Fifty Shades of Change, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Edits

Words is words, which are words that are words, being wordy.

This is the process of writing, you see. Learning perfection is attained not in the first sentence, but rather what the first sentence can become after you’ve written a few thousand other sentences that politely inform what that stupid first sentence should have been in the first place, if only you had the smarts to let them tell you first.

Sentences can be so bitchy.

The Progenitor is this. As is everything else ever written. Certainly, everything ever written by the dope typing this post. Every chapter calls me backward. To adjust something. To tweak some language. To modify dialogue. Because, as I discover the truths ahead, I’m required to align them behind. In this light, I’ve spent some time recently combing through the first few chapters and making adjustments. If you’re reading along you might now be screaming something like But I’ve already READ all that! Yes, you have. I warned you. Edits happen. It’s a process. It’s part of the writing life. It’s the realization the burger needed cheddar AND provolone AND swiss after you’re halfway through. You can still do it. Come on, you know you want that taste. Cheddar just isn’t enough anymore, is it? No, that burger wants MORE and it wants it NOW.

Did I mention I’m a bit hungry?

Agatha’s story is twisting, evolving into the latter 2/3 of the book that I believe might be best classified as WUT. As in, you know, “What?” but different, because you’re all WUT.

Got it?

Good.

Time is tricky, as Agatha is learning. Time is screwed up when you screw with it. Time is a nightmare that may or may not be a pleasant dream when the Keepers find you.

Now almost 20,000 words in, I know I love this story. It’s insane. We’ve bonded and become good friends. We might be holding hands soon. It’s getting serious. Like, totally. I’ve also learned the story was, to no surprise, right about the beginning. Chapter One as it stands will go into the repository at some point, hopeful to be included in a potential opening of Book Two, or a story told along the way. Chapter Three, with its great opening of “The first time Agatha moved through time, she tried to save a cake,” will become the opening of the book. That line sells it. The flow it creates otherwise is ideal.

So, here it is. The end of Chapter Ten is completely raw. I haven’t even looked at them a second pass yet. I’m still hoping to finish the first draft by the end of the year. It’s ambitious, but much like this story, I’m not entirely sane. It’ll happen.

Fire away. Input is welcome.

Progenitor Manuscript .pdf

She Who Burns the Bread, Laughs Last

Today is my mother’s birthday. To my knowledge, she hasn’t burned anything yet.

While that may sound a vaguely harsh criticism of her cooking abilities, or perhaps insinuating arsonist tendencies, you have to know first that this is a good thing. My mom can cook, I can’t argue that. She was a fantastic provider. She raised three of us on a creative buffet of inexpensive delights and potpourri leftover bathed-in-cheese-casserole type things. She fished, bringing home fresh flounder, sea bass, and shrimp. She stocked the freezer with mountains of peaches and blueberries she picked herself (which is not entirely true, unless “picking” them out at roadside produce markets count, which would practically qualify her as a farmer). She taught us the one million ways in which eggs can be eaten, cost effective uses of ground beef, why macaroni and cheese is the most underrated vegetable on the planet, how anything can sound appetizing if you just name it properly (Shit on a Shingle, no thanks–Hamburger Gravy on Toast, LINE ME UP!), and why come chocolate tastes better when it’s an appetizer.

Most importantly, she learned us the value of properly cooked/baked/toasted bread. Whether toast, biscuits, muffins, grilled sandwiches, it was vitally important to get the bread cooked perfectly. Mess up the bread and the entire meal unravels faster than a cheating politician’s career. Or something like that. I’ve forgotten all references appropriate to the 80’s or earlier. If you can’t deal with that, build me a time machine so I can go back, learn them again, find myself and hand over a list of things it will be necessary to forget. Wait, why does that sound more like a memory than an idea?

Hm.

Well, anyway, mom was very specific about the importance of learning to cook. Actually, she was very specific about the importance of learning to do dishes, clean counters, mop floors, vacuum, and do your own laundry. She said she was raising adults, not children, which may well be the most clever thing I’ve heard in my life. I mean, not only is it a sage perspective on raising kids, but it’s the biggest Get Out of Jail Free card ever invented.

Don’t have clean jeans? Well, whose fault is that? Roaches in your bedroom? Maybe you should try vacuuming once in a while. Want a sandwich? Go for it. I’ll just be over here gutting this Flounder I caught so you won’t starve tonight.

Really, it’s genius. By age thirteen, I had no excuses. We each had weeks in which we were supposed to create a menu, build a shopping list, hunt for coupons for the products we needed, shop, then take charge of the Chef’s hat. If you’ve never heard a twelve-year-old boy shout, “I don’t care if you don’t want it. You’ll eat your dinner and you’ll like it!” you’re truly missing out.

She did this with everything, tutoring us in a way that specifically stated, “You’ll need to know how to do this when you move out at eighteen, please.” And we, the blissfully ignorant triumvirate we were, marched onward, somewhat certain we were fine with it, but always a bit shy on complete confidence we weren’t being duped.

Then something happened that changed everything. Something that turned our world on its end, shook us free to float away in zero gravity, and scoffed at our hapless attempts to fight our way back. Mom burned the bread. At first it was just toast. Nothing trivial, but hardly catastrophic. We came to terms with it. We started making our own toast. No big deal. Then she burned our grilled cheese. Ok, so this was getting a bit serious. Not only was she ruining the bread, but she was putting cheese in the line of fire. Unacceptable. Move over, woman, you’re off the line. No more grilled sandwiches.

Then the coup de grâce. The unforgivable. The misstep that gets you whooped in the shed. Or, if it’s your mother, of whom you will not be whooping in the shed, a stern look of both disappointment and shock.

Mom burned the biscuits.

Not just burned, mind you. All but reduced to ash. “Blackened” and “charred” ran for cover in fear of being tabbed. This was apocalyptic darkness. Meal. Ruined. Oh sure, there was something else on the plate, who even knows what now. Does it really matter? It probably had a sauce of some kind, though. A SAUCE BUT NO BISCUIT! What do you do? You’re just left with all of this uneaten sauce all over your plate and nothing to sop it up with. Food gets soggy, you can’t tilt your plate. There were vegetable on the plate, for crying out loud! How do you mask the horrific taste of sprouts without the buttery bliss of golden brown biscuits? YOU CAN’T!

My brother, sister, and I shared looks at the table. No words were spoken, but we knew the awful truth. We knew what it meant. We knew this was the end of an Era. We could never let her near any bread product again. Ever. Oh, she would offer. We knew she would always offer. But, no mom, no thanks, have a seat, we’ll get the bread. Unwritten, unspoken, forever protected.

True to our pact, we made the bread. And things were good. Dinners were fine. We were content.

Then she left water boiling too long. She burned the popcorn, nearly blazing the eyebrows off my face when I made the less-than-intelligent lift of the lid to see what she had done (for the record, do not do this. Oxygen gets scared of burnt popcorn and turns to flame out of absolute disbelief anyone would render such a wonderful treat to blackened nubs.). She overcooked the chicken, leaving us with a dry-to-the-bone bird. There was probably no sauce, given she cooked the meal and was disallowed to make biscuits. Just dry chicken and, I don’t know, something green I didn’t like.

Inexplicably, time had taken mom’s ability to cook. She couldn’t be trusted. She was too forgetful. It was time to set aside our sibling banter and do what needed to be done. We started cooking the meals. Mom, again true to her nature as a kind and loving woman, protested, but we politely declined.

It was some years later, Thanksgiving as I recall, the three of us busting our asses to get the meal ready, my mom sitting calmly at the table reading a magazine, glancing up periodically to offer help, smiling her way back to her articles when we shushed her, that it finally occurred to me we had been duped by a master. I remember wanting to call her out on it, but I was stunned by the revelation. In a state of disbelief that we had so easily been snookered. Not only had we been blindsided, we were happy with it. We wanted to cook.

I probably should have bowed to her then. It would have been more appropriate.

So, I suppose this serves a dual purpose. One the one side, to the kids of the world who are not only not reading this but entirely unaware I exist, it’s a cautionary tale. Beware a mother’s trickery. On the other, for the mothers of young children, I beg of you, I plead, I offer whatever it is I must: Do this to your kids. I don’t want us to be the only group of kids this has happened to. The shame is unbearable.

Happy birthday to most clever, trixy, mother I know.

So much 70's. So much.

So much 70’s. So much.

If You Don’t Put Music To It, It Isn’t a Song Now, Is It? (or Bueno Moss)

In a sort of follow-up-that-isn’t to my previous post regarding fear and it’s unmistakable grip over my life decisions, I felt the self-indulgent need to showcase the one, and most singular, part of my life that brings me no fear whatsoever. So, in a way, this post could simply be called, “An Ode to Katie, a.k.a The Moss, a.k.a Cricket, a.k.a Pretty Lady, a.k.a Mops, a.k.a My Fiancée and Partner in Cheese, Because She’s the Most Awesome Woman on the Face of the Planet Don’t Bother to Argue Because You Can’t Win.” Which, now that I look at it, is not a simple title at all. Still, it reflects my sentiments well, even if the title I chose reflects her better.

The Moss

The Moss, a.k.a Cricket, a.k.a Pretty Lady, a.k.a Mops, a.k.a My Fiancée and Partner in Cheese.

Writers speak often of a muse. Granted, they tend to do so in the abstract, as an ethereal entity they may speak to, but hopefully never claim to see. After all, we’re already crazy; no need to offer genuine ammunition to the case. However, the Moss is my muse. She is my inspiration. She is the storage of insanity I just didn’t have room for in my crowded head. I’m an introvert, so it’s often difficult to step out of my brain long enough to use my Big Boy Words–you know, the ones that relate to emotional states of being and how important others are to me. It isn’t that I’m only capable of expression in writing, or that I’m not obsessively thinking about my feelings at any given moment, it’s just I do a piss poor job of talking about it, and that far too much is left unsaid. So, in my continued efforts to thwart the fear of just about anything, I want to spend a few moments talking about this lovely woman and what she means to me. You see, the fact of the matter is that I’m in love with the Moss in ways I never knew possible, and the mere thought–just a hint of the idea–that she might not be there when I wake up leaves me utterly heartbroken. After nearly three years together (in one month in fact!), she’s as much a part of me as a limb.

Which is probably not the best way to describe it. So, while I think of something better, here’s a distraction! Just lookit:

Killing spiders is only acceptable if you get cookies for it.

Killing spiders is only acceptable if you get cookies for it.

If you’ve had the privilege of getting to know the Moss, you will understand what I mean when I say I was confident I knew what humor was until I met her. Her brain works in ways I cannot entirely comprehend, which I find both endearing and deeply fascinating. I mean, she’s gorgeous–let’s just get that out there so we can all nod our heads and be amazed at my good fortune–she’s an uber creative and talented photographer, she has the singing voice of a six-year-old, she’s supportive, kind and loving, and her brain comes up with things like this:

We all have our fantasies, even if they're weird.

We all have our fantasies, even if their weird.

As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve not had the best of fortunes in the relationship game. To a great degree, that history left me timid and (after the most recent one) uncertain as to whether I would ever date again. But you don’t get to know the Moss and then want to be away from her. You just don’t. I’m still baffled she was available at all. WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE NUTS? I mean, thanks and all, but wow. I had no idea, when first we started hanging out, that anything would develop. We’d already known each other for three years, which was weird enough. I’ve never been friends with a girl BEFORE dating her. Novel concept, knowing someone before getting serious.  Who knew? But I was already aware she was a special one. Perhaps that’s why I leaped at the opportunity just to meet up for coffee. Before long, I found myself taken by her quirkiness, her off beat humor, the way she leaves messages like this:

Carrot sticks up nose > bitchy customers

In case you missed it, the formula goes thusly: Carrot sticks up nose > bitchy customers

And that’s why I felt the absolute need to marry her. Not out of the need for ceremony, or importance of the legality of a notarized union, or the idea that one is simply not whole without being somebody’s husband or wife; but because she is one of the best friends a partner could know, I can’t imagine life without her, and no words can adequately state “I want to be with you forever” better than “Will you marry me?”. I have never feared her rejection, nor have I ever had to doubt her devotion. Most importantly, the first Fur Baby, Maggie, took to her as if she’s always loved her anyway, so why not? And, for those with babies–fur or unfurred–it’s vitally important they take to the new person in your life. It didn’t hurt that the Moss came with a camera. Maggie’s a bit of a camera whore, in case you didn’t know. With the blessings of a somewhat moody yet oppressively vain cat, you kind of have to ensure they stay around, right? Also, if they like to buy you presents, there’s no reason to consider a life without them.

It isn't really a problem if you don't acknowledge it, right?

It isn’t really a problem if you don’t acknowledge it, right?

No matter the motivation behind it.

I’ve heard so many sentiments on meeting the Right Person, I can’t even remember more than a few. ‘Soulmate’ comes to mind. That one’s thrown around a lot. “It’s like meeting a mirror reflection of yourself” is another I recall, and still bothers me. So I want to marry myself? Why do I need someone else? I don’t even like mirrors! What does that say about my chances? Me, however … I guess I like to think of us all as pieces of the same puzzle. Sometimes we try to force pieces together because we’re absolutely certain they match, then we have to try to pry them back apart without destroying the edges of the pretty picture of life we’re trying to piece together. Other times, you see the pieces that go together, pair them up and move them aside because, well, duh, we all knew those matched. Then you have the ones you weren’t sure about, but give you no fight, slide surprisingly easy into place, and take a visible place in your periphery because you’re quite proud of yourself for noting it. Pieces merge, then group with others, then begin to form the whole. I don’t know what the Moss and I are in the puzzle equation–I like to believe the latter–but I know I’m proud of it. Proud of her. Proud to be displayed as part of this union. I’m damn fortunate, really, and I’m well aware. If Karma is a real thing, then she’s a significant pay off for the good I’ve offered up over the years.

If that isn’t enough, there’s always this:

What? They aren't eating it.

What? They aren’t eating it.

Everyone who gets to know the Moss loves her. But I get to keep her. I get to come home to her. I get to write about her, share ideas with her, listen to her silly silly songs, and concoct awesome adventures for our future. A future that doesn’t scare me. A future that is going to be a bit crazy in that way normality can never dare to offer. A future that is easily the best thing I’ll ever have.

I love my pretty lady.

The Negligent Blogger

I am a negligent blogger.

It may even go beyond that, but it somehow feels freeing just to say it. I don’t imagine anyone willing to drop their child in a wicker basket on a doorstep would pause after leaving the note, nod, and suggest to themselves they felt freer already and good for them for making such a selfless decision; still I can’t help but look at my blog as the neglected and abandoned child it is and somehow feel pleased about it. (Originally followed up by a lengthy ramble about why this validates my childless family, but deleted because my cat saw it and immediately began hacking up a hairball in protest. Never test your cat.).

Point is, I haven’t written here in a long time. I’d count the days, but that would be like dropping that child off at the doorstep, then counting the steps back home, just to see how far a heartless soul can actually walk.  But then I’d have to devise some reason for feeling bad about it, when I’d much rather have tater tots while contemplating the unpredictable mood swings of hippos.  Regardless, I’ve thought a lot about my abandoned child, wondering when I might visit it again, stressed it might not like me anymore.  However, when I woke up this morning, feeling refreshed and stress-free for the first time in months, I had a thought that brought me to a place of peace with my bastard blog.

“At least I’m not Dan Brown.

Aside from the money, of course.  Waking up to know I could buy a small island and decree myself a one-man nation of articulate baboons has always been a dream of mine. Not that I’d do it. Who wants to serve under a dictatorship like that? And all the paperwork of being the Dictator doesn’t pay off unless you actually have baboons to go ballistic when you assign it to them.

Some dreams need work.

I had a dream last night that the Moss and I lived in a two-story house that was docked in a tremendously deep lake. Not a houseboat, mind you. A whole house. Just floating there. Well, floating in that sinking kind of way. For some odd reason we had decided that living in a two-story house on a lake with no notable means of flotation was a quality idea. Needless to say the fact that it was sinking came to us as quite a shock.  So we hurried about gathering whatever our arms could carry, water cascading down the stairs–yes, that’s right, the house sank into water that came from the second floor–stumbling onto the dock in time to watch the steeple of the house disappear into the murky waters below.

This in no way seemed odd, or even remotely disheartening.  Quite the opposite, in fact. Like any couple, having watched their improbably placed two-story home sink into a lake, we simply waited for it to reappear. Which it did some time later. Because that’s what houses do. All the time. I want to say it reappeared hours later, but who knows in a dream, right? We could have returned to the spot years later, or we might have just been reliving the moment in perpetuity. Like a less funny Groundhog Day. Or we could have been like that stupid couple who somehow buys a house without bothering to see if it was once owned, I don’t know, by a homicidal maniac who butchered his entire family thing. Because, let’s face it: If you know this and still buy the house, you deserve to see the world in a hundred different pieces. Anyway, we wittingly walked back into the house. And it sank again. Go figure. Houses. I would presume this would have happened again had I not woken up. Though I’d like to think somewhere in there I would have said to the Moss, “Don’t drive angry,” which wouldn’t have made any contextual sense unless you were Bill Murray talking to a groundhog driving a truck, and would have been precisely the reason I would have said it. Dreams. Sometimes a babbling drunk Uncle detailing the process of baking one of his “special pies” is easier to understand.

Which is why I’m terrified my blog hates me.

So I’m going to talk to it a bit more, worry less about whether or not anyone cares, ramble about nothing important, and hope to repair the damage done by a negligent father who long since forgot how many steps away he walked before realizing he eventually needed to find his way back.

Also, because this:

White Americans is LOL.

White Americans is LOL.

Yes they are, funny cheese sign. Yes they are.