NaNoWriMo 2009 - finished and succeeded!

At 8:00 this morning, I added the final 1300 words to put me over the top, and then did another 600 words to set in place the ending I had in mind. This story will really require 80 or 90K to tell properly, but this 50K is enough to sketch the outlines of where things should go.

During the course of the book, my protag:

1. was shot in the head
2. had the tip of one finger blown off
3. exposed perfidious corruption
4. decisively won a bar fight
5. put an end to an evil that spanned three generations
6. was on the receiving end of a) two separate attempts at seduction and b) one really spectacular blowjob
7. protected the innocent
8. helped and supported the almost-certainly-not-innocent
9. killed two people (one of them inadvertently)
10. drank a fair amount of beer.
11. ... and lots more

Not bad.

In the next few days, I'll put together a post with my thoughts on NaNoWriMo - the process, what I learned and/or gained from it and what I didn't. Most importantly, I'll try to spell out what conclusions I can draw from the experience that will guide my future work as a writer. It may surprise you.

How many Christmas trees should you have?

I'm thinking anything more than "one" is excessive, but I respect the right of others to disagree.

NaNoWriMo 2009 - even more sex

The scene I wrote this morning was getting way too heavy on exposition, filling in of backstory and foreshadowing future conflicts in the book. Too loggy and ponderous.

So I switched gears completely and went for a graphic sex scene. Incongruous, certainly, and there were aspects of it that I will obviously have to chop out when it comes to revision and editing, but what the heck, it was fun to write.

I'll have to either draw it out and let it build quite a bit more into full on graphic, or just draw the curtain when a certain percentage of flesh surface area gets exposed.

NaNoWriMo 2009 - more sex

"Thanks, Lizzy. I don't mean to be twitchy, it's just that - "

"Dennis." She interrupted.


"Am I correct in thinking that, if you were to try to explain why talk of the war upsets you, you would have to talk about the war?"

"Well, yes."

"And that you would therefore be made upset by it?"

"Ah. Also yes."

"So, if we are to have a nice, civil conversation about more pleasant matters, we should be making an effort to do so?"

"Another yes."

"In that case," she said, "tell me why you're interested in the Asheton family history."

He didn't say anything at first, because as she made this statement, she'd reached a finger into her glass of gin, then tilted her head back and drawn the wet finger down the length of her neck, leaving a trail of glistening gin from just below her right ear down to the crest of her cleavage. She lowered her head again and then met his stare with a warm gaze of her own.

"Perfume is so dear these days, what with the war on the continent and all. And I never went in for that French stuff anyway."

MacDonald's throat seemed to have closed up.

"Dennis? The Ashetons?"

"Ah. Right. The Ashetons."

#FridayFlash: Racist Bastard

#FridayFlash - Racist Bastard

by Tony Noland

Xai Feng gritted his teeth and waited for the asshole to stand up. Everybody knew the fucking bastard Carruthers hated Asians. How he had the gall to show up here at all was beyond anyone's belief. The Asian-American Association lunch was supposed to be for Roger Wu; this guy just stank up the place. Through the whole lunch, he and Mei Xu and Shao Hui and the rest of the guys had watched him over there, eating and laughing. They didn't bother to keep their voices down much as they talked about him. The whole group, the core group anyway, was all basically of the same mind about the guy and since Carruthers, of course, couldn't speak Chinese, it was OK.

The way that bastard had treated poor Xu Huang! Right after Carruthers had gotten promoted, Xu Huang had told everybody what a mean, vicious and foul mouthed dictator he was. The first thing he did after he came into that department was to meet with everybody one on one. He said it was just a "get to know the team" exercise, but Xu Huang had said that Carruthers had made it a point during his meeting to say that he didn't think the Asians were very talented and that they certainly weren’t doing enough good quality work. Racist bastard! Xai Feng and everybody else knew that Xu Huang was one of the smartest, most talented guys in the building. He graduated top of his class from Beijing University, and had turned down three other high-paying offers to come work here. Xu Huang had told them so himself.

Here we go, Xai Feng thought. He's coming up to the podium. How could Roger Wu act like he was friends with that guy? Xai Feng wasn't a bit surprised that Roger was being promoted. He was a great guy, very hard working. Xai Feng had never worked in that department, but Roger had a reputation as someone who knew how to deliver and knew how to spot talent; Xai Feng was just sorry that it meant the Roger would have to relocate. He certainly deserved this farewell luncheon. Roger had been in that department for six years, and had done a lot of great things. The funny thing was that he had been Carruthers' supervisor for most of that time. Why hadn't he done something about him? Surely his racism and bias would have shown itself. Xu Huang had quit because that asshole was such a prejudiced bastard, made all sort of changes to Xu Huang's work schedule and deliverables.

Look at him! He's shaking Roger's hand and they're both smiling as though they were really friends! You had to give Roger credit for loyalty anyway, thought Xai Feng. He's been defending that guy all along. The other guys in that group, the guys like Li Xu and Hong Ching, they defend him too. Must be Roger’s influence, that culture of loyalty. All the guys that worked with Carruthers over there seem to defend him. They're so blind. That's just because they’ve benefited from the association; he probably didn't show his true colors to them.

Strange, Xai Feng said to himself. His voice doesn't sound like I expected it to. It isn't nearly as deep and harsh as I thought it would be. Xu Huang said he was raspy and yelled all the time and had stained teeth. Maybe he's had them whitened or something.

Xai Feng looked around the room. Almost all of the Westerners and even a lot of the Asians were smiling as Carruthers spoke. That fucker - he's just using his charisma to hypnotize everyone, even the Regional Director and the Vice-President. It just goes to show how people can be fooled. All the guys at that table worked with him on that big reorganization plan. They're only in his camp because that all turned out well in the end. And that table over there is all people from the employee safety committee he chairs. All the staff from Roger's department are over at those five tables. I don't know why everybody else seems to like the guy.

Sure, go ahead and laugh at his little jokes. He can talk about the work he's done with Roger, what a great mentor Roger has been, his friendship with him and all the rest. All of us know that he's a racist and that he hates Asians. The way he treated Xu Huang proves that. Forcing him to change the way he was working, to cut short all of those interesting side projects he was working on. And for what? Like Xu Huang said, numbers of projects completed aren't as important as picking the right projects to work on. Whatever Xu Huang was doing, I'm sure it was more important that whatever Carruthers was trying to force him to do. Xu Huang was a really smart guy, with lots of experience. He told us all about it!

Carruthers should have just stayed out of it and let Xu Huang use his best judgment. The asshole didn't micromanage anyone else in that department. After the initial meetings, he just left everyone else alone to do their jobs, but no, not poor Xu Huang. It was only Xu Huang he picked on, having him come in for extra meetings to track progress, making him write all those reports on the backlog, all that stuff. That proves he's a bigot. After all, didn't Xu Huang file an EEO complaint against him before he quit? Isn't that proof enough of what kind of person Carruthers is?

Oh, please. So you went to Beijing with Roger and toured the Forbidden City together. So what? That doesn't mean anything. You were probably hating every minute of it, being surrounded by Chinese. Even that collaboration you set up with Jiao Tong University was probably just a political thing.

So you can make an audience smile, laugh and stand up to applaud you. You're a racist bastard, Carruthers, and giving Roger Wu a hug and wishing him well in his new job isn't gonna change our opinion of you.

Comments and constructive criticisms welcome. Other #FridayFlash pieces can be found here

NaNoWriMo 2009 excerpt: a touch, a glance and a deserted country road

an excerpt from Home Cure, my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel

"Mr. MacDonald. I need your help in convincing Miss Ashewood to acknowledge my unborn child as having been fathered by her brother, Crispin Ashewood."

MacDonald paused, then said, "Miss Smythe, I’m certain that Miss Ashewood will not be swayed or convinced by anything other than something from Crispin Ashewood acknowledging such. Do you have such a letter?"

She shook her head without speaking.

"Or a letter of commitment with respect to your engagement? Something wherein he refers to your understanding? Some high member of Bournemouth society, someone beyond reproach or question, who could speak as a witness to your engagement?" He held out little hope for this. Still, despite what he knew to be true from having read the letters she’d sent to Crispin, she was a pitiable sight.

Again, she shook her head.

"If Miss Ashewood were to support you, any other legal probelms could be dealt with.” he said. “The family solicitor, Mr. Tate, would know better than I, but assurance of legitimacy from her would be accepted by society in general without question. However, without some proof, Miss Smythe, it will be exceedingly difficult, essentially impossible to convince her."

She said, "She would listen to you. I believe that in you, she sees the last trace of Crispin Ashewood. She would accept your word almost as coming from him, perhaps the only word in the world that she would accept in such a manner."

He looked down the deserted lane, uncomfortable, but resolute.

"Miss Smythe, please forgive me, but I cannot act on such a matter without something more than your word alone as to how this transpired." He didn't want to tip his hand.

"Then I am ruined." She said it straight out, without blinking or flinching. "Without your help, Mr. MacDonald, I am ruined." She set her face to be resolute and determined, and moved a step closer to him.

"Mr. MacDonald. I have nothing to offer you but the truth, as plainly as I can present it. I have nothing more with which I can convince you as a gentleman." At this, she looked him full in the face, her green eyes bright and liquid. "A gentleman would not be swayed by offers of compensation for his efforts on my behalf. I have no money to make such offers, either as a down payment to secure your aid, or as promises of future payment for services rendered." She moved a step closer. He could smell lavender and roses and cinnamon.

"If need be, I can offer to compensate you, not as a gentleman" she said, "but as a man." One more step closer and her bosom was pressed against MacDonald's chest, brushing lightly, satin against wool. "Mr. MacDonald, I can and do offer a down payment for your representation of my case to Miss Ashewood." He could feel her breath on his chin, warm and moist. "A man back from service to his country might find such an offer... attractive." He felt her hand brush the front of his pants, the side of her fingers tracing the length of his erection from tip to root. Despite himself, he twitched forward. "I am utterly in earnest, Mr. MacDonald. Serve me in this, carry my case to Miss Ashewood and convince her of the legitimacy of Crispin's child," her fingers closed on him, "and I will return your service. Handsomely."

She released him and stepped back. "I will do whatever I have to do in order to assure that Crispin Ashewood's son has a future. I will do anything at all, Mr. MacDonald." She reached up and, never taking her eyes from him, undid a single button at the top of her dress. She stood so, regarding him with a level gaze and the barest trace of skin uncovered. Then, she turned and walked across the road toward a tall hedge off to the side. She entered a break in the hedge, turned back to him and, just as slowly as before, undid another button. She moved behind the hedge and was hidden from sight.

MacDonald stood still in the middle of the empty dirt road, pulse pounding.

Top Ten NaNoWriMo Motivators

Over on Olivia Tejeda's Away With Words blog, there's a list of her Top 10 NaNoWriMo motivators, and some cute penguins, too. Stop by and add yours!

I should note that I'm honored to have made the list, even if mine are more like DEmotivators!

Sabotaging NaNoWriMo -"It's for your own good"

Many articles will tell you how to succeed at NaNoWriMo. Those "how to" articles are aimed at writers, and talk about workable plots, gripping characters, tricks for reaching a daily wordcount, etc.

In contrast, this article isn't intended for writers, scribbling away at the next NaNoWriMo "masterpiece". This is a "how to" aimed at the spouses, partners and family members of people who are participating in NaNoWriMo. The goal is to show you how to stay sane in a NaNoWriMo household. Follow this advice, and your "writer" will come back to his or her senses in no time.

Tip #1: Insist that your partner stick to his or her diet. Writing a #nanowrimo is no excuse for extra calories.

Tip #2: Mealtimes are family times. Writing a #nanowrimo is no excuse for not being a part of every meal. That includes breakfast.

Tip #3: The laundry, gutters, lawn and all the other chores still need to be done. Writing a #nanowrimo is no excuse for a messy house.

Tip #4: Christmas is coming soon. Your partner can work on #nanowrimo later; insist on going over, together, catalogs as they arrive.

Tip #5: Isolation is a sign of a sick mind. Insist that your partner be in the TV room with you in the evenings, not off on that #nanowrimo.

Tip #6: Plenty of sleep is the foundation of good health. Don't let your partner stay up late to work on #nanowrimo. Or get up early.

Tip #7: Use air-quotes with your fingers when referring to the #nanowrimo "novel" your partner is "writing". He/she needs to lighten up.

Tip #8: Put #nanowrimo in a green perspective. Remind your partner how much electricity that laptop is wasting.

Tip #9: It's simple logic - if anyone off the street can sign up to do #nanowrimo, then it must not be a big deal, so why bother?

Tip #10: Reassure your partner that you will still love them, even though they want to waste the best month of the year on #nanowrimo.


These simple tips for sabotaging #nanowrimo partners everywhere brought to you by the Aliteracy Foundation. "AF: Don't Read"

NaNoWriMo 2009, Day 16: update - yeah, baby

Have done 4K so far today. With a little effort, a little peace and quiet and a little more coffee, I can knock out another couple K this evening.

This new paradigm works pretty well. Threat of blackmail raised and averted, the situation laid out and the plot thickening. The protag had what he wanted to do and now also has a second subplot burden laid on him.

I also managed to slip in a bunch of foreshadowing, and did it surreptitiously by having the protag misinterpret what was going on (and therefore mislead the audience).

Tony's a clever boy, yes he is.

NaNoWriMo 2009, Day 16: Ugh.

As I write this, I'm at 22K, around 4K shy of where I should be. I've gotten a bit tired of the story, mostly because I haven't been spending ANY time on the exciting parts of it. I've been pissing around with characters, setting, backstory and junk like that. It seems to be a habit - I can't just throw the sense of pacing to the wind and go from action point to action point.

And then this happened! And then that happened! And then this happened!

I always reach for a contemplative inner voice, the one that has the protagonist thinking about what he's seeing.

Well, time to get rid of that. I've got a heck of a lot of theft, seduction, murder, sex, blackmail, incest and more murder to cram into this book.

All the angsty, reflective connective tissue is going to have to come later.

FridayFlash: Two Lutheran Pastors

A joke for #FridayFlash, while I work on NaNoWriMo. Enjoy.

There were two Lutheran pastors, one from Philadelphia, one from Minnesota. They met at a conference and struck up a friendship. After some discussion about fellowship and evangelism, they decided to trade sermons at each other's congregations. So the Lutheran pastor from Philadelphia went to visit his friend's church in Minnesota... in January.

He went over to the church early on a Sunday morning and found the other Lutheran pastor out front with a bucket, spreading sand on the ice leading up to the door.

"Hey," said the first Lutheran pastor, "that's interesting. In Philadelphia, we spread salt on the ice to melt it."

"Oh, salt is great stuff," said the second Lutheran pastor, "but it only works down to about zero degrees. On really cold mornings like we get here in Minnesota, it won't melt the ice. The only thing you can do is spread some sand to provide some traction."

"Really? I had no idea." said the first Lutheran pastor. "Salt won't work at all? Sand is your only option?"

"Yep," said the second Lutheran pastor, "this is Minnesota. Here I sand; I can do no other."

Comments and constructive criticisms welcome. Other #FridayFlash pieces can be found here

UPDATE: If you're not a Lutheran, then this joke was not only not funny, but was probably incomprehensible. It refers to Martin Luther's testimony at the Diet of Worms, wherein he (supposedly) uttered one of the most famous quotes in the history of Protestant theological determinism, "Here I stand. I can do no other." Just forward the link to a Lutheran. They'll laugh enough for both of you.

Don't Mess With The Writer

Rather than bitch and moan to myself about the impossibly negative person I just had to deal with, or write up a blog post detailing why it was such an unpleasant conversation, I'm going to cherish that interaction.

Know this, oh piece of grasshopper dung that I just walked away from:

I'm going to record, as best I can, your snide, insulting and passive-aggressive phrases that made my blood boil. Your hardly-veiled insults and dismissal of my intelligence, experience, wisdom and even my courage and commitment - all of these I will use.

I'm going to make note of all the aspects of manner and mien that conveyed the pomposity, self-congratulation and arrogant condescension for which you are so rightly famous.

I'm going to capture all the various expressions you used to say, in six different ways on each of the six subjects we discussed, "I did it before you and I did it better than you".

I'm going to distill your words to their bitter, vicious essence and I'm going to use them.

For you see, I am a writer.

Which means that you, disagreeable and infuriating, puffed-up and arrogant, obnoxious and grandiose as you are, YOU have messed with the wrong guy.

I have an opening for someone just like you in an upcoming scene. He's not the main villain; that would be too much of a role for such a twisted little man such as you. No, he's a side character, a sub-plot, a pimple on the ass of my protagonist.

My hero has a lot of big, important things he has to worry about and overcome, but he also has you - a fundamentally insignificant little bit of pestilence, which is nonetheless irritating and painful.

When you are in my book, you will have a cologne even more churningly aromatic, a bellyroll even more protuberant and coffee-stained, a fashion sense even more tone-deaf and hideous, and ear hair only slightly longer. I make these changes so that you can't plausibly recognize yourself and sue me.

However, when you are in my book, your words, hurtful and hateful, will be just as you said them to me. They are perfect gems, in their own blistering way. I have no fear of you recognizing them; if you were capable of recognizing such words as having come out of your own mouth, you never would have said them in the first place.

I will shape a world where you, in all your poison-edged reality, will have a permanent place of display. You will live as an exemplar of all that can be horrible in humanity, and anyone with a scrap of wisdom will look at you and strive to be as unlike you as possible.

For you see, I am a writer.

Don't. Fuck. With. Me.

Bird of Prey, Pursing Destiny

Bird of Prey, Pursing Destiny

by Tony Noland

The eagle brought his wings down hard to gain speed, then banked into the wind to trade the speed for altitude. He held his wings out and climbed, angling toward his goal. His chest ached, and even the small effort of maintaining trim to stay aloft was almost as much as he could manage so long a time in the air. He was desperately tired. There was nothing below him but mud. If he landed, he would not be able to lift again, and he would die, so close to his destiny that he could smell it on the upwelling breeze. He was almost there, but he was so very tired.

He thought again of the cliff that his clan owned, the tall, familiar cliff with the rocky land at the top and forest at the foot of it. The river with its waterfall, the thin tree-stands on the cliff top and the deep, cool forest at the cliff’s foot all went with the land. It was not a large clan-holding, but it was well-stocked. Fish, lizards and other prey-sized animals were easily found within the holding. The lands up-river and down here owned by other clans. There had not been a serious land dispute for many generations. It took a serious uprising of a chorus of females to wage one of the bloody and costly land wars. A male sometimes got a female of another clan fixed in his eye, which naturally led to some fighting and killing. That had nothing to do with land, of course, since clan land stayed with the female. It was only the males that died, and there were always plenty of males to be had.

This male was one of those that would have started a land war all by himself, had such a thing been possible. He had grown tired of life on the cliff. The life was, if not exactly comfortable, at least predictable. When he had reached his full wingspan, he had fought over females like all the other males. He’d won some females, lost others. Over and over, he’d flown the same stretch of river that his mother and grandmothers and great-grandmothers had flown. Always, he’d wondered where the river went as it disappeared through the forest. One morning nine weeks ago, with late spring in full flower around him and a full belly of fish within him, he left his clan to find out.

Early in the morning, he’d crested the waterfall and folded his wings to drop down to the rocky pool at the cliff base. He followed the river through its familiar turns to the bend that marked the edge of cliff clan land. With his eyes open wide, he stayed on the river breeze and cruised past the bend. He resisted the pull of habit and custom, and did not turn back at the sight of unfamiliar ground, but flew on. He entered river clan land and flew through it.

As the day went by, he flew on, exulting at the strangely quiet landscape so far from the thunder at the bottom of the waterfall. For the first time, he could actually hear the wind in the trees. From the tall, bare snags that stuck above the forest, nesting mothers eyed him with suspicion. On the river below, males looked up from their fish and watched him fly past. It was unusual for a foreign male to come so deep into river clan in search of a female to fight over, but not unheard of. The river clan males watched him swoop to the river and pull a fat salmon, and they watched him eat it and two more besides. They watched him perch in a low snag near the river’s edge, and in the morning they watched him fly away, continuing downriver.

Day after day, he flew. In and out of one clan holding after another, he followed the river. He was entranced, hypnotized, besotted by the sight of new bends in the river. He flew through the clan lands of eagles whose accents grew stranger and stranger until he could no longer understand the greetings and warnings they called to him. On and on he flew as the river moved through forest and field and forest again, spilling at last in a wide open marshland that stretched to the horizon.

He stayed for three days at the mouth of the river, resting and eating. Beyond the mouth, the river flattened and fanned out into a thousand small streams that disappeared into the boggy marsh. He was at the end, and there was nothing more to see. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself turning around and going back up river, going back to the cliff to tell of what he had seen. He pictured his stay-at-home mother and grandmothers listening and then rolling their eyes at the foolishness of traveling such a long in order to reach nothing. He sat and rested and thought.

Waking before dawn of the fourth day, he was well rested, fully fed and restless. After being on the move and having a purpose in life for weeks on end, he could no longer simply sit and eat. Nor could he bring himself to simply turn and undo all that he had done in coming here. There must be something more, he thought, there has to be something more. He drew himself up and launched himself with a rapid series of powerful strokes of his wings. Lifting from level ground was difficult, but he had mastered the trick in his travels. Within moments he was moving higher in the sky. A few hundred feet up, he broke into sunlight, the dawn that had not yet reached the land below. His wings and chest were warm from his exertions, but the sunlight was welcome nonetheless in the cool morning air.

With nothing and no one around him, he deliberately closed his eyes, another trick he had mastered. In the open air above the treeless grassland shore and wide, open marsh, he kept them closed. This, more than his travels, would have shocked and appalled his kin and clan. Sight and flight, life and breath. When an eagle could no longer see or fly, he threw himself off the cliff to die on the rocks below. It was the way of things. To deliberately invite the darkness, while in the air no less, was a blasphemy bordering on madness. He had never done this while in the air, but something called to him and pulled him into this dark insanity.

He felt the sun and wind on his wings, smelled the grassland and marsh below, heard the wind blowing strongly under him. The minutes passed in darkness, and his exhilaration turned to an instinctive fear. He forced his eyes to stay closed and his fear gave way to panic, panic to terror and terror ultimately, incredibly, gave way to a deep, accepting peace. As he drifted in the brightly sunlit darkness he had created for himself, he felt that he was no longer merely an eagle in the sky - he was the sky. The sky, the earth and all that was in them and on them were as much a part of him as his talons or pinfeathers. When peace eventually turned back to exultation, this time in his mastery of the world, he opened his eyes to survey his domain.

The wind from the grasslands had blown him rather far out over the marsh. He could still see the land he had taken off from, a greenish-brown line on the horizon upwind. Crosswind, the marsh stretched endlessly. On the downwind side, from his great height, he could almost see something white on the far distant edge of the world. Gray and white, like a cliff in winter. He turned and flew back into the wind, back toward the grassland, and he gained altitude rapidly. He turned again, and eyed the distant cliffs. That was where he must go. He would find another river that fed into the marsh from those hills, and he would follow it to its source. He watched the wide marsh slipping by and gauged the speed he was making in this strong wind. The wind showed no signs of slacking, and the cliffs did not look too terribly far away. He would probably have to fly on after sunset, perhaps the entire night before he reached the forest or grassland that must lie at their feet, but he was ready for the challenge.

He paced himself with slow, easy strokes as he flew forward, the strong grassland wind helping him toward his destiny.

It was that sense of reaching toward a destiny that had kept him flying toward the distant cliffs, far and away out over the baking mud below. He flew on and on, riding the thermal winds that were faster than anything he'd ever known in the moutains. When the sun went down, the residual heat rising from the wide, blasted mud flats helped him forward. The sunrise the next morning was as blinding as anything he'd ever seen. Fatigue and the cold night air had made him dull and slow to respond.

All day he flew, moving at terrific speeds towards the cliffs that came closer but slowly, oh, so slowly. By midday he was worried. By afternoon, he was terrified. Now, at close of day, he was only tired. If he did not make the cliff edge by sundown, the land thermals would push him away, and he would die.

Again, he brought his wings down hard to gain speed, then again banked, climbing as high as his quivering, exhausted muscles would carry him. Then, his right wing collapsed and he fell. He came angling in at the cliff's edge at a bone-breaking speed. The limbless corpse of fir loomed up and he scrabbled at it with both talons. He snagged and scraped, then went twisting, tumbling and slammed into the ground. The rocky soil at the base of the trunk dug into his back and he shrieked out his agony. He flopped over and the world went white, then red and finally all was blackness.

After some unknown time, he opened his eyes. Standing eight wingspans off was a female. She had a fish between her talons, a fish the strangest shade of blue that the eagle had ever seen. He tried to speak, but could not. Thirst had gummed his tongue in place. The female cocked her head at him, then picked up the fish, flapped into the air and swooped to drop it in front of his beak.

He could barely make out her accent, but he understood her words.

"Eat. We will talk later."

She turned to face a ground perch not far away. She made to fly, then turned back to him.

"Not many males could haved crossed the nothingness. I will be waiting for you."

With one huge draft, she lifted and left him to eat and recover his strength.

No time, no time

I don't have time to work on my nanowrimo today, let alone write a FridayFlash piece. So why am I doing a quick blog post about it?

NaNoWriMo 2009: Crossed the 15K mark

I remember now why I wanted to do NaNoWriMo. Fifteen thousand words is a lot of text, and it's only the beginning!

After the first week, I feel like a mountain climber, looking down at the valley far below, and the summit far above. Leg muscles which were screaming in protest during the first painful days have hardened up nicely. I'm making solid progress, and I'm doing it one day at a time.

I remember this. I remember consistency and steady forward motion. I remember the thrill of accomplishment the last time I climbed this mountain.

Fifteen thousand words up this mountainside, and the air must be thinning out. I feel lighter and giddier than I have in ages. My pack is lighter too, not just because I'm getting stronger with every day of exercise, but because I've been either eating up or throwing overboard a bunch of useless crap that I've been carrying around.

I'm excited, and looking forward to the coming weeks.

Anthology of FridayFlash

Over on his blog Mad Utopia, Jon Strother is hosting a discussion about an anthology of #FridayFlash he's considering.

First, I think it's terrific that Jon is thinking about the #FridayFlash community, and is ready to think big. I'd considered putting together an anthology of my own work at some point, but it was a post-it note idea for the future. Realistically, you need to write around 100 stories in order to get 30 that would be worth anthologizing, of which maybe 5 or 10 would be real keepers.

Second, the way he's going about this is worthy of accolade as well. He could have undertaken this as a purely solo act. If he had just scraped his listings of all the #FridayFlash stories to date, identified some stories and authors that he liked, asked those authors to submit to the anthology, that would have been perfectly in keeping with standard publishing methods. Even opening it up a bit and accepting open submissions for a third of the slots (balancing the two-thirds which were invitation-only) would have been seen as pretty good.

Approaching this as a way to spread the wealth around and foster a community of writers is a wise and far-sighted move. Good work, Jon!

FridayFlash: Cutting

FridayFlash - Cutting

by Tony Noland

"Mr. and Mrs. Eckston? Come right in." The counselor was petite and happy looking, not at all what Paul had expected. His own guidance counselor in high school had been a fat, dumpy woman who'd been killing time until retirement. She'd been as uncaring and useless as all of his teachers, a complete waste of an office. This woman, though, seemed much more committed to her job. He still didn't know why she'd called them in.

"Please, sit down," she said. Amanda Parlemente, that was her name. The sign on her desk had a sticker of a smiling bullfrog on the upper right hand corner.

"Mr. and Mrs. Eckston -" she began.

"Please, it's Paul and Allison," said his wife. She was always the one to insist on first names. Paul would have been just as happy to keep things professional, but whatever.

Ms. Parlemente - Amanda - smiled.

"Paul and Allison it is." She turned serious. "I know you're wondering why I called you and asked to speak to you about Janice."

"I’d say we’re wondering a bit, yes," Paul said. "Jan's grades are fine and her scores on the SAT and ACT were pretty good. Is something going on that we should be concerned about?"

Amanda paused, then folded her hands in front of her.

"Mr.... I mean, Paul..." She stopped. She looked down, opened a folder on her desk, then looked up at them both. Paul was getting a little worried, and he could tell that Ally was, too.

"Janice is doing very well in all of her classes. Her grades are good, her teachers like her, she has lots of friends and gets along with everyone. The articles she writes for the school paper are really quite good. She hasn't mentioned journalism as a career option, but I think she would do well to consider it, or another field where she could use her gift for writing. There are any number of colleges that she would really thrive at."

Good news first, Paul thought. She's giving us the good news first. Oh, Christ, here it comes, whatever it is, here it comes.

"However..." Amanda paused again.

"What is it?" Ally's voice was calm, but very measured. She was worried, and he could hear it.

"I noticed something that, well, it bothered me. I wanted to talk to you about it. I spoke to Janice in a roundabout way, but she said there was nothing to it. I'm not sure that's really the case. I thought you should know."

"Well, what is it, for heaven's sake? What are we talking about here?" Paul was worried, too, and unlike his wife, he didn't bother to hide it. "Is she pregnant?"

Both women stared at him for a moment, Amanda in surprise, Ally in horror.

"No, no, nothing like that!" Amanda said. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be elliptical. What I saw was some... well, on her arms, I noticed... Mr. and Mrs. Eckston, is Janice, well, happy at home?"

"Happy?” Paul said. “Yes, of course. I mean, I suppose so. No, that's crazy, yes she's happy. What is this? What are you talking about?" Paul was getting scared.

"The fact is, her arms have a series of cuts. On the forearms, just below the elbow. Her shirt sleeve was open and I noticed them this past week. I've noticed in the past that Janice always favors blouses with long sleeves, although the tees and tank tops are more the fashion with girls these days."

"Cuts?" Ally sounded confused. "What do you mean, cuts?"

"I mean shallow cuts. More like deep scratches. She said it was from her volunteer work at the city gardens - pruning roses and the like. I’m not sure that’s the whole story.”

“What are you talking about?” Ally was still very controlled, Paul thought, so she must be freaking out inside.

“Some girls develop a, you might call it a kind of addiction to harming themselves. I'm talking about cutting or scratching themselves. It's more commonly associated with girls who suffer from bulimia or anorexia. I don’t see any evidence of either of those with Janice, but cutting can be a standalone issue. Is there anything that you've seen in her home life that would suggest there's a problem?"

"In her ‘home life’? You sound like she's in a mental institution!" Paul said. "No, everything is fine at home. I mean, I wouldn't let her have the car last weekend, but that's just a normal thing, right? I mean, for a teenager to not get what she wants all the time?"

"I don't mean normal things like that." Amanda said. "I mean, and traumas or major concerns. Things that might push her to seek some kind of solace with cutting."

"No!" Ally's voice was indignant.

"Well, that's reassuring. I just wanted to explore the possibility, to bring it to your attention in case there was something going on that needed to be addressed." Amanda's voice was placating. "Janice is a great kid, and I just wanted to be sure. I felt that I should discuss this with you, let you know what I saw, and what it might mean. If there were any real reason to be concerned, I'd ask you to ... keep an eye on her. Maybe discuss things, have a heart-to-heart with her about how things are going. But if there's nothing going on, then we can just go forward."

She doesn't believe us, Paul thought. And she knows that we WILL keep an eye on Jan, and WILL have a talk with her. Sneaky, aren't you, Ms. Amanda Parlemente?

After some final conversation about more mundane matters, all three of them said goodbyes that were forcibly relaxed and cheerful. Ally had to visit the ladies' room on their way out of the school. Paul stood in the hall, waiting.

He was so confused, his mind so muddled. Jan? Hurting herself? Why? It didn't make any sense. What could possibly be encouraging her to do such a thing?

He closed his eyes. It was all too much. He just couldn't seem to think straight. He reached into his pocket, took out the car keys and gripped them, tight.

Tighter. Tighter. The keys dug into his palm, and the familiar rush of pain in his hand rose and rose until his eyes flew open at the breaking of the skin.

As always, the pain cleared his mind, and he was once again master of the situation and master of himself. He put the keys away and dabbed at his palm with his handkerchief. He would talk to Janice as soon as they got home and get this nonsense cleared up.

No daughter of HIS would do something so foolish as to cut herself!

Comments and constructive criticisms welcome. Other #FridayFlash pieces can be found here

NaNoWriMo Day 5 - excerpt: "Do you believe in God?"

He closed his eyes. He was so tired. Every day was a struggle. He opened them again. It certainly wouldn't do to fall asleep five minutes after boarding the train. Even now, when nothing mattered anymore, he felt the sense of decorum as a palpable presence. In the war, different rules applied, and decorum was doing whatever it took to stay alive. Lord, when he thought of the things he'd done, of the things he'd eaten! And yet, here in England, there was such a firm effort to make everything normal, to keep the stiff upper lip, to be British above all else.

It was all so confusing. For the first time in his life, he wondered if he and all of the other Britons had it wrong. Not just about the war or tactics. Not just about their choice of allies or governments, or who was in Parliament or out.

He wondered if the whole of society was just based on some bad assumptions. It was clearly a false way of life, humming along saying that everything was fine when it wasn't. British society was threaded through with lies, founded on them, in fact. Little ones between people everyday, big ones once a week and monstrous ones right at the core of it all. Everything in the entire world was a lie, nothing was true. He didn't need to have halls of gold or silver - such elevated metals were too fine to expect. He'd settle for iron or brass. But the whole of society was bubbly, crumbling slag metal. All of it was dross and tinker's tin, not a bit of pure metal anywhere in it.

He had always thought of England as a fine old ship on the rough seas of the world. Copper-bottomed and masted with heart of oak, with lines of Jamaican hemp and sails of Welsh linen, it was the finest ship in the world, better than and besting all others.

Now, sitting with his newspaper unregarded in front of him, he saw that it wasn't just him. It wasn't just Crispin or the war. It was the entirety of British society that was a lie.

How are you? I'm doing well. How is your new job? It's fine, thanks. Do you have enough money? Yes, quite comfortable, thanks. Isn't she pretty? Yes, she's a beautiful child. Are you happy? Yes, quite happy, thank you. Is he a good man? Yes, he comes from a good family. Do you believe in God? I believe in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who forgives our sins and gave us life everlasting.

MacDonald paused in his litany of lies. He asked himself that last one again.

Do you believe in God?

Every day, he spouted lies. With a small shock, he realized that he expected others to lie to him, counted on it, in fact. It was lies and deception that moved and fostered society, what he thought of as society. From the little ones to the big ones, the world and all in it were steeped in lies.

But do you believe in God?

He waited for his own answer. His hands trembled slightly as they held the paper, and he was afraid of what the answer was, what the true answer was. He pushed aside the lies and falsehoods of the world, he listened to nothing and no one, he cared for the feelings and well-being of no one else. All matters of society and decorum were gone from his mind and he felt himself a naked, cold savage on a barren plain, his fingers clawing in the dirt. He was at the bottom of his soul, and it was an ugly place indeed, for there was nothing but truth from horizon to horizon.

Do you believe in God?

And the naked savage, in his terrible, grunting howl of purest truth said, "Yes, I believe in God, who made the world and who lives in all things."

Do you believe in Jesus?

The savage didn't hesitate. "I believe in Jesus, who was my friend, though I never met him."

Do you believe in the Holy Ghost?

"I believe in the Holy Ghost, who is a lazy piece of shit who doesn't do his job of intercession worth a good goddamn."

The last answer surprised and pleased MacDonald. He'd always had his doubts about what the Holy Ghost did; now he knew exactly why he didn't like the guy.

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day 2 - the rise of the Inner Critic

Got socked by my Inner Critic sooner than expected this time around. Using Write or Die is good in one way, in that it get lots of words down on the page.

The downside is that they are misspelled and generally poor quality. I'm fearing that they are pretty much worthless as is, and will require such incredibly substantial revision as to be a full re-write.

Which my Inner Critic immediately pounces on.

"Tony, why are you bothering to write such crap? This stuff is terrible! You shouldn't be doing NaNo. You should wait. Wait until you can set aside the time to do this properly. OK, your plot isn't as bad as I was trying to convince you of yesterday - I concede it has some merit.

So much merit, in fact, that it doesn't deserve the shameful, half-assed treatment you're giving it. This could be a great book! Don't waste it on NaNo! Stop writing, right now. I'm not saying don't do NaNo; I'm just saying, think up a throw-away plot that you won't mind wasting. This NaNo book won't be any good anyway, right? Why use up a good idea on it?

Just stop writing, OK? It's for the best. Do you really want this kind of thing on your resume when your NEXT book hits the bestsellers lists? Really, when you stop and think about it, the best thing you could do for your future career as a writer is to stop writing."

God, what an asshole that guy is.

NaNoWriMo, Day 1: 2079 words

Two chunks of ~1K each, both with Write or Die. Had to press "pause" several times during each, so it's not quite "or Die".

Still, off to a decent start. How about you? If you're doing NaNo, you don't have time for long response. Just toss in a number.