Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why Love A Man Who Loves An Ugly Car?

Alex lay back against the soft pillowed comfort of the four poster bed. Her phone was still in the palm of her hand, as she let her mind climb backwards over the entries in the manuscript.
“Two.” She mumbled into the room’s warm embrace. “Two different men and one of them is Dad.”
She sat up on the soft mattress, reaching to reclaim the pages strewn beside her. Dropping the phone in her bag, she glared at the ragged pages, scanning each of them for a moment.
Her fine blond hair blocked her sight as she shook her head still trying to find distinction in the entries to help with the confusion. Tricia was intimately involved with one of them,. Her mom made it clear, but… she shook her head again and dropped the pages into her lap.
Digging her fingertips into her thrumming temples, she  tried to clear her mind. The pulsing tide of thought and emotion drummed an irregular cadence. She squelched a sudden urge to scream. What am I going to do with this mess?
As a nerve grinding buzz echoed in her ears, she dropped her quivering fingers into her lap. “What in the…”
She walked with hesitant steps from Jay’s room, slinking like a prowler to the foot of the stairs. When  the sound ripped through the house again, she scrunched up her face and covered her ears. “Doorbell, she shouted. rushing for the front door. “Grandma Maria must be going deaf.”
 Before the buzzer could make that hateful sound again, Alex began to flip open the locks on the door.  Flinging it open, she screeched, “Stop!”
Before the teenage boy on the front stoop could jab his stubby finger at the buzzer again, she opened her eyes to glare at him.
     The gum smacking kid stood wide eyed before her, backing a step away as if protecting himself from her . His dark, unruly hair hung lazily over one eye with a wedge shaped cardboard hat on his head at a rakish angle. Alex closed her eyes and breathed in deep breaths while the guy adjusted the mock pizza slice before it slipped from his slick hair.  Pressing her fingers back into her temples, she forced a broken smile.
His checkerboard white and red shirt, half tucked into black pants and a worn black apron, reminded her of her brother Kale. She knew this kid was older and much darker complected than her brother, but the look of complete blankness on his face softened her voice.
 “I’m sorry about that. It’s just really loud.”The boy’s expression did not falter or even flinch. Alex attempted another, more cordial greeting. 
        “If you were bringing that pizza here,” she motioned toward her chest. “I think you have the wrong address. I didn’t order pizza.”
 With the shift of one nervous eye the boy glanced at the paper attached to the box in his hands.
     “Galvez. 335”
Alex frowned in response., “This is Sanchez. I don’t know the house number.”
"The order form just says that a “J. Galvez placed a delivery order thirty minutes ago for this address.”  He said chewing on his gum again. . “I just do what they tell me.”
Alex gulped back a lump in her throat.  Jay bought her dinner. Three thousand miles away and he was still watching over her.
She shifted her bare feet, wringing her hands and coming up blank on what she should do. There was protocol here. The kid needed to be paid or tipped or something.
“I ..I’m so sorry, How much do I owe you?”
“The pizza is fifteen bucks and the delivery fee and tip ...”
Alex gave a gurgled start, her empty pockets  begging her to find her wallet. The choking sound of her panic disassembled the boy’s monotone recital of the bill. As she stood motionless in front of him, she could feel the flames of humiliation burn at her cheeks.
How am I going to pay this guy? She thought.
Her panic must have been emblazoned across her forehead because the teenager began tapping one of his black tennis shoes
She began to pat down her clothing looking for cash.
Still wearing her pajamas, the useless motion sent her brain into a mental frenzy. Her body involuntarily pivoted toward the interior of the house, her eyes darting in panic toward her suitcase and the stairs. 
Where is my wallet? Did I already use that cash?
The clearly impatient delivery boy began smacking his gum in cadence with his still tapping foot. Alex started to ask him to come inside
This is New York City. She thought before she spoke. Jay would kill me if I invited this kid to come in.
 Alex began her mental scramble again, her mind’s eye searching pockets, purses, and the upstairs bath for her shoes.
     The incessant sounds of the impatient delivery boy became capped off by the ringing of her phone.she knew she couldn’t  leave this guy hovering in the open doorway while she went and answered the call.
     Stepping between the threshold and the entry way, Alex tried to find an explanation to curtail the growing tide of frustration she felt rolling off the teenager.
     “I have…I don’t…could you?”
     Alex knew she sounded to him as if her tongue quit working. The harder she tried to focus on his blank disregard for her situation, the more she ebbed toward a complete meltdown. Images swirled through her mind. Charles, Jay, her mom, two faceless men. The barrage was overwhelming. When the kid blew out an exasperated breath and his long, greasy lock of hair plastered itself across his nose, Alex burst into inexplicable laughter.
Random sounds and fluids spilled from Alex as everything finally caught up with her. It started as a mirthless chuckle, but quickly took on a Dr. Frankenstein, maniacal quality. She giggled, guffawed, chortled, squealed and, in the end, even snorted through her nose. As the final raucous sound broke from her lips, so did a wayward spray of spittle.
     Pizza boy glared down at the wet spray that dampened his stained uniform scowling  at her hysteria.
     Tears flooded from her eyes, with no claim to the laughter. Streams of frustration, fear, confusion and exhaustion poured down  her face. The weight of her pain filled her heaving chest as she gripped the doorknob with white knuckles and lurched a little toward the doorway.
  The clumsy movement and torrent of emotion seemed to be a slap in the face for the delivery boy. With a brief flash of unseen emotion, his jaw dropped open. He took a stumbling step toward escape, and Alex lost it.
 Wracking, burning, thundering sobs tore through her chest and across her throat. She sank, crossed legged on the hardwood floor and blubbered uncontrollably.
     “My boyfriend asked me to marry…” Tears and shuddered breaths stole the words. “And then left me. I am alone and lost and I can’t find my money…”
     Her face was buried in her hands but her eyes caught sight of the black tennis shoes shifting beyond the door.
     “Look, lady, I just…”
     Another burst of crying muffled the kid’s voice and Alex burrowed her head deeper into her palms.
     It all washed over her again and she lifted her tear stained face to the pizza boy’s bleary outline.
     “He keeps calling...” She blubbered onward. “But I’m not talking to him.”
     Alex heard the final statement come out in a vicious growl, as if her voice was morphing into the snarl of a pit-bull. The black shoes backed away further, and Alex grabbed her stomach to regain composure. Instead the horrified look on the teenager’s face sent another gush of cries past her crumbling damn. Like a cornered animal, he glanced onto the empty street.
 Before the boy fled to call the authorities, Alex scrambled onto her knees in front of him
     “Its just that I thought my mom and dad were cheating but it turns out my mom was just kind of sleazy in college and I don’t know what to do next.”
      The pizza kid looked up and down the street behind him again. Alex imagined him wishing for a magical portal, or flying broomstick, to come whisk him away.
    Trying to master the tears in her eyes she wiped at her cheeks. Through her hazy sight she caught a glimpse of the shoes again, before he crouched in front of her. The pizza box sat, like an offering in front of her.
She looked up at him.  
      “Your life’s a wreck.” He muttered. “I don’t get paid enough for this kind of crap so just take the pizza; it’s on me.”
     Before she could get beyond her tears to thank him, he was gone from the stoop. she listened to the pounding of his footsteps down the street.
     Alex slumped brokenly against the door. She was spent, embarrassed and…hungry. The smell of the pizza wafting through the open door called her back to her senses.
     Wiping at her cheeks and carrying the box into the kitchen Alex’s bottom lip trembled. The smell of chicken, onions, peppers and bacon teased her mouth toward a smile.  Only jay knew the combination to her favorite pizza. The ringing of her cell phone once again briefly sent a charge of irritation through her. Melting mozzarella and marinara awaited, she’d face the rest later.
  Alex opened the box from ‘Mama Lucia’s Bistro” and proceeded to pull the outer crust off the gooey concoction. After wrapping the impromptu breadsticks in a napkin, she closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of Parmesan and garlic.Like a jeweler plucking diamonds from a lump of coal, she picked first the chicken, and then the bacon off half of the pizza. Piling the meat onto one half, Alex proceeded to place the other half of the pizza, face down on top of the overloaded side. Picking up the sandwich style slice, she tore one, enormous, overflowing hunk from the warm crust and sighed. She would have to tell Jay the story of her meltdown in front of pizza boy, but not tonight. Tonight she would bask in her humiliation and the knowledge that she was desperately in need of the comfort food.
She took her time devouring the small pizza, and then trudged lazily back upstairs. Her bread stick crusts tucked away in the refrigerator and her tired body prodding her back toward the tidy familiar bedroom.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I'm A Writer, Not A Used Car Salesman!

One of the first things I noticed in my contract with my publisher was a paragraph involving what the publisher would provide and what the author would be in charge of.
For me, the author, I had to fill out their paperwork to get paid, provide my manuscript, agree to edits in a certain time frame and make a written request if I wanted out of my contract based on certain stipulations. The publisher then promised to provide a digital copy of the novel, a POD or Print on Demand copy, a cover,  opportunities to showcase my book in their catalog and a percentage of royalties and sales. Standard stuff mostly. There was, however, a tiny blur which stated "Author's aren't required to market their own work, but anything the author wishes to do to promote their novel will directly effect the sales of the book.
Great! I thought. I don't have to do anything. That's what a publisher is for...WRONG.
Author's commonly make the mistake of thinking their terrific work will sell itself. It won't. You may have written the greatest novel ever known to mankind but it won't be found amongst the 30,000 other novels published every year, if you don't go hock your wares.
So many writers say things like:
"I wrote it, why do I have to sell it too?"
"I just don't get social media."
"I'm kind of an isolated genius, I don't deal with the public much."
All arguments I can understand, but unwise if you're planning on making money with your awesome novel.
Neil Raphel, Acquisitions Editor for Brigantine Media gives the following five suggestions.
1. Speak! Don't confine your appearances to the local bookstore. Try to craft a speech about a topic related to your book that will appeal to a large audience.
Then market your speeches to local clubs, libraries, schools, and any other organization that may be interested in your topic.
2. Give your book away – selectively. Publishers are willing to give books away for  authors on one condition: that the recipient has the authority and might
be willing to purchase bulk copies of the book. so giving away one book can be tremendously cost effective, even if it seems counter-intuitive at will actually allow authors who belong to Prime,  30 days of giving their book away for free. It's a marketing technique which promotes  the work and therefore the author. Especially, if you've got a series and only the first book is free.
3.Blog: You're a writer. You have ideas. It takes no advanced computer skills to put up a blog or even a full-fledged website. There are lots of companies
that will give you the tools to make a simple template on your own. Once you have the website or blog up and running, tell all your Facebook friends about
it. Use social media to discuss the topics on your site. Print up business cards with the site's web address. If you have interesting posts, you'll be
able to cultivate an audience that is primed to read your book.
4. Generate publicity. It's free and can make all the difference in book sales. Write a press release about your book for the local media. Figure out a
news angle that ties into your book and tie it into your press release. Have someone throw a party for your new book and put the photos up on social media
and send them to the local paper. It's really tough to get national publicity, but your book sales will perk up even if you get local or regional publicity.
5. Find a community of interest. If you've written a novel, memoir, or nonfiction book that has characters or stories involving autism, contact organizations,
Facebook groups, and local groups that help people with autism. If you've written a book about fly fishing, try to find organizations and interest groups
that cater to people interested in fly fishing. Try to find interest groups and organizations that might have a connection to the materials in your book.
You may think that this necessity of marketing your own work is a new thing because of digital books, failing and disappearing book stores and the ease of publishing independently provided by amazon, smashwords, and other sites, but its not.
Walt Whitman made up pamphlets and went door-to-door to sell his poetry. Hemingway posed by a Valentine's Ale while scribbling his work. These  photos were used to market his books as well as the beer.
While your publisher can provide tours, signings, and appearances, you must remember. Your book is only a fraction of all the books the publisher must promote. Their marketing team will probably spend less than one hour a week on your novel. Maybe your brilliant and that's enough. Maybe your novel will sell itself amongst the flooded marketplace. Just in case though, Maybe you'd better learn how to be a used car salesman too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Author Review: Mindy Hayes

My secret skeleton in the closet? I love mythical creatures. Not vampires, werewolves, aliens, or sea monsters. I love strong, mystical on-the-far-side of reality heroes. The Elves from Lord of The Rings. The fire breathing Unicorns from  Warrior Beautiful by Wendy Knight, and the Fi (pronounced Faye) in Jim Butchers The Dresden Files.
Usually, I roll my eyes at "Fairies" in teen romance novels, so when a friend recommended Kaleidoscope Book 1 in the Faylinn series, I cringed a little.
I bought it off of for my kindle and settled down to read it...for my friend.
Much to my surprise, It was really good. The main character Calliope was fleshed out so well, I was riveted to her story right away. Her emotional journey as she begins a physical as well as emotional transformation wasn't hurried. Often in fantasies, major changes occur to our MC and the character just accepts it and rushes headlong into the fray. In Kaleidoscope, this didn't happen. It took most of the story, an uncomfortable experience with pointy ears and the painful emergence of wings before Calliope even thought about what it all meant for her relationships.
I also read Book 2, Ember and I've started Book 3-Luminary. While the plots are a bit slow and the action is minimal, the characters are so well executed you'll find yourself reading on.
Hayes does an admirable job of bringing her fantasy characters from the real world into Fairy land and making us all want a pair of pretty wings.
To buy Kaleidoscope, Ember, and Luminary look up Mindy hayes on and other e-book websites. You can also buy the hard and paperback versions in bookstores. If you're like me and a kick-butt fairy makes your day. Go look up Hayes and read the Faylinn Series.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

You Should Be Eavesdropping

Have you ever been in a park, or a mall somewhere and picked up pieces of a conversation from a few feet away? While its rude to listen in on other people's conversations, one of the techniques I learned in my writing classes was the concept of shadowing. As a blind writer, shadowing isn't done the same way for me it is for other people. The concept of shadowing is to pick someone with an interesting appearance and follow them for a while. Find out where they go, what they're wearing, who they talk to, what they talk about and notice details to expand them into a character. Most of this is done with your eyes. I shadow with my ears.
Therefor, I eavesdrop on a lot of other people's conversations. It helps me build dialogue, distinguish tics, or dialects in speech that flesh out characters and give me ideas for stories. It's a great tool and can be fun.
However, as i read for my Author Review blogs, I've discovered the idea of ease dropping is present in good stories. If I sit down in the food court at the Mall, I'm not going to hear the teenage girls talking beside me go into lengthy details about their back story. Their conversation will not sound like this:
"I hate Emily Pugh.Ever since she dumped Bobby, you know the kicker on the football team who wants to join the marines and drives the camouflage jeep. Ever since they fought over her Mom not letting Emily date Bobby because he's too violent and her Mom comes from an abusive ex-husband. Ever since then..."
"Oh, girl Did you know she already hooked up with Kenny Clark, he wears the black trench coat and smokes out behind the bleachers with Rob Eden, the guy who should have graduated last year, Evan Mitchell-the freshman with the snake tattoo on his left hand and Brad Heath-the dude with the Australian accent? Even though Brad never lived anywhere except White Plains when he was like two years old."
It's more likely you'll hear something like this:
"Seriously, I totally hate her."
"She's such a skank. I saw her making out with Kenny two days after she broke up with Bobby."
"Uugh, he's gross, I'd never go at it with a smoker."
"Better a smoker, than a creeper."
The back story from the first conversation may help you imagine what is going on in the second exchange, but natural dialogue doesn't provide many details. One of the best parts of being a fiction writer is getting to formulate scenes, dialogue, and story lines that go where you, the writer, want them to go. The problem is, it can't sound like the author is talking to the reader. It has to sound as if the reader is eavesdropping on the story:
The tobacco odor wrinkled Kayla's nose. Her air vents let the cloud of grey drift past the bleachers, throughout her car,  and then into her upholstery.
"Is that Kenny Clark?" she asked Becca. The red head tucked one curl behind her ear as she shifted in the seat beside Kayla.  Who?"
"The blond over there with the smokers?"
"I...think so. I didn't know he hung with those guys."
"Emily's  gonna' freak."
When Becca's brow only wrinkled, Kayla sighed. "Didn't I tell you. Bobby and Emily broke up last week."
Becca shrugged. "I knew they would. I heard he joined up."
"Did you also hear, Emily was making out with Kenny at Josh's party this weekend?"
Now you, the reader are in the backseat of the car, forming idea's and emotions about what's happening. It's an empowering experience for your reader to feel they are privy to a story. They can safely make judgements, observations, develop crushes, or hatred for the characters all on their own and not feel the author informing or lecturing them.
There are exceptions to the eavesdropping analogy though, A writer who tells the story from a narrative point of view can talk to the reader. Often in middle grade novels, the author will entertain the reader by making observations, jokes, or planting a promise of something exciting to come. Kids actually enjoy this type of 'voice'.
I've read narrative points of view that have been done well and accomplish this for adults. The "Odd Thomas" series by Dean Koontz is a good example.
For me, personally, though...I want to eavesdrop. When I start hearing information dumps, or lectures from my fiction, I'm done.
Go back through your manuscripts or short stories and ask yourself some questions:
-Who needs this information? is it the reader or a character in the story? If it's your reader; tell the story, working the information into dialogue, scene or setting but not lectures or back story.
-If you overheard the dialogue, would you feel the characters are talking to each other, or to you?
-If your character needs a description can you narrow it down to two features and trust your reader to fill in the rest?
-If you are tagging your dialogue, is it because the words don't convey the emotion? How can you make the emotion clear in your words?
The next time you read a good book, pay attention to whether or not you enjoy author in a narrative voice. Or if you'd rather eavesdrop?