House Hunting

By Corissa Haury

Yesterday morning my husband and I got out of bed at 7:15am. We were going to hunt for a house, a difficult task for any person. When it is cold, it is hard to rise from your warm cocoon of blankets. Those who live in the North have a formidable drive before them the day after a heavy snow. The roads are not all plowed. Yet as true Mainers have taught us, we kept going. You haul your ass out of bed early and you take what you need to take.

This was the fourth time we looked at houses. Four more houses today, we said to each other as we got ready to dig the car out of the snow. My husband was skeptical about this search. We had already seen other houses, and my heart was tied to one. That one house you’re not supposed to want. The house you’re not supposed to put all your emotional needs into. But it is a magnificent house, with practical answers to some of our current needs. Best of all it has the feel of an old house. There is an old kindness in the walls, some invitation to return in the framework. We weren’t sure if that was the house we should try to get, though. So we got in the car, turned up the heat, and cranked the Beastie Boys while we watched the snowy landscape whip by.

We drove along the highway up through the foothills wedged below the Central Maine mountains and above the White Mountains. We arrived 45 minutes early in the suburban town where the first house resided. Our rumbling bellies told us this would be a good time to find a diner and have some affordable, homemade breakfast. Our every wish was granted at $9 a plate. We ate our blueberry pancakes under Maine maple syrup and sipped our coffee under Elvis Presley’s blessed boulevard. His face was everywhere, the phrase The King of Rock & Roll emblazoned upon the walls of this beckoning shrine.

Breakfast

We finished breakfast and paid for the check and used the quaint bathrooms before we were on our way again. We went to the wrong address first, but found our way soon after we realized we should add another 100 to the number. We arrived to meet our agent a few minutes late. It was not long before we were examining the innards of a new house, a cute house with warm radiators and updated paint. It was nice, but small. There were possibilities here, we agreed, but fewer of them.

The second house we looked at was kept by an old man who lives in Florida. The whole place felt like an old man’s residence. There were pictures of Jean-Paul the Pope, along the walls. His blessing overshadowed a dark kitchen. The microwave had been ripped from the wall. The carpets felt old and thin. The backyard was expansive and flat, beautiful in the snow. It sloped down through the neighbor’s yard to a slow river, where we could see ice floating south in the sluggish current. The snow covered banks on either side looked picturesque. It was pretty, but impractical. We moved on.
Driving

The next place was 40 minutes southwest of our location, so we turned on the heat and headed down a series of Maine highways. One of them is a logging truck highway. We saw many trucks rocket by on the slick roads, their heavy cargo pushing them forward. During our ride the quiet snow fell and our voices were muted in the small space while we contemplated different ideas for each house. Every house has potential, but we understand each other by now. Sometimes we can tell when we walk into a house that the other person will say, “No, thank you.”

The third house was interesting. It had been a halfway house, owned by the state. It had the feel of a parsonage, with various rooms shaped like offices and a welcoming kitchen with a large hearth. The fireplace had been bricked off. The exposed wooden beams gave the ceiling a cabin-like feel. There were multiple doors into the home. It had two bathrooms, each with its own tub, and a washer and dryer. Leftover board games, furniture, and lockboxes were littered about. There was a foosball table in the dining room. The basement was dry, showing no sign of precipitation inside despite the recent intense weather. The house emanated a spirit of friendliness and hope.

It was a good house, but as my husband stopped our agent and I on the porch to talk to us, I knew what he would say. He still wanted the house I wanted more than anything we had seen so far. The house that makes the most sense, even if it isn’t 100% the kind of house we wanted at the outset. He began sharing with our agent what his thought process had been. We did not make it to the fourth house, but we did not need to. While I listened, I realized that this day was for reassuring ourselves that we knew what we wanted. There is work to do, there are chances to be taken. Nothing is certain in the house purchase process.

When you are house shopping, you are life shopping.

We did not go into the home buying process believing that we would do a lot of frustrating planning, and paperwork. We did not realize what it meant to  think practically, about what we will do in the next 10 years, and what our real long term goals are. We did not see, somehow, that it would mean a lot of compromise on both our parts. We did not know one another as well then as we do now, simply through house shopping. When you are house shopping, you are life shopping. You are setting yourself up for something different than a mere apartment or rental. You must grow, you must grapple with what you truly want for yourself.

We made some more plans for moving forward to have the place inspected and putting an offer in a few weeks down the road. Then we scrambled for the cars, which were still warm inside with residual heat.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious. I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine. Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.
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Summoning [short story]

By Corissa Haury

She stood at the crossroads, where there were four stop signs. It was freezing.

Her nose was numb. There were tiny frozen pieces of snow, ice, and her own frosty breath that framed her hood, closed as tight as she could manage without obscuring her vision. The sky was grey, flat. There was no active snow but for that which the wind blew about as a cruel joke, reminding the residents of the plains that no matter what they did there would always be snow blowing in the winter. She wanted to check her smartphone for the temperature, but it would be colder to remove her hands from her pockets, more of a risk to expose the device to the elements.

There were no cars out in this weather, at this time of night. It was becoming dusk, the color of the sky darkening into the night.

What am I waiting for? She wondered. Was it fear? Was it excitement?

She looked out over the crossroads. She could barely see past any of the road signs. The wind howled on the open hills, shooting down from the arctic circle across Canada to consume the open midwestern cornfields with frozen sleep.

Just do it. She thought to herself, and opened her cold lips to shout into the snowy void.

“HEY! HEY! HEY!” She shrieked, her voice as loud and rigorous and committed as she could manage.

“You have to mean it.” She remembered Alice saying. “Scream it like you want Him to come.”

At first, there was nothing but the howling wind and the ice biting at her skin and making her cheeks rosy. The hush of the winter air was still dull as a padded room. Her voice hadn’t echoed, it hadn’t been sent across the wind.

It didn’t work. She thought. That was stupid.

For a few more minutes, she stood there by one of the signs, waiting for a car, waiting for someone in a dark black cloak to appear. Perhaps she hadn’t done it right. Alice would know. Alice had seen the Someone.

“HEY!” She tried again. “HEY! HEY!” Back into the wind went her voice, snatched by the whirling bits of snow and ice around her. She felt a bone-chilling shiver climb her spine from her coccyx to the tip-top cervical vertebrae at the back of her skull. It was slow, and made her shudder all over for a moment.

“Hello.” Said a voice, and the girl whipped around to look for its owner. “Well isn’t it a bitch out here?”

Beside her, as she peeked out from the edge of her hood, she saw a strange looking man in black swim trunks with sunglasses on. There were seven little upside down crosses on either side of them. She counted quickly. She loved to count.

“Fuck, it’s cold.” Said the man, looking older and grizzled and somehow still handsome. He was fit, topless. He wasn’t fat, nor was He thin. She couldn’t see his eyes. His hair was thick and dark, with heavy streaks of gray like stripes throughout. He pushed His sunglasses down a little, and she noticed He was holding a drink with a cocktail umbrella shaped like a little knife.

“So?” He asked. “Do you want to make a deal with me, or what?”

“Uhm,” She started out, biting her lip. He’s not… He’s not what I thought. “I think so.” She said.

“Well, out with it.” He demanded, looking at her with piercing red eyes. She’d never seen red eyes before. She was mesmerized.

“I want you to kill someone for me.” She said aloud, the words feeling strange on her heart as she did so. She had wanted it for a long time. She did not anticipate how it would feel to say it aloud, though.

“Look, I haven’t got all day here.” He said, tapping His glass as he raised it to His lips and tipped His head back. He drank the rest of the golden-red liquor inside it. Then He tipped the glass over and dumped the little knife and all the ice down onto the snow at their feet. She looked down. He wore sandals. His legs looked older, too, as if they’d had some experience in the world. She realized His swim trunks had ten tiny five pointed stars on each side. She was counting again.

 

“You’re really going for it, aren’t you?” She asked.

“What?” He leaned in closer. She could smell His breath, somehow still hot despite the ice surrounding them. It smelled of liquor, and burning pine.

“Look at your outfit. You picked those clothes?” She mocked, unable to help herself.

“Are you serious?” He leaned back and threw His cocktail container into the road. It smashed against ice, the glass shattering and sliding from the sheer force. “You’re going to give the fucking Devil a hard time about his Satanic clothes?”

“Everyone wears those these days.” She said. “You couldn’t find something scarier, more creative?”

“Hey, not a lot of people summon me, OK?” He became defensive. “I’ll wear what I want, thank you very fucking much. I am the Devil.” She began to notice His speech patterns. He made an indignant sound. “Don’t fuck with me, kid. What do you want already? I can’t just kill people, you know. Some people have destinies and shit.”

“Destinies and shit?” She asked skeptically. “You know, if it weren’t for the fact that I just summoned you, I’d have a hard time believing you were the Devil.”

“Is this how you talk to the old men in your life? I’m thousands of years old here. Don’t fuck with me. I told you. Make a deal and be done with it or I’ll make a deal with the damn Son of God right now for your measly little soul.”

“Aren’t I about to give you my soul anyways?”

“Ew, no.” The Devil looked at her with His bright red eyes over His dark sunglasses in the dead of winter, topless, full of bile, and irritated. “Souls are disgusting. Why do you think I throw all of them in a pit of fire? Have you seen one?” He seemed to shake something off. “Ick. No. I’m a bigger fan of debauchery and lecherous behavior.”

“I see.” She said. “So if you kill someone, you don’t get their soul?”

“Didn’t you hear me, kid? I can’t just kill someone.”

“Can you give me the power to do it?”

“I could.” He said, leaning against the stop sign beside them. He was tall. There was something strangely attractive about Him, something odd that she found herself drawn to. Something sexual, something sinful.

He is the Devil. She thought to herself. He’s supposed to bring lust, anger, sloth, pride, and all that to humans, right?

“I’ve never had somebody procrastinate on a deal so much.” He said. “What do I get if I give you some of my power?”

“What can I do with your power?” She inquired.

“You can do lots of stuff. I’ll give you a manual. Come on, come on, deal or no deal?”

“Wait!” She said. “What am I giving you? A vacation to the Bahamas?”

He stood up straight. “That’s enough out of you.” He spat, then coughed and belched some smoke out towards the road. “Let me visit you during the full moon every month.” His eyes gleamed.

“Visit me?” She asked. She saw the look He gave her. She wasn’t particularly attractive, but she wasn’t ugly. She had a shapely ass. She knew what he meant. He was impatient.

“You know. Take you to the boneyard?”

“I never thought the Devil would be a cheesy bastard.” She said. “I should be the one telling you to fuck off.”

“You’re the one who called me here. Either I get to visit you and we fuck once a month, or you don’t get the power.”

Something in the way He said fuck once a month drew her in. Sure, He was several thousand years her senior. But He was a sarcastic silver fox, also.

How bad can it be to sleep with Satan? She wondered to herself. She wanted revenge more than she cared about who she slept with. She wanted the power He could give her.

“Well, you’re not ugly.” She said aloud, returning the flirtation.

“Cool.” He leaned through in the cold wind, ice and snow battering the both of them, and kissed her cheek with His scorching mouth. Her face burned hot and bright, flaming with her own embarrassment and his heat. Everything smelled like smoking pine.

“Deal?” She asked Him.

He squeezed her ass quickly after He kissed her cheek. It made her jump.

“Deal.” He winked a bright red eye at her over His sunglasses, not for the last time. “See you next month.” He grinned, and He was gone.

She looked down, feeling cold again. His piney alcoholic smell had already been swept away by the wintry weather.

She saw His little cocktail knife on the ground in the snow, and leaned down to pick it up. It was small, but she could read in tiny letters on the side, manual.

What am I supposed to do with this? She wondered. He’s coming back in a month. How is this a manual?

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious. I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine. Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.
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7 Major Takeaways from National Novel Writing Month

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner
National Novel Writing Month Winner’s Banner
By Corissa Haury

Writing a novel is not easy. Whether you put pen to paper, type on a typewriter, or use a tablet with a keyboard like me, you still have to do something hard. You have to write.

You have to write a lot, too. 50,000 words in one month is no joke. The daily minimum to reach 50k is 1667 words, or about 3 double spaced pages. Multiply that by the 30 days writers are given to finish the task, and that’s a minimum of 90 pages for the month-long project. An average published novel is between 100,000 and 175,000 words, so starting with 50,000 is a solid half a manuscript. You learn a lot about yourself, writing, and how to be a better writer. Here are the 7 major takeaways I learned this year while finishing my 79,000 word manuscript.

1. Say No to Yourself

One of the hardest things in the whole world is to not look back. There is even an “I told you so” myth about that very thing. This is great advice the folks over at NaNoWriMo.org already recommend at the start of the program, but it is hard to follow. The temptation to read what you wrote from the beginning, to see if it is the epic tale you had hoped for, will start on day one and follow you to day 30. Say no to yourself. Don’t look back. Keep writing.

2. Gestate Your Ideas Beforehand

Are you the writer that plans ahead? I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. When it comes to character development, plot, and chapters, I am often hopeless. That changed this year during the last two weeks of October. I grabbed a notebook and wrote down character ideas and names, created locations, did beginning research, and drew maps for reference.

Not only was it fun, it was a novel lifeline halfway through the month when I could not quite remember what part of the story I was supposed to write next. Lo and behold, I have notes I can reference. To help yourself, write a rough chapter outline before your next book. Prepare your ideas in a notebook, and you’ll have something to look at when you continue to plod onward. Er, plot onward…

3. Be Willing to Scrap Your Plot Completely

There will be times when your plot becomes convoluted, your characters get strange, and the whole story surpises you and flips itself on its head. You can learn something about yourself and about your characters by allowing this to happen. Let the story morph. Rewrite your plot. Outline chapters a dozen times if you have to. (I did.) Whatever feels right, do it. Don’t inhibit yourself with the idea that you must keep the first plot or that a messy story is bad. Messes are what make things interesting in your favorite books.

40kwords
40,000 words towards the middle of the month.

4. Finish Your Story

This may seem obvious, but I will put it here anyway because I needed to learn it. Getting to 50,000 words is an accomplishment, but if the story is not finished than neither are you. 50,000 words is a minimum goal. Do not allow yourself to get to the minimum and stop. I know I fall into that trap, with homework and writing. Do not stop writing if the story is not at its end. You will not feel like you have won, because you left a lot hanging. You can do it. You can finish your novel.

5. Every Month is Your NaNoWriMo

Something my husband said to me this month is important. “Every month is NaNoWriMo.” He said. “I don’t want you to stop writing.”

Writing is hard. It is tedious. It is frustrating. It is a discipline, a chore, a task that you must continue if you want to be a writer. Stephen King has a great essay (#23) in his book On Writing. He talks about how when he was a young writer in the 60s, most folks believed that writing was a nebulous, divine vision that came to the writer. There was no expectation of discipline or definition. King and his wife, Tabby, who were dating at the time, did not feel the same. They both laboriously crafted their stories with care, and for Stephen, a sense of fun.

Keep writing. Do not stop because National Novel Writing Month is over. If you have a retail job that is 40+ hours per week like me, and you still finished a novel this month, don’t let the end of November stop you from the continuation of your craft. You are worth it. You can keep writing.

6. Kill Your Inner Editor

National Novel Writing Month is not about making a book. It is about getting a story onto paper that you can mold into a book later. Whatever it takes, silence your inner editor. That bitch doesn’t need our encouragement or our credence while we are writing the first draft. We will need her in later months when we come back to critique our manuscript with an eagle eye, but for now, she can go away.

What does it take for you to kill your inner editor while you write your first draft? Sometimes a stiff drink does it for me. Sometimes being out in the world and writing at a cafe helps. Sometimes you just need to find the right soundtrack for the feeling you are trying to produce with your words. There are multiple methods to make sure that critical voice in your head doesn’t get heard until December. Find your method.

7. Acknowledge Your Accomplishments

77k Words

If you are not a published author, you read often, and you have a decent sense of literary quality, then it is probably hard for you to feel accomplished when you write something. You know what a great book is, but you may not know what it took to craft it. The first draft should never be the final draft. What’s that quote by William Faulkner from The Sound & The Fury?

“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

If you learned anything about your own writing while finishing a novel, you have more than accomplished what you set out to do at the outset. NaNoWriMo is about one thing: writing. Don’t expect your novel to be Sirens of Titan yet. This is just the beginning. After editing, rewriting, and several more drafts you’ll have something you can submit to a publisher or work to self-publish. You did better than yourself this month. Take a moment to appreciate your own accomplishments.

This is just the beginning. You have a manuscript to mold. You have a novel to make stronger, and more purposeful. Congratulations!

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious. I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine. Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.
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