Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Guest Post: Runaway — Inspired by Mandy Rose Writen by Author Susie Finkbeiner

I would like to introduce you to Author Susie Finkbeiner. She is from the great State of Michigan and has just finished her first novel and is currently working on three collections of short stories. She is one of the founding members of Kava Writer's Collective and is currently in works to start a literary journal for Michigan writers and artists.If you enjoy her work like I do please check out her website http://susiefinkbeiner.com/
Without further ado I give you Susie Finkbeiner:

Author Susie Finkbeiner

I woke up. The alley was dark and smelled like every bad odor mixed into one. My head was bleeding. And I had no idea who I was.

“Look at that. Runnin’ so fast you fell down and cracked your head.” That voice sent chills through my blood. When I looked at him, I was even more terrified. “Baby, why you gotta act like you don’t want it.”

“No. I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. I wished I could make my voice less pathetic. Less pleading. “Just leave me alone. I’m hurt. I need help.”

He started at me, hand on his belt buckle. He licked his lips in a way that made me want to throw up.

There was a crashing sound. He fell down. A woman stood behind him with a rolling pin.

“You okay, honey?” she asked.

It took me a minute to realize she was talking to me.

“Yeah. I guess so.”

She stepped over him to help me up. “Let’s get you inside and call the police on this scum bucket. I figure he’ll be down for a good half hour.”

“I have no idea who he is.”

“Well, you sure are lucky. Cause you was just about to get to know him pretty bad like.” She looked upwards. “Hey, Glen! Get yourself down here and make sure this dude don’t get back up. I’m callin’ the cops.”

She pulled me into a doorway. Had me sit at a dining room table. Gave me a glass of orange juice and a few crackers.

“Thank you,” I said. “Can you please tell me where I am.”

“You’re in Detroit. You from around here?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Whatchu mean you don’t know? Don’t they be teaching that kinda stuff in school no more?”

“I don’t know. But something’s wrong. I can’t remember anything.”

“We should get you right to the hospital. You got insurance?”

“I hope so.”

“Well, you got yourself a wallet?”

I checked my pockets. Just an address and $20. “Do you think this is my address?”

“Ain’t no city or state written on there.”

“Is that weird?”

“Honey, this all be weird.” She drew her face near to mine. “Your eyes be lookin’ funny. We better get you a ambulance.”
The doctor examined my eyes. Used tweezers to pull dirt out of the gash on my head. Cleaned me, stitched me, bandaged me.

“You don’t remember anything, eh?” he asked.

I shook my head. The  movement sent shots of agony down my neck.

“Well, then you probably don’t know that you match a missing child profile.”

“Do you mean, like, I was kidnapped or something?”

“Runaway. We’ve contacted your parents. They’re on their way.” He stood. “Would you like a sucker?”

“Yeah. That’s cool.” I took the treat. “Hey, did you talk to my parents?”

“No. One of the nurses did.”

“Can you ask her if they sounded excited?”

“Of course. But what parents wouldn’t be enthused that their lost child was found?”

“I don’t know. I just had a feeling.”

“Interesting. I’m going to make a note of that in your chart.”
Two adults walked into my room. A man. A woman. They stood, awkwardly far apart. They were afraid to touch me or show emotion or say anything.

“Are you my parents?” I asked. “The doctor said that I might recognize you. But I don’t.”

“Yes, sweetie,” the man said. His voice cracked. “It’s daddy and mommy.”

“Oh, I’m so glad they found you.” The woman rushed to me, held my head close to her chest.

“Please let go. You’re hurting me.” I pulled at her arms, knowing that the bandage would have to be wrapped again.

“Do you feel okay?” The man walked to the other side of my bed.

The man and woman both held my hands. Trying to see who could get the most eye contact. Competitive over me. Their daughter.

“Why did you run away? Precious, we’ve been so worried.” The woman let a tear fall on my bed sheet.

“I called the police right away.”

“I made sure they did an Amber Alert.”

“The news stations came to me for a press conference.”

“Well, who got the prayer chain going?”

Were they fighting over me? A memory slipped back. They were fighting. All the time. Screaming. Throwing things against the wall. Cheating on one another.

“You’re getting a divorce, aren’t you?” I asked.

“The doctor said you wouldn’t remember anything.” My mother put her hand on my forehead. I wondered if it was instinct or a power-play.

“I remember the fighting.”

“Oh, honey, you weren’t supposed to hear all that.” My father placed the back of his hand on my cheek.

“It was so loud. How could I not hear it?”

And so, I ran away. I remembered. I ran because I couldn’t take it anymore. All the battles over custody. Money. The house. The cars.

My father’s voice reverberated in my memory, “If we’d never had her this divorce would have been over long ago!”

I remembered the pain of realizing that I was part of ruining their lives. They could have been happy. But I was there, forcing them to remain miserable. How many nights had I sobbed, trying to be quiet so they wouldn’t hear me? Countless. Far too many.

And so I left. So they could be happy without me and without each other.

“If you wouldn’t have fought so hard for the house, she would have never left,” my mother said, accusing my father.

“Oh, don’t you put this on me,” he answered. “She was fine. The divorce wasn’t bothering her.”

They yelled over my hospital bed. Cussing and spitting venom and not once listening to the other.

“Okay, listen up!” The voice was loud. Smooth. “The last dude that bothered my friend got a rolling pin to the skull. Anybody else wanna tango with me today?”

“Excuse me,” my father turned his tempter toward her. “This is a family affair here. It doesn’t concern you.”

“What’s her name?” she asked, smiling at me.

“Vivianna.” My mother looked at me. Scowling. “His mother insisted on that name. Otherwise we wouldn’t get an inheritance.”

“That’s not true. She just wouldn’t put money in Viv’s college fund.” My father pointed his finger into the air.

“Yeah. A lot of good that college fund did. She’s just a runaway now.”

“Vivianna,” the woman said, her dark eyes sparkling. “I know enough Spanish. That name means ‘life’.”

My parents backed away from my bed. It was like some kind of magic repelled them.

“Vivianna, your parents be some selfish peoples. You know that, right, sugar?”

I nodded.

“But that don’t mean you gotta be runnin’ around, gettin’ jumped by every scum in Detroit.” The woman put a hand on my foot. “It sure be hard to know which is better. The street or bein’ with these two. They be unhappy folk, ain’t they?”

I nodded again. It felt like a trance I was being pulled into.

“It ain’t your fault. You know that? It’s their fault. They be the ones messed up. They be the ones not workin’ it all out. But it ain’t your fault at all, baby girl.”

I felt a freedom. A new life. Fresh air. Brighter light. Weight left me.

“I know somewhere’s in their hearts they love you. I suspect they ain’t gonna be so hard on each other. Not no more.” She looked at my mother and father. “Right?”

They nodded at her, in awe.

“You be precious, Vivianna. You live. You stick around at that house of yours. Don’t come back to the streets. Ain’t no place for you.”

“But the address…” I said.

“That address ain’t no place you wanna go, doll. You be findin’ all kinds of trouble there. I had a friend check it out. Full a’ no good. More a’ what that thug wanted in the alley.” She waved the thought off. “Now you go on home with your mom and dad. They ain’t gonna put you in the middle no more.”

Then she was gone.

My parents sat in the chairs. Looked at me. Were quiet.

I closed my eyes, trying to remember my family as whole. Happy. Smiling. That memory never came.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding Hemingway Part One

This past weekend was so fantastic. Truly one of the best weekends that I can remember. I spent it with my wife and two sons in the beautiful town of Ketchum Idaho. It wasn't the easiest of trips to begin with but before I get to the tale of woe I want to publicly thank the Blaine County Republican Women, especially Suzan and Trish for the support they gave to me and my fellow soldiers in Iraq this past year and for the amazing warmth and hospitality that they showed to my family this weekend, thank you.

In planning the route to take on a trip it usually comes down to one of two things: first, the distance and second, the scenery. However our route was planned by our dog Maggie. You see we weren't able to take her with us so we set up plans to have someone in our home town of Idaho Falls watch her but at the last minute those plans fell through and so I called my parents to see if they would do it. I actually knew that they would, they love Maggie but that is also the reason they weren't my first choice because I have a secret fear that one day they will snatch her and take her to Mexico or some other country where dognapping extradition laws are vague. At any rate Maggie was going up to the folks house and I had two choices: take Maggie up the night before or the morning of. Neither option seemed that exciting as it would add 60 extra miles on to my trip. So I sat and thought about it and it hit me that we could drive Maggie up, get lunch in Rexburg, and then go across the desert and see some of those pretty places we've never been to.

In retrospect I wonder if that is how the Donner Party started out, I can just imagine the conversation.
"Hey babe, why don't we take the Hastings cut off? We have to go that way anyway to drop the mining supplies off at your sisters."
"I don't know isn't it a bit dangerous this time of the year?"
"Oh we'll be fine. And besides it has great scenery. Maybe we can even grab a bite on the way."

With Maggie dropped off, lunch secured and iPhone map in hand we set off toward Arco via Mud Lake. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was bright and there were no clouds in the sky. We passed through Mud Lake and I commented that it would make the perfect setting for a good serial killer story. My oldest son wanted to know why it was called Mud Lake and being a good father I made up the best answer that I could think of.
"It's because there was a lake and now it is just filled with mud. In fact they only use it for mud wrestling and making mud pies."
Being the good son he is he immidiatly asked my wife if that was true and she just shook her head.
"He's just teasing you."
As we crossed the desert my passengers began to be absorbed in their iPhones and Game Boys. I had small tinge of envy wishing they would put some form of video entertainment in the steering wheel so I would have something to do while I drove.
Our first stop would be in Arco. Before the end of the Cold War the US Navy trained its sailors on nuclear submarine engines in the Idaho desert near Arco and to commemorate that past, the town of Arco received the sail from the decommissioned USS Hawkbill. I had read about it in the local paper a few years ago and always wanted to go out and see Satan's Submarine, but just had never had the time to go.
Jonah, Riley and Charity in front of Satan's Submarine in Arco Idaho.
From Arco we would be traveling to the Craters of the Moon national monument where my budding scientist Jonah could learn about the area's lava flows, my wild child Riley could run off his energy and the rest of us would enjoy some scenery. This route would continue taking us along the very flat part of the Idaho desert. But as I drove this route the odd thing I kept noticing was the large mountains with just a touch of the first snow and the beautiful leaves that were showing their fall colors in the big clumps of trees. This did not seem right but I kept seeing the signs saying "Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway" so I continued to assume I was on the right road. It was when I hit the town of Mackay and needed to stop for gas that I knew I had gone the wrong way.
"Babe I really messed up and I missed our turn." I confessed to Charity.
"I thought you were just taking another way, see you can still get to Ketchum from here." She showed me the map on her iPhone. There was a small blue colored route that cut across the mountains just a few miles out of town. The map program said it would be an hour and a half drive but it was only 45 miles and we assumed that the program was just being cautious.
Finally making the turn onto Trail Creek, after I once again missed the turn, we found that Trail Creek was a lovely two lane paved road with a 55 mile an hour speed limit. The mountains were craggy, dotted with aspen trees that were displaying bright yellows and reds and the road passed over a score of mountain streams. To put it simply it was beautiful.
"This isn't bad at all." I said confidently.
We passed a small wooden sign that said "Chilly Cemetery." We looked off into the distance and saw at the end of a washboard road a small fenced off cemetery nestled at the foot of a mountain.
"We're not taking this way back, we should go see it." Charity said.
I gladly turned the car in and slowly trundled along the bumpy road. Both Charity and I enjoy, in a very normal unghoulish way, roaming through cemeteries. There is something about seeing the names, especially those that have died too young, that resonates with me and my own loss. And there is also a wonderful art in the memorializing of a person and their deeds in stone.

Chilly Cemetery off of Trail Creek road
It was remarkable to both of us how, this final resting place that was so far off the beaten path, was so well kept. There was also a surprising mix of very old and sadly recent headstones. Not only were these people buried in a place of beauty their loved ones cared enough to make the trek on a regular basis for the upkeep.

We took several photos and finally loaded back into the car and headed down Trail Creek road. We were making excellent time until we came down the side of one of the many sloping hills to see a sign I had been worried that might crop up; "Pavement Ends." Our 55 MPH highway turned into a 35 MPH back-road littered with rocks of various sizes and jagged edges waiting with hungry eyes to take a bite out of our tires. Not only was our little Toyota Matrix already feeling very out of place, up ahead loomed a small one lane mountain road that we would have to take in order to reach Ketchum and find Papa Hemingway's house.
It didn't look good, but it could be worse.
"Babe, we just lost cell service." Charity said.

That's all the time for Write Now but come back soon for part two.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's Spooky Time!

This is hands down my favorite time of the year and if I had a way that I could bottle the Halloween feeling and drink it in everyday I would. I mean what is better than being able to make the outside of your house look like a creepy cemetery and the inside like something a witch would feel comfortable living in? And don't forget to top it all off you get at least one day when you can play dress up out in normal society and no one thinks you're too weird (sorry, but there will always be at least one person who thinks you're weird.)

As soon as October first rolled around I pulled out the skeleton flamingos and put them up in the yard. They were a little dusty but very eager to get out to work adding to the spooky ambiance with the tombstones. Inside my sons helped me put up wall decals and distribute the cobwebs. All in all a very good job, it's just sad it will all come down so soon. I stopped in at the local Every Think store and they are already crowding out the Halloween decorations with Christmas stuff. I really wish we could just get through one holiday at a time.
Anyway, all this great spookiness has been getting me thinking of writing some spooky stories. Certainly my new novel, Loves Deception, has some great thrills, but none of that spooky Halloween element that I see as the supernatural.

This last weekend I went to Salt Lake City for a wedding and while there took the family to see this great little shopping village where all the shopkeepers had decorated with these fantastic witches made from pumpkins and gourds. Just walking around and taking it all in gave me such a great Halloween feeling. Of course maybe if it was Halloween all the time it wouldn't have that same effect. It would be a lot like stores selling eggnog all year, sure it would taste great and...well maybe that isn't the best example, but I'm sure it would lose some of it's magic. Maybe in the same way I could write a nice supernatural spooky book on occasion. So although the next three books I've got planned out are all squarely in the Crime/Thriller genre I would still like to explore the fun possibilities of the spooky supernatural with all its' great monsters and settings.
Actually I've had a couple of really good ideas for a book with a good Halloween feel to them but the paranoid writer in me doesn't want to share them just yet because I just know you'll steal them (because they're that good). Suffice it to say when they do come out you'll look back at this moment and say "Yeah, I would have stolen those ideas."

But that does leave a pretty open question: What makes a great spooky story? I think most of us have sat around the campfire, or flashlight, and told or heard a spooky story. Those types of stories sometimes even invade our everyday life. In Iraq the unit I was with was moved to a new base and it was really large with a lot of foreign nationals. Immediately we were instructed that we had to travel in groups of two or more and under no circumstances should we ever go visit with a foreign national. When asked why the extra care was needed we were told the following story:

Not too long ago on this very base a US soldier, just like you, made friends with a foreign national. They were good enough friends and the US soldier felt safe with the foreign national. One day the US soldier wanted to go and visit his new friend but no one wanted to go with him so he decided that he would go alone. So he crept out of his CHU and do you know what happened?

He was never heard from again!

Now I have no idea if that story was even close to being true (and certainly I have taken some liberties in the retelling). I do think this type of story certainly demonstrates several of the parts that really help to make a good spooky story.
  1. Familiar Location.
  2. Similarity of character.
  3. Hanging ending.
So first, just like in realty, location plays such an important element. Having a familiar location that your reader can identify with will make it seem more real and therefore more believable. A lot of those old ghost stories I've heard might be the same but their locations are easily transplanted from one state to another.

Second, like with the location, you need characters that your reader can relate to in a close way. This of course is true in any genre of writing but in a story that will have the reader abandoning some reality to buy in to your supernatural spooky story I believe that you must add even more similarity to your main character to increase the believability factor.

Lastly the use of leaving the ending open for debate on what really happened will leave people talking about the story much more than if it was all wrapped up like a Scooby Doo mystery. And with this type of ending it leaves a nice opening for a sequel no matter how many of your characters you may have killed off.

Well that's about it for now. I hope you have some great Halloween plans and lots of haunting to do.