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Kurt Vonnegut on Writing a Good Short Story

18 Nov

I wish I had more time to blog, you guys. November + NaNoWriMo + Life get in the way. I hope you don’t mind this video acting as my substitute for the time being…

 

 

Have a safe Thanksgiving!

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The Space Between the Stars, Chapter One: Pigeons

12 Nov

This is chapter one of my nanowrimo project. Please note that this is an unedited text and that I am sharing it with you in all it’s uncut glory, so if you feel a little sickened by the poor craftsmanship of my sentences try not to make too big of a mess! I also realize I didn’t specify this character’s gender in the first chapter. If you can’t tell, it’s a boy. 

Chapter One
I hate Pigeons.

The city had too many of them. I could trip on them on the street. They hovered around fast food joints waiting for oily crumbs to fall from hands and mouths. They perched on the cables dangling from posts and glared at me as if I had something they wanted.

That day the city’s entire pigeon population clumped together on the roof. Chunks of them slept in feathery piles, glued to the sun-warmed cement, mumbling to themselves with vacant coos. I hesitated at the door, the DO NOT ENTER sign catching the glare of the sun dipping low in the sky.

But this was my roof.

I shrugged off my backpack and dumped it by the exit. Nudging the plump pigeons out of my way, I circled the roof top. There was a small pile of loose concrete swept against the wall and I scooped the gritty bits up. I swear I didn’t aim for the birds—I’m not a monster, you know—but I flung a few of the fatter stones into the heart of the pigeon collective. They took to the air, some of them frightened and some of them just following for the hell of it, and some still squatting in the warmest corners of the roof.

My mom didn’t like it when I said I hated things. She never told me not to hate things, but she tried teaching me to only say it when I meant it. So maybe I didn’t really hate pigeons, but I sure as hell didn’t like them.

Every Tuesday and Thursday for the past month I tried the door to the roof, and every Tuesday and Thursday for the past month it had been locked tight. I wanted to say it was persistence that granted me victory, but I’d be lying if I did. The first couple of times I wanted it—I wanted to be rebellious. Every time after that was out of habit.

On this particular Tuesday, it opened.

I surveyed the spoils of my victory. Everything simmered in oranges and purples: The concrete, the shadows, those damn pigeons, the sofa—

A sofa? It stretched its lopsided bulk under the only shelter offered, something like a shed made out of concrete and wood and chain-link. It looked like a sofa in Dr. Anderson’s office—a piece of furniture meant to aid in the vomit of thought and emotion and all that other crap doctors like Dr. Anderson wanted kids like me to piss on about. “Someone really got into their therapy session.” My voice was too loud compared to the quiet. The cacophony of car horns, the wailing sirens and the yapping dogs, the homeless beggars—all that noise was too far below my roof for me to hear. I liked that.

I nudged the sofa cushion with my shoe. A cloud of dust and rot invaded the air and I pressed my jacket sleeve over my mouth. Obviously not an ideal place to sit anymore. A broom leaned against the seat’s arm—the kind meant for sweeping up enormous places, the bristles worn and crinkled like a stray cat’s whiskers.  Broken and discarded, like the therapist’s couch. Like a lot of the kids who come through this place.

There wasn’t much to do, but I wasn’t about to admit boredom just yet. This was my roof, after all. My victory.

I sank against the wall of the shed. Concrete and chain link pressed against my back. I decided I’d wait for the stars to peek through the oil blue of the night sky. I rarely stayed in the busy part of the city past dark, and the chance to see it from a roof top was even rarer. Dad and I lived about thirty minutes away from New Skies and I was usually on a bus going home by the time the sun was swallowed up into the ocean.

New Skies was my punishment, if you have to ask. The facility took up the three top-most floors of the building, all dedicated to making people normal again.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be normal. I just didn’t care enough.

Something like nighttime pushed into the sky. Down below, the city sounds remained the same: muffled cars, squeals of drunk laughter, crash-thumps of construction. I was high above it all, so far from the noise it didn’t seem part of my world at all.

Or maybe I had no part in that world.

I tilted my head toward the sky and squinted into the dark. But it wasn’t dark, not really. the sky glowed with city light, an eerie purple fitting for the month of October.

I found the first star of the evening winking in the distance and my heart lifted to reach it. It inched across the sky, fading out of sight one moment then blinking to life the next.

It wasn’t a star at all, just some stupid plane with stupid people on it.

“You’re kidding me.” High up on the roof, closest to the sky I’d ever been, and there wasn’t a single star to see.

But I refused to be thwarted. I tossed a few stones at the remaining pigeons and a space opened by the ledge. Claiming the space as my own, I leaned over the edge of the roof and stared into the lamp-lit streets below.

People.

I liked people. I was stuck at New Skies because everyone was under the impression that I didn’t. The people I didn’t like, well, that was on a case by case basis. But whatever. It wasn’t like I tried correcting everyone.

I leaned a little further. A couple stood on the sidewalk below, the woman’s hair wild from the wind. They were waiting for something. A taxi, maybe?  If they looked up and saw me, what would they think? I focused on the woman. She had hair the color of honey, the same color as my mom’s.

Something rattled behind me.

My heart jumped in my throat and stayed there. I twisted around.

I was done for. I was caught. My roof was no longer my roof. My victory short-lived.

But no one was there.

My eyes swept from one corner of the roof to the other. A pigeon, maybe? No, that clatter was something different. It rang hollow and hard, an echo in my ears. Something falling—no, the noise was deliberate. Something thrown.

But no one is here.

Something shook against my thigh and the air in my lungs locked itself inside, too scared to leave.  I grabbed my leg, palm pressed over the hard rectangle in my pocket, and felt the object quake again. My breath erupted from my chest.

My phone! It was only the damn phone.

I pulled it out of my pocket. The caller ID glowed with one word: DAD.

My lips pressed together. I rejected the call and glared into the street again. The couple no longer loitered on the sidewalk—they were halfway across the street, disregarding the oncoming traffic. I watched as they passed a car that reminded me of my father’s.

In fact, it looked just like it.

My phone vibrated again. This time it wasn’t a call. I clicked open the text message blinking on my screen.

It still amazed me that my dad knew how to text.

YOU HOME YET? ITS AFTER DARK.

As if I didn’t know it was after dark. I rolled my eyes before looking over the ledge again. Was it my dad’s car? Was he thinking about picking me up from therapy? He didn’t work too far from there, so it wasn’t like it was out of his way.

Not home yet. I hesitated, then added:  On the bus. Delayed. Will be home soon.

The couple was gone. I watched the car, suspicion sharpening my gaze. The vehicle pulled out of it’s parking spot and crawled around the street corner, disappearing from sight. I glanced at my phone.

No response.

It probably wasn’t dad’s car.

I stood and stretched my thin body, skinny arms reaching for the starless sky. The pigeons were slowly returning, wary of my presence and the stones in my pocket. Pulling a small cement rock from my coat, I picked a target from the gathering pigeons. Its feathers glistened with grease and tiny feathers on top of its head stuck straight up like some punk hairstyle. I watched it for a long moment, tossing the stone up and catching it again. But I didn’t throw it. The rock found its way into my pocket again and I threw my schoolbag over my shoulder.

Then I saw it. The broom.

It no longer leaned against the broken sofa. It rested a few feet away, the tip pointing where I had been only a moment ago. Maybe the wind toppled it? As if it could hear my thoughts, the wind shied away into nothing. The back of my neck prickled. I smoothed away the goosebumps on my skin, uneasiness crawling through me. The cold, most certainly. It had to be the cold.

I glanced over my shoulder. Nothing there but the pigeons. A faint cluster of stars sprinkled across the sky, finally brave enough to attempt outshining the city lights. The sight of them warmed my insides. I forgot about the broom and focused on those stars. I remember thinking they were an omen: I had to come back to this roof. I promise I’ll come back.

My NaNoWriMo Work in Progress

12 Nov

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write 50k words in the month of November. The focus is quantity, not quality, and the goal is to write a complete piece of fiction. You aren’t supposed to waste time editing your work during this month, so you can guarantee the manuscript will not resemble anything you’d consider sending to a publisher!
I’m a week behind. I was going strong until I suffered a loss in my pet family this week, which derailed me. But I’m playing catchup tonight. In order to get back in the mood, I read over my first chapter. Now I’m hopping back into wroodling mode.
But wait! Before I do that, I want to share with you my first chapter! So, I’ll be including it in my next blog entry. Enjoy!

Words of Wisdom

29 Sep

I thought I’d give this to all you, my writers-aspiring-to-be-published.

 

 

Keep Calm and Write Something

9 Sep

Words to live by.

NaNoWroodles

8 Sep

Morning!

I was curious: Who will be making the scramble for NaNoWriMo this year? I try every year, but something happens and I’m unable to finish. In 2009 it was Job Loss, and in 2010 it was a trip home for Thanksgiving. But this year, I’m prepared! I have a story in mind and absolutely no foreseeable plans during that month.

Knock on wood.

ProjInfinite will not be done by that time, so I plan on setting Quincy’s adventures aside for that month to bust out a novella of around 50k words. Interestingly enough, my boss has also expressed her interest in wroodling away the November month, so we’re going to attempt a writing pow-wow of sorts. Regardless on if it will work, I’m hoping NaNoWriMo will be the kick in the bum I need to actually hop back into a writing schedule.

I’ll be posting up an unedited version of my NaNoWroodle on the blog when I’m finished some time in December. I’m excited for this year. I feel good about it!

Personal Update: moving!

7 Sep

I’m moving!

No, not the blog. You will always be able to find me here. But I’m moving to a new place this week. No, I’m not using it as an excuse for not updating my little connection to the outside world; rather, I have a fun story attached to this move, and I’d like to share it.

We’ve lived in our current house for a little over two years now. Renting — it’s the only way to go in San Francisco, especially in my industry. Artists don’t usually stick around a company for too long, at least in my field. Now, the house we rent is one of those pretty-on-the-outside sort of places. So when it came time for our landlady to sell the poor thing, we shrugged it off and decided it was time to move on, anyway.

Unfortunately, the date we were given to be out of the place sent us into a mini-panic.

After a fruitless hunt for other houses, and a pointless search for affordable apartments, we settled on a complex we knew and liked.

Not loved, but liked.

It was never my intention to return to this community after we left it, but circumstances led us there.

The two and a half years spent at the complex in question bristled with a mix of memories, some horrible and some amusing. I’m a firm believer that emotions are charged with energy, and that one must be careful with what kind of energy they leak into the world; I was worried that the emotions from our previous experience would come back to plague us should we return.

So imagine my dread when I discovered the apartment they would be showing us was the very one we once resided in.

That’s right.

They showed us our own apartment.

Talk about surreal! We stepped into the place and, despite the new carpets, paint, and overall lack of our old roommates’ items, it was as if we hadn’t ever left. We gravitated toward our old rooms, the memories of our time there tangling through our insides and dragging us  into the empty places we once crammed our junk in. I worried I’d be met with the ghosts of my frustrations I left behind when I moved from the apartment years ago, but no attack came.

In fact, I felt a trickle of excitement go through me. This is my chance to right my experiences there, to make a nest of good feelings and to one day part with the apartment again on good terms. I discussed with my roommates–one having lived there with me before, the other having been a frequent guest at that time–and we decided it was best to move back in. (That, and the only other apartment available is usually bombarded with pigeons from what I can remember, and we weren’t too fond of the idea. Pigeon singing is worse than my own, and just as annoying.)

So, yeah. We’re moving in to the same exact apartment we lived in during college. My coworkers see this as moving backwards, but I see it as a step forward in my story. That, and it’s a funny story to tell people!