Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Beautiful Words

I think one of the primary reasons I am a writer is because I am in love with words. I was a poet long before I ever thought to be a novelist, and it is still satisfying to manage big scary emotions by whittling them down to a few perfect words.

Like Life

Walking and among the dirt brown gray
a glint
red gleam bright shiny
and my heart hurts for a moment
then lifts
sudden sharp understanding
life is like that.

I write stories these days, most of them novel-length. Genre-choosing is tricky business, and I avoid doing it as much as possible – are the vampire novels horror or paranormal romance? erotica or gay & lesbian fiction? Can a story be GLBT fiction and still be mainstream? Can BDSM be anything other than erotica? Does character-driven fiction have to be called romance?

My characters live in my head and on the page, where their lives unfold chapter by chapter. They talk and cry and think, and have sex with the bedroom door open. I love it when they say beautiful things. Snippets of sweet nothings live on my flash drive even when there is not yet a story in which they belong:

I want to take the time to lay you out in the daylight, explore you from the curve of your breast to the curve of your ass, set my teeth on the bone of your hip, brand you there with my tongue, the way you branded me with your fingers and your words. I want to discover your sweet spots, name them, make them my own. I want to trace your tattoos, every line, every shaded place, examine your toes with my mouth. I want to part your legs, kiss the soft skin of your inner thigh, carefully open your layers, look and touch and taste you. And although I know you like it rough, I want to slide my fingers into you gently, reveling in your slick soft sweet, and that you would be still and allow me this. I would lock eyes with you, put my fingers in my mouth, and have you watch me taste the essence of you. And I would press them again into your center, and then to your lips, offering yourself to you, loving you, the girl, and begging you to love her, too. I would make love to you as if you were utterly fragile and might break.

Words and words and more words.

If I am to love a book forever, all it really takes is one small passage of perfect words. Words that shift heart or mind, words that frame the feelings we so often keep hidden, for fear of letting too much hang out.

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Housekeeping for the following sections: Click on a title or book cover to learn more about a particular book. When possible I’ve linked book titles to author sites. Otherwise the link will lead to a buy page (probably Amazon). I dearly hope I am not stepping on toes or infringing copyright… if you are the owner of something I’ve quoted and you want it removed, do let me know.  Now, back to Thursday Morning Coffee…

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Body thief coverI could quote passage after passage from Anne Rice, whose work inspired me to create my own vampires. Her Lestat is surely a devil, and he ruminates at length about his own fiendishness, and yet he is beloved. Here are words from The Tale of the Body Thief, David Talbot talking to Lestat:

"No, you're not evil, that's not it," he whispered. "It's me, don't you understand. It's my fear! You don't know what this adventure has meant to me! To be here again in this part of the great world – and with you! I love you. I love you desperately, and insanely, I love the soul inside you, and don't you see, it's not evil. It's not greedy. But it's immense. It overpowers even this youthful body because it is your soul, fierce and indomitable and outside time – the soul of the true Lestat. I can't give in to it. I can't… do it. I'll lose myself forever if I do it.."

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operating instructionsAnd then there are writers who describe things perfectly simply, and yet in a way that is almost like a punch to the gut. From Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions:
The mystery of all this still leaves me scratching my head, that a baby was made in my body, grew on my milk, and lives here in the house with the kitty and me. It's too big to comprehend: Pammy said the other day that the thing happening in her body is so bizarre, so unthinkable, that trying to accept it is like being eight years old again with someone explaining to her that the light from the star she is staring at took twenty years to reach her. All she can do is stand there staring at the star with a kind of fearful wonder, waiting for the information to make sense.

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Talk before sleepThis next one is from a book that I can't even pick up without feeling my throat go tight. It's Elizabeth Berg's Talk Before Sleep. If I need a good, healthy cry, this is the book. I can read just about any section of it and end up sobbing. In fact, just looking for a passage to share left me damp:

I walk around the house , touching things; a book, the smooth surface of the kitchen counter, Meggie's bear that smells like her. Then I get into the bathtub, lie back with a wet washrag over my face, and let go. It's a howling, really, a self-indulgent letting go of some part of my awful pain. And then, I sense her presence. I sit up, pull the washrag off my face, frightened and exhilarated. She will appear, see-through, say something so wise and healing I can easily go on. But she does not appear. I only hear her voice inside my head. "Knock it off," she says. And I do.

My ultimate favorite passage from Talk Before Sleep is about the ordinary strangeness of being married for a long time, and again, there's a simplicity to the truth-telling that slays me every time:

I too had had my moments of sitting on the side of the bed in the morning, looking at my husband getting dressed and wanting to take his arm and say, "Let's just stop this." One doesn’t. One makes coffee.

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On WritingPurely for inspiration, from a man who certainly knows what the ins and outs of being a best-selling author entail, here's a beautiful nugget from Stephen King's On writing:

Some of this book – perhaps too much – has been about how I learned to do it. Much of it has been about how you can do it better. The rest of it – and perhaps the best of it – is a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.

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And just so you don't get the wrong idea, I'm perfectly able to be in love with my own words, as much as I am in love with the words of others. It makes editing difficult, and hammers home the idea of "killing your darlings." Certainly we cannot be in love with every word of every first draft. How could we possibly keep everything and still mine the depths for the real story if that were the case?

Words bring me joy. I hope you find words that bring you joy as well.
If you want to read a sweet, quiet book that reads like poetry, try Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver. I'd share my favorite passage, but I lent the book to someone, and it has yet to be returned. If you happen to have the book, the passage one from Sam's POV, while he's working at the bookstore. He notices the sunlight turns the dust in the air to gold and how the summer heat makes the bookstore smell like unread words. I know I'm not describing it as well as Maggie did, but it's the best I can do.

All right, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Happy Thursday, darlings!

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