Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why Love A Man Who Loves An Ugly Car?

“You sound much better.” Jay said, as soon as he heard her voice over the line.  “I take it you found everything…accommodating at Abuelita Maria’s Consuela?”

 Alex sighed into the phone. “This is the best bed and breakfast I’ve ever stayed in. I’ll have to leave the proprietor a big tip.”
     He laughed again, shifting the phone to his shoulder.. “I take hundreds and fifties." Swiveling in his chair, Jay glanced to where the door opened and the bell announced his grandfather’s departure from the shop. His attention snapped to the dark hair and eyes of the young woman from the electronics warehouse. She’d been exchanging small talk with his grandfather while he filled the order form replenishing the stock. Now she leaned back against the counter and licked her lips.
Jay  threw her a crooked smile , drawing her over to him as if he’d tossed her a barbed and baited hook. When she began to move toward his chair, He focused back on the tightly aligned part numbers. Scanning the form and Trying to keep his concentration on Alex’s voice, he ignored the twist in his gut.
“Did I call at a bad  time?” 
“NO. no, this is a perfect time. Just give me a second, Okay    
Jay scribbled his selections in a mad rush, his pen moving beyond his conscious thoughts. He could feel the delivery girl’s breath on his neck, her dark eyes focused on him. Alex’s voice in his ear kept him from turning around to absorb the young woman’s flirtations. The girl  beside him never passed up the chance to flirt with him, despite his gentle refusals. He didn’t have time for her today, and yet somehow he still felt the old familiar desire to make her happy. Offering another half-smile to her, he signed at the bottom of the page and handed it back. “So, how d’ya like The Big Apple?”
Alex burst into an animated description of the cab driver, her amazement at all the water, and how her neck still ached from craning her eyes up to stare at the skyscrapers.
A carmel-colored hand gripped his, snaring his gaze back to his guest. , Jay felt  long satin fingers caress his arm. The Latin beauty was smiling. Her full lips curved luscious and plump around her tongue.  She mouthed ‘thank you’, using the slow deliberate expression of her mouth to make the point. Trailing her fingertips across his bicep, she winked. He grimaced at the sultry movement, sparking bittersweet memories of those lips. With a slight wave, he turned back to the phone. He didn’t care about the ignored invitation. He knew it was an empty offer . His restless thoughts refused to consider anything but Alex right now. “How’s it been going with…New York?” He didn’t want to have this conversation with her. The one where she made excuses for Charles while  he chewed through  his tongue. With Charles’ number staring at him from a post-it note on the wall,  he knew it had to be done. Picking up the pen he had used on the Markham Electronics order form, he twisted it between his fingers, waiting for her to give him her stiff upper lip speech. The hesitant silence across the phone remained and he broke its tenuousness. “Lex, Are you Okay?”
"Yes, I just...I’m…I need to ask you something?”Her voice came slowly over the speaker as if she were dripping the syllables imbedded in frozen molasses. “
Jay straightened his slumping shoulders and stiffened his back. Through the heavy lids of his dry eyes, he stared at the bleary number. If this was about Charles he would have to be very careful in his answer or she would hear more than he intended. “You know you can ask me anything.”"
"Do you think its Okay if a girl has a boyfriend, or a guy has a girlfriend, they should fall in love with someone else, or worse, with each other?”
Jay’s jaw dropped. His mouth felt as if he were choking on his tongue. Was she trying to tell him something? Was he supposed to have some magical response that would bring her back? His mind went blank. The echo of silence kicking at his brain until  he forced himself to speak. “What are you talking about Lex?"
“Just answer the question? Do you think if two people fall in love with each other while they’re dating other people they should get to live happily ever after?”
Jay chuckled, unclenching his fists from where they were balled on his knees.. “Those are two different questions Lex. If you are with someone and not in love with them, then you should let them go. If you think you’re falling in love with someone because you’re bored or tired of the person you claim to love, then you should work on the relationship with  the person you‘ve made promises too.”
Alex was quiet again, He could hear her gnawing on her lip the way she did when she was trying not to form an opinion. He knew it was too late, she’d already jumped to her conclusion. Now she wanted him to agree. “Love is loyalty Lex, and trust.”
“I don’t think I understand. If your with someone and you love them, how could you develop feelings for someone else? If you’re not in-love and neither is the guy you’re attracted to, then you can’t help falling in love with each other, right?”
Jay leaned back in his chair and looked at the wall behind the desk. The papers and flyers hanging there flapped in the heater’s air, as it moved down the wall. He frowned watching the flurry play with the yellow note holding Charles’ number. His feelings about love and commitment had never been concrete, even in his own mind. He just believed in forever and the work it took to make that happen. How could he explain this to her in a way that'd  make sense. Alex's voice broke into his thoughts when she asked if  he was still with her. It was time to tell her the truth. “Do you remember my girlfriend, senior year of high school?”
“That little tramp Olivia?”
Jay smiled, making sure to  wipe it from his voice. The five years since highschool had not tempered Alex’s feelings for his  ex-girlfriend. Even though  a part of him enjoyed the flare of temper in his best friend whenever they talked about it; he needed her to understand something about Olivia now. She couldn't here the smug satisfaction in his memory of Olivia if he wanted Alex to understand.
. “Yeah, Olivia. Actually,
"I thought you were going to answer..."
I promise I’m answering the question,” he assured.""
what does her being a skank have to do with this?”.
“She did break up with me first." The only response from Alex was a grumbling agreement. “When Olivia came  to see me that morning  I had no idea she’d come  to break up with me. We went out  the night before and when I dropped her off, I thought  everything was fine. Later when she  showed up on  my doorstep, she was so cold. Looking back on it, I should have realized what was happening. she was going through some stuff because her mom was leaving her dad."
 Alex cleared her throat. “Her mom was leaving her dad? How come she didn’t end up moving away?"
“Her mom didn’t divorce her dad, she just left him and the family for another  guy." Jay felt the impact of his statement ring in empty silence across the phone. “Our entire date that last night consisted of us   talking while we sat  on the swings in the park. she cried, telling  me about her mom's work. I was confused but she explained. Her mom had started working again because her dad worked 12-15 hours a day to make enough money. It was a nice life, but they wanted more. Her mom took a waitressing job and met a bunch of new friends and now she had a man, not her husband, telling her she was beautiful, flirting with her, giving her the attention, that her husband wasn't."
"Because of all the long hours and their two different shifts?”
Jay hesitated, clearing his throat of the lump forming there with the memory.      “Probably, but Olivia didn't see it. Her mom was running off with this guy and Olivia was devastated. She said her whole concept of true love had been broken.  She couldn’t understand how you could just turn it on and off if any  random guy made you feel pretty or desirable.”
“Jay What did you tell her when she said that?”
He shrugged, as if Alex could see his reaction.
. “I didn’t really tell her anything, I was seventeen, and I didn’t know the answers." He felt a little guilty about breaking Olivia’s confidence.Sucking in a  long breath, he listened for Alex on the phone.
""You didn't agree with her whole 'broken heart/love' thing did you?"
     “Try to see her side Lex. after that night she decided that love doesn’t last because if her parents could have it for twenty years and then have it evaporate in a few months, then no matter who you are with, eventually it will go away.”"
 “That's why she dated every guy in the school who would have her after that?"
Jay sighed, remembering the pain of watching her earn the reputation Alex  just labeled her with a moment before.
. “Yeah Alex,” he said reaffirming his clear tone and dropping the memory as if it were burning on his tongue. “but the point is, Love isn’t a shiny new car that shows up in your driveway every morning just as new and unused as it was the night before. Love is the reason you wanted that car in the first place. Everyday you spend with her is one more day that she isn’t new any more. People throw each other away like old cars, because there are so many shiny, pretty, new, or just different ones out there. You don’t throw a perfectly beautiful piece of steel away because the tire is flat or the fuel pump is broken. You don’t trash her because you have loved her for so long you want the thrill of another one. Love has to be a choice you make everyday, if you can’t make it because there’s nothing there to love, then you have to find what you loved in the first place. If you’re with someone who is hurting you and isn’t going to stop, then yeah, give yourself permission to love someone else. “But if you loved each other and have just forgotten why, then find out. You may have to turn your back on a lot of new, shiny CARS though."
“What if they’re not really  in  love with  you?” she said in a choked whisper. 
Jay held back most of the fury he felt with the reappearance of the pain he heard in her voice. He wasn’t sure Charles was the reason she was asking but he made no mistake in the fierceness of his answer. “Then they are blind and stupid and they don’t deserve you.  Lex, what’s going on? Did you finally answer Charles’ calls?
"No, I’ve been reading my mom’s…wait…What?" Jay bit back a grimace. ""
     “How did you know I have been ignoring Charles’ calls?"
Swearing silently, Jay cleared his throat. “He called me when he couldn’t find you to ask  me if I knew where you were.” 
Alex gasped.“He’s worried about me enough to call you?”
“Yeah,” Jay said,  kicking himself,      “He’s got an explanation for why he wasn’t at the airport this morning. He feels bad and wants me to convince you to call him so he can come get you.”
          “Is it a good explanation?” she finally asked.
 Jay’s throat growled behind his short, succinct words,
      “Blatant lies.”
"What time did he call you?”
     Jay glanced at the display on his phone, trying  to remember. "two or three hours ago."
he flinched at the frustration he could hear  in the grind of her answer  between clenched teeth. he didn’t start calling me until it was mid afternoon here. I could have been dead somewhere by then.”
"You're not, you're fine. I'd like to keep it that way too. Are you going to call him back?"
      “I’m still too angry with him to talk to him, but I’ll call him once I calm down.”
 Jay frowned at Charles’ phone number taunting him. He could hear more hurt than anger in her voice. He knew stewing over Charles’ unanswered calls would just prick at her flawless sense of loyalty. “I don’t blame you for being mad at him Alex,” Jay said. “but that will pass. Are you sure you still want to work this out with him?"
“I don’t know, Jay. I think that no matter what I decide though it’s time for him to commit to  either get on or get off this ride.”
The tears sprang back to her voice. Jay swallowed the curse he wanted to fling at Charles.. “I’m sorry Lex.Do you want this number he gave me?"
"No, Ive got one on my phone I’ll use, but thanks and Jay…”
 Her voice softened to an appeal. “I’m sorry about all this. Taking care of me isn’t supposed to be my best friend’s job.”
Jay laughed without humor as the bell to the office jingled behind him.  He turned to see Tricia McConnell’s strained features standing in the doorway, highlighted by the setting sun.“Yes, It is.” He said, Standing from the chair. “That and anything else you need.”

Alex dropped the phone back into her lap. The warmth of the room was weighing on her eyelids. The sudden spark of sadness lashing at her thoughts pushed her mind away from her own difficulties.
     “Olivia Markham.” She said out loud into the vacant air. “He’d have loved you forever.””
     She stood and reclaimed the manuscript from the floor at her feet picturing The dark haired beauty from high school.
     With the remnants of Jay’s voice echoing in her thoughts Alex began to ascend the staircase again. There was a story she was missing here and only one person who could fill in the blanks for her.
Her tumbling emotions limped along weakly beside her, convincing her she just wasn’t steady enough to make that phone call yet. Instead, she climbed back into the warmth of the bed and kept reading. A faint glimmer of hope still alive in her heart that she just didn’t understand all these crazy journal entries.

Entry #38 July 21
I had dinner with him and his parents tonight. It was excruciating.
       “I don’t think your mom likes me very much.” I told him when he was kissing me good night. 
“It’s not that she doesn’t like you.” He told me. “She just thinks we are moving too fast. She wants me to date other girls.” I laughed at that, having enough girls to date was not the problem and the fact that his mother thought she had this mess figured out was a cruel joke.
Little did I know this conversation would be the joke. I was totally unprepared for where that little revelation was headed.When I wondered why his mom wanted him to date MORE  girls, He gave me this insane story. His mom set him up with some random girl when he'd moved home. Evidently, his interest in me messed it up. She figured by spending time with me, he couldn't pay attention to anyone else. He thinks his mom is irritated that she can’t control this part of his life. Its pretty clear to me, she just  disapproves of our being together.
     When I told him what I thought, he all of a sudden got this sheepish look on his face and then spilled the beans.
     “I went out with a girl I  knew from Arizona too. She came to see me a few weeks after that time  we spent most of the night  in the park.”
     “How did that go?”
    I know the sarcasm was glaringly obvious in my voice. He was lucky I didn't throw up on his shoes from the sick feeling rolling in my stomach.  He gave me this pathetic, guilty smile      The second one was “Better than my mom’s fix up.”
     “How much better, 
     He couldn't even look at me, staring down at the porch or his feet.
     “Well…my mom caught us making out in the driveway, the last night of her visit and she thought that meant I was keeping my options open, but then there were all the phone calls and your visits….”
         “You were making out with another girl two weeks after that night we talked until dawn in the park?” I felt like my head was going to explode.I wished I could have shot needles through that crooked little grin of his. “Two weeks after you told me you’d been waiting for the chance to be with me, you were using that same line on some other girl? Did you give her that ‘best friends with benefits’ bit, too?”
I was even angrier when I got home. He'd begged me to forgive him. He was testing his options...blah, blah, blah. Ileft him on the porch wondering if he'd ever see me again, and fled back to my apartment. The  stomping around the kitchen wasn't helping.All the noise brought Anne in. I told her about his dating other girls. She just listened. Maybe she said something, I don’t know. I was on the verge of tears and ready to just call the whole thing off. I don’t need the stress of the long distance or the fact that we barely see each other.
“Love is hard work Trish,” Anne said.
“Oh, I know,” I told her.
“You just have to ask yourself…If he’s ‘the one’ does it matter how much?”
Right then it did matter. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life fighting for a relationship that I had to cry over every other day.
Now, I’m not so angry. Just sad and lonely. He says he loves me and now he knows it. Can I trust him? Is it worth it?

The small black phone vibrated against Alex’s leg taking her attention from the.
manuscript. It vibrated once more and she shifted her weight to bring it out from beneath her thigh. The missed call message scrolled across the screen again. she  bit her bottom lip.  She wanted Charles to live with the knowledge that he had pushed her too far, that he was in danger of losing her, that… 
She gave a shuddered breath. A quiver of panic stabbed at her heart. “What if he didn’t care? Alex opened her phone scrolling through the missed calls to program his number into her call list. she  dialed the number. What if he doesn’t care? She thought again. Then what?
? Her mind fought against the implications. Eyes filling with tears,she stared at the papers now scattered in a clump across the rug at the base of the chair.  Disconnecting the call, she reached down to reclaim her mother’s manuscript.
     “Entry #39 July 24
     I went with Laura this afternoon to a family bar-bQ.. Not her family, HIS. I knew this was going to get me in trouble. I should have stayed behind. She was already distracted by the pressure of showing up in front of his whole family. Like I wanted to spend another awkward day meeting mom’ . she promised me it was just some of his brothers and sisters. I rolled my eyes at her, refusing at first. When she begged me to charm his family so she could feel less pressure, I caved like origami.  
          The party was fine. I wondered again where I had gone wrong when I’d screwed up family dinner the other night.
A couple of burgers and hours later,
     we were saying thank you to him when Laura ended up taking a phone call from work. He and I stood next to the truck talking,  He was really teasing me about how much his brothers liked me.
A shocker after the mother thing so I didn't really believe him.      “Liam says if he weren’t already married, he’d go out with you himself.”
      “I’m sure he was kidding.” I said not wanting to meet his eyes.
      “Yeah, well, I told him your taken anyway, so he’d have to fight for you.” I smiled again, more like tried to smile."Am I?"
  His eyes tightened and his jaw clenched as he looked over the hood of the truck. “I don’t know Trish, I guess that’s really up to you.”  I shook my head, “What do you want to do about this?” 
I hadn't really made up my mind before tonight. Standing there, looking into his pale blue gaze, I had to make the right decision. I gulped air like I was drowning before I could answer. “If this is where I’m supposed to be, and what I need to do, then I want to see it through.” He reached toward me but just laid his hand on the hood of the truck. “See it through.” He said confirming my choice. “Until we can work it out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cooking Your Book

When I wrote my first novel, I punched out my rough draft in six weeks. I worked on it six to eight hours a day before having my husband and kids run spell check on it for me. I was entering  it into a local writing competition. This first attempt was the equivalent of making baked Alaska in a toaster oven. It was a complete disaster.
My next move was to send copies to my sister, my sister-in law, and my mother for suggestions.
Better...but now I'm doing Cherries flambe with rocket fuel. My sister-in-law told me my husband dropped the ball on spell check, my sister told me it was brilliant, and my mother told me it was too slow. I of course, didn't listen to my mother and pressed on.
By my next round of drafts, I was confident I had a best-seller I just needed a sighted person to fix the problems I couldn't "See" and I'd be turning down publishing offers. This time I asked an editor friend of mine to take on the edits in exchange for my husband helping her husband re-roof their house. Super plan! Now I'm making meringue with sour milk and a plastic fork. I warned my friend the story was probably over written, but could she help me make it better. I was expecting a gushing review along with a few suggestions about grammar and formatting. The manuscript was so bad she couldn't even get through the first chapter. Her advice "Toss it and start over."

Now...It's Four years, a published debut novel and a million revisions and edits later. Unfortunately,  My first manuscript is on its twelfth version, not even close to being finished and always at risk of being tossed out. My current novel has been critiqued, proof read, and edited  too many times to count. So I had to ask my self; How much is too much and what lack of editing will leave a manuscript as flat as a half baked cake?
Here's what I found.
Through researching a few blog posts, websites, and editor friends the following is a break down of the three most basic levels of editing:
• Content editing – also called developmental, substantive, or structural editing; revising; rewriting

• Revising or moving entire paragraphs or sentences
• Adding new material to fill in gaps and deleting original material that doesn’t work
• Re-organizing and restructuring content to improve flow and clarity
 -Copyediting – also called line, mechanical, or stylistic editing
 -Correcting spelling, grammar, punctuation, and mechanics
• Checking that the content follows the appropriate style guide or internal style sheet
• Verifying facts and ensuring consistency
• Clarifying meaning and improving readability by changing word choices and sentence structure
 -Reading the final copy of the manuscript to check for errors
• Ensuring that all changes have been incorporated and that no errors have slipped in during the editing process.
You might think this sounds pretty basic but it takes years sometimes to accomplish all of this. The first few edits are usually exciting for the author. I personally feel energized to fix all of my problems and have a perfect manuscript. The problem is there are normally anywhere from 4 to 12 rounds of this type of revision. That's before you let others read and critique it. By the time you've read and reworked your masterpiece, often you'll feel as if you've got a mess in your kitchen, a black mass of bubbling catastrophe in your oven, and smeared flour and butter all over your face.
Don't get discouraged. Here are some suggestions for you.
Write hot, but revise or edit cold. Leave it alone for a while. Let the story settle before you can look at it with clear eyes. Once the smoke has receded you can find the nuggets of sweet confection admits the burning remnants of your creation.
Don't take every suggestion. If you're cleaning up mistakes in round five that someone told you to make in round 2 your remixing your ingredients with cement instead of flour. You have to be true to your voice, your characters and to the setting. If someone who loves YA action stories doesn't like your romance driven plot, it's alright. It may hurt your feelings to hear "I didn't like character x", or "I was bored by page 50", but   if you can take a honest look at the suggestion you'll be a better writer. If the critique just complains that there was too much romance and not enough exploding cars, take a look at that too, but don't burn your book trying to make it into a different novel.
Don't be afraid to write new scenes. If the master piece you imagined at the beginning of the process has gone from a towering triple layer cake to a chocolate covered luscious brownie explosion, go with it. Don't fall in love with your own voice, or your own outline to the detriment of the dessert. If your characters don't fall for each other but stay with their current flames, see where that goes. If your heroine ends up running down an alley instead of down a beach, have some fun with it. What looked good in your mind might turn out to be bitter instead of sweet if you can't throw some extra chocolate into the recipe.

There's a million other pieces of advice I've used from the blog sites listed below- K.M. Weiland
as well as-
Oct 12, 2012 -
Most importantly is have a goal for when the book will be finished and work on it until then. Then stop. and let it go out on submission. You can over cook your book too.  Invest in the final product but when it's time to get it out and present it to the world, Display your Piesta resistance.
What are your editing/revising/ helps and suggestions? Where do you go for the most current standards for editing your own work? Chime in with your resources and help me resurrect my manuscript from the scrap pile. Thanks!.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fighting Your Soggy Middle

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
"The first time she sliced into a man, it made her a little sick. After her last 150 cuts though, she didn't even blink."
"I was there the day they pulled the plug on my sister's life support."
The first line in a work of fiction is powerful. The previous three lines begin the work of Orson Scott Card,Stephen King, and  Julie Carwood. Whether you enjoy Epic Fantasy, Romantic Suspense, or Science Fiction, if the first line or two hooks you. You're in..
Writers are encouraged to work diligently on powerful first lines, polished first pages, and perfected submissions for agents and publishers. Unfortunately, at times, often this instruction only is applied to the first 10-50 pages of a manuscript. Even novice writers know that a final scene full of action, despair and a victory over your foes is paramount to a satisfactory read. So while the author is editing, revising, plotting, and polishing the novel, the first and last parts of the book receive much of the writers attention.
What about the middle though?
As I read to learn what both successful and mid list writers are doing to make their stories great, I find a lot of great beginnings, exciting final scenes and hooky first lines. I also find a lot of soggy middles.
One of my favorite novels in recent history was made into a movie. I thought the book was excellent and I was prepared to be disappointed by the film. I was pleasantly surprised to discover...The screen writers got rid of the soggy middle. How'd they do that?
In a movie like "Transformers, or Spiderman, this can be accomplished with fancy acrobatics, robotics, or special effects. The movie I spoke of earlier had some action scenes, but less than in the book. The soggy middle came from the author's attempt to develop the characters in an action setting. It was still soggy. Likewise, an action flick with a lack of character development drags you through explosions, car chases, and the end of the world so many times; you're begging for the movie to end. In that case the soggy middle is downright painful.
So what's the answer? How do  you keep a reader engaged and in-love with your characters for a couple of hundred pages without getting soggy?
The best answer I've found comes in the way of two different resources.
-"Save The Cat" byBlake Snyder
-Best selling author Jessica Brody.
Blake Snyder has two different versions of his craft book "Save The Cat" that can be purchased on amazon or other book outlets. Save The Cat provides extensive examples and helps for writers to learn the 'beats' necessary to build a story. The fifteen 'beats' are spelled out and explained in his book for both authors and screen writers.
Jessica Brody teaches his principles, lays out the nitty-gritty of each of the 'beats' and goes into much more detail. Her website also provides a form under tools for writers where an author can enter in the page number of their manuscript and the form will tell you if your 'beats' fall in the right place in the manuscript.
For me...the soggy middle starts around beat #6 or 7.
"Fun and games" is what its called. Brody explains that this part of the story may not be fun for your characters. They have entered a new world from the beginning of the story. Its possible they enjoy this new world, but its more likely they are struggling. This beat is called "fun and games" because its the reason your reader picked up the book. What did you promise in the first 50 pages? Is it a troubled romance? A stalker bent on murder? a successful businessman falling into homelessness? You must deliver on your promises here. Your reader must invest in the characters development along with the direction the story is heading.
-The midpoint- Here the story must hit a high or low point. Not too high, or too low but what's called a false victory or defeat. When Harry Potter catches the snipe. When Shrek rescues the princess from the dragon. When your hero becomes devoted to the girl or the girl realizes she is in-love.
As your story draws closer to the final battle the lead character will experience an 'all is lost' moment, a 'total defeat 'the dark night of the soul' and then your exciting ending. Before that though...
If you had a false victory then the character needs to get cocky, feel safe, end up with their hero or have a fantastic plan while the bad guys close in.
If you had a false defeat then your character needs to be throwing in the towel, giving up on love, doubting their own abilities and letting the antagonist win. The more emotional this is for the reader, the better the victory will feel.
Now, if this patterned way of writing were fool proof we'd never read another bad novel, or sit through another torturous movie. Because all writers are a little bit of a fool, otherwise we'd get a real job with steady income and benefits, we mess it up. The point is the fool in each writer will have to find the best way to keep the reader's attention. My soggy middles forever haunt me. I am always looking for better ways to stiffen my story and make my readers  desperate for more of my work.
If any of you have solutions or suggestions for soggy middles...leave me a comment. I'd love the help.
In the meantime, keep writing and reading.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Author Review

On the second wednesday of each month I pick an author whose work I've read to review. I don't review their books on my blog, but you can find my reviews on, and a few on as well.
This month though, as I was trying to decide between two authors I've read in the last few months, I realized My reviews are an excuse. They're practice for me  to learn what writers do both right and wrong and then I try to incorporate the lessons in to my writing. I just had my manuscript "Burning Bridger", my newest novel read and critiqued for the 100 th time, only to discover....I'm still doing it wrong.
So while I edit, revise, and polish my own work, here is what I've learned-
# 1. 'Purple Prose'- The term purple prose refers to flowery language, verbosity, the over indulgence of vocabulary or any language within the work that detracts from the body of the work. It shows up more blatantly in essay, or academic writing, but without the proper balance of the use of the five senses in a work of fiction, it draws the reader out of the story.
#2. In writing, one plus one equals one half not two. If you are describing a physical sensation to connect your reader with the character in your story, choose one powerful descriptor. Two or three will detract from the actual story and annoy the reader. "She swallowed a pillow sized lump in her throat while trying to calm her racing heart. Her stalker kept closing in."
as compared to "She tried to swallow the pillow sized lump in her throat. The black eyes of her stalker closed in."
#3. Tagging Dialogue- For blind readers, in can be difficult to follow the speakers in a conversation without tags. Visually, though, you can often see the speaker without tags because of the format of the conversation. When two people are present the dialogue will offset in paragraph form to show who is speaking. "What do you mean, he's dead?"
"Its self explanatory."
"Dead-dead, or just like comatose dead?"
If this were a conversation between three people, one line of the dialogue would need a tag of some kind to indicate the speaker, otherwise you can follow the conversation. "What do you mean he's dead?" Kayla's hands shook with the doctor's announcement.
"Its self explanatory," Collin mumbled.
"Dead-dead, or just comatose-dead?"
"What's the difference Dante," Kayla snapped
#4. As/While- Using the joiners as and while connects two descriptors or sentences together. One of these descriptors should be either elininated or saved for a later partof the story. If it is two ideas being connected, break them apart into two sentences. Joining them together once again draws the reader out of the action, or makes for run-on sentences.
"The fingers of the charcoal sunset dipped into the tide waters as the waves lapped onto the black shore."
"Drops of amber light danced across the black shore. Fingers of the crimson sunset dipping beneath the water."
#5. Narrative- The internal thoughts and musings of the Point of View character help the reader to connect with the story and care about the people. Spending too much time in the character's mind is like spending too much time obsessing over your own doubts and worries. it doesn't take you into fun fantasy world's where love is real and the good guys win. It won't take you into the bar fight, or make you feel as if your rubber boat is sinking. It will just drive you insane.
Narrative can create emotional connection, but scenery paints a picture. Think of a movie in which all you hear is the lead actor or actress telling you what they were thinking when they had an experience. It might work for the blind...but even those of us who can't see need more than heavy narrative.
I will spend a lot more time and energy working through my own writing issues.. Mastering any craft is a life long pursuit. To review my own failings and mistakes is just as, if not more helpful than reviewing any one else's . I hope it gave you a few things to think about as well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why Love A Man Who Loves An Ugly Car?

My family is going on vacation this week so the blog post will be a special excerpt from our story. Enjoy!

The warmth of the afternoon sun shook the slight chill from Alex’s cheeks, as she opened her still heavy eyes.  Bright beams of winter sun were fighting to penetrate not only the windows glass but the tight space between the two brownstone buildings.  As a shaft broke through the pane, into Alex’s eyes, she rolled across the crisp pillow case away from its intrusion, her gaze falling on the deep scarlet woodwork surrounding the bed.  Her sleep muddled mind clutching for semblance of her drowsy thoughts. 
Where am I? What happened?
 The flood of memories brought on a headache as she saw the past twenty four hours appear like a power point in her mind.  She rolled back toward the window, pulling the sheets more tightly around her chin. The ringing of her cell phone began creeping under the closed door of the bedroom. With an exasperated shove of the covers,  Alex extracted herself from beneath the blanket.  A smack to her forehead sent her confusion with the sound of her phone into realization. She had left her shoulder bag at the foot of the stairs when abandoning her too large luggage. now she contemplated whether or not she cared enough about who was calling to drag herself down the stair case to answer it.
The perky tone from the first floor ceased and she collapsed back onto the bed with another reverberating groan.  A small black alarm clock on the window sill blazed crimson numbers into the lightened room. 4:00, that should mean something to her but the sleepiness of her rude awakening slowed her efforts to uncover it. She forced her body into a cross legged position on the mattress once more. It was late afternoon. The lack of light along with her complaining stomach reminded her that the last thing she’d done before this nightmare began was an overload of caffeine.  As the details of the night before regained concreteness, her thoughts flew in a panic to the ignored phone. 
Alex jumped to her feet turning toward the door only to find herself standing in front of it, still closed. Charles was probably frantic now, wondering what had happened to her, where she was, if she had even come. As her own heart pulsed its protest with adrenaline, she scowled at the doorknob, letting her hand slide from its glassy surface to fall at her side. Good… She thought, turning her back to the door and claiming a large terry towel from the pile in the trunk. It was about time he worried about her.  He deserved to feel a little of that terror that had burst her dam of tears all over Jay.
     “Maybe the call was Jay,” she whispered.
She shook her head, discarding the thought. Jay would not be worried about anything except waking her up. He wouldn’t be calling. He’d gotten her here, safe. His constancy a force looking  out for her before she ever got on that plane. Charles hadn’t managed to rouse himself from his drunken stupor long enough to even send one of the cars from his father’s fleet to find her.
      Draping the towel over her arm, Alex grimaced. With a defiant lift  of her chin, she ignored the call.
 The gathering warmth of the fireplace and the day’s offering of light met her in a firm embrace as she emerged into the hallway. Her hesitant steps searched the various doors along the narrow corridor.
She found  a small white bathroom decorated with red and black soap and candles. Alex entered and hung the Terry cloth on a wrought iron towel rack. Her toes retracted from the bite of the cold, checkerboard tile, reminding her of the change of clothes and toiletry bag she left downstairs. The faint ring of her phone laid her head against the door. , She leaned her forehead against a silk robe hanging on a hook at the top of the door,pale cream colored fabric stroking her furrowed brow. The battle began  once again, over whether or not she could go down for her clothes without finding the phone to check her missed calls. Her fists balled at her sides as she straightened with a scowl. 
“I’m not going down there until I’m good and ready.”
      The sound of her voice echoed her to a frazzled start in the porcelain space. After stripping   off her clothes,  she turned the hot shower on full stream. The soothing vapors from its cascade filled the small room with relaxing steam. Sounds and worry became lost in the vaporous haze of warmth and release that soon washed tension down the drain.

    Jay glanced at the clock on the phone’s display before answering the falseness in the caller’s question.
     “No, Charles.” He said with sweet acid dripping from his words. “She didn’t tell me what your plans were this afternoon.  The last time I talked to her she wanted to get some sleep and take a shower.  I have no idea what part of that plan she is currently engaged in.”
 Jay kept his  voice low and hard but his face was broken into an unrestrained smile. He  could almost hear the flames of  Charles’ frustration crackling over the office’ connection.
     “I thought she was staying at your house, have you checked the rooms in the west wing?”
     The curse from Charles’ side of the phone made Jay’s grin spread over his face. “I would think her disappearance from the largest international airport in the United States, would send you hurling over land and sea to find her.” Charles’ shouts were edged with hatred even as Jay held the receiver away from him. “She’s been out of reach all day long and you’re making jokes about your own sorry lack of amenities.”
     Jay’s jaw flinched as he clamped his teeth, the smile remaining on his lips. “I don’t know what to tell you Chuckie, old boy. If she won’t answer your calls and I lack anything helpful in this situation, why did you call me?”
      The battle raging between Charles’ clenched teeth ground audibly through the phone. Jay grinned again. Charles’ voice momentarily sounded as if one of his gritted teeth had shattered with the force of not chewing through the line. Before Jay could irritate Charles anymore, he heard the anger in the other man’s voice become sweet and sticky with pleading. ”I’m trusting that your lack of concern means that she is alright?” If she’s punishing me for losing my phone last night, by refusing to answer my calls, you could call and explain to her why I couldn’t get to her this morning. She will answer your call, she always does. You could convince her that it was just a misunderstanding and give her this number so she can call me." Jay heard him take a breath, frosting his tone. “I can  go pick her up, take proper care of her, and bring her home …with me.”
    Jay choked on the sinister  murmur in Charles’ voice. He swallowed back the bile rising in his throat as he could not ignore the dark  subtle threat. “She shouldn’t Have been left alone in New York."
"As much as you believe I deserve what I am getting, I know you don’t believe she deserves to be frightened in a strange city”.
      Jay twisted his mouth into a sneer. “Alex is being taken care of by people she can trust.  If she calls me, I will give her your number and it is her decision to call or not from there.  You can tell your own twisted lies about how you left her, alone and terrified in the largest international airport in the United States.”
       Jay slammed the receiver of the phone down so hard, the plastic mechanism scuttled across the desk and bounced off the wall. Its retreat  dislodged the  receiver from it’s cradle. He burned holes through the pile of complaining plasticwith the fury in his glare. picking up the  handset, he replaced it with a slam. His other fist crushed the New York number. He   ached to just throw it onto the dirty floor and pretend Charles never called. With a frustrated sigh, Jay pounded a thumbtack into the wrinkled, yellow note, hanging it over his desk. “That manipulative, son of a…”
Jay pressed his greasy fingers against the thrum of fury pounding in his head. He hated that guy, every time he smiled at Alex Jay felt as if he was watching the dripping teeth of a poisonous  snake. When Charles  moved last fall Jay breathed an unburdened breath, hoping he would not have to argue with Alex about her boy frend anymore.
     He scowled now and picked up a brown cloth from the desk, wiping the greasy smear from his face. She hadn’t let the long distance release her from those fangs though. Even when he hpleaded with her to let him go. He saw in his mind’s eye now the flash of pain in her eyes as she shook her head  at him, crossing her arms in defiance.
     “He loves me,  Jay.” she  insisted.
     Jay felt the selfishness of guilt burn in his chest again. Just the way it did when he looked into her hard expression.
     “Of course he does,” he’d spit back at her. “You’re smart, fun, beautiful, good. He’d be a moron not too, but Alex… What  about all the crap you put up with because of the selfish way he loves you?  
     He  stopped then as her eyes filled with tears and she seemed to crumple like wet tissue beneath his bitter words.
Jay shook the memory from his thoughts as he rose from the chair and glared at the phone again. Turning back toward the garage, he focused on the half finished Corvair. It was too late to say anything now, she’d have to find out for herself.  As  much as he’d  longed for her to feel the  difference that day as he held her and she cried over this creep. she hadn’t, and now with her so far away, he could only pray the snake would not charm her into blindness.