Sunday, 31 July 2011

County Line - by Bill Cameron and recent reads

The mail came last week and among the pile was County Line.  Since seeing the book represented on Janet Reid's blog, I've wanted to read it.

The last few books were Carol Shields Unless that I had to put down because it was too melancholy. not that I don't like melancholy but because I was flying to Florence to get divorced I needed something more upbeat.  That didn't happen because Susanna Tamaro's Per Sempre, that sold over 100K copies in one month, was what the book dealer recommended.  Introspective to say it in one word but just reading, no devouring, a book in Italian gave me a rush.  The Stephen King's Misery was what I lugged around the airport on the return to Paris.  I'm still digesting it but the aftertaste is me thinking of how magnificently he creates the psychosis of the writer and his capturer  as if they are one person.

Bill Cameron's writing requires close attention, at least from me.  I find myself going back to read to understand his word choice. It's unusual.  What I like so far is the complete avoidance of he said, she said.  There is lots to learn from Mr. Cameron,  I think I'm addicted.

Friday, 29 July 2011

reading old journal entries

I forced myself to open this box when I needed to find some details that are going into the manuscript I'm working on.  The box is deeper than it looks, in more ways than one.  
I was pleased to see my writing from years ago is lucid and rounded, but pained by past experiences.  Maybe I should hand this stuff over to someone else.

These moleskins are filled with champagne filled nights when I was making the transition from Florence to Paris.  Most of it looks like chicken scratchings.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

S.King — Misery

I just finished reading S. King's Misery.  King is an amazing writer but his stories are terrible. Terribly good perhaps.  There is lots to learn from his prose.  One thing that struck me was his constant use of examples, or metaphors, that intertwine the action.  These anecdotes are carried sometimes throughout the whole story or only part of it.

He is, of course, a master at creating and keeping tension.  The first five pages laid out the story like a sphere, round and ready to roll but only until half way through the 300+ pages did the ball start going. I'd love to read a writer that can create this tension without such gruesome images.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The First Five Pages

Yesterday the concierge brought a load of books in the mail.  I'd been expecting them but there was one that I craved above all.  Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages;  A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. 

Last night I read the first chapter on presentation and the second on adverbs and adjectives.  At the end of the second chapter he suggests, that before continuing, a writer do several exercises. One of these is to count and list all of the adverbs and adjectives on the first page of their beloved manuscript.

I thought that I had streamlined my MS well enough but listed over 10% of the words on the first page.

Oh how painful it was, I didn't want to do this exercise, it's not fun and the clock is ticking away precious painting time, and oh damn it's difficult doing this without a cigarette, maybe I'll just go smoke one.

It was a great exercise and now I know how to better write the next 60K words to the end of my first draft, and the cigarette?

Friday, 15 July 2011

Italian Apocalypse - #FridayFlash Fiction for Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig announced a prize for his latest flash fiction — an Uncharted Apocalypse.  I'd love to win a copy of his book, 250 Things You Should Know About Writing — everyone likes to win.  ( I couldn't find the link, Chuck.)  But that is not why I participate in his Flash Fiction Challenges — to win.  It's the exercise in writing a story with a thousand word limit.  This time it seemed like a chapter,  it felt good to edit repeated words, and give tension.  I don't know how to classify this — a metaphor of a memoir.  What is that?  See translation for foreign words

Italian Apocalypse
By Angie Brooksby Arcangioli
999 words
The courthouse courtyard of Florence on July 13, 2011

Italy is a complicated place.  Mountains of bureaucracy sprout from nothing like giant beanstalks.  These mountains grow higher and higher when one starts to scale them.
I decided to sell my garage.  A buyer appeared and agreed on the price but only after harassing me endlessly over petty things.  I was forced to tell him to go to hell, it was a guttural explication.  He became my sheep, I his shepherd. We wandered blindly uphill. 
He presented me a paper to sign that was too officious so I balked, he stopped, we stared.  He called his notary, the race of Italian demi-gods who sit a step below the politicians in a sumptuous garden hidden somewhere on the mountain’s top.  They say it is filled with bimbos. 
The notary gave us grappa to calm our nerves and warm our hearts when an icy wind blew between us.  A sum was exchanged, a paper signed.  We climbed a hill but the mountain that sprouted underfoot took us by surprise.  We should have expected it. I was sceptical to begin with, and now completely lost at on the mountain. 
The determined sheep nudged gently for fear that the wolf in me might return.  I built it a shelter where it could wait the flash storm, typical of mountains and commenced the ascent.  I hacked through a forest of paper forms and swam across murky ponds.
Hundreds of crucified babbled about long lines and contracts and closed offices. When I passed under their crosses, they pushed their paperwork on my shoulders insisting I carry it higher.  A man flogged Jesus in front of a group that sang, “We will remember you.”  Then they turned downhill because he died, the flogger followed him and they sang, “You will be a saint.”
Don Quixote hobbled by when I stopped to remove a woman from a cross, she could not work because there are no day-cares in Italy. No one cared about her doctorate at Cambridge.  She thanked me, then followed the steps of the man from la Manche.
 Leaving the nailed complainers, who discussed hypothetical outcomes, I climbed to a hesitant camp built by an engineer and a technician. They conversed about the mountain.  Sunlight drenched us, relief filled my soul when the summit winked — the men had evoked it.   But their fire dwindled, they had to leave, go higher.  I should wait, they would call for me.  Then they said, “You can not sell the garage.”
A cloud blew in from nowhere, surrounding us like milk.  The two men abandoned me and took their tents.  It was cold.  I wired the notary and the sheep, “the sale is off.” 
The sale was suspended but I did not know why nor when I would know more.   The sheep brayed through a megaphone.  When he materialized, he saw my bewilderment, and offered spirits.  He nudged me. I left again to climb.
I found them in the cloud in a place made of documents and charts.  The engineer measured things and dictated to a gum-chewing secretary who filled out forms and answered angry calls from owners like myself.  The technician stoked a fire.  Pieces of blackened documents alighted on the freezing mountain eddies, carrying words, half phrases — out of sight.  I read one just before the gluttonous fog swallowed us again.
Io sotto scritta, Cretina come sono, nata a New York, residente a parigi, con la presente vi communico…” *  But that is me burning — I thought.  My life was whisking away above the clouds before I could finish this one last thing.  I knew the climax was near.
The secretary answered the telephone, “Pronto?”  Pause. “No one knew.  You are not alone.  There are fourteen building infractions.  We are preparing our case, the documents are ready,” she said while feeding a shredder piles of yellowed papers.
“Can I use the toilet?”  I asked. 
She handed me a spiral bound photocopy of building codes and pointed.
“What’s this for?”  I asked.
“To wipe your ass, honey.”
 When I relieved my needs, someone handed me coffee then the notary called, my garage was safe.  There would only be a 5000 Euro fine because the door was problematic. 
“But I didn’t put the door on!”  I yelled to nobody.
“Door on, dooron on on,” the mountain echoed.
The cloud dissipated.
“Stop yelling, you’ll wake her up.”  She yelled.
“You’re yelling, not me.”
            “What?”  She screamed above the boom, not looking at me.
“The printer’s freaking out, again.”  The technician was furious.
“Don’t worry, Honey, tomorrow is Ferragosto.”  
Everyone relaxed. 
I looked at my watch, it was August 14th.  Tomorrow the entire country stops, the courts go on vacation for six weeks, closed. No issue.  The cities are empty, only thieves stay in town to drill through security door locks.
“Can someone help me, I have to sell my garage?”
No one answered. It was already vacation.  The mere notion of it had sent the makeshift office into tilt. Only the coffee machine worked, pumping out Nespresso’s like bullets.
“Have a coffee,” offered the engineer.
I took it, slugged it and said,  “I have to run, the summit is closing.”
He laughed.
I ran, stumbling on the rocks beyond the timberline.
Higher, I went.  Higher and higher, the vortex of steam crossing from the other valley caressed the apex.  Crows guffawed.
I was there.  I was there, I am here.  I had reached the apex, my garage could be sold.  The sheep had to know.  I dialled his number.
The rumble sounded, the mountain coughed.  It spat blood. Hot, boiling, steaming,  molten rock.
“It’s going.”  The chorus sounded, politicians and notaries and bimbos ran left and right.
A dusty discharge of documents filled the air.  Fire, lava, ash exploded from underfoot, a laughing man among it.  He held the keys to my garage, he said he’d never leave.  He had the right, I could not sell because he squat.

Io sotto scritta, Cretina come sono, nata a New York, residente a parigi, con la presente vi communico…
I hereby undersign, cretin that I am, born in NY, resident of Paris, with the present document intend to...

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Rambogram- flash fiction for Chuck Wendig's weekly challenge

Here is my fourth flash fiction short for Chuck Wendig's friday challenge of July 8th.  This time the prompt was a bizarre photo that he called the "Lady and the Swordsman."  Being the visually stimulated person that I am, defect of twenty years working as a professional painter, my mind started racing and I thought of an article I read years ago in some newspaper about a Rambogram.  Here I tried to create the story through dialogue.  Clic on the link to Chuck's blog to check out the photo before you read this, if you feel like it.

962 words
By Angie Brooksby Arcangioli
Flash Fiction Challenge 8 July 2011

“I’m delivering a telegram,” Dave managed to say while slobbering on the boutique window his cheek was crammed against. “Telegram,” he repeated. “Ouch, that hurt.”
They jammed his arms up high between his shoulder blades and someone held his hair so tight he could feel the knuckles whitening in their grip.
“Shut up, man,” the guy behind him said.
“You got him, Bambi?” another one said.
“This is a big mistake. You’re making a mistake. It’s all wrong,” he complained as black grease smeared across the window and his thoughts flew to Candy when the masked lady wearing a fur stole appeared. She placed a white glove in the upheld hand of the mannequin, the ugliest one he’d ever laid eyes on.  What the hell were they thinking when they put that fencing helmet on it?  The lady smiled and watched him from behind the glass.
“You makin’ the mistake buddy, you’re under arrest,” the man said when he tightened the plastic things around his wrists then brought his arms down and flung him around.
Dave’s heart jumped when he saw an entire SWAT team pointing guns down his throat. 
“Smug bitch,” he whimpered when he felt a bee sting his shoulder then his knees bent and he peed himself as he crashed to the ground.
“Your eyes are beautiful, Candy,” Dave said.  Her smile bright.
“Thanks Dave, you’re free to go.” 
“Go where?”
“Home, or if you want we can go for a drink but you must change first.”
Dave sat up.
“Take it easy, “ Candy said and touched his burning shoulder, “ they shot you with…”
“Shot me?  I’m shot?  Who shot me?”  His head spun and his vision blurred. He let himself fall back to the cot.
A man dressed in black walked towards them and asked Candy to sign a paper on a clipboard.  He remembered he’d been arrested.  He was in some kind of clinic or maybe it was a hospital.  Voices and hard heeled shoes banged around his foggy head.  He was in a police station; the man talking to Candy was a police officer.
“Yes sir, I am responsible,” she said.
“What you did Miss Lark is grave. You will need to hire a lawyer if he wants to press charges.”
“Yes sir,” Candy responded and the man walked away.
Another officer asked him, “Need something sir,  water, a coffee?”
Dave’s head seemed unattached.
“A coffee, black, jet black.”
“Right away sir.” 
He walked away and Candy’s face filled the room. He could smell her lipstick. The unbecoming pink triggered his memory and his brain ticked to.  Instantly he was awake.
“Who was I supposed to deliver the telegram to?”  he asked sitting up.
“I see the drug wore off,” Candy said, “they told me it would happen like that,  you’re eyes would open, you’d be groggy then suddenly wide awake.”
“Where you there? why didn’t you tell them I was delivering a telegram?” 
“Promise if I tell you, you won’t get mad.”
“Okay, I’ll tell you because you’re going to be on the news tonight.”
“Oh shit, no.”
“Polly asked me to have you deliver the telegram to Jim and she insisted on the Rambogram.  She knew that you needed money to buy me the diamond ring and you’d complained that you were sick of dressing up like the French maid because you had to shave your legs and the Rambogram was the most expensive so she ordered it and wrote that we are getting hooked and you wanted Jim to be best man.  Me and Polly were going to jump out at the last minute and drop our fur coats and you guys would get such a thrill when you saw our get-ups. Remember those strawberry flavored panties.  I couldn’t wait to see your face.  Isn’t that just so cool?”
“I can’t believe it,”  Dave mouthed.
“Oh yeah and I was in the shop window with a mask on and wearing the fur and Polly was hiding behind the curtain.  You were so sexy. And then some old lady called the police.  She was freaking out like you were some thief or Rambo in person. Oh you were hot, with that ripped tank top and your abs showing.  You should have seen the way people got so scared and hid behind cars.”
“Candy… what?” he tried to say but she interrupted him, she was talking eighty miles an hour, he’d never seen her like that, this bimbo wasn’t his betrothed, she was someone else.
“The SWAT team came and a guy they called Bambi squished your face against the window display, oh you looked just like my little nephew when he makes funny faces, then they shot you with some drugged dart and you collapsed and that is when you peed yourself. There were tons of people, a huge crowd and the TV crews. They’d lined off the area so fast. Everything happened in a blink of an eye.  Oh my Boogly-Boo, let me kiss your shoulder and the boo-boo will go away.”
She leant towards him puckering her lips with her eyes closed tight, aiming for his sore shoulder but he dodged her and stood up to accept the coffee from the officer.
“Dave, what’s got in to you?” Candy asked.
He glanced at her sideways as he sipped the black liquid that tasted like heaven, normally he hated coffee but he felt reborn when the boiling ebony liquid burned his throat.
He threw the plastic cup in the trash walked through the door and his voice trailed behind him, “Forget the ring, Candy, forget everything, it was all a big mistake, I was wrong.  We’re not getting married.”

Thursday, 7 July 2011

a dedication to Jo

I decided to dedicate the last Flash Fiction, Safety First, that I wrote for Chuck Wendig's challenge to dear Jo, may you rest in peace.

The photo I took of him with his hair flying in the wind down Bentz Street near the McDonalds Raw Bar in some city in Maryland years ago popped in my mind yesterday  when I saw a cadmium red 883 Harely parked on the sidewalk around the corner next to Cafe le Marigny.  I was driving my car when I took the photo.

When the helmet law was instituted in Maryland Jo wore his helmet on the ride down to DC and as soon as he crossed the border he'd rip it off his head and wing it into our car that we drove next to him.

Jo, you will forever be in my heart.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Safety First, Friday Flash Fiction Challenge

Chuck Wendig announced the #fridayflash  Fiction Challenge for 1 July 2011, this time the prompt was: The Fourth of July.   I wrote two but am posting only this one.

Safety First
995 words
By Angie Brooksby Arcangioli
Flash Fiction Challenge 1 July 2011

Ding !

The no-smoking light went off.  Jake lit up without thinking, he’d waited anxiously for the signal, idling himself with a newspaper he found on a chair before boarding the plane to Vegas.  He flipped open and closed his new flint lighter, fondling the smooth metal and admired the long flame.
The article that caught Jake’s attention spoke of the helmet law. Shit like this pissed him off  like when they made him pack his gun in the check-on luggage.  He wasn’t going to shoot anyone, why didn’t they let him keep it in his pocket?
“Hey Rosy, did you read this?”  He pushed the article onto his wife’s lap, but she was busy trying to calm the kids across the isle in the no-smoking side of the plane. 
“I told you to put that under the seat in front of you.”  She scolded their ten year-old boy who handled the bottle rockets they were transporting to their cousins.  Fireworks were expensive in Vegas. 
“Put it back in the paper bag and shove it under that seat.” 
He frowned but did as she told.
“Damn, they never listen.”  She turned to Jake.  “What’d you say?”
“They gonna make us wear helmets.”
“Just read it, will ya?”  He tapped the newspaper on her lap and lit the Salem menthol she pulled from her leopard pattern cigarette holder.  She put on her reading glasses then concentrated on the newspaper.
“Is Uncle Jimmy gonna light the dynamite?”  The son asked. 
“Hell yes.”  Jake answered. He was looking forward to seeing his brother, it had been since July 4th last year, an entire year.  Damn, time flew.  He snapped open the lighter and admired the flame.
“Can I light a stick, Pa?” 
“No son, that’s dangerous.  Remember what your teacher said: safety first,” Jake responded while lighting a cigarette in the tall blue flame next to the burnt butt in his mouth. Flying made him nervous. 
“Helmets,”  Rosy complained.  “Do you remember the last time I put one on? A wasp got stuck in my hair under it and stung me five times before you could find a place to pull over and then when you took off the helmet it stung me again.”
“Oh yeah, that was nuts.”
The fasten seat belt light went on as the captain’s voice announced, “This is Captain White,  please fasten your seatbelts, we are starting our descent to Las Vegas.”
A loud noise rocked the plane. 
“What was that?” Rosy worried. 
“No fear M’am,” The stewardess said with a twang as she offered to light Rosy’s cigarette then handed her the box of matches as a souvenir. “That’s the sound of the landing wheels coming out of the plane.”
The airplane landed with a thump.   Everyone stood up to remove objects from the overhead compartments while the plane taxied to the airport buildings.  The stewardess thanked each passenger before they descended the steps into the dessert air.  Rosy handed Jake’s boy his baseball bat when he exited, it wouldn’t fit under the seat or in the overhead.  Jake, wife and kids crossed the tarmac to Uncle Jimmy’s Chevy pickup that was easy to spot among the others because his German Shepard was barking like crazy.
“Happy Fourth of July,” Uncle Jimmy roared hugging everyone. 
Jake carried two suitcases.  “Damn, Rosy, what’d you put in here?  Someone should invent a suitcase with wheels. My arms are falling off.”
Uncle Jimmy helped fit the luggage in the truck bed around the cases of dynamite that he proudly uncovered the then cushioned with wool blankets to make seats for the kids. 
“First stop, ice cream and root beer floats.”  Uncle Jimmy announced their yearly ritual.
Jake unpacked his gun then helped Rosy and the kids climb in the bed of the truck with the dog that licked everyone in the face. He mounted into the cab next to his brother.  Uncle Jimmy left the parking lot and soon was speeding South towards the ice cream parlour.
“I scream you scream we all scream for ice cream,” Rosie and the kids sang accompanied by the wildly barking dog.
The truck bounced up and down jostling everyone.
“Hey Bro, you know we gonna have to start wearing helmets?  I read it in the newspaper,”  Jake yelled over the din.
“What?”  Jimmy hollered turning his head towards Jake who played with the lighter. 
“Hey, look out,”  Jake shouted pulling the wheel to avoid a roadrunner crossing the highway.
The truck swerved and missed the bird.  Everyone screamed with laughter.
“Watch this, the kids will love it.  Grab the wheel, Jake.”  Uncle Jimmy was already snaking out the open driver’s side window while the truck sped down the deserted highway in fourth gear.  He was halfway out when Jake took command of the pickup.
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream,”  The kids yelled. 
Jake looked in the rear view mirror to see Rosy’s skirt whipping around her butt that was plastered to the glass of the cab.  Flashes of her panties distracted him from the road -- they were his favourite.  His brother hung out the window backwards and shot the gun.  Pop, pop, pop.  The kids wailed.
The straight road was boring so Jake watched his lighter, flipping it open and closed.  His hand jerked when Jimmy’s foot slipped and kicked the lighter to the floor of the cab.
“Damn,” Jake yelled, reaching between his feet, the straw lining in the truck’s seat was  aflame. He jumped to the passenger’s side letting go of the wheel and closed his eyes as he banged his head on the dash.  When he opened his eyes, Jimmy stood next to him. 
“Man, that was cool.” 
Fire blackened the overturned truck next to a big hole in the dirt.
“Can we do it again Pa?”  His son asked. 
“What’s wrong with the dog?”  Rosy asked. 
“She’s dead.”