Big Plans

Got a lot of projects to finish in the coming weeks:

  • Final proofread of a story, then start sending it out and gathering rejections
  • Draft another chapter for the novel I’m sharing with my local writer’s group
  • Create pitch letters for two non-fiction articles
  • Start drafting the final chapter of Gray Metal Faces

Completing all that work while working my day job, and helping my wife’s home business, is going to be a challenge. But stepping up to challenges like these is the only way I’m going to get where I want to be.

Writing to Live

And on the day after I declare my intention to make a living as a writer… I drive down to my son’s college, to help him move into his fraternity.

Writing is a big part of my life, and if all goes according to plan that portion will grow substantially larger in the coming year. But just as I’ve refused to define who I am by whatever job I currently worked, I’m not about to let my new profession interfere with other priorities. And there’s nothing I value more than my family.

Thoughts at the Base of the Mountain

After forty years of preparation, I’m finally walking towards my primary ambition in life.

I’ve known since my teens that writing is the only job I’ve ever wanted to do. That last sentence intentionally included the word job, because my ambition has never been simply to write. Any clown can create a WordPress account and start posting within a day, and for the past several years I’ve done little more than clown around at writing on this blog. I harbor no regrets, and I’m glad for the wonderful people I’ve met during this time — but all that effort has never been fully satisfying. I want to work at writing, make a profession of this craft, make a living at this gig.

Why work, when I’ve been having a pretty good time so far? Lemme tell you a story…

A few years ago, a former coworker developed a software application. Knowing that I was an adept technical writer, he hired me to write the app’s user manual. Within a few hours after installing and using his application, I realized it probably didn’t have much of a future — I think he sold six licenses before abandoning the project — but I had already signed a contract to write the manual, so there was no going back. One Saturday afternoon in June (the month is important), I swallowed a bowl of mac and cheese for lunch around 1, then fired up my friend’s app and a word processor. I began exploring the app’s features, and making notes on my observations. After a while, I had an outline for the manual; material for the introduction came to me suddenly, and I banged out a page and half of text with a couple screen shots. I continued exploring the apps, and after finding a series of bugs I opened a second document to record those issues. I then created the first draft of the setup instructions, reminding myself to add items to the FAQ… when I realized my back was stiff, and I was hungry. For the first time since I started working that afternoon, I then looked up at the clock.

Eight. Thirty. Six.

With the length of the summer day, I had completely lost track of time. I had been writing, without a break, for over seven hours. I was tired, hungry, and sore from my work that afternoon… but at that moment, after finally coming up for air, I didn’t mind. Because I was having fun. And I realized that exhaustive exhilaration I was feeling had been my aspiration for nearly four decades. To commit heart, body, mind, soul into my writing, and at the end produce a work that not only pleases me intellectually and aesthetically, but also sustains my material needs. To make this sucker pay. It was a spiritually invigorating experience, a brief but shining moment when I felt complete and satisfied.

That marvelous feeling didn’t linger, as my attention turned immediately to dinner, and then in the coming days to completing a user manual that few would read and none appreciate, as well as the productive drudgery of my “real” job. I found new ways to keep myself from pursuing that destiny (and in subsequent posts, I plan to explore each of the barriers I’ve erected to keep me in place). But there was no forgetting that Saturday afternoon in June, and that memory has led me to this moment, staring up from the base of a very tall mountain.

This journey that begins today isn’t going to be easy; people far more talented and bold than I have failed in this profession. I have no idea how long it will take me to reach the summit, little concept of the difficulties I’ll encounter along the way, few clues as to the pain and frustration that lie ahead.

Yet I’ve never been this certain about any other decision. The ambition that awoke in my teen years, and was realized briefly on that incredible Saturday afternoon in June — to work the only job I’ve ever desired, to make a living as a writer — the climb begins today.

This blog has evolved several times over the years, and this post marks another transition. There will be fewer extended series of fiction, and much more content similar to today’s, as I chronicle my career as a professional writer. Words such as I and me will appear far more frequently; whether that’s possible without degenerating into self-indulgence remains to be seen, and is one of several challenges I plan to conquer. As always, I appreciate your support for this blog, and hope you remain curious enough to follow my new adventure.

Misnomers

[Been a while since my last prompt response to The Daily Post]

“Know what bothers me?” Seeing Kara look up, Harriet laid her sandwich down on her paper plate, and pointed with both index fingers across the cafeteria table. “The word toothbrush. Totally wrong!” The older woman’s hands flew into the air, causing a diner at another table to flinch. “You use it on all your teeth, so it should be teethbrush! Or mouthbrush, since you can also use it to clean your gums!”

Kara waited for Harriet to bring her hands back down to the table before responding. “It’s a marvel how anyone maintains proper dental health, using such a horribly named product.”

“Don’t you agree?” Harriet leaned across the table, her face so close that Kara could see the dust on her colleague’s eyeglasses.  “It’s like jellyfish — they’re not fish, they’re actually… ” She bit her lip, as she sat back. “Something that’s not a fish.”

Friday Fictioneers: Who Woulda

“Now THAT,” Mina’s voice rising in surprise, “is not something I expected to see.”

Wendy looked at the object at the end of her aunt’s extended finger, and blinked. Mina jabbed her finger at the car’s fender. “I mean, who woulda thought! A VW, here, in Israel!”

“Oh.” Wendy looked up at her aunt, a look of satisfied comprehension on her face. “Do they call it Tet Shin here?”

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers.


What Works

I’m not blogging regularly, and I want to change that fact.

There are reasons for my blogging inactivity, good ones for sure. Been actively revising some the stories I’ve drafted on this blog, such as The Land Without Mosquitos, with an eye towards getting those works edited and published. Also taken a more active role in my wife’s home business; she’s a cake decorator, and I’ve started doing a good portion of the cake baking, which to my surprise has been a wonderfully satisfying experience (I’ll have to expand on that last thought at some point). There have been several big events in my personal life as well — graduations, managing my brother’s finances, college applications, the bittersweet journey of selling my late parents’ house, and planning for a major career change. So yeah, I’ve kept myself busy, and while I’ve kept writing and have enjoyed living my life, I’ve never been able to ignore the niggling regret over not blogging, an activity that brings me great pleasure.

To restart my blogging, I’m going to revisit techniques that have proven effective in the past — reblogging, prompt responses, the occasional movie review and political commentary, and yes, more bad poetry. But let’s start with some good verse, from puttingthedogtosleep, an imaginative rumination about serving breakfast to Death.

The Chosen, Chapter 3J

Archilochus shook his head dismissively. “If this thug knows that Crim and I were at Judge Oliver’s manor last night, other members of Yungen’s gang must also know. We can’t pretend I’m a spice merchant any longer, that identity’s been compromised. You — ” he jabbed a finger into Jay’s chest — “we need you to take us directly to Yungen, tonight.”

Jay rustled under Wolf’s grasp, and she released him. “He’s at his cabin this evening, outside the city.”

“His guards will be all over the place.” Wolf sheathed her knife. “Yungen goes there whenever he feels threatened.”  

“He believes the Imperial Guard’s after him. I can get you there, but there’s no way I can get you in.”

Archilochus nodded. “We’ll figure that part out, once we get there.” He then turned to the turbaned man — “Gil, we need you to get a message back to Crim, let her know there’s been a change of plans.”

Gil laughed. “You can tell her yourself.” Twitching his head back, he whistled sharply down the alley, and three familiar figures stepped out from the shadows. Archilochus could not hide the surprise in his voice — “You’re supposed to be at the courthouse!”

Crim stepped forward, followed by Ukhala and Billy. “That’s where we were, until we were… ” The priestly woman frowned — “until Gil decided that we needed to be rescued.”

Archilochus spun towards Gil, anger in his face. “What made you decide — ”

“I heard something suspicious in Grendus’ voice, and made some inquiries in the market,” Gil speaking in a flat, disinterested tone. “I found out right away that your cover story had been blown, so I knew we needed a new plan. I could have stopped the mission and let you return to the courthouse, but I suspected the Safety Committee wouldn’t release Wolf again. Getting our comrades out from house arrest, seemed the best option.”

“I disagreed — ” Crim glared back at Gil as she spoke — “but Gil’s plan had gone too far by the time I could object.” She looked around at everyone. “Congratulations, friends. We are all officially outlaws in the town of Philos.”

Archilochus slapped Jay’s shoulder. “Then I believe it’s only appropriate, that we meet this town’s leading outlaw.” And moments later, they exited the city’s gates, and headed north from the colony.

End of The Chosen – Chapter 3

The Chosen, Chapter 3I

“As I was saying,” Wolf explained, “my friend — ”

“Is a member of the Imperial Guard,” Jay replied angrily, as Carp pushed Archilochus against a wall. “He was Judge Oliver’s guest last night, did he forget to inform you of that?”

“Please, please!” Archilochus’ plea sounded more amused than concerned, as Carp searched him frantically. “This doesn’t have to end in violence!”

Carp then spun Archilochus against the wall, and called back to Jay — “No weapons, no coin, no documents. He’s got nothing on him.”

Jay scoffed at Archilochus. “Whoever sent you, must not trust you. They gave you nothing that could lead back to them.” Jay turned to Wolf, anger in his face. “Yungen was furious when you were caught, and even more furious by your lame attempt to bring one of the Empire’s spies to him.”

Wolf’s eyes widened. “Ah — ”

“We’ll dump his body in the ocean, keep the Empire out of our business.”

“Um — ”

“Yungen told us to bring you to him alive. Says he has a plan for you.”

Frowning, Wolf pointed beyond Jay’s shoulder. “Might want to think about changing your plan.”

“Carp, what the hell you doing back there?”

“Lying down on the job, it appears.”

Jay spun on his heels at the unfamiliar voice, and saw Carp face-down on the ground, a knife in his back. Above him, standing next to Archilochus, was a short man, a turban covering his entire head and ears. The short man looked past Carp, directing his words to Wolf — “Two days in a row. Nothing personal, but I’d be a bit embarassed if I were you.”

A hand then clasped over Jay’s mouth, and he felt a blade at his throat. “Yungen’s never loyal to people who fail him, so protecting him won’t do you any good. So you might as well tell us where he is, and hope we’re a little more forgiving.”

The Chosen, Chapter 3H

***

As twilight descended over Philos, Archilochus and Wolf entered through the town through a hidden path. They worked through the town cautiously, taking care not to be seen, until they had reached the estate of Wilhelm Grendus, Philos’ most renowned butcher and a man with a known relationship with Yungen. Grendus, a balding man in his forties, was standing outside his home as they arrived, as if he were expecting them.

“You’re taking a big chance,” Grendus said in a deep voice, pointing at Wolf, “returning to town so soon after your escape.”

“The Safety Committee’s focusing their search on the woods,” Wolf replied. “And I know this town much better than the woods. Figure I’m as safe here as anywhere else.” She nodded in the direction of Archilochus. “This is Varnarius, from the continent. He’s a spice merchant, and is looking to begin trading in the colonies.”

“Spices?” Archilochus nodded at Grendus’ question. “Sorry, but I can’t help you. I’m a butcher, and don’t trade in spices.”

“But you are also the most respected tradesman in Philos,” Archilochus explained. “And I have heard that, in order to do business in town, certain… requirements, need to be met. I believe you, more than anyone else in Philos, would know how best one could meet those requirements.”

Grendus rubbed his chin. “I see. There is a man you need to meet — his name is Harold Shot. He is an agent for several farmsteads in the colony. He also trades in other goods, including spices. He’ll be at the market this afternoon.”
Wolf and Archilochus soon left, and made their way towards the market, taking alleys wherever possible. Archilochus asked why Grendus had not arranged a meeting with Yungen.

“You’ll meet with Yungen, soon enough.” They had reached the end of an alley, and waited for a group of people to pass. “We need to make this seem like a legitimate transaction. If Yungen senses anything’s unusual, he won’t let us near him.” She looked out into the market. “I see Shot, he’s just a few stalls away.” Waving Archilochus forward, Wolf stepped into the market — and was stopped almost immediately by two men stepping in her path.

“Wolf — good to see you’re no longer in prison,” the taller of the men said.

“Jay, Carp — ” she tried to push between the two men — “This man I’m with — ”

“Is about to have a meeting with the three of us.” Jay and Carp then forced Wolf and Archilochus back into the alley.