Monthly Archives: April 2012

Snippet Sunday: Gruesome Discovery

      Today’s excerpt comes from my current WIP: WT: Incandescence. It is from a scene in Part One in which our sibling protagonists have just heard a weak cry for help in the distance. Naturally, being the good kids they are, Mike & Hannah immediately try to help.
– – – – – – – – – – –
      They crashed through the foliage. Hannah slipped on some wet leaves and stumbled on behind him, but he did not dare stop for her. Not for anything. That voice – the child it belonged to – needed help.
      Suddenly he found that his boots were crunching upon gravel rather than underbrush. He stopped short having at last found the source of the cries.
      About one hundred yards up the narrow gravel road there was a head-on collision. Hannah moved to dash toward the wreckage, but Michael held her back, observing for a long moment. There as no steam, no smoke, no audible dripping or frankly, any sound but the increasingly minute sobs of a child. Motioning to her to stay put, Michael approached slowly and was physically sickened by the carnage.
      A little red, open-topped Jeep – not so different from his own, though perhaps ten years older – had exploded against the grill of a monstrous, jacked-up four-by-four Ford. So had its occupants. Whoever had been driving the Jeep was now a brownish-red splotch of gore upon the dash. Michael was not sure if it were all damage from the crash or if the scavengers had feasted on the remains. The front passenger was not quite as bad off, though equally as dead, for her limbs appeared to be in tact and her torso had not been smashed as thoroughly. Unfortunately, her face was horrific, bloody pulp. One eye, a pretty blue one, dangled obscenely from the socket. The other was gone entirely.
      Had he eaten in the past twenty-four hours, he would have lost his stomach contents there on the side of the road.
      “Stay back,” he groaned, heaving again. Then he mastered himself and drew the collar of his shirt up over his nose and mouth.
      There had been a third passenger in the Jeep, but the young man had been ejected and lay sprawled across the hood of the Ford. He had lived long enough to soil himself despite compound fractures of both arms that left disturbingly white edges of bones jabbing up through the bloody flesh. Or maybe his bowels had released as he died, Michael really was not sure how it worked. Maybe he exsanguinated, Michael found himself thinking as he edged closer to the door of the truck, looking for the child. A massive puddle of blood had pooled beneath him and dripped down to the gravel road. After years of watching CSI reruns, Michael knew that a human being could not lose that much blood and survive.
      Surprisingly – or not, if you happened to be a fan of heavy-duty American pick-up trucks – the Ford appeared to have suffered only minimal damage. Though the front bumper was crushed and the hood dented, both were superficial. Michael imagined that if he had needed to, he could have started that beast up and driven it away. He thanked God that though he needed a vehicle, he was not in such dire straights that he would even consider removing the bodies and climbing in.
      “Mike? Did you find him?” Hannah had remained back, as directed, but she was leaning to one side as if she could get an angle to see inside the Ford. He shook his head at her, laying his index finger upon his lips, then turned back to the truck. On tip-toe, Michael moved around to the driver’s seat.
      The woman was dead but seemed unmolested by the wildlife, perhaps because her window was raised and her door closed. Michael could not immediately tell how she had died, but the livid bruise upon her right temple may have had something to do with it. He could not see though the tinted windows into the back of the extended cab, so he worked his way around the bed – in which he saw a shovel, a pick-axe and a wheel-barrel along with a lawnmower and other gardening implements.
      The passenger’s door hung an inch or two ajar and there were obvious, limping tracks leading north from the road. For a moment or two, Michael considered trying to follow the person, who was likely local and knew the way out of the woods. Then he heard a weak cough and his heart sank – that did not sound good.
      Cautiously, Michael peeked into the front seat and then opened the passenger side door. The child in the back perked up slightly, coughing again and asking for his Mommy. With the utmost care, Michael climbed over the seat and gave the kid a once-over, looking for obvious injuries. He found none.
      “It’ll be okay, kid, shush now. I gotcha,” Michael cooed, unfastening the seatbelt and trying to remove him from the complicated straps. The boy felt cool to the touch and gave no resistence as he was pulled from the carseat; Michael would have felt better about it if he had cried and bit and kicked.
– – – – – – – – – – –
      And that’s it for today’s snippet. What did you think? Too much? Poor kid. In my original outline, he didn’t make it. Somehow, in the actual writing of the scene, Hannah refused to let that happen and managed to save him. For now. Comments, questions, suggestions appreciated – let me hear about it below!

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.

The Temptation

The Temptation

      Recently, a friend in a writing group asked a question that plagues me as a writer.

How do you avoid the temptation of a shiny, new idea while you’re in the middle of writing/editing your WIP?


      I have no good answer for that.
      Historically, I can say that I have been notorious for dropping one project like its hot to snatch up the latest idea in my brain. Usually, that means both end-up unfinished and I’m off to a third idea. This is the reason, if you click on my “WIPS” page, you will see seven listed projects – in addition to Incandescence, my current focus. Seven does not begin to cover the irons I have in the fire. In fact, before this page is published, I am going to add a third section to that page just to remind myself of all the stuff I have to finish! Hopefully it’ll turn out to be motivating rather than overwhelming. We shall see.
      Anyway – the original question is an important one. How do we avoid the temptation to move onto something new?

  • Absolute Denial: you can completely ignore those new thoughts & ideas to maintain focus on your WIP. Of course, you could be missing out on your magnum opus.
  • Calculated Pause: give yourself a measured amount of time to scribble out notes on your new idea and when it runs out, back to the WIP.
  • Full Stop: take a break from you WIP and give your full attention to the new idea.
  • Split Attention: write both!

      For me, I can immediately strike Absolute Denial and Split Attention from the list. I abhor the idea of not, in some way, recording inspiration when it strikes. I carry around a notebook and pen at all times, for just such an emergency. And – should I be caught without said items, I always have my phone on my person and I frequently text cryptic ideas to my email address. Still worse, is trying to focus on two distinct storylines, sets of characters, worlds… I have to concentrate on my book’s cannon lest I end up with scenes (as had happened in past works) in which a previously murdered side character is chiming in on the group’s new plan to escape. Not ironically or as a ghost, but because Split Attention allowed me to forget what had happened to her.
      I’m the same way when reading. I prefer to stick to one thing at a time and focus on it and do it ‘right’, rather than read half-a-dozen willy-nilly. When I was a kid, I did that all the time and kept it straight. These days, I’d probably end up confusing Mr. Darcy with Mr. Frodo and wondering why he was spending so much time with the ladies when there was a ring to toss into Mount Doom.
      Full Stop must also be stricken from my list. If I Full Stop – I end up Full-Never-Get-Back-To-Previous-Work. As my list of WIPs illustrates nicely.
      This year, once Incandescence and its sequel are finished, no matter many lovely new characters pop into my head, I am making it my goal to practice the Calculated Pause. Take notes on new ideas and put them into the pot for safe keeping, then immediately back to the WIP. The WIP takes precedence. Total focus. Total dedication.
      And now I have Meghan Tonjes’ song in my head again.
      (I’d link that song now, but I’m sharing her in a week for Tuesday’s Tunes post, so… you can wait… or Google her… or click here.)

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.

Imaginary Friends

Imaginary Friends

      I will have to talk to my mother to be sure, but I am fairly certain that I didn’t have an imaginary friend when I was a kid. Instead, from a very young age, I had books. (P.S. Thanks Mom!) Page after page of interesting people and fascinating places. I would retreat into a chair, crack open the story du jour and be transported from the ‘burbs to the past, to the future, to alien worlds, to fantastical realms, and just… away.
      Yes, the people that lived in those little blobs of ink were very much alive in my imagination. But I never made my parents set an extra place at the table, cried if someone sat on a being they could not see, made up a fake language to talk to him/her in… nothing like that.
      So. No imaginary friends, but lots of books. I was the little girl who carried her backpack everywhere (including class, church, car trips, the dinner table) and was always pulling a book from its depths to read. I remember a teacher actually pulling me aside at one point to say that even though she really hated to discourage a reader from reading, and that my grades weren’t suffering for it, I really needed to stop reading outside books in class and pay attention. I imagine I was a bad influence on other goof-offs in her mind – but back then I had mastered the skill of dual-focus and could regurgitate the gist of the lecture and tell you what had been happening in whatever novel my nose was buried. Ah, youth. *le sigh*
      Then, by the time I was in middle school, I had my own books and characters. Short stories quickly expanded to novellas which gave way to novels – mostly because I needed to spend more than twenty- or thirty-thousand words with these people. If you are a fellow writer, can you tell me – do you remember your earliest characters? Are they the ones that stick with you to this day, or have they been supplanted by newer ones over the weeks, months, years?
      I know the protagonist of my first actual novel was named Whitney. She was a fifteen-year-old girl with long dark hair and big blue eyes. Whitney was kidnapped in Chapter Two and spent the novel trying to escape her captors. I do not recall any other details about her or the story, and to be honest, I only remember that much because I had named after and described her like my favorite Barbie Doll (Hey! Stop laughing, I was 11 and my Barbies hung around to ‘act out’ my stories for me. I like to think that I wasn’t a lame nerd girl, I was just getting some early practice in dialog!) Whitney may have been a great, well-rounded character. I sort of doubt it. If she were, I would probably remember her.
      Hmm.
      Anyway…
      Which characters have stuck with me over the years? Which characters do I still think of fondly and think of as… long-lost friends?
      I remember Alex from Death in the Family, and his mad momma Marsha. He was a strange-looking, deranged kid and if he had not ended up tangled up in his mother’s plot, he probably would have blown up the school or pulled a Columbine. I guess I should be glad he was both fictional and…well, *Spoiler Alert* dead by the end of the novel.
      I loved Teya from my TED trilogy. Bitchy, riotous, with a tough-kid attitude and biker boots – she was also altruistic, fell hopelessly in love with a man she could never have, and eventually sacrificed everything for her friends (and the world, natch). She was not the strong silent type, as they say – she was way too loud for that – but she endured so much and conquered it. Not with the frothy optimistic grin of her compatriot, Sarah, but with a gritty determination. She came from a pretty bleak place but clung to her hope in the face of the worst the universe had to offer.
      There are other characters from TED which I could easily add to this list. Mostly, I suspect, because I spent a good three years of my life with them. Gaea, Tristan, Bati, Grace, Aides, Saturnia & Karena. Above them all, Teya.
      Summit and Shalisa, through all their incarnations, have remained dear to me. Pyrathe, who allowed me to ponder more about morality and good and evil than any other character on the list. Will, who buried his sister and saved the Princess, all set to a playlist of Bryan Adams songs (Hey! It was 1992!). Alonwyn, with her long, thick braid, her long, thick blade, and her unshakable faith. Sefiro, who Jack derided as being a poor main character because he often took second place to his elder sister in physical pursuits but who had so many wonderful traits to offer beyond swinging a sword. Garrick, the closest thing to an anti-hero in my repertoire; he’s a deeply flawed, deeply principled man who does the unthinkable to protect that which he loves. Natallia, the White Tail, and Unca Tom, her mentor. Damarin, the church’s assassin. Badger, a boy living in a post-apocalyptic world whose job it is to protect the ‘One’. Vanyne, an unapologetically sadistic young woman with lofty goals for her people, and her daughter. General Abeterus, who is featured in an up-coming Snippet Sunday called “Satiating Appetites”.
      And Alexander, from Incandescence. He’s a bad man, he is. But he’s also somehow disarming and charming and- bad. A bad, bad man who does and condones some very terrible things. I can’t help loving him a bit. His cousin/companion, Isaac. Hannah, who is so unlike me as a teenage girl, and Michael, who really does the best he can in the fucked-up situation in which he finds himself. Their great-great-grandmother.
      Yes, I admit it, I do have imaginary friends today. In my crazed writer’s brain, I have held entire conversations with Alexander and Isaac, trying to suss out their true motivations. Hannah has stopped by to let me know that she had lots of online friends and did plenty of texting despite living a pretty sheltered existence. Current characters, new ones (with awful timing, of course!), old ones. Many of them live up there in my grey matter, harassing me to stop blogging and get back to writing about them. Cheeky little buggers.
      Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by fascinating characters – on and off the page. Somehow, I observed a lot more than I was aware of at the time, and these mental character sketches have stayed with me through the years. Occasionally, they end up dotting the pages of my own pieces now despite my assertion that I don’t “make-up” characters.
      I cannot deny that ‘Isaac’ in Incandescence is influenced by a friend and there is no doubt that I see pieces of one of childhood bullies in the butthead children running around my stories. There is no way that people I have known in my years have influenced the people that populate the worlds of my novels. Still, by and large, I don’t really make conscious choices to model characters at all. I prefer to believe, no matter how silly and vain some would say it is, that these characters appear to me to tell their stories. Sometimes, they become more fleshed out on the page, but usually, at conception/discovery/whatever, they already ‘are’ people. I just have to get them onto the page effectively.
      Sometimes, perhaps I do not. And they fall to the side of the tracks, forgotten. (Whitney who?)
      Other times, I do. And they stick with me. (Teya *sniffle*)

Tey from TED

Tey, from TED

April Showers

      It has been (blissfully) grey and drizzly these past few days. I say blissfully not because I believe in the old adage that April Showers bring May Flowers, nor because April Showers is probably the pen name I would publish erotica under (should I ever write any), but because I love rain.
      Growing up in the Seattle area helped. No, its not like they say – rain every day, mold growing behind our ears. That’s London-weather. Seattle has amazing weather. Yes, we get measurable moisture sprinkled down upon us 300 days a year, but by and large – especially in the spring – it comes in the form of a light morning drizzle that leaves the afternoon clear and beautiful. Though I will admit, some of my favorite days were the ones in which countless tiny ‘storms’ passed over us. A sudden sprinkle from 3:02 to 3:04 pm and then blue skies!
      I may have just SQUEE’d in gleeful memory.
      The weather is not like that here in Pennsylvania. It comes in furious bursts, lingers like a petulant child, and if it does not do damage to something, I swear it just returns next time hotter/wetter/windier/colder than before.
      Its no fun for a foothills flower like myself.
      So when, after a “winter” (and we use the term loosely this year…) like this past one, which included not one, but several weeks of 70+ degree weather, I embrace the grey, the rain, the lack of humidity, and the cool, crisp breezes. THIS, I scream, is what early Spring should be!
      Then, I come inside and check the weather forecast.
      As lovely as it is out there this morning, cool and clear, by the time I get off work it will be awful. Muggy and 65 degrees and no wind or rain in sight.
      Bring back my April Showers. Please!
      Damn it.

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.

Snippet Sunday: A Fool Indeed

      Welcome to Snippet Sunday at PP.net! This week’s excerpt comes from my current WIP, WT: Incandescence and features a 102-year-old great-great-grandmother tromping through the wilderness with her descendants, Michael & Hannah.
– – – – – – – – – – –
      “Ah, you had to be there, I guess,” she fanned herself, still giggling at the memory of Giacomo fainting dead away there on the side of county road three-twenty-three. It was strange how there were some moments of her vast years which were crisp and clear as one of those high definition television sets, yet others were foggy at best.
      Now, as she walked in silence beside her great-great-grandchildren, [OLDLADYNAME] glanced back over her shoulder. She could hardly make out the clearing from this distance, even knowing exactly where it lay. It felt as if they had been marching through the forest for hours, days even. Her arthritic knees were screaming with each step, though she voiced no complaint. The head of her cane wore an imprint into her palm and though she switched hands from time to time, the pain followed, like glass grinding into the knobby joints of every finger on either hand.
      It occurred to her that she really had no idea where they were headed. East, Michael had said, away from the carnage. The sun sets in the west, so we just have to head in the opposite direction.
      Although that was prudent, [OLDLADYNAME] did not see how walking in a straight line, possibly into the deep wilderness of wherever they were – because they had no idea where the inexplicable event (that was how they had chosen to think of it, rather than discuss it in earnest) had dropped them.
      For all that she had lived in Washington her entire life, [OLDLADYNAME] has not terribly familiar with its many regions. She had been born in Seattle and lived on the penninsula – near the coast – ever since. Her geographic knowledge of the Eastern half of the state was allegorical; things she had read, or seen on television, or been told, but nothing she knew from experience. In fact, she reflected as she limped alongside her grandchildren, both of whom had shortened their long strides to accomodate her ungainly pace, she could not even remember the last time she had crossed the Cascades.
      Tromping through the forest at one-hundred and two years old was a foolish idea, she decided. She had begun to wheeze, sweating despite the cold, and her feet felt swollen inside her shoes. She hated to be a burden to the children, but there was no choice. A forced march with no water, no food, and no idea what had happened or where they were was terrible.
      “Dafuzina, please,” she croaked, stopping to lean against a sturdy Ponderosa pine. She had not spoken since the last stone was set upon Adina’s makeshift grave and it scratched her throat and wounded her pride, to have to beg now. “I need to rest.”
      Hannah, proving herself more empathetic than she often seemed, rushed back to her side and helped her to sit down. [OLDLADYNAME] felt old for the first time in many years. She had always been hale, healthy as a thoroughbred with strong eyes and more endurance than she had ever needed. There had been an appendectomy when she was in her fifties and of course, some of the typical ailments of age, but she had hardly been sick a day in her life and even childbirth had been fairly easy for her. Today she felt as if all the aches and pains and illnesses she had avoided in the past century had been dumped upon her at once.
      She was afraid that she would die.
– – – – – – – – – – –
      Yes, I have omitted the old woman’s name in the snippet. Mostly, because I am waiting to hear back from my beta readers to see if they think it should remain or be changed. But otherwise, what do you think? Comments, questions, suggestions – let me hear them below!

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.