Last year: Taos Toolbox
This year: Clarion. Well, sort of.
I was perpetually wait listed for Clarion a while back and absolutely treasure the experience I had with the Taos Toolbox Diesel Bears 2011 in Ski Valley. But this year, I'm celebrating the completion of Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams (and the fact that four, count em four) agents have asked to see the manuscript!
So, in order to whip what was originally a 137K behemoth into shape, I'm signed on to the Clarion Write a Thon and hope to join a critique group. My goal is to edit the whole thing, forty seven chapters, which is going to take a lot of ass kicking.
In a month, I've gotten Boulevard down to about 110K--much more reasonable but it still needs a deep edits pass and line editing. Thanks to Andrew, Carol and Chelsea, my dedicated Critters.org readers, its almost there. But almost isn't good enough.
So, even if you don't donate anything (our sponsors pledge some amount per unit, in my case per chapter edited), keep track of my progress and kick my ass a bit. I'll be posting excerpts along the way, and crits as well as a few pennies are most welcome. Proceeds benefit the Clarion scholarship fund.
What am I getting out of this? Hopefully, a sale. Which is why I've chosen the Break Out badge for my symbol.
The link to my profile is here. The excerpt posting area strips formatting, so reading excerpts isn't optimal there. I'll be posting links to selected non fiction and excerpts of Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams on this page.
This weeks nonfiction link is a humorous personal essay published a while back in Noneuclicdean Cafe entitled "Concrete."
And here's some of Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams
What is it about?
Taina Aponte, sole survivor of the arson that killed her family, was whisked to Puerto Rico by her grandmother to escape the epidemic of crime and violence in The Bronx.
Thirty years later, haunted by her memories, the now grown up witch returns to the ravaged neighborhood intent on finding the murderers.
Fearful and inexperienced, Taina seeks help from Arnaldo Arroyo, a cantankerous male witch with his own style of brujería—and a big secret. An elderly astrologer and santera who knew her mother gives counsel, and she is befriended by fairies that shapeshift into pigeons, rats, and red-tailed hawks.
Discouraged and unsure who she can trust, Taina is ready to give up and go back to Puerto Rico. She learns that a spell her mother placed on her before tossing her to safety endowed her as the White Witch, destined to balance the forces of good and evil and restore order and civility, yet is reluctant to accept the challenge and face her greatest fear—fire.
Taina concocts her own combination of magick and Santería to fight the roving gangs of dhampirs, werewolves, and zombies responsible for her family's murder. But can she summon the courage to use it?
Taina craved the tropical comfort of a piña colada, with a shot of the best rum she could get to take the edge off the heat—and her nerves. But there wasn't much time to get to the store and back inside before dark—when the creatures of the night took over.
A crowd of men, mundanes, stood outside the liquor store on 149th. Taina immediately regretted wearing shorts and a tank top. Half naked already, their eyes undressed her the rest of the way. She pushed past, ignoring the typical lewd comments.
One guy pulled her ponytail, then grabbed her ass. Taina whipped around and whacked him across the face with her forearm. The crack of his nose reverberated up to her elbow.
He dropped to his knees, both hands trying in vain to stem the bloody torrent. Taina hoped it was broken. And more worried about the delay than the unfortunate prankster.
The men rallied around their fallen comrade, which attracted the attention of the shop’s owner. He plowed through the crowd encircling the victim. "Ay, señorita, lo siento. Entra."
He escorted her into the shop and ran back outside, gesticulating wildly. "¡Vete, ya! If you’re not going to buy, don’t hang around here molestando my paying customers."
The group wandered toward Prospect Avenue. Taina selected a bottle of Puerto Rican rum for authenticity.
Now to the store to buy sweetened coconut milk and pineapple juice. And something to whip it up nice and creamy. "Where can I buy a blender?"
The proprietor had reinstalled himself behind the counter to watch the ball game. "The Yankees are having a bad night. Here you go." He plunked a tiny mixer on the counter, just enough to make piña coladas for two—and she was thirsty enough to drink both.
He rang her up. "I have everything you need for a party right here. Anything else?" "No, that’s it for tonight." She paid and stuffed the change into her pocket for later.
The shop bell tinkled, but the door slammed and locked behind her. The closest bodega was on the other side of the park, and she better hurry. Taina ducked inside as they were closing up for the night, grabbed what she needed, and started home.
The bottle of rum clinked against the cans. Mountains of black plastic bags sat in front of stores and apartments. Rusty elevated train tracks shed lead laden paint chips like poison manna upon nearby housing projects. She picked up her pace and detoured through the only green space within miles to avoid the dog shit smeared on the sidewalks.
As she went up a grassy knoll toward 149th Street her lungs, long ago damaged by smoke inhalation, fought to expand and contract in the hazy summer air. A pigeon flew so close Taina expected the poop to plop on her back. It flapped its wings to challenge a squirrel scavenging through an overflowing pail filled with remnants of fried chicken, egg rolls, and pizza crusts.
The rodent was faster though, and it scaled a tree with a crescent shaped remainder of something in its mouth. As she passed Ritual Rock, a nondescript gray bird, its wing tips and breast streaked with blue and green bright enough to adorn a peacock's tail, landed in front of her and blocked the way like it had set up a force field.
"What the fuck?" Taina tried to push past, but couldn't. "Humans really like that word, yet they accuse us of indiscriminate breeding." A creature, waist high to Taina, with a Cheshire Cat grin, a British accent, two iridescent blue wings, and a squat, leaf-green body materialized, his choice parts barely concealed by a brown rag.
"What the fuck!" A fairy in this human wasteland?
Like a true New Yorker he ignored the duplicate expletive. "Allow me to introduce myself. Bridge Rat, minion to Hawkclaw, Fairy King of New Yorke at your service, Lady Taina. I am in charge of this sector of The Bronx. My liege lord shall arrive in a moment." He bowed like a praying mantis being eaten by a bird. "I daresay the foul language you've acquired in such a short time bodes well for your ability to rise to your duties."
Tonight couldn’t get more weird. First, she’d broken some punk’s nose. Now she'd dropped the F bomb on a fairy. Twice. And she didn’t give a shit about either transgression.
"Knock it off. The only court around here is on 161st and the Grand Concourse. This isn't Camelot, and I'm not a lady. I'm a woman and don't rise to do anyone's duty."
The fairy rustled its wings. Magick tingled along Taina's spine and soothed the angst roiling in her gut since she'd gotten off the plane and into that fetid yellow cab at Kennedy airport two weeks ago.
"Ah, I beg to differ my lady." Bridge Rat turned his eyes skyward and a silly grin cracked his face.
A majestic ruddy hawk, as big as a dog, glided to a landing on top of the immense black granite slab. Another fae-induced shiver crawled down Taina's back like a spider.
The haughty fairy king coalesced out of rusty dust spiral. Red hair hung in wavy tendrils over his shoulders, obscuring much of a bare chest. Pointed ears, adorned with cuffs and spikes and jeweled earrings, wiggled. A lime green cape swept the gum-stained asphalt as he flitted toward her, bare, six-toed feet hovering only inches above the ground, red and ochre wings beating like a translucent heart.
Bridge Rat announced him. "Hawkclaw, King of The Fairydom of New Yorke." Hawkclaw alighted, swept the cape over one shoulder, and bowed. "Hail and welcome, White Witch. Long have we awaited your return."
Yes, this night could get even more weird. "I think you must be confusing me with someone else. I'm brown and barely a witch at all."
"On the contrary, Lady Taina. You are just beginning to realize your powers. We trust that Sir Arnaldo will be at your side during the impending battle." Taina suppressed a giggle at that image.
"I’m just trying to get to the bottom of a mystery, then get my bottom out of the Fairydom of New Yorke."
The fairies in PR were more like fireflies, quiet, yet silly, tricky. Of course, everything in The Bronx mutated to the most extreme degree possible.
"Fear not, it has been foreseen and will occur." Hawkclaw pronounced, expressionless, like one who hasn't had good news in a long time. "Bridge Rat will summon me and the others when the time comes."
He fluttered his wings, rose into the air and transformed back into the majestic bird as he flew west over Ritual Rock toward the Manhattan skyline. Taina shivered despite the hot, humid night. Streetlights blinked on.
She needed to get her royal ass inside. "I don’t mean to be rude, Bridge Rat, but my powers aren’t strong enough to fight off the dhamps and weres. I doubt I’d be much use in a real battle. It’s getting late, and I need to get going."
The fairy crinkled his mouth and scratched a fuzzy chin. "Need an amplifier, then, do you?" He flapped his wings rapid fire and transformed back into a common pigeon, flying east.