Testing the waters

When I put my work out to the world I expect some people to respond. That response can be greatly varied from super negative and overwhelming to ultra positive and everywhere in between. Sometimes the feedback is just fluff, hate or nonsense. However, sometimes there is constructive elements to it.

It may not always be obvious. As I’m getting more and more no’s from my queries I start to wonder. Why? Sure there are the variables I’ve discussed such as the slush pile syndrome, to the agents being too busy or not actually open to queries (even though they say they are) or they’re not the right agent for the story. Whatever that may be, there are a great deal of reasons.

Keeping a positive outlook is hard to do. Still I strive to look forward to possibilities not back at what didn’t happen.

Yes I’m getting to a point. With so much negative response it’s easy to question myself and my work. It’s going to happen that is human nature. So what do I do about it? I look at it objectively. I try to recognize the criticism as constructive no matter what. There is no place for mega ego here that will get me nowhere. Since the first chapter is what all agents are looking at perhaps there is something amiss. I’m not going to say wrong but I have to be open to the possibility that it’s not quite right.

I’m not saying that it’s time to panic or second guess myself at all. Just that I’m aware. If I send out 300 queries and they all say no perhaps something needs to change. While the end of my query quest is far from the end i have a long way to go I’m looking forward and preparing for the possibility that I need to be objective and make a change.

This is where an outside perspective might help, but only if they can be honest and I’m not going to freak out. I won’t, I’m a fairly level-headed person.

So I looked at the first chapter and I looked at the tone, perspective and over all feel. While I love it and its perfect IMO, if I’m honest it has a slight military feel to it. Huh. Not at all what the story is about nor what I meant. However the method of the main character in that situation definitely comes across as military or police. Then I realized something. The first chapter POV is following the secondary not the main character. Hmmm… So my solution is to re-write the first chapter. Maybe once, maybe a few times with a couple different approaches. This for me will be a good way to see if the POV is what might be tripping up the agents.

There is no harm to do this because it’s just one chapter, that incidentally came after the book was written. This does not mean I’m scrapping what I wrote, just testing the waters to see if I got the tone or feel of the chapter off because of the perspective.

To be honest I’m a bit excited to try out a few other angles for the first chapter to the book. Since I’ve written a few more books that follow it, the opportunity to get it perfect, to craft the perfect version of the introduction.

My advice about being open to feedback.
Whatever the form it comes in don’t take it too personally, but don’t dismiss it altogether. It’s an opportunity to see potential if you’re open-minded about it.

-Sheryl

Other posts that are more fun than this one. 😉

It’s really very unnecessary

The jerk-face warrior

Bacon, Banter and Coffee

Missing body parts

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Overwhelming
Recognize
Craft

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Tenderizing moments

Tenderizing moments. It’s not as easy as people think. I know if I’m not careful it can fall flat or cause serious eye rolling. Over the top smoochy rose petal laden sappy drippy drivel can quickly turn a good story into a giant cheese ball of corny.  I’m not talking about a romantic encounter or a well planned romantic rendezvous, I’m talking about a small moment of tenderness that shows the reader the extent of the love two people feel.  Show not tell. That is most important. Its super easy to say; “She felt warm and loved.” Or “her heart beat faster at the sight of him.” or even “Her heart swelled with love.” I prefer not to use the word love or any of it’s synonyms, I’d rather show it. Whether it’s romance or the love of friendship, family or siblings. A sweet moment should be simple and unique to the couple in it.

Adding flowery verses and overly proper dialogue can water-down the sentiment, because the reader is too busy trying to sort through the excess. Descriptions should match the emotions without too much clutter.

Tony turned the television off and looked at Anne’s peaceful face. Her lashes flickered in her sleep.  He reached over and brushed his thumb over her cheek. Her eyes fluttered and she opened them slowly, a soft smile curling her lips.
“I fell asleep.” She near whispered.
He kissed her forehead. “I have to go.” His warm voice fell over her like the fuzzy blanket she held close. 
“I wish you could stay.” She blinked slowly at him. 
A wish he himself had. Anne was warmth and comfort, he was about to head out to the opposite of that. “Would that I could Anne.” He brushed his lips over hers and pressed gently. Her warm exhale the invitation to continue. She had a generous kindness that he suspected stemmed from someone or someones being truly unkind to her in the past. Her delicate lips opened to his and he lost a moment in her welcome. He smiled as she opened her eyes again. 
“Goodnight. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow.” She nodded as he went to put his jacket and shoes on. 

Valery picked at the rim of her paper coffee cup. The crease in her brow matched the pout of her lips. 
“Hey you.” Anne sat beside her friend at the booth. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m worried about Sash.” Valery nudged the half empty cup away.
Anne nodded. “Yeah it can’t be coincidence she disappears and that Crowen creep makes headlines.”
Valery leaned her head on Anne’s shoulder. “The police finally said she’s in protective custody or whatever they called it and she’s safe.”
Anne put her arm around Valery as she sighed. “I doubt they realize the folly of their ways by saying protective custody just makes us worry more.”
“Right?” Valery sat up. “Saying it means she’s in definite danger.”
Anne closed her eyes a moment. “And we can’t do a thing to help her.”
Valery put her hands over Anne’s. “No we can’t.”

The warm and fuzzies, a moment of love and understanding. I try not to dwell on them or make them too long simply to preserve the believability. Moments like these are best read aloud to ensure they are real and touching.

My advice about writing tender moments.
Keep it simple and avoid filter words that tell the moment instead of showing. Strong and passionate emotions should be felt by the reader not understood.

-Sheryl

Other posts

The world is your tainted oyster

Ow! That hurt!

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
 Folly
Blanket

Survival of the fittest

Survival mode kicks in when nothing else will work. When rationalization and strength are no longer playing fair. Survival in dangerous situations can be boiled down to fight or flight. What happens when flight isn’t working out so well? When I have the character backed into a corner or hotel bathroom? It is in these moments I have to decide. Decide to let logic lead the scene or pepper a bit of panic in to make things more interesting. In time to flip the switch, Sasha didn’t go for the main door. In her flight mode, she took the easiest path. It happened to be backward and into a very unescapable room.

So what does happen when flight fails and the protagonist is trapped? Fight. Fighting is the only option. This is because giving up is not going to happen. I think if Sasha just curled up and resigned to the fate Baylor wishes to bestow, the readers would get mad at me, annoyed with Sasha and stop reading. After all, she doesn’t deserve to be read about right?  So I can honestly say I chose Sasha’s path, I made her go the wrong way. I did this because it’s interesting and it is likely what one would do when faced with mortal danger. Logic often fails in the face of fear. Sasha got to the bathroom before Baylor… barely.

Baylor’s fingers stopped the bathroom door as Sasha pushed hard to close it. Uninjured legs were her advantage and gave Sasha just enough to get the lead. Baylor howled as she pushed. He would be stronger. She needed advantage. She let up a fraction, doubled her force and pushed hard against the door. The fleshy crunch of his fingers made the bile rise in her throat as he bellowed. She let up again and he pulled his fingers out letting the door click closed. She pressed the lock button. He could open it, but not immediately. Would he shoot the door? Would the bullets come through? Every movie or show that ever had someone trapped behind a door with an armed assailant, played out in her head. Sasha didn’t know what to do and fear was taking over quickly.

“Don’t panic. Don’t panic.” She couldn’t manage more than a shaky whisper. As Baylor slammed his shoulder against the door. Glancing around, she spied the curtain rod. “Brace the door.” She yanked on it. It was screwed into the wall. Putting all her weight on it, she tried again and it gave. A few more pulls and it was free. Baylor was pounding on the door then stopped suddenly. She put the curtain rod on the floor and used her feet to wedge it against the door. Putting her back to the door, she put her feet on the front of the toilet and prepared to use her leg strength to keep him from opening the door. 

The rattle of something in the handle made her stomach clench. This was it. Either he was getting in or he wasn’t.

She readied herself glaring at the toilet. “Please be strong and hold.” The porcelain stayed silent denying her any reassurance. Taking shallow breaths, she looked around. Hairspray. There was a can of hairspray on the counter. Non-flammable but it would hurt the eyes. She took the chance to grab it. As she sat back bracing her feet against the toilet again the lock clicked and the door opened. The curtain rod held as Baylor pushed and cursed her.

Tears streamed as she tried to steady her shaking legs. “Come on Sasha.” She cried. “Don’t be the damned damsel now.” She rubbed her legs as he pushed on the door. A slight crack made her look down at the rod. It was bending. “No.” She begged. “No please don’t give out.”

The rod bent and the immediate pressure on her back made her scream in fear. Bracing her protesting legs, she heard the toilet creak. “No!” She had nothing else to brace against close enough. The nozzle of the gun poked through the increasing gap in the door. When Baylor fired, the deafening sound shut her screams and his grunting out from her mind.

This is it, he was getting in. She would die or worse, be maimed for life. She looked up at the barrel of the gun now pushed through. In movies someone brave would grab it. If she moved, he was in for sure. It was out of reach. When she looked around desperate, her breath caught. She could see his face in the reflection of the mirror. He could see her too. The raw fury was terrifying and sobering. His face was close. She could see his eyes as her ears rung. His hand was through and she pushed harder with her legs. The toilet shifted back, she expected water to start spraying everywhere. It didn’t. The door closed enough on his wrist to keep him from bending it and aiming at her directly.

“Stupid bitch!”

She could hear him again, the painful pressure on her back and legs caused whimpers to mix with her heavy breaths. “Do something, don’t give up.” Sasha glanced up at the gun. If she moved fast he might stumble into the room, maybe it would give her an advantage? Her stomach tightened as he made progress pushing the door again.

She moved slowly off the floor bracing herself against it. He moved it a fraction more. She was up enough to move, but which way. Away from the gun, might earn her a smack from the door. Towards it would be unexpected. Before she made up her mind, her body moved fast toward the gun and past it. The door crashed open and he stumbled into the room. Immediately she sprayed hairspray in his direction correcting her aim and finally hitting his eyes. Seconds, mere seconds.

The gun swung toward her and she launched her body at him shoving him with her shoulder, he hit the tiled floor yelling and rubbing his eyes and she ran. Blinded with fear and tears she ran from the bedroom out to the door.

It was as if the handle evaded her fingers, three shaky attempts finally paid off with the door opening. She fell into the hall against the opposite wall. Disoriented she ran aimlessly. Her feet pushed against the rough carpet as she skidded to a stop and pushed the bar on the fire escape door.

“Cal!” She screamed his name repeatedly while running down the stairs. With no clue what floor she was on she moved fast. “Cal!”

“Sasha!”

She heard him below her and nearly fell with desperation to get to him, to safety. “Cal!”

He rounded the stairs and she nearly collapsed. “Bayl.” She gulped. “Up. Gun.”

“I heard a shot.” He pulled out the radio the lead officer gave him and updated the other officers, as he looked her over for blood.

Baylor Crowen was in the hotel. It was surrounded by police and swat was organizing a sweep as they spoke. Cal’s concern was a terrified Sasha.

He picked her up and started down. “How many flights up?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry.” She was beyond remembering even if she had counted.

“He’s above the thirty-second floor.” Cal informed the officers and listened to the radio chatter as he made his way down the stairwell. Sasha clung and cried as he descended the stairs uttering calming reassurances. He turned and opened the emergency exit with his back. The fresh air was too cold and she started shivering as Cal rushed toward a waiting ambulance. He set her down on the back as a paramedic wrapped a blanket around her as another started assessing her.

“No significant injuries.” The paramedic said then started asking her questions. What day it is, the year, her birthday. Then she started asking Sasha about any pain or injuries. The steady stream of questions calmed her mind and her hands shook less.

“I think I’m okay he didn’t get me.” She said sounding distant as they gave her oxygen and spoke soothingly and checked her vitals.

Cal was only ten feet away talking with three other officers in various types of uniform. One looked like the kind that stormed the buildings in drug raids. Sasha looked around at the chaos. Cop cars, ambulance, fire trucks and people everywhere. Hotel guests, staff, bystanders, officers, paramedics, firefighters and reporters.  Cal walked back toward Sasha who was now sipping bottled spring water that the paramedic gave her.

“She’s okay, shaken but not injured Detective. You’re a brave woman Sasha.” The paramedic smiled kindly and patted her shoulder. “She shouldn’t be alone.”

“I know the drill.” Cal smiled. “I’ll watch over her.”

“Bring her in if need be.”

“Will do.” Cal turned to Sasha. “Can you walk?”

She nodded, shrugged the blanket off and took his extended hand.

I bet she didn’t know she had it in her. She did because I wrote it that way. Surviving danger is exhausting and can have a multitude of after effects. Now I did not make her super-heroic that would be dumb. Sasha is resourceful, smart and determined. She is not a cop or trained in any martial art. She didn’t grab the gun or take Baylor down in a magnificent duel. Why? That’s simple; she’s not ready for that yet. She is just a woman with really bad luck these days. Maybe it’s time to turn all that around. Maybe.

My advice about surviving danger.
Stay within the characters parameters, but allow for growth and opportunity to advance. Nothing too crazy or unbelievable. It’s weird and lazy to give someone an ability in a story and declare it a miracle of the moment or call them a “natural” at something they’ve never ever done before. *Totally rolling my eyes ’cause that happens all the time.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Sensible sensation

Wisely Perpetrating Gullibility

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Protest

Take charge already!

People need to do stupid things for exciting things to happen. Sometimes that stupid thing is overlooking the obvious and falling for deceit. Sometimes it can be as simple as making the wrong call or judgement. When I put someone in charge they must be confident and… well… take charge. The person following should do as they are told. (Unless the story is about them defying authority. or it foreshadows their personal journey growth) Generally when danger errupts there are people who jump up and take control and those that shrink back and wait for instruction. A person who is taking the responsibility can succeed magnificently, minimally succeed, fail slightly or fall flat on their face. What a great opportunity taking charge can bring about. This is a chance to let someone shine, rise up and become the hero or fail, fall and hang their head in shame. It could also be the opportunity for both…

To recap, Sasha is with Cal in protective custody at a hotel. The fire alarm has just gone off and it seems suspicious.

Sasha put her running shoes on despite the alarm and Cal’s assurance. She sat on the couch and bounced her feet making her legs shake. In what seemed like an eternity someone knocked on the room door loudly. Cal put his finger to his lips and she nodded. The knock came again followed by the sound of a card key sliding into place. Cal grabbed Sasha’s hand, dragged her to his room and pushed her to the ground between his bed and the window.
“Not a sound.” He laid down nearly over her and wedged them to the bed completely hidden from the door that he stoppered open earlier. Confronting the intruders wouldn’t get Cal any information. If they came too close he would incapacitate them easily enough. 

“Sir? Ma’am? Anyone here?” The man calling out came in, went to Sasha’s room and then approached Cal’s. “Hello? We’re evacuating, there’s a fire on the west side.”

Cal put his hand over Sasha’s mouth the second she tensed. There was no fire. 

“Bitch was supposed to be in this damned room.” The man muttered and raised his cellphone. “Sorry sir she’s not here, she vanished… Yeah I’m sure, I even checked the bathrooms. Either the info was false or they evacuated with everyone else. Let the others know… Sure I’ll see if it’s here hold on.”

The second the man left the room Cal got up. “Don’t move or make a sound.” He whispered then crept away silently with his gun drawn. Sasha couldn’t move even if she wanted to and didn’t recall him having a gun on him.

Cal moved toward Sasha’s room with his gun aimed. The door was just about closed, he stuck his foot in silently and slipped in unnoticed.

“She’s definitely the one, yes the files here… I have no dammed idea why she has them it doesn’t make sense sir… Yes sir… No he’s not with me. I have no control over him or what he does, he took off after I set the alarm off.” The man turned in time to see Cal’s fist. Cal grabbed the phone and saw private number displayed. He could hear “hello?” being repeated. 

“Sorry sir. Thought I heard something.” Cal did his best to mimic the man’s whine.

Leave the file I want to see what she does. Get out and report back before the police see you.” The call ended and Cal looked at the folder the man had opened on the desk.

“What is going on?” Cal said and looked at the dirty man on the floor who smelled like spoiled milk. “I think you need to answer some questions.” Cal cuffed him quickly, went to the main room door to put the bar bolt on, called backup and told them what happened. By the book, he wasn’t willing to risk a case for this anomaly.

“Come out Sasha it’s safe.” He called toward the room. “Sasha?” He ran to his bedroom. “Shit.” He pulled his phone out as he checked the outside hall. Empty. “She’s gone. Block all he exits. They couldn’t have gone far she can’t just vanish into thin air. Get the back-up here pronto… They’re all blocked? Good I’ll wait for him.” Cal cursed again and double-checked the rooms. The second an officer arrived to secure the intruder Cal was out into the hall.

“Okay Cal where the hell would they take her?” Cal looked both ways. Stairs were obvious but have been blocked by officers long enough they wouldn’t get out. The elevator, maybe. He stopped and listened. If he were trapped but still wanted to get the target… “They’re still here.” He walked slowly down the hall listening and looking at the doors. It would take a while to get a master-key to search each room.

The thing about characters taking charge in dangerous situations they either need to be naturally inclined to be in charge(written that way) or there needs to be some sort of character build up toward them becoming strong enough to take charge. What I mean is don’t pull it out of your ass and have them miraculously become someone they are not and have not been on their way to becoming.

My advice about people taking charge.
Someone has to, so choose wisely because if you don’t then the reader might not believe what is going on. 

-Sheryl

Posts from the past.

Show and tell

What happened to that guy?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Vanish

Drunken secrets

Getting drunk is a common occurrence. Like everything else, it is a uniquely unique thing. Some people can drink for hours and maintain a semblance of control; others can go wild with one drink. Some people pass out some puke. Others get giddy, while some cry. The mood swing of the alcohol ride can also vary. Some start off as happy go luck and end up bawling, while confident careful people end up doing crazy things they would never normally do.

Like with all good interactive situations I keep in mind who will react how. Nobody reacts the same to alcohol in varied amounts and often nobody reacts the same way over and over.  Ones pre-drink emotional state can greatly affect the outcome of the scene. The good thing is, there are no rules. Opportunity for confessions, Drunken secrets to come out, game changing moments, or complete blind sides are up for grabs. If the story is floundering and you know where it needs to go but just can’t quite get it there, how about a bit o booze? Even if the story isn’t floundering it is such a great way to change any dynamic.

Cal set the six mini bottles down on the table, Sasha picked up a rum as he went to get coke and glasses.

“Why didn’t you peg me as a cop when you met me?” Cal handed her a can of Sprite. “Sorry no coke in the fridge.”

“You’re too pretty and too nice. It’s weird until you burst into my house I had no idea. I thought I had good Cop radar.” She took a swig of the pungent rum before adding the rest to the lemon-lime sprite and took a large sip of the mixed drink. “Oooh that’s really yummy.”

When she looked at him sharply for dumping a second shot into her glass, he shrugged.

“It’s either that or Valium.”

“Rum. It tastes better. Thanks. As I said, I’m not normally a basket case. This is even better as a double. I love the taste.”

“I can tell.” He sipped his Sprite sans alcohol. “So before I busted my cover did you at all like me?”

“Fishing are we? I just said you were pretty and nice. That’s all you’re getting, and don’t get your hopes up booze doesn’t loosen my tongue.”

“From what I remember it makes it sharper.” He smirked at her open mouth as if she wanted to say something, but anything said would prove his point.

“Clever little copper aren’t you?” She laughed before he could respond. “It’s your job. I know, I know.”

“Do I know your ex?”

“Ben Huberson.”

Cal thought a moment. “I’m sort of new to this area. It doesn’t ring a bell.”

“He doesn’t ring a lot of things or when he does he can’t stick to it.” She laughed again. “Gonna stick a pin in that? What happened didn’t make it into any papers or news so don’t bother looking it up and if you find him, and you wont, he wouldn’t tell you what he did. If he did I’d be surprised if he told you the truth.”

“That bad huh?” Cal took that as a challenge. He found things and found things out. He was dammed good at it and if she kept up this way he wouldn’t have to search very hard.

She finished her drink and he filled her glass from the cans on the table. She looked at the bottles.

“There’s more rum.” He got up and fished them from the fridge and handed her two.

“I don’t need that much.”

“Do you cry when you drink?”

“No. Silly Detective. I only cry after nearly being killed and running people over with my car. Rum makes me happy.” She giggled at his serious face.

“You’re a strange woman.”

“Says the guy, wait, I had something for that. Damn.”

He laughed at her perplexed expression. “Why did you go out with Val and Anne that night? You didn’t seem to want to be there.”

“Anniversary. Suck-y stupid anniversary.” She was drinking too fast, and knew it so slowed down, not that it mattered she was nearly done the second. “They think I should move on. The think is.” She giggled. “The thing is.” She nodded. “I am happy. I just don’t want to go down that road again. I’m happy alone. Stick a pin in that PoPo.” She snickered into her hand. He watched her amused with her silly behavior. They sat in silence a while Sasha sipped her drink. 

Cal broke the silence first. “What about Ben?”

“Ben can rot in.” She finished the second double drink and set the glass down too hard. “He can go rot in hell. Ben in hell roasting his balls on the flames wouldn’t be punishment enough.”

“You have issues with genitalia.”

She giggled again and couldn’t stop. “Oh I do. I’m so mean. I stab them, kick them and I’ve even punched them. Selfie defense. I mean Selfie… self-defiance. Shelf defense.”

Cal waited patiently for her giggle fit to finish. It took a while and it took concentration not to laugh along with her. Not because groin injuries were funny, but her laugh was contagious.

“Sorry.” Sasha wiped laugh tears from her heavy eyes. She pointed at the empty mini bottles. “One, two… three and four. Why my drunk?”

“Because you barely slept last night, refused to eat supper and drank four shots in.” He looked at his watch. “Less than one hour.”

“So? I kin do that any time.” She blinked slowly. “Maybe not on an empty tum-tum.”

“What happened that day two years ago?”

“Nice try copper-roo. Not gonna get that story. No sir. Not even Val would blabber-blab. It would be funnier if you.” She giggled. “If you were named Bob. I could call you bob the bobby. With your stupid pins. Bobby pin.” She laughed so hard Cal bit his lip to keep from joining. “I’m gonna be pissed when I’m sober ya know.”

“Will you?”

She leaned her heavy head back on the couch. “You bet’cha gadget. I’m gonna be mad tha, that you tried to drink me, drunk, get me to drunk talk.” She looked up at the ceiling. “Was worst day ever and he wants me to talk about it. Can you bel-believe it? The sexy cop wants me to spill the beans.” She giggled again and pointed at him. “Naughty cop. You’re a naughty cop you know that?” She smiled at his amused face. “You should stripper, be a strip dancer thing, guy. You know what I mean. Bet you’re better taking your shirt off than playing cops and robbers.” She closed her eyes and they stayed closed.

“Some days I wonder.” He sighed hoping she wouldn’t remember.

He honestly didn’t mean to pry, he couldn’t help it. She had a huge mystery begging to be solved.  He wondered just how tight-lipped Valery would be. Would Anne? There has to be someone willing to snap her out of her glass box of self-pity. Ben probably cheated, it has to be big for her to be so upset. That it was such a secret meant it might be huge. At least for her anyway. Enough to scare her off men for at least two years.

She started to fall over so Cal picked her up and put her in her bed, tucked her in as she snuggled on her side. He took her unpacked clothes off the bed and put them away in the drawers. The file folder was neatly tucked under her laptop. He saw what was in it, strange pictures that were probably some company’s idea of advertising. The only one that didn’t fit was the hand. Maybe it was a multi-purpose hand moisturizer. He didn’t know and didn’t really care.

“You are interesting.” Cal turned the light out and went to his own bed.

I don’t like reading that someone’s words are slurred or garbled so I’ll write it slurred or garbled. That’s a personal choice. Show don’t tell after all.  Everyone has seen various degrees of drinking to drunk to pass out drunk. I’m not talking about alcoholism or substance abuse, that is a whole other subject.

My advice about getting your characters drunk.
Whether it’s in or out of character it can really work to liven things up, good or bad, drunk is interesting.

-Sheryl

Other posts

The prelude to this one Stick a pin in it!

Bacon, Banter and Coffee

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Pungent

Stick a pin in it!

I was asked once what happens when you run out of ideas? When you reach the threshold of your imagination? To which I responded; who says there’s a limit or an end?

I think just beyond the edge, that liminal point is never within reach if you don’t want it to be. It’s like in a dream when you run toward something and it never gets closer. A person who paints isn’t just going to run out of things to paint, a singer will always have a tune, a poets words will never run out. Not unless they choose to. Creativity in my humble opinion is like a muscle. Work it out and it gets/stays strong, ignore it and leave it unused and it will atrophy.

Neither Anne nor Valery questioned her sudden departure for a sudden last-minute American coastline cruise out of Nova Scotia. She blamed the Baylor incident and him being on bail, they didn’t need to know about last nights crazy backyard attack yet. She promised to be back by Sunday. A promise she had to keep since her job was on the line. Calls done, she took the phone out to Cal and went back to her room and spread the file out. Six pictures and descriptions. She could change the image but not the object itself. The car still had to be a car but any type would do as long as it was blue.

“Okay brain, let’s get creative.” She stared at the pictures, The blue car, the large apple, the square clock, an olive, the number 7 and the hand that had to be hidden and subliminal. “Tricky.”

Three hours later she stopped for lunch then went back to her room and skipped dinner. She came out four hours later no further ahead then when she went in that morning. Nothing was working and nothing looked right. Her mind was unsettled, she was at the threshold of creativity and she needed a break.

Cal stood with his arm up on the floor to ceiling window frame looking out at the great view of the lake from so high up. He had a fantastic profile and, she could see his shapely back and shoulder muscles though his blue shirt.

“How’s work?” He didn’t turn around.

“Fine.” She cleared her throat and sat hard on the couch staring at the black screen of the tv.

“You’re as good a liar as you are sweet-tempered.”

“I’m not normally so bitchy.”

He turned and looked at her. “Oh?”

“Well for starters I’m not usually assaulted then again a few days later. I’ve never run someone over with my car nor do I drive so recklessly. I also never lie to my friends.” She crossed her arms. “Until I met you that is.”

“I’ll put a pin in the usually. He sighed and sat beside her. “It was a stroke of luck that Baylor was at that bar. It’s not one that cops frequent.”

“Duh. It’s why Val chose it.”

“I’ll put a pin in that one too.” He narrowed his eyes at her pouty face. “Good luck or bad Sasha it’s as close as we’ve ever gotten to catching the guy. Even if I screwed it up. Now we have concrete evidence of his true nature, he broke bail terms within twelve hours and.” He stopped when she sighed heavily. “I’m sorry you’re stuck here with me.”

“It’s not you specifically. I’m just, it’s just a bad couple of weeks for me to begin with you just have terrible timing, Baylor has the worst possible timing.”

“I’m running out of pins. Let’s go back to the first. Why did you say ‘not usually assaulted’?”

She shook her head. “I hate talking to you, you pick everything apart.”

“It’s my job.”

“Right blue boy. So then you would know if you looked up my record.”

“Let’s say I’ve been busy and now I’m stranded in a hotel away from my desk, fill me in.”

“Is it important?”

“Yes.” He didn’t say why. It had nothing to do with the case.

“A long time ago I was assaulted by three men. I ended up charged since I hurt one of them badly and they all claimed he wasn’t in on the phony assault and they didn’t intend to hurt me.”

“What sort of assault?”

“Attempted rape.”

He relaxed. Attempted was better than actual.

“But because there wasn’t any rape and I don’t bruise easily they got off with community service except Bobbet jr. He pressed charges and I got community service. I was underage.”

Cal cringed. “Okay that is horrible. Next pin, why a bar with no cops?”

“Same reason for the bad timing.” She glared at him. “It’s none of your business and since it’s not public record I’m not explaining.”

“I’m not your enemy Sasha. You don’t seem the criminal type so what happened?”

“My ass-hat ex fiancée was a cop, you’re all tight in your little coppy groups. Therefore, I avoid all the old hangouts. I assume they’re all still the same since you guys never drop a habit.”

“That was seething with contempt. Should I start lumping you in with all blondes everywhere?”

She rubbed her face. “Point taken. Sorry. Like I said I’m feeling a little unlike myself lately and frankly you make a good punching bag.”

“I bet I do. I seem to represent all that’s wrong in your microcosm of self-pity.” He got up and went to the mini bar and came back with six mini bottles.

Sasha’s creative-block is self-inflicted and circumstantial.

My advice about Liminal.
There is no limit, no threshold to imagination unless you set one. Create away.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Over used and oft abused.

What happened to that guy?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Liminal

Paint a desperate picture

There comes a point in writing when we need to induce stress in our readers by making our characters live it. Whether it’s a timeline crunch or a race to stop something horrible from happening. Showing the reader how the characters react and handle these situations will establish them further in their mind and hearts.  After as a writer I want people to love and hate my characters as much as I do. Making someone desperate and afraid is a great way to induce stress. 

Some sources of stress

Work/co-workers
Work deadlines
Family
Friends
Money – usually the lack of
Peer pressure
Self degradation
Illness
Threats
Blackmail/Extortion/Bribery
Holidays
Politics
Impending Danger
Active danger
I’m sure there are many more but I just wanted to suggest a few. Now, building tension and or stress is important. These are the moments, the foreshadows for something fantastic or important to the story. This is where I try to set my readers on the edge of their seats or at least be less willing to set the book down. Just one more page… The holy grail of writing, hooking the reader. This is important for many reasons. Good story telling, keeping the reader interested and dazzling the reader so they go and talk about the book to/with others and again, there are more reasons, but these are my primaries.
Stress can go hand and hand with desperation. The more stressful the situation, the more desperate a person can become. Whether the stress is real or mythical doesn’t matter, as long as I express it well. 
To do this I select a moment before the proverbial shit hits the fans. I start to ramp up the tension. This doesn’t necessarily have to be done through the protagonist. It can be anyone in the story thus far. I don’t suggest introducing a new character to create tension at this point, use someone established that has a report with the protagonist or even antagonist. If the reader likes my characters enough then they will be invested to find out what’s going to happen next. 
Cal dropped the keys, cursed and fumbled to retrieve them from the car floor in the dark. With seat-belt on and car finally started he sped out of the parking lot. 
“Dammit.” Sasha wasn’t answering her phone. His cell rang and he answered with his hands free. 
“Thorn.”
Thorn it’s Deputy Chief Jones. Miller filled me in. I have some bad news. Baylor Crowen lost his tail too.
“What!” Cal gripped the steering wheel tight as he stopped at a red light. All he asked was for eyes on both Baylor and Sasha.
The judge ruled him low risk, nobody believes he’s the guy disfiguring those women.
That was no excuse for lax officers. Cal took a deep breath avoiding a string of expletives that would get him reprimanded. “I’m on my way now to check on Miss Parsons.”
Thorn, if he’s not the guy then she’s in no danger.”
The muscles in Cal’s neck went taught as his stomach jumped. “I know it’s him. I’m going to check on her anyway.”
Do what you need to Detective. I agree with you, I think Crowen is guilty.
Cal pushed the speed limit. The Chief’s wishy-washy stance annoyed him as much now as it did earlier. A million scenarios played out in Cal’s mind. All of them berating him for not insisting Sasha have better protection. His gut and logic told him that Baylor was the guy. Sasha pissed Baylor off and he could easily get to her. She wasn’t taking this seriously enough and thought that being followed by a police cruiser was enough. 
“Thanks Chief. I’ll report in if I find anything out of the ordinary. It wouldn’t make sense for Crowen to try anything now.”
I agree. I’ll send the cruiser over to her place as well.”
“I’m almost there Chief.”
Okay then, keep me posted.” The call ended, Cal pursed his lips and flexed his white knuckled fingers. What a mess.  
The oncoming car approached too fast with their high-beams on. Cal would have to let them go by, he had more pressing matters than a car speeding. When the car swerved into his lane he steered to avoid. 
“Son of a.” Cal held his breath as the car righted at the last moment. He watched in his rear view as it careened into the ditch hard. “Of all the dammed, stupid things.” He u-turned his car around, drove closer to the ditched car and pulled over. He put his four-ways on, shook his head and got out of his car. He had to check on the idiot driver and probably arrest them. He took his phone out of his pocket to call it in and for back up. Now he was delayed for checking on Sasha who was just down the road. As he got a closer look at the vehicle, his heart skipped a beat.
“I know that car.” Cal moved fast toward the car as the driver got out.
With Cal’s nervousness, frustration and anger muddled with regret, he paints a desperate picture. Sometimes lack of judgement or complacency can lead to some pretty fantastic situations imagined or real.  The trick here is to use what I call anxious words or movements, nothing calming or ordinary. 
My advice about inducing stress.
Watch the trigger words, keep it tight and avoid filler words and wordiness. Less is more and will generate a better sense of urgency if the reader isn’t lost in a sea of description or narrative.
-Sheryl
Other stressful posts
Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Mythical