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The 2nd Annual Drunk at First Sight Fest

17 Mar

I’m a little late on this (a lot late for my international friends), but, in the spirit of camraderie, I thought I’d put something up. It’s a first draft of a deleted scene, and an old one, at that, but it’s all I have in the way of a drunk scene at this point. It probably makes no sense.

Learn more about the fest on the Where Sky Meets Ground blog @ The 2nd Annual Drunk at First Sight Fest.

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Elizabeth: naive college freshman in Berkeley, 1969.

Marisa: Elizabeth’s best friend and landlady, also known as The Red Queen, hostess of weekly anachronistic parties to promote her dance studio

David: Elizabeth’s ex

Jim: Elizabeth’s secret love and self-appointed protector

Paul: Marisa’s henpecked, nerdy cousin

 

This is the confusion before the storm. Bad things are just around the bend…

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As David’s façade of civility began its crumble, he’d developed a cute little trick. Creeping to the television, he’d press himself against it, one eye turned her way, growing happier and happier as Elizabeth went insane. To achieve this, he need do only one thing — flip the dial back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until her brain was full and she was screaming. Fragments, flashes, from hiss to canned laughter, static to song. Always with the sound turned up full blast, of course.

When she thought back on Marisa’s St. Patrick’s Day party, it was a lot like that torture by television — not so much for the maddening element but because of its fragmentation. She remembered it only in flashes.

Flash one: She’s in the kitchen, her default party spot. Stephanie’s threatening to kiss her if she doesn’t join the mob in the basement.

Flash two: The basement. Marisa’s sangria. Yum.

Flash three: Who drank all her stinking sangria? Dammit, Paul, get some more.

Flash four: The music isn’t loud enough. Someone — maybe Elizabeth — has organized a guerilla trip through the tangle of crowd to the stereo to do something about it. A jumbled memory of walking bent forward, one arm out, ready to snowplow anyone who got in the way. A staggering mob hanging on behind like a zombie conga line.

Flash five: Laughing and laughing and laughing with Marisa until their stomachs hurt and — whoa — who turned down the lights?

Flash six: Marisa is scolding her, brushing her hair roughly and tying it back in a ponytail. This will come in handy later when…

Flash seven: Elizabeth wipes her mouth and rises from the strip of marigolds outside Marisa’s back door, thanking the lecherous Steve for his rare act of chivalry — holding her hair while she gets sick.

Flash eight: Another Dixie cup of happiness in hand, she’s kicking said chivalrous friend to make him stop groping her.

Flash nine: A chorus line! The entire dance class is shrieking something approximating “Orpheus in the Underworld” and kicking their feet, arms around each other’s waists like the Rockettes. Jim! Jim! You have to join us! Have to! The blurry recollection of Jim recoiling slowly and cautiously, as though from a band of wild dogs.

Flash ten: Arguing. Did Jim try to talk her into leaving? She had the vague memory of calling him a poop, of feeling her attraction to him like a literal magnet and tumbling into his gravitational pull. The compelling yet all too short flash of his bicep beneath her hand and Susan’s giggle in her ear.

Flash eleven: Why is there no more Jim? Why? Why is Marisa’s shoulder so stinking wet? Oh, a handkerchief. Oh no. Oh no. Where’s that flowerbed again?

Flash twelve: Handkerchiefs are no match for sangria.

And now.

Not a flash. A flash would be merciful in its brevity.

No.

This? This was more of a swirl. An undulating, insinuating wave. A ride on the end of a cat’s tail. A whirlpool, Elizabeth alone and still in its center.

She forced her mouth to move. “Make it stop.”

“Huhhhhhhn?” A familiar girl’s voice.

Elizabeth said, “You’re moving my house. Stop.”

The feet in front of her face jerked, bumping her nose and releasing an explosion of comic book sparks and exclamation points. From the opposite end of the bed came the voice again. “Merde! I’d give my left tit for a shot of whiskey.”

“Steph?”

“Yeah, ‘sme.”

Elizabeth struggled onto her elbows. Her joints felt congested, whatever that meant. They were in Marisa’s guest bed, heads at opposite ends.

“Why here?”

Steph flailed a hand and rolled to drop her torso off the bed, re-emerging with a cigarette and lighter.

“Damn amateurs.” Steph spoke with a clenched jaw as she inhaled. Groaning and expelling a long plume of smoke, she rolled onto her back, eyes closed.

“Ama-whos?”

“Can’t take the high octane. C’mon. Show you.”

Elizabeth rose, feeling each step in her head instead of her feet. She was a ragdoll made of sandbags — sandbags full of broken glass and rotten eggs. “Holy flippin’ gravy.”

Steph shook her head. “Closer, but no cigar. We’ll get you cussing properly one of these days.” She pulled Elizabeth from the room at a shuffle.

On Elizabeth’s closed door, they found a makeshift sign. In thick, wobbly, red magic marker, but obviously Marisa’s writing, they read, “BASTARDS — don’t let them out.” Underneath this puzzling message were a tiny heart and a lopsided happy face.

Elizabeth swayed, narrowing her eyes to try to focus and read more sense into the thing. It hurt her brain. Steph smirked and inclined her head toward the knob with a raised brow. For some reason, this scared Elizabeth. Who were The Bastards? Why were they in her room? What if they got out?

Steph lowered her cigarette and wheezed with laughter at Elizabeth’s expression. Smoke came out her nose. “Elle, you are my love. Look.”

Cracking the door, she waved Elizabeth forward. All she saw was a foot clad in a white sweat sock ringed with blue stripes. It rested on her pillow, bedspread pulled primly to the calf as though it were some new form of sleeping giraffe. Steph opened the door wider, revealing half a dozen unconscious men.

Elizabeth gaped. “Why?”

“Drunk and disorderly.” Steph shrugged, taking a deep drag and exhaling it with sharp contempt into the room. “Even when she’s drunk, Marisa’s still the sheriff.” She pointed to two boys, leaning against each other, drooling and snoring. “Those two tried to feel you up.”

“What? When?”

Steph just rolled her eyes. “And that one?” A chubby blond upperclassman with a crew cut. “He tried to fight Jim when he didn’t like the way you were dancing.”

“I danced with Jim?” Her head swam.

“No, with Colonel Lardass!”

“Oh.” She looked around. “Are they all mine?”

“No. Only those three. The others just got on Marisa’s nerves. There were more, but some must have escaped down the balcony the way Mare hoped. Even scrawny little Paul was here for a while, remember?” She smirked at Elizabeth. “No, you don’t, do you?”

“Why Paul?”

“Don’t know. Just because. He’s fun that way.” She closed the door. “I just know he was out in time to sweet talk the cops.”

Elizabeth rubbed her eyes and groaned. “Cops? I don’t remember any of it.”

Steph squeezed Elizabeth. “Good for you, then. You’ve got the drinking part down. I’m proud.”

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Read My Page! (The 99th Page Blogfest)

28 Jan

Today’s fun comes courtesy of Holly Dodson at Super Mom Writes. You can read more about it HERE. Basically, I’m posting the ninety-ninth page of my novel manuscript, as is. (So far. It will change with revisions.) The theory is that a reader can get a better idea of a book’s quality by flipping to the middle instead of reading the heavily doctored first few pages. Scary, especially since this is not my final draft. The only “cheat” here is that I finished the last sentence, which otherwise wrapped to the next page.

There are three questions for the reader to answer.

  1. Would you turn to page 100?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. Based on what you read, would you consider buying the book?

I look forward to your comments. (Yes, you.) (Please and thank you)

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“All perches are my perch.” He pulled himself to a higher branch, feet swinging loose for a moment, just like he’d taught her not to do. “This is my tree.”

She said, “Then you are a Norse god. You admit it.”

“Lost your fire so soon, Dragon? Is that why you cower below?” He pelted her with leaves, twigs. “Don’t insult me. I only appear a god because you appear a sleepy baby.”

“Pig!” She was on her feet, hurling leaves, bark, and debris up at him.

“Can’t keep up? Ready to surrender the thimble?” He laughed, ducking behind a limb, although he was out of range.

Elizabeth took one last look at the rune-carved nest then studied the upper branches. She didn’t need to remember Rob’s path; the tree remembered for her — more than a decade of passage polished darkly into its limbs.

The air was damp in the nest, but it lightened as she climbed, dappled sunshine adding a citrusy note, ribbons of warmth.

It was intoxicating, the success of scaling such a majestic tree, the secret world of Robin Oliver Bastle. She was just beginning to feel like an immortal, invincible, when her foot slipped, and her body clenched. An eternity of pounding hot-scented confusion, and she realized his training worked. Her hands were tight on their separate branches, and her other foot had slipped but not lost its hold. In her relief, she wanted to cry, go limp and unconscious right there, forget, but, clearly, that was impossible. What seemed liberating a moment earlier now felt like a trap.

She looked down — a maze of branches funneling into darkness. She looked up and found Rob’s face, astonishingly close, pale, his posture that of a jungle cat about to spring. Had he thought he could leap down and catch her?

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From Bête Noire / Unicorns & Other Exotic Goats
Chapter: “The Tree of Life”
Setting: Spring 1969, Catskills, NY

It’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, but not for seventeen-year-old outsider, Elizabeth Cory. Closing her eyes to the modern world, she buries herself in fantasy novels and the music of another era to escape her pain. When she’s taken in by an eccentric family whose turreted home sits on the edge of an ancient forest, she thinks she’s finally found refuge. But in her search for love and a doorway to a peaceful, magical world, she’ll find that not every Prince Charming leads to happily ever after, not every wolf is big or bad, and when you try to live in a fairy tale, the only magical doorways lead to real life.

Bridget Carle & the Mystery of the 99th Page

20 Jan

Some more blogfest fun coming up next week…

The 99th Page Blogfest is hosted by writer Holly Dodson and four of her fellow bloggers. Writers are invited to submit page ninety-nine of their novels, and then participants (and kindly blog readers) will comment, stating if they’d read further, based on that page.

Explanation of the blogfest’s origins can be found in this article from Guardian.co.uk:

Ford Madox Ford recommended instead that readers “open the book to page ninety-nine and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you”. A new website, page99test.com, launches next month to test that premise. It will offer (courageous) authors and aspiring authors the chance to upload the 99th pages of their works and invite readers to comment on whether they would buy, or like to read, the rest.

Should be fun! You will find my entry here on January 28th (next Friday). [Edit: Here’s the link to my 99th page]

“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.

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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.

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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]

On Snippets & Scarves

10 Dec

I like to knit. I can knit like the wind (or…something that actually, um, knits) as long as it’s in a straight line. I only find time to knit about once a year, so I lose all my knitting wisdom and have to start over from scratch. But man am I good at those long fringed rectangles I call scarves.

Since NaNoWriMo ended, I’ve transferred my compulsive energy into pounding out stitches instead of words. At first, I felt guilty. It seemed like procrastination or escape from my stories, but I realized the other day that it’s actually more of a meditation tool. Instead of sitting blankly before my laptop with nothing more to show at the end of the day than a few lame Facebook posts and useless knowledge gleaned from StumbleUpon, I now have a fuzzy and functional work of art and all the purls of wisdom (yeah, had to go there) I gained from each stitch. (Insert weaving stories comment here.)

I think it’s my inner editor who knits while the rest of me goes into self-hypnosis, listening to my novel’s soundtrack and daydreaming the stories I want to write.

Inspiration is like a cat. Chase it, and it runs, skirts around the sofa, shudders as you touch it, then spends an hour cleaning your stink off its fur. Okay, maybe not that last part. However, if you’re doing something else, inspiration is all around your ankles, slithering and striking its forehead against your leg, begging for attention.

And inspiration, like an ornery cat, loves a wiggling ball of yarn.

Now I just have to get back to the writing so that my prose doesn’t suffer the fate of my knitting skills.

~***~

Anyone have other suggestions for productive procrastination? Because I don’t want to go back to alphabetizing the lint on my living room carpet…

~***~

My NaNoWriMo novel is taking a hiatus right now, but I’ve been putting a few scenes out there for the world to sample. I have three sample chapters on my writing site, and, despite my terror, I read 500 words of a chapter to my regional NaNo group this past weekend. No one hurled rotten tomatoes. I’ll take that as a good sign.

I’m also submitting a 500-word snippet for the following blogfest (click image for link):

As always, it comes with the terror of showing my writing and the worse terror of putting it out there and getting nothing back except the faint, sparse sound of crickets.

I look forward to reading others’ excerpts, though.

(P.S. – Went to the happiest amusement park on earth again yesterday for my birthday. Thursdays trump Saturdays, every time. People were thoughtful, polite, friendly, and said crazy things like please and thank you and sorry. Also, my soda was topped by a birthday candle floating on a lemon slice, it being my special day and all. I’ve never blown out the candle on a Diet Coke before.)