On Snail Time

An old housemate of mine told me this joke once.  He found it hysterical.  He laughed and laughed.  This was years ago, and the exact details are a bit fuzzy.  Now, it’s true, the funniest thing about the joke was my housemate telling it.  But, I still appreciated the joke.

It went something like this:  dude’s hanging out watching TV when there’s a knock on the door.  He goes and opens it, and there’s no one there.  He grumbles and returns to the TV, only to hear another knock.  This time, he whips the door open and looks all around.  There’s no one there, but, he spots a snail on the door step.  He’s angry now, so he picks the snail up and throws it.  A week later, dude’s watching TV again and there’s a knock on the door.  He goes and opens the door–there’s no one there.  But this little voice says, “what was that for?”  Dude looks down to find a snail on the door step again.

I know, I know, eyes are rolling.  Snails can’t knock on doors.  Or talk.  But, hey, river guides always need family-friendly jokes to tell.  I mean, it ain’t all whitewater and action out there.  There’s miles of flatwater, an ever-present upstream wind, and people trapped on a boat expecting a show.  So yeah, lame jokes can serve a purpose.

Anyway, back to the point.  In all seriousness.  Seriously.  It took the snail an entire week to get back to the door!  That’s probably like, three decades in snail-time.  His shell was probably cracked too.  And that is exactly how I am feeling about writing my novel right now.

I ooze along at a snail’s pace, make it to the door and knock, only to be thrown for a loop.  As in, I find I need to write about something I don’t know, and so I have to spend another snail’s week researching so I can write about it.  Or, I fix a plot problem, only to find that the fix breaks another part of the plot, and there goes another snail’s week.  This has been a disheartening cycle.

But, I’m not writing this to whine about or make excuses for my lack of a publication-ready draft.  As I’ve made this snail-paced journey I’ve come to realize that my story is worth taking the time needed to get it right.  I’ve heard writers say that nobody writes a good first novel, and if you really love your story, you should save it.  Tell it after you’ve got a few published novels under your belt.  Get the bad writing out of the way, then write the story you love so you can do it justice.

That’s ridiculous.

I say, write the story you love every time.  And give it the time it takes to get it right, to make it good.  Learn the stuff you don’t know, even if it takes months of research.  The story is worth it.

I have to remind myself not to rush, and not to get discouraged.  I have to trust The Compass Code will be a better story for all my snail’s weeks lost to research and plot problems.  Because I really do love the story.

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Featured image courtesy of Pixabay

Happy Hal-idays!

It looks like I’ll have a white Christmas tomorrow as snow fell hard today, covering the dirt piles, rebar, and concrete blankets in our construction-zone yard.  It hasn’t felt like Christmas here yet as we haven’t had a tree up until today and very few decorations out.  This December has been even busier than usual, but the snow brought with it a peace and calm, and finally, finally, I feel ready for tomorrow.  But, once again, I didn’t plan ahead to prepare any sort of holiday post full of cheer and goodwill.  Of course, I don’t usually write much cheer and goodwill, that doesn’t quite fit the genre.

War, torture, assassinations, arms trafficking, organized crime, child abuse:  these are the dark, difficult subjects I usually write about.  I write about them because it gives voice to the anger they fuel in me.  But spending so much time steeped in research and writing about such things requires that I also nurture a healthy sense of humor for the sake of my sanity.

My favorite writing buddies, my sisters, help me out with that a lot.  Awhile back, we got started laughing over a name.  I asked them to help me name a character in my novel who is an actor playing a detective in a hot new prime time cop show, and one of the first suggestions was Hal.  Which really made me laugh.  It also resulted in a series of back-and-forth messages between me and my sisters, heckling each other and cracking puns using the name Hal.  In the end, the challenge was made to name a character Hal in each of our works in progress.  (Yes, there is now a Hal in The Compass Code, but I doubt every reader will find him.)

This challenge resulted in me writing a silly scene that has no place in my novel, but does involve some of my characters.  I call it The Hal Scene.  I don’t generally find it useful to utilize writing exercises or prompts to write scenes that will never be part of my novel or it’s immense back story.  I’ve always found that to be a frustrating endeavor.  It feels like wasted time to me.  I want to write what I’m going to use.  But, once in a while, I’ll get an inspiration, and I just have to “waste” the time it takes to put the words down on the page.  The Hal scene is one such moment.

Since it’s Christmas, and because I’m well into a third draft of The Compass Code (with chapters!), and because I’ve never shared any of my fictional work outside of a small group of people and I have to get over the fear, I’ve decided to share The Hal Scene with my readers.  Just for fun.

I have to warn though, this scene does not reflect the tone of The Compass Code at all.  I didn’t write this scene with any intention of ever plugging it into the novel.  I wrote it to make myself and my sisters laugh.  So, dear readers of this post, please don’t expect so much humor from my novel, because the novel really is about war, assassinations, torture, etc.

It’s said that laughter is the best medicine, and I believe it.  So, I hope this silly scene brings some smiles and laughs to my readers this holiday season.  May the Christmas holiday and the New Year bring you much laughter, joy and peace.

So, without further ado…

(Except, please note, this post contains adult language.)

The Hal Scene

              Seth Miller burst into the barracks whooping and yelling, startling everyone awake.  It was so early it was still dark outside and several of the men threw pillows at him as he danced a jig between the bunks.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, man?  You wasted?”  Turner growled.

“It’s a boy!” Seth yelled.  “I knew it.  It’s a boy!”

With that, none of them could resist his unbridled joy and he ran around the room giving high fives and fist bumps while they all congratulated him.  Bulldog jumped from his bunk and grabbed Seth into a bear hug.

“That’s great, man,” he said as he released Seth.  “You guys are so blessed.”

Jack offered his fist, and Seth cracked his own against it.  Turner rolled out of his bunk grudgingly, and put an arm around Seth’s shoulders while clapping him on the back.

“Way to go, Daddy-o.”

Since they would have to be up shortly anyway, they got dressed and ready for their morning run.  When the men found Lt Davies and Sgt Rodriguez, Seth shared his news again.  His excitement energized the team as they took off running.

“You guys name him yet?” Bulldog asked.

“We haven’t talked about names yet.”

“What?  Man, you gotta think about this now.  This is a huge responsibility, dude.  This kid’s gotta live his entire life with whatever you pick!”

“Shit, man, this is too much responsibility for Lite-beer here,” Turner said.  “We better come up with something to help him out.”

“Name him Tyler,” Lt Davies called out.  “It’s a good, strong name.”

“No way.  If you’re gonna name him after the L-tee, name him Davy,” Rodriguez suggested.  “Now that’s a good strong name, like Davy Crockett.”

“Nah, name him Phil,” Turner said.

“Dude, are you kidding me?”  Rodriguez shot back.  “Juan.  Now that’s a name.”

“Call him Jaime,” Jack said.  “Jaime will love it.”

The suggestions kept coming as they finished their run in the growing morning light.  When they hit the range, they didn’t stop, each trying to out-do the others as they took turns pulling the trigger.

“How ’bout Clint?” Turner asked as he squeezed his trigger.

“Edward.”

“Robert.”

“Lance.”

Down the line it went until it was Bulldog’s turn to take aim.  Everyone waited with anticipation as he had yet to suggest a single name.  He savored the moment, taking a couple deep breaths before easing the trigger back.  The bullet pinged against the target and Bulldog turned to the group with a triumphant smile.

“Hal,” he said.

“What?” they all cried.

“What the Hal kind of name is that, man?”

“Oh, Hal no!”

“What?  It’s a great name,” Bulldog protested in a serious tone.  “It’s short for Harold, man.  Means power, a leader, a ruler.  Dude, come on!”

They were all silent for a moment, staring at Bulldog with surprise at his earnest expression, before bursting with peals of laughter.

“You need Hal-p, man.”

“It was my Grandpa’s name.  He was one tough dude.”

“No doubt.  With a name like that, he’d have to be.”

“Yeah, y’all are real funny,” Bulldog grumbled.

“Hal-arious,” Jack said, a sly grin on his face, before pulling the trigger.

*******

Happy Hal-idays!