Retribution: Anna begins

I’m going to try something new.

Something that scares the shit out of me.

I’m going to share with you a bit of the first chapter of my WIP.

Why?

Because it’s time to take another step outside my comfort zone.

Be kind.

Or don’t.

Here goes.

(Egads!  Hope I didn’t miss any typos…)

Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

Anna Malkin sat atop a dune of bleached sand on North Carolina’s outer bank, the wind whipping her fiery red hair around her head like a torrent of flames licking the night sky. She stared out across the wide expanse of the Atlantic clad only in a sleeveless gown of gauzy cotton, her feet bare. Goose bumps prickled her skin, but her senses had long since numbed to the bitter bite of the ocean air.

Dawn was breaking, the sun just beginning its slow ascent. It kissed the surface of the glistening water, casting a star burst glow along the horizon. It was a peaceful scene, serene in its simplicity. It was a sight that used to warm her heart and calm her soul. Now, as the blackness of night retreated into the light of day, the beauty and serenity were lost to Anna. All she knew, all she’d known for one hundred and two days , was the sound of the earthly hell brewing within the confines of her own mind.

Louder and louder it grew until it was all she heard, all she saw, all she felt.

One hundred and two days.

At times it seemed like a lifetime had passed, but on days like this when her fear bubbled and festered, and madness enveloped her mind, she felt as raw and desperate as the day she’d stumbled out of the desert, hanging to life by the thinnest of threads.

Anna had come to the North Carolina coast to find silence and solitude, to heal. Her body had, the swelling was gone, the bruises hardly noticeable. She walked without a limp now, and it was only a matter of time before she could grip a glass without it slipping through her fingers. Her mind proved harder to mend, the scars permanent. Images of the hell she endured at the hands of unmitigated evil were etched deep in her brain, they flashed in constant repetition before her eyes. The sound of her own screams echoed in her ears. It had begun as a soft whisper, an icy breath on the back of her neck but with each passing day, it grew. Now it encapsulated her, held her by the throat and threatened to swallow her whole.

Her family had gathered in a show of support, crowding into her mother’s sprawling Ocracoke Island beach house as if it were a joyous reunion. Her director had called with a message from the President. Even her old mentor had shown his war-weary face for a day or two. There was nothing they could do or say to ease Anna’s pain, her suffering going beyond their comprehension. They tried, she would give them that, but all they had to offer was food she refused to eat, and conversations she had no desire to engage. She felt their commiseration. It clouded their eyes and dripped from their tongues. They pitied her failing mind, her broken spirit, her shattered soul. She hated them for that.

Anna knew life as it had once been was over. She understood there was no going back, yet she couldn’t bear the thought of another day trapped inside her mental prison. There was only one way out, and she accepted her fate with open arms.

She rose to her feet and stumbled through the powdery sand propelled by an unseen force toward the rising sun. It beckoned to her, the promise of blessed release and absolution drifting in on the cold sweet wind. It held her transfixed, as alluring as the intoxicating song of a siren.

Anna waded into the frothy surf, the buzz in her head growing with every step. Violent waves broke over her as she fought through the swirling current. At the place where shallow sand dropped into the endless abyss, she paused, staring directly into the blinding light of the sun.

And she surrendered.

The water took her, engulfing her, dragging her down into the dark depths, and for the first time in one hundred and two days she experienced unfettered freedom. Peace. Anna lifted her face up, and watched the reflection of the sun dance across the surface overhead. Overwhelming reverence surged through her, and she felt closer to God than she had even been.

She blew the last of the air from her lung, and water filled her mouth, its weight crushing her chest. Within seconds her vision blurred and the infernal noise that had plagued her for weeks and weeks receded into the background and slowly faded into silence. She closed her eyes and welcomed the blackness.

It was over.

She was finally free.

Her neck jerked back then, shattering her new-found peace. Something had her by the hair, hauling her up with a speed and agility she was powerless to resist. Her head broke the surface. She gasped as water and air fought a battle within her lungs. Anna tried to twist around, tried to see who or what had taken hold of her. The grip on her hair loosened, but just enough for a strong arm to encircle her neck and drag her back to shore. It wasn’t until she lay in a heap on the sand shivering and coughing the last of the water from her lungs did she look into the clear green eyes of the man who had ruined her only chance for freedom.

A man she knew she could never forgive.

© 2013 Peggy Isaacs.  All rights reserved.

Camp NaNoWriMo: the aftermath

On Saturday, I surpassed my Camp NaNoWriMo goal by 4K+ words.

That means I won.

Yippee!

Time for a celebration.

Tequila and Ren Faire, it is.

Don’t judge me.

So, now it’s over.  The euphoria that comes with accomplishment is waning, and I am left with the aftermath of writing willy-nilly for a month straight without rereading or editing a single word – just a lot of marking and moving on.  A difficult concept for me, and frankly, the thought of facing what I’ve committed to paper scares me.

I did, though – at five in the morning, over my morning coffee.  My walk through was brisk.  It was all I could muster after four hours of sleep and the realization that I had forgotten to pick up french vanilla coconut milk coffee creamer on my way home.  Black coffee sweetened with refined sugar does not make for ideal shitty writing reading conditions.

I hear war stories from the NaNo veterans.  They assure me that cringe worthy writing is the norm.  After all, NaNo is not about producing a finished product, it’s about a commitment and dedication to the act of writing.  I suppose in this context, what I found was on par.  It is a bit overgrown in places, a little sparse in others.  There are rare bursts of brilliance encapsulated within thick sticky sludge.  Anna is still missing her retribution.   The fragility of her state of mind is not quite right, and her brother is without a completed introduction scene – again.   And the typos – sweet baby Jesus, don’t get me started on the typos.

It is a work in progress, ever evolving.  I am not displeased with what I’ve done – it could be worse.  I’m far from finished, but I am closer to the end.  In the last few days, I have been struck by an idea for a new opening scene.  It is something I’ve struggled with for a long time – where does Anna’s story begin?  This new scene captures Anna’s inability to cope, her helplessness and hopelessness, her quest for absolution.  In other words, Anna hitting rock bottom.  I think it works.  I hope it works.  I’m sure my writing group will tell me if it doesn’t.

On a side note, its inspiration comes from an album that I’ve listened to countless times and never before made the correlation.

It’s all in the timing, I suppose.

So, now what?

More writing, of course.

Anna needs to get her retribution back!

 

Happy camping: Day 10

So, I made it through ten days of Camp NaNoWriMo virtually unscathed.  Seriously, nary a scratch.  I have surpassed the 10K mark, rounded the corner of my first turning point, and am quickly closing in on 11K words written.

tentA couple of days ahead of schedule.

How the hell did that happen, you ask?

Especially, given my overall track record of self-sabotage?

A few things:

1.  I let go of a plot point that I have held onto since Retribution’s inception.  I can be a sentimental person.  The very first thing I jotted down about Anna has stuck in my mind, and has become an extension of who she is to me.  The problem – it is always this plot point that causes me to write myself into a corner.  It just doesn’t work.  I have finally found the strength to banish it completely.

2.  I have accepted that every sentence, every paragraph, every scene is not going to be a work of perfection – yet.  I have long understood that a draft is just that, a draft.  It’s not meant to be print ready, or even good.  I think we are all familiar with quotes reminding us that books are not written, they are rewritten.  I get it, but I’m an overachiever.  Just another flaw to add to my growing list of personality quirks.  You might think this would work in my favor.  I mean, after all, when I think of an overachiever, I think of someone who has the drive to do anything and everything.  I think for me though, my overachiever habits lend to my ability to move on from something I think is structurally flawed.  I obsess and work tirelessly to fix a badly worded scene, paragraph, sentence at the detriment of the work as a whole.  It is my Achilles heel.

3.  I am allowing my DVR to do its job.  The Real Housewives of (insert random city here) aren’t going anywhere.  I can watch all of my brain cell sucking trash TV on May 1st.

Alright, so where do I stand as I begin day 11 of this challenge?

10,871 of 25,000 words written.

Write on happy campers.

Write on.

Happy Camping: A Camp NaNoWriMo update

Okay, so I’ve been a little remiss in my blog postings of late.  Sure, I’ve given you some groovy pics to tide you over, but I know what you really want – you want to hear all about my writing woes.

Well, guess what?

I’m not having any writing woes at the moment.

What?!?

That’s not to say sitting down at the computer every single day, pounding out a string of words designed to exhibit a measure of cohesion isn’t a complete bitch.  It is.   On a good productive day, the process only sucks out all of my brain cells; on a bad day – well, let’s just say it leaves me a quivering mass of something that should never see the light of day.

So, let me recap for those who have not had to suffer my temper tantrums and pity parties.  Several months ago – I’m going to refrain from embarrassing myself with the exact dates – I started writing a story I entitled Retribution.  Anna’s story.  I wrote 60K words within the span of a few months, and then it all went to hell.  It was so bad, and I hated it so much, that I did the only humane thing I could think of – bonfire.

A few months later, a voice began whispering in my ear.  It was Anna.  She became my constant companion, her voice needling into my subconscious, demanding I give her the story she deserved.  Eventually, I gave in and began drafting an outline – or six.  June arrived and along with it Camp NaNoWriMo.  I threw my hat into the ring, and by the middle of the month, I had written 26.5K words.  I was on a roll.

Then it all went to hell – again.  I learned a valuable lesson last summer:  Going on a family vacation for a week to Washington D.C., in the midst of an intense writing challenge, is not conducive to success.  My fall schedule didn’t help matters either.  It was consumed by Geology, Political Science, African-American history, and the Cold War.  There was no room for Anna.

I’ve spent the early part 2013 recuperating, trying to find my bearings.  For me, the transition from scholarly writing to fictional is a difficult adjustment.  I envy writers who can do it and make it appear seamless.  At the end of February, I opened my Retribution files again, sifted through scene after scene, made some notes and a few plot adjustments, did a little research.  In March, I heard the rumblings of an April edition of NaNoWriMo with an adjustable word count goal.  My heart did a little flip-flop.  A sign?  I think so.  I joined without hesitation.

So, where am I going with all of this rambling nonsense?

It is day three of the challenge.  I’ve written almost 5,000 words toward my 25K word goal, and I’m feeling groovy.

2013-Participant-Campfire-Circle-BadgeWrite on happy campers.

Write on.

Self-shaming Novel Update

Last week’s goal:  Continue with the outline – map through to the rising action, at least.  Write Leo Baxter’s inciting incident scene. 

I’ve made some progress with the outline.  For me, it’s a slow tedious process.  I have waffled a bit on one particular element – to kill a character, or not.  Usually, I don’t have a problem with this, but I like the guy.  I’m having difficulty letting him go.  I’ll get over it.

The first blow took Leo Baxter by surprise, the second drove him to his knees.  – Retribution

I’ve been staring at this sentence for a week.  All in all, it’s not a bad first sentence for Leo’s introduction scene, even if it’s a little cliché.  I think it’s a good pushing off point for the event that spurs Anna to reenter a life she fear and loathes.  I just wish I could come up with the sentence that comes next…and the one after that…and the one after that…and so on.  Even now, as I stare at it, I am perplexed.

This is a pivotal scene, and I’m well aware of what I need to accomplish.  It’s just a matter of getting the words to flow.  I’m sure they will eventually come to me.  Probably when I’m in the shower with shampoo in my hair and no writing materials within close proximity.  Or better yet, at the gym on the elliptical with 30 minutes left on a 45 minute workout.  I’ve tried keeping a note pad and pen with me at the gym, but I’m not known for my grace, and well, I’ve almost fallen off trying to jot down an idea.

Anyway, what else have I done with regard to Retribution since I last saw you?

Very little.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

I feel I was able to accomplish part of last week’s goal.  The outline is coming together. Leo’s scene is not.  Therefore, I did not advance my word count this week.  Not a big deal. It’s not always about the word count.

Next week’s goal:  Continue plugging away at the outline.  Make a firm decision on the elimination of a certain character.  Finish Leo’s scene.

Until next time.

A writing marathon

Yesterday I took a break from my studies and went on a little excursion with my writing group.  We ventured south from our corner of suburbia into an eclectic downtown neighborhood known as Deep Ellum.  It has the kind of charm that comes with age -each building has a tale to tell; every face a story. 

Organized by my fellow WC-er Bill Chance, the trip was intended to spark our imaginations.  You can read about his experience with a recent New Orleans writing marathon [here].   The idea was to walk through the streets, take in the sights, draw inspiration, brainstorm, and then find a comfortable corner to write.  We wrote in 20 minute bursts, then shared.  I wasn’t big on the sharing part at first, but I warmed up to it.  I’m glad I did.   If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years, its that raw honest feedback is invaluable to a writer. 

I haven’t written much fiction since the end of August when I chose to put my WIP aside, and focus on that damn Geology class and lab.  Regrettable, but necessary.  However, now that the semester is winding down and all I’ve left on my plate are finals, I am itching to get back into the fray.  This trip was a good way to kick start the creative juices and reconnect with my old friend, Anna.

Where did she lead me in Deep Ellum?  She led me to a crumbling Roman brothel where she met with a drunken ex-KGB operative – her maternal grandfather and the man who murdered her father.  She longed to put a bullet in his brain, but instead, she swallowed her dark desires for retribution and asked for his help.  I’m not sure how this is going to work out.  I like the idea of this man; I like the familial connection; I like the conflict.  I wonder how Anna will reconcile her feelings toward her grandfather – will she pity the drunken shell he has become?  Will she give into her baser desires and avenge her father’s legacy? Or will she simply take what he can give and walk away?

I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out. 

IMG_0455

On the agony of writing

I’ve written in some capacity since the third grade.   My first completed work was an alternate ending short story inspired by Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare.   I was very proud of that story.  I sat for hours, hunched over my desk, No. 2 pencil biting into my short stubby fingers, the eraser worn to the quick, and labored over every single word.  When I finished, I felt proud.  I had written a story.  From beginning to end.   I turned it in to my teacher, confident that I would earn an A for such blinding brilliance.  It was a great story.

My teacher saw things a bit different.   The evil Mrs. Rupe promptly tore my work to shreds, citing a laundry list of flaws, mistakes, and shortcomings.  She gave me a C.

I always hated Mrs. Rupe.

I’m not bitter about it.  Really.  Though, I do hold a special place for her at the top of my list of unforgivable grudges.  She was a miserable human being who should have retired from teaching long before 1980.   But for all of her petty viciousness, and she was awful for so many reason beyond just giving me a C, she did teach me a few important lessons:  writing is subjective, rejection is a rite of passage, and criticism keeps a writer grounded.

Of course, such lessons are meant for those who can actually finish something in a timely manner without falling victim to the hazards cluttering the road to success.  I seem to be having a bit of trouble navigating that thoroughfare, at the moment.   Or perhaps, it’s my mode of transportation that is faulty.  I blame the outline – I think it has a flat.

For several days, I’ve struggled to write a single scene, introducing a solitary character.   My trouble started when I made the decision to give Anna a brother.  His name is Aaron and he is a total pain in my ass.   I thought he would add an emotional depth and focus to the story, but instead he’s done nothing but cause me heartburn and an endless headache.  The latter may be from banging my head on my desk out of frustration.   I’m not really sure.  It’s hard to differentiate.

The way I see it, I have three choices:  delete him completely – move on and pretend he never happened; kill him slow and painfully – my novel is titled Retribution; or scrap the scene as it is and start over.

Oh lord, maybe I should tweak the outline again…ugh.

Writing is brutal; its hard; its agonizing.

I think I hate it.

But, I love it.

Note to self:  buy more Advil.