Archive for January 2022

Turns of Phrase   5 comments

Share some of your favorite lines from your writing. How about some of your worst ones if you still remember them?

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Great Lines?

What are some of my favorite lines that I have personally written? Wow, that’s a workout since I now have three series and have published 12 books. But here’s a few – grabbed at random.

Hullabaloo on Main Street –

Hullabaloo on Main Street was a political satire in the early days of the Trump administration when the right-left divide was still kind of entertaining from a libertarian viewpoint. Based on a Politico article about how Midwesterners reacted to the Trump win in 2020, I set the novelette in a fictional Midwestern down near a generic big city and peopled it with funny townspeople to amuse the main character’s libertarian senses. The book sales didn’t do very well and has yet to pay for its publication, so I’m unlikely to write satire as a genre again. But there were some great lines in the book, which tried to skewer both sides of the debate.

First is my comment to the reader —

Any resemblance to you or someone you know is purely coincidental, but if you’ve ever wondered what someone who disagrees with you is thinking while you’re yelling at them …. We could all use better senses of humor about American politics.

And then in MC Connor’s observations as he navigates his world on the day after President Trump won the 2020 election. I wanted to establish his inner comedian even before he got around people.

“Beacon barks, so I let him in. He climbs back up on his couch where he can look out the front windows at the distant cars on the road past our place. I ruffle his ears. He licks my hand. Does he wonder what I taste like or does he love me? He’s a yellow Lab. Of course, he loves me! They don’t actually taste their food.”

I wanted to make Connor self-aware enough to joke about himself.

“Like most little pockets of humanity where everybody knows everybody, there are quirks here that can rub you the wrong way sometimes, but I’ve learned to channel my sense of irritation and irrepressible irony into my writing, rather than challenge the people I use for source material. So far nobody has recognized themselves. Either they’re not reading the books or it’s a testament to my writing skills.”

But then when he gets among people, his inner dialogue is wry and observational, even as his verbal interaction is polite and noncommital. Like when one of his Democratic neighbors suggests that their reaction to Trump winning the election should be to elect more Democrats to the “nonpartisan” school board.

How will that fix the Presidential election? Are you planning some sort of invasion of DC by teachers or … er, uh, yeah? Hobby farmers unite against Trump! Real farmers unite against Hillary. Blood in the streets and UN blue helmets on the corners. Okay, now I’m being melodramatic, but at least I’m wise enough not to air my folly outside my head.

And,

CONNOR “She’s not the only one who is afraid of their Trump-voting neighbors this morning.”

GIL “Oh, for heaven’s sake! Are they expecting us to suddenly launch Kristal Nacht here in the Midwest?”

Oh, that line is so going in the article! That is not a hick reference. This man reads, maybe more than his condescending neighbors

But Connor also finds his conservative neighbors funny too.

NEIGHBOR “My god, you’d think we’d elected Hitler.”

I don’t think Trump is Hitler. Der Furor was a scary man with no sense of humor. Trump is more like Bozo the clown.

And then in the midst of a discussion of why they voted for Trump.

My god! The head of the local RNC, Roger sounds almost like a libertarian anarchist. Color me shocked! He hasn’t just been arguing his views when we meet over beers. He’s actually been listening. Dogs will be mating with cats any moment now. In fact, I should make sure Beacon isn’t being molested by Mom’s cat as we speak.

From Hullabaloo on Main Street

Transformation Project

In the series Transformation Project, my characters also reflect many of my views of the world (although not always — I make a concerted effort to create characters who differ from one another, so they differ from me). In this scene, former lovers Shane Delaney and Marnie Callahan meet for the first time in five years during a crisis.

“Why am I not surprised that all hell would break loose the second you show up?” Marnie quipped as she kneeled on the other side of the patient.

“I’m not the cause of hell, Dr. Callahan, just a guy trying to survive it,” Shane bantered back. “You are a doctor, right? At least one of us should have some training.”

From Life As We Knew It (Book 1)

And, in this scene between Shane and Jazz Tully, they try to sort out what’s going on in their world and not freak out about it.

“Still a little shaky. When Marnie asked me to give blood, I had just eaten, so I figured it would be fine, but I didn’t really sleep last night, so….”

“A little busy dealing with the end of the world, huh?”

“It’s not the end of the world. It’s just the end of life as we knew it.”

“I guess that’s a good time to stock up on toilet paper.”

From Life As We Knew It (Book 1)

That concept of it’s not the end of the world, just the end of life as we knew it is a personal belief of mine. The world will change, but it won’t end. It’s up to us to adapt to it. A similar theme comes up in the next book, in the line of dialogue that gave the book its title. It’s a conversation between the very youthful Jazz Tully and the nonagenarian Jacob Delaney, who is the philosophical center of the series even after his character’s death.

JAZZ “You think it’s over then …the United States … just like that?”

JACOB “I think it’s going to keep twitching for a while. That’s the dangerous part. Because during its death spiral, we have to stay out of the way of the flailing arms so we can go about our business. We have to keep the important objects in view and not get distracted by the unimportant things.”

JAZZ “How do we know the difference?”

JACOB “Now there’s the right question, young lady, though I’ll tell you honestly that you’ll know or you won’t when you see it. If you don’t, then you’re part of the problem and not the solution.

From Objects in View (Book 2)

What If Wasn’t

What If Wasn’t is a Young Adult into New Adult Series, so dealing with teenagers. Some of my lines from there are definitely not my personal thoughts, such as when 17-year-old MC Peter is describing a date at the water park.

Us men want to go to the big water slides. Yeah, there’s the adrenaline rush of flying down a twisting slide on a thin flow of water, but it’s a lot better when you’re doing it with a pretty girl between your legs. Multiply that by a couple dozen times and – yeah. Ben’s a genius.

From Red Kryptonite Curve (Book 1)

Or later in the date when Peter and Cheyenne talk about a dance performance gone wrong, where Peter essentially quotes my performance artist daughter.

CHEYENNE “You were supposed to dance that role, weren’t you? You didn’t know?”

PETER “I thought you’d rechoreographed.” I knew something had gone wrong, but neither of them let on, which is the essence of dance performance that I miss. It’s performance art. There’s no retakes. If you screw up, you cover and you do it beautifully with a smile on your face. If only life were so easy.

From Red Kryptonite Curve

The second book in the series takes place months later when Peter has identified at least some of his life problems.

This party is not avoidable. It’s the biggest so far. It’s not ignorable either. I need to get through it if I want to sleep tonight. The commons rooms are all filled with strobing darkness and writhing bodies as I make my way toward the stairs, my nose telling me every drink I pass. That one’s weak, but I’d drink it. That one’s strong. I love strong. When I drank, I didn’t even like beer and wine, but they smell pretty good from where I’m standing now. I want them so-so much and yet I also know why I can’t have them. My drinking was off the chain and I know what happens if I give into temptation now.

From Dumpster Fire (Book 2)

And then a few minutes later…

“Hey, Peter.” She purrs into my ear as she drapes an arm around my neck that pulls me down to her level where I can smell the beer on her breath. Nice beer, very hoppy. I don’t like beer, but we’ve already established I don’t need to like alcohol to want to drink it.

“Hey.” I don’t know her name. She lives on the second floor. We’ve passed on the stairs a few times. She’s pretty when she’s not shit-faced, but we haven’t really talked. I’m used to people knowing me even though we haven’t really met. I’m over six feet, lean and athletic and my father makes me famous. I never really asked for any of that.

“I want to dance with you.”

“I’m still wearing my coat,” I tell her. It’s a lame escape tactic. I know I don’t really want to escape her. It’s the alcohol I want to escape. She’s moving her hips to the beat of the music and I feel my anatomy rising to the occasion. I’m weak on so many levels so I try to choose my safest weakness. Alcohol may be off the table, but safe sex isn’t. I nod to the stairs. “C’mon.”

From Dumpster Fire

Daermad Cycle

Lines from Daermad Cycle seemed harder to find. I’m prouder of long descriptions and dialogue that conform to the way of speaking in Celdrya. Unfortunately, sharing it out of context wouldn’t make sense. But here’s a couple. The first is from the opening scene of The Willow Branch and what I like best is the male camaraderie and dealing frankly with what would be a standard viewpoint in medieval elitist society.

“I do think that second marriages agree with a man,” Deryk commented. He’d already drank a bit too much, as was his wont. Soon the tall blonde swordsman would settle back on his cot and sleep, leaving Maryn to contemplate the eve and his own thoughts alone. Twas always the way with them since boyhood.

“How so?” Maryn asked, leaning back in his camp chair, his darker brown hair and beard setting off his merry blue eyes. As heir-apparent to the High Seat of Celdrya, he craved the rare honest moment with a vassal who would speak freely. “Do you not remember the first marriage, my friend? You were cockled for months before the ceremony. This time, you ducked into Llyr, confirmed the engagement and flitted away for the important things in life.” Deryk demonstrated this by waving his wine cup about this den of manly comfort.

From The Willow Branch (Book 1)

And this is the end of that first scene:

Pedyr…then jerked round as a raven scream split the night. Before he could draw his sword, there came a whistling and Maryn was thrown back against a tree.

Death took him by surprise as he looked down at the two feet of dressed wood protruding from his chest. He couldn’t feel his legs, but he knew he was staked to the tree like a squirrel.

I’m done for! I thought death would be more painful.

Pedyr bellowed for aid and the camp came alive as Maryn died, staring up at the moon with his life leaking away into the dirt by his feet and wondering why the shaft that killed him was the only one to fly.

From The Willow Branch

Words I Wish I’d Said

This year, while I was working on the third book in Daermad Cycle, I decided to give Kindle Vella a chance and tackle my nemesis “Romance” in a serial version. In Words I Wish I’d Said, Autumn and Declan aren’t strangers when they meet in the Denver Airport on the way to his brother’s wedding and they have a lot of history to overcome.

Autumn opens the first scene–

What are the odds of running into someone you know at an airport in a town you don’t live in?

Well, yeah, they increase significantly when you might both be invited to the same wedding.

But I doubt it too because this guy looks – I don’t know – not angry or upset or any of the other negative emotions that usually surrounded Declan like a fetid cloud and that would definitely be his primary emotion if stuck in an airport with thousands of other stranded passengers. He’s staring up at the soaring ceiling and that might be a slight smile on his winsome face. Okay, that’s just kind of creepy. Does this handsome guy not realize he’s stranded at the airport? Who smiles when they learn that news? Definitely not Declan Carmichael. When we knew each other way back when, he would have demanded all the attention in the room and this is an enormous room with an audience needing a spectacle. That’ll get you arrested at most airports and maybe he’s learned that lesson fully. But chances are it’s not Declan.

And, then Declan also has his own point of view.

While I’m imagining, she turns to look at me. I jerk my gaze away because I don’t want to be mistaken for a stalker. Yeah, might as well be a decade younger than I am. I lost all skills for flirting and the last thing I want is a woman mad at me for admiring her assets. These days, the woke ones can get pretty aggressive, as if I’m not supposed to be turned on by females. Maybe by their rules, I’m not. Last week some girl on the bus got up in some guy’s grill about toxic masculinity, which apparently all men are afflicted with. She has no idea how toxic some guys can get. I try to be polite, but I’m still male. The human race is in trouble if guys aren’t allowed to be sexually aroused by the female shape.

It’s how babies get made, folks.

Great lines in literature are often gem-set among other lines and to take them out of context would be to do an injustice to the greatness of the line. I wonder how my fellow blog-hoppers dealt with this in their articles.

Posted January 31, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Warm Fuzzies   3 comments

Do any of your characters have a favorite toy from their childhood? Do you?

Rules:1. Link your blog to this hop.2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.<!– start InLinkz code –><div class=”inlinkz-widget” data-uuid=”2c89f271f6d947c3ba473f4915e803b7″ style=”width:100%;margin:30px 0;background-color:#eceff1;border-radius:7px;text-align:center;font-size:16px;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif”><div style=”padding:8px;”><p style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>You are invited to the <strong>Inlinkz</strong> link party!</p><a href=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/2c89f271f6d947c3ba473f4915e803b7” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div><span style=”display: none;”>http://a%20rel=</span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”2c89f271f6d947c3ba473f4915e803b7″]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/2c89f271f6d947c3ba473f4915e803b7

My Characters

Wow, I really had to dig deep on this one.

Do any of my characters have a favorite childhood toy? I’m a big fan of childhood toys. My daughter has a very beloved stuffed rabbit who still lives in her room here and our son has a gorilla that is about the size and shape of a softball. He made us promise that it would be safe in his room when he moved out of state last summer. I don’t have many toys left from my own childhood because there was a huge flood in Fairbanks when I was about six and most of our belongings were lost. I have a handmade craft mouse my brother’s mother-in-law made for me when I was 10 and it still sits on a shelf in my bedroom. He’s blue, with bright red spots for cheeks, red-white-and-blue on the inside of his ears and across his chest, and he’s eating a piece of fabric cheese. He’s my “favorite” mainly because he’s the one I still have.

Which might explain why my characters don’t have a lot of favorite childhood toys. It’s not part of my experience and writers’ characters represent parts of our psyches.

Then I came up with a couple of examples of favorite items that I didn’t really think of as toys until this topic came up. In Transformation Project series, Shane has a classic Cessna model hanging from his bedroom ceiling. I mentioned it briefly in Life As We Knew It and never gave it much thought about its origins. He and his Grandpa Jacob put it together when he was 9. He enjoys looking at it when he’s laying in bed because it reminds him of Jacob. Maybe I need to explain it in one of the books.

For his brother Cai, that favorite childhood “toy” is his mitt and baseball. Again, it was briefly mentioned in an earlier book but never explained. It was just room decoration.

In What If Wasn’t series, the book I’m currently writing features a scene where Peter’s grandmother Lucy and stepmother Tilly pack up his sister Alyse’s room and they find her first pair of ballet slippers from her baby class when she was four. They also find Alyse’s braid — she cut her hair during Dumpster Fire and kept the braid as a memento. At the end of Dumpster Fire, Peter’s drunken actions resulted in Alyse’s death. In Pocketful of Rocks, he’s devastated and facing consequences. They don’t know if Peter will ever be able to mourn his sister without risking his mental health, ao they choose to put both items in a carved wooden box Alyse gave Peter and to put it in among his things so that if he’s ever ready, he’ll have these two items to remember his sister by. That will be in a future book.

Although they haven’t made an appearance in any of the books, Rob Delaney has a set of wooden toys from his childhood that will come out of storage now that he’s about to be a grandfather. They were made by his mother’s father, Joseph “GPa” Greyeyes. It’s interesting the things you find kicking around in your head that you SHOULD write about, but haven’t until a prompt causes you to think of it.

Personal Skill Set   4 comments

What part of writing are you best at? Not compared to everyone else, but compared to you?

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That’s Good

I have no idea how I compare to other writers in any part of the writer skillset, so this is easier to write when I don’t have to make that comparison.

The Two Ds

I think I excel at dialogue and description. Certainly, those are the two parts of the writing process I enjoy the most, which might be why I’m good at them.

Dialogue comes easy because my characters tell me their story and I’m allowed to listen to their conversations. Sometimes they engage in too much jawing and I need to edit down their chatter, but that’s not such a bad thing because, in the draft phase, more is better than less. I can always prune it, but if I can’t get my characters to talk to one another, I don’t really have a novel. Some scenes only have dialogue and dialogue tags when I write the draft. Since I try to eliminate dialogue tags when I can, I start in the second draft to replace them with description or the inner thoughts of the character. So in a very real way, dialogue and description walk hand in hand in my writing process.

Description is a little different because my characters don’t appear to care about their surroundings. Infidels! So I have to build a world around them that fits who they are. This usually happens during the second draft. Sometimes the scenes just pop into my head and other times I need to ask the world-brain to show me photos that evoke certain scenes. The other day I wrote a description of Lily’s bedroom in Book 3 of What If Wasn’t — “Pocketful of Rocks.” What would a teenaged girl’s bedroom look like in today’s world? I wouldn’t know. My daughter (now 29, but her stuff still lives at our house) is an artist, so her bedroom is painted dark red and embellished with weird art. One wall is dominated by a Bri-painted tree that used to have constantly changing leaves that were themselves smaller and removable art projects. Assuming Lily isn’t Bri, I had to ask Google what’s trending in girls’ bedrooms these days. I found a room I thought matched Lily’s personality and I described it. Then I scaled it back a bit because it was Ben doing the description. Guys don’t see colors the same as girls and don’t usually care about decorating, so I needed to be careful not to turn Ben into a girl. Ben is studying to be an engineer, so I actually showed the photo to an engineer coworker (I work for a road design agency) and asked him to describe it. I pretty much nailed Ben, although I decided to ignore the observation that the roof above that bedroom might have been leaking. Engineers, they’re so mechanical!

“Pocketful of Rocks” should be out sometime this spring – tentatively April. maybe May.

I wonder what my fellow authors have chosen as their primary skill.

Posted January 17, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Tear Jerker   3 comments

Do you remember the first book that made you cry? Or maybe the last one?

Rules:1. Link your blog to this hop.2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.<!– start InLinkz code –><div class=”inlinkz-widget” data-uuid=”cc5f4b78f782411eb03d848e83b19071″ style=”width:100%;margin:30px 0;background-color:#eceff1;border-radius:7px;text-align:center;font-size:16px;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif”><div style=”padding:8px;”><p style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>You are invited to the <strong>Inlinkz</strong> link party!</p><a href=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/cc5f4b78f782411eb03d848e83b19071” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div><span style=”display: none;”>http://a%20rel=</span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”cc5f4b78f782411eb03d848e83b19071″]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/cc5f4b78f782411eb03d848e83b19071

First Weep Fest

I admit I am not the most sentimental of women. I don’t read romances and traditional tearjerkers rarely make my TRB list. I’ve never, for example, read The Notebook, although I did watch the movie with my daughter…and didn’t cry.

So, when I looked back at my reading history, I was surprised to find a “first” book that made me cry. There might have been an earlier book, but I can’t remember the title, but when I was in 6th grade, I read The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L’Engle. There’s a scene toward the end when the character Dave must identify his father’s body. Dave’s 17 years old, lived through riots, has been abandoned by his mother as a small child, and doesn’t get along with his father, but he cries over his body. I didn’t like the character of Mr. Davidson, but I inexplicably found myself crying right along with Dave. Why?

Well, it wasn’t that I loved the character. Dave’s father wasn’t a good man and even at the tender age of 12, I knew he was an odious character — a drunk who collaborated with the forces of evil and nearly cost his son his own life. I was frankly embarrassed to find myself crying over this character’s death. I couldn’t explain it to myself and that felt wrong as if my psyche somehow betrayed me.

It was only when I reread the book a few years later with a little bit more maturity that I understood why I cried. It had nothing to do with Mr. Davidson and everything to do with Dave. I put myself into his skin and I felt his grief and it expressed itself in my tears. I’ve had that happen with a few books over the years. When I read Ordinary People, I cried with the main character as he remembered his brother’s death. When I read Berries Goodman, I shed a tear when his friend Sydney was so cruelly injured, again because I felt what Berries felt. As I’ve gotten older and gathered my own scar tissue, I cry less, but that feeling in the throat that I might is still there.

Most Recent Book to Make Me Cry?

One of my own. This happens to me when I’m writing certain scenes — that choked-up feeling of grief shared with my character. In the series What If Wasn’t, Peter’s drunken actions led to the death of his sister at the end of Dumpster Fire. The scene is viewed from his friend Ben’s perspective and his grief not just for the death of this young girl who he didn’t particularly like and yet had known since his young childhood, but also for what he knows is the loss of his friendship with Peter. They’ve struggled with their friendship in the past, but this will end it. I cried my way through writing it because I also disliked the character of Alyse, but I felt for Ben and Peter on a deeply visceral level.

Now I’m writing Pocketful of Rocks, the third book in the series, and having a tough time getting through scenes where Peter tries to cope with his sister’s death and his own guilt and grief. As he puts it in one scene —

Nobody wants to grieve with the murderer, not even me. I feel so guilty that I feel sorry for myself because she’s gone. It doesn’t align with hating myself and accepting responsibility for what I did as if I somehow haven’t earned the right to grieve. I loved her and I miss her and if I hadn’t killed her I could grieve. The counselors say I need to grieve to get to a healthy place, but nobody cares about my pain and rightfully, I shouldn’t share it. Grieving for her becomes grieving for myself and I haven’t earned that. I’ll never be able to earn that. My grief is my burden to carry and I will carry it alone because nobody else owns it. It’s all on me and it’s mine alone to bear.

Pocketful of Rocks – work in progress, due out later this year

I ugly cried through about three scenes at different stages of the rough draft, feeling what Peter feels and looking for redemption in the pages. I figure if I’m crying while writing it, readers will feel that pain when they read it.

I wonder if the authors who have caused me to cry over the years ago felt the tears burning their eyes as they wrote those scenes.

Posted January 10, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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