-imagined adaptations/interpretations (when they are well done). In the case of Roland Deschain, and similarly Johnny Storm in the most recent Fantastic Four movie, or with a female version of the Doctor, I don’t feel like gender or race would make much of a difference to who that character is. And hell, even with my initial example I still concede that even then the personality could endure, and to me that’s the most iconic part of the character:

Who they are as a person and the actions that define them.

So fuck it. Why can’t we have a black woman be Captain America? Couldn’t she still fight for justice and the American dream and take down Nazi’s of any era? Sure her backstory would be different, how she came to fight in the army during that time and the trials that she faced, but is it really so wrong to re-imagine those things?

I’ll admit that mistakes have been made recently with other movies trying to reboot a franchise with a gender-flipped cast (coughGhostbusterscough), and while I’m not against the premise of an all woman team replacing a previously all male team, for the love of god why can’t it be done right? If you want to change something, change is all the way! We didn’t need a remake, we needed a new start. Make them the daughters. Pass the fucking torch. Give us women, give us minorities, but give them their own movies too, don’t just steal from the past cause you’re too lazy to make a brand new movie for fear or failure. Create something new for them.

You know what movie did a great job of this in my opinion? Evil Dead. I love me some Bruce Campbell, and nobody will ever be able to replace his amazing Evil Dead movies, and so they didn’t even try. What did they do instead? Made something DIFFERENT. They didn’t try to capture the same feelings and exact same story as the original. Sure there were call backs and some scenes almost shot for shot identical, but it was different enough in tone that it didn’t matter. It was clearly a ‘remake,’ but it was done right.

So either make it different enough to stand apart, or make it a continuation I say.

Change is good though people. But, for all the naysayers who think that a different race/gender is killing an iconic character, please tell me why you think that way. Who the hell could have looked cooler than Idris fucking Elba?

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Outlining vs Pantsing

Do I outline, or do I pants? It’s a question many a writer has asked before, and I’m no different.

I’ve done both, but I find my primary method is to outline. This of course has it’s drawbacks though. While I have a clearer picture of where my story is going and how it will end, it also steals away any surprise/suspense I have. It’s something I’ve struggled with, and I hate that feeling I get after I’ve finished a full outline: boredom.

This is why I’ve been trying something slightly new – a modified approach, if you will.

Normally in my writing process I follow these steps:

  1. Base idea origination: this is the bottom line ‘pitch’ in my head that starts the whole thing up.
  2. Basic main character conception.
  3. Ideal ending generation.
  4. Random event generation: this is the point in which I just start writing out all the random scenarios I think would be fun or neat to read/write.
  5. Event coordination: I then take my random events and start to put them in a more coherent order when it’s clear that scene D can’t happen until A B and C are in place.
  6. Filling in the gaps / Outline: At this point I have the scenes that mean most to me and the order (which is still adjustable in many cases) that I’d like to see them in. Now the time between those scenes need to be filled in, connecting all the dots together to create ‘the story’.
  7. Drop it like it’s hot: Right around this time that feeling of boredom sets in now that my entire story is already laid out. Sure it’s more like a lengthy synopsis, but I feel like it’s been told and writing more gives no satisfaction. So I have to drop it for a bit until that feeling goes away.
  8. Write the rough draft.
  9. Hide it in a folder for a month or three.
  10. Revise.
  11. Edit and revise again.
  12. Revise again.
  13. Get a second opinion: this is where a writers group or beta readers REALLY shine.
  14. Edit and revise again.
  15. Rinse and repeat as many times is necessary or until my sanity gives out.

So anyway that’s basically the full list, but with my current WIP I have decided to stop somewhere between numbers 5 and 6. I have my characters, my ideal ending and my random events already, but instead of doing a full outline all at once I’m going to try and do it a couple chapters at a time with plenty of room to pants-it.

Hopefully this will keep me intrigued all the way through. Sadly I haven’t made much progress since last week for various reasons, but I’m hopeful that I can dive back into it here shortly.


Regarding PitchWars:

Still no word on this which can mean 1 of two things: 1) my first chapter / query just wasn’t engaging enough or 2) my submission didn’t actually go through. I’m more inclined to think it’s #1 due to the number of competitors I was up against, but the hopeful part of me wants to consider #2 as well. I don’t recall getting any message after submitting, but then again I don’t know that I was looking out for one either.

In the end, it’s been a week and I think by now most of the mentors have chosen the stories they’d like to request more for, and mine was not amongst them. But I’m honestly okay with this. I’m trying to work on my current WIP, and while I’d like the old one to be out of my hands already, this gives me more time to do ‘stuff.’

I sincerely wish all the people who were accepted the best of luck though, and I hope all of them find an agent!