Saturday, April 20, 2013

Brief Life Update + New Writing Samples

In the last six months, I have: realized that living in the SF bay area is not financially feasible (student loan repayments, hooray!), moved to the Boston area only to make the same realization (can't live off the generosity of my friends forever), and moved back to my (super financially feasible) hometown in Southern Ohio to live off the generosity of my dad (I can do that forever). My Yaris has packed on quite a few miles over these months, and my personal possessions have been downsized to fit inside said hatchback. I am pretty tired of moving, you guys! And also I would like to be able to buy some furniture that I don't have to resell or give away within one year of purchase.

MEANWHILE....I have been working on my pitch package (industry term, because I am the epitome of professional) for my horror novel All Good Children and sending it out to potential agents. I've started a new fantasy story called Little Daughter, about a girl cursed with the Midas touch, that also explores the power of storytelling and murkier themes such as personal ethics and morality. I've also been sending out short stories and flash fictions to various markets, and have a new story, "Seneca Falls: First Recorded Outbreak of Strain Z," coming out this August in the anthology Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages. Finally, I am awaiting word on whether I got into a certain Fellowship program, but I consider this quite a long shot. To sum up: I have been writing, submitting, and waiting, waiting, waiting.

BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO WAIT...for some juicy sample paragraphs from my new/current projects!

Here is the intro from my 11,000 word short story (phhhsshhh, short), "Seneca Falls: First Recorded Outbreak of Strain Z," in which an 80-some-year-old Elizabeth Cady Stanton recalls that one summer in 1848 when she changed feminism forever, fell in love with Lucretia Mott, and saved the world from zombies:

"Though it was perhaps the most significant chapter in my long and—if I may be so immodest, and certainly at my age I may—quite significant life, still I hesitate to include the truth of those two short days as a chapter in these memoirs. As much as I do not care to admit it, I am frightened. But of what do I have to be frightened? I am an old woman now and the only person I might betray has long ago passed on. She swore me to secrecy that night—more for the one sin than for the other—and I, though the record shall prove it quite contrary to my nature, I have bitten my tongue on this. For her.
    All my life I feel as though I have been fighting for her in the only arena I felt equipped to fight: the political arena, the constant struggle for the rights of the marginalized. I am nothing if not a powerful orator, for God blessed me with a voice and a will to speak it and I am afraid I have never been able to turn my back on the Lord's gifts. She, of course, could speak me under the proverbial table, and did on more than one occasion. It was one of the things that made her so beautiful, that stirred up those things in me. She fought for me—for my life if not for my hand, which, God forgive me, back then I would have traded it all for that kind of fight. A fight of the heart. But she had other, more pressing matters she had to attend to, as you will read.
    Despite my fear, I have decided to write it out for you, whoever you are. Whoever would care to read the accounts of an old woman when she was but a young and impassioned fool of a girl, driven by a need for justice and equality, yes, but—but also by something too dark to name. A dark sort of longing, a dark sort of love. Never to be realized, surely, and, I thought, never to be raised up again. But, as I learned during that awful summer night in 1848, the things we thought we'd buried have a way of lurching after us."

You can find out more about my story and the anthology Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages here, here, and here. Or why not pre-order through Amazon? You know it will be worth it.

Here is a teaser from the first chapter of All Good Children, in which an anxious 14-year-old Jordan Fontaine prepares for a visit from her Liaison, a woman who will essentially decide the girl's future:

"Those slender wrists. Bare and smooth, she must moisturize. There’s that game the other kids play at school, curling index fingers around wrists to touch the thumb, and moving up and up and up, and the farther they can move up, the more babies the person will eventually birth. The science of junior high reflecting the spells we learned in grade school using only a well-placed buttercup to discern how boy crazy you might be. I could wrap my fingers around those wrists and all four tips would touch my thumb. She would have ten children, maybe, a household or two, a village. But the elbow might put a stop to that, and the muscles that come after, though they’re hard to see beneath her blazer. Blue like her eyes. I wonder what she’ll tell us and what her voice will sound like when she speaks.
     I am up in my room, it used to be the attic but I was a surprise. Dad put my mattress on top of a group of boxes full of memories he swears we’ll never need to check on, but just in case, we’ll save on a box spring. My sheets are pink with pale yellow flowers and they match my pillowcase and my comforter. I didn’t pick them out. Jason has sheets patterned with antique muscle cars, and Jeremy has plain black, and I have yellow flowers swimming in a pink expanse, and my name is Jordan even though I'm a girl. As I said, I was a surprise.
     She pulls into the driveway. I placed a bet with myself that she would park on the street, but now her Mazda is boxing in our pick-up and it’s a possibility that this was calculated. I wonder if she knows that my parents would never run—well, maybe Mom but never Dad—and if they did, we have horses in the barn and they can go places her Mazda only sees in its SUV dreams. She’s wearing heels and a skirt that only pretends to fall past her knees. She probably wouldn’t chase us. She’d make a call, that’s all it would take, and wait disinterestedly for us to fall. Fall. It’s almost Summer.
     I pick through my dresser. Mom would kill me if she knew I was not dressed yet, but she’s still at the hospital and Dad’s in the field. We have a fox problem and our last good dog died last week. Checking up, checking up. I think I’ll dress down, fuck impressions.
     A pair of Jason’s old Wranglers, torn at the knees almost symmetrically, two sizes too big and I won’t bother with a belt. Mom doesn’t know about the stud in my bellybutton so I throw on a long black t-shirt. Seems to me that kind of thing should be no big deal, but she freaked when Jeremy pierced his ears last year and I’m not taking chances. Sneakers on, and one last peek out the window.
     She’s finger-combing her hair and checking her makeup in the Mazda’s side mirror. Doesn’t look like she’s wearing much, some light lipstick, blush, subtle eye shadow.  She’s pretty and I wish she weren’t. Her hair’s the same shade as mine, light brown if you look too quickly or from too far away, golden if you don’t blink. The sleeve of her blazer slides down her arm as she combs, and the wrist stares up at me. Briefcase at her feet. I wish I’d been told what to expect."

Jordan can expect a lot of heartbreak, painful Life Realizations, and sexual confusion, that's what!

Lastly, here is a bit of my current manuscript, Little Daughter, in which our reluctant heroine, Liddy Vanya, finds herself the center of a fable meant to frighten small children at bedtime (oh yeah she's also being tortured by the storyteller):

"In the Western Plains there lived a great Lord whose lands produced much food for the Kingdom. Through all seasons, there was something to reap, and no one in the Kingdom wanted for sustenance. This, it is said, so angered King Raedin of the Continent, that he cast a hex upon the lands, to weaken them in preparation for his intended war. The hex took on human form, the form of Zoloto Doch'ka."
    As he spoke, the knight took from his belt a sharpening stone and ran his blade across it, his eyes never leaving Liddy.
    "She appeared one evening in the Lord's chamber," he continued, "and his Lady wife, upon seeing her grotesque countenance, was so terrified she turned to gold in her bed. For Zoloto Doch'ka was not human after all, but a monster created from the darkest magic. Her skin was riddled with pustules, and coarse hair sprouted from her nose, lips and eyelids. Her irises were a rheumy red, and the smell of her caused pigs to weep."
    The blade satisfactorily sharpened, the knight gripped Liddy's pants leg and ran the blade up the seam, shredding the fabric from ankle to thigh. She tensed as he began to cut her shin, carving a shallow line to her knee, then a deeper one to her hip. She squirmed, but it only made his blade press deeper.
     His voice remained level, even cordial: "The Lord, upon seeing what had become of his beloved wife, took up his dagger and rushed the vile beast. But Zoloto Doch'ka, forced by her ugliness to resort to her wits, said to the Lord:

            A beauty, she
            But barren, see?
            And so her life
            She gave to me.
            To spin to gold
            So you'll not be cold
            Sonless yet rich
            As you grow old

    "The Lord, wanting to believe in his wife's noble sacrifice, accepted Zoloto Doch'ka at her word, and allowed her to escape. But the beast was only just beginning her scourge."
    The knight had cut away her opposite pant leg, and ran his jagged maze along that leg as well. It hurt a good deal less than the splinters had, and Liddy bore it bravely. Then he sliced along her Achilles tendon, and she screamed. He did not miss a beat in his tale:
    "Surreptitiously, she had used her jagged claws to cut the hand from the Lady's gold form, and she took it to the town's blacksmith and lured him with promises of riches to shape the gold into coins. Then she passed from door to door in the village, her horrid face cloaked by a shroud, and gave each family three gold pieces, and told each that three more pieces awaited them if they would turn upon their Lord.
    "And so one night, when the moon was full, a band of townspeople met at the Lord's gate, and he, not being accustomed to fearing his loyal people, met them unarmed. There he was slaughtered, as from the shadows Zoloto Doch'ka looked on and laughed. And before departing, she set fire to the fields and burned the town's livelihood, and she reported back to her King Raedin, who was set to strike any day. But our own King Arkona was ready for him, and pushed back his forces, no matter which land he attempted to seize."
    The knight leveled his sword at Liddy's chest, and popped the buttons off her shirt with its tip. "But you are not an ugly monster, are you, Golden Daughter? Your ugliness is held deeper. It is held inside your heart."
    Liddy coughed, struggled to produce enough saliva to spit. She said, "That was a pretty song. Sing it again?"

Pure, unedited drafting version right there, folks. It doesn't get much sloppier than that!

I must give a shout to Friday Night Writes and Write Club on Twitter (@FriNightWrites, #writeclub), which is a group of people just like you and me, banding together on Friday nights to participate in exhilarating half-hour writing sprints akin to the kind you might do in a manic state in the final week of NaNoWriMo.

All right, I hope you enjoyed all those words. I'll be back in a month or so with more!