Summer Progress

This summer has been a whirlwind. My parents came for a visit, and we had a great time. We watched movies, we went out to the wilds of Birch Bay, and we went out to a backyard bbq. My parents were in their element. They are a dynamic duo. My dad’s a great storyteller, and my mom is an empathic listener. They are always welcome at parties.

My dad’s favorite hobby is taking pictures, which he made sure to do while we were out and about. My mom taught me what a Zen Tangle was. It’s a complex pattern that seems like a fun way to spend an afternoon. Luke and I showed them Fool Us and Macklemore and Maru on YouTube.

By the end of the trip I was tired out. I probably didn’t have to try as hard as I did, but I’m an overachiever, even if it’s not explicitly what my parents ask for or expect. I had to make sure everything was great for their visit.

Even after their departure, I can’t seem to find it in myself to relax. I jumped back on my writing projects with gusto, worked on chores on the house, and took my son to the Raspberry Festival.

I need to figure out what to do with the rest of the summer. I am not outdoorsy by nature, but I have a ten-year-old son that if left to himself would sit inside all day. The B&G club has been a godsend, but there’s something to be said to taking him to a park or out on a Pokewalk to get him engaged in the outdoors. I think I’m stressing out about this more than necessary, because I haven’t been able to carve out a routine.

This summer has been a roller coaster, and I can’t believe it’s halfway done. Yesterday during a conversation with Allison, I laughed and said, “Remember how we were going to do ALL THE THINGS this summer?”

She laughed too.

The summer progresses at its own pace.

The Pause that Refreshes

I can’t believe that school has been out for almost a month. Well, that’s a technicality. I’ve been out of school almost a month; my classes didn’t have classic finals so finals week was kind of a freebie. I was so stressed out from my classes. I loved them, but they were hard and pushed me to new edges of limits. Even the debate class was better than I expected – not that the bar was set high.

As soon as Toby was out of school, we swept away to Central Oregon, to visit the Three Sisters, Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor, and several others. Where I grew up, we had the Black Hills and the Bighorns. Neither one of them were fraught with individual names, so the idea of naming mountains struck me as superfluous. Then again, these mountains jut well above the hills that surround them, snowy peaks breaking up the landscape dramatically.

Oregon is like the bastard child of Washington and Wyoming. There were lots of trees, but we left the rainforest behind and entered the high plains. The sage brush and pines rolled out mile after mile, and at one point I even saw an antelope in the high grass.

The vacation itself was fun. We stayed at a condo that had a very fine pool, and after some shenanigans with our key cards, we settled in for some fine dining and swimming. The next day we went out to Tumelo Falls, which were gorgeous. While we were there a confused butterfly landed on my hand and proceeded to unfurl his proboscis, licking me furiously. I was too stunned to move for a minute, but I managed to sneak out my phone and catch a hand selfie with the butterfly contentedly moving his tongue this way and that, trying to discover where I’d cleverly hidden my nectar. It did get the hint eventually, only to veer off to my son’s shirt for another fruitless search.

Then we left the condo and drove off to my first adventure at an AirBnB. I could go on for ages about what happened, but I’ll condense it to saying that after a drive through four-by-four tracks to reach the place, I was stunned by an open floor plan that opened up into a kitchenette, a daybed, and a random mannequin. The upstairs floor plan was wide open, with a futon, a queen bed, and a view of the neighbor’s goats. Lying awake in the dark and listening to the goats bleat softly to each other was a new experience, as was having the bathroom door knob fall off in my hand at two o’clock in the morning.

My son’s birthday was celebrated by a long drive and an expansive spread of dirt. We went hunting for thundereggs, which are like geodes but solid, full of agate. They are easy to spot and were all over this site, so the challenge level was low, but on a hot day under the scorching sun, you don’t want it to be difficult. We dug up at least twenty pounds of rocks and brought them home. They are awaiting The Great Project, where my husband will rent a tile saw and saw them all open. Which leaves me to wonder, what exactly are we going to do with twenty pounds of semi-circular rocks, but that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Did I write? Yes. I pledged to Junowrimo (yes, it’s a thing) and wrote 20k words on one project, and 7k words on another. Not bad for being away from the keyboard a significant chunk of this month. I’m juggling a lot of projects, mostly short stories.

Oh, and I got my grades back from school. A B+ in my Debate class (I would have accepted less, was quite pleased with this) and an A for both of my writing classes. Not bad for bucking teacher recommendations and heading out into the weeds.

Debatable

 

I just finished my final for Debate class. I got a B, which is what I seem to get in Communications classes. This offends me to my little Hermione core, but it’s also showing me that I am not as good at communicating as I believed I was. Which in turn, is a good revelation to have, because you can’t learn anything if you think you’re awesome at something already. So, I guess the long answer is that I’m philosophical about my B and willing to accept that I’m not always an A student all the time.

I had a good time in Debate class, which was counter to my expectations. When I told my husband, I was going into a debate class, he laughed at me. Straight up, awkward romantic comedy style, laughed until he nearly fell off the couch. At the time, it stung. I felt like I was being railroaded into the class to begin with, and was frustrated having to take it. To do a one-eighty like this and feel comfortable as opposed to freaking out over the whole thing is good; it means I’ve grown.

This whole college experience has been like that – one experience after another of something that I wasn’t sure I was going to grasp, only to push through and persevere. From classes that didn’t seem like I would use them to classes I’d been dying to take, everything has had its surprises. My Creative Writing Fiction class surprised me by introducing me to literature I genuinely didn’t like. I learned a lot from reading fiction I didn’t like, although it took this class to force me to read it.

My Creative Non-Fiction class also taught me a lot. Despite having no interest in writing my memoir, having an opportunity in class to write sections of my life and hone it with craft helped me in ways that the Fiction course didn’t. It helped me to add emotionality into my stories. I am excited to see how much changed over the course of one quarter, and I can’t wait to start writing my own projects again and show people the difference.

This quarter was the hardest quarter I’ve taken in college. I took two writing intensive classes in one quarter, which is recommended against by everyone, and I quite often wrote two stories a day, switching off fiction from non-fiction and trying to keep everything straight.

The summer, by comparison, looks like it will be a nice break from everything scholastic. My son and I will be spending a lot of time together, so I will be wearing the Mom hat a lot, taking him swimming, hosting his friend, going on Pokewalks, finding little local things to take him to and the like. I would love to say the summer is a great opportunity to write, but I think I’m going to have to fight for every scrap of writing time I can muster. I’ve set myself a challenge of 1000 words a day, just to have some numbers to obsess over.

Oh, and if I work it carefully, I may take a break now and then. But don’t quote me.

Reflections

It’s hard to reflect on the situation when you’re in the middle of it. I have been trying to write a blog post for months, but have been coming up short. Some of it is the sheer amount of writing I’ve been doing this quarter. Fiction and creative non-fiction, which are demanding in different ways. I like both of my professors for their strengths. I have also had good luck with the groups I’ve been assigned for writing critiques.

I’ve had no small amount of challenges this quarter. Taking two writing intensive classes was a good way to set myself up for insanity, and then I threw in a debate class, which is a realm to which I do not belong. Despite my obstacle course, I have made headway in all three classes. I even got an A on my first debate, which is the highest grade I’ve made in that class thus far.

I realized something, which is that I’m not letting these classes make very deep impressions upon me. In my fiction class, my teacher has been assigning stories that are well outside the range of what I read on my own. The stories are challenging, upsetting, or worse, pointless and boring. Those are by far the worst, where I can’t figure out why a college professor would assign it as reading. But that’s the thing. I’m just dismissing those writings as useless and stupid. And maybe, maybe they are. However, I do tend to think my professor is good enough to determine a poorly-written story from a challenging story to make me think. I just haven’t figured out how.

What is it about the human mind that writes off situations it doesn’t understand as stupid, trivial, or in some way minimized? Why can’t we admit our weakness and accept that this is something we don’t understand, and needs more thought? The brain budget for new thoughts tends to have deeper reserves than we want to admit to, but it takes time to convince it to pay out.

My stories have been developing. I posted a couple of flash fictions that I turned in as assignments in class. It’s harder to post longer pieces here, but I can post excerpts of other things I’m working on. I used to do post flash fiction all the time, but it’s amazing how much concentration it takes to churn out a work, even a short one.

I published my third novel, Typhon Inc. I have been meaning to post it here, but that’s just how busy it’s been. I hope that people take a peek; it’s an improvement on Bento Box. I figure the difference between book sequels and movie sequels is that authors are continually learning their craft, and movie sequels tend to try to extend a story that wasn’t intended to be.

And now to take on the end of the quarter.

 

Seafoam

A little flash fiction for you… careful, this one has teeth.

*

Ashore, a tangle of long hair the color of seafoam streamed around the form of a beautiful creature. Tiny plastic beads clung like scales to the fair skin of her legs, amid the damp sand that glittered in the moonlight. Ocean water hung from black eyelashes like beads of dew on grass, until her eyes fluttered open and she took in the view.

The beach extended a mile in either direction, white sand visible until the night swallowed the land. Tire tracks left dents in the ocean-smoothed grains. She smiled. It is what she hoped to find.

She stepped with delicate feet onto the marks the tires have made. Walking is a new sensation. Wobbly, short steps take her to her destination. She looked north, then south. The tire tracks continued in both directions. She makes a choice.

Facing north, she walked perpendicular to the beach, until she found the manufactured ground of the humans. There is a man sitting in a divot on the ground, in the sparse grass growing along the bank of the human rock river. He stared with wide open eyes, then looked at the glass bottle he is holding, then stared at her again. He stumbled to his feet, from where he had been sitting cross-legged on the other bank of the manufactured rock. Satisfaction takes hold when she saw that even creatures used to such ungainly tools have trouble using them.

“Who are you?” He asked, crossing the space between them, his eyes making a feast of her. “Are you lost?”

She shook her head, a gesture she has seen the humans make. She has no voice.

“Do you need help? Someone has got to be looking for you.” He grinned lopsidedly. “Unless they’re not.”

She leans in, and he matched her motion. Perhaps he believed she wishes to kiss him, as she is clad only in moonlight and seafoam. She snarled, and wrapped him in her arms, drawing him in close. She opens her mouth wide to bite his throat. Blood welled up like ocean water from a fierce tide, his screams ringing in her ears. With a savage jerk that tears the flesh and frees his blood from his veins, she drops him like a stone.

He is long in the dying, lying by the side of the road, begging her to fetch help, cursing her in turn, trying to crawl away. Finally, he lay down in the grass and goes quiet.

She considered kicking him but her strange feet aren’t protected. Perhaps she could find something such as the dead man wore. Humans are delicate creatures, after all.

Casting a glance back at the ocean, she reflects on her next move. To leave her message and go, or stay and make certain they know why she is here. If she left now, the humans would not know why she had come, and she needed them to understand. This was just the beginning.

The Sea Witch was wrong. She could communicate perfectly well without a voice.

Class Assignment – Borrowed Form

This is a short story based on the form of a Craigslist job form. It’s a rough draft I whipped up this morning but it’s fun, so I thought I’d share.

***

Confidentiality Required

 

job title: Can you see what’s written in the stars?

compensation: contract job – negotiable

employment type: part-time

telecommuting okay

Needed immediately: anyone who has the ability to read the future. Foretelling by the stars preferred, other methods will be considered on a case-by-case basis. (No sacrifices, please.) Are you someone who has always been able to foretell what was going to happen next, but was afraid to tell anyone? Are you someone who has visions of calamity, who has barely sidestepped their own fate because of this ability? Your secret is safe with me. I can pay you via Paypal, to any email address you like. I will not be doing background checks. Your words will be held in the strictest confidence, by me and by you. I will, however, require a demonstration that your power is as you claim, for verification. Once verified, I will require a weekly write-up of my future, and any way my actions could affect the future. These reports will be seen only by me and archived in a secure database with no outside access to the Internet. You must be timely and you must be accurate, and your payday will prove to be so as well. What are you waiting for? Submit a 300-word prediction of what will happen next week. If it proves true, I will contact you the following week with further details.

 

One Down, Five to Go

I have successfully concluded my first quarter. And, while my grades won’t be officially submitted until next week, I have reason to believe I’m getting A’s and a B. In January I would have sworn to you I was doomed for D’s, so it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised.

Registration is done for next quarter and my schedule is… expedient. I am going to take classes I enjoy, but one will be interesting. I’m not looking forward to a debate class. My husband almost fell off the couch laughing when he heard I’d signed up for one. If nothing else it should be a source of amusement at my expense, but I’ll live with that. Awkward human brings forth awkward humor.

On a completely different note, I am watching The Flash on Netflix and I am genuinely enjoying the storytelling. The cast is fantastic, they have a great style and energy. The storytelling is complex, which you could expect, both from a superhero point of view and a timey-wimey point of view. Time travel always opens so many cans of worms at the same time, the complexity is easy to mess up. They are doing a fine job with it, though.

Things are going well on the writing front. Finals week took out my momentum at the knees, but as I approach Spring Break I have days devoted to finishing Typhon. Finding time and space to read out loud without bothering people has been challenging, so I’ve been working on other projects while I wait for break. I am working on a strange marriage of a sci-fi setting and an epic fantasy. I like where the story is going, but I’m worried about the voice. It doesn’t have the stylized speech patterns of an epic fantasy, which it did when I first started the work. On the other hand, the story is solid, so perhaps the stylized fantasy aspect was holding me back from finishing the piece. Ah, the life of a writer. Much like the complex storytelling aspects of time travel, if you’re going to try to work in two genres, you’d better be prepared to get both genres right. If you can’t write Pern, you’d better stick to one gun or the other.

But now, I must go. My son’s coding club is having an open house for parents today, and I’m going to investigate. He’s had so much fun in this club, we’re going to miss it while it’s on break!