NaNoWriMo Begins Again

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Today marks the start of a new NaNoWriMo. It’s an exciting day, filled with anticipation, wonder and the need to do everything but write the novel I’m supposed to be writing. I won’t bore anyone with my strategy or try to make it through another month of blogging-while-writing, because I’ve already done all of that – you can read all of my previous posts on NaNoWriMo here.

Instead, this year I’m going to try to take my own advice my previous years. I mean, I gave some pretty good advice, so I’d be a bit of a moron not to heed it.

Today is also my mom’s birthday. I have exactly 20 minutes before I need to stop writing and start celebrating my mom’s birth. Therefore, I will stop wasting words on my blog and get back to my story.

Current Word Count: 397
Today’s Goal: 1,000 

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NaNoWriMo Begins…

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It’s been a hectic year. In a good way of course! Now it’s November (boy did that ever sneak up on me!) and I’m participating in NaNoWriMo yet again… Though I’m using the word “participating” very loosely. I’ve only got about 600 words so far in my “story” which currently has a prologue, one character and absolutely no plot or setting. The only thing I know for sure is that it will take place in the future because my character is, apparently, driving a flying car.

Yup. This is going to be fun.

Of course, all of this has to wait until after I’ve finished some work.

For all of my NaNoWriMo friends, I wrote quite a few “helpful tips” blogs last year – feel free to browse the NaNoWriMo catergory and I’ll add more blogs when I can. :)

Without further ado, here’s an excerpt from my current NaNo project (the prologue):

The elusive “they” say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes. In an instant, you relive everything significant, embarrassing and horrid you’ve ever experienced or done.

They’re half right.

Your life does flash before your eyes, but it’s not the life you’ve lived… it’s the one you could have lived. All of the moments of happiness and joy – the unfulfilled potential of your existence, whisking by one frame after another.

As the blood drained from my body onto the pavement, coating the shards of glass that surrounded me, I saw what my life could have been, had I not made the one decision. I saw myself in a beautiful white gown, the long sleeves trailing along the red, silk carpet spread before me, my face radiant, happier than I’d ever been. I saw myself holding a newborn in a white room, the boarder of dancing brown bears mocking the real me. My face is sweaty, my hair plastered to my forehead, my smile wide and relieved.

Tears leak from my eyes, tickle the bridge of my nose and drop onto the pavement, mingling with the thick, dark red coating. Cold grips me as the final moments of my life flash; shivers send shooting pains through my back. I’m old, lying in bed. My face at peace. I’m looking at a photo of a family, but I am by myself.

I slip away quietly, knowing I am loved.

The reality hits me harder than the pavement had hit me seconds ago. I will never have that life. My shoulders shake, pain lancing down my spine to my tailbone.

I wish I had made a different choice.

My Epic Laundry Day

This week I did laundry for the first time since the holidays. My laundering task started with the inevitable desire to not go through with it… to put it off just one more day. I would have gotten away with it had I not confessed to my friend (via BBM) that I was going to do so. She gave me the best motivating response ever…

“Do it now and you won’t have to think about it again for another two weeks…”

I don my thoughtful face.

“If I do my laundry NOW, I won’t have to…” *insert explosion noises here*

Mind. Blown.

I have honestly never thought of it that way. Although in my case it’s more like three or four weeks, until I’m down to my last pair of socks and undergarments – but that’s down the street and around the corner from the point. I suddenly found myself very committed to completing my laundry. So I told my friend:

“Will keep you posted on my progress… cuz I’m sure you’ll be on the edge of your seat in suspense!”

“Yes I’m literally sitting on the edge of my couch waiting for news” she replied – she’s the most awesome person, ever.

Since I just KNOW you all want to hear about it, here is what I sent her throughout the evening. Enjoy!

9:30pm

When did I acquire so many clothes. And towels. And sheets. It seems too much for a single person. Too much. The weight of my laundry hamper nearly pulled me down the stairs. Luckily, they were narrow; I kept my shoulder on the wall for balance and support.

Half way to the laundry room I felt the familiar twinge in my ankle again. It has been twinging since that fateful Thursday game when I took a blow to the leg. I stopped a goal, but my leg never really got over the betrayal. It was paying me back tonight, methinks. Somehow I managed. Somehow I made it down the stairs with my dreadful burden and my vengeful leg.

I walked through the cold brick hallway; the lights flickered, eerie. There was a dull humming noise. It increased in volume, overcoming my sense of sound – though not my sense of smell which I regretted a bit upon passing the garbage bins. The humming buzzed through my skull, louder, more violent the closer I got to the dark, cement room at the back of the garage. I could vaguely make out the sound of water dripping as I slid the key into the lock.

I turned the knob and dread filled me.

I know what that noise is, I thought. That’s the sound of the machines. Someone is in there. They might be malicious or violent or worse… They might want to talk.

There is nothing worse than having to make polite conversation with someone while you’re in your laundry day clothes – yoga pants and an over sized, frumpy shirt. The cleanest things you own – at least you think they’re clean. They don’t smell at least.

I pulled the door open, my trepidation intensifying with the hum. Light poured onto the garage floor. I peeked around the door and relief flooded me. It was empty.

Sliding inside, I checked the machines for the source of the humming. Both dryers whirred, the robotic machine noise amplified by the hand-made cement walls. The room was obviously a later edition, but that’s a side thought to be discussed another day.

My hamper whuffed against the floor. The muscles in my arms shook from the strain and emotional tension.

It’s my lucky day, I thought, eyeing the empty washers and my overloaded hamper. I may not have to make two trips.

I loaded the washers without incident. I don’t even think I thought about what I was doing. It’s possible I forgot to put detergent in one of them. Though I’m sure I didn’t forget. But I might have – either way it’s too late now. My trip back upstairs was just as unmemorable, which is a good thing. It means my vengeful leg was pacified yet again. It seems I was also immune to the humming. As I sit here and write this entry in my laundry journal, I realize though that I forgot to note the time I loaded my laundry. I fear that the experience will go poorly from here on out as I try to hazard a best guestimate of when my laundry will be ready for drying. We shall soon see.

9:56pm

This trip down was much the same as the first. Only instead of a heavy laundry hamper I was burdened with two arms full of recycling. Though lighter, the cumbersome nature and inflexibility of my load made navigating corners quite treacherous. My leg and ankle protested again, which leads me to believe that weight is not the problem. Stairs are. Those vile, flat monsters require a dexterity of the joints that my ankle simple cannot provide. I am starting to suspect that both of my ankles are in cahoots with one another, hatching some evil scheme to destroy their nemesis. I am afraid whatever plans they follow through on will only end in tears. Probably mine.

In any case, I made it to the basement without incident. The silence was unnoticeable at first. But as I dumped the recycling in the appropriate blue bins… I noticed. My laundry must be washed, thought I as I traversed the garage floor with light feet and a light heart. Perhaps I will not need to take the stairs much more. But alas, this was not the case. The dryers were still full. Done, but full.

I hesitated. The moral quandry that haunts every resident of a building with a laundry in the basement (or other place) – do I taken the clothes out and put them in this strange person’s hamper or do I return. My mind drifted back to my previous laundy day, oh so very long ago. I had opted to remove the clothing myself. The owner had returned before I’d finished loading my clothes into the dryer. The embassassment as I explained what I had done was too much. I never want to relive that. Thus, tonight I have opted to wait. But it is ok dear reader, whoever you may be, for I have to take out my garbage as well. I will give this dryer hog 10 minutes before returning. Then I will empty the dryers myself.

On another note – it seems it is always best to leave your hamper in the laundry room. Especially if you’re using the dryer. That way the next person will put your clothes in a hamper instead of on the floor or another dirty surface.

10:30pm

As I descended the stairs, stinking and rotting garbage in hand, I knew that my fears were true. My ankles were conspiring against the stairs. Or at the very least, me. Both ankles twinged simultaneously in the stairwell. I would have gone flying but, as I mentioned, the stair well is narrow. I cannot fathom how these ankles of mine do not understand that harming me will harm them.

As I dumped the garbage into the bins, covering my mouth to block the smell, I noticed the humming again. Despair flooded through me… Again. Only this time it was couple with disbelief. A machine is running.

I hurried through the garage, my footsteps echoing over the dull hum. Dismay continued to grow inside me. The key – lock – turn – pull combo was a split second in comparison to that first trip. I entered the well lit room and stared at the dryer. It was running. The dryer hog was still using it.

This is what I get for being nice.

I stood there, contemplating my next move. Frustrated, I moved the first load from the washer to the dryer. I tried to cull the herd, so to speak, removing the lightweight clothes – soccer jerseys, shorts, and blouses. But it wasn’t enough. The dryer was much to full.

It’ll have to do, I told myself as I pushed the button to start the machine. The humming came to life, following me out of the room with my arms filled with wet cloth. Those poor, abandon clothes will not feel the therapeutic warmth of the dryer. Instead, they hang limp and damp.

12:00am

This will be my final entry. My final trip down was met with stumbles and stabs of dull pain (more discomfort, but for the sake of drama I exaggerate). The journey is a hazy mist of monotonous repetition. One foot, then the next. Stumble. Shoulder held against the wall for support. No man should be up at midnight doing laundry. No woman either. It’s inhumane. It’s barbaric.

Next time I will not procrastinate.

Next time I will do it the next day.

When I arrived in the laundry room, I could tell that my clothes were ready to be evacuated from the dryer. Except. They weren’t. The feeling of cold, damp cloth is the worst, especially when you expect the cloth to be warm and soft – the kind of warmth you could just wrap yourself in and fall asleep. Alas, this was not meant to be, not for me. Not tonight.

The combination of my legs’ plans coming to fruition and the disappointment that has arisen from all of my laundry still being damp is too much. I can no longer bear to be conscious right now.

This is the end.

So, for future reference – never agree to be kept posted by writer while they do mundane tasks. You WILL get a story and it may or may not be hilarious.

The Week After NaNoWriMo

This is my Winner's badge. Isn't it pretty? I think it's pretty.

This is my Winner’s badge. Isn’t it pretty? I think it’s pretty.

It’s been a week since NaNoWriMo ended. Well, almost a week. Ok, technically over a week, since I officially hit the 50K mark last Tuesday. But that’s besides the point.

I’ve spent the last eight days avoiding my computer at home (I’m sort of stuck in front of my computer at work, so it’s hard to avoid there) and ignoring my brain when it nags me to write more. I guess that’s one disadvantage to binge writing – when the binge is over, you really don’t want to do it any more.

For a week.

Then the craving sets in again and your fingers start to itch. Your mind tumbles through millions of plot twists that could be implemented in your next story. Your life seems a bit… boring… without the drama of word wars, the psychedelic images created by random prompts  and the interesting social engagements that come with NaNoWriMo.

Writing is an addiction people.

More specifically, I think NaNoWriMo might be an addiction.

But it’s one of those “good for you addictions”, like being addicted to milk, or running, or fruit. If those addictions are even possible (I feel like they should be). Oh oh, or being addicted to vitamins – though I’ve heard that too many vitamins are bad for you… something about your liver.

Moving on….

NaNoWriMo was a great experience. A majestic and wonderful month of meeting new people, and challenging myself as a writer. Quite a few of my NaNo buddies succeeded – they too are proud owners of a NaNoWriMo winner’s badge.

I learned quite a few things participating in NaNoWriMo…
  • A Writer’s Network is one of the most important things a writer can have to strengthen not only their writing skills, but to help create more dynamic and believable stories. I’ve discovered how different it is to have people in the same room as you who are as excited about writing their story as you are about writing yours. Asking them a question about plot is easy and painless because they’re doing the same. This blew my mind a little bit. Not a lot though, because I still needed my mind. So here’s a shout out to all of my NaNo buddies who helped me get over that massive writer’s block and gave me to the push I needed to succeed! You know who you are… and you are awesome! :)
  • Writing every day is NOT easy & you will constantly feel like you should be writing even when you’ve hit your daily goal. This is a good thing. This is a thing that should carry over to every day for the entire year. And it sort of has. I still have that nagging feeling that I’m supposed to be writing (and I guess technically I should be) but it’s not as strong. I’m actually worried that it’ll fade and eventually the nagging will be gone and I’ll be left with no drive to write. Perhaps I should set myself my own personal monthly goals (not 50K though… that’s a November thing and will remain a November thing). Hmmm… I should get a buddy involved.
  • Writing for the sake of writing is the best thing a writer could do. This is so incredibly true and I think it’s why NaNoWriMo was invented in the first place. Your story/novel/whatever will be edited. A first draft IS NOT a final draft (and never should be). Editing is the second step. Writing is the first step. So why go back and edit AS you write? That’s counter-productive and yet EVERYONE does it. Well, that’s a broad generalization. Let me rephrase… yet ALMOST EVERYONE does it. I’m doing it right now. If there’s is one thing I will take away from this whole experience is that I need to turn my personal editor on mute for the duration of the first draft. Then, once I’ve got the whole draft out of my brain, I can go back and edit.
  • Writing for the sake of writing is the best thing a writer could do. This point needed repeating because it’s true for two reasons. The first, as stated above. And the second because that dreaded “writer’s block” can be overcome by writing. Just writing. Look outside and write about the weather. Describe the room your character is in. Just WRITE. Your plot will come in, grab your brain and yank in the direction you need to go next. Or, set yourself a time limit and type as fast as you can – I can’t guarantee that it’ll get you passed that writer’s-block-that’s-really-a-hump, but it’s incredibly likely that by the end of your set time frame, you will be inspired or at least back on track.
  • Random Prompts & Character Quirks make your story more dynamic and thus, more believable. Throughout the month, my ML (Municipal Liaison) posted these prompts that we were supposed to include in our story. In addition, there were random prompts provided by my NaNo buddies during word wars and what not. Incorporating these required some skill and imagination – when you succeeded, you realized that the scene you’d created was a great way to add depth to a side character or make your world just a little less linear and a little more real. That, my friends, is important. You want your world, your characters, to all be real and relate-able. Prompts do this. Or they completely mess you up. Either way, it’s fun!

Well, those are the things I had on my mind today about NaNoWriMo. I’m pretty sure there are a few other things I’ve learned that I’ve forgotten to include here. But that’s ok, because this post is pretty long.

If you’re a writer and want to participate in monthly writing goals, let me know! I can set something up here so that we can all keep track – maybe on the first of every month I’ll post the month’s writing goal, then we can chat in the comments and what not? Whatever works!

Day 17 – NaNoWriMo Update

I took a bit of a break this week. I was up to a little over 28K on Monday night so I decided to socialize. It was a good week. The only problem? Getting back to writing today was very very difficult. I spent the morning watching some shows with W. and the couch was so comfortable that getting up to write seemed like too much of a hassle.

Luckily, I’ve got some stellar NaNoWriMo buddies who were willing to tell me what’s what via Twitter. Especially when I didn’t show up to our pre-arranged online writing session.

Now, here I sit, a few word wars and 2.5K more words later feeling like I accomplished something. And I did. I got myself over the 31K hump. Next goal, get over the 35K hump! But that’s for tomorrow. Or Monday. We’ll see how productive I feel tomorrow.

That was my update. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote today. This was from the first word war. I told my friends that I didn’t know what to write, so they asked BattleJesus for a writing prompt. BattleJesus told me that the dish came back and said it lost the spoon when they made a run for it. THAT’S what I had to incorporate.

Challenge Accepted!

Without further ado, here you go. Enjoy!

***

She picked up her and Logan’s plates, a bowl and spoon that Nathaniel must have used and brought them to the counter. The boys rustled with their clothing, chatting with each other. It made a pleasant background noise to the domestic task.

The remaining food particles were shovelled into the garbage under the sink. The forks and butter knives went in the cutlery holder, the plates in the appropriate slots. Glasses got rinsed, the water falling over the clear glass creating a rainbow of colours. Clara watched in awe as the colours intensified, joy bubbling up inside her at the way the colours were accentuated by the sun, the window panes, the grass outside and the piles of snow.

She picked up the bowl, rinsing it. She froze, looking inside.

“There was a spoon,” she said, confused.

“Yeah, sorry about that Clara,” the bowl said. “I lost it in when we made a run for it. I think it got away though, so don’t worry about that. It’s in a safe place now. A better place.”

“Where could that be?” Clara asked, bending over to put the bowl in the dishwasher. The white porcelain glistened, rainbows of colours radiating in the sunlight.

“It’s with Nathaniel and Logan now,” the bowl said.

“Outside?” she looked out the window, but didn’t see her boys. Panic rose in her. Where were they? They said they were going outside. Why can’t I see them? “Where are they?” she asked the bowl. It remained silent, the sides mute and colourless. Pale. Dreary.

She stood, her heart beating.

Where are they? Why aren’t they here? They said they were going outside. What did the bowl mean? Where’s the spoon? With Nathaniel and Logan?

She shook her head, her hair bouncing against her cheeks.

This is ridiculous. She thought to herself. They just went outside. I know they’re there. Don’t panic. Don’t be stupid. Stop listening to inanimate objects. How could a bowl talk anyway? Clara, you’re crazy. Stop being crazy and put your coat on. Just walk into the mudroom and put on your jacket. Relax. Ok. Relax.

That’s my post for today. Time to go eat something…. 

Social Media & NaNoWriMo

Tonight’s post is about Social Media and how awesome it is for writers. Especially NaNoWriMos. I have never felt this connected to a group of I’ve only just recently met, be it online or in person. Period. And all because we all share the same incredible goal of writing 50K words in 30 days.

Amazing.

(anyone who has seen that episode of Bones where Brennan goes on that kids’ science show as the bone lady will understand when I say that I can’t say “Amazing” normally… ever.)

That being said, there are some things I’ve noticed about Social Media that could deter or help a potential success story. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Twitter can be painfully distracting. Especially if you have it on all of your devices. There’s nothing more annoying/distracting than being in the middle of a writing sprint and seeing your phone beep, then hearing your ipod chirp, then seeing the notification on your twitter tab… Granted, my mistake here was opening and signing into twitter on every one of my devices… which is why my advice to you is to keep it open on one device at a time and only check it when you’ve finished your section/hit a wall in your story.
  • Twitter can be incredibly helpful.  It’s a very efficient way of staying connected to the other NaNoers across the globe. You can ask them about their word count, post your frustrations and receive suggestions on how to resolve the plot device you’ve been over thinking… I have even used it to let other people in my area know when I have gotten to a write-in location and where I am seated. In fact, I believe on at least one occasion  my talking about a write-in with another NaNoer convinced a third NaNoer to attend!
  • If you’re on twitter…
    Follow @NaNoWordSprints
    – these guys helped me write 5K in just under 3 hours. Craziness. Granted my hands and forearms hurt like the dickins and I thought my shoulders would never relax, but I wanted to reach 5K and still have an evening out and I did. Because I did NaNo Word Sprints. Do them. Use them. Abuse them. Ok, don’t abuse them, but definitely do them. Why? Because I said so.
    Follow my Writers/NaNo/BookCountry list – I’ve done my best to ensure that all of the people I follow that are participating in NaNo or are writers in general (with helpful writing tips) are on this list. Follow them. Talk to them. They don’t bite, not people they just met anyway… that comes later.
  • Support groups are required for every challenge… and Facebook has become mine. All of my friends and family are there (ok, not ALL, but most) and they have been liking my statuses and commenting when they feel they can offer some support or whatever. I am so grateful and, even though I’m sure that by the end of the month they will all hate me with a fiery passion akin to the flames burning bright in the devil’s land… I will still be grateful to them for their support.
  • Google + … same thing from the point above, just with a different group of people… Ones that are more friends-through-interests than friends-in-person. Except for one guy. One guy is on both sites… he’s a good friend. He has to hear me update my word count TWICE every day. He will probably hate me TWICE as much as everyone else, that’s how special he is. A shout out to him…. if he hasn’t already started ignoring everything I post
  • Chats/Online Hang outs – these are great for those days that are cold and dreary… or that you just don’t want to get dressed. You go online, sign into your region’s “designated” chatting method (in my case, a site called goodchatting where we have a forum for our region) and you chat. That sounds counter intuitive, but it’s not. Because, while you’re chatting someone will randomly suggest a word war. Word Wars are the reason why I’m at 28K. Honestly. On the weekend, I did several 15 minute word wars in a row and wrote 6K. The following day I went to a write in and wrote another 3K via word wars. I’m starting to think I won’t be able to write without a word war from now on.

So, if you’re reading this and you are being a recluse (ie. not participating in write-ins or haven’t introduced yourself on the nanowrimo forums) then get you butt out there. Make yourself known. Draw attention to your word count and your story. Your friends and family will cheer you on, your fellow NaNoers will compete with you AND cheer you on, and I’ll watch, grinning the whole time telling people “I told him/her to do that.”

However, if you don’t know who to contact or don’t have a social media account, at the very least hang out in the forums. Or contact me and I’ll help you get connected. It’ll be fun! And trust me, your word count won’t suffer.

Have any other Social Media tools to help the NaNoers of the world reach their goal? Share them here! 

Annoying Upstairs Neighbours – An Excerpt

On Saturday, when I finally sat down to work on my NaNoWriMo story (after a few hours of procrastination), my upstairs neighbours decided to be as loud as they possibly could. These people yell at each other at all hours of the day and night. I’m also fairly certain they wear their shoes inside (wood floors + shoes = loud. Very loud) Once, the lady walked around all night in heels.

That made me want to hit something.

Anyway, so I complained about the noise to my fellow NaNoers via a chat room that one of my fellow Montreal NaNoers set up for us. They suggested that I incorporate it into my story. In fact, they suggested three different ways to incorporate it into my story:

  1. Personify the upstairs neighbour problem in one character
  2. Have the MC’s father banging around in the attic/upstairs
  3. Write a flashback wherein the MC experiences exactly what I was experiencing.

Then we proceeded to have a word war, where I wrote the following scene. Let me know if you think I succeeded in incorporating the three suggestions!

OH! Before we continue to the story. I HIT 25K YESTERDAY! *so happy* Here I was thinking I’d be behind by now when I’m pretty much half way done. ALSO, I FINALLY managed to get Clara where I want her… thought she’d be there by now, but no, she’s a stubborn creature. Now to write the more exciting part of the story. What WHAT! :) 

Excerpt from Clara’s Story

Clara sat in the living room with Breanna and Lucas. The clattering of dishes in the kitchen was the only evidence that her mother was is residence. Janelle had gone to a friend’s house for a play date.

“Well, that was an interesting Christmas,” Breanna said. She was carefully not looking at Clara. Her face was twisted in an attempt at a pleasant smile.

“Oh be quiet Breanna,” Lucas snarled. He had been unpleasant to her all morning. The family dinner yesterday had been tense, a tenseness made more unpleasant by Breanna’s snide remarks about Clara. Clara stared at the TV. Some show was on, but she wasn’t paying attention to it. Instead, she was thinking about her time in the city and the noise. Here in the country, there was no noise. Nothing to distract you from the sounds coming from the TV. There was no one to make you feel like you weren’t alone in the world.

“What? I thought it was lovely,” Breanna’s voice dripped with sarcasm on the word lovely. It was like she was intent on being inconsiderate to everyone around her. She didn’t care who she disturbed, as along as she was free to do and live as she wished.

There was a clunk over their heads. Heavy footsteps echoed through the living room.

“What was that?” Lucas asked, looking at Clara. Clara shook her head, frowning.

“You dad is setting up Clara’s new painting things,” Breanna said with a frown.

“Oh, the ones that Janelle picked out?” Lucas asked.

“Yes, the ones we’d spent far too much on, after all she’s not going to use them now is she?” Breanna said.

“Breanna, that’s enough. Stop being a bitch ok? You’ve made your point, now leave off it.” Lucas glared at his wife.

“I won’t Lucas. I won’t leave off it until you see the truth. Your sister is…”

Clara drowned out the noise of her sister-in-law. She didn’t like what she heard, but she didn’t want to say anything about it. Everyone is allowed their opinions. Everyone is allowed to do as they want, when they want. Clara knew now that there was something off about the past few days. She reconsidered the poisoning angle, become more and more certain that that was what was happening. Someone in this household was poisoning her so that she wouldn’t realize that they were keeping her from Nathaniel and Logan. She knew that now, she just didn’t understand why.

A bang echoed through the living room, followed by the heavy thumps of someone walking.

Clara’s mind drifted back to her apartment in the city, the first one her and Nathaniel had shared. It was a large two bedroom in an old building. The wood floors were a beautiful yellow with hints of auburn in the complementing grains that ran through each panel.

The only problem with them was that everyone could hear you walking around.

Their upstairs neighbours persisted in wearing their shoes everywhere, had no carpets to muffle the sound and had a young child that ran around all day, every day.

The second week they were there, she had just finished setting up her easel and paints in exactly the way she liked them. Her and Nathaniel had agreed that the extra room would be his office and the guest room. Her “studio” was a small corner of the living room, directly beside the windows. There was plenty of light; the balcony was right there if she chose to go out for some fresh air and the TV was close if she chose to play a show in the background.

The only problem was that their upstairs neighbours loved spending time in their living room. The child loved to run around. She glared up at the ceiling, wishing a painful death on the noise makers, then sat down to work on her latest project.

The child decided to skip rope.

The thumping reverberated down the walls, echoing through Clara’s skull like a jack hammer. Her hand shimmied across the canvas. A large blue-black line crossed over the large puppy dog faces that stared out at her, nearly complete.

“No!” Clara exclaimed, frustrated. Nathaniel ran into the room.

“What happened? Are you ok?” He asked. His face was the picture of concern. The banging upstairs continued. He looked up and winced. “Don’t tell me…” he said, looking at her canvas.

“I’m done with them Nathaniel! You need to go up there and tell them to shut up or I will go up there and ram my paintbrush through their eyes,” she gripped the paintbrush, knuckles white.

“Now Clara,” he started.

“Don’t you take that tone Nathaniel,” she said. “This is a consignment piece. A PAID piece. I’m supposed to be done it by tomorrow morning and it’ll take hours to fix this mess!”

“Ok, ok. Relax my love. I’m not going to go up there to talk to them, because I really would rather not. But why don’t you set up in my office. The light is good and it’s quieter. Just bring your stereo and you should be ok.”

Clara looked at Nathaniel, thinking through his proposition.

“Fine,” she grunted, arms folded. She glared at the ceiling, wishing death on the inhabitants. “Stupid friggin inconsiderate assholes.” She turned, putting her paints and brushes back in their carrying case.

“It’s going to take forever to get myself set up again,” she whined. Nathaniel’s hand thumped down on her shoulder, patting her.

“There there, you’ll succeed. You always do.”

“Yeah, after I pull an all nighter and ruin my eyesight squinting in the poor night light. Can you help me carry my supplies in?” She asked. He smiled at her.

“Fine, let’s get this done. I have to finish washing the dishes and then I have work I need to get done.”

“Thanks love,” she said, kissing his cheek. “You’re the best.”

“Yes, yes, come on,” he said. He grabbed her easel, careful of the wet paint on the canvas. She stacked her painting supply cases on the chair and followed him down the hall, around the corner and into the office.

The office was a clutter of boxes. He put her easel down by the window and moved all of his boxes around to give her more space.

They finished setting up her  station. She looked at the ruined image of two beautiful puppies laying on a pillow. Taking out the colours of the animal’s fur she’d mixed three days ago, she started fixing the black smear that she had created earlier. It wouldn’t take long, but it was a painful process of trying to match the shading and colours she had completed. Her music played in the background, a light and comforting background sound that kept her mind from wandering too far from the task at hand.

A bang echoed through the room. Then another. The upstairs neighbours had followed her.

“Ugh!” she groaned, putting down her paintbrush and throwing open the door. She wanted to scream at them. She wanted to beat them over the head with her palate. But she couldn’t do either of those things. Instead, she could only passive aggressively complain.

“Nathaniel! They’re at it over my head. I can’t deal with this anymore!!” she yelled as she walked down the hall to the kitchen. He met her in the hall, drying his hands on a dish towel.

“Why don’t you put some headphones in?” he asked. He looked bemused. Anger shot through her. She hated it when he was bemused at her inconvenience. She hated her upstairs neighbours. She hated that she couldn’t finish this stupid picture of dogs.

She wanted to be painting the unseen, the fanciful things that only she saw. She wanted to paint the patterns she saw in the world around her, so that others could see them too. That’s what she wanted to be doing, not painting puppies for some dog lady with too much money to spend.

She said as much to Nathaniel.

“I know my love. I know. We’ve been over this though. We need the cash. Your job at the pub isn’t exactly going to cover the bills and my student loan is only stretching so far while I’m still in school. It’s only for one more year and then you can paint what you want and I’ll work to pay our bills.”

She looked up at him and sighed.

“You’re right, I know you’re right. I’ll go back to the painting. I’m sorry for yelling.” She kissed him.

He smiled down at her, his rugged face sending shivers down her spin.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you too.” She walked back down the dim lit hallway, smiling to herself.

“Clara? Earth to Clara!” Her brother Lucas’s voice echoed through the apartment. Confused, she looked around.

“Lucas?” she asked, not sure when or how he got there. There was no sign that he’d been there and Nathaniel didn’t say he’d showed up. Which was so unlike Nathaniel.  “Where are you?”

“I’m right here silly,” Lucas’s face was in front of hers. His brown hair and blue eyes floated in front of her eyes. She blinked and focused on his face.

“Lucas?” she said. Her parents’ living room was unnaturally bright. Confused, she looked over at Breanna, who stared at her with daggers in her eyes.

“Yep, that’s me. Where’d you go?” he asked, concern written all over his face.

“To the place in Toronto with those horrible upstairs neighbours.” Clara shot a look over at Breanna. Her sister-in-law glared back.

“Oh, I remember that place. You lived there a long time ago, didn’t you?”

“I guess,” she said, fidgeting with her sweater. The living room was warm, very warm. The patterns along the walls were continuous, dancing around. The grain of the wood panelling matched the floral patterns of the couch upholstry. Lucas touched her hand, his grip soft and cold.

“Well, welcome back to the living room. Sounds like dad is done upstairs. Did you want to go check it out?” He stood, holding his hand out to her.

“Yeah… yes. I do. I’d love to start painting again.”

That’s the excerpt. What do you think? Did I succeed in my attempt? Or did I fail miserably?