Madeleine is the name she has taken this time

pexels-pixabay-46249

She does not begin her song at its beginning anymore. 

We are still in love / with our presumed pedigree / of certain ghosts….

She sifts through each proceeding verse, the grain of her voice ascends. She sings of the construct of his skin, the obtrusiveness of bone, the scratch of thorns that precedes the blood. 

She is still considered a young woman, has changed little since I was small enough for her to cradle. Her eyes, perhaps, stare more deeply. Her hands tremble noticeably when she brushes the sand from my arms. The other women in the village seem older, but they are not. They stare, they shade their eyes with small flat hands, their lips tighten with frowns. 

I cannot contain him in my grief / in a temple of duplicitous priests…. 

“Are you her boy?” a woman asked of me. “The singer? The whore? She thinks you are his only favor. You are her bastard, did you know? Go, hide yourself and your shame.”

“I am not him,” I said, and the woman walked away. 

It is like this in every village. I never tell her what they say to me.

We do not stay in any one place for long. There are so many towns and villages along our path that we are not always noticed right away. There is something in her face, I think, that draws their attention. Although she cloaks herself in a widow’s robe, we are always revealed, and it is always with scorn.

The singer. The whore. 

I am unashamed, I tell her.

 I am not him, I said to the woman.

I fall into my mother’s voice when she sings. We do not need to go back to the beginning. In her song, we are both free and we are both our true selves. Of certain ghosts, she used to sing, and I still believe that is who we are.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

 

The elusive nature of nouns

Waiting on a horse

I considered entering NaNoWriMo again this year, but my work schedule is going to be too intense to give it the necessary concentration. In fact, most of my creativity has been a little unfocused lately. Scraps here and there, but no real center. Abstract wisps that blow away whenever I hold out my hand. A little disconcerting, but nothing unique for a writer.

I wrote a small post last week, “All the Nouns,” and, though I liked the way it turned out, it was a chore. Because the problem was with the nouns. Not a creative issue, but a memory one. More and more, I’ve been struggling with the names of things. I have a handy desktop app called WebWord that I’ve used for years as a handy dictionary/thesaurus. But if I can’t find the word in my head-top app, it’s hard to find what I’m looking for. I still have a good grasp of the language, but some words are so damned elusive. The world ‘spiral’ for instance. I knew it was the word I wanted, but could not grab it. A common word, but slippery. I can still plot a story in my head, and have a clear goal in mind, but sometimes a single word or two slows down the process. And I’m afraid I look like the village idiot whenever my wife looks over and sees me: mouth agape, eyes unfocused, trying to hunt down the right word. I mean, “spiral”? Really?

I know it’s not uncommon for someone my age (I turned 56 last month) to have memory lapses… missing car keys, where I left my wallet, why I opened the fridge, do we still have a dog? And I’ve always been a bit absent-minded (my folks called me The Absent Minded Professor when I was a boy). Memory is so abstract, but nouns are pretty precise.

I’ll keep working at it, and hunt down the words as needed, but some days it’s frustrating. Coupled with a very intense workload between now and Christmas, maybe I should stick with the camera for a while, do my edit work on A Very Tall Summer, and offer a good home to those wayward nouns.

Regardless, good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo next month! Awesome books ahead for all.  Be careful out there, and do hold onto those nouns.

Checkmate

For me, the most challenging part of completing a major project (other than the multiple revisions, relentless editing, and polishing) is the final push.

The characters are where they need to be; the table has been set. This, more than any other time, is the place to screw up. There’s tension, there’s atmosphere, there’s conflict about to be resolved and… suddenly The Three Stooges enter stage left, do a little burlesque show, and leave the reader wondering WTF just happened.

That hasn’t happened with A Very Tall Summer yet, but it could. Precise images that I’ve carried around in my head for the past few months are (mostly) crystal clear (just a few smudges). Essentially, the characters are going to do what they’re going to do, what I’ve nurtured them to do. I’ll rein them in if I must, but I won’t tie them down.

And in this case, I’ve built the story around a single character, with very few supporting players. I know her very well, and I know she won’t disappoint. Her perception is central to the story. But is her perception faulty? Oddly enough, I won’t know until I finish. I think that small element of discovery is important to the writer as well as the reader.

I set a deadline to have this completed by November, and I’m going to make it, barring disaster or amnesia. But for today, I’m filling the tank for the final push. I don’t want to rush it because it’s going to be an intense write, but I don’t want to set it aside for too long.

The pieces are in position, the players are considering their options.

Checkmate.

Darkness on the edge of the page

I really do have a sense of humor. Really! I know how to laugh at myself. I’m not one for practical jokes or silly behavior, but I do laugh. And while I don’t think I’m everyone’s ray of sunshine (my wife gets me!), I do appreciate absurdity, the ridiculous, the clever wordplay. Chickens make me laugh. The Onion makes me laugh. 30 Rock is brilliant.  I’m not all dour. And yet my writing is dark. Grim. I’m not sure why that is. Life experience, I guess, but that’s only part of it. I’ve always written dark.

I was a humor columnist for ten years at  my old job. A graphic artist, proofreader, unofficial assistant editor, and one memorable time, the writer/photographer for a front page story. And a columnist. A humor columnist at that. And yet the dark side has always bubbled through, like a swampy stew. I don’t make any apologies for it but sometimes I think, Dude, you’ve gotta lighten up! I try, I really do, but the dark stuff is so damned compelling to me. Hopefully, I infuse that darkness with humanity, with heartfelt compassion, curiosity, and empathy. It can’t be all dark, or we’d all be monsters.

Sometimes the things that I write are so full of genuine emotion that I need to pause when things get too heavy. I’m a big softie, a huge softie. The ending to Ordinary Handsome was probably the most heartfelt things I’ve ever written. It was dark, but yeah, it felt real. No bullshit happily-ever-after because that’s not how things work.

Years ago, when I discovered that I wanted to write, my father told me that I should stick to writing humor and to do away with all the serious stuff, that humor was my gift. I like humor, I do like to make people laugh (with me), but with the serious stuff, I’d much rather make people feel.

Knock knock…

Who’s there?

Grim.

Grim who….? 

Okay, back to work, back to that  poor woman who murdered her husband.