Friday, September 29, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine, Chapter 5 + 6

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.

 Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.

Read past posts: Chapter One. Chapter Two. Chapter Three. Chapter Four.

Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete, 2,924 words
By Stephanie Thompson

Chapter Five

She slept. Thanks to the alcohol she couldn’t wake up from her dreams. She followed them through to the end and woke in the morning feeling sick.

Not hungover sick. Anxiety sick. A sort of dizzy wave mixed with a surreal disconnection. When she stood up and looked at her feet, they didn’t look like they belonged to her and the ground wouldn’t stay still. When she made it to the bathroom and looked in the mirror the face of some other woman looked back at her.

The woman looked remarkably like she once did. Bedraggled nape length hair and questionable bangs, sleepy gold and green eyes, full lips, and smooth toasted skin. The woman looked good which was why she didn’t think they were one in the same. The woman looked no older than 30 tops, far off from the 100 years and more Chrys was (she stopped counting in those catacombs) and much less than the tired millennia she felt. She couldn’t believe she still looked the same.

She drank cold water from the bathroom faucet and submerged her face in the stream. She ran her wet fingers through her hair and sobbed. She wasn’t expecting that. The strangled short cry, the trickle of tears took her by surprise. She turned off the faucet and leaned on walls to make it back to bed, deliberately avoiding the mirror.

She laid in bed and stared at a wall. The walls of her bedroom, in her whole home were blank. There were no loved ones in her life, no memories she wanted to keep, no places she wanted to revisit in pictures. The white blank walls brightly reflected sunlight, the opposite of the walls where the Council would put her again for failing. She stared at the walls like some answer, some solution would materialize there. But nothing came because her mind was numb and walls are dumb.

 She tried to visualize data on them like they were the digital ones at HQ yet instead of intelligence and maps she saw the images from her dreams. Heard the growl of the wolves ripping away her limbs, gnawing at her, each bite like a lash in her flesh. She saw the lake of clotted blood and the dismembered body parts pulling her beneath it’s fetid surface. Tasted the putrid mix choke her. And she saw Jack.

Her sword slid from his chest. He steadied himself on a stone column. Blood poured out of him. Too much blood. She felt that hand around her throat, the powerful hand that chokes her before she can say I’m sorry. Before she can I say I love you. The strong hand of her true target. She heard that familiar voice twisted with hate.

“Now he knows who are you are.” Will says. “Now he knows what it is to be loved by you.”

Then the sword piercing her heart.

Another sob threatened to break free. And she’d had enough. Enough of being haunted. Enough of crying. Enough of chasing. Enough of running. She got up from the bed. She went to the garage, grabbed a stack of empty file boxes, and went into her living room office. She started with the oldest portfolios and began packing.

It took the rest of weekend to bundle her past, William’s past. She didn't sleep. She moved boxes from the garage to the living room and back to the garage. Then she cleaned. Not that anything needed cleaning but she scrubbed anyway.

She poured the full reserve of the council's synth-blood «get a better name» down the drain, then washed the sink again.

Then she laid out her weapons. She didn't have many. She shouldn't have any. The council would only let her have a dull pair of scissors. She managed to get and hide two hunting knives in the beginning though, when she refused to be defenseless.

She also had lighter fluid from who knows when and where and a hammer. She didn’t know what kind of good lighter fluid would do without a lighter or match but it made her feel better having it on the table. A hammer is always a good idea, so it was on the table too. No matter the plan. Which she didn’t exactly have.

Then again her plans had led her to where she was today, looking at a dining table topped with instruments of destruction, so maybe no plan was the best plan. She put the armory in a bank box with some other items the didn’t fit in the with papers and books in the other boxes. She could at least get them in the building that way.

Chapter Six 

Monday afternoon her heart pounded. She’d smuggled her tools into the office in the box she’d called evidence. One of the hunting knives was tucked in the back of her waistband, beneath her shirt. The other she slid in the upright of her right boot. Both were unsheathed and their sharp edges threatened to slice her skin before she was ready. She risked the injury.

And she waited. She waited for the meeting to start. She waited for her doom. Because she wasn’t going to do anything drastic until she knew for sure. She had to be certain that there was no other choice. She already had too many regrets to count, she didn’t want to add another one unnecessarily.

The time of the meeting never seemed to come but like all things inevitable it did.

The set up was the same, Simmons and West sat at the main table, Chrystal off to the side. Gareth was on the wall screen and shared it this time with Petran. The fact that this was the first time the High Councilman had joined any meeting in visual form cemented her fate in her mind.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen. Ms. Voss. We have to say, given the reports. We cannot see there is much more to be gained here,” Gareth was straight to the point.

“I agree sir. Despite the aggressive tactics of the last month, there’s been no sign of the target or new intel. I doubt the validity of the task force approach at this point,” Simmons said. “I suggest a more targeted and discreet tactic. A one on one deep cover assignment for new operatives.”

“I’m sorry I have to completely disagree.” West chimed in. “We’ve conclusively proven Lapointe is not in Europe. If we continue the intense grid search on other continents, we are sure to smoke him out.”

“Mr. West, the EU cannot maintain the level of security required to make your suggested grid search possible. The French especially are unhappy, it will be a short amount of time before they start denying requests of cooperation. In which case the Coexistence Ms. Voss and Mr. Lapointe set out to destroy may very well disintegrate as they wished it.” Petran leaned forward, his face filling his half of the screen. “I have to say, it was very clever plan, Ms. Voss. Much more clever than I would have credited to you. Or was Lapointe the tactician and you merely the weapon?” The bastard actually smiled.

“Sir, specialist Voss has worked harder than any of us on this case, if you’re implying that she’s somehow been misleading the investigation, then you’re mistaken. We’ve followed every lead, every piece of information . . .”

“West. . .” Simmons interrupted.

And so did Petran. “I am not interested in your opinion, young man. I’m interested in the evidence. All this task force has achieved is to let William Lapointe run free while delivering a fairly insignificant rebellion group who had all turned against him regardless. And while it is noble that you defend her, you do not know what she and the man she claims to hunt are capable of doing.”

“Gentlemen, there is no need to continue arguing.” Gareth interjected. “Clearly Specialist Voss was a valuable asset at one point but she is not any longer. She will be returned to our custody and we will consider a new tactic for tracking the target.”

Returned to our custody. He said it so casually. Like it was a normal prison. Like there was nothing cruel and unusual about those earthen caves, built of bones, blacker than pitch, and manacles of spikes, chains so heavy she couldn’t move. And conditions far worse when they wanted something.

She leaned forward, almost ready to grab the knife from her boot. Every muscle tensed. Her heart stepped up a beat. She could free the blade and force it through her heart in under minute, before the men would notice she’d moved.

“Sirs, I must strongly object. . .”

“Obviously, she has clouded your judgement with her wiles.” ----not this but something like this----

“Give it up, West. It’s time to cut bait,” Simmons said.

Her fingers gripped the knife hilt and paused. She remembered something. The men kept arguing and she remembered seeing something in a dark bar over someone’s shoulder. A brightly feathered lure, trailing through the water. It looks like what they want, so they go after it. Can’t help it.

“There’s something we haven’t tried,” she said more to herself than anyone since she assumed everyone was ignoring her.

“What?” Simmons said, he was closest to her.

“We’ve spent all this time chasing after him when we should have been drawing him out. Baiting him, luring him from hiding,” she said. She released the knife. She moved to the end of the table, center view of the cameras.

“Use me to get him to poke his head out. Leak my wearabouts, let him find me. Then we can grab him.”

“No,” West said.

“That’s ludicrous,” said SImmons.

“This sounds like a desperate plan” said Gareth.

Silence came from Petran.

She spoke as the ideas came rushing to her. “It can’t be too obvious, he has to know I’ve been working to bring down the rebellion just based on the arrests we’ve made but he doesn’t have to know my full role. Fabricate a record, a timeline, my affiliation. Leak them to the dark web as recently uncovered documents, so he won’t be as suspect about the information suddenly coming out. I’ll have to move…”

“Move?” Simmons was indignant.

“Will believes that vampires are a superior race and that he and I are were meant to rule like gods, putting humans in their rightful place as cattle. If he finds out that I’m living in a cheap apartment in a shabby complex as a low level civilian asset to a human military, he will have to gloat. Lord over me. He won’t be able to stop himself.”

“You can’t make yourself bait, it’s too dangerous,” West said.

“No more dangerous than going undercover. Much less dangerous than having some unknown attempt an approach. More potential to work than scrapping the task force.” Nobody else had anything to say, so she continued. “I can be implanted with a tracker, for long distance, discreet surveillance. I can make myself more visible, some how. Like I think I’m safe, like I think he’s not a threat. That will really get him angry. He is very reckless when he’s angry.”

“Your dedication is admirable but Specialist...this is not a sound course of action.”

“I agree with Ms Voss.” High Councilman Petran’s statement brought the room to silence. “I would like to see the action plan by the end of the week, Ms. Voss.”

She nodded as she couldn’t bring herself to say yessir to a man she hated just as much as he hated her even when they were in agreement.

He ended his part of the call.

“Ah, well, then gentlemen, I guess we are adjourned for today. Ms. Voss.” Then Gareth disconnected as well.

“What the hell are trying to pull Voss? Made us look like a bunch of idiots.”

She had five different response to that question. She chose the shortest. “Just trying to do the job sir.”

She hoped his teeth would be sore later from the force with which he was grinding them now. “This is you final shot, do not fuck it up. This has been an embarrassment to our special forces for long enough.”

When he left, Chrystal let out a long sigh. Her breath shook. The blades hidden on her body seemed hot and dangerous now. She leaned on the table and took another deep breath.

“What are you doing, Chrys?”

She’d forgotten West was there.

“Why are you taking this risk?”

She said nothing.

“There has to be another way.”

“There’s not.”

She left the conference room going in the direction of her office where the sheaths waited.

“You do not have to do this.” West followed her out again, struggling to keep up, like a puppy who’s legs are too short. “Or are you bluffing? Just trying to buy some time?”

She didn’t answer him until they got to her office. A small room, about the size of a storage closet. There was a desk and three chairs and a bookcase. She rarely used the room and it was mostly a holdover from when she was first assigned to the task force. When West shut the door behind them, a torrent of words tumbled from her.

“What do you think was happening in that meeting? Did you think your three superiors were going to listen, act on your say so? Did you think when Councilman Crannach said I would return to custody that I’d go some place like a human prison?” She stopped for a deep breath, to steady herself, to stop from yelling. She moved to the edge of the desk, gripping the edge, like holding it would ground her again.

“Please, tell me because I want to understand,” he said.

If she talked, she would say the truth. An ugly truth. But in less then ten minutes she’d gone from the edge of suicide to a glimmer of some kind of hope. It was dizzying and put her in a confessional mood. She couldn’t not talk about it.

“I don’t think like Will. I don’t think vampires are better. I think we’re worse. We look like humans, we act like humans but there is a streak of brutality in us. Petran and Crannach like to pretend that Will and I are the only monsters but The Council has had thousands of years to perfect punishment and they do not hesitate to use their impressive skills against transgressors.”

She pulled up her sleeves, revealing the white hatch marks of scars encircling her wrists. “I was not going back.”

 “I thought,” he stuttered. “I mean I thought you guys healed. . .”

“They’ve learned how to leave marks. Reminders. Warnings. All over.” She tugged her selves back down.

“Why didn’t you tell me? We’re partners, you can trust me.”

“You have to stop telling yourself that. It’s not about trust. You can’t be loyal to me and the military command.” Here was the ugly part. “They would’ve had you make the arrest, put me in cuffs. You have to know that. You would have to take me to the brig until a council representative could arrive. Would you have thrown away your career, your freedom to disobey those orders to have my back? To stop something you didn’t even know would happen?”

He looked down.

“And I’ve told you I wasn’t going back, right?”

He still didn’t meet her eye. She reached her hands around to the knife at her back, under her shirt. She put the bare blade on the desk right where he was looking. Now he met her eye again.

“I brought it to the meeting for me, to die before. . . but you would have tried to stop me and I was. . . prepared to do whatever it would have taken . . .to never return to their custody.”

She sat in her chair, exhausted. She took the second knife from her boot, there was no point in hiding it anymore. He sat across from her and was silent for a long time.

“You know, it’s not the way I would have imagined it but when I say I’m your partner, that we’re squadmates, it means I’m willing to fight beside you, to die with you, to die for you. If that meant dying in that conference room then that would have been my hill, you know?”

This time she was silent for a long time. She was still trying to catch up with with had happened. The adrenaline coursing through her was still telling her to run. Her mind was telling her that this plan was insane and would fail too. Her emotions were uncomfortable.

“That’s very noble of you but. . .” She reconsidered. “Thank you.” Her cheeks burned hot, her eyes were wet, and now it was her turn to look away.

“Luckily, we didn’t have to do any of that but I’m not as sold on this bait idea as Petran.”

She was still trying to get her embarrassment and releif under control, too emotional to speak. “I bet Simmons is pissed he even mentioned bait.”

 Chrystal laughed. “Thank god he did though or. . .” She cleared her throat. “Now we actually stand a chance.”

“Do you really think Lapointe will fall for this?”

“It might take some time but yes. He will not remain hiding and miss his chance at revenge.”

“And you don’t mind putting yourself in danger?”

“It’s better than . . . the alternative. And to be quite honest, it will give me a chance for revenge too.”

Thanks for Reading! :D

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What I Listen to While I Write (#AuthorConfession Day 27, part 2)

When it comes to what I listen to while I write, I probably spend too much time thinking about and building project-specific playlists, usually on Spotify. But having the right music is important when it comes to my process.

I cannot write in silence and I can't just listen to any song either. How can I write the very serious love drama of an immortal vampire triad if a 'Weird' Al Yankovich track polka starts playing? What kind of fictional murder has "Fuck You Betta" by Neon Hicks as a soundtrack? No, it's better to have the playlist fit the writing than depending on the iTunes shuffle of my entire music library.

I have 16 novel playlists shared on Spotify. This doesn't count the multiple lists within folders for a few of them. Nor does it count the generic NaNoWriMo lists I have that are meant to be encouraging songs for the first and last days of the event. It also doesn't include the ones in my iTunes library on my computer. Or all the ones I've lost on previous computers. Or the ones I had in my head back in the day when I first started writing fiction. So you see, music and writing have gone hand in hand for me for a very long time. More on that next week when I'll be writing more extensively on music's role in my life. Right now, let's get back to my playlist obsession.

Like I said, I have 16 novel playlists but I don't think I could name 16 of my own novels. I have so many because I sometimes decide that the playlist I made at the beginning doesn't fit the novel anymore as I probably went in a different direction than I expected. A good example of this is my NaNoWriMo novel last year, Write What You Know.

The initial playlist I created for Write What You Know has more party songs and angry hard rock because I thought there would be more clubs, bars, sex, vampires, and fighting then what I ended up with.  The revised playlist, called We've Always Been Crazy, has more of a moody feel with angsty and sad songs instead of fast, driving punk or sensual R+B.

For similar reasons, I have various playlists for my current work in progress, Consumption Divine. Not only have I been working it for so long that a number of playlists are pretty much inevitable but also the different parts of the book contrast greatly with each other. The current part I'm working on is the final section, the end of the entire story centuries in the making. My main character is less angry than in her early years, she feels frustrated and trapped by everyday life but is resigned to it. Then she meets someone who knows will bring disaster and trouble to all of them but not only does she need him for her current mission, she's drawn to him as he is to her. Their love story is one of reluctance but also an overwhelming desire but the other main story earlier in the novel (or its prequel or whatever this ends up being) she is full of fury and rage. Then she meets someone who helps her harness that rage but also fuels it. Their love story is destructive and violent but just as overwhelming and all-consuming. There is no way that the playlists could be the same for both parts.

And while all of this may be interesting (hopefully), I haven't said why I even bother in the first place.

Yes, a huge part of it is that I can't write in silence and yet there's more to it at the same time. Not only do I have a strong attachment to the art form in general (again, more on that next week) but music and lyrics powerfully evoke emotions, mood, and story in a short time and with no effort on my part. In turn, I transform that work's effect on me into my own original creative output. It's like using their creative force to help fuel my creative force. Art feeding art.

For example, the song "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler is almost single-handedly responsible for Consumption Divine. When I first heard that song oh so many moons ago, a number of nascent threads in my mind immediately wove together to form the story. But it had a lot of help from Jesus Christ Superstars (Judas), The Phantom of the Opera (Phantom), "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues (Knights), and "Like A Prayer" by Madonna.  And much later, when I thought this story was dead and I wasn't going to work on it anymore or even be a writer, "My Immortal" by Evanescence brought it back to life. And when I wanted to make it something more than my teenage wish-fulfillment paranormal romance, Sweeney Todd and Moulin Rouge! (with its own mixed bag of musical influence), gave meat to the story's bones.

I try to express and give context to the emotions that I get when I hear these songs as well as the power of those emotions when I write my novel. And having the playlist going while I write keeps those emotions fresh in my heart and mind which can often ease my writing process.

Hopefully, that makes some sense. I've never tried to explain it before but music and its importance in every aspect of my life has been in the forefront of my mind for almost three months now. These two posts for #authorconfession is only the beginning.  As I mentioned, next week I will be covering the topic more extensively in a series of posts because it's a topic I've wanted to write about for years. For now, I think I need to tweak some of these playlists yet again.

My Writing Theme Song (#AuthorConfession Day 27, part 1)

This month on Instagram I've been participating in the #AuthorConfession prompts from J. Julien and J.M. Sullivan. It has been a lot of fun meeting and connecting with other writers of Instagram as well as thinking about my writing in all new ways. Normally I post my answer on Instagram but today's prompt is 'What is your writing theme song?' and the importance of music in my life has been on my mind lately. Next week, I will be posting a week of music-related posts but for today I'm sharing two related but separate posts. If you want to know about what I listen to while I write, read Part 2.

My Writing Theme Song

I've talked about my novel playlists before. I've shared the Spotify playlists that I use to motivate writing sprees on the first and last days of NaNoWriMo. But never before have I thought of just one song that I could call a theme song. And it seemed impossible.

From all the thousands of songs in my digital library, from the thousands more available on streaming services like Spotify and Play Music, how can I choose a single song that encompasses all the moods and themes of my various works of fiction? It is an insurmountable task. I do not listen to only one song as I write, not even one type of music. I couldn't. It would be impossible.

However, is there one song that I can say defines me as a writer? One that I could play for someone and would say this is me and this is how I write? Yes, it was possible.

In fact, it is so possible I do not even have to think about it. From the first time I heard this song, I felt it in my self, in my soul, this song is me and my relationship with writing.

here we go for the hundredth time

Do you know how many words I've written in my 20-plus years of fiction writing? My earlier parts of Consumption Divine in Scrivener right now it over 100,000 words, and doesn't include the drafts I wrote in high school or what I've done in the past month. This month for Consumption Divine I've written about 20k. According to the NaNoWriMo trackers, I've written over 200,000 in just for that event. I've written so much more fiction and plenty of non-fiction too between blog posts, college essays, and more.

digging deeper just to throw it away

Of all those words, a minuscule fraction actually sees the light of day. My one published story "Creeper" is only 5k words. Yet, I keep writing knowing very little of it will be seen by the public. I sit in my room every day, dig into my soul, bleed out the words, then save them in a digital file or close the notebook and essentially throw them away. Most of the time I don't even look at them again. This is also true almost every art or craft project I work on. My art journal pages or the things I make as gifts get given away or packed in a box and whether I like it or not I general don't look at it again. Yet I keep on creating.

I bleed it out

I feel like I've said this a thousand times but maybe that's only to myself. I have to write because there is something inside me that needs to get out. I don't know what that is but on every project, I keep getting closer and closer. I don't know what will happen when I finally cut it all out of me or if that will ever be possible.

"Bleed it Out" is the song that best characterizes how I feel about myself as not only a writer and writing itself but also an artist and finished art. It is the only song I can imagine being my writing theme song. Linkin Park is the only band who's music that could even come close to meeting this challenge. But more on that next week.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Social Anxiety on Social Media and/or Personal Brand vs Self Expression

Wow, that's a long title. This may be a long post. This may be one or two or three posts. Let's find out, shall we.

I quit my last real, normal, 9-to-5 steady paycheck job in 2009. I had no real rhyme or reason or plan. I didn't quit my day job to follow my daydream or live my passion of something equally inspirational and indie. Basically, I got drunk one night out with friends, heard a Black Eyed Peas song, remembered what it was like to be happy, and left my job the next day.

Yes, this song. Shut up.

Since then I've embarked on this journey of entrepreneurship in the internet economy. This journey has involved learning trying to learn html and css, attempting to master product photography, learning and practicing half a dozen crafting skills, a foray into videography, and most importantly, becoming a social media guru. Or at least taking a very determined stab at it.

I've read articles, bought books, studied guides to every platform trending at the moment. I've tried to figure out my personal brand and making it consistent on every account that allowed me to upload a profile picture type out 100 characters in an About Me box. I've posted content, tried to vary that content to the various platforms, and tried to interact on those platforms. I've followed, shared, asked questions and blah, blah, blah.

And time and time again I've felt like a failure. I didn't feel like I was making meaningful connections. I didn't feel like I was engaging my followers. I didn't feel like I was selling my self right or maybe my personal brand wasn't something anyone was interested in despite what my instinct told me.

So I'd retreat back into my self, think about what I wanted to do, what my brand was, tweak my profiles and try again. Rinse and Repeat. Rinse and Repeat.

More and more I've wanted to give up on social media entirely but at the same time I know that as a writer building a platform and audience is important if I want to court publishers and is crucial if I stay independent. Yet I couldn't pin down my personal brand, couldn't name the audience I wanted to reach, and I was constantly afraid of making an internet social misstep alienating any connections and friends I did manage to make.

Then it occurred to me that I am not a brand. I'm not selling my self or anything in particular. I'm not a personality or social media star and I don't want to be. I'm not a charming, sparkling personality. I am a person with an obsessive need or curse to constantly express my SELF. My enigmatic, evolving self.

I don't know entirely what that self. I think it becomes clearer through the expression. What I do know is that the sharing is terrifying. When I was trying to be a personal brand it was scary too because I was worried that I would tarnish my brand or be seen to be as fake as I felt. But this kind of sharing is even more dangerous because it is not hiding behind a facade or personality, it is me and I'm not convinced me is likable.

More than that the connections I want to make is not to an audience but people who will be friends. Who are interested in my expression of self no matter what that might be. People who aren't creeped out if I follow them on every platform or who won't think my comments are rude or mean because my digital tone is off (thus the exclamation points for excitement and emojis and the rainbows of hearts to ensure it's obvious that I'm being friendly, if you were wondering), and people who also expressing a self. This may be an old-school approach to social media but it's what I enjoyed back in the day of Xanga blogs, forums, AIM, and Yahoo! messenger and what I miss today in what seems like a much more complicated internet world.

But here's when my social anxiety comes in. Even in person, I have problems with my tone being appropriate. I have often come off as standoffish and bitchy or rude. I try very hard to avoid this impression. I worry constantly that I will lose friends or make a bad impression when I meet people. I agonize about some stupid thing I said, more so if I was drunk when I said it, even after years have passed. This same anxiety leaks online but like on crack because it moves so much faster. I can say 15 stupid things on 5 different platforms in under 30 minutes. I have a panic attack every time I hit send and my mind won't let go of some stupid autocorrect spelling mistake for the rest of my life.

With electronic communication, I agonize over wording and if emojis or an lol will help clear things up or make things worse because will it come off as some kind of empty annoyance instead of genuine emotion or attempt at communication. I never know when to end the loop of comment or emails. Will I look like I always have to have the last word or is it rude not to say more? Should I say thank you to everything or is a like/heart fine? When does a comment look like a criticism or an argument when I truly want to discuss something? How long is too long for any digital content whether a comment, an Insta caption, or a blog post?

Honestly, I could probabaly make book of unfinished posts, deleted comments, emails, and text messages never sent because I was too anxious about the content to share it. And it takes up so much time and energy and creates so much anxiety for me.

But it's also necessary.

Not because of platform building and audience reach and possibly earning money from it one day but because of that absolute constant need to express my self and connect that self to others. I lock myself in a room all day and write, write, write regardless if anyone is going to read it but I'm not fully satisfied that way. Even if nobody reads it online, I need it to be out there and out of me. That kind of writing happens regardless. So it's not just that.

I need to be a part of something. I need to reach out and touch someone and know I touched someone, somehow. Whether it's through my fiction, art, or something else entirely. And not in an inspiring, life-changing way but just in an 'I'm listening way'....I guess. Maybe that is something else I don't know.

Maybe I don't know what I want. Maybe I only know what I need to do and don't know how to do it. Maybe I've just learned what I don't want to do.

I don't want a FaceBook page. I don't want an Etsy store. I don't want to make unboxing, haul, or narrated videos. I don't want to try Snapchat or Periscope or anything with the word Live. I don't want to be a seller or a marketing guru or a brand.

I just want to be me. My weird, indefinable, dark, hysterical, moody me and get my 'me' all over you. And stop lurking in internet shadows and come into its light. No matter how many panic attacks I have along the way.

Friday, September 22, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine, Chapter 4

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.

 Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.

Read past posts: Chapter One. Chapter Two. Chapter Three.

Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete, 1,233 words
By Stephanie Thompson

Chapter Four

She had a week. One week left before she had to stand before Gareth, Petran, and Simmons to admit that she failed. She could not catch William. Unless he was dead, which was unlikely in her estimation, then his skill at evading capture exceeded her skills for hunting him.

The Council will never believe she's done her best, shared all her information, searched him out with the best of her abilities. Petran and Gareth will be more than happy to imprison her again, to torture her again, and there would be no relief this time. She will be tortured until William is caught and they’d been failing at that going on two centuries. She didn’t know what strength she had left to survive even a year’s worth of the Council’s imprisonment.

One week until she would have to make the case for her life.

She sat in her car outside of work, motionless. The rest of the team were at A. T. starting the weekend off with a few round of drinks. Chrystal had been invited but declined. She usually declined. She usually went home and either went through her records or stared at the walls of her bedroom going through memories. She couldn’t face doing either now. She also couldn’t stay in her car, in the parking lot, contemplating.

Peer pressure won out. “Drive to The Airborne Tavern,” she told the car at last.

The A. T. looked like a shack that gave up collapsing a decade ago but might try to finish the job any day.

Chrystal sat in her car again. Lights and loud conversation flowed out of the bar. She didn’t belong here. It was full of life, she was not. The thought of going home and the thought of going into the building left a rocks at the bottom of her stomach and she didn’t know which was heavier.

She leaned against the window, too tired to move. There was one way out, one way out of centuries of imprisonment and violent punishment. One way to finally be free, free from the Council, free from William, free from the nightmares. She was so very tired of the fight. She closed her eyes. So very, very tired.

If she couldn’t find him, she could spoil his revenge. If she ended her own life, he could never have the satisfaction. And for once she might even surprise him. It halfway seemed like almost a good idea except that it also felt like losing. Will would get what he wanted, plus a free shot at the Council ----please think of a better name or at least another one---- and the Council will get what they wanted, one less questionable vampire to threaten their Co-Existence. She would get what she wanted in a way too but she’d be too dead to enjoy it.

A knock on her car window startled her eyes open. The knocker was saying something to her but through the window he sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher through the glass. The car asked if she wanted to open the window or contact the authorities. She opened the window.

“What?” she asked.

“Are you ok? Do you need me to call someone?” the stranger said. Her car and window was low she couldn’t see the speaker’s face, only his dark urban camo uniform and his rank and name, Captain McNaughton.

“No, I . . .”

“Chrys! You made it!” West shouted across the small parking lot. He weaved his way to the car talking the whole way. “We were about to check out another bar but we can’t leave til you get a round in here. Who’s this guy?”

“Just making sure she was all right,” McNaughton said, backing up to make room for West and the equally intoxicated analysts tagging along with him.

“You all right, Voss?”

“Yup, just need a drink,” she said because she had no choice now. McNaughton continued to the bar ahead of them as she got out of the car.

“Let me get you your first Cannon Fodder,” West said, putting his arm compainobly around her shoulders.

Cannon Fodder was an apt name for a cocktail that felt like a fire in her chest and a shot to her gut. It tasted like gun smoke and acrid pepper. As burning and bitter as it was, it was better than feeling nothing. She had three as talk swirled around her. Teams she didn’t follow and tv shows she didn’t watch. Missions she hadn’t been on and commanders she hadn’t served with. Women she’d never met. Chrys spent a lot of time watching the tv behind the bar, hour after hour of closed captioned bass fishing.

People filtered out. Going home, going to other bars. West left her last, drunk at the end. She ordered another Cannon Fodder at last call, sipping it slowly, envious that the others could be drunk and happy about something as simple as the weekend. The alcohol concoction laced itself through her brain but she wasn’t drunk and the weekend still held nothing but an empty house and looming fate.

Another patron sat on the stool beside her. “You know, I feel like we’ve met somewhere,” he said.

Again Chrys saw his name patch first, McNaughton. “Yeah, in the parking lot,” she said uninterested.

“No some place else.”

“Maybe on base.”

She tried to glance at him, tried to glare, tried to make it clear she wanted to be alone but instead she froze, her eyes locked to his because she knew his face immediately. She’d seen it in so many of her nightmares.

“Could be on base,” he said his voice surreally normal. “But I don’t know, it feels different than that, you know?”

Without meaning to she said, “Yeah?”

She wanted to look away, back at her drink, back at the fishermen but she was trapped in his emerald eyes, the smooth angles of his visage, the gentle curl of his dark hair. He smiled and she couldn’t get away.

“I’m Jack,” he said.

“Chrys,” she barely spoke. “You can call me Chrys.”

“Your squadmates didn’t last, huh?”

“Well it’s late. I should be getting home too,” she said it but made no movements to go. She didn’t even lift her glass to finish her drink.

“I think I dreamed you. About you, I mean. . . I mean, I think that’s why your seem familiar to me.” He chuckled and looked at his beer. “I’m usually more charming than this.”

Despite herself, she smiled. “You’re charming enough,” she said barely at all again.

He looked back at her, his eyes meeting hers, his full smile shining on her and she couldn’t stay there beneath its power. She dragged her gaze away, returning to her drink, concentrating on the cold glass on her fingertips. What was she doing?

“You guys paid up?” the bartender asked, interrupting with a sense of reality.

Chrystal nodded. “I should go.” She tossed back the dregs of her drink and moved off her stool at last.

He had his wallet out. “Hold up, I’ll walk you out.”

She actually waited for an instant while she put her jacket on. She lingered on the beauty of his face, so familiar to her already, yet usually when she saw it, it was pale. Lifeless. Pleading. Bleeding. She was out of the bar and to her car before he was done paying.

Thanks for Reading!

Friday, September 15, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine, Chapter 3

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.

 Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.

Read past posts: Chapter One. Chapter Two.

Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete,  1,850 words
Stephanie Thompson

Chapter Three
15 years later

“The work of Specialist Voss has been commendable but her main knowledge as an asset was meant to be for capturing our primary target, William Lapointe, who remains at large. His network, the cults and supporters, have been hunted to point of irrelevance and yet, somehow he remains free.”

 “After 25 years, it’s questionable if she has any actionable intel left.” “And without capturing Lapointe, her allegiance is still questionable.”

Chrystal was in the room, she was in the meeting, but she wasn’t an active participant. Nothing she said would make a difference. Gareth, High Councilman Petran, Major Simmons, and Sergeant Major West were talking about the operation and she was an inanimate part of it. Was it viable still? Was the task force necessary? Should it be scraped for a more on the ground, intelligence gathering effort? She was the it. Even her assigned rank was meaningless.

“As the targets decrease, the pressure on Lapointe increases and our efforts are more focused. He has killed every intelligence agent before they can get close enough to be useful. Specialist Voss is the best option not only for tracking him from HQ but also if we were to send a double agent after him, she’d be the best choice then too,” West said.

“Absolutely not.”

“That’s out of the question.”

“Under no circumstances should those two be anywhere near each other.”

The other three spoke simultaneously and definitively.

Chrystal stifled a laugh.

“Something to add, Specialist Voss?” Gareth’s digitized image asked.

“Will wouldn’t trust me either. He would kill me on sight.” She didn’t bother stopping her laughter this time. “Then nothing would stand in his way of coming after all of you.”

“That sounds like a threat, Ms. Voss,” said High Councilman Petran, also present in digital form, only a voice in his case.

“It’s the truth. He had one mission in life, then I left. Now he only wants vengeance. Vengeance against the entire world. Only I know where he might be, no matter how slim the chance. Without me, he’d slit your throat before you even knew he was behind you.”

Simmons rolled his eyes, West hid a smile from the conferencing cameras.

“We are exactly aware of how dangerous Mr. Lapointe is and your failure to capture him keeps him a threat to us. You leveraged your ability to find him against your freedom but perhaps it’s time to try extraction again.” Petran was worse than Gareth in his obvious disgust, distrust, and hate of her.

“I don’t think this meeting is progressing any more. Let’s go away, make some concrete deadlines and achievable goals and action plans to meet those and schedule another meeting for the next month,” West said.

“Good point, Sergeant Major, we will stay the course for now and reconvene with actionable ideas for next time,” said Simmons.

“Fine,” Gareth said.

After a long pause, Petran added “One month, gentlemen.”

The call finished. The lights came on.

Col. Simmons stood up. West followed suit.

“Results you two. Something big. Or you’ll get reassigned, West, and . . . who knows where you’ll go, Voss,” he said.

He left.

“What do you want to do next, partner?” West said, sitting back in his seat.

Chrystal didn’t look at him. She stared at the table. She was very, very tired.

“We’re not partners,” she said. “And we’re going to find him.”

She left the conference room. West was a few steps behind her. “We’ve been trying to catch him. Do you have a new approach? New intel?”

They walked through grey carpeted halls, around other soldiers having their own walk and talks., around corner after corner, like a low-bid indoor maze.

“There’s no new intel to have. He hasn’t been in contact with anyone for years. Even the sightings have stopped.”

“Then you have a plan?”

Chrystal typed the entrance code on the touchpad, provided her thumbprint, and her retina scan for entrance to the task force’s HQ.

“My plan is to burn his havens to the ground, then salt the ground before I leave it. Give him no place to go but where I want him to be”

The office was empty, the three walls of screens and smaller banks of screens throughout the room were dark. Everyone had gone home for the day, she and West were staying late for the meeting.

“We’ve staked out every one of his hiding spots.”

“Then we’ll do it again.”

She put a map of Europe on one wall, South America on the other, and North America in the center. She remembered the cross-country and around the world trips, for pleasure, for business, for running, for hiding. The hotels, the first-class tickets, the luxury apartments, the train rides, the buses, the caves. There were so many places. His favorites. Her favorites. Could she have forgotten one?

“I know I haven’t worked this case as long as you, or even Simmons, but we are partners.” West watched her, not the maps.

“No. I’m an asset, you’re one of my handlers. I don’t get promoted, I don’t get commendations, I don’t get credit, I don’t get status. My name is not on any reports, only in them. There’s nothing you can do to protect me or have my back. We’re not partners.”

“You’ve worked with Simmons for a long time, right?”

She zoomed the European map to France. William loved France the best, when was the last time they looked for him there?

“He gave me the same speech, when I started here. That you were an asset, you could only be trusted to do the work, and not have my back like a human would, like a real partner . . . and more that I won’t repeat.”

“That sounds about right. I don’t trust myself. You’d be a fool to trust me. We work together, that’s it.”

“You might be stubborn about this but so am I. I don’t work the way Simmons does, I don’t think the way Simmons does. I trust you with my life, I have to, we’re both. I would go into the field with you and support you anyway I could.”

She started to say something, then shook her head and said something else. “We’re starting from the beginning, in France at sunset tonight. We’ll have to have an earlier start." She pulled the international clocks and sunset times to the center screens. “Have everyone back here in five hours. I’ll prep packages from home.”

“No problem, partner,” he said.

We’re not partners, she thought as she left. She walked through the building maze again, this time heading to the locker rooms for her personal effects. She still had images of the past in her mind. How many agents had she and William killed together? How many of them had partners they trusted? How many of those had they killed too? How many gave each other up to make it end?

She and Will had been partners in that endeavour, dispatching their enemies with glee. Eventually, she betrayed him. She was still betraying him. Gareth betrayed her when he negotiated her surrender. Simmons betrayed her behind her back.

She didn’t need partnership, she needed William Lapointe in shackles.

At home, Chrystal didn’t sleep. She didn’t sleep much these days at all. Her nightmares were unbearable. Even if she could get a few hours, they would be restless and futile.

Instead she worked.

Since she didn’t entertain, her combined dining and living room was her taskforce office at home. It wasn’t as high-tech as the military base, it wasn’t high-tech at all. She had her old diaries in paper, the Council records of William’s exploits, of their combined exploits, and their allies information all on paper, bound in portfolios, filling two bookcases.

There were two corkboards and one whiteboard, tacked with paper and post-it notes. On her desk, which was once a dining room table, were stacks of map references, the one used for their last failed operation was opened to Brazil.

She pulled down the files on Will’s early life, carefully chose the diaries where she wrote about their times in France and when Will talked about his life. She closed the map of Brazil and opened the one for France. She set her secure tablet in a dock and the keyboard was projected onto the tabletop.

The first thing she had to do was set the new security protocols for the French government. She and William were classified as terrorists, therefore they had to raise border and travel security and scrutinize the network activities and communications. Facial recognition software would be scanning every inch of CCTV and DNA scans for every traveler. They needed special op teams briefed and at the ready for targeted location searches and geographical sweeps. All suspicious activity and gathered data would be tagged and sent back to the task force for their analysis.

Then she needed to warn surrounding countries to be on heightened alert. They would be next in her search, for now their borders too would need to be more secure.

Next she would need to prepare the materials for her team. Most of them didn’t know the details of William’s past, only his physical description, aliases, and what he was wanted for. They needed to be as informed as she was on the details. Maybe they would see something she’d missed, though she doubted it.

She knew William as well as she knew herself, better than she knew anyone, better than anyone else could know him. But maybe that was why she couldn’t find him because he knew her too and despite the time and infidelity she was still too close to him. Maybe the team had to know what she knew because their objective view may offer something she didn’t have.

Finally she typed out her strategy. Every place that was happy for William was in France and so too was the stronghold of his enemy, the Council, so most likely he would be there. He had been born --someplace--, his mother’s people were from --someplace else--, and though he hated his father his people had some connection to --anotherplace--. He, his wife, and his son had lived in --somedistrict-- of Paris and the wife and child were buried --here-- then moved --there--, both places were sacred to him. The Council had many buildings, schools, and manors throughout Paris as well.

These would be her main focus.The most likely places he would go to lick his wounds or launch his next attack. Her two secondary focuses would be --wherever that temple is-- and her immediate surrounding area because these seemed like the least likely places he would be but Will was nothing if not audacious in his self-confidence, consistent in underestimating her, and predictably blinded by rage and revenge. She wouldn’t be surprised at all if they caught him because he was too busy ripping her throat out to hear the approach of a special operations team.

That would be a satisfying too. At least then it would be over for one of them.

Thanks for Reading!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What the hell am I Doing with my Life?

Lately, I've been staring at a lot of this . . .

Just looking.

Staring only, not much writing. Trying to write. Struggling to write. But hating everything I do write and creating barely nothing at all.

It's been a very tough week or so.

I've been asking a lot "What the hell am I doing with my life?"

A large part of my current struggle and questions has come from a recent change in medication. Switching from amitryptiline to sertraline. I was reluctant to make the switch but I have already seen a lot of results from the change, so it is promising. At the same time, adjusting to the change hasn't been easy. As chemicals rebalance in my brain, I've experienced a lot of highs and a lot of lows.

The highs come with laughing and silliness that on the outside seem like a good fun time but on the inside feel like a loss of control and hysteria. The lows come with dark violent thoughts that make me feel like I'm not safe with my self. I'm scared to write about this part because I haven't said it out loud to anyone yet. I've hinted at it, I've joked about it but I haven't made it clear how strange this all feels. How scary it is. How insane it feels. I feel like my brain is unraveling.

I've been adjusting for a month. According to . . . everything, there's another month left before I can know for sure if sertraline is right for me. In the meantime, I'm trying not lose whatever grip I have on a sort of normal and put together life. I keep asking myself "What the fuck am I doing with my life?"

Two weeks ago I was writing. I was writing constantly. I couldn't stop writing. Well, I couldn't stop writing my novel. Thing is, I don't get paid to write my novel. I get paid to write articles and I wasn't doing that. I couldn't do that. When I tried to write an article, I instead ended up doing everything else that came into my mind after staring at a blank screen for an hour.

Suddenly have to get damn serious about Instagram photo challenges? Let's take a million photos and disarrange the house for photo shoots. Need to rethink my social media presence on every single platform? Let's fuck around on Twitter until one in the morning. Urgently have to investigate a possible yeast allergy? Let's try to make sense of conflicting medical advice on the internet.

Don't worry that writing articles for money is precarious at the best of times. Don't worry that this is such a perfect opportunity and you're completely fucking it up. Don't worry that if you keep burning bridges you're going to end up on this sinking island alone with no way out when you start drowning.

What the fucking hell am I doing with my life?

Predictably, repeatedly asking yourself this question leads to an existential crisis. And it's really difficult to write when you're having an existential crisis. Unless, of course, you're writing about the crisis.

But it's not helpful when you're trying to write anything else. Not helpful for articles. Especially not helpful for novels. When you tell yourself that writing the novel will mean I don't have to write the articles because the novel will get me a lot of money or at least some money one day in the future so just write the novel because the novel is all meaning and all life and everything will make sense if you just write the fucking novel right fucking now.

So that's my problem.

Here's my solution.

Well, not my solution. V. E. Schwab's solution. Because fucking around on Twitter miraculously paid off when she recently retweeted something she tweeted the very day I made the switch to sertraline:

I'm not writing a novel. I'm writing a line. One line. Barring that, a word. Just a single word at a time. Not the perfect word, just word. Then another word. Then a few more.

While we're at it, the articles are just one word at a time too.

And life. Life is the same way. I'm not doing something with my whole life right now. I'm doing something with this day, with this hour, with this minute.

In this minute, I'm writing.

Friday, September 8, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine, Chapter 2

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.

 Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.

Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete, 1,318 words
By Stephanie Thompson

Chapter Two

The meeting time didn’t come soon enough for Chrystal, who’d only gotten a little sleep, made useless by recurring nightmares. To get out of the house she went to the cafe early, ordered a coffee, and spent over an hour letting it get cold while she ripped apart beverage napkins.

There was no relief when Vik arrived. He looked happy to see her, a smile across his face, a bright spark in his chocolate eyes. She resolved that she was doing the right thing, to save this happy, decent man from pain by gently breaking his heart now.

“I’m sorry if I . . .”

“Vik, you have nothing to apologize for. You did nothing wrong, we simply want different things.”

“Oh.” It sounded like an accidental sound, like the air escaped his lungs when he realized what she was saying.

“You are so kind, and sweet, and I’m . . . not. I’m not who you think I am and I can’t give you what you want. I’m sorry that I let you think I could. It was just nice to feel like I might, for a little while.” God, she sounded like an asshole. A sad asshole but still an asshole.

He watched her intently. She didn’t know what he was looking for or what to do or say next.

“I don’t care about your past. I care about your dreams, your goals, your future,” he said in a low voice.

“It can’t be separated. I’m not completely divorced from the things that have happened to me, the things that I’ve done, nobody can be. My future is linked inextricably to my past, forever. And you could never know it and love me.”

“You don’t know that.”

“No reasonable person could.”

She didn’t know what was left to say. She wasn’t going to convince him. She didn't know if she was trying to. Maybe she just wanted understanding. Maybe it would be easier to leave if he would agree. For now she felt stuck there like she was made marble, too heavy to move.

“Simmons showed me your file.”


“Before our first date.”

“That’s classified.”

“It was redacted but I got the . . . general idea.”

She closed her eyes and shook her head yet again. “I don’t . . . I don’t understand.”

She’d worked with Simmons for almost 10 years now. They had a good working relationship. They were partners. She thought he saw them as partners. Equals fighting the good fight. She thought she had a fresh start with him. He had said as much.

That was part of her disbelief.

“He warned me that you had a shady past. That you were once considered very dangerous. And I told him then that it didn’t matter.”

“Why would he even talk to you? Warn you at all?”

“We trained together. We’ve worked together off and on over the years. He’s my buddy, he’s looking out for me. Just like you.”

“You shouldn’t have seen that file. He shouldn’t have shown you.”

Her thoughts were stuck in that groove repeating it over and over. Vikter should not have seen that file, no one but Simmon needed to see it. Definitely not Vik. Even if it wasn’t true, she liked that he had clean image of her. That was part of what had been so nice. But that was just another fantasy apparently. A facade. He knew what she was the whole time.

“Chrys,” he took her hands in his. She’d started tearing up napkins again without realizing it. “You are worried that I couldn’t love you if I knew what you did but I do know and I do love you. All I’m asking is that you give yourself a chance to forgive yourself and maybe love me back.”

Those hands tried to tell her everything would be ok again but it wouldn’t be. She pulled her hands from his and put them in her lap.

“No, Vikter. I don’t deserve your love or forgiveness. No matter what you think you know, I’m far worse and. . . I have no goals, no future, and only nightmare for dreams. Live your life and forget about me.”

Then her feet remembered how to move and she left him in the cafe.

In her car, she didn’t drive this time. She was too angry. She prefered anger over the heartache, a mixture of sadness for Vik and for herself. Anger was an old friend she was happy to reconnect with. They got on like a house on fire. And right now the fire was blazing. She let the car drive, she would be too busy on the phone.

Simmons answered on the third ring. “This is unexpected. Is there a development?”

“Today is a day of unexpected information, like finding out you shared my classified file with Vikter.”

She waited through his pause for a response.

“He had clearance enough to see what was in it.”

“Really, Darryl? Really?! You think I’m this pissed over security clearance?”

“He could have looked it up himself.”

“I have earned the right to privacy, I have earned the right to a private life. You have no right to interfere with either of those things.”

“And I thought my good friend had the right to know that he was trying to date a dangerous. . . person. I’ve seen the full file, you know. You may be more valuable free than imprisoned but that doesn’t change that you’re a traitor, a murderer, and not to be trusted around . . .unsupecting humans.”

If there was something she could destroy in the car right now she would. Instead she took over manual controls and pulled over to the side of the road. It was dim outside already between the sun starting to set, and the grey clouds threatening to rain.

“One wonders how you can even trust me as a partner then,” she spoke through clenched teeth. Her skin itched for something to lash out at, to rip apart.

“You are an informant, a decent soldier, and a co-worker. We are not partners.”

She didn’t even get the satisfaction of hanging up on him as he ended the call first. She screamed. Then exited the car on the side of the road and slammed the door. She screamed again. There were no other cars on the road. She was surrounded by woods. Her voice echoed off the pavement and into the trees. A bird took to the sky.

Gareth was right. She apparently did value her self too highly. She wasn’t a partner, she couldn’t be a girlfriend, she was an informant. A traitor. A murderer. Outside of operations, she couldn’t remember the last time she killed something, someone.

Rain fell from the sky in heavy cold drops. Slowly, then quickly. Then more like streams and buckets than drops. She stood in it. Froze in it. Shivered. But it didn’t ease the heat in her rage and disappointment, the sadness. The itch beneath her skin that she could scratch only one way. She was going to kill something.

She stalked into the trees. She’d hunted there before. Will had taught her. Years and years ago. Before her current job, before the interrogations, before everything else. She hunted deer, goat, rabbit, wolves, transients, hikers.

She didn’t know now if she still had the skill. Dried leaves crunched underfoot, she was too loud already. Even with the rain, everything else was quieter than she.

It was always more difficult to hunt in the rain but he’d made sure she could. Hours of standing in the cold to get it right. Every other living creature had the decency to stay undercover rather than get soaked to the bone like she. But she wasn’t decent. That was the problem. She wasn’t decent and no matter how much rain washed over her, she would never been clean of the blood she’d bathed in. The blood she wished she’d let herself drown in.

Thanks for Reading!!

Friday, September 1, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine (version 10010)

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.

Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.

Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete, 1766 words
By Stephanie Thompson

She lingered outside his apartment, her hand in his. It had a heft and warmth that was comforting. Strengthening. Encouraging. Otherwise she wouldn’t be here. Otherwise she’d listen to her better judgement. But that hand made everything seem simple. Straight forward. And she didn’t want to let go. So she lingered.

“When can we do this again?” Port said.

“You’re sweet,” She said. “I had a nice time.”

 “You’re avoiding the question, again.”

“I don’t like making plans,” she said.

“I want to be sure I’ll get to see you again.”

“You’re sweet,” she said again.

She leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, what had become her standard good-bye, but he turned his head at the last moment, meeting his lips to hers. She closed her eyes and lingered.

With the second kiss, he moved closer to her. And her body awoke with a desire she hadn’t felt in a very long time.

By the fourth kiss, she had him pushed against the door, her body melting into his. His arms around her hips, her hands in his hair.

“Open it,” she said.

He fumbled with lockpad until his thumbprint unlocked the door but they never broke the kiss and feverish embrace.

The lights of his home turned on with an automatic hum as they stumbled across the threshold. She’d never been past the door before but she didn’t care to look around now. She let him lead the way again though she wanted to tear his clothes from him and have him on the floor of the entryway and comparatively he took his time. He took his jacket off and draped it on the dining table, then did the same with hers without breaking physical contact.

But they didn’t move from the spot near the door. His hands didn’t pull at her clothes or touch her bare skin. And his kisses never moved from her mouth. She didn’t know how much longer she could control her lust burning like a wildfire through her. Then he pulled away.

He took her hand again, guided her to the couch, and asked if she wanted anything to drink.

“No, Port, I don’t want anything to drink, I didn’t come in here for a drink.” She laughed. “I can go home for a drink.”

 He said nothing as he got himself a glass and filled it with water. She watched in barely hidden disbelief.

Chrystal didn’t know what to say next. What to do next. Her brain was burned out from unquenched desire.

 “Portland, I don’t. . .” “It’s just a few moments ago, you were ready to leave, didn’t even want to set a next date, then I steal a kiss and suddenly. . .”

He took a long drink from his glass. Emptying half of it and staying in the kitchen.

“I still don’t understand.”

“I mean, one minute you’re tepid, lukewarm towards me, next you’re scalding hot.”

“So you didn’t invite me back to your apartment for sex?”

 “I’ve invited you to my apartment every night since our first date. I invited you because I didn’t want our dates to end.”

“But you don’t want to have sex?”

“Chrys, I want a relationship, not casual sex.”

 She closed her eyes and shook her head. She shouldn’t have come to his door. She should’ve gotten into her car and driven home. She shouldn’t have agreed to a first date, much less a third or fifth. She opened her eyes.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I just. . .I got carried away, I guess.”

“You don’t have to apologize. It was . . .”

“I should go. I need to go,” she said standing up.

“No, Chrys, don’t go. We can . . .”

 She had her coat back on. Her hand on the lock pad.

“No, you’re right. You want . . . and I . . .” She couldn’t say the words she needed to say. They were too final. “I can walk myself to my car,” she said instead.

 “Wait. . .”

 She was out the door and down the stairs before he could catch her. She was in the car and pulling out of the parking spot when he reached the lot. She ignored a text message from him when she was halfway home. She’d come to her senses. Stupid senses that vanished with one simple kiss. She couldn’t see Portland Kapsak any more. No matter how nice, how simple, how sweet, how reassuringly normal dating him was, it had to be over now. She would do the courtesy of telling him this in person, soon, and that would be the end of it.

Her heart was heavy when she reached her own door and used her thumb to unlock it. Her lights weren’t automatic, she preferred a light switch instead, just like she preferred driving her own car. Port liked that she was old fashioned.

She shook her head like her brain was an etch-a-sketch and she could erase her thoughts that way. She would have to stop thinking about what Port liked or didn’t like. What he had said or would say. The sooner the better.

She went to her fridge and pulled out a tall glass bottle of a red liquid. Then changed her mind and returned it to the fridge. The synthesized stuff didn’t satisfy the way the real thing did so there was no point. She was destined to remain frustrated, wanting nothing she could have.

 A lighted panel in the kitchen wall flashed on in a bright blue brilliance an instant before the digital ring of a phone filled the house. She checked the caller id and answered it with a sigh.

“You’re home late,” Gareth said. His thin face filled the screen with disapproving sternness. “I’m not on probation anymore, it shouldn’t matter to you what time I come home.”

“I know but I can’t seem to turn off this notification and since I was just about to head out for lunch, I thought I should check in so my mind could be at ease during my break. How was your date?”

 “Again, my personal life doesn’t concern you anymore. Get IT or something to turn off the notifications or whatever the hell monitoring you have and only contact me for work related reasons, please.”

 “I will take that under advisement, Ms. Voss, but in the meantime, your cooperation and compliance with any of my requests are a requirement to your continued freedoms. Your restrictive probation is over but your general probation remains in effect until the end of your sentence.”

She couldn’t look at his dark satisfaction as he scolded her anymore. She looked her hands on the counter and resisted the urge to dig her nails into the fleshy part of her palm.

“So, I’ll ask again. How was the date.”

“It was fine, Gareth.”

“And you will see him again?”

“Yes,” she answered truthfully but she didn’t give details, he wouldn’t get any more than bare minimum from her.

“Do you think that’s a good idea?”

“I don’t know, Gareth. It is what it is.”

 “You should really be putting all of you efforts into the task force. This young man of yours seems to be a distraction or there are at least a few councilors who don’t think you are putting forth your full effort, who expected greater results.”

“If it weren’t for me, there would be no progress on this task force whatsoever.”

 “Do not value yourself too highly. There are other means to extract the information we need.” She suppressed a shiver by giving into the urge to dig into her hand. She would not go back the interrogations.

“I assure you Gareth, I am giving 110 percent and whatever distraction you might think Port is, he won’t be for much longer. You can enjoy your lunch worry free.”

 “Glad to hear that,” he said with genuine cheer. He was always happiest when she was most miserable. “I will look forward to your reports later in the week then.”

Chrystal ended the call without a greeting. She took her frustration out on the faucet, hitting it hard and knocking it loose. The kitchen panel lit up again. A problem has been detected with the kitchen plumbing. Would you like a message to be sent to a plumber? She selected no and left the kitchen, turning the light off on her way out.

She got ready for bed early even though she didn't’ feel like going to bed. But she didn’t feel like doing anything else either. Plus, there was also nothing else for her to do.

Gareth had been right about one thing, Port was a distraction. A distraction from the boring, mind numbing repetitiveness of her life. She worked, she came home. She did nothing else. She saw no one else. She went nowhere else. Port was a dalliance. A game almost. How close could she get without getting too close? How far could she court disaster before pulling back from real danger?

It was an unfair game. She realized that now. Port had been nothing but straightforward and honest about what he wanted from the beginning. She had been full of vagaries and avoidances. She went on that first date out of morbid curiosity and with that satiated she should have politely refused the second date. But it didn’t matter now. In all fairness, she couldn’t continue. If she valued their lives, his life, she couldn’t not allow herself to go any further with Port.

In bed, she looked at the message she ignored earlier. Please, let’s talk about this. You don’t need to be embarrassed.

She responded. I’m not embarrassed. 

His response was so quick it was obvious he’d been waiting by the phone (nope this is dumb) I don’t understand why you had to rush away. 

She didn’t respond right away because she couldn’t think of something to say that didn’t sound like she was breaking up with him through text and she didn’t want to do that.

I want you too, you know? But I want emotional intimacy first. 

Again, she had no response.

This isn’t easy for me either.

Finally she wrote back. Can we meet again tomorrow? To talk in person?

Of course.

They set a time and said good night. But Chrystal lay in bed with her eyes wide open unable to fall asleep for hours afterwards. Thinking of the future. Thinking of the rest of her life. How it would be nothing but the same thing every day, every week, every month, every year, for decades, for centuries, until she died ancient and frail or killed herself from desperate boredom.

Thank you for reading!