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I’m not one for lists, formulas, ten steps to this, ten steps to that. But there is one secret to success that, in our quest for shortcuts, glory, viral fame, we overlook.
 
 Why?
 
 Because it’s not sexy. It doesn’t sell books, promise riches, cure cancer, or even make life easier.
 
 What is this secret?
 
 Sure you’re ready?
 
 Here it is:
 
 Show up, and do the work.
 
 Told you it wasn’t sexy. It’s not what itching ears want to hear. Let me put it this way: if even the Bible says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” what does that say about the rest of life, and the things that are worth doing?
 
 They’re not going to come easy. There are no shortcuts.
 
 I don’t care if you’re a writer, a bodybuilder, a homemaker, a husband, a wife, a student, an employee. The secret to success in any of those things is: show up, and do the work. Whoever said that love isn’t work, that doing what we love isn’t work, lied. Nothing ever worth doing comes easily.
 
 We know this. We all know this, but we want instant success. Conversations are the currency of any relationship; show up, and listen. Extend mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Do the hard work of humbling yourself when you’re wrong.
 
 Words are the currency of the writer; continue putting them down on the page–even if no one will ever see them. Show up; don’t give up.
 
 Iron is the currency of the bodybuilder; to grow, one must lift–and continue lifting.
 
 What do these all have in common? Grit.
 
 Grit, determination, and self-discipline.
 
 See? I told you it wasn’t sexy. But it’s true. And hard truths always and everywhere trump sexy lies. I don’t need to tell you that this requires sacrifice, a giving up of the things we like to pursue what we love.
 
 So show up, and do the work.
 
 
 

Let’s say you’re husband out for your monthly dinner date night with your wife. Monthly, because that’s what you can afford within your household budget. Because it’s a popular, well-known place you made your reservations far in advance. You and wife arranged childcare; you’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.

You get there, availing yourselves of valet parking. You don’t do this often, so you want the full experience. You get inside, get seated, order drinks and appetizers. You unwind, relax, enjoy one another’s company like you haven’t in some time.

Your meals come. You switch with your wife, because it wasn’t quite what she expected. You don’t mind, you love her, and hey! It’s food!

You talk, holding hands, looking lovingly into one another’s eyes. You order dessert. Chocolate mousse cheesecake. It disappears.

The check comes; your jaw hits the floor. It’s far higher than you budgeted for. Turns out the restaurant has a policy of randomly assigning the bills, distributing them arbitrarily. And you got the check for a large party. You’re stuck.

It’s the restaurant’s policy. Nothing you can do.

AND THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS BERNIE SANDERS.

  

I have dreams. Some good and pleasant; filled with fluffy clouds scudding in an azure sky, warm breezes, brilliant sunshine, picnic baskets, and sticky fingers. 
Some… not so good. In those dreams, the fingers are sticky, too; not with cotton candy, or caramel apples, but with blood. There is death, divorce, decay, mayhem, mischief, and maybe a glimmer of hope. Hope that I might wake up.
But what if I don’t? These are my Mean Dreams. They have teeth, biting with the carrion beaks of buzzards, fetid, foul, and smelling of the grave.  The air is redolent with their heavy scent.

They will linger long in your memory, too, these Mean Dreams.
Mean Dreams, an anthology of stories, coming by the end of 2015. 

 
Folks, my ebook, Casita 106 at the Red Pines, is on sale for $.99 for just one more day. Following are the opening paragraphs:

“On the highway just outside of Sedona, home of Arizona’s red rock country, is a retirement community, Shady Acres. Bisected by a road, the other half of the community was split off, and instead of retirees the property was used to attract vacationers as a timeshare. They called it the “Red Pines.” It was a way for the owner to keep a good revenue stream coming in year round. Too bad it was this side which sat upon an old indian burial ground–bulldozed in the name of progress, and profits. 

With stuccoed walls, and large windows, every unit accommodates four comfortably. Well, mostly. A single wide all gussied up is still a single wide no matter how fancy it is outside.

It’s the allure of the environment that draws people there. It’s close enough to town, but far enough away from the tourists clogging the area. It’s like camping in style: all the units have plumbing, hot and cold water, microwave, refrigerator, stove… All the comforts of home in the beautiful pines.

Or so Jack and Veronica Hartman thought on their way up from the Valley of the Sun. As timeshare owners, they had a membership in RCI (the preeminent exchange company in the business), which gave them access to thousands of properties outside their club. Having already used their points on a trip to Park City during ski season, they went looking for an extra vacation to get out of Phoenix’s mind melting heat.

Having waited so late in the year to book this trip, they had to take what was available: the Red Pines Lodge.

They hoped for a vacation to remember.”

Get your copy on Amazon:

Casita 106 at the Red Pines

The Beggar’s Billions

randomlychad  —  December 20, 2013 — 7 Comments

“The Beggar’s billions,” he said. “We’ve got work to do.” It was then that his appearance changed before me: where a moment before stood Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, now stood a figure familiar to billions:

A rotund, jolly, jowly red-cheeked, bearded man bedecked in a festal red suit. Where there had been cloven hooves there were now black boots.

“Come along, Rancidspoor, we’ve the Beggar’s billions to deceive,” he said, donning his Santa cap. “Ready to be an elf?”

“Tis the season,” I replied, reflecting upon the chance encounter with Beelzebub in the lower echelons which led to this sugar plum of an assignment.

“Ho, ho, ho,” Santa said. “Let’s go.”

—————-

This piece is part of a sudden writing challenge issued by Joseph Craven and Ricky Anderson. The requirements were to:

Call the story “Beggar’s Billions”
Have a Santa cap
Include a chance encounter

I had fun doing this, and look forward to future challenges.