Sunday, January 31, 2010

Writing from the heart

She Writes has an interesting post about wishes here, and I was thinking about that today. Along with myriad other wishes large and small, my overwhelming one right now is that I could spare my husband the next six months or so of his father dying. My father-in-law called Friday night to ask my husband to go with him to sell his house and set his affairs in order. The cancer’s back and it’s everywhere and it’s sooner rather than later for him. It’s a terrible thing to watch a parent or child or loved one die.

I’m saying this here because Piedmont Writer also had an interesting post on how weather around her affects her writing. It doesn’t affect me; the weather is what it is in the story, not what’s around me. My characters are hot or cold, wet or dry as the setting dictates. What does affect my writing is what is going on around me in real life and often, what I am teaching at the time.

I’ve spent all day researching genocide for an elective I will be teaching next year. Elements of genocide from Rwanda found their way into a novel I was writing during my teaching of that.

Elements of my writing that include setting, tone, dialogue, theme, and all their intersecting points come from life around me. So given my husband and my father-in-law and my curriculum prep, I expect that my writing will tend toward the dark for a while.

So what’s the bleed-through? What affects you and your writing?

Friday, January 29, 2010


Once again, another Friday. The end of another long, brutal week. My brain is fried and I cannot seem to form coherent thoughts. I must be getting old.

Anyway, every once in a while I write for a challenge, and this is what resulted from one of the last ones I did.

111 words of dialogue only. :)
“This is your fault.”

“Is not.”

“Is too.”

“Is not.”

“Fine. It’s not your fault.”

“See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

“Not nearly as hard as this.”

“Yeah, well…”

“Well, what? This was your idea.”

“My idea?

“Forced Family Fun. Or don’t you remember saying Come on babe, the kids will love it?"

“Yeah, well…”

Well, what?”

“On second thought, that was really a bad idea.”

“Not nearly as bad as your last one.”

“Don’t remind me.”

“Need I remind you there’s a video?”


“Or that said video has been tucked away for safekeeping?”

“But we are still stealing it, aren’t we?”

“Of course we are. Right after this.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Simple Things

Soul Aperture is donating $1.00 to Doctors Without Borders for every blogger who posts about The Simple Things. If you feel like being part of this worthy endeavor, create your own list on your blog, and post the link here.

My list?

26 years of marriage to my husband who shows me he loves me more today than the day he married me

The cute, charming, funny, intelligent, kind man I love today more than the day I married him

The births and lives of each of my four children

The students who come back to see me after they’re no longer my students

The students who persevere and succeed against the odds and the ones who go beyond anything they would have ever believed for themselves

Shopping in a market place in Mexico

My friends who take me as I am and help me to become who I will be

The words that I’m gifted to share

The fact that I can do this


See? Simple.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rebel, rebel

There's a lot of talk about rules in writing. And I have to cheerfully admit that I break a lot of them when I write.

I will write from more than one POV. I think I know how to do that so that my readers don't get lost. And it works for the story and the characters and me.

I switch up tenses. I use flashbacks and internal dialogue.

I don't do all of those things all of the time, but I do them all because I think it serves the story I'm telling and I think my readers are smart enough to understand.

I'm really wrestling with some of the choices I made in one of the two novels currently making me crazy, and they center on POV and tense. I'm just not sure what is going to work, and until I figure it out nothing good is going to come out of my feeble attempts at writing more.

So tell me. What rules do you break? And how do you make your decisions about such things in your work?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Are we there, yet?

I have to admit that I am beyond ready for this month to be over. January is cold and dark and dismal and it seems like I never see the sun.

It doesn't help that I am sick and cranky, and that I have far too much to do with far too little time to do it. Now I realize that's not unique to me, but I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself.

Anyway, now that I've bored you with that, I thought the least I could do is share a snippet of something that's part of one of the two novels I'm currently flitting between.
Behind him, out over the ocean, clouds massed and rolled in a purple-pink sky; carried the promise of a late afternoon storm.

The Mustang glided along a slow winding curve, slid to a stop.

Air thick and heavy with humidity pressed close as he leveraged himself out of the car, felt the heat rising from the thin ribbon of concrete curling through the lush green landscape.

He cracked his back, rolled his shoulders. His eyes drifted over long, neat rows of stone standing silent under a burning sky; watched the sun reflect off the mirror-flat surface of the pond as it arced across the horizon.

He leaned in, reached over, snagged the flowers sitting on the passenger’s seat. The careful, almost silent snick of the door closing didn’t disturb the silence.

Slow, quiet footsteps sank into the soft ground as he moved down two rows and over one, into the shade of the Eastern Cottonwood’s canopy.

“Hey, mom.” He dropped into a crouch; pushed his words, soft and low, through a dry, tight throat. “It’s been a while. Too long.”

He slipped to his knees, felt the earth warm and solid beneath him; hallowed ground.

“I’m sorry about that. I tried to get here earlier…the last time I was here.” A small, soft smile bled across his lips. “It didn’t work out so well.”

He didn’t want to think about that now, that last trip home; burying him, burying her under the bone crushing weight of one disappointment after another.

“I had somebody I wanted you to meet. Her name’s Aeryn." He breathed deep, blinked hard against sudden moisture in his eyes. “You’d like her mom. She’s the one.”

He ran a gentle hand along the smooth stone. “You almost met her once. I wish that had happened." The smile slipped. “There was so much I didn’t get to do last time I was here, when I had the chance.”

He tilted his head, catches movement out of the corner of his eye; Canada geese gliding along the calm, smooth surface of the pond.

Clear-blue eyes the color of the Florida sky tracked the baby as it tipped its body, dipped its head under the water.

One of the adults ran along the surface, gained lift for takeoff. Slow, deep wingbeats carried it aloft as the rest of the family took flight.

He shifted slightly; lifted his chin, watched their graceful arc over the trees through the tops of his eyes.

He slid his gaze back to the headstone. “Everything’s a mess.”

Reverent fingers traced the carved letters of his mother’s name. “There’s somebody else I really wanted you to meet, too. Aeryn and I…we have a son.” His voice went low and deep. “God, Mom, he’s beautiful. Takes my breath away. Kinda like his mom.”

His eyes drifted closed. “That’s what I want, Mom. What you and Dad had.”

He swallowed hard against the thickness in his throat. “I didn’t understand that for a long time, but now I want that, Mom." His voice went low and rough. “Want it with Aeryn and Ryne.”

He pulled back and stared. "Was this what it was like for you? Waiting for Dad to come back? To come home?" He dragged a jagged breath deep into a tight chest. “Did you wonder about him never coming back?”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday, Monday

I hate Mondays, but I have to admit that this list from Life about famous literary drunks and addicts made me feel a whole lot better about myself and my caffeine addiction. I feel I have to admit my undying love for both Poe and King here. Love, love, love them I do. And Dorothy Parker, too.

And speaking of literary great reads, while I love Poe and King, my two favorite contemporary writers that I read are Margaret Atwood and Cormac McCarthy. The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin are incredible works and The Road, I suspect, has no equal for me.

So, the pop quiz questions for the day are: What makes you feel good on a Monday? and What do you like to read?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Would you read this?

Discussions around the blogosphere that have really heated up have been about the whole plotting v. pantsing debate, and the whole divide over self-publishing. And I think that begs a question that I have been thinking about for a very long time.

Do you write for yourself or for publication? Is it one and the same to you? I think I write thngs that are difficult to categorize, that deal with a lot of overlap in terms of genre. And I remember a quote that goes something along the lines of write first for yourself, then for a small, select group of your friends; and if you are any good, write for money.

Now I've butchered that quote terribly, but you get the drift. Do you agree? Because no matter what publishing models look like in the future, the market will eventually decide what it will read.

Following that train of thought, here is a snippet of prologue that I wrote a very long time ago that I've recently resurrected. There's about another 200 or so pages following this in the novel, and I'm trying to decide what to do with it.

Would you read this? Would it make you want to read more?
OK. This is weird. Really, really strange. I’m actually having difficulty forming consecutive, coherent thoughts. Forget about getting them expressed. Odd, that, since it’s what I do for a living. Form consecutive, coherent thoughts and express them. I mean, aren’t I supposed to be profound and witty here in my observations?

Not to disappoint or anything, but I’m sitting here staring at a blank screen feeling neither. Kinda like staring a blank piece of paper and feeling writer’s block. But that’s another story. Maybe next time.

Bleary eyed I stared at the monitor. I had been on-line for a couple of hours now, cleaning out inboxes, visiting websites, doing the IM thing for a while, and glaring at the almost empty screen demanding words from me.

The house was dark and quiet, my favorite time of the day. It let me be alone with my thoughts. Scattershot for sure, most had fled long ago, presumably in search of nicer digs. The sad ones that had stayed now centered on settling into the everyday flow of the no longer new school year.

The signs were there and they were crystal. We were coming to the end of the honeymoon. The kids had settled into their classes and their schedules, and were more than comfortable enough with their teachers to start giving attitude.

Headed into the longest stretch of the year, we wouldn’t see a day off until Thanksgiving, which seemed a lifetime away. Wrecked as I’d been at the end of last year, I had been tied up in knots all summer dreading the start of this year.

Burned out, vacation had done nothing to help me. There was no gas in the tank; I wasn’t even running on fumes. And as bad as last year had been, I felt more unable to deal with my new students or anything else this early in the year than I had ever felt at any time in my professional career.

I had nothing to base that assessment on other than gut feeling. That didn’t make me feel any better.

But after all these years, one thing I knew for certain was that I could walk into any first grade classroom and tell you for sure who would not be making it through school successfully. The last time we got a chance to hook these kids into investing in school as an option for success was ninth grade. After that, if we didn’t get them, they were gone.

Dropped out, drugged up, pregnant, in jail, or dead.

And I got them in ninth grade.

God, I was tired. It was time to go to bed. I had to get up in three and a half hours. Giving it up, I hit delete and started to shut down.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Almost Friday

It's been a long, ugly week, and my brain is dead. I thought about trying to put together something that would be pity and profound, but failed spectacularly.

So I'll leave you with this snippet instead.
Sunshine streaming through the window coverings and the clock on the bedside table told her that it was mid morning. She was standing in the bedroom, pale and ill, arms wrapped tightly around her midsection and rocking.

Her head hurt from falling in the shower earlier that morning. Or maybe it was from something else; lack of food, lack of sleep, lack of sanity. She wasn’t quite sure and couldn’t quite remember. Suddenly she felt lost, threatened, vulnerable and powerless.

Her ears hurt from all the words. Words that people thought she didn’t take seriously. Words that they thought she didn’t understand.

Words that John didn’t speak.

She was aware of it all. So very helplessly aware of the fact that she couldn’t do or say anything to fix anything. She hated that feeling. That knowledge.

So she stayed silent.

Her mouth hurt from speaking. From trying to explain to people. To John. Her mouth hurt from trying to talk because she knew they wouldn’t listen.

Yet when they asked, she spoke. John didn’t ask anymore.

Her legs hurt from running. Running away from her life. Running away from everyone. And then from trying to run back. She’d run from questions, skirted issues, and shut everyone off. And then she tried to run toward something.

But her legs had grown tired and she seemed to keep running into dizzy oblivion.

Her body hurt from the truth, the truth that this place was not for her. That she had done nothing but make more mistakes, and that she had tried everything she could think of.

And that all of this was nothing.

That was the only truth she knew anymore. That this had been her apology and that it had been an apology unheard.

She realized suddenly that she was shaking, and rubbed her hands up and down her arms briskly. They were leaving today, she comforted herself.

She was going home.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writer's blues

What I've found, when I'm tired, is that my writing default is passive. It's lazy and it's wordy with an inelegance that makes me wince. I'm at that point with the novel. Nothing seems to flow or fit in terms of sentence construction or word choice.

It's all clunky and very grating, wordy and talky, and it just drags.

And that just depresses me. Feeds my lethargy and my writerly bad habits which are never very far from the surface. It's a vicious cycle.

What's your default? Is it good and does it make you a happy writer?

What do you do to kick the writerly blues? Or to kick start your work when your default isn't what you're looking for?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pick a spot, any spot

Based on some discussion we've been having and a post here I've been wondering: Which is worse?

Starting a piece where you are making all those decisions about tone and voice and characterization and theme and setting and trying to figure out how and where all those elements will intersect to produce exactly what's in your head screaming to get out?

Or is it the muddle in the middle, which seems to be a never-ending slog where all the decisions you made in that beginning rush of excitement and enthusiasm are being chucked out the nearest window with frightening regularity as you realize nothing is working for you or the story at all.

Or is it the mad dash to the finish line where you are simply too exhausted and bereft of time and/or thought to do anything but scribble the end even though you're pretty sure that's not the way you saw it and are wondering why, given the cost of it all, you ever thought this was a good idea.

And at what point is enough enough? At this point I'm really not sure. How about you?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Third Monday in January

Maybe it’s because I’m starting the 60s and the Civil Rights Movement unit with my kids this week, but I find myself thinking a lot about MLK, Jr. lately.

This flawed hero, with his insecurities, missteps, and fear finds the strength and ability to step up and transcend those things to shoulder the burden of a movement; something he believes in, something bigger than himself.

In spite of criticism from some of those in his own movement and resistance from outside.

Words are his tools and his weapon, and I don’t think they’ve been wielded more eloquently or more movingly than in his I Have a Dream speech.

We all have dreams and we all have words. Both have an inherent value. We all have fears and insecurities. I may not change the world, but I hope that as a writer and a teacher and a person I can transcend and use mine to create something honest and moving.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. We celebrate heroes and leaders for a reason.

So what about your hopes and dreams?

Friday, January 15, 2010


The conversation about story and storytelling continues unabated over at the Literary Lab and an incredible converation it is. Go on over and check it out.

For me, I keep coming back to honesty and respect in my storytelling. When all is said and done, when I've pared down my words, when I've found my theme, when the dialogue and action are sharp and clean, in the end is it honest? Not happy, but true to the story and the characters?

Because there is nothing worse for writer or reader to invest heavily and in the end to feel cheated.

Anyway, when all is said and done, right now I'm ready for the weekend. So I'll leave with a snippet of something else.

But before I get to that, Sara is having a contest for reaching one hundred followers. Go check that out.
The working girls are working. Sharp eyes and bodies in colorful dresses cut low and tight cruise the crowd.

Garish faces plastic and painted with gilt-edged smiles whisper words promising pleasures carnal and venal to keep the fear and the cold and the lonely away.

She smells the desperation on them; knows the tricks of the trade. It’s just like old times, watching this dance.

She leans forward, arms crossed and resting on the table, runs her eyes around the room as the barmaid buzzes the table dropping off drinks.

She thinks they might have been pretty once, back in their other lives.

She settles back in her seat, knocks back another swallow.

She doesn’t remember when she started to feel so old, so empty and hollow, but she remembers pretty.

She misses it.

A young-old girl with fire-red hair piled high on her head slides into the dealer’s lap, fuck-me-red lips whispering in his ear.

She leans back, tilts her head, watching him through her lashes; sees hard, hungry eyes, a mean mouth; cheap clothes.

All this time and she still finds it hard to believe that someone with that much money in that many hidden places still has such a taste for the gutter.

She thinks this time she’s got a better hand.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thinky thoughts

Given the discussion that's been going around, I thought Rachelle Gardner had a lovely guest post about being kinder to yourself as a writer. Go check it out.

Another discussion going around is the one over at the Literary Lab about what makes a good story and the need for a good idea to do so.

Writing is a long haul exercise. A long term investment of yourself in words and craft even if you write short stories or flash fiction. And over the long haul, a story will take on a life of its own. Plot affects characters; how characters react drives plot.

What I think is imperative here, what needs to be present for the story to work, is honesty. And respect. For your craft, your words, your characters, your story, your readers.

For your good idea. Wherever that idea takes you.

And after all that pontificating by me, here's two hundred words of flash fiction.
She shivers hard, wraps her arms around her middle.

It doesn’t help.

She kicks out her legs; stares at the tiny, bare feet in front of her.

The door cracks open. She drops her feet.

The gap widens; she’s not alone in the room anymore.

He drops onto the stool, rolls to the desk.

“Are you sure this is what you want?”

If there’s anything she’s sure of in this life, it’s that she doesn’t want this.

“I’m nobody’s mother.”

“A simple yes or no will do.”

There’s no room in her life for this.


A long forefinger taps the file; he doesn’t bother looking at her. “The father isn’t…”

“Relevant.” Her eyes are as flat as her voice.


“Should he be?”

“Does he know?”

A glass-edged smile slashes her lips. “Does he care?”

No, he doesn’t. And she doesn’t need what he hasn’t got; doesn’t need the weight of his disinterest or pity.

She doesn’t need anything small and needy weighing her down.

“You shouldn’t be alone.”

“I’m not alone, my…friend is waiting.”

“Do you have any questions?”

“Can we just get this over with?”

He pushes back, leverages himself to his feet. “I’ll get my assistant.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Deal breaking

So we’ve been talking about good writing and bad writing and what we liked to read, and it occurred to me that maybe again it comes down to a question of plot and character.

A story is plot and character. Intertwined as they are, I find that I will generally read a story with a less than stellar plot if I think the characters are real and engage me. I don’t really think it works the other way for me.

Of course other elements like theme and tone and dialogue all play their part, but for me they all play into character. I find that’s how I write as well.

So what trips your trigger as a writer or a reader? What’s necessary and what’s a deal breaker when it comes to reading and writing for you?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Don't think aloud

I’ve been thinking about self-doubt among writers. Have you ever read something that just blew you away and made you want to walk away from writing because you’ll just never be that good? Or read something that was so poorly written that you couldn’t understand how you weren’t a well-published writer already?

I’ve been dealing with self-doubt a lot lately. And no matter how good our support network is, ultimately writing is a solitary thing, and I think it all comes down to your inner self. How do you deal with self-doubt?

Oh, and btw, Fiction Groupie is running a critique contest here so go over and check it out.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tipping point

I’ve always been fascinated by how people write. Whether they consider character or plot first, whether they see or hear a scene before they can write it.

I’ve always ‘heard’ a scene first. I need to hear the dialogue, hear it clearly before I can begin to visualize the rest of it. So I always start with dialogue. And write the scene using that only.

Sometimes pages and pages of just dialogue without tags or descriptors of any kind.

Starting a piece, I need to get that nailed down before I can ignore my inner editor and move on.

Then I go back and choreograph the scene. That’s my tipping point. It sets the tone of the piece. After that, I can even write scenes out of sequence. No problem.

Unless there is no dialogue anywhere in what I’m writing. Which is why this piece, and others like it that I’ve written, give me such trouble. It’s contrary to my nature as a writer.

What’s your writerly nature? Do you have a tipping point?

Anyway here it is; the next couple of hundred word snippet.
He staggers out of the barracks into the first cold, grey light of dawn, bumping off bodies skeletal and empty-eyed stumbling into strained lines in the center of the yard.

Eyes tearing with cold lock forward. Face still, he stands and stares, watches a dull sun arc along a thin, tight horizon.

Nothing moves across the raw, barren, black terrain beyond the watchtowers; scorched earth, all that’s left of a long ago burn.

Down the line, somewhere to his right, someone’s hacking up the latest plague. Spine straight, head unbowed, his fingers curl into white-knuckled fists at his sides.

The wind shifts; carries the smell of burning from the remains of a wild fire dancing along the serrated slopes just past the dead fields.

The sound of the shot explodes in his head. All-too-familiar rage and fear and shame churn in his gut; tighten his chest.

Wet, grey flakes of snow and ash fall through the raw, cold daylight; filter through the dead trees, the charred, lifeless trunks still standing sightless watch on the other side of the fence line.

Ash and ice, cold and wind stretch and move across the waste like a living thing, breathe harsh and jagged along the grey, serpentine river that snakes past the camp, cleaving the cauterized landscape.

He doesn’t think he’ll survive another winter.

The jolt from his collar slides down his spine; buckles his knees. Hard hands shove; send him staggering across the yard.

He doesn’t look at the body on his way to the pit.

Friday, January 8, 2010


It's the end of a long, brutal week, and while I have not been as productive as I would have hoped, I have managed to cobble together 327 words hopefully crafted into complete sentences. Here they are. What do you think?


When he wakes, he opens his eyes to nothing. It’s cold and dark, the pitch black giving way to a dull, gun-metal grey at the edges of his peripheral vision.

He curls in tighter to himself; pulls the filthy, threadbare blanket closer and listens to the harsh exhale of his breath. There’s a weight against his back, heavy, pressing close.

Brain still slow with sleep, scrambled from the remains of the dream, he throws back an elbow, rolls, and shoves hard against the stiff, formless shape. His hand falls, palm down, onto a sharp-boned, unmoving chest.

He rolls out of the blanket, rolls to his knees. Bright, dead eyes lock him in their line of sight.

He quits breathing; listens hard in the silence and the dark. There’s nothing beyond the sound of his own pulse pounding in his ears.

Fingers thick with cold and clumsy in the dark search blindly for a sign of heartbeat or breath.

There’s nothing. The body is cold and hard and silent.

He shifts on his knees, grabs the bottom of the thin, torn shirt, wrestles it up and off its unresisting owner and over his head.

Ignoring the stench that makes his stomach roll, he drives his arms quickly through the sleeves, pulls it down.

He slides down the body, yanks off worn boots; shoves bare feet into the rotting leather and freezes.

Still as stone, he flicks his eyes around the dark.

It’s quiet.

He moves again; pulls rancid pants two sizes too big off the corpse, rolls them up in the blanket.

He buries the rank bundle in the bag that’s filled with everything else in his life; crawls into the corner.

He huddles there, wrapped in his blanket, listening for the sound of boot steps. As the stillness and dark congeal over him, he slips into faded memory from a long ago sometime that floats like ash on a cold wind.

He dreams in grey.

When he was small and hurt she would hold him. Soft, cool hands, satin-smooth and small, would cradle and caress him, and she would sing to him.

His eyes snap open, his head snaps up.

He can remember everything about her; the feel of her hands, the scent of her hair, the sound of her voice. Everything except her face.

Shrouded in the blanket and the rags he still feels the cold coming up off the stone, sees two burning eyes staring at him in the dark. A leaden cold that has nothing to do with hunger claws at the hollow in his gut.

It’s been a long time she’s come to him.

He can’t remember how long.

He’d thought he’d stopped dreaming.

He should remember.

He pulls his bag and the blanket closer, his knees up to his chest, wonders if he’ll see her again.

He tries to pull breath deep into his lungs; hasn’t any to spare.

The corpse watches him from the shadows. Once he took pity on the dead; now he wishes they would take pity on him.

He wraps his arms around his knees and waits.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Crawling in the dark

I write dark. I mean that I’ve written about nuclear winter, before reading The Road, and I’ve written fiction weaving topics like genocide, slavery/trafficking, violence, as well as the psychological weapons and tools of those events into my work. I’ve tried to be honest in the telling, and have never considered them gratuitous, as to me they are an integral part of the story.

But I sometimes wonder about the topics I’ve chosen to explore in my writing and storytelling. Does what you write reflect you as a person/the inner you? How much of your personality bleeds through to the written word? Does that exchange flow both ways? How much of you informs your stories?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Define writer

I was struck by a post over at Pens Fatales that talked about defending oneself as a writer. And it stuck me once again as to how and who defines the term writer.

I read Martha's post and felt inspired by her dedication. And I have to admit to feeling a tad bit jealous, too.

What makes one writer? Is it someone leading the writing life, with a manuscript, an agent, conferences and events and all kinds of other social networking that goes along with the publishing process?

Or can a real writer also be that working mom with very limited time to craft stories after dinner, dishes, and homework?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Finish the row

I got to hear one of my favorite all time lines again today. You put your hand to the plow and finish the row. It’s from HBO’s Iron Jawed Angels which I’m showing my students right now, and it has always spoken volumes to me from the first time I heard it.

Writing is hard. It’s work. Sometimes it’s not even fun. But it’s worthwhile.

It’s worth something.

And even as I sit here still wrestling with the whole getting started on the novel I haven’t touched in years thing, trying to find the will and the motivation and the reason to get over my exhaustion, filing and sorting and reading and wonder why I’m doing this, I look at the that line and it speaks to me.

So once again, as I’m mired in the seemingly endless minutiae of starting, I’ll offer up another little snippet of mine.

It was interesting for me to notice that these last two snippets have been devoid of dialogue. I like writing dialogue. It’s how I write. And I’ve been told that I do it well. That it’s a strength not a weakness in my writing.

But for whatever reason, there’s none to be found here.

Maybe next time.


Arms crossed tight against her chest, she rolls tight shoulders and cracks her neck, leans forward to rest her forehead against the cool, clear glass.

Her head aches; a low, dull throbbing behind her eyes that’s a bassline for the quiet hum of monitors in the almost silence of the room.

She doesn’t like it. It’s not the silence of her lab, not comfortable or comforting, doesn’t wrap her safely in her own little world.

She shifts slightly on her feet. Her eyelids drift open as she lifts her forehead from the glass, and drags a long, slow breath down deep into a tight chest.

The first muted red-orange streaks of sunrise brush the purple-pink sky on the horizon; reflect in the dark, placid surface of the pond spreading in a slow, gentle curve within the spill of green between building and service drive.

She stands and stares, shoulders curling forward as she wraps herself more tightly and tries not to think.

Doesn’t think about the cold, sick fear hollowing out her gut as she dragged him to the car, shoved him into the passenger’s seat, and drove, white-knuckled, as if his life depended on it through cross-town traffic, scrambled for the surgeon, heard the results from the lab and knew what they meant.

She shoves the heels of her hands hard against her eyes, brushes angrily at the tears that threaten.

This isn’t right. It’s not fair. She doesn’t understand and he’s not here to make it better.

The first spikes of yellow climb over the thin horizon and she lifts her chin, catches movement out of the corner of her eyes.

She catalogs without thinking; black face, white chinstrap, elegant black neck; goslings with fine yellow-brown feathers gliding along the calm, dark surface.

Canada geese. Mother and father, a mated pair for life.

She tilts her head; clear-blue eyes tracking the baby as it tips its body, dips its head under water.

One of the adults runs along the surface of the water, gains lift for takeoff. Slow, deep wingbeats carry it aloft as the rest of the family takes flight. She shifts slightly and lifts her chin, watches their graceful arc over the trees through the tops of her eyes.

The soft hiss of the monitor pulls her focus back. She turns and stops; stares at the unmoving body sleeping on the bed. It’s suddenly colder in the room and a small shiver works its way though her.

She forces the first small step, listens to the click of her heels as she crosses the room. A small, steady hand reaches out, settles on his chest, and she feels his heartbeat through her palm. Her breathing slowly synchs with his as delicate fingers trace his brow, trail down along the line of his jaw.

She folds herself into the bedside chair, slides her hand over his, fingers curling loosely around it as she watches him breathe.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday, Monday

Well, it was back to school before dawn this morning in the cold and dark for a day that was less than fabulous. And now here I sit trying to make sense of files and notes for things I wrote a very long time ago.

How do you go back and pick up a novel? Pick up the vibe, the ebb and flow, the character voices, the tone when you've had other voices and thoughts in your head?

So as I sit here contemplating, I'll just go with the flow of others who have been putting up snippets of work for others to puruse. And with that in mind, as I continue to bang my head against my desk, here is my snippet of story.
Reeds sway, silent sentinels chasing shadows. A night heron crows as it takes flight. The call of a willet pierces the early morning stillness, and he catches the black and white pattern of a flashing wing as it comes in for a landing.

His hand finds hers. Long, cool fingers wrap his as she leans in, strong and solid beside him, fused shoulder to hip.

The whisper of bare feet is lost here to the sounds of the shore; the soft rustle of grass, the screams of gulls swooping low, the gentle slap of waves coming home.

Sand is implacable here. It blows and shifts, changing boundaries and erasing everything.

He can almost forget there’s a world up the bluff on the other side of the highway.

They crest the dune together, in lockstep, the way they do everything, and stop and stare.

Shards of brilliant gold explode on the horizon; the first orange-red brush strokes of a rising sun painting a lightening blue-black sky.

The breeze shifts; picks up; sea and salt and sun; time and tide. It’s all right here, right now as the world transitions into life and light.

He slips in behind her; slides his arms around her, pulls her back tight against him, hands gentle as they glide along the curve of her belly.

A small shiver runs through her and into him as she leans back, quiet and still in his arms, hands covering his.

He buries his face in her hair; breathes her in deep, feels the band around his chest loosen as he exhales softly in her ear. “High tide.”

She hums in response, stretches out an elegant arm; pulls his focus out as she points down the beach. His arms wrap her tighter and he rests his cheek on her hair as clear, hollow eyes track his sisters across the sand, onto the pier.

All his senses push; salt air and sea breeze and the sun climbing high on the horizon converge and he blinks hard against the sudden sting in his eyes.

Through crystal tears he sees they’ve reached the end of their journey; stand suspended statue-still between sea and sky and sand; the illusion of solid ground.

He wonders if they’re crying as their arms stretch out in unison over crystal-clear blue water.

Her voice is soft and low as she shifts against him. “Your mother, too?”

“Dad kept her ashes.” Possessive hands roam over her belly; his eyes drift shut as he feels a strong kick. “He wanted this.”

He wants to move; can almost feel himself step, feels sick as he wonders what it would be like to be standing there next to them.

She shifts again, and cool, satin fingers wrap his hands; stilling them.

He anchors himself against her; doesn’t know how long they stand there. But the sun’s climbing higher on the purple-pink horizon, burning off the haze, and she’s in his arms as he watches his sisters disappear across the sand.

She shifts and steps, slides her hand into his and leads him down the dune.

The scent of sea and salt carries on the breeze, and he’s going to walk on the beach with her.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Well, here it is

So here we are; push come to shove. Out with the old and in with the new. See if the reset holds.

The old year is gone, as is my Christmas break. I cooked, I cleaned, I sorted and filed a year's worth of stuff lying around my desk, including copious amounts of material, files and notes, for the novel(s).

Tomorrow it's back to real life and the first real test of those brand-spanking new resolutions. At least the ones that survived the weekend. You can almost hear the clink, the clash, the crash and burn as they hit the ground.

I skipped the resolutions this year, and went more for broad guidelines, kind of like painting with broad brushstrokes on the canvas. I will do something. I will write something everyday. I will eat something healthy everyday. You get the picture.

Tomorrow we'll see how that's working out. Baby steps.

I did manage to read the first four chapters of a novel my friend, who's actually the other half of my brain, is writing. It's excellent already, and hopefully it will be an inspiration to me as I try to return to one of the two novels I have had in progress for a very long time now.

Maybe we'll both reach our goals and finish our novels.

It's the new year and we are nothing if not hope.

Friday, January 1, 2010


A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view, a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.

Junot Diaz, O Magazine, November 2009

This is it. The year I finish the novel. The year I consider myself a writer. Along the way, I'd love to talk to other writers about their work, their goals, their writing.

So that's what this is. Our conversation place about how we write, when we write, why we write, what we hope for our writing. I'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to stop in and chat.