Tag Archives: women’s fiction

Wednesdays with Writers: Cathy Lamb talks about her newest book, THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS, how balancing subplots is like juggling cats, her love for homes & design, quirky families, how she never wants to read her own book again–and so much more.

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By Leslie Lindsay 

From acclaimed author Cathy Lamb, comes a warm and thoughtful novel about the secrets that can break or unite a family—and the voices that resonate throughout our lives.

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Reading THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS was one of the best reading experiences I’ve had in a long time; I laughed, I cried, most of the time, I didn’t even realize I was reading. It’s that good.

The Koslovsky family is a big, bustling American-Russian family living in Oregon, immigrants from Communist Russia. They have secrets, they have traumatic scars, but most of all–they have each other.

The main protagonist is Antonia (Toni) Koslovsky, the middle daughter of three sisters (Ellie, the youngest and Valeria, the oldest). They have a brother, Dmitri, too.  The cover of the book would have you believing the sisters are young, but they are grown, adult children with lives, jobs, and families (Valerie) of their own. The cover might also have you believing this is a saccharine story of girls dancing around May poles, but it is a sophisticated romp through grief, heartache, love, family dynamics (and dysfunction); a story of home, a narrative of mystery.

Told in a slightly nonlinear fashion, glimpses of Communist Moscow surface as a dark nebulous coloring present-day shenanigans, THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS is at once a mystery a poignant story of family told with compassion, warmth, and humor. Honestly, I don’t know how the author pulled this one off…it’s complex in character, and contains so many subplots, yet she pulls them together beautifully. And with humor. Did I mention humor?

Trust me, you’ll want to read this book, and then you won’t want it to end.

Today, I am honored to have Cathy Lamb in my office—not my floating tugboat home—though that wheelhouse window would be wonderful. We even have homemade Russian tea cakes and coffee so strong it will grow hair on your chest.

Leslie Lindsay: Cathy, it is such a pleasure to have you today. Thanks for popping by. So, I’m reading THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS and laughing, laughing, laughing. Sometimes my husband tells me to shut up. Affectionately. And then I start thinking, Cathy has nailed this Russian-American big family thing. First, I have to know your inspiration for this book, and then I have to know how much of it is based on your experiences?

Cathy Lamb: These are a few of the things/visions that inspired me to write The Language of Sisters:

  • Living in a yellow tugboat on the Willamette River.
  • Russian history.
  • A loud family restaurant in Portland, Oregon where the guests sing Russian drinking songs.
  • Communism.
  • Quirky cousins.
  • The experiences of an immigrant family.
  • A state prosecutor.
  • Sewing beautiful pillows.
  • Sisterhood.
  • A mystery, secrets, and the impact of both.
  • A blue heron.
  • A fight between cousins on a bathroom floor over a hair brush.
  • Falling in love with a hot DEA agent. (Uh. Hmmm. Let me clarify. I, personally, did not fall in love with a DEA agent. I have been married for 23 years to Innocent Husband.  He would not appreciate that.)

As for the book being based on my experiences? Very little.  I do have two sisters, and a brother, but – so that I don’t get in trouble with them – NONE of them are in the book. I promise.  I do live in Oregon, but alas, I don’t live on a tugboat in the Willamette River.

I used to write for a newspaper about homes, as Toni does. But I do not have a psychic connection with my sisters and I do not cook well at all. My children say I do not cook, I “re – heat.” Naughty children!

L.L.: I like big books…(and I cannot lie). THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS is long. But it doesn’t feel that way. The first time I picked up the book, I read 200 pages straight through. I didn’t even fall asleep—and that’s saying a lot for me, who gets drowsy fifteen minutes after sitting down. I think what I’m trying to say is, good job on pacing. Also, good job on keeping me engaged and throwing me right into the action via media res. And here’s the question: what was your writing process like? Since it’s a longish book, did it take longer to write? Do you outline? Follow the muse?

Cathy Lamb: My writing process…well, it’s a rocky and craggy path, filled with potholes the size of Jupiter, scary looking trees, and monsters with big teeth. First, I grab a journal and start writing and sketching while drinking copious amounts of coffee and eating chocolate.

Then I grab another journal because I have filled the first one with ideas, much of them terrible, horrible ideas, and I need to figure out what the heck I’m writing about.

I start pulling characters together. I give them friends and family, and some are nice and some aren’t. I mutter and talk to myself and talk to the characters and they talk back and I proceed onward.

what-I-remember-Most-3501-e1396982595987.jpgI give my heroine a job and a setting and a home. Or she’s homeless, like Grenadine Scotch Wild in WHAT I REMEMBER MOST. That gal ended up living in her car.

Then I talk to my wise and wonderful agent and editor and they give their input on my proposed plot, and I slug down more coffee and go for drives in the country until I can figure out the first line of the book and tell myself that, “YES. You can write another book, Cathy. You can. Cool your jets.  Pipe down. Don’t lose your mind. Buck up. NO whining.”

Once the first line of the book is in my head, I write 2000 words a day, 10,000 a week until the first draft is done. If I don’t get my word count in by Saturday, I don’t go to bed.

I try to add scenes that will touch women’s hearts. They may end up laughing or crying. Hopefully they will laugh more than they cry and relate to the characters and the plot.

I do eight or nine edits of the book until the book is done and off to my agent and editor. At that point my eyes are fried, my brain is fried, and I think about moving to an old log cabin in the middle of Montana.

There are four more edits after that.

Then, it’s done. 12 edits. Out in the universe, flying around, and I don’t ever want to read it again. And, I don’t. Unless I’m at a reading.

L.L.: There are so many fabulously colorful characters in THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS and oh my gosh, how I loved them all. Did one ‘speak’ to you first, was it your protagonist Antonia (Toni), or were they all carefully cultivated? Is there one you relate to more? By the way, I loved the parents, Alexei and Svetlana the best. Oh, and Nick!!

Cathy Lamb: I think the sisters – Toni, Valerie, and Ellie spoke the loudest to me because I related to all of them.  They’re a little neurotic, intense, fierce, wild, funny, and driven because of the dangers they endured in their past in the Soviet Union.

They went skinny dipping together, sometimes drank too much, sewed gorgeous pillows, talked about life, and loved each other dearly. I could hear them in my head. It was like sitting down and talking to my own sisters, only I was invisible.

Daisy’s voice came through loud and clear for me because of how she wanted to live her life in her last years, how she insisted on staying on her houseboat, on the river, and was kind to everyone, except the bad guy, who she threw a knife at.

And I felt close to the mothers in the Kozlovsky gang, and how they felt about their kids, as a mother myself.

L.L.: I think I fell a little bit in love with that ‘man with a pistol in his pants.’ I loved him. I wanted his big, muscular arms around my shoulders. I wanted his flowers and chocolates. I wanted to spy on him with my binoculars. But I worried, too about his job as a DEA agent. Does Nick Sanchez really exist? And how can I find him? I have some single friends.

Cathy Lamb: I am so very, very sorry. I know this will crush you: No. Nick Sanchez does not exist. Except in my mind.I always try to create men that women readers will fall in love with. None of this: “Well, he’s PRETTY good, except he’s flawed like all other men.”

No.Will not do that.

I don’t want to read about a flawed man when he’s the love interest.  Really. That part of a book I just want to escape into, and I think other women readers do, too.

They do not want to read about a  man who refuses to do the dishes, or help with the kids because we women know what that means: We work all day and come home and do all the housework and the cooking and that is SO NOT ROMANTIC.

So, I created a man I’d want to be married to…and you got Nick Sanchez. Smoking hot and huggable forever.

L.L.: Svetlana’s Kitchen, the restaurant the Kozlovsky’s run is such a fun place. I love how Mrs. Kozlovsky names the specials after things going on in her family’s life. The food sounds delicious, too.

Cathy Lamb: So, for people who have not read THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS: The mother, Svetlana Kozlovsky owns a restaurant. When she’s mad at her kids she writes it on the Specials Board, along with what she’s serving that night for dinner. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

            Over the next few days I received a number of calls and texts from family and friends who had had my mother’s special named “My Childrens Makes Me Worry.” They wanted to know what we Kozlovsky kids did to make my mother worry. The older people who called from the Russian community also gently chastised me, in Russian, of course.  “Don’t make your mama worry, Antonia. You know better.”

            The regular dishes at my parents’ restaurant all have family names. “Elvira’s Tasty Treats,” which is a selection of desserts; “Valeria’s Dumplings,’ which are beef dumplings on a bed of lettuce; and “Antonia’s Delight,” which are cheese crepes.

            But the specials…well, those are a crap shoot.   download-28

            In the past, my mother has named specials “Alexei Not The Boss,” after she had a fight with my father.

            And “Teenagers Big Trouble” when we were younger.

            And I Wish Valeria Quit Her Job.”

            I had “Antonia Not A Criminal,” simply because I write about crime.

            Ellie endured “Elvira’s Bad Choice” when she got engaged to Gino. It hurt Gino’s feelings.

            As my sister Valerie says, “I’m a state prosecutor. I try to maintain respect, a professional image, then mama puts out a special called “Valeria No Call Mama Enough,” and even the criminals are asking me why I don’t call my mama more.”

It goes on and on. Don’t make my mother mad, or you’ll hear about it on the Tonight’s Specials board of Svetlana’s Kitchen.

 L.L.: There are a lot of juicy little subplots going on in THE LANGUAGE OF SISTSERS. They are handled beautifully. My head would explode if I had the task of tying them together. Maybe yours did, too. How did you juggle so many different plot lines? Did you have a favorite?

Cathy Lamb: Honestly the sub plots were like juggling bottles of wine. Maybe that’s not the best analogy. They were like juggling cats. Eh. That one isn’t so good, either. Juggling…boxes of cookies.

I think my favorite sub plot was what happened to Dmitry in Russia. Who were his parents? How did he and the Kozlovsky family find each other? What’s the secret that the parents want buried forever?  I thought that plot line was key to the whole family.

I also really liked writing about Toni’s family and all their funny and quirky imperfections. Two cousins who make fancy and frilly outfits for strippers. One who steals cars but loves opera. A sister who is engaged but really doesn’t know if she wants to get married AT ALL.  A cousin with a teenage daughter who is pregnant, something so many parents go through with their own beloved children. An actress who is an extreme hypochondriac.

We all have families. Sometimes relationships can get messy/hilarious/odd/quirky.

L.L.: The Kozlovsky family endured such hardship in Moscow. At times it was hard to read, but it was done in such a tender, sensitive way. Communist Russia is something I know little about. Can you illuminate some historical significance for us?

Cathy Lamb: The history of Russia is fascinating. Honestly, read it.  From the Tsar to today. It’s harsh and often horrible. Russia today is better than it was in the past, but there are still, as we all know, many problems. I used that background for my family because it was a time period I knew something about it – although I needed to learn A TON – and it was interesting to me and I hoped it would be interesting for the reader, too.

A few other things I researched? Communism. Marxism. Lenin. Stalin. The Time of Stagnation. Christians in the Soviet Union and their persecution. Social issues. Poverty in Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Church. The KGB.

L.L.: I have to ask about the title, too. THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS is just that: a special communication the Kozlovsky sisters share in which they intuit, or ‘hear’ the voice of their sister(s) when she is in distress. It comes from the mother’s family, through the widow’s peaks of their hairline. I have a widow’s peak. So did my mother. Is there any truth to this?

Cathy Lamb:  My editor thought of my title. He always titles my books because he is so much more clever about titles than I am.  One time I wrote out ten titles for this book and read them to my daughters. They almost wet their pants they laughed so hard.

And no, there is zero truth about people talking to each other through their widow’s peaks. I write fiction which means I get to play.

L.L.: One last question. I think. Toni changes jobs from being a reporter of crime to writing a column about houses, “Living on a Tugboat, Talking About Homes.” How I loved these columns (which are inserted throughout the narrative). What is it about our homes (or other people’s) we are so drawn to? Why do we care? Are we all voyeuristic weirdos?

Cathy Lamb: I love looking at home magazines. I love thinking about remodeling my kitchen, making my garden better, cleaning things up, and being in my home. I think a lot of people feel the same way – especially women.86a9f94455bc160b10b98b1033184fc1

Home has a special place in everyone’s heart and there are so many people who love to relax with a magazine while looking at something beautiful or clever or curious that someone else did in their home. We get to see how other people live and that’s fun.

Plus, I was a freelance writer for The Oregonian’s Homes and Gardens for years. I loved it. I wrote about homes, décor, and design, so I gave Toni my ex – job. (I had to quit freelancing when my first book, Julia’s Chocolates, sold as I didn’t have time anymore.)

L.L.: Okay, I lied. One more question. How would you classify this book? It seems to straddle so many genres: mystery/thriller, romance, family saga/drama, women’s fiction, there’s a lot going on, but it’s so good. Does size matter? Does genre matter?

Cathy Lamb: It’s women’s fiction. I think genre matters in terms of marketing. I have a niche, it’s women’s fiction. I don’t even pretend to write for men. My books aren’t for men. I think people read what they are interested in reading and the genre doesn’t matter.

As for size of the book? Eh? Look at PILLARS OF THE EARTH. That novel was huge and everyone loved it.  Then, there are shorter books, say by Mitch Albom, that everyone adores and they’re not very long.

To me it all has to do with plot.  The plot has to be engaging and gripping and keeping the reader turning the pages. Short or long, you have to do that as a writer.

L.L.: Tell me, did I forget anything?

Cathy Lamb:  Want to see the first chapter?

The Language of Sisters

Chapter One

I was talented at pickpocketing.

I knew how to slip my fingers in, soft and smooth, like moving silk. I was lightning quick, a sleight of hand, a twist of the wrist. I was adept at disappearing, at hiding, at waiting, until it was safe to run, to escape.

I was a whisper, drifting smoke, a breeze.

I was a little girl, in the frigid cold of Moscow, under the looming shadow of the Soviet Union, my coat too small, my shoes too tight, my stomach an empty shell.

I was desperate. We were desperate.

Survival stealing, my sisters and I called it.images-3

Had we not stolen, we might not have survived.

But we did. We survived. My father barely, my mother only through endless grit and determination, but now we are here, in Oregon, a noisy family, who does not talk about what happened back in Russia, twenty-five years ago. It is best to forget, my parents have told us, many times.

“Forget it happened. It another life, no?” my father says. “This here, this our true life. We Americans now. Americans!”

We tried to forget, but in the inky-black silence of night, when Mother Russia intrudes our dreams, like a swishing scythe, a crooked claw emerging from the ruins of tragedy, when we remember family members buried under the frozen wasteland of the Soviet Union’s far reaches, we are all haunted, some more than others.

You would never guess by looking at my family what some of us have done and what has been done to us. You would never sense our collective memory, what we share, what we hide.

We are the Kozlovskys.

We like to think we are good people.

And, most of the time, we are. Quite good.

And yet, when cornered, when one of us is threatened, we come up swinging.

But, pfft.

All that. In the past. Best to forget what happened.

As my mother says, in her broken English, wagging her finger, “No use going to Moscow in your head. We are family. We are the Kozlovskys. That all we need to know. The rest, those secrets, let them lie down.”

Yes, do.

Let all the secrets lie.

For as long as they’ll stay down.

They were coming up fast. I could feel it.

L.L.: These Russian tea cakes really are good. I think I love them more than Nick. Thanks for hanging out with me, Cathy, and talking about books in a basement office.

Cathy Lamb: Thank you, Leslie. Really.

For more information about THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS, Cathy Lamb, follow on social media, or to purchase a copy for your own, quirky family (seriously, makes a great gift), please see:

Photo of Cathy Lamb 093.JPGABOUT THE AUTHOR: I was born in Newport Beach, California and spent my first ten years playing outside like a wild vagabond.

As a child, I mastered the art of skateboarding, catching butterflies in bottles, and riding my bike with no hands. When I was ten, my parents moved me, my two sisters, a brother, and two poorly behaved dogs to Oregon before I could fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a surfer bum.

I then embarked on my notable academic career where I earned good grades now and then, spent a great deal of time daydreaming, ran wild with a number of friends, and landed on the newspaper staff in high school. When I saw my byline above an article about people making out in the hallways of the high school, I knew I had found my true calling.

After two years of partying at the University of Oregon, I settled down for the next three years and earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, and became a fourth grade teacher.  I became a teacher because I wanted to become a writer. It was difficult for me to become proper and conservative but I threw out my red cowboy boots and persevered. I had no choice. I had to eat and health insurance is expensive. I loved teaching, but I also loved the nights and summers where I could write and try to build a career filled with creativity and my strange imagination.

I  met my husband on a blind date.  A mutual friend who was an undercover vice cop busting drug dealers set us up. My husband jokes he was being arrested at the time. That is not true. Do not believe him. His sense of humor is treacherous. It was love at third sight.  We’ve now been married a long time.

Teaching children about the Oregon Trail and multiplication facts amused me until I became so gigantically pregnant with twins I looked like a small cow and could barely walk. With a three year old at home, I decided it was time to make a graceful exit and waddle on out. I left school one day and never went back. I later landed in the hospital for over six weeks with pre term labor, but that is another (rather dull) story.  I like to think my students missed me.

When I was no longer smothered in diapers and pacifiers, I took a turn onto the hazardous road of freelance writing and wrote over 200 articles on homes, home décor, people and fashion for a local newspaper.  As I am not fashionable and can hardly stand to shop, it was an eye opener  to find that some women actually do obsess about what to wear. I also learned it would probably be more relaxing to slam a hammer against one’s forehead
than engage in a large and costly home remodeling project. I also tried to write romance books, which ended ingloriously for years.

I suffer from, “I Would Rather Play Than Work Disease” which prevents me from getting much work done unless I have a threatening deadline, which is often.  I like to hang with family and friends, walk, eat chocolate, travel, go to Starbucks, and I am slightly obsessive, okay very obsessive, about the types of books I read. I also like to be left alone a lot so I can hear all the bizarre and troubled characters in my head talk to each other and then transfer that oddness to paper. The characters usually don’t start to talk until 10:00 at night,  however, so I am often up ‘til 2:00 in the morning with them. That is my excuse for being cranky. Really, I was just born a little cranky.

I adore my children and husband, except when he refuses to take his dirty shoes off and walks on the carpet. I will ski because my kids insist, but I secretly don’t like it at all. Too cold and I fall all the time.

I am currently working on my next book and I’m not sleeping much.

To connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, please see: 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of C. Lamb and used with permission. Image of restaurant message board retrieved from TripAdvisor on 11.17.16, image of WHAT I REMEMBER MOST from Ms. Lamb’s website. Image of reading from, also retrieved 11.17.16]

Fiction Friday: What are YOU Reading this Summer?!

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By Leslie Lindsay

Instead of throwing out another excerpt of what I am writing today, thought I’d share a few of my must-read summer selections.  Whether you’re going away to a tropical location or just sitting comfortably in an air conditioned library, I am sure you, too have a love for reading. 

Here goes!

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan.  Who doesn’t love J. Courtney Sullivan and her epic stories of girlfriends in college (Commencement), East Coast Irish-Catholic families (Maine) and now her lastest, THE ENGAGEMENTS?  This one is a slice of American–and Product DetailsFrench–marriage.  Cascading through time, going back as far as 1947 and ending with “present-day” 2012, we meet a host of characters, from Frances a single woman in the 1940s-50’s who coined the phrase, “A diamond is forever” to 1972 and the scandal of divorce, moving right along to 1987 and the world of paramedics and a family struggling financially…to 2003 where we delve into a world of music and all things French and finally wrapping things up with a gay wedding of 2012. 

Caroline Leavitt’s IS THIS TOMORROW also hits my Summer reading list.  Loved this portrayal of a single Jewish mother raising a son in the 1950’s suburbs of Boston.  When one of the son’s friends goes missing, the entire community is baffled.  Part history, part suspence, part women’s fiction, we are thrust into a world of secrets, lies and Product Detailsdisillusionment.  The books transcends time and culture with the advent of a male nursing assistant in 1963, as well as single–and dating–Jewish mothers of the 1950’s.  According to Ms. Leavitt, “I was an only Jewish kid growing up in the Christian suburbs and I wanted to write about that.” 

HE’S GONE by  Deb Caletti truly resonated with me.  Wow.  This book was packed with wonderful description and imagery, gritty and compelling language, and with a Product Detailstwist I didn’t really see coming.  Well, parts of it I did.  What would happen if you woke up one morning and your spouse was just gone?  This is what Dani Keller experiences one Sunday…a day turns into two and then a week.  Where is her husband?!  This one reminded me a lot of last summer’s GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (which, is another must-read). 

THE LONGINGS OF WAYWARD GIRLS by debut novelist Angela Brown.  While this author has published short stories (and poetry, I believe), she now has her first novel coming onto the scene July 2nd.  This one is also set in New England summer suburbia  where the days are long and the longings are…well, it’s all about the split between adolesence and childhood.  Looks captivating. 

SISTERLAND.  A new book from author Curtis Sittenfeld.  A to-be-released any day book, this one is definitely on my to-read list.  Twin sisters just happen to be psychic.  One of them is named Kate (my daughter’s name) and it takes place in the St. Louis area (my hometown)

 To See what the Editors of Writer’s Digest of Reading this Summer, Click here: 

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/what-are-you-reading-this-summer?et_mid=623617&rid=233613076

Fiction Friday:

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By Leslie Lindsay Fiction Friday:

You know how reading a really gripping book can get your creativity flowing?  Well, it worked wonders for me this past week as I dove (quite literally) into Deb Caletti’s book, HE’S GONE (Bantam, 2013). 

While this book is about remarried woman who wakes on a typical Sunday morning only to find her husband is missing, it has little to do with first love, which my novel is about.  Dani (Caletti’s female character) can’t remember them coming home the night before, she’s stumped.  Over the course of 10 days, she recounts every last moment together, the words they said, the moments they shared trying to recreate the possibility of what happened.  I was particularly taken with Caletti’s well-crafted sentences, the gritty language, and overall gripping tale that our lives–and our marriages aren’t always what they seem.

Interested in how HE’S GONE sparked my own creativity?  Here’s an excerpt written just last evening that will go into Slippery Slope (working title). 

“I can’t sleep.  The sheets are all baggy and sweaty.  Joe lies next to me, the hill of his shoulders lifting up with every inhale, a valley with every exhale.  He says I am his ocean, deep and pure.  Love can move mountains. 

The notebook I bought for these interrupted nights rests on the bedside table, amid the reading glasses, pens, and catalogs.  We write to taste life twice.  God, I love that quote.  Hearing the words pour from my internal dialogue, seeing the letters fall on the crisp paper, the sweet taste of those letters.  They pop-sizzle-pop like cheeries on my tongue, encompassing all of my senses.  Yet, I can’t make myself roll over and reach for it. 

My eyes glance back at Joe sleeping peacefully in the moonlight. It’s amazing how much the human eye can see in a darkened space.  Rods and cones, pupils and irises.  The mind’s eye.  Is he dreaming?  Of what?  His body is splayed like an exclamation mark, a warning.  What, Joe goes on inside of your mind as you are drifting into sleep, when you are stuck in that limbo land of awake-not-yet-asleep state?  Are there microcosms of thought twisting around an impetus of me and our family? 

Are there strobes of light and color gnarling, shaping, molding images of sprightly love?  Innocence and remembering.  Her. Your first love. 

I groan and reach for my notebook.  I’ve got to get these ideas down.  I pick it up; it feels of cool—malleable—those thoughts and ideas bending, my brain molding the thoughts into words I can transcribe. 

Joe mumbles something in his sleep.  It doesn’t sound like anything intelligible.  He huffs and jerks the sheet away from me, rolling his body onto his side, facing away from me; two lovers split, a bifurcation.  I swallow and twist my legs to the edge of the bed, dangling them over the edge.  Inhale, exhale.  The room smells of sticky, sour sleep.  The notebook beckons me.  Open me.  Write onto my pages.  Your secrets are safe here.

I lean forward snapping the notebook into my grasp.  The problem with words, once spoken they can never be retracted; once written they remain forever, like fingerprints on a heart. 

In the master bath, I flip on the light, close the door.  My legs are wobbly and weak, I let my body slide down, broken and confused.  The notebook falls from my hands, a splat on the tile, splayed open to a blank page.  I lean forward, rubbing my face in my hands.  The thoughts need to go away.  They need to get out my head.  I take the pen from the coiled binding of the notebook  and let my hand flow along the pages.  I have no idea what I am thinking, no idea of what to write.  My mind seems to know something I do not. 

1868.  You and me.  In the English countryside.  Stonewalls and moss.  Gray-blue skies.  Flowers and clover.  Violet.  Secret rendezvous.  Violent.  A class difference.  A life-long chase.  A marriage.  A binding.  A contract.  You promised. Steve.  SFK.  ILY.  Make the thoughts go away.  Violent, violet.  Again.  Violent, violet.  Again.  Violent, violet.    

Again.

My eyes assess the words, they mean nothing.  My head pounds, a loud banging, pulsing between my ears.  I am spent, tired.  Bound and broken on the floor. I reach up and grab the doorknob, stretching with my fingertips.  It feels so far away.  I press my body on the door, twist the knob.  The door opens and the weight of my body pushes me forward into the room.  I lay there for ten seconds, two minutes.  Honestly, I don’t know how long my body lays prone. 

I stir to the sound of Joe’s snoring.  He says he doesn’t snore, but he does.  The wind blows through the crack in the window, the curtains dance, moonlight falls on my bare legs.  I stand, ruffle the wrinkles from my nightshirt and shuffle to the medicine cabinet.  A past dental procedure.  Vicodin.  It glows like an amulet, a promise of good fortune.  It’s old, but I don’t care.  Maybe the half-life has expired; it’ll be less potent now.  I twist the child-safety cap and pop a pill into my mouth.  I turn the facet on, tip my head and cup my hands as I slurp the medication into my body.”

[Remember, this is an orginal work of fiction.  Copying or distributing as your own is strictly prohibited.]

For more information on Deb Caletti or HE’S GONE, please see:  Product Details(image retrieved from Amazon.com 6.14.13)

Write On, Wednesday: Author Amy Sue Nathan Talks about her Debut Novel, THE GLASS WIVES

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By Leslie Lindsay

Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

I am honored to introduce Amy Sue Nathan to “Write On, Wednesday.”  Amy is a mother of a college-age son, a high school daughter and two dogs.  She is also the recently published author of THE GLASS WIVES (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013).  She’s generously offered a complimentary copy of the book to one lucky reader.  Amy resides in the Chicagoland area.  I just started reading the book, and already I can tell it’s going to be a great journey.  (image retrieved 5.26.13 from Amazon.com)

Product Details

L2:  First—the book!  Congratulations on such a wonderful accomplishment many of us only dream about.  What’s it like to finally have your book “out there?” 

Amy Sue Nathan:Having my book out in the real world is surreal on one hand, and very tangible on the other. I have likened it to an expected surprise, like a baby. You know it’s going to happen, you’ve been preparing, you’ve read all the books, made all the plans—but when it happens, it’s still full of unknowns, twists, turns, and surprises. Hopefully, most of them good surprises!

L2: THE GLASS WIVES is all about family.  Of course, many women readers can relate to that topic, but what makes THE GLASS WIVES different is that it is based on this idea of an unconventional family.  How do you see the vision of ‘family’ changing in the 21st century? 

Amy Sue Nathan: I think what is changing is the idea of what is unconventional.  One of the reasons I wanted to write a novel about a “newfangled” family was because I felt there was a lot of lip service given to families that weren’t mom/dad/kids.  I’d heard people say that family is what you need it to be, or want it to be, or what you make it, but when I divorced in 2002, after being with my ex for 20 years, all of a sudden (or so it seemed), I was not longer part of a full-fledged family in the eyes of many people, and in a way, even to myself. I wondered where all the acceptance had gone and realized it was idea of a single mom family that people (or the people in my life) were okay with, but the actual fact of it, no, they didn’t really deal well with it. I had to get a grip on it, so I did. But most people still look at a single-parent headed household as a whole missing a part. I think that once people actually accept families as equal in weight, no matter their configuration, then the vision of family will actually resemble the fact of family.

L2: As I was looking over your website, I came across your definition of family, “home isn’t broken unless there isn’t love inside it’s walls.”  Do you believe that home truly is where the heart is?  Can you expand a bit on this quote? 

Amy Sue Nathan: I’m a homebody. No matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing, I’m always drawn toward my home, which for the past 14 years has been a ranch house in a tiny suburb of Chicago. I shudder when someone refers to kids of divorce being from a broken home. Often, divorce fixes a family more than it breaks it.  Obviously the word “broken” has negative connotations, and that bothers me. I may have a broken chair in the dining room, but neither my home, nor my family, is broken.  It’s the matter of another perception of unconventional families that I try to dispel in THE GLASS WIVES. 

L2:  How did you arrive at the title, THE GLASS WIVES?  I am assuming a sense of fragility, the fact that families can crumble and break…or was there something more? 

Amy Sue Nathan: Honestly? The book had several different titles, but the one that stuck was The Glass House. Then, about six weeks before my agent was going to start submitting to editors I was working on a final edit or two and the title hit me. The book was about The Glass Wives. I knew at that moment it was a keeper.  And yes, there is an element of the metaphorical glass, and also the literal. The main characters’ last name is Glass.

L2: On to agents…can you give us writers some sense of what your journey was like when you set out to find an agent?  What advice would you give a writer who is determined to have their work represented

Amy Sue Nathan: It might be cliché to say DON’T GIVE UP but it’s the truth. I’ve come across many aspiring authors who send a dozen queries and stop.  If someone is determined to be published traditionally, as I was, then they need to be in it for the long haul.  I sent 116 queries over 10 months before signing with my agent, Jason Yarn, of Paradigm.  I’d also recommend listening to any advice any agent gives you.  You don’t have to follow the advice, but it’s a good idea to think about it, see if it makes sense, and make changes if need be.  Another thing to do is to continue writing while you’re querying.  Write short stories or a new book or essays or something else to remind you why you’re sending queries.  That’s because you want to keep writing and you want to be published by a publisher.

L2:   You’ve been blogging since 2006 as a “mommy blogger.”  Would you say this was the beginning of your writing career, or was this simply a by-product of your love for writing?  [Be sure to check out Amy’s blog Women Fiction Writers at http://womensfictionwriters.wordpress.com/]

Amy Sue Nathan:My professional writing career started in the 1980’s. I was a writer at a few nonprofit organizations and corporations before becoming a fulltime stay-at-home mom.  I had a variety of part-time jobs over the years, some included writing and some did not.  I started writing for myself again around the time leading up to my divorce, when I realized the only creative thing I was doing was adding peas and carrots to macaroni and cheese. In 2006 I went on a date (a one-date-only date) and the guy asked me if I’d ever considered blogging, because my writing style in the emails we’d exchanged seemed really suited to it.  I never saw him again, but that week I started a blog, and by the end of the year I’d had my first essay published in The Chicago Tribune, where I published pieces in about 10 issues through 2009.

L2: WomenFictionWriters.com was founded in 2011.  Can you tell us a little more about your blog and what type of resources exist there

Amy Sue Nathan: I started the blog because I was looking for a place to connect with other writers who wrote what I define as women’s fiction—which are stories about a women’s journey that do not center on a romantic relationship, at all. At this point I’m seeing that there are many definitions for the genre, and a bunch of perceptions, not all of which I like, but to each her own. Right?  At WFW I try to focus on the authors, books, and craft of women’s fiction. I interview authors and often it’s as much about the author as a person, his or writing and life, as it is about the book.  The craft posts are really popular, because I think so many writing posts are either very generic or very specific—and on WFW we try to bring everything back to women’s fiction, which doesn’t happen many other places.

L2: Can you give us aspiring writers some words of wisdom on the craft? 

Amy Sue Nathan: My most recent advice to myself is to separate business from craft.  When I’m writing I can’t think about selling the book or even about the readers, I just have to tell the story in the best way I can.  There will hopefully be time later to think about the needs and wants of others. Writing, even when you want to publish, has to be selfish at first. Write YOUR story as YOU see it.  Tweak it later.  But never write to the market because by the time you’re finished, the market will have changed. Write on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel

L2: Finally, will we be hearing more from you?  What’s next?  Another book?  Can you give us a glimpse inside?

Amy Sue Nathan: My work-in-progress is about a single mom, blogging, secrets, and lies—and where it all can lead if you’re not careful. Or even if you are.  [note from Leslie–this book was just sold to St. Martin’s yesterday!  Stay tuned]

Thank you for having me on your blog, Leslie!

Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

***WANT A COMPLIMENTARY COPY OF THE GLASS WIVES?***  Of course you do!!  Just drop me a line at leslie_lindsay@hotmail with “GLASS WIVES” in subject line.  Tell me to enter you in the give-a-way.  I will.  Pay attention…I’ll contact you by email if you name is chosen at random.  Contest ends Friday, May 31st.  Good luck!! (Your email won’t be saved, or used for anything else–just the contest!)

Amy Sue Nathan‘s debut novel, THE GLASS WIVES, published by St. Martin’s Press May 2013.  In addition to blogging, her stories and essays have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times online, The Washington Post online, The Huffington Post, Chicago Parent, Grey Sparrow Journal, Rose and Thorn Journal, Scribblers On The Roof, The Verb, Hospital Drive Journal and The Stone Hobo. She’s also a freelance fiction editor, and a reader for literary agents.  I’ve also been fortunate to contribute to four amazing writing sites, Writer Unboxed, Beyond The Margins, The Book Pregnant Blog, and Girlfriends Book Club. I’m currently serving as Secretary for the RWA-WF chapter, a contributer to the Writer Unboxed newsletter, and a member of the 2013 Class at The Debutante Ball blog. 

Fiction Friday: Excerpt from Slippery Slope

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By Leslie Lindsay Write on, Wednesday:  Imagine a Better Writer

Combing back through that novel-in-progress–trimming, saving, adding–general revising.  Here’s one of the early chapters.  [Remember, this is a work of original fiction and is not intended to represent anyone living or dead.  It it a figment of the author’s imagination.  Borrowing or making your own is strictly prohibited.  Thanks for your understanding].  Enjoy!

An excepert from Slippery Slope:

“I married Joe for several reasons.  One, he asked me.  Two, he had good genes.  And perhaps three, I was in love.  With a mass of coiled PhD brains in his head, I knew he’d pass on intelligence, a trait 86% of the population finds valuable, along with a sense of humor, creativity, and problem-solving ability. 

And so we made babies.  Two of them to be exact, at the preferred two-and-a-half year interval, enough time physicians believe a woman’s body has healed and returned to normal, and psychologists have determined is the “appropriate developmental spacing.”  But now I wonder, would Kenna and Madi’s sweet chatter somehow sound differently if they had been conceived with Steve, and not the deep, profound adult love I made with my husband

 I was torn.  I wanted Steve go away, but I also wanted him to show up again.

In reality, he had.  He left a bit of himself behind, a trace.  Actually, it was a crumb.  A Dorito that attracted a colony of ants.  My girls screamed when they found it on the front stoop and came running to me in the backyard where I was preparing the flower beds for winter.  Digging up and dumping plants that wouldn’t survive, covering the furniture with tarps. 

“Mommy, mommy, mommy!  Bugs!  Get ‘em!” 

Setting down my trowel and brushing my soiled hands down the front of my jeans, I made my way to the front of the house where I saw the pile of ants covering the orange crumb beneath the movement of tiny black bodies.  I could barely make out the chip anymore. 

Steve. 

I picked up the bug infested Dorito, tossed it into the trashcan and smothered it with Raid. It was an unusually warm fall and I felt sort of guilty for taking away the ant’s food source.  They, too were probably gearing up for winter, hoping to take it back to their ant friends in the colony so they could munch on it for months to come. 

But could it be that it was also a source of food for me?  Food for the thoughts he consumed, nibbling at my essence and eating my conscience?  Did that make me his food?

He left that day almost as unexpectedly as he’d arrived.  He always did have a way with arrivals and departures.  This time, after professing his love for me once again and my flippant response, he gathered his legs up from under him like a baby colt and said, “Thanks for lunch.” 

 He got into his shiny SUV and started it with a click before disappearing with a nearly silent purr. 

It was big change from the car we used to make-out in, a red Cavalier that started with a rumble that never ended because of an old muffler. 

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Fiction Friday: Meet a New Character from my Novel-in-Progress

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By Leslie LindsayWrite on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel

After culling through  my completed manuscript and making notes…okay, about 100 color-coded notecards, I have come to the conclusion that I need another layer woven into the tapestry of my story.  Meet Nolan Baxter.  He’s there for a reason: to impart information to the reader that main characters Annie and Steve may not know or have access to.  He’s there to make readers say, “WTF?”  and he’s going to help tie things together in the end. 

Take a peek.  Let me know your thoughts.  Remember, this is an original work of fiction. Please do not make your own. 

***Be sure to LIKE my Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/LeslieALindsay1?ref=hl***

“Nolan Baxter wrote the obligatory ghost story on Halloween, the stories of lasting love on Valentine’s Day and interviews folks around the Bean about homelessness.  Worse, Nolan Baxter was a chameleon, his colors changing based on who he was around—and how he could please them, never fully understanding who he was and what made him tick.

          Human interest stories became his passion.  What interested others surely would interest him.  But, it didn’t. 

          Still yet, he had a job to do.  When the senior editor got wind of a special exhibit at the art institute, Nolan armed himself with a notebook and trucked down Michigan Avenue. 

          The flags flapped in the wind as Nolan traipsed up the steps of the massive stone building, his Converse sneakers ill-matched with his wide-whale cords and Gingham shirt.  He nodded to the overly large bronze lions standing guard—now weathered and turning green—commissioned from sculptor Edward Kemeys.  He found it interesting that the lions had unofficial names—the southern-most sculpture called “stands in an attention of defiance,” whereas the northern- most lion is referred to as “on the prowl.”  He knew all thanks to a past story he penned for the Trib on the 120th anniversary of the building. 

           When Nolan reached the front windows of the Art Institute, he flashed his press pass and followed an elderly docent inside. He marched forward and headed down the main staircase to the lower level where the traveling exhibits were on display.

           To his luck, one of the resident art professors shuffled about the lower level rounding up folks for a tour.

 “Art is like magic,” he began.  “Not many would identify art as magical,but I am not just anyone.”  Nolan rolled his eyes at the professor’s pretentious comment. He thought he had escaped the brainy type after graduating from journalism school.  No such luck.   “You see, artists have been employing the visual illusion since the fifteenth century, when Renaissance painters invented techniques to trick your brain into thinking that a flat canvas is three-dimensional, or that a series of brushstrokes in a still life is a bowl of luscious fruit.  It’s not—we all know it’s oil on canvas.”

           The crowd stirred, shifting their backpacks and hips, a mass of smelly bodies bathed in bad clothes and body odor.  Nolan nestled his pad of paper in his palm and feigned interest.  

            The Art professor began again, “Renaissance painters realized they could manipulate atmospheric effects by making tones weaken and colors pale as they recede from view.  They used shading, occlusion, and vanishing points to make their paintings…hyperrealistic.” 

          Nolan stifled a yawn and cracked his knuckles. 

          “Now, let’s fast-forward to 17th century Netherlands.  The Dutch developed a style of painting the French referred to as Trompe l’oeil.  That means, “trick the eye.”  These life-like paintings seem to jump from the frame.” The professor jumped a foot or so off the ground to illustrate his point. 

           Nolan Baxter clenched his jaw.  The professor side-stepped to a piece of art hanging on the creamy white walls.  “For example, if you’ll look at The Attributes of the Painter by Gysbrechts, you’ll see just that.” 

         Several overweight women huddled to the painting on the wall.  Sure enough, what appeared on the completed art was a three-dimensional depiction of the supplies of a painter.  A wooden frame with a darkened piece of canvas rolling off at the corner, paint brushes, and a pallet seemed to dangle from a painted-on nail.”

Fiction Friday: Deleted Scene

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By Leslie Lindsay

After careful review from my critique partner, this scene won’t be making the cut for my novel-in-progress, sad as that is…

My repsonse:  “I may have banged this out to understand my character’s story better.”  Remember, even if the writing’s good, it doesn’t always have a place in your current story.  So, I am saying good-bye to this piece but thought I’d at least give it a chance to be seen.  Remember, this is original work.  No part may be reproduced without consent from the author.  Thank you. 

Annie

31 years ago

Woodstock, GA

         “At five years old, I had long blonde hair, big blue eyes and was referred to as precocious.  It was summer.  The kitchen of my childhood home was blue, like the taste of muffins.  An aloe vera plant grew in the windowsill, green smooth and slick.  Cutlery clanged, filling the air with sparkly bursts of color. 

       “Do it again!” I begged mom bouncing in my chair at the table. 

       “Do what?” My mother turned slowly from the Whirlpool dishwasher.

       “Make the stars.”

       “Stars?”  She shook her head and looked at me like she hadn’t the slightest of what I was talking about, a silly childhood game.  Mom leaned forward, took a drag of her cigarette, dropping the ashes into the soil of the aloe vera plant.  I glowed like the sun. 

       “The sparkly rainbow stars.  Don’t you see them?” 

       “Annie,” she turned and looked at me that stern way moms do when they are angry.  “There are no stars.  These are dishes.” 

        With a child’s impatience, I dropped from my seat and walked to the dishwasher.  I picked up a spoon and a fork.  “Like this,” I said as I clanged the utensils together.  My eyes widened as I took in the iridescent colors expanding in my field of vision, bursts of color I could reach out and touch. 

        “You mean,” she said slowly, “The sound makes you think of stars?” 

         “No.  There are stars in the air.  Don’t you see them?” 

          She took the cigarette to her lips and inhaled.  “No, I don’t.”  She tapped the ashes into the plant again. 

           I stamped my foot in the linoleum.  “But you aren’t looking!”  I reached for a butter knife and fork this time.  Maybe different utensils made different shapes and colors.  I banged them together again and once again, the iridescent stars appeared.

         Mom snatched the fork and knife from my grip and flung them into the drawer.  “You must be seeing the sun reflect off the particles of dust in the air,”  her voice growing annoyed.

         I sulked, “Don’t you see them?” 

         “No.  I do.  Not.  See.  Stars.  Now, go sit down.” 

         I sucked in a deep breath then and stalked off.  Over my shoulder I muttered, “You’re just looking in the right place.”  At that point, mommy walked away from the sink and kneeled down so she was even with my height.  She put her arms on my shoulder. Her cigarette dangled from her lips as she said, “You are wrong.  I don’t want to hear anything more about seeing stars, or anything else for that matter.  No, scat!”  

        I slunk out of the kitchen and into the family room where I threw myself down on the couch.  I let out a wail of frustration, all fire-orange red like a dragon.  Mom’s gray voice warbled into the room like smoke cloud. 

        “Enough already, Annie.  Why don’t you turn on Sesame Street, or something?” 

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­          In Dr. Gupta’s office, mommy looked like a giant.  She didn’t fit in the tiny orange chairs that lined the table, she was too big for the saltbox dollhouse and the stubs of crayons didn’t fit into her hands very well when she tried to color.  And I knew she’d rather be anywhere else but sitting here with me and the kind doctor. 

          “An isolated visual hallucination is rare,” began Dr. Gupta.  She tilted her head and the ornate gold necklace she wore glistened in the light.  “More often—in children—psychotic symptoms present as agitated behavior, a sort of acting out,” and she glanced kindly at me in the corner, quietly playing with puppets.  “Have you seen any abrupt changes in her behavior or attitude?” 

          Mommy shook her head, “Well, no.  Other than the insistence that she saw stars.” 

          “Violence towards animals?  Changes in eating or sleeping habits?  Extreme sadness?”

          “Well, she eats like a bird, but that’s typical.  She’s very creative.  Perhaps she’s just making this stuff up?”

          “Perhaps.  Mind you, but I must ask—is there anything going on with your relationship with your husband?”

          “No.  Nothing like that,” mom looked at her wedding band and diamond, a prism of color reflecting from the sun to me.” 

          “A sudden change, or loss in your lives?  Even if it seems insignificant to you, it could mean a good deal to Annie.” 

          Again, mommy shook her head.  I knew she needed a cigarette.  She bit her lower lip and swallowed hard.  Surely Annie couldn’t be psychotic, she must have thought.  Annie, who would rather color and make stained glass sun catchers than watch television; who would read picture books by memory to her stuffed animals; Annie, who had mastered the swings all on her own.  Yet there was a truth inside of her head that made her think maybe I did have a problem.  A family history of mental illness. 

          “I had a great aunt who claimed to see things.  We all thought Aunt Louise was off her rocker, so we just ignored her.” 

          “In that case, if things worsen, I would recommend starting Annie on a low dose of Risperdal, to see if it makes much difference.”  Dr. Gupta reached forward on her desk for a pad of paper and scrawled out a prescription.  She ripped it off of the pad with a loud searing sound, like the wind blowing through a tight window. 

          My mother reached forward taking the white square of paper into her hands.  Her eyes lowered as she must have tried deciphering the doctor’s note.  “Okay,” she said.  I could see her voice trembling, undulating like waves blue and green and gray.  “Very well.  Thank you, Doctor.”

          She reached out her hand to me.  I dropped the puppet and clamored to her side.”

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Fiction Friday: Joe and Annie’s Marital Spat

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By Leslie Lindsay Fiction Friday:

Here’s a new excerpt from Slippery Slope.  The main characters are having a marital spat…due to her, uh…indiscretion, but no one knows just how slippery the slope can be.  A work of original fiction. 

         “Joe is in the master bedroom unpacking his suitcase from New York.  He hangs his garment bag over the closet door.  The tension is thick as I open and close drawers to our dresser, putting laundry away.    

       “She called me, you know,” he said abruptly. 

       I shook my head–confused, distracted, “Who called you?” 

       “The other day…Madi’s principal.” 

       My whole body grows cold, like ice.  My head feels dizzy, my mouth dry. 

      “Where were you?  Why were you late?” 

       I shove some socks into a drawer, turned to close it with my hips, “I….uh…was just running late,” I offered. 

       I fiddled with the laundry basket–that funny little piece that had broken off, flapping like a broken appendage—thinking of an excuse on the fly—or look distracted so I could concoct a better answer.  I was having lunch with my ex-boyfriend from before I knew you. 

       Joe sucked in a deep breath and asked, “Running late…doing what?” The man was tenacious. 

      Breezily, I respond, “Oh, you know…running around taking care household errands…and…one of those market research studies I do from time to time for extra cash.  Traffic got bad.” 

      As if that explained it all, Joe nodded and said, “Well, I was worried.  I mean, it’s not good for Madi to be last in line for pick-up.  Not that I could have done anything about it myself, but well…”  That’s your job, you big bozo of a mother. 

      “So, I could have died in a car crash and that is why I was late to preschool, and you are worried about Madi being the last kid for pick-up?” 

        “No, no.  That’s not what I said, Annie.”  He cleared his voice, “I just was worried—first, if there was a problem with you, and second how Madi was feeling.  I hated being the last kid for pick-up from school, sports, whatever…and I don’t want our daughters to feel that way, either.” 

     “That’s not what you said.  Your first concern was Madi.” 

     “Well, can you blame me?!  She is only three after all.  You are the mature, responsible adult here, her mother.” 

     My shoulders slumped, my eyes narrowed, “Don’t you go around making me out to be some irresponsible, soap-opera-watching, bon-bon-eating mother who forgets about her own children!  I know very well what my role is and I take it seriously.  It’s a lot of work running after these kids and keeping the house tidy.  If you don’t believe me, why don’t you give it try?  I will go off and do some work in some other city for awhile and eat fancy food, stay in a fancy hotel and call you on my cell phone for a change.”  

       “Fine!  Okay—let’s trade places, Annie.  You can go to work every day and deal with bosses and deadlines and make presentations and try to get your work published in research journals, maybe submit some things for a conference.  You can be away from your family for days on end and have to make small talk with people you barely know.  Bet you don’t even know how to manage a team of individuals, do you?  You can worry about whether or not you’ll get a promotion or a bonus…or fired, even!” 

     I felt the backs of my eyes prick, tears threatening to let loose, though I didn’t understand why.  Was it because I was being made out to be a dumb housewife, or was it because Joe was raising his voice at me, something he rarely did?

Fiction Friday:

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By Leslie Lindsay

Another excerpt from my novel-in-progress.  Plowing ahead!  Remember, this is original work–women’s ficiton.  Enjoy!  Write on, Wednesday:  Imagine a Better Writer

Thinking about Annie—about her life now—who she is, who’s she’s become.  A wife, a mother. 

Pregnant? Could that be just another illusion?  I mean, I knew she had kids—two of them to be exact—and Beth, well all she ever wanted was what Annie had.  It was like a bad joke; a twist of fate I wasn’t expecting.  Annie had everything she ever wanted—children, a home, an education.  Joe.  I wince.  An impediment to my goal. 

Annie.    

And all Beth wants is a baby.  With me.  I rake my hands through my hair.  Pregnant.   How can that be? 

I always assumed Annie and I would have children someday.  It was one of the reasons I fell so hard for her.  I pictured us having kids together—nurturing, maternal Annie.  If anyone was cut out for the job, it was her.  What more could I want—a wife who was a nurse.  Maybe a school nurse, who would place Band-aids on skinned knees and ice packs on sore heads; the summers off to be with our own kids.  It seemed like the ideal situation.

The first time I imagined our future family was a year or so after we had been dating.  Dad’s sister lived just outside of Athens.  Late winter—the dreary season in Georgia.  “Come with me to Aunt Christy’s,” he said.  “We can order pizza and catch up.” 

I had shrugged and told him I was busy with a chem lab, “Not today, dad.”  I shifted the receiver to the other ear and looked over to Annie sitting on my bed in the dorm, chewing on the tip of her pen. I probably rolled my eyes, humoring dad.  What I really wanted was to get back to our study date.  Annie needed help with pharmacology.  I understood it, the mechanism of action, uptake and reuptake loops, the way the chemical properties transformed into useful substances in the body.  But then something struck me.  I don’t know—the tilt of her head, a brief smile, her soft features. 

“Hey, wanna go to see my Aunt Christy?”  There was a part of me who wanted to show off my girl.  She lifted her shoulders and looked at the pharmacology text splayed open on the navy bedspread.  “Free pizza—“ I enticed her with a broad smile.

 

Fiction Friday: Proud Mary and Daring Steve

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By Leslie Lindsay Fiction Friday:

Here’s this week’s revisions on my novel…getting closer and closer to being done.  We’re just a little over the half-way point here.  This is told from character, Steve’s POV.  Your comments and feedback are always welcomed. 

          “My hands pound the steering wheel to the beat of Proud Mary as the MDX cruises through the town of Waubonsee.  My left foot taps it out.  I crank the volume.  To my left, the Fairfield River. Anglers stand in the shallow body of water, their gators pulled to their bellies.  My head bops in time to the music. I smack the thigh of my jeans. 

         Rolling on the river.

         I think of nothing but the song; how it propels me to a time and place when everything felt right.

        To the time I was with Annie.  The song played on the classic rock station during our first date as I drove circles in the parking lot.   I’ll find out soon if she still looks the same as she did that night. I smack my thigh harder, shifting my thoughts to the town as I peer out the window.    

         A white steeple pierced the sky—a giant penis pointing heaven-bound.  I looked at my crotch.  No action there.  Not yet, anyway.

         We never do anything nice and easy. 

          I scan the streets of Waubonsee.  Lots of Carmargo employees live here. The good side of town.  As I wind the car down the state highway through town, I see why.  A fuckin’ Mainstreet, USA.  My Sister’s Lil Donut Shoppe–what’s a college guy’s definition of a donut?  A poor substitute for a woman. 

          Annie.  There’s no substitute for her.  Not even Beth.

         Pawsitively Cute…an upscale pet boutique.  Speaking of Beth, I’d have to talk to her about getting a puppy instead of a baby.  Milk bones I can do.  Breast pumps, I cannot. 

         I eye the other shops on the block.  The place isn’t bad.  Guys at work said Waubonsee came complete with a signature school district, a mix of professional and blue-collar…the melding of urban and suburban.  All of those assholes from the city?  Well, they move here and clean up their act.  They Have a family.  Like Annie. 

        Left a good job in the city. 

        I lose myself in the music, the song picking up speed.  A distraction from what I am really doing: going to Annie’s house.  Shit, or get off the pot. 

        The fall colors make the place kind of nice, too.  Like a storybook; the book Annie returned.  Maybe the whole damn town is just an illusion. 

       Illusion…illustration. 

       Beth.  I belt out a tune.  I don’t want to think about her.

       She made me hate fall.  Before we moved to Chicago, Beth and I lived in the Quad Cities.  A doctor diagnosed her with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  What a joke of a diagnosis.  Sit in front of a light box for twenty minutes a day, take extra vitamin D.  Get some exercise.  Be a bitch.  That was the least-restrictive treatment approach. 

         I was all gung-ho on meds.

         Then I got transferred.  A promotion, actually.  To Chicago.  Beth gave me that slanty-pissy look.  I told her I’d build her a house.  A big one.  She actually smiled.  Just a little.

        I pull at the collar of my flannel shirt, unbuttoning it a bit and shifting in the car seat.   Indian summer.  I click on the air conditioning and glance at the clock on the dash: 12:42pm.  I have a meeting at 2 o’clock.  Some BS about that focus group.  I tap my thumb on the steering wheel. 

         Workin’ for the man every night and day.

         My scalp tingles with nerves and anticipation.  My mouth grows dry.  Like a piece of sandpaper has been shoved down my windpipe.  I make a left and then a right.  I remember the way.  I’m always somewhere I don’t belong.

       For some reason, I am not as nervous as I was the last time.   

       Prairiewood Drive.  The green road sign is dizzying.  My mouth grows dry.  I slow down for the moms power walking with kids in strollers, lifting my hand in an awkward salute. 

       My instincts tell me to stop.  Turn around in the driveway of that brick 2-story and go back to work, Steve.  But I keep going and grip the steering wheel tighter.   I am here for Annie.  I grip the steering wheel tighter.