Editing

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On the fact that yearbooks never lie.

Published July 22, 2013 by mandileighbean

“The space between the tears we cry is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more.”
– Dave Matthews Band

Life, for a complete and utter lack of a better adjective, is crazy.  As people, we experience and live through events that make and/or break us in varying degrees of intensity.  We feel triumph in finding a parking spot near our destination in a crowded city.  We feel triumph when we finally land that dream job or finally purchase the dream car.  We can be devastated if we miss out on an incredible deal.  We can be devastated when we get into a car accident or misplace something valuable.  Every human has major and mini crises throughout the day; there is no revelation in such an observation, but I think what strikes me is how often these events occur and how differently each individual reacts to a particular set of circumstances.  Because of problems within my immediate family, I have been doing some soul searching and deep thinking as of later, and as far as rationalization and understanding go, this paragraph is all I could come up with.  The kick in the proverbial pants is that there is no explanation for all of the things that happen.  And what’s more, even if there was, people would reject what was in front of them in search for something better, something more suited to what they want it all to mean.  Is that cynical?  Am I losing faith?

I finished the first chapter of my next novel, which is currently titled Moody Blue.  I feel proud and accomplished, but I am worried that I rushed the ending of the chapter.  I printed a copy for my mother to read; she helped me edit my first novel and it was only after I took her advice that I was published – and on her birthday, no less.  She’s my good luck charm.

I am currently scheduling an author talk and signing at the Manchester Branch of the Ocean County Library for sometime in October or November.  I think this latter half of 2013 is going to prove to be an exciting time for me.  Between you and I, I need it to be better.  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I went for an ultrasound of my gall bladder last week, and the results came back clean.  My doctor, and my best friend, and my mother, all seem to think it is stress that is tearing my insides apart.  This makes sense to me, especially when I think about how many nights are restless, and how often I toss and turn, unable to escape my own head and the endless list of worries.  I am even beginning to have horrible dreams.  Most recently, I had a dream that featured someone who is dead and has been dead.  In the dream, this person was in a darkened bedroom with only the light from the blaring television and perhaps a bedside lamp.  I do not know if this was inside a house, or an apartment, or what – the surroundings were completely unfamiliar.  As a matter of fact, the person did not even look familiar, but I understood who it was and I knew that this individual was supposed to be dead.  I was in the bedroom, but I had no desire to be there.  It felt horribly wrong and it was bizarre.  The blanket and sheet were pulled down and away so that they pooled near his waist and his bare, pale chest and loose stomach were exposed.  On his chest and stomach was balanced a large glass bowl and two tall glasses.  I made to move them, to pick them up and carry them to a kitchen somewhere.  I was hesitant in approaching because his eyes were only slightly closed.  It was like he was awake and aware, and only pretending to sleep.  I think I called out to him and said his name once or twice.  But I was scared and so I ran, only grabbing the glass bowl which turned out to be full of water (so were the two tall glasses), and the dream ended as quickly as it began.

My father knocks on bedroom doors before entering, even when he know there is no one inside.

Thursday, I traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to listen to Stephen King have a conversation with some pretentious blowhard.  It was 103 degrees, and I walked around Hartford in that ungodly heat in a panic, looking for somewhere to quickly eat before the event began.  I arrived ninety minutes later than I had planned because of horrendous, horrific traffic.  I ate a restaurant called Hook and Ladder, located next to the firehouse.  The décor and atmosphere were great, but I was really disappointed in my grilled cheese sandwich.  I can’t believe I broke my diet for that.  But the event was awesome; King is a brilliant, accessible mind.  He shares my passion for the Boss, believes in God, and believes that love can be and should be and most often is limitless.  Ali from MSU was there, but we didn’t get a chance to speak.  She purchased a copy of his newest book Joyland, pre-signed, for $200.  I used to be that dedicated.  Or maybe I am just more fiscally responsible than I used to be.

There were fireworks that night.  So many cars were pulled over on I-84 to watch them explode.

I hit another 90 minutes of traffic traversing onto the George Washington Bridge.  Such is life.

But I promised in my last entry to accentuate the positive.  So, here goes nothing: I lost seven pounds in my first week of dieting and exercising.  I spent a birthday with two absolutely amazing friends in Brooklyn after surviving the drive in.  I was totally enchanted by Brooklyn and developed a crush on a friend’s neighbor, which is exciting and fun.  I have that story to tell, in my overly romantic way, for next week’s blog.

friends1 friends2

Stay golden. xoxo

On nasty surprises.

Published September 5, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today was the Staff Orientation at the high school for the entire district and man, it was a long day.  When I walked out of my classroom at 5:30PM, the lights in the hallway were literally off.  I practically shut the place down.  I’m proud of all that I got done today, but it was really unnecessary to be there so late.  I wasted some time lollygagging with colleagues, but I managed to work some good karma, helping others shuffle textbooks in and out of their rooms and find their portfolios.

I came home and ran.  It felt good; it helped me to work out some of my stress and I had forgotten how good it felt to be sore, to have blisters and to have tangible evidence that you are making a difference.  I weigh in on September 16th.  The goal is at least five pounds lost.  Hopefully, I’ll have good news.

I heard back from my editor.  My gallery pages are scheduled to be completed this week.  I am so excited!

I’m trying to keep this short and sweet because tomorrow is the first day of school and while I feel prepared, I am confident it will be a restless night.

PROMPT: While digging in a cereal box for the toy surprise, a child makes a grizzly discovery.

PIECE: Mikey had his father teach him how to set the alarm on his wristwatch the night before.  Thankfully, Dad didn’t ask too many questions or wonder at Mikey’s sudden interest in the somewhat more complicated features of his watch.  Mikey set his alarm for 6:00AM, a whole hour before he had to be up and getting ready for school.  He figured that sixty minutes would be more than enough time to slink out of bed, to pad noiselessly in bare feet down the hallway and down the stairs, to creep into the kitchen, to hunch before a low-mounted cabinet and open it slowly so the joint didn’t creak too loudly, to retrieve the new cereal box and the surprise toy within.

He had seen Mom removed the box of cereal from one of the yellow, plastic shopping bags after returning home from the grocery store.  He had been irritated by the way she handled it so carelessly, just tossing it into the cabinet, not seeming to care if it tilted and fell against the others.  Did Mom not know about the prize inside or the intense satisfaction of being the first to find said prize?  Immediately, his eyes flicked to his older brother, Jimmy.  Jimmy was currently elbow-deep in a bag of Doritos and Mikey didn’t think he’d seen the cereal box, but he couldn’t be sure.  Jimmy was sneaky.  Jimmy thought that because he was older, everything was his.  Those two inclinations proved to make life difficult for Mikey.  But this time, just this one time, he would be hailed the victor.

The alarm clocked beeped at a truly annoying high pitch three times before Mikey slammed down on a small, metal button on the side of the clock face.  His eyes shot to Jimmy, who seemed to be asleep.  Was he faking?  Mikey hypothesized that if Jimmy were feigning slumber, then Jimmy would move when Mikey moved.  As soon as Mikey’s feet hit the floor and the board creaked beneath his weight, Jimmy would sit up and demand to know what he was doing.  Then again, Jimmy might really be fast asleep and besides, Mikey hadn’t woken up so early for nothing.

He pulled the covers back very, very slowly – inch by inch – so as not to make a sound and so he was able to make his movements as slow as possible.  After what seemed like an eternity, Mikey was free of the burdensome covers.  Keeping his movements lethargic, he sat up in bed like a zombie from one of the movies he wasn’t allowed to watch but that Jimmy could.  Jimmy would tell him all about the gruesome, violent parts and then tease Mikey when he asked for the light to be left on.  He didn’t need light now – it would definitely wake Jimmy up.  Barely breathing, Mikey twisted his body around, swinging his legs softly against the sheets.  Though the mattress creaked as he slid for his feet to touch the floor, Jimmy remained motionless.  Mikey said a little prayer and tiptoed across the room, nimbly avoiding the toy cars and playing cards left out from a few nights before.  The moonlight that stole in through the window illuminated the landscape just enough for Mikey to make out dangerous shadows.

Once he was out of the bedroom and in the hallway, he could breathe easier.  Mikey kept an even pace – to break into a run would be foolish and loud – and took the stairs one at a time, placing his weight as evenly as possible.  He was proud for the amount of physical restraint he was displaying, but it completely dissipated when he reached the landing.  Jubilation filling his veins, Mikey tore through an archway to his left and slid to a seat before the cabinet, his pajama bottoms navigating easily across the linoleum floor.  He wrenched the cabinet open, retrieved the cereal box, and slid a slightly shaking finger beneath the cardboard flap.  Eagerly, he slid his finger across the edge of the box – a paper cut be damned – and crudely ripped at the other flap.  He never thought he’d be so thankful for cheap glue.

Mikey lifted the plastic bag containing the sugar-coated corn flakes and struggled for a moment or two before the thicker plastic gave way and ripped satisfactorily.  His fingers were sweaty and had trouble gripping the edge but once they did – boy; that was all she wrote.  Mikey let the plastic bag fall back into the box and he plunged his innocent, little fist inside, feeling around for the prize.  His fingers brushed against something that was firmer than corn flakes, and he seized it.  He brought it triumphantly out from the box, a few corn flakes falling to the floor.

It was a human toe, bloodied around the end from which it was removed from the body it, until recently, belonged to.

Mikey screamed and screamed and screamed.

On archetypes and assumptions.

Published September 4, 2012 by mandileighbean

I have to be at the high school around 7:30AM tomorrow.  I really am excited for the school year and to be teaching full-time.  The only aspect I’m currently apprehensive about is waking up before 9:30AM, as has been my habit the last month.  Also, I’ve been suffering from insomnia lately, tossing and turning for at least an hour before falling asleep that is restless and broken.  More often than not, I pop an irritated open to see the neon green lights of my alarm clock glowing an absurdly early time.  I know I will be exhausted, but I’ll just have to power through it; no big deal.

Well, I say it’s no big deal but that is easier said than done.  I know my anxiety comes from the upcoming academic year and I have yet to figure out how to master my own emotions.  Does that come with age, or does that elude us all for forever and ever, amen?

I finished reading Divergent by Veronica Roth today.  It was highly entertaining and there were times where I had to physically force myself to put it down.  The characters were well-developed and I admired the allegorical aspect of the novel, as well as the adult themes that were presented and successfully tackled, despite the novel’s Young Adult label.  I’m not sure if I’ll read the others in the series, and I’m not sure if that fact detracts from my glowing review.

I started running again.  My goal is to be able to go to where the pavement ends, and then back again.  I was able to do it about a year ago, and I remember how amazing it felt to be sore, to try on clothes and have them fit, and to feel pretty.  I did gain back some of the weight I lost, but the trick is to not let it get me down, and to stop the bleeding; start losing instead of continuing to gain.  My mantra this time around is “I want to look the way I want to feel when the man I love takes me in his arms.”  I know my friends will say that I shouldn’t lose weight to impress the opposite sex, and that it is a personal decision I should make for myself, and they are right.  But I am also a realist; how will anyone find me attractive if I don’t even find myself attractive?  There is a certain kind of confidence and appeal that goes along with looking good and feeling good.  That is what I’m truly after.

I haven’t heard anything about the editing process for my novel, so I sent an e-mail politely asking for an updated.  In turn, I will keep you all updated.  I’m anxious to hold a copy in my hand, to begin marketing myself and my dream and my passion.

I love when I walk into my bedroom and “Thunder Road” is playing.

PROMPT: “I’ll have an egg-white omelet and a side of sausage.  And a beer, if you’ve got one.”

PIECE: I watched the man in the paint-splattered jeans mosey on up to the counter, his flannel shirt stretched tight across a pronounced belly.  His trucker hat sported greasy thumbprints along the brim, and he could use a good shave.  I smiled brightly enough, always keeping tips in mind, even though I had dismissed him as a vagrant, as just another truck driver passing through.  Their faces seldom repeated, though their stories were eerily similar.  They’d been on the road for months and were either running back home, or running from their loneliness.  The trick to handling such customers, and how to get awesome tips, was to listen patiently with a sad, but understanding smile.  These guys ate it up every time.  Oozing confidence in my pheromones – or at least, I felt like I was – I walked in front of the man who had just entered the diner, immediately pouring him a cup of coffee.  Not yet meeting his eyes, I smiled wide and asked, “What can I get for you today, buddy?”  Buddy was an excellent moniker; truckers used it among themselves regularly, so it helped me give the impression that I was an insider, almost one of them.

“I’ll have an egg-white omelet and a side of sausage.  And a beer, if you’ve got one.”

I stopped pouring, even though the cup was nowhere near full.  Wide-eyed and bearing an incredulous smile, I met the trucker’s eyes and let a small laugh escape me.  He had to be kidding.  It wasn’t even nine o’clock yet.  “A beer?” I asked, repeating his order so he could hear it back and recognize the insanity within.

“Yeah, if you’ve got one,” he said, cool as could be, like it was the most normal thing in the world to order at the breakfast counter in a diner in a small town before the hour of nine.

“Um,” I say, trying to be careful with my words and being unable to stop myself, “it’s not even nine o’clock, yet.”

The trucker smiled and dropped his gaze.  It wasn’t an act of submission; it seemed to me like he was feigning humility, like he was finally acknowledging the social taboo he was committing.  “Darling, if you knew the night I’d had, you wouldn’t begrudge me a beer.”  His eyes rose to meet mine, and at the utter sadness that tinged the edges, I felt my heart ache.  Whatever had happened to this man was terrible, and he believed it warranted a beer.  Who was I to argue?  Besides, I was looking to cash in on the tip and the first rule of customer service is that the customer is always right.

“Let me see what I can do,” I offered.  Before I hurried to the back, I finished pouring his coffee, set out the creamers and sugar, and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.  I asked Rick, the manager, if it’d be okay and Rick poked his head out from the swinging doors of the kitchen, scanning the counter.  His assessment of the man must have been that he seemed harmless enough, because Rick nodded and then promptly continued shouting at the kitchen staff.  I left to the sanctuary that was the fridge and grabbed an amber bottle.  Lucky for me, we only carried one brand.  I returned before the customer with the odd request, opened the bottle using the hem of my uniform and handed it to him.  “Here you are,” I smiled.

“Thanks, darling; this is greatly appreciated.”  The man drank from the bottle like he had never done so before and never would again; like that beer in that diner was all that mattered.  I watched him with growing fascination and growing curiosity.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what was it that gave you such a thirst so early in the morning?”  I lean against the counter casually, so it looks like I’m talking to a friend with genuine concern, rather than humoring a customer.

His eyes roam over me, but not in a creepy, perverted way.  He was measuring me up, trying to make sense of me.  His brows furrowed for a moment before he said, “How about you run and put my order in and then I’ll tell you all about it?”

I blush deeply – what a rookie mistake – and quickly scrawl a ticket, running it back to the line.  When I return, the customer who has so consumed me is drinking again, drinking deeply from the beer bottle.  The coffee remains untouched.  I grin, perhaps admittedly somewhat impressed by such a display of manly tolerance, and resume my lean.  “Okay; I’m all ears.”

He set the bottle down and preferred to tear at the already peeling label, soaked from condensation, rather than make eye contact.  “Well, darling, if I am to be perfectly honest – and that is something I pride myself on – then I was on a romantic date with a pretty young thing, not unlike yourself.”  I smiled and bowed my head in recognition, just like I was expected to.  I’m not sure if he saw it because he was so preoccupied with getting the entire label off cleanly, in one long, exaggerated rip.  “I got myself all dolled up.  I bought new cologne and everything, had the flowers and the candy all ready and raring to go, and would you believe it?  She never showed.”

I gasped dramatically.  “You’re kidding,” I said.

“I wish I was, darling; I wish I was.”  He paused a moment, maybe to collect his thoughts or to let the weight of his sentiment settle properly over the conversation.  “I was hurt, like any man would be.  I felt I deserved an explanation.  So I drive over there and I’m going to knock on her door when I notice the curtains for the front window are wide open and that I can see into her living room.  I look – I couldn’t help it – and there she is, sucking on the neck of some guy I had never seen before.”

I frowned, offering up my sympathies.  I asked, “Had you been together long?”

“We had been closing in on a year.  I thought I was going to marry that woman and have a beautiful family.  But she had other plans, and boy, did I feel like a fool.  I needed to give her and him a piece of my mind, so I banged on the door.”  The label came off in a loud, aggressive tear and I jumped, startled by the sound.  He didn’t look to me.  He kept staring at the bottle and when he spoke next, it was in a dead sounding tone.  “She let me in and I was screaming loud enough to wake the dead- I mean, loud enough to wake the neighbors.  I grabbed her shoulders but I didn’t do it hard, just so I knew I had her full attention, and that’s when the guy came up behind me and started choking me, pulling me back.”  He looked to me and he must have seen something in my eyes and in my expression that verified the authenticity of my attention.  He leaned forward.  “Do you know what I did next, darling?”

I shook my head.

“I killed them both.”

I leaned back from him, terrified.  Rationale and logic returned soon, and I smiled, though it was most certainly skeptical and didn’t quite meet my eyes.  “You’re putting me on,” I accused, though I did my best to keep my tone playful.  His expression didn’t change – it was still intense and terrifying – but I threw my head back and laughed.  There was no way he was a murderer.  There was no way I was in any danger.  Those things only happened in melodramas created for the television, cinema and literary scene.  “Oh boy,” I said, laughter subsiding, “you had me going there.”  I slapped the counter with my palm.  “I’ll go check on your omelet and sausage.  I’ll be right back.”  I offered him a wink and departed.

As soon as I was out of his sight, my knees buckled and I had to grip the nearest counter edge for support.  Rick heard the metallic clatter and turned.  He nearly ran to my side and grabbed my elbows, raising me to my feet and offering support.  “What happened, Angel?  Are you okay?”

“That guy,” I said, suddenly breathless and feeling like I could wail, “that guy who ordered the beer, just confessed to killing two people.”

I expected Rick to do what I did; to laugh and dismiss it as insanity, but something about my appearance must have scared him.  “Where is he?” he asked.

“He’s sitting at the counter – he’s the only one there.”

Rick left me momentarily and when he returned, he looked confused.  I could understand – the guy looked like any other driver, weary from the road and looking for a meal.  He slipped his fingers under my chin and raised it, ensuring we were making full eye contact.  He licked his lips, like his mouth had suddenly gone dry, and he said, “Angel, there isn’t anyone at the counter.”

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