Friday, March 30, 2012

Dark Shadows and the Eyes of a Four Year Old


When I heard that Johnny Depp was starring in a modern satire of Dark Shadows, I was moved to look up the old episodes on Netflix and revisit the show I remembered from my childhood. The original Dark Shadows was a gothic soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971.  My mother was a fan of the show, and so was I … secretly.

My mother put me down for a nap every afternoon while the show was on, but I rarely stayed in my room.  Whenever I could, I snuck out of bed and down the hall to peer around the corner and watch Dark Shadows.  My mother tells me now that she knew I was there.  She said I was so fascinated with the show, she let me stay unless something really scary was happening. (Then I got “caught” and sent back to bed.)

Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches, secret passageways, séances, and time travel – you name it; Dark Shadows had it.  I’ve always remembered the show fondly, but when I played the old episodes via Netflix last week, I was shocked at just how BAD they were!  The dialogue was stilted and awkward; the acting even more so!  The story was slow-moving, and historical accuracy was sadly lacking.

Nevertheless, every scene dredged up memories. I knew that house and those rooms, and I knew those characters!  If anyone had asked me before I looked up the show, I wouldn’t have been able to name any of them, but I recognized their names when I heard them: Victoria Winters, Angelique, Josette, Barnabas, Naomi Collins, Willie Loomis …

The thing is, I think I must have imprinted on this show when I was four years old! It has everything in it that I grew up loving, and throughout my childhood I continued to be fixated on gothic mysteries.  Once I could read, I quickly outgrew Nancy Drew and moved on to Mary Stewart and the even older works of Mary Roberts Rinehart. Governesses in brooding mansions, ghostly figures in hidden staircases, witchcraft, murder, and above all … dark family secrets! 

Now that I’ve refreshed my memory on the actual Dark Shadows dialogue (Yikes!), I won’t make the mistake of saying I hope I can write like that.  Let’s say instead that I hope someday to write a gothic mystery that meets the standard of Dark Shadows as seen through the eyes of a four-year-old!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Now? (and a Winner)


Last week I turned in my CAGED GRAVES revisions to my editor. After five weeks of intensive work, I was very excited by the results and proud of the new version of the manuscript.  Very quickly, however, the thrill of completion turned into the uncertainty of … what do I work on now?

There’s a “high” to being deeply involved in a manuscript, and I’ve always experienced a bit of depression after completing a draft.  “Coming down” is hard! This feeling can usually be remedied by jumping into some other project as soon as possible.  

New ideas have so much potential.  They can go anywhere, be anything.  Once I start to work on the idea, however, possibilities begin to narrow.  Whether I’m pantstering or plotting, every time I make a decision, I close off doors to other pathways, other books I might have written.  And lately, I’ve been looking at my WIPs and new ideas and wondering: Have I taken the wrong path on these?

There’s the story that reached 55k words and was fast approaching the climax.  I put it aside to work on CAGED GRAVES, and now I am reluctant to return to it.  It has major problems, and I’m not sure exactly where I took a wrong turn.  First drafts are allowed to be a mess, but this one seems more shaky than most.

There’s the new idea I’m outlining.  I really like the premise, but the more I work on the outline, the more I wonder if I’m taking it in the right direction. It seems to be heading well outside my comfort zone, and since I haven’t started a draft, I don’t know my characters well enough to know if I’m picking the right paths for them.  That’s the thing about being a pantster: I’m used to my characters showing me the way.  And they don’t do that until I put them on the page.

And then there’s an even newer idea that came to me this weekend.  Actually, it’s a re-working of a previous idea that came to nothing.  But I suddenly see a new way to approach it.

I’m not sure what to work on next!  But I know what I want. I want to fall in love with a new story.  I wish one of the ones I have in mind would make a move on me!

Moving on to other matters, I need to announce the winner in the drawing for a signed copy of Elisa Ludwig's debut novel PRETTY CROOKED.  I put all the names in a jar and let Gina pick one.  


Gina says: "Huzzah! The winner is JOHANNA GARTH!"


(Really, she said that. Gina is weird.)


Congratulations, Johanna! Contact me by email with your mailing address -- or I'll contact you when I get home from a bazillion hours of parent conferences today. (Okay, 4 hours.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Emily White's ELEMENTAL

Last week, Emily White unveiled the awesome trailer for her debut book, ELEMENTAL.

Elemental, Emily White’s taut YA sci-fi thriller debut (Spencer Hill Press, May 2012) confronts many of our greatest fears… darkness, loneliness and the power within each of us to become either the hero or villain in the plotline of our life. Ella, who has been held prisoner aboard a starship since she was a young child, must discover whether she will be the prophesied Destructor… or if she will, instead, be destroyed.

ELEMENTAL launches in May of 2012.  In the meantime, check out the trailer below and visit Emily at her blog.

Don't forget there's still time to win a contest for a signed copy of Elisa Ludwig's PRETTY CROOKED. See here for details.



Friday, March 23, 2012

Launch Party: PRETTY CROOKED

This past weekend, I attended a launch party for Elisa Ludwig's debut novel, PRETTY CROOKED.

Willa's plan seems all too simple. Take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yes, it's the story of a modern-day, would-be Robin Hood, who tries to level the playing field between the beautiful rich elite and the scholarship kids at her prestigious prep school ... with unforeseen consequences.

I bought my signed copy -- and one extra to give away in celebration for quietly passing 300 followers a couple weeks back. If you'd like a signed copy (and if you live in the continental US), just holler "ME, ME, ME" in the comments before Monday, March 26 at midnight, and I will pull a name at random.

Now, I love to name drop, so I'm going to tell you who else I saw at Elisa's launch party:

Jennifer Hubbard, author of THE SECRET YEAR and the newly released TRY NOT TO BREATHE.

E.C. Myers, debut author of FAIR COIN.

Tiffany Schmidt, author of the upcoming SEND ME A SIGN (with its newly released cover!)

Monica Carnesi, picture book author and illustrator.

and Jessica Corra, whose debut book AFTER YOU will be coming out in 2013.

I'll leave you with a peek at PRETTY CROOKED's book trailer.  Congratulations, Elisa -- and to all my blog followers, don't forget to chime in for a chance to win her new book!



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Upcoming Blogfest from Scribble and Edit: Plotting

Madeleine Maddocks from Scribble and Edit is hosting a Plotting Blogfest next  month, and for those of you also participating in the A-Z Blogfest, she has conveniently scheduled it for the Letter P -- April 17th.

You can sign up at Madeleine's site.  On the day of the blogfest, share your methods of plotting. Pantsterers (like me) can share how we manage to write a manuscript without plotting much of anything!

Believe it or not, despite being a dedicated pantsterer, I've been trying to outline a future WIP while I work on the editorial revisions for THE CAGED GRAVES.  The revisions have left no time for the WIP I put aside in February.  It was kind of a mess when I left it, so if anything needed outlining it was that project!  But for some reason, my mind started wandering toward a different story ... something outside my comfort zone. (wrote about that here)

I'll have to report back on how outlining works out for me.  So far, I keep adding more and more details to the outline -- up to the 50% mark in the story. After that point ... I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENS.

Which is pretty much the way it works when I pantster. LOL.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Your Choice: Light or Dark


Today I give you a choice of blog posts.  If you want something light-hearted and humorous, check out the guest post on first drafts I wrote for my agent, Sara Crowe, last week.

If you’d rather have the Dark Post, continue reading here for my yearly diatribe on government-mandated standardized testing.

The 2012 PSSA tests were rolled out this year with a whole new set of security measures designed to make sure teachers don’t cheat.  That’s right – they’re not worried about students cheating. They’re worried about teachers cheating. Because increasingly, teachers’ jobs depend on students passing this test.

Every item in my classroom that could possibly influence a test question had to be covered.  Yes, I had to take down the poster defining similes and metaphors – that only makes sense.  But I also had to cover the alphabet. And the calendar. And the weekly agenda that lists the days of the week.  We didn’t have to cover the clock, but I’m sure that oversight will be addressed in 2013.

There was a big change in proctoring instructions this year: Teachers are no longer allowed to inform a student if he or she forgets to complete a section of the test.  This is a bigger problem than you might think. The PSSA consists of two different books – a test booklet and an answer booklet – and students switch between multiple-choice and open-ended questions located in two different places. For years, schools have complained to the state that the directions we read aloud to the students are confusing and often result in students missing some of the open-ended responses.  The state hasn’t changed the wording of their directions by a single word, as near as I can see, but they have instituted the new rule forbidding me to point out a blank section to a student.

A cynical person might wonder if the state wanted students (and teachers) to fail the test.

More and more, this test assesses not what students know so much as whether they can follow directions.  (Again, insert cynicism here about what kind of citizens the government wants to create.)

Three students raised their hands during the math test on the first day to ask me the same question:  “It says for me to explain my answer. Am I supposed to give the answer, too?”  An adult might think that’s a silly question – how can you explain the answer if you haven’t identified it?  But this is a serious question from a fifth grade student who is trying very hard to follow the directions.  And as I said, THREE kids asked me the same thing.

Thanks to test security measures, I was unable to tell them what to do.  “I’m sorry,” I said each time. “I can’t help you.”

I’m only your teacher, after all. I’m not supposed to help you …

Friday, March 16, 2012

How Marijuana Changed My Sister-in-Law's Life Part 3

This is the final chapter in the strange courtship between my sister-in-law and the Federal Customs Agent stationed on stake-out duty in her house.

When we left off, agents were camped out 24/7 in my mother-in-law's garage. She was in her glory, bringing them coffee and baking them cookies.  Next door, Larry was spending his days in my sister-in-law's attic. Despite being shot down romantically, he did his best to avoid disturbing the routine of her household. I know for a fact he once chased Deb's deaf cat -- which he'd accidentally let escape into the attic -- all around the rafters, futilely calling, "Here kitty, kitty, kitty."

How I Met My Wife by Larry O’Donnell

Having been firmly rejected by Deb, I did what I always do when I get shot down.  I analyzed the defeat and prepared to re-engage from another angle.  When the marijuana was finally seized and arrests made, I approached Deb again.  I asked her to maintain some communication and to advise me if she was harassed by our defendants’ associates.

(Not a bad ploy, huh?)

Deb provided me a “disposable email address” and we started corresponding.  A month or so later, she finally agreed to meet me for dinner at a neutral location.  (*Waves hand* I encouraged her to say yes!) Recovering from my original crash and burn, I took flight again.  We enjoyed the meal and agreed to do it again.  For over a year and a half we had a commuter relationship, as we lived sixty miles apart.

Events in the Middle East continued to influence my professional and personal life.  A secure telephone call from Headquarters informed me about a US led coalition invasion of Iraq. Customs agents would go to war with US troops.  They asked me to lead a team to relieve agents on a 90 day rotation and I agreed.  I asked Deb to pay my bills for the three months I was away (I gave her my checkbook).  My parents agreed to look after my house, my kids, and my dog, Rodan.

Rodan was descended from dingoes.  Not too many generations, either.  He was living with my children’s mother until he started trying to eat her other dogs.  She sent him to me and he became part of my household.  A few days prior to deployment, my father gave the dog a look to which Rodan took exception, resulting in my father being bitten.  I had only three days to find an alternate placement for Rodan.  Deb agreed to take him in.  One day, I hope Deb will provide an account of her experiences with Rodan.  (Agreed. That was one scary dog.)

On a more serious note, I told Deb that, presuming I returned intact, it was my intention to ask her to marry me. 

On August 28, 2003, I arrived in Iraq.  Deb sent me letters or packages nearly every day.  I did my best to communicate with her by email and satellite telephone.  There were a more than a couple of times my team and I avoided death or injury by what seemed to be Divine intervention.  It would take another two blogs to relate my experiences there.  One night, I fell moving to cover during a mortar attack and broke both elbows.  I had been asked to extend my duty until January 12, but the injury got me home a month earlier.  

Deb took care of me until I could fend for myself.  I was intact enough to ask Deb to marry me.  She accepted the proposal and we wed twice the following summer.  Deb can explain that, too. 

(A memorable moment from the reception: My husband and I asked the DJ if he could play the song "Secret Agent Man." He said he didn't have that in his repertoire.  But then he leaned down and whispered, "Why? Is the groom a secret agent?"  My husband and I looked at each other, and Bob said, "I'm afraid we can't tell you."  The DJ nodded nervously. "I get that," he said. "It's just that there are a lot of burly guys here in dark sunglasses, and I think some of them are armed." He was right, of course. I think they were all armed. I'll bet Larry was armed.)

That is the Readers’ Digest version our story.  There were many more events which occurred but a detailed account would be a book.  With two WIPs, I won’t be starting any more books until one or both of them are finished and rejected at least twice.  Then I’ll do what I always do…

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Marijuana Changed My Sister-in-Law's Life Part 2


My guest poster, Larry O'Donnell, is here to continue the story of how he met my sister-in-law (and I might butt in occasionally).

When we left off, Larry and his partner Dave were performing surveillance on a drop-off of 2 tons of marijuana linked to terrorist financial organizations.

How I Met My Wife by Larry O'Donnell

About 5 hours before the scheduled delivery, we established a position 150 yards from the drop-off site.  Dave was the spotter, hidden behind me in a wooded location.  I was camouflaged and mostly buried under leaves, observing the site through the optical sight of a Steyr AUG.  The Steyr AUG assault rifle looked like something from Star Wars.  It was a style statement to anyone I might meet, enabling me to respond to anyone posing an imminent threat to the driver or our agent. 

Four and a half hours later, we were advised that the smugglers called a last minute change of location, five miles away.  A vehicle was dispatched to our location and Dave and I were rushed to the new place.  We arrived almost simultaneously with the delivery truck and bailed out of the SUV.  We ran through a small neighborhood and found a decent position to cover the agent and driver.  Fortunately it was dark. 

We covered the unloading, which was accomplished without incident.  The two tons of marijuana were placed in a garage attached to a mushroom house—a building designed for the harvesting of commercial mushrooms.

(A building that once housed the mushroom-growing business of my late father-in-law, but which was now rented to tenants. Tenants who always paid on time. Just thought I’d mention that.)

We still had to watch over the load to make certain it didn’t get distributed unless we were on hand to arrest all the participants.  The mushroom house was located behind a farmhouse, about seventy five yards from the road down a shared driveway.  There was a house at the junction of the driveway and the road, occupied by a solitary woman.

(Um, that would be my widowed mother-in-law, who marched outside with a flashlight to rap on the window of the car parked in her driveway and demand, “Who are you?! I’ll call the police!”)

The woman cooperated and made her garage available to agents to monitor the load.  We still needed agents with a direct view of the mushroom house.  The woman explained that her divorced daughter lived with two children in the farmhouse, and offered to introduce us so we could observe the mushroom house from there. 

Just after 9:00 pm, the woman knocked on her daughter’s door.  The daughter, Deb, stopped reading a nighttime story to her children and opened the door.  


(Imagine for just a moment my poor sister-in-law opening the door to her mother in the company of two fully camouflaged, fully armed, and seriously scary federal officers.)


Her mom introduced us and our purpose.  Deb agreed to move the children and herself to her mom’s house for the night, and we occupied the house to watch the load.

(Meanwhile, at the Salerni house, we were battling the flu with two small children, aged 4 and 1.  My husband answered the phone late in the evening, held his hand over the receiver, and said to me, “It’s my sister.”  Then he said into the phone: “What? Why are you whispering? What? WHAT!”)

I was very impressed with Deb’s reactions and her composure.  Well experienced in entering people’s houses to conduct arrests and searches due to enforcement operations or hurricanes, I was expecting drama, outrage, and attitude.  However, Deb responded as if this sort of thing happened every other week.    

Deb and her kids returned to the house the next day, and she allowed two agents to remain in the house watch the load.  For the next two weeks Dave and I worked twelve hour shifts, opposite two other agents, observing the mushroom house.  It was during one of those shifts that Dave, having noticed my admiration for Deb, talked me into asking her out on a date.  I was uncharacteristically reluctant due to the awkward nature of our meeting, the stress of having us in her home, and being eight years her senior.  Nonetheless, Dave prevailed on me to make the attempt.

I ventured down to her kitchen and suggested that we might go out for dinner.  She politely but emphatically refused to date me. 

I returned to the observation point and informed Dave that the smoking hole in the yard was where I landed after asking the question.  Dave said he was surprised but maybe she would re-consider.  I mumbled something about hell freezing over.  


(Of course, it doesn't end here ... Please return on Friday!)

Monday, March 12, 2012

How Marijuana Changed My Sister-in-Law’s Life (Part 1)


It’s not what you think.

And furthermore, it’s not my story.

This is the story of how Larry O’Donnell (my brother-in-law and sometimes guest blogger) became a member of my family.  He’ll tell the story, although I might interject comments here or there. It bears only slight resemblance to the Richard Dreyfuss movie Stakeout.

How I Met My Wife by Larry O’Donnell

Dianne has asked me, on a number of occasions, to relate this story.   As with many of my life’s turning points, distant events were the precursors of big changes for me.  Osama Bin Laden started the sequence of events that led to my meeting Deb.  It was not part of his plan, but an unforeseen consequence.  I was well acquainted with OBL since the mid-nineties but that is a tale that can’t be told.

(Yeah, there are still some stories he won’t tell us.  It just boggles our imagination.)

On September 11, 2001, I was one of millions glued to a television watching the fire in the first tower as a jet hit the second tower.  My boss, the Agent in Charge of the U.S. Customs Office of Investigations in Philadelphia, was trying to reach our New York office, located in number 7 World Trade Center.  After the second impact, we knew it wasn’t an accident.  Miraculously, all our personnel escaped injury, though one agent was trapped in the basement for a while when the first tower collapsed.

My boss had me form a response team in the event that other attacks might ensue or that we might have to help in New York.  So, when a two ton load of marijuana was intercepted in Delaware and we needed an arrest team to reinforce the operation, we had twelve agents ready to go.  It was at this point I met a DEA agent named Dave who would play a significant role in my marriage to Deb.

My group’s priority was to locate and dismantle terrorist financial networks in the United States, arrest the principals, and seize their assets.  In January 2002, our narcotics smuggling group needed help for an operation near Kennett Square, PA.  I volunteered.  On Sunday, January 27, 2002, I reported to the State Police station at Avondale, Pennsylvania. 

The briefing addressed concern for the safety of the cooperating truck driver and the undercover DEA agent riding with him. An information source suggested that the smugglers might ‘silence’ the driver. The delivery location was known, but surveillance could only be established by remote camera. If the smugglers turned violent, observation would not protect the driver and our agent.  The solution was to insert a well concealed “observer” team hours earlier.  My DEA friend, Dave, and I agreed to do this job. 
 
My life was about to undergo a change that I could never have foreseen.  And I wasn’t the only one who was going to be surprised.

(Wondering how my family could possibly be involved in this story? Come back Wednesday to find out …)

Friday, March 9, 2012

All Work and No Play ...

... makes Dianne a very dull girl.

I'm still deeply entrenched in the story of ... you know ... these graves. They're pretty much the only thing I have on the brain. And since I figure you don't want to hear any more babbling about my revisions, I'm going to ask instead:

What are YOU obsessed with these days?  A first draft? Queries? Revisions? Research and outlining?

I haven't been around to your blogs as much as usual, so I feel out of the loop.

Tell me what you're working on. Pitch the premise to me, if you like.  When I finish these editorial revisions, I expect I'll be too wrung out to jump directly into another writing project.  I might be looking to beta read somebody else's manuscript. Can you make me salivate for yours?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First Impressions: THE 49th PARALLEL

For our final First Impression in this anniversary month, I bring you another FIRST. A return visit!

PK Hrezo shared her first page with us in February. She took the feedback everyone gave her and revised. Then she submitted the first 500 words to Cupid's Literary Connection and received 4 agent requests -- 3 full and 1 partial!

Yeah, we're that good!
PK's writing talent may have also played a part. *grin*

If you want to see PK's original first page and all the feedback she received, look here. Otherwise, continue on to read the new beginning to her YA Thriller, THE 49th PARALLEL:


Mom says I’m my father’s daughter.

She doesn’t mean it in a good way. It’s why I’m stuck here in the most boring town in upstate New York for the summer, working in the public library. It was this or change bedpans  for old people in a retirement home, and I’m not about to work around human defecation all day.

One more book to return and I’m done for the night. I roll the book cart onward, just as my MP3 dies, right in the middle of a filthy jazz riff too. Hate it when that happens. I flick the buds out of my ears and reel toward the American History section. The faded parquet floor creaks like it’s in pain. Except for that, it’s totally quiet right now—too quiet on my first night closing alone. At least the head librarian doesn’t hover over my shoulder. She lets me handle the lockdown on my own, and sad to say, right now she may be the only one who trusts me.

This big old building is kind of creepy. It’s three levels, with the third floor skirting a transparent railing around the center staircase. From up here, you can see all the way down to the atrium floor, where moonlight from the glass ceiling spills in like silvery rain. Distorted shadows dance across the floor there, provoked by a breeze through the tree limbs that hug the outside windows.

This job is supposed to keep me out of trouble, and I have to admit, even though it’s torture being away from my friends in Manhattan, it’s way better than forever being labeled a youth offender for something I didn’t do. Mom doesn’t get it—why I put myself on the line for my friends. That’s what she means when she says I’m my father’s daughter. Dad was a firefighter and made a career of getting people out of trouble. There’s even a memorial for him, along with the other firefighters who lost their lives on September 11. They dubbed him a hero, like the name was somehow supposed to make up for his death.

Monday, March 5, 2012

First Impressions: PORTAL

Thanks for the great response to Marcy Hatch's first page on Friday!

And now it's my turn. The first page of my WIP is appearing here and at Mainewords today.  I put this project aside to work on my revisions and line edits for THE CAGED GRAVES, but when I get back to it, I'll probably do a major overhaul on the 55k words I wrote before moving forward. So feedback is very welcome!

This is the first page of PORTAL, a YA historical adventure.



When Aunt Eggletine suggested again that all their problems might be solved if her niece would just consider marrying her fourth cousin, Ardeth hurled a breakfast roll across the table.

Eggletine Meriwether ducked the airborne missile without spilling a drop of tea.  “Really, Niece!” she said. “For someone who doesn’t know where her next meal is coming from, you are quite reckless with your pastry.”

She had a point, but Ardeth chose to address the other matter. “It might solve your problems, Aunt, but I’d be the one married to him! A Harrison! Named Micajah, no less!”

“One shouldn’t judge a person by his name.”

Her niece raised her eyebrows. Eggletine Zylphia Meriwether would say that. “For all I know, he’s short and fat and bald.”

“For all he knows, so are you. And still he makes the offer.”

Ardeth sniffed. She was a catch.  Hadn’t that prince in Arabia offered her father a fortune to add Ardeth to his harem? “Hair like a field of wheat and eyes like limpid pools …” That’s what he’d said—and she only fifteen at the time!  Of course, when the prince went on to describe her figure, Erasmus Meriwether had clouted him in the nose.  They’d been lucky to escape in their hot air balloon, considering all the commotion that caused. Some of those flaming arrows had come awfully close!

“He’s blood kin.” Ardeth returned her attention to the subject at hand. “Our children would have two heads.”

“I doubt you share more than a drop of blood between you.” Aunt Eggletine polished her breakfast dish with her own roll. “Your children would be perfectly hale and hearty—not to mention wealthy.”

Of course, that was the point. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been a marriage offer at all.

“My grandfather picked him for me.” Ardeth delivered what she knew to be her most powerful argument. “That’s reason enough to avoid him.”



Friday, March 2, 2012

First Impressions: LONG WAY HOME

In honor of our one year anniversary of First Impressions, Marcy Hatch of Mainewords and I will be turning the tables by sharing the first pages of our own WIPs.

This is the first page of Marcy's YA magical realism novel, LONG WAY HOME.  I'm not going to critique it. (Marcy's already heard what I have to say, since we're critique partners.)  But I can't wait to hear what all you brilliant blog followers think about it!


PART ONE

Once, I fell

 Ch. 1 - April 16th 1:00AM MONDAY
     I remember falling.
     I remember reaching out for something to grab hold of, anything, anything at all. But there was nothing but blue sky and air.
     What I don’t remember is who pushed me. Or why.
     I look up and all I can see is a big sky full of stars and the moon not quite full and the cliff above me, a massive perpendicular shadow rising. It’s dark now.
     And I’m in the desert below.
     My eyes adjust to the light – or rather lack of – and as I sit up I can see the sage and cacti, dark shapes I recognize by their outline and …and the pictures Max showed me.
     My head throbs, a sharp relentless stabbing. I reach up to rub where it hurts and feel the wetness there, know when I bring my fingers away that they are bloody. My body aches hard, like someone threw me against that canyon wall until…
     I look up to the place I fell from, a black outline against the starry sky.
     I should be dead.