Today’s excerpt comes from an old project, written in rounds by my amazing best friend and I: Posthumous. This project is not one we ever completed, but it was fun nonetheless. Below you’ll find the opening, by yours truly.
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Chapter One: Trapped
White. Everywhere, white. Misty. Glowing.
Warmth. Joy. A man’s smile.
His eyes are green. Can’t see them. Just remember.
Gold glistens. Pale and cool. Around my finger.
Diamonds in a line. Champagne flows.
Music. So much music. Laughter and dancing.
Tin cans clinking. Open road.
Evening stars, sunset.
Reach over the backseat. Luggage.
Combs in my hair. White tulle everywhere.
Smiling at him. Green eyes. He has green eyes. What’s his name?
Lights glare. Can’t see! Too bright.
And I’m flying. Like a bird.
Bleeding. Red dots on white silk. Hurts.
Hurts so much. Blurry again. Hazy, red.
Black fenders. Crunched chrome.
Where is he? Green eyes.
Light. So much light.
With a gasp, she sat straight up in bed. Uneasily, she wiped her hand across her eyes, her chest. She dripped with perspiration; cold sweat brought on by the most horrific dream. It still flashed there, behind her eyes. The distant, diaphanous fingers touching lightly here, there, like butterfly kisses upon her churning mind. Slowly, she reclined on the pillows and let her arms fall across her breasts. Like a corpse in repose, she closed her eyes and sunk into the feather-filled depths of the bed.
With the nightmare burnt to cinders and dashed from her mind, she found herself curiously thoughtless. A vast, empty nothingness filled her head and she opened her eyes as a frown formed upon her lips. Concentration furrowed her brow, then a low, dull panic as the void expanded, leaving her nameless, soulless… a shell.
Green eyes. Light. Blinding me. So bright.
She sat upright again, throwing the think silken sheet from her body. A haze was descending now, flooding her senses. Memories came and went in a pulsating dance. Delirium. Pictures and scents and sensations. Nausea swept through her and she grit her teeth as her fingers clenched the bedclothes.
She froze, the sound of her own voice alien in her ears. Eyes widened, unseeingly tracing around the room. It was white. So very white. The sheets, the walls. Tears swam before her eyes and the world went blurry again. Warm wetness slipped down her cheeks. She could taste the saltiness of her sorrow.
She said it again, her voice breaking, her stomach heaving; she wretched, but her stomach was empty and the spasms fruitless. She clung to the sheets, the room began spinning. Everything was white. The floor. The ceiling. Tears fell faster now and she doubled over, vomiting bile into the back of her throat. Her fingers trembled as she let go of the sheets and pressed her hands to her face. Blocking out the light; blocking out the white.
Her voice caught on the syllable. She gurgled and strained, leaning forward as if to expel the word by force. And then she did.
An audible click reverberated through her skull. The simple sound of a key into a lock, the closing of a door. Click.
And then silence. With a shakey intake of breath, she dropped her hands, sitting upright again. Her palms cupped one other loosely, discarded into her lap limply. Tears dried upon her cheeks and she blinked others away as she turned her head slowly, seeking the source of that single, simple click.
“H-hello?” She managed, shifting her legs as if to climb out of the bed. She set her foot upon the floor; first one, then the other. They supported her, though she wobbled briefly, and she took a deep breath.
One step further; left foot forward, and then the right.
A second click echoed across her brain.
A whirlwind caught her, swirling through the room like chaos incarnate. Books and papers and sheets and clothes, all tossed to the cyclone as it pummeled her. She opened her mouth to scream, but in the thundering storm, she heard nothing but the wind. Hair lashed her face like a bullwhip, tearing fine lines in her flesh. Blood seeped like teardrops, smeared across her cheeks by the force of the tornado. Pain seared her, sundering her limbs from her body as the storm raged around her. Darkness replaced the white; darkness pressed in and everything else scattered before it.
She stumbled, and hit her knees, catching her weight on her wrists. Her hands flew to her face, feeling hysterically for cuts or contusions. There were none. The room came into focus, filled with clear, warm light. Nothing out of place. The bedclothes rumpled, but not torn; the bookshelf filled, the papers on the desk untouched.
“But I-” she frowned, pushing herself to her feet. They were bare, nails painted in a soft petal pink, and her pants pooled around the ankle. Her pajamas were cotton, loose in the leg and too long in the arms. Dark blue with pale stripes, masculine, in fact. She chuckled inwardly and hugged them close. They must be Orin’s. Mmm… married at last. She turned to the bed, looking for him. Puzzled because it was not her bed; because it was empty.
“Where…?” She began stupidly, turning again in a circle.
An unfamiliar face peeked into the door at that moment. The woman smiled. Her teeth white and smiling, her lips thick and painted red.
“Jules, you planning on sleeping through the big day?”
She blinked furiously, looking down at her hands in confusion. The nails were buffed, gleaming and tipped in white. There was no ring. She lifted her hand, palm facing in, questioningly.
“Where’s my ring?”
The woman lifted a brow curiously. “You feelin’ alright, Jules? You don’t look so good. Nervous, huh?”
“Where’s my ring? My wedding ring. Where’s Orin?”
She stepped into the room and made to put a heavy, comfortingly soft arm around her shoulders. “Its natural to be nervous, Jules. It must’ve been some heavy nightmare though, to leave you trippin’ like this.”
“Who is Jules? Who are you?
“You’re Jules, sweetie,” the woman said guardedly as the younger one shoved away her affectionate advances. “Julienne Yeager. I’ve called you Jules since you were knee-high-”
“No! No, my name is Amara. Amara Morrigan. I- I just got married.”
The woman shook her head. “Girl, don’t tell me you were high last night! I told them girls to give you a safe night out!” She threw her hands up, exasperated. “I’ll get you a glass of cold water. You just sit your behind down. You’ll be right as rain soon.”
“But I’m… I’m not…” Amara trailed off, confused. She could hear the woman talking to herself, berating someone named Charise as she stalked down the hallway. Her heels made a clacking sound on the hardwood floors.
“I’m… not Julienne.” Amara whispered to herself weakly, shifting herself to the padded chair that sat before an antique dressing table. “I’m Amara. I am. Orin…where’s…”
Her voice trailed on even after she froze in fascinated horror at the mirror before her. A stranger looked back at her. Creamy chocolate skin and wide brown eyes rimmed with green, but dark as night toward the pupil. She raised a hand to her face then looked down at it, clattering out of the chair. It was brown, the nails freshly painted in a brilliant lavendar, smooth and unveined, but- not her own.
“No! This can’t be- I-”
Amara stumbled backward, bumping into the bed and turning around in a helpless circle. She dove for the edge of the vanity, gripping it tightly as she stared into the wild, crazed eyes of someone she had never before seen.
“This isn’t real. I am Amara Marie Morrigan. My fiancé- no, husband, his name is Orin. Orin Luciano. I-”
The denial caught in her throat and her entire body shuddered involuntarily. A frightened, distant voice spoke within her and rose up, filling the strange voids that seemed to permeate her body. It whispered, it wrapped itself around her. Its fear and sorrow were strangling.
I am Jules, the voice spoke gently to her, slipping inside her very mind. I don’t know why you came here, I’m so scared. So scared. Please, Amara, please. Let me go!
“Let you go?” She asked outloud, “Let you go?!”
You’re hurting me. You have to get out! This is my body! My life! The voice’s anger tempered its fear but it screeched, raging against her. Get out of me! Get out! Leave me alone!
“I don’t know- I don’t know how. I don’t-” Amara cried, slumping against the bed. “I don’t understand what’s… I want Orin…”
The same older woman, with her cropped salt and pepper hair and thick red lips returned with a glass and a frown firmly stamped on her face.
“Oh no, honey, no. You ain’t gonna mess this one up. That boy is too fine a man and your mama paid too much for this wedding for you to ruin it now. C’mon, Jules, take a drink, here have one of Rona’s pills. You’ll be fine. We’ll get you showered, dressed. Its your wedding day, babygirl, you don’t wanna keep Tyler waiting, do you?”
Amara stood, ready to defy the strange woman and opened her mouth to protest. In that instant, she felt the other presence surge forward and she was forced into the backseat.
“Aunt Gin!” Jules sobbed, throwing herself into her aunt’s warm, broad bosom. She held the girl a moment, stroking her back until she contained herself, but was distubed by the crazed expression in her eyes when she forced a smile and nodded.
“I’m ready now, Aunt Gin. Dunno what came over me.”
“That’s my girl,” Gin chuckled a little wearily and headed for the door. “We’ve got breffast downstairs, if you’re hungry. C’mon down.”
Amara felt the head bob in a nod, the lips softening into a more easy smile, but could not alter them. She saw through Julienne’s eyes as the girl assumed full control of the body, felt the water she splashed on her lovely face, heard the jovial banter of cousins and friends in the kitchen below. She was helpless, she was powerless.
She was trapped.
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And that’s it for today’s snippet. What did you think? Are in interested to see what direction my co-writer took when he wrote the next bit? Which direction would YOU have taken it? Do you want to take a crack at writing a new chapter two? Comments, questions, suggestions appreciated – let me hear about it below!
Love & Rainbows,
Sookie may well be the worst name I have come across in television, movies or literature since… since… ever. Not the musical Japanese “Suki”. But Sookie. Like Book, or Look, or Cook. Cookie. But not Kooky.
If it were a nickname, I might not object to its ugly sound and weird spelling as much. Or at all. But it is not (apparently, I make no claim to be an expert on the cannon). And the name bugs me.
Why am I ranting about the name of a character whose author has made a helluva name for herself with a bunch of successful books and a super-popular premium cable TV series? No, its not because I’m a jealous b*tch.
I mean, I sort of am. But that’s not why, not today.
It was just fortuitous timing, I suppose. But I felt upon hearing “Bill” say her name, that I was totally justified in my insistence that names are powerful and important and can’t just be tossed around.
Except for tertiary or throw-away characters. Or as part of some awesome promotional event. *wink*
The name “Sookie” makes me crazy. I think I dislike the character even more than I would normally, were her name “Beth” or “Jenny” or “Amber” or “Quinivarisia”. She is supposed to be this beautiful (well, physically attractive enough to have three-to-five supernatural beings and any number or mortal men & women swooning after her) but quirky, creature of light. Yet the name is so heavy. So, hard. So grating. Sookie. Rhymes with Bookie. Why not Shelby Stackhouse, if alliteration was the goal? Shelby is a light name, isn’t it?
Anyway. I promise to one day post my rant about names.
Today, other than acting an excuse for posting Joe Manganiello’s abs for my lovely friend, Ellie Mack, the name Sookie is a catalyst for the real topic of today’s post.
Stress (and strain, and feeling strapped).
I am fortunate, as I mentioned previously, to work from home. And it is generally a blessing. But there are downsides. And one of those is that when I am stressed out, I don’t get to just close down the computer and leave the hellish workplace to retreat to the wonderful refuge of my home. My wonderful refuge is 6 inches from my hellish workplace! Its horrible. There is no commute home with the music blaring so I can head-bang and fist-pound all my frustrations out before I walk in the door. Instead, I’m already there.
Poor Jack. He ends up having to take my daily trials and tribulations a lot more often than would be necessary if I left the house to work. Because he spends a lot of time at his computer, mere feet from where I am doing my day job, he is forced to endure hours of me making small talk with strangers while I fix their computers, repair documents, blah blah blah. And when something stressful happens (as has been the case every single freaking day this week), he is forced to listen to my (mute-button engaged, of course) tirades. My cursing. My wishes to quit this damn job and write full-time. And so on.
I didn’t realize how stressful my poor little day job really could be until I started working from home and no longer had my commute rituals to banish them. It puts a strain on our relationship, I think, and it makes me feel terrible. I would ADORE suggestions about how to diffuse the stress before ‘coming home’ to him. So if you have any ideas, please comment below.
Worse still, my writing is suffering this week. I found myself slashing (BRUTALLY) some stuff that really just needed to be tweaked, not omitted. I know I was just letting my frustrations color my writing and that’s not good.
Fortunately, I have found a temporary cure. The antidote to anger and helplessness and worry because you haven’t money to pay bills without the day job but you are pretty sure the day job is killing you… apparently, is True Blood (the show, not the uh ‘beverage’).
Jack & I are both big horror fans. Vampire books & shows are generally our ‘genre’ – but we’re picky. We like old school (real) vampires. Not glittery emo romantic ones. Still, we’ve found plenty to enjoy about the show despite having many long discussions about all the things we would have done differently. And talking about writing with Jack made the day job stresses just fall away. I think there’s a vampire project in my future! Muahaha!
But we’re already on Season 4, and gosh! Whatever will I do then? *sob*
Well… I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Love & Rainbows,
Recently, a friend in a writing group asked a question that plagues me as a writer.
How do you avoid the temptation of a shiny, new idea while you’re in the middle of writing/editing your WIP?
I have no good answer for that.
Historically, I can say that I have been notorious for dropping one project like its hot to snatch up the latest idea in my brain. Usually, that means both end-up unfinished and I’m off to a third idea. This is the reason, if you click on my “WIPS” page, you will see seven listed projects – in addition to Incandescence, my current focus. Seven does not begin to cover the irons I have in the fire. In fact, before this page is published, I am going to add a third section to that page just to remind myself of all the stuff I have to finish! Hopefully it’ll turn out to be motivating rather than overwhelming. We shall see.
Anyway – the original question is an important one. How do we avoid the temptation to move onto something new?
- Absolute Denial: you can completely ignore those new thoughts & ideas to maintain focus on your WIP. Of course, you could be missing out on your magnum opus.
- Calculated Pause: give yourself a measured amount of time to scribble out notes on your new idea and when it runs out, back to the WIP.
- Full Stop: take a break from you WIP and give your full attention to the new idea.
- Split Attention: write both!
For me, I can immediately strike Absolute Denial and Split Attention from the list. I abhor the idea of not, in some way, recording inspiration when it strikes. I carry around a notebook and pen at all times, for just such an emergency. And – should I be caught without said items, I always have my phone on my person and I frequently text cryptic ideas to my email address. Still worse, is trying to focus on two distinct storylines, sets of characters, worlds… I have to concentrate on my book’s cannon lest I end up with scenes (as had happened in past works) in which a previously murdered side character is chiming in on the group’s new plan to escape. Not ironically or as a ghost, but because Split Attention allowed me to forget what had happened to her.
I’m the same way when reading. I prefer to stick to one thing at a time and focus on it and do it ‘right’, rather than read half-a-dozen willy-nilly. When I was a kid, I did that all the time and kept it straight. These days, I’d probably end up confusing Mr. Darcy with Mr. Frodo and wondering why he was spending so much time with the ladies when there was a ring to toss into Mount Doom.
Full Stop must also be stricken from my list. If I Full Stop – I end up Full-Never-Get-Back-To-Previous-Work. As my list of WIPs illustrates nicely.
This year, once Incandescence and its sequel are finished, no matter many lovely new characters pop into my head, I am making it my goal to practice the Calculated Pause. Take notes on new ideas and put them into the pot for safe keeping, then immediately back to the WIP. The WIP takes precedence. Total focus. Total dedication.
And now I have Meghan Tonjes’ song in my head again.
(I’d link that song now, but I’m sharing her in a week for Tuesday’s Tunes post, so… you can wait… or Google her… or click here.)
Love & Rainbows,
I will have to talk to my mother to be sure, but I am fairly certain that I didn’t have an imaginary friend when I was a kid. Instead, from a very young age, I had books. (P.S. Thanks Mom!) Page after page of interesting people and fascinating places. I would retreat into a chair, crack open the story du jour and be transported from the ‘burbs to the past, to the future, to alien worlds, to fantastical realms, and just… away.
Yes, the people that lived in those little blobs of ink were very much alive in my imagination. But I never made my parents set an extra place at the table, cried if someone sat on a being they could not see, made up a fake language to talk to him/her in… nothing like that.
So. No imaginary friends, but lots of books. I was the little girl who carried her backpack everywhere (including class, church, car trips, the dinner table) and was always pulling a book from its depths to read. I remember a teacher actually pulling me aside at one point to say that even though she really hated to discourage a reader from reading, and that my grades weren’t suffering for it, I really needed to stop reading outside books in class and pay attention. I imagine I was a bad influence on other goof-offs in her mind – but back then I had mastered the skill of dual-focus and could regurgitate the gist of the lecture and tell you what had been happening in whatever novel my nose was buried. Ah, youth. *le sigh*
Then, by the time I was in middle school, I had my own books and characters. Short stories quickly expanded to novellas which gave way to novels – mostly because I needed to spend more than twenty- or thirty-thousand words with these people. If you are a fellow writer, can you tell me – do you remember your earliest characters? Are they the ones that stick with you to this day, or have they been supplanted by newer ones over the weeks, months, years?
I know the protagonist of my first actual novel was named Whitney. She was a fifteen-year-old girl with long dark hair and big blue eyes. Whitney was kidnapped in Chapter Two and spent the novel trying to escape her captors. I do not recall any other details about her or the story, and to be honest, I only remember that much because I had named after and described her like my favorite Barbie Doll (Hey! Stop laughing, I was 11 and my Barbies hung around to ‘act out’ my stories for me. I like to think that I wasn’t a lame nerd girl, I was just getting some early practice in dialog!) Whitney may have been a great, well-rounded character. I sort of doubt it. If she were, I would probably remember her.
Which characters have stuck with me over the years? Which characters do I still think of fondly and think of as… long-lost friends?
I remember Alex from Death in the Family, and his mad momma Marsha. He was a strange-looking, deranged kid and if he had not ended up tangled up in his mother’s plot, he probably would have blown up the school or pulled a Columbine. I guess I should be glad he was both fictional and…well, *Spoiler Alert* dead by the end of the novel.
I loved Teya from my TED trilogy. Bitchy, riotous, with a tough-kid attitude and biker boots – she was also altruistic, fell hopelessly in love with a man she could never have, and eventually sacrificed everything for her friends (and the world, natch). She was not the strong silent type, as they say – she was way too loud for that – but she endured so much and conquered it. Not with the frothy optimistic grin of her compatriot, Sarah, but with a gritty determination. She came from a pretty bleak place but clung to her hope in the face of the worst the universe had to offer.
There are other characters from TED which I could easily add to this list. Mostly, I suspect, because I spent a good three years of my life with them. Gaea, Tristan, Bati, Grace, Aides, Saturnia & Karena. Above them all, Teya.
Summit and Shalisa, through all their incarnations, have remained dear to me. Pyrathe, who allowed me to ponder more about morality and good and evil than any other character on the list. Will, who buried his sister and saved the Princess, all set to a playlist of Bryan Adams songs (Hey! It was 1992!). Alonwyn, with her long, thick braid, her long, thick blade, and her unshakable faith. Sefiro, who Jack derided as being a poor main character because he often took second place to his elder sister in physical pursuits but who had so many wonderful traits to offer beyond swinging a sword. Garrick, the closest thing to an anti-hero in my repertoire; he’s a deeply flawed, deeply principled man who does the unthinkable to protect that which he loves. Natallia, the White Tail, and Unca Tom, her mentor. Damarin, the church’s assassin. Badger, a boy living in a post-apocalyptic world whose job it is to protect the ‘One’. Vanyne, an unapologetically sadistic young woman with lofty goals for her people, and her daughter. General Abeterus, who is featured in an up-coming Snippet Sunday called “Satiating Appetites”.
And Alexander, from Incandescence. He’s a bad man, he is. But he’s also somehow disarming and charming and- bad. A bad, bad man who does and condones some very terrible things. I can’t help loving him a bit. His cousin/companion, Isaac. Hannah, who is so unlike me as a teenage girl, and Michael, who really does the best he can in the fucked-up situation in which he finds himself. Their great-great-grandmother.
Yes, I admit it, I do have imaginary friends today. In my crazed writer’s brain, I have held entire conversations with Alexander and Isaac, trying to suss out their true motivations. Hannah has stopped by to let me know that she had lots of online friends and did plenty of texting despite living a pretty sheltered existence. Current characters, new ones (with awful timing, of course!), old ones. Many of them live up there in my grey matter, harassing me to stop blogging and get back to writing about them. Cheeky little buggers.
Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by fascinating characters – on and off the page. Somehow, I observed a lot more than I was aware of at the time, and these mental character sketches have stayed with me through the years. Occasionally, they end up dotting the pages of my own pieces now despite my assertion that I don’t “make-up” characters.
I cannot deny that ‘Isaac’ in Incandescence is influenced by a friend and there is no doubt that I see pieces of one of childhood bullies in the butthead children running around my stories. There is no way that people I have known in my years have influenced the people that populate the worlds of my novels. Still, by and large, I don’t really make conscious choices to model characters at all. I prefer to believe, no matter how silly and vain some would say it is, that these characters appear to me to tell their stories. Sometimes, they become more fleshed out on the page, but usually, at conception/discovery/whatever, they already ‘are’ people. I just have to get them onto the page effectively.
Sometimes, perhaps I do not. And they fall to the side of the tracks, forgotten. (Whitney who?)
Other times, I do. And they stick with me. (Teya *sniffle*)