Cassandra on the Island: Xeranthemums

The following is the last section of my novel Cassandra on the Island. You can read the previous sections here. Thank you for reading my novel.

xeranthemums

On the Street

“To continue with my drama,” Alisha sighed. “There I was soaking wet and humiliated with Vicki staring down at me. The client is furious and all I can think is…”

“Hush,” Cassandra whispered. It was not a typical whisper. It was the type of whisper used in churches and on sacred events.

Alisha didn’t take the hint; well, not right at first. “What? Did I already tell you this story?”

Cassandra pulled her car over to the side of the road. It was not as easy a maneuver as you might think for Cassandra. She had not driven in years and she was not the best driver to begin with. To add to the difficulty, this was her first time driving the vehicle. As per her instructions to the dealer, it was waiting for her in the parking lot of the airport. Just like any normal person’s car. That simple and minor point was a big deal for Cassandra. Normalcy was a goal to work for.

Cassandra turned in her seat to look at Alisha.

“What is it?” Alisha asked.

“Hush,” Cassandra said again. She slowly placed her finger to her lips to emphasize the point. “My house is on this street.”

This news excited Alisha and her attention was quickly turned to the street in front of her and the series of cottages. “Which one is it? Is that it, there?” For some reason, she thought for sure there was a sign in front of it or some kind of other man-made symbol to emphasize, ‘Here is the spot. This spot with the X.’

“Hush,” Cassandra whispered again.

“I barely said anything,” Alisha was annoyed. “You’re shushing me again? All I said was which was is it and is it there or something like that and I get scolded like a child.”

“Please, please,” Cassandra said with a brief smile. This was the first, the first in a series of events and dreams that had kept her alive while in Amsterdam. “Just give me this moment in silence. This one moment.”

Alisha nodded.

Cassandra replied with her own nod of thanks and returned her car to the driving lane…and slowly… and quietly they drove down the road to Cassandra’s house.

Alisha rolled down her window and the seagulls could be heard over the ocean. They were close to it and the waves could even be heard from time to time (if they were large enough). For Cassandra, it was hard to concentrate on the road. Continue reading

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Everything comes to an end. The novel Cassandra on the Island ends this Friday!

This Friday I will be sharing the final section of my novel Cassandra on the Island.

For those that have been following this journey, I want to say thank you. I am proud of the book and it is a wonderful feeling to finally have readers discovering this novel.

For those only now discovering the book, you can still catch up. You can find the previous sections on the site here. Here is how I introduce the tale on the page:

Cassandra on the Island is the story of second, third and fourth chances. These are the experiences that resonate for Cassandra, a young retiree from a dangerous past hoping to escape her memories and spend her remaining time reading books in a gazebo by the beach. Royal Carlton Island and its eccentric inhabitants though have other plans for her. A boat race, pirate treasure, glowing grave, recluse billionaire, fake vampire, and an opera-singing child are waiting…

Surprising, witty, romantic and unique, Cassandra on the Island is filled with the important days for Cassandra, and together each piece is one part of the picture that makes up her life.

If you enjoy the writing, please share.  Likes and sharing help writers (and their stories) grow. I would love to see this in print sometime in the future. I plan to have it up on the site for a little while, but it won’t be forever.

Thank you for visiting the island and I hope you enjoy the ending this Friday!

 

Cassandra on the Island: Clovers

The following is the seventh section of my novel Cassandra on the Island. You can read the previous sections here.

Clovers

Cassandra pretended to like fishing for Jonathan’s sake. She pretended to like getting up early (“At the crack of dawn, family! That is five AM!”) She pretended to like touching worms and baiting them and waiting. She pretended to like waiting a lot.

“Can’t we go home yet?” Lucy whined.

God, Cassandra thought, why can’t I be more straightforward like Lucy?

“No, honey,” the Reverend sighed. “You’ve got to give it some time. You’ll catch something sooner or later, I promise. I’m actually sure of it. Peter and I dug up these worms late last night. Right Peter?”

Peter didn’t answer. It was obvious to Cassandra Peter didn’t want to relive that memory. Peter turned away from his dad, then looked down at his line, and then back out to the ocean.

Well, he’s a little bit more like me, Cassandra thought, Now where the heck did Lucy’s personality come from?

Lucy sighed again loudly. The Reverend didn’t notice the sigh (he was too busy whistling), but Cassandra knew exactly what the sigh meant. Cassandra leaned forward and tapped her daughter on the knee. They made eye contact. Cassandra smiled. It was her patented, ‘Get through this and I’ll get you some ice cream later’ smile. Lucy and Cassandra had this quiet exchange of knowledge down to a science. That was mostly thanks to all the stuff the boys made them sit through (from Peter’s little league baseball games to events at Jonathan’s church). This was just another one of those moments…. Just a great, great deal longer.

Cassandra looked out and away towards the ocean. It was almost seven and the sky had an eerie color to it. And the air… The air felt too calm… She shrugged it off. I’m just not used to being up and on the ocean this early in the morning, she told herself, it’s probably always like this. Over a thousand mornings she let slip by without even considering to rise and watch. She promised herself that when she was old and the children were grown, she would study the dawn more. The colors were beautiful.

Jonathan noticed her gaze and turned to the clouds. “That is odd.” Continue reading

Catch Up With Cassandra on the Island

In December, I began sharing one of my unpublished novels on this site.

Cassandra on the Island is…well… a hard book to explain or even describe. It is a work of literary fiction, but also funny, romantic. It is influenced a lot by the writing of Virginia Woolf and Northern Exposure (yes, I said both of  those things). This is how I like to describe the work:

Cassandra on the Island is the story of second, third and fourth chances. These are the experiences that resonate for Cassandra, a young retiree from a dangerous past hoping to escape her memories and spend her remaining time reading books in a gazebo by the beach. Royal Carlton Island and its eccentric inhabitants though have other plans for her. A boat race, pirate treasure, glowing grave, recluse billionaire, fake vampire, and an opera-singing child are waiting…

Surprising, witty, romantic and unique, Cassandra on the Island is filled with the important days for Cassandra, and together each piece is one part of the picture that makes up her life.

On this page you, can catch up on the work today. There is an introduction and three sections out, with a new section scheduled for next Friday.

I hope you will check it out. And if you like it, please share with another reader or via social media (there are always links for sharing on the bottom of the pages and posts). I would love for more people to discover this book.

Cheers!

Cassandra on the Island: Her Gardening

To begin with:
Cassandra had four separate plots of land
where she wanted to plant flowers.
She called them “A, B, C, and D.”
In each plot, she placed two different flowers.

Plot A

She had a talent, her mother would say, for shining brilliant in situations. It was not like walking into a room and capturing the eye of everyone there; It was not like smiling and making everyone smile right along (even though they had no idea what they were smiling about). It went far beyond the dictionary definition of “Charisma.” Cassandra’s mother called it a gift of “radiance” and, when on, it could remind people what a wonder it is to be alive.

Her mother first noticed the talent when taking her daughter to swim at Lake Michigan. It was at the lake that she hated her disability the most. She never knew fear until the first moment she watched her eight-year old run across the beach as she could only sit back in her wheelchair and watch.

But while her mother hated the separation on those moments, Cassandra sought it. It became a reward for her. The kind given after keeping her room clean for five days straight or for helping her mother back in her chair after a fall. Her mother cursed how those incidences seemed to humble her (at least in her mind). The moments when she had to rely on her daughter, her little, tiny daughter, to save her.

If the car accident that crippled the mother taught the two anything, it was the ability to adapt; and adapt is exactly what both of them did. They adapted to losing Cassandra’s father. (Her mother never had the courage to tell her daughter her husband used to beat her. She decided to let her have the delusion of gold around his memory.) They adapted to Cassandra’s mother’s handicap. And Cassandra’s mother adapted to trying to hold her daughter as close as she possibly could, as Cassandra adapted to enjoying the escape from her mother’s suffocating love.

So going to the beach became that for Cassandra, an escape from her mother and the life back home and what she faced every day. (Even though, young Cassandra would have never admitted it, she was quietly embarrassed by her mother’s handicap and would rarely invite her friends over.) The lake was a ritual as rich as entering a church. Like placing holy water on her head, every step for this child was important.

Step 1- Getting mama out of the car.

This step took the longest.

Well, it felt that way for Cassandra. The beach was right there staring at her! How could she not feel the pressure to move faster, faster?

            Step 2- Leaving mama prepared.

Her mother had a full collection of supplies that had to be double-checked. Batteries in her megaphone? Check. First Aid Kit? Check. Binoculars? Check.

Step 3- Make sure mama’s chair is in a good position.

This was very crucial; if her mother couldn’t see her, Cassandra’s time in the water was done. So it was very important to her that she had the best view of every aspect of the beach.

Step 4- The slow walk.

Cassandra’s mother always yelled at Cassandra when she ran. Looking back at her youth, Cassandra believed this was all related to her mother’s inability to run herself. But running on the beach could spell disaster for the day. A simple sprint could call for an end to her cleansing in the waves.

…And yet, Cassandra didn’t mind torturing her mother when she met the water.

Step 5- Going under.

Cassandra always went completely under water first. And she would hold herself under… and under… and under…

She loved the silence. She loved the isolation… She loved the quiet and she hated coming up for that first breath. Her mother hated this game of Cassandra’s. There was many a day that she called her daughter back to the car because of that disappearance. To Cassandra, this was as close to the feeling of immortality she had ever felt. Continue reading

I Want to Tell You a Story … Cassandra on the Island

I want to tell you a story.

Let’s begin like this- I wrote a novel for my thesis when I was working for my Master’s at the University of Southern California and I made the head of the department cry.

I had few interactions with this professor. I like to think he liked me, he personally asked me to take a few advanced courses and met with me now and then to discuss agents and my writing, but we were of different worlds. How else do you explain the meeting of a poet and a novelist? We use the same words, but for a novelist it is about the meaning, where for the poet it is about the music beneath it.

To graduate, I needed people to sign off on my thesis. I had one from a fiction professor (I can’t remember his name now) and the head of the department promised to be the second… and he delayed… and he delayed.

I was working on campus, which was fine for me since I didn’t have to drive anywhere and there was a Carl’s Jr on campus and I was a little addicted to their crispy chicken sandwich (I don’t need to say more about that here). But on this day, instead of waiting in the outrageously long line of students and eating that awesome sandwich, I decided to bother the delaying professor. He was in his office and knew why I was there when I walked in. He didn’t make eye contact with me and promised to start the book that afternoon, shrugging me off.

I had to accept that answer and leave.

That night I received a call after 9 PM. It was him and he was crying. He kept saying the word “beautiful.” He talked to me about the book for over an excited hour, asking about why I did certain things, what they meant. He was figuring out different tricks I did in the writing in between his emotional outbursts.

It is not often a writer gets to speak to a moved reader the second after they finish their book, but I was having that experience here, and it was with someone that surrounds himself with books and writers! This is legit, right?

He wasn’t planning to read the book straight through, he said. He was planning to finish, maybe skim bits. He skims, he said. He skims most books from students, he said… but here he didn’t. And once he started he couldn’t stop.

He told me what he loved, what made him laugh and what made him cry.

He asked if he could share the book with others, and I said that was fine. He said I didn’t have to worry about my thesis, and he couldn’t wait to buy the book in print… and then he was off the line.

Now… let me be clear… I’m not telling you this story about a crying professor to brag. I’m telling you this because it was the first time I truly felt like a novelist. Continue reading

Book Review: LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Today, I wanted to share this book review I didn’t get a chance to do on WKAR’s Current State. It is LaRose by Louise Erdrich.

On my book review page, you can find the reviews I have done on WKAR as well as reviews I have done on the site over the last three years. Almost 80 different books, contemporary to classic, genre to literary fiction. I hope you will check them out. 

If you are interested in reading LaRose you can find it on amazon here

LaRoseSuspending one’s disbelief can sometimes be a little tricky. This is a challenge all storytellers have to confront. For if the reader can’t suspend their disbelief, the story has failed for that reader. If, for example, you can accept magic rings and dragons, J.R.R. Tolkien would be disappointed to know that you won’t like his stories about Middle Earth. Because of my own love of creativity, usually it’s not difficult for me to accept ideas in a story, no matter how radical. Yet, the new novel LaRose by Louise Erdrich really, really tested me.

On a quiet morning, Landreaux Iron thought he shot a deer. What he actually hit was a boy bending over by a dog. This boy turned out to be his nephew, ending his young life. You would imagine that such a tragic incident would lead to a legal thriller, with court cases after court cases debating what Landreaux saw and whether it is manslaughter or not. Yet, that is not the book Erdrich gives us. There are not even any court appearances or charges. Everyone just seems to go on with their lives, and we even see an awkward friendship emerge between the two families. That was the first thing that was hard for me to believe. Continue reading

Book Review: Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma

This is a book I didn’t get a chance to review on WKAR’s Current Strate. And since it is a few month’s since its release it didn’t feel fair keeping it locked away. I hope you enjoy this new book review for Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. (And if you would like to check out the book for yourself, you can find it on amazon here.)

Why We Came to the CityWhen you are in your twenties, sometimes it can feel like the world is your oyster and ripe with possibilities. This feeling is definitely true for the group of friends that make up the center of Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. At the beginning of the story, they are sneaking into elite art parties in New York City, complaining about the more successful, and passing out on couches… many times not their own.

At the heart of the story is Irene. She is a young artist with a hidden past. Even her closest friends don’t even know her real name, yet there is something about her that is fascinating to all that meet her. She searches through garbage looking for things for her art, and writes messages in books that she hopes others will find in time. And everyone seems to know her in the Big Apple. Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Current StateOn WKAR’s Current State, I reviewed the new novel by Anna Quindlen. I really enjoyed Miller’s Valley and it’s obvious to me why it is doing so well with the market (and readers).

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-anna-quindlens-millers-valley

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out Miller’s Valley,  you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this pageContinue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks

Current StateI was back on the radio today, this time taking on the latest literary fiction by noted author Sebastian Faulks, Where My Heart Used to Beat.

You can listen to my review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-sebastian-faulks-where-my-heart-used-beat

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Hey, did you know Current State has a podcast? If you subscribe, you can download episodes and segments (and you can find me every other Thursday). Here is a link to find it on iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wkar-fm-current-state/id594609653?mt=2

If you want to check out Where My Heart Used to Beat, you can find it on amazon here. If you want to check out my other book reviews for WKAR’s Current State, you can do so via links on this page. Continue reading