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The Amateur

The second writing prompt from October 25th. The prompt asked us to pick a job and right about a struggle, either in or out of the workplace. I chose an amateur dog-trainer who clearly has no idea what they’re doing.

 

Jobs are absolutely great when you perform them at work. It’s when you start to do your job outside of work that becomes a problem.

The German Shepard was sitting on my bed. While I knew that, technically, it was the guest room bed, for the duration of my stay it was my bed. The dog stretched out, uncurling his toes and digging his claws into the floral print comforter. Already the spot was littered with brown fur, a light dusting on the sheets like snow on a car window.

“Max,” I addressed the dog, using my ego to inflate my voice. I was a badass, an alpha, and I wouldn’t let some spoiled German Shepard lay on my bed when I had jetlag.

The dog lifted his head in my direction, his brown eyes boring into my own. He arched an eyebrow, then yawned lazily, his cocky expression showing that, while he looked at me, he really didn’t give a damn what I wanted.

“Down.” I pointed to the floor for emphasis.

The dog put his head back on the bed and closed his eyes.

That son of a bitch!

“Max! Down!”

He rolled over and put a paw over his face. I clenched my fists. The dog gave a contented sigh, clearly enjoying his spot on my bed. I eyed the comfortable pillows and soft, downy blanket with the intensity a starving man looks at a cupcake.

Dogs don’t belong on the furniture.

I grabbed him by his collar and gave a tug, trying to do this the easy way. He rolled to face me and we stared into each other’s eyes. He tucked his paws underneath him and started to rise.

In an ideal world, he would have responded to the tug and plopped to the floor. In an ideal world, there’s no such thing as a pissed off German Shepard, either.

The shepherd launched himself at me.

One hundred thirty pounds of fur crashed into me. I fell backwards, my head slamming into the floor with a crack. The impact knocked the breath out of me and a spam of pain shot through me when I tried to inhale.

I ignored the gasping, wheezing sounds coming out of my mouth and grappled to push the dog off my chest.

He snapped at me, spittle flying from his jaws and hitting my face. I pushed his head out of the way, but he snapped it back.

What resulted was almost a silent battle.

With my breath knocked out of me, I couldn’t call for help. I wouldn’t call for help even if I could, though. I couldn’t stomach the thought of Aunt Lindsey’s smirk as she had to help me yet again. Or maybe I couldn’t stomach the thought because I heavy paw rammed me right in the gut.

The shepherd didn’t bark, but the snap of his jaws was way too close to my face. I pushed his head away and struggled to get my feet under me. I was almost on my hands and knees when he tore into my sleeve and shredded the fabric right off. Damn dog.

               I made a grab for my sleeve, trying awkwardly to use the same hand to yank it out of his mouth while my other fought for his face. He shook his head to dislodge my hand, ripping the sleeve right off. He jumped upwards and swiped a paw. His nails scratched my face, my cheek burning with the familiar sting as blood welled forth.

 I was stunned for just a moment, but it was all the time he needed to drop my first sleeve and make a grab towards my other, still-attached sleeve.

I shouted and dismay and yanked my arm away, immediately twisting to put the dog in a headlock. He squirmed and we crashed into the dresser together, ignoring the crash of china as Aunt Lindsey’s favorite vase crashed to the floor.

I was starting to gain the upper hand when the door opened. Max literally gained my hand and had it crushed in his jaws.

“What’s going on in here?” Aunt Lindsey asked, wiping her hands on her apron as she surveyed the wrecked bedroom.

I had a mouthful of dog-ear and couldn’t answer.

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A Thousand Dogs

A response to a prompt from a writing workshop on 10/25/2011. The prompt asked readers to “describe a puzzling image, event, or memory.”  The following is an un-revised rough draft:

            Every evening was the same.

The sun set and I knew that soon, be it in minutes or hours, the dog would have to go out. On the surface, it sounds simple: Take the dog out. I just have to follow the three easy steps to having a happy collie and a clean rug:

1.)    Open the door.

2.)    Wait for the Dog

3.)    Call him back.

It was the terror of calling him back that turned the evening task into a trial.

I opened the porch door. Kai scrambled from his corner and ran towards me.

               I sent one dog out into the dark.

               But what if one dog didn’t come back?

               What if two, or three, or twenty dogs came back?

What if a thousand dogs came back?

I wiped my hands on my jeans. It didn’t matter if I was standing on the porch while the autumn wind sent leaves dancing around me, or if the warm summer rain pelted against my face. I would sweat just the same.

It happened every night.

Every night, there was a thousand dogs.

Every night there was one.

“Kai,” My voice broke the hush of the evening. “Come.”  

Somewhere in the dark, nails clicked off the driveway. A collar jingled. Slow, easy breathing came out in short pants. Somewhere in the dark was one dog. He was invisible in the night.

Briefly, something cut through the security light at the edge of the yard.

That one, brief moment was enough to send a thousand dogs running towards me, each one vanishing into the paws of the next. They ran on the sides of the garage and flat on the ground. The dogs disappeared into one another, multiplying and dividing faster than numbers punched hastily onto a calculator. A thousand tails wagged and a thousand tongues lolled. They were infinite and they were one. They were coming towards me, faster now, urged onward by the porch light like moths to a flame.

        Never would a thousand dancing dogs fit onto my porch.

I’d take a step back-

Just in time for one wet nose from one dog to press into the palm of my hand.

I attended my first writing-workshop yesterday afternoon. I would have died for something like this in High School. We met in a small room in the campus center, sat at a huge table and pulled out our notebooks. The president read prompts from a book and we had roughly 10 minutes to write a response. We where on a time crunch so we didn’t have much time to review and critique each others prompts. **

None the less, the entire event really made my think about my writing process. (And the cupcakes being sold upstairs for a fundraiser.)

When I write, I start with the rough draft of a rough draft. It’s a lot like making cupcakes: First, I have to gather the ingredients.

The first attempt at writing chapters is often several paragraphs of jotted thoughts, feelings, and dialogue without tags. More than half of my sentences are run-ons and the tense varies profusely. Pieces I wrote in second grade are more coherent.

My next re-write, however, is now 10x easier. I have the basic “ingredients” of my chapter. Now I put them in order, decide how much I’m keeping and how much is really nonsense. I do another re-write a few days after and fix the obvious mistakes- I “bake” my chapter-cake. Finally, I send it to my critique partner. While I can’t send her cupcakes, she can “taste” my chapter and tell me what there’s not enough or too much of.

And then I start the entire process all over again.

Read last night’s prompts here and here.

My middle-class is canceled today and I have a three-hour break.
To go home, or not to go home.

I didn’t bring my flashdrive or clothes for the gym, anticipating for this class to take up a lot of time. This is the perfect time to work on my novel- I’m feeling motivated. I owe Anjulie, my critique partner, her chapter.

But do I really want to pay for parking and gas again?

I’m not cheap, I’m broke.

Broke for a good reason, though. The Universe delivered me a bookshelf- I’ve wanted one for two years. The neighbors down the street were selling my dream-shelves for $20. Down. The. Street. No shipping and handling, no obnoxiously long car-trips with rope to meet a sketchy craigslist posting….DOWN THE STREET!

If I go home I don’t have to pay for lunch.

I guess I’m going home. I have a budget to keep and a novel to write.

More Procrastination

It has been over three weeks now.

I have deleted another 5000 words from my novel. Clearly, this chapter is not working. I need to re-think it completely. After all, I need to get this information across, but I’m not doing it well.

Instead of writing my story, I’ve written 5-8 papers a day for a few days to catch up on school work. I selected my classes for next semester- guess who’s duel-majoring now. I can get that English-degree I really wanted. Looked online for used copies of books for the MCAT tests since I can’t afford a new one. Looked at graduate schools. All in all, it has been a productive week, just not productive in the writing-sense.

I also made a friend at college. I met her in the parking lot. We had chicken together.

Baked Goods and Books

My first favorite part of October is the smell. The cold, dying-leaves-and-sun-dried-plants smell sticks to my clothes. Even now, wearing my favorite jacket, I can still smell that fall-scent and I get a shiver of excitement. That October-smell conjures memories of eating dinner and having Dad opening the garage door, the musky smell of hunting fatigues and dead animal mingling with  the warm scent of soup. Deer steak and jerk would soon follow. It was hunting season.

After a trip to the local library and bakery, I opened the garage door to catch a whiff of something sticky-sweet.  The oven chimed as I closed the door behind me. The sticky-sweet smell quickly turned into something fresher and spicier: lemon and pumpkin. Mother was baking. This is my second favorite part of October.

The picture on the right is a prime example of why my mouth quickly filled with drool. Unfortunately one can’t appreciate the full beauty of what was once a mini-loaf of Lemon-Poppy bread, because I ended up eating about a million pieces. Unfortunately, my camera lacks a macro-setting so I have a bad feeling the pictures a little blurry.

Five thousand pieces of lemon-poppy-bread unfortunately quenched my appetite for the baked goods I had picked up. The tiny bakery in the center of town will never go out of business. I can walk in with $5, come out with a box filled with deliciousness and still have change left over. If only the home-made chocolate place was still open.

 

  I stopped at the library to continue my decision to read non-fiction books. I ended up picking up Paul Dobransky’s The Secret Psychology of How We fall in Love. The book claims to have “nine proven steps to lasting love” but I’m less interested in seeing the steps and more interested in the psychology. I have a feeling I’ll have this finished way before Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones. There’s something incredibly slow-going about this book. It’s only 400 pages, but it might as well be 4,000 for the progress I’m making. I can’t bring myself to care about the characters. Nothing has happened, though the plot is moving along. This is my second attempt at reading this book. If I wasn’t already invested in it, I’d put it down and give up. I definitely won’t be reading the sequels.

 

Oh wait. Maybe, to make myself feel better, I’ll have some delicious raspberry-filled-white-cake from the bakery. They almost never have these puppies. I don’t know if I’m missing them, or if they’re an October-only thing. Either way, I have a feeling that this will be my (unhealthy)breakfast the next few days.

 

 

 Oh, and the cutest cookie in the entire world.

Maybe the sugar rush will give me the boost I need to finish that damn chapter in my novel. I’m on re-write number 4.

 

Review: Voices of Dragons

There are some books that grab me by the shoulders and say, “Remember. Don’t you remember?” These books make me think back to restless Christmas nights, where I wondered how I could fall asleep when magic was going to happen. The joy of waking up and discovering my entire yard was covered in snow. Possibilities, these books tell me. Remember when there were possibilities?

There’s a bag of young-adult romance novels in the corner of the computer room, lent to me by a friend who loves hardcovers but hates the actual covers. I didn’t read the back flap; I didn’t know what a treat I was in for. I picked up the book because it was raining and I wanted something to do.

Tom-boy Kay hikes to clear her mind from the incessant nagging of her best friend. She can focus on the rock face instead of whether she should accept the home-coming date from her hiking buddy. She’s too close to the border that separates human-kind from Dragon, the out-of-bound areas given to the creatures during a treaty after world-war-2. All of this changes when her life is saved by the young dragon Artegal. Now it’s up to Kay and Artegal to stop human and dragon kind from ripping each other to pieces.

Exploring the dephts of communication and the roles of friendship, Voices of Dragons leaves the reader aching to grab onto the back of their own dragon and soar into the sky. The flight scenes are heart-pounding (the cat jumped onto the couch and I gripped onto the edge, terrified I’d fall off and plummet to my death!) and the tension is delicious. This is the kind of book I wish I had when I was younger, when I still looked for dragons in the clouds.

 

Mono-tastic Cleaning

For the last few weeks, my bookshelf has looked like this:

It’s sort of like an elaborate game of “where’s waldo” when it comes to finding my laptop. The crow-wing, turkey-bones and gargoyles are all still visible, but none of these things are going  to help me finish my school work. Neither are those over-due library books, the glass of apple-juice, lysol, or Halloween mask. The binder with my project stuff in it is half inside that green-bin, which should have the school-work fr the barnes and noble box. Unfortunately the barnes and noble box still has the books I need to do the school work in it. When will I get the time to clean it?

Oh wait. I have mono. I wont be going anywhere for a few days. What should I do when I get a huge energy burst at 1 am?

Great. Now I’m going to sleep for another 13 hours. And don’t even think about asking me to walk down the stairs.

How much is too much?

The last (published) writing-related post dealt with an issue I’m still having: Word-count.

At that time, I was almost at the halfway point in my novel and I felt like I didn’t have enough conflict. I was afraid of my word-count. Some people are afraid they don’t have enough words; I’m terrified I have too many. Then, I was looking at the over-all picture. Now, I’m looking at a smaller section.

I am one chapter away from starting the climax of my novel. Great news, except that these little pre-climax scenes are somehow much longer than I expected.

What I anticipated as being half a chapter has suddenly sprawled into a chapter and a half. I need this scenes to progress the plot, but I don’t need them to be so long.

The logical step is to cut them in half.

So, naturally, instead of cutting them in half I’m here updating this blog. Hitting the ‘delete’ button on 5000 words is a terrifying prospect.

 

Even though I slacked on writing this summer, I didn’t slack on my goal of reading 50 books in a year. Actually, I reached that goal yesterday when I finished James Barclay’s Shadowheart. I only read 22 books this summer, but I must say I enjoyed them. I challenged myself to read 3 nonfiction books outside of what I’d usually read. I came home with a dating book, internet sex psychology, and useless trivia. And the some more.

  • St.Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (Karen Russell)- A collection of delightful short stories. Biggest complaint was that many of the short stories felt unfinished. It was like reading the first chapter in the book; It raised more questions than answers. None the less, the short story that gives the book it’s namesake was probably my favorite and made the entire book worth it.
  • Wolfsangel (MD Lachlan)- Vikings, werewolves, and sorceresses, oh my! An interesting take on the Norse myth that promises for the next two books in the series to be equally as captivating.
  • Zombie Blondes (Brian James)- One of my least favorite books I read this summer. Those high-school cheerleaders really are soulless.
  • A billion Wicked Thoughts (Sai Gaddam)- One of the nonfiction books I read this summer. Experiments on human sexuality based on the internet. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this one. There are quite a few assumptions on sexuality that make me go ‘ehhhh’ (Girls don’t like to watch porn. What about the girls that do?)
  • Elfsorrow (James Barclay) The Chronicles of the Raven. A review told me that they lost track of the body-count by page 10. Great for fans of RA Salvatore. I hate elves and mages, but for some reason I keep reading about them.
  • Given up for Dead (Flint Whitlock)- A book-shelf raid from a close friend. Told me a whole part of WWII I didn’t know about. Short, personal, and descriptive.
  • Retail therapy (Amanda Ford)- Library book picked up on a whim. It’s rare I say a book is useless, but I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.
  • The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger)- It seems like everyone in the word, except for me, has read what’s considered the first YA novel. Finished this one instead of sleeping. enjoyed it.
  • Lament (Maggie Stiefvater)- Read the sequal first. Stiefvater has got to be one of my favorite authors. Faeries, and with none of the glitter.
  • Forever (Maggie Stiefvater) I’ve been waiting for this book since I finished Shiver. The perfect ending to the trilogy. And guess what, Ms.Stiefvater? I didn’t cry.
  • Three Black Swans (Caroline B. Clooney)- one of the most boring books I’ve ever read. see how many times they drop the title.
  • Legacy of the Drow Collectors Edition (RA Salvatore)- 4 books in one “slender” book. Finished this in a weekend. How I missed high fantasy and Cattie-brie being a badass.
  • The Silent Blade (RA Salvatore)- Look what Legacy of the Drow made me buy? The series I was missing. Did not disapoint.
  • The Spine of the world (RA Slavatore)- Me Wulfgar. Me drink. Me Smash. Not my favorite, but its Salvatore so it didn’t kill me.
  • Sea of Swords (RA Salvatore)- Lesbian pirates and the reunion of the Companions of the Hall.
  • Bird Flu: Everything you need to know about the next pandemic. (Marc Seigal)- A very repetitive book telling me not to panic and drink lots of fluids, oh and to beware of SWINE FLU! Nonfiction book number two for the summer.
  • Pox Americanna: (Elizabeth a.fenn)- While I love history, I’ve never been great at linking events together. The small pox epidemic was mentioned in a footnote in my history books. This helped fill the void I was missing and put everything in perspective. Nonfiction #3
  • The Automatic Second Date (Victoria Rodgers) If you have money and goodlooks, it’s easy to get a guy. If you don’t have goodlooks, its still easy to get a guy if you have money. Actually it was pretty insightful. I know several girls I could recommend this to. Nonfiction #4

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats ( Mario Acevedo)- A Birthday present from my best-friend. Surprisingly, there was pretty much zero sex in here, but lots of aliens.

  • What to do if a bird flies into the House (Elizabeth Nix)- I’m a sucker for useless knowledge books. Because of this, I learned how to set a formal dinner setting, help jump-start my car when it died (a week after reading this book!) and crack open oysters (even if I don’t eat them). Presented in a way so the advice sticks.
  • Writing for Children and Teenagers (Lee Wyndham)- This book assumes all teenagers are 12. Not terrible, but I’ve come across better writing guides. Felt a bit…dated. Nonfiction #5.
  • Sacrifice of the Widow (Lisa Smedmen)- D&D, Drows. Spiders. another birthday present from a friend who knows me.

Favorite Book this Summer:

YA: Forever (Maggie Stiefvater)
Adult: Legacy of the Drow Collector’s Edition (RA Salvatore)

Least Favorite Book this Summer:

YA: Zombie Blondes (Brian James)
Adult: Retail Therapy (Amanda Ford)

For the rest of my Goodreads reading Challenge, follow the link

http://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/96213?page=1