Tag Archives: Author

The priceless value of beta readers. 

Last October I finally nagged two beta readers for my fantasy novel. I’d had a couple of people on and off, but, as we all know, life tends to get in the way, and it is hard for people to read things for pleasure when they are going into nursing school or going back to school to get their masters degree, no matter trying to digest and critique something that isn’t scholarly, and work a full-time job. But, as luck would have it, one of my original beta readers graduated last year and I approached her again about reading. She jumped at it, being really excited the first time she started reading my novel. She ended up asking her cousin as well about reading, and after I made sure they not only had the will but the actual time to devote to this project, we started. 

I sent ten chapter increments. My friend’s cousin asked me about editing, and I told her to edit to whatever degree she felt comfortable, because a) I’m poor, & b) I wasn’t going to load more work onto someone that they didn’t want to do.

My first reader is one I’d kind of wanted for a while, which is someone to read just for the entertainment value. I’m pretty sure that my second reader is going to be my editor for the rest of my life, 😉 and I love having these two ladies in my corner.

For me, at least, having two types of personalities and two types of readers is hugely beneficial. Just as there are different types of authors and writing styles, so are there readers. Some people like to get into the mechanics of it all, and some people merely want a book to read on the beach, and don’t always care if point A leads to point B to point C, and I think that’s true no matter the genre.

The other immensely valuable thing about beta readers is the honesty. Placing your work in the hands of someone who has no emotional attachment to it is a big step for an author. Digesting everything they come back with is another BIG step. I admit that while I agreed my betas’ points on a lot of things, there were sections that I kinda bristled at the comments. I had to remember that this is what I was asking for.

What works, what doesn’t. Is there something out of character for someone ten or fifteen chapters in, after you’ve gotten a good sense of the character? Are they believable little creations, in a believable world? Does Point A go to Point C without skipping Point B, because in some novels, especially the ones more on the ‘epic’ scale, it can be hard to remember some minute detail that happened twelve chapters ago that comes back into play and having it work. And when you’ve read your own writing a hundred times, it’s easy for your author brain to fill in a mistake without it actually being on the page.

So if you’ve written something, anything, and you think one day in the future you might want five people or eight thousand people to read it, go find someone else to read it first. Preferably more than one. Give them a purpose in reading, and don’t be afraid to ask for the feedback you need, which is not the same as what you want. And, yes, I know that most professionals advise against using family or friends as ‘honest’ readers, because I’m sure that some people’s family would gush praise no matter what. Thankfully, I have a best friend who will always gush about what she loves and will absolutely not on everything else. In, like, all aspects of our now twenty-five year friendship. 

It’s been several months since my betas and I finished the first read through, and I got a bit sidetracked (stuck! Damn you Chapters 22 & 42!!!) in my editing/revising, but I’ve gotten back on track. I know it can take me longer to get some of this done than others, but I am accepting that fact more and more, and that’s allowing me to not beat myself up as much on my writing progress.  

As for those sections that weren’t not working for my in-depth editing beta—it will happen to you. It’s fine to be a bit taken aback, or to even resist changing something you think works. But take a few deep breaths, or a day or week even, and go back to those concerns. I now have some much-improved and truer chapters than I did, and in a couple of those, I really didn’t have to change as much as I thought. Sometimes, the smallest solutions have the biggest impact.

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Story A Day May #11

Today, I thought I would try something a tad different. Searching the vast reaches of the internet (i.e. what my US broadband servers will let me see) brought me to a nifty website. http://writingexercises.co.uk/index.php for any that are interested. The site has a multitude of prompts, and I was searching for one that would inspire me today. Silly me, limiting myself to one. After I wrote using the first prompt, I had one of those ‘Ah-hah’ moments, and realized that several of the other prompts I’d generated and dismissed were viable options. Silly, silly, girl. Which gives us today’s four prompt entry. Enjoy!

May 11, 2015

First line of dialogue prompt:

“Why did you scream like that?” He stood at the top of the basement steps, staring down with alarm.

“Giant cricket. One of those gross, spotted ones with the three foot legs.”

“My God. Really?”

“Yeah, I’m not coming up until you kill it.”

“Just step on it. You’re wearing shoes.”

“Nope.” She shook her head. “It will eat me.”

Title of a story prompt:

The Hissing City

 Callie hugged her arms to her chest, wishing her jacket were thicker. She hated leaving the diner this late. Hated waiting for the steam train at the empty platform. She could remember a time before the steam. Before the sun started flaring. Before the raging storms came. The overabundance of water had been bad for many places; places near the coasts or not too far inland. But for those still living in cities, existing in the middle of the terra, the water was as good as gold. Steam powered everything here, and the sounds still startled her, even after three years.

Random plot generator prompt: The story begins in a church crypt. Someone is accused of theft. It’s a story about family ties. Your character investigates with the help of a good friend.

“Give me the lantern,” I said.

Brian handed it through the crack in the stone wall. I held it above my head. The ancient crypt lay undisturbed for three centuries until yesterday. Yesterday, the groundskeeper saw a figure darting from the entrance which is supposed to be locked. The woman found the chain and lock lying on the ground. She took it to the Friar, and he called me.

Brian tagged along for, as he called it, ‘funsies’. I don’t know why my oldest friend liked going on investigations with me, since he got out of the Private Investigator business six months after we started our own firm. It was a fairly lucrative way to make a living. Most jobs were husbands or wives hiring me to find out if their spouse was cheating. Those jobs paid the bills, and gave me a modestly comfortable life. Every once in a while, though, something juicy came along. Something like this.

“Jackson, I can’t fit through this hole,” said Brain.

I turned around. His face was pressed against the stone. For once, being 5’8” and weighing 120 lbs gave me an advantage. Brian could not squeeze his over six foot broad frame through the crumbling structure. “It’s fine; wait there.”

“Dude, what if there’s someone in there? They could be waiting to kill you.”

I rolled my eyes. “Brian, we’re in a church crypt beneath an order of monks in a secret, walled up section. I doubt anyone knew about this.”

“Yeah, no one but us and the thief.”

“Okay, good point. Still, I’ll be fine. Just wait there.”

I started forward, ignoring his random humming that he always did to stave off boredom. There were two rows of tombs. Large stone rectangles, with heavy stone lids. Other than the set of footprints – woman’s size eight – nothing else seemed amiss. Until I reached the end of the row.

A section of the wall was busted behind the last tomb on my right. Crouching, I placed the lantern on the ground before reaching into the hole. A crowbar lay next to my knee, discarded by the thief. I could take it and dust for prints, but there would be no need. As my fingers closed over the petals of the white rose left for me, I knew exactly who to look for.

Random job/occupation prompt: School meals supervisor

Ugh, they can keep their fruit budget, thought Ms. Winkker. Growing bodies need meat. Lots and lots of meat.

She cackled a little at the thought of all these privately schooled Saturnian children living on stardust and bloom-sprout fruits.


Story A Day May #10

Day 10! Woo and Hoo. I feel pretty good about sticking with this for ten days, even though I feel less than stellar today, I knew I had to knock something out on the ol’ keyboard. We can all thank the husband for the opening line of this story, and for the third word of my trio of word prompts, even after I protested that I wouldn’t work that one in. (He still insists that I’m the one in charge of the story) Enjoy, and see everyone tomorrow!

May 10, 2015

Word prompts: banana pudding, dinner, nazi

The Dinner

             “Man, these vanilla wafers are good. You know what I kinda want now?”

“Banana pudding?”

“Naner puddin’. Mmhhm mm.”

Scott handed her two more before scrunching the bag down in the yellow box and replacing it in the cabinet. He looked at his girlfriend, Denise. “Ready?”

“I guess. Do we really have to?”

“I s’pose we could play hooky.”

She grinned. “That sounds like a great plan. Oh, here, sweetie, you got wafer crumbs on your tie.” She walked over and wiped the teeny, betraying sugary-bits off his maroon silk tie. “Let’s get this over with.”

“After you, sweet cheeks.” For added effect, he swatted her dress-clad butt as she passed him. He chuckled at her ‘Don’t get me excited’ look.

The engagement dinner had been his mother’s idea. While Scott didn’t mind having dinner with his parents, or his future in-laws, he really didn’t expect to be having one involving all parties so soon after actually getting engaged. He’d only asked Denise two weeks ago. He loved his parents, but they could be a bit overbearing. It was one of the many reasons he adored Denise’s family. From the first time he met her parents and two brothers, he felt like part of their family. Her mom made lasagna, and her dad made a salad from all the veggies grown in his garden. Denise’s parents liked living a little farther out from the city, liked getting their hands down in the dirt. Scott doubted his mother or father had ever cooked a day in their life.

Denise stood at the front door, gawking. “Your mother sent a limo. A limo, Scott.”

He let out a long sigh. “She told me the other day about it. I insisted that we could drive ourselves to the restaurant, to which she replied, ‘What about cocktails? You’ll have cocktails and you’ll need transportation.’”

He and Denise said the last part in unison. She giggled, and he leaned down to kiss her. After a few seconds they parted. Her eyes went wide, and she slapped his arm in an excited remembrance. “Oh, this is why my mom said earlier that the car was there. I had no idea what she was talking about. Holy moly, your parents sent a limo to get mine. Aww, that’s sweet.”

“Cynthia has her moments.” He held open the front door.

“Stop calling your mom by her first name. It’s weird.”

The limo driver held open the door for Denise and Scott, told them that any beverages or snacks were complimentary. They joked about making out during the ride, but decided against it since appearing at a four-star restaurant for dinner with their parents in rumpled clothing probably wouldn’t go over too well.

When they arrived at Calamari, Scott had to keep Denise from getting out of the limo.

“I don’t need that poor man to walk all the way back here just to open the door,” she said, refusing to let go of the handle.

“It is his job. Like, literally, his job. He gets paid to drive and open doors,” said Scott.

“I can’t make his job easier? What if he ends up driving around a bunch of bratty teenagers later? They definitely won’t open the door for themselves.”

Right then, the door opened. Denise hastily took her hand away from the inside handle. Scott snickered, but she got out of the vehicle, thanking the man. He did the same.

Scott held out his arm for his fiancée. She took it, wrapping her arm around his, fingers resting against his forearm. He felt the tiny flutters, the tingling sensation in his stomach, almost a nervous feeling, at the love of that small, intimate contact. He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, and they walked into the restaurant.

The maitre d’ showed them to a reserved room at the back of the establishment. He opened the double doors for the couple. Scott and Denise stopped dead at the sight. The suit clad maitre d’ extended a hand. “Mr. Walsh?”

Denise took a baby step, modest heels clicking on the stone tile floor. He resisted and felt her tugging on his arm.

A waiter came around the pair to pull out the two middle chairs at the elegantly set banquet table. Deep purple and lavender tulip flower arrangements sat near either end. The middle held a large crystal vase with all white tulips. Denise’s favorite.

“How could your mother possibly know my favorite flower? In my favorite colors?” asked Denise in a hushed voice. “She’s a witch, isn’t she? Tell me now before I wake up married to a warlock.”

“Ha ha. She called your mother, I’d bet money. Did your mom tell you that your brothers were coming? Not that I mind because, honestly, they make life worth living.”

“No. Who is that redheaded lady? The one with the redhead teenage clone.”

“Natalie and Rachel.”

“Your stepmother and stepsister are here? What the f—”

“Scott, darling!” Cynthia Walsh spotted them and rushed over, arms raised. She gave him a hug and kissed his cheek. “And Denise. You are the picture of loveliness.” She embraced her future daughter-in-law before taking her hand. “I hope you like the arrangements.”

“They’re gorgeous,” said Denise. “Thank you so much.”

“Well, it’s not every day that your son decides to marry such an elegant young lady. You deserve it.”

His mother left them to speak to the maitre d’ about something concerning the appetizers. Scott and Denise went to her parents. “Hi mom. Hi dad,” she said, getting tangled in a hug from both at once. “You guys look great!”

“We clean up nicely,” said Carla Fern. “Of course, we had to buy this one a new suit.

“The old one was deemed, what was the word?” said Daniel Fern.

“Dated, dad. Several decades too old,” piped up Will, Denise’s youngest brother.

“Wide lapels are not a thing anymore,” said Charlie, the eldest of the twenty-two year old twins. Charlie slapped Scott on the back. “Good to see you.”

“You, too, man,” said Scott. He gave Carla a hug, and shook Daniel’s hand, and the three of them started talking about his job until he heard the deep, authoritative voice of his father, and the severe tone of his paternal grandmother. Scott whipped around.

“Nana is here,” he said. He grabbed Denise’s hand and pulled her in front of him as a defense mechanism. “Protect me.”

“You are insane. She can’t be that bad.”

“She can and is. Wait. You’ll get a lecture about the war in less than fifteen minutes.” He held up his wrist. “It’s 7:47. I’ll time it.”

“Oh, let go of me.” Denise wriggled free of his grip and went to greet his father and grandmother.

Everyone began sitting. Two waiters circled the table. One filled goblets with ice water while the other took drink orders. Denise was still looking at the four page booklet when it came to her and Scott.

“I’ll take the IPA,” he said.

“I think … uh … gosh. Okay. I’ll take the frozen sangria and peach bellini swirl.”

“A house specialty,” said the waiter.

Cynthia ordered appetizers for the table. She sat next to Carla, and Scott stared at the two women who couldn’t be more different having what seemed to be a perfectly pleasant conversation. Beside him, Denise spoke to his father, Karl, answering his intense questions about her upcoming internship at a prestigious architecture firm. Scott could tell that his father’s queries were unexpected, but she never sounded more polite. Things appeared to be going better than he dreamed.

The pair of waiters returned with drinks. When one of them handed the frozen bellini to Denise, she exclaimed, “Yahtzee!”

“Nazi?”

Everyone looked at his grandmother. She wore an expression of extreme dislike. “Did she say Nazi?”

“No, Nana, she said Yahtzee,” said Scott.

“Nazi?”

“It’s an expression, Nan,” said his stepsister. “Like the game?”

“Communism is not a game, young lady,” reprimanded the elderly woman.

“Oh, no, Mrs. Walsh, I didn’t say what you think I did,” started Denise, only to be interrupted by Karl.

“Mother, do please stop talking about the war for five minutes. This is your grandson’s engagement dinner, not a lecture hall.”

Denise glanced to her right at Scott’s subtle throat clearing. He held up his wrist, tapping his watch with his index finger.

“Thirteen minutes,” he mouthed.


Story A Day May #9 – Something Bad Part 3

Parts 1 & 2 were published on May 2 & 6, for any that need a quick catch-up. Sad to say that the third word prompt given to me by my husband for today did not quite make it in, but I’ll work it into part 4. I had a moment of doubt in which I told him that I could not work the words into my time-travel zombie tale because “they’re trapped in a building!”, to which he said, “Uh-uh. You have to. You’re writing the story.” (If anyone is curious, the third prompt is black cat, but the cocktails are piling up on my end, sooooo, no black cat of any kind to be found today in mah zombie story.) Hope everyone enjoys installment three, and comments and feedback are always welcome!

May 9, 2015

Word prompts: dead battery, gin

Something Bad (Part 3)

I could barely register the absence of light and sound, the frigid temperature, before I found myself standing in Room 622. In the same spot. I looked around, confused, terrified, not noticing the faint shimmering space where the wormhole had opened seconds ago. I stared at the device in my hand. No lights blinked. The middle section had gone dark, and it was though I had dreamed the event. Maybe I had. Maybe I let all the time-travel nonsense go to my head and I imagined the whole thing. I looked around for the case, but didn’t see it. Everything else appeared normal. Glancing at my watch, I noticed it had stopped. I brought it up to my ear, shaking my wrist like an idiot in an attempt to get it to work. “Must be a dead battery,” I muttered. “Great.”

I started to put the whatwhozit device on the table, but figured leaving it where anyone could pick it up might not be the best idea. I could go find Doug, give it to him, perhaps get a laugh out of my embarrassing tale. Not that Doug ever seemed the laughing type, but there’s a first time for everything.

I passed a few other people. The thing about government contracted employees was they always tended to look a little suspicious of the people they didn’t know. I could get onto most floors of the building, and I could enter someone’s office if they were present, but that was about as far as my clearance would get me. Thankfully, Doug did not work on the ninth or tenth floor. Most of the doorways on those floors, elevators included, were guarded by men with guns. Like, serious men with serious gun. And serious uniforms. I got off on the ninth floor by mistake during my first week at GeneLabs. I’d been talking to Helen, who helped get me my job, and followed her off the elevator. I almost peed my pants when two soldiers asked for my badge, then pointed guns in my face when I failed to produce one. They not-so-politely suggested that I was on the wrong floor. I’d never been back, not that I could seeing as how the people with clearance had special elevator keys to get them onto those floors.

Doug wasn’t in his office. I figured he’d left early, so I headed down to the basement to find Helen. I knew she’d still be cleaning up, despite our plans to meet in the lobby in a few minutes. She might be unbelievably hot, but she wasn’t punctual.

I hummed on the elevator ride to the basement, willing the metal contraption to stop, as always, where I needed it to. One would think that a person with such an aversion to elevators would rather take the stairs, but stairs were so … active? I’d rather spend less than a minute praying for my life than arrive sweaty and out of breath.

The B button lit up. The doors opened with a ding and the digital voice saying, ‘Basement 1, South Wing’. I stepped off, letting out the breath I’d been holding, and passed one of Helen’s new interns. The young woman stared at me in such a shocked way that I almost ran into a metal bench as I turned my head to stare back. She got onto the elevator, expression of extreme confusion on her face. I rolled my eyes and kept going.

Pushing open the wide, double doors at the end of the hallway, I went into the viewing room, and up to the large glass window.

That expression, white as a ghost? I felt it happen. I felt the color leave my face. I thought I would faint, and I’ve never in my life felt that sensation. I stood in the next room, talking to Helen. Stuffing my face with chips, and … holy crap, did I really eat like such a pig? Who eats chips like that? WHO??

I shook my head, rubbed my eyes, and smacked a hand across my face. What was going on? At that moment, I felt my left pocket vibrate.

The device.

Gingerly, I pulled on the fabric of my blue lab-coat and peered into the deep pocket. Lights above the buttons blinked, and it vibrated a second time. “Ooooooooohhhh. Crap.” I took a step back, knocking over a metal stand. My eyes flew to the viewing window at the same moment my earlier self was handing the serum to my friend. She (or me?) half-turned. Distracted by the loud noise, I (she?) dropped the glass vial. I crouched beneath the window. I could hear the vial hit the metal autopsy table and break. I heard Helen’s curse followed by a pleading apology in my voice. Familiar yet foreign. Like how listening to yourself on a recording never quite sounds like you.

For the longest stretch of time in my life, I stayed hiding beneath the window, convinced that either I’d really gone back in time, or I was hallucinating. Maybe the sour cream from lunch had been rancid. Would rancid dairy cause a person to hallucinate? I kept trying to think of that answer, despite the painful position my legs were in. I couldn’t think of anything! I am a damned scientist! Advanced degrees in biology and chemistry and here I was, hiding like a teenager afraid to get caught, pondering if a spoiled dairy product would cause me to go insane.

Right about the moment I figured smacking myself would be a great solution, I heard a yelp from the next room. An ear-hurting crash of metal prodded me to peek.

The horrors happening inside that room froze my body until a few minutes later when I ran for my very life.

Outside Jamie’s office door, I tried to compose myself. I could hear our department director speaking with my friend, and I couldn’t appear completely train-wrecked in front of the man. He was the picture of scientific professionalism, and didn’t much care for us ‘young ‘uns’ going out drinking after work, fraternizing. It just wasn’t done in his day, I once overheard him saying to a colleague. As the doorknob turned, I snatched the mail from the box mounted on the wall, and turned to the side, putting my back to the director. Once his footsteps faded around the corner, I threw open Jamie’s door, and dashed inside, slamming it shut.

He raised one eyebrow, gave me an amused look. “You all right?”

I shook my head.

“You’re not all right?”

Again, a vigorous head shake.

“Kat, you gonna tell me what the hell is going on? And would you move away from the door?”

“I did something,” I hissed. “Something bad. So, so, very bad. Jamie … it’s bad.”

He laughed. “Calm down, sweetie.”

I started with lunch and Doug, and his time-travel device. Jamie interrupted me. “You had Mexican and didn’t invite me? Asshole.”

“Doug brought me lunch.”

“Why would Doug bring you—hold up.” He slapped me on the arm. “Did you sleep with Doug Allan?”

“Focus, Jamie!”

“Ha! You did! Grats, man. You should sleep with Doug; he’s awesome.”

“This is not impor—how would you know if he’s awesome?”

“We play racquetball on Thursdays.”

I gawked at him. Gorgeous, funny, perfect hair, perfect body plays racquetball with a physics geek? I began picturing Jamie: gym shorts, shirtless, glistening with a light sheen of sweat, running back and forth, smacking a ball. The image of Doug interrupted that thought, albeit in a less fashionable way, still wearing his slightly rumpled lab coat, drenched in sweat and asthmatic. He’s not asthmatic, at least I don’t think he is, but he looks like he was one of those kids who always carried an inhaler and got out of gym class.

“Focus, Kat,” he said in a mocking tone.

I resumed the tale. From his expression, he didn’t believe me one iota. I fell silent, waiting. It was a full minute before he spoke.

“Let me get this right—you went back in time, after stealing—”

“Borrowing.”

“Stealing Douglas Allen’s time-travel machine, showed yourself to yourself, causing past you, which apparently is the you of this time right now, to drop a vial of your new skin-rejuvenating formula onto an autopsy table, which caused it to break, and whamo, zombie? Are you drunk?”

“Jamie, I swear it’s the truth.”

He crossed his arms. “What happened to Helen?”

“Uuuh, the zombie kind of bit me, and it looked liked I was having a seizure or something, and I fell on the floor. Helen stabbing the corpse with her scalpel when I got up, and, um, I sort of started eating her.”

“You ate your best friend?”

I nodded.

“Okay. I—” His mouth hung open. Jamie closed it after a second and bent down. I heard the screech of his bottom desk drawer, and he produced a bottle of gin and two glasses. “I think we need this. One of us does, anyway.”


Taking The Challenge!

I have not written a word of fiction, relating to my series or otherwise, for weeks. WEEKS. It has me feeling pretty shitty, too. Between work, the house, and personal life issues, my made-up fantasy world has taken up residence in the trunk. It’s not even in the backseat, which is a shame. I can’t even say the writing is suffering because of too much TV or gaming, and that’s almost a tragedy right there.

I need a kick in the pants. Luckily, thanks to the supremely talented author, Marian Allen, who can be found here: http://www.marianallen.com/, and her post yesterday about Story A Day May, I think I’ve found it.

I am not great at short stories or flash fiction. At least, I don’t think I am. Letting others read stuff I think I suck at is beyond my comfort zone. All of these have inspired me to do just that. I’m going to participate in Story A Day May 2013. My goal is to write a piece of flash fiction each day between 500 – 750 words. No more, and certainly no less. I’m going to use word prompts, which is something else I never really utilize. I’m also going to post them here, for all the webz to see, which makes me want to delete this post right now, but I am resisting. I’ll just do the ‘tortured artist’ routine after I’ve hit publish and go enjoy a vodka drink.

For May 1, I used the word prompt that my author friend used as a starting point. (That’s right – I know this fabulous lady in real life!) Today’s words were given to me last night by a co-worker, when I explained what I was doing and that I needed three words to work into a short piece. Which reminds me, any of you kind, kind followers out there that want to toss in some word prompts in the comment section, please go ahead. I’m using 3 each day, so be creative.

Without much further ado, here’s the first two flash fiction pieces of May 2013. Constructive comments always welcome, and while everyone is reading, I’m going to go fetch that drink and order some fattening pizza, because it’s been that kind of day. 😀

 

May 1, 2013

Prompts: caramel, binder, Stonehenge

Word Count: 658

 The Safe

“Do you remember when we went to Stonehenge?”

“Stonehenge. Let me think …” Carol swiveled her head in Joe’s direction. “You mean the side trip you took that nearly got us arrested? Yes. I remember.”

“I only bring it up because I thought we could visit the catacombs before we leave Paris. There’s lots of skulls down there,” said Joe.

Carol let out a huff and turned back to the seven foot, one-ton safe they stood in front of. They were supposed to have the code, but that part of the plan hadn’t worked out for them. The insurance company hacker, Ellie, was in a van parked ten blocks from the house, trying to open an encrypted file that supposedly contained the safe code. Carol was a great safe-cracker, but this was the Vaultinator 3.7, and she hadn’t been able to open one yet without knowing the code.

Most jobs were easy. The insurance company they worked for sent them to retrieve stolen goods when the owners had reasons not to call the authorities. Carol and Joe were high-end thieves who stole from other high-end thieves. They’d brought back all sorts of objects: jewels, art, money, actual gold bars, historical artifacts, rare books, and whatever people cared about enough to insure for millions of dollars.

Currently, the safe she was trying to crack belonged to Casper Highforth, a highly-skilled and arrogant art thief. He had stolen a fourteenth century painting of a ferret, insured for 3.7 million. Carol and Joe’s modest commission of ten percent made this job more than alluring, as did the fact that Carol once dated Casper, and she jumped at any opportunity to ruin his day.

She began turning the lock again, ear pressed to the safe, listening for the barely-audible click. A loud crackling sound came from behind her, completely ruining any chance of getting the second number. She whipped around.

“What are you doing?” she hissed.

“Want one?” Joe held out his hand, all the while chomping loudly. A square caramel sat in his palm, wrapped in pink cellophane.

“Do I want a caramel?”

He nodded.

Sometimes, she wanted to smack her partner. But what he lacked in timing, he more than made up for with the uncanny abilities to sneak into anywhere undetected and charm information out of anyone. Their boss said that Joe could sell fire to the devil.

“I do not want a caramel, you idiot,” she said.

“You sure? You look like you could use a sweet,” said Joe.

The vibration of his cell phone saved him from a nasty reply. He brought it up to his ear, listening and rolling his eyes. Joe held out the phone.

“It’s Ellie. She cracked the file I got from Casper’s secretary.”

“About freaking time,” said Carol, snatching the phone from Joe. “Ellie, what took you so long?”

“I’m sorry,” said Ellie, high-voice strained and full of remorse. “I left the binder of fourteen century anagrams in the hotel room.”

Just like Casper to use outdated words to hide a numbered sequence. “Do you have the code or not?”

“Yes.”

The young woman read off the seven digits, and the number of turns in between. Carol, breath held, swiveled the lock back and forth, until it landed on the last number with a loud click. Joe grabbed the top of the handle, helping her to pull open the heavy door.

He let out a low whistle. “Pay dirt. God, that is an ugly ferret.”

Carol held the painting up to the light. “I don’t know which is uglier, the ferret or the little boy.”

Joe took it, sliding it into a protective cover before putting in a satchel. They closed the door to the safe, left through the same window they’d entered, and climbed down the drainpipe.

“So, catacombs?” Joe’s face was lit up like a kid on Christmas. He did love history.

She sighed. “Fine. We’ll go.”

 

 

May 2, 2013

Prompts: lice, sunshine, thunderstorm

Count: 574

 New Growth

 Fourteen months had passed. Fourteen months to the day. Margret thought about the ordeal a little less each day, which made this day all the more special. Standing on the beach, pants rolled above her knees, she stood where the water washed over her feet and ankles while combing her fingers through sections of damp hair, immensely satisfied at the return of her hair’s former glory. The afternoon sunshine illuminated the golden curls, giving her head a bouncy halo. Margret hoped her hair would continue to grow; she had cried when they cut it, despite the necessity.

A shadow fell over her—William. She smiled at him, at his nearness, grateful they had found each other.

“You’ve been by yourself all day,” said William.

“I know.”

“You want to talk about it?”

Margret shook her head, letting her fingers fall from the blonde locks. Will grinned and tugged on the end of a thick curl. “You can’t stop playing with your hair.”

“Do you know how long it took to get rid of the lice? It’s finally long enough that I can play with it,” she said, knocking his hand away.

The siblings fell silent, staring at the ship anchored in the bay, and at the ocean. She never thought anything would make her feel free, but the water did.

“It has been eight months, hasn’t it?”

She looked up at him in shock. Will nodded. “I noticed it right away. Each month, on the first day, you get quiet and sad, sometimes angry, and you always pull away, Mags.”

Ever the big brother. Margret gave him an odd smile. “Fourteen months, actually, but we didn’t reunite until I’d been free for six of them.” She sighed and stretched out her arms. “Three hundred and ninety-five days since I walked out of Madame Sophie’s house. Look how far I’ve come.”

“Farther than most would’ve, I reckon,” Will said.

“Aye, from less than nothing to a wanted fugitive.”

“A very wanted and wealthy fugitive.”

She laughed. “Never having been a poor fugitive, I imagine there’s quite a difference.”

“You have no idea. For starters, we wouldn’t be standing on a warm beach in what we think of as the middle of winter,” said Will. “We’d probably be suffering through the freezing cold of Sertha, sleeping in alleys and barns.”

“The benefits of piracy,” Margret mused.

“Successful piracy,” said Will. “Thank Creators you found me and not some other wretched excuse for a sailor.”

“Thank Creators Captain Saundar found me,” she said. “I know too well what could have happened had some lesser man discovered me sleeping in that dinghy.”

“Alix Saundar is a good man.” Her brother stepped close and took her hand, squeezing it as he placed a kiss atop her head. “Don’t stay out too much longer, Mags; it’s going to thunderstorm.”

Margret shook her head. “There’s not a cloud in the sky.”

“Trust me.” He backed away, pointing to the brilliant, tropical blue sky. “I can predict the weather!”

“Go predict me a strong drink,” she shot back.

A couple of hours passed. Margret sat in the sand, knees drawn up, watching the tide fall and contemplating her current situation. Sighing, she shifted and her eyes were drawn upwards and to the south. Dark clouds were gathering, moving with slow purpose. She waited until they covered the beach, and headed for the rundown tavern at the first rumble of thunder.


Do As I Say

Dear Lorien and Jenner,

I know things are hard right now. You both feel an enormous amount of guilt, and actual physical pain. But it will work out in the end. You will heal. You will be happy. You’ll get married, live through the ups and downs, etc., blah blah, and it will all be peachy with a side of keen.  But that time is still in the distant future. If, for now, you could both stop being immature, obnoxious assholes, my life would be easier.

Sincerely,

Your author.

Sheesh.

Anyone, and I’ll go ahead and make a rare universal statement, *anyone* who writes fiction and fiction novels, would tell you during some point the characters tend to take on a life of their own. Some describe it as author channels the character, or the characters decide the direction. Whatever it is, it is usually a great experience. Usually.

I’ve been delving into my second novel. For over a week, as I tried and tried and tried to write, I got from page 99 to … page 99. Top to bottom. Then I hit page 100. When I finally separate the above-mentioned pair, I wrote almost three chapters. Now they are back together, literally stuck with one another, and they aren’t happy, which means I’m not happy. These are two characters I love. They are important to one another. They’ve crossed paths a couple of times in the past, but both have a secret or two.

And it occurred to me, while I tried to write a scene I’ve tried to write numerous times, maybe this time would work. My male character, in his usual ‘I”m going to avoid speaking about all the subjects I wish’ stubbornness, tosses something to her, and she chucks it back – at his head, leading them to a ‘are we really going to do this now’ scenario. Possibly clichéd, but it clicked. Before, I’ve sort of let them keep avoiding the problem until I thought they would be ready. Screw that. It is time for a work together or go stand in the corner until you stop misbehaving attitude from me. Do it now. Stop avoiding the issue and get it all (most) out and get over it. I began the hard conversation last night before I went to bed, so I had some time to dwell on where it needs to go.  Now all I have to do is write it. Easy-peasy … right???


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