Accepted

I’ve been waiting for seven weeks to find out if I’d be accepted to a novel writing program through a northern California university. I received notification yesterday that I was accepted. They only accept “about 30 students per cycle” to this two-year program. I was doubtful I would get in because of the odds.

Seven weeks of ups and downs, optimism and pessimism, waiting and endless indigestion, finally over. The last 34 hours or so have been filled with relief, celebration, elation, disbelief, and nervousness.

Thanks to my family, friends, and coworkers for listening to me drone on endlessly about the waiting. Thanks to everybody that I cornered and forced to hear about my acceptance. Thank you to Mark E. and John R. for your support and references.

Now it’s time to get to work.

Random fiction

I do a bit of free writing/journaling to keep things going. Once in a while when I’m doing that, I get some sort of vision that triggers a scene that has nothing to do with any of my many unfinished novels. Don’t know where this came from, where it might be going, but I enjoyed writing it. I felt like sharing it.

 

“Stop,” Cyd shouted again as she rounded the corner into the alley. Her shoulder brushed brick as she took the corner too tight. The sound of rain hitting brick, concrete, and puddles muffled her command. The stolen purse was swinging in the thief’s hand. Cyd was losing ground, he was getting away.

The alley was dark, the only light was an old incandescent flickering under the small overhang of a service door the thief was nearing. Cyd’s wet clothes weighed her down and every step she took sprayed more water on her jeans. The only places she was still dry was inside her waterproof boots and under her short-cut leather jacket. She’d tossed aside her umbrella when she started pursuit of the thief. Wet, cold, and one, or maybe three too many shots of tequila, she just wanted to climb into her warm bed. She was between cases so there was no reason for being out at 3:00 AM. The thief was nearing the door with the light. If he made it through the door, she might not ever catch him.

She unzipped her jacket as she ran. She took the revolver from her shoulder harness and clicked off the safety.

“Stop.” This time wasn’t as loud as before. Cyd slowed, stopped, took aim. There was a flash like lightning and a loud crack filled the alley, bouncing off the rain-soaked walls. The thief tumbled to the ground under the light in the doorway. Cyd looked around. The alley was empty, buildings rising three or four stories on each side. They were old sweatshops, abandoned, or at least unoccupied at this time of night.

She walked toward her attacker, gun held ready. She couldn’t believe she had hit this guy. She was accurate at the shooting range, but it was dark, raining, he was running, and she’d been drinking. She would have never lived it down with the local cops if she had reported her stolen purse. It was tough enough being a PI and getting on the good side of the cops, but they were notorious for breaking balls.

The rain slowed from fierce to steady. She neared the door. The body looked like a couple of half-full black plastic trash bags dumped in a puddle. The light from the doorway reflected like a sky full of stars off the shiny material. Cyd saw no movement. Her heart pounded beneath the leather jacket. Water dripped from her nickel-plated revolver leading the way. She hunched down and poked the tip in the back of a shoulder. No movement. She squatted, closer. Keeping the gun trained on the mass of shiny blackness, she grabbed a shoulder and pulled the body over.

Her heart stopped. For a second, she thought it wouldn’t start again. When it did, it was with the hardest, fastest pounding she’d ever felt in her chest. The face she saw was that of a young girl, 14, maybe 15, tops. Blonde hair stuck to her face, matted in the rain, surrounded by a black hood. The girl’s left eye was missing. Instead a red, pulpy mass hung from the socket. If that side of her face was covered, she’d look like one of those teen magazine models.

Cyd turned her head and threw up next to the body. The sight and smell of the vomit made her queasier. She looked at the face of the girl again. Her shock fought against her alcohol haze. She turned the girl’s head and pulled the hood back. It was some kind of rubberized plastic, it felt tacky, even in the rain. The shiny surface belied the feel of it. Cyd ran her fingers over the back of the girl’s head. There was no wound. She sat down, not caring about the puddle beneath her.

Cyd looked around the alley. It was dark and quiet, except for the patter of the now light rain. The gravity of the situation started to creep through her mind. She’d shot a purse snatcher. Worse yet, she’d shot a teenage purse snatcher. She had drawn her weapon, issued no warning that she was going to shoot, and fired. All while she was most likely legally drunk. Fuck! Over my stupid, fucking, purse!

Cyd flinched when she heard a click behind the door. She looked up. Another click and tiny beam of light shown through a hole in the door to the right of the handle. She tensed and lifted the gun from her lap, pointing it at the door. The little hole was the sole focus of her attention. She moved closer, around the body. The wood of the door was splintered around the hole. Small pieces of wood dangled around it. She looked closer. The hole was about the size of a .38, the same as her gun. And it looked fresh.

The door opened.

For the Writers

I always thought writers had to be tortured souls in order to create anything of value. Anything that anybody would want to read. I eventually talked myself out of that notion. Today I had a different thought. I don’t think writers have to be tortured to create, I think writers are tortured because they have the need to create. Let me expand on that. The need is deep, it’s irresistible. In my case, I kept coming back to it after years of denial and suppression. The “tortured soul” comes not from life’s challenges, but from the self-doubt. The need to create followed by the absolute notion that everything you churn out is as vile as fly-covered pig shit rotting in the sun. It’s that feeling that anything you put on paper feels simplistic, shallow, juvenile, and vapid. That puddle on the sidewalk has more depth.
This isn’t a plea for pity. God no, don’t pity the fool that thinks they have enough talent to write something that anybody wants to read. No pity needed. Indeed, the true writer pounds the self-doubt into the ground while they march forward. We torture ourselves, creating something better, something worthwhile. Without self-doubt, it would be a world full of mediocrity, filled with dreck you would never want to read. Thank God for self-doubt.

Meaningless Facebook Apologies

It seems there isn’t a day that goes by without another meaningless apology from Facebook. They’re like the kid that keeps getting caught doing the wrong thing. The kid learned a long time ago that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. The kid might get grounded for a while, but soon they’re back at the same old deeds.

It’s pathological, and it’s eerily similar to the methods Facebook uses to deceive its members. This time, Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) is apologizing for “poor communication” on a psychological experiment conducted on over 600,000 users without their knowledge. Please note, from what I see, as is usual, there is no apology for the deed. And Sandberg is using the tried and true formula of “ask forgiveness” instead of permission.

Where is Mark Zuckerberg on this matter? No apology from him? Or is it Sandberg’s turn in the rotation? Is Zuckerberg going to pick up the next apology? Or will they add another executive to the apologizer pool? You never want to weigh down one person with delivering these meaningless apologies.

It’s Better This Way

I’ve been sitting out on the deck, enjoying a glass of wine. It isn’t a place I usually go at nearly 1:00 a.m. The air was still, thick, and cool. The yard was dark, it took a while for my eyes to adjust, to pick out the shapes of the trees. No moon, but the sky was full of stars. They were easy to see despite being in the city. Well, a suburb anyway. I looked around and my mind turned to how I would describe it all. It’s a preoccupation now, the thought of how I would describe the world with the written word. It’s not a bad thing at all. It doesn’t take me out of the moment, instead it enhances it. I see and feel things I may have overlooked when my mind wasn’t in tune to what was right in front of me. All of this got me thinking about how I feel about writing, again. Which isn’t unusual these days. Another introspective moment.

I don’t remember the exact moment, how old I was, or what the context was, but I recalled something my dad told me at least a few decades ago. I believe we were talking about what I wanted to be or do when I grew up. I remember him telling me to find out what I was good at and do it. That one statement stuck with me. It was so simple of an idea that I thought it must be true. And for the most part, maybe it is. But I know I will pass on slightly different advice to my daughter. I will tell her, very often, to find out what she loves to do, and do it. There’s a world of difference.

I’m not ripping on my dad for what he said. I think it was great advice. He didn’t want his son living in a cardboard box under a bridge and scavenging through garbage cans behind restaurants for his next meal. I can’t fault him for that. It was good advice for immediate returns. And I earned immediate returns. It set me up well. I stood on my deck in my lovely suburb at nearly 1:00 a.m. and thought of how nice I have it. I can’t deny it. And then I thought of how unsatisfying and empty of a trip it’s been to get here. I don’t like what I do. I don’t come home at the end of the day and feel like I do something I enjoyed. It’s quite the opposite. I never get up in the morning thinking of how I can’t wait to get to work. Never. Call me spoiled and out of touch, I don’t care.

I took two days off of work before the 4th of July holiday. (I’m in the USA.) These last two days were meant for staying up late, watching DVDs or the DVR, going for long walks, and sleeping late. None of that happened. I stayed up maybe an hour late each night. I was up and out of the house early. I went to breakfast, and then I went to a place I like to write. A quiet little tea shop. Emphasis on quiet. I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I was excited to get up and get going each morning, it wasn’t a chore. I didn’t dread the day. I wanted to do what I love to do, not necessarily what I’m good at. I could do this every day. I could be excited to work every day.

For the writers that read this, I’m well over 5000 words in five days. Plus this rambling mess. Do what you love to do. Cheers!

Say it with me, “I am a writer”

I was buying wine Friday night. I got carded. I told the cashier that I was flattered, considering I’m old enough to have children that are of legal drinking age. I got over my initial burst of pride when he put on glasses to check my ID.

He rang up my purchase and told me the total due was $19.70. While I swiped my card and cycled through the screens on the keypad, he reminisced about how good of a year 1970 was for him. He mentioned music and some songs in particular. A pleased look took over his face, along with a smile. Not the overdone, comical, huge ear-to-ear type of smile, but one of those smiles you get when you don’t even realize you’re smiling.

We were just about done with the transaction when I blurted out “I’m writing a novel that is set in 1970.” It was out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying. I’m not one to bring up my writing with people I don’t know. I stick to discussing it at school, with family and close friends, on my blog, at writing festivals, or at my writers group. I don’t wear it on my sleeve.

He started asking me questions about my story. My transaction was complete and there was a line behind me. I had put myself in an uncomfortable position. I felt like I was being interrogated by the police, shackled to a table with the bright light shining in my face. “Confess! Or else.” I gave him some vague details. As I did I noticed that the woman in line behind me was leaning in with her head turned and tilted to hear what we were talking about. I took my bag and left the store.

As I walked through the parking lot, I realized that I had just admitted in public that I am a writer. The amazing part was that nobody heckled, snickered, or pointed at me and laughed. They showed interest instead of laughing at me and my silly dream.

I am a writer.

How Did I Get Here?

The pressure appeared out of nowhere. It was as if someone had clapped a cupped hand square over his ear. Throbbing and a faraway high-pitched whine followed. His left ear was okay, but his right felt like he was under water, listening to a jet engine above the surface. Pain started, first his inner ear, then it crawled around to the base of his skull. It took hold, sinking its burning talons into bone and muscle. His vision filled with thousands of flashbulbs firing in the dark. The pain slid from the base of his skull forward. It carved a path along the inside of his skull, like the tip of a rusty screwdriver dragging through his brain.

He looked at his hands through the blast of lights. His palms faced up with his fingers spread wide. They were covered in thick red liquid, dripping in ribbons to the black marble floor. His trembling hands were the only clear thing in his fogged vision. The blood ran. It wasn’t somebody else’s blood. It was his, and it was pumping from his wrists.

How the hell did I get here?