Author Archives: alanaicapria

March 28, 2015 – Excerpt

“Mother stood in different parts of the room. Sometimes she was near the door. Other times she stood with her forehead pressed to one wall, then the other. When mother was at the back of the room in the place we could not see, we heard her knocking her head against the wall. She did it just hard enough to bruise but so softly that her skin did not break. Mother went into the room and slammed the door. Mother came out of the room and slammed the door. Mother walked around the room, babbling.”

March 27, 2015 – Excerpt

“We followed the red balloon. It was as leaden as mother said it would be. The red balloon moved in circles. It went to the left, then weaved to the right. It was an engorged balloon. It was more biological organ than it was latex entertainment. When I stood near the balloon for more than one minute, my skin began itching. That was part of the radiation. The degenerating cells destroyed everything living in the vicinity. Even if I kept my hands away from the balloon latex, the radiation was catching. I felt it crawling through my muscles. I scratched my elbows and removed a patch of skin.”

March 26, 2015 – Excerpt

“Mother pointed to the ceiling. Mother said we had to crawl. It was the easiest way to escape the fire and travel the length of the hospital without causing our feet to cramp. There were ducts up there, long passageways that moved between the floors in a space that was forever unoccupied. From those crawlspaces, we could see into every room. We could find father. We could look upon the sick and the weary. We could study the doctors. We could see the burned remains of that which was cremated out of its misery. Mother said that in order to reach the space, we had to make a ladder.”

Only six days until the start of National Poetry Writing Month!

March 21, 2015 – Excerpt

“It was night. The lights went out. I was alone in the room, strapped down to my slab of a bed. I could not move. I strained and heard slithering. The slithering came from the corner behind the door. The door was closed. The bathroom door was closed as well. The small closet doors were closed. I could not see anything but the faintest of dusty lights filtering in from beneath the door. The door did not have a glass window on it. It was a heavy piece of wood with a handle. It was the same door that I faced day and night. Sometimes the door was closed but most of the time it was open. This was not one of those times.”

March 20, 2015 – Excerpt

“We wanted to play hide-and-seek but the last time we did, mother ruined our game. She did not let us play without her and then she came chasing after us. She knew where we were before we got there. We decided to play the game without saying it was a game. There would be no counting. There would only be the walking, then the hiding. We hid in the basement. The boiler thumped behind us. We hid in the laundry basket, behind the water heater, and just beneath the stairs. The stairs were grained slats nailed together without a wood back.”

March 18, 2015 – Excerpt

“Mother spent all day in the kitchen cooking a soup that was too red and hard to be poured into our bowls. Mother used all the rotten vegetables found at the bottom of the garbage pail. She wet the dish sponge and wrung it out into the soup as a sort of broth. She added bits of her hair and the lint at the bottom of the laundry basket. She put in scraps of meat which smelled like motor oil and bathroom fungus. She scraped the mold from the grout and tossed the fuzz into the pot as well. The soup smell wafted through the house. Mother stirred and stirred.”

March 14, 2015 – Happy π Day! (And an Excerpt)

“I went to find my mother and father. I left my bedroom and walked in circles around the hospital. I looked in every room I passed. In the rooms with double occupancy (and those rooms were the majority), I stepped inside to look at the bodies stuffed into each of the beds. I could not find mother and father anywhere. I stumbled down to the cafeteria in the hopes that father was in the midst of a chicken rage.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Happy Pi (π) Day, everyone. I have fond memories of today because of elementary school. Only instead of pie, I think our math teacher brought in donuts. My re-writing project is going well. I’m jumping between one re-write (“I.P.”) and a new project (“M.A.”) and I’m happy with how both are going. Luckily, there was about 17,000 words of material I was able to salvage from “I.P.” that required a small amount of moving around and re-working. For example, there were two scenes involving a worm and the scenes were pretty similar. So I took the parts I liked from both and melded them to create a single scene. Things like that. Right now, “I.P.” is at around 21,000 words and “M.A.” is at 8,500 words. I’m hoping to finish re-writing “I.P.” before April because NaPoWriMo just adds another item to my list of daily writing tasks. And don’t forget, friendlies: Beware the Ides of March tomorrow. Happy, weekend.

March 12, 2015 – Do over!

Last night, while I was working on my new project (the one I mentioned yesterday that I started because the project I’m supposed to be working on just wasn’t coming together), I started rethinking two recently completed projects that I will refer to as “A.G.” and “I.P.” The project I stalled out on will be called “O.L.” and the project I’m working on now is called “M.A.” So I was working on M.A. and the story was going well. I ended up writing about 4,000 words which I wasn’t expecting. As I wrote, I thought about those prior projects and the uncertainty I felt when I finally finished them.

I realized something big. I didn’t like them. Every writer has a reject drawer/pile/cabinet/whatever. “A.G.” and “I.P.” just weren’t what I wanted them to be. And yes, I finished them and thought I could forget about them. But they were still part of my master file and I only want writing I’m happy with to be part of that master file. I scribbled in my idea notebook “consider rewriting A.G. and I.P.” Did I want to rewrite them? Not really. There were parts in the writing that I was happy with. But the more I thought about the stories as a whole. the less impressed I was by them.

Committing yourself to a project is like a romantic relationship. When you look back upon your relationship/project, you don’t want to realize that you’ve settled. And considering those projects the culmination of what I could have done with them was settling. Granted, settling is easy. It’s essentially a sure thing. But most of the time, the sure thing isn’t what you really need. And those projects, while they have some interesting ideas, aren’t what I need. So I’m going back through them and finding the parts I believe work so that I can weave them into the new material, thus creating a finished work that is considerably stronger than the prior incarnation.

As I was wrote the prior projects, I kept jumping around in the narrative. I was one place, then I was elsewhere. The story was confused. There was too much happening that made no sense. Even I was confused at times and if the writer is confused, then the reader most likely has no hope of figure out what’s happening. I can’t let that complacency stand. So what if I finished the projects? They aren’t what I wanted. And even more than that, when I think of someone else reading them, I’m not happy with the idea. Like I said before, there are parts that work but the parts I hate seem to distract from the positive elements.

I’m pretty sure I can keep about 1/4 – 1/2 of the manuscripts and just build upon them until they make more sense. I’m not necessarily starting from scratch but I am trying to restructure the manuscripts so that they make more sense and have a more cohesive narrative arc.

Part of the issue I was having with the writing is my love of single paragraphs. I just don’t like breaking up a single narrative into shorter sections. I find it distracting. As I was working on “M.A.” last night, I formatted the file so that there were designated chapter headings, something I’ve only done sporadically in my writing. There was something about being able to visually see the layout that helped the writing alone. I felt more organized. The story seemed to flow. Instead of worrying about continuing a narrative that was over because the paragraph seemed too short, I stopped when the narrative wanted to stop. Somehow, just that little change helped me write five chapters. I’m formatting the revisited projects in the same way so that I can have a clearer idea of how the story is working.

So that’s my new task. I’m looking forward to it. Granted, there’s some hesitance because I’m not fond of revisiting manuscripts I already filed away but I am pretty excited to see how I can enhance the narratives into manuscripts I’m proud of.

On another note, April is coming up in a matter of weeks and you know what that means… NAPOWRIMO! Yes, friends, it’s going to be another year of National Poetry Month and I’ll be posting bits of my daily writing. Am I necessarily writing poetry? Eh. Not really. It’s a loose interpretation if you will. But it’s writing. And it’s a month dedicated to writing. The fun starts on April 1st and if you want to keep up with the prompts, then visit http://napowrimo.net. I’ll be back tomorrow, friends.

March 11, 2015 – Excerpt

“Mother walked into a lake. It was a round lake, with gray water that was always smooth, even during the springtime storms. Mother waited until the sky was charcoal. She waited until there was lightning. She stood at the back of the house, just inside the storm door, and she watched the lake. It reflected back in her eyes. Her eyes were as gray as the water. She blinked slowly, her eyelids coming together as if in sleep, and then she opened them again. Everything mother did was done delicately.”

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve been rethinking my latest project. I keep getting caught up in these odd little details that were becoming distractions. I’ve started the project about three times but I’m still not happy with how the story is. Since I’m not sure where I’m going with it, I started something new until I can fix the original project.

March 5, 2015 – Excerpt

“For some time, the man’s face was a pink tire surrounding a black cavity but then the black filled in with red and the pink drained into the center, until the brick semi-circle formed. The man muttered despite his mouth being gone. He muttered but the words were unidentifiable. They more sounds than anything. They were garbled and warped. The man strained to make them but the condition of his head prevented them from being true communication. The weight upon the remains of his impacted bone structure was too much.”

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.”

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