Sunday, September 7, 2014

novel excerpt

A few years ago I wrote a novel which I started during a Nanowrimo (Nat'l Novel Writing Month) contest.  I am starting it's revision.  Here is chapter one, in case you feel like reading it.  If you do, I'd appreciate any feedback you want to give.

October, a novel.

Octavia poured a second cup of coffee as she sat waiting for morning.
The pinkish light started in the sky.  She felt calm, despite the excitement of the day.  She opened the AAA atlas, and looked again at the route she was going to take for a trip out to Colorado to visit her old friend, Jeanne.  They had not seen each other since 1975, and here it was five years later already.  It was time.  She closed the atlas and put it aside.  They’d known each other since their early teens, and Jeanne was always like a big sister to Octavia.  She missed being with her.

The Chevy Nova Coupe sat in the driveway, all buffed up for its first big adventure.  The ashtrays were cleaned out, and more maps were in the glove compartment.

Octavia drank her coffee; just slightly sweet with a touch of light cream.

She was quiet, not wanting to wake Michael, knowing he must’ve worked hard through the night.  Her brother was a sculptor, and he’d been drawing up plans for a new installation.

The trees were growing light in her vision.  She felt the breeze coming in the kitchen window, and saw it sway through the trees.  It was mid September, and Fall was clearly in the air.  Octavia imagined there would be an Indian Summer somewhere along her drive out West.

She was hungry, and wanted a big breakfast.  She wished Michael would wake up even if he was tired, so she could start making something.  Taking some dishes from the cabinet, she placed them quietly on the table.  She needed food, and definitely more coffee.
She took the eggs out of the refrigerator, and the bacon too; put on pot of new potatoes so she could make home fries.  It was going to be a real diner breakfast.  Orange or grapefruit juice available.

Octavia poured the remainder of the coffee into a thermal carafe, and put on a new pot.  Just as the coffee began to perk, she could hear Michael stirring in his room upstairs.  The smell of coffee woke him from his slumber.

Her brother could be a bear in the morning until he'd had his first cup of black coffee.  She could hear him washing up in the bathroom.

Walking into the kitchen, his hair stood in a shock upon his head, slightly wet from the water he'd thrown on his face.

"Mornin' Michael." she smiled, and kissed him on the cheek.  He looked forlorn, and Octavia could see him eyeing the atlas at one end of the table.

"I'm making us a big breakfast, I hope you're hungry."

"I'm starved."


"Tav, are you sure you don't want to fly out there?  You could leave today since you're so set on it ... but it would be so much easier."
This was the hundredth time he'd asked about the plane versus the car.

"Michael, I'm all set to drive there....... it's going to be okay, really.  I really want to see the country, you know?"

She may as well open the atlas, she thought, and spread it out in the middle of the table.  Triple AAA had mapped out her route from here to Tempest, CO.  She didn't want too many stops along the way, figuring she could drive long distances, but as the morning wore on, she imagined she'd be staying overnight a lot sooner than Cleveland, which seemed quite far away.  Nevertheless, it was her first designated stop for an overnighter.

"You know I'm hating this, right?" Michael said.

"I'm going to be careful, Michael.  I'll call you whenever I stop.  You'll get sick of hearing from me!"  Octavia wanted this morning to be light, and didn't want to talk about the benefits of a plane ride.  She wanted to see the country.  She wanted to go beyond her little world.

"The bacon smells good, Tav... when do we eat?"
He smiled the smile that made his face break into a whole new man.

"Coming up soon, Mr. Lindauer, who should have been making breakfast for me this morning!" she joked.

"You know I can't cook... Another reason you shouldn't be going.  Sorry, I have lots of reasons."

"Well, you know how to make coffee, at least.  And you're so lying that you don't know how to cook!"

They were light over breakfast, basking in the goodness of food as a common ground.

Michael began to clear the table of the morning dishes.  His movements were slow, and Octavia could tell that this one not one of his favorite days by a long shot.

“I made a list of all your contacts and posted it on the corkboard in the office”, she told Michael,  ‘There’s not much I do around here to begin with so you should be able to handle that stuff’.   ‘Grant said he’d hire you an assistant, remember.”

Michael just looked at her, barely hearing a word she said.  Already he was worried about her, the car, the places she’d be going.

“I’m going to get myself together, I want to be on the road by 9.” Octavia told him.

Michael stood at the sink washing the dishes.  Octavia knew he’d heard what she said, but still he was silent.

She went to the bedroom and dressed in the clothes that she had laid out.  Her favorite pair of jeans, a carpenter shirt, and her trusty Keds® sneakers.
She gathered up the candies and goodies she’d munch on during her drive.  Chips and chocolate bars.  Coffee would be gotten at rest stops along the way.

“Tav! Come down here.” Michael called.

“In a minute, Michael”  She wondered what he wanted.

When Octavia went back downstairs, she saw him standing in the light of the window.  He was no less beautiful than the night he came to her, as if out of a dream, sixteen years ago. Octavia remembered those first days in her fathers’ house.  He always smelled like a mix of body odor and beer, and she cried at night, wanting her mama back, and the soft fragrance of baby powder and vanilla that wrapped around her.
In her twelve years she did not remember him visiting her mother.  She had seen pictures of him, but was sure it was a different man, because that one was handsome, and had kind eyes.
Octavia looked at him through swollen eyes, searching for the kindness, but too young to see that it was really there, in his face that seemed so ancient to her.  Maybe he’s really my grandpa, she thought. Then she remembered her other grandpa, in heaven with mommy, and she cried harder, sure that this man wasn’t anything like that.
“Your brother’s coming home today, Tavy.” he said, putting down the newspaper he’d glanced at briefly.
“Octavia.” she corrected.  “I don’t have any brothers.”  She hated him, and knew she would hate him forever, because he was stupid and crazy and didn’t even know her name.
“Not your full brother, Tavy... this boy’s my son.. borne of a different mama than yours... but still half your blood.”

The day passed, and Octavia added Liar to the list of her father’s faults, when her “brother” did not return home.

Then one night Octavia dreamt that tigers were chasing her.  She woke screaming. “Mommyyyy!”
His figure came rushing into the room, silhouetted against the dim hallway light.  In her fright, she allowed him to wrap his arms around her,
“It’s all right, little one,’ he said in a gentle voice, ‘it’s all right.”
He stroked her hair, and rocked her in his arms until she was fast asleep once more.

Octavia lay in bed with her eyes open that morning, thinking about her night dreams of flashing red tigers, and the man who saved her in the dream.
Suddenly there was a  stranger peeking through the doorway, his brown hair shimmering like a wave against his eyes.  Octavia pulled her legs up against her chest, grabbing the blanket to her neck.  She wanted to scream, but her throat wouldn’t let out the sound.
“Hey, little one!  No more bad dreams, I hope.”
Octavia could not close her eyes in this dream.

He was beautiful.  A guardian angel! Octavia thought... Her mother must have sent him, because he looked just like the father in the pictures.

“You have your mother’s beautiful hair, little one, I’ve seen pictures... brown as an oak in autumn.  May I call you October?” he smiled.
Octavia didn’t look at him directly, but a smile blushed her face as she twirled her hair between her fingers, and looked at it.  She pinched herself under the covers, but still she didn’t wake up.
“O.K.” she said.
“OK!’ he said in a morning voice, “Now, what do you say we have some breakfast?  I want to hear all about my beautiful sister...”
He held out his hand.  She was not afraid to take it.
Slipping out of the bed, she stepped into her slippers, still holding his hand.
“He wasn’t lying,” she said softly.
“What’s that, October?”
She looked into his eyes.  They were kind, and as blue as the robin’s egg she’d found in a field one summer day.
“Oh….  nothing,” she said, and they headed towards the kitchen for breakfast.

Today his crystal blue eyes showed age around the edges, but this made him only more appealing, Octavia thought.  His face was still strong, with classic lines.  She envied his fine straight nose, self-consciously touching the bump on her own.  His lips were narrow, and when he wasn’t speaking, it looked as though there was a scar drawn across his face.  They did not look alike. Octavia’s features nearly mirroring her mothers, and Michael resembling their father.  Their natures were not un-alike. Although Michael’s temper had a shorter fuse, Octavia’s slow erupting way was no less passionate.
His eyes looked sad, eyeing the open atlas.  Octavia wished she had not put it on the table.

“You’ve got an extra set of keys, right?  And that safety kit I bought you?  I still don’t see why you can’t just take a plane, Octavia… say the word right now, and I’ll make the arrangements for you.”

“Michael.’ She said quietly, ‘we’ve done this already.  I want to drive; I want to see some of the country.  I’m a big girl, I’ll be all right.”  She tried sounding light, hoping he would smile.

“I can’t help it, Octavia. You’re my little one.  You know that.”

Octavia felt a lump in her throat when he said it.  She didn’t want this to be a sad morning, and she didn’t want Michael to sense her apprehension to leave.  Living under his roof was always a safe haven for her.  She didn’t want for anything he could not provide, as he provided much, even in the leaner years when few knew the name Lindauer.  Leaving him for even a few weeks was not something she had ever done before.

“I can’t wait to see Jeanne.” She said.

Michael’s face went suddenly light, his eyes looking far away, and he smiled.  “My God, you two loved driving me crazy!”

Octavia and Jeanne had met soon after Octavia arrived in Hopewell, at the ages of twelve and fourteen, respectively.  They often took particular delight in taunting Michael as he worked.  They would run through his studio without regard for his concentration, squealing and laughing, until he arose from his stool threatening to cook them in the kiln, or some equally horrific fate.  His mouth would curl, and he would bare his teeth.  Sometimes he would just flick a brush full of oil paint in their direction, but careful its spray was just short of reaching them; his eyes twinkling and his smile evident despite trying his best to appear the ogre.

Octavia poured more coffee, and they studied the map together, after Michael opened it again.  She ran her finger across the Highway 90 to a stop in Ohio, where she would stay overnight.   Michael complained, saying she should stop much sooner than that.  She appeased him by saying she would stop if the driving was too much.

Octavia closed the atlas, and shoved it into an overstuffed leather satchel.
“You’d better take good care of yourself, Michael.’ She said, smoothing his hair a bit. ‘Don’t work for days without sleeping, I know how you get… and you won’t forget to eat, will you?”  She felt the words choking in her throat.

“Now who’s being the worry wart?” he smiled.  “Wait, I have something for you.”
Michael went to the living room and returned with a pastel drawing, which he placed on the table where the atlas had been.

“Oh, Michael!  It’s so beautiful.” She said, blushing, because it was a portrait of her.  She looked at it for a long while, feeling a chill run up her back when she met her own eyes in the drawing. She saw that Michael had signed his name on a wisp of her hair, which was wild, and dramatically red, waving out past the corners of the paper.

She could no longer hold back her tears, and she hugged Michael close to her.
“I’m going to miss you so much!”

“So don’t go.” There was a crack in his voice, and a resigned sigh…  “I’ll have this mounted and framed for you before you return.”

Octavia smiled and thanked him.  She wondered how long he had the piece, or if it was a creation from the night before.  He had never before depicted her with such fire.

She felt a whole new sensation come over her… like she was really free, and ready to soar.

Everything was set.  Now only ‘farewell’s’ were in order.

She hugged Michael as he sat on the kitchen chair.  He stood up and hugged her back; one of his best bear hugs that made her feel so safe since she was a child.

“I don’t know how I’ll fare without you, Octavia…  you’re my right arm, you know.”

Octavia put her satchel in the passenger seat.

“I’ll stop before I reach route 90, and call you… that’s not too far ahead.”

She got in the car and turned the engine.  Michael stood on the porch of the old house, waving at her.  It was hard pulling away.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Crystal give-away

Some 30-35 years ago, I used to teach Crystal Healing Workshops.  I studied under the auspices of Oh Shinnah Fast Wolf for many years, and learned many wonderful and magical things.  I have used crystals alone for healing, and have used them in conjunction with acupuncture, as well.  Crystals have always been a part of my life, and have added to it in untold ways.
The other day I decided to give away one of my precious crystals that has been with me for decades.  It is always exciting to impart a crystal on another person, knowing their life will be enriched by it.  On this occasion I decided to give a crystal to my great-nephew, Logan.  When he gets older I will impart more information about the crystal.  For now I told him it was like the crystals where Superman lives, and he can surely relate to that.  The crystal I gave him is double.. one large one, and a smaller one growing next to it.  I'd like to think of that as representing me and Logan.

Friday, August 29, 2014

a little holiday away with loved ones

Today I returned from a three day stay in Harrisburg, PA.  Went with my sister, Tree, my niece, Melissa, and her son, Logan.  The sun was strong, and the hotel, although out-dated, was wonderful to stay at.  Being with Tree and Melis was extra special... we hadn't gone away together like that since Melissa was little.  The added bonus was Logan, who is so  special and loving, and absolutely funny, and smart.  He is nearly five now, and his personality is really coming to the fore.  He was thrilled with the room (two rooms, actually, a King Suite), and loved using the key-card slot in lieu of keys. He entertained us by dancing "gangham" style.  Time at the pool was extra special, with him attempting valiantly  to swim.  I haven't been in the water like that in over twently years, and it felt glorious.  Logan gave me and my sister white stones which he picked up from outside the hotel.  I will always treasure it, and found a spot for it in my memory box.
One night, around 2:30 am, I was sitting outside having a smoke, and I saw a strange blinking light far up in the sky, traveling fast.  The next morning on the news, someone had taken a video of strange lights seen in the sky... they saw numerous ones.  No one has yet identified what they were.  Unfortunatly, I didn't have my camera with me.
Here of some snapshots of our time together., taken by both me and Melissa.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Logan graduates

Today was a milestone day for my great nephew, Logan James.  He graduated pre-school.  It was in the school yard of his Tiny Tots school.  When the kids came out (wearing construction paper graduation caps) they played an Andreas Bocelli song, "Time to Say Goodbye",  that made all of us cry (well at least me, my sister, and Melissa).  The kids sang a bunch of songs, and were just so cute.  Congratulations, Logan, you are so smart.  Good luck in Kindergarten!

with mommy and daddy

Sunday, June 8, 2014

breast cancer

Wanna know about cancer?  Mine, at least?  It didn't phase me.  I was diagnosed with it, and didn't really feel any sense of shock.  Thought I was in denial for a while, but I wasn't.  It was just another passage in my life, albeit a tough one.
After my double mastectomy, I looked down at where my breasts used to be, and saw the scars, and thought, okay, there are scars... just like my mother had lots of scars.  I wasn't afraid of scars.  The plastic surgeons nurse had told me not to look in the mirror for four days.  Did she think I would pass out or something?  It was no big shock.  I knew what I was facing, and I looked it straight in the eye without flinching.
The chemotherapy was a tough time.  Wanting to sleep twenty hours a day, and popping percocets the rest of the time to ward off the bodily aches and pains.  By the time you felt well, it was time for the next chemo treatment.  Losing my hair wasn't fun, but that too was an experience.  I got a new wig and felt like a new person in it, to tell you the truth.  It was fun to play around with it.  By the time I was getting sick of it, my hair had grown in an inch or so, so that's how I go around now... with a virtual buzz cut.  I'm loving it, it's very liberating.      And then there was Radiation.  A hassle because I had to be there five days a week for seven weeks.  But the treatments were easy and fast, with the most competent team of professionals, and it wasn't until my last week that I experienced the radiation burns, which really didn't hurt, and were healed quickly with Silverdine ointment.
Now it's almost time for my reconstruction surgery.  I haven't called my plastic surgeon to set anything up, because I just need some time to decompress after the last eight months of being "a cancer patient".

I am happy to say I'm a survivor.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

the quiet time

It is 3am, and I'm wide awake. A side effect of having more than my normal amount of coffee today.  I used to be fairly addicted to coffee, drinking a pot (10 cups) a day, but now I drink maybe 2 cups.  Today I drank about four.

The air is cool and fresh tonight.  So thankful for that.

I have a new camera... a Nikon D800.  It's a top of the line model, and a full frame camera, with a huge 36.something mega pixels.  You can take photos in a FX format or a DX format.  I got it with a prime 50mm lens, 1.4, which I'm happy to have... haven't had a prime lens since my old film days.
The thing is, though, that I haven't been out with the camera yet.  I'm kind of intimidated by it.  Have got to get my feet wet with it, though, and I hope soon.

I've stopped wearing my wig (as you can see in a pic of me in the last post).  Got so tired of it, and  now that it's getting warmer, I certainly don't want anything covering my head.  I am even liking my Annie Lennox look... something very liberating about it.

 Hard to believe that nine months have gone by since I was first diagnosed with cancer.  The days seemed to disappear, really.  But I remember being sooo tired most of the time during those chemo days.  Geez.

Now I just have to find out when my "exchange" surgery is... when they exchange the expanders for the breast implants, and you get  your foobs (fake boobs). That's major surgery again, and will be glad to get past that, because it will the the sort of end of a long hard road.  I got through it okay with a little help from my family and friends.

Sometimes I feel guilty staying up so late.  I don't know why.  I can almost hear my mother calling "I hope you shut that light soon", as I stay up late in my room, the light peeking out from  under the door... enough to assault her senses at such hours.

Today I should not feel guilty at all.  I kicked cancer's butt, and I deserve to do whatever I like for a while.  If I want to sleep into the afternoon tomorrow, so be it.

Oh wow, I started reading over my novel tonight, with a critical eye!  Yikes, am I ever going to have to do some serious rewriting.  There is quite a bit of "telling" in the book, when I should be showing.  That alone will be a tremendous task.  If I do that, it may even be a good novel. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

radiation days

I put my palm in the reader (something new in people), give my birthdate, and my picture comes up on a screen.  Right  patient.  They realize it's my birthday, and wishes are made, and asking if I have any big plans.  I explain that the big plans will go down after treatments have ended.   I climb on the table.
My butt scrunched up against the plastic pillar, covered with a sheet, a bolster under my knees,
my right arm extended overhead, holding onto a post behind my head, and my left hand at my side, tied in with a sheet to cover some support, but not enough, and sometimes my arms trembles, trying to stay in that very same position, which is what is necessary for the radiation to work correctly.
The big round saucer comes down above me, my head tilted away from my right side, which is the affected side.  It whirrs, and from the corner of my eye I can see things lining up inside, making decisions and designs.  Never sure when I am getting zapped.  Many moving parts.  Some things look down at you, some close up at your side, like  a table closing in.  Zapping now?   You never really know.  Sometimes the thing I'm laying on starts to jerk, a little, and a little more.  I always feel for sure the zappings happening then.
I watch each shift of machinery, anticipating correctly what is coming next.  Then every other day they come in mid-way, with a yellow gel-pack that they strongly secure to my radiated parts.  It's supposed to pull the radiation closer to the skin.  It extends the treatment for another two minutes, but then the tech's come in, and untie my hand, and I can let go of that rod that has my arm frozen in position, and takes a while to thaw. The tape securing the gel pack are torn off quickly, and I am free. The techs.. nice men and women whose names elude me, as I'm bad at that, but I sure do like them.  "Another day down" the one of them always says.  Yup, another day down.
Afterwards, in the changing room, I compare the both sides of my chest, and see how dark and red it's becoming on the right side... skin just breaking under the arm, too.  So close to the end of treatments, but this is the skin at it's most sensitive.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tibetan Museum of Art

Me and Evie visited the Tibetan Museum of Art today, in Staten Island.  It was just the tiniest of  places, with two rooms of Tibetan artifacts, including a beautiful sand painting under glass.  It was a little disappointing... not too sure what we were expecting.   Many years ago I had a dream that I was in some type of Tibetan monastery, and there were artifacts on 3 levels of display, and that's exactly what was there today.  Got a little bit of the chills when I saw it.