NVDT #68 – Bonanza, Polti and Tolkien


Prompt – Every story starts with a stranger in town or a journey. “Pa, we’re takin’ the wagon to Virginia City.” Every story ends with “Golly gee, Wally. I thought we were goners.” True or False?

Yes, and yes/no. Regardless of whether you write milieu, idea, character or event, even deep stream of consciousness or “slice of life” stories in any of Polti’s 36 plot forms, they all have an inciting incident. A person or an event wakes up, encounters someone or something else. Spending a moment in time with a character or an event is to cover (for lack of a proper pronoun) “its” journey.

The “Golly gee, Wally I thought we were goners” only applies as denouement. If the conflict is resolved without dusting up, then that line might read –

Alix dropped the pistol on Yannick’s body when she stepped over it and through the splintered door into the late summer night. (The Hollywood out of budget The End scene)

The Golly Gee version might go like this –

Alix dropped the pistol on Yannick’s body when she stepped over it and through the splintered door into the late summer night. She would take the next train to Paris, find the beautiful American woman and tell her the good news. Tell her how a passionate, blue-eyed French girl with impossible hair had begun to feel about her, see what she thought about that.

 The difference can be a denouement of several lines, or a chapter, a wedding invitation, or the hero listening to his new stereo after the insurance rebuilt his house. Resolution equals BAM. Golly gee equals BAM plus denouement.

Either way, the end of narrative “generally” involves a resolution, even if the “journey” (quest, procedural, civilization) is a failure.

Unless you’re writing a series, “cliffhangers” or unresolved narratives should be avoided. Standalone they are pretty much writerly suicide as they are frustrating as hell to readers. However, if you are a screenwriter who writes novels or films, you are allowed more unresolved sub plot holes than Swiss cheese as long as the main protagonist(s) commits some resolving action. Forget what happened to the white Cadillac, the Mafia boss’s son, the hooker, the Faro dealer and all the forensic evidence, security cameras and cell phone tower pings. Bang Bang. The cheating husband is dead. Wife and mistress are happy. Roll credits.

I keep saying this to everyone who thinks anyone has reinvented the literary wheel – check this link out. From Plotto to Plot Genie. (there was a you too can become a Dan Alatorre clone comment here, but it was sarcastic and inflammatory, so I deleted it)

Understanding that Bonanza is Star Trek. Beowulf is Dune is Lord of the Rings means the  best any of us can do with the stranger or the journey is to write engaging, well-edited and logical content regardless of chosen genre.

As always, there’s more – There are some interesting tips on Writer’s Digest (A book my father bought annually until his death) and this is one I want to share for first page/chapter construction, as explained (in edited form) by Orson Scott Card.

Tolkien does not begin with a prologue recounting all the history of Middle-earth … He begins, instead, by establishing Frodo’s domestic situation and then thrusting world events on him, explaining no more of the world than Frodo needs to know right at the beginning. We learn of the rest of the foregoing events bit by bit, only as the information is revealed to Frodo.

In other words, the viewpoint character, not the narrator, is our guide into the world situation. We start with the small part of the world that he knows and understands and see only as much of the disorder of the universe as he can. 

And here’s a bit on prologues that is longer than Elmore Leonard’s, but maybe blowing it up a little will help.

Too many writers of event stories, especially epic fantasies, don’t learn this lesson from Tolkien. Instead, they imagine that their poor reader won’t be able to understand what’s going on if they don’t begin with a prologue showing the “world situation.” Alas, these prologues always fail. Because we aren’t emotionally involved with any characters, because we don’t yet care, the prologues are meaningless. They are also usually confusing, as a half-dozen names are thrown at us all at once. I have learned as a book reviewer that it’s usually best to skip the prologue and begin with the story—as the author also should have done. I have never—not once—found that by skipping the prologue I missed some information I needed to have in order to read the story; and when I have read the prologue first, I have never—not once—found it interesting, helpful or even understandable.

In other words, writers of event stories, (I say any stories) don’t write prologues (or overly busy or populated first chapters). Homer didn’t need to summarize the whole Trojan War for us; he began the Iliad with the particular, the private wrath of Achilles. Learn from Homer—and Tolkien, and all the other writers who have handled the event story well. Begin small, and only gradually expand our vision to include the whole world. If you don’t let us know and care about the hero first, we won’t be around for the saving of the world. There’s plenty of time for us to learn the big picture.


It’s Hard Being Mixed in America — storyteaching

This a reblog everyone, make that everyone needs to read. It’s time to call a halt to the divisive marketing of trendy ethnic bias.

…demonstrates how far we have to go, America, in our acceptance of what it actually means to be American.

It’s Hard Being Mixed in America — storyteaching

NVDT Random – Scene Edits 2

Since no one is paying attention I’m gonna pull random scenes out and sharpen my editorial scythe for a diegesis rework of The Great Kerrigan Bank Robbery – This one is out of sync with Jackson going to the airport, but I’ll get back to that. That whole episode was in draft mode word overkill and the scenes are coming out whittled one by one. Yesterday this one sat at 1006. It’s still rough, but it’s lost some weight…

Cow’s Asses and Banjos

Jackson looked around his first pre-game huddle as coach, tossed his canned speech. “I’ve talked to all of you since last week’s game. About what you’d like to see change, what you expect. What you want. If you missed the big hint in those conversations, here it is. You’re a team. I know y’all think you suck so bad no one would come out to help. Well, last week between lunches I made a couple of calls, and a couple of mistakes, so… Meet the newest misery loves company members of Team Sucks. Logan Burns is a –“

Bevan-Burns. With the hyphen thing? I am like so totally mega stoked –”

“Thank you Logan. Ms. Bevan-Burns is a ballerina, off tour for the summer. Taisia whose last name is nothing but consonants is a FedEx driver, reserve EMT and ex-professional Russian hockey player who can roller skate faster than most people drive. Cynthia is a psychologist finishing her Masters. And was, uh,” he rushed “foldout of the year in seventy-nine and is fully clothed in her current publicity shot.” He put his arm around the shoulder of a petite girl with shiny, jet black hair saying “For all of you who’re pissed off about how shitty it is to be women sometimes? Out of the wig and jumpsuit after almost a year on the road with her shred rockin’, man-ass-kickin’ band Skanque, give it up for Hon-eee Muffin.”

“My CaliMex ass, Cowboy.” Randi punched Jackson’s shoulder, her eyes bounced between him and her lone modern heroine. “You’re Honey Muffin? And you know this guy?”

“My real name’s Melika.” She reached out, accepted all the hands and compliments she was offered. “Jax and I sat on a beach once, traded shit ticket stories. I decided to take him home for Christmas dinner. We even lived together for a few months.” She returned his one-armed hug. “Platonically.

“I… Damn. When you said you’d find us some more girls, I didn’t —”

“Don’t grovel, Navarro,” Zanie elbowed her. “It doesn’t matter who you’ve brought with you Cowboy, we’ll still suck. We’ll never win and you can’t fix that.”

“Zanie, I promise you we will never win.” His eyes wandered the huddle again. “Never. We win when the check clears, got it? We aren’t here to win charity softball, we’re here to have fun, bank some money for a good cause. Listen,” he caught eyes this trip around. “This is amateur… slow pitch… coed… softball. The people we play are paying real money to play a stupid game with you so they can hang with a team full of celebrities, go back to work Monday morning, and show everybody in the office their pictures and autographs and tell them all how much fun they had. That’s all they’re paying for and y’all bitches are doin’ your best to screw that up trying to make it —”

“Bitches!? Goddammit, don’t you even.” Randi pointed at his two male teammates. “What about you guys? It’s still all our fault? Even though we’re the reason all those people are here?”

“Randi, we’re all bitches. All of us. And it stops now. Nobody has any fun playin’ softball with a bunch of whiny, bummed out, I wish it was different or better some kind of way bitches. Don’t you get it? Winning or losing doesn’t matter. Nobody’ll care because while nine of us are on the field the rest are gonna be workin’ the crowd. So right now, today? I don’t care if any of you can hit a cow’s ass with a fuckin’ banjo. Today I need you to whack each other on the butt, get sweaty and dusty and scream ‘till you’re hoarse. Rock this softball diamond and show the…” he checked the clipboard, “Combine Bank Tellers more G-rated fun than they thought was possible.”


“Well, ladies? Let’s go play softball. Like we can’t get out of our own way and it’s a beautiful thing. And do it so well when we’re done all those people over there will tell everybody how much fun they had because y’all weren’t a bunch of snotty, bummed out, no-playin’ whiny assed… ”


“There it is.” He resisted the urge to smack any butts with the clipboard when his team scattered to welcome the bank tellers, their vocational and familial entourages filling the bleachers.

Zane stayed behind, lifted her chin slightly. “You actually believe you’re going to make this work, don’t you.”

“Yeah… ”

“Somehow, I do too.” That hung between them in the diamond’s dust for a few. “I feel like I just found something I didn’t even know I was looking for… Dressed up like a pathetic, lost, heartbroken little softball team.” She watched while her teammates turned a set of bleachers loaded with anxious, uncertain citizens into happy. “I think we all have.”

NVDT Random – Scene Edits

Since no one is paying attention I’m gonna pull random scenes out and sharpen my editorial scythe for a diegesis rework of The Great Kerrigan Bank Robbery

Not a Full English

Cathedral bells tripped, stumbled, bounced off the walls of the narrow alley. Globular pieces found their way through the open-an-inch-at-the-bottom window, hit the floor and rolled into the back of Meyers’ head where they exploded like steel bubbles. The grimy, threadbare oriental rug felt like part of his cheek. He wanted to spit out the cotton balls and lick his lips, didn’t want to risk finding the rug with his tongue. After what seemed like days, the last cathedral bell bubble shattered, echoed away. He opened his left eye enough to see through his lashes. From an iron bed frame a filthy, once pale blue chenille bedspread draped off a filthier sock-covered foot onto the floor. He listened, the only sounds a light snore from the bed and rats on the windowsill. He reached up, felt the burn in his left shoulder blade, tugged on the sock. The girl wearing it shot upright, peered over the edge of the bed.

 “I expected a rat.” She tilted her head. “You were supposed to be dead, but I guess he messed it up. You messed it all up.”

“Granted. What happened?”

“You walked in, that one on the floor jumped out from behind the door and tried to give you a ginormous shot of something… ” Her gaze shifted beyond him. “You broke his neck when he tried to stick you. The needle must’ve broken when–”

“Can you see it?”

“Yeah,” she tilted her head as far to the left as it would go, stuck her tongue out. “Doing the blue face would be a stretch.”

“The bloody needle, girl, not him.”

“Oh. There is some blood on your jacket where he poked you… ” She slid off the bed and next to him, ran her finger over the small circle of blood.

“Ow! Shit!”

“Shhh. Found it.”

“So you have. Pull it out.”

“I can’t.”

Can’t? Goddammit –”

“No… It’s only sticking out a little. I can’t…”

“Don’t you have fingernails?

“I keep them short, now. I… ”


“What? That’s way too gross. Wait… ” She pulled the shoulder of his jacket down. “Don’t make any noise.” She pushed down with her thumb and forefinger on either side of the broken needle. Meyers held his breath. An extreme burning sensation flashed through his left side, faded.

“Jesus, Mister…” The girl held up a bent two-inch-long hypo needle so thick he could see the fluting on the business end. He rotated his shoulder. Not much residual pain, free range of motion. He came up to all fours, nodded at the body.

“They know he’s dead?”

“Nope.” She sat back on the bed, cross-legged.

“When do they come back?”

“They go home at night to argue or screw or something. They’ll bring breakfast when they get around to it.”

He sat back on his heels, shook his head like a wet dog, rubbed both eyes with his thumbs.

“The window. Nailed in?”

“Nails. Screws. Won’t go up or down.”

He reached out, tried to lift the bed.

“Do you honestly think I wouldn’t have thrown it through the window by now if it wasn’t bolted to the floor? What is it with England? All the fucking furniture is bolted down.”

“Oxford. Students. Lease agents don’t want it stolen.”

“That some thousand-year-old rule? You can’t steal what you can’t use, or don’t want?”

“You’d be surprised. My last secretary stole cheap toilet paper from the office.”

“The really cheap stuff?”


“God. Tight ass. You fire her?”

“She quit.”

“Looking for a raise and better toilet paper, I bet.”

“Didn’t ask.” He pulled her off the bed, raised the thin, stained beyond rusty brown mattress to find welded slats, no springs. “Damn.”

“I told you.”

“Yeah, you did.” He looked around. Nothing else in the room except the nasty rug and the dead man.

“He’s wearing high top Connies. I checked that, too. Nothing useful in his pockets, either.”

The door downstairs opened and closed. Two muffled voices.

“That’s probably breakfast. Now what, hero?”

Meyers weighed the percentages in breaking two more necks, or using the dead man to create an electrical loop from the light switch to the doorknob. Instead he drug the dead man to the window. The flat was a walk down, the street only six feet below.

“Give me a hand.”


“Grab him on the other side there, by his jacket. Up. Backward and forward.” They swung the corpse head-first toward the window, then back. “Got it. On three. One, the glass breaks, two, you get the hell out, three…” They launched the body at the thick, ancient glass. It cracked, didn’t break, the body thumped to the floor. Footsteps pounded up the stairs. “Move,” Meyers shoved the girl against the wall.

The door banged open, Meyers grabbed the first person inside, spun him in a wild series of fancy footwork Fandango pirouettes, threw him at the window that shattered this time. He turned, the girl had her shirt wrapped around a short, fat woman’s head. He yanked the shirt like a top string, spinning the woman to the window where she screamed. He slugged her, she followed her partner into the street. He looked down. Bent galvanized trash bins rolled side to side, their contents scattered. Rats scampered away like wind-blown leaves, dogs barked. The man was another broken neck. The woman tried to stand. One leg wouldn’t work.

“Who hired them?”

“Dunno.” She shrugged into her flannel shirt. “My money’s on the old lady.”

“Doesn’t want you to be a Duchess?”

“With her son his Royal Gayness in their high-dollar six-hundred-year-old rooms-by-the-hour fuck shack? No way.”

“She’s doesn’t know you’re not much for Duchessing over a knocking shop?”

“Must not or we wouldn’t be here.” She tossed him a croissan’wich from the Burger King bag the fat woman dropped. “Where I’m from? Nobody’ll ever believe this shit.”

Meyers opened the sandwich wrapper, knitted his brows. “Where I’m from, no one will believe I threw two people out a window for calling this shit breakfast.”


Every day Martin Luther ate a spoonful of his own excrement.

He wrote praises to God for His generosity in giving man such an important and useful remedy.

And this is the guy who was fed up with the Roman Catholic Church’s rhetorical, dogmatic and behavioral shit? Was all that too “intangible”?

Did he get it first hand? Did he catch it fresh and warm or collect it cold? Condiments? Bread? On a toasted ‘bun’? Is this where that old shit sandwiches joke came from? Martin and his poop really make me wonder about Lutheran communion.

I keep hearing a medley of Cream’s “Spoonful, spoonful, spooooon-ful” and Aerosmith’s “Gimme a little kiss. Like this.”

Never mind, I could beat this one to death. Have fun!

NVDT Random – Character Bullpen Series – That Crazy Acquaintance

Man on trial after allegedly trying out product at adult novelty store in Oklahoma City

The whole story is here, courtesy of Fox4 OKC

We all probably know this guy whether we’d admit it, or even know. The old guy at Mass with too many hugs for everything with a vagina and a heartbeat from cradle to one foot in the grave. The guy you worked with on that construction job who painted your fender for you while he told you about the most disgusting things he did with hot dogs and his obese wife. The guy at sales meetings who always has a hard drive full of PowerPoints of ‘stuff’.

I remember working for this man. He wasn’t a perv, that I knew about anyway. He and the other business leaders in his industry bought each other ‘novelty’ gifts for birthdays. They’d drop by and show off their wind up penises that hopped around the boss’s desktop. I walked into his office one afternoon and on the desk sat a box about five inches square, emblazoned with “Pocket Pussy” on every visible side. I acted like it wasn’t there. He said “That’s for Mr. so and so,” picked up the box, took out the pink donut, examined it. “I was wondering if one of us shouldn’t try it out first.” Long pause, reloads the box, sets it down saying “Just kidding. What’s on your mind?” WTF? I forgot because the visual of my boss’s pecker in the wrinkly rubber donut was too much.

I worked at a hardware store for a couple of months with this old fart, had to be a hundred. When you’re 20 that’s anyone over 50. On Saturdays, he’d sit in his office and read Penthouse Letters because all the rest of the admin people were gone and he had the space to himself. If you needed something you’d walk up the stairs, tap on his door frame, walk in just in time for him to slam a desk drawer on the mag and stand up to greet you with a suspicious wet spot on his slacks. And offer to shake your hand. I made it point to always have my hands full of hinges or orders that needed to be ‘pulled’. (Couldn’t resist)

In my extreme youth as an Avant Garde theater co-conspirator (read that as ‘space music’ synth arteest) there was a director in residence at the Contemporary Arts Foundation (a cinder block warehouse) who made extra money writing pulp porn. We’d sit around the tiny living room of his rented pad in a smoky haze and he’d regale us with his latest. He’d often speak as he wrote, and ask for contributions. He wasn’t a serious pornographer, more of a porn humorist. An X rated Carl Hiaasen. Talk about adverbial and adjectival descriptive excess. I heard shit in that room at a tender age still makes me laugh at the sheer audacity of it.

All that to say, unfortunately, we know this guy even if we wish we didn’t, and thank God he found an outlet for his urge before he hurt someone. But really? I mean that’s the epitome of “Hey fellas! Watch this!”

NVDT #67 – Oh God, It’s the End of the World!


The Prompt – Has the pandemic affected your writing? If so, how? Have your writing habits changed in reaction to the ‘different’ world we are faced with?

Particularly in the beginning. The overall sense of panic. Not enough PPE, not enough hospital beds, not enough toilet paper. No one knew what to expect, bodies were stacking up like firewood. Like everything for the last four years, the problem wasn’t the problem. Finding fault and OMG hyperbole was the order of the day. A true stupid human tricks moment.

Beyond that there were the adjustments to Zoom ballet classes and online office hours and 24/7 tripping over the rest of the household trying to get something done. After the ups and downs and the nonsense a newish normal set in, here we are.

Here’s a real long-term epi-pan-demic.

US retail giant Guitar Center reportedly preparing to file for bankruptcy this weekend

Am I heartbroken or surprised about GC’s demise? No. The surprise is that it took so long. I am disheartened by what it represents.

Over twenty years ago market research showed that most kids didn’t want to play guitar, or drums or keyboards because it required work to get a result. The consensus was that the musical instrument business wasn’t competing with itself any longer, but with video games and DJs. Motley Fool and others predicted GC to tank since the public offering in 1997. Just over a year ago, I read that GC wouldn’t make it past 2020. A prediction made before Covid. Sorry, can’t blame the pandemic. But we can blame the “not willing to put in the work” epidemic.

I worked for the company that built Van Halen’s guitars and amps. I was a product manager in another division but one day Ed walked in on me playing “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” on a Clavinet through a 5150 half stack. After that being “somehow insanely wrong” we’d talk car jokes, screaming tone, and a lot about learning to do what we did, becoming who we grew up to be. How we’d sit in front of the stereo for hours and emulate our heroes and wrench on our gear to get “that” sound. It was all effort, trial, and error because there was no internet, no videos of how to wire a guitar pickup or mod the output of a synth. Cut a wire on the inside of your instrument, smoke a joint, forget where it went, solder it somewhere that looked reasonable and you were 1- dead in the water 2- got something new and marvelous or 3- got fire and smoke.

To up those odds of success, and to be even a passable musician takes practice. And more practice and study and more practice and sweat. Now, with attention spans at 12 seconds and a zillion distractions who is going to practice until their fingers bleed when they can stay up jacked on Red Bull for three days, get to level 87 in a video game and be just as heroic with their peers as the garage/party band of yesteryear?

This epidemic of not wanting to put in the work spills over into every aspect of our lives from creativity to obtaining an education. But let’s leave everyone else out of this for now except “writers.”

I traded in an ancient barely used Kindle first gen for a new Paperwhite the other day. I was anxious to load the new, lightweight, way more memory, easy to read Paperwhite with books from my epub folder. References I could keep at my fingertips, books to read on demand. As I was going through cleaning up the book files I tripped over quite a few absolute pieces of shit that have been lurking eating up space for several years. Pieces of shit with nice covers. Covers like real, readable books. Some by Indies, some by publishing house authors. I recalled a few years ago going on a rant about fucking cover reveals for shit content. Even people I went off on back then are still more concerned with illustrations than writing a good book.

But writing a good book doesn’t seem to be the point. Being an “author” with “books” that have “covers” is the point, screw putting in the work. Yeah, yeah, my mother my neighbor a good friend a teacher read it down for me, fixed my commas and added a few semi-colons to prove they went to college. Well how nice for you. Bless your heart.

I have an old joke about saying “That’s nice.” There’s another version with “Bless your heart.”

Rather than drag this out here’s Tolstoy –

If you asked someone, “Can you play the violin?” and he says “I don’t know, I have not tried, perhaps I can,’ you laugh at him. Whereas about writing, people always say: “I don’t know, I have not tried,” as though one had only to try and one would become a writer.

And if that one wasn’t enough, here’s Dr. Seuss on self editing –

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

I love that quote. It’s as succint and dead on as Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.

We need to put in the work. I don’t know if hardly anyone these days lays their work down or over or next to someone who can write. It doesn’t look like they do. Or if no one has taken advantage of the handful of professional editors out there who will red ink our first twenty pages and page 200 and bitch slap the writer in us into some semblance of reality check.

I’m gonna say this one last time on the internet. Some people will get their feelings hurt. If not by me today then by someone we pay or don’t know and who doesn’t participate in the ‘everybody’s a winner for trying’ bullshit or give a shit if we think our work is our children and NYT list material. Ready?

Marginally edited books with nice covers are a fucking plague.

It stops with each of us doing our best. Not printing posters and covers for a concert of the first night we pick up the violin, but putting in the work.

I’m afraid Vonnegut’s quote “If you can do a half-assed job of anything you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind” has come true. OMG. It’s the end of the world!


NVDT Random – Character Bullpen Series – The Kiamichi Oysters Boys

From The Lost Ogle

Cannibalistic Black Market Castrators Arrested In Eastern Oklahoma…

October 22, 2020

Here’s a story from Oklahoma that even Joe Exotic would think is nuts!

Earlier this week, the happily married couple pictured above – Bobby Lee Allen, 53, and Thomas Evans Gates, 42 – were arrested after they botched a “surgical procedure” at their makeshift black-market castration clinic located in the backwoods of eastern Oklahoma.

That sentence, on its own, is enough to make this story a typical “Only in Oklahoma” classic, but as you know, we’re in 2020, and nothing is typical anymore.

After interviewing the patient who voluntarily sought out the surgery, and following a search of the pair’s property, authorities discovered that Allen and Gates – who apparently ran their clinic under the online name “The Eunuch Maker” – allegedly saved the discarded body parts (a.k.a. testicles) of their patients/victims in a deep freezer for possible human consumption.

Yeah, that’s right. They would allegedly eat the discarded human testicles. In the eastern part of the state, I think they’re called Kiamichi Oysters.

If you’re that curious, details can be found at The Oklahoman

Need a Bag Lady with a pedigree?

Queen Isabella of Spain lived to be 50, but bathed only twice in her lifetime.

Paint Me a Picture

“Whatta they call you?”


“Well Queenie,” the cop said, trying to keep his nose upwind. “You can’t stay here so we have to take you in.”

“Not takin’ no goddam bath.”

“That’s fine.” The cop used a gloved hand to guide her head through the back door of the cruiser.

“Maybe the firehose for drunk tank control,” his partner suggested, fanning his nose.

“You want that runoff in the ground water? I mean think about it.”

His partner thought for a few seconds, blew lunch in the storm drain, stood up, wiped his chin with a paper napkin from the dash.

“Whatsa matter? Think too much about that runoff?”

“Don’t know why, but it just got too big in my mind.”

“Too big in your mind?”

“Yeah, you see somethin’ somebody says, and your brain adds shit to it.”

“My brain don’t add shit to –“

“You hosed down Queenie there in the drunk tank with all that puke and shit in there and somehow that went to… You ever pulled cottage cheese that’s been around too long outta the fridge, that stink it’s got goin’ everywhere, and gagged when you flushed it down your disposal with the sprayer? Yeah, now see? That’s the shit I’m talkin’ about. An it’s ridin’ in the back seat of our car.” He grabbed another napkin off the dash, handed it off. “Go ahead, I’ll wait.”

NVDT #66 – Hallmark Moment or Smart Ass?


The Prompt – What would be the hardest thing for you to give up?

Oh dear… My loving family, of course. My dear, dear friends. My loyal dog. My dead parents. Oh God, all the arts. Puppies and butterflies and the smell of fresh-baked cookies. Walks on the beach and sunsets. Grandchildren and kittens an – SKKKKKRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAK

Breathing. Without that, not much else will happen. So I’d hate to give that up right now. A good poop comes in a close second. Remember that old joke about all the body parts arguing about which was the most important?

There. That’s taken care of. I’m reading several things, editorial hat on, and all that. Some of it’s mine. I came across the only time I’ve used a deep cliché backstory device. That’s right, the dreaded picture frame. I’ll fix it, turn into a conversation backstory drop, but for now, it ties last week’s theme to this one. Humor. In a potty vein. Here’s Deanna’s first morning in Cambridge. Or – skip to the top or bottom, click the Open Book link to see what others can’t do without!

Deanna’s flat, Cambridge U.K. / Saturday morning January 13, 1979

Deanna’s first morning in Cambridge so far had consisted of Merriam’s nasty black tea and a warm toilet seat over water cold enough to put off ripe refrigerated air, no air freshener in sight. Now she eyed her shoulder high dresser with marked contempt. Like the flat, it had to be over a hundred years old. It smelled like disinfectant, dirty underwear and mold, and was bolted to the floor just enough off level so that anything round rolled off the top.

Her bed frame was bolted to the floor as well, not close enough to the wall to keep her from getting wedged between it and the wall, and not far enough to walk behind. The mattress, on slats with no box spring, was slightly smaller than a twin. In width, not length. Cat said it had been new when she’d brought it down with her and it “hadn’t seen even the shadow of a shag,” so Deanna was free to break it in as soon, and often, as she pleased. So long as she kept her volume down and told her roomies all about it, in great detail. The bed came with two sets of cream-colored sheets, a tiny lumpy pillow, a maroon, satin-look nylon comforter. Her own pillows, too-big sheets and the double comforter Jackson had given her as a gift her freshman year were in one of the boxes already in her room. She knew half of her clothes would never get worn, her sheets would never fit, or fit in the dresser or the wardrobe. At least the comforter could be folded for double warmth. She repacked a ship-home box from her excess. A process that would eventually result in a joyous conversation with mom about head-in-the-clouds lack of preparation ending in another expense.

She unpacked her few kitchen items from box number 2, found where things like them were stored, and emptied most of her cosmetic case on the dresser and the attached-to-the-floor nightstand. As a final decorating touch she placed a three-year-old picture of Jackson on top of her dresser with what was left of the perfume he’d bought her back when he surprised her with girly gifts. Back before she started building her wall. She picked up the picture, taken on a road trip to the Texas State Fair their freshman year, ran her thumbs down the side of the frame. A trip they’d taken just to prove they could disappear for a weekend. “Let’s go somewhere,” he’d said. “Spend the night in a LaQuinta, bone like bunny rabbits and give our parents the finger.”

Their romantic teenage getaway careened downhill after they’d both barfed out their respective windows of his car. Payback for eating greasy fair food all day and chasing it with trunk-of-the-car temperature liquor store beer they’d bought on the way in. By the time they’d gotten to their motel room, they both had the trots. By midnight he’d had to make a toilet paper run because they were too embarrassed to call the front desk again. In the bag with the ten pack of toilet paper was a can of Lysol air freshener. Jax didn’t say anything but used half the can. The next morning they were over it, took a long, soapy shower together, and made love until checkout time.

Pulling out of the motel parking lot he’d said, “You know, before last night, I backed off laying cable until you were out of my apartment. Like you weren’t supposed to know I took a dump or something. Well, that’s over and now we know more than we ever wanted to about each other’s plumbing. We catch the flu together and we can tell everybody we’ve been to for real live-together boot camp, huh?”

This morning there was no air freshener, no Jackson, no hot soapy shower. Definitely not sex. But she’d made it to Cambridge. Maybe she could relax, be herself again, knew that wasn’t happening. She set the picture back, wanted to cry, and scream, and kick the dresser. Goddammit, he should be here.

“Shit.” She looked around the gloomy room. “Shit, shit, shit.”

Merriam popped her head in the door. “All’s right, love?”

“Yeah, I… No.” She held her hands out, fingers spread, interlocked them. “Is there ever a time,” she moved her locked hands in and away, slowly, “when it all just fucking works and makes sense?”

“I’m chemistry. That sounds like physics. Or Theology. Eggs’re up.”

“In a minute.” Deanna touched the glass that separated her from what she’d been. “Just wait,” she whispered. “I’ll be back.”

She had no idea that by the time she’d boarded her plane yesterday “wait” was the last thing on Jackson’s mind. He was wandering the northern New Mexico desert outside of Taos, his brain somewhere out on the rings of Saturn, the rest of him on the way to dying of exposure. Jackson, along with the promise, the future, the hope of her and everything she’d been since she was seventeen was canceled, boxed, sealed, and archived before she’d even left the country.


NVDT #65 – To See How It Ends

The Prompt – Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

I think I’ve answered this before in a post now forgotten, but here it is again. If not fresh, at least consistent.

“One day I was speeding along at the typewriter, and my daughter – who was a child at the time – asked me, “Daddy, why are you writing so fast?” And I replied, “Because I want to see how the story turns out!” 
― Louis L’Amour

I write to see what’s going to happen. What the characters will get into and out of, their wins and losses, pains, gains, screwings and triumphs. Simply put, I write people.

I don’t build elaborate sets in the future or too far past, in alternate universes full of sorcerers or winged/scaled/horned characters, wise wizards or sword wielding princess and invincible princes. I write fairy tales in now with people, not too many props and no needs-too-much-‘splainin’ junk.

There are horned dragons and evil witches and angry princess and wise wizards in the next building over, or a hangar in the high plains desert or a land development company, a premier university, a cover band… Places where a car thief, a good girl and a sex retreat hooker find common ground. Where punk rockers and grad school feminists, a classically trained female cellist turned shred rocker, newscasters, a lounge piano player, a valley girl prima ballerina, lesbian fairy godmothers, naked girls who roll in paint to express themselves, a black dreadlocked Smithsonian photographer and a potty mouth soap actress can all coexist. Not too wild. Pretty normal stuff.

Why? Because the witches and warlocks, space rangers and shapeshifters got nothing on everyday people. I know, right? Boring? Ha! I posted this not long ago, and have a few new headlines to add to it. You can’t make this shit up, dress it in technology and space suits or give it wings and scales and capes and feathers. It’s happening right now. Tough to put this stuff to use? Why not? Elmore Leonard made a career of it. Hiaasen did it with Razor Girl. Maybe I can find a place for Jag Booty and Wee Wee. If not, there’s some character fodder for you in that post!