What I’m Working On Right Now – Bit of a Book Excerpt – THE HISTORY OF HATE

I realized that I pretty much never post about bookish things on here, which is very bad in terms of marketing and things like that.

Grover: Cawwie, people will not buy books if they forget you’re a writer, you doofus. You can’t just post dog photos ALL THE TIME.

But before I am a writing coach and editor and even a podcaster, I’m a writer. I’ve been writing my whole life. It may have been poems or magazine pieces about cancer drugs or horses or newspaper articles about sports teams or land use ordinances and columns. It may have been YA or picture books or middle grade or even adult things.

Always. Always, I’ve been a writer. And even if I’m never published again (gasp) that won’t stop.


So, I’m going to remind myself about that a bit, and hopefully remind you, too!

A Baby Novella

I have a short novella coming out on Amazon really soon. I’ll tell you more about that at the end of the week, but for today? Here’s an excerpt of something I’m working on, so we can all remember I’m a writer. 🙂

The History of Hate


Colton

December of his and Anna’s Senior Year

Anna,

I don’t know where you are, or how to reach you, but I’m still writing you these letters. If you ever actually get them, the first thing you’ll probably wonder is why I’m writing you. The thing is, I don’t think I have a choice. I think I have to explain all this to you, whether you want to know or not, whether you want to hear it or not, whether you want to touch this, touch me, have me touch you. Or not.

            I just have to explain and then maybe?

            Maybe? I don’t know.

Love,

Colton


THE BEGINNING

Anna

February, Junior Year

What’s it take to rock an election?  

            It takes a good tagline.

            It takes an asshole opponent, excuse my French.

            It takes a narcissist, a cult leader, a come-to-Jesus moment. It takes that damn feeling of hope or vengeance.

It takes random people like me helping you and believing in you somehow even though we’ve been hurt by so many others we’ve believed in before.

Every four years all the presidential hopefuls come to Manchester, New Hampshire, the former mill-yard city next to my suburban town and they hope for magic to happen, for the New Hampshire hills and frost to lead them down a lucky road to an election win. The journalists and volunteers follow the candidates around, creating a surge in restaurant sales, filling up hotel rooms and parking lots. News vans with their little satellite dishes take up the parking spaces on the downtown streets. Sometimes candidates and even sitting-presidents come speak at my high school. They prance through the mall, shaking hands, while entourages stroll behind them looking like clumps of suits. Our more politically-motivated parents host parties and fundraisers. Cocktails are made. Hands are shaken. Position papers are recycled.

            I always volunteer for some candidate, usually someone that doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning. It’s been like this since kindergarten. I get addicted to helping, to holding signs, sending out campaign mailers, making phone calls to those people who still actually answer their phones.

            Dad says I’m a do-gooder.

            Mom says I have a savior complex.

            I don’t know if either of them are right, really. I just want to make a difference, you know? To believe in something bigger than romance and good grades and getting into college. And it’s exciting to be part of it. This year is no different. I can’t vote yet, which is ridiculous because most of the people I call from the phone bank have no clue about anything other than celebrity gossip, Fox News, let alone read an actual position paper. I meet campaign workers, make friends that I’ll only keep up with on social media and never see again.

            But this year is super different because I meet him. Colton Hardy. And I’m so afraid of losing people, more people, that I don’t know how to actually deal with gaining one, you know? It’s like I’m afraid to make friends or fall in love because it’s just one more person I could possibly lose. I’m tired of grief.

            But I’m standing on the corner of Elm and Maple streets, a totally prime spot because of downtown traffic and the wide safe sidewalks. I’m not holding an actual sign because I’ve put one on my dog Freya, which says Barkin’ for Larkin. She looks adorable. She’s large, white, furry and fluffy and the sign is on both sides of her. Despite her 120 pounds, she’s chill. People laugh, honk and wave. She wags at them and smiles.

            “Brilliant,” says one of the guys standing with me. Art is nerdy and always wears J. Crew mixed with L.L. Bean. He normally goes to NYU but he took the semester off to campaign. “You’re made for this. I can’t believe you’re just a junior.”

            “I don’t know what to say.” I dip my boot in the tiny snowbank at the edge of the sidewalk. The snow’s gone from happy and fluffy whiteness to crusty and gray.

            “Thank you?” he suggests, using his free hand to pull his hat down over his ears. It’s cold out here. The other hand holds a campaign sign.

            “Thank you.”

            “Perfect.” He laughs.

            I think he’s flirting but trying not to flirt because he’s in college and I’m still in high school and that’s a decidedly weird age dynamic, but I’m not into him anyways. I’m way more intrigued by the guy standing on the opposite street corner trying to hawk some posters that he’s obviously made himself. He’s young, too, like me—or at least he isn’t older-guy creepy and he has this weird, tall-confident vibe and a southern drawl that I can occasionally catch while he’s selling his merchandise. He’s so charismatic that people actually buy his posters and hug him afterwards.

            The thing is that this guy also keeps looking at us and when there’s a lull in traffic he strides across the four lanes of Elm Street and right up to me.

            “Hey.” His blue eyes are warm.

            “Hi.”

            “I’m Colton Hardy.” He reaches out a hand to shake. I take it. Ignoring everyone else, he bends down to pet Freya. She wags her tail. “Your dog is beautiful.”

            “Thanks.”

            “I’m selling posters,” he says.  “Obviously.”

            “I’m so sorry, but I don’t have any money.”

            His mouth drops open and he stands up straight again, towering over me. “No! No. I was going to give you one for free, but … I? Well, I don’t think our political beliefs align.”

            His whole body shivers for a second, poor guy. The tops of his ears are bright red. His voice is made of a silk that seems bordered with coffee and the pattern of his sounds are composed of fluid shapes, each containing this promise that seems to inspire trust, but despite all the cliched butterflies in my stomach, I am not a person who trusts because when you look closely at people you notice that they are made of pain and anger and garish wants, like bad TikTok posts that hit you over the head with their need to be seen, to be noticed, to be important.

            “Our political beliefs don’t align? That doesn’t matter. That’s so nice of you. Free. Thank you.” I take the poster which is all about ways liberals and conservatives can come together, making fun of both sides. “You look cold. Do you even have a hat?”

            “I’m from Alabama,” he says like that explains everything, which I guess it does and it doesn’t.

            One of the women I’m with groans. This campaign has not been the best for human rights or America, honestly. One of the leading candidates says sexist, racist things constantly. The South is becoming a hotbed for liberals like me to hate on, which I get because of the confederate flag and the Jefferson Davis monuments and everything, but racists aren’t just in the South, sexists aren’t just running for president, homophobes aren’t just in one region of the country. They’re everywhere and I hate thinking that I’m going to generalize about an entire state or region the way that I don’t want others to hold bigoted notions about women or sexuality or religion or race or ability.

            So, I do something stupid and when he asks me if I want to go out and get some food this weekend, I say yes.

            We exchange numbers and he trots back to his corner, smiling. Freya gives him a bark goodbye and everyone I’m with starts muttering about how that was a stupid move.

            “He’s harmless,” I say, trying to ignore that magic buzz of butterflies in my stomach, flapping their colorful wings into patterns of hope.

            College Guy Art goes, all knowingly, “No man is harmless.”

            “You’re a man,” I tell him and he crumples, laughing, because it’s like he forgot.

            We all laugh with him as the first text from Colton comes in. It says, I can’t wait.

            I close my eyes, try to see if the butterflies in my stomach are good or not and I almost imagine I can hear my dead niece’s voice whisper, “Oh, Anna. Not again. Seriously?”


There you go! Tell me what you think if you’ve read it! I hope you’re all doing well. There is so info behind the jump about ways you can support me. xo – Carrie

Continue reading “What I’m Working On Right Now – Bit of a Book Excerpt – THE HISTORY OF HATE”

The Places We Hide – an Excerpt

Hey, everyone! I realized that I never do book excerpts on here. I know! I know, right? What kind of author am I? Apparently, I am an author who fails to market.

But here’s an excerpt. I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it! That’s me marketing. 🙂

The Places We Hide

Chapter One

Hiding women are so similar; most of us are pretending that we aren’t hiding at all and we all seem to do it – the hiding – right out in the open. 

The sky looms over the tops of the little colonials and Victorian houses that line lower Ledgelawn Avenue. The air breathes across the neighborhood like some sort of cold soldier, waiting for things to happen. 

I haul in a bag of pellets off the front porch and into our living room and call for Lilly to hurry up before I open the heavy drapes by the loveseat window. I’m trying to make the room a tiny bit brighter, which is a losing battle, especially given the deep, gray color of the coastal Maine sky. 

            Winter will be fine this year. 

            I tell myself these sort of lies all the time. I tell myself that it is totally healthy to binge on Doritos after a meeting or that other mothers also hate quinoa. I tell myself that our lives are safe and good now. Safe and good. I tell myself that we won’t be found.

            If I was a drinking kind of person, I would be tempted to pour myself some wine, but instead, I just settle into the couch and wait for Lilly to come downstairs. There’s a copy of Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine on the round, farmhouse-industrial coffee table in front of me. It was on sale. Everything I buy is on sale. 

            It’s been over a year though; we’re safe. 

            When I pick up the book, the first page mentions rape. I put the book down and stare at it. Then I turn it over so I don’t have to see the blue cover and the woman’s face up in the sky or the words ‘triumphant national bestseller,’ even though I know those words probably mean that it has a happy ending. Right? 

            Books tend to be liars. 

            No. No, that doesn’t have to be true. For months, I’ve been trying to convince myself that I don’t need to worry about things anymore. Lilly and I have made a life for ourselves. The threat of snowflakes doesn’t change that, doesn’t take away the safety and life that I’ve built. Still, the memories of another winter, a specific winter day, come blizzarding back to me. The screams that I didn’t realize were my own. Lilly in my arms, gasping for breath. Escaping out the window onto the porch roof. Convincing Lilly to jump into a neighbor’s arms. The house on fire behind us. 

            I pick up the book again. Winter will be over eventually. It’s only just starting. Obviously, I need to get used to it – to the short days and cold, the way the memories keep flooding back no matter how hard I try to push them down. 

            “Mommy! I’m ready!” 

            The happy noise of Lilly’s feet tap lightly down the dark-stained tops of the wooden stairs that we just re-stained last week. We painted the baseboards white, hiding the scuff marks of past owners. Moving on, starting over, everyone does it, just not quite so dramatically as we did.

            “Hey there, cutie face,” I say as she rockets over to the couch wearing a glittery rainbow ballerina tutu over her unicorn leggings. She has her favorite pink wool giraffe sweater on and layered over that are the gold fairy wings that I bought her for her Halloween costume. She was a ballerina-fairy-kitty, a Lilly original. Today though, she’s topped her ensemble with a cowboy hat. “You look stylish.”

            She beams. “Do I have to wear a coat?”

            “Yes.”

            “But my fairy wings.” She points at them sticking out behind her. 

            “Need to come off in the car anyways.” I’m bringing her to a play date even though I still worry about not being with her 100 percent of the time. I push the unhealthy anxiety into my shoulder muscles.

            Batting her eyelids, she leans forward. “Mommy. . .”

            “They’ll be crushed. No self-respecting cowboy-ballerina-fairy wants crushed wings, right?”

            “True that,” she says with the fierceness of a fashionista and slings off the wings. She pulls a piece of toast out from the folds of her costume. “My bread is boring.” 

            “Did you put butter on it?” I ask. 

            “No. That would stain my costume.”

            “Not if you don’t put your snack in your costume, silly,” I say, standing up and tweaking her nose. 

Taking her bread, I head to the kitchen and apply some butter pretty liberally. I know that the good mom handbook is against fat in children’s diets and also against excess sugar, but I’m sure that I’ve been not following the handbook for a while now. Relocating your daughter, giving yourself a new name and identity, probably doesn’t fit in with the perceptions of good mom either. 

            “Baby, come in here and eat your bread at the counter,” I call. 

She skips into the kitchen and comes up to the little island/counter that separates the kitchen from our small dining area, which barely fits the table and bookcase that I’d put in it. The table came from Goodwill and had a million marks and scuffs on the wood, but I’d bought some ModPodge, fancy paper, and sponge applicators and made it prettier. It was good enough for us for now. And that is all that matters. Us. 

            Sighing, I head to the addition where the door to the basement, bathroom, and laundry are. I check the door to the little back deck and stare out at the fenced-in yard overlooking a short border of trees and then the town’s ballfield. Everything is secure. I let myself exhale for a second and lean against the big window, putting my forehead against the cold windowpane. I try so hard not to live in fear, to not be paranoid, and I usually think I’m successful, but then it’s habits like these that make me realize that I’m just fooling myself and that underneath the surface of everything is a constant fear made real by routines like this – double checking doors, first-floor windows, always knowing two escape routes from every room that we’re in. 

            Lilly comes in and grabs my hand. “You ready, Mommy?”

            I am. I have to go take photos for the paper and she’s heading to her favorite friend’s house. The beautiful thing about Bar Harbor, Maine compared to Colorado is how quickly the families accepted us and took care of us. Everyone is constantly having playdates and book clubs and gatherings. Allegedly, it’s because in the summer everyone is so overwhelmed by the tourists and then in the winter everyone is so overwhelmed by the nothingness and white grays of winter that they have to gather together in warm places to remind themselves that there is light in the grayness and cold that is the winter world. 

            When we head back to the kitchen, it’s obvious that Lilly has devoured almost all of her bread and has half demolished an apple. 

“You thirsty?” I ask, opening the refrigerator.

            “No.”

            “Want some milk?” I wave the jug in front of her face. It’s one of our running gags because she hates it so much and I always pretend to forget that she hates it so much. 

            She makes a barfing noise while I mock surprise and gulp some milk out of the jug myself. 

            “That’s rude, Mommy.” She crosses her arms over her chest.

            “I am a terrible, terrible human being and should go to prison right this second for such a serious offense.”

            She just sticks her tongue out at me. I put the lid back on the milk and pull out an apple, which I toss to her. She catches it in one hand. 

            “Just in case you get hungry later.” I put the milk back in the refrigerator, inhale through my nose, which is supposed to help with anxiety and fear of it away. I’ve got to tell you though; it’s hard to fear anxiety when it lives inside you like a constant friend. You get used to it hanging around.

            “They always feed me at Michelle’s,” Lilly says, studying the apple. 

            I hug her. “It’s just me trying to take care of you.”

            “You’re such a mommy.” She hugs me back. 

We put on winter jackets, hats, mittens and I resist the urge to recheck the back door and we go. I grab my camera bag and lock the front door behind us. Lilly skips down the sidewalk chanting, “Snow day. Snow day. Snow day.”

            She scurries into our MINI Cooper the moment I hit the fob that unlocks the car. The afternoon air is brisk. We’ve survived many Colorado mountain winters so I doubt a winter on Maine’s coast is going to be a big deal. The ocean makes the island we live on warmer. The snow doesn’t get too deep – not compared to where we were before. 

            Walter Hildebrand, one of those cops that are more a stereotype than they should be thanks to his massive girth and love of donuts, honks the horn at us. It’s a cheerful honk and not what you expect from a patrol car. 

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” he yells out his window, which he’s already rolling up again before we can respond.

            It’s getting closer to Christmas. I’m secretly excited about our first Christmas alone, but also worried because the gifts aren’t going to be nearly as fancy or expensive as the gifts Lilly is used to. She wants a certain doll that costs so much money that I’ve complained about it to everyone I meet. The other big thing she wants is a Lego set that is legitimately the same amount as one week of my small reporter’s salary. And a dog. I grew up poor, lower middle class, but until now Lilly has grown up rich – scared, but rich. Things are drastically different.

            “Buckle up, baby,” I say as she straps herself in. 

            “You don’t have to remind me, Mommy.” She cocks her head in a sort of arrogant way. “I’m a big girl.” 

            “I know.”

            “And I’m very responsible.”

            “I know.”

            I scruff her hair. She smiles at me. And looking over my shoulder, I back out of the driveway onto Ledgelawn. There’s a massive tree in between my house and the neighbor’s house and it makes me nervous whenever I leave. Down the street, Sarah Lowell is walking her big old pittie, heading in the opposite direction from us. Directly across the street, Karol Baker, lifts up his hand in a wave. I toot the horn in reply and Lilly waves enthusiastically at Karol. She loves him because he has a yellow lab that he always lets her pet. 

            “I like this town,” she announces as we drive to her play date. 

Continue reading “The Places We Hide – an Excerpt”