Inkster Dispatch: Trying to Kickstart my Steampunk Heart

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As many of you know I’m co-author on an episodic Web fiction, Martius Catalyst.   Those who have been with this story from the beginning understand the tinkering that has gone into make it happen. There have been times when we sputtered and stalled, but we always made adjustments and kept going full steam ahead.  But even the best inventors need some investors. So, Samantha Tiner, my co-author, and I and our new resident artist, Dan Breaux, have offered up a kickstarter to help get our creation off the ground.

At our Kickstarter page, we have a very cool video that gives you some information and a hint at things to come in our series. We certainly hope that you’ll consider helping us to keep it going. Yes, there are some perks for your donation. Part of the project includes creating a chapbook that you can put on the shelf.

What’s Kickstarter you ask? It’s just like it sounds. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform that supports independent artists by allowing them to post their projects and allow fans and friends to help support it along the way. Artists set a goal, patrons pledge during the timeframe of their campaign, and money changes hands only if the project reaches or exceeds it original goal when time is up.

It’s up, it’s live and we’re hoping you participate. Read all about what we’re doing via the link below. And stay tuned for the ride.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1719411041/brewster-catalyst-collaborative-steampunk-graphic-f

On Bullies and being the Bullied

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This was a tough Free-Range Fiction challenge for me. It came from the insatiable Chuck Wendig, since I do love his blog and his schedule for prompts fits with my goal for flash fiction and getting it out here. But only 100 words is tough when you’re trying to build emotional tension. And it’s flash — no editing, ya know? Already as I get ready to paste this, I’ve figured out a way that could have made it better. That’s exactly why we do this. To learn. To grow. To get better.

Choosing a subject was hard because I’ve been witness and victim to bullying so often. My children have suffered from it. I’ve watched my spouse get bullied at various jobs he’s had. It’s a plague on our society, truly.

If you had only 100 words to tell a profound story about bullying, what would it be? Show me in your comments if you’re daring.

Here’s my horrible attempt. At least I attempted it. I challenge you to take Chuck’s challenge, too.

 

The commander leaned on his desk, “You have to let your husband back into your quarters, sergeant. Army Regulation 608-99 requires you.”

 “We’re separating; he broke our marriage vows,” Sgt. Hurst squirmed and swallowed hard, then breathed in deep.

 “Until you have a court order, you have to take him back,” Cpt. Parker said. “You must provide for him.”

 “He’s an able-bodied male, Sir…”

 “Sergeant! This matter is closed. Take him back or have a court order to me.”

 Between two war deployments it would take her four years, thousands of dollars, and multiple heartaches to get that court order.

 

Inkster Dispatch: S.S.P. (Otherwise known as the great pimpage)

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If you go here;

You’ll see this:

What's on Your Desk Wednesday: Weekly feature at Alternative-Read.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And you’ll see a short meme profile on the physical things around in my writing life. Part of the alternative-read.com weekly Wednesday “What’s on Your Desk” profile of writers.

This week, I get a little plug. Thanks Sassy Brit!

I found the site somehow by trying to find reviews of another author’s book. The reviews can cheeky and make no apologies and have interesting articles while giving great writing advice. Sound like someone else you know? Okay, maybe I don’t always live the writing advice, but I do know it and share it freely.

Tell me your favorite thing on your writing desk?

Bill-Collecting Vampires Devour A Starving Writer

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Editor’s Note:  Forgive the replacement of a fiction story for a real-life rant, ala creative non-fiction. It’s hard to write fiction sometimes when real life is being an over-demanding, whiny monster. However, it still falls within some of the parameters of Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge. See if you can find where I fit that in. It came in at 946 words, which for a rant is acceptably reasonable. Thank you for reading.

 

Being a freelance writer is fraught with worry. I never know what the mail man or random stranger will bring to my door. It goes with the territory. I knew that before I left a stable, laced-with-benefits job. One day I’ll get three checks, which promptly get turned around into bill payments or groceries; the next day there will be nothing but a cockroach in the mailbox. Then the next day, the letter carrier has a stack of bills – with no checks to cover it. Rinse. Repeat.

Yesterday, it was a bill for $3400 in the form of a court summons (which, by the way, in the state of Washington it is totally legit to serve a minor provided they appear “of a reasonable age” to the process server). To be paid within 20 – now 19 days – or face a fountain of legal ramifications, including the possibility of putting a lien on my family’s home. These collectors are cut-throat vampires. I could hire an attorney, buy some time, fight it a bit more, but I would incur even more expenses, so it doesn’t make sense to do that. I did get counsel from an attorney this morning, she basically told me I would have to pay the medical institution and then could bring suit against the insurance company. Again, more legal fees and drama, for which, I do not have the resources for either financially or emotionally.

Short of it:  I had a medical procedure done recommended by my doctor to deal with an old Army injury for which Veteran’s Affairs and I are still going ‘round and ‘round. My shitty insurance at the time of the procedure (all freelancers have shitty insurance, or worse none) said they would cover it. The medical team billed them. They denied it. (Anyone else want to yell, ‘Liar, Liar pants on fire! With me? Insurance companies are today what used car salespeople were in the 60s) We went back and forth. I got distracted, didn’t hear from anyone, changed insurance companies (the one I have now is a slight bit better, but that’s because it’s through my husband’s employment), and I forgot about the issue. Now said medical institution has employed hired guns to whip the funds out of me. Which I do not have. I wouldn’t be on my little rant box here if I did have it. My savings is tapped (remember July and August were full of zero billable hour days and dozens upon dozens of rejections). My only option, according to the woman I spoke with this morning, is to prove that the insurance company lied to me. I can’t do that – talking to a customer service representative on the phone and relaying my story does not make for legal documentation.

I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but something always falls in place. I’m also trying to recover a debt from another organization – but that’s tied up in legal mumbo jumbo (is it any wonder I’m thrilled my daughter said the other day she wants to become an attorney? Of course, that doesn’t help right now…). This year – 2011 – will go down in my personal history as the year of massive legal issues, to include battling the tax man. And perhaps they will leak into 2012.

I will, like everything I do, continue to fight the battle and survive – even if I lose the the war. I still believe that following my passion will bring me what I need in life. That includes dealing with this. Of course there’s always the trusted whiskey bottle (just kidding…or am I?).

However, it brings me to the fact that our country’s medical system is BROKEN. When I had that stable, laced-with-benefits job I oftentimes would contribute to other artists’ situations – dental problems gone horribly wrong (oh yeah, the dental system is broken even worse than the medical system), terminal end-of-life treatment which was necessary to die in peace, and even to help sick pets. I support my artistic community – especially the literary branch – because I know how important it is to our culture. You want to know what’s really happening in your community, your state, your country, the world? Look to the artists. And they have to pimp for projects to get off the ground (crowdfunding, kickstarting, or on personal blogs just like mine), change excellent work to fill ROI matrixes (do you think Shakespeare had to do that? Blargh.).

What is wrong here? When a pro athlete and questionable-ethics politician can get better medical care than the teachers in our schools or those that create the work that helps us escape or endure our existence, or worse, the veterans that helped give us the freedoms we enjoy. I’m starting to doubt that freedom. Freedom to be a cog in someone else’s profit machine (ala for-profit medical institutions, oil companies, et al.). When socio-economic status keeps people from being treated for medical conditions (especially those of no fault of their own), we have failed ourselves in irreconcilable ways.

I don’t feel like I’m in a position to ask for help. I still have much to prove that my decision last year was not fraught with stupidity and this was the best thing for my family (those that know have seen huge improvements in my family’s happiness, by the way) and my own physical and mental health. But what’s an artist supposed to do?

Sometimes I think I’ll win the lottery before I’ll see my world socially just where artists and writers are respected alongside engineers, scientists and doctors. For now, I have to go find a writing gig that will cover $3,400 in 18.5 days.

 

The Grass Is Always…

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Author’s Note:  This story is in response to this challenge and part of my Free-Range Fiction challenge to myself.

 

Penelope Carr was the sweetest old lady around. She baked cookies for the senior center’s charity events; she made donations to the school foundation, heck she even had promised her estate to the local animal shelter, which kept her in a steady supply of cats. The steady supply was necessary because her cats always seemed to disappear. In fact, the adoption coordinator from the shelter was headed to Mrs. Carr’s house.  A courtesy call to make sure there wasn’t something inadvertent the little old lady was doing, which made her cats disappear.

“Be sure to check the attic and the basement,” Fred Johnson, the shelter director told Katie Edwards as she was leaving to head to the little ranch house on the eastside of town. Katie shivered at the thought of cats getting stuck in an attic access or drinking turpentine in the basement — the house would stink to high-heaven. In the car she put a small pet carrier with the latest adoptee of Mrs. Carr. Or rather, the next victim, as Fred had put it.

Katie found the house easily, at the end of a cul de sac which backed up to state land – a conservation forest. It was painted a muted yellow with white trim and cast iron accents. Mrs. Carr lived in a very safe part of town, but she had decorative cast-iron bars on her windows and doors. Katie scowled as she walked up towards the house, thinking the poor woman must be so afraid. Parked Mrs. Carr’s driveway was a “Larry’s Landscaping” truck. Katie touched the hood of the car in order to balance herself and stay on the paved driveway and not step in the grass. The hood was cold steel.

She knocked firmly. With a pause a moment longer than it would take an average person to reach the door, the sound of the click-clacking of several locks being undone greeted Katie before the round face and white hair of a woman a foot shorter than Katie cracked the door open, “Yes, dear? Are you with the shelter?”

“I’m Katie Edwards. We spoke on the phone yesterday.” Katie heard shuffling. The door opened all the way.”

“Come in, I have tea all ready for us,” and Mrs. Carr waved one shaking hand for Katie to come inside.

“Us? Just the two of us or is your landscaper here?” Kathie was a bit anxious, thinking surely that the missing cats were in this dark-paneled home somewhere. She grasped the handle of the cat carrier just a bit tighter.

“No,” Mrs. Carr got a peeved look on her face. “He’s had his truck here for two days – I don’t know where he is and he won’t answer my phone calls. I figured eventually he’ll come back for it – or I might have to call the authorities,” Mrs. Carr pulled out a teapot with cats around its middle. Each tea cup was in the shape of a cat, too. The shades on the windows which faced the back yard were pulled down. Katie looked up at them and sniffed a little. Inside its carrier, the kitten up for adoption to Mrs. Carr, hissed plainly and acutely.

“Oh you can let the little baby out,” Mrs. Carr said pointing one arthritis-jointed finger at the mini-cage. “My house has been cat-proof for some time.”

Katie set the carrier at her feet and undid the latch. An exotic short-hair cat with a patch of black melting on the side of his head bounded out. It swatted at nothing in the air and scampered towards the back of the house.

Katie got up in order to go after the kitten – she could hear its claws tearing at the fabric of Mrs. Carr’s hallway carpet. “Don’t worry about it, darling; like I said my house is cat-proof. There’s a litter box in the back bathroom; maybe he’ll sniff that out.”

Mrs. Carr poured tea and Katie let out a breath, just as an overly loud phone shrilled into the empty space of silence between Katie and Mrs. Carr. The old lady, with much pain on her face, arose and slowly answered the phone. Katie sipped her tea and listen to Mrs. Carr greet the caller.

“No, I haven’t seen him and I can’t get my Buick out to get to the grocery store, because his truck is blocking my garage. I’d like him to come back and move it now.”

Katie heard series of “I see’s” from Mrs. Carr, then, “Well, I guess I’ll ask a tow-truck to come and remove the vehicle and take it back to his house – but you’re getting the bill.”

Just as Mrs. Carr hung up Katie heard a howling screech come from the back yard, “Oh no! The kitten.” She raced to the back door and began to open the door.

“Ms. Edwards! Wait! Where do you think you’re going?”

Katie pointed, “The kitten! I think it’s hurt.” She didn’t wait for Mrs. Carr’s permission. She just dashed into the back yard heading past the covered patio and attached garage.

She saw a small mound in the center of the lawn, with a multi-colored tail sticking up like a periscope.

“Here, kitty,” Katie said. “Come on, you could get hurt out here. A crow could come and get you.”

Katie crept closer, trying not to frighten the kitten. At the moment she realized that the mound of grass was not just a grassy knoll, the creature’s mouth was around one Mary Jane and then her knee. She was terrified into silence until her pelvis crushed inside this Giant Grass Monster. Then, her screams shook through to the tiny blue kitchen and Mrs. Carr.

The old lady closed the door and went to the phone. She dialed and listened.

“Ted’s Towing,” said a lip-smacking, nasal tone.

“Yes, I need two vehicles towed, please,” Mrs. Carr’s hand shook as she sipped tea and waited to give her address.