Broken Bones + Booze + Song

At my book release party for Pickled Miracles, I played a game called “3 for $5 in 5.” Guests could pay me $5 and give me three words, topics, subjects, etc. I would then take 5 minutes and write a poem. It was a great experience and I’ve been getting back into it. For this one, a friend gave me the three topics above.

 

Standing in the midst of the pile of bones

A femur deep and snow dark night

I can still feel you in me

 

There’s a time that I recall when we split a bottle

To keep warm and the only thing that we had

Other than each other

Was the burning of amber liquid flame

That passed from your lips to mine

And we would wake up a tangle of one another,

Parched, desert dry,

And the ice would still stay there.

 

I want the midnight chanting again,

The worshipful thighs and fingers and you

You in your glory above me

Fingers feather length and falling

Upon me.

 

The wolves came and took you,

They smelled the spices and you left me

Facing an oblivion of memories, an abyss where

The darkest parts of us

Would be pleasant compared to the

Inexplicable loss of it all.

 

I run with the wolves now,

And the cold is home,

The drink is done, and it’s the only way

I can get at you, because your heart is still left

At the bottom of the pile of bones

Which is our bed now,

Haunting you.

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NaNo: I’m not freaking out, you’re freaking out

As I type these words, it is 10:53PM on Halloween. I have eaten my body weight in candy and assorted snacks. I have showered, I have drunk water, I have adjusted one of the few clocks in the house that will not magically flip back an hour on its own (I had this conversation with a friend tonight, how the phenomenon of “changing your clocks” just doesn’t apply to most people anymore, since cell phones and computers have now taken over the world. Who actually has to set clocks anymore?)

I am both ready and not ready for this.

I am so excited and so scared. A lot of people don’t get it, because once I answer the question, “Do you win a prize?” with a firm no, people go all funny-eyed. Even better are the ones that go, “Wait, you write?” And then I go listen to Nine Inch Nails and sob into a pillow for an hour.

There are a few things I have ready that I think are going to prove very helpful this month.

  • A script: If someone asks me “Hey, how’s that thing going?” I have a few responses in the old mouth cannon: if I’m on schedule, I’ll go, “It’s good. Smooth sailing.” If I’m ahead, I’ll go, “Everything is coming up Katie! Thanks for asking!” If I’m behind, I’ll go, “Plugging along. Can’t stop now.” If I feel like the world is falling apart, I’ll go, “OMG, do you want to see that new Frankenstein movie with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe as much as I do?”
  • A magic hat: This concept came from No Plot? No Problem! (Revised, Updated, and Expanded) by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo. In one of the prep chapters, Baty talks about having something to get you into the mindset to write. This year, I have a Pikachu hat that I got in my Loot Crate about a month or so ago. It is absolutely the most ridiculous thing, but since I am wont to acquire hats with ears, it’s pretty par for the course. Wearing them inside while doing other things, however, is a totally different thing.
  • Accountability: I’ve posted on many forms of social media that I am doing this. In fact, I’m reiterating it right now to you, my friends. And that means that on 11/2 I can’t be all, “Okay, well, this was a nice thought, but…”
  • An Instant Pot: okay, my husband was actually the one who spear-headed this purchase a few months back. I was like, “Isn’t it just a crock pot? We have a crock pot.” An Instant Pot is a Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Saute/Browner, Yogurt Maker, Steamer and Warmer. Put food in, hit button, cooked food comes out within minutes. Magic device.
  • A schedule: Outside of my word counts (I’m aiming at 2K a day at first to make up for the time around Thanksgiving) I have a pretty straightforward schedule for other things I want to do, including exercising and art. I’m doing this because I know that if I don’t allow myself flexibility and time to do things other than write, I’ll burnt out hard and fast.

How about you? How are you getting ready for this? What are the tools in your utility belt? Tell me about them!

Fifteen Minute Fiction: Day 2

Something seemed different.

Sugar Town

Something seemed different.

When he stepped outside of his apartment building, the air was thick and sweet. It was like a bakery had blown up and the scent of its heavenly pastries, cookies and cakes had created an atmosphere of sugar-oxygen.

But it wasn’t just the scent. The people who walked the street were in this hazy semi-catatonic state: mouths slightly opened, eyes unblinking, their movement sluggish and syrup slow.

At least I’m not having a stroke, Ron thought to himself.

As he started towards his car, he could feel his head start to ache. The cloyingly decadent waves were starting to make him wonder if there was some sort of chemical spill — like a Gingerbread Man Chernobyl. He got into the Acura and turned the engine on, shutting his vents and backing out of his spot on the street. Even out of the open air, his seats – white leather – reminded him of vanilla iced cookies.

There was no one else on the road, which was not like a Tuesday morning in the city at all. Ron got to his office in a third of the time it usually took and ran inside out of the confection climate. The building was dark and quiet. No one – not any of his coworkers, the managers, not even a janitor – was there. He picked up his phone and was welcomed by the dial tone.

At least I’m not in a horror movie, Ron thought to himself. He started running several databases and compiling reports.

At lunch time, Ron took the elevator up to one of the top stories in the building. From the 34th floor, he looked down. The people who had been walking the street were all gone. From above, the city looked like a model, one of the planned design diagrams that architects use when designing a new installation or business or park.

Park. Far off, he could see a multicolored blob of heads, a crowd, gathered around the park. He couldn’t see anything more, though; there was no sign of tents or balloons or anything to indicate a gathering of sorts. Seeing all of them, the people gathered in their mass, made him go back to his salad.

At least there wasn’t some accident, Ron thought to himself.

The salad crunched in his mouth as a pink beam of light came down to the park, and since he was heading back to his cubicle, he didn’t notice all of the bodies floating through the air into a cotton candy cloud. He hit a button to start formulating grafts for a meeting in a week just as the beam and the cloud and the people puffed out of existence in a tiny, rose-colored explosion.

What is Change? or, Fifteen Minute Fiction: Day 1

Yesterday, I went into the office for a team meeting. We have these once a month, and members of our team will present a general business topic. This month, the presentation centered around “change.”

Generally, I’m great when it comes to change. I love getting put into new situations, and I’ll try anything just about once. I really enjoy getting special projects, and I thrive under pressure when I get called to do something out of my norm. As they talked about the ways different people handle variations in their routine and schedule, I felt very comfortable. “I’m just fine with this,” I said to myself. “Throw anything at me. I can handle it. Nooooo problem.”

After the presentation, we were given an exercise to do as a group. We divided up into teams of 3-4 people. Each circle had a notebook and pen. The task was simple: write a story.

Ah, I said to myself. Finally, something I can really do.

So, working with my teammates, we started writing a narrative about two people who lived in a house with a cat. Just as we brought in the narrative hook – the fact that one of these people wanted (dun dun dun!) a dog – one of the facilitators took our notebook away. Then, they split up our team. Then, they gave us another notebook.

This was not what I signed up for.

While I knew it was all in good fun and that it was supposed to be a learning experience, I started getting very tense! When we were talking about change, the idea was supposed to be in relation to easy things — like work. Work is easy. It shouldn’t be about art. Especially my art.

By the second and third point the notebook got taken away, I was getting vocal.

“Loud” might even be a better word for it.

After the exercise was over, though, it really got me to thinking. Sure, it’s easy to look at the terms you hear at a job – time management, change, stress, communication – and feel like you can “master” how they apply in a cubicle, but what about when those things factor into things that are important to you? Like your writing or relationships or family? There may come a time when you can’t just yell about it…

One idea I had to challenge myself as a writer was to start doing 15 Minute Fiction writing. I made up the following rules:

1. I had to use a prompt from a book. I could only use one. No fair skipping around. For tonight, I used today’s date from “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves.

2. 15 minutes. No more, no less. I had to keep typing so long as the clock was ticking.

3. I then had to share it here, with all you lovelies. No matter how bad it might be.

This was a lot of fun, but it definitely embodied the challenge of change. Let me know what you think! If you try it, let me know!

The prompt was just, “Once, when no one was looking…” I went crazy with it.

Wednesday Off

Once, when no one was looking, Wednesday took a vacation.

Tuesday happened. It was very pleasant and breezy, a nice reprieve from the rainy gloom of Monday. Everyone was getting into the swing of the week, committing to their duties, feeling like they had recovered from the weekend. Seats were a bit warmer, more comfortable. It was the way every week should be.

But when the sun was setting, Wednesday decided that maybe the weekend would be nice to see for once. So as everyone went to sleep that night, Wednesday chased the sun around once and they laughed as Thursday blinked into existence.

It’s surprising, what can happen on a Wednesday. It’s the apex of the rollercoaster drop, it’s the main course of the week, it’s the bridge in the song you love. And when Wednesday skipped out on everyone, people felt it.

Wednesday was sitting with Saturday and Sunday, enjoying cocktails, when the complaints started coming in. People felt cheated, like someone had taken the filling out of their cake, the fortune out of their cookie.

“Why should I feel bad?” Wednesday mused. “Everyone’s always talk about how great the weekend is. Nobody says, ‘I can’t wait to make plans for Wednesday!’ Have you ever heard someone say, ‘I love to be out on the town Wednesday night’? Because I haven’t.”

“That’s because you’re reliable,” Saturday replied, checking the agenda book sitting on the table. Every weekend was booked solid. “Folks out there are desparate for the weekend because they feel like their time is going to be stolen from them.”

“Their precious free time,” Sunday added, taking a long pull of a martini.

“And everybody hates Monday. Tuesday and Thursday are just place markers,” Saturday went on. “Don’t tell them I said that.”

“It’s really sad. I wouldn’t want to be either of the T’s,” Sunday said, head shaking at the thought.

“But you, dear,” said Saturday, mojito in hand. “You’re Wednesday. Right in the middle. You fill the world with hope for something better coming, like the worst is behind them.”

Sunday patted Wednesday’s shoulder, nodding sagely in agreement.

“I suppose,” said Wednesday, finishing a Mai Tai. “Well, I guess that’s settled, then. No more vacations for me.”

“Or any of us. Not for a long, long time, I reckon,” Sunday agreed.

And as quickly as the ruckus over the loss of Wednesday had started, it was over. Thursday took its place in line and come the following week, Wednesday walked in, please and content.

For now.