Wednesday, June 20, 2018

WEP: Unraveled Yarn

A "yarn" (in writer speak) is a long and rambling, often implausible, story. Hard to do as a short story, let alone a 1000 word flash. So the hosts at Write..Edit..Publish have tweaked the prompt to THE UNRAVELED YARN for the June challenge.

I'm going to try to write a long story in a flash. Can you unravel the truth of this Yarn?

word count: 999

The rumble of a John Deere rivals the thunder as it parallel parks out front of my store. Had to be Mike Shirley; the only idiot farmer with a tractor large enough to brave the flood waters and come in from the fields during a winter rainstorm. Three reasons for his being here, and only two would set easy with me. His wife needs milk and meat because there's no way out to shopping on the county roads; he just wants a beer and bullshit. Or another city slicker idiot ignored the warning signs and drove his Mini Cooper up 7 mile road.

Well, I hoped it was AFTER a rescue. It’s been several hours since I last heard chatter on the scanner from my county volunteer fire fighters. The code-speak told a tale of a car with three passengers floating in a fifteen foot dip. Mike's John Deere has the towing capacity of a tank, and Mike is a certified scuba diver. I know, you're wondering what use a County volunteer fire department in the middle of rice farm country has for a scuba diver with a John Deere tractor.

Mike and his family moved here about ten years ago. Why a Navy Seal with no family ties to the community would ever want to settle in this land-locked county of farmers nobody ever bothered to ask. We’re not rude here in the sticks, and his wife hired on to Social Services before they moved here. Mike and his wife bought fifty acres, planted wheat, rice and barley, hired on local immigrants; fit right in with the community. The two boys made friends quick and easy, joined the FFA; they raise high quality pigs that bring in top dollars, and donate the entire profit to the school.

Mike didn't join the fire department right away, but he seemed to be around every time a crisis was happening, and just tagged along. Always knew what equipment would be needed, what trucks to take. Whether or not to have an Ambulance or helicopter on standby. Just too much weird; but in a good way. Didn’t take long for him to make Chief.

The Mennonites think he is a demon who causes calamities so he can be a hero and won’t let him on their properties. They pray for the souls of those he rescues; the living and the dead. The Baptists think he’s an Angel with a direct line to God. The lives lost are not his fault; people don’t always listen when God talks through his emissaries.

“Hey Mike,” I say as he practically falls through the door. The wind has been picking up over the last hour.

“Yo Del. Got any coffee?” He slams the door, shakes water off his slicker and tugs at the zipper.

If he's taking off his raincoat and galoshes there isn't an emergency.

“A pot.”

“Good.” He kicks his galoshes to the side and walks in his socks to the coat tree beside the deli counter.

I keep a few camp chairs in front of the fifteen cup coffee pot. There’s a rug on the concrete floor, an old pot belly stove, a basket of near expired muffins and cookies, and paper coffee cups. And the scanner. Nobody ever sits there in the spring and summers – locals have too much work to do and the travelers mostly seem to know the area isn’t for strangers. Late fall and winter though, its usually filled with old farmers and well known duck hunters with gossip on their minds. I don’t charge them for the coffee and treats. Can’t put a price on good company.

“How’s that family you rescued?”

“A close thing, but all are safe. Even the one I had to dive for,” he says, pouring the last dregs of the pot into a cup.  He immediately dumps the filter, pulls out a fresh one, adds coffee, then turns with the empty pot and starts around the deli case where a mini kitchen and toilet is hidden. “Ah, mind if I make more?”

This makes me a bit worried. He could want to hang out – its Wednesday and he’s known for hauling his wife to their parked car at the edge of the flood zone. Or he needs a pot for the road. I shrug and return to my cigarette count.

“We’ve no coffee at the Fire House,” he announces, interrupting my count. The Fire House is next door to my store. “And, all the thermos’ are missing. Again.”

Damn. I put down my pencil and paper. “The crew turned in a few last week. And I got a stash upstairs in my apartment. Should I, make another pot upstairs?”

“Nah,” he says, pouring the water into the compartment. He pushes the button, then retrieves his cup and sits down. “But if you could bring me those thermos’ I’d be grateful. Damn, but its cold in the House.”

“Uh huh,” I say, and head to the kitchen and the stairs to my apartment.

I dally a while, praying that Mike is just bored and wants to get the House stocked for the next call. Or maybe the crew is having a meeting tonight. This last call was tough on everyone; a babe trapped in the car seat, Mike going down before the gear was fully attached, parents screaming in their cell phones on top the sinking car as it floated downriver.

When I go down the stairs I hear Mike on his cell phone.

“Yeah Babe, I got this. Won’t hit the call center, I promise. Already got the coffee going. I’ll stop them with my badge and tractor, and nobody turns down free coffee on a day like this. Bet Del will let me take all the stale muffins too. That casino bus will turn around.”

I send better than stale muffins when Mike leaves half an hour later with the Deere, three thermoses of coffee, and the last of my paper cups.

There's my submission for the Unraveled Yarn. Of course if you prefer the more recognizable yarn story involving a ball of woolen string, perhaps you should visit the WEP linky and read what other participants have written. I'm sure there is something cozy or kittenish submitted.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

IWSG: Titles vs Characters


Oh, wait; that's WRiTECLUB, which is in its final bouts this week. Sadly, this is my first year that I have neither participated  as a writer or voted since DL Hammons first conceived and launched the event. And what an awesome event it has become over the last (about) 6 years. Even picked up by the DFW writers conference. I can't say "AWESOME" with enough force for all the work and effort DL and all the initial judges put into this yearly event. And the readers that offer constructive critiques and sometimes difficult votes. As I said, I only read and voted on a few of the bouts this year (I've been a very lax blogger) but the entries I read were all stellar, well edited, and it pretty much came down to which genre I liked. Tough choices. Good luck to the finalists; perhaps we should ALL try to take a few moments to read the finalist entries and offer encouragement . . . . .

Encouragement: now there is a word we all need as writers. Lately, my "encouragement" has been in the form of - you can't make money if you don't write. And the ever favorite "I like it cuz you wrote it so I don't have to read it." Yes, I know I'm largely responsible for this lack of encouragement for my writing: I've not been writing much, not submitted anything this year, and have mostly dropped out of the writing community. Meaning, no writers group to force me into 'submission.' Yeah yeah, I have commitment issues. On the one hand, I don't like someone looking over my shoulder while I write; I don't want a 'group' to write my stories. On the other hand, no accountability is . . . no accountability.

I am getting some writing done; a slow pace, nothing worthy of showing off to a group, or the public at large (publication). But I am writing things in several word documents. Including a document for the WEP June challenge, Unraveled Yarn. Writing a "yarn" (a long and rambling, often improbable, story) seems to fit my writing perspective at this point. With a thousand word count limit, the YARN can't get too long, which in itself is an intriguing allure for the concept. I have my interpretation started, pretty much finished, except I need to tweak the "rambling" concept into a viable structure. Hey look; I'm plotting, an accomplishment itself!

Ah, I was about to segue into the IWSG, but have one more writing resource related comment. I don't know if anyone ever clicks on my writing related links; but I did get an email from someone stating they visited my blog, saw my resources, and added a link for freelance writers. I clicked on the link for jobhero, aka The Ultimate Freelance Writing Guide, and I did add it to my resources. It doesn't seem to be a scam or purely advertising site. If you are a freelance writer, or want to get into freelance, and you check out the link, please let me know if you discover it a scam site. It seemed useful to me in my brief browse, although I'm not interested in freelance. Well, I'm interested, just not that dedicated. Freelance writers put some SERIOUS work into their writing - and submissions.

OK, on to IWSG. Although if you read much of the above "yarn," I'm sure you'll read plenty of insecurities in the subtext. Am I still a writer if I'm not bashing out novel after novel, or producing short stories several times a week. (Punctuation Nazi's may note no ? at the end of that sentence. I'm not sure it was a question.)

When I first started writing a novel, then a trilogy, then some short stories, then discovered a writers group, and blogs and and and and and . . I zealously threw myself into it. Now, I still love writing, finding a story concept, developing the world and characters - especially developing the world and characters. And yes, I love getting published, though short stories is all I've had success with. Back then, I wasn't constrained by the knowledge of all the rules: genre specifics, querying (like job interviewing), reader trends, publicity gimmicks. I did not "study" to become an author, I just sort of fell into it. Now I feel like I need to go to college to learn business management, public speaking, marketing analysis, copy write litigation.

So I'm writing slow, with too much of the business end of writing on my mind instead of the creative process. The sheer joy of creating characters to fill a world. Building a world that my characters fit into. My completed trilogy (Uck, yes I lost two books and am in the process of recreating them) is a women's fiction I thought was totally unique. A few years ago, after much research and reading, I started to accept there is an entire genre (yep my intro to women's fiction) with my concept. I'm still hoping for some uniqueness. My ideal ambition for this novel (trilogy) is that it will get published, and Lifetime movie channel will will notice it. Hey! A girl can dream . . .

This month's IWSG question is: What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names? Easy peasy answer: I suck at book/story titles. LOL, I really have a lot of novel and short story starts. Complete with excessive research into names, name meanings, character descriptions to go with those names, prevalence of names in my location/settings and time era's.

A title (usually) is the absolute last thing I settle on to finish a story. Mostly because you cannot submit without a title. A title is always a "working title" until the story has been accepted by a publication. It rarely even tentatively happens until at least midway through a first draft, and is still subject to change at any point prior to submission, depending on the theme of the publication. For me, a title must reflect the book content, which is introduced (preferably) in the first sentence, or paragraph, discovered somewhere in the middle of the book/story, and reinforced in the last chapter. Meh; just how I write.

I have only had one Title that I created characters and a world around. The title "LAUGHING AT BUTTERFLIES" came to me, then it took about three years for my characters, a plot concept, and a world to develop around the title. Perseverance was an understatement for this one; a lot of research went into the character names, setting, folklore. If you have ever completed a massive research project, and successfully integrated the research without it sounding like research, you'll understand what an undertaking this "title first" project was to accomplish. But it was published (with only one other rejection) at Bewildering Stories issue 744, if you have time or inclination to read it.

Please be sure to thank (via visit) our Ninja host/creator Alex J Cavanaugh, and the June co-hosts Beverly Stowe-McClure, Tyrean Martinson, Tonya Drecker, and Ellen at The Cynical Sailor.

Be seeing y'all around the blogs :)