The Journal, Tuesday, 1/31

Hey Folks,

Yay! The last day of Janumary! Beginning tomorrow, the Total Fiction Words for the Year will actually be larger than the Total Fiction Words for the Month! Fingers crossed. (grin)

It’s like sending up a rocket and watching as the booster falls away. Now I’m hoping for huge ignition on Stage 2. (grin) I have the daily word count goal in place to help me achieve it, and I have a great cast of characters in the current WIP. This is what we used to call All Aroun’ Cool Beans.

Thanks for the emails re my post from a couple days ago. Not a big deal really. I was just letting everyone know why I won’t be making reference to Kris Rusch’s stuff anymore. Probably I should have just stopped referencing her without mentioning it.

I spent a rough night under the weather last night. I’m a tad irritable this morning, so I will avoid human contact whenever possible.

Within minutes of rising, actually, I considered making this a nonwriting day, but I’m just not gonna do that. Irritability feeds stubbornness, don’tcha know.

So I’ll hunt and peck my way through the novel today as I can, and when the dust clears we’ll have what we have. And tomorrow, Thank God, begins a new month full of possibilities.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out a few minutes after 3. Very slow, sluggish start this morning but that’s all right.

Came here, wrote about a b’jillion nonfiction words, decided to delete them. Suffice it to say it was all about appearances. But I don’t do anything myself for the sake of appearances, so I see no reason to give even adverse publicity to those who do.

Enjoyed a cigar, read some newsletters and Facebook stuff, checked Dean’s site.

Finally, around 8:15, opening the WIP to play with my friends.

Wrote off and on with two good hour-long sessions and several bits here and there. I’ll take it.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

There are some really good comments on Dean’s post from yesterday at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/the-fear-of-a-real-paycheck/#comments.

And he just keeps on comin’ with another excellent, must-read post: See Official Approval Fear at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/official-approval-fear/.

Is this guy a great resource, or what?

Fiction Words: 3373
Nonfiction Words: 370 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 3743

Writing of Will Perkins (novel, working title)

Day 1…… 4219 words. Total words to date…… 4219
Day 2…… 4003 words. Total words to date…… 8222
Day 3…… 3383 words. Total words to date…… 11605
Day 4…… 3124 words. Total words to date…… 14729
Day 5…… 3373 words. Total words to date…… 18102

Total fiction words for the month……… 92610
Total fiction words for the year………… 92610
Total nonfiction words for the month… 19690
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 19690

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 112300

Restarting After a Layoff

Hi Folks,

Sometimes we begin a new project with the best of intentions and then we set it aside for one reason or another. Maybe a life event rears its ugly head (death in the family or some other unforeseen event). Or maybe, in the case of my own recent restart, another story intervenes.

As I noted below, I started The Marshal of Agua Perlado (the sequel to the Wes Crowley trilogy I originally wrote) back on March 9 (2015).

I wrote steadily for a blazing two days before something interrupted me. That something was the writing of the first prequel, The Rise of a Warrior. Frankly, because they were separated chronologically by about twenty-five years, I thought I could write both novels at the same time.

Some writers can do that, maybe. I found out I couldn’t.

Long story short, the prequel won out.

I wrote on the sequel for four more days in a row, then skipped a week (while writing the prequel) and wrote two days in a row before the sequel drifted off to Back Burner Land.

There it remained until yesterday.

A few days ago I finished the prequel. There is at least one more prequel I want to write for this story, but the sequel, this time, took precedence. I have a feeling this thing is gonna blaze right along to the end. I’m having a ton of fun writing it, and that’s what it’s all about.

So how do you jump back in and restart after a layoff?

I suggest you follow these three steps, which I first learned from Dean Smith. But they are more common sense than some deep wisdom:

  • Read back over what you’ve already written. Remember, your skills might have improved since you last worked on the project. You might read from the beginning (I did with The Marshal of Agua Perlado) or you might read only the last full scene you wrote.
  • As you read back over it, allow yourself to touch it, adding and deleting here and there. You can call this a rewrite or whatever, though it really isn’t since it’s done in the subconscious, creative mind. You shouldn’t be counting the number of times you use “that,” for example, or how many times you use a particular sentence structure. This is only to get you back into the flow of the story.
  • When you get back to the present in the novel, write the next sentence.

I know, that sounds simple, and it is, but it works. Write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, then write the next sentence.

You’ll be amazed how fast you will finish writing the story.

Happy writing,

Harvey

The Journal, Monday, 1/30

Hey Folks,

Almost. The month is almost over. Yay. I’m tired of seeing the number in Total for the Year matching Total for the Month. It’s like nothing’s moving.

Today begins the GED course of instruction for my grandson. The plan is to write this morning, then begin his schooling later today.

Well, during a brief break I looked over the GED course materials. There’s not a lot for me to do at first beyond basic supervision. There’s a lot of reading. So I need to be more available. But I also need to continue to pursue my own goals.

To that end, I decided to move my writing ‘puter up to the house for the foreseeable future. The transfer will enable me to be available to my grandson while also continuing to get my own writing done with as little change in my routine as possible. (Same keyboard, etc.)

I can’t be sure how much the writing might suffer, but at least this situation makes hitting my goals more of a moving target. So more fun. (grin)

Today, and Writing

Rolled out a little after 2 after a very short night. Spent awhile waking up, then to the Hovel about 2:40.

Then I spent close to an hour trying to identify and silence a mouse whose sole purpose in life seemed to be scratching on the loudest box he could find.

I finally found and moved the plastic chest full of small drawers (I keep carving slabs of rock in them) that he was scratching on, then shooed him away. Peaceful now just before 4, finally, so to the novel.

I took a brief break around 6 and the GED stuff in the Intro occurred. Initially I went back to the Hovel to write. But with the GED situation on my mind, little progress there.

I moved my writing ‘puter to my home office at 7, then came here to write all this, then take care of some other things.

8:30, back to the novel

Well, going the wrong way on my word count goal but I actually got more done today than I expected to with the new goings-on, so I’ll take it. I suspect it’ll take awhile to work into this new schedule.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

See Dean’s The Fear of a Real Paycheck at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/the-fear-of-a-real-paycheck/.

Fiction Words: 3124
Nonfiction Words: 390 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 3514

Writing of Will Perkins (novel, working title)

Day 1…… 4219 words. Total words to date…… 4219
Day 2…… 4003 words. Total words to date…… 8222
Day 3…… 3383 words. Total words to date…… 11605
Day 4…… 3124 words. Total words to date…… 14729

Total fiction words for the month……… 89237
Total fiction words for the year………… 89237
Total nonfiction words for the month… 19320
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 19320

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 108557

The Journal, Sunday, 1/29

Hey Folks,

Well, Sunday. Sunday mornin’ comin’ down. And I got a late start, thanks to waking up with mind twisted up and wrapped around a ball of crap.

The “Today and Writing” segment is still below, but I won’t belabor you with an hourly accounting today. Or probably any day in the future unless something important happens that I think might be of interest.

Just know that I’m now firmly trained to write while I’m in the chair and to take a break roughly every hour. And I recommend both.

Topic: In My World (somewhat political)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch posted something political on Facebook yesterday. That plus some supplicant’s comment on her post hit me so hard that it actually visited me in a dream last night.

If I were a lesser person, I suppose I would say I was assaulted during my somnolent phase with a micro-aggression. Or was it macro? Anyway, it bothered me so much that I woke up with this crap on my mind.

Of course, I take full responsibility. I had checked Get Notifications on Kris’ FB page, mostly so I could see when new stories or new Business Musings blogs popped up, partly for myself and partly so I could pass them on to others, including you.

I truly admire Kris’ writing ability, I’m happy for her that she’s made a b’jillion dollars doing what she loves, and I only wish I had even a little of her business sense.

But my admiration for her talents no longer outweighs what I personally see as her one-sided, myopic view of the world. So I can’t follow her anymore. It’s too much like risking walking into an ambush. And I won’t promote her or her work anymore.

You all know her website or can find it easily enough, and you can befriend her on Facebook or whatever if you haven’t already. I even recommend it if you can stand it or if you sympathize with her point of view. But I can’t and I don’t.

Many years ago, I wrote in some longer writing that “The one thing I cannot tolerate is intolerance.” Honestly, at the time, it was probably a tongue-in-cheek play on words. But the fact is, it’s true.

In my world, everything goes to intent. If your intention is to twist and mislead, stay away from me. Please. Likewise if you’re ignorant of facts, intentionally or otherwise.

Politically, I’m a conservative. In my world, that means I am the most tolerant of people. That’s born of my habit of checking character by comparing words to actions.

I DON’T CARE what color you are or your nationality or your religion. I don’t care about your gender, your lifestyle or your sexual preference.

Nor do I care either way about your political leanings, geo- or otherwise. I don’t care how you feel about global warming. I don’t care whether you agree with me or disagree with me on anything. And I mean AN-NEE-THING. But have enough respect to disagree with what I actually say, not what maybe your perception hears.

Furthermore, you have the right to “self-identify” in any way you wish. You can self-identify as a male with a vagina, a female with a penis, or a Coke bottle cap with a serrated edge for all I care.

Seriously, I flat don’t care about any of that. If I were running a business and you were my employee, I would care only that you show up on time and do your job. Period.

Personally, I would much prefer that all human adults also take responsibility for themselves and their own actions. But really, I don’t even care about that. ‘Cause in my world, that’s where I’m going to place responsibility, firmly.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 3 and promptly wasted three-plus hours dealing with political crap, writing and rewriting stuff (intent, remember?) that ended up being the topic above. Ironically, most of the crap was intolerance, primarily from people who preach tolerance. Sigh.

7:10, finally to the novel.

Well, several small breaks and then a long one around lunch time and a trip to dinner and the grocery with my wife. Now my belly’s full so I don’t wanna play anymore for awhile. (grin)

Calling it early at 3 with a little less than my desired word count.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

I recommend checking the few comments on Questions and Lecture Announcements at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/questions-and-lecture-announcement/#comments.

And then, of course, Some Fun Stuff at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/some-fun-stuff/.

Fiction Words: 3383
Nonfiction Words: 730 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4113

Writing of Will Perkins (novel, working title… I think this is going to end up being called The 13 Month Turn, but no relation to The Three Year Turn)

Day 1…… 4219 words. Total words to date…… 4219
Day 2…… 4003 words. Total words to date…… 8222
Day 3…… 3383 words. Total words to date…… 11605

Total fiction words for the month……… 86113
Total fiction words for the year………… 86113
Total nonfiction words for the month… 18930
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 18930

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 105043

The Journal, Saturday, 1/28

Hey Folks,

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 2:30 again, but the kitten let me sleep uninterrupted. Apparently she didn’t feel the need to knead on my bicep to soften it up before she lay down. (grin)

Normal early routine, then out to the Hovel by 3. I had Internet from the house (weird, but good). I remembered I hadn’t sent the new story to a new donor so I did that, then updated the Short Fiction page on my website to include the new short story.

All of that took an hour. But I have coffee and cigars, so I just stood up and stretched a bit, then visited Dean’s site to read comments. That took awhile. Up to the house to let the pets out.

Finally to the novel at 5:20, and up to the house around 6:30 for a visit and more coffee. Only several hundred words in the first session today.

At almost 5000 words in (total), I finally did some world-building. For that I make notes on a Notepad document. I also caught up with my reverse outline on the same document. I should have done that yesterday.

The rest of today I’ll work back and forth between the notes and the novel. Of course, as the novel progresses I’ll need to make fewer notes.

Over the next few hours, a couple of breaks to change clothes and swap coffee for tea. It’s 9:15 now and I’m back to the novel.

At 10:30, a break.

Well, that turned into a long one. I ate lunch and helped my wife at the house a bit. Now, at 12:20 back to the novel.

1:30, made my word count for the day and it’s Saturday, so going to take the rest of the day.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

Twenty great comments on Dean’s “More Questions” from yesterday at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/more-questions/#comments. Love the “plan not play” analogy. There’s also a question in one comment that illustrates the person hasn’t been around Dean’s site very long. Or mine at all. (grin) See if you can find it. Finally, if any of you have questions re anything you see in these responses, and if you don’t want to write Dean or comment for some reason, feel free to email me.

Then check his “Questions and Lecture Announcement” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/questions-and-lecture-announcement/. His lectures are excellent, by the way. I’ve listened to several. Questions on any of them, feel free to ask.

Fiction Words: 4003
Nonfiction Words: 420(Journal)
So total words for the day: 4423

Writing of Will Perkins (novel, working title)

Day 1…… 4219 words. Total words to date…… 4219
Day 2…… 4003 words. Total words to date…… 8222

Total fiction words for the month……… 82730
Total fiction words for the year………… 82730
Total nonfiction words for the month… 18200
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 18200

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 100930

The Journal, Friday, 1/27

Hey Folks,

After yesterday’s sob session, a few very nice people sent me story ideas. 🙂 Thank you. I really appreciate it, but frankly I wouldn’t know what to do with any of them.

That doesn’t mean they weren’t good ideas, only that they didn’t grab me in particular. But again, thanks so much for taking the time to send them. That means a lot to me.

Regarding some of the comments on Deans’ stuff, maybe it’s just me, but if you spend a lot of time thinking about how to NOT make something special, isn’t that just another way of making it special? Yawn. Stretch. And maybe another way for the conscious mind to consume your writing time? Just sayin’.

Topic: An Homage to Jack Williamson

I’ve mentioned Jack before. I was fortunate enough to get to study fiction writing under him for one semester when he was a professor emeritus at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

For that semester, I wrote a story called “Proportional Space.” He gave me a C+, and I suspect he was being kind. Across the top left of the first page of the story, in red ink, he scrawled, “This is not science fiction — but it’s pretty good science fantasy.”

See, Jack was a stickler. Science fiction had to adhere to the known rules of physics. As for the story, many years later it evolved into the novel Terminus Loop.

Jack began writing science fiction before the term was born. He was 17 when his first story was published in a pulp magazine. I especially recommend The Humanoid (1947) and With Folded Hands (1949).

Jack turned out about 120,000 words — two novels — per year, many of them for the major SF publisher TOR. That isn’t a particularly spectacular word count, until you realize he did that for over 60 years straight.

I was in Jack’s modest home in Portales NM one day in 1995 for an end of semester party. He showed me and the other students into his study, where he wrote.

There was a computer on his desk alongside an old Royal typewriter. He never cared for the IBM Selectric. But what was truly remarkable were the walls.

There were no windows. Every wall was covered (save the door) from floor to ceiling with bookshelves, and each was only about a foot and a half apart. And they were squeezed full. Of his own books.

But there was only one copy of each book. In each language in which it had been published.

When he passed away on November 10, 2006 at age 94, he had published one novel that year and was almost finished with his second.

But what’s amazing about Jack, to me, was his mind. From that mind came terms like “prime directive,” “android,” “humanoid,” terraforming” and several others. Have you ever tried to make up a completely new new word? It isn’t easy.

A few years later, when I was editing and publishing a magazine called The Roswell Literary Review, Jack graciously sent me a copy of People Machines. It was a paperback book that contained “With Folded Hands” as well as several other of his stories.

Each story was accompanied by an essay explaining a technique of writing that was illustrated in that story. And you might wonder, did I run reprints of the essays in my little magazine? Oh yes. Oh my yes. You can get a copyof People Machines for as little as 19 cents on Amazon. Unbelievable. To me, it’s priceless.

Jack is also the first person I remember saying to me that energy never dies; it only changes form. He believed the same about the human spirit.

Dr. Jack Williamson, as you soar among the stars, safe and wondrous travels, my friend. May your energy ever continue.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out right at 3. Coffee, email, read a couple of online magazines (Popular Science and Popular Photography), political and world newsletters, then comments on Dean’s site.

4:15, extra coffee made and headed out to the Hovel. It’s my workspace, so I intend to spend time there something comes. I did nothing the first hour.

At 5 up to the house, then to create a cover and promo doc for “The Source” (short story derived from the Jonathan Kirski world). No new words there, but it will publish today and on the blog later. Back at the Hovel, I did nothing to speak of again.

Back to the house at 6 to publish “The Source,” email it to donors, etc.

Okay, 7 a.m., finally got the thing published, sent to donors and posted it to the website (it will go live on Feb 15) and back to the Hovel.

I did very little for the first few hours. I browsed a few old files and notes. (I checked in again on The Three Year Turn last night and even added a few hundred words to it. That one might take off again someday. But not now.)

Back to the house at 8, helped my grandson with an uncooperative CD game he was trying to play. Eventually I read the back of the CD case. It wasn’t compatible with Windows 10, so…. Back to the Hovel a little after 9. More browsing old stuff.

Around 10, I finally settled on something I want to write. My fingers flew. I borrowed an old idea (from myself), three sentences I really liked. I’m still kind of stuck in the SF genre, which is fine. We’ll see how it goes.

Up to the house around 11 for a break and more coffee, then back to the Hovel and writing at 11:20.

Off for another break around 12:20, but back to the Hovel with only a few minutes’ delay.

I lost track of writing and breaks. Really enjoying the story. Still, we’ll see. A good first day. See if I can jump on it early tomorrow. Off at 3 p.m.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

You can see comments on What is Special? at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/what-is-special/#comments.

Also see More Questions at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/more-questions/.

Fiction Words: 4219
Nonfiction Words: 950 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 5169

Writing of Will Perkins (novel, working title)

Day 1…… 4219 words. Total words to date…… 4219

Total fiction words for the month……… 78727
Total fiction words for the year………… 78727
Total nonfiction words for the month… 17780
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 17780

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 96507

The Popper

Folks, this will be the last regular short story of the week. In the future, when I write one I’ll post it here, but those won’t be every week. You can always find the latest by clicking A Free Short Story in the menu. Thanks, Harvey

The first one popped the day before the Sturgis Metal Run. Me and Ronny and a few others were revvin’ the dream, hittin’ 90 in a 75. In the fast lane, of course, northbound.

It was a cool morning, with temps probably in the mid-fifties. Not cool enough for any fog, really, or wet enough. Though I did see a little dew sparkling now and then off the side of the road as we passed.

There were a few clouds around too, but up high, like a painting, and the sun was out

And poppo! There it was. The thing appeared right in front of Ronny, and what passed for its arm extended toward him just like it would do any good.

I’ve seen Ronny swerve to miss ants on the road, so it isn’t like he’d intentionally run down something. But this was too close, too immediate, and Ronny ran through it like nobody’s business. I did too, in his wake a split second later.

Jerry, Barlow and Rex missed the thing, but only because they were slightly left (Jerry) and right (Barlow and Rex) pushing the edges of the lane.

It was like running through a quick fog bank that popped up out of nowhere, an’ that’s what we thought it was at first.

Only it didn’t play like a fog bank.

I didn’t realize that until later. It first dawned on me maybe five or ten seconds later. But at 90 miles per hour, five or ten seconds is a long time.

I mean, in the instant when Ronny hit it, it didn’t swirl and follow along in the vacuum created by his passing.

“Wh—” started to cross my mind then, but by the time “—at?” got there I was through it. And I wasn’t thinking about whether it was swirling and following along and all that.

I was too busy wondering why Ronny dumped his bike.

And my eyes were glued to the road—well, as glued as they could be at 90 miles per hour—between the back of Ronny’s Softail Harley and my Indian Chief. You know how fast your brain works. As my law prof would’a said, “It would be immeasurably better for your health, young man, to avoid whatever bit of detritus side-bored your buddy.”

Okay, the “side-bored your buddy” was my substitution for what Ms. Gramley would’a said, but you get the drift.

Only there wasn’t nothin’. The road was clean. Maybe a pebble here and there, and that one little slip of a shredded tire. I flashed my front tire past it maybe a half-inch to the left. But it was a sliver anyway, maybe three or four inches long and a tread wide, so nothin’ that would’a flipped Ronny like that.

And I had time to look. I mean, I got off the throttle some when Ronny’s back end shivered hard left. I probably wasn’t doin’ 85 when Ronny swiveled the front end to the right and laid it down. And I got on my brakes as I passed.

But I looked back just in time to see that Softail starting to flip. I figure his right peg caught pavement.

Me and the others tried for two years to talk Ronny into trading out those steel pegs for aluminum, but he was sure the steel would skip along the top of the road and save his leg.

As if.

“Besides,” he said the last time we talked about it, “I ain’t gonna lay it down, man. It’s all a choice.”

Yeah. But not always.

Sometimes other stuff chooses for you. And sometimes, as it turns out, the other stuff is a Popper.

Now we didn’t know anything about Poppers before that. I guess maybe the one that popped in front of Ronny was the first one on the planet. At least it was the first one we’d ever seen, if “seen” is the right word. Like I said, we thought it was a fog bank. Only with an arm and a something like a hand. I saw that much.

Anyway, even with my fast brain showing me Ronny was flipping, I squeezed the brakes on my Vic and skidded to the far right shoulder. The plan, I guess, was to kickstand it and run back to help Ronny.

But as I twisted left in the saddle and started to get up, he passed me, about eight feet in the air, about twenty feet behind me. In one’a those snapshots your brain takes at such times, the lines that divide the lanes split his Softail in half.

Ronny and the bike were laying sideways and he was still on the seat. Only his head was pointing down the road and the bottom of his bike was pointing back the way we came. His arms were stretched to the handlebars, his fingers clenched and his mouth in a big O.

Then his face disappeared as he rolled on over.

His left shoulder probably hit first, then his head, then the bike.

That was the first time I really noticed a sound. I mean there was a general jumble of noises, but when his helmet hit the pavement it was a sharp crack. Either that or when his neck broke.

Then everything went back to regular speed. Ronny and the Softail smudged along the centerline, tires up and spinning. Jerry flashed by in a smeared shadow on the distant left of my vision as Barlow and Rex crashed through the scene right in front of me in two big roars just off the back of my bike.

I don’t remember getting off my Chief but I was running down the road, my heavy boots clomping in time to the squeal of brakes. I think that was Barlow.

And everybody was a hundred feet away.

Ronny and the Softail were in a pile in the middle of the road beyond a streak of something glistening. Nothing was moving from what I could tell, but I didn’t have the best look with my head bobbing as I ran. I just kept thinking of what might happen if a semi topped that low rise behind us.

Jerry was stopped in the dip of the soft median, his jeans making an inverted U as he got off his bike. A fourth of his front tire was sunk in mud. Not sure why he stopped there. Gravity maybe.

Barlow and Rex parked side by side. The noses of their bikes were at the edge of the rough asphalt shoulder, pointing toward a four-strand barbed wire fence on the other side of a grassy right of way. On the other side of the fence was grassland, a windmill and a caliche-rock stock tank.

They dismounted and turned at the same time like it was choreographed.

Jerry got to Ronny’s pileup just ahead of Barlow and Rex.

I was still around fifty feet away, huffing and wondering why I didn’t just start my bike, nose her back to the road and drive up.

Jerry crouched down on one knee on the other side of that Softail, then glanced at Barlow and Rex and extended his right hand. Like he was telling them to wait. He studied to be a doctor for a couple years and his brother’s a cop, so.

As Jerry leaned forward over Ronny and extended that same right hand, Barlow said something I couldn’t hear.

They were all in the middle of the road and not paying the slightest bit of attention.

I yelled, “Trucks!” and pointed past them. I wanted Barlow and Rex to go farther up the road and ward off any approaching trucks. But we were in the northbound lane, so any trucks would be coming from behind me.

As I yelled, Barlow and Rex looked at me. Barlow put his hands on his hips. He yelled, “What?” and I just shook my head and kept running.

Barlow glanced at Jerry, then started jogging toward me. As we passed, he said quietly, “I’ll watch for trucks.” I guess he heard me after all.

But trucks were the least of our problems.

We’d forgotten all about the fog bank Ronny and I drove through.

* * *

I finally got there, stomping to a heavy stop just short of Ronny’s bike. I bent forward, my hands on my hips, breathing hard. That’s when I caught that glistening smeared stuff in my periphery and realized what it was. Then I glanced at Ronny’s muddled form, then looked at Jerry. “Oh Jesus! Is he okay?”

Well, I knew he wasn’t okay. I’d seen him in the air, and I’d seen and heard him hit. A miracle couldn’t make him okay.

Jerry didn’t even look up. He pulled his hand back from the side of what was left of Ronny’s throat, his index and middle finger still extended together, and shook his head. Quietly, he said, “Naw. He’s gone, man.”

Rex leaned forward over the twisted front wheel of the Softail. Softly, he said,  “Damn, man.”  Then he pointed. “What’s that?”

I looked where he was pointing. “What?”

He wagged his extended index finger. “That!”

I looked again just as Jerry sat back. He pointed too, “Oh man!” as he overbalanced and sat hard on both cheeks. “Damn!” He worked his heels, kicking against the asphalt to back himself away.

Something milky purplish, kind of a spot, lay on Ronny’s skin. Or maybe it was part of his skin. A misshapen, ragged oval from where his black t-shirt hit on his neck up to where it disappeared under the hair beneath the bottom of his helmet. Probably it ran up behind his left ear.

“A birthmark?” I said, but I knew better. I’d known Ronny since third grade. He didn’t have any birthmarks.

As we watched, the thing pulsed.

Jerry was finally on his feet near the shoulder next to the median and turning toward his bike.

“Hey,” I said. “Where you goin’?”

He shook his head as he sank sole-deep in the damp median. His voice trembled. He mumbled, “Gonna get help.” But it sounded like it was just something to say.

I frowned. “Jerry?”

He kept walking.

“Where?”

“Me too.”

That voice came from my right. I looked back.

Rex was halfway to his bike too.

I looked at Jerry’s back again. He was getting on his bike. I looked back toward Rex. He was almost to his bike. I held my arms out at my sides and yelled, “Hey, we gotta move him or something. Right?”

Jerry didn’t answer. He started his bike and gave it some gas, urging it up onto the south-bound lanes, but he turned north. Probably going to the next clear cross-over.

I dropped my arms and looked back at Rex. “Rex? Hey, c’mon, man. Help me move Ronny so—”

He shook his head. “Sorry, man.” He started his bike and leaned it over, spinning the back tire in the mud and soft gravel along the edge of the shoulder, and drove away north. Fast. Catching gears. Nothing left but that annoying Yamaha whine and that tire arc off the shoulder.

What the hell?

I looked up at Jerry, just crossing the median a couple hundred feet north. Barlow already was a receding spot far beyond him. What the hell?

I put my hands on my hips. How was I going to move Ronny off the damn road? I couldn’t leave him here to get run over like a dead bird. And his bike. I’d have to move his bike too.

Jerry said Ronny was dead. So why was he going for help? Help for who?

I looked down at Ronny again. How was I gonna move his bike without dragging him along with it? Underneath it all I wasn’t even sure where the bike left off and Ronny began.

I focused on his neck again. That and his helmet and his left shoulder and arm and side were intact.

The purplish spot was larger, but it was also less purple. Well, it was more milky than purple. As I watched, the purple pulsed and faded to milky white.

I could grab his left wrist and forearm maybe and pull what was left of him away from the bike. Pull him over to the soft median. Probably he was ground off beneath the bike.

But I didn’t want to do that. He was my friend, not just some road-killed coyote. He deserved better. I didn’t move, other than shifting my feet. I thought back about some of the stuff we’d done together over the past thirty years or so. Probably putting off the inevitable. I mean, gross as it was, I had to move him, right? Either that or stand there and wave traffic around him. If any traffic came.

The whole time I watched that splotch on his neck. It seemed to be growing, but maybe that was a trick of the light or something.

I shifted my feet again and put my hands on my hips. If the situation were reversed, what would Ronny do?

He’d move me, that’s what he’d do.

But what if it was catching, whatever that was on his neck? And where’d it come from? It wasn’t from the road. I mean, the skin was there, and all his stuff on the left side was there. Even his helmet wasn’t scratched on that side.

The splotch continued to pulse. I felt like I was watching something intimate that was none of my business. It pulsed and seemed to expand a little, then again, and again.

I shifted my feet again, looked away and shook my head. Maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me or something.

And when I looked back at him again, they did.

I swear, the guy started to evaporate.

Maybe. Whatever that splotch was on his neck, it’s like he was becoming it. Or it was becoming him. Or something.

It was like the splotch was external to him, but part of him too. A new part of him.

The fog thing? Is that what caused it?

But I’d run through it too, and I didn’t wreck. And I didn’t have any purple-milk splotches on me as far as I knew. I reached up and ran my palm over my neck.

Why’d Jerry and Rex have to split like that?

But they were both looking at Ronny when they decided to leave. They weren’t looking at me.

I watched the splotch more closely, but I backed up a step too. It was surreal. My friend was lying dead in the road beneath his bike. And the bike was pretty much flat on the road, so….

I glanced back along the road.

Ronny’s right leg and foot, still in the boot, lay back along the way. How had I missed seeing that before?

I shifted again, faced away from Ronny, back along the road. I looked past his leg too, and his boot. I think I knew I was delaying the inevitable. Delaying looking directly at him. And the splotch.

But I was trying to piece the wreck together in my mind. It was a horrific wreck. Had the fog thing caused it?

The fog thing. It was back there somewhere, right? I mean, that’s the way we came. About a hundred feet back. Maybe a hundred and fifty.

I decided maybe the fog thing did it. It made sense, sort of.

It almost looked like the thing held up a hand and arm, like it was warding him off just before he plowed through it. But not really, now that I had time to think about it.

It wasn’t like it was trying to defend itself so much as to touch him. It reached for him and touched him as he passed through it.

And it wasn’t really fog either, come to think of it. It was thicker, sort of. More substantive than microbial water droplets suspended in air. And it was—almost creamy. Milky.

Maybe that’s what the splotch was.

I focused, looked for the spot of fog.

And as I looked, I tried to think it through. We’d run through that little spot of fog, s0 probably it dissipated. That would make sense, right?

But it hadn’t folded in on itself, whipped through the vacuum created by his passing. That much I knew. And that’s when it finally came home to me.

I got to thinking, maybe it touched him. Maybe it wasn’t reaching to make him stop. Maybe it was reaching to touch him. Maybe it left part of itself on him. And maybe it didn’t have time to reload before I passed through it an instant later. Maybe I was just lucky.

While I was thinking about all that, it was almost like my vision was getting cloudy. Then I realized there was fog back there. There wasn’t before, except the bit Ronny and I drove through. But it was there now, and it was growing.

Only it still wasn’t a bank, like a cloud on the ground. It was more like a series of smaller bits of fog. Like several steam guysers all lined up across and deep, the ones in the back a little offset, peering past the others’ shoulders.

Maybe it—

“Hey.”

I almost came out of my skin.

The voice came out of the fog, but a lot closer. And separate.

It was Barlow. I mean, it was Barlow’s face. Barlow’s tall, lanky body, but as if he was draped in fog. He was moving smoothly toward me, not thirty feet away. But I hadn’t noticed him before. Maybe he was faded into all stuff behind him at first. Or probably I was focusing too hard on where I thought the earlier fog thing was, the one we drove through. Or maybe I was caught up in thinking about the wreck or—

I frowned. This wasn’t quite right. He was moving without that jerky, ditty-bopping gait he usually had when he walked. Like he was on wheels or something. “Barlow?”

He nodded, slowly, smoothly. “Okay,” he said.

Okay? What’s that mean? But I decided to cling to normalcy. “Traffic,” I said, and gestured past him. “You were gonna watch for traffic and—”

“Where did your people go?”

What? My people? I looked past him. The fog—or fogs—were getting closer. I said, “You mean Jerry and Rex?” Then I jerked a thumb over my shoulder. Weakly, I said, “They, uh—they went for help.” Bearing in mind where Ronny’s bike was, I took a step back and to the left.

Barlow stopped maybe five feet from me. “Help?” He nodded, slowly, smoothly. His right arm came up, slowly. “Help.”

I took another step back. “You, uh—” I pointed back down the road. Quietly, as if sharing a secret, I said, “Barlow, you one’a them poppers?”

His face rippled. “Pop-purse?”

“Doesn’t matter.” I took another step back, then gestured past him again toward my beautiful Victory Indian Chief. The front of it was visible beyond the left-most bit of fog stuff. Me and that bike had been through a lot together. “Hey, man,” I said. “Let’s get our bikes and go find Jerry and Rex. I’m sure we can find them.”

“Okay,” he said.

I pointed past him again at my Vic. “Your bike’s back there. Go get it. I’ll wait here with Ronny.”

He glanced back. “Okay.”

Then he reversed. Understand? He didn’t turn around. The guy reversed.

One second I was looking at his face and lowering my hand from pointing past him, and the next I was looking at the back of his head. It’s like he passed through himself. He reversed direction without turning around.

And he moved away. Slowly. Smoothly.

When he’d gone maybe ten feet and I was sure he wasn’t going to reverse again, I raced across the slow lane to his bike. He always left the key in the ignition, and today was no exception.

I braced it, then glanced back toward Barlow. Or whatever he is now. He was a little over halfway to the Vic.

I started the Goldwing, and I’ll bet I left a bigger tire arc than Rex did.

* * * * * * *

 

The Journal, Thursday, 1/26

Hey Folks,

Boy am I embarrassed.

I had a great start on a new novel yesterday, even with only a half-day.

I wrote more on it this morning (only a little over 1600 halting words) before I suddenly realized at about 8 a.m. that as I was writing my conscious mind was searching for pre-established facts.

Uh-oh. There are no pre-established facts when writing off into the dark.

And that led me to realize that my subconscious had “borrowed” the idea (a character with a problem in a setting) from a several-volume saga I edited about two decades ago. And yes, it was such a great story that it stuck with me that long. The thing easily rivals the Star Wars saga. Easily. And to me it’s even better. By far.

(The first book, which I think is still in print, is called Last of the Firstborn. It’s by a guy named Glen Glenn.)

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, Glen has never published that saga, except for one foray to a subsidy publisher with the first book. But still, I don’t want to write it. Writing (or rewriting) any story I already know is just boring. That’s why I don’t do outlines.

But sure enough, the character was the same (albeit with a different name), the problem (both immediate and far-reaching) was the same, and even the setting was the same.

For awhile this morning I thought I could change the character from an alien to a human in the same situation and just keep writing. But there was no story there. Nothing.

Now it’s true that there are no truly original ideas, that there is nothing new under the sun, but this was too much. So I stopped writing.

So today will be mostly a nonwriting day, though I’ll count the words I’ve written thus far because they are publishable words and they brought me to this realization.

Maybe I need a nonwriting day or two between projects. I don’t know. But I don’t want to risk what amounts to plagiarizing someone else’s work, so I’m shelving Stenson.

Today I’ll maybe go on a hike with my grandson. See what shakes out. I hope you all have a great day as well, writing or not.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 2:30 this morning. Trying to get an earlier start on writing so I can spend more of the afternoon doing other things. We’ll see.

Only 24° out there this morning, with a constant breeze. So straight to the Hovel at 4 with two mugs of coffee. In the Hovel, even though I left one window partially open last night, it’s 50°.

Nice to enjoy my first cigar of the day without my fingertips freezing.

4:20, I have Internet access from the house (somehow) so I’m gonna read Dean’s stuff.

4:45, some very good comments on Dean’s previous post, including some things to research later. For now, up to the house to let the pets out of their kennels, then back here to the novel.

5, I started on the novel. Just over 700 words in the first session. But those are usually slow, so no biggie. Around 6:20, up to the house for a brief break.

6:40, back to the Hovel. Just before the last break, I realized the story is going in a wrong direction. (This is when I first started feeling the tugs of my conscious mind searching for facts.)

7 a.m., back to the story. Cycling from the beginning first, then new writing. (This is when I was going to start over with the same idea but a different character.)

8 a.m. This is when I called it.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

See the (25!) comments on Dean’s “What is Possible?” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/what-is-possible/#comments.

Then check out What Is Special? (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/what-is-special/) Naturally, I felt as if he was talking personally to me. (grin)

Fiction Words: 1634
Nonfiction Words: 650 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 2284

Writing of Stenson (novel, working title)

Day 1…… 3566 words. Total words to date…… 3566
Day 2…… 1634 words. Total words to date…… 5200 (killed)

Total fiction words for the month……… 74508
Total fiction words for the year………… 74508
Total nonfiction words for the month… 16830
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 16830

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 91338

The Journal, Wednesday, 1/25

Hey Folks,

Wow. New day, new story, new attitude. Frankly, I hope it will be another novel.

After-hours yesterday I created a new cover for The Claim. That’s it on the left if I remember to put it in here. (grin)

I’m falling behind, drastically, on my free story of the week. And I don’t really care. Which leads me to today’s topic.

Topic: Goals and Reality

First, for those who haven’t “heard” me say this before, Dreams and Goals are different critters.

A Dream is something you’d like to attain or achieve, but you have no direct control over it.

A Goal is something you yearn to attain or achieve and you DO have control over it.

Have all the dreams you want. They’re wonderful.

But if you ever want to get there, you have to set goals and work toward them.

The first rule in setting goals, at least in my world, is to keep them realistic.

At the outset, that means

1. making sure your goal something you actually yearn to achieve and

2. making sure your goal something that is within your power to achieve (i.e., not a dream).

So short stories. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy writing short stories when a good short story idea occurs to me. Maybe a better way to say that is when a story idea occurs to me and it wraps in a short story.

When that happens, I don’t begrudge it. I just submit it or publish it. When I publish it, I also collect it with five or ten others, publish the collection and move on.

But the truth is, of late, I just haven’t been all that interested in writing short stories. I enjoy reading them and I love it when a story is well-turned.

But actively seeking to write them? Nah, not so much anymore.

Plus I’m bone weary of trying to keep up with the numbers. Did I write one this week? Oops.

And I’m tired of consistently, repeatedly failing to reach that goal — and flat not caring when I miss.

Folks, if it doesn’t bother you when you fail to achieve a goal, that goal isn’t working for you. Chunk it.

So I’ve abandoned my “one new short story per week” goal.

Naturally, without more stories coming in every week, soon my Free Story of the Week on the website will be discontinued. I’ve replaced it with menu item called A Free Short Story, and when I write one, I’ll publish it to the blog as well as to the general public.

Now, as an aside, I DO strongly believe in Bradbury’s advice to new writers to write at least one short story per week as a way to learn and hone the craft.

I once wrote at least one short story per week for 72 straight weeks without a miss. That’s a long time. I learned a ton about the craft, and I got more practice in that 72 weeks than many writers do in a lifetime. And incidentally, I don’t know of a longer streak anywhere. Even DWS was impressed.

So for me, my goal to write one new short story per week is kind of a “been there done that” sort of thing.

Shifting Gears

When I completed The Claim yesterday, I realized I’d broken through a barrier that I didn’t even know I’d erected. It was my 21st novel. The first one over 20. Somehow that seemed like a big deal to me.

Why was breaking beyond 20 a big deal? Shrug. I don’t know. But there it was.

And for me that explained why I was mired in a patch of the doldrums after I published number 20. I thought maybe I was through.

Of course, I wasn’t. I was just shifting gears. But for a terrifying moment, my left foot was caught between the clutch and the brake pedal.

But eventually I completed the gear change. I got my head out of my — no, wait. I freed my foot from the brake pedal. That’s better. And it’s full speed ahead to the only goals that really matter to me now:

to hit 4,000 words of publishable new fiction on writing days,

to write at least one complete novel per month this calendar year,

to publish at least 15 new novels during this calendar year, and

to publish at least 1,000,000 words of new fiction this calendar year.

Onward.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out just a little before 4. Catching up on my sleep, I think. Per usual, I did little of interest before around 8 a.m. Then I moved to the Hovel and wrote everything above.

8:50, time for a break. During which I will also ship The Claim off to my first reader and cast about for a new story idea.

9 a.m., started the diswasher and went back to the Hovel to add the “Of Interest” stuff below.

Apparently I wasn’t quite finished with Kirski’s world yet. I remembered I had set aside a segment that I thought would make a good, if bone-chilling, short story. So I worked on that for awhile. No new words that I’m counting.

No rush, so I’ll do a cover for it another time. But for now the short story — “The Source” — is completed and formatted. And it’s 10:20.

Updating themes and plugins on sites a little, and time for another break at 10:30. That break turned into a shower, lunch and getting dressed.

11:40, back to the Hovel. I had the stupid mobile hotspot on and played online awhile. More time in the chair not writing.

At 12:20, a line occurred to me: “Stenson filtered up from a sound sleep.” I know he’s in a jungle, and I know he doesn’t know how he got there. Oh, and I think it’s SF. That’s it. Off and running.

12:40, I’ve put 730 words on the page. Came here to make this note and the one above it. Not a bad pace, writing into the dark. Until I come up with something better, the working title will be Stenson. 12:44 back to the story.

1:20, with 1480 new words on a new novel, I’m off for a brief break. Even after a break of only about 27 hours since I finished the last one, it feels SO good to be immersed in writing a novel again. (grin) I can easily understand why DWS said sometimes he wrote something and forgot to submit it for publication.

2 p.m., back to the novel.

Not a particularly auspicious beginning. The novel is running well, but I started late and ran out of time. So a little short of my word count goal today. Then again, not bad for only about three hours of actual writing.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

See the comments on Become a Better Storyteller at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/become-a-better-storyteller-write-faster/.

Then check out What Is Possible? (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/what-is-possible/)

Fiction Words: 3566
Nonfiction Words: 1140 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4706

Writing of Stenson (novel, working title)

Day 1…… 3566 words. Total words to date…… 3566

Total fiction words for the month……… 72874
Total fiction words for the year………… 72874
Total nonfiction words for the month… 16180
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 16180

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 89054

The Journal, Tuesday, 1/24

Hey Folks,

Today the novel will end.

And it did. There won’t be a sequel, at least with these characters. If they’re successful in what they’re doing, there won’t be anymore conflict. Good for the world, bad for novelists. (grin)

Today, and Writing

Rolled out right at 3 and promptly wasted the first hour of the day. The second went much the same way, but I began the third, at 5 a.m., in the Hovel.

Cycling through the first session and added about 600 words. Took a break about 6:15, to the house for more coffee. While I was there I checked email and Facebook stuff.

7, back to the novel. 8 a.m., a break and up to the house for my camera. Snow on the Whetstone Mountains this morning. Beautiful.

8:20, back to the novel to write the denoument.

9:05, finished. (After it was over, I cut 1052 words.) After running a spell check (that’s my second draft) I’m headed to the house for some breakfast and to change clothes. I have to go to the grocery sometime today too.

For now, a shower, doing laundry, etc. Just life stuff.

Y’know, I decided I’m not going to write anymore today. I’ll work on the cover for The Claim, etc. I thought this might happen if I didn’t start the next story right away.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

Become a Better Storyteller… Write Faster (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/become-a-better-storyteller-write-faster/)

Also check out the comments on yesterday’s post at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/excuses-and-the-fine-art-of-self-sabotage/#comments

Fiction Words: 1851
Nonfiction Words: 230 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 2081

Writing of The Claim (SF novel)

Day 1…… 4391 words. Total words to date…… 4391
Day 2…… 3632 words. Total words to date…… 8023
Day 3…… 1416 words. Total words to date…… 9439
Day 4…… 2673 words. Total words to date…… 12112
Day 5…… 4284 words. Total words to date…… 16396
Day 6…… 3159 words. Total words to date…… 19555
Day 7…… 3834 words. Total words to date…… 23389
Day 8…… 4953 words. Total words to date…… 28342
Day 9…… 4982 words. Total words to date…… 33324
Day 10… 3618 words. Total words to date…… 36942
Day 11… 3133 words. Total words to date…… 40075
Day 12… 2964 words. Total words to date…… 43039
Day 13… 3410 words. Total words to date…… 46449
Day 14… 3285 words. Total words to date…… 49734
Day 15… 3460 words. Total words to date…… 53194
Day 16… 4251 words. Total words to date…… 57445
Day 17… 4283 words. Total words to date…… 61728
Day 18… 4101 words. Total words to date…… 65829
Day 19… 1851 words. Total words to date…… 67678 (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… 69308
Total fiction words for the year………… 69308
Total nonfiction words for the month… 15040
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 15040

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 84348