Samples

Sample Saturday: Holy Inland Empress

Happy Saturday! I hope you enjoy this short, hot off the… processor? This is the prologue for my new novel, and I’d really appreciate your feedback.

Prologue: Holy Inland Empress

Sample Saturday: Holy Inland Empress

Summer 2016 was one day of orange-hot liquid languor, a mysterious right-side pain that foreshadowed things to come. There was the college algebra assignment that hung on my phone calendar — not a priority by any stretch of the imagination — and my skin welded to the surface of a black leather couch at my childhood home. And there was the idea —not new but suddenly stark — that I was truly a fool. Then, the counterbalancing force, in the form of a text message from Rick. I’d asked him two hours before if I could have a ride to Sandi’s party, and I was sure he was ignoring me. As I changed the channel, it chimed with gentle assurance, awakening me in celery-green abandon. It said: “Sure! What time?”

“You know, I don’t even believe in God anymore. Isn’t that great?” I shout at Rick.

It’s not clear that he has even heard me, as he continues looking straight ahead.

“I always knew you would come through,” he says, pivoting the wheel with three fingers.

We’re on the 10 W, and he follows the ramp for the 215 S. We climb up and curve towards the pale blue sky, three levels high. LA is at a comfortable distance to the West, Joshua Tree to the East. And the barren brown hills, looking small from here, bow and greet me, their Holy Inland Empress. My crown: the hot wind tunnel in Rick’s Chevy truck that never had AC since I could remember.

I laugh inside because I know I’m no queen. I’m a goddamn INFP. And Rick’s an ISTP. I’m buzzed, and he’s indulging in one of his inferior cognitive functions: extraverted intuition. We accept these facts as we merge onto the new freeway. I want to tell him about so many things, like the essays I’ve been writing about Nabokov’s secret man crush on Dostoevsky. But I keep quiet because I know that this will be the last time that I ever see Rick.

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The Second Novel Slump

“You got a ways to go
There’s so much to know
Got a ways to go
Too much to know”

~The Feelies, “Too Much”

My first novel, for all intents and purposes, was “The Eastward Exodus,” a raw, ambitious, contemporary work about a neurotic high school girl who wants to go to NYU and be a playwright. Forget that jive about the apocalypse I did once; the family saga dripping with melodrama; and the political thriller I wrote in high school, titled, earnestly, “Dark Horse.” If “Dark Horse” is even deserving of analogy, it was something like the savage, mutant love child of 1984 and that good ole Robert Redford flick The Candidate. No offense to savage, mutant love children.

My second novel (for all intents and purposes) is presently marinading in my mind, as it should be, for a very long time.

I’d be lying if I said that that makes me happy. It really doesn’t. I hardly know who I am when I’m not fleeing from social interaction, holed up someplace writing a book. I suppose that’s one reason why I’m blogging again. I can’t just keep silent until I have something spectacularly relevant to share with the world, as tasteful and prudent as that may seem.

I’d also be lying if I said that this trip I’m taking to New York isn’t sort of an attempt to jumpstart my second novel. The beginning of the novel is the most important part, as probably any writer would attest to. If those stakes aren’t sizzling at the beginning, when will they be? When you get all tangled up in your own plot twists and run out of clever pop culture references at around 30k words?

The trip may do the trick, or it may not. Certainly, it will help me as a writer in some way somewhere down the road. Yet, it’s doubtful that I’ll be like, “Eureka! Now I know exactly how to start my second novel that sets out to chart the course of history from the perspective of a parasite, filtered through a story about an autistic girl, a synesthete law student, and a pack of cigarettes with a lifetime warranty.”

Yep, I don’t really see that happening. You can’t plan an epiphany like that. It’s even pretty hard to plan a trip. I feel like I’m wanting to saturate myself with stuff about New York (a crash course in American history and architecture would not be out of place), but it doesn’t seem like I’ll ever know enough to put everything in context, and, what’s more, it’s not like I actually know what’s going to happen to me there. Nor do I want to know; that’s kind of the point, not knowing.

And so, why don’t I just spill something onto a page and see what happens? The reason is that every good thing I’ve ever written was etched onto my soul long before it touched paper (as cheesy as that sounds), and so far, this isn’t. I’m certain that anything I would write at this point would be half-baked and painful to read, and I respect myself too much as a writer to even expose my laptop to such a shameful display.

Listen, you know you’ve got writer’s block when the best working title you can come up with for your second novel is: “Luridly, Leena Lights Up.” A part of me (the rational part) despises this sorry excuse for a title, which begins with a weird adverb and only goes downhill from there. And another part of me is like, “well, it’s self-aware, and it does rather nicely undercut the pretentiousness of the title of your first novel, ‘The Eastward Exodus of Julie Ashbury.'” True as that may be… it really is a piece of shit title, and until I can get my brain waves out of murky territory they must be wading in, it probably isn’t even safe for me to be writing.