Saturday, May 31, 2008

More about that age thing

What I'm reading: Hit Parade, by Lawrence Block

What I'm writing: Chapter Three -- again or still, depending on what I decide.

Yesterday, only half on a whim, I decided to get a new cell phone. I never wanted to be totally connected. As a matter of fact, time away from the phone and the internet can be golden, so most of the time my cell isn't even on. I use it 95% for long distance calls because they're free, which is because I never come close to using my minutes. Mine roll over, but I roll off almost as many as I add each month. And I find people who are texting all the time to be rude. I was at a writer's conference banquet, and during the keynote, people at my table were busy texting. (I hope not each other!). But, I got a phone that is connected to the Internet, and as far as I'm concerned, with all the stuff it does, it ought to at least do the laundry or make coffee, but I guess I didn't go high-end enough. I stuck to a mid-range phone. On sale. With rebate. It does have a nifty qwerty keyboard in case I want to be rude the next time I'm at a banquet.

Trying to decipher the 40 page "quick start" guide (Making A Call was on page 10!) made me feel more than tech-challenged. Finding where to plug the charger was enough of a setback. How was I supposed to see that slot when it has a cover on it? And testing the dreaded texting feature. I could get it to fill in the "To" field, but nothing I did seemed to move the cursor into the box to write the message. The instructions and the on-line tutorial (like, since when do you have to go on line to learn how to use a PHONE?) simply said, 'fill in the "To" field, then type your message. HELLO. There's another step in there. Eventually, like all those monkeys typing Shakespeare, I hit the right button. Probably won't be able to do it ever again.

Then I thought I'd try to give my husband his own private ringtone so I wouldn't have to check the display if I was driving. Nothing in the quick start mentioned it. Nothing in the tutorial mentioned it. I downloaded the 350+ page manual and found the instructions on page 76. I followed them (after finding out they invented an OK button that nothing else mentioned), and they didn't work. To prove I wasn't totally inept, I did manage to follow the steps to add speed dial numbers (and why do they call it dialing?)
Then I tried another feature -- Voice. I Pressed a button and told it to call someone. Lo and behold, it DID. Scary.

I finally found the list of ringtones in the phone and picked one. I dutifully registered my new purchase. They sent me a temporary password as a text message to my phone! This after I had to type my email four times. Of course, my phone was off, and in another room. If I told the computer I couldn't access my phone, the message said they'd snail mail me my password. What's wrong with email? I mean, I was on line doing all this stuff. So, I get the phone, find the message, type in the password (no cut and paste from a phone to a computer), and then the next computer screen tells me to change the password before I can access my new account. I do, and my reward for this is a Free Ringtone. Woo Woo.

Accessing the ring tone means installing some new software, which, error messages to the contrary, seems to work, so I look at my choices for ring tones. I chose the Songs Everyone Knows list. There were 45 songs on the list. I recognized 7 of them by title. Could probably hum about 4. Nothing like feeling old and out of touch.
I think I'll continue my policy of not giving anyone my cell phone number. I'm not sure I could figure out how to answer it before it rolls to voice mail, and I KNOW I haven't figured that one out yet.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What's your take on flash backs and spoilers?

My husband graciously shared his head cold, and I'm being a total wimp and taking the day off. It's not even a bad cold, but yesterday my head was too foggy to write anything new. And to make matters worse, I think most of what I wrote the day before falls too far into "info dump" category. I'll wait until my head clears enough to read it critically and decide if it's one of those scenes that would better be handled with a brief flashback. My problem is, I don't like flashing back, even a day or two. And since my hero and heroine are still unaware of each other, I'm trying to keep their timelines parallel. I might have inserted that Fozzie scene simply to avoid having too much Torie.

It's the story that matters, though, not how long the scenes are, or how long between POV changes. So that means the dreaded plotting, and my head can't wrap itself around that yet. I plan to finish Hit List, then watch some of the French Open. And try not to feel guilty.

The other thing that's been niggling at me is spoilers. I think I'm probably overly anal about not knowing what happens until it happens. But other people don't seem to mind. I'm astonished to learn that people actually read the end of the book first to see whodunit, or to make sure there's the right HEA. I can't do that. Most of the time, I'll stop reading a book once it's clear 'stuff happened' to those characters before and go back to book 1.

That being said, I wrote a funny fluff piece where my FINDING SARAH characters talked about me. Since I'm always throwing them into the fire, I let them tell me how they felt about it. "The Other Side" looks at me through their eyes.

If anyone wants it, send me an email (contact link to the right) with "Other Side, Please" in the subject line and I'll send it to you. I'm not posting it here, just in case there's anyone else out there who's as anal as I am about spoilers. If you've already read FINDING SARAH, it won't pose any problems.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Do you know what the Group W Bench is?

During blog rounds this morning, I found a fascinating discussion on getting old. Considering I'm probably decades older than most of the people lamenting their lost youth at the site, I've been following the 'defining moments' they're listing as the point at which they left their youth behind. It's been fun, so I'll admit to borrowing the theme.

Hearing their favorite songs on the oldies station.
OK, I can beat that. What about having your kids tell you about a great "new" song, and you can sing along because it's merely a remake?
Do they realize Paul McCartney was in a group before "Wings"?

Finding the first gray hair.
Been there, done that, hit the salon (see yesterday's post).

Not recognizing a line from Ferris Bueller.
What about the Group W Bench? Please tell me I'm not the only one left on the planet who knows what that means.

If I remember these (or the lack thereof) am I old?

Rotary dial phones. No area codes.

No zip codes.

Television was black and white (once we got one)

Mixing the color into margarine.

No home computers.

No cell phones.

No credit cards – stores had "Charge-a-Plates" with different notches for different stores.

"Your Hit Parade" and "Sing along with Mitch" instead of MTV.

Since I had to give a 'defining moment myself, I searched my failing memory banks and decided this would probably be it:

Although I don't really consider myself "old", I did get a bit of a jolt when my son took me to a UCLA game. Now, I'm a Bruin, and was at the school when the team never lost a game, so I figured it would be fun. Only for some reason, they let all these children go to college now. Back when I was there (and sitting in the section behind the broadcast 'booth' where Dick Enberg, the "Voice of the Bruins" did commentary), everyone at the game was MY age.

I guess some people are more sensitive to passing years. My mother refused to tell anyone WHY I was home for a visit when I went to my 20th high school reunion. No kid of hers would be old enough to be out of high school for 20 years. When she became a great grandmother a few months ago, the title didn't bother her as much as dealing with the fact that her daughter was a grandmother. It didn't bother me. I play CCR for the baby along with singing "On Top of Spaghetti". He responds pretty much the same way to both. But you can be sure he'll grow up knowing what the Group W Bench is.

For me, getting older sure beats the alternative. And nobody said I had to grow up.

So -- if you know what the Group W bench is, leave a comment!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A matter of trust

I've been seeing Richard for over 15 years now, I think, and I realize that I have total trust in the man. I know I can walk into his place, and after the usual hugs and "how are you's", I can let him do whatever he wants. Sometimes I'll tell him I'm ready for something new and different, and we might discuss it for a while, but most of the time, I let him do his thing.

Yesterday, I mentioned that the weather has hit hotandhumid again, and from his knowing smile, I knew he'd already figured out where he was going.

Sure, sometimes we've argued a little about his visions. It usually goes like this:

Richard: "But it's sexy that way."

Me: "I"m too old for sexy."

Richard: "No you're not."

Me: "I don't care about sexy if it's going to drive me nuts."

He sighs and we generally find a compromise.

So, yesterday, with complete faith that he'd do what was best, I sat in his chair. He did the thing with the plastic, towels and cape, and I opened my book, knowing I didn't need to worry. I knew that when he was finished, I'd be able to walk out and feel good about myself.

I think we get along because he's the only hair stylist I've ever been to who looks at me instead of giving me haircut number three. He'll point to a picture in one of his styling magazines and tell me what about it would work with my bone structure and hair texture. And if I have something I want to try, he'll tell me why it won't work.

We'll look through the color swatches and he'll say, 'something between this one and that one, with a little of this other one.'

I trust him. (And he gives me chocolate.)

So, I have an updated summer cut now. Shorter in back, fits my 'no more than five minutes with the dryer' request. And, per my insistence, the bangs are shorter than he wants them, because even though he says brushing them out of my eyes is sexy, it drives me nuts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How do you plot?

What I'm reading: Hit List, by Lawrence Block

What I'm writing: Fozzie's book, Chapter Three.

I managed to hit my word count goal yesterday even though I had to do some cutting to adjust for plot changes. Plot changes? Are you allowed to change the plot?

I'm definitely not a plotter in the traditional sense. That is, I can't lay out an entire book. Some authors do, and they'd be lost without their roadmap, or outline, or synposis. I'm in as much awe of them as I'm sure they're in awe of authors who simply plunge in.

But I don't think anyone 'doesn't plot'. It's a matter of process. For me, it entails getting to know my characters. I don't do those detailed biographies, but I do like to know enough about the family history (after all, I might want to write another book about the hero's brother or sister some day, so it helps to know if there are any siblings.) And I want to know the bare bones about the emotional state of their childhoods. Did they come from wealth? Poverty? Were they loved? Abused? That lets me know what kind of conflicts I get to throw at them, and also how they're likely to react in any given situation.

Because I've been writing about a team of covert operatives who work for a private firm, I've started each book with a scene showing them 'in action'. Showing the hero in real life fits in with the "Hero's Journey", and it also shows the reader what the character is capable of. Would anyone have "bought" that Indiana Jones could do all that heroic stuff if the movie had opened in the classroom instead of the jungle?

But my heroes are "comfortable" doing hostage rescue. It's civilization that gives them the willies. Naturally, that's where the book has to go. So, after tossing out possibilities all day with my daughter, we got the book "plotted" to a point. And that point was Page One. Who's the hero? Who's the heroine? How will they hook up? (still working on that one!). And what's the plot payoff? The romance part is a given -- has to be a HEA or it's not a romance. But what choices will my characters make along the way. And, to quote Deb Dixon, the choices have to be between 'sucky' and 'suckier'.

And those are the things I love to discover as I go along.

From there, I do a lot of 'head writing.' Nothing on the page, but lots of wandering through the house, driving, doing laundry, shopping, all the while listening to my characters and dealing with the 'what if' scenarios. Is it plotting if it's not on paper? I say yes.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Driving through history

Our NY trip last weekend took us through Waterloo, New York, where the town was preparing for Memorial Day. At the time, it was merely one of those, "hmmm...look at that" moments, because of everything else we were dealing with.

However, today, our thoughts should go beyond our immediate and personal concerns.

Thanks to all who have served in the name of freedom, and to those who still put themselves in harm's way. .

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Can writers read for pleasure?

What I'm reading: Dead Silence by Brenda Novak

What I'm writing: Fozzie's book, Chapter 2

Since I'm back at intensive writing, and doing crits for my group, I find my reading for pleasure moves deeper into edit mode as well.

Most of these things have no effect on plot or storytelling, but they're things that slow my read. I wonder if anyone else notices or even cares.

I don't begin to consider myself a grammar guru, although I had a lot of basics pounded into my head by Miss Cook in junior high, and Mr. Holtby in high school. Lately, I've noticed that some of these lessons don't seem to matter anymore. Or else copy editors had different teachers. Our language is fluid, and constantly changing (my agent said the comma before "too" is no longer required and made me remove all of them which still waves red flags for me), so I wonder if there are other memos I've missed.

One 'rule' I learned is that two things can be compared, but in order to use the superlative it was absolutely required that there be three. When one of my writing partners critiqued a recent sub, she flagged the chair "nearer" the wall and said it should be nearest. I said there were only two chairs, so "nearer" should be correct. She said she'd never heard of that rule.

When I was in school, this is what we learned, and the way I still remember it:

Good, Better, Best. You can't have the best of two, or there will be red marks on your paper. So when I noticed a character talking about his youngest child, I assumed there would be at least three kids, and I kept waiting for a middle sibling to appear. But no, there were only two, and one was the youngest and one was the oldest.

And people are 'who', things are 'that'. So when I see "The man that was arrested" or, "the dog who ran away," my teeth clench.

Granted, these things don't affect the plot. But to me, I'm seeing those big red marks on the page and am pulled out of the story.

On a non-grammar note, research is another pet peeve. I don't know a lot, so when I see something I do know, I wonder why an author didn't take the time, or the copy editor let it slide. Number one biggie, because of my preferred genre, is characters who carry Gocks, yet click the safety off or on. Glocks just plain don't work that way. And revolvers don't have safeties either.

So, any other pet peeves, or am I the only one who even notices these things? Do you read differently as a writer? Can you turn off that internal editor?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Last night's DUI checkpoint.

Rain. More rain. Although the area is in a drought and the rain is much-needed, it quashed most of the DUI checkpoint action. Too many safety issues, so the supervisor called it off after about 2 hours. During that time, he'd had to call off the line four times. However, as a civilian observer, it was still fascinating.

Law enforcement officers from all over central Florida volunteered to take part. County sheriffs, highway patrol, local city police. Everything was planned and organized, and this time we were part of the initial briefing with the LEOs, so we got to hear their instructions rather than the 'stay out of the way' basics we'd had the last time. There was a gang member contact and a drug dog for those who might need them. Translators were available. The officers were also given the 'official' language of approaching drivers so that any arrests would stand up in court.

And, as the supervisor said, they mostly catch the stupid ones. The checkpoint is announced well in advance, yet people with suspended licenses, drugs, vehicle safety issues as well as those who have been drinking don't detour around it.

At 9 PM, all northbound traffic was funneled into the left traffic lane. Every car was stopped, and every driver was greeted with a polite variation on , "Hi, I'm Officer XX with the XX. We're doing a safety check. May I see your license, please?" One officer checked the license and the other walked around the car looking for bald tires, faulty lights, etc. If there were problems of any sort (one driver simply stuck his hands out the window, ready to be cuffed, since he was driving on a suspended license), the cars were moved to the right hand lanes and the officers took care of whatever needed to be done. There were table set up for booking, vans to take prisoners to the jail, the BAT (breath analyzer testing) Mobile, and, of course, tables of food. Our invitation to be allowed to watch included donating desserts. But there was a lot more, and because of the rain and people being called back inside, it disappeared faster than usual. The MADD coordinator on site was on the phone getting more donations of pizza by ten PM. However, the desserts were still plentiful. We volunteers know how to fill a food table.

Even in the short times the line was operational, a lot of cars were pulled out for violations. As I said before, some people are stupid, driving through a police checkpoint with drugs and alcohol in plain sight, or plain smell. And why not buckle your seatbelt? There are 'click it or ticket' signs and ads all over the place. Oh, yeah. They catch mostly the stupid folks.

Considering all the effort put into coordinating this event, it's a shame they couldn't have had better weather. But the officers were all friendly, and tolerated my questions when things were slow. I learned that the big case behind the motorcycle holds the officer's laptop. And that they have PDAs for writing tickets. And that they're not all well-versed in firearms. One officer I spoke to had been with the police explorers since the age of 14, then in the auxiliary, then moved to Florida and went through the academy. He knows how to shoot his gun, how to clear it and clean it, but he said he wouldn't recognize the make and model of anything other than the Glock he carries. (Which is one reason most departments require all officers to carry the same kind of weapon—in case they need to use another officer's gun, they'll know how it works).

All in all, an interesting and informative evening. Too bad the cops couldn't get more impaired drivers off the road, or at least give them a wake up call.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Followups

What I'm reading: No One Left to Tell, by Jordan Dane

What I'm working on: Revised Chapter 1, scene 2 of Fozzie's book.

Bits and pieces:

Handyman Lane
The handyman company sent a different worker (a guy, this time) to do the final fix-ups. He's a professional painter, and he tells me the original crew did not do what they contracted, and did a poor job overall. Seems that when we opted out of the orange peel finish, they should have put a skim coat on the walls and primed them. I guess I'll call the company and see if there's a financial adjustment, because I sure as heck am not going to sit through all the painting again. Meanwhile, the guy promises to do what he can to touch up some of the holidays, and he'll mount the wall mirror and hook correctly this time.

Character names -- while on the flight to Syracuse, I looked in my seat pocket and found the boarding pass of whoever sat there on the previous flight. "Rhys Ainsworthy". Gotta use that in a book someday. And who do you 'see' belonging to that name?

Back story
Yesterday, I devoted most of my time to hunkering down with the new WIP. Since I'd brainstormed many of the plot points with my daughter, it was "simply" a matter of putting the words on the page to show it. But it does raise the issue of 'how much back story does the reader need?' I now know almost everything about my heroine's (Torie at the moment) past. But putting it front and center will only slow the pace. Still, the reader has to have a reason to care about a character, and in the early pages of the book, readers are still getting a handle on who's who. Does a reader want to know all about Torie's childhood? I don't think so. Not now, anyway.

I also brought in a new character or two--it's easier to deal with exposition if you can show it in scene rather than using long passages of interior monologue or narrative. I try to limit myself to no more than 2 or 3 short paragraphs when I'm dealing with back story. This means my heroine's best friend gets to live a little longer, because I needed her around to explain what the heck the characters are doing there in the first place.

Another pitfall is the Maid-Butler (or As You Know Bob) dialog. Two people who know what's happening don't talk about the details, or 'spell out' definitions. Cops know what AFIS and CODIS are. It's always easier to have a lay person on scene, so the pros can (patiently) explain what they've just said.

Also, another pebble in the road. One of the new characters is a guy--but he's not the hero. Readers of romance want to get a handle on h/h as soon as possible. I didn't have a clue about this expectation (there are no rules) when I wrote Finding Sarah and actually introduced a non-hero as the first male on the page. It worked, but I had a lot of questions during the draft process. Heck, Allison Brennan killed one of the "very likely the hero' characters halfway through the book.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Back to routine

With everyone safe at home again, and the laundry done, it's time to get back to "work."

Allison Brennan posted an interesting column on Murder She Writes, about how long it takes her to write a book. She brought up the point, "what counts as writing time?"

I'm still working on the early stages of my next book, and although I've decided that it will feature Foster Mayhew, who was first introduced as a walk-on in When Danger Calls, (due in December from Five Star Expressions) and had a more substantial secondary character appearance or two in the yet unsold Where Danger Hides, I really didn't know where the book might lead him -- or, as is more often the case, where he might lead the book.

I did have to listen to him as he told me about his childhood in Australia. Once I knew his deep, dark secret fear, I knew what made him tick. Of course, that means I know what horrible things I'm going to have to do with him, both to make him confront the reality of those fears, but also to give him the emotional growth he'll need to have a meaningful relationship with someone.

With who? was the next question. Not an obvious match, to be sure.

My daughter was visiting from Ireland, and we spent the better part of a day and lots of peripheral time brainstorming who the characters in the book would be. We worked with Deb Dixon's GMC approach, and I made copies of the character grids from the Story Magic workshop I'd taken.

To this point, I'd written about 4500 words. We looked at what was on the page, decided where things should be tweaked to fit the new insights into the characters -- and decided that a secondary character was already getting too interesting by page 10, so she's likely to meet an untimely demise. This book is also the first where I'm toying with the idea of moving into more than the h/h POVs. That would make it more suspense, but that might be what the story demands, rather than the mystery puzzles I've written for my Cerridwen books.

So, it's been a very low word-per-day count, yet I've done a lot of 'writing'. It's not just fingers to keyboard that counts. The ideas and the characters have to be there, and sometimes, just wandering through the house listening to them is as productive as sitting at the computer.

Tomorrow night, my husband and I will be observing another all-night DUI checkpoint. I'll be sure to let you know what happens. I have to think of something to bring for dessert -- I have a hunch that's why the Civilian Police Academy Alumni are invited.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reunion Ramblings

Trip reading: Identity Unknown & No Ordinary Man by Suzanne Brockmann. No One Heard Her Scream, by Jordan Dane.

Back from the family gathering. It was originally organized to celebrate the 90th birthday of my mother-in-law, and immediate family flew in from Oregon, Colorado, Florida and Ireland. Shortly before the event, my m-i-l fell and broke her wrist and was having severe back pain. We decided not to cancel, since it's rare that we all gather in the same place at the same time, and it would likely be her only chance to meet her new great-grandson. Plus, there were at least 4 other May birthday/anniversaries to celebrate among the small group.

Only travel mishap was a delay in Chicago for the Colorado contingent. Unfortunately, this was the group traveling with the5-month old, but they got to the hotel shortly after midnight. Not too terrible, since they were running on a 2-hour time change, so it wasn't really that late.

Next day:

M-i-l had recently been discharged from the hospital and moved to a rehab center. After gathering at b-i-l's for brunch, my daughters, son, d-i-l and baby drove to the center to pay a visit. My husband, bless his soul, wanders down the hall looking for her room and when a nurse appears, he says, "Is my mother up to having visitors?"

She looks at him, and says, "Who are you?"

He replies, "I'm her son."

"And whose son is that?"

"The lady in room 105."

"There are two ladies in that room."

Duh – not that there aren't a kazillion nice white-haired ladies whose sons come to visit. Never occurred to him that she didn't know exactly who he'd come to see.

Sunday, we bade farewell to the Colorado contingent who had to return to jobs. If anyone gets the Murphy's Law award, it's them. They get on their plane, and immediately after takeoff, it turns around because the cabin won't pressurize. After the typical delays, they're told it looks like the next flight out will be Tuesday. After much waiting, including over two hours to get the gate-checked stroller off the planes, they get booked on another airline leaving the next afternoon and get a hotel reservation, a rental car and nothing but 'sorry, nothing we can do for you, except a voucher for about 1/3 the cost of their ticket' excuses from the airline's outsourced customer service people. Next day, they board the new flight, and things are relatively uneventful. They're now routed out of Dallas. That plane has a warning light so they sit in un-air conditioned delight for about an hour while they try to deal with it. Thought it was fixed; it wasn't. They did get home, eventually, but I'm not sure my daughter-in-law is going to travel again until the baby is 18 years old.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It isn't easy being green - or is it?

What I'm reading: Compulsion, by Jonathan Kellerman

What I'm working on: Plotting back story for Fozzie's book.

I'm about to depart for a family celebration in New York; my mother-in-law turned 90, and we all decided to gather to celebrate. I'm not taking my laptop, so I'm leaving the Internet behind. Three of us are trying to consolidate as much as possible into one checked bag--since my daughter is visiting from Ireland, she brought some excellent distilled spirits to give as gifts, and those can't be checked. I may be able to go four days with no Internet, but definitely can't go four days without books. But space is an issue.

Not to worry; I have my eBookwise loaded with 5 new books, which should be enough, given all the family activities planned. The reader takes up about as much room as a paperback, and it's my favorite way to read when I travel. But how much good am I doing the environment by cutting down on paper books? After all, it runs on batteries and I use electricity when I have to re-charge it, after about 12 hours of reading time. In addition to saving space, I'm saving trees.

I discovered some interesting facts.

Reducing paper use does more than save trees. Pulp and paper mills are also a major source of pollution. They release into the air CO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), carbon monoxide, and particulates, which contribute to global warming, smog, acid rain, and respiratory problems. In addition, bleaching paper with chlorine can produce dioxin, which is known to cause cancer. Paper mills also produce large amounts of solid waste and require a lot of water. The industry is trying to clean up, but anyone who's driven past a paper mill has smelled the challenge.

You can read the entire article here. The article says that we're probably 50 years away from e-books being widely used, but hey, it's a start. I'm not looking to replace my entire library with e-books, but having an alternative helps.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The end of handyman lane -- not really

The last day? NOT.

Down to one worker, who arrived at her usual lateness. She exuded confidence that all would be finished inside before my normally scheduled cleaning service folks arrived. I pointed out all the little misses and problems. "Not a problem," is her answer to everything.

Things were relatively uneventful, and she had a man show up later in the day to help with the roof part of the project. When I told them we needed to go out for an hour, and asked if they needed access to the house, she indicated they should be just about done, and that she'd need to be paid.

Immediately called my husband and said if he wanted any say on the "acceptability" of the project, he'd better be home in an hour. We did a walk-through and there were still at least a dozen places where paint was missing from where it was supposed to be, or on something it shouldn't have been. "Not a problem," she said again.

It was probably around 4 pm when she said, "Done," and presented us with the bill. My husband asked if she took care of everything, she said, "Yes," and he handed over his credit card. Didn't get up and check. However, there's a one year warranty on their work.

I have an appointment with them next Friday morning for them to finish all the things that weren't a problem for her, but sure as heck don't pass muster with me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More on the winding handyman lane

Day 4, which shouldn't have happened.

Got the now-expected 'we're running late' call. Again, they promised the work would be done. Worker #2 arrives first. She has another job starting the next day, so today, she'll stay as long as it takes. More or less.

Worker #1 arrives, and they get the toilet out of the master bath, but she leaves soon afterward for what turns out to be a medical appointment, not the supply run for the lumber to fix the chimney surround. Worker #2 reaches a 'let things dry' phase and says she's going out for a soda, then will be back for the duration. She's gone about half an hour. The master bath has 2 coats of paint, but it's now well past noon.

At about 2:00, they go out for burgers and get back 45 minutes later. Worker #1 notices the bolts are rusted on the master bath toilet. We'd been advised to buy new wax rings, but not bolts. Another trip for supplies. I may not be in the business, but to me, it makes more sense to check everything you might need before the job starts. Yes, there will be some surprises, but I think they've made two supply runs each day.

Finally, at 7 pm, they call it a night. The walls are painted, but there's still a lot of touch up—and cleanup—to do. And there's still the chimney.

The colors look good, and they've got the blinds back up in the kitchen and bathroom. I'm sure the neighbors appreciate it. But they haven't managed to get the kitchen wall phone re-installed properly, and they've missed the stud for the bathroom magnifying mirror, so they have to find it to re-hang it. Plus there are the under-counter appliances still sitting on the dining room table. There are gobs of caulk and other bits of debris all over. We won't discuss the dust. Their estimate of how long the job should take was about half of what it did take. While yes, there were some surprises, if they'd both been on the job and had their supplies from the get go, they probably would have been done on time. But, we pay by the job, not by how long it takes, and we'll see what happens tomorrow.

But first, I'm sure my husband will go through and point out to me all the things they need to attend to, then go off to work, leaving me to miraculously comprehend exactly what he expects them to look like at the end of the job. The thing is, if he's interfacing with tradespeople, whatever they say is usually a sufficient explanation. But when I have to play middleman, I'm going to be the one responsible if he's not happy.

Overall, am I satisfied? Yes, because 1) every contractor experience has been along these lines, so I expected nothing different, and 2) I sure as heck wouldn't have wanted to do it myself. However, the final answer comes after the, "We're finished, I'd like my check." The difference between doing it myself and paying someone is that I'm less likely to accept, "close enough" as a quality standard.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More travels along handyman lane

What I'm reading: Hunter Kiss by Marjorie M. Liu

What I'm working on: Fozzie's Book -- I might have to kill my heroine's best friend; she's starting to get far too interesting.

Day 3 (which should have been Last Day but isn't)
We get a call that Worker #1 is running about half an hour late. Minor shock that she called at all. She arrives at 8:40, only 10 minutes later than the predicted half hour. Says her partner is right behind her. She starts to work. Worker #2 shows up at about 9:30, mumbles hello and starts working. No mention of where the heck she was on Friday.

There's an issue with the old drywall adhering to the baseboard under the kitchen window, but they don't want to replace the baseboard, so they struggle to take care of it, conversing in whispers. Eventually, it's done. Worker #2 says she's going to pick up more supplies. Sandpaper blocks? These aren't things that a contractor carries as a matter of course? Guess not.

The house is quiet, and I notice Worker #1 isn't here, either. About an hour later, Worker#2 returns, and disappears within the next hour without a word. The drywall is now up. Still no return of Worker #1. Working hypothesis is that they have another job in progress and are shuffling back and forth, since they have to let the drywall stuff dry. I begin to get irked, because I've arranged my schedule to be home while they're working, and if they'd told me they were going to be gone for as long as they have, I could have run errands. After all, I've got my daughter coming into town tomorrow night, and she'll probably want to eat.

Worker #2 returns with a soda, saying Worker #1 is right behind her. Time and communication seem to have different meanings to contractors and those who work for them. But, for the next hour or so, they are both busy. One's spackling, one's caulking. They swear that all they'll have to do tomorrow is paint, and they'll definitely be done with the inside work. We'll see. Meanwhile, there's a coat of dust over everything, they've been far less diligent about picking up debris, and Worker #1 says, "Is 8 tomorrow morning good?" I say yes, and whoosh – they've vanished. Glad I was in the kitchen to request they put the fridge back where it belongs so I can open it before they did. A quick inspection of the day's work has me wondering how they can come in and start painting first thing. Looks like there's still a lot of wall prep to be done. But they don't get paid until they finish. I think I'll let my husband be the one who decides if the job is acceptable.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Back down handyman lane - with detour

What I'm reading: The Apprentice, by Tess Gerritsen

After a delightful day off for Mother's Day in which I did very little and got 4 bags of chocolate, my car washed, ice cream for dessert (two flavors) and read an entire book, it's time to get back to real life.

We're hopping back in time to Friday for this post, which was Day 2 of the handyman job.

Day 2, one worker shows up right on time. She gets to work. The toilet issue is discussed. Her partner shows up, and they discuss it some more. Add two wax rings to the shopping list. They tackle the water damaged drywall under the window. Prior water damage has ruined much of the insulation. Not a big surprise, and we have an extra roll of insulation on hand. They continue prying off the sheetrock. Surpise. Along with the expected mold, one section is teeming with little creepy crawlers. I call our two exterminating companies. If they're termites, that's a big problem. If they're not, our regular exterminator should be able to take care of it. Of course, that part of the job is now on hold while we wait for the technicians. At least they're both available to come out within 2 hours. Worker #2 leaves on some sort of errand. Worker #1 continues stripping the rest of the wallpaper and prepping walls.

The termite guy shows up first, and says they're ants. That's a good thing. When exterminator two shows up, she yanks out all the buggy stuff and discovers a slew of eggs as well. She sprays and recommends vacuuming out all the crud. Hubby will get that job. Worker #1 calls the paint company and orders the paint. I put it on my credit card, and she goes off to pick it up, and I assume, take her lunch break. No sign of Worker #2. Worker #1 returns about 90 minutes later and gets back to whatever she's been doing. Worker #2 has all the drywall tools in her truck, and is unreachable by phone. There seems to be some unwritten law that says contractors are never available by phone to clients, although while they're working, it seems they're taking and making calls all the time.

Worker #1 paints a first coat behind the stove and fridge. The color looks very good—almost a perfect match to the cabinets, so it will 'go' with the kitchen, and shouldn't create any problems for prospective buyers (other than it's kind of boring, but once all the stuff gets back on the walls, it should look homey again). By three, there's nothing more she can do without her drywall tools, so she cleans up and leaves, promising to be back Monday by 8 AM. Nobody has heard from Worker #2 yet. The wallpaper is still stuck to the wall behind the toilet in the master bath. Walls don't look prepped enough for paint to me, probably a result of the missing supplies. Finishing on Monday according to their original "Oh, we'll definitely have everything done on Monday" claim doesn't seem likely. Then again, I never expected it would.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Blogging With A Purpose

It's nice to know someone reads my posts and finds something interesting or useful in here. Fellow author Carol Ann Erhardt gave me a "Blogging With A Purpose" award. In turn, I'm supposed to pass the award on to five other bloggers whose blogs serve a purpose for me. I've listed them on the side bar, and here's why I chose them.

Banana Death is my daughter's blog. She's coaching and training for a half-iron man competition in Colorado as a fund raising effort for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Her blog follows her training regimen, which never ceases to amaze me.

Dishing with the Divas and Wet Noodle Posse are group blogs run by authors who share writing advice, entertaining anecdotes, and all sorts of aspects of the craft and business of writing.

Jenyfer Matthews is an American author who lives in Cairo, Egypt and she shares lots of pictures and tales of what it's like to live and raise a family over there.

The Graveyard Shift is run by Lee Lofland, author and retired police officer and is crammed with great research material, and he's always got time to answer questions.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A side trip down handyman lane

I've never had much luck with contractors. I suppose you could say they haven't had a lot of luck with me, either, since I don't think any of them are still in business. (Side note—same thing happened when I signed my first contract with a romance magazine—it immediately folded.)

But, the days are long gone when I get any satisfaction out of painting, and replacing rotten wood around a chimney is another task neither I nor my husband want to tackle. Roofs are tricky, and if they leak, that's very bad news. So, he found a company that does all kinds of 'handyman' work, and as always, everything sounded clean cut and straightforward.

Does anything ever work out the way it's supposed to? Our jobs: remove wallpaper from the kitchen and two bathrooms. Replace with paint instead. We're toying with retirement and moving away, and figured we need to start getting everything in good order for resale. We agreed that new owners would most likely have totally different tastes, and rather than go through the hassle and expense of choosing new wallpaper someone else would end up removing anyway, paint seemed the wisest move. The biggest challenge was picking colors, but since we probably won't be looking at the walls for many more years, I didn't feel a lot of pressure to get it perfect.

So, Day 1 arrives, and the two-person crew shows up. They actually called my husband at work to let him know they were stopping for supplies first. Of course, it would have been nice if my husband had let me know they were going to be legitimately late, but at least they called. That was a first.

Since this was my release day for Hidden Fire, I was busy at my computer and they did their thing. The day passed without many glitches. Everything near a wallpapered wall had to be moved, which pretty much took the kitchen out of commission. We knew there had been some water damage in the bathroom, and expected to need some drywall patching. The wall under the kitchen window also showed previous damage, and we approved them replacing that as well. We signed a revised work estimate. They sort of cleaned up (and I left their sodas on the counter right where they left them, so they could find them the next day, thank you very much) and left. My husband moved into the guest bath, because there were wallpaper scraps in his toilet, and they'd removed the shower curtain. He questioned whether they intended to get the wallpaper remnants off the wall behind the toilets. (Translation: "When they show up tomorrow, tell them they have to get the wallpaper off the wall even if it means reseating the toilets.")

Second glitch. I let my husband deal with the contract. All I did was say I thought the bottom line was reasonable. He didn't read the section that said materials weren't included, only labor. Mentally uptick the bottom line.

Dinner is cold leftovers because, although they did shove the stove and fridge back where they belong (let's not talk about what the floors looked like behind those appliances; suffice it to say it wasn't pretty, but I dealt with it), I don't want to move the microwave back onto the counter, and it's too much trouble to shift enough stuff to deal with anything more complicated.

Stay tuned for Day 2.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Countdown Winner

Thanks to everyone who dropped by the Hidden Fire Countdown and took the time to leave a comment. My random number generator has selected the winner.

Will CATHY please email me. Contact information is on the right sidebar, or via my website. Congratulations! You've won a download of either Finding Sarah or Hidden Fire.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Release Day!

It's available now!

Returning from a stint as part of a task force on violent crime, Randy Detweiler is eager to reunite with Sarah Tucker in Pine Hills, but she’s having second thoughts about their relationship. Can she deal with a cop who gets called away at a moment’s notice, especially one who won’t talk about his job?

Their reunion is cut short when a body is discovered and rumors fly that it’s the work of a serial killer. To make matters worse, the Town Council might disband their police department, and Randy's under added pressure to solve the murder before they take action. Forced to work under the radar, Randy struggles to balance work with a shaky relationship.

Sarah can’t cope with apparently meaning less to Randy than his job. Should she force him to choose between his job and the us she envisions for the two of them? All bets are off when Sarah herself becomes a suspect in Randy’s case. Before long, it’s more than their relationship that’s in danger.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Counting Down to Hidden Fire Day 7

What I'm Reading: One Shot, by Lee Child

Today's the last day of the countdown. Tomorrow is Release Day. I got my official copies yesterday, so I can now post the "authentic" excerpt.

Remember to leave a comment on any countdown post. You'll have to check back to see if you're the winner. I'll announce it Friday.

Under the table, Sarah’s toes found the cuff of Randy’s pants and inched their way up his calf, the coarse hair tickling her foot. His eyes widened, his eyebrows arched and the standard restaurant candle-in-a-jar caught the hazel flecks in his otherwise brown eyes. He brushed a lock of hair from his forehead, but it flopped back the way it always did.

She smiled at the hovering waiter, placed her hand over her empty coffee cup and shook her head. No more, Tony. Thanks.”

Tony refilled Randy’s coffee cup and whisked away his empty pie plate. Randy’s eyes returned to Sarah, moving between her dessert and her face. He smiled, but she could sense his impatience. She continued her torment by dipping her spoon into the chocolate mousse in front of her. Slowly, carefully, she filled the spoon with the rich delight.

His call had surprised her yesterday, when he announced he’d be coming back from San Francisco a day early. She wriggled her toes higher up his leg, trying not to laugh as he squirmed. She’d chosen her outfit very carefully this morning. Demure didn’t begin to cover it. Prim? Prissy? That was closer. Navy blue slacks, a pale blue silk blouse buttoned to the neck and a navy blazer. Not quite a suit, but close enough. Of course, the thong beneath the slacks and the lace demi-bra under the blouse were anything but prissy. She’d sensed Randy’s eyes on her behind as they walked up the steps to the restaurant. And maybe his hand had slipped a little lower than the small of her back as he’d guided her to their booth.

She poised the mousse-laden spoon in front of her mouth, parting her lips a fraction. With her other hand, she fingered the pearl button at her neck.

“It’s warm in here, isn’t it?” One button, then a second, slipped through its hole. Randy leaned forward.

“You’re killing me,” he whispered.

Her tongue wrapped around the mousse. Her eyes closed. She sighed.

“You’re going to finish that, aren’t you?” he asked, resignation in his tone.

Without opening her eyes, she said, “Every bite.”

He blew out a long, slow breath.

She met his gaze and smiled at his obvious annoyance. “It’s chocolate. Some things shouldn’t be rushed.”

She slid her foot out from inside the restriction of his slacks and worked them up his thigh. He reached for his glass and swigged gulps of water. When her toes met his lap, he choked. Coughing, eyes watering, he reached down and encountered her waiting foot. Still choking, he clutched it closer to his groin and she felt his hardness. She lowered her eyes to her mousse and took another bite, swirling her tongue around her lips.

Tony appeared and refilled Randy’s water glass. “Are you all right, Detective Detweiler?”

Randy nodded and waved him off, gesturing for the check. Sarah covered mouth with her napkin, trying to erase her grin.

“So, tell me all about your violent-crime work,” she said. “Not much call for that in Pine Hills. Or do people get violent when they get parking tickets?”

He wiped his mouth and set the napkin beside his plate. “Right now, Sarah Tucker, I’m thinking about all the gruesome pictures, which is the only thing keeping me from embarrassing the hell out of myself right here.”

Heat burned in his eyes. Her nipples pebbled behind the lace of her bra and heat pooled between her legs. She scraped the remnants of the mousse from her dish, the clicks of the spoon against the glass barely audible over the blood pounding in her ears. She wanted him. Now.

Tony returned and dropped the check on the table, not meeting Randy’s eyes. “Whenever you’re ready, Detective.” He pivoted on his heel and left.

“All finished,” Sarah said, smiling. “You want to go, or have more coffee?”

In response, Randy dumped some bills on the table, angled himself out of the booth and extended his hand. She fumbled, trying to get her foot back into one of the sensible pumps she’d worn to complete her stodgy look. Grasping his fingers, she scooted across the vinyl bench. He gave her the leverage she needed and she rubbed against him as she stood.

He squeezed her hand. “After you.” His aftershave wafted to her nostrils, counteracting the myriad cooking aromas.

He quickened his pace. By the time they hit the porch surrounding the rustic restaurant, he half-dragged her down the steps and elongated his stride across the unpaved parking lot. Earth and pine scents mingled, still unable to compete with his special scent. Spice and Randy. A lethal combination.

“Hey,” she said with a laugh. “You in a hurry? I’m not six-six, remember? Short legs.”

In response, he simply scooped her up and covered the rest of the distance to his pickup. “If I hurry now, maybe I’ll be able to take it slow when it counts. Damn, woman, I’ve missed you.”

“Me, or the sex?” she said.

He paused, as if he wasn’t sure. “You,” he said at last. “You, you, you.”

“Oh, so you don’t want the sex?”

By now, he’d unlocked the doors to his truck. He worked the passenger door open and set her on the seat. “You are going out of your way to torment me, aren’t you?”

She ran her tongue across her lips. “Maybe.”

“No maybes about it.” He wrapped his arms around her, buried his face in her hair. She reached around him, his wool sweater rough against her cheek.

“I missed you, too.” She raised her face and parted her lips. “Welcome home.”

He leaned into the truck’s cab, meeting her mouth with his own. He cradled her face in his hands and she surrendered to the warmth of his kiss. She ran her fingers through his hair, sending tingles all the way to her toes. Tongues teased and danced with promises of more to come. He tasted of apples and cinnamon, of coffee and Randy. A vague impression of couples passing, of headlights coming and going, of car doors opening and closing hovered at the edge of her consciousness. A whistled cat-call broke through the final barrier.

“Guess we should go,” she said. “I’ve got a few surprises for you at my apartment.”

“My place is closer,” he murmured between kisses.

When his cell rang, he swore.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Counting Down to Hidden Fire Day 6

Today -- the last installment in the further adventures of Randy and Sarah.

When Randy met Tucker

Sarah stood at the window and stared out into the winter darkness. She felt Randy's hands at her shoulders and leaned against him.

"You all right?" He nuzzled her hair. "You've been quiet lately."

"I'm fine," she said, but didn't turn around. No need for him to see the tears brimming in her eyes. She reached up and squeezed his hands.

As if he understood, Randy draped his arms over her and cupped her swollen belly. The child inside her gave a kick, whether in protest or recognition, Sarah never knew. But she knew that any time Randy touched her abdomen, the baby acknowledged it. She put her small hands over the much larger ones of her husband.

With a tremulous breath, she turned around and buried her face in his chest. His hands ran up and down her back as she wept, and she melted into him—at least as far as her belly would allow. As suddenly as they'd begun, the tears stopped. "Must be the hormones," she said.

"It's all right. I know it's hard. Tomorrow's the day, right? Three years since he died?"

"Yes, but…"

"But you're afraid I'll think you love me less if you miss David."

She gazed up into his eyes. Chocolate brown, flecked with hazel. And that lock of hair that refused to stay back. "I guess so," she whispered. "I guess I feel guilty. Thinking about him when I'm with you, and the baby's close, and I wonder what it would have been like if I'd had a child with David, and that's just not fair to you, and …"

"Shhh." He put his forefinger on her lips. "Sweetheart, you have every right to your memories. I don't begrudge the time you had with David. What you two had together helped make you the Sarah I fell in love with. And am still in love with. And if you'd had a child, I'd love the both of you."

She reached up and tugged at his ears, and he leaned down to kiss her. The kiss left no doubt he'd been honest with her. Once again she wondered how she had been blessed with two such wonderful men. Five years married to David Tucker, and now, the rest of her life with Randy Detweiler.

"You want some hot chocolate?" she asked. "Homemade, from scratch, not the packets?"

"Twist my arm a little harder, why don't you? But are you sure you can still reach the stove?"

"Are you calling me fat?" She grinned and headed to the kitchen. "You should know better than to insult someone who's just offered to cook for you. Why don't you go play your piano or something? I'll bring the cocoa when it's ready."

"Any requests?"

"Nothing in particular. But something happy, I think. I've been dreary long enough."

Randy left and Sarah busied herself measuring and stirring. She ignored the twinges that had plagued her all day. Braxton-Hicks contractions, the doctor had said, perfectly normal for two weeks before her due date. But she'd beg for a good backrub tonight.

She carried the mugs of cocoa down the hall to the music room. Randy was playing Rondo alla Turka, and she stood in the doorway and watched his fingers fly over the keys. She'd watched him play Chopin once, early in their courtship, and actually counted his fingers when he'd finished.

She set Randy's mug on top of the piano and hers on the table beside the old easy chair. Turning, she gripped both of its arms and managed to lower herself into its sagging seat. She'd mentioned replacing it once, but it had belonged to Randy's Gram, and the look on his face was answer enough. The chair would stay. It had been weeks since she'd sat in here while Randy played, and she was afraid she might need a crane to get her out. Another twinge, stronger than the others, gripped her abdomen.

"Stop it, kiddo. That one hurt!"

The music stopped abruptly. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

"Fine. The little one's getting frisky, that's all."

"You sure?" Randy knelt at her side.

"Sure I'm sure. Doctor Zellner said everything is going fine. But next time, you get to carry it. You've got a lot more room than I do."

"If you can figure out a way, I'll be happy to." He leaned down and spoke into her abdomen. "Hey, quiet down in there. Your mom needs her rest."

Sarah laughed, then felt wetness between her legs. Oh, Lord, she hadn't peed on Gram's chair, had she?

"What?" Randy said.

"What do you mean, 'What?' I didn't say anything."

"You just had a really funny look on your face."

Before she could reply, more warm fluid gushed forth. "Oh, God. Randy, go get a towel. Two towels. Quick. I think I've just ruined your Gram's chair."

"What are you talking about?"

"Just get the towels, dammit. My water just broke."

Randy dashed from the room and came back with two bright yellow bath towels a moment later. He slid one under Sarah's bottom. "All right, we're going to the hospital. Now."

"Take it easy. First you call the doctor. Then you get my suitcase. And the bag of Lamaze things." A contraction made her gasp for breath. She remembered to do the breathing she'd learned, but had sudden doubts that it would work.

"Right," Randy said. He walked out of the room, and came back in less than a minute, a glazed expression on his face. He looked three shades paler than he had before.

"Doctor. Suitcase. Lamaze," Sarah repeated. "The list is on the fridge."

"List. Fridge. Right. Thanks."

She smiled and tried to rise from the chair. Moving caused another contraction, a bit stronger than the first, and she sank back down. "Randy! Bring me that long brown dress, and some dry undies. I'm soaked." Her hand moved absently around her belly and she spoke to their unborn child. "Are you sure you want out now? No tricks? I don't think your daddy can do this twice."

"Okay," Randy panted. "Everything's in the truck. Doctor Zellner will meet us at the hospital."

"My clothes?"

"Clothes. Right. You'd want them now, I guess."

Her chuckle brought on another contraction. "Don't make me laugh! But yes, that was the idea."

"Clothes. Truck. Be right back." He turned to go.

"Wait. One more thing."

"What? What did I forget?"

"Nothing. But we still haven't agreed on a boy's name, and I'm not leaving here until we do. We had a deal. No peeking at the ultrasounds, and I'd pick a girl's name, and you'd come up with one for a boy. Well, I did my part, and you approved Emily, after your grandmother. Now it's your turn."

"Sarah, you're kidding. You're in labor! Now is not the time."

"Now is the perfect time. You've avoided the topic for the last seven and a half months." She folded her arms across her chest and gave Randy the best "Don't mess with me" look she could manage, but the grimace as a contraction hit ruined the effect. Or not, because all of a sudden Randy grew calm. He knelt to her level, a gentle hand on her belly.

"I've had a name picked out for months," he murmured.

"So why didn't you say something?"

"I wasn't sure how you would react. I was afraid it would … would be hard for you. Especially now."

Sarah kept her breathing shallow, ignoring the tightening of her womb. "David? You want to call him David? Oh, Randy, I don't know …"

"No, not David. But I know you wanted something of him to live on, and I know you don't use his name anymore, because of the initials. S.T.D. just doesn't cut it. But, would it be all right with you if we called him Tucker?"

Her heart swelled, and any lingering doubts that Randy regretted not being her first love vanished. "Tucker Detweiler. Quite a handle for a little one." She smiled. "But if he's anything like his dad, he'll grow into it." She leaned over and kissed him. "Have I told you how much I love you?"

"Tell me later. Right now we need to get you to the hospital."


"I hate you, Randy Detweiler." Sarah gasped. "I hate you. And if you ever come near me again, I'll …kill … oh, God, here we go again."

"Atta girl, Sarah," the doctor said. "One more push. Help her out, Dad, she won't really kill you. This is it. Good girl. You've got a boy. A nice, healthy baby boy."

Sarah lay back in euphoric exhaustion and beamed at Randy, who wiped his eyes.

The nurse laid the squawking bundle on her belly. "Here. He's perfect, but I'm sure you'll want to count fingers and toes while the doctor finishes down there."

Sarah marveled at the tiny piece of perfection in her arms. "Good morning, Tuck. Say hi to your daddy."

Monday, May 05, 2008

Counting Down to Hidden Fire Day 5

The countdown continues with part 3 of the short "non-story". I posted Parts 1 and 2 in the "free reads" section of my website yesterday, and if you haven't read it, you'll need to start there. Actually, even if you have read it, you'll need to start there, because there's no link to the last part, which won't make much sense without the first two. Just scroll to the bottom and click the links.

The direct link to the Free Reads page is here.

Please note: There's some sexual content in the last section, so consider yourself advised.

And remember -- a comment on any countdown post gives you a chance for a free download

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Counting Down to Hidden Fire Day 4

Digging into the "Save it For Another Time" files.

When I typed "The End" to Finding Sarah, Randy and Sarah had other ideas. I let them have their way, and wrote some bits and pieces about what happened much later. Technically, these events are also post Hidden Fire.

They're not short stories. They're hardly even true chapters, since I didn't have a story to go along with them. If they ever turn up in another book, they'd have to be revised to include ... actual plot points. Some of you may remember the posts about babies "not being romantic" from a while back. I did talk to the publisher, and she did agree that what I'd written was fine ... but these old files wouldn't fly, I'm sure.

I was brought up not to waste anything ... so you can read them over the next few days.

Not The End

Randy Detweiler eased his pickup into a parking spot by the rec center at Pine Hills Park and checked his watch. Only an hour later than he said he'd be. He locked his truck and started across the parking lot. The smell of barbeque smoke and grilling hot dogs and burgers told him he hadn't missed dinner. He jumped down from the cab and hustled across the lot to the food tent. Two more minutes wouldn't matter, and he was starving.

He worked his way down the buffet line and surveyed the picnic tables set up on the soccer field. Not as big a crowd as in previous years. Budget cuts, he suspected. Too many good people let go in all departments, or their hours cut so they had to work two jobs. Still, he appreciated the town's efforts to say thanks to its public servants. He spotted Sarah sitting with Colleen McDonald, one of his colleagues. They sat, heads together, engrossed in conversation.

"Sorry I'm late," Randy said. With admirable restraint, he kissed her upturned cheek. He set his paper plate heaped with corn, potato salad, baked beans and two burgers on the table beside her. "Group of high school kids thought it would be cool to have an impromptu party by the river."

The smile Sarah flashed turned his insides to jelly. And other parts the opposite. "Not a problem. Mac has been filling me in on some of your cases."

Randy glared at Colleen. Her green eyes twinkled back at him.

"Really?" he said. "And what kind of lies have you been telling my wife?" Wife. Eighteen months now, and he still felt that bong in his chest when he said the word.

Read the rest on my website.

As for yesterday's POV posts -- the scene in the book is the one from Sarah's POV. She's got the most at stake. All Randy really wants is to get laid. Sarah's been having the second thoughts about the relationship, so she's got a lot more conflict. Will she be breaking off the relationship? If so, shouldn't she be telling Randy? Is it 'right' to sleep with him if she's having these doubts.

Remember - leave a comment on any countdown post for a chance to win a download.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Counting Down to Hidden Fire Day 3

What I'm reading: The Enemy by Lee Child

Point of View. What is it? Does it matter?

Deciding who's telling the story, or even a scene, is one of the most important aspects of writing. I know it was my first lesson. At the time I was clueless. When I starting writing Hidden Fire, I began in Randy's head. Then I rewrote it in Sarah's.

First - from Randy's Point of View

"Did you enjoy the pie, Detective Detweiler?" Randy took his eyes off Sarah long enough to acknowledge the waiter's comment.

"Very much, Tony. Thanks." Tony refilled Randy's coffee cup and whisked away the empty plate. Randy's eyes returned to Sarah, who was still working on her dessert, doing his best to maintain a casual expression.

She brought the spoon, loaded with chocolate mousse, to her lips. Under the table, her toes found the cuff of his pants and inched their way up his calf. Damn, she'd been wearing shoes when they'd come in. Sensible work pumps. Randy imagined her toes, nails polished in demure pink, a silver ring on the second toe, continuing north. He clenched his jaw, glancing around the restaurant, certain everyone could tell he'd been out of town and womanless for weeks. No, not womanless. Sarahless. There had been plenty of women in San Francisco, but not one of them appealed to him the way the woman sitting across the booth in a poorly lit small-town restaurant did.

Even in the dim light, he saw the splash of freckles across her nose and cheeks. Her stone blue eyes reflected the glimmer of the standard restaurant candle-in-a-jar on the table.

To the casual onlooker, Sarah Tucker appeared to be a demure businesswoman, looking exactly like a woman who spent her days running a small gift boutique. But over the past few months, he'd gotten to know the other side—the warm, sensuous side—of one of Pine Hills' shopkeepers.

She wore a navy-blue blazer over a pale blue silk blouse. Beneath the table, her practical pants hid what he knew was a pair of attractive, well-shaped legs. He'd already noticed the absence of a panty line and wondered what he'd find when he slipped her slacks over her hips.

The mousse-laden spoon bobbed in front of her mouth. With her free hand, Sarah fingered the pearl button at her neck.

"It's warm in here, isn't it?" One button, then a second, slipped through its hole, revealing the tiniest glimpse of the swell of her breasts. He leaned forward, catching a hint of lace.

"You're killing me," he whispered.

Her tongue wrapped around the mousse. Her eyes closed. She sighed.

He shifted in his seat. "You're going to finish that, aren't you?" he asked.

Without opening her eyes, she said, "Every bite. It's chocolate. Some things shouldn't be rushed."

And now, the same scene from Sarah's Point of View

Under the table, Sarah’s toes found the cuff of Randy’s pants and inched their way up his calf, the coarse hair tickling her foot. His eyes widened, his eyebrows arched and the standard restaurant candle-in-a-jar caught the hazel flecks in his otherwise brown eyes. He brushed a lock of hair from his forehead, but it flopped back the way it always did.

She smiled at the hovering waiter, placed her hand over her empty coffee cup and shook her head. No more, Tony. Thanks.”

Tony refilled Randy’s coffee cup and whisked away his empty pie plate. Randy’s eyes returned to Sarah, moving between her dessert and her face. He smiled, but she could sense his impatience. She continued her torment by dipping her spoon into the chocolate mousse in front of her. Slowly, carefully, she filled the spoon with the rich delight.

His call had surprised her yesterday, when he announced he’d be coming back from San Francisco a day early. She wriggled her toes higher up his leg, trying not to laugh as he squirmed. She’d chosen her outfit very carefully this morning. Demure didn’t begin to cover it. Prim? Prissy? That was closer. Navy blue slacks, a pale blue silk blouse buttoned to the neck and a navy blazer. Not quite a suit, but close enough. Of course, the thong beneath the slacks and the lace demi-bra under the blouse were anything but prissy. She’d sensed Randy’s eyes on her behind as they walked up the steps to the restaurant. And maybe his hand had slipped a little lower than the small of her back as he’d guided her to their booth.

She poised the mousse-laden spoon in front of her mouth, parting her lips a fraction. With her other hand, she fingered the pearl button at her neck.

“It’s warm in here, isn’t it?” One button, then a second, slipped through its hole. Randy leaned forward.

“You’re killing me,” he whispered.

Her tongue wrapped around the mousse. Her eyes closed. She sighed.

“You’re going to finish that, aren’t you?” he asked, resignation in his tone.

Without opening her eyes, she said, “Every bite.”

He blew out a long, slow breath.

She met his gaze and smiled at his obvious annoyance. “It’s chocolate. Some things shouldn’t be rushed.”

Can you see the difference? Which works better, and why?