Halloween Horror

LET’S PLAY

If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.” He patted the right pocket of his dirty overalls as he approached.

Glancing around, I discovered I was alone down here with this small skinny boy. How could I be alone? I’d followed at least a dozen other commuters through the turnstile before descending to the platform. I backed away quickly, trying to recall which way I should run to reach the subway steps leading up to the street.

“No thank you,” I replied.

“You don’t even want to guess?” he asked, more aggressively.

I couldn’t move. I don’t know why. I think it was his eyes. They were an iridescent green I had never seen before.

“I’m not very good at guessing,” I told him. Again, I managed to take a few steps back.

“You’re just like the rest of them. Nobody ever wants to play.” His eyes grew brighter.

“I just want to go home,” I said.

“Then try to guess, and I’ll let you.”

I began to shiver. Was it his closeness? Probably the cool draft that’s always present in the subway tunnel. No—this was different. Panic was starting to tighten my throat, making it hard to respond.

“A toy?” I asked weakly.

“Don’t be stupid! If I had a toy, I wouldn’t need you to play with me.”

“A piece of candy?”

“I’ve been down here a long time…if it was candy, I would have eaten it by now,” he scoffed.

I tried to think back to the kinds of things my brothers always had in their pockets.

“A pen-knife?”

“Nah.”

“A yo-yo?”

“Nope.”

Trying to buy some time, I decided to ask a few questions of my own.

“How long have you been down here?”

“What year is this?”

“What year?”

“Yeah…what year.”

“1990,” I replied.

“Then I’ve been here about forty-three years.”

“What? Wait a minute…you’re only about twelve years old—how could you be down here that long?”

“It’s a story I won’t tell, unless you guess right. C’mon, c’mon…make another try.” He was growing impatient.

“A piece of paper?”

“Ha! You’re smarter than the rest. you’re close.”

Oh my God…“Is it a ticket?”

“Hoorah! At last! I knew you were a smart one! And now you may have it.”

The strange, transparent little boy with the mesmerizing green eyes reached into his pocket, pulled out a faded ticket, and handed it over to me with a grin.

“I’ve been saving this since that day I fell onto the tracks.”

I took the ticket from him and squinted to try to read the destination. “Hell?”

All at once I could feel the poke of the elbow into my back pushing me over the side of the platform, and the sharp edge of the iron rail as my head slammed down into the dark gravel. Then came the screeching sound of the train’s breaks as they failed, and the laughter of a young boy.

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for helpful writing advice.

Perhaps you’ve noticed—there’s a blizzard of it out there.  And like snowflakes, no two advisors are the same, in the way they drift their sage words against the fence corralling our own individual genius.

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for having your shovel handy at moments like this.

In editing my book, Bosses and Blackjacks, I’ve been struggling to decide if the beginning is too slow. But, today I happened upon a mound of advice that I did not have to dig through to understand.

I share it with you now, dear reader:

“Opening a novel with a lot of fast action is like putting your reader on a Japanese bullet train going 320 miles an hour. The landscape outside the window is all blurry.

There’s no reason to look at it because you can’t really make sense of it. You might as well take a nap.”

(By Sally Apokedak, @sally_apokedak
Sally is a literary agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency and is a popular speaker at writer’s conferences around the country.)

I agree with Sally.

No need to change my book’s beginning. Ease into it, so my readers have a sense of my protagonist and the world he lives in, before he goes crashing headlong into a drift of life-threatening hairpin turns.

Do you agree that we all latch onto any advice that fits exactly with what we were thinking in the first place—as I did here? We are vindicated We feel affirmed. We have packed our egos neatly and made it to the station on time.

All aboard! We are on the right track!

Before You Shred It – Read This!

When you feel like you’ve reached the end of your rope (or chain) with your latest manuscript—before your shred it into tiny little pulp flakes—take a moment to read the following writing advice.

Who knows? It might just be enough to rev up your genius motor and get you back to saying: “Type magic fingers, type!”

1. Have your characters avoid asking questions. Instead have them speak in declarative statements. Instead of saying, “What happened to your face?” Have a character make a statement, “Your face looks horrible. I knew going to the bar was a bad idea.”

2. Have characters agree. It’s an easy trap (and a realistic one) to have characters disagree. We tend to think that causes drama. But actually it stalls a plot. Have characters agree and suddenly your plot goes to unexpected territory.

With permission from Patrick Wensink, author of “Fake Fruit Factory.”

Infrastructure Needs to Quiet Down!

It’s 5:45 a.m. and the bedroom window is open. I think I hear a freight train in the distance. A constant low rumble. I do mean constant.

I think to myself, “Damn, that is one extremely long train!” Then it dawns on me (get it? dawns?), it’s not a train.

It’s infrastructure!

The streets around our house are being drilled and dug up, and ditches are being backfilled and flattened with huge pieces of orange equipment. Our sewer lines are being replaced, and the rumbling, scraping, rat-a-tat-tat is endless!

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m all for replacing hundred-year-old sewer pipes. And repairing bridges and highways and all that other stuff that needs fixing. That’s the sort of thing our tax money should be used for.

Summer, when everyone has their windows closed because of air conditioning, is the season for this sort of activity.

But it’s autumn for cryin’ out loud, and the air snaps like a spiced wafer and is filled with the aroma of apple cider. I NEED my windows open at this time of year.

I’m an October baby and this is MY month— not Caterpillar’s!

Let Me Get Right to the Point!

You know how when you are reaching the end of a fantastic book—and you don’t want to finish it—because then what will you do with the rest of your life?

You’ve been living in this fantasy world for hours and hours, perhaps days and days. You don’t want to say goodbye to the people (or creatures) who inhabited that world with you. What will become of them? Where will they go next? You want them to live and grow old with you. But they can’t and they don’t.

Depressing, right?

That’s where I am in my writing. I’m this close to finishing my first book, and I’m a little depressed because I will have to say goodbye to the familiar occupants of my pages. What will become of me? Where will I go next?

If my son were here, he would place one hand on each of my shoulders, look me in the eye, and say,Calm down.” For some reason, that always worked.  Amazing.  Writing that helped.

So, “buck up,” me—“get back to work and finish that thing!”

Please visit the “comments” section. I’d love to hear how you, dear reader, push through when you’re nearing completion of a writing project, and make the decision to say, “Th-th-that’s All Folks!”

NAME DROPPING!

Name_in_lights_banner
Imagine your name here!

Today, I have two quick questions for you—

#1:

Would you like your name to be used in a book?   (Not porn, of course! Unless you have some spectacular attributes you want to brag about.)

#2:

If you knew your name appeared in a book, would you be more likely to read it?    (Or, in the case of porn, at least look at the pictures?)

DISCLAIMER:  No, I do not write porn. Humor, folks. Humor.

 Please let me know in the comment section.  Thanks for stopping by!

Frazzled to Dazzled! (Or, What’s With This Editing Thing I’ve Heard So Much About.)

The editor spent about three weeks doing the first run-through of my book, Bosses and Blackjacks.  She has an incredible ability to pick up on a missed comma or end quote or verb tense consistency, among a myriad of other things.

Three weeks.

So, of course, I thought to myself: If it took her three weeks to plod through my manuscript—writing she had never seen before—certainly, I will only need two to review her edits.

Ha! As Eliza Doolittle sang in My Fair Lady:

“What a fool I was, what an addlepated fool!”

Week two is ending as I type this. Am I finished? No way. I have already sent the requisite email message begging her indulgence for an additional week.

Wish me luck. Please.

Now, if you’ll excuse me—I’ve got some revising to do.

Do you set time limits for yourself when you begin a task—be it writing, a household chore, or a life-altering activity? And, what do you do when you smack face-first into that deadline wall?

Please share your experiences, or advice, or both, in the Comment section below.

Baby Night Heron, by Sharon Zeigler, July, 2014
Baby Night Heron, by Sharon Zeigler, July, 2014