Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Links to other stuff, plus NaNo, Day 11

I figure some of y'all are probably sick to death of me talking about NaNoWriMo by now. Heck, I'm sick of me talking about it. Unfortunately, it's not even half over. Hubby has pretty well forbidden me to ever do it again, which at this point is fine with me. Crazy Christmas shopping season is looking like a cakewalk right now.

Anyway, I have a couple of links for you to check out if you're sick of my attempts at writing fiction. If you're not, I'll post another sample. Best of both worlds, yadda yadda.

Apparently when the economy went crash (is that what that loud noise was last month?) it took publishing with it. This excellent post talks about what you can do about it. Namely, buy a book.

Anne Jackson
is writing a book that I really want to read when it comes out. In the meantime, her blog is often thought-provoking, like this post, which asks if men and women can really be friends (and yes, someone quoted "When Harry Met Sally" in a comment). Lots of interesting feedback in the comments.

Last and least, I have a post up at Inspired Bliss talking about The Shack and other stuff.

So, here's today's scene from my, um, novel (that just doesn't sound right). I actually wrote it a few days ago, but nothing after this will make sense unless you read this. In it, Anh and Greg announce their pregnancy to her parents. It's long, so settle in with a drink and a snack.

--

“As always, Mrs. Nguyen, you’ve cooked an amazing dinner,” Greg complimented Mom. Anh had always hoped that she would correct him, asking him to call her Han, or better yet, call her Mom, but it had never happened. He preferred to remain completely respectful and call her by her married name. He was also careful to compliment her cooking at every opportunity, knowing she took great pride in her cooking skills. Phanh quickly translated for his wife.

“Thank you Greg.” It was the only time she ever really smiled at him. Anh watched the two of them carefully, but she was too jaded to hope that Greg would win her mother over with his charm on this visit. She had been disappointed too many times. It hadn’t mattered that Greg treated her like a queen, that he treated her parents wonderfully and respectfully, that he worshipped God in the same way as her family. No, the only thing that mattered to her parents was his background. His family was lovely and respected in the community, but they were American, of western European descent, not of Vietnamese descent. Her parents saw it as a betrayal of their hard work in bringing their family to America that their daughter should marry an American and dilute her cultural heritage. Anh simply followed her heart to the man she loved. Neither side understood the other; both sides were saddened by the divide.

Anh snapped out of her reverie as her mother was bringing Linh’s favorite ginger cookies, warm from the oven, to the table for dessert. Linh eagerly grabbed the first one from the top of the pile, knowing it was her privilege to do so. She broke it in half, took a moment to inhale the sweet scent with her eyes closed rapturously, then opened her eyes and took a large bite.

“Mom, why is it that I can’t make these cookies to taste like yours, even with your recipe?” Anh wondered. “I’ve tried over and over, but yours are so much better.”

“It’s because I don’t follow the recipe, daughter,” her mother replied in Vietnamese. “I always do a little something different.”

“What is it, then? Tell me!” Anh noticed that Greg had tuned out, since he couldn’t understand their conversation. Not that he would care; even if they were speaking in English, he would be bored listening to them talk about recipes, she thought.

“It’s not really something I can tell you. I just know when the batter tastes right.”

Anh sighed. “Ah, so I will have to come and watch you, just like I did when I was a little girl.”

“And would that be so bad?”

“No, Mom, not at all.” Anh smiled. “I would like to spend more time here anyway.” She nudged Greg with her knee to let him know she was leading up to The Announcement.

“Oh? Why is that? You didn’t lose your job, did you?”

“No, nothing like that. I just need to learn to bake cookies properly.”

Her mother shot her a quizzical look.

“Because I’m pregnant, and the mom needs to know how to make cookies.”

There was suddenly a lot of noise in the room: Linh whooped with glee, Phanh grumbled something unintelligible, and Han shrieked loudly. It was hard to tell what her mother’s reaction meant, Anh thought. Clearly Linh was delighted; now she was hugging Anh and Greg and congratulating them in English. Phanh had turned away so his face could not be read, and Han was holding one hand over her mouth, a look of shock on her face.

“Mom? Dad? What do you think?”

Dad answered first. “I think that you married someone that your mother and I didn’t approve of, and now you’re having his child. That’s what I think.”

Mom didn’t answer, just sat with her hand over her mouth. Anh thought she looked a bit like she’d gone catatonic.

Greg couldn’t understand the conversation, but he certainly could tell it wasn’t going well. “Do we need to go?” he murmured in Anh’s ear. She shook her head slightly. As horrific as this scene was, she couldn’t leave now, not with things like this.

“Dad, this is your grandchild you’re talking about. Your first grandchild. Mom? Do you have anything to say?”

Silence greeted her question. Her father refused to speak further, and it didn’t appear that her mother was currently capable of speech.

“Maybe you’d better go,” Linh murmured. “I’ll stay, and I’ll call you later.” She squeezed Anh’s hand reassuringly.

Anh felt slightly better knowing that one member of her family was excited about the new life growing inside her, but her parents’ reaction was as bad as her worst fears. She and Greg gathered their things and closed the front door softly behind them.

“Whew. That was brutal,” sighed Greg. “Worse than I thought. Not as bad as I feared. They didn’t throw anything.”

Anh was too shell-shocked to giggle; their reaction had been too horrible to joke about just yet. “That was bad,” she agreed.

“I’m so sorry, babe,” he said, pulling her into his arms by the car. He held her for ten seconds, stroking her back protectively. “I promise to love you and our child forever, no matter what.”

“Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work? Isn’t parental love supposed to be unconditional? Anh didn’t even try to stop the flow of the tears that slid silently down her cheeks.

“Come on, love. Let’s go home.”

“You talked me into it.” He walked around to her side, opening her door for her and helping her into the car. He made sure she was seated comfortably, kissed her tear streaked cheek, and closed the door gently before climbing in the driver’s seat and starting the car.

“What would the queen of my world like to do with the rest of our evening?”

“I don’t know, Greg. I’m so lost right now. What will we do if they keep on being like this? I mean, I could deal with it if they were a little chilly to you – polite instead of really warm – but what if they just write me off?”

“I really, really hope that doesn’t happen, Anh. But if it does, we will do what we would do anyway: we will raise our child with all the love we have for him or her. And we will love each other. And we will be our family. This child will still have grandparents. Don’t get me wrong; I want to include your parents in this child’s life. But that’s up to them, not to me. And if they count themselves out, it’s their loss. They will be losing out on the love of their first grandchild. That’s their tragedy. I hope it doesn’t happen that way, truly I do. But I’m not going to let their stubbornness stand in the way of my family’s happiness. If they want to be that selfish, that’s their business. I’m going to be a daddy for the first time, and there’s no way their attitude is going to get in the way of my joy!” He stopped speaking, breathing hard.

“Wow.” Anh was impressed with the passion her husband felt on this topic. She really wasn’t sure what else to say.

“All I’m saying is that they might abandon you, but I never will,” he said quietly as he pulled out of the driveway and onto the road.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

She reached over and took his hand, placing it on her flat belly. He glanced at her, then back at the road.

“The two of you, you are my life. You are my family.”

She smiled. “I love you, too.”

They rode in silence for a while, glad that they had found each other, even if it had cost the relationship with her parents. She wondered if there was any non-Vietnamese man who could have made her family happy. Not that it mattered. This was clearly the man for her.

At home, Greg unlocked the front door and turned on a couple of lights. Anh took a moment to let her eyes skip over the home they’d made here: the comfortable couch where they still liked to snuggle with a movie and popcorn, the homey kitchen with the warm, buttery wall color she’d envisioned playing off the neutral of the floor tiles. The play of colors and patterns that made her home feel so warm and welcoming to her, in contrast to her parents’ stark Asian d├ęcor. She was sure it was yet another reason they would choose to dislike Greg, although most of the decorating choices had been hers, not his. They would think it was his American influence, when really it was her own sensibilities that had created this home where she felt comfortable, loved, and hopeful, despite what had happened this evening.

“You know what? We’ve made a great home here. It’s not the fanciest, but it’s ours, and I love it. I can’t wait to bring our baby into our home.”

Greg regarded her thoughtfully. “I agree. There’s a reason you and I fit together so well. We don’t always agree on everything, but the important stuff? Like a hand in a glove.”

Anh sighed, and suddenly exhaustion hit her like a brick in the face. The combination of the pregnancy and the day’s events almost brought her to her knees. “Wow. I’m pooped all of a sudden. I vote we go to bed. Like, now. Or at least, I’m going to.”

Greg swept her up in his arms like she didn’t weigh anything and held her tenderly. “Let me carry you,” he told her. “You can just relax. I’ll take care of you.”

“That’s silly, Greg.” She yawned. “I have to wash my face, and brush my teeth.” She rested her head against his shoulder.

“Plenty of time for that in the morning, m’love. You’re worn out. Why don’t you just let me take your shoes off for you and go straight to sleep? You know you want to.” His tone of voice was slightly wicked. She had to struggle to hear him; she was only half awake.

“Mmmm. Mmmkay,” she managed.

He placed her gently on her side of the king sized bed, took her shoes off, and pulled the covers around her, tucking her in. He watched her face as she fell into a serene sleep.

“I’ll love you forever, Anh. They can’t stop me. I’m not going anywhere,” he whispered, too softly for her to hear, even if she had been awake.

Then he went around the house, turned out the lights, pulled off his own shoes and clothes, and slipped under the covers next to Anh. There were days he couldn’t believe his good fortune at having found a wife like her, even if he did have to put up with her family. In some ways it wouldn’t be all bad if they wrote her off. Simpler. Not that she would see it that way. And of course, he would do everything in his power to make this woman happy.

He reached out to hold her hand under the covers, but when she felt the contact, she instinctively turned toward him in her sleep, spooning around him. He sighed, releasing all of today’s tension from his body. He’d walk through fire for Anh. Hell, he did today. He’d do it every day for her and that baby.

Tomorrow’s another day, he told himself, just before he fell into a deep sleep.

2 comments:

Page said...

i love your writing, and am pretty hypnotized by the juxtaposition of relationships here. At first I thought I was reading an excerpt out of the Joy Luck Club because of the cooking/complimenting scenario...but as it unfolded, it became clear that it wasn't. I love your writing!

RCummins said...

enjoy your sharing the sneak-peak into the novel. You at least have to post word count updates regularly if nothing else! I'm dying to know how you're coming along (and whether your liver or kidneys are on strike from all the caffeine).