Thursday, April 4, 2013


One of the basics of an author's platform is winning awards for their writing. Sounds exciting..."We are pleased to announce that your submission has been selected as an award winner for our competition." Every writer looks forward to those kinds of notifications.
However, the flip side to that is "We appreciate your submission, and regret to inform you..." You can imagine the rest. I don't generally get too upset over these rejections because sometimes you can get valuable feedback and learn what is not working in your writing.
I have recently received a few of these "we regret to inform you..." responses without any feedback and I can not in good conscious just assume I didn't appeal to a particular judge. I am posting two of my recent rejections on my blog today in the hopes that a few of you will give me some feedback and what you thought wasn't working. This is an open forum and I will gratefully accept all feedback but I will moderate the comments on the blog. honest but behave as well.

Dead Wrong
Tyler focuses his eyes on the pale line circling her finger; the absence of her wedding ring pricks at him, his chest a tight burn. “So, how have you been?”
Her long, graceful hands pause as she stops fumbling with the lid of her coffee cup. “I’m…good. I mean it’s been…hard, but I’m doing fine.”
Steam rises from their cups into the crisp morning air of the uncrowded sidewalk café. She sits across from him, and he longs to reach through the blank spaces between them and take her hands. He sees the memory of the first time they met in her warm eyes, and he casts his gaze back to his untouched coffee. “I’m sorry, Caroline. I don’t mean to cause you pain.”
“You don’t, Ty. I mean you didn’t.” Her hands cover his for a moment, and he offers her a half-hearted smile. “I haven’t seen you since you investigated Matt’s accident. It was just a surprise when you wanted to meet for coffee?”
Tyler sighs and leans back into the sharp angles of the metal chair. I hate this part of being a cop. The thought almost escapes his mouth. If she only knew how often he’d thought of her since they’d met. How often he’d dreamed about her thick chestnut-colored curls and emerald eyes.
“The accident.” Tyler discards his previous thoughts. “I called because I need to talk to you about Matt’s accident.”
Even the oxygen around him stiffens, as Caroline pushes her chair away from him. The grating of metal on concrete reverberates in his head and he braces his nerves; watching her wrap her arms in a vise around her stomach.
“Do we really have to? I have finally been able to get on with my life. I have a good job, a nice apartment, and Wyatt and I are… together. I don’t want to relive Matt’s death just for old time’s sake.”
A blush of scarlet floods her cheeks and Tyler feels his expression betray the pounding of his heart.
“Neither do I,  so let’s talk about Wyatt.”  He retrieves a folder, overflowing with paperwork and tosses it on the wrought iron table between them. “Wyatt Callahan, a.k.a. Wyatt Carver, a.k.a. Wayne Carver…” Her almond -shaped eyes are wide and she takes the folder and begins to read. “I knew he was a foster kid. Matt always said he had no real family.”
“Maybe when he was a kid, Caroline, but look at his convictions. Assault, domestic disturbance, assault with a deadly weapon.”
Caroline looks up from the file. Her eyes are wary, but Tyler remains stoic beneath her scrutiny.
“I know he had a tough time for a while, but by the time he and Matt ended up as roommates in college; all that was behind him.”
Tyler leans forward and flips a few pages, then jabs his finger at one.
“He’s been following you since you moved here for college; trying to be where you are. I found an old roommate who says he would take his laundry to the laundro-mat where you did yours, even though he had a machine in his apartment.” Caroline’s sharp intake of breath cracks like lightening in the cool morning breeze.
Tyler tastes betrayal bitter in her words. “That’s where Matt and I first met him.”
“Being roommates with Matt was part of his plan to get between the two of you.  When he couldn’t break you up, Wyatt set up the attack that broke Matt’s collar bone. I tracked down the mother of the guy Wyatt got to mug Matt on his morning run. He told her he was hired to kill him, not break his collar bone. Two days after his confession; the kid died from a questionable drug overdose.” Caroline’s creamy complexion goes ashen as she returns to reading, her hands beginning to tremble.  
“No, that was an accident…just an accident.”
“That car falling on Matt was no accident. Something about it has always bothered me.”
“What? Weren’t there witnesses who said they didn’t see anyone by the pit when the car rolled into it? I thought the investigation showed that the gear slipped.”
Tyler runs his fingers through his thick blond hair; blowing out a defeated breath. “That’s what we thought too.  Then when I took casts of all the footprints in the bay, and I could account for every person and their whereabouts…except for one print with a strange pattern. I found it again outside of the crime scene.”
Caroline looks as if she is drowning.  Like a desperate swimmer she lifts her chin and gulps for air. He is sure this will sink her into the same darkness he saw in her eyes the day of Matt’s death. Her features remain impassive, and Tyler softens his tone. “Every person was sequestered after the accident behind crime scene tape. I should not have found a matching print for that shoe outside of the shop.”
She faces him; her expression hard and furious. Her gaze darts between him and the report in front of her, while she articulates her questions.  “Someone murdered Matt? Can you prove it was Wyatt?”
“This is the cause of the unknown shoe.”  Tyler flips another page to a set of black and white photographs.  He watches as her fingers trace over the gritty replica. “It’s an orthopedic shoe. This person is missing three toes on the          left foot. The imprint shows the difference in tread.” Caroline’s eyes brimmed with realization. She looks askance at the photo of a frost bitten foot beside the one of the casting. “That’s a picture from Wyatt’s medical file at The Baldwin Juvenile Detention Center. “
“I know.” She nods, shoves the file back toward him and wipes at her eyes. “He told me how he lost three of his toes when he lived on the streets. “
“No Caroline. He assaulted a guard during transport and he escaped the detention center. He lost the toes after he spent three days in a snowstorm.”
Caroline shakes her head; staring blankly down into her cold coffee.
“Tyler. You’re telling me…I’m dating my stalker? Not just my stalker, but a man who stalked me, killed my husband, and is now sharing my bed?”
Tyler feels his stomach lurch with her words. He knows the pallor of her skin advertises the riot of emotions this information sets off inside of her. Taking her hands in his, Tyler leans closer to calm her. She flinches back from his touch and he watches her eyes turn to those of a cornered animal.
“This is the last thing I wanted to have to talk to you about. I wanted to close the investigation, put it all to rest and convince you to get on with your life with…” The end of his statement refuses to leave his tongue. “With someone who makes you happy.” Caroline’s facial features crumple, like she wears a mask made of tissue. “I don’t relish ruining your life every time we meet.”
Her expression registers confusion; her brow furrowing as she tries to comprehend. “Do you have enough evidence to arrest him?”
Tyler purses his lips, refusing to let go of her hands. “He was picked up an hour ago.”
“And I will be safe now?” Tears flood her cheeks, and Tyler releases her hands long enough to brush them away with his thumb. “That’s why I’m here. No one is perfectly safe from their stalker, but it helps if you’ve got a cop on your side.”
“Matt’s case is closed now,” she says, clutching at his firm hold on her. “Your job is done.”
“You have never been a job for me. It started that way, but I did this investigation on my own.”
“Because that footprint bothered you?”
“No,” he says tucking a loose curl behind her ear. “Because I couldn’t stand the thought of you with Wyatt.”
She laughs, a mirthless sound; glancing around at the other patrons of the café.  “I wish my instincts were as good as yours when it comes to people.”
“Stick with me,” he says, wrapping both arms around her body, stiff against his chest. “I’ll show you a good man who would never do anything to hurt you.” 
 Falling For You

 Blood oozes from his fingertips and drips off  his knuckles where he grasps the jagged rock. Cody’s knees and feet are frantic as they search for a toe hold or ridge  to rest his weight on. His mind scrambles for an explanation, What went wrong? What am I going to do?   He blows A GULP of air out of his mouth and calms his racing thoughts. Idiot. This climb is way beyond your skill level. Cody feels  the lump in his stomach rise into his throat with the faltering of his hold on the cliff. Relax, just let go and repel the 80 feet to the bottom. The anchor and bolt securing the nylon safety-rope  rip free of the sandstone cliff, and his thoughts break off as he hears the brutal grind of metal and stone. The screeching protest of the rock climbing equipment flying over the edge to drop far below,suspends all motion and thought.  He stares, eyes wide, the bitter taste of bile in his throat. Don’t let go.”  Instinct and adrenaline  bring the thought up from his paralyzed consciousness.  “Leila?” his voice is  a more shrill sound   than the twisted metal  being torn from the rock. Dangling,  His entire weight suspended by only the muscles in his arms and shoulders, Cody strains to see into the fading light at the top of the escarpment. The sinking sun silhouettes her form in answer to his confusion. he gapes at the small metal hammer she clasps in her hand. “Leila?  get the  rope …lower it to me… can’t hang on …much longer.”
                “Why would I do that Cody?” her musical voice lilts. “When I just worked so hard to make sure it would not help you.”
Cody’s heart thuds like an iron fist against his ribs. Sweat pours into his eyes and her figure blurs  Shaking his head to clear his vision is too much movement;He hangs now. He does  not possess the strength to fight the rock, and he knows a frantic search for too distant hand and footholds will deplete his waning strength. “Leila, help me.” it was a desperate plea; she did this to him, but what else could he do?
                “Jared warned me about you.”, The steel edge of her voice cuts him with her words. “He told me that you’re planning on killing me. All the drugs and treatments. They aren’t to help me. They are to weaken me until you can be rid of me.” The blast of searing pain from Cody’s chest stole all voice and his arms began to shake with the exertion.   Jared…is back?...How long?”?”
                “What difference does that make? He explained everything. This rock climbing trip wasn’t a special treat for my birthday. You don’t care about rock climbing. You don’t care about me.” pacing the top of the cliff above him Cody hears the shuffle of her shoes against the rock as dust and debris rained down all around him. “…don’t care about climbing,” Cody admits, the words a mere whisper as the muscles in his chest constrict around his lungs. “Jared’s right.…drugs n’ treatments weaken…,not you,..”
“How can you say that. If you aren’t weakening me; then why the drugs?”
“…weakening  him.”
“Him?...Him who?” Her voice is sounding far away and she stops pacing. Cody presses his palms deeper into the  contours of the stone Hanging by his will alone. His body aches so deeply he can no longer feel the sharp edges of the stone beneath his still form. The blood seeping from his torn and tired fingers pulses and pounds with every breath until his body cries out for release. Heaving one last gulp of air Cody raises his protesting muscles to look at her. “Jared.” He chokes. “…weaken Jared.”
                In the faltering light cody can’t  see her expression; he imagines her delicate, ivory skin flushed and her teeth gritted. “Jared is the only one who looks out for me, How could doing this to me help? How DOES DRUGGING ME HURT Jared?”
                Cody hears the ting of the steel hammer head before he feels its iron edge slice into the knuckles of his right hand. Bouncing off to hit his back and then drop to the distant ground, to land on the rope. The sensation was slight against the pain already screaming through his iron grip, but the sting of its impact weakens what is left of HIS hold, and his right hand falls  useless from where he gripped the rock. Clutching now with only his left hand Cody tries to lift his lifeless right hand back to hold the crimson cliff. He feels the shock of raw nerve pain pierce his shoulder and the fingers of his left hand start to slip. “Ask yourself,” he gasps. “can you see Jared … or  just hear him talking? Does…Does he say…everybody wants to kill you??”
                Leila‘s deep breathing is the only sound to find his ears until he hears the tearing  of flesh, and realizes blood is pouring from the palm of his hand. “Jared… notreal. …a hallucination. Take your meds …he leaves.” Cody felt the diminishing tendrils of strength retreat as his body fills with another heated surge   of agony. he raises his head to look into Leila’s watery eyes. “You have schizophrenia…Jared‘s not real.”
Numb and aching from exertion, Cody’s vision begins to darken, but he sees realization settle like a storm cloud in Leila’s eyes. ‘I’m…he’s not…Cody?”
The tips of his fingers feel  as if they are broken off and Cody groans. his lifeless limbsslide  across the stone; leaving a  bloody handprint . The last sound in Cody’s ears as he feels a cold emptiness is the shreak of a piercing cry. Did I scream or did she? His mind wonders while he plummets into blackness.


  1. Hi Traci, I think these stories would be more effective told in the past tense instead of the present tense. Good luck.

  2. Love the present tense because it keeps tension and movement in the story. You did a good job of capturing my attention with both. :) You already get enough of my critiques through our exchanges. Love the story plots your brilliant brain comes up with. :)