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NaNoWriMo: If NaNo-ing Is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Be Right (Reprise)

4 Oct

A lot of irrational things annoy me.

  • The term “animal style” at In-N-Out
  • Humidity
  • Crisp, overdone foley sounds in movies or television, like “sexy” whispered voice-overs on ads, crumpling paper/plastic, or the sound of footsteps. (Wanted to Hulk out every time they amplified the tap shoes in So You Think You Can Dance last season. Ugh! I’m making fists just thinking about it!)

I’m sure I annoy people with the things I do, too — like turning everything into a F*R*I*E*N*D*S reference (just annoyed myself by typing the asterisks between the letters) and, now, apparently, by being a part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I really don’t understand the hostility. I get the stress from agents whose inboxes strain beneath the weight of the naïve each December, but most participants know better than to query their raw product, and most of the criticisms I read are not from agents but from writers. Perhaps they’re tired of hearing about it. Perhaps they’re evil. Perhaps it’s just the sound of the word NaNoWriMo that makes their skin crawl the way the word dander freaks out my mom. Maybe you all want to slaughter me for my poor grammar and sentence fragments. We’ll deal with that later. Right now, I just want to explain why I participate in NaNoWriMo.

Let us begin with a F*R*I*E*N*D*S reference.

In The One Where Phoebe Runs (video here), Rachel is embarrassed by Phoebe’s headlong running style and shuns her, not wanting to seem ridiculous by association. She doesn’t get the value or appeal of such a thing. Phoebe explains that it brings back the fun of running, the joy from when you were a kid and ran so fast you thought your legs would fall off.

NaNoWriMo, to me, is like running until you think your legs are going to fall off — and loving it.

When I first began writing in grade school, I did it because it was fun and made my friends laugh. When I took up fiction writing again as an adult, I did it because I’d had a really tough couple of years with unemployment, the loss of my dad, and my toddler’s bout with melanoma. Writing was therapy. Writing my heart out made me feel happy again. Alive again. Put color back in the world. I still love it. I still enjoy it. But now I spend most of the year fussing over it, getting serious, running it through workshops and critique groups, agonizing over every word, stressing at deadlines. Worrying about what people will think.

Then November and NaNoWriMo arrive with arm-flailing abandon, reminding me to let go every once in a while,  feel alive again. Join the galloping, galumphing, windmilling parade.

Writing is usually a solitary pursuit. Lonely. Even when you belong to a class or a critique group, you’re all pursuing different goals, are at different points in your stories, and you’re there to get down to business and be serious. These are not bad things. Most of us belong to writing groups and are grateful for the resulting improvement. NaNoWriMo, however, is different. In November, writing becomes a social activity. You no longer feel alone. You’re in it together. Writers from all over the world congregate on one site to crash its servers celebrate the joy of writing until our legs fall off. We’re allowed to cheer each other on, we bring back the joy, and we walk away with a stitch in our sides from laughing. And sometimes a couple of new friends.

Do I think this is the way to go full time?

No.

Do I think I’m there to write a masterpiece?

Heck no. It might happen, but I’m not concerned about that.

I’m just there to run my legs off and rediscover the magic. I want to put aside my inhibitions, limber up my twisted imagination, and fall in love with what I do again. When I’m doing NaNoWriMo right, I know it because I once again feel that heady rush of new love. I can’t wait to get back to the story, I think about it day and night, and I (obviously) can’t stop talking about it.

I wasted too many years of my life not knowing or enjoying who I was because I was too busy toeing the line, forcing myself into herd mentality because the moment I stepped out of the mold, the Eternal Junior High Mean Girls of the world were ready to taunt me, torment me. Shun me. The world would see I was “crazy.” As much as I hated to be noticed and labeled as a brain (You’re such a brain. I hate you!), I feared the least deviation from perfection and hard work because that would expose that I was a sham, an idiot, and thus subject to more ridicule.

So I need NaNoWriMo’s help to let go of that. I like being allowed — encouraged — to be BAD, to be WRONG, and to see that no harm will come from it. In fact, a lot of good comes from it. Being able to laugh at yourself is a major skill in life.

People complain that those of us who are celebrating writing “crap” are wasting an opportunity to do something serious and valuable and “good”. I disagree. First of all, one man’s good is another man’s crap, and vice versa. Second, I think they’re missing the point of what this month means to people like me. This isn’t my only opportunity to write. I write all year long. I revise, rewrite, and edit all year long. I treat my primary novel with the care and seriousness of a parent. I don’t go into NaNoWriMo with the aim of producing the next great classic. I don’t pose for a woodcut portrait on Barnes & Noble’s walls.  I use NaNoWriMo to revive my creative energy so that I can go on to strive for a masterpiece,  whether through extensive rewrites and editing of my NaNo novel or through starting something new with the momentum I gain. It’s a workout.

I should have a better concluding paragraph, but I don’t. I’m sleepy and have thousands of words to write before I rest. That makes me happy. So I leave you with the following — a dramatic recreation of how I feel about the sound of crackling paper and amplified tap shoes, brought to you by Ms. Phoebe Buffay and Ms. Pacman.

NaNoWriMo: Time for Extra Credit

26 Nov

I’m terrible. I realized that we could start validating wins on the NaNoWriMo site yesterday, and suddenly nothing would do except crossing the finish line by the end of the night. I was 5000-some words away.

But I made it! I ended the night with 50,033.

The story is gathering momentum now, so I’m going to see how much more I can write before the thirtieth. Maybe I can reach The End by then.

NaNoWriMo: Over the Hill

22 Nov

I just passed forty thousand words, and I’m over one of the last hills, hoping to roll my way down the slope to 50k on sheer momentum. My protagonist is barefoot, being hunted by several parties, and has been spotted by a mysterious Scottish man who looks like a gunslinger. It’s snowing, and I think Protagonist is about to steal a cat.

The story is getting pretty bloated. There will be a lot of editing later on. Chris Baty had a good suggestion this week in a pep talk, and I hope to follow it. He said to do what you could to get to the incredibly motivating and validating words The End by November 30th. That you didn’t have to have a fully fleshed-out story to get to The End. You just had to map out the most essential scenes between where you are and where you need to end, and then write them, even if just in scaffolding form. (That may not have been his exact message, but it’s how I understood it, and, hey, it’s late.)

I hope I can get my scaffolding built without getting bogged down in too many details. Then I can hit 50k with a resounding The End and tears of joy. THEN I can go back and start coloring inside the lines in the comfortable knowledge that my book is not an open-ended fragment.

(And, somewhere in there, I’m hoping for lots and lots of sleep. Lots.)

NaNoWriMo: Hey Nineteen

19 Nov

My score at the end of Day 19

Now, this is good. Right here. This blissful moment of meeting my word count goals for the day — above both the daily and the overall quotas, and higher than my randomly selected stranger/adversary that I must beat or else. (Or else nothing and they’ll never know?) (Don’t knock it. It’s motivating to me.) (What? I am NOT competitive!) (I just talk to myself, parenthetically.)

Anyway, it’s good to meet my goals for the day just as my eyes are getting warm and blurry and the world begins to warp in my happy, sated exhaustion. Who knows what tomorrow brings, but tonight I sleep the sleep of a clear writing conscience.

Good night and happy writing to you all.

NaNoWriMo: Eleventy-‘Leven

11 Nov

I’m up to 9400-ish words in NaNo Land. Almost halfway to where I’m supposed to be. But I’m catching up.

I finally felt like posting an excerpt on the NaNoWriMo site today. Might be the migraine meds affecting my judgement. I put the entire (unedited) first chapter up. I shall similarly afflict you, my dear readers, here and now.

Maybe I feel like, since I’m so behind quota, I need to prove I’ve written anything.

The first draft of the first chapter of my third NaNoWriMo project, The Tale of the Fugitive Phantasmic Oracle (plus its quick synopsis):

Synopsis

A twelve-year-old runaway decides to pay “rent” on his woodland hideout by becoming fairy godkid to the family who owns the land – eavesdropping in order to grant wishes, serve as a human Ouija board, and perform anonymous good deeds from the tree tops. However, his “magic” keeps leading to disaster, winter’s on the way, and rumors are spreading that could lead to discovery by the stepfather he’d hoped to escape.

Excerpt

Catskill Mountains, 1962

Mid-tackle, feet in the air, Jim realized this was the stupidest thing he’d ever done. But it was too late. Cartoon characters could stop time, could backpedal and change direction as they fell.

Jim Scott was no cartoon character.

A blur of trees, and then he slammed into the taller of the two boys with bone-crunching pain. It was pretty much for sure that he’d exploded, broken into shrapnel the color of idiot would-be kid hero. Was the other guy made of granite or something? He waited for the thunder of falling stone followed by the patter of a zillion shards of No Good Jim Scott. He was flabbergasted to hit the ground with more of a roll and a thud, just two guys. Meat and bone.

Probably intact.

But who knew?

He was blind; he was numb. All he knew was the bitter smell of adrenaline and the roaring in his ears. For a moment. Then the pain came back with a vengeance. But the silence stretched out.

Confused, Jim blinked and opened his eyes. He was on a bark-padded trail through the woods he’d found on the far side of the ridge from his house. He’d never tried the path before. He’d rather stick to the trees above and feel invisible. He didn’t come here for company.

On his left stood the two little girls this pair of guys had been menacing. On his right stood the shorter (but stockier) of the two boys. They were a matching set of giant eyes and mouths. He could almost see tonsils.

He looked down at the villain he still straddled, and the world went more topsy-turvy upside down and vomitorious than before. Was he insane? This wasn’t a guy. Blond hair that half-covered blue cat-like eyes, long lashes, high cheekbones.

He’d tackled a girl.

Then the girl’s limp body went rigid as stone again, and Jim found himself back in the air, this time landing on his back in the mulch at the edge of the path. She’d thrown him as easily as a rag doll, and now towered overhead, one foot on his chest.

Jim took another look. Adam’s apple, wide shoulders, muscular arms, and a face that was a lot sharper without the initial surprise.

Jim drew a breath of relief. Thank god. Definitely a guy.

A quick scramble and he was back in the fray.

He’d climbed over the ridge of the hill a few minutes earlier, escaping trouble back at home, and from up above he’d seen the two girls cowering and clinging together, he’d heard boyish voices shouting and gloating. Skulking around the trees, Jim had come into view of the boys. They held ropes, sticks, and the taller one held a black sphere that looked like a bomb. He’d grinned as he passed his hand over it like some explosive crystal ball, and he said, “Beat the wenches? Or just drag them to their doom in the caverns?”

His friend had yawned and said, “What’s quickest? I’m ready for lunch.”

That set the girls screaming, and Jim had thrown himself into the fight.

Now he stood facing down the tall guy, hands in fists, but the guy broke the stare first, turning toward the girls as the ruddier one pointed at the black ball, which had rolled a few feet away, and called to Jim. “Bash his head in with it!”

The other girl, pale and hollow-eyed, whimpered.

The first girl looked at Jim and jumped up and down. “Ooh! No. Never mind. Let me do it!”

Were even the little girls savages over here? Jim almost felt admiration, then he blinked out of it. The guy was distracted. It was now or never. What the hell. He’d already started it with the tall guy. No looking back.

And the guy’d been after the girls. He deserved it.

Another launch of his body, fueled by righteous fury, and he knocked the guy to the ground again, this time from behind. Grabbing the guy’s hair, he shoved his face into the splinters and pebbles of the path.

Everyone was yelling now. Jim was squished by a new weight on his back, and a strong arm around his neck showed the other guy had finally joined the fight. Jim refused to suffocate or have his head torn off, though. He kicked, struggled, and got the tall guy in a similar headlock. The three of them punched, kicked, and strangled their way down the path. Must have been rolling because Jim started noticing the side of his head scraping against the dirt, and when they finally stopped, the tall guy was on top, choking and wheezing, but he didn’t give in to Jim’s attack. He just gasped, “My spleen! You’ve turned it to jelly.”

Shocked out of his fury, Jim almost laughed. Then he felt his brutal grip on the boy, remembered the kick he’d just delivered to the guy’s back, and he balked. His mouth filled with spit. He was going to throw up. Muscles turning to water, he let go, and the stocky guy finally managed to pick him off, throw him to the path, and help the tall one to his feet. The tall guy wiped at his mouth and turned, face streaked dark with mud but not so much that it hid his expression of utter disbelief, something even Jim understood and recognized. He couldn’t believe himself.

Jim closed his eyes and curled up on the ground, reeling and trying to breathe. Confusion. It was day; it was night. He saw this guy’s face; saw another face with stubble and broken veins. He felt each blow he’d delivered like it was happening to him.

Then it really was. Kicks, punches, and rocks hit him. The guys were back.

But the voice was wrong.

Jim twisted, tried to sit up and look. The blows continued, but through his flinches he saw the two guys standing a few yards away and laughing. Standing over Jim was the girl who’d wanted him to bash in a skull with the black thing, and she was livid. Maybe she’d meant she wanted to bash in his head.

He tried to say something in his defense but wasn’t fast enough. Talking was never his strong suit, and that power went away altogether when fists were flying. All that came out was, “Hey! Hey! Hey!”

“Get off my brothers!” The girl slowed but didn’t stop her punches.

Blocking her as well as he could, he forced words. “They were hurting you.”

She stopped punching him. But then she went right back to it. “You moron! It was a game! Are you that nuts?”

The stocky guy helped Jim stand and shooed away the girl. Up close, he could see that this guy was older than the others, even if he wasn’t tallest. Maybe a high schooler. He’d guess the tall guy was closer to his own age. Twelvish. The girls seemed a few years younger. Embarrassing as that was, since one had beat him up.

The tall boy stared at Jim – lofty and cool but with half a squint and a crease between his brows. He was half turned to go, but he didn’t move. Stayed a tall blond statue. With dirt and scrapes all over his pretty face.

“Just trying to help,” Jim muttered. “Didn’t know.”

Nothing.

The stocky guy chuckled, though. He put on a pair of thick glasses and said, “C’mon, Amie. That’s enough. Laura? You okay?” Gathering the two girls, the rope, and the weapons, he headed west down the path, calling “You coming, Robin?”

The tall boy – apparently named Robin – blinked and frowned. After a pause, he said, “I believe the saying goes, ‘Look before you leap,’ my dear little fox.”

As Jim scowled, rubbing his bark-covered red hair, getting the taunt, Robin bent and lifted the black ball. He held it up – just a toy, one of those Magic-8 Ball fortune tellers he’d seen in the back of a comic book. He looked hard at Jim then shook the ball, flipped it over and read something in the circular window at the bottom. A smirk and a nod. “Yeah. Just like I thought.”

Down the path, his brother shouted, “Robin!”

Robin stepped closer, and Jim recoiled. Too close. He didn’t like people to be so close. Except, apparently, when he was beating on them.

Robin darted his hand toward him, and Jim managed not to bolt. But his cool broke when Robin tugged on his t-shirt, showing how it was torn from hem to arm pit. Jim spun, yelping against his will. No touching. No touching. He couldn’t make his breath slow down.

Robin was silent. Jim turned his head to look at him.

“Did we do all that to you?” Robin tilted his head as though trying to see around to Jim’s front again. His lofty, princely tone was gone. Games over.

“Screw you.” Jim pulled the shirt tighter to cover the sea of cuts and bruises, many faded and scarred.

When he looked up again, Robin curled his lip and shoved the Magic 8-Ball into the pocket of his now-rumpled, scuffed great coat. Jim noticed that he wore similarly destroyed, expensive looking boots. Coat billowing behind him, Robin strode down the trail toward the others, only turning back just before reaching a bend to glare. Then he disappeared.

NaNoWriMo: Nine, Ten, a Big Fat Hen

9 Nov

Still haven’t broken the 7k word mark.

Flippin’ flappin’ laptop. I need some smelling salts for the dadburned thing.

I am itching to rewrite many of those 7k words, realizing that my MC isn’t driving the action so much as going along for the ride. I have a good idea how to do it. But it’s Day Nine. I don’t think I should be going back at this point.

Anyway, a more helpful bit for my writer-readers (I hope)…

I read a great writing “rule” this week. More of a storytelling tip, but an important one.

In Save the Cat, Blake Snyder talks about Act I being the Thesis (The Before picture), Act II being Anthithesis (Act I turned on its head), and Act III being Synthesis (getting chocolate in your peanut butter*). I’ve had a loose grip on the concept for a while, but it wasn’t until I read about Goldilocks on Wikipedia that I found a simple, concrete way of thinking about it.

Author Christopher Booker characterizes [the story] as the “dialectical three”, where “the first is wrong in one way, the second in another or opposite way, and only the third, in the middle, is just right.” Booker continues “This idea that the way forward lies in finding an exact middle path between opposites is of extraordinary importance in storytelling”.

I now have a simple test to apply to my manuscripts and a simple way of planning the basic flavor of each act in new stories. Act One is too hot/tall/hard. Act Two is too cold/low/soft. Act Three is where the characters mix elements of I and II to obtain the solution that makes everything just right. **

Also from Save the Cat is the notion that the hero and antagonist are often just opposite sides of the same coin. Two lawyers with different ethics in Pretty Woman. Batman and The Joker. Luke and Anakin. Etc. Helps me think about my characters and makes sure that one side of the coin isn’t out of proportion — they should be very nearly matched in scale and strength (whether they realize it or start out that way or not).

NPR is going to announce the winner of the Three-Minute-Fiction competition this weekend. I have no right to be nervous — implies I think I have a chance of winning — but I’m still a fidgety mess.

*My son is allergic to peanuts. I shuddered just typing the word. Used to love the stuff, but now it represents poison to me. So I guess, in my world,  my analogy only works if the MC’s solution is to poison the bad guys. 😉

** I was watching Fairly Oddparents with my son the other day and laughed to recognize the above structure in the 20 minute episode.

Timmy’s fairy godparents have a baby, and so they decide to “babyproof” all his wishes, making them all safe and soft. Timmy, as any normal kid would, feels frustrated, insulted. In the catalyst scene, he discovers there’s a clause in the fairy godparent contract where he can request a temporary fairy godparent if his are not satisfactory. His current godparents advise him not to do it, but he ignores them. We swing into Act II where he’s assigned an uber-macho, vain fairy godfather who is willing to grant all his most exciting and dangerous wishes. And escalate them. Fun and games ensue. Then Timmy starts to feel exhausted and threatened, but his new fairy godfather won’t relent, is only getting more and more violent. Timmy’s not sleeping, is constantly in peril, and can’t see any way out. The temporary contract is for one year or until Timmy explodes, whichever is first. The only way to get out of it is a clause where a kid can fire the temp if he balks at granting enough wishes. But what could possibly upset this new fairy godfather? Act Three begins with him realizing a plan — keep wishing for babyish things to humiliate the uber-macho fairy godfather — bringing Act One and Two together to come up with a solution. After wishing for macho fairy godfather to wear a baby bonnet and diaper on the field of a stadium full of his peers, he succeeds in making his new godfather release him from the contract so that he can return to his former set of fairy godparents.

NaNoWriMo: On the Brink of Madness

31 Oct

The madness begins tomorrow. Thirty days of grudge match. My imagination versus fifty thousand words. I think I’m up to it. Last year, I went into this with banners flying, confidence high. It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped, though. The year before that was a breeze, by comparison.

This year, I’m feeling quieter about it all. (Part of a larger trend, as you might have noticed by the dust on this blog.) I didn’t think I’d have enough of an idea, actually. Luckily, one blossomed a few weeks ago. So I enter this year’s fray with less pomp and more preparation. This will be the first time I concentrate on plot instead of story or characters.  I’m armed with my copy of Save the Cat and the various “beats” of my plot. It’s not an outline. It’s more of a list of landmarks I need to hit as I meander toward the finish line in whatever kind of squiggly path I discover. Wish me good luck. Plotting is my weak point.

Another of my weak points is brevity, and I hope to make this novel 60-70k words, completed. Very short compared to my usual 100k-ish words.

Anyway, here’s my project. I hope to have fun bringing it to life.

A twelve-year-old runaway decides to pay “rent” on his woodland hideout by becoming its owners’ fairy god…um…kid – eavesdropping in order to grant wishes, serve as a human Ouija board, and perform anonymous good deeds from the tree tops. However, his “magic” keeps leading to disaster, winter’s on the way, and rumors are spreading that could lead to discovery by the stepfather he’d hoped to escape.

Background texture by Smoko-Stock

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!

The Society of Unicorns & Other Exotic Goats

31 Aug

Society of Unicorns coverI’ve been at it again. Well, at a couple things.

One, I’ve turned back to my original novel and am about to embark upon a great restructuring. I think people are getting tired of hearing me say I’m going to turn it into a trilogy. It’s probably a novice move. But, hey, did you know I’m turning it into a trilogy? Yeah. I am.

Meanwhile, I’ve been using the stock/resource section of DeviantArt as a box of crayons and Photoshop as a coloring book. I made a temporary cover for book one using a fabulous tree background by Smoko-Stock and a vintage “fairy” photo. Ain’t it cute?

I’m also dipping a toe into the critique pool again by joining YouWriteOn, a UK site where you can post opening chapters of your novel and have them reviewed on a one-for-one basis. Each review you do for another writer earns you one credit. You use credits to “buy” a critique for your own chapters. The divvying of assignments is random, there are eight areas on which you can rate the writing with stars (narrative voice, plot, dialogue, etc.), and they require at least 100 words of written review after that. It all seems quite organized and fair. I’m not a UK citizen, and I didn’t even consider that when posting, but so far so good. I’m still waiting to have someone balk at my Americanisms, though.

I’ve also posted chapters to DeviantArt and requested critiques, but radio silence over there, although I’ve had views.

See, this is where you all come in. I know I have some awesome writers who read the blog, some avid readers, too. I’d love it if folks would visit my DeviantArt or YouWriteOn pages and take a look. Leave me a comment, even if only to say hello.

Please and thank you and all the best.

Novels & Nostalgia

13 Aug

Every so often, I drag out my journal from 1993, the year I studied abroad in Russia. At a rate barely faster than that of glacier migration, I’ve been transcribing the yellowing handwritten thing into a Word file. I was tired last night and needed inspiration, so I chose a Russian classical playlist on iTunes and searched the web for a photo of the Smolny Cathedral in the snow. I found a good one on Google Images. Then realized it was from this blog.

Oh yeah. The blog. How I have scorned it!

I’ve devoted most of my summer to revising my NaNoWriMo 2009 novel and ordering various proofs. I’m finally at a good resting point. A few kind souls have volunteered to be beta readers, I have the cover I want for now, and so I’ll pull back from it for a while. If anyone wants to join the beta brigade, let me know. I have pdf and epub versions.

Here’s the cover:

Nocturne Cover (proof three)

Click on the image below for a link to the first two chapters (on Deviantart.com)

Those of you who read my 99th Page blogfest entry will recognize some of this. I moved a middle chapter from my original novel to the beginning of this one (the alternate version).

Now I’m waiting for the next prompt for NPR’s Three-Minute-Fiction…

May the Beats Be Ever in Your Favor

10 Apr

Jennifer Lawrence will play Katniss Everdeen in the upcoming film

Okay.

A little embarrassed by my fangirl squeeing over Hunger Games last weekend.

But…

Yes…

I read the whole damn series again this week.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta

In my defense, this time I was reading it with a critical eye, looking for technical elements — how she set up the plot, her sentence structure, et cetera. I’m still amazed at how well she grabs the reader and never lets go, not for an instant. There’s always a sense of peril. Safe times are found only in retrospect, in that, “Okay, I guess it really was okay after all,” kind of way. But you don’t believe it at the time because everything and everyone is suspect. Blake Snyder talks about how a character’s goals and stakes must be primal at their root — love, survival, hunger, protection, sex… It doesn’t get much more primal than this!

It took me until the second book to realize the story was written in present tense. Unbelievable. That’s usually something I notice in the first paragraph and have to grit my teeth to get past.  She executed it perfectly, I think, and it could not have suited the anxious, fast-paced immediacy of the story better.

On second reading, I was equally engrossed. Only in the third book did I start skimming. Exposition galore. Necessary, though, I suppose. We’re in a new place with new rules.

I do wish the last bits of the series were a little more fleshed out instead of summarized, but I guess it couldn’t go on forever.

M. Howalt — you asked in the comments last week what made the series compelling. My friend Samantha wrote an excellent post on the series here. Check it out. I agree with everything she says (and am clearly still fangirling because I got happy chills reading the title of her article, heh).

***

In my personal realm, I remain a foggy-headed, migraine-laden hermit. Gotta snap out of that somehow, someday.

But, hey, it hasn’t been a total waste. Besides falling in love with a series (which is such a great feeling), I also managed this:

My novel! All in one place! All the pieces! (Although some are vague [solves problem] or drawn in broad strokes.) Redoing  the major beats on red cards was a treat. I’m an office supply junkie and a visually-oriented person. The red cards make it feel concrete and prove to me that it’s not all an amorphous smear of a cloud. It has the bones! Look! Right there! 😉

Look at Act One — so many cards. Look at the second half of Act Two, so few cards. Not that big a deal, I think. The second half of Act Two is where I’ve drawn in broad strokes, labeling major elements. I think I pretty much  wrote the entire first act on the cards up there! Lots of details that don’t need to be there. I’m still figuring all of this out, though.

The pirate ship was already there, an unintentional metaphor for how my sons like to shoot cannons of distraction at me at all hours of the day.

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.

_____________________

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…

_____________________

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.”