Wednesday, August 28, 2013

For The Peanut Gallery

One of the complaints I get about my blog is a request for more stories. A "Professional Blog" is supposed to focus on the intricate aspects of writing. As my mother would say- "Oh, Pook."
What's a writer to do?
My solution is this: A while ago, I wrote a fictional story of how my husband and I met. Key word being FICTION.. It was just for fun.
On the last week of each month I will post a chapter from the manuscript titled: Why You Should Love A Man Who Loves An Ugly Car
A mouthful I know, so it will be Ugly Car week instead. This is the first week where you will meet our characters. Enjoy, and remember I can use feedback.

Bra’s and panties flew in a fabric flurry. Alex didn’t think she was a particularly organized person by any stretch of the imagination, but this afternoon she was a veritable tornado of packing. Charles had called, begging her to meet him in New York. Clearly, she couldn’t waste time worrying about what to take; just that he wanted her.  Hands quivering with the adrenaline coursing through her bloodstream, Alex shoved random bits of clothing into the over sized suitcase.  Was she nervous? The high pitched buzzing in her ears must be the result of finally getting what she wanted. Her heart pounded like a trapped bird against her ribs. New York City, the sound of the words sent her blood racing anew.   
Grasping her running shoes from the floor of her closet, she stuffed them into the corners of the case. She skirted into the bright bathroom attached to her room, looking around. 
Her thoughts leapfrogged between the items scattered across the counter. I need: my toothbrush, my make-up, my hair brush…
Her mind wandered as she stared at her reflection in the glass. Her thick, silky blond hair and blue-green eyes seemed pale in the overhead light. The weakness of the image only reminded her of insecurities. Narrowing her gaze at the bright mirror, Alex mentally scolded her reflection.
This was the response you hoped for when he left. Now he wants you. You shouldn’t be falling apart over a tiny nervous flutter in the pit of your stomach. 
The slight creak of her bedroom door broke her away from the reflected image. Her mother was peering around the wooden white washed surface.  Tricia McConnell’s warm, dark eyes narrowed, the laugh lines at their corners furrowing themselves deeper into her skin.
      “Lexi, honey? Is everything all right?”
“Its fine, Mom.”  Returning to the exploding bag, she tossed her toiletries on top.
Alex began her battle to close the bulging contents.
Tricia walked to her daughter’s side and quickly rearranged the overstuffed suitcase before pressing her palms against the top.  Clicking the battered clasps closed with a flip of her practiced hands, she secured the lid.
 Alex stood, watching helplessly knowing her mother was going to want a more detailed explanation of her panicked packing. There wasn’t anything she could offer that would make this abrupt departure easier.
“Can I help?”
“It’s all done, Mom.” She said a little too cheerily, “I’m just in a hurry. I have to go across town to Jay’s shop to talk to him about my ticket. I have to drive two hours southbound on I-15 through a thunderstorm to Las Vegas International Airport. Not to mention, I have to find my way through crowded rush hour traffic, and the maze of airport parking.” Alex’s voice turned weary as she blew out a frazzled breath. “It’s just a lot to do…”
        Tricia’s eyebrows rose in consternation but her mouth remained pursed.  Alex pulled the suitcase off of her comforter, attempting a wan smile.
     “I’ve got to get this to my car,” she said still not looking her mother in the eye.  “Sooo…”
    Avoiding her mother’s gaze, Alex concentrated on the wheels of the enormous case.  She could feel the cold stream of terse lectures drizzling from her mother’s thoughts even as they found no pool of voice to rest upon.
Making only scant progress out the bedroom door, Alex struggled with the heedless wheels of the luggage. She imagined her mother silently commanding the thick fibers of the rug to tangle more tightly, halting her frantic escape from their unspoken    conversation.
She wrestled the case around where her mother was perched on the end of the bed until Tricia’s hand pressed against her trembling arm. 
     “Are you sure this is what you want?”
      “I’ve got doubt, Mom,” She said. “I need you to let me go find out if he’s ‘the one.’”
     Alex shook off her mother’s hand. As she dragged her luggage through the house to the garage door, she realized her mother was not following her. The Crack of lightening across the dim interior of the garage, jolted her nerves.  Its stabbing presence echoed a sense of impending loneliness in her heart.
     Is this what you want?
     The question crossed her mind as quickly as the thunder outside faded into the distance.  Alex focused on her battle stowing the large bag in her Camry’s narrow trunk. The last thing she needed was to give doubt room to conjure up answers.
     “Let me help, sweetie.” Tricia startled her when she suddenly appeared at her side, lending her weight to the manipulation of the bag.
     “Thanks, Mom.”
     “That’s alright, I…”  Tricia’s voice broke off as she looked at Alex.
Offering her mother a shaky smile, Alex saw the downpour of questions flashing in Tricia’s eyes.
     She’d been working on her mother’s computer when Charles called. Their brief conversation was the catalyst for this last minute flight of fancy. Tricia stood by for Alex’s side of the exchange, but now, she had only enough information to panic.
     “I was just wondering where you will be and for how long? In case I need to get a hold of you…”
     Alex scowled bitterly at the seemingly innocent question and then sharply retorted, “Mom if you need me for anything just call me on my phone or post a message on my page. I don’t have time to explain. I have to go.”
     Tricia’s dark eyes momentarily blackened and then her mouth twisted brutally. The expression would have been comical if Alex had not known it was her mother’s way of controlling her quick tempered tongue. As Tricia’s features released themselves into calmer reactions, she shook her head slowly, clearing her throat.
     “Okay honey, but can I at least ask you for a favor?”
     Alex fought the urge to glower at her mother once more. Instead, she nodded before casting a glance toward mottled gray thunderheads beyond the open garage door.
     “I was wondering if I could ask you to do something for me on your flight. I have a bunch of my journal entries I’m trying to go through.  I’d like to know if you think I could use them in my book.”
    Tricia had been writing her entire life; only for her family and friends.  Now that Alex’s younger brother Kale was thirteen and Alexandra was in college studying to become a writer herself, Tricia was writing again too. , Alex was helping by going through some of her stories in preparation for writing a memoir. Her mother’s ‘favor’ sounded like an apology. Alex frowned as Tricia rambled on.
  “Your flight will probably be eight hours or more. do you think you could do some reading for me?”
The question was posed softly, but her mother’s own faltering faith irritated Alex.
If she was just more confident, I wouldn’t have to be her part-time editor! She thought. 
Instead, she grabbed the manila envelope she saw tucked under Tricia’s arm,  cramming it like a bad report card into her shoulder bag.
     “Of course, Mom,” she said with a brisk hug, “I’ve got to go.”
     Tricia nodded, releasing a weak smile.
     “The entries are all dated, but I took out the year. It is written just on the heading of the front page.”
     Alex wrinkled her brow in question, as her mother blushed.
     “Nobody wants to know how old I am, that’s all.”      Alex tried not to laugh at her mother’s show of vanity as she climbed into the car. Before starting the engine, she glanced back in the mirror at her mom’s strained features. Alex wish she had more to tell her parents about her plans with Charles, but even she wasn’t sure.  Easing from the driveway and out of sight, she pulled onto the street.  A gust of furious wind pushed her toward Jay’s shop, and away from an oncoming storm.
     The sky boiled beyond the car windows and her heart echoed its protests. A sense of dark, foreboding slid down her spine.
     “What are you about to do?” she whispered.

Jay swiped at the cloud of dust Alex’s car left in his parking lot. Watching her tail lights vanish into the storm, he spit the red dirt from his mouth. There were so many questions he should have asked her before he just let her go.  Instinctively he knew that her hesitation meant she had questions of her own she hadn’t asked herself.
The whine of the grinder resuming its attack on the mini-van meant he shouldn’t worry about her right now. Turning away, he trudged back to the welder inside the open bay door. Shutting her disappearing car out of his sight didn’t help. His legs begged him to run after her. Jay strapped his welder’s mask back on.  Blue light hummed from the tip as he ignited the flame, along with the ache in his chest. All the things he wanted to scream at her ricocheted around in his mind.
Don’t run off with this guy, Alex.
You’re too good for him.
Stay. Stay here with me.
His shoulders burned from the hours holding the welder. His back protested every tick of the clock. His heart bled with every mile she put between them
He knew he would have to call Dan Caldwell. He’d known it when she asked him for the money to buy her ticket. It should have been too much, but when it came to Alex- there was no such thing.
Jay finished the bead of steel he’d formed on the van’s fender. She could never know. He didn’t want her like that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blowing Shakespeare Through A French Horn

Perhaps because I am knee deep in the 500 th edit of my new manuscript, or perhaps because I enjoy Brian Klens writing. When I read his blog on dialect and dialogue I was struck by his description of trying to force awkward or overdone dialect into dialogue. It is like trying to blow Shakespeare through a french horn.
That particular image brought a smile to my face. It also took on new meaning in my writing.
-When I'm writing a story to try to fit into a certain genre.
-When I am reviewing a book and didn't enjoy the story.
-When I don't "Know" the experience I am writing, and I can't feel it either.
-When I'm reading and should be writing.
-When I'm writing and should be outlining.
As writers we are also creatives. Our imaginations, experiences, emotions, and illusions need space to roam.
Much the same as the music from the french horn must wrap it's tone and timing around the soul. Your words must be free to travel their own paths.
Much as the characters and scenery of Shakespeare cannot be embraced in lyrical notation. Neither can characters and setting be dug straight out of research.
One of the best pieces of advice I got from a writer was:
"No writer can or does "Know" every situation their characters find themselves in. A great writer will learn the logistics of the scene. Find and expand on the emotion that is common to both the research and the writer.
And tear their own guts out in sobs and tears to write what they "feel".
Throughout my editing process, I loose this gut wrenching feeling. I get tired of reading the same story over and over again until I feel nothing. It's not good when you feel this way about your own work!
It's time to walk away. I'm slaughtering both the horn and the literature.
Its Okay to set aside a manuscript for a while. You need cold eyes to have any objectivity on your own creation. Don't give up, just give it a rest.
What ever you feel your piece is lacking might be the very feeling you don't want to explore yourself. Sit down and put your imagination to work on unearthing the elusive emotion. You might end up writing the theme for Shakespeare on a french horn.

Give yourself the time and space to write something beautiful, and enjoy doing it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Author Review: Ryan Hunter

A few months ago I reviewed the work of Ryan Hunter. It was  her debut  novel in The One United Series, Indivisible. Book two in her series was released on Aug 1 st and is titled Undivided.
I once again had a great experience with this author. Her ability to tell a compelling story with a sense of urgency throughout was impressive.

It is difficult for me to find alot of fault with these books. They are well written, fast paced and relateable to the YA market. All things I enjoyed in her first book.
 My favorite part of this novel was her love tri, or quadrangle. Normally I find petty teenage girls who are burdened by the trial of everyone being in love with them, rather tedious. In this novel I actually felt sorry for the girl.
At the end of Indivisible, Brin is separated from her first love, a character named T.
It was an emotional experience. One I empathized with  with in Brin's life.I wondered how this author would manage to get this character re-invested in a romance after her tragedy. I felt certain  adding new love interests would only diminish the quality of this character. I was sure whoever the author chose as her new boyfriend I would automatically dislike. I was prepared
to absolutely hate Brin.
Hunter  started the relationships out with only one boy being interested, and Brin completely uninterested. By the time she wove in her other characters I found myself letting down my guard and hoping Brin would do the same.
Her masterful use of romantic relationships to take Brin on an emotional journey with a happy ending was inspiring. The Undivided will always be my reference for how to accomplish this in my own work.
Ryan Hunter has been writing most of her life as a novelist, journalist and freelancer – enjoying
every bit of the writing scene except for the brief stint as ‘product description’ writer … Her
earliest novel appeared on construction paper, bound with staples and followed two kittens on a
journey of self realization. She was eight.
Ryan enjoys hiking, swimming, traveling, baking and spending time with her family. She’s the
mother of five children and currently lives in southern Utah.Look for her on face book, and Go find The One United Series. Indivisible, and Undivided.You can find more of her work where e-books are sold, or  e-mail her>

On a side note: I didn't do author review's during the summer. Things were too crazy with my kids. I will be doing two more to make up for June and July.  The Scrolls of Zandaria, by J.S. Jaegger and The flames of Anara by J.L. Adams.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Build Me A Castle

A good friend of mine, and I have been reading a series of books from the YA best sellers list. They are written well, extremely interesting and once again, best sellers. My favorite part of these novels is the interesting and unique world the author has created for her stories.
It is a fantastical tale full of magic, battles between light and darkness, and the element of urgency created by the lack of  surety surrounding which character is the antagonist.
I was swept away by the premise and plot of the story from the first chapter, but soon struggled into the middle of the story. Her characters were interesting and first. It was enough to push me through the drooping bulk of the story. However I soon discovered that although I liked the characters, they were without personality. I was inspired by her plot line initially, but bored with it by the 100 th page. It should not require over 400 pages to follow a plot that has a lack of twists and turns. The internal conflict was real, but manufactured. The characters seemed to react to the plot. The plot wasn't driven by the character's motivation.
By the time I finished the story, I was at the least, unsettled. I liked it? I was bored? I didn't even have a favorite character. When our hero and heroine, literally sail off into the sunset, I didn't want their to be more books in the series. The bad guy got his. The good guys got away. I just didn't want to have another 400 pages of their pathetic existence to trip through all over again.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that's what the author intended for me to feel. This author's ability to build me a glorious castle was superb. However, the story felt like walking through hollow, cold, rock corridors.
I am working hard to become the kind of writer this author already is, so I have no authority to criticize her talent. As an avid reader though, I want more.
I want my castle furnished with desperation to finish the book and read the next one. I want the walls and floors warmed with inner-conflict, passionate motivations, and a release from average.
A beautiful castle without the lush grounds, ruling class, powerful princess, and knight in shining armour, is a relic. I don't want just an interesting world. I want a living, breathing kingdom.
This has been a great experience for me because it reminds me what a great writer has to accomplish: better characters, deeper motivations, and unpredictable plots. Mastery of the craft is a lifelong pursuit, I know that.
For now though, I will use what I am learning to build better castles...and then kingdoms.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Learn The Craft

Attending Live conferences and classes is one of the best learning opportunities out there for writers.
I will be conducting one of the break-out sessions during the book academy and would love to have any of you who are coming attend. Hope to see  you there.