Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing Prompt #137

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

Your mouthwash is actually a magic potion.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lowering Word Count Goals

Like many writers, when I'm working on a first draft, I give myself word count goals. It's a great way to feel like something has been accomplished that day in the draft. Personally, since I outline quite heavily before I ever start with the first draft (which sometimes makes me wonder if I'm right in calling it a first draft, but that's a topic for another post), I don't throw big chunks of words away, so the final word count of my draft is almost always in the same ballpark as my finished product. This makes the word count goal that much more important to me (in my mind, anyway, and at this stage in the game, that's what's important, right?).

I tend to set my word count goal at 1000 words daily, though when it's all said and done, I make it a weekly goal. Therefore, my word count goal is actually 7000 words a week. Or was.

When I'm being productive, 1000 words are usually what I'm producing, on average. But at times that number gets to be intimidating. If I fall behind one day, it takes a lot to get back to my goal the next day. And two bad days in a row? It might spell disaster for the week, and I may decide to give up for the week, which is stupid, but that's how the mind works at times.

So what can I do about it? I've cut my goal in half. Instead of writing 1000 words a day (or, more appropriately, 7000 a week), I now put my goal at 500 words a day (or 3500 a week). I'll admit that it looks like I'm much less productive, but I've actually found the opposite to be true. 500 words a day, for me, is easy. And on days where I can't get to my draft for whatever reason? Making up those 500 missed words isn't nearly as hard as making up 1000. Heck, on good days, I write 2000 or more words, which instead of making up for one missed day now makes up for 3! Sure, it's all a mind game, but I'm guessing many of you know exactly what I'm talking about. And what's more, I've discovered I continue to write about the same number of words as before with the lower word count goal - it's simply that I have much less stress now, which makes for more pleasant writing experiences (which usually means a better quality writing session).

You may find this helpful, too. You might not make 1000 your goal, but whatever number of words you choose, halve them. If you normally write 2000 words, make your goal 1000. If you choose 500 words, now make it 250. Easy! But here's the kicker. Don't just stop when you hit your word goal. Keep going! You'll do so with the knowledge that you've already conquered your words for the day. Everything else is simply gravy! Try it for a few weeks. If you find you need the pressure, the stress, of a higher deadline, no one says you can't go back to your original word count goal. The whole key is getting your draft done as quick and efficiently as you can!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing Prompt #136

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You awaken to find yourself locked in a casket. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Friday Flash: A Brief Encounter

A Brief Encounter
by Eric J. Krause

That moment didn't register with me until years later. Now when I tell the story, someone will invariably ask if I wish I had a time machine, and I can truthfully say I do. But it's never for the reason they think. I don't want to kill the guy, but befriend him. That statement loses almost everyone. If looks could kill, as the old adage goes, I'd be dead a hundred times over.

I ran into him 20 years ago, and nothing about our meeting stood out. We shared an elevator down and made brief small talk. That was the extent of my encounter with the evil that would one day construct a neural bomb and release it over the Internet, resulting in the death of half the world's population. Why I even remember those three minutes from all those years ago baffles me. I'm the type of guy that can barely remember what he did a few weeks ago.

So why wouldn't I want those moments back to put a bullet in the monster's head before he had even the seed of the idea to decimate the world's population? Think about it. What if I could have made him my friend? What if that's all he needed? What if I could have turned him in a direction to help humanity instead of hurt it? He obviously had the smarts; he obviously had the drive. He only needed direction. Instead of this hell, the world could have been in a much nicer place. We may have been in or on our way to a utopia. Think about it. Kindness stops violence, not more violence.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Plans to Pimp Free Short Stories

I have a Tumblr account, and I've been wondering what the best way to make use of it. I've discovered it. I plan on using it to showcase short stories I've enjoyed on free webzines. I think it's important to both short fiction authors and the webzines that publish them. This will also get me out there reading more short fiction available on the web. I have a big list of webzines (or whatever you like to call them) that I rarely read. With this plan, I'll start reading like I should. Hopefully my short reviews/publicity will get more of you reading them, too! I don't have a plan as to how often I'll publish these, but I'll aim for at least once a week, and hopefully more. If you'd like to join in, point me in the direction of a free short story you enjoyed (or wrote), or get in on the action yourself and write your own reviews/publicity, you can do like I'm doing and use Tumblr, or you can use your blog, your Facebook page, or whatever other medium you'd like. Getting more people to read short fiction is not a bad thing!

I've already done one post, and you can see it here.

If you have any comments, questions, or requests, give me a comment here or get a hold of me on Twitter or Facebook.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Writing Prompt #135

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You trade lives with your cat for a day.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pictures of the Xtreme Mud Run

Click here to read the write up about the run

The opening few seconds of the race. I'm out in front.
 My big lead. I enjoyed it while it lasted.

 Crawling through the mud underneath barbed wire.
 Exiting a muddy pond.
 Another view of a muddy pond exit. There is no traction getting out of that!
 The log was so low I had to get my face wet.
 At least I'm having fun, right?
Approaching the final obstacle.
 Here I still think I can do it.
 I'm beginning to realize there might be a problem.
 A few seconds after I crashed to the mud and lost my shoe.
Almost done!
 You can pretty clearly see my shoe in my hand in this one ...
Just a bit muddy.
 Another view of the mud caked on me.
 My uncle had to shake my hand after that.
 My wife, on the other hand, wouldn't get any closer to me than this.
Finally time to clean off. Just have to wait in line with the other finishers.

Friday Flash: Zane's Closet

Zane's Closet
by Eric J. Krause

Roger finished clearing out Zane's closet and put a drop cloth down, though he wasn't sure quite why. They needed to replace the carpeting in this room soon anyway. Zane's slovenly ways had been murder on the walls, carpeting, and anything else unlucky enough to be stuck in here. Now that he was away at college, Roger and Lisa could make the room habitable again.

As Roger examined the inside of the closet, contemplating the best spot to start painting, an imperfection in the drywall caught his attention. He ran his hand over it and discovered a makeshift door. He pulled it open and found a crawl space that ran for a few feet and then took a hard turn to the right.

He turned and saw Lisa coming in with another drop cloth. "Check this out," he said. "There's a crawl space in here I never knew existed."

She tossed the sheet on the bed. "What do you mean? In the closet?"

"Yeah. I wonder if Zane knew about it."

She looked over his shoulder and scoffed. "He kept the closet so full of junk he couldn't see the back of it."

Roger started shimmying down the tunnel. "Yeah, and he's so lazy that he wouldn't explore it even if he knew it was there."

"Poor Zane," Lisa said as she followed. "How in the world is he surviving on his own in college?"

Roger turned the corner and found it opened up into a larger space. How in the world did this exist in his house without him knowing?

"How big is it?" she asked from behind him, but in the dark he couldn't answer at first.

They crawled out into the bigger space and stood up. This hidden room was as big as Zane's. There also seemed to be things in here, though it was still too dark for him to tell.

Lisa's eyes adjusted first. "Zane! What in the world are you doing here?"

"Hey, Mom. Hey, Dad. I, uh, was hoping you wouldn't notice me."

Once Roger was acclimated to the dark, he saw Zane lying on a ratty couch, presumably with crumbs on the front of his shirt.

"Hard not to when you're supposed to be away at school," Roger said.

"Yeah, well, they expected me to go to my classes, like, a lot. I mean, that's not why I went to college."

Roger waited for Lisa to explode, but instead she threw up her hands and dove out through the crawl space. Roger and Zane stood quietly for a minute until Roger broke the silence. "You expelled?"

"No," Zane said. "I just left the day before yesterday. They probably don't even know I'm gone."

"Then you have two choices. Head back to school or get a job."

That got Zane's attention, and he sat up for the first time. "A job? C'mon, Dad. Jobs are for tools."

"Then you either need to be a tool at school, or a tool with a job. Make up your mind. I'm sure your mother has worked herself into a frenzy by now. I can probably keep her out of here for an hour or so."

"Come on, Dad; be cool."

"I tried to be the cool dad during high school, and look where that got you. Since she'll be back soon, I'd suggest you be halfway to school by then. I'm guessing you have another way in and out of here."

Roger fell to his hands and knees and crawled back out of the secret room, ignoring Zane's moans and complaints. It was time to paint the closet.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

10 Mile Xtreme Mud Run Part 2

I took off fast, leading the small pack through the first obstacle, which was through the straight-aways of a horse stable with bales of hay to hurdle over. As we got through that, the course didn't have any obstacles for the next mile or so, unless you count the terrain. Most of it was soft sand, hard and tiring to run through. My legs ached, and though I didn't stop running, my speed dropped considerably. Of course, so did everyone else's. As we finally made it to harder-packed dirt, I found myself in third place, with a much younger competitor not far behind me (he passed me not too much farther into the race). I wasn't racing anyone but myself, but it was fun to keep track of such things.

The next part of the race had plenty of obstacles. The first one was a ten-foot wall with hand and foot holds of an indoor climbing course. I'd never done that before, but I scaled it pretty easily, which made me happy. Mud finally made its way into the course with the next obstacle. It was monkey bars over a mud pit. I'll be the first to admit my upper body strength is severely lacking, so after attempting the first few bars, I decided to simply drop down and run through the mud. Hey, gotta get dirty at some point, right? Other obstacles in this part included pushing a large wooden cable spool up a 2x4 ramp, crawling in the mud under barbed wire, running up loose piles of dirt and into watery mud pits, and, my favorite, plunging head-first down a slick tarp into a huge mud pit. That one was refreshing!

After that group, some real challenges came. There were big hills of soft dirt, probably 20 or more feet high, to run up. This was tiring! Luckily, some had ropes dangling down to help us pull our way up, but the others were there for climbing without help. I'm not used to such challenges, but I found myself going up and down these big hills easily, which made me happy. Tired, but happy. After the final big down, which luckily had a rope to help, it was time to crawl through more mud under barbed wire and other things.

By this time, I was in sixth place in my group, and I think that's where I stayed throughout the race, but it was hard to tell because I came upon fifteen milers who started at 7:30. I lost track of my place, and I've yet to see any sort of final posting online. So I'm going to go with I finished six out of thirty or so competitors.

Next I came up to a rope dangling across a big mud pit. I've never had to shimmy across something like this, but there's a first time for everything, right? I made it approximately three-fourths of the way across before I decided I'd had enough. I let go, splashed down into the mud, and took off for more fun. The next little while was simply running on hard-packed dirt, which was a nice change of pace from the muddy and dirty obstacles. At about the six-mile mark of the race, I reached a volunteer who had sandbags piled up near him. He told me to pick one up (I'm guessing it was somewhere around twenty to thirty pounds and quite awkward) and run down the path until I saw the used sandbags piled up. I picked it up, looked where he was pointing, and saw it was about a quarter of a mile - quite a distance with a sandbag in tow. It wasn't an easy jaunt, but I managed to jog most of it. Let me tell you, it was a nice feeling when I made it to the end and put down that sandbag.

Next was another mud pit with barbed wire over it, and then it was another long run to the next set of obstacles. These consisted of an eight-foot wall (which I tried, but couldn't get over - again showing off my lack of upper-body strength), a ten-foot wall made for teamwork (I didn't even try this because I was out there alone), and a ten-foot wall with a knotted rope to help traverse (which I again tried, but came up with the same result as the eight-foot wall). There was then a set of three mud ponds with a log across the middle. There was little room between the log and muddy water, so I had to dunk my head under. Yuck, but also refreshing. To get out of the mud ponds, there were large mounds of mud, and since there was no traction, this was the toughest part of the obstacle. Each of the ponds had a bigger mound than the last, but after a few false starts with each, I exited and headed for the final major obstacle of this group, another mud pit with barbed wire to crawl under. This one was the toughest of the course because, although it was muddy, it wasn't muddy enough to slide right through. I had to actually crawl the whole way though muddy but rocky ground. I'm proud to say I stayed low enough to not get nicked by the barbed wire once. After that, it was a pretty straight shot to the finish building, with only a few four-foot walls to hurdle over, which were easy enough to clear even in my tired state.

The final obstacle was housed in the start/finish building - a mud pit with rings over it to cross. I tried, but after two rings, I couldn't hold on and plummeted to the mud below. I landed awkwardly and though I didn't hurt myself, one of my shoes came off. I had to pick it up and dash to the finish line in one shoe and one muddy sock. I finally crossed with a time of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 24 seconds. I had no idea how long this would take me, so I was proud of that time.

Once finished, I picked up my race t-shirt, my finisher medal, my wristband, and a cold bottle of water, which I downed greedily. My family took many pictures of my muddy self, and I headed outside to join the line for the hoses. I tossed my shoes and socks into the trash, and then decided my shirt could join them. And then it was time to go and continue our vacation.

I thought for sure I'd be sore for days afterward, but I really didn't feel that bad. My wife and I did a lot of walking, both while we were staying in Arizona with my aunt and uncle, and when we went back to Las Vegas, and I felt good. There was one point a couple of days later when we were walking through one of the casino malls in Las Vegas that my upper body started to feel stressed, but luckily there was a five-minute shoulder and neck massage booth handy, which cured me right up for the rest of the trip. All in all, it was a great experience, and I'm looking forward to doing another mud run in the future. Maybe I'll tackle this one again next year!

Pictures of me during and after the race coming soon!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing Prompt #134

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

The new USB drive you bought came preloaded with a strange secret.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Friday Flash - Teenage Love and Heartbreak

Teenage Love and Heartbreak
by Eric J. Krause

No one cares. No one listens. Everyone sucks! They babble on about how she's my first love, and I'll have plenty more, but they don't get it. She's my everything; my only, for now and forever!


"We leave in two weeks," Nat told me. "Dad got a new job in Bakersfield. Bakersfield! Can you imagine? What am I supposed to do there?"

"Don't go." That's all I said. I should have elaborated, maybe proposed. But I left it at that. "Don't go."

She laughed without humor. "Yeah, right. That'd go over big with my parents." Then she gave me a gentle kiss and a hug, and left. I watched her go. Why hadn't I followed? I should have followed.

I tried texting and calling her over the next few days, and even went to her house, but she wouldn't talk to me. Jenny Brewster, Natalie's best friend, explained why.

"She loves you, but if she sees you, this'll be way harder for her. She doesn't want to forget you, but she knows she has to."

It made sense. Sort of. I guess. But it didn't make me happy. We could have had an awesome final two weeks together, but I obeyed her wishes, relayed through Jenny, and stayed away.

Honestly, I didn't plan for it to work out the way it did. What happened was spur-of-the-moment, seat-of-my-pants. I doubt many people would believe that, but it's the truth. Cross my heart and hope to die. But I never actually hoped to die. That's just the way things worked out.

Two days before she was to leave forever, I saw her at Royal Pond Park, one of our favorite hang-out spots. Like I said, I didn't plan to meet here there, but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't hoped. In fact, I'd hoped so much that I'd raided my piggy bank and converted that change to bills. I'm sure you're thinking it's silly for a fifteen year old to have a piggy bank, but I'd had it since birth. And I'd never once taken anything from it. So there I was, cruising around on my skateboard with a fortune in my pocket -- over 300 bucks.

So I hadn't planned, but I'd prepared. When I saw her across the pond, everything entered my mind at once. She saw me coming and didn't run off. That's when I knew it'd all work out.

I'm not quite sure how she died. I mean, I know it was the fall from the roof of the 7-11, but I don't know if it was an accident or murder. She yelled at me, I shoved her, and she stumbled. If that ladder hadn't been there, I don't think she would have tumbled down. But what do I know?

"I want to be with you. I do. I love you." She paused, and the look in her eyes told me I wouldn't like what she had to say next. "But this is crazy. Stupid even. We're way too young to run off together, to start an adult life. I know I am."

I tried to reason with her. I said something along the lines of we weren't too young, and I wasn't stupid. She didn't listen, but turned to climb down off the roof. I tried one last thing, this time proving how incredibly stupid I really was.

"If you leave now, you're dead to me."

A ton of different emotions flashed across her face until anger stuck. "This is why I didn't want to see you anymore."

That did it. I shoved her. I didn't do it to hurt her. Instead, my emotionally overcharged brain used the physical to show the symbolical. I pushed her away. She stumbled backwards, her feet smacked into the top of the ladder, and she tumbled off to the pavement below. A fall from that height isn't usually fatal, but she landed awkwardly. I saw right away that she'd died instantly, and a little bit of me died with her. It wouldn't be long before the rest of me joined her.

I shimmied down the ladder and bolted before someone came out of the convenience store. She'd fallen to the side, in an alley. Pretty convenient for me. I still had 300 dollars and change in my pocket, and I'd need it in my new life on the run from the law. Or so I thought.

I wish I could say my death was symbolic, as in the loss of my youth and innocence. Or that I offed myself in a perfect Romeo and Juliet-type suicide. Or maybe even that I'd gone out in a made for the big screen action sequence. But no. Late the next night, I bedded down on a park bench in a strange town. A floating sensation jarred me awake, and I found myself rising to the sky, my body lying in a pool of blood from a gushing wound in my neck, while a scraggly man, presumably my killer, ran away with my cash clutched in his fists. As I moved towards that proverbial white light, my thoughts focused on Natalie and a possible reconciliation. Maybe it had worked out for the best after all.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

10 Mile Xtreme Mud Run - Part One

A couple of weeks back, my wife and I went on vacation. The plan all along was to hit Las Vegas for a few days, and visit my aunt and uncle who live in Bullhead City, Arizona (right next to Laughlin, Nevada on the Colorado River below Davis Dam). When I saw there was a mud run in the neighboring town of Fort Mohave, AZ right around the time we'd planned to go, I decided to plan the vacation around that. We went for a couple of days to Las Vegas, headed to Bullhead City for the weekend, and then returned for two more days of Vegas fun. Turned out it was a great vacation on all fronts! For this post, however, I'm going to focus on the mud run, since I've had so many people ask me what in the heck it is. I haven't made any posts about running and exercise in awhile, so consider this a foray back into the topic.

The name of the mud run was the Xtreme Mud Run, and it was touted as the longest mud run in the nation. It had distances of 15 miles and 10 miles, as well as a 10 K and 5 K (6.2 miles and 3.1 miles respectively). I ran the 10 mile course. A mud run isn't run in the mud, but on trails, which are dirt and sand for the most part. It's basically a distance race with obstacles. The mud part of the name comes from those obstacles, which are often filled with mud. And since that's the most visually striking part of the run, both during and after, that's where the name comes from.

I've done a few races over the last couple of years, including one mud run (the 5 K zombie infested mud run called Run For Your Lives - I really should have told that story, but I blew it. I'll be doing it again this year, and I'll make sure you all hear the story). Most races have thousands of people, but this one, being in a small community in the desert, had only 300 or so participants. I originally signed up for a 9 AM heat, since the earlier ones were touted as competitive heats. I'm not a competitive runner (except with myself), so I had no need to go against the hard-core running adventurers, especially since I was technically on vacation. When I got there, though, luckily an hour and a half early, I found out there was only one heat for the 10 mile run - the 8 AM one. Good. I wasn't looking forward to standing around for an hour and a half anyway.

The run took place on the Avi Indian Reservation in Fort Mohave, AZ. From what I could tell driving in, it looked to be on farmland, and there was plenty of that to cover 15 (and in my case 10) miles. I spotted a few runners from the 7 AM heat for the 15 mile run, and saw them running on the dirt with no obstacles in sight. So it wasn't the strategic view that I'd hoped for (there were almost 40 obstacles set up to go over, under, and through, and for my distance, there were almost 30), but I was glad to see the event had started in a timely manner. I arrived to a large building that housed the start and finish line, as well as the final obstacle - rings to cross over a mud pit (like monkey bars, but rings on ropes instead of bars). I could feel the excitement in the air as I checked in and got set to race. The other competitors also had energy and nerves flowing off of them, and I could tell just by looking around that there'd be great camaraderie on the course, something which is a ton of fun in these races.

I watched the 7:30 heat (the final group of 15 milers) take off, and I slathered sunscreen on (hey, it was a relatively cool morning, but we were in the desert!). My uncle took my pre-race pictures, and I warmed up for the adventure. When it was finally time to line up for the start, I found that there were only two, maybe three, dozen other competitors in the 10 mile distance, a far-cry from any other race I'd ever done. As the guy at the starting line gave us our instructions, we all bounced up and down, working out the pre-race jitters and warming up, all in one. Finally, as the clock hit 8 AM, he shouted "Go!" and we were off.

How did I do? What was the course like? Was I sore for the rest of my vacation, which still had almost 5 days to go? Find out next week! For now, here are some picture of me awaiting my starting time. Enjoy!

Here I am up in the stands awaiting the fun!
 Here are three of the staring/finish line.

 My wife, Amber, and I in front of the promotional poster. I think it looks pretty cool!
 Here's one of the promotional flags. Like the poster, it's pretty nifty!
 Amber and I in the stands.