When It All Goes Sideways

As I was making what I thought was some fairly impressive progress on my novel “Requiem for a Laborer,” moving right along with finding research for the opening of the story, I hit a small snag.

Well more of a major disaster, really.

I lost the file where I had an annotated map of the setting for the opening, as well some character notes and plot points. You know that feeling you get when you’re already late and you are about to step out the door for an important appointment just to realize, at that point, you have no idea where your keys are? That is a pretty good summation of how I felt. Just when I was going to start the rumbling engine that is to be my story, somehow I had lost the keys.

NowI know what a lot of you are thinking, “Why didn’t you back up the thing, to begin with?” I have a perfectly reasonable answer for that: “I have no idea what the fuck I was thinking.”

“I have no idea what the fuck I was thinking.”

We all make bone-headed play like that, don’t we?

So after the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and finally coming to acceptance, I thought that what I would need was a little time away from the site of the now key-less story. So that Is what I did. I worked on the house some and the yard a little. I read a good bit, too.

What I am learning, as a writer is to take these inopportune happening and see how I can turn them to my advantage. In this case, I reread my first draft and I am trying a different angle to open Requiem. Although I liked the changes that I had made, I felt that I was still telling more than showing. This had been the demise of many of what might great novel

This had been the demise of many of what might great a great novel. If the writer doesn’t grab the readers’ interest early on, it’s pretty much, “Ya know? I could be doing many more fun things than reading this. Sitting in a dentist’s chair come to mind.”

So for me, this has been a learning experience, Not only will I be saving more often, but also taking the chance during something negative to build something positive.

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A Christmas Short Story

Happy Holidays to you all. Thanks for taking the time to read and follow my little piece of the Blogosphere.

I wanted to share this bit of a novel that I wrote a little more than a year ago. This excerpt is a holiday piece that I hope you will enjoy.

Peace to all.

It was late December. Katherine Hunter-Price closed the front door to her apartment behind her. She was sick to death of editors riding her ass as she was working on stories and once again being forced to put her feature stories on hold. It was the same frustrating bullshit she had to deal with for years now. This story was big. She knew that she was the investigative reporter to work it because she had the connections in the railroad that could get her information. To hell with them if they weren’t going to listen. Katty wondered if she would have had as many issues if her name was Samuel or Thomas.

But in two days it would be Christmas. At least, she had a couple of parties she was invited to. Being with friends would break up the stress of dealing with work.

Katty looked out the window and saw that it was late dusk. She smiled to herself and tried to remember that the scientific term was for this time of day from her astronomy class that she took as a science elective: Was it Astronomical Twilight? She giggled to herself. How long had it been since she had taken that course?

After putting on her ski jacket and pulling on her boots, Katty stepped into the refreshing chill.

The air was completely calm. The only air moving was her own breath. She took as deep a breath as she could manage, arching her shoulders back. She smelled with wonder the scent that was only in the air around Christmas. She closed her eyes. There wasn’t a single solitary sound to be heard.

When Katty opened them, she looked at the color of the sky.  She marveled at the beauty; the silver of the rim of the horizon, the red-gold of last bits of broken sunlight, the pale blue above that darkening trough blue-green to electric to royal, and finally to the deepest, inky indigo. Katherine imagined a time before she was Katty. One Christmas, when a very young Kathy Hunter-Priest wondered if this was what is must be like to be inside her mother’s huge turquoise pendant looking out.

Christmas. The word had awoken an old memory…

Her daddy had given her mommy that necklace for Christmas when Katty was what? Eight years old? It had come in a black satin gift box that had silver letters printed on she couldn’t read, with a picture of a funny looking kachina that she giggles at. Katty remembered when her mommy opened the box and showed her little girl the gift, Katty could only stand agape. The turquoise stone seemed bigger than the palm of her hand and too magical to touch. The stone was mostly a gorgeous blue-green but mixed with shimmering pools of pure blue. An irregular web of copper looked like it was straining to hold the two colors of ice together and protect it from melting.

Katty remembered asking her mommy if she could touch the piece of jewelry. Her mommy said she could and Katty was surprised that if felt not like the ice of a frozen Wisconsin lake but warm from her mother holding it for her to see.

“Would you like to try it on, Kathy?” Her mother asked, smiling warmly at her your daughter.

Kathy couldn’t speak but only nodded, surprised at the offer. She lifted the necklace over daughter’s head and the two of them laughed together when the beautiful pendant fell to near the little girl’s tummy.

Katty was mesmerized by the night and the happy memory. She stepped off the sidewalk and listened to the snow crunch beneath her snow boots. The walked a few steps farther into the snow and began to dance to an old holiday song that came into her mind. She whirled and twirled in small circles all the while thinking of happy memories from her childhood and this time of year when almost everything held a magic of its own. She made turns with her arms stretched over her head with her eyes closed.

This time, when she opened them she was cognizant that the sun had completely set and that the sky had become completely dark. She didn’t feel that this was the kind of frightening dark of a woman walking home alone late, but the comforting dark of a little girl in her favorite pajamas, nestled deep in a down comforter after mommy had tucked her in and daddy had kissed her good night.

Katty walked through the bare trees of the little woods near her home. She had just walked around the trunk of a large ancient oak when she startled and was startled by, a pair of cottontail rabbits. She laughed quietly to herself as she tried to follow the rabbits, just to see where they were going. As they would hop a few yards ahead of her she would do her best to follow them as quietly as she could. The two rodents became bored with this game quickly and bounded off in different directions. Katty laughed in spite of herself. As she turned to go home she came upon a fallen branch that was as long as she was tall.

Taking hold if the branch she amused herself by making snowflake designs in the ice topped snow with its sharp point. After a few of these, she tried to draw a simple rabbit’s face with the long ears and whiskers and nose with a smiling mouth but was made to stop by her own laughing at the silly look of her attempt.

As she walked home, Katty became acutely aware that she had not let herself have the fond fun of a child in months, no… years.

As she walked up the steps to the stoop of her apartment she took a last look at the night sky and the made a point of taking in the beauty of the stars, even if most of them were washed out by the city lights.

In her living room, she shook off her coat and the chill of the night. Making her way to the kitchen, she decided that she would make hot chocolate, to warm herself. As the water was heating up she looked out her kitchen window and noticed it had clouded over; started to snow. As she mixed the water hot, chocolate mix and tiny marshmallows the snow picked up and had become big fluffy flakes.

She set the steaming mug down on her coffee table and made her way to her bedroom where she changed from her clothes into warmest, most comfortable pajamas.

Katty made her way down the stairs, turned on the table lamp sat on the couch and opened a book.

She smiled. She put the book down and leaned over and turned off the lamp. Then she went into the closet and pulled out an oversized down comforter. She turned high back chair toward the picture window and fully opened the blind. Picking up the comforter she spread it over the chair and dragged the end table next to it. Sitting down, she wrapped herself in the comforter and picked up her mug.

She watched the snow in the quiet and the dark. But this was not the quiet of someone forced to be alone but the quiet of meditative prayer. This was not the dark of a fearsome city street, but the dark of a little girl snuggled deep in her warm down comforter. This is how the hardened and jaded journalist, Katherine Hunter-Priest, fell asleep. Safe in the arms of memories she thought were long forgotten.