Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

I haven't done one of these in a while, and felt like joining in. I'm such a joiner. Below is an excerpt from the middle of In the Autumn. My vanity forces me to mention that this is still only a draft. Enjoy!

I don’t remember falling asleep, but that’s what must have happened. When my eyes open they meet dull, brown ones hovering six inches from my face. “Crap,” I yelp, rolling backward and onto the floor with a thud. “Ouch.”
Heart pounding, I glare up at Cadij. He smiles, and as I watch he transforms into Cadi. My mouth drops open as she crosses her legs at the knees and makes herself comfortable on my bed. She’s clad in soft, green pajama’s that engulf her small frame. She grins at me. “Sorry. Just having a little fun.”
“Fun? Oh yes, that was loads of fun. Next time could you just say my name, or tap me on the shoulder?” Getting up, I rub my sore butt before climbing in next to her. It’s weird, sitting together in my bed like this, but I’m glad she’s here. I have too many questions for an hour a day.
“Go ahead, Althea. Ask away.”
My brow scrunches and I nibble on the tips of my fingers. Cadi snuggles into my pillows and waits.  I want to know everything, but don’t want to leave Aimery out. “What are you, are you an Other?” It’s the first question I think Aimery won’t care about the answer. He doesn’t care much about Cadi.
“What am I? All this time in the dark about your own history, and your question is about me?” Her eyes well up with water again, and she looks at me like my fake parents do. With love. Whatever she and Koj are, the fact they care about us is clear. I just can’t figure out why.
“What’s the water in your eyes called? I get it, and Aimery got it before, but no one else does.”
“The humans call them tears. And they all have them, but tears are brought on by emotion. You and Aimery – and your counterparts – are the only humans with access to your emotions right now. When they come it’s called crying, or weeping.”
“Tears.” I try out the word, happy to have a name for the water. Also, a definition for one of the words in the strange, haunting book. “Okay. Now, what are you?”
She thinks about it for a minute, and when she meets my eyes Cadi tries to explain. “The gulf between our languages is vast. Your vocabulary is quite limiting.”
She shrugs. “It is not your fault, Althea. The Others do not wish you taught Language or History.” She searches her mind another few minutes while I practice using patience. “I am an Augur. It is the closest definition. I am not wholly Other, but I am not human. I am from a planet called Sprita. We are not unlike your humans. We have emotions, the primary one being love. Our planet is…was peaceful, full of respect and happiness. No one stood to fight the Others, fighting is not in our nature. The Other’s spent many years on our planet before moving on. No one survived their habitation. Except those they brought with them when they left.”
“They took you with them,” I squeak out.
“Some of us, yes. My people have…had talents the Other’s wished to copy. We have a special relationship with the powers that grant Magic. They took a dozen of our women when they left and bred with them. Experimented with controlling our Magical genes. It worked, to an extent. I am an example. So is Koj.” She watches me through sad, resigned eyes. “Do you understand?”
Do I? “Not really. I mean, I understand what you are saying but not how it works. Could you show me Magic?”
“Sure. Let’s see…” Cadi closes her eyes and me heart speeds up in anticipation. She opens one eye, brilliant blue. “Close your eyes, Althea.”
I snap them shut at her request. Unsure of how long to remain that way, they stay closed until she asks me to open them. Cut off from my vision, the first thing I notice is the smell. Jasmine, fresh and in bloom, wafts beneath my nose. Honeysuckle. Roses. Next, a warm breeze tickles my cheek, a satisfying temperature. I hear water lapping gently, rhythmically. My insides turn liquid in the comfort and calm envelops me.
I feel a small hand on my arm. “You can open your eyes.”
When I do, the scene that greets them nearly knocks me off the bed. Wait. Looking down, I see that I’m no longer sitting on a bed, but in a boat. The floor is replaced by greenish blue water, and in front of me the sun sets on the horizon. Cadi and I drift lazily near the shore of a lake. The foliage is blooming, and the yellows, reds, pinks, purples, and blues dazzle me just as their scents do. The trees are green and lush, like the grass covering the ground underneath them. Amazed, I turn to Cadi. “What is this place?”
“It’s not an actual place, Althea. It’s summer. I thought you might like to see it?”
“How did we get here?”
“You asked me to show you Magic. We aren’t here, we are still sitting on your bed. I’m making it up. This is Magic.”
“I belong here,” I breathe out.
Cadi studies me with a sorrowful stare. “Yes. Yes you do.”
As I watch, she raises her hand and snaps her fingers. In the blink of an eye, summer disappears and we are back in my room. The air worming it’s way under the windowsill makes me shiver, and I climb under the covers next to her. “Cadi, why are you and Koj helping us? Why not just let the Other’s find us?”
Her eyes close, and a tear slips from underneath her eyelid. “You remember what I told you, about Sprita? About what happened there? We wish a different outcome for Earth. You might be the answer.”
 I feel safe, and love flows off of the strange woman and wraps its way around me. Whether she loves me, or just loves, is anyone’s guess. My eyelids grow heavy as she picks up a piece of my hair and twirls it between her fingers. Though a million questions still wait to be answered, fighting the drowsiness is useless. Cadi’s voice lulls me further away from consciousness. “Sleep, girl. You need your rest.”

Friday, February 19, 2010


I have read rave after rave about the awesomesauce of Patrick Lee's book, The Breach. Over at Susan Adrian's blog, she's giving away a copy to one lucky winner. You should go leave a comment, tweet about it, or blog about it yourself, because from what I understand it's a prize well worth having. Better yet, forget you ever read this so that I CAN WIN.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Exiting the First Draft Haze

What follows in my attempt at a light-hearted, not wallowing in self pity post.

I completed a MS a few weeks ago. It rode me hard, wouldn’t let me alone, and pestered me until I finished. It took me around thirty days to write the 65,000 words. Below is a list of things I stopped doing while navigating the brain haze of a new manuscript.

1 – Wearing shoes besides Chuck Taylor’s. (See photo evidence of adorable heels I wore on Wednesday.)

2 – Blow drying my hair. (What? I’m not the only one who puts their hair in a ponytail after a shower and calls it good for two days, right? RIGHT?!?)

3 – Fixing my hair. (See above.)

4 – Talking to my mother. (Who sent me an angry text message containing the word ‘pissed.’ Rough stuff from Mom.)

5 – Going to church. (I went last week and people hugged me profusely like they thought I came back from the dead.)

6 – Taking even my usual fleeting interest in my dayjob. (Which means I am so far behind on my meager monthly offering. I barely made it in January.)

7 – Shaving my legs. (That might be TMI. At least I shaved my armpits.)

8 – Cooking. (Or eating anything remotely healthy.)

9 – Sleeping more than 5 hours a night.

10 – Walking my dogs. (Or playing with my dogs. Or doing more than occasionally rubbing their belly’s while working out a plot point.)

11 - Watching the 20+ hours of TV now waiting on my DVR. (I am not kidding. The only thing I’ve been watching is American Idol, and just because getting behind isn’t an option.)

That said, now I am on to revisions. I usually like to take at least a month before I begin, let the MS sit and marinate, then return to work on edits. This story will not let me do that. The intense pressure has lifted, but instead of disappearing it gave way to a constant throb. It’s not gone. I am about halfway through a rewrite of some plot/character issues. I’ll try and take another 2 weeks off after this one before I start another, more nitpicky revision.

I, like all authors, do several revisions before I put down a story. Notice I didn’t say finish a story, because they aren’t ever really finished. The first pass goes fast, depending on how many holes need to be plugged after the first draft. The second one focuses more on grammar, word choice, and sentence structure. Also, getting rid of those pesky words like ‘that, seem(s)(ed), and anything ending in –ly. Passive voice. Dialogue that doesn’t work. The third (hopefully) cleans up what the first two miss.

What are your editing processes like, writer friends? Longer than mine? Shorter? Just different? What do you forgot to do when you are deep in a first draft?

PS. For more great thoughts on editing/revising, check out Elisabeth Black’s similar post.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Greatest Fear

“Sometimes I think all relationships exist in their own little universe and are subject to their own law of gravity. For a long while, that gravity pulled us together even against our collective will. It demanded that we be together and drew us in while we fought the strength of our growing bond. The thing is, as relationships shift and move, grow and shrink, the effect of that tug can change as well. Gravity, like magnets, can push us apart just as easily as it can pull us together. Chances must be grabbed and pounced on when they present themselves. Moments are there to be lived, experienced. Wait too long and those chances, those moments, disappear and are never heard from again. Then you are left like me. A big, gooey pile of regret. A broken person who might never fully recover from being a total ass. I don’t know what our alternate future would have held. The future where I embraced what we had and let him love me. Maybe it wouldn’t be any different than the reality we both live in now, but part of me will always wonder.” 

The above is an excerpt from my memoir, Gravity. It will very likely never see the light of day, because even posting this piece makes me a little nauseous.** I did it because it highlights an experience that embedded in me one of my greatest fears in life – regret.

You can tell me that I shouldn’t look backward, I can’t change the past or see the future, or that I might need professional help (heard all three on various occasions), but the fact is, I don’t want to live with regrets. I want to be ninety years old, surrounded by my great-grandchildren, and be able to honestly say I don’t have any major regrets in the way I’ve lived my life. It’s made me jump off cliffs and bridges*** and go away to college. Those are some positive experiences. My ever present fear also, on occasion, works against me.

Regarding my professional goals, it works to my advantage. Looking back, I’m not sure when I knew I would be a writer, but it probably started in middle school. I would make up stories all the time (which my parents called lying – always see the negative, those people). Before I left for college I wrote a couple of screenplays and started a novel. I still have them, and boy, are they hilarious. I got involved in theatre, wanted to be an actress. Got a degree in film. It took me a while to realize writing is the right outlet for my creativity. Sure, it’s scary to let people read and critique my writing. For me, it’s not as scary as the thought of not trying at all, of never knowing. So I write. I let people read it. I hope one day, lots of people will read it. Whether they love it or hate it, I won’t regret the journey.

In relationships, this fear of regret paralyzes me. I can’t make a move, can’t decide what constitutes the right thing. Most of all, I have trouble figuring out when to let go. Knowing when to throw in the towel, when to say goodbye, might be just as important to a relationship as knowing when to get involved in the first place. I tend to try very hard; so that if it doesn’t work out I can say I gave it my all. Try and ensure I don’t have any regrets years down the road. But what if I stay too long? Might that be something to regret as well? Wasting years when you know in your heart that the two of you aren’t a good match? What if you are just going through a rough time and things could change?

That’s the place I am stuck in at the moment. I’ve been here before. The last time, my Uncle Gary told me “sitting on a fence will give you a sore crotch.” Not pretty, but useful enough advice. I’m going to get off the fence. I am. As soon as I figure out which path doesn’t end in regret.

What are your thoughts, your biggest fears in life? Am I over-analyzing, or letting my past dictate my future? I would love to hear back from you, and promise a light-hearted post in the near future.

**After I wrote this post, I entered a BlogFest and posted another moment from Gravity. Consider yourselves lucky (or not) because you got to see more than one snippet.

***That photo is the *actual* bridge I jumped off. What an idiot!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love At First Sight BlogFest Entry!

I decided at the last minute to enter the Love At First Sight Blogfest presented by Critique This. I'm not a big fan of Valentines Day but read through some of the entries and thought it sounded like fun. My entry is a little tame, an actual first meeting and nothing sexy. Too bad :). Below is an excerpt from a memoir I've written entitled Gravity.

I left the house and climbed into my eighties Toyota, with which I had an ongoing love-hate relationship. Hate because it was old, cheap, and smelled like mildew due to the leaky trunk. On the love side, I was not exactly the best driver around and in the three years I'd had it we'd survived five accidents together. By the end of the summer we would make it through two more. Granted, most of them had been minor and involved inanimate objects such as mailboxes and other vehicles. I only hit another person once. Don’t worry, I’m not a felon. It was just her foot and it remains an alleged incident. I won the Worst Driver title for my senior class, an honor which embarrassed me to no end but that I had managed to escape by leaving the state for college.
          I did my best to drive carefully on the way to work and managed to arrive in one piece and ready to get started. Maybe cute Sam would be the one training me today. The guy was no Gabe Daniels, and actually not my type at all but still…he wasn’t the worst thing I could have been stuck following around all day. I walked in the door a little before 10:30 which was a full half hour before the place would open for business. Mike, my new manager, told me yesterday not to expect much business until after Memorial Day. He thought there just might be enough time for me to hone my apparently lagging waitressing skills. The smell of grease, chips, and onion hit my nose at the same moment the Jimmy Buffet music assaulted my ears. If this place goes under as a restaurant they could use it as a torture chamber without changing much at all. 
          A bright-eyed young hostess with dark red hair smiled at me and thrust out her hand. “Hi! I’m Callie! You must be new.” She waited for me to respond as she pumped my arm up and down until my shoulder ached. 
            “I’m Leigh, and yes I’m new. I’m supposed to start at 10:30.”
            “I’ll take you back to Mike’s office. He’ll let you know who you’ll be shadowing today.”
          As we walked toward the back I noticed three things simultaneously. First, Sam leaned on the bar and watched our progress with interest. Second, Callie gave him every type of come-hither, sexy eye I'd ever seen, and he didn’t mind one bit. And third, he had a friend. A very attractive, more my type friend. He was about the same height as Sam, maybe a little over six feet, with short curly blond hair and a nice body. Like he definitely took care of himself but wasn’t a beefcake. I had always preferred the soccer/tennis player body to the football player body, and this guy fit right into that mold. And my personal favorite, a very nice pair of calves tucked into clean white socks and tennis shoes. I had a thing for legs. Hmmm, interesting. His blue eyes met mine for a brief second and I saw Sam elbow him gently in the ribs. Callie and I both managed to stop staring as we stumbled past and I followed her into the kitchen. 
          I can’t say I got any premonitions at that moment, saw any fireworks, or watched my future flash before my eyes. Nothing foretold that this handsome stranger held the power to change the course of my life. Sure I noticed him, but…I was still here for Gabe Daniels. I had a one track mind and no well-built good looking guy with nice calves was going to distract me from my ultimate goal. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Honest Scrap Award and 10 Things (You Might Hate) About Me

Yesterday I received a wonderful nod from the lovely Anne Riley, who bestowed upon me the Honest Scrap blogging award. The rules for accepting dictate I reveal ten honest things about me. Let's do it.

1. I have an honest to God phobia of stinging insects. When I see/hear one (or think I do), I come dangerously close to having a panic attack, crying, and have been known to strip off my clothes to make sure it's not on me somewhere. It's embarrassing. And my best friend doesn't like to lay out with me at the Lake anymore.

2. I never went on a date until I was nineteen years old, and if memory serves I had to ask HIM out.

3. I operate on a pretty even keel and try and keep drama out of my life. If I get pissed, you should run. I've been known to throw things.

4. I am a movie addict and spend the weekend before the Oscars seeing all the Best Picture nominees I've missed.

5. My best friend and I have been friends since we were seven years old. That's *gulp* twenty-three years now!

6. I have had kidney stones twice. It's not fun. I don't recommend it, so drink plenty of water.

7. I've never had surgery of any kind, or stayed the night in a hospital (except for the kidney stone, but that's a LONG story involving the mixing of illegal/legal substances and morphine. Not a good idea. I'm still glaring at you, Fort Worth hospital.) 

8. I have an aversion to doctors. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I dated too many guys who became doctors. Either way. I need knee surgery on both legs and I chew TUMS like it's my job. I know. I need to suck it up and go.

9. I love going to the dog park with my pups. They have such a good time and I love watching them romp around and play. Even when they are filthy after. Dog people are great, there is always someone to chat with. Confession: I know most of the other dog's names but not any of the owners names!

10. I am addicted to Twitter. It fills the long, boring hours of my workday and has brought me so many wonderful new friends (some in real life!) and an endless list of new authors to try. 

So I'm sure that's MORE than you wanted to know about me! I'm passing the award on to a variety - some writers I love and some hilarity.

The Honest Scrap Award goes to:

My Husband is Annoying
Laurie Devore
Eisley Jacobs
Harley May
Jamey Stegmaier