Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Love Affair With Writing by Ginger Simpson #BooksWeLove

If you know an author personally, you're probably familiar with the term, WIP.  We always have a "writing in progress" project, and although some may sit on the back burner for months while a new and more exciting storyline takes precedence, I'll bet every other writer out there shares my burning desire to finish that meaningful story.  I have that problem right now, but for a different reason.  I earlier explained in another post the difference between "plotters/pantsers," and I'm a pantser, so my heroine in The Well speaks more often than Yellow Moon.  

I know I'm going to finish Yellow Moon, because I already have the cover, but she's been one of the most difficult heroines to work with because she turns mute on me.  I can't SHOW you her story if she doesn't TELL it to me.  So, for today, I'm going to give you an example of The Well, hopefully to make Yellow Moon jealous.  *lol*

So, while I'm trying to pry words out of Yellow Moon's mouth, here's the story that Harlee is anxious to share with you.  I'm loving it, but I really want to get Yellow Moon to my publisher soon.  Oy Vey...what I wouldn't give to be able to plot...but I've tried it and it just doesn't work for me.

The Well
Oklahoma Panhandle - 1894

Hot winds drove a herd of tumbleweeds across endless acres of sod–broken and dried by the sun.   The devastating drought in Oklahoma continued on, leaving everything parched or dying. Using the rope crank, Harlee Wagner lowered the bucket into the well. She swiped at the perspiration on her brow with the sleeve of her dress.

Each time she fetched drinking water for the family, the rope attached to the wooden pail reeled closer and closer to the end. What would they do if the well ran dry? They'd already given up bathing, and Ma only prepared one meal a day, using mostly dried meat and vegetables she'd preserved. Harlee’s younger sister, Hannah, complained the most, but sacrifice was inevitable if they were to survive.  
Drastic times called for change. The horses needed water every day but Harlee no longer filled the trough. Instead she gave them small amounts from a pail. The chickens seemed unaware of their plight and pecked unaffected at the ground, searching for insects.  

A small dirt devil swirled across the corral and moved like a ghost-like apparition through the weathered fence and then disappeared from sight behind the barn. Rain was certain to come and things would improve. She needed to cling to that hope. 

“Well, that was a durned waste of time.” Pa stomped by, his rifle resting against his shoulder and a frown on his face.

“Whadda you mean?” Her words stopped him before he went inside.

“I mean there’s not an animal around for miles that I saw, at least. I think they’ve all gone in search of something green to munch on instead of all this dried grass and weeds.” His leathery skin gave him a much older appearance despite not having a single grey strand in his auburn hair, and worry deepened the sun-etched creases in his brow. The wind fluttered his wispy hair into his eyes, and he huffed his annoyance and brushed the thin strands aside.

“How about fishing?”

“Open those brown eyes of yorn. Have you seen the lake recently?” His brow furrowed. “There’s more bloated trout dead on the shore than I can count. If it don’t rain soon, the lake is going to shrink into a pond.”

Her pa went inside and slammed the door. Harlee winced. At seventeen, this was the most severe season she’d witnessed in her life. Her stomach growled with hunger and her dried mouth cried out for a long, cool drink. The plants in the garden were as withered as Harlee’s heart. She wanted to leave Oklahoma, mainly because her chances of finding a beau, especially miles from nowhere, were slim to none, and most likely she'd end up an old maid. The family had only lived on the ‘farm’ less than a year, but the men who stopped by to see her pa were definitely not even close to her age.

A glance at the shack they called home served as a reminder there was no real reason to stay in this God-forsaken place, but Pa saw something here she didn’t and remained determined to make this their permanent home. Perhaps his decision was based on being driven from every other place they'd lived…either by crooked tax men or cattlemen who didn't want to share the range land. Pa came from a small town in New England that raised sheep and saw that as his calling.

Harlee cranked the bucket up and shielded her eyes against the sun while looking longingly at the sky for any hint of rain. A few wispy white clouds drifted across a sea of blue, and in the distance, vultures circled some poor critter either dead or dying. Her heart ached for such a gruesome end to life.

“Are you gonna take all day getting water?” Eleven-year-old Hannah poked her nose outside. “I’m mighty thirsty, just in case you care.”

“Hold your horses, would ya? If you think you can fetch a bucket full any quicker, you’re welcome to try.”

 Hannah stuck out her tongue and then disappeared back inside the house. No surprise, she wouldn't put forth any effort. As the youngest, she was spoiled rotten…and probably would still be even if the babe Ma lost when Harlee was her younger sister’s age had survived.

Harlee turned her attention back to the chore at hand. The bucket crested the well’s top, only half full this time. The water used to be so high, she often bent over and stared at her reflection. Doubtful she could see it now, she crawled up on the stone ledge and peered over, searching for any hint of her likeness. Stretching farther . . . she still saw nothing but emptiness. The old stone beneath her grip gave way, sending her tumbling into the black abyss, her head striking rock. Numbed by shock, her scream froze in her throat. 

Harlee hit the water, creating a splash, although not a very big one. Pain shot through her head, and she grabbed her scalp to soothe the ache and found a huge lump had already formed. Something dripped down the side of her face. Was it water? She touched the dampness, licked her hand, and confirmed by the coppery taste it was blood. Her attempt to choke back tears failed when the throbbing intensified and matched each beat of her heart. She cried until she got the hiccups, and leaned her head against the wall, waiting for them to stop.

  She jerked upright and stared up, noting the sun directly overhead. “I must have dozed off.”  Raising her hand, she checked her head and found the bleeding had stopped. “Oh, thank you God, I needed something positive about this day.”

  The light cascaded down the well and highlighted the greenness of the walls and the murky color of the water. Gathering her wits, she struggled to her feet, wiped sodden hair from her face and gasped when the water’s depth barely reached her thighs. “Oh, Lord, we need this precious liquid for so many things, but taking a swim wasn't one of them.”   

As the shock of her fall faded, she faced an even greater fear than how injured she was–how to get out of the well.  “Help me. Ma! Pa! Hannah! Someone! Heellllppp!” She yelled until she had no voice left. 

No answer came from above.

 Time ticked by and she grew weary. Her elbow, evidently skinned during the fall, joined the dull ache in her head, and her knees begged her to sit. The blue sky above darkened with the approaching night, and Harlee sagged into the water, letting it lap to her chin while she rested against the stony interior. Why hadn't someone come to look for her? Especially her impatient little sister?

Despite her discomfort, Harlee slept and woke with a crick in her neck and fingers wrinkled from being under water. She glanced up, praying to see someone peering back, but strangely, no longer saw the sky. Could it still be night? Straining her eyes, she noted light leaking around what appeared to be a cover. Her mind whirred. Was this all a bad dream? The fact that she sat in water, confined in a stone prison confirmed the truth. But why hadn't someone missed her, and why did they cover the well unless her family thought her dead? 

 With a hoarse voice, she shouted as loud as she could, but still no one responded. Trying to find a bright spot, she remembered the circling vultures. “At least I cheated those gluttonous birds out of a meal,” she muttered as tears plunked into the water, barely making a ripple. Death would surely claim her anyhow. Maybe the grim reaper already had and she didn't realize she'd passed. Resting a hand on her bosom, she searched for a heartbeat.

 Her soaked dress cloaked her like a second skin, and the slime from the well’s bottom coated her skinned palms. She crinkled her nose at the musty smell and kept assuring herself help would come, but her cries bounced off the walls and went unanswered.

Harlee’s strength waned more and more by the morning of the fourth day, and she prepared to die.  Her measure of time came by means of daylight filtering around the well’s sealed edges, and she no longer had hope of rescue. After wanting water so badly, she taken only small sips a few times and now dreamed of Ma’s buttermilk biscuits. An imaginary aroma masked the musk and hung teasingly in the air.

  Numbness enveloped Harlee’s body and outlook, but didn't dull her curiosity about her family.  Maybe they hadn't given up on her, instead perhaps something had happened to them?  At the thought, she embraced herself to quell her increased shivering.

Harlee inhaled a deep breath, drawing in the unpleasant aroma she'd avoided by shallow breathing.  The lack of air inside the well made her light-headed and the smell made her gag. The thought of sitting in her own urine soaked clothing added to her nausea. She retched a few times, but threw up nothing but bile. The bitter taste in her mouth matched the rancidness of the well’s bottom.  

 She positioned herself firmly against the wall, bending her knees and planting her feet against the opposite wall. Drowning wasn't a preference and there was enough water for that to happen. With any luck, she’d just fall asleep and wake up in the beautiful garden Ma read about in the Bible one Sunday. 
 The pictures the hallowed words painted colored Harlee’s mind and her muscles relaxed. Her head lulled to her shoulder. If her time had come, she was ready, despite lamenting she'd die without knowing the pleasure of having a husband and children. Still, at this moment, anything had to be better than the wet, damp hell that claimed her. Her eyes closed and then squinted tighter against a light much brighter than she'd ever seen. Was it the door to heaven? 

The bucket banged her atop her head. “Ouch!” The pain brought back her voice.

“Holy shit ” A deep voice sounded above. Surely, God didn’t curse. Then who?

Harlee tried to adjust to the daylight filtering down the well by holding a shielding hand to her forehead. She looked up, but the dank and dark prison had stolen her vision as well as her voice.  Weakness robbed her of the ability to stand. Despite only hearing a voice, she continued to peer up and pray. Finally, she managed to see her rescuer’s outline. 

“Help me,” she managed to rasp out.

He leaned farther over the opening. “Are you alive?”  

Seemed like a silly question since dead people didn't speak, but she stifled her sarcasm, not wishing to risk her rescue. “I-I think so.” Harlee barely had the strength to respond, but the idea of being set free gave her a voice.

“Hold on. Let me see if I can find something to help get you out.”

Out? The word sounded more beautiful than any other she'd ever heard, but when he disappeared from her sight, panic seized her heart. Was she hallucinating?  

The blue sky loomed overhead and the smell of freshness drifted down to replace the wet, musty stench she'd endured for so long. She released a pent-up breath when a fuzzy silhouette re-appeared.
“This place is deserted, but I did manage to find a good, hearty rope. The one attached to this old bucket is so rotten, it wouldn't hold up a feather. Do you think you could manage to tie this one around your waist and climb out while I pull?”

Tying something around her waist wasn't the problem.  Her legs had grown weak and she doubted she could stand. Still, the idea of living appealed more than dying. “I can try.” She braced herself with the sides of the well and forced herself to her feet. Her head spun and she feared she might faint. The rope unfurled as he released it. His comment about the place being deserted didn’t make sense, but then nothing did at the moment.

With shrivelled and weak hands, Harlee secured the braided horse hair around her waist, and gripped the lifeline with all the strength she mustered. “Okay, I'm ready,” she called up to her rescuer.
“I’ll pull and you use your feet to walk up the wall.”

“I’m not sure I can.”

“Well, if I have to come down there and get you, there'll be no one here to pull us both out.  You've got to try.”

“All right. I will.”

She made a first step and a second. Water dripped from her body and splattered into what remained in the well. Her limbs trembled and the coarseness of the rope nipped through the thin material of her dress and chafed her skin. On her third step, her leg gave out and she slammed against the wall, knocking the air from her lungs and scraping her cheek against the rough stones. The stranger slackened the rope, allowing her to collapse back into the water. Harlee massaged her burning face and even in the dim light saw blood on her fingers. She used the wet hem of her dress to soothe the burning and dab the wound.

“Are you okay?” His deep voice resonated and brought her to her senses.

Would anyone who'd been trapped in a well for days be just fine? She took a deep breath and resisted asking him if he was serious.

“Did you hurt yourself?” He yelled louder.

“Yes. My cheek is bleeding and my hands are raw, but I’m ready to try again.” Determination drove her as she rubbed her sore hands along her skirt.

“Okay, I'm going to start pulling again, so stand up and hold on tight.”

Her mind whirred with questions she hoped to ask. Harlee struggled to her feet and took a firm grip on her lifeline. “Pull,” she instructed.

Despite the pain, she concentrated on each step, unwilling to waiver until she reached freedom.  Her palms and fingers burned and the top of the well appeared miles away. Still, she made sure she kept one foot anchoring her in place before she moved the other. Many times she wanted to surrender, but looking up into the blurred face of her hero gave her the strength she needed to continue.

After what seemed forever, sunlight warmed Harlee’s face and a breeze caressed her soggy skin. The stranger grasped her beneath her arms and hauled her over the well’s edge. Her feet touched the ground, but overcome by weakness, she sagged against him. He swept her into his arms as if she was nothing more than a feather and cradled her like a mother would her babe. “There, there, you're going to be fine now.” 

Somehow, in desperation, she believed his soothing words.

Okay...I'm either going to keep working on this on or choke the words out of Yellow Moon.  *lol*