Archive for August, 2010

Aug 09 2010

Deeper In…

Published by under callie,characterization,Writing

You know the feeling you get when you’ve walked into a room, and when you enter it you know exactly what your errand is, and the next moment you find yourself standing aimlessly in the middle, mind blank, with not the first clue as to why you entered in the first place?

Now imagine being stuck there — perhaps for days, perhaps weeks; in that state there’s no measurement of time, no significant changes to show the imprint of time’s passing.

I came back to initial awareness with the feeling that a long time had passed. The scenery around me kept melting and shifting. At first it was too confusing to make sense of, but after staring at it, I realized that it looked more like those time-lapse nature films of roses blooming or a rabbit corpse decaying, sped up to near-incomprehension. Images of places and people burst into being, moved and changed with lightning speed, then broke off or faded away to be replaced by the next series.

Some time after that, I noticed that I wasn’t actually a part of the chaotic landscape, that I stood on unchanging ground and felt independent of my surroundings. I thought that I might want to further examine my immediate area. I wondered why it had taken so long for me to think that, then was distracted by something at my feet.

A single feather lay there, glittering in the reflected light of the moving backdrop. A moment’s reflection reminded me that feathers didn’t usually sparkle, so I bent down and picked it up by the rachis. This proved to be a good decision, as the shaft was a piece of thin, slightly flexible polished steel, smooth itself but ending in a wickedly sharp calamus. The quill wasn’t the only deadly feature of the feather; the rami overlapped in such a way that the ends of the barbs fit together into an edge that could easily slice into flesh. I ran my fingers carefully down the calamus and found my fingertips covered in the crumbly red dust that covered its tip. A sniff gave me the faded tang of dried blood, and I felt calmer.

I think I held the feather for some time before more thoughts arrived. They formed the shape of figuring out this place felt not only weird but dangerous, and leaving might be wise. When I turned around, it looked as if a white hallway with fluorescent lights stretched back into hazy dimness behind me. All around, chaos still spun pretty pictures into horrors at high speed, so I stepped into the hall.

I passed by a room with white-coated people lounging around a table and smoking, a vending machine in one corner with motor cycling erratically which provided an odd harmony to the workplace griping. …the children were talking again today about the boy who found his way out of here…of course I punished them…can’t have those notions getting into these poor unfortunate heads… I felt strange urges tickling at the edges of my mind and hurried further down the hall. I seemed to be garbed in a white coat of my own, and there were now doors lining either side, each with a thick pane of glass set at eye level and a large locked handle.

I decided to ignore the doors and walk until I found something that looked like an exit, but that idea didn’t seem to be in control of my body. I found myself moving toward the nearest viewing window.

That was the first time since regaining consciousness that I realized I was furious.

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Aug 08 2010

More writing research fun

Published by under wiki-wander,Writing

With the 21st century magic of Wikipedia and Google, today I’ve researched toxic waste, Superfund sites, and the Valley of the Drums.

Tomorrow, it’ll be South America, faith healing, more child trafficking atrocities, and the Amazon Basin.  (different story than today’s)  All from the comfort of my home!

I like living in the future!

Several more pages this weekend, within 1-2 writing sessions of finishing this draft.  Then the rules are:

I must write on the new short story daily.  If I have written words on that, then I am allowed to divert to other writing projects (novel, next Byer story) for the rest of that day’s writing sessions.  We’ll see how that works, modifications to the plan will be made as needed.

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Aug 07 2010

weekend links, pop culture edition

I’m hoping to get a couple articles written about some recent observations about pop music and some of what I see it doing lately, including some music video-watching parties at our place soon (the computer that plays them has been under extended repairs).  Here are a few we might be watching, discussing, analyzing, and possibly debating:

Rihanna, “Rude Boy

Lady Gaga, “Alejandro

Eminem ft. Rihanna, “Love the Way You Lie” — note this last one is the video equivalent of my recent short story “Acceptance”.  It’s fairly uncomfortable to watch and potentially triggery content.

If any of these get thoughts moving in your mind, consider joining us at our Music Video Deconstruction viewing parties!

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Aug 06 2010


Part of successful writing is figuring our your own particular writer’s quirks, and then either finding a way to use them to advantage or to work around them when they become blocky.  For me, for whatever reason, one of my quirks is getting past page 10 of a story or chapter.  Obviously, this problem doesn’t arise when I’m writing flash fiction or chapters shorter than 10 pages.  However, for those stories and chapters that fit the parameters, I’ve found that if I stop anywhere ON page 10, I have a huge problem getting the story momentum rolling again.  In learning workarounds for it, I’ve discovered that I can either write through to page 11, even at the very top, and break the psychological barrier against further words.  If I don’t have enough energy for that, then stopping at the bottom of page 9 will produce a similar effect, as long as the next time I sit down to write I get just over a page’s worth of words or more.

I am obviously getting healthier; this has been a rough week physically in many ways (including a mammogram), yet I’ve managed to take care of self and family decently well and also fit in several pages of writing.  I’ve missed one self-imposed deadline but am finishing the story anyway (having successfully passed the 10-page-hump this morning, whee!)

I am ditching all but one of the other self-imposed anthology goals in order to focus on a story that’s been building for most of a year, that I am hoping to submit to the second volume of the anthology I was published in previously.  The deadline is looming soon and I think this story is finally ready to be written.  It is nowhere near as easy a story to write as my recent ones have been, thus the long slow build pre-writing.  I really hope it turns out as nicely on the page as it is in my head, even getting close to that goal will make for a very good story indeed.  If I need breaks from that story while writing it I have the novel and a back-up anthology goal that I can try for in-between writing the big-scary short story.

What are some of your writer or artist quirks, the roadbumps and loopdeeloops that your brain throws in front of the creative process?  What ways have you found to work around or otherwise use these hiccups to your advantage?

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Aug 03 2010

Cancer Chronicles: adventures in mammography

Published by under health,me vs. cancer = I win

Perhaps it’s just my recent experiences being so far off the normal pain scale, but I wasn’t in nearly as much agony during the mammogram as I’d been led to believe from hearing tales from others who have had them.

Share your mammogram experiences here!

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Aug 02 2010

Cancer Chronicles: Denying Death’s Due

Had a conversation with a friend yesterday that was interesting (as all of my friends are).  She mentioned that she thought she had been in a lot of denial in the few weeks leading up to my surgery when I was, essentially, dying.   That she just refused to think about how sick I actually was and what that meant.

I agreed with her, remarking that even though I knew what was going on, I wasn’t articulating it, to others or myself.  Facing likely death, having chosen life over and over since my birth, I relied upon the strength of the genetic impulse, the need of “life” to persist.  I did not deny what was happening to me; I calmly went about the “last rites” of preparing my will and medical power of attorney documents, contacting family and friends and spending time together where possible, paring down to what absolutely mattered for survival.

That last week, what mattered most was the other people, the wonderful loved ones that kept coming over, vigil-like, to share their time and witness my living, witness my life burning up every resource in my body to remain here.  That last week, I’d run out of energy.  The will to persist was there but the flesh was finally faltering.  When that strength left, there was always someone else’s to take up the slack, someone else’s presence to remind me of why it was so important to continue breathing, to deny Death’s right to take me.

It was only after surgery, when my body was free to finally start healing and bringing life fully back into me, that I was able to directly face the cold fact that I had almost died, that I now had an insider’s perspective on what dying felt like.  Death walks at our shoulders from the moment we draw breath, and part of the vibrancy of life comes from how easy it is to forget that fact, to live as if we’ll live forever.  I read a lot of denigration of that illusion/delusion, and I can certainly see where it gets our species in trouble to follow it.  But I can tell you that it’s part of why we are still here.  Because we are sometimes able to face death’s certainty and not just laugh in its face, but deny its power over us when it matters.

Of course, the other side of the spent coin for those of us who have refused Death’s surcease directly is that we never again get to share the illusion of Death’s absence with our fellow humans.  But that’s complicated enough that it should probably have its own post, another day.  Fearless Reader thoughts or shared experiences?  Please comment here!

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