Tag Archives: Writing Challenge

Modeling Monday – Write like Steinbeck

Not even a full mile down the road, maybe a smidge more, the Kentucky river rolls through a low laying flood plain. When it’s the summer the fields there are wild and untamed, a happy lively wild place, a garden for the animals to come and eat. But there are other times when the river runs a deep ugly brown, painting the air with a muddy scent, and roaring its mighty voice as the damn is overtaken and the waters rage on. At first the water stays in its domain, the banks holding the brown majesty of the flood to its confines, but soon enough the water spills over and fills the little valley with a hungry need for expansion. When I was a boy, there were two old houses in the valley, never lived in, not for times longer than my short life can remember have those houses seen real habitation. But for those of us that lived near the river, we’d go to the high place the road took you and look down on that valley and measure the rising river’s fury against how far the waters had risen against the house. One time, I saw the waters go so high as the roof.

We were somewhat fortunate where I grew up, the river was far enough away to never reach us, and the hills provided a safety net enough to guarantee the water there would never come so far. Fortunate enough, which is not the same as saying I never saw a flood around the house. I saw several when the little creek that wound out behind and below my family home could take no more rain. Sometimes the bridge up the road would get clogged with debris. The water would back up and finally push over top and come down the road, which was a terrifying sight. Or, the water would simply rise and rise and soon enough poor over the rock fence out back and fill the yard. Flash floods are speedy demons, sometimes giving very little warning, and in no time, a family can be completely shut off from all the civilized world beyond, left looking to one another wondering, will this be the one to take our little home?

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Road Trip to Hell and (Hopefully) Back!

Español: Paisaje desolador, muestra de la orog...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In June I’m going on a trip. The place is a somewhat distant and hazy land of both joy, and sorrow. I’m more than excited to ride the rides, take a few pictures, buy a few drinks and see the sights. I’ve heard from others that have been there (some having made a career of travelling to and from that place) that it can be quite a lovely location. From others I’ve heard to pack military grade survival gear. Though I’m sure many of the crowd would advise against taking any assault weapons, this place can be dangerous, but mostly because we bring the danger there our self and not so much because it is a dangerous place.

So just where the hell am I going?

To the land of novel writing. Head to forehand. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there before, I’ve seen the sights, taken the pictures, bought the farm, grew a crop, and thought myself hot shit as I walked those streets. I’ve written a few novels in fact. Each novel from the days of long ago, are still at some degree of shit, and carefully hidden away in one metaphorical trunk or another (however one is floating about the net, immortal and deformed for all the world to see).

What’s worse about this trip? I plan to see as much as I can in a single month. That’s right, a novel in a month. Like Christmas in July, there’s now a novel writing challenge in June, I happened upon it by mistake. Junowrimo was a chance discovery of mine, the rules are simple enough, the challenge clear, the call to action haunting.

You see, recently I posted on here a short bit of practice called “Into Hades” it seems to be my most popular piece. I probably shouldn’t have posted it because it’s too close to the novel I intend to write. Oh well. At the time of playing around with that scene I wasn’t in the least thinking about the novel in the back of my mind, I was just having fun, painting images, watching the movie in my head. After I finished it, I leaned back and felt the full weight of what I’d done. I had breathed life into the skeletal remains of an old story begging to be

reborn.

And so, here I am now, with an old story itching to come to surface, begging to be written anew. That combined with my chance encounter with Junowrimo has pushed me to the precipice of my own personal abyss. I plan to take a dive and grow wings on the way down, if none will come, hey, I hear the abyss is pretty deep so I should have time to say a few things along the way, right?

Wrapping this semi rant all up, what’s this have to do with Haunted Axiom? Well, as I journey along the path TO the writing month ahead, I have every intention to explore some preparation issues related to novel writing. I want very badly (for myself as much as for my readers) to share some tips I’ve picked up, lessons I’ve learned, exercises I’m doing to stretch the old limbs, and whatever else comes to mind that may help us.

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Into Hades

The old man rowed the boat with a bone weary persistence, but hadn’t said a word. The traveler had ridden in the boat for what felt to be ages already, and grew tired of the ceaseless, repetitive sounds of silence. The traveler felt emboldened by his boredom, and with the fire for companionship, he persisted once more.

“Is it as bad as they say?” the young traveler asked the boatman.

The boatman rowed for answer.

The traveler looked about, his neck tucked in tight to the thick wool cloak he wore about him, the cold threatening to steal the very life from him. He peered as far as the eye could see, but the night like sky of the deep cavern was thick and unyielding. Worse, there was a heavy fog all about them, and the stench of something rotten was growing stronger. He leaned over and gazed at the water. It was no better.

“How deep does the water go?” the traveler asked.

The boatman turned his head, his neck creaking like an old door that hadn’t been opened in many years. His face came into full view of the traveler, an unlikely sight to anyone living for a long and countless many years. The traveler regretted his nervous queries looking into that pale corpse ugly face, lips pulled back exposing full teeth, eyes hollowed out showing dark endless rings about twin orbs of eyes with no hint of pupils end and eye’s beginning.

The traveler looked down into the boat. He bit his lips and willed himself to say no more. The sound of water sloshed about the tiny vessel, the vice like grip of their desperate situation choked in on him. He felt suddenly overcome with claustrophobia, wishing he could leave the boat, wishing he could go back, wishing this evil fate had found another.

And then a new sound came to his ears, an ugly sound, like dry leaves in late October, rustling about on cobblestone just before being smashed under heavy feet. It was the dry sandy sound of the boatman laughing, “Have no wish for answers do you?”

The traveler didn’t want to raise his head, but was more terrified of refusing the lord of the boat. He looked up, and without looking square on, fearful of being sucked into the eternal gaze of the boatman, he looked away just slightly. Then he asked, “How do you mean?”

“All these questions, and yet you won’t even look the one who has your answers in the eye,” the boatman said. He shifted his gaze down toward the travelers hands, “Rub them together anymore and you’ll catch yourself afire.”

The traveler looked at his hands and realized how red they’d become. He pushed them away from each other and forced them to his sides. He licked his lips a few times and felt the sticky dry reality of his fear, and then he spoke, “Is it as bad as they say?”

“Worse,” said the boatman, turning to look into whatever ugly thing lay before them. “They say beyond my border there are lands of fire that never cease, and mountains of ice that never melt. They say there are masters worse than the ancient demons and dogs of unending—unyielding—rage and appetite. And cities with no law but murder, and chaos.”

The traveler licked his lips again.

“But that isn’t what you really wish to know is it?” the boatman asked.

“No,” the traveler said.

“You want to know if it’s possible, what you do, if it’s e’er been done?”

“Aye,” the traveler said. “Has it, sir?”

“Ne’er on my watch. Fools have tried, but none have come back. Not from there. They say a man foolish enough to enter is damned from birth, cursed with the headstrong pride of ill belief and hope. Wise men know their limits, know their bounds.”

The traveler gazed into the ugly darkness beyond their one lone torch. A soft sound came upon an unsure breeze, at first it sounded like a song, but as they grew closer the sound grew into an ugly distinct thing. “What is that?”

The boatman’s laugh came back over the boat like a low cloud just before a storm. Then he said, in a hushed whisper, “That is the land of the dead ye hear boy, the howls of the damned, the forgotten, the desperate fools who paid no heed in life. That is the sound of your own future.”


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