A Town Called Oceanview | Part 2

Continued from “Lost” …

Introductions

“Welcome! Welcome!” an elderly woman approaching them called. She was wearing wool socks, no shoes, and a pink floral dress—or it could’ve even been a nightgown, for her massive bosom hiked it up high enough that it became indecent for someone her age to wear a dress that short in public.

She looked older than death itself; her face covered in wrinkles, her eyelids sagging low over her eyes—it was a wonder she could even see—her gray hair frayed and stringy, thinning at the temples and behind her ears. She was barely taller than five feet and morbidly obese, at least three hundred pounds or more. Her skin was a dark, leathery brown, as if she had spent too many years tanning in the sun, and it folded in ripples down her arms and legs. As round as she was, she reminded him more of an English bulldog than anything remotely human.

And yet, even on swollen feet that clumped against the hardwood floor like cinder blocks—shoes probably didn’t fit her anyway—she still moved at an unbelievably fast pace and had her thick arms wrapped around his neck in a tight bear hug before he could get out of dodge.

He hugged her back, not to be rude, though he wasn’t sure of the occasion. Did he know this woman? Grandmother? Great-grandmother, perhaps? Or was it common practice to embrace a total stranger upon greeting in this mysterious town called Oceanview? He strained to catch a clarifying glace at the girl next to him, who had been so captivated by the painting and the story of the lost fishing vessel.

“Oh, I see you’ve already met Bess,” the old woman said after she released him. Bess was a stark contrast to the old woman. She towered over her, and almost met him at eye level. Her ivory skin pulled tightly over her bones. She wore a white tank top, and her broad shoulders poked so far out they looked as if they would pierce right through the skin. Despite looking thin and frail, there was still a ray of light behind her eyes, and her sunshine gold hair cascaded down her back in waves.

“I hope your trip wasn’t too painful?” The woman was saying.

He raised an eyebrow. “Painful, ma’am?”

“Birdy, I don’t think he remembers,” Bess whispered.

“Remembers what?”

“No matter.” The woman clasped her hands together, and a low echo reverberated off the walls. The room had amazing acoustics; he suspected it once was a gymnasium before being converted into what he could only assume was a visitors center. “Sometimes it’s easier to forget.  Like my husband used to say: The ‘how’ is not always important, it’s the ‘what you do with it’ that takes the cake.”

“That’s an interesting phrase,” he said.

“Thank you. I’ve really come to cherish it in my old age, especially when dealing with some of the more distressing realities of life that I can’t control.” She was silent for a moment, and she and Bess exchanged tight-lipped looks in front of him. They seemed to be having a conversation solely with their eyes. Bess’s eyes widened, her brows arched, as if pleading to say something, to share some secret information that would help get his head out of this fog that only seemed to get worse with the women’s vague revelations. However, “Birdy” stood firm. She squinted her eyes and furrowed her brows as if scolding Bess for being so naive. Then she turned to him with a wide grin he would have mistaken for genuine if he hadn’t just witnessed the tense staring contest.

“By the way, my name is Lady Byrd, but you can call me Birdy.” She stretched out her hand to shake his, and he willingly took it, but when he opened his mouth to introduce himself, he froze.

He hadn’t the slightest clue who he was.

—Nortina


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt was kind of . . . meh . . . Anyone else feeling a little uninspired by these last few prompts? I decided to deviate today, to regain that energy and enthusiasm I had at the beginning of the challenge. Ok, ok, let me stop complaining. Knowing me, I’ll probably end up writing that “list” story anyway, just because my mind won’t stop trying to figure out how to turn such a lame prompt into an interesting story. It will most likely come to me in the middle of the night like most of my stories. Until then, I hope you enjoyed part two of Oceanview! 

T is for… [T]ony Fields #AtoZChallenge

I’m on the clock (59 minutes and counting…) so let’s cut to the chase.

Character Sketch: Who is Tony Fields?

  • Antonio “Tony” Fields, Jr. is the eldest son of Antonio, Sr. and Leslie Fields, and the older brother of Gregory Fields. He is also married to his high school sweetheart, Kerry.
  • Tony starting smoking marijuana at age 15, after his father’s death, as a way to cope with the grief. The drug has become a crutch or handicap for him; he often turns to it whenever he struggles to express his emotions, whether, grief, jealousy, or anger, which only amplifies what he is feeling.
  • It hasn’t gone without Tony’s notice that his mother shows more attention and is more affectionate toward Gregory, which has caused him to be extremely jealous of his little brother, to the point that he doesn’t even care when Gregory disappears or that he may be in trouble, until it affects him.
  • Tony holds a lot of animosity toward his mother and brother and often takes his anger out on Kerry. Kerry regrets that she might have settled for Tony because they’ve been together for so long.
  • Tony and Kerry dated all through high school. They stayed together long distance after graduation. Kerry went to college in Raleigh to study journalism, and Tony signed up for Job Corps to become a HVAC technician. When Kerry finished school and returned home, they married.
  • Tony has been working since completing his training at Job Corps, while Kerry was in school for four and half years. Kerry struggles to find a job that can get her through the door to eventually becoming a news anchor, her dream job. She works at the bank to collect a paycheck until she can find a job in her field. However, there aren’t many options for her in the small town of Leiland, and she considers moving back to Raleigh, though she hasn’t told Tony.
  • Because of his recent promotion, Tony makes more money than Kerry, and has become more controlling and domineering over her, even belittling her for her job in Pleasant’s Edge.
  • Tony’s angry outbursts and controlling habits begin to be too much for Kerry, and she finally decides to leave him.

Limitations? Desires? What’s at stake? What does he have to lose/gain?

  • When Leslie reports Gregory missing, Tony becomes angry with her. Jealous of all the attention she gives to Gregory, Tony wants her to just give up on her other son and focus on his problems instead, like his failing marriage with Kerry.
  • Despite his mistreatment of Kerry, Tony loves her, and will do anything for her. With his father dead, and Leslie obsessing over Gregory’s disappearance, other than Grandma Stella, who he does talk to regularly, Kerry is the only family Tony has left, and he fears, with her leaving, he will truly be alone.
  • Leslie still does not give Tony the comforting he needs. She thinks Kerry and Tony married too soon anyway and that Tony can do better. She thinks Kerry has no ambition because despite having a degree in journalism, she’s been working at the same SunTrust Bank in Pleasant’s Edge for the last three years. She brushes him off, believing that Gregory’s disappearance is more urgent.
  • When it is revealed that Gregory may be connected to the bank robbery that occurred at the same bank where Kerry works, Tony assumes the worst in his brother and wife and takes things into his own hands, which could end up tearing their already broken family apart for good.

With mere seconds left before I’m officially late (and because I’ve run out of things to say about Tony), I shall end this character sketch for the night. Thank you for coming back to another novel planning session. Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I plan to bring “U” at least an hour earlier. 😉 If you missed the last “late night” post about epigraphs and scriptures, check it out here!

K is for… [K]indred #AtoZChallenge

Apparently there aren’t many words in the English language that begin with “K”—that or I need to pick up a dictionary and expand my vocabulary, because this is the second time I’ve used kin (or a variation of the word) as my “K” post for the A to Z Challenge. However, be not alarmed; this isn’t a copout post. I’m still reeling on the flood of inspiration I received while writing my late “J” post this morning, so let’s hop into it!

In this novel planning session, we’re going to take a look at our secondary characters—this basically being a family story, let’s call them the kinfolk of our main characters, Leslie, Detective Maye, and Gregory.

Who are they?

  • Antonio Fields, Sr. – Late husband of Leslie Fields and father of Tony and Gregory Fields
  • Antonio “Tony” Fields, Jr. – Older brother of Gregory and eldest son to Leslie and Antonio, Sr.
  • Stella Johnson – Mother of Leslie and grandmother of Tony and Gregory
  • Tammi White – Gregory’s Fiancé
  • Jacquelyn White – Mother of Tammi and future mother-in-law of Gregory
  • Giovanni “Gio” Maye –  Missing (presumed deceased) father of Detective Frank Maye
  • Clara Maye – Deceased mother of Frank, wife of Gio, and older sister of Bethel
  • Bethel Simms – Younger sister of Clara and aunt to Frank

 

What I love about planning a novel is that things so often change as the story comes together. Looking over this character list, I’m sure you’ve noticed some changes. So let’s look at the first significant change:

1. Tanisha becomes Tammi.

I wasn’t totally in love with the name Tanisha when she first appeared in Broken Vow, but for the sake of finishing the flashback and not getting stuck on something as small as a name, I just threw one in there, with the prevision to change it later. My thinking behind the name Tammi was that I wanted her to have a pretty, feminine name that would be in direct contrast with her succubus nature. Tanisha just wasn’t doing that for me—my mind kept going back to Bad Girls Club.

So Tanisha is now Tammi.

Also added is her mother, Jacquelyn. Jacquelyn won’t play a major part in the novel; we probably won’t even see her, apart from her antics being recounted by other characters. All you need to know about Jacquelyn is that the apple (aka Tammi) doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Both Tammi and Jacquelyn use Gregory for the little money that he does have. When it comes to anything that may cost them their time and energy, their only thought process is, “What can I get out of it?” To them, Gregory, who was taught at an early age the importance of giving, is a walking ATM. While it is said that the man is supposed to be the provider of the home, Gregory is more of a slave or servant to Tammi and Jacquelyn. What’s worse is that Jacquelyn is married, yet she takes from Gregory what her husband should be giving. I won’t even bother to give him a name, because that’s how insignificant and worthless of a man her husband is.

2. Frank is already a missing persons detective when his father disappears.

In Frank’s character sketch earlier in the challenge, I mentioned that the disappearance of his father—now named Gio—was the reason Frank became a missing persons detective—he desperately wanted to find his father.

Well, that all changed with Ice Cold. In this flashback, Frank is remembering the circumstances surrounding his father’s disappearance. He was deep in a troublesome (possible sex-trafficking) case of a missing five-year-old. That day was also his parents’ anniversary. He last spoke to Gio that morning. Gio was on his way to the florist to buy a last minute anniversary gift for Clara. Later that day, when Frank arrived at his parents’ house, he learned from his mother that Gio had never returned. That was nine years ago (previously two).

I think this change strengthens Frank’s story, because 1.) He’s a missing persons detective who for nine years can not find his missing father. 2.) His mother, Clara, dies earlier this year without ever knowing what happened to her husband, which would definitely eat away at Frank’s psyche. 3.) When he’s assigned to Gregory’s case, he meets another grieving widow, who lost her husband around the same time Gio disappeared. Now her son is missing, and Frank wants more than anything to bring her that closure he could never give his own mother.

Also gone is Gio’s dementia. Someone that far gone, probably wouldn’t be allowed to leave the house by himself. It’s possible his dementia was still in the early stages—like his sister-in-law, Bethel—and he was able to hide it from his family. This could explain why Frank is overprotective of Bethel, studying her closely for the signs he failed to see in Gio.

3. Tony’s character is growing more in importance.

Who is Tony? We still don’t know. You’ll get a in depth character sketch soon enough, but stay tuned for some flashback scenes featuring an adult Tony. Is he still the jackass he was as a teenager at Antonio Sr.’s funeral? To say it plainly—yes. But he’s not a jackass just for the sake of being a jackass. In truth, I think he’s jealous of Gregory. Being the younger son, Gregory receives more attention from Leslie. It is apparent in Eulogy, in how quickly a distraught Leslie dismisses Tony (her excuse being his attitude) yet coddles Gregory to the point of suffocation. Is it because Tony’s the problem child, as is explained in that flashback? Is there favoritism between the brothers? How does this translate into Tony’s adulthood—his relationship with Leslie, with Gregory? What is his response to Gregory’s disappearance? I won’t go so far as to say he doesn’t care, but it’s definitely not the same as Leslie’s. We’ll see that in the climax of the novel.

4. Prodigal Son* has a new name!

Switching gears, let’s talk about titles. I’m horrible with them. Rarely do I have a title before I finish a work. And even after I finish, it sometimes would take me days to come up with a title. But my temporary title, Prodigal Son* was so cliché and cringe-worthy, I thought long and hard on a new title. It’s still a work in progress, but may I present to you… Lost Boy!

I’ll probably change it again, but we’ll stick with it for now. Tell what you think? Do you have any suggestions for a title?

Well, that’s it for this post. I hope you’re just as excited about Lost Boy as I am! I’ll be travelling for the Easter Holiday this weekend, so tomorrow and Saturday’s posts may be delayed, but I promise you I haven’t disappeared again! Writer’s block will not win!

J is for… [J]ail #AtoZChallenge

Where’s the justice?

As you may know, this year’s A to Z Challenge is all about planning my novel for NaNoWriMo… because for once I’d like to start and finish a project this year.

In this brief brainstorming session, we’re going to look at our (America’s) crooked justice system and how large (or small) a role it will play in Prodigal Son* (yes, title is still a work in progress).

This post is a day late, unfortunately (I will not fall behind. I will not fall behind). The lid to my well of inspiration was temporarily shut, and I spent most of yesterday in a tug-of-war match with my writer’s block, trying to get it open. Finally, at a little after midnight, when I was dead-dog tired and barely able to keep my eyes open, the idea came to me.

If you’re a writer, you understand how absolutely frustrating it is to have nothing for most of the day, and then the second you are lying in your bed, wrapped up comfortably in your warm, freshly washed sheets, on the brink of sleep… ding! the light bulb comes on.

J is for jail . . . or justice system. (Looky there, they both start with “J”— basic, easy, obvious for this particular novel, yet for some reason, I couldn’t think of it before midnight last night.)

These days, the justice system has been under a lot of scrutiny. (Black Lives Matter ring any bells?) Of course, if you’re black, or at least “woke” (adjective. definition – aware of or updated on current events, especially if they pertain to race), you know this is nothing new. Our prisons are overcrowded, and yes, we’d like to think that everyone behind bars is there because they committed a heinous crime, but that’s not always the case. And thanks to easy accessibility to news (and fake news) through social media and 24/hour news networks like CNN, we’ve seen how money, connections, race, and begging and pleading parents can get a despicable criminal off scot-free, and how it can also get a suspect (who may not always be guilty) tossed in jail (if not killed by police or crackpot vigilantes first) with an excessively long sentence for a victim-less crime.

Will Gregory go to jail for his crime? We don’t want him to. We’ve seen how desperate he’s become in previous backstories—finding out his girlfriend is pregnant, losing his source of income, dealing with Tanisha’s leech-like family—but he still broke the law, and by law, he has to pay for it (pun not intended but surprisingly satisfying). Where’s the sympathy?

This is where Tony, Gregory’s brother, comes in. We still don’t know much about him, but as a teenager, he was sort of a dick, to say it plainly. Is he still that way as an adult. How will he respond to his brother’s disappearance, to his transgressions? Keep in mind, this novel (as seen in my interim title) will allude back to the biblical parable of the Prodigal Son (also called the Lost Son) in Luke 15:11-32. If you get a chance to read it, I want you to look particularly at verses 28 through 30. Notice how the older brother reacts to the return of the lost son. This should give you a clue to Tony’s possible motives/actions toward the climax of this novel.

I’ll leave you to guess on it for now. Then when I post my official outline later in the challenge, we’ll see how many of you guessed right.

How else will we see jail and the justice system used in this novel? Well, besides the obvious—Frank Maye, missing persons detective—I want to take a closer look at Leslie’s work in the Prison Ministry.

For Tuesday’s “I” post, I almost wrote a scene titled “Inmate.” In that scene, Leslie visits the county jail downtown with the other members of the ministry. For most church prison ministries, when the small team of evangelists go to minister with the inmates, the men usually meet with the male inmates, and the women with the female inmates. I won’t deviate from that in this novel, so if you thought that Leslie would discover her son in jail while doing the work of ministry, sorry to disappoint you, but that would be way too easy.

However, she will meet with a female inmate (and as I’m writing this, the idea suddenly popped into my head that maybe she develops a friendship with this woman, oftentimes visiting her outside of ministry work), and the conversations they have—though I haven’t figured out the how yet—will help her to figure some things out about Gregory and his situation (bring her peace, bring her understanding?).

The more I thought about this scene (or scenes) and watched it (them) unfold in my head, the more I realized that I wanted to put it (them) in the novel itself (and the plot thickens), and since the actual “novel writing” won’t begin until November, Tuesday’s post was changed to a backstory on Frank—looking at the circumstances surrounding his father’s disappearance and giving you a little more on his character—since we still don’t know much about him yet.

There may be other areas where I’ll use jail and/or the justice system, but I don’t want to go too deep into it because this isn’t a crime novel (actually, I haven’t figured out what the genre is—Christian fiction? Adult literary fiction?). The focus will still be on our main characters, Leslie, Frank, and to an extent, Gregory. This story is about them, their shared experience through the storm on the road to healing, reconciliation, and maybe forgiveness…

Pausing to look over this post, I realize I did a lot of rambling. Sometimes you just gotta talk things out to urge that brilliant idea forward. I’m definitely at a better place a day late than I was last night. There’s a method to my stream of consciousness madness, I promise!

So, I conclude this post with a potential (rough) outline/plot to my novel in progress.

↗ Climax – Tony’s jealousy/malice

↗  Rising action – Prison Ministry 

Beginning – Missing Gregory

It’s slowly coming together! See you later tonight, when I hope to post “K” and get back on schedule!

—Nortina