Fingers crossed, toes too.

I’ve taken a break from writing to edit, write synopses, and write “blurbs” (that’s what you read on the back of a book that makes you like it or not) for all the novels other than what an agent requested in December.

I did all that for a portfolio of sorts I’ll put together for a March workshop when I meet her. I’m hoping they’ll all create further interest, which might land me an agent this year. Cross your fingers and toes so I can make this happen.

I’ll likely start on a new novel soon, one in which I’ve completed the first chapter in December, before things started getting exciting concerning that agent.

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Novels and queries and synopses, oh my!

As anyone who aspires to publish their writing knows, not only is it hard work, it’s work that’s hard on you. I continue to dream the dream, working that forty-hour grind while trying to be grateful all the while for that forty-hour grind.

I am grateful, but I’m more grateful for being able to write. Penning a story, characters, places, conflicts, and resolutions is an enjoyable thing, likely within the top two personally enjoyable attempts at a creative pastime I’ve ever attempted. And having beta readers enjoy my work is great also. Recently, a woman said her sister came into her room and asked what was wrong, because the reader was cursing. Her answer? She was angry with one of my characters. When you can illicit emotion like that with mere words, what a thrill.

At the moment I’m working on a synopsis for my fifth novel, and it’s (they all are, right?) special. With great characters, a great hook, a great conflict, and a great (I’m a romantic at heart) love story, what’s not to love?

Fellow writers, you know how it is. We hope for that break, but it only comes with hard work, not only learning the craft of writing but learning the craft of storytelling so the reader stays engaged. My mantra is this: If I write something a reader skims, I’ve failed.

Here’s to us, the hard workers, the writers.

Best.

 

It’s Not Often

In the canoe, in my heart, the dark of her curls blend with the gold of sunrise.

With water glassy we paddle, unison’s time, rhythm’s endearing.

Over her shoulder she smiles. Hope leaps. Love pains at future’s parting.

It’s not often colors blend such as these.

Mercurial silver of water. Hazel of eye. Red of lips.

It’s not often to welcome falling into depths like those below …

… when she must leave.

 

A few writing tips, thoughts, conjectures I have learned along the way.

You’ve no doubt heard variations, and some will be present, but if not, here you go.

A writer without imagination is like a musician without rhythm; it’s doubtful anyone will enjoy either.

MC needs to show someone a vital phone pic? Break the phone. Needs to get somewhere? Break his car. Don’t make goals easy.

Don’t tell your readers he smelled the coffee. Instead: With rich coffee aroma, steam rose in lazy swirls from the dark brew.

An important part of writing is in the details. Yes, your character may taste, touch, hear, see, and smell, but does the reader?

You know you’re writer if you love editing. Well, you might not be a sane writer. Polish that passion–make it pop.

Dialogue: Never boring. Constantly use tension, whether anger, humor, fear, or sexual. Unexpected is great too.

I love it when an unintended character pops into a scene, taking the plot in a different–better–direction than I’d intended.

Friends ask how I write. My answer? By knowing my character’s perspectives; their hearts, souls, & struggles.

Recently made three women cry. It’s okay…actually, it’s great. They were reading one of my short stories.

Let characters interrupt. Hey, did you see– Yeah, it’s– Don’t interrupt me when– When what? Arrgghhh! (You get the idea)

I Love You, Daddy.

An attempt, with fiction that is surely fact-based, to honor the men and women, including the parents and children left behind, who war touches. And who we most assuredly owe a sincere debt of gratitude.

The small hand is warm in mine, and the fingers tighten as we walk closer. When he was born screaming, and I along with him for more reasons than were obvious, I promised myself I’d bring him here one day.

And that day has come.

I have tissues in my pocketbook. I’ll need them though he won’t as he’s still too young to understand. But he knows things are not as they should be. From his first birthday, with a single candle on his cupcake that I blew out as his eyes questioned mine, I think he knew. And those deep blue eyes continued to ask, with stares at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other family holidays.

His grandparents are here too, and they run their fingers along the chiseled edge of eternity. They glance at each other and she pulls her own Kleenex from a worn purse, veteran as it was of that time.

That day … it was horrible … like a nightmare but real. An old cliché I’m sure, but what better way to describe it? Is it necessary to tell about the hot tears that streamed down my face? Is it necessary to tell how my heart pounded, how I thought it would burst from my chest, how I wished it would?

But only for a moment, because of what was left behind, which was a blessing.

Now we’re here, now we hold hands, and now I have to explain. But I pause because he is pointing at the leaves on the old oak.

“The wind, Momma … it’s talking. Could that be him? You said he might tell me … tell me things if I listen?”

I nod and smile and squeeze his hand. “You never know, sweetheart, it could be.” Letting go of my hand and stepping to the tree, he touches the coarse gray bark with tentative fingertips, looking up again. Then he steps closer and wraps his arms as far around the tree as they will go, and closes his eyes.

“Momma showed me your picture, but I wish you were here.”

He walks back to me. “Can we talk to him now?”

I couldn’t answer. I hold the third tissue to my eyes. Should have brought the box.

“Give me a minute, sweetheart. Okay?”

He takes my free hand and holds it to his cheek. “Okay, Momma.”

God, how hard this is. How hard the first years were. I’m—we’re better, and I’m grateful. We have people we can count on, and that has helped. But what I wouldn’t give to not be doing this, not because of how it makes me feel, but because of the reason we must.

I swipe at my eyes one last time, I hope, and shove the tattered knot into my pocket.

“Okay, Momma’s ready.”

Or am I?

We step forward and I put down the quilt, which is full of memories, one of which is the night my son was conceived. With him standing in front of me, I kneel and hold out my hand.

“Give me your hand.” He puts his hand in mine and I place it on the first letter carved into the cool stone. “What’s this letter?”

Those eyes … they’re his dad’s. I want to cry again and I fight the urge, but the tears sting as alcohol on an old and open wound, one never fully healed, one exactly five-and-a-half-years-old.

“S, Momma, it’s an S.”

“That’s right. Can you tell me what the other two are?”

He traces each letter. “That’s a G … that’s a T … and that’s a period.” He looks at me, asking if he’s right with nothing more than his inquisitive glance, faint blonde eyebrows rising.

“Right again. Your daddy would be so proud of you. Of the big boy you’ve become and how you’re taking care of me.”

He leans against me, taking my hands, pulling them together, wanting me—with his familiar gesture—to hold him. And I do.

Though he’s not a baby any longer, his hair is baby-soft, and it smells of the shampoo I used last night during his bath—when he played and splashed—and when we laughed. His ears are pink, chilly against my face from the morning November breeze, which is crisp with winter’s coming.

We stay there silently. Until he glances back at me.

“Can I tell him something?”

I nod and his fingertip touches the white marble, where my head had lain, where my tears had fallen, and finally, where I had kissed goodbye.

“I love you, Daddy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naked Branches.

Come, says the writer,

look into my world.

See and hear,

touch and taste.

Watch the leaves flutter on high

on distant branches.

Smell the breeze

and listen as lovers talk

lying on an old quilt

by rolling waters.

Do so eagerly.

Do so lovingly.

Fall into my world and

into theirs.

Watch as they laugh and love

and yes, as one dies,

leaving the other to either suffer

or move on.

Sometimes it’s now

difficult.

Sometimes the branches seem naked,

bare, mistakes easily seen in other works,

and it could be difficult

to enjoy

if I were to allow it.

Our Craft.

Words are magnificent things. With them, a person can communicate numerous emotions ranging from the love in a child’s eyes to the rage a man might feel at being forced to do something totally beyond his control.

Readers understand this, and that’s why we read, and if we’re able, that’s why we write.

Also we write to bring new experiences, new feelings, and for me, new perspectives on the joys and sorrows, and hopes and tragedies, people might feel, could feel, if they lived in different lives, in different times, and in different situations.

Yes, the novel I’m currently revising has both: a man that has to endure an existence he never knew could take place, and his child, who in one scene answers his mother’s question about how much she loves him by spreading his little hands wide and saying, “I know, Momma, this much!”

Two distinct sides of a coin: one complicated to the extreme and one as simple and sweet a thing as we might imagine. To say I’m enjoying this work is a vast understatement, and I’m positive that right now, those reading this may well be nodding their heads in affirmation.

There’s no doubt about it, writing is a craft. And as I’m sure many of you reading this know, learning that craft, delving into its intricacies, both gentle, and not so gentle, is an amazing thing to do,

WordPress is filled with people like you and me, people reaching for the stars within themselves.

As I write this, hopefully your fingertips are reaching for and possibly touching your own particle of brilliance.

J.

Testing the Waters. Conclusion.

Part 1.

Sonya walked along the edge of the marsh and reached for his hand. Standing there looking out over the glassy water, he felt her cool fingertips touch his and enclosed them.

“So, you really love me?” he asked.

“You should know better than to doubt me. My kisses never lie.”

Alex turned to test her words.

“I believe you, but you do know if I thought otherwise you’d go straight into the swamp.”

He hadn’t cracked a smile, and she wondered if he were joking or not, but she decided he had to be. I know him better than that, she thought. She raised on tiptoe to reassure him.

Their lips parted, and he stared over her shoulder at the still black water.

“Dear, Sonya.”

Part 2.

“Dear, Sonya.”

The name sounded and felt foreign now. “Sonya,” he said. “Who were you.”

She had been gone two weeks. There was no hint, no note, and no one knew where she was. The police had dragged the swamp where she was last seen. He had been there himself hysterically pounding the mud, made from his tears, with his fists.

Yes, she had loved him. Her kisses hadn’t lied.

Closing his eyes, he thought back to that day, that day never left him, but she had.

“They’ll never find you,” he said, speaking to his self-imposed darkness.

He looked out the window; fireflies were in the yard. They scattered among the fog and grass like hanging diamonds.

“Will they find you?”

“Do I care?”

Part 3.

He cared.

A month later one of her shoes was found by a trapper. The police brought it to Alex and he recognized it immediately.

“What about the other one,” he asked. “She would hate to lose a shoe.”

The officer watched his eyes.

“So, you think she’s still alive?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” said Alex, staring straight at the officer, daring him to see anything that was or wasn’t there.

The officer tilted his cap back, rubbed his forehead, and walked off shaking his head. But before he got into his car, he turned and said, “Well, how about you call us if she shows up. You think you can do that?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” said Alex, still staring hard.

Why should I, he thought.

Part 4.

Alex received the first of three phone calls a week later. A hissing, dissonant, sexless, voice, said, “I know where she is,” and nothing more.

An icy hand gripped his neck and scratched down his backbone.

He asked the phone, dial tone harassing, “Could it be her?”
“How could it be?” he said to the wall.
“But she’s alive, isn’t she?”
“Or is she?”

He didn’t remember much of that day—or that night. He did recall waking at three to a woman’s scream—in a nightmare—or so he thought.
That morning he found the sheets soaked and tried to recall what had happened, and then remembered.
He asked his damp pillow, “What day is it? Is it then—or now?”

It stared back..

Conclusion.

The phone rang. He slapped it from the stand. A voice came.

“Alex?”

He fell to his knees and clutched the handset.

“Yes?”

“It’s Sonya.”

“Where are you? I–they– thought you were …”

“Missing?”

“Or even dead,” he said, “that I might have killed you. They even found your shoe.”

“It was a test,” she said.

“What?”

“I’m very wealthy and I must be careful who I fall in love with. The real test is if you forgive me. There’s a check in the mail. Come to Key West and be with me while I finish my book. I’m an author. As you see, some of us can be quite quirky.”

He smiled and put down the pen, manuscript at hand.