Tuesday, November 9, 2010
This past Friday I traveled to Perkasie, PA for a girls weekend with several of my close friends from college.
Most of us met in the dorms our freshman year where we were all experiencing our first taste of freedom and independence. As we decided our majors and looked towards graduation, we started the transformation from teenagers to the adults we are today, and somewhere along the way the lifelong bond of sisterhood was formed. One by one we ventured out into the real world as strong, confident and well adjusted women. Some of us journeyed across the country, or to pig farms in Arkansas, but eventually we all ventured into the bonds of holy matrimony.
Time between visits or phone calls grew farther apart as we got caught up in the building of our lives. The annual Christmas photocard often became the only update and I looked forward to the images of growing children and families. Close to ten years had passed before we saw each other as a group again. It was April 2007 and we gathered to attend a dear friends funeral. None of us were prepared to lose Dottie. Her passing resonated deep within us and with her loss came perspective; we needed to honor Dottie's memory, and the love she so generously gave us, by staying more connected with one another.
A date was set for the girls weekend; no husbands and no kids, just the girls. Days were counted down with anticipation until finally the weekend arrived. We ate, drank, laughed and fell back into our old comfortable companionship that years apart hadn't changed. Not every one could join us, but as photo albums were brought out and memories reenacted, it felt like we were all there...even Dottie.
We talked about our marriages, children, and shared revelations about current or past hardships in our lives. Knowing that we weren't alone in life's grand adventure brought a sense of relief. Sometimes we get caught up in our own struggles and lose sight of the support system out there. A support system that has been in place since 1992. This weekend served as a reminder that we are still the same smart, strong and confident women...just a little older.
The time we spent together was brief, but it reinforced how important it is to spend time together. Not just on Facebook or via text message, but honest to goodness "sit next to each other and laugh until a drink shoots out your nose" time.
I miss my girls already and can't wait until next year, for we all agreed to make girls weekend an annual event.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
I was talking about Halloween with my co-worker last week and learned she hates the holiday. I found this hard to believe because I'm Halloween's #1 fan. Who hates a holiday where there's free candy, you're able to scare people and not worry about getting sued and have the opportunity to dress up and pretend to be someone (or something) else? So, I asked her why she hated Halloween. One of the reasons she gave is that it's the one day out of the year where people try to dress as slutty as possible. I could see her point, some people do confuse Halloween with the Pimp n' Ho's Ball.
Today, I sat down and surfed the good ol' Intrawebs for some costume ideas. I have a closet full of bridesmaids dresses which I know I can recycle into something good. I googled "Halloween Costume Ideas" and clicked on images. My search resulted in pictures which could be used as covers for porn DVD's. I had to laugh because these very images validated my co-worker's complaint.
Halloween has been celebrated for centuries, has it always been used as an excuse to dress a little naughty or risque? I don't think so. Most depictions of witches are of the wart covered, hooked nose, hag variety. Monsters, zombies and other unsavory characters from slasher films dominate my recollection of the true spirit of Halloween. Although someone in a poorly fitted corset and fishnets can be pretty frightening, it's not on the same level as say the Headless Horseman, Norman Bates or Jason Voorhees.
This also makes me wonder, what do kids think? Do eight year old girls look at their Snow White costumes and compare it to their mother's "Ho White" get-up and want the latter?
Halloween has been divided into two very separate holidays celebrated differently depending on your age bracket and I think that needs to change. Why can't it be a horror, ghoul fest where adults and kids alike rejoice in the idea of trying to spook one another, without going to far of course (for any serial killers following my blog, this means you)?
This year I will wear a modest costume and I will make sure it leaves at least one person just a little bit afraid.
Friday, October 15, 2010
1) Life - I thought having the kid back to school would make life less hectic. Not the case for this SUV driving Football Mom!
2) Writing - I've been on a roll with my MS and didn't dare get off course...even with a blog post.
3) I joined a new blog called The Short Story Collective where I and other writers post short stories. I'm the Friday author. Check it out and please follow us http://thesscollective.blogspot.com/ A big shout out to Chris Brett for having the initiative to launch The Short Story Collective. I believe Chris is looking for a couple more authors to contribute...
I hope all of you have been experiencing a creative Fall thus far!
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Yet another summer is drawing to a close and like the last, I am left wondering, “Where did it go?” As a child, the summer stretched out if front of me - months full of days spent outside without a care in the world. Looking back, I like to think that I appreciated them. Had I the foresight to know how little time I have now for play, I would have embraced them more fully.
I grew up in Haddonfield, New Jersey; a Stepford-like town where the wide streets are still lined with lush, green trees which provide ample shade. Dots of sunlight break through and dance across the asphalt when a breeze stirs the branches. With a population of a little over twelve thousand, the town was small enough to walk around without parental supervision. In the late seventies and eighties, we didn’t have Amber Alerts, we didn’t wear helmets when we rode our bikes and it was okay for other adults in the neighborhood to discipline us if we were up to no good.
My summers were carefree. Usually a couple weeks were spent at camp in Hope, Maine, but the rest was full of adventure. From the moment the sun rose until the lightening bugs lit up the night sky by the thousands, I was outside.
I grew up on Mountwell Avenue where there were tons of kids all in various age groups. Somewhere along the way we were dubbed the “Mountwell Gang”, but we were far from gangsters. I think we earned the title because we always did stuff together. We played games like Kick the Can, Jailbreak and Capture the Flag. Occasionally we hung out on the second floor of my neighbor’s garage. We didn’t mind the stuffiness, the dust and cobwebs or the heat. Here secrets were told or dares were made. We all looked forward to sitting in the wrecked Corvette Stingray parked one level below. The once gold paint faded to a dull bronze.
My dad’s garden and fruit trees provided ample sustenance, as did the honeysuckle which grew along the fence by the train tracks. I would roam around barefoot and come home with feet stained reddish purple from trampling around on fallen mulberries. No matter how much I scrubbed my feet, they were discolored for days. Occasionally I received an invite to go to the pool club. My parent’s never paid for a membership, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped on it. After the chlorine became too much, my friends and I would drip dry as we walked to the corner store where we bought Swedish Fish and Jawbreakers for a penny each.
As we got older my friends and I found jobs around town. The days were absorbed, but our curfews were later and nights were spent roaming around the hang out spots, spending money on Big Gulps and cigarettes (sometimes cheap beer or Boone's Farm wine), and sneaking kisses with the romantic interest of the summer.
One of my friend’s parents had a house at the shore and we would drive down there, a caravan of three to four cars. At the shore, we attended parties on the beach among the sand dunes and around raging bonfires. The heat of the day would cool off along the ocean, our sunburned skin left us feverish with chills and we welcomed the warmth of the flames.
Earlier this summer I traveled to Philadelphia where two of my best friends from high school and I gathered for a reunion. One day we took NJ Transit over the bridge to our hometown. Stepping off the train was like stepping back in time. Nothing had changed; the air was still swollen with humidity and cicadas hummed above in the tree tops.
We walked down the main street, past all the shops and offices we recalled from our childhood. It had been eighteen years since we last tread the uneven brick sidewalks, which bulge from roots growing underneath. I waited for a car to drive by and honk, its occupants hollering and waving in recognition. We laughed and reminisced. Once again we were on summer vacation and we only thought about the day ahead, not the next. Even sweat dripping down and collecting in the small of our backs didn’t bother us. We had some money in our pockets and our cares about the real world were temporarily forgotten.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Today we received confirmation our kitty, Rocky, had been hit by a car and killed on Saturday. The last time we saw him was on Wednesday, August 11th. He had just caught something ( a bird or mouse or squirrel...you never knew with Rocky) and he was on the front lawn meowing at us about his catch. We praised him through the open windows and went back to watching Man Vs. Food. That was the last time we saw him.
He didn't come in that night, which isn't unusual, but he didn't come in by the next night and I started to worry. On Friday, after walking the neighborhood and talking to neighbors without any success, I called the local animal shelter and filed a report. On Saturday afternoon I put up fliers in the area.
Saturday evening the phone rang and my husband answered. A woman claimed to have seen a cat, which looked like ours, get hit by a car on the major road a block over from our street. She and her husband stayed with the person who hit the cat until the animal control officer showed up. She gave us the officers name and was choked up. My husband called that night, but the officer was off duty until Tuesday. We still hoped the cat wasn't Rocky, but didn't find out until today that it was him.
The animal control officer returned our call and described the cat she collected. Orange tiger, big, white chest and double paws. She described our Rocky.
Our family is sad tonight and grieving over our loss. Pets become a part of the family and Rocky truly was a Fechenda. He and our dog, Bullwinkle, had a bromance like no other. Poor Bullwinkle's appetite has been off since Rocky went missing. Snowball, our other kitty, has taken up a vigil by the front door. Soon they will realize he's not coming home.
I take solace in knowing he was killed instantly from the impact of the vehicle. Also, we gave him a loving home and he reciprocated the love. I never knew a cat to drool, and Rocky did, much more than the dog. He left drool stains on the furniture. He was chatty too and would come into the house at the end of the day telling us about his adventures. What I will miss the most about Rocky is his snuggling. He would hug my neck, rub his head against my chin and purr. At night he draped himself across my pillow behind my head. His little motor would help me sleep.
Rocky may have only been on this planet for three years, but they were well lived. May he rest in peace.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
A little over a year ago I finally got the courage when I joined a writer's group. I knew the group organizer as we had worked together and we encouraged each other to put our stuff out there. My pages were well received, the group members liked what I had written and offered feedback and suggestions. Not in a "I will destroy your soul" kind of way like my professor, but as fellow writers whose confidence was just as fragile.
Now, a year later, three core members are still active in the group and we have all noticed an improvement in our writing. Getting feedback from an audience actually helps me with sticky scenes or character flaws. We have become comfortable with each other to be more critical, but only to push ourselves. We can take it. Within this year I had a short story published and started sharing my writing with family members. My mom, who I feared would be my worst critic, believes I am capable of making a career out of being a writer and is willing to pay for conferences. She considers it an investment. That was a surprise and a relief!
If you are serious about writing, one of the first steps you should take is to find a writer's group. It might take a few visits to groups to find the right one, but it is definitely worth the effort. I found my group on the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance forum. Check with your regional or state writers association or other resources (Craig's List for example) to see if there are groups meeting in your area.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Since my blog is titled EJ's Rants and Ramblings, I thought I'd sound off on the very public rants of Mel Gibson. Since every media outlet from Time Magazine to E.T. are weighing in, I didn't want to be left out.
Poor Mel, that's right I said Poor Mel, is getting chewed up in the media frenzy and I think it's unfair. First of all when people fight, especially ex-lovers, they can say mean and nasty things to one another. Usually these arguments are in private as these alleged arguments were. They were private until Oksana leaked them to the media. In the latest tape Mel accuses Oksana of being a golddigger and I think he's right. She probably did sign a paper where she gets none of his earnings so now she has to peddle these edited tapes for a paycheck.
Mel Gibson's ex-wife is coming forward to support him and still his sanity is being called into question. Who was Oksana before she met Mel? Exactly. Who better than an ex-lover to know what buttons to push to incite anger in a man, which is exactly what this golddigger is doing.
I hope that Mel gets through this latest scandal. He is a talented actor and director. Is he flawed? Yes, because he is human. We all are flawed in one way or another.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
As you know, I'm not an active blogger. Since I've been traveling a lot over the past few weeks (for work and for pleasure), I have been super neglectful. So neglectful in fact, I didn't realize until now that my writer friend (and rebel), Olivia Herrell, honored me with The Versatile Blogger Award.
What is this, you ask? It's a great way to boost someone's spirit and acknowledge the work they are doing. It is also a way for you to get to know a little bit more about me. Here are the rules (which I don't think are too difficult to follow):
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award. (*waves to Olivia*)
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who think you are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.
I am a technotard at blogging still, so might not link to blogs correctly. My apologies in advance...
Now onto to step #2 - Seven things about myself:
1) I was born at home.
2) I'm a cancer survivor.
3) I've lived in Philadelphia, Phoenix and now Portland.
4) If desperate enough, I would exchange a kidney for a Whoopie Pie (jk, but I do loves me a Whoopie Pie)!
5) My favorite book of all time is Little Women. Louisa May Alcott and her MC, Jo March, planted the writer seed before I even knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
6) I love being a stepmom.
7) My first concert was Def Leppard and my dad chaperoned. He rocks!
Now on to step #3...here are 15 bloggers who are definitely worth mentioning and following. There have been many slow days at the office where their entries warded off certain death by boredom.
1) Charity Bradford, My Writing Journey
2) Natalie Murphy, The Sound of Rain
3) Roland D. Yeomans, Writing In The Crosshairs
4) Rhonda Cowsert, Snarktastic Ramblings
5) VR Barkowski
6) Eric W. Trant, Digging With the Worms
7) Mia Hayson, Literary Jam and Toast
8) Betty Blue, 37.2 Degrees in the Morning
9) Kelly R. Morgan, Distracted by the Internet
10) Courtney Reese at Critique This WIP
11) Loretta8, Mega-Toad Productions presents...
12) JA Souders, Angels and Demons and Portals. Oh My!
13) Anne Riley
14) Donna Hole
15) Eisley Jacobs, Eisley's Ellipses
Whew, this took longer than I thought, but was worth it! Receiving the award lifted my spirits and I hope to pay it forward.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
My blog has very few followers so a loss of just one is noticeable. Now I'm left to wonder...was it something I said? Maybe I'm not posting enough? Are my blog posts not useful or entertaining? Maybe my posts are just so horrible that this person felt dumber for reading one? Who knows, but an explanation would have been nice.
I'm new at this whole blogging thang and any feedback or criticism is welcome. Since I'm an aspiring writer I don't feel I'm in the right position to offer advice to other writers. Occasionally I'll rant about a topic unrelated to writing, but mostly I use the blog to post scenes from WIP's as a way to receive input from readers outside of my critique group.
For those followers that have been blogging a lot longer than me, any insight you can offer will be greatly appreciated. To my followers, thank you for sticking with me! :)
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Here are the first few (still to be edited) paragraphs:
I hover above, watching my masterpiece unfold. Flashing lights from two dozen or so emergency vehicles cover the town square in a frenetic blue and red pattern. News reporters crowd around the front of the school, lying in wait for a glimpse of the macabre. Stretcher upon stretcher are wheeled out, full black body bags their cargo. The massacre occurred as school was letting out for the day. Now it’s close to midnight and the mess is far from being cleaned up.
Grief, anger, guilt and blame build in the air and swirl around me. I breathe it all in.
As the night wears on, the crowd dissipates. I grow tired of watching. My work here is done. Another town on the horizon is begging for disaster.
In my free form I’m a mist. If people catch a glimpse of me it’s fleeting; a shadow or dark cloud passing over the sun. I can still move objects in my natural state, cause goose bumps to ripple across skin, but when I find a body to manipulate, that’s when the fun really begins.
Humans make perfect puppets. They’re so malleable, emotional and weak.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Soon I relaxed enough and began to doze in the tub. Sleep might come tonight after all, I thought as I dried off. I crawled into the king sized bed, which seemed enormous and empty without Dominic and fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.
The dream started out nice. I was swimming in the ocean, the sun high above and reflecting bright white off of the sand. I floated weightless in the water and bobbed with the gentle lapping waves. Dominic and Grant were on the shore waving at me. I waved back and dove under the surface. When I came up for air the atmosphere had changed. Dark, stormy clouds boiled in the sky and the water had become choppy. Alarmed I looked for Dominic and Grant on the beach. They were gone. Something bumped into my back and moved away then collided with me again. I spun around and screamed. A body floating face down in the sea moved with the surf. Panic set in and I started to swim toward the shoreline. When I turned, a different body blocked my path. Then I noticed the water was blood red and corpses floated on the top of the ocean, in every direction as far as I could see. I opened my mouth to scream again and nothing happened, the air around me was void of sound, muted.
I woke in a cold sweat and with a pounding heart. I reflexively reached for Dominic, but he was gone. Disoriented, I panicked, still caught between my nightmare and reality. Finally the surroundings of our bedroom became familiar and I remembered where Dominic was. My head ached and I had cottonmouth, the beginning of a hangover starting to set in. I rolled over and stared at the closed bedroom door. I wanted the comfort of my mom. On her good days she would make the nightmares disappear so I could fall back asleep. This time I couldn’t tell her the source of my terrors. The boogieman wasn’t in my closet and there wasn’t a monster under the bed, the horrors in my dreams were real.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Seeing my name in the table of contents and seeing my story laid out with all the fancy font treatments on the pages of the magazine was and still is such a thrill. This acceptance is a stepping stone to greater things. I love writing and maybe, just maybe, writing loves me too.
Friday, May 7, 2010
“Hi beautiful!” Dominic called to me. I made my way over to his bar and he met me halfway. “I missed you.” He hugged me and we kissed before he stepped back and reached into his pocket.
“I got you something to make up for last night.” He pulled out a small present, wrapped in silver paper and handed it to me.
“What did you get?”
“Open it and find out.” His eyes sparkled.
I ripped the wrapping paper off before he even finished. I opened the cream colored box and gasped. Inside a diamond solitaire stud gleamed on a cushion of white satin.
“Dominic! You shouldn’t have!”
“It’s a navel ring.”
“Is it a real diamond?”
“Of course it is, nothing but the best for my girl.”
“Thank you.” I fell against him, wrapping my arms around his waist. His lips grazed the top of my head.
I squeezed him once more before I reached for his hand and pulled him with me into a dark alcove.
“What are you doing?”
I lifted up my shirt to reveal the silver bar in my bellybutton. “Do you want to put it on?”
Dominic’s Adam’s Apple bobbed when he swallowed hard. Licking his lips, he knelt down in front of me. His fingers brushed against my stomach, tickling me and causing me to giggle.
“Hold still.” Dominic said, grabbing my hips.
Biting my lip, I kept the laughter in check while he finished. Suddenly I felt his hands move up underneath my skirt. Cupping my ass, he pulled me towards him covering my belly with soft kisses. Groaning, he released me and stood up.
“You have no idea what you do to me woman, that was the sexiest thing ever.”
“Looks good,” I said, studying my new naval ring.
“Looks better than good, I’m going to cover you in diamonds.”
“Dom, no, I’m not worth it.” His eyes grew dark when I said this, resembling Tony’s glare. Shocked, I took a step back.
“Yes you are, every diamond in the world doesn’t add up to your worth.” His eyes softened and he pulled me into his chest. Tears welled up and breathing in the spice of his cologne helped calm the swell of emotion, allowing me to savor the moment.
“Ew. Get a room!” A voice said from behind us. I jerked my head up and saw Brittany. Her normally pretty face was twisted into a sneer.
“Fuck off Brit,” Dominic said. She shot him an evil look before stalking off towards the employee lounge.
“What is her problem?”
“She’s used to getting what she wants. God help the world if she doesn’t. You know what? Keep your stuff in Miranda’s office. You don’t have to use the lounge anymore.”
“Dom, I can handle Brittany. She’ll just have to learn how to deal. I’m not afraid of her.” I wasn’t the tallest of girls and still towered over Brittany. What was the tiny blonde going to do anyway?
“Just watch your back.”
“Yes, dear.” I gave him a quick kiss and left to get ready for work.
Brittany glared at me when I entered the lounge. The heavy, dark liner around her startling blue eyes made her look meaner. Ignoring her, I went to an open locker to hang up my jacket and purse.
“What did you say?” I asked, whipping around to face her.
“You heard me. I called you a slut.”
“You’re just jealous.” I slammed the locker door shut.
“It’s so obvious what you’re doing. Throwing yourself at the owner’s nephew,” she spat.
“Brittany, you’re being fucking ridiculous. Dominic doesn’t want you. Get over it!”
“He’s just using you.”
I closed my eyes, willing her to go away. Rubbing my belly I felt the navel ring and smiled.
“Let me ask you something Brittany?” I said in the sweetest voice I could muster. “Did Dominic ever give you diamonds or did he just fuck you in the back seat like a cheap whore?”
I thought I saw her blanch before she charged at me, squealing like a pig in heat. “YOU BITCH!”
Joey D. stepped into the lounge to see Brittany barreling towards me. His eyes widened and he ran after her. Just before Brittany could take a swipe at me, he yanked her back. She struggled against him, kicking and screaming. Poor Joey looked like he was wrestling an alligator. The veins on his muscular arms bulged and the chords on his thick neck stood out.
Everyone heard the commotion and came pouring in to the lounge. Dominic ran in and stood beside me. His arm wrapped protectively around my waist, setting Brittany off even more.
“What makes her so special Dominic?” Brittany yelled. Her face almost matched her red lipstick.
“Brittany, you need to stop.” Dominic turned us to leave, but the doorway was blocked. Grant and Miranda had arrived. They rushed over to me.
“Oh, I get it you’re all one big happy fucking family now!” Brittany’s rage hadn’t ebbed and Joey was still struggling to contain her. “She’s not one of us. I don’t even know why that bitch works here!”
Those words stung as if Brittany had physically slapped me. I wasn’t a Crimson girl and I hadn’t really felt like I had fit in since my first day.
“Shut up!” Grant bellowed. “Joey, get her out of here.”
“Go home Brittany. You’re not working tonight,” Miranda said. The crowd parted and let Joey through.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
He sat on the edge of an old, bare mattress decorated with a pattern that may have been popular twenty years earlier. It might as well have been a throne the way he sat there with authority, his back straight and shoulders squared. He didn’t say anything to me, just patted the empty space next to him, inviting me to sit. I stayed rooted to the floor and didn’t budge. He smiled at my defiance. Then he stood up and walked over until he was right in my face. I held my breath and turned my head away so I wouldn’t have to inhale his noxious odor. Grabbing my chin, he dug his fingers in and forced me to look at him. I glared back. He smiled, briefly, before kissing me. He pried my lips apart and invaded with his tongue. He might as well have shoved an ashtray in my mouth. I started to gag, bile rising in my throat. I placed my hands on his chest and tried to push him away. His arousal grew the more I struggled and he made sure to press against me as I protested. I lifted my knee up and hit him square in the balls. Instead of dropping into a fetal position, which is what I expected, he backhanded me again and I felt my lip split open. The pain was sudden and surprising, but I would take that over his ashtray lips on mine.
He shoved me against the door, my skull cracked hard on the wood. Dazed I shook my head to clear my vision. Mr. Genovese used his body weight to subdue me and attempted to rip my skirt off. His bare shoulder leaned in towards me so I bit, sinking my teeth into the flesh as deep and as hard as I could. He howled in what I thought was pain, but when he looked at me I saw a tobacco stained grin and anticipation in his eyes.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
As I sat at the bar, zoning out, it dawned on me. I was beginning to like Dominic in more ways than just lust. Not good. Maybe he was right in distancing himself. I chugged my drink and stood up.
“Well, good night,” I said, hoping he couldn’t hear the panic in my voice. I walked up to the employee lounge to get my things. Brittany was getting ready to leave too.
“Hey Natalie! A bunch of us are going over to Blue, wanna come with?”
“Yes!” I jumped at the opportunity, grateful for the distraction.
We passed Grant on the way out and he seemed relieved that I would be hanging out with a bunch of girls. “Be careful,” he advised. “Call me if you need anything.” I rolled my eyes, but knew he would be the first to call if things got out of hand.
A huge line of people stood outside Blue. Many swayed in place and probably should have been home sleeping the booze off and not waiting to get into another club. I recognized several customers from Crimson as I walked past the line. I thought cutting in front seemed rude, but followed Brittany’s lead and we were ushered inside by the bouncer at the door.
Blue was bursting with people and steaming hot; the air heavy with perspiration and the stench of stale booze. We checked our coats at the coat check and filtered through the crowd to the bar. Once I had my drink, I spun around to people-watch and instead came face to chest with Dominic. Gin and tonic splashed all over my shirt.
“Shit!” I gasped as an ice cube dropped down the front and became lodged in my bra. I reached down to fish it out. Dominic seemed amused at the sight.
“I would have gotten that out for you,” he teased.
“So you’re talking to me now?” I countered. The smile vanished from his face.
“Er, yeah. Sorry about earlier. Your bro didn’t like us getting so friendly in the back of Miranda’s car last night.”
“That’s Grant for you.”
“I can’t say I blame him. I’d probably do the same if my little sister started to get involved with someone like me.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing, he’s being a big brother. I get it.” He leaned over to order a drink sandwiching me between him and the bar. His closeness made my stomach flip. I shook my head slightly in an attempt to focus. Don’t do it Nat. Don’t start liking this guy, I warned myself. The counter dug into the small of my back so I shifted. This resulted in being pressed closer to Dominic. He looked me up and down. “I owe you a drink, don’t I?” He asked his voice soft and husky.
“Um, I guess so?” Minutes passed while we waited for the bartender to return with our drinks. Dominic kept me pinned.
“So what’s your story, Natalie?”
“Nothing terribly interesting, I’m afraid. I go to the University of the Arts and I’m graduating in May.”
“What are you studying?”
“My major is sculpture and my minor is painting. What about you, do you go to college?”
“I took a couple semesters, but college didn’t appeal to me. Besides, I’m going into the family business anyway.”
“What business is that?”
The bartender arrived and I never got an answer to the question. Dominic kept me pinned beneath him and he leaned down.
“I wanted to do this last night,” he whispered in my ear. I closed my eyes, anticipating his next move. Sure enough his lips found mine and he pulled me closer to him. I grabbed his bicep, which was flexed from holding me so close. This kiss was like nothing I had ever experienced. Not wet, not sloppy, it was…incredible. I stopped holding back and fell into the moment. The loud club ceased to exist. When we pulled apart I had to catch my breath. My insides were begging and pleading for more. I could very easily have taken Dominic back to my apartment, slept with him and then be done. I was about ready to propose this, but stopped myself as another realization hit me.
I wanted more than a one night fling.
We moved in at the same time for another kiss. Our lips had barely touched when Brittany emerged from the crowd, pulling me away from Dominic and onto the dance floor.
“Brittany, I was kind of in the middle of something back there,” I yelled over the music.
“Really?” She seemed oblivious, but I had a feeling she knew exactly what she was doing. I looked back towards the bar, but Dominic was gone. Damn.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
The ride was quiet. Dom’s dark eyebrows creased together forming a pensive expression. There was something on his mind that much I could tell. My repeated attempts to find out didn’t yield anything, sending my imagination into overdrive. Dominic navigated his Mustang down the dimly lit street. By the time he parked in front of the now familiar condemned building I was convinced he was going to break up with me. Once inside he placed his hand on the small of my back and guided me to the same small table where we always sat. Dominic went up to the bar and ordered drinks. He came back with a bottle of Dom Perignon and two champagne flutes. His face was brighter and the smile he flashed, reached his eyes.
“What the hell?”
“We’re celebrating.” He said as he popped the cork and poured the bubbly. He held up his flute to toast. “To us!” He clinked his glass against mine and we sipped. After a couple of glasses I was feeling the buzz. We were both laughing uncontrollably at anything. I rested my head on his shoulder to catch my breath.
Suddenly a commotion broke out in the back room. A bunch of men were yelling and the doorman, Sam, took off down the hall. Gunshots exploded and I hit the floor. Dominic hunched over me protectively. Our champagne bottle was on the floor having been knocked over when I bumped against the table. Several other patrons were crouched down in similar positions. Dominic made sure I was okay and then stood up.
“Where are you going?” I hissed, alarmed.
“To see what happened.”
“Are you crazy? You’re going to get shot!”
“Relax Nat. Everything’s fine.” He spun around and left the room.
I stood up slowly, on shaky legs to follow him. Acrid gun smoke clouded the air, tickling my throat. I peeked around the doorway and down the hall. My eyes saw the blood first. A pool crept outwards from a man lying on his back, motionless on the floor. The force of the bullet had knocked him backwards in his chair when it entered his head. What was left of his skull was the source of the pool of blood. I couldn’t look away. The slow creep hypnotized me. I could identify bits of bone; stark white islands in a red sea. Chunks of brain matter settled in the pool like gelatinous mounds. The dead man’s right arm was flung up over his head, damming the flow, which had already started to coagulate and collect in the grooves of the wooden floorboards. A gun lay a few inches from his open hand.
I wasn’t aware of the sets of eyes staring at me. The sound of my brother speaking broke my fixation, “What is she doing here?” There was an accusatory tone to his voice.
I looked up from the body and into the back room. Grant was standing on the other side of the table flanked by Dominic and Sam. All three were looking at me. Sam’s expression was of wariness, Dominic’s concern and Grant’s anger. I quickly broke eye contact and wished that I hadn’t. Two other men were lying face down on the table in smaller pools of blood. My eyes moved to Grant again, he was the only one holding a gun.
The vodka tonics and champagne I had earlier burned up the back of my throat forcing me to bend over and vomit onto the floor of the hallway. Dizzy, I reached one hand out against the wall for support. I wiped my mouth with the back of my other hand and stared at a spot on the floor that wasn’t covered in vomit or blood or brains. My heart thundered in my ears and I tried to slow my breathing. I needed to sit but was unable to move at first. Slowly, I slid down the wall and hugged my knees to my chest. I didn’t care that my skirt hiked up to reveal my thong. That really seemed inconsequential at the moment. I closed my eyes and willed myself to get a grip. The smell of the death and my barf wasn’t helping to clear my head, but I was eventually able to calm down and became vaguely aware of people talking in the bar area behind me. No one else had gotten up to investigate.
“Hey Uncle Al,” Dominic called down the hall, “Can you help Natalie for me?”
Dominic was trapped on the other side of the body and the lake of blood and couldn’t get to me. A tall, wiry man with salt and pepper hair and a goatee appeared at my side and helped me up. He wrapped his arm around my back in a fatherly gesture and helped me across to the bar. My legs were still shaking and I welcomed the bar stool. The bartender set a glass of ice water in front of me and I gingerly took a sip, grateful to wash down some of the bile residue. Uncle Al sat down next to me.
“How you doin’?” He asked.
“I…I don’t know how to answer that.” I honestly didn’t. I was scared sick, horrified at the gruesome scene I had just witnessed and in shock that my brother was responsible for the carnage. I was even more unnerved that everyone else was so calm. It was like nothing had ever happened. “I need something stronger than water.”
The bartender set a glass of cognac in front of me. I took a healthy swig and braced myself for it to come back up. Fortunately, it soothed my stomach instead and the warmth spread out through my muscles; acting as an anesthetic for my nerves.
“There. Feel better?” Uncle Al patted my hand. He must have seen me relax. I turned to look at him and saw the same green eyes as Dominic and Miranda, only lined with crow’s feet. His skin had an olive complexion, like Dominic.
“I do. Thank you.”
“You just sit here. That mess will be cleaned up in no time.” My hands started shaking again and I quickly took another sip. “I’m Dominic’s Uncle, Al Grabano.” He shook my trembling hand.
“I’m Natalie Ross.” It seemed to be an odd time for introductions. He was looking at my profile and I could feel him evaluating my behavior. Now that the initial shock had worn off and the booze had started to kick in I thought I was ready to process the situation, a little bit at a time. “What happened?” I asked, hesitantly.
“I think we better wait for Grant and Dominic to answer your questions.” We sat in silence. The smell of bleach wafted into the room and soon filled it up completely. Scrubbing sounds drifted down the hall and a door slammed a couple of times. The other men in the room carried on their conversations over drinks, oblivious to the activities around them. After the second glass of cognac my stomach burned a little and my eyelids grew heavy. I rested my head against my hand and dozed off.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
My story, The Last Storm, was selected as the winning story for the March competition. I received the email first thing this morning notifying me of my win. Needless to say, I've been stoked all day. This notification came during a period of self doubt and provides the affirmation I need to keep on keepin' on.
The topic was "snow", it could be any genre and had to be 715 words or less. Here's the story:
The Last Storm
By EJ Fechenda
A loud commercial on TV woke me up. I had been watching the local news for updates on the supposed “Storm of the Century” that was barreling its way north. I yawned and creaked out of the recliner. The weatherman always blew storms out of proportion and I knew this one wouldn’t be any different. So after switching off the TV, adding more wood to woodstove for the night, I shuffled down the hall to my bedroom.
Frank had died over five years ago, but I refused to take over the whole bed and stayed on my side as if he were still slumbering next to me. Despite the howling wind and branches scraping against the side of the house, I fell asleep.
A creaking noise coming from the attic woke me in the wee hours of the morning. I went to switch on the bedside lamp, but the power was out and the generator hadn’t started. I sighed and could see my breath in the dim light. I put on my glasses before retrieving the flashlight out of the table drawer.
The hem of my flannel nightgown brushed the tops of my slippers, trapping warmth against my bare legs. I made my way through the house, the creaking noise growing louder as I reached the kitchen. I pointed the flashlight up and noticed a crack had formed. Part of the ceiling was on the verge of collapse. Alarmed, I backed out of the room, unable to take my eyes off of the damage.
With the power out, the heat hadn’t kicked on after the fire in the woodstove had burnt out. I opened the back door to get more firewood off of the small porch and faced a wall of white. The entire doorframe was packed with snow. I had never seen so much. A small avalanche tumbled into the house, covering my slippers. Snow slipped down the sides, freezing my already cold feet.
Cursing under my breath I stomped and shook the icy powder loose before walking back to the bedroom. I changed into pants, a turtleneck and a thick Irish cable knit sweater that used to belong to Frank. With my feet encased in warm wool socks, I slipped on boots and prepared to walk onto the porch.
Initially, I thought the wall was caused by drifting and the accumulation wouldn’t be that deep beyond the door. I was partially right. Yes, drifting had caused the excess amount, but at least four feet of fresh snow had fallen overnight, which explained the roof caving in. The firewood was buried and wet and in order to get to the shed that housed the generator, I would have to make my way the length of half a football field through chest high snow. My old body balked at the challenge.
With the phones out, the house growing colder by the minute and the generator closer than any neighbor, I decided to give it a try. I spent a good ten minutes feeling around for the shovel usually propped against the side of the house, but couldn’t find it. Assuming the wind had blown it out of reach, I went without. After twenty feet I was winded, sweaty and…had to pee.
“Well, crap!” I muttered to myself and debated going back to the house. No one was around and the snow provided privacy, so I pulled up my parka, dropped my drawers and squatted.
I didn’t plan on falling. I landed hard and felt my hip shatter. Pain ripped through my body and I tried to get up, but the agony was too immense. I lay on the ground and tried to calm down. Never had I missed Frank more. He always handled the woodpile and the generator. I tried to crawl, but each movement made me quiver with pain. I yelled for help, but nobody came. It was well below freezing and with my pants stuck around my knees the cold sank in fast. I could feel my heart rate slow and imagined the blood in my veins getting sluggish. I struggled to stay awake and knew with hypothermia, once you succumbed to the sleep, you rarely woke up.
I thought of this as my eyelids closed.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
"Your brother cut off his finger at work and it's being reattached."
"He cut off one of his fingers and is in the ER at Mercy Hospital. I need to meet him there. The kids aren't answering the phone at the house. Can you go check on them?"
We live about 5 blocks away from each other and I was already looking for my car keys.
"They will need to fend for themselves for dinner."
"Nonsense," I said. "I'm cooking spaghetti and there's enough for everyone, I'll bring them here and feed them."
Within minutes of hanging up, I had my two nieces, my nephew and my stepson piled into the car. The kids were excited for spaghetti and meatballs and only mildly concerned that their father had chopped his finger off. They were debating how many stitches he was going to need while shoveling pasta into their mouths. Bless their hearts.
An hour later my brother and sister-in-law showed up at the house. Apparently it was the tip of his finger (right above the first knuckle) and it was only 3/4 of the way cut-off. Gruesome details such as the skin being peeled back, exposing raw flesh, were revealed, much to the disgusted delight of the kids. Our dog was more excited about the new chew toy attached to my brother's hand. "No, Bullwinkle! Bad dog!"
"It could have been worse," my brother said.
"Yes, it could have been your middle finger," I responded. Many laughs ensued. We could laugh about it because it wasn't as bad as we all had imagined.
How does this tie into writing?
Today I kept thinking about support systems. My sister-in-law was able to call on me in her time of need and I was there for her. The security of knowing one person (or a couple people) you would trust with your life and who will be there to bail you out, no questions asked, is important.
The same applies for writing. All writers go through periods of self-doubt where we are convinced anything we've ever written is crap (also explains why Poe and Hemmingway had a problem with the drink). Having someone you can call during these dark periods is essential. Even if it's one other person, this person is your writing lifeline.
My writing lifeline is my friend Nicole. We found each other by accident (or maybe fate brought us together), when Nicole posted on a forum she wanted to start a writer's group. This is when I discovered we already knew each other through a project at work, which we outsource to her company. We had worked together for a year and neither of us knew the other was a writer. After our first writer's group meeting we realized we had the same goals, the same drive and even gave ourselves the same nickname, "Hard Core" (no not porn). Fortunately, we write different genres and aren't competition, otherwise we'd probably have to kill each other. He he.
She understands when I begin to hate every word I've written or I start to doubt I'll ever attain my dream. She pushes me through and encourages me to stay the course. When she begins to doubt herself, I'm there for her. We can vent to each other and share new ideas without the fear of criticism.
Also, through Twitter and shewrites.com, I've found a great group of writers who experience the same growing pains. It's nice to know a support system is out there; a net has been cast to catch me when I fall.
Who is your safety net? I'd love to hear about how they've helped you with your writing.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I love to write. Escaping into my character’s heads and living vicariously through their crazy adventures is fun, cathartic and sure beats the heck out of my day job. I whipped out an 89,000 word novel and had so much fun writing it, I quickly moved on to the next book in the series. Then people started asking me when I was going to send my book out and try to get it published. “I have to edit it first,” became my static response. Three months of saying this made me face the inevitable; I needed to edit the manuscript. So I shelled out $22.50 to print it out in its entirety, sat down in a quiet room and began a hard edit.
Twenty minutes later I started to panic. I don’t have OCD, but I can get obsessive (which explains the 300 posters of Skid Row and Sebastian Bach that covered my bedroom walls as a teenager). I started to analyze every sentence, every punctuation mark. I noticed that I liked to use the same words…a lot. I became convinced that somewhere in the world editing is used as a form of torture, like water boarding. I pushed on and forced myself to only pick out glaring mistakes the first read through. This helped tremendously and I actually began to get absorbed into the story. The character’s made me laugh, some scenes were so intense they made my stomach tighten and I realized underneath all the potential nit-picking, that I had written a book and it wasn’t half bad.
I finished the first read through, made corrections, added some scenes and beefed up the back story of some of the characters. Then I stopped. I went back to writing another novel in progress because I missed writing and this editing business is a lot of work!
It has been almost two months and The Beautiful People (my finished novel) sits on the end table collecting dust. The pages beg to be edited and whisper to me as I type away on another manuscript. Since I've had such a bad case of writer's ADHD lately, I've decided to focus on The Beautiful People and get all of the edits out of the way.
To help make the characters more real for me, I picked celebrity muses who best physically represent my main characters (pictures enclosed). This was a fun little project and made me excited to go back and edit. I mentioned this to a friend, who is also a writer and struggling with editing her manuscript, and she is thinking about taking my idea one step further and creating a scrapbook to collect images representative of her fictitious town plus her characters – almost like a storyboard.
Going forward I think I’m going to include this exercise as part of the creative process and not wait until the editing part. Do any of you have suggestions for getting through the editing process?
Monday, March 8, 2010
BettyJo Jenkins is led into the visitor’s area where an officer removes her handcuffs. She sits at an empty table and waits for her attorney – the only visitor she’s had since she started her prison term seven years ago.
A woman dressed in a tailored suit sits down across from BettyJo.
“You’re not my attorney,” she states. Her eyes narrow with suspicion.
“I work for the Department of Corrections,” the woman says. “Now let’s see here…” She flips open BettyJo’s folder and skims down the first page, quickly moving on to the next.
BettyJo chews on the skin around her already gnawed down nails.
The woman looks up at BettyJo. Her brown eyes meet piercing blue ones, only briefly, as BettyJo is quick to break eye contact.
“You have quite the record. Multiple possession charges, breaking and entering, homicide…”
“Yeah, so. Everyone in here has a sheet like mine.” She doesn’t like her history being repeated back to her. She knows what she’s done.
The woman silently regards BettyJo. She takes in her agitated appearance; the quick jerks and nervous tapping of her feet.
“If you could go back in time, is there one moment in particular that you would change?”
BettyJo stops fidgeting and leaning forward, reestablishes eye contact with the woman.
“I am who I am. Nothin’ can change that.”
“But, what if you could?” She gives BettyJo a conspiratorial wink.
BettyJo sees the woman’s eyes are kind and do not judge. She thinks back over her life. What moment would she change? It doesn’t take her long to figure it out.
It was a memorable day because she and her mom had gone shopping for her first bra. The white cotton undergarment fit snugly over her budding breasts. She was thrilled about this rite of passage, a sign that the little girl with scabby knees would soon be just a memory. Her excitement didn’t wear off and she fell asleep still wearing the bra. This isn’t what made this day memorable though, it was later, after the house grew still. BettyJo woke suddenly. At first she thought a dream had crossed the threshold into reality – how she wished that was the case. Her stepfather had joined her in the twin bed. She felt his calloused hand around her tiny breast and smelled his beer breath as it steamed up her neck.
Terrified and desperately confused, she let him touch her in places where no one ever had. When he was done, the threat, although just a whisper, was very clear.
BettyJo feels the shame creep up from her stomach and flush across her cheeks. She hangs her head to hide the tears that threaten to spill.
The woman recognizes this moment.
“Look at me.”
BettyJo slowly raises her head.
“I don’t work for the Department of Corrections,” she pauses and surveys the room to make sure their conversation isn’t being overheard and then leans in closer. “I can take you back, but you have to tell me what it is.”
BettyJo sits back, disbelief washing over her features. However, the woman’s eyes convey the truth. She considers this and decides it can’t hurt. She’s in prison for the next fifteen years and doesn’t have anything to lose.
“If I could go back...I would never let him touch me.”
The sun filtering through the window wakes BettyJo. Something’s different though, the bed she’s lying in is soft and the sheets smell freshly laundered. She sits up in surprise and finds herself in an unfamiliar bedroom.
There is movement beside her and she wills herself to look. A handsome man slumbers on the other side of the bed. He isn’t the source of the activity though. A little girl peeks up from under the down comforter. Her face, a mirror image of BettyJo’s, lights up in a gap toothed grin.
Stunned, BettyJo pinches her arm. She looks down and sees the red impressions her fingers left and also sees that the scars from years of heroin use are gone, as if erased overnight. She reaches up and touches her hair. It is no longer dry and limp, but thick and healthy.
“Did you have a bad dream Momma?” The little girl throws her arms around BettyJo’s neck, triggering a flood of emotion.
“Yes, a very bad dream.” She hugs her daughter back, embracing her innocence. Right then and there BettyJo silently vows to protect her daughter and never let anything bad happen to her.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
I'm also going to meet up with my friend Liz who I haven't seen since high school. This was 1992. She is now a mom and somewhat responsible adult (he he). Finally, if I get time, I am going to meet with my friend Kristen who I haven't seen since 8th grade graduation in 1988. She and her twin sister went to a Catholic high school and their family moved out of our hometown.
It really doesn't seem like that much time has passed, but it has and serves as a reminder of how quickly it can. Carpe diem, live every day to it's fullest, etc...all these common phrases (albeit some older than others) are words to live by. I don't want another twenty years to pass without having something to show for it.
Over the past two months my commitment to my writing has waned. My goal of writing 1,000 words a night, five nights a week hasn't been achieved in some time. Tonight I am renewing my commitment and pushing my inner slacker. Twenty years from now I want to look back and be proud of my accomplishments and know that I fought hard for my dreams. I am also vowing to not let another twenty years pass between visits with family and friends, they are the true riches in life.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
There is a steep hill on one of the roads in New Gloucester that I take every day. Normally I don’t have an issue with this road...until the other night. It had started to snow a few hours before I left the office to begin my journey home. What a journey it turned out to be.
With the fresh snowfall most of the cars were going slow, especially when we passed an emergency vehicle assisting a driver that had slid off the road. I was going about five mph behind another car when we crested over the top of the hill. The car in front of me put on its brakes and I hit mine. That’s when I started sliding and lost control. When it came down to hitting the car in front of me or going into the ditch, I opted for the latter and I’m glad I did!
The ditch rushed up to greet me and I flattened a sapling before I came to stop. I made several attempts to reverse and extricate myself, but the car was stuck. The volunteer fireman in the emergency vehicle saw me go off the road and called it in. So when I called 911 they already knew of my predicament. The volunteer fireman had to go up and turn around in order to assist me. While I waited for him, I was able to pull forward, but I was on a slant and thought the car was going to roll so I stopped. At one point I opened the door and could only open it around 8 inches before it hit the ground, that’s how much of a slant I was on. I don’t think if it would have done me any good to get out of the car (if I could) because of course I was wearing heels with an open back – very practical footwear for this type of incident.
The firefighter arrived (he looked nothing like Kurt Russel in Backdraft *sigh*) and helped guide me out to where my car was straddling the ditch, but I kept sliding and was getting closer to the river at the base of the hill, which made me severely nervous. He gets a call on his radio that there is another accident and the driver was bleeding from the head. He looked at me and said, “I’m going to have to leave you.” I understood because I wasn’t hurt, just stuck, and a head injury takes priority, but the thought of being abandoned made me panic – just a little bit.
Meanwhile, back in Portland, my husband (nicknamed Bubba) was plotting a rescue mission. He was going to grab steel cable, rope, jumping cables and duck tape…whatever he needed to pull me out of the ditch himself. He was a half hour away, but at least I had back-up.
Before the fireman left to go work on a real accident, he helped me give it one or two more tries and fortunately I was able to get back up on the road. With a wave I was off. My car was driving fine and I took it slow. When I got to the stop sign where I need to turn right onto the road that leads to the turnpike; wouldn’t you know it’s blocked off because of another accident? I had to turn around and take a detour.
It was truly the drive home from Hell, but it could have been a lot worse. You know, like no traffic to witness my situation, no cell signal, a total white out where my white car isn’t visible, banjos playing in the woods...
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Flash forward to high school where I became obsessed with entertainment journalism. Basically any magazine that featured a hair band on its cover, I wanted to write for. This evolved to Entertainment Weekly and by college, where I majored in Journalism, I was determined that Vanity Fair was going to be my future employer. When a girl in one of my classes dare voice out loud the same goal, not only did I give her the stink eye and wish that a city bus would run her over, but I realized that my dream wasn't unique.
So here I am, fifteen years out of college and not a byline to my name in any magazine. Instead, I've established a career in marketing and advertising. My love for writing never waned though. Ten years ago I started writing a book. An idea had gotten lodged in my brain and refused to budge. This idea is now a novel in progress (about 40,000 words) called Cancerville. While writing Cancerville, I got married, moved about 5 times (one of those moves was cross country with my husband, stepson, two cats, two dogs and two vehicles), and became a cancer survivor. Needless to say, I was busy and my writing suffered.
About a year and a half ago I decided to get serious and finish writing Cancerville, which is a government conspiracy thriller about environmental cancer. A good friend from college passed away after losing her battle to melanoma and this was a major motivating factor. While writing Cancerville, I joined a local writer's group and wrote a completely different novel. This idea kept pestering me, so in conjunction with Cancerville, I wrote (and completed) The Beautiful People and have yet another novel in progress. It seems that once I let the words loose, they refuse to stop.
Yes, it would be great if I can share my stories with a larger audience. Do I envy Stephenie Meyer? Hell yes! There are dark moments of self doubt, but these are temporary. I focus on how cathartic it is to write because at the end of the day, I can escape to another world for a while, and that is why I love writing.