Cooper Lee Bombardier tagged me in some author chain mail thing, and normally I’d avoid a meme but first, he’s a really nice fella, and second, it’s about writing, so heck, I could bloviate about that all day. Here are my answers to four questions he posed:
Just a bit of what I’m working on this month:
Reginald runs down the hallway, his sneakers squeaking on the tired linoleum. It’s Joe in B14 again. Alzheimer’s dementia, sometimes gets combative. Reginald is the only orderly on this shift who knows how to calm Joey down. He wouldn’t have to beat a trail to the door so often if the fucking doctor would get this guy the medicine he needs, but hey, ole Reg is here to take care of things.
He bursts into the room. Lime green walls, plastered with random bits of newspaper articles because Joe insists that’s how people stay on top of current events. Someone pays for Joe’s private room because his insurance certainly doesn’t include that, but nobody knows who this sugar momma or daddy is. And why don’t they ever come visit?
Joe is screaming at the mirror in his bathroom. It’s full of streaks and a lot of the silver on the back side of the glass is missing so it doesn’t even but half-reflect a person anymore. But Joe is a stubborn bastard, so when Reginald runs in he finds Joe leaning on the sink, staring at himself and screaming.
“This mirror is broken,” he says.
“Come over here, Jocelyn. It’s okay.”
“What evil did you put in this mirror? Why are you doing this to me?” Read More…
Here is another excerpt from my novel-in-progress about four gender nonconforming people who try to start an LGBT charter school in DC.
Present Day, Washington, DC
Kalinda fumbles through her still-growing ring of keys, looking for the one that unlocks the personnel file. Final hiring decisions are set for later that day, and Terry had asked her to create summary sheets for the review committee. This has been one of Terry’s “cold” weeks in which he is short with everyone around him. There’s no rhyme or reason to his mood swings, but Kalinda is prescient at seeing them before they hit. She fantasizes about having a signal she can give the rest of the administration so they can brace themselves for a tirade or lecture from him.
Finally, the key slides in past the tumblers in a series of small bounces of metal against metal. Kalinda pulls out two manila folders—one marked MAYBE and one YES. She doesn’t need the NO file anymore, except for posterity and to cover the school’s ass if any of the candidates complain.
Peeking in through her doorway is Terry.
“Ready for this afternoon,” he asks, reading over her shoulder.
“Just about,” she says. She tucks a small handful of red curls behind her ear so she doesn’t have to look through her hair to see him. Read More…
This summer I am thrilled to get some feedback on my novel-in-progress at Lambda Literary Foundation’s Emerging Writers Workshop. I sent them the first twenty-five pages of the manuscript about four gender non-conforming people from different moments in time. It’s non-genre, it’s not a humor book, and it’s not a memoir. It’s a stretch for me, and an exciting project, but then again, I came up with it in my own head, so hopefully I’d have some interest in my own damn work. I should also add that it needs a ton of work — in this first draft I was messing around with point-of-view and tense, trying to figure out where the tone of the book intersected with the narration. But here’s the first chapter, in case anyone is interested:
Alex, Baltimore, 2004
Enough moisture collects at my temples that it streaks down the sides of my face, but I can’t stop running or break form to wipe my head. I tell myself that tomorrow I’ll remember my bandana. Now I’m four miles from home and have one more to go before it’s time to turn around. The sun has hit that angry angle after daybreak and I squint to block it out even a little. I’ve probably got about 90 minutes left before my shift at the pier. For the sake of predictability I take the same route six days a week: out the back door of my crappy apartment at the edge of a mostly empty commercial district, past sloping colonial-era pavers and a junkyard, down toward the revitalized harbor, then back again. As far and as fast as I can run, and even though it’s always quiet behind me when I turn around, I always have the sense I’m being chased.
Nobody can find out I wasn’t born male.
To keep my secret, I stay as thin as I can. Hence the hellacious running routine. Jogging hates me, and the feeling is mutual. Read More…
He grabs a seedling out of the thick canvas bag and drops it in the hollow pole. Schuuuck as the baby slides down, the quiet noise almost a song by the time it reaches the bottom of the tube. The seedling only sits ready to be planted for a moment before it takes its place in the brand new soil, the very youngest in a staggered row of conifers.
The first sun isn’t quite over the ridge yet, but Hax is ready for it, or more accurately, he’s tired of squinting in the pre-dawn light. He and his coworker Marnie will have three solid hours of planting before the second sunrise, and then they’ll need to take cover because radiation from two stars is harsh on human skin. Like, third-degree burns harsh. So many people have died trying to make Valus habitable that Hax and Marnie have lost faith in the capabilities of the Health Service.
Schuuk. Marnie tamps down the moist dirt with her boot, just enough for the seedling to stay put but not break stride. She and Hax have an ongoing bet about who can get more trees in the ground in a day, a week, a mountaintop. So far for the week she’s ahead by 327. It’s too close a margin, in her opinion.
On the next peak ahead they can see the soil-laying machine, like a gigantic bulldozer working in reverse. It’s as close to Earth soil compositions as anyone out here can create. But it stinks like rotten broccoli and after a day of seeding the mountain, they get back to base reeking of it. The smell is so bad Marnie is grateful for her oxygen mask. Read More…
Coming your way this summer/fall, here’s the new start to my debut, young adult novel, folks.
I first jumped back in time on September 21, 1980, just a few weeks into high school, but nothing about how that day started was odd in any way. It’s not like the sun popped out of the sky and said, “Hey Jack, how about if you take a trip to a completely different era where nothing makes any sense to you?”
No, it was a regular day where I woke up from my incredibly annoying alarm clock, which of course alerted King, our Golden Retriever, that he should burst through my bedroom door and lick me all over the face until I was awake enough to push him off of me. He followed me down the hall like usual, standing behind me even when I whizzed into the toilet, lest I don’t know, he miss out on any of my fun. He and I didn’t even notice anymore that the sink was wrapped in rolled up towels, held in place by constantly unraveling, goopy duct tape. It had been that way since my parents had started letting me use the bathroom by myself.
I have epilepsy, see, which means that on an irregular basis I lose consciousness as the neurons in my brain decide to go on a bender and start firing like a bunch of kindergarteners who missed their Ritalin dose that day. As one can imagine, this gets in the way of conversations, walking, brushing one’s teeth, or anything else worth doing. But like the padding over the hard surfaces around the house, I’ve gotten used to having seizures, even if I’m not happy about them.
Sometimes—maybe half the time—the “episodes” gave me a tiny bit of warning, mostly by screwing with my sense of balance. The ground around me would abruptly shift diagonally, like a ship listing hard to one side. Or my own private earthquake. I mastered the art of quickly sitting down, before I would fall over into humiliating twitchiness. Before the darkness could collapse over me. Read More…
From time to time I’ve posted excerpts from my works-in-progress. I did several for Parallax, now called The Unintentional Time Traveler. Here’s one from my very latest project, about a world in which teenagers reach adulthood via a fantastic metamorphosis. Don’t look for perfect writing, as I’m still in first draft mode. But to see where I’m going with this project, here is a brief scene from early on:
Hold on, hold on, I told myself. I had a searing need to flap my arms, or wings, or whatever protruded out from my shoulders. Me, I was me, I needed to remember. Hannah Pace, that’s me. I live at 31927 Carousel Boulevard. My cat is Mr. Stinkers, named when I was little. I’m smart and not very pretty, and not sure I want to be, anyway.
Forget pretty, I’m some kind of small dragon now.
I gave in to the urge to shake myself out, and amniotic fluid exploded off of me, landing on the ceiling, desk, and my True Blood poster. Dad would not like this, me having my meta without anyone around, but I didn’t feel particularly eggish the night before, so I gave myself a pass. Read More…
I bring this up today because ineffective transitions killed my most recent back-and-forth with an agent on a novel of mine. You’d think an individual with personal experience transitioning would handle these story shifts better, but apparently, they’re two different things entirely.
Now then, with this case in question, much of any transition in the book had to do with the main plot point, uncontrolled time travel. With the protagonist at the mercy of something–or nothing–pushing him between the Prohibition Era and the 1980s, in different geographic locations, it was up to me to make sure readers could come along for the ride. A couple of my beta readers who looked at an earlier version of The Unintentional Time Traveler noted some bumps in the last third of the novel when time jumps occurred. So I sat back down with the manuscript and examined the language, the necessity of those movements. Read More…
Once upon a time the title to my memoir was the vague and mildly misleading, “Jersey Boy.” Then that awful movie came out, and the cringefest that is Jersey Shore debuted on MTV. I recognized that in addition to these two negative contextual cues, it didn’t really matter that I am originally from the Garden State, becuase the whole memoir takes place in Washington, DC, and only people who know me personally could remotely care that I hail from the mid-Atlantic state.
Worse, it didn’t say anything about what the book was about.
So I came up with Bumbling into Body Hair: Tales of a Klutz’s Sex Change. That title spelled out everything I thought needed explanation. It’s a funny book. It’s about trans people. It shares the tone and a snippet of the protagonist’s voice. Read More…