Self-Published at 8


My kid wrote a comic book the other day.

He does this from time to time — the impulse just strikes him and he wants to tell a story, and he’ll grab a bunch of white paper and sharpies and markers and go on a writing and drawing spree for a couple hours, then come away with this concoction of hastily-scribbled, choppily-illustrated wonder.

This one, being in a holiday frame of mind, was about Santa Claws.

That’s not a misspelling, you see — in addition to being creatively inclined, the kid also has an affinity for the macabre.

“You thought Christmas was a happy season?” The book begins, ominously.

In his story, to summarize, Santa Claus is attacked by a Clawster (what that is, I have no idea, and upon further discussion, I’m not sure the kid does either). This infects him with a deadly virus that turns him into Santa Claws, who goes on a Tarantino-esque roarin’ rampage of revenge, attacking elves (tearing one in half!) and savaging his reindeer (poor Rudolph!) before being attacked by a SWAT team. (“PREPARE WAR”, Santa Claws says, in a quote from the book.)

This does not deter Santa Claws, however, because his claws are able to slice ‘n’ dice the bullets they shoot at him. The SWAT team comes up short, so it takes the army to subdue him, at which point they learn that the Clawster was from the Civil War, somehow.

Merry Christmas.

(I’d take a picture, but he gave it to my dad as a birthday present — because after hearing him read it to me, I told him his grandfather would love to hear it. )

I tell you all that not to try to brag that the kid’s story is awesome or anything (I mean, as a parent, I’m over here gushing about it. Objectively? …There are some plot holes.).

I tell you that instead to point out just how awesome it is to be a kid. Here I’ve been agonizing over this writing thing for years. One finished novel (unpublished), one drafted but un-edited novel (trunked), and a third in late-stage edits (out for review with some trusted critics). Endless revisions. Long-Dark-Tea-Times-of-the-Soul wondering whether my drivel is any good or will ever come to anything.

This kid has an idea, tosses it off in a couple hours, and starts shopping it around the same day — and then doesn’t think about it again.

Funny that from my self-doubting, self-flagellating self could come such a font of unabashed abandon, such impervious confidence.

I need some of whatever he’s having.


Out, out, damned line


The more I write, the more I think about the craft of writing, and the more I think about the craft of writing, the more I think about how badly I screwed up by not thinking about it more when I was just starting.

Of course, when I was just starting, I hadn’t thought about it all that much, so I couldn’t have done otherwise… and yeah, thoughts like that are ultimately pretty useless.

The point of this is that I’ve got this story idea that I’ve been kicking around for a few years now and I’ve just started actually putting words to paper (or, y’know, words to pixels or whatever, you know what I mean) on it, and … I mean, the idea is nifty and all, but… okay, I have to digress further.

With my other stories, it sort of felt like, from the premise, the story just wanted to get up and go. Like the conflict started up and took off immediately, like a cat startled out of slumber by a zucchini squash.

netflix and chill GIF

With this one, there’s less of that immediate impulse to action. So it feels like the story needs something. It needs guidance. Or, I dunno, maybe it’s not fully formed yet and it needs more time to incubate.

So I spent my session today doing something I’ve never done — in advance, anyway — for a story: outlining it.

That’s right, I went back to high school and I made an outline.

The outline sucks, it’s vague as heck and it reads like every action / spy / thriller movie you’ve ever heard of, but y’know, it’s an outline. And once I had it down, I started fleshing it out with possibilities.

And man, it’s weird. Because in my other work, I usually don’t plan all that much. I just strap a lead on the story and try to hold on while it rushes off to wherever it’s gonna rush off to. But what I noticed is that, in my other stories, they end up wandering around, feeling lost in the middle.

I don’t want to get lost on this one. So I’m trying something new.

Will it work? I don’t have a clue.

Anyway, here’s another cat gif, because cat gifs are awesome and it’s Friday and that’s awesome.

cat attack GIF


Tappity Tap Tap


I wrote 1018 words in 27 minutes today.

I know this because WriteMonkey tells me this.

It also tells me that those numbers average out to give me a words-per-minute rating of a little over 37. But I also know that, during the early phases of the shift, I was spiking as high as 54 words-per-minute.

What do these numbers do for me? Not a whole hell of a lot.

They tell me that I had a pretty productive session (a heckin’ productive session actually, as my old goal back when I had lofty goals was 1200 words in an hour and I clipped along at nearly twice that). Which in turn tells me I made decent use of the time I carve out for myself when my coworkers are eating lunch (which I skip) and that that carving-out is worthwhile.

Then I go back and remember that I wrote almost 1000 words this morning in my drivel, and I’ll be punching out a few hundred within this very post. Which puts me north of 2000 words on the day, easily.

Which, you know, great, I guess? Numbers are just numbers after all. 2000 words is a pretty great day, productivity-wise, for me. It’d be a garbage day for some. It’d be almost unachievably awesome for others. But it’s just a number.

Kinda like the step counter I still wear on my wrist even though they’ve stopped being cool. (Gotta upgrade to a smartwatch so I can stay fresh, dawg.) Sure, it tells me my (approximate) steps per day (9121 so far!), and it (kinda) tracks my sleep, and it tells me (within a reeeally generous ballpark) my heart rate (61!). But what am I doing with that information?

Nothing, really. I mean, it’s there. It aggregates in cyberspace and could be used, at some point, to track trends over time. But I’m not actively monitoring it. I’m not doing anything with the information. Hell, corroborating that information was the first time I’ve opened the app at all in almost a month. I’m just not that fussed. I run three or four times a week and I’m on my feet all the time at work, so I’m not super worried about my daily steps. I sleep reasonably well (just don’t ask my wife about the snoring). So … there hasn’t really been a good reason for me to worry about these numbers.

But … quantifying things is good, right?

Well, with writing, it feels like it. The feeling that I had a productive session is a good one — and I would certainly have it after a day like today — but knowing — through hard data — that I tore the top off for a second day in a row? That’s quantifiable. That’s something I can point to. That creates a second wave of the GoodFeel I get from writing in the first place.

I am trying out WriteMonkey again for the first time in a while while I’m drafting some new stuff and toying around with some new ideas (now that the previous round of edits on the most recent novel are well and truly finished and in their graves RIP FOR ETERNITY). For the past few years I’ve worked almost entirely in Scrivener, which I love, but which has frustrated me with its endless delay of a massive update. I ranted about this, then googled my old flame, saw that it, too, had had some massive updates, and installed it again.

And you know what? It’s fun. It’s simple. And it has this lovely little carrot of tracking word count and WPM and progress and all that stuff — and Scrivener does that, too, make no mistake — but in WriteMonkey it’s there in the main window, it’s clean…

But maybe more than that is, it’s just different. I’ve been staring at Scrivener’s interface for so long, maybe I’m just a little sick of it. Maybe it’s the change that has me feeling good.

New project, new word processor, new president (WHOOPS I PROMISED I WAS DONE TALKING ABOUT THAT FOR A WHILE)…

Feels good.


A Waking


He wakes up with a mouthful of sawdust.

Or that’s what it feels like, anyway.

The morning is blurry and late; smeary sky outside a rain-drabbled window. His head hurts, not surprising given the sawdust mouth. Too many Moscow Mules with the squad last night, and he’s regretting it this morning.
He knew he’d regret it as he slammed them back to the tunes of Garth and Reba on the beer-stained jukebox last night, but he’d been hopeful it would help, at least in the short term.

And for the moment, it seems to have done just that.

He flashes back. Pictures each moment.

The bar.

The Mules.

The frantic groping with the blonde in too much makeup and a too-tight dress.

The bleary ride home in the back of an Uber.

These are all things he did.

These memories belong to him; this time was his own.

This hangover is well-and-truly earned.

He rights himself in bed and waits for the room to right itself around him. It takes a minute.

He reaches for his phone. Dials.

The voice on the other end is impatient, eager. “Did it work?”

“Yeah. I’m still me.”

*****

(I have no idea what this is yet, but it came out today, so I thought I’d preserve it. Where’s it going? I have no idea.)


Triskaidekaphobia


I know this will offend somebody out there, but I think — maybe — if it’s not possible for an animal to share your phobia, then your phobia is basically not a real thing.

Like, fear of the dark. Okay, it’s reasonable for an animal to be afraid of the dark — could be danger out there in the night, or down in that cave, and I, an animal, don’t want to get eaten — so I’d be dark-averse.

Likewise, claustrophobia. Yeah, what I want to do is break out and run free, so being unable to do exactly that thing, especially in a space that’s close and cramped and that I can see no way out of — that would be a detriment to my feelings of well-being.

Or heights. Animals seem to know that a fall from a great height would be bad for them and hence you don’t see a lot of them leaping off tall buildings or cliffs. Heck, my dog is ginger even getting down from the couch.

But triskaidekaphobia? Fear of the number 13? Impossible for an animal to be scared of 13 because they have no concept of 13, so they can’t have any baggage or lore associated with 13.

Same thing tells you why hating Monday is not a real thing. (I mean, it is in that we all hate Mondays, but only because of our sociological construct around Monday being the beginning of the working week for most of us.) Monday isn’t a thing if you’re an animal. You either woke up this morning or you didn’t, and if you did, then it’s a good day.

Anyway, today is Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th is dumb, so I hope yours is perfectly ordinary.

Also, triskaidekaphobia is really hard to type.


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