The Bittersweet End – Mondays Finish the Story – August 24th, 2015

The family had no idea that little Luigi would grow up to be the one who returned. Back then, it was considered a daughter’s duty. Sons were the ones who became consumed by the families of their wives. Not Luigi. The baby. The black sheep. Always coming home with bruises and bloody scratches and fantastical stories of fights and skirmishes where he always emerged the victor. He’d been certain his parents, who always shook their heads at the tales of his misadventures, were relieved to be rid of him when he finally left home.

But, when no one could stand to see her emaciated figure, wracked with pain, not even Father, when everyone else sent only excuses, he’d come back from places unknown, and held Mother’s hand until the ugly, bitter end.

On the last day, at her insistence, he leaned in close. With the hint of laughter in her voice, she whispered, “You were always my favorite.”

https://mondaysfinishthestory.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/mondays-finish-the-story-august-14th-2015/


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Broken Pattern

Thought I’d give this 100-word thing a whirl on a peaceful, rainy Sunday.  For some reason the thought of a person confronting a childhood abuser has been knocking around in my brain.  I don’t  think I would want to stay in that world long enough to write a more detailed story about it. 

She didn’t recognize me, clearly.   A thin smile, blank eyes as she passed.   Memories flashed.  A crowded stale-smelling bed, hunger pangs, shouting.   A door slam as she left for the night.

I grabbed her arm.  Angry eyes met mine.  Fearful recognition.

Voice shaky, she swore how much she’d changed.  All lies.

A car sped by.  I imagined flinging her into its path.  Relief, knowing we didn’t breathe the same air any longer.

Another flash.  My daughter, happy, thriving, waiting with the sitter.  I dropped her arm.  It hung limply at her side as she watched me pass, free of regrets.

Serial Scribblings Part 1 – It All Started with a Boy

Serial Scribblings Part 1 – It All Started with a Boy

Introducing my new regular feature: the first edition of  Serial Scribblings!  I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know my characters, Leelah, Nic, Chaley, and Idabel, through future editions.  

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It all started with a boy.  Leelah marveled at the stupidity of her predicament as she stumbled over the tangled roots of a massive oak tree, it’s expansive branches heavy with leaves.   Probably so beautiful in the sunshine, it appeared sinister against the moonlit sky, slowly swaying in the dank breeze.

I followed a boy here, she repeated in her head as her stomach dropped, her face warming with new embarrassment.  A boy with whom she’d only spoken two full sentences in the six years she’d known him.   A boy who wouldn’t even speak to her if his friends were present.  A boy with whom she likely had nothing in common, who had no redeeming qualities, besides his unsurpassed, undeniable, golden-boy beauty, which had captivated her since the first day of sixth grade.  The very day when she noticed for the first time that boys weren’t quite so disgusting, coincidentally.   Now she would have to forget him.  What kind of story was that to tell her daughter one day?

A slave to her epic imagination, she’d pictured a first kiss under the stars, a sweet early summer wind rustling their clothes as they embraced, cold electricity darting through her stomach and up her spine, a shooting star racing above their heads as they finally parted.  She was mortified to realize she was like one of those women in those mindless romantic comedies they showed on basic cable over and over again.   She was a dumb hopeless romantic.  That changed tonight.  From this point forward she was declaring herself a modern romantic.  Hoping for the best, but expecting…well, to get lost in the woods.

Her first act as a newly minted modern romantic was to extinguish any hope that her perfect first kiss would ever happen.  Even if she managed to find the object of her obsession, she was eaten alive by bugs, pouring sweat, and her clothes were dirty and torn. He would recoil in disgust if he saw her. And anyway, shouldn’t her first kiss be with someone that she, you know, actually knew?  Not someone that she just stole glances at in hallways and on bus rides?  Someone who wanted to kiss her in public, in front of the entire school, not in secret?  A first kiss was forever.

She noticed a  dark figure darting through the trees, parallel with her.  It’s only a deer, she told herself, not at all convinced.  A distant splash from the nearby river made her jump, but it was a good sign.  If she could hear the river a trail must be close by. Something dark that appeared to have wings weaved between tall blades of grass beside her.  A bird flew overhead, momentarily filling the eerily quiet forest with its almost-human sounding call.  She should have been more afraid, but her anger propelled her forward, deeper into the dense forest, in search of the trail they’d somehow lost.  She was angry at the girl she’d left behind, injured, disoriented, and in horrible pain, all of which she deserved.  She’d taken everything from her.

But even as those thoughts made circles in her brain, she knew she had to go back.  The only part of her that was purely her mother told her to go back.  Slowly, as though her feet were stuck in a syrupy goo, she turned to retrace her steps.  Incredibly, she was going to find the one girl she never thought would need her help.

Blogging 101 Day Fifteen: Create a New Posting Feature

So, a not-so-secret revelation about me.  I hate routine.  Besides work and some religious commitments, I like my life to be distinctly unscheduled.   Of course there are some things I have to do on a regular basis, like exercise for example.  But I’ll never be that girl that has a set Pilates class every Saturday morning at 7 am.   One day I may do Pilates, the next I may tackle a hike through nature with my dog at my side, another I may catch up on some reality TV while I crush an hour on the elliptical.

Besides my faith (and my husband!), the one thing that I’ve been involved with consistently is writing.  Short stories and novels specifically.  I’m sure, buried somewhere in the corner of a closet somewhere in my parents’ home, there is a bundle of crudely illustrated short stories and novellas dating back to my first grade year.    So, I thought to myself as I read today’s blogging 101 assignment, how hard could it be to write something new every week?

There are a few characters and plot points that have been knocking around in my head for a while.  Nicollette (aka Nic) a young mom suffering from mental illness, Leelah, her preteen daughter, and Leelah’s best friend, Sunny.  Throw in a mysterious death, a betrayal among friends, a few mental breakdowns, and I might have something.  It may lead to a novel, maybe it won’t.  Those scary commitments again!

So every Saturday morning, I’ll be posting a new story, usually a page out of one of the aforementioned character’s lives.  Maybe I’ll come up with a catchy new name for this weekly feature, but so far everything I’ve thought of sounds super-cheesy!  I hope you’ll stop by.  And as always, I’ll welcome your feedback!

What to Put in your Author Media Kit

Great information I need to apply for the next book!

Lit World Interviews

Having a ready to go press release kit is something every Indie author should have. It’s also a good idea to have it on a static page on your website or/and blog. Rather have everything in one place than have to scramble around when it’s called for. Having it on your website means that anyone who would like to post reviews of your books on their own sites can just grab what they need without the need to try and contact you first. I’m working on my website at the moment so the link here is down, but if you want great examples, just do a Google search of some of your favourite authors.

Include your author photo – a nice size and quality image. Some authors change their photos regularly. Danielle Steel has a new picture of herself in extravagant gowns on the backs of each of her books…

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Claire Messud

the woman upstairs

I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”

The sexist question above was posed to Claire Messud by Publisher’s Weekly regarding the main character in her book The Woman Upstairs and I absolutely love her answer.  She killed it.

Of course Messud wouldn’t have been asked the same if Nora were a man.  Male characters are allowed to be complex, brooding, frustrated, angry, downright brutal, and they are praised as anti-heroes or complicated bad boys.  Take some of those same characteristics and apply them to a female character and it tends to confuse people.  Why?  It’s completely perplexing to me.  Guess what world?  Women in real life are complex and complicated!

There are women who can be unspeakably cruel, even violent, like Amy Dunne in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (an extreme example, of course), but many of us have experienced the aggression of a truly horrible textbook mean girl.  Some mean girls reform themselves by the time they grow up, sadly others grow into meaner women.   In contrast, there are women who live with a simmering rage boiling right beneath the surface, like Nora. There are women who live with addiction, depression, obsessions, or other forms of mental illness. Rachel in The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and Allison in All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner come to mind.  And there are girls who quietly, bravely, survive, or crumble, under terrible circumstances, like young Kambili in Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi or Pecola in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

I enjoy reading, and writing, about complex female characters.  I praise women who are brave enough to create them.  Maybe one day, if more women feel bold enough to speak about their dark histories, struggles, or eccentricities in the real world, people won’t find it so jarring to find a complicated woman in the pages of a novel.

As an aside, I actually would want to be friends with Nora, I think she would be interesting to get to know.  But I’m a complicated woman myself.

http://silverthreading.com/category/writers-quote-wednesday/

The Office/Supermarket Sadness

Open University – Start Writing Fiction

2 Setting

2.1 Setting as antagonist

Activity 16

Write one paragraph describing a place where you have worked. Describe how the people used their tools, machines or other equipment. Try to engage our senses, as shown in the Richard Yates’ example given in the ‘Setting for special effects’ section of item 5 in the Anthology.

Discussion

Feedback

If you stated the type of workplace – an office, hospital ward or canning factory – delete the information and see whether it’s still obvious. If not, rewrite the piece with a focus on the sounds, sights, smells and general atmosphere of the place.

THE OFFICE --
THE OFFICE — “Finale” Episode 924/925 — Pictured: (l-r) Brian Baumgartner as Kevin Malone, Jake Lacy as Pete, Paul Lieberstein as Toby Flenderson, Angela Kinsey as Angela Martin, Phyllis Smith as Phyllis Vance, Craig Robinson as Darryl Philbin, Ellie Kemper as Erin Hannon, Kate Flannery as Meredith Palmer, Ed Helms as Andy Bernard, Leslie David Baker as Stanley Hudson — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

Down three flights of stairs, the lowest one the most precarious, is where it lies.  There’s a sign on the outer door classifying it as a storm shelter, but it is rarely used as such.  Beyond it, there is a sea of cubicles and flickering fluorescent lighting; an artificial chill in the air, despite the tropical temperatures outside the wall of glass.  People sit at their desks, in a state of almost-hallucination, eyes trained on the action on their computer screens.  Some working, others only pretending.  It’s mostly quiet, aside from the occasional burst of congenial laughter or scattered conversation.  Some look up from their screens longingly on pleasant days, eyes on the green expanse outside, longing for quitting time.

It’s not unique in appearance, there are rooms just like it across the country, but the general mood is one of hopefulness.  One created from years of good people working side by side, or cube by cube, day in and day out for many years.  There had been babies born, weddings celebrated, divorces mourned, promotions, retirements, disagreements and reconciliations.  It wasn’t the place, or company policy, or the sparse decor, but the people, that made the room special.  They knew there was a bond among them that transcended the ordinariness of the room, that would find them, no matter where they ended up.

organic-zone

Activity 17

Think about how mood and circumstances affect perception. In 250 words, describe a supermarket visited by a woman who has just received a promotion at work. 

For the first time in months, I feel like cooking.  I only feel like cooking when I’m excited or happy, otherwise it feels like a tedious, dull task, not to mention unnecessary, when there’s so much delicious take out a few mouse clicks away.  But tonight, with a fatter account balance waiting on me tomorrow, which just happened to be payday, I will cook.  First, a stop on the wine aisle, where I grab the best this snooty, high end grocery story has to offer, which still isn’t very good, but tonight, it will taste like a decades old bottle from a winery in the south of France.  Pasta, truffle oil, mushrooms, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, several cheeses, and bread are tossed in my basket in haste before I make my way to the registers.  Maybe I’ll invite the boyfriend over to celebrate with me.  Or maybe I’ll sit in my PJs and consume this scrumptious meal all by myself in front of the television, a satisfied smile on my face as I think about how my life is falling in order, finally.

Now, in another 250 words, write about the supermarket from the perspective of the same woman, who has just ended a love affair.

For the first time in months, I feel like cooking.  He and I always ate out.  He considers himself to be quite the foodie.  We had to try every well-reviewed restaurant in town.  He’d sneered at my provincial, suburban taste when it came to dining.  Just because I don’t mind a burger from Chili’s every once in a while doesn’t mean I’m some sort of philistine.  They have great burgers!  But he never let me forget that I “made” him eat there once.  He insisted on picking the restaurants from that point on.  Even on nights we didn’t spend together, I found myself ordering out instead of cooking.  I’m a great cook.  I KNOW that I’m a great cook.  Every friend, family member, and ex-boyfriend, except him, has raved about my cooking.  But I was so insecure after night after night of eating at five-star restaurants, whenever I thought of cooking it was almost like I could hear his voice in my head, telling me how much I sucked.  Well, not anymore.  I grab ingredients for my world famous lasagna.  Lots of veggies, tomatoes, cheeses, pasta, herbs, plus a great wine.  Make that several great wines.  I will call my girlfriends.  We will gorge ourselves.  We will drink too much.  And they will all tell me I’m too good for him.  Which I don’t really believe right now.  But I know, I know, that one day, I will.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Imperfection.”

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I view what some think are imperfections as quirks.  I’m super quirky.  To say I’m in touch with my inner child would be an understatement.  If you live in my hometown you may catch me lying on the ground staring up at the clouds with an expression of wonder on my face, running through the grass barefoot, jumping off the swings in my local park, eating with my fingers, leading a group of my friends’ kids in a game of hide and seek or a treasure hunt, dancing and singing down the aisles at the top of my lungs to a great song playing over the loudspeaker at the grocery store or pharmacy, reenacting scenes from my favorite goofy comedies (voices and all), and I never pass an animal in public without stopping to pet it.

I just told someone a few days ago I think our child selves are our real selves. Some may disagree, but it’s a truth to which I hold on strongly.  My child self was the happiest version of me.  And when I let her out as an adult, I’m happiest now.