Alice’s Restaurant

January 19, 2007

Suzie’s House 3: Rules Are Made to Be Bent…

Filed under: Suzie's House — aliceaudrey @ 12:37 am

Miranda balanced precariously in her wonderfully wild, high heel shoes as she crouched down to put an arm across her best friend’s shoulders.  She tuned out the homey kitchen, the smell of soup, and the ticking of the clock which marked the seconds until Suzie’s son came home from middle-school, claiming his mother’s full attention. 

“Face it Suzie-Woozie.  It’s take me in or lose the house.” 

She watched Suzie’s plain, make-up-deficient face for any sign of resignation.  As soon as Suzie bit her lip, Miranda knew she’d won. 

Yes!  She couldn’t wait to move in.  She looked around Suzie’s the bright, cozy kitchen with it’s yellow accents and polished-wood class and grinned. 

Everything she’d said to Suzie was true.  She liked the idea of being able to help Suzie keep the house while saving a little money.  Giving up the ratty little studio apartment in Shanks Corners would be no hardship.  She loved the idea of eating a good dinner every night without having to go to a restaurant for it.   

But best of all would be the chance to break down the barriers around the mysterious and delicious Andrew Banks.  With Marvelous Marvin’s help and the forced intimacy of living in close quarters together she had no doubt she’d get through to the man. 

Who knows?  Maybe this time her match making efforts between Suzie and Marvin would pay off. 

“All right.”  Suzie looked grim as she said it, as if she didn’t look forward to the kind of fun they’d  had together in college.  “You can rent one of my rooms.  But only as long as you follow my rules.” 

“Well of course.”  Miranda straightened.  It took her a minute to process what Suzie had said, beyond permission to move in.   “Rules?”  Her triumphant smile slipped.  “What rules?” 

“No men.” 

“But…” 

No men!” 

“You’re not being reasonable, Suzie.” 

“Miranda!  No!  Men!” 

All Miranda’s hopes and schemes ground to a halt.  Getting Andrew and Marvin to move into the other two bedrooms…  well it wasn’t a deal breaker.  Besides, she was sure to get Suzie to see reason once she’d moved in. 

“All right, all right.  No men.”  Suzie walked to the opposite end of the kitchen table and sat down.  “I don’t know why you have to get so worked up about it.” 

Suzie clamped her mouth shut mutinously.  The expression went nicely with sever hairstyle – plane brown hair pulled back into a ponytail.  It gave Suzie a strong, girl-next-door wholesome look that would be perfect for a “Got Milk” ad campaigne.  If only she would let Miranda touch her up with a little makeup and take some snapshots. 

Later.  At the moment she had bigger fish to fry. 

“Does the ban on all men include Marvin?  He’s your friend too.  Surely you could let him come by now and then.  I mean, he does anyway, doesn’t he?” 

Suzie groaned.  She rolled her eyes.  She gave a frustrated huff.  Then she gave in.  “I don’t suppose we could keep him away.  Vin can come.” 

“Why can’t you call him Marvin?” 

“He asked me to call him Vin, so I do.  What’s wrong with Vin?” 

“I just think Marvin is better.  Think about it .  ‘Marvelous Marvin’.  Doesn’t it roll of the tongue?”  Miranda waved her hand in the air, feeding the drama of the moment.   

Suzie wasn’t having any of it.  She got up and went to the stove, opened the door to the oven, and shoved in the loaf of bread dough she had shaped when Miranda arrived for their usual evening together.  Miranda gave her a moment before starting in on her again. 

“You know, Marvin’s lease has expired.  He had to move to a sublet.  When the student’s come back his sublet will run out.” 

Suzie slammed the oven closed.  She put her hand to her brow and sighed in exasperation.  “Don’t tell me.” 

“Why not?  You can charge him double what you charge me.  He won’t mind.  Besides, it’ll give you something to live on.  I mean what I pay will cover most of the mortgage so you won’t lose the house, but you still have to buy food and stuff, right?” 

“Tell me this isn’t happening.” 

“I don’t see why you have to be go glum about it.  You should be thanking me for solving all your problems.” 

Suzie laughed quietly.  “All my problems?  Not even close.”  She gave the soup a stir.  It smelled heavenly.   “But it would solve some.  Fine I’ll let Marvin rent one of my rooms, but no other men.  I don’t want my son to see you traipsing around with one man after another.  Marvin’s all right, but no other men.” 

“Right.  No other men,”   Miranda agreed.  “I’ll meet my dates elsewhere.  I won’t bring any home.”  Miranda mentally crossed her fingers.   Bringing Andrew into the house didn’t count, did it?  She didn’t intend to date him.  Just marry him. 

No need to say anything about it to Suzie now.  It could be months before Miranda could convince him to move out of the hotel room and into the house.  By then Suzie was sure to see reason.  Besides, if she pushed too hard Suzie wouldn’t let her have any of the soup. 

 

January 17, 2007

Just Do It

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 11:37 pm

I used to hate Nike ads that use the line.  Just do it?  Like anything is really that easy.  Just do it could have me diving off bridges, slogging through the everglades, and generally out breaking my neck.

But when it comes to writing, there’s a lot to be said for “just do it.”

Now and then I will run across writers who desperately want to find an easy out.  They want rough drafts to come out perfectly polished.  They want to do it in ten days.  They want it to happen with minimal effort on their part.  So they agonize over how to write as few words possible and still end up with a book.

Bah!  What are they afraid of?  Hard work?  They will tell you no, that it has to do with precious time.  Considering how much time many of them waste by agonizing over, and begrudging the time spent writing, I have my doubts.

New authors in particular seem to resent writing anything that isn’t going to sell.  It pains them to have written a book only to discover it isn’t well enough written to make the grade.  They don’t want to write bits of dialogue or scene settings if it isn’t part of a book.

I find myself falling into the same trap now and then.  Every time I end up spinning my wheels, getting more and more frustrated.  Once I tell myself I am not afraid of work, I have time, and the story is worth the effort, everything flows much more smoothly.

They say the AVERAGE published writer will have written over a million words before she gets published.  So why not do some of those words in practice?  Why not try different versions of a scene using different techniques just to see how it might come out?

Why not quit worrying about whether or not the first, or second, or even third book is sellable, and simply write it because it’s a good story?

Alice

Pacing

Filed under: Writing Technique — aliceaudrey @ 12:24 am

Early in my writing efforts I believed good pacing was simply to get the action going as fast as you could then keep it going as fast as possible until the end.

How exhausting for both reader and writer.

Pacing needs to have an ebb and flow in order to keep a reader’s interest.  The rate of the ebb and flow should match the tone of the story.  A slow paced Romantic Suspense may find it harder to keep readers interest than a slow paced cozy Mystery.  A fast paced Sweet Inspirational of family oriented Mainstream might annoy readers or leave them confused.  But let the story itself determine the best pacing, not simply what genre or subgenera it is in.

Like most of writing, several elements are involved in what produces fast or slow pacing.  The easiest to work with is probably the use of scenes and sequels.  I am referring to Dwight Swain’s use of the terms. 

In this case a scene is a section of prose in which the primary focus is on action.  It is characterized by lots of dialogue and/or descriptions of something taking place in the moment.  A sequel is a section of prose that focuses on a character’s thoughts, motives, memories, etc.  What I think of as a scene – a unit of prose set at a particular place and time – can and frequently does include both scene and sequel as those terms are used by Swain.  To speed up the pacing, have a higher proportion of scenes.  To slow it down have a higher proportion of sequels.

I have noticed word choices and sentence structure also influence pacing, though more subtly.  The slower, more lyrical passages need to have longer, more complicated sentences and can tolerate more passive verbs.  The faster, more intense passages need to have shorter, punchier sentences.  Putting complicated To go against this tends to annoy the reader, and can even pop them out of the story.  However, using the wrong sentence structure for the circumstances can also have comic or even cosmic effects.  This is one of those places where you need to know the rule in order to bend it effectively.

The storyline itself can have an effect on pacing.  The parts of the stories that are more intense can have more pull, increasing the pace.  I’m not talking about the difference between scene and sequel here.  I’m talking about one Swain type scene in which the action has more consequence than another Swain type scene. 

The pacing of the story should change as the story progresses, becoming faster as you go.  This will come from an escalation of the consequences in the scenes, but can be heightened by the shifting of proportion of scene to sequel, and should be accompanied by a change in sentence structure and word choice.  Get it all working together and you’ll really have something to crow about.

Alice
 

January 14, 2007

An Agent Blog Worth Checking Out

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 11:54 pm

http://agentobscura.livejournal.com/

Sing a Song of Pyrex

Filed under: Suzy Homemaker — aliceaudrey @ 4:01 pm

I love Pyrex!  I have their pots and pans, their pie plates, bread pans, and a remarkable collection of their storage containers.  I love the way they clean up when you burn something onto them, the way they handle freezer to microwave or oven, the way they don’t get pitted in the microwave even if you leave them in for WAY too long.  I adore the rubber lids.  I love the way you can see what’s in them at a glance.

But there is room for improvement  *grin*.

Leave Martha Stewart behind!  She goes for those lovely “sage” colored lids.  They are so attractive.  Until you put them over spaghetti sauce.  Seriously, give me brownish-red lids!  All right, the navy blue are fine because they hide the stains, but I’m not a big fan of navy.  I want a decorative shade of brown.

Martha must have a separate room in which to store her kitchen stuff, because she does a lousy job of making things stackable.  Simply being able to place one on top of another and have it stay there doesn’t count.  When I say stackable, I mean I want each container to sit down inside the other so that a set of four will take up less space than if you placed two of them back to back.  To do so, they can’t have straight sides.

Pyrex does this with some of their direct lines, but never with the Martha Stewart stuff.  When it comes to buying Pyrex, go direct.

They recently came out with a storage container I LOVE.  I mean, more than usual.  It’s 7x5x1.5 inches.  I didn’t think I’d get all that much use out of it when I first bought it.  Silly me.  It’s perfect for pork chops and left over lasagna, and baking those shrink-wrapped chunks of frozen fish I’m seeing in the supermarkets all over town.

Sure Pyrex has some problems with chips and scratches, but so does my no-stick cookware.  At least Pyrex I can clean with bleach and not pit.  I do a lot of freezing, and nothing’s better for telling at a glance what’s inside or putting in the microwave then eating straight out of.

Yep.  I love Pyrex.

Alice
 

January 13, 2007

Blogger

Filed under: FanLit — aliceaudrey @ 1:28 pm

Hey Tessa, blogger won’t let me post on your blog right now.  I’ve been having problems with them all over the place.  Anyway, just wanted to tell you I love the line and Damien getting whomped by candlesticks.

Alice

January 11, 2007

Suzie’s House 2: Friend or Roommate?

Filed under: Suzie's House — aliceaudrey @ 11:58 pm

“Um…  Miranda, you know I love you even better than my own sister, but I don’t think we should try to live together again.”  Suzie’s voice came out a little too tight and a little too controlled, which never worked well on Miranda.  She caught herself rubbing the pristine kitchen table as if to clean it and made herself stop. 

“Why not?”  Miranda pulled her head back enough to tell Suzie she had taken offense. Her bleached and pink-streaked hair caught in the pink feathers along the neckline of her halter top. “We got along great before.” 

No they hadn’t, but Suzie wasn’t going to tell her best friend she couldn’t stand living with her.  She shoved her chair back from the table, her head shaking in a tut-tut kind of refusal.  “I don’t think it’s a good idea.  That’s all.”  Suzie went to the stove, glancing sideways to see how Miranda would react. 

“Of course it’s a good idea.  It’s a great idea.  All my ideas are great.”  She held her hand out, looking at her nails critically. 

“Like the idea to let the Johnson twins crash on our floor?”  Suzie gave the stew a swift stir, not quite slopping over the top of the stockpot. 

“They needed a place to stay.” 

“Sure.  Fine.  But did that place have to be my bed?  I spent the whole night fighting them off.  Meanwhile you were over there in the other single snoring away as if there was nothing to worry about.” 

“They tried to get into bed with you?”  Miranda stopped messing with her nails and leveled a concerned look at her.  “Why didn’t you say anything?” 

“I did.  You weren’t listening.”  Under her breath Suzie muttered something about Miranda never listening.  She noticed the bread dough was puffing more on one side than the other because of the heat from the burner under the soup and turned the pan around. 

“Never mind.  That was years ago.”  Miranda waved her hands in the air, making the plastic bracelets on her arm jingle.  “Everything is different now.” 

“Are you saying you’ll never bring men into my house?” 

Miranda paused as if to give it serious consideration.  As if the question needed serious consideration.  “Well, no, actually.  I can’t promise that because I already know who your other two renters should be, and they’re both men.” 

“Lord,” Suzie muttered.  “This is worse than a blind date.” 

“No.  You’ll love them.  They aren’t like the Johnson twins.  Besides, that was ages ago.  These are grown, responsible men.” 

“Who have no home of their own.” 

“Yes, well…  divorce will do that to people.”  Miranda arched an eyebrow. 

Suzie pressed her lips together, refusing to acknowledge the hit. 

For a while after the divorce, Rob had claimed she had made him homeless.  He used it as an excuse for moving in with the other woman, and then grumbled even louder when the other woman threw him out.  Now, because of her inability to pay the mortgage on her own, Suzie was about to be homeless too. 

“This’ll be great.  I can save a few bucks compared to what I’m paying for that hideous little studio apartment and still give you enough to make the mortgage.  I’ll even throw in a deposit and extra month early like a real renter so you can catch up with the bank.” 

“I don’t know, Miranda.”  Suzie made her way to the table.  She ran the numbers through her head and realized that financially the idea was sound.  In fact, if she could rent out all three rooms constantly, she could have a comfortable living and still give her son, Ben, all the time he wanted.  Suzie shook her head, determined to get fanciful dreams out of the way.  “I’m sure I’d regret it.” 

“How long will the bank give you to decide?”  Miranda’s eyes narrowed. 

She had a good point.  Suzie refused to admit it.  If she admitted anything, Miranda would roll right over her. 

“I have plenty of cash right now.  I could move in this week end and all your problems would be over.”  Miranda got up from her chair and came around the table, her step confident in her precarious high heels.  “If you’re worried about me being around all the time, don’t.  I’ll be at the office all day.  I’m over here most evenings anyway so that’s nothing new.” 

Miranda had a point.  Her job at the advertising agency kept her busy all day and sometimes in the evening too.  Maybe it would be all right. 

Miranda slung an arm across Suzie’s shoulders as she bent down next to her.  “Face it Suzie-Woozie.  It’s take me in or lose the house.” 

Suzie looked at the cheerful tile backsplash she had installed herself, the antique ceiling lamp she had found at the second-hand fixtures warehouse, and the stained glass edging she had made to go around the windows, spending hours and hours at this very table.  Then she eyed the bits of pink feather that had accumulated at Miranda’s end of the table, the long hard nails tapping on the table next to her, and the wry expression twisting her old friend’s glossy pink lipstick. 

Lose the house, or gain a room mate.  Suzie bit her lip. 

 

More Reading as a Writer

Filed under: Writing Craft — aliceaudrey @ 11:36 am

As I said before, reading with a writer’s eye on technique has it’s pitfalls.  I talked a little about how it’s done, but I didn’t give you much reason to try it.  And maybe I should.

Off the top of my head I can only think of one really good reason.  The fiction that readers love is the final authority on what is and what is not acceptable in fiction.

I originally went on and on about it, but decided this says it all.

.
Alice
 

January 10, 2007

Inspiration

Filed under: Writing Craft — aliceaudrey @ 8:35 am

I get inspiration in all kinds of ways.  For me, writing is like day dreaming on paper.  Only with a little more organization.

Most of my books, both the original idea and much of the follow through, have come when I am day dreaming.  I keep telling my family I really am working while I stare out the window.  They say they believe me, but I’m not sure I believe them.

When daydreaming doesn’t work – like when all my daydreams get taken over by, well, regular old daydreams – then I’m likely to resort to a game of What If.  What If works very, very well, so long as I have a kernel of an idea on which to latch for starters.

Although I’m not so much inspired by as influenced and rejuvenated by them, reading books has been a very helpful in getting me going again.  If I’m working on a Romantic Suspense and I read about a character burying a gun I might start wondering about ways in which to damage a gun and what will happen when someone tries to use a damaged gun and end up with the solution to the scene in Chapter 15 of my WIP.

Poetry and song lyrics can inspire me, but generally it only happens if I’m not looking for inspiration.

Being in particular places can inspire me.  I’ve trained myself to focus on writing while at my desk.  Now I can sit down in front of my computer with nothing but a FanLit challenge in front of me and make words appear.  It’s better if I don’t fly quite so much out of the either, but it’s nice to know I can do it.

The other three places that have been particularly good for coming up with something to write are the bathroom, while out walking, and bed.  The bathroom is great except for all the people pounding on the door and the way the tissue paper shreds under a pencil.  Walking is a bit of a problem because people tend to think I’m crazy when I start gesturing, crying, laughing, or talking to myself.  The best of the three is bed, except most of my ideas there end up being like the first chapter of Zackly Right.

Ideas are easy.  I get thousands more than I use, hundreds more than I bother to write down.  It’s making them real that’s hard.

.
Alice
 

January 8, 2007

What Was Your First Romance Novel?

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 10:23 pm

This seems to keep coming up, so I guess I’ll try to come up with an answer.

I have no idea what the title or author of my first Romance novel was.  I was in high school and hanging out with a girl who was addicted to Harlequins.  Out of curiosity I asked her which was her favorite and why.  She couldn’t tell me.  Apparently she never looked at the title, only the number.

She leant me one of her favorite numbers.  I found it frustrating because it was full of dot-dot-dots.  Dot-dot-dots are where they used to have all this sexual tension leading up to the moment of fulfillment, then right when it got interesting there would be an ellipses, a couple of line breaks, and the scene picking up with the after glow.  Argh!  Leave me all hot and bothered why don’t you!

So then she leant me a few that sort of filled in the dots.  Only it was in some strange code.  I mean, when you’re still a virgin can you be sure what “he entered her” means?  It sounded rather grizzly to me, especially when she was a virgin and blood was involved.  Worse yet, I would try to read them on the school bus, and really, really did not want to have to explain why I was blushing.

I tried a couple of bodice rippers, but they were badly written.  Pretty quick I was back to a straight diet of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which was what I was writing anyway.

15 years later I was visiting my mother over Christmas and ran out of reading material.  Her bookshelves had a few SF/F I hadn’t read yet, but a lot more Romance.  I asked her for a recommendation.  She handed me an Amanda Quick.

I love Amanda Quick’s sense of humor!  I devoured the book and asked for more.  Mother refused, though there were several more Amanda Quicks on her book shelf.  She said I had to give it a long break between or I would ruin it for myself and not be able to enjoy Amanda Quick’s books anymore.  So she made me read something else.  It might have been a Nora Roberts, but I forget now what it was.

The thing about the Amanda Quick book was that it had a one-word title, like about a dozen of her other books.  After having read a dozen, I don’t remember which it was.  What’s more, I’m not sure it matters.  All her books use basically the same two characters in more or less the same situation and most of them even include a fire at the end.  Even her other pen names tend to use the same two characters.  I read too many in the course of a single year, and now I don’t enjoy them anymore.  Whaahhhhh!

That Amanda Quick book got me started reading Romances again.  I only read a few now and then when I happened to run across something interesting.  Then I moved to a podunk town on Montana which thankfully does have a good bookstore as well as a library, such as it is.  The first thing I bought in town was a Romance novel.  It was something about cowboys in Montana, but again, I don’t remember the title or author.  I quit watching TV and started reading like crazy;  200-300 books a year.  I even decided to start writing the stuff.

So, we could say I have three “first” Romance novels – the first I ever experienced, the first to hook me into the genre, and the first to set me off.  And I couldn’t tell you the title of any. I could only name the author of one.  I guess my answer to the question is “I don’t know.”

Alice
 

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