The Train on the Right

This morning I was given a writing prompt by a fellow Twitter insomniac: Thriller, a train, and a notebook. Here’s what I came up with 🙂

A chill breeze blows through the open platform, and I’m glad I wore a coat. I come here often to people-watch, but today there are few travelers.

The sound of trains running by is drowned out by the music blaring in my headphones. I may want to watch the people, but I prefer not to interact with them. Observe and report, that’s my motto. Some of my best stories have come from being a fly on the platform, my hundred little eyes catching every little detail.

The breeze picks up, and I feel something brushing against my foot. I look down, and there’s a beat-up old spiral notebook under the bench, blown open by the fall winds. I don’t remember seeing a notebook there when I sat down, and no one had really walked by since to have dropped it. Curiosity wins over, and I pick it up.

It’s open to a page with two words scrawled in red: “Stand up.”

I grin and decide to play along. Someone has planned a romantic surprise for their significant other, perhaps, and left this notebook for them to find. Well, I think to myself, the SO is a no-show, so I’ll play the part for now. I stand and turn the page.

“Face north.”

Okay. North it is.

A train sits to either side of me, doors open for the passengers that come and go. No one’s really coming or going, and I find it odd that the doors have been open this long.

The next page has a ticket paper-clipped to it. Underneath the ticket are the words “Take the train on the right.”

Yes, sir. Or ma’am. The handwriting’s slanted, jagged, hurried. I decide the person orchestrating this is a male, based on nothing more than writerly instinct and what little I’ve learned about handwriting from bad investigative documentaries. Into the train on the right I go, ticket in hand.

The train is empty, save for a vagrant in the far corner, slumped against the wall, asleep. He’d be an interesting subject for a story, so I keep half an eye on him as I turn the page. “Sit in the last row, left-hand side, aisle seat.”

As soon as I’m seated the doors hiss shut, and the train jerks into motion. The vagrant’s sleep remains undisturbed despite the bumpy ride. I watch his head bob with the train’s movements over the tracks for a few moments, then I return to the notebook.

“Wait three stops.”

Boring, but I’m committed to the game by now, so I settle in and watch the vagrant. The train’s overhead speakers blare out the name of the next stop, but he snoozes right through. I’m impressed by his ability to sleep through the sounds and bumps and starts and stops. Never once does he jerk or twitch. So entranced am I that I almost miss my page turn.

“Stay seated. Wait for the doors to close again.”

This Romeo isn’t a very creative fellow. Where’s the purple prose, the poetry, the promises of wining and dining and true love? No wonder she didn’t show up.

The doors shut, and I flip the page. “Reach under your seat.”

What will it be? Flowers? Candy? A diamond ring? I’m intrigued, so I do as told.

I’m not prepared for my fingers to wrap around the handle of a knife taped under the seat.

The tape breaks as soon as I apply pressure on the handle, and I clench my hand to avoid dropping the knife and waking the vagrant. He’s a sound sleeper, but I don’t want him to wake up to a stranger brandishing a knife.

With a shaking hand, I turn the page. “Do not let go. Wait for the next stop.”

A thin sheen of sweat breaks out on my forehead, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. I am no longer under the impression that this is some romantic game to win the favor of an unrequited love, and with a knife in my hand and nowhere to go but another train car, I don’t quite know what to do. I’m afraid to pull the knife all the way out, afraid to look at it.

A sharp turn catches me by surprise, and I grip the seat to keep from losing my balance. The vagrant isn’t so lucky, and he falls to the floor with a sick thud.

He doesn’t wake up.

I get up and creep down the aisle, knife in hand temporarily forgotten. Why didn’t that fall wake him up?

I have to grab onto a rail as the train’s momentum slows, and the vagrant’s body slides a bit forward. I notice a bright red streak underneath him.

A couple more steps and I’m there. I squat down and reach for him, and the knife comes into view.

The knife is covered in blood.

Before I can think, the train’s doors slide open and a cadre of transit officers swarms the car, guns drawn and pointed at me.

I’m trying to stay calm, but I can’t stop shaking. I raise my arms over my head, bloody knife still in hand, and slowly gesture towards the back of the car. “It was the notebook,” I say. “I was just following the directions in the notebook.”

One officer in the back takes a few steps backward down the aisle, gun still trained on me. He takes his eyes off of me for a moment to search under the seats, then straightens and glares. “There’s no notebook here, pal. What kind of game are you playing with us?”

I look away from the barrels of the guns to peer down the aisle.

The floor of the train car is empty of trash, debris…and notebooks.

Vicious cycles

Here we go again…

…I don’t know quite how it happened. Things were going at a fairly manageable pace, and then suddenly I was thrown back into back-to-back weekends of SCA-related events while still having the embroidery deadline looming…and now I have more embroidery to do (not that I’m complaining–I adore my friend that has commissioned me, so I’ll definitely do it). But yeah. I’m back at it. Somehow, despite my determination to slow down and maintain my sanity.

I might have to put my foot down (again) and say (again) that I can’t be doing this (again). It’s got my anxiety up, which I think is affecting my stomach (I’ve had more frequent reflux recently, so I think my gut hates the anxiety too), and I’m having a harder time sleeping through the night and functioning the Monday after the event weekend.

Last weekend had an event on Sunday. This weekend has a birthday party Friday and a household meeting Saturday. Then the weekend after is our anniversary weekend (with an SCA event on our anniversary). Then an event that my husband’s Peer is running the weekend after that. Then I’m pretty damn sure there’s something the next weekend (because even though my calendar doesn’t show anything, there’s gotta be something), then a big event for our Barony the weekend after that, then Coronation the weekend after that (where I have two smaller embroidery projects due)…then I think I might get a weekend or two off. But damn. That’s a lot of stuff all at once.

What happened to slowing down after Estrella?? It happened, and then it didn’t…and I don’t know how I let myself get wrangled into this many engagements again.

I have to sit down and evaluate what events I have to go to and what ones I can stay home for. I feel obligated to go to the birthday party because it was nice of them to invite us, which means since we’ll be in Tucson anyway we might as well go to the household meeting. The anniversary weekend I can’t skip. Maybe my husband’s Peer’s event? That gives me one, maybe two (if my calendar’s right) weekends “off”… but there’s still the two back-to-back weekends of SCA stuff, and while it’s pretty much right in town, I have a lot of work to do for both events and I. Just. Don’t. Know.

And of course now that I’m getting all this typed down the anxiety is creeping back up. Maybe creeping isn’t the right word…how about skyrocketing? Yeah, that’s more accurate.

Guess I’m back to running on high octane again for an indeterminate period of time. At least a month, maybe a bit more. I hope my mind can take it.

Lost in my head

It’s been a rough week at work, but yesterday gave me the misfortune of having enough time to myself to think. I started thinking about my weight, about my lack of motivation for exercise or fencing or, well, anything. I have to force myself to do the things I used to like to do.

Last night, between acid reflux and Rory, I got very little sleep. When you have insomnia, as many of you may know, you tend to think. A lot. And what came to my mind last night/early this morning? I’m fat.

Yeah, yeah, try to make me feel better. “You’re not fat.” “It’s okay, you’re tall.” “Oh, stop being hard on yourself.” I am fat. Morbidly obese, from a clinical standpoint. I am 5’10” tall, yes, but I carry nearly 300 lbs on that 5’10”, and it’s not getting any better. My psychiatrist says I need to not worry as much about exercise and focus more on going on a diet (which always makes me more depressed). My primary care provider says that with the meds my psychiatrist has me on there’s pretty much zero chance of losing any weight. My brain? My brain says mean, terrible things.

I’ve mentioned before that I should be going to exercise with my friends, but they work out at a gym now–a large, popular gym. There will be people there. People I don’t know. Strangers. Watching the fat woman work out. I have trouble breathing just thinking about it. My anxiety just skyrockets, and last night made it even worse.

You see, today’s an SCA event for a local college branch. There’s going to be a rapier tournament, and my friend and fencing teacher wants me to participate. But I can’t stop thinking that I’m too fat to fence. I’m fucking huge–how am I supposed to be graceful and quick on my feet? I can barely get in and out of a car. Hell, my husband and I went to a restaurant last night, and the booth seats were so close to the table that there was no point in putting the napkin on my considerable lap; my belly butted right up against the table. Nothing was going to land in that lap of mine.

Too fat to fence. Too fat to fence. Too fat to fence. That’s been my uncontrollable mantra all night. I don’t think my chain shirt will fit at the moment. Gained too much weight since I got it. Besides, I’m out of practice. Why? Because I don’t feel like going to practice because I’m so damn fat and clunky.

Whoa. Dozed off mid-thought, had a weird dream. Still feel fat and gross, but I’ve taken my pills now. Hopefully I won’t fall asleep again before we leave, and hopefully I’ll feel better mentally once the pills kick in.

It’s cold in the house. And quiet. Too quiet. I’m still thinking about how fat I am, how I’m not good enough, how I’m out of practice and out of shape.

Thinking–it’ll be the end of me one of these days.

Inked again

Yep, it’s that time again! I decided to get a writerly tattoo, and after searching for months on Pinterest I found a design I loved. The catch? I didn’t want to use “household” funds to pay for it, so I funded this by selling autographed copies of Abnormal. Yep, a writing tattoo funded by my writing. (Plus, it helped shorten the stack of leftover books from Tucson Comic Con. Lol)

It’s not huge, it’s not elaborate, but it’s what I wanted and it’s great. The artist (Amanda Jimenez at Battleship Tattoo in Sierra Vista, AZ) had an amazingly light hand, so I almost fell asleep lying there…but I had a friend with me recording live for Twitter, so I stayed awake just to avoid snoring. Lol

This has really been a huge pick-me-up. I missed getting new tattoos (it’s been over a year since my last one), and just knowing that my writing was enough to cover a tattoo feels great.

The next tattoo isn’t that far off; hubby wants to get coordinating Gallifreyan tattoos done for our anniversary. He wants his name in Gallifreyan; I’ll get my name. I’m still trying to decide where to get mine; with 40+ tattoos of varying sizes compared to his one small one, I have considerably less available real estate for it. Because of the detail associated with the tattoo (lots of fine lines and circles) I need to get it relatively large, so I have to decide where I have left that’s large enough for it.

Author and Editor Relationship: Adversarial or Advantageous?

Some authors describe their stories as their “babies” or their “creations”…so what happens when the editor gets hold of said creation and decides it needs sweeping changes?

For many authors, the relationship with an editor can be a love-hate thing. They love getting feedback and learning new things about their writing, but they hate the need to make changes. There are authors who accept the changes with open arms, ready to polish their story to a gleaming shine. Other authors, however, see it as someone trying to gut their story–and who wants their baby gutted?

I’ve had my own experiences with editors, good and bad. The bad experiences were mostly my fault in that I wasn’t willing to make the changes necessary to make my work the best it could be. Do I have regrets about not making those changes? Yes, at times. There are times when I think, “Hmm, should I have done X like the editor wanted, or am I happy with how my original decision worked?” I have doubts to this day about not listening when maybe I should have.

Editors aren’t here to kill our babies. (Okay, so maybe some of them are–I don’t know all the editors out there, obviously.) They’re there to make our stories shine, to give them the best chance they have. They’re there to catch the mistakes that we’re too close to see, to look past the original vision to see where the story needs to go to grow and succeed. Editors are a good thing.

Some authors might disagree with me. They might have had some bad past experiences with editors, or they might think that they’re doing just fine as their own editor. Well, I’ve got some advice for those authors: You remember the adage about “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client” (credit to Abraham Lincoln, via the Internet)–well, the same could be said about the man who edits himself. Yes, we all need to do our due diligence in editing our stories as best we can before submitting to a publisher, but we also should do our best to find an editor who can give our stories the once-over (or twice- or thrice-over, if necessary) that they need. If an author chooses not to find an editor for their story, well, I have little sympathy.

Granted, there are those who simply can’t afford an editor. I was lucky to have a built-in editor in the form of my mom (who has had her own professional editing business in the past), who wouldn’t take payment from me for Whispers of Death. I was lucky to have a critique swap group on Facebook where I could send a few chapters at a time for critique, review, and yes, edits where necessary. But not everyone has these resources. Professional editing services can be expensive, and for the struggling writer it just might not be feasible to hire someone. And that’s okay, but be warned that your story might also not be as successful without that neutral pair of eyes to look over it and see what you’re too close to see.

As I await the first round of edits for Escape the Light, I try to keep this in the forefront of my mind. I don’t have to butt heads with my editors (although I love the editors at RhetAskew, so I don’t think I will). I don’t have to dig in my heels and refuse to budge on something they suggest changing. What I have to do is keep an open mind and try to learn from the experience. I have to be receptive to change and utilize those changes in the manner that best helps the story.

A Rare Lazy Weekend

River (pictured above) pretty much embodies my spirit animal last weekend in this picture. I slept quite a lot, and accomplished not much of anything.

Okay, so I got the last of the handwriting from Estrella transcribed. That’s something I accomplished. And I got the laundry done (but not put away). I was basically the noodle-cat in the picture, limp and lifeless.

I know that I kind of earned it, but I still feel a bit rotten for not getting more done. I hope to remedy that next weekend with more embroidery work finished. My timeline on that is ticking down, so I need to focus. Thankfully, I have only two halves of a hem to do to be totally finished. Just a little more…

Book 3 is, as all first drafts are, crap, but it’s got potential. I need to clean and beef it up, but that’s for later, when I have the draft finished. I’m still waiting on the edits from RhetAskew before I get too invested in the story I’m starting to tell there, because if they decide I need to change the ending of Escape the Light I’ll have some rewriting to do for Book 3…best not to get too committed to any one story right now, when I might have to make sweeping changes (learned my lesson the hard way on that one).

I need to bug my mom for the edits on my short story. Time’s ticking on that deadline, too, though I have a couple weeks still. I want to get it submitted ASAP though, because I am anxious to get it in the bag. I know, I know, “patience young Padawan”….I don’t wanna be patient. I wanna get as many coals in the fire as possible. (I’m pretty sure I’m mixing metaphors there, but you get my drift.)

My pen nib tattoo is scheduled for Wednesday after work. I’m really excited about it, especially since I’m funding it with autographed books that I’ve sold. It’s the perfect way to pay for a writing-themed tattoo, right? In case you need a reminder, here’s the image I’m going to get inked:

It’s going to go horizontally along my collar bone (and I’m not getting the little crown or whatever that is put on it).

The surgeon is back at work this week after nearly a week off, so I’m back to work as normal. I’m hoping that the new med continues to work well. I haven’t felt nearly as stressed since starting it, and I hope it’s not a fluke.

I suppose I should get to work on something right now. I have a few hours until I have to get ready for work, so I’ve got some play time, but better to jump into the next project so I can keep momentum going for the week.

What’s in a name?

I finally hit a minor Twitter milestone today: over 2k followers. It’s not huge, but it’s a start. Most of my followers are writers and authors, but it’s good to network. That, and I have a wealth of creativity to harvest when it comes to a little naming issue.

There’s a character in Book 3 whose name I’m not satisfied with. Usually I pick a name and that’s that, but with his name it’s like eh, not feeling it. So I’m asking my 2k+ followers to help me pick a name. Their clues to the character’s identity? “Disabled evil telepathic superbaby.” Oh, and I mentioned that it’s a male. I’m interested to see what they come up with–if anyone responds. It’s only been maybe a half hour since I posted the request for names, but I’m impatient. I wanna see that perfect name come across the screen.

Edit: I wrote this early in the morning, and forgot to finish the post. I’ve since asked both Facebook and Instagram for name ideas as well and have found what I think is the perfect name. It’s simple yet meaningful, and it adds a little something to the story that I hadn’t considered. What’s the name?

Guess you’ll have to wait for Book 3’s release to find out 😉

Hemming and hawing

One hem for Their Royal Majesties is almost done, and one hem left to go!

This has been a much longer project than I anticipated, but now that I have a clear direction and seem to have found the most efficient order of stitching for the design I’m doing, I think it’ll go a little quicker now. I’m so grateful that Her Majesty has been so patient with me during this project, but I’m definitely going to slow my roll on the projects until I find a better groove.

I still have my IKEA (Intra-Kingdom Exchange for the Arts) project to do (which shouldn’t take too much time once I get started), and of course the belt ends for my apprentice belt. (That’s right, I’ll finally have my own Laurel to advise and teach me things!)

I’m going to take some time off from SCA embroidery projects for a little while at least, so I can make some stuff for me. Y’know, like the dozens (probably hundreds by now) of embroidery things I want to make for myself. Because I gotta take care of me from time to time.

I tell myself this, but I have no idea if I’ll stick to it. By the time I’m done with what I have to do, I’ll probably end up picking up more projects. That’s just the way it goes, I guess. I should be grateful that people want stuff that I’ve embroidered.

Just a few more days of work, then I have pretty much a free weekend or two coming up. The hubby has some cheesemaking workshops the next two weekends, but since I’m not terribly interested in making cheese, I’m going to finish my project and relax. Sounds contradictory, but now that I’ve got a good flow on the project it’s actually, well, relaxing.

Almost to 2k followers on Twitter now, which is a little more than 3k less than what I need to be considered to have a “presence” on Twitter. I can do 5k, but it’ll take some time, that’s for sure. I’m starting to download Kindle Unlimited books to my phone to read during downtime (ha! what downtime??) in the hopes that those authors will download and read and review my book. I hope the ones I’ve selected so far are interesting, because if I don’t review, they won’t review. Tit for tat, and all that.

Gotta get ready for work soon. It was nice not having work yesterday, but I need to get back in the work mindset.

And I need to figure out how to get that damn “follow” button back on my Home page. It disappeared a few updates ago, and now I can’t find how to get it back. I’m sure it’s something I’m doing wrong, but damned if I won’t figure it out somehow.

The treatment is a success…or is it?

So it’s been almost a week since I started the new bipolar med, and it’s got mixed results. I mean, I’m not feeling the sky-high levels of stress and anxiety that I was feeling before, but at the same time…I’m not feeling as much of anything.

Stress levels are down–which is great–but my give-a-shit-o-meter has crashed. I just don’t care. Ten-hour day on my feet with a fifteen minute lunch? Eh. Forgot to get my lab work done before my appointment today? Whatever. Probably going to get yelled at by my rheumatologist for not taking the $2k-a-month medicine she prescribed? Shit, she yells at me all the time anyway. Like it’s my fault the RA isn’t under control–try prescribing something that doesn’t cost more than my mortgage, lady.

I even didn’t get that upset when I threw up my breakfast yesterday. It was like “Okay, this is happening. I’ll just hold off on eating anything else until I’m sure my stomach is settled.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m extremely grateful that the stress and anxiety are almost completely gone. That part’s great. But I gotta admit, it concerns me a bit that I’m not, well, concerned. I’m just rolling through life, doing what I need to do. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be backlash on that at some point. Things can’t be this smooth without some bumps along the way.

Oh well. I’ll take the bumps as they come. I’m handling things much better now. I don’t get the all-consuming sense of being overwhelmed by what I have to do. My interest in my interests hasn’t 100% come back yet, but I’m getting there. Got a new short story in the works, got Book 3 moving along–at a snail’s pace, but it is moving–and I’ve got the embroidery that I’m slowly getting knocked out.

Speaking of which, I should probably work on that while it’s nice and quiet. I’ve got most of today to work on it, but there will be that 3-4 hour period where I’m off to my appointment where I can’t embroider. (I feel weird embroidering in the doctor’s office).

Very shortly

It’s funny how the little things can get you more anxious than the big things.

I’m talking about short stories versus novels. With my novels, I usually take more time to fine-tune them and make sure they’re publishing-ready. Short stories, though? Most of the time I just type ’em out, give ’em a once-over for typos and flow, then throw ’em up on this blog.

This time, though, I’m going to be submitting to my publisher for a place in their next anthology. The theme (legends) fits with a new set of characters in Escape the Light, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get the world of Abnormal out to a wider audience.

I’ve never submitted a short story for publication before. I’ve never gone through the editing and beta reading process, never spent more than a couple of hours on a short piece. Not that I don’t care how my short stories turn out, but it’s a different feeling when it’s for publication. I feel more pressure to do it “right.”

Am I worried? A little. But I’m taking the necessary steps to make my story as perfect as it can be. I’ve got a few more beta readers’ feedback to go through, and I want to get someone to do a proper edit on it.

I think it’ll do well. I think it’ll get published. But I’m still nervous about it.