A bit more…

THE NOVEL continues to come together.  Not only do I have structure, but I think I even (GASP!) have developed a plot.  Of course, at almost 30,000 words, you hope your characters aren’t still bumbling around aimlessly.

A further sampling:

“I’d like to try to get to Zimbabwe.  While Jim is still there.  I want to see all those great stone cairns, all the houses.”
Linda looks up from her reading.  “Have you heard from him recently?  Jim?”
He’d run off earlier that year this the Peace Corps, spreading AIDS prevention materials and attempting to assist in the building of some new clinics.  “I heard form him a few weeks ago.  The guy was hard enough to keep in contact with when could corner him with email, cell phones, and stalking.”
“But he’s obviously making a huge effort if he’s emailing at all.”  She sniffed.  “I haven’t heard a peep from him.”
“Yes, but did you want to?”  I laughed at her.
“Face it, Jim gained appeal as soon as he was no longer available.  I, at least, made the effort while he was here.’
“Well, he is one of your best friends.  It’s expected.”
“Just like it’s expected he’ll make the extra effort to email me now.”  I could feel my face freezing into seriousness.  “I miss him.”
“Yes, but you haven’t lost him.  That’s the imperative thing.”

Living in a foreign country at all times carries with it a sense of unreality.  If there were a period in my life clearly marked as ‘without consequences’, those years away from my own family and typical friends and lasting environment would’ve been that time.  Perhaps Conrad is right, that without some civilizing influence, we are all lost to a savage, more primal world, some dark heart that is kept locked within each of us by the proper marked decorum of our familiar world.  But if he is right, and that decorum rests in the delusions and protection of women and the home, then we are already lost, and civilization has failed – this same darkness rests also now in me, dreaming only uncomfortably and shifting in its sleep.
I had lived for two years on the line between propriety and daring.  I occasionally taught in tank tops, exposing bare shoulders to the young and impressionable minds of my male students.  I danced with abandon every time the opportunity presented itself – with other teachers, with students, with university administrators.  I walked in sandaled feet through the winter chill (in Slovenia, every chill was winter chill) and risked my death in the isolated and drafty countryside homes of several of my charges.  I went out, at night, alone.  While my skin could not identify me as a foreigner, my habits did.  As soon as I opened my mouth, my voice did.  My accent and lack of coherent sentences did most of all.  I began to find I was more afraid of the world than I had thought – the risks I knew and calculated and had lived with in another place seemed distant.  In their place, was the odd fear of a system I would never quite understand, that I could never quite use to my complete advantage.  It was a fear I would bring back with me – i began to see my old patterns of behavior as an outsider.  Comfort was scarce, confusion varied.  I was stronger than change, but barely so – my self-image shifted and reformed, melted and rewove, became a fire-flicker of change.  To this day, I am not yet resolved into a single coherent whole.


So, I’m still chugging along at the novel.  i know I haven’t put anything up for a bit, but I’m getting to the point where my directionlessness is a drag.  Yes, I’m beginning to have a better sense of general plot and structure, and the overarching themes have been in place for some time.  But am I really moving forward?  Who knows.

Being around a sicko is like having a small, portable iron lung strapped to your chest.  I know from extensive experience with roommates, boyfriends, and family.  The real problem with lingering in illness is not spreading the disease, or being unable to do certain things.  You get bored.  In particular, if you’re not the sick one, you get really frustrated with the lack of activity until it feels like a great weight or a constant diminished lung capacity.  It’s like climbing in the Himalayas without the euphoria of lightheadedness.
“I hate feeling this way,” Becky wheezes from my couch.  of course, trying to speak at all sets her off into another fit of coughing.
‘And I hate hearing about it,’ I think.  But, of course, it’s not her fault.  “You’ve got to just sleep and get yourself well.  And once this round is done, you’re immedately getting your flu shot.”
“I know, I know.  I just hate being bed-bound so long.  I’ve got to get out and DO something.”
“You’re going to Linda’s game night tomorrow, right?”
“Ugh.”  She flops back onto the couch.  “And Jeff will be there.  Just what I need.”
“Well, maybe all your germs will keep him at bay.”  She just rolled her eyes at me.
Of course, this would be the night that all of us discovered Jeff was Dating Someone.  Her name was Lindy.  In polite company, I could call her opinionated and strong-minded.  The less delicate of us saw things somewhat differently.
“What’s he doing with her?” Linda hissed to me after they’d moved on into the kitchen.
I shrugged.  “Evidently he’s decided he has to settle for bitter, since the nicer ones have proved unobtainable.  She seems to be reasonably intelligent.”
Linda winced.  We both looked over slowly to where Becky was hacking in a corner.  She seemed to be taking it well.  Of course, it was difficult to tell with her already red nose and partially closed eyes.
“Why did Becky even come out tonight?  She’s obviously still wretched.”
“Stir crazy.  When your only company for a week is me, even a girl like Lindy starts to look good.”

More to the story…

So I haven’t posted much in the way of my WriMo story recently, so there’s bit more below.  I realized that I don’t do dialogue well.  Oh well.  I finally got a good chunk done, after my first write-in (yay!) today.  Pictures at some point I will try and post as well…

Section 1 – on the phone:

“Good morning, this is Samantha.  How can I direct your call?”

“Hi Sam!  This is Timothy – how are you doing?”

“Pretty well.  Did you want to talk to Mr. Bruckerman?”

“Uh…actually, I was hoping you could help me.  I want to get him a gift for all the advice and help he’s given me recently.”

“Well, I could probably suggest a book…”

“Oh, no no, nothing like that.  Do you have his calendar?  Maybe symphony tickets on the 23rd?”

“He actually will be traveling in California that night.  The 21st would work.”

“Right.  The 21st.  For him and Sarah, of course”

“The date looks fine, but I’m not sure about the symphony.  They’d have to get a sitter.”

“That’s right!  There’s a daughter now.  Hm, maybe I should think about a book.”

“Right, just let me know if I can help.”

“Thanks Sam!  It’s always great to talk to you.”

“Thanks – I like hearing from you too.”

It may seem like not much, but friendliness counts.  And individual opinion counts.  Anyone asking mine in something I could reasonably be expected to know something about felt good.  I am an intellectual, yes, and able to analyze my own thought patterns and feelings.  But analyzing a feeling does not eliminate that emotion.  And much as I knew that a part of my reaction to the entire conversation was due to my own frustration with underappreciation and lack of use of my talents in my current job, I still couldn’t help but harbor a certain fondness for Timothy after that.

Section 2: Voting days are no fun

Voting days are the worst days possible for relationships.  On November 3, 1998, my first boyfriend dumped me long distance from the college he was attending two hours away.  He did it, of course, by phone.  He almost seemed guilty about it.

“Uh…I just don’t really think this is going anywhere.  I mean, I still really like you.  I want us to be friends.”

Who wants to be friends with someone like you anyway?  “Maybe.  I just need some time to think about it, you know?”

“Sure.  Do you want to get together and talk or anything?”


“Oh.  Well I guess I just don’t know what else to say.”

“There’s not really anything to say.  I’ll talk to you later.”

“Um, ok.  Bye.”

Mabel was particularly defensive about the whole thing.

“It’s totally ridiculous.  I want to drive down there, knock on his door, kick him in the nuts, and then just drive away.”

“Thanks, Mabel.”

“He doesn’t even know what I look like anyway.  And besides, he deserves it for acting like such a- well, I don’t even know what.”

Anger seemed like the best antidote to sadness I had.  “I would like to tie him down to his stupid bunk bed and let him rot there until he realizes the error of his ways.”

Of course, Linda wouldn’t let me linger in it.  “Come on Sammie, that’s just not very realistic.”

“Realism sucks.  I need to build myself a better fantasy world.”

On November 6, 2001, I ran into Issac, the summer crush I almost lost my virginity to.  He was now dating a pregnant woman.  The father of the child had run back to England after getting his girlfriend pregnant.  I’m not sure how Issac had met her, but the entire situation hit me pretty hard.

“So, are you going to marry this woman?”

“No.  She knows I don’t want to get married anytime soon.”

“I don’t know how I feel about you being involved with a pregnant woman.”

“Are you talking about the emotions and hormones?  Because i’m perfectly prepared to deal with that.”

“No.  It’s more of the fact that she has to be looking towards a very specific future.  I feel like it’s too easy to take advantage of that.  I feel almost like you should marry her.  Or that there’s a sense of pity on your part.  I don’t know, it’s weird.”

“I just like her.  That’s good enough for now.”  This from the guy I’d been heartsick over for at least a month after he ran back to Georgia.  Totally stubbornly noncommittal.

“I suppose that’s fair if it works for her.  Still, it’d be something I’d worry about – I am worried about it.”

He stroked my nose quickly.  “You always worry.”

A bit more of the WriMo

Ok, Shan, this one is for you…

“Here’s a question – in space, why don’t all the pencils and other floating things fall into the gravity of the astronauts?  Is ti air resistance inside the ship?”  Jim was staring intently at the pencil he was twirling between his fingers.

“I would guess it had more to do with the distance and amount of pull.  Humans aren’t all that massive, compared to a planet.  I would say even a pencil is too big for them to exert a pull on.”

“I suppose that makes sense.  I like the idea of air resistance better though.”  He looked away absently for a bit, then put the pencil down in favor of a small scrap of notebook paper.  “What about germs? Do you think bacteria are small enough to be sucked in by human gravity?”  He accordioned the paper carefully.

“Maybe.  I’m not really sure of the numbers.  But would that mean bacteria are only found on certain sides of things on Earth, where they are aided by, rather than resistant to, gravity? And if not, what kind of sticking mechanism do they have?”

“Flies have tiny hooks in their legs to let them walk on ceilings.  Maybe some bacteria do as well.”

“I don’t think it works quite the same for single-celled organisms.”  I took the sheet out of his hands and propped it between the salt and pepper shakers, making a little house.  “Maybe they exude some kind of oozy stuff for sticking.”

“Maybe you just think germs are oozy.”

“Well, they are.”  I pick up a paper clip – it would make a nice person for our home – and began twisting the wire.  “Just because my beliefs reflect the natural world doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”  My eye’s are on the twisting, so I don’t see him holding his hand out for a minute, but then I place my half-finished creation in his palm.

“You know, women have more bacteria on their hands than men.  It’s proven.”  He finished our person and puts it in the house.

“Really?  Well, then now you have my cooties.”  I wipe my hands all over his, and he smiles.

He catches one of my hands in his, warming it.  My hands are always cold.  “Most of them are benign, anyway.”

It’s odd the way touch affects others.  The current of life runs along the skin of our bodies, occasionally magnetizing, occasionally switching polarities, occasionally repelling.  The salamander, regrowing its tail, drives electric currents away from the re-forming growth, electrifying itself a la Dr. Frankenstein.  The tip of a finger, once lost, may one day again hold the magic of current and sensation.  I am reminded of the past, of my hand facing his, of only our fingertips touching.

I love NBUYND!

National Back Up Your Novel Day

We like to celebrate NABUYND at least once a week in November. To take part in the festivities, don a crazy hat, then email your novel-in-progress to your favorite webmail account, save it to a flash drive, or make someone with a photographic memory read the whole thing. Then keep them out of direct sunlight until the next back-up.

Yay!  More fun here!

A little tidbit.

Today is a better day – for writing, at least.  Tomorrow I may actually have time for a real post, if things aren’t as crazy at work.  Here’s a sampling of the good stuff:

“Why do you keep walking around behind me?”  Jim said over his shoulder to me.
“I’m trying to keep you between me and the squirrels.  Those things are dangerous.”
He snorted.  “That great for you, but I’m hardly much of a defense.”
“Well every little bit helps.”
“You know, I was thinking about squirrels the other day – how they get overfed and have relatively sedentary lives.  Does their health suffer, or do they live to a ripe old age?  And what happens when they die?  You never see a dead squirrel body.”
“Well, I’m not sure about the death issue, but they seem reasonably healthy.  Maybe bigger, but still they’re quick on their feet.”
“I suppose competition for resources still applies.  You have to deal with people and other dangers -”
“Like lawnmowers.  I mean, look at their chewed-up tails.”
“Yes lawnmowers.  But yeah, there are still dangers.  I think the tail thing is genetics though.”
“Really?  I thought it was situation.”
“Well either way, do you really need a big bushy tail if you aren’t in trees that much?”
“I guess not.  About the dead squirrel issue though – don’t the groundspeople pick them up?”
“I don’t see why.  They don’t do leaves.  But maybe dead squirrels are considered ‘trash’ rather than ‘yard waste’.”
“I did see a dead squirrel once though, down by the river.  I think those things deliberately stretch out when they die.”  I could see all the pinkening viscera in my head still, the leafy tangle of matted fur and detritus.
“Down by the river?  What was it doing all the way down there?  No trees at all.”
“They’re city creatures now, almost fully adapted to urban life.  They go where the garbage goes.”

NaNoWriMo has begun!

November is National Novel Writer’s Month.  So far, I’ve had two days, both of them weekend days, to compose and I’m already sadly lagging.  I’ve written 2,958 words, and I should be at 3,334 words.  What does that mean for you, dear reader?  Most likely that in the coming weeks I’ll be ridiculously slack about posting things to my blog.  However, as recommended here, I may also begin posting extra-juicy story tidbits for your reading pleasure.  It seems like a reasonable idea…

Anyway, hope your Halloween weekends were grand!  For Gina, here’s a short tidbit:

For Halloween Mabel decided to be a unicorn. We don’t know how she stumbled upon the ridiculous idea. She had no predisposition towards that particular creature – I was the one who had collected them as a little girl. She thought it would be easy I suppose – get a white horn, wear a white outfit, and you’re set. Not thrillingly creative or corny, but fun enough for her. Mabel tended to stick to more traditional costumes anyway.

Of course my childhood interest meant I had read and researched and generally knew much of what there is to know about the mythical beasts, so I was able to ‘help’.

“Did you know that actually unicorns can be made?”

“No, but I really don’t think it’s that relevant to the costume.”

“Well, evidently the ‘horn’ of many animals, such as cows, is really a tooth that turns and grows upwards. If there’s some genetic variation or disease-related reason that one of the teeth doesn’t grow like it’s supposed to – poof, instant unicorn.”

“Where do you think I should look for a horn, anyway? The Garment District? Or would someplace like I Party be better?”

“It happens quite frequently among deer. Maybe it’s an issue of poor nutrition.”

“Really, Sammie, FOCUS. I need assistance.”

I smirked. “You could always just cut the horn off a stuffed toy.”