The Soundtrack of My Life – 12 – Just Around the Riverbend

So, if you weren’t aware by now, I am a homosexual. If me mentioning my husband and my boyfriend wasn’t enough to let you in on the secret, I thought I would drop in my next track. It also pulls double duty and reveals my immature nature and love of anything Disney. (However, they’re kind of on my shit list at the moment for obvious reasons.)

When this movie came out it made just as much, if not more so, of an impact on my life like Beauty and the Beast had a few years prior. All summer I listened to this tape (yes, tape) over and over again, re-enacting scenes and singing it at the top of my lungs. How my parents did not know I was gay is truly beyond me. I guess hopeful, Christian longing for your son to have a wife and kids, I suppose. (But side note: kudos to my parents for being so supporting and accepting of who I was as a “straight” man and not forcing toxic masculinity upon me.)

This song was a particular favorite of mine. I imagine it spoke to my need for something new and exciting, and the longing for something more, even though it may be scary not knowing “what’s around the riverbend.”

This ballad has been on my mind a lot lately primarily because: 1) it’s a banger and 2) the summer that this movie was released into my open “obsession slot” I went up to stay for a week with my grandmother in the house her and my grandfather had built in the woods. I would wander all through the woods and up the dirt road, listening to this tape and singing. You would have thought that after she and I watched a mountain lion walk up the dirt road, in front of her house, I would have stopped doing that, but no. The show must go on. Even if you may be the meal for an apex feline predator.

It is truly in the middle of nowhere and it’s about 3-4 hours from any of my family, so getting up there to do maintenance is non-existent. As far as I am aware, it is sitting vacant, rotting away. Which is unfortunate. My grandmother loved, loved, loved this house. She truly did not want to concede that she could not live there anymore, because of her age, but she understood the risk of living so far from anything. She ended up coming to live with us, with the caveat that my mother and father would take her up there for a visit from time to time. We hardly did that unfortunately.

From time to time my thoughts become obsessed with “the cabin.” I’ll dream of it in some sort of danger, like an encroaching roadway or housing development. I don’t quite know what these dreams mean, but they genuinely cause me a lot of distress. I dreamt of it a few nights ago and it has been on my mind since. I think because I dread of the state of it. It wasn’t in the best of shape the last time I saw it, some ten years ago.

It’s amazing how something that played such a huge role in your life can just be left in the past. My grandmother would be devastated to know it hasn’t been used in some time. At least, as far as I know. It’s not someplace you can just pop in for a visit. If you go, the first day is mainly cleaning/maintenance. That’s if you can get to it. The winding, hilly dirt road isn’t very friendly if you don’t have a truck or SUV. This last fact has kept me away because I don’t really have any means to get back there, and I am sure as hell not going to put my Toyota hybrid at risk for some sentimental excursion.

Another memory just popped into my head, but this was also the summer that I definitively decided I wanted to be a writer. This was between my 3rd and 4th grade years, which means I had just read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and fell in love with the written word. I was enthralled with the ability a story had to say one thing but mean something entirely different. I have tried since then to imitate C.S. Lewis’s care-free writing style, but I lack the finesse and polish.

I remember making the grand pronouncement to my grandmother and she was so supportive. She listened to or read EVERYTHING I gave her. I will never forget her support. She was everything to me.

In between singing aloud astride a mountain, my pencil scribbled away in a Lisa Frank spiral notebook about a prince named Kool who comes across a young man, alone in the woods, suffering from amnesia. Kool decides to name him Speed and the two go on wild adventures together. Symbolism for me finding my true identity?! Find out on the next mindless drone of the continuing adventures of a middle-aged faguette!

The Soundtrack of My Life – 10 – Cosmic Love

Today is going to be a gauntlet. I am now two weeks behind and I don’t want to give up on my goal. So, I shall attempt at writing the last two weeks and get a jump on the third. Let’s see if I can actually do it without losing my ambition. (Spoiler alert: I probably will.)

It finally happened, I came across a soundtrack that does not exist in Spotify. I was going to choose the musical score from “The Horse Whisperer” by Thomas Newman, but all they had available were these cheap covers (of a single song) that sounded as though someone had composed them from a computer program. They lacked the enchantment that comes with the live recording. So… that plan has been scrapped. Instead I chose “Cosmic Love” by Florence + the Machine.

I first heard this beauty in a TV spot for the film “Like Water for Elephants.” I was immediately captivated by it. And, good song choice by the one who edited the trailer, because it drew me to watch the movie. However that was the only good thing about the film.

I don’t know what it is about a song with a heavy percussion, but it just fills me with this intense joy. In this particular ballad it’s amazing because the lyrics tell of a star-crossed love, and the drums are reminiscent of a heart racing from the very thought. It also gives this mythic/fairy-tale/other-worldly vibe that I felt ironically captured the essence of my novel.

I don’t know if other writers do this, but I have a “soundtrack” of songs that fit into the frame/theme of my novel. The story told in “Cosmic Love” accompanies my narrative in this coincidental symmetry.

I wrote my first novel length work of fiction in 2009 during my first ever NaNoWriMo. Since then I have attempted to edit the fuck out of it. Every now and then I get a second wind and start the process all over. I get about halfway through and start to believe the inner voice that “I am shit at writing” and then I stop. And the number of times this has happened with this particular work in progress is uncountable.

The thought of giving up has crossed my mind many times, but I just love the story. I have it plotted out for a series of four books. The second has already been written, but I haven’t even touched that one since I began editing the first. I wanted to polish this bad boy up to a glimmering shine before I dove into it’s sequel. Which is good, because since I completed the second book the tone and overall narrative of the story has changed. For the better, I hope.

During one of my bouts of renewed vigor for editing, I got this wild itch to drive from the Central Valley of California to Salt Lake City. No idea why. The urge struck and I answered the call. My little polycule piled into the car and we drove straight through.

With this captive audience I had the boys listen to my story.

What I learned is that I am very proud of my tale. I also discovered that because of my constant restarting my front half is very well completed but the back half is lacking the glimmer of the first. Overall the story is tight and I need to stop being such a bitch about it. At this point I have to write out two full chapters and continue threads I started in the first half.

The other event that occurred during our Literary Adventure was my husband bestowing a compliment upon me. One I will never forget. He told me I was a good writer. Now… he either said this because he’s dying and he has nothing left to lose, or he said it because it is how he genuinely feels. Knowing my husband… he doesn’t dole out positive feedback unless he genuinely believes it. Hearing that made me sublimely happy.

However… What fuel I received from that trip was wasted. Life once again became overwhelming and I lost my passion. It’s much of what happened with this year long endeavor. Everything just becomes a little too much at times. Even if it is a small inconvenience. Trying to accomplish a task that isn’t absolutely necessary falls to the wayside.

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge #1

Well… I just got the feedback from my submission for the first challenge of the Flash Fiction competition. Unfortunately I did not even place in the top 15. So that is… rough. For me to even move on past the second round I’ll have to place in the top 3. So… Fun.

How the competition works is you’re given a genre (obvi), a location and an object that must appear somewhere in the narrative. For this challenge I was assigned: genre – sci-fi, location – a talent show, and object – a bone.

May I add, I fu-hucking hate Science Fiction. These little challenges have proven to me time and again that it is absolutely not my goddamn genre. Not even a little. What’s also irritating is the three times I’ve competed in this competition I have been assigned this goddamn genre repeatedly. So, please, shoot me.

Below is what I submitted and below that will be judge’s feedback. I will say they are absolutely correct in their reviews. Due to the fact that I literally wrote this in an hour with little to no editing, I’m surprised their critiques weren’t more critical. To be honest, I haven’t even re-read it since I sent it. (And I’m not even reading it now.)


Starship Follies

            On the twelfth deck of the massive Heavannah II starship, the crew gathered eagerly to watch the Sixteenth Annual “Display of Expertise” talent show.  They chattered to one another, filling the cavernous, round hall with the rabble of their conversation. The chorus of voices sent many who had signed up to participate into states of nervous excitement. For Arnold Habberny, however, his stomach began to twist in agony.

            He stared out at the growing crowd, from behind the curtain of stage right.

            I don’t know if I can do this, he thought to himself.

            The young boy lifted his feathered head piece and dabbed at his brow and down his pale cheeks all the way to the base of his neck.

            A young Mefferling, with blue skin and three crests arching over the top of his head stepped beside Arnold.

            “You can do this,” he said, his forked tongue licked at his thin lips as he spoke.

            Arnold turned to him, “Please tell me you’re not using your mind reading abilities, I’shia. I can’t compete with that.”

            “Please,” I’shia rolled his three eyes, “that’s old news. I got something better slated for debut.”

            Arnold’s stomach twisted even more.

            The four legs of the appointed master of entertainment for the ship, Cassia Corlay, sidled to center stage. Holding out two of his four arms, he gestured for the crowds silence, as he used the other two, to pull from his pocket a small round device. He switched on the circular mic and it took to the air, hovering just above his head.

            “Good evening, my fellows,” his voice boomed across the hall, “and welcome to the show of shows! It gets boring at times, travelling across the reaches of unknown space, which is why once a marked ship year, we all on-board gather to watch what we love to do on our off hours.”

            The crowd cheered.

            “And I am told this years’ collection of displays is going to be greater than last’s. And remember, whoever has the greatest of talents wins the trophy of excellence and earns a guaranteed spot on our next expedition.”

            Arnold’s stomach churned again.

            “Without further ado, let us initiate the show. I present to you, the Ebber Brothers!”

            The crowd cheered and Cassia rushed from the stage.

            The lights dimmed to black and a single spotlight rose to center stage. Illuminated in the lone spot of light was the first act. It was a set of twin Baggins, with scaly skin and yellow slit eyes. They bowed in unison and opened their fish-like mouths to garble a series of phrases. A disembodied, monotoned voice boomed over the crowd translating their words.

            “We have the spectacle of spectacles,” it said for them.

            From the darkness of the surrounding stage an empty silver door frame was placed between them. The two looked to the other and nodded. Then one after the other, they took turns hopping through a single side but emerging from both, cloning themselves. When there were three sets of the twin brothers on stage, the door frame disappeared into the darkness and they all moved about the stage in a choreographed dance.

            The brother’s number ended their number on their knees, and one by one, the clones evaporated in puffs of smoke. A faint haze of the former creatures drifted across the stage.

The crowd’s applause rose like a roar, filling the space.

            Arnold tried to swallow the knot in his throat.

            Cassia retuned to the stage.

            “Not many could beat that,” he said, and the crowd responded with cheers.

            “Our next number is from I’shia Yayabu, last years winner. Please welcome him to the stage!”

            Cassia gestured to his two right arms to off stage, as he exited left.

            “Wish me luck,” I’shia whispered as he left Arnold in the wings.

            The Mefferling took center stage and bowed toward the audience.

            “My talents are only unbound by the study of my Mefferling abilities and innovation.”

            From the darkness of the stage a pair of gloved hands, placed a helmet that fit in between the spaces of I’shia’s crests. He closed his three eyes and held out his arms.

            “Now give me your thoughts,” he said.

             The crowd sat in tense silence.

            With his eyes still closed, he looked to different spots in the audience. Pointing a finger at them, a colored ball of energy would then form from the helmet and vibrate up into the air. Purple, blue, black, and red balls of electricity crackled over the audience, sending them into cheers of excitement.

            “Thank you, I’shia,” Cassia said as he returned to the stage. “That was incredible!”

            I’shia removed his helmet and the balls snapped out of existence.

“I’m doomed,” Arnold mumbled.

“I don’t know how anyone will compete against that but let’s try! Please welcome Arnold Habberny!”

The crowd remained silent as the young man walked into the spotlight. His footsteps echoed ominously across the hall.      

“I… I have this,” he said.

            From beyond the spotlight a very high platform was wheeled out, a box placed in the center. Then a single hand held out an old brown bone.

            Arnold took the bone and climbed up the metal ladder, along the side of the platform to place the bone inside of the box.

            A puff of smoke erupted from the bottom of the platform, producing an earth llama.

            “Ta-da,” he squeaked.

            Arnold held out his hands to a silent audience.

            “That’s not a talent,” a voice shouted from the audience.

            “Did I mention, I crossed it’s DNA with a cobra’s?” he answered back.


Judges Critiques:

 WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {2162}  There was lots of vivid detail – colors, sounds, feelings, different species of aliens, etc. It was easy to feel as if I was among the crowd watching the story unfold. There was also a lot of creativity demonstrated in having thought up the different acts put on at the show.    {2144}  The idea of an annual talent show to keep morale up on a spacecraft is a really creative use of the prompt. The different acts were also intriguing and created some cool visuals.  {2121}  Mixing interstellar species without fanfare, and the inclusion of some of their various different capabilities and appearances, helps define the world of the story more effectively than just setting description. Arnold’s nervous anticipation and reluctance are also understood well, heightening as both acts before him perform their talents to positive audience reactions.   WHAT THE JUDGES {Did Not} LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {2162}  I had a little trouble following the acts themselves – and it is an understandingly difficult feat to create and then describe extraterrestrial talents – in your next draft, perhaps really try to nail down the nature of what is spectacular to the audience – is it the cloning? the clones dancing? the light show of the energy balls? Think of ways to make the alien entertainment more and more beguiling to a reader – including Arnold’s talent, and the audience’s lack of reaction. Why weren’t they impressed? Why was he so nervous? Is the cobra line a joke? It ends a bit abruptly, to me, but I think that the more time you are able to pin down the acts and maybe give Arnold a little more detail, the more this story will cohere!   {2144}  In general, I wanted there to be more at stake here for the characters. Why does Arnold want to do well in this competition? What is on the line? I think we need to understand Arnold a little better to root for him.  {2121}  While Arnold is the protagonist of the story, his talent is revealed last and much more concisely, to the point where the reader doesn’t really understand what he accomplished. The story ends with him attempting to defend his talent by explaining how he crossed DNA to create an “earth llama,’ which in itself is fascinating if given the space to be developed and explained. Arnold is also never described beyond being a “young boy” wearing a feathered headpiece; if he is indeed human, why is he the only human character mentioned in the piece? How does that define/limit his capabilities, especially when compared to the cloning and energy creation abilities of the two talent acts before him? Why is DNA manipulation and species creation not deemed impressive in this world?

Into the Unknown

I can feel it in my chest. It is this deep, assuring sensation that it is time to peddle my novel. The world is calling me for it, and I know I must answer.

On December 9th, 2021 it will be 12 years since I finished my first NaNoWriMo and completed my first ever novel length work of fiction. If you have done NaNoWriMo before you will note that it is 9 days after the completion of the month long contest, to write 1,667 words a day for the entire month of November. And you are correct, but these were 9 extra days it took to actually wrap up the narrative. And I have spent the time since then editing this bitch.

Part of that is due to my need for perfection and my inability to see my talent and skill. I truly, truly am my worst critic. It’s weird how no one wants to see me fail more so than myself. I’m hellbent on it. And I have wasted these past years himming-and-hawing about whether it was good enough. Well, after a long car ride, and captive audience, I realized it is.

I don’t remember if I wrote about me and the polycule’s impromptu trip to Salt Lake City… Regardless, during this time I tasked the BF to read aloud my story for myself, the husband, and the brother-husband. May I make a suggestion that any writer should ABSOLUTELY do this. It accomplished two things. One, I got a test audience for feedback and overall commentary about the story; in real-time no less. Two, I got to get outside of my own head to hear how it sounded. The second one was the best thing I could have experienced. For so long I have sat there, nitpicking prose, punctuation, plot, that I get so lost in the logistics that I forget about the whole purpose of writing a story: to be entertained. I found myself smiling and laughing at my own words. That is insane. Either it’s good or I am just a narcissist who enjoys his ability. (Probably a combination of the two.)

Well, a road has been placed before me in the terms of an unpublished manuscript competition. For an entry fee of $65 I can submit my first few pages and a brief synopsis of my novel for consideration. If it’s chosen it’ll be placed in front of people who could potentially jumpstart my career. Now, will I place? If my past writing competitions have shown me anything, it is a firm NO. Will I find an agent or even sell it? Again, most likely no. Should I still do it? Yes.

One of the things that has been repeated to me frequently is that we will regret all opportunities not taken. So, I need to do this.