The days are starting to pass you, faster than expected. Packing the apartment before and after work makes you exhausted, and the uncertainty of where you’ll be living and the actual moving of your items from point a to point b is giving you a headache.
After Sam asked for your decision, you call the contact number listed for the single-wide trailer to see if it is still available.
“Crystal Dreams, how may I help you?”
You ask about the home, and at first the girl who answered the phone has no idea. She puts you on hold. The hold music is some sort of soft Celtic-sounding drone, which almost puts you to sleep. Finally, someone gets back on the phone.
You ask about the single-wide trailer.
The person on the phone, not the same cheerful voice that first answered, but someone else – hard to tell if male or female – with a deeper voice and slight accent, tells you that the trailer is tentatively rented out, pending receipt of money and a signed lease, but it is still available until that time. “You got the money, I’ve got the property.” Do you want to see the property?


evicted decision

Not quite believing your situation, you do not make a decision just yet, but work out the rest of the day and return home, laden with boxes to start your moving adventure. You see other residents toting boxes and furniture and one already pulling away in a U-Haul. Reassured that you’re not alone in this predicament, you start with the easy stuff – books. Books fit into boxes nicely and most of them you want to keep, so no hard decisions. Yet. Dishes next. You don’t actually have many, so that’s easy. You’ll eat take out for the rest of the week (which is actually not very different from any other week). Computer stuff. That’s harder since you still want access to your MMORPG and the internet. You get caught up in your game and the next day finds you back at work without having made much progress in packing or finding a place to live. You have six days left, right? No biggie.
Sam, owner of the large house in the posh neighborhood, says “I don’t want to pressure you, but one of my other housemates has a friend in need of a place to stay also. I told him I offered it to you first. What do you think?”



About to leave for work, you notice an eviction notice shoved under your apartment door – as if by magic. The complex is being demolished and you have a week to move. A spike of panic makes you look around at the life you’ve had for the past several years as evidenced by the mess and clutter piled up. Maybe a move would shake you out of your rut, but a week? That’s a short time to prepare for a change.
At work, you ask around and one of your coworkers happens to have a room for rent in his house. It’s in a posh neighborhood, which would be an improvement over your current location. You’d have your own bathroom, and share a kitchen and laundry with Sam and two others. Although you don’t know him well, Sam seems like a nice enough guy. You could have a pet if you wanted, because there is a large backyard that has a pool.
On the bulletin board, there is an ad for a single-wide mobile home on the outskirts of town. It has a small yard and a washer/dryer and is on a private road, backing the forest. Pets are welcome. You wouldn’t have any upstairs neighbors clomping around or singing arias at 3:00 a.m.
The rent for both options is the same, and both are less than what you are currently paying.
Do you go for the big posh house with roommates or do you go for the small private trailer?

choose your own path

Day 2 100 words (98 days to go)

Paths are straight, short, paved with paving stones (go figure), short-cuts from point a to point b, sometimes twisty and turn-y if they have to bypass something like a hillock or the neighbor’s yard. Sometimes they are not paved and are bumpy, rutted, or muddy. Paths can be uphill or downhill, along the road or along the creek, or to the creek even. They split at unexpected times and are used by creatures on two and four legs, or no legs at all. Most don’t have names, but sometimes there are signs pointing the direction. Sometimes they have numerical designations and are called “trails” by a governing body that wants to impose rule upon them. They intersect and diverge. They have names like “garden path,” “bridle path,” and “beaten path.” Sometimes you want to be on them and sometimes you don’t – depending on the connotation. They are beautiful and they are plain. They are mysterious, and when you get to choose your own – great things and terrible things may happen, but you can be assured – things will happen.



back at it

As the song goes, “Well, I’m back in the saddle again”
Let’s see if I can stay there.
100 words in 100 days (I know I will miss some this week as I am going to a medieval-ish camping event in Queen Creek AZ on Thursday afternoon through Sunday).

I have a friend who feels marginalized by her situation, and as a response she takes on everything project she can just to prove that she’s worthwhile, she can do it, she’s someone of importance. Or maybe it’s because she’s nuts and this is her element. She enjoys stress, perhaps. I don’t like stress. And then she tells people that she’s overwhelmed, seeking comfort from the social media masses, who of course, reply with the obligatory, “oh you poor baby. How horrible that no one is helping out.” People want to help. People offer to help. Help is often turned down. I don’t offer to help too often. I wouldn’t want to take that joyful frustration from her. She allows me to help, a little, sometimes. I guess she doesn’t want my help specifically because I’ll take over – and well, there’s the control issue. I have it, she has it. It’s a wonder that we’re friends at all, being two dogs pulling at the same chew toy. I let go of my end and then I find it in my mouth again. So I let go again. Is it the chew toy or is it me?
Am I marginalized? Do I feel marginalized? Why would that bother me? I have no need to be in the spotlight or to have my ego stroked. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself. I know I’m not important. Maybe I am crazy though. Hmmm, something to ponder.
Regardless, she’s still my friend and I’ll keep offering assistance on occasion, when I’m not lazy or when she hasn’t stressed me out too much.
Ah look – I have a chew toy in my mouth again.


hey – I’m still here

You’d think I’d fallen off of the edge of the world, but actually, I haven’t.
Things are busy. Life outside of reading and writing has taken a remarkable and wholly fabulous, unexpected turn. I am very grateful for it. My story is changing.

But in the meantime, I am still writing or at least studying writing. I’m attending a writing workshop this week (omg this week!) put on by Shawn Coyne and Tim Grahl about the Story Grid.
In a recent podcast, Shawn said the following, which I find encouraging.

So that is really, really helpful, but the story spine is as simple as a character undergoes a very traumatic change for the good or for the ill. They have to deal with that change, that change causes a worldview change, and they come home irrevocably different. That’s what storytelling is at its most barebones. It’s about how to deal with change.

I hope you are all well and that whatever changes come our way, we weather them well.

J & J part 3

Up Jack got and home did trot,
as fast as he could caper.

Two weeks later, Jack returned to Dob’s Advertising Agency. He hadn’t expected to return at all. Not that his traumatic brain injury, wrenched neck, and broken rib were life threatening, it was just that he’d expected to be canned. After all, he was just an intern. Part of the agreement between the university and the agency had to include something about attendance the majority of time – which he obviously couldn’t do if his, literally, swollen head couldn’t get itself off the pillow. However, the HR guy called and his doctor said yes and so back to the grind. He hoped that coffee runs were no longer on the list of things he had to do.
He stepped off the elevator and into the fishbowl area outside of Mrs. Dob’s office where he’d been stationed before. The usual noisiness seemed comforting. He spotted Jill before she spotted him. Her injury seemed to have healed because she had sexy platform shoes on with white straps that snaked up her dark leotard legs toward the frilly white skirt she had on. Jack found himself smiling when she spotted him. Instead of smiling back – because why would she do that, Satan’s daughter that she was – she held up a hand indicating that he should wait, and slipped into Mrs. Dob’s office, closing the door firmly behind her.
Jack ignored her implied order to stay at the doorway and went to his desk.
Except it wasn’t his desk anymore.
Some punk sat at it. A straw-haired, ivy-league, cable knit sweater wearing – probably on the frigging rowing team – punk sat there.
He stood up when Jack paused at the edge of the desk. Jack watched him rise. A large, rowing team punk.
“Oh, you must be Jack.” He held out a paw. “I’m Al.”
“Hey,” Jack answered and had his hand engulfed.
Al seemed about to say something but changed his mind, coming to an alert attention like a Great Dane about to get a treat. Jill swished up and said, “Oh good, you’ve met. Excuse us, Al, Mrs. Dob wants to see Jack.”
“Yes, ma’am. Nice to meet you, Jack.”
Jill and Al smiled at each other. Jack looked down at the paper on his old desk and saw “Al Forma, Intern” on the name plate.
“Oh, and Al, Mrs. Dob would like some coffee.” Jill added, “Could you run up the hill to get it, please?”
The Great Dane gets to get coffee by himself?
Jack’s head started to hurt.
“Of course, Ma’am. Right away. Can I get you anything?”
“Oh, no thank you. But it was very sweet of you to ask.” And she said it with no hint of sarcasm.
Jack looked around to see if any of the other office workers had noticed her decline in to niceness. No one paid any attention to them.
“Coming Jack?” Jill said over her shoulder as she swished off to the boss’ den.

J & J Contemporary Line 2

Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.

“Mrs. Dob is going to kill us,” Jill said.
Jack looked away from the ruins of the coffee container at the driver of the SUV, who stumbled toward them.
“Fuck Mrs. Dob’s coffee,” he muttered. All this hassle had made his head hurt.
“Are you okay?” the driver asked.
Jill’s hiss this time seemed more than annoyance. Jack glanced at her. She sat on the sidewalk, in the snow, rubbing her booted ankle.
She looked up at the driver, opened her mouth and paused, focusing on Jack.
“Jack, you’re bleeding. Are you…” Her voice took on a hollow quality as the edges of his vision went dark. His world tilted sideways.

An alarm woke him with a start. He had a moment of disorientation he usually associated with waking up in a stranger’s bed, although he couldn’t feel the associated warm body nor smell the usually pleasant scent of her perfume and sex. Instead, he smelled disinfectant. He opened his eyes and saw acoustical ceiling titles. He tried to turn his head, but couldn’t. A cacophony of beeps and buzzers went off when he tried to sit up. Hospital, his sore head and the IV in his hand told him.
A nurse poked his head around the corner, flashed a smile at Jack, and ducked back out of sight. Jack tried to call after him, but his words died in his parched throat. The beeps of the machine monitoring him started to take on a ticking time bomb quality. The sudden sound of the overhead paging system calling some “Doctor Horton” to the nurses station made him jump. Who was Doctor Horton and was he Jack’s doctor? He tried to sit up again and the buzzers complained. No one came to check on him.
He frantically assessed his body. From what he could tell, only his head seemed injured. The beeping of the monitor next to him mirrored his increasing heartbeat and paranoia. They’d left him. The zombies from the morgue had risen up and were right that moment overtaking poor Doctor Horton and the nurses. They’d be on him next.
A slight sound at the door caused him to wrench his neck when he jumped. The room spun and his stomach spun the other way.
Things got fuzzy after that for a few moments.

When he opened his eyes again, he found the nurse, the doctor – Horton even – and Jill hovering over his bed. Jill had crutches under her armpits, and her black rat eyes looked more like lost puppy eyes when she looked at him.
“Hey,” he croaked. He swallowed and tried again. She smiled – not a snarky smile, but a genuine smile. It made her look like a different, more attractive, person.
“Hey,” she said back softly.
The nurse handed him a cup with a bendy straw, and he sucked on it. He gestured with his hand toward her crutches.
“Oh,” she looked down self-consciously, “My ankle broke when you saved me.”
Jack made a concerned noise.
“It’s okay,” she said, patting his leg. “I’d rather be alive. Thank you.”
She squeezed his knee and said it again: “Thank you.”
He spit the straw out to say something, but the nurse expertly stuck it back in his mouth. He gestured with his hand and eyebrows that he didn’t do anything big. The nurse told him to stop moving.
The doctor said something and Jill stepped back before he could catch her hand.

J & J Contemporary Scene 1 continued

They arrived at the top of the hill and found the boutique coffee shop that Mrs. Dob preferred. A clump of people stood inside. Jack supposed the clump would have formed a line if it had been temperate outside. Jill pushed her way in, causing grumbles from the group as she held the door open, allowing winter and Jack in.
One poor, frantic barista scuttled from cash register to coffee pot or espresso machine to the pick-up area and back.
Once Jill reached the counter and started to order, the barista, whose bushy red hair made him even more squirrel like, blanched.
“Mrs. Dob?” he asked, almost cowering.
Jill smirked and nodded. She didn’t have to finish detailing the order. The man turned and started his preparations.
Jill pulled Jack out of the clump of people to hover near the pick-up area.
“Does she always get tea and coffee together?”
Jill nodded. “A cinnamon chai latte with a double blast of whipped cream and a shot of espresso.” She added, “The cinnamon has to be freshly ground, the espresso made with distilled water, and the whipped cream really whipped – not out of a frozen carton.”
Jill went on, showing an unexpected glimpse of humanity, “When I first started, Henry – my predecessor – sent me here alone without specific instructions. Mrs. Dob railed at me for days for putting stale cinnamon on top of her chai latte. The fact that I brought her a separate espresso probably saved my life.”
“Does she want this every day?”
Jill gave Jack a pitying look. “Only on days that end with Y.”
He should have been thankful for Jill’s insistence that she accompany him to get coffee, but really he just felt annoyed: three and a half years of school to become a coffee gofer. Somehow Jill had moved up to junior ad exec, replacing whomever Henry was, so he could too. If it meant taking that hill everyday in whatever weather and harassing the barista, so be it.
Jill whipped out a soft lunchbox-type cooler from somewhere under her coat, which she wrapped carefully around the hot drink. She illustrated how Jack should hold it and passed it to him. She purchased a coffee for herself – not offering one to Jack – and they went back out into the cold.

The storm seemed to have settled in for the nonce, the street and sidewalk now covered with unploughed snow. After stepping carefully for a few minutes, Jack wished for a snowboard 0r skis, even a sled would have been better. Carrying the precious drink in both hands made balancing a challenge.
A rumbling sound made Jack glance back at the top of the hill. He expected another snow plough but an Escalade careened over the crest of the hill and slid down at luge speed. Jill, not paying attention, sipped her coffee and muttered about her car. The driver lost control and the heavy SUV headed directly for them.
All considerations of coffee forgotten, Jack grabbed Jill’s arm and pulled her out of the way just as the vehicle crashed into the light pole she’d been about to pass. They landed on their backs on someone’s stoop, glass, snow and ice falling about them like confetti.
“What the hell, Jack?” she asked, her eyes wide. She struggled back to her feet and brushed futilely at the coffee stain on her coat.
Jack climbed to his feet, rubbing his hip. He started to move to check on the driver when Jill’s hiss stopped him. She pointed to his feet.
The lunchbox container that held Mrs. Dob’s holy grail of coffee had been flattened by a piece of debris.




J & J contemporary scene 1

According to Shawn Coyne, author of The Story Grid, each beat [an identifiable moment of change], scene, sequence of scenes, act, and story has the following:

“Here they are in outline form:

  1. Inciting Incident
    1. Causal
    2. Coincidence
  2. Progressive Complication
    1. Active Turning Point
    2. Revelatory Turning Point
  3. Crisis
    1. The Best Bad choice
    2. Irreconcilable goods
  4. Climax
  5. Resolution

These five elements must be clearly defined and executed for each unit of story.”

So, scene 1 of the J & J contemporary story will be the first line of the poem:

Jack and Jill went up the hill
to fetch a pail of water.

Backstory situation:

Jack and Jill work for Dob’s Advertising. There’s a big meeting coming up, and Mrs. Dob (the senior executive) has to have her coffee. The coffee maker is broken. Jack is an intern and Jill is a junior advertising executive. There is a meeting that Mrs. Dob’s needs her coffee for. It is important to Jill to please Mrs. Dob and it is important to Jack to learn how Jill does her job, so that he can take that job, with the future goal of becoming an advertising executive once he impresses Mrs. Dob with his skills. Jack is not amused at being a gofer and Jill has better things to do than babysit Jack. Mrs. Dob doesn’t care about either of them as long as they do what she asks.

Inciting incident:
“Jill,” Mrs. Dob’s warning-buzzer voice sounded out. All nearby staff of the advertisement office froze in dread or anticipation. “Did the service company repair that coffee maker yet?”
Jill looked up from reading a sheet of ad copy and met Jack’s eyes. Her eyes reminded him of a rat’s. She flashed a small, feral smile, and got up to answer her boss, swishing past him in her pencil skirt and impossibly high-heeled shoes. If she weren’t his internship boss, he’d think she’d be right at home at a strip club or maybe an S & M club.
His vision of the junior ad exec in handcuffs changed to her holding the whip when she said, “Oh Jack, we have an errand to run.”

Of course it had to be snowing, and of course the coffee shop that Mrs. Dob wanted coffee from had to be at the top of a particularly steep hill. Jill, out of her striper shoes and in snow boots, turned out to be slightly shorter than he. Jack trudged up the icy side walk behind her, noting that her long lavender coat diminished her dominatrix-y aura. Yet she still swished.

“You know,” he said, increasing his pace a little so that he walked beside her. He forgot what he was about to say, pausing to watch as a snow plough did a controlled slide down the hill. It took out the side-view mirror of an unfortunate Audi 500. Jill hissed at the crunch, but didn’t stop. He caught up with her again and she said “What?”

“I could have come up here without you. I think I know how to get coffee.”

She snorted and said, “Mrs. Dob was exceptionally specific about my supervisory position. You are not to be trusted to do complicated or important things on your own.”

“And getting coffee is complicated?”

She didn’t answer that, but looked back down the hill at the sound of another car losing its mirror. “Damn it,” she muttered, raising her arm as if to wave at the plough driver. She dropped it back with a growl. “Damn full parking garage.”

“Was that your car?” Jack smothered the urge to laugh.

She gave him a death look and stomped up the hill with more determination, leaving Jack to scramble after.