Review: Marred



My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't want to say this book is nightmare fuel, but this isn't the kind of book you want to read before going to bed. Especially as a woman. Even more so as a single woman living alone in a dark apartment with no one to hear you scream.

*ahem*

Excuse me.

It's the kind of book you read with all the lights on and the doors locked. It's the kind of book you have a light hearted chaser for; like watching a Disney movie after watching Friday the 13th. And why, after storming through the first third of it in my initial reading that I went to bed with a harmless western in my hands instead of my Kindle.

Sue Coletta isn't going to spare you the gory details or an honest look behind the crime scene tape. She's a well versed author in all things crime who indelicately dumps you into the middle of a life which has been disrupted, disturbed, and marred by the evil acts of a solitary man. When there is a serial killer on the loose targeting young women and seemingly no connection between them it's hard for a community to sleep at night. But when your twin sister suddenly goes missing and you answer the phone to an unfamiliar, sinister voice - that's when your life comes to a screeching halt. We are there when our heroine, Sage Quintano, comes to terms with her past, when she bursts out against those she loves, and when she decides to take back control.

You won't have to wait for the action to start in this novel, so buckle up and prepare yourself for a dark ride through a dark tunnel with only Coletta to guide you out!

Fear and the White Nothingness

That moment when you've reached the end of your comfort zone and it's like the edge of a cliff.

You peer over that edge and there seems to be nothing there, just a blank White Nothingness.

No safety net.
No bridge.
Nothing.

And you're already anxious because to get to the edge of your comfort zone you've already had to fight battles. Waging war with your thoughts of self-doubt. You've been victorious so far, because although you were struggling, you were still wrapped within the cozy blanket.

But now you are out. You are on that ledge and you have only two options.

One. You can turn around and wade up to your eyes through those same battles and wait until you're ready... if ever you become so.

Two. You put your foot out over the edge and maybe you fall. Maybe you fall so far down into that white sea of nothingness that you drown and you can't find a foothold to climb back up your cliff to reach your comfort zone. So you decide to build a raft and you paddle on. Or maybe your foot lands on some invisible support that is like a mirror reflecting the White Nothingness from above and you're able to slowly, just so carefully, tread across this unknown abyss and when you look down you see your reflection holding you up. You realize you're not so alone after all.

Maybe in option one you decide that it isn't worth the pain of failure or the chance of success to do something so strange as taking leaps of faith. Leaps of faith in yourself. Maybe in option one you decide that there is nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone... because, really, there is nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone. Maybe this way you build up your comfort zone into a fortress of personal growth within your set boundaries and you are content.

But that first step. That first step which succeeds a million tiny steps of anxiety, frustration, and victory is up to you.

There isn't always just two options when you are standing on a cliff. Sometimes, if you look around, you will see that there is a little bench nearby where you can rest your feet. Maybe this bench is attached to a park with grassy fields, swings, and a box where you can build a sand castle. There are big, fluffy trees to offer you shade and wide open spaces for you to run and explore. Maybe you stay here a while so you can adjust to the climate out here on the edge. It might feel like you've run away, but really you should be proud. You are perfectly placed in this moment and exactly where you ought to be for the rest of your life to begin.

You don't have to worry about running out of time because the sun doesn't set in the blank vastness of the White Nothingness. That park can harbor you as long as you need and when you are ready, if ever you are, you can stand up from the bench and go for a walk.

Either direction will work. If they don't suit you, spin around in circles really fast with your arms stretched out until you get dizzy and fall down.

Whichever way your head is pointing - go there.

Writing Prompt One Hundred and Twenty Four


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
      • Your return contact information marked with a "(P)" for private if applicable
      • Public contact information you would like me to reference if your piece should be selected for feature.
        • This can include your website or blog as well as your social media outlets: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.
        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

Weathering the Storm

Recently, I set out on a new endeavor. To those who know me well, they won't be surprised in the least by that first sentence. I have flights of fancy. It's just in my nature. I'm a dreamer and very rarely do I follow through with many of my schemes, but I'm getting better. I'm prioritizing my dreams and plans and thoughts and figuring out which I'd like to pursue and which I'll have a character in a book figure out. So far it's working.

This new endeavor challenges me on many levels, but I'm finding that emotionally it takes a far greater toll than I ever thought it would. 

I get frustrated.
I doubt myself.
I start to believe I'm not smart enough.
I can't do it.
This isn't what I want.

And then I start to cry. I cry because there is a battle going on inside my mind that tells these negative, impacting thoughts they are wrong. A battle against the dark by the light. And some days, the dark wins. But like rays of sunshine piercing through storm clouds, I remember the timeline of my path and future. I remember that this day is only a moment on that timeline and years from now I'll look back from behind the desk of a scientist at the time I was struggling with College Algebra. I'll be able to laugh and stand proud that I fought through the struggle rather than succumbing to it.

And for the days I forget; when the storm pervades and the clouds in my eyes unleash their down pour, my husband steps in and says:


This was a quote his football coach told him during practice and I've come to fall in love with it. It is the strongest voice in my head breaking through the jungles of doubt which have sprouted so fiercely. It means when we try, we try completely. If we screw up, we screw up completely. It means not being afraid of failure and if we are going to fail, let's fail in epic proportions. 

This got me thinking how often this saying could be used in different contexts and how often we need a reminder in our endeavors to go all in and see what happens.

So here is my motivator for you, I hope one rings home:







Be bold. 
Be foolish. 
Have courage

Make mistakes fully, completely, recklessly, aggressively.

Writing Prompt One Hundred and Twenty Three


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
      • Your return contact information marked with a "(P)" for private if applicable
      • Public contact information you would like me to reference if your piece should be selected for feature.
        • This can include your website or blog as well as your social media outlets: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.
        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

Writing Prompt One Hundred and Twenty Two


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
      • Your return contact information marked with a "(P)" for private if applicable
      • Public contact information you would like me to reference if your piece should be selected for feature.
        • This can include your website or blog as well as your social media outlets: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.
        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

But Why Now?

I am not a victim of rape.

I am a survivor.

If you're curious, there is a big difference between the two:  A difference in mentality, understanding, and attitude. It's the difference between mourning and understanding…denial and acceptance…anger and forgiveness.

No. I am not a victim. I am a survivor.

I've been strolling through my Facebook newsfeed for a few days now in light of the recent accusations against a certain presidential candidate, and the language used regarding the topic of sexual assault from the men in my life (and some of the women) has been shocking. Even frightening. Questions have cropped up like "Why now?" "Why three weeks before voting?"... and comments like "If it was that big of a deal, they would have stepped up sooner...."

If it was that big of a deal. Why now? Why did they wait? To them, it all seems so suspicious.

I won't make this political. I'm sick of politics. This isn't about him. I'm sick of this election. Aren't you? But I can't take these questions anymore. I can't stand the ignorance. The language. Because why now?

I've harbored my secret, my darkness for fourteen years. My parents and family don't know I was raped. This was a secret from them that I was going to take to the grave. Only a handful of friends know. A few members in my community. A few ex-lovers. They know because they needed to know--because my story could influence how they treated me and how they lived their lives in the future. My story could inspire, and my lessons learned could teach.

So I'm sorry Mom, Dad... but I can't protect you anymore from my darkness.

You need to know.

This is my "Why now."

When I was sixteen, I decided to start dating a friend. He was my very best friend. A person I knew I could trust. A person I would run to when my other boyfriends had done me wrong. He loved me. So why not? After all, a girl really only wants to be loved.

I was home schooled at the time, and so was he. He lived in a somewhat abusive household, so he started to live with us for a little while. We had all the time in the world that we wanted together. It was a teenager's paradise.

It only took a few days for his "love" to manifest itself. At first I enjoyed it. Really, only at first. But then I didn't want to have sex anymore. We weren't using protection. I wasn't on birth control. I didn't want to get pregnant. But my "no's" went unheeded. He turned them into yeses by telling me to "just let it happen" and "you'll get used to it." These phrases would later become my triggers. 

Over the course of three months, I would learn to get used to him sneaking into my room at night and waking me up for sex. I would learn to get used to just fading away into my mind and forgetting what was happening. I would learn to just accept that he was going to do whatever he wanted and it was better to let it happen than to argue. When we were walking or standing, he would purposefully hold me in a way that would make me uncomfortable. He would keep me off balance. It's how he showed me that I no longer had control over my body. It was his now. Not mine.

My mom had no idea what was happening, and I was too scared to tell her. You see, I was more afraid of confessing to my mom that I was having sex than I was afraid of being raped. I could handle the rape. I could contain the secret. I could handle the stress until... one night I couldn't. It was a night when he was staying at his own house and I was alone. I woke up in the middle of this night terrified. I couldn't move my body. My mind was awake, but there was a thousand-pound weight resting on me. I was paralyzed. Then it lifted. I stood up to walk to the bathroom, but fell in the hallway because I lost my hearing. Everything had gone silent for I don't know how long, and then a piercing ringing split through my head. I was left with the worst migraine I've ever experienced in my life. I crawled to my mom's room and woke her up. I was sick. Something was wrong. I was scared.

Just being in her room helped me relax. I felt safe. It wasn't until the next morning that she asked me if it was possible I could be pregnant. I solemnly nodded my head in the affirmative. I know now that these are not symptoms of pregnancy and she knew it, too. I know now that she used that night to find out what I was doing with him. From that day forward, he didn't come over. She set that boundary. She saved my life and she didn't even know it.

With him at a distance, I was able to let the fog of control lift and build the necessary strength to break up with him. When I called him, he threatened me.

"I'll kill myself if you break up with me. I can't live without you." He said through tears. Desperate, he came to where I was staying and begged in the driveway for me to take him back.

I did. I was sixteen. I couldn't have someone’s death on my shoulders.

But nothing changed. It all went back to the way it was, and so it all continued like nothing even happened. It wasn't until a friend of mine showed me that sex could be fun, feel good, and that I had a choice in the matter that I developed enough strength (and anger) to stand up to him. When he threatened to take his own life again, I stood firmly defiant and said, "Go ahead." It was the most profound experience of my life.

In that moment I learned an incredibly important lesson that I still carry with me today: My life is more important. My life is more important to me than any other life on this planet. And at the time, I needed to save it. This grew into many more lessons as I healed and came to accept what had happened to me. As I learned to forgive and move on, I discovered that I couldn't hold the actions of one man against men as a whole. I've become more confident, defiant, and strong because of a sixteen-year-old boy who wouldn't take "no" for an answer. I was eventually able to own my triggers and own this experience rather than allow it to own me. And I'm at peace with it. I do not feel regret or pain and, if given the chance to go back in time to stop it, I'd turn it down. I wouldn't be who I am without this experience, and I really love who I am as a woman and a person.

I was one of the lucky ones, though. I was able to make a healthy transition from victim to survivor and I was able to do it safely. So many others aren’t as blessed. So many others self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to hide from the pain of their internal torture, to fill a void left behind by a monster. So many others become reclusive and are no longer able to build trust. Their life ends the day of their violation.

I cannot judge others by my own experience and neither can you. We each react to adversity, even the same event, differently. Who are we to determine how another should handle their pain? Who are we to proclaim to know better? What right do we have over another human being to prescribe a method of coping? We are no one and we have no right. Even someone like me, one of the lucky ones.

And yet... As I type this, I want to throw up. My hands and my arms are shaking. My heart is pumping. And I am sweating. It's been fourteen years; I've healed. I've forgiven. I've moved on. But I'm about to hit "publish" and let the entire world see my darkness. I'm about to come out of the rape closet to my parents. But I need to do this. I need to say something now. Because it no longer just affects me. It is my responsibility to share because then maybe others who haven't been through what I've been through will better understand. And maybe the dialogue will change.

That's why now.




Edit: It should be noted that before posting this, out of respect for both parents they were informed and the topic discussed. 

Jack London


Her eyes bounce along the lines of the menu. It's edges shielding her face, but for those magnificent brown eyes, soft, encompassing eye brows, and gently wrinkled forehead. She seems perplexed by something she's reading. My own eyes scan the menu, searching for an answer to the question which lingers on that tanned forehead.

Maybe it isn't so much a question of ingredients as a question of how those ingredients should go together to create something worth eating. I, too, have had my doubts about this place. A small cafe, new on the corner of a busy, thriving main street. Filled to the brim with people just like each other, just like me and her.

She turns the page. Entrees. Perhaps she will stay longer than I had imagined she would. Her fingers tap the edge of the menu, the guardian of her face. A glass of iced tea is set on her table by a passing waiter. She reaches for it blindly, sips, and returns it to the art deco coaster. The book she's brought with her sits idle on the table. It's frayed binding facing me, the brown and aged pages looking away. My own book rests in my hands, neglected as I read the back of her menu.

The waiter comes. She orders. She sips. Her fingers tap the table top to the tune of a familiar song. She scans the room and finds me. Alone in my corner, hands spread beneath the decaying novel. We look away. The walls are littered with art from a local; some abstract bit about a giraffe and sea glass. The floor is a black and white checkered tile. I'm sure she's noticed that, too. And the ceiling boasts exposed beams and air ducts. I finish my survey of the cafe before she does and it strikes me how beautiful her cheeks are. How perfect the rose hue.

I close my book. The burley men of the Alaskan Gold Rush clash together between the pages, the brawl separated by a slender bookmark. Something so slim separates us; something so powerfully resistant. A barrier of doubt surrounded by desire. Like those of the Yukon I harbor my courage and walk forward. Her table a claim I'd like to stake.

Those eyes look up at me; they bloom as she smiles.

"Hello."

Writing Prompt One Hundred and Twenty One


Guidelines:
Length: 800 words or less
Deadline: None
Submission: 
  • Submit via email to beauxcooper@gmail.com
  • Copy your story into the Message box:
    • Include:
      • "Writing Prompt #____"
      • Your return contact information marked with a "(P)" for private if applicable
      • Public contact information you would like me to reference if your piece should be selected for feature.
        • This can include your website or blog as well as your social media outlets: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.
        • Optional: A photo of you
      • Your story
        • Please copy and paste into the body of the message, however, if you have a special format design for your story (such as moments of centered or right alignment, size, etc.) attachments are accepted.
Award: My favorite submissions will be featured on beauxcooper.com as well as all BC's social media outlets with all links connecting back to your blog/social media/website/etc.

- Desire -


Dreams inspire lovers,
To dance beneath the covers,
And lose their tethers.

Pearls


When you get to her age you discover life becomes more about the routine of birth and death. And while she's experienced the first she often sits alone in the dark of her living room waiting to experience the last.

A ringing telephone becomes the pistol in a game of Russian roulette; whether her heart feels joy or sorrow depends on the age of the caller. Youthful excitement tells her she's a great grandmother... again. Solemn maturity reminds her of the reservation she holds in a muddy bed on the outskirts of town.

"It's Georgie," they'll say when it's her turn and a shared cry will follow. Sometimes she worries they won't have any tears left when she goes; and she deserved their tears; she's paid her time and cried for all those before her. She has earned the living's grief.

My Georgie slips on her black dress, her modest nylons, and black walking shoes. Over swollen, aged fingers her rings find their home. From across the pink walled bedroom, resting on the bureau I watch her. Waiting to take my place among the procession of mourning. The only white among the black. My glossy shimmer reflecting like tears.

Me; who will be the last she will ever wear. Her funeral earrings.

Doppelgänger

Some days back my friend shared a photo with me.

I didn't understand at first why she had done so until her sister sharply pointed out:

That's you!
The photo in question was of my friend's sister's friend's grandmother... you follow that?

In 1940.


The gal in question is the total babe on top.


It took me a few more seconds and then I saw it. Forever, I will not be able to unsee it. Here is this woman who is me 75 years ago. And I'll prove it.


We have the same asymmetrical smile. The same eyes. Hell... we have the same damn nose! Even my mother sees it.

All I want to do now is meet the woman, if she is still alive, and see if I age gracefully. Did 1940's me have a full life? Are there any beads of wisdom I need to know from my future self? 

Or maybe I'm a time traveler with amnesia... or I haven't cracked the code yet and still have time! 1940's me is pretty tan so obviously I travel during the summer. 

I've always said I wanted to explore the world more.


New Seas

To say he had soulful eyes would be an injustice. Rather, they were a milky green. A clouded visage of perhaps an even more clouded history. They were deep, but murky; cold, but inviting. They tempted me into worlds I could not control, into a flight of passion I could not contain. But I was at a crossroads. I've always been afraid of waters so dark and stained that I could not see the bottom. So when looking past his perfectly shaped lids into the iris of unknown depths my feet grew unsteady. A heart can want to jump and explore, but the mind will always win for self preservation will also always win.

He could destroy me in an instant, grab my body and rip it apart, take whatever was remaining and sweep it away like dust. But I trusted him. I trusted the rough hands and the hair lined chest. I trusted the perfectly aligned teeth in his tight lipped mouth. I couldn't trust the eyes, though, for all the curiosity they sparked within me.

That's where faith steps in.

Uncharted waters are meant to be mapped.

Depths plumbed.

Storms played out.

Mysteries solved.

And I'm ready for an adventure.

Old Idioms


I have a confession to make:
I judge books by their covers

I can't help it. Some art is just awful, while others are inspiring.

At times, I have purchased books solely based on the cover art. Going in blind, so to speak, about the synopsis, the hook, the genre of the work. Very rarely am I disappointed. To be honest, I can't remember the last time my judgement has steered me wrong.

It's not personal to the author. I'm just visual by nature.

If you can capture my interest in your art work you have me as a reader. It's pretty simple. It doesn't matter if the book is hot off the presses or a dusted, fabric bound edition tucked away on the shelves of some forgotten store.

John Halifax, Gentleman by Miss Mulock, 1856
(Pictured, 1906)
There are some covers which are so visually appealing it hurts to walk away from them. Such as Chuck Palahniuk's Rant. I picked this book up in an airport just before a return flight in 2007. The dust jacket was stunning and piqued my interest immediately. Simply put: it sold itself. The story inside was, how do I put this delicately... intoxicatingly insane. As a writer my heart fills with envy whenever I think of Chuck's work.

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
New books come home with me when the cover is either a piece of art (like above), shows the character of the story (below), or is, at the very least, realistic. 


Source
We all know what it is like to look back on movies from the early stages of CGI and wince at the obvious flawed reality of what was once mesmerizing work (see Lord of the Rings). A book cover that's cheaply thrown together by less experienced hands is no different. It often leads to basic font choices (Papyrus), amateur Photoshop, and overall cringe-worthy design.

Books come with me nearly everywhere I go - in a busy life of work, writing, home remodel, and being a wife I have to take every opportunity that comes my way to read. This means I have to be seen in public with this book and all vanity rules dictate that just as my clothes are an extension of my personality, so too is the book in my hand. The imagery on the cover states to the world what my interests are and all the stereotypes that go with them. So I must choose wisely.

I will read any story worth my time in quality, but I will admit that if the cover looks like some kid in their mother's basement threw it together I'm going to pass and the story will be lost to me. I see this poor workmanship more often in eBooks than any other modality. It's cheap, it's easy, it's about quantity. With publishers popping out eBooks every hour it seems the art of the cover has been left to the wayside. The market has become over saturated with amazing pieces of work writers spent months compiling wrapped in a slipshod, repetitive themed digital blanket. I've even come across a "publisher" who offered the same cover art for multiple books!

I can't be the only one out there committing such sacrilege against publishing houses and their authors. So tell me:
What about a book's cover draws you in?