Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hearts of Darkness, Part II

David avoided Miami, all Floridian ports, actually. He told himself it was because he didn’t want the hassle. Because his skin was always on the lighter side, more yellow than brown, more Caucasian than Hispanic.

“What’s next?” he asked the captain.

“Savannah,” the man said. He seemed agreeable, but he was providing a favor, and his men did not understand. Likely, they were losing money by the day because of their bizarre route, and over time, everyone had come to understand who was at fault, but not why.

David knew only small bits about the shipping industry, and sailing business, such were his family’s interests, and his involvement in them. He knew even less about Georgia. “And after that?”

The captain looked down at his notebook, and turned a page. “Well, Bay City.”

David knew absolutely nothing about the US eastern seaboard except there was New York, Boston, and then a bunch of other places with less important names to the south.

“It’s near the capital,” the captain said. He had finally gotten to the point of trying to influence the very important stranger off of his ship.

David nodded, trying to look considerate in inconsiderate circumstances.

Several more days passed, and the weather made his decision for him. David knew there were cold places in the world, places where animals needed layers of fat and fur, and one’s urine would freeze moments after leaving the body. He had seen snow in the movies, and heard about things like mittens and sleds. But those places always seemed far away. He had never considered that there were a thousand different grades of unpleasant weather in between the perfect climes of his home and the north pole.

He couldn’t have them turn back to Savannah, so Bay City it was. Bay City, where from the boat he still couldn’t look back and see the island. He didn’t realize until right then that he was unconsciously trying to sail as far as possible away.

He thanked the captain. He didn’t know how much money his father had given the man, but he added to the sum. When he walked down the gangway, he did not look back. The new scents mingled with the memories of older ones. This was a dock area, but it was also not like any dock area he was familiar with.

The first night was spent at a hotel several miles away. The first series smelled strange, unsanitary and spoiled. The next were the same. By the third group, David realized all stay over stops would have a similar combination of chemical cocktails covering the odor of a hundred different guests. He spared no expense on a room on an upper floor, stared out at the lights of the frigid city that was his new home, and slept in the bath tub. He dreamed of the cage.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hearts of Darkness, Part I

Without further ado, that thing I wrote.

David’s flight from the island was unceremonious. He woke up one morning, walked into his mother’s kitchen, sat at the end of the table and silently ate his share of the breakfast. It was room temperature, coordinating with the hour. His father had gone, and left his guards. Something about listening to his mother sing as she washed the dishes, as if she couldn’t see the posted sentries, the men in suits designed to shrink their world. Something about that made everything click for David. 

When his father came home for lunch David told him. 

“I’m leaving.” 

And not just him, David realized, but his mother, too, and the uncle or cousin his father had brought home with him. The words came out of his mouth and it was almost like sneezing, something his body needed to expel, a violent, involuntary gesture. After he spoke, there was nothing left to do but to have an ugly family confrontation. Except David had prepared for that, too, had practiced in the mirror, the way he held his posture, the way he fixed his eyes. 

As it turned out, none of that was necessary. If push came to shove, they couldn’t stop him, after all. The cage no longer troubled him, so far as they knew. And the bars, the men who watched him and his mother while his father was away, they were only as powerful as they were allowed to be.

“Do you know for how long?” his father asked.

David wanted to follow through. He wanted to stand up tall and tell everyone who was in the sound of his voice that he was never coming back, that this was the last they would ever see of him. 

But then his father accepted his mother’s hand. She needed something, someone to cling to, and found a willing buoy in the man she had married. 

David looked from his father down to the hand that was holding onto his mother. “I don’t know.” That made it impermanent. Powerless. That made it a youthful touring. 

His father stood happily, spoke of worldliness and sowing oats. He snapped his fingers and made arrangements immediately, as if this was all his plan. Within the hour, he was pressing documents and currency into David’s palm as he shook his hand. 

David didn’t pack much. In his memory, the gesture of leaving most everything behind meant something else when he had planned everything out. In his mind, he would need to travel fast and light, by nightfall in his heroic imaginings. 

When they dropped him off at the docks in the middle of the afternoon, waved goodbye as the towncar reversed direction, the knapsack on his shoulder seemed appropriate. He wouldn’t be gone long. His mother had been forbade to give him the kind of send off that was appropriate to David’s occasion. Just a hug, a kiss, a sweep of fingernails through his hair, and a foil covered dish with leftovers from lunch. 

He couldn’t remember the name of the boat, or even the name of the captain, but the smell of the docks, and the scents of the ship would be with him always. The freighter was so large though, it felt like he wasn’t on the sea at all, felt like he was still on land. There was still no need for affirming. Every other part of him knew he was floating further and further away. When he walked the deck on the second day and couldn’t see the island at all, he wasn’t surprised. He did thoroughly wash his mother’s bowl. For safekeeping.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

From 0s

Applications are submitted. That story even got written. It was interesting, working my way through those paces. I still don't have a title I like, and yet even though I don't know what to call it, I know exactly what it is.

All the drafted novels of the Where Shadows Lie series exist in a state that is very, very close to 60,000 words. I don't know how that happened, but I can attest to that not being on purpose. By the time I got into that range, the story was either done, or winding down, major conflicts addressed or resolved, most characters moved close or farther away from their hearts' desires. It was over, and time to address the next one. Except for the first book. The first book was only 55,000 words, and as I began noticing the earlier trend, that break in the continuity stuck out more and more. I didn't realize that those missing 5,000 words actually existed somewhere until I wrote this earlier story.

With the average length of the chapters in the book, those missing words work out to be roughly 2-3 chapters of material. I don't know where I would've put them, but I know what they were about. Now that the story, front to back, is more complete, I can see where I cut corners. Years ago, I realized that my first book would never be as good as the ones that came after it, because of the natural maturation process I would undergo. And I don't think I would go back and do it all over again, but the realizations that are occurring to me now are stunning.

In regards to posting the story, which I've edited twice, there seems to be a norm among blogs that posts not be more than 500 words, that one must account for the attention span of readers. The story I wrote is 14,000 words, and I went through and chopped it up into 4 parts that I thought would be nice and digestible. Then I found out even those smaller bits would be too large. I guess on a different, more popular site, this is where the author would put it up for a vote, or post a poll about such. There are several short story sites I've tried using over the years where I could put it up. Mostly, or rather completely, it's all on me, in this case.

Regardless, I'm very happy to have the words, and to understand more now about the characters I thought I knew ever facet of. Part of me feels like I should be able to take this sort of lesson and project it forward on my latest projects. I'm sure I'll try. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Re: Solved

Feels like the beginning of locomotion. Gears turning. Metal grinding. Power increasing. Or I could just be imagining things.

I have not very much time to get the grad school applications done. One was due back in December, and I got it off with nary a hiccup. At the time, it felt like leaving my home state of over 10 years was in the cards, that is to say that I really welcomed the change. As per usual things came up to impress upon me my desire to stay around these parts. I presume this is how most people's lives go: the road before them forks, and their list of reasons to go left or right are about equal length, but have very different items.

I was struck by several writing ideas, which is not new. What is different this time is that they were all old ideas, or rather, they were all new ideas about old stories. One of them even struck me hard enough that this very morning I spat out twenty pages. With no solid thoughts on what to do with the writing, it just came out of me, and I was very happy for it. I think in an effort to increase the rate of content on this blog, I might even post bits of it up on here.

I did an interview that had some interesting questions. One was about my aspirations. For the first time, in a space where others could react to them, I put down my thoughts about the kind of success I want. The example I gave was being stuck in traffic behind a bus with an ad for my book on the rear. That happened to me, not even a week ago. I regretted the lane I had chosen, and relaxed in my seat, resigned. The back of the bus filled my vision. I can't remember the name of the book, or the name of the author, only that it was a salacious undertaking, with sexy lettering and blurbs. I thought to myself, "Wow, good for you," and then I thought "That would be cool to see an ad for my books like that." I was glad to be able to confidently articulate that to someone else, and that that would be up on a website somewhere for people to experience.

At the end of last semester, serendipity had me meet a young person who was struggling with depression and other challenges. I shared with the person my own past troubles with droughts of self worth. In the days following I thought about my words, and what might've been better, and how I really felt about my experiences, and my time thus far in this world. What I happened upon was a few realizations I would not have noticed had I not had that conversation. I realized that I no longer used the same language that I had heard from that young person, "I hate my life" and "I hate myself." And when those thoughts from my past echoed to me, I was able to definitively say, "No, I'm doing okay," and "No, I think I'm alright." Far from perfect, even farther from content, I have my issues, and I have my struggles. And tomorrow could very well be less good, but the part of me that absolutely wants to see it is so much larger than it once was. Even in this blog posts of mine, I use the word happy far more often than I thought I would.

So. Yearly check up. In summation, 2014 wasn't great, and it wasn't terrible. On the stroke of midnight to close it, no great calamity occurred, so by all estimations, it's all going to keep spinning on. This ugly, beautiful, terrible, awesome thing called life.