Deleted Scene / Old Souls

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Authors are often forced to cut entire scenes. These cuts are usually made in the name of improving the pace of the story as a whole, or to simplify an overly complicated plot. I’ve written many, many, (many) scenes for Old Souls that no one else will *ahem* EVER see, and that’s okay. Writing them helped me figure out what didn’t work so I could focus on what would.

That said, I’m hoping that practice helps.

Because Old Souls is a fantasy novel populated by immortal characters, figuring out where to begin the story was exceptionally difficult. And I can prove it. I have a thumb drive filled with twenty-seven first chapters . . . and thirteen prologues. When I finally decided on where to begin the book, I cut eight chapters, 30,000 painstakingly edited words, and hundreds of hours of work from the manuscript. Gone was the scene where attackers descended upon an ancient city, separating Lucien from the black-haired woman. The scene where Lucien lost his only childhood friend. The scene where Lucien’s dying mother revealed the truth about his father. And, the scene where Lucien flushes his anti-psychotics to discover who–or what–he really is.

The book now opens in the middle of a breakdown. A fire in a crowded bar, started by none other that Lucien Navarro himself.

Which I love, but still. Sigh. I loved some of those scenes.

On the other hand . . .

*Steeples fingers*

Maybe some of those scenes don’t need to hide forever.


traffic-286462.jpgI passed the cabs on my way out of the hospital, opting to walk home along the quiet streets. The cloudless sky revealed a glimmer of stars overhead. Too bright for the occasion. The farther I walked, the guiltier I felt. I didn’t want to leave my mother’s body in the hospital. I wanted stand by her bed, speaking for her while she couldn’t. I owed her that, at least.

The night was cold. My toes and fingers ached. Finally inside my apartment building, I lumbered up the narrow stairs to my door. Before the place had been sectioned off it was a house, constructed for one of the oversized families living in Charlottetown a hundred years before. The ceilings were low. As large as I was, I sometimes felt like a giant entering a dollhouse.

Earwigs scattered in the kitchen as opened the door. Empty bottles, pill containers and fast food wrappers lay discarded on the counter. Dirty dishes overflowed from the sink. I kicked my shoes off and made my way to the bathroom. Pulling the string for the light, I came face to face with my reflection in the mirror, seeing myself as Vi would have in the last moments of her life. I winced. The hollow circles under my eyes appeared darker than usual, potholing into the sickly puffiness of my heavily stubbled cheeks and neck.

The last conversation I’d ever have with my mother imprinted itself in my mind, cycling over and over until it was all I could hear, taste, and smell.

“Your father was paranoid. He thought someone was after him. The fear of being found consumed him.”
“Found by who?”
She drew a long, steadying breath. “The Rocks, I think.”
“The Rocks?” I asked, attention rapt. “Are you sure?”
She didn’t answer, beginning to nod off.
I didn’t breathe. I couldn’t. I touched her arm. “Could it have been the Stones?” I swallowed. “The Stones of David?”
“Yes. Yes. That was it,” she answered finally, eyes closed. “The Stones of David.”

How had Iris known about the Stones of David if my father had been crazy? While I’d ignored her warning before, I couldn’t do it any longer. It was clear the woman knew something I didn’t.

“That medication is hindering your ability to discern fiction from reality.”

Retrieving the clozapine from behind my mirror, I sat in the living room. I lingered a long time, staring at the refuse on the coffee table and scattered along the floor–empty chip bags, glass bottles, and pizza boxes, the uneaten pieces stale. I spun the pill bottle over and over in my hand, watching as the sun began to rise outside my second story window. city-573775.jpgThe world beyond my vantage point stood startlingly still. The streets were empty, except for the cars and trucks tucked neatly along the sides of the road. Even the herculean elms that loomed high above the cracked sidewalks and the manicured gardens the residents of Upper Prince Street prided themselves on were completely unruffled by wind. It felt as if the world beyond my little window was holding its breath. Waiting on me.

When people began venturing out of their homes and into the street, and the sun broke free from the horizon, I realized I’d been up all night, deliberating. I looked at the pill bottle in my hand.

Since I began taking the medication eighteen years before I’d learned to live with my illness. I’d maintained the control my father couldn’t, for my mother’s sake. But, what if I wasn’t sick? It was a dangerous question, one I buried years before. But suddenly, I wanted nothing more than to believe Iris; to believe I wasn’t alone, now that Vi was gone.

I walked to the kitchen. Rummaging through a drawer beside the overflowing sink, I fished out the rest of my pills to examine the bottles. Some of them were still quite full. I carried them to the bathroom, bowing bowed my head as I passed under the low doorframe.

Having dropped the bottles into the sink in a plasticky clatter, I retrieved one. I unscrewed the childproof lid while pinching the sides, an endeavor that was as habitually familiar to me as bushing my teeth. Twice daily, every day. Eighteen years. I closed my eyes, pouring the contents of the bottle into the toilet bowl. I took a deep breath and forced myself to look at the capsules floating on the water.

Emptying the rest of the bottles was easy after that.

My senses heightened. Blood rushed through my veins, charged with adrenaline. I felt as though I was alive, truly alive, perhaps for the first time in my life. When I pushed the yellowed knob, the sound of the flush sounded like a chorus to my ears, a prayer, a victory cry. The pills swirled round and around again before they were suctioned into the connecting pipes and down, down, down into the sewer. Then the water ran, the toilet stilled, and it was finished.

Looking into the mirror again, I noticed a touch of grey in my beard.

I’d wasted so much time.


Blogapolypse: A Scribbles Apocalypse


What would your final blog post be?

It was a question posed over at DanAlatorre.com yesterday morning. His response was short and simple: Was I a great writer? No. But I helped a lot of people and sincerely believe they could be. Which is true, in that his instructional posts have helped a lot of people, and also modest, in that he is an exceptional writer. Bloggerly phenom Allison Maruska posted her response here, which I found quite funny.

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Well, let me start by saying the same thing I’d say if I found out I was going to die tomorrow.

I am pissed.

Because, come on. Things are just getting started!

Maybe the old adage is true: you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

Well, except that I know exactly what I have, and it isn’t gone.

Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins started on a whim. My writerly friends had websites. It seemed to be the cool thing to do. Like smoking across the train tracks at fourteen. (See me in high school, where students stood on the far side of the tracks directly outside the front doors to smoke, or risk suspension. Funnily enough, I never realized how much of a small town cliché that  train track marker was until this very moment.)

To be fair, I don’t smoke anymore, and blogging won’t give me outrageous wrinkles and/or a voice like Kathleen Turner. 1l7r2c.jpg

While I began the site by emulating Dan and Allison’s instructional posts, I soon realized I enjoyed writing them about as much as branding my face with a soldering iron. So, I branched out into Scribble Challenges. These friendly competitions gave aspiring and established authors a chance to get their creative juices flowing while working in a limited word count. The winner received an opportunity to guest post here.

I loved hosting the changes, but the number of participants quickly grew beyond my ability to keep up with.

And last summer, I took a blogging hiatus.

Despite those growing pains, Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins seems to have hit its stride in the last three months. Every week, it averages sixty new followers. So, I’ve been thinking about bringing the Scribble Challenge back as a bi-weekly (or monthly) event. I’ve been thinking of posting a short-short story every second Friday. I’ve been thinking about all the great and talented writers who’ll let me interview them next.

And, I’ve been thinking of publishing book and short story reviews. Poggibonsi. Drake and the Flyers. American Gods. The Goldfish Pool. The Bob Watson. Year of the Rooster. Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.

But now you’re saying I can’t do ANY of that, because THIS bloody post is my last one??!!1l668o

So yes, I’m PISSED.

Except I’m not.

Because this is all hypothetical.

And maybe I’ll just go ahead and continue thinking about doing some of those things.


In all seriousness, and with the threat of blogapolypse behind us, I’d like to send a big thank you to the newest Scribble followers.

What would YOU write about if it was your last chance?


 

Too Excited to Sleep


I think I might have spent my whole life running away. I was raised as a wild child. There were very few rules in our house until one day my dad remarried, and certain incredibly unrealistic expectations descended like a pox upon our household. Expectations like: notifying my parental units about where I was at night, coming home at a reasonable hour, cleaning up after myself, and not having giant parties while said parental units spent the weekend out of town.

So, I moved out at sixteen.

I didn’t get very far at first. We lived in a small town in Manitoba. I packed a bag between classes and stashed it outside my best friend’s bedroom window up the street, in a house where I ended up staying until graduation.

Then, I moved to an itty-bitty apartment on the second floor of another house, roughly seven blocks away.

A year later I moved to Australia.

When I left Manitoba, I never thought I’d miss it. The first time I came home, I cried in the airport bathroom. I’d commandeered a very dapper Australian boyfriend while away, and would have stayed substantially longer if not for silly things like paperwork and visas. The drive home from the airport was bleak. The prairie sky was heavy and gray, the landscape dead and brown: a stark contrast to the eternal green of the tropics I’d basked in all year.

But, when I obtained a fresh visa and went back to Oz, it simply wasn’t the same. They say you can never go back, and in this case, maybe it was true.

So, I moved to my sister’s house in Calgary, Alberta. I worked in a pub, where I met my husband. We didn’t get together for a while, as I was still hooked on the dapper Australian and my hubby was still sewing a few wild oats. It wasn’t until his niece came to visit from Prince Edward Island that we got together. Being the gracious hosts of Calgary we were, we, okay I, decided to take her to the strippers.

I guess strippers have a way of bringing people together. It wasn’t long after that we summoned three hellions into the world and got married.

And then we moved here, to Charlottetown.

I was very lucky in Calgary. I lived a few blocks from my sister when we had our babies. Our first-born children are five months apart, and the second set of kids are four months apart. We were pregnant together. We raised our babies together. We talked on the phone eleventy-billion times a day. And when I came to PEI, it was like a rip or a tear in the fabric of that life. Talking on the phone with her became too painful overnight.

When my grandfather passed away a couple years ago, I realized just how far from home I was. I missed the giant prairie sky, the wind that sweeps through Portage and Main, and midnight slurpee runs. I missed the possibility of going to the store and running into people I went to school with.

And I missed the family I’d spent all my life running from.

Prince Edward Island is beautiful. It’s safe, and family oriented. It’s the perfect place to raise kids, and it’s close to my to my stepdaughters. But, I think that everyone who’s moved from home understands how heartbreaking it can be to be away when people get sick.  To be unable to drop by your parents’ houses to help shovel snow. To have to FaceTime at Christmas.

And, while I wasn’t exceptionally close with my mom in my childhood, I am now. I’ve been feeling the distance between us a lot.

I was two hours late getting home from work tonight. I had to deal with a woman on the phone who was very, very bad at her job. In the end, the situation we danced around wasn’t even resolved, but I was too tired and frustrated to stay any longer. I came home to cuddle the hellions before bedtime and a pour a giant glass of wine.

My husband was watching for me in the window, which was odd.

There was a scuffle of movement as I came through the door.

I went up to see the boys–and complain about my day to the man who puts up with all my complaints–and my mom was standing in the living room.

She’s been in cahoots with my husband the last few weeks.

Plotting to give me a heart attack.

Well the joke’s on them, because I’m still alive. I have my mom here a full week. My eyes are puffy from crying, and I’m grateful and happy–even though I’m way too excited to sleep.