Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Writer is a Person Who Writes

I’m reworking a novel I wrote three years ago. I love it, but I wrote it back in the days when I thought I had to be traditionally published. There was a lesson I should have learned three years ago (you can read about Petra going to Chiropractic College in the repeat post below) that I’m still learning today.

I am a writer because I write. I am a successful writer because people chose to read my stuff. I guess this means I became a successful writer when I first began writing for the Arlington Eagle—my high school newspaper. And I guess this means that I won’t stop writing when I make the New York Times best seller list.

It’s like eating. I don’t eat a Thanksgiving dinner and say, Now I am stuffed. I will never need to eat again. Or running, I didn’t run a marathon and then say, Well check that off, I’ll never run another mile. Or reading, I didn’t read Wallace Stegnar’s Crossing to Safety (the epitome of a brilliant novel) and say, Now I‘ll never read another novel, because nothing can top that.

There are some people who write one phenomenal book and are done. But for most writers, I think there is always another story lurking in their head waiting for daylight and how that story finds readers is just another part of the process.

Petra found hers in a chiropractic college. Someday, she’ll find other readers, but I haven’t decided how, yet. Or when, since when I started, this was book one in a three part series. (And I haven’t written book two or three, and did I mention I’m still working on the time capsule novels and there are four of those and I don’t intend to publish any until all are finished?  Then maybe I’ll publish Petra.)

So, this isn’t a teaser, because a publication date is way in an unforeseen future. It’s a just reminder. A writer is anyone who writes. 

Petra Goes to College
Finally, my novel is being read and not just by people who are doing me a favor. Bethany wanted to read my book and she asked Brandon to print it out for her. Brandon took it to his chiropractic school where he could print it out for free. But about a third of the way through the printing, the machine ran out of paper. He had hundred pages printed and he figured he’d do the rest later, when there was paper.

The next day he goes to school and finds that people are passing around a two hundred page novel printed on pink paper. He tells a friend that he has to get it back. Friend replies, “That’s yours? People are reading that.”

I imagine this medical student turning on a printer. It says no paper, he loads it with the only paper he can find… pink. And then the printer proceeds to shoot out the remainder of my novel. And of course, all the kissing happens in the remainder. Suddenly, all these students of anatomy have something less clinical to read.

Bethany said, “Brandon got it back, but I think there are pages missing.”
I wonder which ones.

Beyond the Fortune-teller's Tent
The Arroyo Oaks Renaissance Faire is the brain baby of Mrs. Brighton, part-time English teacher and full time witch. Glass blowers, potters, and herbalists mingle with students, teachers and parents on sawdust strewn paths lined with wooden stalls. Knife and ax throwing are not only allowed, but encouraged. Games include Drench-a-Wench (Mrs. Brighton) and Soak-a-Bloke (Principal Olsen.) Wizards, elves, beer and barely covered booties are all welcome as long as they help raise thousands of dollars for the drama department. 
Petra’s notes
Chapter One

Petra stared at the fortune-teller’s tent -- silky curtains, beaded strings, the faint aroma of vanilla, a gaudy riot of color. She’d been waiting forever, but now that she was here, she took a breath and then another. She turned to Robyn to say something glib, something that would mask her nerves, but she couldn’t find the words.
Robyn squeezed her hand. “It’s so romantic,” she whispered. “This is the perfect place for him to ask.”
“It’s so him, right?” Petra returned Robyn’s squeeze, but her eyes never left the tent. She thought it ugly, garish in a more is less sort of way. She sighed and wished that Kyle had just asked without fanfare or hoopla. Maybe she should have asked him. Maybe they shouldn’t go. Prom was so yesterday, dated like a debutant ball… Or a jousting competition, she thought, her gaze going to the nearby stadium.
The frustration of denial settled between her shoulder blades like an unreachable itch. Why did she even care about prom? She’d been with Kyle for months; a silly dance didn’t define their relationship.
Or did it? Some of her friends even had their dresses. Petra hadn’t actually bought her dress, that would have been presumptuous, but she did know which one she wanted. She’d found the perfect shoes. She hoped Kyle would be okay with the coral colored vest she’d picked out for him.
 “It’s so who?” Zoe demanded.
Petra put her hand on top of Zoe’s orange curls. Zoe was the pooper at the party, the stepsister that never should have come and would have stayed at home if Laurel’s Aunt Ida hadn’t fallen down the stairs. Petra had never even met Zoe’s Aunt Ida. She sounded like a potato.
Petra could understand why Laurel felt uncomfortable taking Zoe to a hospital, after all, no one sane would ever wanted to take Zoe anywhere, let alone a place where people needed quiet and rest.
Robyn rolled her eyes at Petra. Robyn and Petra called themselves tele-friends, because they could read each other like open books. Now Robyn nodded at the tent, her head bob saying, just go.
            “Do you think he’s in there?” Petra whispered.
            Robyn widened her eyes, as if to say of course. “He said he would be, didn’t he?”
            “Who’s he?” Zoe demanded. “Are you talking about Kyle?”
            Petra swallowed and ignored Zoe, tried to forget her existence. “Actually, he didn’t say anything, but his note said to meet at the fortune-teller’s tent. What if he didn’t send the note? What if this is joke?”
“Then it’s not a very funny one.” Robyn shook her head and her curls bounced around her shoulders. “It was Kyle.” She sounded way more confident than Petra felt. Robyn cut her a sideways glance and a small flicker of doubt tickled in Petra’s mind. Why did she suspect the fortune-teller’s tent was more Robyn’s idea than Kyle’s? Petra squelched the thought. Kyle was her fortune. Nothing else mattered.
            “Kyle has hotitude that sadly so often accompanies physical beauty,” Zoe sighed, parroting her mom.
            Petra groaned. Did her parents dislike Kyle just because he was rock star gorgeous? She shook away all the other , more legitimate, reasons why her parents might not like Kyle.
“Ignore her,” Robyn mouthed over Zoe’s head. “And just go already.” She gave Petra a little push toward the tent.
            Petra dug in her heels, or in this case, her silky flats. “Wait, how do I look?”
            “As always, you’re beautiful.” Robyn straightened Petra’s tiara, gave her a small hug, and then turned her shoulders tent-ward.
“Pretty as a Petra poopy picture,” Zoe said, muttered.
Petra frowned at Zoe and then glanced down at her dress, last year’s prom gown. She and Robyn were the only two at the faire dressed as princesses. All around her she saw women wearing laced up bodices, men in tights and knee high boots, horses covered in bright cloths and even a snowy white owl on a perch. Zoe in her cut up pillowcase and drapery tassel looked more in place than Petra and Robyn in last year’s prom-wear. She sniffed. She didn’t care that she was overdressed. She put a finger on the tiara; perhaps the faux diamonds were too much. Too late now.
Straightening her shoulders, clutching her beaded purse, she headed to the tent. Her steps faltered and she turned back to Robyn and Zoe. “Come with me,” she said to Robyn, taking and tugging her friend’s hand.
Zoe’s mouth dropped open. “You can’t leave me here alone!”
Robyn motioned to all the faire-goers: teachers, fellow students, and neighbors. “Alone?”
Zoe’s eyes, for a moment, looked almost as crazy as her hair. “There are witches, people with swords, wild animals!”
Petra saw several people she knew, but Zoe, who had only just moved to Arroyo Oaks, probably didn’t know any of them. She knelt down, so that she could look Zoe in the crazy eyes. “And not one of them will hurt you, I promise. If anyone bugs you, which they won’t, call a yellow jacket,” Petra said, referring to the Arroyo Oaks security guards that patrolled the school grounds and kept peace by way of blow-horns. “Please, just sit.”  Petra stood and pointed at a well placed stump, wishing for perhaps the zillionth time that Zoe would take lessons from her dog. Frosty greeted all instructions with a lolling tongue and wagging tail. Zoe didn’t receive instructions, she counterattacked them. Poodles and stepsisters had very little in common, except for in Zoe’s case, the hair-do.
 “If you leave me here—” Zoe began.
Petra silenced her by holding up a finger. “If you can be quiet, sit and not say a word, I’ll buy you a funnel cake.”  She raised her eyebrows to see if Zoe would take the bribe or would if she needed to toss in a caramel apple. Her health-foodie stepmother, Laurel, wouldn’t pony up for brand name peanut butter, let alone treats fried in oil and covered with sugary powder.
Zoe sat with a humph and picked at the hem of her pillowcase tunic and her gaze went to the corral across the path. Her eyes lit up. “I want a funnel cake and to ride that horse.”
Petra and Robyn both turned to watch guy lead a stallion through a wooden gate.
“Giddy-up,” Robyn said, staring.
The guy had brown shoulder length hair tied back with a leather thong and wore soft, fawn colored breeches and matching knee high boots. His white shirt billowed around a wide leather belt that hung about his hips. Three simultaneous thoughts struck Petra. The first: everyone else, including herself, wore costumes, but this guy looked at ease in his breeches and boots as if they were his everyday clothes. The second: his eyes and the small smile curving his lips sent a jolt of recognition up her spine, although she knew they’d never met. She would have remembered him. The third: she was quite sure this guy would never wear a coral colored vest.
 “Isn’t he awesome,” Zoe breathed, her eyes large and round. “He’s so huge.”
Robyn gave Zoe a funny look and Petra laughed at the misunderstanding.  “You can’t ride him,” she said, watching the Arabian toss his mane and pull at the reins held by the guy with long brown hair. The stallion fought the bit, rose up on his hind legs and scissored the air with his hooves.  “He’s not one of the ponies they lead through rink.”
Zoe frowned, sending her freckles south. “I’m sure he’d rather be with me on the trail than in that horrible jousting place.” Earlier, they had tried watching the knights’ competitions.  Zoe, unconcerned for the men being thwacked about by lances, had wailed for the sweat dripping horses.
“I’m sure you’re right, Zo, but I’m pretty sure I’m right, too,” Petra said. “They’d never let you take him out of their sight. Besides, he looks fast and barely tame.”
“I like them fast and barely tame,” Robyn said under her breath, smoothing down the pink chiffon skirt of her prom dress.
From the jousting arena came the cheering and huzzahs of the crowd. Petra heard the horses’ hooves thundering and the clanging of lances hitting shields and armor. She smelled roasted turkey legs, the fires from the pottery kilns and dung. Her senses careened on overload and when the guy with the horse caught her eye and winked, dizziness and a skin-pricking sensation of déjà vu washed over her.
Zoe looked up at her, smiled and said, this time, in a voice as sweet as funnel cake, “If you let me ride that horse I won’t tell about you and face-sucking Kyle.”
“There’s been no face-sucking!” At least not in front of Zoe.
Zoe put her fists on her hips and jutted out her chin. “Who says?”
Petra blew a loose strand of hair from her eyes. “You can’t ride that horse!”
Zoe’s gaze cut to the corral and lingered on the stallion. “But you can ask if I can.”
Robyn nodded in agreement, a flirty smile on her lips. “We can ask.”
Petra shot her look that said, Traitor.
“Hot horse guy,” Robyn murmured, flipping her brown curls over her shoulder.
“And offer him money,” Zoe put in.
“How much money?” Petra nearly growled. Since her dad’s marriage she’d been given an allowance ‘to help her find her own financial feet in the real world,’ Laurel’s words, and Petra’s feet wanted to wear a pair of coral colored heels to prom.
“I saw him wink at you.” Zoe’s tone turned calculating. “Maybe you wouldn’t need to pay him.”
Petra frowned at Zoe; eight-years old seemed too young to know the art of female bartering.
“We’ll ask him right after we visit the fortune-teller,” Robyn promised Zoe, sending a let’s-get-together-soon smile at horse guy.
Zoe scowled, folded her arms and watched the horses parading in the corral, but she didn’t budge from the stump.
Petra turned to the fortune-teller’s tent and forced herself to not look at hot horse guy, although she imagined she felt his gaze on her back. She towed Robyn with her.
Held up by large wooden poles, the tent had brightly woven damask walls. A barrel-chested man wearing nothing but gold chains, large rings and red bloomerish pants guarded a money jar. A hand printed sign propped by the jar read Fester Foretells your Fate.
“Fester?” Petra whispered to Robyn and stopping short of the tent. “He sounds like he needs a squirt of Neosporin.”
“You’re stalling.” Robyn whispered in return and pulled on Petra’s hand.
“What if he’s not in there?” Petra asked, stopping in front of the guy dressed in bloomers. She flashed the guy a nervous glance, but he remained motionless and expressionless, as if she and Robyn didn’t even exist. Petra wondered what would happen if she poked him. Would he do more than flinch? Would he do even that?
“Then we’ll have our fortune’s read.” Robyn gave the bloomer guy a sideways look, but he stared straight ahead not even looking at Robyn, which Petra found impressive. Most guys couldn’t resist looking at Robyn.
“I’m telling Daddy that you ditched me,” Zoe said.
Petra scowled at Zoe. It still stung to hear Zoe call her dad ‘Daddy.’ “We’re not ditching you. It’s more like we’re parking you in a five minute loading zone.” Petra made a lever pulling motion. “There, I put on the emergency brake. You’re stuck.”
Petra turned her back on Zoe and faced Robyn. “What if he doesn’t come inside? He could stand out here for eons while some biddy predicts I don’t get into a good school and end up selling shoes for the rest of my life.”
“You love shoes,” Robyn said. “Besides, I’m sure he’s already inside.”
“And, just like me, listening to every word you say!” Zoe added.
Petra sent Zoe another be-quiet-or-be-dead look, but then realized Zoe could be right. What if Kyle was just on the other side of the curtain, waiting for her, listening to her arguing with Zoe?  Fighting the flush creeping up her neck, she dropped money into Fester’s jar and pushed back the curtains of the fortune-teller’s tent.
When the curtain of crystal beads fell back into place behind Robyn, it carried the eerie sound of tinkling falling glass shards. Heavy incense hung in the air. Petra blinked, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. She scanned the tiny space, searching for Kyle. A crystal ball on a table draped in silks glowed and sent a shivery light that didn’t reach the far corners of the tent. Large pillows dotted the tapestry rugs and Petra nudged one with her foot, wondering if she should sit and wait. Could Kyle be hiding behind the draped curtains? No. He probably wasn’t here yet, meaning that he hadn’t heard her and Zoe, and that was good. Wasn’t it?
“Petra, welcome,” a voice in the semi-darkness cackled.
Petra laughed when Robyn, just behind her, jumped. It took a moment for her to find the owner of the voice, a hunched man sitting on a pillow in a dark corner. In front of him lay a collection of tarot cards, face up: a fool dancing, tossing stars into a purple sky, a magician holding a wand scattering glitter.
“I’m afraid you must come alone,” Fester said, leaving his gaze on Petra’s face as his twisted hands gathered the cards, and tapped them into a deck.
Robyn’s eyes flashed a question at Petra. Petra squeezed Robyn’s hand, sending her a silent signal.
“I’ll wait with your sister,” Robyn said.
Still expecting Kyle to suddenly appear, Petra didn’t even watch her friend leave, but she knew when Robyn had gone by the flash of daylight that came and then left with the rise and fall of a curtain and the jangle of the crystal beads.
“There are journeys some must undertake on their own,” the fortune-teller said, staring up at Petra.


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