Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday's Chapter From James Hutchings


In the beginning of the world the gods considered all those things which did not have their own gods, to decide who would have responsibility and rulership.

"I will rule all flowers that are sky-blue in colour," said the Sky-Father.
"I will listen to the prayers of migratory birds, and you all other birds," the goddess Travel said to him. And so it went.

At last all had been divided, save for one thing.
"Who," asked the Sky-Father, "shall have dominion over the poor?"

There was an awkward silence, until the Sky-Father said,
"Come - someone must. Those with no gods will grow restless and cunning, and in time will cast us down, and we shall be gods no more."

"Not I," said blind Justice, and her stony face flashed a momentary smirk at the thought. "Why not Fame or Fortune?"
"Darling I don't think so," said the sister goddesses together.

There was a long pause. The gods shuffled their feet and avoided one another's gaze. At last a voice broke the silence.

"I will," said Death.

Friday, March 30, 2012

How He Does It - James Hutchings

We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who,
> What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth
> which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

I've heard that for journalism, but I don't think I've ever used it in creative
writing. When I'm stuck I often use the five senses: what does the scene look
like, what does it sound like and so on.

> How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I'm much more interested in plots than in characters. When I have an idea for a
story it's almost always an idea for something that could happen, rather than an
idea for a character.

Several of my stories have 'gods' as characters, who are personifications of
ideas: Death, Love, Commerce and so on.

> Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or
> do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

I usually think of a plot, and have characters that fit that. I know you're
'supposed' to develop characters and then derive the plot from what they'd do,
but that's not how I write.

> Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or
> a specific one?

I usually do, but there are some exceptions, such as my story 'The Death of the
Artist'. I wrote each section of that without knowing where it was going next.
As a result, I think it ended up having a more original plot than it would have

> Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and
> plans of houses sitting around?

I almost never have physical locations 'mapped out' in any detail, and my plots
don't really require knowing (for example) how many rooms are in the house and
which ones are on which floor. I probably wouldn't be very good at writing
murder mysteries.

> Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

Most of my stories are set in a made-up world (and the world isn't intended to
be based on medieval Europe or any particular period of history). So I don't
need to do research. However I do do a kind of research, in that I write down
interesting things from history or fiction that I find online, particularly on
wikipedia. For example, these are curses from the front of two medieval books,
that I intend to use one day:

If anyone take away this book, let them die the death; let them be fried in a
pan; let the falling sickness and fever seize them; let them be broken on the
wheel, and hanged.

Should anyone by craft of any device whatever abstract this book from its owner
may their soul suffer, in retribution for what they have done, and may their
name be erased from the book of the living and not recorded among the Blessed.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Midas Murders - How the story emerged

As usual, one autographed copy of The Midas Murders will be given away. The winner will be announced on Monday especially it they leave me a way to reach them.

A number of years ago I went to Santa Fe, New Mexico with my husband and fell in love with the town. I spent hours wandering around the area near the motel. The conference was geared to learning and to visiting places of interest since all the lectures were in the morning and the afternoons left us free to explore. I gathered material from every source I could find and made a few purchases of odd and interesting things. I always thought I'd like to put the town in a book, but at the time nothing came to mind. I was working on other stories so all the material I'd collected remained in a folder.

Time came for another Katherine Miller mystery and I looked over the first two books and discovered her friend Lars lived part-time in Santa Fe. I'd sent him there before I made my visit. Had one of those aha moments and then began to think of how I could send Katherine ot Santa Fe. Lars came to the rescue by inviting her for New Year's Eve. She was feeling guilty bout the murders at St. Stephen's and wanted to get away. She accepted his invitation and took along a Maine Coon kitten for Lars' only granddaughter, a child who had lost her mother in an automobile accident not long before. To my surprise Katherine arrived in Santa Fe to find Lars missing. When he emerges the mystery began.

So how was Santa Fe woven into the mystery. Kars took her on a sight seeing expedition to visit some of the places I'd enjoyed and to stay at the hotel wher my husband and I stayed. As the mystery thickened Katherine must face Lars' only daughter who is possessive of her father. I was able to put in many of the places I'd seen and loved, houses I'd visited and several I'd made up. I was also able to move the relationship between Katherine and Lars toward a future marriage. Writing about Katherine is always fun and never knowing what murders she might encounter is always fun.

One thing I learned here is when visiting a new setting to gather material because you will never know when a story falls into that location.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday's Writing Tip - Strategy - Patterns

Because I've been reading in different genres for years I've noticed there are patterns in each genre and there are patterns that are broken. Most times this works but sometimes the broken pattern fails. I've also come to the conclusion that there are only two plots with many variations. There is the plot that ends in happiness and the one that ends in an unhappy ending. Now there are many variations of these two general plots. But that's not what I'm talking about here. It's about patterns in prose.

Once a writer knows what the pattern consists of there are many ways to make this work, One is giving the reader what he expects but this means a lack of originality. We've all read stories and said I've read this before. It's the little twists and turns that keep a reader wanting more, though there are many readers who enjoy the familiar. A writer has to know how to twist the familiar just a bit.

A writer could give the reader what they don't expect. Might work and might not. The story could come out confusing the reader. No writer wants to do this. The problem here is that the story could become outrageous and one that confuses the reader.

What the writer wants to do is hit a happy medium bu giving the reader a familiar story but not the way they expect the story to take. Combining both methods.

To do this the end goal should be kept in mind but shouldn't be the only part of the story to engage the reader. Be aware of the different patterns of prose when you're writing and use what you know to make your story unique. Make sure to tie up all loose ends. Nothing can irritate a reader more than to finish the story and wonder what happened to character X, even though he's only a minor character. Don't leave them wondering why the gun or knife you showed in the opening scene wasn't used.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Reminders about dialogue

Before I became a writer, I was a reader. I tended to be a binge reader. I would either choose a writer and read all their books or I would hone in on one kind of book. I remember doing this with mysteries and a read just about any kind you would find. This helped me when I turned to writing mysteries because I knew what kind to write. Some parts of writing became almsot instinctual but other parts were learned slowly and some of them I'm still learning though I've been a published writer for many years.

While leafing through The Writer's Handbook, I came across an article by Bill Pronzini. I remembered reading his books years ago and thought back to what I remembered. He wrote crisp, short dialogue. Though I admired that style I try to fit the dialogue in my stories to the character. Some people are crisp speakers and others tend to go on a bit. Trying to find the happy medium can be difficult

This article says a lot about dialogue but one of the things I've tried to remember and apply to something beyond dialogue and put into the scenes. Each piece of dialogue or each scene only needs to be there if it does one of three things. Advance the plot, define character or give needed information. Otherwise cut it. Hard to do. Of course but it's necessary.

Another thing gleaned from this article is about tags. Always nice when I really successful writer agrees with you. "Words are spoken." They're not rasped but voices can rasp. This is just one example from the article. There are many more. Most of the time said is perfectly good to use. It's kind of a word that people overlook. There are other good tags like asked, answered. Actions by a character to identify the speaker are also ways to keep the reader from being confused as to who is speaking. That's the reason for tags to keep the players straight. Then there are adverbs. She said sadly. He shouted angrily. Most of the time these aren't needed and can run into the Tom Swifty sort of thing. Not something a writer wants to do in a serious scene.

Re-reading this article set me off to look at the dialogue in my WIP and to make some kind of changes. For me it's looking at the characters and deciding what kind of dialogur is natural to them.

Monday, March 26, 2012

26 March - Week Behind and Week Ahead

First of all. catslady5 is the winner of a copy of Requiem Murder.

Last week was a busy one in my writing life. I finished the rough draft of The Micro-manager Murder and decided that I had begun in the wrong place. So what else is new. This happens frequently. But here this was an important issue. How can one murder a micro-manager if she's not seen in action. Showing her managing manners is important to the story. Other things could be woven in as well. I also outlined the chapters for a new series of fantasy romances that will be either short novels or novellas. The difference between them are a bit hard to discern. For now it's called the Hiring Hall but that may change as I get more into the series.

This week I'll be starting the new chapters on the MM Murders. What's fun is in the rough draft there are a lot of blank spaces for names of people from the other books. Since Katherine's getting married people who once appeared will be making bit appearances. This time Katherine is leaving her beloved Hudson River village for Vermont and her friend's shop called Herbal Haven. Changed the name of the shop several times. Also had to change some of the new character's names since I needed names to fit their generations.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

3 Blog Visit Sunday

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday's Chapter from Hypemia by Chelle Cordero

Matt could see the devastation from the air. The tornadoes hit suddenly. While North Carolina wasn’t considered in Tornado Alley, they usually had three or four devastating cyclones every spring. They were hoping to find survivors, but those survivors would have injuries. Emergency crews from all over the region were arriving in the wide swath area the storms had torn through. Like many of his co-workers
Matt trained for emergency response with this Special Operations Deployment team. It was still mind-boggling to be put into service. They were given only enough time to pick up the duffle bags they were instructed to have ready.

Matt didn’t know when he would get back home. He worried about Sudah and Aden being alone. The area was still new to his family.
Laurie and Trisha promised to check in with her while Matt was gone; they both had been through S.O.D. deployments in the past and understood how important the support was to the families left back home. Most of the medics at the station had to train for the Special Operations Division and knew they had to be ready at a moment’s notice. That was why Matt already had a small bag packed when the telephone rang the night before; calls went out as soon as the twisters touched down.

Hitting the ground running, literally, Matt barely had time to put his duffle into a tent when he was directed onto a truck headed for the center of what used to be a town. He scrambled into a set of turnout gear and quickly checked the available supplies. The new arrivals checked in with Incident Command and received their I.D. tags before being assigned to separate trucks.

His truck stopped in front of the remains of a church in the center of town.

“We’re going to lower you down into the basement. The youth group was having a sleepover in the church, there are about six or seven still trapped down there.” The crew chief was shouting into the back of the truck towards Matt. “Jay’s going to go in with you. He’s going to cut and clear, you’re going to start treating.”

Matt nodded.

The bell tower was fully intact. It seemed an anomaly as it still stood on the church roof without a scratch. Unfortunately the church roof was lying on the ground covering a two story building that had fallen in on itself. Workers were trying to lift away debris but, like a game of pick-up sticks, they didn’t know which pile of lumber would cause the rest to collapse. With people still trapped, they couldn’t take chances.

Jay was lowered first, Matt followed. He could hear muffled sobbing in the dark – that was a good sign. With flashlights on, they found their way to the first victim. A teenage girl was battered from the debris falling in on her, her right leg was fractured and the bone was protruding through the shin. He felt sorry for her, he knew that it hurt. Splinting it the best he could in the confined space, she was soon ready to be lifted out. Next he moved on to a young boy, timber was lying across his chest and the boy couldn’t escape. Jay helped move the debris and the boy was free. Except for deep scratches and bruises, he was well enough to crawl towards escape. Matt was thankful the boy’s injuries were minor.

They moved four of the seven trapped victims out without incident; two were dead in the carnage long before they got there. The last victim, the pastor, was pinned beneath a heavy metal beam, the kind that was strong enough to hold the floor under an exuberant congregation during services. The man, though weak, was conscious and praying for the souls of the two teens who had perished. He told Matt and Jay how much he appreciated their help.

Matt knew that they had to get the beam off of the pastor before anymore of the floor above caved in. He also knew that lifting the beam would likely kill the man. The solid weight of the beam was crushing the man’s insides…ironically it was also the only thing that was keeping him from bleeding out.

“Son, please tell me honestly what my chances are.” The clergyman laid his hand on Matt’s arm as he was putting a face mask and oxygen on the trapped man. He noticed Matt’s slight hesitation. “The Lord sent you here to do his work and you are doing the best you can. But in the end it is God’s decision whether I live or die, not yours. You’ve already done so much good here by rescuing our children.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t get to them all in time…”

“That was God’s decision.”

Matt sighed. “Sir, I’m giving you some saline and pain killers. There’s a possibility that when we lift the beam off of you… it’s going to be very painful and you’ll probably lose consciousness.” He added sodium bicarb into the IV line to hopefully keep his patient’s blood pressure a little more even.

“Because of the pain?”

“No, because right now all of your blood is pushed up into your upper body and when the beam comes off it will be like opening a faucet. It’s all going to rush into your lower body and it will be like you are bleeding out.” He kept the explanation simple. Crush syndrome was often fatal. “I can’t give you enough saline to keep your upper body filled.”

Jay was busy positioning an inflatable pillow under the beam to lift it. He glanced sympathetically at Matt. Matt was trying to reassure the man without making any false promises.

“I don’t need any painkillers, son.”

“I think you’ll be more comfortable… and it will make our jobs easier.”

“I don’t feel any pain now…”

Matt wasn’t surprised, he doubted the man could feel any of his lower body. Even if he lived, there might be significant spine damage and paralysis. There was a huge risk he would suffer renal failure. The odds weren’t good, but Matt was going to try his best.

Matt spoke into his walkie-talkie. “Can you see if anyone up there has an old MAST on their truck?” MAST, military anti-shock trousers for short, weren’t used often anymore, but the inflatable trousers could help to keep the patient’s pressure up long enough to get him definitive treatment in the hospital. It was a shot–it was the only shot they really had.

A set of MAST trousers was taken from the local fire department’s EQ and sent down with a reeves and straps to package the Pastor in and transport him up top. Being unconscious would actually be a blessing thought Matt. Jay began to inflate the airbag and the trapped man went unconscious as soon as the pressure was relieved. Matt and Jay pulled him straight out and on to the reeves. He got the trousers on and inflated them quickly. Then they cocooned the reeves stretcher around the man and dragged him towards the hole they had been lowered through. Rescuers on top used straps to drag the man up while Matt and Jay guided him. It was slow going.

The floor above them shifted from the weight of the rescue workers and debris showered down. Matt’s helmet was knocked from his head, Jay was knocked down. When the dust settled both men were coughing. They could taste the plaster, but were otherwise unscathed. The rescue rope was tossed down for them and Matt pushed Jay towards it. As Jay was being pulled up and out of the hole more plaster fell and for the first time Matt actually worried that he might not make it out.

The local towns were torn apart. Houses and entire lives were collapsed. They found a child’s bed and favorite nighttime doll wedged into an uprooted tree, the distraught parents couldn’t find the child anywhere. Even all of the help that arrived couldn’t do anything to relieve the anguish that survivors felt over the loss of their family members. Nearly five days after the tornados tore through the area the hard decision was made to move from rescue attempts to the recovery of bodies. Matt and many of the other local EMS first responders were being sent home.

He only got to call Sudah one time during the four days that he was there. Matt was standing next to a group of federal rescue workers when he tried his cell phone and saw he couldn’t get a signal. One of the DMAT team members let him use a satellite phone to call and say hello to his wife. The two minutes went by too quickly. She sounded strained and he felt guilty for having left her alone for so long. He was going to have two days off after his return and he looked forward to making up lost time with his wife and son.

Each day they found fewer survivors and more casualties. The strain showed on all of their faces. It was hard not to see the faces of their own loved ones in a mass of bodies. They were told that this town was the worst hit, they had the least warning and it appeared the most casualties. The DMAT members set up pseudo hospitals in tents and survivors lined up for treatment of various injuries and other ailments. Supplies like food, water and blankets were being trucked in, but there wasn’t nearly enough yet. Matt and the other members of his S.O.D. team were ready to go home. They missed their families. There was no more they could do there.

As Matt boarded the chopper that was to bring him back to his corner of North Carolina he wondered about all of the patients he treated during his stay. It was always his habit not to follow up with the hospitals. His former paramedic partner, Julie, used to call him cold. There were too many victims, too many bodies, too many families torn apart. MCI’s, multi casualty incidents, were always emotionally draining just because of the sheer volume of lives destroyed.
He shook his head as he remembered how many times Julie tried to encourage him to attend CISD, critical incident stress debriefings, after brutal calls. Of course he always denied the need and called the sessions a sign of weakness. He would never admit it to her, but he considered asking about attending this time.

Since Matt left his car with Sudah while he was away, he needed a ride home from the station. John gave him a lift. He closed his eyes for just a moment, he thought, when John poked him to tell him to get out, he was already home. It felt so good to step onto the gravel of his walkway, he was happy to be home. He hoisted his duffle onto his shoulder. Matt waved John off and looked up towards the house.

Matt could see the broken living room window covered with cardboard. “Sudah?” He bounded up the steps to see her and make sure that everything was all right. “Sudah?” He worried when she didn’t answer right away. She finally appeared just as he entered the living room.

“Matt.” She sounded relieved when she saw him. “I heard a car.” Sudah held Aden protectively in her arms. “I didn’t know that you were coming home today.”

He was puzzled at her defensive posture, but still thrilled to see her and Aden. He took her in his arms. “Is everything okay?”

She nodded into his chest.

“What happened with the window? You didn’t get hurt or anything did you?” He stepped back and looked towards the cardboard covered portal. She had done a good job of cleaning up the glass and sealing the hole. “What were you trying to do?”

She looked scared as she looked up at him. “I did not do that.”

“But Aden…” His son was still crawling…there was no way he could have reached the window.

“Matt, I’m sorry.”

“About what?”

“A rock broke the window. There was a note on it.”

His raised his voice. “What? Someone threw a rock through our window? Did you call the police?”

She was barely audible. “No.”

Matt broke away and walked towards the window. “Why not?”

“I am sorry Matt. I do not wish to anger you.”

He whirled around and realized how worried she looked. “I’m not angry at you. Who the hell… What did the note say?”

Sudah sniffled. “That it is my fault.”

“For what? Do you still have the note?”

“I threw it into the garbage basket…”

“Do we still have it?”

He picked up the phone and began dialing. “Get it for me… please. When did this happen?”


“Sudah… please?” He sighed.

She turned and headed to the kitchen slowly.

Sudah was uncomfortable with the police there and looked frightened whenever they asked her questions. She kept adjusting the scarf she wrapped over her hair as a distraction while the police were there. Matt noticed that she was looked for his permission before she responded to any of the cops’ questions.
Suspecting Sudah’s nervous inclination, one of the officers said to Matt that he didn’t think they had a lot of trust in cops over in India. Sudah heard the comment and, for the first time, spoke in a voice loud enough to be heard without straining, “I am Pakistani.”

The words scrawled on the crumpled piece of paper that Sudah retrieved from the garbage said. “They are dead because of you.” Everyone agreed the reference must be about 9/11 and other terrorist bombings around the globe.

Sudah said she heard a car pull up and then the rock came flying through the window – she grabbed Aden and hid. She didn’t have a description of the car or who had thrown the rock.

Even though a police report was taken, the responding officers were frank–they didn’t think they would ever catch the culprit.

“Next time something like this happens, call us right away.” One of the police officers admonished Sudah.

“Next time?” She looked anxiously at Matt.

He put his arm around her shoulder, “I’m going to try to make sure there isn’t a next time.”

One of the police officers that Matt met once before at an emergency scene tried to offer some help. “If you have to go out of town again call us and we’ll send a patrol unit by every so often. Maybe that will make whoever did this think twice.”

That was a wasted trip, he thought as he watched the police cars pull away. They wouldn’t be able to help the inevitable; they wouldn’t be able to stop the payback that he planned. An eye for an eye.

She was very quiet after the police left.

“You okay baby?”

She nodded. “Please do not be angry with me…”

“I’m not.” He hugged her to him again. “I’m sorry I left you alone.”

“You had to go help people. They needed you.” He was quiet and she caressed his jaw. “Was it very sad Matt?”

Matt sighed. “Yeah.”

She demurely removed the scarf. “Our son is asleep.”

He grinned. “And?”

“I would like to show you that I missed you.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

How She Does It -- Chelle Cordero

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I build a small dossier on each of my main characters and include significant events from childhood to present. I also include details about family life, school and friends. Each character and his/her reactions to events in the story is based on who they are as a result of past experiences. For instance, if you were bit by a stray dog as a child, you might have a remaining fear of dogs.

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

I develop a basic inkling of a story and then create the characters I need to go into it. While I do keep in mind where I want the story to go, basically my characters write their own story based on their motivations and past. When I throw a curve ball at my characters, I let them react and that's where the story leads me.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

Only in the most general sense. For instance in Final Sin I knew that Julie would be in danger before they figured out who the murderer was and somehow Jake would save her - but the specific hows and whys developed as I wrote the story. Some of the "curve balls" I threw occurred to me as I was writing the scenes.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

Every so often I peruse house and apartment plans although most of what I use is concocted in my mind. I took basic drafting in high school (a specialty art high school) and we learned very elementary architecture drawing; every so often I will sketch out an apartment or house layout that fits my needs. If I had the money I would definitely design my own house!

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

For locations, mostly on line unless I am using an actual place I've been. The ability to take a virtual tour gives me the ability to experience new places and "see" it as if I was really there. For careers, cultures, and social venues I use a combination of research and sometimes my own experiences. I have an advantage of also being a journalist and getting to interview a lot of people in various jobs and life styles - so I absorb a lot of what is said to me and I use bits and pieces in my stories to add realism.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How The Story Began - Requiem Murder

First, an autographed copy of Requiem Murder will be given away and announced on Mnday. Just need to know how to reach you.

Having published Murder and Mint Tea and seeing it sell a number of copies of books I realized the heroine was a really great character. Katherine had bits of myself and bits I wish I had. I begnan thinking about producing another story with her as the character. When I first came to visit in the town where I now live, a friend who was a church organist showed me his new church. The choir loft overlooked the pews. The bench was level with the balcony railing. There was also a large back placed on the bench. My friend had this removed. For me this was frightening, especially since my friend was an animated player. I had visions of him plunging to the ground. For years this image remained tucked in a corner of my mind.

Now comes the way the story began. There were beginning to be bits and pieces about men of the church taking advantage of young boys. I could have used this in a book but I really saw maybe not red but definitely a dark pink. This had been happening to girls for centuries and no one seemed to care so I made my villain one who liked young girls and who set out to seduce them but there were some twists. The girls had to be musically talented. The story began to unfold.

Katherine is part of the committee to find a new church organist and this means traveling to a number of churches to hear the organists. The moment she hears Roger's mastery of the instrument she knows St. Stephen's must have him. The story then takes on the politics of a church choir with the jealousies and other things that go on. My first murder mystery followed the path of when is someone going to kill her. This one takes on the idea of which person is going to be killed, the church organist or the diva of the choir. The murder weapon is one very unusual one but I won't tell you what it was. This then is how the story began and how it came to fruition.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday's Writing Tip - Strategy, Enticing the reader with plot

Enticing readers to read the stories you've penned is an important strategy. Part of the way of doing this is to pose questions that when answered lead to another question always pointing to the end. Will the hero or heroine reach the first step toward obtaining their goal. This leads to the second step and to the third, Maybe even more. If they fail to reach one of these steps is there a reason, or has the goal changed a bit. Like people in real life, sometimes the initial goal isn't the real one. As this changes the reader is lured on to find the answer to the question.

The writer has the advantage here since he or she knows what the real object to the story is. Clues need to be fed into the story. There's nothing more infuriating than to read a story and find out the end has nothing that was promised in the beginning because there were no hints to what the real ending of the story. But the writer can't make the trail too easy to follow. I know I've read books where I knew what would happen before the story ended. In romances the given is the hero and heroine will connect and live happily ever after. One of my stories this isn't the case. While the hero and the heroine remain in love they aren't going to co-exist in the same place. Most of the readers found the clues that I sprinkled in showing this was to be the end. One reader missed a clue or two and was disappointed. So keeping the reader a bit off-balance is good. They will want to know what happens next.

Next week I'll post a bit more on this. Hopefully you will develop a strategy that will lead your readers onward to the end and to saying "of course that's the way the story should end.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Suspending Disbelief

Once again I've been delving into an old Writer's Handbook. Read an article by Elizabeth Peters about helping the reader suspend disbelief. This article was geared toward those who write mysteries and suspense but some of the ideas will be of use to everyone. We write fiction now fact and sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. We've all read the strange news story that makes us shake our heads and wonder how this can be possible. In fiction one has to make thse strange events seem logical.

Giving events the hint of plausibility is one way to do this. If the heroine or hero is going to take a step that seems dangerous the writer doesn't want the reader to think they are being stupid. The heroine exploring the basement after hearing a sound. The hero armed with a baseball bat going downstairs after the window breaks. The logical thing would be to hit 911 on the speed dial but that would change the story. Perhaps a cry for help is heard that triggers the response. Just find a way to make it seem logical.

After the story opens one must keep the plot tight. Rule out all coincidences. If your dharacter is going to overhear something make sure you establish that this character has a habit of listening in to other people's conversations in secret. Make the event seem part of the character. If your character is prone to rash action make sure this is shown as a usual thing not a one time event. If you are going to have secret passages make sure this is shown to be a possibility. A reader can believe this in an old castle but putting something like this in a modern house needs to be logical or another way to hide the information the character needs should be found.

So be consistent and make all your choices for the plot, the character and the setting seem logical by building and putting in the telling details.

Monday, March 19, 2012

19 March My Writing World

The winner of an autographed copy of Murder and Mint Tea is Royal Cheryl. I'll be sending the book along during the week.

Last week I finished A Surprising Seduction and have sent it off to a publisher. Was totally surprised at how fast this book wrote itself once I found the proper starting place. The hero was prone to making assumptions and we all know what that makes him. But he learned things about himself and his way of living during the story. The heroine also has to admit to having made assumptions. Began to organize and the rough draft of The Micro-Manager Murder. Rough drafts are fun because one doesn't have to wrooy about the small details. This draft is rather like the forest and not the trees. That will come later as I work on further drafts.

Goal for this week is to finish the rough draft. Love the number of things I've been learning about the characters and wat's going on in the plot as the story progresses. We'll see since I did go beyond the halfway mark last week. Will end up with between ten thousand words and twenty thousand which for me is a good start and knowing what changes to make in the beginning and to plant some red herrings is a good idea.

A sort of peeve. Lately I have been coming across heros that smirk. I do not like the idea of a hero smirking. Don't know why this bothers me except I think of smirking as something a 10 year old would do. Sort of Ya Ya Look at me. I'm better than you sort of thing. I'd rather see the hero's look. An arched brow, a knowing look andything but a smirk.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

3 Blog visit Sunday One of my publishers and a lot og good articles on this new blog

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - Eye of the Storm - Renee Simons

Stormwalker is one of my all time favorite heros. Have read this book several times.

Chapter 1

The man sitting on the corral fence had killed her fiancé. He belonged in prison. And two months from now, she would send him there.
Reigning in her fury, she walked toward former Marine Major Michael Stormwalker, who watched a mare and her filly nuzzle beneath a brilliant South Dakota sun. Pretty as it might have been, the scene left her cold.

Stormwalker also seemed at odds with the idyllic setting. Every aspect of his posture radiated the edgy power of a man alert to any sign of threat. Beneath a black leather vest, his broad shoulders hunched as if he waited to spring into action. Long, powerful legs tapered to ragged boot heels resting lightly on the bottom rail. Smoke from his cigarette streamed past a rugged profile nearly hidden by the satiny black hair falling across his cheek. Massive, brooding, he personified danger. He was exactly what she expected of a stone-cold killer.

Until he faced her. His startling sea-green eyes warmed with appreciation and the ghost of a smile turned up one corner of his mouth. Expecting curiosity, even a hostility echoing her own, she found his undisguised interest both disconcerting and infuriating, his admiration an unwelcome intrusion. Her hands curled into fists and she shoved them into the pockets of her linen jacket. She would not allow herself the luxury of anger when all her energies must be directed at bringing this man to justice.

As if reading her thoughts, he let his gaze turn cool and detached. "You're Zan McLaren."

"Alexandra McLaren," she said. Her steady voice pleased her.

"Sorry. Your brother always calls you that."

"My brother can."

The smile returned. Some women might have considered it a sexy smile. She, of course, did not.

"You have your brother’s concise way with words,” he said. “Do you also share his objectivity?"

"Is that a family trait?"

"If it isn't, I can't trust you'll do the right thing."

"And that is. . .?"

"To get at the truth even if you don't like what you find."

"What if you don't like what I find?" she asked.

"An informant tipped your brother that I’d been set up by a mole buried deep in his beloved Federal Security Agency. That new information allowed him to negotiate my release. I may be outside a cell, but unless I can restore my career and reputation I might as well be back there."
He braced his shoulders. The movement told her that being "back there" had no place in his plans.

We’ll see, she thought. "Who restores Dar's life?" she asked.

"I wasn't responsible for his death. Not even the Navy Tribunal could make that charge stick." His eyes narrowed. "Look, you'd have to be a saint to help someone you believe committed treason and killed the man you loved. So if you can't, I'll understand. I'll find another way."

"As far as I'm concerned, you're guilty on both counts." She took a slow breath to calm her pounding heartbeat. "But I'll search until I find the truth. Is that objective enough?"

He seemed to be evaluating her response. And well he should, she thought. Only a fool would accept her at face value. He was no fool.
"Why did you come here if you think I'm guilty?"

Someone had to pay for Dar s death. She straightened to her full height and met him eye to eye. "I want to be the one who sends you back."

One eyebrow raised. "You're honest."

"I try."

"You don't mind being on the reservation?" he asked.

"I think this so-called new information is a crock and I intend to prove it. Where I do my work is irrelevant." She matched his penetrating gaze, steeling herself against the wicked gleam in his blue-green eyes. What matters to me is your spending the next 25 years behind bars.

Breathing a sigh of relief, she turned and started up the street toward the newspaper building. She'd managed to get through their first meeting with her composure still intact. Almost.

"Where're you off to?" he called out.

He strode toward her. When his long legs brought him to her side, she did nothing to hide her annoyance. He raised one hand palm out.

"I'm not checking up on you," he said. "I thought if we were headed in the same direction we could walk together. That's all." He repeated the gesture of a moment before. "That's all."

His proximity left her too conscious of his powerful build, too aware of his quiet but potent masculinity. She gave herself a mental shake. His smiles and magnetism would never change the fact that the man had deprived her of the love of her life..

"I'm going to see the newspaper editor," she said.

"Same here."

She shrugged and they walked north beneath a sun drenched summer sky. The air floated light and dry without any hint of humidity to give it weight. Their steps raised small puffs of dust that settled on the tips of her boots, dulling their spit and polish shine.

Several people passed, greeting Stormwalker warmly, nodding politely in her direction. When a man in his forties stopped to talk, pleasure softened the major's features. They spoke in Lakota, freeing Zan to look at the houses lining Thunder Valley Reservation's main street.

Some were well-kept, the grounds surrounding them tidy. Others showed signs of the poverty and apathy of their occupants. Paint had peeled, brick facing lay strewn on the ground, broken windows had been mended with cardboard or plastic sheeting. Like bizarre and rusting sculptures, remnants of worn-out machinery and vehicles dotted the landscape.

Zan felt something smack softly against her toe and looked down at a battered soccer ball. A boy watched her. Somewhere off to her right a screen door slammed. A horse whinnied in response, setting a dog to barking. She kicked the ball back to the youngster. He scooped it up and cradled it under one arm, his face expressionless except for the laughter dancing in his dark eyes. A familiar yearning tugged at her. She and Dar had wanted a big family.

"Sometimes I think about having one of my own," Stormwalker said.

"A soccer ball?"

"A kid."

"I did, too. . .before. . . ." Before you killed the dream, she thought.

Anger and sadness washed over her in unbearable waves. She had to distance herself from the man who had caused them or be overwhelmed. She turned, but had taken only a step or two when she felt the gentle pressure of his hand on her arm. Though momentary, his touch lingered on her skin with the warmth of a soft desert breeze. Why hadn't the bitterness churning in her gut protected her against its effect?

"I'm sorry for what you've lost."

His voice seemed to echo her pain. She stared at him without responding.

"I know you don't want to believe this," he said, "but I'm innocent. I didn't compromise either the agency's or the nation's security. I didn't trade secrets for money. And I did not kill Dar O'Neill. By the time you're finished here you'll know the truth. I guarantee it."

The sincerity that burned behind his eyes and vibrated in his voice might have given her pause if she didn't know better.

With a calm she didn't quite feel she countered, "I'm just as positive that when my two months are up, you'll be on your way back to prison."
All emotion fled behind the mask he assumed. Satisfied she'd made her point, she walked away. Once again, he matched her steps.

"Why are you still here?" she asked.

"I have a message for you from your brother."

"Couldn't you have told me sooner?" She really didn't want an answer and held up a hand as he started to respond. "What did he say?"

"He wants you to get in touch with Ken Becker."

"From the agency? What's he doing here?"

"He retired some years back. He's running the probation department in town and acting as liaison between us and the Federal Security Agency."

Apparently, the mole in her brother's organization worried him enough to send him to the outside for help. As head of the FSA, the decision was his to make, but she wasn't sure she agreed with the move. Any more than she'd agreed with his assigning Dar to the case that had gotten him killed. Reversing direction, she started for her car.

"Change your mind about going to the newspaper office ?" Stormwalker asked.

"For the moment."

With its top down, the MG sped along the highway. Zan gripped the wheel with a white-knuckled ferocity born of rage. Her pulse pounded with it; her lips flattened to a thin, tight line. How she hated dealing with a man who'd killed with impunity, who'd violated every principle of loyalty and honesty she lived by. Hated this world of intrigue and the fact that she'd allowed her brother Mac to drag her back into it when she'd promised, vowed never to return.

Yet here she was, about to plow through the very agency databases she once maintained, on a search for evidence of Stormwalker's innocence or, she hoped fervently, guilt. Because she'd refused to set foot inside the Virginia compound, Mac had okayed Thunder Valley as a work site. If the mole followed Stormwalker there, Zan would provide backup in a confrontation. Big Brother had decided that "covering the major's butt" was a small price to pay for the chance to return him to federal prison. A lot he knew.

The brief first encounter with Stormwalker had taken every ounce of self- discipline she possessed and still had nearly broken the back of her restraint. So how could she hope to function during the next eight weeks? She slammed her palm against the steering wheel. What did eight weeks matter when measured against the five years since Dar's death?

She would harness her rage so it worked for and not against her. She would turn around negative emotions and use them to achieve something positive. No problem. She could do that. She'd done it. More than once.

The knowledge calmed her. For the first time, she glanced at the speedometer. She'd been tooling along at 85 in a 65-mile-an-hour zone. She adjusted the speed downward. Not in time, however. In the distance, but closing fast, a siren blared. She parked on the shoulder and waited for the sheriff's patrol to pull over. The deputy walked back to her car and did a quick, visual check.
"License and registration please, ma'am."

Zan handed over her identification. He examined the contents of the black leather folder and grinned at her. "Hey, there, Officer McLaren, you should know better."

"You're right, Deputy. I should."

"Well, at least I won't have to listen to any dumbass excuses on this one." He walked around the car, as if checking the plates, then returned. "Where you headed?"

"Just cruising around."

"Cruisin' and then some." He shook his head. "Why's the New York police in such an almighty hurry?"

"I'm not on the job. Just on vacation."

"You ain't gonna enjoy it much from the ass end of a ditch. So I suggest you slow things down just a mite."

"Thanks for the warning, Deputy." She gave him a questioning glance. "It is a warning?"

"This time, and only 'cause Kenny Becker asked me to watch out for you. If you don't abuse the speed limit with this little hot rod of yours, we'll get along just fine."

"I'll watch myself. Count on it."

With a momentary thought to why Kenny had announced her arrival to the sheriff's department, she turned the key, waved and put the car in gear to finish her trip to the town of Crossroads.

At Town Hall, a security guard pointed her in the direction of the Cabot County Probation Department. One flight down and to the right, Zan saw the sign that said, "KENNETH BECKER/KNOCK ONCE AND ENTER." She followed directions.

The man behind the desk looked up and smiled. He'd been a mainstay at the agency, hardworking and loyal, completing every assignment in an efficient, if unimaginative, way.

"So here's where you've hidden yourself all these years," she said as they shook hands.

"This is a pretty sweet deal." He flipped his wire rimmed glasses to the top of his head, where they rested precariously on his disheveled and thinning sandy hair. He pointed to the general area of her midriff. "How's the injury?" he asked.

"Healing. How did you find out?"

"Word got around you'd been shot on the job. Everyone knew you'd joined the NYPD after O'Neill was blown away."

His choice of words stung, but death was a reality all agency field operatives accepted without melodrama.

"And here we are, back in service of the FSA," Becker said.

"I guess my being on recuperative leave was too good an opportunity for Mac to ignore," she said.

Kenny shrugged. "He needed you. He would have found another way to get you."

"So much for being in control of my life." She gave a short, bitter laugh. "I see he 'unretired' you."

"I'm just helping out during the current emergency."

"You could have refused."

"You heard enough talk around the McLaren dinner table to know that when the big boys issue an invitation, you show up in your best bib and tucker."

"I can't believe you approve of Stormwalker's release or his being here."

"Mac would have had to call in a bunch of favors to manage that. He wouldn't have gone to the trouble without good reason." He handed her a sealed packet and a blue manila folder. "You'll have to sign for the package. The folder's mine. Would you care to take a look at the major's stats?"

She opened the folder and went straight to transcripts of his court martial. They contained information about Dar's death that had been held back from all but those directly concerned. She had not been one of them.

Her cursory reading revealed little in the major's favor except his denial of guilt and his own version of events. She needed more time to go through the thick file.

"Can I borrow this?"

"For a day or two; then you'll have to return it."

Zan rose. "I met a deputy sheriff on the way here, 'Winter' I think his name tag said. Do we want the locals to know I'm here?"

A flush dusted Kenny's pale cheeks and his lips thinned for a fraction of a second. "Only Deputy Winter. You never know when you'll need backup."

The husky quality in his voice told her she'd hit a nerve. Did he think she'd questioned his judgment? She smiled. "I would have thought that was you, Agent Becker."

His answering smile failed to reach his eyes. "Not any more. I'm retired. Remember?"

While she could only guess at the source of the sour note, it certainly was there. "Thanks for the consideration. I'll see you day after tomorrow." She scribbled her initials on the receipt and held up the folder. "To return this."

Eager to get at the material Mac had sent, she completed her errands and headed back to the reservation.

Her camper stood beneath a lone cottonwood tree so it would benefit from the shade and still be convenient to the utility poles behind the newspaper building. As she made the turn, she spotted Stormwalker towering over the newspaper editor in the doorway of the long, red brick building. She parked in the shadow of the camper and walked around to the two men.

Mike Eagle was leaning against the door frame as she approached. "Can I help you with something?" the newspaperman asked. His frigid tone reinforced the feeling he would give that help with reluctance.

"I just wanted to let you know that the power and light people will be out day after tomorrow to run a line to the camper and the phone installers the day after that."

"You're not wasting a minute, are you?" the man asked.

"I have a lot to do in a short period of time."

Stormwalker looked from Zan to Mike. "I didn't know you and Ms. McLaren knew each other, Uncle."

"Oh, yeah. Though I can't say I like her bein' here."

"I had no idea you were related," Zan said.

"Not by blood," Stormwalker said. "But we function as an extended family on the rez. He's been a second father to me most of my life, and like a brother to my mom."

"Yeah," Mike said, watching Zan with suspicion. "His parents and I go so far back you could say I knew him before he was born. After five years in prison, he's finally home and I don't want him taken away again. But then, we discussed all this when you first got here."

"Yes, we did. And I told you then I would do my best to be honest and fair."

Mike Eagle's skepticism showed on his face. "I've seen many examples of the white man's justice, and it's neither honest nor fair."

"I understand how you feel, Mr. Eagle. Frankly, if I'd known how close you are to the major, I wouldn't have put you in such an awkward position. So if my being around makes you uncomfortable, I'll find somewhere else to work."

"If you're here I can keep an eye on you."

"Is that important?"

"The only way I'm gonna feel safe is to know what's going on. So, you go ahead with your plans." He raised a hand. "But the first sign you're screwing up my nephew's life, you're outta here. You got that?"

"Fair enough," she replied. "I'll make sure the workmen don't disturb you too much." She nodded to Stormwalker and left.

As he watched her go, an errant beam of sunlight caressed her hair, turning it the color of burnished copper. He looked at Mike, who was examining him. "What?" he asked.

"You trust her?" the older man asked.

"Maybe. You obviously don't."

"No further than I can fling a rattler."

Stormwalker grinned. "I'm surprised you'd give her even that much working room."

"Only because of the way you look at her."

"And how's that?"

"Like a hungry mountain lion contemplating his next meal."

Stormwalker's gaze followed the woman down the street. He watched the subtle sway of her hips and the long denim-clad legs. "I don't think one meal would do it, Uncle."

Friday, March 16, 2012

How She Does It - Renee Simons

Renee is an old friend and critique partner I've lured back into writing. So far her books are good suspense and great love scenes.

We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

Hmm -- interesting question and oddly, something I'm pondering for the first time. Who - the characters (h&h, villain, secondary characters). What (who's doing What to whom, and do they like it), When -- present, future, past, or all three; Where -- setting(s); Why - motivations and How -- absolutely, the plot -- How do all the elements come together to tell a story that we hope will engage readers and keep them coming back for more. I'm going to embroider your six elements and hang them over my desk.

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

Once I get an idea for a story I begin to imagine how I'm going to tell it or, more accurately, who is going to tell it. I do a lot of "what ifs" and let my mind run around within the possibilities of the story idea. That's when characters start emerging from the general fog and basically stand around twiddling their thumbs until I zero in on what it is I want them to say and do to make the story happen. That's not very specific, I know, but that's how it happens when one is too undiciplined to PLAN.

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

I think that when the characters precede the plot and then take the story where it must go, things work out better for me. My favorite stories are character-driven and I try to concentrate on that. As a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer, I have only a vague idea of the story, which seems to grow like Topsy. (who remembers her?) I wish I could sketch the plot, but when I do, I lose interest in continuing. I have to say, this gets me in a lot of trouble and, no doubt, takes me three times longer to write the story than if I'd been more deliberate in the beginning.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin?

From the outset, I always know how the romance will end--happily or at least on the cusp of... In a general way or a specific one? As for the rest of the story, be it the mystery or the element of danger encountered by the h&h, or the problem they must solve, that is more vague. The resolution of those and other plot elements develop as the story progresses.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

To me, the fun is learning about places I've never seen or been to before and that usually comes from research. Sometimes, though, I'll visit a place after I've chosen it, such as touring Boston while writing Safe Haven, which takes place there. Come to think of it, the Cape Cod setting in that book was based on a place I used to visit on vacation. After Colton's Folly was published by Silhouette, my husband and I went to South Dakota and visited a reservation that was hauntingly like the one I'd created for the book. I was dumbfounded that I'd achieved such realism from research-fed imagination. But that research was extensive and my emotional involvement in the story and characters was consuming. As for house or room plans, if theiy're sitting anywhere, they're in my head; but I will look for examples to make sure I'm being accurate as far as a particular style or cultural element is concerned. Although I have been known to put a house in an unexpected place, such as the Victorian mansion that is the focus of my current work in progress which takes place in a New Mexico ghost town.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

My research is done through both, though books are my major source. I have an extensive non-fiction library filled with books I've collected over the years and can access for info. On occasion, I will add to this collection if I'm researching subject matter that is new to me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How The Story Began - Murder and Mint Tea

An autographed copy of Murder and Mint Tea will be given away to someone leaving a way for me to reach them to let them know where to send the book

This story began many years ago and originally it was to be a single story called And So We Walk On Eggshells. The first draft of the story wasn't great because of the use of First Person. My heroine put in her every observation of life and went on for pages. I put it aside and let it steep for years and then decided to look at the story again. Having learned many things about writing in the meantime, I was able to come up with ways to keep the character, Katherine, and her cat Robespierre. Unlike many mysteries, this one starts with the premise of when is the "nasty tenant and neighbor going to be murdered. WHer impact on the neighborhood and those near and dear to Katherine are shown through her eyes. This has been one of my most successful books to date and there is even an audio version of the book.

Writing in first person was an interesting idea and while I enjoyed it, I also don't like it. There are times when I would like to show another person's view but when a series is started with this. In some ways this book is based on my neighborhood. The story takes place in a Hudson River village and some of the characters are loosely based on people I have known. Loosely is the way to describe how I radically changed things but kept the flavor of the neighborhood. I moved houses to where I wanted them to sit and created a neighborhood of people who were close to each other.

Robespierre, the Maine Coon cat was a real cat and he had many of the characteristics shown by the cat in the story. My children and friends used to call him my familiar and from the moment he was found in the wire rims of my car at the time he was mine. The small kittn fit in my hand and we fed him with a baby doll bottle. He used to perch on my shoulder while I typed my stories. That is until he got too large, say 25 pounds.

Murder and Mint Tea tells the story of Rachel and her troubled past and the way she troubles everyone who comes under her sphere of influence, including her young children. There are hints of child abuse and that of an unhappy woman who seems to enjoy making the lives of other people as unhappy as hers. Like me, Katherine is a retired nurse, but I have never been a church organist or have had anything to do with murders other than in a fictional way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday's Writing Advice - Strategy

Whether you're a seat of the pants author or a compulsive planner there are some points you need to consider when starting a book. Finding a middle path between the two styles is hard but it can be done. No matter what your style, there are two points of the story that need to be in your head before you can begin.

The first is the beginning. Now this doesn't mean the writer needs to know this as a specific scene. The need to know is the general event that triggers the story. Could it be a death, a disappearance, a disaster of nature. When sends the characters off on an adventure helps either style of writing.

The second is the ending. Again, this isn't a specific scene. What the writer needs to know is whether the story ends in happiness of tragedy. Knowing this will allow then to find the right words through out the story to bring their work to a satisfactory ending.

Once these two points are there the writer can decide if they're going to plan or they're going to just start writing, The trick to keep this going is to move from scene to scene rather than set your plan for the entire book in concrete or just go with the flow. Things happen during the writing of a story. Characters sometimes rebel about the direction they're headed. And this can happen no matter what style of writer you are. Flexibility is important.

For myself, I'm a planner, but I also do a lot of seat of the pants writing. I plan a scene or a chapter and then sit down to write it but when something takes a turn, I keep going and then change the plan for the next chapter. Another thing is that I'm a draft writer. For me this works. To sit and revise every scene before I go on to the next one would bother me. I need to know the whole story before I can go back and make the needed changes. That means planning again.

So no matter how you work, you need to have a strategy that allows you to finish the story. This is what I tell new writers when I'm involved in critiquing sessions. Finish the book. If you don't finish it you can never revise and revision is where the story becomes complete.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Synopsis

For me there is nothing inspiring about a synopsis. When I sit down to write one, my gut tightens and there's a hint of nausea in the air. While looking through a book of essays by some writers that's almost 20 years old, I did find some clues about what a synopsis is and some hints about how to write one. I'm not sure this makes the process less painful, but I'll share some of the things I learned. Some of them make sense to me and others don't.

Synopsis should be done in present tense and third person. This strikes me as odd. What about those stories that are done in first person. Maybe the synopsis would sound odd if using the I character. I'll concede here but doing the entire thing in present tense amkes it hard if you want to put a bit of the back story in. Haven't figured out what to do here.

The synopsis should be as short as can be and get the entire story in. What that means is forget the subplots and the odd characters who pop into the story to add flavor. Stick to the main plot. Go with beginning, middle and end. Putting the end in is important. The editor has to know you're capable of ending the story in a satisfactory manner.

About the characters, only give names to those who are important like hero, heroine and villain. The others can enter the synposis by such things as mother, friend, that sort of thing but try to put only those who are important into the synopsis. Do not confuse the editor with a cast of thousands even if they are in the book.

Word choice is important. Strong verbs, specific nouns, the telling adjective. Try to leave out the sort of phrases that flow nicely but take away from the number of words you need to tell the story.

The first sentence is important. Make it one that hooks the interest but this won't help if the words that follow don't keep this level of urgency. If you're putting in character sketches, keep them short and succinct. Here the characters wants and reasons are important. But don't go into volumes about their past. Keep it short.

This is what I learned about the synposis. I'm not sure it has inspired me to write one. Just remember if you need to do one, this is a selling tool, not the book. Short, simple and concise.

Monday, March 12, 2012

12 March - Week Behind and Week Ahead

I am nearing the end of a Surprising Sedcution. Last week I finally solved the ending of the final chapter. I had rushed the ending and needed to add a final chapter by breaking the previous one. This done, rewritten and revised. Don't kow about anyone else but the ending of a project alway pumps me up. Especially when I find an ending that satisfies me. Since this is a romance, all the problems of Lauren and Tony are solved and they can look forward to sharing love for themselves and their orphaned nephew. Both of the characters have learned just what assuming makes one and they have changed, of course not completely. No one ever does.

This week I'll finish typing in all the changes putting in the missing words, changing the wrong ones typed in. This includes things the spell checker never sees. The fingers hit the f instead of the g and you have five instead give. Little things like that are important. I've gone through this twice now and even on the second read through found errors I never caught. I'm sure the editor will find others. The eyes do tend to see what should be there instead of what is there.

This week I'll start the rough draft of The Micro-Manager Murder featuring Katherine Miller. Katherine is marrying Lars a man who began as a bridge partner and friend in the first book and now has given Katherine a second chance at love. Robespierre will have a smaller part in this book since Katherine will take off to aid a friend, leaving her wedding reception to run away. Lars is left to follow.

I'll also be thinking more about a new idea I have called The Hiring Hall which will be a series of short novels revolving around Astrology and healing dying planets. Now sure where it's going or even if there is a real viability in the stories but I will try.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

3 Blog Visit Sunday

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - Vijaya Schartz

Chapter One

Los Angeles - July 2003

Zack woke up with a start, unable to see anything. Anything at all. Had the power gone out? A subtle vibration permeated the house. Earthquake? No. Earthquakes didn’t make the walls sing.

Something was wrong. With no glow from the digital clock or from his computer screen, Zack tossed his blanket aside and felt his way to the window. He pulled up the black roman shade and lifted the glass pane. The sweet fragrance of roses from the front yard filled the room. As he craned his neck outside, the second story view revealed a full moon but no street lights in the whole residential area of Granada Hills. Had all of Los Angeles blacked out?

Outside, the strong vibration shook the foliage of the eucalyptus trees. As far as Zack could see, the streets and houses looked dark and quiet. Too dark, too quiet, with no breeze, no birds, not even the chirp of a cricket.

Moonlight filtering into the room illuminated the life-size poster of Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. As the vibration intensified, something familiar tugged at Zack’s mind. Ashley? His baby sister screeched for help in his head! She was terrified.

Rushing out of the bedroom, Zack stumbled over his sneakers and stepped into the ink black hallway. The vibration shook the hardwood under his bare feet. The smell of burnt rubber or heated machinery assaulted his nostrils. How weird!

Feeling his way along the wall, Zack turned the corner and saw an outline of white radiance around Ashley’s door. He’d left it ajar last night.

Wearing only his boxers and tee-shirt, Zack shivered when a malevolent breeze coursed across his skin, as if to keep him away. Was he dreaming? He bit his lip. It hurt, and the coppery taste of blood filled his mouth. Wide awake! His heart beat so hard, it threatened to explode.

Outside Ashley’s door, their Persian cat arched his back and hissed, spooked. His bristled tail rose straight up in the air, sparking with static electricity.

"What’s going on in there, Dude?" Zack whispered, his heart faltering. He swallowed with a dry throat, remembering the horror movies he used to enjoy watching. But this was no movie, and he couldn’t stand the thought of his baby sister in any danger.

Zack moved sluggishly, like through water with weights on his ankles. Had the air become dense? Had he landed in the middle of a strange videogame? Finally he pushed the door open. Blinded by bright light, Zack stood paralyzed. He tried to step inside, to no avail. His legs refused to move.

Unable to scream his frustration, he remained frozen in the doorway, immobilized by a strange force that controlled his body. As his eyes adjusted to the brightness, the unobstructed view of his sister’s room chilled his spine.

Bent over the bed, a tall creature of humanoid proportions hovered above the floor, wearing a long, shimmering cape that accentuated its square shoulders. Seven-year-old Ashley, her blue eyes wide with terror, blonde curls framing her tan face, clutched her favorite Barbie Doll, her mouth open in a silent wail.

Get away from my sister, you freak! No word came out of Zack’s mouth.

The creature turned to face Zack. Under the hood, the bald skull glowed from within, blue, pink and green, like a see-through phone. The face had large oval eyes, milky skin, elongated cheeks, and a straight thin mouth etched with grim determination.

Hang on, Ashley, I’m coming. When Zack attempted to rush the creature, his feet stuck to the floor. He tried to yell but his vocal cords remained mute. He wanted to break the freak’s skull, bloody the monster’s small nose, make it feel pain. What did this thing want with his baby sister?

The creature turned its attention to a small device it held in spidery fingers. The bright light shrunk to a wide oblique beam that angled out through the gaping window. Beyond it, an ominous shadow hung above the house. The vibration emanated from it. Zack couldn’t believe what he saw. A spacecraft?

Howling inside, but unable to intervene, Zack watched as the creature lifted his frightened sister from the bed. Ashley didn’t protest when the monster wrenched the Barbie doll from her grip and threw it back on the blanket. Then the monster stepped into the beam of light and floated out the window with its prize. The paralyzing hold ebbed. Zack staggered into the room toward the window. He wanted to call for help but his throat still refused to make any sound.

As Zack stepped after them into the beam of light, the creature had almost reached the waiting craft. The alien pointed a small device at Zack. The shot sizzled and shook him like an electroshock. Zack’s legs buckled from the pain. He hit the plush pink rug and darkness engulfed him.

Find this book and many others by Vijaya at

Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Guns, Swords, Cats, Romance with a kick

Friday, March 9, 2012

How She Does It - Vijaya Schartz


Thanks, Janet, for having me on your blog. I love the cat, by the way.
Find Vijaya's books at
Q - We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

I believe there is a seventh element that follows these six primary questions. What comes next is WHAT IF? And that’s how I usually brainstorm my plot. After I have a frame, a basic idea of where the story is going, it’s fairly linear and predictable. So I start throwing obstacles and surprises in the mix to twist the plot. What if the villain is actually the good guy, and vice versa? What if the hero is not who he believes to be? What if the villain is actually her real father? What if she is buried alive? What if he is taken prisoner? What if... There is no stupid question when you brainstorm. I question everything, and often I find out so much about my characters and the possible plot points that I have to pick and choose what twists I’m going to use.

Q - How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I first ask myself what my main characters want, because that’s what will drive them throughout the story. Then I give them strong qualities that can be double-edged. If it’s a romance, I want them to be compatible in some ways and conflicting in other ways. Since no one is perfect, however, each hero or heroine should also have at least one fatal flaw that’s going to come up and foil their plans at the most critical time. It’s easy to go overboard with a good quality, and it becomes a flaw. Too much attention to detail can make you miss the larger picture, etc.

And since no one is totally evil either, I give my villains at least one redeeming quality and many flaws. Even a serial killer can love his mother, give generously to charity, or care about his cat. In the Ancient Enemy series, my villain, Captain Kavak, was dubbed the best (worst) villain of Science Fiction (according to a reviewer). That villain was bent upon destroying the human race, yet in her mind, she fought for a noble cause... the survival of her own kind.

Q - Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

To me the two are linked. I give the characters a personality, then I decide of their circumstances, I know what kind of ending I want, and I reserve the right to throw obstacles in their way. But the characters’ reactions to circumstances and obstacles, their decisions and actions will determine the next step and consequently the course of the story. And sometimes, they surprise me with twists of their own, events or people I didn’t see coming. I love when that happens, even if I have to rewrite a chapter or two, because it usually is better for the story.

Q - Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

Since I’m fiercely partial to satisfying endings, I know the good guys will win, I know the planet or the galaxy will be saved. Unless it’s a series, then one threat should remain, or I will allow one villain to escape to stir trouble again in the next book. And if it’s a romance, I know the hero and the heroine will end up happily together at the end. I hate it when the author kills the hero at the end. My readers would never forgive me if I killed my hero or my heroine (unless they can be resurrected - Sci-fi and fantasy sometimes offer that option). I usually know what tremendous event or battle or plot twist or struggle will determine the final victory. How will the characters get to that event? I have no idea. I trust that if I gave them the right personality, conflicts will arise, weaknesses will have to be overcome, and if I gave them the right tools, they will grow enough to accomplish the feat and get their well deserved victory and happiness in the end.

Q - Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

Since I write mostly Sci-fi and fantasy, in futuristic or historical settings, it’s usually not a place I visited. I might have visited the ruins of a medieval castle, but I’ve never lived on a spaceship, or on a space station at the fringe of conquered space... at least not that I know of. My husband believes I’m a time traveler and I come from the future. They must have erased my memories, because I can’t remember that at all. New Earth, in the CHRONICLES OF KASSOUK series, is an imaginary planet. To remind me of what settings and characters look like, I make posters, collecting portraits and photos evoking the kind of surrounding I pictured in my mind. Sometimes I post these pictures on my website, when I do not yet have a cover for the book, so my readers can get a feel for the story by looking at characters and settings.

Q - Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

It depends on what I am researching. If I’m looking for pictures (I’m very visual) I research online. Then I make a poster for my new story. If my story is set in a known galaxy, I research that galaxy on reliable websites, (NASA, Scientific sites, Space discoveries, etc.) to make sure I have my facts straight. All this time, I think about the cover, because all my publishers ask me for input. Some say I’m lucky I have such good covers, but I don’t think it’s luck. I spend a lot of time thinking about covers and express the mood for the cover in descriptive words. Of course, I take into account the style of each publisher. When my suggestions are good and appropriate for the publisher, the cover artists usually get it.

But if I want to re-familiarize myself with the feel for a place where I’ve been before, I read novels set in that particular town or area, preferably from authors who lived there. If it’s a series, like the Borealis series, the Ancient Enemy series, or the Chronicles of Kassouk, I re-read the previous books in that series to refresh my memory. For Noah’s Ark, the Prequel to the Chronicles of Kassouk, scheduled for release April 1, 2012, I had to remember all the threads I had sowed along the four books of the series, remind myself of all the references to the past, in order to concoct a story that would take into account all the facts, legends, and beliefs I had created over the past two years. I know that if I miss something, my loyal readers will notice, and I do not want to disappoint them.

Thank you so much for having me as a guest on this blog.

Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Guns, Swords, Cats, Romance with a kick
Vijaya's books at

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How The Story Emerged - Flight - The Henge Betrayed

First of all an autographed copy of Flight will be given away to someone signing the guest book, but they must give me a way to reach them. Last week's book wasn't given away since the person has not yet responded. Had a hard time reaching those who entered since they didn't leave an addy so I could reach them.

My interest in Astrology has been a long and ongoing affair. While playing the What If game, I began to consider what if a person had an affinity for one of the four elements, Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Then I thought about my four grandchildren at the time. There birth signs fit the elements and so I decided to write a story using them, but not really. Fictionalized versions of them and using some of the traits of those with Sun Signs in each of the four areas. At night as I was going to sleep I thought about this story and in the morning wrote out the continuing story with none of the frills that end up in the book. A sort of this happened and this happened next. I had decided to call the book The Henge Betrayed. The good or bad thing was that after doing this for a week or more I ended up with about 50 pages typed of what this story was to be. The way I write, those 50 pages would translate into maybe 800 pages, much too long. What emerged was four books. I had fun breaking all this into a story.

Flight is the initial story and has the four children, two sets of fraternal twins, having to leave their home and take flight. Their parents send them forth with talismans and gems that enhance their talents. But their affinities for the elements are just beginning to emerge and they are forced to experiment because of dangers they must face. Along the way they meet a new friend and his companion. They must find a way to heal this boy and they learn he is the son of the ruler who is controlled by an evil man. This friend also has an affinity he had hidden for he cannot follow his father if the talent is seen by the people. The four are on the way to a safe place to wait for the people their parents have asked to mentor them. The destruction of their home occurs and their parents using their affinities for all the elements become a pair of birds. This story tells of their flight and their hopes of finding a safe place. The story also shows their emerging talents. The question is will they ever become strong enough to face the evil man and a shadowy creature called He Who Walks With Evil. During the nect two weeks I'll talk about the second and third books. The fourth has been written and is sitting at the publisher's waiting to hear if it will see the light of day.

Part of the chapter can be read somewhere on the blog.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wednesday - Plots Finishing up

Been discussing plot for many weeks and I thought I'd finish up, maybe this week or maybe enxt. Depends on how much I want to say. The first thing is that A Plot Is Just A plan. A plot is the journey a character or characters take on the way to a goal. There are two ways to plot a story. One is to make an extensive plan and the other is to just write. Neither way is the right way. The right way is what workd for you, but there are some things a writer can look at to make their story become more than a series of scenes or a muddled mess.

Does your story have a basic premise. Can you state this in just a few words? I often do a short passage when I've begun a story. This consists of a question. Can Mary find true happiness with a man she fears isn't what he says he was? This tells me what I'm writing is a love story and allows me a lot of room to explore. Or try this. Can Katherine discover who has murdered an obnoxious woman and bring peace to the people the woman tried to destroy? Now this screams mystery and allows me room to explore the heroine's search. This is something to explore.

Another part of the plot is what the main character wants and why. Here exploring the characters desire or desires can lead to scenes that flow together. The reason a character wants a specific object means looking at their life and actions. This produces scenes that carry the plot further along. Can you state the desire and the reason in a few sentences, probably no more than a paragraph? You're on the way to producing a plot.

Then there must be someone or something that obstructs the charscter. Do you know what this is? It could be another person or person, it could be an event of nature, it could be a social happening. Another short paragraph writing this out is another part of the plot.

A short paragraph letting yourself know if the main conflict is an internal one or an external one will help clarify the main plot. There can be both in a story but one is the main one. Take the time to decide which or can the two kinds of conflict work together or in opposition?

Then decide what kind of story this is going to be will it be an action story or one of character. Do a short paragraph deciding this and you're on the way to having a plot for your story.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Those first 3 pages

I've often heard that the first three pages of a story are the most important. This is true and I've often started those three pages again and again until I felt they were right. While reading a Writer's Handbook that's almost 30 years old I came across an essay by Shelly Lowenkoff. I don't know the writer but her advice put in the things I try to put in those important three pages. So Just what are they.

Start with an important action rather than starting with a list of a character's movements. What I've heard is to start in the middle of the action, a moment before the action starts of a moment after the action has occurred. This will bring tension into the story and also raise questions in the reader, like - what is going on, will the character manage to escape what every is going on.. This point will stir the reader's curiosity and make them want to read on. While starting near the action, you will put the characters under stress and this can lead into giving a clue as to their desires and their motivations. You do not need to spell these out in the opening pages, hints and clues are enough to let the reader know there is some kind of conflict to come. Conflict is what makes a story vivid.

You need to let the reader know there will be more than one character so a bit of foreshadowing can be a plus. Not much and this will depend on the type of story you are writing. If a romance, the heroine or hero needs just a thought that they're looking for romance. A mystery will have the main character thinking about the villain and so forth.

The first few pages will also establish through whose eyes the story will be told. There may be more than one character who has a viewpoint but putting both in the first three pages will make your opening a bit muddy. Decide who has the most to lose or the most to win and put the opening scene in their viewpoint.

Three pages isn't much but you need to establish setting and the area where the story will be played out. The area is a bit different than the setting. Setting is places. Area is background like sports, medicine - the area where the characters will play out their drama.

If you can establish these elements in those important three pages you'll find they bring the reader to comtinue turning pages because they want to know what will happen to these people next.

Monday, March 5, 2012

5 March - Week behind and week ahead

First the winner of an autographed copy of Come Into the Light is Pat Dale. An email has been sent to her.

Last week was a busy one for writing I have completed all but the last chapter of A Surprising Seduction. Having a bit of trouble finding the right ending but that will happpen. Not that I don't know how it will end it's just finding the right words. That will happen. The main problem is finding the right words for the heroine's change of heart.

This week, besides working to find the right words I've begin doing a blocking in of the next Katherine Miller mystery. Title will either be The Micro-manager Murder or Murder of a Micro-manager. Will figure this out later. Writing this mystery will be a complete switch for me in a way. I usually write third person with more than one character having a viewpoint. The murder stories are told in first person. Here I usually have to rein the heroine in since she can go off on tangents. This book also features her marriage to Lars who has gradually become a character of interest in the stories. Of course Robespierre will have a role in the story but not in the mystery since Katherine takes off to help a friend and leaves her wedding reception. Lars must follow her and since he's not in favor of her crime solving their marriage may be off to a little bit of a rocky start.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

# Blog Visit Sunday

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday's Chapter = Angela K. Austin - Give Me Everything

Chapter One

The solitary inflated tube bounced clumsily down the frenzied river with its four passengers. Cold water from the New River sprayed LaKia Jackson over and over as she dipped her oar into the crystalline water in unison with the others in her raft.
Urgently Terrence shouted, “Nic, LaKia rock...left!”

Terrence and Kendis removed their oars from the water. LaKia and Nichelle dragged their oars in the river and paddled repeatedly until sweat blended with the mist of river water covering their bodies.

“Rock, right!” belted Terrence.

“LaKia watch your right,” repeated Kendis.

Concentrating on her left, she had ignored Terrence and Kendis’ last call. Her oar collided with a rock, snapping and cracking as it ripped from her hands shattering into smaller pieces. Her fingers quivered from the prickly sensations shooting through them. Her heart leapt from her chest when she saw the rock in front of them. The momentum from her body cast her from the raft.

Kendis caught her around the waist, but his grip slipped.

She fell sideways, rocking the raft, into the water. The vibration inside her helmet as it bounced off the rubber tube rang in her ears.
Cold spring water of the New River gorge rushed into her mouth. Gasping for air, she tried to pull herself back into the raft. Her hands were too wet. A sickening wave of terror welled up in her belly. “Nic-, Terrence help.”

Frantic, her friends’ hands and arms thrashed through the water. They couldn’t catch her as they guided the raft around the rocks. Waves of salty water filled her nose and mouth; she sank beneath the water, but her vest buoyed her back to the surface.
She had been trained for this...what was it again? Point your feet downstream, keep your body limp, and protect your head. How do you keep your body limp, when you’re scared out of your mind?

Her torso ping-ponged from rock to rock banging her arms and back against every stone in the gorge; slowly consciousness began to drain from her body. Choking from the water in her mouth, she gagged as she slipped beneath the water again. The ragged pieces of her vest, shredded by the gorge’s rocks, floated in the water around her.

The arm that pulled her out of the river felt as solid as the rocks beating against her body. For a moment, she thought she wasn’t being pulled from the water and that she had drowned. But, then she felt the warm air of summer brush across her cold wet skin; her rescuer’s other arm reached down and wrapped around her body to secure his grip. Shivering as she laid on the bottom of the raft, she opened her eyes. Kendis Washington—her enemy, was now her rescuer.
She stirred and awakened as Kendis slid his hands beneath her limp frame. Each shove of her battered body sent a painful shock through her. Fluidly, he scooped her off the rubber floor of the raft and headed toward the dressing tents.

The lantern-lit dirt trail leading to the changing area was covered by indistinguishable shadows and silhouettes to LaKia. She could make out the sounds of small wildlife scurrying about toiling through their nightly rituals, and other guests finishing up their day on the river revving up their car engines to return home. Hickory scented smoke perfumed the air as some rafters prepared for a hamburger, and hot dog medley.
Kendis gingerly navigated the fallen brush and holes dug by man or maybe the local wildlife to bury food or dwell. But, she frowned with the vibration of each step.

She tightened her arms around his neck to control her bounce in his as he carried her to the dressing tent with Nichelle and Terrence in tow. Once inside, she cautiously uncurled her incredibly long legs in search of the cement floor beneath them. She wanted to say something. “Thank…you.” Then her words failed her.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” he responded.

“Me, too. I don’t care what you say, you need to learn how to swim,” said Terrence.

Terrence and Kendis retreated to the male dressing tent. Nichelle helped her slowly remove her wetsuit. “I was so scared, Ki. I don’t know what I would’ve done if he hadn’t saved you.” She watched as her friend tucked the tattered suit away into her netted garment bag resting on a bench in the corner. The bear hug Nichelle trapped her in caused her sore muscles to hurt even more, but as her friend’s tears fell to her shoulder, she gritted her teeth and hugged her with the last ounces of strength in her body.

Nichelle stepped away and wiped at the tears dangling from her lashes. “But, what a story you have to tell. Gorgeous man scooping you out of the waves and carrying you back to your tent.”

Shaking her head rigorously from side to side, she tried to shake the thoughts of Kendis out onto the ground beneath her feet. As much as her body hurt it should have been easy, but she could not stop herself from imagining his arms encircling her again. “No story to tell,” she croaked.


With carefully planned movements, she undressed in the tarp tent. “I can’t believe I fell in. I can usually lock myself in the raft pretty good.” The bruises from her fall prevented her from moving as quickly as her friend.

“Maybe you were nervous.”

Cutting Nichelle a what-are-you-talking-about look, she asked, “Nervous about what?”

“Do you remember once when we were at work there was this gorgeous courier that gave you a package, you signed then immediately turned around and tripped over air? He picked you up, and helped you with the box you were carrying.” Holding her stomach, Nichelle rested her back against the metal pole in the center of the tent. Her body shook from laughter. “Oh man that still brings tears to my eyes. At least I know you like the way Kendis looks.”

“I didn’t throw myself out of the raft to get his attention.” Secretly, she thought she wouldn’t have to work that hard. He struck her as the type of guy that wanted to be noticed and that would take notice of anything in a skirt. “I think I fell out because you and your husband were so busy watching me and Kendis that y’all didn’t guide the raft around the big fat rock we hit.”

“Well, at least you’re okay. “

“Yeah. Thanks.”

“But what do you think? Of him? You two going on a date? You know.”

LaKia stretched her legs along the wooden bench she sat on, and massaged her bruised thighs as she frowned. “What do I think? We work together.”

“Not really.” Nichelle slipped on her crisp, dark blue jeans.

“He’s gorgeous, but we do work together.”

“You always look for an excuse.”

Annoyed, she responded, “An excuse?”

“Yeah. What happened between you and Derrick doesn’t mean you have to shut yourself off from the opportunity to meet someone else—-a good man.”

“Every time I tell you I don’t want to meet someone, you think it’s because of Derrick.”

“Well it is.”

“No. It’s not. What about Tony?”

“Okay. You gave one guy a chance, but it didn’t last long and I still don’t know what happened with that.”

“There’s nothing to didn’t work out,” she snapped.

“I guess not. But this time it was my husband. I told him you were tired of my matchmaking. Sorry girl, but I knew you’d find a reason not to come if you knew only the four of us would be rafting.”

“You’re right. Remind me to strangle your husband.”

“You’re a beautiful twenty-eight year old woman whose life is work-work-work.”

“I like what I do.”

Nichelle stopped tying the lace on her sneakers; stood up, and wagged a finger in her direction. “Good lord, that’s not what I mean.” She pointed at LaKia’s body, and then her hair. “If you put a little effort into the way you dress, your hair, or take a vacation once in a while maybe you’d meet a great guy or at least have a little fun.”

“What? Do you want me to walk around dressed like a hooker with a big FOR SALE sign on my forehead?”

“That’s not what I mean, and you know it.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she muttered.

“Come on out of there ladies. We’ve changed and we’re ready to go.” Terrence yelled from outside of the tent.

“We’re on our way out,” her friend shouted, and she grabbed her ears. Nichelle’s yell made her head ache even more. Nichelle threw a hand over her mouth, and only removed it briefly to speak in a whisper. “Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry.”

“I’m okay. Don’t worry about it. Go ahead. I’ll be right behind you.”

She had a hard time convincing Nichelle she could finish by herself, but finally she left her alone, and exited the tent laughing as she said, “Terrence leave my girl alone. She’s getting dressed.” She tugged at the sleeve of his t-shirt in an unsuccessful attempt to pull him away.

Terrence continued to harass her. “Were you ladies talking about me and my expert rafting?” He yelled at Kendis. “Can you believe it, man? I think they’re talking about us.”

After minutes of coaxing, Nichelle finally managed to drag him away. His laughter faded as he and Nichelle disappeared down the dirt trail toward their cars.

Slowly, LaKia continued to dress.

She shoved her head through the neck of the cotton t-shirt she struggled with. A shadow flickered across a light outside of the tent.
Kendis had paused by the women’s changing tent.

Why’d he stop? She thought of how she’d shivered in his arms as their friends guided the raft to the end of the trail. She’d felt fragile in his arms, and for some reason she didn’t want him to let her go.

Now as she watched him through the crack in the tent as he watched her, she realized she’d forgotten to re-tie the closures after Nichelle left. The thick canvas doors of the tent had gotten entangled in the debris on the ground, creating a gap.

He had protected her—rescued her, but now...he was like everyone else.

Fifty pounds of dead weight wrapped around her ankles, gluing her feet to the cold concrete floor, impairing each step. Pain coursed through every muscle. Laggardly, she tied each rope.

His eyes scanned her body.

She moved deliberately. The rocks had taken their toll on her leaving her frail and weak. Every time their paths crossed at work they were equals, but now, she was vulnerable. And he took advantage of it.

Her face grew hot as she was assaulted with distant but not faded memories. She squeezed her eyes shut as she remembered how her college sweetheart, Derrick, forced his knee between her legs to keep them from closing. She kneed him in the groin, and dug her cotton candy colored acrylic nails through his t-shirt into his shoulder, he grimaced, but the pain only temporarily deterred him.

Derrick hadn’t responded to her pleas. His drunken haze had permitted him pretense to seize her.

Terrence’s voice in the distance disturbed her thoughts, and severed their connection. She moved to another position inside of the tent.

Kendis waited for her a few steps up the path.

When she neared him he reached for her hand to guide her up the poorly lit path, appalled by his touch, she snatched her hand away.

“Let me help you. It’s dark.”

“I’ve got it.”

Cagily plotting a route through the hole-littered path, she tripped on a veiled tree root. Falling, she flung her arms forward, and braced her body for impact. The boulder she banged into sent an undulating pain through her fingertips that mushroomed through her entire body. A whimper escaped her as she pushed herself upright.

Kendis helped her up.

He extended his hand again, this time, she accepted his offer, and they walked up the trail together in silence to join Nichelle and Terrence.

“Kendis can you give my girl a lift back home?” asked Nichelle. “You guys live so close to each other. You’re right around the corner on Lottsford Rd.”

Screaming inside of her head at Nichelle...she couldn’t believe the girl had done it to her again. There was no way to avoid being trapped in his truck for five hours.

“Sure. No problem, if she doesn’t mind.”

Nichelle turned toward her with pleading eyes. “You guys are only about ten or fifteen minutes apart. I’m almost an hour. I left home at three this morning. It would save me a lot of time. Do you mind?” asked her new ex-best friend.

Through clinched teeth and a tight jaw, she responded, “I don’t mind.”

Nichelle had a look of mission accomplished on her face as the two couples separated and walked toward their cars. Over her shoulder, she yelled, “Great. Call me when you get home Ki.”

Standing at Kendis’ truck door, she said, “Thank you for offering to take me home.”

“No problem.” He opened her door.

Linen scented air wafted around her. Glancing into the backseat she saw nothing. Unsullied polished black leather beckoned her to curl up and nap all of the way home. She grabbed the hand grip; slowly she pulled herself into the SUV.

Kendis nudged her sore torso into the proper position, and snapped her seatbelt across her. “What’s your full address?”

“305 Benton Road. Thank you again for driving me didn’t have to.”

He closed the door, rounded the truck and jumped in.

She watched as he keyed her address into his navigational system.

Settling into his leather bucket seat he responded, “Hey, my Mama would be mad if I didn’t help a woman in need.”

“And how does she feel about you peering through an open tent,” she said sharply.

Flinching, he responded, “I apologize, I didn’t mean to stare. I wanted to know if you were okay.”

“Whatever, I guess it’s the way you handle things.”

“What does that mean?”

Crossing her arms across her chest, she penetrated the side of his head with her stare. “You do what you want, when you want.”
He was just like Derrick. Eight years had passed, but she thought about it—him—everyday.

“Trust me, if I wanted a woman I wouldn’t have to peep in on her.” Pressing a button on his steering wheel, he lowered the volume on the radio.

“But you did. What were you trying to see?”

“The door was open. I wanted to make sure you were okay. That’s all.”

“You could’ve asked. You didn’t have to pull up a chair and watch.”

“It wasn’t like that at all.”

“Don’t worry about it. I get it. It’s who you are. I should’ve known from work.”

A streak of orange tinted sunlight cutting through the tree tops along the highway beamed into his eyes. His leather chair squawked as he shifted his position in the seat. “What...from work?”

“You and your company are taking what you want from small businesses in my mall.”

“So, you don’t think it’s time for development?”

“There’s always room for something new, but instead of working with us and the community y’all are going to tear up the environment and close down a hundred small businesses.”

“But we’ll add thousands of jobs and improve the economy of the city.”

“Improve the economy...humph...increase traffic, screw up wetlands, and take jobs out of the community.”

“I don’t see it that way. Better jobs and more money there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“There’s also nothing wrong with strong communities and families.”

Kendis’ hands formed fists around the wheel. “Strong families are rare.” He turned away from the steering wheel to glance into her eyes. “You sound like an ad for the YMCA.”

“Why? Because I care about something more than money?”

“So, you think I don’t?”

“I don’t really know what you care about...other than naked women.” Voyeur.

“I care about more than naked women and money. But, sometimes the things you want don’t want you back.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means we can’t all be like you.” He took his eyes off the road; they met her glare. “Super heroes.”

Her body stiffened; slim, long fingers bowed into knotted fists. “Huh?” What did he mean by Super hero?

“I’ve watched you around the council meetings. I see how everyone’s always turning to you. I’ve seen the ads you run. I know how hard you work, but I work hard, too.”

Half the reason she worked as hard as she did was because of him. He was more detailed than a lot of the people she came up against. Others always underestimated her company, their influence in the community, and her. “I didn’t say you didn’t work hard. Your presentations to the council members are always detailed. I have to be ready for any curve ball you might throw at me.”

“I believe in what I do. Putting more jobs into predominately black communities is important to me. I think those companies deserve a chance.”

“We give new businesses a chance; but, what about the companies already there. Are you willing to throw them out to make room for the new?”

“Why can’t there be room for both?”

“We tried that, but your company didn’t like that idea.”

“No way. I never saw any proposal.”

“I was a part of the team that put the proposal together.”

“I’ll check around. Maybe something got pushed to the side before I joined the team as lead counsel.”

“Sure you will.” She saw absolutely no reason to trust him.

“I will.”

Short bursts of conversation speckled their return trip home. Kendis scrolled through the channels of his XM Satellite Radio system. The watery blue block shaped numbers on the dashboard lit up the car interior as they changed.

He turned onto Lottsford Road.

“Right there. That’s my house.”

Leaning forward in her seat, LaKia examined the house. “Nice.”


“I searched around this neighborhood when I looked for houses last year. You got lucky.”

“I know.”

He turned onto 202 South. The closer they came to her condo the more regularly the computerized navigational system chimed.

“This is it. Thanks again.”

Kendis eased the SUV to a stop.

“No problem.” He began to exit the SUV, but his door chime knelled at him. “Wait, I’ll get the do…”

She swung the door open. “I’ve got it. Don’t bother.”