Hello, Here's the first two chapters of "Untitled Story", co-written by James D. Young and myself. It's the first novella in our new book release From New York to Vancouver: Stories on the Fly available on Amazon and Kindle. We met here on Lit.org. Enjoy!
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I’ve never remotely considered myself a writer, but the prose of modern masters has captivated me ever since high school. From Ernest Hemingway to J.D. Salinger. From Sinclair Lewis to Jack Kerouac. From William Faulkner to Stephen King. Whatever excess funds were available went for books. Of course, I’d learned early on to avoid the hacks and formula-driven no-talents of both genders who manage to sell copies of their drivel by the millions and who will deservedly go unnamed here. Public taste often seems to reside in its oral cavity.
Last night as I relaxed with "Western Wall/The Tucson Sessions," a rare, late ’90s CD of uncommon excellence by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, I found myself exploring literary sites on the Internet. A favorite is Wordsmiths.net on which I relish the solid writing by talented professionals and amateurs alike. I jumped to the New Entries section where I found myself captivated and swept along by a newcomer, at least to my knowledge.
Her byline was Samantha Chu. If not a pseudonym, I’d be forced to guess she's Chinese. Asian, at the very least. She’d posted the first chapter of a new novel entitled The Boy Who Got Away. By the end of the first section, heavily steeped in Eastern culture and family life, I was so entranced by her story and style that I bade adieu to the two divas and switched the CD player over to my beloved "Phases of the Moon," traditional Chinese music, for heightened effect.
As Miss Chu seductively described the early home life of her characters, I was drawn into that west coast household, a captive spectator. When she described hurt, I felt it. If she related a humorous anecdote, I found myself unconsciously laughing. But this had to be fiction because no person alive could do this kind of justice to an autobiography.
The woman could do no wrong in that first chapter, but upon its conclusion, I felt like a junkie strung out for his next fix. Would there be more? There were no comments posted for her, despite the story’s being up there for an entire week. Hot damn, I have to be the first to write.
An unusual case of nerves, however, prevented me from doing anything at that moment.
I couldn’t get her well-crafted tale out of my head at work the next day. Mental phrases danced around and worked their way through my loopy brain, but none of it was work-related. All day long my co-workers kept giving me strange sideways looks. Especially Lucy, the dark-skinned Mexican femme fatale with her glaring devil’s eyes, complete with piercing, dagger-like eyebrows. Occasional glances from her and others, yes, but they were all unnerving. I couldn’t wait until I was home again, safe within the haven of my bachelor’s pad.
Stopping later that evening at a local supermarket after another maddening rush hour commute aboard the subway, I picked up a frozen meal. Chicken Kiev. It would be a filling, tasty and quick-to-prepare meal that would not delay my returning to the Wordsmiths website.
After dinner, I noticed my palms were perspiring. But why? I’d given writers occasional online feedback before, both the positive and negative variety. I was uncertain of her writing background, despite a fluid proficiency with the language, but I found my comments were barely half-prepared. There was lingering trepidation in my fingers as I began to fidget in my chair. Hardly a fast typist, I’ve always used what has been referred to by some as the Biblical Method: "Seek and ye shall find."
A drink was also definitely in order. A man who feels a bit indecisive sometimes needs a fast belt to bolster his resolve. A Smirnoff Vodka and Mountain Dew with a twist of lime would do the trick. I hoped, anyway.
Before considering an opening sentence, I re-read the chapter in its entirety. Twice. Now I was hooked. Hopelessly addicted. But, I had to tell myself, it was also time to be brave. Still, my two fingers seemed to twitch slightly as I typed the following:
After reading your first chapter several times yesterday and this evening, Ms. Chu, I felt compelled to enter a comment or three on your story and very evident talent.
I am not a writer, but an avid reader, so it is a skill to draw a youthful east coast man into such a story gently laced with Asian culture. When you mentioned those red envelopes given during the Lunar New Year, it reminded me of a Vietnamese family I’d known who did that for Tet each year. It brought back sweet memories of the time I had purchased a small packet of them and placed a dollar bill in each for their children. I’ll never forget their smiles.
I’m quite curious as to whether there will be a follow-up chapter of your novel posted on Wordsmiths in the near future. If that is your intent, then I look forward to it. If not, I’ll have to exercise some super-human patience and be the first in line at my neighborhood bookstore in Greenwich Village to purchase it when it is eventually published.
I needed a refill for my drink. Colder, this time. Whole lots colder. My mouth was parched. Would she think I was fawning over her work? Did my note ring false or come across as overly complimentary? Would she even consider replying? I didn’t know, but I reviewed it one last time just in case before adding, "Best regards and good luck from Peter Petrovich." Then I double-checked my often-crappy spelling before pressing the key to send my message.
The proverbial ball was now about to land on Samantha Chu’s side of the court...
I woke up with a headache the size of Manhattan. I don’t know why I had New York on my mind, as I was located on the west coast, a twenty-year-old Vancouverite living in British Columbia. Certainly I’d never been to the Big Apple. I hadn’t been farther east than Toronto to visit relatives who never invited us back after my mom called my uncle "Attila the Hun" on account of his short stature and beard and his tendency to slap his kids anytime they got out of line. Aunt Hilary didn’t like us either after Dad went down to the wine cellar and helped himself to an expensive bottle of rare Chardonnay and proceeded to knock over the wine rack accidentally, breaking about ten bottles of wine. Miraculously the Scotch was saved, but Attila was ready to hang Dad. Aunt Hilary called a taxi to take us to the airport and practically chased us out the door with her son’s hockey stick. My cousin Stevie was obese, but could skate like the wind. I predicted he had a great future as a pro hockey player or bouncer at the local bar. Take your pick.
As a teenager, I did visit the island of Oahu about five years ago. Too young to drink Mai Tais and too old to hang out at the kiddie pool. My parents kept an eye on me so I couldn’t even flirt with any of the blond surfer guys at Waikiki beach. I returned home sun-dried the colour of sockeye salmon. I peeled so badly that I felt like an onion.
On another occasion, our family went to Disneyland, a rite of passage for any kid growing up in North America. Mostly what I remember from that vacation is a bad tummy ache from too much candy and severe motion sickness. I avoid lollipops to this day because they remind me of the six suckers I ate before I puked on the Matterhorn. One of those memories you wish would disappear faster than bad credit.
Sitting down in front of my computer with a cup of freshly brewed java, I clicked on Wordsmiths.net, hoping for a response to the first chapter of The Boy Who Got Away. The impetus for the story had hit me like a bolt of lightning. In fact, I was blow-drying my hair and received an electric shock from an exposed wire when the plot suddenly flashed before my eyes like a movie revealed in a millisecond. I put pen to paper and wrote nonstop for six weeks. It sounds like a cliché to say it wrote itself, but it did. I believed there was a reason I wrote it. Cause and effect. Call me psychic.
* * *
I scanned the computer screen for my post, but I didn’t have my hopes up too high that anyone even noticed the chapter was there. Even a negative comment was better than nothing. Critics online can be harsh. It comes with the territory.
To my amazement, there was a comment from someone named Peter Petrovich. What kind of name was that? I was intrigued. He said that he lived in Greenwich Village. Wasn’t I just thinking about New York? I noted he was familiar with lycee, an Asian custom of giving. Who was he? A Croatian anthropologist of Chinese customs? My mouth dropped when he said he’d like to purchase my book. I had a fan!
Deciding to send him a private message on Wordsmiths.net, I began to type.
Thanks for the response to my post. I feared no one would comment at all. Or someone would tell me to get a real job and give up writing altogether. Actually, I’m a college student studying general arts, which basically means I don’t know what the hell I’m doing because I can’t choose a major. I am the epitome of indecision in regards to a career. That’s why I write. To help me release the fear of uncertainty around my life. Do you have any idea of how hard it is to get a job that pays well when one has no marketable skills? Actually, I do have some skills in the areas of procrastination and spelling. Isn’t that a wonderful combination? Anybody in need of a lazy proofreader who can’t meet deadlines? See what I mean?
Are you a collector? The reason I ask is because sometimes I have premonitions about people. I can’t get a read on what you look like, but I definitely sense rows of books and music CDs.
- Just Curious Samantha