A reader wrote in yesterday asking: "I don't quite understand this experiment of serializing a novel online. If I can read it online for free why would I buy the book?
The writer asks a good question and before today's installment of Seeing Red, I think it's important address it.
Serialization of a novel online is an experiment in digital storytelling. It's a new way to bring a book to people's attention on the internet. You might decide to read on-line, for free, but at some point you might very well decide to buy the physical book, so that you can read it in the bathtub. OR you might decide to buy the book, in print or in electronic form, so that you can read it at your own pace. Many of Seeing Red's readers raced through the book, finishing the novel in a matter of two or three days.
Also, if people really started flocking to a website for a particular book (i.e. if an author became very popular on-line) then a website could theoretically at least pay the author for the rights to the book (and collect revenue through ads.)
There is another possibility: we may decide to serialize the first ten chapters, or the first 20, and then tell people that if they want to keep reading they have to buy the book either electronically or in print form.
Starting today, we are posting the first installment of a second novel, The Spiritkeeper, by Lynn Biederstadt, on MyStoryLives.
Here is the next installment of Seeing Red:
"In the Vacuum, She Sees a Filigree"
Dr. Fearon sets her mug of tea carefully on the cork coaster, picks up a box of tissues from the sleek mahogany desk and hands them to Ronda.
"Tell me something, Ronda. What exactly would you like to see happen?"
Ronda tips her head back and forth, in slow motion and reaches for another tissue. "I don't know. That's the trouble with me, I'm not sure anymore."
Her head, so heavy, so full, is resting on the palm of one hand. She is studying the filigree on the floor, following it carefully with her eyes. Light in patterns. She is glad to see the light there. Surely, light like that, in delicate and complex patterns, is a good sign.
"Ronda?" The doctor places her fingertips together.
"Where were you just now?"
Ronda sits up straighter in the chair.
"I was just thinking that I'm not sure what I want to happen. I don't have a clue."
"Yes, you said that. But I'm curious. What were you thinking about just now?"
Again her eyes go to the carrot hair, to the splatter of coffee brown freckles. To the crisp blue eyes. 'I could say that I am thinking about the filigree, but what will that prove?' She turns her eyes away, faces the white paneled office door, the door she has passed through so many times in the last seven months.
One week, the week after the abortion, she couldn't stop crying, she was here, in this red maroon leather chair, four times. Now, now that she has started taking the blue pills every morning, she can deal with coming here once a week.
"I'm tired this morning. I'm wondering if I should leave."
Dr. Fearon glances at her wristwatch. "Well, you have a full half hour left. But it's up to you. I certainly can't stop you, but I would encourage you to stay and say whatever it is that's on your mind."
The doctor's voice is kind, reassuring. Patient. She may never cure me, Ronda thinks, but she is nice to talk to. In the next moment, something else occurs to her: this session is costing good money.
She will stay and she will say simply what feels all right to say. She will say something completely safe. She stares into the light that is making the filigree. What she notices is that the rays crossing at an angle to the pine floor are filled with dust. Dust that looks to be in constant motion. Seeing that dust, she thinks, 'I'm going to have to get the house cleaned, somehow I have to find a way to hire somebody to come in, because I will die if I inhale all that dust.' But she can't just sit here and talk about dust.
"I'm thinking right now about Jack. How things have gotten better between us."
"Yes, they have. Why do you say that?"
"I guess maybe because he's off on his own, enjoying Vassar, really growing up there. Whatever, I think he's come around, he's accepted the divorce."
"And so you don't think he's as angry as he was."
Ronda dabs at her eyes with a fresh Kleenex. "He was just impossible last summer. You'd think I had killed his father."
"Well, maybe he did see it that way."
Ronda's jaw drops. Her heart stutters, feels for a moment as though it might stop. She casts a dark frown across the desk. 'How can you say that?' she thinks. 'I am paying you money I don't have, to help me, and you say that to me?'
"I...I think that is terribly unfair of you to say..." Ronda's hands are trembling, and her palms damp. Her gaze freezes on the doctor's bright red hair.
"All I'm saying is that from his point of view, the world did come apart. The life he'd always known came to a halt. It was something you had to do, of course, but he couldn't see it that way. Not then anyway. But now that has changed."
"Thank God," Ronda mutters. She sits quietly, staring out at the oak tree, its smallest branches whipping in the spring wind. She feels raw, beaten. Even here, talking to Dr. Fearon, a place where she thought she was safe, even here, she sometimes feels scared and uncertain.
"Is it just Jack, though, Ronda? Is there anything else?"
Ronda's eyes close. She knows where the doctor wants her to go and she has already said once before today that she would just as soon not go there. To the bare space in her bed at night. To the silent phone.
To the night three weeks ago when she drove Jesús into town, to catch the bus. What a way to say goodbye. Not even in a proper bus station, but at the corner drug store, where the Bonanza leaves twice daily, once in the morning, and once at night, at 6:45. Right on schedule it pulled up and Ronda had her final goodbye, a kiss on the forehead, a peck on the lips, a brief squeeze of her shoulders.
And then Jesús turned and lifted his gear and mounted the steps, the guitar in one hand, the black duffel swinging from his elbow. He swiveled and for a split second he paused on the bus steps, touching his fingers to his lips, but before he could actually throw the kiss, the door of the bus closed, a mean squeeze. A compression of rubber and hinge.
Ronda cringed, waved a limp hand at no one, at the dirty window of the door, and then everything slowed, the bus paused, geared, lurched forward, and then her heart lurched too. In the next moment, the silver giant departed in a blast of grey exhaust.
"Ronda, where are you? You keep drifting away today."
"I'm here. I guess I'm just tired of talking about things."
She thinks maybe she shouldn't talk anymore. She'd rather sing. Just walk around the room bellowing "Jardín de Belleza," one of Jesús' favorite songs.
"It isn't easy to talk about...things, certain things."
"I know that Ronda. I suppose I am pushing you a little. But it seems to me that you've been avoiding talking, really talking, for a long time. I know you want to feel better, to sort things out, but it's hard if you don't confront what's really bothering you."
"OK. I need help cleaning the house. It's too much, feeling this way. There's just too much dust and with the asthma..." Ronda blurts out the lines in a rush, thinking she must sound ridiculous but not caring a bit.
"Can you hire somebody to clean for you?"
"Sure, if I get a job. The problem is always money."
"What about hiring a high school student to clean for you? Maybe you could post an ad somewhere."
"Maybe." She shrugs. " I'll see."
She is thinking about the dust in the rugs and the chairs disappearing without her having to lift a finger, and then she thinks about somebody cleaning the tub. The sprinkle of blue chlorinated cleanser in the white porcelain tub. The smell of bleach.
That's when the pink water begins forming, pooling, circling around the drain. A pain arises, at first unfocused. Then it lodges between her eyes, in her throat, in her chest right above where her heart rests.
Stay tuned for the next installment on Thursday, March 10, 2011. To read all previous chapters go to Seeing Red on Huff Post.