NaNoWriMo Blues

What have I done?  I signed up to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days????  Good grief, what was I thinking?

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, and I have no characters, no plot, and no ideas.  Well, hopefully the deadline will get the creative juices flowing….

Here’s something I wrote awhile ago.  I’m thinking of expanding it for the contest and seeing where it leads me….

             A stiff wind blew as I walked along the quiet lane just off of Craig Street in Oakland.  The sun was out and the sky was a deep blue, but you wouldn’t know it from the temperature, which was in the thirties.  A typical late November day in Pittsburgh.

            Joe had given me this address and told me to check it out.  As I approached, I saw that the address in question was a small bookseller.  Most people nowadays read books off digital devices, but I still liked the feel of real paper between my fingers and I’d once had a good sized collection of paperbacks.  Of course, what with my time in the Navy and all, it had been a long time since I’d been able to indulge in collecting anything.

            Curious, I mounted the steps and entered.  A bell tinkled as I opened the door.  The smell of old books wafted over my nostrils and for a moment I closed my eyes and just breathed in that wonderful smell.

            “I’ll be with you in a moment,” a voice called, and my eyes snapped open.  The speaker was on a ladder, which was mounted on rails that ran around the room, at the back of the shop.  She had dark hair caught in a ponytail.  She wore a red scoop neck sweater and a long black skirt with boots.  Her back was to me as she climbed down but I didn’t need to see her face to know who she was.  As she reached the bottom of the ladder, she turned, and her piercing brown eyes widened.  For a moment, I thought everything would be okay, but then her mouth tightened and her eyes narrowed.  “Well.  Look what came crawling out of the muck.”

            “Hi Sarah,” I replied quietly.  She was as beautiful as I remembered, and her words stung deeply.  Four years ago, she and I had been pretty intimate.  I’d been a different person back then, loud, brash, and cocky.  And quite the player.  Sarah, for me, had been one among many.  Sadly, I hadn’t realized what I’d had until after I was crawling on a riverbank in Asia trying to stay alive with some pretty bad wounds.  Sarah, on the other hand, had been thinking marriage.  When I’d left, I hadn’t bothered to keep in touch with anyone.  And by the time I realized I should, it was too late.  As evidenced by the cold anger she was radiating toward me at the moment.

            “What are you doing here, Mike?  Come back to rub it in?  Forget it.  I got over you a long time ago.”

            I cursed Joe in my mind.  A little warning would have been nice.  I said, “I’m sorry for what—“

            She rolled her eyes and turned away.  “You’re sorry.  That’s just great, Mike.  You took off without a word, joined the Army, and never bothered to acknowledge that you’d bailed out on us.”
            “Sarah, look, I—“

            “If you’re not going to buy anything,” she said, climbing back on the ladder, “I’d appreciate it if you’d go away.  And never bother to come back.”

            I stood there silently, watching as she rearranged books on the shelf, and waited.  Finally, her shoulders slumped and she leaned her forehead against the books.  “What do you want, Mike?  Why did you come here?”

            “Joe told me about the books.  He didn’t mention you.”

            She shook her head.  “Typical Joe.”

            She descended the ladder and faced me again.  “When you left, it ripped a piece out of my heart.  It took me a long time to patch it up.  I’m not going through that again.”

            “I’m not asking you to.  I want you to know I’m sorry.  If you want, I’ll leave and never come back here.”

            “Leaving’s what you’re best at, isn’t it?”

            I sighed.  I had hurt Sarah deeply, and despite her claims to be over it, she was obviously still bitter about it.  There was nothing I could say that would change that.  Still, I couldn’t let that go.  “Once, yes, that’s what I was good at.  But a lot has happened since then.  I’m back here, and I’m not leaving Pittsburgh.  I’ll leave you alone, but I wish I could say it was nice seeing you again.”

            Something broke inside her then, and she charged me, her fists hammering on my chest as tears streamed from her eyes.  “You jerk!  You total, selfish, ignorant jerk!”  That was all I got before she became incomprehensible, and slowly settled into quiet sobbing.  I stood there stoically and didn’t move.  Finally she looked up.  “You’ve changed, Mike.  You’re quieter, less cocky.”

            War will do that to you, I wanted to say, but instead I simply nodded in acknowledgement as she pulled away.

“You broke my trust, Mike.  I don’t know if… I mean, I just can’t…”

            “Sarah, I understand.  If you don’t want to see me again—“

            She just shook her head and smiled sadly.  “No.  I didn’t say that.  It’s just that I don’t want you to think you can just pick up where you left off.”

            “I wasn’t trying to.  But I hope that if nothing else, maybe I can earn your trust again.”

            “I don’t know if that’s possible.”

            “I’ll pray that it is.”

            She raised an eyebrow.  “Since when does Mike Jamison pray?”

            How to answer?  Since I almost got killed on the same op a dying buddy bequeathed me his Bible?  Since a missionary family nursed me to health and smuggled me to safety?  I shrugged.  “Like I said, a lot’s happened.  I pray, and I take that seriously.”

            She looked at me wonderingly, then shook her head.  “I need to get back to work.  But I’m here most evenings.  Mondays and Tuesdays are pretty quiet.”  Her eyes widened at what she had just said, and she turned and fled through a door in the back of the store.

            Bemused, I turned and headed back out onto the street, turning left and walking towards Craig Street.

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Fiddlesticks, Symphonies, and Irish Pubs

This month has been a big one for the Pittsburgh Symphony with my family.  This weekend, we took my 3 year old son to the symphony.  PSO has a series of concerts called “Fiddlesticks” wherein kids 3 – 8 can go and experience it.  It starts at 10:00 on Saturday, and the kids get to enjoy activities such as coloring, dancing, and sing-alongs.

The actual concert began at 11:15.  The conductor was Lawrence Loh, and the soloist was Jessica George.  And of course, Fiddlesticks the cat showed up and Little Buddy loved it!  The pieces included America the Beautiful, If You’re Happy and You Know It, the Fiddlesticks song, and some classical pieces including Mozart and also Hadyn’s Surprise Symphony.  My son was enraptured and now tells me he wants to play the violin!  Well, we’ll see if he feels that way after the next two in the spring.

My only complaint is that I thought Little Buddy would get to meet more of the musicians and actually get to see the instruments up close.

Movement Room:

In the Movement Room

At the Performance:

My family at the Symphony

With Lawrence Loh and Fiddlesticks:

with L. Loh and Fiddlesticks

Overall, though, it was great, and I really enjoyed the family time.  Afterward, we went to Claddagh’s Irish Pub over in the Southside Works.  The food was good, the service great, and the atmosphere was pretty cool.

Yesterday my wife took me back to Heinz hall to see Beethoven’s Fifth.  The PSO, accompanied by the Mendelssohn Choir, did three pieces by Brahms, which were all very good, if somewhat depressing.  That assumes you read the words in English or spoke German.  I haven’t seen the orchestra paired with a choir before, so it was pretty neat.

Brahms Concert

As for the Fifth, WOW!  I’ve listened to it many times on CD and tape, but to hear it live….outstanding!  The PSO did great and of course got a standing ovation at the end.  What a great birthday present!

Our next trip to the symphony is next year, so now I’ll have to find other topics to write about!

Plotting a story

I have the worst time coming up with interesting plots. I see story prompts, pictures, or whatever and I can write a really good scene, but tying that into a larger plot is hard for me. Another thing is the plot twist. Mine are pretty predictable.

Partly it’s because of the fiction I read as a kid – Mack Bolan, Tom Clancy, etc. Ludlum blows me away with the intricacies of his plots, as does Eric van Lustbader.

The third issue is I keep trying to figure out what genre I want – Mystery, Thriller, or Sci-Fi or some combo of them. Well, I’ve got to start writing again. NaNoWriMoNational Novel Writing Month – is November, (HT: My Brilliant Mistakes) and while I don’t intend to enter this year, I hope to get in next year.

How do _you_ come up with interesting plots?

Weekend Travel

My nephew was confirmed this weekend and we traveled to my sister-in-law’s place in New Jersey. The food was excellent and we had a great time. Number one son did especially, as he got to play with his favorite cousin and on the swingset…

Burnt Sienna

Will someone please tell me what’s up with her?  Never mind, I don’t wanna know.  The shame is, with all the hardworking actors / actresses / film people here, we should all want to see this movie, but instead we get the sideshow….

Shostakovich and symphony redux

So here we are, live at the Pittsburgh Symphony and Heinz Hall. We just saw thePSO perform various pieces by Shostakovich, a composer trapped behind theIron Curtain during Stalin’s regime. The music is really dissonant, had cheerful overtones underlaid by melancholy, and it was impressive but sad. You really feel for the oppressed peoples who were behind the Soviet veil.

The PSO performed brilliantly, and we especially loved watching the bass drummer!

On a brighter note, we got to see a pre-concert talk by Greg Sandow, and also got a backstage tour. Fascinating! Some pics:

The view from the lower level:


Backstage with Mike Woycheck and Jonathan Mayes:

Another view from backstage:

Rehearsal room:

The library:


Secret tunnel:

Greg Sandow gives a post-concertblogging chat: