Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Night Special 6 - WIP Excerpt 3

Hello everyone! Contrary to popular belief, I am not dead and I am not ignoring all of you. I was sick for most of last week, and now that I'm playing catch-up with all the blogs I follow, it's taking me a really long time to get everything done. So I want to apologize to everyone whose blog I read: I'm so sorry that I haven't commented on your posts. I do still love all of you. And I'm backed up on email too, so I'll be getting through all of those too.

Also, we have a winner for the super secret giveaway from Kate Walker's post! The prize is a signed backcopy of one of Kate's novels! Everyone who commented was entered automatically and thanks to Random.org, the winner is...

DESERE!

Desere, if you can contact me at marlena (dot) cassidy (at) gmail (dot) com with contact information, I'll forward it to Kate and you can claim your prize!

-breathes deep-

Okay! Let's get this Saturday Night Special started!

(For some reason, the formatting is going wonky, and I don't have the patience to keep tinkering with it. I apologize for the less than stellar visuals.)

Title: Unknown as of yet.
Length: 1089 words
Rating: TV-PG for circumstances
History: This is still fairly early on in the narrator's journey. It comes a bit after the last excerpt you read. At this point, she's camping out in the woods near the house where John C. Winston dropped her off, and this is definitely a major turning point in the action.

_______________________________________________________________________

Nights out in the open were an interesting ordeal.  That first night I dragged my sleeping bag out with the thought that I would sleep under the stars and achieve some sort of nirvana, but all that happened was that I was attacked and eaten by a swarm of the most persistent mosquitoes I had ever experienced before in life.  They chewed me up so bad that I was a mess of itchy bumps for days.  There was also a remarkable difference in night noises between there and Phillipsburg.  In Phillipsburg, you hear cars, maybe a few cats rustling around, and the occasional owl and bat swooping in and screeching outside of the window.  But in Oxford, out in the untamed woods, there’s a lot more to hear and a lot more to be afraid of.  It sounded as if every branch of every tree was rustling with something alive and evil.  I heard all sort of things scurrying around in the underbrush.  I swear I heard a snake slither near the opening of my tent.  It got so terrifying that I flailed over to the flap and zipped it shut.  Crickets chirped and toads croaked and things flew above my head, and they all sounded like a thousand demons from hell exploding out of the gates to come take me away.

I was miserable that first night, and in all honesty, it only got worse.

The days were hot and boring, the nights long and nerve wracking.  I ate a lot of canned beans and peaches and no meat because I hadn’t thought to buy a cooler or a stove.  I looked for a job for three more days and then gave up because there was nothing available and no one to help me.  I used the last of the money to buy more canned beans and some corn to change things up because the peaches were making me sick.  When I was down to my last ten cans, I started making them last at least two days, eating a spoonful here or there when my stomach pains got too bad for me to stand.  I remember losing a lot of weight and always feeling tired.  Some days it was hard to just roll out of my sleeping bag and crawl out of the tent.  My teeth hurt almost constantly.

There was a spring by my tent that I could get drinking water from, but I didn’t know how to filter it properly and it always tasted a little funny, sour almost, dirty.  And there were snakes.  The first one I saw was a harmless garden snake, and I tossed it away with a stick, but two weeks later, a water moccasin almost bit me, and that scared me away from the spring for a bit.  I had drank all of my water and all of my emergency water before I went back there again.

At the three week mark, I started getting violently sick, throwing up what little I ate and lying in my tent, curled up in a ball, waiting to die.  I had chills, then fevers, then chills again, and my knees hurt so much that at times I couldn’t bend them, or think to bend them.  Other days I couldn’t straighten them out.  I was tired all the time, sleeping throughout most the day into the afternoon and then falling asleep as soon as the sun went down.  My throat swelled up to the point where breathing became difficult, and around then I started becoming delirious.  I dreamed monsters were coming after me, eating up my feet and my legs, and I would wake up crying, half out of my sleeping bag, a fever wracking my body.  During the day I saw what I thought were pixies dancing in the sunlight, and I would sit and watch them for hours, trying to catch them with my feet.  Everything ached.  Everything hurt.  When the delirium passed for a bit and I could think lucidly, I wondered if I were dying.  I should have been more frightened, but these lucid moments never lasted long and soon I was back in lala land, stumbling around the woods trying to escape the bat-like creatures I thought were chasing me.

Eventually, I ran out of food, and in desperation, I crawled out of my tent and made my way to the witch lady’s house.  I was out of my mind with fever and had no idea what I was doing, but my body knew it needed food, and it was going to find some or die trying.  I couldn’t walk.  I had to crawl through the brush, and I thought they were claws digging into my skin so they could rip the flesh from my bones.  I remember crying a lot, sobbing into the dirt.  My face was scratched bloody, and I don’t think I had any shoes on.  But I kept on crawling and crawling and crawling until I fell out into the open and rolled onto my back, gasping for breath.  


The heat was unbearable.  I felt it melting my bones, boiling my blood.  My skin felt like it was on fire, burning away into a crisp.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I was horribly sick and needed help, but all I could think was that water moccasins were crawling up my legs and biting my calves, filling me with their poison so that I would explode in thousand tiny pieces.  I might have been crying, but if I was, I didn't process it properly.


I couldn’t have stayed there on my back for more than a few minutes, five at most, but it seemed like an eternity before I rolled over and resumed my half-dead crawl forward.  The ground smelled different here, nice, cooler.  I wanted to bury myself in it.  The short grass tickled my writhing stomach.  I was so hungry that I couldn’t think or hear.  The house loomed up ahead of me, made of crooked squares and parallel lines that met at every corner.  It was a nightmare house, terrifying, and I shied away from it, shaking and snorting.  A monster roared from somewhere near it, and I squeaked, tried to crawl faster.


My arm hit something soft, giving, and it exploded all over me.  I grabbed with clumsy fingers, felt wetness, saw red, thought I was bleeding and panicked.  I spasmed, rolled into creeping vines, squashed more things that I thought were horrendous boils sent up from hell to torment me.  I covered my face in my stained hands, tasted something sweet, felt seeds in my teeth.


Food.  Glorious, glorious food.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Author Interview with Kate Walker

Hey everyone!  It's been a week of guest posts!  Today with have the wonderful Kate Walker here to chat about her latest novel, Return of the Stranger.  (I also apologize for being completely MIA for the past four days.  I've been sick and Internet has been fritzy and things just all around have been bleh.)  But anyway, without further ado, I present to you, Kate Walker and Return of the Stranger!

What inspired you to write this novel?

The original idea came from an editorial through my editor. They had an idea they said -  a mini series of books that were based around some of the classics of romantic fiction.   Not copying them but taking the classic book as the springboard and using it to create a whole new story, a modern and contemporary take on the story. The whole series was to be called The Powerful and The Pure. Originally the book they suggested that I let myself be inspired by was North and South – the book by Elizabeth Gaskell which was hugely popular because of a wonderful TV series based on it, starring Richard Armitage. But I was worried that perhaps American readers might think this was the North and South written by John Jakes and televised starring Patrick Swayze. It was when the Executive Editor realised that I had loved and studied the Bronte sister and their books for years – growing up near Haworth where they lived, studying their books for both my first degree and my MA and that I had a special love for Wuthering Heights that she asked me to use that as my book. Then I had to let the wonderful original classic inspire me and make me create something new. I could never just copy the plot of the original, but thinking about the characters, the atmosphere, the high-voltage intensity of the story inspired me to create my own book.   The Return of The Stranger is a  Presents style/Modern Romance new take on an old story.  It might be inspired by a classic but I’ve taken the characters, brought them into the 21st century and made the story my own.

Do you use the same writing process for each novel you've written or does it change from work to work?

Well, this one was that bit different because of the way that the editors wanted the mini series to be, but in the end, it meant that to create a book that was mine and not a weak copy of the original, I had to turn to my personal writing process to make it work. And that process is working to get to know my characters, digging deep into their personalities, seeing who they are and what makes them tick.   I do this following a sort of character questionnaire, like the one I have given in my how to guide -  the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance as a basis for knowing them, adding more and more layers as they grow in my imagination.  - Then I need to look at what the conflict is between them – why they can’t be together and just fall into each other's arms!  I create a situation that will create that tension and build on it so that they seem further apart than ever. And all the time I am asking myself why this is happening, why they feel this way. Of course I also need to ask myself why they will eventually fall in love and how the conflict can be resolved so that they can have their happy ending. I let the scenes of the story grow from these questions and ideas.

Is being a well-published author different from what you had expected when you had first started out?

Being a published author is constantly changing, the longer I do it. I started out with a manual typewriter, turning in a book when I could, waiting two years or more for it to be published, doing very little promotion, not even having the books go into different lines – there was no Modern Romance etc in the UK. Now I work on a computer, submit by email, connect with readers through the internet, and have fixed deadlines. . . I never expected that I would go to America and meet readers there. One thing I never ever expected was that I would be so much in demand to teach writing - and that I would end up writing the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance so that now lots of people write to me to tell me how much it’s helped them. I regularly run courses in Wales and all over the UK and next year I’ll be teaching a week long residential course in Tuscany - I certainly never saw that coming!  One of the things that I am most proud of is that in my 25+ years as a published author I have kept up with the changes, kept current – and kept selling. I’ve never strongly changed my style but learned from what is being published now – and what is selling now
 
Promotion is essential for all authors in building a fan-base and reaching new readers.  How do you promote yourself and your work, and what would you recommend to other authors?


When I started out there was no internet, no web site, no Facebook . . . . I’ve had to learn to use those and to promote my work this way. There is much  more competition to promote and be seen then there ever was when I started out.  I have a web site, a blog and a Facebook page – they’re great ways of being able to connect with readers and hopefully get them interested in my books.  I live in the UK and one of my greatest markets is in America- another is Japan – so obviously I can never – or very rarely – get to actually meet up and chat with those readers. I've  been to several Romance Writers of America conferences  and they were great opportunities to meet readers, but I can’t do that every day. So that’s where my blog and web site come in. But I do think that authors should always remember that it’s the writing that comes first – always. The promotion is fine when you have a new book out but if social networking takes you away from actually writing a book then it’s a real waste of time. The other thing is that I know readers hate the hard sell – the ‘Here’s my book – buy it!’ approach. So I prefer to use my blog  etc to keep up a conversation with my readers, tell them what I’m doing my my life, what I’m enjoying – what my cats are doing! -  in amongst that will obviously be news about my books because that’s what I do – but I don’t want to push them down readers’ throats. I hope they’ll think I’m seem interesting and appealing and  so they’ll think my books will be too.

Here's a fun question to wrap it up: If your hero could honeymoon anywhere, where would that be?


In The Return of The Stranger,  my hero - Heath comes back after so many years away, he has made a new life for himself by going to Brazil and working there. He’s made himself a fortune out there too, and bought a huge estate where he breeds horses. Kat has stayed at home in Yorkshire all that time, so I’m positive he would want to take her to South America to show her his new home and his very different way of life.  They would travel to Brazil where he has a huge, luxurious estate that would provide plenty of privacy and comfort.

Blurb:

Standing high on the windswept moors, the lone figure of Heath Montanha vows vengeance on the woman who destroyed the last fragments of his heart...Lady Katherine Charlton has never forgotten the stablehand with dangerous fists and a troubled heart from her childhood. Now the rebel is back, his powerful anger concealed under a polished and commanding veneer. When ten years of scandal and secrets are unleashed, with a passionate, furious kiss, Heath's deepest, darkest wish crystallises...Revenge - and Kat - will be his!

 Buy here!

 From Kate Walker's Website - The Return of the Stranger

UK Cover
US Cover

 Amazon UK - The Return of the Stranger

 Amazon US - The Return of the Stranger

 Kate's Website - 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance

Amazon UK - 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance

Amazon US - 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance

Where can readers find you?


Website 

Blog

Facebook

Author Page created by Romance Book Paradise Promotions.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Author Interview with Christina Hollis

Today we have the lovely and awesome Christina Hollis here to talk about her latest release, Weight of the Crown!  I'm sure you'll all enjoy this interview (I know I did!) and Weight of the Crown, which I personally cannot wait to pick up and consume.  Let's get started, shall we? 



What inspired you to write this novel?
 
I love a man with principles.  Lysander, hero of Weight of the Crown has been forced by circumstances to abandon his louche lifestyle to become regent of the kingdom of Rosara.  He doesn’t want to do it, but loyalty to his late brother means he’s going to give the job his best shot. After that, it was a case of finding a heroine capable of keeping Lysander on the straight and narrow when he suffers the occasional wobble in his resolve. Finally, I was intrigued by the idea of creating a fictional country. Rosara includes bits of all my favourite real-life countries: beautiful weather, stunning scenery and lovely people.

Do you use the same writing process for each novel you've written or does it change from work to work?

I use pretty much the same system for every novel I write. Weight of the Crown began with my idea of a gorgeous hero, Lysander, and his internal struggle. This is the conflict between his playboy character, and his embedded loyalty to his family and country. Then Lysander needed a heroine who’s as strong willed as he is to bring out both the best and the worst in him. Alyssa has a tragic past which she tries to forget by immersing herself in her work as nanny to the boy king of Rosara. From there, I worked up their characters and backstory before producing a detailed outline, which became the basis of a three page synopsis.  After that it’s a case of refining my original thoughts, and working hard until Weight of the Crown was complete.

Is being a well-published author different from what you had expected when you had first started out?

Definitely - I thought I’d have the luxury of spending my whole time writing. Actually there’s a lot of behind the scenes work to be done before I can start each morning: business correspondence, emails and social networking now have their place alongside housework and family life. I really love Twitter, where I tweet as @christinabooks but Facebook’s still a bit of a mystery to me so I’m feeling my way there. However it’s done, I really love keeping in touch with readers but I have to be careful, or I’m left with no time to write!

Promotion is essential for all authors in building a fan-base and reaching new readers.  How do you promote yourself and your work, and what would you recommend to other authors?

I think a website is essential, closely followed by a blog. As a reader, I love these little insights into the lives of other authors - what they have to say about themselves and their work.  As a writer, My Website and Blog  showcase my work and, more importantly as far as I’m concerned, they are great ways in which I can communicate with readers.

Here's a fun question to wrap it up: If your hero could honeymoon anywhere, where would that be?

Lysander would definitely go somewhere nobody knew his name: where he could kick back and relax without having to sort out everyone’s problems. A tropical island would be perfect. Azure sea, clear blue sky, waving palm trees and miles of deserted beach with Alyssa by his side would be his idea of heaven.

Thanks for this chance to chat, Marlena!
Thank you, Christine, for stopping by!  Best of luck with Weight of the Crown
Where can readers find you on the web?
Website             Twitter        Facebook        Blog     Tumbler

Author Page created by Romance Book Paradise Promotions.

Book Blurb

Now duty is his only mistress.

For notorious playboy Prince Lysander Kahani, playtime is over…Left with a country to run, he draws the line at playing nanny to his orphaned nephew!

Instead he sends for a professional. But one glance at buttoned-up Alyssa Dene and Lysander’s wicked side re-emerges! Wary of his scandalous reputation, Alyssa tries to keep her distance – but Lysander draws her like a moth to a flame.

Lysander is fighting a battle between public duty and private desire, but he is determined to make Alyssa a royal offer she won’t refuse…


Available here!

Amazon

Amazon UK

Mills & Boon

Monday, September 12, 2011

Real Life

Things I want from life:
  1. A house that has picture windows and a music room with a white baby grand piano.
  2. A steady job as a novelist.
  3. A movie made after my insane and awesomely popular manuscript.
  4. An Oscar for said movie.
  5. Zac Efron.
  6. A stately German Shepard that listens to me and lounges by my feet and jogs with me.
  7. The new Star Wars special edition xBox 360.
  8. A 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse.
  9. Time to do everything I want.
  10. To be that cool mother on the block who always has the best food and things to do.
Things I got from life:
  1. A tiny apartment in Manhattan and Pennsylvania with room for a half keyboard and that's it.
  2. A hectic job as a blogger and anything else I can get my hands on.
  3. Three unfinished manuscripts, two of which are currently MIA and one is sort of DOA.
  4.  Rejections from several magazines.
  5. Boba Fett. (Who has since left the building.  Oh wait, that's Elvis.  I meant fell into the Sarlacc pit and was promptly digested.)
  6. Four obnoxious miniature poodles who think they own everything, including me and my lap.
  7. An ancient Playstation 2 and a refurbished, third-hand Nintendo DS that makes ominous clicking noises when I use it.
  8. No car. I walk everywhere.  And by everywhere I mean up hills.  Steep hills. And stairs.  So many stairs.
  9. Time to do exactly half of what I should be doing and still not getting anything done.
  10. No children at the moment and no block either for that matter.
Would I change any of it?  Nope, not at all.  I'm happy where I am at this point in my life. (:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

I'm posting this instead of the SNS for two reasons: 1. 9/11, however much it's saturating the media right now, is important, and 2. I don't really have anything to post as of the moment.  Next week I can either post more of the WIP or something completely different if you guys want.

September 11, 2001 was my first cognizant (and hopefully last) encounter with both terrorism and a national disaster.  I was alive during the 1993 bombing of the Trade Centers, but I was young then and didn't even realize it had happened until after 9/11.

I was in a music theory class, trying to figure out if I should put an eighth note on that last stanza or a quarter note.  The windows were open.  The sun was warm.  I sat by the door.  The world was focused on that silly note, on which made more sense, on how much I wanted to be outside in the September sun instead of in that chair.  Then, very suddenly, one of the younger students came running in from down the hall and yelled, "A plane has hit the World Trade Center!"

We didn't really understand what was going on.  I remember thinking, "Oh wow, how could a pilot manage to do that?"  We had no idea it was intentional.  Who ever thinks it's intentional?  Who could possibly understand flying a commercial plane full of innocent people into a building on purpose, especially when you've never even been faced with such a catastrophe?  It's incomprehensible.

The day progressed somewhat normally at first.  I went to my next class.  No one really talked about the horror unfolding in New York City, maybe because we didn't want to think about it or maybe because we didn't know.  I think a few of the younger students watched it unfold on the TV, but we didn't have one in our classroom and so had no idea what was going on.  A few of us went home to be with family.  I stayed.  My family was close by and I wasn't too worried about them at the time because it hadn't occurred to me that we were under attack.  In retrospect, I should have gone home.  I wish I had gone home

Later that morning, one of the teachers walked quietly to our instructor, whispered something in her ear, and then left.  Our instructor went very silent, very still, and we went silent too as she stared hard at the back wall.  She ushered us into the library a few minutes later, warned us to stay there, and then left, and of course, we jumped on the Internet and learned that planes were crashing everywhere, that the Pentagon had been hit, and that life was changing right before our eyes.

More of us left.

You see, I experienced 9/11 while I was living in New Jersey, approximately twenty minutes outside of Manhattan, and from my house, I had a clear view of the skyline and later that day, of the smoke cloud rising solemnly and grimly in the distance.  We were close to it.  It terrified us.  There was talk among us that Newark might come under attack next.  Or Hoboken.  Or something.  We didn't know what to think.

I didn't have a cell phone at the time, and couldn't reach my parents.  Both of them worked in the city, but thankfully not at the time this was happening, so I could take some solace in the fact that they were home and safe.  I had a piano lesson in Manhattan later that day too, but when I mentioned this to one of the instructors who periodically came to check in on us and take a head count, she told me there was no chance I was getting into Manhattan that day, that the city had been closed off at all its tunnels and bridges.  I sat down and buried my face in my hands.  Manhattan, closed off.  How could that ever be possible?

I stayed until about three and then fled home, confused and agitated and not really understanding what exactly had happened.  My mother greeted me at the door and said, "The Towers are gone."

It's a simple sentence, but simple sentences are the easiest to shake you to your core.  I couldn't process it.  How could the Towers be gone?  They were always there, silent monoliths on the horizon.  How could they possibly be gone?  What on earth had happened?

We watched the news all day and deep into the night, sitting on the couch just trying to hold one another and feel safe in each other's arms.  I forget how many times I watched the planes crash, heard people screaming, listened to news reporters try to make sense of all the chaos and fail miserably at it as dust clouds over took them and their cameras.  I watched as fire and gas exploded into the sky, watched as the Towers fell, shook in horror and dismay as people jumped out of the flaming Towers because they'd rather die smashed on the sidewalk than burn to death in what had to be Hell.  (I'm shaking right now, writing this.)

We watched President Bush's address to the nation, then watched as families wailed into cameras and replayed the last messages of their loved ones while clutching at photographs and t-shirts.  I sobbed at the voice-mail of a little girl telling her father that she loved him.

We learned about United 93 and the incredibly bravery and selflessness of the passengers aboard that flight, and felt both proud and horrified for them.  We don't get to hear too much about United 93, but they are all heroes, and I plan to make a visit to the crash site to pay my respects to them.

I didn't sleep well that night, or the night after.  It took a while for things to return to some sort of semi-normalcy.

I don't write this because I think my story is worth telling over the stories of other people or because I have some sort of political stance on it.  I write it because I'm a writer and it's my job to record history and make sure that it's remembered.  And I *want* to remember 9/11.  I want to be able to say with conviction that I was there and I was doing this at the time.  I want to be able to tell my future children exactly what happened that day.  I want them to know the horror and the pain of it, not just the words of it or a few pictures pasted in their history books.

It's amazing to me that there are children now who have been born who don't know what 9/11 was.  It'll be even more amazing when I'm old and withered and the neighborhood kids will whisper, "She was alive when 9/11 happened," and to them 9/11 will be nothing more than a day that is marked by a moment of silence and a few articles online about the terror attacks.  And so I want to record what happened so that I can make it real for these future generations who will know nothing about it.  Because it needs to be passed down.

For the memories of everyone who lived, died, fought, escaped, were wounded, were scarred, who risked their own lives to help complete strangers, I want to pass something down to the children who will be born on the twentieth anniversary and the thirtieth anniversary, so on and so forth.  I want that memory to stay alive.  For the memory of my cousin, who may or may not have died in the Towers (the last we knew of her, she was working in the North Tower, I think.) I will remember my tiny, inconsequential role in the day, and will pass it down to them so that they can *know.*

And I will pass down the hope too because even Pandora's box had that left at the bottom.  And amid the chaos and the pain and the death, there are a thousand stories of hope and wonder and kindness that need to be kept alive as well.  So on this tenth anniversary of a dark, horrible time, remember the hope, the courage, and the triumph of that day as well.  In the deepest of the night, there is still light in the sky and in the eyes of people who love you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guest Post Over at Bird's-eye View


Hello everyone and good morning!  Today I'm over at Michelle's Bird's-eye View to talk about prologues!  She was here a few weeks ago and it was great having her over, so I hope that being over there will be just as enjoyable!  Stop by and say hi!

She gave me an award too, which is just icing on the cake, really.  It's the Helping Hands Award, and it's given to people who have helped you and others with writing and blogging and such.  Isn't that great?  Michelle is such a sweetheart.  There aren't any obligations aside from to pass it on to those you feel have helped you.

Well, a lot of people have helped me, so here's to paying it forward!

Rebecca E of Living a Life of Writing didn't get the Liebster Award because her blog has too many followers to qualify for it, but she writes incredibly helpful posts and sometimes uses my comments in them!  I know I definitely owe some traffic to her, so she gets the Helping Hands Award.

Lev from The Thoughts Bubble always drops by with something nice to say, and he even reviewed the first of The Kitty Malone series, so he really deserves the Helping Hands Award for reading a romance short and enjoying it.

And last but not least, Theresa Milstein of Substitute Teacher's Saga takes the time to read over the Saturday Night Specials and critique them, which is exactly what I need to keep me on track, and so she receives the Helping Hands Award for that!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

More Liebster Love and Late Saturday Night Special # 5 - WIP Excerpt Part 2

I might just have to push these to Sunday if this nonsense keeps up.  Blame boardgaming; it eats up so much time and brain capacity.

So I received not one, not two, but three Liebster Awards, all from amazing people.  Brooke, Kelley, and Isis all sent me some love, as per the rules outlined in this post, I must now pay it forward to other blogs.

So let's see who receives it this time around, shall we?

1. Reabookreview always has some neat reviews on books that I would normally never look at or even hear about.  The reviews are also very nice, even, and unbiased, so you should check them out!

2. Elspeth of wandering sights is such a sweetheart, I needed to send this her way.  Her blog posts are always fun to read, even when you think you don't have time to read them.  You will.

3. Ju Dimello was referred to me by Nas Dean (who is awesome by the way), and I couldn't be happier.  Ju is lovely and always has something neat to look at on her blog, so you should all poke at hers.

4. LoveCats Down Under is a meeting place for several romance authors, which means this blog is hotter than hot and if you want some excerpts from romance novels, this is your place!

5. Chiseled in Rock is another meeting place for Colorado writers and always something funny and interesting up.  There's also drawings, which make it even better.  And Patricia Stoltey is there too, and that means you know it's incredible.

Congratulations winners!

And now on to the Saturday Night Special that has a hangover!  (I forgot yesterday was Saturday.)


Title: Untitled
Length: 1704 words.  There's payoff for the long word count.
Rating: TV-14 for language and hitchhiking
History: If you didn't read the previous SNS, then you're going to be a bit confused.  This scene follows right after where I left out before, and I'd like to point out very quickly that there's no chapter break between the two excerpts.  They follow one another in the same chapter.  Once again, only Other read this over, so there's some rough edges to it that need to be filed down.

__________________________________________________________________________


     I eyed him, eyed the car, then turned back and looked at the distant hotel.  I could spend the rest of my money there, trying to find a job and wasting time, or I could go with this John C. Winston and do what I had planned.  I bit my lip.  Behind me, John C. Winston snorted and spit onto the melting asphalt.  Oh, what the hell.

    “I’m coming.”

    He helped me lug my sagging suitcase into the backseat of the car.  “I’d put it in the trunk, but that catch has been broken since 1981 and I haven’t gotten around to fixing it yet.”  He ran his sleeve against his nose.  “I don’t reckon I have enough money to fix it.”  He slid into the driver’s side door and leaned across, reaching with one skinny arm to open up the passenger door.  “It don’t open from the outside anymore.  Don’t know why.”

    The car smelled like tobacco and some other filth I didn’t want to think about.  Doritos bags crinkled under my feet, and a sad little pine tree air freshener dangled from a broken rear-view mirror.  John C. Winston pulled out into traffic without looking and honked at the motorists who weren’t smart enough to get out of his way.  The man was like a maniac on the road.  He dived through openings between cars that didn’t seem big enough to fit a skinny person through, never mind a shabby vehicle like his, and he was never in the same lane for long.  His theory seemed to consist of getting to his destination as quick as possible, everybody else be damned.  I found myself clinging to the seat in terror and wondering if my last view on earth was going to be the brake lights of an unfortunate car.

            After one particularly graceful and horrifying flit through three lanes of traffic and a yellow light, John began to talk again and told me his entire life story.

He was born and raised here in North Carolina, he said, growing up in Virgilina and making regular trips out into Raleigh and Oxford for work and for fun, whatever that meant.  I had the feeling that fun for John C. Winston was something that other people would not find pleasing at all.

“I went to school here too, graduated from high school, went to college,” he told me.  “Chapel Hill.  Good times, girl, good times.”

I was surprised.  I had pegged him for a country bumpkin, but he was more educated than I was.  I guess it goes to show me not to judge people too harshly, but honestly, with that beard, he was asking to be judged.

“What’s college like?”  I asked.

“Hmm, well you see that, girl, is a loaded question.  It’s not like anything.  It is its own ecosystem, its own place.  It’s different for everyone you talk to.  What I tell you will not necessarily be what you experience.”

“I’m not going to college.”

“You don’t know that, girl.  Someday you might.  Hell, you need to go college nowadays to do anything.  Want to breathe oxygen?  Gotta go to college.”  He choked out a laugh, coughed, and took a swill of something vaguely orange from a reused water bottle.  I knew it was reused because the label was nowhere to be seen.  “Of course, college isn’t really that bad.  Not when you have fun with it.”

“I’m afraid to know what you did.”

“Girl, you don’t want to know and I’m not going to tell you.”  He looked over at me and grinned and then screeched across a lane to take an exit, still looking at me.  I thought the car would flip and hung on for dear life.  The handle above the window snapped off in my hand.

“Did you learn to drive in college?” I asked through clenched teeth.

He let out a yelp of laughter.  “Naw, girl, I learned to drive out in the open, with only trees to keep my company.  There’s a many a tree around these parts that have the scars of John C. Winston!”

That wasn’t very reassuring.

He asked me eventually about my story and I gave him a glossed over account of it.  I told him that I was from Pennsylvania and that I had wanted to see the open country.

“But don’t you have a lot of that in Pennsylvania?  Heard it’s mighty nice up there.  And mighty cold too.”

“I got tired of the mountains.”

“This right here is mountains.”

“These are malevolent hills.”

“I like you, girl.  You’re damn funny.”

I didn’t bother telling him about my criminal mother and all that other nonsense.  There wasn’t a point.  But he did finally remember to ask me my name.

“Alexis.”

“Pretty.”

“Thank you.”

“Named for your mother?”

“Yeah.”

“Gotta last name?”

“Yeah, but that’s for me to know and you to not.”  He must have liked that too because he snorted so loud he inadvertently turned his signal light on.  Cursing, he had to jerk at the stick until it finally fell down again, but the clicking didn't stop and continued on for another ten minutes.  I closed my eyes against the onslaught of blurring red lights and waited for the ride to be over.

I must have either fallen asleep or passed out because before I knew it, John was shaking me awake and we were in Oxford.  It was pretty much like he had told me.  Oxford was, and probably still is, a very sleepy little town with not much going on in it, not even many people walking out on the streets.  We passed the Episcopalian bookstore, and John snorted at it and said there wasn’t much worth reading in there unless I wanted the love of God shoved down my throat.  There were a few other stores that I couldn’t really tell what they were, and then we were out in the open country on a single lane road, passing tractors and trying not to get too close to the ditches on either side of us.  I saw a big lanky dog walking nonchalantly through the grass, paying no mind to the car at all, and then a puppy trying to catch rabbits in a storm pipe, its stubby tail wagging up a fury.  Fences lined long expanses of pastures, and cows grazed with melancholy stillness at the weeds.  A horse stood just outside its stable, swishing its tail at the cloud of flies hovering around its body.

John rolled down the windows and sweet fresh air blew in.  I leaned back in my seat.  As nice as the landscape was, I had seen it all before in Pennsylvania, and I was more in the mindset of how I was going to survive on my own out there.  I needed to find a place hidden enough so that I could live unmolested and also a place relatively sheltered so the elements wouldn’t get me.  Forest space would be ideal, I thought, as we drove through an especially heavily wooded area.  Yes, it could work out perfectly.  Even in the winter, I would be more or less safe from the snow.  I could set up camp deep enough in the woods so as not to be noticed but close enough to the road to be able to grab supplies if I needed them.  It would be a long walk into town, but hopefully no one would question me too closely.  There had to be plenty of farm kids who wandered in and out of town on a daily basis without identities.

It was perfect.  Or as perfect as broken things could be.

Maybe I could get a job in town somewhere, give a fake address, say I was staying with relatives.  I could work at the Episcopalian bookstore, like a stock person or something, putting up books in shelves and keeping everything generally in order.  I wouldn’t mind doing it, not much anyway.  They could try to indoctrinate me into anything so long as they paid me, that was my motto.  As long as I had money enough to survive, I didn’t really care much about anything else.

John jerked across the road with enough force to topple the car, and I yelped as the force pushed me against the open window.  I dangled half out of the car as he sped down a steep hill, and then caught myself against the frame as he screeched to a stop three quarters of the way down, the brakes squealing out in protest and my voice joining in with them.  The back of the car fishtailed a bit, and bits of gravel and dirt spewed up behind us in a cloud clanging rocks.

“Welp,” John said, “this is my first stop.  You can either stay in the car or go wherever you please.  You’re not beholden to stay with me, and I won’t sit around waiting for you to come back.”  He smiled at me.  “Best of luck there, girl.  Just don’t bite off more than you can chew.  It’s rough out here.”

I leaned back and hauled my suitcase onto my lap, then kicked open the door and dropped everything out.  “Don’t worry about me.”

“I won’t, girl.”

“I hope you get your job.”

“I probably won’t.  Not here.  She don’t farm much.”

“She?”

“The lady that lives down here.  Mean old witch.  She hates me.”

“Then why ask?”

He shrugged, picked at his teeth.  “The question is, why not?  Maybe she’ll give me a job this time around.”

“Seems like a pipe dream.”  I forced the handle of my suitcase out and kicked it right side up.  “Something that’ll never pan out.”

“Pipe dreams can explode without warning.  Someday everything might just work out.  You never know.”  He gestured to my suitcase.  “You have your own pipe dream right there.”

I resented that a bit, but ignored it and held out my hand.  “It was nice to get to know you, Mr. John C. Winston.”

He shook it.  “And it was nice to get to know you too, Ms. Alexis.”  He pulled me in suddenly for a quick hug.  “I’ll tell you a secret,” he whispered.  “John C. Winston isn’t my real name.”

“Don’t worry,” I whispered back.  “Alexis isn’t mine either.”