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Day Six: Back to Work

Up early as always, showered and dressed and ready to head out to my regular job. Fixing a turkey wrap to bring with me. I need to stock up on oatmeal packets and tuna snack packs. Keeping myself surrounded with healthier options makes it easier to eat healthy. Also, having them to grab at a moment’s notice saves time and money versus going out to find a vendor or restaurant across the street at lunch time. Gotta stay stocked with good stuff.

Traffic has been light the past two weeks but school starts back up today for all the youngsters and buses and moms will be packing the local roads in the mornings. I need to make sure I’m leaving early enough.

I’m thinking of adding one more resolution into the mix. I need to start clearing out some stuff. I need to sell or donate or trash the things I no longer need or want. I need to declutter my space. My wife says garage sale but I say eBay. We’ll see.

I’m taking the little candy canes people leave on my desk from Christmas and putting them in my coffee. Peppermint Keurig greatness.


Day Five: The Day Before Monday

Today was a lovely day. The high temperature was just below 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a slight breeze: A perfect summer day in many places but a perfect random Winter day here in Texas. I walked the dogs today. They loved getting out and around the park on such a beautiful day and the free air and exercise did all of us good. I had fresh melon and pineapple and toast with strawberry jam with coffee for breakfast. I did spend about five minutes lifting weights, so…I should probably get back to doing some more of that when I’m done here.

I had Brussels sprouts and potstickers for lunch. I couldn’t help but have a few wheat thins and cheddar as a snack, and I’ll wager I drank half a gallon of lemonade throughout the day. I read the first couple stories in my new unabridged Jack London and was surprised to learn he lived only to the age of forty. I hadn’t realized he died so young. I look at the eleven hundred pages he wrote and wonder what else he could have accomplished had he lived on.

In spending time with my wife, we broke into a new (to us) series on Hulu called Killing Eve. It’s a bit of an international cloak & dagger spy thriller series and it’s been out for a while so we can binge watch a few episodes at a time when we feel like it…another benefit of staying away from the television for prolonged periods of time.

Dinner was a Marie Calendar’s chicken pot pie…mediocre (I always manage to either undercook it or burn the crust) and a bit more fresh fruit. So, I managed to behave fairly well for my food intake today. I could have avoided the cheese block and crisps, but what the hell. It’s the weekend.

I went through a couple catalogs recently received in the mail and selected several titles for an upcoming order. Some history, some historical fiction, a few children’s titles…all good stuff. Or at least we hope as much, right?

In other news, my wife found an old Bluetooth keyboard in her office and let me use it. Instead of kicking back with my laptop to write, I can kick back with a wireless keyboard and my phone and be even more cozy wherever I choose to write. Remembering how freeing it was the first time I took my first laptop somewhere, this new setup is even more portable. I can tuck my phone in it’s pocket and shove the keyboard in a bag or jacket and be off in an instant. I do enjoy it.

In all, I feel as though I am on my way to making these resolutions into habits and these blog entries are helping me adhere to them. It’s an additional layer of accountability for me, and I’ll take all the help I can get. 🙂

Stay motivated, do things which make you (and others) happy.

Keep the momentum.

Day Four: Half Price Books!

I got out to Half Price Books today and found a copy of Hemingway: The First Forty-Nine Stories. I’m about a third of the way through it. I also bought a copy of The Unabridged Jack London. I haven’t dug into that yet but plan to do so soon after I write this post. It’s interesting to read the descriptions in Hemingway. He really captures the essence of the locations. I was reading one short story after another to find myself correlating his descriptions with moments from my own memories. Not only did it allow me a bit of reminiscing but it also lent some reality to Hemingway’s tales. I made it through one hundred forty four pages in one sitting.

I’m going to switch to the Jack London in a bit just for variety before returning to finish Hemingway. I’m attracted to Jack London’s stories as I am sometimes living vicariously through his writing. The sum of his work is separated into two different sections: Mountains and Sea. I have loved hiking and kayaking for some time and, although I have never adventured to the extent of what London has done. I did a bit of ocean going travel in the USN as an Operations Specialist, but not to the extent I would write about it. I am inspired by London’s travels and subsequent stories. It makes me want to get out there and hike cross country, hop on a steamer, and start writing my own amazing experiences. I don’t know if my wife would be too keen on that, but let’s put a pin in it and see if I can’t work something out when I retire one day.

So, to catch up with the rest of my resolutions, I did get in some walking today as I wandered Half Price Books and other nearby stores with my wife. I took a break from the weight-lifting today to give my body a chance to recover. I definitely reduced my screen time today due to all the shopping and walking, and reading of actual printed books. And the only writing I got in today was this blog post, but that counts, so I’ll take it. I’ll have to step that up over time.

Thanks for reading! Pursue your goals. Love your dogs. Keep the momentum. Have fun.

Day Three: Starting to Alternate Those Resolutions

The best best of survival for my New Year’s resolutions was to make a bunch of them and alternate them as needed to keep the momentum going. If I had one resolution, I’d spend too much time and effort worrying about trying to make that happen and I’d get bored or frustrated. With a whole slew of resolutions, I can sort of pick and choose as appropriate and I’ll always feel good about doing at least one of the things I swore I would do. I know. That’s kind of half-assed, but it’s what I’m trying this year.

What’s on the list? Well, let’s see. I told myself I’d lose some weight. Twenty pounds seems about right. I lost more than that a few years ago, and it felt great, but it was hard to maintain and I ended up gaining quite a bit back. I’m going for moderation this time.

Another thing I’m doing is making sure I write. This blog is a part of that but, hopefully, there will be more, eventually. It’s the easiest thing in the world. I’ve started writing a million times. It’s the follow through that takes some effort. I’ll be working on that.

Lifting weight. Pumping Iron. Working different areas on different days. I have been, intermittently, pretty excited about walking, hiking, kayaking and getting out on the move. As any trainer will tell you, aerobics need to be blended with some resistance. I need to bring up and maintain some weightlifting. I’ve been tossing around some iron in the backyard the past week, just a little, and trying to gradually move it up both in reps and mass. I do feel better. I’m looking forward to more variety in this and better results.

Less meat. More fruit and vegetables. I’ve been doing this for weeks now, long before the new year started, and I just need to keep my refrigerator and cabinets well stocked. I find that, if it is readily available when I crave it, it’s much easier to adhere to it.

Less screen time. And when I say less screen time, I mean the impulsive instinct to pull out my phone and check social media, email, texts and updates every time there is a momentary lull in the real world. I even have a selection of game apps I keep just to pass the time when I am waiting in line or relaxing after work. Honestly, staring at a phone screen is not relaxing. It forces your eyes to stare unblinking at a source of light which can fatigue your mind. So, I’m trying to reduce that. Yes, I am aware of the irony that I am typing this on a laptop.

Anyway, I have been rotating my resolutions accordingly and it helps keep me motivated. We’ll check back down the road and see how well it all goes.

Keep the momentum!

The Beginning of a Plan

I need books. I plan to sell books. I will have a selection of used and (some) new books which I will sell at various popup locations in my neighborhood and surrounding area. I hope to be able to visit each site monthly and develop a routine which clients will come to learn and love. If I meet at each location on the same day (for example, the third Thursday of the month) each month, I will eventually have regulars who come by to see what is new and different.

I do have my tax permit set up and running. I have an account with various book suppliers and publishers and look forward to setting up accounts with many more. If any of you are publishers and would like to set up an account with you, please contact me.

So, local retail shops, businesses and offices with a good volume of employees who traverse the lobby, places who will allow me to return on a regular basis and set up shop for a few hours. I’d be available for lunch rush and breaks in the offices and retail during morning and evening rush hours.

I intend to have a selection of history, business and economics, some fiction and lit. I’ll add to my inventory over time. I need to find an inventory tracking system which doesn’t cost a fortune. I may likely end up using Excel and a handheld scanner for some time. I have a Square account and a variety of card readers for it. I need to develop promotion and marketing skills. I need to develop relationships with shop owners and office directors in the area. That is key.

Anyway, these are my thoughts for now and it helps me to get them down somewhere. Here’s to making them happen. Thanks for reading. Keep the momentum. ‘See ya next time.

A New Year

It’s been too long since I wrote a blog post. It’s been three and a half months. It’s been so long that WordPress prompted me with the introductory blog lessons when I logged in. Wasn’t that nice. LOL

As would be expected around this time of year, it’s a time of new beginnings and I am “beginning” again with this blog. My goal to one day having a brick-and-mortar book store has not changed and documenting the journey, regardless of it’s course and it’s inevitable roadblocks, is supposed to be done on this blog.

There has not been much progress since the last time I posted. I am still thankful for my full-time job because it IS a great job and pays my bills, however, one day I intend, God willing, to retire and, when I do, I’d like to have another source of income a little closer to my dream of having a book store. I will have a book store with a little cafe and be an integral part of the neighborhood. That’s the goal.

Mostly, I’ve been in the planning stage. And by ” planning stage”, I mean I’ve been looking at properties on Loopnet, reviewing all incoming copies of Publishers Weekly, and spending copious amounts of time daydreaming about running a book store.

It will happen…one day. It will happen sooner if I win the Lotto. In the mean time, keep watching this blog. Watch as I trudge forward, make mistakes, and arrive at the day when my dream becomes a reality. It’s going to be a slow journey, but it’s going to happen. Just watch.

You Read My Mind

Welcome to Another Notch, the podcast about writing prompts. I try to get thoughts on paper and stretch ideas until they become stories. If it inspires you, you need to subscribe! If my writing needs help, show me the error of my ways. The whole idea is to make me a better writer, so lets get to it.
Here’s today’s writing from a random prompt I found on the internet. A 16 year old kid living on a ranch get struck by lightning and can now hear what people are thinking.
As always, I write what I can in one day’s time and what ends up on the table is a rough first draft of however far I got into the story. These are not finished stories. Perhaps, one day, I’ll get around to finsihing some of these stories. In the mean time, I think I’m benefitting from the practice. So, keeping that in mind…

…here we go…

Chapter 1
Caleb couldn’t see anything. All he could hear was a shrill, high-pitched whine. He couldn’t see, even though it was late afternoon and the sun had been shining bright all day. He couldn’t move. Actually, he could, but it was painful, and he hurt enough already. Just breathing was painful. His lungs hurt, his heart was racing. His throat and nose were sore and filled with the scent of warm sulfur.
As he lay there…was he laying down? Was he standing? He thought he had been standing but he certainly couldn’t be standing now. He could sense the Earth beneath him. Yes. He could feel the ground. He was laying on his back, spread-eagled.
As he lay there, his vision began to register once more. He could start to see some light, then some semblance of different colors, and shapes. He blinked, and it hurt, but it helped clear his vision a bit more. He was definitely laying on the ground. But where was he
Caleb could see a building to the right. He tried to turn his head a bit. Pain shot through his body. He stopped and blinked some more. It looked like…a barn. It was a barn. It was his family’s barn!
He lived here, on this property. He glanced toward his feet and could barely make out a more distant building. It was white with green trim. The house. He loved in that house. He felt some comfort in realizing where he was. Flashes of views of the inside of the house ran through his mind; sitting in the living room watching TV with his parents; lighting a cigarette on the gas stove when his parents weren’t home; playing with the dogs in the backyard. Memories trying to come forward and offer some context, some comfort.
Caleb came sprawling back to reality as he realized he had no idea how he had ended up on the ground somewhere between coming out of the barn and heading back to the house. What was he… He had been feeding the horses. It came back to him slowly.
He had been feeding the horses and he brushed them a bit and then he went to collect eggs from the hen house. Caleb looked around to see if he could find out what happened to the eggs.
There were at least half a dozen eggs laying splat on the ground, as if the Johnston kids had come crashing through with a Halloween prank with really bad aim. Not a single egg could be salvaged. He looked closer. The ants had already started in. He had to have been knocked unconscious for a bit. Caleb sat up and wondered what in the hell had happened.
The ringing in his ears was gradually letting up. It was more of a tinny sounding whine and he could start to make out some of the sounds from his immediate environment. He could hear birds now. He could hear a dog barking in the distance. And he heard MIldred Faulkner telling her husband he was a fat, ferocious pig.
That last bit was quite remarkable. Shocking, actually. Not because of what Mildred had said, but because Mildred lived next door, in the house down the road…half a mile away. He had been looking in the direction of her house when he heard her voice. That was impossible…well, improbable. He had heard her voice…from a half mile away.
The last wisp of high-pitched whining spun out of Caleb’s right ear and he could hear just fine once again. His head cleared a bit. He slowly leaned forward and, pushing against the ground, managed to stand upright. He turned his head to look down the hill into town. He might have to go get some aspirin. He knew his father had used the last of it the other night and Caleb had a feeling he was going to be sore for a while.
Hell, he was going into town to get aspirin. He might even stop at Doc’s and tell him what’s going on, have him check him out. He still had no idea what happened. He was looking down the hill and started to walk when he heard Doc’s voice in his head.
“Yes, two a day, one every twelve hours, with a meal, just like I said thirty seconds ago when you asked. God, I hope you even remember to take this stuff, Catherine. God knows you need it.” said Doc’s voice. It wasn’t like Doc was talking to him, and it wasn’t like Doc was standing anywhere near him. It was like Doc was wearing a hidden microphone and everything he said was being broadcast directly into Caleb’s brain.
Caleb closed his eyes and turned his gaze downward and gently shook his head. He went to the porch swing and sat down, putting his arms up on the back rest of the swing. He kept looking down at his feet as he slowly pushed back and forth on the swing.
What…in God’s Green Earth…was going on?! thought Caleb.
The things these people were saying, it’s not like things they would say to these people. Mildred and Doc were way too polite and he had never heard them talk like that. It’s like he was, maybe, hearing their thoughts. Is this what Doc actually thought of poor old Cathy Grayson? That must have been who he was talking, er…thinking of when Caleb heard his voice. And, is that how Mildred really thinks about her husband? Well, that’s no surprise, really. Mister Faulkner is kind of an ass.
A thought struck Caleb. He had to try something. A quick little experiment to see if what he was thinking was actually the truth. He stood and walked down the porch steps. He glanced back down at the little town towards the bottom of the hill. Over the treetops, he could see the trailer park off to the East. He followed the trees and trailer tops until he saw the tallest pine power pole sticking up out of the ground. He stared at the trailer right in front of it. And he thought of Amanda, that beautiful girl with the shoulder length black hair, from school.
“ooooh…ooooh…ooooh…ooooh…” said Amanda’s voice in his mind. “That’s it! Now push! God, it’s so hard!” Her voice sounded close to exhaustion, but energized.
“Yes! Now hold it…hold it…right there… that’s it! and five… four… three… two… one.” said Amanda’s voice, collapsing at the end. “Damn this stupid exercise video. It’s gonna kill me and then I’ll lose weight for sure!”
Caleb’s face was flush. He quickly looked up into the sky. He could feel the heat escaping from the top of his close cropped hair. Something was definitely going on but it wasn’t something he was going to waltz in and tell Doc about. Suddenly, he felt a stabbing pain in his chest. Whatever was happening, he resolved then and there that a trip to Doc’s was definitely needed.
Chapter 2
“These lines right here,” said Doc, tracing along the dark lines on Caleb’s calves with the tip of his pen, “these are called Lichtenberg scars.” The dark scars running the length of his calves was purple and sore and tender.
“Most of the time, they tend to fade in a couple days. I don’t see why these would be any different.” said Doc. He put his pen in his shirt pocket and, looking straight at Caleb, he folded his hands and smiled. “The cardio tests we ran all came back ok. I think you were most likely under a lot of pain and perhaps a little duress from the confusion of not knowing what happened, but you seem to be recovering just fine.”
Caleb was sitting on the examination table with the big roll of paper at one end. The comedian Jerry Seinfeld used to have a bit about those little tables, about how he always felt like a piece of salami at a deli sitting on one of those tables, waiting to be examined, or maybe wrapped up an placed on the counter.
“Thanks, Doc,” said Caleb, “that’s a relief. I’m glad to know I’m gonna be alright.”
“Not a problem, Caleb,” said Doc, “your mother is waiting for you back at the house. Make sure you get home.”
“I wish you hadn’t told her, Doc.” said Caleb, “You know she just worries about stuff.”
“It’s not like I had a choice, Caleb.” said Doc, “You’re sixteen years old. You’re a minor. You’re mother gets notified.”
“AND…” continued Doc, “you were struck by lightning. Did you think I wasn’t going to notifity your mother? She would have my license to practice if she found out from anyone else.”
Caleb looked at him and smiled and was about to thank him when he heard Doc say something else, except…Doc’s lips weren’t moving.
“You’re a damn lucky kid. Lucky to have a mother like that and lucky to be alive.” said Doc’s voice…in Caleb’s head.
“Are you alright?” said Doc, lips moving and all. “You got kinda still there for a minute. You look kind of pale.”
“No. No, I’m fine, Doc.” said Caleb, sliding off the examination table. “I’m just still getting over the shock, that’s all.”
“Ha. Pun intended?” said Doc, with a smile.
“What? Uh…yeah. Ha!” said Caleb, realizing he had made his own joke. “Thanks, again, Doc. I’ll see ya later.”
“Straight home, Caleb. Tell your mother I said hello.” said Doc. He gave a little wave and a nod and disappeared out the door and on to the next examination room.
Caleb was out the door, down the hall, through the lobby and onto Main street. It would be about a twelve minute walk up the hill and to the house.
Chapter 3
While he walked, and relieved from the stress about his previously unknown medical condition, he started thinking about the strange new…skill, he had in his head. It had to have been the lightning strike. He had heard about stuff like this, but it was all science fiction and nonsense, like UFO’s and people getting abducted.
But this was real. He was living it. He didn’t understand it, and didn’t know how long it would last, if it would go away, or if the lightning had affected him in other ways. So many questions.
He kicked a rock in his path. The tiny rock skittled across the concrete sections of sidewalk until it hit a metal sign post and deflected at a right angle into the alcove doorway of the town hair salon. Caleb looked up as he passed.
For a moment or two, his eyes met with the eyes of Peggy Sue, the assistant manager of the hair salon. And by assistant manager, I mean she was the OTHER hair stylist in the shop. She was on duty when the first one wasn’t working.
Caleb heard her voice clearly inside his head, right through the shop window, above the sound of a passing car, and despite the radio echoing out from the shop.
“That poor kid. ‘Doesn’t even know what’s going on with his mom right now.” She went back to spraying and teasing out a her client’s hair while she continued thinking to herself…and, unwittingly, to Caleb. “If he ever found out…”
She didn’t finish the sentence but Caleb glanced back to see her shaking her head while she combed and clipped. Caleb turned his attention back to his house on the hill and kept walking.
“What is going on?” Caleb thought to himself. “I’m going nuts. First, I almost get killed by a lightning strike on a sunny freaking afternoon, and now I can…what, read minds? Hear people think? And now there’s supposedly some secret about my mom?”
Caleb stopped in his tracks. He wanted to go back and grab Peggy Sue and ask her what in the hell was going on with his mom, but that would probably put her right over the egde. He stood a moment longer before making his decision.
“Ya know what? Who cares…” thought Caleb. “Today has been an absolute shit show and I’m going to get some answers before anything else happens.”
He reinforced his resolve, turned on his sneaker and started walking back to the hair salon, thinking about what he was going to say to Peggy Sue when he got there.
He saw a guy in a leather jacket walking up to the salon. It was about eighty degrees today. Caleb slowed his pace and watched as the man approached the door of the shop.
“Quick and easy.” said the voice in Caleb’s head. “Cash register on the counter, safe in the back next to the clothes dryer…24 – 17 – 34. Three minutes, in…and…out…”
The man reached the doorway just as he reached into his jacket to pull out a snub-nosed .38 revolver.
Chapter 4
“Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to do. Everyone remained calm. No one tried to play hero. And everything worked out.” said Sheriff Belton. He gestured to the man handcuffed in the back seat of his cruiser. “You did real well, Peggy Sue.”
Both of the town’s police cars were parked in front of the salon, lights flashing. Belton’s deputy was still talking to people and taking their statements; Everything that could be done to make sure this guy stayed in jail for a long time. And it was all because Caleb called 911.
Caleb sat in one of the faux leatherette seats in the little waiting area of the salon. He pretended to be reading a car magazine while everyone around him was hustling and hugging and chattering about the recent events in the shop. He would wait. He was determined to talk to Peggy Sue.
Another fifteen minutes and the sheriff and deputy had everything wrapped up and they moved out. Most of the shop patrons were gone, having to come back another day for their appointments, except for one woman who was having her hair dyed. She had a towel wrapped around her head and was past due the time she was supposed to have the dye rinsed out of her hair. Peggy Sue was rushing to get to her client and get the shop back to normal. She had a hectic afternoon but this poor customer was about to lose some of her hair if she didn’t get rinsed soon.

Alright! Thank you for joining me in today’s writing prompt. I wish I could hear what lot of you are thinking right now but, alas, you only wish that I had been struck by lightning. What about you, have you written today? If not, get on it. If you have written something, good for you. You deserve a cup of coffee.
That’s today’s writing prompt. I’ll be back with more. Be sure to subscribe if you find this interesting. Thanks for listening and thanks for your feedback. This is Kurt Copeland. Keep the momentum and take your writing up Another Notch.

Illegal Aliens

All of this blog’s content is also available in an audio podcast on iTunes and on Podbean under the podcast name “Another Notch”

Welcome to Another Notch, the podcast about writing prompts. I try to get thoughts on paper and stretch ideas until they become stories. If it inspires you, then go write somrthing! If my writing needs help, then, please…help. The whole idea is to make me a better writer, and that’s the point.

Here’s today’s writing from a random prompt I found on the internet. A con man who convinces people they’ve been abducted by aliens and takes their money…is abducted by aliens.

As always, I write what I can in one day’s time and what ends up on the table is a rough first draft of however far I got into the story. These are not finished stories. Perhaps, one day, I’ll get around to finsihing some of these stories. In the mean time, I think I’m benefitting from the practice. So, keeping that in mind…

…here we go…

DId you ever wonder about that secret government base called Area 51 and how a certain portion of the population seem to have had life-altering experiences such as being abducted by aliens, being “probed” by aliens, and generally just being harrassed by aliens? Have you ever thought about how much of that stuff may have some grain of truth to it or some basis in reailty? Well, the truth is…there’s not as much reality to it as some folks would have you believe. And here’s a true story to explain some portion of the crazy stories you may have heard.

Jason Hawsworth was a bartender at the Pradisio Hotel in Las Vegas, about a hundred miles southeast of that popular secret site known as Area 51. He worked late nights at the hotel bar and that suited him just fine. Jason had an occasional side hussle going on in the bar that helped bolster the tips and wages he made in the off-the-beaten-path hotel.

It was two in the morning at the Pradisio Hotel. Jason rinsed highball glasses, swept broken glass and stray ice cubes, and started closing down the bar. He kept a close eye on the guest from Room 228 whose arm was beginning to tire from pulling on the one-armed bandit on the far side of the room. The slot machines actually paid out once in a while and the experienced, prepared guests knew how to keep feeding one until it let loose its holdings. Ya gotta spend money to make money…or so the adage goes. They were the only two people in the bar.
“Sir. Are you gonna want anything else before I close up shop for the night?” said Jason from behind the bar.
The man didn’t hear him. His eyes were heavy. He slumped against the machine with the weight of all the the gin and tonic he had been nursing the past few hours. His bloodshot eyes locked on the screen, his arm grew heavier each time he reached for the handle.
“Ok, then. Hey! One more for the road. Something to celebrate your success!” said Jason as he walked from behind the bar. He had a shot glass in his hand with a clear liquid.
He reached the middle-aged man and reassuringly pat him on the shoulder. The man seemed to stir and come awake, almost. Jason held the shot glass in front of him and smiled a bright and animated smile. A more sober guest may have questioned the complimetary drink but, at this point, anything in a glass is just waiting to meet its just end.
The rumpled guest in his slacks and and sneakers, buttoned shirt and windbreaker, was now heading into complete shut down mode. The gin-flavored dose of Rohypnol Jason put in the shot glass made sure of that.
“There ya go. Easy does it.” said Jason as the intoxicated and drugged man tried to stand. The guest reached out an arm in, as if in protest, as if some portion of his subconscious was aware of something wrong. Jason helped him down into one of the wheeled dining room chairs which he had placed against the wall earlier, with its faux leather cushioning on the back and arms. . The moment the man passed out would never be remembered. The moment he woke up would never be forgot.
With one hand on each end of the back of the wheeled chair, Jason pulled the unconscious man away from the slot machine, out of the bar area, down the hall and up to a storage room near the ice machine under the stairs. He pulled a keychain out of his pocket, found a small brass key, unlocked the storage room and pulled the chair and its passenger inside. He shut the door behind him and the door was locked once more.
Aged fluorescent lights on a motion sensor flickered and came on with a buzz and a dull glow. The room was partially filled with replacements for various room features such as shelves of table lamps with their cords wrapped around their base, larger floor lamps, used coffee machines in various states of repair and cleanliness, and a couple broken televisions.
Jason reached up to a small tissue box on the top shelf of the closest rack and pulled out a fresh pair of latex gloves. He pulled them on and wrestled the man out of the chair and onto a thin, dirty twin-sized mattress laying on the floor. He made a thorough, methodical search of all of the man’s personal belongings, pocket to pocket, and unabashedly tossed everything into a five gallon paint bucket next to the mattress. Wallet, keys, chips from nearby casinos, cash, coins won from the slot machine down the hall. Everything but the hotel room access card went into the bucket. The access card was placed on the shelf behind him. The rest would be sorted through later.
Next was the victim’s clothes. Jason took off the mans shoes, cut and removed the man’s clothes, skivvies and all, and shoved them into an heavy duty garbage bag. He sealed the bag with a plastic zip tie from a bundle next to the tissue box and placed it next to the bucket by the door. The first time Jason had done this part of the process, it was awkward and horrendous. By this time, he had learned to get it over with as efficiently as possible and be done with it.
Jason, kneeling next to the naked guest, reached back and grabbed one of the flimsy folded hotel bedspreads from the shelf behind him, unfolded it and let it float down over the body. He paused for a few moments, listening to the man still breathing in his drug-induced slumber. That was a good sign.
He got up, stretched, and stepped around an old newspaper rack, exiled from the lobby years ago, and pulled out a folding wheelchair stored between the shelf and the wall. With a quick yank, the wheel chair expanded and, in less than a minute, Jason had the unconscious guest arranged comfortably covered with his blanket, sitting quietly, waiting to be taken away.
A sleeping man in a wheelchair being pushed down the hallway after two in the morning would hardly be noticed by anyone and, if it were, it wouldn’t look suspicious. Jason peeled off the latex gloves and tossed them in the plastic bucket with the man’s belongings. He left the bucket and, opening the door, he peered out and looked up and down the hall. No one. He grabbed the man’s room access card off the shelf.
Jason commandeered the wheelchair, navigating it through the storage room door, around the corner, passed the ice machine and the stairwell, and up to the elevator doors. A quick trip in the elevator and he and his passenger were on the sexcond floor. He stopped at a maid’s closet and pulled out his brass key to step inside and grab a clean hand towel. Thirty seconds later, they were in front of room 228.
Jason swiped the access card in the door slot, the lock flicked open, and he gripped and twisted the knob with the bar towel. He nudged the door open, careful to not touch anything, and rolled the chair and his victim inside. The access card went back into his pants pocket.
Jason carefully laid the man on the bed and then firmly pulled the wrapped bedspread from him. He wadded this up and tossed it into the seat of the empty wheelchair. The man as haphazardly spread-eagled, prone, face down, and snoring into the clean bedspread beneath him. Jason shook his head and chuckled at the image that entered his mind of what it would be like for this guy to wake up hours from now, wondering what had happened.
Using the hand towel once more, he pulled the door open, rolled the wheelchair into the hall, and pulled the door shut behind him with a click. He stopped along the way to drop the bedspread and the hand towel into a half-full housekeeping cart in the maid’s closet. He rode in the elevator and returned the wheelchair to its folded position behind the rack shelf in the storage room.
Next, he spent a few minutes going through the contents of the five-gallon bucket. Adding up all the casino chips, cash, slot machine fodder and such, there was about four hundred and thirty eight dollars. Then, he pulled all the debit and credit cards and the man’s driver’s license. He pulled an old digital pocket camera out of his jacket pocket and snapped images of the cars, front and back. The cards were tossed back into the bucket.
He put the digital camera back in his jacket pocket and carried the bucket down to the front desk. A young woman wearing a hotel name tag was sitting behind the desk, engrossed with her phone.
“Hi, Sandra. What’s up with you?” he said. She glanced up and back to her phone.
“Not much, Jason. Just waiting for six. This place is dead. I can’t wait to go home and sleep.” Sandra said to her phone.
He walked with the bucket behind the counter and to the console not occupied by Sandra. Sandra seemed to notice nor care that he had a bucket. He pulled the phone out of his pocket and began scrolling through the images to bring up one of the credit cards. He tapped the mouse to bring the computer console to life and brought up a browser. A couple minutes later, he had four large pizzas ordered at the 24-hour Pizza Hut down the street. He used the images on the digital camera to get the credit card numbers, name, and security digits. He used the image of the ID card for zip code to verify the card. The first one he tried was declined. He swiped through the images and entered another number. The second card worked. The pizza would be ready to pick up in about twenty minutes. Glancing at the ID once more, he noticed the man’s name was Edward Kepler.
He reached into the bucket and found the man’s car keys and put them in his pocket. Then he stepped back into the office behind the front desk. He brought another console awake by tapping its keyboard and proceeded to go through and delete all of the hotel’s security camera recordings on the DVR. Then he did a hard boot on the camera system. This would give him an additional four to five minutes of no recording for him to be able to get off the property.
He found a box of heavy duty trash bags in a filing cabinet. He pulled one out, whipped it open, and poured the contents of the bucket into it. He twisted the bag shut and placed it in the bucket, carrying both back down the hall.
“Good night, Sandra.” he said.
” ‘night.” she said, still glued to her phone.
He stopped at the storage closet to place the bucket back where it had been. He took the first garbage bag, the one with the man’s clothes, and carried it alongside the second one out through a side door by the ice machine to the parking lot.
Jason reached into his pocket to find Mr. Kepler’s car key’s and began pressing the button on the key fob to find his car. After seeing the flashing lights of an eight-year old Oldmobile, he quickly strolled to the car, opened the door, tossed the two garbage bags inside and climbed into the driver’s seat. He revved the engine to life and quietly rolled out onto Elvis Presly boulevard.
He drove three blocks and found an all-night laundromat. He pulled in around the alley, grabbed the garbage bags, jumped out and pulled open the sheet metal door of the dumpster sitting there. In went the bags, and Jason was back in the Olds, cruising down the street.
Five minutes later, Jason was parking the car in front of the Pizza Hut. He ran inside and picked up the pizzas. He wolfed down a couple slices on the way back to the hotel. Parking in the same spot where he found the car, he closed the windows, grabbed the key fob from the ignition and carried the pizza boxes into the hotel. He was very nonchalant and calm as he was aware this portion of his excursion would actually be on the video footage retained by the DVR.
He hopped on the elevator, pizzas in hand, and headed back up to room 228. He pulled the access key out of his pocket, swiped it, and stepped into the room, closing the door behind him.

Chapter 2
“Where is everybody, Eddie? What happened? Why are you…naked?!” said Jason, laughing.
Edward Kepler groaned and suddenly realized he was in his hotel room…and naked, as described, and someone had been narrating this to him… No! Someone was in the room with him! Who in the hell was that? And why did it smell like pizza in here?
He opened his eyes and glanced back at the voice. A man in slacks and light jacket sat at the desk in his room, eating a slice of pizza out of an open box, from a stack of pizza boxes.
“For Christ’s sake, Eddie. Put some clothes on. What happened while I was gone?” said Jason, grabbing a bath towel from the bathroom and tossing it over Edward Kepler’s exposed torso. He took another bite from the pizza and went back to the desk to pick up the remote and turn on the television.

Alright! Thank you for joining me in this little glimpse into the world of a character who is obviously a psychopath. I wish I had found the time to get on paper a bit of the concept for the ending, where the guy get a taste of his own medicine, but time restraints led to me trying to get this episode out in a reasonable time. If I waited until I completely finished every writing prompt exercise to put out an episode, I may never get out any new episodes.
That’s today’s writing prompt. I’ll be back with more. Be sure to subscribe if you find this interesting. Thanks for listening and thanks for your feedback. This is Kurt Copeland. Keep the momentum and take your writing up Another Notch.

The Witches of East Armenia

All of this blog’s content is also available in an audio podcast on iTunes and on Podbean under the podcast name “Another Notch”

Welcome to Another Notch, the podcast about writing prompts. I try to get thoughts on paper and stretch ideas until they become stories. If it inspires you, that’s the goal! If my writing doesn’t impress you, give me some tips. Help me get it right! The whole idea is to make me a better writer, and that’s why I do this.

Here’s today’s writing from a random prompt I found on the internet. The prompt was…a candle, a cup and a mirror. A portal opens when a candle in a cup is held next to a mirror. That’s the prompt.

So, if you’ve been listening to these episodes, you know that I’ve been writing about one per day and I also have to record and edit and upload it, and I also have a full time job, a wife and three dogs, so, I don’t really have time to write a finished story each day. Perhaps, one day, one or more of these little concepts will become something but, for now, you’re just getting the first draft. Keeping that in mind, and thank you for your patience, I really appreciate what you have to say about the bit I do manage to get done. So, for now…

…here we go…

In the middle of Armenia, there is a lake. On the edge of the lake is an ancient monastary. From the windows of the monastary, in the early hours of the morning, tiny flickering lights can be seen, for just a few moments, across the water. About seventy five hundred years ago, they were far more prominent. In these modern times, they can rarely be seen at all.
Why are there faint, glimmering lights on the distant shore of a lake in Armenia? It all began about six thousand B.C., to the west of Armenia, in what is now called Turkey. This is where the very first mirrors were made. They were cut and polished pieces of obsidian. A couple thousand years later, more modern civilizations like Mesopotamia and Egypt would develop mirrors from sheets of copper and then bronze and, eventually, the Romans made them from lead-backed glass. And while all of this developing, a culture of sorcery was being developed around the technology of mirrors.
And those lights? They are the remnants of an ancient witches coven, old even before the pyramids were built, using candles and mirrors to transport themselves between dimensions. Local legend has it that the candles, when held near a small, highly polished mirror, and accompanied by the proper incantation from the lips of a coven member, will open a portal through the fabric of the space-time continuum. It lasts only a moment, long enough for a witch to step though into the other dimension, and into the relative safety of their fortress.
Without their interdimensional fortress, the coven would likely have fallen to its enemies centuries ago. The ability to shift to an alternate plane of existence with such a simple remedy made the difference between surviving and thriving as a community…quite literally, the difference between life and death for the witches. The fact this fortress was concealed in an alternate dimension in a remote forest in the middle of Armenia made their comings and goings appear like occasional fireflies from an an untold distance in the dark.
Now, here, I kind of switch from a narrator format to kind of a rough outline format like I was using in the recent episode about the man who finds the half-filled antique ledger in the thrift shop.
A couple is hiking through a national park in the mountains of Armenia and come across an old monstary by a lake. They love the beautiful setting and set up camp for the night. After their camp fire dies down, they notice the lights. The next day, they hike further around the edge of the lake, into the woods, and set up camp once more. They had heard the stories but never gave it any credence until they saw the lights for themselves. Now, they felt compelled to investigate.
They are met by a beautiful witch who, over the next several hours, uses various spells to disorient them, scare them, and urge them to leave. Not easily disheartened, they keep trying to communicate with her. The witch keeps trying more aggressive tactics until one of the hikers ends up being seriously injured. The witch realizes she cannot draw attention to the coven by having them leave injured and, basically, her options come down to either killing them both and leaving their bodies in the bottom of the lake, or healing them and casting a spell to wipe all memory of the past day or so from their minds, and letting them go.
After some deliberation, she decides to heal them, befriend them, tell them all about herself and her history and the coven, and then she wipes their mind and sets them free.
The couple wake up the next morning, continue hiking, and treasure their photos of some old monastary near a lake whose precise location continues to elude them to this day.

I am enjoying these little excursions into the edge of the wood and into the past and beyond the edge of the solar system and such. I hope you find at least some of this to be inspiring for your own writing practice and ideas.
In the back of my mind, I am beginning to formulate some idea of other features I would like to include on the show, including, perhaps, some writing contests and book giveaways, special guests and interviews, and possibly some other things at some point in the future. But that’s for another show.
That’s today’s writing prompt. I’ll be back with more. Be sure to subscribe if you find this interesting. Thanks for listening and thanks for your feedback. This is Kurt Copeland. Keep the momentum and take your writing up Another Notch.

Old Guy in the Park

All of this blog’s content is also available in an audio podcast on iTunes and on Podbean under the podcast name “Another Notch”

Welcome to Another Notch, the podcast about writing prompts. I try to get thoughts on paper and stretch ideas until they become stories. If it inspires you, that’s amazing. If my writing can stand to be improved, and I know it can, then give me some fodder for the future! The whole idea is to make me a better writer, and I know it’s gonna happen one day.

Here’s today’s writing from a random prompt I found on the internet. The prompt was…

” ‘I can’t cast that spell for you because ___ ‘, said the man behind the old gray beard.”

Take it for what it’s worth. It could have gone a thousand different ways, but here’s what I came up with today. Remember, as always, what I’m reading to you is a rough first draft, whatever I came up with, and is not to be considered anywhere near complete. A more polished draft would have real character names and better dialogue and a great deal of other better things. This is not that draft! Thanks for your understanding.

And, here we go…

A boy, about four years of age, was at a city park with his mother one late morning. They were there to enjoy the playground for a few minutes before they had to go wait for the bus. There weren’t too may other people around at that time of day. There were a couple young teen boys shooting baskets, an older lady in a sun hat walking her tiny dog, and an old, gray, bearded man, sitting on a bench, reading a hardcover book without a dust jacket.
The little buy was trying to climb onto a swing while his mother became preoccupied with her phone. He struggled for a minute and then decided he would lose his balance and fall before he would be able to get situated in the seat of the swing. He gave up.
He looked over at his mom, who was still typing something in response to something she saw on Facebook, and then he glanced around the park to see what other options he may have. He suddenly noticed a piece of wood, directly beneath the swing he had been trying to climb on. It was a piece of 4″x4″ lumber, about a foot long. It was a perfect litte step up to the swing!
He walked back to the swing, wondering how he could have possibly missed the block of wood the first time. He would have practically had to have tripped over it. He tested it with his foot, and it felt solid, so he stepped up and climbed into the seat of the swing.
The boy tried leaning back and pushing himself forward, over and over, longer and harder each time. He couldn’t seem to make the swing budge. He knew if he could just get started, he could make it go higher and farther. He had a tiny bit of a higher vantage point from his seat on the swing and he took another look around the park.
Just then, one of the older boys playing basketball tried to run up to the basket and shoot, but tripped over his shoe lace, messed up his shot, and the ball bounced off of the big metal pole holding the backboard. The ball ricocheted across the court, across the grass, and straight towards the swings. The older kid recovered his balance, ran over to retrieve the ball, and noticed the young boy.
“Hold on, kid! Here ya go!” said the ball player. He jogged up behind the boy on the swing and gave him a gentle push from behind. Then he ran back to the ball, scooped it up and went back to his friend on the court.
Now the boy had a little momentum. He was thrilled! He would push the chain forward and lean into it when the swing was on its way backwards, and then he would shift, leaning back, pulling on the chain, and kicking his legs forward when the swing came back forward again. He would do this again and again, climbing a little higher each time. His mother glanced up from her phone.
“TImmy!” she yelled. She jumped up from the tree she had been leaning on and raced over to the swingset, clasping her phone tightly.
“How did you get up there?!” she said, gasping. The little boy pointed down to the block of wood. It wan’t there. His mother glanced down, and back at him, confused.
“How did you possibly start swinging so high?!” she said, mortified. The little boy pointed over to the basketball court, now empty. There was no sign of the older kids. The boy’s mother looked in the direction he pointed and then back at him again, eyes wide and mouth agape, now just shaking her head.
She quickly looked around the rest of the park while reaching for her son to collect him from the swingset. The old man on he bench was still reading his book.
“Come on, sweetie. We have to go. It’s almost time for the bus.” she said as she carried him back to the sidewalk leading out of the park. She set him on the sidewalk and they started towards the bus stop.
The bus could now be seen a block away and moving right along. The mother hastened her step, gently urging her son with a tug, when one of his favorite action figure toys bounced from the top of his mother’s shoulder bag and landed on the ground beside him. He looked back as his mother began dragging him to the bus stop.
Just then, the boy saw the old man on the bench glance up from his book. The man discreetly lifted his index finger, just for a moment, and pointed it right at them. The action figure seemed to somehow come to life and began chasing after Timothy and his mom. It ran like a crazy little 4″-high man in a plastic space suit, jumping and leaping as if he were on the moon, bounding higher with each jump. Within seconds, as Timothy watched, the action figure had made one final desperate jump, did a summersault, and slipped through the open top of his mom’s bag. His mom didn’t even notice.
The bus growled up to their stop, released the air brakes with a hiss, and the doors dwung open impatiently. Mother and son were soon on a bench seat three rows back. The bus was already moving again.
Timothy struggled for a moment and stood on the seat to look out the window. His mother was already engorssed in her phone again. Timothy could see the old man sitting on bench with his book. The man seemed to look up and nod directly at him, and then immediately went back to his book. The bus turned a corner and the park was out of sight.
Tim never saw the old man again.

Once again, I didn’t strictly adhere to the restrictions of the original writing prompt. But that’s not a problem! One of the great things about writing prompts is that they’re supposed to inspire. So, we got that much, anyway.
Maybe part of this should be an effort to stick to the guidelines of the writing prompt. There might be an actual benefit to the process, right? Perhaps next time.
Anyhow, that’s today’s writing prompt. I’ll be back with more. Be sure to subscribe if you find this interesting. Thanks for listening and thanks for your feedback. This is Kurt Copeland. Keep the momentum and take your writing up Another Notch.