Stealing Time.

I know I’ve been absent here for a long time, but I think I’m finally ready to come back. See, we signed up for this little thing that has been sucking away my time and energy, and I’ve been using it as an excuse for not writing. We thought about jumping into this project for a while, but we finally decided to pull the trigger in January and become foster parents. Yup, you heard right. Along with two preteens of our own, we now have a 1 year old baby. It’s been a crazy beautiful and intense 8 months, but I feel like we’ve finally settled in to some sort of rhythm. It helps to have the girls back at school.

I still dream of finishing a novel one of these days. Actually, I think I’ve finally found a way to help me stay on track! I bought a notebook and have been writing the traditional way, pen to paper. It seems like my writing time is always stolen between appointments, while waiting in the car, or on family trips. My laptop sucks, and honestly sometimes it’s just tough to be creative when Facebook keeps beckoning me away. Oh, you. You know what I’m talking about. Another perk to writing longhand is that I can’t go back and delete everything I wrote the next day because I think it sucks. It keeps me moving forward, and I wish I would’ve just started doing this a long time ago. I still think everything sucks every time I re-read it, but I am determined to make it all the way through the story line and wait to edit until I am typing it up. It feels really nice to be unstuck.

I started looking into some novel writing software – do any of you folks have experience with this? The prices range a lot. What are the things I should really make sure to look for? Any great recommendations? I am looking most seriously at Write it Now and Write Way. Also, still looking for a critique buddy…

Last thing for you all. Just came across this blog by Chuck Wendig and really like it! He’s got great insight for any aspiring writer, but he’s kind of a smart ass so avoid it if you don’t like sarcasm. I especially like this one and this one. That’s all for today, folks! Have a beautiful one.

The Red Pen of Death

Ha! I love this challenge on Killing your Darlings  so much! It’s just so difficult, though, isn’t it? I will for sure be doing this, but not until I get to the END the first time around! I tend to want to edit things to death without moving forward. Also, this short post by The Story Medic is really insightful and reminds you of important guidelines to keep front and center. So, any good insights or words of advice? Anyone want to trade? You kill mine and I’ll kill yours…

Annie

Her errands took a significant chunk of the day, and she finally was able to make it over to Christian’s house in the early afternoon. She heard muffled yelling as she approached the door and realized it was Christian reprimanding one of his brothers. Just as she pivoted her heel to leave (she’d come back, she just wanted to buy him some more time,) the door flew open and his brother Jon stormed past her. Jon was 13 and was quickly turning from a quiet kid into a troubled teenager. Annie had only known him for a really short time, but she could see the anger and confusion that bubbled just under the still cherub-cheeked surface. She was sure Christian saw it, too, and her heart caught in her throat when she thought of how difficult these upcoming years were going to be for him. Continue reading

Annie

Start here to read from the beginning…

She woke up the next morning with a hangover. Annie had never been drunk before. In fact, Annie had never really done anything that could amount to any kind of trouble. She had seen the unfortunate long-term effects that came with an affinity for alcohol in her grandmother. Hard drugs weren’t something anyone in her family did, exactly, but crack was something that was sold now and again when they were really hard up for money. The crack heads that came around during those times were very nice, but crazy enough that Annie was sure her auntie’s timing of these sales correlated to everyone being home from school on purpose.

But, man, that hangover was worth it! Thus far in life Annie had kept her head down and her grades up. She picked up extra shifts whenever she could, not because she wanted more money but because she didn’t know what else to do with herself. She’d been singularly focused on this almost tangible, sparkling orb of freedom shining brightly just out of reach, waiting for her to grab it with both arms and hang on if only she could make it over the hill that was high school. Now it was finally here, and she was ready to spread her wings!

She’d had so much fun with Christian. If last night was any indication of what she’d been missing, she was glad she hadn’t been distracted with boys and other questionable substances thus far.  The rest of her life had arrived. It was finally time to make a break for it, and then decide what, exactly, to do with it.

  Continue reading

Bah! I just finished re-reading the story thus far and it’s terrible! This is the thing I hate most about writing. It is so difficult to finish stories because the desire to go back and fix and re-write is so, so high. That’s why I really want to do it this way, actually. If it’s out there and people are reading it and waiting for the next piece, I can’t go back and fix what’s already out there. I just have to keep moving forward! I can’t wait to get to the end to be able to go back to the beginning and fix grammar and inconsistencies 🙂 Let’s get the skeleton finished, then beef it up into a real story. For anyone new, start here to start at the beginning… Here goes nothing!

CHRISTIAN

When Christian got home that night he did his best to wash the smell of cigarettes off of his fingers. He scrubbed his teeth until his gums began to bleed and then proceeded to strip down to his boxers, effectively peeling the last bit of evidence of the night’s transgressions away. Silently, ever so silently, he tiptoed into the room he shared with his brothers, but this time, rather than squeeze in between them, he opted for the carpet right next to the mattress. It was getting too tight in that damn bed, anyway, and the floor was good for his back.

Christian couldn’t sleep. He didn’t think he was gay. He didn’t think he was anything. Was there such a thing as that? It wasn’t that he thought of other boys in a way that he should be thinking about girls, it was just that he didn’t think about girls that way, either. He had too much on his plate to think about girls; he had seen first-hand the drama that they could cause. He didn’t want to think about having another mouth to feed, and girls were a straight path to exactly that. Christian’s older cousin lived close by, and he had visibly witnessed the weight of his primos’s heina settle onto his shoulders. It etched lines of worry into that space between George’s eyebrows and around the edges of his mouth, and that was before the baby was even born. Not to mention Christian’s own little brothers, the ones he had essentially raised from the time they were 3 and 5. Nah, he knew what girls led to and thus far it made him a little sick to his stomach to think about getting too close. They recently learned about asexual organisms in biology, and he felt like he could relate. Not gay, not straight – just not needing anyone else in his life for any of that. Yup, he was asexual alright.

Things with Annie were different. It wasn’t that she was female – she was just… cool. He could think of so many good adjectives to describe Annie. She was refreshing, a tiny tropical island that he could escape to whenever he wanted to get away from his reality. He’d always known Annie and liked her, but from the time they’d really started talking almost two weeks ago it was like they’d known each other forever. It was just easy with her like that. Pinche hell. He’d never thought of kissing her! Why’d she have to say that? It was like a picture that had never been drawn before that point. An idea that he hadn’t known existed until someone told him about it, and now he couldn’t get it out of his head. Well, it didn’t matter anyway. He was asexual, and he was never going to let a girl put those lines between his eyebrows.

A to Z: High as a Watertower

I am currently taking part of the April A to Z Challenge! During this month, I am writing a single story, building each day off of the previous one. To get the story from the beginning, start here and work on up…

Annie and Christian each invested $15 so Annie’s aunt could pick them up a decent bottle of whiskey. They went to the store beforehand and stocked up on their favorite snacks to share – Sour Patch Kids, Almond Joys and Spicy Cheetos, and Christian picked up a celebratory pack of cigarettes even though neither of them smoked. It was a day to splurge.

A steely gray water tower sat prominently at the very edge of town and Annie had always wanted to climb it. She could imagine herself up there, the world a soft quilt spread below, a patchwork of houses and hills stitched together by rambling charcoal highways. She loved heights. They ascended the ladder, Annie in the lead because she couldn’t contain her excitement, and Christian determinedly behind her because he wouldn’t possibly let her do it on her own.

As they reached the top, Annie walked gingerly to the far rim and looked out across her city. It was everything she’d imagined, and it was here that reality finally hit her. These streets would no longer be hers in two days’ time. She had finally arrived at all she’d been working toward. Her Greyhound route was mapped and almost finalized. The money from 2 years worth of working was in an envelope at the bottom of her backpack in her aunts house, and her last days of school and work were finally finished. Tomorrow would be a day of tying up loose ends, purchasing that ticket, and packing her meager bags. It was really time to start the next leg of her journey, and the entire world was spread before her. This world, the world directly in front of her. It was liberating and daunting at the same time, and a small piece of her felt a little empty at the thought of leaving it all behind, although she would never admit as much. She wondered if that emptiness would have been there just a couple of weeks ago. She felt a rustle at her shoulder, and turned her head to gaze into the eyes of a smiling Christian.

“Okay, dreamer. Let’s get this party started! What do you want first, whiskey or Cheetos?”

“Cheetos, duh,” she smiled as she grabbed the liquor bottle and twisted the top, “never drink on an empty stomach.” She took a small sip and grimaced, then passed the bottle.

Christian ripped open the Cheetos and handed them off. “This stuff is awful,” he croaked as he took a swig of the bottle. “I don’t know why anyone would drink it unless they just wanted to get wasted.”

“I think that’s the point. And it’s not that bad. C’mon! It’s Grad Night! We’re here to celebrate, don’t make me regret bringing you, you square!” Annie took a healthy swig and motioned for him to take the bottle and do the same. She made her way to the center of the tower and lay down, arms and legs splayed wide as if she were going to make a snow angel.

He took another deep swig, then followed her lead. As he eased his body down next to hers and gazed straight up, he was not prepared for what he saw. Billions upon billions of stars seemed to fill the night sky – more than he though possible. Just moments before they had been looking out over the indigo horizon and the stars hadn’t even registered on his radar, how could he have missed something this brilliant? It was gorgeous. He had never noticed how many layers were in the sky, how far away and intangible some of the stars seemed to be while some seemed so close. It was a metaphor for his life in many ways. So many layers, so many complexities and unknowns. So much beauty, but just out of reach. It made him just a little sad.

Long, deliberate silences where one of the things that he loved about Annie. They could be in their own worlds together, the need for words unnecessary. In the two weeks they’d been hanging out, he felt she understood him better than anyone had. She didn’t have expectations. She didn’t ask him for anything except his presence and his confidence, and he gave her his trust, too.

In the silence, Annie wondered what Christian was thinking about. She appreciated their silences together, and felt that these were some of the times when they understood each other the most. She loved that he seemed to value her whims and her occasional rants. She loved that he was game for almost anything, and that he seemed to respect her voice and her thoughts when she wanted to share them. He was someone she could share with, for there hadn’t been many given to her in life.

“What do you think?” She asked.

“It’s brilliant.”

“Christian?

“Yeah…”

“Thank you for coming with me.”

He scooted just a little closer, and wrapped an arm around her head. “Thank you for spending it with me…Annie?”

“Yeah…”

“I’m going to miss you.”

She wondered what he meant by it. Her heart hurt thinking about leaving this, her only friend ever. She hoped that was all he meant, too. Her stomach flipped at the thought of him trying to kiss her. The thought had never crossed her mind until this moment, and she was afraid it might ruin everything. But maybe it would make it easier leave town and leave him behind. She sighed.

“I’m really going to miss you, too, Christian,” but she couldn’t leave the thought behind. “You aren’t going to try to kiss me now, are you?”

He stiffened. “No, why? Do you think we should?” Christian hadn’t thought of this. In fact, he hadn’t thought of kissing anyone, ever. He knew it was abnormal behavior for a young man his age, but he’d had an abnormal upbringing. With Annie, he had found an unlikely eleventh-hour ally, one he was afraid to lose, but not because he wanted to get in her pants. He would just miss this random easy friendship.

Annie felt stupid. “Christian?”

“Yeah…” He was afraid of what she would ask next.

“Are you gay?”

“No. I don’t know. Maybe?”

“Because I still like you, even if you don’t want to kiss me and you like boys. Especially if you don’t want to kiss me.”

“Gee. Thanks for the confidence boost, Annie. Where are those damn cigarettes? And pass me that bottle!”

Annie wrapped her arms around him as he sat up, and laughed heartily. They stayed up until dawn, bantering as they had for the past 10 days, passing the bottle back and forth and smoking a few cigarettes for good measure.

 

 

 

A to Z: Grad Night

Over the next week, Annie and Christian slowly but surely built up their friendship. They ate lunch together almost everyday. They learned that they both had an affinity  for papaya, leftover pizza, and chocolate covered bananas. They equally hated diet sodas and strawberry milkshakes, but while Christian was a fan of vanilla, Annie would only drink chocolate. Annie was a Virgo and Christian was a Leo, which meant, according to Seventeen Magazine, that they were completely incompatible. Annie was the youngest child and Christian was the oldest, which meant, according to People Magazine, that they’d be perfect together. Annie had spent much of her life fending for herself; her mother had been in and out of prison since she was young, her father had disappeared from her life before she could even remember and her brother had gotten locked up four years prior, right when she’d started high school. Thankfully she had an aunt and a grandmother around who let her sleep at their respective house when she’d needed it, as long as she could bring her own groceries and contribute a little to the household.

Christian, on the other hand, had spent much of his life taking care of other people. He was the oldest of three brothers. His dad had been deported when he was 10, effectively making him man of the house. His mother worked two full time jobs to keep a roof over their heads, though she insisted that Christian only work minimally so he could finish high school and get his diploma. It was up to him to set the example for his brothers and keep them in line, and he did a good job with it. His grandmother lived in town, but his grandfather had passed away. She enjoyed her independence and didn’t want to give up her own apartment to squeeze into the Santos family’s two bedroom house, so he made sure to check up on her a couple times a week and help her with groceries.

When graduation rolled around, they decided not to go. Christian’s mom had to work, anyway, and though she was extremely proud of him, she really mostly cared about the diploma. Annie didn’t have anyone who cared at all to watch her walk, so she decided not to waste the money. Neither of them wanted to expend the energy or the money to attend Grad Night celebrations at the amusement park with the rest of the school, so they decided to celebrate together.

 

 

A to Z: Feelings

I am currently taking part of the April A to Z Challenge! During this month, I am writing a single story, building each day off of the previous one. To get the story from the beginning, start here and work on up…

Annie woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to tackle the day. She felt a little lighter today, dizzy with the excitement of impending graduation, and giddy from the droll interactions of the night before, though she was still somewhat bothered by Christian’s off-the-cuff sentiments.  She determined that if given the opportunity, she would expend just a little more energy working on being a friend instead of so singularly focused. Though it was a little late in the game, she hated to leave town this way, with only fleeting memories of herself as the girl who had no friends.

The first few periods came and went, same as they ever did. No grand opportunities came to her, no chances to help someone pick up dropped books or lend an ear, no one so much as looking her way. It seemed she had done a decent job of simply existing here, skating by without too many expectations. She was sitting alone under her favorite shade tree for lunch, a monstrous oak with rough, peeling bark and a trunk so wide she couldn’t even wrap her arms half way around it. She had recently printed out a map of the Greyhound routes and was beginning to discreetly plot her destined journey when she heard a rustle in the leaves behind her.

“Boo.”

She startled.

“Mind some company?”

Now was her opportunity. She feigned nonchalance as she gestured in a way that indicated he should sit. “Come on down.”

“Hey,” he lowered himself opposite her, folding long legs upon themselves more gracefully than she’d expected him to. “I just wanted to apologize for yesterday. I didn’t mean to be offensive.”

“Huh? You mean that friend comment? That’s okay. It wasn’t offensive, it just really got me thinking…”

“The friend comment? I meant everything except that! I was in a weird mood. I usually just don’t intervene so much, and then I said that you weren’t that pretty! I don’t even remember what I said about friends. I was just a little bolder than I usually am with everything. I think my adrenaline was up from that guy, and I didn’t mean to tease you so much. I hoped I didn’t make you mad!”

Annie’s cheeks pinked. “Christian, I am not offended that you stood up for me. I’ve been trippin’ over that thing you said about me not having any friends! You were right ya know. I’m leaving in two weeks and I don’t think I’ve ever made a friend in my life. It’s been about staying alive and getting out of here for so long that nothing else has mattered. I don’t think that’s a good thing.”

“Psh. You’re not the only one, chiquita. I don’t usually go out of my way for anybody. I’ve just got so many people and emotions that I’m trying to balance at home. I don’t have any energy left to even think about balancing somebody else. I just want to get done with all of this school stuff so I can get a 9-5 job and stop stressin’ about putting food on the table, ya know? Friends can only take you so far.”

“I dunno. It really got to me. I think I need to try. It seems like I’ve done a really good job of building up these walls, though, because no one has even tried talking to me today, except you. I’ve been paying attention. It looks like you, Mr. Santos, may have just volunteered to be my friend experiment.”

 

 

 

 

 

A to Z: Easy Friendships and Espresso.

I am currently taking part of the April A to Z Challenge! During this month, I am writing a single story, building each day off of the previous one. To get the story from the beginning, start here and work on up…

She turned to look over her shoulder. “Christian! Oh my God. I didn’t even notice that it was you out there! And now you’re cackling like an idiot and the whole bus is staring at us.”

“What, did you think it was some guy you didn’t even know, coming to rescue the poor damsel in distress? You might be good looking, Annie, but you aren’t that good looking!”

Annie socked him in the shoulder. “Shut up, you jerk! And thank you. I hope that didn’t hurt.”

“Ow! That’s how you repay my heroic knightly efforts? No wonder you don’t have any friends,” Christian was still chuckling. “Honestly, I’m glad I happened to be passing by. That guy was a fool and you could’ve really gotten in trouble. Do you always come home solo in the dark? It’s not very smart in this barrio.”

“I know. I don’t have too much of a choice, though. I’ve been at this job for two years and I haven’t had many problems– it’s not like I don’t know my way around these streets. Besides, times almost up! We’re graduating in 10 days! I put in my two week’s notice a few days ago.”

Christian’s eyes widened in surprise. “Really? Why? Are you going to college?”

“Nah,” Annie shrugged her shoulders and blushed, “just getting out of this town. I don’t really have too much of a plan. I’m buying a Greyhound ticket as soon as we graduate. I’ve been researching places, I just haven’t decided yet. I want to go somewhere far away and exotic. Maybe Nashville. Or Boston.”

“Nashville or Boston? Only white people live in those places, you know. That’s actually really cool, though. I don’t know if I’d pick Nashville or Boston as my top choices, but they’re definitely going to be real different than here.”

“That’s what I want! I want to go to coffee shops and drink espresso and learn how to play the guitar. Or go watch crab fisherman and see the autumn leaves. Don’t laugh at me. I’ve never told anyone this. In fact, I don’t even know why I’m telling you, Christian Santos! This is seriously so random! I can’t believe that I’m sitting here, spilling my fantasy world to you of all people. What were you even doing at the bus stop?”

“Hey, what’s wrong with spilling it to me? I’m not laughing at you. I think its cool, for real. I had no idea that you were such a dreamer. And I was coming home from visiting my abuelita. I go to her apartment to check up on her a couple times a week after school. You’re lucky I meant to get on this bus! You would’ve ripped a hole in my jacket if I tried to get away! This is my stop, though, so you’re going to have to give me up now.”

“All right, prince charming. Thanks for coming to my rescue. I’ll see you around.”

“Hey, it was really nice talking to you. Stay safe. Maybe we’ll run into each other again before you fly away from here, bird.”

And with that, Christian dismounted the bus and left Annie contemplating the random events of her night. She had friends, didn’t she? Wasn’t he just teasing her? But as she thought about it, she realized that he might be right. Sadly, she hadn’t put as much energy into building friendships as she had into putting up walls. She’d always thought it was too draining to talk to people, and scary to let them too close. It had been easy and even nice talking to Christian tonight. Maybe it wasn’t to late to make a friend, after all.

 

 

 

 

Following The Mantra

Write every day! We’ve heard this over and over again, and I am just attempting to fulfill this promise to myself. I’ve got a house full of kids and no room for solitude unless it’s in my head. All you parents know what I’m talking about. It’s impossible to buy a moment. I find myself agitated that my kids are disrupting the imaginary world in my head, then realize how out of order my priorities can get. I received an email yesterday from the studio I write for letting me know that all of us writers can expect no work for at least the next few weeks, at minimum. Another stark reminder that I need to find other outlets asap. I think I really enjoy writing articles on doing things that are fun and unconventional. Travel articles with kids, local travel, local restaurant stuff (kid-friendly, of course) and anything on-a-budget. Where is a good place to submit these? Can I just go in blind, or do I need to query, or is there a list of suggested article topics I can pull from? Is this just whaImaget happens when you are actually hired as staff somewhere? Am I delusional in thinking that maybe I can just waltz in and submit unsolicited articles like this somewhere? Throw me a bone here, people. Let me know if you have insight into any of this stuff. I know some of you write for a living.

I hear children giggling behind closed doors. I wonder if I intervene too much or not enough. I wonder if it’s always a parent’s nature to question if they are doing this right. We only get one chance. It’s so strange, this transition between milestones. It happens regularly; I remember distinctly different times, like when I couldn’t figure out why C kept crying in her car seat when she was a baby. I realized, finally, that she was squished in there with that stupid little infant pillow and she couldn’t turn her head. One day it just occurred to me to take it out, and she was so happy. She was growing from infant to something bigger and I wasn’t realizing it. As soon as I did and modified my end, she was fine and able to be happy in the skin she had grown into. It’s like, you find balance together as a family and then your kid decides to jump onto that next rung and family life is thrown into upheaval for a moment until we can find our equilibrium again. I think we are hitting that phase right now, fast and hard. We can figure out how to grow and climb to that next precarious step together, parents balancing kids, or we parents can refuse to move and throw the entire thing of kilter. I guess it’s time to figure out the best way to step up and take that next pillow off.