Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Show Me Yours" Blogfest

Today, I'm celebrating the Show MeYours blogfest by posting an excerpt from the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2010.

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Novel Title: The View from Upper High Hog
Summary: An outrageous former Vaudevillian finds herself strong-armed into raising a Russian orphan in Cold War Era Arizona.
Scene: Set in 1962, this is the novel's opening, narrated by Elizabeth, the now-thirteen-year-old orphan raised by Bebe Rosenthal (a.k.a. The Fabulous Bette Noire). After this scene, we go back in time to hear the real story of how Bebe wound up with Elizabeth.

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Bebe was gone. Bette Noire was in her eyes.

And Bette Noire wanted me to shut up.

It was party time, so I grew dim in the part of the living room I called Downstage. Bebe called it my box seat — a small bay window where I hid with books and dreams of Prince Charming, curtains drawn. But not right then. Right then I was a prop in Bebe– Bette’s routine.

“C’maaaan! Who’s the brat? You ain’t no mama. Ain’t never been!” Bebe’s friend kicked his feet onto our chipped coffee table, popping a cigar back in his mouth like a pacifier. She favored him with a smile, but I didn’t like his winks — not at me, not at Bebe, not even at her fearless stage persona, The Fabulous Bette Noire. He looked like a cartoon on a cocktail napkin. He smelled like wood polish and poison. I hoped he’d choke on a pistachio so he’d shut up.

But he didn’t, and others ogled my thirteen-year-old gawkiness until I itched like I was covered with flies. I hated when downstage became upstage. At least I could always count on rescue, whether smiling and merciful from Bebe or otherwise from Bette.

No smile that time. Just Bette’s narrowing eye. Here it came.

With a flourish, the Fabulous Bette Noire put her fingers in her mouth and whistled until she shattered every eardrum from here to Kingman, grinning at her guests’ shock.

Spotlight regained.

When I pulled my hands from my ears — I knew the danger signals — she was laughing into the imaginary heights of our low-ceilinged bungalow and positioning herself between olive velveteen curtains. Our front window was her favorite stage, our floorlamp her spotlight. That night, she was accompanied by reflected stardust glitter from our aluminum Christmas tree.

When all eyes returned to her, Bette launched into a well-worn monologue: the story of our origins. She had this whole routine she performed at parties.

A wave of her cigarette, the rasp of her voice, and she reached my favorite part. “So they lead me in. They sit me down. They ask if I wanted a drink. Well…” A knowing look, and the room laughed on cue. She held out her hands, a string of smoke curling upward from the cigarette between her fingers. “But then, instead of a drink or some happy hour grub, there she was! Wrapped in a blanket like a little shnookum sausage in a casing, all pink and round-cheeked. I looked that Miz Scott right in the eye and told her flat out, 'No thank you, ma’am. I always keep kosher!'"

She always paused here for laughter. The woman knew her timing.

“But apparently they knew I was bluffing because, next thing I knew, I was sitting in a train, watching the prairie go by, holding that little sausage, and wondering what to do next. A sausage! I figured I’d donate her to the diner car. Then she opened her eyes for the first time, stee-retched out that neck… And I realized. She wasn’t a sausage at all. By those giant pea-green eyes, I knew I had myself a turtle. I said hi how are ya, and the turtle belched — the raunchiest noise I’d ever heard.” A shrug. “What are you gonna do? I fell in love. We’ve been together ever since.”

Love. She said loved me. Made all the staring men worthwhile.

Problem was, I knew the story was total baloney.

Bebe didn’t meet me until I was four, more beanpole than sausage, eyes wide open all the time. Maybe I burped, but more likely I just wore her ears out, babbling in Russian until she could teach me enough English to understand I needed to shut up.

[Click for next chapter]

22 comments:

  1. Hi Caroline. I have to say you have an awesome title for your book, and I love your cover. Yours is the second great cover I've seen today and I think I need to create one for my nano novel!

    I love the tone of excerpt and especially liked this line, 'I hated when downstage became upstage.' Great stuff.

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  2. Wow Caroline! I really loved this opening. A great hook and great texture and detail in every line. I was hooked from the get-go and certainly want to read more.

    Thanks for sharing it!

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  3. Love it. Thanks for sharing. I'm off now to think about sausages and belching turtles.

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  4. Wonderful....like Ellie, I love the title and your cover and both story and writing are awesome.

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  5. I love your voice. Your excerpt had me smiling the entire time. What fun! Thanks for joining us!

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  6. Great voice in this piece! You have a great writing style! I'm loving Bebe/Bette!

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  7. I love your voice. It makes this story compelling and this clip raises so many questions. I'm intrigued.

    thanks for sharing!

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  8. Love it! Also love the cover (you're the second 30-covers winner I've come across today, how cool is that?).

    T.x

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  9. i LOVED this. This was quite excellent, and i've read an excerpt before (back when i was trolling the other 30 covers 30 day winner blogs, etc).
    The voice is wonderful and i love both the MC and Bebe.
    great job!

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  10. Thanks for participating in the blogfest! This was a great excerpt, one of my favorites. You have a great voice and a real gift for characterization!

    Congrats on getting one of the 30 Covers in 30 Days spots! They did a great job. :)

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  11. That was really great. I got such a full picture of the characters from such a small piece!

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  12. "She always paused here for laughter. The woman knew her timing."

    I love this line- it was so fitting. Thanks for a great read!

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  13. I really love the voice of your narrator.

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  14. Thank you, everyone! Sorry I'm late getting out there and commenting. Medical appointments and technical difficulties got in the way.

    Ellie: I love my cover, was lucky enough to win it in NaNo's 30 Days, 30 Covers project.

    Jon Paul: Thanks!

    Tony Benson: Just don't let them give you nightmares. :)

    Margo: Thank you. I was hoping the title would be unique and eye-catching. Seems to have worked for the 30 Days, 30 Covers team.

    Hannah: I'm glad to have joined you. This is a lot of fun. And it makes my day to have made someone smile.

    J.C. Martin: Thanks. Bebe/Bette always loves a new fan. ;)

    Charity Bradford: Glad the excerpt pulled you in. Thanks!

    Tessa Conte: I like Sarah's sea serpent cover, too. Henry Sene Yee did great work.

    Sarah: Fun to hear from another cover winner! I'm glad you liked Elizabeth. I'm always afraid I'll make her too invisible.

    Summer Frey: Thanks! I'm improving with voice and characterization. Now if I could only work on that pesky plotting.

    Rebecca T: Many thanks. The characters are so real to me that I can no longer tell if they're coming across on the page.

    Summer Ross: Thanks! I like that line, too. I'm very objective and non-biased, aren't I? ;)

    Misa: Thank you!

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  15. "Bette Noire" is a terrific name for anyone, but especially a Vaudevillian. But never mind Bette: *your* sense of timing is spot on. This is a terrific scene. I hope you finish, polish and successfully market this book!

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  16. I did like the whistling and the reference to Elizabeth pulling her hands out of her ears because she knew the signs. And the fake story about being given a sausage. Bette Noire sounds like a fun character - I'm not sure about Bebe yet. And Elizabeth's voice is fairly good thus far.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  17. This was wonderful! You have a wonderful flow in this excerpt and I will be reading more. Thanks for sharing.

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  18. This is a great piece. Thanks for sharing. I love the name Bebe.

    J

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  19. I didn't think I would like this and I didn't...LOVED IT, was truly a WONDERFUL read. You're flow and descriptions were spot on. Giving just enough info so we had the visuals. Great job! Would definitely put this on my to read list.

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  20. Great voice! I love being able to hear a character in my head. Thank you for sharing :D

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  21. This was so much fun! Now my poor little blog is so lonely.

    Elizabeth Twist: I'm glad you like the timing. It's a tricky thing. Bette's name came from my main WIP (this being its prequel). It's titled Bete Noire because it deals with characters who are in denial about something inside. At some point, I realized that would be a good stage name for Bebe. (And she's in a bit of denial, herself.)

    Stephanie: Whew! Thought I was going to have to drag out my thicker skin there. :) So glad you liked it.

    Thanks so much to everyone who read my excerpt, and a great big thanks to those who commented.

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  22. Thanks for sharing your excerpt! The writing was great, and I love the names. :)

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