Last November, I published my book, A Penny on the Tracks. It is a YA book based loosely on my childhood friendship with my best friend. I wrote this story in college. At the time, it was written as a short story and was titled The Hideout. The finished product hardly resembles anything of the original.
In fact, the college version of A Penny on the Tracks was so bad that when I reread it nearly fifteen years ago, my first instinct was to throw it away, but the writer in me remembered the agonizing hours I put into the piece, so I stuffed it in an overfilled drawer of mostly unfinished old works and left it there.
About three years ago, for whatever reason, I searched that overfilled drawer for that story and this time when I reread the piece I didn’t want to toss it into a fire. This time I saw potential. Although I ended up rewriting almost the entire thing, the core of the story has stayed the same — two friends sharing their childhood together while dealing with personal tragedy.
The importance of friendship is prevalent in this story, and I’m proud of the way A Penny on the Tracks has turned out. I’m proud that I not only finished the story, but a publisher liked it enough to contract it. I’m hoping the same thing will happen with the story I am currently writing tentatively called Annabel.
This is another awfully-written college short story and was titled The Attic. This piece was also stuffed in that same overfilled drawer and for some reason I also fished this story out and decided to salvage it with a rewrite. I’m over two hundred pages in and am still unsure about an ending, but I have some ideas. With A Penny I always knew how the story was going to end, and of course knowing the direction you’re writing to makes writing a story so much easier, but I do have a knack of making life harder for myself. Why should writing be any different?
The story of A Penny on the Tracks deals with friendship, coming out, and tragedy. A girl names Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.
Here is an excerpt from A Penny on the Tracks:
I JERKED FROM my sleep while the phone was still buzzing its first high-piercing ring. I glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It read 4:17 a.m. I knew something was wrong.
The second ring was abruptly broken up, and my mother’s muffled voice carried into my room. I was already sitting upright in my bed when my bedroom door squeaked open, and my mother’s slight figure appeared as a shadow near my door.
“Lyssa? You up?” she asked.
“What’s wrong?” My voice was no louder than a whisper.
My mother made her way into the dark room. I couldn’t make out the expression on her face, but her movement was stiff and hesitant.
She turned on the lamp and sat down beside me. Her face was pale and she let out short, shallow breaths. It seemed difficult for her to look me in the eyes.
“What is it?” I asked. “What’s happened?”
My mother looked at me with pain in her eyes. “Lyssa . . .” She smoothed her hand gently across my arm. “Abbey’s dead.”
I took in her words without an ounce of denial. The reality of what my mother had told me was instant.
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is a program that challenges writers to complete a 50,000 word novel in one month — 50,000 words in 30 days. If it sounds insane, that’s because it is, but I’m sure I saw a quote somewhere from Stephen King stating that a writer should be able to finish a first draft in 30 days.
I have never finished a first draft in 30 days — not even a first draft of a 15,000 word short story I recently wrote. That tale took me two months to complete.
For four straight years, I have promised myself I’d take part in this challenge, and for the fourth November in a row, I backed out before I even began. I’m not against pushing myself as a writer. I think this is a great motivator for people to actually finish writing a book because so many books are left unwritten because, well, writing is hard.
So, if this gets writers to stay in their seats and write, great. But I don’t approach writing with a word count. I really hate getting caught up in counting words, which is probably why I have not been motivated to take a shot at this challenge. I shut the word count feature off on my computer so that I can’t see the number as I write.
When I sit down to write, I tell myself, “Alicia, write one good, solid scene.” My hope is that I come up with a page or two of dialogue or prose that either advances the plot or develops the characters, basically anything that moves the story along.
I’m currently writing a book about a teenage girl in the 1950’s called, Annabel. Even if I wanted to compete in this NaNo challenge, I’m too far along in this story (about 250 pages, don’t ask me the word count, because I don’t know) to even attempt to write a thousand-plus words a day. I’m mostly in the “fill-in-the-blanks” part of the writing process.
My YA book, A Penny on the Tracks, will be released tomorrow. It is a 75,000 word novel that took me about a year to complete. I couldn’t tell you how long I had been working on the book before I finally had a first draft completed, but I can tell you there were a ton of revisions. An absolute ton.
But in the end, I came up with a story that I’m very proud of and was totally worth the many frustrating late nights I spent writing it.
Here is an excerpt from my coming-of-age book about life, love, and friendship:
I was making our favorite sandwich—bologna, lettuce, and cheese smeared with mustard and mayo on white bread—when Abbey called for me from the living room. “Lyssa! Hurry up! Poison’s on!”
The sandwiches lay on the counter amid a mess of open condiment jars and scattered pieces of lettuce and lunch meat. I quickly smashed the top slices of bread onto both sandwiches against the piled-stack of a sloppy mess I had created and hurried into the next room, dropping bits of food as I ran.
Abbey was standing on the couch, shouting out the lyrics we both knew by heart as Brett Michaels’ voice filled the room. I handed her a sandwich, jumped on the couch, and screamed out the chorus to “Talk Dirty to Me.” I took bites of my sandwich during the guitar solo, and Abbey held her sandwich high in her left hand, as though it were the end of a guitar, and strummed her right hand against the front of her shirt. We banged our heads in unison, hair (and food) flying everywhere.
Abbey’s house had a bigger TV and better food options than bologna and cheese sandwiches, but we never could have done what we were doing right then if we were at her house. Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” came on next, and we both lost our minds.
We dropped what was left of our food onto the table and yelled out the lyrics to our favorite song. Abbey sang the song with more conviction, as though she had a lot more that she didn’t want to take anymore.
The video ended, and we both collapsed onto the couch and finished our lunch. After, I went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple cans of pop from the fridge. Hanging on a magnet, on the side of the refrigerator, was a note from my mom reminding me she was working late that night and that there were frozen dinners in the freezer. At the end of the note she promised a home-cooked meal soon.
Abbey was often envious of the lack of parental supervision at my place, especially when it came to dinner. She was jealous I got to eat whatever I wanted. Even if my mom left dinner for me in the fridge, if I wanted to eat S’mores for supper, I ate S’mores.
“You eat dinner on the couch while watching TV?” Abbey had asked me one day.
“If I feel like it,” I answered.
“You’re so lucky. My mom makes me eat with her at the table, even if my dad isn’t home yet. And I can’t even put my elbows on the table.”
I ate on the couch while watching TV because my friend didn’t know the loneliness that crept inside a person while eating dinner among empty chairs.
But I had forced a smile. “Yep. I am lucky.”
I walked back into the living room and handed one of the cans to Abbey. Abbey didn’t take it.
“My mom said I drink too much pop.”
“Your mom’s not fucking here.”
Abbey smiled and grabbed the can from my hand. About eight videos later and a sore neck from head banging, Abbey had to go home.
I walked her to the door. “Let’s ride our bikes tomorrow.”
“I don’t know. Somewhere far.”
“Last time we did that we were almost too tired to ride back,” she reminded me.
“That was because of the wind,” I explained. “It was blowing against us on our way back.”
Abbey considered this. “Okay. If it’s not very windy tomorrow, we’ll ride our bikes far.
My current work-in-progress has no title. I was hoping by the midpoint mark something would have come to me, but I’m close to the end of this labor of love and my mind is still blank on a title.
This is a revision of a story I had written almost 17 years ago. It was my first novel, and it was horrible. The precis was good enough to grab the attention of a publisher, but the manuscript wasn’t strong enough to carry its own weight. A big rejection letter soon appeared in my mailbox.
After blowing the dust off this story, it was easy to see why it didn’t make the cut. The story was badly written. The characters weren’t developed enough, and the dialogue sounded like something out of Degrassi Junior High. The story was labeled a romance, but ended with the love interest dying in a plane crash. Pretty much sums up my view on love. :p
After six months worth of revisions, I’m almost finished. I think I got most of the ugly out. I just have to write the ending…and no, no one’s dying in a plane crash. Actually, the book hardly resembles the original at all. I realized I had started the story at the wrong place. I needed to go back. I needed to show, rather than tell, more of what I wanted the reader to know.
The book revolves around the friendship of two women. The way I had written the story the first time was to tell the reader about the friendship, rather than show it. One of the women betrays the other, and it is pivotal to the story that the reader understands the depth of their friendship to really feel the deception.
Here is an unedited excerpt from my untitled work-in-progress:
Taylor’s bedroom door opened and rock music poured loudly down the hallway and into the living room where Carolyn was sitting alone on the couch, her face crammed in a book. She eyed Taylor walking toward her.
Although she knew Taylor would have turned the music down if asked, Carolyn didn’t say anything because she preferred listening to the loud raucous tunes than to the sounds of her roommate having sex.
The woman in Taylor’s bedroom wasn’t Alicia. Taylor waited for no woman.
“Where’s Jeff?” Taylor asked.
Carolyn peered over her book to catch Taylor lean into the fridge and pull out a bottle of beer. Taylor’s gray and white camouflage cargo shorts hung just above her knee. Carolyn counted the six small sweat stains on Taylor’s white tank top. Her ruffled dark black hair hung at her chin. A shorter layer fell just below her eyes, and often Taylor had to brush it away with a flick of her head, or a wave of her hand.
“He left,” Carolyn answered.
Taylor twisted the bottle’s cap and pitched it into the sink. She took a deep swig. “Everything okay?”
“Sure. Can you think of any reason why everything wouldn’t be okay?”
“Whoa, I know that tone.” Taylor dropped next to her on the couch. “What’s goin’ on with you?”
Carolyn closed the textbook over her lap. “You know I have finals coming up, right?”
Taylor closed her eyes and leaned her head back. “Fuck me! I’m sorry. I completely forgot. I’ll turn that shit off. You need quiet.” Taylor moved to get up, but Carolyn stopped her. “Jeff and I broke up.”
Taylor fell back into the couch. “No shit?”
“Just now?” Taylor asked.
“Wow… I’m sorry.”
Carolyn eyed her friend closely. “No, you’re not. You hated him.”
“I’m not sorry for me. I’m ecstatic for me. I’m sorry for you. You really liked him. Never understood why, but you did. What’d he do? Do I have to kick his ass?”
Carolyn shook her head. “It was my decision. He’s a jerk.”
Taylor draped an arm around Carolyn’s shoulders. “Yeah, well, glad you figured it out now before it was too late. You gonna be okay? Need me to do anything?”
Carolyn smirked at her friend’s seriousness because it wasn’t like her.
Taylor pulled back. “What’s that look for? I’m being sincere. I really wanna know if you’re gonna make it?”
“I’ll make it just fine. In fact, I’m surprised at how little I feel about it. When he walked out the door, I was actually relieved. Kinda scares me that I saw myself marrying him. How could I miss what an asshole he was?” Carolyn groaned and rubbed her hands over her face.
“You were blinded by love. I hear it happens a lot.”
Carolyn studied her friend. “You’ve never been in love? Never felt that emotion?”
Taylor crossed an ankle over her knee. “Nope.”
“How about the woman in your bed right now? How do you feel about her, or about Alicia? You were screaming at her on the phone earlier and now there’s another woman in your bed. Why don’t you just let her go?”
“I don’t have feelings for the woman in my bed right now, but I think I could have stronger feelings for Alicia when the time’s right. I know that’s hard for you to understand, but that’s just the way it is.”
“You’ve never loved a woman?”
“Not even a crush?”
Taylor seemed to think about it. “I liked my Kindergarten teacher…a lot. Does that count?”
“In Kindergarten? You had a crush on a woman in Kindergarten?”
“She was so fucking hot.”
“You knew way back then?”
“Hell yes! Are you kidding me? I was noticing girls for as long as I could remember, especially the older ones. They had boobs.”
Carolyn rubbed her forehead. “That is crazy. You realize I’m studying to be a teacher, right?”
“Then consider this your warning. If you see little Sally staring at your chest, she’s not admiring your necklace.”
“Great. Something to look forward to.” Carolyn leaned her head back and sighed. “As much as I would love to sit and talk with you about meaningless crap all night, I have to study so that someday I could teach meaningless crap to children who will not respect me, make faces behind my back, and apparently, stare at my boobs.” She picked her book off her lap and stood up. “Have fun.”
Taylor tipped her bottle towards her. “You betcha. And Carolyn? I was never gonna let you marry that asshole. He didn’t deserve you.”
Carolyn smiled. “It’s good to know I have someone watching my back. Thanks, Taylor. Now turn that crap off because it’s giving me a headache.”
Dana Perkins lost her longtime partner in a tragic accident. Although she still struggles with the loss, her profound loneliness is evidence that it is time to move on. She knows her deceased lover, Casey, wouldn’t want her living this way. Dana begins her slow process of letting go, removing reminders of Casey from her house, and dating again.
The women she meets leave Dana uninspired and missing her deceased partner even more. Just as she is about to resign herself to the belief that she will never love again, Dana meets Emily Daniels, a married woman who is deeply conflicted over her attraction to women.
Soon, the two women form a friendship that leads to deeper emotions. They discover that one moment in their past had brought them together in a way neither woman could have ever imagined. Is that one moment in time enough to let both women follow their hearts, or will they let their past continue to rule their future?
Here is an excerpt from my book, Loving Again:
Dana and Emily walked along the sidewalk as the sun began to set. The streets were quiet. At this time of night, Dana figured most people were settling in front of their televisions after a long day’s work. She slipped her hand into Emily’s and closed her eyes, realizing how much she missed this. She and Casey had taken many walks together along those same streets.
“You okay?” Emily asked.
Dana opened her eyes. “I’m fine.” She lightly squeezed Emily’s hand. “Just enjoying this.”
“You looked like you were out there for a second.”
“Walks do that to me. I love nature.”
They walked a little longer and then Dana pointed toward a park. “Do you want to sit down for a little while?”
They made their way toward the swings and sat down. Neither woman swung very high, merely dragged her feet over the dirt.
“I hope you don’t think I’m this big head case with everything happening with me and my ex.”
“A head case? Don’t be so hard on yourself. This is life. We figure it out as we go.”
“Thank you for not judging me.”
“There’s nothing for me to judge. I’m happy to be here with you.”“Not many people would say that about a date who talks about their ex all night.”
“This is different. If you’d been talking about some woman you were with and I sensed you were still in love with her, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to be.”
“Would it make you feel better if I talked about Casey?”
Emily looked at her, surprised. “Sure.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Everything you want to tell me.”
Dana peered at the ground and dug her shoes into the mixture of pebbles and dirt. She felt Emily’s eyes on her as she drew lines in the ground beneath her feet. “We all have our guilt. The heavy burdens that we carry,” she said. “You have yours. I have mine, but our hearts can only take so much. Do you want to know how Casey died?”
“We got a hotel in the city for the weekend. We were gonna see everything. That was the plan. We’d just gotten off a trolley, heading back to the hotel. We were standing on a sidewalk, talking. There was no warning that something bad was about to happen. I moved my hand to touch her, but she took off running away from me. I didn’t see him right away, but a little boy was chasing a hotdog vendor into the street. Casey saw him and she didn’t hesitate, not even a little.
“A little boy’s alive, but she isn’t, and I know that’s how she’d want it, but I never got to say goodbye to her and that kills me. I was angry for a long time. I resented all the people who lost the person they loved to something they could prepare for, because I envied their chance to say goodbye.
“Sometimes, I think it would have been easier losing her in some dull hospital room, looking diseased and weak, on a miserably cold, rainy day. I’d watch her become someone I no longer recognized and she’d look so pained that I’d pray for God to take her, believing she’d be better off.” Dana closed her eyes for a moment. “But that’s not the way it happened. Casey wasn’t better off dead and her death wasn’t merciful. It was violent.
“She died on a gorgeous summer day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. You wouldn’t expect something bad to happen on a day like that. And Casey didn’t look like someone who was about to die. She was vibrant and healthy.” Dana smeared her sleeve across her wet eyes. “And I wish I’d had the chance to tell her I loved her, just one more time.”
“She knew. You must know that,” Emily said.
“All I know is that she’s dead and I never got to say goodbye…and I’ll never stop loving her.”
“No one should ever ask you to.”
Please check out my books, Her Name and Loving Again. Thank you!
The only part of my body that seems to agree with a Trump presidency is my waistline. My waist is finally doing what I’ve been struggling to get the darn thing to do for months now. It’s getting smaller. But it’s not happening the way I had planned. I’m not exercising more than usual, nor am I restricting myself from high-calorie foods that aren’t healthy.
The pounds are peeling off because since Wednesday morning I don’t have much of an appetite.
I went to bed on election night before the final results were tallied, but the writing was on the wall. I woke up to texts asking how I was doing. And then the frantic calls came in from friends concerned what a Trump presidency means, not only for gay and lesbian people, but people of color, Muslims, women, the sick, and the poor. I just finished reading an article about how Republicans want to get rid of Medicaid and replace it with vouchers, not to mention their desire to privatize Social Security and Medicare. What could possible go wrong?
I am scared for all people who are not rich, have health conditions, or fit into a minority group because those are the ones who are most vulnerable to a Trump presidency. The protests in the streets following Trump’s election night win aren’t a bunch of babies acting out because their side lost. They’re out there because they’re afraid that hate won Tuesday night. (I’m not defending those who caused property damage and spray painted A’s all over buildings. You are anarchists and most likely didn’t even vote. You are NOT what the heart of these protests are about.)
The protesters are afraid of the divisive and hateful rhetoric Trump’s campaign was built around. And the fear is real, and it is valid. If any other Republican from the party’s long list of candidates had won, there may have been frustration, but not this kind of fear. People wouldn’t have taken to the streets, in the thousands, to protests across the country if John Kasich had become the president-elect.
But he didn’t win. Donald Trump did, and now many groups across the country are wondering what this means for them. I’m a lesbian. And I’m wondering what this means for me.
On the morning after the election, I was lying in bed, reading an article about gay rights and a Trump/Pence presidency. It wasn’t pretty.
Here is a link to that article: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/11/09/here-is-what-president-trump-means-for-lgbt-rights/
Is it any wonder that when my mother saw me that morning, and was about to gloat how Trump had won, that I burst into tears so uncontrollably that I couldn’t even talk? There is nothing subtle or more frightening than to hear words, so blatantly filled with hate, directed right at you.
Now is the time for every community threatened by a Donald Trump presidency to come together. History tells us we have been through much worse. We must do all we can to not go back there ever again. In the meantime, call a trusted friend. Surround yourself with people who make you feel protected.
An excerpt of a story about a middle-aged woman who visits her old college in an attempt to settle the obvious midlife crisis/crossroad she’s living through:
The coffee tastes like shit, yet I continue to drink it. Writing and coffee always went hand in hand. At least I no longer smoked. I visit the old college I attended when I was a fresh-faced eighteen year-old. Maybe it will help me become more creative as I sit in a place that reminds me of my younger days, when anything seemed possible.
One of the perks of writing here is the coffee costs 75 cents, a monster savings compared to Starbucks, but like I already said, the coffee tastes like shit and I’m on my fourth cup.
I’m sitting at one of the tables in the lounge. There is a young woman, maybe nineteen, at the table next to me, face deep in a text book. Her long hair is dark and carelessly messy, but in a stylish way. She looks like someone I would have had a crush on. She wears jeans with holes at the knees, a black graphic tee, leather studded boots that capped at her mid-calf. Kind of grungy (do kids today even know what grunge is?). Maybe she’s a bit rebellious in a dark, mysterious, Kristen Stewart, kind of a way.
Her attire shows she might be of the “alternative” lifestyle. I remember looking for that in girls I met at college in 1995 because I was incredibly desperate to meet girls who were like me. I expected everything to be so much broader than the restricted Catholic high school I went to, and in some ways they were, but probably not broad as I had wanted, or needed, them to be.
I wonder if what I’m experiencing is a mid-life crisis. I probably wouldn’t feel this way if I felt I had accomplished something in my life. The fact that I haven’t done anything depresses me.
Did I know I would do this? Did I know I was going to spend so much time looking back? I wonder if I’m capable of anything more with my life. It’s so hard making it as a writer and I fear I may not even be any good at it. (Pause. Takes another sip of coffee. Yep. Still tastes like shit, even more so now that it’s cold.)
Two girls sit on a couch across from me. They are very affectionate and playful toward each other, despite the fact I’m only a few feet away from them and another boy sits at a near-by table. But they don’t seem to notice either of us. I watch as people pass in the busy halls, and barely look at the two girls sitting closer, now holding hands.
Their interaction isn’t tacky, nor is it an in-your-face display of affection. The two girls appear to be in love, lucky to be living in a time when they could be like this in public. Definitely not something I would have expected to see when I walked these halls very frequently, 21 years ago – though I wish I had.
I think about leaving, but decide to stay. I watch. I write. I sip my bad coffee. I sit and observe other people, like a spectator in life.
I came out as a lesbian twenty-one years ago. I was nineteen years old. I told the people closest to me, one at a time. It was a positive experience, for the most part. There were lots of questions, of course. I was surprised at how surprised some of my loved ones were. I was a tomboy growing up, playing sports, wearing dirty clothes with holes in them. I hated dresses as a child. Still did as a nineteen year old, when I declared myself a lesbian.
So why some of my loved ones were surprised by my revelation, is astounding. Denial is fierce.
Last night, something happened that made me feel nineteen all over again. No, I didn’t try to buy beer with someone else’s ID who looked kinda, sorta, like me.
I came out to a loved one.
It started out as a typical Friday night. I was on my recliner, watching the Sox game. My sister’s kids were over. My seven-year old nephew was laid out on the couch next to me, my niece in college was working on her studies at the kitchen table behind me, and my other niece, twelve-years old, slid onto the recliner with me.
“Do you like girls?” she asked.
It was a casual question. There was no tone. Just a straight-forward, no-nonsense question. I was caught off-guard. This niece, as do all of nieces and nephews, has known for years that I write lesbian novels, and that I have a gay friend with whom I go to gay bars. But they’ve never asked if I was a lesbian.
I knew the question would come up soon. They’ve asked me other questions bordering the, “Do you like girls”, “Are you a lesbian, Auntie?” question.
“Auntie, why do you write lesbian stories?”
“Lesbians need to read, too, right?”
“Auntie, so you go to gay bars and watch boys kiss?”
“Yes, I do. And that’s okay.”
“Auntie, aren’t you afraid someone’s going to think you’re gay?”
“No, because being gay is okay.”
Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t just come out and tell my curious nieces and nephews that I was gay. They were young – nine, ten, eleven years old. I didn’t think they were ready to know. Or maybe I wasn’t ready for them to know. Whatever the case, I didn’t volunteer the information, but I swore I would answer honestly if they ever directly asked if I was gay.
“Do you like girls?” my niece asked.
I tossed my head back. “Why would you ask me that? No, I don’t like girls.”
“It’s okay if you do. I respect gay people,” my niece responded.
I went back to watching the game, not believing that I had just lied to my niece. I did exactly what I told myself I wouldn’t do. I was not expecting that question at that moment. I was unprepared. In that moment, I wasn’t ready to tell her the truth.
When she got off the chair with me, I replayed in my mind what had just happened, and I knew I couldn’t keep things as they were.
Later, we were practicing our dance routine to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” and I pulled her into another room.
“I’m sorry for lying to you,” I said.
“When?” she asked.
“When I told you I didn’t like girls.”
“You like girls?” she asked.
She smiled and jumped in my arms. She squeezed her arms tight around my neck. “I’m so proud of you! I love you so much.”
It was a beautiful moment. My twelve-year old niece is proud of me. I have to laugh at that. When we left the room, and joined the others, we went right back to where we left off. She didn’t treat me any differently. Being gay is really no big deal to her.
Later that night, we were watching the movie Signs, and she jumped onto the recliner to snuggle with me at the scary parts, like she always does.
It was a week ago tonight that a gunman would enter a popular gay nightclub with a semi-automatic weapon and kill 49 people and injure an additional 53. Some of those people are still in hospitals today, desperately clasping onto the life their injuries threaten to take away.
I pray they all make it.
Most of us by now have heard the names of the dead and have seen their faces. The majority of those lives taken were young people in their twenties. Though any life taken in such a brutal manner as this is tragic, seeing the pictures of those young faces, some posing in bars from a different time in their life, hit me hard.
I used to be one of those twenty-something year old faces, back in the the days when the weekend meant going to bars filled with people like me. Where I could dance, kiss, and hold hands with another girl without feeling strange. It was “normal” to be like me in places like those. And despite what people say about “defying the ordinary” and “normal is boring” it’s nice to not stand out sometimes, rather to fit in. Go unnoticed.
Gay bars offered a refuge, a safe haven, for gay people who might have spent Monday through Friday hiding while feeling self-conscious living and working in a heterosexual world. But the weekends we were free. We let loose. We were ourselves.
Because the gunman (I won’t call him by his name because he doesn’t deserve that kind of respect) called 911 before the attack and pledged his allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS, some people are calling this a terrorist attack, and only a terrorist attack. All attacks are done to cause terror, but this assault was triggered by hatred toward a specific group of people. Gay people. And everyone needs to acknowledge that.
Every gay person across the country, maybe even the world, who’d ever been to a gay bar – felt safe in a gay bar – has watched this story unfold as each day brought new horrifying details, and thought, “That could have been me.”
Those are terrifying words when uttered in relation to a morbidly hatred act.
I learned of the shooting the morning after my niece’s wedding. I had just woken up in a hotel room, my mother beside me in my bed and my two young nephews sleeping in the other bed, and I turned on my phone. I read the headlines news of that morning and sat in stunned silence as my mind took in the unbelievable words I had just read. I listened to the steady breath of my loved ones, sleeping safely in the room with me, yet I still felt so afraid.
My mind turned to the night before, a joyous occasion, and I struggled to imagine that while I was dancing and laughing and drinking, there were people, half my age, thousands of miles away from me, who were only minutes away from taking their last breath while doing something I had done hundreds of times before – dancing, laughing, having fun at a gay bar.
A little while later, my 11 year old niece came into my hotel room from her own, and when she heard the news on the TV reporting that 50 people were killed, her eyes opened wide and she asked me why someone would do that.
One of the most difficult consequences of hate-filled murder is trying to explain the act to children. I couldn’t answer my niece’s question because I don’t know how a person hates so much to kill innocent people. All I could do was hug my young niece. Assure her she was safe.
The same niece, days later, would overhear me on the phone talking to a friend about going to a gay bar the following weekend (because gay people aren’t going to hide in fear) and she cried out for me not go. “Gay people are being killed Auntie! Don’t go!”
She had heard the reports of the man who was arrested while heading to the L.A. Pride Parade the Sunday following the shooting, with guns in his car, looking to do more harm to gay people. I assured my niece I wouldn’t go to a gay bar this weekend, however my city’s Pride Parade is next weekend, and I’m planning on being there.
I don’t know what happens from here. If six-year old’s can be gunned down in their Kindergarten class, no one is safe. I don’t know when or where the next shooting is going to take place, or who the target will be this time, but I do know that another mass shooting will happen again.
That, I know for certain. That past assures me of this.
While we wait for our country’s leaders to finally do something about our much too-easy access to high-powered, high-killing guns, we cross our fingers that it’s not us, or our loved ones, caught in the next horrifying headline news that results in moments of silence and American flags ordered at half staff.
I’d like to share an excerpt from my two published books, Her Name and Loving Again. Both are available now on amazon.com.
Madison Andrews has spent her entire life ~unsuccessfully~ searching for love. She begins having vivid dreams of the same woman every night, and soon, Madison believes this woman is the love she has been searching for. Madison’s dreams become more intense and she realizes the dreams she’s having recreate moments taken from actual events from her life ~~ and this woman is there for all of it. Madison searches for her, but how can she find a woman she knows everything about… and yet nothing? She doesn’t even know her name.
Now, I laid down my fork and leaned into my seat. I knew she didn’t
want to talk about this anymore, but I did. “This all sounds crazy to you,
and maybe in the beginning, it was something to joke about, but now,
I’m not sure. These pictures were taken directly out of my life, and this
woman was in every one of them. You can’t tell me I just dreamed it from
memory, because my memory isn’t that good! The photos were identical all
the way from the clothes we wore, to the smile on our faces. Hell, even the
background was the same! She was the only thing that was different. How
could that be?”
I stared at her, waiting for a response as she took it all in.
“Like I said on the phone, I just don’t know what you want me to say. I’m
not sure what you’re asking me. Is it weird? Yeah, totally, but I’m no dream
expert, and neither are you. Like I said before, maybe it’s your subconscious
taking over. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation, and it probably has some
fancy scientific name.”
“She’s my wife,” I said flatly. “I saw a picture of us from our wedding,
and we looked like we belonged together. We know each other. I mean,
really know each other. I wish you could see us together, because you’ve
never seen me this way with anyone before.”
“And what way is that?”
“In love,” I answered.
“In love,” Shelly repeated and then pushed herself away from the table.
“Well, Maddy, me seeing you with her is something that will never happen. Do you wanna know why that will never happen?”
“I know why you think that will never happen, but that’s where you’re wrong.” I stared at her and said, “I’m just gonna come out and say it. I think she’s real.”
Dana Perkins lost her longtime partner in a tragic accident. Although she still struggles with the loss, her profound loneliness is evidence that it is time to move on. She knows her deceased lover, Casey, wouldn’t want her living this way. Dana begins her slow process of letting go, removing reminders of Casey from her house, and dating again.
The women she meets leave Dana uninspired and missing her deceased partner even more. Just as she is about to resign herself to the belief that she will never love again, Dana meets Emily Daniels, a married woman who is deeply conflicted over her attraction to women. Soon, the two women form a friendship that leads to deeper emotions. They discover that one moment in their past had brought them together in a way neither woman could have ever imagined. Is that one moment in time enough to let both women follow their hearts, or will they let their past continue to rule their future?
“What’d he say?” Dana handed Emily another glass of wine.
“Nothing. He hung up on me.”
Dana sat beside her on the couch. “I’m sorry.”
“Maybe I don’t have the right to question him about it, but if he slept with other women, that’s worse than what I did, isn’t it?”
“You married a man because that’s what you thought you were supposed to do. Emily, you did nothing wrong.”
“I’m the one who left. This shouldn’t hurt as much as it does.”
Dana pushed a strand of Emily’s hair behind her ear. “You still love him,” she said flatly.
Emily looked at her. “It’s not like that. I’m not jealous. I’m angry. If he had real affairs with other women, then why am I the one bearing all the guilt?”
“You shouldn’t be.”
“But I am, and it hurts me that my husband cheated.”
“Of course it does. He betrayed you.”
“But didn’t I betray him, too?”
“You did not betray him. You didn’t know what you were. It’s not the same.”
Emily averted her eyes. It was difficult to look at Dana at that moment because she still hadn’t told her the truth about her past.
“I’m sorry I ruined tonight,” she said. “We’re supposed to be getting to know each other. You invite me to your house, make me dinner, and instead of talking about you, I’m going on and on about me and my soon-to-be ex-husband.”
Dana leaned closer to her. “I want you to talk about yourself and whatever’s happening in your life,” she said. “I love that you feel comfortable enough to share this with me.”
Emily studied the woman she was beginning to fall for. “You’re very sweet.”
“There’s just one thing that I ask of you.”
“I need you to be sure this is what you want. I’m not talking about me specifically. I mean women.”
Emily straightened in her seat and looked Dana in the eyes. “I’m so sure of what I want that
I destroyed my marriage to get it, and my mother no longer talks to me because of it. Isn’t that enough?”
Dana cupped Emily’s face in her hands. “Yes.” She closed her eyes and drew Emily in for a soft and sweet first kiss.
Thanks for reading!
Please click the link below to buy either one of my books.
I’m so pleased to have author, Annette Mori, on my blog today. She is the talented writer of the books, Out of this World, Love Forever, Live Forever, Asset Management, and Locked Inside.
Here’s an excerpt from Locked Inside, a story about overcoming great obstacles and freeing oneself from emotional prisons. But the heart of the story is about love.
Awareness came slowly to me, as the blanket of fog, smothering intelligence, rolled back. I imagined an intricate spider web in my head, tangled with fine silk strands. Wonder Woman was slicing through them like an adventurer hacking through a jungle.
I was still confused about where I was when I heard giggling. At first, I thoughtmy sisters were invading my sacred space.
“Shhh, come in here and tell me every little detail,” a girl’s voice said.
“I don’t think we should be in here, Tammie. We’re supposed to be doing our volunteer hours, not screwing around in a resident’s room,” a different voice huffed.
I opened my eyes and a fuzzy picture began to emerge. Two strange teenage girls were huddled in the corner of a foreign room with sterile white walls. I wasn’t in my bedroom at home and I began to panic.
It’s probably hard for people to truly appreciate the terror that I experienced at this particular moment in my life. I had no idea where I was, who these strangers were, or what had happened to me. I would later discover that I’d lost six years of my life while hovering in a semi-comatose state. They never did figure out the origin of the illness or why I went into a coma and by the time I showed any awareness, six years had passed and my family had accepted the original prognosis that I would never recover.
The tall, skinny one with red hair shrugged. “Don’t be such a tight ass, Carly.” She pointed in my direction and giggled. “She’ll never tell.”
“That’s just mean.”
“What? She’s a vegetable, but right now she’s kinda creeping me out. Look, her eyes are open and it’s almost like she’s listening to every word we say,” the redhead blurted out.
The other one looked at me and frowned. “I think we’re upsetting her. She’s breathing really heavy now and I think she can hear us. Something is wrong. She looks terrified.”
I was trying to move my head, my arms, my legs, anything, but none of my body parts would cooperate with me. I felt my breathing quicken and I desperately wanted to communicate with them. I wanted to know where I was and why I couldn’t talk or move.
“She does look kind of agitated, Carly. Maybe we should get your mom.”
They left the room and I tried to move my head. I managed to move it a couple of inches as I took in my surroundings. I was able to shift my eyes from side to side as I noticed a TV mounted high on the wall in the center of the room and a single bed with a simple nightstand on my right. It looked like a typical hospital room, but I wasn’t positive. In my mind, I was still ten years old and my parents were nowhere to be found. I wanted my mom. I wanted reassurance that everything would be okay.
I heard the click clickclick of heels on the linoleum floor and watched as an attractive dark- haired woman entered the room. She had a stethoscope draped around her neck and one of the teenagers followed her into the room. They had similar features and I wondered if she was the mom the redhead referred to earlier.
“I’m sorry, Mom, Tammie dragged me in here. I didn’t mean to upset the patient but shelooked like she was trying to say something. Her breathing got kinda fast like she was having a panic attack or something,” the young woman confessed.
Well, that answered that mystery for me. The beautiful girl must have been the one the redhead, Tammie, called Carly. As each minute passed, I was becoming more aware of my surroundings and I was working to remember little details like the names of the young girls.
“Carly, it’s not like you to get sucked into Tammie’s harebrained ideas. I taught you better than that. Belinda is a very special case, but I don’t think she actually heard you or that you upset her in any way. She’s been completely unresponsive for nearly six years. Unfortunately, her illness caused severe brain damage.” “I know she reacted to something,” Carly insisted. “Okay, let me check her out.”
The woman grabbed her stethoscope and I felt her hands push aside my clothing as she placed the silver end on my chest. Her hands were gentle, but the stethoscope was cold and I must have had some small reaction—although it didn’t feel like any part of my body would obey.
“I’m sorry, Belinda, did you feel that?” she asked.
Carly stepped up to the bedside and I could feel her touch my hand.
I looked down at my curled up hand, which resembled some kind of deformed claw.
“My mom’s a doctor. She won’t hurt you,” Carly soothed.
Since I wasn’t able to move any part of my body but my eyes and my head in incremental movements, I concentrated all my energy on letting them know there was someone locked inside this useless body. I wasn’t a vegetable.
“Hmmm, in all the years I’ve looked in on Belinda, she’s never reacted like this. She does respond to certain stimuli. We’ve always been able to feed her as long as someone touches her lips first. This is new, though. Her heart rate does appear to be elevated and there is definite movement in her eyes. Perhaps she is reacting to your voice.”
Yes. It was a start. I had to find a way to communicate and let them know I was aware and present. My instinct for survival and Carly’s soothing presence was enough to tamp down the initial terror I felt. Everything was still too new for me to truly experience the first stage in the grief process. That would come later and didn’t last long. I’d always been a practical child. It didn’t serve a useful purpose to deny my limitations, so I didn’t remain in denial for very long.
Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief don’t just occur when someone experiences the death of a loved one—a significant loss in one’s life can certainly trigger that grief process, as well. I’d lost my childhood and during the next several years, I spent various amounts of time in almost every stage—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
“Can I read to her or something, instead of the other duties the volunteers do? Please, Mom. You just said that maybe she reacts to my voice. I want to help,” Carly begged.
“We’ll see. I need to make sure that would be okay with everyone, but it may be beneficial to Belinda. I don’t want Tammie in this room though—she doesn’t have the same altruistic motives that you have.”
“Aw, Tammie’s okay, she just wanted to get the scoop on my date last night. She was way more excited about it than I was and I still don’t see what’s the big flippin’ deal. I’m not even sure I want to go out with him again.”
“Why not? Isn’t he the heartthrob of your school or something—captain of the football team and good looking by teenager standards? He seemed like a nice boy. Anyone who can put up with your father’s twenty questions can’t be all bad.”
“He is nice, but I just don’t get that excited feeling that I’m supposed to when I’m around him. It feels more like I went out with my brother. Maybe there’s something wrong with me. Tammie says the same thing—that I’m the luckiest girl in school since he picked me.”
“You have plenty of time to find the right one. I thought your dad was the biggest dork the first time I went out with him. I only went on a second date because I felt sorry for him and then he kind of grew on me.”
As mother and daughter had theirlittle heart to heart conversation, I felt like an inanimate object. Something in the background that no one noticed unless someone pointed it out as if they were giving a tour of their house. I wanted Carly to stay and talk to me or read to me, but she left with her mother and I remained alone in an empty room void of any stimulation. I closed my eyes and tried to conjure up a mental picture of my family. I wondered where they were. The woman said I’d been unresponsive for six years. I wondered what had happened in those years. Was it only six years? Or was that merely the amount of time she’d worked here? Even if it was only six years, I was now sixteen years old. I’d already missed more than a third of my life. I had to find a way to break free of this prison because that’s what it felt like—a prison.