Sunday, February 12, 2012

An Idea for a New Book

I am flushing out an idea for a new book and wrote this opening scene. What do you think?

Johnny sat down at his desk and fidgeted a bit before paying attention to Miss Wilson, who stood in the front of the classroom. She held a stick of chalk in her hand and Johnny followed the white point as it moved in the air with her gesticulations. He heard giggling coming from behind him so he twisted around in his chair to sneak a quick glance. Betsy, who sat behind him, and Antonia, who sat next to Betsy were leaning towards each other, covering their mouths hoping to stifle their laughter. Johnny stared in horror at Antonia. Half of her face was scorched. An empty eye socket, red and raw, stretched down what was left of her cheek. White bone poked through blackened flesh. Wisps of burnt curls crumbled into ash on her shoulder.

Then the smell hit. Putrid and stomach turning, Johnny grunted and stood up, knocking his book onto the floor where is landed with a loud bang. He ran out of the room, leaving a stunned class behind.

Two days later Antonia and her family; three brothers, a sister, and her parents, perished when their house burned to the ground.
This was Johnny’s first real memory of his “gift” and the moment when he realized he wasn’t like the other kids.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Self Doubt is an Evil Bitch

I am in a downward spiral of self doubt right now. I usually experience this once or twice a year and no matter how many times I go through it, I'll never get used to it or like it. Self doubt just plain sucks. It's like the mean girl in high school who mocked your outfit (the one you spent the entire previous night picking out) or threw gum in your hair and laughed. Basically, self doubt is an evil bitch.

Rejection has been coming too frequently and the old adage "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" can bite me. All I want to be when I grow up is a writer. I'm not asking for a multi-million dollar career here, but to get to the point where I can earn enough to write full time. Right now this dream is as likely as it was for me to get named Homecoming Queen.

With each passing day, my dream seems to shrink farther back on the horizon. I continue to pursue it even though my heartbeat is erratic, I need an inhaler for a sudden onset of asthma and I have a cramp in my side the size of Manhattan. I fear that I won't have the stamina to keep up the pursuit. Complacency is on the side of the road trying to lure me in with an ice cold glass of water. How long can I last without taking a sip?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ode to Stephen King

My high school Creative Writing teacher hated Stephen King. From the day he made that known by chastising me for choosing King as my favorite author (and ripping my paper on him apart), I doubted his abilities to teach me anything. You can't get much more creative than Stephen King. He brings childhood fears to life and amplifies the pre-existing fear in your head. I still look sideways at storm drains and give them wide clearance because I sure as hell don't want to find a clown lurking down there (IT). Whenever a family member has really bad gas pains, I can't help but wonder if a shit weasel is incubating in their lower intestine (Dreamcatcher). I live in Maine and find it entirely plausible that frogs with razor sharp teeth will fall from the sky ("Rainy Season", from Nightmares & Dreamscapes).

I just finished reading Dolores Claiborne for the umpteenth time and I am still blown away by the sheer genius of his work. He tells the story in first person, in the voice of a sixty-five year old Down East Island woman. Dolores' life story is revealed, in great depth and detail, during her confession to the island police, which spans just one night. This is truly a masterpiece and focuses not on supernatural or paranormal fears, but on real life and how decisions or actions impact lives - not necessarily for the better.

Stephen King is a prolific writer and each story stands alone. The characters are unique and nothing ever seems formulaic. From the Dark Tower series to The Green Mile, each is its own unique work.

My creative writing teacher did teach me something after all... 1) I can hold a grudge for almost as long as Stephen King's writing career and 2) My creative writing teacher wasn't creative. (He wore khaki's and sweater vests - that should have been my first clue.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


My mom has always been a little vague about her side of the family. I was close with my grandparents before they passed and my grandmother's sister. I know my Uncle and his family, plus some of cousins on my grandmother's side of the family, but my grandfather's family has always been shrouded in mystery. All I know is my Boppa, who was Irish Catholic, fell in love with and married my Nana, who was Irish Protestant. Everything went to shit after that and my Boppa was practically disowned. My mother carries the grudge like the Olympic Torch, never letting the flame die out.

Tonight, on the way to gym, she revealed that her cousin (my Boppa's niece)had called the night before. Apparently her brother had passed away at the end of July. I asked if they were still in Canada, which is where my great-grandparents emigrated to from Ireland. "No," she said. "She's in Massachusetts."

For as long as I can remember, I don't recall her ever mentioning that we have family less than a two hour drive away. My grandparents settled in Boston, which is where my mom and her brother were born and raised. I have faint memories of my Great Aunt Mary, my Boppa's sister, living in Boston.

My mom must have sensed my interest (I'm into geneology and caught onto this lead like freaking Sherlock Holmes) because she started mentioning who was who and most of them were alcoholics. She also was quick to remind me that she doesn't associate with them "not after how they treated your grandfather". I didn't point out that most of "those" people are probably dead.

I choose my battles.

My grandfather is almost like a paranormal or mythological creature in my mind. I've heard stories of his abilities as a fortune teller, where he used a deck of cards and was well known for his accuracy. These stories fascinate me. Did he inherit this gift from his father? I want to know his family - my family, after all we share DNA. The elders are passing away and with them, they will take an untold history. A history probably more richly remembered than the bitter recollections shaped by a decades old grudge.

I choose my battles and my next move will most likely create one. My mom made a choice to ignore her relatives, but she can't make the same decision for me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Relaxation? Yeah, right.

I remember when summers used to stretch out endless ahead of me. Nowadays they seem shorter than ever. True, I don't have three months off like when I was in school and most of my days are spent confined to an 8 X 10 cubicle. Since cubicalism a form of corporate torture, you'd think time would move painfully slow. What I've come to realize is, I'm just extremely busy and when you're trying to cram a full-time job (with a half hour commute each way), taking care of the family, marketing a bar and restaurant for your brother, plus writing into each day, well the pace can get exhausting.

Meanwhile, my teenage son had the nerve to say he was bored three days in to his summer vacation. I didn't roll my eyes...until my back was facing him. What I wouldn't do for a good, old fashioned "school's out for summer" summer. I know I would finish my book, spend some time chilling with my toes in the hot sand; breathing in the salt air. I'd dominate over the weeds in the flower beds and when I fell into bed exhausted at night, it would be a good exhausted. Not the "my soul was sucked out by the upholstery on the cubicle walls" exhausted.

I'd make lemonade from scratch, paint my toenails once a week, go hiking with the dog in the morning, and the hamper would stay empty because as with the weeds - I will conquer the dirty laundry. Oh, to have the time to sit all day (only moving to follow the shade) and read. I'd let Matthew accumulate all the driving hours he needs to get his license (making sure we stopped for ice cream along the way). We'd pick strawberries and eat them until our lips were stained red. Then we'd wait for blueberry season and do it all over again. I'd treasure the summer because he is sixteen and college is just around the corner.

Some nights we'd drive down the coast with the windows down. We (the whole family) would play miniature golf or check out one of the amusement parks. On hot sticky nights, I'd sit near an open window, hoping to catch a breeze, and watch the sky flicker on the horizon from a distant storm. I'd hold a glass up to my neck to let the cool condensation drip down and disappear underneath my shirt. I'd be relaxed because I'm not forced to do chores on one of the two weekend days we usually have off. Time would slow to a leisurely pace with seconds marked by the blinking of lightning bugs; hours counted by the rise and fall of the tides.

Just imagining this perfect summer is calming and I'm motivated to find a way to squeeze some of these moments into my schedule. Guaranteed there are some things I can set aside for a rainy day.

What would be your perfect summer?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Healing Touch

This is a story I entered for a monthly online flash fiction competition and it was the winning entry! The parameters were that the story needed to be under 715 words, the genre was Fantasy and the theme was "Heroes".

Here is The Healing Touch:

People were dying. Corpses of the young, old, and in between filled the streets. The stench was overwhelming, the swarms of flies even worse. The Bubonic Plague or the Black Death is what this horror had been named. These were dark days indeed.

Alesya had the power to slow the disease and to heal the sick, but she dared not to. Her mother possessed the same curse and ignited a wave of hysteria after displaying her abilities. Alesya was just five years old when she was forced to watch her mother die at the hands of the village leaders. Years later, the smell of burnt flesh still haunted her. Orphaned and fearing the same fate, she had hidden on the outskirts of the community and stayed there. Only at night did she venture in and scavenge for scraps of food or seek temporary refuge in the church.

Despite her harsh environment; her teeth didn’t rot, her skin remained clear of pockmarks, she never fell ill and she flourished into a beauty that rivaled any of the other young women in her village. Still no one wanted to have anything to do with her. She received glances brimming with suspicion and fear whenever she crossed anyone’s path.

Once the plague hit, the villagers had something new to fear. They forgot about Alesya and didn’t even notice when she started venturing into the village during the day. She was drawn to the sickness. Every cell in her body itched, practically vibrated, with the need to heal. Yet she fought it. These people didn’t deserve it. Plus, her mother’s death served as a warning of what would happen to her if she did try.

It was mid-day when Alesya made her way through the center of town. The usual bustling marketplace was empty. The heavy, wooden vendor carts were overturned; abandoned. Dead bodies lay in the street decomposing into the dirt. A man stumbled past her unseeing, his eyes clouded with disease. Alesya covered her nose and mouth with her hand, but nothing could mask the odor. Death had settled in and was here to stay.

She walked up the stone steps to the church, surprised to find the doors open. The pews were empty; a fine layer of dust muted the usual luster of the black walnut. Along with life, the plague claimed faith.

Alesya took a step towards the aisle when a low moaning caught her attention. She turned in the doorway towards the noise. The itching in her body manifested in her palms and grew stronger, pulsing out to her fingertips, as she took in the scene below.

A young girl and her mother had collapsed at the base of the steps. The daughter struggled to pull her mother to her feet, but didn’t have the strength. The mother, the source of the moaning, lay on her side. The skirt of her dress had bunched up around her knees, revealing grayish skin mangled with bruises and sores. The woman’s breathing was labored and wet, like she was drowning in mucus.

"Please help my mother,” the little girl pleaded, reminding Alesya of how she had tried to save her own mother’s life.

She descended the steps, knelt down on the cool stone and took both of the mother’s hands in hers. The itching in her palms stopped the moment they made contact. She closed her eyes and let her body take over.

As if traveling inside the dying woman, she saw the cells under attack, the organs bloated and toxic. One by one she drew the sickness out. Alesya’s body, a vessel immune to the plague, absorbed everything.

When only healthy pink tissue remained she opened her eyes. The mother, her breathing restored to normal, stared at her.

Alesya hung her head, waiting for the accusation. She took a risk saving this woman.

“It’s a miracle. Are you an angel?”

“No. I’m just a girl.”


The legend still exists to this day - when an angel in the guise of a young woman, with skin as white as ivory and possessing unearthly beauty, descended from the church and delivered the land from the grips of Death himself.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My First Public Reading - Update

So, I survived my first public reading with only a couple of minor mishaps. Well, one minor, the other a little bit more traumatizing. Everything went according to plan; I put together the excerpts I wanted to read, edited them after reading the pages out loud and had one of my good friends read them over too. The day of the reading I printed out the pages and this is where I made a mistake...I didn't clip or staple them together (insert foreshadowing here).

The rest of the day consisted of a lovely late afternoon lunch (seafood chowder), some shopping with one of my best friends from high school who came up for vacation, and a beer at my brother's bar. This took my mind off of the nervousness which was slowly building as the time for my reading grew closer. My friend, Shannon, and I left my brother's bar to head home, meet the hubs, and pick up my pages. I grabbed them off the table and made my second mistake...I didn't check to make sure I had them all.

The reading was held at a small bar in Portland called Mama's Crowbar. The room filled up quickly and I was pleased that so many friends and family had gathered to support me.

One of the authors was sick, so there were just three of us and I was to go last. This was good because I had time to see what the other authors did. During the other readings I sipped on a beer to take the edge off. By the time it was my turn, I was relatively relaxed and confident in my reading abilities.

I only tripped over a few words and it was great when people reacted to something I said. Then the cell phone started ringing. It was one of those awkward moments where if I were in the audience, I'd hate whoever was responsible for not only distracting me, but the performer. Here, I was the performer and I tried to press on, but I could see people looking around the room. Being that I had the microphone, I took control of the situation. "Sorry," I said in a voie louder than my usual. "So, yeah, that's my phone." (This would be the minor mishap referenced at the beginning.) I was the asshole who didn't turn off my phone and ironically it rang during my reading. Fortunately people laughed. If at me, I deserved it.

My favorite excerpt was saved for last and it was just getting to the really juicy part when I turned the page and was back on page one. Yup, I left the last two pages at home on the kitchen table. What could I do, but admit my mistake and shrug my shoulders. People wanted to know what happened next, I left them hanging and the organizer of the event said I write suspense for a reason.

Anyway, I didn't get booed and I made some new friends so overall, it was a good night. Next time I do a reading (oh yes, there will be a next time), I will make sure to turn off my cell phone and staple the damn pages together!

Here are some pictures and a recap of the Scratchpad Reading Series