The Desert Moon

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Well, hello again.

This week’s bit of drivel is taken from a novella that I’m working on.  I was surprised that this section of the piece  stands on its own (at least in my opinion) and that it was under a thousand words.  I think I’m on the home stretch as far as finishing the first draft.  With any luck and an intricate web of blackmail and bribes, I may get the whole thing published one day.

This week’s #FridayFlash, “The Desert Moon”

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Powered By: J.M. STROTHER!

Powered by J.M. Stother!

THE DESERT MOON

Sergeant Burton made some hand signals in the darkness that were unintelligible to the untrained eye.  His soldiers saw and nodded.  He gave the signal to go and two soldiers went past him around the corner.  He came next, followed by the rest of his squad.  They shuffled silently down the street, keeping close to the building on their right.  They reached a wooden door and the two in front of Burton posted up on either side of it.  A soldier behind Burton squared himself up with the door and kicked it in where the knob met the jamb.  Burton shuffled into the darkness.

Burton went through and felt his feet give way to sand.  His rifle came in contact with some kind of sheet and he pushed through it.  On the other side, he met a massive expanse of desert.  It didn’t immediately register in his mind that there was no massive expanse of desert in a Baghdad slum, but he pushed forward anyway.  He looked frantically to his left and right for his target.  Seeing nothing but desert, he turned back to where he came from and saw nothing but sand and the night sky.  He was alone in the middle of a desert with nothing but dunes for company.

“What the—”

Burton pointed his weapon around him, kicking up small clouds of fine powdery sand as he went.  He slowly lowered his weapon but continued twirling.

“What the fuck, over?”

He pulled the chinstrap of his Kevlar off and let the helmet hit the desert floor.  He spun a few more times, slowing eventually before looking up at the moon, which gave everything a light blue glow.  Meaningless time passed in which all that seemed to matter was the moon.  He stood transfixed, basking in its light, distantly aware of the M-16 that he still held by its pistol grip.

“Hell of a moon,” a voice said from behind him.

Williams turned, bringing his weapon up to the place where muscle memory told him it should be.  He fired four shots at the voice in rapid succession.  Four small spouts of sand kicked up behind the man sitting on the dune.  The man seemed unmoved by the shots as he sat placidly gazing up at the moon.  He was wearing flip-flops, khaki cargo shorts and a white button-up shirt that was three buttons short of being buttoned.  He sat with his forearms holding his knees and what little hair he had was spiked.  He looked like a college kid on his way to a beach party.

“Identify yourself,” Burton said and slowly approached.

The man on the dune broke his gaze and looked at Burton, laughing a little.  “You know, I always imagined you saying something like that to me, Sergeant, but I never thought I’d hear it.”

“Identify yourself!”

“No need, sarge.  You know who I am.”

After a moment, Burton lowered his weapon slowly and stared.  “Brown?”

“Well, that’s half right, but I’ll give you points for trying.”

“It’s…Sam, isn’t it?  Sam Brown?”

“DING DING DING!” Sam said, ringing an imaginary bell.  “You have answered this question correctly, Staff Sergeant Burton.  Now, do you want to keep the money or risk it all for our grand prize?”  Sam began laughing a careless laugh that only the young and obscenely rich can pull off.

“What do you…what are you doing here?  What do you want?” Burton said getting closer and having serious problems comprehending things.

“Wait!” Sam said, holding up his hand.  “Wait right there.  Don’t move.”  Sam reached behind him and brought forth a professional looking camera.  Sam held it up to his face for a moment and Burton heard the shutter of a lens.  “Ahh, that’ll be a good one.  Got you and the moon in the same shot.  Thanks for that, big saw!”

Sam put the camera down on the sand and stood up.  He walked to Burton and said, “What I want, Sergeant Burton, is very simple.”  Sam put both hands on Burton’s shoulders.

“I just want you to make it count.”

Sam pushed Burton backwards, catching him off guard.  He fell and did not hit the sand.  The blue aura of the moon was extinguished and he tumbled into pitch blackness.

“Sam!  Your name’s Sam!” Burton said, sitting up on his cot.

His tent was lightless, save a few LED’s indicating that an electronic gizmo of some kind was charging in the night.

“Sergeant,” said the voice of Specialist Garcia.  “It’s alright.  We’ve all been having dreams about Sam.”

“You have?” Burton said in the general direction of Garcia’s voice.

“Yeah.  I was in the humvee with him when it happened,” the voice of Garcia said again.  “It’s best not to think about, I guess.”

This advice helped Burton sleep no better.

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What The Hell Am I Doing Here?

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I usually always question what you, the reader are doing here.  I mean, I don’t want to say that you have poor taste or anything, it’s just, well…take a look at the title of this blog.  I’d figure that there’s enough pointlessness in popular culture today that everybody would get their fill.  But, according to my “Big-Brother-O-Meter” that shows me not only when my blog is visited but also the link that you came from (be it from one of my forum signatures or from my Facebook postings), I have at least one visitor every day.  Who are you, mystery reader?

Anyway, this bored soul (and on occasion, more than one) has made me self-conscious about my lack of postings.  It’s like I’m letting someone down, which I find weird because I usually think I suck.  Further more, it would be a different story if I had something–you know, like a book that I wrote–to talk about.  All I have is my one short story that’s been published, but not much else.  Oh sure, I have a book in the works, but nothing solid as of yet.  This brings me to my question: What the hell am I supposed to be doing here?

First of all, I suppose it’s fair to ask why I started a blog in the first place.  Well, in my heart of hearts (pfft, as if I have a heart), I’d like to be a professional writer.  That is to say, I’d like to be able to support myself solely on writing.  Why?  Because real work sucks and I’d rather daydream all day, write it down and get paid for it.  Why blog?  Maria Schneider told me to. I am not one to argue with Maria (mainly because I don’t know her that well and I doubt she’d listen to a schlub like me) so I am here a-bloggin’ but not sure what to write about.

I asked my good friend Google.com, “what should I write about in my blog”.  I had some exact hits but a result entitled “25 things you should NEVER write about in your blog” was more enticing.  Despite high hopes, it was a disappointing collection of obvious self-incriminations or semi-ironic revelations that were unhelpful and only slightly more entertaining than boredom.  I went somewhere else.

I found this one that seems fairly helpful, but not exactly what I was looking for.  This blogger gives 6 styles to a blog and here’s why these 6 aren’t right for me.

  1. AS A JOURNAL. I don’t think I’m interesting enough for people to really care what I do on a daily basis and I’m not narcissistic enough to believe it either.
  2. AS A CRITIC. Yeah, because we don’t have enough of those on the internet.
  3. A COMBINATION OF FORMS 1 & 2. See reasons 1 &2.
  4. AS A MINI-PUBLISHER FOR WRITERS. This I suppose is pretty close, but not quite.  It’s hard to become a professional writer if you give everything away.
  5. TO BUILD AN ONLINE COMMUNITY. This is the niche of pro bloggers.  I’ll pass.
  6. AS A CORPORATE MEDIUM OR FORM OF ADVERTISING. SPACEBALLS, THE T-SHIRT!  SPACEBALLS, THE COLORING BOOK!  SPACEBALLS, THE FLAME THROWER!  (the kids love that one)

“So, where to now?” I thought and wrote in my blog simultaneously.  I went back to my search results.  It appears that quite a few people had the same question that I did.  Some had helpful responses, but others…

Awfully strong words coming from an umlauted semi-circle if you ask me.  I will grant that Mr. Sëmï-Cïrclë has a point, but I’m trying to get someone to buy the cow without getting too much of the milk for free…which brings me back to the annoying fact that I don’t exactly have a cow as of yet.  By that I mean book.  And by that I don’t mean a book on cows.

I’ve read post after post on website after website and it seems to be doing my head in.  But is this my fault that I don’t know what to write about?  Is it possible that if I wrote something–ANYTHING–here on a daily or semi-daily basis that a focus would develop naturally?  Could it be that if I really wanted to become a professional writer that I should buckle down, get to it and start writing everyday like I’ve been told to by so many successful writers?  Maybe, just maybe is the problem in my inaction and lack of discipline?

…Or is it Maria Schneider’s fault for making me start a blog in the first place?  What am I saying, of course it’s her fault!

I sought out to find this purveyor of bloggery but she am-scrayed.  She had wisely avoided direct contact with me at all cost but had the hindsight to leave behind a few articles on blogging, knowing that I would not stop until I had my answers.  Her answers were…well, extremely helpful.

After reading over her posts, I think I have found a direction to take this pointless mess.  This will be a journal log of my writing endeavors in an effort to build a community create a following of people who like my writing by advertising promoting my published works when they come; as well as a mini-publisher digital release of some of my daily prattlings.  There,  I think that’s enough self-contradiction for one paragraph.

Later on in the week, will post some things I’m working on (premise for a book I’m working on, premise of a short story that’s in the works).  What’s that?  Don’t think I’ll have something here tomorrow?  You just come back and see, pal!  I’ll show you, boy-howdy!

Quotes are always a nice way to wrap things up, so here’s one from one of my favorite authors.

“It takes an awful long time to not write a book.”  —  Douglas Adams

I think it’s been long enough…

And another story down

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Oh my God.  I finally finished it!  Thank you sweet baby Jesus!  It’s submitted and with any luck, I’ll be $500 richer in a month or so.

What do you mean you don’t know what I’m talking about, I just-  Oh wait.  I didn’t tell you, did I?  Alright, here’s the dilly:

A High School buddy-o-mine, Bryan Jackson, made a Facebook announcement stating that the site that he’s editor for is looking for writing submissions.  Giving it my typical, “Meh, what the hell?”, I decided to write 1.6k words (entitled “Speed Freak”) and give it a shot.  Lo and behold, they selected my story out of (insert some ridiculously large number here)’s as an addition to their site and biannual hard copy.  I have been, or at least I will be, published.

You know, it’s funny because when I hear a writer saying that one of their stories is getting published, I think of some dusty warehouse with endless rows of large churning machines, pumping out copy after copy of a story.  In this day and age, it amounts basically to a click and a drag or two.  Not nearly as grand of an operation but no less exciting for me.  I’d like nothing more than to post my story here, but apparently even that constitutes “publishing”.  Since I agreed to allow Brian’s site to publish it first (aka, “First Digital Rights”), I can’t do it at the moment.  But as soon as they post my yarn, I’ll be sure to link it here on my shiny, shiny new blog.

So, with a renewed confidence in my writing ability and a flawless submission record (1 for 1), I decided to poke around the interwebz a bit more to see what was out there.  My poking lead me to a writing contest on a writers forum.  The contest is of the flash fiction variety: best 1,000 words gets $500 and a few other perks.  How could I resist?

With Speed Freak I had to make sure it was a fairly solid, interesting story; interesting enough to catch the attention of an editor who’s desk is buried with mountains of submissions (by “desk” I mean “inbox” and by “burried” I mean “many, many unread e-mails”).  My goal with freak was to simply make it intense.  For this contest, I knew I had to step up my game in a big way.  I mean, the people that submitted were not only writers and not only published writers; these people were selling books!  Their own books!  I’d look at the forums and someone would say “Yay! Three submissions accepted in a month and two of them were paying gigs!” or “Has anybody heard of this agency?  I’ve been burned by scammer agencies before.”  Then someone would reply, “There have been a few scammers I’d work with over some of the agents I’ve had in the past.” (this, I assume, was followed by convivial chuckling and someone asking for another glass of Shiraz)  They’d post successful query letters to editors and what makes the best kind of opening sentence and a whole lot of other stuff I’ve never ever had an experience with.  Then here’s me saying to myself, “Ok, ok…I before E except after C when following…P?  How’s that go again?”  Suffice it to say, my introduction post was probably the most thought I had put into 3 sentences in a long time.  God forbid I should use “there” when I meant “their”.

After I got over the fear of making myself look like a fool (by purposely making myself look as such in another post), I started to see that these guys were alright.  They even helped me out with some insightful critiques of “Speed Freak”.  They actually didn’t have much to say aside from that it’s a “great story”, which was a further boost to the ol’ confidence meter.  I then started driving myself nuts about what to write for the contest…

I figured that if I was trying to impress with my last submission, I had to knock them on their ass with my new story if I wanted any chance of winning.  I thought that the biggest drawback to limiting yourself to 1,000 words is that, well, you only get 1,000 words to tell your story.  Wouldn’t it be neat, I thought, if I could make a story that had a twist at the very end that completely changed the story you just read?  In essence, writing two stories in the same space? After all, the laws of Physics don’t apply to writing, right?  For me, this approach was my only shot at winning because, hey, those other guys are really good writers; they are selling books after all.

You would think that writing 1,000 words (roughly 2 1/2 pages) wouldn’t be so tough.  Oh no, it’s hard.  Very, very hard.  And it’s not around 1,000 words; it’s no more than 1,000 words.  1,001 words?  Oh, sorry.  Thanks for playing, there’s the door.  For the past two weeks I’ve literally lost sleep over this, something I’ve never done before.  I’d wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep because I’d be thinking about what to do with the limited space that I had.  Finally, I got an wonderful idea.  And awful idea.  The Grinch got a wonderfully awful idea.  I mean, uhh…I did.

And what was my idea?  What’s my big, shiny new story?  Ho, ho, I’m not tellin’ ya!  Since the digital rights thing applies to this story as well, I can’t post it here.  I can say that it is about two robotics research and development engineers having a heated conversation about artificial emotions and by the end of the story, you find out more than just their opinions.  !  It’s entitled “9301293” and that title is more than just a number.

Anyway, I finished it yesterday and it’s such a relief and so unbelievably satisfying.  With any luck, I just might win this thing…maybe…

Thanks for reading!

(Just to give you an idea, “luck” in the last second to last sentence was my 1000th word…)