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Monday, September 10, 2012

Oh, great! Now She's Pulling Out the Excerpts!


Don’t look at me like that. It is inevitable that a blog about writing (Hello! It’s called The Block—and I didn’t mean of Gouda.) will resort to featuring excerpts of the author’s work sooner or later. It’s not enough for me to entertain you with subversive opinions (though whether or not I’ve even done that is debatable), I won’t rest until I wow you with my writing. Not because I want to solicit comments and/or critiques (although that would be great, so long as you sway toward compliments) but because it will get me back to the crux of the matter. I’m having a hard time getting inspired.
     My kids just went back to school, my house is a mess, the weather is so nice, facebook continues to fascinate, I should blog more, query more (in fact, today I'll be critquing pitches for the GUTGAA Pitch Polish week, where I'm entry #32 if anyone wants to take a gander) I need a job, whine, whine, whine….and—oh yeah, wine. All of these excuses have made it nearly impossible for me to write. Am I blocked? You be the judge.
 
     Three words: Too many ideas. (I know, right? Annoying.) Since I don’t know which to concentrate on, I might as well be blocked. Life is ironic. But you can help by telling me what to write. Why should you grace me with your guidance, you wonder? Because fellow authors should support one another. Plus it's not like you’re not writing, either, you’re surfing the web like a freaking pre-shark Bethany Hamilton. (I see you there!) Chill. I’ll return the favor. Someday. (Jeez, it’s not like I’m asking you for rent.)
     Here are your/my options: a Middle Grade fantasy that I wrote a long time ago. I have some ideas to improve it and if I can do it to my satisfaction, I may get up the guts to resend it, along with a letter explaining about the revamp, to an agent who requested a full way back when. Who knows? She might want to take another look. Or not.   2.) a YA about a girl who was kidnapped and molested when she was a kid and is now dealing with the dire ramifications; i.e., she’s on drugs, acting out, pissed off at the world…Total hot mess (the girl, not the story, which is actually kind of good). It has religious undertones and a bit of romance thrown in. One-third done. 3.) a YA about a cell phone prank gone viral and the effect it has on a mentally imbalanced teen and, in turn, the community. 4.) a mystery that could probably be characterized as women’s fiction, leaning heavily toward romance, with a tinge of 50 Shades of Puke. (This would be my first completed novel for grownups—and it’s so close to being done I can smell the trailer—book trailer, that is. Not the double-wide.) If I had my choice of projects, I’d work on that. BUT I DON’T. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO! At night I place a writing pad on a table, light a candle, and enter a fugue state. When I wake, the pad is filled with words I don’t remember writing. (Yes, I am Lady Oracle!) That’s how tenuous the state of control has become.
     Now, where was I?  5.) a mystery with strong cautionary vibes thanks to an element of social networking which leads to the MC having run-ins with cyber predators. This one has a catchy title, and will be finished once I redo the beginning, which must suck, because it’s the only part that anyone’s seen and no one has requested to see more. I’ve decided to swap out the prologue in favor of a scene-setting newspaper article (because rumor has it prologues are taboo—and I’m banking on the assumption they are more taboo than scene-setting newspaper articles are cliché.)
     What would you read? What would you write? While I wait for your response, here is the promised excerpt from the mystery/romance I described. It features the hunk detective and meek ad chick engaging in a banter-y version of a Detroit parlor game called Guess what I Drive.
 “Lollipop?”
   I nudge the bowl toward him with my index finger. He digs and comes out with a cream soda, which is my personal favorite too, but the candy doesn’t pacify him as it’s meant to. He still seems restless and dissatisfied. I suck rather thoughtfully for a moment before attempting more conversation.
  “That archetype exercise was probably more harmful than anything.” I muse. “It’s not good to put much stake in stereotypes.”
   “But people tend to, and—if nothing else—you learned a new big word.” He graces me with a half-hearted smile, what those of us in advertising call a teaser. It does its job; I’m left wanting more.
   “That’s not all. After being exposed to all that psychobabble, I can now tell with dead-on accuracy what kind of car a person drives just by looking at him.”
   To gloat, I roll the sucker around my teeth. Matt perks up.
   “Really? Care to take a shot at me?”
   I balk. I didn’t plan on having to perform my little parlor trick; I keep forgetting who I’m dealing with. This man is seriously into proof.
  “C’mon, you claim to be the expert. Tell me what I drive,” he urges.
  Oh, you don’t want to go there,” I assure him, backpedaling frantically. “I mean, isn’t that what we were just talking about? If I’m right, you feel like just a demographic. It’s demoralizing. If I’m wrong, you transcend the stereotype, but I’m—well—even more shallow than you already think I am.”
   He shakes his head, feigning dismay. “God, it’s the Birmingham thing all over again.”
   I bite the sucker and chew. Matt seems to think this indicates I haven’t understood and goes on to elaborate. “You know—how you assumed that because I was a cop I couldn’t afford to own a house there…“
   “I never said that—“
   “Or buy your drink,” he patiently supplies.
   Two back-to-back pieces of damning evidence. Just as I was prepared to defend my course of study earlier, I fumble to explain away my tendency to label people. It’s especially difficult because I’m having a mini-epiphany. See, Matt thinks I have underestimated him because he is in law enforcement, but—little does he know—he has burned me for the wrong brand of bigotry. Regardless of his education or salary and despite where he lives or what he drives, deep down I feel that he is simply far too hot to be allowed any insight. Yet here he is, showing some. It’s almost as though he’s thumbing that perfectly formed nose of his at me. No wonder I’m struggling with the concept. Having one’s preconceived notions shattered thus is not a pretty sight. (Except for today, when it is ruggedly handsome.)  
   “Remember now? You went so far as to get out your wallet,” Matt accuses.
   Because I didn’t want you to think that I...I mean, I thought that drink was Gabby’s by right, that maybe you and she were, um—“
     Matt raises his eyebrows. “You thought I was sleeping with Gabby?”
     “That was before I knew you were related, of course,” I stammer, taking a moment to collect my thoughts. “Dodge.”
   He smiles and leans back with an air of confidence. “’atta girl! Dodge what?”
   “Ram.” This is fun. It’s kind of like charades.
   “Damn. What color?” he challenges.
   “Red,” I blurt.
   “Now, there you’re wrong. It’s black.”
   I retreat into a sulk. “I was gonna say black next.”  
   “I believe you. Now, it’s my turn. I really shouldn’t do this. I’m such a show-off.”
   He holds up what looks like a tattered coupon and my pale brows automatically flex.
   “Know what it is?” Matt asks, relishing some secret. I shake my head, mute with fear. “A crystal ball into your life.”
   “It isn’t even mine!” I object.
   “You don’t recognize it? Tanning coupon. It fell out of your purse the day of the murder when you got your badge out to let yourself into the building. I picked it up and pocketed it. See, I was right behind you coming in. Good thing I wasn’t some psycho because you held the door, enabling me to enter without a key pass.”
   I roll my eyes at his stern glance and am about to argue that the chance of a psycho lurking in our parking structure on a Monday was pretty minimal, except he’d only counter with the obvious: There had been a murder in the building that very day. Who knew? I soothe myself.
   “You took the stairs. Since you’re not what I’d call health-conscious, I’m thinking it was to avoid being on the elevator with me,” Matt continues.
   “With anyone,” I admit numbly. “Okay, it’s mine. So, give me it.” I make a grab.
   “It’s expired.” He lets the coupon flap playfully. “Besides, you don’t tan anymore. The only reason you did in the first place was for this guy, the short one with the olive complexion. Italian, maybe? That’s also why you were so defensive earlier when we had the short men vs. tall men debate. You understandably have some lingering protective feelings, since you were about to marry him but ditched. In any case, you stopped tanning around the same time you guys broke off the engagement, as evidenced by the almost-faded-but-not-quite tan line on your ring finger. It was pretty recent, I’d say. Any tan you had would fade quite rapidly. The fact that you even had one at all here in the month of October is what first caught my attention.”
   “Well, aren’t you the little Colombo?” I say bitterly.
   “I wish,” he laughs. “Now here’s some advice.”
   “Don’t!” I am in a panic.
     “Oh, but you need it.” He might as well be sprouting horns, his smile is so devious. “Your friends are worried about you. They were telling me exactly how worried they were before you busted in on our conversation earlier. I’ll give it to you straight. The guy was a jerk, Allison. You have red highlights in your hair and skin prone to freckling. The tanning booth is not your friend. Any man who would allow his future bride to be exposed to skin cancer to boost his own ego deserves to be jilted. You did exactly the right thing. Plus, the fact that I got the gist of your relationship with him from a tanning coupon raises another red flag. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders. Next time, aim for someone with more depth.”
   After he leaves, I clunk my good head right down on my desk in despair. A good head on my shoulders? Romantically speaking, it’s the kiss of death.

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