Monday, February 24, 2014

Love's Loss

The Amores # 2                                                   
The myth: Cupid and Psyche (substituted with Greek names)--In a nutshell, Eros falls in love with Psyche much to his mother Aphrodite's dismay. He takes her on as a secret lover in the dark (after some unfair persuasion), the only stipulation being that she never see his face. Curiosity gets the better of her and she sneaks a peek, accidentally wakes him, and he abandons her. She performs a bunch of trials to prove her worth, but Aphrodite tricks her and she falls into a sort of coma. Eros returns and wakes her. Zeus makes Psyche immortal, and they have a baby, Hedone. They live happily ever after. Or do they?more on Cupid and Psyche

       I kissed her fair strawberry-blond hair as it shined in the early dawn’s light like embers in a cooling fire. She brushed the kiss off embarrassed, making the curls framing her face bounce ever so slightly. She was so beautiful, her skin pale like her mother’s, her eyes alive and shining with an unearthly light. It was the same ephemeral burst of light that emanated from my eyes when feeling an intense emotion. The luminescent eyes were an inherited trait; I as her father passed down to her, as my father had passed to me. Her cheeks were round and pink, blushing with innocence, as her cherub lips planted a kiss on my cheek. She was everything to me, my pride, my joy, my only reason for existence since I no longer had her mother’s love. Looking upon Hedone, my only child, was like staring into a slice of Elysium, heavenly. She wrapped her mantle around herself tighter as if she felt the cool breeze, but we gods didn’t feel such things. The ichor in our blood regulated our temperatures, never feeling cold nor hot, merely comfortable.
       “I won’t see you until after your big birthday, so here’s you’re present a few decades early,” I handed her the smooth velvet case from the jeweler’s
       “Oh pappas,” she squealed calling me what she had as a small child. She opened it and her eyes lit up. She pulled the locket out and opened it admiring the miniatures painted inside.
       “I shall be with you always, even when I am far away,” I told her.
        An impatient and censorious snort interrupted us. I turned to see HER, my ex-wife, Psyche. Our matrimonial bliss ended not long after the birth of our daughter almost a thousand years prior, but the “divorce” was not finalized until the 1050’s, a little more than 500 years ago. Time to us flew by; we hardly measured it during the Hellenistic age, but the mortals were obsessed with keeping track of it now with their off-balanced calendars.
       “Psyche,” I greeted, her name still coming out of my mouth like paste. I didn’t agree with her lifestyle now, or her influence over our only child who was heading off the France to live with her mother and in a few years celebrate her first millennium. Hindsight was a tedious facet of life when you lived forever. Every day I contemplated the mistake I made by making Psyche immortal; however, I wouldn’t have my daughter if the Fates hadn’t tempted me with Psyche’s beauty.
       “Oh father, I love it,” Hedone said breathlessly, her mouth upturned in a large grin, the kind that lit up her face and made even mortals realize that she was too beautiful to be human.
       “I have Hephaestus working on a lovely ring to match. When you return to me, it should be completed,” I added.
       “You spoil her,” Psyche scoffed hardly hiding her jealousy. Jealous of not receiving a gift herself or jealous my present might outdo hers, I wasn’t sure; it was always hard to tell with Psyche.
       “Enough mother,” Hedone sighed looking at me apologetically with her soft azure eyes. “Be nice,” she shot her mother a reprimanding look. I did not feel good about this separation; the child was more mature than the mother. It was a recipe for trouble.
       “I will miss you father,” she squeezed me again.
       “Why does this feel like it is goodbye?” I asked her trying not to betray emotion. We gods never said goodbye; when you live forever, there is no reason to ever utter the words. But here I was having some separation anxiety, not wanting to let my daughter go when she had been away from me for spells of time before. It felt different this time, and a nagging feeling of ardor crept up my spine, as if an innate paternal instinct to protect my family from enemies was rising to the surface. I shook the feeling off; after all, they were immortal. What could possibly happen to them?
        "Oh don’t be so melodramatic Eros. Do you ever relax these days?” Psyche sneered at me, raising one sculpted red brow. As a teen, the act electrified me, awakened me to all the beauty and passion in the world, but now it did nothing but make me realize my love had died and I may never find it again. As the Greek god of love, I did not fall victim to my arrows often, but lived vicariously through the mortals that I made fall in love with each other.
        “By the beard of Zeus, I have the extraordinary feeling that something huge is about to happen,” I sighed.
        “Good or bad?” Hedone took me seriously as Psyche shifted in annoyance tossing her fiery red hair. My Ex was eager to leave, most likely to be off to find yet another mortal to toy with. Making mortals fall in love with her, then forsaking them, and leaving me to clean up the pieces simultaneously allowed her to fluff her ego and to irritate me.
        “I do not know.”
        “Ah, where is your friend Apollo to prophesize my next folly?” Psyche mocked. “Come child, we must be off to arrive by sunset.” The comment was intended to wound me but it merely distracted me momentarily. Wouldn’t my uncle, and one of my best friends, warn me if anything terrible would occur in the near future?
        I watched helplessly, unable to make any valid protests to keep her with me, as my wife urged my daughter into the coach. I waved with an uneasy feeling as the horses were whipped and the coach lurched forward. Then to my satisfaction, Hedone turned around to look at me as she blew me a kiss and waved out the back window. I waved back until they rounded the corner and were out of sight. Then I stood there with a gut wrenching feeling that nothing would ever be the same again.
       Wanting to be alone, I decided to head to the Americas to get some freedom and to collect my thoughts. I was tired of dealing with mortals and immortals alike. I wanted to be alone, and it was one of the last places on the earth that the mortals hadn’t yet exploited or explored fully. I called my friend Zephyrus, god of the west wind, and he appeared in a swirling cloud of cyclone dust in front of me. Without a word, and anticipating from my mood where I wanted to go, he swirled around me. I closed my eyes, allowing the breeze he was creating to envelope me, and when I opened them I was in a lush forest of redwood trees.
       “Busy right now so I cannot stay,” Zephyrus apologized. “You are better off here. Danger is brewing in all of Europe.”
       “Danger?” I looked at him shocked. I had just left and heard nothing of the sort.
       “Talk of sorcery and witchcraft. Happens every millennia or so. Nothing new,” Zephyrus said as he swirled away into thin air.
       I was now left alone to worry about what he meant by danger and whether my daughter was in the middle of it. Surely France was a safe place from such mania as persecuting supposed heretics. As far as I heard last, the Inquisition was limited to Spain and the Holy Roman Empire was not in control of France, but these power hungry mortals tend to swap territories often.

                        *                *                 *                *                *

       The years began passing and I heard nothing in the Americas about the human world to my relief. I ran into some humans native to the land, dark, bronze figures who worshiped the earth. They saw me as a “pale-faced” being, but somehow, perhaps because they were one with the earth, they knew what I truly was. Never had I met a mortal that knew of the gods; it was the one of the only cardinal rules: keep our existence secret. I did not speak their language, never hearing it before, but they said one word that was familiar to me “Prometheus.” He was a Titan god, not exactly related by blood to us Olympians as the myths proclaim, but the myths were correct in that he foresaw the future as the god of forethought.
       The humans brought me to their camp and fed me and performed ritualistic dances around a fire. It was endearing and fantastically new to me. It had been hundreds of years since I experienced anything new. I adapted easily to their culture and began to learn a few words and customs when another pale face arrived suddenly.
       Prometheus himself ran into the camp at immortal speed (ten times faster than a human) scaring the mortals half to death. As they surrounded him with spears, he panted out the words, “Eros, I’ve been looking all over for you from Brazil to Canada.”
       Then, recognizing the pale face, the natives retreated.
       “Where to what?” I looked at him completely lost. He looked as if he had been running for thousands of miles, his feet in shreds of what used to be boots.
       “Never mind, they’re not countries yet. Listen, it’s Hedone and Psyche.”
       The feeling of dread I had years prior resurfaced. I called to Zephyrus, but there was no response. In turn, Prometheus and I called to all the winds to transport us to no avail. Then we tried the two gifted gods of travel, Iris and Hermes, but they did not respond. They could perform what Prometheus, who knew all, said would one day be called “teleporting.”
       “What is going to happen?” I begged Prometheus to tell me the future. I needed to know what danger my daughter was in so I could save her.
        He didn’t respond, but gave me a grim look. He avoided my gaze and called again to the only gods who could help us. I was afraid to press him, to know the danger and not be able to get there to save her, and instead called the winds again. It was as if they were ignoring our pleas on purpose. But who would want my darling innocent daughter harmed?
       Then the feeling I feared most was thrust upon me. Like the unearthly light that shone in our eyes, my daughter and I had a tie that bound us. I could feel when she was distressed or in pain, and the pain rang through my acutely like a hammer to my brain. Worse than the physical pain, I felt her emotions, and she was terrified for her life. It was a feeling I had never experienced; being immortal we did not have that innately human instinct. I faltered to my knees from the burden of both mental and physical anguish.
       “Theus,” I pleaded. He looked at me, his face defeated and full of sorrow for what would happen in a near future.
       “Iris,” Prometheus shouted. The rainbow goddess appeared finally. “Take him. Take Eros to Hedone. NOW!”
        Iris nodded contemptuously at him, completely unaware of my suffering and of why she was being ordered around so bluntly. 
        Moments later, I was in an alleyway in a  French city.  I heard a crowd jeering, cheering, and shouting nearby. I raced down the main street to a packed square guided by the noisy, heckling mob. I tried to ignore the shattering pain that threatened to distract me from my mission. I heard screams of utter agony mixed in with the throng of spectators. The bystanders were collectively shouting the same condemning words over and over again, “Sorciere! Heretique! Sorciere!”
        Then the overwhelmingly acrid smell accosted my nostrils. Something was burning, a foul odor like burning feathers or a house on fire. It almost reminded me of the ritual the humans had in the Hellenistic times, where they burned the entrails of their prey as a sacrifice to us. The screams pierced my ears as the stabbing pain peaked in my head. I fell to the ground in agony unable to move, paralyzed. The crowd shifted in a zealous fervor and I was trampled on. It didn’t matter; the Ichor would heal my broken bones momentarily. The scream of the victims died down and the silence rippled throughout the crowd.
       I knew then it was too late; as soon as the pain had peaked, it was gone. Then another overpowering feeling crept over me. I began to see imagery I hadn’t seen in a long time. A montage of images shot forth from the past, present, future. I saw the dead, the alive, the unborn. I saw distant places and things I didn’t know existed—it was Chaos rearing his ugly head from the pit of despair Zeus had trapped him in. And his dreadful, fleeting appearance meant one thing, an immortal just died. The images were too much to bear and they were simultaneously flittering by at rapid speeds in all our immortal heads, so overbearing it made me want to retch.
       I was able to rise to my knees, but I vomited onto the ground as the images subsided. This could not be happening. Iris had to take me to the wrong place. Please, for the love of Zeus, do not let it be my daughter who had been that acrid smell of flesh on fire.
       I fought my way through the crowd gaining back my strength. I knew my emotions were shining through my eyes; I couldn’t hide my fear and agony. When I felt any heightened emotion, my eyes literally shone a bright azure for all to see. I didn’t bother to hide them from the murderous humans. I shoved my way through the crowd with inhuman strength, agility, and speed. A few heads turned in surprise, but I ignored them and reached the clearing. What I saw stopped me in my tracks
       Four pyres were alight but beginning to dwindle, two of the victims hardly more than grotesque skeletons of charcoal, mouths still agape in the shape of their last scream of dispair. The other two pyres were merely ash. I scanned each, looking for some kind of sign that told me I was in the wrong place, that my daughter was somewhere among the crowd afraid at what she saw. It was a useless hope, especially when my eyes beheld a fiery red lock of hair clinging to the charred post: Psyche.
       I raced up to the next pyre, sifting though the cooling ash trying to find evidence that I dreaded to discover. My hands clasped onto the golden chain that was now tarnished with black ash and I pulled out the locket I had given to Hedone only a few decades ago. I opened it and it confirmed my worst fears ever; miniatures of Psyche and I stared back at me. I squeezed the locket in my hand the rage building inside me. I stopped in fear of completely destroying the only item left of my daughter’s. I slipped it into my pocket and scanned the scene for the nefarious culprits that cremated the only being I loved more than my immortality itself. Cremation was the only way to truly kill an immortal; had they chosen any other form of execution she would have healed, lived. But fire was final, a true death, and I only had the consolation that she died quickly due to the ichor, which responds like crude oil to a flame.
       Then I found the men to blame. The Inquisitor and his squad stood behind the steaming pyres writing with a quill in a thick, bound, official looking book, most likely full of the names of innocent people condemned by the Church. I felt the rage looking at their smug, stern faces. Ignorantly they dared to kill gods, not their God, but nonetheless deities. My blood boiled and I wondered where the Hades the others were. How had Prometheus foreseen this too late? Where was the chieftain, Zeus himself, to order revenge? Where was Nemesis, goddess of revenge? What hadn’t any of us been able to stop it, to save them? We were gods for Hades’s sake.
      No one appeared; I was to act alone. I planned it out in my head in a millisecond. I would “fly” as the humans coined it, although it was only momentarily defying the Earth’s pull on me, and land in front of them. I would tell them exactly who I was and what they killed, living gods, when their god was dead in Elysium. I would tell them to pray to their god despite it being futile, before I tore their hearts out and let them watch the split second before they lost consciousness.
       I was ready to spring, but then I saw him appear suddenly out of the shadows. Across the square, through the thinning crowd, stood Death. Thanatos, god of death, hid in the alleyway his face somber, his gray eyes looking at me with compassion. He was here, not to collect the souls of my family as he must have moments earlier, but to collect the ones I was about to extract for him. He shook his head at me not to act and beckoned me hither.
       Numb, not yet able to feel anything but a rage so close to utter madness, I froze. He could not take this away from me; I needed revenge. I squatted, ready to attack, my eyes glaring at the evil clergy that robbed the world of its best asset. The Inquisitor met my gaze and I saw him go wide-eyed with fear. I pushed off the ground only to find I couldn’t move. Instead, I was thrown down to the ground under a pressure stronger than any I had felt before. I struggled under the attack, until two hands grabbed my face and shook it. I focused on the words and face of the assailant. Two amber colored eyes glowed back at me with the same effulgence my own emitted.
       “Son,” he growled in a commanding tone, restraining me with his immortal strength. My father was here to stop me for some reason; they killed his granddaughter. He was Ares, the god of war, and should desire a battle and revenge. “Stop. All in good time, not here. Too many humans around. This is an order,” he said sternly. One crux of being a god was the inability to defy direct orders from the elders, especially one’s parents.  He pulled me up and forced me into the alleyway where I had seen Thanatos. My dad pressed me against the wall with such force a few bones snapped. Thanatos stood there, his eyes full of sorrow for me.
       “We’ll get them Eros, when they’re asleep and feeling safe,” Thanatos hissed.
       “Dad,” I looked at him, while it finally set in. My daughter was gone; my immortal child had died in the only way we gods could. “She’s…gone, my sweet little girl…”
       “I know,” he said his eyes shining with emotion. “I know son and we will get revenge. All in good time.”
       “Gone,” was all I could say. I knew not what happened to me for the next few hours as we waited for the protection of nightfall. My father collected their ashes in an urn, and we planned to scatter them on Mt. Olympus later. I thought of my daughter, the day she was born, her first word “pappas,” her extraordinary powers to fill all those around her with happiness and pleasure. I held her hand through her first heartbreak and made the scoundrel fall for a lowly plebian at the time. I would never hold her when she was sad or soothe her again. She had been part of me to go on in the world forever as my companion, my child, a being to unconditionally love me and I her. My little princess was nevermore. My heart was shattering. I was now a broken man. I did not know how I would go on. The only thing that kept me standing was the thought of revenge.
        I took the soot-covered locket and put it around my neck. I kissed it once and the three of us headed out the door. Revenge wouldn’t make me feel better, but at least I would know the zealots who murdered my child would murder no others ever again.
        I hardly remember the actual killing of the mortals; I was fueled by a poisonous rage that spread throughout my body. I remember them screaming and the same acrid smell. I still cannot recollect what we had done, but I was later told Thanatos orchestrated it all. As the god of death, he took care of it so I would not need to sully my hands. I didn’t really believe them, but I didn’t want to remember any part of the day. I knew one thing though, they went the same way they had killed others, by fire. Still, it didn’t make me feel the slightest bit better or relieved in any way.by
        I traveled alone to Greece and returned to the land of my birth. I climbed up Oros Olympus to the highest peak; inside was our long abandoned home, the seat of the gods, our palace, Mt. Olympus. I wasn’t there to break back in and reminisce, but to bring my girls back to their home to find some everlasting peace. At the top, where air was too thin to breath (not necessary for us), I took out the urn. I tried to think of the proper words to say, but nothing came to mind. I could not lie and tell them they had died for a purpose, that their deaths made an impact on the world. I could not lie to them and tell them they were in a better place. I could not lie to them and tell them their deaths couldn’t have been prevented, that the conspiracy surrounding it would be unearthed one day.
       As I opened the urn and scattered all their ashes in the mountain winds, I said the only thing possible: “The poets had it wrong. This is a tragedy.” The ashes swirled around me and dispersed in the wind. I sat down on a crag for hours not knowing where to go or what to do. I no longer had a purpose.
       Then I felt a familiar presence behind me, Apollo. I didn’t turn to look at him. “What now?” I asked him, hoping he would have an answer, for I had none.
       “You just need to carry on,” Apollo said quietly.
       I responded with a disgruntled snort. Didn't he understand that this had broken me, that there was no point in trying to piece together the fragments of my shattered being. I had lost everything.
       “I know it sounds ludicrous now, but you will get over this. In time of course.”
        I couldn’t utter a word, even in prostration, for I was afraid my voice would crack and betray my vulnerability. I simply turned my head and met his gaze. Apollo’s eyes darted away immediately. He must have seen the shadow of a being I had become in my tell-tale eyes.
       “You will love again and you will have a family again one day.”
       “Is that a prophecy?”
       “No, it’s a promise.”
       With a promise from a god who foretells the future, I could not object. I let him lead me down the mountain back into the village and back into some semblance of life. Although broken, I held onto the desperate hope that Apollo’s promise would someday come true. It was the only shred of hope that held me to the excuse I would now have for a life, a thin filament that bound me to existence: love.



Quiver is a contemporary YA paranormal romance where Eros will finally find love again. STAY tuned to meet more of the characters.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Creeper Followed by Bud

   Barflies # 2

Creeper shot:
1 oz mixture of whatever putrid combination of liquor rests in the bar mat
Garnish with cigarette ash, perversion, and leeriness
*Drink quickly trying not to think about gagging from your distaste for mankind
*Quickly do the chaser to prevent scarring yourself forever

Bud chaser:
2 oz of Grand Marnier
Orange squeeze
Sprinkle of sugar
*pour into a dignified golf glass and garnish with kindness and humanity


Note: the following is a fictional representation that does not represent the real individual beyond the italicized interaction/description.

I’m sitting in a bar with my two friends (we’ll call them Naomi and Meghan), and we are a couple drinks deep on that fine line between sobriety and buzzed. For some reason we begin playing a ridiculous charades game on our cell phones, just being our wild selves. The bar is fairly empty and those that are there are locals in this deserted tourist trap of a town. Of course we’re obnoxious and loud (perhaps we’d be an excellent specimen for someone else’s Barflies?), and inadvertently we draw the attention of a man, mid to late forties with glasses. He wears a baseball cap and a hoodie that says, “Wolfpack.” Next to him is that silent friend who minds his own business and laughs at this guy’s ridiculousness but pretty much stays out of all conversation. Close by us there’s a younger guy on his own who looks about our age. He has a goatee, knitted hat, and has a laid back posture as he watches TV.
My friend and I are laughing about how evil and stubborn Naomi can be when it comes to the littlest things, like when you don’t want to eat sushi and she berates and harasses you until you finally say you’ll try it (again), and then she shoves the entire thing in your mouth; this leaves you chomping something you despise, that resembles what a rotten piece of mystery meat wrapped in saran wrap  out of the trashcan and sprinkled with salt might taste like, as bits fall out and you choke it down, eyes watering, gag reflex on the ready. After we explain how cruel it is to force an entire spicy crab roll into someone's mouth, Naomi shouts loud enough for everyone to hear, “But you HAVE to put the whole thing in your mouth!” referring to sushi etiquette. Knowing how it could be taken out of context, I cringe. To my dismay, this unleashes the spectacled man’s real Wolfpack persona: Creeper…
So Creeper feels the necessity to repeat what Naomi has said and then looks at her and says, “Yeeeeesssss!” We blow it off, but the ogling, snide comments that we thankfully cannot hear clearly, and the random attempts to join our conversation to no avail, make it difficult to ignore the guy. But we try futilely. Naomi and Meghan lose themselves into their cell phones, the modern way to avoid people you don’t want to talk to, and I go into observer mode. This opportunity is too good to pass up, and I know I’ll need to write about it; only now, I’m thinking that I may not need to fabricate or create too much fiction here. The characters are entertaining enough without much embellishment.
I espy Creeper out of the corner of my eye by watching the television right above him. His shirt says it all. Wolfpack on a teen would be cute, like he idolizes his favorite movie, a movie his mother thought he was too young to watch. On a forty-something man though, it reeks of desperation and an upcoming midlife crisis. He wants to be young again, hit on younger girls, and be reckless. He’s so desperate to relive his youth that he actually cannot act upon it, much to our luck. Something keeps him at bay, but we still feel as if a predator is in our midst.
Soon it becomes irritating and we see him talking to his friend and pointing at us, both leering. I avoid his gaze in hopes he’ll stop. I mean, it’s pretty disgusting when a man gets excited about fully clothed girls in jeans and sweaters. On another attempt of Creeper’s to call across the bar to us, the quiet guy in the knit hat (let’s call him Bud) interjects, “Hey, did you guys know it’s Bob Marley’s birthday today?” It’s such a random thing to say when he hasn’t really talked to us at all, but his easygoing manner makes me relax. The fact that he looked at us briefly and at our faces, instead of what the ape-like specimens across the bar were looking at, shows he is at least a species of human.
The conversation ensues between he and Meghan, but we all listen in about the legend Bob Marley was and how he made an impact on him and others, how he was great, when he died (we had to Google it), etc. Then he tells us how he saw Ziggy Marley and that he was amazing.
Creeper interjects again, “Ziggy Marley sucks! He’s awful!” My first instinct with a man like Creeper would be to publically devalue his opinion and try to ignore him after that, but Bud, a man with the patience of a saint, takes it graciously and simply says, “Really? I thought he was pretty good.”
Creeper seems put off, is lost for words, and merely talks to his own friend. Bud had the power to render an annoying pervert merely with the subtleness of his opinion. I’m observing this with a newfound admiration that only a person who is too outspoken to let anything lie could. Creeper has been beaten not by harsh words, fighting, or confrontation, but by someone who showed him with the insouciance of a stoner that the conversation was closed.
Bud talks to us for a little bit, but once Creeper’s significant other enters, we are now safe from him. Bud goes quiet again. I don’t even notice when he leaves, most likely not announcing it but instead simply slipping away into the background and then out of the bar.
I realize that Bud didn’t really want to talk to us, not in the way most men want to talk to ladies in bars; no, there was no hidden agenda, no tricks up his sleeves. He wasn’t the typical guy bragging about his job or achievements, discussing himself while he looked at your breasts (and ass when you walked away). Bud was different and wanted no reward. He saw some girls who needed saving, observed our annoyance and discomfiture at Creeper’s aggressive attitude. It was like having a potent yet sweetly refined chaser to rid yourself of that horribly bitter and appalling shot you just unwillingly partook in. He was like a hero, stepping up in a time of need and then paling into insignificance when his job was done. Well, not today Bud. You are a bar hero who will be appreciated no matter how slight you felt your gesture was. Good always defeats evil, even among barflies.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Wrecked

Resounding Moment # 2
My husband and I couldn’t get away for our ten year anniversary, so when the semester was over, we decided to go to Florida to go on some rides and catch up with friends. We made the thrifty decision to drive, and when I say we, I mean me; my husband never had a driver’s license, so I was the one to drive the eight hour journey.  Now, I am a bit of an anxious person, especially when driving, since you are literally putting your life in the hands of fellow drivers. Tractor trailers absolutely freak me out. I think my fear of these monstrous vehicles or driving in general stems back to my childhood and accidents that I’ve witnessed.

Memories often jumble and fade but pieces of them, the feelings and certain images stay with you forever. When I try to revisit them, at times I wonder if I’m inventing the details with my overactive imagination, but regardless the sentiment of the moment remains. The accident I saw when I was about 5 or 6 still haunts my dreams at night. The images flicker in and out: the teen on the ground face down unmoving, the gaping hole in the windshield of a car almost twenty yards away, the arrival of police, firefighters, a helicopter to airlift only one person out of three (that we could see). But the one image that haunts me still is the old man that was airlifted, the survivor. They used the Jaws of Life to get him out. When the door was removed I saw he was under the dashboard, crunched in and folded like a contortionist. His face was calm, defeated, facing us. I remember the queasiness in the pit of my stomach when I realized he had a seatbelt on. They were supposed to protect you, save lives. After this day, I freaked out if my mother even moved the car without being firmly buckled in even though we had a long driveway.

The fear of tractor trailers came when I was older, riding with my father on a busy interstate. I don’t remember how old I was, but old enough to try to block it out, repress the memory into my unconscious. However, when I pass by a truck on the highway I get nervous and the image of the accident flutters through my mind. It was a jackknifed tractor trailer and a huge pile up of cars in the southbound lane, only a couple that we could see, but underneath you could see flattened cars and pieces of cars. The police weren’t even there yet; it happened right before we passed by.

So this trip to Florida, a long portion being on I-95, made me extremely anxious. The amount of trucks on the highway sent the over analytical side of my brain into hysterics, and I tried to not think in statistics and ratios of the chances anything could go wrong. In Georgia, about halfway to our destination, the first tractor trailer accident cropped up on the northbound side. It looked as if it blew up or caught on fire. My husband quelled my anxiety by telling me the cab looked intact, that the driver was probably fine. We commented on the traffic behind the accident and pondered aloud how lucky we were not to be stuck in it. My husband snapped a photo of the traffic jam on his phone.

Traffic returned to normal in the northbound lane as people drove unaware they would have to stop up ahead. I wished I could’ve told them to detour. Then the traffic stopped, completely gone, like the scene in Vanilla Sky where Tom Cruise stands in Times Square and not one single soul is around him. Suddenly, we saw it on the northbound side. There was a maroon and silver looking disk connected to the front of a stopped tractor trailer, and another truck was next to it. Then it dawned on me in the three seconds it took to pass the scene that that disk was some kind of car, a car that had a person or people in it. The fact the car was only about two feet long, and didn’t resemble its original shape, was like a huge billboard inside my head with bold letters “NO ONE SURVIVED.” It was as if time stood still and I took it all in visually, the three seconds, an eternity. I gasped and said something like “Oh my God.” I think soft spoken expletives of disbelief exited my husband’s mouth. I could see one of the police officers at the scene walking away from the car towards the median. I couldn’t see his face, but the posture of his body, head down, hands on hips, showed how he would never forget this day, that this was one of the hardest days of his life; he was defeated, demoralized, trying to pull it together, do his job.

My heart raced in panic mode as a truck passed me. My anxiety about these beastly vehicles is, now temporarily, my husband’s as well. I tried to piece together in my mind what may have happened. The car was driving between two trucks, a sudden stop…I shook the thought away trying not to imagine the driver’s last moments. I had to say something, since the silence was allowing my mind to spin off into horrific scenarios, so I said something about how happy I was we did not bring our toddler son with us; I didn’t finish the rest of my thought out loud. My mind was busy in melancholic contemplation. Our son would need to live if something were to happen to us, and I began in my already tired, anxiety ridden brain thinking that something disastrous would. My thoughts fixate on how if that happened I would never get to see him to say goodbye; he would forget about us after a short while since he was so young. That person or people in the car had families, loved ones that would miss them…I had to shake my head physically to rid of the morbid thoughts.

We arrived in Florida alive, had fun, and drove back without a hitch. We picked up the baby, went home. Then we talked about it, my husband and I, about what we saw, how we felt, how we’re flying next time, bringing our son with us. It felt better to have it out in the open, but the image will never go away, burned into the fears of my subconscious ready to flutter through my mind when I least expect it. But I did realize something from this experience; digesting what happened to the people in that car and my fear of being parted from my son both began to possess and inspire me to live life to its fullest, create great moments to drown out the bad, create a lot of these moments for him so that the bad has a hard time touching him. I am inspired to write again, to put the dream of a blog and of publishing a book into effect. It’s as if the poor victims of that car accident have spoken to me beyond the grave and tell me to live, to truly live, for them, for others who have died, to love, enjoy life freely and with every fiber and ounce of energy I have.
 
The accident speaks to me and will always do so, saying “live.” And I respond, “I am. I will.” 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Get published or not get published, that is the question…

Mission Impossible # 2
The allusion to Hamlet is no mistake. It feels to us writers when we send out a query letter to an agent or a story to a journal that it is a form of life and death. Did I just commit literary suicide with that query letter? It's tantamount to sending your child off to a school you know nothing about. The uneasiness and nervousness I still feel every time I click send makes me queasy. The standard cookie cutter rejection emails are disheartening (not to mention the tons of queries that are ignored by agents who swear they respond to everyone), but the worst disappointment is the feeling as if I’m being led-on in a sense when an agent reads a portion or the entire manuscript only to then reject it. However, this is the industry and the way it works. Agents get hundreds to thousands of queries a week, so I’m not condemning them to fishy practices. They do their best to find the cream of the crop and that for them must be like looking for a needle in a haystack. In the digital age where anyone and everyone thinks they are writers (trust me, I’ve seen some atrocious novels that gave me nightmares, literally), it must be impossible to find amazing authors. So many people are self-publishing eBooks; in fact, it is so easy and becoming relatively inexpensive. Some of these books are great, but some are unedited, disorganized, have flat characters, no clear or interesting plotline, and are an English professor’s nightmare. With the indie industry what it is, I made the decision in 2010 to press on and go the traditional route—find an agent.

My journey began in the end of 2009 where I purchased the copyright for my novel Quiver (accent pieces will follow). This version was the fourth rough draft (probably on the 12th revision now), and it felt so empowering, as if I was one step closer to my dream. Next, I had to do the the research, where grueling hours were spent on the computer to educate myself, to find agents that represented my genre, and to find information out about them and their agencies to squeeze a little ethos and pathos into the letters. I had to read and study numerous successful books in the genre, and then came the writing of the query letters, each needing to be different depending on the agent--copy and paste into an email and send.

The first rejection was hard to swallow, even though I prepared myself for it. All the confidence from finishing the novel vanished, but I persevered by sporadically sending out queries for two years. After about seventy letters, I almost lost hope; most letters were ignored, a lot received rejections, but I could at least boast that three agents showed interest. I had to remind myself that the query worked; I was taken seriously by some—enough to warrant some interest. Unfortunately, the three interested passed on the novel and did give me reasons and feedback: 1) the agency votes on projects and the agent proposed mine but was vetoed, 2) the agent didn’t like my multiple perspectives and said she’d look at it again if I made only one narrator (this would change the novel completely in my eyes and be very time consuming), and 3) in the agent’s opinion the topic was not the next new thing, but could be in the future (as you well know it is now a utopian/dystopian fad we’re in, e.g. Hunger Games). This last rejection hit home. Perhaps this was not the novel that was going to get published; I could hold onto it for a rainy day.

I moved on to writing more projects, left the novel on the back burner, and published my short story “A Jaded life." Work became increasingly busy and difficult, and I had a baby—life moved on and was too hectic to spend time trying to write or publish. The only time I looked at it was to edit and revise it (several times) after a friend, then a grad student, and then a colleague copyedited it for me. However, now that my son is two, things have become much easier; spells of time have appeared, and now I’m back on the horse, saddling up, and ready to give it a go. After all, one of my published colleagues told me, “Never give up, and don’t even get discouraged until you hit the triple digits of rejection letters.” I still am going to go the traditional route via agent but over the next few months I will be educating myself and interviewing published authors about which venue they traveled to find their success. So here I am, ready to go. I just need a bit of luck, the right timing, and a perfect query.