Me and Jeff Goldblum

As I backed out of my driveway yesterday, I noticed a dead fly on the dashboard of my car. It was a pretty big fly. Big enough for me to detect flecks of green and gold in its lifeless body. I thought to myself, “Poor guy, he probably fried to death in the sweltering southern sun.”  Then I thought, “What are you thinking? It’s a fly, a pesky, buzzing, menace to society. It doesn’t matter if he fried, choked, or succumbed to old age! IT’S A FLY. Dead flies are good.”

I vowed to get rid of the corpse as soon as I came to the first traffic stop.

So I drove along my route as I normally do, singing along with Ed Sheeran (because he’s Ed Sheeran). I was right at the bridge of the song, time to really belt it out, when I approached the stop sign. I applied the brakes and something surprising happened. The force of the car slowing flipped the dead fly over. He was no longer belly-up as he had been. He was suddenly standing there on his spiky spindly fly legs. And I thought, “Hm, SCIENCE!” Then I tried to remember what type of force it was that created the phenomenon and how many legs flies have.

When I passed through the intersection and was underway again, naturally, I paid attention to the road and the other drivers. But, something caught my eye. It was a tiny flicker of movement first, but it increased until I had no choice but to investigate. Imagine my surprise when I realized the fly was alive and he was staring in my direction, taunting me, daring me to swat him away.

I knew at that point there were three possibilities. One, the fly had been playing opossum, or some insect version of opossum (ladybug?). Two, the virus is real and this fly is a Walker. Or three, it was stunned and had regained consciousness. I was forced to quickly discount my first two wild (but creative!) theories, so I decided my third theory was correct. This fly was a fighter and it wanted to live.

So I named him Jeff Goldblum.

I watched Jeff Goldblum attempt to crawl across my dashboard. He was wobbly, but he was moving. He inched along, a few steps at a time. Soon he had somehow managed to limp almost five inches toward the window. See, Jeff Goldblum was a smart fly and he instinctively the way to freedom.  (Or remembered the way he came in.)

By the time I turned onto the street by my office, I was rooting for Jeff Goldblum. I cracked my window to show him the way, like a lighthouse shining through the  dawn mist guiding sailors home. He fluttered his wings, bouncing and hitting the dashboard hard, but he would not give up. I spoke to him. “You can do it, “I said. “Fly, Jeff Goldlum, fly!” I said.

For a brief shining moment he took flight. He ascended into the air, hovered for what was probably a lifetime to him. (Roughly three seconds for me.) Then he plummeted downward,crashing in front of me and slowly drifting his way toward the gap in my steering wheel column.

I gasped in horror. Was this the end for Jeff Goldblum? It couldn’t be. He had a life yet to live. He had places to buzz and leftover food to devour and people to annoy. I didn’t want him to be dead.  I wanted him to live.

After what seemed a long time to me (probably another three seconds in actuality) Jeff Goldblum twittered to life. I had never been so excited! (At least that morning anyway.)

So I did what any good and benevolent lifeform would do. I used a discarded menu found in the recesses of my car and I scooped Jeff Goldblum from his precarious perch and I carefully opened the car door, depositing him among the flowers in our beautifully landscaped flower bed.

I don’t know what happened to Jeff Goldblum. I’d like to think he regained his full strength, flew to a nearby rosebush and met the fly of his dreams (Geena Davis, of course.)  After a honeymoon in the Landfill, they’ll come back and make hundreds of little fly babies.

(Okay, maybe not the fly babies part.)

The moral of this story. writers, is to give your characters goals and then give them a thousand different roadblocks to keep them from them.  I don’t like flies, yet when I found one that faced an insurmountable odds, I rooted for him.  I wanted him to succeed in getting to freedom, so much so that I helped him to do it.

Sometimes it is difficult to put our characters into challenging situations, but if we do, we create characters that readers WANT to win. They journey with them, experiencing the pain, the torment, the obstacles, along with them. They have no choice but to keep reading to see them succeed, or sometimes, fail.

I’m going to remember Jeff Goldblum because he was a profound, if not strange, reminder to make my characters struggle to get what they want. I want to give my readers someone and something to root for.

Like Jeff Goldblum.

Advertisements

Cherished Memories

Firstly, a belated thank you to all of you who serve in the military and gratitude to those who have passed on in service to our country.

In the spirit of Memorial Day, I’ve recently been giving a lot of thought to memory.

I don’t want to go too much into detail and give the plot of my current fantasy project away just yet, but I’ll tell you that memory plays a big part in the manuscript. I did some flash fiction exercises to help me flesh out the characters yesterday. From time to time, I like sharing these little exercises with you or give you a little peak into my brain as I develop these characters.

Here are the 100(ish) word pieces describing cherished memories or things they’d like to remember.

(I’m not quite ready to give up many character names yet, so you’re kind of flying blind here. Sorry about that.)

My little sister is not the same since she escaped the jungle. I remember her laugh most of all. When she laughed it seemed like it bubbled up from her toes like water, free and smooth and full of energy. When she was a baby my Papa used to shake his medicine stick at her and she’d gurgle for what seemed like hours. The rest of us would always end up laughing with her. As she grew older she still found joy in the smallest of things, like hummingbirds or juicy green apples or teasing me about getting married one day.  I miss that.

*

I wish I could remember the day I was born. I’d love to see the look on my mother’s face when she tied my quipus around my chubby little baby wrist. I can imagine the love that went into tying each knot, identifying every trait I was born with, wishing on each my birth stars. I can only imagine her humming lullabies to me, showing me off to my brothers. She’d never believed they’d grow to hate me or that my own father would think I’m a disappointment. Nope, she believed in me from the minute she saw my sweet little face. I feel it when I look at the stars.

*

Logically, I should say I would like to remember the day I first got my power. It was an important day in my life and I should pay it the honor it deserves. But if I put logic aside, I think I’d choose the day Chip and I abandoned our lessons to go swimming in the waterfall a few years ago. We spent hours splashing and swimming and just being free from restrictions before Chip got stung by the sunset fish. I had to carry him most of the way back, but I didn’t mind. That’s what friends do.

*

Carina and I used to race the king’s horses for fun. Of course, I’d usually win, but this time I had big plans to let her win. She’d be so happy she’d have no choice but to fall into my arms in gratitude. That was the plan anyway. But a sudden summer storm came out of nowhere and spooked our horses. We ended up riding out of control until the horses almost collapsed outside an abandoned barn. We had no choice but to go inside and wait the storm out. Hm. I never did thank those horses.

*

Once Dorado and I were out riding the king’s horses and got stranded in a storm. I’d actually kept an eye on the clouds rolling in for hours and I knew we’d get stuck in it. As usual, I had an eye on the back of Dorado’s horse too because I always let him win our races. Plus, don’t tell him this, but he looks hot on the back of a horse. By the time we found the barn, we were both dripping wet and laughing about it. That was the first time he kissed me.

*

When my eldest son Phoenix, came back to the palace with the first skull, I knew my reign would be triumphant. The Star Gazer had foretold of power and riches, but I didn’t dream they would come in such a strange form. I felt it as soon as he lay it down on my lap. The power was strong and my pride in Phoenix even stronger. He was born under just the right sign for an heir- brave, competitive, proud. I knew he’d bring me greatness and he did on that day.

I used to have many memories in my head. Not only mine, but the memories of our people too. They’re all gone now. There’s no memories to tell, nothing left to share. There’s only one thought rattling inside my mind now—the jungle. Shadows and nightmares, screams and demons. Nothing makes sense except for the pain. It reminds me of what I’ve done, of what I’ve become. The pain is my friend and it calls to me when I try to speak. It tells me to be still. It waits for me to sleep then comes out to play.

Nineteen Signs That You Love YA

  1. You know the difference between Veronica Roth and Veronica Rossi.
  2. When you meet a guy, you size him up by his ability to pick a hot best friend that’s full of snark. (Your friends think you should end up with HIM.)
  3. When you declare your team, you don’t mean the Cowboys or Yankees.
  4. When you’re asked to pick a number between 1 and 10, you always say Four.
  5. You can pronounce Tahereh without any help.
  6. Tuesday is your favorite day of the week.
  7. You ask for B&N gift cards for Christmas and birthdays.
  8. If your life were a movie, you’d be played by Jennifer Lawrence or Shailene Woodley. Ansel Elsgort would portray your boyfriend. Or brother.
  9. You think aliens are hot and that Daemon is a perfectly acceptable name for a guy.
  10. You’re not afraid of the zombie apocalypse because you know you could survive.
  11. You couldn’t care less who wore what designer at the Oscars, but are up early on cover reveal days.
  12. Tahereh + Ransom = OTP
  13. You can’t cite a classic work of literature without comparing it to the contemporary retelling of it.
  14. You can find the heart of gold in every bad boy you meet.
  15. You believe everything should come in trilogies.
  16. When you meet someone, you automatically sort them into Houses, Factions, and Districts.
  17. You have a color-coded spread sheet of upcoming release dates (Or is that just me?)
  18. You know how to book shimmy and do so frequently.
  19. You never forget to be awesome.

Happy reading everyone!

What you wear says a lot about who you are.

I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo right now. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of July. Due to the physical limitations with my neck, I already know that I will not make that goal, but that’s okay. As long as I’m writing as much as I can, when I can, I feel like I’m accomplishing something. I AM accomplishing something.

My current WIP word count is around the 20,000 mark. I feel good about it, but I’ve hit a little speed bump. (I refuse to call it “writer’s block” because that sounds and feels debilitating.) In an effort to poke my creative muse into action, I decided to do a little flash fiction (around 100 words) with my characters. This has opened me up to new ideas and character traits in the past, so I figured it can’t hurt, right?
I wrote seven different pieces and discovered a lot about my characters. Some of these things were already incorporated into my manuscript. Some of them though, I’m going to go back and put in because they will deepen the characters, give them back story, and help define who they are.

My muse is alive and awake and singing in my ear.

If you’re a writer in need of some help in getting to know your characters? Do what I did and ask them to tell you their favorite article of clothing. Here’s what mine had to say.
(Character names and plot undisclosed at this time.)

My cowboy boots are unconventional, sure, but I feel most like myself when I wear them. They’re soft and broken-in on the inside so they feel like extensions of my own legs. When I wear them I feel cradled, safe, steady. Like some precious breakable thing carefully cocooned in bubble wrap. On the outside, though, they’re tough and rigid, like they can take anyone or anything on without caving. In my boots I’m a warrior. I am strong. I am sure. When you hear the sound of my boots clicking down the hall way, you should watch out. I’m coming.

When I want people to leave me alone, I wear my Starfleet Academy t-shirt. I discovered early in life that when people think you’re a geek, they tend to give you a wide berth. They aren’t wrong. I am a geek. I’m not ashamed that I’d rather be at Comic Con than the Friday night football game. At Comic Con I’d be with people like me. At football games, I feel conspicuous, like everyone there is comparing me against invisible parameters that I can’t define. Besides, my Starfleet Academy shirt connects me to her–it’s our thing–and it’s the most important thing I have.

Could Picasso pick which painting he loved most? Could Stephen King designate his best work of fiction? Would you ask Bill Gates which one of his dollars is most important to him? No. My collection of t-shirts as a whole is important to me. Each and every one of them hand-picked for a specific reason, to elicit a specific response in others. Some may call my shirts snarky, some witty, some provocative. All of those are true. But my collection is more than that—it’s an expression of who I am at any given time right there on my chest for anyone who cares to know.

My band uniform is ugly. It’s hot and it chafes in all the wrong places. I wear it anyway. Not because I’m required to do so, but because it connects me to a group. It gives me identity and purpose. When I put it on I’m transformed from one into one in the tribe of hundreds. When I stand on the field amongst the sea of blue coats and stiff tasseled hats, I lose individuality and gain corporation. For the fifteen minutes I stand on the field at halftime, the pressure to “Be the Best” is replaced by the relief of “Being Like Everyone Else.”

The handkerchief I wear tucked into my breast pocket every day is monogrammed with my initials, HLW. By handkerchief standards is mostly unremarkable—white, cotton, silk stitching around the edge—but it bears a remarkable purpose in my mind. The handkerchief was a gift from a woman whom I thought I could trust. I was wrong. She betrayed me in the worst sort of way, not as one lover betrays another, but as one soul betrays her equal. I kept it to remind me that trust is mist on the wind. Fleeting, delicate, and easily blown away.

My letter jacket has patches on it that date back to 7th grade. I’m leaving one spot open where the State Championship patch should go. Will go. I have one more year to make that happen and I’ll make that happen no matter what it takes. Excelling at football has been expected of me since I first played in the Pee Wee League. Once the coach noticed my talent, I became Mr. Football. Anything else I did, I do, is second to that. Who cares that I made a 2600 on the SAT, as long as I make the touchdown that wins us the game? I will, by the way.

Most dudes my age would rather run naked through acid rain than wear a friendship bracelet. I wear the one I have with pride, like it’s a badge of honor instead of pink, purple, and black stringed embarrassment. My little sister made it for me. The nurse at the cancer treatment center taught her how. She told me she used the pink thread because it’s her favorite color, the black because it reminds her of me, and the purple stands for courage we both need while she’s doing chemo. She is so strong. Like the bracelet. I won’t take it off until she’s cancer free.

More Christmas Traditions

I broke tradition (if you can call 18 weeks’ worth of something a tradition) by not posting last Tuesday.  A particularly stressful work week got the best of me, but I’m happy to say it’s all over now. I’m off until January 2 and I can’t wait to dive fully in the manuscript and finish my revision.

When last we met, I blogged a few 100ish-word pieces about Christmas traditions from the points of view of my characters. I’ll pick that up again today with a few more.  Whatever your holiday traditions are, I hope you and yours enjoy a blessed season full of joy and love!

*

When you say Christmas, my mind goes to soup kitchens.  My parents dragged me to volunteer at one every Christmas Eve.  They were the ones volunteering. I was the one griping about volunteering.  My mother said you’d never know when you might need the generosity of others, so you should help people when you can. It used to amaze me how joyful some of the people there were. Even at their worst, they were grateful.  The Christmas after my parents were killed I found myself on the other side of the ladel with my mother’s voice echoing in my head.  Then I was grateful.

*

I have two words for you- Rankin and Bass.  Most people these days don’t know who they are.  They made a bunch of Christmas vids for kids over 150 years ago-classics, if you will.  Each Christmas we make a large bowl of popcorn and snuggle into the couch and have a Christmas vid retro-fest.    My brother with his blonde hair and I with my red, like to reenact Heat Miser and Snow Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus.  It never fails to make my parents laugh. That’s what’s supposed to happen at Christmastime I think.

*

My family celebrates Hanukkah.  Long ago Jews were forced to participate in pagan culture. Soon they began to assimilate and practice impure acts. They even allowed a pagan god, Zeus, into their temple.  A group of Jews called the Maccabees, finally said ‘Enough is enough! This is not the way God intends us to live!’ So they reclaimed the temple, pushed out the pagan impurities that were hurting the Jewish culture. They cleansed the Temple and rededicated it to God.  That’s what the word Hanukkah means-rededication.  I find it interesting how closely that matches our society today. It’s time to cleanse our people and rededicate this nation.

*

I always got twelve days of Christmas. Not the literal twelve days, mind you-what’s a kid going to do with three french hens? (Although I did have one Christmas celebration in my mid-twenties when I bought myself nine ladies dancing in Santa suits. THAT was memorable.)  I’m talking about getting gifts from December 14 through December 25. They got more extravagant with each day until Christmas.  My fifth Christmas I spent in Walt Disney’s apartment at Disneyland. My seventh, I got an actual-sized remote control airplane. At ten, it was an island.  My dad’s estate was willed to me when I was sixteen. Since then, it’s Christmas year-round for me.

Christmas Traditions

My family has a Christmas tradition. Each year I buy the kids Christmas pajamas that they open on Christmas Eve. I started doing that when my daughter was born. The purpose was for her to have something cute and Christmasy for the photos on Christmas morning. When my son was born almost five years later, I made a point to buy them matching pjs, because FOR THE PICTURES!
As they got older, it became increasingly difficult to buy matching pjs for two genders and age categories, so I had to get a little more creative. I went from matchy-matchy to similar themes-like each had reindeers or snowmen or penguins on them. They didn’t match, but they were still similar.

When they reached the teen years, the Christmas theme morphed into buying them something they’d really like. One year it was all blue. One year had a skull & crossbones theme. Last year, it was plaid pants with their favorite things t-shirts. (Harry Potter and Beatles).

They love it and both have told me not to stop even though they’re a little old to have matching sleepwear. That’s kind of the point of traditions. We do them because it gives us the feeling of nostalgia. It connects us to each other and our shared experiences.
Even if you don’t have any Holiday traditions, I bet you can come up with something from your past that brings you to a place of nostalgia.

I started thinking about this in relation to my characters. Each of them has a past. The details of their lives leading to the starting point of my story may not be mentioned in my book, but they all must have a past who made them who they are.
So I asked my characters about their holiday traditions, but I told them to keep it brief-around 100 words. I found out a lot of things about my characters by doing this. Even if I don’t specifically put any of these details into my story going forward, these thoughts/feelings will help me define who these characters are as I write.

Character Traditions
On Christmas Eve, my mom cooks a pot of venison stew for us to eat for dinner while we pack up the tent – the old-fashioned kind, not hiber-domes laced with heating elements. At dusk we put on our warmest clothes and follow our Dad who has already scouted the “perfect” tree. We start a fire to warm the stew then decorate the tree with whatever seeds or corn we can spare for the birds and squirrels. Mom says it’s important to preserve their environment. Then, even though we’ve almost outgrown the tent now, we huddle together inside until Christmas morning.

We don’t really do Christmas in my family. Pop said that Christmas was meant to celebrate Jesus being born and since Jesus didn’t do anything when the virus came around, he didn’t want anything to do with him. But my Grandma had a different idea. She thought we should be thankful for the lives who were spared, so she always celebrated. I’d spend Christmas day with her every year. We’d make cookies and she’d read the Christmas story from the Bible. She told me that we should be like the wise men and seek Jesus. Sometimes I do.

My family’s Christmas tradition is a little…weird. A hundred years ago, it was pretty common, but nobody does it now. On Christmas Eve, my parents, sister and I go Christmas caroling. My parents started before I was born. They wanted to spread joy and let people know that someone cared about them, so they’d find the houses of people who had no family left and sing to them. When my sister and I were born, they took us with them. We’ve met some of the most interesting people and all of them appreciate what we do, so I don’t think we’ll stop.

Once, my younger brother wouldn’t sleep unless my older brother and I went to check for Santa, so we climbed up on the roof. Dad had those hideous Santa and reindeer figures up there and I somehow tripped and got tangled in them. I had to grasp at the figures to keep from falling. My weight pulled the display down and sent Rudolph flying over the house and out into the yard-just as my little brother peeked out of the covers. He was convinced that he saw Rudolph and went right to sleep. Now every year we go up on the roof and toss Rudolph over the house.

What’s Your Greatest Fear?

I didn’t enter the Nightmare on Query St. contest because I don’t think my manuscript is ready to submit to agents yet. (My greatest fear is submitting something before its ready. ) But have no fear (ha!) what I wrote for that contest will not be in vain.

I’ve decided to share some writing with you today.  Its Halloween week, so in the spirit (pun intended) of the season, I’m going to share some of my characters greatest fears with you.  These are 100(ish) word answers to the question, “What is your greatest fear?”

I’m not ready to reveal specifics yet, but I hope these will give some hints about the characters and the world they’re living in.

Happy Halloween!

I’m easily one of the smartest guys in the room, no matter which room I’m in.  I’m not bragging-it’s the brain upgrade.  It’s strange that I’m able to dismantle and reassemble any kind of technology you put in front of me, but I can’t seem  to figure out something as simple as telling a girl I like her.  That…terrifies me.  Every time I’m about to say something to her, my mind conjures an image of her laughing at me.  Then I’m tongue-tied. Maybe if girls would come with instruction manuals, they wouldn’t be so scary.

*

Soldiers don’t fear.  Our training teaches us to face our fears and overcome them.  So no, you won’t get me to make a list of things that could scare me like snakes or spiders or heights.   But if you really want to know what scares me I’ll tell you. The people who refuse to do what is right for our country-the unvaccinated-they’re the only threat there is. They turn my dreams into nightmares.  Understand this-I will do what I can to eradicate each and every one of them.  Maybe then we’ll all sleep better at night.

*

I’m scared we won’t find an answer.  What if this is how it all ends? They say we’re hurting them. We know they’re hurting us.  I feel like we’re playing a cosmic game of tug-o-war between two cliffs and whichever side loses tumbles into oblivion.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go like that.  I want to find a way for us to all get what we want without hurting each other.  Maybe I’m dreaming too big-it wouldn’t be the first time.  Part of me wonders, though, if I’m not dreaming big enough.

*

My parents snuck me in to Coney Island for my sixth birthday.  It wasn’t hard since the place was abandoned after the outbreak.  My dad rigged it so we could play boardwalk games like SkeeBall and ring toss. It was awesome until we got to the game where you squirt water into clown mouths. Those clowns wore these creepy grins that had been chiseled into their frozen faces.  One look and I was too petrified to squeeze the trigger.  The squad would laugh if I told them about it now.  But since that day, clowns are no laughing matter to me.

*

I’m not afraid of dying-been there, done that. I’m pretty sure I won’t feel it when I die the next time anyway. What I’m really afraid of, what lurks in my regenerated heart and forces tears out at night is, the thought of being alone. Not like afraid to be in the dark alone, but the other kind of alone. The one that says you’re not bound to another person. The one that says your existence is like a doll left abandoned on a playground.  Unwanted. Unattached. Alone.