Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Feelin it" great Isaiah Thomas once spoke of "being in the zone," as a time when looking up to the hoop and realizing that it resembled the same size as a swimming pool. And no matter how awkward the jumpshot, be it while falling down, off one foot, or from an insane distance, like being drawn by magnetic force, the ball had no choice but to drop through for two.

I feel that writing is much the same. For those of us who paint by mind and shape with pen, we can on most days manage to scribble something. Whether it be prize-worthy or filler for the nearby trash can is a decision for later. Point being though...if a page demands attention, even on a Monday, we can make it happen.

But every so often, whether from a full moon glowing orange and hovering just over the treetops as if begging to be touched, or something wonderful in the drinking water, mineral spirits dropped from Heaven or what have you, we find ourselves looking to our computer screens as if it were some mythical orb, phrases never before thought of by anyone walking the planet, simply rolling across the screen like small waves of literary genius. A handful of paragraphs so gratifying, you actually find yourself hesitating, fingers held over the keyboard, bent at the joint and awaiting command, as you ask yourself, "Am I really doing this?" or "Holy crap, this is really good!"

It doesn't happen often, but when it does...

The following excerpt is from "Crazy Heart," by Thomas Cobb...

"He wakes from a dreamless sleep. Her head is cradled on his arm, her breathing regular and shallow on his chest. Love starts this way always, waking, his arm pleasantly numb from being slept on all night. And it always ends trying, in sleep, to get as far away as possible, until no bed is big enough to get the necessary distance. It always starts in sleep before it works its way into the waking and consciousness."

...I'm guessing that on the day Mr. Cobb penned that particular passage, his favorite baseball team wreaked havoc on their most hated rival. He managed to drive across town for lunch without ever once having to stop at a traffic light. And I'm quite certain, as he finished up that final sentence and eased back in his chair, reading what he'd just created, his lips curled to form a smirk, and he thought to himself, "Holy crap..."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Hoola-Hooping in Steel-Toes"

...over the past six months, the company I work for and vehemently despise, has finally realized that morale is at an all-time low. A year ago this time they couldn't have cared less, their concerns based solely on the survival of their own necks as business fluttered. Now that all arrows are pointing upward once again, they've decided to try and turn our frowns up-side-down.

...a few weeks ago they held a company picnic behind the plant on a Saturday afternoon, advertising roasted hotdogs and games for the little ones. What they'd forgotten however, was that many departments had already been mandatoried, thus preventing several hundred hotdog enthusiasts from showing up. Or the fact that nobody thought to spare a moment and check the weekend weather report, which cautioned high winds and thunderstorms. week later they announced that everyone who showed up for the quarterly meeting in our lunch room could help themselves to a "doughnut fest," complimentary of the management staff. From what I heard, around fifty people showed, which sounds okay, except that our overall headcount currently sits at seven hundred happy campers.

...what I saw upon my arrival today caused me to stop, mouth agape, and shutter. Posted next to the entryway leading to the locker rooms and concession stands was a sign announcing of their plans for the next uplifting company event. A hoola-hoop contest.

...tomorrow, for no apparent reason that I can come up with, and during the two-hour staggered lunch time, depending on whichever department you were associated with, a hoola-hoop contest would be going on in the parking lot between the assembly and engineering departments, for any and all who wish to participate.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm not perfect. I may be the last writer in the Western Hemisphere without a laptop. (there's a story to that...but for another day:) I have a thirteen year old who can sing "What do Tiger's Dream of " from The Hangover, while shoving a six inch blade through the throat of an evil terrorist on XBox Live. I've caught myself humming along to something from Michael Buble while driving. We're all human...

But a hoola-hoop contest? At a steel-mill specializing in anything automotive? Fifty-something, pot-bellied, press operators in grease-stained Wranglers and steel-toe boots, attempting to propell a plastic ring around their gut, trying in vain to keep both it, and their pants, from sagging to the ground.

I sent my wife a text, informing her of the company's newest attempt at creating employment bliss. Her response was..."What? Everything they've done to us over the last two years, and they want to make it all better with a hoola-hoop?"

Trying to lighten the mood, I responded with, "Hoola-hooping works like potato salad...they cure all woes known to man." they're trying. We get it. But if they really want to cheer up the workforce, how about returning some of the earned vacation time wrongfully taken from us over the past two years. Or how about giving a couple departments a weekend off once in a while so they can see how tall their kids have grown since the last time they were allowed to leave the plant. You's the little things that would make a difference.

Hoola-hoops and roasted weiners...I really need a new gig.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Revising 13

...been revising a particularly troublesome chapter which my editor has deemed, "In need of a lift." (Whatever that means:)

13's been giving me fits. Keeping me up at night. The root cause behind my displaying the personality of a wolverine around Wife-Dearest and the Offspring, (not a music group.)

In any event, I thought I'd toss an excerpt to the wolves and see how it gets chewed upon. Feel free to say your peace...and as always, thanks for reading.


The orange tabby greeted me with an air of indifference as I returned from school, my cheeks numb from the biting wind. Winter was the only time of year when the cat's fur coat resembled something worthy of a pat. Perched on the hood of the Charger, no doubt in hopes of an engine still simmering from recent use, it took on the shape of a Browns's pom-pom, its protective fluff thickened for the season.

He offered me a slight tilt of his head as I stood before him, backpack slung over my shoulder. A pair of amber eyes, beautiful and deceiving at the same time, studied me, unblinking.

I'd tried sneaking him inside several times, but he always refused, turning tail and lumbering into the cold as if to say, "Come on kid, what do you think the coat's for?"

Katie and I had always considered him our cat, but chances are, so did every other kid in the neighborhood. He simply wandered up to Katie one summer afternoon, looking as if he was suffering from mange and in need of some lunch. He tried to purr for better effect, but only resulted in coughing out a balled up clump of grass coated in phlegm.

While we'd never officially named him, he seemed to react to a particular phrase from each of us. For Katie it was, "Aww, pretty kitty." For Dad it was usually, "Get outta my way."

I sensed a savvy intelligence when in his presence and not playing a prank on him. A yank of his striped tail or a snowball to the back of his head. Something in those eyes, bright like fired candlewicks in the dark. It was in the way he often looked at me. Like he knew what was happening to my family.

I reached out and stratched an orange tuft behind his ear. He leaned forward, eyes softening at my touch. If he did know of my family's crises, he wasn't talking about it. Which made him the only one...

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Adventures in Babysit...editing"

...I'm a writer. wife runs a daycare out of our finished basement.

I'm currently trudging through revisions with my editor. A tedious necessity demanding of one's utmost attention.

At any random time of day, there can be as many as ten or twelve children, babies to pubescent foulmouths, conducting various forms of havoc upon my sagging homestead.

Writing and children. Writing with children. Writing...despite children. Confused?'s a taste.

Mid-morning. My office. Face pushed up against the monitor, analyzing dialogue in chapter the zone.

I never heard him sneak up behind me, but lurched in my seat when I felt my shirt-tail being yanked through the back of my chair. Three steady tugs, as if reigning in a horse.

I turned with a start, mind reeling, and stared down into the face of a young chap no taller than a yard stick. Thin blonde hair piled atop his head like hay in need of baling. Legs belonging to a munchkin straight out of Oz. Eyes like blue saucers, I couldn't decide whether he was scared out of his wits, or too curious to control his actions.

Troublesome Riley. He'd snuck out of the basement, wandered about through the house, and discovered me sitting at the computer.

Irritated and fighting the urge to show it, I asked, "Why are you up here, Riley?"

He answered by placing a hand over the crotch of his pants, as if prepairing to unzip his fly.

"Hey!" I exclaimed, scooting my chair several inches in the opposite direction. "What the..."

"Mommy says I can call it a pee-wee, or a dingle, but never a wiener."

"Uhhh..." I quickly leaned toward the wall next to my desk, and hollered into the heat register. "Honey! Need some help up here! We got toilet talk!"

The air duct was a direct line into our basement, carrying sound better than the latest and greatest cell phone achievements Verizon could offer.

I waited, eyes on the vented register, envisioning my wife counting tiny heads. Then from out of the square cut into the wall, "Riley? Get down here this instant!"

The youngster's shoulders slumped. He offered me a half-hearted wave, turned and left the room.

I breathed a sigh, returned to my manuscript, started fading back into the drama when the phone rang. I recognized the number on the caller I.D., sighed again, and picked it up.

"Hello David."

"Morning Elliot...working on those revisions we talked about?"

"Tough day for it, so nice outside and all." I glanced out the window and spotted two kids tossing a large rubber ball back and forth. Byron and Eddie. Two more munchkins giggling about in the sunshine.

"Yeah right," my editor countered. "You're looking at it right now. What chapter you on?"

I glanced at my screen and frowned. "Five."

"Five? Geez, man. Think you can get through ten by Friday?"

I shook my head as I answered, "Probably. If I work on it after my shift."

"You still got the day job?" he asked, incredulous.

"Uhh...if you guys woulda signed me for a little more...I've got three kids to feed, you know."

"Sorry El, but you're new to the show. Best we could do was a high royalty deal, we talked about this..."

Just then the back door flew open, Riley stumbling over the threshold, large rubber ball hugged to his chest, towing Byron upon his back. Byron had one arm wrapped around Riley's throat, another clutching a handful of Riley's scalp, a pair of screams, one in pain, the other a maddening howl, as the pair plummeted onto the floor in a heap of miniature legs and grimy fingernails bent like claws.

"Was that a cat?" David asked, concern in his voice.

"No, fighting kids," I answered. "Hang on a minute."

I turned to the pair of lightweight combatants. "What's going on?"

"He took my ball!" Byron screamed. "I'm gonna pound him!"

Back to the register. "Honey!"

A minute passed, then, "Boys, get down here! Outside time is over!"

More shoulder slumping. Alone again. I turned back to my phone. "Sorry David."

"Do you need me to call somebody? EMS or something?"

"No. We're good. Listen, I'll get through ten this week. Ten chapters a week...four weeks and on to the galley. Won't be a problem."

From around the corner stumbled baby Emily. Eleven months old, still teetering on legs with confidence issues. A red-head in piggy-tails. A trailing booger peeking out of one nostril. She looked at me and showed off a toothy grin. I smiled back, and she waddled over, hands outstretched.

I lifted her into my lap as David said, "Okay El. Good to hear. And oh, by the way. Sounds like they're going with the baseball theme for the cover. The one with the kid."

"Excellent," I said. "That one's my favorite."

I felt something warm on my thigh, like a bowl of hot soup had just been placed upon my lap. I was fairly certain it wasn't soup though. A moment later, a sound similar to that of a massive zipper being worked on, ripped through the air.

David paused in mid-sentence, hesitated, then quietly asked, "Hey El, did you just fart?"

Another sigh. "No David. I got this kid on my lap and she..." The smell floated to my nostrils, began clearing my sinuses, watering my eyes. "Hang on."

A leaned toward the register, throat feeling raw. "Honey! Got major poo!"

A moment later, "Awww man. Okay, I'll be up."

Fearing nausea, I gingerly placed Emily onto the floor, returned the phone to my ear. "David, still there?"

Through the receiver I could hear a collection of giggles, someone hollering in the background, something about a stressed out writer with gas. Then David said, "Hey El, sounds like all's well over there. Give me a ring when you're through ten, okay?"

"Yeah yeah."

I hung up, tried to ignore the lingering stench of infant sewage, turned back to the monitor, stared at words on a screen.

Writing and children. Writing with children. Laugh all laugh at Elliot's woes:)

Saturday, May 1, 2010


...I penned the following a few months ago. For obvious reasons, it'll never find its way to my pile of outgoing submissions. Its made a few rounds on Facebook, perhaps led to a squabble or three, but all in literary fun. So as I currently find myself wallowing in "edit-hell," I thought I'd re-post my short about a chilly day in the woods when a pale-ish girl named Bella,(perhaps you've heard of her,) happens upon a "firey" deviant from District 12. No, Stephenie Meyer would not approve...but I'll take my chances. Enjoy...

Okay, so what if...

An icy breeze, carrying with it the season's first snowflakes, a shimmering dust visible in glimpses only, darting about like hovering insects, left the air gun-metal cold.

What little warmth remained, was held within the blanketing pine grove on the forest floor. A nearly impassable thicket of brush stretching from one trunk to another, and growing upward sometimes ten feet or more through a soft cloak of moss. Like a natural barrier from the outside world, teams of wildlife used the pine grove as a safe haven from both predators and the falling temperature, as winter's hostile embrace slowly tightened.

In this thicket, where even the solemn gray skies failed to penetrate, where cloved hooves and various forms of paws could pad across the forest floor atop millions of scattered pine needles without making a sound, an abundance of wildlife felt assured of their safety. They were mistaken...

Walking hand in hand under the shaded canopy of evergreens, their movements seen as a fluid blur of motion, their footsteps as silent as the early morning air itself, Bella and Edward Cullen glided through the dense undergrowth with the stealth of a falcon slicing through an updraft at high altitudes.

Bella's hair had thickened since being turned. Appearing soft, like woven yarn the color of mocha, long strands trailed along behind her as she glided lithely through the forest. At her side, Edward's golden pelt of wavy curls bounced upon his neckline with each measured step. Together they resembled a pair of shimmering ghosts, fingers entwined, their souls skimming the forest floor without disturbing the fallen pine needles under foot.

On their feet were matching tennis shoes. White Nikes. A lightly fitting, ivory dress hugged itself to Bella's slim form, while Edward challenged the wooded thicket in khakis and a simple cotton t-shirt. The inclimate weather didn't bother them. Their pale bodies were already cold like stone. In fact, only one condition drove them to the pine grove with such urgency. Hunger.

Their eyes were dilated to the size of black pearls. The telltale sign of a vampire in need of sustenance. The couple moved about within the thicket unnoticed. Together, they breathed in the scents of their surroundings. Hardened pine sap sweetening the frigid air. A tinge of mildew from the moistened needles underfoot. The sour taste of decaying leaves scattered about and rustling in the breeze. And blood. Pulsing through the veins of a crouched puma nearly hidden in a stand of creaking hardwoods. Sloshing under the thick coat of an elk, head bent low, sipping water from a trickling stream across the valley. And a rogue buck. Its antlered head tilted awkwardly to the side, small teeth knawing on the back of a towering evergreen. Completely unaware of their presence. So close Bella could practically taste it.

"Mine," she breathed.

Edward released her hand and nodded his approval.

As Bella dropped to a crouch, her attention focused entirely upon the deer, Edward closed his eyes and leaned his head back, listening to the sounds of the forest, and enjoying her musky scents.

It was then, as a gentle current sifted under his nose, and merely an instant before Bella launched herself into the air, when he detected another presence in the area. An alarming essence. And worse, one he recognized.

Startled, he sucked in a breath as Bella lifted herself from the ground.

Edward could only watch helplessly as she spread her arms wide, fingers curved into talons, her sleek form dropping silently upon the unsuspecting buck, when an arrow streaked by his face, leaving a whisper of death in its wake.

The arrow pierced the deer's heart the very moment Bella's fingertips managed to brush a handful of coarse fir along the animal's back. Caught off-guard, she tumbled over the deer and landed with a thud in a nearby pile of leaves and debris.

In a motion every bit as fluid as the stream's current down in the valley, Bella rolled upright, ignoring the dried leaves tangled in her hair, and crouched defensively, her eyes scouring the treetops.

She spotted her almost immediately. Hoisted roughly thirty feet up a massive elm, a girl not unlike Bella herself in size and shape, was nestled comfortably upon 0ne of the tree's limbs.

Very much human, the girl of nearly the same theoretical age as Bella, was balanced on her knees, her back resting against the elm's trunk. Hair a shade lighter than Bella's, fell upon her shoulders in thin waves. She remained as still as the tree itself, her body poised behind an armed bow, her arm bent at the elbow, a sheathed arrow targeted upon Bella herself.

From where he stood, Edward took in the dramatic standoff with an air of apprehension. Both females remained poised for attack. He watched as Bella's mouth slowly opened, releasing an irritable snarl. From the tree, the girl was a statue, seemingly frozen in place behind her weapon. Now all but forgotten, the dead buck remained on its cloven feet. The arrow had struck so perfectly, instantaneous death caused the deer to simply lean into the pine who's bark it had been feasting. Dead before even realizing it. Limbs now supporting a carcass.

Deciding that he'd better intervene with haste, a thought entered Edward's mind. One that didn't belong to him.

"Hello Edward."

His gaze traveled back to the girl in the tree. While her focus remained on Bella, her thoughts had apparently strayed. A thin smile creased his upper lip.

"Hello Katniss," he whispered. "Nice shot."

The words, "Thank you," formed in his mind. The grin widened.

"I suppose it's safe to assume that your repaired hearing from the Capitol is functioning well."

"It was the least they could do."

Edward turned to Bella, still crouched and hissing.

"Bella...sweetheart, it's her kill. She earned it."

"Little showoff," Bella growled. "That arrow wouldn't work so well on me."

"You mind putting a leash on your pet?" The words entered Edward's mind as if sent through a bolt of lightning. He offered a quick nod of his head.

"Bella please," he said. "Let's take the elk down at the stream. It'll be plenty for both of us."

With a huff, Bella finally straightened, but defiantly refused to turn away from the arrow, which remained targeted at her throat. Still smiling, Edward walked into the firing range, wrapping an arm around Bella's shoulder and guiding her out of harm's way. Bella grudgingly turned toward the valley and the awaiting stream.

As the pair dropped below the quiet hillside, Edward glanced over his shoulder to the giant elm, now only its upper limbs visible above the knoll. The girl was gone.

A moment later, the words, "Thank you Edward," floated through his mind. He again nodded, unable to keep from smiling.

"Stop that," Bella snapped.


"You know what. Reading her mind. Don't think I don't know what you're doing!"

"Sorry sweetheart. It's just...well."

"Well what?"

Edward offered a sheepish grin. "The two of each other's throats back there...that was hot."

"Shut up, Edward."

"Sweetheart, there's a leaf in your hair."

"Shut up, Edward!"