… Long Live the King

I nudged the lever with the outside of my wrist to to turn the water on in the upstairs bathroom. I was careful of the cheap tile counter top. Lord knows how tough it is to get any kind of dirt stains out of the grout, worse with blood, I was guessing. A whirring sounded in the pipes from the ground floor and, before I could trace its path, it was drowned out by the spurt of water, a projectile from the pressure and sheer gravity, shooting from the ridiculous, tall faucet, down into the drain with no stopper. The sink basin in this room reminded me of the camp sinks out at Bunyan Park, as deep as it was round with just enough room to rest a severed head. That startling thought made me wince.  “Where the hell did that come from,” I wondered; I hadn’t severed anyone’s head.

With my elbow, I slowly pushed the lever down to lighten the stream; I needed to avoid a splatter affect on the mirror when I washed my hands. The mirror. Shivers rippled from my core as I caught sight of the naked woman staring up at me.  Were the eyes questioning or accusing? “It couldn’t be helped,” I heard the whisper, and for a moment thought it had come from the woman, standing now, her mottled hands carefully dangling over the opposite basin ledge, away from the water.

I had buried that little girl – the one that believed she’d fight fire-breathing dragons some day … with swords of truth. Silly little girl thought she’d be president. She was dead, as dead as all my victims, and buried along with them on federal land. It was land that was likely to be bargained out of its sanctified landmark status and placed in the hands of the corporate dirt-bags that own this country.  Dirt-bags that would drill for oil and gas in the years to come. Sooner or later someone would dig there, and when they did, my secret would be discovered. That was actually my plan. Not really a plan, per se, since it all happened reflexively. More like an after-the-fact resolution.

Several had died earlier that night: the feisty little girl, a beautiful park ranger, Stephen King … As my mind raced through the tick marks of things that remained for the doing, I stopped just long enough to ask myself whose blood this was on my hands. I couldn’t remember. Did I even know?

The liquid soap foamed out a lather that smelled sickly sweet, like honey.  It mingled in my nostrils with the iron tang of the blood that seemed permanent there; I nearly blew chunks. Committed to the sink, I couldn’t spin around to the tub and get the solid bar soap now. “Evidence,” I repeated over and over again in my head, swallowing the lump in my throat. I massaged the soap into aged hands, frowning at how much they reminded me of my mother’s hands.  Had they been this weathered before?  Would I ever have noticed if not for this terrible night?  Pink rivers swirled around the drain and disappeared.

I scrubbed underneath and around my cuticles with a manicure brush I kept by the faucet; I wondered if the bristles would melt like the rest of the plastic when I tossed this in the burn barrel where the rest of my clothes were likely ash by now. Dark lines framed my nail beds. I couldn’t tell anymore if it was the blood or the dirt. I flicked the water drops, now clean, from my hands several times into the sink and swung around to the tub. A hot shower would ease my nerves and the steam would help rid the lingering scenes from my air passages. scratching the shampoo into my hair and scalp might complete the work on my fingers too. I replaced the towel on the rod with an old beach towel from the linen closet. That would burn too once I was finished.

Stepping into that shower was like entering a deep, restful sleep. I felt almost instantly relieved, as if it was all over. I let go and let myself forget for awhile. “At least until the hot water runs out,” I thought. As hot hit cold on the ceramic at my feet, steam billowed up around me and I drifted back to a time before – when the little girl lived, I was in love, and King was my hero.


Help! I Swallowed the Canary

Photo Courtesy of Salim Yousuf Kazi

Hello all you fellow comrades in ink, you swarthy (I’ve always wanted to use that word) pirates of letters, you makers of mayhem sewn into denouement!  I interrupt (mooooo!) this NaNoWriMo broadcast to post a question.  How do you keep a secret?!

A new and delicious plot twist came to me and I really want to tell the world!  Let me back up.  This is my third attempt at NaNoWriMo.  I prepared like a prize fighter for this one.  The story I’m writing has been in there (the metaphoric barrel of monkeys known as my brain) for nearly a year.  I’ve scratched ideas on it here and there (three different notebooks have little scribbles I’ve had to decipher and wonder what I was thinking).  I plotted.  I actually outlined this thing (as far as my non-organized, chaotic and frenetic little brainwaves would let me).  Too many parentheses?  Okay.

Here’s my point.  It gets BORING, and one easily loses motivation when writing a story that has spent so much time reprogramming the brain into thinking it’s usual, humdrum, run-of-the-mill, and bland.  Perhaps this is just a story’s “death by familiarity syndrome” (not on Google yet), but every writer knows – it is real.  So when this plot twist smacked me in the face out of the blue, I was smitten.  I nearly bought it a ring.

Having just come out of the ho-hum doldrums and found new energy in writing this novel, I know what King explains, in his On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft, is true.  “Don’t tell.”  If I tell, it will start to lose its luster.  So I walk around like I swallowed the canary.  Well, I did.

Any tricks or advice on this impulse control temptation?

Image Courtesy of Salim Yousuf Kazi at http://syklovingcanaries.weebly.com/index.html

What I’m Reading and Why

Had an idea for this series while talking to friends yesterday.  Almost every author advising new writers agrees – you must read as much (if not more) than you write.  That wisdom makes perfect sense to me, so I follow it.  For the sake of getting more things posted while still working my insanely demanding job, I intend to run this series whenever I finish a book and start into something new.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I just finished “The Historian,” by Elizabeth Kostova.  Upon first cracking it open, I was impressed by the style and flow.  I have no doubt it reads like Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” intentionally.  I say that, but you should know that it is a more modern account and is really about several historians as they search for the truth about Vlad “The Impaler” and his dark legacy.  As such, it balances light with dark themes and lures you into a more “historical fiction” style of the Dracula legend.  Unlike other vampire stories, this book is a serious literary contribution.  There are the elements that make the reader stay hooked and coming back for more (character development, mystery, adventure, romance), but without the “teenager with raging hormones,” stamp of approval.  You will not find a group of readers in “Camp Paul,” versus those in “Camp Rossi.”  For that, I am very thankful. 

This is Kostova’s first novel!  Oh, please let me be as blessed!  Reader BEWARE – if you have no patience for long books – this one is 704 pages.  That’s nearly twice the page count for the average reader of fiction.  Oh, please let me be as prolific!

I didn’t choose this book, it chose me.  I was in between pages that held my interest and it grabbed me out of the e-library stacks.  I stayed in it because it made me feel like a scholar in the Oxford library wiping dust from an ancient volume bound in worn leather.  I hope to improve my skills in imagery having put this one in my bank.

The Shining by Stephen King

Immediately after finishing this one, I started on an older book, Stephen King’s, “The Shining.”  I have never watched the movie rendition of this book other than the occasional Jack Nicholson “Redrum” clips.  Not a fan of King’s books until recently, this is probably because I had no idea he had more than just gore and horror.  It wasn’t until I read his book, “On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft,” that I got curious about some of his other offerings.  I picked up “The Dead Zone,” and then “The Body,” “11.22.63,” the “Dark Tower” series … well it’s just that now I’m hooked.  I have always been a student of sociology and psychology – in awe about how just a single synapse could be the difference between monsters like Ted Bundy and people like Oprah Winfrey.  Stephen King does “Psychological Thriller” like nobody’s business!

If you want a writer to take you on a journey of escape, while still rooting you in some lessons about people and relationships – Stephen King is your answer.  Just a few pages into “The Shining” and I’m reeling at how effortlessly he tells me the grisly detail of how this guy (a dry alcoholic) broke his baby boy’s arm … and then pages later makes me empathize and still see this guy and his family in human terms.  In the world outside the pages, it would be so easy – common, in fact – to write this guy off for the asshole he appears to be.  When Mr. King writes it, you have to really try hard to demonize him and the family that chooses to stay with him.  “Life has to go on for these people,” King says with the story, “Put their shoes on and deal with it.”

That’s what I love about his style – he finds unique situations, often times rooted in gut-level reality, and he doesn’t dismiss truth for the sake of entertainment in these stories.  If I could emulate only one writer – it would currently be Stephen King.  I’m reading him because I’d like to be able to infuse his style into my mysteries.

I won’t even go into the typical King spin that grants someone in the story a unique but stigmatizing power (like reading people’s minds) and how that tickles my fancy.  Read it yourself!