It's done! It's done! Break out the champagne, it's done! I finished "Under A Twisted Moon" last night. It was so much harder writing under a deadline than it was just writing when I wanted. There were times I didn't think I'd finish this one.
Now, on to editing. For those of you that don't write you should know this is the hardest part of the process. You are forced to pick apart, dismantle, destroy, and sometimes rewrite something that is so close to your heart it feels like a child. Ultimately you end up with something better than you could have imagined but even knowing that you find yourself defending every word. You knew what you meant at the time and at the time it seemed important. At the time you could have sworn it was one of the moments when you manage to express a concept that no one else has before in a way that changes how the world thinks. Then in editing you realize you must have been high, or really really tired. Cutting out dreck is important but somehow heart breaking anyway.
Well I've avoided starting this task long enough. I have to go edit now. Wish me luck.
Here is the prologue to my new book, "Under A Twisted Moon". It highlights an event early in the main character's life. Don't let her age fool you. The rest of the book is about her adult life and is very grown up.
She knelt in the cold water her knees aching from the rough concrete floor of the homemade pool in the tiny church. This was getting old, she thought facetiously. At 12 years old, she was on the cusp of womanhood as she saw it in her mind, but here she was naked under a white gown silently holding her hands out and waiting for the pastor to anoint her head with water and oil and drive her demons away in this bastardized mix of baptism, exorcism, and cleansing. It’s always the back hills churches that are the scariest.
“…And cast out these demons that have taken over the life of this innocent girl!” the pastor intoned viciously. ‘Please God,’ Amelie prayed. Even as the words took form in her mind she could smell the parishioners all watching her. She felt trapped, like a caged animal, smelling the ungodly mix of perfumes, body odors, detergent, wood polish, tobacco, even the flowers they had brought in for the service. Her head swam in the confusion of her over active nose and she could feel her arms and legs tingling in a familiar sensation.
“No. Not here, not now,” she whispered taking deep breaths and trying to stave off her demons. They would not take her over again. She had heard about the power of positive thought in school when they talked about the troops in the gulf. It was her only defense as she was trapped in the water while everyone stared at her and the pastor danced around in a parody of speaking in tongues. ‘This would work. This time it would work!’
“Hurry,” she murmured to herself feeling the change coming over her with the constant pain it wracked on her body. Surely these demons were afraid of being cast out. This was her tenth cleansing she could remember in her short life. Always it was like this; the embarrassment of her gown floating in the water showing her young form, the pastor dancing around with the bible like a sort of witch doctor she read about in school…and the people. Always the people watching like she was the local freak. No matter how many times she knelt in the water it made her nervous, put her on edge like being trapped in a crowd with no one you know to pull you out…and then the change would happen.
Her teeth grew sharp and she caught her tongue on a canine drawing blood. She clamped her mouth shut gritting her teeth against the pain, desperately trying to maintain a façade of calm. She was anything but calm with the changes coming over her small body, every nerve screaming at her this was wrong. It was the nature of her possession to change into some half beast she wasn’t even sure she knew what it was, and always…always it brought pain unless she was staring at a full moon. That had to be another sign she was infested by demons, chosen by the devil, as her father often put it.
As if in answer to her struggles the pastor grabbed her head in vice grip and the water poured over her. “In the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost! Jesus claims this child!” the pastor yelled loudly over her head. Shouts of ‘Amen!’, ‘Hallelujah!’, ‘Praise God!’, and ‘Help her Lord!’ rang through the audience. Through blurry water logged eyes Amelie could see them holding out their hands to the sky as if Jesus himself would reach out from heaven and take them away from their tired squalid life in this tiny backwater town. Vaguely she thought what a nerd she was that she knew what squalid meant.
It was over as quickly as it started and her parents reached down taking her arms and pulled her out of the water. She placed her feet on the tile floor behind the altar letting the cold shock center her again. Slowly she was able to pull her demons back in and keep them from tormenting her this time. The pastor stood behind her and declared holding the bible above her head, “Her demons have been cast out, and she has been washed in the holy waters! This child is clean! Let her be welcome among us!” The church applauded and praised God sincerely for saving her insignificant life.
There was a flash of silver light and then a simple silver cross on a fine chain appeared before her dangling from the pastor’s hands. She turned her head and pleaded silently with her mother trying to find a way to step away from the metal.
“She is allergic to silver!” her mother yelled over the commotion, her French Canadian accent blurring the words in her panic. No one heard her and Amelie’s father, standing on the other side, didn’t see what was happening. The chain was fastened around her neck and the sterling silver cross slipped inside her gown landing between where her breasts would someday grow. She screamed as the metal burned away her skin.
“It’s the demons!” someone shouted and the pastor held the cross against her skin with his bible muttering incoherently, demanding the demons let her go. All she was aware of was the burning pain like acid on her chest.
Finally someone pulled the pastor away and her parents carried her out of the little church her mother looking down her gown to inspect the burn. The cross was cast away in their hurry. She never did see it again.
After a trip to the emergency room the burn was packed with balms and gauze and she lay on her bed letting the breeze coming off the river wash over her. She closed her eyes and let the smells of the forest surround her. It was only the pain medication that kept her from running into the woods to follow the scents like an invisible map. She buried her face in her pillow and cried, terrified and ashamed. The demons were still there. But she could never tell her parents. They would lock her in the little closet down the hall with the altar and the statue of Jesus.
Again she would hide it and bury her mind in school and the youth groups from her church until the change found a way to break free unbidden. It didn’t matter that she didn’t feel evil. It didn’t matter that she was never drawn to do evil things. She turned into a beast…people had seen it. That must mean she was marked by the devil…didn’t it? She didn’t want to be a sinner.
On my Facebook fan page I recently shared a photo of rock climber over a deep chasm. It said, "The cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek." This resonated deeply with me.
My biggest fear of sending my writing off to the world to read and judge is not that my writing is bad - there are successful writers of all grammatical skill levels - but what people I know will think of me when they see what I put in my books.
I've never been one to care a whole lot about what others think of me. Unless their opinions effect my ability to do something I feel I need to do, it just doesn't matter to me. I don't like everyone I know and I don't expect everyone to like me, but there is something raw and soul bearing about putting things into words and leaving it out there for the world.
I've had a rough life at times. I've been through some disastrous things that I'm not very open about. Large portions of my life my family is completely unaware of. By and large I plan to keep it that way. That being said it is inevitable that pieces of those things make their way into my books completely without permission. Sometimes I'll go back and read something thinking I've written a fictional account of something that happens to other people, only to find I wrote my own soul.
The truth is that while I have not experienced exactly what my characters have there is enough similarity that I would not have been able to write as deeply as I did if it were truly fictional. If you've read Silent Heart or will read Under A Twisted Moon, you can see where there are some things I don't really want to tell my Mom and Dad about. I don't want to see how it effects them.
My Step-Mother, who has been very supportive of me in my adult life was the first person to buy and read my book. She hasn't told me if she likes it or not. While I have lived my life wanting to please anyone in my family - come on now, bi-sexual, pagan, single mom before I met my husband? - her regard means something to me. Secretly I wonder if she hasn't said anything because she's wondering how much of my book comes from truth and what to say about that.
So many questions. So many worries. Putting something so close to your heart out there is never an easy thing. Silent Heart stayed on my hard drive for a year before I got the courage. I'm happy that I did finally publish it but all those wonders and worries are still there. I don't think they'll ever go away. Under A Twisted Moon is every bit as graphic as Silent Heart, but for reasons I'm not ready to admit it will prove harder to put out into the world.
Bloggedy bloggedy blog blog blog.
Do you ever have days when you just know you have to write something or you'll go insane but that's all you come out with? Today is one of those days for me. I managed to BS my way through a paper for school and that seems to be the extent my brain power for the day. Unfortunately the swirling ideas that make up my constant thought patterns have other ideas.
A day in the life of my brain: Be forewarned this may be frightening...well it scares me some days anyway. Comically disparaging remarks aside I do have a lot going on up there.
I wake up in what is termed a fibro-fog. Life with fibromyalgia is much more than pain. In fact pain is the least of it. The mental stuff is much harder to cope with. I wake up an couldn't even tell you my name. I will look at my jeans and think "I need to put those on. How do I put those on?" Eventually I will figure it out, get dressed and go in search of food. I love cold coffee, but I try to avoid it because my stomach doesn't like it. On any given day I have a 50/50 shot at avoiding it. Notice still the brain hasn't started yet.
Food in body and all limbs moving in tandem as they should now I start making lists...sometimes frantically. What has to be done, who has to be called, what note for my kids did I forget, where do I need to go. I lose about half of it, but my wonderful husband manages to pick up the stuff I leave on the floor in my wake.
That settled I turn to mainline facebook nonsense and goodreads blogs. That usually sparks 20 different trains of thought all on converging on a central location. There will be a crash soon. Suddenly and without warning, someone says something or I see something totally unrelated to all 20 tracks that causes everything to speed up and the trains collide spilling survivors into the thick tree line of my mind. Some of the most wonderful thoughts occur then. I find characters from different story lines holding each other for dear life and somehow they fit. Two stories merge in the seconds it takes me to realize how well they match. Lovers are spit apart on different sides of the train, details of their world disintegrating in the flames. Well that world is scraped. Was the idea worth rebuilding? I'll wait for tomorrow's crash and decide then.
While this is going on in the back I turn my focus to class work or girl scouts or something real world and important trying to think coherently, a dubious task at best. I write papers or organize information, the usual mundane parts of grown up life.
Meanwhile.... The clean up crew has started in back taking notes of the survivors and the casualties. Pretty pictures are painted in honor that sometimes make it onto canvass. New contraptions to solve the day's issues are built that sometimes make it into real life. Eventually the remnants of the 20 trains make it back on track and continue where they were headed.
Finally it's time to write. I zero in on one train and talk for hours with the characters there finding out what happens next. Sometime I know and I'm only getting details out of them and sometimes I have no clue and are just as surprised as they are. But during this all the other trains are waiting for me, some patiently and some not. I pause often and navigate the constant real world interruptions of motherhood like juggler. Sometimes going back and forth gives me a headache.
By the end of the day it's time to read. I can't think anymore and the noise in my head has grown so loud I get disgusted with all of it and tell them all to shut up not very nicely. I pick a book and let my mind disappear if only for a short time. If it's a good book, by the time I turn out the light the others have gone to sleep and I pick out one train enjoying watching the story unfold in my head and into my dreams.
Susan is a plural writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends.