Last weekend in New York City I was fortunate enough to see BRIGHT STAR, a new Broadway musical written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, based on the true story of a baby who was thrown off a train. Doesn’t sound like musical material, does it? Well, it is! The show has a dual timeline in which the audience follows a twenty-three year old Billy, an aspiring and talented writer (yes!! a musical about a writer!) and Alice, who’s about forty, who’s the editor of a literary magazine (yes! a musical about an editor!). It’s a love story, a family story, and filled with—get this—Bluegrass music. It’s a love story at its heart, as well as a family saga.
I laughed at the writing and literary jokes, and got all choked up when Alice said to Billy, “You can write.” My hand may have even touched my heart.
But remember all those notebooks and pens I took with me on my trip? I didn’t use any of them. I spent four days visiting with family and friends and not working on my book. Best of all (yes, even better than Broadway), I spent about twenty-four hours with my twenty-four-year-old son who lives in Manhattan (and has long enough arms to take a selfie, which I do not).
Now you understand why I didn’t even write a list while I was gone (okay, I jotted down a few quotes while visiting the FDR Presidential Library, but that was it). It was a recharge I needed with many of people who are most important to me.
So this week, once I recovered from traveling, in addition to diving back into my editing projects (no fear, writer clients, I have not forgotten you!) I decided to work on my quick/elevator/short pitch for my WIP, in order to hone in on the high concept idea—to make sure there was one. My stories always float around in my head, fully formed yet fluid, and writing, revising, and rethinking it in a one-paragraph format allows me to focus on what’s most important. Next week we’ll play with elevator pitches and talk about WHAT THE HECK IS HIGH CONCEPT? If you’d like your elevator pitch or high concept idea featured here, just email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, April 28, and I’ll choose a few to post (let me know if you’d prefer to be anonymous, otherwise, your name goes up as well).
Thank you to those of you who participated and chimed in as to whether the first scene of my WIP, The Last Bathing Beauty, set your expectations for the rest of the story. (If you missed it, click here.) You offered great insights and gave me a lot to think about as I continue writing about Hannah and Boop! About a dozen of you were brave enough to speak your piece, but about 2000 people saw that post. I don’t talk about numbers much here, but a very small percentage of you comment, and I (and the guest posters) appreciate it more than you know!! Don’t worry lurkers, we love you, too!
A few of you were brave enough to put your own work out there for us to read. Today we have Ina’s first scene. Please comment and let Ina know if this first scene of her novel OF GHOSTS AND GODS (great title, right?) has set your expectations for the rest of her story. Does it give you enough information so that you could fill in the gaps yourself (you know, in case cockroaches ate the rest)? Tell Ina how this works for you, or how it could work for you better. Be helpful and kind and honest.
OF GHOSTS AND GODS – by Ina Jones
Early April, 1983
Louise folded the last Tee shirt from the laundry while the roast “rested,” as her Dad had required ever since she was a little girl. He had been the chief cook and bottle washer on Sundays, especially for the Crown Roast at Easter. “Be it ever perfect to carve,” was his mantra, as he smiled with that elfish twinkle in his blues. Often, he’d play the comedian in exaggerating the “art” of carving and yet, every slice, so neatly placed on the platter. She still wonders how he did that.
The roast for their dinner would be ready in about twenty minutes; its aroma filling the kitchen, spilling over into the dining room, mixing with the scent of lemon meringue pie and of course, clean laundry. With children now gone, there was really no need to carve the roast perfectly as her Dad; in fact, sometimes it just sat beyond its being ready, draped lightly in aluminum foil, her husband being engrossed in projects out in the garage.
A door slammed and jolted her day-dreaming.
Her husband charged into the dining room, arms in the air, jaw taut in frustration.
Louise, caught off-guard by his abrupt, angry appearance, could see his demeanor showing no way of her avoiding confrontation.
She tried to speak but her body did not respond. Paralyzed where all decisions and actions were to be possible, she stood watching the silent tirade, icy fear twisting around her heart…this is crazy. I can’t hear or move.
Her mind stymied as it was, reeled in shocked confusion as to what happened next. Within a matter of seconds, the furniture, walls, everything around them vanished, replaced by a milky, quartz white of nothingness.
He, silhouetted against it, still animated, his anger building. She stood wide-eyed, not blinking, trying to understand everything.
Louise knew there were no sensible whys and wherefores for any of it. Even in her dreams, or in flights of craziness, she never visualized this phenomenon, this weird separation from what just was…
He took a step closer, jaw clenched tightly, muscles responding.
Her breathing shallow and fast, mind racing a crazy mixture of hope and fear, heart pounding, feeling isolated, helpless.
As from cue off-stage, methodically and unflinching in action, she saw her right arm lift away from her body, a revolver gripped firmly, dark metal prominent against her sun-tanned skin.
That’s odd; no! Wait! Wait!
Unable to stop the motion, her mind seemed to force her to watch the movement of the trigger pulling back, smooth and deliberate; the copper-tipped bullet twisting slowly as it left the muzzle, disappearing into oyster-gray smoke towards her husband. The walls, windows, and furniture re-appeared as suddenly as they had left.
He stood, leaning in towards her about five feet away, mouth moving, arms outstretched, palms up, as if questioning. Now she heard him, shouting expletives as he strode off in disgust, leaving her alone, motionless by choice.
Louise felt relief…just a vision…hallucination or something…not real, not real.
She stared straight ahead, beyond where he once stood; beyond where white once was; beyond the screened-in patio, her eyes resting on the cement Flamingo statues saved from a garden redo…but her mind only dimly registered what she was seeing. Their bodies bleached to barely a blush from years in the sun, both stood stiffly on their rebar legs beside the cracked bird bath that held no water. The beak on one, badly chipped, the other, a rusty head wound.
Louise gasped, alarmed, realizing in a shiver of panic―she and her husband, the flamingos―their marriage, the bird bath.
Please leave comments for Ina below and give her big virtual hugs for wanting to do this!
See you next week (and in the comments)!