Monday, August 26, 2013

A Peek Inside -- Meet Mur!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a writer? Wondered where our ideas come from?

Don’t even lie. “Where do you get your ideas?” is the most common question asked of writers by interviewers and fans.

A Peek Inside is going to be just that. Every once in a while I’ll try to let you see just what goes on in this head of mine, because with my odd imagination there’s pretty much a constant show going on in there. If you’ve ever seen me just standing still and smiling, or sitting there looking at nothing when I suddenly burst into laughter… well, now you’ll know.

Sort of.

So. The story.

I was listening to a podcast at work today. I do that rather frequently, but this was a new one for me. I’d heard about this podcast for a while now, but not actually given it a try until just a couple of days ago. It’s called I Should Be Writing, a podcast for wannabe writers written and performed by Mur Lafferty.

Now let me be clear on this point: Mur Lafferty is a petite woman writer/editor/podcaster whom I have never actually met, though I have been hearing her voice for hours at a time over the past couple of days. I had just gotten to the old-age housing on my route (I am a mailman when I’m not writing or being a Dad) when Mur started talking about her plans to go to a convention to do (among other things) a book signing and sale. She was asking her listeners who might be in the area to stop on by, even if it was to just say hi.

Instantly my head was filled with the image of a broad-faced middle-aged man sitting behind a table covered with copies of a book. He wore a tweed cap and behind him was an easel bearing a poster-sized image of his book cover, the bottom of which said ‘Mur Lafferty’. A young couple walked up to the table in my head, both blonde, maybe early twenties. They looked at the man and his table, then at each other. The man, for his part, offered them a wide smile.

“You’re Mur Lafferty?” said the girl, obviously expecting someone else.

“Oh, aye,” Mur said, in an Irish accent so thick people walking nearby slowed down as they waded through it. “Mur Lafferty of Dublin, author. Here in the States doing a tour. Book signings and the like.”

He beamed at them.

They did the long exchanged glance thing again, and the girl shrugged. The young man, however, flicked a finger at the sign behind the unexpected Mur.

“That’s, uh, that’s kind of an unusual name, isn’t it?”

“Oh, sure and it is,” said Mur. “You’re right about that. Funny story about that, actually, sort of a family legend.”

He waved them closer as they tried to decipher his brogue. Until now the nearest either of them had ever been to a real Irishman had been a cereal commercial featuring a bunch of kids chasing a guy in a green suit.

“When I was born,” he said, the words spilling out of him at speed, “my mum wanted to name me Murry, after my father’s uncle’s nephew’s son. They all went down to the county courthouse to file the papers, but the courthouse clerk was having a bad time of it and there wasn’t a lot of money about. The typewriter ribbon the clerk was using was in bad need of replacing, but they were trying to make it last. She was in a hurry, just banging away and putting down my name when the ribbon hit a poor patch and the last three letters turned up blank. Nobody noticed until they got me home and my da pointed it out. My mum wanted to go down and have them fix it, but my da said it would cost another five punt, and at barely half a stone I wasn’t really worth it.”

He grinned up at their confused faces.

“So there. I’ve been stuck with that moniker for the past forty years because of a worn typewriter ribbon and a skinflint da.”

There was a pause for processing then the boy flicked a finger toward the sign again.

“No, actually I was talking about your last name.”

The finger swung about to indicate Mur himself, with his dark hair and olive complexion.

“I’m sorry, but you just don’t look Irish.”

Mur beamed.

“Oh, sure, but that’s because da’s last name started out as ‘Laffertini’. Funny story about that, actually…”

The scene faded away and I found myself sitting there in my mail truck with a big, stupid grin on my face. Mur Lafferty of Dublin sounded like a lot of fun, and he might wind up in a story of mine somewhere. At the moment, though, I had other stuff to deal with.

...namely the two old ladies who were standing right in front of my truck, watching me through the windshield as I grinned like a maniac. One of them was waving. I sort of got the impression she’d been waving a while, and as engrossed as I’d been in the storytelling of one Mr. Mur I just hadn’t noticed.

“Are you okay?” one of them asked through my open window as I returned the wave with a half-hearted gesture of my own.

I nodded.

“What’s so funny?” said the other.

I opened my mouth to answer, then thought the better of it.

I stepped out of the truck and slung the door closed behind me.

“Just a random thought.”

‘Nuff said.

Talk to you later!

P.S. -- TWO bonus funny vids this week!

Video one: The book trailer for Mur Lafferty's new book, The Shambling Guide to New York City. I think I'll be getting this one.

....aaaaand if this book doesn't happen to look like your thing, doesn't interest you, well how's about this?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Oooohh That Smell...

It had been a long week, the kind of week where you build up quite a bit of laundry but lacked the time to really do anything about it. At least, that was the kind of week it had been for me. When it gets to the point that in the middle of summer I have to wear the same shirt to work two days in a row without a good washing in between, there’s a damn problem.

My boss seems to like it. All he sees is me in constant motion in the office and he thinks I’m just the kind of go-getter he needs to turn the Postal Service around: someone who won’t stand still and wast any time if there’s something to be done. Someone who works fast, moves fast, and gets things done fast so he can get on to the next job. Someone he’s really getting his money’s worth from.

What he’s really got on his hands is someone determined not to stand still for long enough that the smell pools up around him. I figure that if I just keep moving fast enough all day then no one around me will have time to wrinkle up their nose and start pointing at me and shrieking like a scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. When I slow down to where start to smell myself, then it’s time to pick up speed.

It’s bloody exhausting.

This photo has nothing at all
to do with the story.
It just made me laugh.
It’s also not very practical if the reason for the odor is a lack of access to laundry facilities. By the end of the second day I had to wrestle that shirt from my body as it had actually gained sentience and now considered me to be its mother. Either that or it was just plain stuck to me like some sort of foul-smelling pest strip.

I prefer the former explanation.

I really needed to get some laundry done.

Thinking ahead (a rarity for me, I’ll grant you) I had hauled the whole laundry bag down to the Jeep when I’d gone to work that morning and simply took it with me when, after work, I headed to the House That Once Was Mine to visit with Handsome. The first thing I did when I walked in the door was take the whole wad of foul stink disguised as clothing and head for the washer.

I flipped the water supply on and started the machine, then, trying to just get everything done as quickly as possible, I grabbed the big blue jug of detergent from the shelf and, eschewing the included measuring cup with its suggested detergent dose, I tipped it in and counted a one-two-three pour, bartender style. Figuring that to be at least roughly the correct amount of soap I thrust and stuffed the laundry in, slapped the lid shut, and went off in search of Handsome.

Yes, I know. The laundry aficionados reading this, including my mother, all just waved a disgusted hand at the screen and sputtered. There was finger waving. There was shouting. “That’s not the way you do it!” you all said, and you would be wrong. That’s not the way you do it. It is, however, the way I do it, especially when I’m in a hurry, and it works for me. So far. Mostly.

Don’t worry, just read on. I just wouldn’t be me if something didn’t go wrong.

The laundry was washed. The laundry was dried. The laundry was driven home in the back of the Jeep. We pulled up next to a Rolls Royce stopped at a traffic light and the laundry rolled down the window to lean out and ask if they had any Grey Poupon. The laundry was having a fine time. On the trip home, though, I did notice that the laundry filled the Jeep with a better smell than it had on the way there. A much better smell, actually. I mentally marked it down to being in a small, enclosed space and thought nothing of it until morning.

In the morning I rummaged through the bag of freshly cleaned laundry and pulled out some work clothes for the day. I put them on. I took a deep, satisfied breath at a job well done.

I paused.

It was a strangely floral deep satisfied breath.

Also not a thing to do with the post,
but, I mean, come on!
Now, those of you who know me are aware that I have a particularly poor sense of smell. A lifetime filled with chronic sinus infections will do that to a lad. Some things I seem to be able to smell in a relatively normal fashion, but others are either muted or gone. This was a great thing back when Handsome was in diapers, let me tell you! But flowers are something that are wasted on me as far as my nose is concerned. I hear tell that some of them smell pretty, but usually I get a big whiff of nice clean air when I try to smell flowers.

Not this time.

So I went to work, confident that I was smelling pretty clean. I moved about the floor as needed, spending most of my time at my own rack sorting my mail. Some of the clerks, I noticed, were acting a little funny when they came my way with mail. They’d all slow down, some of them stopping behind me and straightening up, standing a little taller, and sniffing the air.

I began to wonder just how powerful the floral scent wafting from my nice clean clothes was. I got my first real clue when one of the clerks brought some mail directly to me. She put the wad of letters on the bench in front of me with her head turned pointedly away.

“Whew!” she said. “Somebody go a little heavy with the detergent around here?”

“I think that was me,” I said, actually growing concerned for the first time. “Is it really that bad?”

“My eyes are watering,” she said, staying next to me to talk but taking a step back and leaning away like I was a dog who’d lost a fight with a skunk. “It’s pretty, but a bit, uh, powerful.”

She fled back out onto the workroom floor as my neighbor in the office leaned around the rack between us, obviously considering her comment to have well and truly broken the ice on the subject.

“Yeah, Rob, I’m having kind of a hard time breathing over here.”

“But I —” I started.

“I mean,” said the guy on the far side of my neighbor, more than ten feet away, “we’re all happy you’ve got clean clothes to wear to work, but honestly, do you think you could cut it down with the soap? At least a little?”

“But I didn’t think I used that much,” I said. “Maybe a little more than usual, but I can’t see where I did anything different from what I usually do. I mean, if I had that much soap still in my clothes wouldn’t they be itchy, you think? But they feel all soft and fine, not itchy at all.”

They had no answers, and I was bewildered, so I just continued on through my morning. I ignored the waving of hands to clear the air as I walked by. I accepted the fact that I had a ten foot circle about me that no one seemed to want to enter, thinking of it as my own personal “Zone of Safety”. I even pretended not to hear the whispers of “Here he comes!” followed by the sound of deeply drawn and held breaths whenever I had to move about the floor.

It was a long morning.

I got out on the road and away from people as quickly as possible... where I received a phone call from Handsome’s mom.

“Did you use all the detergent?”

I looked blankly at the phone for a second before answering.

Nope. Not a thing. But this one
made me wet my pants laughing.
“No. I did not use all the detergent. What is it with people today who think I can’t do simple laundry?”

“It’s just that I went downstairs to do some of our laundry and there’s no detergent down there.”

“There has to be,” I said. “I used a little, okay maybe a lot, but there was still half a bottle down there when I was done.”

“Was it a blue bottle,” she said after a pause, “on top of the dryer?”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s the one.”

“That’s Snuggle.”


“Yes,” she said. “Snuggle. The fabric softener. Not detergent. We seem to be out of detergent.”

In my head the pieces were fitting together slowly, like a jigsaw puzzle being worked by a nonagenarian. With palsy. Underwater.

“Uh... that fabric softener stuff. Does it smell good?”

“Yeah, it smells great.”

“Kind of strong?”

“A little, I guess. but I like it.”

“And the measuring cap, it’s smaller than the one for detergent, right?”

“Oh, yeah, like a third of the size.”

“Okay. I have to go.”


Too late, I was gone. I was sitting in my mail truck and rolling the window down to let out the fumes from using more than three times the normal amount of Snuggle to mask the scent of my dirty clothes rather than washing the stink out of them as I’d thought to do. I was looking ahead at another day of moving fast —  this time trying not to overpower and kill anyone with the smell of soft, cuddly wonderfulness.

            Snuggle: The bear that packs a powerful punch!

          Talk to you later!

Bonus funny video this week: More Maru!

I just can't help it.
I love this cat.