Surviving Site Changes

A few days ago, I changed my WordPress site plan because I wasn’t using the advanced features I had. The downgrade had to both keep my existing content, but also revert to an older version of my website. I decided it was time for a change of theme, and I soon rebuilt my menu and other basics.

The one thing that was missing was my blogging streak. In fact, I think it was the only casualty of the whole process that I couldn’t revive without help.

I did report the issue, but didn’t realize anybody was working on it. Yesterday, wouldn’t you know it, my streak came back AND it was at the correct number. So today, I’m celebrating change, and also 165 days straight on this blog. Go me.

And go you. Have you ever thought about starting a blog? Go WordPress.

Once you’re logged in and have your site up and running, please come back here and leave a comment on this post. I’d love to hear what your new blog will be about. And remember, WordPress will automatically link to your blog in your comment, so no need to add the link.

Time Gone By – Part 10 – Science Fiction

This is a work of fiction.

“Oops,” Andy said.
“What?” Dan said.
“I forgot we still have the cabin tonight, so we don’t need to move to the camp site until tomorrow.”
“That’s okay,” Emily said. “We need it tonight.”
“Oh, right. So who’s riding with who?”
“Can you come with us?” Dan asked Freckles.
“No,” Sammy said. “Freckles rides with us.”
“Sammy, that’s up to Freckles,” I said.
“Or,” Curly said, “you can ride with us, Dan.”
“Thank you, Curly,” I said.
“There’s no room,” Sammy said.
“Yes there is. And Sienna, would you like to ride with us, too?”
“Can I, Mom?”
“Yes, that’s a good idea. Then I can take Andy, Steven, and Berkeley. So unless you want to take your car too, we can just go in two vehicles.”
“That’s an environmentally conscientious idea!”
“What?” Sammy said. “You do speak English, right?”
“Sammy, don’t be rude.”
“I’m not. I just don’t understand a word he says.”
“That’s fine, but there’s no need to be unfriendly. So Freckles, Dan, and Sammy in the back, Lydia and Sienna in the middle, and Curly in the front.”
“Hey, that’s not fair,” Sammy said.
“How so?” I asked.
“You told us before only your purse gets the front. You keep changing the rules.” He wiped pretend sweat from his brow. “I can’t keep up with all the changes.”
“Sammy, just stick a sock in it, will you?” Curly said. “Let’s go.”
Sammy huffed and puffed, but eventually, everybody was in the correct vehicle.
The drive back to the city went without incident. We met at a huge mall.
“Would you guys mind getting the equipment?” Emily said. “I need to run and do laundry. Berkeley has absolutely no clean clothes.”
“Are you going to your house?” Andy asked.
“No, just going to have it done some place. My washing machine is so slow and I have about fifteen loads to do.”
Emily left, and the rest of us went into a large store that sold camping equipment.
“It looks like they’re out of three-man tents,” I said.
“That’s sexist,” Sienna said.
“Sorry, you’re right. They’re out of three-person tents.”
“Can we cram into a two-person tent?” Andy asked.
“I don’t think we should,” I said. “I think a four-person tent would be better.”
“Or we could look for a different store,” he said.
“I think the larger tents are better,” I said. “That way there’ll be room if some people want to sleep over.”
“Oh, right.”
“I’m buying one too, in case Sienna and Lydia want to share. Mine only holds two people. So four four-person tents.”
“Maybe we should get a bigger one,” Andy said. “If all the boys want to share, that’s kind of a lot. Me and my boys plus Berkeley and Freckles, that’s five.”
“Freckles sleeps in our tent,” Sammy said.
“Not this again,” Curly said.
“Sammy, I’m not going to tell you this again. It’s up to Freckles what he does and who he spends his time with.”
“Can all us girls share a tent?” Sienna asked.
“I don’t see why not,” I said. “We just need to ask your mom.”
“I’m going to McDonald’s,” Sammy said. “Do you want to come with me?” He looked only at his brothers.
“Can Dan come?” Freckles asked.
Andy started to say something that sounded like “yes,” but Sammy said, “No, just me and my brothers.”
“No thanks,” Curly said.
“Yeah,” Freckles said. “I want to stay with Grandma.”
“Are you still going?” I asked him. He nodded. “Okay. We’re going to finish shopping and then go out to eat. Do you have money to call me from a pay phone?”
“Yeah.” I made sure he had my number and then he left.
We decided on two four-person tents and a six-person tent.
“Do we need any more gear?” Andy asked.
“Marshmallows,” Sienna said.
“They don’t have those at this store,” Andy said.
“Oh, sleeping bags!” I said. “Three for your family and three for Emily’s.”
We picked them out and paid. It was time to go grocery shopping, but the little boys were getting fractious, so Andy took them for a run in a nearby park while I took the older kids to the supermarket.
Our first stop was for marshmallows. Sienna put ten bags into the cart.
“How about nine,” I said. “Three for each family.”
“How about four!” She added two more bags.
“Okay, but no more, or your mom will kill me.”
“Why would she kill you? She’s not your mom.”
“No, but she trusts me not to let you buy too much of this kind of stuff.”
The kids helped me load up the cart, and Curly persuaded Sienna not to buy ten pounds of everything. He did it with grace, and I was grateful to him.
Just as I was paying, Sammy called. I said we’d be there shortly. We piled everything into the van and I drove to the McDonald’s Sammy was at. He was standing outside, holding a bag.
“What’s in there?” Dan asked, as Sammy climbed into the van.
“Food, obviously.” He opened the bag. “For my brothers.”
“No thanks,” Curly said. Freckles looked torn.
“We don’t eat in the van,” I said. “Sammy, please put your food away or go back inside and I’ll come back when you’re finished eating.”
“But I’m full, and it’s no good cold.”
“Those are the rules. I’m sure I can warm it up for you later.”
“You can’t warm up fries!”
“It’s up to you, but the rest of us are going to meet up for lunch soon. You can stay in the van if you want, but you must put the food away or eat it some place else.” Glumly, Sammy handed me the bag, and I put it away. “Thank you.”
I called Andy.
“Where would you like to eat?”
“Emily and me were just talking about that. There’s a great place nearby that has a bit of everything. It’s cleaner than McDonald’s, but still appeals to people who like fast food.”
“Sounds great.” He gave me the address and said Emily was picking him and the boys up and they’d meet us there.
The food was amazing. Even Sammy found some more room.
Once we were stuffed, Emily said, “I still have laundry left. Would it be terrible of me to ask you to take Berkeley with you?”
“That’s fine with me,” I said. “How many people can fit in your car?”
“Five, if they don’t mind being smooshed together in the back.”
“Okay. I can carry six. Should I take Steven, too?”
“Please,” Andy said.
“Lydia and Sienna, what about you?” I asked.
“Andy, if you would’t mind helping with the laundry, I could take the girls shopping,” Emily said.
“Yay!” Sienna said.
Lydia looked uncomfortable.
“I’ll help Andy with the laundry,” Curly said.
“Why do you want to do that?” Sienna asked.
“So I can talk to Andy,” Curly said.
“Sounds good,” Andy said. “So who’s going back to camp?”
Freckles, Dan, and Sammy all said they wanted to go back.
“All right,” I said. “So I have six people. Freckles, Dan, and Lydia in the back. Steven and Berkeley in the middle. Sammy and I in the front.”
“You’re letting me have the front?”
“Yes. Ready?”
They were, and when we got back, I put the two little boys into the tent Lydia and I had previously shared. They fell asleep almost as soon as they got into their new sleeping bags.
“Can we go to our camp site?” Dan asked.
“No, I can’t leave your brother and Berkeley alone, but we can set up our four-person tent.”

Part 11

Fun with Free Fiction

Back in April, I launched free short fiction on this site with The Choice.

That piece was short, but over the months since, I’ve started writing longer pieces.

Both finished stories and pieces in progress can be found on my Fiction page.

As of this writing, the story called Lockdown has almost come to an end.

What’s next? In Life.

When will it start? I’m not sure yet. Please visit my Accountability page for updates.

What’ll it be about?

A young woman struggles to come to terms with the death of her aunt, the only parent she’s ever known and her only relative.

Deep in a basement, a group of wildly intelligent siblings open the doors between life as it is, and life as they imagine it.

This is gonna be some sort of sci-fi fantasy.

Lockdown – Part 9 – Horror Fiction

This is a work of fiction.

Once I’ve put the formula into the food bank bin, my purchases are much more manageable.
I find myself not wanting to go home, thinking I should stay away until Victoria has come and gone. But no, I should go home and give Mom and Dad the cinnamon buns. But what if Victoria’s there? She might say that the smell of cinnamon would bother Mona and make me throw them all out. I realize I’ve never seen Victoria’s car, so I won’t know for sure if she’s there when I come home.
Slowly, I walk down our street.
In one yard, I see a woman putting up a sign. It’s probably something political, but as she struggles with it, I see that it’s a for sale sign. I look closely at the house. It’s huge and looks kind of old.
“Hi,” I say. “Is this your house or are you a real estate agent?”
She looks at me. She’s about thirty-five, with wavy blonde hair, gray-blue eyes, and she’s wearing jeans and a blousse that matches her eyes.
“I own it. I’m Mandy. What’s your name?”
“Billy. How much is the house?”
She tells me.
I sigh.
“I wish I could afford it. If it’s a pain, please say no, but could I see it?”
“Sure.” She leaves the sign lying in the grass and takes out a key. We climb up onto the porch and she unlocks it. Inside, the house smells like floor polish and various kinds of cleaners, but thankfully, no bleach. The living room is both huge and empty. The kitchen’s big, but has all the appliances except a microwave.
“Is it okay if I leave my bags in here?”
“Sure. Do I smell cinnamon buns?”
“Yep. Want one?”
“Only if there’s none of that cream cheese crap.”
“There won’t be any on yours or mine.”
“Great. I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”
A few minutes later, we’re standing there eating cinnamon buns and drinking coffee.
“There are four bedrooms,” she says. “Three upstairs and one here on the main floor. There’s also a small room that could hold a computer and printer. There are two full bathrooms, but one of the tubs need to be replaced. The upstairs bathroo sink leaks, so that needs to be fixed, too. There were mice in the attic, but they’ve been dealt with harshly. The furnace also probably needs to be replaced.” She puts down her cup and takes a bite of cinnamon bun. “These are the best. Thanks. Want to go and look around?”
“Sure, but I can’t afford . . . can I rent this place?”
“I don’t see why not. How much would you be willing to pay per month?”
“Some percentage of the asking price.”
“Would you rent to own?”
“Own? How does that work?”
“You pay and pay until it’s yours. If you stop paying before you own, then you’re left with no house and you don’t get anything back.”
“Interesting. How much per month?”
“Let me think about that. Come and see more of the house while I do.”
We leave our breakfast in the kitchen and she walks me through the whole house.
“I love this place. Would I be allowed to have a dog here?”
“Yes, and the yard’s fenced in. Mom loves her doggies.”
“Oh, was this your mom’s house?”
“Yep. She moved in with me and I don’t want to own an empty house.”
“Makes sense. Do all the appliances work?”
“The dryer doesn’t work well, the washing machine works, and the stove has one burner that doesn’t work, but everything else is fine. Mom didn’t have a microwave, so that’s why there isn’t one.”
“When can I move in?”
“I’ve decided on what to charge, so you can move in now, if you’re ready to pay. What’s your dog’s name?”
“I don’t have the dog yet. How much?”
She tells me.
I do some quick mental math and say, “Sounds good.” I hope I’ll make enough money illustrating books to be able to continue to pay her until I own the place.
We walk down the stairs and back into the kitchen.
“I think we should find a witness and sign an agreement now if you’d like. I know Dr. Booth is at home. Do you know her?”
“She’s some kind of surgeon, right?”
An hour or so later, I have an agreement to rent the house. Not only does Dr. Booth witness it, but her husband happens to be home and also just happens to be a lawyer!
I hold the keys in my hand, slightly bewildered about what I’ve just done. Mona can sleep in my old room tonight. In a day, I’ve grown and gone.
I look through the house and find that although there are no beds, there’s an old armchair that I can sleep in until I bring my bed.
I go back to the store and buy milk, meat, and some paper plates and cups. I also buy water and food bowls for the dog, a leash, and a few cleaning products.
I carry it all to my house and then go back to see the man who offered me the puppy.
He’s sitting on his porch, drinking from a big blue mug.
“Hi,” I say. He looks up at me.
“Oh, hi.”
“I got the dog food.”
“What? Hey, that was just a bad joke.”
“Oh, so you don’t have any puppies?” He smiles at me.
“I’ve got puppies, but they’re too young to leave their mom. If you give me your number, I promise I’ll call you when they’re ready. Hell, you can even pick one now, if you want.”
“Thanks, that’d be cool.”
“I’ll bring them out here and you can see them. Sorry, I can’t let you touch them, in case you’ve got that virus.”
Five minutes later, he brings a dog carrier onto the porch. I can’t see them all that well, but it’s full of squirmy puppies.
“Do you see one you like?”
“I like them all. Can I pick one some other time?”
“Sure. By the way, I’m Travis.”
I tell him my name and give him my number.
It’s definitely time to go home and start packing, Victoria or not.
There’s a black car parked in frnt of our house. Looking at it gives me an edgy feeling, and I’m positive it’s Victoria’s. She’ll either just have gotten there, or will just be on her way out. I’ll walk around the side of the house and go in the back, but she’ll probably hear me and come sniffing to make sure I haven’t brought home anything dangerous to Mona. I know I haven’t, but I’m sure she’ll say that I have.
The back yard faces south, and as I walk around the corner, I notice that my parents’ bedroom window is darker than it should be.

Part 10

The Writing Process: Revising or Falling Apart

“Every now and then I fall apart.” Bonnie Tyler, Total Eclipse of the Heart

Plotholes are as thick on the ground as leaves in the fall.

Characters say and do things they wouldn’t.

The whole thing’s FALLING APART!

No, it’s behaving exactly like a first draft in the cold light of morning.

Never fear. The Writer is here.

Yes, that’s you. Take your head out from underneath that pillow!

Just like writing, revising is brute force. It’s hard work.

It might even take longer than writing did.

To give you an example, I wrote the first draft of Wounded Bride in about six days. It took me two years to revise it.

Plotholes can be fixed. Characters’ words and actions can be changed. There is nothing that cannot be repaired. Grammar and spelling can be put right. Punctuation marks can be inserted or removed. Clunky, awkward sentences can be changed and reordered to make polished, professional paragraphs.

In time, your first draft can blossom and become your second, third, or tenth draft — whatever it takes to finish the book and make it publishable.

How do you revise? There are many ways. One is to read over your manuscript and make notes in a separate document about what needs to be changed. That way, if you realize you don’t need to change something after all, you’ve only written a note, and can simply delete it. A big-picture read is also a great way to spot plotholes.

For more on fixing plotholes, please check out How to Overcome the Fear of Plotholes in Your Fiction.