Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Build to Climax, or Slide Down Slippery Slope

For the past few weeks, I have reported how close I am to completing my story. I do truly believe there are only two or three chapters left. The problem, however, is that I am finding it difficult to figure out the details of the ending. I know how it will end, who will be the victor, and even how I will set up the third book from this conclusion. Nevertheless, thus far it is a fluid process and every time I think, “okay, this will happen, and that person will do X, which will result in Y,” I take a step back and discard the idea. Various issues induce these mental recalculations such as logic, reader experience, and character involvement.

Logic refers to an unrealistic chain of events based on the rules established throughout the book. Some of the alternatives pondered are simply not consistent with the norms found in the story. Reader experience is a matter of providing a conclusion that will satisfy conflict(s) introduced in the story in a way that will please the reader. For many months, I had a broad idea of how the story would end to set up book three (I don't want to give too many details here), but a few weeks ago I realized the ending I had envisioned would be very unsatisfying for readers. Fortunately, I think I have worked out conclusion that will satisfy both needs; making readers feel good about the conclusion and leaving the story open enough for the basis of subsequent tale.

This brings me to character involvement. Throughout the story, a core group of characters who should be a part of the finale were developed, but the issue is that I’m not sure what I want each character to do. I know who the hero or heroine needs to be, but the details of how he or she overcomes the villian or villainess keep eluding me. As I write this, I consider that maybe I haven't developed or transformed that character enough, or perhaps it's just a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Of one thing I am sure though; I will figure it out sooner or later. On a final note, this is not a rant and I am enjoying the process, really, I am. If you have experienced similar issues, I would love to hear what you did to move past your sticking point.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Constructive, or Just Plain Criticism?

To those of you who have been following the story, it is time to shift gears. I will not be posting any more chapters from the book on this blog. From this point, I will update you on progress and discuss the writing process until completion of the project. I am aiming for release in April or May. Thank you to all of you who have followed along until this point.

A very wise person once told me "all of us scribblers are a bit odd." This bit of astuteness came at a point when I seriously doubted my writing, and pondering if the entire year spent on Cooking Athanasia was simply a waste of time. At the beginning, I felt it was a story worth telling and continually reassured by family that I was on the right track. Of course, I thought, family is supposed to say things like that. I looked for body language after anyone offered support, trying to determine they were really hiding the ugly truth. What has been even more amazing to me, is readers of my blog have (and I thank each and every one of you), for the most part, given favorable feedback.

            When I started posting chapters on this blog, I thought the rules were clear that it was a work in progress and final edits were planned for sometime in the future. However, there was a person on one of the social media sites, which I frequent, who single handedly nearly derailed my confidence and the project. As a newby, I am self-conscious about my work and have doubts that I am writing this correctly or not describing that enough, and I am open to constructive criticism.

The unsolicited review of my work, by this individual had valid points, which I included in a subsequent edit. My problem with the review was how the message was phrased. Without getting too deep in the weeds, the person essentially compared my work to a high school composition. When this individual presented his opinion, the internal editor and I were already engaged in mortal combat and he was not happy, thus verbally abusive with me about the story. As such, receiving criticism wrapped in negativity created a perfect storm and I almost gave up. If it was not for the kindness of a stranger who picked me up out of the emotional gutter, I may have scrapped the whole project. Since then, others have provided ideas of how to make improvements, but they did so without judgment and as peers, which I readily accepted.

The bottom line is that how one says something is at least as important as what is said. In addition, just to allay any concerns, the individual whom I speak of is not in any of my circles. On a completely separate note, I leave you with a spoiler alert; Anna did not die in the accident, she was merely in a coma (I found that out during an edit of the prologue).

Thanks for reading!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Chapter 6: Eavesdropping

Scott Kennison was feeling sorry for himself. After all, he was still hung-over from the previous night's drinking and gambling binge. He spent the evening nursing his disappointment for life via a regimen of Jack and Coke and craps at the local casino. The aftermath was cottonmouth, a Goliath-sized headache, and $500 in the hole; $300 more than allotted for the night's excursion. He ran his fingers through his thinning brown hair and realized he smelled of the recent bender. On his way to the coffee shop, Scott thought of the reason for his Seattle trip: The Northwest Heath and Beauty Convention, a four-day event to showcase the PH Cosmetics line to Northwesterners. He spent the agonizing morning with at least a dozen elves tapping on god knows what inside his brain while preparing his area for the event. Additionally, the fact that he was less than thrilled to be working a boring convention booth for the next four days didn't help his headache in the least.

Caffeine was the first step to cure his ails, and Scott was impatient about the long line at The Perk, which was moving at glacial speed. Adding to his misery was the incessant babble of the women in front of him, which droned until he overheard some of details of their discussion. The younger woman spoke about an old book and a recipe. The older one took on hushed tones and thought no one could hear when she said it was a spell book. His ears perked up at this statement. The older one told the younger that there were witches in their bloodline, which interested Scott because of stories about a witch his that his grandfather used to tell.

Scott ordered his coffee, extra caffeine, which he used to wash down two aspirin, and then searched for a table near the two women where he could continue listening to their conversation. A tall table near the women was open, and he sat with his back toward them so they couldn't tell he was eavesdropping. He pretended to fidget with his Blackberry while the older one continued the story. She mentioned a witch named Jennabel who was originally from Massachusetts. Could this be the same woman in his grandfather's stories? The young one talked about a recipe, to which the older one said it caused immortality. As Scott continued to eavesdrop, he thought, What's the big deal? So she found a spell book.

He massaged his temples and reached into the memory bank to recall the gist of the stories his grandfather told about Patrick, Scott’s great-great grandfather. In the stories, Patrick had a relationship with a girl back east in Massachusetts during the mid-1800s. The girl’s name was Jennabel and she was a witch. Patrick and Jennabel fell deeply in love one summer and would have likely been married one day if she didn’t have to leave suddenly. There was an power struggle in her coven, which placed Jennabel in danger because of the position she held. She ended up having to flee for her safety and Patrick stayed behind to hold off the posse while she escaped. He never saw her again, but he never forgot her and always said he had a hole in his heart because he wasn’t able to spend his life with his true love.

Scott had always thought the stories were make-believe, until this exact moment. He found it too coincidental that the woman in his grandfather's stories and the one these women spoke of were both named Jennabel. Especially in light of the fact that both Jennabel stories centered on witchcraft. The conviction with which the older woman told the younger about the immortality spell also added credibility.

Scott contemplated the marketing possibilities if the story was true, if the younger woman had in fact accidentally stumbled on a spell or formula that provides immortality. Perhaps it was the sureness in which the older woman relayed the story made Scott want to believe it to be true. Maybe it was the multiple coincidences between his grandfather’s and the older woman's story that made him want to accept it as truth. Realistically, it was more likely that he wanted to believe it because he was flat broke due to a gambling addiction. That same addiction led to a nasty divorce and a large settlement for the ex-wife, which caused frequent visits to the bottom of a whiskey bottle, trying to forget his misery. Perhaps the constant threats of losing his job from Kelly, his boss, made him want to believe.

Whatever reason he used to rationalize that there really was a formula for immortality and it could be a boon for PH Cosmetics and potential for personal success, it required immediate action because the women had finished their coffee and were preparing to leave the shop. He decided the situation warranted further investigation. He pocketed the Blackberry, picked up his cup, cursed under his breath because it was still hot, and nonchalantly followed the women out of the shop. He watched as they hugged and said their goodbyes in front of the bookstore across the street. The older one turned and disappeared inside the bookstore and the other woman headed to her Focus parked on the street. Scott’s rental was parked three cars behind the gray Focus and, luckily faced the same direction. Doing his best to blend with other pedestrians, Scott crossed the street and got in his car as the younger woman pulled away. He quickly started the rental and slipped into traffic four cars behind hers, where he followed her all the way to her apartment building. Scott filed the location of her residence away for future use while he began mulling over the plan to get his hands on the formula for immortality.