People tend to think of the month of March as March Madness in most areas of the United States, but for me, November was much more terrifying and emotional. Sure I love the Cinderella team beating the ego driven top dog any day, but NaNoWriMo, or November to non-writers, is National Write a Novel in a Month. It left me with many more upsets and memories than any college basketball game could do.
To begin, I must tell you a secret. Wait, more like two secrets. Last year I only wrote 19,000 words when the adult goal is 50,000 for the month, and wait for it…I am a pantser. I always have been but only when it comes to writing and cooking. Recipes are too cumbersome! In writing, a pantser is one who writes by the seat of her pants and allows creativity and impulse to drive me rather than an outline or pre-writing. This means I really never know what I am writing each day I sit down to type, even thought I usually have some sort of plot line in my head.
This year’s idea came from two things: an article my friend Dan posted right before Halloween, http://www.wthr.com/story/26797284/2014/10/15/teens-get-more-than-a-scare-on-ghost-hunt-at-morgan-co-cemetery, and a picture I took at a slave cemetery when I was in Georgia a few years ago. It was decrepit, and hidden, immersed in between two huge plantation style homes within a gated community. I recall asking my aunt, “Hey what’s over there in that fence?” She told me it was a cemetery for slaves and the government protected it, but there was no sign or anything. I was shocked that it existed inside this stark white world of Georgia money. My curiosity and interest took over so my uncle and I hopped the fence and roamed around. I took pictures but none really turned out well since it was foggy. The image that burns in my mind are the cement style headstones with finger painted names on them, or sticks used to write names that were misspelled. I even recall Baby being spelled like Babe. There was also one marked with the letter X. These etchings on my brain combined with research on Cry Baby Bridges across the United States gave me a stellar story idea.
I am still working on fleshing out the climax, but after writing 50K and winning NaNoWriMo, I am pleased to say this was the most challenging thing I have ever written aside from my grandma’s obituary. DREAD is told in third person and alternates between three settings: the late 1940s-early 50s, late 1970s-early 80s, and a river (which the Cry Baby Bridge covers in a small town situated in any US state, but here it is in NC). There are characters you will love, and those you will hate, even one who is an inanimate object but somehow has a soul, and a weird creature that is a mix between rooster, flamingo, and ostrich but all black. Weird, but interesting and magical. I was channeling Toni Morrison while writing, and included a few Native American traditions and cultural rites like Tony Hillman would have, who is my mother’s favorite author. Best of all, I am finding my voice amongst other inspiring writers and I am very proud. Here is an excerpt that I like. Out of 50K, there is a lot to sift through, but this one is early on from the 1950’s era and revolves around the home birth of a bastard child whose father could be one of three men.
Gathering a few jars full of herbs from a shelf nearby, Mamie went to work preparing the rattle of a snake and ripping Sumac leaves into small pieces to be turned into a tea for Eliza. Panting and bent over with pain, Eliza was carried into the small parlor where he laid her on the couch. “Sits her up,” Mamie barked, “if yas lay her down, the baby’ll never come. An’ go wash yer hands. I’se need yer help.” The man obeyed silently and emerged back in the kitchen with a towel and additional blanket. “Ma’m? What should I do with these?” Nodding, Mamie pointed to the floor beneath Eliza. “To catch ‘im,” she said briskly, wiping Eliza’s face with a cool cloth. Unsure of what was about to transpire, Eliza cringed and silently prayed that she could trust the medicines and care from this woman, and help from this ominous stranger.
I will add more as I complete and edit DREAD, as terrifying as it may be. The audience is young adults and adults alike, similar to All About Jane and my latest release, Never, but much longer of a text due to the three different settings and multitude of characters with third person point of view. Thank you for your continued support!