Saturday, July 31, 2010

Writing Exercises

I met with a group of writer friends and we talked about our various works in progress and our plans for this November’s National Novel Writing Month. We also partook in a couple writing challenges, taking prompts from The Writer's Book of Matches: 1,001 Prompts to Ignite Your Fiction from The Editors of Fresh Boiled Peanuts. The first line of the following two shorts came from that book. We then read our writings out loud. What was interesting was how six people could hear the exact same line and come up with six wildly different stories. Here are the two I wrote:


“You’ll notice my wife doesn’t drink,” Calthrop said, waving a casual hand toward the woman seated in the easy chair. “Wise of her, considering her condition.”

He raised a delicate china cup to his lips, sipping at the hot brew he had liberally doctored with lemon and sugar. Four lumps I counted, and wondered how anyone could tolerate anything that sweet. My cup was empty. I wasn’t thirsty, much to my host’s dismay.

I tried not to breathe too deeply for fear of asphyxiation via lemon furniture polish. Like the room around us, Charles Calthrop was a testament to immaculate fastidiousness. I knew he was a college professor, lecturing in English literature with a specialization in Victorian era poetry. He looked like he belonged in that time. Every hair on his head was ruthlessly in place and his suit jacket revealed exactly one and a quarter inch of crisp white cuff. The crease in his slacks was razor-perfect and I could easily see my reflection in the shine of his shoes.

His wife’s expression never seemed to change. Amanda Winters-Calthrop sat in the Queen Anne chair opposite me, her legs crossed and showing only her lower legs and ankles, her hands folded delicately in her lap. Her face showed the same soft smile it had held when her husband introduced us, her eyes the same far-off, slightly unfocused look behind her tinted glasses. A serene, quiet woman, so different from so many others I’d met in the course of my career. She was obviously content to let her husband command this meeting, even thought she was the reason I was here.

“And what exactly is her condition?” I asked. “Her family is quite worried. They haven’t heard from her in some time, which is why they called me.” In spite of the fact that she was right there in the room with us, I couldn’t help referring to her as if she were absent.

“Are you sure I can’t get you something, Detective? Some water? Or a soft drink? I assume you won’t drink anyting hard while you’re on duty.”

“Water,” I said, giving in. Calthrop would not be comfortable unless I had fully accepted his hospitality. “Water will be fine.”

“Still or aerated?”

“Tap is fine.”

“Very well.” He set his cup down and crossed the room to the wet bar. I turned my attention to his wife, trying to gain her attention, but wasn’t successful. Was she drugged? Is that why she seemed…not quite there?

Calthrop returned with a glass of iced water. A wedge of lemon floated on the top and I could tell he had squeezed some of its juice into the water. I took a drink and set it down. The water tasted bitter, something the lemon juice should have countered.

“Now,” I continued. “Your wife’s family—“

“I will give them a call later this evening,” Calthrop said. “Explain the situation. They’ll understand.”

“Why don’t you tell me and I’ll tell them for you.” The scent of lemon grew stronger and I found myself almost dizzy with it. I shook my head, but that did nothing to clear it.

“I’m afraid that won’t do,” Calthrop said, but I couldn’t hear him. As I sank to the floor, I looked at Amanda. My dying eyes stared as a worm slowly slithered out of her still, soft, dead mouth.


“You want me to believe in God? Fine. I believe he’s one twisted S.O.B.”

The smiles on the faces of the eager missionary Christians on my doorstep never faltered, but their eyes gave away their sudden attack of nerves. Obviously their training had never prepared them for someone like me. I pressed on.

“He’s a loving God, yet He smites those who oppose Him. I’m supposed to love Him and be afraid of Him at the same time. And He impregnates a virgin and then lets the resulting Child die. I’m supposed to believe in someone like that?”

The face of the young man on the left—I silently dubbed him “Lefty”—cleared and he seized the opening. “He sent His Son to die for our sins—“

“Which shows He’s in need of some serious therapy and a healthy dose of medication. Sorry. I’m glad you have something to believe in, but I can’t accept someone who’s so contradictory.”

“But He can do so much for you if only you’d let yourself believe—“

“You already know what I believe,” I said, cutting “Righty” off. “Now believe this: get off my property or I’m calling the cops.”

I closed the door in their faces, ignoring the tract “Lefty” tried to push off on me. I waited a minute, then checked the peek-hole. They were gone.

“Good riddance,” I muttered and returned to my desk so I could finish my sermon for this Sunday.

Monday, June 7, 2010

...Still Kicking...

though maybe not as high as I used to...

I've kinda lost the hang of this blogging thing for a while because my new job (yay!) works me ragged. I've lost ten pounds in the month since I've started and my feet hurt like you wouldn't believe. I guess that comes from literally being on them 8 hours a day (yes, I literally do mean literally).

But other than that, nothing much has been going on with my life. My writing has suffered a bit because I don't have the time like I used to, though I am pushing myself to start it up again. The rocky sea that has been my life seems to be settling down a bit and I really don't want to do anything to start it rocking again.

So I'll try to keep all you wonderful fans in mind and start posting again, even if it's only links to things I find interesting. Until then, get away from your computers and try to get out and enjoy the sunshine!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Alive and Kicking!

Yep, still here. Sorry it's been so long, but it's been a, two, eight, forty-two...yep, it's been a crazy seven weeks here in Virginia. Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of -- okay, let's not go there.

For those who regularly read my blog (all three of you), you know I've been out of work since August. In early-mid January, still sending out resumes and getting no responses, or interviewing and not getting hired, I spied an intriguing ad in the classified section of the newspaper. It offered a one month Certified Nursing Assistant course at a nearby accredited nursing home, starting March 1. "Wow," I thought, "get trained for a nursing job in only a month. Could this be real?" I check it out and found out that yes, indeed, it was for real and on February 2, I attended the introductory session. I was a bit apprehensive, as I'm not that young--barely middle aged--and not in great shape, but I was not the youngest there and my shape definitely wasn't an issue. After she explained what the job of a CNA entailed and the course schedule--75+ hours classroom and 63 clinicals, now that's intense--she gave us an evaluation test. I got a perfect score (!) and we scheduled an interview.

I interviewed a couple days later and the instructor, Robin, offered me a spot in the class right then and there! It was the most ridiculously easy interview I've ever had--I was expecting questions about why I wanted to get into nursing and why they should accept me over all the other potential students (almost 100 attended the intro session and there were only 10 spots in the class). Instead, I was asked if I would have a problem with child care (no kids, so nope), transportation (got a car, thanks), cost of course (manageable), if I spoke any other languages (just English) and a few other simple questions. She then said, "I normally don't do this in the interview, but I'd like to offer you a spot in the class." Of course, I accepted and she gave me the text book as well as all the homework assignments so I could get started on studying right away.

So I spent the month of February reading this 700 page, 41 chapter text book and doing as much of the homework as I could manage. I was also still applying for jobs as required for my unemployment benefits, hoping I wouldn't get an offer so I could take this class. Luck (if you can call it that) was on my side and I was in class bright and early March 1.

So now it's March 16, I just took the final exam and I passed with flying colors! Straight "A" all the way. My lowest grade was a 95.5 on one night's homework. I have to admit, it feels great to have done so well. After feeling like a complete loser for so long because I haven't been able to land a job, I've proven to myself that I can truly accomplish something that I set out to do. Unless you've been in the same situation, you can't truly appreciate how much of a boost something like that gives to your self-esteem.

Tomorrow we start clinicals, where we hit the nursing center floor and start to put to practice what we've been learning for the past several weeks. I just hope I don't hurt someone! Those old people are fragile!!!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Okay, I'm hooked

"It’s true that I really enjoy writing, but it’s rarely easy. That’s part of the point for me: the challenge. It’s fun, but it’s not like I sit at my keyboard, occasionally throwing my arms into the air and squealing, 'Wheeeeeee! I’m writing!'”

I came across a guest blogpost on the Men with Pens blog written by Josh Hanagarne, World’s Strongest Librarian (which is also the name of his blog)

Anyone who can make me laugh is worth my time. Check out his blog.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Too awesome

Check this site out: Steel Head Studio

They held a game party to ring in the new year and created 100 cupcakes with 100 different games represented as the toppings. How many can you guess? I didn't keep track, but I think I got at least 2/3 right.

Friends of mine are considering a game night soon...maybe I should offer to make refreshments?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all my wonderful, faithful readers.

This past year had its up and downs for everyone. For me, my life took a downhill slide in August and I'm still sliding down. I'm praying I hit the bottom very, very, very soon so I can start that long slow climb back up to true happiness. I'm hoping this year, this JANUARY, things will turn around for me.

I've done a lot of writing over the past two months, primarily due to NaNoWriMo, and I'm determined to keep writing. My critique group is gearing up for first submissions next Saturday and I have several scenes ready to go. My goal there is to have my NaNo novel edited and reviewed by my friends by the end of March or April. is offering all successful NaNoists a free printed "proof" copy of their novels and I want to have this one submitted before the June 1 deadline.

My hopes for everyone is that 2010 be a happier, healthier, saner year that the previous one. That we all manage to hang on to what is right and precious in our lives and that when we stand on the brink of 2011, we can look back on 2010, smile at all we've accomplished, and look happily toward the future.