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Archive for May, 2014

 

Hi. Remember me? Yeah, I’m a bit late this week. Hubby and I had a big camping weekend with our historical group and I’m just now getting to the point where I can stay awake longer than it takes to roll over. It was exhausting, but a lot of fun. Made me realize just how in shape I’m not. Lots of walking and schlepping and dealing with temperatures I don’t usually let the AC get to. Now that I’m actually getting up in the morning again, I think it’s time to take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures and get out and walk. I’ll get right on that. Next week. Maybe…

Anyhoo, I decided to try another of Chuck Wendig’s writing challenges. This time a 100 word Flash Fiction thing. REALLY flash fiction. Like micro-flash fiction. Short forms not being my strong suit, I feel the need to push myself in this area. Plus, it’s a quickie way to fill this space. Hope you like it.

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Conquered

She was the last of her kind. And, yet, the first of another.

Standing bloodied and exhausted at the final hilltop, her gaze panned over the expanse of bodies below, tens of thousands broken, burnt. The shredded arm of her power armor still sparked in half-hearted attempts to function. Blood blinded one of her eyes and dripped to the dead ground at her feet. Only wisps of smoke stirred between her and the horizon.

Never again to be a slave, she allowed a cold smile.

With the cleansing behind, the rebuilding could begin.

This time on her own terms.

 

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

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A couple weeks ago we were besieged by a toddler. My husband’s niece, to be exact. We had his sister over for lunch one Sunday afternoon, which meant the SO and the munchkin were part of the package. Family obligations being what they are, you know. It was exhausting.

To be fair, the little one was cute as she could be, and her parents were very diligent about keeping her under control in our not-at-all-safe-for-children house. But me and the cat are cranky old farts used to our routine, and watching this tiny blonde super ball bounce around, zero to screaming to giggling in 1.3 seconds, all the while demonstrating her variable speed overdrive on short, wobbly legs that shouldn’t be able to move that fast, left us both feeling like the morning after a New Year’s Eve night before. And no confetti in sight.

I do not envy you, parents.

Somewhere there is a font of special elixir just for mothers and fathers to drink from, so they may survive their little darlings. Obviously I was never given directions. It was pretty clear from the beginning that I wasn’t going to have my own children, so that part of the programming was left out. No regrets, mind you. The beauty of being that crazy aunt the rest of the family warns everyone about is getting to do all the fun stuff, and then handing the little buggers back when you’re done twisting their little minds.

Yes, there really are monsters under your bed.

I saw them myself and beat them back with my cane.

I wouldn’t look under there if I were you…

That, and a treat of dark chocolate covered espresso beans given ten minutes before the parents rescue them from my dastardly clutches. Enjoy the drive home, Sis.

So as I’m lying in bed later that evening with a pounding headache and feeling like road kill, I had an epiphany: spending an afternoon with a toddler is a lot like writing a novel. Your best laid plans are usually derailed right at the beginning, the emotional outbursts range from volcanic to glacial and change so fast it’s like riding a roller coaster, cooperation is fleeting, and resistance is futile. By the end of it all, you’re a wreck and your creation is flying off on its own without a backward glance. You can only hope that it does well enough to allow you a room IN the old folk’s home, instead of under the bridge next door.

Of course, the scientist within had to test the hypothesis. I sat down at the keyboard the next day and began my observations:

“Okay, guys. We gotta get on this next scene.”

*crickets*

“No, really. The goal is 500 words a day. That shouldn’t be so hard.”

*frog croaks*

“Stop kidding around. How are we handling this transition?”

*fart*giggle*snort*

*face*palm*

“This sounds like a good place for exposition explaining the transcendental nature of human relationships.”

“Finally. That’ll work with you lead characters.”

“We want a pony.”

“There are no ponies in this thing.”

“We want a pony!”

“How ‘bout a space ship?”

“WE WANT A PONY!!!”

“Okay, okay, I’ll see if I can figure out how to get a pony in this thing.”

“A chocolate pony.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake…”

*giggle*snort*

“If I promise to figure out the pony thing, can we actually move on to the fight scene?”

“What pony?”

*head*desk*

“He sat at the main table, uncomfortable to be included in the celebratory meal under full swing around him. With the exception of Dave, who had been moved to his own quarters that afternoon after his stay in Sickbay, the entirety of the crew enjoyed the repast set before them. Chef flitted back and forth between table and galley, occasionally alighting in the chair to one side of him. On the other side was their guest, herself just the slightest bit uneasy about her place of honor. He sensed that she didn’t understand why the humans felt so grateful to her. She had just done her job, a logical task in an otherwise illogical situation. At least she still had a sense of purpose.”

“Hey, I like that. Nice work.”

“There’s plenty more where that came from.”

“Cool. Sock it to me.”

“Nah. I’m gonna take a nap.”

And that’s why writing a novel is like having a toddler. Frustrating, joyous, mind-numbing, energizing and all the other little twists and turns of life that eventually lead us to a successful completion. But, hopefully, it won’t take me eighteen years to see my baby off into the world. I’ll let you know how we’re doing after our nap.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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No, I’m not about to run around topless singing Robin Thicke. Nobody wants to see that, believe me. The closest I’ll get to that is watching the NSFW video here. Personally, his version of music doesn’t do much for me, and the video really only adds to the huge glowing pile of misogynistic BS that is the entertainment industry, anyway. Says she who went to film school. And gave you the link…

But I digress. What I really want to talk about is good vs. evil and how THOSE lines have been blurred into near unrecognizability. In any story, you usually have the protagonist (the hero) and the antagonist (the bad guy). There might be a whole cast of supporting characters, but mostly there’s a main person who is the primary witness and who’s journey we follow. We typically root for the hero. We want the hero to win because he’s good and just and saves cats from burning trees. The hero must win so we can win. We see ourselves in his place, and imagine our own heroic acts that will win us the big football game, save the local library, or get that girl to finally notice us.

Superman is an example of the classic hero. You all know the story by now, I’m sure: alien lands on Midwestern farm and is brought up by probably the most noble and morally centered humans on the planet. With all that power, Sups could have been a major dick and just taken over, but loving, generous parents helped him avoid that. We could probably get into a huge debate on Nature vs. Nurture, given that Kal-El was bred to be a brilliant leader, but I’m not sure there’s enough cloud computing on the planet to support that. So let’s just accept for the purposes of this article that were it not for Ma and Pa Kent, we might be reading about an entirely different sort of Boy Scout in blue.

Which would probably be Lex Luther. At least, that’s what Lex wants. Lex is a bad guy, and one of our favorites. He’s brilliant and power mad and hates Superman with a blind passion, and so causes a nearly unlimited amount of problems that must be solved for the world to survive. It might seem oxymoronic to love a hateful person, but he’s just so good at being bad. And the truth is, what we really love is watching Lex getting his ass handed to him by Superman. Good over evil, as it should be.

The latest iteration of Superman on the big screen (Man of Steel) caught a lot of crap because it actually had our hero KILL the bad guy (General Zod, brilliantly portrayed by Michael Shannon), something Sups just doesn’t do. Or isn’t supposed to do. Or something, something, goody-two-shoes-that’snotmySuperman

Anyway, Superman caught a touch of the dark side[1]. Not being a rabid comic book fan, I didn’t have the problem with killing Zod that others did. It was the only way to stop him. I did feel bad for our hero, because it was a terribly painful choice. Let him live, watch millions of my adopted brethren die. Kill him, and watch the last connection to my home world die. It’s a no-win situation where you just have to pick the lesser of the evils and hope you can live with it. (This applies to voting, too, but that’s a rant for another time…)

Now Sups isn’t so perfect. He’s standing toe on that line between hero and anti-hero. Or, by being a tortured soul trying to find his place in the world and then eventually killing to protect that very world, he’s actually crossed over. Personally, they pushed the line pretty good, but our boy in blue didn’t actually make that crossover. It just wouldn’t be Sups. But it’s okay for him to look into the abyss and see it looking back. We all need that reminder every now and then.

Anti-heroes have been around since probably the beginning of writing. Just look at the Greek tragedies. And Shakespeare is rife with them. Mostly it was a lesser character that took on the role of anti-hero, to give us very flawed and tortured humans a greater connection into the story. When we think of anti-hero, we’re more often going to envision Batman than Superman. Batman is a classic example of anti-hero becoming protagonist. He’s called the Dark Knight for a reason. But we can love and support him because, despite his personal demons, he’s still a good man doing good works. And who doesn’t love watching a total ass-wipe get the shit kicked out of him by a shadowy figure in a funny costume.

Humans are complicated creatures. Most of us are more like Batman than Superman in terms of moral standing, and that’s why the anti-hero becomes hero is so popular. But lately I’ve worried that we’ve taken our anti-heroes too far into the dark. Take Dexter. From the novels by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter is more than just an anti-hero. He’s a stone-cold serial killer. While he keeps himself constrained to killing other serial killers, hence allowing us to feel some sense of support for him, the truth is he kills because he likes it. If he didn’t work for the police, he’d be on their hit list. I admit to watching several episodes of the TV show and being totally fascinated at the delicate dance the writers did around his character. I wasn’t able to watch the whole series because we haven’t had cable in ages, so I can’t make any comments to how the entire arc of the series went. But in my world Dexter wouldn’t walk quietly into the night.

There are tons of examples out there in cable TV land of the über-dark anti-hero as “hero.” Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos, The Shield, Homeland, etc., etc., etc. Movies and books are filled with them, too. We root for them at the same time we are appalled at what they do. But is that really what we should be doing? David Sirota wrote a compelling piece entitled “The problem with bad guy heroes.” He worries about what we might be telling our kids with such popularity, and given the whole “gangsta” teen culture out there I’m pretty sure he has a point. But it’s not just what we’re telling our kids: it’s what we’re telling ourselves. Our own behavior has changed. We’re not as polite, not as charitable, not as forgiving as we used to be (at least, in my experience).

I think it’s time we backed off the black-hearted anti-hero and went back to just the normal confused human anti-hero. People are hot messes of conflictions, and writers can get plenty of material by just watching the masses. You don’t need a crack-cooking cancer victim or police-by-day-serial-killer-by-night character to get somebody’s attention. What you need is good writing. In some ways, depending on such dark characters is a gimmick, a crutch to grab the reader or viewer and make them wonder how such a creature doesn’t get his just due. And maybe that really is the attraction. We’re mesmerized by the audacity of his success.

But, regardless of the characters you chose to inhabit your worlds, I’d ultimately rather by mesmerized by the audacity of your writing.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

[1] For an interesting comparison of recent movies featuring DC’s boy scout versus Marvel’s own version, Captain America, read “Captain America ruined Superman for me” at Cinesnark. An excellent reasoning of why your hero doesn’t have to go to the dark side to win.

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I’ve never been very good doing stuff just for me. I’ve always had to have some outside force, like my parents or teachers, to really keep me motivated to hit a goal. That’s the little kid in me still striving for approval. I’ll do whatever it is for them, but forget doing it just for myself, because I’m not worth it. That’s the sinister secret of depression. Too many people hear “depression” and expect you to be crying your eyeballs out for no known reason, but the truth is most of the time depression is just a blanket of doubt shrouding your every being, weighing you down and nit-picking your self worth to death.

The last few months I’ve really let the depression have way too much control over me. When you’re constantly fighting a chronic condition, there come times when you just don’t have the energy to make even the slightest protest against it, and that’s where I’ve been. I just didn’t care anymore, because nothing mattered and the blackness would continue without end until my urn corroded into dust on some mantel somewhere. I was just so tired. I’m still so tired. But I had a brief moment of clarity a couple weeks ago, during which I finally connected to the notion that I’m a writer. Yeah, I’ve called myself that for a long time, but I was all talk and very little do. I may still be, but I’ve decided maybe it’s time to try some new things and see if I can shake something loose.

For a number of years now I’ve been on what I consider to be my natural circadian rhythm – sleeping during the day and up at night. I’ve always preferred the night, mainly because it’s usually quieter, cooler and not so eye-throbbing bright. I’ve always felt I’ve done my best creative work at night. But in looking back, I’ve learned that I’m not necessarily at my optimal productive capacity. See, when you don’t’ HAVE to be somewhere at any specific time, when there is no one expecting or demanding anything of you, it’s very easy to keep putting things off. Nah, I don’t feel like it – I’ll do that tomorrow. What’s the point in getting dressed? I’m not going anywhere. It’s cool, and dark and safe in here – I’ll just stay in bed. Let me tell you right now – it’s a trap.

Getting into/staying in a regular routine is a vital part of combating depression[1]. And while my “routine” was sort of regular as far as when I slept and ate, there wasn’t a whole lot else to it. During a discussion with my ever-patient and supportive husband, two things came to light: 1) writing was the last thing I was doing in my “day”, and 2) my husband didn’t like sleeping alone. I had so isolated myself in my supposed quest for the creative muse that the two things most important to me were, in reality, on the back shelf. I was not living up to my half of the bargain made when we decided I was going to stay home and try life as a word hack. And that’s when it really hit home that I wasn’t doing this just for me, but for both of us.

So I’ve made a major scheduling change. I’ve flipped back to a daytime existence. My alarm (yes, I’m actually using it) is now set for 8:00am. The morning routine is now the same as when I was working for someone else, minus the power suits. And after breakfast I head to the office and get to writing. That is now the FIRST thing I do in the day. That is now my JOB. Monday is my blog and any business related writing things (queries, submissions, research, etc.). Tuesday is short fiction day, whether I like it or not. The rest of the week is scratching out the latest novel. Weekends tend to be a crapshoot because the husband is home and a lot of the household errands end up being done then, but sometimes words get snuck onto computer pages here and there.

I do the household chores and make dinner beginning in late afternoon, and then spend some rare conscious moments with that big lug I agreed to live with the rest of my life. A couple hours are spent watching TV and working on needlework or weaving projects, and occasionally I end the night off with killing a few things on a computer game. Then I go to bed. With my husband. Snoring and farting and blanket wrangling aside (he puts up with so much from me), it’s been really nice feeling him next to me. Research has indicated that sleeping with your partner has some positive health benefits,[2] and that certainly can’t hurt either.

So here I go into the second week of this change. It’ll be a few weeks more before it settles in. I’m still battling the urge to sleep in the day (that bright thing in the sky – it burns the Precious!), mainly because my nighttime sleep isn’t regular yet. But I’ve already written more in this last week than I did the two months previous. Sadly, not really saying much, but that too will come with regularity. At least, I hope so. Wish me luck.

PS: I’ve made some changes on my site, adding a page where I’ll be sharing my short stories. Check it out and let me know what you think. https://ckendsley.wordpress.com/

© Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

[1] “Lifestyle Tips for Treatment-Resistant Depression”

[2] “The Powerful Benefits of Sleeping Together”

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