Deleted Scene: Prologue of THE ALIGNMENT

I wrote a prologue for THE ALIGNMENT at some point during my years of querying. It gave a tense opening to the book I hoped would be a better hook. It also introduced Trey from an outsider’s perspective, which I liked, because it set you up with a bit of warning about the guy.

I cut it before the book went to my editor for several reasons:

– it opened the book too much like a thriller (which it isn’t)
– it added another first person point of view (two are enough, three might be confusing)
– it cut Liv from being the first character you meet (she needs to be first)
– nobody likes prologues (get to the story already!)

I still like it though, for that glimpse of Trey through someone’s eyes other than his own and Liv’s. Because we all know they’re both a bit biased. :)

Fun facts: The mess Trey sees in his kitchen in chapter two and cleans up in chapter four is a result of this scene. The gash he gets above his eye in this scene is the one Liv fixes for him when they meet at the clinic in chapter two. (She thinks it’s from the car crash. He knows it’s not.)

Here it is. It’s raw and unedited, so please don’t yell if you find some mistakes. If you haven’t yet read THE ALIGNMENT, what are you waiting for? Buy it!

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Prologue of THE ALIGNMENT

(unedited deleted scene)

As soon as he steps down from his truck, I know today is the day. Yesterday was wrong, and I’m glad I waited. The dirt covering him from head to toe tells of a long day of physical labor. The slump of his shoulders proves it. The brown paper bag doing little to mask the bottle of alcohol he grips by the neck makes me chuckle out loud. Fatigue and alcohol. Today is my lucky day.

He plods into the house, and I move to the backyard to gain a better view. I need that alcohol in his system before I make my move. The more the better. From behind the house, I see the kitchen light blink on. It’s a beacon from his wide-open window, calling me in. We know he’s bold, but I refuse to acknowledge his careless indifference. He must fear us. He has to.

The first glass goes down quickly. To my satisfaction, he fills it again. He’s slower to consume the second glass, but I can be patient. All who came before me must have been missing this key ingredient. Patience. And they are all dead because of it.

The moon rises above the mountains while I wait, reducing my cover of darkness. When every light in the house has been off for a while, I move in. The howl of a nearby wolf cuts the air. I pause. It takes a long time for the stillness to return, but once it does, I continue my approach. The sliding glass door is unlocked. Without a need to pick a lock, this feels like cheating. My fingers graze my gun, but I remember we were taught not to rely on weapons. The old wooden floor in the kitchen remains silent under my careful tread. My eyes dart to a sliver of moonlight reflecting off the blade of a large knife on the counter. I could use his own knife on him. What a story that would be when I return. But it won’t be better than my reward.

The handle of the knife slides into my hand. A shadow crosses my peripheral vision, and I eat the floor without warning. Blood seeps into my mouth. I leap up and twist. He comes at me again. The knife catches him above his eye, but then it’s out of my hand and I’m on the floor again. My head pounds. I don’t even know where I’ve been hit. I roll under the table as it’s thrown sideways. Pulses of pain jar my body with such rapid precision all I can do is curl and protect my head.

My ribs collapse. Shallow breaths aren’t enough, and I swing my elbow into the open air that suddenly surrounds me. I recognize the break in his offense and move, grabbing the handle of a drawer to pull myself upward. Knives scatter at my feet, and I raise my head, swallowing my surprise at the large, calm space between us. We make eye contact in the dim room. He’s big, but not as big as I imagined. With the number he’s killed, you’d think he was a mammoth.

I blink away the clouds rolling into my vision. Light angling through the window settles on his face, reflecting off the dark stream of blood running from the cut above his eye. Other than that, he doesn’t have a scratch on him. Yet I’m working off one lung and struggling to remain standing. He takes a step backward and cocks his head, studying me like the exhausted parent of a mischievous child.

Something sinister drives this guy. Something unbeatable. We are sent as sacrifices, simply to shake him up. Nothing more. With all the training I’ve had, I still walked into this blind. Blind and stupid. Is he really their enemy, or is he one of them? I may not make it back with what they want, but I can make it back alive. And I know he’s not going to let me go without a fight.

My hand goes for my gun, but it’s missing. I snatch the closest knife from the floor and swing my leg at his ankles. He dodges, but it’s enough to open his side to me. I blast upward and jab the knife toward his kidney. The snap of my wrist then my elbow buckle my knees. His arm wraps around my shoulders from behind. His free hand grips my head at the temple. He grumbles something under his breath. When my first vertebra breaks, I know his words are the last I have failed to hear.

Countdown to Publication

THE ALIGNMENT, Book One in my series, will release this month. Cover art and formatting are complete. A paperback proof is expected to arrive on Friday. If it passes final inspection, I configure the Kindle version and push the PUBLISH button.

This has been a four-year journey that included countless revisions and a trek through the purgatory of querying the traditional machine. But all that time, and the rejections, have strengthened my writing and my final product. I truly believe this book is better as a result of me going indie and keeping control over my work. I hope readers will agree.

I’ve updated my Fiction page with details about THE ALIGNMENT and the other books in the series. As soon as I push that PUBLISH button, I go straight to work on Book Two.

Look for an announcement about THE ALIGNMENT soon!

Brains Love Strong Metaphors

Understanding brain science can make you a better writer.

I found this article about scientists studying the effect of fiction on the brain. Here’s a clip of something intriguing—and proof of that “avoid cliches” writing advice.

The way the brain handles metaphors has also received extensive study; some scientists have contended that figures of speech like “a rough day” are so familiar that they are treated simply as words and no more. Last month, however, a team of researchers from Emory University reported in Brain & Language that when subjects in their laboratory read a metaphor involving texture, the sensory cortex, responsible for perceiving texture through touch, became active. Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” and “He had leathery hands” roused the sensory cortex, while phrases matched for meaning, like “The singer had a pleasing voice” and “He had strong hands,” did not.

Read the rest: Your Brain on Fiction

I’m Still Here

…just keeping busy in Editing Hell.

I have one word and one phrase I’ve been caught overusing. Once I finish searching for those and cutting or rewriting, I’ll have myself a FINAL DRAFT.

Then I just have a few files of notes to go through, to make sure I’ve done everything I meant to do before this thing can be sent off for formatting and cover art.

Here’s a great New York Times article I found through The Passive Voice. It was published in 2001 but it has some of the most straightforward writing advice I’ve found. Here’s the best part:

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

–Elmore Leonard, WRITERS ON WRITING

But you should really read the whole article.

Here’s a great quote from Hugh Howey, author of WOOL, in an interview on A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing:

As for the 99.9% who won’t see my level of success, I would point out that 99.9% of those who submit material to the traditional machine will never see a similar level of success. It isn’t like our option is to self-publish OR see how well our novel does fronted out on an endcap in a bookstore. Our options are to self-publish OR spend a few years landing an agent, another year selling the book to a publisher, a year waiting for that book to come out, and then three months spine-out on dwindling bookshelves before you are out of print and nobody cares about you anymore. If you’re lucky. Most likely, you’ll never even get an agent. Because you aren’t Snooki.

–Hugh Howey

And one more, but I can’t remember where I found it:

“Listen, Hank,” he asked, “what makes a man a writer?” “Well,” I said, “It’s simple, it’s either you get it down on paper or you jump off a bridge.”

–Charles Bukowski

This is Three Years

As Craig Nova calls it, this is my “slag heap” generated during the past 3.83 years. I keep mine divided and tucked safely into two dresser drawers. An innocent stack on a desk like Nova’s pictured in the article is easy prey for either my cats or my two-year-old.

stack

In the article linked above, Craig Nova discusses the act of rewriting to better understand your story. He also mentions every novel has a stopping point.

I would like to add one warning here. Or make that two. You do come to the point of diminishing returns, and at that point it is time to stop. You have what you are going to have, and that’s that. After a certain point, the novel will get worse the more you write.
–Craig Nova

I think I’ve reached that point.

I’m finishing my read-aloud (if you haven’t done this, you should, but it requires a very patient and tolerant partner). We’re a few chapters from the end. Once all those edits get applied, I’ll shoot it off to one more reader (if she’s still willing!). Her feedback will create a few more edits, hopefully minor, and then I have a final version. I’ll probably read it one more time to satisfy my writer’s OCD.

Then, hands off.

TOO BAD IT WILL NEVER TURN OFF IN MY HEAD. I looked for a raisin face meme to express this feeling, and there is none.

Women and Heroism in Fiction

There’s a through-provoking essay and discussion going on about how we write women in fiction and how we view women in our real world over on aidanmoher.com. The comments are all worth reading. My own is on page 3. If you get that far, the rest of this post will be a rerun.

I consider myself a feminist. But I struggle. The feminist I am lives in a world where our definitions of heroism, strength, and courage are often defined by a male-oriented world.

I often struggle with this masculine filter that obscures our view of our world. To write strong heroines, we often give them guns. We put them in armies. We make them fight. We give them a “male” role. We make them single and childless and tattooed and badass.

In real life, we often gain respect by joining the boys. We shove our way into their No-Girls-Allowed fort and we demand equality. And in doing so, we’re declaring our roles to be worthless. Our playhouse to be inferior.

I want the boys longing to get into our playhouse. And not for the stereotypical reason, for the lazy writing reason–to get into our pants. I want them hungry to join us. To be like us. I want motherhood and teaching and nursing to be as valued as being a soldier.

Can you think of any highly-respected traditional female role that men fight their way for the privilege of taking on? I’ve tried, and I can’t think of any and I know I must be overlooking something. Because if nothing exists, that just isn’t right.

Our definition of heroism lives in a man’s world. How do we overcome that without undermining the value of our own roles?

I don’t think we will ever know the answer to this until men and women are truly equal, and women are respected as women–not as women who have become more like men. But if, or when, that happens, this question will be irrelevant.

Have you seen Joss Whedon’s Equality Now speech? It’s good.

Gone Indie

I’ve been lured to the dark side. It took three years but it has a very solid hold. Don’t try to talk me out of it.

I could list the reasons, but I’m sure you’ve heard them all from other independent writers. If not, feel free to google “pros of self-publishing” or “pros of being an independent writer.”

My first novel, book one of a series, will be out this year. I’ve put up a blurb (click on Fiction above). It’s been a work in progress since September of ’09 and is currently being edited and revised for the 2,152nd (and hopefully the last) time. Photos have been shot and will be sent to the cover artist soon. I’ll post updates as it progresses.

I’ll be giving out heaps of free copies when it’s published so stay tuned!

Why Do We Create?

What compels an artist to create?

There’s this inner beast of creativity that will consume me to the point of being miserable if I don’t let it out and do something with it.
–Ryan Woodward

That’s one half of it. The other half is the unceasing urge to perfect the creation while knowing it will never be perfect.

Here’s Ryan’s creation process:

Here’s his creation:

Peeling Back

It’s been a while. My contribution to this week’s Inspiration Monday.

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Peeling back the cover was the easy part. It was the thin sheet that concerned him. Cold air settling on bare flesh would be a wake-up call to the deepest sleeper on this ship, with everyone programmed to fear the cold like his kind were prone to fear the heat.

The ceiling ducts clicked, slowly at first, gaining tempo before the cabin heat blasted against his back. Now was his moment. He had to work fast or he’d melt before he got out of there.

Index finger and thumb of each hand pinched the top of the sheet. The sleeper shifted her legs. Her limp arm dropped from her side to the cot. She rolled onto her back, and he used the distraction of her motion to jerk the sheet down to her knees. And there it was–the device so valuable she slept with it. Not even strapped down. Waiting for him.

There was something else–a tension on his leg. His eyeballs burned in the sockets. That heat. It was shutting down his sight, his lungs. He’d discarded his suit outside the cabin to gain agility, but he’d underestimated how quickly their heat would affect him. He reached to free his leg but his fingers met the hot skin of an EF-19 human fist clutching his pant leg. One merciful moment of regained sight showed him her outstretched arm, her open eyes, her hardened glare. Just before he fell to his knees.