Today I am at the blog of author Parker Williams! Stop by and read an excerpt from ‘Please Understand,’ and the interview with my character, Tommie!
I was thinking of foreign cockroaches yesterday. They came wandering into a conversation I had at lunch in a restaurant that had no cockroaches.
I suppose it may have been the spider hanging in his web strategically located ten feet above our table that reminded me of Hobart, Tasmania and the huntsman spider that terrorized my nights there. That led my memory through the electrical pathways and synapses to bring me to the cockroach in Sydney. That’s just the way my mind rolls.
Late night, Sydney. The lights of the city filter in through the gauzy drapes. I still hear traffic noise from the street, seven floors below.
I slip off my shoes and sit on the edge of the bed. I see movement out of the corner of my eye. There. In a small beam of light on the mink colored carpet. Something stands, and I feel its eyes staring at me. Sizing me up as a worthy adversary. As I stand up, the creature begins to sway, as though to music inaudible to me. I slowly reach for the bedside light and switch it on.
An intense chattering, followed by hissing, breaks the silence. An incredibly big cockroach stands defiantly with his reddish brown wings slightly spread and quivering. A yellow band decorates his shoulders. Without warning, he drops to all sixes and scurries under the dresser. I hear the hard shell of his wings graze the bottom of the drawer as he seeks sanctuary.
I look under the dresser, and see only darkness. From deep within, the cockroach hisses, sending shivers down my back.
The hotel provides a flashlight, stowed in the top left drawer in the kitchen. I run barefoot through the dark living room, praying I will not feel anything crunchy underfoot. Returning to the bedroom, I kneel and shine the light into his lair.
His eyes glow red in the beam, his feelers reach out to me. For a moment, I believe we have a connection. Perhaps it is possible that my Uncle Felix has returned from the dead, and is enjoying reincarnation in perpetual bliss in Australia.
Then he runs. Dodging my hand that holds the flashlight, his legs race toward my face. Dread floods over me as I imagine the creature running into my mouth and down my throat. The bed stops me with a crack on the back of my head, and I fall onto my side.
Felix, for by now I have named him, lays dazed beside me. I must have hit him with the flashlight as I was flailing around. How can this be? Word was that cockroaches are notoriously hard to kill.
I am a killer. And I have done it by my finely honed instincts alone. I kneel over the still form and assess the damages. One wing is dented, exposing a delicate gossamer wing. His eyes remain open. I look around for a tissue with which to collect and wrap his broken corpse.
When I look back, he is no longer there. I see the tip of his shell retreat under the bed.
I cannot sleep knowing he is there. I climb on the bed and jump up and down, trying to generate enough noise to scare him back out into the open. The mattress strains under my weight, loudly protesting against my use of it as a trampoline. My next line of defense is the broom tucked in the closet. Slowly I coax him out from under the bed, and once again we stand staring at each other on the carpet.
He slowly rises up on his hind legs, shakes his wings and threatens me with his chattering and hissing. The occasional rush at me is most effective.
Keeping my eye on him, I reach for my shoe, and deliver three hard slaps to the floor. With each hit, Felix The Cockroach leaps first to one side, then to the other. The third time, he dives under the bedside table. When I shine the flashlight under the table, I cannot see him, although I continue to search until the light dims and fades to nothing.
But I know he is there. And I know I have to sleep next to him for three more nights.
When Becky comes back into the room, she asks what I have been up to, but does not seem overly impressed at my description of the battle.
We sleep with my light on; I hold the dead flashlight tightly in my hand waiting. But he doesn’t return.
I had no idea that releasing my novel would set off so many emotions. Relief, satisfaction, joy, excitement and anxiety. Anxiety? How can that be?
Anxiety. I began to feel it as it spilled into other areas of my life. The edges of me began to fray. The gutter replacement bid came back high. The routine oil change took longer and my car needed maintenance I wasn’t prepared for. I couldn’t remember my user name for an online account. I was melting, and I wasn’t even wearing my shiny red shoes!
So I sat with my anxiety for awhile and stroked it. Acknowledged its flavor, examined its texture. Felt it, accepted it, and treated it with respect. Anxiety was not a bad visitor, it simply dropped in unanounced.
Soon I became bored with it. I found my user name and took care of business. My Subaru is safer now due to the more vigilant maintenance, and I enjoyed the warm complementary salty popcorn and ice cold water in the cool waiting room where I enjoyed watching other people–also free.
So now I am back into watching the stats on my new novel, Please Understand.’ The first review was posted today, and Anxiety was free to wander away.
My debut novel, ‘Please Understand,’ is available through MLR Press and Amazon. Please take a look at it, and read the review!
Last night we went out for margaritas to celebrate the release of my debut novel, Please Understand. My characters are safe within their electronic covers; all decisions have been made about their journey through the plot I set for them. Now my readers will add their own imagination to my words on their Kindles.
It is hard to leave my characters there. We learned so much together from the eighteen months we shared in my mind.
I’ve been asked a few questions about this project. I will focus on answering these questions in my next few posts. Feel free to leave your own questions in the comments section below!
“What’s with the title, ‘Please Understand?’”
I used this phrase several times in the book. The central theme is stated by my character, Tommie: “Please understand. I’m still the same person.”
People who knew me before I “came out” grappled with viewing me as the same person they had always known, loved and trusted. For some, it was too much of an obstacle for the relationship to continue. I miss them.
Everyone has layers of complexity. No one is truly transparent and it takes time to begin to comprehend another person’s history. To understand why they do what they do. This has always fascinated me, and is a concept that is close to my heart. Hence the title, Please Understand.
My novel is available electronically through MLR Press (www.mlrbooks.com) and Amazon. Cover art by Melody Pond, MLR Press
On February 14, 2014 I began a new project. Fueled by the thought, “What if,” a plot took shape and soon began filling pages. Weekly I gave Becky those pages to read, and she wanted more. Monthly the pages grew and became a manuscript. In August 2014, the story had completed the course through the outline, and I sent copies to my brave Beta readers. Within a few weeks I began my rewrite and edits.
Now rewrites and edits are different than creative writing, and it takes a different mindset. It becomes a puzzle to find the missing pieces, to carve the manuscript down into something that builds the stage for the reader to see what I saw in my own mind as I wrote it.
Writing is an interesting activity as I invite you into my mind. It brings out serious feelings of insecurity and vulnerability. But the story plays and replays until it is written and shared.
In September I went to an LGBTQ Romance Conference and talked to four publishers about my manuscript. MLR Press offered me a contract four weeks later.
Months of edits, anxiety and excitement followed while further revisions were submitted and reviewed. It was a very interesting process and I was thankful for the editors’ watchful eyes and skills. The completed product is finally ready.
I am happy to announce that MLR Press will release Please Understand tomorrow. YAY! I’m so excited! Celebrate with me, then prepare to read!
More information tomorrow…
According to the clock on the wall, I’ve slept in. it is 8:30, and I know the animals will be anxious to be fed; Moxie will need to go outside to her yard. Even before I look out the window I know it is a rainy morning.I can hear the swishy sound of tires on wet pavement. I can feel the cool breeze as it plays with the light curtain. I can smell the dampness of the leaves.
I think I hear the sigh of the brown grass in the front lawn as it pulls the moisture down into dry roots.
Plans previously made will have to be put on hold. I must admit, I am thankful for a down day. My pile of rainy day projects jeer at me from the yellow bin along the wall, and I pull out a necklace that needs repair. I print the twelve chapters of my latest project to re-read before I continue writing.
But there’s something about today that I want to savor for a bit before changing directions. Breathe it in, try it on, and luxuriate in the rain.
When I go for my walk, I will not be taking an umbrella.
“One bucket gone!” The backside of our yard has been taken over by buttercups. That side yard once held our legendary woodpile, made up of the split wood from five cedar trees and two huge firs from the front of our yard. The firs were almost one hundred years old and had been topped many years ago. It was time for them to go. So, in the first year we lived here we made the decision. The woodpile from those seven trees filled that whole section of our yard, and took us seven winters of cozy fires in our wood stove to consume. But now, only the twigs remain, and the buttercups that have grown over it all. If I squint, the yellow is beautiful but I want to plant grass this fall, and have the lawn stretch all the way to the alley.
Weeding time is my thinking time. Someone once told me that she would like to spend an hour in my brain. I can assure you, she would not. My mind is in constant turmoil over things I’ve experienced, witnessed and read. There is no escaping from it, it just goes on and on. Perhaps someday I will be able to figure out why I am the way I am, why people react the way they do, why the world is such a dangerous and violent place. No matter how much of a pacifist I am, I still find myself flung into turmoil and drama. Some mine, some not. Either way, it brings up the same amount of unwanted, overwhelming emotion.
A dispute at the gas statin. A checker having a bad day. Neighbors arguing. Police sirens. Yelling, name calling. Conflict in social media. Really? Negativity abounds.
My studio looks out over my garden and present weed removal project. I try to stay in my creative environment while the Weeds of Disharmony try to distract me. People witness to me about God’s love and His desire to save me. Perhaps they need to focus on that love themselves?
Just a thought. But now I must go pull another bucket of weeds and keep my own thoughts positive. I remember a verse I memorized in Sunday School, perhaps the only one that means anything to me now:
“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” –Philippians 4:8 kjv
Just a thought.
Spiders, webs, insects. YUK! I’ve been cleaning out a space on my front wrap-around porch, complete with chair and small round table. Moxie is not used to being out here, and is making faces and strange noises to all who pass on our busy street. I am in full sun and I know I will have to drag myself to the shade soon. But I am pretending I am on a deck on Daytona Beach and I expect a pelican to fly by any minute now. Not likely in this small town in Washington State, thirty miles north of Seattle. I know. So far, only pigeons.
Moxie and I went to a garage sale this morning. Why do other people’s stuff seem so captivating while I am trying to whittle down the tons of stuff I already own and seldom use? Just one more dish, just one more book. All stuffed into a home built in an era where collecting stuff wasn’t a priority. The old house simply doesn’t have storage space. Simplify.
I walked away from the garage sale with no purchases. The lady shouted out as I left, “We’re open for four days. New stuff everyday!” The sale, with all its tempting loaded tables is two blocks away. Maybe if I took a load of my stuff to the thrift store?
I’ve been watching vintage television shows the last couple of weeks. Tons of them, back to back. They feel like old friends come to visit. I’ve seen every one of them, but thanks to my memory problems, I cannot remember how they end. I can’t remember who murdered the victim, or why. And so, Becky and I enjoy each one, then scurry around, do a little housework or gardening, then back to another episode.
It is interesting how young all these characters seem this time around. I remember them as being old, way past middle age. I wonder how I could possibly have seen them this way. Actors that I remember as being gruff and scary now seem to be barely past college age. One look in the mirror tells me why.
And so tonight I have turned off my TV to finish up some work around the house. Folding clothes, dishes, wiping up paw prints off the kitchen floor. And I think about the spring-time. I am in the Autumn of my life, fearing the snows of winter. How does spring relate to me now?
Then I realize. It is the season of Peeps! How can one be overly sensitive about their age when Peeps are around? I’ve just finished my blue chicks, now for the pink rabbits…
I am reminded how easy it is to forget. I am reminded how we have not all had the same experience. I am reminded that we are not all from the same generation. Whenever I read posts on social media or the newspaper. Whenever I am in public. Whenever I listen to someone’s opinion.
I realize we all have our opinions on birth control. Differing views of religion, morality or need determine one’s choices. What may seem reasonable to me may not seem so to someone else. But in reality, we all must make our own choices and live with the consequences. There is something, however, that I’m not seeing discussed anywhere, and I wish to bring that to your attention.
Employers are beginning to be vocal about stating their opinions of morality on the issue of birth control. When I worked for religious organizations, I understood and accepted the fact that some things would be dictated to me regarding dress, pay and expectations of my speech and actions while on the job. Indeed, sometimes even while I was off the job, but in public. Every moment, after all, was a moment I was representing the organization or Christ Himself. A big order, but one that I strove to respect.
But it is not these employers that I address. It is the secular employer whose owners are holding their beliefs in a way that imposes those beliefs on others. Those that provide health care that does not include birth control, because that does not fit in with the owners set of values. Many people aren’t concerned about this, but I wish for you to think about this for a minute. The following is an example from my own experience in the past.
I began working straight out of high school, office work for minimum wage. I had no health insurance when I began working. This was 1970, and I was making $55 a week. At that time I was still living with my parents, so I paid them a small amount for room and board, and I was able to make ends meet if I used the bus for transportation. One of the questions they asked me when I applied was if I was married, engaged, or dating. Why would they ask this? It was a polite way to ask me if I was sexually active. They explained that they wanted to know if I ran a high risk of getting pregnant soon-they didn’t want to train me if they were going to have to let me go to have a baby. Yes. “Let me go.” The job wouldn’t wait for my return, unless I was willing to come back to work the next day. No maternity leave. They would have been more assured, I think, if I would have agreed to have the baby in the restroom during break, then return to work and place the newborn in the drawer until lunchtime.
When that office closed, I took a job (still minimum wage) at an insurance agency. Once again, I was asked the same question. This time I was engaged, and my prospective boss was relieved to be told I wasn’t planning a pregnancy anytime soon. Again, he told me that he didn’t want to hire someone who he would have to replace right away, due to childbirth.
My point is that do we really think that these employers are so enamored with the babies born during our employment with them that they will hire, hold jobs open, pay for maternity leave, provide adequate wages and provide good health care for these children once they are conceived? Didn’t seem that way in the seventies to me. They made it their business to know that I would be worthy of their training. And that meant promising no time off for pregnancy or delivery. After all, there were plenty of other young girls waiting in the employment line.
Do we know what these moral minded employers would do in these circumstances? Will they hold themselves morally responsible to hire women who are obviously pregnant or have no birth control to assure they won’t get pregnant for a few years? In a five-year space of time, how many pregnancies could an employer cover? And how many children could someone holding down a minimum wage job afford without relying on public assistance? One of my friends in grade school came from a family of twelve children. Twelve. Is our society ready to deal with another Baby Boomer generation? Do we really wish to return to a time of limited birth control? But then perhaps it will only be the poor who will be contributing to our increasing numbers.
Let us not step backward forty-five years and allow them to ask these same questions as a hiring stratagem. Let us not lose things we struggled to achieve.
This isn’t just a case of right or wrong. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that since this is a moral decision that they are looking out for our good. When it comes to morals, I want to make my own decisions.