October 23 2017

The Fun Character to Write

There’s always one character that’s easier and fun to write. In Pages in the Wind it was Doctor Lieberman, a lonely, celebrated psychiatrist with a sharp mind and tragic past. In Brooklyn Bitters, it’s Stacey, a self-indulgent narcissistic and sexy homemaker. Two entirely different characters. Why they were my personal favorites, I don’t know. They have nothing in common but just seemed to jump onto the page with ease. Here’s an excerpt of Stacey. Maybe you’ll sense why she was fun to write:

Her hairdresser, Debbie, raised her brows. “Quit yer belly achin’. Told ya we’d be done in forty-five minutes. Ain’t easy covering up your red roots. Why not go back to your natural color? Red’s in now.”

“No way! Men hate redheads. Besides, I was meant to be a blonde. All the beautiful actresses are blondes. You think Farrah Fawcett would have hit it so big as a redhead?”

Debbie shrugged. “Well, stop bugging me unless you want the world to know you’re a redhead.”

“Now, Deb! You know how I fret about these parties. Frank will die if he doesn’t make regional manager soon. He’s done everything to impress his boss. These parties give him a chance to strut his stuff. Plus, after a few martinis, the boss will loosen up.”

“Does the dude have a wife?” asked Debbie.

“Yeah, I know what you’re thinking…and yes, I aim to make her my best friend tonight.”

“You’re barking up the wrong tree,” she said, waving her brush. “A strapless dress is sure to get her knickers in a knot. Women don’t like sexy blondes sniffin’ around their husbands.”

Stacey giggled. “You might be right. She’s twenty pounds overweight with the sex appeal of an old nun.”

Debbie nodded. “I rest my case.”

Stacey pulled up the spaghetti strap on her purple tank top. “Well, I can’t disappoint Frank. He wouldn’t admit it, but he gets off when men can’t take their eyes off me. After all, he’s the lucky one going home with me. Tell you what…I won’t wear a push-up bra.”

She smirked. “Hell’s bells, you got cleavage in a turtleneck.”

September 4 2017

Last Draft Lessons on Writing a Novel

The last draft is done. Done? Well, that’s relative for sure. It’s not easy to set the pen down and say the story is over. The characters have become friends and I hope I did them justice. Writing is gut wrenching and I’m great at second guessing. Some days I read the chapter and was happy and the next day I wanted to keep editing. Letting go is hard.

Brooklyn Bitters is different from my former novel, Pages in the Wind. Pages in the Wind was well received by the critics and I worry about comparisons. I can’t help wonder if sequels are easier, at least you already know the characters.

I love the characters in Brooklyn too, they are just different. They’re not as messed up as Pages so the message is more muted. But Kate, of Brooklyn Bitters, is close to my heart and I love her character. She grows and learns a lot during her journey and I especially appreciate the relationship she has with her mother and friend, Winona. Her sister, Stacey, was fun to write and tried to hyjack the story!

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned during this writing process:

* I need more privacy. When I wrote Pages, I had few interruptions. Now, I have fairly constant interruptions and that makes the writing process harder. I’ve had to go to a hotel a time or two. So, I need to improve my space.

*Beta readers are better during the second draft. For me, the first draft is bare bones and doesn’t reflect well. I prefer to keep the first draft to myself and get beta readers for the second.

*Editors should be reserved for the final. I made that mistake and it turned out to be a stupid thing to do and a waste of time and money.

*Having help for the research was so helpful. I had an amazing all-around brilliant PR expert that listened to my upcoming audio book, did research, and was a reader. She is golden. Thank you, Regina!

*Writing software is so-so. I like grammerly and autocrit but the latter is only effective to a point. It tags a lot of issues that aren’t really issues like passive words in dialogue etc… it’s great for checking repetition though. Pacing? Not so much, for me anyway.

*Reading apps that read the work back are great. Amazing what you can catch with the ear that you can’t catch with the eyes! Some are better than others and some won’t work with your computer. I have “Speak to me” and “Read to me.” The voices are somewhat flat but you have voice choices which helps. I dug the guy with the British accent.

Writer’s block is real. I think the lack of privacy contributed but definitely it’s a fact of life at times. And no fun! For me, I just kept writing. I got stuck on a few chapters and threw a lot away but kept writing until I broke through. I know some writers leave it and go back later, but that didn’t work for me. I prefer to keep writing and live with the frustration. In the long run, it worked out.

Every writer is different, I’m sure, but those are the lessons I’ve learned from this book. Now, on to the next!

 

 

 

August 1 2017

A Gut Feeling

Have you ever had a gut feeling that you ignored? In Pages in the Wind, Emily, our heroine, agrees to go on an outing with her father. Sounds good except it isn’t…at seventeen, it is their first time alone. He’s never said a kind word to her. Still, she longs to have a dad and agrees to go. Let’s just say it did not go well:

 

We stopped at a new red Corvette. The old saying “money can’t buy happiness” didn’t apply to Father. Since retiring from the Navy and inheriting Grandma’s money, he splurged on designer suits, Rolex watches, and now a fancy hot rod.

He swung open the passenger door. “Cool ride, aye?”

“Sure.” I got into the car thinking how his new haircut, suntan, and casual clothes made him appear younger than his fifty years.

He stepped on the gas. “Here we go!”

“Yeah,” I said, cringing at my one-word vocabulary.

He chatted about the car, from the V8 engine, the chrome grill, the convertible top, and the top-of-the-line options. He drove ten miles over the speed limit, which made the cabin roar. I nodded with a steady stream of “wows” and “cools.” If he rattled off car features all night, right down to the top stitching on the seats, that would be perfect because we had nothing in common, and I wouldn’t have to talk much.

He turned down an isolated road. I glanced at him and wondered why he stopped talking. The road had no streetlights. No porch lights. In spite of the unlit street, he did not slow down.

My muscles tensed. The headlights on his sports car beamed like dull flashlights into the darkness. The road was narrow with shadows of vegetation on both sides. No other cars were on the road. Father drove in silence with his eyes straight ahead.

The wind whipped through the ragtop as adrenaline pumped through my body. I had to think fast. Clues I hadn’t thought of before now seemed obvious. He had never taken me anywhere alone before tonight. I’d never seen the car before so he probably rented it. He drove fast. Too fast to survive a fall. He had planned the outing for one reason.

He’s going to murder me.

 

May 21 2017

Awakening

Brooklyn Bitters, my upcoming book due out this summer, deals with lies, alliances, love, and family loyalty. It’s a character-driven read. In this scene, the main character deals with a range of emotions as she comes face-to-face with her mother’s awakening from a long term coma.

I peered into the darkness for her eyes. Spontaneous whimpers escaped my lips as I held my breath, trying to remain calm and not frighten her. Night had grabbed the light from the room, making it hard to see the outline of her face. But turning on a lamp would splinter the moment and startle her. I don’t know why, but the vision of a newborn seized from a mother’s womb flashed through my mind. The babies always, always cried.

April 15 2017

Villains

 

Villains. They’re interesting to write and sometimes fun to hate. My upcoming book, Brooklyn Bitters, has a “love to hate” villain. The villain in Pages in the Wind, however, is evil. He makes you uncomfortable and can bring up some intense feelings. In this passage, Emily walks in on the villain who is about to manipulate her:


I stepped into the front room and rolled my eyes, recognizing Father’s Pierre Cardin slacks underneath a newspaper. I tried to sneak past him.

I cringed at the sound of paper crumpling.

“What are you doing?” he asked. He smoothed the newspaper and placed it on the coffee table.

“Not much.” The question and the folded paper told me he wanted a confrontation. I didn’t. I decided to do my time and leave quickly. Indifference was my best weapon. Of course, it’s play-acting because every word he had ever said to me was like stepping on dog feces; no matter how hard I scraped the bottom of my shoe, it still stunk.

He looked like he’d just returned from the stylist; his hair was short on the sides and wavy on top. He wore a fitted yellow shirt, slacks, and a two-toned belt, which matched his expensive Italian shoes. I chewed the inside of my mouth to prevent the scowl that begged to come out. He enjoyed Grandma’s money, and all he ever did for her was change a few light bulbs and beat her granddaughter.

March 19 2017

Letting Go

One of my favorite poems is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. I’ve thought of the road so often in my life, not just for myself, but for people I love. It’s especially hard for parents, when they want the best for a child but the child goes the other way no matter what you say. Eventually, you have to let go…in spite of heartache and worry. You have no choice because you aren’t helping. They don’t hear you. So, you pray they will find their way back and reach their own understanding. I have found, in my own life, that the easy road is seldom the right one…and a loving family member is always the one to listen to.

Robert, in Pages in the Wind, convinces his sister to move to Boston for a new life. But when a boy she loves returns, she rejects her brother’s plan to get her away from a horrid situation and chooses to stay with the boy. But not without seconds thoughts…that may prove to be too late:

The jet climbed into the darkness. The promise of a new life away from Father, Lesley College, and studying art was gone. My body sagged, overcome with guilt that I couldn’t make Robert understand that I had to follow the yearning in my heart. I turned, wiped the tears away, and began walking in the direction of my life with Reid.

I had to turn around. A strange breeze lingered, whispering in my ear, warning me to consider my brother’s words. Robert had told me home was very dark and begged me not to go back there. He said I didn’t have enough light to fight Father. He would have explained everything on the plane. Now I might never know. I looked up and stared at the empty space where he had flown away. Something in the dark void warned me I lost much more than a promise of a new life.

March 6 2017

Writing Emotion

Writing about desire taps into vulnerability. When I penned Pages in the Wind the plot had significant grit and violence; it was essential to the story. I chose not to weigh it down with explanation or wordy passages. My upcoming book, Brooklyn Bitters, deals with love, betrayal, and loyalty. My character, Kate, is a career woman whose life has gotten away from her. She missed out on romantic love. In this scene, she lets go of her walls and we feel her inner dialogue. It wasn’t hard to write, but it felt, at times, familiar.

He said love. The rest of it was soliloquy, metaphoric babble, and probably a divergent tactic, but I didn’t care. I was hungry. Starving. God help me, even desperate. My desire for him I’d kept tempered by my doubts collapsed under the word love. A torrent of suppressed passion I had re-directed into duty and hard work engulfed me. I couldn’t resist anymore because I couldn’t swim. Damn it—I didn’t want to.

February 17 2017

Have you had a feeling you couldn’t shake?

Have you gone somewhere and knew you’d been there before? Met someone and felt an instant connection? What about a snapshot in your mind that disappeared?

In Pages in the Wind, Emily visits her old neighborhood, which triggers questions and feelings. A murky picture that doesn’t quite come into focus:

As I closed the car door, I wondered what Mrs. Hemet meant about my being “through so much.” The words made me think of my destroyed artwork. I missed looking at the pictures of Grandma and Penelope. My memories of Grandma were still strong; I thought of her every time I passed a lemon tree or smelled the sweet scent of pastries. But I had nothing of Penelope except the sound of her giggle.

I walked to the fence and unlatched the gate, gazing at the spot where I’d hidden the box. It physically hurt knowing the sketches were hidden, but I promised myself I would piece them back together someday. I had to. The drawings held answers to secrets; I felt it in my heart. Those torn pages held the truth about why my sister died, my mother couldn’t embrace me, and Father hated me. Someday I would figure out why I lived a tortured life, half at the hand of my father and half at my own.

An icy wind ripped through me, and the air became bitter cold. I gripped my shivery body and put my head down so the sudden cold wouldn’t numb my face. After a few seconds, I lifted my head, wide-eyed. The atmosphere was sultry and warm and the air as calm as a sleeping baby.

 

February 6 2017

Breaking Stereotypes


In writing Pages in the Wind, I wanted to avoid stereotypes. One of my favorite characters in the book is Emily’s friend, Perry – known as Pudge. When she first meets Pudge, she feels sorry for him. He is bullied by this classmates and seems to keep to himself. As the story progresses, she views him differently because he inspires admiration, not pity. It would have been easy to write him as a teen with low self worth, but breaking a stereotype was more rewarding and expressed my disdain for bullying.

This passage is when she first meets Perry:

As we chatted, he hung on every word, nodding in agreement over the simplest comment. I understood. I’d been in that situation too, staking my claim that I was with someone. But Pudge didn’t try to disguise himself; he clearly starred in the role of the fat kid with no friends. I guess that’s why I felt comfortable around him; I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else.

In this latter passage, Perry steps up to the podium to deliver his valedictorian speech:

As Pudge—I mean Perry, finished his speech and stepped away from the podium, the applause was deafening. People stood on their feet and clapped for the fat kid that no one wanted to be around. I jumped and cheered and even tried to whistle. All the sneers Pudge had endured for years terminated in a round of applause. He had the last word.

January 18 2017

Kate – The Seeds of Sibling Rivalry

 

 Oh, sibling rivalry. I’ve seen it up close. Fortunately, as the only daughter and a middle child…my role was the peacemaker and I didn’t have anyone to compete with (or wasn’t interested). But I did have a front row seat. It was sometimes entertaining, funny, and at times…upsetting. Where does it come from? I’m pretty sure the seeds are planted early. In this scene of my upcoming novel, Brooklyn Bitters, although subtle…you can get a sense how it started:

I spooned another helping of gumbo. It felt good to be called a girl at forty-two. As for the beautiful part, I was no Stacey with her sexy body and pretty face. My face wore the signs of too much reading; I had lines between my eyebrows and the beginnings of crow’s feet. I got my dad’s brown eyes instead of Mother’s blue, and my dark hair touched my shoulders with a touch of gray at the temple. At least, I got Ma’s high cheekbones, full lips, and slender, tall frame at five feet nine. I was best described as average. My father always called Stacey the beauty and me the athlete. Of course, I could barely manage twenty push-ups and was always on the tail-end of a one mile run, but he had tried to give me something.