The Best De-Fence

After sharing a view that included the front of my shed yesterday, thought I’d show you the back today.

Skunks, raccoons, and other varmints love to nest under structures without basements, so as soon as the shed was built I installed a chicken wire fence as protection. Used a staple gun to attach it to the base, then extended it out a couple feet and secured it to the ground with landscape staples. Haven’t had any unwelcome visitors in all the years since. Over the summer I saw a break in the fence, so this fall I did some mending. Had some snow the past few days, so this morning I went out to the back and checked for tracks. Didn’t see any (the spots on the left were caused by dripping from the roof), so it appears I’m safe for another season.

The best defense is usually a good offense, but sometimes all you need is de-fence.

Winter Quiet

All I’m doing today is showing the view onto my back yard this morning. Because sometimes you just have to share a peaceful moment without trying to say something brilliant.img_1616

An Old Recipe 6

“Mom, I’m sorry.” As he spoke, Butch focused on the bruise under her eye. “I shouldn’t have upset Father like that.”

He had never seen her stepmother look so uncertain. Finally, she shook her head — “Butch, you don’t need to apologize, you did nothing wrong.” She handed him the makeshift icepack. “Put this on your shoulder.”

The feel of the cool plastic surface made Butch realize how much pain he was suffering. He swung his legs over the bed, let them dangle next to his mother’s. “Thanks.”

“I thought he was cleansed.” Faith was looking down absently at the floor. “The demon inside him — the one that had been tormenting him since your mother — ” her head jerked up, face towards Butch — “Polly, ever since she was — ” she paused, a horrified look emerging on her face like an oil slick seeping on to a placid lake surface — “when she died. No man should suffer like your father did, no man. He’s a good man, Butch, and he’s prayed to the Lord for help, he wants to be whole again. He just needs . . . ” Her voice seemed to evaporate.

Butch shifted the ice pack, cragluh, from his shoulder to his chest. “Should we pray with him?”

“I have.” Her eyes resparkled. “I do pray with him, Butch. And the Lord is good, He will heal your father.” The teen noticed the bruise under her eye was darkening. “But your father is not a patient man. He wants to be healed now, and when he feels the demon’s torments again — ”

She sniffed, rubbed the back of her right hand under her slender nose, pushed a strand of her curly brown hair off her face. “I was wrong. The demon, is still too strong.”

Linguistic Collision

Unbolt and Tony Single have begun posting audio recitations of their work. They’re not the first poets to include audio on their blog, but rather than creating the audio themselves they are looking to post audio contributed from their readers. The first offering, a reading of Glass Tanto by Herr Tamarin, provides a menacing tone on the second windowpane that I hadn’t picked up at first, yet seemed entirely appropriate when spoken.

Authorial intent, audio interpretation, the education and inclination of the reader — colliding into a handful of words. Intriguing.

Validation and Approval

For her IWSG contribution this month, Elizabeth Seckman discusses an ages-old writer’s complaint — “how hard writers work for so little money.” It’s a undeniable fact that paralyzes the cautious and frustrates the ambitious. In response, Seckman briefly recounts the story of a former football player who developed an unconventional idea for athletic wear. After creating his product and persuading fellow athletes to confirm its functionality, the inventor began selling his bizzare product out of his car trunk. Despite limited resources, the inventor continued believing in his product, and persevered:

He did ask for validation. He didn’t ask for approval.

He just went to work.

And yes, the product was Under Armour, now one of the most successful brands in athletic wear. But the real value of this anecdote is in two words:

  • Validateto recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of
  • Approvalpermission to do something

Both of the above definitions are among several possible, and were chosen to underscore Seckman’s message. As writers, we need to know our family, friends, and peers support our career, that they feel what we do is a worthwhile pursuit. Yet our support groups don’t enable our careers — each writer has to provide the initiative, the drive to succeed at this difficult career.

At times, the idea of writing for a living, when the rewards never seem to match the level of effort or quality, seems as bizzare as the idea of underwear that doesn’t get wet. Finding people to approve our ambition would probably be futile and is certainly unnecessary — but to go down this path alone, with no validation that our work is worthwhile, would quickly lead to a frustrating end.

Development

Double-J lifted his mask, revealing a face red with rage and exertion. Waved at Rex with his unarmed hand — “Stay out. Don’t want you getting mixed up in this.”

The tall freshman paused in confusion, shoulder’s sagging in relief as Coach Dan’s voice carried across the cafeteria. “Reffing’s good experience. Let him direct, correct if he makes a mistake.”

Myles spread his arms, palms up, saber dangling from between the middle and index fingers of his right hand. Pointed his forehead at Double-J — “You wouldn’t want to interrupt this lad’s development, do you?” Double-J’s grunt of disgust accentuated the sharp pull of his mask, covering his face.

The bout continued, neither fencer paying much attention to Rex’s calls. Double-J used his advantage in bladework, parrying most attacks that came at him, scoring on ripostes. But while Myles was less experienced, he was the far superior athlete — faster, stronger, longer, able to leap and lung to a degree his foe simply couldn’t match. And, as became evident after the first few exchanges, more focused, better able to control his emotions. Each attack that came through his defense, each riposte that did not land, caused Double-J to growl, scowling visibly behind his gray metal face. Myles responded to his mistakes with curiosity (now isn’t that interesting), humor (that would have worked, if you were using a dagger), even what seemed at times gratitude (dude, thanks for not letting me score with slop). And as his enthusiasm grew, so too did Myles’ skill — at the same time as Double-J’s frustration, and lack of conditioning, caused him to begin surrendering more touches than he scored.

Having returned from a spar with a sophomore, Juan Kwon walked up behind Rex. “What’s the score?”

Rex blinked. “I didn’t — ”

“Eight – six.” Myles pointed across the makeshift strip. “He’s up — for now.” Double-J had been leaning forward, hands on knees, but at his opponent’s words stood erect, then crouched into en garde position.

“Fence.” At Rex’s command, Double-J charged forward, Myles letting him reach the center and then springing straight up, weapon arm flying forward, the thin metal of his blade whipping in an arc that swept down until it landed, with a sound that was a little bit tink and a lot more tunk, directly on top of Double-J’s mask.

“Halt.” Remembering Coach Dan’s instructions, Rex paused, recreating the action in his head before speaking. “Preparation, no attack on the right. Attack left — ” right arm pointed straight at Double-J, left hand raising towards Myles — “tooch.”

“Finish up, my friends.” Walking across a patch of sunlight reflecting off the cafeteria floor, Coach Dan pointed up at the large analog clock on the southern wall. “Polishing the floors tonight — gotta be out in five.”

Myles had already returned to en garde. “To nine, then.” At Rex’s command, Myles raced to the center this time, his exhausted opponent ceding the position, waiting to parry. A flinch towards the head — Double-J did not move — Myles brought his arm down, flinched again to the head, then began to bring his arm down again before deftly jabbing forward, blade crashing into mask.

“Eight all!” Myles pranced back to his starting line, gyrating in celebration as he did after racing into the end zone or drilling a three-pointer, not noticing until he had crouched back down into en garde that he no longer had an opponent. For Double-J had plowed past Rex and Juan, was in the process of tearing off his equipment, paying no attention to Coach Dan’s calm firm voice as he reached the team’s equipment sacks, threw down his gear, and left the cafeteria in a storm of profanity.

[“Gray Metal Faces,” March 15C]

IWSG – Every Day

Today is my initial contribution to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a marvelously self-deprecating collection of bloggers whom I’ve recently joined. The only requirement for membership is to contribute a post on the first Wednesday of each month; consider this my audtion.

  

Among the suggestions for “ISWG Day” is to offer advice or encouragement to other writers, so allow me to share the one habit I’ve adopted that’s helped me achieve my modest writing goals. It’s simple to state, not always easy to execute — but writing every day has been the key to my limited success.

Rephrasing into a command: You need to write every day. And when I say every day, I mean, every day.

No breaks for weekends or holidays. No vacations. No compromsises (I’ll write two posts today so I can skip tomorrow), no rationalizations (Tomorrow I’ll revise the draft I have today — it’s quality, not quantity, that matters), no excuses (It’s been a hell of a day, I need a mental break).

Every day.

Length doesn’t matter; if all I’ve got one day is a sentence, that lonely string of words will just have to do. Quality doesn’t matter; sometimes I dash off something I consider ridiculously lame, only to receive more positive response than I do on posts that I believe to be much better (a great lesson in self-critical humility). Consistency doesn’t matter; my blog is mostly a linear development of different fiction projects, but if I need to go off script for a day or two, that’s where I’ll go.

Every. Day.

Starting a daily writing habit is not going to be easy. You’re going to forget a day here and there at the beginning; it took a good three months before the habit became ingrained in me, and in the year that followed there were more than a few oh shit evenings where I jumped from bed and hit the Publish button moments before midnight. But eventually, it becomes a part of your day that you plan for, and enjoy.

Every day. Even when it’s difficult.

Last spring, as my mother’s health deteriorated and I left my job, home, and family to be with her at the end, I considered setting aside my blog temporarily. Writing at the time seemed self-indulgent, selfish; my blogging projects held no appeal. I knew I couldn’t continue writing solely to appease my vanity — yet I still felt it was important for me to write. Take care of yourself,the words of my mother and friends, family in those final days. You need to eat, get some rest; take a shower, go for a walk, cry when the sorrow is too much. You’re no good to anyone if you’re a wreck. Writing had become too important for me to set aside; deciding not to write would be like intentionally not brushing my teeth in the morning — I could do it, but I wouldn’t feel right the entire day. So I decided to continue writing, every day, even the day of her funeral; nonsense verse, verbal salads of garden vegetables tossed with whipped cream, the jibberish rantings of a soul in pain. I’m neither glad nor upset that I wrote daily during that time; I just know it was what I had to do.

Every day. On the good days and the bad, when the words come easily and when they have to be extracted, whether you feel like writing or feel you’ve earned a break. Writing, every day — the blissfully bittersweet obligation.

Travel Day

Heading home after a two-week vacation (during which I produced a 23k-word revision of my novel’s fourth chapter). Four plane flights over seventeen hours; the journey home is always a giant bowl of suck, with a side order of dreck. No bad poetry today — get me home and a good night’s sleep, and I’ll get back to work tomorrow.

Rejuvinex

An interesting challenge from Eclectic Voices: “write 100 word fiction (or less) about a pagan tradition. Real or made-up, it doesn’t matter.” I’ll go the MSU route.

The Festival of Rejuvinex was celebrated in pre-Christian communities across the Mediterranean; manuscripts describing the festival have been discovered in modern-day Spain, Libya, and Greece. Some scholars claim the festival was also celebrated in Mesopotamia, although the evidence for this is contested.

Rejuvinex was celebrated during the first full moon after the winter solstice. Celebrants would fast from dawn to dusk, then raise ceremonial lights when the sun disappeared. A communal feast, followed by music and dancing, was held on all four evenings.

Some early Christian sects attempted to incorporate Rejuvinex into their practice; why those attempts failed is a unknown.