Review

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On the critic in your head, and the external critics who try to get in your head.

Published March 14, 2019 by mandileighbean

muppet-critics

 

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. The first time I thought I had any real talent, or any real future with writing, was when I was in the third grade (if you can believe it). We had a homework assignment having to do with vocabulary, and I wrote a poem using the entire list of vocabulary words. My mom liked the poem, but made me complete the assignment the exact way the teacher assigned it so I wouldn’t lose credit or get in trouble (good lookin’ out, Ma!). I brought both versions of the assignment to school, and my teacher FREAKED out. He loved the poem and signed me up for a local young author’s conference.

But third grade was FOREVER ago (or at least very much feels that way) and other moments of validation have been few and far between. I did publish a novel, but it was with an incredibly small press and there was no publicity, so I don’t think anyone read it outside of my social network. And they all seemed to like it, but would any of them really tell me otherwise?

And that brings me to the main topic of today’s post:

Ten Obstacles Every New* Writer Faces
(by new, I mean any writer not firmly established)

  1. Self doubt!
    My biggest obstacle, without question, is self doubt. It plagues me every time I write anything at all, and it is a struggle to persevere against the nagging suspicion that I’m no good and people are just nice. I do my best and remind myself I was published and people did enjoy my book and that people do enjoy this blog. I remind myself as often as I can that I am talented, that my writing is worthy of praise, and that I have something important to say.

    I think it’s important to note that even wildly successful, established writers suffer from self doubt. I absolutely adore Nic Pizzolatto’s work. He’s the mastermind behind “True Detective,” the HBO original series. The first season is pretty much universally lauded as a masterpiece, and I agree. I’ve re-watched the first season more times than I care to admit, and I find something else to love about it. It inspired me to read “Galveston” (Pizzolatto’s novel) and “Between Here and the Yellow Sea” (Pizzolatto’s collection of short stories). I highly recommend both, as Pizzolatto tells fresh stories with a love of language. His prose, while dark, is beautiful and cerebral. Hence, I was pumped when the second season of “True Detective” was announced, especially upon learning the cast included Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Vince Vaughn.

    But the second season is pretty much universally lauded as garbage (though I think history will be kinder than the current climate of critics). There were so many plot lines and so many characters that nothing ever felt authentically fleshed out, and the ending was deeply unsatisfying. I was shocked; how could something so good turn so bad? I did some research, and came across an article that Pizzolatto was deeply affected by the criticisms of the first season and wrote the second season as a response. Instead of guarding his art, he lost his voice.

    I am by no means passing judgement. I doubt I’d operate much differently. So when season three was announced, I was more than skeptical. I had no expectations, really. And boy, was I pleasantly surprised. Season three is a subtle, nuanced narrative that is delicately crafted to expose the many problems that come from the passing of time, failing memories, and the choices people make with no regard for future consequences. I was particularly impressed by Stephen Dorff’s performance and have convinced myself I am in love with him (check out this article). Particularly in the last couple of episodes, Dorff shined and added a human element that was more palpable and tangible than what the main story line had to offer.

    Granted, the third season had definite parallels to the first season, and I suppose it could be argued that Pizzolatto simply reverted back to what worked instead of venturing into new literary territory, but I call bullshit. Good storytelling is good storytelling, in my opinion, and Pizzolatto is a master storyteller. But everyone’s a critic, right? Entertainment Weekly gave the finale a C rating and wrote a hit piece, specifically blasting a heartbreaking scene featuring Dorff. I read it angrily, remembering that scene from season one when Woody Harrelson accuses Matthew McConaughey of shitting on any moment of human decency. Instead, I offer Esquire’s excellent write up of Dorff’s performance, which can be found here.

    But I digress; back to the list.

  2. Naivete!
    When I first seriously started writing, I thought everything would be easy and happen in a predictable pattern. I thought everyone I encountered genuinely believed in me and my talent. However, I have learned the hard way that some people just want to stroke their own egos and make money, and some people have no problem doing that at the expense of a young writer.
  3. It costs money to make money, even as a writer!
    The greatest asset as a writer, other than the obvious necessity of talent, is a professional network. It really helps you get your foot in the door if you know someone. I know no one, so to start making connections and contacts, I began attending conferences, which is really the only way to go. Unfortunately, attending legitimate conferences where you can meet agents and editors and other serious writers costs money. I’ve been to two legitimate conferences, and they cost $3,000 each. That cost does not include travel and lodging and other incidentals, and that can be difficult to manage on an average salary, which leads me right to my next point…
  4. It takes time!
    It takes patience to finish a novel, send it out to agents and publishers, and wait to hear back. But it also takes time to hone the craft, to read and to write. It takes time to travel to conferences. I had to request time off from work for both of the conferences I attended, and I know I am blessed that doing so wasn’t problematic. I’m sure there are some writers, working full-time as something else, who wouldn’t be afforded the same luxury. I realized that writing takes serious time, and needs to be prioritized. I need to start turning down invitations and stay off Candy Crush and social media to get writing done. I have to choose my writing over other obligations, even those that involve my job, because it is my true passion and what I love to do. That’s a daunting commitment, especially when it’s easier to make excuses and not take the risk of pursuing a passion.
  5. Writer’s Block!
    I never thought it would happen to me. I’m bursting with ideas! I’m eager to tell stories! But when I sit down at the computer, sometimes, nothing comes. The cursor just blinks and I just sit there, blinking, and anything I type is deleted because it’s awful. Stress and exhaustion create Writer’s Block, and at times, there is just no avoiding it.
  6. Priorities!
    I won’t repeat myself, as I touched upon this idea in #4, but writing must be a priority. I thought I could have my cake and eat it too, that I could write while having a life. But as I grow older, I realize writing must be a part of my life. I have to do it everyday and pursue agents tenaciously. I can’t put it off and use the excuse that I’m living and experiencing things to enrich my narratives – it can’t be one or the other.
  7. Advice!
    I’m a transcendentalist, so I believe people mean well. When I’m given advice about my writing, whether it be the content or the logistics of getting published, I patiently listen and express my gratitude for the concern and input. But I’ve realized it has to go in one ear and out the other. People are people are people; no two human beings are the same, so no two writers are the same and no two writers are going to have the same exact path to publication. And no two writers are going to have the same art. I’m learning to guard my art, to trust that I know the best way to tell my story, so I’m leery when it comes to advice.
  8. Finding a tribe!
    It’s easier to make writing a space in my life if I talk to and hang out with fellow writers and artists. I recommend finding a writing group, or a book club, or even just one person who will talk shop with you.
  9. Marketing/promoting!
    Writers can often be introverts and have trouble selling themselves and their works. Luckily, I’m an extrovert. I’ll talk to anyone about anything. I’m incredibly friendly. But I don’t know the first thing about promoting a novel. I didn’t do any marketing for my novel because I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know who to ask (and this goes back to naivete). A writer friend of mine has a publisher who’s handling all that for him, and I am so excited for him.
  10. Staying relevant (releasing new material)!
    It takes time to be published, so in between releases, how does a writer stay relevant? This blog is one way, but I want to be able to keep my writing in the spotlight. I’m considering publishing a chapbook of poetry I created using magnetic poetry (I post them on my Instagram, here). Self-publishing costs money, though it may save time, so I’m considering all my options.

Was the list helpful? Was there something I missed? Did you hate season three of “True Detective”? Leave a comment and let’s start a conversation!

On the inability to stop questioning.

Published August 11, 2015 by mandileighbean

I’ve just finished Harper Lee’s GO SET A WATCHMAN.
WARNING: Spoilers abound.

I was determined to hate this book. I didn’t agree with how the novel started, what with Jem dead and gone. I was treating it as a sequel rather than its own masterpiece, which it assuredly is, and was being stupid and small. I was behaving much in the same way Jean Louise was, confident in a supreme intelligence that nothing and no one could surprise me because I know it all inside out. But Jean Louise did not know her father as a human, did not know all the delicate intricacies of her hometown. She needed to see Atticus as a human being, with flaws (which boil down to opinions other than her own), just as the reader did. Lee is a masterful storyteller because she discreetly forces you along Jean Louise’s journey and does so flawlessly. Her revelations become the readers’ revelations and another invaluable lesson is imparted to a generation; that you can love someone and disagree with them, that parents are still people, and that we never, ever stop learning or growing. Beautifully written, perfectly executed; well done.

I cursed myself for starting the novel, firmly believing that there is information not worth knowing. I lumped this novel in with such information, but the pain that comes from realizations and revelations is how human beings grow. Though knowledge can come with a terrible cost at times, I suppose it’s up to each individual to decide when enough is enough. There is no hard and fast rule for when ignorance becomes bliss. Furthermore, I think that’s a lesson we all learn in time, in our own terribly painful way.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #26: “While at a family reunion, a teenage brother and sister find an old suitcase filled with money under their uncle’s bed.”

The car slowly rolled to a halt at the end of the long, meandering driveway. The gravel crunched beneath the tires in a finite, satisfying way. David didn’t move. In no way did he acknowledge the end of the journey. He left his ear buds in, music blaring, and his forehead remained against the cool glass of the car window. His eyes were wide open but unfocused so that his vision was blurred and doubled in a disorienting way. David could have stayed that way for hours and hours, long after the sun sank down and disappeared, but his twin sister gave his arm an affectionate pinch. It didn’t hurt or anything, but it was enough to snap him out of it and bring him back to reality. He carelessly yanked his ear buds out and turned to face Savannah. “C’mon bud,” she said. She was smiling, but it was small and too sad to be sweet. David decided it was horrible and would have preferred Savannah to frown, or wail, or scream – anything else. “We’re here. We’ve got to get our stuff from the back,” she instructed. She turned away and climbed down from the family SUV. He mumbled “okay” pointlessly – no one was listening – and climbed down himself.
David hopped down and looked at his feet, comfortably clad in athletic slides and tube socks. Savannah was always giving him grief for that particular fashion choice, but David didn’t understand her frustration or her condemnation. He didn’t dress any differently than anyone else on the baseball team. Now that he thought about it, he realized his conformity was most likely the point of contention concerning his wardrobe. Currently, one side of Savannah’s head was shaved and the remaining locks were long and pink, a bright pink. As David moved to stand beside his twin sister, he surveyed her torn, black leggings, stained shirt featuring some band that had called it quits long before the Newbury twins were born, and the silver hoop stuck through her right nostril. Savannah was a rebel without a cause, to be sure. The hand that reached for a pink backpack of imitation leather featured fingernails adorned with chipped, black nail polish. David had never bothered to observe his other half, had never bothered to ask what it all was for. Death, he supposed, had that effect on some people.
Savannah felt David’s eyes upon her. Belongings secured in her grasp, she turned to face. “Why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer,” she said in a husky, laboring tone in her best imitation of a dumb, schoolyard bully. As she passed to enter her aunt’s massive and impressive log cabin with wonderfully modern and convenient amenities, she playfully slammed her shoulder into David’s. It caused him to rock back on his heels and he started to chase after Savannah, which caused her to shriek and scurry inside.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” David called after her. He offered the world a satisfied smile as he reached in for his own black duffle bag.

Later, David stood in the doorway of a bedroom on the third floor, the top floor of the cabin without counting the attic. He was to sleep in this room while his family stayed with Aunt Cheryl, who had just lost her husband. Uncle Doug had been killed in a rare attempted carjacking in town, a small town that was half an hour from the cabin, a small town whose name was only known, and not even cherished, by the locals. It was bizarre and tragic set of events, of circumstances, but wasn’t that always the way with death? If its patterns were readily, easily identifiable and thereby predictable, then the problem of the lack of longevity in humans would be solved. But David was not one for deep, philosophical thoughts, nor was he prone to entertaining existential crises. He shook his head and stepped into the room.
It felt weird, like the air was heavier or something equally irrational and beyond explanation or articulation. Savannah’s fashionable backpack rested atop the twin bed farthest from the door and nearest to the adjoining bathroom. The other bed straight ahead and against the breathtaking, full length windows, would be his. It had always been that way; all the innumerable visits to Cheryl and Doug’s cabin had begun in this exact same way. It was familiar yet not. The room was decidedly different, but not in any way that would make sense to anyone but David. He sighed.
It was nearly eight o’clock, but it was mid-July, so the room was filled with glorious, burning natural light courtesy of the giant windows. It should have been beautiful, but David only blinked once and turned away. He returned to the dark, cool, carpeted hallway and threw his duffle bag carelessly. It landed in the center of the room. David left it, hurrying downstairs to the muted sounds of idle conversation passed among grieving family members.
David moved to stand behind his mother, his sister, and his aunt. They were standing in a peculiarly straight row, looking out the tall, wide, sliding glass doors. David fell in line, took his place beside his sister, and tried to match their gaze. Though the lawn was a massive series of rolling hills, there was nothing of particular interest, nothing he hadn’t seen before. There were the cows and goats and donkeys and horses, moving slowly, grazing calmly, like this was a day like any other, as if the human who brought out the hay three times a day wasn’t dead and cold and gone. David thought it was a curse to be a sentient being. “What are we looking at?” David asked Savannah discreetly through the corner of a clenched jaw.
“Dad,” she answered, in the same discreet fashion. “He’s just been standing out there, staring. He’s been like this for at least ten minutes.”
David turned to his sister, concerned. “Shouldn’t someone go out there and check on him?”
“I’ll go out there in a minute or two,” answered Mom. Both David and Savannah whipped their heads in their mother’s direction, surprised she had overheard, had eavesdropped and then given herself away by responding. She had not turned to face her children but had remained stoic and still with her eyes locked on her husband. “He’s grieving for his brother, guys. There’s no right or wrong way to do that.” It wasn’t an admonishment or anything, it was just a statement, a fact there was no arguing with. In the same cool, matter-of-fact fashion with which she spoke, Mom slid the doors open, stepped out and slid them shut behind her. For a few moments, the remaining family members watched her progress, felt their breath catch in their throats when Mom stepped a few feet behind her husband and called out to him. He didn’t turn, though. He didn’t respond in any sort of fashion they could readily observe. The husband and wife stayed like that for endless, unbearable minutes. Eventually, Mom moved towards Dad and slipped an arm around his shoulders. It was seconds before he crumbled into her embrace. He was sobbing openly, and it seemed indecent to watch, so his children turned away. They showed their backs to the windows and doors, to all the glass.
Savannah wiped at her eyes soundlessly. David nudged her shoulder with his. “It’ll be okay,” David said. He sounded lame. Savannah was the one who gave comfort, handled situations and convinced David he’d survive. Though they were twins, separated by mere minutes, Savannah had always seemed older, wiser. But now, in the face of seeing her father cry for the first time, she was speechless. She had nothing to offer. Savannah could only nod.
Suddenly, Aunt Cheryl spoke. She said, “I didn’t think it was possible to miss someone so much like that. Huh.” Aunt Cheryl seemed thoughtful, genuinely intrigued by the extravagant, dramatic display of human emotion going on just outside her doors. She busied herself in the kitchen, presumably preparing for a late, supplementary dinner, a second evening meal. David and Savannah exchanged perplexed looks. David didn’t know what was worse, watching his dad weep like a woman outside, or watching his aunt be cold and distant inside, seemingly unmoved by the passing of her husband. David tugged on Savannah’s sleeve and jerked his head to the side, indicating that they should leave and go upstairs. She nodded and followed her brother.

The next day dawned clear and bright. When David padded downstairs in bare feet, he discovered the adults showered, dressed, and heading out.

“What’s up?” David asked.
“We have to head out for a while to handle arrangements,” Mom answered delicately. “There’s cereal and milk for breakfast.”
David nodded. “Anything we can do to help, Ma?”
She smiled warmly and grabbed her only son by his shoulders. “Just make sure you don’t make a mess, okay? Help your aunt out and clean up a little.”
David nodded again. Mom kissed him on the cheek and the adults headed out the door. David set about pouring himself some cereal and was joined by his sister some time later.
The pair cleaned the kitchen, hung around outside, traversed back inside, and watched mindless television. Savannah chucked the remote without warning onto the opposite couch, only narrowly missing David. “We should be celebrating Uncle Doug’s memory, not just sitting here.”
David sighed. “How?” He was used to Savannah’s penchant for sentimentality and dramatics. He’d entertain her today, seeing as how they really was nothing else to do.
“I don’t know,” Savannah admitted with an air of defeat. She thought for a few moments in silence and then said, “We could watch home movies.”
The nostalgia appealed to David and he smiled. “That’s not a bad idea.” He climbed to his feet. “Where do you think Aunt Cheryl keeps them?”
Savannah climbed to her feet and shrugged. “No clue, but let’s look around.”
David hesitated. “Mom told me not to make a mess.”
“We’ll clean up after ourselves,” Savannah laughed. She shook her head at her brother’s momentary lapse in common sense. She hurried upstairs and David followed close behind. She explained that something personal, like home movies, would most likely be in a personal space, like a shared bedroom. David tried to explain his trepidation, how it was weird for him to be in his aunt’s bedroom for many different reasons (including but not limited to relation, gender, age and so on and so forth), but Savannah dismissed her brother’s misgivings with her presence. She assured him it was fine, and advised him to look in the closet and on shelves but not in drawers or cabinets; she’d handle that. The pair commenced searching, coming up with nothing interesting until Savannah released an excited shout.
David turned to his sister, who was spread on her stomach on the floor, peering and reaching underneath the bed. “What are you doing?” he hissed, as if there was anyone home who could hear them. He felt like this was a violation. Why would she look under the bed, anyway? Who kept home movies there? But Savannah was insistent and in just a moment more, she was sliding an antique-looking suitcase out from under the bed.
“How cool is this? It looks like it’s from the 1800s!”
“You should put it back,” David warned. It was cool, for sure, but he was positive there was some reason it was hidden beneath the bed, and David firmly believed ignorance is bliss.
“Why would she keep something this great where no one could see it or appreciate it? Maybe it’s got something awesome in it!”
“Grow up,” David sneered. “The home movies aren’t in there, so put it back, and let’s go up to the attic.”
But Savannah wasn’t listening. She was opening the suitcase and when she did, she screamed. David dropped to his knees. The young siblings were looking at thousands of dollars. Neither had seen so much in person. Both longed to reach out and touch it, to hold it and pretend it was theirs, all theirs. Savannah looked at David with wide eyes. “Why the hell would Aunt Cheryl have all this cash under her bed? Why isn’t it in a bank?”
David shrugged. “Maybe the crash of ’29 left her rattled.”
“She’s not that old, stupid,” Savannah snorted. Her amusement faded. “This is weird. Something doesn’t feel right.”
“Then put it back and let’s look in the attic, like I said,” David offered, climbing to his feet. Savannah carefully closed the suitcase and slid it under the bed. In the attic, they found a couple of dusty shoeboxes with ancient VHS tapes. They hurried down stairs, hoping they’d be able to find a VCR. They were just about to resume their earlier positions on the couches when the doorbell rang. David hurried to answer the door, Savannah in tow.
The opened door revealed two intimidating-looking men in expensive suits. They wore identical, humorless expressions. The one on the left grunted and asked, “Is Cheryl Paton home?”
David frowned. “I’m afraid she’s not. She’s at the funeral home with my parents, making some last arrangements for my uncle. Can I help you?”
The man dug in his coat pocket. “Just tell her we stopped by and give her this card, okay? We want to talk to her about her husband.” He handed over an average-looking business card and looked at David from over his mirror sunglasses. “Have a good day, kid.”
“Thanks,” David said. “You too,” he called as he shut the door. With Savannah breathing down his neck, the pair read the name on the card. Detective Joseph Stanton, it said. What did the cops want with Aunt Cheryl? Maybe they’d made some progress on the case, found the assholes who tried to take his car?
“Think this has anything to do with the money upstairs?” Savannah asked.
Inexplicable chills ran along David’s spine. “Shut up,” he growled, shoving the card in his back pocket. “Help me find a VCR.”

Over another dinner that evening, David handed his aunt the business card. “Some detectives stopped by the house today, Aunt Cheryl. He asked me to give you this card and tell you he wanted to talk to you about your husband.”
Cheryl snatched the card from David’s hand. It surprised David, the urgency of it, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. She didn’t say thank you or anything. Cheryl got up and left the room. The extended family was left to its own devices. “That was weird,” David said.
“Yeah, and we found an old suitcase filled with tons of money under her bed while we were looking for the home movies,” Savannah whispered excitedly, looking from Dad to Mom and back again. “What’s that about, huh?”
Dad slammed his fists on the table, eliciting a shriek from Savannah and stunned silence from Dad. He pushed his chair back and away from the table, wood sliding against wood, and stormed from the room. Mom calmly wiped her mouth with her napkin and followed. Savannah turned to David.
“What the hell?” he mouthed.

The next day dawned clear and bright. David awoke to screaming and shouting. He bolted up in bed, flung the bedclothes far from him, and took off. He ran towards the source of all the noise, ran downstairs to find his mom and dad and sister pacing in the kitchen.
“What’s going on? What’s wrong?” David was panicked.
“Cheryl’s gone,” Savannah said. “So is the money. So are her clothes. She just up and vanished.”
David was in disbelief. He asked Savannah to repeat what she had said when Detective Joseph Stanton strolled in. “What money?” he asked.
David looked to Savannah, terror-stricken.

On looking for bruises and blood.

Published January 22, 2014 by mandileighbean

This is going to seem like an incredibly odd way to begin this post, but I was honestly shocked by how difficult it is to find a picture of men and women dressed in fancy clothes while displaying bruises and blood. I know that is a terribly creepy image to search for, but when you read this week’s writing prompt, I’m hopeful you will understand.

That being said, I have a favor to ask. If you enjoy these weekly prompts, or read and enjoyed HER BEAUTIFUL MONSTER, please review my work! Add something to Amazon, or Goodreads, or even just leave a post on my Facebook page. The best way for a writer to be successful is to be known, so pretty, pretty please with sugar on top, spread the word if you enjoy my writing! And if you don’t, that’s cool, too! Please feel free to add critiques and tell me how I can get better. Both praise and constructive criticism are always welcome.

lonelybridesmaid

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #11: “Yes, and that’s why she broke the plate over his head.”

Gerard walked over slowly, limping ever so slightly, with one bottle of beer in each hand. Cold and wet from a cooler, the dripping water exploded against the searing pavement and made Gerard’s movements incredibly easy to trace. Kristen watched him advance with a bemused, bright smile, raising her hand to shield her squinting eyes from the sweltering sun. He offered a boyish, mischievous grin in return and Kristen knew she had to be careful now, because falling in love with someone like Gerard would be foolish, and her mother would be right, and she would most likely end up weird and alone. She shoved all that down and unnecessarily moved over on the second to last stone step of the church. Gerard took a seat and handed Kristen one of the amber-colored bottles. She took it and said thanks. Another moment was all she could stand before she just had to ask, “Why is it that you have cold beer in your car?”

Gerard threw his head back and laughed, not caring who was in ear shot or what those who gazed upon him might think of him, sitting in a tuxedo on the front steps of a church beside a beautiful, young woman in an incredibly expensive dress, drinking a beer. Kristen envied the total freedom he exuded, regardless of whether or not it was authentic. He clanked his bottle against hers, drank from it greedily, and then said, “Weddings are brutal, man. One must always be prepared.”

“Isn’t that the motto for the Boy Scouts?” Kristen asked,

Gerard nodded, taking another long drink. “Indeed it is, but my intentions were never so honorable or innocent.” He shot her a playful wink and she blushed appropriately, playing the game and being as coquettish as anyone would expect. Inside, though, it was murdering her and humiliating her. She wanted it to be more, to be substantial, to be the beginning of everything important, but she was terrified it meant nothing more than sharing a beer to Gerard, and all the conflicting thoughts and emotions and desires only served to make her nauseous. So she turned away. Gerard noticed and asked, “Is it that bad? Am I that hard to look at?”

Kristen turned back towards him. She understood that he was referring to his swelling bottom lip and left eye. The skin was puffed and quickly discoloring, turning from a normal kind of cream color to a gross, rough-looking black and blue. Blood was dried and flaking at the corner of his mouth, and it trailed down to his chin. She ran her fingers along the outside of her bottle, ensuring they were wet, and gently rubbed Gerard’s chin clean of blood. She let her fingers trail the lines of his jaw for just a second before coming back to herself and reality. She shrugged. “It’s not so bad. You definitely have a black eye, but girls are into that, especially if you make up a really cool, heroic story. Say you beat someone up because they said the kitten you rescued from a tree was stupid.” She gulped at the alcohol in the bottle, hating herself just a little more each time she opened her dumb mouth.

Gerard laughed. “Oh yeah, because that’s totally cool. You’ve always had your finger on the pulse of incoming trends, Kristen; that’s you all over.” Coming from anyone else, the sarcasm would have stung. But when it came from Gerard, it felt safe and warm, like belonging somewhere or being accepted. Kristen should have been happy, but she was never one to leave well enough alone.

“So what did happen? Why did Mark start swinging on you?”

Gerard immediately dropped his gaze, suddenly unwilling to look Kristen in the eye. He cleared his throat and swallowed hard, depending on his body to stall for time. He shifted in his seat and readjusted his grip on his bottle, so that the thumb of his right hand covered the circular opening. “Well,” Gerard began but wet his lips to pause, “it’s complicated. I’ll tell you everything later, especially if we’re drunk, but for now, let’s just say I was trying to encourage Mark to behave in a certain way, and he literally fought me on it.”

Kristen nodded and then dropped her gaze as well. What was that supposed to mean? If it was vague enough to be infuriating, but she supposed that was Gerard all over. He was enigmatic, but it was now at the point where it was no longer exciting. It was tiring and confusing. She rolled her eyes and drank. Gerard had seen. He had, in fact, been watching Kristen’s reaction very closely, eager for the blind loyalty she had always displayed, but expecting and dreading a negative judgment. He knew it was only a matter of time before she caught on to his bullshit and faded him out. “What the hell was that?” he asked, hurt and unable to keep it from his tone.

“What?” Kristen asked, honestly surprised.

“You just rolled your eyes at me. What gives?”

“Oh shit,” Kristen groaned. She covered her face with her hands, still holding the bottle. “I didn’t think you were looking.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Gerard’s voice became higher the more offended he became.

“No,” Kristen said, sounding miserable. “I just wish you would just tell me the truth, you know? I don’t need the games or intrigue, man. Just tell me what happened to your face.”

Gerard stared at Kristen, open-mouthed, while she stayed as she was, eyes closed and face covered. He was about to answer when one of a pair of bridesmaids, wearing dresses identical to Kristen’s dress, said, “Yes, and that’s when she broke the plate over his head!” The women laughed and continued on, apparently oblivious to the fact that they had just passed the topic of their conversation. Gerard shrunk as if the blows had been physical rather than of the verbal variety. Kristen let her hands drop and she turned back to Gerard, watching him suffering. A smile that honestly lacked amusement draped itself across her mouth.

“Gina did that to you? Not Mark?”

Gerard nodded.

“Oh my God,” Kristen laughed. “Why? And why did you lie?”

Gerard took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and spoke very quickly, as if rushing through it would minimize the consequences of revealing what had transpired. “I told Mark about how Gina had been sending me crazy text messages and how she had been trying to get me to meet her alone, but he didn’t believe me, so when he asked Gina about it, she flipped and attacked me, and said I was the crazy one, that I was stalking her, and what a mistake it had been to ever invite me.”

Kristen dropped the bottle she had been holding. It did not shatter, but rolled away quickly, leaking suds and foam and alcohol as it went. Kristen used her newly free hands to cover her mouth and stifle the inappropriate gales of shocked laughter that were threatening to overcome her. Gerard popped one eye open and chanced a glance at Kristen. When she didn’t seem completely disgusted, he relaxed. “Do you believe me?”

“It’s a weird thing to lie about,” Kristen said. “And it was kind of a dick move to wait until the wedding day, don’t you think?”

“It just started happening!” Gerard retorted defensively. “I thought it would be laughed off, chalked up to cold feet! I didn’t know I’d get roughed up and kicked out!” He ran a hand across his wearied face, but then stopped suddenly, as if something had just occurred to him. “Why did you follow me out of the church, by the way? No one was mad at you; no one was kicking you out. Why disgrace yourself by aligning with me?”

Kristen shrugged nervously wiped her palms against her dress, which was spread smooth across her thighs. “Well, it’s complicated. I’ll tell you everything later, especially if we’re drunk, but for now, let’s just say I was sending a message to everyone, you especially, but naturally, you missed it.” She stood and began walking away.

Gerard panicked. “What? Where are you going? You’re coming back, right?”

“I’m getting another beer,” Kristen called over her shoulder. Gerard asked her to bring back two and patiently waited.

lonelybestman

On celebrating being happy.

Published February 3, 2013 by mandileighbean

Another week over, another four pounds lost!  I literally could not be happier right now!  All the denial and all of the grumbling are paying off!  I am not sure where that leaves me in the standings of the competition at work, but honestly, who cares?  I don’t need the money if I lose the weight!  Also, I’ve purchased an Omron HJ-112 Pocket Pedometer, as suggested by the LA Times article, “52 ways to leave your blubber.”  Ideally, the average human being should get up to between 10,000 and 15,000 steps a day.  I think I can meet the goal, especially when I start introducing brief intervals of jogging to my walking regimen.

pedometer

This week’s theme seemed to be self-improvement as I found myself at the dentist, too.  It had been the first time I’d been to the dentist in well over a decade.  The sterile smell of the office clashed terribly with the sleek, technologically advanced atmosphere; for a moment, I could have believed I was walking back to a tanning bed rather than a leather chair.  I had a full set of x-rays taken and my teeth were cleaned.  Good news: minimal tartar buildup and only one cavity!  I also can have braces put on that cannot be seen even though I don’t qualify for Invisalign.  Bad news: I have a baby tooth that never fell out so that has to be pulled, and the dentist mentioned removing my wisdom teeth, but wants to wait until I meet with the orthodontist because there is a slight chance that might not be necessary.  All in all, the appointment was not as horrifying or painful as I had imagined.

dentist

I also purchased a car this week!  It is a 2002 Chrysler Sebring convertible.

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It runs great, the heat works, and the inspection is good until May of 2014!  The airbag light started coming on today, but my dad (who has been a mechanic for years and years) does not think it’s anything to worry about.  I hope he’s right; I tend to have bad luck with cars, as previous posts can testify to.  Last night, my family and I – minus my little brother who is at the age where he would rather be with friends than family – celebrated my new car at Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse.  It was a lot of fun and the food was delicious!  It is nights like those that help to remind me how blessed I am to be surrounded with love and support, and reignite my desire to be a part of such a loving support system for others.  That sentiment goes hand in hand with the Gospel reading from Mass, which I attended earlier today:

love

My friend Eric and his mom enjoyed my novel!  Eric sent me a message to let me know, which was sweet.

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I have compiled a list of local booksellers to begin visiting in April, when the weather is warmer and the school year is winding down.  I want to set up book signings and readings and whatnot.  Wish me luck!

Love and be loved.  Love and life are all that matter. ❤

On promises for swing voters.

Published May 9, 2012 by mandileighbean

I am totally ready for the summer. I enjoy teaching – I think – and I thoroughly enjoy my students, but lately, I’ve been feeling dramatically uninspired. I haven’t always been the consummate professional I need to be. I worry the students don’t respect me, or take me seriously. I am anxious about whether or not I’m performing my job to the best of my abilities and become increasingly frustrated at the lack of feedback. I am paranoid, and over analyze every single passing glance in the hallways. I am unsure of what my future holds in a way that I never have been before. And then, I stuff all of this uncertainty down and away from me because I claim it doesn’t even matter; I’m going to be a famous writer. I try to shift my focus and my priorities, but I’m scared. I’m also lazy. It’s almost like I want to wake, make tea and write all day without putting in the work to be able to do so. I know that there’s a prevailing sense of entitlement that could very well doom me. What I don’t know is how I’m going to deal with it, or any of the heartaches and shocks thrown my way.

That being said, I hope you enjoy tonight’s writing prompt. I think it’s silly, and I’m not sure I did it right. But still, enjoy.

🙂

 

PROMPT: Promises for Swing Voters
  You are running for president of the writing community. What promises do you make to swing voters in your direction?

Authors! Writers! Wordsmiths! Lend me your ears!

Seriously though, I have a few ideas which I believe will benefit the entirety of our close-knit writing community. Admittedly, our community is fairly awesome as is, but there are always areas for improvement. That being said, I propose that any member of the writing community that continuously confuses there, their and they’re shall have their membership immediately and permanently revoked. Is it not a safe assumption that vast majority of the writers within the community are educated, at least well enough that spelling errors should be few and far between?

I am not a tyrant, friends – mistakes are bound to happen! All will not be punished severely. However, those not in favor of the Oxford comma will be upset because it will be mandatory; that particular writing tool makes perfect sense and should be used. Conversely, those who comma splice will find company among those who confuse they’re, there and their. Writing is a craft which must be practiced daily, so while mistakes will be numerous, the quality of such mistakes will be noted and judged.

When I close my eyes and envision the perfect writing world, everyone with talent – real talent – has an agent and thereby a fighting chance. It perturbs me that successful writing is more a vicious cycle than anything else. Publishers look favorably upon writers with agents, but a writer can only easily attain the services of an agent if a writer has been published. If an aspiring author asks someone how to get published, I think the answer would be: “Be published” and I ask you, what kind of answer is that? That’s not to say getting published is impossible, but many promising writers are discouraged, so let’s end the vicious cycle and the exclusivity which is based on mere opportunity rather than more appropriate standards such as talent and tenacity.

That’s the kind of writing community – nay, the kind of world – I’d like to live in.

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