Saturday, August 01, 2015

Hint Fiction: Three

The Landing

Silhouettes sway under a hunter’s moon. Crouching in muck, Dad whispers, “Humans, returning after 40 years.” I ask, “What do they want?” He frowns. “Us.”

You Thought You Could Crush Her

Day lifts its tattered curtain; wind rips through wheat. Arms in air, nightgown clinging, she’s a dervish in the field, her rubied ax held high.

Rest Stop on the I-10

I snatch the baby and sprint, asphalt burning my naked feet, into the willows. The mother wails. The father bellows. Too late. She’s mine now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Found in a virtual drawer: a poem from someone who doesn't poet

Raw Silk

We tromped in deep grass, bumping shoulders, walking dogs.
You had the Frisbee, I carried the plastic bag the onions came in.
From your pocket you drew a mustard sandwich, 
We drank from the fountain built into a stele of stones.

In fall the trees wore crimson bonnets, yellow too, and orange.
The terrier tormented leafy piles, the poodle gnawed on sticks.
You caught your scarf around my neck, and pulled me close.
I searched the field for a private place because the shack was locked.

Snow made the land a fleecy bed, quilted by the prints of deer. 
Dogs dashed from corner to corner, tearing through the sheet of white.
Your letter crumpled in my ungloved hand, I wept,
The pond stiff with polished diamonds in the frozen sun.

Now, the swath of brown stretches out like silk, beauty in monotony.
The poodle chases crows, trots back to me with soulful eyes.
Ducks seam the pond, shaking their wings, as if to wake the spring.
Me, I scuff along beneath the pale of cloud. Your scarf is all that’s left.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fiction from the Archives: "SPOTTED & SOUGHT"

Fantasy written by Gay Degani, published in 10 Flash Quarterly, January 2010

Spotted & Sought

from The Chronicle Personals: 
SPOTTED & SOUGHT / Sunday, January 3
Friday night at the Mobil station.
You: hot guy in scruffy beard & flannel shirt caught my eye, a forty in one hand, a pack of Marlborough’s in the other. Me: pumping unleaded into my mama’s rusty Olds Cutlass.
You grinned and said someone with a chassis like mine deserved a better ride. Then you climbed into a 1969 VW bug. But STILL I liked your chassis just fine.
Wanna meet? When: Monday at 10 P.M. Where: Mobil station. You: Man. Me: Woman.

from The Chronicle Personals: 
SPOTTED & SOUGHT / Wednesday, January 6
You were a no show, mr. scruffy & flannel.
You: hot guy at Mobil station on Friday night. Me: girl with nice chassis in Oldsmobile.
I waited outside the gas station in the Cutlass for an hour. Two forties and a carton of cigs. WTF, BUG-MAN. I was hoping you’d show up and we could put on some Keith Urban and you could rock my world.
But maybe you don’t read the personals or maybe you didn’t read them on Sunday morning. Maybe you had one helluva hangover and couldn’t crawl out of bed. Or maybe you’d gotten sidetracked by some other woman with a nice chassis.
Irregardless, I’m willing to give you another chance because you gave me such a promising smile and your eyes have that little sparkle I like. When: Wednesday at 10 P.M. Where: Mobil station. You: Man. Me: Woman.

from The Chronicle Personals: 
SPOTTED & SOUGHT / Friday, January 8
How the hell was I supposed to know you have a girlfriend?
You: hot guy from the Mobil Station. Me: girl with 4 slit tires on her mom’s Olds.
You could’ve taken out a personal ad and told me you were spoken for. You didn’t have to send your Amazon girl friend after me. She is NOT an attractive woman, hot guy. Built like a fucking bear. And she’s strong.
There I was sitting up in the front seat, flipping through People Magazine, when suddenly I thought there was a giant earthquake going on.
I thought she’d roll my mom’s car right into the ditch. Thank goodness I locked my doors, because she pounded and smacked at the glass and I was so scared I peed my pants, thinking she’d pick up a rock and smash my windows.
Guess she isn’t that bright.
She eventually got tired of watching me panic and took off in your VW. I wanted to get the hell out of there, too, but that’s when I realized she’d slit my tires. I was not happy about spending the night out there, a Mobil station being devoid of magic of any kind, but I’m willing to forgive you.
I know you wouldn’t be with that awful woman if you weren’t scared to death, so here’s the plan. When: Saturday night at 12 A.M. Where: At the crossroads rest stop on I-13. You: Man who needs help. Me: Woman willing to give it.
Don’t let the bitch read this!

from  The Chronicle Personals: 
SPOTTED & SOUGHT / Sunday, January 10
I gave you plenty of chances, didn’t I?
You: scruffy guy from the Mobil Station. Me: girl with no regrets.
I suppose I should have been a little more up FRONT with you from the beginning, but sometimes I get a yearning to be like normal girls, who hang out at Curly’s on Saturday night, pick up hot guys, and hook up in the cabs of their trucks.
And that’s where I was going when you showed up on my radar with your scraggly beard and Bud Lights. I thought, there he is right there, that one.
After the incident at the Mobil station—the one with your gorilla girlfriend—I decided I needed to tap into a little bit of magic I have by way of my mom, she of the Oldsmobile Cutlass. And my father too. Between the two of them, it’s quite a gene pool, but only at the crossroads.
I was hoping none of it would matter. You would read my note and see what a forgiving heart I have and remembering my sweet little chassis, you’d come alone and we could shake things up. But you didn’t.
The two of you were like clowns climbing out of that VW after you parked at the rest stop. You both put your hands on your hips and glanced around until she spied me. Then the two of you came after me. Big mistake.
I stood exactly in the center where the two roads intersect, where my power is the greatest, but you didn’t have a clue and strode forward with purpose. You were not, I could see, a prisoner of this woman. You were her equal, her consort, her savage lover.
I realized I’d been wrong once again. You were not the one to rock my world. So with a few enchanted words from me, the black asphalt split open and only for a moment did you both look at me with anything other than anger and dismissal.
A horrified comprehension crossed your faces as you slithered into the earth. Sorry about that. You: Man gone to hell with Amazon bride. Me: Woman still looking.

from The Chronicle Personals: 
SPOTTED & SOUGHT / Wednesday January 13
Cute redhead jogging north in sweats.
You: spotted running at dusk on Monday in front of Curly’s Bar and Grill. You waved and said, “How you doing?” Me: climbing out of my mom’s Olds Cutlass, four brand new tires.

copyright January 2010 by Gay Degani

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Writers Chat with Bonnie ZoBell

Bonnie ZoBell and I were roommates in Minneapolis for AWP and I remembered I never published this interview we made with each other a while back.  What better time than now??

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One Writer's Awakening: Andre Dubus III

I'm at the point in Andre Dubus III's memoir Townie when he describes that moment in his life when he had his first very vivid realization he wanted to write.  No, wait, that's not what he says.  He says, he didn't want to write, he had to write.

In this part of his remembering, he has this girlfriend - one of his father's writing students.  He is losing her to another man, but he's not all that certain he cares.  He stops by her dorm room.  She not there, but a story by the other man sits on her desk.  He reads it and is carried away by the power of the story.  He notices its precise language, specific details, as well as the emotion created by the text, the empathy he feels.

It is an awakening.  Partly because the character in this other man's story is similar to himself: the diner busboy-dishwasher, for example, Dubus had been one.  But it wasn't only that. It was that the story illustrated a moment of consciousness of conscience that Dubus had been encountering in his own  life.  Not just the awareness of the wrongs in the world which he'd been witnessing and going through since childhood, but the awareness that writing about these wrongs might carry weight and power.

Dubus describes a drive down the highway through a forest and how, after reading this story from his would-be rival, he finally sees trees as they really are: each one different and separate rather than an unrelenting mass of green. That same day, instead of meeting a friend for their usual workout, he sits down and writes a story.

What's interesting to me is that Dubus's father was Andre Dubus II, a man who wrote short stories and taught writing most of his life, a published, well-respected author.  Children often follow in the footsteps of the parents, doctors have children who become doctors, lawyers have children who go into law, teachers beget teachers and so on.  But Andre Three grew up learning to deal with his problems with his fist. Often picked on as a kid, his solution was to make himself as strong and formidable as he could through weight-lifting and boxing.  His world-view was one of danger, conflict, injustice, and literally beating an aggressor to the punch.   He didn't understand that words, too, could change how people think and behave and can do so on a much larger stage than what the towns along the Merrimac River represent.

I came to Andre Dubus III through his novel House of Sand and Fog. Since most of the reading I do these days must include CDs and earphones, this book just happened to be on the library's "What's New" shelf.  I found it a revelation, how Dubus could bring his two antagonists so close to recognizing each other as real human beings - and thereby bring them to an understanding - and then how he snatches that opportunity from them.  This novel illustrates how underneath we are all human with human needs, and how our anger and prejudice keep us from recognizing ourselves in others.

Dubus's memoir not only reveals  his first awareness of his need to write, but his source material.  As with most writers who draw from their own emotions, his stories are rooted in his own life, and reading Townie is like rereading and treasuring HOSAF all over again as well as The Garden of Last Days, and the stories in Dirty Love.

Reawakening to life and its many details, including the complex contradictions in our humanity, is what hooks so many writers.  To write is to see the world in high relief and to relive it through the lives of the people we create. This lesson is never more clear than it is in Townie.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Research: Two Wars, Three Romances in A Touch of Stardust

Just finished listening to A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott.  I snapped it from the library shelf because of the picture of Carole Lombard on the cover and was delighted to find out that it centers on the making of Gone With the Wind.

Although the novel is a romance (well, three romances actually: Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, and that of the heroine, Julie Crawford and Andy Weinstein), it also anchors the reader in the late 1930s with some history.  
  • General History: Two wars, the Civil War and the Second World War as well as the US and Hollywood’s attitude toward Jews and African-Americans, Hitler’s build-up of arms and campaign against non-Aryans and Jews, and America's general attitude toward women
  •  Specific History: The movie industry, popular music, clothing, slang, social mores including attitudes toward premarital sex.

This is all good stuff for me as I try to get my mind into the late 1940s. Yes, they're different eras – a world war of difference – but reading the novel has brought up some questions I need to investigate further.  How much did Hollywood and American change in their attitudes toward Jews, African-Americans, and women in those ten years?  

I think I know the answer, at least for women.  Rosie the Riveter proved to men and women alike that females were capable of doing much of the work that was traditionally done by men.  The Civil Rights Movement gained strength slowly after the war, but eventually grew into a powerful lobby against Jim Crow laws and inequality. To quote Sam Cook, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”  As for Jewish refugees, their lot during the war and just after war, revealed the high level of Anti-Semitism in America and other western countries. However, awareness of the Holocaust began to influence younger generations and some of that prejudice lessened. 

My characters, Billy Eastlake, Ambie, Alma, who are key to the prequel lived in the world when change was on the cusp but still far into the future.  Reading Alcott’s book has suggested to me that, as she revealed the prejudices of the time in A Touch of Stardust –  I need to consider adding new characters who will do just that.  I'll need to do more than this little bit of research.

As for the specific history gleaned from this book I've taken notes.  I have no intention of copying any of this - clothing, music, slang of the forties is just a Google away.  Rather it is  the feel of the era of the 30's I've come away with and it is this same experience  of time and place that I want to create for my readers. And yes, I'm aware that it is fictionalized history.

About A Touch of Stardust as posted on Amazon:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker comes a blockbuster novel that takes you behind the scenes of the filming of Gone with the Wind, while turning the spotlight on the passionate romance between its dashing leading man, Clark Gable, and the blithe, free-spirited actress Carole Lombard. 

When Julie Crawford leaves Fort Wayne, Indiana, for Hollywood, she never imagines she’ll cross paths with Carole Lombard, the dazzling actress from Julie’s provincial Midwestern hometown. 

The young woman has dreams of becoming a screenwriter, but the only job Julie’s able to find is one in the studio publicity office of the notoriously demanding producer David O. Selznick, who is busy burning through directors, writers, and money as he films Gone with the Wind.

Although tensions run high on the set, Julie finds she can step onto the back lot, take in the smell of smoky gunpowder and the soft rustle of hoop skirts, and feel the magical world of Gone with the Wind come to life. Julie’s access to real-life magic comes when Carole Lombard hires her as an assistant and invites her into the glamorous world Carole shares with Clark Gable, who is about to move into movie history as the dashing Rhett Butler. 

In the ever-widening scope of this story, Julie is given a front-row seat to not one but two of the greatest love affairs of all time: the undeniable on-screen chemistry between Scarlett and Rhett, and offscreen, the deepening love between Carole and Clark. Yet beneath the shiny fa├žade, things in Hollywood are never quite what they seem, and Julie must learn to balance her career aspirations and her own budding romance with the outsized personalities and overheated drama on set. Vivid, romantic, and filled with Old Hollywood details, A Touch of Stardust will entrance, surprise, and delight.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Research Begins: What Came First

My suspense novel, What Came Before, came out first online at Every Day Novels as a serial, seventy chapters a day, five days a week, from March to June in 2014. It then became available in trade paperback and in Kindle format. Almost a year later, I’m beginning work on the prequel which will be set in the late 1940s Los Angeles and in the fictional town of Beauport, Louisiana which means I have some reading to do. 

I did quite a bit of research for WCB, exploring both the mid-1900s as well and the timbre of the times in 2000s in terms of the African-American experience, but I focused my book on a middle-aged, middle-class white woman who bears an uncomfortable resemblance to me. 

This made my job easier because I could reference my thoughts, experiences, and observations and use them as I deemed useful to the story.  I warped and exaggerated those experiences and similarities – my own life being undramatic.  However, I tried to keep the emotions real, taking from something I went through and using how I felt as my resource for how my characters might feel. As for my African-American characters, I had to ask questions, read books and articles, watch documentaries and movies, and observe and extrapolate and hope I could get it right.

Now I need to go back and research the same subjects, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, the movie business, Jim Crow laws, African-American history, Latino history, and the era of the mid-19th century.  I went through my bookshelves and found some of the references I’d collected and will share some of my notes from this research as I work through it.  I'll also reference movies etc.  and what I learn from them.