Thursday, January 23, 2014

Was it Worth it?

Remember I did that crazy writing thing back in November? In case you missed the parade I threw for myself: I pulled it off.

And then I needed about six weeks to recover.

Seriously. I didn't write another word until just a few days ago. (Of course, it doesn't help that December follows the writing marathon from hell.) The weird thing is, it was participating in NaNo that made me sit my butt down and write something after opening multiple blank word documents that never received so much as a choice of font.

The most important thing I think I learned from that month is that even though I love writing, sometimes I really don't want to do it. Then I feed myself excuses as to why I can do it the next day, then put it off another day and the next thing I know it's been six weeks and I have accomplished NOTHING.

With NaNo, you don't have a choice. I took 2 nights off during the month because *cue whiny voice* "I didn't wanna write" and I regretted it when I was racing to catch back up on my word count over the next three days.

I feel like I've spent my entire adult life slacking off then stressing out to meet deadlines, and I'm over it.

NaNo gave me 50 thousand words towards a story, but it also taught me that writing isn't always fun. Some days I won't be inspired. Some days I will be mentally exhausted. And now and again, I will write total crap that should never be viewed by anyone. All that matters is that I keep moving forward.

On more than one occasion, I was asked "Do we get to read what you write this month?"

I didn't expect that question. No joke. It freaked me out. Especially when I realized that writing without any editing process resulted in some astoundingly bad stuff. However, it wasn't all terrible and under the rubble there is actually some decent bones to work with and a few parts that will survive the word cull.

So yes, you get to read it. Well a little piece of it. Hopefully one day it is ready to wear the daunting title of "completed manuscript" or "published novel".

That long winded introduction is for this short excerpt from my NaNo disaster/accomplishment.

The dusky sky was purple and darkening like a bruise. Streetlights buzzed to life as the light in the sky waned. The sun was still perched above the horizon, holding onto the last moment of the day.
Ava watched the corner of the street expectantly. Any moment his car could turn the corner. She has waited so patiently for him to not let her down. He always came back, no matter how bad the fight had been, regardless of the crazed and terrible things their mother said, he always came back.
The front door creaked open, but she refused to glance away from her post. She listened vaguely for the sound of footsteps behind her to determine which sister had come to join her on the porch steps.
The slap slap slap of bare feet against the concrete and faint aroma of maple syrup from that morning’s breakfast assured her it was her youngest sibling, Gwen. She wasn’t surprised. Gwen was never too far away for too long.
She parked herself next to Ava and stared off into the same direction. “When’s Daddy going to be home?” she asked with the innocence of a five year old.
“Soon,” Ava answered. She ignored the small nag in the back of her mind that told her she shouldn’t lie to her little sister.
“Ava, I’m hungry. Can Mommy make dinner now?”
Ava inhaled a dose of patience as a small fire burned in her chest. “Don’t bother Mom. I’ll make you something in a few minutes.”
“But I’m really hungry,” Gwen whined.
“I said in a minute!” Ava snapped, immediately regretting her tone.
Gwen shrunk into herself for a moment. She quickly recovered and looked up to the sky. “Look how pretty!”
Ava didn’t want to look. She knew the brilliant colors of twilight meant the sun was nearly gone, along with her hope that her father would be home soon.
They kept their vigil on the porch, Gwen watching the sky and Ava staring at the street corner.
“Please,” Ava whispered.
He always came home.
“Goodnight, sun!” Gwen announced with a small wave. “Now can we eat?” She broke Ava’s stare with her large, blue eyes.
Ava couldn’t speak. She simply nodded and ushered Gwen inside. She looked back once more over her shoulder hoping it would be the exact moment headlights appeared to turn down their street.
The darkness only stared back and she followed Gwen into the house.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to Keep a Secret

His chest began to burn for oxygen.

There was a delay.

Jacob tried to abate his panic with a reminder that the audience loved the tension. The ballet he danced with death sold tickets to his shows over and over again.

His lungs heaved, desperate for a breath. He was seconds away from his body overruling his brain and slurping water in a futile attempt to relieve the pressure in his chest.

Then he heard the click and watched the first padlock spring open. Relief stilled his bound, shaking hands. A chain reaction sprang to life popping open lock after lock and loosening the chains that kept him weighted under the water.

One lock remained before he could swim for the surface.

He stared at the shackle around his ankle that remained securely bolted to the floor. His vision was interrupted and distorted by inky blots. For a brief moment, he wondered if this was how she felt.

He jerked and pulled against the shackle, panic overwhelming his senses.

The lock sprang free and he bolted for the surface, his lungs screaming for air.

The crowd shrieked with delight when he broke the surface of the pool. The tense atmosphere dissipated with their elation and appraisal. He soaked in their applause while a faceless assistant draped him in a robe and handed him a towel.

He flashed a veneered smile before thanking their cheers with a swooping bow as the curtain fell.

Jacob dropped his showman demeanor and stormed off the stage.

An overzealous stage hand rushed to follow his soggy steps. "There is a full room for autographs tonight..."

He whirled around on the stage hand, teeth bared like a predator. "Does it look like I'm going to sign anything right now?" He swiped the towel across his face and rubbed his hair before tossing it at the stunned hand.

"But...but you have to," was all he could manage.

Jacob narrowed his eyes and snorted. "No. No, I really don't." As he headed towards the private elevator that would take him to his floor, he heard the frantic stage hand narrating their encounter to another equally frantic handler somewhere in the building.

His fury didn't calm during the ride up or while he crossed the posh private lobby to his front door that he flung open.

He inhaled slowly several times, needing to calm himself or he would never know if tonight was just a miscalculation.

"Penny?" he called out into the darkness. The edge had left his voice, but his hands remained clenched holding his anger in balled fists willing to be wielded as weapons.

Jacob didn't bother with turning on a light. The gaudy neon of the strip kept his penthouse room illuminated. He once thought it was fascinating the way the room glowed purple from the constant pulse of life outside the windows.

Now it reminded him of cheap liquor and stale smoke and defeated dreams that died in seedy bars.

"Penny? Where are you hiding?" He wanted to ask why she was hiding, but he wasn't sure he was ready for that answer.

The sparkle of red sequins flickered against the false light.

"Darling, come over here so I can see your face."

Penny stepped out of the shadows. She was striking as always. Her curves were just enough to make a red sequined dress classy when it could have read as cheap. Her large blue eyes lacked their normal vibrancy and her lips were set in a stern line.

Jacob assessed his assistant carefully before choosing his words. "Tonight was interesting."

She raised an eyebrow and nodded slowly.

Jacob chuckled and helped himself to a healthy dose of scotch before his next question. "An illusionist is only as good as his assistant, and I've got the greatest damn assistant in the world." He raised his glass in salute to Penny and finished the last slug. "So explain something to me, greatest assistant in the world."

His eyes hardened and his knuckles turned white from his grip on the glass. "Why did the fucking locks take so long to open tonight?" His voice remained level, disturbingly calm.

Slowly, a smile snaked across Penny's perfectly shaped mouth. "Accidents happen."

She didn't bother flinching as the scotch glass sailed past her head and shattered on the wall behind her. She knew he couldn't really hurt her. Not anymore.

Jacob left Penny and the shards of glass to themselves while he changed into dry clothes. She was still standing in the same location when he made his way for the front door.

As he reached for the handle, the tumblers in the locks fell into place.

"Open the damn door, Penny," he commanded through clenched teeth.

"How did it feel?"

"How did what feel?" His hand remained on the door handle. He refused to meet her eyes that had transcended into something cold and menacing.

"Knowing you were on the brink of death?" She was taunting him. "Fighting for just a few more seconds of life, your lungs on fire and screaming for a breath? Your vision blacking out? Trying to ignore the panic that your hands are bound too tight to signal for help. The terror that clawed at your insides knowing you were about to die?"

He heard the accusations in her tone, but she didn't know anything. It was just an accident.

"I wasn't afraid," Jacob lied.

"Why is that?"

"I knew I could count on you. You would never let anything happen to me," he lied again.

Penny let out a small laugh. "I used to believe the same."

The lock clicked open and Jacob pulled the door open before she could change her mind.

His manager had just stepped out of the elevator into the lobby. Jacob sighed. He should have known the blubbering stage hand would call in Tom.

"Great show again! I swear, I take back everything I ever said about you not doing Penny's trick. I've seen it a hundred times now and I still can't figure out how you pull it off. She would be so proud!" He patted Jacob on the back and led him to the elevator.

He pressed the button to lead him back to the stage and the awaiting fans wanting autographs and pictures with the famous illusionist.

"So, are you ever going to let me know the secret to that trick?" Tom asked, flashing his manager smile.

Jacob smirked at his reflection in the brass doors of the elevator. "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."