Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Gifts

Morguefile.com
I haven't done a lot of writing over the Christmas holiday. I was too busy cooking, doing laundry, and wrangling a houseful of family. We had a great time but today, four days later, I've crashed with extreme fatigue. 

Despite the Christmas Crush, I did find a few writing related things online during the month to share with my writer friends. I always share these with my Facebook writing group but today, I'm sharing the links here for anyone else who stumbles in.  

I hope you've had a great holiday and that the new year is filled with great writing successes.

From Writer's Helping Writers: 
Writing Tools

From Future of the Ink:
How to Set Up Your Goodreads Author Profile

From Write to Done:
Scene Stealers

Teacher Links:
The Hero's Quest

From Guavabot on Google Play:
Writeometer

From Writing World:
The Writer's Year Datebook

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Plans Gone Awry and Beginnings

Did you ever have one  of those weeks where nothing went as planned? Yeah, one of those. My week has been busy but I haven't really completed one project. I did very little writing and none on the things I planned to write on. In fact, I started a "new" project.

Actually, an old project that I attempted a couple of times. I've had several people suggest I write a book about  grief. The suggestions started coming about two years after my husband died from people who were reading my blog posts. In December 2010, twenty-three months after his death, I made an attempt to pull those post down and sort them out but it was too close. I simply couldn't deal with it. Re-reading my own nightmare was beyond my abilities. I tried again probably another two years later and actually made a start but once again, I could not cope with the issue. 

I've left it alone for the most part, the flitting through my mind like dark winged birds that made me shy away. My opinion was that it would never happen. I'd never be able to revisit those days with any clarity or control. 

This week an urge stronger than I could resist made me think I might be better able now to handle the material. So, I sat down and began to write what I "heard". Fifteen hundred words later, I realized it was still going to be hard, but now I really wanted to write it. 

Here is the opening paragraph to Journey through a Dark Valley

My husband died. Suddenly, on a cold, dark night wrapped in ice, on a dead-end road, in our bed. I thought, before that night, that my life was planned and despite the bumps in the road, the detours, and derailments, it was going according to plan. But you can’t plan for life. There is no road map, no compass, no GPS. You just start walking, telling yourself that where you’re going is just up ahead and all you have to do is keep moving and you’ll get there. It isn’t true.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Ultimate Writing Tool

Image courtesy of basketman
 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As a writer you know you're always trying to make more time to write, keep up with the time you write, and keep a check on your productivity. It is all too easy to get off track. My writing friend, Rae Ford sent a link to our writing group this morning for an app called Writeometer. 

If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can set up all kinds of logs and charts and calendars but most writers don't have that luxury. I've been retired since August 1, 2014 and I've found time is a slippery little bugger. I'm dealing with several health issues that interfere with daily activity, particularly writing. I also gained a roommate. My 8 year old granddaughter came to live with me in September and she is high maintenance. So, setting up logs to track writing time and productivity and monitoring calendars and clocks is... well, counter-productive.

When I saw this app my first thought was, "Oh dear, another app." I love technology but one gets very tired of all the gadgets after a while. However, when I looked a bit closer, I could tell that there were some really great features here. 

You set up your novel with title, word count goal, current word count if it is a work already started, projected daily count, projected deadline, days and times you're going to write. Save it and you're all set. You can put in more than one WIP. Once your projects are set up, when you open the app, you have a screen with a quote from a famous person about writing and a list of your projects. There is a also reminder system, a reward system, and a writing timer. I really like the timer. You determine your writing time. But be warned, exiting before the time is up is costly. 

This is an app that will help you set writing times, keep up with how much you write, how close you are to reaching your deadline, and reward you. I can't wait give it a spin and see how well it all works together. 

If you're interested in the app, and have an android phone, here's where you can download it: Writerometer

Come back and tell us the pros and cons you discover.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Another NaNo Ends

Another year ends at midnight and as always, there are mixed feelings. You would think since I'm retired and have more time that it would have been the easiest year yet. In fact, it was the hardest. 

I did fine on the word count for a while and although I got behind I was getting caught up. But this happened several times over the course of three weeks. I had problems with my RA and there were several days I could not use the computer due to pain in my hands caused by long periods of ... typing trying to catch up. By the holiday, I was 5000 behind again and I knew I was finished. I reached.36,586 words. Not bad but not a win. 

This was also my 4th year as Municipal Liaison for my region. I was thrilled when one of the participants volunteered to be Co-ML. She made a lot of the work easier in both the planning stages and during the month by hosting write-ins and filling in a couple of times when I had to be away. ML's are responsible for herding a bunch of novel writers for a whole month, hosting write-ins, sending out encouragement, moderating their forums, providing guidance, answering questions, and commiserating with those who fall behind. They also have to write their own 50,000 word novel. 

NaNoWriMo has probably been the best thing that ever happened to me. I've made wonderful friends. I've learned so much from the participants and from the process. There are those who don't feel that way. 

You'll find critics everywhere. The reasons they cite are that it fosters bad writing habits, the creation of inferior novels, and it is simply a waste of time. I disagree completely because NaNoWriMo doesn't ever indicate to anyone, anywhere that they will have a good, publishable novel at the end of November. In fact, they point out that you'll have lots of work to do to get it to that level, if you can. They encourage regular writing habits, giving you a word count that is manageable. No one who does NaNo should go in blind. This requires work and consistency. If you can't do NaNo, novel writing probably isn't for you. As to the inferior novels... there's plenty of them published and selling. I'm aiming a bit higher.

Now that NaNo is over I'm anxious to get to work on some novels I was working on before November. I had two with plot problems that had suddenly begin to mesh when I had to pick up my ML hat. I'm also looking forward to the River City Scribes meetings that start back up in January. We've recently obtained a new venue for the meetings that is so much nicer than where we've been meeting over the last year and a half. We'll have plenty of room and be able to bring food and drinks.

So, am I sorry to see another NaNo ending? A bit but not so much. There are some exciting writing things happening here and I'd rather move on to those. Will I be back next year as ML or to write another novel? I don't know. Each year, ML's have to reapply to be an ML. They don't fire you but if you fail to send in your application, someone else will be appointed if they have submitted an application. They could pick someone other than me. Although, I suspect that rarely happens. When I first stated doing NaNo there was no ML in this region.  

I will be writing whether there's NaNo or not. Over the course of this last year I've stopped thinking beyond today. I like to think I will be able to pick up that ML hat next November and do it again. Regardless of what happens, I've had a great run with NaNo. The experience is one I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys writing. Even if you do it once and never again, you'll have a great time.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Places to Kill Time

I really hate my NaNo novel this year and once again, I've been cruising  writing sites instead of working on the project. I think it paid off in one way. By wasting time I ran across another great post by The Write Life. You know, they have some really great stuff on that site. The one I found today is The 100 Best Websites for Writers.

It has something for every aspect of writing. I've posted the link as one of my Necessary Places, on the left sidebar. It will take a bit to peruse all of this stuff. If you're doing NaNoWriMo, wait until December 1st to visit. .

Have you found any great writing sites? Share them below! I'm always looking for ways to kill time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Real Gift of Love

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Most of my family know I'm a writer. They'd have to be pretty stupid not to know. I've been writing since I was 11. They accept my little hobby. They compliment my talent. They read my blogs and they keep nagging  me with "Well, when are you going to get something published?" It is a valid question. Never mind the blogs they read are published.

Before my health problems I wrote more frequently and a lot more prolifically but I wasn't driven to get something of real interest to the public in print. I just loved to write. Now, my thoughts are moving more in that direction. Publish a real book? Why not. Of course, at the same time, two diseases attacked me. Ah well, what doesn't kill you..... Actually, it can make you pretty miserable.

My friends, both off and online friends, know I write and they too encourage me to finish something and publish. They've all read some of my works so I guess it must be entertaining to some degree.

Today I was cruising around online and ran across a post about gifts for writers, 22 Gifts for Writers. It occurred to me that no one has ever bought me a gift specifically for a writer. Really. I've bought writer things for myself, like Scrivener writing software, but no one else has. My late husband and I mostly bought for our children because money was tight. So, despite being a writer I never received a writer themed gift.

I have friends who are writers and I decided that I could do a great service to other writers, maybe even my friends. If you are a friend or the family of a writer and are trying to decide what to get them for Christmas, try getting them writer themed items. Believe me, they'll love them and they'll actually use them or display them in prominent places, like mantles their desks, or coffee table. When asked they'll  say, "Oh yes, my sweet aunt Betty gave me that for Christmas!" Or "You know, that uncle Joe is actually a great guy. He gave me this for Christmas. Isn't that the most awesome thing."  It won't matter if cost less that $20, like that Writer's Remedy stuff. Really, they'll be thrilled. While perusing the page I saw several things that look nifty.

A gift designed for the writers in your life... wow, now that's a gift of love.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Reason to Keep Writing


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at
Freedigitalphotos.net

I'm in a funk, a writing funk. I don't know why and I'm perturbed. The story was flowing along fine and I hit this wall that forced me to write backward. No, not that kind of backward. I had to go back and write a new beginning so I could move forward at the spot where I hit the wall.

It is all very confusing so I won't bore you with long explanations. Just think of painting a room and finding yourself in a corner with no door or window. In addition, across the room you realize you missed a spot next to the door. You have to walk across the room, painting over your footsteps on the way out, and then repaint the section next to the door. That's as close as I can get.

So, I did that and it helped a bit. But honestly, I don't want to do this. Really. Isn't that the darnedest thing? I want to just toss it out and forget the whole thing. I want to take a long winter's nap and wake up in the spring and go for a walk in the cemetery. I want to feel warm, awake, and alive. {sigh} I put that there because you simply can't write a sigh. I know. I've tried.

Now, here I am on Sunday, the 16th and I'm supposed to be at 26,667, more than halfway through my NaNo novel but I am 23,858. It is a widening gap if you stop writing. I would have caught up yesterday but I was really very tired after the library write-in, where I'd managed to get caught up to Friday's goal. Now, I've missed yesterday's goal and if the trend continues, I'll miss today's.

I don't really know what the problem is and I'm not inclined to delve into it to any great degree. I just want to stop.

Here's the thing. NaNo isn't one to die easily. It goads you and twist your mind inside and out. It calls you in the night, wakes you in the morning, and stares at you across the table, any table. It becomes this siren luring you to your destruction. If you don't write, you'll never escape the memory of it. You'll have another blue dot in your row of purple dots. You'll have a missing year in your certificates. People, NaNo'ers, will shake their heads in pity. "Oh, you didn't win that year? Wow."

Then, if you happen to be the Municipal Liaison... not only do you not win but you face public humiliation as the leader of the group. "OH, YOU didn't win? OH NO!" Yeah, sort of like that. But much worse in person.

So, you keep writing, even if you hate the story. Even if it goes in circles, at least it's moving. By the 30th you hope you've got 50k words and the draft of a good story.  A good story is much harder to come by. Failing that, you hope you have at least 50k words because that Winner's Certificate is more than a piece of paper with pretty designs. It's proof of a lot of gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair, wringing of hands, loss of sleep and hours of writing, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone in the dark.

By November 30th, if you pull it off, you'll know what you're made of and you'll wake up on December 1st feeling a bit like a lottery winner, but without the money.

Unless... you know... if I edit this thing, tweak it there, maybe cut this... yeah... you know, maybe... just maybe there's a best seller in this thing.




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day 12 of NaNoWriMo

What a long week and a half this has been. I was lagging behind on word count most of the first week of NaNo but managed to catch up yesterday. If it were not for our write-ins I'd be further behind. My Co-ML had a write-in Friday night at Panera Bread and I went to that. We had 11 people attending. That's the largest we've had in a while.

I've been doing virtual write-ins online with several members of the group and we've combined them so that if there is wifi where we're hosting a live write-in we also do a virtual write-in. Saturday we were at the library and last night I did a write-in at Panera Bread on the east side of town while Tammy was at the library on the west side of town. I'm actually ahead slightly today and don't have as far to go to hit the day's goal of 20,000 words.

I woke to heavy, grey skies and a horrendous headache and pain in a variety of places. Went for blood work and everyone who saw me said, "You're not feeling well today, are you?" I wonder how they knew? I wasn't moaning and groaning or writhing in pain. I carried my Kindle and tried to read while I waited, answered check-in questions, got my blood work. I didn't even have to argue with the lab tech about getting the blood from the back of my hand and what gauge of needle to use! She just agreed and got the butterfly.

It is cold. It is a painful cold. Despite the Prednisone I'm in pain in my hands, neck, shoulder, and feet. Small bones. Not good. Once I start decreasing the dosage of Prednisone the pain escalates in proportion. If I could take it all the time, I would.

I see the doctor in three weeks. I wish I could see her sooner and get it over with and maybe, just maybe find something that works. Nothing is working.

Back to NaNo. I don't care for the story. It isn't that I hate it. There just isn't a story there. I wish I'd gone rebel and worked on one of the other stories I have in progress. I'll get my 50K, more than likely but it will be 50K of boring prose with no purpose. I think this is the first time I've had that happen. I usually know when there is a story. Generally, the problems I face is painting myself in a corner and having no idea of where to go from there. This is different. I don't feel any interest in it.

Of course, you should pay no attention to this any of that because we are in the middle of the 2nd week slump and this happens every year. We'll see how things look next Monday. By Saturday, the 15th, we need to be at 25,000 words. After that, things tend to move pretty fast.  I'll keep pounding away at the keys.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 2

We've reached day 2 of NaNoWriMo. I got off to a good start and am just shy of 4K. I don't know how long the story will keep the momentum but I'll ride until it stops.

I did the first virtual write-in this afternoon for several hours. Roughly 10 people in and out during that time. Really an easy way to write and have fun with the group. And on a cold day, must more enticing than a trip somewhere.

If you're doing NaNoWriMo and want to join our virtual write-ins, join our S. Indiana region and get the instructions there. Or if you're in another region already, check with your ML about online write-in, particularly you folks in places where the snow gets deep and the temps even deeper.

For now, I'm going off-line. I had a terrible night last night. The weather is causing unbearable pain. I kept waking up crying out every time I tried to turn over. My hands and feet were in pretty painful shape this morning and I could hardly walk. I still went to church but I'm exhausted today.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Evansville NaNoWriMo Begins!


Today was the NaNoWriMo Kick-Off for my region. We had a nice turn out. Fifteen people all total. That's a little more than half I planned for. I had a lot of fun seeing everyone, a few for the first time.

I took photos this year. I don't know why I never have done that before but I always forget. The fact that I have a camera on my phone, albeit not a great one, made it easy this year. I intended to get more but simply got busy writing.

We had the kick off combined with a write-in this year and I liked doing it that way. One of the local libraries hosted us. Eleanor, our contact there, set it up and it is a nice big room. She also provided us with coffee and chips. We've got Saturday write-ins scheduled there all month. 

Now the hard part begins... 


 
 



 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How I'm Organizing My Writing Time

I'm such a goof-off. My October plans for writing were to become more consistent by sticking to a scheduled writing time but October has not gone smoothly. With NaNoWriMo on the horizon, I hope that this trend doesn't last. My good  intentions this month simply disappeared, with a few other plans I made, into the murkiness of my life.

I did write but not as much as I'd hoped. Most of the month I spent dealing with the weather. Not in some magical way but the changes in weather patterns tend to make my Rheumatoid arthritis worse. On top of that, for a couple of weeks I experienced plummeting blood sugar and I don't know why. I had to make adjustments. My blood pressure was also down by about 10 points on both sides of the equation. 

I know there will be some who think such problems should have no impact on writing but when you can't operate the keyboard because your hands are swollen and the joints stiff, or  you can't stay awake due to the extreme fatigue, then it has a huge impact. 

On a positive note, I found part of the problem was caused by dehydration. I had several days where I was extremely sluggish and unable to stay awake. After everything else checked out, I thought I might be dehydrated. So, I checked my skin. To do this pinch the back of your hand, below the knuckles and let go. If your skin is slow to return to normal, you're dehydrated.

Since I failed the test, I drank 24 ounces of water and in a hour I was awake again. I forget to drink and eat now that I'm not working. I don't get hungry or thirst and I don't go to lunch on a schedule to remind me. That isn't a good thing. I take a diuretic blood pressure pill and dehydration is a risk. 

I seemed to have licked the water problem. Less stress overall has probably resulted in the changed in blood pressure and blood sugar levels. So, now I need to bring myself to task.

Time

I went in search for something to assist me in staying on track with my writing. I'm terrible with schedules unless I have a calendar handy to prompt me and then I have to make myself stick in the chair for a specific amount of time, regardless of what happens. I decided I needed a timer, something a bit more elaborate than the basic kitchen timer I have on my phone. 

I have a friend who does a work schedule where she does her housework in breaks. She works 30 minutes and takes a 30 minute break. I've tried it and found it a great way to get a lot done and not feel overwhelmed. Months ago I ran across an article about the Pomodoro Technique(T) and it was basically my friend's method. 

I've wanted to implement this type of schedule for my writing time but I needed a good timer that allowed me to set the schedule I wanted to use without having to reset it each rotation. There is a Pomodoro timer but I didn't care for it. 

After examining several timer apps for my computer and phone, I only found one I really liked called Breaker. I've tried it several times and am happy with it. The ease of operation and low profile are just what I was looking for. And I can program a variety of schedules and rotations.

Organization

If you know me, you know I'm a rabid Google fan. I use everything Google that I can. I have email, blogger, YouTube, G+, Google Drive, and Google Calendar. There are other Google items but I'll stop with the most common. 

Google Calendar is my lifeline to my life. I schedule everything on it, right down to reminders to call someone. I have the app on my phone and it reminds me where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing. I could download it to my laptop with Microsoft Mail or Outlook but I don't like either of those and it just adds stuff to my computer that I have to sort through and clean out periodically. Online, Google requires none of that. 

Today I found an app that I hope will prove useful in keeping up with things when I'm on the computer. Gminder is a small app on my taskbar that loads everything I have on every calendar that I tell it to load and reminds me. At the moment I have three calendars I monitor: one personal calendar for all my appointments, meetings, and assignments, one for NaNoWriMo calendar to let my region know when, where, and what time we have meetings, and a third tracking calendar as a separate log. 

I loaded Gminder on my computer on Tuesday, told it what calendars to load, and my scheduled items appeared in the minder. I got a notice immediately that it was my birthday. Did I really schedule my own birthday? Probably not. But my contacts' birthdays are included on my calendar so, if my birthday is in my contacts, then it is on the calendar. Why put my own name in my contacts? I have three email addresses and three phone numbers. This way, they're all handy if I need to send them to someone.

On first glance, I think I'll like Gminder. If I hate it, I'll have to schedule myself a reminder to come back and tell you. I think Breaker and Gminder are going to be excellent tools in my arsenal to get organized. One can only hope that they are effective. It's a choice.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Branding, Marketing, & Self-Publishing Your Novel

I don't feel I've had a very productive week but there was some positive things. My oven stopped working on Monday and my son and I were able to repair it for the cost of the part. On Wedensday, I was supposed to have a job phone interview but they never called. I  haven't called them because they scheduled the interview and ought to know when to call. Do I want to work for a company that it has taken three months to get a response from and then they flub it?

Things began to look up on Wednesday. My friend and author, Rae Ford, called me Tuesday evening to point me to a potential job as a PA to another author, C.J. Ellisson. I contacted Ms. Ellisson and it was the smartest thing I've done in a while. I didn't possess the skills she was looking for and I wasn't really surprised, but I still profited by the call.

Ms. Ellisson was so nice and not too busy to talk about writing with me. She provided me with valuable information and encouraged me to start learning those skills because I need the same knowledge as a writer. 

The industry has changed radically in a very short time and many writers are navigating in strange waters, including me. I found it ironic that much of her advice I'd already heard at the Austin, Tx Re:Write Conference last October. It overwhelmed me then. I had two days and a truckload of data shoved at me. This brief conversation gave me a bit of clarity and encouragement. 

Ms. Ellisson is a strong proponent of self-publishing and she provided a list of books she feels are the best place to start my education in marketing and self-publishing. When I looked for them on Amazon I found I actually had the first one on my Kindle. I'd obtained it free it over a year ago but I have so many writing books that I simply had not got around that one yet. Had she not talked with me, I might not have read it for a very long time.

I've placed links to the books below for your convenience. It is by no means the only books on the topic but it helps when someone recommends a book based on experience. I have the Kindle versions but they also have hard copies that are a bit more expensive. I started the first one today and it is an easy read. I'm taking notes because there's lots of information. 

Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should: Updated Second Edition (Let's Get Publishing Book 1) 

Let's Get Visible: How To Get Noticed And Sell More Books (Let's Get Publishing Book 2)

The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing 

Ms. Ellisson pointed me to her YouTube channel, The Author Coach where she has a series of free videos that teach you how to set up your Facebook page to maximize your marketing as an author.Her opinion is that many authors are under utilizing Facebook in their marketing. After watching three of them today, I would agree with her.  

The videos are interesting, brief,and easy to follow. I was unaware of many of the things she pointed out. Facebook has undergone some changes since she made the videos but the processes are pretty much the same. I was half done making an author page when I realized.... technically, I'm not an author yet. I'm just a lowly writer. So, I put that down and started on the books. I'll go back to the videos once I finish them.

It is rare to find a published author willing to have a real conversation with you about anything. It was nice to find one so willing to share what she has learned about the craft and marketing a novel. I hope, if I'm ever published, that I am equally generous. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Falling Bodies

So, I'm trying to get psyched up for NaNoWriMo. As the ML you kind of have to be pumped up to write a novel of 50K and lead a group of like minded folks on to victory. I'm still in my PJ's this gloomy, wet Tuesday. I've updated the checkbook, which lead to a bit more gloom and decided to check email, FB, and NaNo for anything new. 

I landed on my Nano Novel Page and clicked on the link for last year's entry. I read over it and was mildly surprised that the excerpt, while needing editing, is pretty good. In fact, it made me laugh. That's a good thing. Now I'm ready to do another one. Honestly, there is very little that I recall in last year's attempt of merit but that opening tells me there's potential. It encourages me that I can do this again. 

"Just finish one!" Says everyone I know. The good news is that I'm trying to get the endings of three previous NaNos written. I've been dabbling on all three for a while. I get bored with them, wanting to start something new. Thus the reason I am writing on more than one. Only in the last month did the endings of two of those three reveal themselves to me. But now November is upon me and I have to shove that back for a couple of months.

I decided to share the excerpt here. The link is above but I'm not sure non-NaNoers can access it. This will save you the trouble. 

Falling Bodies, By Cynthia Maddox
Synopsis

Savannah keeps stumbling over dead bodies in strange places but she didn't do it. Unfortunately, her proximity to the victims puts her on the radar of the new detective in town. When Savannah begins to look for a connection to the victims she suddenly finds she may have stumbled onto a secret that places her on someone else's radar.

Excerpt

As she passed Willow Lake she glanced around. There were a series of benches scattered around the lake. Today there was a couple seated together. She couldn’t make out who they were but she’d seen them for several days now. The woman was seated on the bench and the man sat astride of the bench, close to her, one hand holding hers and the other around her waist. He leaned over and kissed her cheek. 

Savannah looked away and walked on. Glancing at her watch, she picked up her pace.It usually took her thirty minutes to walk her route. She had to be done before dark. It wasn't that she was afraid of being in the cemetery but after dark was when most vandalism occurred and she didn't want to risk running into people willing to take sledge hammers to a dead person's grave. 

She rounded the curve in the road that ran along the base of the hill. She used to have to slow down here because she would get winded but these days it was a piece of cake. She looked up the hill at the towering obelisk pointing against the sky. Something dark was rolling along the ground between the headstones. She frowned. What was that? As it rolled it picked up speed until it seemed to be flying. It hit a low stone and bounced and then bounced again and flew off the hillside, landing with a splat in the middle of the road, right at Savannah’s feet. She stopped. Another foot and it would have landed on her. 

She stared in disbelief at the object spread before her. For what seemed ages it simply didn't register in her brain. She knew what she was seeing but she didn't understand why she was seeing it. She looked up the hill, searching for something that would explain it. Then she looked again at the sprawling form of Darin Tate and as the blood began to spread out around his head, Savannah felt the world tip and she stumbled away to lean against the side of the hill where they had placed concrete barriers to prevent slump. 

“Oh good Lord. Oh good Lord.” She fumbled in her pocket for her cell phone. Thank goodness she always carried it when she walked. It took several tries before she could actually dial 911. When she did she recognized the voice.

“Winona! Oh my God! Winona, get someone out here to the cemetery! Darin Tate just rolled off the hill and is dead as a mackerel.” She listened to Winona’s response but interrupted her. “I don’t know why he was rolling down the hill. The last time I saw him he was fast walking away from me. All I know is he just did a snowball down Sweet Gum Hill and he’s bleeding all over the pavement.” 

Winona issued another litany of questions and Savannah sighed. “He’s definitely dead, Winona.”

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Maybe a Short

So, I sort of have a story that I started a while back that has been sitting on the computer. It didn't have a name initially but now it does. I don't know where it is going or exactly what is going on but I'd like to use it for play. Oddly, it appears, at least on first glance, to be a ghost story... or not.

I opened it tonight and wrote a bit on it and realized I still like the opening....all 1500 words of it. Yes, that's all I've written on it. In over a year...maybe two. It wasn't anything when I started it and I was just doing one of my "exercises". Don't knock it. Those exercise have worked up into some longer stories. If you've ever read about Simon you know already he started life on a lark. He's well beyond that now.

But this one, I'm wondering if it is a short story. I don't feel a long tale in connection with it. I may post some of it at some point, just to see if anyone gives any feedback. For now, it will probably languish a bit since NaNo will demand my blood, sweat, and tears.

Michelangelo's Block

A young G+ friend, Anya, recently posted a blog about how she deals with writer's block. It got me thinking about my own struggles.

Over the course of my writing life, I've had several run-ins with this pseudo-building material. It can wreck a good story. Yes, I know there are people who say it doesn't exist, that it's all in our heads. They told me the same thing about PMS. It is now a recognized health problem that affect 50% of the population. The fact that the other 50% doesn't experience it, doesn't lessen the effects or negate its existence and some of those will tell you it is real.

Until August I worked a full-time government job for 16 years. Before that, I was a full-time student, a full-time military wife and mom. Before that I was a full-time mom and military wife. Before that... well you get the idea. Let me just tell you that when you wear a lot of hats, life can interrupt you at unexpected times and for me, everything was secondary to my family. There were times when I couldn't write because I was running my legs off, the kids were sick, or the dog just bit the postman.

In the top of a closet I have a box full of stuff written long before computers. I did a church newspaper for about 4 years, writing for each issue. I wrote for my journalism classes, my english classes, my history classes, for both university papers and anything else I could find to write.

In the last 10 years, I've been hit with depression, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, severe fatigue, the death of my husband in 2009, devastating grief, and the marriages of both sons breaking up. Still, during all that I kept writing. Not a huge projects but anything that came to mind, often to keep my sanity. I started doing National Novel Writing Month 9 years ago. That's where you write a 50K word novel in 30 days. I've lost three times. It is the wins that keep me going back. And now, I am the local municipal liaison, wrangling other writers in November while I write my own 50k word novel.

Now I write blogs, long letters, and notes over stories in various stages of development. Before you ask, no, I haven't published. I write because I love stories and I love writing them but recently, I'm thinking more about publishing. It isn't the Holy Grail to me but it sounds like a new adventure. Along the way, I'm sure there are those writer's blocks lurking to interfere with my quest.

So, how does a writer deal with writer's block? I suppose I could write a list of special techniques to deal with those times when you're just mentally constipated but that's been done, several times. Generally, they give you a numbered list of what you should do to get around the block. Maybe they work. I wouldn't know. I get depressed reading them because I've usually tried most of them with little results. My own experience led me to the conclusion that there is only one thing that works. You use the same technique Michelangelo used when he created his masterpiece, David.

In 1501, at the age of 26, Michelangelo was commissioned to finish a statue that had been commissioned years earlier, circa 1466. The previous sculptor has been given a great block of marble to create the statue and had only sketched out the form on the stone before abandoning the project. The stone sat in the same spot for over 40 years, exposed to the elements. When Michelangelo took over I suspect that 19 ft tall block of marble wasn't pretty. For the next two years he chipped away at it. It became one of his best known and most beautiful works.

CC Roger Wollstadt
What do you think would have happened if Michelangelo had tossed his chisels on the ground and fanned his chin at that hunk of marble after he'd worked on it a few days? Weeks? A year? Were there days he couldn't pick up a hammer? Were there days when dawn came too early, or his body couldn't go another step? Were there emotional crises? Did his dog die? I'm sure a lot of things crossed his path. I'm sure there were days he worked a few hours and went home disgusted. I suspect there were days he was ill. At 26 I'm sure a pretty smile distracted him. But on the days he worked, he kept chipping away at that ugly block of stone until one day he stepped back and looked up to find it had disappeared, replaced by a beautiful piece of art.

You overcome writer's block the same way Michelangelo created his masterpiece, you write through the block until there's just a work of art. It doesn't matter how long it sat in the drawer or how long it has taken you to write it. You pick up your tools and keep hammering away. Eventually, you get past the block to the art.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Letter Arrived Today

I received the notice today from the Office of Letters and Lights (OLL) to say I'm still going to be Municipal Liaison for this region. They've also added a Co-ML and I couldn't be happier. Tammy was just such a huge help last year and knowing that she will be available again this year is such a relief. 

I've still got a couple of months but there is much to do to get it all sorted and get the meetings organized. I love doing NaNo anyway but the ML job is a bit like a part-time job as a cheer leader. I'm really fortunate to have such a great group of participants. They're all so eager when it starts and they bring such great enthusiasm. We have a lot of fun.

If you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, follow the link and find out. Then, sign up for the most fun you'll have in November. 


Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Write Saturday

I don't remember the last time I spent nearly a whole day writing. Well, actually, it was a bit of editing and writing. I'm working on The Long Summer Run and I haven't worked on it in so long that I had to start reading from the beginning just to get my bearings.

I had actually started writing where I left off. I had a couple of what-if questions come up when I was thinking about who could have done the deed and why. I thought I knew but wasn't happy with it. In fact, I came up with two suspects additional suspects with a totally different motive. Bonus! But I realized that I would have to go back and write some sections over to build toward that end.

That's when I started reading from the beginning. I'm about 1/3 through and I'm only trying to find where and how to add what I need to add. I've also found some things that needed fixing and some sections that probably will have to be removed.

I really hate editing and I wanted to wait but the new solution has made it necessary. Still, I've actually realized that a story I originally didn't like at all is actually a fairly good story. I've laughed at some of my own scenes and that usually doesn't happen.

If I can keep the momentum, I could conceivably have a completed draft by the end of September. Wow.

But I won't jinx it. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. If I can keep my brain working.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Black Box

They say that writers should read a lot. I've always been a prolific reader until the brain fog of fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis slowed me down. My current neck problems of severe pain when my head is in certain positions make it even harder to read now. Still, I usually have several books going at once.

Sanford Quest
Project Gutenberg
Lately I've been reading books from the Project Gutenberg. There's a lot of free ebooks there and I like reading some of the old mysteries from the early 20th century for fun. Sometime you stumble on a really good book and others... not so much.

Today, I'm about halfway through The Black Box, by E. Phillips Oppenheim, written in 1915. When I started it I didn't expect much. I just wanted something simple to read that would entertain me. I'm about halfway through it at the moment and I'm about ready to chuck it. I've read old novels in the past but nothing by Mr. Oppenheim. I can't say I'll read anything else by him but to be fair, this is quite an educational experience.

Let me say first, it is long and seems to get longer but it is easy to read. This particular story is about a criminologist named, rather appropriately, Sanford Quest. He solves crimes. He has an assistant, Laura, and during the course of the first few chapters, gets a second assistant, Lenora, who was involved with a criminal and was initially suspected as a criminal herself. Of course, Mr. Quest just knew she wasn't and since he seems to have a fondness for her, he keeps her as the new assistant.

There are a lot of amazing inventions in this thing. Mr. Quest has a "wireless", which most of you may know was an early type of two-way radio. However, his wireless also has a pocket version and live video capability by means of mirrors. Amazing stuff. And just a bit silly. Well, I am reading from the future and Mr. Oppenheim, while his novel invention is mildly interesting, such technology was only fantasy at that time. He writes about it as if it were quite mystical, and he carries it around in his pocket. Despite it being his own invention, Mr. Quest has supplied the local police with this invention so he can contact them at a moments notice, as well as his assistants.

The story is filled with what was probably excitement in 1915 but which today sounds pretty goofy. Criminals who repeatedly escape, mysterious hands that appear to people and leave things, hidden compartments, cupboards, and alcoves, hidden stairs and tunnels. Mr. Quest is able to break out of jail simply by having his assistant come visit, exchange clothes with him and take his place. Oh... did I mention he can also hypnotize anyone? This comes in handy in his escape as the guard must be hypnotized to allow him escape. Of course, Mr. Quest is then pursued but he manages to get the proof to prove his innocence... but the real criminal still eludes capture.

The criminals seem to be quite adept at this. They escape on their way to jail, from locked garages, when they are surrounded, and other assorted traps. They travel all over New York, managed to get passage to England, where they escape Scotland Yard, travel to a desert country, then to the American west. I haven't got quite there yet. I'm not sure I'll make it. I'm rather exhausted from all this globetrotting.

Let me finish by saying that it was a simpler time. People were far less well traveled and the average reader had little to no scientific knowledge. The criminal element was dealt with quickly and rather summarily. So, I can see the appeal for a very naive population at the turn of the century. Intelligent they may have been but they were lacking all the advances yet to come that would turn society on its head. World war, with all it's advances in medicine and technology was still ahead. They were not exposed yet to the excessive violent criminal element waiting in the wings just a few decades away that would bring criminal activity to the front pages of papers around the world. The horrors of radical islam were no where to be found.

So, campy, corney, goofy.. yes it is and it probably reflects the average male reading material since Mr. O made a fortune writing the stuff. I don't see very many woman of this time reading it but I must say, despite a sexist remarks, Mr. O's heroins are a much more independent than one would expect from this era. They run around doing investigations and operating wireless technology and honestly, they're not swooning all over. Of course, if you read a couple of his online bios you'll see that rumor has it he was quite the ladies man anyway. I suspect he was attracted to the type.

Do I recommend this? As research only. Unless you like this kind of thing. I can't say it hasn't been fun or interesting, but only from an academic perspective.






Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Hero's Journey From Muddles to Middles

You know those times when you've fiddled with your story so long that you've given up on it, several times, only to keep going back to it with the idea that there's still something there? You spend hours thinking about the problem, lying in bed chewing on the sheets while the story turns in your head like a kaleidoscope constantly changing shape. You look at it from every angle, always thinking the next turn will be perfect. You know what I'm talking about.

I've been doing that with one of my stories for ....well, let's just say a long time. I've gone over my notes, have written over 80K words in Scrivener, and have hashed it out with several friends who're very good at helping me unravel knotty problems. All to no avail. Dream Stealer... Simon Lancaster... MC extraordinaire, has been a pain in the neck from the beginning. He didn't shut up for a couple of years before going into stealth mode, where he remained quiet for another year before coming out once more, demanding attention. The only thing I can say in his defense is that when I've been really sick, he's kept his mouth shut. It would have been nice had he offered to do some cleaning but there you are.

After I retired earlier this month I promised myself I was going to do nothing that required a lot of mental calisthenics for several weeks. The first week I was away and sick most of that time. Since my return I've spent a lot of time trying to recover and relax, mostly reading and posting blogs and on Netflix watching Poirot, Numbers, and a couple of other mystery shows. My only thought was to let my body heal and to get my mental and emotional state to calm down after all the stress the last several years. Only over the last week have I begun to get my some of my brain back. It's a nice feeling, having your brain, even small portions. There are side effects.

Simon has shown up again. He was dressed nice, I must say. Spoke very prettily and said all the right things. Except what I needed him to say. We argued over this. Again. Several times. I'm very frustrated and ready to just toss this in the box with all the others. Never have I had such an insufferable character.

Last weekend we had our local writer's meeting at the Mall Cafe Court. One of my friends, Amanda Niehaus-Hard was listening to me discuss this story problem. She offered advice. "You've got a plot problem." I agreed. She told me about what she'd done when she has a similar problem. She suggested the book 21 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias and a couple of exercise I should try. I actually own that book so that's no problem. She wrote the exercise down. Then, with her lovely smile she said, "You're going to have to figure it out. The characters are not going to tell you." She's so nice, really. And our group is very proud of her because she just sold two short stories. So, with that thought in mind, I took her observation and advice seriously.

I decided it was time to do some review work. So, I pulled the Tobias' book from my bookshelf but I also remembered one that I wanted to read by James Scott Bell, that also dealt with plot. I've read a couple of Bell's books and liked them. The one I had my eye on was Plot and Structure. My local library has it so I checked it out.

Today, I started reading it and taking notes. Amanda had written Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. In the first two chapters of Bell's book he has something very similar. He calls it the LOCK method. The letters stand for Lead, Objective, Confrontation, and Knockout.  After reading it, I began to get a clearer idea of what Amanda told me on Saturday.

In the second chapter, Bell discusses the three act structure and the mythic structure. I've read about the mythic structure. There is a book called The Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell that details this. I've never read that book but I've read numerous writing books that discuss it in various ways. Today, reading Bell's view of it, something clicked. I remembered some notes I ran across when I was straightening up a few weeks ago. It was in a small notebook I used to carry around. There were only a dozen or so pages used and some were notes about the back-story for  Dream Stealer. I sat down and read over them again.

Until now, the problem was that I had a beginning and an ending. The middle was, as Bell said, a muddle. I had a vague idea of what the objective was but it just wouldn't come together. We're often resistant to change where our stories are concerned and this story had blossomed in my brain long ago and had continued to grown in a far different direction than I had originally intended. At least, I thought so. Despite all my searching, racking my brain, moving the pieces around to get a new view of it, I couldn't find the central motivation for Simon doing what he was doing. I tried demanding Simon divulge his secrets and well, he can be difficult. As Amanda said, he wasn't going to tell me.

I took the mythic structure laid out by Bell and walked myself through Dream Stealer step by step. Then, in the middle of the muddle, something jumped out at me. It was a single line of notes in that little book. It was a note about part of the back story I'd written long, long ago. One sentence. And, mon ami, the little grey cells, they exploded.

My living room reverberated with my shout. "YES! YES! THAT'S IT! THAT'S IT!" I threw my hands up, clutched my head. I got up and paced around and started talking out loud. I live alone. Who will care? I went over and over it. And it fit. It fit perfectly. Well, as near as I can tell. I think it will work.

And wonder of wonders, Simon is sitting across the room, watching.

I glared. You know, you could have just told me.

"I did. A long time ago. It was in your notes."

I can't believe it was there all the time!

Oh, I can.

Some things are better left unsaid.

You do know that it means rewriting some bits."

Yes, yes, I know but not that many. I think I can make them work.

"You may have to eliminate some POVs."

"Yes, yes. I know but that's not a bad thing. Believe me, one voice, even if it is yours, is easier to deal with than four."

"Ah. So, you're going to kill someone?"

Don't tempt me.




Sunday, August 3, 2014

Paving Stones

I retired from my job Friday and already I'm getting notices from my friends saying that now I have no excuse for not getting one of my stories finished. While it is true that my job is no longer an issue, I don't think I've had very good excuses before for not writing. I always feel I'm being cheated of something important when I can't work on the novels and short stories I've got in piles on my computer. You would think I'd do something about that. Pain is a great leveler.

I do blog a lot, quite regularly in fact. Virtually every day I'm posting something on one of multiple blogs.  Each one has a different function but that wasn't always the case. Blogging, for me, is and has always been to relieve my stress and get all the stuff that is chaotic inside me outside. That's actually not blogging, it is journaling and although it is cathartic for me, I'm pretty certain that the public is not interested in my therapy.

I set this blog up to ensure I spent some time focusing on THE WRITING and to keep those posts from my therapy in the journal. One hopes, with the elimination of one source of stress, that there will be fewer depressing journal posts and more positive writing ones. It would be really nice if there were more actual writing on stories and about my processes and less about the the negative aspects of pain.

The first thing I have to do is start planning my days to include real writing rather than blogging. I have to organize what blogging I do so it has a bit more focus and is more pertinent. That's my intention. Most good intentions end up as paving stones on the path to a cook out where we're the main course.

Monday I'll be on the road to Arkansas to pick up my granddaughter and visit my son. I'll return on Friday. There is limited internet (think none) at his house. So, I should be able to sit down and do some real writing. Maybe by the time I get back, the routine will be set up and I'll have no problem sticking to it. Right?

Hand me the next paving stone, please.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Still Writing

I started with the best of intentions. Really. My goal was 30K and I knew I could do it. Then, the RA decided to kick my ... I went into a flare. Actually, I've been in a flare for nearly two years with a brief break last summer. At the moment, things are calming down a bit but I fear it is too little too late. 

I'm not going into all the deadly depressing, boring detail here. If you interested in suffering with me, dash over to Life on the Ledge. It is aptly named. Let me say that I am behind for a reason and move on.

Once I knew I would not make the 30K without a miracle, I reduced it to 25K. My hands were swollen and the joints hurt but I kept plugging away. I couldn't bend my fingers easily and the began having cramps in both hands the beginning of the second week, something I've never had before. I had to send a message to the doctor and keep going.

Finally, after hasty emails, we decided on a plan. My plan was to stop using the computer as much as possible. Work has forced me to do 7 hours a day in data entry for three weeks now and then with Camp that increased to nearly 10 hours typing. Her plan was to increase certain meds. I cut back as much as I could at home and work. And again reduce my word count, this time to 20K. 

I missed a day of work last week and again yesterday. But I had a four day weekend as a result. After four days of no computer work and limited writing, my hands have calmed down. The cramps have stopped. Most of the joints in my hand are now calmer, with the exception of one very painful finger, which is one that gets a lot of action on the keyboard.

At this point, I still want to work on the story and try and finish but I'm not liking the odds and I don't like feeling forced to reduce the word count. I had to do that last year and I hated it. 

The only good news is I'm still writing... but not as much as I'd like. So, I'm down but not out.



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo 2014 - Day 2



Yesterday Camp NaNo started off with a fairly good bang. I hosted an online write-in on Mibbit and had a few of my local WriMos in attendance. I racked up just over 1400 words for the first night. Since my goal is only 25K, that is about two nights of writing. I'll do some more in a bit. I've spent the early part of the evening trying to decided whether I really wanted to go walk. I suppose I decided not to since it is now almost 8:30 and I'm still here.

The story I'm working on is one from my 2013 NaNo. I think I've already blogged this...somewhere... Anyway, The Long Summer Run is the title and I've got it posted around here somewhere.... {sigh} I have to clean the place up! Oh, well.

This story is about Marley Crawford and the events that transpired over the course of a summer in Riker's Mill. Marley is just 17 and is at the crossroads of life when one is neither a child anymore nor an adult and she gets no respect in either. So, what is her summer like?

Here's an exerpt from The Long Summer Run:

Since May life had been filled with a certain flavor, a bit like hot sauce laced with vinegar. The variety of events boggled even my mind. My brother was shot in the butt. My big sister had left home without a word. I'd gone skinny dipping with Taylor. The barn had burned to the ground. A body was found in the ashes. My brother had gone on the lam and was hiding out somewhere. I'd visited a bar to ask questions that went nowhere and was questioned by the police and nearly landed me in jail. I hid things from my family that probably should be told. I'd snooped around and irritated someone enough to make them run over me. Suffered a broken arm and severe concussion. Now, I was concealing the fact that Jim was somewhere nearby.

What a summer. It was surely better than some of those movies that came to town and ran for the whole summer.Whatever the movie happened to be, the locals always called it the Long Summer Run. This summer my life was the feature presentation in town.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Month of Summer Camp

 Camp NaNoWriMo
It is that time again... Summer Camp for Writers! Yes, I'm doing Camp NaNo again this year. This will be my second camp session. I did it last year and worked on the November NaNo novel from the previous year. This year, I'm hoping to finish that novel during this camp session.

I've been busy with other things of late and have not really cracked the file open to plan what I'll be writing. No surprises there. Life has been very hectic and stressful. It doesn't help that I'm a pantser for the most part. The more I write, the more I understand the value of planning.

This story is almost finished but whether it is any good is debatable. I've got a few folks who've read it and like it so, maybe this one will get a thorough clean-up once I finish the first draft.

If you've never done November National Novel Writing Month because you think it is too hard or too intense, Camp NaNo is a really good place to start your adventure in writing. You set your own word count. You start a new story or work on an existing work. Whatever you want. This year they opened private "cabins" so you can even get with people you know. There's more but you can visit the site and take a look for yourself. Click the photo and it should take you there.

If you join us, leave a comment. I'd love for you to keep me posted on your experience and progress.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Gin Joint

Casablanca
Staring Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman
Written 07/07/2010 for Writing Challenge #1.


I pushed open the heavy door beneath the blue, blinking sign and stepped into the nearly Stygian darkness of the bar, wincing as the screech of the hinges pierced my eardrums while the splinter from the weathered surface of the door frame pierced my hand. 

“Ouch!” I muttered and pressed the wound to my mouth. Maybe not the most sanitary but certainly a universal gesture and a comfort. No one in the room appeared to notice my entrance or distress. I rubbed the wound dry and stuffed my hands into my pockets to limit any further risks. I stopped a few feet into the room to allow my eyes to adjust. 

It was not a five star establishment. Someone was very concerned about the light bill because the fifteen watt bulbs over the booths and tables barely made a dint in the dark. Tables were clothless and most customerless. Impossible to tell what kind of wood paneled the walls. Eons of smoke had coated them to an indecipherable black. 

Along the wall, I could make out three people in two booths. The lone person's bald head reflected the poor light over it. With effort, he might be able to read something in that booth. Two other people were seated at two tables, one nursing a drink and another smoking a cigarette and staring at something in the darkness that I suspected only he could see. Smoke curled upward and caressed the light, as if to coax more from it. It was a wasted effort. The light only winked.

The bar that ran along one side of the room must have been magnificent when it was installed. Five dim, recessed lights placed equidistant over it made it only slightly lighter than the rest of the room. It was an ornate mahogany creation whose luster had been scraped away over the years by thousands of glasses, cuff buttons, and elbows and whose brass trim was long ago tarnished to a dull brown. A flyspecked mirror covered the wall behind it, the reflections in it only a dream half remembered. 

Three men sat at that bar. The first was tall and slender and wore a black trench coat. He sat leaning on the bar, one foot on the rail and the other on the floor. A briefcase lay on the bar at his elbow and when he raised his drink I caught a glimpse of something glittery on his wrist. Out of place, I thought. 

The man to his right was big, not fat but large and he wore a pair of overalls. His work boots were caked in mud and there was the distinct scent of farm about him. He wore a Braves baseball cap on his head. I got a flash of tractors and barns in my head and couldn't shake it. Somewhere in my brain “Farmer in the Dell” began a litany. 

It was the third man who worried me. He was obviously a policeman. I studied him a bit more closely. He was tall and clean-cut. He was the only man facing into the room. His eyes moved around slowly, pausing here and there to study someone or something. It seemed an odd place for him to be at this time of night. There was nothing happening here. But then, maybe that was why. 

I wondered which one was my contact. I had little to go on except he would meet me here at 11:00 pm. He would know me, he'd said. I looked at my watch. It was 10:30. I sighed and looked around. Plenty of places to wait but none inviting.

A low mutter came from my right and I glanced around, startled. A small wizened face peered up at me and the whites of the eyes glowed round and bulging. In a voice of rusty hinges he said, “Buy us a drink, honey.” He stretched out a hand caked in something, nails broken and he grinned, his mouth empty and black as the room. “We'll give you a lovely present. Buy us a drink.” The smell of old urine and rank breath wafted around me and my stomach folded in on itself. The smile faded and his face twisted, the mouth became a maw. “Buy us a drink, bitch and we'll let you live.”

I stepped back, moving toward the bar. Something cold and clammy slithered up my spine. What, I wondered, was that? 

From the far end of the bar a voice called out. “'ere now, 'arry, leave the customers alone or I'll show you the sidewalk.” 

I squinted. A form, darker than the surrounding darkness moved along the bar and a very tall, very pale man appeared. He stopped beneath the last light, nearest me. “Pay the ole divel no mind. Can I get you a drink, lass?” 

I stared. He was a ghost. His hair, brows, and skin was snow white and his eyes had a strange cast to them. I realized they were pink. He as an albino. “Um. . .” It caught in my throat and I swallowed, scanning the three at the bar. “Yes, please. Do you have Coca Cola?”

Someone snorted, the farmer I thought. Laughter came from the man in the trench coat. The policeman's eye locked on me and a slight frown creased an otherwise perfect brow. He was handsome. Again I thought it odd he was here.

“Course we do. Bottled. Would you like ice for that?”

“Yes, please.” I sat down at the table near the window. It wasn't much of a window. Even if it were the middle of the day it wouldn't have mattered. It was dirty, flyspecked, and cloudy with smoke residue. It was doubtful if they could ever be properly cleaned. 

“May I join you?”

I jumped and looked up. Trench coat stood over me. He wore a black suit and tie beneath the coat. He smiled down at me. Oh. 

I nodded. He sat down, his back to the room.

“What are you doing in a dive like this?” he asked.

Someone put money in the jukebox and the lights lit up one corner of the room. Sammi Smith began to croon “Help Me Make It Thru the Night”. The bartender brought me my cola with a glass of ice. I opened it, deliberating before answering. “That is a very old line, you know. But I might ask you the same thing.” I glanced over his shoulder at the policeman who met my gaze with an unblinking stare.

“Yes, you might. But I think you know why I'm here.”

I studied my drink. Yes, I did. 

“You have it?”

He smiled and leaned forward. I felt my insides flip-flop and turn to jello. I wondered how I was going to scrape them off the floor and separate them from the filth.

He reached out and stroked my cheek.  He whispered, “Darling, of course I have it. But do you have my money?” 

I nodded. “The merchandise first.”

He laughed. “Here?”

I looked around. He'd made me forget where I was. Not good.

“The money is in my hotel room. I'll give you the money when I get my merchandise.”

He shook his head and sat back. “Sweetheart,” his voice was soft and teasing, “we have a problem.”

Breathe. Breathe. I took a deep breath and let it out. “No, you do. I have the money. I want the merchandise and then, you get the money.”

“So, how do you propose to do this?”

I thought about it, not liking any of the alternatives.

“Tell you what, I'm perfectly willing to give it to you here, if you want. We can use the back room. But that means you have to go back and get the cash.”

Long sigh. Long drink. I nodded. “Right. OK. Um, you'll have to follow me to my hotel.”

The smile sent warm waves all over me. “Of course. Perfect solution. We could take my car. I'll bring you back for yours if you like.” At my look he shook his head. “All right. Not a solution. Why don't we take your car and I'll pick mine up afterward.”

I shrugged. “Right. That'll work.”

The policeman got up and strolled around the room, slowly making his way toward us. I stood up. “Let's go now.”

He laughed, and trailed his finger along my jawline. “My, my. In a bit of a rush, aren't we. Let me get my case.”

I bolted out the door and waited on the sidewalk beneath the blinking blue sign. He joined me and I pointed to my car across the street. With his hand at my elbow, we crossed the street. He opened my door for me. 

He tossed his briefcase into the back seat and before I could slip away his arm snaked around my waist and he pulled me against him. “I'll take a down payment, if you don't mind.”

I melted against him and moaned, slipping my arms around his neck. “Yes,” I whispered. 

He lowered his head and I raised my face to claim the kiss. I breathed in the scent of him. 

“Keys,” he murmured.

I pulled them from my pocket and handed them to him and slid across the seat, allowing him to get in the driver's seat. I saw the policeman come out the door of the bar. 

“Hurry. He's coming.” I said. The engine purred to life and we pulled away, leaving the officer staring after our glowing taillights.

“Which hotel?”

I gave him the address and leaned back and closed my eyes. I felt his hand on my thigh. I moved it off. “Stick with the plan.”

He looked at me, grey eyes smoldering. “If you keep this up, I won't be able to.”

I smiled a sultry smile. “Happy Anniversary, darling.”


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