Friday, June 24, 2016

for Orlando

I never look away
from the needle, never flinch
at the moment of cold, the smell
and the brash cheerfulness
of the woman who slips herself skillfully into my vein.

take this part of me, I think
take it all -
I am being selfish. They are trying to survive, so
I go on.

death is too close to me; I am partway
gone already. The world of smiling people    sunlight     pain
and pleasure: alien
The earth recedes from my feet
and I step and step and step and wonder
if this is walking.

I set aside your names, because I could not bear them yet but I knew you - enough - enough to walk
hollow-eyed and stumbling through days that were lifetimes
long and too short:
you should have had lifetimes. I go on.

When I read your names, I thought
I should have learned Spanish -
sideways guilt, asymmetric shame.

It was never supposed to be you.

What did I struggle for, why did I bleed into
all our hope?
Ice runs in my veins. I think
take my blood, all of it, all my life.
I could not make you safe.

I go on.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

It only took four months.

I posted, four months ago, about a work in progress. Just now, I finally put a draft of it here for people to read.

It took that long, not because the piece needed substantial edits (it really didn't), but because it was so incredibly hard to write. It was personal, and painful. I felt what I wrote when I wrote it, and again when I edited it...

I ran it past my writing buddies, and they gave me great feedback, and then I took a couple of months to incorporate it.  Sometimes writing is really, really hard. But this one, this one really wanted to be told; this story wanted out, and I believe somehow that it matters.

I feel exhausted, but kind of triumphant. I wrote something that was so, so hard to write.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Work in Progress

Writing about writing: both a great pleasure and a guilty one. Because I should be writing, not writing about it, right?  This is an indulgence, and a chance to figure out what I'm doing.

I'm halfway through something that's turning out to be very, very hard to write.

In the past, my prose-writing process largely involved thinking of something neat and then spilling words onto paper. And then I stopped writing for a long time. When I started again, the point was writing at all, and slowly coming to see it as a craft rather than as something I did when a bolt of inspiration hit.  I've gotten there; now I write because I want to get better at writing, and I want to tell stories, and sometimes I even feel like I have something to say.

Much of the time the actual process of writing is hard-to-impossibly-hard for me. I love it, but it's incredibly hard work. I've learned a lot from my current writing group (Heydon, I can hear your voice in my head now), particularly from people who have formal education.  I've been lucky over the years; a combination of some natural ability, voracious reading, and intense interest has meant that even my undisciplined efforts have been pretty readable.  But now I'm actively getting better, learning how to use just the words I need (I always write long), and thinking of this stupid wonderful artform as a craft.

I've always written genre fiction, heavy on the fantastic, with some forays into the more social end of sci-fi and even, recently, something edging into horror. I don't plan to stop doing that; I like it. But right now I'm working pretty hard on a piece that's coming so, so hard. I've really only written one other piece of realistic fiction - "the boots story" - and it was several years ago, and quite painful to write.  That one was nothing like my personal experiences; the one I'm writing now is direct, and drawn from them.

It's about being gay right now in a small town. It's a story that's not about me (my main character isn't an author insertion) but that draws heavily on my own experiences. It's an attempt at literary fiction rather than genre fiction, and I find myself struggling.

My critique partner said, when he read the first part of it, that he could tell it was hard to write. He could tell I was fighting for the words, because he didn't have to tell me to compress things, to lose unnecessary sentences. He's right. And having it critiqued was hard too - it's raw, it's real. The inner critic is loud on this one. Am I doing this story justice? Will it ring true to straight people? Will anyone care? Why do I think I can speak for others in the way that this story is trying to do? Why not just write memoir instead of fiction, if I'm using my own experiences this much?

And I think of what I told someone else in writing group recently, someone attempting poetry: that to make a poem feel universally evocative, to bring up something resonant in any reader, you have to get very, very specific. It feels like a contradiction, but it makes sense. You don't say "I was scared," you describe the visceral sensations of fear - a prickle on the neck, suddenly cold hands, a heavy stomach, whatever piece you want. "Scared" is a construction, an abstraction made out of those sensations. You give your reader the sensations and they create their own construction, one that feels familiar because it's theirs.

So I think I'm trying to do something like that, but in prose. I think.

It's hard to write, so hard.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

January in Sunset

This is an entry for the Dark Fairy Queen Midsummer Night’s Dream flash fiction writing contest. Because I like a challenge, it comes in at precisely 400 words. This is my first ever flash fiction! I hope you enjoy it.

I could keep you, January thought, suddenly, fiercely. The mortal woman's innocence beat the air between them, vulnerable as a sparrow. I could take you, and you would create such beauty for me, and you would never dream of leaving.

The door before them drank golden light from the eternal evening of Sunset.

January had little knack for glamour, so when Joanna had chosen her as companion she'd been surprised; but she'd seen herself through Joanna's eyes, later. The artist's pencil had captured her honest desire, more seductive in its way--and more dangerous--than the most finely-honed enchantment. Art resisted artifice; but the artist was caught by truth.

January collected herself. They'd been speaking of names, dangerously intimate conversation the mortal woman entered into lightly. "My grandfather had the naming of me," January said, smiling as though nothing unspoken tangled her tongue. "He was from your world, though he forgot it in the end. Does it have some meaning there?"

Joanna smiled easily, her face gentler than a fairy's, without the familiar hidden threat of sharp teeth in the night. Even tinged with sorrow, she radiated delight. January felt herself drawn closer. Their hands touched, soft as a kiss, inevitable as sunlight.

"It's a month," Joanna said. "In winter."

"I've never been to Winter." We are echoes of her, January thought. She is solid where we are air and light. Hot blood ran just beneath Joanna's skin, singing of life and longing.

They spoke of debt and obligation, and temptation won. One kiss, she thought; one simple kiss, to take through the doorway and home. To repay a debt.

Joanna's lips were soft, her breath quick and too easily stolen. Her heart hammered music between them. One kiss became two, and the second was like drowning. They tasted each other's tears when breath came slowly back.

I could keep you, January thought again.

"I would stay," Joanna said.

But January knew that story: her grandfather, who forgot his mortality and lost her grandmother's love. Fairy would steal the art from the artist, rob her of her passion; she would die without death.

She gave up the dream of a thousand kisses, let it slip from her eyes with her tears. They breathed the same air a few moments more, and the door drank Joanna into its darkness.

Her scent lingered on the wind for a heartbeat and was gone.

You want more information on the contest?  Lucky for you, I have it!  Read on for the original contest text, and links to the other entries. I highly recommend you read them. And please do feel free to leave me a comment about this little snippet, if you'd like.