STORY: Ride Down Memory Lane

edits

I realized that I’ve never actually shared many of my stories on here, whether they were previously published or rough drafts. So, I thought I’d share one that I’m quite proud of! I wrote it for my Creative NonFiction class at Oakland University, and later had it published in Echo Cognitio’s 2016 Edition.

Also, I apologize for the formatting. This site isn’t the best for proper indentation or paragraph breaks.

 

The sound of metal scraping against concrete is far from pleasant. It’s worse than nails on a chalkboard or a baby crying. My boyfriend’s 1998 Dodge Neon is currently making those agonizing sounds. It’s jerking about, vibrating, as its massive steel girth drags against the ground. The engine sputters and the purple body of the car shakes more aggressively. With a jolt, something is torn away. I look in the passenger side mirror to see what has broken off, but I can’t see anything. It’s after midnight and there are no lights to illuminate the freeway.
“Eddie, get off at the next exit,” I say. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a command. My hands are gripping the seat, the door, the dashboard; anything I can hold onto. In my head, all I can imagine is the engine exploding, the brakes failing, or the tires blowing out.
As Eddie gets off M-59 at the Dequindre exit, the car gives one last jerk of life before completely stalling out. We coast to a rough stop, the breaks indeed failing, at the red light. Eddie turns the key and tries to start the car. A dull clicking noise — a flat-line in car language — is our only response. Eddie curses loudly and bangs his palms on the wheel.  He turns on the hazard lights before we step out of the car and open up the hood. Smoke billows out. Just our luck.
“I just bought this damn thing,” he grumbles angrily.
“At least you didn’t waste any extra money on buying a new muffler,” I add.
After his first car, a hand-me down green Taurus from his grandpa, kicked the bucket and went to the car lot in the sky, Eddie got the Neon. He had found it on Craigslist and bought it from a guy he met at a gas station near the freeway. Not the most ideal situation, but it was the only option he had. After a test drive and $800, the car was his. It turned out to be a lemon.
The only place to get a good used car is at one of the hundreds of used car shops that litter Metro Detroit. With so many cars being manufactured, it’s not hard to find a car that runs. Finding one that it’s a college kid’s rice range is the difficult part.
We stand outside the car, hugging each other to keep warm. Cars zoom past as they come off the freeway. Only two people stop to ask if we’re all right. We reply sullenly that we’re fine. They leave without offering any more help. What else could we expect? When traffic — oddly busy at this time of night — dies down, we start to push the carcass of Eddie’s car down the road.
Even though we live in Metro Detroit, in the heart of Automobile Country, there are no car repair shops lining this strip of road. Again, our luck has run out. We settle for a Hospital parking lot.
As we sit in silence, waiting for Eddie’s dad to pick us up, I wonder if this is how my mom feels.
My mom has horrible luck when it comes to cars. Every car she has ever owned has broken down on her at least once. It never mattered if it was brand new, like her silver Kia Rio, or a used car from a friend of the family, like her red Pontiac Firebird.
“I’m glad this didn’t happen when either of you were alone,” she says when I call her to let her know why we’ll be home later than expected. Mom always seemed to be alone when her cars broke down.

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AOF: We’ve Begun Editing!

It’s a very exciting time in the publishing process! I have recently started editing the final draft of The Art of Falling with my editor at Dragon Moon Press.

What’s great about an editor is that they truly are a fresh pair of eyes to read over your story. No matter how hard you try to step back from your work, you’re always too deeply entrenched in the characters, the plot, the backstory. It’s hard to surprise yourself when you know what’s going to happen.

So I am very thankful that my editor, the lovely Sandra Nguyen, has not just been sending her in depth comments and suggestions as an editor, but as a reader who is new to the story. She can tell me parts are confusing, which parts paint a clear picture, and the honest opinion on whether there is an audience for my novel.

There’s no telling how long this process will take, and what the next steps in the publishing process is. But it is so satisfying and thrilling to know I’m getting closer to having my novel on my bookshelf. It’s been a long five years, and I can’t wait to share the final, polished book with you!

D&D: Basile’s Letters [Set 1]

Last session, Basile finally received a response from his brother after several months of adventuring. I now feel that I can share the first set of Basile’s letters that he has been sending in secret. Enjoy!

#32

T,

I’m sorry that I haven’t kept my promise. A lot has happened since the last time I wrote you…nine years ago? I won’t recap the last decade, but instead tell you the most important parts. I have limited writing space.

I had to take on a new identity (my third…fourth?) and I’m no longer apprenticing under Pythos I’ve left to be on the road to try and find another way to become immortal. I know that you don’t approve of this, but I don’t have any other choice. An oracle told me that I was destined to die.

Don’t give me the bullshit about how “everyone dies.” I know that, I do. But I’m not ready to die just yet. I have too much left to do. I must clear my name – our name. I need to find out what and who really killed dad. I need to break this damn curse.

Right, I never told you about the curse. It had happened right after I sent my last letter to you. Pythos We had found an ancient spell that would grant me immortality if I siphoned my mortality into another being. It was an extremely dangerous spell that would certainly kill the patron who took on my weaknesses, but it was worth trying. I had just heard about the prophecy and I was terrified. You would be too knowing the end of your life was looming behind you.

So my mentor sent me to a town where he said I would be able to find the proper host.

You will hate me for this, I know you will.

I found a child.

He was abandoned in a pillaged town (no, not one that I destroyed) among the rubble. The moment I saw him I knew that he was the one. He was left behind to die just like I had been, but instead of coming to the rescue like dad, I took him as my mortality’s surrogate. No one would miss him.

He wasn’t supposed to survive. It was supposed to save me. Instead, my very life force bonded to him. Now I’m cursed to protect this child, for if he dies, I do too.

The child knows nothing. He doesn’t know about my past or that I found him. He believes I’m his step-brother, tells strangers that I’m an imaginary friend as I continue to travel out of sight. They assume he’s touched in the head, so we’re safe for now.

This is why I stopped writing you. I was too terrified to tell you. How could I? I always promised that I wasn’t a monster, and yet I had tried to do the most evil act. Now I am paying for it. You don’t have to forgive my actions. I don’t deserve such luxuries, but I do hope that you write me back.

Anyways, he wants to become an adventurer so he can grow strong to protect me like how I’ve protected him for nearly ten years. I can’t say no to him. If I do, he punches himself in the face or stabs himself in the stomach. He feels no pain, but I feel every bit of it. Damn brat. He reminds me of how you used to bug J.

Because of his childish hopes and dreams, we are now traveling with a group of adventurers to a small town. I wish I could tell you where so we could meet, but I fear that if this letter falls into the wrong hands it would be the death of me.

I will write to you again soon, I promise. I will keep you informed on my misadventures as I try to achieve the many goals piling up on my shoulders.

Do write me back soon. Send that falcon of yours to track me down south. I am eager to hear how you have been.

– E

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D&D Session 12 & 13

Happy birthday to me! I just turned 24 on August 2nd, and this past week has been a blessing and a kind reminder that I have the most wonderful friends and family.

I had the chance to go out to dinner with my fiance and family multiple times, taking advantage of free pancakes from Ihop and not having to pay for my own meals (score!) I also went to a comedy show at Meadowbrook Amphitheater to see Demetri Martin. On the day of my birthday, I woke up to find a big stuffed dog and a card left on my car from one of my closest friends. When I arrived at work, I was surprised to find balloons and streamers decorating my desk, and the task of choosing the Pandora station that we listed to. Of course, I chose Blink-182 radio.  They also left me a card, with many well wishes and lots of puns for D&D (they all know how much I adore it.)

Speaking of D&D, that is how I spent the weekend before my birthday! My friends were more than happy to grant me the gift of a two day long sleep-over session. So here is recap of the awesome sessions we had.

Session Twelve

Players:

  • Ciaran (LVL9) and Basile (LVL11)
  • Lorn (LVL 11)
  • Marven (LVL11)
  • Neebs (LVL 11)
  • Dwayne (LVL11)
  • Rheagar (LVL 11)
  • Alkaid (LVL 10)
  • Kass (LVL 10)

Story:

In town, the group goes to sell and purchase some items. Basile goes to Xi-Long to purchase a Wand of Lesser Restoration. Dwayne sells the Sword of Life Stealing that he grabbed from the dragon hoard, and purchases a Helm of Underwater Action. Lorn sells his spell book. Meanwhile, Neebs hires people to work for Neebs Peak. Marven takes Ashisa on a flying carpet ride around town. They also sell parts of the wight dragon and other pieces of the hoard to the Fang Reserve.

Meanwhile, a heavily armored man pulls himself out of the well and dries himself off. Stormageddon – keeper of the well – and the group investigates, except Dwayne who goes to church. The Warforge introduces himself as Skor is looking for Marven. Rheagar pretends he is Marven to see if he was an enemy to Marven, but they learned that he was hired by Marven. Skor and the real Marven go off in private to discuss designing the club.

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LIFE: Musical Earworms

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The Life, put on by Oakland University on October 15th, 2014.

“Gentlemen of the jury I’m curious, bear with me…”

“I used to slam on the brakes…”

“I’m hot, and pissed, and on the pill…”

“Now I’m stuck on a level and I want to move on…”

I have had a major ear worm stuck in my head for the last eight months. The rare type that isn’t just one song, but an entire collection that skips and transforms into a new melody whenever I think of a different trigger phrase or word.

Sometimes it was “satisfied” or “blue.” Other days, it was a phrase my fiance and I would share, like “now if you don’t know, now you know, Mr. President.” Then, it became “window,” and “bathroom,” followed up with “IT’S FROM JAPAAAAAAAAAAN.”

If you’re unable to tell, I’m talking about the musical quartet that has taken over the internet and filled youtube with the most amazing animatics. I’m talking about Hamilton, Heather, Dear Evan Hansen, and Be More Chill.

GOD, I wish I had the skill, to just be —

Stop.

What I mean to say is: GOD, I am in love with these musicals. So much so that I literally can not stop hearing them in my head. My fiance and I sing them constantly, to the point that we’re driving our parents nuts (although, Mom finds it charming how I now feel comfortable to do such things in public.)

I remember my first musical was Wicked. My science teacher had mentioned it to me in passing, and loaned me his CD to listen to after class. I immediately burned myself a copy of it so I could listen to it over and over and over. 

I ended up buying the book (perhaps a bit mature for an 8th grader) and read it over the course of a few days. I fondly remember him waiting patiently to let me finish the last page before starting class. Over several years, I saw Wicked at the Detroit Opera House three times, and every time I cried during For Good.

So far, my collection of musicals include (in order of how I recall being introduced):

  • Wicked
  • Chicago
  • High School Musical (yes, it counts.)
  • Hairspray
  • Sweeney Todd
  • Rent
  • Avenue Q
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Holy Musical B@man!
  • Starship
  • A Very Potter Musical
  • Twisted
  • Carrie: the Musical
  • The Life
  • She Loves Me
  • Assassins
  • Legally Blonde
  • Hamilton
  • Heathers
  • Dear Evan Hansen
  • Be More Chill

Many of these I have seen performed live, while others I’ve only seen the movie adaptations. Of these, the only one that I haven’t watched (because it wasn’t recorded and posted to YouTube) is Be More Chill. Maybe that’s why I can’t just seem to let this one go. Thankfully, a lovely artist on YouTube is animating the entire thing with the audio. Bless them.

In the end, what I love the most about musicals is not the catchy songs, but the craft that goes into writing them. I am in awe every time I listen to Hamilton and hear the ingenious play on words, or when the motif of trees in Dear Evan Hansen makes me cry. How can one actor put so much emotion into singing a song about sitting in a bathroom, or begging their girlfriend to take him back?

The mere idea of writing the plot and musical score is something I can’t even fathom, and I am so very honored to have the privilege of seeing so many in person. It is an art that I hope never dies out, and one that I can share with my loved ones.

And I am always looking for more! So please, leave a comment and let me know your favorite musical and productions. I would love to get to know you better by knowing what you enjoy listening and watching.

 

REVIEW: The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

Thomas Lynch does something absolutely amazing in his memoir, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. He takes a job that most people don’t think about – and when they do it’s not for happy or positive reasons – and takes you down a winding path of stories about his life and the lessons he has learned over the years.

For being a poet, he isn’t heavy with the fluff and romance most people associate with poetry. His writing is very clear and concise, with straight forward similes, metaphors, and images that pack a punch. The details that are given are precise and paint a clear picture without being too grandiose. He lets the weight of the stories drive the book forward, not his ability to write. Don’t let that fool you into thinking he can’t write. He is extremely talented and an expert when it comes to pen and paper.

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ARTICLE: The Dead Don’t Care, but Thomas Lynch Does.

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Thomas Lynch visited, read his poetry and segments of his memoir to students in the Oakland Center on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Part of the requirements to get a degree in Creative Writing is to take a specific track, whether it’s fiction, poetry, or screen writing. Although I chose to take Fiction, I was also required to try other genres. I gave both poetry and screen writing a shot, and I can say definitively that each style of writing requires a different set of skills and a different mindset to write effectively. It’s difficult to switch between the two.

Which is why Thomas Lynch is master of writing. Although he started off as a poet, he has expanded his skills to write fiction, memoirs, a book of essays, and even a play. As Brian Connery, an English professor at Oakland University said in his opening statements during Lynch’s reading, “he turned to prose with a poet’s precision.”

However, what makes Lynch unique is not his astounding ability to write in any form he wishes. It is his unique job as an undertaker that gives his poetry and fiction a new life of its own.

Lynch graced Oakland University with his presence October 26-27, giving discussions to the medical school, a craft talk on writing, and ending with an hour long reading of poetry and excerpts from his memoir The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. Needless to say, he was very generous with his time, and everyone who attended his events were very thankful.

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