Sticking With (Rather, Not.)

On this blog, I’ve posted many an excerpt. I’ve mostly posted short pieces – character studies, scenery descriptions, dialogue, short scenes that seem to need to belong to something longer, short stories, and a few beginnings to novels.

All this is great. It’s exactly why I started this blog – in order to try things out, try to figure out different genres and create different characters for myself to think over. I’ve practices my style, flow and different voices [at least, I hope I’ve managed to write in different voices].

But I’ve gotten addicted to having people read my work. I love posting on this blog and being able to get feedback on what I write. Why is this a problem? Well, in many ways, it isn’t. It’s good that I feel a connection and an obligation to be here, because it helps me sit my butt down and write most days.

The problem is that although I start many things, I haven’t finished a large percentage of them. Yes, I wrote a few complete short stories: The Princess Without a Name, One-Eyed Steve, Spam. But my longer works in progress always seem to shudder to a halt. I do have on fantasy novel [hopefully, eventually] that I’ve never posted anything from and probably never will, but other than that, I seem to get stuck. I don’t know if many of you remember my first attempt at a thriller, Move? Probably not. But I was so excited about it for so long, and then I just couldn’t think of anything more.

How do I dedicate the time to just one project, make it a commitment and try to finish it? Forget finish – how to I pass the fifteen page mark? I’ve written papers that were more than twenty pages long, so why do I get stuck with longer fiction? The irony is that I’m usually much more of a novel or novella girl – I enjoy short stories, but only really specific ones and only when I’m in a certain mood.

My whole goal in writing, besides the mere pleasure it brings me and the fact that now I’ve started I don’t ever want to stop, is to succeed in creating something that speaks to someone. Even just one person. When I daydream about being published one day (and I don’t allow myself to do this often, since it’s much too scary) I think about that one letter I’ll get, or that one email, from someone like me who just really enjoys reading and had fun reading something I wrote. That, for me, will be success right there. To make even one single person feel like I feel when I read novels or stories of any kind. That’s a bigger goal than I think it is, I’m sure, because all I ever hear are the horrors of publication, and I shouldn’t be striving for that in my writing anyway.

I should be striving to tell true things. Or have a basis of truth in what I write. I don’t mean that I should write an autobiography or base characters on real people – just that there should be some truth in the emotion and underlying tones of whatever I write.

This has turned into a much longer post than I intended. So I go back to my main question. How do you finish things? How do you just stick with something and finish it?

Going Soft and True

Leroy glanced down at his watch for what felt like the hundredth time. They were late. Very late. And he was out on a limb here, risking his ass for Mr. Tony Boss-man. As if the Boss-man ever did a day’s work in his life, sitting there on his throne of black leather on wheels, computer screen hiding half his face, playing at being all modern. Sure, he was modern. If modern was looking at dirty videos all day.

Patting his pockets, Leroy searched for his lighter. Realizing it was already in his hand, he drew his pack of Marlboro cigarettes from his jeans, shook one out, and lit it. He glanced at his watch again, breathing in the smoke as if it was much needed oxygen. They were so late, he thought again. He could feel the prickles on the nape of his neck; he was sweating so badly that his hair seemed to be leaking. There was no reason for them to be late. Not unless… But he wouldn’t go there. Not yet, not consciously.

Glancing at his watch yet again, he realized that this was the first time in a long damn while that he’d been up in the small hours of the night. He remembered the last time vividly now, as if it had been yesterday instead of eight years ago. He could almost smell the smoke from the barrel of the gun – but no, that’s the cig, he reminded himself – and could almost see the hole in that man’s chest. That was a long time ago now, and Leroy tried to forget it more often than not. Only right now, with them being late and all, it was getting hard to separate his quickened heartbeats from that other night when he’d felt them so strongly too.

He realized he was muttering under his breath and shut up quickly. It was a habit he’d picked up at the pen. Some banker who’d offed his business partner had told him that muttering made people stay away from you. Leroy’d started doing it one evening when one of the thugs seemed willing to come beat on him for some sport, and he’d found that the thug turned away pretty quick when Leroy didn’t respond to his taunting but just kept on muttering. The thug had made his dumb friends laugh by making fun of the crazy dude talking to himself, and that had been it. The habit of muttering had stuck. The Boss-man told him to cut it out, that it was freak-show quality stuff that would scare away his clients. Didn’t need the muttering, though, to scare them away. Since they were so late that Leroy just assumed that they weren’t coming.

Just as he took his last puff and was flicking the butt into the road, he caught sight of headlights coming towards him. That moment seemed to stretch into forever. Leroy saw the headlights, saw the flare of his cigarette hitting the ground, saw the man’s chest torn open eight years ago, saw the bars of his solitary confinement when he’d raged at first, saw the eight wasted years. He saw it all in that one instant, and instinctively turned and jumped over the railing of the highway into the adjacent field. He ran through it, the dew making the ground slippery and the plants moist. He slipped, fell, hands covered with mud where he caught himself in the wet earth. He stayed down, heart beating, and listened.

He heard the idling car. He heard voices, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. The blood was pumping so loudly in his ears that he felt that they must have turned into beacons of sound, broadcasting to all the crooks he’d ever known, telling them all that Leroy’d turned soft. That jail had reformed him. That Leroy wanted to clean up his act and never think of how another deal gone bad could turn into a gaping hole in a man’s chest.

He stayed down for a long time, long after the car had gone with the dealers in it. He lay in the damp earth until the sun rose, until the plants and ground around him seemed to start steaming. When the sun warmed the back of his still sweating neck, the warmth gave him goosebumps and shivered. The involuntary movement jarred him, and he finally managed to make his stiff limbs listen to his brain. He sat up, and stared around him. The field he was in looked nice, tended, except for the long path he’d made from the highway where all the plants were trampled, bent and broken. Like him, like Leroy the ex-crook, the ex-brave, the ex-badass.

There was a house a few hundreds yards away, at the end of the field. Leroy got to his feet, shaking, and took a good long look at it. He’d go there, ask about making amends for the ruined crops. Ask if he could work to pay for some food. Maybe if he’d prove he was strong and just as able as any man to work a long day in the sun, they’d let him stay for a while. Rent a room for his labor. That is, if there was anyone in there. With his luck, it’d be some old bag who hired illegals to work her fields, or some senile man with fifteen sons who did everything that needed to be done. But then again, maybe it’d be a husband and wife and a little boy who needed some extra hands to help get the harvest in proper. Leroy started towards the house, thinking that soon enough he’d find out.

Stone

Grey stone worn thin
By the thousands who’ve
Walked upon it.
Innocent children,
Unaware of the hurt they inflict.
Adolescents,
In all their subconscious sadism,
Damaging a-purpose.
Apologetic adults,
Guilt nibbling at the edges of their beings,
Though always pushed away
By the knowledge of necessity.

Grey stone worn thin-
Wordless shout emitting from every crack,
Soundless scream of pain at each step,
Enduring,
Forever enduring,
With no will or way to end the suffering.
Comfort comes from one source only-
The familiarity of the pain.

Victoria’s Secret [Part II]

Victoria stood stock still in the dark of the elevator. She felt one of the people with her fumble towards the door, brushing her sleeve as he or she went. The unmistakable sound of buttons being frantically pushed followed, until the man [for, apparently, it had been the man] swore loudly again.

“What do we do?” asked the woman.

“Call someone – do either of you have your cellphone with you?” the man sounded hopeful.

“No,” said the woman, just as Victoria said “Yes,” and whipped her cellphone out of the pocket of her coat. She flipped it open, and the screen lit up, suddenly illuminated the scene. The woman was leaning against the wall opposite Victoria and looked, for all the world, bored. The man was still standing by the door and trying to press the elevator buttons. He finally found the alarm button and rang it – a tinny bell sounded, but not very loudly.

“Damn cheap alarms,” he grumbled angrily. He pressed the button a few more times, and then gave up. “If anyone heard that, I’ll eat your cellphone,” he muttered at Victoria. She saw that beads of sweat were standing out on the man’s forehead. She looked back at the screen of her cellphone and her heart sank.

“No reception here – look,” and she showed the man the little symbol on the screen showing that they were in a zero reception area.

“Damn it!” the man barked. “What the hell are we supposed to do?”

“Wait, I guess,” said the woman. Then, surprisingly, she burst into tears. Victoria shuffled over to her and awkwardly patted her arm.

“Don’t worry,” she said in what she hoped was a reassuring voice. “They’ll figure out the elevator’s stuck even if they didn’t hear the alarm and someone will get us out of here.” She continued to pat the woman’s arm in a there-there gesture and then realized she didn’t know the woman’s name, although she recognized her as someone who worked on the floor above her in a different department. “What’s your name?” she asked, in an effort to distract the woman from her distress.

“Debbie,” she sniffled. “And I’m not scared or anything, I mean I’ve been stuck in elevators before and someone always comes eventually. It’s just that it always takes so long! My son is waiting for me downstairs and we were supposed to have lunch together. And now he’ll think I’ve forgotten about him, and he’ll get mad and go back home and I won’t manage to see him a-a-again!” Debbie broke into a fresh wave of sobs.

“But you’ll explain you were stuck in an elevator and he’ll understand, won’t he?” Victoria said kindly.

“No!” Debbie wailed. “He thinks that every time I’ve had to cancel with him I’ve just been making excuses not to see him! He’s an artist, my sweet talented boy, and he doesn’t understand the pressures and last minute things in a job like mine.” Debbie leaned against the wall and let her body sink down until she was sitting awkwardly on the floor, her knees bent strangely because of the tight suit-skirt she was wearing.

Victoria closed her cell and opened it again to light the screen up once more. She sat down on the floor beside Debbie, silently blessing her fashion sense that made her wear pant-suits with wide and airy pants that were comfortable to sit in, and put the cellphone in the center of the elevator so it softly illuminated the whole space.

“Well,” she said. “It seems we’re going to be here a while. Why don’t you tell me a bit about your son, Debbie?”