It’s Been A Rough Few Days

Wednesday night, Gracie (pictured above) kept waking me up at night. She was whining something fierce. She needed to get up, but was unable to muster the strength to get up.

On Thursday, we made the hard decision that it was time for Gracie. Another hard night and then on Friday afternoon, we took her to a caring veterinarian.

She is no longer in pain, but I miss her terribly.

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Lyme Disease Hits Florida

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Lyme disease, carried by ticks has affected one of my co-workers. He is the main delivery driver and is expected to be out for at least a week. This is why I’ve been doing delivery drives everyday. Yes, I’m the jack of all trades guy at work. Makes it a bit difficult to accomplish my job, but somehow, I’m mostly keeping up.

While driving, it is prime time for me to think of stories, but for the last week, I’ve invariably been focusing on my book. Even on days where I’m tired and don’t have a lot of time to write, I’ll still bang out a thousand words.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m compelled to write this book, but for now, I’ve decided to not fight it and just roll with it as long as it lasts. Eventually I’ll either finish the book or I’ll run out of steam. I’ve got to admit that I’m having a lot of fun with it while driving and it does make the drives go by much quicker.

One precaution I am taking now is to keep a close eye on any bug bites. I sure don’t want to be laid low by Lyme disease.

Writing While Driving

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First of all, I don’t recommend actually writing while driving. This is obviously dangerous.

Today due to our main delivery driver being out again, I took to the roads and ended up driving over 300 miles in 9 hours! This also includes loading and unloading times of course. During my long drives, I had ample opportunity to think about stories to write. And I didn’t think of a single one for tonight. Instead, my focus was on my book that I’m writing. It’s the character driven book.

Faced with not having enough conflict to make it interesting, I developed several plot lines in my head. This is my normal way of writing. I’ll create a scene in my imagination and then run through it like a film. The dialogue, the mannerisms, the thought processes and reaction will all feature prominently in my thoughts. Then like an irate director, I’ll yell out “Cut!” and re-do the scene in a different way. If I’m still not satisfied, I’ll try it again and again until it feels right.

I feel good about a major portion of the book now. There is conflict and inner character angst to keep it interesting. Now I have to sit down and write it all down. Naturally, my memory may be a bit off and as I’m writing, I’ll make small changes here and there.

With all the driving I did today, I have at least three if not four chapters ready to be written. Finding the time and energy is another thing entirely.

Looks like I’ll be out driving all day again tomorrow, so I better get cracking on putting words to paper.

Conflict

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When crafting a story, I always try to keep in mind that there needs to be conflict of some type. In other words, going from point A to point B shouldn’t be a meandering mish-mash that doesn’t resolve a conflict. My goal is to present a conflict, maybe hidden, but with clues sprinkled in that eventually gets resolved.

With thriller stories, mystery stories and suspense stories, this is relatively easy. The hard part is to make the journey easy to write but not necessarily a clear cut straight line from point A to point B. A delightful twist at the end to wrap things up is what I really enjoy writing.

When I attempt a character piece, where the main character has an internal conflict that eventually gets resolved, is where I’ve been faltering. For me, it’s hard to construct a story where the main character has an angst of some type. How do I get from point A (woe is me) to point B (better now) and also make it an interesting story? What’s the conflict?

I recently read a review of Fifty Shades of Gray and the sequels that were made into a movie. The critic bemoaned the fact that there was no real conflict in the story. It only succeeded because of it’s niche story that appealed to a small segment of the population. It got me to thinking of my current book which is an entirely character driven story. Where’s the conflict and how do I resolve it?

Why even try to do a character story when it is clearly out of my wheelhouse? For me, I realized that quite a few of my stories I rely mostly on the thriller part, the mystery part and the suspense part at the expense of character development. When I go back and read some of my earlier stories, the characters seem flat. They could be interchangeable with a million different people. Some of the stories, it doesn’t really matter, but there are others that desperately need character development.

In my continuing quest to be a better writer, it behooves me to delve deeper into a character driven story. Finding the conflict in the story is hard though. In other words, what motivates my character? Is it a burning desire for knowledge? Perhaps a character that life has become dull and meaningless jumps into a situation which causes him/her to grow internally and find that excitement that we all had when we were young and growing up.

I think this is why I’ve been obsessed with the book I’m currently writing. I started it over ten years ago and have sporadically written here and there over the years. It is strictly a character driven book which may be the reason I’ve never finished it. It’s a story I want to write, but I’ve been struggling from the beginning as to why it would be interesting. Now I realize it is because conflict is missing from the story.

When I have sat down to a writing session with this book, the words flow and I can easily write some of the best prose of my life. However, when I look back at the overall story, it is clearly missing conflict. Maybe this is an exercise in character writing for me or it is my imagination needing a break from writing meaningful stories to write beautiful prose that ultimately means nothing.

For now, I’m going to take a break in writing the story to at least attempt to introduce conflict in the story. For all I know, I’ll crash and burn on the story, but that is okay as I realized years ago this is a story that I’ll probably never release to be read by others. In other words, it’s my guilty pleasure.

What’s the point of this post? I have no idea. Don’t you remember me saying I have a hard time getting from point A to point B on an angst story?

The Beat Goes On

Came across this today and decided to give it a try. Next thing you know, I’ve written two thousand words and know exactly where I’m going next with my book. I’ve read the blogs of other writers and sometimes they will post a playlist. Until now, I didn’t realize how much listening to music helps while writing.

As I’ve always been a huge fan of classical music, I chose this video. I’m always open for suggestions of other types of music to write with, so if you have one, please share.

Go Figure

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Did quite of bit of driving today at work. Usually this means I have time to think of stories to tell. Some of my best stories came to me while driving. My mind wanders here and there, going from one idea to another. I’ll ruminate on a promising idea and from that I have the framework of a story to tell. It’s not 100% foolproof as evidence of my thinking today.

Most of the ideas were a tad weird, which is an understatement. I quickly rejected one idea after another. Yes, I know I had given my mind permission to run amok, but the thoughts today frightened even me. I’m not sure they need to be brought to life in the pages of this blog or any blog.

Then I started thinking of yesterday’s story of Trust. I realized I could have done a better job, but as my wont, I figure out what I want to accomplish with the story and run with it. Due to the topic being trust or lack of trust to be fair, I started thinking of my book that I’ve been writing off and on for the last ten years. A huge storyline in the book is trust.

It’s been well over a year since I last wrote anything on that book, so I reread what I had so far. Ideas are bubbling up and I feel the need to write on the book some more. Strange thing is, long ago, I realized that I will probably never attempt to publish this book or share it. At odd times in my life, I feel compelled to work on it. It seems to awaken in me a spirit of writing.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll have a story to share.

Trust

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BANG BANG BANG

What the hell? I rolled over and checked my clock on the nightstand. 1:52 am with someone banging on my door is not a good sign. I jumped up and threw on my robe and headed for the front door.

BANG BANG BANG

What? Someone’s banging on my backdoor? I flipped on the lights in the kitchen and saw a wildly disheveled man through the glass door. Pausing for a second, I realized who it was. With a sigh, I reached out and unlocked the door and opened it.

“About damn time,” he exclaimed as he entered my kitchen, “You got to help me!”

“Jack, relax. Have a seat and tell me what’s so damn urgent at 2 in the morning.”

Jack looked wildly around the kitchen and rushed to the opening to my living room to take a peek. “You are alone, aren’t you?”

I sighed and nodded. Again, I gestured for Jack to take a seat. He looked around the kitchen a bit more and then scurried to the chair muttering, “Can’t be too sure they aren’t watching.”

Here we go again I thought. I went over and started making coffee as I knew it would be a long night. This wasn’t the first time Jack had come over with his wild conspiracy theories, though it had been almost a year since the last time I had seen him. He was quickly becoming the bane of my existence. I rued the day I had ever befriended him.

“So who is watching?”

“CIA, FBI, NSA, DHS, FDA, FTC, and any number of other three letter agencies. I haven’t figured out all of them yet, but I will, I will…”

“Wait, FDA? The Food and Drug Administration? Why would they be watching you?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know, but ever since that time at Applebee’s when I drank their water and next thing you know I found myself in a field outside of town missing my pants, I’ve suspected they are drugging me. Don’t trust anybody, I’m telling you, don’t trust a soul.”

I carefully looked at Jack. He hadn’t changed his filthy clothes in what looked like weeks. I doubt his hair had ever seen a brush or comb and his beard was wildly tangled. He sat there wringing his hands with his eyes shifting constantly looking around. It was easy to see him as a crazy, deranged, homeless person, but I knew he had a house. He had definitely deteriorated since the last time I had talked to him.

“But, but, but, this time, this time,” his voice rose, “I’ve got them, yes sirree, I’ve got them, I’ve got them by the short and curly’s this time. They won’t be doing any more mind control stuff with me ever again.”

“Really?”, I said as I brought my coffee mug to the table and sat down across from Jack.

“Yep, yes, si, ja and every other way you can say it. I’ve got them. I discovered my house is wired to the hilt with camera’s and microphones. But, but, but, I was smart. I didn’t let on that I knew I was being watched. Instead I hacked them, I hacked them all. I’ve got proof now. No more can people say that Jack is a nut. I’ve got proof!”

This was not good, it seemed that Jack had completely gone off the rails. I thought about calling 911, but realized that in his state, he might do something completely crazy. Better to let him talk it out and maybe calm down enough to send him back home.

“Jack, that sounds great. Can you show me this proof,” I said in my most calm voice.

“Nope, no, nada, can’t trust anyone. Don’t trust a soul. I’ve got the proof on a flash drive and no one is getting it from me.” He stopped shifting his eyes and looked directly at me for the first time since entering my kitchen. “I’m pretty smart, I am. I devised a container for the flash drive and swallowed it. Yep, they ain’t getting it from me without a fight.”

This was bad news indeed. I reached into my robe pocket and withdrew my taser gun. Pointing it directly at Jack’s chest, I pulled the trigger and two wires with a prong on them shot out and embedded themselves into his chest. Jack looked down in surprise as I pulled the second trigger sending 10,000 volts into him. His chest arced and he fell over onto the floor twitching uncontrollably. I could see that it had caused him to pass out.

I got up and went and opened my silverware drawer. I lifted the tray up and out and picked up my secure cellphone along with a hypodermic needle all primed. Flipping open the cellphone, I immediately said, “This is Snowdog Three. I need a disposal unit at my location to perform a stomach autopsy of subject Two Charlie X-Ray Delta. Also need a scrub team at his residence. Stat!”

I walked over and crouched beside Jack. His eyes started fluttering and I knew he would awaken soon. I inserted the needle into his neck and his eyes popped open.

“Wha….why?”

I sighed as I pressed the plunger and said, “Jack, you should have followed your own advice. Don’t trust anyone.”

Reflection

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Yesterday while at work, it was a stressful day. Mostly of my own making, but nevertheless, a day that when I arrived at home, I knew I needed to relieve the stress. So I wrote the story Come Sail Away. For me, it was an easy story to write. I had the framework all set up by the song. Simply a matter of filling in details to make it work.

Was it a good story? Quite frankly, I don’t know and don’t really care. It succeeded by completely relieving my stress levels. Writing is a form of therapy for me. Not only does it help with stress, but I can also explore my inner angst in the story. I’m not going to spoil it and spell out what small inner angst I was working on during the story. That is for me and me alone.

So why am I telling you this? Simply put, be prepared for more stories and writings that will allow me to conduct an internal therapy session. You see, I have a lot of unresolved issues in my life and quite a few resentments. I could as I have done, keep all of that bottled up, but I found yesterday that it was a huge weight off my shoulders. Thinking about it today, I realized that I liked that feeling and I’m ready for more of it. Of course, some of the stories that are bubbling in my mad little brain right now may be incomprehensible to most readers.

Shoot, they probably will be a mystery to me also when I write them. Only by reflecting on the story the next day is there going to be a possibility of me recognizing what inner turmoil I am working through. Needless to say, it’s going to be a wild ride and there may be some shocking stuff that I write. I’m giving myself permission to run amok with my thoughts.

Sure going to be interesting to see how this turns out. Don’t you think?

Come Sail Away

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It had been a tense hour since breaking away from the dock at the marina. Having to navigate the river to the ocean while under motor power was bad enough, then to transition to sails left me full of worry. Had I forgotten anything? Were the sails trimmed correctly? Being a novice sailor, I didn’t feel too comfortable about being on the open sea for the first time in my new boat. I keep feeling I should have studied more and taken more boating classes. Being the guy type I am, I dismissed the training and thought I would figure it out as I go.

Slowly, it dawned on me that I had finally reached my dream of sailing. As I looked upon the reflections of the waves, it left a bittersweet feeling in me. Yes, I had achieved my life-long dream, but I was alone. My wife had passed last year of cancer. We had married right after High School and forty years later, I found myself alone for the first time in my adult life. She should have been on the boat with me, but each year, we had postponed our dream until it was too late. After grieving for months, on a whim, I sold the house we had lived in for forty years and bought a brand new sailing boat.

I set course to the southeast as the wind was blowing from the west. The waves were a tad choppy, but the boat which I had named after my wife, the Heather C, rode gracefully on the seas. I should have been grinning from ear to ear, but my eyes brimmed with tears. I had no destination in mind, but as I looked up to the partly cloudy skies, I said, “Heather, we finally realized our dream, just too damn late.”

Grief overtook me and I fell to my knees. I didn’t know how I was going to go through life alone. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to continue on. Maybe I should dive overboard and end it all. We had led an unremarkable life together. Heather wasn’t able to conceive so it had been the two of us always. After a long career at the manufacturing plant, I had taken an early retirement to take care of Heather when she was diagnosed. The cancer was too far gone by that point and quickly claimed her.

A sudden shift of the boat grabbed my attention. I looked up and around and saw dark clouds behind me flashing with lightning. A squall! I had been warned that sudden squalls might pop up and I needed to be prepared. My mind went blank. What should I do? The boat picked up speed and heeled over to the port side. Ah-ha, I need to quickly lower the main sail or the increased wind would push the boat over until it capsized. Frantically, I rushed toward the main mast and completely forgot what line I needed to haul down. I grasped a line at random and pulled hard. The sail tightened even more and I almost lost my balance. I realized then I had forgotten to put on my life jacket. The wind was picking up rapidly and I knew I didn’t have time to retrieve the jacket.

Think dammit! Then I remembered the correct sequence to lower the main sail. I released the lines so I could winch down the sail. Even though I was spinning the winch like a madman, it seemed to take forever to lower it. The rain started coming down as I finished lowering the sail. I quickly gathered the main sail to reef it to the boom. As I was tying the last knot, a shift in the wind caused the boom to swing toward me and hitting me in the chest. I felt my breath leave me as my feet left the deck of the boat. Some instinct in me caused me to try to grab onto anything in an effort to not be swept overboard. Somehow, I grasped onto the cleat holding one of the boat’s mooring lines. I almost lost my grip when my body slammed into the side of the boat.

I held on with dear life to the cleat. Dazed by the blow, my mind refused to think. I knew I had to keep hold or I would be lost to the sea. Not surprisingly, I remembered that the people who had tried to teach me to sail had said that the sea was a cruel mistress. Now I knew exactly what they meant. I tried pulling myself up onto the boat, but lacked the strength. It would be easy to give up I thought. Maybe this was the time I could rejoin Heather in the afterlife. My fingers started to loosen, but then my survival instincts kicked in and held on tightly to the cleat.

It seemed like I had been hanging on for hours, but in reality only for a few minutes when the wind stopped abruptly and the waves calmed down. I looked around but only saw dark skies except directly above me. I had never heard of a squall having an eye, but this looked exactly what I had imagined the eye of a hurricane would be like.

My eyes widened in alarm when a bright shimmering light came from above. Could it be an angel? Could it be Heather to save me? My fingers numb with pain slowly slipped from the cleat and I fell into the sea. Briefly, my head went underwater and I kicked for the surface. My boat, the Heather C had already moved away from me and was almost back into the storm. I watched as it slowly disappeared into the driving rain. This is it. Eventually I would tire of treading water and sink into the sea drowning. A sense of peace came over me. I knew I wouldn’t fight it.

But what about that light I saw? I looked up and the light was still there, but not as bright. In fact, it looked like a metallic shape instead that was glowing. What in the world is this? Did I hit my head when going overboard? Is this a dream? The shape gradually grew closer and then a most amazing thing happened. A portion of it opened up and there were stairs. The stairs moved next to me and I climbed onto them. Frozen in shock, I didn’t know whether to climb up and into the round shape or dive off and swim as fast as I could away. Before I realized it, the stairs had risen and I was deposited inside an oval room. Perhaps I was dead and this was the last vestiges of my mind conjuring up a hallucination.

Then a loud voice said, “Welcome!”

“What? Who is that? Where am I?”

Chuckling, the voice said, “You are on my spacecraft. I saw that you were about to die and decided to come save you.”

I tried to speak, but my mouth just opened and closed.

“I know, you are asking why and the answer is simple. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to explore this galaxy, however, I find it has been a bit boring to do it alone. So I decided to pluck you out of the predicament you were in and have you join me.”

“Umm, what, wait, how?” I gibbered

Laughingly, the voice said, “Relax dude and enjoy the ride.”

I sat back and pondered all that had happened. Perchance this was fate, might even be divine providence. I pictured Heather smiling at me and knew then that this is meant to be. I don’t know where I’m going, but it sure will be interesting to find out what happens.

Inspired by the song Come Sail Away by Styx

Writing Woes

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Years ago, I wrote whenever I felt like writing. Sometimes a short snippet, sometimes a full-fledged story. Usually, I threw them away or stashed them in some box that eventually got thrown out. I wrote for fun and my own enjoyment. Rarely did I ever share any of my stories. Mostly because I didn’t think they were worthy to be read by anyone other than myself. To some it may seem like an odd hobby to spend time on, but I enjoyed it very much.

Then I faced impending doom after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. My fear of rejection of my writing became moot. If I wasn’t going to be around much, then I didn’t have to worry so much about how others saw my writing. It took a devasting diagnoses to propel me into not only writing but also sharing my writing.

I had loads of stories locked up in my brain. In addition, I was also chronicling my cancer treatment and progression. Some days, I wrote two or three stories. Many of you that have been reading this blog have generously praised my work. I didn’t always think it was deserved so I worked harder on the craft of writing.

My writing was going swimmingly until last summer. Then my right arm and shoulder started hurting. Little did I know, I had developed adhesive capsulitis or as most commonly known as frozen shoulder. If I bumped my arm, I would get a shooting pain throughout from the shoulder to my fingertips. Needless to say, it put a decided crimp in my writing. It’s hard to concentrate while dealing with pain of that magnitude.

I stopped writing altogether. Figured on restarting my writing after I fixed my shoulder issue. After a cortisone shot to the shoulder and physical therapy, the pain went away mostly and I regained almost all my freedom of motion with my right arm. By this time several months had passed. When I sat down to write, the stories didn’t flow anymore. I attempted to restart my weekly writing challenge, but it was a struggle to come up with an idea or theme to write about. My hard-worn writing skills I had developed had disappeared.

It became easier to make excuses to not to write. A new job that I was aiming for which I eventually did not get. A show I wanted to binge watch or a book that engrossed me so much that I preferred reading instead of writing. My football team was actually doing well for the first time in years. Any number of distractions came up to stop me from writing. I told myself a number of times that I needed to get back to writing but somehow I couldn’t find the motivation to actually sit down and write.

My memoir stalled in the final editing process. My novel completely dried up in my imagination. Then the holidays came and I finally gave up on writing for the last couple of weeks. No longer would I berate myself for not doing the hard work of writing. I gave it up completely and decided that the writing experience I had gone through was fun while it lasted. No more pressure to sit down and write. I thought that I would never again write on this blog and if I ever did feel like writing, I would revert back to my old days of writing and then throwing it out.

But here I am, and the words are flowing for now. This may be a new phase of my writing, where I don’t pressure myself, instead I write just to write. Maybe I’ll write more often, maybe not. I most certainly don’t have a plan for the coming months. There is a high possibility that whatever I write, I won’t feel like publishing. I do know I want to rediscover the joy of writing. It’s been my companion for most of my life. You, my dear readers, have only seen a small slice of it.

I have learned that to be a successful published author, it requires hard work, dedication and a sense of knowing that the stories need to be read by others. I lack all three. As I attempt to knock off the rust that’s accumulated on my writing skills, I hope to find the courage to publish whatever I write on this blog. Bear with me or give up on me, it’s your choice. I know for me, I feel pretty good about writing today.