“Feeling lucky?”

I dreaded the approaching 3-Day Novel contest because I was afraid—afraid that after haphazardly pondering my plot for two months, I wouldn’t be able to pull off anything worth reading. The magnitude of what I was about to attempt brought me back to the 20-page final paper I had to write at West Point, the paper for my favorite instructor, the paper that would determine my grade in his class, the paper I had pondered for months before putting it all together and pulling it out the night before/morning it was due. I remembered the pain.

The 3-Day Novel rules allow for outlining, but no actual writing before midnight on Friday of Labor Day weekend. “Pencils down!” would be called (in my head, anyway) at midnight on Monday. I had 72 hours to write a novel.

Stephanie gifted me with a charm bracelet, the charms are my book covers with one titled: My Next Book! I hung it on my flying frog (Orville from Waterwight) above my red room work space!

Stephanie gifted me with a charm bracelet, the charms are my book covers with one titled: My Next Book! I hung it on my flying frog (Orville from Waterwight) above my red room work space!

I wanted to participate in this crazy contest to test myself, to prove to myself that I could write thousands of word per day, to convince myself that I’d be able to complete Book II of my Waterwight series by the end of this year. Oh, and my friend Stephanie—the one who challenged me to compete in NaNoWriMo in 2012, resulting in the publication of “Miss?”—was going to do it. I had no choice, really.

Mike decided to visit his family in California Labor Day weekend, generously suggesting Stephanie and I could “have the house” for our insane endeavor. He’s seen what it’s like when the two of us get together to write and respects the creative energy he knows will ensue. We would have no distractions aside from feeding Ranger and scratching his butt every once in a while. I would have no excuses.

Stephanie and I pre-stocked the house with chips and chocolate and vino and veggies—there would be no cooking for 72 hours—and I set up little exercises areas around the house, a mini-stepper in one room, a mini-trampoline just outside the house, a yoga mat and stretchy-bar upstairs . . . it was a writer’s dream house! Other than the ‘no cooking’ rule, we agreed we’d each keep our own schedule and not disturb the other. Stephanie took the dining room and I took my little red room. If we happened to find ourselves in the kitchen at the same time, we could use that time for chatting and hugs and scratching Ranger’s butt. We were both actively typing by 06:00 Saturday morning.

I set a timer for one hour and was shocked by how quickly that first hour passed. I logged my word count, stretched, reset for an hour and continued. I followed this routine throughout the weekend taking stretch or exercise or snack or butt-scratching breaks each hour, and occasionally bumping into Stephanie in the kitchen to exchange excitement over our projects. Stephanie chose to use the weekend to knock out a chunk of a novel-in-progress. I chose to write something completely different from anything I’ve ever written. One of my author goals is to write in as many genres as I possibly can while I’m still on the green side of the grass, and the story I had mulled for months would check several categories.

We decided to play it sane by going to bed earlyish Friday night and setting our alarms for earlier Saturday morning. By 6 a.m. we were both at work, and on Day One I wrote until 11 p.m. My lusty house muse took over sometime around hour 5 and I couldn’t stop my giggles every time a ridiculous line would appear on the page. After putting in 14 hours of writing on Day Two, I told Stephanie my story was “a little bit corny, a little bit porny,” and she suggested I might want to consider a pseudonym. “Larry McLarge!” sprung from her lips and we both burst into laughter.

With one chapter to go at 11:30 p.m. on Day Two I decided to go to sleep and finish my story on Monday. I knew it wouldn’t take me until midnight to finish what I had started, and by 11 a.m. on Day Three my story was done. I did a quick read-through and submitted the 19, 316-word document to the contest. Significantly short of the 100-page average “past winner” suggested length, I nevertheless believe I have a winner, and if I find that’s not the case come January, I will happily publish my novella myself. And humorous as it may be to consider, I won’t use a pseudonym. I own this one. I’m truly proud of this one.

During my mulling months I learned things I never knew about rabbits, rabbit’s feet and lucky charms. I had a blast finding tidbits to tie into my tale, like the Twilight Zone episode with the rabbit’s foot, the Keystone Beer review, and the Shakespeare allusion. And after Mike read my final product (in the hospital while waiting for and after his total hip replacement), he said if anyone thought it was porn, they should probably “get out more.” He really enjoyed it, but then again . . . the anesthesia . . .

The real reason I’m able to put my name on this work is because my almost-88-year-old Mum read it and said that even though it’s “devilishly evil,” she “couldn’t put it down.” So there.

My 20-page hand-written-then-physically-cut-and-pasted-then-electric-typewriter-typed paper earned an A. My 3-Day Novel Contest 19ish-thousand-word novella earned me the satisfaction of knowing I could produce something worth reading in a cumulative of 32 hours of writing over a 72-hour period (I had to sleep). Sure, that ends up being only about 600 words per hour, but they’re good words.

If you would like to read The Hare, Raising Truth: A Naughty Tail in exchange for adding you to my mid-monthly newsletter, please email me (laurel.mchargue@gmail.com) and I’ll send you the pdf and Word doc! And here’s an advance warning:

Warning: Strong Language and Mature Themes

17-year-old Aeron McCloud just wants to get lucky. Despite warnings from his best friend, an old rabbit’s foot makes him believe he can get what he wants. But for how long?

* * *

I wrote this story in 3 days, and the final product was not the story I originally had intended to write. I’ll blame/credit lack of sleep and a powerful muse! I ended up with a Twilight Zone/Grimm’s Fairy Tales/Teenage boy fantasy mashup (heavy on the teenage boy fantasy). It’s a fast read. Let me know if the ending surprises you!

And hey, do something to surprise yourself today.

 

 

Summer’s End

We love the trailer
Life, it’s simple if you love
the one you’ve chosen

Chillin at the Gunnison KOA dog run.

Chillin at the Gunnison KOA dog run.

I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again: I love our trailer-trip adventures.

Two nights. Two nights of unplugging from the requirements of home and the barrage of politics and the lull of routine is all we needed this past weekend to return to it all feeling like we’d just spent a week at a resort.

 

Our resort: a KOA in Gunnison with full hook-ups, lots of green grass, clean facilities,

She only loved me for my carrots.

She only loved me for my carrots.

friendly owners, and surprise visitors. Ginny and Herbie must have known Mike and I were ass-kissers, or perhaps they were curious about our handsome dog. Maybe they smelled the bag of carrots I’d just brought out to munch on. In any case, they were both at least 29-years-old, and Ginny was nearly blind.

Ginny and Herbie, the Gunnison KOA's welcome burros.

Ginny and Herbie, the Gunnison KOA’s welcome burros.

Ranger was not inclined to welcome the unleashed beasts as freely as we were, however, and after an initial sniff (with Mike pulling him away from unpredictable rear-ends), decided they were untrustworthy. He remained quietly aloof for the duration of their visit.

Ranger meets Ginny, but decides he'd rather she moved along to other campers.

Ranger meets Ginny, but decides he’d rather she moved along to other campers.

In the evening, we kayaked/paddleboarded on Blue Mesa Reservoir, and I marveled at how different an experience it was from our peaceful paddle at Twin Lakes last week. This reservoir was enormous, and when clouds filled the sky and the wind picked up, the waves were Old Man And The Sea-worthy. I hooked up to Mike’s kayak for the final push to shore after 90 minutes of hard, enjoyable work, and after a few games of Cribbage and a shot of Dewar’s after the sun set, slept like a cat in a hat.

#22kill Day 7 of my 22 push-ups per day to raise awareness of veteran suicides. Hug a veteran today. Let him/her know you care.

#22kill Day 7 of my 22 push-ups per day to raise awareness of veteran suicides. Hug a veteran today. Let him/her know you care.

While Mike rode his bike at Hartman Rocks the next day, I did my trailer push-ups (to spread awareness of the number of veterans who commit suicide each day, the #22kill campaign) and wished I’d thought to do 22 push-ups against the burros during their visit.

We returned home to an extra layer of snow on the mountains and a brilliant sunset, the perfect Leadville summer evening. Soon our lake will freeze, but for now:

Fiery August sky
Turquoise Lake oblivious
Snow on Mount Massive

(thank you, Mary Howard, for reminding me to haiku my visions!)

Sunset over Leadville mountains and Turquoise Lake.

Sunset over Leadville mountains and Turquoise Lake.

Yes, you all know by now that I love haiku. I think my opening haiku for this post is the best I’ve written. See how many ways you can read/interpret it! Haikus Can Amuse! (get your copy today!)

Zen Diagrams

Winter comes early to the high mountains of Colorado—it’s already snowing in the 14ers behind our house—so when Mike said, “Let’s go to the lake today,” I donned my water shoes, threw my paddle board in the truck, and off we went. We were both exhausted from a week of racing events (Mike earned the coveted 1,100-mile LT100 mountain bike race jacket), but the day was “seasonably” warm for an August day in most places. We could easily have taken a nap, but didn’t want to miss the warmest day of the year so far.

Did I mention we were exhausted? The lake must have known. Never has it been so serene, so ripple-free-reflective, and we were all alone on it.

We paddled side-by-side for a while, Mike in his kayak, me on my board. I paddled softly, not wanting to disturb the only other creature in sight—a preening Double-crested Cormorant, who stopped to follow our languid glide across his waterfront. The lake was crystal clear to the bottom. I thought I might find lost treasures.

When the glistening bird returned to his task, we advanced on cloud formations so crisp atop the water that the vision disoriented me. “We’re chasing water clouds,” I told Mike. “Another book title.” I really need to start keeping track of all my book title ideas. He smiled and paddled silently.

As Mike’s kayak moved beyond me, I watched the cloud reflections waver until they looked like something from a Dali painting for a moment before the wake from his boat subsided and they were perfect again, more beautiful even than the actual clouds above. I approached their reflections as slowly as I was able. I wanted to stand on a cloud, but they remained always just in front of me.

Easing my paddle from the water behind me, I made a gentle arc before dipping it back in for the next stroke. I watched as the droplets from my paddle made strings of concentric circles that expanded in circumference until they overlapped one another, becoming a chain of wavy Venn diagrams before disappearing into the mirror. I did this over and over again, never tiring of the magical patterns. Water Slinkies trailed my board and nudged me into a trance. Venn diagrams became Zen diagrams.

I sat on my board and floated on the clouds until Mike returned.

“Want me to pull you back?” he offered after we had floated together for a while.

“Sure. Let’s go back and take that nap.” I clipped the front of my board to his kayak and lay on my belly, my ear to the board, and listened to the easy, rhythmic “splash, splash, splash, splash” of his paddle as we returned to where the watchful bird waited. I skimmed my fingertips along the surface of the lake as he pulled me, reveling in the juxtaposition of its satin-soft coolness with the warmth of the sun on my cheek and arms and calves. The clouds had drifted away.

And so had I.Waterwight

p.s., I took no photos that day, but was inspired by crazy, dreamy, cloudy, rhythmic ideas I’ll use in Waterwight: Book II.

You’re a Peach!

That crate of peaches
slurped, sliced, peeled, baked in cobbler
Empty box, full tum!

So many slurpy peaches!

              SO many slurpy peaches!

What do you do after buying a crate of peaches from a man setting up on a street corner?

  1. Wonder what you’re going to do with SO many peaches when you get home.
  2. Pull off the cover and savor the sweet aroma of SO many peaches.
  3. Consume 1 or 2 or 3 right away and wonder why you still have SO many peaches.
  4. Be a little afraid of the repercussions of eating 1 or 2 or 3 peaches right away.
  5. Give them to your friends and your mail deliverer and wonder why you still have SO many peaches.
  6. Ask your son’s girlfriend if she’d like to make peach cobbler (because you don’t bake) and marvel at the fact that you still have SO many peaches left.
  7. Eat the entire peach cobbler (well, share a corner with someone you love) and look at what’s left of SO many peaches.
  8. Write a haiku about SO many slurpy peaches.
  9. Decide it’s time to do something with SO many peaches still remaining in the crate. Peel, slice, freeze . . .
  10. Smile at the thought that when you’re tum-tum is ready again, there will be SO many peaches waiting for you in the freezer!
What was left of the peach cobbler a little while ago. Sorry, honey, it's gone now.

What was left of the peach cobbler (thank you, Lydia!) a little while ago. Sorry, honey, it’s gone now.

Peaches. It’s what’s for dinner.

big 'ol bite of peach cobbler.

            Big ‘ol bite of peach cobbler.

Peaches, peaches, more peaches for the freezer!

Peaches, peaches, more peaches for the freezer!

Pennies from Heaven

Well, probably not.

Regardless of the origin, when my buddy John and I decided to return from our morning walk along a different route from the one we normally follow, we discovered a treasure.

John actually discovered it, stopping short and backtracking a few steps while my focus remained internal. Ideas for the 3-Day Novel contest I’ve entered were flowed freely this morning, plot ideas bursting forth with each new corner we turned.

“Ooo! Pennies for my thoughts!” I squatted to collect the scattered copper bits–too many to count–and John added a bunch to my handful. “Let’s leave some as a surprise for some kids later on!”

A fistful of pennies, one for every thought!

A fistful of pennies, one for every thought!

With no pockets in today’s garb, I held the hefty coins in my sweaty palm until I made it home. I wondered who might find the rest, and if they’d even bother to pick them up. Pennies, 38 pennies. What do you do with 38 pennies? What does anyone do with pennies anymore besides dump them on the ground?

I’ll toss them in our change container and maybe someday take the lot to one of those coin machines for paper cash. Better yet, I’ll save the 10% fee by spending an afternoon rolling the coins myself while reminiscing about my waitress days, driven by the anticipation of discovering the total amount I made in tips during my shift.

Today’s windfall seemed like a sign from heaven that I’m on the right track with the novel I’ll write in 72 hours this Labor Day weekend. Glad my buddy was paying attention to our path while my head was in the clouds.

Dying of Embarrassment!

I love words. I love learning new words. I love trying to determine the meaning of a new word based on the context in which I might hear or read it, after which I will open a dictionary (or ask Siri) for the definition. Please don’t hate me for it; it’s my job. I’m not shy about telling anyone who asks what I “do” that I’m an author, so my passion for words is entirely defensible. I initially wrote “excusable,” but found “defensible” more appropriate for expressing my proclivity to wax poetic when given the opportunity.

Just today I posted the following plea on Facebook:

Everyone please repeat after me: “I feel BAD about that.”

You don’t feel badly (unless you identify silk as barbed wire in a blind touch test). How many of you feel goodly about things? You don’t. Stop saying you feel badly.

So, you can only imagine the horror and embarrassment I felt when I committed a most heinous faux pas—on a couple of levels—at an RV Campground this past weekend. Here’s what happened:

In bold print along the mirrors in the bathroom are warning signs about what you “Absolutely” cannot do with your hair. I suppose the signs are necessary, what with potentially clogged sinks and power issues and such. So when I was in the stall and heard the sound of a hairdryer, I tried to think of a non-threatening way to bring my concern to the blatant rule-breaker.

At this point in my story, please remember my comment about reading words “in context.”

I went to the sink next to Ms. Rule-Breaker and smiled at her, then stared at the sign right in front of her, then looked back at her.

“I feel like I’m on Candid Camera right now,” I told her, giggling a non-threatening giggle, “like someone’s watching to see who’ll report the person, or tell them not to do what they’re doing.” I smiled again and nodded toward the signs.

Ms. Rule-Breaker looked confused and mumbled something like, “Yeah, okay,” and kept drying her hair. A woman of about 45, she looked like she could have been a school teacher or a librarian. I expected more from her, but I wasn’t about to make a bigger deal than I’d already made of the situation, so I left to help Mike prep the trailer for our departure.

“Emptying the shitter” is the last step before locking up (Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation fans will appreciate that visual), and I took the opportunity to grouse to Mike.

“They have the same signs in the men’s room too,” he told me, though he thought it was weird. “Maybe they have problems with circuit breakers.”

“Well, I guess the lady I just saw in the bathroom believes the rules don’t apply to her.”

No sooner had I uttered the words than the very same rule-breaker walked around our trailer, hairdryer in hand, and glared at me.

“And just so you know,” she said, “the signs say ‘No Hair DYING’.” She turned in a huff and walked away.

I wanted to run after her and say, “Oh! Really? I’m so sorry! I’m an author . . . I’ll write something funny about this . . .,” but Mike suggested that she might be an author too, and the words she’d use to describe me might not be so funny.

Yes, I was a sanctimonious ass, but come on! “ABSOLUTELY NO HAIR DYING” just doesn’t make sense in an RV Campground bathroom, does it? And in the men’s room too? Well at least now I know (should I ever decide I need to touch up my roots while camping), and I also know I need to read signs more closely . . . and speak more softly in public places!

2-Week Contest!

2-week contest!

Upload a photo of any completed haiku from Haikus Can Amuse! to my Laurel McHargue or Leadville Laurel Facebook page, or ?@LeadvilleLaurel ?Instagram for a chance to win an autographed copy of “Miss?”

One entry per person, please.

writing, fiction, poetry, haiku

I’m on a roll! Waterwight, “Miss?” (updated and re-released) and Haikus Can Amuse! books all published this year!

Winner(s) announced 7 pm July 31st. Spread the word!

?#?haiku? ?#?freebook? ?#?inspiration? ?#?poetry?

 

#1 new release!

WOW!

Thanks to you, my new book Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters earned a #1 new release in Asian Poetry on launch day, June 18th! What a wonderful 33rd wedding anniversary present that was! Check it out: Haikus Can Amuse!

gift book Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters

Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters is my fun new gift book!

I’ve decided to offer a free download of the Kindle version of Haikus indefinitely for anyone who purchases the paperback copy, so order your gift books soon if you haven’t already!

And thank you again for your wonderful support. This new book is designed to help you develop a fun, stress-free writing habit. Finish the poems and write your reflections whenever and wherever you want. There are silly prompts and somber prompts. See where they take you!

The introduction teaches you the basics about haiku, and after the 366 pages of prompts (first line poem “starters” and general topic ideas every 10 pages), there are poems and reflections by 16 renowned contributors.

Order one for yourself and a few as gifts for the journal writers and poets in your life, and for the English and math teachers you know! These would make great warm-up exercises at the beginning of class! Here’s the link: Haikus Can Amuse!

Haikus Can Amuse!

I’ve neglected my blog lately as I prepare to launch my fun new book:

Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters

It’ll be available on Saturday, June 18th, to celebrate Mike’s and my 33rd anniversary, so won’t you please consider purchasing one as a gift (to yourself and to us!)?

I’ll post the link soon, but even if you don’t use the book to complete the 366 poems, you could keep it on your table to make you smile (because it’s beautiful)! I love the way the designer “amused” me by having the butterfly leaves in clumps of 5/7/5.

Cover design for my new gift book: Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters

Cover design for my new gift book: Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters