The Accidental Siren by Jake Vander Ark
The Prologue From The Day I Wore Purple
My very first novel is also the fourth book in *The Blank Canvas Series*.
Because it was my first book, the writing was pretty awful!
For the last few months, I’ve been knee-deep in an extensive re-write, and the following excerpt is the debut of the revised prologue. If you want to see how far I’ve come in three years, you can read the original prologue here: http://jakevanderark.com/2012/08/22/bts-the-day-i-wore-purple-original-prologue/
It was ninety years ago that they parted.
*Ninety years used to be a lifetime,* he thought. *Birth. Diapers. Training wheels. Twelve to sixteen years of education with playgrounds, fire drills, the smell of textbook ink and girls. Girls becoming women with bra snaps and lipstick and broken promises until “women” became “woman” and “woman” became “soul mate.” Apartment. Condo. House. She wants kids, so there’s a baby. Then a toddler. Then allowances, tuition, “the talk,” and roller skates left at the bottom of the stairs. Twenty odd jobs. One career. Briefcase, billfold, business trips without family until the beauty fades and the kids move on. Senses weaken. Days become shorter. Birthdays are a monotonous countdown and wrinkles indicate age like rings on a tree.*
But not anymore.
She said she would meet him beneath the oldest oak on The Island of La Grande Jatte, so the man found the tallest tree, spread out a blanket, removed his shoes, and waited.
The grass was cool between his toes. He raised his arm, relaxed his muscles, then laughed when gravity jerked it back to the blanket. He breathed in the potpourri of spring blossoms and rain. *Real smells*, he thought, then closed his eyes to focus his senses. There was a mechanical drone from the power plant in the east. Above his head, leaves brushed together like scraps of paper. The device on his arm created a rhythmic *tick tick tick*, and he knew they would finally share the same plane of time. (Was there anything more romantic?)
The man wondered if it would storm. He wondered if rain felt the same here as it did there. He wondered if it would be awkward when she arrived, if they would fall into their old rapport or find themselves scrambling to fill uncomfortable gaps. Would they hug? Would they kiss?
Would he call her “wife”?
When he opened his eyes, *she was there*, framed by the river and painted with light from the morning sun. Her body was trapped at twenty-five. Her shoulders carried thin purple straps of a cotton dress. A sketchpad fit naturally in the crook of her arm. Her eyes were grey again.
“Is it really you?” the man asked (a cliché, but he had to be sure).
She glanced down, patted her waist, chest, and cheeks, then shrugged. “I think it’s me.” She smiled again and joined him on the blanket. He remembered when her hair was black, blond, red, or midnight blue; today it was as brown as the trunk of their tree.
They shared a picnic; white wine, strawberries, and French baguettes with turkey, green apples, and Brie. Their usual rapport returned, slowly at first because the words felt like dust in their mouths. “’Dust’ is the only way to describe it,” she said, then crinkled her nose and bit her tongue.
When lunch was over, the woman brushed crumbs from her lap, opened her book, and sketched island details with a charcoal stick: The oak, the bench, the power plant on the hill. *Him.* Despite her lavish drawings of unmatched perfection, she crumpled every page and tossed them in the basket. “It’s not right,” she said.
“It never was,” he replied, then touched the inside of her thigh.
The rain arrived an hour later and smothered the morning with a humid, grey blanket. The couple didn’t care. They huddled beneath the same tree, knees to their chests, catching droplets on their tongues and kissing to keep warm.
Night came sooner than the man expected and they marveled at the routine of the here-and-now.
Her shoulder blades pressed against his chest. She pulled his arm around hers. “Do you ever think about ‘nothingness?’” she asked.
“I don’t think so.”
She squeezed his hand and snuggled deeper into his body. “Try it.”
“Close your eyes.”
“Are they closed?” She writhed in his arms to check.
“Now imagine a place without life… without time or space or thoughts…”
“…a place without planets or stars…”
He nodded again.
The woman’s voice became a whisper. *“No people. No God. Not even blackness.
*” She paused. “Do you feel anything?”
“I feel *you*.”
She sighed. “It works better beneath bedsheets… when everything’s quiet.”
“What’s supposed to happen?”
“When I think about it for long enough, I *feel* it. It’s like my mind can’t fathom the concept of absolute nothingness, and for a split second, I die. Then my brain reminds me where I am.”
“You want that feeling tonight?”
The woman shook her head. “No. Tonight is perfect.”
An hour later, the device on his wrist told him the day was almost done.
The man squeezed her tighter and ran his finger along the strap of her dress. In an age of endless memories, he used every ounce of his concentration—every molecule in his fingertip—to record the feeling of the tiny hairs on the woman’s bare back. Relationships would ebb and flow like a lackadaisical tide, life would try to divert his attention with the promise of *everything*, but it wouldn’t matter. He would remember this day forever.
If you want to know more about the story, or if you would like to follow
the notes from my rewrite process, check out the *The Day I Wore Purple* on
The Accidental Siren
Mara Lynn is the most beautiful girl in the world. James Parker is the ordinary boy who discovers her power.
The year is 1994. James, a pudgy twelve-year-old, responds to an ad for a used camcorder at a mysterious suburban home. Before he can knock on the door, he notices boys–a dozen at least–frozen amongst the trees behind the house. Their faces are blank. One boy presses “record” on a walkman and holds it above his head… and then James hears it, the voice of a little girl. Sweet; high like a songbird without the shrill. It was a church song. It came from inside the house.
James doesn’t know it yet, but the girl he’s about to meet is a modern-day siren.
About Jake Vander Ark
“What I really want to do is direct.”
Yeah, I was that kid.
I spent my high-school career as the ghost of the art room, passionately constructing a portfolio that would provide the first step toward a creative occupation. Luckily, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago didn’t consider GPA when selecting applicants, so I was immediately accepted into one of the most prestigious art programs in the country.
Unfortunately, the only thing I learned in art school was how much I hated art.
But I found myself! And that’s important, right?
I graduated with a BFA in 2006 and moved to Los Angeles to harness my dream of becoming the next Ingmar Bergman (thanks a lot, art school).
In LA, I began writing screenplays as a means to direct. I found a job reading screenplays for the same reason. I read a lot of crap. I wrote a lot of crap. But little did I know… I was learning.
In the three-year process of creating short films and pursuing funding for features, I learned that directing came naturally to me, but producing did not.
I wasn’t able to get a project off the ground. When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009, I moved back to my hometown of Grand Haven,
Michigan with nothing to show but three screenplays.
One day, while working as a stage manager for a national dance competition, I had an epiphany that only a repressed, depressed, living-with-his-parents artist could have: what if I wrote books? Unlike screenplays, a book is finished when it’s finished. When the final draft is complete, a book becomes a marketable product. If I work my butt off, maybe I could actually make money doing what I love!
I’m not a millionaire yet… but I did write four novels in three years and I’m proud of the accomplishment. Currently, I’m engaged to my soul-mate,
self-publishing all four books, and developing a sequel to The Accidental Siren.
Dreams, here I come.
For a chance to win 2 custom designed v-neck t-shirts from Bare Tree Apparel, 2 pairs of Mara Lynn’s purple earrings from jewelry designer Allison Perkins, 2 signed and numbered paperbacks of The Accidental Siren, 1 Skype date with the author. One-on-one video, audio, or text chat with Jake, 4 paperbacks of The Accidental Siren, 2 ebooks of Lighthouse Nights and 2 ebooks of The Brandywine Prophet – enter The Accidental Siren Book Tour Giveaway.