ROPED, AKA Christmas Cowboy, is in the editing stage! Most of which consists of me approving of commas added or removed, but this is my chance to add those final touches to bring out arcs, etc., so I'm listening to the playlist while I go through it.
Playlist: Pink, Trouble/Cuz I Can, Taylor Swift, White Horse/Love Story, Desperado/Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Mariah Carey/All I Want for Christmas is You
Here's a sneak peek:
“If I hear
Blue Christmas one more time, I’m going postal,” Regan Morris said. She was too
used to talking in court, so she sounded clear and firm and rational when she
said it, instead of sounding the way she felt.
She felt like
a toddler on the verge of a meltdown, overstimulated by holiday hype and
holiday expectations. A small child who lost it at Christmas got a hug.
Attorneys were supposed to act like grownups. And she was trying, but inside
was a five year old who really wanted a hug and no more reminders of how many
other people felt blue, too.
misery loved company,” Nancy said. She kept cutting out gingerbread men,
unconcerned by Regan’s postal potential.
doesn’t want miserable company,” Regan said, not having to work to match her
feelings to her definite tone this time. “Misery would rather be on the other
side of the window, where all the happy, pretty people are, instead of stuck
out in the cold with the miserable crowd.”
And pretty,” Nancy said. Her serene assurance wasn’t misplaced. Nancy was
gorgeous, even in an old pair of Wranglers that had long since frayed at the
bottom. The jeans were topped by a stretchy red velvet holiday sweater with
fuzzy white trim that should have looked ridiculous but instead made her look
like an elf imported from France to give the North Pole some sophistication.
Wisps of dark hair had escaped form her sleek updo, but on Nancy, it looked
sexy and deliberate instead of messy.
“Of course you
are,” Regan said, contrite. “Sorry. That’s not what I meant.”
“I know what
you meant.” Nancy straightened and set down her cookie cutter. “I know what the
problem is. You want to be Cinderella. You want to go to the ball. And instead,
you’re stuck here with me in the kitchen. It’s wrong. You should go to the
“Was there a
lot of rum in the rum balls?” Regan asked.
“Yes, but that
isn’t the point.” Nancy was focused on something other than pastry now, and
from long experience Regan knew that didn’t bode well. Whatever Nancy focused
on got done. “You’re blue because you’re single and it’s the holidays, and
staying with me and my husband and our two-point-five kids isn’t helping. So
your fairy godmother is going to send you to the ball.”
fairly sure even Nancy couldn’t produce a formal dance in the wilds
of Wyoming, so she helped herself to another rum ball. “I’m testing these for
quality assurance,” she announced. And also for possible anesthetic properties.
that your last.” Nancy finished the tray of gingerbread men with speed and
precision, popped them into the oven, and set the timer. “I can get you dressed
and lend you a coach, but you’ll have to drive yourself.”
There’s a big party at one of the neighboring ranches. I’ll tell them you’re
coming. One more guest won’t be a problem. There are never enough single women
out here. You can take the Caddy; I never use it.”
was a gas-guzzling monster. It was also not built for navigating gravel roads,
let alone icy, snow-covered gravel roads. “I’m starting to think you’re serious
“I am. I
remember when you didn’t go to the senior prom? You were too busy studying and
working at your part-time job, saving for college. I didn’t know how to be a
fairy godmother then, so I’m making up for it now.”
dropped. “The prom? You think my adult life was in any way affected by not
going to the prom?”
“Maybe. I went—you
didn’t. We had different priorities. Your priorities aren’t making you very
happy right now, so why not change them?” Nancy dragged her into the walk-in
master closet and started rummaging in a section filled with garment bags. “No.
No. Maybe. No…oh, yes.”
at the chosen dress through the clear plastic cover. “No.”
Nancy freed the dress and shook it out. About a million miles of green taffeta
filled the space between them. “It’s one of those dresses that you have to see
on to get the effect.”
“It looks like
a prom dress,” Regan pointed out.
You couldn’t afford this for prom.”
afford it now.” Regan took the dress gingerly. “I have law school debt on top of
college debt. Plus a mortgage. I don’t buy Dior gowns.”
“Which is why
you need a fairy godmother. Look, matching shoes!” Nancy fished one out of the
bottom of the garment bag and waved it in triumph.
“I will never
be able to walk in those shoes,” Regan said.
for walking. They’re for dancing. Let some hot cowboy help you balance, and
you’ll be fine. Come on, get changed.”
later, Regan decided Nancy’s plan had merit. The shoes were going to cripple
her if she didn’t get them off by midnight, but the cowboy two-stepping her
cheerfully toward the mistletoe was happy to keep her upright. And since he was
used to wrestling steers, a too-thin, overworked attorney wasn’t going to
strain his muscles.
“My turn,” a
low voice said in her ear as a hand reached from behind her to tap her partner.
The voice was
familiar. Regan went still and stayed frozen as a man stepped into
view. A man forever burned into her memory, and one she hadn’t expected to see
here, now. He was older, harder, with a mouth that looked like it had forgotten
how to smile, a face framed by black hair in need of a trim and dominated by
eyes that resembled a winter sky with a storm approaching.
Travis or Tate
or whatever his name was surrendered her with the same cheer he would’ve seduced
her with and moved on to the next possibility. The man who replaced him wasn’t
going to go away nearly as easily.
The acknowledgement ended the brief
conversation, which was a relief, because Regan had no idea what to say. It
took all her concentration not to lose an ankle to the shoes while the man who
was damn well not Prince Charming held her close and led her around the room
with practiced ease.
So a couple of years ago I wanted to do something totally different. But I couldn't quite get a handle on what. Now? I've got a handle, and I've either derailed or finally found the right track. Either way, I'm going with it.
I love this stage of surrendering to a story, researching details to bring it alive, building a playlist.
The music of my crazy train:
Runs in the Family/Amanda Palmer
Art of Almost/Wilco
Dog Days are Over/Florence & The Machine
Smells Like Teen Spirit/Nirvana
Guitar Hero/Amanda Palmer
Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)/Foster the People
Pumped Up Kicks/Foster the People
I Would Do Anything For You/Foster the People
Motivated characters make for strong stories. A really good way to see this in action comes from two movies I just watched, Thor and Unstoppable.
Thor had a weak story mainly because the most interesting character was Loki. Loki had an axe to grind, something to prove. He was driven. Thor's goal was, um, what? He wanted to be king. Instead, he got exiled for being dumb. Then his goal was to get back his hammer and go home. But failing to get his hammer, he goes off to do other things until a killer robot sent by Loki comes after him. Thor wasn't driving the story, Loki was. Don't get me started on Natalie Portman's character. If she wasn't standing around looking pretty, she was running over Thor in the vehicle she obviously wasn't capable of driving. She could've been a strong character, but when rescuing Thor from Shield is called for, it's the man in her group that does it, not her.
By contrast, Unstoppable had the main characters actually doing something to drive their own story. Two men are off on a routine day of work when their lives collide with a runaway train. They make conscious choices to sacrifice themselves and go after it. With characters like that, Unstoppable suits its name. The female character we see most of is fighting like crazy from a distance to limit damage and help our heroes stop the train; very active and strong. Every character in the story had a goal they pursued and as a result, the story engine ran to the end.
Having trouble with your story? Look for the goals. What does your character want? Every character in the story should want something and succeed or fail in getting it. It's summed up in the best story advice I've ever come across: "Your protagonist should protag."
The sequence of events:
Me: What do you want for your snack?
Child: A banana.
Me: *insert banana into backpack*
Papers sorted from backpack. Did not search for rogue banana, because why would I?
backpack lurked by door
backpack lurked by door
Me: What do you want for your snack?
Child: Cheddar bunnies.
Me: *insert package of Annie's Cheddar bunnies into backpack*
Child: *sob sob* There was a banana at the bottom of my backpack and it mooshed all over everything!
Me:...The banana you asked for? On Friday?
In conclusion: Bananas are dangerous. Or possibly, when your child makes a healthy snack choice, it's just a way of getting out the house where she can try to score Cheetohs.
Why yes, another 5 things post. Because yesterday was 17 hours of child care (thank you, growth spurt!) and I'm a zombie.
1. Via Kris Reisz, possibly the coolest hallucination made reality I've ever seen or heard of. And now there's a new destination on my travel wish list.
2. Via PBW, who is your go-to author for soul balm? I am still pondering this. Terry Pratchett, PG Wodehouse, Lois McMaster Bujold, probably. Mostly it just makes me aware that I want to write soul balm, but that's a tall order.
3. I'm amazed at how many of you think I should be in journalism, and not the tabloid variety, either.
4. I'm still working out my writing schedule. See 17 hours of child care above. There are times when a day isn't shorter but is less demanding, so I'm trying to figure out the balance.
5. Enjoying this end of summer burst of sunshine and beautiful weather. The winter wet will begin soon enough.
There's this current debacle going on at home involving us and
the hospital and the
insurance company. The insurance company, after happily processing all submitted bills related to maternity care, suddenly, when faced with The Whopper (i.e. hospitalization and the actual delivery and birth) said, "hold on, we think this is pre-existing. If it's pre-existing, we don't have to pay." And we looked at the portion they said we'd have to pay and I had to put my head between my knees and breathe into a paper bag. There have been phone calls to the insurance company and to the hospital and conference calls and more breathing into paper bags, and looking at the Unpaid Total and wanting to weep.
And so in despair I flipped open
the local newspaper to the classifieds and saw, lit with a celestial glow, an ad for...A WRITER. Full time. With benefits. Hello. I'm a writer. Okay, my last journalism experience happened in high school and they probably would want me to report on the Wooden Boat Festival without adding colorful alien invasions or Bigfoot sightings to make things more interesting. But it's an actual job I'm almost sort of qualified for. With benefits. As long as hard-hitting journalism consisting of "why does the border patrol care about the Port Angeles Farmer's Market? Obama loves organic vegetables,"doesn't make the editor weep and say I'm not supposed to be writing opinion pieces. Or fiction.
See, as soon as I thought about it, I thought about how I would actually do this job, and really, I had to ask: would I hire me? Because these are the things I think about the local news: that sea lion on Highway 101, was it drunk at the time it decided to go for a walk and then resist arrest? The salal harvest permit number, was it arrived at after taking environmental impact factors into consideration, and by that I mean, the possibility of loss of habitat for Bigfoot resulting in more Jefferson County Bigfoot sightings?
Honestly, I'm not sure I'd hire me. But I'm really entertaining myself thinking about what I could bring to local journalism.
Today was a landmark day; we dropped off two kids for school. This means my days from approximately 8-3 are for working, alongside baby tending. Yay!
So it's back to the books for me. My to do list triage started yesterday. I had wanted to finish several things before going off to maternity leave but due to complications it didn't happen. My plan: writing in the mornings and editing/business stuff in the afternoons. I have multiple projects in various stages of completion and now it is time to start completing.