Monday, December 26, 2011

A dream come true. . .

First post on my new Mac!  Therefore, I will simply talk about some of the things I've learned so far.


I love the speed with which it turns on and off.  Amazing compared to my old PC-style laptop. . .seconds vs. minutes.  


Of course there is the "delete" key, instead of "backspace."  The two keys have the same function, though.  So my Mac does not have a "delete" key in the sense that a PC does.  


It is smaller, too.  Don't get me wrong here.  I love the size.  It is much more convenient than the old laptop, and super light.  I do, however, miss my number pad on the side and my "home" and "end" keys. (I use "end" a lot, so that will be a big change.)


A cool feature is the "Voice Over."  It allows you to use the keyboard to navigate through any application while voicing where you are in the application.  (It's really much more complex than that, but I don't know if I can accurately explain it.)


Love the track pad, too!  There are so many different ways to set it up.  The entire pad is a button.  You can move the pointer where you want it, and just push on the pad.  No moving  your hand or fingers to "click."  


There is much more, and I can't wait to learn everything.


I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Constructive Criticism

Today my inbox revealed what I have been awaiting for several days:  my instructor's response to my last assignment. 

The Good

"The narrative is intense and evocative, and it’s easy to get caught up in it. The characters and the scenes at the bars are vivid and the dialogue is great. The writing is also quite polished. I did little editing"

Positive responses are great, but I'm looking to get published.  Also, I didn't think this story had a strong finish, and I told him so in my accompanying letter.

The Constructive

"Unfortunately I think [your] intentions were misplaced. This reader, at least, did not want to be left hanging, wondering where your narrator was headed in life. The weak ending makes the story pretty much a cop out. The scenes are strong, but they don’t take us anywhere. You’re narrating a series of scenes or incidents, not really telling a story.

Something has to happen here that changes your main character in some way. We need a moment of truth here, an epiphany of some kind that gives her some new understanding or insight into herself or into her boyfriend or into the way the world works. Something has to happen – either externally or inside her head - that changes things. Otherwise, the story has no point"

Surprisingly, this was refreshing to read.  Just as I thought, my story is weak in it's ending, and this is why.  Later he says that the story could probably be saved simply by rewriting the ending.

Fortunately for me, I already know how I can change the ending.  I know the epihany the main character has and how it comes about. 

My instructor also gave me the option of turning in a revised version later in the program.  I definately think I'll do this.  I want to see if my revision will meet his expectations.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tid Bits on "Darkest Night"

The previous post is the beginning of another short story.  I just wrote this one today, and while it is yet unfinished, I know how it ends.  Those of you who know this story know the ending as well.

It is a true story, told in detail the best I can remember.  I wrote it in third person, but "Janice" is me and "Drifter" is Sneakers.  Even those who know what happened that cold night, don't know all the details, the heart-wrenching experience that it truly was. 

Read on.  I'll post the second half soon.  I just need a bit of respite from the memory.

As always, thanks for reading.

Darkest Night (1st installment)

The message on the answering machine said that Drifter wasn’t acting right.  He was kicking and biting at his belly.  Did Janice want the vet called?

She called the stable right away.  “Rolling Hills Farm,” the owner’s voice said.
“Sally?  It’s Janice.  What’s going on?”

“Oh, Janice.  I’m glad you called.  Drifter just isn’t himself.  He’s kicking and biting at his belly, and about fifteen minutes ago he started rolling.  Just acting colicky.  I didn’t have a number or name for your vet, so I called mine.  I hope that’s okay.” 

Panic screamed through Janice, but she did her best to push it down.  “That’s fine.  I’ll be there in about ten minutes,” she told Sally.  Her thoughts were running away with her.  How bad was he?  Would they be able to help him?  How much would this cost?

“Alright.  We’ve been walking him to keep everything moving.  See you soon.  Bye.”
“Bye,” Janice said just as she hung up. 

She pulled her sneakers off, and crammed her feet into her muck boots.  Her coat was still on, and her keys in the pocket, so she ran out the door.
The blue Saturn flew over the country roads as Janice maneuvered the little car around sharp turns and over blind hills in her race to the barn.  She “California-stopped” at stop signs, even flooring the gas to beat the train crossing before it blocked the road.

           
The barn at Rolling Hill Farm sat atop a small hill, its white sides and green roof a beacon from the road.  As Janice pulled up the long gravel and dirt drive, she could see Sally’s husband, Ron, walking Drifter.  He waved as she pulled in, and signaled her to go to the office. 

Sally met her inside.  “He seems to be doing ok,” she said after hellos were exchanged.  “We’ve been walking him for about a half-hour, now.  The vet just called.  She’s on her way.”
The woman walked outside and watched man and horse walk back and forth up and down the drive. 

“He looks thin,” Sally said. 
“I know.  That’s why I wanted to move him.  I don’t know what they were feeding him at that place, but I don’t think it’s what I provided.  He was only there for like three months.  He shouldn’t have dropped weight like that.  If it was just the drive, I wouldn’t have been so anxious to get him out.”

“Well, it’ll take some time, but we’ll get the weight back on him.  Unfortunately, it comes off faster than it goes back on,” Sally said.  “Now that you’re here, I have to run to the house to get hot water.  The vet might need it, and we’re not hooked up just yet.”
“Ok.  I’ll go take my turn at walking him.”

Dr. Hanson arrived about ten minutes later.  She started her exam with a TPR—temperature, pulse, respiration—noting the results in the file.  Her stethoscope roamed around Drifter’s abdomen, listening for gut sounds.  More notes were made.
The doctor turned to Janice when she finished.  “His heart rate is about fifty to sixty beats per minute.  His respiration is around twenty-five.  And his temperature is 102.5.  All slightly elevated.  I don’t hear any gut sounds, and that worries me the most.  I’m going to give him a mineral oil treatment to help pass anything that could be blocking his intestines.  I’ll need some hot water.  Do you have that here?”

“My wife went to get some from the house.  She should be back soon,” Ron said.

“Good,” said Dr. Hanson.  “You keep walking him,” she told Janice.  With that she walked back to her truck to get supplies.

Sally pulled in, and Ron helped her carry four gallon jugs of hot water to the vet’s truck.  The hot water was mixed with mineral oil in a large brown bottle.
Dr. Hanson came back with the watered-down mineral oil, a funnel, and a long rubber tube.  Janice stopped Drifter so the vet could begin her work.  Dr. Hanson slid the tube up one of Drifter’s nostrils and down into his stomach.  Once it was in place, she affixed the funnel to the other end and began to pour the mixture into the funnel, lifting it up every so often to drain the contents into Drifter’s stomach.

“You can keep walking him now,” she told Janice.  They started a slow walk while the doctor poured and lifted, poured and lifted.

About five minutes into the treatment, Drifter let out a harsh sneeze.  Blood ran out of his nose, staining the white snip on his muzzle.  A bloody blob of fleshy goo stuck to the sleeve of Janice’s barn coat.  The vet assured her that he was fine.  Sometimes the tube could cause mild trauma, especially with the walking.

They walked and treated him for twenty minutes.  Then the tube came out.  “Keep him moving,” Dr. Hanson said.  And she began to clean up.

When she was cleaned up and ready to go, she went to talk to Sally and Ron.  Janice walked Drifter up to them, and Ron took the lead so the vet could talk to her.

“Walk him for another half-hour or so.  Then let him rest for a while,” Dr. Hanson told Janice.  “I have a foaling call to attend to, but I’ll be back after that.  He should be fine until then.  If you notice anything, call the office.  Dr. Brower is there.  He’ll be able to help.

“In the meantime, you guys get something to eat.  I’ll be back as soon as I can.”  She shook both women’s hands and left for her next call.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Economy Lessons

We all know the economy is bad.  We're all feeling it in one way or another. 

Just in the past week I've read several agent blogs that discuss this issue.  The bottom line is that it affects everyone, even the publishers buying (or not buying) books.  It's harder to sell now than it has been in previous years for this basic fact.

Yesterday, I was visiting a friend who happens to be a model.  She has had trouble getting modeling jobs lately, but a professional photograoher neighbor of hers told her, "It's not you.  It's the economy."  This woman is beautiful, and the camera loves her.  But, she is an unknown.  Her industry isn't hiring as many unknown models as before the downturn in the economy.

The same thing goes for publishing.  The unpublished authors are having a harder time.  They are unknown, thus a bigger risk.

In this economy, your work has to be amazing.  Just something to keep in mind for any writers trying to break into print--me included. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Networking

I'm trying to branch out and network with readers and other writers.  I feel that this blog is a good start.  Also following the agent, author, and publishing blogs I follow allows me to see how others progress in certain areas of the industry. 

This is all very good.  However, I would love to find a small group of writers--about 4-8 people.  Connecting to other writers in my area, reading each other's work, and providing feedback is something I would love to do.  A group like this would also be good for helping me get the writing done.  Being a mom is the best job in the world, but it really takes away from my writing time.

If you are local, let me know if you write or know any writers that would be interested in getting a group together.  There's nothing like the critiques of fellow writers to help hone your art.

As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tid Bits on "Downward Spiral"

Below, in the previous post, is a complete short story I wrote in March of 2008.  The word count is 2,212. 

I wrote this story in the form of a journal, so the verb tense is not consistent throughout.  There will be places where it jumps from past to present, and back again.  It makes sense if you remember that you are essentially reading someone's diary. 

Another thing to keep in mind:  This story is  almost 4 years old.  My writing has improved since then, but I chose to post the story "as-is."  Trust me, it was very hard not to make changes as I copied the story from hard copy into Word.

I hope you enjoy Downward Spiral. 

Downward Spiral

Friday, April 10
            I knew it was coming.  The first notice came from corporate six months ago.  There’s been plenty of time to plan for the inevitable, but I didn’t expect it to come so abruptly.  I guess since all the inventory from my store is to be added to the other branch, the big wigs at corporate decided it would be easier to just close mine and empty it during daylight hours.
            Devon, Justin, and I got severance, but that’s because we’re salary.  Still, it would have been nicer if they had offered us positions at other branches.  Now we’re left with our severance pay and any vacation or sick time we had accrued.
            I’m completely devastated at the loss.  I mean, I’ll have plenty of money to hold me over for a good while, but I had my heart and soul in that store.  It was my pride.  It gave me a sense of success, like I had finally done something worthwhile.
            I worked hard to get there.  I gave them ten years of my life.  I cherished the day I was made store manager.
            Well, that’s all over now.  Now I’m just Dana Handen, another statistic of the unemployment office.  Not that I qualify for unemployment.  I was told that my severance agreement was too “lofty” to qualify me.  Isn’t that some B.S.?
            I brought home all my things from my office this afternoon.  I took some things that weren’t really mine since they were purchased with corporate funds, but I don’t care.  They’re not going to do anything with that stuff.  They don’t even know what the money went to.  For all they know, I used it to buy reams of paper and ink cartridges for the printer.  It’s only office supplies anyway.  Things like organizers and whatnot that helped me make my desk a little more workable.

Sunday, April 12
            I just got home from the hospital.  Dad had a “mild” heart attack, though how a heart attack can be “mild” is beyond my comprehension.  Seems to me that if your heart wants to quit working it’s a pretty serious thing.
            The doctors said he’s going to be fine.  They’re keeping him for observation for a few days.  He didn’t need any heroics or surgery to save his life—thank God—but they still want to monitor him. 
            I say, “Good.”  They should monitor him.  Maybe this will be what finally gets him to slow down.

Wednesday, April 15
            “When it rains, it pours.”  Whoever came up with that phrase should get a Nobel Prize of some sort.
            Rich just left. . .with all his stuff, and without his key.  He came over this afternoon to tell me he’s been seeing another woman.  Apparently, it’s been going on for quite a while—about seven months.
            Of course, it’s all my fault.  I was so engrossed in my career that he felt neglected, so he sought attention elsewhere.  Why couldn’t he just come to me about it?  I’d have given him more time.  I would have stayed home more.  Why did he just leave me behind?  After four years together, he dumped me like I was no big deal.
            He said he’s been friends with this woman for a long time, and she was there for him in my absence.  That means that I must know her.  I wonder which bitch it could be.

Later. . .
            I just got off the phone with Carmen.  She was sympathetic with my woes, but it didn’t feel like she was entirely sincere.  Maybe I’m just becoming suspicious of anyone that was around Rich.  I mean, come on, Carmen and I have been friends for at least ten years.  She would never do  anything like that.
            I don’t think she really cared though.  She and Rich never really got along too well.  Sometimes I got the impression that they tolerated each other just to amuse me.  That being said, I was definitely having a bit of paranoid delusion even toying with the idea that it’s her Rich has been seeing.

Saturday, April 18
            I just want to die.  I have nobody to turn to anymore.  My parents are both in the hospital after Dad had another “minor” heart attack.  Rich left me for my best friend.  And my car is totaled.
            Oh yeah, it was Carmen that Rich was seeing.  I saw the two of them at a cafĂ© yesterday as I was walking by.  They were hanging all over each other.  Laughing and giggling like high school lovers.  I guess they feel like they don’t have to hide anymore.
            What’s worse is that another of our mutual friends was with them.  That means I’m the only one who didn’t know.  That means I can’t trust anybody.
            Wait, wait.  It gets even better.  I was so upset that I managed to slide my car sideways into a telephone pole on the way home.  I took the turn at the end of my road too fast—way too fast—and ended up with the right side of my car wrapped around the telephone pole on the corner.  The ambulance took me to the hospital, but they pronounced me ok to go home.
            I called a cab.  I don’t feel like seeing any of my friends right now.  I feel so betrayed by all of them.  I didn’t even tell my parents.  They don’t need any more worries.
            I need to go open another bottle of wine.  This one’s empty already.

Sunday, April 19
            Wow.  I woke up with one hell of a headache this morning.  Maybe I should space out my alcohol a little more.  To be honest, I’m surprised I was able to make it through three bottles of wine.  I should’ve been asleep well into the first one.  I’ll have to make a trip to the liquor store to replenish my stock.
            I noticed that the previous page of my journal has some splotches or red wine and some smeared spots that could only be tear stains.  Oh well, it’s well deserved.  I’ve been through a lot in the past week.

Evening. . .
            I’ve made a wonderful meal of ramen noodles complimented with a glass of white wine.  It’s good to have comfort food in times of self-wallowing.  Everyone should have such a food.
            I stocked up well at the store.  Not only did I buy several bottles of white and red wine, I also bought bottles of Maker’s Mark, Bombay Sapphire, Crown Royal, and Absolute.  I figured I should stock up my entire bar.

Later. . .
            Well, one bottle of wine is gone already, and I’ve broken into the whiskey.  It’s amazing how the alcohol can help to drown your sorrows.  I’ve got some movie on the TV, but I don’t know what it’s called.  (I can’t read the title at the bottom of the screen because it’s blurry.)

Wednesday, April 22
            I was woken up this morning by my mother who must have called at least four times until I answered.  I didn’t really want to deal with her because my head is killing me, but I wanted to know how Daddy is fairing.
            I can’t remember anything but little snatches since last I wrote.  I have noticed that most of the alcohol I bought over the weekend is gone.  And I must have been coherent enough to eat because the noodles are gone, too.  Guess I’ll be making another trip to the store.
            Maybe I should go clothes shopping, just to get out of the house.  I wish I could call Carmen and ask her to go.  I think she called sometime during my stupor, but I didn’t want to talk to her.  I wonder if she knows why I haven’t called.

Afternoon. . .
            Well, I just spent $200 on new clothes.  I don’t need any of it, but it sure felt good to spend money.  I got some really cute things, too.  My favorite is a blue sundress the color of the summer sky.
            I went to Jonny’s Pub for lunch.  They have good food.  I might have gotten a little tipsy with the wine, but so what?
            I also stopped off to restock the bar, since it seems to diminish quickly as of late.

Friday, April 24
            I need to go the liquor store again.  There’s a guy coming over that I met at the bar last night.  He seems to be a nice guy.  He’s good-looking, at least.  I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.
            Oh, and I’ve been ignoring Carmen’s calls.  She stopped by last night while I was out and left a note on my door saying she’s worried about me.  I threw it out.

Saturday, April 25
            Well, last night went well.  Dave, that guy from the bar, came over.  He just left.  We got sloshy drunk.
            He also had some coke—as in cocaine.  First time I ever tried that, and I loved it.  It was better than alcohol.  It actually allowed me to drink more.  And boy, oh boy, did we have fun with that stuff.  We started in the living room—sofa, recliner, floor.  Then we made it to the kitchen—floor, counter.  We stopped at the stairs—bottom and top.  We went to bed, then took a shower.  We finally ended up back in bed.
            I have never had such an erotic experience.  I hope he calls again.

Sunday, April 26         
            Dave came over again last night.  We had an equally erotic night as before.  He’s supposed to pick me up later and take me to lunch.
            That’s one thing I noticed about the coke—I don’t eat as much.  Maybe I can lose some weight before bathing suit season.

Evening. . .
            Dave and I had a great lunch, followed by a private little party at his place.  When he brought me home, we partied a little more.
            It’s nice not having to go to work and still having money.  I can do what I want, and Dave pays for the extravagant accessories.  We make a good pair, I think.

Thursday, April 30
            Carmen came by around noon.  We talked on the porch.  She basically told me I look like crap—my hair is dull, my skin pale, and I’ve lost weight.  I told her that maybe it was a side effect of having my world crash around me and losing my best friends in the process.  She played like she didn’t understand, so I told her to run along to Rich and leave me alone.  Then I came inside and closed the door on her.
            Dave should be here soon.  I can’t wait.  I need a bump to cauterize my frayed nerves.

Friday, May 1
            It’s 9am and I haven’t slept yet.  I was so irate about Carmen’s visit yesterday that Dave left me some powder before he left last night.  I did most of it over the course of the night.  At one point I got so hot, I went for a swim.
            I’m going to see how long I can go without sleep.  Dave’s bringing me some more at lunch.  I think he might be a dealer. . .

Later. . .
            5pm, still no sleep.  Dave and I are going out dancing tonight.  That should be fun.  The man definitely has rhythm, so he should be a good dancer.  Well, I’m gong to get ready.

Saturday, May2
            We danced all night, came home at 3am and went swimming.  We spent some quality time in the hot tub.
            It’s now 11am and I still have yet to sleep.  That’s about 50 hours without sleep.  I’ll go to be tonight, promise.
            Carmen keeps calling and leaving messages.  I want nothing to do with her.  Why can’t she just admit that she screwed me over in the worst way and let me get on with my life?
            I need a line.

Sunday, May 3
            It’s 3am.  I haven’t been able to sleep because Carmen keeps calling.  Every time she calls I do another line.  (Dave left me with a pretty big bag.)  I can’t help it.  Her voice irritates me with her whining and pleading.  The coke makes me feel better.
            I think I’ll go for a swim.  It might help me burn off some of this nervous energy.  Not to mention my anger.  Two more line first, though, for that extra boost.




Former GM for Upscale Kitchen Store

Found at Bottom of Pool

Monday May 4—The body of former general manager for the upscale kitchen store, Sensible Essence, was found early this morning lying at the bottom of her pool.  Carmen Daily called police when she stopped by to check on her friend, Dana Handen, and found her body.

    Police found about $2000 worth of cocaine in the woman’s home.  Autopsy results are pending, but the presumed cause of death is drowning due to a cocaine overdose.

    Daily stated that Handen had never before used the narcotic.  She said Handen was “straight edge” and would never have touched drugs.  She did say that Handen’s world had “crashed around her,” however, and that her friend had severely declined since being laid off by the Sensible Essence Corporation less than one month ago.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thinking. . .

It's been a couple days since I've posted, and I'm sorry for the slack.  As I mentioned in my first post, I've never been good at journaling.

It's getting ready for the holidays--plus trying to catch up on everything else--that's kept me away.  I also haven't been able to come up with anything to share.  In fact, I'm still struggling with it now.

I have no new profound lessons learnded in my reading, although I have been keeping up with the agent and publisher blogs that I follow.  That's not to say that I haven't learned anything, just that nothing major stands out.

I don't want to post another sample just yet, either.  I've been thinking that maybe complete short stories might be good for my readers to review, but. . . Well, short stories are not my strong suit.  I struggle to keep things below 3,000 words. 

Now that I say that, maybe it would be beneficial to post some.  You, my loyal friends and readers, could provide feedback.  You could tell me if the story feels complete, or if something is missing.  So, I'll ponder the issue a litttle more and let you know.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Writing Sample

Below are the first 225 words from Church Hill (working title), a novel I've been working on for a while. 

I'll pose a question:  Does this make you want to keep reading?


excerpt from Church Hill. . .

I received the call around eleven o’clock that Sunday morning.  I had to work that day because we were implementing a new program into the computer system at the bank I worked for.  The caller-ID read Church Hill Hosp and the phone number listed below.  I gave a questioning look to the small team working with me before answering.

“Hello.  Church Hill Bank and Trust, how may I help you?”

A man’s soothing voice came through the line.  “May I speak with Mrs. Boothe, please?”

“This is she,” I said as I gave another questioning look to my team.

“Mrs. Boothe, I’m Dr. Sanchez at Church Hill Hospital.  I’m afraid your husband and daughter have been in an auto accident.  I’ll need you come to the hospital.”

I collapsed into a chair, the telephone receiver I held in my hand started to slide from my grip.  I tried to ask the doctor how bad they were, but I couldn’t speak.  My jaw moved up and down, but my lips and tongue were immobile and my throat made no sound. 

Cassie, my assistant, took the phone from my hand.  “Hello?”

“Mrs. Boothe?”

“This is her assistant.  May I help you?”

“This is Dr. Sanchez at Church Hill Hospital.  I need Mrs. Boothe to come to the hospital right away.  Her family has been in an accident.”

More Lessons

I seem to learn a new lesson everyday. 

Today I learned that Wordpress isn't very user friendly.  (In fact, Norton blocked me from one of their pages saying it was "malicious.")  It could just be me, of course.  I am new to the world of blogging, so maybe I just need to spend more time with the site. 

Yesterday I learned something about myself and my writing.  So many tips I've seen essentially say:  "Just write!  Don't worry about editing until the original draft is finished.  Then go back and start making changes."  My problem is that I can't seem to do that.  I edit as I go.  I check my facts in my backstory to make sure there are no inconsistencies.  (I can't stand inconsistencies.)  As I'm checking, I'm fixing typos and verb tense and anything else I come across. 

My instructor for the writing class I'm taking said that agents/publishers would be happy to get such clean copy, but it slows my writing extensively.  I need to learn how to finish the project first and then go back and fix everything.

Another thing I've found:  I love reading the blogs I have listed on my side bar.  If you're interested in the publishing industry, these blogs are great reads.  Give them a peek.