October 6, 2011

Calling All Future Best-Selling Authors!

Posted in Writing Spashes tagged , , , , , , at 11:57 pm by Tamara

If you didn’t guess from my last post, I’m writing a book during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) again this year!  I wrote here about the experience last year.  I don’t know how, but I seem to have forgotten how hard it was, because I am SO excited to do it again!  (In spite of the fact that we will be driving to Colorado the first two days of November and then trying to do things like, oh you know, find a place to live, take care of a baby, and still pass my classes.)

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to stop saying “Someday I’m going to write a book” and just do it.  Last year (on October 30th) a friend asked me to do it with her and I decided on a whim to go for it.  It felt a bit like running a marathon after two days of training, but after much blood, sweat, tears, mental blocks, twitching of my eyes, and aching of my wrists, I finished!  (See my winner button??  *ridiculously excited grin*)  Because I had to write so much so quickly (50,000 words in one month), it forced me to focus on quantity, not quality, which is perfect for perfectionists like me.  As they say, a horrible first draft can be edited (and believe me…it was horrible), but you can’t do anything with a blank page.  Having a set goal and some competition was exactly what I needed to stop saying “someday,” stop overanalyzing, and just make writing a priority.  And it was amazingly gratifying to finish the month and be able to say I’d written a book!

Now, to get to the point of this post, I’m doing it again, and I’m looking for writing buddies to do it with me!  If you have even a hint of an inner author begging to come out (and I am thinking of quite a few of you who I know do), why not give it a go?  It is so much easier to keep going when you have the accountability of friends, so I hope some of you will do it with me!  And imagine the amazing satisfaction of finishing the month and being able to say you wrote a book!!  Once you sign up on the NaNoWriMo website, there are lots of fun things to keep you motivated and accountable, like charts where you can track your daily word-count progress, hilarious and encouraging pep-talks from published authors, forums on writing techniques, etc.  The new site for this year will be up on October 10th.

There’s a famous Ira Glass quote (see video below) about how when you start doing creative work there’s a gap between your ability and your taste, and the only way to bridge this gap so your work becomes the wonderful thing you want it to be is to do lots and LOTS of work.  NaNoWriMo is the perfect way to start doing that!

So…who’s ready to join me for a month of literary abandon?

 

July 9, 2010

Near Death and Romance in a Gym: a Comedy

Posted in Writing Spashes tagged at 10:55 pm by Tamara

Sometimes inspiration dries up, or (more common of late) time constraints keep me from writing the doctrinal treatise I have bumping around in my brain, and I’m forced to dig through old material to find something to post.  This is a finals week for me, so, while I have three posts I want to write, I don’t have time and am instead presenting you with…THIS!  Ta da!

What is “This”, you say?  Uh, well, I don’t really know.  So let’s just say this: it’s fiction, written several years ago, and loosely based on a real-life experience of mine.  Mostly it’s what my overly active imagination does while I’m working out.  But, at any rate, it made me snicker, so here it is.  I hope it makes you laugh, too.  :)

.

******

I always kind of assumed that the first time I’d meet my “him” would be in the middle of me doing something humiliating.  With my tendency towards klutzy, overly dramatic performances, I figured there was no way the beginning of my love story would be some elegant “Paris café in the rain” event.  Still, I’d hoped that, if I was going to meet him by doing something like, say, dumping scalding coffee all over him, at least I’d have a semi-respectable setting to do it in.  Heck, forget Paris café, I’d settle for anything that wasn’t McDonald’s.  But, as it turned out, our romance didn’t even begin with anything as romantic as McDonald’s coffee.  Oh no, we definitely met in a gym.

The first time I saw him, he was absolutely drenched in sweat, running on a treadmill at what appeared to be approximately 52 miles per hour.  He was one of those buff guys who went to the gym because he wanted to stay like that; I was one of those cubby girls who went to the gym because I didn’t want to stay like that.  I always kind of snubbed my nose at those 52 mph people—it was about the only way I could convince myself to muscle up the dignity to huff and puff alongside of them at 0.52 mph.  Have you noticed how the athletic people always seem to glance sideways at your treadmill and check what speed you’re running at?  Humph!  I can hear them inside their heads in their Schwarzenegger voices:

“Ha, I am ze terminator running at 52 mph, and zhu are un ugly bug whom I vill squash beneath my treadmill tread, after I ‘ave run 6 hours on it.”

Okay, so maybe they don’t think that, but, if nothing else, the fact that I think they do makes me run faster, so I guess it’s good for me and I should stop complaining.

Anyway, on this fateful day, the only treadmill that was open was, of course, next to Handsome-Buff-Man.  Taking a deep breath, I walked up confidently, made a huge point not to look at him or show any sign of intimidation, and began to stretch.  There’s nothing like the prospect of running next to a 52mph-er to make you suddenly feel the need to slowly stretch every muscle you didn’t know you had—I figure maybe if I stretch for 40 minutes they’ll finish and leave me to run my half mile in peace.  I must confess I tried my best while I was stretching to see what speed he really was running on, but since I’m not a skinny athletic person I’m allowed to do that.

At last it seemed obvious that he wasn’t leaving anytime soon, so I climbed up onto the treadmill, ruefully punched in my time, level, weight (REALLY hoping he wasn’t watching that one), and started going.  I’d been rotating through the different preprogrammed settings each time I came, and today my new adventure was “random.”  In retrospect, I don’t know what in heaven blocked my mental capacities enough that I failed to figure out that the setting could only spell doom.  Perhaps (probably) it was my sweaty buddy over there that kept me from reasoning clearly.

As I started walking I noticed the emergency shut-off cable.  You’re supposed to pin it to your clothes, and if you fall down or something it will jerk and the treadmill will stop.  I considered it for a moment, but then I wondered if Sweaty Buddy was wearing his.  I’d already used the sideways glance trick a few times, so I figured it was time to employ the “I’m-stretching-my-neck-and-can’t-help-looking-at-you” ploy.  Nope.  He wasn’t wearing his.  Well, I figured, squaring my shoulders proudly, if HE doesn’t need his, I certainly don’t need mine!  I’m just as good at this as he is!

Woeful decision.  Sigh.  You’d think the Bible School student in me would have screamed something along the lines of:  “Pride goes before a fall, and there is a lot of fall potential when you’re running on a treadmill!” but, no.  Or, if it did, I didn’t listen.

The treadmill set the pace as I warmed up, and so far so good, but it was pretty slow.  Fully aware of Mr. 52mph, I felt a sudden burst of inspiration.  Why couldn’t I be Schwarzenegger today?  The thought was exhilarating, and I hit the up arrows and bumped up several levels.  It sped up, and I was flying along, feeling great, when suddenly a terrible thing happened.

I think I was at level 4.5 (which for me and my stubby legs is running flat out) when suddenly, to my horror, the treadmill display jumped from 4.5 to a death-defying 6.5.  Usually treadmills will speed up gradually so that you can tell it to slow down if you need to.  Yeah, right.  Not in my reality!  The tread under my feet took a wild leap, and I suddenly felt myself launched forward like a sack of potatoes from a catapult.  Whack! My forehead bashed into the display as my arms flew up into the air, sending my iPod in the general direction of buff man.  In slow motion I felt my feet stumbling and wildly tried to catch myself as my arms thwacked against the railing on my way down. The next thing I knew was crashing onto the belt and then flying backwards as the treadmill raced happily on.  Smack, crash, whack!–head, arms, legs, hair, torso, all flailing, banging, flying.  The last thing I remember seeing before I passed out was my iPod soaring in slow motion straight for the horror-struck face of buff man as he watched me make my glorious, graceful exit from my treadmill.

The next thing I comprehended was that a smooth, concerned voice was echoing far, far away.  “Ma’am?  Ma’am, can you hear me?”  Next I vaguely felt a hand on my forehead, which did nothing to rouse me, until suddenly there was an ear pressed to my chest.  That was enough to drive me back to consciousness, and I bolted upright, whacked my forehead on something, and came crashing back down.  Opening my eyes at last, what did I behold but Mr. 52mph, kneeling beside me with palm on his head where I’d just head butted him.

To (Probably Not) Be Continued….

(c) Tamara Hamill 2010

Note: this is purely a work of fiction, and any resemblance to any of you (52 MPH-ers or not) is purely unintentional.  Mostly.  :P

June 11, 2010

Transparency

Posted in Poetry, Writing Spashes tagged , at 11:57 pm by Tamara

I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write tonight, so I was searching through my quotes file when I found this. It’s a bad, bad, BAD example of “poetry” (please accept my humble and heartfelt apologies to the entire genre for using that term to describe it) but it still resonates with me.

Transparency
At last I stop, I crumble, and let all the pieces fall.
Transparent at last, a broken, watermarked soul.

There has to be more you want from me;
Some strength You’ve given me to play a part in this eternal vision
That dances with searing steps through my consciousness.

Why don’t You pick me up and dust me off and turn me into a
Blazing mirror of Your glory that flashes into the darkness?

But I’m no shining mirror; instead I’m a lump of broken clay,
And I can feel the cracks painfully traveling through me
How can I hold any of Your majesty in this state?
I am desperately trying to hold the pieces together,
Trying to protect this shiny pretext from realty.

Then a searing ray of dazzling light shoots from nowhere.
I see it dancing through the cracks and piercing deep into the darkness.
It staggers me in wonder as its brilliant, glorious beams escape,
And I realize this light has burst from behind this crumbled, cracked façade,
No longer bound by all of me that was in the way until I was torn asunder.

Like Gideon’s jars smashed to pieces, I’m broken,
But the light is revealed, and it envelops me and dances majestically
As I suddenly realize that transparency
Is only a measure of how much light I allow to travel through me.
My desperate attempts to hold the pieces of my pretence of perfection together
Have only kept the real glory from shooting into the darkness.

This shattered, broken, dusty lump of clay
Is a perfect example of all You can do with nothing.
I realize why I’m clay—so that the surpassing glory will obviously be Yours.
It must be You, it must.

Oh, Father,  I need You.  No one else has the words of life.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body…  Therefore we do not lose heart.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16

Copyright T.H., January 16, 2007

June 27, 2009

Havilah

Posted in Writing Spashes tagged at 9:33 am by Tamara

Havilah stared at him blankly. “A what?”

“An arms dealer,” Dorian repeated matter of factly as he searched for something in his briefcase.

Havilah suddenly let out a dry giggle and looked up and away. “An arms dealer. Right. Okay, you got me.” She shook her head and rubbed a hand over her eyes. “Alright, I give, I lose. Well done. Where’s the camera?” She looked around them seriously, waiting for a team of cameramen and sound people to jump out and mock her joyously for falling for it. She kicked herself for listening to him this long. Why hadn’t she realized this was a big joke? She heard a slap of paper landing on the table in front of her and looked down to see a pile of photographs. Her laugh died in her throat as Dorian started talking.

“That’s Garrett’s stock-in-trade. He supplies black market weapons to the highest bidders. Everything from the small stuff—semi-automatic hand guns, grenades, tear gas, to the big stuff—mortar launchers, nuclear components, chemical warfare experiments….” Dorian continued listing off the weapons in the same emotionless monotone as Havilah pawed through the photos with her stomach churning violently. Some were dark pictures of Garrett and men she’d never seen unloading trucks and doing other things that looked normal enough to her. Others, and these were the ones that were making her skin crawl, were gruesome, horrifying scenes of war, bombed out houses, dismembered bodies, mass graves….

She pushed them away from her, sunk against the back of her seat and looked up at Dorian where he sat with his hands folded on the table, staring calmly at her. She met his eyes and held them for a long moment as her heart pounded slowly in her ears.

“How do I know this is real?”

He shrugged. “Look me up, check me out, do whatever you like. Play prime time T.V. sleuth if it makes you feel better. I’m sure you watch those shows.”

Havilah irritatedly narrowed her eyes, but somehow she couldn’t tell if he was jabbing at her or being serious. She stared back at him hard, then cocked her head to the side and propped her elbows on the table skeptically.

“Alright. So what do you want with me?”

Dorian shifted in his seat with the closest expression to interest she’d seen on his face all night and leaned towards her. He picked up his coffee and took a slow drink, staring at her over the rim. Placing it down, he cleared his throat.

“We’ve noticed lately that Garrett has taken quite the interest in you. Now, a man of his financial status doesn’t typically spend loads of time in low-end coffee houses, so to be honest we wondered at first if you were one of his contacts.” Havilah’s eyebrows shot up but Dorian took no notice. “We looked into you enough to figure out that that’s not very likely, but we did notice that you’ve got a background in debate and linguistic analysis, correct?”

“So?”

“Well, debate requires quick thinking and persuasive argument—both important facets of undercover work, and linguistic analysis requires you to be observant and analytical, right?” He didn’t wait for an answer but continued, “While all this still hardly makes you ideal spy material, we couldn’t deny that you have a much more valuable asset: for whatever reason, he’s fascinated with you. Now, I understand you’ve rejected his advances so far. Any particular reason why?”

He leveled her with a look and Havilah cried indignantly, “Because he’s a sleaze!”

Dorian bobbed his head slightly from side to side to concede she was probably right but didn’t address the issue. “Well, what I’m asking is that you change your mind.” He paused to let his words sink in and Havilah just looked back at him unflinchingly.

“How?” she deadpanned, and he took a long, slow breath.

“Well you see, we have about enough evidence to convict Garrett, but we want more than just him. Garrett’s the hub of a massive black market, and we want to take out a few spokes with him. We’ve put several agents undercover with him over the years, but they can’t get anywhere. The man’s like Fort Knox; he won’t let anyone close enough to him for us to get anything good.” He took another drink while waiting for his words to sink in, then continued. “Well, if you’re failing miserably with your best and most complicated plans, sometimes you need to try out your worst and simplest. That’s where you come in.”

Havilah swallowed and began fiddling with one of her empty sugar packets as Dorian went on. “As I said, for whatever reason, Garrett is fascinated with you. Our agents haven’t been able to get him to work with them, but you’re different. He’s chosen you.” He looked at her over the top of his glasses to make sure she was paying attention.

“Now, we’re not asking you to really do anything. The last thing we want is for you to play detective. All we want you to do is observe and tell us what you see. We want fresh eyes, and eyes that have no idea what to look for. Sometimes when you know what you’re looking for you look too hard and you overlook the things that are actually important, see? To be honest, I’m not really expecting you to get much of anything. But, it might just take one clue or one name, and that’s what we want to use you for.”

Havilah agitatedly begin ripping her empty sugar packet into pieces. “And just how am I supposed to do this?”

Dorian shrugged as if the answer was obvious. “Just like you would with any boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?” Havilah cut in, and Dorian raised a brow at her.

“It couldn’t be too painful. Garrett can afford to treat his women well. Theater tickets, jewelry, weekends at resorts,” he trailed off as Havilah rubbed the palm of her hand over her face and up into her hair, propping her forehead on her hand. She took a deep breath and sighed slowly, staring at the salt and pepper shakers as she gathered her thoughts.

“Look,” she said at last, trailing a finger in the ring of water left from her glass. “I don’t think you understand. I didn’t just say no to Garrett because he’s a sleaze, I said no to him because I have moral problems with it. I have no interest in dating someone who doesn’t believe the same things I do, and I told him so—in no uncertain terms, too.”

Dorian pursed his lips in disapproval, and Havilah stopped. She knew he didn’t get it, and she felt like an idiot trying to explain.

“If I did date him, I’d be trying to build a relationship that I knew had no foundation, and I’d have to be fake to do it. He’d see right through me.”

Dorian cut in emphatically. “No, the absolute most important thing is that you be exactly who you are. No lies, no weaving complicated stories, or you’ll back yourself into a corner. You need to be and believe exactly as usual.”

“So how could I date him?” Havilah cried. “He goes against absolutely everything I think is right!”

“Exactly,” Dorian thumped his finger down on top of the photographs and Havilah jumped. He speared her with a look and thumped his hand again. “Religious arrogance is all well and good, but you’ve got to make a decision. Look at this,” he jabbed a finger at the pictures. “Doesn’t this go against what you think is right?” Havilah swallowed and said nothing. “You can either hold to your high moral standards and steer clear of associating with a lower being, or you can actually do something about what’s wrong. Is a few dates really worth more to you than the chance to help keep weapons out of the hands of murderers, terrorists, and warlords?”

Havilah looked at him and had the sudden feeling of being a mouse backed into a corner by a tomcat. She tried to think of a protest, but nothing came. She chewed on her lip. Would it be possible? Her eyes traveled down to the pictures and she stared at them for a long, silent moment.

“Would you train me at all?”

Dorian shook his head. “No. No spy camp, no fancy gadgets. The best way to blow your cover is to try to be the superspy you’re not. All you get to do is be romanced by a rich man and keep your eyes and ears open.”

He watched her for a long moment as she continued chewing her lip and staring at the pile of pictures. At last he took a deep breath and reached to sweep everything into his briefcase.

“Well,” he said, pausing to down the last half of his coffee in two gulps, “I’ll let you think it over. You’ve got my card. Do your detective work on me.” He stood. “I want an answer by Friday.”

(Copyright 2007, T. H.)