Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Creative Non-Fiction


What We Left in the Yucatán
What I Left 
We circle above crystal blue of every shade. There’s the reef,” Blake says. I feel the pinch, the capillaries constricting in my brow as the pressure changes. Circling, circling, my sinuses expand. Please, please, don’t burst this time. I breathe into the vomit bag which calms my inner ear for a while, until I must turn the bag down, expel liquified cheddar Chex Mix, spit, bile.
It’s a three hour drive to El Cuyo from Cancún. Blake’s on his own, with a wife too sick to help navigate or translate the road signs. The wild dogs with xylophone ribs and white pink hanging tongues don’t break my heart as much as everyone said they would. Smoke pluming from the grills in the poblados that spring from the jungle don’t tempt, either, as I expected. With every speed bump, the force pulls me forward. My head can’t keep up.
“Pull over.”
Again?”
“I’ve waited as long as I can.”
Violent heat greets me as I lean down, open my throat. Get out, get out. The ground gulps my drying insides. Two, tiny bare feet kick up dust by my face. She says something I don’t quite catch. I think I tell her I have the stomach sickness. Adiós. Wet with sweat, I open the vents. 
“I’m turning inside out.” 
Blake rolls down the window. The heat barges in. “Did you see that girl’s feet? They were fucked up.” He lights a cigarette.
Salbutes
I’m hungry but not for this.” We arrive at Lonchería Amigo Wiley as they’re putting out the tables. We can’t get used to waiting for the sun to go down to eat with the mosquitoes. Out on the porch, a railing separates us from the residency side of the red squat building. We wave to the women, the teenage girl, the boy and his parakeet, the same bird that the other day, hung upside down from the doorway, while the boy kissed its beak. “Buenas noches.” They bring the salbutes, with boiled egg and ground chicken maybe. By now, we don’t have to ask for the salsa de habanero, green, speckled with black roasted skins, served in a paper bowl. It’s getting dark. The dust white branch of the Milky Way will soon sprout from the horizon, and stargazing is the perfect excuse for making love on the rooftop deck. I smack my leg involuntarily, leave a fat red streak on my skin. ”I’m so sick of salbutes,” I’m saying when the squawking starts. A wild pack gallops by, the leader, black coat, breasts swollen, mouth full of the bird squawking. The family runs out to the road, open their cell phones. “Los perros, lo tomaron.” The boy hangs over the railing, wailing out towards the beach where the dogs probably are, enjoying their meal, returning the bird to that dark rift. “Muerte, muerte.” Dead gone. Blake had seen the whole thing. He tells me how the black dog cornered the bird on the steps, how it only took a second. I go inside, lay down my pesos. “Qué horíble. El pájaro.” The woman nods, “sí,” with a smile. “¡Ah! ¿Tienes un otro?” She returns my peso bill, showing me the ripped edge. I pull out another fifty without question. I guess that’s how they do it here.
Checkpoint
After three days in Mérida, stuck in the whirlpool of numbered streets that don’t always behave chronologically, we drive the pot holed road back to El Cuyo, crowded by lush brush on both sides. In the distance red iron water glitters under 3D clouds. “Pescado frito,” he says, referring to the stand just beyond the salt ponds. A red flag darts out from the green. Arms, bodies, faces appear as our eyes separate the camouflage from the natural greenery. Blake grasps for the black pouch that holds our passports. 
“Buenos días.” I hear every third word. “Routine ... patrol ... vehículo.”
Blake searches for the trunk latch, not readily visible in this rental, that measures distance in kilometers, so much faster than miles. He gets out to open the trunk for the men in the rear. The green man leans into the driver’s side, shakes the water bottle, pats under the seat. Do I need to get out? I’d like to ask, but I can’t think of the verb let alone the conjugation. In the back seat, he unties the black plastic bag filled with wet bathing suits. I decide to get out, leave the door open for him, the picture of cooperation. Dried stems cover the ground, poke through my flip-flops. To my right, a few feet away, another green man wears black rubber boots. Much better for this terrain, I wonder, or too hot? We are looking at each other. Is he wondering what I’m doing here? Or does he think I’m cool? In his hands, a machine gun, same as the ones that aren’t so menacing from the front seat of the car that defies distance and time, where the poblados and tiendas and barefoot girls and machine guns pass by like a movie reel, and the air conditioning defeats the heat. The first green man comes around. I turn to my left, away from the gun, and squeeze between the car door and the wall of living green to let him pat down my seat. I cross my arms, immediately start sweating. He finishes and gestures for me to sit down, a chivalrous gesture I appreciate as I squeeze past the car door, ignoring the limbs of the dead through my flip-flops, past the gun, the closest I’ve ever been to one, into the front seat. Vents open. Car started.
“Tengan un buen día.”
Gracias usted.”
Pescado Frito
The best meal I’ve had in days.” Blake pops the eyeball into his mouth. Fried flesh sizzles under juice squeezed from a fresh lime. We separate meat from bone. The flies aren’t as quick to dart from my hand as the ones back home. They’re not scared of you.
“I don’t suppose we can move our flight up,” I say.
He waits for the pack of dogs howling from the dirt road to finish. “First class tickets are refundable.”                       
End.

What We Left in the Yucatán first appeared in the Midwest Literary Magazine.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Guest Post from Author Julie Lindsey

Today we have a guest blog post from author, Julie Lindsey. Her new book, Death by Chocolate, is out now. Julie shares with us her experience as a writer, and her road to publication.



Rejections, War Wounds & Aspiration. AKA: You Can’t Keep A Good Writer Down.
My path to publishing is lined heavily with rejection. I am rejected frequently and with enthusiasm on occasion. By agents, editors, critique partners, beta readers and the occasional stranger. If you’re a writer who has yet to be a rejected…you are like unicorn. Mythical. The is an upside to rejection, though. My favorite is camaraderie. Writers understand what it’s like to put your baby out there and have it slapped in the face. (In this scenario – to be clear- this is not a real baby. LOL). Rejection is a necessary part of growth in this life. It’s what hones our crafts, adds pluck to our spirit and makes the acceptances even sweeter. 
I began writing on a whim about three years ago. I read a book that made me so happy I wanted to do the same for someone else. So, I announced “I’m going to write a novel,” and then got started. Being an only child, I have unending amounts of self-confidence. My husband is quite resilient to everything and takes me in stride. He simply said, “Oh, yeah? What are you going to write about?” I had no idea. 
I the past three years I’ve written 8 complete novels, three novellas, six short stories and hundreds of blog posts. Most of those things were rejected. Which is why I love my blog. People rarely leave comments to reject something I say. But it does happen. So, chin up. There are plenty of contracts out there beyond the “no’s.” But if you let the rejections keep you from submitting, you’ll never get there. 
Look at me. I have no idea what genre I want to write in, so I hop. I mean, genre is pretty basic right? Not to me. Hopping genres is very amateurish I’m told. What can I say? I’m an amateur. I’m still figuring out where my voice fits best. If you have a genre on your heart, then you are well ahead of the game. Here’s how bad I am. My debut novel released this week. Death by Chocolate, a humorous work of contemporary fiction. Silliness. Fun. Lighthearted. It comes on the heels of my debut novella, Bloom. Bloom released in January. It was the sweet romance which launched the new Honey Creek books line for Turquoise Morning Press and also my series, Seeds of Love. Two more of these are coming this year from me. 
SO, am I a romance author? I don’t know. I did write another print length romance for Honey Creek and they accepted that as well. Written on Her Heart is coming next March. But I also signed a contract this month for a YA mystery/romance, coming next April. If you aren’t confused yet, let me try one more…I’m finishing my first cozy mystery right now and my agent is in the middle of prepping a newly finished YA Suspense to go on submissions for me. LOL. I don’t know what I’m doing!
But I love writing. And I just keep writing. Toeing the water. Looking for a way in to the pool ; )
I think I said all that to say this: The writer-life is a calling. When you’re a writer, you *know* it. Published or not published, doesn’t matter. Your path will be set to suit your life and your time and your goals. Set your sights on the prize and keep your head down. There will be turbulence ahead. What’s important is that you keep going. This is your dream and no one will chase it for you. Guaranteed. While you’re at it, try to enjoy the twists and turns along the way, they make for great stories later on. And, hey…every writer loves a good story. 
If I could encourage writers with one piece of advice, I’d say never underestimate the power of the Internet. We have a resource at our fingertips that no other generation before us has ever had. Use it. Embrace it. Network, research. Learn. The online writing community is unstoppable. They will gladly be your best friend, answer questions, share information and encourage you. Anytime. Just reach out to them. Any of them.  I promise you’ll be glad you did
Thank you Carol for allowing me to be a part of your blog today. It means the world to me and proves my point, writers are lovely and always ready to support another writer. Thank you!
Death by Chocolate

Ruby Russell has reached her limit. When she discovers her hipster husband has a dirty little secret, she whips him up a Viagra-infused-chocolate mousse punishment, but in the morning, her husband's a stiff. Armed with a lifetime of crime show reruns and Arsenic and Old Lace on DVD, Ruby and her best friend Charlotte try to lay low until after Ruby's son's wedding, but a nosy therapist, meddling minister and local news reporter are making it very difficult to get away with murder.
About Julie:
I am a mother of three, wife to a sane person and Ring Master at the Lindsey Circus. Most days you'll find me online, amped up on caffeine & wielding a book.
You can find my blogging about the writer life at Musings from the Slush Pile
Tweeting my crazy at @JulieALindsey
Reading to soothe my obsession on GoodReads
And other books by me on Amazon

Watch the trailer for Death by Chocolate: YouTube Trailer

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Stand

My new poem, The Stand, dropped today!

The Stand
You get a dollar a day to work Granny's
stand, Read More

Friday, January 20, 2012

Poem

Dear earthworm
Please forgive my shoe
for coming down
without seeing you
when at this un-
fortunate time you had lost
the moist dirt
and lay drying
on my stoop
and to where, to your misfor-
tune met the bottom
of my shoe, gardening
shoe, ironic if
you like to find 
things so.
I picked you up, still alive
my grip, I know, too tight
for the life that oozed
from the hole torn
by my shoe.
Beneath the fern you thrashed
in pain and, I’d imagine, anger.
But you see I’m usually the savior
of your kind. Though I burn earwigs with cigarettes,
spray spiders with poison
that curls their legs,
catch flies with sticky paper
and watch their struggle, the earth-
worm I call sacred,
whose cycles in, out in
make the garden bloom,
I rescue those lost
on dry land, picking up and dropping
back to earth despite
my disdain
for touching slimy things.
I couldn’t smash you further
and I couldn’t watch you die.
Inside I rinsed the coffee 
mugs, not thinking of you or white-
red ooze or how you thrashed
in anger. It was Saturday
after all,
and a sunny one at that.

Dear earthworm first appeared in Issue 4 of Vanilla:Literary and Art Journal

Poem

Chocolate Skittles
I’m thirsty-
though I’ve had a fill
of cigarettes and coffee.
Off to gather in this City,
compressed under concrete and asphalt, on 
this day slicked with rain.
Two protected by umbrellas
stroll with no heed
to Agenda.
I step into the street
-bypassing them-
into the currents that race
downhill, carrying the City’s
dirt- cars, leaves, candy wrappers-
Chocolate Skittles- once a marketing
idea, hatched, in an office
somewhere, now insides long
consumed and deflated,
caught in the Gutter’s Web.
Low-
calorie chips, milk swollen
with the smell of the Corner
Store- these
will make a suitable lunch.

Chocolate Skittles first appeared in issue 4 of Vanilla:Literary and Art Journal

Prose Poem

While Watching Dances with Wolves
and a pot of chili simmers on the stove, a poem barges into my mind speaking of boyfriends and attitudes lost, stamping its feet and shouting full sentences, images, connections to be made, it urges me to find a pen and scrap of paper- I search the coffee table begging the poem not to leave, to stay with me, just another second and I’ll record what it has to say when suddenly the voice shrivels, claims 
it’s not worthy of living, that if it were allowed to develop it would suffer from sentimentalism, be ravaged by clichés and should never walk on land with its sorry legs- I don’t try to talk it off of the ledge, I agree with the points it makes and ask why it disturbed me in the first place- sullen, the poem retreats 
from my frontal lobe and I know the suicide attempt was a cry for help, just to get my attention, but I’ll let it cry for a little longer, so I turn my thoughts to Mr. Costner, cornbread and chili as the poem curls into a remote corner of my subconscious, wincing at the bully who once called me fat.

While Watching Dances with Wolves first appeared in Issue 3 of Vanilla:Literary and Art Journal

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Road to Publication

Writing is hard work. Whether it's poetry, fiction, nonfiction, short stories, micro fiction, or novels, we slave away everyday, tiring our eyes and hands, making sure it's just right. Finally, after several drafts, edits and copyedits, we finish our work, and sit back, waiting for the offers to roll in.

After waiting, and waiting, and waiting for those publication offers, sending out query after query, only to be faced with rejection after rejection, we realize the work has just begun.

I finished my first novel early last year. Up until then, it was the hardest thing I'd ever done. I've written short stories and poems, gotten a few of them published, and those were hard work as well, but nothing compares to the sheer volume of a novel, sustaining a story over hundreds of pages, and going through thousands and thousands of words with a fine toothed comb. It took me over two years to complete. I was proud of myself when I got it to a state that I was happy with. "I'm a writer now," I told myself. And then I started trying to sell it, and that remains the hardest thing I've ever done, and continue to do.

I took the first few rejections with a grain of salt. I was no stranger to the "we cannot take on this project at this time," sort of form letter. But as the weeks and months rolled by, with not even a partial request, the doubt set in, and with it the depression, the worry, the nights asking, "what am I doing with my life?" Rejection on a short story or poem is one thing, but on a novel, something that takes so much time and dedication, and something that, at least for me, is so much more personal, well, it hurts.

One thing I learned while submitting stories, is that publishing is much like a numbers game. Editors, agents, and publishers receive mountains of submissions, and they can only accept a few. My strategy is always to continue submitting to as many venues that are in existence, and on the basis of sheer statistics, someone, anyone, will eventually accept my work, accept me.

Since I started querying, I've gained some traction; partial requests, full requests, revision requests, but I've yet to receive "the call" from an agent, or sign my name to something that ensures payment for my work. But you know what, I carry on. The writerly life involves rejection, and lots of it. I hold on to the hope that someone will connect with my work one day, if not this novel, then the next one, or the next one, and it will happen just when it's supposed to. That kind of thing you can't rush, or wish and hope into reality.

I'll continue trying to sell this novel until I've exhausted all possible routes. From someone who has yet to have any success in the industry, you may not think much of this advice, but I hold it true. Stick to the two P's; patience and persistence.