Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Murder By Pumpkin - Excerpt!

Teaser time! Today's the day for a novel excerpt - this time, a snippet from my still-untitled parody of fairy tales and detective fiction. I started this novel a few months ago and haven't had much time to work on it: so far it's my "fun" project. I've never done a parody before, though I've a passion for reading them, and Leonie, with her snarky-yet-introverted personality, is completely unlike any character I've ever met. It's been brilliant fun!

Now, I'm thinking of taking it seriously...and wondering if it ought to be a serious project at all. Hence my casting the opening few pages up for review! What do YOU think? Want more?


Lady Leonie L'Amarr was having a very bad day.

That's how I'd begin it, if today were a novel and if I were writing it. Which of course I would be since nobody else does. But on re-read, that sentence doesn't begin to do today justice. I'd write:

Lady Leonie L'Amarr was having the most miserable, perfectly putrid, absolutely awful and completely contemptible day of her life.

There. That's more like it.

It has been the rottenest day ever. First, I was promoted. Some may rejoice and throw balls when they are promoted. I feel like jumping into a swamp. Because, you see, I was lady's maid to Her Highness Princess Albania Whitefrog, a youngish woman of few brains but amiable intent. Serving her required little work and no mental exertion. Besides, she frequently took long naps in the afternoon, which gave me time to kill off a few more dukes and duchesses before putting the kettle on for tea.

And today, this morning which promised to be full of sunshine, birdsong, and a tour of the torture chamber, proved to be miserable when I got the notice that I'd been promoted Up two Levels. I am now lady-in-waiting to Her Highness Princess Welberta Quillnose. Princess Welberta's amiable intent has not been in question since age three, when she pushed all three of her larger (also male) cousins into the well, and then dropped in her pet piranhas. She is, also, unfortunately for me and for her cousins, not dumb.

In fact, she is considered to be the most intelligent woman in the land. “Welberta doesn't miss
anything” is the word whispered behind palm plants at the balls.

So here I am. The one person in the palace with a secret (well, the only important secret, the only one worth keeping) and I will be locked in mortal combat with Welberta the Clairvoyant Cousin-Killer.

Oh me.

The news about Welberta, however, was only the beginning to my shining day. The second bit of wonderment occurred when I opened my Box of Weapons and discovered that chapter 3 was quite as horrible as it had been when I'd shut it up in there the night before.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I should explain a few things first. If I am going to keep this of events...or whatever it is, I should do it properly.

It would be a first.

So then. I am known (because it's my name) as Lady Leonie L'Amarr. I'm of common birth, with just that drop of royal-ish blood somewhere in my ancestry (not pedigree, I'm not royal enough for that) to allow me to serve those with more royal blood. Hence my existance as lady-in-waiting.

I celebrated (with a new bottle of ink and second-hand sheaf of paper) my twenty-third birthday five months ago. I like lizards and spiders and things that go bump in the night (usually royalty stumbling home from a ball) and I enjoy sunshine in moderation. Thunder is excellent at all times, and a good smashing hailstorm does wonders to wake up the world. I have a passion for poached eggs on toast and cannot bear snail soup. Which is another reason to be thankful for not being royal. I cannot bear porridge either, which is a reason to be thankful for not being common.

In matters of looks, I'm tallish, with sticky-out elbows and long toes. My fingers are long as well. I have long
straight brown hair. In a book, I would have ginger-brown hair, or autumn-brown, or hair the color of leaves in a stream.

In reality, it's just brown.

My eyes are indecisive, much like me, and change from green to blue to brown on a whim. Some say it's with my moods, but since last time I looked in a mirror, carefully feeling cross, they were brown, and the time before, blue, I feel my orbital color is not a safe meter of my mental state.

My face is oval, with a chin that juts, and I have interesting cheekbones, one slightly dented from a run-in with a wall. Overall, my physical appearance is one to attract little attention, a tendency I cultivate. Invisible ladies-in-waiting get into less trouble.

And they have more time to write.

Which brings me to the purpose of this journal—diary—shall I just call it my List of Rants? I like that. Very well. The purpose of this List is (when not being a list of rants) for me to collect my thoughts on people, and cutlery, and life in general. The purpose of such a collection brings me back to my horrible day.

Because it was today I finally realized that I am going nowhere as a writer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Confessions of a Nazi - Sympathetic Bad Guy?

Hello there! I'm doing another blog chain (yes, yes, we already covered the addiction problem last month) with AW members. This time, the fascinating topic is to show your antagonist in a sympathetic light. I LOVED the idea, but had quite a hard time figuring out how to do it. The problem, y'see, is I very rarely have an ANTAGONIST. Not the capital letters type. More often the antagonist is a situation; the person themselves; or the entire Nazi army. The few novels where I have a definite antagonist are mysteries. You don't expect me to reveal my carefully-hidden villain, do you? Well, it doesn't matter - I'm not going to. :)

And since it's a bit difficult to paint the entire German army (or Protectors, or CIA-gone-wrong, or Black Ops group) in a sympathetic light, I tried to find one specific antagonist. I found him (a Nazi captain) hulking and lurking his way through three chapters of A Fire Is Woken. He doesn't have a pronounced role, but readers have said he's chilling and completely evil, so I sat down with him this morning and we had a nice little chat about WHY he's evil.

Found out some interesting things! He didn't very much like talking to me (apparently there was some left-over resentment from WWII) but he agreed to write a letter to his wife explaining the situation, and it's that which I will present here. But before the letter, I'd like to post a short snippet from the novel, showing him in fine fettle as the evil villain.

Backstory for the snippet: Julie works as a secretary for the SOE (British secret service during WWII). Through a complicated series of events, she's now on an emergency mission in France with four other trained agents. A few hours previously, they've been captured by SS troops, and are being held in SS headquarters by aforementioned SS kapitan.

Iron scraped against iron. Light flashed down the stairs, bounced off the wet walls, glinted off the round helmets of the descending German soldiers. Their rifles banged against their shoulders as they dragged a formless shape down the stairs.

The cell door rattled open, and Trese's limp body slumped to the floor. In speechless horror, Julie watched as his head rolled sideways. Bloody bruises swelled his face out of shape; his mouth hung half-open over broken teeth. His shirt was ripped, and chunks of flesh stuck to bloody fiber.

A scream of horror built inside Julie, edging her vision with black. Oh God! Then, as Trese's body twitched and his eyes rolled open, she crawled forward. What do I do. What can I do.

Her hand reached out, slipped behind his head, lifted it off the floor, even as she ripped the sweater from around her shoulders and and put it beneath his head. Caught up in the desperation to help, somehow, anyhow, she forgot the Germans...

...until the cool tickle of a whip touched the back of her neck.

The kapitan's mouth pursed thoughtfully as he looked down at her. “This one,” he said in English, “this one will talk. Take her!”

The two Germans leaped forward. Their hands, sticky and wet from Trese's blood, closed around her arms, jerked her to her feet.

Time stopped. Unable to breathe past the terror, she stared around the cell, begging wordlessly for help she knew wasn't coming. Richards met her gaze for a split second, then he turned away and stared at his hands laced around his ankles. Bonvie didn't even look up.

Help me!

At her feet, Trése looked up through bleary eyes, and seemed to see what was happening. His mouth worked, as if he might be trying to speak, and then a bubble of saliva formed and deflated on his lips, and his head fell back.

This is it. In that moment Julie knew. She was completely alone and help wasn't coming.

The cold slick whip curled around her wrist. The cool blue gaze of the kapitan appraised her. For a split second, he seemed to hesitated. Emotion flickered through his eyes; his mouth twitched.

Let me go. Please let me go.

Then he smiled, and let the coil of whip slither from her wrist. "You will talk," he said again in English. "Oh yes. You will."

Inside Julie a scream began to build. I'm not ready to die. Oh God, I'm not ready to die.


And now you (hopefully) have been creeped out, here's the letter he wrote to his wife the morning before.

To my wife Minna

You will never read this letter. I will destroy it the moment I finish it. I am a fool to write it at all. It is a weakness, an act of foolish desperation: a child throwing blocks at a wall. Unworthy of an officer of Germany. I do not say an officer of the Reich, for there is no worthiness there at all.

Our son is dead. You have received the telegram today, doubtless. You have read the high-minded words of his noble sacrifice, and the condolences and assurances of his painless, brave death in battle.

What you will never know is they are all a lie.

Our son did not die in battle. He did not die nobly. And he did die screaming in pain.

You have heard Hitler scoff of the secret agents Britain has sent to French soil, but what you have not heard is that they are a deadly weapon. These people are without honor, soul, or truth. It was to them that our son died. He was lured in by a girl, apparently from the local village, sympathetic to our cause. Our son, as you know, had a kind heart and the girl's pitiful story moved him. He went, finally, to “visit” her – and there was captured by her colleagues, enemy agents all.

The rest I pieced together only with guesswork...and by the hideout, which we found and captured. Too late. I found our son's body there. He had been tortured to death. He died screaming in pain. I saw him lying there, Minna, saw his blood and his broken body.

And yet I could have born that, but for the destruction of the weapons train the night after. The weapons shipment from the Homeland was the closest kept secret of the month. Only five officers knew of it in our sector. Myself, three others...and our son.

He died screaming in pain, Minna, screaming out the information they sought.

Our son did not die a hero, Minna. The enemy made him a coward, a traitor, and deserving of death.

I prayed once that this war would end, that Hitler's insanity would end, that our men would return to our great country to the arms of our loved ones. In the moment I looked down at the body of our son, my prayers ended. All I wish for now is to destroy every man, woman, and child who destroyed my son.

I will not rest until I have brought them down.

What do y'all think?


Check out all these posts as well to see more interesting and unusual looks at the traditional Bad Guy!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes...

Good morning everyone! Since the writing quotes I posted a while ago were so popular, I decided to do another post of more this month. Here they are, in no particular order or organization. Can't you tell what a tangled ferment of ideas my brain is always in? ;)

Out of the mouths of babes...


“The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any.” ~~ Russell Baker

“Writing well mean never having to say, 'I guess you had to be there.” ~~ Jeff Mallet

“Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.” ~~ Mark Twain

“To be arrested for the power of your writing is the highest compliment a writer can be paid—if an unwelcome one.” ~~Ngugi wa Thiong'o

“A happy ending...a distribution at the last of prizes, pensions, husbands, wives, babies, millions, appended paragraphs, and cheerful remarks.” ~~Henry James

“I have always wanted to write in such a way that will make people think, 'Why, I've always thought that but never found the words for it.' ” ~~ Pamela Johnson

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” ~~ Ernest Hemingway

“Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” ~~Gene Fowler

“One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time, and in other's minds.” ~~ Alfred Kazin

“When I say “work” I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.” ~~ Margaret Laurence


In this batch of quotes I've picked three “Author's Choice” quotes to feature. I've been reading this a lot lately. This one always puts a wry smile on my face, because it fits quite perfectly with my struggle to remain true to writing while I could be making so much more MONEY for so little stress if I were to simply do a job like ordinary people!

The fact that writers will go through so much to remain writers says something. It would be far easier (and nearly always more profitable) to become a real estate agent.” ~~ Maria Lenhart

The next one makes me chuckle and remember all the strange looks I get at work every day, when I get a story idea and stare blankly off into the distance, gabbling to invisible people. Oh the trials employers (and friends, and families, and boyfriends and girlfriends and dogs) of writers go through...

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~~ Meg Chittenden

And the third is Truth. The more I watch and study people, the more I see how much they miss. Most people seem to have tunnel vision... they don't see the drama, pathos, and romance that fills the world around us. You don't have to travel to faraway lands or pay buckets of money to find adventure. It's right here in our backyard, just waiting for someone to be conscious that it's there. Writers usually manage to find it. :)

I must write it all out at any cost. Writing is thinking.. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” ~~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Discomfort Zone - Stepping Outside Your Box

The Discomfort Zone.

I love the title for this blog chain. (Kudos to Victor Travison for the brilliant suggestion!) To me, it expresses perfectly the “edge” that all writers need to balance on to be really good. Writing is just like rock climbing or water skiing – you can't be satisfied with good enough. A rock climber who learns to scale the glacial deposit in his backyard isn't going to stop there: he'll head for the Grand Canyon next. A water skiier who learns to cut wake isn't going to stop: she'll grab a single ski and try that.

Writers are the same way – or at least we should be. Just like in sports, we need to push ourselves. Try something new. Dare the unknown.

And, like all new things, it's a little scary. A little uncomfortable. It's the Discomfort Zone.

I've been labeled as an adrenaline junkie, a risk-taker, and a crazy fool (in no particular order). I like risk. I like the element of fear, the uncertainty of the unknown, the tingle of adrenaline. I'm also a sucker for punishment. The result? I spend a heck of a lot of time in the Discomfort Zone. :)

Every time I get comfortable with writing one genre, or one style, or one character, I want to try something new. My launch pad for writing usually is historical with a slight literary slant: from there I ricochet off in all directions. A few of my “projects” are:

The Hanging Tree – historical/mystery. I wrote this two years ago and at the time it felt quite brave to combine a Western and a mystery. Now it's the norm... but it was my first excursion into the DZ.

SS-5 – historical/suspense. This is probably my single biggest jaunt into the DZ. It was my first suspense novel. The suspense wasn't scary – but writing the main character was! (for Myers-Brigg people, he was an ESTP and I am an INFJ. Scary.)

A Forbidden Homeland – fantasy/thriller. Almost-completed-but-not-quite, this second 2009 NaNo novel jumped WAY out of my comfort zone! First stab at fantasy (a genre I swore I'd never write – haha) and also first stab at thriller. It's a dark novel about a people driven to extinction, sheltering in the shadows of the City of their oppressors. And it's about the man who leads the final fight for freedom... and the woman of the enemy who is his only ally and most dangerous enemy. Oh yeah. Who says the Discomfort Zone isn't fun!

Stranger's Eyes – thriller. This is my latest project, and it's comparable to wing-walking for me. Not only is the novel told only from a male POV, but it's straight thriller, and it's contemporary. Rob is an ordinary guy; nine-to-five job, football on the weekends. The center of his life is his young wife, Kay. But when his wife appears to lose her mind and assassins are breaking down their door, Rob has to become anything but ordinary in a race to stop a black op takeover. At stake is the future of the USA – and Kay's life.

And if that isn't enough to prove I've won my Crazy Writer badge, I'm also dibbling with an as-yet-untitled novel, which is sort of a parody/satire of fairy tales and classic detective stories. Leonie is a maid-of-waiting in the castle of King Percival. Ordinary serving girl by day, at night she writes the murder mystery novels that are sweeping the kingdom. No one knows who writes them – but when the Prince hosts a ball and one of the guests turns up floating in the goldfish pond, the author is top on the kingdom's wanted list – and Leonie's little hobby turns quite literally into a matter of life and death. This one is incredibly fun to write and it's so different from anything I've ever written – it's been a blast. Once again proof that being in Discomfort can be fun. :)

And now I've run out of time and space and therefore shall stop. Your turn – tell me about your excursions into the Discomfort Zone! When you're done, don't forget to check out the other posts in this blog chain!

Ruth Rockafield -- July 1

Nina Rose -- July 4

Edward Lewis -- July 6

Tracy Kraus -- July 7

Kat Connolly -- July 8

Linda Yezak -- July 9

Lynn Mosher -- July 10

Nona King -- July 11

Victor Travison -- July 14

Janalyn Voigt -- July 15

Adam Collings -- July 17

Liberty Speidel -- July 19

Chris Solaas -- July 27

Suzanne Hartmann -- July 30