Huh?

So I’ve been getting these strange comments, mostly on my “One Hundred Words” entry, and I truly don’t understand what’s going on with them. Here’s the second one I opened this morning:

 

 

“Hi there, just came alert to your blog through Google and found that it is really informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels.

I’ll be grateful if you will continue this in the future. Many people will be benefitted from your writing.

Cheers!”

No kidding. And this is like the seventh such comment I’ve had on my blog site. Wha…?

Making book.

Okay, so I’ve been playing around with my third manuscript, which I’m developing under the title “Outrush,” and I’ve selected the following section of narrative for my opening. Could change my mind tomorrow, but I’m liking it for now. This story is the third in my New Adult Paranormal romance series, the first of which was “Updrift,” the second parked under the title, “Breakwater.” For your reading pleasure (I hope…)!

Maya took a break from her notebook to sip her coffee. Afterward, she stretched in her chair, using the activity as an excuse to check and see if the guys following her were still across the street. Yep. The Undertaker was behind the wheel of his car, reading his newspaper as usual; and Jethro was in the window of the café opposite hers, texting on his phone.

She didn’t know these men, but she’d needed to call them something, and the Undertaker was a gaunt, cadaverous-looking guy. Maya could picture him draining blood in a basement mortuary, hence the name. Jethro looked even less like a detective, Maya thought; he was too beefy and handsome and built, and not at all inconspicuous. Her made-up story for him was that he’d been sent over from central casting to shoot a toothpaste ad and got lost on his way to the studio.

Week four, Maya sighed, rubbing her eyes. About a month since she’d noticed she was being followed, or watched, or whatever. Most people would have run, she supposed, and at first, she wanted to. Not that she’d done anything wrong, as far as she knew, but being the subject of someone’s surveillance mission was creepy, made her want to sneak away even if she was innocent. The scientist in her prevailed, however, and, instead of acting to avoid scrutiny, she’d done the opposite. She maintained an even stricter schedule, leaving and returning to her apartment at the same times each day, running errands on set afternoons to the same places, even stopping for coffee at the Bean Machine each afternoon, as she was doing now. If she found her regular table was taken, she took her second regular table instead, and then moved if her first choice opened up.

This constancy, which she knew made her easier to trail, also allowed her to verify she was being followed, and by whom. Now she could recognize the characters sent to attend her, and she’d become familiar with their quirks, like the Undertaker’s tendency to tap his fingers when he was restless, and Jethro’s fondness for chewing gum. She’d trained them, too; like good little ducks following her mother-duck lead, they had fallen into the pattern she dictated, meaning they took up the same posts in the same places each time she took up hers, and wasn’t that just a sad testament to their spying competence? There were four of them on rotation – Porky and Popeye had the day off today. Which she could predict at this point, since it was Tuesday, and Tuesdays were Jethro and Undertaker days.

One thing for sure, these guys weren’t the low-level paparazzi she was used to seeing around her socialite in-laws. These guys didn’t have the look – no cameras, no slouching around in what looked like permanently slept-in clothing. Even their expressions were wrong, devoid of the mix of desperation and defiance Maya considered a kind of trade calling card.

No, these guys were paid babysitters looking for something other than media currency, which was the variable in this situation she couldn’t, no matter how hard she racked her brain, figure out. What did they want? What had she done to warrant such an action? She stared at her notebook screen again and pretended to take interest in her work…

…and then she felt it, that overwhelming sense of peace she sometimes, God knew not often enough, experienced like a gift, always when she was teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Her last reprieve had been weeks ago. But here it was again out of nowhere, blanketing and embracing her like her own mother’s caress, and oh, how lovely to feel cared for and protected and like everything was going to be okay. She understood just how tightly wound she was if a fantasy encouragement could undo her to this extent. And here she thought she’d been coping just fine with her disaster of a life and smashed-up emotions. She was wrong.

But for the moment, her feeling of well-being was complete and intensifying. Something was coming, and she opened her eyes, realizing only then she’d closed them. A man approached her table, no one she knew, but she instinctively identified him as the source of her comfort. When he reached her, she smiled at him as if they were old friends.

He stopped to rest a hand on her shoulder, a hand she clasped in gratitude and held against her cheek.

Everything will be okay. I’m going to help.

She heard the words as if he’d spoken them, and she was so grateful, she thought she might cry. She turned her face to press her forehead against his forearm. Thankyouthankyouthankyoupleasestaybyme, she thought. The man looked out the window and frowned, and then gently disengaged his hand from hers. After a stroke to her hair, he walked away.

Maya noticed the alarmed expressions of her watchers across the street but couldn’t be induced to care. As she reveled in her break from anxiety, she followed their actions without real concern, like she was watching a television show instead of real people who might be planning to hurt her. Jethro spoke grimly into his headset while the Undertaker left to tail the man Maya considered her angel of mercy, and she knew they were reacting to the exchange they’d just seen. Even so, nothing pierced her calm until she became aware of what Jethro said.

Her protector was retreating, his soothing influence dissipating as he went, but she still felt connected to him, was still fortified and hopeful, even imagined she heard his voice. Just now, he whispered urgently in her ear, You need to know what’s going on, Maya. Then he provided a kind of short-distance translation of Jethro’s phone conversation.

“Contact’s been made,” Jethro was saying. “Looked like a lover, but that had to be a front. Been here all month and never seen the guy before. May have passed a message. We’re following.”

Maya’s confidence faltered, but she still felt bold enough to meet Jethro’s eyes when he looked up from his call. She was tired of pretending to be unaware, tired of his lurking oversight, and really tired of the subterfuge he and his colleagues represented, one she couldn’t figure out and could no longer stand to live with. Jethro held her gaze while he discreetly moved a panel of his jacket aside, just enough for her to see his holstered gun. She’d thrown down a challenge, and his response – a clear threat – caused fear to rocket through Maya’s veins like a shot of jet fuel to an over-primed engine. She launched herself from her chair, grabbed her things and bolted away from the window, running through the kitchen to find a back way out.

Old skool.

I’ve been buried in a creative writing program the last six months and had fun playing with a vignette where I tried out a male voice in the style of Nabakov. Ha! Thought I’d share:

            The summer I turned thirteen, I transitioned from boyhood during a car ride with my grandparents, my transport a dung brown ’77 Oldsmobile with stained seats and the inescapable scent of life gone stale. Papa pontificated from behind the wheel, musing on the mystical fate that led some people to fortune and others to struggle. Nana sat on the passenger side, gazing out the window, which she had cracked at the top to receive her exhalations of cigarette smoke.

            “Slow down, Rob,” she interjected, showing rare interest in her surroundings, or maybe she wanted a reprieve from her husband’s tyrannical introspection. “I want to see the yards.”

            The car itself reflected our social station. It was used, purchased from someone affluent we badly wished to emulate, someone from a posh neighborhood such as we were visiting that afternoon. An undiagnosed mechanical click announced our presence as we progressed, compelling a nervous cadence to Papa’s speech. “Goddamn engine,” he muttered. “Not like I need more problems.” He resumed his sermon on the valor of the oppressed poor over – and here he indicated the palaces around us – “those greedy bastards who take from the rest of us.”

            “Slower, Rob,” Nana insisted. “What do you think of that curved walkway?” Our pace became a crawl.

            My independent experiences convinced me I was better than all this. I was aware, for example, of the unquantifiable salience of the rock band, Rush; and had achieved mastery in “Asteroids” and “Pac-Man.” Why should I, with such worldliness, suffer the tired imprecations of those who were bitter and old? I turned away to consult my own reveries.

            I imagined living in the white Mediterranean on the corner. I would have my own room and plenty of quarters for the arcade. I would own a better bike and ditch my paper route. The curtains parted and Debbie Bristol from school stared at me from the other side.

            “Drive away,” I whispered desperately.

            “Stop the car,” Nana ordered, and our clicking was like a rainfall of anvils sent from above to crush me. Debbie raised her hand and mouthed, “Hi.” I wanted badly to disappear, to not be seen gawking from a poorly maintained vehicle in a neighborhood we clearly didn’t belong. I composed my face to reflect indifference, but Papa’s and Nana’s expressions revealed resentment, as well as naked, burning want.

            Thus I was caught, not for how I wished to appear, but as I actually was, my life in vivid dissection before a girl I liked.

             “Who is she?” Nana asked, her sharp stare reflected in the mirror on her visor.

            I half heard her, absorbed as I was in an epiphany regarding my identity, and who I might be ten or twenty years from now to a girl like Debbie. I was heartbroken over my insufficiencies, over the delta between my current state and the man I would have to become, but I waved back. “She’s just a girl from school,” I said.

Writers on Writing.

Okay, so I found this story while doing some research today for the novel I’m working on. It’s a bona fide fairy tale – read to the end for the credibility part…

There was a young man who was studying to be a writer. He wanted to become one by Easter, get married, and live by his writing. He knew it was just a question of hitting on something. But he couldn’t think of anything. He was born too late. Everything had been examined before he was born. Everything had been written about.

“Those lucky people who were born a thousand years ago!” he said. “They could become immortal! Even those born a hundred years ago were lucky. There was still something to write about then. Now there’s nothing in the world left to write about, so what can I write about?”

He mulled and stewed over it to the point that he became ill, the miserable fellow. No doctor could help him, but maybe the wise woman could. She lived in a little house by the gate that she opened up for those driving or riding on the road. But she was able to open much more than the gate. She was wiser than the doctor, who drove in his own coach and paid a tax because of his rank.

“I must go out and see her,” said the young man.

The house she lived in was small and neat, but drab to look at. There wasn’t a tree or flower. There was a beehive outside the door – very useful! There was a little potato patch – very useful! There was also a ditch with blackthorn bushes that had flowered and set berries – bitter berries that purse the lips if they’re tasted before the frost.

“It’s like an image of our prosaic times, I see here,” thought the young man, and that was a thought. A pearl he found by the wise woman’s door.

“Write it up!” she said. “Half a loaf is better than no bread. I know why you’re here. You can’t think of anything, but you want to be a writer by Easter.”

“Everything’s been written!” he said. “Our times aren’t like the old days.”

“No!” said the woman. “In the old days wise women were burned at the stake, and poets walked around with shrunken bellies and holes in their sleeves. Our times are good times – they’re the very best! But you aren’t looking at it the right way, nor have you sharpened your hearing. I’m sure you never say the Lord’s prayer in the evening, either. There are all sorts of things to write and tell about here for those who are able. You can take stories from the earth’s plants and crops, scoop them up from the running and standing water, but you have to understand, understand how to catch sunbeam! Now try on my glasses, put my hearing trumpet in your ear, pray to God, and stop thinking about yourself.”

The last part was very hard, and more than a wise woman could ask for.

He got the glasses and the ear trumpet and was positioned in the middle of the potato patch. She put a big potato in his hand. It was ringing. It rang out a song with the words – the potato’s history – interesting. An everyday story in ten parts. Ten lines would have been enough .

And what did the potato sing about?

It sang about itself and its family – the potato’s arrival in Europe, and the lack of appreciation they had experienced and suffered before they, like now, were recognized as a bigger blessing than a nugget of gold.

“We were distributed at the city hall in all cities by order of the King. Our great importance was proclaimed, but people didn’t believe it and didn’t even understand how to plant us. One man dug a hole and threw a whole half bushel of potatoes into it. Another stuck a potato into the ground here and there and waited for them to shoot up like a tree that he could shake potatoes from. And there was growth, flowers, and watery fruit, but everything withered away. No one thought that the blessing lay under the ground – the potatoes. Well, we have had our trials and sufferings, that is to say, our ancestors – they and us, it makes no difference. What stories!”

“Well, that’s enough,” said the woman. “Look at the blackthorn!”

“We also have close relatives in the potato’s homeland,” said the blackthorn bushes, “further north than they grew. Norwegians from Norway sailed west through fogs and storms to an unknown land where under the ice and snow, they found herbs and greenery and bushes with wine’s dark blue berries – sloeberries. They froze to ripe grapes, and so do we. And that country was called Vineland, Greenland, Sloethornland.”

“That’s a very romantic story,” said the young man.

“Come along,” said the wise woman and led him over to the beehive. He looked into it. What a hustle and bustle! There were bees in all the hallways beating their wings to bring a healthy breeze into the entire big factory. That was their job. From outside bees born with baskets on their legs came bringing flower pollen. It was shaken off, sorted, and made into honey and wax. They came and went. The Queen bee wanted to fly, too, but then they would all have to fly along, and it wasn’t time for that yet. But since she wanted to fly, they bit the wings from her majesty, and then she had to stay put.

“Climb up on the embankment,” said the wise woman. “Take a look at the road, and all the forks there!”

“What a swarming throng!” said the young man. “Story upon story! Humming and buzzing! It’s too much for me! I’m going back!”

“No, go straight ahead!” said the woman. “Go right into the teeming crowd. Have an eye for them, and an ear – and yes – a heart too. Then you’ll soon think of something. But before you go, I must have my glasses and ear trumpet back.” And she took both of them.

“Now I can’t see anything,” said the young man, “and I can’t hear any longer.”

“Well, then you can’t be a writer by Easter,” said the wise woman.

“But when then?” he asked.

“Neither by Easter nor Pentecost! You can’t learn imagination.”

“But what shall I do to make my living by writing?”

“Oh, you can manage that by Shrove Tuesday! Become a critic! Knock down the poets. Knock down their writings – that’s just like knocking them. Just don’t be over-awed. Hit at them without ceremony. You’ll get enough dough to support both yourself and a wife!”

“You’ve hit upon the very thing!” said the young man, and he knocked down all the poets because he couldn’t become one himself.

We heard this from the wise woman. She knows what people can think up.

(“What One Can Think Up,” written by Hans Christian Andersen in the mid 1800s!!!)

Encouragement from folks who know.

Success is the ability to move from one failure to the next with enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchhill

Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.
– Ross Perot

Every single peak performing human being, every single high achieving man or woman, has been a person who has thrown off the natural tendency to play it safe and stay within the comfort zone, and has continually tried to exceed their previous levels of accomplishment, has continually moved forward into the risk zone, to try something more and bigger and better and more important. Every single accomplishment in the history of man, has come from men and women who have had the courage to take the risks, to step out even though they had no guarantee or assurance of success…

In studying the lives and stories of the most outstanding men and women of all of history, we find that every single one of them has been a great failure. People do not understand the importance of failure in achievement. The fact is that it is impossible to succeed without failing, that failure is an indispensable prerequisite for success, and that all great success is proceeded by great failure. Every single person who has tried to accomplish something outside the ordinary has suffered setback and obstacle and defeat and adversity and disappointment and heartache over and over again as they have moved toward their goal. There is no record of anybody ever having achieved any kind of success without having failed over and over again. The only difference is that the winners continually pick themselves up and carry on knowing that ultimate success is inevitable as long as they keep on going on.
– Brian Tracy