by Kathryn McBride

He caught up to her outside, lit her cigarette before his own. They stood close, silent at first, keeping warm beneath the glow of the marquee.

“Do you remember our first apartment?”

Waikiki Beach Silhouettes at Sunset

Andy via Creative Commons

She thought for a moment, “Of course. The tiny cottage by the beach.”

“It was tiny, wasn’t it? The kitchen was practically in our bedroom.”

“Didn’t matter to us then. Remember the smell of the ocean?”

“We’d leave the windows open every day, that salty breeze billowing through the sheers.”

“That’s how the stray cat got in.”

“But never left. Windows wide open, she chose to stay.”

“Tell me what else you remember.”

“Lazy nights tangled up in bed. Tasting moonlight on your shoulders. And you?”

“Waves crashing against the shore. Making love with the ebb and flow of the tide.”

“In time, the sea’s rhythm kept pace with the ebb and flow of us. Our love changed an ocean.”

Inside the lobby, the lights dimmed twice. She left their cottage first. At the bar, she took her husband’s arm and disappeared into the theatre. The stranger watched her go, fed the cat, closed the windows. Once inside, he returned to the stage, still brushing sand from his feet as the curtain parted.


Kathryn McBrideKathryn McBride is the author of an anthology of short stories currently featured in a boxed set (literally a set of boxes) under her bed. She is delighted to finally let them see the light of day. She welcomes feedback and craft beer suggestions @finishwhatyou.

For this week’s Aspiring Voices, I talk with the savvy and articulate Alexandra Lynwood about her experience self-publishing and the opportunities opening up for new authors. We also talk about getting in The Zone, the siren song of the Xbox, and what still draws crowds into bookstores.

Printing Press

Mirko Tobias Schaefer via Creative Commons

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The Ones is a writing blog game in which participants receive a story title, a little wrinkle to up the challenge factor and then must create a single draft story in no more than one hour from the prompt. They then trade stories and post someone else’s entry on their website. My guest this week is Kishan Paul.

“So you feel like your husband isn’t attentive to your needs as he used to be?” I ask.

“Yes,” the woman on the speaker phone sniffles. “I think he’s having an affair,” she says as her sniffle turns into a full fledged sob.

“Elise,” I begin and stop when the pounding starts.  I switch the speaker off and put the phone next to my ear.  Placing my hand on the wall next to me, I feel it shake as whoever is on the other side pounds.

night view, deck

Jenny Spadafora via Creative Commons

I scramble to the other side of apartment, the kitchen, “Elise, do you think this has anything to do with the fact it’s the busiest time…” The banging of the hammer against the wall gets louder and more incessant. I punch the breakfast table and work on keeping my voice calm and soothing. “of the year for him at work?”

The rest of our session is much the same and I pray Elise has no idea that I’m about to explode.

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I’m starting a new series of posts here called Aspiring Voices. These are interviews with other aspiring writers discussing writing craft, inspiration, breaking into the business, the learning process, books, and probably a lot of other stuff, not all of it necessarily on topic.

My first guest is Anma Natsu, whose YA novel Aisuru will be released next year and is currently the host of The Lackadaisical Writer podcast. Anma and I sat down to discuss dog training, charging creative batteries, what grown-up writers need to do to create effective YA, and why she tears up every time she reads a particular graphic novel.

Cherry Blossoms

Bart via Creative Commons

Paul: When did you decide to pursue writing seriously? Was there a catalyst to it or have you always been sort of picking at it?

Anma: Well, I started writing back in middle school, but back then it wasn’t truly serious for my fiction writing; it was more of an outlet for dealing with being an extreme introvert in a school of bullies. When I was in high school, I did a presentation in English class on caring for and training dogs, complete with a hands-on demonstration with my own puppy (the one time in school I was popular [laughs]). Part of that was a 30-40 page manual that my teacher raved over and encouraged me to expand and publish. So for awhile, I did have an idea of doing that and writing non-fiction books. But eventually I realized there were already tons of dog training books and wrote it off as a silly dream.

Many years later, I was still dabbling with fiction writing but I wouldn’t say it was a truly serious pursuit until I tried participating in National Novel Writing Month for the first time, which was in 2006. I failed miserably at the goal to get to 50,000 words, but I wrote more in that month on a single work than I ever had before and it helped me realize I could do more than just write a few story starts. Two years later, I actually finished writing my first novel, though it was just below 50,000 words.

I would say that was the real catalyst for me to truly decide to fully embrace my writer side.  Seeking publication wouldn’t become a firmer goal though until maybe 3-4 years ago, after meeting my sweetie, because he actually encouraged me with my writing. While I had friends who would “cheer” me on, no one really encouraged me or even read my stuff, but he did, gave me his honest feedback and his unmitigated support when I shyly mentioned considering eventual publication.

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Coffee love!

dcadenas via Creative Commons

I need to quit this job, Charlie thought again, checking another day off her mental calendar where this concept had risen to consciousness. Two years of thinking the same thing each day still had not spurred her into any concrete action, such as rewriting her resume or opening a job search website. She smiled sweetly at the plump woman on the other side of the counter, protective hand rested on her inflated belly, the trademark of pregnancy everywhere. “Please have a seat, Dr. Kline will be with you shortly,” Charlie told her.

Receptioning for an Obstetrician/Gynecologist was a terrible job for someone recovering from a hysterectomy, especially for someone whose biological alarm clock had been blaring for three years prior to the diagnosis. She bit her tongue to keep the lump in her throat from swelling and tapped a few lines of data entry into her desk computer, trying to stop herself from hating Mrs. Gouli for nothing more than possessing a uterus that could hold a gestating child. Mrs. Gouli hadn’t given her cancer.

Charlie was cancer-free, now. In private, she darkly joked that she was baby-cancer-free. None of her friends thought the joke was funny. They tried to be supportive; in many ways they had been her salvation through the last five years. First, the breakup with Patrick—she mentally filled in the spit that her circle of friends had decided the name required as punctuation: Patrick-ptah!, every time—then the diagnosis. Endless nights of weeping into telephones and onto reassuring shoulders had proven those of her close circle who were in it with her for the long haul: Jan, Darla, Tim, and Vivy.

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