Excerpt from Enter 5-D

I wrote Enter 5-D as an urban fantasy but it also fits into commercial and general fiction.

cropped-dscn3701.jpgChapter Five

Across Seattle, Eurydice scrambled down the cobblestone alleyway to the mouth of the Oracle grotto. When she reached the theater entrance, she stood under the marquee and waited for the jay to appear. Soon she heard a fluttering of wings in the background and then the bird landed in front of her on his perch.

“Oh, it’s you. Where have you been keeping yourself these days?”

Eurydice pushed back her hair from her face and wiped perspiration from her forehead. “You know well where I’ve been because you’re the one who revealed my future to me. Remember you said that I would make a sacrifice but not to worry?”

“I said that?”

Eurydice nodded.

“Oh, yes, you’re the one who sang in the opera house. I heard the news. What a shame that the great opera house will be empty these days. What was the governor thinking?”

“That’s a good question for you to answer.”

“So now, you’re out of work and your life has fallen completely apart, am I correct?”

Eurydice nodded.

“For a singer, you’re a woman with little words.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Let’s talk about your dreams. There’s a man in your dreams who wants to help you. But if you keep ignoring him then he’s not much help, is he?”

“I’m not ignoring him. He comes and goes.”

“This is the way of Orpheus.”

“Who’s Orpheus?”

The jay lit from his perch and flew in three circles and then landed back on the perch pushing back the crown on his head with his foot. “My dear, Orpheus is the son of a muse and probably was the greatest musician Seattle ever had.”

“What do you mean by ever had?”

“He’s no longer with us.”

“He died? This man that’s supposed to help me is dead?”

“Not exactly–he ascended to another dimension.”

Eurydice found a wood and iron bench and plopped down on it. “You’ll have to explain that one. Talking to you is exhausting. Don’t you believe in linear communication?”

The jay shook his head. “Talk to Persephone and Demeter about the dimensions. Or you could find your answers underground.”

Just as the jay delivered his last word, he vaporized leaving Eurydice gasping with astonishment and exasperation. Her mind seemed more confused now as it did before consulting with the crazy jay.

Meanwhile, Demeter and Persephone rifled through Eurydice drawers and papers on her desk looking for a suicide note or some kind of sign.

Demeter grimaced. “Why is my intuition failing me now?”

Persephone pushed aside clothing that had piled up on Eurydice’s couch and she took a seat. She rubbed her temples and placed her hand on her heart and then she closed her eyes.

“She’s not dead. And in fact, she’s on her way home so we had better clean up this mess or we’ll have explaining to do.”

Demeter picked up the empty bottle of pills resting on the counter and she read the label. She pointed at the bottle.

“My mind is also playing tricks on me. This is allergy medicine and Eurydice probably was rifling through her purse looking for any remaining pills. Looking at the date on the bottle, she would have run out by now.”

Persephone sighed with relief. “We had better clean this mess. How are we going to explain our actions to Eurydice?”

Just as she mentioned Eurydice name, the women heard the key turning in the door and then Eurydice entered her cottage. She gawked when she saw her friends standing in a pile of her clothing and papers scattered on the wood floors she had polished earlier.
Demeter began picking up the papers and placing them in a neat pile on the kitchen table while Persephone folded the clothes on the couch. Demeter chuckled with embarrassment.

“We have some explaining to do.

Eurydice nodded, chuckling. “Go on…”

We caught wind of Pluto’s latest law and rushed to your cottage to warn you. We noticed the empty bottle of pills next to your purse on the floor and we jumped to conclusions.”

“You thought I overdosed on allergy pills and then disappeared?”

The women nodded in unison.

Eurydice cleared papers from the floor and couch, and then she sat on the couch next to Persephone.

“Wow, am I coming off as desperate?”

Persephone caressed Eurydice’s shoulder. “It’s not so much that, but we read of other musicians committing suicide thanks to Pluto’s new laws.”

“And you thought that I would take my own life?”

Demeter grabbed a wicker chair and sat across from the other women. She nodded. “I guess we were thinking that if we were in your shoes, we would probably consider such an act.”

Eurydice chuckled. “I can see it now dramatic diva takes her life to avenge Pluto’s draconian laws. The newspaper would love that.”

Demeter picked up a stray piece of paper and read the contents. She realized it was the deed for the cottage. She picked up another paper announcing the final mortgage payment.

“Eurydice, you didn’t tell us that you had only one payment left on your mortgage.”

Eurydice shrugged. “What’s to celebrate now? According to Pluto’s new law, which I did read about in the newspaper today, I have three months to vacate my home.”

Demeter sighed. “This is unfair. What did musicians do that caused Pluto to bring out his iron fist?”

“We took attention away from him and you know better than anyone else that the man is a megalomaniac.”

**

Meanwhile, on his way to the Underground, Marcus got a sense that someone was tailing him, but when he looked behind and around himself, the streets appeared empty except for a stray kid passing by on a bicycle.

In any case, he picked up his pace and headed to the main entrance to what was formerly known as Pioneer Square and now went by the name Styx Center. From the corner of his eye, he saw a whirl of something feminine. Next thing he knew Pandora strode towards him–her jade eyes sparkling with curiosity. When she caught up with Marcus she grabbed his left wrist.

She teased Marcus, “Where do you think you’re going Mister Plutocrat?”

Marcus feigned ignorance even though he stood only ten feet away from the entrance to Hades. “I was exploring this area of town. Do you know where this door leads?”

Pandora smirked. “I know where you’ve been. Olav is a good friend of mine and I’ve done some work for him. Woodworkers and locksmiths are like pardon the cliché, peas in a pod.”

Marcus blushed and he struggled to find his voice now caught in his throat. Pandora looked him up and down until her probing eyes landed on his face.

“What are you going to do if Pluto catches up with you? And you do know about his prison on San Juan Island, right?”

“At least there’s no death penalty.”

“That’s the point because from what I’ve heard, the prisoners pray for death as they languish in that surreal place.”

“I know what I’m doing. It’s true that my colleagues suspect something’s wrong with me, but I’ve managed to allude them.”

“Really–and you’ve alluded Pluto’s hidden cameras too?”

“What hidden cameras?”

“You think Pluto doesn’t keep his eyes on his employees? If I were you I would censor your phone calls by using code words and take a different route each time you venture to the Underground and that sort of thing. You need to be sneakier than Pluto or he’ll catch you.”

Marcus shuddered and hesitated. Then his hand reached for the handle of the door. He glanced at Pandora over his shoulder as she stood a few feet away with her arms crossed defiantly across her ample bosom.

“Good luck, Marcus.”

Marcus swung the door open and squeezed inside the damp entrance before changing his mind. As he descended the stairs, his feet sunk into the moss. He pulled out a flashlight. When he turned it on, he noticed a camera swiveling above his head.

“Oh, darn! Look, you’re on Pluto’s Candid Camera.”=

Moments later, he heard the door open behind him and two pairs of booted feet land heavily on the stairs and flashlights arcing towards him. The next thing he knew, someone had grabbed both of his hands and placed them in handcuffs.

“So Marcus, how’s the weather in the Underground?”

The two men dragged Marcus up the stairs and out into the sparkling sunlight.

**

Meanwhile, Pandora strode on Fifth Avenue towards the old Public Market. Moments later, she negotiated the cobblestone alleyway in her wedged sandals. She approached the grotto and waited for the jay to appear. It seemed like the eternity until the bird arrived so Pandora took a seat on the wood and iron bench in the meantime.

Suddenly, Pandora heard a fluttering of wings coming from behind her. The Oracle flew above her head and landed on his perch. With one foot, he fluffed his crown.

Pandora smirked. “So, you finally showed up.”

The jay ruffled his feathers and began preening them. Pandora waited for the bird to speak but instead sat through the bird’s morning grooming routine. Finally, the bird’s shiny eyes gazed at Pandora’s face.

“Ah Pandora, what can I do for you?”

“I’ve been waiting so long I’ve almost forgotten my questions for you.”

“Even if you had forgotten, don’t you think I would know?”

 

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Podcast from Super-Nature Heroes

signs-of-the-time-027Perhaps, I sound high and mighty when I mention that I include bigger themes of humanity and the journey of the planet in my comic novels. Hah! Yet, I wanted my writing career to dovetail with my metaphysical practice. Also, my current trip is to produce podcasts of my short fiction and chapters from my unpublished novels.

I’m doing this because it is a fun way to waste precious time. And because I feel frustrated that agents ignore my work in favor of dark thrillers and all those romances. Well, that stuff sells, I understand. But I am going to quote that song, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love” and comedy–lots of it.

And I would like to think that the Holy Saints possess a sense of humor. I envision them laughing at their foibles in my heartfelt urban fantasy. A girl’s gotta do, what a girl has gotta do.

Super Saints (Chapter from Super-Nature-Heroes)

St. Francis 3

In 2004, I met saints. Well, I met the saints in my thoughts. I began to obsess about the saints. I coaxed memories from my brain revolving around saint cards my mother kept in a steamer trunk when I was a child. My mother grew up Catholic and attended a Catholic school for girls in Panama. I wasn’t raised Catholic so the saint cards fascinated me. Around the same time, I watched superhero cartoons, “Super Friends.” And years later the saints on the cards and the superheroes would merge into super beings.

So in 2004, while I was diligently writing my morning pages each day I felt inspired to write my first novel three pages at a time–longhand. And I turned to this idea of marrying Saint Francis of Assisi to Joan of Arc. Actually, I obsessed about this concept. I had no idea how to write a novel even if I had attempted to write shorter fiction. And I knew my novel would need to include magic realism and comic relief. After all, I was poor and depressed at the time so I needed to cheer myself up.

When I began my novel I structured it similar to The Little Flowers of Assisi, which is based on true stories about Saint Francis and the Friars Minor. And around ten drafts later, I finally came up with a novel despite its vignette structure is hilarious and mystical. Below you will find one of the chapters featuring two of my favorite saints, Anthony of Padua and Francis of Assisi contemplating modern life in Central Park, New York City. When I read this chapter at an art gallery in Seattle in 2007, the audience members were in hysterics. This surprised me because they were aloof when I first arrived at the gallery. During subsequent readings, audience members also enjoyed the humor, often comparing it to Monty Python (though that was not my point).

In 2007-08, I blogged the novel and it attracted quite a following, mostly from Asian countries. Then later, I removed the blog because I realized the novel needed extensive revisions. It was a semi-finalist for the first Amazon Debut Novelist Contest in 2008. And then, it appeared on the Authonomy Site from 2008-2010. This excerpt is from the latest version of the novel.

  1. Our Brothers and Sisters, the Birds and the Bees: Francesco Talks Sense to Saint Anthony.

The autumn wind blows leaves in a spiral then sweeps them across the frosty grass.  Despite the chill in the air, Saint Anthony shuffles his way through Central Park–his feet swathed in torn leather shoes with holes in the soles.  His tattered trousers keep sliding down his hips and he wish he had a belt or suspenders to hold them in place.  At least the old wool overcoat covers his thin and bare hips, even if its threadbare state leaves him shivering from the wind.

Of course, all of this is just a disguise.  Anthony prides himself on his Merlin-like qualities. He marvels at how he can transform himself from administrator sporting short hair, a decent suit and a clean shave, to a ragamuffin.  He practices poverty when ever possible so that he can understand the “invisible people.”

How can you help the poor if you do not truly understand their plight? He thinks of his dear friend, Francesco.  How he once lived at a homeless shelter while he studied veterinarian medicine.  Then Jeanne came along and changed all of that.  He still thinks Jeanne was the best thing that could take place in his friend’s life.  For Francesco to marry a woman that will cook for him, share her stories with him and give him companionship, and not just any woman.

Anthony wonders why he hasn’t connected with a former saint in that way.  Goddess knows there are several fine single women saints residing in Manhattan.  Of course, The Virgin is off limits, but he heard that Saint Catherine of Alexandria is available.  She seeks a partner and won’t settle for anyone less than a saint.

The saint plops down on a bench.  He gazes into the distance and notices a familiar figure.  Could that be Francesco out walking Bernardo? Yes, it is.  He wonders what the two of them discuss these days now that Bernardo returned as a hound.  Well, at least the Franciscans meet Bernardo’s needs.  Anthony heard a rumor that Clare adopted the greyhound.  What a fortunate dog!

If only beautiful Clare would give her hand in holy matrimony, but obviously that would never happen.  She’d have chosen Francesco in any case.  What woman wouldn’t?

Anthony waves to his friends.  The Italian saint and his hound approach their fellow Franciscan.  “Oh, my dear Anthony, how wonderful it feels to see you here in this beautiful park on this wonderful late autumn day.  I see that you have taken up with Sister Poverty again.”

Anthony smiles wearily, “I’ll be back with Sister Charity next week.  I was just taking a break from the office routine…you know trying to understand instead of being understood.  But I wonder my dear friend can one man really make a difference by being poor himself?”

Francesco plops down on the bench. Bernardo rests at his feet.  He rubs his chin, pondering Anthony’s complicated question.

“I often wonder the same thing myself.  After all, the poor need money more than they need sermons.  They need food, warm clothing, and shelter and how can you provide those necessities for them if you have nothing like that to give? I think about how we went wrong in telling people to throw away their possessions and live like the birds.”

Anthony considers this food-for-thought.  “And yet when we lived in grottos, people took pity and provided for us. I can’t think of a time when I felt so much joy to trust completely in providence and see that trust rewarded.”

“Those were the days.  I can’t imagine we could get away with that in Manhattan,” Francesco sighs.  “And even if this city has its own beauty, it could never compare to Assisi.  Anthony, here you are hiding out as a self-imposed hermit.  They could cart you off to Bellevue.”

Anthony laughs, “Yes, I’ve had a few close calls.  Say, I wanted to ask you about Brother Bernardo and since you have him here with you…”

Francesco pats the greyhound’s head.  Bernardo wags his tail as he hears his name mentioned.  “Well, as you can see, he’s healthy and filled with Goddess’ presence.  I almost wish I came back as such a faithful companion.”

Anthony nods and laughs.  “Yes, I know what you mean.”

Francesco glances at all the people passing by women with strollers, athletic men, and women on roller skates or jogging with their sporty dogs.

“I wonder my dear friend, what goes on in the minds of all our brothers and sisters as they pass by us?  Do they contemplate Goddess? Do they wonder about Sister Poverty? What do they think when they see us sitting here dressed in rags? Do you think they even notice us?”

“Oh, I think not.  Today, our poverty only inspires guilt and fear, not compassion.  I know because when I solicit donations for the church, few people give. They say that they are broke when they are swathed in furs…”

Francesco grimaces at the thought of ignorant humans draping themselves in the coats of their brothers and sisters.  It is stealing after all. 

“I don’t understand how people can proudly wear fur unless they are Indian and prayed to the creature in which sacrificed its life to them.”

“In this city at least, there’s an indifference to natural products and Goddess-made goods.  Today people eat fake food when Goddess still provides a bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit.”

“Do you think that this is fall of man and womankind? Is it possible that we have returned during the earth’s last breath?”

Anthony chuckles, “Oh, my dear friend, there’s no use in getting apocalyptic.  I think it was much worse when humans experienced plagues and wars that lasted a hundred years.  Now things are a bit more contained.  Life is easier for lots of people although not for all.”

“It’s more difficult for others.”

Anthony smiles, “My dear friend, look at you.  You have clothes and you’re married to Jeanne d’Arc!  Even if this place isn’t Assisi, it’s not bad. In fact, I quite like it.”

Bernardo wags his tail as a young man strides by walking two greyhounds that he recognizes.  The two dogs wag their tails in response.  The saints watch with total amusement.

A smile forms on Francesco’s weary face.   “There goes Brother Juniper and Brother James.”

Anthony gawks, “Are you serious?”

“Oh, yes, Bernardo recognizes them.”

All Rights Reserved

Enter 5-D (Short Excerpt of the Character Pandora)

220px-Pandora_-_John_William_Waterhouse
John Williams Waterhouse “Pandora”

This is a short excerpt from my urban fantasy novel Enter 5-D.

Pandora is about the enter the labyrinth and encounters the Minotaur. She successfully escaped Pluto’s punishment.

As Pandora contemplated her choices, she heard the sound of high heels echoing in the hallway behind her and then Persephone with Demeter dressed in black dresses and stilettos entered the office. The women’s glittering eyes landed on Pandora and assessed her predicament.

Persephone lowered her eyes and in a haughty voice acknowledged her former husband. “I didn’t know you had company. You always liked them young and pretty.”

Pluto raged. “What are you doing here?”

“My mother and I thought we would stop by for a visit, if you know what I mean.”

Pluto’s Confidant entered the office and gaped at the women in the room. He hid his excitement by presenting a glacial expression.

“Did I come at a bad time?”

Pandora took that moment to back out of the office and when she entered the hallway, she sprinted to the end. However, when she reached for the door and grabbed the knob, she realized that Pluto had locked all the doors. Wishing she had her toolkit with her, Pandora pulled out a bobby pin from her hair and a credit card from her purse and set to work on the lock.

(As you can see, this is a multiple narrative novel so I skip back and forth between characters and their scenarios).

Before I wrote Novels, There Were Other People’s Novels

dscn3330I’m sitting here remembering my twenties and thirties which resembled a reading festival. I satisfied my hunger for novels by focusing on one author at a time, usually women authors. I began with Margaret Atwood and graduated to the magic realism of Isabel Allende. Then later, when I discovered Latin literature, I devoured those novels.

Many times, I was up to my elbows in unfinished books. I walked blocks from the library with books weighing me down. I attended a book festival in Seattle that took place in a pier on the waterfront. And I attended author events at Elliott Bay Books and then later, Ravenna Third Place Books.

I was in awe of authors. Besides, musicians, authors caused me to engage in hero worship. I read their biographies and interviews with them in which they would say that it took them five to ten years to write a novel. So when I wrote my first novel, Super-Nature Heroes in six months, I thought I must have sucked as an author. I had thought of writing a novel for at least a decade, but since I had not majored in English, I demurred. No, I thought, I will just leave novel writing for the experts or the real authors.

It’s hard to believe that since 2005, I have written five novels and none of them took me five years to write. But at least one of them took me several years of rewriting to get it right. And even then. None of my novels are published at this time. I went the self-publishing route for a short period in 2012-13 and stumbled through the process that ended in disappointment. I still believe that the right agents will come along and represent my novels. I am patient. I am older and realistic.

The downside to writing my own novels is I no longer place authors on pedestals–the allure has faded. However, when I pick up a novel that astounds me, I grow weak in the knees. Darn, I think, that author nailed it. I could never write that brilliantly. And no one is ever going to celebrate anything I’ve written.

That’s when I stop myself. Writing is not a competition unless you enter a contest. I’ve entered writing contests and I have never enjoyed it. Even if I won, contests are like comparing oranges and apples. And I despise the idea of people judging my work as if its a dog and pony show. Besides, I don’t want to compete with other authors. I prefer to join their club and read their work.

I prefer to kick back on a rainy winter’s day with a few novels waiting on my desk for me to crack open their covers. I prefer to explore someone else’ work and escape into the unknown. And I want to feel like I have climbed into a canoe with the author as he or she paddles us across a lake. And then when we reach the shore, I shake his or her hand and say a quiet thank you.

Photo and Essay by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved