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30 Covers, 30 Days – Redux

30 Oct

On Tuesday, NaNoWriMo will begin posting covers for the 2011 30 Covers, 30 Days challenge. I was the gleeful recipient of a cover last year (go day twelve!), and I made a collage of the entire collection. For old time’s sake, here it is again. Can’t wait to see the latest batch!

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“Show Me Yours” Blogfest

3 Jan

Today, I’m celebrating the Show MeYours blogfest by posting an excerpt from the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2010.

____________________________________________________________________________

Novel Title: The View from Upper High Hog
Summary: An outrageous former Vaudevillian finds herself strong-armed into raising a Russian orphan in Cold War Era Arizona.
Scene: Set in 1962, this is the novel’s opening, narrated by Elizabeth, the now-thirteen-year-old orphan raised by Bebe Rosenthal (a.k.a. The Fabulous Bette Noire). After this scene, we go back in time to hear the real story of how Bebe wound up with Elizabeth.

____________________________________________________________________________

Bebe was gone. Bette Noire was in her eyes.

And Bette Noire wanted me to shut up.

It was party time, so I grew dim in the part of the living room I called Downstage. Bebe called it my box seat — a small bay window where I hid with books and dreams of Prince Charming, curtains drawn. But not right then. Right then I was a prop in Bebe– Bette’s routine.

“C’maaaan! Who’s the brat? You ain’t no mama. Ain’t never been!” Bebe’s friend kicked his feet onto our chipped coffee table, popping a cigar back in his mouth like a pacifier. She favored him with a smile, but I didn’t like his winks — not at me, not at Bebe, not even at her fearless stage persona, The Fabulous Bette Noire. He looked like a cartoon on a cocktail napkin. He smelled like wood polish and poison. I hoped he’d choke on a pistachio so he’d shut up.

But he didn’t, and others ogled my thirteen-year-old gawkiness until I itched like I was covered with flies. I hated when downstage became upstage. At least I could always count on rescue, whether smiling and merciful from Bebe or otherwise from Bette.

No smile that time. Just Bette’s narrowing eye. Here it came.

With a flourish, the Fabulous Bette Noire put her fingers in her mouth and whistled until she shattered every eardrum from here to Kingman, grinning at her guests’ shock.

Spotlight regained.

When I pulled my hands from my ears — I knew the danger signals — she was laughing into the imaginary heights of our low-ceilinged bungalow and positioning herself between olive velveteen curtains. Our front window was her favorite stage, our floorlamp her spotlight. That night, she was accompanied by reflected stardust glitter from our aluminum Christmas tree.

When all eyes returned to her, Bette launched into a well-worn monologue: the story of our origins. She had this whole routine she performed at parties.

A wave of her cigarette, the rasp of her voice, and she reached my favorite part. “So they lead me in. They sit me down. They ask if I wanted a drink. Well…” A knowing look, and the room laughed on cue. She held out her hands, a string of smoke curling upward from the cigarette between her fingers. “But then, instead of a drink or some happy hour grub, there she was! Wrapped in a blanket like a little shnookum sausage in a casing, all pink and round-cheeked. I looked that Miz Scott right in the eye and told her flat out, ‘No thank you, ma’am. I always keep kosher!'”

She always paused here for laughter. The woman knew her timing.

“But apparently they knew I was bluffing because, next thing I knew, I was sitting in a train, watching the prairie go by, holding that little sausage, and wondering what to do next. A sausage! I figured I’d donate her to the diner car. Then she opened her eyes for the first time, stee-retched out that neck… And I realized. She wasn’t a sausage at all. By those giant pea-green eyes, I knew I had myself a turtle. I said hi how are ya, and the turtle belched — the raunchiest noise I’d ever heard.” A shrug. “What are you gonna do? I fell in love. We’ve been together ever since.”

Love. She said loved me. Made all the staring men worthwhile.

Problem was, I knew the story was total baloney.

Bebe didn’t meet me until I was four, more beanpole than sausage, eyes wide open all the time. Maybe I burped, but more likely I just wore her ears out, babbling in Russian until she could teach me enough English to understand I needed to shut up.

[Click for next chapter]

Something Stupid

29 Dec

As I fumble my way back into writing after dealing with the holidays, a son with a bad case of toothache, and Drama in Real Life (we’ve come down with a bad case of The Economy over here), I thought I’d fill in the posting gaps with a little bit of nonsense I discovered in my files today. I wrote it in late October as work on my NaNoWriMo novel (about Bebe, an aging Vaudevillian) rekindled inspiration for my main novel, set in 1969.

Music plays a big part in painting my fictional worlds.

I’m sure it makes no sense to those who haven’t read my novels, but just consider it a promise that I’ll be back soon with something more relevant.

_____________________________________________________________

Bob Dylan and George Harrison stopped by today to say, “Hey, what the hell, man? Your main novel heard you were seeing some floozy from the ’30s. What about 1969?”

I’ve been pining for their stupid novel, missed it so much that I was an emotional wreck at the sight of them, wanting to fling myself into their arms, but I didn’t want them to see that.

I said, “What about it? Main Novel’s refused to answer my calls or see me for months now. I’m tired of weeping into my pillow. I have to move on.”

Bob held out a hand. “But Main Novel loves you. It just got…confused.”

I turned my back.

They said, “All right, man. We didn’t want to do this, but now we’ve got to call in The Beach Boys.”

One by one, the Beach Boys filed into the room, and I faltered. They lined up behind Bob and George and gazed at me with big sad eyes. They said nothing, just hummed in quiet harmony. They knew how protective I feel toward the character they represent.

Sergio Mendes slipped through the door, apologizing for being late, said Mama Cass took too long at the diner. Looking out the window, I saw Jose Feliciano shuffling up the front walk, feeling for each crack with his white stick, and I threw out my hands.

“Okay! Okay! I admit it. I miss you and want to come back. No more!”

The sound of approaching mambo drums ceased, leaving a moment of quiet in which I could hear one last fading wail from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.

Bob nodded at the file for my primary novel and made an impatient gesture, but I shook my head.

From the back room, I could hear Hoagy Carmichael and Scott Joplin warming up on the piano, hoped they wouldn’t come out here.

“It’s just… You came at an awkward time. I’ve already got plans with my rebound prequel for the next month.”

There was grousing and mumbling among the men, and I wondered if I was crazy, risking this longed-for reconciliation, but at last George said, “Okay, but if we decide we’ve waited long enough, you’d better be ready to drop everything and come with us.”

That pissed me off. “Excuse me?”

Sergio placed a hand on George’s shoulder. “He means please. Please come back, if we need you. Being dead makes George uptight.”

I relented. Nodding, I showed my guests to the door.

At the foot of the front steps, George turned back. “You’re just lucky we didn’t have to involve that Maria Cortez.”

A voice behind the hedgerow said, “It’s Marisa Elena Talbot Cortese, you bastard!”

One last beat from the mambo drummers sent the men scrambling.

I closed the door and patted Antonio Carlos Jobim’s head. He’d been hiding his face in a pillow, feeling awkward because he’s in both books. He asked which book I was going to do.

I said, “I don’t know. Might get ugly if Bebe goes to battle with Marisa.”

But, hey, it would make a hell of a story.

“30 Covers, 30 Days” 2010 – Final Collection

30 Nov

All thirty covers are in! (The last one substituting for the previously blank Day 10.) Some fabulous work this year. I’ve spent a long time staring at each one and enjoying.

Click image for larger version

Click here for full scale version

 

Also, here’s the usual way, starting with Monday, November first

Click here for full scale version

Lastly, a traditional calendar view (Sunday through Saturday)

Click here for full scale version

For a full list of titles, authors, synopses, and designers, go to NaNoWriMo’s Index of Covers.

Woohoo!!!

28 Nov

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My Title in Lights!

12 Nov

First there were fireworks, then there were stars. The stars turned into a sea of cartoon creatures dancing a jig, and now they’re joining up to form a chorus line.

In short, YAY!!!

Designer Gabriele Wilson chose my NaNoWriMo novel for the 30 Days, 30 Covers challenge, and I love what she did.

The View from Upper High Hog, by Caroline Bridges:

New York, 1954. Jazz Age, Atomic Age, Space Age — meh. The Great Betty Noire (a.k.a. Bebe Rosenthal) figures she’s seen it all. Life on the big time Vaudeville circuit gave this broad an extra broad perspective, not to mention the chutzpa to fight. She’s been through wars one and two and enough husbands to form a chorus line. She’s up for anything.

Therefore, when her latest husband leaves her widowed with no further claim to the cottage on his wealthy employer’s estate, Bebe knows just what to do. Her fans must be clamoring after her long hiatus. She’ll call her agent and get back to her proper place in the world — the stage.

Unfortunately, yet a few more things seem to have gone on hiatus since last she saw Manhattan: the Age of Vaudeville and her ability to find a role.

With no money to speak of and nowhere to go, Bebe finds herself lured by an offer from her late husband’s employer: Give up her cottage, and they’ll give her a job with a handsome wage, lots of time off, and travel. She just has to be ready to start the next day. Sounds great for a gal who loves her freedom!

Then she finds herself herded onto an Arizona-bound train with her previously undisclosed responsibility shoved into her arms. To Bebe’s horror, she realizes it’s her employer’s newly-orphaned niece, Tatiana, a four-year-old who draws attention with her crazy orange hair, ugly duckling face, and constant babbling in Russian, a dead giveaway of her Auntie Kate’s secret past on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

That Aunt Katya — Bebe figures she’s a smart one, killing two broads with one stone, setting her burdens adrift on an ice floe. Thus, Bebe begins her new life as hapless guardian to an alien life form in an alien land — the dust and neon planet of 1950s Route 66. She’s caught between the needs of the child, a feud between Aunt Katya and the equally hostile headmistress of the child’s school, and her own urgent need to escape what she dubs The Jackalope Circuit.

In a series of misadventures, including stalking famous musicians, sending hate mail to Betty Hutton for stealing her schtick, and and trying to form a theater company using the residents of a flea-bag motel, Bebe struggles single mindedly to reclaim her former glory, independence, and relevance in the world.

Meanwhile, the newly-renamed child, Elizabeth, looks on, trying to make sense of this equally alien new world and longing for Bebe to give her the stability, home, and love she’s never had. Against the backdrop of the burgeoning Cold War, the two dream of their own versions of happily ever after, or Upper High Hog, as Bebe puts it. And Bebe fights against what she considers the scariest age of all—old age.

Gabriele Wilson is an art director, designer and teacher at Parsons School of Design. She currently runs her design studio in New York City and her new year’s resolution is to finally design her website: gabrielewilson.com.

The View from Upper High Hog, by Caroline Bridges

New York, 1954. Jazz Age, Atomic Age, Space Age — meh. The Great Betty Noire (a.k.a. Bebe Rosenthal) figures she’s seen it all. Life on the big time Vaudeville circuit gave this broad an extra broad perspective, not to mention the chutzpa to fight. She’s been through wars one and two and enough husbands to form a chorus line. She’s up for anything.

Therefore, when her latest husband leaves her widowed with no further claim to the cottage on his wealthy employer’s estate, Bebe knows just what to do. Her fans must be clamoring after her long hiatus. She’ll call her agent and get back to her proper place in the world — the stage.

Unfortunately, yet a few more things seem to have gone on hiatus since last she saw Manhattan: the Age of Vaudeville and her ability to find a role.

With no money to speak of and nowhere to go, Bebe finds herself lured by an offer from her late husband’s employer: Give up her cottage, and they’ll give her a job with a handsome wage, lots of time off, and travel. She just has to be ready to start the next day. Sounds great for a gal who loves her freedom!

Then she finds herself herded onto an Arizona-bound train with her previously undisclosed responsibility shoved into her arms. To Bebe’s horror, she realizes it’s her employer’s newly-orphaned niece, Tatiana, a four-year-old who draws attention with her crazy orange hair, ugly duckling face, and constant babbling in Russian, a dead giveaway of her Auntie Kate’s secret past on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

That Aunt Katya — Bebe figures she’s a smart one, killing two broads with one stone, setting her burdens adrift on an ice floe. Thus, Bebe begins her new life as hapless guardian to an alien life form in an alien land — the dust and neon planet of 1950s Route 66. She’s caught between the needs of the child, a feud between Aunt Katya and the equally hostile headmistress of the child’s school, and her own urgent need to escape what she dubs The Jackalope Circuit.

In a series of misadventures, including stalking famous musicians, sending hate mail to Betty Hutton for stealing her schtick, and and trying to form a theater company using the residents of a flea-bag motel, Bebe struggles single mindedly to reclaim her former glory, independence, and relevance in the world.

Meanwhile, the newly-renamed child, Elizabeth, looks on, trying to make sense of this equally alien new world and longing for Bebe to give her the stability, home, and love she’s never had. Against the backdrop of the burgeoning Cold War, the two dream of their own versions of happily ever after, or Upper High Hog, as Bebe puts it. And Bebe fights against what she considers the scariest age of all—old age.

Gabriele Wilson is an art director, designer and teacher at Parsons School of Design. She currently runs her design studio in New York City and her new year’s resolution is to finally design her website: gabrielewilson.com.

Milepost

10 Nov

We’re ten days into November. One-third of the way to the finish line. One-third of the way through my story, too.

My word count is 15,821 (as of this writing) — just a little ahead of the curve (because I’m not counting today yet).

Posted an excerpt yesterday from the start of Act II. You can read it by clicking the Novel Info tab on this page.

I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, & Doggone It, People Like Me!

3 Nov

Day three of NaNoWriMo, and things are going reasonably well. I’m on schedule, no matter what the site claims.

The View from Upper High Hog has 3923 words, and I hope to get Bebe talking some more this afternoon so the NaNoWriMo stats page will stop taunting me.

Method Writing

1 Nov

Story set in the 1950s

+

Era-appropriate music

+

This dress

=

Method Writing

(If I could smoke or drink, maybe I’d do that, too.)

I Woke Last Night to the Sound of Thunder

19 Oct

I fell asleep last night to the sound of neighbors playing bass drums and rolling boulders down the street. This is a Monday night ritual, although most call it wheeling three mammoth waste cans to the curb.

My dreams were fitful since I’d gone to bed feeling sick, and when I heard someone bowling beneath my bed, it seemed about right. It scared me, but it fit the mood. Took a moment to realize that, hey, that’s not right. Husband eventually discovered that one of our apparating mice apparated onto a tupperware full of sugar and knocked it out of a cabinet to the floor where it then rolled across the tile. I sleep just above the kitchen. Thanks mice (who are obviously in league with the ants).

Thusly awake at an ungodly hour, I discovered there was real thunder, too. I watched the rapid, flickering lightning that usually occurs only in horror movies, listened to distant thunder, and then the inevitable happened:

The Depths of Despair.

I believe the great Sir Elton John said it best when he declared, “It’s four o’clock in the morning. Dammit!”

It was five, but same difference. Just as many Dementors on the loose.

A song crept into my head that used to play a lot on the classic rock channel when I was in college:

I woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off, I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain’t it funny how the night moves
When you just don’t have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves

…When autumn’s closing in

The verse follows a crescendo of exulting over being young and restless and bold, and it seems to be him as a middle-aged man looking back. I thought it was kind of sad when I was twenty-three. At forty, it’s kind of tragic. At least, it’s tragic at 5 AM, and it set me off in reeling despair about age and wasted time and doors closing and no CTRL-Z/Undo.

Bob Seger eventually gave way to Pink Floyd. Yesterday, I hurtled along the road with my five-year-old in the backseat enjoying Dark Side of the Moon, so the lyrics to “Time” were readily available to my nighttime brain.

Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

In the wee hours, a lyric can seem like an epiphany, a message crafted just for you. And even if you wake up later that morning and most of its poignancy is lost, even if it’s lost all meaning like those dreams with ideas you think will be brilliant that turn out to be gibberish, some of the emotion remains.

I need to get writing to burn off some of the irritating angst. I blame Bebe. In trying to put myself in her head while plotting Upper High Hog, I seem to have opened a few dark little doors in my own life. Let’s just call it inspiration that I can use in my story.

It’s a dangerous thing, waking before the sun. Too easy to see what lurks in the shadows when you aren’t blinded by the light.

Introducing The Fabulous Betty Noire! (NaNo 2010)

13 Oct

Should all go well, this is what I hope to write next month for NaNoWriMo.
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Quick blurb:
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The View from Upper High Hog

Set in Arizona during the early years of the Cold War

An outrageous former Vaudevillian finds herself put out to pasture, fumbling between her perplexing new job as guardian to a Russian child and her misadventures trying to regain her former glory (not to mention a ticket back to New York) through playing what she dubs “The Jackalope Circuit.”
______________________________________________
Short synopsis:
______________________________________________
The View from Upper High Hog

New York, 1954

Jazz Age, Atomic Age, Space Age — meh. The Fabulous Bette Noire (a.k.a. Bebe Rosenthal) figures she’s seen it all. Life on the big time Vaudeville circuit gives a broad an extra broad perspective, not to mention the chutzpa to fight. She’s been through wars one and two and enough husbands to form a chorus line, so she’s up for anything.

Therefore, when her latest husband kicks the bucket, stranding her on his employer’s Hudson Valley estate, Bebe knows just what to do. Enough with this love nonsense. It only leads to trouble. And a little hay fever. Her fans must be clamoring for her after her long hiatus. She’ll call her agent and get back to her proper place in the world — the stage.

Unfortunately, she discovers a few more things have gone on hiatus since last she saw Manhattan: the Age of Vaudeville and her ability to find a role.

With no money to speak of and nowhere to go, Bebe finds herself lured by an offer from her late husband’s employer. Give up her apartment over their garage, and they’ll give her a job with lots of time off and travel. She just has to be ready to start the next day, no questions asked.

Sounds great to a gal who loves her freedom and wants to see exotic places. And no questions asked? Bebe’s first husband was a bootlegger. No problem.

Then she finds herself herded onto an Arizona-bound train with her previously undisclosed responsibility shoved into her arms as the train pulls out. To Bebe’s horror, it’s a child. And, not just any child, it’s her employer’s newly-orphaned niece, Tatiana, a four-year-old who draws attention with her crazy orange hair, ugly duckling face, and constant babbling in Russian — a dead giveaway of her Auntie Kate’s secret past on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

Bebe figures that Aunt Katya’s a smart one, killing two broads with one stone, setting her burdens adrift on an ice floe. Smarter, she’s put Bebe under the supervision of  “Grandpa Joe,” a muscular enforcer from down on the (collective) farm.

Thus, Bebe begins her new life as hapless guardian to an alien life form in an alien land — the dust and neon planet of Route 66. She’s caught between the needs of the child, a feud between Aunt Kate and the headmistress of the child’s school, and her own urgent need to escape what she dubs The Jackalope Circuit.

In a series of misadventures, including stalking famous musicians, sending hate mail to Betty Hutton for stealing her schtick, and and trying to form a theater company using the residents of a flea-bag motel, Bebe struggles to reclaim her former glory, independence, and relevance in the world.

Meanwhile, the newly-renamed child, Elizabeth, looks on from the shadows, trying to make sense of a world equally alien to her and longing for Bebe to give her the attention, stability, and love she’s never had.

Against the backdrop of the burgeoning Cold War, the two dream their own versions of happily ever after, or, as Bebe refers to it, Upper High Hog. And Bebe fights what she considers the scariest age of all — old age.

On the Bill for November…

7 Oct

Introducing Idea #1 for a NaNoWriMo masterpiece/wreck:

The View from Upper High Hog

Click here for a longer synopsis

Set in Arizona during the early years of the Cold War

An aging former Vaudevillian finds herself put out to pasture, fumbling between her perplexing new job as guardian to a Russian child and her misadventures trying to regain her former glory (not to mention a ticket back to New York) through playing what she dubs “The Jackalope Circuit.”

I’ve hammered out ten pages of notes. I’m full of the music, the images, the texture, and tons and tons of emotion. Now I just have to find a viable framework on which to drape it. Or maybe not “drape” — that implies some droopy slow bits.

Hopefully those notes and these fiddly unofficial graphics aren’t as far as the story goes.

P.S. I think my melodramatic character is getting jealous. Now they’re threatening me with truly awful developments when I return to my main novel. But, unlike when my kids act up, I think I’ll actually pay attention to this character.