An Average Day in the Life of Matt Summers – Flash Fiction

An Average Day - Flash Fiction
Matt Summers lived in an average house on an average street where nothing ever happened.

His mother would wake him by opening his curtains, allowing the light to stream in. Only today, his mother snapped them shut shortly after opening them.

“Wha’s going on?” asked a bleary-eyed Matt.

“Oh nothing,” said his mother. “I just realized that it’s Saturday and thought you could use a little extra rest this morning. I couldn’t help but notice how much you’re still growing.”

Matt smiled. He had every intention of burrowing back under his covers, but then remembered how close he’d come to beating level twelve on his favorite video game the day before. Unable to go back to sleep, he slid off the bed and padded into the den where he found his mother pulling a decorative sword off the wall. “What’cha doing?” he asked.

“Just pulling this down to give it a cleaning,” said his mother after a slight pause. “I noticed a bit of tarnish.” She tittered, though whatever the joke was, it went over Matt’s head. “Er. Why don’t you go and get yourself a bit of breakfast?”

Matt nodded and went into the kitchen where he poured himself a bowl of cereal. His father entered the room. “Have you seen your mother?” he asked.

“She’s in the den,” Matt said, spilling a bit of milk on the counter. “Acting weird. Taking the sword off the wall so she can polish it.”

“Ah,” said his father, his face taking on a severe expression.

Matt looked at the spot of milk on the counter. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean that up.”

His father blinked. “Right. I’ll go see if I can help your mother.” He turned and exited the room, leaving Matt to finish his breakfast in peace.

After shoveling the cereal into his mouth, Matt went into the den and fired up his video game console. His dad re-appeared, briefly holding a large dusty leather-bound book. Matt guessed his mother must have found another cleaning project for his father to do. “You’re blocking the screen,” said Matt.

His father started. “Sorry,” he said “I must have been distracted. Didn’t see you there.” before exiting the room in the direction of the front door.

The game’s intro music blasted over the speakers. “Alright,” said Matt to himself. “Let’s do this thing.”

Several hours, Matt jumped around the room. He’d done it. Not only had he beaten level twelve, he’d defeated the baddie on level thirteen and fourteen too. He couldn’t wait to tell his friend, Oscar, on Monday all about it. The game’s sound designers had really pulled out all the stops on level thirteen. At times, it had seemed as if the sound of explosions were coming from outside of his house rather than on the small screen in front of him. However, the game designers must have spent their entire budget on level thirteen as fourteen had sounded dull and dead by comparison outside of a single, solitary crash.

His stomach rumbled realizing he’d played his game well past lunch. On his way to the pantry, he noticed the trashcan was full. His mouth twisted and his nose wrinkled, but he grabbed the sack. Taking the garbage out was his responsibility and his mom was obviously in one of her whole house cleaning moods. If he didn’t take the initiative to take it out to the curb on his own, he knew from experience more chores would follow.

Outside, the air smelled of smoke. One of the neighbors must be smoking a pork shoulder. There was something else, though Matt couldn’t quite place it. It was like eggs and milk gone bad. He glanced at the bag of garbage he held in one hand. The stench was probably from that, he just hadn’t noticed it inside.

Rounding the corner, he found his father leaning against the home’s brick wall. “Taking a break?” Matt asked.

“I guess you can say that,” said his dad, picking up the book from where it lay on the ground, still as dusty as it had earlier that day.

“You got something on your shirt,” said Matt pointing at a large oily-looking stain.

His father looked down. “So I do,” he said. “I should probably go and get this cleaned up before it sets.” His father then turned and went inside taking the book with him.

Matt spotted the little old woman who lived at the end of the street standing in the middle of the road. She was staring at their house. He waved. The woman scowled and scurried away. Matt shrugged and returned inside where he found his mother re-attaching the freshly cleaned blade to its place on the wall.

“Sorry, sweetie,” she said noticing him there. “That took longer than I thought it would.”

“That’s okay, mom,” he said, picking up his controller and returning to his game, which he played through dinner. Later that night, Matt lay on his average-sized bed, in his average-sized room feeling he’d accomplished a lot, and yet at the same time, it was as if he had missed something more. He turned over on his side. Giving into dreams, he let the feeling go. After all, it had been just another day on a street where nothing ever happened.

Getting Started: Writer Problems Edition

Why do so many people who talk about one day writing a book fail?

Because finding those first words to mark on an otherwise empty page is a thousand times tougher to do when you decide this time you are going to start getting serious. Instead of writing anything, you simply sit there, staring at a white screen or a blank sheet of paper until you either get too frustrated, bored or otherwise called away by the real world. It can be brutal.

It’s not quite as hard as it is to stick with a novel weeks and weeks later when you’ve reached that saggy center typically devoted to world building, supporting character development or introducing the occasional red herrings, and all you want to do is move on to the next big idea, but pretty darn close.

But back to the empty page.

One of the reasons it is so difficult to get started is that many writers, myself included, feel pressure to shine with the very first line. There are a hundred, gazillion articles and pieces of advice out there (that’s likely an underestimate) on what you should do or not do when opening your story.

Don’t start with your character waking from a dream.

Do start with a flashy first hook of a line that will make the reader want to continue.

Failure to follow these rules, or open your story right will cost you, readers. credibility, sales. The love and respect of your family (who you suspect secretly wish you’d abandon this whole writing for a living dream and focus your effort on something more realistic – like getting the kids to school on time or paying bills). So, there’s no pressure to get it right or anything.

It took me a couple of tries, but eventually, I figured out a trick for getting over this fear –

Write the ABCs. Write your grocery list. Write absolute garbage. Just write something. I’ve found that words are like guests at a party. No one wants to be the first on a dance floor, but once one or two are out there and appear not to have a care in the world, the rest will follow.

That being said, I am now faced with an entirely new and unexpected writer problem.

You see, one of the benefits of my nice shiny new home is the fact I now have my own dedicated office where I can do all sorts of writerly things rather than force-fitting a forty to sixty-hour working week into a two-foot by two-foot square, partitioned from a larger room. The drawback is I haven’t had a clue what to do with all this extra space. It’s like the blank page staring at me, and I’m having a difficult time knowing where to get started.

The desk my other half so painstakingly made for me was built into the walls of our last place. Meaning, I am working with a relatively blank slate at the moment as far as furnishing goes. More specifically, I’m working off a card table.

Oh, and the zero key is still missing. Yes, its nothing but the best for me.

Logically, I know I solving at least one of those problems should be easy. I just have to find a desk I like and hope that the rest of the room’s design will soon follow. However, this is proving to be no simple task. It needs to be wide, but not too wide, as I want to be able to walk around it. With storage for my style guide and other tools, and I want it to be made of wood, but not the manufactured wood that falls apart the second you try to move it.

In short, I want it to be perfect. Hence, here I am, weeks later, paralyzed by indecision, still writing out the word zero and trying not to jostle the surface too much so as not to knock my coffee over. Even so, I’ve somehow managed to write close to 70K words on my latest work in progress (the third and final book of my Project Gene Assist series).

Part of me now worries changing my setup now will upset the creative muse (she is a fickle thing indeed), while another part is pretty sure I would be further along if I’d made a decision sooner. In either case, while I still have a long way left to go before I can say I am finished with this one, it’s, at least, a start. And the start is the hardest part indeed.

The Move and a Bittersweet End To an Era

How much stuff can a single family acquire over a span of fifteen years? Quite a lot actually, as I’ve found out.

We’d been considering moving for a number of years – really ever since my youngest came home from the hospital when the diaper boxes alone threatened to fill a room, but there was always something. The timing was bad, the lot wasn’t right, or the location too far away from our jobs. So we’d put it off, and put it off, and put it off.

Though we eventually didn’t have to worry about rooms full of diapers, we still had plenty of other clutter to find places for. My husband heard about minimalism and gave it a try, clearing out his closet of all but the essential. He tried to work on mine too – but I’m not quite as committed to the cause.

We found new homes for baby toys, only for the free space to be filled with Hot Wheels. We sold off furniture that wasn’t being used. Big boy beds took their place. We got creative with things like Murphy desks and multi-use space. Our kids were inconsiderate enough to continue to keep growing.

But our kids weren’t the only things to change over the years – our house started to show its age too. First, the water heater went out. Then there was the indoor waterfall (though in defense of my house, that one wasn’t entirely its fault). Then the air conditioner failed – twice. Not to be outdone, the furnace went out too. It was one thing after another. Suddenly, I felt less like I was in my home and more like I’d fallen into the plot of the movie, the Money Pit.

Even so, I loved my house. Or at least, I loved my location. I loved how close we were to the greenway, the series of wooden paths that run through my city where you can go when you need help visualizing what the world might look like after the collapse of civilization. (Necessary research in my case). As much as I wanted more space, part of me didn’t ever want to move.

I loved my neighbors and the fact my kids could run out at nine in the morning and be outside all day without me worrying about things like traffic or sketchy individuals. Seeing them play with kids next door and down the street brought back memories of my childhood, back in years we won’t mention when the news was a lot less scary. The last thing I wanted was to jeopardize all that.

But as I said, the darn kids kept growing and no matter how much my husband (and to a lesser extent, I) was able to offload or rehome, it never seemed to be enough. So, love it or not, we kept an eye out for something else. Then one day, quite unexpectedly, we found something that checked all the boxes. As much as I hated the idea of moving away from our block, it was a place where I could envision an equally memorable future.

We arranged for movers. A representative walked through our soon-to-be former home and gave us an estimate, saying it wouldn’t be too bad as we didn’t have all that much. Later he would learn just how wrong he was.

The day of the move came. Our neighbor snapped a picture of the truck leaving, captioning it with a sweet goodbye. However, the joke was on her – we had to come back for three more loads before all was said and done.

I’m still in the process of unpacking and learning where the new light switches, scissors, and curiously enough, the trusted zero key on my keyboard are (the latter being particularly annoying), but the place is starting to fill more like my own. As much as I hated the physical process of moving fifteen years of stuff from one location to the next while wondering why I kept so much of it for so long in the first place, I’m looking forward to this next chapter.

I just hope that in fifteen years time, if we move again, I’ll take more memories with me than clutter.

 

Dragon NaturallySpeaking – A First Take & Quick Review

This post may contain affiliate links

One of the continuing challenges I faced over the years, and particularly so over the last several weeks leading up to the new year, has been trying to find time for my personal writing when more and more of my time was being taken up by other things. Luckily for me, Santa was kind enough to bring me a Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software.

Dragon is better than something like Word’s built-in word recognition because it not only asks you for your language during setup, it also asks you to specify your accent. The downside is it still isn’t omniscient out of the box. Therefore, in order to get it to work fully, you have to take the time to train it so it can adapt to you your dialect and your particular speaking patterns.

There are a few versions of the software: Home, Premium, and a version designed for medical transcription as well as variations that differ by included equipment. Mine came with a corded headset and installation disk, though I understand there are other versions out there with Bluetooth enabled devices for people who prefer to walk and talk.

I have a PC and was somewhat concerned that it wouldn’t support my operating system as it shows only Window 7 and Windows 8 icons on the box, especially when the program took ages upon ages to install. At one point during the installation, I started to wonder if I had missed a step. Maybe in order to get the program to launch, I was supposed to hold the box and walk into a firey pyre like Dany did in Game of Thrones in order to hatch her dragons. However, the installation meter did eventually move forward before it came to that and, at the end, I saw an ‘installation success’ message appear on my screen.

I’ve been playing with mine for a couple of weeks now and it’s getting a little less awkward each day, though I now suspect Her Royal Highness is rolling her eyes behind my back at my hypocrisy considering I always am asking her to tone it down when she talks to herself during the day. In my defense, her barking monologues don’t magically transform into written text on the screen.

Thus far, I haven’t had to add too many words to my dragon’s vocabulary, though I’ve been studying up on how best to train it (there are books on the subject specifically for writers). I can’t decide if it is a compliment regarding enunciation or more praise of the software’s programming. (I’m guessing the latter) That being said, it didn’t recognize the word Megalodon and instead returned ‘medic for all,’ when I said it. You might think this isn’t exactly a word that comes up in daily conversation, however, you don’t know my youngest. It comes up in our house. It comes up a lot.

(It also hasn’t recognized any of my swear words either – not that I use too many of them. Clearly, my dragon is of a genteel nature.)

Based on that experience, I realize that it may be a while before it (and I) am ready to tackle more traditional epic fantasy writing based on character names alone. Even so, I managed to write a full day’s personal word count quota in half the time, which is super promising. That even includes all the times I’ve had to go back and add punctuation manually as remembering to say the word comma or period while dictating isn’t natural for me yet either.

As a result, I am feeling quite good about what I might be able to achieve this year. I might even finish the first draft of book three in my Project Gene Assist series before the weather warms. Who knows?!? But if nothing else, at least know I’m trying.

Now, how about you? Are you trying anything new this year?

The Top Ten Tips for Writers That Have Day Jobs

Where do I find the time, is probably the number one question I get as a writer, full-time employee, and mom. These are some great tips for anyone who wants to write but isn’t quite ready (or able) to make the leap to full-time. Thanks, Don for putting this all together (and yes, I want to hear more about this marketing resource of yours).

Author Don Massenzio

Top ten text with shadow, word

Someday I would love to be a full-time writer, but for right now, I have a 50-60 hour a week day job that requires my attention so that annoyances like bills, mortgage payments, and insurance can be provided for. I’ve written and published ten books in the past five years while satisfying the demands of my day job. People always ask me how I do this, so here are some tips to help others that might be in this same predicament. I will expand on each of these within this post:

  1. Think about your writing during every minute that you have available
  2. Maximize your idle time
  3. Travel and free time
  4. Use your daily experiences to help you
  5. Claim your non-work time
  6. Sleep less
  7. Work on multiple writing projects simultaneously
  8. Outsource your marketing/advertising
  9. Automate your social media campaign
  10. Don’t give up

I hope this list is helpful. There may be other…

View original post 1,534 more words