31 Days of Blogging – Day 6, Knowledge pt. 2

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Hi, everyone, I’m Tad.

Josh is sick, so he can’t be here today, but he made a list of things he wanted to say and asked if I’d write the post instead.

Here’s what he says,

  • Write what you know can be limiting in fiction.
  • This creates an excuse to learn more.
  • Imagining ourselves as other people/in other places can be just as valid as our own experience.

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of the way, we can move on to what I want to say.

Continue reading “31 Days of Blogging – Day 6, Knowledge pt. 2”

31 Days of Blogging – Day 5, Knowledge

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The problem with clichés is that we don’t take the time to unpack the nugget of wisdom that led to these phrases becoming clichéd in the first place. We just rattle them off as if everyone knows what we’re trying to say.

Write What You Know is another one of those that’s been tossed around without consideration for what it means. But the wisdom inherent to it remains evergreen even now.

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31 Days of Blogging – Day 4, Flow

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Whenever I restart my writing habit, the words come haltingly. Sparingly. In fits and starts.

Reaching 500 words on my first blog in this series took an effort of will and concentration brought about only because I had made a commitment to do this challenge.

When I start writing fiction again after a break, my brain feels cobwebby. I find my characters to be redundant and repetitive, my prose dull.

(Later, I can’t often tell what parts I wrote when I was tired/bored/cobwebby vs when I felt fully engaged with the text. But in the moment of writing, all of my resistance comes to bear on those early days.)

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31 Days of Blogging – Day 3, Mornings

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I’m no stranger to the power of mornings, even though I’m more often a stranger of mornings themselves than not.

My family tends more toward the night-owl nature.

Whether they would completely agree with me on that, I can’t say, but it is my observation that we all struggle to get up in the mornings and happily chat our way to midnight or later.

(For you true insomniacs and night-owls, realize that midnight really is quite late for those who have to be up at six or seven in the morning. Sometimes even earlier.)

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31 Days of Blogging – Day 2, Why

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It’s the most important question you can ask whenever you set out to do a thing.

Why?

Why do it?

Why go to the trouble?

From an unmotivated perspective — one I myself had not too long ago — it can sound like a discouragement.

Why would you even think of doing the thing you are about to do?

What’s the point?

And in that mindset, you want to keep the question as far from your mind as possible.

When trapped in lethargy, motion of any kind is a positive act.

But once you get the ball rolling, and action is automatic (or near enough to), then you need to start asking the most important question.

Why?

If you don’t have a satisfactory answer to this question, you’ll never be able to sustain your efforts. You might survive for a week or more on sheer willpower, but that’s an easily-exhausted resource that you’ll run out of eventually.

Trust me. I know from experience.

Continue reading “31 Days of Blogging – Day 2, Why”

A Writer’s Book of Days — 2 December 2016

It was her mother’s recipe

It was her mother’s recipe. That old witches’ brew.

A concoction for stirring up trouble.

And for curing a season of blues.

She spent all day and most of the night adding to the concoction. A pinch of parsley and a sliver of lime. The foot of a rabbit to make it sublime.

She didn’t know what it would do. That old witches’ brew. But it was her mother’s recipe, so she didn’t think it through.

When the water came to a boil, and she tossed the ingredients in, she felt an adulation as she watched the brewing begin.

The scents sent shivers running up and down her spine.

A little bit of pleasure and a whole lot of fear.

The pops and the gurgles told her the recipe was true. That old witches’ brew to cure a season of the blues.

Continue reading “A Writer’s Book of Days — 2 December 2016”

A Writer’s Book of Days — 16 October 2016

16 October 2016Write about being deserted

He had left her.

Well, not Tanya. Not her, now. But the Speaker of Hastur whose memories now suffused Tanya’s own.

It made the past as clear as day to her. But it was a past of unknown lands and mysterious powers bent against strange creatures.

Tanya hesitated to call it an alternate reality, because it felt so real to her. The whisper of wind through trees, the cold brush of night’s dew on her skin. The rich, clean scent of green leaves – a sharp contrast to the unavoidable pollution that suffused the air now.

It was all just as real to Tanya as the shitty house, the blistering heat of the summer sun on asphalt, and bitter aftertaste of a pale ale.

Now that she carried the coin with her.

Whatever conduit the coin made between Tanya and the long-dead intelligence it connected her to, the strength of it made Tanya see double wherever she went.

The bank teller’s line would melt away for a moment, revealing a tangled nexus of tree-roots from every corner of a vast forest a hundred miles across or more.

And somehow, she knew that he knew every tree’s name.

At home, the drab walls would flicker a moment, seeming to morph into dark stone adorned with dreary candelabra.

Only that bar remained unchanging. For whatever reason, in the weeks sense she’d taken up the coin, Tanya had been spending more and more time at that hipster, millennial bar – both labels that she abhorred most times.

It wasn’t until a few days ago, as these flashes of reality grew to a near-constant pace, that Tanya realized the bar was immune.

She didn’t know how it remained unchanged, but her subconscious had picked up on it and so now she went there as a means toward feeling a little like her old self.

Like her true self, she had to keep reminding herself.

But then she spied that stranger-who-wasn’t-a-stranger again, and the memories of the Speaker of Hastur screamed for her to pay attention.

That was when she remembered that he had left her.

Her husband. The warden of the wicked wood. A powerful sorcerer entrusted with the guardianship of the world, by keeping its magical side hidden.

A powerful and important man. Which meant Tanya had been a powerful and important woman.

Until they had both been betrayed. And her husband abandoned her.

She was still learning the details. But the emotion was clear. The wound was fresh. The pain real.

Though, given the apparent ageless nature of this intelligence, Tanya wondered what the timespan on a “fresh” wound would be.

Best not to think about it unless she wanted to drive herself further mad.

At least now she had a clearer reason for hating that traitor-stranger.

And a clearer goal in mind.

A Writer’s Book of Days — 12 October 2016

12 October 2016She kept it in a box under the stairs

Tanya slammed the door behind her as she raced into her house and down the stairs into the basement. She found the old, wooden box of memories under the stairs, where it always was

She hesitated.

It might have been nothing. A chance encounter at a local bar. Nothing to get upset about.

But the way he had watched her. His eyes following her movements to and from her table throughout the night. Like a cat following the back and forth ticking of a metronome.

Or like a cat on the prowl, tracking the movement of its prey.

Tanya shuddered and wrapped her hands around her elbows for warmth. It was just the basement, she told herself. The basement was cold no matter what time of year it was.

If the man had been alone, Tanya would have said something. Not to him, of course. No.

Well, probably not to him.

But to the bartender, certainly. Though the man hadn’t said or done anything, the way he watched Tanya had made her noticeably uncomfortable and self-conscious.

But she didn’t say anything because he was clearly with friends.

And not the rowdy, bawdy, disrespectful, or threatening kind of friends, either. There was a big man who nonetheless came across as non-threatening and friendly, and a petite young woman who could barely be at the legal drinking age, if at all.

The three of them joked and laughed and if the man watching Tanya didn’t smile as often as the other two, that was okay, right? It didn’t have to mean that he was unhappy or angry or sociopathic. Only that he was a bit more withdrawn than others. Tanya could accept that.

But then the second woman arrived, and Tanya’s entire world snapped into focus.

She was tall, with long, full, golden hair and a stride that spoke of both confidence and impatience. As she entered the bar, at least seven different sets of eyes turned to regard her, including Tanya’s own.

But not the man’s. His attention stayed fixed on Tanya.

The woman wasted no time looking around. Whether this was a regular meeting spot or she simply had a strong sense of place, Tanya couldn’t say, but the woman strode directly to the other three and joined in their comfortable familiarity.

Tanya remembered what it was like to have that kind of companionship. But it was a distant memory.

Looking at these four, however, as the man turned to greet the newcomer, Tanya suddenly had a notion that she knew them from somewhere.

An unshakeable certainty that they were important to her life. Especially the blonde woman and, though she was loathe to admit it, the man who had been staring at her all night.

Tanya spent the next ten minutes wracking her brain for some inkling of where she might have known them. Then she took out her phone and scrolled though all her past pictures, and all her friends’ pictures, looking for these four strangers.

Nothing.

Then, as she looked up, she met the eyes of the man who had been watching her.

And suddenly she knew without a doubt, from where, and more importantly when, she must know this man.

So now she sits at the foot of her basement stairs, staring at the old wooden box she had hidden there.

She had hoped to never have to look inside it again. But if he was here, in her town, then she has no choice.

She has to stop him. At all costs.

Tanya tears open the lid of the box.

Inside is just as she left it. Photographs from when she was young, the only remaining copies. A charred cross that once sat above the fireplace mantle at her parents’ house, one of the only things they could recover from the fire.

And at the bottom of the box, beneath all the rest, wrapped in a simple, teal cloth, sits a silver coin.

Tanya reaches past all of the memories from her own life and touches the cloth. Even with the insulation afforded by the material, Tanya feels the memories beginning to press at the edges of her mind.

Memories of the past. Of hidden worlds.

Memories of her ancestor.

Foreign memories.

Tanya’s hand flinches away. Can she really let all of that back into herself again? She had barely escaped her first encounter with the coin, managing to salvage her sanity and identity only when she begged the persona who dwelt within the coin to let her go. Let her live her own life.

At that thought, however, a notion begins to nibble at Tanya’s mind.

Had she escaped?

If the persona of her ancestor had retreated into the coin, then why had Tanya recognized those four people in the bar? Shouldn’t she have thought nothing of the strange man incessantly watching her?

For that matter, why hadn’t she been more worried about the man’s obvious stalkerish behavior? Tanya wasn’t the type of woman to ignore such harassment, and yet she had written it off as “non-threatening.” Why?

Because he was with his friends. And a piece of her-

No. A piece of her ancestor that is still inside her. It recognized them.

Tanya shoves the box away from her and falls back on her butt. She scrambles partway up the stairs, her heart racing, her breath coming in panicked gasps.

A minute or two later, following several long, slow, deep breaths, Tanya manages to calm herself. Tears streak down her face, and her arms and legs tremble (though whether from panic or weariness, she cannot say).

She watches the box now with that same predatory gaze that the man had watched her in the bar.

But even that thought begins to make her panic. No doubt he had gained that hunter’s instinct from his ancestor coin, just as Tanya had gained hers from her own.

There was little hope that Tanya could ward off her ancestor’s foreign mind with a vigilance gained from that same mind.

Besides, said a small voice, Tanya needed the full power and knowledge of her ancestor coin if she was going to protect her home from that man.

He was dangerous. The most dangerous foe she had ever faced. The Stalker. The Nightveil.

The Traitor.

He had to be stopped. Punished. And she was the only one still left who could do it.

Tanya blinked and suddenly found herself standing.

For a moment, she was confused. Then she looked down at her hand in a panic.

Her eyes widened as she held up her hand, clenched tight, with the corner of a teal cloth poking out from between her fingers.

Tanya didn’t even have time to scream before the voice of her ancestor drowned out her own.

A Writer’s Book of Days – 3 August 2016

“…the details of unremarkable days” (after Ryan Schendler)

This is what I am stuck in. Wake up. Stand. Cook. Sit. Eat. Drink. Stand. Wash. Sit. Watch, play, listen. Keep sitting. Stand. Scrounge. Eat. Sit. Eat. Watch, play, listen. Keep sitting. Stand. Wash. Lay. Sleep.

Repeat.

It’s not a life. It’s an existence. A prison of my mind’s own making.

Every glimmer of opportunity or motivation that I might latch onto, every chance to break from the pattern and do something different, is buried under the relentless pressure of established habit. A tyranny of familiarity.

I don’t consider myself one who fears new things. Yet my behavior shows that I must, or else I would not be so trapped in this cycle.

I rewatch the same shows. I repeat the same music. I replay the same games. I am only motivated to read a book when it’s an author I already know. And in the rare instance that I travel, it is to places and events I have already been – same stories, different faces.

Life is too short. But the moment we exist in is too long and immediate for us to perceive that truth when we move through each day.

Life is too short. And for some that means seeking what comforts it has to offer. Why take a chance on something new and risk disappointment? You only have so many opportunities to enjoy yourself, and so much of life is spent unconscious or indebted to your obligations.

Life is too short. And for others that means seeking every new experience it has to offer. The new and the novel is their drug of choice. Why waste your time on a repeat experience when there are so many other new and exciting things to see? You only have so many opportunities to enjoy yourself, and so much of life is spent unconscious or engaged with the overly familiar.

“Life is too short.” Why are all the wisest sentiments trite cliches? Because truth is overly familiar?

All the same, life is too short to be stuck in the details of unremarkable days. Wake. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Aspire for more tomorrow.

I don’t have answers for how to break this pattern. But maybe now I’ll actually start looking for some.