I made it! I did it! I successfully stomped my way onto that stage, mellow xylophone setting the mood behind me, and I read an excerpt with only one “um” and maybe one or two tongue-tied moments. And absolutely no “penis”! And I made my grandmother cry. Praise the gods.
I also came home with armfuls of copies, as planned. There were several amazing readings that night by some seriously talented poets/short-story writers, but I was perhaps most impressed with the small seven year old girl (the youngest author to be published in this issue of Apiary) who made her way onto the stage before me, and mumbled a simple (or so it seems at first listen) poem into the microphone:
Girl With Wings
2 little girls walking down the street
1 little girl is walking
1 little girl is flying
– Ayah Joice
So here it is. It cuts off at some point because our fancy shmancy i Phones cannot send 3 minute videos from one to the other. My lisp is out in all its lispy glory. Blah.
All of this house stress has been ripping me away from my creative side…so this morning I resumed some novel work. I know I just post little clips here and there, but it’s mainly to ask for advice on snippets, rather than the whole thing. Since I am hoping to query this baby to a certain lady very soon, I’m avoiding posting it in its entirety on my blog. Regardless, here is a little ditty I wrote today; and a quick explanation.
My protagonist, Angel, and her sort-of-boyfriend-thing Jay, have gone into a part of the city unfamiliar to Angel, in search of Sarah’s (that’s Angel’s sister) jerk of a boyfriend-thing. Jay was a little nervous about taking Angel here (even though she has shown she can hold her own, as a stripper and just an all around bad-ass), and Angel even finds herself feeling a bit uneasy.
It sucks? Forget it? Delete it forever? It has potential?
Jay squeezed my hand inside the cab. I looked over at him in the panels of light that streamed in from the street lamps, half smiling, not trying to cover the look of confusion I felt forming above my eyebrows. In the half dark I noticed the adrenaline coursing through me, and I tried to focus on finding Danny. After several minutes I peered outside, not realizing how different the scenery had become. The Christmas lights had faded into tiny speckles that appeared once every few houses. Evening shoppers were replaced with strangers bundled up in dirty jackets, spotted along street corners. There was an uneasy quiet about the place, and I realized I’d never been through this pocket of the neighborhood. I felt Jay’s hold on me tighten. Suddenly, I was worried too.
The cab stopped at a corner where the street sign was too covered in graffiti to make out the words. An old deli faced us, the closed sign still swinging in the window. The driver craned his neck toward us. “This is as far as I go.” Jay nodded and pulled some cash from his pocket. I looked over, really concerned now. He got out first, making his way to my side and offering a hand as he opened my door. I took it and he lifted me into the street.
The sour scent of trash hit me first; I hadn’t been able to smell it through the closed windows. I grew even more uneasy, suddenly thrust into the middle of this place I’d watched through a locked door minutes before. “This way.” I felt his hand pulling me again. My eyes ran over every part of my environment, taking in papered windows and empty syringes strewn on the sidewalk. “Watch your step, Angel.” It all made the jaded Southside look like Beverly Hills.
I tried to concentrate, to soak in our path if I found myself having to retrace my steps. “What is this place? Can’t believe I’ve never been here. It’s not so far from Southside….but it’s definitely different.”
“You’d never have any reason to come here.”
It warmed me, Jay’s high opinion of me. It stung, too, knowing what he didn’t know about me. I thought for a minute. “But clearly you would.” He turned, a look of indifference across his face.
No lie, it just took me about 3 tries to spell that title. Oy. After attending the “3.2 Celebration” for the new issue of Gigantic Sequins last night, my brain has gone into short-story mode. Some fantastic readers read their pieces that are being featured in the new issue, and that part of my brain started churning. (By the way, it’s a pretty sweet literary publication featuring amazing art and fiction – the Editor in Chief is a very nice girl, too – so I suggest checking it out!) I also submitted my story, “Sirens Underwater” to the magazine, so fingers crossed they enjoy it!
Anyway, I took a little novel break today to start a new, short piece. I promise I’m not steering too far away from the novel again! I think my brain just needed a break to get those juices flowing again, so I went a little off course to get the job done.
I literally started writing this about half an hour ago, but what do you think of the beginnings? Not sure why I have an obsession with funerals and dead bodies and how people feel about the two…but it’s something that really touches me and fascinates me in some way.
Have a fantastic weekend everyone!
It isn’t what you’d expect, the first time you see a dead person. All of those crime shows cannot steady you, cannot reassure you; you fail to smell how the air thickens through the smooth screen of a television. From the couch you might catch a glimpse of a limp hand with a gold bracelet dangling from the wrist, or a brief shot of dirt-covered sneakers, one on, one off, a white sock with a hole in the bottom revealing skin. No background, no personalization – a black bag and an old photograph, open then closed for your hour-long entertainment.
I’d been to funerals, each one the same as the last, just a different distant family member lying each time at the front of the church. They’re always cleaned up, clothes ironed and layered neatly, makeup overdone on a sunken face, brother, mother and sister quietly dabbing their eyes from the sidelines.
None of it is quite the same.
Mid-October, afternoon, my shift was over and the cool weather and high shining sun found me walking a different path home. The alternate route was a bittersweet canvas of broken, hilly sidewalks and rows of trees with thick branches that curtsied into the blacktop in the summer, when they were weighed down by the leaves; now they hung slightly higher over my head, the imperfect legs of a spider flailing helplessly, searching for ground.
Just a quick excerpt from the novel-in-progress. A flashback from the day Angel and Sarah’s father left home for good; no explanation, no goodbye. It was Angel’s birthday. He’d never given her a birthday card before, but there it was, hung up in a bright red envelope on the refrigerator. What would she want with it? Especially now? Angel threw it in the trash and went about her day. But sister Sarah couldn’t mind her own business.
[I know this is pulling right from the middle, so I’m not giving a clear idea of what has happened leading up to this; any feedback on the language itself and how the scene pans out is much appreciated. Thank you for reading. :)]
We didn’t discuss it. Once I had thrown the unopened card in with stained paper towels and coffee grinds, Sarah knew it was her cue to leave me alone. Hours later I padded to the kitchen for a drink, my eyes catching on the trashcan and pulling me to examine its contents. I leaned over top, at first only a spotted banana peel and a paper filter from the morning the only obvious pieces of trash; but then the red piece of envelope jumped out at me like a taunting piece of confetti and I immediately reached my hand inside, the dampness and darkness suddenly making no difference. My fingers sifted through odds and ends until more remnants of red revealed themselves. I opened my other palm and collected each piece I found. Several minutes had passed when I noticed how large the pile had become, a dozen tiny rips. I put my pile on the tiled counter and looked around; I knew Sarah must have done something similar with the envelope’s contents. They weren’t mixed with the pieces of envelope. A tinge of annoyance wrinkled my forehead. It was my birthday card and my decision to avoid it. Once something has been buried I never was one to dig it back up.
A quick scan let me know the rest of the kitchen had nothing else to offer. I scooped up the pieces and headed down the hall to Sarah’s room, my annoyance growing with each step. I stopped just outside of the door, one hand raised ready to knock when a piece fell from my hand and tapered down to the top of one foot. I shook it off, grabbed the handle and turned.
Sarah didn’t flinch as the door flew open, sending a gust of wind through one of her curls. She looked up from her bed, legs crossed, already dressed for the night in the red and white pinstriped pajamas I hated. I took a step forward and threw my confetti, each prize spinning downward to their landing place on individual parts of the sheet.
“What’s that?” She’d already bent her head back down towards the book in her lap.
“Don’t act stupid,” I growled. “Where is it?”
“Where’s what?” Her words were firm, but avoiding my gaze was the only way Sarah was ever able to catch a glimpse of backbone.
I leaned toward her and snatched the book away.
“Hey! I was reading that!”
“Cut it out. What the hell did you do with my birthday card? If I didn’t want to read it, that was my choice. I threw it in the trash and you had no right to go rummaging around for it. Now hand it over.”
I tossed the book on the floor and caught a glimpse of the cover, a muscular, tanned man with a beautiful woman draped in his arms, wrapped in some sort of silk sheet that just slightly revealed one breast.
She sighed and lifted herself from the mattress, moving to the nightstand, still avoiding my narrowed eyes. I watched as she opened the top drawer and shuffled some things around. A moment later she pulled out a handful of glossy ripped paper, mirror images to the red ones I’d found in the kitchen. She held out her hand and finally looked at me, her eyes glazed, shoulders scrunched to either side of her neck, like a guilty child waiting to have their hand slapped. I rolled my own eyes and grabbed the pieces away from her.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I guess I was curious. Especially since dad has never given us any cards before. It’s not what you think, Angel.”
I placed the puzzle on her dresser and slid the parts around until they began to form a picture; the word “Condolences” slowly came into view, frayed and wrinkled, staring up at me in a silent, pathetic apology. I felt my sister’s stare from the other side of the room.
“I guess it makes sense,” I said, unwavering. “We suffered a loss, didn’t we? Probably the most clever thing he’s ever done.” I swept it all into the trash and stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind me.
“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesnt matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” – Leonard Bernstein
A few days ago, bright and early, I set out to my local Starbucks for a morning chai and some writing. Yes, I sat myself down amongst the other hipsters with their laptops and cotton blouses while some sort of depressing folk music played softly from above and I opened up my tiny Netbook, ready to rock. Did I mention the turkey bacon-egg white-and cheese-on a whole wheat english muffin as well? Delicious.
Still slightly high off of my Honorable Mention I opened up a fresh document and expected the words to start flowing from my fingertips. I mean, duh, it should have been easy, right?
Of course not.
I tabbed back and forth between two separate paragraphs – containing two very separate ideas – for a while, growing more and more frustrated, sipping more and more frequently on my tea instead of typing furiously, until finally I was relieved to see the clock tell me it was time to go. As I packed up my things I felt guilty for the relief I felt.
While I am well aware that it is pointless to wait around until some type of inspiration presents itself – it seems this is not typically the case for us writers – it never gets easy, sitting down at the keyboard and starting something fresh. When I am at work, or the gym, or shopping, I constantly people watch, praying for something to stand out, something worth building a story around.
Maybe everything and everyone around me is just too boring. Yes, of course, that must be it.
My point here is that I – and others like me, who find writing to be more of a struggle than something therapeutic, at times – need no excuses, no distractions, just myself and the keyboard or pen or Sharpie or stick of eyeliner. Like Bernstein’s quote says, even if those first few minutes spew out nothing more than nonsense, eventually a rhythm will take over and things will fall into place, and the ideas will churn and a story of some kind will appear on the page. But writing takes dedication, it takes patience and passion. Even those athletes who have made it all the way to the Olympics have days when quitting sounds easier than pushing on. But the ones who are truly dedicated respond to those emotions by training just a little harder.
I am currently working on a short story I will be entering in yet another Glimmer Train contest, due by the end of the month. Fingers crossed. A solid block of time put aside for writing each day is in order. Randomly choosing a time each day has proven unsuccessful in getting any sort of solid writing done! What sort of writing routine works best for you? I’m curious to know how others manage their days while still finding time to write.
Now to shift gears a bit, unfortunately Joe’s side of the family lost someone early last week. Joe’s sister’s father-in-law passed away as a result of Cancer. We attended the funeral, about an hour and a half from where we live here in South Jersey, up to a wooded part of North Jersey where he and his wife lived together in a beautiful home in a gated development. A beautiful service – filled with quiet tears and plenty of hugs – was followed by a delicious meal and good company at a nearby catering company. Family talked – he was Spanish, so a beautiful mix of languages flowed throughout the day – and reminisced over wine and coffee. Even a few laughs could be heard.
The short story I entered to Glimmer Train, “Sirens Underwater”, focuses on the “proper etiquette” and common practices of funerals and the gatherings that follow: the whispers, the “I knew him or her for this long” conversations, the idea that happiness or noise of any kind is a disturbance of the memory of the deceased, and how a father and daughter break through those barriers following the death of a wife and a mother. While these scenarios are true in several cases, it was so refreshing to see the opposite following the death of Perfecto (what a beautiful name, is it not?).
While a few tears still wet the countertops and beautiful wooden floors of their home, the rooms were also filled with colorful Spanish music – I believe Joe’s brother-in-law, Dave, referred to a band called The Gypsy Kings, his father’s favorite – more food (even though we had all just eaten a three course meal), and plenty more wine. Dave gave me a quick tour of their home, and stopped in his parents’ bedroom to run a hand along a framed black-and-white photo of the two on their wedding day. My heart broke for a son who had lost his father. But he stayed very strong.
Dave’s brother – who I had never met – and I also had the pleasure of talking family, and he even asked me about any wedding plans Joe and I had in the works. Very generous of him on a day which was definitely not about us. The rest of the day was spent celebrating a life with noise and laughter and music rather than quiet reflection. And I’m sure Perfecto wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
After a quick You Tube search, I’m fairly certain this is one of the songs that shook the walls that day.
I’ll end this post with a small excerpt from that story, “Sirens Underwater” (I’d like to avoid posting the story in its entirety since I am still hoping to have it published elsewhere). Feedback is always appreciated.
Happy Tuesday, everyone. And thank you for reading. 🙂
I hugged tighter. Memories of my mother climbed from my eyes and jumped downward onto my father’s slacks, my dress, the wooden floor she’d polished, his spotless shoes. His larger hands had to pry mine away before he could scoop me up from my underarms, like thousands of times when I was much smaller and grabbed at him because my own legs were too tired, or I was just pretending. As my feet left the floor so suddenly did my strength, the burden of the day, the responsibility I’d been handed for hours on a Tuesday when I was seven.
As soon as I’d reached eye level I pressed my face in the crease between his neck and shoulder, into the warmth, into the faint smell of the cologne she’d make him wear on special occasions, and I wailed. It left me louder than I’d thought it would, in undulating pitches, in pauses filled with coughing fits or the need for more breath. Soon my father had joined me, his face buried the same way in my collarbone, his tears soaking the collar of my dress.
I didn’t know it at the time but it had grown to a deafening silence in every room: the whispers gone, the silverware put down, the flipping of pages or fluffing of pillows disrupted as everyone looked to each other, to the ceiling, or the walls, trying to make out where it was coming from, the sound of two sirens underwater.
I’ve been taking a little break from the novel business to work on a short story, so I figured I’d share a little excerpt here.
Not sure where the idea spawned from, but I recently found myself digging through some folders on my flash drive, and came across a paragraph or two I’d written months ago. My interest in it was re-sparked, so here are a few bits and piece of where it has gone since then!
When my mother died my father locked the car doors and we sat burning in the heat of the windshield for what felt like days. Her body lay somewhere in the belly of a morgue, a thumbprint on a white sheet that had been washed and used and reused. Her hair looked nice but her face looked different, sunken and wide, something pushing from the inside at the edges of her mouth and cheeks, a look of disappoint in her lips.
My mother had never worn more than a thin layer of eyeliner and never did more to her lashes than curl them with a metal object, and now she was done up like a carnival clown. Her skin had always been a palate of pastels: the color of the soft earth in our garden, the shade of the roses, the tint of the stepping stones, hues of pink and purple and blue spilling out at me like Easter morning. But death and the mortician had darkened her, turned her colors to those of late fall, when the world is most vulnerable.
I stared at the backs of knees in a slow-moving sea of black cotton, harmonies of silverware and whispers flooding the fuzzy space between my ears. I had never understood why people speak in such low tones when a loved one dies; they can hear you still – loud or soft or not speaking at all – from a throne of white, perched on the roof, taking up corners in the living room, unseen. Hands of strange passersby gave my thin shoulders small sympathetic squeezes (always with one hand, the other balancing a paper plate bending under the weight of pasta splattered with red sauce, and someone’s homemade potato salad), a learned response to death and all of those things that follow it.
I weaved through the crowd from our living room to the kitchen. A group of women stood near the granite island, the same look of disappointment in my mother’s face now reflected in each of theirs. One turned as I entered the room; red hair the fiery color of autumn was ignited at the edges as sunlight poured in from the window behind her. I lifted a hand for shade. Her green eyes softened and one corner of her mouth rose in a defeated half smile.
“Sarah,” she said. My name spilled from her mouth as a sad melody; “Sar-” a high pitched tune, the “ah” fading into the low range of an Alto. It was the safe song of grief and gentle condolences.
“Hi,” I replied. My own voice sounded smaller than usual, higher, even for seven. It’d been hours since I’d spoken to anyone.
She crouched to my level, away from the rest of the gossiping women, her knees making a loud cracking sound on the way down. Once at eye level I realized her hair color was probably not her own. She smoothed the wrinkles in her dark pencil skirt. I breathed in, the sweet, thick scents of a neighbor’s string bean casserole and someone’s blueberry pie filling my nostrils. My stomach moved in waves.
“Your mother was one of my best friends. I’m so sorry.”
I stared. What did it matter? Years later, after several encounters with death, I’d come to realize that in the face of personal tragedy people always blurt out their relationship status with the freshly departed.
“We went on a date once,” a high school classmate choked out between tears, after sophomore Andrew Sharpman hung himself in his parents’ attic.
When the little blonde girl two streets over was hit by a drunk driver while she chased a ball across the concrete, a neighbor at the funeral cried out to anyone who would listen: “I bought her an ice cream once,” she said.
I gave her a slight nod as if it was my turn to console her and she smiled, rising up again to dab at her face with a wrinkled tissue. She faded back into the crowd of other mothers who looked as I walked by, bits and pieces of “just a shame” and “what now” being dropped in my path.
A quick excerpt of my most recent writing. This week, I may send my first two chapters to a New York publishing company. Keep your fingers crossed. Is this worth a read? I hope so. Feedback, anyone?
“Angel, how the hell are we supposed to get out of the front door without anyone seeing us? Aren’t they going to wonder what the fuck we’re putting in my trunk? It’s pretty damn obvious there’s a head and a pair of legs in there. I can’t believe I’m doing this.” He leaned against the sink where the condom wrapper still sat. I grabbed it and threw it in the trash.
“We’ll go out the back way. Just pull the car around. Listen, I’m scared too. I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t thank you enough for helping me, Hugh.” I put a hand on his shoulder and tried to find a crack in my voice. “You know I’m not a violent person. I never would have wanted things to turn out this way.”
I was sixteen when I had my first boyfriend. I had already been sleeping with Mr. Paoli for nine months, but I knew it wasn’t love; only lust. I agreed to slip into his bed each night and he agreed to buy my friends and me anything we wanted; he thought blackmail was a more reasonable sentence than jail time.
Charlie sat next to me in math class that year, and had started dropping his pencil near my desk just so I would lean over and pick it up. While the other girls were sporting the modest seventies fashions their mothers forced on them, my breasts spilled over tube tops and out of push-up bras I bought with Mr. Paoli’s money.
Charlie stopped me at my locker one afternoon, his left hand fingering the lock while he stuttered and tried not to stare at my chest.
“Wou-would you like to hang out with me? To-tonight, maybe?”
I giggled and put a hand on his shoulder. He was shaking.
“Yes, Charlie. I would love to.” I winked and his mouth broke into a crooked smile. “My place or yours?”
I gave Charlie my address and told him to look for light from the candle I’d put by my bedroom window. That night he arrived ten minutes early, knocking loudly on the pane glass. I warned him to be quiet as he slipped into the room.
“What now?” He barely had both feet on the floor. I sighed and reached one hand around to my back, unclasping my bra.
“Let’s get to the point, Charlie.”
I listened for the rough idling of Hugh’s 1975 station wagon and imagined that the dark wooden paneling was one of the reasons he never took any women home. A thin ray of light crept through the single fogged window of the men’s room, bouncing off the trash bag that concealed Steve’s legs and feet. The light began to warm my scalp and a sudden wave of exhaustion swayed me into the sink. I hadn’t slept in more than a day.
“Pst – Angel! Hurry up, I’m out back.” Hugh’s whisper came from the other side of the window, startling me back into the moment.
I looked at the dark heap on the floor then back at the window. “Jesus, I could use some help, Hugh.”I heard him shuffle over the gravel toward the bar’s back door.
“Sorry” he mumbled, as he reentered the bathroom.
Minutes later Steve was in the trunk, Hugh was sweating behind the wheel and I was lighting a cigarette with the early morning wind combing through my hair. We decided to drive to a nearby construction site, where a new apartment complex catering to couples 55 and over was in early production. Miles of dirt and areas of hollowed earth lay before us, still quiet before the start of the work day. We parked by a sagging fence and I scanned the landscape, using my hand to block the sun from my eyes. Hugh rested his forehead against the steering wheel.
“There.” I pressed my index finger against the windshield and pointed towards a ditch by one of the new apartments, likely to be filled in and built upon soon. “And let’s hurry up. It’s nearly seven.”
Any measly hope of being published, for one thing…
I’m antsy. The holiday weekend clouded my determined mind with hotdogs and macaroni salad. Now I just feel fat and defeated. And sleepy. My mind WAS swirling with ideas of murder and revenge – you know, the usual – but I’ve come to a small standstill. While I am only about 40 solid pages into my work, it bothers me that I have not yet chosen a title. Not even a tentative one. As a kid, choosing a title was my favorite part of writing. It was usually picked and gleaming at the top of the page before the story even came to life! OK – so that’s not how it always works, but I’d like to have some cool way of referring to my work-in-progress, some bad-ass name that sounds like it already belongs on the shelf, instead of:
“Uh…yeah…you know, that thing I’m writing about the stripper…who murders people…?”
My wonderful boyfriend purchased me a copy of Writer’s Market 2011 as part of my graduation present this May. I have flipped through it quite a few times, intimidated by its weight and endless chapters covering every genre there is. For my birthday last year, he bought Writer’s Market 2010 – that sits under the 2011 Edition looking just as intimidating in its old age and gathering dust. But I plan on making use of this one! Really! The access it gives me to so many publishers should be more motivation to speed up the writing process.
It’s section on how to get your greeting card ideas published is also pretty interesting. I don’t think I’d be so bad at writing two quick lines of slap-stick humor or a small paragraph about love:
Outside: Are you super-duper excited for your birthday this year!?
Inside: Good. Because no one else is.
Alright – that was pretty lame, and cruel. I gave it a shot.
I find myself sliding my flash drive into the side of my net-book once every few days and staring at my most recent paragraph (sometimes impressed, sometimes wondering why I ever thought it sounded good) and making it through about two or three more before clicking on the save button and closing it, overwhelmed. I admire the great writers that slave over their work for years, writing hundreds of pages, keeping some and trashing others, praised and criticized by editors for thousands of hours spent hunched over a keyboard or piece of paper. Writing takes courage; lots of courage.
These are a few of my most recent paragraphs, outlining the moments before Hugh the bartender helps Angel get rid of the body of her first victim. While Angel is the definition of calm and collected, Hugh’s weak personality contradicts his tough appearance.
I lead Hugh down the thin hallway to the bathroom, a single light illuminating the chipped green paint and band advertisements that suffocated the walls. A bar napkin was plastered to the men’s door, bearing a few words obviously written with a shaky hand: “Out of Order”.
“Good cover” I whispered, not quite sure why I was lowering my voice.
Slowly I opened the door, the familiar dinginess of the bathroom washing over me only hours later. I noticed the old condom wrapper in the sink before my eyes caught on the blood now dry and hard, a moat outlining the tiles.
I brought my fingers to my mouth, swallowing back a bout of uneasiness that had begun to claw its way up my esophagus. After a moment I was centered once again, opening the stall door where I was greeted by Steve and the smells of violence and sour milk, both of which reminded me of my rape. I kept my features steady and turned to Hugh, who was facing the wall in a corner of the bathroom.
“Hugh” I said, gently, as if talking to a child. “I’m going to need some towels. And…a trashbag?” I wasn’t sure what I was to do next. He grunted something that sounded like “yes” and I felt a breeze brush past my ankles as he quickly opened the door and scurried back into the bar.
Steve’s chin rested on the center of his chest, his arms loose at his sides, his belt unbuckled and limp around his waist. Pathetic. The blood blanketed his chest and legs, outlining his lanky figure in a pool of crimson that contrasted the yellow tile and reminded me of tomato sauce atop a bowl of spaghetti.
As I sit at my kitchen table, the sun at my back and a plate of egg whites and feta in front of me, I am once again determined to churn out several more pages. Joining the ranks of the others is in the stars for me – I can feel it. (Or maybe that’s just the heat that’s making the sweat drip down my forehead? It’s hot in here.)
The order of those things should probably be a little different. Write, work…beer?…work. Something like that. Sometimes “write” and “beer” can join forces.
While I am completely aware that my parents are proud of my accomplishments thus far – proud enough to post my next handful of missions in life on Facebook – any talk of my plan terrifies me. I feel it’s going to jinx me in some way; if everyone keeps quiet, ten years from now I could be be nursing a cramping hand after signing the 100th copy of my latest novel, chai tea by my side, posted by a hardback display of my head shot in a Barnes & Noble. Oh, and I’d be wearing glasses and a scarf. The accessories of an intelligent novelist, of course.
If friends and family continue to receive a play-by-play of the career I don’t even have yet….I’m doomed. I’m hopeless. I’ll still be waiting tables and paying to put my own shitty book on the shelves. Now I realize how stupid this sounds, but I am superstitious about these things. Hmph.
For a writer with serious A.D.D., short stories have always been my preference. However, after taking a course called Writing the Novel in my last semester, I tested the waters of writing something a tad more lengthy. Seven chapters and about 40 pages later, I’m pretty damn proud of how far I’ve come. Of course since graduating and not having a professor and five of my peers breathing down my neck to get the latest chapter completed, my progress has slowed a bit. I’m hoping to take a writing workshop this summer that will keep my level of motivation high.
I have not yet come up with any sort of title, something that was always one of my favorite parts of writing a new piece. But somehow, I feel that makes me more serious about this one. Hm. It’s sort of a horror-crime-murder-mystery (horror is my strong point), taking place in 1985. I thought writing in the 80s would be a good challenge for me, and I love the clothing and music of the era, of course. Who doesn’t enjoy big hair and acid-wash jeans? Anyway….
The time is 1985. Summer. Queens. Angel Vasco lives in the usually quiet neighborhood of Southside with her sister, Sarah Vasco. Angel dances at Half Moon Nightclub, located in the noisier Northside. Angel is strong, fairly intelligent, and uses her sexuality to get what she wants. Sarah is the weaker of the two sisters: quiet, very much a push-over, goes through a string of abusive relationships that worries Angel. After Angel is raped by a man that confronts her in her dressing room after a show, she gives in to anger and revenge that gives birth to a rather bloody series of events.
Publish-worthy? I sure hope so.
There is a bit more to the story that I hope to execute well: the relationship Angel had with her late mother, the strains on the relationship between Angel and Sarah, how their father abandoned them after their mother passed away. Aside from a story about murder, it is a story about self-discovery and family.
Before the ground had settled around a small headstone that read “Mary Ann Vasco 1930 – 1965”, our father was already miles away from us, drowning in vodka and reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Over the next thirteen years, our conversations were scattered, as he sank into the dip in his armchair and I was forced to teach Sarah (and myself) how to do homework and tie shoelaces, our father only providing us with the necessities of food and shelter. We were suffocated with small mumbles and goodbyes until on my 18th birthday, he left. That’s the day my skin hardened and I shoved the card and whatever bullshit explanation he had left into the trash without ever opening it.
Now, as I stood before my broken sister, I blamed myself for shielding her during those years instead of throwing her straight into the storm. I had developed a protective shell – she lay exposed and constantly defenseless.
I let out a long breath and went back to my room, once again digging through the pile of delicates in the corner, finally pulling out a thin elastic band covered in a mesh of black lace. I pulled on a pair of Levis and a blue sweater that hung off one shoulder, Sarah silent now in the next room. I stuffed the garters into a leather u-shaped pocketbook embellished with stringy fringe and grabbed another bag filled with makeup and perfumes; I mumbled a goodbye as I made my way down the hall, grabbing a bottle of Evian before loudly making my way out the front door and down three flights of hot stairs to the street.
I knew Sarah would never tell me who gave her the bruise; she would wear sunglasses in the market and call out of work, tell people she slipped climbing out of the tub. After our father left Sarah and I were forced out of our small home in a somewhat clean suburb of New York. We moved into a smaller apartment in Queens and she crumbled.
Comments? Anything? Is this thing on?
If you’re stuck in New Jersey as I am, be careful in the heat. You know it’s bad when the weather application on your phone shows a little cactus next to Wednesday and Thursday. Ugh.