Anybody up to playing First Line Friday? C’mon, it’ll be fun. And easy. And a good little study into what has worked for published writers.
The rules go like this:
1. Quote the first line of any work of fiction you are currently reading, and include the author and book title.
2. Quote the first line of the most recent chapter you’ve read, from the same book.
3. If you are a writer – the first line of your current WIP
4. Also if you are a writer – the first line of the chapter you are currently working on, or have most recently completed.
“It was hope undid them.” This is the first line from Clive Barker’s Everville. A good one, I think. The idea of hope – not as a good thing, but as the means to destruction – raises all kinds of questions in my mind.
The first line of the chapter I’m currently reading is not quite so stellar:
“It was less than half an hour later when Tesla and Phoebe stepped out into the sun, but Everville was already in high gear.” Still – it serves its purpose. It accounts for a passage of time without the tedium of watching our characters get ready to leave the house, and sets the scene for what comes next.
Now, with fear and trembling, I turn to my current WIP, which happens to be the soon-to-be-renamed, oft revised Swimming North. The current first line:
“It was not a good day to die.”
And the first line of the most recent chapter:
“The door was impervious to violence.”
Now it’s your turn.
Thirty days of All Things Good has come and gone, but I realized last night that just doing the posts was a good thing. But maybe not every day. And so, I said to myself – “Self – one day a week would be good. And what better day than Monday? If ever there was a day where I need reminding about what’s good in the world, it’s definitely Monday.”
Today, I give you the humble slug.
Last Friday evening, I had the privilege of traipsing around after Johanna Harness and family, experiencing waterfalls around Portland. The waterfalls were of course magnificent and awe inspiring, and I took many pictures of them, none of which will begin to do them justice. There was also a lush abundance of other greenness – moss, and plant life – of which I also took pictures.
But the slug, ah, the slug. He is not quite green – more of a greenish yellow, the sort of color and shape that makes one initially think ‘dog turd.’ He is a slow moving little fellow. He is coated in slime. And yet Johanna’s son and I found him very fascinating, and deserving of a photo opportunity all his own. Most people missed him. In fact, we sadly suspect that the clay-colored smear of slime and muck that we found as we later retraced our steps, may have been the last remains of our little friend.
Slugs have fascinating sex lives. Most are hermaphrodites. There may be cannibalistic tendencies involved. I’m not kidding – go here for a fascinating article about the sexual behavior of banana slugs.
And if the slug doesn’t do it for you, how about a frog? This is one frog in particular, Kermit, singing about the difficulties involved in being green:
This is day thirty of my challenge to myself: thirty All Things Good posts in thirty days. Assuming that I’m not struck by lightning in the next few minutes and this makes it up onto the ‘net, I will have succeeded in this task.
And what a better way to end it, than by talking about the wonderful Twitter people I was able to meet last night in person – people I would never have had the honor of meeting were it not for this weird and wonderful online community.
Johanna and Greg and their three bright and lovely children picked me up outside my hotel on their way into town and we drove to Powell’s books. This store is an experience all in itself – it’s so big it requires a map. Seriously. It made me feel that I ought to drop to my knees and kiss the ground or something. Mecca for book lovers.
Bill Cameron showed up first. Actually, it turned out he had already been there for like an hour or something, so I ought to say we found him first. The seven of us invaded a partially occupied table and began the chatting. John Barnestorm showed up next. By then, we had pretty much cleared the table of other reader people, except for one determined soul who sat in a corner chair and continued to work through his selected books through almost the entire evening. We were starting to worry about Kristina, but Bill checked Twitter and we knew she was on the way. And then that she was circling the building waiting for permission to land.
Seriously, these are all fascinating, intelligent, articulate, and funny people. We covered a wide range of topics, from writing to Legos up the nose stories, (thanks Kristina) and had a marvelous time.
Today is my last day here in Portland. I have mixed feeling about that. It’s been a busy week and I’ve learned a lot, but I’ve spent about enough time “contemplating suicide” as the writer crowd last night decided to phrase it. I’m looking forward to home. On the other hand, I plan to join the Harness family again this evening to do something as yet undefined. And I am learning a lot here at this conference.
What is the next step for the blog? I’m not sure. Johanna suggests Thirty Days of Crappy Things. This may not be terribly uplifting. I could do Thirty Things you May Not Know About Suicide. Which wouldn’t be uplifting either, but maybe educational. Or go back to random posting whenever I happen to feel like it. Or something.
I guess the jury is still out.
By the end of the conference day yesterday, this introvert was officially done with crowds- the elevators so full you had to suck in your belly and hold your breath to fit in that one last person, the constant drone and clamor of voices. I skipped the silent auction and the banquet. I even skipped dinner in a restaurant somewhere with my Kindle for company – I would have had to talk to the waitstaff.
Instead, I wandered around the block and found myself some takeout, and holed up in my room with comfort food and back to back episodes of NCIS. I adore NCIS. Nice plot, with highly capable, take charge men who are good to look at. What’s not to love?
Okay. So I’ve been known to say things like “people are stupid.” Or make random comments about “sheeple.”
Today I’m stepping back from cynicism and taking a moment to say some good things about the human race.
I’ve spent the last two days in a small conference room with about twenty people – nurses, mental health counselors, psychologists. All of them work full time in correctional facilities, either jails or prisons. What makes them extra special, and the subject of an all things good post – is that despite incredibly difficult working environments and an often downright nasty clientele, these people maintain an extraordinary level of compassion for the people they deal with, and passion for their jobs.
I myself have been on a collision course for burnout of late, getting increasingly bitter and cynical about the broken system I’m trying to work in. I’m ashamed to admit my cynicism has begun to extend even to the people I’m trying to help.
In the middle of yesterday’s training, as some of us were lamenting the system flaws and inadequacies, the casual comment “that’s just the way it is” floated into the room. And then a voice of outrage from the back of the room: “I refuse to accept that. I will never accept that.” A discussion followed about change, and speaking up on behalf of our clients to all of the powers that be, in small ways and bigger ways as we are able.
Later, when the day was over, I spent some time working on the DMHP newsletter that I edit. (DMHP stands for Designated Mental Health Professional – the group of people in Washington state who make determinations about involuntary treatment for those with mental illness). The letter from our association president once again moved me, to tears this time, with a passionate statement about the challenges DMHPs face every day, and the reasons why we do what we do.
There are a lot of people out there who spend their lives helping those people that society considers expendable. It’s not an easy job. They don’t get a lot of pats on the back – in fact, they are often criticized for not doing enough, not giving enough, not caring enough. I’d like to give them public awards and standing ovations, but I haven’t got the power or platform for that.
As we discussed yesterday, though – we can all act in small ways. So – mental health professionals – those of you working in jails and prisons, those working with the psychotic and the underprivileged and homeless and dispossessed – I salute you.
So yesterday, another conference attendee and I joined forces for lunch. We sat up at the counter as the place was jammed, and struck up a pleasant camaraderie with the waiter. When he began teasing us about dessert, I really had no intentions, as I was already nicely stuffed with a Thai curry over rice. But then he listed the options and I knew I was in trouble.
If there is one dessert I love more than chocolate and ice cream, it’s Crème Brûlée. Oh, that crusty, crunchy, sweet shell on top. The creaminess of the custard. So what does he offer me? Not just garden variety Crème Brûlée, Coffee Crème Brûlée. With chocolate truffles.
Um, yeah. No further explanation necessary, I expect. I did walk many, many blocks after the day’s training ended, in an attempt to burn off the calories. And I settled for a six inch sub for dinner while I was at it.
I still think I probably gained five pounds. Worth it?
Yesterday, I had two ‘free’ things come to me.
The first was during my one hour flight from Spokane to Portland. This flight, by the way, was on a propeller plane, an interesting mode of transportation with which those of you who fly only to and from larger cities may be unfamiliar. The window by which I sat was right behind one of the propellers. A rare burst of sunlight happened to be shining, and when that thing fired up I was grateful not to be an epileptic. Serious strobe effects, I’m telling you, and no shade on the window to block it out.
In case you were wondering – no, that was not the free thing. The free thing was a quite nice glass of Chardonnay, unexpectedly offered by airline employees, which I drank at high altitude on an empty stomach, therefore arriving at my destination pleasantly warm and buzzy. Which, as it turned out, was a good thing/bad thing as I tried to figure out the light rail system. I’m directionally challenged by nature and this might have been easier with a clearer head, but I felt unusually serene about the whole situation. Thanks to some nice ladies on the train I got off at the right place and walked safely to the Hilton.
Where, as I expected, I discovered I would need to pay for wireless in my room. I could rant on about this, and about the way even Super 8 gives out wireless for free, but this is an All Things Good post and here comes the good part. After reading the terms and conditions – about $10/day or a discounted rate of $45 for the entire week, I decided to attempt to defy my internet addiction and only use the wireless in the lobby. I rode the elevator down many, many floors, logged in to the complementary wireless, caught up with people, then folded up my laptop and trekked back up to my lonely room, preparing for an evening and morning of isolation.
Much to my surprise, the free wireless followed me up to my room. At least, we hope it’s free. Perhaps hotel security will crash my door at any moment accusing me of stealing, or they’ll put an exorbitant charge on my room tab.
But maybe not. As I head out into the grey & rainy day for a rousing pre-conference session of Recognizing and Responding to Suicide Risk, I carry away a happy little thought of an unexpected gift.
The feline assistant and I have successfully packed the bags and I’m almost ready for the initial stage of my week long trip away – the trek to the airport. I have to admit to a lovely buzz of excitement.
I don’t get out much, so flying is not humdrum at all for me. Plus – I’m going to be away from all of my everyday responsibilities for an entire week. Somebody else can make my bed in the morning. I can eat out, instead of cooking. No scrubbing toilets or vacuuming. No Kid Taxi Duty. If I want to watch TV – the remote is mine to control. Ah, the luxury.
Now, I may not be going to a writing conference, but I do believe that the Suicidology Conference – while maybe not quite as fun as RT, and much less likely to feature a Mr. Romance Pageant of any kind – is still an interesting sort of a way to spend the week. I’m planning on looking for new and out of the ordinary places, people, or ideas for All Things Good.
That said, it’s time to pack up the laptop and hit the road. I will be reporting in from Portland, where I understand it is grey and raining. Much like here. But that’s good too. Rain makes the flowers grow, after all.
But even introverts need friends, and the online world has been very good to me.
Those of you who are Twitter friends will recognize the cute little blue bird, and Twitter has been a very good thing for me indeed.
When I went to my first big writing conference last year, I would have arrived knowing not a single soul in the world. As it turned out, there were ready made friends waiting for me, and that kept me from feeling quite so lost in a sea of humanity. I’ve met crit partners and beta readers, got involved in the Sekrit Project and learned that Agents Are People Too, all from hanging out on Twitter.
Next week, in Portland, I’m looking forward to meeting some people in person that I exchange a few words with almost daily, but have never actually met. In June, I’ll be going to a writing workshop that I wouldn’t have heard about if not for Twitter, and sharing a room with another writer that I met in the same place.
So – here’s to the Twitterverse and the Blogosphere, to online chat buddies and Facebook friends.
That said – it’s a beautiful day out there in the real world, and I have much to do and family to do it with – so I’m off and running.
Yes, it is another coffee post. Hush.
Only, this time it isn’t really about coffee – it’s about companionship. It’s about waking up on a Saturday morning and fixing TWO cups of perfect coffee, instead of one. And then lounging luxuriously on the couch with a beloved Viking and catching up with each other at the end of a week so hectic we had no time or energy to talk about it while it was going down.
In addition to being the person who brings me a deer antler or who buys me a necklace, besides being the man who shares my bed, the Viking is my best friend. We talk about stuff. He is my first reader for every novel that I write. He gives me good advice and doesn’t fear to tell me when I’ve missed the boat. Sometimes we disagree. Sometimes we disagree with a great deal of energy and vehemence – he is a Viking after all. Vikings are like that. (We will say nothing of me and my own Norse background and tendencies).
This is not a day for a storm, however. Just a peaceful Saturday morning, with the two of us and two cups of coffee.
Maybe there is a lot to be done today, but everything else can wait.