The August version of Camp NaNoWriMo has begun and I’m working on a new novel during this month.
Synopsis: When they met, Kirk Altwood was a fifth year anthropology student and Ketzi was an ancient virgin-sacrificing demon; it was a Mayan-December kind of affair. But his virginity turned out to be a technicality — possibly involving sheep — and the sacrifice bound Kirk and Ketzi together. They’re hell under the sheets, and together they solve crimes, at least until she can take his heart for bed _and_ breakfast.
Someone or something is stripping the skin from San Francisco’s best and brightest. Is it a fashion statement, a world-ending ritual or just another wild summer in the Bay Area? If Kirk can’t figure this one out his boss is going to skin him alive, if the “Bayside Butcher” doesn’t do it first!
Most of my couple friends who have read this short story see themselves in it. Many wives have asked me if the guy who talks too much is their husband: “…it is isn’t it.” I’m sure there’s a bit of every married couple I know in this. I will say that the good night ritual is very real though the husband involved did talk a lot, too.
The ironclad and stubbornly-held promise is based on personal history. I dated a girl at university, truly the most beautiful and talented of our class, who denied me a first kiss at her door because I was “too creative for that.” We became boyfriend and girlfriend, held hands, dated, and expressed love in written form and verbal, but all without that kiss. It became a game, a challenge, for me to make the first kiss special and unlike those of any who came before me. I missed a golden opportunity one Fourth of July, watching the Disney fireworks out in a lake, holding her close as the sky lit up; however, it seemed too perfect not to have been thought of by some previous boyfriend. Clearly an error on my part as by now I was over-thinking it.
We eventually had that first kiss and while it was certainly worth the wait, I’ve always wished I had done it sooner.
Good Night Year Excerpt
copyright 2012 James Flanagan
They had been married for more than 60 years, had been childhood sweethearts. She was literally the girl next door and he had captured her heart with his unstoppable imagination, one golden Summer. They had remained inseparable ever since. The longest they had been apart was during the War and even then they wrote to each other every day, some of his letters arriving many weeks after they were written when they were no longer “a danger” to his squad . On those occasions, she would sit on the front porch swing and devour them one after the other like the books of her youth as if the hero of a tale was speaking directly to her. And in her eyes and her heart, that was the truth of it: he was the hero of her story.
He had the Irish gift of gab and the curiosity to fuel it: science, news, politics, whatever he heard, read or saw. For decades he absorbed the world around him and shared it with her. Inundated her actually, until she was swimming in a sea of facts, figures, enlightenment, speculation and gossip. His capacity to learn about the world around him was matched only be his desire to share that knowledge with her.
But they had been married for more than half a century. Conversations can become like well-worn books, beloved and dog-eared and enjoyed many times over, or like the book your child asks you to read every night until the cover falls off and childhood is the only thing holding it together. She couldn’t tell you when the stories had begun to repeat themselves. In the beginning, it was amusing as she could finish his sentences for him knowing the entirety of what he would say next, and at many family affairs they seemed like a storytelling duo, each picking up where the other left off.
About Tigress of the Ball and Red Rover
Last year, I wanted to write a sonnet, a style of poetry I had never written and the challenge of being creative but with rules or boundaries turned out to expand what I could do rather than restrict it. The experience might be the closest I’ll ever get to doing the kind of sculpture an artisan does where they start with a solid block and chip it down to their vision. I had the lines and meters and then I received the words as my block of marble which I had to now fit in the available space, hopefully revealing something memorable.
The original words came from a lovely friend who answered my MadLib request: Animal (other than dog/cat), flower, favorite weather, dance, place: tiger, gardenia, storm, ballet, Siam. And when I first wrote this, it was a gardenia gown, which was the proper rhythm as long it was pronounced British style rather than gar-deen-ya which would leave the line short one half of an iambic accent. But it was with the gardenia that I submitted it and had it come back un-bought.
Recently, someone told me that a favorite flower was peony which it turns out is more representative of the Tigress of Siam, where the ball of the sonnet takes place. The sweet-smelling gardenia symbolizes purity and refinement, and might provide hidden meaning to the sonnet, and while here the peony represents bashfulness and compassion, in Asia it is the flower of riches and honor, and has a masculine motif that better suits the Tigress. And that bashfulness that Westerners apply to it is said to come from nymphs that hide in the petals. Now, I had the right flower.
The word rusche is used instead of the synonymous frills because frilly things, even if that’s what the bottom of the dress looks like, are not for the Tigress. And peony frills does not have the same flow as peony rusche [roosh], and though they mean the same the first implies something the second does not. Chassé is two syllables, it’s a gliding triple-step dance move, and yes, it’s a pun to be read also as chase given.
Later, when I wanted to write a ballad, I turned to the same friend for another game of MadLib, this time with a series of questions about her childhood. Red Rover was her favorite game so that became the refrain line. The rest was a mix of memories from several sources. The third stanza was actually written first as “The Religion of Our Youth” and the other two stanzas as well as the envoy came a month later.
Hopefully, my pre-game analysis (post-game if you already bought the collection) doesn’t spoil it for you but I decided that I’d like to reveal my process whenever possible.