Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writing Power

Nope, nothing to do with writing inspiration. In this case, it's all about perspiration. Or, as Southern ladies say, the "glow." With our power still off, I had to get out of my comfort zone to get some work done. Since my laptop runs 45 minutes, tops, on its fading battery, I trekked over to the church, which had power, to plug it in and store up some juice. There, I discovered again something I had lost.

It was the ability to write anywhere. Once upon a time, I wrote in short bursts wherever I was, on whatever, as long as I had fifteen uninterrupted seconds. Somehow, I became accustomed to my home office, my desk, my window view, for my muse to kick it into high gear. However, sitting in a quiet church, feeling a bit odd to be dressed in jeans in a place where I normally wear suits, skirts, or pearls, I got to work.

And the muse was just fine. As the battery charged, the pages flowed. When I finally looked up, it was late afternoon. I hadn't needed my own desk chair, my special wrist pad, or anything else, except the laptop, to write. I probably didn't need that, but it was my excuse for getting out of my powerless office.

From now on, no more excuses. Place doesn't matter. Hands to the keyboard, sweat on the brow, that's all I need.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Still waiting. . .

There are times in your life when you know you just have to be patient. There's no other option. That 39th week of pregnancy, for example. You can jump up and down all you want, but in the end, you have no control over when the baby shows up, because Mother Nature knows best. Or growing out your hair after a bad haircut. You wear hats and try to ignore the awfulness, but in the end, hair grows at its own pace.

So what are we really discussing here, you may ask yourself? The end result of my attempt to be philosophically patient is that I'm not. Sure, I know the power company is doing the best it can. That schools and stoplights trump my little old subdivision. I get it. Doesn't help,though. Those cold showers are getting old. The sight of swinging transformers and downed power lines snaking through my yard is scary. I want them to go away.

I count blessings every day. No trees through the roof. No cars crushed by branches the size of elephants. (We have hundred year old oaks in our area, and they are BIG.) Others in my subdivision didn't fare as well. So what, that I had to toss a brand new box of Schwans root beer bars? (The best ice cream on the planet.) It's all good. And if we have to wait another week for power, so be it. I had a baby come a few weeks after her due date, and if I can handle that, I can handle this.

However, I'd like it to be known that "let there be light" is a perfectly good idea.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene, such a lovely name. . .

And such a nasty storm. My town was pounded, there's no other verb for it. Trees cracked, toppled, thumped the ground, and generally kept life interesting. With no power for over 24 hours, I've come to the conclusion we're in for the long haul. After Hurricnae Isabel, we went about two weeks living by candlelight. I'm hoping for a shorter recovery this time around.Call me a cock-eyed optimist.

Bless 3G iPads, and the ability to discover what's going on! I outgrew the romantic candle notion during the last big power outage. Roughing it has no allure. I HATE cold showers. Even reading gets old when candle wax drips on your hands. That stuff is HOT.

At least the generator is keeping the freezer running.I keep telling myself, it could be worse. A whole lot worse. . .Gratitude is the hot commodity at our house.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Brad Keselowski

We were invited by RIR to a "Cookout with Keselowski" this week. Along with hamburgers and meeting other fans, we got to have a meet and greet with Bad Brad.

Who is not "Bad" Brad at all. What a polite young man. Whipcord thin (as we say in romance novels), he's obviously working hard to make everyone feel comfortable around him. He tries very hard, but it must be difficult for someone so young who really just loves to drive fast cars.

He laughed when I told him he was going to show up on our Christmas letter. And when I said "You need to eat more fried chicken and mashed potatoes!" he said, as any well-bred young man would say to an older lady, "Yes, ma'am."  He does his mama proud.

Since following Brad when he got a ride in a good truck and ended up wrecked, but with a job offer from Dale Jr. to run the 88 car in Nationwide, I've been impressed that he's always himself on the track.  Run hard, run fast, and and don't kowtow to anyone.

Especially Carl Edwards, who thinks he's the new Lord of the track.  Give him heck, Brad. Take that championship home to Penske.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Old Stuff

Excavating old files is like a day spent in the attic. Finds abound. I have complete manuscripts that didn't, and don't, fit in the publishing mold. I knew it while I was writing them, but I wanted, no, needed, to tell them. One is set in the early twentieth century in Turkey. Another involves an adopted little girl whose biologic father shows up, wanting her. The monkey wrench is that her adoptive mother is falling for a stock car racer. Two men, one woman, not the standard romance set-up, especially since the mom isn't sure she wants any man in her life. The third is set today on the Mattaponi Indian Reservation in Virginia, and though there's murder and romance, the heart of the story is about honoring treaties and commitments signed in the seventeenth century, even if it's hard for the people involved.

I still love these stories. I've always believed if a story interests me, someone else will like it too. So they're going to get another chance. I'm not sure how or when, but all it takes is creativity. Coin of the realm in the writer's world. Piece of cake, right? When I
start using cliches, I'm in trouble. . . .

Now all I can think are cliches. Shoot.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another story!

From my stash of scary stories for Halloween. Have fun with it!

House of Purity


Tracy Dunham © 2011

            Of all the crappy things in a year filled with crap, Laura had to take her little brother trick or treating.  Even worse, she had to stick with all the moms and dads at the bottom of the porch steps, make “oooh” noises when the candy rolled out and the munchkins dove in like starving sharks, and pretend like all the snotty nosed kids were just darling, so cute, yes indeed, precious beyond a doubt.  Oh, the joys of being older by twelve years.  If she had a penny for every time she wished her parents hadn’t decided to have another baby, she’d be as rich as Ivanka Trump.  So here she was at seventeen, looking like an unwed teenaged mother with a five year old brat who thought dressing like a ninja was cool.  Ninjas went out of style when she was twelve.

            “Laurie, hurry up. I don’t want Robbie to stay up past eight.  And no eating the candy!  Dad and I will be home by eleven at the latest.” Her mom put on her lipstick by the hall mirror.

            “Lucky me,” Laura muttered under her breath.  Louder, she grumbled, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Bed by eight, no candy.”  As if Robbie the House King would keep his sticky little fingers out of his candy bag.  The only way she could keep him sugar-free was to wire his nasty little mouth shut. 

            “Laurrriiieee,” Robbie screeched from the front door.  “Hurreeyyyy!”

            “Off you go.  How do I look?”  Her mom primped, adjusting her tiara and fluffing up her tulle skirt.  She was too old to dress like a fairy princess, Laura wanted to say, but it was just sour grapes.  She hadn’t been invited to a Halloween party since she was ten and everyone in the fifth grade got invited to the class party.

            At least it wasn’t raining or freezing.  She remembered some miserable trick or treating when she was little.  Robbie got all the luck.  Always had.  He got the smart genes, the DNA that got him put into advanced classes for super geeks. He was reading at two, full sized books that gave her a headache, and doing math problems she wouldn’t even try.  Everyone loved Robbie.  Big blue eyes, curly blond hair, and a laugh that made everyone smile with him, even if they didn’t know what got him giggling.  Yeah, Robbie had it all. What did she have? A sucky grade point average, stringy mouse-colored hair, braces for the past four years, and zits. 

            “Okay, little monster, let’s hit the road.”  She grabbed the flashlight her mom handed her and followed Robbie out the front door.  “If you give me any grief, we’re going home.  Got it?”
            She didn’t like the way he stuck out his tongue at her, but what was she going to do? Smack him?  He’d tattle and her mother would take away her Internet.  Robbie was perfect around adults, but with her he acted like she was his serving girl.  Clean his room, fix him a snack, blah, blah, blah, and her mother made her do it.  She couldn’t wait until she graduated from high school next year and could get out on her own.  College wasn’t going to happen, her parents informed her. Robbie’s extra classes cost a lot of money, and her grades weren’t good enough, so what the heck, she was on her own.

            Fine by her.  Far as she was concerned, this was the last Halloween she had to play nanny for the Super Kid.  Next year she’d have her own place and a job, and she wouldn’t have to see the brat again if she didn’t want to.

            “Hi Laurie.  Good to see you.”  Mrs. Evans was waiting for them at the sidewalk, her two little girls dressed like ghosts.

            “Hi.”  Laura figured Mrs. Evans was cool.  She hadn’t spent a fortune on some stupid costume for her kids or herself.  The ghosts were made from old sheets.  “Mary and Susan look great.”

            “I want candy,” Robbie whined. 

            “So start walking,” Laura ordered.  “It doesn’t jump in your bag by itself.”

            “I hate Halloween,” Mrs. Evans noted casually. “No child needs as much candy as they get. ”

            “I guess so,” Laura agreed.  “My mom said Robbie couldn’t eat anything tonight.  She wants to check it all out, I guess, before he swallows anything.”

            “Can’t be too careful.”  Mrs. Evans waved at the Roginsons, who were standing in their doorway, making admiring noises at the kids’ costumes.  “Would you and Robbie like to stop by our house on the way home for some hot chocolate?”

            Just what she wanted.  More chatting with Mrs. Evans while Robbie whined that he wanted to eat his candy.

            “I don’t think so, thanks.  Mom said Robbie has to be in bed by eight.”

            “Sure. Makes sense.  I’m a terrible mother, I know.” She sighed, then laughed. “The girls won’t be able to sleep until I let them eat their candy, but they don’t have to show off in school tomorrow.”

            Laura couldn’t help it, she laughed. 

            Mrs. Evans tilted her head under the nearest driveway lantern and looked at Laura as her girls and Robbie attacked another front door. “Must be difficult sometimes, being the elder sibling to the alien child.”

            This time Laura’s laugh was less enthusiastic. Robbie was a brat, but he was her brother.  “Not too much.  He has a mouth on him, but then he was talking in full sentences before he was one.”  Her mother was very proud of that fact and repeated it often.

            “How far are you taking Robbie tonight? Around the block?”

            She hadn’t really thought of it. “I guess, and maybe the next one if we have time.”

            “I hear the church on Ford Avenue is open and handing out candy.  I might take the girls there after this row.”

            “Sounds good.”  Robby couldn’t object.  “What’s the church? Isn’t it new?”

            “I’m not sure of its name.  It got left the old Coleman house in the old lady’s will, so it’s turned the place into a church.  Opened about a month ago.  They’ve been pretty quiet, but I hear they’ve worked on the yard a lot, and the neighbors are happy.”

            The trick-or-treating on their own street took forever, it seemed.  Laura was sick and tired of all the cutesy comments about costumes and how big everyone was getting, blah, blah, blah.  Dragging Robby with the two girls turned out to be pretty easy, since the girls were handing him pieces of candy from their bags and he was stuffing it in his mouth as fast as he could. Finally, they headed for a new street.

            The church on Ford Avenue that Mrs. Evans wanted to visit didn’t look too promising, however.  No lights brightened the second floor windows, and the front door hid beneath a bulb that couldn’t have been more than ten watts.  A hand-painted sign reading “House of Purity” hung on the porch eaves.  If this was a church, she was a gorgeous blonde with big boobs.

            “You sure they’re handing out candy?”  Laura dragged Robby back beside her as the two girls and their mother wandered down the walkway.  “It doesn’t look open for business.”

            “That’s what I heard.  Can’t hurt to try.  I’m right here, and besides, I’ve been wanting to see what they’ve done with the place.”

            Not much, Laura thought.  The paint was still peeling, and if they’d worked on the yard, she’d be surprised.  Big branches hung low over the sidewalk and leaves cluttered the gutters.  Checking out the second floor, she saw the shutters still hung at crazy angles. Fat lot of good the House of  Purity was doing this house. And who in the heck would belong to a denomination with that name? Purity of what?

            Laura watched Mrs. Evans ring the doorbell.  To her surprise, it opened and a nice looking woman wearing a long blue dress gestured for the two girls to enter.  Something didn’t feel right to Laura, but Mrs. Evans didn’t hesitate. She and the two girls disappeared.  Waiting for them to come out, Laura started to worry.  When the porch light went out a few seconds later, she panicked.  What did she do now? Call the police?  Call Mr. Evans?

            “I wanna get more candy,” Robby whined.  “Why can’t we get candy there?” He pointed at the house where the Evanses disappeared.

            “I don’t think it’s a good place. Come on, let’s go home.”  She’d call Mr. Evans from her house.  Maybe after this, her mom would let her have a cell phone.  She was the only girl in her class who didn’t have one.

            “No,” Robby screamed.  “I have to go in there!  They’ll get all the candy!”

            “You’ll do what I tell you to do!  Now come on!”  Jerking Robby behind her, Laura tried to drag him down the sidewalk but his hand slipped from hers.  Running as fast as his short legs would carry him, he hurtled to the front door and beat on it, crying “candy, candy!”

            “Robby,” Laura cried, scrambling to catch up, fell flat on her face. To her horror, the door creaked open.  A single hand reached out, and before Laura could dive to catch him, Robby disappeared.

            A loud crack sounded like a gunshot as the door slammed shut behind him.

            “Hey,” Laura screamed, “give me my brother!  You can’t do this!  I’m calling the police!”

            Racing to the house next door, she beat on the front door, crying that she needed to use the phone.  No one opened to her.  Down the block, she continued her quest, but it seemed the whole block around the church was dark.  Where was everyone? This was Halloween, at least a few houses should have been handing out candy at this hour.  Why weren’t they?

            She gave up trying to get to a phone anywhere near the House of Purity, and fighting panic, ran for home.  Hands shaking, she could barely unlock the door.  Grabbing the kitchen phone, she was trying to see through her tears to dial 911, when someone came through the front door behind her. Terrified because she hadn’t locked the door, she ducked under the kitchen table, clutching the phone to her chest.  She hadn’t turned on the kitchen lights, thank goodness.

            “Laura, where are you?  What happened to you?  The girls missed you when they left the church.”  Mrs. Evans lifted the tablecloth and peered at Laura.  “Are you ill?”

            “You’re okay,” Laura screamed, “I thought they’d taken you and the girls. Where’s Robby?  What was going on in that place?”  She could barely talk, she was so relieved to see Mrs. Evans.

            “Robby who?  What do you mean, you thought someone had taken us?  We didn’t go anywhere.  Just got the girls some chocolates, we brought some out to you, and you were gone.  Come out, dear, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.” 

            Grabbing a table leg, Laura held on for dear life. “What do you mean, Robby who?  He’s my brother, he followed you into that creepy so-called church.  I’ve got to call the cops, my parents will kill me for losing him.  How could you let them keep him?”  Shrieking at Mrs. Evans, Laura tried to dial 9ll again, but she dropped the phone trying to fight off Mrs. Evans.  The woman had Laura’s foot in both hands and was dragging Laura like a sack of grass seed.

            “You poor dear.  I can’t help you if you won’t let me. What’s your mom’s cell phone number, she needs to get home right now.”  Mrs. Evans, Laura realized, sounded like the sane person in the kitchen. She wanted to scream, but no one was home to hear her. 

            “I’m going back for Robby,” Laura cried as she fought free of Mrs. Evans, and half on her hands and knees, threw herself out the front door. She was younger than Mrs. Evans, she had to be faster if she could just stay on her feet.  She did.  Running so hard her lungs hurt, she cut through back yards to get to the House of Purity before Mrs. Evans.

            As she rounded the corner, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  She had to have the wrong street, but glancing at the street sign, she saw it was Ford Avenue.  How could this be happening?  Where was the house that had swallowed her brother as if he were a gnat?  Nothing but trees stood where the house had been extant not fifteen minutes ago.  Big trees.  Black walnuts and pin oaks.  Even the grass had been planted at least a season ago.  There was no way that house disappeared into thin air.  Or any kind of air, thin or not.

            “Robby?  Where are you?” she sobbed.  She’d lost him, her little brother.  Her parents would never forgive her.  She may as well find another place to live right now.

            “Honey, what’s wrong?  Mrs. Evans called, said you were having some kind of breakdown.”  Her mother hopped out of her dad’s car, still in her fairy princess costume, and came running to her.  “Come home before you make a complete fool of yourself out here.”  She gestured to the black Mercedes.

            “Mom, Robby’s been taken!  By a house that was standing here not twenty minutes ago.  You’re got to believe me.”

            Her mother stroked the sweaty hair from her face.  “I believe you sweetie, but you need to rest. It’s been a busy month, with all the games you had to cheer, researching colleges for your applications, tutoring after school, being class president.  It’s my fault for letting you get so busy, but you seemed to be thriving.  Please, hon, let’s go home.”

            “You’ve got to call the police about Robby.”  What if he were hurt?

            “I don’t know about any Robby.  Is he your new boyfriend?  I’m glad you’re dating, but there are so many boys, it’s hard to keep up.”  Her mother laughed.

            Fighting for breath, Laura shut her eyes and counted to ten.  This was a bad dream, she’d wake up any second now.  Please, let her wake up.  What if she didn’t?


            Malin morphed from the humanoid woman dressed in blue into her true state – a large gaseous blob.  “I must say, this has been a disappointment.”

            “You weren’t the one who had to live as a human child for the past five human years.  I thought you’d never show up!  What took you so long?”

            The green gas once known as Robby swirled into the house’s ceilings.  “And when can we get out of here? There’s nothing here for us, I can report with the utmost certainty.”

            “It’s a shame their intelligence is so limited.  We had high hopes.”  Malin’s gas form grew more frenetic.  “There’s only one thing left to do.  I’ve wiped clean the memories of everyone who had contact with you as Robby.  What an unfortunate name.”

            “Good.  What about the sister?  I sense her distress.  She doesn’t seem. . . .”  He hesitated. “No, it can’t be.  She’s searching for the boy.  Malin, what’s wrong?  Why isn’t she cleansed like the others?”

            Malin sighed.  “It happens sometimes.  You know that.  We’ll have to go to stage two.  Not that it’s a loss, this planet is so useless.  I just hate expending the energy.”

            “Well, it’s your job, not mine. I’ve done my part.  See you on Ulona 6.  I’ve got my orders.  First, though, I’ve some R & R coming after that ordeal.”  With those words, the green gas blob dissipated into the night sky.

            “Right, leave a woman to clean up the mess. How like a man.”  Swelling into a larger gaseous state, Malin swirled into the sky behind him.  From miles above earth’s atmosphere, she hesitated, then with a mighty swelling, knocked earth out of its orbit.  With compassion for the pea-sized inhabitants of this minor world, she added a quick shove that would hasten the end more quickly.

            No sense in prolonging their pain.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Path to Love

I know it sounds . . . uncharacteristic of me. This title. But it's the name of a collection of short stories, sweet and romantic, that are now up on Amazon for the Kindle. I can only say that they're some of the ones I've liked best of my short-shorts that I've written through the years.  At 99 cents, I  hope they'll be read for fun - a quick trip into romance that I hope lifts your spirits and renews your faith in the power of love to overcome all obstacles.

I'm hoping to put together a compilation of Halloween short stories I've written every October for the children since they were young. The stories became a tradition, and in rereading them, I find much I still like. A quick dip in the monster pond is always fun during Halloween.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Spiders and ants, oh my

I don't know if it's the heat, the drought, a combination of both, or simply that my house seems hospitable, but we've been webbed by spiders and attacked by ants to an extraordinary degree this year. Normally, I bat down only those webs that are the most obnoxious (which means most of them), and hope the spiders get the hint. This year, they aren't getting with the program. I swipe, they re-spin, I bat, they stick out their tongues at me and go "na-nanny-boo-boo." 

Don't get me started on the ants. If the afterlife is anything as described in Eastern philosophies, I'm heading straight to hell. Killing those little suckers has become all-consuming. They invaded the pantry, they drowned in the honey jar, they've gorged on dog and cat food left on the floor by accident. It's personal. I don't like chemicals around food, so I've had to throw away most of the pantry items, scrub with bleach, and start over. ARRGH. 

I get that they're persistent and they serve some greater good in our environment, but I'm out of patience. Patience. That which I do not possess.

Which leads me to uploading books for Kindle into the Amazon store. Hours of my life have dribbled away into the ether as I fool with the program.  It seems simple enough. Should be. So why am I half bald with tearing my hair out by the roots?

The good news is that I've finally (and I reiterate - FINALLY) managed to upload a collection of sweet, romantic short stories that I've written over time. These happen to be my favorites. They're fun to write, I take a break from the darker work, and sometimes they give me a giggle when I need one.
The title is: THE PATH TO LOVE, and it should be "live" in the next 24 hours or so.

I hope. If uploading it was as successful as fighting the ants, I'm in trouble.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What a wonderful librarian!

Having a daughter who is a librarian means I pay a lot more attention to the subject of libraries, natch.  I just read an article about a woman in Portland who brings the library to the homeless, courtesy of her bike and a basket of books.  What a great idea! 

Libraries are the final frontier of freedom in this country, I always say.
They're the ultimate defenders of the First Amendment.

Here's the full article:

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Only a phone call away . . .

This morning's paper had a huge picture of ladies in India working a call center that helps U.S. children with their math. The gist of the article was that  India has boatloads of good engineering schools, but no jobs for their graduates. Ergo, many of them tutor math to American kids who have to phone in for help halfway around the world.

What is wrong with this picture? I  find nothing wrong with engineering grads earning money tutoring. In fact, it's a great idea. But are there no math tutors in the U.S.? Is there a famine of math-savvy U.S. grads who can help children understand what's going on with Euclid? (Don't ask me, I hated Geometry.)  And that leads me to another question: Why is there a need for a big call center for math tutoring in the first place? Why aren't kids learning this stuff in school, and if they aren't, why aren't teachers helping them after school?

Wait, I forgot about one of my daughter's English teachers in public high school. My daughter slaved over a paper, turned it in on time, and never got it back. Never got a grade on it. The teacher didn't have time during her contracted in-school hours to read and grade the papers, so no big deal. It didn't matter that my child really put her heart and soul into that paper. When the teacher departed school after her contracted classroom hours, she baked pies to sell. It seemed baking was more her passion than teaching. Besides, her contract specified how many minutes she was at work in the building, and that was all she performed.

This teacher was in stark contrast to the same daughter's Algebra teacher who met with her after school in eighth grade to help her. As a result, that was the one stellar year of math for my child. She understood what was going on.

She didn't have to phone India for someone to explain equations.

So many teachers sacrifice so much to help our children learn. I stand in awe of their dedication.  Yet what's happening in our system, with standardized testing taking over real teaching, is criminal. Teachers must file mountains of paperwork, teach to the standardized test, and somewhere along the line, many lose their passion for real education. I get it.

But phoning India for tutors? Come on people, are we really incapable of teaching our own children?

Friday, August 05, 2011


I make no secret of the fact that I think Vogler's THE WRITERS JOURNEY is the hottest thing since Prada sunglasses. Not that I own Prada sunglasses, but a girl can wish, right? I do, however, own two copies of Vogler's book, just in case one of them falls to pieces from hard use.  Believe me, it gets hard use.

Vogler asks some dead-on questions that I try to answer before I start writing.  If the answers change and the work progresses, so be it. I'm not married to the original answers, just the process of asking them.
So what are they, you ask? Voila, and thanks to Mr.Vogler:

1. What is your hero's greatest fear?
2. What is the book's metaphor?
3. What are the character's inner and outer problems?
4. What is the ordeal?
5. What aspect of the hero is resurrected?

Vogler pretty much follows Campbell when it comes to story structure, therefore it's classic and time-honored. How can you go wrong with that?  If you read Vogler, you'll find concrete examples from films illustrating some of the terms in the questions, such as "ordeal" and "resurrection."  It's a writer thing, not religious. Well, it can be religious. Don't get me started. . . .

I like to ask what my hero wants above all else. What's the one thing that's beyond reach?  If I can distill the story into one sentence (Until you've lost everything, you'll never be able to get it back) and see if that sentence works for every major character, because the secondary characters are on a journey of their own that mirrors that of the hero.  That's for another blog, however.

BTW, anyone else think Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen on PBS is hot, hot, hot?  Wowzer, I sure do.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Inner Critic

The IC is a horrible, slimy-mouthed, bloodshot-eyed, filthy, stinking beast. I think every writer faces it, and most of us at one time or another have to deal with it in just about every aspect of our lives.  It attacks when we're tired, when we're feeling stressed, and especially when the work isn't going well. It's easy enough to say how to deal with this monster, but how do you really put the words into action?

I've found if I say out loud (and really loudly, when I'm alone and no one can hear me talking to myself, because, really, aren't writers crazy enough?) "STOP IT.  Cut it out!  Don't do this to yourself!" Verbalizing the command gives it more of an impact, at least it does for me. I can choose to stick to the positive path, and I will. The dark way into negativity is no fun, so why would I want it?

Next, I reaffirm that I CAN.  There's no problem you can't solve if you just work at it. The IC monster who whispers in your ear "you can't do this, it's too hard, you don't know what you're doing and you never will" is speaking in MY voice to me. WTH? If it's my voice in my head, I sure as shootin' can shut it down. And after I tell it to take a hike, I tell myself it was a lying bit of nothing, and I don't have to buy that load of offal.  Sure, I can do it! What's to stop me? Only myself, and I won't do that.

Next, the argument is that your best just isn't good enough. To heck with that noise. Of course, your best is good enough. Because you're a good __________(fill in the blank).  You work hard, and if you don't know what you're doing right away, you'll figure it out. My best, and yours, is an infinite number in this equation. It never runs out of room. It's all we can do, our best, and it is enough.  Know it. Reaffirm it. Wear it as your writing armor.

Hope some of this helps those of you who want to throw the manuscript in the fireplace. It's saved many a book of mine, LOL!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Short Story - Frye Forgets

Thought I'd do something different today. I have a bunch of really short stories I've played with through the years, as a way to get my writing self jogged back into a project. Sometimes I just need to play with different characters or a genre I'm not comfortable with, to get the brain working again. Sometimes an idea pops into my head that's not novel length-worthy, but it won't leave me alone. I'm not a natural short story writer, far from it. The genre is one of the toughest around. Every word has to count tenfold.

 This is one of those stories. Just remember, it's copyrighted 2011.  Tracy

                                                                           Frye  Forgets

Frye locked the car door and leaning his head against the blast of icy wind, scrunching his eyes shut.  He couldn’t stand to look at the Ford, much less drive it, but it was all he had, and he had to get to work.  With no public transportation to the lab, he was stuck.  Jamming the key in his jacket pocket, he hoisted his briefcase chest high, using it to protect his midsection from the battering of the storm.  No precipitation, not yet.  Just enough wind to bowl over trailers and scoop the roofs off Walmarts. A high, sustained, deadly wind that shut down schools and businesses all over town.  Even with the weather, he preferred going to work.  Staying in his apartment alone wasn’t an option.
Waving to the guard who recognized him, Frye hurried to the elevators.  He never shared small talk with anyone in the building.  He was there to work, and work he must - keep his brain busy deciphering the code of the universe and time.  If he let his mind take its own course, he remembered every detail of that day so clearly he ended up in the men’s room, vomiting anything in his stomach.
“Dr. Carson, you’re here!”  The lab assistant who was assigned last night’s duty rubbed his eyes like a two year old, his smile just as innocent and happy.  Frye’s heart stuttered. 
“No traffic, that’s for sure.”  Don’t think about children, he warned himself.   His lab coat from the back of his chair was already across his shoulders as Bailey shifted last night’s data from the computer under his nose. 

“I was just about to call you.  See this?”  Bailey pointed to a line of dark squiggles.  “Found it about two minutes ago when I was doing another review.”  He thrust the papers into Frye’s hands.
Frye remained standing, the reams of computer paper clutched close to his face.  “Are you sure this wasn’t a printer malfunction?” His eyes shone.
Bailey shook his head. “Flip back to page forty-one.  Exactly an hour earlier.  And on every page on the hour, just like clockwork.”  His eyes danced and he could hardly keep his hands still. 
Frye’s utter stillness nonplussed him. “Aren’t you excited?  I mean, this is what we’ve been looking for, right?  The cosmic burp?”
“Or the cosmic fart.  It could be nothing.” Frye glanced at the phone on his desk.   Where is the rest of the staff?  He should call everyone and let them know what Bailey had found.  Deep inside the research lab, the wind outside was forgotten.  “Let’s go through the video tapes.”
He should wait for Herb Mason, his boss.  Herb would provide the backup he’d need when presenting the data for verification.  Bailey was just a kid, his degree too lowly to count. 
“Set tape one up already.  Figured you’d want to see it.”  Bailey grinned.  “We got it this time, Dr. Carson.  They can’t say we didn’t!”
“They’ll say we’re a bunch of crackpots if we aren’t dead on.”  Trying to squelch Bailey’s excitement was like kicking kittens.  Didn’t help him one bit, made him angrier at himself.  Did he dare hope?  Was this the day he’d be able to make it right?

The video showed the complete utter blackness of the room.  A short burst of light, and the apple on the floor was illuminated as it must have been in the garden when Eve’s eyes first lit on it.  Red and luscious.  The darkness swallowed the fruit almost instantly.  Again, the procedure repeated.  Apple. Black.  Red.  Dark.  The pulse of light throbbed faster and faster.
Bailey and Frye both rubbed their eyes.  No one could watch the entire shift, that was why they’d arranged for video monitors.
“Here, here’s when it hit the first time!”   Bailey slowed down the replay.
This time the burst of light showed nothing on the floor, nothing at all.  The apple was gone.  With shaking fingers, Frye hit fast forward on the machine, and watched the counter until just before the end of one hour.  Light struck the apple like a shot through space and time onto the floor.
Bailey cheered, hooting like a kid with a new toy. “See that, doc, see it?  We did it, I mean, you did it!”  He pumped Frye’s hand up and down.
“We’ll see. It could have been a malfunction in the tape.”
“What about the sensor?  It confirmed the disappearance.”  Bailey stabbed a finger at the video control.  “See that?  It happened again. Look, Dr. Carson.  Take a look, for heaven’s sake!”
Eyes shut, Frye refused to acknowledge what Bailey was telling him.  If he did, he would have the chance he’d been praying he’d have for the past five years.    His wife hadn’t said any of those words, she’d just walked out the door of their house and never come back.
He’d said them, and worse.  Murderer.  That’s what he really was.
“Call the team.”  Now was the time to test the project with a live subject.   A rat first, then a monkey.  His scientific mind raced down the list of possible test subjects.  Bailey was on the phone, breaking the news in an excited, little boy voice that almost squealed excitement.

Frye’s hands shook.  When the team assembled, they’d begin testing the possibilities with endless patience, scientific precision.   He’d never get another chance to see if he could change the past.  He kept his face averted as Bailey waved the phone at him, trying to get his attention.
“Dr. Carson, Dr. Witmeyer wants to talk to you.”
“Tell him I’ll call him back in a few minutes.  Got to check something first.”  Frye pressed his palm to the security lock.  The door hissed open.  Cold air, colder than that around Frye’s heart, drove into his exposed skin.  Punching the release combination, Frye waited impatiently for the key pad to rise from its protected vault.  Thinking of his wife’s face when he’d told her what he’d done, he programmed the sequence just as he had last night before he left the lab.  He locked the door behind him as he stepped into the empty room.  Took a step towards the center.  Pivoted, turned back, jammed his pen into the lock to ruin it.  No one would open that door for hours.
This time he sat in the middle of the dark room, his arms wrapped around his legs, his head on his knees, eyes shut.  The light began to play over him in short, brilliant flashes.  Protecting his eyes from its intensity was futile.  Accepting the pain, he thought of that day when he’d destroyed everything he held most dear.  Annie had been in such a hurry that morning, hopping around on one high heel while she zipped her skirt and hunted for her briefcase.
“Now don’t forget, you’re picking Brad up as well as taking him.  The day care closes at six, so don’t work late no matter how important it seems.  Do you hear me?”  Tucking a piece of hair behind her ear, she’d bounced up to peck him on the cheek.  “I’ll call you when the banquet’s over after the conference, let you know I’m on my way home.  Dinner for you and Brad’s in the fridge.”
“Have fun,” Frye chirped as he kissed the air where she’d been a second before. “We guys’ll have a hot time tonight.  Expecting the Dallas cheerleaders over for drinks later.”
Laughter followed her out the door.  Brad gurgled happily when Frye strapped his car seat in the Ford.  His blond hair stood in spikes, making him look like a two year old punk rocker.  Frye smiled at his son, locked the back door to keep him safely in the car, and pulled out of his driveway.
He’d been working hard on a new project.  Thinking about the next step in procedures, he drove by rote to the lab.  Switching off the engine, he listened to it tick as it cooled off.  The day was already getting to be a scorcher, so he cracked his window a hair.  He was forgetting something, but it’d come to him as soon as he got into the office. 
 Hours later when ambulance lights and police sirens filled the parking lot, he’d glanced out the window and wondered what was up.  When Witmeyer ran into his office, his face paler than usual, his eyes wide with horror, he still didn’t have a clue.
Annie with her hollow eyes and tear-rough cheeks watched the body of their son lowered into the ground in his little white casket.  Wearing the black dress she’d donned for the funeral, she’d stared at him without seeing the man she’d married.  Frye knew she saw only a monster who would forget a baby in a car seat and let him die in the oven of the Ford.  Whatever she thought of him, he thought worse.
The shards of light pierced through him like lion’s claws.  Losing consciousness, he didn’t mind the pain so much as the fear that he wouldn’t make it back to the right time, the right place.

Annie’s face peered at him from the second floor balcony.  “Where’re your car keys?  It’ll be easier to park the Ford downtown than the van.”   She wasn’t angry.  Or sad.  She seemed . . . normal.  It was as if she still loved him.

Frye fumbled in his pocket and remembered the keys were in his jacket at work.
          “I lost them,” he lied.  “You’ll have to take Brad to daycare.  I’ll get a ride to work with one of the guys.”
        “Okay,” Annie groaned. “But from now on, I’m pinning them to your jockeys.  How many sets of keys have you lost this month?”
         “I have no idea,” he answered with heartfelt honesty.  “Let me get Brad into the car seat for you.”
            His son beamed up at him as he lifted him from his high chair, Cheerios stuck to his chin.  Nestling the baby head under his chin, Frye breathed in the sweet scent of soap and innocence.  Oh yes, thank you, thank you, he thought as Brad reached up and tugged at Frye’s pocket, trying to steal a pen.  “Dada go now,” Brad ordered.
          “You’re going with mom, pal,” Frye sang. “Your mom would never forget you.”

The high winds knocked out the power station.  Electric lines snapped and hissed when they lit into the ground.  Backups failed.  Frye’s world blasted into flying cracks of black and white as the experiment exploded behind the jammed lock of the lab.