Monday, June 14, 2010

And to Think, I didn't Like Steinbeck Before This...

I think the difference between a lie and a story is that a story utilizes the trappings and appearance of truth for the interest of the listener as well as of the teller. A story has in it neither gain nor loss. But a lie is a device for profit or escape. I suppose if that definition is strictly held to, then a writer of stories is a liar - if he is financially fortunate.

Maybe we all have in us a secret pond where evil and ugly things germinate and grow strong. But this culture is fenced, and the swimming brood climbs up only to fall back. Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fence and swim free? Would not such a man be our monster, and are we not related to him in our hidden water? It would be absurd if we did not understand both angels and devils, since we invented them.

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one things that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost. 

-East of Eden-

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Change, A Refresh, and An Update...

Well... Things have certainly changed around here.

It was time.

I decided to do away with the barrenly simple, and replace it with a more complicated simple. The layout is relatively unchanged, but the site is a little more pleasing to the eye and definitely more compartmentalized, which was sorely needed.

Now... About these recent postings.

I've always adored writing. The passion for fiction and stories was buried as I grew up. I guess I was just too busy reading everybody else to remember to play to my passions. Writing in general flooded back into my life when I headed across the pond, and how welcome it was to simply let myself appear on a page again. Then, suddenly, and rather surprisingly, fiction entered life again too. I've done creative writing since middle school, and frankly, it's my favorite. It's too much fun.

Maybe I just like playing God and shaping characters in a world that I can manipulate. Maybe I am just a sucker for a good story. I like to think it's the latter.

So this story came bursting forth into my head, and onto three of four notebooks, my computer, and then eventually here. What's the point of putting it here? Feedback and edits.

I want help with this story.

It is a complicated mess of complicated characters with complicated pasts, futures, motivations, fears, and loves.

It needs all the guidance it can get, so I'd love your comments.

Right now, this story is simply characters. It's simply development. I'm trying to fall in love with these characters. So I'm exploring them and their reaction to an event. As for these updates, these are small and simply how each character hears of the event. There are still a few more to introduce, and then we'll go from there.

But until it progresses, I love your feedback and edits, and I'll leave with the seed that started it all...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Death of Virtue: Part IV

‘Well’ Daniel looked up at the ceiling in a symbolic gesture ‘You do work in mysterious ways, eh?’

John-Michael shot out of the oversized, underused black leather chair. He was breathing hard. Too hard. He had to rip air out of the atmosphere, just to get it into his lungs. He felt encased in a frigid sweat, with a pool near the small of his back. As his vision began to clear, and static was leaving his hearing, he remembered what woke him up.

It was just supposed to be a short nap. In fact, he wasn’t even intending to fall asleep. His apartment was dark. The wood floor echoed the dull and faded light. Combine that with the soft roar of the city beneath him, the warm tea within his arm’s length, and only mild interest in the magazine article, and he was destined to nod off. And nod off he did. John-Michael was fast asleep in that chair for nearly forty-five minutes.

That’s when he shot out of his slumber.

He was gasping and clutching at oxygen. His eyes darted around the room. “Where is that damn thing?” He was near panic, and had no idea why.

He got up out of the chair, every joint aching. Maybe that pain was from sleeping in a lounger, maybe it was the extreme amounts of adrenaline, endorphins, and testosterone squeezing through his bloodstream. He did nothing but stare at the floor, but in his head he was meticulously sifting through every object in the three-room apartment. 

‘The briefcase? No, I never put it in there. Pants?’ He threw his hands into his pockets. Nothing but car keys and loose change. ‘The counter?’ Finally, his body moved with the reality in his head. His dark-tile, bar-style countertop was barren, minus the typical pile of bills, junk mail, and old subscriptions. ‘Where the hell did I-‘

As he neared the apex of frustration, he actually recognized what his eyes were staring at. The jacket. His feet flew to the wrought-iron coat rack hung in the entryway. His dark, pinstriped jacket ruffled as he rifled through the two outside pockets. He let out an audible sigh of relief as he pulled his much-sought-after cell phone from the inside breast pocket of the coat.

Unknowingly, he hung the jacket back on the peg, and turned back towards the leather chair. His fingers were already swimming across the buttons on the phone. Before he had reached the chair, before he even took more than five steps, he had opened the address book, found her name, and selected send message. John-Michael spun around and sat on the stretched out leather leg-rest. The digital glow of his phone glared off his face. The blank message was staring him down. He shook with a chill, gazing at the plastic and glass. All it read was:

New Message
To: Annie S.

The blank message was too much. His fingers said so much by not being able to type at all. He was paralyzed with fear.

Finally, his thumb broke its silence. But instead of typing what he wanted to say, it rebelliously clicked the Call button. Her normally comforting picture flashed. He cheeks filled with blood, his head with even for fear than before, and his entire being screamed “NO!”

She picked up too fast for him to run.

“J-M?” The words bounced around his hollow apartment. He couldn’t hear the sorrow in them.

“Hi… Hi Annie. How… How are you?” He tried to hide the uncertainty in his voice. ‘Why did I call her? This is too much. This is so stupid. This is-‘ His mind was speaking so fast, and so strongly, but his mouth refused to listen.

“I’m alright. It’s… It’s been a long day J-M. What’s going on, why did you call?”

“Annie. I’m sorry to bother you. Everything’s fine I just… I… Well, this is going to sound weird but is everything OK? I just woke up from a nap with the feeling that something terrible happened to you. I don’t know. Just please tell me I’m crazy and that you are just fine and this is a stupid feeling.”

Annie could not muster a single word. ‘No. No, no, no, no. I will not bear this news twice. This is not my place. This is not my role. NO!’

The utter lack of words from the phone made John-Michael’s hurt drop miles, deep into his stomach. Time simply halted, and while she was only searching for words for six seconds, he had been waiting for minutes.

“Oh God Annie. What happened?”

The Death of Virtue: Part III

It all just hurt too much.

Crouched over the scattered coins, he didn’t really think anything of it. She looked upset. Her head was down, and he swore there were tears welling in her eyes. Plus she was nearly running, fiddling with her scarf on her way out. He wondered what made her so sad. As his thoughts burnt off into the atmosphere, he methodically picked up each and every nickel, dime, and penny. Still hunkered down, he counted them out in his gloved hand. Satisfied, with a smirk on his face, he rose and approached the bar.

“Afternoon, Jamie” His voice scraped out of his throat. The brogue came and went, as he spent longer and longer in the States, his Celtic accent faded.

“Hi Dan!” The teenage barista perked up as the patterned scarf, brown cap, and dark pea-coat-clad man greeted her.” She reached out her artificially tanned hand and took the exact change Dan handed her. “It must be real cold out there huh?”

“Aye, darlin’. It’s chilly. Rain’s coming down on-and-off, too.”

“So, is it pretty normal for guys to wear scarves like that when it’s cold out back where you’re from? Cause not so many guys can, you know, pull stuff like that off here”

Daniel smirked at the girl. ‘She’s a sweet girl. She really is.’ “Yeah, girl. It’s pretty normal.” His smile grew at he tried to keep his composure while answering the barista.

“Oh, that’s pretty cool, I guess.” She remarked as she capped the lid onto the steaming, clammy wax-covered paper cup, “Here you go Dan! Your medium London Fog. Have a great day, even in this bad weather!” She looked him in the eyes as she handed him the drink, and forced a smile that seemed just a bit too big to be authentic.

He took the cup from the counter, tipped it at her with a wink, and uttered a low thankye. Cramming his hand back into the stuffy leather gloves, he chuckled in his head ‘Yeah, sweet girl.’ He gripped his scarf, now well aware of its presence thanks to the test of masculinity delivered by an adolescent. Heading towards the door, a black object caught the corner of his eye.

The bag’s dark complexion completely contrasted the corporate attempt at chic of the suede dark-red couch. His thoughts flashed to the hurried and flustered woman who had slammed into him. ‘Oy… This is just what that poor soul needs’, he mused to himself approaching the handbag. He placed it on the wooden table, and opened the magnetic clasp.

“Do guys carry around purses over there too?” Jaime was wiping down the tables behind him. Smiling in self-confidence, satisfied with her unique, and bizarre flirtation. At first her voice startled him, and a chill of adrenaline surged like a wave up, down, and around his body. He was expecting a righteous customer to chastise his well-intentioned act. Jaime’s joking was welcome, even if it was another jab at his masculinity.

“Ah… No. Not quite.” He cleared his throat, realizing he had just been flustered by a coffeeshop employed teenager,  “I think it’s you Americans who came up with this whole ‘man-purse’ ordeal, eh?” He mustered up a bit of charm, glanced from the side of his dark green irises, and shot the look towards Jaime. It worked, she blushed a bit, put her head down towards the table she was scrubbing, and scuffled back to the coffee bar. He turned back to his own table. There was a small sketchpad, a black leather-bound journal, and a ringed contact book. Daniel carefully took out the contact list. He foolishly rifled through some of the pages, looking for something but thinking about how futile this act actually was. The crisp, remarkably well-kept papers ended, and just when Daniel was about to close the book and place it back in the bag, he read the first name on the last page.

James Virtue. Ap # 42…

He stopped reading, as his brain came to a screeching halt. Nearly all involuntary actions became present in his consciousness. His heartbeat was massive, echoing throughout his body. Breathing just plain hurt. It was too slow, and his lungs seemed trapped inside his ribs, inside his chest, inside his jacket. He was unbelievably uncomfortable. ‘Well’ He looked up at the ceiling in a symbolic gesture ‘You do work in mysterious ways, eh?’