Have you ever been frustrated when you were trying to learn something new? 

I remember trying to ride a bike with no training wheels. It was so hard. Months of effort had to be put into this whole ordeal. I fell. I scrapped my knees. My wrists were in shreds. Even my sweet and new Jammers helmet was all scuffed. (The stickers were starting to fall off! The humanity!)

I wanted to give up but my sense of “I need to ride a two wheel bike before older kids see me” kicked in. My young little ego kept me working toward my goal.

No surprise here, I reached my goal.

But I remember right after I started riding (like a pro) that I felt like I felt the process of riding the bike was become much more smooth. Much more practiced.

Better.

Today I feel like that a little in terms of my writing. I think some things are starting to click. (Mostly my ability to come up with a story in a short amount of time and leave things open ended so I can continue them later or have the reader fill in the blanks.)

I feel like a sponge that has been set under a faucet. The faucet is dripping slowly and the sponge is absorbing those drops. With time though, the sponge will become too full of water and some will leak out. That’s what I feel is happening. Some of the things I’ve been learning are finally leaking out into my work.

I know you can’t see all that. Not yet at least. But it’s coming.

It’s mostly because I have been having some discussions with some friends and working on stories of theirs. They will give me some of the characters and environments and I just blurt out a pretty detailed story sequence. Generally speaking they seem impressed. I can see an entire story in detail in a matter of a few minutes. Even if it’s not my own.

Now, I am still trying to figure out the best way to put these ideas onto paper in a way that’s solid. It’s not easy.

I’m not good at making words pretty. I can’t show the reader an environment how I would expect to be able to. I also can’t keep things too serious. This may work for some silly stories…but what about those deep and meaningful stories we all hope to write that will change the world one day?

For example:

A very good writer would write about a date in a way like this:

Her face was caressed by the setting sun on the horizon. The oranges and pinks mixed in with her chestnut hair and cheerful cheeks. Their eyes met with with a silent recognition. Things were just right.  After getting lost in each other’s gaze they looked out over the lake and took in what they would forever remember as “that perfect day”.

I, on the other hand, would write about a sunset like this:

The sun was red. Very red. It was setting after all. It was so pretty John almost forgot to look back at Rebecca, his blind date for the evening.  As he turned to look at her dazzling eyes he became so distracted by her sheer beauty that he failed to see the banana peel next to the garbage can on the path.

Two slipped discs and a hefty chiropractor bill later, he remembered that he hadn’t gotten her number that night.

“It could have been worse.” he thought to himself. “It could have been a pile of dog crap.”

You see? I always go for the punch line. I don’t know if I can do anything serious. Even when I’m trying to point out how I don’t use pretty language very well I still go for a joke. But I’ll keep trying. Maybe one day it’ll stick.

Until then, I’ll just keep sopping up those drops of good writing I see all around me. Maybe some of the good stuff will leak out from time to time and I’ll share it with you all.

Happy Saturday,

D.A.

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The Man in Blue

March 20, 2012

(Author’s Note: This story is just a shell of what it should be. I completed the story parts…but decided I would save a much better edit until later. That means this is a very rough cut of the story I’ve been working on. Sorry it’s not more polished. I’m just a little too excited to share it I guess.)

The storm outside was relentless. The drops sounded like they were the size of quarters banging against the side of the once beautiful home. Now the unkempt home’s missing shingles allowed for a stain to grow in the northeast corner of the ceiling in the living room. James stared up at it as it grew during the duration of the storm.

He had been squatting in this house for the past four months. James did his best to hide from the neighbors but he was sure they knew. He didn’t speak to anybody and only stayed inside at night. One of his safe moves was to make sure he never used lights at night. It was a lonely place at night.

He only left during the early morning hours. During the day he would hang around the back of a Lowe’s closer to town hoping to get picked up by somebody for a day’s worth of work at a construction site. It usually didn’t work out. But the little money he did earn was usually in sweaty dollar bills and rolled up in a rubber band. Today was a wash out, so no work.

That’s why he had been sitting in his borrowed living room all morning trying to cook some Ramen Noodles on a small camping stove. It wasn’t working out too well. The last flavor packet had gone missing. How do you lose something when you hardly have anything to lose? James thought to himself. Today he would just have to settle with the flavor of hose water and plain noodle.

The little money he did earn was quickly sent off the pay for his growing alimony debt. He kept 50 bucks for himself when he could so he could scrape up some non-perishables from the store every couple of weeks, sometimes some propane cans when he was filling selfish.

If I only had more money. This was his daily mantra. He lived and died by these words, not that he had anybody to say these words to.

Thunder shook the house and made the windows rattle. James never liked thunder. When there was thunder there was lightning. He was terrified of lightning. It always brought up bad memories from his childhood.

As his pot of water started hissing, a knocking came form the front door. James passed it off as hail banging against the door.

James didn’t stop trying to stir his uncooked noodles. He looked back up at the stain on the ceiling. It had grown considerably in the past couple of hours. He thought about the idea that may need to ditch this place for another one soon. A different neighborhood always presented more problems. Maybe his future neighbors wouldn’t take kindly to the homeless moving in.

The knocks came again. This time they were much more rhythmic. James knew a person had to have done that. He left his noodles and snuck around the corner into the foyer. He tried peeking through a window for a car but didn’t see one.

Probably the police. I guess I overstayed my welcome. He pondered to himself.

“Mr. Harris?” came the muffled voice from outside.

A man in a blue suit stood under his porch. He had a weak smile and a fedora pulled across his brow hiding his eyes. The stranger looked like he was pulled out of the advertisement for cigarettes in the 1950’s. He was holding a briefcase that was handcuffed to his wrist.

This is weird. James thought to himself.

James opened the door timidly. “Yes. I’m here. What do you want?”

“I have something that was determined to be given to you.” said the man in a routine manner. He punctuated his sentence with the same passive smile that he wore before.

“What is it?” demanded James.

“Money. And lots of it.” the man stated with casual ease. He looked up to meet James’s gaze. He had dark eyes.

Bull. That was James Harris’s first thought.

“Bull.”That was also James Harris’s first reaction. He immediately felt like recanting his statement but he didn’t have a choice.

The man in blue shook his head. “You tell me.” The smile never left his face.

He pulled up the briefcase and unlocked it with a key he pulled from his breast pocket. When he opened his jacket James saw the holstered polished steel beneath it. The man in blue continued to open the briefcase displayed it packed neatly with stacks of 100 dollar bills.

“Holy-” James put his hand over his mouth the way an elderly woman shows shock at the sight of women in pants.

“That’s got to be close to a million dollars…” he finished his thought.

“Actually it’s 17.3 million.” piped the man in blue.

“Wow.” James continued.

“So are you interested in what I have to say?” chuckled the mysterious man.

“You may be my new best friend.” said James. I must be crazy. This can’t be happening.

“Fine then.” he gave a slight pause. “Would you mind if I stepped inside briefly?”

“Oh, yes.” said James, seemingly forgetting common courtesy. This guy must be soaked.

The man looked behind him at the storm with indifference as if taking notice of it for the first time. He turned back and smiled wryly. “That would be lovely. Thank you.”

They walked into the living room ignoring the storm outside. The man in blue stepped into the foyer without wiping his shoes on the old floor mat. James even noticed that the man didn’t appear to be wet at all. His shoes didn’t squeak on the marble floor. The man in blue turned and extended his unoccupied hand to James.

James returned motion and shook the man’s hand. Feels like this guy has had his hand in ice water.

The man in blue held the grip for longer than normal. “You’ve got a good grip there. You must work in construction.”

“Uh, yeah. Thanks?” James stammered out. “So, what can I help you with?” he eyed the side of the man’s jacket with the gun.

“I’m sorry to intrude like this but I was told that you would be here at this time. Your place of residence looks…lovely.” said the man in blue.

“Oh, yeah, well…” James tried a little humor. “My place in the Hampton’s is still being renovated. So I just pitched my tent here, for now.” James never took his eyes away from the holstered pistol.

“I don’t have much time, so if it’s not a bother to you, I would like to get straight down to business. I think that’s the phrase.” stated the stranger.

“Yes, I think that’s the phrase.” James agreed sardonically. The storm outside was picking up. The thunder really made James feel the uneasiness in his stomach. He felt like something bad was going to happen.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be brief.” the man in blue unbutton his coat jacket, the gun now in plain sight.

“I’m going to ask you if you wish to participate or not. If you agree, you will get this briefcase and you can do whatever your little heart desires with it’s contents. If you disagree-” the man thought seemed to trail off. “Well, let’s just say you’re going to participate.”

James’ heard the threat clearly. He swallowed and responded. “Free money sounds like a good idea.”

“Great.”

The man in blue uncuffed himself from the money and latched it onto James. James contemplated objecting be decided it was in his best interests to cooperate fully. He also couldn’t stop salivating at the idea of all that money on his wrist.

Heck, if this guys going to kill me, I might as well die rich.

“There is, of course, one catch.” said the stranger. His eyes narrowed. “You will have six days to spend all of this money. You are expected to spend it correctly. If you fail to do so within the assigned time period-” the man opened his coat jacket to reveal the gun fully. “I’ll kill you.”

James swallowed hard.

“That’s it.” The man buttoned his jacket again and started toward the door.

“W-wait. You’ll just kill me if I don’t spend the money? And you’ll kill me if I spend it wrong?” he waited for a response from the man.

“Yes. You have six days as well. Don’t forget the six days part.”

James was trying his hardest to not evacuate his bowels in front of this mysterious stranger.

“How am I supposed to spend it the right way? You want me to give it to a charity or something? Why not do it yourself. Why am I being … chosen for this whole crazy scheme.” whimpered James.

“You said you wanted more money. Here’s your chance.” stated the stranger.

Can this guy read thoughts or something?  James wondered to himself.

“Actually, I can.” said the man in blue.

“You can what?” queried James. He felt like he was going to throw up.

“I can read your thoughts. I can also tell a lot of things about you James Allen Harris.”

Woah.

“Woah, indeed. I can also tell you that were the person I picked for reasons you can’t see right now. You’re just going to have to trust me. I haven’t picked a winner yet, but you might be the lucky one.” the man finished. He started walking toward the door.

“You mean everybody who’s done this has failed?” said James.

“It’s a shame to say it. But yes. They have all failed.” The man reached into his pocket and tossed the keys at James. “Catch.”

James didn’t move and the keys hit his chest and fall to the floor.

As the man in blue opened the door the wind from the storm kicked some rain into the foyer. The splashing from the eve above made it sound like a waterfall outside.

“Oh, and I’d hate put you out like this, but you should probably use some of that money to replace these windows.” said the man ignoring the torrent outside.

James looked like a bewildered owl. “Windows?” he inquired.

His question was ignored and the man in blue stepped outside and closed the door behind him. No less than than 3 seconds later lightning crashed just outside of the same door.

Glass shattered and the windows blew inward. James thought a bomb had went off and threw himself down to the ground covering his head with the briefcase.

For a moment the shock took away all memories of the man in blue. James opened his eyes half expecting this whole ordeal to be a hallucination but he felt the cold handcuffs around his wrist. When he picked himself up he raced to the door and threw it open. The rain persisted but the man was gone. Vanished into thin air. It smelled like flowers.

Only a small piece of paper lay on his porch. James picked up the sopping wet rag.

It read:

June 9th at 9:00 p.m. I’ll see you then.

P.S. – Sorry about the mess.

James forgot his fear of lightning and stood outside as more arcs bolted across the sky. He ran down the street not caring if the neighbors saw him.

Six days. 

The Man in Blue.

D.A. Bancroft

As Ricky Would Say…

March 15, 2012

I got some ‘splainin’ to do.

So my short story (flash fiction) fell short of what I was hoping for. And that’s okay. It’s not good but at least I tried. I’ll get better.

It was rushed and put together poorly. Maybe I was trying to do too much in such a short space. Maybe I didn’t do enough. I’m not really sure, but I’m open to your opinion.

In my own defense I should say that this is not the story I intended to share with you yesterday. Yesterday’s story was … wow… I didn’t even know what I was thinking. So I bailed and gave you what you saw. And what you saw yesterday was just 10 times better than what you could have got.

At least I learned the wonderful skill of knowing when to bail. And I learned that it doesn’t bother you as much to throw away a shorter work than a little longer one.

Tomorrow will be a better day. Spring break begins here. A precious week of no work that I WILL waste away. But tomorrow I will post something breathtaking.

Really.

You’ll be flabbergasted.

D.A.

Words To Live By

March 6, 2012

Here are a few words I have always found to be helpful in my life. These are based on years of experience and knowledge. I would dare say they are wise words.

1. You always feel better after you clean it up.

This could apply to almost any messy situation. Cluttered desk at work? Tidy up. You’ll feel so much more organized and productive afterwards. Have you said something to offend somebody? Talk to them and figure out what you can do to make it up to them. Or just simply ask for forgiveness. This usually makes you feel like a better person. Found an old half-eaten sandwich under your bed? Pitch it and scrub down the infected area. You’ll most certainly feel better knowing that there is no longer a cesspool of evil hiding under your bed.

2. Treat all free things in life like they’re a invincibility star in Super Mario. 

Honestly. If you get something for free, use it to it’s fullest extent. Don’t let those things pass you by. Don’t let them serve no purpose. They are gifts. Treat them as such. There is nothing worse than getting a invincibility star and you just stand there, only to be killed as soon as it runs out. Make it all worth your time.

3. Never drink and entire 6 pack of Yoohoo.

The consequences are…dire. I don’t think I need to go into much more detail about this. But let me just say, I haven’t made this mistake again since the last time when I was 4 years old.

4. Always keep a bottle of Pepto-Bismol around.

For those dire situations…

5. Despite what people say, life does have a rewind button.

Just sometimes that button is broken. So you have to pull out the tape and and rewind it by hand. Maybe you even have to use a pencil eraser.

6. If somebody asks you a question, your default answer should always be “gravy” or “shoop”.

Why? Because you catch them off guard. Then you can bombard them with total nonsense and maybe they’ll leave you alone. Maybe you can cut right back into casual conversation and they will fee like they’re going crazy. As soon as you catch them off balance you can mentally trip them up…or ever physically, if you’re that mean.

D.A.

 

Busy Bee

February 22, 2012

I AM BUSY BEE! (And yes, I meant that in a singular sense. As in, I am the one and only, The Mighty, Busy Bee)

Okay, I’m sort of busy. And I’m not a bee at all. (Though I do sometimes hum…which is almost like buzzing)

I have been writing…

Wow. Seems weird to write that.

I have been writing…

Yup, still strange.

Anyway, like I mentioned previously, I have begun writing what will become my first novel. The first chapter (which is where I am) is going to be all chock full of crazy little things that will, hopefully, interest my reader enough to continue. Still, I’m having concerns about the whole “first line” issue.

In my previous attempts at writing (as seen here on my little blog here) I have always tried to open up with an interesting sentence. But I feel like this is a little bit much. Like a gimmick or something. Maybe it should only be used in a short story setting?

Yes, I know I shouldn’t worry about it too much because, hey, that’s what editing is for. Knowing this, I hold the opinion that this kind of thing really shapes what the opening scene of my novel will be about. If I do a “cold” open, that could really drop the reader into an exciting place, or it could put them in a place and leave them confused. If I open with some exposition, it could be pretty boring.

Decisions, decisions…

Oh, you have an opinion to share here? Then please do so at the bottom.

And another thing.

So, you know how you read a novel and sometimes you get one of these neat little… I dunno what to call it… “bonus chapter”?

Let me explain.

You’re reading about your main character all the time. And if not, most of the time. Maybe you give your other minor characters some perspective in your story and it keeps the flow interesting. But have you ever read one of those chapters that seems to… not fit…but totally fits?

IF YOU DON”T WANT TO RUIN A COOL LITTLE PART OF THE BOOK “THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH” THEN DO NOT READ THE NEXT PARAGRAPH!!!

:::SPOILERS!:::

Let’s look at the Ransom Trilogy for a second here…In the book “That Hideous Strength” you are always following Ransom himself or the antagonist(s). But there is one really strange exception. You get to read as the elephant/rhino/beast (it’s been a while since I’ve last read this) as it stomps and destroys everything in it’s path. It’s completely awesome and completely unnecessary. But it was this wonderful change of pace in the book.

Are things like this safe to put in a book? Are the only useful in the skilled hands of an experienced writer? Are they necessary to keep people interested in the overall plot of a book?

You tell me…

D.A.

Jungle Post # 2

July 31, 2011

Another quick post.

All animals are still alive.

Getting a little worried about getting everything organized to start school. I have a lot to do, and less than a month to get there. If you’re a teacher/educator and have some cool resources for a beginning teacher in a high school setting, please, feel free to let me know about them.

I’m particularly interested in anything concerning a syllabus and organizing your classroom. Should I buy folders to give the kids for a notebook check? Notebooks? Should I worry about buying my own dry erase markers? What about an assignment turn-in procedure? Should I have a bin? Should I just pick them up during a specific period in the class?

I dunno…just thinking about a lot of things.

D.A.