Wednesday, November 2, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016


A helpful calendar that escaspulates all the emtions felt during NaNo


Another November is upon us and with it comes NaNoWriMo. For those of you not in the know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and the premise of the challenge is to hammer out 50,000 words in 30 Days. It is chaos and, at times, takes some hard work and elbow grease to stay on task, but it's a good time.

This is my sixth year participating and hopefully my fourth year winning. Currentlty I am ahead of the game and sitting at 3,000 words.

As always, Chuck Wendig has some pretty spot on advice for NaNo and also some good life advice (funny how those two tend to go hand in hand). Check them out from the links below. :)

A pep talk:
NANOWRIMO PEP TALK: THE PURE FUCKING JOY OF GETTING IT ALL WRONG

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/10/31/nanowrimo-pep-talk-the-pure-fucking-joy-of-getting-it-all-wrong/

Some NaNo advice:

A COOLING MIST OF NANOWRIMO-FLAVORED NOVEL WRITING ADVICE

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/10/25/a-cooling-mist-of-nanowrimo-flavored-novel-writing-advice/

HAPPY WRITING WRIMOS!!

--TAP

Friday, July 8, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday: Insomnia

Well here we are with another Flash Fiction Friday from Terrible Minds. This week's challenge was to incorporate insomnia. A perfect prompt for me as the main character of my current WIP has fairly chronic insomnia. Here is the link to the post: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/07/01/flash-fiction-challenge-insomnia/

Night Swimming



August is the worst month to do anything. Even the night air is hot and sticky as I ease out into the darkness. I’m sweating before I get on my bike and start peddling and by the time I reach the end of the block my shirt is soaked through with perspiration. The night is heavy with the silence of slumbering houses.  

I pedal on, riding the familiar streets until I reach the pool. The smell of Chlorine and sunscreen is a comfort. I lean the bike again the brick of the building and hop the chain-link fence. I check my watch: 2:30 AM. I strip down to my jammers, grab my goggles, and jump in the pool. The water is cool and refreshing.

The night swimming started back in June, but the insomnia has been a thing for almost a year. When I do sleep, nightmares plague me. I figure if I’m awake I may as well do something. Last winter, when the insomnia first became really bad, I watched TV or did puzzles or reorganized random rooms in the house. Anything to keep my mind occupied.

The night swimming has been the best solution so far. Ironic because I haven’t been able to set foot near a pool, let alone get in one, in the light of day. Not since last summer. When it became warm enough to ride my bike around in the dead of night, I would just pedal. I never had a specific destination in mind. The first time I ended up at a pool, I stared at the dark water through the fence for a long time before turning around and going home. That happened two more times before I hopped the fence for the first time.

I’d jumped in the water fully clothed. I’d forgotten how much I loved being surrounded by it, how calming it was. I floated there for a long time, letting the water embrace me. Somehow the darkness made the water seem less frightening. At night I couldn’t see any of the things that scared me. I only heard the sloshing of the water and smelled the chlorine.

This is the third night in a row this week I’ve snuck out to clear my head. Things at home have gone from bad to worse. At first Mom couldn’t stop crying. She didn’t sleep, she didn’t eat, she just lay in bed and cried. Dad finally got her sleeping pills and anti-depressants and whatever else you take when you have chronic sadness and no will to be a person anymore. Now, she either sleeps through the days or she wanders through the house in a drug-induced stupor.

Dad never comes home, claiming he has a lot of work to do with the new accounts he’s taken on at the office. Even when he is home, he’s not present. I know it’s because he doesn’t want to deal with my mom or me. He can’t even look at me, not since the funeral.  

I push off the wall and my mind clears of everything. It’s one of the best things about swimming, the nothingness that fills my mind as I churn out lap after lap. I keep up a steady pace for a while, tallying the laps as I go. Three hundred meters…five hundred meters…eight hundred meters…I go until I’m tired enough to stop.

I finally stop after four thousand meters. My arms ache and my legs burn, but it feels good. It’s the farthest I’ve gone in a single session.

“If you keep these kinds of laps up, you just might become an Olympic distance swimmer,” a voice behind me says.

I nearly jump out of my skin as I turn around to see who’s caught me. And then I know I must be losing my mind because my dead brother is sitting there.

“Seriously, dude, you’re building up some serious stamina,” he says as though we’ve been carrying on a conversation on the topic.

I rub my eyes hard and look again. He’s still there.

“Jesus, I need to get some sleep,” I mutter. “I’m going crazy.”

“You’re not going crazy,” he replies. “But you do look like shit, so you’re probably right about needing some sleep.”

I have to be hallucinating. My overworked brain is playing tricks on me as punishment for not giving it the rest it needs.

“You’re not hallucinating,” he says. “And before you ask, no I can’t read your mind.”

“Edison, you’re dead,” I tell him. “You died.”

“I’m aware,” he says.

I stare at him, at a loss for words. The fatigue of swimming and lack of sleep hits me head on, suddenly and violently, and I grip the edge of the gutter for support.

“I don’t understand. If you’re not a hallucination, then what are you?”

“A ghost,” he says, as though it should be obvious.

A ghost? Now I’m seeing ghosts? Maybe I really am asleep and I am just having the most realistic and bizarre dream. I suppose it’s better than the nightmares. How can you tell if you really awake? I know there are ways to determine the difference between a dream and reality, but my brain is moving too slowly to keep up.

“Shai,” my brother says. “You’re not dreaming. This is real.”

“How can it be?” I ask.

He shrugs. “No clue. But just because it doesn’t make sense doesn’t make it any less real.”

“Are you here to haunt me?” I ask, suddenly afraid that he’s come back for revenge.

He laughs. “No. I’m here to help you.”

I mull that over. I mean, a ghost? Perhaps if I hadn’t gone the last three days with very little sleep I would be more inclined to believe he was real and not some figment of my imagination. Is that all ghosts are? Extremely strong illusions that the mind makes up to help us cope with trauma? And why now? Why is he here now?

I’m not sure that I even believe this is actually happening.

“You can believe or not believe,” Edison says. “But either way, I’m here to stay for a while.”

I look at him, searching for words, but nothing comes to me.

“You really should go home and get some sleep.”

__

Any comments or thoughts are appreciated!

--TAP

Friday, June 17, 2016

Where is All the Love?




So I wanted to write a post on my thoughts of all the recent tragedy--especially in Orlando. However, there are many people who have already written on the topic and have done so much better that I'll be able to, so I'll leave it to them.

One post I would like to specifically point out is over at Terrible Minds and Chuck Wendig has some very good insight: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/06/13/recipe-for-a-shooting/.  Check it out, it's worth the read.

Keep hoping and loving and believing in a better tomorrow. Even though there is a lot of hate in this world, there is also a lot of love and kindness.

--TAP

Friday, June 3, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday: It Starts With a Bang!

Okay, so I'm back with a Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig.

Here is the link to the post: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/05/27/flash-fiction-challenge-it-starts-with-a-bang/.

This week's challenge was to start with a bang, right in the middle of the action. Here it goes:



Jolie bangs the front door closed, wincing a little at the loud noise in the otherwise silent house.

“Denny?” she calls out. “Are you home?”

Her heart pounds as she waits, prays, for a reply.  The bad feeling she’s had in her stomach deepens. The car is in the driveway, so he has to be here. He was supposed to pick her from practice, but he never showed up. She called and texted him repeatedly, growing more worried with each unanswered call. 

Jolie rushes pass the dirty dishes stacked in the kitchen sink and takes the back stairs two at a time, dodging the shoes and books that litter them. His door closed, but she can light in the seam between the door and the floor. He’s sleeping, she tells herself. He fell asleep and just hasn’t woken up from the nap, that’s why he didn’t answer the calls or come to get her. Her heart pounds in her throat as she knocks loudly on the door.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

“Denny,” she says loudly, trying to keep the tremor out of her voice. “Are you in there?”

She bangs three more times, hysteria rising in her. She grasps the knob and opens the door, praying, praying, praying…

At first she doesn’t see anyone. Denny’s unmade bed is empty and the computer on his desk is off. Clothes and movies and books are strewn all over the room, as though a tornado blew through. Jolie picks her way through the mess around the bed and there he is, on the floor. Her lungs seem to deflate as all the air in her leaves.  The room tilts and she is lightheaded.

The blood pools under his arm, dark red, and dares her to move, to scream, to do something, anything. But she is frozen, unable to breathe or look away.  Blood stains his shirt and he is so pale that she is sure he must already be dead.  Her mind races with disjointed thoughts, but there are two she is able to grasp onto.

This first is that she needs to help him. The second is that this is her fault.

Jolie pulls out her phone and dials 911.

“I need an ambulance, my brother cut his wrists and he’s lost a lot of blood,” she says when the dispatcher answers.

Jolie gives the woman her address and answers the questions she asks. Is he breathing? She doesn’t think so. Does he have a pulse? A weak one. Was she home alone? Yes.  Where was her brother in the house? Upstairs, second room on the left.  The woman tells her that EMS is on the way, but Jolie isn’t listening anymore. She’s staring at Denny, watching the life literally drain out of him, and she feels so helpless.

Then she realizes she can do something. If she can slow the bleeding, then maybe there is a glimmer of hope that he won’t die. She tosses the phone on the bed, the dispatcher still talking, and she grabs the top sheet off his bed. She kneels next to him, flips his arms over as gently as she can, and presses the sheet against the long gashes that run nearly wrist to elbow. She is kneeling in the blood and the cuts are too long for her use only her hands. She lies across him and presses her forearms against his.

The blood is strikingly dark against the pale pallor of his skin. She looks at his face, willing him to hold onto the thread of life. She wonders how she and her siblings missed this in him. When their mother died five years ago, Denny took it the hardest.  But even then they never worried about him being suicidal.

Everything changed, though, nearly a year earlier. Jolie had begged him to take her to a party. Despite being three years older, she and Denny were very close. She had friends going to the party and after pestering him relentlessly he agreed to take her along. She and one of her friends had a beer or two and were flirting with some boys. They followed the boys to a room and she was feeling woozy, but she clearly remembers telling the boy no repeatedly. It didn’t matter, he and his friends had their way with her and her friend, then left them there to gather their clothes and their broken spirits.

She didn’t want to tell anyone. But Denny knew with one look at her that something was very wrong. She told him, sobbing through the story, and he took her to the hospital. They would have pressed charges, but Jolie didn’t know who the boy was and couldn’t remember enough details about him to pick him out of a line up.

Ever since then, Denny hadn’t been able to look at her.  Jolie thought at first it was because he thought of her differently, that she had disappointed him in some way. She told her sister this and her sister told her that he blamed himself for what happened to her. That he felt he had failed her and he couldn’t bear the thought that he had let something so horrible happened to her.

It was a ridiculous notion and Jolie tried to tell him so. But he could barely make it through the smallest of conversations with her. So she didn’t push the matter and months had passed. She’d wanted to tell him that it wasn’t his fault. That she loved him and that he couldn’t keep blaming himself. But she didn’t know how to get him to listen.

Now, as she presses her arms against his, willing him to live, she knows she should have made him listen. She should have done something to get through to him. There is banging on the front door, announcing the arrival of the EMTs, and Jolie, her heart banging against her ribs cage and covered in her brother’s blood, prays, prays, prays…

Any comments/critiques are welcome!
--TAP


Friday, May 13, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday

So there is a pretty cool dude named Chuck Wendig who has a blog over at: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/. I highly recommend it as he talks about a whole host of things that are relevant and useful. (But fair warning, he likes strong language and is unapologetic about it, so if you are offended by swearing or creatively grotesque imaginings his blog may not be for you).

Anyway, every Friday he does Flash Fiction Friday. He gives a prompt and a word count and you go off and you create something. This will be my first time actually participating :)

So the challenge for this week was to go to: http://photo.net/photodb/random-photo?category=NoNudes and pick a random image and then write about 1,000 words to go with it.

I picked two because they both inspired a scene rattling around in my head:

Morning Fog

Dead Tree





Here is the story:




“Look at what The Creator is capable of, Jack,” Pandora says. “Look!”

I don’t want to look. I know what’s there. I know what The Creator does. But Pandora grabs me by the neck and forces my head up, forces me to see what I don’t want to see. The sun sinks across the horizon. Through the smoke the orange hue of the fires and the sun make the countryside look a picturesque fall morning. From this distance the smoke could be fog, the blackened trees could just be in shadow.

“I get it,” I say, trying to break free from his grip.

“Pandora is not sure that you do.”

He holds tight for another few seconds, then pushes me away. I turn to glare at him. It is about as effective as a toddler throwing a tantrum. He towers over me and is as imposing as the day that I first met him. I hate the condescension in his tone, but I know it is not intentional.

“This is just the beginning. The Creator has been designing and destroying creation since the beginning of time,” Pandora says. His voice inside my head is stern, steady, and desperate. “He is extremely thorough at how he destroys his creations. He studies the patterns of all the living things and then finds the most interesting and entertaining way to destroy them.”

“So, he’s just going to rain down fire and brimstone and watch us run around while the world ends?” I ask.

“He isn’t going to do anything,” Pandora says. “He will plant the seeds into the minds of men and then let them do what they do best.”

He pauses, waiting for me to get the answer. “They’ll go to war. A war to end all wars.”

“Yes.”

“But why would he want it to end this way?”

“An empire that is destroyed from within is dead forever,” Pandora says. “By letting your species destroy this organism he is ensuring that it can never be again.”

My head spins. All of sudden The Creator seems very real and very much like the threat Pandora has been warning me about. Before now he was some distant villain, almost cartoonish in my imagination. Now, I am truly beginning to understand why Pandora is so desperate and afraid. If he can plant the seeds of destruction into the minds of every person on Earth, then how can there be any hope? How do you beat a deity who is always seven steps ahead of you?

“It isn’t hopeless.”

I look up at Pandora. “Reading minds now?”

“Your expressions make it pretty clear what you are thinking.”

“All right, then, pray tell me, o great avian warrior of creations past, how is it not hopeless?”

Pandora hesitates for the slightest moment. “Transcendence.”

I stare at him. “Transcendence?”

“Yes.”

“That thing we tried and I failed epically at?”

“You can’t just give up because it didn’t work the first time.”

“Well, I would be more willing to do it if I was certain that it would work and that there wouldn’t be excruciating pain involved,” I snap. “You don’t even realize what you’re asking me.”

“Pandora is asking you to do what is necessary to save your way of life.”

“You’re asking me to sacrifice my life for a plan that might not work. You can’t even tell me how I am supposed to achieve this transcendence.”

Pandora leaps at me, so suddenly I don’t have time to react before he has picked me up and we are soaring over the blazing countryside.  His talons wrap around my biceps and hold me snuggly, digging just enough to be uncomfortable. From this vantage point I can see that the carnage of this field extends to the forest beyond. Smoke rises around us, thick and heavy, enveloping us in its hazy embrace.

“Is this really how you want it all to end?” he shouts at me.

He swoops down through the smoke and sets me in front of a blackened tree, dead from the fire. The smoke is so thick where we are that it’s almost as dark as night, weak sunlight trying to filter through the gaps and reveal the damage to this forest in all its horror.  My eyes water and my lungs burn with the effort to breathe, but I can’t look away from the tree.

“This is what will remain if there is no intervention,” Pandora says. “Everything will be blackened and dead. Pandora knows that what he asking of you is great. But there is a chance this will work. Isn’t that worth the risk?”

“Why does it have to me?” I ask. I know I sound like a whiney teenager, but that’s what I am. I just a kid and I have a hard time believing that there isn’t somebody more qualified than me to take on this great mission of saving humanity.

Pandora studies me for a long moment. “Pandora is not sure how he knows, but there is something about you that feels right. Pandora searched all of Earth for the right candidate and he came across much more accomplished people than you. But you, Jack, have something that he did not find in abundance in the others.

“What’s that?” I ask, both sarcastic and flattered.

“Empathy.”

I can’t help but roll my eyes. “Empathy? You’re telling me that nobody else on this planet empathizes as well as I do? You’re going to have to do better than that.”

“Hear Pandora out. It is not so much that your empathy is greater than anyone else. It is that you have the right kind of empathy. You feel things deeply. Combined with your sense of doing things for the great good of people, rather than just for the good of yourself and that is a powerful thing. Pandora cannot tell you exactly how to transcend to the next level, but he can tell you that you are the right person. But if you do not believe it, then it will not be.”

I look at the blackened tree and let his words sink into my mind. I want to believe that I could do this, but I also know that I am not a hero. I have many faults and while my moral compass usually points north, I am no saint. So then how can I be the right person for this? How can there be no one else?

“No true hero ever thinks himself in that way,” Pandora says and I wonder again if he can read minds. “But there is one thing they have in common. They persevere and they never give up.”


____

And there you have it. Feel free to leave any comments or thoughts, but please be sure to be constructive because being mean and nasty is not good for anyone.

--TAP









Thursday, May 5, 2016

Life Gets In The Way




How I feel every day


Well here we are in May and I have not been keeping up very well. Computer issues and a busy schedule for life makes for a lot of nuisances. But hey, it's not about what you haven't done, it's about what you do. So I am back and am going to try to be more regular about updating this.

Life gets in the way of a lot. I currently work four jobs--it's not as insane or impressive as it may sound--and if I want to do things like go to movies or hang out with people, sometimes I have to get creative about how I manage my time. (It usually involves cutting out sleep).

Sometimes we get so caught up in our schedules and how busy we are and what we have going on that we forget to take time for ourselves. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our individual lives that we forget we affect other people.

Here is my example of this from the other day. I was driving home from job #2, which I do in the evenings anywhere from 5-8pm. It was a gorgeous day (which was nice because we've had cold, rainy weather for two weeks) and I had my windows down and my music up. I came to an intersection, in the left hand turn lane. It's fairly major intersection and there are always people standing on the corners waving signs or homeless people on the medians with signs asking for anything that anyone is willing to give. I am by no means rich or well off (see above about working four jobs). But I have enough to make ends meet and still have something left over. I could be a hell of lot worse off, that's for sure.

But I digress.

So I pulled up to a stop in the turn lane and there was a man there with a sign saying he was homeless and anything at all would help. At first I sat there and thought, well maybe next time I'll give something. I thought, well I just gave money to another person not that long ago. I thought, not this time.  But as I sat there, with my windows down, trying not to look in this guy's direction, I thought, well, but I have some extra cash this week. I thought, all I'm going to do with it is spend on extra things that I don't necessarily need.

So I took out a twenty and gave it to the man. He lit up and kept saying thank you, told me now he could catch the bus. He packed up his things, ready to move on. And as I drove away, there was a smile that I couldn't keep off my face because I knew I had made someone's day better.

I'm not telling you this story with some kind of moral lesson attached. That's not the point. In all honesty, my act of kindness was rooted in selfishness. Because for me, giving to other people, sharing with them, gives me a happiness that I can't quite define. Doesn't matter if I am giving money to a homeless person or buying dinner for a friend or paying it forward somewhere. When I do something for someone else, not because I have to, but because I can, well, it brings me joy.

It's a powerful feeling, a high that you just want to keep high on. Seeing how happy other people are when you surprise them with an unexpected gift or when you do something for them that they weren't expecting you to do is something that I will never grow tired of. You gotta find the thing that makes you feel like you're a better you, that gives you some sort of meaning or purpose.

So yeah, life gets in my way. And I have to deal with all the mundane day to day detritus of adulthood that is paying bills and doing laundry and the dishes and being generally responsible for myself. But, as I was reminded earlier this week, it doesn't take much to give other people happiness and it takes even less to give them sadness. We all affect people, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways, and sometimes in ways that we never imagined. There are times we don't get to choose how we are affecting people. But, there are times when we get to choose, when get to make a conscious choice about what we put out into the world. And those are the times that say a lot about who we are as people.

When I remember that, everything else seems pretty unimportant.

--TAP

Thursday, January 14, 2016

RIP Alan Rickman 1946-2016 (and David Bowie 1947-2016)


This picture makes a very valid point


2016 is starting off rough. First, on Jan 10th we lost David Bowie. Now, today, we have lost Alan Rickman. I respect David Bowie and all he has done for music and acting and the world in his own right, but I had a deeper love for Alan Rickman (most likely born out of my obsession with Harry Potter).

There was nobody else who could have played Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. The casting of Alan Rickman in that role was so perfect it was like stars aligning, like a destiny being fulfilled. (okay, so maybe not quite that dramatic, but let's be honest, nobody else could have done better).

But Alan Rickman affected so many people through his career and life. He could play anything, but it was always most fun watching him play the badass villain (I'm looking at you Hans Gruber) or seeing him pull off that sarcastic dry wit (watch pretty much any movie he's been in ever). He had a great career on both the stage and film.

He was a great actor and, more importantly, a great person. It's clear to see in the respect and admiration he showed for his co-stars and co-workers and the respect and admiration they had for him. He would have been one hell of a friend to have. I'm just happy we were blessed to have him in this world as long we did.

With his death--and David Bowie--it really puts into perspective our own mortality. We all are going to die, eventually. Perhaps sooner rather than later. So make the most of the life you have. Do what you want to do, try to live without regrets as much as possible. I think we tend to have a mindset of "one day, I'll do this" or "someday I'll get around to it". I'm as guilty of this as the next person. So, when possible, make one day or someday be today. Love without fear, tell the people you care about that you care about them, let them know what they mean to you. And above all, do whatever it is you want to do, so that when death comes you can look back and be satisfied with the life you lived.

RIP Alan Rickman and David Bowie. May death be the next great adventure.

--TAP