Don't Think, Just Write

A Man's Journey

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Learning New Things

Like I’ve said before, I read a lot of author’s blogs. I enjoy seeing how others fit writing into their otherwise busy lives. A high school friend of mine said he wakes at 3 am to get some writing done before the rest of the house wakes and steals away his quiet time. 

I’m still trying to master the consistency factor in my writing. I just finished a short story, and decided to try my hand at making a book cover for it. In them same blogs I mentioned, authors talk about how an effective book cover makes all the difference.  They also speak about how easy it it. When they say easy, they need to put an “*” and a footnote explaining, “It’s only easy if you have an ounce of graphic design software experience.  Otherwise it’s a pain in the ass.” I don’t have that “ounce.”

While spending hours trying to figure out copying, pasting, and erasing the white background from clip art, a new story came to me. I thought the characters out, put a few scenes together in my head, but haven’t had time to sit down and type. I find this more frustrating than having the time to type, but no story.

It’s a good lesson in time management. Spending hours on this when I should be doing that.  Editing the first chapter when I should be writing the second. But, in the end, it all has to get done. 

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Can’t Abandon Love Chapter 2

Can’t Abandon Love is a title I thought up quickly when I posted Chapter 1 a couple weeks ago. I never had a title for the novel the whole time I was working on it, and now, a year later, I still don’t have a title I’m comfortable with. As much reading as I do about all things writing, I don’t think I’ve come across a blog, guide, or any advice what so ever on naming a novel. I’ve read that the name plays a big role in how the novel is perceived, and if one is looking to publish, it plays a crucial role, but I haven’t seen anything on actually naming the book.

If someone knows of an article, blog post, or otherwise, on the subject of naming a book, I would appreciate an email, tweet, or phone call.  I have another 70,000 words that I refer to as, “The First One.” that needs a good name.

Again, I appreciate the comments and welcome critizism.

Chapter 2

Lincoln  Street was a quiet suburban street with small, well-kept houses mixed in with a few that needed work. Most of our neighbors worked at the plant with my dad building transmissions. One could always tell when the plant was busy because you would only see moms and kids on the front porches and in the yards while all the dads were either sleeping or working. When the plant was on one of its furloughs, which happened more than mom hoped, the men of the street would gather on the sidewalks and talk about the plant and their co-workers. I often heard my father complain about my mom and how much she talked on the phone, but when he and a few of his coworkers got together, they talked about the same things I overheard my mom saying on the phone. This person was getting married, that person is lazy, and it was always the same things. The one thing my father talked about the mom never did on the phone was sports. He talked sports more than any man I knew and it always revolved around numbers. The conversation always started with whom as playing who, who was injured, then they would talk about the point spread. I never knew much about point spreads, other than if the point spread was three between the Lions and Bears, then the Lions should best the Bears by three points. Then, on Sunday afternoon, if the Lions won by only one point, my father would complain, “They won but they didn’t cover.”

“Yeah but, didn’t you say they should win this game?” I would ask him. Usually we were sitting in our living room, him on the chair and me on the couch.

“They were supposed to win by three Dominic. Three points or more.” It was all confusing to me but I knew better than to ask for an explanation. My dad didn’t like questions, and when I asked more that two in a row, the second one would almost always be answered, “Go ask your mother.”

So the guys talked sports and about the union. I didn’t really know what the union was either but it sounded like a club that the employees started just to torment the boss. They had a building on Third Street where my dad went for meetings. In the summer there was a big picnic where all the men would drink beer while the kids played a huge baseball game while the women stayed inside the building getting the food ready.

Joey and I watched through side window of his living room as they loaded my mother’s body into the ambulance.  I had seen enough television to know that when the sheet is pulled over someone’s head, they are dead.  “Who’s going to cook and do your laundry Dom?” Joey said.

“I guess I’ll have to do my own laundry. I already do my own football stuff.” I said.

“Does your dad know how to cook?”

“Sometimes he cooks stuff on the grill, chicken and steaks.  He might know how to make pasta but we got plenty of sugu in the basement to.”  I said. We watched as more and more police officers arrived on Lincoln Street. We had a clear view of the my front yard because Mr. Peterson, the old man who lived between us and the Taylor’s, kept his bushes trimmed to precision. There must have been a dozen patrol cars in the middle of the street and when Suzanna got home from her boyfriend’s house, she had to park on Hoover, the next street
over.  Suzanna was only three years older than Joey and I and but in my eyes, she was a young woman.  She was pretty, popular, and Joey often complained because she had so many girlfriends over all the time.  I tried to hang around Joey’s a little more when I knew there was a friend or two visiting or staying the night.

“What’s going on over there?” Suzanna asked before seeing me.

“Come on in here Suzanna.” Joey’s mom said from the kitchen.

“Just a second mom, I have to go pee real bad.” Suzanna said. She rushed to kick off her shoes and get out of her coat.  I turned and watched her after hearing this.  I wondered what it would be like to have a sister.

“Wonder what those cops are asking your dad?” Joey said.  I turned back around and saw two men in long trench coats talking to my dad on the front lawn. My dad was gesturing with his hands then he dropped his head and kicked at the leaves.

“Yeah, I wonder too. Do you think those guys are cops?” I asked.

“Yeah, those guys are investigators, I’m sure of it.” Joey said.  When it came to police issues, I trusted Joey.  His dad had been on the Cary police department for eleven years and Joey loved his dad’s job.

“Do they investigate every time someone dies?”

“I don’t think so, just when things look suspicious.”

It was approaching 7 pm when Mrs. Taylor called us away from that window for dinner.  She asked me what I wanted to eat earlier and without hesitation I said, “Pasta, Thursday is pasta day.”  The pasta was great but the sauce Mrs. Taylor made came from the grocery store. In our house, Mom’s good homemade pasta sauce was called sugu and the stuff from the grocery store was simply called sauce.  I could eat a lot more than Joey, but not that night.  I barely touched the chicken and mixed vegetables but I did eat the pasta.

Once I finished, I went back to the window and noticed the two investigators were no longer talking to my dad, but now, two police officers in uniform were talking to him. It had turned dark outside but the lights from the patrol cars lit what the street lights left out.  Dad motioned toward the house a few times and then put his chin down on his chest.  One of the police officers put his hand under dad’s arm and led him to a patrol car. He put his hand on the top of my dad’s head as he lower himself into the back seat, just like I’d seen on TV.

“What’s going on now?” Joey said, when he returned to the window from doing dishes with Suzanna. I heard arguing and bickering coming from the kitchen while they were in there cleaning up.  That’s what they did when they were forced to do chores together, argue.  Mrs. Taylor usually intervenes when she hears them argue but tonight, she sat in her chair and dabbed a tissue at her eyes. Her and my mom was friends. They talked on the phone and shopped together, but their favorite thing to do was to team up and catch Joey and me in small lies.

“They just had my dad sit in that car right there.” I said while I pointed to one of the eight patrol cars still parked  on Lincoln Street.

The two police officers came back to the front lawn and talked with the investigators in the long trench coats. Then they returned to the car, got in, and drove away.  Joey and I just watched.

Mr. Taylor emerged from my house and walked down to sidewalk toward home. His head was hanging and he didn’t walk with his usual confidence. His clothes were still covered with sugu from the kitchen floor. Joey and I hurried away from the window knowing he would not be happy if found us watching what was going on. “Some things are not for kids.” or “You will have your fill of real life when you get older, right now, enjoy your innocence.” He said often.

 

Joey grabbed his book bag from the floor near the door and I followed him to the kitchen table where we pretended to be real interested in social studies. We heard Mr. Taylor come through the front door, “Where is he?” he asked Mrs. Taylor. Joey and I stared at each other.

“They’ve been in the kitchen since dinner.” Mrs. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor came to the doorway leading to the kitchen, “Dominic, you’re going to sleep here tonight. Your father is busy but he wanted me to tell you he loves you.”

“Ok.” My mother taught me to not question whether adults were telling the truth but I think Mr. Taylor was lying when he told me what my dad said. My dad never told me he loved me. He wasn’t like that. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I ever heard him tell my mother that he loved her either. After hearing Mr. Taylor say that, I felt a lump in my throat. I didn’t want to cry but I realized that the only one who told me she loved me was now dead.

I stared at the kitchen wall and felt heaviness in my chest. My heart really did feel broke. This must be what a heart attack feels like. When Mrs. Peterson, the old woman who lived in the house between Joey and us, had a heart attack and died last year, I asked my mom what a heart attack was. Was an army was doing the attacking?  She told me it was just an expression; it meant that a blood clot went into your heart. Right there at Joey’s table I felt like I was having a heart attack my chest hurt so much.

“Let’s go grab a few things Dominic.” Mr. Taylor said. He had on clean clothes and his hair was still wet and combed to the side. As we walked down to my house Mr. Taylor asked what things I would need tomorrow. “Is your homework done?”

“No. But I don’t have very much. Ten math problems, that’s all.”

“Good. What about your football gear?”

“It’s in the washer. Can I dry it at your house?”

“Yeah, we’ll grab it and Mrs. Taylor will take care of it.” Joey didn’t wash was his own football gear, Mrs. Taylor did.

There were still two patrol cars in front of the house and a brown car parked in the driveway. The front and side door were propped open, but we went through the front door and straight up stairs.

“Grab school cloths for tomorrow and play clothes for the weekend. You’re going to stay at our house till Sunday, okay?” Mr. Taylor said. We were climbing the stairs to the second floor where my room was.

“Okay,” I said again. Mr. Taylor sat on my bed and looked around as I fumbled through my drawers trying to find matching socks and the pants my mom always made me wear with the shirt I picked out. Mr. Taylor grabbed my pillow, took the case off and held it open for me.

“Shove it all in here, Dom.” Once the pillow case was full we went back down to the front porch. “Stay here; I’ll grab your football stuff from the basement.”

“Will you grab my book bag too, Mr. Taylor? It’s on the landing.” I asked.

I stood on the porch and watched two policemen as they looked around my house. One was taking pictures in the kitchen and even when he moved to where I couldn’t see him, I could still see the flash fill the room. Another man was in the living room using tweezers to pick up something from the spot where my mom was. He put it in a plastic sandwich bag. He was labeling each bag and had them spread out on the couch.

 

“Come on Dom!” Mr. Taylor yelled to me from the driveway. I slowly turned away and walked down the steps. My house felt like a different place looking at it now. It was no longer the place where our family lived, no longer a place of comfort and love. It was now cold.

Mrs. Taylor got the top bunk in Joey’s room ready for me while we were in the shower.  “Dominic, you were everything to your mother.  She loved you more than life itself.  She’s in a better place now.” She said without looking at me.  I could tell by her words that she was crying. I was afraid to look.

“I know Mrs. Taylor.” I said.

“Me and Mr. Taylor love you very much too.  Were going to make sure you’re taken care of.”

“My dad will take care of me, Mrs. Taylor.” I told her trying to sound courageous. Joey came in from the shower and got in his bed.

“Good night mom.” He said as she kissed his cheek.

“Good night Dominic. Give me a kiss.” She told me, then stood up on her toes to reach my face after I rolled to the side and hung my head off the bed.  Joey giggled a little.

“Shush Joey.  Dominic has had a bad day.  He needs a kiss.” Joey still giggled.

“Good night Dominic.” Joey said after his mom left the room.  “Sorry about your mom.  Maybe you can live here now.”

“My dad is going to take good care of me. Good night.” I told him, and then rolled over.

I hardly slept the whole night. I thought about my mother and the way she moaned at me when I first found her. I should have stayed with her as she died on the floor. Instead I went and got my dad who acted like he didn’t care if she lived or died.  He didn’t even say the prayer with me.  I thought about our house and how cold and empty it felt when we went to get my clothes. I wondered if my father was home from the police station, or if he went straight to Landry’s.

I didn’t know it then, but I would never sleep another night in the same house with my father.

 

The Lost Document

I have a bluetooth keyboard that I use with my phone if I’m away from home and want to get some words down.  Last night I was driving home from the gym and a nice little story came to me.  Nothing big, nothing that could be on the shelves of your local Borders someday. Did I just mention Borders?  Anyway, by the time I got home I had two character names picked out, and was ready to put some words down.

We only have one laptop in the house right now, the desktop is obsolete and unusable.  My wife wanted to check the kids grades, kinda important, so I set up my keyboard and started typing at the kitchen table.

It started slow, dinner was ready, then the kids had to be tucked in, but finally, I had a solid hour to type with plenty of ideas still swirling in my head.  I was using Quick Office instead of my usual My Writing Spot, after a friend told me how hard it was to convert in the future.  After about 1000 words my eyes grew weary and I went to bed.

I layed in bed planning the next move for the story and how it should end. Then I fell asleep.

I hit the button on my coffee maker and stood at the kitchen counter, my body still half asleep.  Then I remembered the story.  I wanted to read it real quick and see how it sounded after a nights sleep.  I opened Quick Word and looked in the recent documents, nothing.  I looked in the folder where I save everything, not there either.  Where was it?

I spent the first half hour of my workday clicking around and typing in search words, trying to locate the damn thing.  Still nothing.  So I did the next best thing, I searched the Market for a cloud service, downloaded it, and I will start the story over.  Lesson learned.

Can’t Abandon Love

This is the first chapter of a novel I wrote for the 2010 NaNoWriMo.  It’s about a boy who loses his mother then, later, commits himself to never abandon his wife the way his father abandon him, no matter what.

I couldn’t wait to get home from football practice. It was Thursday, and Thursday was pasta night. Well, back then, every night was pasta night because that was my favorite and Mom loved making it for me.

“See you later, Dom,” Joey said when we got to his driveway. His dad’s car was home which meant he was working the day shift. I knew this wasn’t the last I’d see of Joey. His old man love to throw the ball around, and if I hung around the front porch, I’d get invited to join in. Joey’s old man was good too, good at sports. He could throw a baseball so high that you lost sight of it for a split second, that’s why it was no surprise that Joey was the best player on the eighth grade football team.

I kept walking on the sidewalk past the Johnsons’; they lived between Joey and me. My stomach growled when I thought of Mom’s pasta. On the weekends she liked to make homemade noodles but, during the week, she boiled the dry stuff. It wasn’t even the pasta I craved, but the sugu she put on it. Joey’s mom called it sauce but my mom was Italian so she called it sugu. I could make a whole dinner out of my mom’s sugu and a couple slices of bread.

“Mom,” I called from the landing at the back door. She didn’t answer. My mom was one of those women who cleaned the house, then turned around and cleaned it again. She always had cleaning to do. I heard the radio in the kitchen playing low; it was a Bob Seger song. Night Moves.  Mom liked cleaning, and singing, to Bob Seger. I liked him too but not this song, Night Moves was a grown-up song. Hollywood Nights was my favorite Bob Seger song. With no sign of Mom, I headed down the stairs to the basement with my duffel bag.

After getting into three fights in sixth grade, Principal Daniels called me to his office and told me, either I was playing football, or I was going to have a tough time getting through junior high. He coached the seventh and eighth grade football teams and was always on the lookout for tough kids. “If you tackle running backs like you tackled Mo Schmidt this morning in the hall you might even be a starter. You’re certainly big enough. Your mom must feed you good,” he said. I just stared at my shoes and wondered if he was going to expel me again.  Last time he expelled me my old man was working afternoons, which meant he woke up atnoonbut didn’t start work until four. Mom put school clothes on me and sent me out for a walk untilthree thirtywhen I was supposed to get home. The old man was not as kind as Mom when it came to kids.

After I got home from the first practice on Principal Daniels’ football team, Mom led me to the basement and showed me how to use the washer and dryer. “If you want to play, you have to help me out. Now, don’t forget to put them in the dryer or you’re going to have wet practice clothes in the morning,” she told me. She had to speak up so I could hear her over the rumble of the washer on the concrete basement floor.

I took all the pads out of my practice pants and threw them in as the washer began filling.  The shirt that I wore under my shoulder pads was soaked from the sprints Coach Daniels finished practice with.  I hated the sprints. “Run them hard, and we will only do 20,” he told the team at the end of practice when we would huddle around him. I always ran them hard, but I had to just to keep up with the other offensive lineman.  Every day when we would get to twenty, Coach would yell again, “I see a couple of you guys loafing!” Loafing was his term for coasting, taking it easy. Loafing always cost us ten more.

After I had the washer going I climbed the stairs to the landing, kicked off my school shoes, and walked up the three steps to the kitchen.  That’s when I saw the sugu all over the floor. The pot was on the floor and sugu was spread out in a huge pool with splatter all the way across and under the table by the window. It was her usual batch of two quarts that she had me fetch from the basement cellar last night. 

“Mom!” I yelled.  No answer came from the house.  Night Moves was just finishing up on the radio when I called again. “Mom, what happened to the kitchen?” I stepped into the kitchen and tried to tip-toe my way through the sauce to the dining room. I went very slowly. Trying to find clear spots to step was almost impossible because of the way the sauce was spread and splattered.  When I got to the dining room door, I yelled again, “Mom, where you at? You have a big mess down here.”  I noticed sugu spread all the way through the dining room but it was almost like she tried to mop it up or something.  I followed the streaks of sauce on the wood floor and when I turned the corner into the parlor, I saw her. 

“Mom!” I ran over to her.  She was on her stomach with her usual cleaning clothes on.  Polyester pants, and one of my old man’s white t-shirts. My heart raced in my chest as I slid on my knees next to her body.

“Mom?  What happened?”  She mumbled something I couldnt understand through her thick, curly hair that had covered her face when she fell.  I grabbed a handful of hair moved it away from her face. When I let go of the hair, my hand was covered in blood.  “Did you fall Mom?  You’re bleeding.” The only eye I could see was the right one and it was barely open.  Her shiny eyeball was barely visible through the drooped eyelid.  “Mom, I’m gonna go get someone to help.”

As I ran back through the kitchen and tip-toed around the sugu on the floor, I decided to go to Landry’s and see if my dad was there.  I darted down the stairs and out the screen door. My feet felt like they weren’t even touching the ground as I ran down the driveway and turned right on the sidewalk. Landry’s Bar was only ten houses down on the corner ofFifth   Street, the main street that ran through town.

“Dominic, is everything alright?” I heard Mr. Taylor, Jeff’s dad, yell to me from his front yard as I ran down the sidewalk in my socks. I knew I was being disrespectful by not answering but it was an emergency, Mom was hurt.

The ten-house run down Lincoln   Streetusually took about twenty-five seconds for me and twenty seconds for Joey, but that day, I swear I did it in eighteen flat.  I saw the old man’s green car parked in front and felt a small sense of relief that he wasn’t working that afternoon.  Well, he might have been working, but at that moment, he was at Landry’s.  I grabbed the door and ran in but stopped immediately because I couldn’t see. My eyes were used to the bright sunshine outside and Landry’s was the darkest bar I’d ever been in. I immediately smelled the familiar aroma of cigarettes and stale beer that I hated when my old man brought me here.

“Dominic, what in the hell you doing?” My dad’s voice boomed from somewhere near the bar.

“Dad! Mom fell down and hit her head or something. She’s hurt!” I ran toward the white shirt sitting at the bar, assuming it was him because that was the direction the voice came from.

“I better go Bill,” Dad said. Bill Landry owned the bar and always worked during the day. Dad slid from his stool and walked toward me.

“Yeah, she spilled sugu all over the kitchen and I think she slipped and fell,” I blurted.

“Lets go see.”

As I ran back toward our house, I saw Joey standing in his front yard watching me, he was holding his football.  When I stopped and turned around to see how far my dad was behind, he yelled, “What happened, Dom?”

“My mom slipped and fell. She’s hurt,” I shouted over my shoulder without taking my eyes off my dad who was walking fast down the sidewalk. When he got to our front yard he cut across the grass toward the driveway and the side door. “She’s in the living room, Dad,” I said, and then turned and ran in the house and up to the kitchen. The sugu on the floor was now smeared in a totally different pattern then when I left and there was no way of avoiding it. I walked quickly through the middle of the kitchen trying to avoid the big puddles of red.  When I turned the corner where she was laying, I realized why the sugu was smeared in the kitchen. 

Joey’s dad had mom turned over on her back and was pushing on her chest. After a few pushes on her chest, he took a deep breath and put his mouth over hers. The back of his jacket was covered with sugu; he must have fallen in the kitchen.

“What in the hell happened here?” I heard my dad’s voice from behind me. I turned and looked at him approaching the living room, and then looked back at Mr. Taylor who was breathing into Mom’s mouth again.

Mr. Taylor looked up and noticed me watching him. “Call the police, Dominic!”  I turned and ran past my dad standing in the dining room on my way to the kitchen. I heard my dad say something to Mr. Taylor, but I was busy fumbling with the phone trying to dial zero.

A female voice came over the phone line. “Operator. How can I help you?”

“My mom fell and hit her head. Mr. Taylor told me to call the police.”

“Okay, son. What’s your address?”

“330Lincoln. Right by Landry’s Bar.”  When my mom and dad gave directions to our house they always mentioned Landry’s since it was on the main road through town.

“Is Mr. Taylor there now?”

“Yes, he’s in the living room with my dad.”

“Ask him if it’s an emergency.”

“He’s pushing on her chest and breathing in her mouth.”

“Stay on the line, son,” she said and then I heard a click that sounded like she hung up.  A few seconds later she came back on.  “An ambulance and police are on their way.” I hung up before she said anything else.

I ran back to the living room, “The police and ambulance are on the way, Dad,”  Both of them were on their knees on each side of Mom, but Mr. Taylor was no longer pushing her chest, instead, they were sitting back with their butts on their heels looking at her face.

The house was completely silent except for the whisper from the radio in the kitchen; it was Billy Joel.  Mom liked Billy Joel’s music, too.  After a long moment Mr. Taylor put his hand over mom’s eyes and turned to me.  “Come and say a prayer over your mother, Dominic.”

I slowly stepped toward her body on the floor. Her white t-shirt was covered with a mixture of tomato sauce and blood, and there was a small pool of blood above her head.  My father looked at me with an expression in his eyes I’d never seen before.  When his friend Charlie died, my dad cried in this same living room while my mom and I stayed in the back yard. He came out after an hour that day and his eyes were red and puffy, but they didn’t look the same as they did now.

Today they had a look I was familiar with, the look of a man thinking, thinking of something other than Mom.

I knelt between her legs and made the sign of the cross. My heart ached in my chest and the lump in my throat nearly choked me.  I began the Our Father while I looked at her lifeless body and wondered what she was thinking about inside. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” Did she feel trapped inside a body that would no longer move?  Was she already in heaven?  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”  Mr. Taylor was saying it along with me but my dad just knelt there silent. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” The whole time I prayed, I kept waiting for Mom to move. I had an overwhelming feeling she was going to get up and go straight to the basement for a bucket of hot water and start cleaning the sugu from the kitchen floor. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  I crossed myself and looked at my dad. His head just hung with his chin on his chest.

Mr. Taylor reached out to me with a tomato stained hand and put it on my shoulder. “Go find Joey. I want you two to go to my house and watch some TV.”  I rose from my knees and walked back through the sugu. The house was silent except for the washing machine spinning in the basement. As I passed through the kitchen I stared at Mom’s radio.

For some reason, music had stopped coming from it.

My New Blog

I have decided to start a blog and put a few short pieces of my writing on here.  I named the blog Don’t Think Just Write because that was the first piece of advice I received when I had that,  I think I can write a novel  moment we are all familiar with.   Mine went more like, I read a lot of books and that somehow qualifies me to write one.  We all know there is way more to writing than just sitting in front of the keyboard and spitting out words.

You won’t find any writing advice here, there are about a million blogs out there for that.  But I am accepting advice.  That’s actually why I’m here, that and fear.

Since I started writing, over two years ago, I haven’t made any of my stuff public.  I’ve shared it with a few friends and fellow twitter writers but, to be honest, I never had the stones to put it, “Out There” for all to see.

My hope is that I’ll receive some feedback and ideas as to how I can improve.  I plan on putting up a few short stories and chapters from the two novels I’ve written.  I’d love to hear your opinions, good and bad.

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