Monologue #15 – Audio Narration, and Twin Peaks

It looks like I missed a Snippet this week.  I am disappointed about that, but I’m not beating myself up over it.  My weekend has been far more social than I’m used to and my sleep schedule has become rather skewed.  To make a long story short, I’m off my game this week.  I have a short story scheduled for Wednesday, but that is as far as I have gotten.

In other news, my wife and I are working on putting some of this blog into an audio form.  Having never narrated anything before, this is a learning experience for me.  I have enjoyed a few audio books in my time and certainly listen to a lot of narrated work on various YouTube channels.  I strongly urge those of you with a love for all things creepy to give CreepsMcPasta a try.  He narrates Creepy Pasta stories and is a very talented speaker.  I haven’t set a deadline for this project, it’s just something that we’re working on.  Most likely, you’ll just begin seeing SoundCloud players embedded at the tops of various posts.

Twin Peaks!  Is anyone excited about the third season on Showtime?  I have been power-watching the series on Netflix to get myself up to speed.  I am very curious about how it will be received.  I feel like ABC really encouraged its premature death by moving its timeslot around so much during the second season.  As a creature of habit, changing things too much can cause me to reject something entirely.  David Lynch is a truly inspired writer and while much of his work can leave the average person scratching his head and muttering to himself, it’s still very memorable.  If you are unfamiliar with him please look up Blue Velvet, Naked Lunch and Mulholland Drive to get an extra special glimpse into his surreal style.  The collaboration of Lynch and Mark Frost, which gave us Twin Peaks, along with the prequel movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me has definitely left a mark in the minds of an entire generation of viewers.  I look forward to what the third season will bring.  That reminds me, I need to pick up a subscription to Showtime for the next few months.  I’m going to go do that right now.  Cheers!

Smashing Pumpkins – Samson

Watching Sara Chimner trudge listlessly into the room, head down, brown hair hanging loose in her eyes, Samson tried to imagine what it would feel like to work at McDonalds on the grill.  Sure, people suffered everywhere but, at least as a fast food line cook he wouldn’t have to deal directly with eight year olds.  From the looks of her, Sara would be an unwilling participant today.

“Good morning, Sara.”

At the sound of her name, Sara sighed and slid into her seat, putting her head down directly upon the desk top, arms hanging down by her sides like a rag doll.  Eyebrow arching upward in fascination, he wondered if he was too young to get a vasectomy?

“Is something wrong, Sara?”  Rising from his desk he swallowed his own sigh and walked toward the child’s seat where he knelt down beside her.  “Did something happen?”

Like a marionette, her right arm rose into the air, nearly whacking him in the face, and her hand opened to expose a single, opaque tooth, the bottom edges slightly darkened.  He stared obediently at it.

“We all lose our baby teeth, Sara.  It’s nothing to be upset over.  Your adult teeth will grow in and fill the gap.”  He thought his rational explanation was a good start.  He watched her close her hand again around the tooth and rest it on the desk beside her head.  His jaw tightened.  “Did you lose it on the way to school, this morning?”

A muffled no came from the still form.

“When did you lose it?”

“Yesterday.”

Thinking she sounded rather bitter, he tried a different tactic.

“Do you know about the Tooth Fairy?”  Every child knew about the Tooth Fairy, right?  This particular mythos was still alive and well, being preached to every child on American soil.  He fully expected Sara to acknowledge the question with a positive response.  He was more than a little startled when she raised her head and fixed him with eyes lacking any spirit of life and told him just how much she knew about it.

“I put it under my pillow last night.  It was still there this morning.”  The brown eyes were puffy and red, having shed silent tears of grief all the way to school.  Her lips, normally full, seemed thin, drained of their usual vibrance.

Looking at her now, he could see she had taken a serious blow to her ego.  That a child this young could have her mental legs knocked out from under her by being overlooked by a made up entity that bought children’s teeth for a living seemed absurd.  Part of him wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her, to rattle some sense into her.  The Tooth Fairy is a lie!  It’s all a big lie!  Get over it and get on with growing up.

None of that was possible though.  Samson’s sense of reason struggled to get a grip on his anger.  He was expected to tell these children that the world was round, the sun rose in the east, and that two plus two equals four.  If he told Sara the Tooth Fairy was a lie, he would, effectively face a firing squad.

“Did you tell your mother?”

“No.”  Sara dropped her head back onto her desk, this time using her arm, the one still holding the tooth, as a cushion.  “It fell out after I went to bed.”

So she had just stuffed it under her pillow.  Samson could see it as clearly as if he had been there.  It had never crossed her mind to get up and show her parents the tooth.  Sara had absolute faith that her parents told her the truth in all things.  To have her tooth still with her when she awoke had been far more tragic than just the loss of a quarter.  That tooth meant that her parents were not the all-knowing gods she had thought them to be.  They had been wrong.  Those red eyes weren’t about the tooth, they were about the loss of innocence.

“You need to tell your mother.  Mom’s have a secret way of communicating with the Tooth Fairy.  If you don’t tell her then she can’t send the message and the Tooth Fairy doesn’t know to come.”  He almost patted her on the head but caught himself.  Never touch the children.  Straightening he went to his desk and pulled a couple pieces of tissue from the box and walked them back to her.

“Here, let’s wrap the tooth up nice and safe and put in the front pocket of your bag.  As soon as you get home today, give the tooth to your mom.  Can you do that for me?”

Sara turned her head on her arm to look at him again, this time with a small flicker of hope in her eyes.

“Uh huh.”  She sniffed and sat up enough to drop her tooth on the tissue.

“There, all safe and sound.  Let’s go put it in your bag, okay?”  He stepped back to give her room to get out of her seat and lead the way into the hall.  

Sara’s bag was pink and purple with flowers all over it, a miniature back-pack, complete with straps to go over her shoulders.  Samson handed her the wrapped tooth and watched as she zipped it securely into the small front pocket.  He gave her an encouraging smile that felt unnatural for him.

“Let’s get back to our seat now, and start our day, okay?”

Monologue #14

What about visual cues?  What about those nervous habits that people have?  How many of  these things make their way into your writing?  I often find myself studying people while I work, watching how they turn their feet when they walk or hold their face when they make a bet.  The look on the face of a guy who is chasing his money is vastly different from the lady who has just arrived and is buying into the game for the first time.  Chasers have a hard, pinpoint look in their eyes.  They remind me of bird dogs going on point.  They have the scent of their prey and know they way.  The lady who is just sitting down may be a regular or not, but her eyes are clearer and more open to the upcoming experience.  Her smile is natural.  The Chaser?  He’s usually angry.  More often than not it’s anger at himself but it comes out in a numerous ways.  He’ll verbally abuse the dealer for dealer him crappy cards, or he’ll chastise another player for taking a questionable hit.  He can even blame the waitress for distracting him at a key moment.

All of these things go through my mind every time I sit down to write.  Which of these cues will make it into my writing that day?  It’s possible that none of them will.  It’s possible I’ll forget all about them in favor of being lost in the craft of piecing words together.  My balance can be tilted toward getting something to eat rather than fine tuning a character to be more three dimensional.  It’s really just a daily crapshoot and I put my money on the line and pick up the dice like everyone else.  Some days I win.  

Happy Mother’s Day!

Snippet #13

“Sandy, you are a magician with that copy machine so I’m going to have you work on the flyers for the event.”

Flushing slightly at the double edged sword, Sandy stayed motionless for a moment, staring at Kylie.  Making flyers was a terrible job, one that Kyle would pick apart and ultimately do herself through the guise of suggested edits.  The job would keep her right under Kylie’s thumb for the next week.

Brown curls swung coyly around Kylie’s cheeks as she pushed papers around on her desk, straightening and sorting, not looking up.

“What are you waiting for?”  Picking up a pen, Kylie studied a single sheet as if she were going to write on it.

Catching herself before the scowl could get all the way out, Sandy allowed herself a slightly heavy exhale and turned to go, her brain burning with dislike.  The benefits that came with her job were hard to walk away from over a single person, especially one that was so covert with her manipulations.  Voicing her opinion of Kylie to a few of her co-workers had only made her appear as a curiosity.  Everyone seemed to adore the woman.  How was she the only one that saw what Kylie was?

Rogue

“Farming Control, this is Kathleen speaking.  How may I help you?”

“Yeah, hi… um, Kathleen.  I’m calling to report a rogue tractor in the field by my apartment.”

“Okay.  Can I get your name please and the location of the field?”

“Junior Clayton.  The field is right next to the building.  It’s got a lot electrical poles along it.  Isn’t that something that attracts tractors?  All those electrical poles?”

“Mr Clayton, what is the address of your home?”

“Oh, um… 1234 West Farthest Avenue.”

“Okay.  And the city?”

“Oh yeah, heh heh.  That would help, huh?”

“It’s okay, Mr Clayton, rogue tractor sightings tend to excite people.”

“I’m in This City.  Do you need the zip code?”

“That would be helpful.”

“54321”

“Thank you.”

“So, those electrical poles.  Are they what could be attracting the tractor?  I hear about tractors in this field all the time, I just never saw one until today.”

“Electrical poles are a possibility.  Tractors have become something of an enigma when it comes to saying what attracts them.”

“An enigma?  Isn’t that like saying you just don’t know?”

“Well, the first documented rogue tractor was in 1901 in Iowa where they were invented.  At the time, people speculated that the machine didn’t have a taste for corn.”

“Really?  And what did that one eat?”

“All tractors eat gasoline Mr Clayton.  Rogue or domestic they all eat the same thing.”

“Oh, I guess that makes sense.  So what makes them go rogue?”

“That one in Iowa seemed to prefer mowing wild flowers as opposed to corn.  It was eventually caught and rehomed to Colorado in the National Forest.  Last I heard, it is still there but it only mows once or twice a year now.”

“I don’t think there are a lot of wild flowers in the field here.”

“It may not be a rogue tractor, sir.  I will need to check our resource files to be sure, but  it’s possible there are domestics being worked there.  Electrical poles are usually a sign that the field is marked for maintenance.  What time did you see the tractor?”

“Oh, it was around lunch time.  I was home walking my Daschund so, it had to have been between twelve-thirty and one o’clock.”

“That helps.  The domestics usually work in the morning, before the sun gets too hot.  They are trained to avoid mowing when the under-lying grasses would be exposed to excessive heat.”

“So the one I saw could really have been a rogue!”

“It’s possible.  I don’t want to get your hopes up before we have had a chance to investigate.”

“If it’s a rogue, how do your guys catch it?  Do you have tractor traps?”

“Traps are one way.  It’s expensive to repair the tires on a tractor once we use traps so they are reserved for extreme circumstances.  And the traps don’t always work.”

“They don’t?  How many times have they not worked?”

“Off the top of my head I can think of about four times where rogues were lost after the use of traps.  Three of them were in Wisconsin and one was in Illinois.”

“Well, that’s good to hear.  Does This State have anything notable about rogue tractors?”

“Not really.  This State is pretty low on the analysis list.  We don’t get a lot of calls from your area about rogues.”

“That makes me feel better.  How dangerous can a rogue tractor be?  Should I be worried about walking my dog?”

“There hasn’t been a case of a rogue tractor preferring to mow living beings since 1945.  That was only one tractor and it was successfully captured and dismantled.”

“Dismantled?  That sounds extreme.”

“Well, once a tractor gets a taste for blood it’s really better for everyone if it’s just dismantled.  Don’t you think?”

“I suppose.  It just seems so harsh.  I mean, we built them in the first place.  If it wasn’t for us even making them then they wouldn’t exist at all, right?”

“It’s a common political standoff Mr. Clayton.  Everyone has a side they like to stand on.”

“I guess.”

“Okay, I think we have all the information we need.  I’ll escalate your sighting up to the investigators and we’ll figure out what’s going on in your field.”

“Thank you.  I appreciate you taking this seriously.”

“We take all sightings seriously, Mr. Clayton.  Rogue tractors are nothing to be ignored.”

“How will I know if it was a rogue?”

“You probably won’t ever know for sure.  If it’s a rogue it will be captured and rehomed.  Unless you happen to be there when Farming Control collects it you won’t know.”

“Oh.  You don’t send out a letter or something?  An email even?”

“No sir.”

“Okay then.  I guess that’s all.”

“Have I helped you with your issue, Mr. Clayton?”

“Yes.”

“Would you be willing to rate our encounter on a scale of one to ten as to your level of satisfaction?”

“Sure.  I will rate it as an eight for overall satisfaction.  You have been very helpful, Kathleen.  I just wish I could know if it was a rogue for sure.”

“I understand Mr. Clayton.  We get that a lot.  Thank you for your rating and you have nice day.”

“Thanks.  You too.”

Monologue #13 – Proofreading

BookBub anyone?  I get the daily email and scroll through the list.  Sometimes I click a link and peruse the reviews of a book that might interest me.  Very quickly learned to ignore the good reviews in favor of the poor ones.  Three stars or less and I wanted to know why?  What did the author do wrong?  Why does this person want to tell other people what is wrong?  The bad reviews have become my school.

The reason for bad reviews is a long one.  I have read many that stated a book was boring, too poorly thought out or contained an element that the reader hadn’t expected.   While most of these reviews are valid from a reader’s point of view, as a writer with a book that I intend to self-publish, I want more from the reviews.  I have to look deeper down the list and keep reading.

At the top of list of things that readers complain about is something I can’t help but be appalled by; spelling and grammar.  To see a book review by Mr. Joe Average Reader that is denouncing the work due to its lack of proper spelling, poor word choice or repetitive use of a specific word makes my stomach clench and I usually back away from the book without making serious eye-contact.  I take those kind of reviews to heart.  Just reading one can make me run home and check my spelling.

As a future self-publisher, I find myself being harshly critical of my work now.  I know I can’t expect everyone to like what I offer, but if I can at least avoid being bashed for lack of proofreading then I will feel better about not being a one-size-fits-all kinda person.  To ignore something that is built into every single text editor, including our phones and text messaging apps, is a mark of extreme laziness.  I’ll probably worry myself to the point of nausea over this.

I’ve looked at this page a thousand times.  I’ve stared at it so much that I no longer know if anything is off.  I know what it is supposed to say so my eyes are reading what I have meant for them to read.  Whether or not it really looks the way I think it looks is a different story.  My proofreader isn’t home right now.

Snippet #13 (COL – Chicken)

“The eighties were righteous, man!”  Bobbing his head in time with the music blaring from the overhead speakers, the man plucked two five dollar chips from the rack in front of him and leaned into the craps table to press them firmly into the field, centering them on the twelve.

Fighting the urge to roll his eyes at the guy, Shane lifted his hands into the air above his head and smiled.

“Hands up, boss.  Dice are coming.”

Two red cubes rocketed down the table, the sharp points digging at the green, felt covering.  Tumbling and bouncing, the dice grazed across the back of the man’s hand on their way to the back wall.

Way too slow, guy.

“Five, fever!  No field!”

“C’mon, man!  Get your hands outta the way!”

The shooter pressed both hands to either side of his backwards baseball cap, the scriptic M above the bill facing away from the game.

“Sorry, man.  They didn’t touch me, I swear.”

Liar.

Shane locked up the ten dollars from the field and focused his eyes on the passline behind it.  Historically, the shooter was short tempered.  He had a history of bullying other players and arguing with the staff over one dollar bets.  The guy in front of him liked to play chicken with the dice.  Last second betting, sometimes just tossing his chips down, letting them scatter toward the field in a way that made them seem like dice magnets.  He always caused a seven out.  Tightening his lips to keep the smile from getting out, Shane gripped the wooden rail and waited.  It was just a matter of time.