Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why Love A Man Who Loves An Ugly Car

Jay sat on the edge of his bed after tying his  basketball shoes. He only wore them for one reason and the pounding of their rubber soles against the court tonight would cleanse his tumbling mind. More than that, he longed for the exertion to erase the tinge of pain in his soul. Alex's trip, the things she wasn't saying, he'd been fooling himself into believing it was his 'best friend' status making the ache impossible to ignore. 
The silent face of his cell phone blinked the time as he glared.  Willing it to respond to the heaviness in his heart,his knuckles turned white as his fingers closed around it. The phone refused to acknowledge the tightening in his chest with anything more than the flashing screen. 
When the case began to protest with a crack, Jay tossed it onto the bed.he stood up stretching his arms over his head and pulling his elbows behind his neck.
   Glancing around his drab one-bedroom apartment.he mentally ran through his commitments for tonight. He could always hope it would help him keep his mind off the growing panic creeping through his blood stream.
As lightening flashed from beyond the  narrow blinds hanging over the window, Jay tried to think.
Game with the guys
Meeting with Jorge’s
Find Alex.
Tell her everything.
  The last betraying thoughts halted his hesitant feet. he stopped in front of the bed, his eyes only skittering across the bare beige walls to where his phone still mocked him with its silence. He threw one of his pillows over the face of the beast before forcing sanity into his thoughts.
    He was supposed to meet the guys at the school for their weekly basketball game.
Focus on the game, moron. He chided.
 Her image pushed the scolding from his thoughts. Alex hadn’t called yet and he was worried to distraction.  She had been in Vegas for more than two hours. He was afraid of what that meant.  The thunderstorm raging beyond his apartment door blew it’s brutal breath across the threshold.  imagining her in a ditch somewhere, He dug for the phone for the fifteenth time in as many minutes to call her number again. Like every other time he threw it back on to his bed.  She was twenty three years old she could handle this. Why hadn’t he been able to shake the heaviness crushing his chest since she’d driven away that afternoon.  He knew the answer. He knew why he was so desperate to talk to her.
Jay scrubbed his fists over his eyes. “How could you have let this happen When she’s in love with this other guy.” The lecture only made his misery worse.
He had to keep moving if he was going to make the game, he needed to leave. The pull of possibility from his silent phone shackled his ankles.    
Jay forced himself to pace the few steps between the bedroom door and his phone. Fighting his instinct to just go find her, he balled his hands into fists at his sides. he was supposed to go to his father’s restaurant at nine to meet with Jorge  Senior for a staff meeting.  Jay rolled his eyes and ran his fingers through his still damp hair.  It would be like every other ‘staff meeting’.  Jorge I telling him he was proud of the work he was doing  at his Grandfather’s old body shop. Jorge II telling him he was wasting his life because he wasn’t in college.   
Jay had gotten  his love of old cars from his grandfather but his stubborn tenacity from his father. Unfortunately, they were  currently clashing in his choice of careers.
     When his father found out that Jay was apprenticing with his Grandfather to eventually take over the business, he had insisted that Jay go to technical school
Jay hadn’t argued, He needed  the training to learn all the updated information for modern vehicles. There was no way to keep up with all of it except to work on the cars.
After getting everything he could for his ASE certification it was all hands on and practice.  A foreign concept to his father who could learn anything by simply reading about it.
Jay growled under his breath, the sting of the old battle cementing his decision to skip the meeting and drive to Las Vegas. He picked up his phone one last time willing it to ring in his hand.  Groaning and tossing it back on to his bed. He had to go.   He needed to blow off some steam after today and he couldn’t wait for her any longer.
     “Call me, Lex.” He said, pointing at the phone.  “I can’t afford to pay for another ticket to New York to fix this.”
Alex pressed her speed dial with a shuddered breath. The flashing of stormy windows drew her eyes back out the face of unrelenting glass just beyond her unfocused sight. Thunder echoed across the desert sand, sending a shiver down her spine as the fury of the night began to splash down onto the darkened glass. She put the phone against her ear, listening to the ring tone while mentally reminding herself to stick with her explanation.  She would tell Jay that she was going to New York to find an apartment until Charles could come up with the ring he promised her when he called. She would find a job, make back her plane fare and then come pay him when she returned home to plan the wedding. It was all logical enough, even though not particularly specific and she hoped, having somewhat of a plan, would chase away the dread churning in her heart.
     “Hey, its Jay, I’ll try to call you back.
    ” Alex let out her imprisoned breath in a sigh and smiled.  This was going to be much easier than she thought. The unsettled feeling in her stomach still pulsed an ache with every beat of her heart, but she could at least make it sound like her flight was her only problem. Despite the tormented protests of both the weather and her nerves, she swallowed the burn of tears behind her eyes.    
  “Jay, its Alex.  I made it to my gate but there’s storms all across the rocky mountains tonight, my flight has been delayed.  I don’t know how long I’ll be stuck here but I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know when I’m in New York.”  She paused, chewing on her lip again. “Thanks for worrying and…everything else.  I’ll call you later tomorrow, I promise.
      Alex hung up the call, rotating her churning stomach over the fire of doubt burning in her mind.  She hadn’t told him enough and yet she was sure her voice had said too much. He would hear her fears beyond her words. he’d always had a sixth sense when it came to her not saying enough.
When her freshman year in college had  started as an icy wave of loneliness crashing over her. He had known.   She’d  felt like a single grain of sand being sucked into the ocean of academia.  Terrified that she would never be able to absorb it all, she'd holed up in her room after the first chaotic day of class.
      Jay had called her that evening, eager to find out about the new batch of co-eds.  He was attending night school at the local junior college, it would be their only chance to  connect between work and classes.
      “so, girl genius, did you blow them all away?”
     Alex laughed, hoping the shudder in her voice wouldn’t poke at his instincts.
      “What’s the matter Lex, did something go wrong?”
     When  Alex reassured him it was all fine and she was just tired, he hadn’t said anything else about it.
      An hour later the Nomad  rattled to a stop in front of her house. Her unspoken doubts had pulled the hunk of metal to her as if she were a magnet.  The roar of its ancient muffler drew her to the window only to see Jay standing outside her door, dusting the night’s outpouring of moisture from his dark hair.
Throwing open the door, startling him, she  tried to glare.
      “I thought tonight was your night to work on the Nomad."
Jay  grinned his famous crooked smile and shrugged, stuffing his hands into his pockets.
      Betsy and I have been together for 4 years, one more night isn’t going to kill her.”
      He’d scrapped that car together from miscellaneous parts from his grandfather’s shop. It barely managed to get him around.  No matter how many times the two of them pushed it up or down some hill though, he stuck with ‘her, whispering prodding reassurance for the car to give him one more trip.
      Alex smiled again watching the rain through the gateways windows.  They had gone for French fries and coke’s that night, losing all serious thought, until after two a.m.  
She’d forgotten  her sense of alienation from earlier.  Her most potent memory from that night was their scavenger hunt for a gas station. He couldn’t drive her home in the storm without rain repellant for his windshield.  He had windshield wipers but,  they only worked when the car was in the mood.
     By the time he pulled into her driveway, they were both soaked from hanging their heads out the side windows to try to see through the driving rain. She still wasn’t sure  which had obscured their sight more,  the tears from the storm or the one’s from their fits of laughter.

An unconscious giggle escaped her mouth  with the memory tonight.  Alex stifled the sound with her hand as she glanced back at the departure board. She could  still see the water dripping from his black hair as he left her in front of her house.
      “The world is a much happier place when all you have to worry about is rain.”
 He  assured her that night. “No worries.”
     Alex breathed deeply,  as her eyes caught sight of the departure times. Her flight was set to board in forty minutes. 
     “Finally.”” She muttered, feeling tethered to her seat with cold iron chains.
Jay  kicked his shoes off as he came through the door of his apartment.  He’d been useless on the court tonight: missing passes overshooting the backboard and generally feeling out of step. The electric energy of failed basketball only burned brighter in his thoughts surrounding Alex’s absence. His mind automatically wanted him to go to her house, or meet her somewhere to give her a replay of the game. 
His hands itched with the effort not to grab his keys and follow his instincts.
Stalking down the hall to the bathroom instead, he grabbed a five minute soak of sore  muscles and a quick scrub with the bar of soap.. Before going back to his room, he made up his mind. He’d drive to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, there wasn’t any other way for him to get relief.
Jay pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt before sitting on the end of the bed.. While putting his socks on, the vibration of his cell phone shuddered against his thigh.  Fumbling for the phone, he blew out a heavy breath. Alex’s number on the screen cut the cords wrenching air from his lungs.
Dialing her number with shaking fingers, Jay listened to its monotonous ring in his ear until he heard her voice.
“Hi, It’s Alex. Leave me a message…”
.  Jay moaned and disconnected the call accessing his voice mail instead.  The muscles in his neck and shoulders relaxed as he listened to her complaints about flight delays. He sighed, chuckling with the knowledge that at least God was trying to stop her from running off with this guy. Her parting comments stung at the adrenalin rushing through his blood  as she suddenly sounded like a frightened little girl.  His jaw tightened until he heard the grind of his teeth. He knew it was more than the flying that was bothering her. He knew she needed to talk, but  He was too far away from her to help tonight.  He couldn’t do anything else for at least twenty four hours.
Jay glanced at the clock on his phone. He still had ten minutes to make it to his father’s interrogation.  putting his socks and shoes on, he  stuffed the phone into his pocket.  His father would lecture him on the evils of smart phones, but tonight she was invisible somewhere over the Midwest. His phone was the only tie he still had to her.

 I wanted to leave everyone a Thanksgiving message and say how thankful I am for friends, family, and fans who support me in my writing. I was able to finish my 50 K words for NaNoWriMo a week early thanks to encouragement and love from y'all. Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where we go one, We go all

One of my favorite ideas was expressed in the film "White squall". A group of young men begin a semester of high school on board a sail boat. They learn to do all the work of making the boat function, as well as their education, and the realities and dangers of the sea. Halfway through their journey they reach the island that marks the point where they will return, they climb a steep hill to where they all ring a silver bell to claim the victory of their voyage.
The inscription on the bell reads: Where we go one, we go all.
This brief statement shows the bond of friendship and family the boys have forged along their journey. It also binds them together when tragedy strikes and the people back on land want them to turn against one another. It reminds me that even when it is hard to work in tandem, or alongside the people we love, We do it. The best lessons in life can be learned by sharing them. I will never experience every thing that is possible, but I can learn from those around me. It makes the lessons I learn rich and diverse.
A friend of mine pointed out to me that I can serve that same purpose. So with that in mind...let me tell other writers what I have learned from those who have gone before me and where we must go all.
1. You aren't going to please everyone. Even the writers of best seller's can't please everyone. Even the greats don't claim every fan out there.
You can't make everyone else happy with  you're writing.Make yourself happy.
2. You can know your characters and story so well that you converse in public with these fictional people, but  what you know is worthless if-
its more than readers want to know, or if it is only in your head.
You must give away only enough to tempt the reader and keep them wanting to know more. This is a mystical formula we all strive to claim. If your critiquers know too much and want you to cut back, or tighten it up some more-Listen
3. The first thing you ever wrote is garbage. It doesn't matter what it was. It doesn't matter how much your mom loved it. It doesn't matter if it is your 'baby'. Its garbage. You have grown and developed as a writer. Get rid of what was and build something better. Even great writers like Nicholas Sparks admit this truth. Sparks' first manuscript is buried in his attic to this day. "Its not your 'baby' even if you feel like it lives and breathes. Mine the nuggets of gold from its pages but don't give it a false life.
4. If you have shined and polished your work to perfection. Three months, or three years, or even three days from now, you will find something wrong with it. If it's published, let it go. If you can re-do it later you're lucky. Most writers don't get that chance though. Let it go. It's not perfect, neither are you. It isn't the end of the world. Keep practicing, improve your skills, and laugh at yourself. It will make you a better writer and a better person.
5. There is another writer who can use your help. You are a writer who can use someone else's help. Don't let the fear of competition or failure stop you from not only offering your expertise but from excepting someone else's.Reaching out and thickening your skin is never to your detriment. It actually broadens your world.
I am always grateful for the wisdon and support of my writing friends. The one's who said: "Show don't tell.
The one's who helped me fix "matter unorganized", and the ones who told me it was hard but I could do it. We are all members of the crew aboard the sail boat. We can all reach the top if we remember.
Where we go one, We go all.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book Review: The Beach Trees, by Karen White

I think a little piece of me is a southern girl, because of my fascination and absentee love of the South. I have a manuscript I'm working on set in Savannah, Georgia, although I have never been there. I have another set in Alabama, and yet another in New Orleans.
The gulf coast, and the rich heritage and strength of the southern states has long been some of the locations I wish I could have 'seen'.
I was in Florida for a time when I lived in New York and I have family in Atlanta and Mississippi. This was my primary attraction to "The Beach Trees" by Karen White.
"The Beach Trees is a novel that takes place in Billouxi Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisianna. It is a tragic tale of  one young woman who dies and leaves three items to another young woman who has been searching for a kidnapped sister for 16 years.
The three items Julie recieves from her friend Monica are: A destroyed beach house on the coast of Billouxi, An expensive painting Julie's grandfather painted in the 1950's, and Monica's five year old son, Beau.
Monica instructs Julie to take Beau back to meet his family, old money and blood in New Orleans, and the very people she fled 10 years earlier.Monica wouldn't talk to Julie about what caused her to run from her family or why she cut off contact. Julie who had spent her entire life with no other goal than to track down her missing sister, now finds herself a single mother, a Katrina wrecked home owner, and an unwelcome member of a strange family.
As the story unfolds, Julie starts to learn what 'home' is from a group of people who in Julie's words are "short sighted and egotistical to re-build in a hurricane zone."
She discovers the truth Monica hid from everyone and she rebuilds her own life post disaster.
This story explored both the aftermath and survival of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Camille, a similar Hurricane that ravished Billouxi Mississippi in 1959. The beach trees are beautifully carved symbols of survival, strength, and determination That start for Julie as almost frightening. As Julie learns to love what she can lose, the trees become her own desire to struggle out of tragedy.
This was a vibrant telling of the conquering spirit of regular people who don't give up when disaster strikes. The images were clear and I felt as if I walked through New Orleans. The story is told from Julie's point of view, and in the past from Monica's grandmother's experience in the 1950's.
I got this book from the Utah State Library for The Blind, but I know it is also available in public libraries, through The Library of Congress and in digital and paper copies.
It was an enjoyable read and an interesting story that gives you only enough information to string you along until the conclusion
If you get the chance go read "The Beach Trees" by Karen White..
P.S. My NaNoWriMo update is that as of Tuesday Nov. 12 I was up to over 25000 words. I am learning that when I let go of expectations for my writing, I can write a lot more than I thought I could. Keep it up NaNoWriMo-ers.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Have you ever tried to "NaNoWriMo"?

I am not much of an explorer when someone says to me
"Hey, you should try NaNoWriMo."
Images of strange exotic dishes or painful contortions of my body leap to mind. That is quickly followed by ideas about the latest get rich quick scheme, healing potion,or  miracle cure for death. I'm curious, but wary.
When my friend approached me with the challenge of trying NaNoWriMo the first time I neither understood it, nor could pronounce it. This year though I'm trying NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo stands for: National Novel Writing Month.
November is set aside every year for professional as well as ammeter writers to take on a challenge.
Write 50,000 words of a rough draft from your new novel.
Not one you've started a dozen times and couldn't handle, or a collection of stories you think you can mash together into a novel. A brand new, unstarted novel.
At first the idea overwhelmed me a bit. My premiere novel "Killing Cassanova" was 50618 words when my publisher purchased it. It took me nine months to write that book. Not to mention, my anniversary is in November, Thanksgiving, a Holiday party my husban's family has instead of Thanksgiving, and my nephew is getting married next week end. Between all that, my kids, my church, my family, and my life in general; How was I going to pull this off?
Well...It's only November 6, so I haven't yet, but here's what I've learned so far.
   1. You never write a novel from a blank slate. During the month of October I researched the background, setting, hobbies, work, and lives of my characters. I interviewed them to get to know their motivations, and I plotted my book chapter by chapter, character by character, and scene by scene. Before I ever wrote a single word.Overkill, I know but it's my first time.
2. If you're going to challenge yourself, have a warden. Have at least one or more people you are accountable to. NaNoWriMo has a page where you sign up to do the challenge and you enter your word count to find out if you're on track or not. This is helpful if you keep up on the website. More valuable than that, though are my friends who are NaNoWriMo-ing themselves. We check in with each other, encourage each other, and inspire one another to keep going.
3. Just let go. Relax. This is a first draft. Nobody's going to read it. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be pretty, It doesn't even have to make sense. Let your imagination go. Throw in aliens, monsters, car chases whatever. It's not  your novel-Its your rough draft.
Once again, I'm only a week in and I may find out this method will mess up what could have been a really good book.
But, who cares? It develops the habit of writing every day, knowing your characters, and setting and achieving goals. What writer can go wrong with habits like those?
So...If you've never tried NaNoWriMo, go check out the website and see some of the projects going. You'll find me on there along with thousands of other writers who are learning to NaNoWriMo!