Monologue #17

June is my month to get Smashing Pumpkins wrapped up and cleaned up.  I’m planning to publish at the end of September.  I won’t have an actual launch date for a little while yet, but as soon as I do I’ll post it here along with information on where to get it.  

I’ve had to come to grips with my genre for this which was a bit of a surprise to me.  Smashing Pumpkins is definitely Urban Fantasy, but not the kind with magic or demons.  The fact that I have added a non-existent element to our current reality takes the book right out of the realm of plain old fiction.  In addition to that, it also stands as a Mystery Thriller.  I’m sort of scratching my head over this.  I hadn’t planned to write something that landed in more than one genre.  I suppose it was inevitable considering how much I dislike something so common as reality.  I love to change things, to alter a single item of what I see and imagine how it would affect life around me.

So far, I’m pretty happy with my progress on this first book.  Having never written one before I’ve been nervous about the amount of time I have been spending on things, but I’m not really beating myself up over it.  Things take as long as they take.  

Happy writing everyone!

Snippet #15

Time slowed to a crawl as the bus dug into the deep snow on the curb.  Unconsciously, Shelly placed a hand over her heart and held her breath, feeling the back wheels of the great machine slide sideways and grind against the raised edge of the sidewalk.  After a few seconds, the tires caught.  Ignoring the smaller vehicles, the city bus clawed its way into the street.

Pressing her hand tighter to her chest, trying to calm her rapid heartbeat through her gray, winter coat, Shelly glanced nervously around her, trying to see if she was the only worried passenger.  Across the aisle, sitting stiffly in her seat and gripping tightly to her shopping bag, sat a small elderly lady with an old, green knit hat and wide eyes.  As if feeling Shelly’s eyes on her, the woman turned her head and met her inquiring stare.  Nervous smiles tightened their mouths for just a moment.

Polite People

Hoisting his pack higher onto his shoulders, Kremly shielded his eyes from the glare of the dropping sun and sighed deeply.  His feet hurt, his fifty-two year old knees ached, and the backpack made him tighten his neck and stretch forward like a turtle.  Leaning against a parking meter he crossed his arms over his chest and mentally sorted through the cash and loose change in his pockets.  His mind drew a clear picture of the total, some of it tucked into his dirty jeans and socks, the rest scattered through multiple locations inside his faded, blue jacket.  Nodding thoughtfully, he surveyed the length of the sidewalk, gauging the dwindling, evening pedestrians.

A gray, Honda Civic lurched to a halt beside the empty parking spot associated with his meter.  The driver, a thirty-something woman with a brown ponytail and a bright yellow tee shirt, began the painful process of sidling into the slot.  Turning around to watch, he openly judged the woman’s efforts.  Having never driven a day in his life, he had no clue about the finer points of parallel parking, however, he didn’t let that stop him from raising his eyebrows in question as the lady cranked her wheel and jammed her back tires roughly against the curb.  Seeing the way she tightened her mouth and didn’t look at him, he began motioning her forward with one hand, displaying the manly patience he knew would make her stomach begin to eat its own lining.  After a minute, she gave up and allowed him to wave her forward and back, guiding her small car perfectly into the spot.

“Thank you for the help.”  Shoving the door shut behind her she stepped hastily toward the meter.

“Oh, no problem.  Being in the right place at the right time is kind of a skill of mine.”  He smiled again, open to praise, while watching her make a production out of locking the Honda until it beeped.  She was a bare inch taller than him.

“Yeah, thanks again.”  Digging inside her stylish, brown handbag she pulled out her smartphone and started thumbing the screen.  “Thank goodness there’s an app for these meters now.  Who has time for this anymore?”

“I can surely appreciate that.”  He smoothed his voice into an amber stream.   “I work in sales and it seems like I’m always running out of time.”  He had moved away from the meter to help her park and now stood just behind it.  “Do you know about sales?”  He kept his voice casual, but what came next was never a surprise.

Shoving her phone back into her bag, she looked up and gave him a tense smile.

“Yeah, look, I need to get moving.  I’m a little late for a meeting and don’t want to get in trouble with my boss.  I’m sure you understand.”  Her eyes flicked nervously toward the building behind him, then skittered quickly away.

What she wasn’t looking at was a restaurant, a rather pricey one where the waiters brought skewers of dripping, sizzling meat right to your table and sliced it directly onto your plate.  He had never eaten there.  He watched her walking her eyes carefully over the other buildings, doing what he thought of as a Killdeer Tactic.  Killdeers were ground nesting birds who would fake an injury, dragging one wing along the ground and running in the opposite direction of its nest.

“You get good mileage with that hybrid?  What’s it get?  Thirty some miles to the gallon?”  He stared interestedly at the Honda, letting his eyes stroll over it.  “Seems like a lot of people are getting hybrids these days.  Save the planet and all that.”  Leaning slightly to one side he looked at her tires.  The little spines left over from being poured still stuck out on the front ones, indicating they were fairly new.

Surprise at being openly ignored froze her expression, and for a few seconds she didn’t respond.  He waited her out, knowing she wasn’t the type to just walk away.

“It gets around thirty-six in the city.”  Her voice was flat and uninspired.

“Yeah, I thought so.”  He pointed at the bus stop sign.  “I don’t drive.  I need to get home to my family.  Do you think you can spare five dollars?”

Taking a slow breath she stared him down, her expression hardening.  The urge to be polite was a strong and crippling one.  Polite people were his bread and butter, particularly the women.  He knew she had been expecting this, but clearly wasn’t sure how to escape.

“Anything really.”  He generously expanded the offer.  “I just need to get home.”

Twitching slightly, as if to reach into her purse, the woman started to deflate.  The look in her eyes changed from hard to resigned.

“Five is about all I’ve got.”

“I sure appreciate it, Miss.”  Kremly stepped closer.

“You know what?  I think I’ll just go.”  She backed away from him, her eyes turning cold.  “I’m sorry.  I can’t help you.”  Turning on her heel she walked directly toward the restaurant and went through the door.  The smell of perfectly cooked meat sailed out behind her.

Watching her go, Kremly silently cursed himself.  The sale had been made, damnit.  He knew better than to push the space issue, especially with women.  Let them come to him.  Never the other way around.  Still…

Looking thoughtfully at the restaurant he again counted the money in his hiding places.  A good meal was always a beautiful experience, especially if you had someone to share it with.  

Pushing his sore feet and knees into motion, he resettled the backpack and followed her through the door.

Monologue #16 – More Editing and Audio Stuff

The audio recording is moving along.  I am learning as I go so things are going to be rather choppy in the beginning.  The sound of my own voice is a point of deep interest to me.  What it sounds like inside my head versus what I hear on the recording is not the same thing at all.  Evidently, blind terror renders me extremely monotoned.  I am struggling with myself to read out loud in same manner that I read to myself in my mind.  I have all sorts of inflection and stuff in there, but it is challenging to get myself to bring that out into the light of day.  I can’t even say, with absolute certainty that it’s because I’m shy, since I’m not… really… anymore.

If anyone is interested, I’m using Audacity, a free audio recording program that you can download here.  I went to Best Buy and bought a Snowball iCE microphone and a fairly decent set of headphones.  My final purchase was a 1 TB external hard drive to back everything up on.  The cost of getting this idea of mine started was less than $200.  I even went to the trouble of making a small, sound deadening box out of stuff I had lying around.  It works okay.  If I shut all the windows, close my bedroom door and feed my two cats before I start, I can get a respectable recording.  Mastering the track is a different matter.  As I said, I’m learning as I go so the first ones will be the rawest.  

One of the things I find the most interesting is the editing.  I’ve been focused on two particular stories to kick off this project.  Both of them have undergone major rewrites because of this.  As soon as I started recording them all sorts of problems cropped up.  I found a bunch of unnecessary information, as well as a ton of sentences that were simply too damn long.  I tightened things up, recorded again and found myself changing more things.  I think I’ve gotten them really close to their final form.  

Take care and enjoy your cook-out on this fine Memorial Day.  =)

Snippet #14

The suction cups left tiny, slightly raised marks on the window.  They would be easy enough to clean off.  A little window cleaner and some paper towel would make short work of it.  A blind toss over one shoulder sent the old, sun-bleached, striped cat with its slightly maniacal smile zinging onto the car’s hot dashboard.  Landing face down, it’s faded eyes scorched against the sun baked vinyl while the squeaking sounds of window washing pattered through the car.  It only took a few minutes.  The car door slammed shut and the new, brightly colored cat clung to the glass where the old one had been, it’s large, heavily lidded eyes unblinking as the old one passed in front of it on its way to the dumpster.

Shock

Carol shushed Derrick with a wave of her hand, pointing, with her eyes, at the small, robotic cleaner sweeping through the room, towing its cart along behind.  Round, plastic framed glasses hung from a silver chain around her neck, bouncing awkwardly against her large chest.  The blue button up she wore with its abundance of pink flowers did nothing to distract the eye from the obvious.

Looking very much like a rotund, mechanical spider riding an automated vacuum disk, the multi-limbed machine stopped at a narrow panel set into the office wall. It was marked by a sign that read Janitor.  The panel slid to the right, vanishing into the wall as a good pocket door should, and the Janitor began gathering supplies.  

Lips compressed to a thin, judgemental line, Carol watched until it had filled its cleaning cart and moved on.

“I’m certain that thing records everything we say and plays it back for Mr. Colson.”  She pushed a stray piece of rust colored hair behind her ear where it curled obediently below her lobe.

“That seems kind of petty.”  Derrick looked blandly at her.  His own glasses, gold framed and styled for a much older man perched securely on his nose.  “Why bother with us?  We’re nearly the ground floor?”

“That’s exactly why.”  Carol leaned back in her chair to look down the walkway.  The janitor was no longer visible.  “If the ground floor of the business becomes unstable it will affect everything above it.”  She had kept her voice low but the last few words were nearly a whisper.

“I think Shock is just a cleaner.  Quit picking on him. “  Derrick frowned at her.  “You spend too much time thinking everything is a conspiracy.”

“Shock?”  Carol gaped at him.   “You have a name for him?”  She looked like she tasted something bitter.

“No, he has a name for himself.  It’s programmed into him.”

“It’s creepy that you call it a him.”  Crossing her legs at the ankles, she settled into her chair and picked up a pen, twirling it thoughtfully through her fingers.  “Does he talk to you?”

“Actually, yeah.  He can hold a decent conversation while he works.”  Turning back to his computer, Derrick chuckled.  “Too bad he’s a Cubs fan.”

“Shush, here he comes again.”  Snapping her chair around to face her desk, Carol grabbed her mouse and started clicking at various files on her screen.

“Come on Eileen, oh I swear what he means.”

The rhythmic, metallic voice took her by surprise and she froze.

“What the hell?”

Derrick snorted laughter.

“He heard it in the kitchen the other day.  Shane was playing the radio while he microwaved his lunch and decided to serenade Shock.”  Rolling out into the walkway, Derrick gave the Janitor an encouraging thumbs up.  “Chances are he’ll recite the wrong lyrics.  Shane isn’t known for his excellent hearing.”

Carol’s eyes flashed with victory and she jumped on the point.

“So he does record things!”

Derrick sighed heavily.

“Of course he does.  He also records the number of supplies he needs and provides Mr. Colson with a printout.  You might want to cut back on your paper consumption.”

Carol’s jaw dropped open as Shock wheeled by.

“Too-ra-loo-ra, too-ra-loo-rye, aye.”

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!