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Last week, we celebrated the veto of a ridiculous discrimination bill (SB 1062), which means (yay) I don’t have to leave the state. On a personal note, I received word that my first published work of 2014 will be my short story “Don’t Ball the Boss”—an audacious gay romance about a celeb and his PA.
Finally, though (and come on, most importantly), last Thursday was Dallas Arizona’s birthday. I met Dallas a couple years ago. He’s probably the most famous gay guy in Phoenix and not only because he’s hot but because he’s sweet and he can dance. He dances often, all over the city, but my favorite venue for a good old Dallas time is at Ice Pics Video Bar on McDowell.
The place looks scary from the outside because there are no windows, and the front door is sort of hard to find. Whenever I’ve gone there, I’m one of the only chicks; seriously, you can hear crickets singing when I walk in the front door.
Ice Pics is dark on purpose. Inside, there are TV screens everywhere, playing clips of old musicals and current music videos. There’s a dance floor and stage. They have indecently cheap drinks. And despite the fact that my girlfriends and I are usually the only chicks, we feel welcome.
The thing I’ve realized about Ice Pics: you have to come prepared. The friendliness of its clientele can be truly overwhelming. Case in point: Thursday, Dallas’s birthday. As soon as I saw Dallas (who was wearing nothing but fluorescent yellow underwear stuffed with dollar bills, of course), I was wrapped in a huge hug and my picture was taken. I was introduced around, hugged some more.
I’m in there somewhere …
I soon had gay boys circling me like friendly, smiling sharks. They wanted to talk about my outfit, my hair, my body, my lipstick. If you don’t take a complement well, do not go to Ice Pics. You will shrivel and pass out under the adoring scrutiny of the men inside.
When I go to Ice Pics, I feel like I’m on vacation—and, it seems, so does everyone else. There is long, loud laughter and sudden, unexpected stage performances by Dallas and his crew. One second, you’re outside talking to a strange, tall boy in multi-colored skivvies. The next, you’re inside, and Dallas is in a wig and glitter, dancing to the Bee Gees. Next, you’re on stage, too! You just never know.
Last week, we in Arizona celebrated the epic failure of a disgusting piece of legislature, but we also celebrated Dallas. I’m happy to know him, and I’m happy to live in a place with a pretty rocking gay scene.
The producers of BBC’s Sherlock did something really mean this week. They released a shot from a cut scene in the final episode of season three, “His Last Vow,” in which Irene Adler leaves Sherlock a single red rose in the hospital.
I’ve been writing a series about these two for over a year now, because I love them together. After the completion of “This is Not a Safe House, Part II,” I received several emails requesting a part III. But I had nothing else to say … until the aforementioned photo was released. Now, I have plenty to say.
Just for you, the beginning of “This is Not a Safe House, Part III.” For the story in its entirety, follow the link provided at the end. It’s Christmas!
This is Not a Safe House, Part III
by Sara Dobie Bauer
Sherlock Holmes in a hospital bed looked unreal, so in the darkness of night, she reached out her fingers and touched the skin around his white bandage. He was real. And warm. He was alive, breathing, asleep, and probably high on morphine. Comforted by the quiet sound of beeping machines that monitored his heart rate, Irene Adler was finally able to set the small vase and red rose on the table at the foot of his bed.
Should she wake him? If she did, she knew she would have to answer for herself—her absence. Perhaps if she woke him, he would think it but a dream and forget her by morning. But no, the rose would give her away. He would know it was from her, so maybe she should leave, just turn around and go, before those piercing blue eyes could stab her in the heart.
One more touch; she’d never been good at denying herself anything. She hoped the drugs were strong in his system as she leaned over and kissed his forehead.
His voice rumbled beneath her: “I was wondering if you were going to cut and run.”
She lingered with her mouth against his skin and then pulled back slowly. “So was I.” Irene looked down at the man she loved and hadn’t seen in over two years. He had aged some, filled out. Not so skinny anymore, and his features, more rugged. She knew she had changed, too.
“You didn’t answer me.” He sounded furious.
She stepped to the bottom of his hospital bed and smiled. “Did you ask a question?”
“When I came back to London, I sent for you. You didn’t answer.”
He tried to sit up, but his face melted into pained wrinkles.
She ran to him, her weakness showing. She put her hands on his chest and pushed him back against the bed. “Don’t,” she said.
She watched him take a few deep breaths, his eyes closed.
“You look different,” she whispered.
“I look different? You were blond last I saw you.”
She nodded, remembering their time in California. He’d talked as if they had a future then. He’d talked about her coming to hide at Baker Street when he came back to life in London—talked as if they might end up happy. Together.
He looked up at her, and she withered under his gaze. “Why didn’t you come back?”
“Who shot you?”
He chuckled, bit at his bottom lip. “Planning a vendetta?”
“Don’t call me that.”
Irene tried to hide behind her long hair, loose around her shoulders. Quietly, she asked again, “Who shot you?”
(Read the full story HERE.)
Ask a person with social anxiety to speak in front of one hundred teens about social anxiety, and the irony is all too apparent. Still, when Gina’s Team asked, I said “yes,” and immediately asked myself WHY? What was I thinking? I’m terrified of speaking in public, but I resigned myself to my fate.
Gina’s Team is an organization founded by my friend, Sue Ellen Allen. Gina Panetta died while serving time with Sue Ellen at Perryville Prison. She died because of ignorance—Gina, a young woman with children who loved her. Now, Gina’s Team works to promote education and self-sufficiency for incarcerated women and men in Arizona.
Mingus Mountain Academy.
Wednesday, a group of us from Gina’s Team traveled to Prescott to visit the Mingus Mountain Academy. Mingus is a safe place for emotionally and behaviorally at-risk adolescent girls. The girls there are victims of abuse. Some are suicide attempt survivors, drug addicts, and criminals. Others have escaped sex trafficking and unsafe home environments. All in all, they are broken and in need of healing.
Upon our arrival, I was surprised at the attitudes of these young women. They approached us immediately, shook our hands, and introduced themselves. These are teenagers with a healthy respect for their elders and confidence not mustered by most adults. Impressive.
We congregated in the gymnasium for the speech segment. Three of us offered our input. Lori and Diana (both ex prison inmates I was blessed to work with at Perryville) told their stories of missing fathers, drug abuse, rape, and prison. When Lori broke down in tears, the girls of Mingus cheered her on and shouted, “We support you!” Some of them even joined in her tears, because they related—they understood.
As I mentioned, I was invited to speak about social anxiety and depression. I gave the narrative version of my life—from my days of black hair, cutting, and an abusive relationship to now. I told the story of meeting Jake, and the girls gave a standing ovation when I told them I’d been married two whole years. They were just so thrilled to hear I’d found someone—someone who loves me for who I am, who doesn’t hit me, who lets me be me.
Afterward, during the Q&A, they asked me to sing for them, which I did (another standing O). One girl was brave enough to ask how I stopped cutting, since she is a cutter herself. I channel my depression, anxiety, and rage into writing, so I told her she needs to find her cutting replacement, too. Another girl asked how to get over losing someone. The only thing I could tell her was time.
As we got ready to leave, young women ran to me to give me hugs and read me their poetry. I was amazed again by their self-confidence but also by their talent. The girls of Mingus can write!
On the drive back from Prescott, we read their comments. A repeated theme: “You give us hope.” I received a personal note, as well: “Sara, you inspire me to move on with my life.”
During my speech, I talked to them about a lot of things—about escapism, how to cheer up when in a funk, and how to be strong, especially in a world dominated by men. I also talked to them about God and how He gave me depression and anxiety for a reason: so that I could relate to others suffering from the same diseases and let them know life is never without hope.
I completely crashed after my trip to Mingus. I felt the lingering nausea, which always follows public speaking. As an introvert, my body was sapped of all energy. Yet, I basked in the images of my day—all those beautiful, broken girls and the way they cheered for us outsiders, strangers. They enveloped us in their love, despite perhaps feeling unloved themselves.
I hope to return to Mingus in September for their annual poetry slam contest. I can’t wait to hear more of their written words, their form of artistic escape. Until then, the girls will be in my prayers because I want the best for each and every one of them. They deserve the best.
I have been following the career of mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile for over ten years now. He’s a year older than me, which means that while I was chugging beer at Ohio University, he was already on tour. I’ve seen him perform three times, as of last night, and the man never, ever disappoints.
I took along a novice as my date, and as I explained to her the wonder that is Chris Thile, she said, “I think you have a crush on him.” Oh, okay, maybe, but it’s not because he’s hot or mysterious or dark. I really have a crush on the music, and I think my girlfriend now feels the same.
The Musical Instrument Museum is a cool place to wander. There, you can see weird instruments you’ve never heard of as well as instruments played by some of your favorite musicians. The venue housed inside has been called one of the best in the world by musicians who’ve played there, and by the end of his show, Thile agreed. I do, too; he’s never sounded so good.
Chris Thile is a quirky guy. He has nice clothes, yes—well-cut, stylish, colorful suits—but he can’t tame that wonky blond hair. He dances when he’s on stage. He moves with the music like an eighties hairband head-banger. Between songs, he goes on long tangents, akin to a stand-up comedian. Last night, he even admitted: “Most of my banter doesn’t go anywhere.” Yet, the audience was not perturbed, because Thile is too charming and wide-eyed to be a nuisance.
He hit several high notes for me, including segments from his four-part suite “The Blind Leaving the Blind,” which chronicles his painful 2004 divorce. He did a Fiona Apple cover, connecting my favorite female musician to my favorite male. As if that wasn’t enough, he attacked Bach (which he described as a huge musical cube in the center of his set).
As a solo musician, I assume you worry you’ll be boring up there all by yourself, but Thile’s set list kept us glued to our seats. He jumped from classical to covers to sad songs to songs that paused in the middle due to audience hysterics (see “If You’re Gonna Leave Me Set Me Up With One of Your Friends” or, my personal favorite, “Too Many Notes”).
Thile is thankful, modest, and so comfortable on stage, you’d think he lives there. He is the epitome of a one-man show: a genius talent and an improv expert. He received three standing ovations and deserved many more.
Post show, we all stood around, hoping he’d show his face (as he did when I met him last year at Crescent Ballroom). Alas, there was no sign, so my girlfriend and I prepared to hit the road … until we walked outside. I spotted Thile, and in stiletto heels, I scampered to a parked car where I found my music crush and said, so eloquently, “Can I, like, talk to you for a second?”
We shook hands and reminisced over the Crescent Ballroom show. We talked high points of his solo tour and his upcoming reunion with his first band, Nickel Creek. I thanked him for being, well, him, and I even got my second (second!) Chris Thile hug before we separated in the night—him to dinner with his in-laws and me to a giggle fit in my car.
There is something to be said for great musicians. There is even more to be said for great musicians who are polite. They have a way of inspiring fellow artists to be the best they can be. Thile works hard, you can tell; he makes me want to work hard at my craft, too, but I hope I remember more than just that. I hope I remember to always be humble and never forget to say “thank you.”
THERE BE SPOILERS HERE! IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED ALL OF SHERLOCK SEASON THREE, DO NOT READ. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Episode One: The Empty Hearse
We all wanted to know how Sherlock survived the dive from St. Bart’s. Within the first three minutes of season three, we get an idea via an action-movie style montage including a bungee chord, a hair ruffle, and a sexy smooch. I loved this opening. Completely unbelievable and hilarious, and of course, it was a mere flight of fancy from Anderson.
Sherlock-Molly kiss. And tumblr EXPLODES!
The tempo of this episode was a little off, but I forgive, especially because of Martin Freeman’s face when he realizes Sherlock is alive and standing at his dinner table. Priceless, followed by several punches to the face. We also get to meet Sherlock’s parents, played by Cumberbatch’s real mum and dad. Adorable. We meet Mary, Watson’s soon to be wife. There was even a Sherlock and Moriarty almost-kiss—which begs the question, what the hell really happened on that roof at the end of season two?
I don’t think the truth was made clear, but I do think this was done on purpose. Co-creators Moffat and Gatiss knew how many theories there were, so they gave us three, the third of which being the most likely—but nothing is for sure. Did I feel a little cheated by this hedging? Perhaps, but this episode felt more about character than plot. They made Sherlock softer, almost a real human being, and this theme of Sherlock’s sentimentality stretched the whole third season.
Episode Two: The Sign of Three
An episode about a wedding but not necessarily a detective. I call this episode “odd,” but I enjoyed it because I like odd things (like Benedict Cumberbatch’s face, for instance).
Highlights included John asking Sherlock to be his best man, after which, Sherlock resembles a frozen computer screen; comedy gold. Speaking of, the stag night within which the boys get horribly drunk and try to solve a case. Instead, Sherlock passes out on a floor, vomits, and they both end up in jail. Finally, dear Janine the bridesmaid falls for Sherlock. (Janine: “Do you always carry handcuffs?” Sherlock: “Down girl.”)
So Mary and John are married, and the grand finale: they’re expecting a baby! I really enjoyed the dialogue and back and forth. True, not too much of a mystery here, but one hell of an adorable best man speech from Sherlock and lots of laughs. Which prepared us for …
Episode Three: His Last Vow
Mary is a bad, bad girl.
Well, this one wasn’t very funny at all, was it? And yet it’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. We meet the odious Charles Augustus Magnussen (CAM), who actually accomplishes a face lick without being silly. He is the man Sherlock hates the most and must bring tumbling down.
First off, Sherlock has a girlfriend in this episode—Janine, of course, from the wedding, which is just so, so awkward. I knew something wasn’t right; we all did. We soon find out he’s only dating her to get to CAM. He even proposes to her to get into CAM’s office, which is when …
MARY SHOOTS HIM! MARY! Yeah, John’s wife is some sort of super killer assassin person. That was shocking, yes, but I must say, the entire sequence inside Sherlock’s mind as he fights to stay alive was fan-freaking-tastic. It even featured Moriarty, who I love, but really, amazing, amazing sequence. Gorgeous. So well done.
In the end, Sherlock survives the bullet wound and John forgives his wife. The coup de gras: Sherlock murders CAM, and there’s a sweet goodbye between John and Sherlock as Sherlock goes off to die in East Europe on some undercover assignment. But then … but then …
MORIARTY IS ALIVE!!!!!! Sherlock gets called back to London!! Closing credits!!!
My brain exploded—almost. Would have been a hell of a mess. But this whole Moriarty thing raises so many questions. For instance, what about the body on the roof from season two? Someone must have known Moriarty was not dead, and my money is on Mycroft. Maybe Mycroft was hiding Moriarty (God knows why), and with Sherlock’s life in peril, he brought Moriarty back to life?
Well, the speculation now begins, as we are on hiatus—again. Weren’t we just on hiatus? Yes. Yes, we were, and we’re back, and who knows when we’ll get season four? But I’m sated, for now, and it’s a good thing; I’ve been Sherlock-obsessed for months. Time to get back to real life. But take heart: Moriarty lives.
YES!! YES, WE MISSED YOU!!!
I attended a fantastic book signing at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe this weekend to see Ransom Riggs: a hilarious, talented young man who penned Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children as well as its newly released sequel, Hollow City. Ransom was sociable and clever, great at off-the-cuff jokes and comic tidbits. Meanwhile, I was a nervous wreck in my seat because there were too many people and the chairs were too close together.
Me at Ignite Phoenix, speaking in front of 900 people.
I’ve fought for years to act the part of an extrovert. I do public speaking. I throw parties at my house. I come off as confident, outgoing, and a little eccentric. The truth: I’m painfully introverted, and it takes an awful lot of emotional energy to leave my house.
According to About.com’s Psychology page, “People who are introverted tend to be inward turning, or focused more on internal thoughts, feelings, and moods rather than seeking out external stimulation.” Introverted does not mean shy; it just means we’re happier in our own heads than in the center of a crowd.
Even the social butterfly can be an introvert, which is a perfect example of me. I am a social butterfly, but only for a certain amount of time. After awhile, I run out of words, and I literally need to get home before I have a panic attack.
The Huffington Post has an article entitled “23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert,” and it gave me a laugh. Among the listed items:
- Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards. (Can you say “Ignite Phoenix?”)
- You screen all your calls—even from friends. (Guilty.)
- You have a constantly running inner monologue. (The voices! The voices!)
- You’re a writer. (Literally, this was on their list. No joke.)
I could go on, but you get the idea. As I said, I’ve fought to be an extrovert, because I admire people who are. Some of my best friends and social icons are extremely extroverted. They’re charmers. People like them, remember them. They love “doing things,” and I’ve wanted to be like that for years, but you know what? I’m thirty-one, and maybe I’m getting a little old to be someone else.
Sometimes, it sucks really knowing yourself, because you might not like what you find. For instance, I’m grumpy and unpleasant when I’m around people for too long. I’m horrible at returning voicemails because I hate talking on the phone. I’m in my head so much, I feel like I occasionally neglect my husband, my family, my friends … these are flaws. I don’t like them, but they are mine.
I once considered being an introvert a flaw, but no longer. It’s who I am. It’s who a lot of people are. I’d like to be like Ransom at Changing Hands. I’d like to be relaxed in a crowd and feed off the energy around me, but I can’t. And maybe I should stop trying.
The older I get, the more weird and introverted I become. Does this worry me? No. I’m just growing more comfortable with myself.
I am an introvert. I don’t want to go to that dinner theater performance because I’m terrified they might pull me on stage. I refuse to go on weekend trips with people I don’t know well, because I can’t be trapped in a hotel room with them. I know when to say “no,” but I say YES to introversion—because that’s who I am. Hear me roar … while sitting happily alone on the couch in my living room.
In the Fall 2013 issue, Mary Baldwin College’s literary magazine, Outrageous Fortune, published an excerpt of my novel, Damned if They Don’t. So many thanks to them for enjoying my work, and here’s to 2014 – a new year of inspiration and publication.
Novel Excerpt: Damned if They Don’t
by Sara Dobie Bauer
After their early morning dance practice for the College of Charleston’s presentation of Cabaret, Cleo and Alessa stepped into the October sun.
“Ah.” Cleo sang the word like the first note in Act Two. “Now, this is what I’m talking about. Crisp and cool.”
They were both chorus members, which had at first been a blow to Alessa’s experienced ego. Then, as the graduate school workload steadily increased, she saw the casting snafu as a blessing in disguise.
“Where are we meeting Emily for brunch?”
Of course, Cleo and Emily were practically in love. As soon as they met over drinks at Social Wine Bar on East Bay, the friendship was cemented. Together they bemoaned the dating scene in Charleston, because although there were plenty of eligible bachelors, most of them turned out to be untrustworthy asshats. They thoroughly disagreed on the topic of Graydon. Emily still found his persona deplorable, while Cleo was charmed down to her toes by the tall, brooding musician. Alessa, of course, fell somewhere in between.
She reached for her phone. “Emily was going to text me when she woke up.” She looked at the screen. “Why do I have three missed calls from Graydon?”
“It’s ten AM on a Saturday. Shouldn’t he be hung-over somewhere?”
“One would think.” Just as she was about to call him back, her phone rang again. “Graydon?”
“Hello.” He sounded out of breath.
“Are you okay?”
“No. Yes. Where are you?”
“Just leaving the theater.”
“I’ll be there in five minutes.”
“Wait. Cleo and I are going to …” She held the phone away from her ear and stared. “He hung up on me.” Alessa looked back at her phone. “Emily says to meet her at Virginia’s on King. Apparently they have a mimosa special today.”
“Well, what are you going to do?”
“Graydon said he’d be here in five minutes.” She shrugged.
“What, is he gonna propose or something?”
“I’m waiting until he gets here.”
“You don’t have to. Emily is probably already at Virginia’s.”
“No. I want to see what’s going on.”
The stern look on Cleo’s face told Alessa not to press any further. It wouldn’t have mattered. Graydon showed up across the street in three minutes flat.
Cleo scoffed. “Does his hair always look that perfect?”
“Yes. It’s disgusting.”
“He’s carrying red roses.”
“I can see that.”
He almost got hit by a car crossing the street, which made both the girls scream at him, and of course, he took a moment to cuss out the driver. He arrived on the sidewalk, and despite their hours of dance practice, he was actually covered in more sweat than either of the two women. Alessa pulled a hand towel from her gym bag and dabbed at his forehead and cheeks.
“Thank you.” He nodded.
“Flowers?” Cleo smirked. “What’d you do now?”
He gave his familiar glare, complete with lowered brows and strong set jaw.
“Cleo, why don’t I just meet you and Emily at Virginia’s?” Alessa opened her eyes wide, giving the expressive equivalent of, “Get the hell out of here. Please.”
“Fine.” She winked at Graydon. “You look sexy covered in sweat.”
Alessa agreed, but she wasn’t going to say it—not with the way he was behaving. Obviously he had screwed up, but what was there to screw up anyway? After four months of dating, they still didn’t use titles, no boyfriend-girlfriend. He still slept with other women, and sometimes they didn’t speak for days at a time, despite the fact that they worked in the same restaurant. She’d given up on anything normal with Graydon a month earlier, when another woman kissed him right in front of her. Now this? What, had he gotten someone pregnant?
“Graydon. What’s going on?”
He cleared his throat. “These are for you.”
She took the extended roses. “Thank you.”
“I woke up this morning in the bed of another woman.”
Alessa glanced away down St. George Street.
Read the rest at Outrageous Fortune’s website!
Ryan Bell was raised Seventh Day Adventist. Since 1991, he has been either a pastor in the Christian religion or attending school, developing his skills to be a successful pastor. Then, on New Year’s Eve, 2013, he announced that for one year, he will be an atheist.
My husband told me about this last night—about how Bell was asked to resign from his position at his California church in March because of his views on homosexuality.
According to Bell’s Huffington Post article, “I had been an outspoken critic of the church’s approach to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members—that approach being exclusion or, at best, second class membership. … I tried to maintain that I was a faithful critic—a critic from within—someone committed to the church and its future success but unwilling to go blindly along with things I felt were questionable, or even wrong.”
I assume his resignation was what started Bell’s path to a year without God. Following his announcement via the Huffington Post, he was soon asked to leave his position as professor at two Christian colleges. He’s currently looking for a way to survive the upcoming year with no gainful employment.
His mission statement: “For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else’s circumstances.”
There have been critics in the atheist community who call Bell a fraud, a fake. However, others have stood up and raised money to keep him going on his yearlong path without God.
What do I think about Bell’s decision? I was raised in the church. I attend church. I pray and sing in the choir. Yet, even I have days when I doubt the nearness of the Lord. Even I sometimes think no one is listening. I’m thankful to have Jake whose faith is devout, patient, and seemingly effortless. My husband tends to pull me back when I stray. And perhaps that is part of God’s plan for putting Jake in my life.
I imagine there are several Christians who are angry with Ryan Bell. They surely cast words of damnation over his decision to turn away from God, and I wonder what will happen to him in the year ahead. Will he realize he doesn’t need God to live or will he realize that with God is the only way to live?
When thinking about Bell, I asked myself: how would I behave if I thought there was no God, no eternal consequence? I was somewhat dismayed to realize I would act probably the same way I do now. What does that say about my Christianity? Says I’m shaky at best.
There are general rules, right? The Golden Rule, for instance, and other things that keep me out of prison, like “Don’t kill people.” But I drink and cuss and watch/read immoral content. I enjoy the company of skeptics (sometimes more so than fellow Christians). I don’t believe in resolutions, but maybe 2014 is my year for seeking, as well, although no, I don’t see ignoring God as an option.
I will be following Ryan Bell’s path on YearWithoutGod.com. Already, his posts are covered in controversy, and hell, this might be one huge publicity stunt. Only time will tell, and I’m curious to see how he ends up. When his year is over, will he lean on his own strength or on the strength of God?
I read an embarrassingly high number of books in 2013. (No wonder my laundry never gets done.) Whereas many people spend the first few days of a new year looking forward, making resolutions, et cetera, I want to look back and pay homage to the greatest of the great—the best books of 2013.
This does not mean the books were all released in 2013. But they were read in 2013, and they left a lasting impression that will not lessen with the passing of time. With great gnashing of teeth, I came up with nine, in no particular order.
1. Life without Harry
(Sara Dobie Bauer)
How could I? Pimp my own book on my “best of” list? Hey, gimme a break. I’m an author. If I don’t sell myself, who will? If you miss Harry Potter, head to Goodreads and download the eBook. Late Merry Christmas.
2. Splendors and Glooms
(Laura Amy Schlitz)
Puppets, weird magicians, London … well, it goes without saying I was going to love this one. I suppose it could be considered young adult, but there are enough twists, turns, and general creepy critters to keep any grown-up interested.
I can hear you: “How in the hell did you not read this book until 2013?” Yeah, yeah, I know, pathetic, especially when you consider The Graveyard Book is in my all-time top ten. Well, Neverwhere is better than The Graveyard Book. It’s a journey into the English underground where there are angels and any manner of murderous creatures. Follow the beloved hero, Richard Mayhew, to the place where the forgotten go …
4. The Great Gatsby
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)
I read this book in high school; didn’t get it. I read it this year; was crushed—by the story’s decadence, tragedy, and yearning for things lost. Maybe it’s me getting older, but I finally understand why this is a classic. If you didn’t “get it” last time you read Gatsby, read it again.
5. The Awakening
Also read this in high school, and although I liked it then, I fully understand it now. I’m a married woman, like sad, little Miss Pontellier. Chopin gives voice to the difficulties women go through, and although she was a pariah in her own age, her story is true and timeless.
6. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Again? Gaiman! Again? Yes, get over it. He signed this book for me, and I read it in two days. This, like Gatsby and The Awakening, is a book best understood after having lived a little. There are monsters and magic creatures, but there is truth and thorough melancholy as one man says goodbye to a childhood lost. Possibly the truest book Gaiman has yet penned.
7. Bellman & Black
In this book, you just have to know what comes next. The lead character, William Bellman, is a curiosity yet someone you would like to know—at least for the experience of saying you once met him. It’s a novel about our own mortality and how the rooks are always watching and waiting to carry our souls away.
8. The Chatelet Apprentice
Nicholas le Floche, investigator in 18th century Paris—what a sexy beast. I received this, the first in the several-book mystery series, as a review copy. I then ordered books two through six from ENGLAND. Yeah, I was that desperate. If you like mysteries, scandal, and sex, call London; tell them to toss Nicholas ‘cross the pond.
9. The Longings of Wayward Girls
A woman searches for meaning in her current life by returning to a mysterious summer in her past, and we all know how scandalous things can get in the suburbs. This isn’t desperate housewife crap, though; this is a painful novel of regret and the blood that never washes away.
So that’s it for 2013, folks. One year over, a bunch of books read, and now, a new year. Know what that means? MORE BOOKS!
The moment it all began …
The day of my fangirl birth stands out in infamy. I was minding my own business, and my husband was scanning Netflix. From my office, I heard snippets in the background: British snippets. Next thing I know: “Babe, come watch this scene.”
“What is it?”
“The BBC’s Sherlock. You gotta watch this part.”
It was the scene where Watson and Sherlock first meet in the lab at St. Bart’s and Sherlock tells Watson his whole life based on nothing but observations. I remember thinking, “Well, this Sherlock guy is cute, isn’t he?”
I sat down and watched the first episode with my husband. Soon after, we finished season one. Then, season two. By that time, I was enamored with the show and the odd fellow with the odd name: Benedict Cumberbatch. And … oh, right, Sherlock had apparently jumped off a building to his death.
What follows is what can only be compared to mourning a lost relative because I realized there were no more episodes and there would be no more episodes for a very, very long time.
I sated my addiction by following the hype. I became a Pinterest addict and a dedicated (obsessive?) Cumberbitch. I read fan fiction (I don’t read fan fiction). I found out everything I could about the show and the forthcoming third season.
Finally, the release date reached American shores: January 19, 2014.
And disaster struck.
The BBC followed up on the American release date by announcing Sherlock’s much-awaited premiere would play in England on January 1, 2014.
There were fountains of cuss words, threats of flights to England, and then, the only reasonable conclusion hit me like a London black cab: a total avoidance of Sara’s social media. That’s right: no more Twitter, very little Facebook, and a complete blind eye to my beloved Pinterest.
I see no alternative, because I will not have some crazy Brit telling me how Sherlock survived the fall from St. Bart’s. The only way I want to hear about Sherlock’s survival is from Sherlock’s cupid’s bow lips. Got it?
Do I feel punished for being American? Do I want to ring Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and ask them what the hell they’re thinking, doing this to us poor, sad little Americans? Yes! And yes!
On January 1, 2014, the geeky underworld of England will erupt in cheers. I will be silent, stewing, mourning the loss of my favorite internet addictions. My silence will continue until January 19, when I will finally sit in front of a television, geek out, and swoon because Sherlock has come back to life.
Image from season three. My guess? Watson’s going to punch him out.
The Dobie-Schwind-Bauer family in Ohio, 2011.
This morning I received the yearly Christmas letter from the pastor at my church, and it came as a surprise because so far this year, I haven’t acknowledged the most heavily celebrated holiday on the Christian calendar.
In his letter, Pastor Bob enumerated the many things he loves about Christmas: the lights, the music, and the atmosphere of joy—and it’s all true; just ask my neighbors. They’ve had their Christmas lights up since November 29th.
Usually, on December 1st, I’m ready for the holiday season, too. By December 1st, I finally allow for tinsel and 99.9 FM (the Christmas station). This year, something is different, and I’m not entirely sure what.
Is it Grandpa being gone? He was the ultimate lover of Christmas and Frank Sinatra’s “The Christmas Waltz.” He was our patriarch, and this is our first Christmas without him.
Perhaps because of this, I’ve been oddly emotional. While shopping for tree trimmings at Michael’s, for instance, I told Jake, “I gotta get out of here” and started crying as soon as we stepped outside. The next night, my husband (who is not into holidays) was the one who dragged out our fake Christmas tree.
I don’t feel giggly inside. I don’t feel joyful. I don’t believe Santa Claus is coming to town, and let’s not forget: my parents arrived last night. Yes, this will be the first time I’m not in Ohio to celebrate Christmas, but the grief people at Hospice say this is good. After a death in the family, you’re supposed to change up the holidays so the absence of a loved one isn’t quite as obvious. Yet, even with the arrival of mummy and daddy, I still don’t feel like decorating or singing carols or baking cookies.
But this morning, Pastor Bob’s Christmas letter was a revelation, because along with not thinking about Christmas, I also haven’t thought about Jesus.
From Pastor Bob’s letter: “My prayer for you is that as your scurry about with many and varied preparations for Christmas … the real meaning and message of Christ’s birth will not be lost. Pause and remember the message of Christmas is simply this: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.’”
This holiday season may be tougher than most. My family will be separated into east and west coasts. I’ll be in the sunny desert when I really want snow. We’ll all be without Papa, and that will be hard. But Christmas isn’t about the decorations, the presents, or Frank Sinatra. Christmas is about a baby born in a manger—and it’s time I remembered.
Kmart recently launched a new ad campaign for Christmas that features two happy shoppers “giffing out.” I know what you’re thinking: Kmart still exists? If you’re not thinking that, you’re thinking: What the hell is a gif? Well. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite time wasters.
A “gif” is an image format. Unlike the boring “jpeg,” a gif format supports animation. Basically, you can turn any video into a repeating image that repeats and repeats and honestly grows funnier the more it repeats.
Who has time to turn videos into gif files? I have no idea, although I often wonder because they show up so fast. You see something funny on the news? It’s probably a gif before the show even reaches your TV. I mean, these people are fast—like, faster than a Cumberbitch with a camera at The Hobbit premiere.
For me, gifs exist to make me laugh—and they do, often. And who doesn’t need a laugh, right? I’m not a computer nerd, but I did laugh at the new Kmart commercials. I say bravo to them for being hip with computer folk.
True, there are those who think the “giffing out” commercials are immature–but laughing at gifs is immature, so the advertising makes perfect sense.
Thanks honestly to all the insane fangirls, comics, and internet-obsessed who give me the gift of gif. Merry Christmas to me!
In honor of Thanksgiving, I post an excerpt from my recently completed novel, “Something about a Ghost.” I’m thankful the novel is done; I’m also thankful to already be working on another. Happy reading, and HAPPY TURKEY DAY!!
“Something about a Ghost” - Excerpt by Sara Dobie Bauer
My feet are bare, and the floor feels cold. I move only to pull an orange and brown afghan off the back of the couch. I wrap my legs in the scratchy material and use my fingertips to check the melted makeup beneath my eyes, but there’s no hope. I don’t have enough fingers to clean all the black from my face, my face that still feels puffy and is probably still red.
The man returns, with two steaming mugs in his hands. Despite the makeup ghost on the front of his chest, his dress-shirt is still tucked into his gray slacks. His clothes are tailored so tightly, I’m surprised he can breathe—but of course he can. Only skinny, tall men can dress like this, and if he is anything, he is skinny and tall. He’s also just brought me chamomile tea with milk and honey. I’m so accustomed to English Breakfast, I can smell every note of this sleepy time stuff. And just as my feet are cold, so are my hands, so I wrap them around the mug and say, “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome.” He sits on the floor next to me but first has to kick the coffee table away to have space. “How are you feeling?”
“No reason to.” He takes a loud sip of tea.
“I don’t cry.”
“I do,” he says.
“I’m not saying it’s a weakness; I’m just saying it’s not my thing.”
“Keep it that way. You look horrible when you do it.”
I set my tea cup on the table to the right of the couch: the one with the lamp made entirely of antlers. I have to pull up the bottom of my dress to be able to straddle him and run my nails down the front of his shirt. “You’re going to have to get this dry-cleaned,” I say.
I trace the black circles where my eyes were, right between his pecs. There are smudges of brown and orange from my concealer and bronzer. There is even a tint of red at his sternum, where my open mouth sobbed against him.
I work free the first button and the second. I lean forward and kiss the skin I reveal—pale, pristine, with just a smattering of hair. His body is so warm beneath my chill, and I get even warmer when he reaches beneath the tulle of my dress and pulls my ass closer with the palms of his hands. Even sitting like this, me on top, his torso is so long, he can reach my lips without me having to bend forward at all. With his tongue in my mouth, on my father’s living room floor, I feel like a high school girl just home from prom.
He leans forward and tilts me away until he can find purchase on his knees. He lifts me enough to shift our positions so that I’m on my back in the center of the living room, and he’s next to me, his hand on my bare arm and his hot mouth on my neck. I reach up and hold onto his hair. I do love that hair—the soft, thickness of it—but tonight, there’s styling gel in the way, and I laugh a little when my fingers stick. I latch onto the back of his neck instead, and I pull his mouth up to mine. He tastes like honey.
He has to fight through layers of tulle, and I have to wrestle with a built-in slacks belt—which, in the end, he unfastens—before we can finally make love, fully clothed, on the rough tile floor. The chill of the tile against my back battles the heat of his body on top of me, and the sensation is more pleasant than painful. I might have scrapes on my back tomorrow; he will surely have bruised knees. But at the moment, all I can do is drown in the scent of him. I can lose myself in his movements between my legs, the weight of him, and oh, God, the taste of his lips, like clover in the fields near Flagstaff.
Suicide Girls. Blackheart Burlesque troupe.
There is something really hot about a chick with black lipstick and tattoos. I’m fake punk; I know this. I wear dark lipstick, makeup, and tight t-shirts with snarky sayings. However, I also clean up well and look very nice in a white dress. Oh, and I only have one tattoo. I couldn’t be a Suicide Girl, but oh, how I would like to be!
I attended Suicide Girls’ Blackheart Burlesque at the Marquee Theater in Tempe. Initially, I bought tickets because I love burlesque. Only secondarily did I look into the Suicide Girls, although as I understand it, the majority of my male friends knew about them already.
Suicide Girls is a website, created by two Portsmouth, Oregon, folk who wanted to see “hot punk rock girls naked.” To be a member of the website, you must pay, and it’s become an international phenomenon, now based in Los Angeles. There are books by the Suicide Girls, as well as movies and a tour.
Priddy Suicide. Pardon my drooling.
The Blackheart Burlesque show is a little different than the tour, because not all Suicide Girls can dance—and the BB girls … they could freakin’ dance. The lead cast of the show was only four ladies. I could have gone for more, but the four did not disappoint—Priddy Suicide, in particular. Talk about a hot chick. Yipes. Each of the four women was different: different colored hair, different tattoos, different body shapes. What did they have in common? Severe confidence and an edge.
The Blackheart Burlesque was very much about nerd love. Since I’m a nerd, I appreciated all the cultural references. This wasn’t a stupid strip tease. This was everything from The Big Lebowski to Planet of the Apes to Star Wars. True, Star Wars in g-strings with duct tape over nipples—but Star Wars!
I was about six rows back, but the front couple rows got covered in everything from fake blood to whiskey. And how could I forget the birthday cake? At one point, the MC covered her breasts in birthday cake and let the audience lick frosting from her fingers. Priddy Suicide even poured whiskey into her own mouth and then spit liquor into the awaiting, open mouths of her fans.
Half the troupe was British (hot). But of course, Priddy, the whiskey-chugging, foul-mouthed, ample-breasted redhead, was American. Thank you.
The Suicide Girls are not about dotting letters with little hearts. They aren’t about being sweet or shy. Although burlesque is the art of tease, this was teasing with a fist to the head. Whenever you open a show with Bjork’s “Army of Me,” what can you expect? Nothing less than one kick ass performance from four kick ass women who chew men up and spit ‘em out like bad sushi.
The Suicide Girls do Star Trek.
Brad vs. Brad.
My father has always considered me shallow. (Like he can talk; he used to judge college girls’ outfits from my apartment window in Athens, Ohio.) Daddy’s right, though; I am shallow. Look at my husband. However, I would like to point out to my father and to all of you … I’m not the only one.
This came to my attention most recently thanks to a box office flop.
The Fifth Estate is the fictional-based-on-fact account of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s rise and fall as conspiracy theorist and (arguably) American terrorist. According to the Huffington Post, this film, released October 31st, is “the biggest wide-release flop of 2013.” The director blames Assange and his underlying omnipresence in the media.
I blame a blond wig, brown contacts, and a funky accent.
The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch—my current Hollywood crush. (I like to keep one around; gives a girl something to look forward to in movie theaters.) Cumberbatch—or “Benny,” as I call him—is best known for the BBC’s Sherlock and his role as Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness. He’s also best known for black hair, icy blue eyes, and a voice that Britain’s Times likens to “a jaguar hiding in a cello.”
Now. Take these things away from Benny, and what do you have? A lanky, odd-looking, British nerd who can act.
How is this even possibly the same dude?
This was The Fifth Estate’s mistake. To play Julian Assange, Benny had to look like the guy—and he did! In spades! But as Cumberbitches (Benny fans), we don’t want to see him looking like Julian Assange. We want to see him looking HOT. Ergo film floppage.
Now, let’s discuss Little Favour.
Little Favour is a short film, released today on iTunes, starring dear Benny. In the film, Cumberbatch has:
- Shaggy, black hair.
- Bright blue eyeballs.
- A DEEP … BRITISH … VOICE!
So far, word of the short firm has spread like a computer virus on all forms of social media. According to Empire Online, it is the highest selling short in iTunes history, even before its release!
Every Cumberbitch the world over probably has a copy already, and he/she has watched the short film a dozen times. (Well, er, I have, at least.) Anyway, Little Favour made me realize how shallow I/we really are! I mean, we say we love this guy, but we won’t go see him in a blond wig, will we?
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to admit to prodigious superficiality. Additional examples:
- Brad Pitt: Saw him immediately in Seven; skipped Twelve Monkeys.
- Val Kilmer: worshipped him in Tombstone; had no interest once he got fat.
- Ryan Reynolds: will watch even bad, bad movies just because he’s in them.
I don’t want you to think I feel bad about this. I don’t. I’m very proud that my husband has earned the nickname “Hottie McHotterson” amidst my girlfriends. I acknowledge my Benedict board on Pinterest almost solely includes pictures of him with black hair (he’s actually a ginger). I am shallow, and well … I’m okay with it. But I’m not alone.
Why, Val? WHY???!
Ana’s niece went through men like vampires went through bags of blood. Ana would know; her immorality spanned centuries. She and her “family” had a strange arrangement. She shared the wealthy Bauer bloodline but was the only immortal in the clan. The rest of the Bauers came and went, generation after generation; yet, each generation accepted her. Each generation understood what she was and welcomed her. She was often invited to Christmas, birthday parties, and celebrity balls. However, Ana kept her distance—until Mary was born.
Mary was born on Ana’s own human birthday, June sixth. As soon as Ana met the child, there was a connection, and as years passed, she became the “favorite auntie.” Ana was the one Mary went to with her dirty secrets. As a child, those secrets included stolen candy from the grocery store. As a teen, stolen alcohol and messy make-outs with boys at debutante balls.
Although Ana lived in New York—Mary and her rich parents in Boston—they kept in touch over the phone. Then came things like smartphones and Skype, and it was when Mary turned twenty-one that the name Ethan first entered their lengthy conversations.
“I’m seeing someone, auntie.”
Ana had her smartphone leaned against the vanity; made it easier to pretend dear Mary was in the room with her while she sat in her New York flat, upper East Side, sipping a glass of iced blood. She brushed her long, black hair in the mirror and sighed.
“I saw that,” Mary said.
“You’re always seeing someone, dear.” Ana glanced at her young niece, already curled up in bed, staring back through her own smartphone camera.
“This is different.” Mary pouted; her voice whined. No matter her age, she still sounded like a sixteen-year-old. She was a woman, true; a very intelligent woman who would, in the fall, return to school at Brown where she studied psychology. Yet, Mary could never escape the cheerleader she once was, thanks to her Minnie Mouse voice and bright, blond hair.
“Who is he?”
There was a long pause on the line.
“Mary?” Ana looked at the smartphone screen, and Mary’s eyes crinkled around the edges.
Her voice lowered to a whisper. “It’s a secret, and you can’t tell anyone.”
“I’ve never told your parents a single secret.”
“I know. I know. But I think I’m in love.”
“Well. Who is he?” Ana asked.
“His name is Ethan.”
“Ethan?” Ana picked up her phone so she could fully focus on her niece. “Does he have a last name?”
“Is he a prince?”
Ana watched Mary’s flawless face smile. “I wish. Would make things a lot easier.”
“He’s not homeless, is he? A drug addict?”
Mary shook her head, and her voice sunk even lower. “He’s the chauffeur’s son.”
“Mary Elizabeth Bauer!”
“Shhh!” She looked around, as if sound traveled in the castle the Bauer family called a home.
“That’s not love; it’s a fling.”
“Ethan is not a fling.”
Ana shook her head and chuckled. If Mary’s father knew … “How long has this been going on?”
Mary shifted in her bed, laid down on her stomach and rested on her elbows. “A couple months.”
“A couple months hardly does love make.”
“I want you to meet him.”
“Darling, you know I don’t meet your beaus. It’s too much energy to explain who I am and why I’ve been alive since before electricity and running water.”
“I already told him about you.”
Panic welled in Ana’s chest. “What?”
“He knows what you are, and he’s fine with it.”
“Mary.” Ana stood up. “You promised never to tell anyone about me.”
“But this is the man I love.”
Ana paced the luxurious interior of her apartment. Then, a buzz from the front door: blood bag delivery. “Mary, I have to go.”
“I want to talk more about this.”
Ana looked down at her phone, and her beautiful, intelligent, man-eating young niece looked concerned. “We shall, but do not be a fool. Do not tell the chauffeur’s son anything else about me, and do not get caught schtooping in your parents’ home.” She paused and noticed Mary’s sad face. “I love you, darling.”
“I love you, too.”
Ana ended their call. She felt shaky; she finished the glass of blood on her vanity just as a text message arrived: from Mary, of course—a covert photo caught as a man slept in what was obviously Mary’s king-sized bed. He reminded her of Byron, a poet Ana once knew long ago: wild, black curls of hair; pale skin; and a long, faultless neck.
For the first time, Ana saw Ethan.
Over the next few weeks, Ana and Mary rarely spoke. Mary was busy back at school; Ana was planning an extensive tour of Europe, her home country. There were more photos of Ethan, some with Mary included, his arm around her, her lips on his face. The first video arrived early the week before Ana’s trip.
Shaky at first, Ana soon recognized Mary’s dorm room at Brown. The vantage point was from Mary’s bed, and for the first time, Ana saw Ethan in motion. He stood across the room and looked into the full-length mirror Mary kept against the wall. He wore a black suit, and he was much taller than previous photos foreshadowed.
“Tell me you love me, babe,” said Mary’s disembodied voice.
“I love you,” he said.
“Tell me again.”
At this, he glanced back at the camera. “Mary, I’ll be late.” He stood and faced her, trying to tie his tie.
The camera shook some more, danced even, as Mary got closer to Ethan. Ana could picture her, kneeing her way to the base of her bed. “Tell me again.”
“I love you,” he said. He smiled—a lovely smile that revealed matching dimples.
His fingers stopped fiddling with the tie, and he got so close to the camera, his face went out of focus.
It was obvious Mary had trouble keeping hold of her phone, but she giggled when the video went sideways, as she was tackled on her own bed. Soon, all Ana could see were figments of Ethan’s black suit. Then, the video stopped.
Ana found herself dreaming of Ethan. She had but fleeting images of him, from Mary’s photos and occasional videos. She found herself fixated on his neck and his hands. Thanks to a recent conversation, Ana knew Ethan was older—twenty-nine. Was a lawyer. Attended Harvard on full scholarship. All these details danced around his neck, his hands—the things his hands could do to Ana, the things she could do to his neck.
She woke up embarrassed, sweating. She showered after these dreams, guilty for using Ethan’s image this way—guilty for stealing from Mary. What would her niece think if Ana told her about the dreams? Would the pictures stop coming—the videos? But Ana needed both; they had become her only joy. She jumped at every new message from her niece and was disappointed when statements were general, like “Ethan bought me roses!” Ana wanted more pictures of his face. She wanted the sound of his voice.
One night, Ana could not sleep, obsessed with Ethan and the way he might smell. Did he wear cologne? Or did he smell simply of blood and skin? She knew then how much trouble Ethan was in—how broken Mary would be if Ana’s fantasies continued, so she forced herself to stop thinking of him, even deleting Mary’s media messages before being opened.
And Ana would have survived without him, Ethan, if not for Mary’s untimely death.
A wolf on the campus of Brown University? Suspicious, but then again, the wolf was escaped from the zoo. Of course Ana knew all this was a careful smokescreen, fanned to flame by Mary’s own parents. The existence of vampires was not generally accepted; therefore, admitting that a vampire had killed their daughter would put into question the Bauer sanity and the Bauer estate.
Ana stood on the edge of the cemetery and watched her niece’s ivory box lowered into the dark green grass. They had spoken but five nights before—the last time they would speak—and of course, the conversation was about Ethan, although Ana brought things round to school and family and future plans—of which, for Mary, there would be none.
Ana watched her human family, earned glances from but a few because only a choice few knew of her existence, those being Mary’s parents and a few old uncles, cousins. Ethan wasn’t there. But then, he was, away from the casket, away from the cold hole in the ground. She saw his hair first: that unruly mop of black. Then, his eyes: frigid, cold blue, ice. She put her arms around herself to shield his chill.
He was broken, very broken, but since his affair with Mary had been secret, only Ana knew why.
A luncheon was thrown afterward, in honor of Mary. Ana knew her niece would have hated the event: all somber faces, black suits. Mary would have much preferred a celebration, covered in pinks and baby blues.
Ana moved through the crowd, through the immense ballroom of the Bauer mansion, and past the disgusting smell of human food. She disappeared to the empty servant’s quarters, where she knew, thanks to Mary, of a secret entrance to her niece’s bedroom—the entrance only Ethan ever used.
Ana could still smell Mary when she entered: like flowers and sweet spice. Even though the bed was made, the room clean, she smelled something else, too: sex. She smelled the buttery scent of sex and something male. Cologne. The cologne could only belong to him.
The mournful auntie ran her fingertips over her niece’s hairbrush on the vanity. She touched stacks of psychology textbooks. She caressed a dress, tossed over the back of a wooden rocking chair. All so cold with Mary gone, killed by some monster, some blood-sucker who knew the Bauer family history—probably knew Ana.
Then, the door behind her opened. The cologne was more prevalent, as was the poisonous smell of cigarettes. “She didn’t tell me you smoked,” Ana said and turned to find Ethan, half revealed behind the secret door to Mary’s room.
“I don’t. Usually,” he said, alive, not on camera, his flesh right in front of her.
Ana stood at full height and looked at him. She pulled her small, black velvet jacket tighter around her small shoulders. She made a show of brushing a piece of lint from the edge of her dark red, floor-length dress. “Did you want to be alone in here?”
“No.” He shook his head, took a step, and closed the door behind him. He stood with his hands in his pockets, seemingly unsure of himself, although he’d never looked that way on Ana’s smartphone screen.
Ana’s boots made loud taps as she walked toward him. She removed her leather glove and touched his hair, pushed a piece behind his ear. A line of goosebumps began at her fingers and moved up to her shoulder, over her chest. “You’re more handsome in person.”
The side of his mouth turned up. He looked at the floor.
“Am I the only one who knew? About you and Mary?”
He nodded, but as he nodded, a salty tear fell down his face. She wanted to lick it off, but instead, she pulled him into her embrace and put her hand on the back of his head. He leaned against her. He held her in the vice of his long arms and shook in silence as the pain of his loss soaked her shoulder.
“Shh,” she said. Her fingers ran down the back of his neck. “Shhh.”
“Do you know who did this?” he said.
“I have my suspicions.”
“Was it one of you?”
“I believe so,” she said, and he tore himself away from her.
“Why? Why would one of your kind kill Mary?”
Ana shook her head.
Ethan stopped in his pacing, and his eyes found her, his gaze just as chilled as the cemetery. “Is it because of you?”
“Yes,” she said.
He was out of breath, she could see, when he said, “God, I wish I could …”
The expression on his face told her he didn’t mean it, not really, but she could hear the blood pumping through his veins. His anger was like a hot breeze through the room.
“I’m hurting enough,” Ana said.
“How will you find who did this?”
“There are places to go,” she said. She looked away from him to hide the added rouge to her mouth and cheeks. She realized coming to the funeral was a mistake; being alone with Ethan, a mistake. He was too close, and she wanted him too badly. The scent of his blood now filled the room as smoke fills a chimney, and Ana wanted him right there on her dead niece’s bed.
“Take me with you.”
“No,” she said.
“I’ll find the killer, with or without your help.”
“No, you won’t,” she said to the window that overlooked a lush, green backyard with a maze in the middle.
“Stop me,” he said.
“I can stop you.” The quietness of her tone made the words all the more menacing, but when she gave him another look, Ethan was not afraid of her. He carried the same blind trust as her niece. Even though Ana was a monster, they believed her incapable of hurting people she loved, and by proxy, the people they loved.
“I’ll go out tonight,” she said. “You can come by my hotel room in the morning.” Then, she used speed no human could see. She grasped his chin, and he jumped backwards at her unexpected touch. He knocked into the vanity, and Mary’s gilded brush fell to the wood floor at their feet. “If I sense you anywhere near me tonight,” she said, “I will lock you where no one can find you until this is over. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” His voice shook, and Ana left.
The next morning, she woke to the scent of him outside her hotel room door. She wrapped herself in a robe at the sound of his knock and opened windows, let the light in. Ana did not fear the sun; had not in over a hundred years when she realized she was too old to be harmed.
He looked younger, so much younger, without the suit and tie. “My God, you could be a college student,” she said.
“May I come in?”
She opened the door. She stayed in one of the old hotels in Boston that overlooked a square where witches once hung. Her room was lush, filled with antique couches, flowers in tall vases, and throw blankets for keeping warm in the New England chill.
“What did you find?”
Ana stepped past him, toward the phone. “Would you like coffee?”
“No.” He shook his head.
She hung up the phone. “Nothing. Yet.”
“I’m coming with you tonight.”
“No. You’ll get hurt.”
He took two long steps forward, and he had her back against the wall. “Who cares?”
Ana remembered all the sweaty dreams she’d had of this man—all the times she’d awoken, whispering his name, before Mary was dead, before his skin was inches from her teeth. She shoved past him, but the warmth of his chest lingered on the palm of her hand where she’d pushed him away.
“Mary would care,” she said at the window, facing the street below.
“Do you rush to meet her?”
“I can’t just do nothing.”
She felt him get closer, until he lingered, inches from her back.
“Please, Ana,” he said.
She wanted him to say her name again. She wanted him to beg. To quench her auditory longing, she turned and hugged him around the waist. She leaned her forehead against the side of his chin and took in a mouthful of scent.
She was surprised by the way his tension melted in her arms, as if they were old familiars. Perhaps Mary had shown him pictures, too—of Ana, of Mary and Ana. Perhaps he once dreamt of her.
“Just tonight,” she said. She pulled back and touched his face. So soft, just shaved. “Only tonight will you need protecting.”
She took him to a vampire bar—one where few mortals dared venture, especially without an escort. Ana would be Ethan’s escort, and she would be careful, because he was too beautiful to be left alone. The place was called Vlad; Ana found this trite; having once met the infamous vampire, Dracula, she found him stupid and dull.
The interior was black and red—black walls, red carpet. The place smelled of Old Country church incense and an undercurrent of blood no mortal could detect. Ana took Ethan’s hand as they stepped inside and whispered, “Pretend we’re together,” meaning not friends but lovers.
And he looked the part in a black suit and shirt, no tie. He looked the part: pale skin; bright, wicked eyes. He looked like a man a vampire would love.
Eyes turned when they entered because they were new and easy to admire. Ana dragged him to the bar; ordered a shot of blood for her, vodka for him. They toasted, and after they drank, her lips found the edge of his mouth; he didn’t pull away because he only pretended.
They allowed themselves to be touched, flirted with. Ana noticed Ethan was an old pro—had no doubt spent years being treated this way by many different women. She kept her nose open, waiting for the scent of Mary or perhaps the flicker of a gaze. Surely whoever killed Mary also knew of Ethan, her sexual secret; if Ana saw recognition in the eyes of an admirer, she would know whose throat to slash.
Yet, as time passed, no scent arrived; eyes did nothing but gaze adoringly on Ethan. There was no guilt here. No fear. Only the hope of a warm meal, which Ana was careful to dissuade with her hand on Ethan’s shoulder, her own stare planted on his neck that shined like a moonlit pond. No one doubted he was hers, but perhaps they hoped for a threesome—a hope she shook off when other monsters looked to her with their pleas.
Soon, he grew tired, and she told him it was time to go home.
Ethan trusted her because Mary, his love, trusted her, so there was no hesitation when she invited him up to her hotel room for a nightcap. After the bar, a quiet, relaxing drink was what they both needed. He sat on the couch and leaned his head back. Ana watched him, and her fingers shook as she poured two glasses of wine.
She approached, handed him his glass. His skin smelled like the cologne she now knew well, along with a tinge of laundry detergent on his dress shirt. She ran her hand through his black hair, and he closed his eyes against her touch—not in pain but in pleasure. He was comfortable with her, had proved as much since the funeral.
Then, he moaned softly, and she realized he was asleep. Before the untouched glass of wine could fall to the wooden floor, Ana removed the long stem from his fingers and set it on the lamp-lit table by his side. Her own glass joined his, and she watched him sleep until she was certain her movements would not wake him.
She removed her high-heeled shoes and set them on the floor. She kneeled on the couch and straddled his waist. Still, he did not move.
Ana pulled her smartphone from the side of her bra. She leaned back, on top of him, and saw Ethan through the camera lens. She teased herself with the distance the lens afforded—like all those photos and videos from dear, dead Mary. Ana even took a picture of the sleeping man, for old time’s sake. Then, she moved her camera away to remind herself he really was between her legs.
She placed her petite hands on his chest and felt the warmth there. She heard his heart beat and smelled the blood beneath his skin. Warmth began to spread through her own body, starting in her thighs and up into her stomach. Her head felt light, delirious with desire for this doomed man whose only mistake was falling in love with her favorite niece.
Ana leaned forward and brushed the side of her cheek against his. “Ethan,” she whispered.
She pulled back as his lashes fluttered. His blue eyes looked up at her, confused. “Ana?”
She put her thumb against his mouth. “Shhh. This won’t hurt a bit.”
He tried to stand up, but before his feet could find placement, she had the top two buttons of his dress shirt torn and her teeth against his throat.
He tensed when she broke skin. He whimpered, said her name. His hands pushed against her shoulders until the poison in her fangs spread through his brain and made him lazy in her arms. His head fell against the back of the couch; his arms went limp. He was a six-foot ragdoll, but at times, she felt him pull closer to her—perhaps running toward death to see his Mary once more.
His blood was all she hoped, knew, it would be. Ever since the funeral, the smell of him haunted her. Now, what kept him alive poured down her throat and made her dead heart … beat, beat, beat. Halfway through the meal, she found herself moaning against his flesh, because she knew this was not about death.
Yet, Ethan was near death—very much so. She pulled her teeth away and looked at his face. If she didn’t know better, she would think he was but asleep.
She rose higher on her knees. She used her own teeth to carve a hole in her wrist, and she dripped blood between his parted lips. Her job well done, she fell back on the couch beside him. She licked the lingering blood on her lips—her own mixed with that of Ethan’s.
She sat and waited, but she did not need to wait long.
He was suddenly awake at her side, bent forward, doubled over in pain. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders. “It’ll be over in a moment,” she said.
His new-found strength was difficult to manage as his humanity died. Becoming a vampire was not a pleasant process, Ana recalled. Yet she was strong enough to hold him, keep him from breaking the room as he fought to escape bodily hurt. When he shouted, she covered his mouth with her hand. She soon found herself kneeling on top of him, pinning him to the couch and holding him in silence.
Ethan’s breath then calmed. His body relaxed. He no longer fought her, and she leaned away, gave him space. “Ethan,” she whispered, and she touched his hair.
“God, what have you done?” He wouldn’t look at her.
“You’ll never lose the woman you love again.”
“I don’t love you,” he said.
“You will.” She pushed his hair behind his ear and saw his profile—wide open eyes and parted lips. “Let me see you.”
After long moments of nothing but background city noise, he finally turned to her. His skin was no paler than it had been before, but his eyes, even brighter. A drop of blood stood out like a beauty mark on the side of his chin; she left it there for him to find, and she held his face in her hands.
“I’ve wanted you since I first saw you,” she said. She kissed his parted lips, once.
“You remind me of someone I once knew.” She thought back to her beloved Byron. “And you made Mary so happy.” She paused. “Make me happy, too, Ethan.”
She still held his face in her hands, and for the first time since they met, his eyes moved to her lips and he kissed her. He was gentle, perhaps testing out the taste and feel of her, until she pulled hard on the back of his neck and opened his mouth with her tongue.
Ana pulled away long enough to say, “Touch me,” before her mouth once again found his.
She thought back to the innocent smartphone video from Mary’s dorm room—a video that ended like this, with Ethan on top and in a black suit. Tell me you love me, Mary had said, and he did.
One thing Ana would never tell Ethan: that she’d killed his precious Mary to have him all to herself. Mary was too unreliable with men; she only would have hurt him anyway.
The End – Happy Halloween 2013
I haven’t seen my husband in eleven days. I haven’t been warm in eleven days, because for the past eleven days, I’ve been in my hometown, Perrysburg, Ohio, and the trip was a mixed bag.
Papa and Grandma Schwind.
Two weekends ago was funeral weekend. We celebrated the life of my Papa Schwind. My brother and I commemorated the occasion with a giddy rendition of Brandi Carlile’s “Keep Your Heart Young
.” As a family, we spent the evening by a bonfire, drinking beer, playing more music, and reminiscing. We “bonded,” maybe as we never have before, because Papa always did have a way of bringing people together.
The rest of my trip was wedding madness. I have never been a bridesmaid, so this was a first for me. Monday, I assisted dear Vicki (the bride) with program folding. Wednesday, we hit Toledo in a fancy limo for Vicki’s bachelorette party. Thursday, Vicki fought through a hang-over to tie up final loose ends. Then, Friday: the salon visit, the rehearsal at the church, and the rehearsal dinner. By the time the wedding day actually arrived, I felt as though weeks had passed.
Saturday, we got dolled up. We put on our beautiful bridesmaid gowns. We pretended it wasn’t overcast and freezing outside and started the day with mimosas. Then, we all got stage fright and had to do some group deep breathing and prayer before walking down the aisle.
Vicki and Del!
And of course everything was perfect. The ceremony was a dream. Vicki looked like a rich, 1920s bootlegger’s wife—classy and covered in glitz. Her new husband, Del, looked like he wanted to kiss her long before the pastor said, “You may kiss the bride.” And we cheered, cheered, cheered, because Vicki and Del took the first step toward a life together.
There was much rejoicing at the super-fancy reception at Carranor Polo Club in Perrysburg. The band kept us moving all night long. I sang a Norah Jones tune for the bride and groom. I danced with old friends. I was Vicki and Del’s chauffeur at the end of the night, and I got to watch him carry her over the threshold of their shared home. I then fell into my childhood bed without removing my makeup or brushing my teeth; I haven’t done that in years.
I’ve found that I get somewhat selfish at other people’s weddings. Other people’s weddings make me think of my wedding and the wonder it was. My wedding to my Jake was a miracle—could not have been more “us.” I get cheerful thinking about our big day; I get melancholy, too, because I wish we could do it again!
Maybe that’s what this lengthy Ohio trip was about: sadness and cheer.
Sad to have lost Papa; happy that he’s in peace.
Sad to have a funeral; happy to have a wedding.
Happy to have a friend like Vicki; happy that she has Del.
I am also happy to be heading home—very happy. I miss my Jake, and Vicki’s wedding made his absence more apparent. Yes, I slow-danced with friends’ parents at the wedding (ha), but this trip to Ohio was hard without my hubbie. Now, I’m on a plane. I’ll be home soon, in the arms of the man I love.
To my Grandma Schwind: Papa is gone for now, but he’s waiting for you in Heaven, where he’ll give you a huge hug and sloppy kiss when you arrive.
To Vicki and Del: Many, many congratulations on your fabulous wedding and many blessings on your marriage. You’ll always be in my prayers.
To Jake: Baby, I’m comin’ home, and I can’t wait to hold you forever.
Jake and me.
Barney Schwind is dead: the man known across the Toledo area as “The TV Repair Man.” He wasn’t known to me as that. I called him “Papa.”
Saturday night, October 5, Papa passed on. For years, we watched him lose weight, lose his appetite. We watched him physically shrink, the man he used to be shed like clothing on the floor. Yet, despite old age and dementia, he was still Papa, who loved gin and tonics, always had Tic Tacs in his pocket, and did magic tricks with pieces of tissue paper.
Papa never lost his spark. He still yelled, “Sara, baby!” every time I called the house. He still made bad jokes, and I still laughed. He still jokingly held blankets to the side of his face every Christmas and sucked his thumb like a little kid. Despite the dwindling physicality—the mind that forgot my husband’s name—he was still Papa. And we didn’t love him any less.
He’s gone now. He died Saturday night after a huge, Papa yawn. We, as family, are left with many memories of this great man who wore gold chain necklaces on the beaches of Long Boat Key; who visited the Jagermeister tent at the German American Fest to hit on chicks; and who kissed me on the cheek each time I arrived and left his house on Walnut Street.
My family has lost our patriarch; my grandmother has lost her husband. Perrysburg, you’ve lost Barney Schwind. You were lucky to have him for so long.
Papa taught me how to be an optimist every day. He taught me how to have a smile for everyone. He taught me how to love unconditionally—and love eternally. He will be greatly missed … but in a way, I feel like he’s still here, giving me a big Papa hug and telling me he’ll always be close.
(Thanks to the Perrysburg Messenger Journal.)
The Narrows, Zion National Park.
Our last week was spent hiking and camping, immersed in nature. Joined by two of our best pals from out east, Jake and I trekked through Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and the Grand Canyon. We survived two nights of camping at Zion, the first of which involved a bear scare (turned out to be nothing). The second night, the apocalypse descended by way of a thunderstorm that could wake Rip Van Winkle. There was very little showering, less sleep, and miles—hours
I grew up hiking. Every summer, my family would travel to a number of national parks. I recall one particular trip when my dad and I decided to hike a mountain and ended up going off-trail, getting lost, and wandering for much longer than we should have. Yet, back in the day, this didn’t bother me. Back in the day, I could hike for days and days and never tire of the beauty of nature. So now, at thirty-one, what have I come to realize?
I don’t like hiking.
This may come as a shock to those of you who remember the Sara of her early twenties. As a college kid at Ohio University, I used to skip class to drive to Hocking Hills and hike strenuous trails by myself. I couldn’t be stopped. So what happened over the past ten years?
Arguably, I have finally become over-saturated with the hiking experience. Maybe I did too much hiking as a kid, and now, I just don’t want to do it anymore. Or even worse (gulp): I have officially become a city girl.
The view from our campsite.
I might have done better if not for the camping and the utter disgust with my own stink. Jake has often asked about my family vacations from my youth, and he doesn’t understand why my family never camped. We stayed in hotels. I never had a for sure answer to our lack of camping either, but I do now.
First of all, nobody sleeps well when camping. It’s very hard to hike for six hours when you haven’t had a good night of sleep. My parents understood this, which was why we stayed in places with beds and running water. More importantly, after a long day of hiking, I want a shower, a beer, and ESPN. These are behaviors learned from my father, because after a long day of hiking, this is what he did on our family trips.
Don’t get me wrong: I had a fabulous time this past week with our friends. We hiked the Narrows, which is my favorite hike, like, ever, because the whole time, you’re walking through a river. Yet, by the time we were finally driving home on Tuesday night, I was so, so done. I was ready for a shower, my bed, my dogs, and yes, my computer. I missed feeling like a girl, so yesterday, my gal pal and me got mani/pedis and went to Ulta for new makeup. I wore perfume. I shaved my legs. I went out in high heels. I was a woman again.
I’m not embarrassed to admit it: I’m now a city girl. I love nature, but I’d rather see it from the porch of a furnished cabin as opposed to through the zipper of a stinky tent. And I’d rather be in a pretty dress at happy hour than on a hiking trail. Ten years ago, I never would have seen this coming, but I now must admit: I’ve become a princess.
Do you listen to music when you create? As a writer, I must say I do not, but I know Stephen King has a penchant for hard rock and metal bands when he writes. What about painters? Sculptors? Dancers don’t count, because you obviously listen to music when you create.
Artists out there: what does music mean to you?
I only ask because I’d like to know I’m not alone. See, every time I start a new book, I slowly develop the movie soundtrack. I’m a geek, right? Like, totally, but for real: every book I have ever written has a playlist in iTunes, complete with the book title and a full list of songs that inspired the project.
Sometimes, the list is built before the book even begins. Other times, the playlist grows as the book grows. Generally, there is a main band that frames the novel. I swear, each time I start a new novel, some band out there releases an album that fits perfectly with my project. Very cosmic, yes? It goes back to the theory that we’re all connected: artists and non-artists alike.
What we do inspires other people even if we aren’t aware—which is, I suppose, why we should be cautious of what we create. There’s a lot of pressure, putting something new out into the world. You never know what effect you might have, which is part of the excitement and part of the danger. But I digress …
This blog post is actually a playlist for my first completed novel Life without Harry (available in eBook). I started writing Life without Harry during the summer of last year, and it just so happened that Florence + the Machine released Ceremonials around the same time. Voila. Soundtrack created. But as the book grew, so did the songs.
I’d now like to share the very special, very personal song list that went along with the writing of Life without Harry. I can even tell you the specific scene where each song belongs. Enjoy some good music today and realize how much music affects you, your life, and your art.
Official Soundtrack to Life without Harry
We Are Young – Fun (Movie Trailer)
Prologue – John Williams (Just because.)
Only If For A Night – Florence + the Machine (Opening Credits)
I Won’t Let You Down – Alex Clare (Kissing in the Fireflies)
Heartlines – Florence + the Machine (Running from Cops on Camelback)
Transatlantic – Silver Rocket (Anywhere. This song fits anywhere.)
Between Two Lungs – Florence + the Machine (Sam Begins to Write)
Arizona – Kings of Leon (Paul Takes Sam Broom-Flying)
Never Let Me Go – Florence + the Machine (The Haboob Chase)
Soon or Never – Punch Brothers (The Final Goodbye to Sig)
Thanks for reading … er, listening. In the future, I think I’ll always include a playlist in the content of my novels. It seems to make the experience so much more personal, for me and my reader. We can not only share words and images but sounds, as well, no matter the distance between us, and I like that.
I finished reading The Paris Wife recently for my prison book club. The Paris Wife is the story of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, and her experience as his spouse while living as a member of The Lost Generation in Paris. The book was excellent: beautifully written, honest, and terribly tragic (as we all know how their relationship ends …). Because of The Paris Wife, I decided it was time to revisit Ernest Hemingway. And God help me.
I decided to pick up The Sun Also Rises, because the bull fight scenes in Pamplona were a huge part of The Paris Wife. I knew, thanks to Hadley’s first person account, that The Sun Also Rises is very true, featuring people who actually existed, who were “friends” of the Hemingway’s. I use the term “friends” loosely because honestly I’m not sure how much any of these people liked each other, which is made even more apparent in The Sun Also Rises.
A small novel, Sun took me way longer than it should have to complete. Not because the diction was difficult; obviously not—we’re talking about Hemingway, a master of using very few words to get across huge thematic points. No, Sun took me a long time to read because I was bored.
Granted, I want to give Hemingway his due. He is a genius with dialogue. He says so much by saying nothing at all. Most of the time, everything is subtext, but it’s brilliant! Brilliant! So dialogue: points! Many points. He understands human nature and is capable of creating an entire, fully realized character with nothing but his or her words. That is not easy.
Yet, I find his work to be boring. I can’t put my finger on it. I suppose, in the case of The Sun Also Rises, the repetition of “another bottle of wine” and “I’m tight” got a little old. They’re all drunk the entire book, which is why the ugliness comes out—why friends leave Pamplona as enemies.
Maybe his descriptions. I don’t like his descriptions. They’re not flowery enough for me. My favorite authors are European—Spanish mostly—and those romance language dudes know how to speak pretty. Hemingway? Not so much, which is part of his fame, part of his allure. Yet, this stagnant use of language was not alluring to me. BORED!
I have another theory: do you think Hemingway wrote for a male audience? Do you suppose, as a female, I just don’t relate? I mean, he was a Man’s Man. He was a a fighter, a drunk, a womanizer. Maybe if I had a set of balls, his work would resonate better, because as a woman, I find his female characters to be quite despicable—and maybe that’s what he intended. No matter how much he loved women in his life, he had a way of tossing them away when the next best thing came around. Perhaps he fits this philosophy into his work.
In conclusion, I gave Hemingway another shot. Did I enjoy myself? Eh. At times. There were brilliant lines: “I have a rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of my friends.” Or: “I was a little drunk. Not drunk in any positive sense but just enough to be careless.” Another: “Cohn had a wonderful quality of bringing out the worst in anybody.” My God, brilliant!!
That said I won’t be going back to good old Ernest. I still have flashbacks of the horror of The Old Man and the Sea from high school, and although The Sun Also Rises was better, I’m still not interested in tackling his body of work. Thanks, Ernest, for being you and for creating a new style of American writing. However, we’re breaking up. It’s not you; it’s me.
As I near the completion of another novel (Something about a Ghost), my feelings are mixed. I’m excited at the prospect of completing a new project—a land speed record for me, a novel in two months. This year, every novel I write finishes faster. In time, I might be Ray Bradbury, locked away in a basement, writing Fahrenheit 451 in four days.
Each time I finish a novel, there is a forty-eight hour period of celebration. Following the celebration comes the depression, the mourning. By completing a novel, I kill my characters. You must understand: when the book ends, so does their story. They will never say something new, do something new. They are dead, and when this realization strikes, I wish I still had work to do.
My therapist suggests I write a letter to my dead characters, telling them how much I miss them. I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s an idea. Characters, when you spend enough time with them, become friends, and no one likes saying goodbye to a friend.
In conjunction with the completion of Something about a Ghost, I struggle to come to terms with my grandfather’s ensuing passage. As of last Sunday, the Hospice nurses gave him one to two weeks of life left.
Papa Schwind, 2011, at my wedding in AZ.
Papa Schwind is the grandfather I grew up with in Ohio. My Grandpa Dobie lived far away, in Arkansas, and he died when I was very young, so I identify the word “grandfather” most strongly with Papa. He lives five minutes from my childhood home. He was at my house for every birthday, national holiday, and random Sunday afternoon.
Now, he can’t get out of bed. He recently told my mother that he and Grandma were on vacation—that they would be going home soon. I’ve tried talking to him on the phone from far-off Arizona, but he doesn’t respond. I don’t know if he knows who I am on the telephone. If he saw me, maybe it would be different; maybe not. He’s drugged. He sleeps constantly. He truly is ready to leave.
Everything ends. Life. Novels. Summer. Let’s not forget it will soon be October, and I’m shocked. October is my favorite month of the year—the month of pumpkin-flavored everything, daily horror films, and spooky décor. I am ill-prepared, perhaps because of all that’s gone on this week: the impending loss of not only favorite figments of my imagination but of the man I’ve loved all my life.
In my imagination, Papa and my novel are on a timeline together. I call my family every day; I write every day. Papa fades; the characters in Something about a Ghost will, too. I’ve reached the level of literary maturity to know that finishing a novel carries a lot of baggage; so does death, because I don’t know how I’ll respond when the final phone call comes from Ohio. Will I cry? Scream? Fall apart?
Papa has been sick a long time. The man he was—the man I most remember—is mostly gone. He still smiles. I guess Sunday, when they first thought he was gonna go, he woke up and asked for a cookie. That’s Papa. He’s still in there, but I’ve already grieved. I’ve been grieving for two years.
Everything ends. People say every ending is also a beginning, and this is true. Papa’s life in Heaven will soon begin. The ending of my novel will release my mind and allow me to wander down new paths of creativity. Yet, I do not rejoice at the prospect of these endings. Instead, I feel a daily ache and wonder what beginnings hide in shadows so thick.
This is not me. But it’s kind of how I feel right now.
Blood. Sweat. A lot of listening to Amanda Palmer.
And folks, we have a completed novel.
I present … to no one but myself (for now) … Something about a Ghost.
Buy hey, until I’m ready to send the manuscript to first readers, listen to the song I listened to while writing the final scene.
And remember: “If I love you, it’s not because a ghost made me do it, but because you did.”
When I was a depressive teenager, my parents hated the black I wore—even my hair. I remember I once snuck out of the house with black eyeliner on, and when my mom finally noticed, she freaked. Granted, I probably looked like a raccoon. That black eyeliner was the first makeup I ever wore.
As an adult, I look back and laugh, because now, those things that made me creepy and “troubled” as a teen have become my trademark. I wear black eyeliner every day, usually paired with dark purple lipstick. I wear tons of black clothes and skulls—skulls galore. Even my friends love this; so much so that when they see anything skull-related, they spend their hard-earned money and buy it for me.
The things that were once exterior manifestations of my depression have become … style.
When I was a teenager, the black hair and dark makeup were cries for help. I wanted to show people how disturbed I was; isn’t that what writers are supposed to do—show not tell? Now, I wear dark makeup because I look good in dark makeup. I have purple streaks in my hair because I like lookin’ funky. No longer does darkness on the outside mimic darkness within. Darkness on the outside just means I’m keeping up with Vogue.
Day of the Dead goth.
The last week has been a week of endings. I finished my novel, Something about a Ghost,
and my grandfather passed away Saturday night. The dark makeup has been smeared by tears that wash in like high tide. My toenail polish started peeling, so I painted them black. I try on three outfits before I put on a black tee and call it a day.
For the first time in fifteen years, it is possible that my exterior mimics the internal pain. When I was a teenager, my grunge-phase call for help was hormonal. I suppose today the black couture and blood-red lipstick are purely circumstantial.
When I was a teenager, I listened to Nine Inch Nails to drown myself in auditory misery. As an adult, their music reminds me of sex. Many things change, but depression doesn’t. I have good days, bad days, but I’ve been fighting this disease since the eighth grade, and there is no cure. There is no magic pill. This has been a week of endings, but not an end to sadness.
I will not be deterred from the way I look. No matter how I feel, I’ll still wear skull jewelry. I’ll still paint my nails black and go total goth for Rocky Horror Picture Show
at the end of this month. I may be depressive, but I still got style. I also still have sadness, and I admit: that teenager in the Kurt Cobain t-shirts still lives inside me. She says hello whenever I buy Urban Decay lip gloss or hear Jim Morrison sing “The End.”
We are who we once were. We change in many ways, but certain things remain the same. I embrace the old me—pay her homage—every time I bemoan another sunny day. (Sunshine can be so depressing.) But I sometimes turn my back on teenage me, too: go makeup-less and lay in the sun.
I am in a dark place for now. The black fingernails and dark lipstick are more than elements of style. Yet, I will move forward, and soon, this pain will pass. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll buy something in a shade of pink.
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My short story, “Two Dates,” has just been published by Sliptongue Magazine. Read an excerpt below, and follow the LINK for the full story. Warning: MATURE CONTENT.
Two Dates (excerpt)
by Sara Dobie Bauer
“Can I help you gentlemen?”
The ginger stood, and God, was he tall. She leaned her upper body back and gave him a funny look.
“We’re very sorry to interrupt your …” He pointed his finger toward the crowd of women. “Uh …”
“Blow job workshop.”
The ginger closed his dark blue eyes and said, “Right. Yes. Sorry.”
“Do you need help finding something?” Angie asked.
“Dude.” The shorter gent smacked the ginger on the shoulder. “They have lingerie. I’m gonna check it out.” Baldy disappeared around a stack of books about tantric sex.
“Are you guys a couple?”
This made the ginger look down at the ground and shake his head. “No. No. Look, it’s my friend’s bachelor party tonight.” He gestured toward the ladies’ underwear. “Not that idiot, but we all went to college together.”
“Uh, no, Yale, and I’m the best man, and I’m not good at this.”
“Good at what?”
He held his hands out to her, palms up. “I need something that would greatly, greatly embarrass the bachelor in public.”
“I think we can make that happen.” She smiled up at the gawky ginger, and he smiled back. “Is your buddy metro? Manly? Homophobic?”
He seemed to consider this. “I think ‘manly’ might be the best of those choices. Much more manly than me.”
“Dude, you’re wearing Armani. There’s nothing more manly than that.”
He raised red-blond eyebrows at her, seemingly shocked by her comment.
“What’s your name?”
“Ben. Short for something humiliating.”
“Well, I’m Angie.” She reached out her hand, and they shook in honor of newfound familiarity. “I have just the thing for your manly pal.” She beckoned him around a corner with a crooked finger. Angie did a slow saunter, her eyes trailing over male enhancement pills and vibrators before she stopped suddenly, and Ben ran into her.
“Sorry. Had a couple pints already.”
“That much …” she laid her hand on his forearm, “is apparent, babe. Now. Here is what you need.” She pulled a gigantic penis pump from a hook. “I mean, probably not what you need personally. I’m guessing you’re too tall to need one of these.”
“You don’t know what this is?” She handed it to him. She watched him read the box, and the more his lips mouthed the words, the more his eyebrows lowered until finally, he laughed.
“This is perfect,” he said. “You’re a genius.”
“I know my penis products.”
He chuckled and bit his bottom lip while looking at her, which made her kind of want to bite it, too.
“What are you doing tonight?”
“I mean after that.”
“Dunno. What am I doing after that?”
He pointed the penis pump toward his compatriot, who, Angie noticed, had a pair of women’s underwear on his head. “Would you like to meet us out?”
“Why? Do you need a stripper?”
Ben’s face crinkled in horror. “No, I didn’t …” He shook his head.
“Oh, my God, I’m kidding.”
His skin turned bright red.
“Oh, he’s blushing!” She reached her palm up and touched his cheek. “You are so cute. Yes, I would love to meet you out. Give me your number.” She smiled, surprised this gentlemanly geek could make her swoon when she was so used to leather and bondage.
Like what you’ve read so far? Full story HERE. (Mature content!!!)