Words by Britt

"While I'm writing, I'm far away; and when I come back, I've gone." Pablo Nerudo

Witch hunt

 

Beware of female with crab-like feet, razor-sharp teeth and a green complexion. She was last seen by the water’s edge chewing on the fingers of unidentifiable children. She rides up on a serpent in the night and is known to shapeshift into a red tail hawk. Stay clear of high towers with bells or clocks! Her victims include Tommy the local farmer’s son who was turned into a floating ball of light. Sally from the candy store, where she showed up leaking slime from her eyes, whistling and throwing glass jars across the floor, leaving wet footprints behind. And Martha’s one-month old son; the hag was seen dragging sleeping Henry in a wagon towards the woods, where shortly after, sheriff Griff and his troop trailed behind, finding a small hut in the forest held together with pig skin and chicken bones. Henry and the crone were nowhere to be found.

The town is encouraged to line their homes with bibles and hang crucifixes on their doors. Sleep with rabbit’s feet,  be careful with mirrors and stay clear of black cats. Do not walk under ladders. And by all means, if you find a penny be sure to pick it up!

© Brittany DiGiacomo 2017

 

 

 

Things your mama don’t tell you: Novel update.

It has been a busy year since completing The Pace of Nature manuscript last November, 2015. After a dozen and more submissions to agents, along with an editor pitch conference last December, I learned what it takes to publish a debut novel in the marketing world.

Lots of changes have been made to the story since writing the original manuscript. The first change, which I was in favor of, was to cut the novel into two books. In my eyes, my story was always a duology. So the first alteration in transforming my story for chance to fit in the publishing world was a cinch.

However, it wasn’t as easy as splitting the 742 page manuscript down the middle.

During the Algonkian Pitch Conference last December, I was set up with director and editor Michael Neff who helped re-direct me in the right direction as to where my novel fit on the shelf in terms of genre. At that time, because TPON manuscript was a 742 page story that charted the childhood of my character, Lilly from ages 7 – 16 – unless I tried to publish the story as a memoir/nonfiction – there was no genre/market for this type of manuscript.

I was faced with a problem. In the start of my fictional novel, Lilly is 7, which makes the novel, middle-grade. But then she grows to 16, which then makes the novel Young Adult.

Assigning a manuscript to one clear-cut genre is a must in order for editors to place a book on the bookstore shelves. Nowadays, there are thousands of aspiring novelists, which allows the editors to have their pick. They have no problem dismissing someone like me whose novel did not fit within the bounds of one genre.

In my eyes, The Pace of Nature is a story relatable to a vast audience of all ages and genders. Themes touch on alienation, courage, ambition, betrayal, discovery – matters in which everyone has experienced from one time or another.

When talking with Michael, it became clear what I needed to do to transform my manuscript into one appropriate genre. I must change the setting, along with Lilly’s age. No more 7-year-old Lilly set in her home town with her family. The novel will open with 16-year-old Lilly at Forge Academy, and will incorporate a handful of flashbacks to show how she got there. Finally, because the story and themes within are revealed through a 16-year -old girl’s perspective, TPON when published, will be classified as YA.

I went home that evening and re-wrote my pitch based on those changes. The following days, I pitched the novel to four editors. Three out of those four editors are interested in Forge, which meant I had a lot of work to do before presenting the complete manuscript to the three intrigued editors at their publishing houses.

Since last December, I have cut the manuscript in half, focusing on the first book: Forge, Book I of The Pace of Nature Series. I spent the next several months re-writing the beginning  of Forge, having to write a whole new ending to complete the novel, all while figuring out how to keep the integrity of the story I want to tell.

It was a long, pacing, hair pulling, lack of sleep process, but I am thrilled to say, I have finished the Forge manuscript. I am in love with it, and amazed that it has surpassed my wildest hopes in preserving the heart of the story that has always been my intent to tell.

I am weeks away from re-submitting.

And although, I feel I am a step closer to publishing my debut novel, I am not there yet. It can take years to publish a novel. It is highly frustrating and at times discouraging waiting for the response of an agent or editor to ultimately reject you and tell you the novel was just not for them. I pray that this time my manuscript will be picked up by an agent and editor who feels as passionate about my project as I do.

I am thankful for my family, my friends, my boss, and my clients – who may not have always understood my ambitions, but have stood in my corner with patience, faith, loyalty and support.

Forge would not be great without my editor, Garrett Detemple. Since the beginning of building the world in which Lilly lives, Garrett has been my second set of eyes, cutting the parts that clutter the story, helping me stay focused in keeping my vision alive, and all at the expense of his own writing time. A skilled editor is hard to find, but it is necessary. I quote Mark Twain because he says it best, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

I started the first draft of TPON back in 2010, where directly after, I went back to school to finish my undergrad degree. After that I got my MFA in writing. Since graduating in 2014, I have dedicated all free time to completing the manuscript. It’s now approaching 2017 and I am still going. I have put other goals on hold and at times neglect the things that should be held in higher priority. But there is a force driving me forward and everything inside of me pushes me towards the finish line. I have gained a lot. I am not giving up.

*

Find pitch below: 

Forge

Lilly Difeo’s childhood is interrupted by a horrible moment of chance. From that moment on, there are real consequences for Lilly and her family, whose ability to hold themselves together is tested to the breaking point. Caught between an excruciating past and an unbearable present, Lilly is overwhelmed with hatred for all she has lost, finding herself on a downhill voyage towards violence and petty theft, balancing on an ever-thinning wire, with no safety net in sight.

Leaving her parents with no choice, sixteen-year-old Lilly is forced into a car and dropped off at Forge Academy, a boot-camp boarding school in the back woods of Connecticut, where she’s been saddled and forced to face her personal demons. Taken aback by Forge’s philosophy, which demands students rat out friends in the Arena of Shame in front of the entire school body, Lilly refuses to partake. As a result, Forge punishes her: Twenty-four hours of picking weeds, scrubbing toilets, and waking up for the 5:30 am workout each morning. Dean Davis makes it his personal agenda to break Lilly and turn her into one of his loyal minions, but Lilly will not budge.

Determined to get back home, Lilly breaks into an office to make a phone call to her family and soon realizes life has gone on without her. Her absence is not missed. Over the following weeks, Lilly focuses on transforming into the person her family needs her to be. With the help from her roommate, Shauna, and Meisha, a piano player who shows her that everyone is capable of finding a unique potential, Lilly begins the precipitous climb towards figuring herself out.

But after a school bust, far larger than all the others, in which a handful of seniors are held accountable for, Lilly is forced to choose between her friends, her sense of right and wrong, and a clear path home. And just when all hope seems lost, an unexpected run-in with the Dean and another student may hold the key to her salvation.

***

© Brittany DiGiacomo 2016

“Birdie”

http://breadcrumbsmag.com/blog/133

Click here to read my short story “Birdie” published today by “Breadcrumb Magazine.”

Birdie is a character taken right out of my WIP Novel, “Forge” Book I of “The Pace of Nature” Series.

While working hard to get the novel published, I have written supplementary short stories that chart the intermediary adventures of my favorite characters as stand-alone stories.

Birdie is a corky blue eyed, kinky-brown haired Minnesotan, who strolls Haryn Hall, stealing all types of odd possessions from her dorm mates. It is up to Lilly to investigate the situation. Read to find out what Lilly learns!

Be back soon! Working on the novel. Feel free to scroll below to read more! :)

Confessions of a woman gone mad: Ants

Wednesday June 17th 9:30am:
In the bathroom while brushing my teeth, a little black ant circles the soap dispenser. How did it get in? I walk over to the window to the right above the toilet. No draft or hole. No other ants. Back at the sink, I spit, rinse, flick the light off and walk into the kitchen.

Saturday June 20th 6:00am:
I jump out of the shower and dry off. I dress for work, place the towel on the hook, and then reach into the whicker caddy beside the sink for my deodorant. A little black ant is crawling up the side of it. I let it crawl onto my finger, and then gently place it down against the counter. The ant walks along my finger over to his friends hanging around the faucet.

Monday June 29th 11:48 pm:
Jared places his book down on the nightstand, squeezes my hand, then rolls onto his side of the bed mumbling, “We have to do something about those ants. They’re piling up.”
I know he is probably right as I go to tug the chain on the lamp off, noticing a tiny ant crawling onto my phone.

3:34am:
I wake to a thump and a shout. It’s Jared. I turn the light on, and watch as he grabs an ant from his cheek and squeezes it dead between his two fingers. I gasp. He groans. He falls back asleep. I lay awake the rest of the night, tossing and turning.

Tuesday June 30th 10:30am:
They’ve spread from the sink to the bathtub – a total of twenty-two. I phoned my mom and she gave me an “at home” remedy to make them go away for good. Something about baking soda and sugar. She told me to mix it together in a bowl and place it beside them. The ants will be drawn to the sweets, eat it, then crawl back to their nest and die.

11:16 am:
I drive to the hardware store and buy a roll of white masking tape. It takes an hour for me to seal the sides of all five windows in the apartment – inside and out. Maybe that’ll do it. Back in the bathroom, I collect the ants in a red plastic cup, and place it outside, shaded by a plant in the dirt. I dust my hands off, then run a vacuum over Jared’s side of the bed. The vacuum makes a tiny popping sound as it sucks last night’s dead ant up. I say a little prayer in my head.

Sunday July 12th 9:04 am:
We are cruising on a boat to the Glass Island of Murano. The morning shines a pearly light. The air is ripe with salt and ahhh the breeze! As we sweep through the choppy waters of Venice, I think of the ants. Have they found a new home? Or, have they made there way back into ours?

Friday July 24th 7:30 pm:
We just got in. Jared sighed at the sight of them while washing his hands after taking a leak. I peaked through the door, a smile tugging at the corners of my lips.

Saturday July 25th 3:30 pm:
While I was at work, Jared placed ant traps all around the house.

4:07 pm:
Quickly, while he was showering, I sealed the openings of the traps with clear masking tape. Not even a flea could poke its way through.

Thursday July 30th 8:15 pm:
I soak in a hot bath after a long day of work. Placing my feet under the faucet, I let the water filter over my toes, watching Colonel Clutter, Princess Bala, Muffy, Grebs, and the rest scurry up the clammy tile wall. I reach for the soap. Just as I’m about to use it, I notice an ant stamped like a fossil on the reverse side. I run the bar under the faucet until the pressure frees the little bugger. I lay back against the tub, it’s tiny black corpse floating beside me.

Saturday August 1st 2:23 pm:
The front door was wide open when I walked in from work. All the windows were drawn up. Jared was airing out the apartment.
“The ant traps weren’t working,” he said, greeting me at the door with a mask over his face. A can of Raid in his hands.

2:24 pm:
I ran into the bathroom. They’re gone. All of them! I dashed into the bedroom and locked the door behind me.

Monday August 3rd 8:06 am:
As soon as Jared left for work, I jumped from the bed, ran into the kitchen, grabbed a red plastic cup from the cupboard and filled it with sugar. I went outside to scour the grounds. I found a whole bunch in the neighbor’s garden under a berry bush.

8:35 am:
I lay the cup in the sink beside a damp paper towel smothered in sugar. The ants came piling out. I dunk more paper towel in water and sugar and place it along the perimeter of the bathtub.

12:10 pm:
Sixty-three ants total. I sat on the ledge of the tub and let the little buggers crawl onto my fingers. “You’re home now. You’re safe,” I said, as their tiny feet tickle my skin.

Confessions of a woman gone mad:Addie

Monday September 28th 7:30am:
I stand at the front door and rub my eyes awake. My sister’s there, going on and on about how she has to go to work. My niece is sick and can’t go to school. She has no choice; Addie has to stay with me for the day. She hands me a note, a pink lunch box, kisses Addie on the cheek and darts towards her running car. “See you at four,” she hollers out the window and drives away.

The note:
– Make sure Addie takes a teaspoon of her medicine (see in lunch box) every four hours. Don’t worry, she’s not contagious.
– She eats a lot (like every two hours) so I packed her lunch and plenty of snacks. If she wants anything else, make sure it’s ORGANIC. She only eats organic and her stomach will not be able to handle anything with hormones or pesticides in it. ORGANIC FOOD ONLY.
– NO CANDY
– NO TV
– NO-
I crumble the note in my hand and toss it into the garbage.

7:45 am:
Addie’s standing by the couch holding an American Doll in her arms who looks an awful lot like her: long brown hair, big brown eyes. Both are wearing purple cotton pajamas with a white unicorn printed on the front of their shirts. A matching bag hangs around Addie’s shoulder.
“Where’s Uncle Jared?” She asks.
“Work.”
She looks around. “I’m seven now.” She coughs.
“So your old enough to read?” I ask.
“I love books. I have a bag full of books right here.” She coughs excessively.
I get her a glass of water from the faucet. She sits on the edge of the couch, her little feet dangle over; she sips the water.
“You have a lot of books. Can I read one of yours?”
“Maybe later.” I grab a pillow and blanket from the closet and make her a bed on the couch. I sit beside her and reach for the remote.
“What are you drinking?” She asks.
“Coffee.”
“Can I have some?”
“Maybe later,” I say, and turn the TV on to the Today Show.

10:00 am:
The watch on Addie’s wrist starts buzzing.
She sits up. “It’s time to take my medicine.”
Opening the fridge, I twist off the cap to the bottle. I dip my pinky inside for a taste. Bubblegum. I spoon-feed her a teaspoon.
“Mom says you have a fur coat. Can I see it?” She reaches for a tissue and blows her nose.
“That’s what your mother told you about me? That I have a fur coat?”
“She said when your Mimi passed onto heaven, she took the diamond, the jewelry, and all the china. You only wanted the fur. Why?”
“Go wash your hands.”
Addie coughs a bit, then races to the sink and washes her hands with soap and water. I walk down the hall to the closet and reach for the mink. I sit back beside Addie, the fur draped over both our laps. I hold the special fur brush in my hand.
“It’s so soft.” She rubs her hands along the fur as if petting a cat. She turns the mink over and reads the inside inscription: “Eleanor. Hey, that’s your name.”
Softly, I run my fingers over the gold stitching.
“But we call you Ela for short, right?”
I flash Addie a smile.
The Little Mermaid plays in the background as we take turns brushing the fur.

12:11 pm:
We walk down the street over to Wendy’s on sixth avenue for lunch. Addie gets a happy meal with chicken nuggets and french fries. I order a frosty. After, we stroll down to the pond at the end of the road from my house with strawberry blow pops hanging out of our mouths. Addie crunches on the candy and chews down to the gum before we reach the path. On the trail, enclosed by trees, black squirrels rustling through orange and yellow colored leaves, Addie runs ahead, screaming something about a frog. I walk faster to catch up to her.
“Careful not to hold it for too long,” I say, standing above her. “You don’t want warts all over your hands.”
“Warts?” She looks up at me.
And just as I am about to answer her, the gum from my blow pop falls from my mouth into her hair.

1:09 pm:
I race back to the house, carrying Addie in my arms. I sit her on the kitchen table beside a jar of peanut butter. I scoop a clump of peanut butter out with my fingers and place it in her hair, overtop the gum, a few inches from her scalp. Addie is much calmer than I am, wagging her legs over the table, humming the tune Under the Sea. Meanwhile, my hands are shaking wildly while I try my best to work the gum out of her hair. The peanut butter is not working. Nor is olive oil. Or the ice.

2:15 pm
I sit Addie in front of the mirror in the bathroom and hold up a large piece of her hair.
“I have to cut it.”
“No,” she beings to cry and cough.
“Just this one part,” I say. “I have to. Or else the gum will spread and we’ll have to cut it all.
She is crying and coughing, unable to speak.
“Look.” I grab the scissors, along with a chunk of my hair and chop it off.
Addie’s face falls flat. She coughs twice, then stares at me for a moment. “Fine,” she says.
I take the scissors to her head. Addie closes her eyes and cringes while I cut off a bulk of her hair.

Our mouths hang open as we gawk in the mirror at the spiky, lopsided pieces of hair sticking out from the sides of our heads.

2:30 pm:
I read Addie every book she carries in her backpack all the way through twice. They’re all stories about Samantha, her favorite American Doll.
“Now I can read one of your books, right? Remember you said so?”
She was already rummaging through the shelves before I had the chance to respond.
“What does Classical Literature mean?” She asks.
“It’s a book about the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Stories about the gods.”
“The bible?”
“No, no. This is a different.”
“There’s more than one Bible?”
“Yes, but that’s not a Bible.”
“There’s more than one God?”
“Um, yes in the stories there are.”
“Oh, I’ll have to think all that over. Maybe we can read this next time.” She places the book back on the shelf. “What about this one? It kind of looks like the pond we were just at.” She holds up Walden, by Thoreau for me to see.
“That’s a great story,” I say.
“Good I’ll read it to you,” she says. “First,” she starts to say then pauses. “Can I have a piece of chocolate?” She hesitantly asks.
“Sure.” I poke around the cabinets. “What kind do you like? Coconut, caramel, peanut butter?”
“Dark,” she says, her eyes glinting.
A girl after my own heart, I think as I pop a piece into my mouth.
We sit side by side on the couch. The fur rests on the other end.
“You start reading while I finish my chocolate,” she says, savoring each bite. There are brown smudges all over her teeth. I take my tongue and lick the chocolate off mine.

3:45 pm:
While Addie collects her books and places them back into her bag, I empty the untouched food from her lunch box and lay it all on a shelf in my fridge. After, I find a sunflower barrette in one of the bathroom sink drawers and sit Addie on the toilet.
“They’re ants in your bathtub,”she points.
“Leave them,” I snap, then twist the tiny spiky hairs against her head and pin the barrette overtop.
“They’re,” I say. “No one will ever know we had to cut a piece off.”
“What about yours?”
I find another barrette and pin it over my patchy piece as well.
“This is our own special secret, isn’t it, Aunt Ela?” Addie smiles.
“Yes, now shh!” I say and pat her on the head.

4:03 pm:
My sister is at the door, ready to take Addie home. I drop down to my knees and wrap Addie up in a hug. She squeezes me tight and coughs into my ear. Even though I had made her gargle with mint mouthwash five minutes ago, I can still smell the chocolate on her breath. After she leaves, I go to the fridge and help myself to Addie’s Stonyfield yogurt and the zip block bag of strawberries her mother had packed. Then I lay on the chaise lounge with the fur cloaked over me like a blanket. I turn on Apple TV and pick up where I left off in season three of The Mindy Project. As I use the special brush to comb the hair on my mink, I can’t help but wonder what the hell Mindy sees in Dr. Castellano.

I’ll tell you something about music!

I have been a fan of Adrian Hibbs’ music since I was fifteen years old, when I first heard him play the piano in the dim theaters of Hyde Boarding School, where from time to time he’d perform for the student body.

He’s been playing forever! Now, he lives in LA as a full time performer and session musician, playing shows at The Piano Bar, in the heart of Hollywood. Adrian also tours as a pianist and plays keys for a variety of bands, including a few of his own. Me and my girlfriends cabbed it from 184th street all the way downtown to see him play at the Blue Note – one of the premier jazz clubs in NYC – even though it was a 12:30 am show and I had work the next day. 🙂

Adrian was full of energy and his band rocked! All of the songs he sang, he wrote. And throughout the show, when switching from keys to the piano, Adrian breathed life into his instruments, making them do whatever he wished. Full on funkadelic R&B, he had the place moving. Girls in the front rocked their shoulders and whirled their hair around like windswept feathers. Good vibes were flowing, heads were bobbing, and everyone’s feet tapped under the tables. Couples were off to the side spinning, their heels clicking on the floor. And if you think I’m exaggerating, the manager said it was the best late night set of the whole summer, with over 110 people showing up to rock out past midnight!

This is one of the slow beats of the night – check him out!

And keep your eyes peeled for Adrian’s new single “Lilly,” which he wrote and recorded with Jussie Smollett (Empire) coming out November 6th.

To learn more about Adrian’s upcoming projects, performances, etc, check out his website:
http://www.adrianhibbs.com

Follow Adrian on Instagram: HibbsPlease

And, if you love his music as much as I do, head on over to iTunes to preview songs from his first debut album, “Eden.”

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/e.d.e.n./id945919174

Happy listening!

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