Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The River

I don't know Edan Aldridge. He shares a passion for pocketknives that means we end up on the same forum sometimes. A piece Edan wrote struck me, and I asked him if he would like to publish something on my blog. He promptly produced this awesomeness. Oh, and Edan is 16

The sky looked like death that day, not that it mattered much to him. He kept his eyes on the mottled gravel below his feet as he followed the meandering path down the river. The gazebos and seesaws of the WPA park that had stood there had long ago gone to seed, and the rough-hewn track that lay nestled on the bank was all the remained. He walked it slow and steady, knowing where it began, and where it ended, and what would be there to greet him.
On occasion, the long way gave him solace, but today the river path gave him no comfort. That morning he'd woken up to the same aches and bruises, as well as some new ones that had appeared after the previous night's altercation, if you could call it that. The man had made good on his drunken threat yet again and, as the boy had come to learn, there would be more to come when he got home. The home in question was a tired, cramped mill house bolted to a sparsely wooded hillside on the fringe of town. The view from the small, listing porch was disheartening at best. Off to the right, the wide, green river with it's ponderous barges and soot spewing mills wound out of sight among the hills. On the opposite bank, the sharp rim of West Virginia jutted high into the gunmetal sky. To the left of the house, the oppressed downtown clung to the flattest land that the Ohio valley had to offer and extended slightly up into the hills away from the river.  It was a dark place. He ran these scenes through his head as he walked, and managed to stay preoccupied with them until he scaled the hill and found himself standing before his blue, weathered door. He looked into the narrow front window, braced himself, and stepped into the house.

He'd never quite gotten used to the smell. It assailed him as he shut the door. The stench of cheap cigarettes, mildew, and one hopeless, worthless old man. He felt it settle on his clothes and in his hair. God, he hated that house. When he first entered, the air was still and dank, but the silence was soon fractured by the man (as long as he could remember, he'd been "the man", never much of a father) lurching up from his chair and swaggering toward the boy. Long years of practice had told him what was coming, and he ducked the initial blow. The man let go an inhuman growl, and took another swing. By then, however, the boy had run down the hall and was in his room, door shut and the homemade barricade set tightly in its slots in the door frame. He huddled on the bed, listening to the wind buffeting the outer walls, and the man battering the door with his huge fists. Eventually the barrage ceased, and the room was silent.

The young man sat pensively on the bank, examining the pistol. It was a week later, and he had two less teeth, and had decided he'd had enough. The new cut on his cheekbone had begun to heal, but his right eye was still black and both were bloodshot. It had been days since he'd had any real sleep, and he hadn't been back to the house on the hill in almost a week. After the last onslaught, instead of running to the safety of his room, he'd gone to the man's small dresser and retrieved the pistol. It was a Smith and Wesson Detective Special. The barrel was scratched and rusted in places, but the original bluing was intact in spots, the checking on the walnut grip was worn almost smooth. He palmed it, along with a small box of .38 cartridges, and ran out the door. He'd been sleeping on the path by the bridge since then, slowly eating down the $5 in his pocket and biding his time. He wanted the man to be sober for this.

The 9th dawn after his exodus was a long time coming. When it did come, he hopped on the road at the end of the bridge and followed it into town. He went past the hardware store and into the small diner next door, spending his last quarter on a cup of coffee. He drank meditatively, and, when he finished, he got up slowly and headed back to the house on the hill. He loaded the pistol carefully as he walked. Soon, he knew, there would be no more little, weathered house with its murky windows, no more endless showers to relieve himself of the stinking smoke and sweat, and no more man. At this thought, he quickened his step. Soon, he told himself. Soon.

He stood on the porch for what felt like a century. The pistol hung loosely in his right hand, hammer back, waiting. He should be up soon. And then he heard him. A faint rustling in the front room, a muffled curse, then the sound of him banging around in the small kitchen in the rear of the house. Enjoy your last meal, old man. Then the slow, steady steps. Coming from the back, growing louder and closer till they were just to the other side of the door. Then it opened, and the young man fired.

The first blast knocked the old man back into the living room. The shot had been carefully aimed, and hit him  just over his left knee. He staggered back and fell against the small couch that squatted by the foot of the stairs. The second shot hit him square in the stomach, and the next two shots hit a few inches higher and to the left. The last one caught him three inches above the right eye, and, just like that, it was all over. The young man looked at him for a moment, then rolled the body over and grabbed the wallet out of his back pocket. He went back into the kitchen, grabbed the keys and the coffee can from under the sink, and walked out of the house for the last time. The sage green Plymouth Duster cranked after the fourth try, and he rolled down the hill and toward the river. When he reached the bottom, he wound his way down the road leading toward the river, and crossed into West Virginia. The car ascended the switchbacks laboriously, until he was finally at the top of the bluff. The road kept to the edge, a thousand feet above the river. Eventually, he came to a stop, and left the car on the side of the road. He went to the edge and looked across the river into town. Only then did he look down at his hands. He had always been pale, and this made the blood look particularly fresh and nauseating as it slowly dried on his palms and under his fingernails. He wiped them on his jeans, and looked across the water again. He could see his street through the trees, and he watched as two black and white Fairlanes with bubble lights climbed toward the summit. It was then that it occurred to him that he was on borrowed time, but this didn't detract from the flood of relief. The man could never touch him again and, at least for now, he was free.

Edan Aldridge lives in the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina and began writing and drawing comics at a very young age. An overwhelmingly negative response to his initial work led to a transition into songwriting. He soon tired of this as well and has been honing his craft as a writer for the past five years. He also likes to call himself a photographer, and operates the blog, "Moveable Feast." He hates cats.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Interview with LB Clark! AKA Ms. Cranky McCrankypants?

Full Disclosure: Laura is a friend of mine. And a great writer. Hence, she gets to be on my blog. Ta DA!

What's the best song ever written (no copping out, pick one)?

“Best song” can mean a lot of things – technical greatness, sales power, etc.  But for me, the best sorts of songs are those that touch something inside of you, that wrap around your heart or mind or soul and leave you changed.  There are a lot of amazing songs out in the universe that have that power, but if I have to pick one, it’s going to be Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.”  

JD, here. That is a seriously random choice. I like it. I would have gone with something by Justin Bieber.

You love music and writing, why?

You know, I think the main character from my Jukebox Heroes series, Elizabeth Morgan, explained the music thing pretty well:
“For some people, music is just noise, pleasant sound to fill up the silence or drown out what they don't want to hear. To me, it's much more than that. Music can energize me, soothe me, motivate me. Make me laugh, make me cry, make me see things in a new way. It can make me think or quiet my mind.”

With music, it’s about connecting with other people’s thoughts, experiences, and emotions.  Writing is the flipside of that: connecting by sharing my thoughts, experiences, and emotions.

So basically, I love writing and music because they allow me to connect with people, to know that others have felt and thought the same as I do, and to let others know that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings.

As for writing about music...that’s a whole different animal.  Originally, I had this idea that I wanted to present musicians as ‘regular people’ because folks have a tendency to treat them like zoo animals.  Musicians are often adored in spite of who they are, or at least with a disregard of who they are.  They are also often despised for ‘having it made’ (the Money for Nothing myth).  So instead of playing into the mythos and the glamor and all that jazz, I make a point of pointing out the ups and downs, the good and the bad of both the musicians in my stories and of the lives they lead.

That's important, I think. A lot of people don't realize that there are many successful musicians that work tirelessly and carry their own equipment.

What makes you happy enough to drink in celebration?

Not that I’m much of a drinker, really, but I’d have to say it’s those moments when someone sends me a message on Facebook or writes a short review on Goodreads or Amazon to let me know how much they were moved by something I wrote.  I might actually, really, honestly drink in celebration if I actually graduate in May.  

You'll graduate. Then, I suggest some kind of fancy mixed drink. Like 'Thunderbird' and Sprite.

What makes you angry enough to consider injecting alcohol straight into your vein?

Dealing with my university.  Also, being treated like I am stupid or inferior.  Bitch, please.

I know people can be annoying, but injecting alcohol is crazytown. I can't believe you even suggested that.

What author do you want to stick with a pitchfork because they're so good - I'm going Chabon myself (with a pitchfork of love)?

I don’t think I want to stick anyone with a pitchfork for being good.  That doesn’t add up in my very weird brain.  But if I did want to stick someone with a pitchfork for being just that damn good, I think it might be Laurie Boris.  Reading her books always makes me feel like I need to step up my game.

The pitchfork is metaphorical, G. Really, I'd like to cuddle quietly with Chabon while he reads 'Where the Red Fern Grows' to me. And then we cry...the crying gets desperate...almost breathless...let's move on...

Do you think Indie writers will win the war of juvenile bullshit (WOJB)?

You know, I really do think we will.  And you know why?  Because we’re tenacious.  As indies, we have to be.  We have to have that rare and precious ability to just hold on to our dreams and keep plugging away, and that same bullheadedness will see us victorious in the WOJB.

We will attack in Red and Black!

What is the weirdest thing anyone has ever said to you?

People have said a lot of weird things to me.  I’ve had drunk people call me at work and say some really random shit.  But the things that strike me as really weird are those things that are so unexpected they take my breath away.  To that end, I’ve have to say the weirdest thing was said to me last April.  I had posted on my Facebook wall on what would have been my dad’s 80th birthday, and my buddy Ryan – who I barely knew at all then and have never even spoken to – told me my dad would be proud of me and that I had the kind of courage that any parent would be proud of.  I’d never seen myself as particularly courageous, but the bigger part of what made that ‘weird’ was that my dad was always, always telling me he was proud of me, even though most of the time I had no idea what there was to be proud of.  

You live in Texas. Why? In the name of God, why?

I was born in Texas.  My family and some of my friends are in Texas.  And um...I haven’t made it out yet.  Though I have to say that Galveston isn’t really like the rest of Texas, and it’s been pretty awesome living here.

Dallas frightened me. I don't want to talk about it.

If you had to punch David Antrobus in the face or kill a kitten, which would you do?

I couldn’t kill a kitten, and Antrobus wouldn’t want me to.  Besides, I hit like a girl.  I’d totally go with punching Antrobus in the face.

He would totally WANT to be punched in the face, too. (And he TAKES a hit like a girl).

What makes you want to write?

I’ve loved writing stories as far back as I can remember.  A lot of that was inspired by my teachers, who gave us writing assignments and made a point of reading aloud or posting the best ones, my mom, who instilled in me a love of reading, and my older brothers, who were always writing stories and poems and parody songs.

Honestly, though, the thing that got me writing and sharing my work was fanfiction.  I read a lot of fan fiction in a particular fandom (Harry Potter, if you must know), and some of it was brilliant.  Some of it was crap, though, and I knew I could do better.  So I did.  

Many years later, I learned that indie writers could self-publish, and so I decided to give it a try.  People liked it.  Some people loved it.  And that love, that connection, gives me a whole new reason to want to write.

Mainly, though, I have to get the stuff that’s in my head out somehow.  When I don’t write enough, my brain gets cluttered, and I turn into Ms. Cranky McCrankypants.  It’s not pretty.

I can so relate to that. Only I call myself 'Sire" or Admiral McCrankypants. But never late for dinner.

You get to vaporize three people...who are they?

See, if I was going to vaporize people, I’d probably want a time-machine first (goodbye Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Stephenie Meyer), but without the time machine, it gets a little tougher.  I’d probably pick a state-level politician, a celebritard, and some assholish foreign dictator.  Or maybe some of the dipshits in the media (don’t get me started!).  Or maybe the next three people who cut me off in traffic.

LB Clark currently resides on Galveston Island, where she spends as much time writing as possible (when she's not being distracted by her roommates, her friends, her day job, books, or random shiny objects). She has loved both writing and music from an early age, so combining the two seemed like the thing to do. In addition to her stories in Music Speaks, LB has published three books in the same series.

When she's not busy with writing or work, LB's favorite pastimes include travel and music. Much like writing and music, she has often combined her love of music with travel, usually with her best friend and co-conspirator, Erin McGowan, by her side. The two have visited a wide array of places in order to attend concerts, including Natchitoches, Louisiana; Nashville; Orlando; and Albuquerque. The most interesting and insane adventure they undertook for the sake of music, however, was a road trip from Texas to California in the summer of 2011.

LB dreams of one day being able to combine her three big loves - travel, music, and writing- into a career. In the meantime, she'll just keep weaving her travels and love of music into her writing.
Check the books out: Amazon Page!