The Only Way Through is Through

“All roads to success, you gotta go through pain. You gotta go through the road of pain, baby. (Yeah) You keep talking about mistakes (uh-huh), you keep talking about the past (oh yeah), you keep talking about your trials (that’s right)… I want you to know that everybody that’s ever been great, everybody, has had an obstacle to overcome (truth!)… listen to me very close, sometimes it’s going to be hard (AMEN), you’re going to look all around you and nowhere do you see success (ain’t that right), nowhere do you see anything that remotely looks like success (SO true). But you gotta embrace the fact, you gotta believe that all that’s happening right now, if you keep pressing, if you keep pushing, guess what? One day, it’s gonna be your day. You gotta look around you at nothing that looks like success and you gotta believe that one day it’s going to be MY day, but one day can’t be your day if you give up, if you quit, no day will ever be your day.”

I wish I’d had that video when I was getting started as an entrepreneur. Maybe it would have stopped me. Maybe it would have inspired me. Maybe it would have helped me all those many times that I was going to quit, get a job, turn in the towel and trade my time, my one wild and precious life, for a salary and benefits.

Maybe it wouldn’t have changed anything. I have a little secret. I’ve thought of quitting over and over and over again. One time, I went so far as to consult with my coach to build a plan for re-entering the full time work force. I had emails drawn up and ready to send to clients and my network, announcing my decision and positioning myself to become a job seeker.

And every time I’ve hit one of those moments, something has stopped me. The time described above, it was a completely unexpected check from a prior client who explained it was the deposit on a new retainer and I knew–I KNEW–it wasn’t time to stop. That it was a sign from the universe to keep going, to go. Thank you, universe. And HA. You know who you are.

And it’s never been easy, not yet. It’s been painful. I have walked through so much pain and sometimes I’ve looked around and what I’ve seen was nothing like success, nothing in sight that looked like success. And I don’t know that I’ve believed, but something in me must have believed, that someday would be my day.

I can taste it now. I think it’s coming. I can feel that day coming, so close it’s breathing on me. Or maybe it’s just a moment for me to take a breath before more pain.

No matter. The only way to success is through. And so I will carry on.

What New Insanity Is This? OR: The One About Anxiety

So the last few months have been a little crazy. When did I post last? January. So, I guess I talked about my grandma. And then the holidays. I may even have mentioned an amazing meeting with Lev Grossman over coffee, where I also met the talented and accomplished novelist Michelle Hodkin. Maybe one of my sons went in for emergency surgery in the midst of all that? Probably.

Then we had two birthdays (Monty and Everett) in January, and then because we simply didn’t have enough to do, we moved our family to a new home in a new town on February 1.

New House

Eli had his birthday on the 19th and then I moved into a new office the next weekend.

New Office

So all that happened, plus other stuff. I don’t really remember most of it.

Well, here it is March and that craziness is mostly behind me. It’s actually sort of calm in these parts. I’m waking up at reasonable times, playing with the kids occasionally, even reading books again. I mean, what is up with that? Something must be done. Conversations must be had. Like this one:

Me: Whew, glad that’s behind me.
Me: I know, right? But… uh-oh… Oh no.
Me: What? What now? Did something happen?
Me: Yes, something terrible. I… I can’t… I can’t… just… relax…
Me: Oh dear…
Me: Must… do… something… CRAZY.
Me: Oh no…
Me: THIRTY DAY BLOG CHALLENGE. MUST.
Me: Sigh. Okay, but no more than an hour a day, okay? No more.
Me: Right. Okay. I can live with that.

So, that’s what this is. Here’s the rules:

  • A blog entry, on this blog, every day for 30 days
  • No more than half an hour drafting each
  • No more than half an hour editing each draft
  • At the end of the second half hour, hit PUBLISH
  • No matter what

Probably, it will be mostly crap. You’ve been warned. Here’s today’s, On Anxiety.

Anxiety is a big problem for me. A short (not exhaustive) list of my anxiety triggers:

  • Someone criticizes me
  • Someone I trust appears to be lying
  • Or suggests that I should lie about something
  • Or I think that maybe they think that I might be lying
  • Or I remember a time when someone thought I was lying
  • I receive an email that is very brief and might, if you read between the lines, mean that someone is unhappy with me and is about to do something terrible like say something passive-aggressive
  • I open the log-in screen for our bank account
  • I look at our bank account
  • I look at our expenses
  • I think about money in any context whatsoever
  • I find a lump under my arm that has been there forever and is just the knot of scar tissue from my abscess several years ago, but maybe this time it means I have cancer

One thing that helps with the anxiety is meditation, and another thing that is much harder but also helps, is running.

So I’ve been running. I know, right? Who does that. Every morning, too. Crazy. I don’t like running. I don’t really much like moving if I can help it. Put me on a couch, with my feet up, and a laptop in my lap, and I am happy.

But every once in a while, you see, something I really want to do requires that I get up and do it–like book conventions, for instance. And if all I’ve done for six months is sit on my butt and write, then I have no stamina for the really cool thing I want to do. Plus, if I die early because my body doesn’t know how to keep going any more, I won’t have stamina for the rest of the things I want to do either. Death is funny that way.

So I got a health coach, and she told me I have to run. Every. Day. Did you know that when you run, sometimes you start breathing hard? And you’re supposed to keep running. Seriously hard-core, folks.

So I’ve been doing that and it pretty much sucks.

Then I picked up a book, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, a true story about a SEAL team involved in the disastrous Operation Redwing. I don’t really like the guy. He’s brazen and arrogant and not particularly self-aware. How he loves the party line! But it was a fascinating read, once I decided to view him as a character in a story instead of a real person who gets under my skin.

This stuck out for me:

“The temperature seemed to grow colder as we jogged around in the freezing surf… We all dived back onto the sand. Crawling, itching, and burning. Five guys quit instantly and were sent up to the truck. I didn’t understand that, because we had done this before. It was bad, but not THAT bad… I guess those guys were just thinking ahead, dreading the forthcoming five days…”

So yesterday I thought about that while I was running. I would get all out of breath and my legs would hurt, and I would just ask myself: “This is bad, but is it THAT bad? Am I just freaking myself out, thinking ahead?”

And then I started asking myself: “Can I take one more step?” And when the answer is “yes,” I do it. “Can I take one more step?” Yes. Going up hills, when my breathing is hard and my legs hurt and I feel like I’m gulping air like a fish: Can I take one more step? Yup. Okay. Another? Yup. One more? Yes.

And then, at some point, usually long before I expect it, my timer goes off. It always surprises me. Really? I think. But I only need to take one more step… I could go on forever like that, I think. One step at a time.

Not that I want to, mind you. Being the essential couch potato that I am, I always DO stop as soon as that timer goes off. But conceptually, you understand, theoretically, I COULD go on much, much longer. One step at a time.

It’s the ultimate anxiety-buster, to remember this the rest of the time too. You don’t have to know how you’re going to pay the bills on the first or whether a friend is lying to you or if you’ll die young of cancer. You only have to know what you are doing right now, this instant. You only have to take one step, the one right in front of you.

Same thing for writing a book. I feel like I’ve been writing forever. I have days, weeks, maybe months more work to do, before I can submit a query for my first book to agents. Edits, revisions, query letter, and a dadgum title still to write. But I don’t have to do any of that right now. All I have to do is the next step. This page, this scene, this sentence, this word.

Can I take one more step? You betcha. Dunno about the one after that, but this step I can take.

My 14-Step Process to Writing a Great YA Novel (Or Writing While Parenting Part Four)

YALLFest, Charleston’s young adult book festival, is November 9, and it’s loaded with a long list of top YA authors (including Lev Grossman). And if that’s not enough incentive to get you down there, guess who else will be there? Me.

Even better, unlike those other famous people who are making you wait and show up, I’m going to go ahead and give you my proprietary multi-step process for writing a YA book right now and you don’t even have to leave your desk. I win.

  1. Have a kid. Kids give you an excuse to read young adult fiction aloud every night and to speak proudly about it in mixed company. “I’m reading ‘Harry Potter’ to my kids at bedtime” is SO much more socially acceptable than “I LOVE ‘Twilight!’ I read it over and over again because I love it so much. Don’t you?”
  2. On second thought, don’t have kids just for that. Kids are work. Much easier to just grow a thick skin and love what you love. You can call it “research” if it makes you happier.
  3. If you do have a kid, raise him free range*, and un-school, so you don’t squash any of his native genius.
  4. Or whatever. It’s up to you. But if you do free range and un-school I guarantee your kids will blow you away every day. They might anyway. I wouldn’t know.
  5. Wait till they’re older. If you start thinking about writing while your kids are still little, don’t worry–they’ll squash that right out of you.
  6. When your child reaches the rough age of the character(s) in your planned book, begin writing. Assuming your characters are at least 9 years of age, this corresponds neatly to the approximate time when you start to feel human again after having a baby.
  7. When you get to a tough spot, interview your kid. Spend lots of time on this and record the sessions. Take notes, too. Pay close attention. Ask lots of questions and answer all of theirs.
  8. Be wowed when the boring chapter about waiting for something to happen becomes the interesting chapter about building a viable home out of scraps of tanned skin, a water bucket, and an over-sized plastic bench.
  9. Interview other kids too when you get a chance. By this time, if you’ve done it right, most of the kids in your town will be hanging out at your house anyway, because you’re the free range house and maybe you have Minecraft and enough computers to go around too.
  10. Read some YA.
  11. Write every day.
  12. Listen to your characters.
  13. Listen to your kids.
  14. Repeat. Start with step 7 though, because raising a new kid for each set of revisions on your novel is probably a bit overboard.
Writing with Eli

Writing with Eli

P.S. I don’t love Twilight. I feel like I should actually say that because I said “love what you love” and Twilight is not one of those things. I do think it’s well-written for what it is, though, and I have in fact read the entire series. And she made a lot of money on it, so there’s that.

P.P.S. There are a few other entries about writing while parenting. I called them “part one” “part two” etc. even though they’re only loosely connected. You can read them if you want: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

Back to the Main

I have, like, 15 minutes, so I’m sorry if this sucks.

First, thank you THANK YOU to the wonderful people who provided feedback in the Game of Intros. It was awesome. Some of you gave me feedback offline too, and I appreciate all of it. I will probably go with Slave Chip because that is hands-down EVERYONE’s favorite that has said anything, AND I like the concept too–I mean, SLAVERY. What’s not to love?

And now, back to Jed and my current 85k WIP. Jed has decided that he must be allowed to speak in first person present. Good grief. Here’s how that happened.

So, yesterday, I sat down with my character model, 9-year-old Eli, whose personality I tried to capture in the guise of Jed (my MC, for those just joining us). So far, Jed’s story doesn’t exactly suck, according to my alpha reader (Carey), but he’s been “less interesting by far” than the other characters. In other words, he sucks. And that just will not DO. Will not.

So Eli & I sat down and we went scene-by-scene and I picked through the contents of his brain and it was awesome. I think he had fun too, because it was like a choose-your-own-adventure for him. I told him what was happening and he told me what he would think and do in each circumstance.

I wrote it down word for word and about halfway through, after writing so many “I think such-and-such” and “I wonder about who-and-who”s, I began to feel like Jed was telling me, maybe… maybe he wanted to be written that way, the way that Eli was talking. In first person present.

FIRST PERSON PRESENT, y’all. I hate first person present.

Except in The Hunger Games. I love it there.

So I went back and re-wrote the first scene in first person present. Let’s call that Version Two. And the original, the first/second draft version in third person past, is Version One. Then I created a Version Three, which is the exact same wording as Version Two except the pronouns & verbs all changed to third past. I thought maybe I could capture the immediacy of first present without all the awkwardness and difficulty and WEIRDNESS of one character in first present with all the others in third past.

Then I handed it all off to Carey and said, “Tell me what to think.”

He read Version Two (first present) and said, “That’s definitely more interesting.” Okay. Cool.

Then I handed him Version Three (EXACTLY the same as Version Two except with third past) and he said, “I don’t understand. Isn’t this your original version?” Remember, the version he thought was “definitely less interesting” than the other characters? He thought the EXACT SAME WORDS as Version Two were actually Version One after I changed it back to third past.

Then he re-read Version One, side-by-side with Version Three, and said Version Three sucks. Actually, he said he liked the original better than Version Three, which is the same thing, seeing as how the original didn’t exactly have him excited.

Then he said, “First person present is going to be really hard to do. But if you can pull it off, it’ll be frickin awesome.

Crap.

So first person present it is.

I’m afraid none of that exactly made sense, but the point is, Jed demands first person present and I always try to give my characters what they want, which is the least I can do for them given how many terrible things I put them through. So the new first chapter is mostly first person present now. It’s taking a while to re-write, but it’s fun. The most fun I’ve had since I started on this novel, I think.

I’m trying to work up the courage to share a snippet with you here. Okay. I have to. Okay, here goes. Gritting my teeth. Why is this so hard? Here’s the original third past:

Jed always thanked the bushes when he plucked their berries. When he found leafy greens, he never took the whole plant. And he never, ever dug up roots to eat. He couldn’t stand the sound of their screaming.

In the mornings, he and the other boys would leave the village together, laughing and shouting. Several of them had been born in the same summer nine years ago—it had been a good year for babies. So they knew each other well, and he liked them well enough. But by the time the sun was over the trees, he always found a reason to move off by himself into the woods. Nowadays, he tried to do it before they found anything to eat, because he didn’t want to hear them kill the plants, nor endure their ridicule when he tried to stop them.

Once alone, he would wander until he found a particularly beautiful meadow or clearing in the woods, where he could throw himself down in the grass, with his bare brown belly pressed against the earth, and lie still until his breath came slow and quiet. Then he could hear the plants whispering, and sometimes he imagined that if he thought hard enough, maybe they would hear him too.

And in first present:

I always thank the bushes, you know, when I take berries from them. I put leaves in my sack, too, if you can eat them—but never the whole plant. No, never the whole plant—the screaming is too awful.

The sun is coming up as I leave the village, and the other boys are laughing and shouting already. They’ll leave me alone if I’m quiet and if I remember not to say anything about the plants. When we get where the dirt path ends, I tell them bye and go up toward the meadow. I don’t want to hear when they find, well, edible roots and stuff.

There won’t be many berries yet, but at least there will be a few. Through these woods there’s a meadow and when I get there, I throw myself down in the grass, feel the cool dewy ground against my warm belly. When my breathing comes slow and quiet, I can hear the plants whispering. They’re so glad it’s morning and they’re alive—it makes me glad to be alive too. I wonder if they can hear me saying that to them?

I know that’s short. It’s all I have courage for.

And that’s all I got time for. See ya and THANK YOU.

Candidate #6: The Visitation

Just two left. Whew.

The obligatory “if you’re new here”: Read this first.

And the list of previous entries:

Slave Chip, Relief: A Place to Back Up, The Red Girl, The Summer I Met Mercy, The Girl in the Goblin Tower

And the intro to the intro: This one is adult, I-don’t-know-what-genre, help!? it’s kinda tongue-in-cheek but serious too… a modern-day origin myth. A reinterpretation of an old tale. Maybe it sucks. Maybe I’m just tired of my own writing and would benefit from a break. There was something about it I felt worth sharing, anyway. (Shut up Heather and just share the darn thing and let them make their own judgments. Geez.) Here.

The Visitation

She was working in the lab when God arrived, unannounced.

She didn’t notice His Presence at first, entranced as she was by the spectacularly clear images on the screen of her new scanner: A hand-held device that allowed her to watch electric impulses dance inside her volunteer’s brain in real time. Incredible.

The volunteer himself was reading a Mathematics Today and humming cheerfully to himself. She wondered if, with the right tools, she could actually read what he was reading through the lens of his brain.

So absorbed was she in study, that she didn’t hear the door swish shut nor notice the dusty cardboard box He set on the counter. He was right behind her when she turned around, staring at the output screen in her hand.

“That’s an interesting device,” said God. “What does it do?”

“Don’t you know? I thought you were omniscient.”

God sighed. Somewhat dramatically, thought Dora. “The brightest and most curious mind in all Creation, and even you have to make that joke the first time you meet Me,” he said, and sighed again. She hadn’t known God would be such a drama queen.

In fact, He wasn’t at all what she expected, if she had expected Him at all. He did have a beard and a halo, but the beard was thin and scraggly, and His shoulders hunched. The halo was slightly askew and had more dusky brass to it than any sort of golden glow. It seemed almost as though it were rather tired of hanging there and wished it could rest for a bit. God was bald except a few grey wisps, and His face was lined and sunken and void of strong characteristics. The overall appearance was one of vague dishevelment, that of a homeless man with a dented tin of coins next to him making no real attempt to solicit donations.

Of course, that last image didn’t cross her mind at the time, because she had never seen a homeless man. But later, when she stumbled across the first one, she would see him and think, “He looks rather like God. How peculiar.”

At the moment, however, she was mostly concerned with deciding whether God would prefer tea or coffee, and whether an early afternoon Visitation called for snacks. To her relief, God just wanted to know about her equipment, and what kind of work she was doing.

At the end of the lab tour, she ventured: “So, You’re really not omniscient?”

God sighed again. There was patience in the sigh and also weariness. “I can be omniscient,” He said. “But I prefer not to be. It’s hard to explain.” His eyes wandered toward the electron microscope and back again.

Then he smiled distractedly and wandered out the door and down the street. Dora went back to her work.

She didn’t hear from God again until that night over dinner. Buried among the thirty-seven new text messages in her inbox was one from God:

“btw left my box. Dont open pls.”

“Puzzling,” she thought as she put a bite of rosemary-crusted sweet potato into her mouth. She puzzled over it in bed that night as well. She loved to puzzle over things in bed.

What was God doing in her lab this morning? Why was he so … not what she expected? How can God be forgetful? Why would He tell her not to open the box? Surely He knew she wouldn’t—it wasn’t hers to open. What was it anyway?

The next day broke with sunshine glimmering on the early-morning mist. Dora opened her eyes sleepily and smiled. Her smile broadened as she remembered that she had two particularly wonderful things to look forward to that day: In-taking three new volunteers, and further inquiry into God.

The first thing Dora did when she arrived in the lab was to test her equipment in preparation for the first volunteer’s arrival. Then she fixed coffee in her Keurig machine, and sat to review her notes from the previous day. When she pulled a stool up to the counter she saw the box.

There it was, right next to the electron microscope. Interesting. It didn’t look like much. Just beaten up cardboard, tied shut with a piece of twine–superfluous, given that it was also tightly duct-taped on all sides, ludicrously over-sealed.

On one side of the box were a child’s scrawled doodles, and words written in permanent marker the way a box of winter clothes might be marked for storage. In the middle these three words: “Do not open.” The rest of the words were unfamiliar:

“Danger,” said the box.

And: “Contains evil.”

An odd chill passed through her, a sensation as unfamiliar as the words.

Candidate #4: The Summer I Met Mercy

This one isn’t new to the blog, but I want it considered, so I’m offering it again. This one’s YA (young adult), straight fantasy a la Neil Gaiman (if you like Neil Gaiman it’s JUST like him, otherwise NOTHING like Neil Gaiman (JAIMIE)) or, I don’t know, kind of magical realism-ish.

It’s also shorter than the others, so here’s more detail (skip if you don’t want intro spoilers). It’s set in modern-day Southern US (my backyard, to be precise, except not really my backyard), a first-person coming-of-age story with a dark (horror-ish) twist. All evidence to the contrary, this is not a vampire story. But you may figure out pretty quickly that Mercy is not exactly… normal, either. She wants something the MC has, and the MC wants something she has… and the trade may not be all it seems.

If this is your first visit to my blog, you’re probably confused. This should clear things up.

You can also review the first three candidates here:

Slave Chip

Relief: A Place to Back Up

The Red Girl

The Summer I Met Mercy

Nobody knew where she came from. I didn’t know where she came from. She was just there one day, down by the community lake, picking at the mud between her toes. Why she would do that when she was covered in mud from head to foot is anybody’s guess, and I didn’t ask. Just stood there gawking at her. Her hair was so caked it looked like it was made of mud, just long gobby strands of filth tangled with pond algae, and her arms were too long, her fingers too long, but the most notable thing about her was that she was naked.

She looked up at me and smiled, an ordinary, girl-next-door smile, and she was quite pretty, for a stringy 15-year-old, even if her teeth were rather large and white and pointy. Even if she was quite, quite naked. Not that I could see anything, not with her bent over her legs like that.

We became good friends, Mercy and I, that summer that my parents were separating, that my world was crumbling.

More than friends, actually. She was the first girl I ever kissed. She was clean the day I kissed her, and clothed. I never did see her naked again, in fact, not that day and not any day after. But I did kiss her. My first kiss.

It wasn’t quite what I expected. Weirder. Much weirder. She drew the tip of my tongue into her mouth with a sucking sensation, and then bit it, sucking continuously, her teeth scraping along every inch as my tongue went deeper. It hurt but not enough to make me want to stop. Not even as much as the throbbing in my groin hurt at that moment, and I didn’t want that to stop either.

Candidate #2: Also Sci Fi

If you’re confused about this post, check this out first.

If you haven’t already, you can read the first candidate here.

And remember how I said the order was chosen randomly? It’s not any more. The random number generator told me to go from the previous story, about a stunningly beautiful slave, to a second story, about a stunningly beautiful outcast. Gag me.

So I cheated.

Alas, this heroine is probably beautiful too (I haven’t seen a photo of her yet), but only because she gets to pick her own body. If it were up to me, she’d have zits and bad hair.

This one is adult sci-fi with a suspense/mystery twist, about a woman in a hospital ward who discovers that she’s being held by authorities on suspicion of terrorism. Here ya go.

Relief: A Place to Back Up 

At 10:00 am precisely, 12 minutes and 37 seconds after Risha Lencionis walked through the front door of Kwahm Ca Sthaban, the facility exploded, killing her and all 67 clients and 12 employees inside. Unaware that this had happened to her, the chief thing Risha felt right now was relief. For all its excitement, foreign travel also entailed danger, the worst of it being the difficulty in finding a signal strong enough for data backup.

Standing there with her back against the old stone wall, listening to the sound of street vendors calling their wares, she took a deep breath of the heady old-world perfume—frying oil, fresh papaya, human sweat—and smiled at the message on her screen indicating successful upload. Thank goodness for modern hot spots.

Something was wrong, though. The noise and the light and the smells had been there a moment before, but now everything was dark and quiet. She was on her back.

Over the cool quiet lay a thin veneer of shushing—fans, murmuring bio-machines. Under the quiet was a layer of human voices. Her limbs felt familiar and relaxed, which was odd because rental units always had that fresh stiffness about them that felt exciting but never quite comfortable.

A port shushed open and shut, and soft footsteps approached.

“Can you hear me?” said a voice. She tried to form words to answer, but her lips felt thick and unwieldy, so she just nodded. “Great,” the voice was crisp and cool. “Do you remember what happened?”

She thought about that for a moment. She remembered the oppressive heat, the colorful bougainvilla trailing from the balconies across the street. Then this—the dark and quiet. She didn’t think that’s what the voice meant. She shook her head.

“Hm.” A pause. Then: “We’re going to begin the rewiring sequence now. It’s been a few weeks since you were in this Bod so it will take a little time to get all your systems aligned.”

A moment later, the footsteps retreated again, the port shushed open, and Risha heard her visitor speaking to someone as she passed through: “I know it’s not my job to call the shots, but really it would have been better for everyone if we had just left her dead.”

 

Let The Games Begin: Candidate #1

If you aren’t sure what’s going on here, please read this first.

The story intros will be offered up in no particular order. There are seven candidates. I quite literally used a random number generator to choose which to do first.

First up is the intro to an adult (adult as opposed to YA, not THAT kind of adult) sci fi concept centered around a young slave who discovers a way to use her master’s own desires against him–and change the world in the process (hm. I seem to have this thing about slaves & changing the world. I’m going with it anyway). Here you go. (UPDATE: I’ve modified this since first posting, in response to outstanding feedback. This new version is shorter & gives away less, and I think it’s better. Enjoy.)

Art by Mandy Tsung http://mayhemandmuse.com/mandy-tsung-paints-the-art-of-sensuality/

Art by Mandy Tsung http://mayhemandmuse.com/mandy-tsung-paints-the-art-of-sensuality/

Working Title: Slave Chip

Mother was gone to town the day Asha’s code was transferred. She had known this sort of thing could happen to a person, but it was not the sort of thing that happened to her. She was the charmed one. She was the one who had inherited all her mother’s best traits, tempered by her father’s. Beauty, wit, charm, and a hefty dose of good luck.

That morning there had been just enough sugar and flour to bake a tart with the cherries from the tree outside the kitchen window, and Asha had been the one to find the wooden whistle Mother baked into it. Having seen thirteen summers already, Asha was a little old for the toy, so she licked it clean and gave it to little Horace to blow, and got a sweet sticky kiss in exchange.

Lately there had been a lot of parties at the big house, parties where Asha had danced and been celebrated as the belle of the ball. Standing in the hall outside the parlor of the big house, little Irena in her arms, Asha was still blissfully unaware that those parties had been designed to make her master rich off her sale price.

The master and his guest would be arriving soon, but for a few precious moments she and Nan, the housemaid, could gossip and giggle.

Ten summers later, she would still remember every detail of that morning. How the sun had slanted through the Smartglass windows, striping the wall with light. How Irena’s chubby arms had wrapped around her neck, and the dampness of her delicate curls after their walk across the hot compound. The baby smell of her skin coated with drying sweat.

When the master called for Asha, she handed Irena over to Nan. Asha smiled at Irena’s pout, and later wished she had kissed her one last time before entering the parlor.

Of course, there was no physical sensation associated with the code change. The only evidence was that when her new master Dexel ordered her to his shuttle, Asha found she had no desire to resist. It felt to her as though she wished, with all her heart, to forever leave behind her baby sister. And Mother. And Father who was kind and generous and the cherry tree and the whistle and the kitchen window with herbs drying over the sink and all the little siblings she had helped to care for all their lives–and to walk down that path and up into the elaborate private shuttle that would take her away, without even saying goodbye.

Game of Intros

By popular request (actually, by one request, that’s you Jaimie): The Game of Intros!

Here’s How It Works:

Over the next few days/weeks/however long, I’ll be posting the introductory scenes from several stories I’ve started and aborted over the past several years. ONE of them will be my next project, and will eventually (probably) end up a finished work.

YOU GET TO CHOOSE WHICH ONE.*

Rules:

1. There are no rules. These are just guidelines on ways you can be helpful in your feedback.

2. Feel free to comment or respond in any way you like to each entry. However, a few things I’m NOT looking for at this stage are: Grammatical feedback, ways to tighten the verbiage or sentence structure, line edits. I mean, if you want to tell me those things, by all means. It’s just not what I’m looking for. Yet.

3. Please DO tell me your gut reaction: Is this a story you would read? Are you eager to hear the rest? Is it your *type* of story?

4. I also want to know what your expectations are after reading each intro: What type of story you think it’s going to be, what questions you already have about the story, which character(s) you especially like/don’t like, etc.

5. Be brutally honest. It will do me no good to hear “It’s great, I love it!” about every single thing I ever write. If you don’t like ANYTHING I write, then you probably won’t help me much by telling me so. But if you like some things and not others THAT is useful information. I will appreciate it served straight up.

6. If you have a favorite, feel free to be vocal about it. At the end, I’ll ask you to tell me your top choice, but you can state your feelings on the matter at any time.

How The Winner Will Be Chosen

1. The decision will be highly subjective.

2. Based on perceived enthusiasm for any one story.

3. And what kind of mood I’m in when I decide to get started on the next project.

Everything clear?

Let the games begin–and may the odds be ever in your favor! Or the favor of the story most likely to be fun to write and engage a wide and enthusiastic audience while netting a hefty advance to the author! One or the other!

P.S. I’ll post the first sample tomorrow maybe. Look out for it.

*Sort of. No promises. However, all of these projects are hand-picked favorites of mine, and I’m excited about each of them. So whatever the general consensus finds most intriguing is likely to be pursued.

Which One

Sneak peak…

I Feel Good

I have a complete manuscript.

Which is not to say a polished complete manuscript. Just a done enough manuscript, and by done enough, I mean done enough that I’m going to freakin celebrate.

83,541 words.

Thirty-one chapters.

One deliciously satisfying ending.

Here’s what it feels like:

Awesome.

It crept up on me suddenly. Has that ever happened to you? Just when it feels like you will never, ever, ever be done. Suddenly, it’s done.

I was down at the lake when it happened, down where I get most of my best inspiration. Staring at the water, thinking about Tory.

Where all my best inspiration happens

What else will readers want to know about how things turn out for Tory? And I realized there was nothing else. Just one tiny scene for one other character. One little piece and it would be tied up, done.

Then I wrote it.

Then I printed the denouement scenes, did a little cutting & pasting, and paper clipped it all together in the right order.

And, just by chance, the last line happened to be at the end in the new order. And it was a perfect last line. Not perfect as in polished, of course. Just that THAT character saying THAT thing is the perfect ending for THIS book.

I’m sorry this post is so scattered. I don’t really have anything earth-shattering to share. It just didn’t feel right not to record this momentous moment. To make up for it, here’s James Brown singing about me. You’re welcome.

P.S. To be clear, I am well aware that I am not DONE. There will be plenty, plenty more revision. Then edits. Beta readers. More revisions. More edits. Polishing. Query letters. Elevator pitches. Agent submissions. Piles of rejection slips. Probably the remaining parts of this journey will be just as painful and awful as the first round of revisions has been. Maybe more. I KNOW. Stop raining on my parade.

P.P.S. I will now take a deliberate, planned one-week break from the work. After I transfer the manual work I did today into the digital document. I may or may not be here, on this blog, during my break. I’ll be back.