Swinging at smoke…

Writing is hard.

It’s a very cyclical thing for me. It moves along in stages. What those stages are, how long they last, and whether or not I recognize them as they’re happening all vary on a case by case basis.

Right now I’m in the JFC everything is crap stage.

It happens.

I’ve spent a lot of time staring at my writing folder—like I do—trying to discern what I should be working on. Truth is, I really don’t know.

Once upon a time I went through and summarized all of my “active” projects. It was a lot more difficult than it should have been. And I’ve been trying to do an updated version of it with the current active list for…a long time. It’s an exercise in brevity and it’s incredibly difficult for someone like me who has a tendency to ramble incessantly, especially when it comes to talking about writing.

I want to write a brief summary of the plot, a few notes on where my brain is at on the given project, and a snippet of text from the actual story. Problem is I could go on for hours about each one when “summarizing” the plot. (I might need to lookup the actual definition of the word summarize, because clearly it doesn’t mean what I think it means.) As for where my brain is at with each one, a lot of it generally comes out as fuck if I know. And when it comes to pulling out a few lines of text…I want to take paragraphs.

And then I have a twenty-thousand word post.

Give or take.

I’ve considered doing an individual post on each one in a series. Then I could ramble all I want. But it’s supposed to be about brevity. And while that’s clearly not one of my strong suits, that’s what I want it to be.

So as it goes with everything in writing, I keep hacking and slashing until it resembles something I’m more or less okay with.

Or I shove it back in the drafts folder and forget about it for awhile.

Fair warning…this whole thing is five-thousand-some-odd words. (The last one I did was 3000+…so…)

So much for that whole brevity thing, I guess.

Hey—it’s fairly brief commentary for each story. But once you pile them all together…

Continue reading “Swinging at smoke…”

Been off that track…

It’s after six in the morning. I haven’t slept. The in-laws are supposed to be coming over right around the time Bob has to leave for work so his dad can beat Joel the Obstinate and Cursed Jetta (TM) into submission.

Or hook up his battery charger.

Whichever.

It’s Monday.

I’ve been working on a story project for the past few months that is a very slow slog. I am actually quite in-like with what I’ve written on it so far. One of the issues I’m running into with it (aside from the never-ending writer’s block in general) is where exactly I need to end it. My original plan had a pretty clear cutoff, but the farther I get into it, the less sure I am of where that cutoff should actually be.

Kate’s dad dies. (Yes, another Kate…shoosh.) Her Jewish-When-She-Needs-To-Be mother decides the family (five kids, plus spouses and offspring) needs to sit [unofficial] Shiva following the Catholic funeral. (There’s a reoccurring discussion of hypocrisy in the Baylor family house.) In the time they are together, things come to a head between Kate and her over-critical mother—and again with the even more overly critical grandparents. There is also the issue of the youngest sibling’s addiction problem resurfacing and the strain it’s causing on his marriage. And Kate’s ex-husband is suddenly back in the picture. She called him to tell him about her dad and now things are changing.

Things were supposed to end as life was starting to return to normal post-bereavement. Then the Kate and Ex-husband Marc aspect started to take up more importance. And for awhile I thought I knew where to cut off the story with that—entertaining the prospect of reconciliation. But the more I fill in the story, the more I realize, more needs to be said.

The big question being: how much more?

I could possibly condense it into a…lengthy…epilogue. I guess it would depend greatly on just how much conflict I want to dredge up between them in the process. Marc is the one who ended things and if he wants his wife back, he needs to regain her trust. Trust is something that Kate struggles with beyond measure for many reasons. It’s going to be a monumental feat on both sides of the table and clearly not something that is going to [realistically] happen overnight. But slogging through the everyday mundane aspects of life while that trust is rebuilt doesn’t really make for a very interesting story. I could go so far as to tell it all the way to them living together again, and possibly getting remarried, but aside from intermittent conflict…it would be kind of boring. (Not that the Cliff’s Notes is all that exciting as it stands, but I’d read it.)

I could also divide the story into parts that would make a significant time jump less jarring, but it’s really actually two separate stories. The plan as is, is about the death of her father and how the family copes in the early days. The reconciliation is basically a spinoff of that. The overarching story isn’t Kate and Marc. It’s Kate navigating around her mother, interactions with her brothers, and finding a (new?) place for her ex-husband, all while trying to come to terms with her dad being gone.

At this point I’m probably just over thinking everything and I should really just shut-up and WRITE.

“Mom, relax. Everything’s fine.”

Marc watched Kate as she walked out of the kitchen, phone pressed to her ear. He shook his head, turning to Darren sitting at the counter, finding him eyeing him critically.

“Gotta say, it’s kind of weird seeing you here. This is where she really picked up and started over—new house, new car, new dog. It was when she finally started showing signs of life again. Now suddenly…you’re back…and here.”

“I don’t know if back is the right word,” Marc rubbed his chest absently, leaning against the counter behind him.

Darren sat up straight, “Are you saying this is only temporary?”

No,” Marc’s eyes widened and he shook his head, “God I hope not. I’m just…right now I’m letting her dictate how things go. I don’t want to force anything on her. If she tells me to get lost, then I will. I don’t want to, but I will. I can’t hurt her again.”

“Do you want her back?”

“More than anything.”

“Have you told her?”

“Sort of. I’m kind of afraid to. I don’t want to scare her off.”

“I don’t think you’re going to scare her off. She invited you into her house. She might not be ready to just pick up where you left off, but she’s opened the door to the possibility.”

“And how do you feel about all this?”

“Me? Why should my opinion matter?”

“Because it matters to her. If her brothers aren’t happy with it, it’s definitely going to influence her feelings on the matter.”

“Not as much as you think. But we’re all pretty much on the same page on this so far. If you’re over your selfish-prick-existential-crisis, then we’re cautiously optimistic something good can come from this. Something broke in her when you left. She’s gotten better over time, but she is not the same person she was with you. Since you’ve been around, there are definite changes in her. Signs of the old Katie we thought were long gone. If you break her heart again, we will kill you. But if you’re here to stay—in whatever capacity you both agree on—then welcome back. Believe it or not, we all missed you.”

Marc swallowed hard to dislodge the sudden knot in his throat, “I’ve missed you guys too. I didn’t realize just how much until I saw you all again. I really hate that it took losing your dad to make this happen.”

Darren sighed tiredly, nodding, “Dad really loved you. He was devastated when you left. But he was always a strong proponent of better late than never. He would have loved to see you and Katie be able to reconcile. But I think he’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you’re here to take care of her now that he can’t. She’s by no means helpless, but she doesn’t need to be so goddamn independent all the time. She could stand to give up control once in awhile.”

Marc snorted, shaking his head, “She never gave up control when we were married.”

“Fair point,” Darren shrugged, “But she could use a partner to share the load. Even better if it’s someone who knows how to take care of her properly when she really needs it. She’s tough as nails and a whole lot tougher than she gives herself credit for, but she deserves to be taken care of too.”

When I first starting working on this project, every time Kate and Marc were mentioned together (in the story, in my head, wherever) it sounded strange to me. It bugged me for a long time before I finally figured it out.

Kate and Marc are the “famed” Jenkins siblings producing music almost exclusively for Chance Records artists.

They are in…a lot…of different stories.

Seven…if I go through all my folders and find new, old, and stalled projects.

I’m so used to them being brother and sister, pairing two characters with the same names together in a romantic capacity just seems a little weird.

Doesn’t mean I have any plans to change those names.

But weird nonetheless.

Lost something in between…

I.) I went to bed at a normal time. I even slept. And then my bladder rudely woke me up and…here I sit. Not sleeping. Whatever.

II.) We went grocery shopping and I’m pretty sure my face split in half and fell off my skull between the store and the car. SO. EFFING. COLD.

III.) Speaking of winter, December was a weird, WEIRD month of weather. It was mid to high 30s most of the month with a whole lot of rain. In Minnesota. I am have confusion. Christmas was 30-something degrees. New Years was FIVE.

IV.) I’m just—again—reminded I need to invest in a proper scarf and hat because I own neither and a hood does nothing when the wind is literally knocking you sideways. Yes, I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire 35 years. Yes, I am a very slow learner.

Time to go shopping on the Rooster Teeth store, I guess.

(I still don’t have season twelve of Red Vs Blue that came out on DVD in NOVEMBER. I DON’T EVEN KNOW MYSELF ANYMORE.)

*Ahem*

V.) I got a couple inches of hair chopped off before Christmas and suddenly I have natural wave happening. It’s not much, but it’s far more than I ever had as a kid. I have no idea when this happened. It’s been twenty…seven years since it hasn’t been permed. What is this strange voodoo magic?

VI.) I’ve been toying with a new WordPress theme, trying to figure out if I can change certain formatting aspects (without breaking the whole damn thing) to turn it into something I don’t hate. I still like the current theme I’m using, but it’s old and likely riddled with security flaws.

At least that’s what any “KEEP YOUR BLOG SAFE” article will tell you.

And I probably just jinxed myself by pointing out that weakness.

The original creator stopped updating it a long time ago and then suddenly there was a new update…a few? months ago…and it’s a completely different theme under the same name that looks horrendous. I’ve always liked this one because there are so many more customization options that other themes just don’t have. So…either I stick with the outdated number or find something new. Which means I’m relegated to the free templates from WordPress because I’m not paying someone else to design something for me. I don’t make money from this roadshow, I’m not spending more than I have to. And my brain does not bend in the direction I would need it to, to write my own theme.

VII.) My hosting is up for renewal next month and I really need to put in the effort to find a new service because BlueHost is getting fucking ridiculous for a single year of hosting. I’ve never really had issues with the service and the few times I’ve had to contact them I got actual help. But it’s more than doubled in price since I started using it. I just don’t have the mental capacity to figure out what I’m looking at for a new service. MECH.

VIII.) Writing is still sluggish and progress is nearly nonexistent. I’ve reached the I’m ready to start breaking shit stage of writer’s block. I keep sifting through projects, but the inspiration is severely lacking. It makes me want to cry. There have been a few instances that actually produced tears. Writing is as essential to my survival as music…and oxygen, I suppose. It’s a rough road to slog when the well is dry.

IX.) My top ten most played artists for 2014 on Last.fm are…a bit unbalanced.

O.A.R. beat everyone else into submission.

I regret nothing.

X.) Sometimes when the writing is working…no matter how short-lived…there are pieces that stick in my brain for inexplicable reasons.

Kevin looked up as Kate and Darren walked into the kitchen, panic stabbing him in the gut—his sister looked irate and his brother was crying. “What…is going on?” he asked carefully.

“He’s hiding something,” Kate gave Darren a shove, forcing him farther into the room.

“Hiding what?”

Darren slumped against the wall, shaking his head, hiccuping as he swallowed a sob. He rubbed his face with both hands, struggling to breathe, “An envelope,” he croaked.

What?” Kevin walked around the counter, unsure he’d heard correctly.

An envelope,” Darren repeated, dropping his hands, “There is an envelope in my bag. I bought it the morning after Dad died. It’s still sealed. I haven’t opened it. I just…I WANT IT SO BAD.”

Mia stopped in her tracks as she walked into the kitchen. She stared at Darren, silent, dark eyes wide. He turned cautiously to look at her, choking on a sob, and slid down the wall to the floor.

I’m so sorry,” he whispered, sniffling and hiccuping.

She stared at him a few moments longer before turning on her heel, and stalking off down the hall, her footsteps thundering up the stairs.

“What have you used?” Kevin asked quietly, crossing his arms over his chest.

Darren shook his head, coughing and choking as he struggled to breathe, “Nothing. I haven’t used anything. I swear I haven’t. I swear I’m clean,” he looked around the kitchen, the entire family now assembled, and wheezed loudly as he pulled his knees up to his chest and dropped his head down.

Moments later they heard Mia coming back downstairs. She stormed into the kitchen, throwing Darren’s bag on the floor in front of him. He jolted, looking up, and stared at the bag.

“Show me,” she demanded, “Show me what you’ve done.”

He hesitated and sat forward, slowly pulling the bag closer. He sniffled and hiccuped as he reached inside and pulled a small, white envelope from an inner pocket. He jolted again as Kevin was suddenly in front of him, swiping the envelope from his hand.

“It’s sealed,” Kevin muttered.

“How many more are there?” Mia kicked the bag on the floor, “How many have you used?”

Darren shook his head, inching away from her, “It’s just that. I bought six pills. I haven’t used anything.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Mia, I swear. That’s all I bought and I haven’t used anything.”

She shook her head, chucking a small object at him. It hit him in the shoulder and he flinched, picking up a small, plastic cup.

“Fill it,” she barked.

He stared at the cup for a moment and looked up at her, stunned, “You brought a test with you?”

“Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think I don’t know you? How many years have we been doing this? You only have one coping mechanism when shit gets rough. Do you think I didn’t see this coming? Piss in the cup.”

“Mia—.”

Piss in the goddamn cup, Darren.”

Take the long way home…

It started with a song. (Give Me Something by O.A.R.)

Then another one. (Gonna Get Better by Better Than Ezra)

Then a third. (Lincoln Avenue by Train)

And a fourth. (Get in the Car and Drive by Blu Sanders)

I had all of these independent ideas running around in my head and I had no idea what to do with them. On their own, they didn’t hold up to make a complete story. But because the creative well has been dry and barren as of late, the brain went into overdrive fixating on these ideas and what I might be able to make with them. Things morphed and changed and started falling into place.

It’s been a slow process so far, but I’m actually pretty happy with they way things have turned out. I’ll take quality over quantity any day. Anytime I write something that I actually like—not something I’m just okay with, but actually like—is a gaddamn miracle.

Also weird.

“So what’s going on with you and Marc?”

Kate stared up at the ceiling fan and sighed tiredly. She’d been waiting for that question. Lying on her parents’ bed, next to her mother, she’d managed to keep the conversation civil thus far, even if it had only amounted to cheap small talk. Now it was being steered to a place she’d probably regret going.

“It’s just talk, Mom,” she said quietly.

“What kind of talk?”

“Talk. Surviving shiva with Lucifer. Keeping Darren from drugging himself into oblivion. The gaping void without Dad. The colossal mistake Marc made by leaving me.”

Lucy drew in a sharp breath, silent for a moment, “Your words…or his?”

“His. Mostly.”

“He thinks he made a mistake?”

“He thinks he made the biggest mistake of his life.”

“I think we can all agree on that.”

Kate turned her head slowly to look at her mother, “What?”

Lucy looked at her as if it should have been an obvious response on her part, “He did make a huge mistake leaving you. You were good together. There was no reason for him to leave.”

“Who are you?”

“You don’t agree? He made you happy, didn’t he?”

Happy, sure, but—Mom, you hated Marc.”

“I didn’t hate him. I just…like everything else about you, I couldn’t see past my own distorted notions of how things should be. He was good for you. He was good to you. Until he wasn’t…why did he leave?”

“Existential crisis. More or less.”

Hmm.”

“Kind of seems like he’s grown up since then.”

“I certainly hope so. He’s thirty-five for the crying out loud. Does he want you back?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. He hasn’t said those exact words, but…”

“Would you take him back?”

“I…don’t know. I certainly couldn’t pretend he didn’t practically destroy me and just pick up where we left off.”

“Well, he’s going to have to regain your trust if he wants to try again. He still loves you?”

“He does.”

“And you still love him?”

“I do.”

“What do you think your dad would say?”

Kate flinched, the sudden thought of not being able to seek her dad’s advice on the matter hit her like a blow to the stomach. She sighed tiredly, watching the blades of the ceiling fan spin above her, “Keep an open mind and tread lightly.”

“Sounds like him.”

“How can this be real?”

“I don’t know, Baby Girl. I keep hoping I’ll wake up from this nightmare and he’ll be right here next to me. But every day I wake up to the same horrible reality. We were supposed to have another twenty years together, at least. We could have gone thirty. Or more. I don’t know how to live in a world without him…alone.”

“You’re not alone, Mom.”

“I know. I just…it’s not the same.”

“I know. It’s not.”

Emerson mans the playlists while I write.

Though he prefers when I work on his story.

Because he’s vain like that.