Well, sort of. My goal was to write at least 1000 words a day for the month of November, but unfortunately life got in the way and I only got 20,000 words written. However, I wrote 20,000 words in one month! That’s a glass half full feeling to me. I was also able to outline the climax and start writing the final scene of the story. My villain really gets it in the end. I choked up a little when I wrote it. He was starting to grow on me. I got a little stuck plotting the big fight scene and decided to write backwards with the death scene. This totally works by the way. You should give it a try. I do have another issue with my villain, however. It seems there’s no shortage of issues when writing your first novel. Learning experience through and through. I’ve discovered that he’s a bit cardboard, so I now have a golden opportunity to fill out my novel even more and beef up the bad guy. It’s really going to round out some rough edges and make everything line up perfectly.
Aside from trying to finish my book this month, I was also able to write and submit three short stories to various competitions, so fingers crossed I get some recognition and continue building that ever illusive following. I’ve published those short stories below for your viewing pleasure and kindly critiques. It’s difficult to find a comfortable writing group in rural Texas, so I’m depending on my loyal followers to help me build my craft. I’ve also been deciding which writing course I would like to take this winter. There are several that fit perfectly between my college semesters and so I’m linking them below. The below listed courses and websites have been highly praised by some of my favorite writers or are taught by the authors themselves, such as David Farland, Joanna Penn, and Randy Ingermanson just to name a few.
This last website I found while searching for free online courses and found it very helpful. It’s not always an option to go to an extremely expensive online writing course; no matter how distinguished (and therefore tempting to spend my annual salary on) it may be, but hopefully you get the chance to try all of these out. Leave a review of the course below and as soon as I get the chance I’ll review them as well and let you know how my learning experience was. Thanks so much for returning again and again to read my blog. You guys really have no idea how motivating it is to see how many readers I have coming back with each entry. It keeps me writing and I hope my posts keep you writing too. Thanks again and Happy Holidays. As promised, my short stories are below.
She closed her eyes and let the water wash over her face. Down she sank into the bath until her head thudded gently onto the cast iron. She’d never felt more free than at that moment. She’d never felt more in control of her life then when she made the decision to end it. There would be no more pain. There would be no worry. Nothing mattered anymore. It was just Darcy and the water. She opened her eyes to stare at the warped and wavy ceiling. Slowly, she watched each bubble of breath escape her lips and rise to the top; popping into the air. She smiled. The pain in her chest was manageable. It was pleasant. Something she could understand; name even. Her lungs were beginning to beg for air, but that was fine. They begged because they didn’t know any better. Her heart knew better and yet she felt its pain and longing day after day. Not now. Not at this moment. In this moment, as the ache in her chest grew beyond agony, she felt for the first time in years that she could just let go. So she did.
The steam from the cup of tea in his weathered palm makes loop-tee-loops through the salt that hangs in the air like a crystalline curtain. A gritty breeze blows through the rocking house pushing the window covers to and fro. His creamy, tired eyes stare unblinking through the picture window which serves as the small homes only reflective surface. He sees the sea seeing him. It watches the old man through that window with grim yearning. It wants a pair for the collection of bones laying deep in its belly. The old man, his hair gone, his skin slumped with fatigue and longing to rest, hangs on out of habit. A cruel wave crashes against the littered dunes sparking a memory.
A young girl, brown and beautiful with son. She splashes with the old man. He’s laughing a young man’s tune and swaying with the currant. The ocean licks its lips and grins. Through its teeth a native swims. Like the ocean, its teeth are sharp, merciless, clean. The native bends and bows exploring the smells, seeing the newcomers.
The memory fades as the old man pushes it away. He has had enough of this memory. It taunts him. Returning each day with the tide. Slowly, very slowly, the old man creakily stands from his chair. His jacket hangs on the door waiting for him. It knows what day this is. It is ready to follow him. The walk to the beach is difficult, but he makes it daily for the exercise; for preparation. The ocean smells sharp even to his dead nose, and through his foggy vision a friend appears off in the distance. The native returns just as he has every year as the winter chill settles into hibernation and the anniversary of her death nears.
The water is icy as the old man wades into the foam. First his shoes, then the thick denim soaks through, and last he wears her favorite shirt; the one with the Hawaiian flowers printed along the collar. Her laugh rings in his ears again. When the memory washes over him this time he doesn’t push it away. He welcomes her face as she smiles at him and beckons for him to follow. He traces her eye line as she looks down at her swollen belly, a creation of their making. He stops the memory there, preferring not to remember the next bit. He would get there soon enough. He scans the ocean waves and sees the native approaching at a leisurely pace. It knows there is no rush. This prey is willing.
This next part isn’t pleasant. The old man gets his wish. He is gone now. Nothing but a consciousness drifting in the wind unable to connect to anything. The native is content as well. He’d been waiting for this particular prey for more than twenty years. The next year it would not return, and only the ocean would know it had been there at all.
ANYWHERE BUT HERE
Hannah’s hands never grew properly. They had been crushed by bar bells, ash trays, and anything else her father had decorated the house with so many times that they now resembled bird’s feet more than actual human hands. Presently, the young, round faced girl sat curled up in the corner of her room opposite the door playing with one of the many pieces of trash that littered her bedroom floor.
“Shh, shh, shh,” she told the door, afraid it would open. She shook her head back and forth vigorously, whipping her limp, blonde hair across her face. She paused briefly and laughed when it tickled her nose, then quickly fell silent again to watch the door.
“No, you, no,” she whispered fervently, but no matter how many times she begged the door, it never stayed closed. Eventually, Dado would come to hurt her. He always smelled woozy when he stormed into her bedroom, and you could count the number of drinks he had drunk by his walk. Two, was skippy; five, was limpy, and eight, was dippy, and so on.
As the girl placed the trash on the floor in a neat row with the rest of her toys she heard a soft knock on the plywood, and sharply pulled in a breath and held it. Slowly the door cracked open and another young face appeared. This one belonged to Markey. He smiled as he leaned into the room. The red patches on his cheeks perfectly matched her own and she smiled back and energetically waved for him to come see what she’d made. Markey glanced over his shoulder before sliding into the room and quietly closing the door. Hannah scooted closer to Markey as he quietly crossed the room accidentally scattering the trash wrapper picture she had made. Markey kneeled down beside her and patted her on the shoulder.
“All day, Markey. I made this all day. Now it’s ugly,” Hannah’s thin bottom lip began to tremble as she stared at her ruined masterpiece.
“Don’t cry, Hannah,” Markey whispered, hurriedly trying to put the pieces back together for her. “Shh, don’t cry. It’s going to be okay. Look, now it’s perfect, just like you,” Hannah looked over at Markey and smiled. Markey let out a sigh of relief stealing a quick glance at the door before leaning in to Hannah.
“Guess what?” He asked her, a wry smile on his lips.
“What?” Hannah responded unconcernedly. Her hands were busy trying to pick up a Funyun wrapper. It kept slipping through her gnarled fingers and eventually she gave that up and began sliding the trash across the moldy carpet with her wrist rebuilding her image.
“I have a surprise for you, but we have to hurry before Dado wakes up,” Hannah looked over at Markey and then at the door. She shook her head violently back and forth.
“No, no, no, no. NO DADO NO,” Hannah’s voice began to climb in panic.
“Shh, don’t wake him. Hannah, shut up, please!” Markey gently grabbed her arm and tried to calm her, placing a hand across her mouth. Hannah quieted, but her eyes had filled with tears. She sniffed.
“Hannah, I want you to grab your favorite toy and follow me, okay?” Markey had already stood up and was walking quietly toward the door.
“Okay,” Hannah sang swinging her head from side to side in rhythm with a song only she could hear. She jumped up, matching her brother’s height, the earlier fear forgotten, and comically tiptoed on Markey’s heels.
“Tiptoe, tiptoe,” she whispered the melody through her bedroom door and down the dark, cramped hallway. The living room opened up to 1972. In here the same molting carpet had clearly once been shag. The patchy green curtains hanging on the windows were reminiscent of a woman’s touch now long overdue. The wall paint had yellowed from the three or so packs of Camels it absorbed each day; and on the brown, filthy couch a figure sank into the loose cushions. Markey pulled Hannah’s hand toward the front door. Through the grime covered windows he saw the sun beginning to sink behind the trees in the nice, neat neighborhood one street over, and he knew they were running out of time. Markey turned around to face Hannah and placed a single finger over his lips. She immediately fell silent and jerked her head to face Dado, but he never stirred. She looked back at Markey expectantly. Slowly, he turned back toward the front door and closed the space between himself and freedom in two quick strides. Gripping the doorknob until his knuckles stretched through the skin on his hand, Markey turned it, careful to make no noise, but it didn’t budge. His stomach clenched. He could hear his heart pounding in his ears and Hannah’s heavy breath burning his neck. Markey closed his eyes and set his jaw. He turned away from the door, but instead of facing Hannah, who he gently pushed behind him and closer to the door, he faced Dado. Sure enough, dangling from his front, left pocket were the keys. Markey glanced up at Dado then back to the keys. Dado snored in deeply, rumbling his entire body, and the keys barely held on. They would fall at the slightest touch. As quietly as he could over the creaking floor, Markey bent down onto his knees and crawled toward his father. He timed his steps perfectly, so that each time Dado drew in a great, loud breath, Markey moved a step closer concealing the crack and splinter of the rotting wood beneath him. Now, he was close enough to smell Dado’s whiskey clothes. Markey looked over his shoulder at Hannah. She was holding her breath again. He could see the red in her face deepening, and her eyes began to widen as he stared at her. Gently, Markey reached forward. He placed one hand underneath the keys and used the other to nudge the last inch of them out of Dado’s pocket. Without any effort at all they popped free and landed with a gentle tinkle in Markey’s hand. He held his breath and stared at Dado for several seconds, then he slide the keys into his own pocket and crawled back toward Hannah exactly the way he came. Hannah leaned down as Markey drew near and clumsily pulled him into a standing position. He teetered and regained his balance. As silently as possible, fighting the urge to rush their escape, Markey slid the keys from his pocket and with two fingers plucked the front door key from the small ring, and pushed it into the open hole in front of him. It seemed to scream as he forced it into the rusted hole; metal grinding against metal. The sound echoed in Markey’s head and he closed his eyes again and waited for the bark of his father waking from a dead sleep. A full minute passed. Nothing. Markey turned around toward his father, but he hadn’t changed. Drool soaked the shoulder of Dado’s plaid, pearl snap shirt and, sending up a silent prayer, Markey turned the lock. The clang of the bolt slamming back against the door sent another echo through the house, but this time Markey didn’t wait. He grabbed Hannah by the arm and yanked the door open. He didn’t bother to close it as they sprinted from their prison. He gripped Hannah’s hand as tightly as he could and she matched his pace. Soon they had made it around the corner of the street and were running alongside the neat lawns so different from their own. Markey could see a van pulling up ahead of them and swung his untethered arm widely. It pulled up along the roadside and waited for them. Markey jumped into the back as the door swung open and pulled Hannah in behind him still frantically glancing over his shoulder toward the house.
“Where too kid?” The driver’s voice was energetic and the sun caught his long, clean hair and bounced off of the sun flower sticking out from behind his right ear. The van smelled like pizza and pot, and Markey smiled as he breathed it in.
“Anywhere but here,” he said and settled in the back with Hannah. The driver nodded his head and turned toward the front.
Markey turned toward Hannah and felt a grin fill his face as she twirled the disco ball hanging from the van’s ceiling light. They watched the sun catch the prisms and dance around the inside of their ride.
As the driver pulled away from the curb Markey had a thought and leaned out of the window to toss the keys into the grass. He laughed as he imagined them being found hours later, but by then they would be long gone.