I want to be a writer. These days I don't just read novels for pure enjoyment, I look at how sentences are formed. I notice how the author sets a scene. How the author explains who's speaking. How often they have characters speak versus describing what the character's experiencing.
I want to be a writer. I think regularly about my novel and try to sort out what to write in my current chapter. I talk to my children about my novel and use them as guinea pigs.
Writing is one of the hardest things I've ever done. I love to write. I love when I get a sentence phrased exactly right. I love when I read aloud to my kids and they laugh themselves silly at a part that's supposed to be funny. I love that point when my kids start talking about my characters like they're real people who just stepped out of the room for a minute. I hate when I'm sitting at the computer and my latest attempt at conversation sounds like bored actors reading a weak script. I hate when I have a thought in my mind and the words just won't go down the way I want them to. And, conversely, I love when I move to another paragraph then come back and tweak and, suddenly, changing a word opens up new ideas and the thought just pours onto the page.
I imagine writing is like building a house. I start with the foundation and throw it up. There's a basic shape but not much else. Then I go back and add the essentials. Soon I can see what the house will look like but it's rough, unfinished. Then I go back a third time and add all the little details. The descriptions, more conversations, little things that I was thinking that somehow missed getting written down. After that I drag someone else through so they can see if there's anything I missed. And that's as far as I've gotten.
Right now I'm about three quarters of the way through Piece of Mind and have a couple of chapters to tweak in Small Dreams and then I'm onto my next writing adventure, writing query letters.
I wrote the first chapter of my novel Small Dreams into my blog back in 2011. Now I'll share the first chapter of Piece of Mind. I hope you like it:
“And I woke myself up by screaming.” A rivulet of sweat trickled down my back as I described my latest nightmare.
Nicole looked up from chopping veggies for our morning omelette and grinned. “Maybe Santa will bring you a boyfriend for Christmas,” she remarked. She brushed her straight brown hair behind her ears and turned up the radio.
“This is my favourite carol,” she added as Eartha Kitt brazenly asked Santa for a fur coat and a car.
I stared at her blankly, unable to grasp the connection between my nightmares and needing a boyfriend. Then again, talking with Nicole always left me feeling like I was following half a conversation. “Why a boyfriend?” I asked nervously, the thought filled me with dread. When I was a bit younger and my parents were still alive, the thought of having a boyfriend was interesting but after a month of rape dreams, that interest had waned. I figured I was only a nightmare or two away from showing up at a mental hospital and asking to be admitted.
“Maybe you’re lonely,” she replied. “The dreams could be your mind’s way of telling you that you want some male attention.”
Chills ran icy fingers down my spine. “Seriously, I’d rather be single for the rest of my life than be with someone like that!”
She shrugged and went back to her vegetables. I carefully measured out the coffee then added it to the machine; coffee was the only thing Nicole would allow me to make. She took pleasure in her assumed role of big sister, cooking breakfast every morning before she went to bed and dinner every night before she left for work. She tried packing lunches but stopped when I insisted I could manage that; I'd made my own sandwiches when I was still small enough to need a footstool to reach the counter.
“It could be worse,” she said, obviously trying to cheer me up. “Your nightmares are here in private, unlike mine.” She sighed then added, “I'll never be able to see a movie again.”
I had to chuckle. She'd just broken up with her boyfriend at the premiere of the latest chick-flick. From what I heard, he thought they were going to be watching a movie with lots of guns and cars, not one where the male lead cried tenderly. Apparently the fireworks were so spectacular people were buying popcorn then heading back outside for the show.
Nicole munched a piece of pepper then said thoughtfully, “I wonder if you're having nightmares because you know you’re home alone. If you’d get a job where I work, then we’d be on the same shift and you wouldn’t have to worry about being home alone at night.”
“I’m not old enough to work where you do,” I reminded her yet again. I’d met Nicole at hair dressing school but she’d dropped out and got a job at the local casino instead. She was just barely old enough to work there, which made me five years too young; something she managed to forget at least once a week. Nicole’s thoughts centred completely around her. It wasn’t that she was mean or totally selfish, she simply forgot anything that didn’t directly have to do with her and assumed that everyone wanted to be just like her.
She swirled the eggs around the pan then poured the veggies on top. “Is the coffee almost done yet?”
“It's pretty much done,” I replied, glancing at the pot.
“Good,” she said while reaching into the cupboard. “I'll just get the sugar and... oh...” She grabbed something and pulled it out.
“Tamara?” she asked curiously. “Why are you keeping pregnancy tests in the cupboard?”
I looked at the box in shock while Ella Fitzgerald crooned about how she wanted to go on a sleigh ride.
“I didn't put that there,” I stammered.
The top of the box was open and Nicole tipped the contents into her hand.
“Eww,” she said as she dropped the tests on the counter then wiped her hands on her jeans. “One of these has been used.”
I picked up the used one and looked at it.
“Nicole,” I said, confused. “This test is positive.”
“That is seriously creepy,” she said. She didn’t sound creeped out at all though. She sounded excited, like it was some mystery to solve and Scooby and the gang were going to show up to help her explore for clues. I, however, wasn’t nearly as thrilled.
I started to shake. “How could this get in there?”
“Maybe...” she started to say then stopped. “Could you have left the door unlocked?” she asked hesitantly.
I shook my head. “I never leave it unlocked, ever. You know that!” I replied. “You’re the one who nicknamed me little Miss Paranoid. I always use the door lock, the dead bolt and a chain. And we’re on the frigging sixth floor so it's not like someone just climbed in a window.”
“Those were locked too by the way.” I added. “And I had to unlock the door so you could come in this morning.”
Last night I’d checked and triple checked the locks before heading to bed. I’d looked every conceivable place someone could hide and even some inconceivable ones. When I caught myself peeking behind the toilet I knew I’d moved from cautious into the realm of paranoia. That still didn’t stop me from checking in the bathtub and the overstuffed cabinets under the sink.
I pulled out one of the kitchen chairs and sat down with a thud. “One of the weird things about the dream last night is I heard a voice,” I said, struggling to remember. “I opened my eyes and saw these green eyes and heard a voice.”
I fell silent. I could see those cold green eyes in my mind. Felt the weight of his body above me. During the dreams I could feel the heat from his body but looking back, all I felt was ice.
“What did the voice say?” Nicole prompted, staring at me intently.
The coffee finished dripping but we ignored it.
“Nothing that made any sense at the time. He talked about farming and how he’d planted the field but still wanted to plough it.” I replied. My mind flashed to early childhood and my Mom explaining how Daddy makes a baby by planting a seed in Mommy. Seeds… fertile ground. An image of an old-fashioned plough digging into the ground the way he pushed himself into me. I picked up the unopened test. “I think I'm going to take this,” I said while heading to the bathroom.
Less than a minute later I had a second positive test. I leaned against the counter, my legs too unsteady to hold me, and stared at myself in the mirror above the sink. My reflection gazed back in shock. I always looked a bit young for my age but terror made me look about twelve. I wondered about the man who apparently thought that was enticing. My stomach twisted and I spent the next minute trying desperately not to vomit.
Nicole knocked on the bathroom door. “Tamara? Open up.”
Shaking, I opened the door. We stood there in silence staring at the plus sign on the second test. I felt as calm as the eye of a hurricane, eerily still and quiet with devastation looming in all directions. I was single. Completely, utterly, single. There was no way I could be pregnant… except if the dreams were real.
“What are you going to do?” Nicole asked looking about as shocked as I felt.
“I’m getting out of here,” I said grimly, trying my hardest not to cry. “I have no idea how he got in here and there's nothing stopping him from coming back.”