True Blood

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On longing to be trendy.

Published February 25, 2013 by mandileighbean

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story and writes another.”

– James Matthew Barrie

This week’s way to blast my blubber was to use time wisely; if there are only 30 minutes free in your daily schedule, use it to pack a nutritious lunch and to closely watch what you eat, rather than try to squeeze in a workout. I usually stick to that rule, but this week, I worked harder to make sure I did not go over my daily calorie limit. As a result, I lost three pounds this week. My confidence is bolstered and my determination has more than doubled. So please ignore the fact that I am currently contradictorily snacking on some Funyuns.

My colleague, Jill Ocone, is such an inspiration. She is truly following her passion, regardless of cost. She stopped living to work, stopped being consumed by work at home. There is no reason why I cannot do the same.

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Sometimes, when I am running in the morning, I try very, very hard to find the moon in the sky. I make myself dizzy by searching in spinning circles, neck bent uncomfortably backwards, and though there are plenty of stars to go around, I cannot find the moon.

Sometimes, when I am running in the morning, it is so frigid that my iPod’s battery is completely drained after about 20 minutes. I do not usually get rattled on my morning walk and jog, but with no contemporary music to drown them out, I become aware of the creepiest sounds. The wind makes the branches of the trees creak and groan. A few American flags snap in wavelengths. A dry, crunchy leaf scuttles across the barren pavement – the perfect horror movie soundtrack and every now and again, I snap my neck this way and that in a futile attempt to determine the cause of some noisy disturbance in the blackness around me. Was the snapping of a twig merely evidence of movement by some furry, cuddly woodland creature, or something more sinister, if, in fact, it even existed at all?

I think I need to indulge in writing some fan fiction again; it can inspire something of literary merit. Many borrow characters and plot lines and images to create a foundation for something new. Currently, I am thinking of “True Blood;” I know vampires are passé, but I keep having this recurring image of a beautiful but battered young woman with a bruised and broken body and beaten face. She is sitting in the front pew of an old and tiny church, at the end. She has been crying, sitting and staring straight ahead with dead, vacant eyes for presumably hours. Then, a devastatingly handsome man – or monster? Or a creature? – suddenly appears, standing in the carpeted aisle beside her. He looks concerned and seems genuine, but her response is icy cold: “You don’t belong here.”
It’s not like her to be cruel, especially not to him, so he deflects her verbal barb with an easy smile and explains, as he has done many times before, that vampires not being able to enter churches in actually a myth, and he’s about to begin a long-winded explanation when she cuts him off.
Misunderstood, she nearly snarls to clarify that she knows damn well that he can be there, but she does not want him there. She has wounded him and it shows all over his face.
“I’m not the one who beat the shit out of you. Why are you so pissed at me?” Though her body language is coming through loud and clear that she wants to be left the fuck alone, he sits beside her. Begrudgingly, she moves for him.
And I want her to unravel – tell him EVERYTHING. Her boyfriend, a bartender who is slowly but surely developing a drinking problem, got loaded and hit her. It has never happened before and she believes her boyfriend is really and truly sorry, but everything is different now and that is sad and scary. She was trying to help him, to be loving and supportive and all the good things, but she still got rocked. In her moment of weakness, she is bitter and vengeful and hateful. It is unlike her, and it makes him nervous. He is not easily rattled and his change in demeanor is not lost on her, though her demeanor is changing as well. She asks him if he’s all right, seamlessly slipping back into old habits and tired behavior.
He laughs without much humor and says that he’s fine, that she shouldn’t give a damn if he’s fine or not, and that maybe she should be more vicious and guarded, like it might not be such a bad thing. She nods and wipes her eyes. Silence falls over them and he feels as if he needs to break it, so he asks her how long she’s been there.
She shrugs and says nothing.
He suggests they leave and go somewhere else.
“Why?”
“Because, honestly, you’re just sitting and stewing in your misery and that solves nothing- it only begets more misery.”
“What could we do?”
It’s an innocent question, but the answers that immediately spring to his mind are not. He takes a second to compose himself because he doesn’t want to scare her; she is good and pure and that is what he likes – loves? – about her. He has to protect it; he has to keep it safe. “Where have you always wanted to go, but have never been?” “France,” she answers without hesitation, like she’s simply been waiting to be asked that very question.

“… if you’d only asked me.”

“If I don’t ask you, would you ever think of asking me?”

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I am always surprised (whether it is pleasant or not has yet to be determined) by which blog posts garner the most attention and end up receiving the largest amount of views. The last entry I posted was personal and somewhat pessimistic, kind of made me seem shallow and pitiful, and has more views than the short story I wrote. A wonderfully caring colleague sent me a Facebook message absolutely dripping with sympathy and a classmate whom I have not seen nor spoken to in years, left an encouraging, empathetic and appreciated comment on my blog. These things surprise me.

I guess it’s like that part in the movie “The Breakfast Club,” where Basket Case Allison dumps all her baggage – literally and metaphorically – on the couch, thereby inviting everyone into her problems. So it’s unreasonable then for her to be angry when people comment, offer advice, and so on and so forth. It’s just that I honestly was not looking for pity, sympathy, or attention – I was just purging thoughts, just writing. It is a fine line between my private self and public self and balancing how I see myself against how others do. I know I shouldn’t care, but I do and that’s how I am, take it or leave it.

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I have a deplorable habit of being interested in men whom I cannot have – the distance keeps me safe from rejection, and it keeps me romantically tragic.

I need to start reading Stephen King again.

When it’s rainy, I want to stay in my bed, curled beneath the covers.

The roses in my classroom are dying.

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Why am I always so negative?

A radio station contacted me back! It is run by a high school in Atlantic City. It will most likely have an incredibly small audience, but it will be more of an audience than I have now.

My second royalty check came for the month of December: $23. 22; one print book and nine Ebooks.

The Manchester Branch of the Ocean County Library forwarded my information to the larger – and frankly, better – Toms River branch. I am hopeful.

Yesterday, I ventured to Brooklyn with a friend to attend a bridal shower. It was wonderfully trendy and beautifully artsy. The music completed the atmosphere perfectly and I never wanted to leave. I made plans to travel to Paris, fell in love with love all over again, and yearned to be more creative and artsy in everything I do. It was an awesome shower.

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On video games.

Published August 1, 2012 by mandileighbean

I slept late today, despite going to bed at a decent hour.  I woke up feeling useless and felt that way for the remainder of the day.  Clearly, I could have done something productive or even just gone outside, but all I did was sat at this very computer and work on my music library in iTunes.  My library is very, very close to being as complete as it can be, considering I download new songs every day.  It’s not much, and I felt bad about being so aimless and tedious in the day’s activity, but I found a way to rationalize my behavior (as I always do).

Music quite literally is my muse.  When I sit down to write, and I’m talking every single time, I have music playing in the background.  I am pretty sure I mentioned in a previous entry that Her Beautiful Monster basically wrote itself after I listened to “Runs In The Family” by Amanda Palmer a couple of thousands of times.  I’ve developed an inspirational playlist for what I hope to become my second novel and I listen to it constantly; I even have it playing on repeat as I sleep.  A major song on that list is “I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen, and that song also plays a role in Her Beautiful Monster.

For me as a writer, I believe music plays such a large role in my creative process because I think in images.  I see my stories as a movie in my head, in scenes, and every movie needs a killer soundtrack.  For today’s entry, I am going to share with you lyrics to the song “No Place to Hide” by Jace Everett.  The song was featured in an episode of “True Blood” last season and is epic (Everett also sings the theme song to the show, “Bad Things”).  The song is also what I was listening to as I wrote tonight’s prompt.

No Place to Hide

Jace Everett

There’s no place to hide down here
There’s no place to hide down here
Went to the rock, got on my knees
I heard the angels weep for me
No place to hide down here

Now where’s my brother’s keeper?
Who holds the flaming sword?
The field had turned to crimson
Thought I hid it from the Lord
But somewhere east of Eden
His blood cried out from the ground
I hung my head in shame where I was found

There’s no place to hide down here
No place to hide down here
Went to the rock, got on my knees
I heard the angels weep from me
No place to hide down here

Now I’m a wandering stranger
A scar for a name
A mark so deep and black my children’s children feel the shame
Oh merciful and gracious Lord, when shall I be released?
Was blood that has condemned me; only blood can set me free

There’s no place to hide down here
No place to hide down here
Went to the rock, got on my knees
I heard the angels weep for me
No place to hide down here
No, there’s no place to hide down here

There’s no place to hide down here

PROMPT: “You don’t have enough points, sir.”

PIECE: “You don’t have enough points, sir,” said a mechanical voice from somewhere behind Ben.  He whirled around, fast enough to make his head spin, and met an elderly gentleman who seemed spry enough and reminded him of a butler.  Ben cleared his throat and tried to calm his breathing.  Other than trying to regain his composure, Ben did nothing except stare at the old man whom he had assumed was the one that spoke.  As if he could read Ben’s mind and wanted to assuage Ben’s uncertainty, the old man said again, “You don’t have enough points, sir.”

“Enough points for what?” Ben asked, clearly confused.

“You do not have enough points to continue on, sir.”  The old man’s tone of voice was exacting, intimating there would be no room for debate and any pleas for charity or mercy would fall upon deaf ears.  Ben was going to try anyway.

“But I have to get through those large, wooden doors.  My lady is on the other side, in grave danger, and she is waiting for me to come to her rescue,” he argued.  He motioned to the doors before him with gloved hands.  The path led straight through the doors and continued on the other side, and the instructions given to Ben by the old, gypsy woman in the forest at the beginning of the journey had been explicit; do not stray from the path as it will lead to your love.  The gypsy also mentioned that time was of the essence and Ben needed to get a move on.  He had had enough of a delay already, between fighting off the robbers in the woods and evading the monstrous beasts that were chasing him.

“Well, sir, if I may be frank, you should have thought about points before making it this far.”  The old man’s face was impassive, almost impossibly serious.  How could any human being be so stern, so completely devoid of emotion or compassion?  It was then that it dawned on Ben that this man may not be a man at all.

“But I don’t understand,” Ben persisted.  “How was I supposed to know how many points a task was worth?  I fought my way here – do you understand?  I was nearly killed by thieves on countless occasions and as I was surviving, the awful, hideous monsters pursuing me crept closer and closer.  I have spilled blood and shed some of my own.  I have seen terror and have not flinched.  I have earned the right to advance, so let me through!”

The old man did not seem impressed.  He crossed his thin arms over his frail chest and walked around Ben to stand before the wooden doors.  “You may not pass.  You don’t have enough points, sir.”

Ben stopped thinking and his right hand immediately found the hilt of his sword.  What was stopping him from running the old man through?  How many points would Ben earn if he were to slit the old man upon and spit upon the intenstines that fell to the dusty ground?  A demonic smile tried to fit itself upon Ben’s mouth, but he came to his senses before it could fully materialize.  If he were to kill this old man, what would he become?  Ben reasoned he would be no better than the thieves he had killed, no better than the monsters coming after him, and no better than the cowards who had taken his lady love hostage.  He needed a different approach.  He sighed, suddenly weary, and asked the old man, “How can I get more points?”

The old man smiled.

On sharks in suits.

Published July 30, 2012 by mandileighbean

I really, really enjoy “True Blood.”  I have yet to read the book series upon which the television show is based.

That’s all; enjoy the prompt. 🙂

 

PROMPT: A young man works his way into an apprenticeship with a slick salesman.

PIECE: Alex looked back at his reflection staring back out at him in the glossy elevator doors.  He exhaled his breath and straightened his tie, which had been a gift from his girlfriend.  His mind drifted back to earlier that morning, when Mallory had stood before him on her bare tip toes.  She had kissed his cheek and buttoned the top button of his expensive shirt.  She had flipped the collar up and roped the tie around his neck.  Alex had made some off-color remark about the fabric feeling more like a noose than a tie.  Mallory had displayed an exaggerated expression of shock and dismay, and had swatted Alex playfully on the shoulder.  “Remember what I told you,” she said.  “If it gets too intense, or if it isn’t absolutely everything that you’ve wanted, cut and run.  No harm, no foul; you deserve to be happy.”  At that sentiment, Alex had cupped Mallory’s perfect face in his undeserving hands and kissed her long and good – mostly, he did this so she would stop talking.  It was unmanly to cry, and he had to be serious for his first day of work with Edgar Steenson.

Edgar Steenson was the man every other guy in a suit wanted to be, and who every woman wanted to have on her arm when she stepped out into public view.  He was the smoothest talker Alex had ever heard; Edgar was the kind of guy who could convince Ryan Seacrest that he needed public speaking lessons, and rumor had it that the movie “Inception” was in fact Edgar’s idea, and that he had come up with it while taking a particularly long shit in Christopher Nolan’s toilet.  Steenson was the stuff of legend, the Gordon Gecko of his time.  Lucky for Alex, he had been chosen to be Edgar’s assistance.  Of course, Alex had jumped at the chance to watch the master in action.  If Alex played his cards right, he could be made partner and never have to really work another blessed day in his life.  He could afford to give Mallory the kind of life she deserved.

Right now though, all the glory seemed incredibly far away and all Alex could focus on was that he suddenly felt as if his stomach were going to drop straight out of his anus.  He kept breathing in deep and exhaling slowly, trying to calm himself and keep himself from imagining the million and one things that could go horribly, terribly wrong.  What if he threw up on Edgar upon meeting him?  What if he broke the copier, or the fax machine?  What if he confused some numbers and ruined the quarter, and sent some very important people to jail?  Every movie he had ever seen depicting these particular kinds of suited sharks in expensive looking glass tanks with leggy secretaries ran through his mind.

Then the elevator doors slid open and outside them, just a step or two beyond the threshold, lay Alex’s future.  Another deep breath and he stepped forward.

On pop culture connections and voodoo.

Published June 30, 2012 by mandileighbean

I’ve decided that I get my best thinking done in the shower, especially when the water is searing hot.  If I open the bathroom door after such a shower and the fire alarm rings out loud from the steam, you can safely bet I’ve developed a real gem of an idea.  I took one such shower today because I was feeling particularly grimy; I went out with friends last night, drank way too much and awoke with the word “fancy” stamped twice upon my forearm.  Scattered across my bedroom floor were clothes, Hawaiian leis and Mardi Gras beads.  Clearly I enjoyed myself, but at a cost; my stomach was feeling funny and my head was pounding fit to split.  The intense heat didn’t help matters, either.  I had resolved myself to eating greasy food and watching sitcoms that cause me to feel bad about myself because I am broke, single, unemployed, still living at home and feeling particularly unfulfilled.  To be specific, I was watching “New Girl” with Zooey Deschanel.  I absolutely adore this show – the writing is humorous, clever and heartfelt, the characters are genuine and authentic, the plots are entertaining but not outlandish – and realized with not a small amount of trepidation that I am in love with Nick Miller, the lead male protagonist.  While all of my significant romantic relationships have been with fictional males, this one is the most promising because I’m learning a lot about myself and why I engage in such pathetic behavior.  For example, Nick and Jess taught me that “backsliding” is always a bad idea; if a relationship didn’t pan out, it is for a good reason and revisiting what is lost only serves to make things messy and disappointing.  Just last night, I was debating about reconnecting with Navy Guy – a guy I “dated” (I use that term loosely – we went out twice) briefly.  To do so would no doubt seem weird since it’s been months since we last talked.  I debated whether I wanted to initiate contact because I was lonely and bored, or if because I genuinely believe I missed an opportunity.  After watching “New Girl” and analyzing the episode’s thematic development, I realize that I did not miss an opportunity.  The Navy Guy was somewhat shady, only texted me randomly when he was lonely and bored and I deserve better.  Thank you, Nick Miller.

I was thinking about these episodes and how I felt compelled to have a romantic interest in a fictional character when an advertisement for the movie “Magic Mike” aired.  Like most women, I am eager to see this movie because it has gorgeous, half-naked men in it.  Does that mean I am objectifying males, behaving below my level of intelligence and participating in a double standard?  Maybe, but I honestly find my reaction to the movie interesting.  I want to see it, as I want to finally read Fifty Shades of Grey.  Women rave about both of these artistic endeavors and while some claim that the movie and the book are nothing more than pornography, others hail both as tools to which women can break down sexual barriers.  Whichever it may be, I find it fascinating that audiences are always interested in sex and sometimes by extension, romance.  What does that say about society, that we’re starved for sex or for affection?  Are we desperate for human contact or human connections?  Are the two invariably linked?

Look at the Twilight andTrue Blood phenomenons; in both series, inhuman creatures – monsters, quite literally – are romanticized.  What is the deeper meaning here, that being loved by a monster is better than being lonely?  Why is it better to be with a vampire or a werewolf or some supernatural being than to be with a normal human being?  Is it a love or interest in the melodramatic?  Is it just entertainment?  When you step back and study popular culture from a sociological perspective, it is quite fascinating.  I’m eager to apply such a lens to my own writing and reading habits.  I believe everything I write involves romance because I am starved for affection – we have already discussed this.  I make my male characters brooding or damaged because either they are a reflection of how I see myself, or because it adds suspense to a typically humdrum circumstance.  That being said, I would much rather have my writing been driven by character development rather than plot development.  I could craft the most exciting plot with explosions, intrigue and murder – but if there is not a single character to provide the emotional buy-in, then what is the point?

I think that’s why “Magic Mike” and Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight and True Blood are all so popular; they explore human relations in various ways.  Though their plots are different – significantly different in some ways – all involve men and women and what they mean to each other.  That will always fascinate audiences because we will never be able to figure such relationships out.  There is always some kind of mystery and that is both alluring and entertaining – even in this digital age where everything about everyone is made known.  Glued to the boob tube as I was today, I saw an advertisement for the new HBO show “Newsroom” and one of the lead actresses, I believe it was Olivia Munn, who said the definition of newsworthy has changed; it now encompasses whatever people want to know about and it seems that what people want to know about most is other people; i.e., celebrities and people of note.  That makes sense to me – you see it everyday when “Jersey Shore” has more viewers than a documentary on the environment.  Are our priorities skewed, or are we just being honest with ourselves and indulging what we truly are fascinated by?

This is what I was ruminating on in the long, hot shower I took this evening, cleansing myself of the grime from the night before.  I decided that I like mystery- I am thrilled by a handsome stranger on a train who doesn’t give me a second glance with his sunglasses and headphones on.  He is elusive and I have a myriad of imagined possibilities of who he is and why he’s listening to headphones and wearing sunglasses.  I spent Wednesday evening in New York City with my friend Dominick, and we watched beautiful men in Central Park.  Some ran, some playfully tackled their girlfriends, some lovingly held hands with their boyfriends and it really drove my point home; this life is all about the connections we make, and so is the best art.

That being said, tonight’s prompt is not romantic. Enjoy.

PROMPT: “During his third night out of town, a traveling business man discovers a voodoo doll in his hotel room.”

PIECE:

Bill had been enjoying his time out of town.  Even though it was for business and he had spent the majority of his time attending boring, long-winded conferences and being hunched over yellow legal pads, scrawling notes with a tired, cramping hand, Bill was happy to be away; it offered the opportunity of gaining some perspective.  The town was tiny and cramped – everyone knew everyone, and everyone liked to talk.  Indeed, it seemed that Mrs. Marshall, the cashier at the local convenient store that operated at all hours and sold cigarettes at the lowest price allowed by law, knew Carol was going to divorce Bill’s sorry ass long before he did.  She had, in fact, told her husband all about it.  Mr. Marshall just so happened to work in Bill’s office and walked into Bill’s cubicle to offer his condolences on the failed marriage.  Bill had met Mr. Marshall’s mumbled sentiments with genuine surprise; aside from a lack of communication and a lack of sex, he had assumed things were fine, rolling right along.  Couples had dry spells, no?  Every marriage hit a rough spot, right?  Bill arrived home that afternoon seeking both clarification and reassurance, but Carol had only sucked in air between her teeth and shook her head slowly.  Bill had lost his drive, she said.  Where was the passion and the aspiration?  Bill was old and tired, she had complained.  She was moving up and on and out – all in one fell swoop.

Bill supposed none of it mattered anymore, seeing as how the marriage was over, Carol was a bitch and he was coping in his own way.  He was thinking about all of this perched on the end of the bed in his motel room.  It was an oppressive dry heat in early July, so he had the door kept wide open.  The air conditioner was busted and besides, he liked watching the flickering streetlamps and the imitations of life that passed by, with intimate conversations – not a single passerby knew that he or she was being observed and therefore, exhibited genuine and authentic behavior which Bill found fascinating.  Carol had never been genuine with him, not until the end of everything and that kind of betrayal and disappointment kept Bill from being genuine with anyone.  Instead, he was a stranger – a kind, pleasant, smiling face at all the right places, but still a stranger.

He was taking a deep swig from the amber bottle in his right hand, allowing his eyes free range, when they fell upon an odd-looking doll behind the door which was propped open.  Bill hadn’t seen it before, though he had been in the same room for three nights, and that was decidedly strange.  It sent goosebumps along his arms and spine.  Bill set the bottle on the floor beside his feet and then carefully rose, employing slow and halting steps as he visually examined the doll.  The details were exquisite; it was a balding man in his late thirties, with worried eyes and a downturned mouth.  He was wearing a business suit and could have been anyone of the numerous men Bill called colleagues.  More fascinated than frightened, Bill stooped to pick the doll up when he had reached it and taking it into his hands, Bill realized what it was.

It was a voodoo doll, and it had a single pin in its back.

Bill should have gasped and dropped the doll to the floor.  Bill should have removed the pin delicately and called the police.  Bill should have placed the doll somewhere safe from abuse and misuse, and inquired about the proper way of destroying said voodoo doll.

Bill didn’t do what he should have; matter of fact, he rarely did.  It was something Carol constantly complained about.

Bill looked at the doll and thought about the year he had had.  He had been Carol’s doll, hadn’t he?  She had left him bruised and broken, lying about erectile dysfunction and telling anyone who would listen that Bill was no longer vibrant and had lost the will to live.  Old and tired?  Bill?  She was harsh and cruel.  Bill would have given her everything, and had given her all that she had asked for.  Not to say he was blameless in the dissolution of the marriage but hell, didn’t a man get points for trying?  He had never hit her, cheated on her or lied to her.  So what if he wanted to take it easy when he got home from work?  Was that a crime?

Bill was sick and tired of feeling the proverbial pins people stuck in him – Carol, his boss riding Bill all the time and sending Bill to the conferences he didn’t want to go to with no monetary compensation, growing older and being afraid of what it meant to do so.  Why couldn’t he be the one to stick it to someone, at least once?  Bill removed the pin from the back of the doll and stuck it in the doll’s leg, after a barely noticeable moment of hesitation.

Somewhere, a complete stranger howled in pain.

Bill breathed easier.

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