Monthly Archives: October 2015

Headlong into November

I had initially thought I would not participate in the National Novel Writing Month contest this year. I had been on a goal oriented project that involves the writing of 365000 words in 365 days. As of this writing I am about 500 words ahead of that goal, but there is the looming holidays that could sidetrack the achievement of that final total. So I have in the last week decided to go for the 50000 word goal for the month of November.

I’m also in the process of reediting my first two novels as they are going to a new publisher. This raises the question of which project needs the most attention. This is the problem I always deal with, that of time. I don’t have enough of it. There never seems to be enough of the stuff to get done what I need, or at least what I think I need, to get accomplished. But, then again I’d be happy to have the opportunity to write full time, cranking out a couple thousand words a day at least and pushing editing at least as much to final draft as I write. The problem is that I have a full time job, which consumes nearly 10 hours out of my week days. Saturdays are often taken up with a variety of cleaning, football, and laundry, dinner with the family at my parents and other activities. Sundays are also usually spent in pursuits that are not writing.

What is a writer to do? Write. That is the answer. It is always the answer. I’ve incorporated the reading portion of the writer’s life into the drive time I spend on the road every day. I drive about 45 minutes a day to work and back which gives me an hour and a half a day to listen to audiobooks. I’ve listened to dozens of the classics, biographies, humor, and modern stories. And for every book I listen to there are dozens that I haven’t yet gotten a chance to hear. Again, this is a perpetual lack of time.

Television is a major culprit in the wasting of time. I know this, but there is a fatigue factor that plays into this as well. I rise at 545 on weekdays, start writing around 630 and have until either 730 or 8 to write depending on the shift I have at work. Then by the time I get home at 615 or 645 in the evening, it is time for dinner. After dinner, I simply don’t have the energy to do anything but sit and stare into the box on the wall. Part of me is ashamed of this, but part of me realizes that the writing that might get done, or the editing that might be accomplished at such a time may not be as good as that when I have my full focus available. Yes I am aware that this is an excuse.

Time is the problem. Or is it. Motivation may be more the thing. That is what November will show. I will have to find a way to keep the writing up while getting the much needed edits fixed. What happens by the end of the month will be an interesting metric that I can use to figure out the goal for next year. I’ve got a few in mind, some concerning word counts, some concerning the actual publication of works, and the process that surrounds that. So what the rest of this year holds is mostly set. What the next holds is still open. I may not decide what next year’s goal is, until much later, but I will keep the mind open and the mouth shut for now.

JRH

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Teddy the Coyote (ending)

Later in the day Teddy’s father woke him. There was a look of concern on his face.

“I tried the things you brought. I thought they were alright. I don’t think I’ll see them out, but I did not think they were bad. I don’t understand why you think those things that grow from the ground are better than prairie dogs that live in the ground, but I can’t understand why your mother doesn’t like my brother either. I just accept it. It is the way it is,” he said.

“Thank you,” Teddy said. The acceptance was all he had wanted. There would be prairie dogs and carrion in the future. Teddy was sure of that. But, there also would be berries and carrots. That was a compromise he could live with.

THE END.

Ok. so that kind of was a poor innocuous ending. About half way through the second part I realized that I’d written into a corner. This is what happens some times for me. I start with what I believe to be an interesting idea and when I get into it, I see that it is either boring, or it starts seeming to say something in the subtext that I did not intend. That is the funny thing about the way I write. Sometimes the stories work. Sometimes they don’t. I have a 110000 word story that just sits there. The basic idea is good, but the novel format just doesn’t seem to work for the story so I’m thinking it will be redone as a screenplay. The much tighter format will move the story faster and allow for the comedy elements that I didn’t seem to capture in the novel

The thing of it is that writing is a mystery to me. Even though I’m up to about 10 novels and three screenplays I still don’t understand what happens in my mind when I write. I’ve only really plotted one novel and what ended up on the page still turned out much different than what I had envisioned. But, the stories work. I really am interested in the ability of the subconscious to perform at a level that puts together a complete, coherent story of two hundred plus pages. I sit down at the computer each morning with the last bit of what I’ve written from the previous day and just start typing. By the time I have to get ready for my day job I usually have 1000 to 1500 words. The words often add to the story and I don’t always know what I’ve said.

There is a state that I’ve called the zone. Others call it flow or superstate, or zen or any number of other things. It is an automaticity in the writing that the story unfolds in my mind’s eye and I just write what I see. The mechanics of what happens to translate the mental images to the movements of my fingers is undecipherable. The process itself is interesting, and the results are often stunning. I’ve been surprised by what happens in a story more than once as I write it. In my first novel I didn’t know the resolution to the main mystery until the second I wrote it. Some how my subconscious had been planting the seeds for the story all along and my brain simply had been storing up and putting the pieces together so that they all made sense without any real thought.

So I’m sorry for the way this short story ended, but I find it interesting when I misfire because I learn from it.

JRH

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Falling Down

Today is day 300 of the year. 65 to go. And I’m behind in my word count for the 365000 words in 365 days. At one point I was nearly 11000 words ahead. Now, before this post I am 961 words behind. What has happened? This is the dilemma that every person goes though who has a resolution go well for a long time. I’ve hit the doldrums of the process. I have begun to wonder what the point is, other than to say I’ve done it.

I began this year with what seemed at the time a ridiculous goal. Part of this ridiculousness was in the fact that I am bad at resolutions and very bad at long term goals that take a consistent and ongoing effort. Prior to this year, the biggest goal I had met with regards to writing was the completion of NaNoWriMo for three years running. Granted, those have led to complete novels one of which has been published and the others are in the process of finding publishers. But that is a month. 30 days. This challenge to myself has been an order of magnitude larger, both in duration and in word count. I think the day to day of it has simply caught up with me. The getting up early, EVERY DAY, has caught up with me. The feeling that I’ve proven to this point that I can keep up a thousand word a day pace in the chaos of my life has created a passivity and crushed the drive that had sustained me early in the year.

So what does this mean for the rest of the year? I will get the word count back to positive and I will finish strong. I had not planned on participating in the NaNoWriMo this year, but I believe now that I will. The question is: do I start a new book or simply finish the one with which I seem to be struggling? I think something new may be the spark I need to get back in the swing of things. A story for the ages, slammed out in a month. The motivation of this will be helpful. Now I must begin to think of the basics of the story. I have a mystery I’ve started a couple times that I think would work well. I have the plot sorted in my head and know the basic structure of the whole thing. It should write itself out pretty easily, and it is different than anything I’ve written so it should be a good flexing of the muscles. Motivation is a good thing.

JRH

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Teddy the Coyote (part 3)

The tortoise looked at him for a moment as he ate. Then he asked, “what do you think?”

“I like it. But, how did you figure this out, with it being under the ground?”

“I’ve know for years, since I saw the first farmers pulling these by hand decades ago,” the tortoise answered.

“How old are you, if you don’t mind my asking,” Teddy said.

“I have been here a long time, since before there were farmers here. The rains have come a hundred and ten times, that I remember,” the tortoise answered.

“You have seen a lot, can I ask you something about something I don’t understand?”

“Of course. I might not give you a useful answer. Age does not always mean wisdom.”

“I like the berries, and these carrots are delicious, but I don’t like the prairie dogs or other things most coyotes like. Why would I be different?”

“I don’t have a good answer to the why. If you are different, then you are different. Why does there have to be a why?”

“But, I want to think there is a reason for it,” Teddy said.

“I am old, but make no claim to wisdom. I have seen a lot and will let you know that this question has been asked for as long as I can remember. I once knew a carnivorous javelina. I’ve known prairie dogs who ganged up and hunted the coyotes.  And I’ve seen humans that set fires to the fields. Sometimes there are things that simply are the way they are, without explanation. You can say it is for some reason we can’t understand, but that doesn’t make the reason any less valid. And sometimes, it is just because it is that way. I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can give you the answer you are looking for. That you must find for yourself,” the tortoise said.

The words were not comforting to Teddy. He had liked the carrots, but now the words of the tortoise made him question the enjoyment. What was going on. Why did he feel different than his parents. He had eaten the prairie dogs enough and they were filling, but he did not enjoy them. Carrion had filled a hungry stomach for him many times, but he didn’t care for the flavor. Was it necessary to enjoy something for it to useful? His parents enjoyed the prairie dogs and the occasional carrion finds. They liked the taste and savored the meat. Teddy almost envied them in that. They had never condemned him for enjoying the berries and vegetables, but they didn’t think it was good for him. It was not in his nature and it was difficult for them to understand. Yet they had never tried the berries of carrots. Teddy wondered what they would think if they tried these things.

“Thank you. I think I’ll go. I have a lot to think about,” Teddy said. He pulled up a few more carrots and shook them off. He carried them off toward home.

The carrots were put near Teddy’s parents. He did not know how they would react to the food. He expected they would not even try. After the long night he was tired and slept soundly. When he woke his mother was looking at him.

“Why did you bring the things home last night. Were you saving them?” she asked.

“No. I wanted you to try them. You might like them,” Teddy answered.

“I see. I don’t know if I will. What are they like?”

“They’re crunchy, like bird bones. And, they are a little sweet.”

“Maybe I’ll try, later. I’m still full from the javelina. That was so good. It was just right. I think even you would have enjoyed it.”

“I enjoyed the carrots last night. But, I do wonder why I’m different.”

“I’ve wondered that too. But, sometimes we like different things simply for no reason. It is just the way we are. My eyes are bad so I like to stay in our den at night, while a lot of the coyotes I know prefer to be out at night, out of the sun. For me I can see better during the day,” His mother said.

“That’s not strange. I like the night because it is cooler. But, I can understand why you like the day, if you can’t see at night,” Teddy said.

“And that is why I’ll try the carrots. I can’t say anything about it unless I try.”

“Thank you. Do you think Father will try them?”

“Perhaps, if I like them. He is set in his ways though, and may not.”

“I know. But, It won’t hurt him. He just is so stubborn sometimes.”

“Yes. And he thinks of it as steadfast. Perspective makes many things appear different depending on how you view it. You look tired still. I think I’ll get some water. Sleep some more,” his mother said. She ambled off toward the small reservoir of fresh water that the farmers used for irrigation that was just across the dirt lane from their den. Teddy watched her for a few moments, then curled up to sleep some more, his mind more at ease.

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Teddy the Coyote (pt 2)

Teddy waited, sitting on a high rock until morning before going home. His parents were just stirring when he arrived. The berry juice from the night before had dried and looked like blood. Teddy knew that it did from looking into the waters in an irrigation ditch. He would let it be. Perhaps that would keep his parents at bay.

“Good morning,” Teddy said.

“You look like you had a good meal last night,” his father said.

“It was good.”

“We heard last night of a javelina that was hit by the big moving boxes of the people. It is a bit away, but we are going to go see if it is true. Do you want to come?” Teddy’s mother asked.

“No, I’m still full. I didn’t sleep much last night. I think I will stay here and sleep. I find it is better to try to find food at night, when it is cooler and more creatures are not hiding from the Sun,” Teddy said.

“Suit yourself. Goodbye.”

Teddy’s parents trotted away at a fast pace toward the big road that had the big trucks. It was only a couple miles, but they would be gone all day, especially if they got to the javelina before the vultures had picked it clean. That was good. Teddy was tired and he did want to sleep. He went to the rock he had sat upon the evening before and lay down in a shadow. Soon he was asleep.

The Sun climbed high into the sky and Teddy shifted his position to remain in shadow. He dozed quietly through the day. In the afternoon, one of the lizards who had been at the field the night before arrived. It sat and watched Teddy sleep for a few moments. Teddy appeared to be asleep but was fully awake and watched the lizard through just barely open eyelids. Teddy had no intention of eating the lizard but still wanted to maintain his authority as top of the local food chain. In a startlingly fast move he pinned the lizard with his paw. The force was just enough to keep the lizard from getting away without causing any harm.

“Why do you come here to disturb me when I’m sleeping?” Teddy asked, feigning anger.

“I wanted to let you know that the farmers have taken the ripe berries today, but the carrots are almost ready,” squeaked the frightened lizard.

“And you think this is important enough to wake me?”

“I thought you might like to know. It is easier to get to the carrots if you go South first then cut across to the field. Otherwise there is a big reservoir that you have to get across, or go around.”

“I can swim, but I guess I should thank you. It takes forever to get dry with this fur. So I will eat carrots tonight. Is that all?”

“The tortoise wanted me to tell you that he wants to talk to you. He will be there tonight, or if you want to go now he will be sunning on the North side of the reservoir.”

“Perhaps in a while. Thank you for telling me. I don’t know when the others will be back, so you might want to disappear before they do. I will see you tonight if you are there.”

“Goodbye,” the lizard said and scurried off, keeping to the shadows of the rocks as he picked his way down from Teddy’s perch. The Sun was perhaps an hour from the mountains and the day had reached its hottest. Teddy would wait a little while before he went to find the tortoise. The heat of the rocks and especially the roads was uncomfortable on his feet. He would wait and sleep a little more.

Teddy woke with a shiver just after the Sun had dipped below the edge of the mountain. The temperature dropped rapidly and the heat that had been beating on him from above had stopped and now was radiating up from the rocks where it had been storing up all day. He rose and stretched and looked toward the field where the berries had been. The dirt was all turned and the ground was lumpy. The berries were gone. Teddy looked further South and saw the reservoir the lizard had mentioned and the field beyond. The field was green and looked almost shaggy from this distance. He wondered what the carrots would be like.

Looking to the West, Teddy could see his parents far off, ambling back toward the den. The moved slowly as if they were tired and very full. That would be good. He could slip out and be gone before they arrived. He began the walk to the carrot field. The road was still hot, but not as bad as it would have been earlier in the day. He went by way of the berry field, just to see. He was saddened to see that the berries were gone, but at the same time was interested in the carrots.

The tortoise was waiting for him on the edge of the reservoir as the lizard had said. As Teddy approached, the tortoise plopped into the water.

“Come in. The water is warm,” the tortoise said.

“But, I’ll be wet all night,” Teddy replied.

“So. What is the problem with that? You can get back into the water any time.”

“Then I’ll be wet again.”

“Exactly, but you’ll be warm. The water here stays warm all night. I sometimes spend the whole night in and out of here, back and forth to the field.”

“Perhaps later. The lizard said you wanted to talk to me.”

“Yes. I do. But, I’m going to the carrots now. You can come for a swim or you can go around. What I have to tell you can wait.”

Teddy looked down at the water. It did look inviting. If it stayed warm all night what would be the harm? He walked down the bank and put his front paws into the water. It was warm. He waded in and soon sunk in far enough that he had to swim. It felt good. He swam to where the tortoise was exiting the water on the far side. The reptile had moved surprisingly fast in the water.

“You’re right. The water is nice,” Teddy said as he exited the reservoir.

“See. Listening to those who are older and wiser than you is not always a bad thing. Even if you do have an independent streak.”

“So what are these carrots?” Teddy asked.

“Over here. Pull one up. Grab the top and pull. The good part is underground.” The tortoise walked over to the edge of the field and gripped the green top of a carrot and pulled. The long orange root pulled out and he began to eat. The crunch of the crisp flesh of the root surprised Teddy. He was used to the soft squish of the berries.

Teddy followed suit and pulled up a carrot. He shook it to get most of the dirt off then took a bite. It was crunchy and almost sweet, but in a different way than the berries. It was good, and somehow the hint of dirt that he despised in the prairie dogs tasted good here. Teddy was not sure what to think about this other than he liked this new food.

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Teddy the Coyote (part 1)

“… I don’t like prairie dogs. They taste like dirt,” Teddy the Coyote said to his mother.

“They taste like dirt because that is where they live,” his mother replied. This was an old argument. “Do you like the quails better?”

“You know I don’t. All those feathers feel weird. And sometimes they have lice and I get all itchy,” Teddy said.

“Listen to your mother. Just eat the prairie dog. They aren’t easy to catch. You should be glad to have it,” Teddy’s father said.

“I am. Don’t get me wrong. But…” Teddy trailed off. There was no point in this argument. He had had it dozens of times before and knew it would probably happen dozens of more times. He would eat the food he was provided. He should be happy. But, as he ate, he thought about the berries that were just coming ripe on the farm a little way down toward the town. They were juicy and sweet. He tried to imagine eating those instead of the dirt tasting prairie dog in his mouth. He would go eat some of them when he finished here.

“I don’t want you going to that field after this,” Father said.

“Why not?” Teddy asked.

“Those farmers don’t like us. Sometimes they just run us off, but sometimes they make loud noises that can hurt us.”

“Alright. I’ll wait until it is dark. The farmers all go away when it is dark,” Teddy said.

“I don’t like it. But, if you do go, be careful.”

Teddy went to the rock garden outside the den and hopped up on the tallest boulder. From there he could see across the dirt road that ran near the den. He could see the field just across the road that was being planted. The dust swirled into the air and the sun warmed him as the heat from the rock below did as well. He would nap, full of the prairie dog and not yet ready to go get the berries. HIs father was right. It was dangerous to go get the berries during the day, especially with the farmers out planting.

Teddy dozed and woke just after the Sun had fallen behind the rim of the mountains in the West. The air began to cool quickly as the furnace of the Sun was hidden and the shadows crept across the land. The farmers had finished in the field across the road and there was no sign of them as far as Teddy could see. He would go to eat the berries. The very thought made his mouth water. He knew it was strange for Coyotes to like fruits and vegetables, but he did.

Soon he was crossing the last of the irrigation ditches next to the berry field. He could smell the fruit and he rushed to the nearest row. The red fruit looked almost black in the rapidly falling dark. There were a few lizards that he had scared as he hopped across the ditch who now looked at him from a safe distance. A tortoise meandered toward him from a few rows away.

“You seem a bit out of place,” the tortoise said.

“I’m just here for some of the berries,” Teddy said.

The lizards chuckled. A frog that lived in the ditch who had been watching, but whom Teddy had not seen, let out a deep croak of laughter. He was a joke to them. He had been laughed at before. It no longer bothered him.

“Coyotes don’t eat this. You eat meat, like us,” piped one of the lizards in a soft breathy voice.

“We are the ones who eat the berries,” another lizard said.

“I like the berries. Don’t worry. I don’t want to eat you,” Teddy said.

“Good. But, I think I’ll keep away, just the same,” the lizards said in near unison.

“Why do you really come here?” The tortoise asked.

“I’ve come to eat the berries. I like them. I ate many when the next field over was used to grow them,” Teddy said.

“I see. Well, help yourself. The farmers will harvest these soon and then we’ll all have to find something else to eat. There are some carrots a little farther that way,” the tortoise said and looked to the South.

“I’ve never had them. What are they like?” Teddy asked.

“They are…… carrots,” one of the lizards said.

“Yes they are,” the tortoise said. “Carrots are carrots. You will either like them or not. I do.”

“I want the berries right now,” Teddy said. He began to munch on the ripe fruit. It was juicy and delicious. The smell of the plants and the berries filled his nose and the juice stained the white fur around his muzzle. It was wonderful, and there was so much. He had eaten his fill to the point of almost bursting and had not moved more than a foot from where he had started. He had never felt this kind of fullness from birds or prairie dogs.

“If they don’t take these tomorrow. I’ll be back tomorrow,” Teddy said when he had finished. He sauntered away toward his home. The moon was rising and for the first time in a long time Teddy was truly content. He turned and howled a long, loud howl at the moon. It felt good. The walk home was slow. The night was cool but not cold and it was nice, moving slowly in the moonlight. He knew that at home he would have to explain it all again, and he didn’t want to face that. It was good right now and that was all that mattered. His parents and the other coyotes who did not understand him could wait.

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