Writing Woes II

I feel like my writing is getting stagnant. I used to write seventy thousand words in a week and, though they weren’t perfect, they felt brilliant. The story I was telling was one that I was so invested in that it carried me forward. And the editing can wait. 
I’m critical now. I pick over every word that I put down until nothing seems right—the same way you just look at numbers in a sequence sometimes and could swear that three didn’t always come after two. 

The only way to remedy it is to write more. That would be my guess. When I wasn’t as anxious about the everyday world and when I didn’t have much free time I was always making time to write. I’d carry notebooks and a laptop into IHOP or Starbucks and just stay there on a day off or skip work and write. 

I miss writing on a damp porch when it rains and feeling like if I didn’t have to worry about a cafe closing or some obligation that I could have kept writing for hours. I think I’ve prioritized other things over my writing. Photography became a huge one, but it’s not something I even do every day or even every week. I’ve gotten good at planning and plotting out where stories need to go and how I want things to happen. 

But the only way that any of these novel ideas I have are going to get written is if I write them myself. No one is going to wade through notebooks and random docx files of planning to piece together awesome ideas that were never committed to the page. 

I think the biggest difference now is that I’m never alone the way I used to be. Being alone cultivated a need to spend time doing something when I was tired of sitting in front of the TV. Now I have people to talk to and I’m going places in the middle of the day, sometimes just to be out of the house because I feel like that’s the thing I’m supposed to do. 

Nd what I really need to do is write. 

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The Vicious Cycle of Minority Representation

This might not be my longest, most drawn out entry, but I came to a realization today when I was out talking with a woman. The whole crux of what I’m saying rests on an understanding of what the movie “Get Out” means to me, but not necessarily the specific plot points of the movie.

What made the movie such a huge deal for me was the way that it seemed so different from other movies, namely in that it chronicled experiences that I felt were things that only I had felt. It got into a personal space for me and put those things up on the screen for audiences of millions of people who might not have the same life experience.

And people loved it.

That’s the problem with Hollywood character representation. We have your “Get Outs” and your “Atlantas” and these things show a side of minority life that we don’t often see. A lot of film execs say things to the affect of “white audiences just don’t like to see minority characters” and that puts unfair blame on white audiences at large.

The real issue is that a lot of minority characters are stock types and they don’t seem genuine. Sure, there are going to be some bigots who don’t accept characters like them, but the writers are writing them and using other media they’ve been exposed to as a template and since there’s always been poor minority representation in movies it comes off as a parody of a parody of a parody. The real person there gets distilled down to a set of tropes that people are tired of seeing. White audiences are tired of it and so are audiences of color.

But the problem isn’t the white audiences don’t know how to accept those unlike them, the problem is that writers aren’t writing characters that should be accepted.

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Outline Time

I’ve always considered outlines to be kind of artificial.

There was this glorious, wondrous idea in my head of what a real writer should be and how they should strive to preserve their vision in its purest form. It sounds like some kind of romantic period ideal when I write it out like that, but I felt that outlines boxed a writer into a set of events that might need to be changed to better fit the story.

They weren’t something bad writers did as much as they were cheating, at least in my mind.

Now without much development on the writing front I’ve started to watch a lot of videos and read a lot about other writer’s methods and Jenna Moreci said something in one of her videos that stuck with me: writer’s that outline should plan their story back to front. Start with the ending and you’ll know what leads to where. If you work on the characters in conjunction with the actual outline there’ll be less chance of you needed to make up stuff on the fly when you’re actually writing and less chance of writer’s block.

My ending is something that’s worried me. I’ve never been good at endings, though when I come up with something it fits so well. Problem is that I go back and edit all over the place to shape the story around it.

How much editing do I do? Well, my last completed novel ended up shedding three whole chapters when I went back and edited. I read three whole chapters and realized that the problem created and solved in the space of thirty double-spaced pages could be dropped with no consequence to the rest of the book.

That’s exactly the kind of thing that an outline would protect against.

The problem becomes how to even do an outline. I have bits of a story written, some of it out of order and all of it related. I need to outline the parts in between and see what still needs to stay. Outlines are something I never learned to do because even in school the teachers realized that I could keep my ideas straight and in order for five to twenty pages, but when we’re talking about two to three hundred pages things get a little harder.

So this is where we are: I have to learn how to construct an outline and plan a concrete ending. I have the idea of an ending, but I need something thematically fitting and something the events around my story build to. If I find that the events I have planned out or written out don’t fit that theme I have to cut them or repurpose them for a later project.

It’s time to get brutal with it and stop letting “I can’t” be an excuse. I would suggest that anyone who hasn’t checked her out, give Jenna Moreci a glance. Also, if you do outline any tips are welcome.

Bitter Boy Zoo Round Up Shenanigans

I’ve expressed before that I’m simply obsessed with any place that incels gather on the internet. For the uninitiated: an incel is short for involuntary celibate. These are generally men between the ages of sixteen and death that think they are so deformed that no one will sleep with them. Most of the ones I’ve come across have some sort of body dysmorphia because they’ve shared pictures of themselves and they look normal.

Their real problem stems from being so sure that society owes them sexual relationships that they do things like propose the idea that women convicted of crimes should be forces to have sex with them or sing the praises of women below the legal age of consent (because those women are generally too young to know what a sociopath looks like).

The shooter from a few years ago, Elliot Rodger, (I know I have to name them since it can be hard to keep up when these things seem to happen once a week) claimed to be incel in the manifesto that he wrote. Though he seems to be outside of the norm. Most of these guys are too afraid of social interaction to actually hurt anyone. They use words like “normies” or “chads” to describe the rest of us and make it a point to reject the ideas put forth by society that say personality does matter when looking for a mate.

This is, of course, why they fail. They tend to be horrible people with annoying attitudes and no real hobbies besides bitching about not being able to get their dicks wet. They will claim that it’s about more than sex only to turn around and make it all about sex. And while I’m painting them with a pretty wide brush, the ones that are simply unlucky seem to stay away from these guys.

They are pretty fascinating and I fully expect there to be some indie-style documentary on Netflix in the next few year shot by an ambitious twenty-something that plays on the sympathy of their situation.

I’d watch it.

I started this new writing project years ago I didn’t have the direction that I needed to nail down all of the idea. The protagonist was a recently murdered girl who wakes up to find herself unable to remember why she was murdered, who did it, or even who she was. She would learn over time that she was in fact still dead, but somehow also alive, and that she had family and friends who she would need to help solve that murder.

In the course of making the characters for this book I made up a boyfriend who she really didn’t know anymore. The book morphed and morphed again over the years with the character keeping her name, but that’s about it. And when the other characters changed too, the boyfriend slowly became a love interest that she wasn’t into, and more recently became the “where’s my hug” guy that befriends a high school girl that isn’t into him in the hopes of forcing her hand.

That’s where this whole incel thing started. I heard the term used to describe Rodger and realized that the term fit what I was talking about. I stalked their communities to see what they talked about and how they spoke. I won’t be dropping words like KLV (Kissless Virgin) in my story, but I wanted to immerse myself in that world so that I could understand where they were coming from.

Also, I’ve got a really bad morbid curiosity thing going. A few years ago I saw one thing on Purity Balls and basically read every scrap of article I could find on the subject and sat through a few documentaries.

So why this title and what is this blog entry about? Well, I started calling the section of Reddit where these types hang out my “bitter boy zoo”. It seemed appropriate and festive. This is me talking about a research method and taking the “long way ’round”. Research isn’t just skimming a Wikipedia page, but at the same time not everything that you find out has to be put down on the page.

Lost in Translation

I might have lost my first reader because of what I’ve been writing.

If you don’t write there’s this thing that seems to be something that even the most carefree, fearless of writers goes through–somehow, someday you’re going to write something that is going to get you into trouble. Writing has caused an uproar before, for sure. There’s what happened with Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code or the many people made about the portrayal of sex and just relationships in general in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Notice that both of those books sold very well.

That’s not an invitation to write the worst things that you can, but there’s obviously something to be said about the controversial selling or the shitstorm that brews around a thing actually helping to fuel its ascent.

We could only hope to be that lucky. In my case I passed a story along to a woman who I wouldn’t call a friend quite yet, but there was something budding there. She had asked to see something I was writing and as she actually reads a lot I thought that this could be a common ground for us.

I e-mailed the first chapter to her, because I almost never send out the complete manuscript, expecting to hear back in a couple of days. The idea was that she would read it and make some comment like “that was really cool, I’d read this” or “nah, not really my kind of thing”. In the past I’ve gotten either.

I’ll interject here that one of the things that I read in Stephen King’s On Writing that has always rang true with me was that the writer in us has this desire to find an ideal reader–usually a spouse or friend or family member whose feedback they write for. This person would be the audience you have in mind. Maybe not so much in the sense that they are the type of person that you’re writing for, but more that you write everything to filter through them. The writing process is lonely by necessity, even when you’re writing with a co-author. That first time that you hand someone the printed stacks of paper that are your novel or send out that little file attachment is a big step. Their impression of the thing is your first impression of what anyone else thinks.

And in a way I’m kind of searching for the person to be that. It takes more than just being the first to read a thing; they have to be honest enough and brutal enough to be willing to take a stab at something very personal that has, up until then, been your own little secret creation.

Sure, you learn to get hardened to criticism and to take it as a critic of what’s on the page and not you, but it’s still a part of you. It’s still a very vulnerable give and take relationship.

So when I didn’t hear back, I figured that it was because she didn’t like it and was scared of hurting my feelings. I actually like hearing someone didn’t like it, someone telling me that they loved it doesn’t usually tell me what needs to be fixed.

Something always needs to be fixed.

She and I talked over the next few days about photography and kind of joked around. We came to the point where she was going to meet up with me the other day and then the day of she backed out. And I did what I do when anyone does anything, even a small thing. I over analyzed it.  It really works in my favor some of the time. If there’s a problem that needs a high level of scrutiny I can do that.

The phrase she used was “no contact” and it seemed like a very specific sort of language to use with someone who you had very lighthearted contact with in the first place. Looking back over the conversations we’ve had since I got the iPhone (and looked for an excuse to text anyone I knew had one to see the little blue bubbles) there’s nothing alarming in my language with her. We had breakfast together once a while ago and haven’t seen each other sense, but I wondered what I’d said to get this response.

The old “what did I do that upset you so much” conversation isn’t one I usually have to have. I know what I’ve said, I probably said it on purpose. I was careful this time; I’m usually extra careful because i can get carried away with jokes that are too much for people and topics that shouldn’t be discussed.

Then I realized the only place I hadn’t been careful was my writing. The first chapter of the novel I sent her has some choice words in it and some choice imagery. She actually questioned it when she first started reading the whole thing, but that was the last conversation where we mentioned it. At that point she seemed fine with there being a little adult content. It wasn’t there for no reason, that’s for sure.

I think she read the rest of it either days ago or very recently and had been thinking it over. Is this the kind of person that I want to be friends with? Someone who would write this must be sick or someone who would write this must have a real problem. Authors aren’t the people they write about in their stories, although part of us does go into the process. I’m no more Lissette than I am any other character written by someone who just had the idea. But she’s up here in my head, she came from there and I can pull that personality forth and put it on the page (haven’t been doing it as much lately).

The writing scaring her is all that makes sense to me with the scant information that I have. This isn’t really the first time this has happened, but it is the first time that someone has not wanted to be my friend anymore because of it and it’s sad because she seemed really sweet and I wish her the best.

Does this mean that I stop what I was doing before or change how I have been writing, no. I don’t have direct feedback to know what it was that caused her issue nor do I want to be the kind of person who censors their writing. I’d rather write things better and strive to take offensive subjects in a thought provoking way, rather than hiding from them or appealing to the lowest denominator.

If I’m published someday I hope she sees the book in a store or while scrolling through Amazon and decides to take it look; I hope she gets that what I’m trying to say is clear. I hope she keeps turning the pages and finally gets what I’m trying to say.

Why Media Matters (but it’s really very little to do with media)

The typical nerd pursuits have seen their universes shaken up a lot over the last few years. It’s not all been bad, but there’s a lot of push back against the changes. The Hugo Awards drama has driven a world between the writing world. Video games have seen a virtual war between a more progressive side and a kind of old guard. Comic books have suffered numerous issues with the inclusion of minorities and women and the hiccups that these changes cause. Media in general has been shaken up when it comes to race, sexual orientation and gender.

Exhibit A: Captain America fucking up the day of some criminals while flying

These aren’t the most important subjects in the world.

Baltimore is has been the stage for riots for the last few days. There’s an election coming over the horizon. The Middle East is still on fire.

And yet I can’t stop coming back to these things because they’re in my life everyday. I’ve grown to appreciate comic books and I grew up with video games and fantasy fiction. They’re a part of who I am, but not who I am. For so many people these things are an integral part of their person and that’s why passionate fights come out of the changes.

This has been written about extensively from both sides of all issues. If your mind is already made up one way or another I’m not going to be able to change it, but I land firmly on the side of the progressive in every case. Companies have realized that appealing to a wider audience can get them the big bucks and doesn’t have to be hokey or pandering. What’s wrong with that?

I’ve been black my whole life. It’s not the kind of thing you can wake up one day and realize or suddenly become, but I haven’t always understood why women had issues with being seen in a sexual light or why gays deserved any rights. When you come from a state like Texas it’s easy to get inundated with the culture. It’s really in all American culture. You don’t understand why the poor don’t just “get a job and work harder” and maybe you think “sexual harassment is something cooked up by women to give them an excuse to get special treatment”.

These things are baked into the clay we’re molded from and it’s hard to chip away at that mindset. A kind of cognitive dissonance is at play too. Being black and thinking that I deserve to be afforded the same rights as anyone else while not thinking the same about women or gays requires a little bit of mental gymnastics. We think of ourselves ahead of others. We consider our own problems first.

We get mad at women because we feel like they owe us their bodies and their time simply because we exist and we’re asking for it. We feel like gays are different or without God and therefore should be looked at as subhuman.

It’s hard to remember when the switch clicked in my head. I remember the steps to get there: reading testimonials by women who had been looked at like juicy steaks their whole lives and felt up by men they trusted. Or getting so angry at a friend who I claimed to be in love with when she didn’t return my affection that I cut her out of my life. Or finding out how many women I cared about and knew for years had stories of sexual assault. Or getting to know gays as people and finding out people I knew were gay and there was nothing wrong with them. It didn’t make me feel any different about or around them.

I’d say it’s maturity and growing up, but then there are those twice my age with the mindset I had at sixteen. And it’s easy to slip back into the old habit of thinking badly about someone solely because they’re different than you.

The culture around us is built on a foundation of cultures from all over the world and attitudes and mores that are centuries old shape the world we live in. Even when you’ve realized the truth, you’re immersed in the lie and it’s hard to keep believing.

That’s where the comic books, video games and other media come in. Media is often our first interactions with some things. We see Asians on television and we figure they must all be like that; it’s easy to think that people are like the races in Lord of the Ring. Well, it’s easy to think that about people who aren’t like you. All blacks are athletic, love watermelon and crime. Asians are bad with women, but good at math and science. Hispanics are somehow both hard working and lazy. Liberals are degenerates who hate America. Conservatives are sexist bigots who love war. Gays are fashionable, nosey and annoying. Women are bad at math and emotional. Feminists are man hating lesbians.

I can go on like this all day.

For a long time we’ve seen these things played out in media. We’ve had them hammered into our heads in print and seen them run their course on the screen. The country has only started to come around from a lot of the older ones in the last one hundred years or so and it’s been a slow battle. The progressive attitude toward characterization of the “other” in media has got to grow up, because it’s where a lot of the kids being born now will get their first taste of the world out there and where a lot of us reinforce our worst fears and best realizations about people.

These groups aren’t homogenized. I know a woman who is a math genius. I know a Conservative guy who let me borrow gas money when I needed and has a teen daughter that he dotes on and used to bring to play Dungeons and Dragons with us. I know a really hood black guy that loves his comics and treats women with the utmost respect. I have a gay cousin that loves him some Jesus and I have women who are among my best friends…the whole point to this rant is that we don’t need to take what people are as who they are or all they are.

Bad people exist in every group, but there’s a lot of good out there and if we just stopped being so quick to judge we’d probably see more of it.

Now, I promise I haven’t smoked anything and I’m not drunk. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of making the mistake of pointing to a whole group as bad as anyone else. And to me this whole battle over media culture is bigger than the characters and fandoms housed inside of that culture. We need to all work for that.

I don’t think I’ll change any minds, but I hope I do.

Fan Fiction Elite

Writing has been very slow going, mostly because I can’t decide what I want this story to be in terms of the villain. Am I writing about a concrete person or creature that the characters are up against or more of a general sense of dread and darkness that comes from a more abstract source? While I’ve been going back and forth on this I decided that I might need to work on another piece.

My relationship with fan fiction has been a love/hate kind of thing. I don’t think it’s lowly or anything of that sort—it’s just that for a medium that could be so filled with interesting ideas about things introduced in the source material fan fiction spends a lot of it’s time just being love stories with no plot other than X and X hook up.

Still, when I thought of something else to write I turned to that stuff. Fan fiction is where I started; it’s something that I feel comfortable doing and it has an audience right there waiting to read it. I set out to find a site that was a little more low key and designed around the writers to post something on. It was a Doctor Who story that I had started some time ago. There was some polishing up to be done, but it was mostly alright. Ideas raised by the show come into play and there’s something morally bad that came from a choice made by the Doctor and Amy in an earlier adventure.

I submitted it and I got a rejection letter back…from a fan fiction site. The gist of the letter was how it didn’t fit their editing standards. The things they sent me back that were the problems were the kind of things that are usually considered author choices in the world of writing though. For instance: I’ve seen many books break the rules of writing sentences in and around quotations, mostly because those rules don’t follow a logical pattern and the average reader wouldn’t notice them. Another thing they cited me for was capitalizing “sonic screwdriver” which I usually do in writing because it seems like the kind of thing that you could choose to do or not. I like it better that way.

There’s nothing said of the actual writing. At this point I tend to be able to weave a decent story together with most of these things, but it just bothers me to see a community that’s been so badly treated by the mainstream trying to act like their a literature department from some university. You’re mostly dealing in smut stories about the Doctor and Rose—let’s not act all high and fucking mighty over here. I’m not going to re-submit the story. If I do it will be down the line. The whole thing put me off of fan fiction for a while and I decided to go back to what I should be doing. 

Busy Writing

Believe it or not, I still put in time writing a good amount of the week. I’ve even had some semblance of an idea of what this story is shaping up to be about. I know, it’s not the best example when you’ve got the whole thing coming down the pipes and you’re still not sure what it is you’re writing exactly. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of free time lately. I’ve also noticed that the more free time that I have, the more time I spend not filling it with writing.

When I’m hard at work it seems that writing comes a lot easier because I am constantly busy and thinking about how I need to just get home and work on this writing. I used to find that keeping track of the writing that I was working on and the word count I amassed each day helped me tremendously. These days it doesn’t do so much. I’m jumping back and forth so much and changing issues here and there in the story that it doesn’t really end up being all that easy for me to tell what did change and how many words it too.

It doesn’t really matter. Worrying over word count is great and it feels good when you’re getting those words on the page, but I’ve spent far too long beating myself up over the lack of writing at times when I could have been trying to write or doing something else.

There’s something romanticized about the self loathing of it all, but I don’t think it’s the only way to do this. I think that’s why I am so against the ideas put forth by NANOWRIMO. It seems like something designed to help, but it really seems to encourage people who aren’t used to writing to force themselves to do something that’s not easy and that you have to train yourself to do. And then, even when you’ve done it, you’ve put yourself there on the page to be vulnerable.

Ideas on Page

Writing is a frightening thing. An overrated thing that your friends and family will not understand takes a lot more hard work than they think. To be the next Faulkner, or Rowling or C. S. Lewis you’re going to need more than just a bottle of liquor and an idea. Most of the would be writers are failing out there because of the simple fact that they never put ideas on the page.

No one will ever read the story you don’t write.

Part of my time is spent doubting myself and my ability. I know I’m decent, but decent doesn’t get you far in most other things. Decent shouldn’t ever be enough.

These last few weeks have been getting back into that routine and doing something with these ideas that I was keeping to myself. This isn’t to sound pompous, but I know there’s a collection of snippets in there that would create the story that people want to read. I know this because somewhere in there is a story that I would want to read and no matter what anyone tells us, we’re not all that unique.

So I made a promise to put ideas on the page, because the ideas you don’t will never make it out.

Preview Chapter Two of Stephanos

So I’m lazy. I wanted to have something else for today’s post, but I didn’t know what to write. So here is the second chapter of the story from the previous post. Stephanos, chapter two.

Laptops unwind in that same way that spiral-cut-hams do, until you’re down to the good bits: the motherboard, the power supply and the little connectors that I make up names for. Nothing looks exactly the same as anything else, and nothing fits where it shouldn’t. That’s the golden rule of computer component repair. It looks more complicated than it is, really.

hornsAt this point I could afford another cold heat soldering iron that was actually made to do these jobs, but there’s a charm to this one. I made it out of a busted curling iron, some mechanical pencil lead refills, a sliver of mica I took from an old compass, some twelve-gauge wire and other parts I salvaged from around the house.

Thank you, You Tube.

A girl in my class managed to snap the charging port off of the motherboard in one of the loaner Sony Vaio’s that we use in school. I offered to fix it for a tiny bit of cash and it’s good practice.

The actual soldering is just a dab and the quicksilver-like dot sizzles into place beneath the charging port. I barely have time to take in the oily metallic smell before I have to pull the iron and coil of solder away. The smell is my favorite bit.

A few seconds to dry and I test the connection. Yellow or orange or a red light will indicate if it is charging.

And of course it is.

I slide the innards of the laptop together, working the snap together fittings down over one another until I hear the small click of the latches. Each layer has a few screws. I’ve got them separated out into the little compartments that line along the old fishing tackle box that my Dad let me have. All arranged by size right to left; smallest to largest.

Someone knocks at the door to my bedroom. “Your dad said you were busy back here?” My chest does this little hiccup thing at the sound of Daunte’s voice.

“Almost done. Come in.”

He slips through cracked door, leaves it hanging open and steps in behind me taking me around the waist. My head tilts right in anticipation of the kiss I know is coming. “You still look busy.”

“Stop,” I giggle. “Static electricity, I could short the whole board out.”

“She wouldn’t know; it’s already broken,” he mutters against my neck.

My skin is warm and buzzing as I slump against him. “Funny.” I meet my reflection’s gaze and my eyes are a vibrant red instead of their normal blue. My eyelids close and I dry swallow before opening. “Did you stop by to tease me?” When I look again they’re back to blue.

“I was on the way home and wanted to stop and ask you if we’re still on for tomorrow?”

I turn so that we’re face-to-face and almost eye-to-eye. My toes push off the ground until I close the distance and can kiss him full on the mouth. “What you mean is: is Lissette still coming to meet Errol?”

“He’ll be all mopey if she isn’t. It’ll just be shitty. I’d rather tell him we canceled it.”

The prickly hairs dotting his cheek catch at my skin as I run my thumb along his face. “I’d rather tell him we canceled and still go, too. But she never gave me a straight answer. She’s driving me so I guess she’ll be there.” I rest my arms on his shoulders so that they stick out straight behind his neck and tilt my head to one side. “What exactly did you tell Errol?”

“You and Lissette are like sisters.”

Daunte and I have been friends since Miss Swanson’s third grade class, when the seating chart changed and we were partnered up to learn cursive. That same year my horns were coming in and he was the one of the few kids who didn’t tease me about them. I kissed him in the sixth grade when he tried to stand up for me and got punched in the face. Neither of us ever officially asked the other out—we were just kind of dating after that. And three years later, here we are.

“He’s not going to expect me to help him talk to her or pass little notes or some shit, is he?”

“He’s not going to do anything.”

“Okay.”

“Just tell her I whined about how I haven’t seen her outside of school in forever.”

My hands find themselves under his collar straightening the crease. “Guilt trip. We’ll make that plan B.”

“I have to get home and help Mom.” He rubs the hair down over my horns and pulls me in for a kiss. “I love you—see you tomorrow.”

“Love you too, night.”

__________

From the warmth of my bed I do the shower math—how much longer can I sleep, plus how long I absolutely have to shower to be presentable, minus the time I told Lissette to be here. Do I have time to get ready? I lie on the edge of sleep for five minutes and then stumble on my heels into the bathroom.

Most of my morning shower is cold today; I’ll have to make an effort to replace the wire I borrowed from the tank-less water heater to make the soldering iron. The rest of the time spent getting ready comes easily. The Succubus side of me means I never look like a hot mess—my hair will fall into those perfect bouncy curls, but it does cooperate with other styles. I don’t need makeup except for lip gloss (though sometimes I cover up my freckles). I’ve never had a zit or pimple in my life.

When the sound of the shower is gone Lissette and Dad’s voices come through the wall muffled. His laugh is distinct and there’s a faint smell like—scrambled eggs? I towel off in the shower and step out onto the mat.

My outfit for the day is a purple peasant-style tunic and a pair of black yoga pants. I keep thongs and other things I don’t want found hidden in a Tampax box under the sink. It’s the one place Dad wouldn’t look. I step out of the bathroom and slip into some no-show-socks and a pair of black flats.

I find Lissette making small, slow circles beneath her face with a frying pan full of scrambled eggs and sniffing them. She doesn’t see me at first. “See how fluffy they are? It’s all about the whisking, the more air you get into them then the fluffier they are.”

My dad is shoveling the eggs into his mouth and grumbling something that sounds like agreement in reply.

“I didn’t know we were trading egg recipes.”

“Look who finally decided to join us.” Lissette puts the skillet back on the stove and ditches the oven gloves.

“I told you to be here earlier than we needed because you’re usually late.”

“Ouch.”

I sigh. “How’s your mom doing?”

Lissette plucks a sliver of egg out of the pan and drops it into her mouth. “I didn’t tell her. Something came up.”

“Lissette.” The words are behind my teeth waiting to come out, but Dad’s right there staring up at us as he chews his egg. I close the distance between him and me, and hug him tight around the shoulders. He’s tense as I whisper to him. “Bye Daddy, I’m staying at Lissette’s tonight.”

“Alright. Give me a call when you get in for the night.”

I never do and he never bothers me about it.

We head out the door to where her car is parked. I’m staring at the back of her head as we walk. She’s braided some of her blonde hair into a circlet that wraps around her head and for some reason it reminds me of a Valkyrie.

There are muddy trenches marking the spots where cars have backed up and turned around and parked. I try to step between them and hold my tongue until I reach the door of the car. “Why didn’t you tell her?”

“I’m not really in a rush to see my Mom cry over another guy.”

“Oh. Are you in a rush to see her get some disease or—or—knocked up by a guy who doesn’t even respect her.” Lissette’s mom was the closest thing I had to a mom at this point; she even had me calling her Mom.

Lissette holds her hand up. “I’ll tell her tonight while you’re there. I might need the back up.”

“Okay.”

“Anyway, we’re early. How about we make a quick stop to check on something?”

“Is this scheming or snooping?”

“I slipped a GPS tracker on Tim’s car the other night—I think he’s with the little home-wrecker.”

“What makes you think that? And where did you get this?”

Lissette shrugs. “Fifty dollars at one of those run down places that sell spy gadgets. After I acted all confused and worried about my cheating dad the guy even helped me set it up.”

“Dammit, Lissette.”

“What?”

“I tell you what, we’ll go indulge your stalking fetish if you do that thing we talked about?”

“Which thing? We talk about a lot of things.

“Come with us today and get to know Errol.”

“When I had a boy pinned to his bed last night with my tongue halfway down his throat and do you know what the furthest thought from my mind was? When’s my prince charming going to come and rescue me from this dreadful life of doing what I please?” she clasped her hands together, tucked them under her chin and fluttered her eyes. Lissette and her theatrics.

“You were with some boy last night? When?”

“Like I said, I wasn’t in a rush to see Mom cry. Remember that kid we used to give rides home.”

“Alex?”

“Or Nick. It was definitely four letters.”

“Please tell me you used a condom.”

“Didn’t have any—so we just made out and necked some.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m not asking you to give Errol a handy. Just come with us so that he’s not—.”

“—Fucking your swerve up? Awe, you guys let me tag along all the time without an escort.”

“Yeah, but you keep yourself occupied.”

“True. I’ll go, but only because you need to spend time with Daunte.”

“You’re the best.”

“And because I need your help to follow Tim.”

“There’s something very broken inside of you Lissette.”