Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rambling: Rambling

Well, it's been a while. So I randomly ramble.

About something. 

Something or other.


I've been trying to write fiction more, whether I'm inspired or not and whether it's good or not. 

I also sent off for a magazine of short stories and essays, to see what they publish, on the theory that maybe perhaps possibly I might start submitting pieces. Eventually. Before the next ice age. 

It's a magazine well out of my league, but I figure I may as well start the submitting with a publication well out of my league, and then work my way down the ladder. Maybe. The flaw with that plan is that if I make a fool of myself, I'll actually care if anyone remembers.

It's a thicket.

Inspiration is also a thicket. I've always preached against the concept of writer's block, preached that you can always write. But while you can always write, there's still a big difference between writing while inspired and writing while not. 

I think.

I'm uncertain about all my conclusions in this post, aren't I?

The reason I say "I think" is that sometimes I write something in the uninspired way, laboriously carving all the words and sticking them together with chewing-gum, and then when I read it again it feels as if I was kinda inspired. And sometimes I have that inspired feeling, with the words bubbling up and arranging themselves effortlessly, and the result looks like junk.

So maybe inspiration is just about how much fun it is, and not how good it is.

That's actually rather depressing. Because I was hoping that I'd eventually find a way to get inspiration to come...well, not on call, but at least more often than once in a blue moon, and that writing fiction would be more fun at those times. Maybe it's going to always be about chewing-gum.


That seems to be all.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rambling: Thump. Thump. Thump.

Sometimes my brain is just busy. Like a washer on spin cycle. It's not really happy, but it's not all that unhappy either. It just spins, madly.

Sometimes my brain spins like a washer on spin cycle that's been loaded with just one really big heavy beach towel and starts to make that THUMP THUMP THUMP sound that makes you leap out of your chair from across the house and rush in to adjust the load before the washer sprouts legs and crashes through a wall and gets into a battle with King Kong.

Today is one of those times. So was yesterday. I don't have big hopes for  tomorrow either. During those times I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not qualified to think. Well, that is, I'm not qualified to evaluate worries. Or risks. Or probabilities. I need to establish a mindset that can eat buttered popcorn while the world ends, because I can't make the world stop looking like it's ending.

Mmm, butter.

And naps.


Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Short: Missed the Briefing

(My response to a short story prompt about the Bechdel Test. Partly inspired by the Hathor Legacy post Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel Test

“Professor West?”

The professor looked up from her desk. “Jane! Good morning. How is your boyfriend?”

Jane blinked. “Um. I’m not actually in a relationship right now.”

“Oh, dear. Your father, then?”

Another blink. “He's...fine. I didn't realize that you and he had met?"

"We haven't."

A cautious nod, and then Jane asked, "Do you think we could talk about what you explained in class about friction and chatter? I’ve been reading about phonon modes and…well, I’m lost.”

“Ah. I spoke to James about that just last week—James Simpson, he’s in the other lab section. Perhaps you could ask him."

Jane said, “Well, but you're the professor--I mean, if you’re too busy, I could talk to one of the TAs.”

Professor West shook her head. “I’m afraid that Henry is out of town this week--a death in the family."

“Right, but I just saw Mary down the hall--I can ask her.”

“Jane.” The syllable was firm, flat, and disapproving.

Jane waited. Then waited some more. Finally, "Yes?"

"You know the rules."

Jane shook her head, "What rules? Why would--"

"That's quite enough." The stern tone gave way to a bright chirp as she continued, "By the way, did you see my husband's new car?"

Blink. Blink. And yet another blink. Jane moved toward the door. "Excuse me. Nice to talk to you."

"Do remember me to your father."


"So I was just trying to ask Professor West about friction and chatter, and she was...I guess really busy, but she didn't seem to think I should talk to you. Are you really busy?"

Mary shook her head. "No, it's fine. She just has a little trouble working around the rules--the older generation, you know. I was just telling my boyfriend that. Keith, I mean."

Jane frowned. "Yeah, she was--what rules?"

"He got home really late last night, and had the worst hangover this morning. Keith, I mean. So what were you trying to ask her about?"

"The whole controversy about phonon modes and...well, I can't even remember the other theory. Chatter, slip-stick, coefficient of friction. I understand how to use the formulas, but the actual mechanism--"

Mary interrupted. "Yes, it's messy. I'll email you some articles, and a picture of Keith."

Jane blinked some more, and nodded. Slowly. "Thank you. Um. I mean, for the articles. But why the picture?"

Mary took a breath. Voice lowered, "Jane. Look. If you won't follow the spirit, at least follow the letter. You may not care about being written out, but I do." Louder, "Oh, and he just got a haircut. Keith, I mean. My boyfriend."


Mary turned back to her computer and brought a browser window forward. In louder, cheerful tones, "So what did you think of Obama's speech?"

"Um...I didn't see it. There was a thing about Michelle--"

"Jane, I think that it's best if you speak to Henry next time."

"What the--"



Jane pointed to a plastic-wrapped hunk of banana bread. Loudly, over the cafeteria din, "Is it gluten free?"

The cashier picked up the package and peered at the label over her glasses, "It's my husband's favorite thing, banana bread."

"Um. That's nice, but is it gluten free?"

"My son always likes it, too."

Jane nodded. "Good. I'm glad. And your daughter?"

The cashier dropped the banana bread. "Excuse me. This register is closed. David will check you out."


"Oh, that's great--you got the spot out. You really are the best cleaners. What's your secret?"

The clerk pushed her glasses up. "I bet your boyfriend likes you in this shirt."

Jane extended a twenty, then slowly pulled the hand back. A pause. Then, "Did you launder it or dry clean it?"

The clerk asked, "Are you going out with him tonight?"

Jane folded her arms, money still clutched in one hand. "Do you have different techniques for different kinds of spots?"

The clerk smiled. Stiffly. "What does he do for a living?"

Jane smiled back, even less convincingly. "What would you do for a grease spot?"

And still more smiling from the clerk. "You go to the university, huh? How does your father feel about that?"

Again, "What would you do for a grease spot?"

"Do you take after him? Your father, I mean?"

"What would you do for a grease spot?"

The clerk extended the shirt toward Jane. "On the house. I hope your boyfriend likes you in it."

"What. Would. You. Do. For a grease spot?"

"Please go."

Jane stared, brows furrowed, and finally put the bill down on the counter. She shouldered her purse, took the shirt, and muttered, "Keep the change," as she headed for the door.

The clerk's smile remained ever so bright. Loudly, "That's very generous of you. Your husband must make a good living!"

Jane looked back, nodding vaguely, and shook her head as she started to cross the street. She never even saw the car.


The cop tucked her notebook away, shaking her head as she studied Jane's body. "Hit and run. Her poor father."

The medical examiner nodded as she packed away her instruments. "So what are you and Joe doing this weekend?"

Image: By Stylianos Karavias. Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Vignette: Fourth wall? There was a fourth wall?

Emily threaded her way through the diner, and stopped at the corner booth. "So."

Henry looked up from his phone. "So?"

"So she wants to start writing scenes, instead of just the dialogue things. You know how that silly picnic thing didn't have any action or setting or dialogue tags and we didn't even know who was saying what? She's realized that she can't write a whole novel that way. So we're in a place this time. You know, a visible one. With walls."

Henry said, "We were in a place that time. With grass. Possibly with a picnic table. I didn't really think it was all that silly. I was just annoyed that we didn't get to eat the tuna salad."


Henry gestured at the bench on the other side of the booth. "Sit. Sit. If we've got props, let's use 'em. It was a burger at the end. It was tuna salad in the first draft."

"That thing had drafts?"

He shrugged.

Emily settled into the bench and rummaged through her purse. "Are you sure about the tuna salad? She doesn't even like tuna. I mean, not the canned stuff. She likes it raw."

"She doesn't. I do."

"Eew. Did she decide that or are you just being contrary?" She found her own phone and extracted it from the purse.

Henry said, "If I were being contrary, I'd hate fried chicken."

"No. That's like matter-antimatter. The whole fictional world would explode."

Henry tilted his head, eyebrows rising.

"No." Firmly. Emily shook her head, as she extracted a menu from between the napkin holder and the ketchup. "That is not a valid strategy for your break-into-the-real-world plan." She studied the menu, and then the plate in front of Henry. "Tuna melt?"

He picked up one of the triangular halves. "Yep."

"Eew. Was that here before I got here or did it just appear?"

Mouth full, Henry answered, "Just appeared. I think. Nice and hot."

"That's just creepy."

"It's dinner. Don't knock it." He took another bite.

"What if I just imagined something?"

"Try it."

She looked firmly at the table in front of her. "Caviar and blini, please."

They both waited, Henry munching his way down the other side of the sandwich half. Finally he concluded, "Nope. Maybe it has to be something you'd be able to get in a diner."

"Or something she thinks is funny."

"Don't think about pies. Whatever you do, don't think about cream pies."

Emily picked up one of her chicken wings. "I don't want dessert... dammit!"

"What? You like chicken wings."

"No, I don't. Chicken wings have to be torn apart, and they try to shoot greasy bits on your clothes. I like chicken fingers. She likes chicken wings. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that they weren't here, and now they are. I didn't even see them appear. They're just a fact."

Henry shrugged. "Chicken's chicken."

She put the wing down and reached across for the second half of his sandwich.

He unsuccessfuly tried to grab it back. "Hey!"

"Oh, stop it. It's not as if you paid for it."

He asked, "How do you know? The money might have disappeared from my wallet at the same time it appeared."

"How much did you tip?"

"Very funny."

Emily took a bite from the sandwich, then wrinkled her nose and put the remains back on his plate. "I was sort of hoping it'd be chicken salad when I grabbed it."

"Hot chicken salad?"

"Better than hot tuna."

"You know, it's not as if she's never written scenes. That first thing where you destroyed the marzipan dog, that was a scene. And the spanikopita thing."

"Yeah, but it's been a while. You better grab a dialogue tag there."

Henry shrugged. "Or a beat. So why do we both have phones, if we're not going to do anything with 'em?"

Emily stood, phone in one hand, purse in another. "Don't know. Don't care. I'm going offscreen to find some decent food. You coming with me?"

"Sure." Henry rummaged for his wallet, then pulled the menu over. He ran his finger down the entries.

"Are you seriously going to pay for this?"

"Yep. Yours, too. And tip."

She tucked her phone into her purse and set the purse down, the better to fold her arms disapprovingly. "Why? You don't even believe this universe exists."

He stood, put down a twenty, then put down another one. "The curse for undertipping transcends all universes."

Emily picked up her purse with one hand and grabbed his arm with the other. And pulled him toward the door. "Just don't think about the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, OK?"