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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trick or Tool


I have been idly dreaming about having a small, vintage manual typewriter, as if that would help. I don't even know if I can still type on a manual machine and if I started using one would it wind up crippling me and what about that day job? I still spend eight hours a day on the computer and get paid for it. No matter how I lust after the sleek, shiny black vintage machines for sale all over the web, I'm not going to get one until I actually put my fingers on the keyboard and whack away for a while; see how it feels.

 Although I had an ancient manual typewriter as a kid, I never learned to touch type until the late eighties on a computer keyboard. The whole notion is probably a pipe dream fueled by watching a couple of episodes of Band of Brothers last weekend. There were several scenes of a soldier pecking away at a portable typewriter, so incongruous yet so ubiquitous during World War II.

I spent a lot of time over the weekend looking for an archive of the music that used to be on my Ipod. Last week I accidentally gave the poor little thing a lobotomy and thought that restoring it would be a click or two away. Hah! That restoration took the better part of the weekend but mission accomplished. I'm finding that sleeping with earbuds in and the volume turned way, way down on the playlist sinisterly entitled “sleepingpod” is has a canceling effect on my increasingly aggravating tinnitus. Some interesting dream trains have left the station as well.

In the middle of that file search I came across a long lost short story that I started back in the early '90s. To my surprise it still had legs, crookedly and wobbling, but legs. What started out as a harmless and common fantasy tale rolled quickly into Twilight Zone/Stephen King territory, no surprise to anyone who knows me. This file was created and saved in an ancient program called Lotus Word Pro (I still have the floppy discs somewhere) and had been clumsily converted to a more universal file type. There were many errors in that conversion; formatting was lost and a myriad of crazed hieroglyphs were randomly inserted in the text. It was also obvious that there was no spell checker in the house and/or the writer was somehow impaired.

Dropping this file into OpenOffice and starting to edit it just for typos and formatting was good for most of yesterday morning. What with the side trips and diversions that are all too available when working on a laptop with a great internet connection, the morning evaporated with little to show for it and now, Tuesday morning is well on it's way to history too. All this brought me back to thinking about what it would be like to use an old typewriter with just enough interference between the brain and the paper to check my pace and keep my thoughts in order, without the distractions.

My first typewriter was a behemoth from the thirties or forties that my mother dragged home from a yard sale. I really can't recall the make, something common like Remington or Underwood, but due to it's advanced age, ribbons for it were impossible to find. I bought fresh, replacement ribbons for whatever brand I could get cheap and then wind them by hand onto the large metal spools of my machine – messy but effective. It had trapdoors on the side for access to the ribbons and at some point, I allowed my pet rat to hide out inside the machine. We won't talk about the day that I idly tapped a key and snipped off the tip of his tail.

I typed my homework for fun which probably bothered my teachers. I don't know what they were expecting when they came across my typed papers in a stack of hand scrawled assignments but I rarely delivered if my grades were any measure of success. When I figured out that a C or B would keep me out of jail or the doghouse with my parents, that was good enough for me. Grading should be kept secret from kids as long as possible.

I also wrote letters, specifically, begging letters to all the missions to the United Nations for every flyspeck country that belonged to the UN and a few that didn't. I'm sure my name got on some government lists when I was eight or nine. 

What I was begging for was canceled postage stamps from their home countries and, man, where they happy to oblige. I think I must have created at least a handful of jobs for people working at carefully tearing off the colorful, beautiful stamps from letters sent from all over the world. I didn't really even have a collection РI had a hoard! I started out with the best intentions, like all those skipping down the road to hell, but the response to my letters was so overwhelming that I quickly became blas̩ about the stack of fat, brown envelopes that would be waiting for me when I got home from school. After a quick perusal for anything new or different, everything got tossed in the desk drawer but I kept pounding out letters and spending my allowance on postage.

Once I got tired of getting duplicates of stamps that I already had too many of, I turned to typing papers for classmates who would dictate to me over the phone or give me chicken scratch notes on legal pads. Bigger brains than mine who didn't have access to a typewriter abounded. Then again there were the papers that I corrected and finally, rewrote,  until a couple of teachers twigged and recognized my style scattered throughout the three fifth grade history and English classes. My career as a copywriter/editor was squashed by a short meeting with the principal where I promised to stop giving it away and promised myself to charge more and work more carefully.

All these years later and I'm still giving it away and someplace in a second-hand store or, more likely, a landfill, there is a hulking, golden typewriter with the mummified remains of a rat's tail tip deep in its bowels.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

what is this feeling?

High as a kite with no string. Sometime during the transit of the Pink Moon I wrote the meat and bones of the finale. Hit print and passed out.

I know it looks kind of like this now, but I can make it across and back and I'm not afraid of heights or alligators. I can fly and I taste bad.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

back at it

A week is too long to think about something before putting it on paper. Spent the morning slipping back into all the characters skins. Even managed to kill one, but it might not have been the right one - I felt no sorrow or loss - so that will have to be revisited. Still lotsa words today.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Serial treatment


In the writers group the other night, one of my friends pointed out that my winning contest entry worked out to be worth about three dollars a word. I reckoned that it might be the most money I ever earn as a writer. I think I'm going to remember that statement.

Then, this morning, this popped up in the feed making me wonder how the serial format will work out. I remember how much I looked forward to each new issue if SK's "The Green Mile" when it was put out in the grocery stores alongside the weekly TV Guide. People were lined up to buy that one.

                "Thursday brings the launch of Julian Fellowes’s new novel. It’s called Belgravia, and it reads, from its description, as extremely Downton Abbey-esque: “Set in the 1840s when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders with the emerging industrial nouveau riche,” the announcement goes, “Belgravia is peopled by a rich cast of characters.” There will be secrets and intrigue and, if Downton is any guide, much Drama.


The most notable thing about the novel, though—apologies to its rich cast of characters—is the fact that it is only very loosely a “novel.” Though the book version of Belgravia will be available for purchase in June, the project being released this week is an app—which tells Fellowes’s latest story of upper-crusty intrigue via both via and audio. (There will also be videos and “other bonus features” that will be “hidden within each episode.”) The 11-week series is available via subscription for $13.99 (this includes both text and audio versions of each episode), or for $1.99 an episode. An installment will land (“air,” in the book’s parlance) on its purchaser’s device of choice every Friday until the end of June.

read the whole thing here:  feed: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/04/the-triump-of-the-serial/478272/

Monday, April 11, 2016

The sign read “THE MONKEY BITES”

     Ace sat with his back to the room and appeared to be reading a small prayer book. Actually, he was tearing out the pages one by one and eating them, chewing slowly and looking up at the ceiling of his cage as if he was memorizing the text. Billy, the bar's owner and bartender, said he only ate one or two pages a day – it was not as if he was hungry. Billy fed Ace every time he fed himself. In fact, he fed Ace first like he was worried about being poisoned; a fair concern because he treated the cook like dirt.

     It bothered Bea to see Ace locked up like that. It was obvious that he was constantly pissed-off, unlike most captive monkeys who sank into apathy after a while. If anyone but Billy approached the cage Ace screamed and flung himself around inside. If you put your hands anywhere near his reach or grasp there would be blood. He once ate a drunk's left little finger.

     The day he escaped she helped him by not saying anything as she watched him slip out the unfastened wire door. He scrambled soundlessly up the cage and across a shelf full of stemmed glasses that never even shuddered. From there, he reached the open transom over the door that led to the alley. He paused a moment as if mentally packing, and fixed Bea with his hooded golden eyes,  vanishing before she could blink. He was gone an hour before Billy missed him.

     Goldy dropped her tray the last two inches onto their table to wake up the drunks and impress people just how hard her job was. Billy startled from his newspaper spread out on the bar, looked around and gave a little shriek seeing the open cage door. He had no one to blame or lash out at because he was the only one who could deal with the brute without losing a digit or a pint of blood. He was livid not because of any fondness for the animal. Ace had been collateral for a bar tab run up by a guy who used to be a regular, but had to leave on short notice due to some complication with the sheriff. It had been five years and Billy still hoped to collect having some notion that monkeys lived at least as long as people did.

     He cursed and took the cage, which needed cleaning, down from the bar and took it out the door to the alley as if he thought the deadbeat might be waiting there with Ace. When he came back inside he was carrying the scalped prayer book and handed it over when Bea reached out for it, as if by prior agreement. The first third of the pages were gone and the cover was dark with hamburger grease and redolent of monkey piss. Murph made her put it on the floor while they ate their grill cheese and tomato soup lunch hoping she would forget it but confident that she wouldn't. She didn't.

     Bea was not quite three when Ace made his break for freedom. She thought she saw him from time to time high in the trees around Wampus pond. He stole food all over town and some folks made a point of leaving leftovers out on the porch to see if it would disappear overnight. “Leaving bite for Ace” and reporting on whether it was taken became a common point of gossip. It was bigger news when someone said Ace made off with a whole pie left cooling on a windowsill. This was nonsense because she didn’t think Ace could lift whole pie and make off with it clean. Jump in, splash around and eat a third maybe, but not the whole pie. Ace wasn't much bigger than your average apple pie at least by weight. The vet said he was a Barbary Ape and not a monkey at all but the distinction was lost on Ace and the patrons of the Airport Bar. The pie thief was definitely a person and some years later Maryann Phelps was found dead of a heart attack, lying flat on her back in the McCarthy's kitchen garden, a smug look on her face and one of Ginny McCarthy's prize-winning cherry pies upside down in the dirt beside her.

     All summer after the escape Billy would go down to the park with a bag of stale popcorn and a six pack of beer and sit and smoke and drink. He never brought a net or a bag with him. Did he think Ace would listen to reason and accompany him back to the bar and his cage? Billy would kill the six pack and lie back on the bench and nod, the bag of popcorn spilling out for the pigeons and squirrels to make bold with as he snored. He would wake up as darkness fell and one of the bands started tuning up in the hall across the street and he would see that the popcorn was all gone and swear to folks that Ace had paid him a visit.
        Then came the day that Bea found Ace dead .



from the Monkeytown Murders c. Deborah Lacativa 2016


Friday, April 8, 2016

the Hanged Man

Despite spring being still raw, she opened all the windows, letting the cold air sweep through the apartment. Barefooted, she stood swaddled in a ragged quilt in front of the stove watching the coffee trickle down inside the glass percolator. The cold didn't matter. It was the fresh air that she needed to clear her head. The nightly sleeping pills were starting to linger until lunch and she knew she'd have to quit cold turkey soon. There was no tapering off.

She filled a mug and breathed in the smell, doctored it with half and half and honey and swilled half the cup as hot as she could stand it. She had a suspicion that this was how alcoholics felt about their first sip of the day. 

From a basket on the table she took a worn tarot deck, snapped off the rubber band and drew just one card, putting it face down on the table by her cup. Another deep sip and she flipped the card over. The Hanged Man.

"Hmmff. Tell me something I didn't already know," she said, her tone more wistful than sarcastic. This card and others with a similar message had been coming out all too often for her to ignore them. "Wait," it said. "Give up trying to control everything." 

What everything? Her life?  "Thanks for nothing today," she said, as she tucked the card back into the deck and finished her coffee. Other people paid for her advice through the cards, but she rarely took any for herself. She shook off the introspection - she was due in court by nine and being late was not smart when you were trying to keep a low profile.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Next!

...and that is entirely enough about that. Back to work.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fuckin' A!

I'm still frittering with adrenaline. Hunting for my humbles and knowing I should be outside making a sacrifice to a slew of deities. Later babes, just feeling this for the moment.


"Dear Deborah,

CONGRATULATIONS! You have won the Writer Unboxed UnConference Scholarship package..."


Friday, April 1, 2016

one way or another

"Thank you for your interest in the Writer Unboxed UnConference scholarship.

If this is an application for consideration, thank you for your submission. Please  note that we don't have the available staff to respond to every submission personally, however, each submission will be considered by a 'blind' panel, and the scholarship winner chosen based upon merit and without prejudice."