Scene Excerpt: 75 Miles to Montauk – Friendly’s

On my Pinterest page for the novel, you’ve seen a small, innocent looking picture of a Friendly’s.  This is the beginning of that scene, where it all starts to come together.  This is a first draft.  It will be tightened, less tell etc.  The POV will definitely change to omni.  But for a first draft I’m pleased with it.

***

New York.  He was in New York.  Evan was not happy about this.  Not the destination so much as the entire experience.  He could live here, sure.  But why?  New York?  Rent through the roof, pay rock bottom, competition out the door, for the possible opportunity to tell the same lies.  Damn.

“Stay there, Slinky.  I’ll be back soon dear.”  A woman breezed through the doors, which was noteworthy because Evan took note of her.  Normally he ignored the locals.  This lady couldn’t help but make an impression.   She was tall and curvy, carrying a few extra pounds no one would think to call “fat”.  She had hit that golden age where, by appearance, she could be someone’s mother or grandmother with equal ease.  Her travel stained raincoat seemed way too practical considering her large, colorful earrings (were those parrots?).  Her smile seemed to say “you may not be someone I know, but I like you anyway.”  She settled into a booth then scanned the menu with a sigh.    Having nothing else better to do, Evan settled down to watch her settle as his food arrived.

“Hello menu, what’s good?”  He half wondered if “menu” would respond before he caught himself.  This was good.  His reporter instinct was kicking in – the patented Peter Parker spidey senses tingled.  “No, menu, that’s too fatty.  Thanks anyway.  But no salads either, dear.  Strictly for rabbits.  Come on menu,” she encouraged, “surprise me.”  Without warning she looked at him, eyes sparkling.  “What about it?”  She indicated his plate.  “That looks delicious.”

“Belgian waffle.”

“Caden Parks, nice to meet you.”

He was in New York on gut instinct.  Why not?  Without preamble he gathered his food and slid in across from her.  “What kind of name is Caden?”

If anything, her eyes sparkled just a bit more as she unwrapped her cutlery.  “It means “we really wanted a boy”.  In Welsh.”  She speared a square of his waffle for emphasis.

Evan felt a knot loosening, ever so slightly.  When he smiled tension eased from his face.  When did he acquire a tense face?  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Caden Parks.  Evan Lamarr.”

“You’re not from around here are you?”  It was not a question.

“Boulder, by way of New Orleans.”

“Right.”  Caden waved over the slightly confused waitress who had returned to check on Evan’s now empty table.  “I’ll have one of him.”

The girl offered a startled look before plastering the trademarked “whatever the customer wants” smile firmly in place.  “That’s great, be right up.”  She walked away, scribbling.  Evan could only hope she wrote down “Belgian waffle” and not “bored black guy from Boulder.”  Though that did lead the imagination down some interesting paths.

Caden casually forked another bite from his plate.  Myrna held the opinion that all food was communal, but he’d never met anyone else who was so nonchalant about the idea.  Usually he would have made at least a token protest, but something about Caden disarmed him.  He pushed the plate into the middle of the table and started working from the other side.  “You’re from here?”

“Oh, no dear.  I’m from Stony Brook.”  His puzzled look seemed to amuse her.  “That’s thataway, you see.”  She made a vague but musical gesture to the left.   “I’m on a bit of an adventure.”

He nodded sagely (when did he develop a sage nod?)  “Not all who wander are lost”.

“Precisely!”  She flourished the fork like a small sword.  “Damn the orcs, full speed ahead!”  She suddenly became still, her gaze fixed in the middle distance.  “Though I do wonder about My Precious.”

His grin took on a slightly maniacal edge, rubbing his hands together.  “My… Precious?  Is it.. sweet?  Is it… juicy?”

Caden looked offended.  “You realize Bilbo cheated, don’t  you?  That was no riddle.  “What’s in my pocket?”  Honestly.”

“Sure he did.  “Bilbo cheated” is the second most popular convention T-shirt.”

“What’s the first?”

“Han shot first.”

“Course he did.”

Not even half a waffle, and it was getting hard to remember he and Caden hadn’t walked in together.  As she rooted around the waffle for more strawberries he caught himself about to ask her if she knew how Myrna was doing.  He was almost afraid to – she just might tell him.

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Writing Journey – HOW many hats does an aspiring author wear?

When I decided to really get serious about my writing, I took several factors into consideration.  The idea for this novel is very timely, and will remain so for at least the next 18-24 months.  If I’m lucky, I should still have a socially relevant book to sell when I’m done pounding keys.  I’ve shown a few scenes to various groups with enthusiastic results.  I also have time to write just now, which can’t be underestimated.  Combine that with signing up for Nanowrimo at just the right time last year, and I gave myself permission to go for it.

That was last October.  Since then I’ve not only focused on my writing, but on learning as much as I can about the publishing industry.  I’m not discouraged by what I’ve learned.  In fact, I’m glad the climb is becoming more defined, less nebulous.  But this is not a climb for the faint of heart.

First: statistics.  As of a few years ago, 47% of American households could be expected to go out and buy a book.  Yes, that means 53% of all American households didn’t.  Of that 47%, 80% bought romance novels.  This leaves 20% to split between JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Stephen King, and the rest of us.

Wow.

If a first-time author wants to try publishing the old-fashioned way (that is, find an agent, an editor and a publishing house willing to take a chance) the first thing that author must bring to the table is (obviously) a finished product.  Finished, polished, buffed, honed and as perfect as they can get it.  While your first hat must be your “Author” cap, your second hat should be that of “Editor”.  It’s good advice to squash the inner editor during the creative process.  However, that voice is of critical importance during the polishing phase.  The word count for a debut novel should be no more than 50,000 – 80,000. If your team wants a more detailed effort they’ll tell you, but it’s likely they’ll want to hedge their bet.  Short novels have a better chance of catching a new audience, and cost less to publish.

Ok, you’ve written the greatest American novel ever.  You’ve edited it down to a nub of its former self.  Do you have a fan base?  If not, stop.  Go forth, new author.  Obtain fans.  In addition to being a fantastic writer and a whiz bang editor, the modern novelist must also excel in marketing.  Beat the bushes.  Network like mad.  Bring at least 1,000 willing and able readers with you to the negotiating table or go home.

I will NOT be intimidated! (she says, eyeing the growing pile of hats)

Right!  You’ve written the novel, you’ve polished your baby, you’ve whipped up a rabid fan base.  You’re good to go, right?  Park that right now, aspiring author!  Get measured for hats #4 & 5, movie producer.

Isn’t this putting the cart slightly before the horse?  No, not really.  There’s two ways to employ your inner director/producer/casting agent, both will serve you well.  The first really is in the form of a film.  I remember one of my favorite Ian McKellen quotes.  Coming off Lord of the Rings, moving into X-men, he was asked what it was like jumping back and forth between them.  He didn’t miss a beat.  “Darling,” he replied with a smile, “one can never have too many franchises!”  Likewise, you can never go wrong anticipating multiple markets for your material.  You’ve got a great story.  Now you’re trying to sell it.  You’ve got the readership, no problem.  But if you can throw in a potential movie, it may be one more reason to move forward to publication.  Are you supposed to contact studios before publishers?  No.  But if your project lends itself well to multiple mediums, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

unitThe second way is a “book trailer”.  I was introduced to this concept several months ago while considering “The Unit”, by Ninni Holmqvist.  It’s an intriguing dystopian novel on the subject of “disposable humans”.   As I mulled over the description, I saw a link asking me to “View the Trailer”.  What, it’s being made into a movie already?  No.  As I quickly discovered, it was a 2 minute teaser for the book itself.

According to this happily straightforward article featured in the “ProActive Writer Blog”, a book trailer is a must-have for the self-published writer.  I agree, but I’d expand that to “every single author engaged in the art of self-promotion”.  In other words, all of us.  While books are designed to appeal to a readership, a book trailer works quickly on an emotional level to promote a concept.  It also helps boost the idea that yes, your book will easily adapt to the silver screen if (when!) the time comes.

Writers are creative, or we couldn’t do this at all.  Shepherding your first project from concept to sale will require quite a bit of mental gymnastics.  JK Rowling did it.  Suzanne Collins handled it.  Stephan King makes it look easy.  I can do it!

Can you?  (the correct answer is HECK YEAH!!)