a2atuesday

Of Raining and Pouring

You know that old adage about April showers? Yeah, well, my April is a definite rainmaker.

Started off strong with my 31st birthday. Not a landmark birthday by any means, but definitely happy times. Did dinner with some of my dearest and felt very loved. My daughter even wrote a poem for me, stood on her little step stool and delivered it with all the grace and aplomb of a 5 year old. PS: She lost her second tooth yesterday and was upset that the Tooth Fairy brought money instead of something cool like a coloring book. Yeah, my kid is awesome.

Speaking of, last week she had her first field trip with school. I went along to help herd the cats kids. That was an experience, to say the least. A billion and one field trips at the Science Center that day and all our little charges in red shirts. You'd be proud of me, dear readers, that I did NOT, in fact, tell the teachers that it was never a good idea to put someone on an away mission in a red shirt. See, I can be good. Oh, but I speak too soon. I ended up griping about the school library's lack of organization to the woman who did the initial organization. *headdesk* Come on, the Magic School Bus books (some of my favorites, I might add) are NOT considered Non-Fiction. School buses do not turn into butterflies, therefore, fiction. Done. Don't get me started on one mother's comment that our school (Charter, Montessori) does not need fiction in its library. *shudder*

So, that was last week. Didn't leave much time to blog. "But, Jamie," you say, "that's just 2 days. What else did you do?" Well, as I said, April is pretty crazy for us. This week, a family of four will be coming in from out of town and spending a few days with us. So, I have to prepare my house to take on guests of epic awesomeness. This means cleaning and making sure that kids and cats won't die at some point.

Oh! Dude, speaking of my cats. TyGrr, my escape artist, knows that the door knobs mean "out". Well, yesterday, she decided to evolve. She still doesn't have opposable thumbs, but she was jumping up, gripping the door knob with one paw while batting at the deadbolt with the other. We are so screwed.

But, I digress. Business.

Cleaning, birthday, field trip... last week. This week, guests, a birthday party (for a friend, not me), volunteering at the school's library (*shifty eyes*) and working on that thing I do. You know, writing.

Next week I've got more volunteering, more writing and a bachelorette party. The week after that? Wedding. Two of my favorite people are finally getting hitched and I wouldn't miss it if I was comatose. Also, found out yesterday that I'm in the bridesmaid bullpen. Good times! Also, my best friend in the entire world is coming to visit for a couple of days. I have seen him ONCE in the past 6 years, so I will be relishing my Bri Time. There might even be midnight margaritas. Just sayin'.

Oh, and about the writing. I have 7 projects right now that want my attention. SEVEN. I want to edit/polish the novella I wrote in February now that most of my betas have gotten their feedback to me. I want to outline the next book in my zombie series. I want to take the novel I wrote in 2009 and chop it for parts, then overhaul the whole damn thing so that it isn't made of suck. Plus, there's a slew of short stories I want to write or expand on. And, I have this blog.

Yeah. I'm a busy Bee Girl. That being said...

...I'm going to put the A2A Tuesday flash challenges on indefinite leave. We only had one entry for the Madame Curie lookalike contest, and he was disqualified later.  There were less than a handful of you participating and I haven't taken those challenges myself due to the rest of my work load. So, for now, no more flash challenges from me. There are several out there for you. Go visit Chuck Wendig for a weekly flash fix.

So, I've rambled at you long enough, I think. I do have something to pimp, though. Last week, I had a IV drip of Tab Benoit thanks to Pandora. Seriously, if you've never heard of Tab Benoit, go thou and google him now. The bayou bluesman is phenomenal and his voice is aural dark chocolate. I'd serve him with dirty rice and andouille. (Not to be confused with Alan Cumming whose accent I want to serve over ice cream.)  Go now.  I had to force myself to switch stations today. Today, we're piping in my "Drag Queen" station. What can I say? I'm in a Britney/Xtina/Gaga mood today. Sprocket, my not-so-little-anymore black cat, is curled up on my lap and purring in approval. She's a good helper when it comes to warming my thighs or feet, but a terrible distraction when I want to write. Her mind control powers force my fingers away from the keys and into her soft fur.

Be excellent to each other, y'all.  Until next time....

Advice and Andouille

So one of those age-old writer's chestnuts is "Write what you know". We've all heard it. We've all taken turns balking at it or nodding sagely. We writers--especially those in the sci-fi/fantasy set where we try to beat truth for all its weirdness--know that this rule is actually more of a guideline. I mean, come on, I write about zombies and rampant acts of cannibalism...do you think I'm going to practice these things so I can give you, the reader an exact description of flavors? No thanks.

But, the other day, I found myself using this particular "rule" to beat myself about the head and shoulders. See, I wrote this piece of flash a few weeks ago. Now, because I've been reading Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels and watching a lot of Discovery Channel's "Sons of Guns", I've had Louisiana on the brain. The accent has been in my ear. The story, I decided, also had a very humid, bayou kinda feel, so I set it in Louisiana. For the past week or two I've been dallying with the idea of expanding that story into something more. Novel? Maybe. There's definitely room to go for a longer short (20k or under). But, as happens when I'm thinking of starting a new project, I started to second-guess myself.

You--born and bred in central Indiana, a transplant to the desert--want to write something with cajun undertones? YOU, one of the whitest women south of Utah, want to write something with that much flavor, spice, heritage and ... seriously? What do you know of it? The closest you've come to Louisiana is watching Steel Magnolias a hundred times.  But this is the thing about "writing what you know"... you can always know MORE. When I wanted to write authentic circus slang, I researched the hell out of it. (I'm a big fan of the circus.) There's this awesome repository of human knowledge that is quite literally at my fingertips. I can exploit the hell out of Google to learn about just about any damn thing under the sun. (Except Masonic teachings. For that, well, I've said too much.) While I'm not a carny, I can sure as shit tell you about them and I (think I) can spin a good circus tale that is all the more engaging because of the research I've done.

"Write what you know" isn't so much telling you that if you're a waitress, you have to write about waitresses. It's a reminder to us that while we as writers craft fiction, we should always strive to be truthful. Be honest. Our stories have to come from a real place within humanity, not necessarily a place found on any map or in our galaxy. For all your pretty words and well-paced plots, your story will fall flat if it doesn't ring true. You can tell when a musician is playing without soul or when an actor is just going through the motions. Writers, we can give ourselves away just as easily.

So, to that voice in my head that says just because I've never been to Louisiana, I can't write about a cajun...I say back off. It is within my power to learn more and craft something that is true to its roots. If the story is there and wants/needs to be told, I'm here to tell it.

Today, I've been listening to bayou blues and zydeco music.

I think there's a story that wants to be told and it comes from a humid, sticky place that smells like spicy shrimp and dirty rice.

I'm listening.

"Woebegone" : Flash Fic - A2A #2

So, it's true that I didn't get around to writing a piece of flash for last week's challenge. What can I say? I'm a bad girl. But, I have already written a piece for today's Apples 2 Apples flash challenge. Now, you'll remember that the prompts for this week were: Lemons, bull fight, woebegone, hostile and chains. One of these has to be used as the title. 1000 words, coherent story. Go!
After the jump, you get 999 words of flash from me... (Note: It MIGHT be evident that I've been reading Charlaine Harris.)

 
Woebegone
By Jamie Wyman

            Clay sat on his porch swing. The rotten wood floor creaked as the toes of his work boots pressed down, easing him back and forth. He’d developed a sort of rhythm over the past hour. Or was it two? Anyway, Clay took a drink of vodka from the bottle in his right hand, a bite from the lemon in his left. Back and forth. Back and forth. Drink. Bite.

            “I don’t see how you can eat a lemon that way,” Dee said.

            As the gravel crunched beneath her worn Keds, Dee flopped both arms over the porch railing.
            “Just squeeze it into the bottle.” she said.            Drink. Bite.

            Clay’s eyes swam into focus, seeing her for just a moment before flickering away to whatever images played in his mind.

            When he spoke, his loose southern drawl slurred, “What’s the point? It all goes to the same place, don’t it?”

            For residents of La Fourche parish, it was nothing to climb into a bottle and stay there for a week or two. But Clay Lafayette carried a 10 year chip in his wallet and everyone in town knew it. The second Blanche had told Clay they were having a baby, he didn’t look twice at a liquor store. He’d made a promise to his wife and unborn child and he’d kept it. Even when cancer claimed Blanche seven years ago. Clay had kept sober.

            Until today.

             Dee drew a deep breath. “Clay,” she started, but she didn’t know how to finish.

            At the sound of his name, he looked at her again, his eyes red and pleading. Dee glanced down to her shoelaces. She couldn’t stand to look at such naked emotion, such raw grief.

            Without taking his eyes from her, Clay reached into a plastic bag and pulled out another lemon. Drink. Bite. Back and forth.

            “Why are you doing this?” Dee asked.

            “What else am I gonna do, cher?

            “Somethin’ else? C’mon, now, do you think Blanche would want to see you this way? Giving up all you’ve worked for? Or your little girl. Think she’d want this?”

            With that, Clay’s grief melted away and what replaced it frightened Dee. His eyes became steely. His stubbly jaw flexed as he gnashed his teeth together.

            “All I worked for?” Clay asked, rage simmering like a pot of jambalaya and twice as hot. “All I worked for? You want to know what I worked for, Dee? I worked for them. Think I give a fuck about a tiny piece of shit I can find in a Cracker Jack box?”

             Dee hugged herself and kept her eyes trained to the ground. “Clay, I don’t mean meddle. People are worried about you is all.”

            “People,” he scoffed. His teeth sank into the rind of a new lemon like a snake’s fangs.

“People are prolly talkin’ a lot today, I s’pose.”

             Dee nodded.

            “Did they tell you how Sheriff Dean found Jenny?”

            A wave of cold nausea washed through Dee. She rocked forward and braced herself on the rickety porch supports.

            “I take that as a yes,” Clay said. He took another swig. “Chains, Dee. They found her in chains.  Every bone in that little girl’s body was busted. Cuts and scrapes and…” his voice trailed off. He didn’t need to finish. The townies knew what that sins that monster had visited on the little girl. Dee couldn’t blame Clay for drinking. If the vodka helped pull a curtain over his guilt-ridden imagination, then more power to him.

            “But what gets me, what I will never be able to forget,” Clay’s voice shook, “was that she was chained up. A little thing like her. God knows she’s built like her mama, bird-thin. She didn’t want Jenny to get away.”

            Back and forth. Dee’s eyes misted over and for a moment she was thankful. With blurred vision she could pretend she didn’t see Clay’s tears. Jenny’d been tortured for most of a month. The whole parish had been looking for her. Sheriff Dean found her in a maintenance shed by the elementary school, chained to a stake in the ground like an animal. After the sigh of relief that the girl was alive came the anger at the kidnapper.

            “How’s Ros?” Dee asked.

            “How do you think she is?” Clay growled.

            “Talk is that she’s crazy as a loon, Clay.”

            He closed his eyes tightly and took another bite, the bitter and sour tastes exploding on his tongue, dowsing the vodka burns in his throat. Clay’s rocking became more agitated. His face reddened.

             Dee’s voice was wary, but low. Almost soothing. “Clay, no one blames you for what happened.”

            Fresh hot tears rolled down his cheeks.

            “No one blames you,” she repeated. “What Ros did…” Dee shook her head. “She’s clearly a sick little girl, Clay. There’s no way you could’ve known.”

            “Goddammit Dee, Ros smiled when the Sheriff came here to collect her. My baby girl stuffed her best friend in a closet.” Clay gagged. “Jenny could’ve screamed herself raw and nobody would hear her. Ros said that was her favorite part.”

             Dee’s mouth felt thick with the taste of bile.

            “Clay,” she said, “we all know you loved the hell out of that baby girl of yours. If you had to you’d take a bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground, break it’s neck with your own hands and serve it up on the grill with your daddy’s special sauce. We all know you’d ‘ve helped Jenny if you had any inkling.”

            “Leave me alone,” Clay slurred. “ Dee, just take yourself on home.”

             Dee shuffled from foot to foot for a moment. She began to walk back to her own trailer, but she stopped and turned back toward Clay, blurred in the twilight.

            “What are you going to do?” she asked.

            “Fire up the grill,” he said with a weak smile.

           Drink. Bite. Back and forth.