What's this all about

Chronicling my steps to becoming a published novelist, and the randomness of my life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Busses (part 2)

Continued from No Busses (part 1)
The guys slowed as they came to the bus stop. The one in the middle, wearing a black hoodie and baggy jeans, lifted his arms and shhhed his companions. The other two quieted down. The guy on the right was wearing a white Cowboys jersey, number 81, and the one on the left wore a black shirt and yellow ball cap turned backwards. They stopped in front of the girl, grinning down at her.
            “Hey, baby, I’ve been looking for you all night,” Black Hoodie guy said.
            The girl ignored him and turned a page in her book.
            “Whatcha reading there, girlie?” He asked.
            The three of them crowded around her. I sat up.
            The guy in the Cowboys jersey snatched the book out of her hands.
            “Hey, you jerk!” She screeched at him.
            The guys laughed.
            The girl stood up and grabbed her book back from Cowboys Jersey. She held her chin up defiantly and pushed past the guys. I was impressed by her bravery. She was a tiny, little thing. Each of those guys probably had at least a hundred pounds on her, but she didn’t seem the least bit concerned. She acted as though they were just an annoyance, not a threat.
            The girl walked over to me, leaned against the outside of the bus stop. “Can I stand here?” There was something deliberate about the way she asked it, like maybe she was asking for more than my permission to stand there. Like maybe she was really asking permission to bring me into this problem.
            “Sure.” I tried to sound reassuring. Tried to give her a look that would somehow make her feel comfortable now that she was near me. Although if she had moved over here for protection I doubted there was much I could do. I was an accountant not a super hero.
            A moment later the guys came after her again.
            “Ah, c’mon baby. You don’t gotta be rude. We just wanna talk to ya.” Black Hoodie said.
            The third one in the yellow cap, who had yet to speak, reached a hand out to the girl. She backed away.
            “Don’t touch me.” She warned.
            All three guys started to move in towards her.
            I had to do something. I couldn’t just sit idly by and let this girl get attacked. I didn’t want to be one of those people you read about in the news who hear a gunshot or a cry for help but don’t do anything about it. What would my mother think if I just sat here too much a coward to help this poor little girl? Of course if I did stand up to them, if I did help the girl out, well that would be quite a story to tell Beth tomorrow. She would be impressed. She might even invite me back to her apartment after drinks. But what could I do? I wasn’t exactly intimidating.
            “Leave me alone,” the girl shouted. “I said fuck off!”
            Yellow Hat looked down at me, one eyebrow raised. He looked amused.
            “Come on, guys. Leave her alone.” I wanted it to sound like a strong demand. But it sounded more like a polite suggestion.
            All six eyes were suddenly glaring down at me.
            “Mind your own damn business,” Black hoodie growled. He turned his attention back to the girl. “Let’s see what you got in that bag.”
            I stood up.
            They didn’t notice.
            “Hey,” I said again. This time it actually sounded more forceful. “Leave the girl alone.”
            Cowboys Jersey laughed. “We got us a real John Wayne here, boys.”
            Black Hoodie frowned and came around the corner of the bus stop. Cowboys Jersey and Yellow Cap followed him. I swallowed. Oh, shit. I curled my hands into fists, narrowed my eyes to keep from looking scared.
            Black Hoodie stood toe to toe with me, his face inches from mine. I was a little relieved that I was actually taller than him, though I didn’t think height would count for much in a fight. Black Hoodie stared at me, his eyes wide and not blinking.
            “You got anything else to say?”
            I opened my mouth, but before I could speak a fist crashed into my face. The force sent me reeling backwards. I lost my balance and fell into the space between the bench and the back of the bus stop. Blood pulsed out of my busted lips. My arms and legs flailed as I tried to get up.
            Black Hoodie grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me to my feet but before I could get them planted his fist slammed into my head again. Pain exploded in my jaw and spread across my skull. I caught a glimpse of the girl through the dirty glass, her eyes wide and her hand pressed against her mouth. Better me than her, right?
            Another punch landed on my ear. The next one hit me in the eye and it felt like my eyeball might pop out of its socket. The other guys yelled and cheered as Black Hoodie through me to the ground.
            Now face to face with the concrete I watched as red spots appeared on the sidewalk. I spit out a mouth full of blood, saw it splatter on the pavement. I started to push myself up to my knees, but the toe of someone’s sneaker cracked against my ribs. I cried out and collapsed on the ground. My eyes flashed down the street again. Where the hell was the bus?
            “This is what happens when you try to be a hero,” Black Hoodie said.
            All three started kicking me at the same time. I covered my head with my arms, pulled my legs up to protect my ribs. It was all I could do to defend myself. Then something strange happened. I sort of pulled up out of my body.
            It was like I floated up and now sat on top of the bus stop, looking down on the scene below. So this is what an out of body experience is like, I thought, if it’s possible to think outside of yourself. Black Hoodie and Yellow Cap were on my left, Cowboys Jersey was on the right. They pulled their legs back as far behind them as they could before swinging their feet into me. My body bounced back and forth between the blows.
            It was painful to watch, or it should have been but I felt nothing so I watched on. My shirt was going to be ruined after this, which was unfortunate. I had worn it out with Beth once and she had laughingly told me it brought out the color of my eyes. It had become my favorite shirt.
            The girl was still standing next to the stop. She screamed at the guys to stop, but they kept kicking. She took two steps towards them, but then moved back to her original place. She could do nothing to stop them and it would be really annoying if she ended up getting herself hurt after I had so graciously accepted a beating for her.
            Instead she turned away, dug around in her bag and pulled out a cell phone. She put it to her ear and started talking quietly into it. A few seconds later she dropped it back in her purse.
            Yellow Cap and Cowboys Jersey stopped kicking and started laughing hysterically at me. They high-fived each other and then took a step back to admire their work.
            “Punk-ass bitch,” Cowboys Jersey said to my body before erupting into laughter again.
            Black Hoodie was still kicking away at me. He seemed to be getting a lot out of it and hadn’t noticed that his friends had quit. His two buddies stopped laughing and watched him.
            “Dude,” said Yellow Cap, but Black Hoodie ignored him.
            “Lee. C’mon bro, he’s done.” Cowboys Jersey said.
            Far, far off in the distance sirens went off.
            “Let’s go, man. I’m bored now.” Yellow Cap said. He put his hands in his pockets and started to walk back in the direction he had come.
            Cowboys Jersey stepped over me. Black Hoodie took a step back, and then delivered one last kick to my body. He turned and sauntered off after Cowboys Jersey and Yellow Cap.
            From my perch I saw the girl approach me. She kneeled down, asked me if I was okay. She touched me on the shoulder, and then turned me over to my back. When I saw my bleeding, pulp of a face I floated back into my body. I groaned when I felt the pain. Every breath felt like I was being stabbed.
            “It’s okay. I called 911 and they’ll be here soon. You’ll be okay.”
            I caught sight of the name tag on her purse again. It was now close enough that I could easily read it. BETH. I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony, even though it hurt my face and chest to do so. The girl knitted her brow, looking even more concerned.
            “I’m sorry this happened,” she said. “But…thank you.”
I groaned again. It was the strangest thing, even though I was in the worst pain of my life and I had just gone through one hell of a beating, I felt…good. Maybe those guys had given me brain damage.
My head fell to the side. As the swelling forced my eyes closed, I saw headlights coming towards us. It was about time.

No Busses (part 1)

Today I will share with you for the first time a short work of fiction. Fiction is my forte. It's what I'm most practiced in and what I love above anything else. I've been writing fiction since I was 12 - and that's about how long I've wanted to be a writer.

 Anywho, I'm excited to share this short story with you. Like This Is London, I wrote this story for my creative writing class. I got surprisingly good reviews on it, and received the best compliment ever. One of the guys in my class - who was actually a creative writing major and was a very strong writer - told me I "had an eye for violence." Winning!

This is inspired by all the times I've waited at a bus stop with only a few other strangers around, and the couple of times a group of obnoxious ne'er-do-wells came along. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to leave feedback.  (Oh, and the main character's a dude.)

Happy Reading! =)

No Busses
I heard them before I saw them.
            It was a late Thursday night and I had just drug myself out of my office and down to the bus stop. I must have looked like a zombie the way my shoulders drooped and my feet barely lifted off the ground as I walked into the covered bus stop. I plopped down on the long bench that ran the length of the structure and leaned back against the scratched plexi-glass. I was far too exhausted to support my weight at this point and didn’t mind sitting in an awkward, somewhat uncomfortable position. All I cared about was going home and going to sleep.
This normally busy street was completely empty now. All the store windows were black, their signs turned off, all traces of life snuffed out. I looked up and down the street. Nothing. No one. It was just me and the street lamps posted every 30 feet. There was a soft rustling as a discarded newspaper flapped in the breeze. Other than that, silence.
            I let my head rest against the glass wall with a thud. If it hadn’t been for Beth I’d probably still be slaving away at my desk, working on that stupid proposal. It had been so quiet in the office that when the phone rang I quite literally jumped out of my seat, sending my rolly chair crashing into the wall.
            “Yeah, what? I mean…This is Daniel.”
            “You’re still at work?”
            I instantly recognized Beth’s voice. She was known as Beth-In-Sales around my department, but I had recently started thinking of her as just Beth.
            “Uh, yeah. I’m burning the midnight oil, as they say.”
            “Do you even know what time it is?”
            I glanced at the lower right hand corner of my monitor. 11:45 pm. Later than I had thought.
            “I figured you might still be there. That’s why I called. You know, the busses don’t run all night. You weren’t planning on sleeping up there, were you Danny?”
            About three weeks ago Beth and I had started going for drinks after work. Purely as a casual, friendship building thing. After the first week she started calling me Danny. I liked that, a lot.
            “Yeah… Yeah, thanks Beth. Where would I be without you?”
            “I wonder that myself.” She had sounded like she was smiling on the other end of the line.
            A soft tap, tap, tap of someone walking caught my attention. A girl, probably in her late teens, walked up to the bus stop and sat at the far end of the bench. She was wearing a white collared shirt and an ugly, brown, knee-length skirt. Her hair was pulled back in a bun on top of her head. She had one of those oversized purse-bags on her shoulder, like the ones I used to see girls at my university carrying books in. The girl rummaged around in the bag, pulled out a book and then let the bag slide down her arm to the ground. It made a flat crunch when it landed. Something glistened on one of the straps, catching my eye. It was a little gold name tag. I was too tired to try and make the name out. I glanced up at the girl. She must have just gotten off work at a restaurant or something.
            I didn’t want her to notice me staring so I turned the other direction. Best to act as though she wasn’t even there. That’s what strangers do at bus stops – not acknowledge each other’s existence.
            I started reading the graffiti on the glass for entertainment. It was the usual illegible lettering and obscenities one finds on public property. Someone had felt the need to etch a penis into the glass. Next to it was the romantic admonition Tina Luvs Mike.
            My thoughts turned back to Beth.
            Earlier this afternoon I had known I would have to work late and wouldn’t be able to go out with Beth. I had stopped in the men’s room on my way to her office, just to make sure I looked presentable. I looked at my reflection and wondered what a girl like Beth could see in me. A round face, small dark eyes, slightly irregular nose. I ran my hand through my short, reddish hair, straitened my tie and continued on with my mission.
            I rapped on the wall outside of Beth’s office before poking my head through the open door. Beth was at her desk, studying the computer screen with one had on the mouse. She glanced over and big smile lit up her face when she saw me.
            “Hey Danny, what you brings you here?” She asked cheerfully. Her blond hair was perfectly styled as usual and she was wearing a pretty, red blouse. The first button of the blouse was unfastened showing just a hint of pale skin and a shiny necklace.
            “Hi Beth,” I said as I took a few uncertain steps inside her office. She hadn’t invited me in but I felt stupid just hanging out in the doorway. “I just wanted to let you know that, uh, I’m working on this big proposal and it’s just taking forever to do so I’m gonna have to work late tonight. So, I can’t go out tonight.”
            I watched carefully as Beth’s smile fell and she looked down at her desk. Was she disappointed?
            “Well, duty calls. I understand,” she said. “I’ll let you make it up to me tomorrow.”
            That’s when I heard them. Loud voices bouncing off of the buildings and reverberating down the empty street. My chest tightened and I hoped there wouldn’t be trouble.
            I looked to where the shouts were coming from; the girl had turned towards them too. Several yards away 3 men stumbled down the street, laughing and pushing each other. The girl turned back to her book looking unconcerned and unimpressed. I glanced up and down the street again. Still no signs of the bus.
            I watched from the corner of my eye as the guys drew closer, still shouting and laughing. Keep on moving, I thought. If they started causing a problem with the girl I would have to do something. Everything about my southern culture and the way I had been raised dictated that I must. Even if it meant putting myself in harm’s way, I would have to stand up. Be a man, as my father would say. But I was so tired I could barely hold my eyes open and I had never actually hit anyone before. Please keep moving.
Click here to go to Part 2

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Titillating Titles and Times

The more I read The Guide, the more I start to realize just how big of an undertaking I've bitten off. This is going to be a lot of hard work; like having-a-second-part-time-job lot of hard work. But that's okay. I'm not sure who said it, but my favorite quote goes: "Nothing worth doing in life is ever easy."

I'm still trying to build my e-presence and I've been looking into different writer's sites to join so I can get my work out there and have it read and critiqued by other writers. I just joined Critique Circle, which is exactly what it sounds like it is, and I'm pretty pumped about it. I found out about it from Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers. I've also looked into a couple of writer's workshops coming to DFW but those bad boys are super expensive. Everything I read though, says I should attend workshops and conferences. My creative writing professor also highly recommended them and gave me this advice: "Just don't be weird. Publishers and literary agents attend these and they deal with so many weird people all the time that you're likely to make a much more memorable impression if you're normal. Please don't wear a cape or speak Elvish."

Yeah, I think I can handle that.

The current section I'm on of The Guide is called Getting Titular (get your minds out of the gutter, people). It's all about the importance of a book's Title. Your title has to grab people's attention. Make them go, "Hmmm, I wonder what that's about." And it has to be interesting/salable enough to entice a publisher to read past the by line. I don't doubt the importance of titles. Many a time have I picked up random books at bookstores simply because they had an intriguing title, and passed over others because they sounded stupid. That said, I always have a really hard time coming up with titles. I'll have a story completely written and revised and read by others before I have a title. Usually, since I'm so inspired by music, I end up naming my story after lyrics in a song....which could possibly be plagiarism...I'm not sure...I'll have to check in to that.

I will reveal to you that the title of my novel, the one that I will be submitting for publication so long as no one tells me it sucks in the meantime, is A Mouth Full of Teeth. I think it's awesome of course, but I have been known to be a tad delusional. The title came from lyrics of the song "Crumbs From Your Table" by U2. I was listening to their album several years ago when I was still living at home and sun tanning in the back yard, when I heard  the lyrics "With a mouth full of teeth you ate all your friends," and I was so struck by the imagery and power of those words that I thought, One day I am going to use that as a title for something I write. And then a few months ago I was looking at my finished manuscript going, "What the eff am I going to call this thing?" when I remembered the cool little title I had kept in my back pocket. Hopefully everyone else thinks it's cool too, but if it is lame I do need to know that, so hit me up.

This week I'm going to share a fiction piece with you, and I'm pretty excited about it. It's a 10 page short story, and since it's so long I'm thinking I'll break it up over multiple posts so you don't have to sit there and scroll and scroll and scroll forever and anon. I don't want you to wear out that little wheel thingy on your mouse between the left and right-click buttons. That would be tragic.

So, dear reader, what makes you pick up a book you see at the bookstore/library?

Thanks for reading! :)