Wednesday, December 26, 2018

2018 nanowrimo refelctions of a creative challenge: Lovejoy hook and excerpt

The Hook:
Late one night, Sophie Duggard, gets shot going into an all night convenience store. During the several weeks of convalescence to follow the incident, Sophie becomes first increasingly alienated and then scattered as she starts to put things into perspective. She challenges her thoughts on love, drug use and her sexuality.
Set in Northwest Portland, Sophie meets the people in her neighborhood, those who she spends her time with, and those who save her. No matter where a person is in life, emotionally high, or emotionally bankrupt, there are always people to be with.

The Excerpt:
The air in Portland was perfect. It was perfect. The rain of the day had settled and now, there was just the lessening puddles on the pavement. The leave mash of the autumn was gone now, now in January, and in the quiet nooks of vacant lots, small patches of forests and in the derelict neighborhoods, spring was already beginning. Small blooms even at night were here and there, like the hints and nuances of dreams.

The Max whizzed to a stop on the tracks. The night outside the windows was dark despite the early hour. In winter, closer to the North Pole than not, and being in the western part of the timezone, the nights come early. Early darkness, and days that come to light later begin to fail directly after the solstice in January. Each day gets longer than the last, and this will always be noticeable because it happens by minutes.

The same thing happens in the summer too, only the days become darker sooner and the nights last longer. This was something that she had noticed when in Sacramento. This was something that she had tried to articulate to Greg, that the days didn't seem to change very rapidly in Sacramento. They did not change as quickly or as noticeably as they had in Oregon.

The windows on the inside of the light rail were mirrors, too much fluorescence inside and the dark, dark night outside. The vacant seats when she first sat down at the airport quickly filled at each stop. At the Lloyd Center, she pulled the small bag behind her legs and squeezed it to the seat, and she put the larger bag on her lap.

Across the river, the city was lit up and bustling. This was not the same sort of excitement and flush of activity Denver had been. Denver had seemed dizzying, lively yes, but dizzying. Denver seemed like it was on the go, even if the go was up and out like a 1950s military atomic bomb recording. Portland, although well lit, well appointed moved slower, more sluggish. People were not in fear of freezing on the street corners with the panhandlers and preachers. In Portland, there was plenty of time and plenty of pace to move slower, diligently.

At the Pioneer Square stop, almost everyone got off, and a whole new crop of everyone got on. As Sophie looked around the crowd, taking notice of them mostly by their reflections, she recognized no one. She was not a frequent user of Tri-met, the public transportation system and she was not generally out and about during this hour.

At the library stop, the very next one, she got off the train. She has a long walk of about a block up to streetcar stop. There would be a small circling ride through Northwest Portland under the freeway and by the hospital ultimately, home. The streetcar would go all the way up NW Lovejoy Street. At NW 23rd, she would get off and walk the last two blocks toward home.

The bags became heavier. There was this moment of wistfulness when she hoped she would not miss the contents of either bag and should she leave the bags, one or the other on the side of the street, and if she would miss them.

A small rain, a warm misting drizzle began as she waited at the streetcar stop. She thought about the taxi she should have taken. This was no way to spend the evening. She looked at the pavement at her feet. Be more present, she thought. Be here in this moment, she thought. Looking down seemed to make that sentiment more real. As she looked up into the buildings and passing cars and people, the future seemed more and more consuming.

When the streetcar came, she got on without ceremony. She stood nearest the door and looked through her reflection into the darkness making out the places on the night that were more brightly lighted than the interior of the car. The thing moved slowly and suddenly, she felt sick, like she should feel. There had not been any food, only alcohol since breakfast.

Breakfast had been in a dirty little Interstate mountain town in the middle of the country, a completely foreign place where she was unlikely to see or visit ever again. This was the sort of thing that might make a memory, and if nothing more, it might make a story she'd be loathed to tell.

The mountain towns of Colorado, at least the one she had just seen did not seem all that different than seaside towns. There were the same shops, the same restaurants, the same tourists, the same taffies. This town, this Idaho Springs had something worse, it had a crime scene which was now becoming more and more obvious to her.

She had not slept with Greg or any other reason than she was lonely and had been for some long.

The loneliness was something that came on in small waves than just kept growing and growing. It was like all of her childhood friends had either grown up or moved away during their college years and none of them seemed to want any friendship with her. Her work associates were not friends. Many of them, aging old men, had different ideas of what the world was like and they seemed very out of touch. She had a few neighbors in her building she was on good terms with, at least in the hallways and laundry room.

There were the few dates.

It was all a disaster.

And Greg? Well Greg was the same old son of a bitch that he had always been and as she suddenly realized it, she was the same old stupid easily manipulated bitch he always took advantage of. Things should change.

Getting off the streetcar, she heaved her bags up and began to walk up the hill, the last two blocks toward home. The lights of NW 23rd faded into the darkness of the neighborhood. At her apartment building, she unlocked the back door and walked up the back staircase toward her door. As she opened her door, she was grateful to release the bags. She was home.

The air inside the apartment was stale, just like the air in a non-lived in apartment might smell. The smell of her soap or her her coffee had made way for paint chipped radiators and dusty old carpet.

She walked the length of the hall from her door to the interior of the apartments and turned on lights as she went. In the kitchen, she looked into the refrigerator. The box was empty. It was generally empty, but more empty now that ever.

It was not a difficult decision. She had dined alone often enough. Somehow, tonight, it was not as tolerable a thought as it should have been. It was like she was back home, in the same old place and it would have been okay had she not had the last several meals with someone else. Now, she would be forced to eat alone again.

She went to Sammy's. This was not the sort of restaurant where she would ever go. It was certainly not the sort of restaurant where she would take guests, or go on dates or eat alone. This was the sort of restaurant where couples go on weeknights to find a little peace or a little drama in a relationship.

She sat at a booth near the window. She looked out on the street and ignored the interior of the place. She ordered a small steak and the waiter did not ask about any of the trimmings. It was hopefully going to be good enough. All that mattered now was having a full belly and a good night of sleep. This would be good enough if she was not going to be able to leave the past behind.

The salad came. Bland.

The entree came. Over-salted. She ate without relish.

The brandy at the end of the meal already tasted like bad memories. She looked out the window as the bill came. She had thought about the basic home economics that they had learned in Girl Scouts. There was no reason to eat extravagant meals like this when this one meal came to the same price as what a week of groceries would have come out to should she had eaten at home.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

2018 nanowrimo reflections of a creative challenge: Lovejoy

This 2018 season of National Novel Writing Month, or nanowrimo, was very different from the last four creative challenges, at least for me. The biggest difference, I suppose is that I worked very quickly on the last few challenges. November 2017's The Second Door took 13 days. April 2018's Admiral fish and the Rainy Day Parade took 21 days. July 2018's The Chill of the Morning took 15 days and that photobook, Blue Red Gray took 8 days. I work fast.

This November that was not the case. This last November I worked on my story everyday, all thirty days of November. I did not finish the story until the very last day. I averaged just under 2000 words a day, everyday, all month.

Now, as I think about it, this is the proposed process: write everyday all month. It was not a difficult thing to do, far from it, but admitted by day 10, I was worried that I would not finish, or at the very least, not finish on time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018 nanowrimo reflections of a creative challenge: My Prep


When it came to the writing of my November novel, Lovejoy, I did not make one single plan. I did not even think about it until the writing began. I had a character. I had one scene in mind, and that was it.

I had one character from another novel Undertakers of Rain. Undertakers of Rain was written in 2009, early 2010, maybe. It was published and had a five year run with my now defunct publisher. In this novel, I had a minor character named Sophie who had a brief fling with one of the main characters. But the main characters showed up in my 2017 nanowrimo manuscript, The Second Door. In short, I have a number of novels that take place in my imaginary northwest Portland neighborhood.

When I chose the Sophie character it was really because I knew I could rewrite the scene I had already written from her point of view. I also knew that Sophie had been through a bunch of life before she met John in Undertakers of Rain. In an essence, Lovejoy was my chance at writing her back story.

But that's all I had going into it. That was all I needed. I had my time, my locale, and my character. What more did I need?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

2018 nanowrimo reflections of a creative challenge: What I did and what I did it for


November has come and gone. Of course I participated in the National Novel Writing Month, or nanowrimo again this year. In fact since I participated in November of 2017, I have participated in several creative challenges including Camp NaNoWriMo in both April and July and then the SoFoBoMo in August. I don't think I thought about whether or not I was going to do nanowrimo again this year, it was just something that I was going to do.

In the last 13 months, starting on November 1, 2017, I have written more than I have in any other 13 month period, ever. I think much of that is in part to these creative challenges. Even thought I would not consider any of these manuscripts as being especially great or even inspired, they are complete drafts and a good show of work.

I also think that these creative challenges are perfect for anyone who wanted to learn the discipline that it takes in order to get something done, to see a project from the beginning straight to the end.