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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Haunted, Unedited Chapter 1 Excerpt, Part II

Here's the second of three parts of the first chapter of Haunted. Like Part I, this hasn't been edited, so it is obviously and hunmbley a work in progress. I hope you enjoy it!

Side Note: If you read the first part of the chapter before I edited the blog post, some of this might seem a little familiar. Thanks to a mistake on my part, I accidentally blogged a part that was outdated. So here's the real thing! Whoops....

An hour later, Claudia let herself into the dim motel room, dropped her key on the scarred table, and turned the air conditioner down to its lowest setting. She fell back on the bed, stared at the ceiling, and waited for her thoughts to take some sort of recognizable order.

When she’d made the drive from Philadelphia, Claudia had been a college drop out with a black hole as her future. She worked two full time jobs to pay rent on a tiny apartment, and more than once she’d had to choose between food and paying the electricity bill. She was smart, and she wasn’t afraid of hard work, but Claudia had found very few opportunities in life unless they were opportunities she’d created for herself.

Now she found that she was someone else entirely, someone she didn’t know. There would be no more 17 hour work days. There were no more past due bills flooding the tiny, broken post box in the dirty lobby of her crumbling apartment building. Someone else would move into that apartment soon, and they would have their bills, their heartaches, their struggles to face surrounded by those cracked walls. The Claudia Snow that hastily left Philadelphia on a road trip with nothing but gas money and a lot of misgivings would never be back.

Claudia stood up and slowly paced the short length of the room. Despite the exhaustion the unfamiliar heat and confusing rush of emotions left behind, she was restless, and lying still made her more agitated. She paused in front of the spotted mirror and stared at her reflection, almost as if she expected to see that her appearance had changed, as well. Her cheeks were flushed. The red of excitement and being overheated stood out against her pale skin, and her hazel eyes were larger and darker than usual. She pulled her straight dark hair into a pony tail and closed her eyes as the cool breeze from the air conditioner drifted across the back of her neck.

The stack of paperwork she’d signed had been overwhelming. She couldn’t recall half of what Mr. Mason had slid across the desk towards her, but she dimly knew she’d been willed stocks and bonds that were worth more money than she’d earned in her entire life. There were checking and savings accounts - “Accounts with an ‘s’?” she’d asked. “Plural?” - with balances she couldn’t comprehend. She’d signed for them all, plus a small lot of property in Toupolas, an office in the French Quarter, and an old mansion on the outskirts of town.

Her eyes flew open. She owned her own house.

Claudia grinned widely and tried to fight back hysteria. She’d barely been able to pay rent last month on her apartment and now she owned a house bigger than her entire apartment building.

She knew without doubt that Rosemont Manor must be special. Not only did Mr. Mason seem impressed with the old mansion, but Charles Purvell’s will stipulated that Claudia could only inherit his estate if she agreed to reside at Rosemont Manor and refurbish it to its former splendor. According to Mr. Mason, the late Charles Purvell had been an historian, and his pride in his historic family home had been immense.

The mansion was built in 1856 as a sugar cane plantation in the grand Antebellum style, but a house fire destroyed the front portion of the house shortly before the start of the Civil War, and the home went through a series of rebuilding until the front half was completely rebuilt in Victorian style at the turn of the century. Mr. Mason told her that it was a sprawling home, stately and ornate, and refurbishing it wouldn’t be too daunting of a task for someone with an eye for beauty and the type of funds she had at her disposal.

When leaving Mr. Mason’s office, the lawyer had asked his new client how she felt about her cousin’s choice. She’d mumbled something about being grateful, but she now knew that was a ridiculously inadequate reply. Charles Purvell deserved so much more than gratitude. Claudia sat heavily on the hard hotel bed once more and felt a surge of affection for the distant cousin she’d never known.

She lay back and listened to the stillness of the hotel room, broken only by the rattle of the air conditioner. She could feel her heartbeat slow as it pumped blood through her veins - her blood, the same blood that had been in Charles Purvell’s veins, was the only connection she had to Rosemont Manor and her new life in Toupolas, Louisiana.

Claudia drifted effortlessly to sleep, her mind undisturbed by worries for the first time in years.

The next morning, Claudia followed James Mason’s silver Cadillac down an ill maintained highway in the swampy backwoods of the parish. He’d told her the house was outside the town, but she hadn’t realized quite how far out he meant. She felt as if they’d been driving for an eternity.

Kudzu had taken over the trees on either side of the highway, creating bizarre shapes, the likes of which Claudia had never seen before. The towering fingers and rolling hills of leafy vines blocked all of the sunlight except for what was directly overhead, deepening the gloomy effect the strange land was having on her. Occasionally, there were breaks in the dense growth, and Claudia caught glimpses of signs that life had existed here before the Interstate was built and the kudzu was left unchecked. Barely visible amidst the tangled jungle and fallen oaks, she saw the remains of wooden walls leaning so far to one side they were almost touching the earth and crumbling remains of chimneys standing as silent testimony for the homes that had long since been forgotten.

What she saw along the highway began to worry Claudia. Mr. Mason assured her that he had “somewhat recent records” showing where Charles Purvell paid to have routine upkeep done on the house, but there were several areas that were in need of immediate repair. If the condition of everything else in the area was any indication, what exactly would Mr. Mason consider good condition? There was very little to compare it to that could give her any peace. As the drive wore on and Mason’s vague words echoed in her head, she began to worry that Rosemont Manor might be more than she could handle. Would any amount of money be enough to save a house left to fall apart this close to the edge of the bayou?

With a rush of relief, Claudia saw Mr. Mason’s turn signal flicker and the Cadillac begin to slow. She followed the silver sedan between two crumbling brick markers and iron gates that were flung wide against the overgrowth on either side of the entrance. The dirt driveway was sheltered by a canopy of oaks with long limbs reaching towards one another, creating a long moss-covered tunnel. Claudia slowed to a near stop as the car began to jostle down the pitted drive.

She leaned forward, craning to catch a glimpse of the house, and gasped as the house loomed suddenly before her at the end of the drive. The old lawyer’s description of Rosemont Manor had done nothing to prepare her for the decrepit majesty of the old mansion.

The oaks faded away to reveal what had once been a huge manicured yard but was now a sprawling mass of weeds and shrub lined gravel paths to nowhere. A tepid fountain sat in the center of the front lawn, and several shingles had fallen from the arched roof and were lying scattered among the ruins of the grounds.

The house was beautiful.

Claudia stopped the car and stared in awe. Countless windows, their panes dimmed by decades of collected grime, looked across the lawn towards the towering oaks,. The wide front veranda, littered with scattered leaves, was framed by a row of massive columns and a broad sweep of narrow stairs. The entire fa├žade was dominated by a pair of giant oak doors and the ornate frame surrounding them.

The sound of Mr. Mason’s Cadillac door slamming brought Claudia out of her reverie and she turned off her car engine. She stepped out of the car and hesitated. For a house that had been sitting vacant for years, Rosemont Manor felt strangely alive.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lost Americana

I close my eyes and see
Trees standing guard
Over white houses and
Children playing alone
In the Dusk

Fall is always one town over,
Carnivals and Ferris wheels
Lighting restless neon dreams,
Flashing disturbed midnight slumber

Awake, the living are found
In the smell of wet grass
The crack of wooden bats,
In the purple juice and bloodstains
On hidden groves of blackberry brambles

The silent hum of radios
And railroad tracks
A glimpse of dancing fireflies

I gather the moment around me,
No more substantial then a Summer mist
And open my bewlidered eyes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An Ode to the Lesser of Two Evils

I find it tiresome when I start explaining myself unnecessarily, but I also find it tiresome when people don't understand what I'm trying to do. This blog, therefore, is what I'd call an ode to the lesser of two evils.

I write poetry... because I like it. I know that's a novel idea. There's no driving need to perfect a craft I don't understand or make an impact in the artsy world of words. It just makes me happy, and it's been that way since the first time I put some nonsensical sentence fragments on a piece of paper.

The way it started was simple, if not a little abrupt. While sitting in a rickety chair at a coffee shop, drinking a caramel latte and brooding, a strange man I didn't like interrupted my faux reverie and asked me why I never wrote poetry. While that may seem like an unusual question to ask someone, given the circumstances and the surroundings and a slight dash of imagination, the question becomes quite logical.

My answer was also logical. Because I'm not any good at it.

My companion stared at me for a moment or two longer than necessary and told me that there is no good or bad in poetry. There's no form, no right or wrong. It's just you writing down what ever is in your head. He then left me alone with my thoughts just as quickly as he'd interrupted them.

That afternoon I wrote my first off beat, uneducated poem.

That strange man that I still don't like was brilliant. There are no wrongs or rights in my poems. I'm proud of having no rules. If someone else finds them cliche, it means that I wrote what no one else wanted to bother with. If they're painful or horrendous or juvenile, they were a fun way for me to pass the time. Because, for me, poetry is fun. I don't take it seriously, and, when reading my work, neither should you.

I expect no one to like my work. I expect no one to undertand or appreciate it. But if you do like it, if it does move you or make you think, that is quite simply a mountain of icing on a very enjoyable cake.

Vaguely Mirror, Mirror

A vague memory
Like the reflection in a aged mirror
Softened by dust
And blurred by sunlight
Cast from behind

An empty
Dimly shining impression
Of a face
With an expression
Of misplaced
Displaced longing

I stand frozen
Wanting to see something more than
A thin veil
Like a mourning cloth
Covering my memory
Not wanting it to escape
Like a spirit caught in glass

The light blinds me
Washes out
All but the glaze of ash and dust

I turn away
The sun sets
The mirror is forgotten
All that's left is a frustration
A need
An anger
As vague as something I thought
I once saw
In a aged mirror
Softened by dust
And blurred by sunlight

Monday, March 21, 2011

Unedited excerpt from Chapter 1 of Haunted

In response to many requests that I've patiently and obnoxiously ignored, I have finally decided to post an excerpt from the first chapter of my work-in-progress-supposed-to-be-my-first-if-I-ever-finish-it book. This hasn't been completely edited, but I am relatively sure that it will appear in the final draft.

Claudia Snow’s back was unbearably stiff. The drive from Philadelphia had taken two days, and she was tired and sore. She looked forward to hearing what the lawyer had to say and then driving straight back to her room at the one motel in town. The Cypress Inn might have looked like something out of a 1960’s film, but at least it had a functioning, noisy air conditioner.

The lawyer’s office was swelteringly hot, and it was musty, as if the windows hadn’t been opened in years. Framed certificates that were at least half a century old and non-descript oil paintings hung on what wall space was available between massive bookshelves. Brass lamps and statuettes sat on every surface not covered by books and papers. The leather couch crammed against the wall had several deep cracks on the cushions. It was the exact thing she imagined when she thought of a small town lawyer’s office in the Deep South.

Claudia was anxious and had been since she received a phone call from the Toupolas, Louisana office of James Mason, attorney at law. Her distant cousin, Charles Purvell, had passed away in a nursing home in Baton Rouge, and Claudia was included in his will. Claudia had known nothing about her late cousin, up to and including the fact that he had existed. She couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a monumental mistake that would end in nothing but inconvenience and a lot of disappointment. There was something absurd and awkward at how quickly she’d found herself sitting in an uncomfortable faux leather chair, sweating, and preparing herself for the whole mistake to unravel.

James Mason, family attorney, sat across from Claudia, shuffling papers around in a haphazard way and talking to himself. The glaring Southern sun filtered in from the window behind his desk, making beads of sweat run down his forehead and slide onto the bridge of his nose. His glasses slipped further and further down until Claudia was sure they’d fall right off his face. She distractedly wondered whether or not Mr. Mason would notice their departure.

Lists of items, hand written notes, letters typed on paper so thin it was nearly opaque, and scrawled notes on scrap sheets were scattered about as Mr. Mason searched for, Claudia assumed, Charles Purvell’s will.

“It was here last week, and I saw the damn thing. Right here….” Mr. Mason mumbled. “That blasted thing. Maybe I…” He grunted to himself and pulled open the bottom drawer of his desk. He continued to mutter half sentences until he gave a wheeze of satisfaction and straightened up, a well creased legal folder in his hand.

“Now, Ms. Snow, here we are! I knew I had it somewhere.” Mr. Mason boomed. His Southern accent fell harshly on Claudia’s ears. “I put the dadgummed thing where I wouldn’t forget it, and that’s precisely what I did. So,“ he adjusted his glasses, and settled himself comfortably. “on to business.”

Claudia tried to breathe deeply and failed.

“Your cousin, some generations removed I believe, Charlie Purvell, was a client of mine for over thirty years. He was a good man, and one of the first friends I made when I settled here from Birmingham. He was a good man…. I know you told my secretary you didn’t know him personally, but I just thought you should know.” Claudia didn’t have a hard time imagining the secretary, an iron grey haired lady with cat eye glasses hanging from a gold chain and bright pink lipstick, relating every detail of their conversation to Mr. Mason and to anyone else who would listen.

“He was a good man.” Mr. Mason repeated with heavy emphasis. His grey eyes were full of formal sympathy. It was a look that belonged across the grave of a dearly departed family member, not the wrinkled will of a complete stranger. Claudia shifted uncomfortably and tried to break away from the lawyer’s gaze as he continued with Charles Purvell’s story.

“He was sick for a long time before he passed. He had a stroke back in ‘97, and he moved to a nursing home. He wasn’t close to most of his family, and he didn’t want to burden the ones he did know, so he figured he could find a place in Baton Rouge where he could be comfortable.”

Claudia nodded and tried to breathe again. She was a very patient person and was never this ill tempered, but, try as she might, she couldn’t bring herself to care about what the old lawyer was telling her. She knew she’d most likely regret not asking questions later, but later was later. Now was now, and she couldn’t breathe. A heat headache started to form behind her eyes.

“Now, your cousin left very detailed instructions on what he wanted left where. There were some odds and ends he gave out, and a small sum of money he donated to a couple of charities, but he left the rest of it to you.”

Claudia was stunned. A moment of empty silence was swallowed by the airless room. “What? I’m sorry. He left me what?”

“Well,” Mr. Mason began shuffling through the contents to the folder. “He left you pretty much everything.”

“What would that consist of? I don’t know what my cousin owned. I don’t mean to sound stupid, but I’m afraid I don’t quite understand what you’re telling me.”

James Mason made a broad gesture with his right hand, sweeping over the stacks of files and papers on his desk as if they were the entirety of Charles Purvell’s estate. “Oh, he kept it all when he moved to Baton Rouge - the house, the car, his property. He was a wealthy man, and it looks like you’re a wealthy young woman.”

Claudia shook her head. “This can’t be right.” Instead of excitement or elation, she felt only a numbing sense of confusion. “Why me? I never knew him. I don’t even know how he knew I was born.”

“That, Ms. Snow, I can’t answer. He was a strange man sometimes. He was my friend, but he was a strange man. He knew enough about you to know that he should leave you everything he owned. Now, if you’d like to get started, there’s a big stack of paperwork you’re going to need to sign.”

The Artful Loss of Claudia Snow

Let me sink
Under the waves
I want to fall
Safely in silence
No words
No meaning
Just the water around me,
Hair billowing past my face
Becoming alive,
More alive than I have ever been

I want to vanish
Let me disappear
Into solitude
Let me be Nothing

I don’t want to be pulled
Feel the water part
Above me
Over me
Spilling me back to the shore
Let me go

The Dark is waiting
Waiting where I left it
Where I banished it
When I sink, and fall, and vanish
I let it take me back
I let it pull me,
Apart from the past
Away from the future

The waves
I need the waves

I need to fall

Let me sink

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Rave in the TARDIS

I was stunned and a little angry when I first heard that Matt Smith, the man tapped to play the 11th regeneration of everyone's favorite time traveling alien, was a twelve year old.

Okay, so he's not REALLY twelve, but he IS younger than I am, and that is something that I simply couldn't accept.

As a literal life long fan of Doctor Who, Matt Smith was a blow to my vanity. I'd always known that one day I would pass the Doctor in age and officially grow old, but casting the youngest actor to ever take on the role was a needless way to hasten that inevitable moment. As a woman that's not quite thirty, I didn't appreciate having to face that milestone moment so soon.

Despite a number of doom-and-gloom predictions on my part, when the new Doctor Who series aired this Summer I had to give Matt Smith his due (despite the scoff worthy fact that he insisted on repeating over and over that he, as the Doctor, was "getting old.") He was a decent actor, and he did a decent job. I was able to admit gracefully that Smith would never earn the same devotion reserved for Tom Baker and David Tennant, but I could at least grow to like him.

My opinion changed once more when I found a mention on gallifreynewsbase.blogspot.com of Smith's surprise guest appearance at the 2010 Glastonbury Music Festival during the encore performance from Orbital, a band commonly thought of in connection to the Doctor Who theme song.

While watching the clip or Orbital on YouTube, I think I fell in love with Matt Smith. I don't know if he was partially in character that night or if the Doctor has partially taken over Matt Smith, but the pure joy and complete madness he exuded is the Doctor's calling card. It wasn't hard for me to imagine that the Doctor himself was on stage with Orbital, and, judging by the looks on some of the fans faces, I think the audience may have felt the same.

You have to respect a man who takes on the impossible roles in life and ignores his critics. You have to admire him even more when he turns the impossible into something marvelous and then shares it with everyone around him, young and old alike.

Isn't that exactly what the Doctor would do?

*The Doctor looks pretty sexy in Jack Harkness's coat, don't you think?
**Smith deserves double bonus points for saying "timey-whimey, wibbley-wobbley"
***If you're Matt Smith, feel free to e-mail me and ask for my phone number.