1,000 word Excerpt: Accountability (Work in Progress, Working title)

 

I wrote a flash fiction a few weeks ago called Before Her Time, about a woman perceived to be a “witch” and the man who loved her. It wasn’t the best thing that I’ve ever written, but it got me thinking about women, power and society. I wanted to think about her origin story, and write more about her. Her world and character really lit up my imagination. It turns out the story has legs. This is the first of multiple stories involving Victoria, the Duchess of Duxbury. It is still a work in progress, which I’ve submitted to my writing group for critique. I’ve already veen given a few really great suggestions, which I’ll be incorporating this week. When I’m done, I’ll post the short story in its entirety on this blog.

Here is the first 1,000 words (and remember, this hasn’t been fully tightened and edited yet, so it will most likely changed between now and the final version).

 

 

Finer ships had never been produced in the kingdom, and the Duchess of Duxbury looked upon them with the proudest smile that she could muster. Her men had worked hard, and they were to be rewarded today with the best food and wine she could find. Famers from her duchy and the two surrounding had fallen all over themselves to get a piece of the fortune she was using to purchase the food, wine and ale for the celebration, and she was happy to give.

Five ships were in the docks, fitted and ready to sail to the far corners of an ever expanding world. None of her men were sailors. Those men would be trickling in over the next few days to set the ships on their maiden voyages. When the docks cleared, her men would start anew on five more for another year. This was the third completion of the cycle, and orders came in by the day, along with more skilled craftsmen looking for work. The Duchess stifled a giddy giggle. The success and growth seemed to have happened over night.

“You look like a proud mother looking after her children, Tori,” her good friend and chief advisor, Alistair, observed in a low tone.

Liza, Tori’s governess, overheard and cleared her throat. “The Victoria, Duchess of Duxbury, should be very pleased with the progress of her people. Their hard work is for her benefit, and for the benefit of our great kingdom.”

Tori’s proud smile faded into her unimpressed expression. Liza’s undergarments were always just a bit too tight.

“Will you be addressing the men now, your grace? Shall I have them gathered?” Alistair, too, had better things to do than mind the minder.

“This is their day. Let them have it. I shall address them later. Bring me the dock master. I should like to tour the men’s good work.”

Alistair nodded his head in acknowledgment, but hesitated before he turned to do his duty. Tori’s mind was on other things. She’d noticed something missing from the revelry of the feast on the docks below.

“There aren’t a lot of women here, Liza. Where are the wives? The sweethearts?”

“Since the Duchess chooses to set a poor example by not being married herself,” Liza started. Tori let out an audible and annoyed sigh. Enough to make Liza change course. “I believe that a lot of these men are simply unattached, your grace.”

“These men live here, they eat here, they drink here, and they’ve laundry and other needs. Women usually fill those needs, yet there are none here. This makes no sense, Liza, and it has nothing to do with my attachments.”

Liza tittered for a moment, then gave a sort of shrug. It was odd not to see any other women about. The men were serving themselves ale and food was being served by the farmers who brought it or the cooks who prepared it. Tori thought about this for a few more moments before her attention drifted to the large and beautiful ships that were about to leave her shores. They were beautiful, they were strong, and they were a perfect representation of her land and her people.

Alistair returned with the dockmaster, a tall, older gentleman with a slender build but for noticeable belly built from years of drinking ale. He genuflected, he eyes downcast.

“You’ve built fine ships that will bring more people and money to our duchy, dockmaster. I commend you,” Tori greeted warmly.

The man stood, “to be in the presence of my beautiful duchess is too great a reward, your grace.”

Liza frowned in disapproval, though Tori giggled at the compliment. “Your duchess would like a tour of your ships, good sir. Off you go!”

“Please don’t mind my governess,” Tori’s laugh masked her growing annoyance, “would you please show us your ships.”

The group walked toward the docks and were noticed by the happy workmen, who stopped and cheered as they walked by. Tori loved the attention, rarely having the opportunity to come face to face with happy citizens of her duchy. She stopped and greeted some of the men as they walked passed before they took the long walk down the pier and onto the first ship.

“This is your very basic merchant ship, you grace,” the dockmaster explained as they walked onto the deck, “but it is fast. Probably among the fastest we’ve ever built…”

The others listened with interest, and Tori put on her listening face, but her mind wandered back to the men reveling on the deck. So many men with so few women about tugged at her. She walked around the deck and into the holds below. It was a beautiful ship, with plenty of room for cargo and goods.

The second and third ship were much of the same. She looked about and was generally please. When they got off the third ship, she took steps toward the fourth.

“Your grace, the other two ships are more of the same,” The dockmaster rung his hands, “I would hate to tire you out or, worse, waste your time by showing you identical ships.”

Tori stopped to eye them and noticed differences in the bodies of the last two as compared with the first she’d seen. While the first three were made for speed as well as space, the last two seemed to emphasize more space than nimble speed across the seas.

“I see some details that I think would be nice to look at up close,” Tori said, and took a few steps.

Alistair stepped forward, “your grace, you still must address the gathered men and as you can see, they are already becoming a bit raucous.”

Tori looked the ships over and wondered how much of a difference they would be. They were ships, well made and destined to take the fame of her craftsmen to far places. She turned her back to them and prepared herself for addressing the gathered men.

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Accountability Friday: A Creative but Less-Than-Productive Week

Wow, what a week. If I could give a true grade to myself for what I’ve done, I’d give myself a “C”. The reason why? I could have gotten more done, but I ended up watching a lot of television this week. I spent a lot of time chasing babies or watching the Zimmerman trial during my usual writing time.  I was also so brain-dead after the dinner/bath/bedtime routine that I couldn’t contemplate writing, too. But that’s not a good excuse. I should have gotten more done this week.

 

1) Work on an idea for a new character/story, that connects two interesting ideas that came to me this weekend.

Not crossing it out because I’m not done, but I’m 2,000 words into a really great story/character idea. I’m hoping to post an excerpt on Monday, and submit it for group critique as well.

2) Rewrite Before Her Time completely and submit that for critique also.

I knew that I bit off more than I could chew this week. Before her Time will come next week…along with a flash fic too?

3) Return to my novel project, and create one complete area of world building–focus on Religion and Culture this week.

*sigh* Short story writing is really killing my novel writing… I’m going to completely table the novel idea right now. We’re going to revisit in October, plan for it, and then rock it out for Nano in November.

4) Enter Chuck’s sentence contest this week with the goal of winning.

Done. I wasn’t among the winners, but the ones that Chuck chose are interesting! I hope I can write a flash fic next week…

 

I’m excited about the idea that I’m developing. I wish that I had spent more time on it this week…

 

Hope you all have restful, inspiring weekend!

Inspiration from two places today

 

After I put the boys down for a nap, I got real cozy with my laptop, left over muffins from breakfast and a glass of water. It was go time: Time to re-write Never a Day, the story that I decided that I was going to rewrite from scratch.

I opened up a Gchat window with my sister, who is an artist (like, a real one, with a real degree from a real art school. She’s amazing). My line was pretty easy ” ’bout to start this rewrite.”

“Good luck and Godspeed.” She wrote back in encouragement.

I wrote two sentences and went back to chat. “How has your week been?”

“Pretty good. I’m working on some master classes. Watching the Xbox reveal right now.”

Now, I’m a gamer girl. I’ve been all my life. Next Gen consoles have been in my peripheral, but not really because I know that they are crazy out of our price range right now (We’re about to slap down major money for a house and then a preschool for my son. $500 consoles is not currently in the budget). Nonetheless, I’m a gamer girl, so I needed a link immediately to watch.

And boy was I mystified. I was late to the Xbox bandwagon. I’ve never lived in a house without a Nintendo in it, and indeed, we have every Nintendo console in this apartment. For our “core” games, we’re more Playstation people. But from time to time, the Xbox 360 gets turned on for this or that. I pay more attention when Sony starts talking mostly because my favorite franchises happen to be on that system…but today, today, I was really impressed by Xbox One.

But this post isn’t really about Xbox One as a console. This post is about the idea of XBox One. This notion that this little box is going to be the new filter between me and media content. That filter is going to monitor everything that I do while I consume media–be it gaming, watching a sitcom, watching breaking news unfold…this box is going to know.

and that got me thinking about Sci Fi. Is this the beginning of that centralized Vid box in just about ever sci fi novel/movie in the universe? The sole source of all entertainment?

And what about happen if the box really did listen to us while we watch television? What if it watched us? What if it fed back that data to companies in real time? What if it fed it back to government?

My mind is racing with an awesome short story idea: What would happen if a Katrina-like event happened, and a device like this new Xbox monitored the national reaction to it on an individual level? What if government actually made decisions (like if certain parts of an effected city would get aid) based on that reaction? What would that look like?

I’m going to find out by writing it on Saturday. I’m so freaking pumped. I don’t necessarily know if the disaster will be a hurricane (that’s a bit obvious) but the confluence of race/class/government/media really interest me, and I’m going to play with them in this context. Can’t wait! Will post an excerpt this weekend!

My second source of inspiration came from Never a Day, the short story that I sat down to write in the first place. Victor, the character who has survived all of the re-writes of this thing, found himself sitting in the principal’s office reading his class assignment in Animal Farm. I loved it when my students started reading Animal Farm in their reading class. I taught history, but the reading teacher and I were close friends, so I often popped into her classroom when she was reading Animal Farm with the kids. I went for my copy of it to find an appropriate quote to put in this short story. And I started reading. Ohhh the parallels between urban charter schools and Animal Farm. Ohhh the new possibilities for this little short story that I keep trying to write. And what a short little book! I’m going to breeze through this in an evening.

There are good things happening here. The mind is working over time. It is so nice to feel good after a week of significant setbacks. I hope to have an excerpt of my newest edition of Never a Day during this weekend as well.

 

What is inspiring you lately? What makes your Muse whisper to you?

 

The Power of Critique and My Funky Writing Week

 

I know that it’s Accountability Friday, and I really should break out my task list right now to show my failures.

Fuck it. Let’s just go ahead and do that:

1. Aside from the 3 progress report posts, write 2 blog posts about my writing and who I am writing for.

I didn’t even get through my normal 3 this week! I am going to be thinking more about this blog and platform, and figuring out a way to make it more doable as well as successful.

2. Write a 1000 word Flash Fiction for this week’s challenge. My rolls: Weird Western and Haunted House. I have such a great idea for this!  Post fiction by noon on Friday.

I DID manage to do this! and I feel like I created a cool idea, too! Unfortunately, horror/scary really isn’t my gig, so that idea is going to die with that story. Maybe someday I’ll genre bend again and return to that world. There might be a way to save Richard…if Richard is worth saving?

3. Work on Escort Mission and start another work, 6:45. 

I didn’t work on any short stories this week beyond Never a Day and that Flash Fiction.

4. Polish current edit in progress: Never a Day Quiet. Already got some great critiques for this.

I was given two great Critiques this week on Never a Day, and while one of them was interesting, the other was devastating. I am considering rewriting the story for a second time. The majority of my writing/editing efforts this week went into this piece instead of other works. To realize last night that I will probably need to whip the slate clean and try again was simply heart breaking.

5. Work on Haley, a secondary character in my novel, A Terrible Thing to Waste. Post excerpts (along with the other excerpts from previous weeks) on Sunday.

did work on Haley this week and I love her. She is going to be one of my more fun and stronger characters in my novel. She was probably the only highlight of my week. I’m almost ready to put up excerpts. As soon as I’m done developing characters (there are 6 characters who I want to highlight and follow), I’ll put up all of their excerpts at once.

6. Critique at least 3 other short stories in the forums of my two writing communities this week.

I got 2 powerful critiques this week, yet I wasn’t able to replicate the same sort of commitment to other pieces. I did read one…and it confused the hell out of me. I couldn’t decide if it was because of my own stupidity or if it was because the author missed something. I couldn’t bring myself to write the critique because I was a coward. I do want to commit to reading more of my peers’ work and critiquing them, so as to get more critiques for my own work.

 

I realized this week how hungry I’ve been for critiques. I submitted a work for an anthology two weeks ago and wasn’t accepted–the notes were very positive, with only a few minor edits suggested. But one of the notes made me angry. Instead of finding the nuance and subtlety in the conflict, a person wrote “nothing happened. No conflict at all.” What made me angry was not that the person didn’t like the work, but that her note was not helpful. I realized that I needed to go searching for more people, more eyeballs on my words.

I found two great writing communities–one that I had sort of forgotten about and rejoined, the other a totally new one but part of a corner of the internet that I’m familiar with. Both welcomed me with open arms and both have given me a lot of great feedback.

And then I made a mistake.

I gave a family member Never a Day because I consider her to be a brutal editor and I wanted her to tear it apart grammatically. Instead, she tore apart the content in a way that has made me re-consider the entire piece.

Before you say “you should just ignore her critique,” you must understand that her critique was very specific and insightful. It wasn’t about content, it was about message. Where I thought that I was writing about something specific and important, my reader couldn’t get passed the message that she had found on her own. Once she gleaned that message, she couldn’t get passed it. Indeed, she said that the message that she found made the story “fucked up” for her.

At first I thought that I had done something right. The story is designed to make people thing. She was thinking and it moved her.
But it moved her in the wrong direction about the wrong things. She got distracted somewhere.

And now I feel compelled to rewrite and try again.

I don’t mind re-writing. Indeed, I relish the opportunity of rewrites. I recognize that first drafts, even second drafts, suck. But in this case, I’ve been working on this story for a month and I thought that it was in a great place. I thought that it was ready to submit or be put aside for some e-publishing.

So now this story is a time suck. It’s taking away from my novel, from other pieces that could garner me more opportunities to publish and grow. I’m anxious to get beyond this piece, as much as I appreciate the process that I’m going through.

So that’s why my task-list is all sorts of fail.

An accomplished Week!

 

Happy Friday fellow writers and potential readers! How did you fare this week? I’m feeling pretty accomplished this week! Let’s observe the task list:

 

  1. 3 blog posts this week

Alright, this was a cheat. Clearly I’m going to write three posts a week. Won’t put this on my task lists anymore. 🙂 It feels good to cross one off, though!

  1. Finish a first draft of Escort Mission and post excerpts by Friday.

Ok, only half crossing off this one. I really like this story and I’m about half-way through. There is a lot of potential here, but I’m noooottt quuuiiiittteee finished. I have posted an excerpt on my here, so I’m partially done, but I can’t totally take this one off of the list.

  1. Work on my second character for A Terrible Thing to Waste:. Post excerpt of first-person interview by Friday.

I done the work for my character this week, but I’ve decided that I have is a little too raw for publishing on the internet. So I’m going to write a publishable “Character Introduction” for him to post on the web. Something to entice without giving stuff away! Hope to have this done by the end of the weekend.

  1. Seek feedback for current edit-in-progress project, Never a Day Quiet. Post small excerpt (I’m polishing this for submission, so I don’t want to publish too much here).

Feedback sought but not received. Hopefully I’ll get the notes that i need next week. I DID, however, post an excerpt here.

  1. Find some inspiration for this week’s Short Story Saturday (a sequel to Escort Missionperhaps?) Post teaser/inspiration sentence by Friday.

I THOUGHT that I was going to draw inspiration from Escort Mission, and while I’m inspired, I am not fully inspired to write a sequel for it yet (because it’s not finished! Duh!!). The Good news is that Chuck Wendig, on his fantastic blog, has posted a Flash Fiction challenge that looks awesome. The sentence that I’m choosing: “When does the family document the thunder?” 

 

Another week is done, and many words have been written. I’ve taken a few more steps toward my goals and I’m feeling really great about it!

I hope that you, too, are feeling accomplished and hopeful on this Friday! I look forward to starting another week with you again on Monday!

Short Story Saturday! Mixed Results: 900 words in, but only 425ish are good…

 

Another Short Story Saturday has come and gone, and while I have admittedly spent most of today with my boys and my husband, and I even got the opportunity to sleep in and take a nap today (A miracle. An utter luxury! I haven’t slept past 8am since my youngest son was born–over a year ago!), I did get a chance to do a little bit of writing.

As I wrote on Friday, a story idea flew into my head on my way to playgroup on Wednesday. I had to make my son a little late so that I could e-mail myself the story idea. I’m calling this story “Escort Mission,” and I am excited about the idea. What I’m not excited about is how I’ve executed the idea so far. The beginning feels….good…not perfect….but gooood….but somewhere things when splat. Here’s where things feel good:

 

               Three children sat at the kitchen table, fastened to booster seats and highchairs, chewing on hotdogs and microwaved peas while their mother stood in the kitchen, eyes glued to the evening news. “The numbers have dropped lower than have been seen in a decade. Indeed, we might be witnessing a crash worse than that of the Great Depression.” The handsome news anchor stated, opening music to the national evening news strumming in the background. She had her hand to her chest. The news had been this way all week, and now it was culminating into everyone’s worse fears.

“More apple juice, please!” Her eldest called from the dining room.

“Just a minute, baby!” She called back. She had no intention of giving that child more apple juice. Her mind went toward filtered water, but her body did not move.

“Protests in four European countries and terrorist attacks on the markets of Tokyo and Beijing have brought the world economy to a grinding halt. Despite the efforts of the Fed and other organizations, the repercussions have come to our shores…”

She shook her head in disbelief. Water evaporated while her mind turned to an inventory of supplies. Did she have enough food and baby supplies to get them through a few weeks if they needed to ride things out?

“Mama! More apple juice, please!” Her eldest called.

“Juice, please!” Her second son echoed.

She took herself from the television and poured water into two brightly colored plastic cups. She delivered them to the table with the best smile that she could put on. “We’re all done with apple juice, gentlemen, but there is plenty of water!” She announced, though the caveat of for now came to the forefront of her mind.

The front door opened and closed right on time.

“Daddy!” All three of their children chimed merrily.

“Hello gentlemen!” Her husband said in an exhausted, but cheery choice. He walked up to her and gave her a kiss. “Hey, Viv.”

“Hey, Cal.” Vivian answered. She couldn’t mask her worry anymore. The news could still be heard from the kitchen.

He noticed, of course. “NPR is full of reports, too. I’m going to take a quick inventory. Do we need to make a baby and food run?”

“Maybe.” She frowned.

The boys didn’t appreciate their mother hogging of their father’s attention. They peppered him with questions and requests. When was he going to sit down and eat dinner? When was he going to shower them with love and attention? Would he please bring them more hotdogs?

 

I like how I started this. I know that there are issues, but I like the start. But then I get bogged down: Viv gets a phone call from her friend Henry, who needs to get to New York. She hesitates, and that hesitation leads makes the entire dialogue awkward, and tedious to read. Here is the rest of the story:

Vivian managed their food requests while Calvin went to change clothes. By the time he returned, a plate full of risotto and baked salmon in hand, Vivian was all but ignored by her children. She first went to the kitchen to turn off the television set. She didn’t need to hear anymore about the world falling to pieces. She then went to the nursery to assess diapers and pull-ups. The eldest, three and a half, was mercifully potty trained but for the occasional wet night. The other two, two and one respectively, were still dependent on diapers. She had enough of both of their sizes to last them a month. She had to pass by the laundry room in order to get back to the kitchen, so she went to check on her supplies there. They were running low. She made a mental note.

Walking through the living room and glancing outside toward the cul-da-sac, she noticed neighbors outside, huddled quietly, hands to breasts, speaking with worried faces. She was tempted to join them, but a vibrating sound distracted her. Her cell phone was ringing.

Picking up the device and looking at the caller ID, she quickly answered. “Hello, Henry! I’m surprised that you are calling.”

“Hello, Vivian. I am sorry to bother you. I know that we usually correspond over e-mail, but I am in great need of a favor, and I can’t really wait.”

“What’s wrong, Henry? Are you alright?” Calvin had pocked his head in. Vivian gave him a concerned look, but dismissed him with a shake of her head. He retreated back to the family room.

“I need a ride to New York, and due to various reasons, I can’t get a ticket for any train or bus that is leaving within the next 24 hours. I need to get there as soon as possible. Vivian, I hate to ask you this, but would it be possible for you to take me?” The desperation in Henry’s voice came through loud and clear.

Yet, she could not help but hesitate. “I’d have to talk to Calvin…someone has to take care of the boys…”

“I know that this is a grave imposition. I wouldn’t do it if I could avoid it. I really need this. Please, Vivian.”

“Let me just make sure that I can logistically make it happen. I’ll call you back in five minutes.” She didn’t wait for an answer, she simply hung up the phone. She stared at it for a few minutes, then looked out the window toward the still congregating neighbors.

Shouts from the family room indicated the end of dinner. Indeed, the clank of dishes on the kitchen counter heralded Calvin’s impending arrival. “Who was that?”

 

And here is where I got bored writing it. And you probably got bored reading it. It’s as if my Muse read through that and was like “I gave you brilliance and this is what you produce? I’m outta here…”

But the thing is, I really love the idea and I think that it’s worth pursuing. The journey, as they say, is worth taking. But clearly I need to find another way to get the trip started. A phone call isn’t going to work. We lost the urgency over the phone. I’m looking forward to going back and rewriting. The goal, to finish the first draft by Wednesday (and I’ll post for accountability).

Here’s to recognizing that the first draft sucks. Here’s also to recognizing when you need to cross the wide river in a different way.

Happy Saturday Evening to you!

 

Weekly Planner: Crawling Back From the Week From Hell

 

I live in the northern suburbs of Boston, so next week was more than a little intense. Add that to flying solo with the 2 toddlers while the husband was away on business, and you have a recipe for disaster!

So, basically, I wrote a total of 3 paragraphs last week.

But we’re back on it this week. I wrote the beginnings of a great short story on Saturday, I’m editing a short story that I wrote a few weeks ago, I have a lot more character development to do this week, and I’m doing a lot of reading on platform building. I lost a week of my writing life last week, and now I’ve got a lot of work to do.

What I’m Doing This Week: 

  1. Editing a short story that I’m polishing for submission: Never A Day Quiet
  2. Finishing a short story that I started on Saturday: Laundry on the Line (working title) 
  3. Doing intense character development (using the Holly Lisle  Create a Character Clinic) for the protagonist of my novel, A Terrible Thing to Waste.  I hope to have him fully formed this week.
  4. Reading more about website/twitter/tumblr use by authors and building a stronger platform.

That is a lot going on, and I have plenty of things to do with Ursa Major and Ursa Minor this week! Did I mention that I’m taking two classes on EdX that I’m utterly behind on? There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

But it’s Monday. The week is fresh, the air is clean, the spirit is high. So we’re going to get it all done!

What’s on your plate this week?

Progress report on Wednesday!