Category: On the Blog


Reacquainting myself

One of these days, I’m going to  believe I’m actually pretty good at this writing gig.

Where I left off in Dorian:

Faubourg Marigny

 

A mournful blues slide greeted Alex as she made her way up Ma Mère’s curving wrought-iron steps to the intimate rooftop patio where Mac sat on a small raised platform, head bent over his beloved Gretsch. The hands that during the week dissected bodies with cool efficiency, attempting to draw from them the secrets of their demise, now caressed the strings of the vintage guitar, drawing from them an aching pathos and sorrow that resonated down to a body’s bones. A true bluesman. All it had taken was a few notes from his guitar that first day, and Alex had understood here lay the real Mac. Had understood that his invitation to “come hear me play for a spell,” amounted to far more than casual politesse.

That first Sunday, so long ago now, had been the real beginning of their friendship.

“Well if it isn’t the good doctor herself.”

Hell. And here she’d simply been looking for an afternoon immersed in good food, good music, and good company. Hoping to banish, if only temporarily, those haunting images of mournful gazes and the lingering headache with its relentless, agonizing heartbeat. Wanted to forget she’d imagined whispered entreaties to dare—to open herself.

She didn’t want to open herself, dammit.

Any more than she wanted to acknowledge the greeting, delivered in its typically mocking drawl.

However, it was difficult to ignore a lifetime’s worth of good manners—much as she might want to.

“Afternoon, Gabriel.”

Curly wrought iron scraped across the weathered brick pavers as he shoved a chair away from the table, the invitation clear. Alex stared from the empty chair to Gabriel’s seemingly disinterested expression, debating. On the one hand, she could simply acknowledge the summons with a “No , thank you,” and the polite dismissive nod learned at Nana Louisette’s knee. On the other, if she declined the invitation, she stood to get an earful from Mac regarding her chronic muleheadedness, as well as giving Gabriel further fodder in their not-always silent battle of wills.

“Bloody Mary, please,” she said to the hostess who’d returned when it became clear Alex wasn’t following.  She dropped into the wrought iron chair, shifting to allow for a better view of the stage. That it kept Gabriel safely contained at the edges of her peripheral vision was just an added bonus.

“Now that’s a bit rude, Doctor.”

“You’re the one who asked me to join you. Should’ve been prepared.” She took a slow, deliberate sip of the potent red cocktail that had appeared with the preternatual efficiency for which Mère’s bartenders were famed, then sighed.

“I’m sorry.” She pushed the drink away, not even sure why she’d ordered the damned thing in the first place. For God’s sake, she didn’t even much care for Bloody Marys,.

Muleheaded.

Mac’s taunt echoed in her head as she turned the chair back toward the table—enough to keep the stage in her line of sight yet bringing her back within the realm of decent manners. “That was rude.” Knowing damned well even though alcohol had never seized hold of him same way the smack had, Gabriel still viewed anything harder than a beer as something to be treated with respect and generally avoided.

He shrugged and gestured at a passing waitress, lifting his bottle along with two fingers. “I take it’s been a difficult morning?” His voice was surprisingly neutral.

“No more so than usual.”

“Isn’t there some rule where Sundays shouldn’t be difficult?”

“If there is, my family didn’t get the memo.”

As soon as the words left her mouth she regretted them, fully expecting some scathing retort, likely involving silver spoons and apron strings. Then she’d snipe back, something completely inappropriate and ugly, and so it would go until she’d up and leave, only to return home cloaked in the nausea and vague sense of unease that had dogged her ever since this morning’s bizarre episode.

Episode—that’s how she’d chosen to denote it. A brief, surreal moment brought on by too little sleep and not enough coffee.

Or booze.

Again, however, Gabriel surprised her, merely tapping the neck of his fresh Abita against hers with a murmured “Santé,” and relaxing back in his chair to listen to Mac finish out his set.

A good part of Alex remained tense, unable to completely shake the feeling he was just trying to lull her into a false sense of security because… well, because. It would be just like him, wouldn’t it? Almost against her will, though, she relaxed, soothed as always by the music and the beauty that was Ma Mère’s. The smoky aromas of blackening spices butting up against the cool, loamy scent of weathered brick all wrapped in the steady hum of an early Sunday afternoon. Quiet, compared to the tourist traps down in the Quarter, but that’s just how the regulars around here liked it. Not to say it didn’t have its noisy, raucous moments—catch it on any given autumn Sunday when the Saints played—but even so, Mère’s belonged to the locals and those they trusted to keep the secret of the best brunch and blues in New Orleans.

Initially, it had been the latter, by way of Mac and his weekend hobby, that had drawn Alex to the venerable Marigny landmark. Still relatively early in the post-Katrina recovery, he’d suggested she drop on by. Listen to him play his guitar and if she had a mind to, maybe even lend a hand because at Mère’s, in those days, they’d needed all the help they could get.  It’d been that rarity: never once closing because of the storm, surviving on generators, charcoal grills, and a wing and a prayer. A loosely organized host of volunteers had cooked, cleaned, and procured supplies from God-only-knows where—best not ask what you really didn’t want to know—while overseeing it all had been Mama  Earlene and Lucille, her trusty twelve-gauge.

She’d offer food and drink to any who needed, take what payment could be offered and if none could, simply scribbled out an I.O.U., assuring the customer she was confident the debt would be paid. Even now, five years on, folks regularly eased in through the palm-shrouded entry, bearing their tattered half of a ticket along with payment, while at least once a week an envelope would drop through the mail slot,  bearing postmarks from as nearby as Slidell or as far away as California. There was even the memorable instance  of a case of fresh-smoked salmon from Alaska that had landed on the doorstep with a simple “Thank you, Mama” scrawled on the side.

One gesture of generosity in exchange for another—one that may well have saved a life.

That was the thing—people remembered.

Even if they no longer lived here—forced out by circumstances beyond their control—they remembered their city and the people in it.

This city, it had a way of holding a body’s heart. And Mère’s itself embodied the very heart of the New Orleans Alex had never been able to escape, no matter how far she’d run.

“Well, now… look at the two of you, playing nice in my little corner of the sandbox.”

“Fuck you,” Gabriel retorted, but there was no real heat behind it. He raised his hand again to summon the waitress while Mac pulled a chair up to the table and drained what was left of Alex’s Turbodog.

“Didn’t mess around, did you, girl?”

Alex shrugged. “Gabriel ordered.”

Mac’s sandy brows rose. “You let Gabe order for you?”

“I don’t let Gabriel do anything—he simply did and I felt it bad manners to argue.”

“As if niceties and proper behavior have ever stopped you before.”

“Just trying to take your repeated suggestions to heart.”

Mac made some unintelligible noise deep in his throat, before turning his attention to the newly-arrived waitress. “Three more Turbodogs, darlin’, along with the large bucket of Frenchman’s wings and a couple baskets of sweet potato fries.”

Alex felt her arteries hardening while Gabriel grumbled, “Why yes, Mac, you presumptuous son of a bitch, wings and fries would be great, thanks ever so for asking.”

Mac snorted. “Pot, meet kettle or was that some other Alex Lacorbiere telling me you’d ordered beer for her without so much as a by your leave? Besides, y’all had your chance to order whatever the hell you wanted while I was up working my fingers to the bone.”

“What can I say? You played such an engrossing set we forgot about eating.” Alex said with only minimal acid.

“And I remain stunned y’all quit arguing with each other long enough to actually listen.”

Gabriel leaned back in his chair the fingers of one hand restlessly playing with a worn silver lighter, sparking a flame and flipping the cap closed several times in quick succession. Remnants of yet another vice left abandoned in the ashes of his past, Alex knew, yet some habits remained deeply ingrained.

“Again, weren’t you the one chastising us to get along and all that Rodney King peacemaking bullshit?”

“Yeah—just never imagined either of you stubborn mules would actually listen.”

“The credit for this one actually goes to Gabriel,” Alex found herself saying, though for the life of her, she couldn’t figure why, exactly. “I would’ve been perfectly happy to find a remote corner where I could hide for a few hours and lose myself in the music.”

A knowing eyebrow rose. “And what kind of fresh hell did Miz Louisette inflict today?”

“Nothing fresh—merely more of the usual. Gossiping about who at church has had what done, being barely civil to Teddy Beckett because she can’t stand the man and wants to make certain he knows it, although I got the distinct impression he could give less of a shit. Oh,” she added as an afterthought, “and giving me hell about not wearing stockings to church.”

No need to go into the episode. Especially not in front of Gabriel. Not as if it was pertinent to the discussion at hand and besides, it was nothing more than an anomaly. Brought on by that lack of coffee. And booze. God only knew, that fresh beer couldn’t arrive soon enough.

“She’s lucky you put on a skirt.”  Mac’s glance took in Alex’s battered jeans and the worn to butter-softness Oxford button-down that had belonged to Daddy and that she’d pilfered from the bag intended for the Saint Vincent de Paul charity drive.

“Choose your battles.” Oddly restless, she stood and wandered to the rooftop’s edge, hoping for the warm spring breeze to sweep away the vestiges of the headache that the brief memory of this morning had resurrected.Gretsch-610x250

From A Tempestuous Noise by Barbara Caridad Ferrer ©2013

Where it began (Dorian)

After more than six weeks of semi-voluntary writing hiatus, I’m finally ready to get back to it. I’ve got several projects I could work on, but the one that seems to be poking its head up out of the ground most often is Dorian. I’m pleased, actually, because I love this project and I’d feared I’d come to such a screeching halt (multiple times) that I’d never actually finish it, which made me sad.

So sometime this week I’ll be opening the most current file (I can practically hear Lovely Agent cheering) and assembling my notes and trying to decide if what I have is really as good as I recall and if it inspires me to go forward.

In the meantime, this is what was once the original opening to the story, scribbled in a notebook in the wee hours of September 12, 2011. The fact that it still makes me shiver is a good sign, I think, because even though it’s no longer part of the story (it was a darling that needed to be killed), it did set the tone for everything that’s followed.

***

“Don’t look back, somethin’ might be gainin’ on you.” ~Satchel Paige

palm tree bent hurricane EDITED*304

 

New Orleans, Louisiana

August 28, 2005

His entire life he’d heeded those words.  His daddy’s mantra, borrowed from the great Satchel.  “That’s as good advice as any given by a man, no matter what color his skin is.”  So no, he’d never looked back.  Always looked forward.  Always forged ahead.  But the joke was on him now.  Because that thing that was gaining was coming from ahead, rushing headlong towards them with speed and fury and an unforgiving wrath that roared and howled at the injustice, but refused to let up, to divert its course.  Oddly, he wasn’t frightened.  God knows, he should’ve been.  Even old timers had the sense to be good and scared of the fearsome beast that snarled and spit and breathed righteous fire.  But not him.

No, if anything, he was hopeful.  Hope.  A simple word holding so much weight.  There was hope it would all be swept away—the dirt and filth. The lack of decency and morals and basic humanity.  Hope that the demons and monsters would be swallowed whole and erased—leaving nothing in their wake but perhaps the merest spun sugar dust sparkling in air washed clean and new.  Evidence that once, they’d been good.

Despite appearances to the contrary, they’d all been good.

Once upon a time.

It had all once been so very, very good.

Subtitled: what happens when Barb is operating on 2.5 hours of sleep and sees a photograph that captures her fancy. The photograph in question:

Vintage Hollywood

All credit to Arlene Wszalek (@Wzzy) who had posted a lovely full color version of this image taken during a walk around the newly reopened Hollywood Reservoir. I mentioned that it seemed the sort of  image that evoked a sense of Old Hollywood and that I’d love to see it manipulated in a sepia-tint. A while later, voilà—the Lovely Arlene had tagged me in a post whereupon she had applied a sepia filter to the photograph and isn’t it lovely?

My first thought was, “There’s a story there.” (Go on, look surprised, I dare ya.) And lo and behold… a wee drabble emerged.

This is that drabble. Please, keep in mind, 2.5 hours sleep.

With many thanks to Arlene for indulging my idle whim.

Vintage Hollywood

New Year’s Day 1957

No one remembered what it used to look like.

The fruit orchards and citrus groves bisected by wide, quiet avenues and lined with modest Craftsman bungalows and Mission-style houses

Back before Bill Mulholland built his dam, and Woodruff and Shoults had erected that damned monstrosity up on Mount Lee designed to draw people to their “superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills.” Hell, he hardly remembered himself—he hadn’t been that long out of short pants when the sign went up and not long after, the dam was built, changing the landscape forever.

Of course, it didn’t help—or hurt—depending on your point of view, that as the popularity of the talkies grew and the industry along with it, his quiet, sleepy town had also gone along for the ride—huge swathes of acreage giving way to studios and shopping centers.

He still hadn’t quite forgiven Chaplin for that.

Even so, the area had remained fairly sylvan and peaceful for quite a long time, removed as it was from the City of Angels, proper. Especially up in the hills themselves, lots of trails for a body to take a bracing walk or where a horse could still be ridden in peace. Up there, a body could get lost for days—weeks even—almost forgetting the hustle and bustle that invaded and wouldn’t be beat back. Not unlike a particularly insidious strain of poison-oak.

The one invader he hadn’t minded was the Observatory. There was something so regal and serene about it, clean and white and set at a remove from the ugliness. One could sit up there and feel just a little bit closer to the heavens and that was a fact.

There had been that scare some years back—that lunatic, Hughes, making noises about building up on Cahuenga Peak—something about how his princess deserved a castle so she could oversee her subjects.

Man was loopier than the yarn his grandmamma used to spin.

Then again, same argument could be made for City Council, since they actually voted to grant him permission to build.

Thank God, Hughes had all the restraint of a chickenhawk let loose in a henhouse. Ginger had caught wind of his indiscretions—not that he went to all that much trouble to hide them—and had the sense God gave a goat to give the narcissistic bastard the old heave-ho before she got in too far over her head.

Granted, he might not care for the sign much, but for better or worse, it was a landmark and a damned sight better than whatever that crackpot Howard would’ve seen fit to put up, no doubt overshadowing if not obliterating anything in his path. When one took into account that his next big project after Ginger cut him loose had been the Spruce Goose…

Well—everyone knew how that had turned out.

He paused for a breath and to regain his bearings. It was all changing so fast and yet, at times like this, the setting sun bathing everything in a warm gold glow, he could squint his eyes and it almost—almost—had the look of the sepia-tinted photographs so carefully preserved within the leather-bound albums that were his pride and joy.

They told a story, those albums did.

Just not the story everyone assumed.

They thought he was merely the family historian. The dotty uncle trying desperately to cling to a past about which no one cared.

Oh, but they’d care all right.

If they were smart enough to put together the clues he’d so carefully preserved on those bits of celluloid and painstakingly affixed to the heavy parchment sheets of those leather albums.

Of one thing he was certain—by the time they put it all together, that is, presuming they ever did—it would be far too late to do a damned thing about it. He’d be long gone and the biggest secret of all, gone with him.

Something about that—much like this place he loved so much—made him smile.

With that, he picked up the shovel and began to dig.

I’m sitting here with my first cup of coffee of the morning and mulling over a book I finished last night, Gracefully Gone, by Alicia Coppola. Honestly, I’ve been mulling over this book and writing this post since I first started reading it last week.

gracefully-goneNormally, I don’t write reviews—I might leave one on Amazon, as I did for Gracefully Gone, because I know those ratings and reviews can definitely help, but in terms of writing in-depth reviews on books, it’s not something I particularly enjoy doing. Maybe it’s because I know how much effort and sweat and tears and heart go into the creation of a book for me to turn what’s often a very critical eye on it. Call me a softy, but I can’t do it.

But Gracefully Gone has proven to be an exception almost from the get-go. Not simply because it’s prompting me to write about it, but because I even read it in the first place. You see, memoirs generally aren’t my cuppa—odd, since I actually love biographies, but I am a contrary creature. (Go on, look surprised.) But Gracefully Gone isn’t simply just another memoir either—it’s equal parts memoir, journal, and epistolary account. It chronicles the journey of Matthew Coppola, Sr. and his daughter, the young girl/woman who would grow up to become actress Alicia Coppola, as they navigated his cancer diagnosis, treatment, and eventually, the last months of his life.

It was a tremendous read—and yet, I still can’t review it, not in any traditional sense. It would… cheapen the experience, if that makes any sense. So I beg your tolerance as I record my reactions in the manner in which I heard them in my head as I read, which was… a chatty, conversational letter. Kind of apropos, no?

All right, then, here we go.

Dear Alicia,

Well, fellow writer, I finished reading Gracefully Gone last night. And as it has from the first moment I started reading, it has stayed with me. For various reasons—the style (since you are a wonderfully evocative writer), the story, the events, but most of all, because of a line you used more than once and that resonated: “There but for the grace of God…” Continue reading

Just a few random observations on Between Here & Gone noted this morning:

I’ve received more reviews and “votes” (1228) which, let’s equate them to ratings on amazon or Goodreads, and “comments” i.e. reviews (104)  than I’ve ever received on any of my traditionally published novels. Hell, I think on all three combined. Including the negative/lukewarm reviews because yanno, Goodreads—where not reading the back cover copy and realizing you’ve bought a book featuring a love triangle when you hate reading love triangles is cause to give the book a one-star review. (I’m so not kidding about that.)

Even if I only look at the stats for Chapter Thirty (89 votes & 27 comments) they amount to more than I’ve gotten on any single novel.

And this isn’t even taking into account the comments left on my profile, which generally tend to refer back to BH&G as well.

I’m not trying to make any specific point here, other than idle curiosity. But I do find it interesting that more people found the book once it was listed as a feature title—a little thing, really, but it was giving the book a little piece of spotlight that seemed to bring it to readers’ attention. Maybe a lesson there for traditional publishers?

All right then, carrying on.

 

 

So, some of you may have noticed (probably more of you have not) that for the past two weeks, I’ve been Up To Something. That something being I’ve taken a manuscript of mine, Between Here & Gone that is complete and have been putting up, chapter by chapter on Wattpad. Why?

The easy answer is, why not?

The harder answer is, as you might guess, a bit more complicated. Let me see if I can bullet point this into something that makes some sense.

  1. As I said, the manuscript is complete. *waits to hear cries of “But Barb, don’t you want to sell it?* Well, d’uh, of course I’d love to sell the thing. But it’s one of Those Manuscripts. The kind that has no real definition in terms of genre. It’s not YA or New Adult or romance or literary or… I mean, the closest you could come to calling it is maybe a commercial women’s fiction, but it’s not contemporary. It’s set squarely in the 1960s and it’s a bit of a coming-of-age story and…Well… you see what I mean about undefinable? This is the sort of manuscript that’s difficult to sell, especially when you don’t have a track record in said undefinable genre. And aren’t Nicholas Sparks (not that I’m bitter or anything…). It’s the sort of thing that because I don’t have an established audience, I suspect would make it difficult to self-publish, especially with my self-admitted suckagetude at self-pimpery. Y’all know how very, very bad I am at promo. Even this blog post is taxing my ability to jump up and down and say, “Heeeeeeyyyyyyy!! Look at meeeeeeeeeee!!! Pay attention to meeeeeeeeeee!!!! Love meeeeeeeeeeee!!!
  2. Another reason is because among my work, not just the YA, but the adult stories—let’s call it eleven completed manuscripts and probably a half dozen more in various stages of completion—this manuscript stands alone as its own beast. By which I mean it’s completely unlike anything I’ve written before and it’s unlike anything on which I’m currently working. Something else that makes it a harder conventional sell.
  3. It’s a safe experiment. There are those who would say it’s a risk—what if the story’s not as good as I think it is or if I turn off readers or… Screw it. No risk, no reward, right? I’m tired of being a coward, y’all. I write. I want to show that I’m not just a one-trick pony. I can write something other than multicultural YA and if publishing won’t give me the opportunity to show that right now, then it’s up to me to show off what I’m capable of.
  4.  I like this damned story. A lot. I’d love to know if other people like it as well. And being one who lives in her writing cave most of the time, it’s a way by which to get some immediate feedback. Okay, admittedly, I haven’t gotten a lot yet, but still, it’s feedback I didn’t have before.
  5.  But perhaps most importantly, I’m doing this because I’m a storyteller. I had this story I wanted to tell and so I did and now I want to share it.

Is it the best novel I’ve ever written? I have no measure by which to decide, really. I certainly think there are elements that are among the best I’ve written. There are probably places it could be better, but I could say that about everything I’ve ever written, published or not. Maybe even especially the published works.

What it comes down to is I really, really like this story and I wanted to share it. I chose Wattpad as my “publishing” platform, even though I’m not necessarily the site’s target demographic or write in what’s considered a popular genre for the site, because it’s basically idiot-proof. It’s a glorified blog with the novelization formatting built in, which makes it an easy task for me to post the chapters so it doesn’t wind up feeling like a chore or obligation. It’s fun. The most work I did was putting together a cover which, if I do say so myself, I think I did a reasonably nice job on.

So there you have it. Complete story. A 100K word book up for free. There’s drama and adventure and self-actualization and romance and more drama all set around the turbulence of the mid-1960s.

Between Here & Gone

Between Here & Gone

In 1959 Cuba, seventeen-year-old Natalia San Martín was nothing short of a princess, sheltered, pampered, and courted by her very own prince, a childhood friend turned lifelong love. She and Nicolas made grand plans to study abroad and travel the world, secure in the knowledge their tropical paradise—the home they loved above all others—would always be there for them. All that changed on the fateful New Year’s Eve when Fidel Castro and his followers seized control of the island, with tragic consequences for not only the island, but for Natalia herself.

Five years later, it’s the fall of 1964—the U.S. is a country hovering on a precipice of massive change. The halcyon days of the Kennedy Administration have begun fading into memory, as the ongoing Cold War, the escalating conflict in Vietnam, and racial unrest at home begin to erode the sense of purpose and innocence that had gripped the country for three short years.

None of which really matters much to Natalia. For her, purpose and innocence disappeared five years ago; these days, she merely suffers her new existence as Natalie Martin, firmly leaving her past where it belongs—until the moment it all catches up to her and forces her to face the choices she’s made.

 

 

Those of you who know me, know how difficult it is for me to pimp myself out, but here I am, donning the Purple Hat of Pimpitude: please, RT, share, babble, whatever floats your boat if you feel as if I’ve written something that maybe has/deserves an audience. I will forever love you (well, more than I already do) and if you’re really nice, I might even give you my firstborn.

A Wee Valentine’s Story

It began, as such things do, with a conversation on Twitter. The lovely and talented Janice Whaley was passing the time as she waited (and waited… and waited…) for her turn to audition for The Voice. That she was there at all was due to the Evil Influence of one James Roday, AKA the irrepressible Shawn Spencer from USA Network’s psych . Many who are fans of the show or of Janice or James or all of the above also know that James is a Damned Fine Singer. Don’t believe me? Just listen to the cover of Tears For Fears’ “Ideas as Opiates” that James and Janice recorded as a duet for Curt Smith’s birthday gift last year.

Anyhow, I digress, but not really, since this is all Very Important Information leading up to my part in the madness.

So Janice was passing time tweeting and she happened to mention what a fabulous cheerleader James had been throughout the whole process, from encouraging her to sign up for an audition to helping her figure out what to sing. Which, of course, led to envisioning James in cheerleading drag. Which begat envisioning his costar Dulé Hill in cheerleading drag. Which begat envisioning their costar Tim Omundson in cheerleading drag. (I know, I know, but look, my only defense is that we were trying to distract Janice and keep her somewhat mellow prior to the audition.)

At any rate, the madness culminated with Janice proclaiming this was all starting to edge toward fanfic territory. To which I responded if she made it through her audition, I’d write her a wee little psych-fic with Shawn, Gus, and Lassie as cheerleaders. Because c’mon, just having the guts to do what she did deserves some sort of reward, right?

Maybe chocolates would’ve been better.

But because writing is what I do and Janice did make it through her audition, I wrote this wee little tale—after I sent it to her, she asked if I would be willing to share with you lovelies online as a Valentine’s Day gift and because I adore Janice and I adore all of you, I said sure (and promptly downed a handful of Tums).

Now, because I am a professional writer and I’m sensitive to these sorts of things, the standard

 Disclaimer: Psych and its characters belong to Steve Franks & Co., NBC/Universal, and pretty much anyone else who isn’t me. This work of fiction has been produced solely for entertainment purposes, no infringement intended.

And if the Intellectual Property/Copyright Police come after me, I will take this down, no questions asked.

So without further ado, I give you…

Shawn & the Valentine’s Pyramid o’Doom

Barbara Caridad Ferrer 

For Janice Whaley whose talent, guts, and good humor are a constant inspiration

 ©2013

Continue reading

Far be it from me to not do a roundup, but this year, it has to be a quickie, because a) I’m on deadline (and to quote Bill the Cat: ACK! Pbbbllllltttt!!!!) and b) I was spectacularly underwhelmed this year. So I hope you’ll forgive the brevity. Hopefully, the SAGs and Oscars will give us better material.

There was a lot of channeling going on this year. A lot of channeling.

Claire Danes channeled Gwyneth, Isla Fisher channeled Kate Winslet, Katharine McPhee channeled JLo, Alyssa Milano channeled a NYC Cab…

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Lucy Liu clearly took her inspiration from Carol Burnett as Scarlett O’Hara, except she opted to skin the parlor sofa rather than the drapes. Her hair also looked as if she’d reconstructed her braid after a quickie in the back of the limo.

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Moving along, it appeared that many of the actresses in attendance were extremely jealous of Angelina’s Leg and were desperate to inspire parody Twitter accounts for their own legs. I can only hope they were all wearing underwear, as high up as some of these slits went. (Too many to mention but any other fashion gallery will show many examples, I’m sure.)

I will give you one example of The Leg Thing, if only because she was such a huge offender from another standpoint. Halle, you’ve got great legs, we get it. More importantly, however. for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t do that to The Girls. I mean, did she piss off her stylist or what? Did she actually think this looked good? (And watch—she’ll show up on all the Best Dressed Lists, just because she’s Halle.)

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There were a few gowns I liked—while I wasn’t crazy about the cut/fit of the bodice, I did rather like Jennifer Lawrence’s red ballgown and Naomi Watts’ claret sheath with the train. (Actually, Naomi’s is one that the longer I consider it, the more I like it.


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My favorite of the night, however, probably was Tina Fey’s gown from the early part of the ceremony itself—love the color, her hair, and of course, the sassy lady wearing it.

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Here’s hoping the Oscars bring some better selections overall (and more time).

*Images courtesy of People Magazine & Huffington Post Style. 

2012 Roundup ala Pop My Culture

Yeah, I know it’s almost the middle of January, sue me.

So I’m taking a page from Pop My Culture’s year-end two-part podcast and doing a Top 5/Bottom 5 list, a resolution (or as I like to call them, “revolution”), & Song of the Year. Why? Well, because the podcast was awesome (seriously, go listen, it’s brilliant) and more importantly, I’m sitting here, waiting for my hair to finish processing color and I’m bored. (And hoping I don’t come out looking like the victim of nuclear fallout.)

So, without further ado, we’ll start with the Bottom 5- in no particular order:

Rejection. As in, rejection letters from editors. They suck. Nearly 15 years in the business & they still suck. A lot.

In that vein, not yet selling an adult novel. Not adult as in X-rated, you pervs, but adult, as in a novel/story intended for adults. It’s what I started out with the intent to publish, and it’s still my first love. I have some really good manuscripts still waiting for their turn. Hopefully, someday, they’ll get it. In the meantime, I keep creating new ones. (More on that later)

Fifty Shades of Grey I’m sorry. I try very hard not to badmouth other writers and or books but the manner in which this book made its way to publication and the level of popularity its achieved is just mind-boggling to me. And I’m sorry—it’s just a badly-written book whose characters were blatantly ripped off from another franchise (what I think of that one is a different topic altogether). What really pisses me off is how so many friends of mine who write really fine erotica/erotic romance are being accused of “jumping on the bandwagon.” On the other hand, it’s also served as a windfall for them, so that’s been a positive.

Ignorance/Intolerance. Sadly, this one carries over from year to year, but it seems to become especially prevalent during election years. I’m very live and let live—I have friends across the entirety of the belief spectrum, albeit leaning a bit more toward the left, but my staunchly-held belief system is one should educate oneself, should stand firm in one’s beliefs and grant me the respect of allowing me the same. You come at me with ignorance and intolerance and I have no use for you.

Taylor Swift/Justin Beiber/et al They just set my teeth on edge. Luckily, my kids have never gone for super lightweight pop music, so I’ve been able to escape most of it.

Okay, Top Five, also in no particular order:

Being approached by Harlequin out of the blue to write two young adult novellas. Especially amazing considering when my agent made the offer my response was, “But… I don’t have any novella proposals.” They simply liked how I wrote and wanted me to come up with something for them. Which I am in the process of doing.

Television I’m such a workaholic, I don’t get out as often as I should to movies, so I make up for it by having a cable package with every channel known to man. And even so, I don’t see the movies I miss in theatres because there are so many good television shows going on that are just smart and engrossing and fabulous examples of storytelling. Copper, Longmire, Mad Men, Justified, Vegas—and as a corollary to that, watching TV with my kids. It’s been so much fun to introduce them to old favorites and to discover new ones together—Firefly, Farscape, BSG, Dr. Who, Sherlock, Person of Interest, various anime programs. They’re so smart and it’s a blast to get their impressions and opinions. (And oh my, are they opinionated. Can’t imagine where they got that from…)

Music Also a constant from year to year, but the things that made it wonderful this year was discovering new artists via satellite radio and the Shazam app (As my husband says, “For a free app, it’s cost me a metric assload of money. Can’t say he’s wrong.) New artists discovered this year: Delta Rae, Z.Z. Ward, honey honey, Michael Kiwanuka, The Last Bison, Audra Mae & the Almighty Sound, Amy Stroup, The Head and the Heart, the Lumineers, Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rockettes—the list just goes on and on, really…  (Go on, look surprised. I dare you.)

Twitter 2012 was my year of rediscovering Twitter. I had joined in 2009, somewhat grudgingly in that “It’s something I’m supposed to do for self-promo,” which most people who know me know I hate with the heat of a thousand suns, but after STARS released in late 2010, I got so sick of myself, I went on nearly ten-month twitter hiatus. I made a cautious return in late 2011 and slowly began restructuring my follow lists. Rather than solely publishing people I started following people in other artistic mediums and from there, just people whom I found interesting. I started actually enjoying Twitter as a social interaction tool—it’s actually a perfect method by which a shy, introvert can get to know people and ultimately, it’s allowed me to befriend and meet in real space, some fabulous people I absolutely adore, including Vanessa Ragland, one of the co-hosts of Pop My Culture which of course, prompted this rambly post. Cole, you’re next. It’s okay. I’m reasonably harmless.

Ballroom Dance What started out as research for STARS has turned into a hobby/exercise regime at which it turns out, I’m pretty good. It feeds into my artistic/creative/competitive sides and frees up the lizard brain to mull over the writing.

Writing Yes, I know this makes it six, but I’ll be the first to say I suck at math. Besides, it’s my list. 2012 returned to me the joy in writing. I didn’t finish any manuscripts this year, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t write, because oh my goodness I wrote. I wrote so very much that won’t ever see the light of day and I’m okay with that, because I wrote simply for myself, no expectations, no rules, just wrote for me and it was fun and it fed my soul and reminded me why I do this. Because I have to.

One more, because again, my list, and well, it needs to be added: Twenty. 2012 marked twenty years of being married to my best friend. I initially hesitated to include this, not because it’s not important (d’uh) but because I actually tend to keep my personal life more to the background. But hell, twenty years is pretty freakin’ remarkable, if I do say so myself. We went to Hawaii and fell in love with it, so that was another thing that was great about 2012, which I suppose technically makes it eight things.

Yeah, I really suck at math.

Resolution/Revolution Oy, I hate making these because it’s inevitably setting oneself up for failure, but I’ll give it a go: this year, I’ll finish Dorian, my adult horror suspense. There.

Song of the Year This is both an oldie and newbie: The Boxer by Mumford & Sons and featuring Jerry Douglas and Paul Simon. First off, The Boxer is one of my favorite songs of all time. You have to understand—I’m a musician’s musician. I always glom onto music/melody first before lyrics. I can hear a song once and repeat the melody back to you, but there are songs I’ve known for thirty years where the lyrics will escape me (weird for a writer, right?). But The Boxer has always been one of those rare exceptions. Those lyrics have just always hit me straight in the gut and always seem relevant to some aspect of my life. The final verse, in particular, seemed to really reflect this past year for me: 

In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminder of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving I am leaving but the fighter still remains

I mean, if that isn’t just the biggest “fuck you, you can knock me down, but I ain’t ever giving up,” ever, I don’t know what is—and as beautifully as Simon & Garfunkel sang it, there’s something so stunningly perfect about Mumford & Sons’ interpretation. The harmonies are as glorious as anything Paul and Art ever sang, but when it comes to the lead vocals, Marcus Mumford is just raw and gritty and he sings the lyrics with the sort of raw anger they seem to demand. Add in that Paul Simon contributes to the vocals and lap steel guitar legend Jerry Douglas adds his own unique sound to the mix and it’s the perfect marriage of old and new and goes to show how a great song remains timeless.

Not to mention, Marcus’ voice does funny things to my ladybits.

I guess all in all, 2012 wasn’t too terrible, although honestly, the Mayans were more than welcome to its remains.

So with that, I bid 2012 adieu.

Lately, I’ve been working on the synopsis/story outline for the new YA novella. Unusual for me, at this point, is to be working with my editor at tweaking the story before I’ve even written word one on the story proper. Yet, even this early, there are things I really like about the story about which my editor is saying, “We might want to rethink this a bit.”

Which just goes to show, the darlings, they can be killed at any point in the process and as an author, you have to be prepared to deal. Unless, of course, you’re one of those speshul snowflakes who exists in a vacuum and has reached a point where people are afraid/don’t bother to edit you any longer. In which case, I feel sorry for you because everyone can stand editing.

But that’s a post for another day. Today it’s about killing darlings and while I’m not prepared to share from the new story just yet (mostly because it’s really such a little thing and not much of a darling to kill anyway), I am willing to share one of my absolute favorite darlings from Dorian. 

Oh, how I love this scene. Like BURNING, I love it. I knew when I first wrote it that it was a hell of a scene. When my first readers started telling me that good as it was, it maybe wasn’t going to work, I rebelled. It was such a good scene, dammit. How could it not work? I moved it around in the narrative—I even tried making it the opening scene—but eventually, I had to acknowledge defeat and the fact that my readers, with the distance they had from the story, were right.

Great scene. Just not working for the story as a whole. Out it goes. But I still love it and pull it out from time to time to remind myself what I’m capable of producing.

 

***

The French Quarter, New Orleans

November 2005

Gabriel clenched one end of the tourniquet between his teeth and pulled tight, rapidly opening and closing his left fist and slapping the fingers of his right hand along the crook of his elbow, pausing only to feel for the telltale rise of the vein.  Praying for it to come up faster, sooner…

There… there

He unclenched his jaw, the filled syringe he’d been holding between his teeth dropping into his palm.  Quickly, he adjusted his grip and plunged the needle into the vein, his head dropping back against the weathered brick wall of the alley as the juice burned through his bloodstream and the familiar euphoria washed over him, ebbing and flowing in time with the rowdy strains of “Iko Iko” that drifted from some nearby club.

Look at my king all dressed in red

Iko iko an nay

“I bet you five dollars he’ll kill you dead,” he sang along in his head—he thought—until he heard the cheer and answering chant of “Jockomo feena nay!” from the group weaving through the lights glowing at the far end of the alley, pointing the way toward the noise and rowdiness of Bourbon.  A little more subdued, maybe, but signs of life were evident, the parties of the Quarter staging a return.  Celebrating survival.  Shooting a big, civic finger at that fucking storm.  That mean-assed bitch had blown into town, done her damage, then left them scrabbling in her left-behind shit like the goddamned Lord of the Flies.  But she could just go fuck herself—she’d been banished and they were still here.  Still here and not going anywhere.  Not anytime soon, no sir.

Sweat trailed along his scalp and around his ear, cold and sinuous as a snake.  No… no…  He fucking hated snakes.  Blinking rapidly, he tried to dispel the image, rubbing his back against the rough bricks to get rid of the feeling of something dark slithering down his neck and along his arm, leaving a dank, clammy trail in its wake, like it’d just come sliding up from the bayou.

The syringe dropped from suddenly nerveless fingers to join the rest of the crap littering the narrow alley—this sliver between two ancient buildings just wide enough to trap the shadows.  Perfect for a quickie, whether it was with someone—or something—you wouldn’t normally be caught dead with out there, even in the hedonistic surroundings of the Quarter.  Their remains lay underfoot: the mélange of cigarette butts and crushed go-cups, used syringes and condoms that had a way of tripping up tourists stupid enough to try to use the alley as a shortcut. 

Why was he thinking of all this shit?  He was trying to forget the bad.  Forget the sting of cold water against his face—cold that was alien to New Orleans in August.  Forget fighting against the wind and rain, trying to convince folks to leave, that he’d drive them to the Dome, to the Convention Center, to anywhere that wasn’t where the storm was trying to beat her way into their house… the House of the Rising Sun, the Crescent City, the Big Easy…

So easy… It had once been so easy.  It needed to be easy again. 

He never used to trust easy.  Easy was for suckers and the lazy.  Live long enough in New Orleans, though, and a body eventually succumbed.  Easy was their way of life after all.  Even when working hard, there was a welcome, sugar-drenched easiness about everything that made it home.

A screaming trumpet line wailed through the heavy, humid air bathing him in the soothing warmth of home.  So warm, even late, late at night, with the shadows and ghosts as his only company.  Just like he liked it.

The familiar lethargy began claiming him, sweet and relaxing, from his fingertips through his muscles and all the way down to his bones, making him feel as if he was sinking right into the weathered bricks, merging with the building.  So perfect.  He could be a sentry, standing guard, watching everyone go about their business… doing the things they did, good and bad, that gave the city a richness like sweet cream, that kept folks coming back, even now.  She was like a lady past her prime, ragged round the edges but still damned fine enough to attract all the boys and knowing it.

He smiled, rubbing his palms over the rough surface beneath them, caressing life back into the old girl, letting her know he thought she was still hot.  He’d never leave her for any of those sleeker, bigger cities with their promise of shiny and new.  Hell, why would he leave?  All that sleek shininess, it was bullshit—a smokescreen hiding all the same sorts of darkness.  At least New Orleans, she was honest and true. 

Rolling his head to the side, he peered down the tunnel-like expanse of the alley, the dark length lithe and supple, his beautiful girl reaching out to embrace him.  Slowly, he began making his way toward the movement—so fucking beautiful, bodies moving together, then apart then together again, a long, graceful arm reaching out to him, imploring, beseeching—

“Please—”

He blinked again, smiled at her request, tried to move a few steps closer, stumbling as muscle and bone rebelled, wanting to stay, the weathered bricks tightening their embrace as if wanting him to sink into every pore and crack.

“Help me, please—”

It was the darkest part of the alley and he was still too far away.  Too far and getting further, as the long arm reached out once more then fell away, the once-graceful fingers grasping at thin air, desperate for purchase.  Adrenaline surged through his system, fighting through the junk holding his body hostage.

He blinked furiously trying to separate reality and the fantasy—what if it was all a fantasy?  What if it was all real? 

What the hell was real?

Please—

He groped at the small of his back for his piece with one hand—reached into his pocket with the other.  Braced his legs.  Lifted the gun in what should’ve been a practiced grip.

Sweated as it trembled.

“Police—”  He flashed his badge.  “Step away and show me your hands.  Now!”

Except there was nothing there.  Nothing more than the stink of piss and illicit sex and the distant wail of a trumpet that sounded like laughter on the night air.

 

From A Tempestuous Noise

© 2012 Barbara Caridad Ferrer

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