Saturday, November 2, 2013

Following Passions

I set myself a totally unrealistic goal of writing my YA dystopian novel in 2 weeks. I got pretty close at just under 40,000 words. Then my awesome little 5 year old got called to be a featured extra in a movie, and I lost 3 days of writing time.

It has been amazing watching my little man pursue his passion, and I was happy to put mine on hold to be there to witness it. But now it is time to hunker down and finish this rough draft so the revisions can begin.

We all give up things to pursue our passions. I recently read a post by literary agent, Rachelle Gardener about just that over at  the Books and Such blog. Being the chronic over scheduler that I am, I thought it was a great post. Of course we can't do it all! But still, most of us try.

We've all heard about setting priorities, not biting off more than you can chew, and a whole slew of other clich├ęs that are basically telling us that we can't do everything. But if we can't do it all, what are we willing to give up?

I love lists, so after reading Rachelle's post, I pulled out a stack of paper and a pen (yep, I still those old fashioned tools), intent on distilling my life into my passions. Now, you should know that in addition to being a chronic over-scheduler, I am also extremely passionate about a lot of things, perhaps annoyingly so.

So I made a list. Wow! There were a lot of things on it! I had to let some things go (my homeschooling/crafting/recipe blog for one). I finally narrowed it down to the 7 things I most want to focus on in my life. I list them here in no particular order.
           1. My marriage
           2. Homeschooling and raising my children (including      
               carting them around to gymnastics and acting)
           3. Writing (thus the birth of this blog)
           4. Next Step (my non-profit parent resource center)
           5. Being healthy (nutrition, exercise, healthy home
               environment, mental/emotional health)
           6. Acting (I miss this greatly, more so after spending the
               week on set)
           7. Singing (I miss this too!)

These are the things I love. From now on if something doesn't fit into one of these categories, I'm either delegating or it is not going to be done at all.

This isn't the first time i've made cuts to my activities.  Earlier this year i calculated how long it would take me each day to actually do everything I wanted (or needed) to do - 35 hours, I made some cuts. Some of the things I gave up then: I delegated gift shipping/deciding/mailing for my husband's side of the family to him, sometimes I buy cleaners and certain foods instead of making them if I am short on time, I deleted a lot of pages and groups on Facebook, i spend less time on Pinterest and apps, I've unsubscribed from a ton of e-mail lists and blogs, I don't search for new recipes or make things that involve a lot of steps or active prep time, and I don't coach my son's soccer team anymore. I'm sure there were a lot of cuts that I miss so little I don't even remember them.

The hardest thing, by far, had been learning to say no. And I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. We all have the same amount of time - 24 hours per day. So I don't say, "I don't have time," because the truth is that I do. I just choose to spend it on the things that are important to me, just like the people who tell me no because they "don't have time." And that's okay.

Tell me in the comments:
What are your passions? What have you given up to be able to pursue them? What will you consider giving up now?





New goal: completed rough draft by November 15. I'll be losing a few more days while he is on set, and another couple because my baby is turning 3 on Monday. I see no reason that I can't reach this goal.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Choice

Once again, a 1000 word story in response to a prompt on Chuck Wendig's blog.  Choose two of twenty subgenres and mash 'em up.

I used a random number generator and got 11 (vampires) and 17 (zombies), so here you have it a vampire-zombie mash-up.. sort of.  Okay, it's totally a dystopian story that involves vampires and zombies, but really would you expect anything else from me?

The Choice

                I sit in the doctor’s office, waiting.  Always waiting.  This time it will certainly be different.  This time he’ll tell me I’ve been cured.  I listen to the clock ticking the seconds, growing less patient with each little tick.  And then he appears.

                “I’m sorry, Patrick.  It’s getting worse.”

                I slump over, defeated.  “What do I have to do to treat it this time?”

                The doctor shakes his head.  “There is nothing left to do.  You have a couple of weeks, a month left at most.”

                “To do what?”

                “To live.”

                “I’m dying?”

                “I’m so sorry, Patrick.”

                “What am I supposed to do with that?”

                “You are blessed really; you get a choice.”

                “About what?”

                “About how to spend your afterlife.”

                I get it now. I’m hallucinating.  Or perhaps I’ve drifted off waiting for the doctor.

                “Patrick, listen to me.”

                “Fine. I choose to spend my afterlife partying with all the girls I could never get when I was alive.”

                “That’s not an option.  You have two choices.  You can come back as a vampire or a zombie.”

I freeze.  I must be hearing things because there is no way that my doctor just told me I need to choose whether I want to be a vampire or a zombie.  I look around for a hidden camera, but there is none.  “I’m sorry, Doc, but either I’m crazy or you are.”

“If you don’t decide before you die, your body will decide for you.  Choose wisely.  It will affect the rest of your eternity.”

I slowly lumber down the hall, sad, shaken, and frankly, utterly bewildered.  I consider stopping by the psych ward and checking myself in, but knowing that I may actually only have a couple of weeks to live, I decide it isn’t worth it.  I would rather be with my family, even if I am losing my mind.

My wife greets me at the door.  I hug her tightly, not wanting to ever let her go.  “What’s wrong, Patrick? Was it bad news?”

“I’m fine.”

“Patrick, I’ve been your wife for thirty-two years, and I know when something is wrong.  Now, was it bad news?”

“There’s nothing left to do. I’m dying.”

She collapses into my arms, sobbing.  I hate feeling the weight of her in my arms.  I hate listening to her sob.  Today, I hate everything.

She lifts her head just enough to speak.  “You should choose vampire.”

I take a step back causing her to stumble forward.  “I should choose what?”

“Vampire.  Choose vampire.”

“What are you talking about?”

“When you die.  You can live aware of who you are and those you love or you can live completely unaware.  We can still be together if you’re a vampire.”

“How do you know about my choice?”

Now she looks confused.  What have I said wrong?  She’s tilting her head to the side.  I feel her eyes boring through me.  I feel like she’s trying to see through my eyes, so I close them.

“Patrick, everyone makes the choice at the end of their lives.  We all know about it.”

“Why am I just now learning about it?”

“You really don’t remember?”

“Remember what?”

She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, opens her eyes, and begins.  “Maybe you should sit down for this.”  I sit, feeling like I’m in a dream.  “About twenty years ago there was a plague.  No one knew where it came from or how it started.  We were losing thousands of people a day.  Some speculated that it was the earth’s way of dealing with human overpopulation.  It went on for months until finally a scientist formulated an antidote.”

I lean forward in my seat.  My wife has always been so passionate.  I will miss that about her.

“But there was a catch.  It triggered two genes in all of us – those that turn us into vampires and zombies.  At first, we didn’t understand what was happening to people when they died, but then the scientist found a way to let us choose.  If someone knows in advance that they will die, they pick one, and a simple shot deactivates the one they opted out of.”

I realize she is talking nonsense, but it seems familiar somehow.  And it doesn’t make sense. “If we can deactivate them, why not just deactivate both genes in everyone?”

“It doesn’t work that way.  They tried it on a couple of people and it just reactivated both genes.  You either choose one, or the vampire and zombie inside of you will fight until one breaks out.  It’s horribly painful to live through that.  So now we give everyone a choice.”

“And you think I should choose vampire?”

She nods. “I do.”

“Why doesn’t everyone?  If you get to stay with your family, why not choose that?”

“Some people can’t live with the knowledge that they are feeding on the blood of the innocent.  They would rather be a zombie, not know how many people they may hurt, and hope they will get their brains smashed quickly, and be done forever.”

“Maybe it would have been better to let the plague run its course.  These are not choices anyone should have to make.”

“Many felt that way, but by the time we discovered the side effect of the antidote, it was too late.  It had been administered to everyone.”

“What did they do to the scientist?”

“They killed her.”

“What did she choose?”

“You.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I chose to stay with you.”

“I’m sorry. I’m still not getting it.” I am overtaken by flashes of memory.  The plague.  My wife, creating the antidote. The discovery of the side effect. My wife’s murder. My wife coming back as a vampire. And now it is my turn to decide.  “I choose neither.  I will not kill the innocent.”


I run to my room and remove the gun from my nightstand.  I put it in my mouth and pull the trigger.  Everything goes black.

Monday, October 28, 2013

100 Word Stories

There was recently a prompt on Janet Reid's blog.

The prompt was to write a 100 word story using the following words:
Beautiful
Await
Shining
Love
Craft

While the words could be part of a larger word, they did need to be intact within that word.  I came up with two stories.


Story 1:

                Lisa loved Halloween.  It was the most beautiful time of year, and she always impatiently awaited its arrival.  Stories of witchcraft and poltergeists made her hair stand on end; changing leaves warmed her soul.  This year was different.  She had a secret.

She sat outside, shining her witch shoes, waiting for Markus.
            
           “Markus!”  She ran to her husband and grabbed his hand.  “I have something to tell you.”  She led him inside, motioning for him to sit. 
           
            “Lisa?”

            “The leaves aren’t the only things changing.”

Silence.

            "We’re having a baby.”

            And that year, Halloween really was the best day.


Story 2:

Melanie lay under the stars, awaiting Peter’s arrival.  She had crafted a beautiful way to tell him she loved him. Tonight was the night.  The stars were shining brightly in the cloudless sky.  Now, if he would just get here.

She heard a crash, a scream, a baby’s cry.  Melanie jumped and ran toward the street to help.  Two cars mangled into one.  It was Peter.  She called for an ambulance and went to Peter’s door.  He was trapped.  She went to the other car and pulled out the baby.


“Melanie,” Peter gasped.  “I love you.” And he was gone.



Personally, I like the second one better, but two of my readers have suggested that the first one is better.  What do you think?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Flash Fiction - It's Gonna Be Love

Alright, now I've never written flash fiction either, but as I am currently blocked on my dystopian novel, I thought a quick change of pace might help me get the creative juices flowing.

Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds posts flash fiction challenges.  This week's is to get a random song and use its title as the title of your story.  1000 words.

Full post here - http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/10/18/flash-fiction-challenge-random-song-title/

I pulled up my Pandora and "It's Gonna Be Love" by Mandy Moore from the A Walk to Remember soundtrack popped up first.

It's Gonna Be Love

Hadia stared at the screen, displaying numerous charts and graphs in front of her.  The problems were too vast to solve, but she had to.  The leadership was crumbling, the people were dying, and she was prophesized to hold the answer.

“2500 children were murdered yesterday.  1350 adults were imprisoned for crimes they likely did not commit.   The murderers still run free.  What is the answer?  How do you change the world in one day?”  She slammed her fist on the desk.  “Damnit! I can’t do this.  I need a drink.”

Hadia opened the refrigerator.  Bottled water, soda, beer.  That wouldn’t do.  She needed something stronger.  She grabbed her keys and headed to the car.  Thinking better of it, she signaled a cab.

The bar was dark, lonely drinkers scattered throughout.  No one spoke.  She sat down at the bar and caught the eye of the bartender.  “Rum and coke.”

He poured her drink and slid it to her, looking at her with curiosity.  “What’s a purty girl like you doin’ here in the middle of the day?”

“Trying to save the world.”  She downed her drink.

“Heh, ain’t we all, sugar.”

“Another.”

She picked up her drink and found a corner table to sit at in silence.  Lost in thought, she didn’t see the man approach her table.

“Seat taken?”

She looked up.  He was tall, with black eyes and hair.  He wore a black coat and hat.  Everything about him screamed, “I’m dangerous.”  She knew she should turn him away, but she was drawn to him in a way she couldn’t explain. “No, go ahead.”

He sat and placed his hat on the table.  “Luthando.”

“Hadia.”

“You’re struggling with something.”

“Quite the genius, figuring out that someone in a bar is struggling.”

“No, your struggle isn’t like the others here. Your struggle is critical.”

Hadia looked at Luthando, wondering how he could possibly know that.  “Who are you?”

“Luthando.”

“Not your name. Who are you?”

“It’s not important. What is important is that I know what you are struggling with.  I know how to help you.”

“How do you know?”

“Not important.  Come with me.”

“Why would I follow you?”

“Because you see something in me too.  You know there is something special about me.  You know I can help you.”

“There’s something special, yes, but I’m not sure it’s good. I don’t believe it will help me.”

“I see you’ve made your choice.  Soon, you will change your mind.”  He stood up, placed his hat back on his head, and left the bar.

“What the hell?” Hadia muttered under her breath.  She finished her drink and left.  The sun was much brighter than she recalled.  She signaled a cab and gave her address.  When she arrived home, she saw a dark figure through her window and froze.

“You okay, Miss?” the cab driver asked.

She nodded, paid the man, and walked toward her house, eyes never leaving the figure in her window.  She opened the door slowly and called out, “I know you’re in here. I’m armed. Don’t try anything.”

“You’re not armed. And if you were, your aim would be terrible.”

She recognized the voice.  It was the man from the bar.  “Why are you following me? How do you know where I live?”

“Not important.  Are you ready to let me help you now?”

“No. Absolutely not. I cannot trust you to help when you won’t answer any of my questions.”

“The only question that matters is how to solve this problem, how to save the world.”

Hadia froze.  “Are you? You can’t be.”

“I can, I might be, I am, and I’m not – all at once.”

“What? You’re trying to confuse me. I won’t let you harm me.”

“I would never harm you. I would never harm anyone. That isn’t the answer.”

“Then what is?”

“You must find that for yourself, but I can help you.”

Hadia approached the man, standing at the window.  “And how is that?”

“First, you must trust me.”

“Fine, I trust you.”

“No, you must really trust me.  Show me.  Tell me your problem.”

She rolled her eyes and took a seat at her computer.  “Fine. The world is facing total destruction. The leadership is failing. The people are dying. Those who remain are revolting. The end is near. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

“No, I never want to hear such horrible truths, but it’s what you needed to hear.  What’s the problem?”

“I just told you.”

“No, Hadia, you listed the symptoms.  What is the problem?”

“I don’t know!”

“How can you solve a problem when you don’t know what it is?”

Hadia looked at him, her curiosity growing. “I don’t know.”

“Think, dear; think.”

Hadia sighed. “I need to determine the link between the symptoms. I need to find the common cause.”

“Yes, keep going.”

Hadia stood and began pacing around the room.  “The people revolt out of fear. Fear caused by murders. Murders happen because the leadership doesn’t know how to stop them.”

“Further.”

“The leadership doesn’t know how to stop them because,” she trailed off.  “I have no idea.”

“Go back to the beginning.”

“The beginning?”

“The beginning of the leadership.”

“The leadership came to be because of the wars.  Everyone was fighting, no one even realized the changes.”

“Yes, you’re nearly there now. What caused the wars?”

“Disagreements. Everyone wanted their own way. No one understood the other points of view.”

“More.”

“No one tried to understand the other points of view. Everyone was too self-centered, too selfish, too full of hate.”

“That’s it.”

“The problem is hate?”

“How do you defeat hate?”

“Love. The answer is love.”

“It always is.”

Hadia jumped to hug the man before her, but as she wrapped her arms around him, he disappeared.  She was unsure if he was ever there at all, but now she had her answer.  To solve the problems of the world, she needed to find a way to spread love.

Halloween/Spooky Microfic

I have never written microfic before, but S.E. Sinkhorn over at Maybe Genius is running a microfic contest.  I figure today is as good as any to try something new.  The rules are essentially - write a story in 140 characters about something spooky Halloween-esque and tag it #Hallowfic on twitter.

Here's the full blogpost with the rules in more detail.
http://maybegenius.blogspot.com/2013/10/write-hallowfic-and-win-book.html

And here's my entry:
Lights turn on; a scream. I race inside; turn on the lights. My body, soaked in blood; how did it get here before me? I scream.