Have you noticed that I haven’t been posting much lately? I have noticed and I am sorry. I am, right now, engaged in the process of novel revision, which means that I have lined my pockets with lead and have covered myself with post-it notes and have dangled baubles from every conceivable extremity, and then set out to run a marathon.
Or, I have engaged in the total reconstruction of a many-gabled house, with only my hammer, my hand-saw, a bucket of nails, and my own strong back, and I have to thread a new support system all on my own self.
Or I am trying to balance a boulder on the tip of a toothpick.
Or I am digging for treasure using an infant’s spoon.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share some snippets of pieces that are currently on the desktop (because, of course, I am also writing short stories. I love extra work. And punishments.) And it occurs to me that I would very much like to see what you are working on. Because why should I be the only sharer here?
I’ll tell you what: I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. In the comments section, copy out a paragraph or two of something you’re working on. Pretty please? I’d love to see it.
Here. I’ll start.
From “The Invisible Dog”
My name is Jackson Marks and I have an invisible dog.
I know what you’re thinking.
But it isn’t like that, I swear.
I’ve had him now for six years. I don’t know how old he was when he showed up, but he hasn’t grown. The top of his head reaches my knee. He’s got wiry fur and skinny legs and a tail that whips me in the face when he jumps in my bed and turns around and around until he finds a comfortable spot. And good god. He reeks. I suppose he’d smell better if I washed him – and believe me, I’ve tried. But he’s invisible. And he doesn’t like baths. So.
And then, from “The Unlicensed Magician”:
The junk man’s only daughter slides along the back of the low, one-roomed building that houses the constable’s office. The alley lights are out again – energy crisis. It is always an energy crisis. She appreciates the dark. She presses her hands against the wall, curling her fingers into the bricks. The sun is down and the moon isn’t up yet. The night air is a puckering cold, but the wall is still warm, and so are her hands. She can hear the constable inside, explaining things to the Inquisitor.
“I don’t care what you think you’ve heard, sonny,” she hears the old man say, “there ain’t been a whiff of magic anywhere in the county, nigh on fifteen years. Not a drop. Now you can write that down on your report and send it on up to your superiors. You got bad information is all. And not the first time, neither.”
A scribble of pen on paper.
An old man’s harrumph.
And then, from “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch”:
The day she buried her husband – a good man, by all accounts, though shy, not given to drink orfoolishness; not one for speeding tickets or illegal parking or cheating on his taxes; not one for carousing at the county fair, or tomcatting with the other men from the glass factory; which is to say, he was utterly unknown in town: a cipher; a cold, blank space – Agnes Sorensen arrived at the front steps of Our Lady of the Snows. The priest had been waiting for her at the open door. The air was wet and sweet with autumn rot, and though it had rained earlier, the day was starting to brighten, and would surely be lovely in an hour or two. Mrs. Sorensen greeted the priest with a sad smile. She wore a smart black hat, sensible black shoes, and a black silk dress belted at the waist. Two white mice peeked out of her left breast pocket – each one tiny shock of fur, with pink, quivering noses and red, red tongues.
So what’s on your computer right now? Or your notebooks or scratch paper or napkins? Share, please! 🙂
25 thoughts on “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
I moved to Lauderhill in the early summer. My mom had gotten a new position as a teacher at one of the local high schools, and a nearby hardware store had offered my dad a pretty good job.
I hadn’t had very many friends before, so the move wasn’t too bad. In the big city, we had to live in a tiny condo. Here, we had a nice, two-story house with a huge yard. A stream in back marked the border between our land and a farmer’s field. There were seven other houses on our street, which dead-ended right into a forest.
I spent the first few days after we got settled in exploring, finding out where the important stuff was and looking for cool places to hang out. The first day I mostly stayed in town; the second, I decided to explore the woods.
There weren’t any paths in the forest, and the underbrush was pretty thick near the edge, but once you got inside it opened up a lot. There was this big oak tree a ways in with an old tree house in it. It was sturdily built, with thick boards and strong crossbeams. The roof and walls had been waterproofed and shutters had been put over all the windows to keep out the weather. It was the perfect place to get away from it all.
Nice! Thank you!
Oh, why not…
A rangy man entered last. I was shocked to see him, recognizing our father more immediately than I would’ve expected given everything. He wore a baseball cap and his clothes hung from him like bad drapes. He stopped a few rows before me, bending over to quietly ask the man sitting there if the seat was open. When he sat, I noticed his shoes – black, the sort of thing a man who worked at an office would wear, except worn and stained with red clay – and I wondered if it were possible they were the same ones.
I could feel the tension of his body – the way he did not seem to relax even once the bus began moving again. He did not turn around, and I was sure he wouldn’t recognize me even if he had sat next to me. How many times did we think about this moment? How many times did we dream of vicious words – of violence! – as we talked late into the night, still worried that he could somehow hear us? The heat came from inside me, a fire that I thought had burned out, that I had snuffed through time and what I wanted to call indifference. I watched him for an hour, cataloguing every movement, every subtle gesture. I cannot explain it properly, and I expect you could not as well, because I no longer thought of him as real.
Sweet. Thanks, dude. That’s awesome.
“Look,” she finally said, practically barking the word at me. “I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know anything. I just want to go home.” It was the last day of school—our last day of high school ever. We should have been celebrating.
And finally, the big lumbering city bus pulled up in front of her, screeching and hissing. She climbed the steps without looking back. Should I follow her? Did she want me to follow her? I hesitated just a second and that was all the time it took for the door to unfold, to fwap shut in my face. The bus rumbled away.
(from my brand new YA novel “A-to-Z Lock & Key” which is currently 98 pages of raw first draft)
Oh, the humiliation of taking the bus senior year! How that takes me back!
Nothing to offer, but an earnest hope that we someday see the rest of “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch.”
Thanks, Hal! It got kicked back to me a couple of weeks ago, so I’m futzing at it before sending it back into the world. We’ll see….
Opening excerpt from a draft flash fiction story. Working title is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Jobs.”
I need money. I interview for a job advertised as “Fight Toxic Chemicals, $10/hour plus benefits, and bonuses”—and lots of cancer no doubt. I ask, “If I love toxic chemicals can I make more money?” I’m told pollution isn’t factored into current economic models.
Next interview, “Creative Minds Wanted to Help Fundraise! $10-$16/hour plus benefits.” I ask, “Can I make more if I’m not creative?” I’m told creative people don’t follow orders well.
“Fight for clean water! $10/hour plus benefits and bonus.” I ask, “What’s wrong with water?” I’m told people pee in swimming pools and tap water burns.
I trudge off to “Program Assistant 2,” which pays $12.50/hour and one “benefit” is helping adults with disabilities go to the bathroom. So I ask, “Does Program Assistant 1 only help people go #1, and this position only helps people go #2?” I’m told I’m an idiot, which I thought was rather rude!
Needs work, but a fun start… 🙂
Nice! (Also, I totally had that Clean Water job, post college. As a result, I always want to give the door-to-door canvassers a huge hug. Because I know how sucky their job is.)
The wind swept down the beach, unhindered by buildings or piers. Over the sand it flew, skipping over broken clay pots and half-covered fishing nets. Dark storm clouds looked down upon the scattered wooden planks and debris but didn’t halt in their shoreward path. As the rain pattered down, a lone piece of parchment fluttered in the breeze, unable to escape the lone-standing post to which it was nailed. It was a torn and battered, its ink smeared by rain and sea water. Soon no one would be able to read the characters written by a child’s hand.
(Prologue from my novel-in-slow-progress) =]
Don’t knock slow progress. Progress is progress. 🙂
Good luck with your revisions! I love reading your blog posts, particularly the blend of motherhood and writing. I have a 2yo and it is so hard to find the time to write, but you give me hope! These are my first two paragraphs from a fantasy novel I’m working on with working title “Silvertongue”:
These are the things I remember about growing up at the brothel: dark wood and red cushions, sailors barging through the doors, and incense and tallow smoke competing with the stink of rotting fish at low tide.
Once, when I was still so small I could almost walk under tables, I wrapped myself in a scarf and danced up and down the halls, trying to move my hips the way mamya did. Most of the girls laughed at me, but when mamya saw, she grabbed me by the wrist so rough it hurt. She dragged me to our rooms and yelled at me and made me swear never to dance like that again. After that, I only danced when she wouldn’t catch me.
Thank you! And yes, it’s a balancing act, and a frick-lot of work. But worth it. (and secretly, as hard as it is writing with kids, I think my kids have made me a better writer. For sure.)
Love this beginning.
Just a little snippet of my middle grade WIP…
“Thomas,” said Cory, treading over the engine, where the shaking of the floorboards made her voice quiver. “What if they were true?”
Thomas fumbled with an old pair of binoculars, peeping down the wrong end at a map of lower London. “What if what were true?”
Cory took a breath. “Father’s stories.”
Her brother put the binoculars down. And winced.
It must have sounded so ridiculous that it actually hurt. He took his time, untwisting his face, so he could scold his sister with proper disgust.
Cory looked away. She busied her fingers with the master compass, sliding brass scales all the way forward, and finally, all the way back again. If she had only stayed quiet. She wished her mind had the sureness of the compass, so she would never say silly things again.
For once, she was the one acting like a child.
Then Thomas spoke. “Of course they’re true. What do you think I’ve been trying to tell you this whole time?”
Good ole big brothers! (Never had one, myself, but I had an imaginary big brother when I was a kid. Someone perpetually exasperated and secretly supportive and awesome – just as all big brothers should be. Oh, Harold! How I miss you!)
From my WIP, my MG pirate adventure RACE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA:
“Two scoops of mashed fish guts. Four gallons of blood. Mix together in a barrel, then pour into the ocean.”
The recipe in Fidelia’s observation journal was for chum, and at twelve years old, she knew it by heart. The smelly pink slick took to the waves, spreading half a mile in the seawater. Any sharks in Arborley Bay would take it as the perfect invitation to swim past the research boat, the ancient brown-and-tan refashioned trawler, appropriately named the Platypus.
Fidelia balanced against the port side. “Calling all sharks!” she hollered, and waved her sticky scoop above the water’s edge. “I made chum with tuna, your favorite! Come and get it!”
A MG novel that starts out with fish guts is just gonna win. There’s no way around it.
I see I’m late to the party, and I have to say all the guests are so smart looking and fun to talk to.
This is from a story called Balance.
I knew my day was gonna start bad when the coffee machine spit out hot clear water. Damn. In my morning fog I had forgotten to scoop in the coffee grounds. Worst still, I had just wasted the last filter in the box.
We have extra coffee filters buried somewhere in the cupboard over the refrigerator. I looked at the clock and saw I had a few minutes to spare before I got in the shower, so I unfolded the stupid step ladder that shakes whenever I get on it, and started digging through the piles of junk.
I mean, how many half full bags of coffee does one couple need? Really?
That’s when I found the bill. It was tucked into the corner, next to the clear alcohol bottles layered in dust and cat hair. It was a doctor’s bill. $463.00. From a surgeon I never heard of. Not a lot, but still more than we had. And it was due in three days.
I don’t know why he hides them. Henry swears he’s getting better, and to give the devil his due he does faithfully attend his court ordered meetings, but each promise just piles up, one on top of another, until they start to feel like a lead weight crushing my lungs and pushing us deeper into the ground.
I steady myself against the cupboard door, dust from leaning over the top of the refrigerator making grey lines in my pajamas, and practice my deep breathing. I do what Carly always says will help; I count backwards from 100, I envision Henry a better man, I look hard for the bright side. But none of these things makes me feel smart. They just make me mad.
Just once I want to not feel mad. Just once I’d like to wake up and not wonder if today is the day I should divorce my husband. Is that too much to ask?
Then I got to school and things got worse.
Oh man. That just undoes me.
From the middle grade novel I hope I can truly learn to write:
So bright was the glow from Benifius Inkwell’s ideas, that they persistently flickered on within the heart of a small town…even years after his passing. Right now, an intriguing boy with a bundle of books tied up with jute and held fast in his arms, is hastening along one of the cobblestone lanes of Inkwell Bottoms. All the sidewalks converge here, at The Optimist’s Observatory. Chester Sprocket doesn’t need to push his glasses back to read the address he had printed out earlier, they were already in place, but then it is nice to feel things in their place, and so he does it anyway.
He is feeling a little overstimulated by the fact that he is actually here. Thankfully, benches encircle the the tiny entrance plaza fountain, each with it’s own street lamp standing behind it like a sentinel. Impressive. Satisfactory even.
He drops down. All the little symbols in the cobblestone… he marvels. He untangles a book from the top of his bundle and throws open a journal made thick with pastings, diagrams and jotted notations. He hovers the symbols in his book over the matching ones in the sidewalk. It was exactly as it was supposed to be. It was just so marvelous. He erupts into a series of wheezy, squealing noises that keep escalating to higher and more hysterical pitches. He has to set his stack of books down, and make curving gestures with his hands. With a flourish, he cuts the air in descending arcs, like the various heights of a christmas tree, or the intentional folds on the frosting of a cake. With each flourish, the squealing descends an octave. His breathing lands back in his chest in a winded heap. Mother is right. The breathing helps.
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so here goes – a poem i’ve had floating around in my head for a few weeks now…
(sorry about the length and random spacing)
my brain feels full
even in a moment
i can’t shut off
all the things
that are filling my brain
it’s not always a bad thing
when my brain feels full
i get things done
i make lists
i am productive
but i am not calm
and my spirit does not feel quiet
my brain feels full of good things –
my brain feels full of challenging things –
my brain feels full
and my spirit craves empty
my life is full
yet i need moments of space
so when i find my brain full
i will try to make some empty spaces
to fill with
Oh, I like this Becky. I have notebooks full of similar stuff I’ve written over the years. Glad I’m not the only one.