You’ll Join Eventually, Anyway

Chuck’s challenge for the week:  SpammerPunk Horror.  In short, mash up the horror genre with spam e-mail.

Here’s a goofy entry.  Inspiration drawn in part from “Re: Your Brains” by Johnathan Coulton.

 

You’ll Join Eventually, Anyway.

 

Congratulations!

You are receiving this message because we have determined that you are Horde material.  We are contacting you in the hopes that you’ll seriously consider joining our ORGANization — one of the fastest-growing in North America, and soon, the world!  Many of your friends are already a part of the movement.  Join now and see what all the buzz is about?  (Flies are only part of it!)

What is the Horde?

It’s a group of like-minded individuals who share similar interests, such as shambling around aimlessly, eating, hunting for food, and losing weight holistically (sometimes even losing entire limbs at once — name a weight-loss program that can boast that).  Members of the horde eat together, walk together, and hunt together, but what we really enjoy doing is recruiting new members to our ever-growing movement.  Sound like fun?  Contact a representative today!

Why should you join?

Because the Horde is inevitable.  Our numbers are growing daily, and the more members we have, the more we grow.  Soon there will be nobody left.  You will be one of us one day anyway — why not get in now and start enjoying the benefits of membership today?

What do you get for joining?

Life eternal, for one thing (as long as your body stays in one piece — or maybe two).  You’ll never need to sleep again once you’re exposed to our patented lifestyle secrets (many of our members report that they have literally stopped aging!).  And you will have a worldwide community to which you will always belong.

Still not convinced?  Here are some member success stories…

I lived alone my whole life.  When the Horde came and got me, I found myself instantly surrounded by friends.  Now I walk with them every day.  -Jim, former introvert

I can remember a time in my life when I was scared to break a nail.  Well, I lost three fingers the other day and most of my foot a week ago, and I didn’t feel a thing.  Thanks, Horde!  -Sally, former secretary

I never thought I’d acquire a taste for human flesh.  Now, I hardly eat anything else.  -Arthur, former vegetarian

What are you waiting for?

Contact one of our representatives today.  You can find us anywhere: we usually roam the streets or cluster in dark basements, looking dusty, sometimes moaning or drooling.  Don’t be alarmed — that’s just the Horde having fun!  If you’re lucky, there may be Horde members outside your door right now, just waiting to accept you into our ranks.

You can’t hold out forever.  There’s only so much food.

 

Do not respond to this e-mail, as zombies have difficulty navigating an inbox.


The Shape of a Story

There’s a shape to writing, and that shape is a pear.

No, I’m kidding.  To be fair, writing does go pear-shaped, almost every day if I’m honest, but rare are the days when it doesn’t turn around and end up feeling productive or enlightening or, at the very least, right to have written, even on the days when the writing is total bollocks.  But to say that writing is pear-shaped is to oversimplify in the worst way.  It’s calling a baby a factory for poop and tears and snot.  It’s calling a puppy a factory for poop and vomit and midnight barking.  It’s calling my car a lumbering bucket of soon-to-be-rusted-and-worthless bolts.

Also, to call writing pear-shaped is to essentially say writing is fruity, and it’s certainly not that.  Fruit can’t shave away at your soul like writing does.  Fruit can’t make you feel impossibly brilliant and numbingly stupid in an instant.  At its best, fruit is delicious but transient.  It doesn’t stay with you.

No, I think writing is not so much a shape as a line.  Specifically, it’s a line describing a downward arc through the depths of the soul and the psyche.  You start high, full of motivation and ambition and giddy thoughts that you’re writing the best thing ever, that the story will be momentous and the characters transcendent and the themes and the symbolism and the echoes of the real world will reverberate through the annals of literature, or, at the very least, score you an interview segment on Conan.  You start at the top.

Then the work begins and you lose steam.  You start to struggle.  You realize that writing is hard.  That it’s incredibly difficult to write believable characters, that making multiple plotlines weave together is as easy as playing Chinese Checkers blindfolded, that the nuts and bolts of your narrative make as much sense as a box of chocolates without the label card.  You bite into this thing and you don’t know if you’re getting coconut or caramel or a goldfingered disgusting cherry.  Then you get halfway through your draft and it gets really hard.  The characters are stupid.  Your idea is stupid.  Your narrative might as well be a bile-soaked hairball for all that you want to try and straighten it out, and the end you imagined makes about as much sense as the Duck-Billed Platypus.  And down, down, down you slide.

But you FINISH.  And you float there for a moment, translucent and gleeful, basking in the fact that you finished this monolith task.  Slew the mammoth.  Ate the five-pound steak.  And then you re-read the thing and you realize it’s even worse than you feared, and DOWN, DOWN, DOWN you slide, all the way to the bottom, where maybe one day you finish the thing, and it’s terrible and crippled and ugly and squealing and you feel like you really should put it out of its misery but you spent so much time on it that maybe you ought to just send it out, and then the bottom really, finally, truly, for realsies, drops the fargo out and you plummet into the all-consuming black hole at the bottom of your self-doubting soul.

No, that’s not right.

Writing is a line, but it doesn’t arc downward.  It curls up, like the pointy ends of Snidely Whiplash’s majestic mustache.  You start at the bottom.  Your idea, ill-formed.  Your characters, half-baked.  Your voice uncertain.  But you pick the ball up and begin to write.  For days, you struggle.  You fight the momentum of non-productiveness and you urge the story forward, bit by agonizing bit.  And then a little miracle happens.  The lights start to come on.  The engine turns on, splutters, then catches.  The story starts to move under its own power, just a little bit.  And this gives you hope.  And you keep writing and the story develops its own momentum and one day you’re writing but it doesn’t feel like you’re writing anymore, you’re just seeing the story unfold and transcribing as it does, like some lunatic translator scribing a lost manuscript into English for the first time.  The dragons you’ve yet to slay don’t seem so large, the sharks don’t seem to have quite so many teeth, and you feel you may actually finish this thing, and that momentum lights in your fledgling little wings and spirits you off the ground.  And you finish the thing, in a heady swirl of accomplishment and drunken confidence and sheer self-amazement that from nothingness you have created SOMEthing, in an act that flies in the face of everything you thought you knew before.

You still have doubts, but you know you’ve accomplished a capital “T” Thing, and then you go back and read it and you realize that for all its problems it’s not that bad.  And that realization buoys you even further up, into the rarefied air that only the astronauts and the gods get to breathe (okay, astronauts don’t breathe the outside air, I get that, I’m on a roll here).  And you begin to refine your creation, to shape and polish and sharpen it into the thing you never knew it could be, and then, finally, giddy with achievement and drunk with confidence, you send it out, and Icarus himself could not fly closer to the sun.

Maybe Icarus is the wrong comparison, or maybe he’s the perfect one.  Both of those lines are true, and both are false.  Writing lifts you up on the crests of the highs and casts you down into the snakepits of the lows, in a wickedly exhausting roller-coaster ride that somehow lasts for months on end.  The point is, it’s a hell of a ride, and you might barf at the end.

This post is part of SoCS.  Somehow I wrote all this without an edit.


Can I Return These?

I tore my sole up in January.  I struggled with plantar fasciitis through spring.  I battled back against my withered fitness during the summer.  Now the fall is here, the runner’s Mecca, and by all accounts I should be back up to speed and racking up the miles and pushing up my distance and reveling in the gorgeous weather that will last a scant month or so.

But my feet are borked again.  I felt a tweak this weekend when I got in some runs in Florida, so for that reason and that reason alone (not at all because the kids were away and I was able to get some entirely uninterrupted and unmolested sleep, nope, not even a little bit because of that) I took several days off.  Yesterday evening it became impossible to put it off any further and I went for a run with the dog, and now it’s official.  They’re borked.  Both feet, no less.  I’ve got pain in my right heel not unlike the precursors to the plantar fasciitis I feel I’m finally recovering from in my left.  My left foot feels like I stepped on a sharp rock, and while my foot was tweaked upward, I hit it with a hammer.

First-world problems, I know. Boo hoo, I can’t run without this nagging pain in my feet.  Problem is, if I can’t run, I’m not going to want to do any exercise, because other exercise is only going to make me mad that I’m not running.  And if I’m not running or exercising, I’m going to start feeling sluggish.  And when I start feeling sluggish, I’m not going to be thinking as clearly for my writing nor motivated to eat any better, and it’s all going to turn into one towering nosedive that ends with my health in the crapper and my mood shattered on the rocks.

The most frustrating thing is, I don’t know what to attribute the injuries to.  On one hand I think it may be all my recent runs in my VFFs, but then I wonder why my left foot improved for so long doing almost all of my runs in them.  On the other hand, I wonder if it’s perhaps the shoes I’m wearing while I’m at school and on my feet for better than half of my workday.  On the third hand, maybe I’m just getting old and my feet are broken.

Seriously.  I’m not yet 35, is it time for parts of my body to start simply breaking down?  I know it’s a reality I’ll have to face sooner or later, but it just doesn’t seem right.  Do they have some sort of guy-in-his-thirties warranty or trade-in program?  Because I’m pretty sure the feet I have are defective.


Whaturday

The edit continues.  Hard to give a status update; it seems like I’m moving more quickly through the book but not actually getting all that much accomplished with it.  I try to deal with the notes I left to myself in the draft, but I feel like I end up only leaving more notes for further future mes to deal with.

That said, occasionally the notes I left to myself back then brighten my day here in the present.  I came across one yesterday that made absolutely not one stonking bit of sense.  “Nope, but good try.”  Stuck in amidst a not particularly compelling bit of dialogue, not referencing anything in particular, certainly not communicating any sort of useful message, it lurks there in the margin, taunting me, daring me to puzzle out what it means and what it’s doing there, like a cat turd on the kitchen countertop.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about the edit how time especially is an issue that vexed me in the draft, and continues to vex me in the edit.  Time is so crucial to the plot of this thing and it is so often referenced that nailing down the times that things start and end, and the times during which things are happening in the background, has become one of my primary giants to slay.  My Past Me’s notes to my Present Self grew more and more frantic from about one-third of the way into the book right up until the end, but today something different happened.  Rather, I found something different which happened several months ago.  The note was actually in the text itself.

Characters are arguing.  Things are happening.  And there, jammed into the story like one discolored brick in a mosaic, is a note to myself lurking with the story itself.

“His agent met him out front with a haggard look on his face: it was, after all, nearly midnight on a Whaturday.”

Not italicized, not asterisk’d or otherwise cordoned off like any self-respecting note; just there, hands on its hips, tongue sticking out, thumbing its nose at me.  With its third hand.  (I don’t know, it’s a word, it doesn’t even have hands.)  At least I remembered to capitalize it.  I can picture my Past Self typing furiously away, realizing I was about to have to remember what day it was supposed to be in this tangle of time and deadlines, then saying, “Fargo it, it’s a Whaturday.”

It cracked me up when I stumbled upon it because I can recall the frustration I was feeling and the complete lack of fargos I gave about trying to sort out the problem at the time.  But I wonder if I didn’t accidentally name a thing that needs naming.  These last few days, with my wife and kids out of town, with the regular punctuation of the day scattered to the winds, one day feels very much like another.  Is it Tuesday?  Thursday?  Monday?  Does it matter?  What day is it?  Whaturday.

This goes doubly for the summer, when as a teacher, I don’t even have a regular work schedule to anchor my time.  The summer becomes one long unbroken string of Whaturdays.

Then I take that last step too far, start really breaking down the word itself, and realize that it’s got the word “turd” right there, unavoidable and undeniable, as turds always are.  And turds are always funny.  Well, the word is.  Turd.  Word.  Wordturd.

God, editing a book is hard.  Please let this Whaturday be over soon.


How do you Write in the Silence?

I hate to harp on a topic, but I’m home alone this week while my wife and kids are still living it up on the beach in Florida.

Well… living it up may not be entirely accurate.  Storms have forced the local authorities to close the beaches, so they can’t do much more than dunk their toes in the water or hang at the pool, but still, they have the lovely view every day, and they have each other, which is a lot more than I have at the moment.  And don’t get me wrong — it’s nice having the house to myself.  It’s quiet.

But it’s also soooooo quiet.

I never thought much about it before, but I always write with a healthy supply of noise in the background.  At work there’s the intermittent shouts of students in hallways or the low drone of teachers in other classrooms, not to mention the constant hum of the air conditioners.  At home there’s the buzz of the kids’ monitors or the sound of the television in the other room, or the click-clack of the pets’ claws on the hardwood, or — even when I write in bed — the softly interminable whooshing of the white noise machine that we can’t sleep without.  There is noise everywhere.

But this week, there’s an astounding lack of noise.  The kids aren’t here, so there are no tantrums, no shouting, no pitter-pattering of feet, no whining.  The wife isn’t here, so there’s nobody to watch TV with or chat about my day.  And to top it off, the weather has been frustratingly gorgeous this week, so the A/C hasn’t had to run.  The silence is shocking, and as I sit in the silence trying to write, I find myself increasingly unable.  It’s almost as if, without those periodic punctuation marks for my concentration, I find myself unable to maintain focus.  Does that make me ADD?  Lonely?  Stir-crazy?

I’ve got the television on now in the other room just to break the monotony, but even that isn’t doing the trick.  This house, normally so full of irritations and distractions and light and life and love is driving me batty with the overpowering lack of movement and noise.  I feel the silence creeping in around me and settling into my soul.

Silence used to be a comfort to me.  It used to be a thing I sought, a thing I chased for all I was worth; perhaps because it was so unattainable.  Now it’s here — all around me — and I’m running from it.

When it's gone, will I even remember it was ever there?

When it’s gone, will I even remember it was ever there?

Anyway, it got me to thinking.  Am I uncomfortable with the silence or am I uncomfortable with what it means: the isolation, the inability to hide from my thoughts?  And it got me further wondering.  Am I the only person writing like this?  I know some out there must write in perfect silence, but then I think there have got to be others on the spectrum like me that simply can’t abide it.

How does the silence affect your writing?


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