Today’s Aspiring Voices guest is the whip-smart Melanie Drake. I talked to her about her complicated writing process, scrutinizing readers for their reactions, and why she may someday be the rare writer/paleoanthropologist.

Prehistoric Art

Edoardo Forneris via Creative Commons

Paul: What was the catalyst that made you want to start writing seriously? Have you always considered yourself a writer or is it a relatively new thing in your life?

Melanie: I’ve considered myself a writer for a while, but it was only within the last two years that I began wanting to start writing seriously.  I was in an accident on my way to work one Saturday, and it made me realize how short life really is.  I want to spend the rest of my life doing something I love instead of being miserable doing something I hate just for money.

Paul: Wow, yeah. Sorry about the accident! So what do you do for a day job? Is it like writing is the one thing you can imagine being happy doing for a living or is it just one of the possibilities that you’ve decided to pursue for the time being?

Melanie: I currently work nights as a Customer Service rep answering phone calls, emails, and web chats and spend my days going to college full time.  There are only two jobs I can imagine being happy doing for the rest of my life. First is my writing, of course, as it is my first love.  The second would be a paleoanthropologist, which is the study of humans using fossils.

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Evil Bird

Erich Alder via Creative Commons

Remember when Isla and I wandered around the promenade in the crystal rain?

Of course you don’t, we were the only ones alive that day.

We found a sliver of moss-covered glass,

Isla pretended it was a sword, whipping it through the tinkling droplets.

She danced in the empty fountain, engaged in other flights of fancy,

Wondering aloud if she were too old for such displays.

I set about to ease her mind, ended up convincing her to stop.

We ate fruit and laughed at birds,

Never expecting how personally those fowl would take our jests.

They swarmed and bobbed, eyes round and wide and attentive,

Hopping ever closer and we clutched at each other.

Fragile rose beads shattered into spun sugar granules on the black backs,

On the pink beaks, on the crests always moving, moving.

Is there anything worse than splashed crimson red over pink?

Bloody gums, sucking wounds, flecked and unblinking yellow eyes.

Tiny bones crackled under our fleeing feet, stamping songs,

Fans of tight wings battering future nightmares

And the pecks and claws sizzling with insistent rhythms

Saying, Get Away Get Away Get Away Get Away.

THE SWING is a flail; controlled misery locked on oxygen rails, red tendons and orange aches, a sunrise inside two arms.

THE ORB stands defiant; scooped and haughty this moon on a dais is a king of bowing, dewy, subjugable masses, brazen and unaware.

THE DRIVER never wavers; speeding wind enflames a lone purpose that eradicates the stuffy days and nights of communal coma and cramped castigation.

THE COLLISION will defile a morning; whipped marauder running down a dimpled, unboxed castellan until—with violence and a hollow song—there is transformation.

THE FLIGHT becomes the universe; the third heaven transfixes every eye, erases each arena so, for several inglorious seconds of arc and drift and squint, arithmetic triumphs and potential is once again a horizon.

THE DROP is reflected into every witness; a sleeping royal seeking refuge among the multitudes, a destitute disgrace choking on a desert or drowning out of hubris, or, as a victor, vanishes into vacuity.

THE CHASE, notable for a lack of haste; other regents may be felled, celebration might be called, consolation could ignite, but there will always be a slow pursuit, then reset, then restore and score.

Confidence

itstonyhaha via Creative Commons

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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Eye

fructosegums via Creative Commons

I’ve misplaced my feet; somewhere in the fog of dope smoke and white lines and tight shoes and forever dancing, they wandered off. Probably I should go, the best place would be home and the next best thing would be upstairs to my room, but neither has the music and neither has the void. The worst is when you realize the music throbbing in your ears is residual, an echo left from records that have long since been packed into a van and driven off, across a bridge or to a downtown garage. It’s usually the heavy snap of the house lights coming on, the resigned, sober sigh of the bouncer saying, Come on everyone let’s go party’s over.

Then you see it’s only you and the scattered handful of remaining ghouls, sunken cheeked and numb toed, blinking at each other with rheumy eyes and self-loathing smirks. We’ll drift like seeds on a prairie wind.

I find myself in a filthy bathroom stall at some all-night diner. My companion is a greasy pair of hands attached to a blazer with a set of Porche keys in the pocket. In my compact’s mirror, there is lipstick on my teeth.

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 is Alisia Faust.

Pistol in holder

Lisa Larson via Creative Commons

Hello, can you hear me? Is anybody there? Please help me. I think I’m with a very bad man, and I’m afraid.

He came into my house in the middle of the night, tip-toeing on silent cat’s feet. I don’t know why the alarm didn’t go off. It should have! But it didn’t, so he pulled me from my bed and stuffed me in the back of his car. Oh, stupid, stupid, stupid! Why hadn’t I made any noise? I accidentally go off all the time! But I was confused and surprise and so scared. They took my brother too. He’s back here with me. If only I had said something, I wouldn’t be here. If only…

The car is stopping. I hear him loud and clear. It’s a one-sided conversation on the phone.

“Hey, I’m here. Yeah, around the corner from Starbucks. Where are you? Well hurry up, man! I’ve got the–Alright, alright, just hurry up.”

The faint click of disconnection, and a string of words that would make a lady blush tumble out of his mouth. Do you need to know everything he said? I’m not comfortable repeating that last bit.

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