Redleg – part 2

A rumpled green t-shirt was next. he pulled it over his head, then stuck his arms through the sleeves. He looked down at the car-toon on the front. It was a coffin with a raised back, with two large tires on the rear and two small ones up front. The cab was black except for two yellow eyes and a toothy smile from inside the cab. A cigar clamped between the teeth, and the words ‘Coughin’ Coffin’ were spelled out in smoke behind it. Standing up, he clumped awkardly to the small storage drawers that served as his dresser. Next to it were his ankle-high sneakers.

The black Converse were made of canvas, so they wore a little better around the fake foot, with just enough cushion to make walking feel like semi-natural. He laced up the sneakers, grabbed the belt off the top of the left stack of drawers, then finished sliding it through the loops. He finished up by grabbing the pack of cigarillos off the top right set, and sliding one out of the top. He grabbed the lighter, and lit the brown tube of tobacco. That first inhale centered him, and got him ready to face the day. He slid the pack in his back pocket, the lighter in the front left, and plucked his wallet off the drawer and shoved it into the left rear pocket. Another long inhale and exhale soothed the nicotine jitters and he was ready for breakfast.

Archie clumped into the cramped kitchen, and threw a pair of toaster strudels in the toaster. He grabbed them when they popped up, juggling them from hand to hand as he grabbed his keys, hat, and cane before walking out the door. He locked it, then carefully trundled down the steps to the security door, and out onto the sidewalk bounding Bleeker street.

There was a crisp taste of Autumn in the air, one that penetrated the exhaust fumes and damp, musty smog of the city. It spoke of the wilds, open meadows and dense old growth trees that blotted out the sun even on a cloudless day. Baton Rouge was hardly ever this pleasant. Usually it was a sweaty, muggy day that bred mosquitoes. Their constant whine near his ears had him waving his hands from the first moment out the door, to the last moment in line to get a bowl of soup or stew at the local homeless kitchen. He often stayed after hours to help clean up, just to avoid those ravenous bloodsuckers before heading back to his small rathole apartment.

The days melted together like overheated plastic. All the stimuli were depressingly, and comfortingly, unchanging. He could set a watch to them. This sense of familiarity gave him comfort in his meaningless life. He could stumble through the day, without surprises, without changes that so upset his sense of stability.

Sadly, this would be the last stable day in his new life. Causality, and chance had rolled boxcars for Archie, and he was going to start a whole new life in a whole new world that he never imagined. One of magic, of terror, of hope. The last he would find most upsetting. There is a comfort not having hope. It’s not ever going to get better, and won’t ever change. Hope makes a person believe in the future, in a world that actually cared about what happened to people. Archie didn’t want hope.

He grimaced as he took his first shot of cheap gin, just to wake up, he told himself not very convincingly. 

The benefits of background noise

When I’m writing, I like it quiet generally.  however, this is not always the case.  While I was working on ‘Beguiling Words’, I found that instrumental music really helped me focus. Oddly enough, or perhaps, in keeping with my desire for quiet while I imagine and write, instrumental jam tracks really gave me enough background noise that I could shout out the noise of street repair and traffic.  Regular music doesn’t work very well for me, as I think it’s that I pay more attention to the singers.  I hear a voice and want to answer back, even if it is just a song.  Instrumentals don’t affect me in that manner.  They’re mood-setters. The music conveys the emotion, so I don’t just listen, I have to ‘feel’ with my ears. This makes a lot of difference in focus.

here a few tracks that helped create Beguiling Words by setting mood with sound.

I like the longer ones simply because they last longer when I get in a groove with writing, but they all help me concentrate.


Redleg part 1

Archer ‘Archie’ Gunnison woke that morning to the strident buzzing of his watch. The cicada-like screech jolted him from sleep and his hands flailed about, seeking the offending noisemaker. His right hand finally caught up with his left and pressed the delay button, giving him a ten minute window to wake up and turn the alarm off for the day. Archie sat up in bed, letting the beige comforter droop into a pile on his lap. The dark blue curtains over the small bedroom window were closed, but the sharp, crisp air of autumn swirled through the open window, ruffling the cloth, and letting peeks of gray morning flit across the bed. He yawned, then stretched his arms and good leg for a moment, enjoying the sensation of muscles waking up. He turned in place, dropping the right leg over the edge, then leaned down and picked up his prosthetic left leg.

The leg was a marvel of engineering, fitted with self adjusting spring tensioners that adjusted to the weight he put on it. The covering for the prosthesis was something else again. Bright, fire-engine red painted scales covered it, like some monstrous creature from the Red Lagoon. There was no way to ignore it, which was the reason Archie had it decorated. No one would mistake it, or him, for anyone else. Archie gazed at the leg as he rubbed the stump of his left thigh. He’d been a marine. Hoooah, boy, all the way. He was proud of his service, proud of his buddies, and proud, maybe a little envious of the ones who made it home in one piece. He left part of himself in a Hummer after an IED had blown it ten feet up, and eighteen feet to the right through three and a half revolutions before crunching back to earth. He didn’t remember any of it. The medications he took kept him from screaming in his sleep and stopped the sudden flashbacks that occurred when he got stressed.

Others kept the red-hot phantom pains at bay. There was no telling when they’d strike. The pain seemed to happen most when he tried to do something like dodging an obstacle without thinking. His leg would seize up and drop him screaming to the ground. He’d learned to think about the prosthesis before trying to do anything sudden. But the pain still caught him unawares. Finishing pulling the leg on, he strapped it in place, then bent over again to pull the blue jeans from the floor. He slid them over his prosthesis first, then his real leg.

More on making audio books

Audio books are very good at showing you your strengths and weaknesses.  Listening to the narrator read the words I’ve written shows me where I got on rolls, and everything flowed.  It also shows where I thought I had been on a roll, and how discordant the words sound versus when I wrote them.

Another feature is how much you learn how to LISTEN.  Listening is a nearly lost art I feel.  With the absolute flood of immediate information, people get used to ‘immediate and now’.  Nuances tend to be missed.  In an audio book, you have to listen for those shifts, pay close attention to how the words are spoken as much as why.

Description becomes important here as the setting, the where is as important as the other pieces. A verbal description that is good can help pull the listener into the story and experience, rather than simply hear someone reading the words.

All that feedback is there in the narrator, and it is, to me, so valuable to understand how it sounds, compared to just reading it myself.

The revelations of collaborating on an audio book

One new experience I’ve had since being published, is the creation of an audiobook of ‘Best Intentions’. To say it was a learning experience, catches the essence, but it was way more than that.

One thing I’ve learned is that what sounds great in my head, comes out on audio and my first thought is, “What the hell was I thinking?” There were more than a few places that got past me, the editors, and publisher that the audio found loud and clear. I’d read to myself before, but hearing another person put her words to the book brought out and highlighted every flaw in my writing tenfold.

That gave me new incentive to get it right the first time. And I had to learn how to listen all over again. To hear the mistakes, and mark the places to clean up. The narrator had to put up with my mind erratically catching and missing corrections. I made it a lot harder on her, and everyone involved, than it needed to be.

( more about the experience on the next post )

Can you spot the perspective?

I’ve started a story.  Can you identify the perspective that it is being written from?


“Mo-om! Hurry up! I got to get to the corner for the bus!” The girl scampered past the walnut-stained oak table and chairs as her mother turned from the refrigerator, and held out a brown paper bag to the child. The girl, her chocolate brown hair done in a pair of pigtails, held by bright orange glass beads and leather ties, skipped towards the door, then turned her pale, freckled face back to the olive-skinned woman in the kitchen. “I’ll see you after school!”

The screen door banged open, the rusty spring giving a groaning tweak as it stretched, then a lower groan as it contracted, slamming the screen back in place. A fly buzzed past the table, landing on one of the matching chairs surrounding it. The chair was armless, resting on four crudely cut legs, that had been squared and joined to the front leg by a cross piece of stained oak. Both sets of legs and crosspieces were then joined by a third crosspiece, joining the two other slats together, forming an ‘H’ between the legs. The front legs were cut flat at near knee-high level to allow the seat to be attached, while the back legs rose, and were joined by two curved slats to create a skeleton backrest. The fly chose the top slat to perch upon as it surveyed the space near it for danger.

The pale, flower-patterned linoleum floor was of no interest to the fly. It had followed the scent of raw meat, flying through the small, seconds available opening just as the daughter had run out. It’s eggs needed protein. The meat scent it followed would supply the new generation. It hovered, then landed on the back of the chair, to rest and re-orient. The woman, clad in blue jeans and a pale yellow blouse, walked past the chair and into another room, startling the fly into flight, then, as it found the scent once more, buzzed over to the counter by the stove.

The smell was overpowering and the fly dropped onto the surface, using it’s feet to hunt for nourishment. Disappointingly, there was nothing but the scent, and no food for it’s impatient eggs to hatch upon. Its attempt to exit the direction it came in was stymied by a harsh grate it was too large to fit through.

The Magic of Perspective

There’s an old adage that says, “There’s your perspective, there’s the other guy’s perspective, and then there’s the truth.”

If you’ve ever been in small claims court, you can see this repeated endlessly. Two people arguing about who is right, who has the truth of it, and utterly convinced that their view, their perspective is the absolute truth.

Some may sidestep this a bit, by laying claim to the absolute of the law, and how they followed the letter of it, even if the results were detrimental to another.  And sometimes this can be a deliberate warping of the letter away from the intent or reason for the law.

But it all comes down to perspective.  How do the people in question on both sides see what happened?

Sometimes in writing, logic doesn’t fulfill the reason for a story. Look beyond just a logical premise.
Llook at other things, like perhaps the mind of a man trapped inside himself, or from the perspective of a chair in a house, which is a silent witness to the comings and goings around it.
Take chances and see what comes from a different perspective.  Because, there’s not just one perspective.

A few thoughts on what I’ve learned about writing

What I learned about being a writer is that

a) it’s hard work,

b) there are long days of struggle with few sentences, and occasional bursts of inspiration that can cover pages,

c) the stories are what drive the writer, the desire to see for themselves, what happens next, and finally

d) there is nothing like seeing the end of the story so another can begin.

The Importance of reading when writing

Writing is what I like doing, and what I want to do. But I do notice that when I read, words are not as hard to come by.  By reading, I set my mind into looking at, and for, words to use in the story I am writing.  The words still struggle, but I’ve more focus for the writing, and this also benefits in that there are more synonyms that come to mind for a word, and that makes reading more interesting.