Category Archives: Writing 101

Rochester (III)

Rochester was the (for me at 20-something) dream car; cheap, low-maintenance, took a licking and kept on ticking. He was ugly as sin (kind of a puke green, boxy, square-ish body), but I don’t hold that against him too much.

Rochester was a 1977 Dodge Dart. A low-powered but very, very stable slant-6 engine (stock). Bench seats, front and back. Big, kind of cubical trunk. Box with wheels.

But damn Rochester just kept going and  going and going. After a series of costly cars, it was a relief to have one that didn’t suck money out of my wallet every other week. As old as he already was when I acquired him, that was a really, really unexpected bonus. Reliable; feed him a quart of oil now and then, and he just wouldn’t give you any trouble at all.

Rochester was the car I was driving when I met Annie. Thanks to Rochester, I was able to volunteer a ride home when she needed one. (Smooth!) Thanks to that Meatloaf cassette, I didn’t stumble over my own tongue too much on the trip…and thus failed to scare her away. (“Ain’t no doubt about it”).

And he kept us going, without embarrassing breakdowns or incidents, all through courtship. Unlike my other cars, he didn’t even endanger us at any time, what a guy!

We did finally kill Rochester. While driving Annie home in December, Rochester finally gave his dying gasp and blew a rod…that slow oil leak, simple age maybe. He was pretty decrepit at that point. We had to hike across a sub-zero corn field through the snow to borrow a phone (no cell phones, kids!) which was an adventure in Wind Chills…but the nice folks let us in and kept us warm until help arrived.

So remember Rochester fondly, he gave his all for us. :sniff sniff:

RecDave Seal

 

Lights out

You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.


 

First Stellar Power Company regrets to inform you that due to arrears payments and lack of response to final collection notice, Sol will be turned off at

 


How do you simulate darkness in a story without describing it?

Anyway, my first instinct was to do something romantic/tragic, like:

On some solitary rock
A desperate lover left his mark,
“Baby, I’ve changed. Please come back.”

–Don Henley, New York Minute


 

Then I remembered Knock by Fredric Brown:

“The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”

And science fiction just offers a ton of ideas that can be brief as all get out, SF is made for short-shorts.

Thank god I’m not a fan of Victorian bodice-rippers, or something…that would be challenging!

RecDave Seal

 

The Mustang (II)

Between Beauregard and Rochester, there was the Mustang.

It didn’t have (or earn) a name; I didn’t have it nearly as long, nor did it make much of an memory. My really only remaining impression of the car was…crap. It wasn’t even a Real Mustang; it was an early-70s Mustang II. A Pinto with a Mustang-inspired body.

The Top Gear guys picked the Mustang II among the Worst American cars ever made (S5E16), and I must endorse that choice.  All I remember about the Mustang II was how quickly it fell apart.

Ford committed larceny on a grand scale producing this…thing, and they should be ashamed. Less than six months from a car to a piece of yard art. In between, it was a money vacuum, sucking up dollars and producing only smoke.

RecDave Seal

Part III: Rochester

Beauregard (I)

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

Beauregard was a 1971 AMC Javelin SST, in metallic silver-blue. I acquired him (used, of course) for a paltry sum, six or seven hundred bucks, which I borrowed from Pop.

He didn’t have a name, at first. Cars don’t receive names until they demonstrate a personality.

It didn’t take long. In less than a week my brand new (well, new to me) car had an ugly snarl (but not his ugliest snarl–that was still in the future). The first and only time in my life I’ve been front-page news. Please let’s not talk about that though, all right?

Beauregard had acquired a shattered windshield, and a thoroughly crumpled, dented hood. He looked angry, with the snarl where his grill used to be. If I was him, I’d have been angry, too. My beautiful lines!

We got him a new windshield, and pounded out the dents a little bit (well, enough to keep him drive-able, anyway, if not very pretty).

Beauregard settled into “semi-public college buds transport” role fairly readily, and for a while he did behave. But the solenoid went…and Beauregard had to be started with a screwdriver. Watch Dave jump out, pop the hood, short the solenoid to start the car, and jump back in. Fun, right? My buddies seemed to think so, they laughed pretty hard.

He developed slowly-rusting holes in his floorboards. Air-conditioning, in the summer. Even more so (the slush flew up inside) in winter…

Once or twice, Beauregard tried to eject whoever was in the passenger seat during left turns. Didn’t succeed, but he did give it his best try! The passenger door popped open, and we’d grab for whoever the chosen victim du jour was, pull them back inside.

Terrifying. But my friends quickly learned to buckle up! A good habit to have!

Beauregard got his Snarl-Plus Upgrade at the start of a winter break “headed to Chicago” road trip. Icy exit ramp, locked-up breaks, frictionless surface, and a (very expensive, as it turned out) highway sign. But despite the new-and-uglier facelift, we did manage to get everyone home–150 miles north. Somehow.

That epic final road trip was pretty much Beauregard’s Last Hurrah. Too much damage accumulating over time. Too many miles. Too many terrified passengers.

But despite his…eccentricities…I loved that car. Maybe because of his foibles? For every annoyance, every time he didn’t want to start or petulantly demanded more repairs…I had a  lot of good times with some of my best friends, ever, in that car.

Don’t think my college buds loved him quite as much as I did.

RecDave Seal

 Part II: The Mustang

Three tunes

Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you. For your twist, write for fifteen minutes without stopping — and build a writing habit.

This may be difficult for me, as I’ve already written about the first of my three choices (see: Ticking Away). So there goes one, and I’ve hinted at another (in the same post).


 

 

Which means I’ll have to figure out a way for the third tune: Train kept a-Rollin to use up the majority of the time.

So let’s start with that one, I guess, feel free to have a listen:

Not only is it a classic old Yardbirds tune (and there are a bunch of other covers), but it has a number of delicious lead guitar breaks (I might have mentioned that I lean towards ‘hard’ rock and wailing guitars…?).

Anyway, for decades this was the track that made me worship Joe Perry, first got me hooked on Aerosmith, etc. etc. I pretty much wore the album (‘Get Your Wings’) out.

Some decades after the first release, it became known that Joe Perry didn’t play on that track! It was actually played by Steve Hunter & Dick Wagner, studio musicians, who played with Alice Cooper for years.

Those wailing lead breaks that fascinated me so much (at 1:20, 3:20, 3:55) for so many years, Joe didn’t play them! The two guys who did play them weren’t even credited in the original album credits!

I forgave Joe and Steve and the boys, since they closed concerts with the tune for so many years…and their careers went on for decades…but I remember how cheapened I felt when I learned that. The music industry really is freakin’ sleazy.


 

 

That other tune? I mentioned it in Ticking Away…it’s Hotel California.

Title track of the best album of the decade (well, at least in my humble). First time we get hear Joe Walsh play with the band, that excellent last couple of minutes of lead guitar break…

And for a good many years, I was the Night Man.

“Relax,” said the Night Man. “We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

(Joe Walsh and Don Felder start wailing)

RecDave Seal

A bull with a view

If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

Well, that certainly sounds science-fiction-y, doesn’t it? So my first instinct would be to choose the Ringworld, Larry Niven’s Grand Cosmic Artifact and just about the ultimate of all tourist destinations. But that would be cheating, since this is writing assignment. (Also, I do not want to meet any angry Protectors).

So: where I want to go on my summer vacation


The singleship drops out of hyperspace smoothly, as it does automatically whenever it encounters a stellar mass directly in its flight path. With a gentle lurch, the probe is away, its sensors already collecting data even before the AI begins to ring the alarm in the pilot’s cabin. With a yawn, I reach over and kill the buzzer, and the ship’s AI begins scrolling data down the far wall.

There is no impact warning, and a quick glance at our orbital math in the display shows the singleship is already thrusting to attain a stable orbit. So nothing to panic over, just a routine dropout.

I scratch and yawn and stumble to the kitchen unit, which already has my coffee waiting. One of the many benefits of traveling with an onboard AI; it generally anticipates my needs, and knows I’m not good for much of anything without my morning coffee.

Another ten steps, into the ship’s bridge, and I call up a live video feed. “Let’s see what’s outside, Kepler.”

Kepler is the astronomy subroutine of the AI’s greater whole, and since we’re dealing with a new stellar mass, he’s my go-to boy for in-system primary explorations. Plus, I like his accent.

The viewscreen drops to black, and then is rather suddenly filled with an enormous, luminous blue ball of light.

“The display is dimmed by several orders of magnitude, of course. What you’re looking at is a B-class giant with a luminosity of roughly 700 Sols,” Kepler lectured, in that slightly German-accented English. “Spectral readings indicate this is a known mass, visible from Earth.”

It would be, if it was that bright, I thought. “Catalog designation?”

“Beta Tau, also known as Gamma Aurigae, or Elnath or Al Nath, ALS 15829. In the constellation Taurus, a naked-eye object in Terra’s night sky.”

I rubbed my chin regretfully, clearly no discovery bonuses to be had for this trip then. “So we’ve dumped hyperspace for one of the five thousand?”

“Yes sir, it is a very well-known stellar object, but ours is the first exploratory vessel in this physical location. It is generally ranked the 27th brightest stellar object in Earth’s sky, just after Bellatrix. It has a binary companion, would you like the data?”


Drew it to a close at this point, lest we get past “travel brochure” and into a full short story or something. Swiped a lot of elements from Niven and Pohl and all of my favorite classic SF authors…but space opera seemed an appropriate approach, given the topic.

I have a special place in my heart for Elnath, of course, since I chose it as my GM handle, too.

RecDave Seal

20 minutes of free writing

To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

9:50 PM

Mr. Toad shifted his weight unhappily.  A bit of undigested fly was making itself known, and Mr. Toad was having difficulties. His waistcoat seemed tighter and the day before, and beads of sweat were collecting around the band of  his bowler.

What a waste of a beautiful afternoon. Bright sun, cool breeze, shade from the trees at the edge of the lake. All in all, a quite enjoyable day, except for Mr. Toad’s somewhat rebellious lunch and the ominous gurgling making itself audible from the region of his cummerbund.

Oh bother.

“Mr. Toad! Mr. Toad?” The damned otter twins, Burt and Alex, smooth ripples spreading out in bow-waves behind as the two sharp, wet noses drove directly for Mr. Toad’s chosen lily pad.

“So much for my afternoon nap,” muttered Mr. Toad, quite unhappily.

“Mr. Toad, Mum said you was to watch over the Holt while she’s away visiting with Auntie El.”

Oh double bother. He had promised.

“Boys, you know I can watch your holt quite easily from this very spot, if you can manage to stay out of trouble for just a few hours,” grumped Mr. Toad.

“Who, us?” The two otters barked quiet laughter. “Why Mr. Toad, you know we never get up to any mischief.” The picture of innocence, the otters did their very best “perfect angels behaving themselves in church” poses.

Rolling his big  eyes, Mr. Toad harrumphed and kept his doubts entirely to himself.

10:11

RecDave Seal