The Current Project

It has been three years since my fourth Street Stories novel, Cry Baby Cry was published. I have been busy writing during that time,  and there are plans to continue the series, but the project taking my attention right now is a sort of offshoot of the series. With the working title of The Wizard Within, I have taken a homeless youth off the streets of Chicago and placed him in a world where magic exists in every single human being. I see this as a metaphor for the potential within all of us, and hope you will enjoy it when it is completed as much as I am enjoying creating it.

Continue to look for updates here and on my author site
at www.Debra-R-Borys.com

Eric’s Enlightenment

Thorne glanced sideways at him. “Has Graham told you yet what his power is? His dominant one, I mean?”

There are people out there in the modern world with outdated ideas regarding sexual preferences and gender identity.

When Eric shook his head, she said. “He can see the future. Well, it looks like he can see the future. But if he tells someone what he sees, though, apparently that future changes. He blames himself for Cora being gay.”

And yes, some of them are young people like Eric who have been raised in a culture that promotes that thinking.

Eric’s laugh helped clear his mind. He breathed easier as he said, “You’re kidding, right? You don’t actually believe Magic can change someone’s sexual preference.” The idea shook him a bit, though. There was so much he didn’t know about Magic. And even less that he understood about human sexuality.

“I don’t.” Thorn answered. “I don’t think Graham does either, not really. But when they were kids, like puberty age, or before Cora came out anyway, he saw a distinct vision of the two of them as a happily married man and wife. And he told her. Next thing he knows—well, the first time Cora tells anyone—Cora’s gay and Graham just can’t quite convince himself that his cursed power didn’t have something to do with that.”

 

Spoilers. Not Really.

The sight of his father waiting in the hallway stopped Eric like one of Thorne’s invisible barriers. Except this roadblock he didn’t want to penetrate, to step through.

This Is the original draft of Eric meeting his father. The facts have changed, but the tension remains.

The last time he’d heard his father speak had been at Alisha’s wedding. “Get in,” he’d barked when they picked Eric up at the corner of Halsted and Broadway. “And you damn well better be sober or I’m dropping you off at the next stoplight. I don’t give a damn what your mother has to say about it.”

Then they’d taken him to the hotel, told him to take a shower, and dressed him in a tux like he was a trained monkey. Afterward, when they dropped him off again in Boy’s Town like a sack of garbage, he’d found Tito and shot himself up so high he thought he would never come back to earth.

Eric took a deep breath and remembered what Uncle had told him. Stay calm. Your emotions are what feed you. Control your emotions and you control your power. “How did you find me?”

“That girl. What does she call herself? Thorne? What kind of parent names their kid Thorne? That’s not real, I bet. I’m sure of it. She called me.”

“Bullshit! She’s Waptailmim.” She wouldn’t do that, would she? Betray him? Reveal him? They’d talked about what had happened, why he’d left home. She knew it was because of his father he’d thought himself crazy all these years. The prissy psychiatrists, Ritalin, Depakote, Lithium, drug after drug that did nothing but fuck him up from a thousand different directions at once. At least heroin had only taken him down one path at a time.

“It’s time to face reality, son. If you turn yourself in–”

“Reality? What the fuck do you know about reality? All those years, you knew. You knew it was real, didn’t you? What I could do.” He stepped back, one hand raised, as his father made a move in his direction. “Don’t. You know what I can do. What I— What I did.” Memory sucked moisture from his mouth and brought the red flog closer. It clouded his vision, began to curl around his father’s broad shoulders.

“I’m not a little kid anymore, Dad.” But he felt more like a boy than he had in ages, a scared, helpless boy about to piss his pants.

“If you’re talking about your roommate—”

“My roommate? You mean my jailer.” Eric could barely see now through the haze of crimson. How could the old man not notice it? Why wasn’t he trying to get away? “I hope he’s dead.” He didn’t. It terrified him to think he had actually killed someone. “I hope he’s dead and dried up and burning in hell.”

With the Wizard, snickered the voice in his head. The Wizard knows what to do with men like him.

That’s when Eric let go, when all Uncle’s training flew out the window and his hatred and anger and love for this man who wouldn’t ever see him, who didn’t want to see him, who saw him but despised him, thrust its way from his core and ripped across the space between them.

The force blew open all the apartment doors along the hall, but unlike last time, unlike what had happened with Henry, his father’s body did not go flying across the floor. His bloody head did not bounce off the wall and his limp body come crashing to the ground. Instead, where his father had stood, there was nothing, nothing at all. Like he had never been there. Like his father had been nothing more than just a figment of Eric’s twisted mind.

—————


As a writing exercise I wrote the same scene above from the father’s perspective.

The kid looked like a hobo, Jude Stone thought as his son stepped off the elevator. His faded black sweatshirt was only half zipped up, his hands shoved into frayed pockets. One knee showed red and dirty through his ripped jeans, like he’d skidded across asphalt.

At least he looked better then he had back in Chicago standing on the street corner like a whore, a muscle T showing off his oiled biceps. A cigarette had dangled from lips that curled into a smirk when they’d stopped and opened the door for him.

The whole affair had been a nightmare. They couldn’t even enjoy their own daughter’s wedding, wondering all night if their junkie son was going to go off the deep end and do something to embarrass everyone.

Now he seemed sober, but maybe it wasn’t heroin this time. Something was off about him, though, standing stiff as a wooden Indian and spouting off about man made constructs.

“That girl.” It was better to stick with the truth. A version of the truth anyway. “She called me.” Eric didn’t have to know that she hadn’t done it deliberately. That her concern about Eric had been so loud he’d heard it over a thousand miles away. All he’d had to do was listen and it was like a siren calling him toward the shore.

Except he’d be damned if he was going to run aground over it. Clearly they’d been filling the kid’s head with the kind of bullshit he’d spent years trying to cleanse from his son’s mind. If his mother hadn’t coddled him when he was a baby… but no use blaming anyone. The poison was in Jude’s bloodline, too. It was why he’d moved his family to the God-damn middle of nowhere, away from it all. Reality was what you make of it, why couldn’t Eric see that?

“What the fuck do you know about reality?” Eric asked, and for a moment Jude flashed back to his own youth, his envy over the “ordinary” kids who didn’t really know what the world was like. The ones with fathers who didn’t invade a customer’s mind to make a sale, and mothers who simply read a storybook to make their kids sleepy.

“I’m not a little kid anymore,” Eric said.

No, God damn it, he wasn’t. The wave of power Jude saw coming for him was fully tidal. He barely had time to make the jump before his son did his best to murder him with the power of his hatred.

 

Part I: Origin Story #2

Shaking and sweating, he hugged his knees and buried his face into the sleeping bag. Hot then cold, his mind racing. Jesus! He thought he’d gotten over this dope sick shit after that first month behind bars. Cold turkey they called it. More like one sick, puking hot pile of chicken shit was how it felt. Till finally, at the other end of it, he’d promised himself no more. A clean slate, head on straight, he was going there no more. So he’d accepted Henry’s offer of help and home and ended up, ended up…

“Fucking it all up again.”

Chapter 2: Approaching Earth: an excerpt.

Except for that article. That photograph that had him halfway across the country parked in a cornfield waiting for dawn and hoping none of those distant headlights were cop cars searching for him.

He dug in the backpack looking for the page he’d torn from the magazine, but his search turned up a different mystery first. He pulled out a folded, creased paper that had yellowed with age. He hesitated, afraid to look at it again. Why had his father kept this all those years? Why hide it in a locked desk drawer?

He’d been searching for money. His father away, Eric’s need at its greatest, he’d been looking for cash to fix what was wrong, whatever that was. Instead, he’d found a child’s drawing, that was all. A stick-drawn little girl with a smile on her face, holding the hand of an adult male with a feathered band across his forehead. All around them crooked, triangular teepees had been drawn with charcoal crayon swirls of smoke spiraling upward.

Why had this one drawing been the impetus that finally drove him away from home?

Eric vaguely remembered it. Was it from kindergarten? Pre-school? Could he even remember that far back? Stupid to think so, even stupider to think something about it had changed. It wasn’t even his drawing. At least, he didn’t think so. The initials M.R. were carefully lettered in the bottom right corner.

So why had this one drawing been the impetus that finally drove him away from home? He had no answer to that any more than he had an answer to the feeling that something about the image was wrong, out of place. He could remember seeing the stick figure of the little girl before, but there had been a woman with her, hadn’t there? A woman with an angry frown. And the little girl had been frightened and crying.

Part I: Origin Story

The electronic tether weighted Eric’s ankle like an iron ball and chain. When he stepped forward, the sole of his right shoe scuffed against the kitchen floor as if a few ounces of plastic and microchip could magnify the force of gravity and pull his soul down with it as well.

Chapter 1: Fortress of Solitude: an excerpt.

He pulled the September issue of American Living toward him , staring at page twelve. Capital Hill. The Space Needle in the background. The green and white-striped awning with the restaurant name. The street-side diners. The passersby. The young woman with her face half turned away as she threw a comment at someone lounging against the building.

“A wizard to guide him through destiny,” he whispered. Strong young woman, sun beating on the back of her head. Red flames of hair licked her shoulders, burned at the ends of dark strands grown tangled and unruly.

No fear, beckoning to him. A guide for lost souls running scared day by day. The room tilted forward, drawing him in. A nauseated surge turned his stomach, his mouth a desert of coarse sand. An itch in his blood for the pierce of a needle, the rush of a drug. The need, the need looming to strike, to devour. He felt himself swallowed whole, one foot still in Chicago, the other on the pavement of the Seattle street, his hand reaching out to touch her, to turn her chin to face him, to see him. See me.

Not a Street Story Novel. Not really. A story of what might exist on the streets in a world of magic and possibilities.

He jerked and pulled back. An invisible cord pulled tight, stretched, snapped, licked in his direction to bind him again.

“No.” He stood up from the table; the chair skittered back across the tiles. Cobwebs in his brain again, voices whispering, laughing, mocking. “Crazy bitch,” he called himself. “Crazy, dope fiend bitch.”

They should have kept him locked up. Thrown away the key. Put him in a white jacket and a room with cushioned walls to drown his screams of fury and hate. House arrest, what a joke. What a fucking joke.

Pride

When Lonny moved on, Avril walked over to the mirror on the far wall just to check that the woman hadn’t been making fun of her. Nope. Still fabulous. Still sparkly with the glitter and hairspray she’d spritzed on before leaving the house.

With the pre-order for the completed Cry Baby Cry going up on Amazon this week, this will be the last sneak preview excerpt for CRY on this blog. I hope you enjoy it and will check back for future notes when I start to birth my next Street Stories novel.

Avril had seen an article once on coffins made with glitter. They came in any color. She would pick all the colors, she thought. Tell them to spray all the damn sparkles on the thing when it was time for her funeral and toast her with champagne as they lowered her into the dirt.

She looked down at her body without shame or hate or disorientation. The penis she had securely tucked beneath her red, white, and blue tutu didn’t mean she was a man any more than yearning for real breasts meant she was a woman. Her body simply was and whether she changed it to reflect who she was inside or not, she would always be Avril McCartney because that was who she chose to be. Who you made love to didn’t define who you were, either. Loving at all, that was what defined you: treating people, treating yourself, with compassion and humor and camaraderie.

Cat Pee and Deadlines

Jo threw her toothbrush into her makeup bag, the other hand holding the phone to her ear. She tried not to let annoyance get the best of her as she listened to Avril make life more complicated than it needed to be.

The bad news: At 5000 words short of my goal, it looks like I’m not going to make my May 1 deadline for having this first draft done.

The woman had practically begged to be allowed to take care of Topaz so Jo wouldn’t have to delay her trip downstate, and now she wasn’t readily available to pick up the keys.

“Well,” Jo said, trying to remain reasonable. “Where do you live? Maybe I can drop the keys by on my way out of town.”

“No, no, that wouldn’t be a good idea. You’d be going out of your way. Isn’t there someplace you can leave them for me? Work? Do you have a doorman in your building, or a neighbor? You know, someone who would believe that the six foot tranny who comes by to pick up the keys is the person you told them to expect?”

The writer in 4B did owe Jo a favor for beta reading the tacky romance novel he’d finished last month. Sanjay would count it as her owing him a favor, rather than as payment of his, but he was an agoraphobic who never set foot outside his door so at least he’d be available regardless of when Avril stopped by.

The good news: The writing pace has picked up the last few days. I got over 2000 words done today.

Jo told Avril which apartment number to buzz to gain access to the keys, and which apartment was Keisha’s.

“But you’ve got to promise to be here before seven o’clock to give Topaz her supper. I was only a half hour late one time and the damn cat peed on Keisha’s favorite throw pillow. She will get revenge if you cross her.”

The Cheese Stands Alone

Like the nursery rhyme game, each Street Story novel stands alone. What does progress throughout the series, though, is Jo growing as a person. Jo’s relationship with Jack is one way to show that growth.

Once the two of them were settled, Jo pulled Jack out into the hallway with a firm grip that left red prints on his forearm. When she saw there was no one else in the corridor, she put one hand on her hip and stabbed him in the chest with her other finger.

“I know you’ve got rules you need to follow, Jack,” she said, seething. “And there’s good reasons for them, I realize that. If there weren’t rules, it would be too easy for assholes to really exploit these kids by pretending they were helping. But I say fuck those rules, Jack. Today I just want to screw all the rules and do the right thing. If you can’t get her into Maddy’s Place, then that’s fine. I’ll figure out something else. But they’re not calling her family, you hear? Please don’t let them do that.”

Then suddenly his arms were around her and she was pulled close to his chest. She stiffened at first, but he felt so good, he smelled so good—all man and dried sweat and some remnant of aftershave. And, God, he was a good hugger. Her arms were trapped between them, so she couldn’t hug him back, so instead she just let herself go, closed her eyes and let herself get lost in the hug.

It wasn’t a romantic embrace, although she’d imagined that happening quite a few times in the darkness of her lonely room at night. It was an “I’ve got you” hug, a “don’t worry about a thing” that was comforting and warm and believable. She never wanted him to let go.

He did, of course. After a long, sweet minute he pushed her away from him, just a little, his hands holding her arms. Were his cheeks flushed? They were. He kept looking away from her, too, like he was embarrassed to look her in the eyes.

Another theme that progresses throughout the books is Jo’s relationship with her father.

What was it about Lily’s scream that had touched a raw nerve in her? Jo almost shuddered as she remembered. She’d been worried and anxious about Lily’s situation and her reaction to the subject of contacting her family, but that scream had taken Jo beyond those mostly detached emotions. The scream had shaken her—she tried not to think it, there had to be a better to way to say it, wasn’t there? But no, maybe not. Jo had been shaken to the core. A gut wrenching, tearing sensation that touched a nerve so deep she didn’t want to know where it came from.

Did it have something to do with her father? With why she couldn’t seem to let go of her distrust? She was reminded of a dream she often had: a young boy dead in the gutter of a dark street, hand stretched out as if reaching for rescue. Was there some deep dark secret memory she didn’t want to look at?

Then she realized Jack was standing there watching her with a line between his eyebrows that couldn’t have been any clearer if it had formed a question mark. How long had she been standing there struggling internally? She was losing it, for sure. And in front of Jack no less.

Jo smiled, a little, her gaze meeting his, then away, then back again. “Thanks, Doc, I needed that.”

She turned and walked back to the office, satisfied. Just the right mix of sincerity and humor, she thought. Confidentiality crisis averted; friendship saved.

Conversation Without Condemnation

As Jo shut the door behind her, something on the bulletin board across the hall caught her eye. The perfect Caucasian family smiled from a poster: mother, father, son, and daughter with bright white teeth and perfectly groomed features. Above their heads the poster read “And God created them in His own image. Male and female he created them.” The words below the model family were “Empowered Identity Workshop: Wednesdays @ 6 p.m.” In smaller print was a notice that the cost for attending the workshop series was $200. The sessions were open only to girls aged twelve through sixteen.

The workshop, and many of Martin Oberhaus’s words, reflect a real pastoral interview I found while researching the subject of gay conversion techniques.

“Did you have questions about the workshops?” someone asked from down the hall.

Jo turned to see Martin Oberhaus smiling widely. His teeth were as white and well ordered as the lion’s mane of hair on his head. He could have been the grandfather of the family pictured on the poster.

“You don’t look old enough to have a daughter to participate,” he continued as he walked toward her. “But if you have concerns about some other young woman, I would be happy to talk to the parents about the benefits of having their child attend.”

“This is only for girls?” Jo asked.

He had stopped in front of her and stood with fingertips tented in front of him. He bowed slightly, still smiling. “We are hoping to offer a similar series to young men sometime in the future. The intent is to offer an environment where the girls feel free to express themselves.”

“What is this, exactly? A support group for gay kids?” Jo was pretty sure the idea was the exact opposite of that. The age restrictions seemed odd to her, and the bible verse quoted inferred otherwise.

Oberhaus’s face creased with anxiety. “Oh no. We specifically gear the workshops to girls who are too young to really grasp the implications of their sexual identity. This is the age where young people may begin to question their sexuality and they often need guidance to make the right decision.”

“And the right decision is …” Jo paused, waiting for him to fill in the words, “To walk the straight and only acceptable path.”

Instead, he hesitated, his smile a bit brittle but only for an instant. “We offer conversation without condemnation. No one demands they make a particular decision. Participation is totally voluntary. I mean, think about it. Who would agree to be counseled or mentored by someone trying to shove an opinion down your throat?”

Someone troubled and lost, Jo thought. Someone looking for a strong role model because of their own low self esteem. Someone like Lilly.

When Backstory Comes Forward

“WESTMONT HIGH SCHOOL” The words engraved in plaster above the door drew Lily’s eye as she walked up the front steps.

Her heartbeat sounded loud as bass drums in her ears. The voices of the other students were a slow motion wave of sound both garbled and hostile. Their bodies a blur as they rushed past. Their glances foreign and invasive.

This dream scene from Cry Baby Cry actually started out as a backstory I wrote at the beginning as I was getting to know Lily better. Go read the original post HERE if you want to see what it started out as.

A hand grabbed her, some boy’s arm encased in a red and yellow letter jacket. “Hey. Who are you? You don’t belong here.”

Lily squeaked, ducked, slammed into another body. Smaller hands gripped her arms, gentler hands.

“Whoa there.”

The girl’s eyes warmed her like blue flames. The hallway had emptied out.

“Slow down, new girl,” Jean said, and smiled.

Chaos swirled to a halt and Lily could breathe again.

“Jean,” Lily said. “Jean.”

Relief swept over her.

“No, silly, it’s Bella. Remember?”

They were standing by the side of a swimming pool. Bella’s breasts pushed against the Hawaiian print blossoms of her bikini top. The cleft between them, shadowed like a chasm between snowy mountains, drew her fingers toward them.