This will never become a book.

2012 July 26 Thursday

End of Vacation

Filed under: writing — kdefg @ 14:34

Hello, again, did you miss me? It’s only been a week of silence, but I think that’s the longest gap for me yet.  I didn’t forget about the blog — I logged in every day — but I had various reasons for keeping my thoughts in my head instead of writing.

Some of my hesitation was caused by the looming importance of making this, post number sixty, worthy of a round number.  Not only a round number, but a multiple of thirty.  I fit my first thirty posts into the month of May, but it has taken me close to two months to post the next thirty.  I want to continue the writing habit, but I am compelled to wait for the beginning of a new month to start in on that third set of thirty posts.  This is my curse, being obsessed with numbers almost to the point of superstition.

My other excuse is that my household has been unusually tumultuous this week.  Two of us had job interviews, involving many phone calls and office visits, and anxiously preparing before and worrying after.  It was difficult to concentrate on much of anything.  We also juggled the use of the car between our appointments and trips to summer school.  Things will settle down in the next week, as one of us starts a new job and the other turns in a term paper and takes a final exam.

August will be a good time for me to return to a daily writing routine, knowing I will have my quiet house back, and assuming that I do not get a job offer of my own this week.  The interview was a great experience for me, however, giving me a glimpse at a career choice I can work towards.  I think the type of work itself would be a good fit for me, even if the specifics of that company did not align well with my experience.  I am inspired by it rather than discouraged.

Also, I finally got around to watching the “Month of the Novel” web series.  This has renewed my interest in writing with abandon, as they say, on a longer project.   Coincidentally, August is the start of another Camp NaNoWriMo session.  How lucky is that? I think the Universe is winking at me.

However, I must be honest:  I cannot hope to meet a daily goal of over 1660 words per day on a novel while also writing fiction sprints here.  I am hereby announcing my intention to put this blog on hiatus for the next month, and I promise to return in September when I will again need a place to write every day.

Until then, let me leave you with the opening line of my next novel:

Where people see ghosts, Molly is blind. [strike that]

In a world where everyone saw ghosts, Molly Rose was blind. [let’s try that again]

In a world in which everyone else saw spirit entities, Molly Rose was a blind woman.

Oh yeah, I am so ready to play the word count game.

 

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2012 July 18 Wednesday

fiction sprint – Library Access

Filed under: writing — kdefg @ 23:22

The main library on campus stayed open late on weekends.  The theory was that students would need access to research materials for papers due on Monday morning.  In practice, Saturdays were spent at parties, not the library, so students were scarce until Sunday evenings.

This Saturday was no different.  For Mark, this is why he liked working in the library on weekends.  The study carrels were occupied by a few serious students who kept their work areas clean or at least picked up their trash when they left.  In the hour before closing, the janitor ran a vacuum cleaner over the carpets and swabbed out the restrooms.  What little noise this generated was a soothing hum from a distant part of the building, leaving Mark alone with his thoughts at the front desk.

The sun had set hours ago, and the large glass windows in the lobby reflected the interior lights against the blackness outside.  Trees sheltered the front entrance and blocked the view of the campus beyond.  From where Mark sat, he felt enclosed by the walls of a sacred space, a temple for those who worship the ancient texts, a solace from the mundane daytime world.

After closing time, Mark took his usual walk through the building, making sure that everyone else had gone.  He started with the top floor, shutting off the lights and walking down the central staircase.  He had done this for so many nights that he could navigate the building with his eyes closed.  But he enjoyed looking over the railing and onto the floors below.  In part, he was checking for stragglers, people who either ignored the announcement over the P.A. system that it was closing time or who simply did not hear it.  He could look down into the aisles between the stacks and shelves and scan for anyone or anything out of place.  It was like being a god looking down on creation.

This night he did see something out of place, something different, something which should not have been there.  At first it looked like a simple shadow, but in a corner where no lights were aimed.  He squinted at the sight and kept his eyes focused on the spot as he descended the stairs to the next landing.  The shadow took the form of a small cloud of gray smoke — could there be a fire?  No, it was more like a fog or mist, and it did not rise with any heat or currents of air.  It hovered.  It beckoned.

He walked right up to it.  Behind the mist, he thought he saw shapes.  He tried to walk around the spot, but it shimmered and flattened when he did so.  It had no depth, no dimension beyond the flat image now floating next to him.  The images within the swirling fog grew sharper and came into focus.

A hand reached out of the fog, holding a book.  An arm followed, then a body, then a student.  “Is it too late to return this book?”

Mark took the book from the apparition’s outstretched hand.  It was a textbook on the history of alchemy.  He sighed, “Some people will do anything to avoid paying the fines.”

 

2012 July 17 Tuesday

Nickel Debt

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 16:28

I should have been rich by now.  Isn’t that the plan?  I should have discovered my life’s calling, found work that I enjoy and make enough money to more than meet my needs.  Either that, or win a lottery jackpot.

Instead, I take jobs which seem to suit some of my qualifications but are not really what I enjoy doing.  To earn more money, I would need to learn new skills for technology which didn’t exist when I was in college decades ago.  My father tried to tell me that it was not important to enjoy one’s job, that work is work and you get enjoyment from the people you work with instead.  Our culture makes it seem like people should not settle for that, and indeed there are people who find a career which fulfills them and gives their lives purpose and meaning beyond a paycheck.  Right now, I’d settle for the paycheck.

The other day, I went to my regular local coffee shop.  It is an expense which I allow myself for as long as I can afford it, offset by saving money in other ways.  The lady behind the counter knows me very well, not by name but by my appearance as well as my medium cappuccino.  This particular day, I came up five cents short.  Somehow I had spent every last bit of change from my wallet.  I gave her the dollars I had left and apologized for coming unprepared.

I could have gone to the ATM in the plaza and come back with a twenty dollar bill, which she would then have to break to give me a fistful of change.  (I hate doing that to cash businesses when I can help it, because they must go through a lot of coins in a single day.)  She knew me, she trusted me, she let me owe her the nickel.  I said, “You know I’ll be back tomorrow, I’ll pay you back.”  And I was, and I did.

This isn’t a small town, it’s a sprawling urban area.  The coffee lady and I do not know each other’s names.  We never see one another in any other context or location. There was no reason for her to trust me, and perhaps she weighed the odds against the risk of losing only five cents.

I remember a similar scene from countless years ago, when I was commuting between cities.  I had stopped at a fast food place for dinner and came up four cents short of the bill.  The workers did not know me, and yet they let me pay what I had and take my food.  I promised to return to pay them the rest, but they shrugged and told me not to bother.  I did anyway, a day or two later, or tried to.  When I visited the place again, different workers were there and no one knew anything about a four-cent debt.  They thought I was crazy, trying to hand them four pennies without buying anything.

Some day, when I do become rich, I would like to round up the cost of all of my purchases and tell people to keep the change.

 

2012 July 13 Friday

fiction sprint – Ghost in the Shelby

Filed under: writing — kdefg @ 11:02

Walter sat inside the atrium of the Shelby Institute and watched the raindrops trickle down the sides of the glass.  The steady patter of the light rain on the roof was a soothing white noise.  This was the most peace Walter had experienced in months.

An older man appeared between the two ficus trees surrounding the doorway.  He was wearing a sweater and baggy slacks, and carried a long file folder under his arm.  “Mr. Fenton,” he said quietly at first, so quietly that Walter did not hear him.  “Walter?” he said, a little louder but with a gentle tone.

This brought Walter out of his trace.  He turned away from the window and noticed the man standing only an arm’s length away for the first time.  “Yes, that’s me,” he replied, still a bit disoriented.

“Good morning. I’m Doctor Russo.  Welcome to the Shelby.” He opened the thin folder and flipped the single piece of paper stapled inside it.  “You must have arrived late last night.  Your admission form is incomplete.”

“Yes, the floor nurse let me in.  She said it was alright.  She let me stay in the visitor’s suite until I could properly check in.”  Walter stood and offered his hand.  “Thank you.”

The doctor declined the handshake, and instead reached inside his sweater for a pen.  “Let’s just get your signature of consent to make it official, and then we can go get some breakfast, shall we?”

Walter looked at the doctor smiling at him, holding out the patient folder and pen towards him.  The man seemed trustworthy.  Walter waited for the voices to contradict his initial impression, but heard only the rain.  This was unsettling.  For as long as he could remember, there were voices in his head giving him either advice or criticism.  Sometimes he could see their faces, too, hovering next to whomever he was talking to.  Even in the taxi ride here last night, the cab driver had an extra passenger that only Walter could see.  He was never alone in a room with just one other person, until now.

Walter took the pen from the doctor’s hand.  It was an expensive ballpoint with a redwood shaft.  He paused with his hand hovering above the dotted line at the bottom of the legal-length page, beneath many paragraphs of small text.  The rain had stopped, and the room remained voiceless.

“Just to confirm,” said Walter, looking up into the doctor’s kind eyes, “this is just a voluntary stay, you know. It’s been difficult for me at work lately, and I just need a safe place to stay for a while.”

“Completely voluntary,” reassured the doctor.  “May I call you Walt?  I think you’ll find our facility has everything you need.  Our staff will leave you alone for now, if that makes you more comfortable, and when you’re ready to talk, we’re ready to listen.”  He took the pen and folder from Walter, and extended his other arm towards the door.

Walter led the way out of the room.  He brushed past the ficus tree on the left and its leaves rustled, but he did not notice the wall plaque hidden behind it.  It said, “Shelby Mental Institute, Russo Memorial Atrium, for a lifetime of dedicated service, Frederich Hans Russo 1912-1981”.

Dr. Russo walked through the other tree, but the tree did not move.

 

2012 July 12 Thursday

Ink Blot World

Filed under: reality — kdefg @ 19:13

Walking down the street this morning on my way to the coffee shop, I saw a row of soldiers standing on the sidewalk in front of me.

They were there for only an instant, until my eyes adjusted and I realized that I was seeing shadows cast by the rising sun across a row of parked cars.

The mind can only interpret what the eye takes in, and that process of interpretation can take a few seconds.  I wouldn’t call it a hallucination, not even a trick of the eye, but a delay in gathering all of the data and putting it together in a proper context.  It can be fun to play with that lag and look at the world as a kind of Rorschach inkblot test.

With the mind’s filters in place, it makes the world a predictable and logical place to exist.  The world makes sense, and thus we can get on with the business of getting things done.  Turning off those filters allows other imagery to float to the surface.

A tree became a Native American dreamcatcher before me, its branches hanging down like strings of feathers and beads. A hand stretched out across the sky, formed by clouds raked by airplane trails.  The conversation of a pair of construction workers echoed against a fence behind me and became the disembodied voices of ghosts.

Behind the coffee shop, someone had dropped a small basket from the local market, and two fruit cups sat where their groceries must have spilled, their contents still sealed.  I imagined a homeless person would be willing to claim them, even if the owner considered them no longer worth picking up.  Then I wondered about why the basket was left behind.  Several scenes played out in my imagination, mostly disturbing stories about what must have happened to the shoppers.

Sometimes having a mind filter can be a good thing.

 

2012 July 5 Thursday

Upgrade-phobia

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 23:30

If something works, it shouldn’t need to be changed.  That’s my attitude about most things: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  I am very skeptical about anything which claims to be new and improved.

I have been using old versions of almost every piece of software on my computer, from the operating system to the browser and all of the applications.  I know their menus and features, and I like the way they look and feel.  I’ve had no reason to replace them, despite the world telling me they are obsolete.

Today, I let myself be led down an upgrade path, and it has been traumatic for me.  It all started because I wanted to explore a new virtual world, after reading this review of Cloud Party.  My current system has the graphics card to handle it, and I’ve enjoyed other 3-D worlds in the past, ones that run from a downloaded client program, but this one was designed to run in a browser window.  So, to get started, I needed to upgrade my browser.  Scary time.

Suddenly I was tripping over keystrokes that no longer did what they used to do.  In the years since I had last upgraded my browser, they had rearranged the menus, redesigned the icons, and revamped the layout.  It was frustrating!  I went down a side path, searching for solutions and finding many people complaining about the same things I disliked, howling about abrupt changes to a product they all loved.  They encountered these “enhancements” years ago, and there have been multiple version releases since then.  I was on the trailing edge of a wave of changes, and the tide had just swept me to the front of the pack. Fortunately I was able to find ways to customize my interface, and now my browser is nearly back to a state which works for me.  Don’t tell me it looks old — I like it that way.

But the game I wanted to play still did not run, because my video card drivers were out-of-date.  Once again, I had not encountered any need to upgrade for the past several years, and so I was unprepared for the effects a simple update would have on my system.  For starters, the control panel which I use to swap settings for different tasks had been overhauled, and the feature which saved my various user profiles had been eliminated.  I now had no easy way to change between the monitor resolution I use for text-based tasks and the settings I need for graphics-intensive games, plus all of my carefully customized color tweaks were gone.  I am very sad now, and in this area there is no way to go backwards.

So I went to all this trouble just to take a trial run on a website that I probably would not spend much time on later.  It did run, although the objects in the scene render slowly.  I don’t know whether this is a fault of my download speed or their servers, or some other settings which I was forced to reset to new defaults.  The game itself is really just a sandbox now, a place where people can build environments and explore them.  I might return to look around some more, later, since I have ruined my system for it.

I decided to run an older game to see what effect the new video drivers would have on it.  The game is URU, a virtual world that was built many years ago.  It never made heavy demands on my aging computer, and for many reasons it has never required an upgrade of its players.  People with newer computers have had trouble running the software, which was written for an operating system which is no longer worthy of service updates.  I set my screen resolution to what I hope matches the profile I had saved but lost.  The game now runs with an annoying stutter, a sluggish chunkiness in the animation and avatar motions.  I do not know what is causing it, other than the new drivers.  I do not know how to fix it.

I do not understand why things ever need to change.

 

2012 July 4 Wednesday

Order Up

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 23:26

I haven’t made many posts in my “Dreams” category so far, because I haven’t really had many interesting dreams over the past few months.  I’m wondering whether or not I could invoke a good night of dreams tonight simply by talking about what I would like to see.  I haven’t had much luck with this in the past.  Maybe I haven’t been specific enough.

I enjoy dreaming about new places, and it is hard to be specific about a place I haven’t yet seen.  I’m pleasantly surprised when I dream about a bookstore or library, because my brain fills in the most wonderful details for the books on the shelves.  I wouldn’t get the same thrill if I pictured the location before falling asleep.

I don’t do the kind of guided meditation that might help me to focus on a planned dream — I don’t do any sort of meditation at all, really.  I daydream while doing other things, like taking a walk or washing the dishes.  Maybe that is using up all of my visualization powers.

I’ve wanted to have more lucid dreams, too, but the recommended techniques have not been successful for me.  I know I am supposed to train myself during the day to question reality, to make it a habit to ask whether or not I am dreaming right now.  This has not carried over into my dream world.

I will know I am dreaming when I see something that I have not already seen in a movie or on television.  This rules out Bigfoot, unicorns, wildfires, the Queen, and all sorts of alien sightings.  What could I possibly imagine right now to look for in my dreams that I have never seen before?

Even notions like “when pigs fly” have been rendering into imagery.  A poem from my childhood talked about a purple cow as an impossibility, but with Photoshop it is now too easy to make it look plausible.  The only true impossibilities left are contradictions and paradoxes.

Tonight, I shall dream about a five-sided square.  The trick will be remembering it in the morning.

 

2012 July 3 Tuesday

Second-hand Reports

Filed under: writing — kdefg @ 23:59

I was told that the man across the street had hung himself.

I was taking a walk in my neighborhood when this moment from my past sprang to mind.  The opening line seemed like a good way to start a story.  Then I wondered, should it be written as fiction?

I was told this by the man living next door to me.

This much is true.  I don’t remember whether I saw the police or read about it in the news, but I remember what the neighbor told me.

He seemed unable to cope with what he had seen, and needed me to hear him as he processed the event.

This was a man who once yelled at me for touching his garbage can after he put it out on the street for pick-up day.  We were not friends.

He told me he had walked past the man’s open garage door, and saw his body hanging from the ceiling.

What does one say in response to that?  I don’t remember saying much of anything.

The man had been out of work for a while, according to the neighbor.  His wife had left him and taken their child.  The financial pressures were probably what sent him to his end.  Neither of us really knew the man well enough to have seen this coming.

What would we have done, either of us?  We all kept to ourselves.

I offered words of comfort to the man, and praised him for handling the situation so well.  He had called the authorities and closed the garage door, to prevent anyone else from passing by and seeing what he now could not forget seeing.

To be honest, I had a morbid curiosity to ask what the man had looked like.  Was it anything like the way a suicide is portrayed in the movies?  Of course, I did not ask him.

The crime scene tape shivered as an evening breeze blew down the street.  We stood together for a while longer on the lawn between our houses, looking at the house across the street.

Really, I just wanted to go back inside.  I did not feel comfortable listening to this man, this stranger, as he fought back tears.

With a silent nod, he thanked me and returned to his porch.

See, fiction is probably a nicer way to write this up.  I could start off with a description of a happy community in which everyone greeted each other from their driveways.  And then, as a stinger, I could end with the line instead of opening with it.

I was told that the man across the street had hung himself.  It was how I met the neighbors.

 

2012 July 2 Monday

Wallet Angel

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 23:28

We had been out running errands that day, driving around to various shops to pick up an assortment of items needed for the upcoming weekend.  It was late afternoon and we hoped to find all of the things remaining on our list at one final store before it closed for the day, and save ourselves another last-minute trip in the morning.

I pulled the car into a parking space, we got out and I locked the car.  I opened my purse to pull out our shopping list and realized that I didn’t see my wallet inside.  I froze, but only for a moment.  Then I burst into action.

First, I unlocked the car and we dug around under the seats.  I really didn’t think we would find my wallet there, but it gave me time to think.  Where did I last see it?  Where did I last use it?

“Oh no.”  Our previous stop had been to the water store, and in my mind I could clearly see myself putting my wallet on top of the vending machine as I filled our plastic jugs.  “I think I know where it is. Let’s go!”

We were miles away, in another town, and I was now driving in rush hour traffic in the commuter lane.  My mind raced ahead of me, imagining every possible scenario I could face when I arrived.  For the first few minutes, I was hopeful.  We just had to get there before someone saw the wallet sitting there out in the open.  Then doubt seeped in.  How could anyone *not* notice a wallet on top of a vending machine?

I berated myself for being so careless.  I had been in a hurry, trying to do too many things, thinking about the next task before completing the current one.  I stepped on the gas pedal in anger, then backed off when I realized the speed I was going.

In a matter of minutes I was babbling to myself.  I considered whether this trip was worth the miles, whether it was a waste of time, or something I absolutely had to try.  Maybe the wallet would still be there, and the thief would take only the cash, leaving me the credit cards and identification.  Maybe a kind soul found it and turned it in at the water store counter — except that the store would have closed by now.  I might drive all the way there only to had no way of knowing whether my wallet was inside the store or out of the county by now.

I begged the universe to watch over my wallet.  Then I asked for the grace to accept the loss.  I didn’t deserve any special favors from the wallet gods, but maybe they could take pity on me and at least end my suffering.

By now, my passenger was feeling my pain, but also amused by my wildly swinging emotional state.  She and I discussed ways we could turn my facial expressions into a comic strip.  It kept me from looking at the clock for a few minutes, but then I pictured each panel of the comic including a digital readout of the elapsed time, and I returned to reality with a groan.

We finally arrived at the shopping center where the water store was located.  I drove across the parking lot, approaching the store with the outside vending machine in sight.  I couldn’t see my wallet from that distance…

I pulled into the parking space directly in front of the store.  And there in the shadows was the vending machine, with something on top!  Yes! It was my wallet!  “Holy crap!”  I left the car running and burst out of my seat.  My wallet, and all my cards, and all my photos, and all my cash, exactly as I had left it.  I think I actually apologized to it for abandoning it there.

We drove all the way back to the last store to finish our shopping as planned.  The entire trip was punctuated by my repeated outbursts of disbelief: “No way!” I was stunned and amazed and grateful.  Amen.

 

2012 July 1 Sunday

Genetics of Procrastination

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 21:59

The first day of July, the start of a new month — and with it comes the promise of a fresh slate, a new chance to get back to the discipline of writing every day.  Or, it’s my chance to rethink this whole exercise.  What better time to quit than at the beginning of a new month, my darker side whispers to me.

I’ve had all day to consider my options.  I’ve had all day to think of — and reject — several possible writing topics.  In the other room, my daughter is working on an essay for school.  She has had all day to work on it; in fact, she has had the past three days to work on it, but has found other ways to be idle until tonight.  I begin to wonder whether this aversion to work runs in our common bloodline.

Could there be a genetic trait which sets some humans down the path of getting work done before play?  Those people must have an inner drive to never leave a task undone.  More than a learned behavior, it must be part of their nature, and surely would be a preferable trait for survival of the individual.  One might even consider it desirable to have at least one member of a family or community with this trait.  However, those kinds of people are probably annoying to have around all the time, unless you yourself are equally task-oriented.  In fact, I imagine those types are not going to be the most romantic.  It’s amazing that they could relax enough to breed at all.

On the other hand, my daughter and I both know that we should do our work first and play later, but we never do.  We both need deadlines to motivate us, and we often underestimate how long a task will take.  The deadlines approach, and we scramble to get the minimum amount done, and put off the rest until it becomes absolutely necessary to complete.  Surely I did not teach her this behavior!  I frequently tell her to start earlier on projects and remind her that things take longer than she imagines, but she does not take my advice.  And yet, somehow, we both survive.  Obviously I have survived to breed, so if this is indeed a hereditary trait, then my genes must be the dominant ones.  Her father is nothing like either of us, and we drive him crazy with our lack of discipline.

So now that I’m getting ready to hit the “Publish” button on this post, I take one last moment to consider the wisdom of this action.  If I show even one post in July, I will feel obligated to fill up the rest of the month with posts.  If I make post number 51 on day 1, I will be compelled to make post number 52 on day 2, and so on.  By hitting this button, I am signing up for another 30 days of forcing myself into creating something from nothing.  (Yes, July has 31 days, but I cannot allow myself a single day off before the end of the month, if I want post number 80 to land on July 30th.  I really do like the round numbers.)

Of course, nothing says I can’t wait until just before midnight to meet the deadlines.

 

 

 

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