What to Write for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is coming soon, and I’m considering taking the dive once again.

I don’t know why I continue to torture myself like this…

But I haven’t done any kind of planning or brainstorming, and although I have I plenty of works in progress (including a novella I’m considering giving a total revamp) half-baked ideas, and a current novel I haven’t yet started on, I want this potential NaNoWriMo novel to be 100% new.

Nothing I’ve started and stopped and started again…and stopped again.

Nothing that was once a passion but, after a year, has now become an afterthought.

Something my editor brain won’t overthink to the point that it’s debilitating.

Something I can approach as an adventure rather than potentially the next great American novel (that will only disappoint me when I read it again).

Something absolutely brand spanking new.

But what?

Maybe it’s because it’s almost Halloween, but I’m thinking of doing a ghost story. Nothing too scary, but something definitely spooky.

What do you think?

Tell me, what story should I write? I want to step out of my comfort zone a little. I’m sick of writing sad romance. Maybe a different genre will give me the boost I need to get to 50,000 words in one month for the first time ever!

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I’ve Won NaNoWriMo So Many Times

I have a confession to make. I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Not officially, at least.

You see, I was going to, I even spent an entire month planning for it– drafting outlines, creating character sketches, brainstorming backstory and plot points—but when November came around, I got very busy.

Story of my life, right?

If I could sum 2017 in one word, it would be “overcommitted.” I was doing too many things, and it all culminated in one month which, though not the shortest month of the year, definitely feels like it when you have to write 1,667 words a day amid 10,000 other things on your to-do list!

Although the last thing I wanted to do was procrastinate on writing yet another novel, I had to think realistically. How much stress would this add on me—to find time to write, do everything else, and still get to bed at a decent hour? Was it worth it, knowing that I likely wouldn’t finish, or even make it past the 10,000 word mark?

So I said no to NaNoWriMo, at least for this year. But one of my main goals for 2018 is to be less busy and not take on more than I can bear so that I can dedicate more time to my writing. So there’s always the possibility that I may try again . . . if I can take the pressure.

But I won’t wallow in self-pity over another NaNoWriMo project left unfinished (or in this case unstarted), because there have been so many times when I’ve won NaNoWriMo. No I haven’t quite made it to the 50,000 words written in one month feat, but I’ve come pretty darn close!

First, I deserve a pat on the back for completing the A to Z Challenge three years in a row! A lot of bloggers can’t say the same. My first A to Z Challenge in 2015 introduced you to my novella, Love Poetry, which I hope to finally complete in 2018. I have 23,914 words of planning material for Lost Boy, the novel I had hoped to write in November, and that doesn’t even include the flashbacks I wrote as part of Short Story a Day May, a challenge which in total came to 451 words shy of 25,000. And my longest project yet is 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths, my 2016 A to Z Challenge novella, clocking in at over 30,000 words! How’s that for Camp NaNoWriMo!

And while I’m basking in my NaNoWriMo successes, let’s talk about what I did write in November. Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans! Yes, I know I said I had completed the story earlier this year . . . I lied. The truth is I spent a few slow days in May writing three more chapters. But the rest came this November, as I wrote one chapter a day, adding to what I had left unfinished back in 2016.

So you see, I didn’t totally abandon NaNoWriMo after all! And don’t you worry; I still plan on finishing Countdown. A recent bout with procrastination, along with Thanksgiving travel (and, you know, being with family), kept me from finishing the story in November as I had originally planned, but that’s all going to work out in the end, because I stopped at Day 24. You know what that means. The story originally meant for Christmas (last year) will finally be concluded this Christmas! Next week, I’m giving you the final seven chapters of Countdown (Monday through Sunday), so if you want to catch up on the story, read it from the beginning here!

By the way, Countdown currently sits at around 27,800 words, which means when I close this year with the final chapter on December 31, it will be my longest completed project to date! Just the boost of confidence I need going into 2018 with the hope of finishing (and possibly publishing) even more projects. Whether they are products of NaNoWriMo, or my own writing victories.

I’m just so happy to say I did it!

—Nortina

#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Undercooked #NaNoWriMo

The turkey was undercooked. Ma planned to roast it overnight, have the whole house smelling like a Thanksgiving feast by morning. But we woke up freezing, a surprise dusting of snow on the lawn, enough to slick the roads, but not enough to delay the holiday traffic.

Tony and Kerry arrived at noon, arguing again, though I’d stopped caring what for. Something about Kerry wanting to move back to Raleigh after Tony just got a promotion. Let her go. She wasn’t the one for him, but Tony married her anyway. He doesn’t listen—he never listens.

Dinner was scheduled for 1:00, but at 2:30, I sat alone by the window, watching for Gregory’s car to pull to the curb. I hadn’t seen him since his birthday a week before Halloween, and it was terrifying to see him then. He looked as if he had grown six inches. His face was fuller, half covered in a thick, coarse beard, but the rest of him was so thin and frail, he almost looked like Tony, a physical characteristic the two brothers never shared. While Tony was the spitting image of his father, both in name and appearance, Gregory favored me—the short, stubby fingers, the flat nose, the extra weight around the stomach and arms. But his arms were toned, muscular, the outline of them seen through the thin, sweat resistant shirt he wore, too cool even for mid-fall.

It was Tammi who texted me they’d be over for dinner. Gregory’s phone was off—he hadn’t paid the bill. Gregory had been missing a lot of bills lately—puzzling because his father and I taught him how to be a good steward over his finances. It was as if all of his upbringing left him the moment he met her. Over and over he asked me for money, a car note here, rent there. Tammi’s parking tickets, which I flat out refused. But I didn’t want to completely abandon him, so I slipped him change when I could. The more I gave, the less I saw of him, and when I realized he only came home for money, I stopped giving all together, and his visits became more infrequent.

Before his birthday, June was the last time I’d seen him. He’d even missed our Fourth of July family cookout in Ma’s backyard. After it got dark, we would climb up Ma’s roof and watch the fireworks shot off from the high school football field while enjoying burnt hotdogs and Carolina burgers with chili and slaw. It had been a family tradition since Antonio, Sr. was alive. No one ever skipped it, rain or shine.

I could hear Ma scrambling in the kitchen. Not much to cook with a twenty pound bird taking up most of the oven, but we had to eat something—it was Thanksgiving after all. With a shrunken menu, the sweet potato casserole, became plain stovetop yams, the mac and cheese from a box, the dressing stuffed inside the turkey to cook them both at the same time, while on the back burners, the greens boiled.

Ma kicked me out of the kitchen shortly after she realized she never turned the oven on last night. “You know you’ve never been a cook,” she said. “You’ll only slow me down.” I was given the assignment to make Tony and Kerry chicken salad sandwiches—the salad already prepared, all I had to do was spread it over the bread—to hold them over to dinner and hopefully to quell their arguing.

And it worked. We had silence for a while . . . until Tammi and her mother showed up.

Without Gregory.

I had never met Jacquelyn. She’d tried to introduce herself several times before—calling to explain why she had allowed my son to live with her and her daughter in their overcrowded trailer, knocking on my door in the middle of the night to tell me she’d kicked them out. The vibrations in her voice told me she was nothing but drama then, and now she was standing right before me expecting a free meal, and she didn’t even bother to bring Gregory with her. And the striking resemblance between her and Tammi—how old was she when she had her? Any stranger would think they were sisters.

“Where’s my son?” I had no interest in shaking hands, fake smiles, or “how do you do’s.” These people overstayed their welcome the second they stepped foot on Ma’s front porch.

“He at work.” Tammi smacked her lips. Her nonchalant attitude quickly got under my skin.

“I was expecting to spend Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I don’t know you.”

Tammi’s mother reached out her hand. “Hi I’m Jacqui—”

“And I don’t care to!” I snapped.

Ma entered, putting the oven mitts she was wearing under her arm. “We may need another hour. That turkey just won’t cook.” When she noticed the tense atmosphere at her front door, she said, “Who’s this?”

“Tammi, and Jacqui,” I cut my eyes at the mother, “decided to invite themselves without Gregory.”

“Where’s Gregory?” Ma asked.

“He had to work,” Jacqui answered.

“On Thanksgiving?”

Jacqui started to say something, but quickly closed her mouth. By the way they shrugged their shoulders, avoided eye contact, it was obvious they were lying. But if he wasn’t at work, where was he?

I heard Tony barge down the hall, and I knew things would quickly escalate with him in the room.

“You know they’re getting married, right?”

“Who?”

Tony pointed to Tammi.

“Yea, we engaged.” Tammi shrugged her shoulders, flashed the small diamond on her left hand.

A ring? He bought her a ring? With what money?

I remembered those times he called, whining that his lights were about to get turned off, that he would be evicted if he didn’t pay rent by the end of the week, that he couldn’t afford to have his car repossessed because then he’d have no way to get to work. Were they all lies? The money I’d been giving him—a little here, a little there—had he been collecting it until he had enough to buy a ring and propose? No, no. Heaven forbid I inherit another lethargic, unappreciative daughter-in-law like Kerry, who had secluded herself away in the dining room to pretend she was crying.

Instinctively, I clawed at Tammi’s hand, snatching off the ring I paid for and a thin layer of skin along with it. She yanked my arm back with one hand— with much more force than her petite frame would lead anyone to believe— and with the other hand, slapped me clear across the face. There was shouting and screaming, and at some point Kerry finally appeared in the kitchen doorway behind Ma.

I felt Tony’s arms around my waist. He and Jacqui pulled Tammi and I apart, and backing up, I tripped over Tony’s size thirteen shoe and hit the side of my back on the back of the couch, re-agitating a muscle I’d pulled a few weeks ago when moving around the furniture in Gregory’s room.

“I ain’t gon stay where I’m not wanted!” Tammi was screaming.

“Then why the fuck are you still here?” Tony yelled.

Suddenly the smoke detector in the kitchen went off, setting off all the others in the house, including the one in the living room right above our heads. The piercing peal silenced us for several seconds.

Ma rushed back into the kitchen, brushing past Kerry. “Jesus, Kerry, you don’t smell my greens burning?” I could hear her in the kitchen stirring the pot, adding water and flicking off the heat to the burner. She grabbed a hand towel and begin flapping it under the detector to clear the smoke.

When the noise finally ceased, I looked directly at Tammi. “You need to leave.”

“Gladly.” She turned around and kicked open the screen door, making a sound like ripped metal and leaving behind a dent in the bottom left corner. Jacqui stayed behind for a brief moment, as if considering an apology, but quickly spun around and followed her daughter to the car. I shut the door behind them and noticed the engagement ring on the floor—it must have fallen out of my hand during the scuffle. I quickly kicked it away. The sight of it disgusted me.

“She’ll be back when she realizes it’s gone,” Kerry mumbled.

“Oh, now you got something to say? Where were you when that bitch was hittin’ my mama?” Tony shouted.

Kerry rolled her eyes and turned away. “I’m not arguing with you, Tony.”

“But you gon listen!” He stormed past me—my throbbing face obviously not too much of a concern—to finish his tirade with Kerry from earlier.

Ma returned from the kitchen, her shoulders hunched. She looked just as defeated as I felt. “Why not Chinese? They’re always open on Thanksgiving. I don’t think I can save this dinner.”

“There’s still the turkey and stuffing.”

“That won’t be for another hour. You know my old stomach has to eat early. I’m feeling lightheaded already.”

I tried to force a smile, but my face was so tight, I probably looked constipated. “Why don’t you sit, and I’ll make us some chicken salad sandwiches.”

“Can we eat them outside? I’m sick of those two yelling, and I need to cool off.”

I nodded and looked back to the window. Eating outside would only make me more anxious about Gregory, wondering if every car that drove by was him. I shook my head. No, there was no sense in waiting for him anymore. He wasn’t coming. And Tammi would surely tell him what happened here. Then, after that, I don’t think he will ever come home.

—Nortina


Happy Throwback Turkey Day! Since we are approaching the homestretch of NaNoWriMo, I thought today’s Thanksgiving Throwback should be a scene from my A to Z planning session earlier this year, featuring characters from my NaNoWriMo novel, Lost Boy.
Originally published April 25, 2017.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: NaNoWriMo Woes

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day…

I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day and Day One of NaNoWriMo happen to fall on the same day this year. And to further torment me, here’s the IWSG “optional” question for November 1:

Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Ugh! I’ve said it a million times—I can never finish any project I start, so what do you think my answer to this question is?

N-O

A big, fat z-e-r-0000000000000000000000000000000000000000

The sad thing is, I thought I was ready this time. I spent an entire month planning my novel. I wrote an outline (which I’ve since lost because of my incessant need to write everything on scrap pieces of paper), I’ve sketched characters, explored backstories, brainstormed on themes, even went to jail for an hour . . .

Ok, so research for my novel wasn’t the original reason for my visit, but while I was there I took advantage of the opportunity (especially since my prison ministry contact never came through for me).

I think what derailed my plans was Camp NaNoWriMo this past July. My goal for camp was to finish my novella, Love Poetry (ironically my first attempt to write Love Poetry came in November, 2014, for NaNoWriMo). Nothing too arduous, 30,000 words in 31 days, manageable. My hope was that finally finishing Love Poetry would give me the boast of confidence I needed going into November.

I didn’t finish. July got too busy. I had too much on my plate. I fell behind.

I’m still not finished.

And the perfectionist writer in me doesn’t want to start a new project when I haven’t finished the first. Especially since the new year is right around the corner and I really want to enter 2018 burden free.

Maybe I’ll just wait until next NaNoWriMo, or next Camp.

But then, I recently joined Simply Marquessa’s #TribeTuesdayWPChallenge: 12 new life habits to enhance your life in 12 months. And I kinda made November all about beating procrastination.

And here I am . . . again . . . about to procrastinate . . . on yet another novel.

Well, enough is enough. At this rate, my first novel will be published posthumously, and the publisher would still need to find a ghost writer who is familiar with my writing style to finish it!

So I am making a conscious effort, scary as it may be, to continue on with my original plan to write Lost Boy (renamed Wanderer—still a work-in-progress, you know I’m no good with titles) this November for NaNoWriMo. I won’t officially register for the challenge, though. I don’t want that added pressure to meet my daily word count, especially on those less than productive days that are sure to come.

Going into NaNoWriMo, I want to take a relaxed approach, which is hard for me because I overthink everything. But in her “How to Tackle NaNoWriMo” series, Candice Coates said something that really resonated with me: There’s no such thing as writer’s block. We always have something to say, we just have to allow ourselves to say it.

Well said, Candice. I’ve been silencing myself for far too long, using the excuse of writer’s block, or busyness, when truly, I’ve just been scared. Of failure? Of success? I’m not sure, but if I ever want to get that book published one day, I have to write it.

I have to write it.

So I will write it.

Right now.

—Nortina

#WeekendRewind: How to Tackle NaNoWriMo: My Advice To You (Day 1 of Countdown) #NaNoWriMo #Writing

Continuing with my weekend of reblogs, I’m sending you over to Candice, host of I came for the soup… She’s returned from hiatus just in time to give you some helpful advice going into NaNoWriMo in . . . YIKES! Three days!

Honestly, I have to say, I’m a little anxious. I haven’t looked at my outline for my NaNoWriMo novel since May, and although I spent an entire month planning it, I’m not all that sure I’m ready to write it, mentally at least.

But Candice’s advice truly helps me with my problem of over thinking this whole 50,000 words in 30 days challenge:

Just sit down and type. Breathe, and type.

Perfect. Yes, there’s no such thing as writer’s block. We can do this!

Candice is counting down to NaNoWriMo kick off, and this is just Day 1, so you know there’s only greater advice to follow. Head over to her blog and check out other useful tips she has for tackling NaNoWriMo!

—Nortina

I came for the soup...

In less than a week, November 1st will be here, and a mass of heroes and heroines will be born from the typing fingers of those who have bravely taken up the challenge to write a 50,000-wordnovel in 30 days.

First, let me say congratulations for being brave enough to challenge yourself with this. I have participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for three years running, and each year I have come away with a fantastic body of work (that yes, needs editing and revision) that I can be proud of.

Now, let me clarify, I have not officially done the NaNoWriMo with the whole registration thing (which I totally recommend because they have some great rewards for those who complete the 30 days with 50,000 words or more.) Why? Well, because I tend to use any 30 day month, June being the month of choice…

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“Hiding in Bathrooms” — An Excerpt from Love Poetry

Now she really had to go to the bathroom. She pushed her way into the narrow stall directly behind her, hiked up her skirt, dropped her panties to her knees and fell into a squat over the too short toilet, suitable more for kids than anyone over five feet, despite being in a facility requiring an eighteen-year age minimum. She held her phone away from her ear and let herself go, hoping the sound of her peeing would deter him, but either he didn’t hear it or he chose to ignore it because he continued to talk. 

“If you had answered any of my earlier phone calls–“ 

“What do you want, Whitmore?” Jessica repeated more sternly, speaking over the automatic flush of the toilet.  

There was a long pause; he must have heard it this time, contemplating whether or not to continue with the conversation, Jessica having no more respect for him than to wait until they were off the phone before she decided to use the bathroom. But there was also the possibility that it flattered him, that she valued their relationship so much that she would stay with him on the phone, even while having to relieve bodily urges. Bile rose at the back of her throat. Please don’t let it be the latter. She didn’t want to give him any more hope that this relationship could be saved. As far as she was concerned, it was over. There was no coming back from the invasion of her privacy, even if he suspected her of cheating. Confront her like a normal person and break things off. But she knew Whitmore could never do that. He was too desperate to be loved, even if it meant forcing a relationship with a women who didn’t love him back. 

“I just want to apologize for this morning.” 

“You can’t even say what you did.” Which told Jessica he didn’t think what he did was wrong, and if he in anyway tried to justify himself, she would hang up. 

“But you’ve got to understand my point of view.” 

Hang up, Jessica. 

“I didn’t know where you were, and I kept thinking about what happened with Layla.” 

Hang up, Jessica. 

“She was cheating right under my nose, and I was too stupid and naïve to see it.” 

Hang up, Jessica. 

“It killed me, and I couldn’t help but go back to that dark place when you–“ 

Finally she hung up. Pressed her thump firmly on the end key. She wasn’t listening to that sob story again. How he attempted suicide the night Layla finally called it quits, took half a bottle of sleeping pills and washed it down with vodka. Whitmore was the type of person to threaten with self-harm to guilt a woman in to submission, but not for a second did Jessica believe he actually went through with it. And she wasn’t going to let his little pity part keep her hostage in this bathroom another second.  

It was times like this, when she wished they were still in the flip phone age of cell phones, she would slam the top down with such emphasis. Or if she had a landline she would slam that handset back on the switch hook, knowing surely he would hear the force behind it, at it loudly collided with different parts of the base before at last connecting with the hook, sounding the final dial tone to solidify her complete annoyance and frustration in having to speak with him at all, leaving no doubt in his mind that the conversation was over and that she wanted to hear nothing more from him that night. 

The touch screen hang up was too soft, easily misinterpreted for a weak signal, a dropped call, and inadvertent swiping of the face which ended in an accidental disconnect. It would prompt him to call back, innocently asking questions like “What happened?” and “Are you still there?” 

Not wanting to give him the chance, Jessica quickly pressed the power button until the screen faded to black. If there was any question behind why she hung up, going straight to voicemail would give him his answer. At the very least she could finish this night without further distractions. 

She shoved the door open, clouds of smoke engulfing her. She was greeted by a shower of applause. Not good. Out of habit she checked her phone for the time, and groaned at the black screen. She cursed Whitmore under her breath, then sped walked down the corridor. Seeing the shadow of someone standing at the end, she assumed it’s Yolanda, and fabricated some excuse for why she missed her own deadline. Emergency on the phone, that time of the month, duty calls? She looked to the stage, Jamie Marie already at the mic, preparing to perform her first piece to the background music of the string bass and piano. Behind her a whisper in her ear. 

“Hey there. Still hiding in bathrooms, are we?” 

She turned and met the wide gaze of Bruce. The color of his eyes looked even darker under the haze of the hookah bar.  

“Very funny,” she said. She tried to hide her phone behind her and subtly drop it into her purse, but he caught her, literally. She suddenly felt his arms around her waist, under her jacket, the tips of his fingers on her hip, too close to skin. Fire ignited deep within her, and it’s as if she could exhale smoke. 

She broke away, if only to catch her breath from the sudden sexual tension between them, but his demeanor didn’t seem to change. He leaned back, one foot and the opposite shoulder propped against the wall.  He faced the stage but his eyes were still on her. It reminded her of the way Whitmore looked at her whenever he was trying to catch her in a lie, though not at all as invasive or exposing. Mostly endearing, admiring, like looking at fine art. Thank God she’s wearing something she’s comfortable in, something that’s definitely her. 

She wanted to spin for him, give him the full effect. Better yet she wanted to undress for him. Imagining Whitmore as Bruce did her no favors last night, not now that she has seen where his hands have been, those lips, that tongue. She glanced below his belt then quickly looked away. Not here. Not in front of all these people, and her boss, standing at the bottom of the stage, a scolding look in her eyes. She should probably try to explain herself, but she felt the heat rising again, Bruce had snuck up on her, she turned her head and their lips were mere inches apart, a continuation of how their date ended last night. Before this night is over, she will kiss him, can’t stand the teasing anymore. 

© Nortina Simmons


Just a P..S.A., these excerpts are roughly edited, and I’m still struggling to decide if I want the novella to be in past or present tense, so if it reads kind of crazy, please go easy on me! 😉

“Morning Run” — An Excerpt from Love Poetry

Whitmore pulls the comforter to his chin, and she snatches her hand back as he rolls over to face the wall, stretching his feet to the end of the bed before drawing them back into the fetal position. Jessica lies stiff until his breathing returns to a steady rhythm, and then she dashes out of the bed, sprints toward the window where her little friend has long since flown away, and the room feels deafeningly silent, as if it’s not yet morning, as if the sun hasn’t risen, as if she is back in last night and Whitmore is still breathing down her neck, pressuring her to sleep with him, refusing to take no for an answer, already in the process of laying his claim.

She spins around and watches Whitmore’s chest rise and fall. She looks down at her breasts, goosebumps rising under the spinning ceiling fan above her. Suddenly the room feels too small and Whitmore too close. It’s the last place she wants to be when he finally does wake up, standing at the foot of the bed, fully naked, nipples harden from the chill in the air.

She bends over the dresser, feeling exposed, quickly puts on a pair of sweats, tames her breasts with a bra, throws on the first t-shirt she sees, Wrightsville Beach splayed across the chest. She reaches under her bed for the worn pumas, the only tennis shoes she owns, and steps into them, no thought about socks. She creeps out the door, closing it behind her, down the hall a little faster now, picking up pace, as she grabs the keys and her phone off the kitchen counter, where she left them last night, on her way out front door.

By the time she reaches the stairway she’s running. And when she gets to the bottom, she’s sprinting through the parking lot, dodging Whitmore’s Sonata, parked crookedly in the space reserved for her. She continues to the sidewalk that forms a semicircle around the back of the next building in her complex, turns to run parallel to the road for a quarter of a mile, before veering off into the scenic greenway leading into the heart of town. She runs the whole time and doesn’t stop until she can no longer see her apartment jetting out above the trees when she turns to look over her shoulder.

When she stops, she wants to collapse. She plants her hands on her knees, puts her face between her legs and gulps in sharp inhales of breath. Her heart is breaking through her chest, her lungs on fire, she’s never run like this before. In fact, she can’t remember ever having to run, except in required gym class in high school, and twice she tripped over her own feet, and dove face first into the hardwood floor, sliding across the court, the high squeak echoing in her ear as her skin on her cheeks tore.

How pathetic is she that’s she’s let Whitmore run her out of her own damn apartment? She looks back, then takes off again, a bench in sight. When she gets there, the thought crosses her mind that teenagers could have had sex here, homeless men could have masturbated here—the trees surrounding them, extensive branches heavy with leaves overhead to cover their secrets—bugs crawling in and out of the cracks, bird droppings in hidden places. But she’s too tired to care. So  she falls onto the bench, spreads her legs, throws her head over the back, waiting for all of her feeling to come back to her.

When a real jogger passes by, she folds into faux stretches, but the woman barely notices, eyes on the path, ears plugged in. Maybe that’s what Jessica needs to relax herself too. She takes out her phone and turns on the FM radio station app. She finds herself tuning to 107.1. The sound is fuzzy coming in, because she doesn’t have headphones to work as an antenna, but she turns the volume up, holds the phone to her ear, and lies back on the bench, listening to the croons of Shawn Mendez push through the static, and the soulful melancholic cries of Sam Smith, and when she begins to drift, a familiar name comes to her ear.

“Good morning, good morning, Triad! You’re listening to 107.1 the B.E.A.T. The time is 10:21 AM. I’m your boy, D.J. Ronnie G, and I’m here with our host . . .”

Jessica perks up when she hears his voice, low and nonchalant like last night, slightly muffled from his lips being too close to the microphone. Like a drum roll, he mumbles, “The Girlfriend Whisperer.”

Bruce.

© Nortina Simmons

“Asking All Them Questions” — An Excerpt from Love Poetry

“I was with Alex.” She said it without thinking, surprising herself at how naturally the lie flowed from her lips. Technically, Alex was the reason she was out with Bruce, and she was with her earlier that day, so it wasn’t a total lie, but she still felt guilty for trying to deceive him. Maybe she was more like Layla than she wanted to admit. She spun around, took three steps to her right toward the kitchen, and flung the Styrofoam to-go box in the trash. Her rumbling stomach filled the silence between them, but she wouldn’t touch that lumpy mush that place had the audacity to call authentic risotto. She absently opened the refrigerator and considered the leftover Chinese food from two nights ago, but remembering that Whitmore was still there, promptly shut it, turned around and drummed her fingers on the edge of the island counter.  

“Dressed like that?” Whitmore pointed at the dress under her cardigan. He stared at her—she hated when he stared—his eyes shifting back and forth as the scenarios played out. He analyzed everything—her dress, the style of her hair, the light makeup on her face, the gait in her walk, the sway in her hips, anything to indicate she was anywhere other than where she had said. 

“We were going through her closet,” Jessica said. “This is hers.”  

“And you went to eat like that?”  

“Yes.” She kept her answer short. Any further explanation would cloud the lie. With less information for him to over-analyze, maybe he would believe her.  

His eyes were on the trashcan now, the smell of lobster rising from the lemon-scented bag. It wasn’t fresh; that’s why it looked like rubber. She would have to take it to the dumpster before her whole floor started to smell like a fish market. She wondered if Whitmore would take it out for her, on his way out the door, to his car, and back to his own apartment.  

But now Whitmore was next to her behind the counter. Whitmore was only a breath taller than Jessica, but despite having such short legs, he moved quickly. Before she could react, he clasped her face in his hands and pulled her in for a long, drawn out kiss, until her lips were almost raw. He pulled her hard, putting tension on her neck and she tried to break away. But he wouldn’t let go for anything, as if he were afraid he would lose her for good if he did. He pressured his nose into hers, making it harder to breath. She opened her mouth for air and received his tongue instead, pushing deep inside until their teeth knocked, and the saliva dripped from his glands onto her bottom lip. He backed her into the stove, peeled the cardigan off her shoulders, and feeling how naked she was underneath, he stepped back and further examined her. 

“Why did Alex give you that?” 

“Good question.” Without letting him speak, she took him by the wrist and dragged him down the hallway. He would keep asking questions until she gave him what he wanted. This was their routine now. Whitmore’s persistent prodding, his insecurities and suspicions mounting with each evasive answer she gave until finally she caved, frustrated with always having to explain herself, desperate to do anything to shut him up…

© Nortina Simmons

 

Getting Rid of August To-Do Lists

I’ll admit . . . I’m still on vacation. My brain stayed behind in Alaska while the rest of my body returned home. It’s been a struggle getting back into the swing of things, especially when all I can think about are bright blue glaciers, mountain goats and black bears, sea lions, whales, salmon, sharks if you can believe it, the jagged edges of mountain sides, the calming teal color of sediment-enriched glacial melt, hiking through the Alaskan rainforest, conoeing towards mighty rivers of ice, making bids at art auctions, buying too much jewelry, being rocked to and fro by the waves of the Pacific ocean, meeting the literal man of my dreams and not having the courage to talk to him. Oh, Alaska! I want to go back!

But it’s time to get back to business. I’ve kept you waiting long enough. I know you’re dying for an update on the Love Poetry novella, so here it is . . .

I’ll be completely transparent with you. I don’t want to say I fizzled out . . . but the second half of July got very busy very fast, and while on vacation, I decided to say “Screw it!” with all my self-imposed deadlines. I didn’t come on a week-long cruise to Alaska to be camped behind a computer the whole time. So I tossed my laptop to the 40mph catabatic glacier winds (not literally—my entire life is on that thing!) and decided to enjoy my once in a lifetime (hopefully not) luxury vacation.

Oh, by the way, I’ve decided I want to move to Alaska. I don’t know how bad winters are in that part of the last frontier, but the summers are amazing!

Anyway, getting back to what’s on the agenda for August. Right now, I am currently purging myself of the things that have taken me away from my writing for much too long. By the end of August I hope to have the majority of those burdensome projects off my plate.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2.0 is definitely a go because I am determined to finish this novella once and for all! Basically, I’m just gonna pick up where I left of and keep writing until I’m finished (and nip this problem on never finishing what I start in the bud) like it’s still July. I’ll try to post excerpts here, if nothing else, to keep myself accountable.

Other posts you’ll see from me this month: Monday’s One-Minute Fiction will be returning, and for the next several weeks, they’ll all be Alaska themed (because as I said earlier, my brain is still there). Also coming back is Throwback Thursdays—quickly becoming a staple for my Thursday posts.

But, because I promised to be transparent, I’ll admit you really won’t see much from me in August. My #1 goal for this month is to de-clutter my overcrowded to-do list. I always seem to have so much to do and never enough time to do it. It’s times like this when I often consider quitting my day job, or at least picking up some part time work so I can dedicate more time to my writing, but then bills . . .

Seriously, I don’t know why I always do this to myself. Clearly I’m not superwoman. And if I’m being honest, having a day job isn’t what’s holding me back, because what’s my excuse for the weekends? And while I sleep (or try to sleep) eight hours a day and work another eight hours, why are those last eight hours of the day never enough? I’m not good at managing my time. Which is sad, because my goal for this year is to get better organized, and with more than half of 2017 gone, I fear I’ve gotten worse. I’ve been back from Alaska a full two weeks now, and I still haven’t put up my suitcase, or folded my washed laundry from the trip (drastic temperature differences prevents me from just wearing them to get rid of the pile).

But I will hold onto the hope that purging myself of the weight of time-consuming projects I no longer have a passion for will finally free me up to do what I love . . . and clean my room.

On another note, I’m revamping the Lovely Curses blog. I wouldn’t call it an overhaul per se, but since reading this very insightful article, I’m finally going to do what I should’ve done over a year ago—back when I first had my writer’s meltdown—and that is create a blog content plan.

This is another reason why I’ll be relatively absent for the month of August— because I’m busy writing posts for the next six months! What types of posts will I be focusing on? The typical fiction and poetry of course, as well as more 1MinFiction prompts, frightful Friday ghost stories, serials, throwbacks, and more!

What I’m really learning now, is to write shorter posts. Sticking to flash fiction, which I’m come to enjoy, between 100-300 words. On those days when the inspiration bug really hits me, I know I will more than likely go over, but the whole point of keeping it short and sweet is so I can have more time to write outside of this blog. Because, you know, my publication list is getting kind of dusty, and I know you all are waiting for that damn book! Plus I want to be totally free to write and just write, worrying about nothing else, this November when I participate in NaNoWriMo.

So enough chit chat! I only stopped by to let you know I haven’t disappeared again. (Don’t send out a search party!) I’m nearly done with the first purge, I can almost taste it! Camp NaNoWriMo 2.0 is underway. I’m already thinking up six new posts to get started on my blog plan for the rest of the year, and . . .  that’s it? That’s it. Don’t want to do too much. I am trying to trim down my to-do list, after all!

Love Poetry Novella: An Interlude

I’ve crawled out of my cave briefly to chat and share some new developments from Camp NaNoWriMo.

The first three days of camp were beyond productive. I built myself a whopping ten day cushion going well past my daily goal of 968 words, which came in handy yesterday because I wrote absolutely nothing, just ate dry hamburgers, undercooked Bratwurst sausages, and bland potato salad ( 😦 ), slurped melted homemade strawberry ice cream, and spat out seeds from sweet, locally grown watermelons at my granddaddy’s 4th of July cookout.

I’m so happy that I drew out an outline for Love Poetry. Each day I come back to my computer, I know exactly what I’m going to write for that day. Sometimes I even go back to add to what I wrote the previous day, a wave of inspiration coming upon me as I read over the selection.

I’m trying to refrain from editing anything. Editing too soon lead to my downfall my last attempt at NaNoWriMo. So no editing. A first draft should read like a first draft. Write it first. Edit later.

I had a mini heart attack on day two of camp. While praising myself for writing an outline, I suddenly remembered my outline for my planned NaNoWriMo novel, Lost Boy, also scribbled on a scrap sheet of paper, and slightly different from the outline I shared back in April. I nearly tore up my room looking for that damn outline! Everything I found was for a different, abandoned story. Why do I have so many story ideas on scrap sheets of paper?

Eventually, I found it. Folded in an unused 2017 planner in my desk drawer. *sigh*  One of these days, I’ll make use of the OneNote program in my Microsoft Office Suite.

But not now. Now I have to get back to writing Love Poetry. But before I leave you, here’s a very short excerpt from what I’ve written so far. Enjoy. 🙂


Camp Excerpt from Love Poetry

She turns around in her seat, and Bruce is staring at her, one eyebrow raised. He glances at the couple then back at her, and there’s that damn smile again, slowly spread across his face like the Cheshire cat. Jessica can’t help but feel of tinge of jealousy toward the woman now that Bruce has seen her, which is idiotic, she knows. She’s descended, head over heels into her own personal wonderland, but she wants to take back some semblance of control. She wants him to see how she really is, not this frazzled wretch, who couldn’t care to look presentable, whose attention is snatched everywhere but to him. Can we have a do-over? she wants to ask. Go someplace else, somewhere less red, less intimate to make her nervous, preferable out of the country where Whitmore can’t find her. In her comfort zone, Jessica would look like that woman too, wearing something semi-decent, something more in her style, less overly available cocktail waitress, more catch me if you can bartender…

© Nortina Simmons