Sunday, March 27, 2011

Have You Seen My Mojo?

My critique group is falling apart. In 2010, we were rolling along full steam, writing, editing, learning, growing. Some were strictly online/email members, but there are three of us who remain tight and chat frequently. They are my best friends—kindred spirits. For the most part, I think we complement each other well. We all have our strengths; what one misses, the others usually sweeps up.
So what’s the major malfunction you ask? There are a few things that have came along and mucked up everything. One member, Elisa, has devoted the entire year to blogging. She has the craziest things happen to her, like an older woman calling her clothing business requesting, AHEM, a penis pump. She’s having a ball writing about her life, but she’s not critiquing or writing anything else—no time. (Check her out at The Crazy Life Of A Writing Mom, she has some great stories to share.)
My friend Angela is also blogging and building her platform. She has really grabbed blogging by the who-haws and learned all the ins and outs—twitter, hootsuite, and all that stuff. That’s great for her blog, but it zapped her time and energy to finish her zombie western. She has an agent shopping her YA contemporary to publishers, so I understand the need to blog and create an online presence. (Whimsy, Writing, and Reading—her blog is great too)
Then there’s me. I’d like to say that I’ve been so busy with book tours and promoting my best seller there’s just no time for the little people anymore, but not a chance. After twenty years with the same company, my husband is out of a job and I’m trying desperately to claw my way back into the workforce before we run out of money. My degree has collected ten years worth of dust while I’ve raised my kids. It isn’t going to be easy to jump back in—will an employer want to hire me after so long? My mind is cluttered with sadness, anxiety, and no voices. For the first time in years, I have no voices in my head.
I’m a former social worker who used to work with severely emotionally disturbed children. One of the things I developed in those kids was coping skills—healthy coping skills. So, here I am dealing with one of the most stressful times of my life and my one comfort—my coping skill—is silent. I miss the chatter in my head, the dreams at night, and the wandering images of my characters as I drive my daughter to school.
My problem has also put a damper on the others in my group. Our steamy romance writer, Krissee, had an agent request the sequel to her first novel. She asked us to tighten it up for her (she just finished it) but my mind was so cloudy, I couldn’t do it. She had her stuff in an agent’s hands and I let her down. Not fun.
Then there’s Wyatt—our newest member. He is totally getting the shaft. He’s a fantastic writer who doesn’t really need too much help, maybe just an extra pair of eyes to catch those darn repeaters, but he must be thinking what the heck was I thinking joining this group?
I feel bad slacking on my commitments, but can’t find my mojo. I miss the days when I marked the heck out of their work and sent it off excited for the day when I’d get a polished copy, tighter dialogue, and fantastic narrative. I loved seeing the progress, the talent. And to think that I had a small part of that is fantastic. I want that back. Even writing this blog, I see sentences I hate, that need work, but don't have the drive to fix them.

Have you ever lost your voices? Lost your mojo? If so, tell me how to get it back?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

You, Too, Can Write A Romance Novel

If you’ve read my previous blog post My Own Trouble With Tribbles, you’ll know that I haven’t quite found my writing home—my genre. I like a challenge and don’t like to be told what to do (That’s right; I swim right after I eat). If I want to write sci-fi and suspense or even throw in a exclamation point, then I should be allowed to do so!!! Right?!!
Don’t worry, I don’t overuse exclamation points, but I am a genre hopper. I follow my instincts or the voices in my head, and sometimes that leads me away from the genre I write most often.
My first novel is women’s fiction and needs a ton of work in order for me to put it in front of an agent. It has strong romantic influences so I thought that maybe I should punch up the lovey dovey stuff and roll it into a full-blown romance. But how do I do that? I was in luck after doing some research and found a great how to video to help me along.
Take a peek and maybe you, too, can be a romance writer.

So? You got it? Are you ready? Let's write romance!
By the way, this post is not a slam on romance writing. I got yer backs romance writers. ;)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Endings Schmendings

One of my critique partners is having one heck of a time wrapping up her novel. Part of her problem is that blogging and platform building has slithered in and stalled her momentum. Trying to write an original blog and then jump back to a w.i.p. isn't easy. Then there's all the normal life business that has invaded as well.

She's one to two chapters away, but getting the ending right is crucial, especially since she wants to write a sequel or even make it into a series. So she's pulling out her hair, drinking far too much Diet Pepsi, and worrying.

There are so many things she can do with her ending and I know she's worried that she'll chose the wrong one and never be able to go back and get it right. Do you hate endings? Do you struggle wrapping up your novel? Do you write with your ending in mind before you start typing?

For those of you who struggle, I want to let you know there are always options. Check out this alt. version of Twilight. :)

*Yeah, I know this blog post was kinda lame. Once my life is less chaotic, I'll come back with a good one. (good in my mind, anyway)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Say It Ain’t So, Mario

Recently, I heard on a morning news program that second graders couldn’t tie their shoes, and teens couldn’t wash a load of laundry, or better yet, figure out the utterly complicated can opener. Toddlers weren’t left out either; apparently, we suck at potty training our kids and four and five-year-olds are wandering around in pull-ups. There were some other examples, but we don’t need our noses rubbed in our parental failures. At least, I don’t.
I’m sure with our technological advances and the invention of Velcro, kids are behind with the simple everyday tasks. We probably do too much for them or maybe worry they’ll get too many owies. I don’t know. I think there is some truth in it, but I just watched my four-year-old son play Super Mario Bros. and couldn’t believe how crazy good he is. He used one controller for Luigi, while the other was at his side, for Mario. He switched back and forth between the two, jumping, smashing, and sliding.
He knew how to dodge bullets, bum jump the mushroom dudes, and freeze turtle creatures. Holy crap, who taught him that? Not me. I’m still trying to figure out Farmtown.
My son is a genius at video games (work with me people, I’m proud) but he is lazy when it comes to everything else. His legs hurt a lot, which means he can’t walk up the stairs to get juice; his tummy doesn’t want to eat veggies; and his sister made him cut the cat’s hair. He actually still has accidents in his pants, which fits right into the four year old in pull-ups talk. But despite his laziness and pee-pee problems, my son navigates video games, the computer, and puzzles better than I did at his age.
I wasn't as lazy and I spent more time outside than I did in. I went on adventures of my own making and even when I had an Atari (insert the sounds of Space Invaders) I didn't get wrapped up in it like today's kids seem to do with Wii, Xbox, PS3, or all the other gadgets.
So how does this translate to fiction? What makes Percy Jackson or Harry Potter different from Charlie Bucket or Ramona? Is there a difference? Or are kids today fundamentally the same? Talk to me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Do You Trust Your Intuition?

Two years ago, my son wouldn’t stop fevering and had an itchy rash all over his body. I went to the doctor and in just a few minutes, they diagnosed him with scarlet fever, even though his strep test was negative. I took him home and started the antibiotic regimen, but two days later, his fever persisted. My husband wanted me to wait it out, let the antibiotics go to work, but I insisted something was wrong.
So, we took him back to the clinic and saw a different PA, who thought my son had Kawasaki’s Disease. I had heard a little about the disease before and knew John Travolta’s son had it as a child. It scared me to death because I knew if it wasn’t Kawasaki’s it was something bad. We did some blood work and by the next day, we were on our way to the children’s hospital with one of the strongest cases of Kawasaki's our doctor had seen.
Kawasaki’s is rare and so much is unknown about it. In order for it to be considered Kawasaki’s a child has to have a high fever for five days, spots on the tongue, persistent rash over the body, red eyes, peeling of hands and feet, cracked lips, swollen lymph nodes, etc. In my son’s case, he needed to have five of the previous symptoms in order to receive treatment. The docs also rule out other “like” illnesses, but for the most part, it is a guessing game.
The tricky part of this disease is catching in time. It’s estimated that if treatment isn’t received within fourteen days heart damage is almost certain. I was lucky. Through persistence and a PA who paid attention to detail, my son received treatment and is healthy. So many times, however, we don’t trust our instincts or let others talk us out of what we know or believe.
Although the health and well-being of our children is far different thing from writing instincts, I wanted to use this example to show persistence and intuition mean a lot. I can’t tell you how many times doctors have told me to wait and see what happens with a certain illness. “Call me in seven to ten days.” Well, if I would’ve waited that long, my son’s life would be dramatically different.
In writing, we use beta readers to test our story's worth. Sometimes we get great feedback--good or bad--and sometimes we don't. We can't please everyone, nor will everyone like what we do. I haven't been in one book club that every reader has a consensus. We all pull so many different things from any situation, and it's up to us to decide what we cut, add, or embellish. I think it was Stephen King who said the tie goes to the writer.
Do you trust your gut when it comes to writing? Do you try to please your beta readers to the point of losing “you” in your work?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Conflict Ain't So Good After All

As writers, we’re told to write conflict-laden work. Ratchet the conflict up, pour it on, drizzle it with chocolate—whatever—readers want it. Give it to them in the ultra mega big gulp size.
Well, a big dose of real-life conflict grabbed me by the throat on Friday and won’t let go. The company my husband has worked for twenty years is firing him. He’s a manager and a band of employees plotted to get him out. He’s too firm. They don’t like it. So they won. The company took their side, my husband is out of a job, and possibly won’t qualify for unemployment.
They haven’t officially “fired” him; they’ve just kept him dangling. “We’ll meet Wednesday,” his boss said. So we’re stuck. I’m a stay at home mom and we live paycheck to paycheck—more conflict.
I can’t eat or sleep. My hands won’t stop shaking. I’m crying. This isn’t fun. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to finish my novel, knowing I’m going to feel this same way when I toss in more crap for my character to deal with. Why do we like to read about such misfortune? Why can’t we read about bubble gum and rainbows more often than seeing the characters we love fall over and over again?
Is it the ride back, the stand after the fall? Does that mean I’ll have a happy ending too?
Tell me your story. Have you ever had the world crash in on you? What has that experience done to your writing?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Get Yer Hands Outta My Panty Drawer

If you’ve read my blog before, you might remember a post where I liken blogging to a raid on my unmentionables. Even though there’s nothing to find in my secret drawer, I think the process lends an air of vulnerability. Especially as we sift through our personal and professional lives trying to find those golden nuggets of writing wisdom.
So, I’m bringing back this reference because my mom and sister have both expressed concerns about the possible thievery from my readers. My family worries that someone will come to my blog and steal my words right out from under me like Lindsay Lohan at a jewelry shop. I appreciate the love and concern. Yes, Ma, I’m eating my veggies (pops a FunYun into my mouth) but I’m not sure how much I should worry about this panty drawer thievery.
It’s not as if I’m posting huge chunks of my book. I have silly blogs about my opinions on writing and my writing exercises—photo challenges. I can't even get my stuff published. So how would anyone else?
To humor them, I did a bit of research. I’m not a research gal, so I didn’t get too far into copyrights, internet searches, blah, blah, blah. That kind of talk needs to be written in crayon for this girl to understand—green preferably. I have kind of a lackadaisical attitude about this, but maybe I should take it seriously. Maybe I should stand guard, slap that hand before it reaches inside my drawer.

What do you think? Do my mom and sister have valid concerns? Have you thought about it before?  <---check this site out. You can search to see if anyone has copied your content.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Baked Beans and Blue Jeans

One of the best things about being a writer is sometimes when others struggle to find the right words to express how they're feeling, we step in and offer ours. Here's my simple tribute to my Aunt LeeAnn, who passed away in December. This week would've marked her fifty-sixth birthday.

LeeAnn Ball 1955-2010

Some people amble into our lives and leave subtle traces of themselves behind. We faintly hold these recollections in our hearts and minds. But as the years add up, we lose the details to the new waves of experiences setting up shop in our ever-growing memories. Then, there are those people who march in and leave a loud, lasting impression—one so strong our mind reserves a special place just for them. That is my Aunt LeeAnn. She was a blend of sassiness and grace dressed in blue jeans.
I can still hear the unique cadence of her voice, a sort of drawl and a laugh that was as infectious as her baked beans. Although she was as tiny as they come, she was tougher than most. When I was a kid, I sat in awe of the way she could swear and make it sound as ordinary as the most common of words. I wanted to do that—I still want to do that. She could toss a “shit” or a “damn” out without the Pope batting an eye. Maybe it was her passion behind the words, or maybe because her spirit was so kind and giving how she said the words didn’t matter as much as her intentions behind them.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of times spent with my cousins, exploring the butte behind my aunt and uncle’s house. Such treasure to behold filled out eyes with wonder and amazement. When we strolled back into the house, my aunt was the first ot ask of our adventure. She looked us in the eye and marveled at our small achievements as if we were Lewis and Clark reincarnated. She made us feel important and didn’t placate us with a childish tone. She talked to us like grown-ups and encouraged our desires however big or small.
She and my uncle were so great with all of my cousins; I often wondered why they didn’t have their own children. I guess it just believed that if they could have kids they would have done just that, but sometimes life doesn’t work out as simply as it should. Instead, animals became their passion, and she and my uncle raised everything from a skunk named Pepe to the many horses that have come and gone from their lives. She was an avid rider and a ruthless volunteer for her community.
Even as arthritis stole the strength of her hands and body, LeeAnn lived her artistic imaginings. She transformed the drab rocks around the property into colorful ladybugs and bumblebees. She painted the image of my uncle’s favorite horse on a door with an amazing eye. The horse died, but thanks to my aunt, my uncle will be able to see him every day. My favorite masterpiece has to be the photo of my aunt and their white horse after she grabbed a tube of black paint and a brush and turned the horse into a zebra. That was definitely an “lol” moment and one of those that will forever cling to my brain.
As I grew older, the times I spent with my Aunt LeeAnn and Uncle Emer grew farther apart. Years stood between us, not that I would ever know because as her tiny arms wrapped around mine and asked what adventures I’d been on; it was as if I’d just barreled down the mountainside ready to boast of my many discoveries. She was a fun and vibrant spirit, a loving aunt, and one helluva lady. I miss her terribly and hope that as each day passes her loss won’t weigh as heavy in our hearts and that we can relish in the joys of her life and find gratitude that we were a part of it.

*originally posted on my previous blog Literary Intentions

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Reluctant Editor

(To enhance your reading experience: read the following ’graph really fast with lots of hand gestures and a infomercial voice)
Are you a reluctant editor? Do you save your darlings instead of murdering them? Do you have a hard time knowing which scenes burden your ‘script vs. enhance it? Then I have an exercise for you.  (Nice voice.You could totally work for ShamWow!)
When I like the movie, I will often pop over to the Bonus Features and watch the deleted scenes. I think it’s interesting what the director cuts and why. Sometimes the director will offer commentary for tanking a scene, but most often, we’re given the scenes to watch and the reasoning is on us. I think we tend to agree with most of them and understand the time and budgeting constraints, but there are times when I disagree.
I watched a movie recently that had several scenes that I thought would’ve enhanced the movie—one scene in particular. I was kinda miffed for a minute, shaking my fist at the director for shortchanging me. I let it go, ’cause I’m a forgiver not a fighter, and started thinking about my work in progress.  I know I need to shed a couple scenes, maybe even a whole chapter, but how do I choose? Will I make a crucial mistake? Hitting delete is a big deal, right?
So here’s my exercise. Go check out one of your favorite shows. I think it is important to find one that you like, one that you’re invested in—like your novel. Check out the deleted scenes and without hearing the director’s reasoning for deleting a certain scene, I want you to think about it, analyze why it didn’t make the cut.
Here’s my own run through of the movie Leap Year

The show is about an uptight American (Anna) who plans her life away. Things seem to be rolling smoothly for Anna, especially when she suspects her boyfriend of five years is about to propose. Too bad he gives her earrings instead—lame. Honoring an Irish tradition that allows women to propose to her fella on Leap Day, Anna follows her boyfriend to Ireland to propose to him. But through a whole mess of mishaps, Anna meets snarky Declan and hires him to help her get to Dublin. It’s a romantic comedy so I’m sure you can guess what happens next.
The first scenes that were cut involved Anna’s father played by John Lithgow. At first, I thought what a shame because I like that actor. He ended up in only one tiny scene in the entire movie, but honestly, it was all we needed. We got the gist of who this guy was and his role in Anna's life through his five minutes on screen and her actions throughout. Too much would’ve been too much and I’m not sure I would’ve bought her character as much with those scenes.
The one scene that I actually would've liked to watch was one that showed Anna and her boyfriend after she and Declan parted ways. It cemented my belief that her boyfriend was not who she should be with. But as I got thinking, I already knew that. If I had written this scene in one of my novels, I know one of my critique partners would’ve marked me up for beating her over the head with details. And she would’ve been right. We want Anna to hurry back to Declan not bathe in the fact she’s with the wrong dude. We know already. Run Anna. Run to Declan.
Then, there were a couple scenes that I knew immediately why they were cut. They were repetitive and unnecessary. Just because something is cute or funny doesn’t mean it belongs in a certain work. I am a writer who likes to throw in the funny, even when I probably shouldn't. I also need to trust my reader more and R.U.E. (resist the urge to explain).

So what do you think? Are you a reluctant editor or can you tell when something isn’t working?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Stylin' and Profilin'

I’m Stylin’
Thanks to my new friend, Janice Horton, I got hooked up with the Stylish Blogger Award. So the rules say I’m supposed to write 7 things about myself and then pass on the award to some of my favorite bloggers who are also supposed to pay it forward and share a bit about themselves and nominate their favs.
Here goes. My life is quite boring. I appologize in advance.
1)   I was raised in an orphanage in NYC. It wasn’t an easy existence, especially for a freckle-faced redhead with a nose for trouble, but I had some good pals, a stray dog named Sandy, and my songs. Singing always brings about a good tomorrow, don’t ya think?
2)   Sometime later, I was adopted by a bald fella who also had a proclivity for a good ol’ song and dance number. He was loaded too. Money, money, money.
3)   Still, life wasn’t easy. So my little family and I loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly—Hills, that is. We couldn’t believe our peepers at all the swimming pools and movie stars. Who doesn’t like swimming pools? Not this girl.
4)   We hung out in 90210 for a while making friends and dodging paparazzi when an outbreak tore our lives apart (dun, dun, dun).
5)   My bald adopted father took ill and turned into a bloodthirsty zombie. I severed my ties, if you know what I mean, with my old man and made my way across the country. I killed a few zombies, saved a few lives. What’s a poor orphan girl to do?
6)   We (my dog survived, of course) met a wonky old scarecrow on our journey and he suggested we take our troubles to the Wizard. The Wizard will solve everything. So we ditched that dunderhead and followed the yellow-bricked road to happiness.
7)   I couldn’t believe my eyes when I arrived at the Sober Valley Lodge. The Wizard aka Charlie Sheen greeted me with his Thing One and Thing Two or Goddesses as he called them. I marveled at his Mad Hatter appeal and knew the scarecrow was right: the Wizard would solve everything. I asked him how I could get my life back on track. He tapped his hands together and said, “Tiger blood.” That’s all it took.

My life’s never been the same since. I’m #winning. Tiger blood, baby.
And these bloggers are #winning too. Check ‘em out.

Jessica Briones @ A Wannabe Writer
Melynda @ Crazy World
Austin James @ Austin James Here
Susan Kane @ thecontemplativecat
So if you bloggers want to claim your shiny award. Link back to me on your blog and then write 7 things about yourself and nominate your own favorite bloggers.

*I did get this award a few weeks ago and spaced it. So, I want to appologize to my friend Angela @ whimsywriting&reading  for not playing along. Check her blog out, especially if you like zombies. Besides coming down with a nasty plague of her own, she has a whole page devoted to the undead.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Photo Challenge: Ramshackle part 2

I started challenging myself with quick stories based off a first impression from a photograph. I allow myself a time limit and write until times up. Whatever comes out, comes out.  After having a few people request a bit more of last week's story Ramshackle, here is part two.  It is unedited and rough. My goal is simply to stir my brain, not produce perfection.  I attached the beginning and the second part is in red, for those who just want to scroll down. Thanks for looking.

Twenty-five years slipped away the minute Claire Davenport caught a glimpse of her childhood playhouse tucked in the far reaches of her family farm. Her feet rooted to the forest floor while her eyes surveyed the place she vowed to leave behind and never return. Despite the overgrowth and ramshackle appearance, it was as if she’d never left.
            “Do you want to go back?” her husband, Michael, asked.
            Claire clutched his hand without tearing her attention from the shack. “No, I want to do this.” She exhaled and forged a smile. “I can do this.”
            She may have wanted to push through her doubt, but her mind refused. Claire stood frozen, gripped by the memories of her sister and the last time they’d been in this very spot. A moderate breeze stirred the leaves in front of her, lifting them high in a circular dance.
            “She’s here.” Claire’s voice mingled with the sounds of the fluttering leaves. “I can feel her.”
            With one careful step after the next, she ambled forward. Michael lumbered behind, his heavy footfalls offering his wife reassurance and safety. The smell of time bit at her nose as she neared the door. Claire balled her fists and turned around to face Michael—she was ready.
            “Are you sure you want to go in there? There’s no telling what’s roaming around.”           Claire nodded. “Help me up.”
            Michael hopped onto the porch and peered inside before offering her a hand up.
            He lifted her onto the stoop and stepped back allowing her full access into the playhouse. She rubbed her palms against the front of her jeans then held her breath as she pushed the door open. The hinges shouted their resistance with a piercing shriek, sending her heart racing, but it didn’t stop her curiosity.
            “Stay away from the center,” Michael said, “the flooring looks in bad shape.”
            Claire eyed the bowed floorboards and hugged the walls as she wandered through the room. She searched her memories to transform the dank interior into the cottage she remembered. It once was the envy of all the girls in town, if only they knew the real price of such a luxury. Claire crouched down and picked up a brittle fragment of the pink and red rose-filled wallpaper.
            “My mother and I picked this out,” she said, “Lizzy hated flowers, but my mother insisted a girl’s dollhouse needed frilly white curtains and tea-roses on the wall.”
            Michael leaned against the doorframe and smiled. “You’re still a girly-girl.”
            Claire looked down at her three inch heels and shrugged. “Lizzy and I used to play in here for hours every day—hiding mostly.” Her face grew solemn. “It’s smaller than I remembered.”
            “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Claire inhaled and nodded as she returned to a standing. “No, I’m . . .” She paused as her eyes found her reflection in the window on the opposite wall. She inched forward, stepping over branches and debris, until she stood directly in front of the window. She lifted her trembling hand to her cheek and titled her head. “Even with the same face, Lizzy and I were as different as petticoats and blue jeans.”
“Claire? You in there?” a man’s voice roared through the shack.
Claire whipped around, her eyes wide. “He’s here.”

Michael held his hands out in a calming gesture. “Let me take care of this.”
            “I can’t face him. Not yet.”  
            She watched her husband jump onto the ground and wander out of view. “I’m Michael, Claire’s husband.” She turned her head, straining to hear.
            “Claire! Get out here. Let me take a look at you.”
            “If you’ll give her a moment—“
            “I’m her damn father, now move your ass.”
            Claire stepped backwards as the sounds of cracking sticks and rustling leaves sent pinpricks across her spine. There was nowhere to run and hide. The man she vowed to never lay eyes on again stood only yards away. She straightened up, fighting the numbness in her limbs.
            “Come on, out with ya.” Her father appeared and extended a weedy arm disguised as a welcome.
            She stood transfixed, her eyes washing over the withered man before her. The beastly image she had stored away faded as pity took hold. He shifted the weight on his wooden crutch without taking his gaze off her. A stir of gratification roiled her insides: she never thought she’d see the day when her father became the defenseless one.
            Her curiosity carried her feet toward him, one wobbly step after the next. She called on Lizzy to guide her, give her strength to finally slay the dragon.
“Jump. I got you.” Michael held his hand up to her.
Claire glanced down at her husband and smiled. She slipped her hand in his and squeezed once. She saw the worry weighing on his brow and knew he was desperate for reassurance. He was the only person who knew the pain this moment held, but he didn’t know everything. The heaviness of such truths was her own to bear—her consequence for what happened to Lizzy.
            After gaining her footing, Claire turned toward the man who gave her life then threatened to take it away more times than she remembered. “Pop.” She nodded, regarding him with the blandest of gestures.
            Her father split the distance between them and drew her into his bony frame. “You grow’d up real pretty.” He beamed. “Ain’t she pretty.”
            Michael pulled Claire from her father’s clutches in a subtle yet protective movement. “Yes, she’s”—he gazed into her eyes and smiled—“she’s real pretty.” The weight of Michael’s hand on the small of her back tipped her lips and incited more confidence. But, confidence or not, she didn’t know how long she could keep up this modest bravado.
            “I didn’t come here for you. I thought you should know that.” Claire struggled to maintain eye contact.
            Any sort of joy diminished as her father lifted his hat and raked his fingers through the thinning white strands on his head. “Came here to cause trouble, did ya?” He returned the hat to his head and pursed his lips. That puckered sneer haunted many of her dreams.
            “I’m here for Lizzy and mama.”
            “Hmph. Well, good luck to ya then,” he growled and pushed passed her.
            Claire watched her father hobble away. “That was too easy.”
            “Maybe he’s different.”
            “No. He’s up to something.” Claire bit at the soft skin around the nail of her ring finger—a habit of long ago. “He knows why I’m here.”
            “But you never told anyone the real reason for your visit, did you?”
            “No.” She wrapped her arms around her body. “But he knows. Somehow how he knows.”
            “Guilty conscience?”
            “My father wouldn’t know the meaning of the word guilt.”
            Claire waited until Pop was out of sight before making her way around the back of the playhouse. She used her hand to swipe away the overgrowth, revealing a small dirt path. Visions of two giggling sisters leaping through the brush, with makeshift swords and newspaper hats, swirled in her mind. Lizzy’s games had always been the best. Perhaps because she relied on her imaginary world to see her through the darkness that usually shrouded her. Either way, Lizzy loved to play make-believe. Claire walked deep in the woods, following her memories and the winding trail to the secret place—the fateful place.
            The twisting and churning of her stomach was the first clue that she’d travelled far enough. The second, could’ve been missed if she hadn’t been looking for it. A large rock lay atop a pile of smaller stones. She swallowed and turned to find Michael, who was a few yards away. When their eyes met, he quickened his pace. If her facial expression mirrored the turmoil in her body, he wouldn’t waste time. He’d know she needed him.
            With Michael by her side, she meandered through the quaking aspens and knelt over the small mound of earth and stone. She regarded it for a moment, holding back the tears from stealing her courage. Her trembling hand reached for the large rock and brushed away the dirt and debris of the forest. Then, her same quivering hand covered her mouth as her eyes fell on the painted cross and the name John.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Stupid Mouth

I’m an open-mouth-insert-foot type of girl. The things that fly out of my mouth sometimes can’t be controlled by a zip of the lips and throw away the key gesture. What I have to say just bursts through my cinched lips without pause. Not all the time, but most of the time.
You might not want to ask me to go jeans shopping with you. A simple: “Be honest. Do these make me look fat?” Might come out as: “Not fat, but more like an overstuffed sausage.” Followed by an awkward giggle and a shrug of the shoulders as the realization of my words hits my snoozing brain.  
I’ve even been defriended—by my own brother—on Facebook because of my wayward mouth (or fingers, in that case). I don’t have a big attention span, so maybe that’s to blame. I don’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings, but when someone says: “Tell me the truth” or “Be honest with me” I follow instructions. I need to learn that what a person really wants is for me to tell them what she wants to hear. But setting my friends up for failure or ridicule doesn't bode well for me.
I had a dream last night. In it, I was a single girl (sorry, honey) hanging out with my friends. My girlies and I were sitting around a pool and checking out some fellas. This was a dream, so I expected Leo DeCap to pop by or Hugh Jackman to visit from downunda’, but no . . . I got someone entirely different. 
“He’s cute,” my one dream friend said.
The dude made eye contact and strutted toward us; I could nearly hear the Bee Gees ah, ah, ah, ahing  in my mind with each step. He was tall, bronzy, and cute. I smiled and sat straighter. The cool part was that, in my dream, I was able to fit into a bikini without looking like a pork roast with those tight strings cinched around it (see, I’m honest with myself too). So Mr. Tall and Bronzed sat down on a chaise and smiled. He had a great smile—if you like ultra white choppers, which I do.
This turned out to be a pretty good dream, until I saw something fuzzy out of the corner of my eye. The George Hamilton twiner turned and I saw more than fuzz.
“Something’s on your back,” I screamed and fell off my chair. Even in my dreams, the threat of creepies and crawlies haunt me.
He jumped to his feet and turned around, revealing not a rat or a big arse spider, but a patchwork of thick back hair.
“Ewe, back hair,” I said.
My friends gasped from the shock of the little rugs on his back and my overexaggerated reaction. The dream ended there. I’m not sure if it was a lesson to keep my trap shut or something else. In a real-life "here comes the back hair" setting, I'd like to think I wouldn't embarrass the dude. My loose tongue usually just comes out when I’m asked a question.
Anyway, this had me thinking about characterization and consistency. I’ve read a few books where a character starts one way then does something I would’ve never predicted. Granted, I think we all do things out of character, at times, but for the most part, we are consistent. If I’m a bit too honest for my own good, then chances are I will be that way throughout—even in my dreams.
I have a MC that does something totally out of character in my WIP. After meeting hairy back hair man, I think I need to go back and make sure I’m being true to her. And in the mean time, I (holds up my right hand) will try my bestest to zip my lip. If you run into me just remember not to start our conversation with a plea for honesty and all should be good--I hope.  

**Also, if I've offended anyone with back hair, I appologize. I'm not perfect either(remember the pork roast line). It was just a dream and back hair ain't so bad, especially in the wintertime. Yeah? 

What do you think? Are you staying true to your characters? 

Here's a bit o' John Mayer singing my theme song.