Murderville: Rounds of Luck- Episode 1

Garbage Man

Kobel Industries was one of the big companies in Munsterville that employed a lot of people, bought a lot of real estate, and diversified often. Because of that kind of expansion, Kobel Industries had a lot of stuff that had no immediate function. They also had a lot of properties that had no immediate uses. But both the properties and the stuff needed to be protected from those without property and stuff.

That’s how Velvet Li made her living, by working as a security guard at one of Kobel Industries’ miscellaneous warehouses.

It wasn’t a glamourous job, by far, and certainly wasn’t anything that Velvet had set out to do when she graduated high school, but it was a job she enjoyed, weirdly enough. Maybe because the third shift suited her night owl tendencies. Maybe because it really wasn’t too stressful of a job since nothing ever happened. Maybe because her partner for the last five years was Otis Gorski, a man so odd that Velvet couldn’t help but enjoy his company. Whatever the reason (Velvet suspected it was a combination of all three), the job got her through four years of college. When she graduated, she never left the warehouse to pursue her chosen career, much to the chagrin of her parents, who didn’t even like her chosen career of event planner anyway. But somehow being a security guard was considered worse. Maybe Velvet could be doing so much more with her life (definitely, according to her parents), but she was happy where she was. She made enough money to buy a house in sort of a less-than neighborhood, but she loved the neighbors, even if dead people did pop up on their front steps now and then.

Such was the charm of Murderville.

The warehouse Velvet worked at didn’t have an official name. None of the Kobel warehouses did, as far as she knew. The large metal and brick square building sat a half a mile off of Rockrine Road on the south side of Lake Munster, so that’s what people in town called it. The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road. It was one of the older, more secluded warehouses, connected to the main drag by a long lane, the whole building surrounded by trees, the building’s original purpose lost to time. Most of the Kobel warehouses were in the industrial slum area that contained many of the factories and warehouses of the Munsterville businessfolk, making The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road feel even more isolated.

Velvet Li arrived for her shift about fifteen minutes early as usual. She drove down the lane to the small, seldom-if-ever used front lot, taking an alley down the east side of the building to the back. The huge rear parking lot behind the building was lit by a single pole near the backdoor which was framed by two massive, closed rolling doors on either side. Three cars huddled around the light like children out after dark. Velvet parked in the last free space next to the light, Otis’s little hatchback sitting on the other side. Velvet liked to be early; Otis liked to be earlier.

Velvet locked her cellphone and her purse in the glove compartment. Unless it was that time of the month, Velvet didn’t bother bringing her purse inside. And there was a strict rule keeping cell phones out of the building. Why? No reasonable explanation had ever been offered. The best reason that HR could come up with was it was unprofessional to have a personal cell phone with you while on duty. There were phones in the building if a call needed to be made, but only in the case of an emergency and no personal phone calls, please. Velvet suspected that it was because Manfred Kobel was a soulless, controlling man. At least, that was the vibe he gave her every time she had the misfortune of being in his presence. But nobody had minded when she brought her homework to her shifts while she was in college, so Velvet wasn’t too put out about leaving her cell phone in the car.

Dressed in her official navy polo with the Kobel Industries logo on the left breast, her black slacks well worn and comfortable, her black shoes cushy and sensible due to the rounds she walked, her black Kobel jacket keeping out the chill autumn air somewhat, her radio clipped to her belt, Velvet locked her car and walked to the building looking professional for an audience of no one. The parking lot was empty except for her and the cars, and if Cami or Trey were watching the monitor for the backdoor camera, they likely wouldn’t have been too impressed by the familiar sight of her round, Black self.

Velvet unlocked the door with her key (the set contained one for the backdoor, one for the office that no one used, and one for the security room) and went inside, locking the door behind her before clipping the keys to her belt loop. There was no alarm system at this warehouse. If there had been, Velvet wouldn’t have a job. At least, that’s what Mr. Kobel said. He’d told the press multiple times over the years that he preferred to employ real humans to watch after his properties and security cameras were all the technology they needed to do it. For a businessman at the forefront of industry in Munsterville, his own feelings towards technological advancement stopped somewhere in the early 1990s. Velvet suspected it was because the man found more satisfaction in firing employees rather than replacing machines, but nobody asked her about that, so she kept it to herself.

Door secured, Velvet turned and entered the maze.

Most of what The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road contained was miscellaneous things acquired by Kobel Industries for reasons that didn’t have much immediate use. In the five years that Velvet had worked security here, she’d seen plenty of stuff brought in, but couldn’t remember a single thing being taken out. Worse, when some new pallet or box or whatsit was brought in, it was just that. Brought in and left at the nearest empty space. There was no system of organization, no attempt at neatness. Instead, the pile up over the years had created a maze of boxes and pallets and crates, some stacked over ten feet high, some only waist high to Velvet. The disorganization drove her crazy some nights when she walked her rounds and she fantasized about how she would go about organizing the mess she guarded. Most of the time, though, she ignored it and walked the maze to the security office like she was going on an adventure: the mundane adventure of adulthood and collecting a paycheck.

If it weren’t for Otis Gorski, she wouldn’t have any fun at all.

The warehouse maze was counterintuitive because its first turn took folks in the opposite direction of the security office. For a maze it made perfect sense, but not for a workplace that was not supposed to be a maze. It also made for an interesting experience for anyone visiting the warehouse, including Mr. Kobel. The front door was never used, at least on the night shift (Velvet didn’t even have a key for it), so everyone came in through the backdoor. The security escort was so visitors didn’t get lost.

Velvet took the first turn, then the second, and then stopped short.

The path she’d walked multiple times a shift had been altered. Not by much, but something new had been shoved in, jutting into the path, narrowing it by two or three feet, not that the path had been that wide to begin with.

“It’s a good thing that side door is sealed,” Velvet muttered, annoyed. “There’s no getting to it now.”

Velvet skirted around the new bulk, wondering what it was. She took the next turn, her footsteps echoing inconsistently around her. Some nights she didn’t take much notice of how creepy walking this labyrinth was, with its blind corners and uneven stacking and alternate paths. Other nights, she did, and she found herself hurrying and looking around like she was about to be attacked by an unseen monster lurking behind one of the stacked pallets.

And still other nights, like tonight, Velvet just had the vague feeling of being watched, no doubt thanks to the security cameras she knew were placed at various points around the warehouse. There were blind spots, that’s why they did rounds, but they never figured into the weird, spidery feeling of eyes following her movements.

At the opposite end of the warehouse, at the end of the maze, sat the security room, the cheese for the uniforms in this rat race. Velvet ducked inside quickly to shed herself of the feeling of being watched.

Cami and Trey sat at the desk, watching the rows of monitors mounted on the wall. Between the two of them, they’d only been working at this warehouse for less than two years and as a team for barely one. They’d only started the middle shift three months before and Velvet had yet to bother learning their last names. Turnover tended to be high. Except for her and Otis, who currently stood behind the younger, seated security guards, arms crossed, sour, judgmental look on his face.

Otis Gorski had only ever been a security guard, but to look at his old, white, wiry frame, the wrinkles positively etched around his eyes and mouth, his thinning, grey, buzzcut hair, it would be easy to mistake him for retired military or law enforcement. He just had that no-nonsense feel about him that made people automatically mind themselves. Velvet, however, knew the truth. Not that being only a security guard diminished Otis in her respect any; it just changed the coloring of the stories he liked to tell her.

“Good evening,” Velvet said cheerfully as she shut the door behind her.

Otis grunted in acknowledgment.

“Hey, Velvet,” Cami said.

“Anything happening?” she asked.

“Never,” Trey said.

“It’s that kind of attitude that will catch you off guard,” Otis said, his voice a mix of gravel and age. “You get used to the routine of the job and you’ll miss something happening right in front of your own face. You’ll never see it coming. And do you know what happens then?”

Cami and Trey exchanged looks, unsure of what to say. Velvet was unsure of what to say, too, but that was only because the choices were too numerous to narrow down. Gunshot to the head, knife to the throat, kick to the groin, impalement, with Otis, the sky wasn’t even the limit.

“You’re clobbered with a blunt object and left for dead, only you don’t die. You just spend the rest of your days watching game shows and sipping apple sauce through a straw.”

Cami and Trey looked appalled. Velvet rolled her eyes.

“A head injury isn’t a requirement for that, Otis,” she said.

If Cami or Trey had said it, Otis would have snapped on them so hard a drill sergeant would have saluted. But Velvet said it, so he just shook his head, like she had no idea of the harshness and complexities of a world that had no place for a joke.

On that awkward note, Cami and Trey wrapped up their shift, standing and grabbing their jackets from the back of their chairs. Everyone left the security room so they could either clock out or clock in via the old-fashioned punch clock on the wall next to the door. Back inside, Velvet and Otis took Cami and Trey’s places at the security desk, their eyes on the monitors, watching as their co-workers worked their way through the maze and out of the building, crossing the parking lot to their cars and driving away.

The dark grey walls of the security room dimmed the fluorescent overhead, absorbing the light and making the room feel more like a cave. The scuffed tile was peeling in places and there was a sizeable divot in the floor next to the door; Velvet, like the other security guards, had conditioned herself to step over it to avoid the risk of a twisted ankle. The job required them to walk rounds and it was too much walking to be hobbling. On Otis’s side of the desk was the computer that ran the surveillance system, which replaced the banks of VCRs that used to be on the wall opposite the door. On Velvet’s side of the desk was the pointless paperwork they were required to fill out every shift. Behind them, on a little table, was a coffee pot that never seemed to have coffee in it, and two flashlights. Next to the table was a mini-fridge that most likely held Otis’s lunch. Velvet would have her lunch delivered from the 24-hour diner that technically didn’t deliver, but she had a friend who worked there and took a break at the same time. She was really looking forward to that patty melt and found her mind wandering to it while she watched the monitors mounted on the wall above the desk.

And that’s how Velvet and Otis’s shift began, as normal as any other. For the first couple of hours, they followed their routine. Otis walked the first round and Velvet walked the second, the two of them taking a flashlight for the outside portion, spending the time in between keeping an eye on the monitors while Otis regaled Velvet with his security guard tales and Velvet poked Otis with a verbal stick. It was the reason Velvet loved her job so much. It was easy, and Otis was great entertainment.

Around midnight, something on one of the monitors caught Velvet’s eye.

###

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The Results of My 2018 Experiments

In this post, I declared 2018 my experimental year, or more accurately, gave myself three challenges for the year. The results of the first challenge, exercising for 100 days in a row, was documented in this post, however, at the time that I did the challenge and reported back I didn’t realize that I was suffering from anemia that was causing debilitating fatigue. So, keep that in mind if you decide to check it out.

The other two challenges ran the course of the year: writing a page a day on a project and writing a sentence in each of the languages I’m studying every day. I’m happy to report that I did both.

The point of doing the language challenge was two-fold. First, it meant to help me be consistent with my language practice because sometimes I’d flake off and only practice one of them instead of all four. Because I had to write a sentence in each language, I needed to practice all of them. Second, I thought by writing out the sentences it would help with the learning part.

The first part was definitely successful. I have a notebook full of random sentences from my lessons and I never missed a day no matter how busy or tired or unenthusiastic I was. The second part is a little harder to gauge. I can say that my Russian handwriting improved greatly, but French still confounds the hell out of me and I still screw up my Czech grammar and my pronunciation in all of those languages isn’t great. I am reading all of them easier, though. I’ll take the small victories where I can.

Writing a page a day was a simple enough writing exercise. It guaranteed that I wrote something every day and it acted as a nice warm-up on the days when I was having trouble getting started. I had an idea of what the story was and where it was going when I started, but it ended up being something else entirely by the end (though the ending is pretty close to what I had envisioned when I wrote the first page).

I honestly didn’t know whether or not I had enough story to make it all the way through the year, but it turns out I did. I ended up with 365 (double-spaced) pages and 101,493 words of a messy first draft of story. It’s the longest thing I’ve ever written and likely will be the longest thing I ever write, but I’m so glad I did it. And honestly, I’m kind of lost not having it waiting for me every day.

So, it is with these results that I declare the experimental part of 2018 a success.

Man, I love me some good science.

2018: The Writing Year That Wasn’t

To help me keep my shit straight, every year I create a writing calendar. I fill in each month with the projects I’m going to work on. This gives me an easy way to look at what I’ve been working on, what I need to work on, and the progress I’ve made throughout the year. Sometimes I’ve got months planned well in advance. Sometimes I’m filling out the month as I’m writing up the blog post about what I plan to work on for the given month.

On this calendar, at the beginning of the year, I make a list of projects, the big things I want to work on during the course of the next twelve months. These projects range from things I absolutely must get done to things I would ideally like to get done to things that are just wishful thinking, but hey, I might get bored.

My projects list for 2018 was more than reasonable, I felt, and I thought that I’d easily get four of my top 5 done this year.

I did two and that’s because I’m counting two items as half-done and/or attempted.

Between the fatigue issues caused by the anemia the first part of the year and the summer lost to the crash and burn of the day job, shit did not get done.

And I’m feeling pretty down about that.

It’s easy to say that I faced some challenges this year; that it’s understandable. The problem with that is that I didn’t really overcome any of those challenges, now did I?

It took me the better part of six months to complete one project that in the previous year took me maybe two all together. It’s very hard to look at that, challenges included, and not feel like I biffed it big time. I’m looking back at that wondering why I couldn’t push through, why I didn’t work harder, why I didn’t find a way.

It does me no good to do this, I know. I’m not going to find any satisfactory answers there.

But I do find some lessons.

There are times that I don’t push myself as hard as I could. I get lazy. I give up too easily on the days that I struggle to focus. I don’t adapt and adjust to changes and challenges as well as I’d like to. I have a tendency to be too bullheaded when it would be in my best interest not to be.

These are the things that I’ll be working on in 2019.

Along with another list of projects.

December Writing Projects

Ah, the end of the year. Finally.

Yes, it’s a been a long, struggle of a grind of a year and I’m glad to see it coming to a close. And since 2018 is wrapping up, so am I. I’m going to spend the last month of the year tying up some loose ends and plotting for 2019.

I’m going to schedule and ebook Season 3 of Murderville. Once that is done, all I’ll have to worry about is letting people know when the episodes go live. It’s going to be a huge relief knowing that it’s off my projects list. And since the first drafts of Season 4 and Season 5 are done, I’ll only have to worry about revising them. Maybe I’m finally getting the hang of this.

I’ve been wanting to put together a small flash fiction ebook, and I think that might be something I can do this month since I have most of the stories written and it shouldn’t take me too much time and effort to pull it off. A little fun thing that gives the illusion of productivity.

With 2019 looming, the other thing I need to do is look at my mess of a projects list and decide what I need to work on next year. This year was sort of a disaster, so I have plenty of things to work on. Which is sort of the reason why I’m not looking forward to figuring anything out. It’s going to be a drag.

In non-writing projects -or mild-writing projects, as it may be- I’m going to do some serious, actual work on a podcast. If you’ve listened to me ramble with Dan (he doesn’t ramble) during our chats about The Green Hornet on Eventually Supertrain, then you know I’ve teased about doing the Book ’em, Danno podcast about the original Hawaii Five-O. I’m going to attempt to make that tease a reality. I know what the basic show format will be. It’s just a matter of some research and recording. Simple, right?

Sure. Always simple in plan, not so much in execution, as we all know. We’ll see.

The year might be coming to a close, but the fun rages on. Murderville patrons already got an exclusive look at Season 3, but everyone can check it out on December 11th. Also, $2 patrons get their final bonus of 2018 on December 18th. Don’t miss out! Become a patron now!

Thankful For Finishing NaNo

If my counting is correct, I finished my 15th NaNoWriMo on November 18th. My goal, as always, is to finish before Thanksgiving, but this year I wanted to finish a little earlier than that due to the fact that I was recording on Monday and had a hair appointment on Tuesday. It was nice not to have to NaNo around them.

After all, this year I NaNo’d around my cousin’s wedding and my sister and brother-in-law’s visit (in addition to the usual stuff I deal with while writing on a daily basis); I deserved to give myself a break.

The scheme this year was to write Seasons 4 and 5 of Murderville, which I did. I thought that Season 4 would be longer than Season 5, and I was right. However, Season 4 fell short of what I projected, which meant that Season 5 fell even shorter of what I needed and I ended up about 10,000 words short.

So, I wrote a bonus Murderville story. And it’s really cute! I haven’t decided if it’ll be a new goal reward or maybe just a final farewell after Season 5. We’ll see how I feel after I survive the holidays.

As for Seasons 4 and 5, the word counts will be bumped in revisions. My first drafts are always bare bones. I almost always overestimate what I think the word count will be.

And I’m almost always surprised when it happens.

It’s like I don’t even know me.

Oh, well. A victory is a victory and after struggling so much this year with my productivity, I’ll take it. This puts my NaNo record at 12-3.

Not too shabby.

We’ve Already Discussed This. Writing Is Work.

“Are you coming with us?”

“I can’t. I gotta work. I’ve got 2,500 words to write for NaNo.”

“That’s not work.”

It was a throw away comment in a conversation I had earlier this week, a dismissal of my excuse not to go more than anything, but it still stuck in my skin like a barb.

That’s not work.

I’ve already discussed this, probably more than once, in the time I’ve been writing with the intent to make a profit, but I suppose I should say it again for the people in back.

Writing is work.

The prevailing idea is that if something doesn’t get you a regular paycheck, then it can’t be work. Unfortunately for many of us pursuing some sort of creative field like writing or art, we don’t get regular paychecks. Honestly, we would like to. We’d like to be paid a fair wage, dollars per hour for the work that we do. We’d like that regular weekly or bi-weekly paycheck like so many other jobs provide.

But the reality is that we don’t get that.

And because we don’t, there’s this myth that what we do isn’t work.

It is.

It’s the most frustrating kind of work in this capitalistic society because we will put in a ton of effort on a project that might never yield one cent for us. A story or a novel that never sells. An article that languishes in pitch hell. And even if we do get paid, rarely is it ever fair compensation comparable to the amount of work put into it.

There’s also this idea that because we set our own hours and/or work from home that writing is not work. It’s actually more work when you think about it. How easy is your job when you’re constantly interrupted by the people around you? How long does it take you to get one task done when people keep stopping by your desk to chat? How easy is it for you to get back into your groove? How frustrating is it when you lose that groove ten minutes later because they’re back again?

Yeah. That’s my reality when I’m trying to write.

Writing is work. Yes, I have to hold day jobs from time to time and I currently don’t have one, but my ultimate goal is to comfortably support myself by writing and writing alone. I want writing to be my only full-time job. I wish for it to be my career.

No, it is not backbreaking, sweaty labor. No, I don’t have to leave my house to do it. No, I don’t have a boss in the traditional sense. And no, I don’t get that regular paycheck.

But I earn every penny I make from it. It is work. It is MY work.

Now don’t make me say it again.

Flirting With the Idea of Freelancing

Several of my Twitter friends are writers. Some of them are freelancers. It’s interesting to watch their trials and frustrations, victories and successes. Because freelancing mystifies me.

Okay. Maybe that’s an overwrought way to put it. The truth is, though, that the idea of freelancing both intrigues and scares me. Sometimes I think I could do it until I remember that you need clips and pitches and whatnot. Then I’m absolutely certain that I could never.

It’s a push-pull thing. I look into it. I think about it. And I always talk myself out of it. I convince myself that I have no idea what I’m doing and would do it all wrong and would never get a piece accepted anywhere.

I’ve always been my own worst enemy.

Watching my Twitter friends talk about it, though, makes it a little more accessible. The idea of it anyway. They help to demystify the whole thing for me. I see what they do and what they go through. Their struggles do nothing to dissuade my interest. I’m used to struggle. It’s just my own hang-ups that I can’t get past.

There’s also the small matter of what I’d write about. I’m not qualified to write about anything. Hell, if blogging had requirements, I’d never meet them. And then, of course, there’s what I would write about if I were remotely qualified. I can’t imagine hot takes on old TV shows would find much of a market. No different from my fictional writing life, really. I write what folks don’t want to read.

Still, despite all of this, I think about it. I look into it. I ruminate over it a while before talking myself out of it, only to reconsider the idea later. It’s a tired cycle. One day, I might actually give it a legitimate shot.

Until then, I flirt.

I’m terrible at flirting.