“S” is for “StoryADay,” “Superstars,” and “Scrivener”

My intention today was to write only about StoryADay (StADa). However, I am compelled also to write about Scrivener for Windows.

StoryADay originated in 2010 when Julie Duffy decided to challenge herself to write a short story every day in May. She invited a few friends to join her, encouraged them with daily writing prompts, and a vibrant writing community was born.  Although the May challenge to write a short story every day remains the centerpiece, Julie has continued to add features to the website. The Challenge is repeated in September, she hosts a weekly podcast, a weekly “Write on Wednesday” writing prompt, an annual “StoryFest” celebrating the May stories and their authors, a monthly Serious Writers’ Accountability Group (SWAGr), and a host of various writing resources. Writer’s Digest has, for many years, named StoryADay as one of the 101 Best Writing Websites.

The best part of StADa as far as I’m concerned is the “Superstars” community Julie created a couple of years ago. The original enticement for me was that she enhanced the May and September challenge prompts with her commentary and suggestions. As with the public website, however, she has continued to add features to Superstars. We have a private Slack forum, where we share our setbacks and triumphs, suggestions/news about workshops, places to submit, our blogs, and a weekly SWAGr thread. We have regular critique weeks for feedback on our May and September stories, daily writing sprints, and specialized workshops and master classes. “Superstars” isn’t free, but it’s the best investment I’ve made in my writing. Unlike other paid writing communities, Julie fosters a nurturing, non-competitive group, without any pressure regarding how much or little someone participates. Lurking is acceptable.

Join us on May 1st! You can write daily if you want or set a schedule that works for you. It’s a great opportunity to exercise your writing chops.

Now, for my thoughts on Scrivener. I’ve been an enthusiastic Scrivener user since I started writing fiction in 2018. After plowing my way through the Scrivener tutorial, I decided to invest in “The Scrivener Coach” Joseph Michael‘s, “Learn Scrivener Fast” tutorial (an excellent course, by the way). That’s when I discovered that Scrivener for Windows was an earlier, more cumbersome, version (Version 1) than the Version 3 available to Mac users. The course focused primarily on Mac but was very good about correlating the differences and providing instruction for Windows’ users when necessary. With that brief exposure to Version 3, I (and many Windows users) have been salivating for our upgrade which, at the time, was promised within months.

Months stretched into years. Luckily, Literature and Latte, Scrivener’s owners, promised a free upgrade to users who had bought version 1 in a particular timeframe. I signed up for their mailing list, checked for upgrades every time I opened my Scrivener app, and fairly patiently waited for the upgrade. While Beta versions were available, I decided against that route because apparently working in a Beta version didn’t jibe well with existing projects in version 1.

So, here it is, two and a half years later. I’m doing a Google search on some unrelated subject and accidentally discover that Scrivener 3 for Windows was released ONE MONTH AGO. Words cannot describe how thoroughly pissed I am that Literature and Latte didn’t deign to notify/email we legions of Version 1 users that the Holy Grail of writing software for Windows is here at last. Nevertheless, I am equally thrilled to have downloaded it and can’t wait to immerse myself after I finish this post. Just in time for the Story A Day May Challenge.

“F” is for “Funk”

Technology and I just did not get along today, so I’m admitting defeat and republishing my short story, “You Get the Funk After Death,” originally published on May 24, 2019.

 

“You get the funk after death.” Words of wisdom from Peter on my first day on the job. We were digging the latest grave, and I was still pretty skeeved from all the new smells that hit me when I arrived that morning. I never knew about the funk until I started working at Floyd’s Funeral Parlor. I never knew a lot of things until then.

Since I was a kid, I’d wanted to work at Floyd’s. I’d pass the big, old Victorian house twice a day, to and from school. Out front, Floyd’s tuxedoed statue stood a good 15 feet higher than the tallest passerby. He was always tastefully ringed by a bed of fresh lilies. You might think he’d be intimidating, looking down his nose on everyone, but those lilies softened him and reassured bereaved families that their dearly departed would be in good hands at Floyd’s. Floyd seemed like the kind of man I wanted to be.

“Almost like fingerprints, everyone’s funk is different,” Peter continued.

“How so?”

“Well, take the little old lady we’re burying today. She came here from Myrtle’s Nursing Home, where she’d lived for years. You know how nursing homes always have that stale urine, musty kind of smell? Well, when you’ve lived with that stink for years, it becomes part of you. Plus, she lingered for a long time after she got sick, and decay had got a foothold before she passed. Her family brought a bucketful of Tender Violet cologne to try to cover it up. I guess they thought if the perfume matched her name, violet would become the prominent aroma. Now her funk could best be described as decaying violets with a hint of dog piss.”

“She doesn’t smell like that in the viewing room. I think the embalming process must have taken care of it.”

“Nah. It just adds to the mix. You don’t notice it as much because the lilies are overpowering.”

“What about the guy who came in last night? The one who had a heart attack on the 18th green over at Shady Glen Golf? If where you came from becomes part of the funk, he should be smelling like fertilizer, but he doesn’t. He just smells awfully sweaty.”

“There you have it! By the time you get to the 18th hole, everyone smells sweaty.”

“So the funk isn’t quite like a fingerprint, after all?”

“Sure, it is. Didn’t you ever notice everyone’s sweat smells different? Garlicky and fishy, if you just had scampi; boozy if you drank lunch.”

“Hey, Petey! Stop your yammering and just dig! I’m trying to get some sleep here.”

I wasn’t about to wait around to find out who said that. I dropped my shovel and ran. Peter caught me by my overall strap as I ran past. Nearly choked me to death before he brought me to the ground.

“Pfft! When are you not trying to get some sleep, Harvey? You think you got someplace else to be?”

“Peter? Who’s Harvey? Isn’t that the name on the next tombstone?”

“Listen, Petey, even the dead have to rest up to make a good first impression.”

“On the kid? I think you’ve already made your impression, scaring him half to death. It’s his first day. I planned to ease into letting him know what’s what.”

“Not the kid; Violet. We were sweet on each other when we were young. I want to look my best when she sees me.”

I must be cut out for this work. I was already getting over the shock of hearing a dead man talking, because I jumped into the conversation.

“Mr. Harvey, how is she going to see you? I mean, I gather you ARE the Harvey in the next grave. I can hear you but can’t see you. How will she?”

“Don’t know how it works, Kiddo. It just does. She might not see me right away, if she’s not over the trauma of dying yet. But when she does see me, I want to look as good as I can.”

“Harvey, you’ve been dead 15 years already. How good can you possibly look?”

“Listen, Petey. Floyd does an A-1 job of embalming and prepping for burial. He may not be able to get rid of the funk, but he sure can preserve the body. I just wish he hadn’t concentrated only on the parts that would be seen at the viewing.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Harvey? I thought the embalming fluid replaced blood through the whole body.”

“It does, Kiddo. But Floyd does a lot more than just stuff us with that formaldehyde mix. He fixes up our faces, too. Haven’t you ever heard anyone say ‘Aw, he looks just like himself’ when they pay their respects?”

“Yes, but…”

“Listen, Kiddo. When that train hit me, it threw my parts all over the place. Floyd got them all back and reattached what he could.”

“He made you whole again, Harvey. What’s the problem?”

“Well, Petey, let’s just say, he’ll never be a plastic surgeon. Or a tailor.”

Death comes differently for everyone. Sometimes he comes violently, painfully. Other times, he comes peacefully, stealing from morphine dreams. Sometimes he’ll snatch people before they know what hit them. Other times, he’ll wait for months in the shadows, slowly siphoning someone’s life away. Anytime he wants, Death’ll take from a hospital, bedroom, golf course, lake, middle of the street. No matter how, when, or where he comes, when Death takes, his leavings come here to Floyd’s.

Inspired by a lyric from The Cars’ “I’m In Touch With Your World” and written in response to a prompt from Story A Day.  

A is for “April” and “Annabel Lee”

April is a significant month in my writing life.

Three years ago, on April 28, 2018, I published my first blog post — my first poem. Most of my following posts were opinion pieces, primarily on music. A few were short stories, usually between six and 500 words. Although I wasn’t publishing many of my creative endeavors, I was actually writing fiction almost exclusively. I took an online creative writing course through Wesleyan University, pantsed way through my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and completed my first writing year by earning Wesleyan certificates in each of their five creative writing modules.

Phew. Took a few months off, but in April, 2019, I discovered both diyMFA and the StoryADay May Challenge with its wonderfully creative and supportive writing community. Since then, I have another NaNoWriMo under my belt and quite a few short stories, thanks to StoryADay’s May and September challenges. I haven’t published my stories here because I’ve been submitting them to markets that won’t accept previously-published materials.

Which brings me to this April. Today, I’m rejoining the blogging world with my first contribution to the “Blogging from A to Z Challenge.” I figured choosing an “A” poem bookends nicely with my other first post in 2018. I’ve chosen both “April” and the Edgar Allan Poe poem “Annabel Lee” because this is a particularly auspicious April for me. My first short story, “The Heart Tells the Tale,” appears in the April 2021 edition of Love Letters to Poe.