W1S1 Update 02 – June Wrap Up

Write 1 Sub 1This is really the first month I’ve been doing this Write 1, Sub 1 thing and it’s been pretty great so far. The whole point is writing consistently and consistently sending out your work on a regular basis. I’ll post my sub stats as the end of this post, but I can tell you right now, the whole effort has been well worth it.

I have 12 stories on submission right now. Of those, I wrote 3 from the beginning this month and performed major rewrites on two. So, I guess I didn’t really accomplish the writing a story a week thing, but with all the rewrites I needed to do, it still feels like a major win to me.

Here’s all my sub stats for the month:

  • 16 story submissions
  • 2 poetry submissions
  • 5 rejections
  • 3 stories need major revisions

As if I need anymore on my plate, I’m working on my novel again, Dr. Fantastic’s Prodigious Prestidigitator. I got 1,188 words down today on it bringing the whole manuscript up to 37,401. I’m at the halfway point now, which in retrospect, makes sense why I got frustrated with it in January and set it aside for a while. But after a thorough reread and making some notes, I’m ready to jump back in, full steam ahead. And many other mixed metaphors.

I hope June made for much writing and submitting for you, too!

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Damned Dolphins, Or Here’s Your Dolphin Pictures Already

I wrote a post last year about dolphins. I know what you’re thinking. How quaint. You’re making assumptions about me right now, aren’t you? That I like sparkly pink purses and put stickers on everything. You’re picturing unicorns and rainbows and dolphins swimming whilst laughing and rejoicing as their glossy skin gleans in the sun. Gleans!

Ah, the acid trip of dolphin youth.

But if you would get off of your assumption train for a moment (judgmental much?), I’d be able to tell you that this post I wrote about dolphins had to do with the BP oil spill and I tied it all together with a fun anecdote about when I got splashed by a dolphin at SeaWorld.

This post is my most popular to date. I don’t have a popular blog or anything, but I got somewhere around 1,400 visits on this one post because it was Freshly Pressed. Now, this was awesome. Blogging is a combination of hobby, outlet, and way to spread the word about my writing, and someone thought enough of my post to press it. Freshly, even. I was honored.

But, with all great achievements there is a burden waiting to be taken up. My burden? The majority of my traffic comes from people looking for pictures of dolphins now. What little traffic I get from search engines rests solely on the nimble fingers of dolphin lovers. Dolphin lovers so enthusiastic about these mammals of the sea, they feel the need to hit the Google with a query punched up with maximum dolphin.

You want dolphin? Fine. You can have them!

The typical searches are for phrases like “dolphin laughing,” or “dolphin swimming.” And if they’re really getting creative, “dolphin smile.” Because really, they’re just gorgeous, aren’t they? So happy, eyes filled with the innocence of a child, metallic skin glistening under the golden rays of the sun. Some might call them majestic…

Then of course, some people have found my blog by searching for the following:

dying dolphin laugh

You sick motherfucker. Does the sound of a dying dolphin send a shiver up your spine? A special tingle? Dude, run away as fast as you can. I don’t want to know you.

I see your dreams. And judge them.

Other phrases I find worrisome:

dolphin with human baby

That’s weird. And sounds dangerous. If you’re looking for baby + dolphin photo ops, you’ve come to the wrong place.

a dolphin saying goodbye see you later

Or waving. You know, that would’ve worked, too. Unless you actually wanted to find out information about a talking dolphin that can only say “goodbye, see you later.” If that’s the case, creativity bonus points for you. Just don’t let me see your sick laboratory in the basement of your mother’s house where you try to “fix” dolphins so they can talk. That shit’s just wrong.

And the WTF award goes to:

dolphins putting up their fin like when you put up your hand in school

How strangely specific. Why would you need to look for this? What possible reason? No, I’m serious. I need to know.

how do dolphins see

Their blowholes.

dead dolphins

I thought I told you to go away! Turn around and leave. No sick bastards that like the sound of dolphin death allowed.

I'm a dolphin, bitch!

This is my curse. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you. Maybe I should write a post about sea turtles to try to balance this out. Or maybe even a land mammal to shake things up. In the meantime, I’ve dug the dolphin hole a little bit deeper. Oh no. Now someone searching for dolphin holes is going to find me. I don’t think I’m sleeping tonight.

The Supermarket After Dark: Cleanup on Aisle Everywhere

Like usual, Matt and I forgot to get some things from the supermarket. Namely, cat food. Those fur-balls really pitch a fit when you forget to give them their wet slop and nuzzle and purr until you scream, “Okay, I love you, too, I’ll feed you god dammit just quit slobbering on my ear!”

It’s about 9:30 and we trek over to the market. I say trek like it’s a million miles away and we’re about to dump the ring in Mount Doom or something, but seriously, driving a block after dinner is like trying to roll a boulder uphill. That shit’s laborious.

Run past the carts with your head down.

So we get to the market and make our way to the pet food aisle. We have a solid set of rules when venturing into Ralph’s after the sun’s gone down: get in, get out, don’t make eye contact, and avoid the people who talk to themselves. It sounds simple, but as I said earlier, It’s a trek and treks, as I also mentioned earlier, are laborious, so of course it wouldn’t be that easy.

We scan the broad selection of Friskies cat food, looking for the preferred disgusting meat concoction for our kitties. Yes, they have a preference, if not in flavor, then in texture. So, we’re scouring through salmon, beef, and tuna & egg–the personal favorite of my gag reflex–and come across a can of chicken a la the Savory Shreds variety. “Those cats are going to be excited as hell,” Matt says and I nod in agreement like we’re making a life-changing decision.

Then, our eyes fall on it at the same time. It’s Friskies, all right, but the labeling has changed. There’s swirls and motifs all over the can. To top it off, there’s a delighted orange tabby raising a paw as if to waft those swirls carrying fishy heaven closer to his nostrils to really take in the aroma. They’re flavor swirls, and I’m telling you: they’re downright whimsical.

We grab the same can, oblivious to the fact that Friskies’ damn marketing plan has worked. Whimsy sells, and we load up the cart with multi-colored cans. There’s swirls and decorative outlines of fish and cows and chickens tempting that tabby. We grab all sorts of flavors, just so long as they’ve got flourishes and shit. By the time we’re done, we’ve got a barnyard in our cart and we dontevencare.

But let me tell you something disturbing. One of the cans said Friskies with Chicken and Gravy. WITH! Do I need to emphasize that more? WITH!! 

Mmm-mmm. Nothing like Frisky shreds.

What the hell does that mean? I was under the impression my cats were chowing down on chicken shreds in gravy. But apparently I was mistaken. They’ve been lapping up Friskies and the manufacturers have been so kind as to add chicken and some gravy to the mystery stew out of the kindness of their hearts. Here’s my question:

What the fuck is a frisky?

Whoa! I know, right? Did I just blow your mind? I thought so.

Now that your life won’t ever be the same, allow me to move on and tell you about the rest of the supermarket experience…

We start wandering about the store like a pair of lost children looking for some sort of sugary snack to take home and devour on a Thursday night, because that’s how awesome we are. Then I hear it.

I pause in my tracks and turn my head to the side trying to listen. Matt hears it too and our eyes go wide in horror, but not in surprise. Because we live in Huntington Beach, deep into the O.C. That high-pitched drone coming from a few aisles over can be one thing and one thing alone: high school girls.

We try to keep our cool, even though our first instinct is to run. We examine the ice cream as a distraction. It was so picked over Matt nearly lost his arm in the back of the freezer trying to get some damn strawberry cheesecake ice cream. That’s what we’d do for you Ben & Jerry’s! Your ice cream is like crack and we are your junky addicts, willing to lose an arm to frostbite for just another creamy spoonful! But I digress.

The laughing gets louder. One voice squeals above the rest. She can’t stop chuckling about something. She’s about to have an aneurism. I just know it. And then the girls round the corner. They giggle like a pack of hyenas and even though their screeching laughter is enough to make me want to stick my head in the freezer, and slam the door repeatedly on my temples, I don’t. Because then they would win. And I can’t allow that to happen–as an American.

Like, oh my god, hahahah, like, hahahaha, *snort* huh?

The Sweatpants and Hoodie Hyenas saunter off. The laughter fades and we both breathe a sigh of relief. Those sighs say, “Whew, that was a close one.”

But as we turn to head over to the checkout we have to stop. I can’t move. One of the hyenas, er, girls, broke free from the pack. She leans on her cart and skids through the store, giggling to herself like a mindless idiot. Then I look down.

Now, let me emphasize something here. We live near the beach. I get the whole beach culture thing, I do. But this was just not right, okay?

She wasn’t wearing any shoes. Do I need to repeat that? The chick had no shoes on! Just socks. As if that weren’t bad enough, there was a giant hole one of the socks and her big toe protruded through it like a hernia. I mean, is it that hard to find a pair of shoes when you’re stumbling to the market on a weekday night?

I’m not going to lie. It was sad. And disgusting. But mostly just sad.

Any of these would've been fine.

We wait for the straggler to pass before dashing to the self-checkout counter. But again, our progress is thwarted.

The pack of teenagers had converged at the self-checkout, doubled over in laughter, half buns bobbing, hoodies spontaneously flinging over their heads. And the source of their amusement?

Blueberries.

Glinting in the harsh fluorescent lighting lay a minefield of blueberries, peppered across the linoleum. Why, they were even still frosty from the refrigerator. And the girl with the loudest laugh that crossed the entire market like a smoke alarm held the container, dangling in her hand, empty and useless.

They never knew the glory of a bowl.

We followed the rules: get in, get out, don’t make eye contact, avoid the people who talk to themselves. After tip-toeing through the blueberry massacre (“they were so young!” we cried as we wept for their purple souls) we made it to the checkout stand unscathed.

The car ride home was silent, somber even. There’s was nothing to say other than to reflect on what had just transpired. What evils we had encountered. What perils we narrowly escaped. The trek was complete, the journey at an end. But I doubt we’ll ever be the same.

And the nagging certainty that we will forget something from the grocery list again haunts my dreams.

Flash Fiction Challenge: Mr. Polisher is Dead

So this prompt comes from Terrible Minds. The task was to smash together two sub-genres (I picked steampunk and noir) and write a flash story of 1,000 words or less. What follows is the result. It’s silly and filled with clichés but maybe that’s part of the fun…

Mr. Polisher is Dead
by Brenda Stokes Barron

The dame walked into my office. Her gears twitched and throttled with each shake of her hips. I nearly blew a gasket.

I switched on my water-cooling mechanism fast and played it off like nothing happened.

“Hey, if that dress were any shorter, I’d see your compressed air chamber,” I said, leaning back in my chair.

“I bet you say that to all the big-cogged girls,” she said and winked.

Silence passed for an uncomfortable moment before she spoke again, “I need your help.”

I learned forward like I was interested. “Yeah?”

She nodded, the gears in her neck turning and turning. “It’s my husband. He’s ratcheting a human girl. But whenever I tell him I want a divorce, he threatens to take out my perpetual motion generator.” She sucked in a breath, bottom lip clanking and quivering. “I just don’t know what to do anymore. He’s gone insane and I’m afraid for my life.”

I nodded, taking it all in. “But what can I do about it?”

“I was hoping you’d take care of him for me,” she said. The quiver in her voice vanished, probably because she’d automatically adjusted the alignment of her speech brackets. But the grin that creaked across her face was unnerving.

“You want me to kill him?” I asked. I paced behind the desk. I couldn’t look at this dame. She was much too beautiful with too much going on behind that metallic smile. A man could get killed over a smile like that. I snorted back a laugh.

“If that’s what you want to call it.”

Keeping my eyes down, I handed her a contract. Business had been slow. Investigate, eliminate, it was all the same in this town. She cranked a lever at the inside of her elbow and a signature stamp squeaked out of her wrist. Signed. Sealed. Dead, soon enough.

#

I didn’t like to put a lot of fuss into my work. A paycheck was a paycheck and this dame, Gladia, let’s call her, came into my life and offered me one. I couldn’t rightly say no. But that didn’t mean I had to put my clanking heart and sputtering soul into it, either.

A few nights after our first meeting, Gladia slipped an address and a check for $500 under my office door. I could see her outline through the frosted glass pane—her waist small and constricted by cooling coils and her hair piled on top of her head in a sheath of sparks. I waited for her to leave to retrieve the note. I checked myself:

Jacket.

Keys.

Stick.

I was ready.

The address she’d given me was for a bar on the edge of town. I hid the wooden stick in my coat sleeve and walked in like I owned the joint.

“I’m looking for a Mr. Polisher. Mr. Polisher here?”

In this town, there’s no need to be discreet. The cops, the crooks, they’re all in it together.

The patrons looked up at me through sleepy eyes and mumbled something unintelligible.

“Thanks, you’re a help,” I said, and ordered a drink. Water, of course. But I asked the barkeep to add a little vodka to it. It’ll jam my gears, I know. You only live once.

A man sat next to me. “You the one looking for Mr. Polisher?” he asked, his voice high and befitting his lanky frame.

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“You’re looking at him,” he said and grinned. His smiled was stiff and unnatural. He’d probably ground his gears a few times too many.

I took a sip of my drink and let it fully settle into my reservoir. “Would you step outside with me?” I asked, “I have something I want to discuss with you.”

Mr. Polisher—I never got his first name—followed me out to the alley around back of the bar. He opened his mouth like he was going to ask me a question as I slid the stick from my sleeve, passed it to my right hand and jammed it into the large gear that turned on his back.

His mouth stayed open, sputtering like he just couldn’t find the right words as I hefted him into the garbage.

I cashed my check on the way home.

#

I held Gladia after we knocked compressors and I don’t know what came over me. I asked her to marry me. I’d never heard such a loud exhaust whistle.

We married at the Robotics Chapel down the street. A human couple wished us well. Call me a sap, but I thought that was nice. Especially in this day and age.

Gladia is the perfect wife. She cooks and cleans and looks after me. And when we kiss, sparks shoot out of my ears. That tells you something right there.

We got married over a year ago. But sometimes she gets a faraway look in her eyes at the dinner table. At first I thought she was malfunctioning but when I called her on it, she just apologized and told me that she’s distracted and busy at work. “I never knew the typing pool was so stressful,” I said, and she laughed though her eyes stayed three miles away over in the next county somewhere.

Today, Gladia was up and ready for work before me. She paused at the door before she left and told me she loved me. A smile clung to her metallic lips.

The door shut behind her and all I could think was how a man could get killed over a smile like that.

But this time, I didn’t laugh.

-end

Thanks for reading!

AW June Blog Chain: Setting the Scene

This is the first time I’m participating in a blog chain, but I’m excited to jump right in. Absolute Write is a great site. I highly suggest you check it out, if you haven’t already. The support from other writers there is incalculable!

The previous person in the chain was: Aheïla

The next person in the chain is: TheMindKiller

This month’s prompt is “Setting the Scene”

Write a location description, and make us feel as if we are there. No dialogue, no introductory comments, just a location. We’re the tourists, you’re the guide.

Here’s my entry. I did a little something different. I made the description a tiny story:

The house on the corner of Nowhere Street smelled of burning cinder. It wasn’t on fire, but the pungent aroma of crispy, overdone things wafted out to the street. I’d hold my breath when walking by it on the way home from school, hoping I wouldn’t have to draw the toxic fumes into my lungs. But I always smelled it on my clothes later anyway. 
The  siding crumbled off the house, leaving more gray splotches than white paint and brown vine tendrils snaked from inside around the front door like a giant spider’s legs. I faced the front door. I had to sit on the cobweb covered bench for one whole minute or the bet was off. As I sat, I could have sworn those tendrils were creeping around the door’s hinges and in and out of the mail slot. 
The timer on my stopwatch buzzed. I ran from the porch and turned my back on the house on the corner on Nowhere Street. I’d never go home again. 

I’d love to hear what you think.

And be sure to check out all of the blog chain participants :

orion_mk3 – http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com
juniper – http://www.katjuniper.com/
LadyMage – http://www.katherinegilraine.com/
dolores haze – http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/
jkellerford – http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com/
Ralph Pines – http://ralfast.wordpress.com/
AuburnAssassin – http://clairegillian.com/
pezie – http://www.erinbrambilla.com/
Inkstrokes – http://drlong67.wordpress.com/
WildScribe – http://DionneObesoBlog.com/
Guardian – http://daewrites.blogspot.com/
Lyra Jean – http://lyratorres.wordpress.com/
egoodlett – http://wordlarceny.blogspot.com/
cwachob – http://www.corriewachob.blogspot.com/
Aheïla – http://thewriteaholicblog.wordpress.com/
faerydancer – https://digitalinkwell.wordpress.com YOU ARE HERE!
TheMindKiller – http://www.jabberwocky.ws/
Irissel – http://irissel.blogspot.com/
xcomplex – http://www.arielemerald.blogspot.com/
Robbi Sommers Bryant – www.robbibryant.blogspot.com

A Wednesday Word – Prompt for 6/22/11

I’m starting a new feature here called the A Wednesday Word. Here’s the deal: I post a word and its definition and you write a short-short story (under 500 words) and link to it in the comments section based on its meaning. You can even write something about what the word sounds like or–if you didn’t know the definition–what you thought it meant on first glance. And if I like your story the best, I’ll send you a handmade knitted bookmark and post your story on my blog. Pretty cool, huh?

This week’s Wednesday word is:

Ignominious 

Dictionary.com Definition: Deserving or causing public disgrace or shame

Write about anything you want, just so long as it has to do with ignominiousness. The more creative the better and the better your chances of winning the bookmark and getting posted on the blog.

How to Participate 

Just in case it wasn’t clear, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Write a story under 500 words about the word of the day.
  2. Post it on your blog and link to it in the comments section here. If you don’t have a blog, post it directly in the comments.
  3. Submit by 6/29. The story I like the most will win a knitted bookmark that I’ll make just for you.

Sound good? Good! Now, get to writing!

I Keep My Muse in the Cellar

She's waiting for you down here.

Well, not exactly.

I live in California and we don’t have cellars here. Nor do I have a basement. But I guess I have a cellar in the recesses of my mind. It’s a dark and dank place filled with cobwebs and crawling things that nibble on my toes when I’m not looking. It’s a place where my worst fears set up camp and every once in a while they climb up the stairs and knock on the door to the rest of the house to get my attention. Other times, I find I’ve left the door open a crack and they creep into my forebrain. This usually occurs when I’m alone in a dark place and every noise becomes a monster.

But those creepy-crawlies are just primal fears and horrors. They’re not the meat and potatoes. No, more than any of this, the cellar is where I keep my muse.

After a quick Twitter discussion with R.C. Murphy, I got to thinking about what my muse looks like. Funny thing is, I didn’t have to think much at all.

My muse is a little girl.

She’s about eight years old and wears a pink dress that ties in the back. Her hair is pinned back with a soft pink bow and the rest falls about her shoulders in ringlets. She wears white tights and black doll shoes and holds her hands in front of her, ever-clasped, and she looks up at you and says, “I am innocent, I can do no wrong.”

What she doesn’t tell you, however, is that she’s the master of the aforementioned creepy-crawlies. She sends them out to do her bidding and she sits back and laughs and twirls around to see how much she can make her dress fan out.

She is every stereotypical horror film’s “creepy child” rolled into one. She’s me. She’s what I could have become. She whispers secrets–dark ones–in my ear and forces me to write them down. “Or else,” she says.

Or else.

So, what does your muse look like? Does it have a face? If you haven’t personified your inspiration, how would you describe it?