There are some people who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results.
TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER details characters in life situations for which they are emotionally or mentally unprepared. Their methods of coping range from the passive (“The Healer”) and the aggressive (“The Clock”) to the humorous (“Traveling Left of Center”) and hopeful (“Skating on Thin Ice”).
The eighteen stories in TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER depict those types of situations, from the close calls to the disastrous. Not all the stories have happy endings—like life, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.
In these stories, the characters’ choices—or non-choices—are their own. But the outcomes may not be what they anticipated or desired. Will they have time to correct their course or will they crash?
Published: September 9, 2014
TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER Story teasers
(From “Waiting for Sara”)
“Mom, it’s Sara.”
Her voice was distorted by the miles of wire separating us—how many miles I could only guess.
“Where are you?”
So many of our conversations began like that, with Sara making contact, and me, desperately trying to keep that contact alive, sending out my love like a rope to bind her to me.
“Things haven’t been goin’ too good here.” Her voice was slurred—drink or drugs, I couldn’t tell.
“Sara.” My voice sharpened with worry. “Tell me where you are. Are you okay?”
“Cool, Ma.” Her voice faded away, and then came back again. “So what’s happenin’?”
“I’d love to see you, Sara. Tell me where you are, and I’ll come get you. Or give me your number and I’ll call you back.”
The phone company could trace a number, I thought. I’ll tell them it’s an emergency. I’ll tell them we were cut off. We were cut off. Between my daughter and me, there was a chasm deeper than the Great Divide. And every spar I threw across fell to the bottom, the echoes endlessly crashing through my life.
“My father was a painter,” Annabelle had said—was it at the second session or the third?—“and my mother would pose for him.”
Annabelle remembered watching her father paint in the cold, clear light filtering into his studio. He used canvas and oils the way God had used clay, creating life from inanimate objects. The walls of the house were hung with his paintings—those his agent could not convince him to release—and everywhere Annabelle looked, her mother’s dark eyes would follow her, glowing on the canvas.
Sometimes, after a long session in the studio, her mother would be pale and weak, barely able to stand, so colorless that one would think her a ghost. The portraits, by contrast, were pulsing with life. Annabelle had feared that her father was drawing the very lifeblood from her mother, leaving behind an empty shell.
And yet, her mother gloried in the attention, willingly changing herself into any figure her husband desired, just to be able to stand there, caught by his passion, while he painted.
His work sold quite well in galleries across the country, but even if it had not, her father would have continued to paint, and her mother to pose.
And Annabelle-the-child would be standing, somewhere just outside their line of sight, watching. And waiting.
About the Author:
Nancy Christie is a professional writer, whose credits include both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to her fiction collection, TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER, and two short story e-books, ANNABELLE and ALICE IN WONDERLAND(all published by Pixel Hall Press), her short stories can be found in literary publications such as EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and Xtreme.
Her inspirational book, THE GIFTS OF CHANGE, (Beyond Words/Atria) encourages readers to take a closer look at how they deal with the inevitability of change and ways in which they can use change to gain a new perspective, re-evaluate their goals and reconsider their options. Christie’s essays have also appeared in Woman’s Day, Stress-Free Living, Succeed, Experience Life, Tai Chi and Writer’s Digest. She is currently working on several other book projects, including a novel and a book for writers.
A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG), Christie teaches workshops at writing conferences and schools across the country and hosts the monthly Monday Night Writers group in Canfield, Ohio.
Finding Fran http://www.nancychristie.com/findingfran
The Writer’s Place http://www.nancychristie.com/writersplace/
One on One http://www.nancychristie.com/oneonone/
Make a Change http://www.nancychristie.com/makeachange/
Social media links:
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/NChristie_OH @NChristie_OH
Q&A with Nancy Christie
The characters in the stories all seem a little (in some case, a lot!) wounded or vulnerable. What draws you to write about these types of characters?
I’m not entirely sure. It’s not like I set out to write stories about odd, eccentric or unstable people. It’s just, for some reason, I am drawn to those types of people—perhaps it’s one of those “There, but for the grace of God” things.
My fiction—or at least, my short fiction—tends to be about people who are damaged in some way—by what they have done to themselves or by what was done to them, by what they have received, what they gave up, or what was taken from them. They are, for the most part, struggling to navigate through dangerous waters. Some survive and move forward toward land, some are just treading water, and some don’t even know that they have lost the battle and are, even now, drowning.
I feel sorry for those people, wish I could do something for them, and perhaps, in the writing of their stories, that is what I am doing. Because somewhere out there, there is a real person who is held in thrall by his or her obsessions, who is controlled by past or present circumstances, who wants to live a happy, normal, balanced life but finds that the tightrope of life vibrates too much and maintaining equilibrium is but a dream.
“Dream”—and there it is again. The idea of what we want and what we have. For some of us—perhaps for most of us—the former is the dream and the latter is the reality and never the twain shall meet.
Dreams and dreaming figure into several of your stories—“Misconnections” and “Beautiful Dreamer,” to name two. Did you “dream” these stories? And what kind of dream history do you have?
Actually, ever since I was little, I have been an active dreamer. The description of her children’s nocturnal activities in “Misconnections” is taken from my own life. I was (and, when I am very tired or stressed, still am) a sleepwalker and sleep-talker, and prone to dreams that are so real that, when I wake up, I’m not entirely sure if it was a dream or not! And sometimes, the images in the dreams do end up being part of a story. As a matter of fact, the dream image the character has of the little child in “Misconnections” came from one of my own dreams! Unfortunately, I am unable to dream on command—if I could, I would have lots more stories!
Why do you write fiction?
To understand what I see or feel or am going through. To serve as a conduit for imagined characters whose voices are as loud to me as those of real people. To play with “what if” without exposing myself to any real danger—physical, mental, emotional, psychic. To escape—but I’m not sure if it’s a case of “escaping to” or “escaping from”! To get it out to make more room for new “its”—while fearing all the time that there are no more “its” left to make room for!
When do you usually write: are you a morning writer, late night writer, any-time-you-can-grab-a-minute writer?
I am at my most creative first thing in the morning. For years, I kept to a 30-minute a day writing schedule, heading into my office with my second cup of coffee by 5:30 (that’s AM, not PM!) and working on fiction. Lately, though, my schedule has been in flux and my writing has been temporarily shunted off to one side. Bad, bad Nancy!
Where do you do most of your writing?
I’d love to say that I write on some special paper in some special notebook using some special pen but the reality is I am a keyboard writer. I hate to transcribe and sometimes can’t even read my own notes, so I write using the computer. But most of the times, the ideas for the story come when I am far from my electronic secretary. I’m out on a run or mowing the lawn or driving along somewhere and, for no reason whatsoever, the opening lines of dialogue fill my mind and it’s off to the races! Sometimes, if it will be awhile before I can get back to the computer, I have to stop myself from going too far lest I forget all the good parts!
What stimulates your creativity or serves as a writing inspiration?
I wish I knew what triggers my writing! Then I would make sure I had more of it! Probably dialogue—most of my stories start with conversations—between two people or internal ones—so probably a good round of eavesdropping can really start the mind running.
Conversely, what creates a major writer’s block for you?
Thinking about what other writers—writers younger than me!—have accomplished. Worrying that some reviewer will consider my fiction amateurish or boring. Even getting good reviews scares me a bit—they are so complimentary that I start wondering if they were talking about some other Nancy Christie who wrote some other really great book!
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? The least?
I like just about all of it, except for the final round of nitty-gritty, fine-tuning of the manuscript. When I was doing the last round of edits for TRAVELING on the advanced reader copy, I started to doubt whether the stories were any good or if I was just fooling myself. Then I started imagining someone reading them and life for awhile was very unpleasant. The only thing that saved me was reading what other writers said about their thoughts and fears at various stages of the process and realized that we all worried about the same stuff. Writer stuff. Self-doubt stuff. Marketing stuff. Stuff stuff!
Do you have a theme you return to time and again?
Probably change. I mean, that is the constant we all face, isn’t it? We are only fooling ourselves if we think we can control everything that happens to us. So, that being the case, what do we do? How do we handle change—happy change, sad change, confusing change? That’s the predicament my characters find themselves in.
What is the next project you have in the works?
I’d like to get back to my first novel, FINDING FRAN—polish it up and send it out to get an agent. Then work on my book for and about writers, which was inspired by the interviews I do on my blogs. And write more short fiction. And pull together a second fiction collection. And maybe go back to the children’s series I started on years ago. Lots of plans—we’ll see what gets done first!
What marketing strategies have you used to promote your books?
Blogging. Interviews. Press releases. Social media. Blog tours such as this one! Whatever I need to do to make people aware of what I’ve written.
I hope everyone will take the time to connect with Nancy and explore her fictional world.
Thanks for reading. 🙂