Saturday, February 9, 2013

Collected excerpts for Weekend Writing Warriors

I'm collecting the excerpts I use for WeWriWa (8 sentence Sunday) so readers can more easily follow what's going on. Street Glass is my novel-in-progress. My tagline: Underprivileged Latino 18-yr-old leaves street gang and befriends white, over-privileged musicians.

While some of the plot is subject to change (draft two is a pretty early draft, after all) the basic elements will stay, as will the character "voices". So these excerpts will still give you a good idea of how the plot plays out and what the characters are like. Note: There is swearing in English and Spanish!

The first snippet comes several paragraphs into Chapter One. The year is 1986, in Los Angeles, California. I've skipped introducing the main character who goes by the street name of Razor. He's part of a street gang. The setting is a dingy room, the ceiling half open to the sky; two oil drums in the middle of the room used for burning branches and whatnot provide some heat and light. Razor is trying to follow the rule laid down by the gang's leader, Coyote: do not look at Coyote's girlfriend, Trist, ever. However, it's hard not to look at somebody who's sauntering around a few feet in front of you. The excerpt is in Razor's point of view. 
He twisted his mouth into a grimace. The last couple of years, the only good thing about being under Coyote’s thumb was being near Trist. If only he could get her away from this rat hole, maybe out to San Diego, she’d see he wasn’t like Coyote. Nah, they’d have to get further away, like deep into Mexico.
Wouldn’t it kick ass if he could track down his relatives there and show up on their doorstep? Hey, this is my shot-caller’s ex. She’s with me now and we need a place to crash, for like maybe two or three years.

As her dark eyes met his, a shiver ran through him.

For this snippet, I've skipped the description of Coyote telling Razor to “go do something useful.” Razor then sat on the rooftop of the apartment building across the street to think. He was joined by his pal Chino, another gang member, who tried to convince him that he’s got everything he needs right there in the barrio (neighborhood). MF is short for the gang's name, Mi Familia. Licha is one of Razor's girlfriends.
Razor’s fingers closed around a stone; he pitched it out into the night. “You got an apartment, I live in the fucking half-burned joint that MF uses for HQ.” He pointed between the houses at headlights flashing by. “I wanna fly like them cars. Up here I’m almost free.”

 Cállate before somebody else hears you,” Chino snapped then added quieter, “Go get Licha, you’ll feel better.”

For a while, sure . . . Razor jumped up, shook both fists at the barrio, and shouted as loud as he could. “I fuckin’ hate you!”

I'm skipping the part where Razor drives to an alley on the edge of gang territory, looking for some unsuspecting person to take his frustrations out on. While waiting, his 13-year-old pal Luis happens by. Razor's uncomfortable with Luis wearing the same kind of hoodie that the gang wears. When he notices Luis has gotten an earring, Razor says Luis' mom Rosa won't be happy about it. We pick up in Razor's point of view.
“Aw Ray, I wanted one like yours, an’ I want a snake tat like yours, too.
Razor clenched his teeth. “Don’t copy me, Louie. Don’t make Rosa bury you.”
Luis ducked his head then punched Razor’s arm. “She won’t let me do nothin’ . . . sometimes I wish she’d, y’know, go away.”
Ah, that was maybe the worst thing he could say. “I’m livin’ that wish — do I look happy?”

This week, I switch scenes to introduce my other main character, Sandy, who’s the drummer for a big-time rock-n-roll band. They’re rehearsing before a tour. One of the guys shouts out to kick up the tempo on Eric’s song … but he hasn’t cleared that with Eric.
Bouncing on his seat, Sandy hammered the snare and spread of toms. The thunder reverberated in his gut and made his head ring, and it was glorious. The cymbals winked at him as they bobbed on their stands under the changing colors of the overhead lights.
Lennie’s swirling piano notes turned into something like Elton John on speed. Eric’s guitar squealed and not in a good way; it dropped out of the music as he threw his hands up.
Brian’s bass wobbled to a stop and the piano chords skipped some notes before disappearing. Sandy kept clicking the hi-hats then quit even that.
Standing at center stage, Eric leveled a drop dead glare at Lennie, then Sandy, then Brian.
There is swearing in today's snippet! Following what happened last Sunday, I’ve skipped most of the argument the guys in the band get into. Suffice to say that Eric—guitarist, lead vocalist, and frontman—has accused Sandy and Lennie of always backing each other up because they’re best friends, and shove his opinions aside. Then Eric says the band owes him. For Sandy, drummer and co-founder of the band with Lennie, that’s just too much. We pick up with Sandy’s reaction, in his POV (this is the first time readers see references to Eric’s and Sandy’s families). 
“What shit! You came to us begging to get away from a family of religious fanatics who told you playing rock music would damn you to hell, so I think you should get off your high horse.”
Eric leaned closer to Sandy and growled, “At least nobody in my family cut my face in a drunken rage!”
Of all the fucking things to say. Sandy’s muscles tensed. “You do realize you’re talking to somebody who hits things for a living?”
“Somebody who can’t handle a drunken woman is no match for me.”
“You fucking asshole!” Sandy shouted.

Following on last week’s excerpt, Sandy has stormed out of the rehearsal he and his band were having. I’m skipping the description of him barreling down freeways in his Ferrari, going over the argument that made him leave rehearsal. Preoccupied with that, he swings off the freeway and drives several blocks before realizing he doesn’t know where he is. He decides to walk around to cool off, even though the area looks maybe not as nice as he’s used to. He parks at a restaurant and walks, eventually losing track of which way he’d come. We continue in Sandy’s POV:
      Huh, lost somewhere in L.A. Maybe he could get a song out of that once he got home. Blown off course in some murky neighborhood . . . no, mixed imagery didn’t work.
       That dark space up ahead looked like an alley entrance, but he hadn’t passed an alley before, at least he didn’t think so. He’d just hurry past.
       Was that a sound behind him?
       He gasped as his right arm was grabbed from behind and yanked up against his back. Something smooth, cold, and sharp pressed against his throat.
       A rough male voice spoke in his ear. “Gotcha, Anglo.”

I’m skipping the part where Sandy feels handcuffs locking around his wrists behind his back. He panics when unexpected things happen; he lets it slip that he has a Ferrari. He and the thug trade a couple of comments. Sandy, creeped out by being held captive by somebody he hasn’t even seen yet, sputters that he has a family and other people who need him. We pick up with the thug’s response:
“Yeah, you got everythin’, don’cha? Not now—now it’s my turn.”
Sandy’s legs were kicked from behind and his knees hit the ground; he gasped. God, please don’t let me die like this!
“Beg me not t’kill you, Anglo!”
          Sandy swallowed though his throat was dry. “Please don’t kill me . . . please, I want to live, please.” Was that desperate enough?

We continue in Sandy’s POV:
Damn, his voice sounded weak.
The guy laughed. “You as scared as you sound?”
He sprang in front of Sandy and grabbed a fistful of Sandy’s t-shirt. He leaned in close to Sandy’s face. Curly dark hair seemed to fly everywhere but didn’t hide the hatred burning in his eyes.
“My God,” Sandy whispered. “You’re just a teenager.

I’m skipping the part where the teenager pulls Sandy’s head back by the hair. Frozen in terror, Sandy simply holds his breath and squeezes his eyes shut—but nothing happens. He dares to peer at his attacker, who he now thinks of as “the kid.”
The kid stood for a moment then let go of his hair. Still staring, he stepped back and crossed his arms.
Sandy’s heart pounded; he pulled against the cuffs. Now that his attacker had backed up, maybe he could talk his way out of this. “Listen, I can get you cash, lots of it . . . you know who I am?”
The kid laughed. “I know the girls faint over the blond músico with brown eyes—but you ain’t nothin’. You on your knees at my feet.

Part I'm skipping: Sandy's attacker (who he things of as "the kid") recognizes Sandy as a member of a hugely popular rock band. He drives Sandy back to the dilapidated building his gang uses as a hangout, where he announces he's brought a "walkin', talkin' bank." Coyote, the gang's leader, pushes the rest of the gang into another room to discuss how to best take advantage of the unexpected event (they plan to hold Sandy for ransom). Coyote addresses the kid as Razor and tells him to stay with Sandy. Sandy and Razor have a bit of a chat. Razor thinks Sandy is a typical rich white ("Anglo") dude with an I'm-better-than-you attitude, and tells Sandy he needs to see the neighborhood the way the locals do. We pick up in Sandy's POV-- the dialogue is Razor's. 
      [Razor] caught Sandy’s arms, threw him to the floor, and shoved his face into a layer of fine ashy dirt. He tried to pull in a breath but got dirt instead; he choked and coughed. A foot pressed down on his neck. I can’t breathe!
      “That hurt, Anglo? That’s nothin’ — cops beat me every time they catch me. I get shot at, I live in this shithole, we got nothin’ to do but screw any bitch who don’t run, and jump idiot Anglos. You think you had a tough day.”

Part I’m skipping: Sandy hints at something having gone wrong in his own past as he tries to convince Razor that all he wants is to get back to his friends and family; handing over a few thousand dollars to Razor for getting him back safely would be a fair trade. Razor considers how serious Sandy (Razor calls him “the Anglo”) might be.

Coyote, the gang’s leader, tells Razor to stay put to keep an eye on Sandy while the gang leaves to take care of tonight’s “job”. Coyote adds that tomorrow he’ll explain his plan for getting ransom money from Sandy’s friends and family. We continue in Razor’s Point Of View:
       Razor bit his lip. Coyote should’ve called off the job tonight and done the new plan instead. Waiting till tomorrow meant people would start looking for the Anglo, and cops from every precinct in the county would be out. By saying he’d explain later, Coyote admitted he hadn’t figured out what to do about that. Not a good idea, but nobody argued with Coyote.
        Razor would have to keep an eye on that ass of an Anglo all night, too. That meant no checking out that book he got from Licha. She swore it didn’t have any words he didn’t know but now he wouldn’t find out.
After last week’s excerpt, Razor and Sandy talk about a few things. Sandy repeats his offer of cash to help Razor start over in another town and repeats that it’s easy. Except that it’s not. Razor drags Sandy over to the only source of light in the room, burning branches inside a pair of old oil drums. He shows Sandy a small tattoo on his hand and explains:

“That’s for la vida loca, the whole gang thing. The ink’s forever, just like Mi Familia.” He pulled his shirt up to show the gang tat above his heart. “Born here, kill here, and be killed here — that’s all there is. If I split, can’t come back ’cause I get a bullet in my head.”
The Anglo stared at the tats, then looked him in the eyes. “Somebody once told me that I gave up on her and now she’s dead. I am not letting that happen again.”

I’d like to point out that the term la vida loca predates Ricky Martin by a few decades J

Part I’m skipping: Razor explains that one gang member did get away and couldn’t be found, but Razor doesn’t have anybody to hide him. If he leaves the gang and they see him anywhere, they’ll kill him. Razor also says he’s given thought to how to support himself if he ever did get out. Sandy points out that the longer they stand around talking, the greater the chances that the cops will start looking for him. This scene is in Sandy’s POV. 
Razor gritted his teeth and wandered off. He looked like he might be thinking about it. He disappeared into the dimness at the edge of the room but just for a minute. He walked in slow circles around the fire, sat on the edge of a chair and leaned his head into his hands, then threw himself against the back of the seat.
It seemed like a pretty clear-cut decision, really. Sandy turned his wrists in the cuffs and rolled his aching shoulders. Look at him, twitching like a finger on a trigger. I’ve never seen anybody so afraid to trust.

Part I’m skipping: Razor explains that he really wants to find somebody from his past. Sandy says he should be able to get a private investigator to look into that. Eventually, Razor agrees to go with Sandy and leave the gang for good. This section is in Sandy’s POV and he’s the first one speaking.

(Razor has previously explained that if he leaves the gang and they see him again, they’ll kill him. He also mentions that he’ll have to get another car because the gang has taken the only one to go on their “job” that night.)

“Hey, if you really can’t come back, maybe you should let a few of your friends know.”
Razor shook his head. “No time, an’ they safer if they don’t know.”
“Well, is there anything you want to take, something to remind you of anybody?”
Razor seemed about to answer but didn’t; he rubbed an earlobe and kicked at something in the dirt.
His head snapped around to face the door leading to outside.
“What?” Sandy said.
“You deaf? Car’s back.”

After last week’s snippet, Razor and Sandy had to run (in the rain) from the gang. Razor thinks they’re safe now but they hide in between a couple of trucks parked in the street.  

Reminder: Sandy parked his car in an unfamiliar neighborhood and walked around to cool off after a nasty argument. He “met” Razor while looking for his car.

Sandy wiped a hand across his face. Crouched in the street, stuffed between a couple trucks, wet and out of breath, he shuddered as a wave of cold crept over him. How the hell had he gone from rehearsing for a tour to this? A thought hit him. “Hey, I remember where I left my car. It’s in the parking lot of the restaurant at Rosewood and Florinda.”
Razor cut short a laugh. “You was only four streets from there when I found ya.”

Last week, Sandy and Razor made a narrow escape from the gang. I’m skipping the part where Razor tries to stop something pretty bad from happening to people he knows but he’s unable to. He and Sandy are both deeply affected by the awful events, Razor more so. I’m skipping it because it’s pivotal and I have to save some stuff for the novel itself! 

The guys make it back to Sandy’s car. They take a few minutes to collect themselves then Sandy asks Razor what his real name is. Razor hesitates—that’s not something he tells just anybody—but says his name is Neal. Sandy expected something Hispanic and Neal explains that he’s named after his grandfather who was Anglo (white). Sandy observes,

“So, wait, all that time you picked on me for being white, and you’re part white yourself. That’s not fair.”
“Nothin’s fair, what happened tonight ain’t fair. I always been in the barrios so I ain’t Anglo, I’m Latino—people like you spit on people like me.”
“Not all of us are bad.” He stuck a hand out and said cheerfully, “Neal, I’m Sandy. Good to meet you.”
“I met kind of a scary guy called Razor, but I think I’ll get along with you better.”

Part I’m skipping: Sandy’s intensely relieved to be driving his red Ferrari up the Harbor Freeway again instead of lying in some street in a rotten part of town. Still, he can’t help but think about the Terrible Thing that happened to Razor (who has said his real name is Neal) that night, what the future might be like for somebody who spent half his life in a street gang, and he thinks about certain people from his own past. Sandy says he thinks Neal has potential and adds,

     “You can think on your feet and you’re not afraid to take risks, but it’s expecting too much to just let you go out on your own without anything to fall back on. You don’t have friends or family to back you up if times get tough. What do you think about learning skills you could take to any job, instead of a narrow skill like fixing cars?”

     “I don’t get it, I almos’ slit your throat.”

     Sandy grimaced at the memory. “Yeah, I know, but you didn’t. A few years ago, somebody told me I turned her away when she needed help. I can’t change the past but I can do something about the future.”

This excerpt picks up from the last one. I’m now referring to Razor as Neal, which is his given name. He’s caught off guard by Sandy’s implication that he wants to do more than just give Neal money and let him take off wherever he wants to go. Neal speaks first:

     “You fuckin’ with me? ‘Cause I don’t need nobody.”

     “Maybe. Look, it bothers me that if I send you off on your way, I’ll never know what happens to you. Renee expected me to do something to help her but I pretty much told her to fend for herself and she’s dead now. I just can’t do that again. I can set you up for training as one of our roadies.”

     Neal’s eyes grew round as the moon.

After last week’s excerpt, there’s a discussion about Sandy’s offer to set Neal up in training as a roadie with the rock band Sandy is part of. They also discuss living arrangements for Neal and one more very important detail that Neal’s not happy about but agrees to. The pair arrive at the enormous mansion Sandy and his band live in; Sandy explains that before the band hit it big, they couldn’t afford to live separately and the band’s sound grew out of the guys spending so much time together, so they kept the living arrangement. Sandy pulls his car into the huge garage, puts his arms on top of the steering wheel and drops his head onto them. He speaks first:

“Thank you God, I promise to donate more to charities.”

Neal grimaced. “Shit, you believe that? God?”

Sandy turned his head to look Neal straight in the eyes and said, “Yeah I do, because there’s no other explanation for a lot of things. I thought Hispanics were strong believers.”

“Some Latinos are. Lupe’s always goin’ on about God an’ some of the cholos go to the church with their families. I only see el Diablo.”

“I guess I should have expected that. . . come on inside.”

Sandy and Neal enter the mansion through a rear door, which leads them into a kitchen easily twice as big as any Neal has ever seen.

Sandy got a glass from a cupboard, poured water from the sink, and drank it down. “Do you want some?”

“Got anything else?”

“Yeah. Come on.”

Sandy’s sneakers didn’t make any sound on the thick rug in the hall. They passed a living room on the right and on the left, a huge hall opened to the ceiling two floors up. In the middle of the hall, a pair of stairways curved upward to a balcony, with a gigantic sparkly crystal light hanging over the stairs . . . on a couple of the walls, fancy-framed paintings with little lights on above them showed Asian people in flowing robes . . . another wall had long strips of paper covered in Japanese or Chinese writing . . . two fountains set into the wall on both sides of the wide front door gurgled softly.

Neal’s mouth fell open. Where the fuck am I!

Set-up: Sandy has brought Neal back to the mansion the band shares. The rest of the band is not home. Sandy falls asleep and Neal roams through the rooms. He finds a room full of musical instruments. He wanders around the room, reflecting on the last several hours.

This section has been significantly condensed to fit the 8 sentence limit.
Neal dropped onto the piano bench. What if I just done somethin’ stupid, what if I can’t make it here? Me, work for a bunch of filthy rich Anglo musicians? I shouldn’a let ’im talk me into it . . . nothin’ to go back to, blood on my hands.

Thoughts went around and around, bouncing off each other until he pressed his hands against his eyes. Getting to his feet, he saw that a small lamp on top of the piano shone onto a bunch of papers; the top sheet was covered in handwriting and something that might have been a title, “New Day”, with Sandy’s name under that.

Neal read it all the way through and came back to the first lines.

Maybe Sandy didn't just say that stuff to get out of the barrio . . . tomorrow Neal would find out.
I cut the lyrics from the excerpt but for those interested, here they are:

Sun comes up over a brand new world
Got to take my dreams, fulfill that promise
Full of hope, the sky unfurled
It makes me want to still be honest

Part I’m skipping: Neal meets the rest of Sandy’s band. It doesn’t go well when Sandy says he invited Neal to live in the band’s mansion—Neal’s scruffy and dirty, speaks slurred English with an accent, and has admitted he’s on the run from a street gang who are not afraid to kill. Things get pretty heated, in fact …
(Marie is Sandy’s sister)

Eric made the same come on! gesture with his hands that Coyote had, and growled “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

Brian dashed over, pushed Eric back, and shouted “Cut it out!”

Fuck it, nothing would get settled if they couldn’t fight.

“What’s the problem here?” Lennie asked as he came back into the room.

“Sandy’s charity project thought  he was Bruce Lee,” Eric said.

If they were gonna be like that, there was just one answer . . . Neal yanked himself out of Sandy’s grasp and slipped out the switchblade from his back pocket. “Never mind.” He swiped the blade across his own throat. 

Marie screamed.

As it turns out, Neal only scratched himself though he did need a bandage. So now his clothes look like they’d been at the bottom of a dumpster, his hair looks like he stepped on a live wire, his expression at any given moment could sour milk, his tattoos add a creepy touch, and his throat is bandaged. Conversation with the band is still tense. 
Eric crossed his arms as Neal stalked over to him and said, “I learn to stay alive in the ’hood. I fuck up there and I’m dead -- you fuck up here, you still alive. For learning, I watch you. You afraid ’cause you a lousy teacher?”

“And people say I’ve got an attitude.” Eric pointed at Neal and leaned toward him. “You want to work with our road techs, fine, but you will not touch any of my guitars, my pedals, my cables, or anything else of mine -- if you do, you’re dead meat. Is that clear?”

“We can’t even touch his shit,” Brian said, “so now he’s treating you like everybody else .”

After Neal’s dramatic gesture, the band decides to go along with letting him live in the mansion. Sandy and Len take Neal to a clothing retailer for some new threads; there’s a bit of a scene when a teenaged fan recognizes the band members, but today’s excerpt concerns Neal’s reaction to getting new stuff. He’s spent the last 8 years with a street gang and had no place of his own to live in; the only new stuff he’s gotten has been stolen and he hasn’t thought of those things as truly his.

At the store, he tries on some clothes and is surprised when the mirror shows him how different (and, he thinks, better) he looks.

About the mention of his skin color: he’s part Latino, not African-American. That’s clear in the full story but in these excerpts, it might get confusing.

We continue in Neal’s POV:

But the pale shirt made his dark eyes and hair, and especially his skin, so obvious. Thanks to his mother’s family his skin was lighter than most of his friends, though that was all he could thank her for; still, there wasn’t any sense in making himself stand out.

He pulled off the shirt and put on a brown one with black stripes; yeah, that was better. He couldn’t remember the last time he wore anything but the same t-shirt and baggy pants everybody in MF wore.

He smiled, then stuffed his baggie into the back pocket of his new jeans.

On the way back to the store entrance, people turned to watch him and his new friends. He slowed down. These people’s eyes were interested, not scared or pissed. So this must be what it was like to be normal.

I’m skipping several paragraphs where Sandy takes Neal to a suite of rooms in the mansion that he can use now that he’s going to live there. Faced with the imminent prospect of starting rehab, Neal tries to tell Sandy that he can’t do it. There’s some back and forth about that.

Neal slides the baggie out of his back pocket and holds it behind his back. Sandy notices:

[This excerpt has been modified to fit your screen--er, the 8sunday format J]

“Hey—you’ve got something, haven’t you? Let’s have it, all of it.”

Neal backed away but Sandy marched over to him. “I want whatever you’re holding, now—there is zero tolerance in this house.”

Neal kept it crunched in his hand as he said with a dry throat, “If I give it up, gimme one more day before I go in.”

“It’s better to go today, I don’t want you hitting withdrawal here.”

Neal looked at the baggie and turned it over…it was all the stuff he had in the world…he hadn’t even brought any weed with him.

Sandy snatched it, strode toward the hall, and said over his shoulder, “This is getting flushed and you’re going to rehab first thing in the morning.” 

There went good stuff and good money; damn Anglo.

This snippet takes place in the same scene as last week’s snippet. Sandy speaks first:

“Did you mean it when you said you killed fourteen people?”

Neal grinned and said, “No, but it scares Anglos a lot.”

Sandy shifted his weight, looked around the room, cleared his throat, and asked quietly, “Have you killed anybody?”

“You tol’ me to leave all that in my past, so don’t ask.”

Funny Anglo, he looked like he stopped breathing.  Neal asked, “The band ain’t got AKs or nine mils in the house, right?”

“If you mean guns, of course not.”

“Then you’re all safe,” Neal said with another grin.

Sandy didn’t look convinced .

Skipping ahead a little. For this excerpt, Neal and Lennie have gone out for a while and return to the band’s mansion after nightfall. They come into the room Sandy’s been watching TV in. Sandy is the first speaker here, and the snippet is in his POV.

“Neal, you look pissed, what’s up?”

“Saw a car behind us a couple times. Don’t trust it.” Neal started toward the picture window.

Before he got there, a series of rapid cracks sounded from outside, almost like a sped-up roll on a snare drum but at a lower pitch.

The entire window exploded and Neal hit the floor with hands covering his head.

Glass flew everywhere.

Last week, a drive-by shooting resulted in a picture window being blown out. Nobody was hurt but Lennie, band manager as well as keyboard player, is pretty angry. He leaves the room to answer the phone, knowing it’s the security company, then—
(Coyote is the gang’s leader)

Len leaned in from the doorway and pointed at Neal. “You said we were safe in the hills, how the hell did they find you?”

Neal rubbed the back of his neck and said, “Coyote got Sandy’s wallet. He musta seen the address.”

“Are you serious?” Len looked about to hit the roof. “Neither of you jerks thought of that?”

 “Judging is easy from a distance,” Sandy said. “If you’d been in the middle of all that shit, you might not have been able to think straight either."

=====> These excerpts continue here.

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