Tag Archives: Native

Pages to go…gulp!

I’m pages to go.  Just 20 or so to get to the end of this round of revisions for Stands Alone. I set a deadline for March 26th because the plan was to go to AWP with this novel ready. Tucked under my arm. Well, not really, tucked there but ready on my laptop and on multiple disc drives. But I got sick. Really sick and by Monday night, I was going down fast. I canceled my trip and hit my couch. I spent the next few days taking soaks for aches and pains, drinking tea, napping and bingewatching Tin Star. Both seasons. And of course, looking at photos and posts of friends in Portland at AWP, making myself feel worse.

AWP was not a golden ticket to landing an agent or finding a publisher. Not at all. There are none. This is hard work. Perseverance. It’s about the stars lining up AND talent AND determination AND craftwork AND networking AND AND AND…. I missed an opportunity. This time.

So this morning, as I opened up the word doc to go back to line edits and rethinking, rejiggering passages, and hopefully deepening my characters, I stopped to think about this journey. How far I’ve come from an image (yes, I’m still beginning stories with a Black woman’s feet running) to a pilot to a novel to multiple drafts to beta readers and now…queries for an agent.

I think about how much I’ve learned about myself, my skill and what continues to drive me to tell the stories that I do. I reread and rewrite painful acts of against women and let my weeping take me through to tell of their triumph, too.  I see the slivers of myself and my story in some of the women. I write their strength, their uniqueness, what makes them cry and shiver, what makes them run and what makes them fight. I am forever changed because of them.

Gulp.

Next step will be sending this story, these women warriors, out into the world.

I’m pages to go to let them fly.

Gulp. Sigh.

Chuckle and grin.

Yeah…  I got this.

 

 

 

Creating a White Supremacist Character

If there’s at least a tiny part of ourselves in every character we create, then what does that mean when it comes to creating bad guys? To creating the narcissist? The evil? To creating the one who wrecks havoc and tears through whatever and whoever is in their path?

Of course, writing to the humanity of these characters is the goal. That’s what gives them flesh. Finding their underbelly, exposing it, and then healing is a goal. Maybe. Destroying them? That’s a righteous goal, too.

I’m thinking about this as I prepare to go back into my novel. It’s been with beta readers and now I’m ready to enter this world again, which means I have to pull up a chair at the table headed up by a white supremacist. Of all my characters, my bad guys, and there’s plenty of them; I write crime suspense so my bad guys do heinous things, creating Raimond Davies has been the toughest.

In Stands Alone, my novel about a Mixed Blood cop who takes on a white supremacist, their ancestors are the soldiers in this war. Which means I wrote their histories, too. I know who Raimond’s father was and what he did to him. I know who his grandma was and how filthy and mean she was. I know who Raimond was as a small boy at the mercy of the adults in his life and how that set him on a course of hatred.

I think that in the many hours I’ve spent with this story, and the many more to come, my own ancestors settle on the loveseat in my office. Native men and women who fought the destructive forces of white men for their families and their tribes. African women who endured unimaginable atrocities and yet never stopped fighting for their freedom. They keep the sage burning, the drums pounding as they wrap their arms around me, whispering that this is the story that I need to tell. That only I can tell. They say it’s okay. That I’m safe from the horror on the page, from the horror in my imagination. They tell me I’m honoring the fight. Their fight.

My fight.

But damn.

The love of a story prompt

I gave myself a goal this holiday. For the month that I am spending in MN with my family. That goal was to continue honing my prose writing chops by writing short stories.

I have a novel in works out to beta-readers so I’m sitting on starting revisions or the second book of that trilogy. (I CAN’T WAIT!!! And yes, imagine that in my best Oprah-esque voice) And I have all these characters sorta milling around in my head.

Okay, some of them are more demanding of their stories than others. They’re mostly cops. Female cops in gritty cities or small towns. Badass chicks who have to hunt down some evil POS and do right by the badge they hold dearly. Some are women fighting for their families, for their lives. For the world that may be kicking them in their asses but it’s the world they’re committed to save. So, I guess the image of them milling around, sipping tea and watching holiday baking shows in the afternoon doesn’t really fit them. (actually that’s me when the work is done…lol!)

I needed a way to get these stories to the page so I put the word out to my online writing friends- incredibly talented women who are so far ahead of me in the prose fiction journey, accomplished novelists and authors who have had stories published online in the top journals and in beautiful collections, just all around inspiring, talented storytellers. I found some sites that have prompts to jumpstart a story. And I’ve started popping in on an incredible writing session with book mentor, Ericka Lutz http://erickalutz.com. 

In her sessions, writers would gather in zoom room for a timed writing session. She’d give us prompts if we wanted them or needed them. Set a timer and we’d go. Aside from seeing these other writers at their computer, intense looks on their faces, sipping tea or staring off, however they were creating their magic on the page, I was seeing that they were doing it like me. One word at a time.

These prompts, though! They were like lightening in a bottle. BOOM! I had a line of dialogue that gave me a direction to take my undercover Native cop, Carla Killingbear, to the alley to confirm the dead girl was the missing girl. She and her partners disagree on how swiftly they had to move on a suspect she developing a relationship with but had no concrete evidence. Yet. This story, Skye Isles, will be a longer work of fiction. O MY GOD!! Another novel??! YUP YUP! I’m excited and so is Carla Killingbear. I didn’t even know she was waiting to tell her story until I got the prompt. Joy. Joy. Joy!

The next prompt I used in another session was a place. Ericka said country store and I immediately saw Becky’s. A dusty place Off The Highway in New Mexico. And I saw Stella, a young Native girl, in old guy Coozer’s truck as he raved about how much he loved Becky and that she would be able to help Stella get her car fixed that died on the highway. Stella was on her way to California, on a grief healing journey after her mother’s death. What they didn’t know was who else was in that country store and the murder that was going to happen. BOOM! I WAS SO HAPPY! That prompt opened up a whole new story world with these incredible characters! A short story that moves with intrigue and suspense. More Joy, Joy, Joy!

If you’d like to connect with Ericka, you can find her on Facebook at Spark the Second Fire https://www.facebook.com/groups/sparkfire/.

If you have other links to writing prompts, let me know!

Write On!

Not a Toast…on MLK Day…

I struggle this morning to find the music I need to write to…because I am attempting to avoid some pain. That deep pain of racial upset, discord…from the hate that runs rampant in our country today. As the numbers of followers of evil men grow, the ones that openly carry weapons with their racism to shoot to kill because it is their right… as white… The ones who wish to close the borders, cage Muslims, hunt Black youth, rape Native women, strip away dignities, deny care and health, stamp out the futures for children and women because of the color of their skin, because of how little they have… as the followers of evil men grow, I feel my anger drain to sadness.
 
I know at some point I will listen to the words of the great Martin Luther King, Jr. today and I’ll cry. I always do. I know that I carry within me the stories of my ancestors before me. I know these stories. Of Black slaves. Of persecuted Native women. Of poverty-stricken souls. I know these people. And today, when we honor the man who had such vision to dream of a better tomorrow, a time of equality, peace and love, I will want to do that, too. For me and for you. And for all these ancestors in my heart. In my DNA. I will want to keep dreaming and wishing.
I don’t want to fall victim to my own discouragement. I don’t want the larger forces that wish for those of us who believe in peace, to win. I don’t want to fall defeated, to take on exhaustion as a failure and go away silent except for the sound of our muffled tears.
 
I’m at the page trying to write, trying to lose myself in fiction because real life is really hard. And breathing is a task.
 
I’ve been rereading Toni Morrison’s “Playing in the Dark” fascinated by her wisdom and pondering my own lens to the stories I tell. I am wishing that I find strength to keep going because I don’t know how to do anything else but this, to tell a story in any other way than I do now. Tough. Gritty. Truthful (according to my own truth… and not anyone else’s).  I am tired.
 
I’m thinking of this next year and what it could bring. If I show up. But today, I’m feeling the struggle. And am sitting in my office with only the sounds of my finger tips on the keyboard.
I am avoiding music. Of civil rights. Diverse voices that sing the blues. That make me wanna holler. I can’t force myself to deny struggle or betray by listening to something poppy and joyful because I struggle. I struggle. 
So this isn’t a Toast to anything…