Archive | February, 2012

Recipe for a Book

29 Feb

When I first started my writing journey, I delved into numerous online resources in order to uncover the perfect “how to” for first-time writers. 

I learned that some writers create stories from a single idea that perpetuates its way onto a page.  Characters are developed to serve a specific purpose and perform their roles accordingly through the final lines of text.  Other authors take the time to outline and logically work through a story.  The steps taken from start to finish are meticulous, methodical. 

I didn’t do any of those things. 

When I began my project, I wasn’t even sure where the story was going to go.  I couldn’t have told you the ending or what disasters those unfortunate characters would face on the road to the final page because everything came to me as I went along. 

To date, the closest thing to an outline that I’ve created is a list of “scenes” that were playing out in my mind, but had to be put on the back burner so I could finish the more pertinent parts that had spilled onto the page.

Without an outline, extensive character development, heck, even a cohesive idea, how did I get anywhere?

To date, all of my stories have started out as bits of conversations.

I begin with a set of lines traded by monotone voices; the storyline develops around the exchange and my characters are born.  I ask myself: What type of individual would say those things?  What would possess a person to speak like that?  What led them to this point?

Then the setting springs to life: Where would this conversation take place?  What would the scene look, feel, even smell like? 

Before I know it, I have 80,000 words—and, in my unprofessional opinion, they’re not half bad.

The point of this post?  Now that I’ve written four manuscripts, I’ve finally figured out the only lesson I had needed to know when starting out and I’m offering it to you, free of charge.

Write this down: there is no perfect recipe for a good book.

You just need a good idea and the means and perseverance to get it all down on paper.

Right or wrong, it works for me.

-Jenny

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Define Success

27 Feb

Last Thursday, my roommate performed two original songs at her first open mic night on a Nashville stage.  Before she owned the room, the night’s MC took a moment to promote a new website that lists open mic and singer-songwriter events around Nashville.  The site includes venues, calendars and FAQ’s, serving as a resource for aspiring and existing artists. 

Apparently, one of the most frequently asked questions is about who has performed on-stage at that particular venue and made it. The man challenged all artists present to email him and let him know their definition of, “making it.” 

In today’s post, I’m posing the same question to you:

How do you define success?

Do you even know?  If not, I suggest you invest some time in defining the word for yourself.  Otherwise, how do you gauge whether or not you are successful?

For me, success means people are reading my work.  I’ve grown enough as an artist to realize that not everyone is going to like what I’ve written.  However, I want to expose an audience to my stories so that they have the opportunity to formulate an opinion. 

So, technically I’m already a success (That is, unless my mom has created dozens of fake email addresses to “follow” my blog and has pressed “refresh” hundreds of times on each of the pages to make it seem as though my readership is increasing). 

Now what?  Do I just stop and bask in the feelings of accomplishment?  Or should the definition of success be considered a working document, forever changing and adapting to new goals? 

I’m going to go with the latter.

So, today I leave you with my definition as of February 27, 2012:

When something I’ve written is in print and on sale to the general public, then I will be a success.

-Jenny

#8 The Mirrors at Barnard Hall (Chapter 10)

24 Feb

Welcome back, Friday. 

First, let me begin by saying how relieved I am that it is NOT sunny out today.  The combination of good weather and a Friday would be detrimental to my productivity and motivation.  The paid-leave hours that I’ve accrued already burn holes in my resolve on Fridays at noonish—the beach vacation I’ve been saving them for seems as far away as retirement.  But today is different from past Fridays.  The weather channel has predicted storms on the horizon and, if the greyness is any indication, they are probably going to be more accurate than not.  Today I am content to settle into my cube and focus on my work with dedication and unbroken concentration. (Never mind the fact that I am already glaringly aware that it is only 8:00 AM…)

Happy Friday & Happy Reading!

-Jenny

Need to start the adventure from the beginning?  Click HERE

Don’t want to read this online?  Click to download the .pdf version of Chapter 10

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Chapter 10: Birthday

“Happy Birthday, Callista!” Tilly shouted, welcoming me into my room. 

She was the first person to tell me that all day.  I had woken up excited, wondering what fun my eighth birthday would bring.  But it had only brought disappointment.  My mom still hadn’t looked at me, and Jim had been gone all day.

Maybe that had been my present, a day without Jim.

None of the household staff had mentioned it either.  Didn’t I look older?  It was hard to explain but I felt older.

Each time someone had called me into a room I had thought maybe it was time for my surprise.  As the day wore on, I had thought at least one person would have bought me something or given me a card.  But there had been nothing—until now.

“I said, Happy Birthday!”  Tilly repeated, jumping off my bed to give me a hug.  The warmth went straight to my heart.  When she pulled away I didn’t want to let her go.

“Thanks, Tilly,” I said, trying to sound happy.  It didn’t work.  She looked at me for a moment then ran back to the bed.  I trudged over and plopped beside her.  When she asked what was wrong I would have to admit that everyone else had forgotten my birthday. 

“I’ll be back,” she said instead, bouncing into her own room without another word.

I fought back stupid tears as I waited for her to return.  What had I done to be treated like I didn’t even exist?  I had tried to be good and listen.  Sometimes I still got into trouble but I was a kid; kids were supposed to mess up.  Maybe if I was better this year then my next birthday would be twice as good.  Of course, it wouldn’t be too hard to top this one.

When Tilly finally came back she had something with her.

“Where did you get that?  You didn’t steal it, did you?”  I stared at the chocolate cake in front of me.  The icing was messy and didn’t reach all the way to the plate, and the pink writing was not straight, but it was beautiful.  Tilly had not forgotten about me.

“No!  I made it,” she announced proudly, puffing out her chest.

“All by yourself?”  There was no way I could bake a cake by myself.  I wouldn’t even know where to start.  Sweets were banned from my house and that included birthday cakes.  Metap-olisms didn’t have birthdays so I couldn’t eat cake for mine.  One time my dad had bought me a cupcake.  It even had a yellow candle in it.  He had asked me not to tell my mom; it had been our secret.

“No, my mom helped.”

“You told her?”  How could she share our most important secret with a grown-up? 

“Of course.  I would not have been allowed to do it by myself.  Cook hates it when I am in the kitchen.”  She gave me a mischievous grin. Apparently, the cook chased Tilly with a broom if my friend even looked into the kitchen.

“What did she say?”      

“Who?  Cook?”

“No, your mom.”

“She just asked me who Callista was.”

I gulped to keep my voice from shaking.  What if she wasn’t allowed to be my friend anymore?  “And what did you tell her?”

“I told her you were my best friend in the universe, and that it was your birthday!”

“That’s it?”  Even though Tilly’s mom had listened and understood I knew I could never tell my mom.  She wouldn’t care anyway and she definitely would not have helped me bake a cake for Tilly.  So our relationship would continue to be a secret, at least on my end.

“Yup!  That’s pretty much everything.  She didn’t even ask that many questions.  Um, Callista?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you mind if we talk about this later?  I’ve been looking at this cake all day long and I don’t think I could wait another second to eat it!”

We each enjoyed two large slices and giggled at the resulting stomach aches.  Before today, Tilly had not believed sweets could make a person sick.  She had chocolate smeared on her apron and on her nose.  How she got it there was beyond me.  Her mom wouldn’t be happy when she saw the mess. 

“What are you laughing at?” Tilly asked.

“You have cake everywhere!”

“Speak for yourself!”

Sure enough, my pink Nike t-shirt—my favorite—had a sticky handprint at the bottom.  How was I going to explain that to Rosa?

“I have a present for you,” Tilly said, groaning when she attempted to sit up.

“You didn’t have to do that.” The cake had been more than enough.  Besides, no one else had bothered to get me anything.

“Here.”  She unhooked her necklace and handed it to me.

“I can’t take this.  Your mom gave it to you.”  The dainty heart locket sat in my open hand; I was afraid I would crush the charm if I clutched it too tightly.  The metal was still warm from Tilly’s skin.

“And I’m giving it to you.  Happy Birthday.”  She took it from my hand and fastened it around my neck before I could protest any more.  The light pressure on my chest from the tiny heart made my own heart smile.  I gave my best friend a hug and tried not to cry.  Didn’t my tears know I was happy, not sad?

“Tilly, this is too special.”              

“No, it’s not special enough.  But I thought hard about when you gave me Benny.  It was nice to have him around to remind me of you.  Maybe this necklace will do the same for you.”  She blushed after her speech.

“Thanks.  But you know I will never forget you, even without the necklace.”

“Do you promise?”

“I swear!”  I never took a promise as seriously as that one. 

Tilly gave me a shy smile and changed the subject.  “Do you want to play with our dolls now?” she suggested, jumping through the glass onto her own bed.  I pulled Marta from under my pillow and brushed her curly hair out of her eyes.  I could never tell Tilly, but I had renamed Marta.  I called the doll Matilda when I played by myself, that way my best friend would be around even when she had more important things to do.

There was a knock on my door, and I whispered to Tilly, “Shhh.  Someone’s here.” 

She smiled knowingly then hid behind her bed.

Maybe my mom had remembered it was my birthday and wanted to tell me so.  Maybe she was bringing me a present.  All that really mattered was that she was here, even if she had forgotten to buy me something.

But the woman at the door wasn’t my mom.

“Happy Birthday, Callista!”

“Rosa!  You remembered!”  I gave my housekeeper a hug.  It should have been a disappointment that my mom hadn’t remembered, but Rosa was almost as good.  Plus, my day was getting better and better.  My mom still had a few hours to surprise me.  All my hope was restored.

“Of course I remembered.”  Her voice shook for some reason.  “What is all over you, child?”

“Um…”  There was only one explanation for the chocolaty smears on my clothes.  Tilly had told her mom, maybe I would tell Rosa.  “Chocolate.”

I waited for the questions but they never came. 

Rosa smiled and took my hand.  “Let’s get this chocolate cleaned off you before your mother sees.”

I giggled.  This was turning into a great birthday! 

Just before she left, Rosa handed me a tiny package wrapped in newspaper.  “I almost forgot!  I picked this up for you earlier this week.  It’s not much, but I believe you will like it.”

Didn’t she know I would love it even if it ended up being only a ball of newspaper?  I unwrapped the present to find two My Little Pony dolls.  One was pink and the other purple—Tilly’s favorite color.  I gave Rosa another hug.  This present was perfect.

“Thank you so much, Rosa.  I love them.”            

“Happy Birthday, little one.”

And just like that, two people had remembered me.

“Tilly?”

“Who was that?”  Tilly asked.  It was odd to see her face so serious.

“Oh, that’s Rosa, my housekeeper.”

“Hmmm…”

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing.  What did she get you?”  My friend bounced through the mirror and landed on my bed.

“I think you mean, what did she get us?” I said cryptically.  Tilly gave me a confused look; she always tilted her head when she was trying to figure out a puzzle.  When I handed her the purple pony, her eyes got bigger.

“Callista, I can’t take…”

I covered her mouth with my hand, hoping she didn’t lick me like she had last time.  “Yes, you can.  What am I supposed to do with two of them?  You were meant to have one.”

She grinned and we played for hours with our new ponies.  I kept an ear toward the hallway, waiting patiently for my mom to come.  When a quiet knock sounded, I bolted toward the door.  Just before I opened it, I turned to make sure Tilly had hidden.

Who were you talking to?”  Jim asked angrily, pushing past me into the room.

“Myself,” I responded quickly, amazed he had been the one to remember of my birthday.  There was no other reason for him to be here.  Jim had never come to my room before unless I had been in trouble.  I had been extra good today to avoid being yelled at on such an important day.

He smirked.  “You are an odd little girl.  Stupid kids talk to themselves.  Are you stupid?”

I chose not answer and took a step back.  He was slurring his words; Jim was mean when he slurred.  His back was to the mirror, and I could see Tilly in the background.  Her arms were crossed and she was tapping her foot angrily.  I shook my head slightly, warning her to go away.  It was hard not to smile at her.  She was just a little girl and not as scary as she thought she was.  Tilly grinned, unaware of the danger we would both be in if she was caught.

“Yes, you are stupid.  Stupid and weird.”

He was probably hoping I would say something, but I only glared at him as his eyes roamed around my room.  If I was bigger I could make him leave.  I wished Jim would leave forever.  As if he heard my wish, my stepfather smiled meanly and started for the door.  He paused with his hand on the knob and whipped around, nearly knocking me over.

“Where did you get that?”

“Get what?”  I tucked the necklace into my t-shirt, hoping he didn’t notice the movement.  My eyes followed his and, to my horror, I saw where he was focused.  In my excitement to answer the door I had left Marta on my bed.  She smiled innocently, but for the first time since Tilly had given her to me, I didn’t feel like smiling back.

“That doll,” he seethed.

“She’s not mine.”

“You’re right about that.  Those are collector’s items.  They’re worth more than you are!  I told you not to play with them.”  He was shouting now.  It never ended well for me when Jim shouted.  “How did you get into the attic?”

“I didn’t go into the attic.”

“Then where did you get this?”

For lack of a better excuse, the truth slipped out.  “My friend gave it to me.”

“You have no friends.  You’re a liar!” he screamed and lunged for me.  I tried to leap out of the way but my legs got mixed up and I fell.  He squeezed my arm and yanked me to my feet.  Jim shook me until my teeth rattled.  He must have gotten bored because he let me go with a shove, grabbed Marta, and headed for the door.

“Give her back!  She’s not mine!” I shouted.

He turned to smile at me.  “You’re right about that.  You just wait for your punishment.”

Tilly would not be my friend if I let him take her favorite doll.  Jim would lock her up, and I would never see Marta again.  “Give her back!”  I yelled at the top of my lungs, hoping someone would hear me and come to the rescue.

“What did you just say to me?” he said in a low, menacing tone.

“It’s Tilly’s doll, Marta—she’s her favorite.  I… I… I need to give it back to her.”

“Liar!  When I get through with you…” he jumped toward me and smacked my cheek.  I tried not to flinch, but I couldn’t help it.  He hit me once more, knocking me on the floor. 

I stood up unsteadily but could not see anything through my watery eyes.  The last thing I wanted to do was let Jim see me cry.  I swiped my tears away and glared back at him.  He raised his hand to me a third time.  I braced myself for the blow; I was ready.  It couldn’t hurt as much as it would when Tilly hated me for losing her doll.

“Stop it!”  The command from my rescuer was shrill, making me jump.

Jim froze with his hand pulled back.  He whipped around and searched for the source of the voice.  “Who said that?” he whispered. 

There was no answer.

“Who do you have in here?  If I find some kid hidden away I will kill you.”

“Hit her again, and I will get my father.  Then you will be sorry.”  Tilly was smaller than me, but she was stronger and she sounded mad. 

At that moment Jim saw my friend standing on her bed.  His mouth fell open and he looked back at me with wide eyes.  I smiled at the terror on his face.

“You’re the devil,” he shouted.

I giggled.  I was not the devil; I was just a little girl.  And so was Tilly.  Who would have thought my best friend would have this effect on my stepfather?  If only he would have met her sooner.  Maybe now he would leave me alone.

“You have possessed this room with some sort of magic,” he accused.

“That’s silly.”  Everyone knew magic was not real, right?  And my stepfather had thought I was stupid.

I expected him to leave, but he walked over to the mirror instead.  With a stiff motion his fist punched the shiny surface.  The force of the blow crushed the fragile glass into a million pieces.  One minute my best friend was there and then she was gone. 

Jim was hurting Tilly.  She was screaming and there was blood everywhere.  My favorite blanket turned red then black with blood.  I raced over and started hitting him, trying to keep him from hurting my friend.  Rosa rushed in and pulled me off my stepfather.  She kept on hushing me and saying that everything would be alright.  That’s when I realized Tilly was not screaming—I was. 

 

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Belated Retort

22 Feb

As the bulk of our communication with one another transfers to avenues like Facebook, Twitter and texting, we have the opportunity to reflect on our words before we post/reply.  Not everyone chooses to capitalize on this, but those of us who do are able to invest in making ourselves sound cleverer and more profound than we really are.

But does this opportunity to be witty and philosophical count toward our own intelligence if we can’t do the same in casual conversation? 

I tend to stew over exchanges I’ve had, belatedly thinking of numerous retorts that would have been more suitable than those I had previously chosen.  Sometimes I hit the mark on the first go-around, typically by employing a healthy dose of sarcasm; however, if I had the ability to take a red pen to my own dialogue I could come across as the smartest, wittiest person on the face of the planet.

I hold truly clever individuals, those who can deliver a comeback in the flash of a second, in the highest esteem.  These folks aren’t necessarily the most intelligent but I’d rather converse with a witty person than an overly intellectual one.

Some of the sharpest people in my acquaintance are the Irish.  When I lived on the Emerald Isle (twice), I learned that very little is held sacred when it comes to witty retorts.  It’s more of a sin to hold your tongue than to shoot back a great, albeit offensive, one-liner.

I’m convinced that this inherent ability comes from the incessant rain, forcing locals inside stale pubs and in close proximity to one another.  The result?  Banter.

For the remainder of the week, I’m going to be writing dialogue that heavily relies on banter to carry the conversation.  What I come up with may not make it into a book, but it’ll be a fun exercise.  Who knows?  Maybe one of my witty retorts will find its way into a tweet or status update via FB.

-Jenny

 

There are only a couple of days left until the next installment of The Mirrors at Barnard Hall is posted!  Excited?  Me too.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Click HERE to start reading from the beginning. 

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Listen to Nike

20 Feb

Yesterday I had the opportunity to Skype with my older sister and her daughter.  I was enthralled by the fact that my 20-month-old niece is a genius (No matter how intelligent your kid/niece/nephew is, my niece is infinitely smarter).  I was able to hold a conversation with her—one that lasted as long as her fairly short attention-span (an early-warning sign of an IQ that is off the charts). 

My sister briefly mentioned wanting another baby, and I adamantly agreed.  The first time couldn’t have turned out better, why not go 2 for 2? 

But then the topic steered toward financial instability and the fact that the funding for daycare they currently receive was slated to be cut from the county’s budget. 

I found myself responding the same way my mom does, “You’re never going to be ready.  There’s never a perfect time for kids.”

That got the wheels in my head turning: is there ever a perfect time for anything?

The answer is a simple, resounding NO.

Marriage proposals, an extra kid, the first kid, a career change, the big move, making your dream a reality… These are all things we find ourselves waiting for. 

Newsflash, procrastinators: The stars aren’t going to align; there isn’t going to be ghostly hand writing on the wall, telling you that you’re supposed to start now and that it is going to be simple.

Just do it.

I firmly believe that, if it is supposed to happen, it will.  You’re not going to thwart the destiny that has been set for you by doing what you think you’re supposed to do.  Despite popular belief, you don’t have that kind of power.

Don’t you want to be able to look back on your life and say with confidence that you gave it your best shot—whatever it is?

You might not have the money for another kid, but were you really financially ready for the first one? 

If you weren’t supposed to go to Australia, would you have been approved for a work visa in ten hours?

Would you have been given a remarkable voice if you weren’t supposed to sing?

I might not make the New York Time’s Best Sellers list, but I’m going to try.

You’ll never win the lottery if you don’t play.

 Try Nike’s approach.

-Jenny

#7 The Mirrors at Barnard Hall (Chapter 9)

17 Feb

Hello, Friday–and loyal readers!  To be honest, I’m too excited about today’s chapter to say too much and risk deterring the eagerness you are undoubtedly feeling at this very moment.  If you enjoy this chapter, feel free to tell a friend about it 🙂  If we get 20 more e-mail followers before next Friday, I’ll post chapter 10 early!

With that said, happy reading! 

-Jenny

New to the story?  Click HERE to start from the beginning.

Don’t want to read this on-screen?  Click to download the .pdf version of Chapter 9

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Chapter 9: Existence

Something was off. 

The room was as unkempt as I had left it this morning: my cotton robe was slipping from the back of the chair, my suitcase was lying open on the rug with my wardrobe creeping out, and my hairbrush was discarded on the mantle.  The covers were not made; they were balled up at the edge of the bed from my restless sleep the night before—a restless albeit dreamless sleep.  But something was off.  I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

A lovely, musky pine scent wafted through the air.  While I was out, Rosa must have sprayed something or lit a candle to take away the musty smell from the night before.  There was something faintly masculine but pleasant about the aroma.

My reflection in the serviceable bathroom mirror looked only slightly better than it had yesterday; the nearly peaceful sleep had been rejuvenating.  The dark circles were still there but they had shifted from purple to a lighter, healthier gray—if gray could be considered healthy.  In preparation for the night ahead, my evening routine continued; I scrubbed my face and brushed my teeth until my gums hurt.  I stuck my head out of the bathroom to survey the room once more. 

Something was off.

The house creaked as it settled for the night.  My eyes swept the empty space but ultimately came to rest on the mirror.  Last night Rosa had helped me move the heavy oak bed so that it sat flush against the reflective glass.  The bulky sleigh frame was still in the same awkward place but its reflection was nearly nonexistent.  Only the corner of the quilt was visible in the mirror; the rest of the bed was… missing.

I blinked twice, just in case.  My toothbrush became forgotten in my hand; it fell to the floor with a click.  With a loud gulp I swallowed a mouthful of toothpaste and saliva; the burning in my throat made my eyes water. 

The glass had to be bowed; the resulting funhouse effect had disoriented me.  I walked slowly toward the massive frame and continued to stare.  The cherubs in the corners returned my blank look with their sightless eyes. 

That was odd.  My bag should have been in the reflection but it was nowhere to be seen.  I reached the edge of the bed and froze.  Wait a second… I should have seen myself in the mirror but I wasn’t there either.

“If you insist on plaguing me in my own room, will you at least put something decent on for goodness sake!” a gravelly voice commanded.  The harsh sound resonated in the empty room, echoing throughout the barren space.

Self-consciously, I looked down at myself before distressing over the source of the voice.  My blue silk nightgown was short, but far from revealing.  A quick scan of the room exposed no intruders.  I had to be insane; instead of being scared of a strange man in my room, I was worrying about his opinion of my outfit.  A sane person would run away and call the police; Callista Franklyn went looking for the trespasser, wanting to ask what was wrong with her modest attire.

A shadow passed from right to left, across the mirror like it was a television screen.  It appeared then disappeared just as quickly.  Five breaths later the dark figure came back, crossing from the left this time.  I looked behind me—just in case—but saw only emptiness.  Back in front of me, I could see it better now; I could see him better now.  It was like my mirror had turned into a window and someone was pacing on the other side of the pane. 

The stranger made a third pass and rubbed his neck.  He muttered something under his breath and the gruff sound made me jump.  He did not come back, so I was brave enough to walk over and tap the glass.  The distinct clinking sound left me shaking my head.  The mirror was still there, but where was my reflection?

This house was messing with me.  All my research and twisted memories had thrown me off-balance and warped my sense of reality.  I would wake up from this nightmare at any moment. 

I chuckled at my own silliness and looked up, finding myself face to face with the man.  Well, more face to chest; he was at least six inches taller than me.  His midnight hair curled around his ears and over his pristine white collar.  Brooding black eyes bore into mine; it was as though he was looking into my soul.  The stranger would have been devastatingly handsome if he was not scowling at me.

“You are not real,” I whispered.  The voice in my head chanted the statement, willing the rest of me to believe the message. 

I would wake up soon—I had to.  And as soon as I woke up I was checking into a hotel… or mental hospital.

“So says the illusion.  I assure you, madam, I am more real than you shall ever be.”

This could not be happening.  I was talking to myself, not a man in the mirror.  People had always said you were in trouble when your hallucinations spoke back to you.  What did it mean when imaginary conversations became commonplace?

After a brief fit of hysterics, I peeked back at the glass.  The stranger was still there, staring at me as if my head had exploded.  Maybe it had.

“Although you do look real.”   I took a step forward, reached my hand to the mirror, but could not bring myself to touch the glass.  The skin around the stranger’s strong jaw looked stubbly and rough.  His hair was artfully messy as if it had been worried through with his tanned fingers.  My hands longed to run through it too; I found myself wondering if it was as silky as it looked.  His eyes were sinfully dark; they held an extremely sarcastic stare directed at me.

“Are you a ghost?”  The only way to get a direct answer was to ask a direct question.

“What sort of question is that?” he scoffed.

“An illogical one.”

“Exactly.”

No matter how illogical, I still wanted to know the answer.  “Are you?” 

He let out a bellowing laugh.  I crossed my arms against the unexpected, boisterous reaction.  Eventually he found his composure long enough to answer me.  “No, I am not a ghost.”

“I think you’re wrong,” I said with more conviction than I felt.  After all, how positive could one be when dealing with the supernatural?

“Am I now?”

“I think so.” 

“You do not sound very self-assured,” he pointed out. 

“That’s because I’m not.”

“Do you think that, of the two of us, I would know if I were a ghost?”

“Maybe…” I certainly wasn’t an expert on the afterlife.  Tilly could have been a ghost forever locked in a mirror.  This was a different mirror; why not a different ghost?  Right.  Why not?

“Hmmm…”  He crossed his arms and grew serious.  “Have you met many ghosts?  Not including myself of course.”

“Only one.” Maybe.

The ghost was taken aback by my admission.  “And what was he like?”

“She.”

“What was she like?” he amended.

“Wonderful.”

“So, you think I am wonderful?  Is that why you believe I am a ghost?”

My traitor face blushed at his leering tone.  “That’s not what I said.” 

“You wound me.  What made her so wonderful and me so…?”

“Dreadful?” I provided helpfully.

He frowned.  “I am not dreadful.”

“Well, unlike you, she was pleasant.”

“I can be pleasant.”

“I highly doubt that.” 

He gave me the oddest look.  It was pretty bad when a figment of my imagination/potential ghost thought I was the crazy one.  “Right.  There is obviously no reasoning with you.”

I was seeing/imagining ghosts… we were way beyond reasoning.  “Obviously not.”

“If I may, I would like to point out one issue with your ghost theory.”

Only one?  I could think of a million.  When our gazes connected I thought I saw a glint of amusement in his black eyes.  Instead of acknowledging his humor, I gave him a skeptical look.  “What is that?”

“Ghosts are usually dead.”  I nodded but remained silent.  What tragedy had befallen this beautiful man?  The thought twisted my heart.  “And I am very much alive.”

“How do you know?”

Again, he shot me a you’re-not-right-in-the-head look.  “Because I haven’t died yet.”

“Maybe you forgot?”  My voice lacked confidence when the intended statement came out more as a question. 

“Death does not seem the type of incident one would soon forget.  Not that I would know from personal experience, mind you.”

“Maybe it was too horrendous to remember,” I suggested, immediately regretting the observation.  What if this ghostly man had died a horrific, painful death?  What type of twisted person wanted to remind someone about such an event? 

The stranger gave me a pained look.  I awaited his answer, counting each breath he took before his response.  Did ghosts need to breathe or was it simply a force of habit?

“Well then, what about you?”           

“What about me?”

“If I am a ghost—which I am most certainly not—then you must be a ghost too.”

“I am not a ghost.”  That was the most ridiculous assumption I had ever heard.

“What proof do you have?”

“I don’t need proof.  I know when I was born, I remember my life until this point, and I have yet to die.”           

“Maybe it was too horrendous to remember,” the man whispered.  The corner of his mouth crooked up in an appealing half smile.

I could do nothing but scoff at his outrageous theory, vaguely aware that it had previously been my own.  It appeared as though there was no way to win the argument, so I stopped trying.  Besides, arguing with illusions/the undead could never prove fruitful—or healthy.

“Regardless, you can’t be real,” I said again, willing my brain to make the illusion disappear.  If he was, in fact, a member of the undead, then maybe he would get mad at me and fly through the wall into the next room or something.  Either way, I had to get rid of him if I was going to get any sleep.

He rolled his eyes, managing to make the rude gesture look attractive.

“You can’t be real,” I repeated, more for my own benefit than the beautiful stranger’s.

“Why is that?”

“Because there is no one in this room besides me.”  I looked over my shoulder, swept the room for hidden guests, found none, and then turned back to the mirror.

“In my room,” he informed me rudely.

In his room?  The last time I had checked, my name had been on the deed to Barnard Hall.  “You think this is your room?”

“I know it is.”

“Whatever you say.”  I was exhausted and did not feel like fighting with my hallucinations anymore tonight.  Until this point, my dreams had been pleasant, comforting, and familiar; now they were turning dark, malevolent, and unpredictable.

“Excuse me?”

As long as the illusion was here, I might as well play along.  Maybe if I came up with a solid argument for his non-existence, then he would go away.  What was the harm in indulging for a few more days?  Besides, there was no one around to haul me away in a strait jacket—unless the illusion worked for the psychiatric ward.

“Well, if you don’t exist and I don’t exist, then this entire conversation is futile.”  It made sense in a convoluted way.  What would be the sense in fighting over a moot point?

“Fine.  Neither of us exist, agreed?”  The beginnings of a smile crossed the stranger’s perfectly sculpted lips.  His ruggedly handsome features made my heart quicken.

“Sounds good to me.”

“Excellent.”

“If you have no objections, I’m going to sleep.”

“Considering I am not here, you hardly need my permission,” he shot back.

“Right.”  I turned off my light, resisted the urge to turn it back on and see if he had disappeared, and remarkably succumbed to sleep.

Tree Killer

15 Feb

A writer never knows when an idea will burst forth from the cocoon of her mind.  However, when this occurs there never seems to be a pen/paper within arm’s reach or a blank WORD document open. 

Ideas often come to me while I’m driving.  In my Sentra, I zone out and allow the music blaring through my factory speakers to wash over my mind.  (Unfortunately, this means I’m not always paying sufficient attention to the other drivers on the road—a daunting thought because, in Tennessee, turn signals are a novelty.)   

Travelling gives me an opportunity to focus on specific parts of a story or new projects I’m interested in pursuing.  In those transportational moments I have come up with some of the best phrases in my books.  Even though the timing is inconvenient (and multi-tasking while driving is frowned upon), it is vital to capture the precise way my mind has re-worked and edited a strand of words.  Otherwise, the flow will evaporate, leaving me unable to recapture the exact way I had previously expressed something. 

To combat this lack of an ever-present medium, I carry a tiny blue notepad in my purse.  The thing is worn to bits and nearly out of pages, but it has eased my panic on too many occasions to count. 

When I was coming up with names for my blog, my notebook was in the trunk.  So I ended up scribbling on an envelope (formerly abandoned in the abyss that is my glove compartment).  I have multiple spiral-notebooks full of half-hearted stories that will never move beyond those lined pages; characters make an appearance, have a few lines exchanged with no one in particular, and disappear again.  I print out my first (and second, and third, and…) to make all corrections with a proverbial red pen.

Why do I write using such a “primitive” medium?

Ultimately, this habit stems from my distrust in technology.  How many of us would be incapacitated if our computers crashed? 

I’m fully aware that my notebooks would make great kindling if there was ever a fire, but I’ll take my chances.  Besides, it’s easier for me to manipulate my ideas with a pen than it is for me to input my initial thoughts via keyboard.

So, for now I’ll remain a tree-killer.  But know this: those oaks, poplars and pines did not die in vain.  They died so that my dreams could be preserved for posterity—a truly noble end indeed.