Halloween

Walter loved Halloween more than any other day. He loved the kids running up and down the street, the spooky music humming from hidden speakers, the fake spiderwebs crawling across his neighbor’s porches, the carved pumpkins that grinned at him as he passed by on the street.

He especially loved that he could throw out his garbage just as sun was setting, waving to his neighbors as they passed out candy to little goblins and ghouls, and no one would think otherwise about the blood dripping from the bag.

Excerpt – Albatross

One of my latest projects: a young adult work featuring a Moorish girl who sails with the Spanish Armada and takes on the English when they’ve come to take Puerto Rico. Krakens and sirens and selkies, oh my!


Dawn broke over the sky like blood, but Safa had no time to worry about the old ones’ tales. It was the fifteenth day of Rajab, and it was nearly time to set sail.

“Oi!” A voice like cannonfire burst up the steps. “If you don’t hurry, señorita Safa, the crew will be happy to leave you behind!”

Safa ignored him, her head lowered as finished up her prayers. “Wa ‘ala ale Ibrahim Fil‘ala Meena innaka hameeddun majeed,” she whispered. “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.”

“Come on, Safa!”

“I heard you, culo!” She shouted, rising from her knees. She hurried around the room, tucking her prayer rug into her travel pack and shoving on boots. Plucking her cap from the shelf, she tucked in her locs the best she could before sprinting out the door. Marina was already at the foot of the stairs, breakfast steaming on the tray.

“Will you not have breakfast, Safa?” She asked.

Safa shook her head, hoisting her pack onto her shoulder. “Not today, Marina. El Monstruo waits for no one!”

When she tumbled outside, two broad hands clapped her on her shoulders. She glared up at Tomas, whose tanned face was spread in an unrepentant grin.

“You’re getting rude in your old age, querida,” he teased, swinging a bulky arm over her shoulders. “I remember when you were just a niña and I could bounce you on my knee.”

Safa rolled her eyes, shrugging his arm off. “You just turned eighteen, Tomas. Don’t act like you’re some sort of adult.”

Gasping, he smacked a hand over his heart. “Such cruelty!”

“Come on, culo!” She laughed, darting ahead.

They dashed through the early morning crowds, already beginning to fill up the streets of Cádiz. Merchants were announcing their wares, the smell of freshly baked bread flooded the air while fishmongers raised up their brightly-scaled catch to tempt their patrons. If Safa paid extra attention, she could catch a glimpse of duendes hiding in the shadows, their pointed faces earnest and waiting for crumbs to drop. One of the goblin creatures caught her eye, tipping his hat and winking at her. Spurred on by this good omen, she raced ever faster to the dock.

Salt-seared wind swept over her as she and Tomas broke their stride as they arrived dockside. The long line of ships moored in the harbor was truly a sight to behold, the white of their sails like enormous clouds against the blue morning.

“The armada must have arrived during the night,” Tomas mused. “A Dios mio, what I wouldn’t give to be on one of those beauties.”

Safa traced her eyes along the long, sleek lines of the galleon, its wooden hull glistening with sea water.

“They are beautiful, aye,” she agreed, “but too fat for me. I prefer a sleeker ship.”

Tomas rolled his eyes. “You are a corsaria at heart, mi querida. A true pirate.”

“And, don’t you forget it.”

Now I Get Why Hemingway Drank

So I’m halfway through that writing class at my local community college.

What I didn’t realize is that I’d be retaking AP English again.

I guess my expectations are born of having graduated from undergrad and grad school. As someone who has done workshops before and meets with local writers about once a week, I was expecting something like what I’ve done previously: we discuss a particular writing elements, read an example, and then choose prompts to create our own stories. Then we look at other works of ours and present that to the group to critique.

Instead, I have to discuss Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” and answer: what is the purpose of the couple’s journey? What is the meaning of the hills like white elephants? Why are the speakers only identified as “a man” and “girl”? How do these designations affect your reading of the story? What nickname does the man use for the girl and why is that significant?

It’s enough to drive me to drink (just like Hemingway).

I guess I figured I’d be writing a lot more… creatively? That I would be inspired to work on my own half-formed stories and conjure up a few new ones. I thought I’d be talking more about new things, rather than rehashing old ones.

Maybe, my expectations were a little skewed. Maybe, I’m being pretentious. Maybe, I’m just being irritable. But, here I am, six weeks in, and I’m trying to write about Montresor’s cognitive dissonance and compare it with Walter Mitty.

This drink is for you, Ernest, you depressing bastard.

The Obligatory Thinkpiece

In response to the now defunct XOJane article, the one where the writer describes her former friend’s spiral into mental illness and subsequent suicide “a blessing,” I decided to write her a very sincere, very sympathetic thinkpiece open-letter so she can understand exactly what I think about her as a writer and a human being.

Read it over at the Quail Bell here.

Back to School Again

So I went ahead and decided to drop loot on a Creative Writing class at the local community college.

I figure, maybe some education might be nice? Considering my undergrad was in forensic science and I spent more time in a lab than anything.

I think it’s interesting how the arts seem to tilt towards talent rather than hard work. Obviously, having talent at a thing helps when doing the thing. This is why I’m terrible at gardening. However, when I study and research and practice, I become less terrible. Which is why I now have a healthy herb garden growing in my house rather than a graveyard of wilted leaves.

The arts are much the same. It helps to be talented at writing, acting, singing, dancing, what have you, and certainly people can argue that having no talent means that it’s not meant for you. But, I think that argument undermines the importance of education and hard work. Effort makes a difference. Learning the craft makes a difference.

Of course, maybe I’m touting this up since I paid for this class out of pocket and it better be worth the $435 I just dropped.

But hey, no crippling financial pain – no no vague possibility of unlikely gain. That’s the millennial motto.

Forensic Examination of a Murder Case

our love didn’t die quietly in the night

it was a drive-by shooting

the kind where a casual word becomes the one bullet that tears through the wall and into a heart that had already stopped beating

should the rifling be inspected, your name will be written in grooves and divots

the casing burns black into the floor – it waits to be shoved into an evidence bag

the outline of my body is drawn on our bed in thick chalk lines

arterial spray: a cloud of red mist on poorly painted walls

my hands are clean of gun shot residue but are filthy with tears

latex-coated fingers calculate how much DNA can be swabbed from my cheeks

will it be enough for the jury?

while the justice system promises, “you’ll get over him”

my sightless eyes stare open, truly blind

Indebted

I recently only had $13 in my bank account.

I say recently because, upon looking it up and my eyes going wide with horror, I shoved over $90 from my savings and to prop up my checking account into something that wouldn’t make me hyperventilate.

I’ve never been the best budgeter (my ADHD seriously hinders me keeping track of anything) and I’ve tried apps and journals and day planners. Nothing has completely failed but nothing has really worked either. Making more money certainly helps, but I can feel the shadow of the days when I wasn’t making money. The specter of debt is an ominous one, and too many millennials deal with it on a daily basis.

It seems impossible to imagine that I’d ever be in a place to afford a house. Or travel. Or have a kid (if I decide I want one). Some weeks, it seems I’m barely able to keep the hounds at bay, and there are days when all I want to do is enjoy myself without worrying about the teeth nipping at my heels.

Payday is tomorrow. I’ll be able to breathe a little easier then.

The Harris-Benedict Principle

the walls are faded with dreams she could never quite let go

her bed sprawled with pale limbs and whispers in the dark

sodium stains on her pillow-she flips it over, a blank slate

echoes rattle in the cavernous space between costal grooves

she ignores it in favor of the quadratic curve of her stomach

a concave dip where mathematical precision manifests form high-order derivatives and caloric intake

her phone trembles on the bedside table

there are seventeen messages from a man whose hands know her better than the shape of her name in his mouth

she cannot predict his actions-equations cannot hold him like arms can

instead she stares at the ceiling that holds no answers

her lips roll through numbers

(1 : apple, 1 : cube of cheese, 3 : brussel sprouts)

as she counts herself to sleep