Monday, July 27, 2015

A Lesson on Point-of-View and Passive Voice with Ted Bundy

I'm reading my second book about Ted Bundy.

The first was Ann Rule's book, The Stranger Beside Me, which resulted in a long and successful career for Rule writing true crime novels. Rule used to work a suicide hotline with Bundy in 1972.

A third book I'd like to read is The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall. A copy if this book runs between $80.00 and $300.00 on Amazon, depending on the seller. Kendall (a pseudonym) met Bundy in 1968. They lived together until 1974 when he left Seattle for Utah.

The book I'm currently reading is The Only Living Witness: The True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy by Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, a couple journalists who in the summer of 1980, spent hours upon hours upon hours inside a tiny room at the Florida State Prison listening to Ted Bundy. Apparently a person doesn't speak with Bundy so much as listen to him ramble. The primary idea was that the journalists would get Bundy to open up, except the least effective thing a person can do is ask Bundy a direct question then expect him to answer in kind. With the help of a psychologist, Michaud and Aynesworth determined Bundy possessed the emotional maturity of a twelve-year-old. He liked to play games. As a result, the journalists asked Bundy to "imagine" an individual who was a serial killer then try to "guess" what this individual thought and did. Bundy enjoyed the game a lot. He often cradled a tape recorder in his lap and spoke for hours while staring into space, never at the journalists. At one point in Michaud and Aynesworth's book, Bundy "speculates" on how this imaginary individual began to dabble in stalking neighborhoods and peeping in windows. "He began with interesting regularity to canvass, as it were, the community he lived in. He peeped in windows . . . He approached it almost like a project, throwing himself into it, literally for years . . . .  He gained at times, a great amount of satisfaction from it. And became increasingly adept at it, as anyone becomes adept at anything they do over and over and over again" (110).

Both journalists described Bundy's eyes and how they changed in the span of a few minutes or even a few seconds while he spoke. Sometimes, his eyes were light blue. Other times, his irises darkened, his pupils shrank, and a strange indentation  appeared in his cheek then disappeared without a trace. The journalists surmised this change had everything to do with Bundy's "inner" and "outer" selves.

Bundy preferred to speak of himself in third person in order to avoid implicating himself. He, not me. Not "I." Speaking or writing in the third person isn't a sin. In fact, it's common and quite popular. I write in the third person point-of-view, "he, she, him, her, they," all the time (although not when referring to myself or trying to avoid self implication.) Third person is my preferred point-of-view when I write fictional stories involving characters. However, getting back to Bundy, let's say the guy was interested in confessing rather than playing a game. He would speak of himself in the first person point-of -view, "I, me, we." If he were interested in implicating the rest of us, his audience, he would use the second person point-of-view, "you.

Examples of each point-of-view in a sentence. 

"He peeped in windows." (Third person)
"I peeped in windows." (First person)
"You peeped in windows." (Second person)


Hi, my name is Ted Bundy. I'm a serial killer. I speak of myself in third person and use the infernal passive voice.

A few months ago, I read an article from a 1989 issue of The Orlando Sentinel by John C. Van Gieson, "Bundy Detailed Two Slayings 45 Minutes Before Execution," which recounts a discussion Bundy had with the superintendent of the Florida State Prison, Ted Barton, minutes before he died in the electric chair. By then, the gig was up. Bundy no longer imagined a third-person individual but fessed up to his crimes, although I'd like to point out he still spoke in the passive rather than active voice. In Gieson's article Bundy says, "The young woman's body would have been placed in the Colorado River about five miles west of Grand Junction. It was not buried'' (Gieson).

I talk to my writing students a lot about passive voice. When we write, or speak, passively, we remove ourselves or the subject of our sentence from the action. We are less responsible. Something is done to the subject rather than the subject doing anything. One way I've taught students to catch a passive sentence construction is to see if they can place "by zombies" at the end of it.

"The young woman's body would have been placed in the Colorado River about five miles west of Grand Junction by zombies. It was not buried by zombies."

Okay, let's continue blaming the zombies a minute. In order for the zombies to take responsibility for their actions and write in the active voice, they'd write this. "Zombies would have placed the young woman's body in the Colorado River about five miles west of Grand Junction."

"Would have" still feels wishy-washy and irks me. How about this? "Zombies placed the young woman's body in the Colorado River about five miles west of Grand Junction." 

Good.

But . . . 

We're still blaming the zombies, and they did not do this. 

Therefore, let's force Bundy to step up to the plate and take responsibility for his actions.  Active voice, and first person point-of-view, go. "I placed the young woman's body in the Colorado River about five miles west of Grand Junction. I didn't bury it."  

Now, we have an issue with "the body" and "it." We all probably agree Bundy was a psychopath who didn't experience empathy or remorse the way the rest of us do. We understand he didn't consider his victims as human beings but rather as objects and possessions, and he was certainly never interested in learning their names. Therefore, allow me to step in and fill in the blanks.

The young woman Bundy dumped in the Colorado River is Denise Lynn Oliverson. She was twenty-four and riding a yellow bike the day she disappeared near the Fifth Street Bridge in Grand Junction. She had just had a fight with her boyfriend. She was on her way to her parents' house probably to cool off and talk it over with mom. She wore her favorite Indian print shirt, jeans, and sandals. She was self-conscious about her acne. She had a birthmark on her right hand. When Denise encountered Ted Bundy somewhere between 1619 LaVeta Street and the bridge, she thought he looked like a young attorney or graduate student or her long-lost prom date rather than the man who would kill her. The only thing a search party ever found of Denise was her yellow ten-speed and her sandals.  

In order for Bundy to take the fullest responsibility for his actions, humanize rather than objectify his victim, and write the most active sentence possible, he would say, "I placed Denise Lynn Oliverson in the Colorado River five miles west of Grand Junction. I didn't bury her." 

Writers who resort to the passive voice do so for reasons similar to Bundy's reasons for speaking that way. To remove themselves from the action. To skirt responsibility. So the next time you write in the passive voice ask yourself these questions.

  1. What action do you wish to remove yourself or your characters from? 
  2. Why are you or your characters refusing to take responsibility for said action?  
  3. Does your passivity or the passivity of your characters signal separation or denial? 
  4. If you write in the passive voice, are you making a deliberate and conscious choice to do so? 
  5. If writing in the passive voice is a choice rather than an accident, can you articulate why? 

Avoid lackadaisical writing. Don't be a Bundy. 

XO. 




Friday, July 24, 2015

Write What You Know. Write What Breaks Your Heart. Write What Scares the Hell Out of You.

Courtesy of exposedemotiions.wordpress.com

I began writing my latest current WIP, a novel, March 04, 2015.

Working titles have included Six Seconds, Wolf, Blue-Eyed Baby Monster, Hey, Angel Face, and the latest, Angel Face Janx is Dead

Since March, I've written over eighty thousand words and cut thirty thousand then paste them in an "Extras File," mainly because I changed direction in June and eliminated a major character but plan to save her for later, another story. This morning, I'm at fifty-four thousand words.

The majority of the story takes place in a fictional town in Colorado.

I've had to do a lot of research for this project, much of it depressing, much of it frightening, and much of what I'm dealing with is outside my element and way past my comfort zone. (To date, I'v suffered a nightmare and an anxiety attack as a result of this project. I used to suffer anxiety attacks on a semi-regular basis in college and got hold on them via therapy and Zoloft in 2001. I loved my shrink and still miss her to this day. I went off Zoloft cold turkey in 2009 because I had no health insurance and couldn't afford the one hundred dollar a month prescription.

With the exception of dizziness and tingling in my legs, I did okay coming off the drug on my own, but I would never recommend anyone quit a prescription drug for anxiety and depression cold turkey like that without the advice and guidance of a doctor. This anxiety attack I had in June is the first in fourteen years. I was at my desk writing and thought, what the heck is wrong? My heart pounded. I felt short of breath. I felt this utter and overwhelming sense of doom. I thought I was about to die. Then I began to pace my house and massage my chest, a fall back response from before, and I knew what was going on and talked myself down and was okay then continued writing.)

The fact I'm writing outside my element, my own experience and realm of knowledge, begs the question, write what you know? Yeah but nah.

Write what you know. Write what breaks your heart. Write what scares the hell out of you. I know my characters. I understand them on a spiritual, emotional, and molecular level, which is one reason the story scares me. The rest, I can research. I have a friend who is a lawyer who is willing, because he is an amazing human being, to talk with me as I write and entertain my questions: he has also offered to read the book once I finish the first draft to help catch ridiculous but unintentional oversights, exaggerations, or errors. Thank you, Manual Ramos!

The current project centers around three young men. They each have their own song.

Cade's song is "Kiss on My List." It's his ringtone and gets him teased by the other grease monkeys.



Kyle's song  is "Psycho Killer," because he gets off watching Scott Weiland in this video.



Damon's song is "Kill With Me Tonight" because he is ready to pass the torch.


XO. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Underground (I Don't Hear You Over Him Down Here)

                                                                       Underground 
                                                                    ©Alana Noël Voth

We’re underground. Above, the bombs go off. Everyone down here is drunk. We know we won’t survive this. That isn't the point. A man doles out cyanide capsules then instructs us to bite them between our teeth when the time comes, and I try to focus on his instructions because it’s important. Don’t mess up. I had this uncle who used to rewrite all my school essays because I couldn’t stay focused. School wasn’t a means to an end. I wanted to be a model or an actress. Movie magazines and romance novels. They got me as a girl. All the glamour and living happily ever after. They set me up to believe if you’re not a star then glory by proxy. That was my destiny. He arrived in a suit and trench coat and smelled like pomade and chamomile tea. He wasn’t tall but tried to look it. Inhalation of breath. Lift of the shoulders. Raise the chin. He was also older than me, even old, and he wasn’t handsome either. The eyes though, careful. He nailed me. He could also lay down a lecture until I felt dizzy from it. In the early days, we lunched in this out-of-the-way café, and he talked about politics and his other passion, history, and he used big words, which I didn’t always understand, so to impress him, I looked them up in a dictionary. Love doesn’t always make sense. He was a total square. No cigarettes, no booze, and he couldn’t enjoy a good steak either. At dinner parties he ranted. Can anyone believe how poorly some animals are treated? He was in love with his dog. She did tricks for him and was obedient. He could show her off. Me, I was a secret. When I read that piece in a French magazine about how I was just another one of his girls, I shot myself. That was 1933. He came to the hospital and rushed to my bedside. Eva, don’t do this to me again. He was also worried about a press leak, which is why he decided to move me in with him, not to keep me happy so much as to keep me quiet. So I'd behave. Let me tell you. I was happy. My father never showed up at the hospital, the whole he’s not going to marry you he’s using you, Eva, blah-blah-blah thing. I was Mistress to the greatest man in Germany and my goddamn father climbed up on his morality high horse and never spoke to me again. Look, Daddy. Can you hear me? Down here. I didn’t care about morality the way I cared about love. Another thing, I never paid attention to politics. All talk, talk, talk. I’d come in a room where he was having a meeting with all these blowhard generals and he’d say, not now, Bumpkin, and dismiss me. You know what bumpkin means? Unsophisticated. How many dresses could I change into in one day? How many cigarettes could I smoke? I wasn’t as glamorous as some of those actresses that threw themselves at him, and I was never as pretty as my sisters. Still, I worked at it. On the terrace at Berghof, I displayed my Garbo flair and shimmied. I had records to play, dresses to wear, and great legs. My sister said he forced his way into Czechoslovakia. I was more like occupied France, a croissant falling apart on his tongue. His other favorite treat was chocolate. Did I mention the couch in the Chancellery? No, really. Right there. More than once. No kidding. I used to imagine dignitaries walking by and catching a whiff of me on the air—die Scheide. After Stalingrad, he lost control of his left arm and so pulled it inside his coat whenever he appeared in public. His worst nightmare come true. He was human. Worse, he was weakening. Think that didn’t yank my heart strings? Hard to comfort him from a separate bedroom. He insisted because he woke every night in a cold sweat, screaming. He also had gas that could kill the mood. We’re underground now. People are frantic and falling down drunk. We know we won’t survive this. That isn't the point. He’s already poisoned his dog and now sits slumped in the hallway outside our private bedroom, mourning. Further down the hall, Traudl reads stories to Magda’s children. Later, Magda will poison her brood and they’ll turn blue while sleeping. Magda’s marriage to Goebbels was a ruse. Everyone knew who she was really in love with. She got to be in all those pictures. I tried. I’d sneak up soon as I saw a camera. Click. Right there. I exist. He didn’t allow me to meet the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and on Party Day, 1934, the society ladies wanted me thrown out of the VIP box. That bitch, Magda, said I was sulky, and he told her, be nice to the secretaries. When he stopped bringing me flowers, he said it was because he couldn’t stand watching them die. Before we went underground, people started to leave him. The inner circle a half circle now. My cage door flew open. Eva, go. What? Magda was staying. To Hell with that. I stayed. And my reward? He finally married me. How much champagne did I drink? I feel loopy. Underground, in our private bunker, he sits in front of his favorite picture of Frederick the Great. I should have said goodbye to my sisters. I cup my cyanide capsule then let it roll in the cradle of my lap. No wedding night sex. No babies. Would you believe he gave me the gun and asked me to point it at his chest then pull the trigger? Would you believe he said, you should you have shot me a long time ago? Me neither. That wouldn’t have evened the score. Six million Jews? That wasn’t a loss I suffered. Dumb bitch. Nazi cunt. I don't hear you over him down here.  


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What You May

Inspired by "Are We There Yet?" by Alison Tyler, I offer the following rant.

We live in a world that loves the motto, "Do what you love." The idea being, if we all do what we love, then the act of doing is, in itself, a reward. Worth it. Fulfillment. Happiness. The idea being, if you do what you love, money isn't important. It would be nice. But it's not an end all.

We live in a world that assumes two things. 

1. Writers write because they love to write.

2. Teachers teach because they love to teach.

I've been a writer since I was nine. I wrote my first novel in 1982. When I don't write, I feel . . . depressed, adrift, pissed off. I feel as if I am not doing what I should do.

I've been a teacher since 2002, but it's been an on-again-off-again "career" mandated by money. Some years, I simply couldn't support my son and I teaching, and it was up to me to support us, so I scrambled and switched gears and left teaching more than once in order to survive. When I'm not in a classroom interacting with students, I feel like I am not doing what I should do.

From "Marcelle" by Alana Noel Voth

We live in a world that believes two things. 

1. Since writers write because they love to write, they should shut their mouths about making no money at it. Write for free. Offer stories online for no compensation, and hell, most the time, no thanks. Gift books all over the place. Just feel grateful anyone reads anything you write at all. 

2. Since teachers teach because they love to teach, they should shut their mouths about taking on astronomical work loads to earn enough to survive, working a second job, having no benefits, no job security, and hell, no respect. Just feel grateful you have a job at all. 

We live in a world that has little time, admiration, or respect for artists and teachers. We rank below reality TV stars in relevance and reverie. Although when something goes wrong, the world is quick to blame artists and teachers. The world is happy to blame but not compensate us.

There is this underlying pressure I grapple with daily, maybe because my son is an artist and at a crossroads. Does he pursue art? Or sacrifice his passion for something more practical? I know he looks to me and my own life experience as a road map and feels both a sense of respect and terror.

Someone I know has asked multiple times if I've made any money with my first book, Dog Men, yet. The first few times, this inquiry felt optimistic. Now, it feels like an accusation. You worked that long and hard at something that will reap no financial reward? 

Yes. Sure did. And I'm doing it again. Then again after that. For infinity, probably.

When I told a mentor I intended to become a teacher, she said I was in for a world of struggle. She tried to talk me out of it. I was a single mom with a lot at stake. She didn't talk me out of it.

Do with this what you may.

XO. 




Monday, July 20, 2015

I'm a Pussy

The other day, talking with my young friend, Milcah, who is a webcam performer, entrepreneur, and now publisher, I admitted I don't like writing from a female prospective because no matter what I do, I will do it wrong. I am screwed.

Courtesy of  Jenna Marbles and Typical Girl (Twitter) 
My story "Dog Men" from my book Dog Men was difficult to write and took two years to finish. Most the time I hated it. I hated my female narrator because she struck me as an idiot. She still does. I forced my way through the story believing I had something important to say: young women sacrifice their best friend, their own happiness, their sexual truths, for the patriarchy.

Milcah says "Dog Men" is her favorite story in Dog Men.

She also observed that whenever I write from the perspective of a female character, this character strikes her as "painfully vulnerable." Likewise, she said, this character appears to just wait "to be penetrated from all directions." Well, yes. As women, we are penetrated. I speak physically, of course, but this physical penetration lends itself to a deeper and more profound metaphor. The same could be said for gay men. They are penetrated. (In my story "Marcelle," the female character, Marcelle, tells her male lover, Ronan, "the man who lets me fuck him is the man for me," and subsequently she pegs him. She becomes the man. He becomes the woman. As a result, Ronan feels loved. I love Ronan. I also love all my gay narrators. I feel less vulnerable writing as a man, less screwed even when they are screwed. I don't always love my female narrators. I judge them harshly.

My friend Milcah says I'm a misogynist. I am a person who hates women. Deep down, I, as a woman, hate women. Is this possible? Why, yes. I would need more than two hands to count all the women I know who hate women. I would need an infinite number of hands.

I used to enjoy telling my own stories, you know sharing autobiographical bits online, probably because I wrote to a tiny and supportive audience. I felt safe. I felt accepted. When my audience increased threefold, I was flapping naked in the wind. The most painful thing a reader said to me was, and I paraphrase because I can't bare to go back and look at the comment and quote it verbatim, Your son is going to kill himself because you're such a stupid slut.

That shut me down. Sure it did.

I realize I gave that reader exactly what he wanted. Fear. Shame. Radio silence.

I'm a pussy.


XO. 





Saturday, July 18, 2015

In Which I Attempt to Sign a Copy of My Book for Sam Trammell

Cover of my book, DOG MEN.

Today, if I manage to sign it, I'll mail a copy of my book, DOG MEN, to Sam Trammell.

So far, I wrote an address Sam Trammell provided to me on an envelope. I also put a return address on it. It's standard practice for a writer to sign his or her book when gifting it to a person. I want to know what Kerry Cohen would write inside a book she was gifting to Norman Reedus. She'd come up with something witty and inappropriate because she rolls like that and is fearless.

Here are my ideas so far.

  • Dear Sam, you look good in Wranglers. XO. 
  • Dear Sam, since there's no chance I'l replace John Irving as your favorite writer how about second? Third? Okay, tenth. XO.
  • Dear Sam, you should videotape yourself playing Jim Croce's "Operator" on guitar then post it to YouTube so my vagina can explode daily. XO. 
  • Dear Sam, I remember when Dexter Morgan bound your character, Matt Chambers, naked to a table with plastic wrap but then rewrite the next part so it has nothing to do with murder. XO. 
  • Dear Sam, OH MY GOD, DID YOU GET MY BOOK? OH MY GOD, ARE YOU READING MY BOOK? OH MY GOD, DO YOU LIKE MY BOOK? XO.

Sam Trammell thinking, "If only Alana had signed and mailed my copy of Dog Men to me already so I could read it while I drink this coffee." 

P.S. You can read reviews of Dog Men HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.

P.S.S. If so tempted, you can purchase Dog Men from Tiny Hardcore Press. Thank you!

XO. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Christopher Santantasio Reviews My Book, Dog Men

"Possibly the most appealing feature of this collection is Voth’s measured use of the elements of horror, erotica, and fantasy. A note to readers who may be deterred by these sometimes subtle, occasionally blatant, touches of genre: Dog Men has so much more to offer. “My Name is Brighton” may be a violent zombie tale, but unlike the story’s antagonists, the piece itself has heart, and a definite pulse." Christopher Santantasio

Read the rest of Christopher Santantasio's review of Dog Men at Word Riot

If tempted, purchase Dog Men from Tiny Hardcore Press

XO. 





Thursday, July 16, 2015

Meet Your Maker


                                                                "Meet Your Maker"
                                                                  ©Alana Noël Voth

Tabitha Wright lived in a trailer park. The trailer beside hers was vacant. The previous owner’s son had led her down the driveway with a cajoling smile. “You’ll like the nursing home, mom.”
Lying.
One morning, Tabitha peered through her kitchen window and noted a truck in the driveway next door. That night, she caught glimpse of a man seated in a lawn chair beneath a corona of porch light. When the man looked up and saw her in the window, Tabitha ducked away. Moments later, someone knuckled her front door.
Tabitha stared through the peep hole at him.  
“Ya there?” he called.
Tabitha opened the door a few inches.
“Hey there, I’m Kenny Lane Shepard.” He stood six-feet tall in cowboy boots.
Tabitha let her eyes dart to the lock on the screen door.
“Sylvie Shepard is my grandmother,” he said.
“Oh, Sylvie. How is she? I haven’t seen her in a while, not since . . .”  
“Pissed as hell,” Kenny said. “She doesn’t like the nursing home mom and dad stuck her in, but it’s for her own safety. Dad says she was wandering the streets at night not wearing much of anything and calling for my grandfather. He’s been dead six years. Did ya ever see her?”
“Yeah, I saw her,” Tabitha said. “I walked her home a few times.”
“Well, thank you,” Kenny said as he dipped his head. “We appreciate your kindness.”
Those nights walking Sylvie Shepard home Tabitha thought, this will be me. A woman ravaged by age and dementia wandering a trailer park at night wearing nothing but a bra and underwear, shoulder blades protruding from her back, foal-thin calves roped by veins, her knobby white feet bruised by each wobbling step across the pavement. She’d call for a husband who wasn’t there anymore. No neighbor to walk her home. No son to show up and lie.
Where did women like this end up?   
“I’ll be next door a few weeks doing repairs before we can sell the trailer,” Kenny said. “Not to mention, the lot needs work. Ya need any odd jobs done, ya just let me know, alright?”
“Alright,” Tabitha said then felt a flush spread beneath her tank top.
Kenny smiled. “Hey, I didn’t catch yer name.”
“Tabitha Wright.”
“Nice to meet ya, Tabitha Wright.” His green eyes burned bright as virgin grass.
“Same,” she said. “Goodnight.” Tabitha shut the door. The flush remained. In the bedroom on her bed, Tabitha tossed aside her panties then rubbed her clit and imagined Kenny Lane Shepard making certain comments about her freckled thighs and meaty labia. About the time he gave a low whistle then said, “Now that’s what I call a cunt,” Tabitha came with a yell.
Later, heart palpitations yanked her from sleep then flipped her onto her stomach. Gasping, she clutched a pillow. The palpitations scared her. Tabitha padded barefoot to the kitchen where she held her mouth to a faucet then drank. Through her kitchen window, she saw Kenny Lane Shepard yanking weeds then tossing them aside in a glow from his grandmother’s porch light. A pile mounted behind him. Tabitha pushed the window open. Brisk air pushed through the screen. Kenny was ten feet away.
“Well, hey there, Tabitha Wright.”
“What are you doing out there so late?” she asked. “It’s almost midnight.”
Kenny moved closer to a four-foot chain-linked fence that separated their lots. He was eight feet away. “I’ll have these weeds on my side pulled in an hour. I could start on yours if you want.” His smile revealed white teeth. Behind him, moths spun around the porch light.  
“How much do you want?” she asked. 
“I don’t want money,” he said.
“What do you want then?”
Kenny turned his face skyward then returned to his work. Moonlight turned his hair platinum. He lifted his T-shirt over his head then left it hanging on the chain-link fence. His arms were muscled. His broad chest glowed. She could gawk at him through the window all night or she could offer to bring him a beer.
“No thanks, Mary,” Kenny said. “Alcohol does nothing for me. What about you?”
 “You mean alcohol?”
“Uh-huh. Do anything for you?”
Alcohol helped her forget she was lonely. When she felt lonely, she called her husband. “No,” she said, which was true. Nothing that wasn’t permanent got rid of lonely.
“Can I ask a question?” Kenny paused in his work to regard her in the window.
“What is it?”
“Well I noticed your ring. Where’s your husband?”
“Not here,” she said then felt uncomfortable. Maybe “undesirable” was the word.
Kenny waited, a handful of weeds in each hand.  
“It’s a boring story,” she said and felt a flush creep under her tank top. “He left me. I . . . I’ve got to go. Goodnight.” She stepped back. A moment later, she peeked through the window. Kenny had resumed yanking weeds then tossing them over his shoulder. She returned to her bedroom then opened a window. Again, brisk air pushed through the screen and filled the room yet she still felt overheated. From bed, Tabitha focused on a patch of yard illuminated by porch light. She stared at the patch of yard until her eyelids slid shut. When someone woke her whistling, Tabitha sat upright. 


“Who’s there?” 
Her heart pounded. Everything about her heart scared her lately. She heard a male voice.
“Hey, there, Tabitha Wright, it’s me.” 
“Kenny? What are you doing out there? It’s . . .” She looked at a clock. “Three a.m.”
He was at the window now, back lit by porch light, visible from the thighs up, still shirtless. “Yeah, is it? I was just helping ya out with these weeds like I said.”  He held his face closer to the screen. “I can hardly see ya in there. Ya alright? Come closer to the window.”
Tabitha hesitated. She wore only a tank top and panties. Finally, she moved to the window.
“Well, there you are.” Kenny took her in then added, “You don’t look a day over . . .”
“Fifty-one,” she said then sank to the floor and sat cross-legged. She stared into his chest.
Kenny pressed one hand to the screen. The hand was stained by weed's blood. Tabitha lifted her hand then fit it against his. Kenny leaned his forehead against the screen. His eyes blazed. Porch light illuminated his blond head and bare chest.
“I’m comin in there,” he said.
Tabitha lowered her hand then shook her head.
Kenny produced a switchblade from his back pocket then hit the button on the side of the handle. A shining blade sprang upright. “Don’t go anywhere,” he said.
Tabitha scooted backward. 
He worked the blade between the window frame and screen then popped the screen out. Without meeting her eyes, he closed the switchblade then returned it to his pocket before he removed the screen then set it on the ground against the trailer. He began to hoist himself up. 
            Tabitha shook her head again. Her heart was in her throat. 
             He pulled himself through the window with snakelike grace. The muscles in his bare arms promised insurmountable strength. She was sure the weed’s blood on his hands stained the carpet, would stain her skin. He stood then filled the room. Tabitha gazed up at him.  


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Breeze (Or What I've Been Doing This Summer)

1. Not blogging. Obviously, But since I have an audience of three on a good day and zero on a bad one, that's probably okay. When it comes to self promotion, I stink.

2. Writing. Total word count since March 2015, and I'm counting back to March because I began the current WIP in March, is 76,000 words. 29,000 of those words have ended up in an "Extras File," which is what I do when I find myself with characters, story lines, etc. that I'm saving for another project.  That leaves me with 47,000 words and counting. Working title, Angel Face Janx is Dead.

I write like Kurt Vonnegut. I go back to previous scenes over and over and over until I think they are perfect. Then go back again. :-) Then create a new scene. Repeat.

I believe this makes me anal retentive. Slow. But I've been writing this way since . . . 2001?

My first book, Dog Men, is available if you're interested. Thanks!

My second book, No Sugar Tonight, is sitting on my hard-drive and will remain there indefinitely. I spent three years writing that book. It tested poorly with beta readers. It is cliche. But writing that book taught me how to write a book and thus, enabled me to write my third book, the current WIP.

Hey, have you ever written stuff you can't stomach? Stuff that makes you uncomfortable? Queasy? Nervous? Scared? I've done a lot of this since March. I think I'm on the right track.

How my dog, Gunther Goo, gazes up at me patiently while I write.

3. Reading. I took the Goodreads challenge at the beginning of the year and set a goal to read fifty books by year's end. So far, I've read thirty-seven. So I'm ahead of schedule. The more I read, the better I write.

4. Exercising! Yes, I still do a workout with Shaun T (Hip Hop Abs, Rockin Body, sometimes both) three-to-four times a week. I also walk everyday, at least two miles.

5. Watching my son grow up.  My son turned eighteen in June. He finished his junior year of high school with a 4.2 GPA. He applied for four jobs but wasn't hired by anyone. I told him not to sweat it. He has his entire life to work. Also, school starts August 3. Also, he needs to maintain that GPA
since his current goal it to attend CU in Boulder, and that is going to mean scholarships. Or student loans. Or both. He might qualify for Pell Grants. Not sure. All I know is I can barely pay our monthly bills and while I'm not proud of the fact I can't contribute financially to my son's college education, I can tell you that I'm proud as shit of my son and support whatever choices he makes for his future. CU. CMU. Art school. No college. A job. Whatever he decides.

As a college instructor, I have too many students in my office sobbing because they're unhappy in college but feel this enormous pressure from their parents to be there. These students fail my course, could care less about their education, at least for the time being, and are miserable. They don't appreciate the experience. They feel trapped. They feel resentful and angry. A few take their anger and resentment out on me. Some end up in my office sobbing. Mostly dudes. A lot of dudes cry in my office. So I say, if you aren't ready for college yet, or ever, if you're unhappy, do something else.

Guess what they say?

I CAN'T.

This saddens me.

So my son is eighteen now. He has a car loaned to us by a kind and generous friend. He ventures out at night to spend time with his buddies. Not every night. Some nights. Here and there. They drive. Hang out at one of the parks. Do game nights. They spend A LOT of time at Gold's Gym. My son has become serious about "gains," about lifting, and I support his dedication to doing so because I can see that the results, which show, make him happy. Give him a sense of accomplishment. He has a goal.

When my son takes off at night to spend time with buddies, I never think, Oh, God, he's drinking. Oh, God. he's doing drugs. Oh, God, he's fucking. (And I do wish him a safe and joyful sex life, whenever that begins for him.) Mainly, I worry he will end up in a car accident. I will get that call. Which is why I sleep in ten minute intervals, jar awake, check the time, see if I have any text messages, then look for a light from his room coming down the hall. Actually, I'm doing better. I now sleep in thirty-minute intervals until he is home. It's a mom thing. A nest thing. I can't help it.

Where is he? 

Is he safe? 

Actually, I think I slept a whole hour the other night before I woke, checked the time, etc. I'm sure by this time next year, I will sleep two whole hours before I wake and check the time, look for a light coming from his room, etc. Maybe even three! By the time my son is a sophomore in college or has been away from home a year, I'm sure I will sleep the whole night through.

Maybe?

XO.  

Friday, May 1, 2015

What It's Like to Be a Daryl Dixonite (For My Liberal, Feminist Sisters)

First of all,
it’s falling head over heels into a zombie apocalypse—
Georgia heat, walking corpses, Atlanta burning, bombs.
It’s imagining you’ll die with the other academics, metrosexuals, and mama’s boys
When he arrives on a Triumph motorcycle
then says, “You comin' or what?” 
It's Prince Charming as a sweaty, backwoods survivalist, 
He's a redneck
who didn't finish high school and hasn't bathed in a month.   
It’s a subliminal message
The jacket he wears with the angel wings on back


His bow and arrow
The size of his arms. 
It's mining human survivors all night from the woods
Killing any animal you can find for dinner
It’s pro-life and pro-guns.
It’s what my mentors declared
In Women’s Studies
Happily Ever After is a Disaster.
I stay behind a man
Do what he says
Thank God. 

©Alana Noël Voth

XO.