My friend Chris got me the snazziest notebook for Christmas, and after a couple weeks with it, I am LOVING it. It’s called Rocketbook, and its basic premise is that you can write on its pages with an eraseable pen, and then take pictures of it using their app. That app will then send to a number of services based on which of the symbols you marked at the bottom of the page. You just write, mark the symbol, take a picture, then BOOM! Your work is on Evernote, Slack, emailed to yourself/someone else, and more.

The funny thing is, I haven’t taken that many pictures. The thing that is striking me is that I’m really enjoying writing on the pages. The pen writes incredibly smooth and I’m finding it to be a joy to write on even without scanning it to some online service. It also lays flat which is super nice and makes it easy to write on the desk. It uses Pilot Frixion pens, so there’s no special Rocketbook branded pen you have to get. These pens erase very well and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how clean the book feels. They include a microfiber cloth so you can wipe it clean as well.

I’m really happy to have this thing and am continuing to find cool ways to work it into my workflow. I’m an analog person when it comes to taking notes, and this is a great compromise in order to bring some of that into the digital world.

Eclectic Magic

I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was a little kid I would make up stories all the time, and occasionally, with the right pressure, I would write them down. Most of the time it was for assignments in school, but every now and then I would write something small just for me. I have a motivation problem, and a bit of a procrastination problem, but I still love writing when I sit down to do it.

This blog and my daily journal have both been positive for my writing habits. I’m starting to work it into my daily routine and not just do it because I have to, but I honestly sit down and write because I want to. It’s surprising to think that even enjoyable stuff sometimess needs to be exercised a bit for you to start doing it. The more I write things down, the more I want to write things down.

There is a competition going on at a small publisher that one of our H&H friends works for. She’s told both Ashley and I that we need to submit a story for this one and I may have cracked the topic I want to cover. It’s supposed to a tale of “whimsy and adventure” there is some sort of eclectic hook regarding magic. I wrote a short story a while back based on a small writing prompt that Ashley gave me, and I really still love the premise. I wrote the whole thing in less than an hour and it really stuck with me. I’m considering going back and rehashing that into a story for the contest. Not too much has to be done other than lengthening it a bit and adding some real high stakes.

For today, though, it’s time to get my head back in the game and do my job. I have a few ideas for things I want to tackle today. The trick is getting started early so I don’t fall into a slump too early. I was up far too late playing Stardew Valley last night. SURPRISE! So I have to pull myself up by my bootstraps in order to get things going. Maybe this coffee will help.

Quality Wordsmithing

Well, now that I have a new blog setup, the journey to something presentable is underway. I like that Ghost is super simple, but I’m finding that any decent themse are hard to come by. I’m probably going to be hunting down something I can edit and then doing my best to make it happen. I have this horribly plain header I dumped up at the top but I’m definitely going to need something at least a little snazzy. This one is minimalist, but pretty darn boring.

I don’t want to be boring. I’m going to need this to be a fun experience, so I’m going to need some art. If you do some art, and have a good idea of what a header should look like for a neato, personal, sometimes tech related blog, then hit me up.

I’m also going to need some content that’s worth reading. As I always do, I’m focusing on the aesthetic first. Who needs quality wordsmithing when you have beautiful graphics everywhere, right? I mean, that’s not true at all but it helps me get going.

Stuck In Neutral – Part 2

I turned around to see two more people standing up, frothing at the mouth. They ran past me and out the door of the operating room. They flung their hands wildly like they didn’t have control over them. I wasn’t very surprised considering I know wasn’t in the shell of a body that ran past me and out into the wild blue. What was even more disconcerting was that whatever I seemed to have was contagious. I was patient zero. I was the plague. I very well could be the end times. If I was going to be one of the four horsemen of the apocolypse, I should have had a horse.

I walked out of the door of the operating room and looked left and right down the hallways of the hospital. There was blood everywhere. The walls and floors were painted red with the stuff and people were screaming. Whatever was happening, it was happening fast, and I was going to need some way to stop it. I ran over to a nearby phone to call for help. I tried to grip it but my hand just went through the reciever. I tried again and again but nothing worked. I was Patrick Swayze in Ghost. As a matter of fact it had finally occured to me that I was a ghost. This wasn’t going well.

Down the hall I noticed a bright light. It looked a lot like the bright light that I saw when I initially collapsed in Wal-Mart. There was an impressive contrast against the blood everywhere, but I tried to reign in my aww since people died to create this particular “art piece.” I ran over to it and was quickly teleported to the same white room that I had found when I first died. It was crowded.

There were people everywhere and more popping in every few seconds. Whatever was going on down there, was not good. I saw Peter talking to a couple other guys with badges by the door. I shoved my way through the crowd of lost souls. Peter and I had a thing since we talked earlier. He would definitely know what to do to fix the problem.

“Pete!” I yelled over the crowd of people. He looked over to me with a very stern face.

“That’s the one. Get him. Bring him to my office.” Pete’s words were muffled, but I knew what he said. The two guys in white came over to me. They looked more concerned than I felt like angels should look.

“You Dave?” One asked.

“Yeah, I’m Dave. I was here earlier.”

“We know. Why don’t you come with us.”

They walked me over to the white wall and a door appeared. It was solid white but it had a nice glowy border to it. It must be hidden until someone needs to get into it. I walked through and I was in what looked like a standard office. There were some trophies on a bookshelf in the corner that said things like “Employee of the Month,” “Excellence Award AD 100,” and some crayon art pictures I’m assuming were drawn by kids who liked him.

Peter was sitting at a huge mahogany desk. It looked like something Winston Churchill would have in his office.

“Nice desk, Pete,” I said trying to break the ice.

“You like it? Winston Churchill made it for me,” he rubbed the surface and smiled as he said it.

“Would have never guessed,” I lied.

“Yes you would have. Don’t like to me, Dave.”

I coughed and looked around. I was clearly in the presence of a professional.

“Here’s the thing, Dave,” he started. “Do you see all those people out there? Those people aren’t supposed to be here today. Well, most of them aren’t. Do you know who they’re here?”

I figured I shouldn’t try to make anything up again. “Yeah. My body got up in a hospital and started attacking people. I don’t know why. I was hoping you could tell me.”

Peter sighed, “That’s what I was afraid of.”

He got up from his desk and walked over to his book shelf. He pulled down a huge volume that said, “Rules and Regulations for Admittance into Heaven.” He slammed the book down on his desk and started rifling through the pages.

“There is an appendix in the rulebook regarding these types of events. We don’t deal with them very often. Most people who die are supposed to be here, but occasionally we have people that haven’t finished their job. We fill their memory with weird stuff and send them home.”

“Is that why people think Heaven is some kind of spacey white place?”

“Yeah. We don’t want people going back thinking that it’s some bland office building. Trust me though, it’s way more fun once you get through the gate. We handle rejections here too so we have to be pretty standard with everything.”

“Makes sense.”

Peter appeared to find the page he was looking for.

“Here it is! Necromancy. Close enough, right?” He seemed to be asking me.

“Sure. I guess raising from the dead is almost the same.”
“Undead, Dave. You’re not raised from the dead until the boss says so. Bodies that get started up without souls in them, that’s a whole different animal. You people keep finding new ways to confuse me.”

“Well, if it makes you feel better, I didn’t set out to watch my body go on a rampage without me.” I thought about how that sounded as soon as it came out of my mouth. “I mean, I wouldn’t want to see it go on a rampage with me either, just so we’re clear.”

“It’s fine, Dave.” He kept his head down in the pages. “Aha! Here’s what you have to do.”

“Me?” I asked concerned. “You don’t have some sort of angel clean up crew that handles this kind of thing?”

“Budget cuts,” he said dryly. “We only bring out those guys when really bad things happen.”

“Is this not a really bad thing?”

“It’s pretty bad, but it only gets really bad if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

Peter looked at me seriously, “You need to go get your body back.”

“It wouldn’t let me in! I tried that, then it went crazy. Some shield was keeping me out.”

“That’s because it wasn’t yours anymore,” Peter sat back down in the chair behind his desk. “You can’t just inhabit something that doesn’t belong to you. At least not when you work for us. You need this,” he pulled a badge out of his drawer and sat it on his desk. It looked like a sherrif’s badge blended with the star of David.

I picked it up, “What is this?”

“It’s a license to possess, Dave. You have a job to do and you’re not going to be able to do it without getting your hands on some stuff. That badge will let you inhabit most people for a temporary time, as well as move stuff around and interact with real world objects.”

“So I’m a poltergeist now?”

“Well, you’re a sanctioned poltergeist. Consider yourself one of our agents. At least while you clean up this mess. You need to go find your body and repossess it. Once you’re back in, the rest of the situation should clear itself back up. It’ll cause a chain reaction that will cause the rest of the bodies out there to drop and all of these people in my waiting room can go back. Since you were the first one, it all lands on you to handle it.”

“But most of those bodies have hole and bite marks in them. Won’t it hurt?”

“Geez, you are just full of questions,” Peter was visibly irritated. “They’ll forget the whole thing and their bodies will be whole again. We can handle it. You do your job and we’ll do ours. Now get out there and fix it.”

I looked down at the star in my hand and then pinned it to my shirt. I didn’t feel any different, but it may at least make things easier when I get back down to earth. I did feel a little bit more sure of myself, but I think that was just the badge. Dudes with badges are cool. I was now a cool dude. I started to leave Peter’s office.

“Oh, and Dave,” he said not looking up, “Don’t trust anybody, okay?”

“Okay,” I said. Not sure who I was going to run into, but that was good enough advice for me.

I walked back to the lobby, through the larger crowd of people, and back down the stairs the same way that I had come the first time.

I Wrote a Thing!

I wrote this. I’m incredibly proud of it, and would love some feedback. It’s just part one of a story I’m working on. It’s completely unedited and is definitely a first draft, but it may be one of the most fun starts to a story I’ve ever done. 😀

Stuck in Neutral   <- working title

Dying was uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable like sitting in the backseat of a Chevy Camaro. More like hearing your dad tell a racist joke in front of your one black friend. That kind of uncomfortable.

I mean, imagine yourself just hanging out, doing whatever it is you do. Now insert a sharp pain somewhere, and a sudden realization that you’re staring at your cold dead self on the ground. No one is around and you’re definitely not looking at a mirror. You’re dead. You might try to get back into that shell of a thing you just got unceremoniously kicked out of, but it’s just not working.

My name is Dave. I died just a few minutes ago. It was uncomfortable.

I stood over the lifeless meatbag that I used to call home wondering where my flurry of lights and flashbacks were. I was only thirty, but somehow I expected there to be some awesome movie that gets played where I watch myself at Christmas, or see my parents, or even the first time I kissed a girl. None of that happened. I just got to stand up and look at the mess of a person I left behind. I mean, I wasn’t that much of a mess. I had nice hair, and I was only slightly overweight. Speaking of, why wasn’t I glamorous now that I’d reached the afterlife? Looking down at my small gut, I realized that my spirit self looked just like my physical self. Now I’d like to have a discussion with all the pastors who said I’d get a “glorified body.” What gives?

While standing around being mopey, a light glowed in front of me. Finally, I thought to myself. I’d been standing there for a good five minutes and nobody had come to get me yet. I was starting to worry whether I’d be able to go anywhere, or if I’d be stuck staring at myself on the floor of Wal-Mart for all eterinity. I guess by now a lot of people had seen the thirty year old, somewhat healthy man fall down and die. I’m sure the ambulance will be here soon and maybe they’ll let me get back in. For now, I better just go to the light. It worked in Poltergeist, so maybe it was what I was supposed to do.

I stepped over myself and went through the glowing portal. It had no defined edges to speak of, but I call it a portal nonetheless. It took me into another world, completely white. As far as I could tell, there was nothing. Just a big white room. There was hardly a sound either. I tried tapping my feet, but despite my hope for a huge echo and glorious tapping sound, there was nothing. I may as well have been tapping my feet on a cloud.

Dave Johnson!” A loud voice bellowed all around me.

God?” I asked, hopefully. I had a ton of questions and I was seriously hoping this was my opportunity to have them all answered.

No, this is Peter. Turn around.”

I spun around to see a small double panel white door in the wall. Or at least seemed to be a wall. It was really hard to tell in a place with no shadows. There was a man sitting at a desk near the wall, clothed in white. He had a badge on though, so he was probably important. I’m guessing this was the Saint Peter that everyone is supposed to meet. I was hoping he had some good news and I would get to wander through those doors. I’d always wondered what heaven looked like, and I was finally going to get a peak.

Hey, man,” I said awkwardly, not knowing how to address him. He just looked at me with squinty eyes. “So, what’s next?”

You’re not supposed to be here.” He said, no humor in his eyes at all.

Wait, what?” I was shocked. “Please tell me I don’t have to go downstairs! I did all the stuff and things!”

What?” His eyes got wide. “Oh no! No, it’s not that you’re not supposed to be here at all. You’re just not supposed to be here now.” He smiled a bit. “Sorry. I hope I didn’t give you a heart attack. It’s been a long day.”

I immediately let out a sigh of relief. “Oh good! That was awful, Pete. You need to work on your delivery.”

I know. It’s in my performance improvement plan every year. I’m working on it,” Peter said as his grimace returned.

So how do I go where I’m supposed to go if I’m not supposed to be here.”

Give me your hand.”

I reached out my hand as Peter dug through his desk. He pulled out a large stamp and pushed it onto the back of my hand.

Rescheduled,” I read the stamp aloud. “Okay, so when am I supposed to be here.”

That’s classified, Dave. No one gets to know that information.” Peter pointed to the right, “Head out that door and you’ll find yourself back where we found you. Just get back in your body and everything will be fine. We’ll see you in a while.”

I started walking over to the door then looked back to Peter, “So, I guess I’ll see you in about forty years then?”

Nice try. Goodbye, Dave.”

It was clear to me I was going to get nothing out of him, so I went toward the exit door and down the stairs. Another white portal met me a few flights down. I was convinced at this point that this must all be a big joke. If I was going to walk through a portal anyway, why make me go down any stairs at all. I guess the folks in Heaven were Zeppelin fans. It’s the only thing that made sense. It kind of made me curious to know if the maintenance people in Hell were fans of AC/DC. That would all make perfect sense to me.

After my short jaunt in the afterlife, I found myself. Literally. I was back in front of my body, but this time I was in a hospital. The nurses and doctors were all poking me with instruments. I thought for a second about actually getting back into the body. I mean, I didn’t want to wake up with them jabbing me with sharp utensils. I’m not into the pain thing like some folks. I watched myself for a minute before I felt the sudden need to go ahead and just take my body back over.

I went over to my body to touch it and my hand was zapped. A red shieldy looking thing covered my body. It faded as quickly as it appeared. Must have done something wrong, so I tried again. ZAP! It hit me again. There was some sort of forcefield on my body not letting me in. Peter didn’t say anything about it. He didnt’ send me off with a guidebook or instructions on how to get back in. Panic started to set in.

That’s when I saw my eyes pop open.

They weren’t my eyes though. They were bloodshot beyond anything I’d ever seen. It would be safe to say that they were just entirely red. My body started moving and all the nurses and doctors looked to be relieved as they began setting their stuff down. How could they be relieved if I was still standing here very much dead? I reached out to touch the now awake body again. ZAP! Still no way to get in. I picked my foot up and kicked myself in the head. ZAP! Again and again. ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! Nothing. I had a feeling I was about to have a very rough day.

Then my body did something that I know I would never do. It lashed out maniacally at the doctor standing over it checking its heart. It grabbed him and pulled him close biting a giant hole in his neck. Blood went everywhere. I tried to throw up and quickly learned that ghosts can’t throw up. Good to know.

My body hurled itself off the table lunging at everyone nearby biting and swinging at them. There was blood everywhere and people screaming. It was awful. I tried to tackle myself to make the whole thing stop, but it just kept blocking me. Whatever shell was on this thing was powerful. I wanted my body back to stop all the crazy that was going on. Likely I would spend a lifetime in jail for killing an operating room full of nurses and doctors, but at least I would stop it.

I watched helplessly as my body peered around the room at the carnage it had just inflicted. I crouched down and slowly leaned into one of the nurses still convulsing on the floor. I watched in horror as my body started eating her. Just gnawing on her like a hungry guy eats a steak. I had to look away. I mean, I had tried to save these people, but there was nothing I could do. I had to find some way to remove this weird shield off of this guy. I quickly decided I couldn’t refer to this beast as “me” or “mine.” Whatever accountability I had for this needed to be removed quickly.

I heard shouting outside of the operating room, and so did the thing I used to drive around in. The monster wheeled around to face the door and ran full tilt at it. It burst out the door and out into the world. I stood in shock at what I had just seen and considered what I was going to do about it. I couldn’t go to Heaven, and I couldn’t get back in my own body. I was stuck. Nothing to do now but figure out what was going on and how to set things right.

Then I heard the growling noises behind me. Oh crap.