Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Spicy Brains

I missed last week, too, I know. Here's the thing: September sucks.

I mean, it's great that it's starting to cool down again, and fall is pretty much my favorite time of year, but here's the thing... I have a Day Job. And at the Day Job, we mostly do government contract work. And mostly (currently, exclusively) for the US government.

The US government has a fiscal calendar that runs from October 1 through September 30 of the following year. I have no idea why, really, but it does. What that means is that the majority of our contracts end around the end of September, which means we (at the Day Job) have to wrap up the work (which is sometimes a bit of a scramble) and package it up and deliver it (which is always a scramble). And even the customers with contracts that aren't ending generally want a lot of reports and data packages around that time so they can include it in their end-of-year reports.

So pretty much all of September -- especially the last half of it -- are always slammed for me at the Day Job. Which has the effect of eating into everything else I do in a domino effect of exhaustion.

But! Yesterday I sent out two huge packages, and once it was done, the rest of the afternoon was fairly calm. And we're in hurry-up-and-wait mode on a couple more packages, so the next day or two look to be fairly quiet for me (not so much for others) and I thought: tonight, I will Be Productive!

My slush pile had gotten huge. I had -- no kidding -- more than 20 submissions for Torquere's Christmas short story line, so I waded into that and Got It Done. (If you are reading this and your story was rejected, let me say this: There were more than twenty stories, and there are only three release dates in December. There's no way I can handle more than nine or so of them in a month, and I agonized really hard over the choices. There's a good chance that if your story went through a couple of rounds of beta-reading and revision that it would be a solid contender for next year's Christmas collection.)

And then I did some crocheting, which doesn't sound particularly productive, but the piece I'm working on now has a hard deadline (it's a gift for a child's birthday that's in a couple of weeks), and then there's another piece in the queue that I've been commissioned to do, so that's going to be moderately urgent, as well.

And then... O Best Beloved... Then... I wrote.

See, earlier in the day, E. M. Lynley had put out a call for submissions that tickled a thought in my brain. It's a twisted fairy tale call, and I had this story idea a while back for re-imagining "The Gingerbread Man," but it had never quite gelled. I mentioned this on Facebook, and several friends concurred that I needed to write this. And then a bit later, while I was crocheting and turning the thought over in my head, I figured out what my opening hook was.

So I turned off the overhead lights and put the lamp on its dimmest setting. I lit a gingerbread-scented candle. I used Freedom to turn off my internet access for an hour, and Isolator to block out everything but my word processor. And I wrote for one hour. At the end of which I had just over 800 words. Wow. Considering how little writing I've been doing for the last few weeks, I'm very impressed with myself, honestly.

And now, as your reward for having waded through all that, a snippet from last night's writing!


Jonas remembered when he was fourteen, Dad had taken him aside, fidgety and uncomfortable, and Jonas had realized he was about to get The Talk. A couple of his friends had gotten The Talk from their dads already, and Jonas figured he already knew pretty much everything he needed to know from them -- plus there had been those films in Health Class that had managed to be simultaneously vague and gross -- but it was one of those things that everyone had to endure, like homework, or letting your aunts pinch your cheeks. So Jonah sat on his hands and studiously avoided meeting his father's eyes, waiting.

Only Dad hadn't really given him The Talk, not the way Jonas' friends' dads had given it. Dad had coughed a few times, cleared his throat and then coughed again, and finally said, "Look, son... There are things a young man just needs to learn for himself, and anything I try to tell you isn't going to do any good. So I'll just say this: a man acts responsibly, and with honor. You know what I'm trying to say, son?"

"Sure, Dad."

"Good. Then we're done-- Oh, one other thing. If you bring a girl back here to the house-- Well, I expect it's better than going out to the park and getting caught, but if you do, it's probably best if your mother doesn't know anything about it. Eh?"

By this point, Jonas' face had been aching with the force of his blush. He nodded quickly. "Yeah, sure, Dad."

(It wasn't until later that he had realized that he couldn't bring anyone to the house for anything more illicit than playing video games anyway, because he shared a room with John, and there was no threat or bribe on Earth that would be big enough to put a lock on the eight-year-old's mouth if he caught Jonas kissing a girl.)

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