March 4, 2015 – Excerpt

“In the first room, every available inch of flooring was covered in furniture. There were couches and beds, long dressers and desks, each one packed in so that no part of the carpeting was visible. Upon that furniture were the skinned men. Their faces were stretched wide with grin. Several had their fingers in their mouths and were suckling.”

February 28, 2015 – Excerpt

“Men wearing alligator pelts lived in two rooms on the third floor. Every floor beneath was flooded and the carpets on the third floor were moist from the water pushing up from below. The alligator pelts still had the heads attached and when the men smiled, it was with the backs of their throats. Whenever I passed them in the hallways, the men leaned towards me, grinned, then snapped their teeth. They caught my skin each time, drawing blood. The men were so glad to lick the blood from their lips. They did it with their lips spread wide, the tongue twirling around their mouths, swiveling up, then coming down. They licked so slowly that I felt nervous while watching. They held my hands in theirs and squeezed my fingers until the skin went white. When they let me go, the feeling stayed away for nearly an hour. My fingers were bruised from their touches. The men carried dirty tote bags on their shoulders.”

 

February 26, 2015 – Excerpt

“After my days in the dark room, I returned to you, bloody and sweaty. When you came to hug me, I moved my arms in the same motion as when I cleaved a body in half. Because there was no knife in my hand, my body struck yours dully and collapsed. You bathed me with water you boiled, the water taken from the flood and heated on high until the impurities settled at the bottom and you could then pour the water into another vessel, one that collected the mostly clean water before then pouring it upon me. When you poured the water upon my head, I thought of communion blessings. I turned to you and asked if you would promise me an AMEN. You never made religious promises. You were afraid how they would feel in your mouth, like alligator scales running up and down your tongue, a crocodile mouth settled in around your tonsils so that when you answered wrong, it would snap hard and sever everything useful.”

February 25, 2015 – Excerpt (and such)

“Involuntarily, I thought of Christmas and felt angry. Christmas time was my least favorite season. I was allergic to artificial pine scent. All too often, my fingers went red from pine needle splinters. The sap always stained the couch cushions and caused my menstrual cycle to become barely visible. Those moments when pregnancy seemed a nightmarish reality were torture. I stood in front of the red room and touched the skin above my womb. I stood before the green room and touched my womb again. I expected to feel a knot pushing up from inside the flesh but the skin was unchanged.”

 

I’ve been considering the idea of the haunted house. I was standing at my bookcase and found that all the books I kept on my “favorites” shelf were about haunted houses in some form. Houses that occupants can’t escape from. Houses that defy the laws of physics. Houses that are stuck in a dream land. Houses that aren’t grounded in reality (I live in the real world. I don’t need my fiction to live there with me). The house doesn’t have to be literally haunted but there needs to be an element of claustrophobia.There has to be something otherworldly to it. Or, if it isn’t a house, then it has to be an unending landscape, a space with no escape in sight. My “books I want” list was reaching nearly 100 titles and when I found this relationship between my most beloved books, I went through the list and kept the titles that dealt with a haunting in some form (the list is now around 35 titles which I can handle). I like the idea of finding out what happens behind closed doors. And houses can be terrifying entities—after all, where do you go when something is “wrong” with your home? It’s the nightmare of the domestic sphere but exaggerated.

February 23, 2015 – Excerpt (and some thoughts)

“I scrambled the meat like I would eggs. Spindly hands came up the toilet bowl drain and tickled my palms. The hands thought they might startle me into releasing the meat. Instead, I grabbed the meat harder, taking up large handfuls that squeezed out between my fingers. You laid across the floor and I piled the meat over you. I made a meat pie on your chest. Your stomach was a meat castle. Shapes broke down, rose up, and I patted and flattened the meat until it was smeared flat. I twisted my fingers in the redness. You opened your mouth.”

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Over the weekend, I sat and considered my current project. The project is at around 25,000 words and while there are some interesting moments in the writing, I’m not as happy with it as I could be. I felt like I was on the right track but I think what’s bothering me is that there are so many instances in the writing where things are being written not because I want to write them but because they have to be. I guess I’m speaking more about back-story and building the setting and such. But those aspects of the story bore me. As I considered the work, I thought back to my older writing and how much I enjoyed those strange little stories. Those writings were more in keeping with what I wanted for the new project (and most likely, future projects as well). So, as I often do, I got out my notebook and started scribbling. I only wrote about 200 words, if that, but the writing was more in keeping with the style I wanted. I just finished writing the piece and it’s about 1,200 words. I really am pleased with it. I think that a big part of the problem I was having with some of the current writing was that I was trying to write it in a more traditional (for me) way that I just wasn’t interested in. I was trying to avoid making these stories so weird that they were completely impossible. But I like writing weird things. And it makes sense that I would be having so much difficulty writing when I’m writing something that almost feels forced. This is the first piece in awhile that I’ve written where the story seemed to come more naturally. So I’m starting the project over and turning it into something that I’ll be especially glad to have written. And maybe this is a little weird, but I had an extra copy of one of the lit magazines one of my stories were published in and because the story is pretty much one of my favorites, I cut the story out and put it in my notebook as a bit of inspiration. That way, when I’m having a creative crisis, I can look over the piece and remember what it is that I really love writing.

February 19, 2015 – Excerpt

“You were the first to feel the rain. Before this moment, everything was dry and cracked. When the wind blew, acrid dust came scouring across naked faces, leaving thick red rashes in its wake. Every breath was painful and the lungs were as dusty as the ground. In that time, you collected the dust in your hands and squeezed it hard, believing that you could make water from stone.”

February 18, 2015 – Excerpt

“Because I tired of scrubbing the dirt of their bloody messes. Because these people took my alligators, strung them up by their tails, slit their throats, and pulled their scars off in a long sheet to wear upon their bodies. Because I couldn’t understand why those with flesh would want to wear the flesh of others. Because when the stripping was done, the alligators were cut up into little parts and eaten just as I had never wanted. Because those alligators that remained alive were barely fed and when they were, it was for the purpose of fast growth, a swelling that might make their flesh more valuable. Because so many of my alligators were dragged into concrete basins and left to swim in their squalor, their bodies packed in tight, and when they swam, it was through one another. Because when I looked at myself, I only saw the redness.”

February 17, 2015 – Excerpt

“I lost you but then, just as quickly, I found you again. You were facedown in water, your body blue but bloodied in parts where alligator teeth had ripped you open. I laid you upon my lap with your face turned skyward and I stitched you until you were whole. Those gaps in your flesh that couldn’t be pulled together with a series of quick stitches were patched with chunks of my own skin. In this way, you became part of me. I waited for you to breathe on your own. It took time for your lungs to rid themselves of the fluid you carried inside. You had swallowed so much and your lungs were weighed down. Water made it difficult to breathe but you tried. You breathed inside the water and so you took the water in. I worked my hands against your chest, pushing hard and your ribs cracked softly but water sputtered from your mouth. It was warm and brownish, tinted by those fluids rolling off your innards. When the last of the water was out, you blinked and looked around. You watched me watch you.”

February 13, 2015 – Excerpt (Happy Friday the 13th!)

“You said that in the beginning, there was a goddess and that goddess was me. I came free of the alligators, then they came free of me. This birth occurred endlessly. It was painful and bloody. The red poured from my mouth and my ears. The alligators bled as well. The blood came from their tails. There was no stopping the birthing, no way of interrupting the process. Alligator, then me, then alligator again. When I birthed the alligators, I laughed until I choked. When the alligators birthed me, they sobbed until they vomited. I collected their vomit in my mouth until the hole was a bottomless puddle of black water. I liked this blackness. I worked it around my mouth. I swallowed it, then spat it back up.”

 

February 12, 2015 – Excerpt

“It rained meat and red and warm. I was the first to witness the fall. I spread my hands and collected the wet. I drank what was sour. I bit what was dank. I had an appetite larger than a flood. I had no mother or father. I was the only. I was alone. I was covered in scales but they might have been scars. That meat rained for days. It accumulated on the ground, in divots and holes. It puddled. It pooled. When I tired of its pouring, I opened my mouth, widened my gullet. I took in the meat that was, that would one day be, which was gleaming and brutal and toothed. I could not eat the meat alone. I stood amidst a flood of it.”

February 11, 2015 – Excerpt

“Again, I wondered where all the knives were. There were no knives in any of the condo units we explored. There weren’t any scissors. There was nothing. They had all been taken and I wanted to know where they had been taken to. What happened to the people carrying them? What were they doing right now? What were they thinking? What were they planning to use those blades on? You kept knocking and the door shook against your fists. It seemed like a rule of thumb that a person should come prepared with a weapon when preparing to enter any sort of abandoned space. You didn’t stop knocking. You couldn’t stop knocking. You had to know what was inside that room. I watched from behind and when your knuckles were so bloody that you were striking the door with the exposed skin, I slid around you and took a turn at the bashing.”

February 9, 2015 – How novel.

On Thursday, I started working on my new project. Or, officially working on it. I had written a few thousand words while working on another piece and so I had a jumping off point. The first thing I did was research the subject matter. I dedicated a morning to researching alligators/crocodiles and their place in mythology. I became slightly obsessed with this gator idea and suddenly, the story went veering far from what I had originally written. I wrote a list of plot points and decided to treat each section like its own story, going to the extreme of what I had done in two previous stories in which each section was a different but connected story. As I sat to write, I realized that I had done something stupid. I was limiting myself too much. The gators were interesting but they weren’t supposed to be the most interesting part of the story. They were supposed to be part of a grander plot, something dangerous lurking in the background. Thus, the writing didn’t go well.

On Saturday, my husband was working and so I had some additional time to spend on writing. I turned my laptop on when I woke up and it stayed on until about 2 in the morning. What did I write? A big, fat nothing. I couldn’t come up with anything. I was confused and stressed by the project. I didn’t feel strongly enough to write an entire novel just about gators. Their presence was inspired by a news story I read about a flood in Mexico a few years ago and what I was coming up with just wasn’t that. Finally, I took out my notebook and while my husband slept, I looked over the notes and outlines I had made, then figured out what was wrong. I wrote a few more notes, some ideas on what I wanted to accomplish. They were more a form of written guidance and when I finished writing, I felt a bit calmer.

Yesterday, I tried writing again but felt too unfocused to really create anything. I finally settled in for the night with my notebook and at around 1 in the morning, I started scribbling some material that fit more with the original direction of the work. When I finished writing, I had approximately 1,000 words of useable material.

I was looking for something to read the other day and couldn’t decide on a title. I kept gravitating towards my short story collections and just as I pulled one off the shelf, I realized that part of my problem was that I was writing a novel while reading a short story. That’s not to say that I need to only read novels for the rest of my life but if the majority of the work I’m reading is short, how am I supposed to stop thinking in terms of short narratives? That was part of my problem. I was creating the project with the intention of having it almost be a collection linked stories, but linked only by virtue of the alligators. And that wasn’t what I wanted. Yes, I wanted separate sections but they were supposed to build off one another.

I put the short story collection back, grabbed a novel off the shelf, and read a few pages before inspiration struck and I went running for my notebook.

I find that reading something completely disparate to what I’m writing ends up having two results: (1) my brain feels recharged and I’m ready to tackle the project now that I’ve been inspired and (2) I suddenly panic and begin rethinking everything I’ve created because suddenly, all I can think is “why didn’t I think to write the book like this one?” And because lately, I’ve been rushing through the novels on my shelf just to experience the story, then spend time lingering over short stories, it’s no wonder that I can’t stop thinking in terms of short fiction. So I’m making a conscious effort to spend more time on reading novels. I can’t just treat them like I would a movie, where I don’t really pay attention but do glance up from time to time in order to see what’s happening. I read novels so quickly that I don’t allow myself to really see how they’re created, how the story weaves in and out, extending itself naturally until finally, it deems to end. So that’s something I’ve decided I need to change. I need to spend more time reading the work I want to create. I’m always going to have this creative conflict if I can’t take the time to study the genre a little more. Rushing the way that I do and constantly distracting myself with material that’s so different from what I write will keep me in the same mental trap. I’m not going to give up short fiction and poetry but I need to focus my attentions on novels themselves so that I can better understand. It doesn’t matter that I’ve written hundreds, probably thousands of novels in my life. Creative endeavors are all about constantly learning. It might take me another hundred or thousand novels to understand another aspect of the novel that I never recognized before.

So that’s where I am, friends. Trying to troubleshoot a creative project that theoretically seemed great but in practice, isn’t what I really wanted. Tomorrow, I’ll have an excerpt up because I have a feeling that today will be a considerably better day for writing. Or at least, fingers crossed.

February 7, 2015 – Excerpt

“It was right to feed the alligators. They were starved for flesh. In their concrete fishbowl, they swam around in circles, climbed onto the ledge, then, when deciding to press further, were met with a wall. I felt terrible for the alligators. This wasn’t the life I envisioned for them. I wanted them to swim down rivers and across oceans, their mouths endlessly red, their stomachs perpetually stuffed. But there were things I couldn’t control and what happened to the alligators following their births was among that number. They were taken from their hatched eggs, dropped into the enclosure’s center, and left to fend for themselves. The alligator enclosure was a few miles outside of Acapulco.”

February 5, 2015 – Excerpt

“My mother wanted to kill my father. She didn’t like the way he looked at her. When their reflections caught in the mirror simultaneously, the glass seemed to shake violently. They brushed their teeth together, ate their food together, did their laundry together. Mother wanted father to choke on his toothbrush, his chicken, a tablet of solid bleach. When mother and father were in bed together, she watched him sleep and imagined pressing a pillow down hard against his face. She wondered what it would be like to sleep beside a corpse. How long before the festering flesh gave its reek to the air, its fluids to the mattress. How long until his coldness turned the room into a refrigerator? Those thoughts consumed her until dawn and then she finally drifted to sleep where she did not dream no matter how she tried.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Apologies for my lack of presence the last few days. I was working on finishing and editing my latest project. I also finished reading My Only Wife by Jac Jemc. It was a gorgeous book. When I finished it, I actually burst into tears because I found the ending to be so tragic. It now has a place of honor on my “favorite books” row on the bookshelf. This morning, I read the first few pages of Hell by Kathryn Davis. So far, I’m enjoying it. The style is beautiful and one section leans more towards the stream-of-conscious, which I’m pretty intrigued by. Some of the reviews I saw were pretty negative and complained about the narrative arc and the style. I guess there’s just no accounting for taste. I started researching my new project this morning and after several hours of reading about alligators and crocodiles, I’m suddenly very suspicious of strange bodies of water. You can’t trust a creature that has a kill technique known as the “death roll.” I wasn’t very happy with what I wrote for the project today so I have to do some thinking later on tonight so that I can have more of a plan for tomorrow. I also finished my writing notebook and get to start carrying around a fresh journal. It’s one of the simple joys in my life.

January 31, 2015 – Excerpt

“The Silences followed her from one room to the next while I clasped my hands together in fervent prayer. I prayed to rose gold crosses and solid gold churches and sterling silver idols and acres of sanctified church dirt along with the corresponding holy fluids. The Silences slid down the wall towards her, long limbs crossing one over the other while its slavering mouth spewed lead poisoning everywhere. Much of the poisoning caught the woman in the face.”

January 27, 2015 – Excerpt

“The vomit wasn’t the only blackness. The veins turned black. Not only mine but so many of the others. The veins went black almost immediately. They touched a wall and the blackness came, arching towards the tops of their hands, spiking free of the skin and bulging hard. They were such long lines—when pierced, they hissed with unknown gases built up in the cardiovascular system. It was such terrible hissing. It burned in the air. It smelled like rotten meat, like stepping into the center of a butcher shop and breathing deep. The piercing had to be done with a steel blade—anything slimmer wasn’t capable of penetrating the vascular surface. The nurses tried desperately and each time, the syringes snapped apart.”

January 23, 2014 – Excerpt (& today’s my 30th birthday!)

“Here were my veins. They were very lovely. Prettiest veins in all the medical land. At least that was what the cardiovascular specialist believed. They were blue and green veins, a pastel purple. The Easter eggs of the human body despite being (1) not egg-shaped and (2) in no way related to Easter. Too many people took it upon themselves to trace those many lines. They touched the veins like they would a pregnancy: without asking permission, assuming that social decorum dictated that petting to be okay. The touching wasn’t okay.”

 

 

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: Today’s my 30th birthday. Pictured above are the literary lovelies my husband got me. Clockwise from top left: My Only Wife by Jac Jemc, Hell by Kathryn Davis, Suicide by Edouard Levé, and Small Porcelain Head by Allison Benis White. You know how there’s a paper anniversary? Well, I believe in a paper birthday every year, whether it be in the form of books or journals. Preferably both.

January 22, 2014 – Excerpt

“All the tests given to me (color tests and tube tests and various CT scans and X-rays and blood cultures and piss tests and stress tests) showed that I didn’t have The Silences. Only I did. There was no other disease I could possibly have. The Silences was in my body. It lived in my stomach, slipping in and out of the acidic lining. The lining thinned the longer The Silences stayed inside. The doctors checked for fevers and coughs and pains and chills. They looked at the bloodstains on my bed, touched their nails to it, then sniffed the red. The blood was healthy. There was no other place in my body The Silences could be hiding.”

January 21, 2015 – Excerpt

“I was covered in blood but had a doctor’s appointment. The man seemed unhealthy. When he spoke, it was about nitroglycerin. He wanted to explode the ovaries right out of my stomach. A cold sweat ran down his throat. He grabbed at his Adam’s apple and the bulge seemed to flatten against his fingers. When the doctor took my temperature, he sniffed my forehead. My center was covered in dried blood.”

January 16, 2014 – Excerpt

“I looked inside the holes and I saw a black worm slithering. It was half amphibian, half mammalian—its flesh was haired in parts, then slimy. The hair came off in large tufts. When I touched a finger to its back, the skin rippled, then wrinkled, the crease folding over itself to create a slightly dimply reservoir. When I touched the crease again, the skin collapsed, the membrane cut up by the sharpness of my fingernail. I imagined the skin beneath would be a bloody red but it was blackish, the red so ruby that it was barely visible amidst the moist shadows. Sometimes the interior felt velvet; at the dimples, it was wrinkled leather.”

January 14, 2014 – Excerpt

“I saw the worm sliding along my inner skin. Its body rippled within mine. It was a large worm, at least five inches long, and thick, its girth most likely in excess of two inches. The worm moved in circles, disappearing into my more muscular parts, then reappearing at the surface. I touched a finger to the worm and it swelled, sucking in as much of my blood as would fit in its mouth. The worm was almost senseless; it didn’t react to the light or temperature changes. But if my finger touched, then it squirmed away as best it could.”

January 13, 2014 – Excerpt

“We were together for so long, we forgot how it was to be separate. Once, I was I and you were you, but then we were we. We woke up, went to sleep, ate and defecated in between. We often suffered nightmares we had no intention of sharing. We thought that if we whispered these fleeting visions, the nightmares would come true and devour us alive, maybe starting at our toes, or perhaps, our tongues. We each had a tongue but they were joined at the tip, then the root.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I meant to write a little for my latest project last night but instead, I started writing a fairy tale-esque piece that I hadn’t considered writing until the words spilled out of my pen and onto the page. I scribbled what is probably around 500+ words and I’m kind of into the story so far. After scribbling a few pages and feeling kind of curious why I felt compelled to start this piece, I went to bed thinking that in the morning, I need to read some Angela Carter. So I have her short story collection Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces sitting next to me, ready to be read as soon as I finish the day’s writing.

January 12, 2015 – Excerpt (and a brief ramble)

“I looked beneath the door. I looked beneath and saw the floor. I looked beneath and beyond the floor was more floor. I looked beneath and beyond that floor beyond the floor, there was more floor. I looked beneath and beyond the floor beyond the floor beyond the floor, there was the bottom of my bed. I looked beneath and beyond the bottom of my bed beyond the floor beyond the floor beyond the floor, there was darkness. Whether the darkness was the dried slick of my vomit, I couldn’t tell. It was flat black. It was oily in parts. It was painted on the planks. It seemed like if I eased the edges up with my fingernails, prying ever so gently, I could peel the black up.”

AUTHOR’S RAMBLE: Yesterday, I visited the Moleskine store at the mall to find two Moleskine colors I desperately wanted (orchid purple [a light pink-purple] and underwater blue [a deep teal]). I found the orchid purple but the underwater blue was sold out in the store and online. I just ordered it from Staples so fingers crossed that that doesn’t turn into a mess. While I was at the mall, I picked up some refills for a rollerball pen that had been without ink for about two years. My accumulation of my journal collection necessitates having ink and I don’t want to just use my fountain pen all the time. Switching between the two pens will prolong the life expectancy of the refills. Right now, my journal collection stands at six journals just waiting to be used: the orchid purple Moleskine I bought yesterday, a hot pink Moleskine, a violet Moleskine, an aqua blue Piccadilly, a light purple Piccadilly, and a black Piccadilly. My hope is that I can add the underwater blue Moleskine to the collection by next week. I also finished reading The End of the Story by Lydia Davis and started Mountains of the Moon by I. J. Kay last night. There are other books in my to-read pile that I’m more excited about but I figured I would get through the “literary” works first. The writing in The End of the Story was beautiful but I prefer my fiction to be a bit more fantastical. It’s a personal preference. My husband ordered four books for my birthday and decided to appease my impatience by giving me one (only 11 days until I get the other 3) so the next book I’m going to read is Suicide by Edouard Levé. I cannot wait. I had my fingers crossed that I would get it.

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