Green note: I’d planned to stick a bookmark on this site to do with my first wrangling with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and now, a month out from the tail end of it, a look at the Sunday Scribblings 2 prompt “road that leads nowhere” gave impetus to that plan.
In a nutshell, if you know that writing a coherent novel is some of the hardest think-work you’ll ever do, that in just one month even some of the sharpest writers on the planet can’t create more than a really good first draft and one or maybe more subsequent drafts, it’s likely you’ll make it through NaNoWriMo and be fine with the outcome, whatever it may be.
If you know that the first draft is generally just getting the story down and the second draft is crafting the plot and every of the many drafts after that is making it all mean something, and yet you allow the pompous idiot machine in the back of your head to clack on about being able to do it all in one go, NaNo will be an ice water tidal wave in your face.
On November 1, I began humoring the idiot machine and laid down some fairly good words that built some decent chapters like the excerpt below, which, for me, requires a slow dance pattern of listening, typing, refining, savoring, refining, listening, typing… By the time November 15th rolled round, I was still a bit delusional, but on November 19 I got sorrowfully real and began erratically scraping bone dry words off my brain.
The end result on November 30 was a 51,910-word pile-up of trips down dead-end roads, hops from dead-ends onto footpaths to dirt roads, county roads, state roads, whatever might lead to highways, maybe even interstates going north, south, east, west, it didn’t matter as long as it was going, and it was going to places there was sadly no time to explore, and I made hundreds of desperate notes, push-pins on the map, of places to return to, and the repercussive effect those return trips might have on the whole…
On a Point A to Point B basis, my manuscript is currently a road that leads nowhere, but in terms of life experience, it points the way to Somewhere, to slow dancing blind from idea to idea. Like Dean, Sal and Stan in “On The Road,” driving with no headlights “through the inky darkness” of the Mexican jungle, bound for Mexico City, I’ll get there. Might be Cormac McCarthy-slow, which makes me no nevermind, since the savoring is everything.
Click here for more on prompt “#1 – road that leads nowhere” from other Sunday Scribblings participants.
The following is an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo 2013 novel, “Psycho Liza.” The idea of Liza first showed up at the end of 2009, I toyed with her in Hopeful colors, she came full out and killed a man in “Thursdays in Dulville, GA,” she has something to do with “The spirit of Slade…,” and she went on the run in “Psycho Liza after Dulville…” Liza’s full name is Eliza Malina. When she was eight, her father, Paco Malina was killed by her mother, Mary Simmons Malina. Mary was acquitted of the crime by reason of insanity, and this is a scene in which two agents tasked with apprehending Liza are grasping at straws, looking for anything from any source that will give them more insight into the character of the elusive Liza, to the point they’re interviewing her mother under special orders.
Under a hazy sun, special agents Mike Berne and Bobby Leonti turned into the rear lot of the Central State Psychiatric Hospital.
“I’m not looking forward to this,” Leonti said.
“Can’t say that I am, either,” Berne said. He swigged the last of his Irish coffee and tossed the cup on the floor. “C’mon, let’s do it.”
Berne unfolded himself from the sedan and smoothed his suit jacket. He looked around the desolate complex, the baring trees and tan grass depressed him. Leonti grabbed his case, and they walked in step, somber with dark shades, across the stressed asphalt to the building entrance.
At Reception they flashed their badges. Berne addressed the receptionist while Leonti pulled the Dispensation Order out from his case and pushed it across the reception desk. After several sets of eyes had been cast suspiciously upon it, they were escorted by an orderly to the third floor visiting area, a grand, cavernous room with old hardwood floors and columns and comfy chairs arranged in semi-circles around coffee tables with buttons to push in case of emergency.
It was empty, but for an elderly couple visiting their middle-aged daughter, who stared through them and out the barred windows and across the uneven grounds to a cluster of craggy trees like wizened fingers clawing skyward. A lifetime of sorrow pulled on the couple’s faces: the father, already dead, stared straight ahead, and the everloving mother faked a sunshiny delivery of the past week’s news to her far gone child.
Berne and Leonti walked over to a semi-circle in front of one of the great barred windows with a view out across what used to be the grand main entrance. A once high-sizzling fountain, was now a dry hole of piping and chipping aqua paint. A sad, lone pipe stuck straight up out of its center with a defunct jet nozzle atop it. The two men turned their backs to it and rocked on their heels silently, hands behind their backs. Berne had the ceiling covered, Leonti, the floor.
They both jumped at the loud thwump sound a set of padded double doors made when a nurse pushed a wheelchair through it. And they trained their eyes on the woman in the wheelchair, tried to get a feel for her, for the situation, as she and the nurse moved toward them from the far side of the room.
The woman’s hair was black as the ace of spades, all wild and as long as a Georgia summer. She had most of it piled on top of her head and secured with alligator clips, but the rest she had to hold in her lap like a cat with a perilously long tail. And as she got closer, Berne could tell she used to be dangerously beautiful, but now her face looked ravaged by the terrors of her mental illness.
The woman narrowed her eyes at Berne and Leonti, pulled a pair of glasses from the bosom of her dress, took a quick peek at them, and hurriedly re-stashed the glasses. Her eyes were wide with sheer delight, and with a voice to deliver a Shakespearean sonnet, she said, “Be still my heart! Gentlemen callers! And fine specimens at that!”
She half turned her head to shoot words impatiently backward and said, “Oh wretched Nurse of the Ministry of Despair, park me on the veranda! Immediately, I beseech thee!”
The nurse stopped in front of the two men, locked the wheels of the wheelchair and bent toward the woman’s left ear. “Mrs. Malina, these gentlemen are FBI special agents, Michael Berne on your left and his partner Roberto Leonti on your right. They wish to chat with you about Eliza. Do you remember Eliza?”
“Of course I do, you flibbertigibbet!”
The nurse grimaced, addressed the officers, “You have 15 minutes, gentlemen.” They nodded their thanks and she left.
“Honestly!” Mrs. Malina said, fanning herself with her hand.
“Pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” Berne said. Leonti bowed shallow from the waist and Mrs. Malina smiled approvingly.
“My, my, Mr. Berne, what are you, 6’-6”? An offensive tackle in college were you maybe? And you, Mr. Leonti, oh you Italians are so compact, chic, squisito! Now then, stand before me no longer and make yourselves as comfortable as you can be behind bars!”
The two blushing men did as they were told and sat stiffly in the nearest chairs.
“So, gentlemen, do tell. What could I possibly do for you?”
“Thank you, ma’am. We’d like to know more about your daughter, Eliza,” Berne said.
“Oh every man wants to know more about Eliza.” Mrs. Malina forced a laugh.
“Was she a happy child?”
“She was never a child, Mr. Berne.”
“Was she a troubled person?”
Mrs. Malina turned her head toward the window, said wistfully, “We dance through the days, she and I.”
“When was the last time you saw her?”
“Today.” Mrs. Malina whipped her head back around, drilled her eyes into Berne. “I see her every day.”
Leonti shot a glance at Berne, who held Mrs. Malina’s eyes, and through the gray of them, Berne saw the beginning of time, the creation of worlds, constellations, suns, moons and he watched them grow murky until they were black.
“My daughter is dead to the human world, Mr. Berne,” Mrs. Malina said. “She exists on a plane that allows her to seek vengeance on behalf of her sister, the moon. Eliza is the milky way. I am the earth. And their ever-presence comforts me.”
Berne continued to hold Mrs. Malina’s gaze, trancelike. “What need does the moon have for vengeance?” he asked.
Leonti stared at Berne in disbelief.
Mrs. Malina threw her head back and howled like a Luna wolf calling the pack together for a kill.
The daughter of the elderly couple turned her head slowly from the window to Mrs. Malina. Her eyes grew huge and wild and her mouth opened as wide as it would go, and out of it came a Ringwraithin screech. Her mother covered her ears and closed her eyes while her father fumbled both hands around on the coffee table until he connected with the emergency button.
A team of four beefy orderlies thwumped through the double doors, did a running assessment. Two of them ran to the howling Mrs. Malina, jabbed her with a sedative and worked at securing her. The other two had made a beeline for the elderly couple’s daughter, still screeching ungodly and ever louder. They gave her a jab and got her under control while the parents shook like late winter leaves just before they fall, finally, from the tree.
“Sorry, gentlemen,” an orderly said. “You’ll have to leave.”
Leonti said, “No problem, man,” and stood up. “Berne?”
Berne shook his head and looked at Leonti, “Right.” He stood up. “Let’s go.”
“You know the way out?” the orderly said.
“You bet,” Leonti said. “Thanks.”
They started toward the double doors.
Mrs. Malina slurred, “Do come again when you can stay longer, hmmm?”
Berne started to turn to look but Leonti forced him straight on, and Mrs. Malina’s laughter followed them through the doors and beyond.