BlogBattle: Spaghetti or The Meet-Ugly

Another week, another BlogBattle.

This week, I went for something a bit different than what I usually do.  It’s a bit out there.  I hope that you enjoy it.


The Meet-Ugly

“What’s up, Honey?”

“Why do you want to know how I met your father?”

“No, no, no—it isn’t that.  I didn’t expect that question from you is all.  Lord knows, I never asked my parents.  Never expected you to be any different.”

“No, it’s not some sort of secret. . . .  Actually, it is.”

“Yes, really.”

“Well if you want to pipe down, perhaps I’ll tell you.  And if you promise to keep our secret.  If you don’t, bad things could happen.  Best if you don’t risk that.”

“Does it matter what things?  Bad things.”

“Bad things.”

“No, I will not describe them.  Use your imagination.  You’re sixteen; you can figure it out on your own.”

“Thank you.  Do you still want to know?”

“Ok.  Do you promise to keep the secret?”

“Good.  Now, in all of your English classes, have they every discussed something called a meet-cute?”

“No?  Well, that ruins my plan.”

“It’s ok.  It’s not your fault.”

“What’s a meet-cute?  Um. . . . I’m not sure that I can explain it right.  Let me look it up.  Meet-Cute:  Usually used in film or television—basically the visual arts, Honey—when a future romantic couple meet in a way that is considered cute, adorable, or funny.

“Does that make sense?”

“Good.”

“It doesn’t really relate.  At least, not directly.  I was going to say that your father and I met through a meet-ugly.  It was a bad joke.”

“A meet-ugly?  Think about it. . . .  The opposite of a meet-cute.  Our first meeting wasn’t what I’d call cute.”

“Well, it went like this:

“We were in Chicago.  Actually, I was in Chicago.  Your father was as well, I just didn’t know it at the time.  I’d stopped for a light while I was traveling to a concert.  Imagine it.  The small town girl in the middle downtown Chicago.  Buildings higher than I’d ever seen to either side of me and that wide blue expanse of Lake Michigan right in front of me.  It was marvelous.  I couldn’t stop staring—at the people, at the buildings, at the décor.  Everything about me was new and exotic.  You’ve been to your grandparent’s farm.  There isn’t more than fifty people within ten miles.  Chicago was a culture shock.

“Regardless, there I was, sitting a light—this was back before automatic locks, mind.  I was sitting at this light watching the cars go by.  The light turned green, but before I could put my foot on the gas, my passenger door whips open and this man climbs in.  He’s well dressed in a suit and a tie and carrying a stack of papers in his left arm.  Unfortunately, in his right he clutched a pistol pointed right at me.

“You know that I’m no stranger around guns, but having one pointed at your middle changes the whole game plan.  I froze in fear.  My mouth went dry and my eyes were glued on that pistol.  All I could think was ‘Please, please, don’t let him shoot.’  It felt like hours passed to me, but probably not even two seconds went by in reality.  A car honking behind me caused me to look up at my intruder’s face.

“I’ll never forget that face.  Chiseled chin, strong eyes, and dark hair that I just wanted to run my hands through.”

“What?  Was that inappropriate?”

“Do you think I was unaware of the gun?  It was a primal emotion, thank you very much.  Anyway, the car behind me honked and I looked up at him.  And your father’s first words to me were ‘Drive fast.’  I’ll never forget them.”

“Yes, that was your father.”

“Are you going to let me tell you the story?”

“Good.  So he told me to drive.  I drove.  He told me to drive faster.  I drove faster.  Police started chasing us.  There were car crashes and even a few helicopters.  When we’d left the police behind, I wanted to slow down, but your father urged me to go faster.  Despite the gun, I started to argue.  This wasn’t some fancy car I was driving.  It was your grandmother’s beat-up Cadillac and not made for high speed.

“But when I put my foot on the brake two things happened.  First, you father yelled at me for the first time.  I yelled back and we had our first argument.  That was when a bullet tore through the back window and embedded itself into the dash.  Apparently what I didn’t know was that I’d stopped outside of the Russian Embassy—“

“Yes, I said Russian.  Anyway, some Russian agents were after your father because he’d stolen some sort of document that discussed their plans for world domination or something.  I never found out.  I tried reading them later, but your father distracted me with a kiss.  And oh, what a kiss that—“

“Yes?”

“Am I joking?  Why would I joke about something like that?”

“Of course, I’m joking.  Are you serious?  Your father a secret agent?  Ha!  You know he’s afraid of spiders.  Can you imagine him dealing with police and spies.  No, that’s not your father.

“So how’d I meet him?  He and some of his college buddies visited the restaurant where I worked.  My first sight of your father was him inhaling spaghetti through his nose for some party trick.  His friends thought it was hilarious.  I found it disgusting.”

Reworked

Earlier I posted a scene for Rachael’s BlogBattle: Rage that will seem very familiar to those who read on.  Truth be told, that wasn’t my first attempt at writing the scene, but rather my second.  The things was—it wasn’t working for me.  I struggled and struggled with it.  Then I realized that I just needed to change to point of view. It worked a lot better and what you got fit well for Rachael’s BlogBattle.

But I didn’t want the whole scene to go to waste.  Therefore I will give it to you here, warts and all.  I hope that you enjoy it.


The hermit crouched by the meager excuse for a fire, a branch of skewered grubs held over the feeble flames.  Ragged brown hair streaked with grey sat like a disheveled rats nest on the top of his head, while strings of it hung well past his shoulders.  Rubbing a large nose with a grimey finger, he scratched aimlessly through a shirt of rabbits that hadn’t been as fast as him.

“Yes, yes, yes,” he mumbled, “yummy flippy plops.”

He sat in a clearing about ten feet across and surrounded by trees much older than him.  They created shadows as the sky moved from evening to dusk.  Bushes of varying types filled the gaps between the trees, creating almost a solid wall of brush which protected him from those things he didn’t want to face.  Their green leaves reflected the small light thrown by the flames, making the small space seem brighter than it actually was.  The illusion only failed when the hermit glanced behind him.  In that dark space, even darker things lived.  It was best to keep an eye on it as often as possible.

A few grubs struggled vainly to escape the heat, but most had already died from either the impaling or the heat, if not both.  With a sudden snap, a brown carapace popped open, the insides flinging about.  Thick fingers, nimble contrary to their appearance, reached out and snagged the grub and popped it into the hermit’s mouth.

“Plop crunch nimble curls.”

Suddenly, he stopped mumbling and grew as still as a deer smelling the mountain lion downwind.  In the distance, a crunching sound could be heard.  Whoever it was, whatever it was, didn’t care in the least about the amount of noise it made.  It was the crash of trees falling in a high storm and the fall of rocks down the mountainside all rolled into one.  As the noise grew closer, the hermit froze.  Was it one of the Dark Ones?  One of their minions?  Should he have build the fire higher?  No, no.  That would have served only to draw them to him.  He wanted to avoid that.

Dropping his stick into the fire, careless of his lost dinner, he scrambled backward away from the oncoming rush.  He didn’t want to stay here, but he couldn’t leave.  Fear froze his feet, as if that flimsy wall of brush were made from rock rather than plants.  Back pressed against the largest tree he could find, he watched with wide eyes, fearing what would come.  Maybe, maybe if he needed, he could climb this tree.  Yes, that might help.  He felt his pulse slow absently as he stroked the bark.  He could climb, except—  Looking up, he could see the nearest branches were well out of his reach, even if he stood up from his crouch.  Nope, that was no good.  He was a goner; dead for sure.

Just as the crashing and crunching reached a fevered pitch, a man dressed in a red wool jacket and white pants stumbled out of the brush.  He was no more than a youth, in the hermit’s eyes at least.  No more than twenty, twenty five at most.  Firelight glinted off the metal he wore.  The buckles and decorative pieces all glowed with a bronze color only intensified by the firelight.  It seemed like he should be wearing a cap of some sort, but nothing covered his head but short cut hair that appeared black in the dim light.  Despite being weaponless, even his belt knife was gone, the hermit huddled closer to the tree.

“A damn recluse,” the soldier mumbled through clenched teeth, doubtless not intending on being heard.  He spoke again, this time raising his left hand toward the hermit.  “Peace, good man.  I mean you no harm.”  Grimacing, he paused before continuing as his right hand and arm clutched his side.  “I saw your fire and I hoped for. . . I had hoped for some help.  You wouldn’t know anything about. . . No, I suppose you probably wouldn’t.  Nevermind.”

His hand dropped and he approached the fire.  “Pittiful little thing isn’t it?  Could use a bit of care.”  He kicked the reminants of the stick which had held the hermit’s dinner into the flames, uncaring for what he destroyed.  That had been a good stick.  A solid stick.  It would take time to find another one like it.

Turning around, the soldier surveyed the brush and woods around him.  Limping, he approached one bush, then another, gathering tinder and placing it in a pile close enough to the fire to be easily reached, but far enough away that it wouldn’t catch itself.  That was followed by larger and larger sticks of wood, until he had a tidy pile resting in the clearing.  All the while, the hermit clutched at his tree, only his eyes moving and preparing to run if this stranger grew too close.  Truth be told, he had wanted to run long ago, but it was as if the Dark Ones held his feet.  They didn’t want to respond and so he stood there.  If he was fated to die there, then so be it, but he didn’t want to just let it happen.  He wanted to fight back, to at least pay back his attacker with his own pain.

But the soldier never neared the hermit, instead going out of his way to keep his distance, even though a quicker path would have brought him within arm’s reach.  He seemed to pick up on the hermit’s wariness and didn’t want to send the man running.  That, on one hand, was a relief to the hermit.  But on the other, should the stranger really wish harm on him that was one way to cause his guard to drop.  The Dark Ones were devious in their ways.  He would not be taken by surprise.  Still, the company was a bit nice.  It had been months since he’d seen anyone else.  Years since someone had spoken to him, and that had only been yells accompanied by thrown stones which had caused him to flee the flatland forests he preferred for the mountains.

Only now, years later, he had started to venture down again.  This is what came of wanting the trees and the green things.  He should have stayed safe, no matter the barren mountainsides.  There he had to worry about less than here.  The hermit’s mind rattled on, barely making sense to himself.  Still, there was a familiarity about the madness, as if he could just push through.

With a grunt, the soldier sat on the ground between the pile of wood and the flames.  It was more of a controlled fall than actively sitting.  His right arm never left his side and, as he connected with the ground, he toppled over on his right side.  He pushed himself back up with his left arm and started feeding the twigs into the fire.

“That was unpleasant,” he said through clenched teeth.  Once he had piled a significant amount of the tinder in the shape of a triangle on the fire and the wood started to catch, he heaved a deep sigh.  “Come, Friend, sit.”  He gestured to the spot on the other side of the flames that the hermit had originally crouched.  “Call me Isim.”

It was only then, in the growing firelight, that the hermit saw why the soldier’s arm was pressed steadfastly against his side.  The darkness and the color of his jacket had hidden the wound until now.    He’d originally thought that it was because of a cracked rib or a broken limb.  Instead, thanks to the growing firelight, he could see the blood as it flowed freely through the soldier’s fingers that were clamped to his side.  There wasn’t much longer that any man could survive with that wound, not with the blood flowing like some sort of fountain.

Crouching low, the hermit waddled over toward the fire.  Death wasn’t something to take lightly, but even his addled mind saw that this man deserved better.

Blog Battle: Rage

Rage against the dying of the light.

No, I’m not nearly as talented as Dylan Thomas, but somehow it seemed to apply.  But don’t worry, this story isn’t sappy. Rachael’s #BlogBattles probably wouldn’t appreciate me being sappy.

What I have for you is another excerpt from my current work in progress.  Different character than last time, so I hope that you enjoy.


Pain.

That was Isam’s entire world.  It radiated from his side where the spear—who carried spears anymore—had pierced his side. Alright, it hadn’t been much of a spear, more of a sharpened stick.   But it’d done its job well enough.  More than well enough, Isam thought grimly.  He could still feel bits of dirt and bark and leaves inside the wound.

Hand clutching his side, Isam pressed forward through the darkening woods.  There was no path for him to follow.  Instead, he pushed through brush and shrubbery, creating a racket that rivaled an avalanche.  More than once Isam fell down a ravine, each time a little slower to climb back to the top.  He felt sure that something would be after him soon enough from the blood he’d spilt.  It covered the trees from his hands, the leaves from when he fell, and unknown other places.  He’d not exactly been careful.

If he’d only been able to find his company again.  All he’d done was slip out to relieve himself.  Rage filled Isam as he slid to the ground next to a tree cut in half by a lightning strike.  It wasn’t his fault.  Sure, he slipped away, but no one asked the file leader for permission to piss.  You did and he made sure not to let you until you damn near let lose in your pants.  It was an unspoken rule.  And what’d he get for his troubles?  A bloody stick between his ribs.

Rage slid away just as fast as it had appeared.  He was going die out here.  Alone and in the cold.  Probably eaten by some animal.  There were scavengers in the woods.  Or worse.  Scavengers were the least of his problems this close to the mountains.  Rumors spoke of dire wolves and mountain cats almost as large.  In the mountains to the north, some even claimed proof of birds as big as horses.  One of those monsters would be the end of him, not some wound in his side.  He’d lost his musket in one of his falls, its bayonet in another.  With nothing to defend himself with, he’d die watching bloody beaks and muzzles closing on his throat.  Tears started to drip from Isam’s eyes.

No.  No, he wouldn’t cry.  He tried to force them away, but they still came.  Tears blurred his vision and made the already dark sky dimmer.  It wasn’t fair.  Despair crept up on him and Isam embrased it.  Had he a weapon then, he’d have used it on himself, not on some animal.  No point in defending a dead man.

Struggling to his feet, Isam leaned on a tree and started forward again.  He didn’t have any idea whether he was heading in the right direction or not, but it made little difference.  There were cliffs and chasims about this place.  He’d throw himself down one, head first, and pray that he broke his neck on landing.  A quick death beat this agonizing one.  The wound in his side throbbed in counterpoint to his thoughts, as if to show him that he was alive and that there was no reason to give up yet.  But he’d seen this wound before on comrades and officers.  It was a death knell unless he got help right away.  And right away was long gone, leaving only death for himself.

That’s when he saw it, right when he was at his lowest and with tears flowing freely down his face.  A point of brightness in the distance.  It wasn’t natural.  Isam stared at it for a while, trying to force it into making sense to his fog-addled mind.  Raising a torn jacket sleeve to his eyes, he wiped away tears and dirt.  It wasn’t natural.  That meant—

Isam pushed forward with new effort, running with reckless abandon through the woods, moving as fast as he could with one hand pressed against his side trying to keep this fleeting life inside his body.  Hope swelled in his chest.  More than once, Isam fell, but was quickly back up on his feet.  His head throbbed and the sound of his heart beat in his ears, almost drowning out all of his crashing and crunching as his boots trampled bushes, shrubs, and fallen leaves.  Dry sticks cracked under his weight, throwing him off balance occasionally.  But recovering was easy, only that light filling his mind.  He was saved.

Hope drained away much as the rage had when he burst through into the clearing that held his salvation.  Instead of the medics or civilized men he’d expected, he found a single man crouched in ragged hareskin clothes against a tree on the far side of the fire.  It was a small clearing, with only ten feet or so separating him from the—what was he?  The man was covered in dirt and his hair looked like a bird’s nest on top of his skull.  Wild and fearful eyes stared out of a gaunt face.  Only a shaven chin reminded Isam of anything civilized. This was a wild man, or at best a hermit.  There was no help here.  At least he wouldn’t die alone.  Even if this fellow slit his throat for his clothes, he’d not be alone.  Soon Isam wouldn’t need the uniform anyway.

“ A recluse,” Isam muttered under his breath.  He raised his left hand in a placating gesture.  Or in what he thought was a placating gesture.  His mind was fuzzy.  By The Lords, his side hurt.  “Peace, good man.  I mean you no harm.”

Another spasm of pain shot through everything and it was all he could do not to double over.  “I saw your fire and hoped for . . . . I had hoped for some help.  You wouldn’t know anything about—No, never mind, you probably don’t.”

Isam crouched by the fire.  It was small and weak and looked much like he felt.  With the smallest gust, both would be gone.  But no, not quite yet.  Not while there had been some fight left in him.  Though, a tiny voice in his head whispered , you should be dead already.

 Then why wasn’t he?  It felt odd somehow, as he turned the thought over.  There had seemed like a hand pushing him.  He should be dead, but instead he stood here, albeit weakly, before a stranger and his campfire.  Had life one last trick to play on him?  Or was this just for The Crimson Lord’s amusement?  Either way, right now, he’d take it.

Reader Problems- I guess I’m it.

I got tagged.

In case you were wondering, it doesn’t happen very often.  Unless we are talking back when I was in grade school and playing the actual game of tag.  Then it happened all the time.  I hated that game.  The fat kid doesn’t like to be it.

But I digress.  I was tagged by Rachael Ritchey in a blog hop focusing on the problems I face being a reader, a writer, full-time human, and a part-time adult.  Turns out, my answers are a bit different than hers.  Perhaps you agree with me—perhaps not—but either way, I’d love to hear everyone else’s views on this.  It’s quite interesting to see how each of us face similar problems.


Q: You have 20,000 books on your TBR (to be read). How in the world do you decide what to read next?

To be completely honest, I go downstairs and watch TV.  K (my wife) is always has something on, usually in the middle of one run or another of some television show.  If I can’t decide, I let my mind go numb for a bit.  By the time, it starts back up, I usually have an idea of what I’m interested in.

And if that fails, I just grab a book a go.  Hopefully I make it more than a few pages before I fall asleep.

It takes me a long time to read a book anymore.

Q: You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or commit?

If I’m halfway through a book, then I’ve already committed.

There are too many things in this world to read and do to prolong things you just don’t enjoy.  That seems to hold doubly so with reading anything.  You’ve got three—maybe four—chapters tops to hook me.  By that time, I should see plot, characterization, or something that I find promising.  If I do, I continue.  If I don’t, then I move on.

However, this is just a rule of thumb.  It doesn’t always hold true.  I have pushed through a book I’ve hated for many different reasons, but generally, that’s how I feel.

Q: The end of the year is coming and you’re so close yet so far away on your GoodReads challenge. Do you quit or commit?

What’s GoodReads?

Q: The covers of a series you love DO. NOT. MATCH. How do you cope?

It’s like pokemon.  GOT TO BUY THEM ALL!!!!  I do that with several series.  The covers must match.  Unless one is something special (1st edition, signed, etc), THEN I BUT TWO!!!!

Q: Everyone and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?

Those people who only saw the movie and hated it.  You can find a kindred spirit somewhere.

Q: You’re reading a book and you’re about start crying in public. How do you deal?

Giant baby so…… Usually hide my tears in my wife’s shirt.

Q: A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a summary on GoodReads? Cry in frustration?

Re-read.  All of it.  It doesn’t matter how long the series is or how long it will take me.  This often includes me scheduling out time to finish that series over several months.  But when the latest book comes out….I take vacation time off from work, say goodbye to friends and family, and stock up on non-perishable foods and toilet paper.  You wont see me until it’s done.

Q: You don’t want ANYONE borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people “nope” when they ask?

I’m able to say “no”?  Why didn’t anyone tell me this?!?!?!?

Q: You’ve picked up and put down five different books in the past month. How do you get over the reading slump?

I have certain safety nets I fall back on when I’m in a slump.  Series I’ve read over and over again and can practically recite like some people can Star Wars or Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries.

And of course, Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos.  Couldn’t live without Vlad and Loiosh.  When I’m sick of them, it’s time to try something new.

Q: There are so many new books coming out that you are dying to read! How many do you actually buy?

Are they in audiobook format?

This isn’t a joke.  During this post, I’m trying to use reading as in the specific physical act, but if you broaden it to accept such things as audiobooks, then my yearly reading quota jumps significantly.  I constantly have in my headphones and am listening to this novel or that.  Simply put, I’m more likely to buy something if it comes in an audio format.

But actually buying physical books?  That is much rarer, mostly because places like Barnes and Noble suck for finding book one of any series that isn’t Wheel of Time, Shannara, or Game of Thrones.  I don’t have the patience to wait for it to be delivered.  Most of the time, I’ll just see if there is an audio and go from there.  If I love it, then I might buy the physical books.

Q: After you’ve bought a new book you want to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf until you actually read them?

Depends on the book, why I bought it, and mostly if I’ve forgotten about it.  Some books wait years, but some take less than a month.  I think the shortest wait for a book that actually hit my bookshelf has ever lasted has been two days—Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber.

On the flip side, there are some book that are still waiting to be touched.

And then there are some that are still waiting because I’ve bought the audiobook.


What’s everyone else do?  Super curious.

Also, from what I understand, I’m to tag someone else in this.  Not that I have many people to tag.  Alas, most of my contact is through twitter and Rachael’s #BlogBattles.  I’ve met some great people there.  So BlondewritemoreDarren Scanlon, and Phoenix Grey…..

You’re up!

Writing advice Pt. 1

Today I want to give you all some writing advice.

1) Drink while you write:  Think of it this way: Alcohol is to adults what sugar is to kids.  If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, think of what a spoonful of whiskey would do.  Or a shot.  Or two.  It helps the words go down on paper.

2) Drink while you write:  Alcohol lowers inhibitions. Anyone whose drunk dialed (raises hand), tried to make out with your pillow (Raises hand), or slept on the living room floor because the bed was too far away (Raises hand.) knows this to be true.  Writing is about being honest with how you see the world.  Fake is spotted a mile away.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  By drinking, we lower our inhibitions and are less likely to be polite and instead will tell it exactly how we see it.

3) Drink while you write:  Studies have shown that alcohol has been proven to increase focus.  No joke.  That may seem at odds with the last post on the surface.  Focus and lowering inhibitions don’t seem to go hand in hand.  So just take it at surface value.  I do.  License to drink.  Moving forward.

4) Read often and read widely:  And you know what goes well with your latest novel?  Beer.

5) Write constantly: In order to write, you must drink.  See above.

6) Make what you want to say make sense:  Alcohol seems to help break down language barriers.  Trust me, I know this.  I’m fluent in Klingon whenever I have a few rum and cokes.

Follow this advice and you’ll be a great writer in no time!  Now, if you’ll pardon me, I need another glass of water.