Nov 29

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Daddy, where do stories come from?

My Meditation Card this morning was the 8 of Swords. Not a good way to start the day.

A woman, judging by her dress she’s not a commoner, stands on a muddy plain. She is securely bound and blindfolded. Around her are 8 swords stuck upright in the mud. In the distant background, a castle stands on a rugged mountain.

This card speaks to me of helplessness and of unseen danger far from the safety and comfort of home.

I think of my mother at supper last night. She has been an invalid since her last major stroke abour 4 years ago. For the past six months, she has been fading. She can barely see and speaking is a real effort. She has little strength and cannot sit upright for more than a few minutes at a time. She can no longer eat solid food and lives on Glucerna.

The horror is that she is still alive in there, trapped in a body that no longer functions, her personal oubliette. And she can’t even scream.

Title: The Scream You Hear May Be Your Own

Synopsis:

Bill Akers is troubled by a recurring dream that he is having more and more frequently. In the dream, he is in a hotel hallway, drawn there by screams that apparently only he can hear. They are coming from inside Room 832. He approaches the room. As he touches the doorknob, a scream occurs that is more physical force than sound. It flings him across the hall and pins him to the floor. He feels like the force is filling him to bursting. As he feels that he can’t take any more and is going to explode he awakens.

On his way to work, the bus is much more cropwded than usual, and he is forced to stand. Instead of reading his newspaper, he has to watch the scenery. Along the way he sees an old but elegant hotel which draws him. He knows that it is the hotel from his dream.

On his lunch hour, he goes back to the hotel and asks about Room 832. It is empty, so he checks in. Upstairs, he sees the exact same scene he has been seeing in his dream. He walks nervously to the room and opens the door…

And then I woke up!

Ha! You didn’t think I was going to give away the ending, did you?

This is what Frank Herbert called the “demanding memory” in Dune. This story does not demand to be written, it compels me with overwhelming force. That means it should be a good one.

—–

Submitted “Where the Heart Is” to C/OASIS. I am also getting “Baby Blues” ready to submit to “The People’s Friend”. Since they are in Scotland, things are a little complicated.

Nov 24

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No respect, I tell ya!

There was a thread on Forward Motion a few days back that has been bothering me. The discussion concerned response times and the seeming indifference and lack of courtesy of a lot of editors. I started thinking about how much alike writers and librarians are. Members of both professions tend to undervalue themselves and their work. The vast majority of people that you ask will tell you that they think libraries are essential, yet the library’s budget is always the first to be cut and the last to be raised. I maintain that writers, too, are essential. Writers illuminate and disseminate their cultures’ mythologies. Writers are the part of the societal organism that dreams, along with artists, sculpters, musicians, etc.

You would think that people this important would be valued and respected, yet Western cultures, American in particular, fear knowledge. Those who preserve and/or make knowledge available are often treated with disdain and are always looked upon as something strange and alien.

The Herbert S. White, Dean of the Library School at the University of Indiana, spent a long and distinguished career trying to convince librarians to stop acting like sheep and to stand up for ourselves. It is time for writers to do the same thing. We should expect a minimum of courtesy and consideration. We should demand reasonable treatment: acknowledgement of submissions, reasonable response times, notification if the response time will be exceeded. That is little enough to ask.

Many magazines are now no longer even giving estimated response times. There is also a growing trend toward not sending rejection notifications. The guidelines say that you may assume rejection if you haven’t heard in a certain period of time.

That is unacceptable. I refuse to allow anyone to treat me this way. Anyone who cannot extend me the least courtesy will see no submissions from me. I realize that this policy will lose me some sales. So be it. There are more important things than sales, and self-respect is one of them. This is a lesson that I learned at great cost. It almost cost me my life. As a human being, I am due a certain minimum amount of respect and courtesy. I will not deal with anyone who does not think so.

So there. 😛

It’s alive!

I officially exist. carternipper.com is now viable. I have a minimal (extremely) home page up with a guestbook and counter. Got a lot of PHP scripts installed, so development should speed up. I just have to be careful that I don’t use this as an excuse for self-sabotaging my writing. The mind works in mysterious ways, it’s devilry to perform.

Nov 23

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Spent the day working on Web site content. It’s so easy to make a decent Web site these days. Not like the Bad Old Days of hand-coding and workarounds. Lots of good pre-made stuff available now, which is good, since I am far from an HTML wizard. I should have something rough and ready by the time the DNS updates are made and the records replicate. Also got some neat PHP/MySQL toys to play with. After tonight, I’m off until next Monday, so I’ll have time on my hands …

Got to get some writing done, too. “Bare Trees” is hanging fire and needs to get finished, and WITB is stirring around in the background, too. Excuses are too easy to come by. Write, dammit, write!

Setting up my own domain is something I have been wanting to do for a long time, but it took a while to get up the courage. Most people don’t think it’s such a big deal, but to me, it means that I’m saying: “Here I am!” It’s an acknowledgement of writing as a lifelong passion ( and/or addiction ) and a commitment to the future. There’s no turning back, now. I’m out of the closet and out in front of the world. Scary.

I have to push myself, or I’ll just vegetate and dream. I have to constantly tell myself: “Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, words on screen”.

Nov 22

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Big mistake … Huge!

Almost didn’t get anything done today. Almost didn’t get to work, either.

My mistake was listening to Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes. Track 2 is “And So Is Love” featuring Clapton on guitar. The last track is “You’re The One” with Jeff Beck sitting in. Some of the best blues rock ever. For some reason, it hit me hard today and put me in a tailspin.

Then I had to go get the kitten off the roof. I have no Earthly idea how she got up there, but that got me moving again.

Speaking of Clapton, I heard recently that Cream is planning a reunion in 2005. That should kick ass.

Nov 22

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In search of acceptance (and maybe a little income)

Can’t concentrate on writing today (bad night, dreams again), so I am devoting today to market research. I’m way behind on that anyway. I like to identify the “perfect” markets for my stories rather than sending them out randomly. It takes a lot of work, but it’s a good strategy for increasintg my acceptance rate (I hope, I hope, I hope).

Domains’R’Us

Registered my domain (carternipper.com) over the weekend. Got a sweet deal from Las Vegas Communications Systems – $8.95 / year. Also popped for another $8.95 for private registration through Domains By Proxy. That will keep my private information out of WHOIS. Even better, FREEPGS will host the domain for FREE (except for a $3.00 one-time setup fee. 75 MB space, 2GB/month bandwidth, PHP, and MySQL. We’ll see how that works out. It seemed like a good gamble to take for $20.00 ($21.15 including all taxes, etc.). Once the DNS records propagate, I’ll find out. Stay tuned.

Nov 20

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Where did that come from?

That question come up often as I am writing. I don’t often dare answwer it. Since I am in a contemplative mood this morning and feeling somewhat strong, I have been thinking about answers. All I really have to do is read the newspaper.

Item:

Tuesday, November 16, 2004. Macon, Georgia. A first-grader brought a .38 handgun to school. He said he found it under his parents’ bed. The police report says that it was “empty”.

Back when they were in high school, my brother and one of his friends learned about unloaded handguns the hard way. My brother still carries the emotional scars. His friend survived. Barely.

Firearm Safety Rule #1: The gun is always loaded.

Item:

Fallujah, Mosul, Baghdad.

The brother of a classmate of mine in elementary school was drafted and sent to Vietnam. He came home 6 months later in a Hefty bag.

Item:

Monday, November 15, 2004. Macon, Georgia. A registered sex offender chased two young girls around the neighborhood before school. He was naked. They lived across the street from him.

I have a memory that I have tried to forget for many years. The attic of the Rose’s store was dim, dusty, and hot. The stock man had offered me $10 to help him carry some boxes up the stairs. I was 10. While we were in the attic, he “inspected” me to make sure I didn’t have VD. What did I know? He was big; I was scared. The memory still scares the Hell out of me.

Item:

Thursday, November 18, 2004. Reynolds, Georgia. A 17-year-old shot and killed his 27-year-old neighbor after a fight about a PlayStation that the shooter says the victim stole from him. It was the first murder in Reynolds in 10 years. The last murder in that peaceful small town occurred after a fight over a cassette tape.

How can people get so outraged over Nicolette Sheridan’s bare back or a flash of Janet Jackson’s tit when this kind of thing is happening every day and goes unremarked? That seems like a moral perversion to me. Someone’s priorities are out of whack.

Horrors don’t just happen in the Middle East or Africa or Russia. Look around your town, your neighborhood, your house, your own head. There are plenty of stories around to inspire fear, dread, and rage.

Nov 18

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The courage to face the truth

Read through “Bare Trees” and noticed that I have danced around the meat of the story. I’m going to have to put in two more scenes that show the uncomfortable truths that my protagonist has to face. I have been showing them through his reflection on events just past, instead of showing the events themselves. Ain’t happening. Looks like the first draft will be closer to 4000 words. That’s a little long for my liking. We’ll see what the rewrite does to help that.

Still looking for a title. I don’t usually have this much trouble with titles. Often, the title comes a part of the package when I get the story idea. Sometimes the story is inspired by the title. Since this story revolves around memories, I thought I would try to ring some changes on Hamlet. “Rosemary for Remebrance” or “That’s for Remembrance” or even just “Rosemary”. Not too happy with any of those. I need to look into something to do with choices or choosing, too. The protag has to choose between his dead first wife and the woman he now loves and has to learn how to let go and get his life back, instead of living with a ghost (she’s not a real ghost, just in his head).

A “real” ghost? As opposed to what? A wraith, a phantom (or phantasm), a specter? Wonder where potergeists fit into this reality. That one’s going into the “Ideas” document for further review. Ahhhh, the wonders of weirdness.

Nov 18

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A slight digression

Had to vent a little bit before getting down to serious work.

WARNING!! Do not read this if you are easily offended. In fact, if you are easily offended, you probably shouldn’t be here at all.

—–

“Next!

“Welcome to the Pearly Gates. Okay, let’s see… Oh yeah, we’ve been waiting for you, heh, heh, heh! You got some ‘splainin’ to do, young man.

“Okay, from the top. We’ll skip over all that stuff while you were growing up. You’re not expected to have any sense before you turn 21, but what’s all this about living with your parents and partying every night until you were 25? Didn’t you have any ambition? No? No dreams to pursue? No goals or direction? No? You were issued a dream and a talent before you were born, what did you do with them?

“Fun? You think you were put on Earth to have fun and sponge off other people? Boy, you really missed that one!

“Test? Of course it’s a test! We told you that in the orientation. Didn’t remember, huh? Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. The clues were all around you, man, weren’t you paying attention? You probably thought they didn’t apply to you. I get that a lot, too. What made you think you were so special?

“Yeah, that whole ‘self-esteem’ thing. Really burns the Big Guy’s butt. Everybody thinks they’re some kinda prophet or something. Well, it don’t work that way, Sparky. It’s called self-determination. You do for yourself, and we’ll help you out. No free rides. It’s up to you to make your way in the world. You’ve got to put out some effort, make things better for yourself and everybody else.

“Where were we? Oh, yeah. Says here you spent the next ten years making babies you couldn’t support. Six of ’em. What about that?

“‘Be fruitful and multiply?’ I get so tired of hearing that! What about taking care of the Earth you were given dominion over? It’s not just there to be used up, you know. There’s more coming behind you. You have to leave something for them besides your sh…uh…crap to clean up!

“And just look at how your kids turned out. Greedy little shin-kickers running around grabbing every buck they can get and hoarding it all. Think the world owes ’em a favor ’cause they had it tough. Screwed-up ain’t the word! That goes against you, too.

“Not have kids? Don’t be stupid. Of course you should have kids! You’re supposed to use the good sense We gave you, is all. Be responsible. Have as many kids as you can handle and raise ’em to be good people. If you can’t do that, don’t have any at all. Lucifer’s causing enough troublle already. We don’t need people helping him out by not thinking about what they’re doing.

“And now, the piece-de-resistance! The infamous Grilled Cheese Sandwich! You really caused a ruckus with that one, let me tell you! We had to scramble to keep Jesus from going down right then and putting an end to all the idiocy. That would have screwed up our plans for all Eternity. He was really pissed about you dissing his mother that way. Probably still is. You better be glad he’s not here to greet you personally.

“You thought it was a sign? A sign of what? That Jesus was coming for lunch? Have you lost your mind? A grilled cheese sandwich? Don’t you think He would have picked a little more decorous way to announce Himself?

“And Mary! You really owe Her, let me tell you!

“Well, there’s just no excuse for that one. You’re outta here! Have a nice Eternity.”

Nov 18

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Misspoke on the eBay auction

I said $69,000; it was actually 16,000. Mental flatulence, I guess. Now over $17,000. All I can do is shake my head in disbelief. I’d better light the aromatherapy tartt and put some quiet music on the stereo.