Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Write a story and get class credit.

Beginning Thursday, Sept. 11, at the College of the Redwoods Garberville instructional site, we'll get to know each other and talk a little about process. Although it won't be a requirement, our text will be the second half of Stephen King's ON WRITING.

In the six-week writing workout--Thurs 5:30 - 7:30 pm until October 9--we will read aloud our daily pages accrued, and we shall do so in bold declarative tones. The goal is to write a story: could be one long story, or multiple short stories. If you've got a narrative bubbling, but can't ever find the time, take advantage of the structure this class will provide.

Tell your friends, and make them join up with you!

To register, call 707 - 476 - 4500

Let's get hacking.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Click link to hear the ongoing story:

Large bright vegetables, unreal in their perfection, had that nice easy shine, and everyone was feeling fine. Good mellow sunshine mood pervaded in the Produce Department, and beyond. Above the over-sized depictions of healthy farm life stretching up the walls, one-way windows blankly stared.

Tomorrow’s Tomato Today. Always huge, always perfect. Everybody feeling fine.

Apples. Apples so golden, they gave off a glow.

Uniformly, the unreal food beamed. And that was fine. Bell bottoms were back. Again, people were feathering their hair, and the hems of the corduroys which audibly brushed came with the realistic green appearance of having walked through fresh-cut lawns.

Black domes of cameras watching glittered.

“We’re Proud to Serve You!” The reassuring words on the wall spanned from the unreal artichokes all the way down to the unreal zucchini. Plus-size peppers, red, yellow, and orange, radiated the appearance of agricultural mastery. The image of the great big tractor on the wall was also red, and the brightly smiling people depicted wore overalls as blue as the sunniest sky.

“I’m here to see the manager,” he said, returning the new plastic comb to his pocket.

The black wall-mounted dome that fish-eyed his face asked if he had an appointment.

“I’m here to sign up. I’m ready to join Big Farm.”

A bright red light scanned him head-to-toe. He heard the swift click of the door before him unlock. Turning the handle, he went inside.

The door shut quickly behind him, cutting off the soothing sounds of music, the co-opted voice of AM.

“Gee, this is just all right with me,” he said, admiring the wood paneling of the interior, “gee, this is just all right.”

A representative appeared in a white button-up coat, like a sanitarium attendant, or a doctor, or a butcher, big juicy produce in hands protected by long, tight gloves that loudly snapped going on. The Aquiline profile and patrician carriage of the representative imparted him an imperial air. “You’re here to join,” he said, standing in the paneled hall before an open door. The representative seemed bothered to have to take the time to run through procedure. “State your name," he said, "last name first followed by first and middle initial.”

“Ray, Brady A.”

The representative peered back into the room from which he had emerged. “Very well,” he said, clipped tone snapping as soundly as his gloves, “in here.”

Brady entered a wider room of humming machinery, huge, dark perfectly strange devices confounding surroundings starkly contrasted with the world the shoppers saw. A screen inside near the door displayed Brady’s name and personal information. He saw the flashing green dot next to the image of his face, and followed the representative past crate after crate of produce until they came to a table where the representative set down the produce in his hands amid an array of microscopes and Petri dishes. Removing his gloves now, the representative coldly inquired, “Eat healthy portions of Big Farm produce, do you?”

“Yes, sir,” Brady said with an easy sunshine smile, “I sure do.”

“Have you ever operated a drone?”

“Yes, sir, I sure have.”

“Tell me about that.”

“I was at my cousin’s house. We used his drones.”

“Were the drones equipped with guns?”

“They sure were.”

“Did you shoot what you saw? Were you any good?”

“Yes, sir,” Brady said, sweeping his hair of off his collar.

“What did you shoot?”

“My cousin and I shot animals.”

“What kind of animals?”

“A couple of dogs," Brady said with a natural grin. "A couple of dogs and a deer.”

“Ever shoot a person?” The representative’s cold, perfunctory tone never once changed.

Neither did Brady's. “No, sir,” he said.

“Care to give it a try?”

“Yes, sir,” Brady replied, brightly beaming. “I sure would.”

The representative led him to a room . . . 



Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Click the link and check out the new Creative Writing class available at the College of the Redwoods Garberville Instructional Site:

Thursday, August 7, 2014


And for my next trick...

I'm bustin' at the seams with this one.
John L. Sullivan biopic.
Starts out mid-fight.
See, John L. bridged bareknuckle-to-glove prizefighting.
The Boston Strongboy interests me for a number of reasons,
not least of which being his straight-forward slugging style
eventually matched against the dancing jabs of
Gentleman Jim Corbett, bank clerk.
There's something about a bank clerk darting in
and dancing around the bloated John L. that speaks
to our current economic condition.
Plus, I see much grist in his huge drinking appetite
offset by the teetotaler stance of later years.
I'm seeing a whole lotta movie here.
Gonna call it STRONGBOY.

We hear the sounds of bare fists impacting flesh in a din of screaming men.
The year is 1882 and it is the 8th round of an illegal prizefight held in Mississippi
between reigning champion Paddy Ryan and the challenger, John L. Sullivan.
A clubbing blow from Sullivan sends Ryan to one knee. Wild William Muldoon, Sullivan's trusty, crusty trainer, barks advice from a roiling throng...

Expect more of this screenplay idea forthcoming...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Let's get booking.

This September I will begin teaching a creative writing course at the branch campus in Garberville.

Starting September 11 and ending October 9, class will meet Thursday evenings from 5:30 - 7:30.

In our first meeting we'll get to know each other and I'll impart my general overview of writing process. Namely, read the second half of Stephen King's On Writing and get cracking.

For the rest of the meetings we'll share our progress reading aloud, open to feedback but always moving forward.

Members of this extraordinary league will write a story to receive class credit.

Record the process with a blog! For those interested in uploading a finished story to ebook and perhaps pursuing print, I can offer suggestions based on my experience.

Trail mix in progress:




Sunday, July 27, 2014


Click link for audio:

I wonder what life would be like if the world wasn't one big field of cotton.

In the days of hope when there was choice, overseers rode the rows with whips and chains while we picked our cotton real good. We wanted so badly to please.

During the course of our labors we received regular programming. Sometimes airborne cotton flurrying about in the midst of the pickings would stick to the sweat of the ear and thereby impair regular programming reception. Then as the laborer became aware and productivity necessarily slowed, some roving overseer upon perceiving the irregularity would proceed inflicting such punishment as befitted whims before allowing the laborer the freedom to yet again pick more cotton in the sizzling and relentless sun, or be shot in the face and ground into burger.

Everybody knew what went into burgers. But who was going to say anything? Nobody wanted to get processed. You just kept your head down and chewed.

Then one day a fellow citizen who happened to be near me deep in the vastness of the fluffy white field seemed to slow somewhat down in his pickings. I didn't dare look too closely. Not focusing on collecting lots and lots of cotton could only lead to trouble. And yet, I couldn't help but see. This guy seemed to have uncovered something. I could tell he was staring at it in the dirt. From the corner of my eye I saw him scoop up a dark object and stash it somewhere in his clothing.

I had put the incident out of my mind until when on the conveyor belt back to sleeping quarters I recognized said citizen. Jostling by the endless fields I watched him whisper to the figurine. Just very gently. Effectively imperceptible to casual observance. But I could see that the find had made his day.

Hovering helicopters scanned. Everyone on the conveyor belt pretended not to notice. A butterfly lit on the handrail, multicolor iridescence flashing in fluttering wings. Slowly, my hand reached for it. Assuming a defensive posture, the butterfly revved up and demanded what I was doing.

"I was trying to touch a butterfly," I said. "I didn't know you were a drone."

I had to give them my name and number. They seemed unable to accept my wish for the insect to light upon my outstretched finger.

"Haven't you ever heard of All Quiet on the Western Front?" I said, knowing of course that they hadn't. The drone might have been controlled by someone on one of the helicopters, or just as easily from any other part of the planet. I gave a few seconds for the other side to pull up the gist, then watched while the drone took off like an overseer in hot pursuit of an escaping citizen.

Sometime thereafter in the main cafeteria nearest the quarters I saw said citizen again shuffling in line for sludge, and was surprised when he sat down and asked why I was following him.

"I'm not following you," I said. "I saw what you found in the field, that's all."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Sure you do." I spooned some sludge, green in color. "You know exactly what I'm talking about."

"Yes," he said, in a natural manner as a couple of overseers, huffy and uptight, sauntered nearby, "it sure feels good getting in an extra shift picking cotton."

"It's backbreaking work all right. It's great."

"All right," he said, "if you were going to tell, I guess you already would have by now."

"It's a stone idol, isn't it?" I said under my breath.

"I'm dedicated to picking even more cotton tomorrow than I did today," he said aloud. And then, "There must have been a house on that spot. Long time ago. Someone who knew the old ways was there."

Someone who knew the old ways. My mind stopped at the thought. I couldn't understand why. Part of me wanted to imagine what the hand that once held the idol looked like, and how the voice of the bearer sounded when sending summons. But the attempt made my mind feel muddy.

"Does it work?" I asked this while chewing and staring straight ahead. In the same casual manner to throw off suspicion he replied that it did.

"I've been making calls," he said. "And I'm not the only one."

Thermal resonance imaging ever under consideration, I did my best to keep nice and calm and placid. No point calling attention. This was made doubly difficult however when the overseers sauntered closer with burgers in their hands.

"Well," I said, finishing my sludge, "like I always say, I'm here to pick cotton and I'm damn proud of it."

"You talk too much," my coworker said, scraping his tray. "Less talk, more cotton."

One of the overseers said something I couldn't hear as he took a big bite, and the other one laughed as we left. I knew what happened to people who got caught trying to contact the outside. I hoped that wouldn't happen to me.

Under my breath as we parted I told my coworker to count me in.

For the next several days hope helped immensely. All of the regular programming was running like usual but none of it worked on me anymore. Helping to make a call was all I could think about, but with the eyes of the slavers always watching, we would have to operate underground. Gaining information bit by bit through surreptitious conversation in passing, I learned the time and place that we would conduct the next attempt.

The thought occurred to me, without ever actually entertaining it, that I might be prudent to back out completely, conceivably even consult some automated agent of the slavery system and confess. I could say I saw the light. I looked through the crack of drab closed curtains and tried to imagine, but my thought was interrupted by the antique rotary dial ringtone of my phone.

"It took me a long time to realize just now I've been staring around the room in fear." I recognized the voice of my friend with the graven image. "Even with a loud fan on, I can hear the mice squealing in the walls."

Through the phone I could hear the squealing, too. "You're lucky it's not cockroaches," I said. "Put traps out."

"I caught a big one in a spring trap a few days ago using sludge."

"Hey, that's cannibalism, isn't it?"

"About ten percent so, probably," he agreed. "I also catch myself wringing my hands," he added, "literally rolling my eyes around the room as the mice move around the ceiling and the walls, wondering if they might not suddenly spill right in. I suppose I'll have to get them with poison."

I asked who else we'd be working with the next day, as though we were getting all into a good day's picking like good little slaves, when in fact I was asking who else I could expect in attendance at our impending attempt to enlist outside aid against the slavers.

"I'm not sure on that," he said sounding faint. "They might be cannibalizing themselves. That would explain the sounds. Years ago we had cats. It never used to be like this."

Peeking through the crack in the drapes, I checked out all the drones. Corporate logo androids roamed.

"Uh-oh," I said.

"What is it?"

I could tell that one of the corporate logo androids saw me. "See you at the boarding station," I said, abruptly ending the call.

Moving away from the drapes I held still against the wall, quiet as a mouse, while the clown outside my window tapped. I used to pick cotton next to a guy who said he helped make androids until automation took over. It's hard to believe now that people ever used to be real and live lives.

The clown's silhouette stretched across the floor and up the opposite wall. It stayed there so long, I started to wonder whether maybe it was more than it seemed. As if somehow sensing this thought, the clown stopped tapping and began fumbling with the window.

Slowly the window slid open. Then a brightly gloved hand entered the room. This disturbed a cockroach in the sill. Perceiving movement, the hand retracted. "Looks like your account balance is low," said the clown. "How about a burger?"

The antennae of the cockroach inquisitively quivered.

"Your account balance looks a little low. Want fries?"

Some fried sludge sticks sure would've gone down good. I hated to admit it. For a second there it was all I could do not to leap up and order a double. But corporate logo androids cost a lot of money. They've got all kinds of rights. Being equipped to defend themselves, they do so with impunity.

On the way to the boarding station a group of dead celebrities beat a man unconscious. One of them bumped into him. Anytime you see the cast of Gone with the Wind strolling around, you can bet there are some slavers remotely slavering.

"What are you looking at?" Scarlett demanded with flashing eyes. Probably going for a retinal scan. I wondered what withered being controlled the machine, but said nothing as I kept moving with the others.

In the screens positioned everywhere to ensure regular programming reception, constantly shifting images numbed. Being distracted felt like being informed. Being trained felt like being educated. No one questioned anything. Everything was firmly blurred. Any second and I just knew huge helicopters would appear overhead. There was no way they didn't know what we were attempting to do. It would be the most glorious thing that ever happened in the history of the human race if the star people who brought us into being heard our call and finally returned to free us. But the images were so numbing everywhere, always shifting. 

When I got to the boarding station, my friend with the idol was nowhere to be found. I waited around as long as I could before I had to get on the belt. Didn't want to call too much suspicion. I picked cotton all day disheartened as hell, almost certain the whole time that the overseers knew. They had to know. I thought they must have gotten him for sure, and figured I was lucky that I hadn't gotten in too deep.

Then about a week later I saw him. We were in the cafeteria. It was him all right. He acted like he didn't even know me. To not call suspicion, I initially figured. Strangely though, I tried contacting him a couple times after that, but he never would respond. Just like that.

It's hard to imagine what life would be like if the world wasn't one big field of cotton. Who knows? Maybe the slavers really are wasting everyone's time worrying so much after all.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014



Being of sound mind and such, I, John William Calder, son of James Zechariah and Rose Elizabeth Calder, do solemnly write these here accounts from my own life, some of which are sure to be real rip-snorters, and all of which being true as anything.

I figure on writing this here autobiography of me since I already got the implements handy from having to keep records mining for gold. I am now the sole proprietor of the Buckwourth mining camp a good ways up Little Miss River and right on the edge of Indian territory. Regarding gold mining, or mining of any sort, it is true that I know next to nothing on the subject, having never had occasion to undertake the occupation prior to my mother's brother kicking the bucket and me thereby falling into it. But seeing how life as a clerk fits poorly on my disposition, plus taking into account Uncle Luke's certainty of the mother lode about to show, that I am plum willing to give the venture a go, and reckon I can say the same for this here autobiography writing that I am fixing on doing.

In San Francisco I met a man who told me he had been to Sutter's Mill early in '48 and found a fortune in four hours. The biggest chunks filled his fists! Buckwourth being northwest of the Sierra Nevadas, I am nowhere near Coloma, yet cannot say I would too much mind if I was, because at the train station I also met a woman who said she was bound for that very destination, and except for Miss Felicity she was about the loveliest and most enchanting creature to ever trod soil. 

I have cooked up a mess of beans, and they are very good. What with flour, coffee, salt, tea, tobacco and a deal of venison I picked up at the trading post for one of my three fifteen dollar beaver traps, I am feeling fairly well-provisioned. My nearest neighbor is a devoutly religious man by all accounts--most of those coming from the trading post--a trapper and a miner whose piety is reputed to be matched only by his delight on practicing cannibalism. And he's done that at least twice. But the last white man he killed and ate was fifteen years ago, and even though he is older and slower, he has passed up plenty of chances in favor of savages picked up at the post. So with my .40-caliber rifle courtesy of the Hawken brothers of St. Louis, I am not too concerned.


My Dearest Miss Felicity,

I have fixed my mind on writing my own autobiography, and would certainly be a good bit into it were it not for the hardships of daily life. Amenities-wise, the outhouse appears in distressed circumstances. After gnawing off a deal of venison this morning by way of breakfast, I have come to learn through hard tribulation to never trust a man trading venison again.

It being spring, the river is bracing and brisk. I have tried my hand at panning. You cannot believe how cold a man's hands get holding a pan in the shallows. Yet this biting cold was made less bitter by the image of your divine visage there to sustain me. Looking at the water I'd see your face floating there. Or if with a crick in my neck from being all hunkered over I looked up, why there you'd be again. I confess I felt a most marked and shameful embarrassment in wondering exactly how much of my hardships of the morning the hovering image of you had seen, but your vision sweetly reminded me in the most angelic manner that I was still working off the ill-effects of the tainted meat.

The bulk of the day went toward repairing the sluice, which I have done as best I can. When I have made my fortune and come calling on you proper, I will share with you this letter along with my autobiography so that you can come to understand the warm ardor with which I regard you as I remain now and forevermore your devoted admirer,

John William Calder


A week has slipped along since I last wrote. Though the days pass filled with toil, still I do not lament. I shall persevere in my endeavor to secure my fortune or perish in the attempt. I find the load of my drudgery lightened when recalling amusing incidents which I yet intend to pen. The plain fact is, however, at end of the day, I find both body and mind so beset with fatigue as to preclude all possibility of any sort of further pursuit.

I have discovered an additional neighbor, by all appearances a deformed albino native child. The wretch watched me from over yonder rise while I worked in the river this afternoon. The feeling I was being stared at suddenly washed upon me. On my word, I have never in my life seen a waif half as white as this poor malformed native entirely destitute of clothing . . .


We'll see out what happens when
John William Calder finds this here old stein
and takes a drink from it...