Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Introducing New Characters - Part 2

Part 1 of this short story was the last post for anyone who missed it and prefers to start at the beginning.



    Audra parked her bike against the back of the building. She stuffed her hands in her jacket pockets to warm them up, though parts of her were sweaty. Cold October air and racing nerves made an interesting combination. Ever since she’d asked Logan to check out the shadow with her, she’d alternated between feeling relieved and feeling completely ridiculous.
    She’d almost told him not to bother coming several times. After nearly a week, the picture in her head didn’t seem as menacing, but she remembered the shivers she felt at the sight. It was the shivers that stopped her from stopping Logan.
    He was already standing by the front door when she walked around to it. “Hi,” she said.
    Logan rubbed his hands together. “Ready to investigate?”
    She nodded and made a move towards the door.
    He opened it and gestured for her to go in first.
    “Hey, look at that. My favorite grandchild is early today.”  Grandma May’s voice greeted Audra as soon as she took her first step inside.
    Audra waved rather than match her grandma’s volume.
    The older woman was behind the counter at the back. She called across the nearly empty restaurant with a breezy tone. “Who’s that stranger you got with you?”
    Logan said mechanically, “I’m not a stranger.”
    “Are you sure? They don’t get much stranger than you.” Grandma May grinned at her punchline.
    Audra laughed as Logan rolled his eyes. Both her grandparents did this routine with Logan so often it would become unfunny for a time, then roll around to being funny again. Audra seemed to find it more amusing the less Logan did.
    “I’m here to save Audra from a terrifying shadow,” Logan said. They’d moved closer as they spoke, but it still seemed to Audra that everyone was yelling. He sent her a glance that suggested his announcement was payback for laughing.
    “A shadow?”
    Audra jumped in to explain before he could make it sound worse than it was. Not that he needed to exaggerate. “It’s just weird,” she said, “because I can’t figure out where it’s coming from.”
    “Now I want to see.” Grandma May put her hands on her hips and glanced around. “Where is this shadow?”
    “In the kitchen.” Audra led Logan and her Grandma through the door, grateful at least that the one other employee didn’t follow. Her feet began to fight her as she neared the cooler. She didn’t want to see something scary. But she didn’t want to be humiliated that her imagination had run amok either.
    The shadow was fainter in the daytime, but it was still there. Audra demonstrated how moving the brooms didn’t affect it and waving her arms around didn’t affect it.
    “Huh.” Logan sounded intrigued.
    “I’ve never noticed that,” Grandma May said. She stepped away and began to straighten some things on the counter, apparently unconcerned.
    Logan moved the brooms and waved his hands, too.
    “I just did that,” Audra said.
    The shadow began to flicker lightly. With Logan right there, it didn’t bother her. But she knew the same thing might terrify her when she was alone and the windows were black. She let him continue to repeat her movements.
    “Oh, wait a sec.” His hand was in the air and because he was taller, it seemed to be interrupting light where hers had not. He wiggled his fingers and squinted. “But the angle doesn’t…”
    Audra breathed a sigh of relief as he mumbled to himself. It seemed he would be able to explain what she was seeing but not so easily that he’d be able to mock her for not figuring it out herself.
    “I got it,” he said suddenly. “See the fan on the bottom of the cooler? The light is reflecting off the blades from way up here and casting the shadow of the mesh in front of it. That’s why it’s not a real distinctive shape and flickers when the blades are spinning.” He looked at Audra questioningly, more to see if he’d said it clearly than because she might be too stupid to grasp the concept.
    She smiled as the cooler quieted and the shadow stilled at the same time, proof if she’d needed more. She just sort of stared at Logan, unsure how to say thank you. She was honestly grateful, but if she gushed at all, it would confirm how worked up she’d gotten herself.
    “You kids solve the mystery?” Grandma May’s voice broke into what might have become an awkward moment.
    Audra nodded.
    “Good. While you’re here, Logan…” She trailed off to make sure she had his attention.
    “Uh, yeah?” His eyes lingered on Audra a second after the rest of him turned away.
    “I already got a couple Thanksgiving orders,” Grandma said. “Can I count on you to help me make pies again this year?”
    “Do I get to make one for myself again this year?” he asked with an eager expression.
    “Pecan?”
    “Yes, please.”
    “We’ll save you the best one,” she said.
    “They’re all the best one,” he countered.
    Grandma May smiled at the flattery. “Then you’ll help?”
    “Of course.” He talked schedule with her for a minute, then stuck around to chat until they needed to begin prepping for the dinner rush.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Introducing New Characters

I borrowed a few characters from the series I’m currently writing to create a short story for my next few posts. This is set several years before the first book. It will wrap up in December so I had fun squeezing in a few holidays. I hope it’s as much fun to read.

Part 1

    Audra walked around the counter closer than was strictly necessary. She wasn’t trying to avoid the shadow on the opposite wall. She wasn’t afraid of the shadow because it was a shadow. Shadows were harmless. Her eyes sought it out despite her intention to ignore it. She froze when it moved. “Grandma?” she called.
    “Yes, dear?” The older woman at the stove answered without immediately turning around. She had a large spoon in her hand when she did. “Do you need something?”
    “Um…” Audra felt foolish as another employee glanced her way as well. At fifteen, she was the youngest person who worked at the January CafĂ© and everyone knew she had the job because her grandparents owned the place. She didn’t want to look like a baby. “Never mind,” she said.
    Grandma May smiled pleasantly and went back to cooking.
    Audra stepped forward to post the dinner order she’d just taken. Her eyes strayed to that corner again. A small space between the cooler and the wall was dimmer than the rest of the kitchen. Two brooms were propped against the wall. The previous night, Audra had grabbed one of those brooms and noticed an eerie shadow between them. She’d moved both brooms around trying to figure out where it was coming from with no luck. With the huge cooler in the way, the only light source was directly behind her. The shadow stayed the same no matter where she stood. Something under the cooler had to be casting it. But that was impossible. The cooler was resting completely on the ground.
    The mystery had mostly disappeared from Audra’s mind when she started today’s shift. It wasn’t until the cheery sunlight began to fade from the windows that she remembered the patch of unexplained darkness. She began to peek at it whenever she passed and sometimes shifted her path for an extra look. The shape wasn’t always the same. Sometimes it seemed darker than others and even flickered menacingly at her. Her heart began to race each time she approached it, causing her to hug the counter more every time she passed.
    She took her time with other cleaning chores in the hope that someone else would grab a broom first. Audra didn’t normally mind riding her bike home after work. Even at night, her small town felt peaceful and safe. Thoughts of that unexplained shadow pushed her pedals faster than normal. The creepy shadow practically followed her considering how much she continued thinking about it. All day at school, whenever her teachers weren’t distracting her with information, she was picturing the shadow. It was even beginning to have a face.
    She told a few friends at lunch, told them how silly she was being. They laughed with her, then quickly forgot about it. Audra didn’t. That shadow gripped her imagination like nothing had in quite some time. By Friday, she was worried she wouldn’t be able to hide how scared she was of that corner. Grandma May could calm her down and explain it away. But Audra hadn’t worked there very long. What if her grandparents decided she was too babyish to have a job after all?
    Audra needed someone to come with her and discreetly point out the source of the shadow and how it was far less scary than the Jack-o-Lanterns clinging to the front window. She couldn’t ask any of the friends who had already laughed with her. It would be embarrassing to admit she was truly afraid.
    Logan was at her house after school. He was there nearly every day. He was mostly a friend of her brothers, Ryan and Trevor, but Audra was included a lot more since Ryan left for college. A lot of the games he and Trevor liked needed a third player. She didn’t have to wait to be invited anymore. She simply sat at the table as they were setting something up.
    Ghost Chase? She sighed at the reminder she didn’t need. The pictures on the board were cartoony. Rather than ease her fears, the grinning ghost seemed to mock them. She wished Ryan was coming home for the weekend. He was less likely than Trevor to make fun of her. Trevor would definitely make fun of her.
    “I’ll be the ghost,” Trevor said.
    Audra could almost hear him suggesting she was scared of the tiny cardboard figure, though she knew that was her imagination, too.
    “We’ll get him. Right, Audra?”
    She nodded at Logan. Maybe she could ask him to check out the shadow with her. Logan was the same age as Trevor. They were both seniors. Sometimes she couldn’t help feeling a little swoony around Logan. He was someone she wouldn’t mind coming to her rescue. Working with him against her brother felt awesome. Every time Logan smiled at her ideas or suggested the next move for their team, she almost forgot about her other problem.
    The guys studied together awhile after the game. Audra paid attention from a distance to know when Logan was getting ready to leave. She hadn’t forgotten her problem and didn’t want to ask for help in front of Trevor. When Logan gathered his things, Audra followed him to the porch. “Logan, wait. Can I ask you something?”
    “Okay.” He turned to face her at the bottom of the steps with her still at the top. There were only three steps. He put one foot on the bottom one and pushed himself off the ground in a backwards hop back to the sidewalk.
    “Are you busy tomorrow?”
    “Well… you know my Saturdays are always full of board meetings and other important obligations.” He smiled teasingly.
    She returned the smile self-consciously. Was she really going to ask him to look at a shadow with her? She had to. She couldn’t think of anyone better. “I have to work tomorrow, um, at three. But I… There’s a… thing… and I wondered if you might… um…”
    “Spit it out, Audra.”
    “There’s a weird shadow on the wall, and it’s freaking me out because I can’t figure out what’s causing it,” she said in a rush.
    Logan’s eyebrows scrunched. “There’s a shadow? At the restaurant?”
    “Yes,” she said.
    “And there’s something you think I can do about it?” It looked as though he didn’t know whether to be confused of flattered. Or both.
    “Maybe.” Audra laughed at his expression. “I don’t know. It’s bugging me so much that… I can’t ask my grandparents because they’ll laugh or think I’m wasting their time or something.”
    “Where is it?”
    “In the corner, by the cooler. You know, back where we keep the brooms.”
    Logan nodded. “Is it a broom shadow?”
    She leaned forward enough to swat at his shoulder. “That was the first thing I checked.”
    “And you’re sure that’s not it?”
    “I moved both of them, and it didn’t move.” Except when she wasn’t moving anything. She tried to keep her shudder internal at the memory.
    “Will they let me in the kitchen to investigate?” he asked.
    He was in the kitchen all the time. Now he was just giving her a hard time. Audra sighed and narrowed her eyes at him. “Will you help me or not?”
    “You got me curious now so I think I have to.”
    “You’ll be there a little before three?”
    “Uh…” His eyes drifted up as he seemed to consider for the first time if he might have a conflict of some sort. There was only a brief pause before he said, “On the dot,” then waved as he turned to leave.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Look out, I'm about to get mushy.

Is that a weird thing for a romance author to say?

I post something here every month related – though sometimes loosely or tangentially – to my written works. This month, I’m going to get a little more in touch with my feelings and write about me. Here’s an important thing to know about me: I do not like to write about myself. And that’s an understatement. I don’t think I have terribly interesting or significant things to say. I don’t believe anyone is anxiously awaiting the next post on this blog. The only reason it exists is to declare that I’m still trying to produce more novels. As long as I’m posting regularly, people can rest assured that a new book will be available eventually. (That is anxiously awaited, right?)

Because the purpose is solely on the books, nearly every time I try to think of what to post, I need to suppress an impulse to apologize for not announcing a new book. I want to write how sorry I am that I haven’t dreamed up a new love story yet. Then I get defensive. I want to know how I can possibly be expected to churn out 50+ thousand words of witty banter, quirky characters and warm sentiments in a few weeks. No one can do that.

This month, however, I was happy I could write that I’d finally finished a rough draft for the next book. I can’t write that though. Because then I’d have to apologize for that being only the first step. I’d have to say I’m sorry I haven’t found time to check the thousands and thousands of words for typos and misspellings and those weird cases where I wrote a sentence that no longer makes sense even to myself. I’d have to ask forgiveness for not having it formatted for ebook or print yet, that I don’t have a cover or even a title to put on that cover. I’d have to say please don’t be mad that my rough draft took several months.

We all know that books take a long time so I’m not writing any of that. (Okay, we’re pretending I didn’t write it.) Whatever I do post this month or any month, there is still an apology between the lines. But there’s also a promise that I’m working on something more interesting, that someday in the only sort of distant future I will be able to announce a new book. When I do, I might not be thinking about how long before the one after that.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Two of the Things I Cannot Do

I think I may have written myself into a corner. Not the way most people mean it though. The story is coming along fine. Fine, not amazing. Progress has been glacial because of the distractions and overall unsettled feelings of the last several months. I get discouraged for a while, then plunge in with a new wave of inspiration. The ending is in sight and while it does seem to be taking forever to get there, I am still enjoying it.

So what’s the problem, this corner I’m facing? While working on the book, I’ve been trying to brainstorm titles and cover ideas. One of the minor characters – who will have a larger role later – is an amateur artist. I got this idea that I could use some of “her” paintings on the covers. It would be a different picture on each book but still a painting, which would create a cohesive feel to the series. This idea could even tie in with a title suggestion that I kind of like. I’m becoming more and more enamored with the thought of putting paintings on my next books.

Except that I can’t paint.

I really cannot paint. I do not possess the talent, the space or the supplies or anything else I’d need to create these paintings I’m imagining. I don’t even know what else I’d need. It’s that hopeless. But I still can’t talk myself out of the idea. Why should I give up an idea just because it won’t happen? Now I’m brainstorming ways to change what is possible. Learning how to paint isn’t an option. There are certainly things I could learn if I invested enough time and money. The books don’t have the time it would take. I’d hate to have a stack of finished books sitting around unreleased while I’m ruining canvases.

I’m beginning to pray that I might have enough computer skills to fake some art skills. Though I’m trying to delay finding out if I’m right. I’m planning in my head. I’m thinking about the pictures I could use and the filters I could try. I’m matching possible titles with possible scenes. I’m sitting in my corner building up a list of ideas before I start kicking the walls. Obviously, painting is one of the things I cannot do, another is give up easily. If these books end up with anything other than paintings (or the appearance of paintings) on the covers, rest assured that I did not go down without a fight.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

No Changing, Some Fixing


I recently read one of my own books.  That’s not weird.  Most people read books where they already know what happens.  When it’s my own book, I’m not just entertaining myself (though I do enjoy my own stories).  I like to remind myself of expressions and mannerisms I’ve used, comparisons or descriptions, and scenes inspired by real life.  The more I write, the more I begin to worry that I might unintentionally write something that sounds a lot like something I’ve already written.  (Except that I ignore that person who insists all love stories sound exactly the same anyway.)

Sometimes it’s dangerous for me to read already published works.  Sometimes I find things I want to change.  These are only minor revisions, like rewording a sentence or adding a new detail.  The dangerous part is that I could make those changes.  Ebooks are fluid.  Paperbacks are mostly printed on demand.  I can easily access the files used to distribute the books.  I refrain from making those changes both because I need to be able to let the project go at some point and because I don’t like the idea of people reading different versions, however subtly different they may be.

Can you imagine if something as wildly popular as the Harry Potter books got tweaked after release?  Websites would crop up to catalog the differences. Readers would see where Harry yelled something with two exclamation points in some books and only one in others.  There would likely be heated discussions over which was better, with many exclamation points.  My books are obscure enough that I doubt anyone other than me would ever know, but I still won’t change them.

Even more than the release date, the first copy sold is when I have to consider the work final.  Unless I spot a legitimate mistake.  While I will not change an adjective to a different one, I will fix it if I discover that I somehow misspelled that adjective.  My fans can rest easy knowing that they won’t find out Jojo was looking for a Beagle in someone else’s copy.  But there could be a scene like this one.

Fan #1: It’s so nice that we can sit here talking about how much we love Amanda’s books.
Fan #2: I know.  They’re awesome.
Fan #1: I’m glad she does a good job on the proofing.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a typo.
Fan #2:  There was at least one.  I’m sure she had “at” where it should have said “as” in one.
Fan #1: No way!  Where?
Fan #2: Give me a minute to find it.  I think it was Into the Fire.  (Paging through her well-worn copy of that title.)  Yeah.  Right here.
Fan #1: I don’t know how I missed that.  (Paging through her own well-worn copy of the same title.)  Wait.  Mine says “as.”
Fan #2:  Really.  (Both fans look back and forth in disbelief until they get distracted by the story and forget about the typo.)

I have a good imagination, right?  I imagined that particular typo as well, so don't bother trying to find it.  Just skip to the part where you start rereading one of my books, too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

How much is too much?

When you’re reading a series and the author mentions something that happened in a previous book, how much do you want to know?

There are plenty of opinions on this. Some people would say, “There should be a lot of recap in a series. I don’t want to be lost, especially if I happen to be reading the books out of order.” Some would say, “There should be as little recap as possible. It’s boring, and hinting at previous events makes me curious to go read them while giving away plot points makes me think I can skip that book.” Still others would say, “Why are you reading a series out of order? What is wrong with you?”

The same person’s answer might change in different situations. Was the previous book just finished or was there two years and fifty books between them? Is the event important to the current plot? I’ve read a few books with so much recap, I groaned every time I had to skim to something new. Even when deemed necessary, recap can be done poorly. I read something recently that felt as though the author inserted a blurb for an earlier book in the middle of the one I was reading. That was kind of annoying. None of this is meant as criticism, or at least not harsh criticism, just to say that I seem to be on the side of people who only want to reread material I’ve made the choice to reread.

When an author is working on a series, she needs to remember that this is definitely one of those you can’t please everyone situations. She might use that as an excuse to do whatever she wants. But probably not. She’s probably doing her best to not confuse anyone while not boring anyone else.

Friday, May 15, 2020

May


Q: Time for some Q and A.
A: Why? 
Q: It’s May.
A: What does that have to do with anything?  Also, May is not a question.
Q: Look at the history here.  You’ve posted something every month for 40 months!  You don’t want to mess that up.
A: That is a nice streak.
Q: This is what we’re doing to keep it going for May.
A: Okay.  I guess it’s time for some Q and A.
Q: What are you working on right now?
A: I’m working on this post for my blog.
Q: If I could sigh in print, I would do it right now.  What is your current writing project?
A: This is writing.
Q: Fiction.  I mean, fiction.  What are you planning for your next novel?
A: It’s a love story.
Q: Are you willing to share anything about it that isn’t incredibly obvious?
A: It will be the start of a new series.
Q: I think if you check last month, you’ll see that’s been covered.  Therefore, still obvious.
A:
Q: You can’t think of anything else to say about your own book?
A: This is the problem.  If I say anything that sounds like praise, well… we all know that’s not allowed.  I certainly don’t want to sound negative either.  That pretty much leaves facts.  I’m early enough in the project that those might change.
Q: Hey!  There’s a place to start.  What about a timeline?  When do you anticipate releasing the book?
A: Eventually.
Q: Are you willing to say anything that isn’t incredibly vague?
A: When I’m writing a series, I like to hold the first book until I’ve made significant progress on the rest to release them closer together.  It’s tricky to pin down a timeline for multiple books at once.  I will say that I’m aiming for January.  Forgive me if I eventually miss the mark.
Q: What is the new series called?
A: It’s called I don’t know yet and don’t ask me what the first book is called either.
Q: What’s the hero’s name?
A: I think I’m calling him Trevor, which means I’m calling him Trevor right now.  I don’t feel fully committed to the name.
Q: Why not?
A:  I don’t know.
Q: Tell us one thing about him.
A: That’s not a question.
Q: Tell us one thing about him, please.
A:
Q: What?
A: He’s not a morning person.  That is something I understand very well.  I had an interesting paradox a while back where I was sitting at the breakfast table with a notebook trying to write from the perspective of someone trapped in that morning fog.  I knew the feeling so well I was too groggy to put it into words.
Q: What is the name of Trevor’s love interest?
A: Alison Brachy.  Probably.
Q: How do they meet?  Or is this one where they’re already friends?
A: They meet by chance, at least as far as Trevor knows, in a situation where he feels he’s made a poor impression.  Things sort of get worse before they get better.
Q: That sounds funny.  Is it funny?
A: Humor is subjective.  We’re veering into where I’m not allowed to comment.
Q: But your books always make me laugh.  I’m sure this one will be no different.
A: Careful.  People can see your bias, too.
Q: Okay.  We better stop until June.
A: Oh, no.  Are we doing this again in June?
Q: Only if you can’t think of a better idea.