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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.

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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]

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.

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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.

It’s December

1 Dec

What do I do now?

Well, the first thing is to annoy you delight you with excerpts of The View from Upper High Hog on my writing site, where it joins such treasures as excerpts from last year’s NaNoWriMo novel and the latest draft of my main work in progress. (It’s truly a rainbow-splendid candyland of amateur writing, and who doesn’t love that?)

Next on my list is sleep. And then I’ll try to break the habit of consuming mass quantities of gummy bears.

“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

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

Assail Him, Impale Him, with Monster Truck Force

27 Nov

Ten points if you can summon the lyric that precedes that. It’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s awesome.

Anyway, still racing and pacing and plotting the course, still fighting and biting and riding on my horse.

Stuff.

Mind’s fried.

Wrote 8055 words today. Might be able to knock a few more out before I lose all control of my dwindling sanity.

Go me.

Edited for update: Finished the night at 8721 for the day, 41,194 words altogether for the month.

 

Scrambling & Flailing!

26 Nov

Only a few more days until the end of NaNoWriMo! I still have 22,000 words to go! Looks like I’ll be sliding across that finish line bloodied and bruised, if I do so at all. People have been verifying their wins for days now. Last year, I was long past the 50k hurdle. I kind of hate Last Year Me.

Ah, well. A story’s not much without conflict, eh?

Go me! Aiming at 70% completion by the end of the night (35k). Currently at 58%.  Eep!

Ended at 65% (32473) — not bad, considering I started the day at 53%.

And this is why we hate Last Year Me

Dear Johnny

20 Nov

I’m about to turn off the lights, listen to the rain harmonizing with my laptop fan, and try to sleep. I give up. No great sprint will take this underdog to the front of the NaNoWriMo pack today. I just need my rest.

Therefore, I ask you, dear Johnny Mathis — nay, I beg — will you please put a cork in it? I know you are a talented and genial entertainer, and I know Pandora kindly installed “Small World” and “What Will My Mary Say” in my brain to help with my novel writing, but they left said songs on infinite loop and turned the volume up to eleven (it’s one louder). So, my dear Johnny Mathis, I’m just saying…STFU!

That is all.

Collage: 30 Covers, 30 Days

18 Nov

Here’s how the NaNoWriMo 30 Covers, 30 Days project is going so far. I’m fascinated. It’s doubly amazing, considering each designer gets less than 24 hours to review, design, and execute a cover.

UPDATE: CLICK HERE FOR FINAL VERSION (all 30 covers)

(Day 29 below)

What do you think? Have a favorite? (You know I do. 😉 )

Click image for larger version (1200x1259)

Click here for full-size image

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

[I’ll be updating this until November 30th, so stop by again to see the latest collection.]

Updated 11/29/2010

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.