“Moleskine Mondays” – “O” is for Organization

Present word count of WIP:  59,985

Location, location, location. What’s true in real estate is also true in writing. While the best of us may be able to hunker down and churn out words at any time in any setting, most of us (me included) need our “cave”–somewhere to hibernate and create.

I love looking at the broad range of writers rooms and offices, and found an excellent series on several current, well-known (in British literary circles, anyway) English authors posted in The Guardian three years ago. I’ll probably be referring to several on my “O” Mondays.

One, in particular, rang a bell. That of the British art historian and writer, Frances Spalding.

Here is the picture of her office (photographed by Eamonn McCabe) published in The Guardian on June 26, 2009:

And here is how she, herself, described it:

Apart from its central chimney and platform base, this house is entirely made out of wood. And very sympathetic it is too. It was built for the artist Elisabeth Vellacott in 1959. She had very little money and so the architect, Peter Boston, insisted it had to be all roof. An A-frame building well suits an artist, for it permits a double-height window beneath the apex. But for a writer, it is less good, limiting opportunities for bookshelves as well as walls on which to hang pictures. I have, therefore, yet to achieve a library-room and still live with books and papers squeezed in wherever space allows.

But what I gained with this house was an enormous desk. It is an artist’s working bench, with slots on one side where canvases can be stored. In Vellacott’s day it was thick with oil paint and the grime of charcoal. Without my asking, the builders, while renovating the house, one day sanded the surface of the desk, to great effect. As a biographer and art historian, I often work with images and text. Recently, while coping with the last stages of my new book – John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art – the entire desk was covered with page proofs, making it possible to check illustrations against lists, sources and textual references.

With light coming in on all sides, the room absorbs the mood outside. Grey days here remind me of Stevie Smith and her “loamish landscapes”. Despite having written her life, only now do I understand why an empty park, in the winter rain, had, for her, a “staunch and inviolate melancholy that is refreshing”. Then, too, on sunny days, this room fills with light that quivers and slowly slides round the walls, sometimes forming diamond shapes. The novelist Rebecca Stott noticed this when viewing the house, after Vellacott’s death. She eventually pulled out as its buyer, but recreated it and the surroundings in her novel Ghostwalk. So now, having been semi-derelict, the house lives on, in wood and words.

Why did this ring a bell? I only finished reading “Ghostwalk” by Rebecca Stott some months ago, so I knew exactly what Spalding meant when she wrote that “the light slides around the walls” in her office on sunny days. Though I can’t find the bit about the light in her novel just now, here are a few other snatches showing how Stott described the writer’s house in “Ghostwalk”:

She called it The Studio, but it reminded him of the witch’s gingerbread house in the forest, its wooden-tiled roof sloping precipitously all the way to the ground…Elizabeth had commissioned the architect to give her a steep-ceilinged expanse of white studio space to write in and a little bedroom tucked away in a mezzanine floor under the roof…Her work table was different too. The oak slab on which she worked was usually invisible under piles of papers and goods and card files.

I have yet to have the writer’s room of my dreams, but I’m fond of the small alcove in our master bedroom that I’ve made into my “cave.”

A large picture window lies at my back (unfortunately the only view is our neighbor’s house and I always have to keep the blinds down to cut out the glare on my computer monitor…so we’re considering having stained glass put in once we can afford it).

On one wall hangs a copy of a hand-drawn rendition of “The Pink House” in Beirut (it took up much of our view of the Mediterranean from our apartment there) by an artist friend of the family. On the other is a David Roberts print of the Gulf of Aqaba (a wedding gift from my parents).

My large light-colored wooden wraparound desk and a wide, two-drawer filing cabinet (topped by family pictures) take up most of the rest of the space, along with a couple of cat beds. In winter, Peach uses the heated one; in summer, he curls up in the cat-o-sphere.

I’d post pictures but things are a bit messy just now. I promise to post one next time I blog about writer’s rooms…probably in 9 weeks.

So, what is your room or office like? Large or small? Cluttered or tidy? Any unique touches?

Originally posted 2012-07-02 06:00:11.

The Suspense of “Moleskine Mondays”

Present word count of WIP:  59,112

Whether you’re writing suspense, romance, fantasy, or science fiction, or simply in need of a handy sketchbook, nothing beats a Moleskine notebook for jotting down ideas and sketching on the go.

Where did these notebooks originate? According to Wikipedia, these kinds of notebooks were standard in 19th and 20th century Europe and used by such writers and artists as Oscar Wilde, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Henri Matisse.

Today’s Moleskine notebook is designed to look like those used by the English novelist and travel writer, Bruce Chatwin. In fact, he gave the books their nickname in The Songlines. His original supplier, a stationery store owner in Paris, told him in 1986 that the last notebook manufacturer, a small family-owned establishment in Tours, France, had gone out of business. He said, “Le vrai Moleskine n’est plus” (“The real Moleskine is no more”). He quickly bought up the remaining stock.

So if they died out, how is it that we have them today? Apparently, the Italians came to the rescue in 1997 (long after I left Milan). Two years later, they started distributing beyond Italy in Europe and the U.S., eventually expanding into Asia.

Anyway, they eventually got bought out, appropriately enough, by a French investment fund, though the items continue to be designed in Italy. Today, Moleskine products range from notebooks to bags, computer cases, reading glasses, pens and pencils, booklights, and reading stands. They are available in more than 53 countries and usually found in bookshops.

So what do I mean by “Moleskine Mondays?”

Every Monday, I’m going to try and blog about things having to do with the business of writing. I chose “MOLESKINE” as an acronym to summarize those things:

1. Media – things like…

  • moleskin notebooks, PCs, iMacs, iPads, Typewriters, Netbooks, Laptops, pens, etc.

2. Organization – things like..

  • office layouts, outlining methods, filing methods, planners, etc.

3. Libraries – I love personal libraries, so this will include..

  • cool ideas for personal home libraries (with pictures) and how best to organize them.

4. E-readers – you guessed it…

  • reviews (pros and cons) about each kind of e-reader as well as news of developments in the digital age.

5. Software – this means…

  • reviews (pros and cons) about the different software writing programs available on the market and their prices.

6. Knowledge – this will cover…

  • the best resources for research information and/or training for writers, whether it’s a website, a book, or a writing conference.

7. IPad Apps – naturally, these posts…

  • will review the different apps a writer might find useful and why or why not they work.

8. Networking – I’ll discuss…

  • the various social networking possibilities online, as well as how best to build relationships with agents, publishers, bookstores, book clubs, online reviewers, schools, and libraries (I’ll be wanting a lot of input here since so many of you know so much more than I do).

9. Events – you know, ideas for all those writer events like…

  • book signings, book club appearances, book launches, school appearances, conference presentations, etc.

How cool is it that my favorite number happens to be 9 and there are exactly 9 letters in MOLESKINE? Believe me, I’m going to welcome a ton of input and shared experience each Monday. Though I’ll try to post in order by letter, you won’t know the exact topic until you read it. That’s where the suspense comes in. I’ve just covered Media with this post about Moleskine notebooks, so next Monday it will be something about Organization.

What do you think about “Moleskine Mondays?” Did I leave anything out about the business of writing and, if so, can it still fit somewhere in my acronym?

Originally posted 2012-06-25 16:40:44.

Writing Blind

Present word count of WIP:  56,872

Writing, for me, is an act of faith.

I believe that when I face an empty Word document on my computer screen (or a blank piece of paper)…and set my fingers to the keyboard (or take pen in hand), words and scenes will begin to flow into my mind and out of my hands to create a story.

If I’m writing a novel, all I usually start with is a character and a situation. I am not an outliner. And this has always struck me as odd, since I organize and make lists for everything else in my life. When it comes to creative writing, however, I close my eyes and leap.

Perhaps it stems from my beginnings with poetry. Verse is always born from inspiration. Yes, at times I’ll sit down with the subject in mind, but that is all. I wait patiently and let phrases come and go then grasp at those that build a vision of sorts. A vision that feels true. And as it rises in construction, I’ll knock a wall out here, add a window there, take off a whole wing if it detracts from the vision’s elegance. And how do I know if it adds or detracts? By the feeling I get as I read the words, say the words. It’s a heavy, full feeling…a feeling not unlike what I’m experiencing right now. Closer to what I feel in spiritual moments than when I am enthralled with a work of art. It’s a humbling sensation.

And when I write stories, it’s much the same. I take the first step or two and then count on a higher power to carry me through. Always, so far, I have been pleasantly surprised at plot points that seemed to have arisen out of nowhere.

In The Reckoning I had not planned to bring Peter back to Baghdad to find Theresa imprisoned in her cell. But as I introduced the element of hidden audio and video devices in her cell, it suddenly came to me how powerful it would be to have him witness for himself her growing affection for Tariq. That is just one instance. There were countless other examples in that book.

In the forthcoming The Boy in the Pool my random selection of a particular book for my main character to read in an early scene turned out to provide some major plot developments as I felt inspired to research the book’s title. What I discovered was too good to be mere coincidence.

And in my current work in progress, it’s happening again. Symbols recurring seemingly by chance. Myths foreshadowing the course of the story. Some I’ve noticed myself, while others have been pointed out to me by those in my writing group.

I don’t know why I should be surprised. After all, writing blind is merely putting your work of creation in the hands of the Creator. I’m not discounting the need for craft, technique, and talent. I’m simply saying that without faith those are insufficient to produce my best work. My truest work requires a connection with the source of truth.

And the longer I write blind, the truer I believe my work will become.

Originally posted 2012-06-08 13:59:25.

YA Romance – NIGHT SKY by Jolene Perry

Present word count of WIP:  55,312

Back Cover Copy:

Girl I’ve loved, girl I’m falling for. Now that they’re both in view, the problem is clear.

After losing Sarah, the friend he’s loved, to some other guy, Jameson meets Sky. Her Native American roots, fluid movements, and need for brutal honesty become addictive fast. This is good. Jameson needs distraction – his dad leaves for another woman, his mom’s walking around like a zombie, and Sarah’s new boyfriend can’t keep his hands off of her.

As he spends time with Sky and learns about her village, her totems, and her friends with drums – she’s way more than distraction. Jameson’s falling for her fast.

But Sky’s need for honesty somehow doesn’t extend to her life story – and Jameson just may need more than his new girl to keep him distracted from the disaster of his senior year.

My Review:

While I generally don’t read Romance as a genre, I was interested to see how well the author, a woman, would be able to get inside the head of a teenage boy (partly because I’m attempting the same thing in my current WIP…though my protagonist is a good bit younger).

Jameson, or “Jay,” comes off realistically in terms of his behavior. He’s a top high school swimmer and he takes out a lot of his frustrations in his backyard pool. Living in Las Vegas with parents who work late hours in one of the local casinos, he freely roams the strip when he needs to get some air to sort out his thoughts. And when he loses his temper, he throws his phone (a couple of times) and even lays into the jerk who stole his best friend, Sarah.

His language and his sexual urges also come off realistically, sometimes uncomfortably so. (If you can’t handle swearing and/or reading about what goes on in a boy’s head when he’s around a beautiful girl like Sky, this book is probably not for you.)

Some of his mental process didn’t ring true for me, however. He seemed to obsess over his problems more like a girl would. Granted, he has plenty to think about:

The best friend he’s secretly been in love with for the past three years has now got a controlling boyfriend who doesn’t want Jay anywhere near her.

His dad and mom split up about a third of the way through the novel and there’s no telling if they’ll get back together…or even if he really wants them to.

And now he’s fallen in love with Sky, a gorgeous Native American from Alaska, who insists on honesty in their developing relationship, yet seems to be holding something back.

As a coming of age novel, it took me a while to warm up to it. I didn’t like Sky at first because she seemed way too forward (particularly so, once the reader learns more about her background later). Once more was revealed about Sky’s clan and background, however, that was when the book began to get interesting. I was hooked. She was definitely the stronger of the two characters (meaning Jay and Sky). If this was meant to come off as a complicated love triangle, all I have to say is, his relationship with Sarah needed to be strengthened outside his head.

In any case, the writing was fluid and the pacing generally well done. If you want a good YA read, and aren’t put off by language or somewhat sensual scenes, Jolene Perry’s NIGHT SKY will more than satisfy.

 

Originally posted 2012-05-14 07:38:27.

The Artist and Humility

Present word count of WIP:  54,620

Be prepared for the above word count to remain fairly static for the rest of this week. Why? Because I’m en route to a writers conference–the 2012 LDStorymakers Writer’s Conference to be precise–and if there’s one thing that I have difficulty doing while at such a conference, it’s writing.

Oh, I’ll take plenty of notes…and even perhaps work on my pitch, but my WIP? Realistically, probably not (even though I have it with me). You see, it’s such a rare treat for writers to come out of their caves and gather together, that there’s a whole lot of talking about writing and celebrating about writing, but not much writing.

That’s what a retreat is for. (Hint, hint, Liz.)

Anyway, I decided to make it easy on myself this year and split the 10-hour drive down to Utah in half. So, I only had to drive as far as Boise today.

I was prepared for a mostly silent drive because usually NPR devolves into static about an hour outside the Tri-Cities (and I always forget to set the CDs I like to listen to within arms reach). For some reason today, however, I was able to keep listening long past Pendleton.

Long enough to hear a fascinating interview with Wayne Wright. I’d never heard of him before, but he was the artistic genius behind all the puppets, etc. in that 80’s TV show, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (which I’d heard of but never watched). Anyway, someone has made a documentary about him entitled, “Beauty is Embarrassing.”

At the end of the interview, he was asked to explain the idea behind the title. He spoke about how people can be so overcome by beauty, whether in nature (created by God, if you will) or in works created by man, that they are moved to tears and that’s embarrassing. He said it’s humbling or embarrassing to be made to feel that vulnerable. I loved that idea, because it’s so true.

Then another thought occurred to me, as I was reflecting on how this manifested itself in great writing. That’s how I feel, too, when I create something–a phrase, a sentence, or perhaps a paragraph–and someone in my critique group (or, if it occurred in a talk or a poem or a song or book I’ve written, one of my listeners or readers) compliments me about it. I’m embarrassed.

How do you say “Thank you” when you feel like it was a gift from the true Creator?

So, yes, beauty is embarrassing.

Originally posted 2012-05-01 21:01:01.

Responsibility #3: Supporting Writers

Present word count of WIP:  49,832

(Pitiful progress, I know. I’ll try and make up for it while traveling to Utah this weekend.)

In my earlier post about a writer’s responsibilities, I listed #3 as:

We have to support our fellow writers.

What goes around comes around. That’s probably the main reason most of us who struggle to get our writing out there put effort into supporting each other.

The writing community is pretty tightly knit, in and of itself. After all, writers always seem to be on the bottom of the totem pole–whether we’re talking about movies, plays, or books. The biggest Oscars (for Best Picture) or Tonys (Best Play or Musical) go to moneymen–producers–while the creative individual(s) behind the whole story are generally ignored once the picture goes into production. At least, when it comes to awards, the publishing industry has it right. The writers are the ones recognized, not their publishers. However, too many times writers feel like they get little to no respect even in the publishing industry. So, we have to watch out for each other.

That’s why we’ve got groups like PEN American Center, which is only “one of 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.” That’s why we’ve got Romance Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. That’s why we’ve got a group for nearly every genre, not to mention all the online groups that help us navigate the complicated waters of getting published.

Then there are other, more specialized groups like American Night Writers Association and LDStorymakers, which are specialized to fit the needs of LDS writers and/or authors.

Yes, one of the ways we can help support each other is by joining one or more of these groups and being involved to the extent that we gain writing friends who will, hopefully, support us as we support them. There is always power in numbers.

Dave Wolverton (aka Dave Farland)

But there’s an even stronger impetus, I feel, for supporting other writers. It’s not about getting anything back for yourself. It’s about helping to grow literacy in this world. Talents always come with responsibility. If we have a gift for the written word, it’s incumbent on us to not only share it, but to spread it among others. I remember being so impressed with Dave Wolverton and the way he freely provides so much help to other writers on their way up the ladder. He doesn’t seem to see them as his competition. I think he sees them more as his legacy.

Let’s help each other freely and build a legacy of literacy.

Originally posted 2012-03-30 13:49:59.

Responsibility #2: A Daily Regimen

Present word count of WIP: 48, 925

Our second responsibility as writers:

2. We have to work at it regularly, hopefully on a daily basis.

There are two key words here–“work” and “daily.”

You mean writing takes work? Oh, yes!

A lot of readers have the mistaken notion that artists get their inspiration in a flash of genius. They sit before their canvas, their potter’s wheel, or their blank sheet of paper (whether real or on the computer monitor) and wait for the muse to fill their heads with an idea, a concept, a situation, or a character.

Actually, those kinds of flashes come at odd times (I get a lot of mine in the shower), to be acted upon later during our regular writing period.

Why have a regular writing period? To condition our brains for creativity. No artist becomes good without practice and conditioning. Like athletes, we must exercise our creativity, craft, and imagination every day in order to keep them in top shape. Whether I know what to write next or not, if I don’t force my fingers to begin typing, the door to my creativity stays closed. Once I begin, however, the narrative begins to flow and it’s always a wonderful surprise to see its path develop before my very eyes. Even when I’m trying to keep to a vague outline, it will change direction in surprising ways.

The key is making it happen on a daily, or almost daily, basis. A true professional artist will carve out his/her creative time in the daily schedule, bar the door, forbid interruptions (except for true emergencies), and set to work. The more you keep to the schedule, the easier the art comes.

And we owe it to ourselves (as artists), our patrons (as art lovers), and the Master Artist (who set the example when the world was created, one part at a time, in a regular, methodical fashion).

Originally posted 2012-03-26 21:41:14.

Responsibility #1 – Truth Through Fiction

Present word count of WIP:  48,749

Last Monday, I blogged about a fiction writer’s responsibilities and I wanted to go a bit more in depth into each one, beginning with the first.

As I originally phrased it: We have to do our best to tell the truth through our fiction. I’ve since amended it to read as follows:

We have to do our best to show the truth through our fiction.

In response to my original post, Pauline commented: One point I question. Telling the truth through our fiction. Two thought processes at odds?

It may appear counterintuitive to make up stories in order to illustrate truth, but it’s as old as man. We are natural storytellers, compelled to seek understanding and validation through our tales. Mythologies developed as men and women everywhere sought answers to the wonders of this world. Every story in every religious scripture contains elements of truth about the human condition.

Is it strange or unethical to make up stories in order to convey truth? Jesus Christ told parables. Aesop had his fables. The fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimm Brothers all shone a light on some aspect of the human condition. Shakespeare’s plays speak volumes of truth about mankind.

The real shame is when authors shy away from the truth in their stories in order not to discomfit the reader. (I’m not referring here to the use of “realistic” profanity or scenes of sex and/or violence in order to come off as more “truthful.”) I’m referring to the way we sometimes don’t allow our protagonists to suffer or make mistakes in order to learn and grow. I’m also referring to writing that presents characters and/or situations that are simply not credible, yet easier to sell to a readership that always wants happy endings.

I would far prefer to write the kind of truth that rings out about the human condition in my fiction, even if it means a smaller audience, than to write for immediate popularity’s sake. Why? Because the latter never lasts. The real classics in literature always point to the truth.

As another commenter, Susan, pointed out:

I loved that your first point was telling the truth through our fiction. When I taught literature to children, we used fiction stories to illustrate truths. In The Secret Garden, a girl who is kind to a crippled boy, has her own heart healed. I could go on and on and . . . needless to say, my pet peeve is the thief who marries a princess. There are many such examples in today’s offerings, children or adults who break rules, don’t pay the consequences, but have happy endings. These are lies to me. Truth was told when Dr. Zhivago ended the way it did.

Amen.

Originally posted 2012-03-23 19:53:32.

A Writer’s Responsibilities

Present word count of WIP:  47,402

While each writer is unique and works in a unique setting and situation, we all share certain responsibilities as I see it:

1. We have to do our best to show the truth through our fiction.

2. We have to work at it regularly, hopefully on a daily basis.

3. We have to support our fellow writers.

4. We have to honor our contracts with publishers and agents.

5. We have to recognize when it’s time to take off our writer’s hat and be a mom, a dad, a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a teacher, or a friend.

I could have written a lot more today, but instead I spent my morning working on a Power Point Presentation on Asperger’s that I’ll be giving to a pack of about 20 Cub Scouts. Sure, I could have counted it as writing, but I didn’t. Instead, I took off my writer’s hat to prepare to teach. Why? Because I have a son who’s grown up with Asperger’s Syndrome and I know how important it is for these young 8-10-year-olds to understand better so that they might be more inclusive of those around them they might see as “different.”

Then, this afternoon, as I prepared to put my writing hat back on and make more headway on my WIP, I got a call from a friend–a fellow writer–who needed help with her new WordPress blog. The hat stayed off.

As much as I love writing–and I do–there are things that are more important.

Originally posted 2012-03-19 21:53:40.

I Have a Book Deal!

Present word count of WIP:  47,161 (I know…no increase, but I did finish outlining the entire book!)

I am very excited to announce that Walnut Springs Press will be publishing my second novel, Laps (though the title will likely be different), later this year…probably late summer or early fall! I promise more details as they develop.

I believe I have the recent ANWA Conference to thank for helping to seal this deal. While there, I was able to meet with their editor, Linda Mulleneaux, and I’m sure that my winning a couple of awards in their BOB (Beginning of Book) Contest made a favorable impression, as well. Thanks so much, ANWA!

Here’s a taste of the book (taken from my first chapter) to whet your appetite:

Budding writers could be so defensive, Daphne thought, not for the first time. The women she taught in her graduate tutorial bruised like teenagers, pouting and suffering in silence. Most of the men argued with their jaws clenched—none more so than Reuben. She picked up his short story anyway, drew in a breath, and read aloud his opening sentence.

“Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon sun.” She paused and looked up at the clock on the back wall. Five minutes to go. “To be honest, this opening takes the reader nowhere. Yes, it may tell us Merrick is lazy . . . or it may not.”

Reuben raised his hand, the muscles in his face already working, and began to squabble with her assertion. Guy, the only truly talented writer in the class, wasn’t there to take her side. So she chewed on the inside of her cheek as Reuben went on and on about the visual quality of “languished.”

When he finished, she said, “I suppose you don’t care about getting published then,” and dismissed the class. As he passed her desk, she heard him call her “narcissistic” under his breath along with another unflattering term. He was wrong. She hadn’t found the right word for herself yet, but she was definitely not narcissistic.

Still stressed when she pulled into her garage a half hour later, Daphne headed straight for her pool. She checked the desert sky. No moon. She’d swim without a suit, then, shielded by the wall of palms, hibiscus, and oleander surrounding her backyard. Since the death of her parents, she’d used moonless nights to such advantage.

As she started to unbutton her blouse, she noticed that one of the four dark shapes she knew to be her patio chairs had been moved back several inches from the circular glass table with the umbrella. A sense of foreboding crept up the back of her neck like a spindly-legged spider, and she shivered. She never left a chair out of place.

For a moment, Daphne considered changing her routine. But she couldn’t. The swim in total blackness wouldn’t soothe if she varied the pattern, and though she didn’t understand the reason, she knew that patterns smoothed out the wrinkles in her life like lotion applied to rough, cracked skin.

She pushed the chair back in and undressed quickly, leaving her folded slacks and blouse on the deck. After stretching out the kinks in her back and running her fingers through her cropped hair, Daphne took her usual starting place at the far side of the pool and sliced into the dark water. Six quick strokes, and she flipped to push off the wall for the return. Ninety-nine laps to go.

She pulled at the water, deconstructing Reuben’s opening line in her mind with each lap.

Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon sun. Flip turn.

Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon. Flip turn.

Merrick languished in the lazy. Flip turn.

By the tenth lap, the classroom began to recede from her mind. By the fifteenth, the last memory of the evening’s unpleasantness sank below her consciousness. Buoyed by the night-cooled water, Daphne relished the pungency of chlorine and the familiar numbness spreading through her arms and legs.

If Daphne bowed to any god, it was the god of water—the pool his holy sanctuary, the daily swim her prayer. Water freed her, saved her from a society in which she felt ill at ease. In its liquid cold and calm, her oddities were masked or erased.

At age three, when she’d first ballooned her cheeks to slip beneath its glimmering surface, Daphne had opened her eyes underwater and discovered a world of muted sounds, bluish vision and slower motion. Here, no fly could dart around. The yapping of the neighbor’s dog hushed. Her feet and hands, often so clumsy on land, worked together in water and found a rhythm previously unknown. Stroke after stroke. Lap after lap. A coordination so practiced over the decades that now, at forty-one, she slashed through the water without thinking.

Swimming saved her in the dry heat of Phoenix where pools freckled the landscape. No matter Daphne’s schedule at the university, her morning swim came first. It steeled her for a college classroom full of opinionated writing students. And if a day’s teaching drained her, as this had, she swam again in the afternoon or night.

Switching to the breaststroke for her twenty-sixth lap, her right hand brushed against something mid-stroke. She jerked upright, surprised. Had she imagined it? Daphne strained to see in the blackness of the pool, but she could make out nothing. She swept her arm across the dark water. Still not a thing. She inched further and propelled her arm underneath the liquid surface. Contact. Wet cloth over a hard object. When she poked it, it moved away, but only slightly. She reached again. Feathery strands tickled her fingers. She lurched back and gasped. 

 

Originally posted 2012-03-16 13:36:26.