Archive | April, 2012

A Different Point of View

30 Apr

Writers  tend to prefer a certain point of view in the books they compose.  For me, I enjoy reading stories written  in first-person because I feel as though I can get inside of the character’s head.  This perspective also allows for tension between characters that an omniscient narrator could quickly resolve.  As a result, I write in first-person.

When I was writing my story Semester of Thursdays, I had completed the first few drafts of the manuscript and realized that the male lead, Remington, begged for a story of his own.

He was a complex individual with a unique outlook on life; his odd reactions to main character the could not be explained from her POV.  So I decided to write a few chapters from his perspective.  The conversations were already scripted, the stage set; however, the details this character noticed and the inner-workings of his mind were more intricate than those of his female counterpart. 

The exercise produced a story that is equally as entertaining—if not more enjoyable than the original. 

So many conflicts in relationships occur because of a lack of communication.  In “Book 2” of Semester of Thursdays, the reader has the opportunity to read the story through the main character’s perspective then re-read the same story through the eyes of the male lead.  Sounds monotonous, right? 

Surprisingly, it isn’t the least bit repetitive. 

If you’re currently combatting a writing blockage, I encourage you to try this exercise.  Even if it doesn’t make it into the final version of your story, you will have the opportunity to get to know your secondary characters on an entirely new level.

SSS: April 29 #sixsunday

28 Apr

Welcome back for another Sunday, Sixers!  Today’s post is another short installment from my WIP, Semester of Thursdays.  This snippet reveals Meredith Westbrook dealing with an overly amorous suitor on her first Thursday night out with her best friend, Lena Whyte.

 “What’s wrong with your friend?” Billy asked Lena, his voice loud enough to carry over the crackling bass.

“She’s sober,” Lena said sadly, as if that single fact should have explained the world’s mysteries.

“And I’m not interested in you,” I said, praying the blunt words would penetrate his thick skull.

“I just want you to know that you’re the first girl to ever turn me down,” he shot back.

I inspected Billy from his brillo-pad hair to his too-tight t-shirt holding him in like a cheap, cotton corset.  “I highly doubt that.”

I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my six!  If you’re interested in participating, check out Six Sunday, sign up, and choose six sentences to post next Sunday!

Here are a few of my favorites from today’s SSS: Siobhan Muir (a Vamp Six); Layna Pimentel (a Historical Six); Kelly Seguin (an Intriguing Six); Melissa Mackinnon (a Waiting Six); Patricia Ann Preston (a Yard Sale Six); Angela Quarles (a Tense Six); Donna Cummings (a Great Six); Alisha Robinson (a Frustrated Six)

The Mirrors at Barnard Hall: Chapter 20

27 Apr

Happy Friday, loyal readers!  This past week I’ve been wrestling with a number of issues regarding the release of my eBook.  The most pressing being whether or not I will continue posting chapters on this blog even after my book is available for purchase. 

I’m happy to announce that, thanks to some sage advice from my Dream Manager, I WILL continue to release a new chapter every Friday right through the epilogue!  After all, how can I knowingly rip away the best part of everyone’s Friday? 😉 Your loyalty and dedication to the story and my writing is the sole reason this book is going to be a success.  Consider this a small sign of my gratitude.

Even better news is that, if you’re dying to know what happens before the final post on July 6th, the eBook will be available for purchase in the next few weeks! 

Happy Reading!

-Jenny

New to the story?  Click HERE to start reading from the beginning

Don’t want to read this online?  Click to download the .pdf for Chapter 20

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Chapter 20: Crime Scene

I stared at the scene of the crime through new eyes.  Once, when I was first at Barnard Hall, I had broken into the building in search of treasure.  At this moment I couldn’t recall whether or not my quest had been successful. 

Today, every rickety piece of furniture, each film-encrusted window, and cobweb-lined doorway in the carriage house could provide the solution I was searching for, a treasure in and of itself.  A week had passed and Nick and I had yet to formulate a plan, a way to stop the fire.  I had given up on solving the mystery behind the culprit; that was now Nick’s job.  Although he was personally involved, we both thought it would be easier for him to make a list of potential suspects than for me to continue grasping at straws and speculating.   He was responsible for catching the criminal and, if that failed, the contingency plan was up to me. 

I was the final line of defense.

“Now tell me again, what is it you are supposed to do?”

Nick knew I hated it when he treated me like I was five years old.  Still, he continued to do it because he said my anger was cute.  “Check out the carriage house, master.”

His grin had pulled to the right.  “And why are you doing that?”

“To figure out how you and your parents are going to get out of there when you’re surrounded by fire.”

“If, Callista.  If we are surrounded by fire.  You have to remember that I am using every resource available to me in order to ensure that your escape plan is superfluous.”

Just as Nick had said last night, I needed to figure out a means of escape as a last resort in the event that we did not solve the mystery in time.  My job was to stop the blaze from taking three lives. 

There was a silent fear that stunted my search for an escape route.  Nick and I had not spoken about it, but I was sure he had thought of the same scenario.  What if the Daltons were already dead when they were thrown into the building?  Then all of this would be useless.  No contingency plan would be able to bring them back to life.  No magic mirror would be around to give us a third go-around.

But I couldn’t think of that now.  I had to focus on plan B—a need for a quick, effortless getaway—and pray that my job was an unnecessary precaution.

Today I had brought a ladder around the back of the carriage house to check if it could be seen from other angles.  From the main house a person would never know a ladder was hidden around the back beneath the largest window.  However, a simple walk around the building would reveal the only means of escape. In one of our nightly brainstorming sessions I had suggested stashing a ladder inside the upstairs of the carriage house. 

But Nick had pointed out that the fire could have started upstairs.  Then I had countered his statement by reminding him that the fire could have started anywhere, therefore we needed numerous escape routes; the more the merrier. 

I stood in the doorway of the smaller version of Barnard Hall and waited.  Wind whipped around me and kicked up the dust that had accumulated in the entryway.  For some superstitious reason I had expected an eerie feeling or at least a bit of unease to fill the room where three quarters of the Dalton family had died. 

But there was nothing. 

The building itself had been rebuilt afterward, 110 years ago, so there was no smoky smell or scorched remains paying tribute to the original structure. Still, there should have been something.  The only explanation I could come up with was that the crime hadn’t happened yet, so there was no reason for the place to feel haunted… yet.

Instead of ghosts, the room was occupied by eclectic furniture and dust that devoured the exposed surfaces.  Solid shapes of the antique graveyard were barely visible in the murky evening glow.  Regretfully, I had forgotten a flashlight. 

Three-legged chairs, moth-ridden upholstered couches, drawerless chests, and bowed tabletops littered the cramped first floor.  Despite the uselessness of most of the discarded junk, each piece still held the charm of hand-carved scrollwork, clawed feet, or original finish.  If the 1900’s version of the carriage house was as full with such convenient kindling, the fire would spread more quickly than Nick and I had previously determined.

What Nick needed was an extinguisher or two.  Those would help stop the fire.  But red, foam-filled cans would cause quite a stir in 1900.  Even now I was beginning to dismiss those consequences. 

Much like my ladder scenario, Nick had found fault in every idea I’d had this past week.  With each objection I had spiraled further into misery.  He had been right in his criticism.  All of our ideas had been mediocre at best: ladders, buckets of water, a wood ax, wool blankets, and trap doors.  Each of them had been exasperatingly inadequate.  In the pit of my silent despair I had thought of my best idea, the only one Nick and I could not find fault in.

“I think you’re just saying no for fun now,” I had said in irritation.

“Callista, be serious.”

“I thought you said I was too serious.”

“That was before,” Nick had murmured.

“And I specifically remember you saying that I should give up thinking as well.  Maybe I should take your advice.”

“Might I point out that you’ve chosen a horrible time to consider giving up thinking?” he said.

“Well, if there’s nothing in this world that’s going to work then maybe we need some magic,” I had suggested sarcastically.

“That’s it, Callista!”

“What?”

“Magic,” Nick had said.

“Oh, so now you know a wizard or witch who would be willing to help us?”

“No, but I do know of six magical mirrors.”

We had no clue if they would work, but we could not think of anything else.  I had planned on moving a mirror into my carriage house, and Nick was going to do the same.  At some point between today and the twenty fourth we would need to experiment.  Although they were not the same structure, the new carriage house was an exact replica of its predecessor.  If we lined the mirrors in precisely the same spots in both 1902 and 2012 then the magical portal might work. 

Now I just needed to locate a spare mirror—there was no way I was going to move mine and risk losing my connection to Nick.  Then I would need someone to help me move the heavy glass to the carriage house, someone who would not ask questions.  Rosa was the only person I could trust with the task.  Even if I had to explain everything to her—which was highly likely—there was no other choice.

The stairs to the second floor loft creaked and rocked as I climbed.  The area at the top was tight, but it should accommodate one mirror.  Random mismatched chairs, a mahogany headboard, and empty steamer trunks were scattered across the floor. Luckily, the west wall was mostly bare.  I cleared a pathway to allow room for us to maneuver the enormous addition.

A noise below made me pause.  I looked down in time to see the door swing open and bang against the wall.  In my haste to complete the task at hand, I must have forgotten to shut it completely.  The gale-force wind could have loosened the metal handle.  All I knew for certain was that the noise roaring through the carriage house was deafening.  I ran down the steps and fought Mother Nature to slam the door shut.  After a brief struggle, the door was properly latched and the wind was left outside where it belonged.

A creak behind me froze my body mid-step.  The building settled and whined as it was pummeled from outside but this noise had been different.  The fine hairs along my hairline stood on end; it felt like a mess of poisonous spiders were crawling down my spine.  I swiped at the invisible insects but the feeling did not subside. 

That’s when I saw him. 

I caught his reflection in a discarded vanity mirror atop a roll-top desk with three and a half legs.  His face was unfamiliar; since coming to England I hadn’t spent enough time in town to notice many of the locals—assuming he was local. 

The man had mousy brown hair in desperate need of a trim, and his face was badly in need of a shave.  In profile the stranger was average, forgettable.  But he was built like a bull; his thick neck was short, making his head look as though it was directly attached to his shoulders; his muscles were straining, barely contained inside his filthy denim jacket. There was something sinister in his stance, a blatant menace. 

My eyes were glued to the milky reflection in the piece of dirty glass.  He twisted to face the mirror head on, and I stiffened.  Instinctively, my body tensed for flight.  Our eyes connected; mine widened, and his smiled.

Before I had time to move, the stranger sprung on me.  For such a bulky man, he was deceptively fast.  Any effort to fight him off would be futile; he was too strong.  His brute force overwhelmed me, and his thick fingers gripped my throat. 

I twisted to get a better look at my murderer.  If by some miracle I survived this, I would need to be able to identify the criminal.  Mentally I chuckled.  Even on the brink of death I was being so… logical.  Nick would get a kick out of that.  Nick…

He wouldn’t be very happy that I had gotten myself killed over trying to save him.

The man in front of me had a puckered scar over his right eye.  The angry skin around the twisted mark stitched the lid grotesquely shut.  His irises were a nearly colorless blue.  And he was enjoying this. 

One-eye and I fought for what felt like years when black spots began clouding my vision.  I kicked at him in one last desperate attempt to escape.  My foot connected with his taunt thigh and he grunted; my toes throbbed. 

The more I struggled, the wider his grin became.  He soon grew tired of the game and hit me.  His meaty fist grazed my forehead, just above my eyebrow.  Blood dripped into my eye, and I felt faint.  I twisted once more and thought I saw a shadow in the dusty glass.

A bright light flashed then my world went black.

I heard harsh breathing but it wasn’t mine—I wasn’t breathing.

I heard a deafening crash but it wasn’t me—I wasn’t moving.

Then I heard a soft voice calling my name.

Embrace the Feedback

25 Apr

In light of the upcoming release of my debut novel, The Mirrors at Barnard Hall, I thought I’d touch on the topic of feedback.  Here is a short list comprised of what I’ve learned so far on self-publishing journey.

1.)    If you can’t handle criticism, don’t let anyone read what you’ve written.  But then again, what was the point of writing if no one is ever going to read it?

2.)    Before you put your book/music/art into the world, come to terms with this simple fact: Not everyone is going to like what you’ve created.

3.)    Everyone’s My initial reaction to negative feedback is to return the comment with an equally harsh retort and push blindly forward.  However, my advice to you is this: if someone has taken the time to respond, then his/her opinions should at least be considered.  Avoid replying directly until you’ve taken the time to consider the potential improvements that could be derived from that person’s advice.  (And, if they are just being negative for fun, then employ the aforementioned retort)

4.)    Take the positive feedback you receive in stride; remember those bolstering words when your confidence slips and you find yourself wondering: What the heck am I doing?

 

Lyrically Challenged

23 Apr

Since moving to Nashville last July, I’ve had a number of opportunities to penetrate the [often unappreciated] underworld of songwriting.  I have been to numerous songwriter rounds and the Tin Pan South Songwriter’s festival; I’ve become friends with the writer of one of my favorite songs and I’ve been in the presence of some legends in the business.  Even though I live in a musically inclined city, surrounded extraordinarily talented individuals, songwriting remains part of the business that continually astounds me.

I have 70,000+ words to get my point across; songwriters have only a few lines—the bulk of which are repeated—to convey enough emotion to pull tears from audiences, incite passion between lovers or brew excitement for a night on the town. As a whole, it’s a thankless business where fans connect the songs to the artists; often forgetting to include the true poets whose lives are weaved into the fabric of the lyrics. 

The second novel I’m scrubbing and preparing for my editor’s more capable hands, entitled Flight Risk, takes place in Nashville.  I had to write two “songs” for the male lead, a musician.  Those phrases are the hardest section of writing I’ve completed since beginning the story—and they still aren’t very good.

Hopefully, some of my more talented friends will be able to assist me in perfecting the lyrics so they don’t make the reader’s ears bleed.

Six Sentence Sunday: Renaming Facebook #sixsunday

21 Apr

Today’s six continues last week’s conversation between best friends, Meredith Westbrook and Lena Whyte from my WIP, Semester of Thursdays.

 “They should re-name Facebook.” 

Lena’s statement interrupted my inner monologue.  “What would you suggest: I’m-getting-married-and-you’re-not-book?”

“That’s too long and it doesn’t cover all those people who are popping out kids or buying mansions on the lakeshore.”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked, reluctantly intrigued by the wicked grin playing on Lena’s lips.

“How about rub-it-in-your-face-book?”

I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Interested in participating in Six Sentence Sunday?  Just sign up & post six sentences from a WIP or published work!  It’s that simple!

Here are some of my favorite Sixers from 4/22: Tracie Banister (a Chick Six); Skye Warren (a Vivid Six); Sandra Bunino (a Longing Six); Alix Cameron (a Sensual Six); Karyn Good (a Suspenseful Six); Karla Doyle (a Scrabble Six).

The Mirrors at Barnard Hall: Chapter 19

20 Apr

Before I give you the next chapter of my book, I have an exciting PUBLISHING UPDATE!  On Wednesday I received the final eBook files from my formatter!  What does this mean?  Well, once we have a cover design, the eBook will be available for purchase.  I’m not sure exactly when that will be, but let’s just say that it’ll be sooner rather than later (I’m shooting for some point in May for the eBook and June for the print version).  I can’t wait to keep this process moving forward.

Today’s installment will leave only ten chapters left in The Mirrors at Barnard Hall. This means that, to date, I’ve given away over 65% of the book (46,880 words) for FREE!  If you’re enjoying the story, please urge your friends to check it out as well. 

Happy Reading!

-Jenny   

New to the story?  Click HERE to start the adventure from the beginning.

Don’t want to read this online?  Click to download the .pdf version of Chapter 19

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Chapter 19: Deal

I paced the library, attempting to process the last twenty-four hours.  My life had been permanently changed.   For the better?  Of that I was not sure.

My mother and her husband had been murdered.  While the news was devastating, I had accepted that the situation was out of my hands.  The police were investigating the crime, and I would only get in their way if I attempted to help.  The last thing I wanted to do was hinder an ongoing investigation.  All I could do was sit back, allow the authorities to do their job, and pray the culprit would be brought to justice.

Because of my weakness, Nick knew he was going to die in less than one month.  For a doomed man he was taking the disclosure alarmingly well.  His calmness was beyond disturbing.  I seemed more preoccupied with his future than he had been.

The open notebook sitting on my desk caught my eye.  The pages were scribbled with theories, potential leads, and nonsensical details.  I had come up with a list of two possible suspects: the man who sold the mirror—a man whose name I did not know—and Lord Smyth.  So much for a career with the FBI.

Now there was the added pressure of not only solving the mystery but stopping the murders from occurring.  Yet the feat seemed plausible when compared to the fact that Nicholas Dalton was a living, breathing human being. 

It had been easy to believe that the mirror was some sort of time portal revealing a glimpse of 1902.  Well, not easy, but do-able.  However, to think that it was possible for him to cross the barrier was unfathomable.  Tilly had made the leap so it made sense that her brother was able to as well.  No, it didn’t make sense, but I was accepting it. I had felt Nick’s touch; the warmth of his skin had etched a mark into my thigh.  My senses switched to overdrive when I thought of his kiss.  Those weren’t the types of feelings one could hallucinate.

Knowing he was real made everything else possible.  If magic could exist, maybe I could change the past.  Maybe the magic existed because I was destined to change the past.  Nick could help me and, together, we could stop the tragedy.

At least that was what I told myself. 

With a decisive nod, I stood and raced out the door to tell Nick about my decision; I would help save him and his family.  After admitting that fact I knew there had been no other choice for me.  It would have been impossible to sit idly by and allow the days on the calendar to pass without taking action.

In my haste, I collided with Beth as she walked out of the kitchen.  If the clock on the wall was correct, it was just past ten thirty. 

“What are you still doing here?” Typically, Beth left the house at six each evening.  Even on Thursdays, the busiest days at Barnard Hall, no one was here later than eight.

She bristled immediately.  “Megan has been sick so we have been short-handed this week.  I am just on my way out, Miss Franklyn.”

Her reaction startled me.  My question had stemmed from surprise, not out of an attempt at intrusion.  If she needed to work late that was fantastic.  It wasn’t as if I couldn’t afford to pay my employees the overtime.  I went to apologize but she had already bolted away.

“That was strange,” I said to the paintings hanging in the empty hall.  They stared at me with blank, stoic expressions yet I felt like their sightless eyes understood.  With all the other unbelievable events of late, maybe they did.

When I opened my door all the hope inside of me fell onto the floor.  The mirrors never seemed to work when I needed them to; the images were a perfect reflection of one another.  Nick’s chair was no longer in view and the bed’s reflection was dead center.

 I slumped onto my mattress and my resolve faltered.  When Nick was gone he was not real.  I needed him to be real so that I could change time.  What if the mirror had stopped working?  What if I never saw him again?  What if I had to face the coming days alone?  What if the date on his headstone remained August 24, 1902?

Nick was becoming an unhealthy obsession.  Who was I kidding?  I had been obsessed with Nick since our first meeting.  In spite of the bleakness of my future, I opened my eyes once more and noticed something vital missing from the picture: Me.  I was sitting in the center of my bed, staring directly at what should have been my reflection.  But my body was not there. 

“Nick?” I said timidly, searching the mirror for the reason behind my existence.

He raced from out of view and did a somersault onto his bed, overly excited.

“Nick!  You’re here!”  He was there.  My world righted itself.

“Where else would I be?” he asked with a grin.

“But your chair…”

He looked to the corner where his chair waited, empty.  “Yes, well the chair was quite uncomfortable.  I don’t know why I did not think of this brilliant idea beforehand.  I did not want to spend every night sitting and cramping in the blasted thing for the next couple of weeks.”

It was impossible not to focus on the deadline he had unknowingly mentioned.  The twenty fourth loomed ominously in the distance; final and inevitable in its eternal consequences.

“So you moved your bed,” I observed aloud.

“Of course.  Heavy thing, this.”  He bounced on the mattress, looking like an eight-year old; his enthusiasm made my stomach flip.  If a few weeks were all we had left, they were more than I would have gotten if magic had not existed, more than I deserved.  Yet I was selfish enough to know that even a lifetime of Nick would not be enough.

He smiled crookedly, “I had better be going to sleep.  We have a busy day tomorrow.”

“We do?”

“It’s the first day of our investigation.”

How could either of us forget?  “Oh, right.”

“You haven’t changed your mind, have you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You do still want to help me, right?”

He couldn’t be serious.  Did he honestly think that I would want him to die?  Didn’t he know how I felt about him?  “Why would you even ask me that?  I was trying to help from the very beginning, before I even knew you existed.”

He reached through the frame and cradled my cheek with his palm.  “I know, Callista.”

“I swear, Nick, I will do everything in my power to save you.  If I have to find a way to bring in firemen, I will.”  Even if the mirror did work both ways, a truck wouldn’t fit through the frame and the presence of twenty-first century technology may do more damage than good.  But if it could save Nick and his family the consequences would be worth it.

“I know, Callista.  Do not worry.”

“Ha!  That’s easy for you to say!”

“How could you even begin to think that this is any easier for me?  To know that in a few weeks I could be separated from you forever.  Forever… that’s an extremely long time.  This, what we are dealing with now, seems a small obstacle when compared to a future without you—to no future at all.”

“What if it’s not enough?  How am I going to save you?”  My voice was lifeless.  My resolve faltered and the responsibility on my shoulders brought me to my knees.

“We.”

It helped to be reminded that I was not on my own.  “What are we going to do?”

He sighed and twisted a piece of my hair around his finger.  The slight tug on the strand pulled at my heart.  “What we are going to do is honestly the last thing on my mind at this moment.”  He traced the length of the thin strap holding up my tank top.  Everywhere his fingertip touched ignited my skin.  “Are you sure this attire is appropriate in 2012?”

My voice shook as he stared at me.  I felt as if I had nothing on instead of my worn night clothes.  “Yes,” I croaked.

“Hmmm…  I believe I’ll have to visit more often.”  Nick’s smooth voice caressed my chilled body, warming me instantly.  I would love nothing more than to have Nick visit every day, all day—and all night.  If he never left then he couldn’t disappear.  If he never went back then he couldn’t die in 1902.

“Don’t go back.”  Even before the words slipped out I knew what his response would be.

He offered me a pained look.  “Callista, you know I have to…”

“I know, I know.  I don’t know where that came from.”  Which was a lie.  It had come from the depths of my obsession and selfish desires.

He looked at me skeptically.  I hadn’t convinced him anymore than I had convinced myself.  He turned to leave, and I stopped him with another question.

“Aren’t you… scared?”  The word did not even begin to define how I was feeling.  I was terrified—petrified. 

Nick was silent for a minute before he answered.  “Only of being separated from you.”

Before that exact moment I had been convinced that the pressure of stopping a crime, a fire, and the impending tragedies were what had terrified me.  But I knew if I were to be guaranteed that Nick would survive, all my fear would subside.  I could do anything as long as he existed.

If only the roles had been reversed; it would be easier to face my own death than Nick’s.  If he didn’t exist then…  Well, then I wouldn’t either.  My body would be here, but my soul would have been buried in 1902.  I would continue to go through the motions of life but I wouldn’t be living.  Essentially, I would become my mother.

“Do not be afraid, Callista.  I’m not about to allow a few flames to keep me from you.” 

“Do you promise?”  Even though we both knew there was no way to keep such a promise, I still needed him to say the words, to prove his commitment to this colossal endeavor.

“I swear.”

Nick squeezed my hand and, with a reluctant smile, he pulled back and switched off his light; the mirror went dark but my reflection remained lost in the blackness of 1902.

When the glass went black, my breathing hitched unevenly.  It was an absurd reaction; I knew he was on the other side.  Still, I needed to see him or hear him speak to be convinced he existed.  What I wanted to do was ask him again to stay—to beg him until he relented.  It would hardly be appropriate and it was incredibly selfish, but I knew I would be able to sleep better with him beside me.

I whispered my confession into the emptiness, hoping he wouldn’t hear the desperation in my words.  “When I can’t see you it’s like you’re not really there.  We could be sharing the same space in the same room, but would neither of us would ever know.  Sometimes I swear I can feel you.  It’s like the air around me quivers, signaling your presence.  But I don’t want a signal of your presence, Nick.  I want you here.  I need you…” here.

I choked back my sobs and curled on my side, reluctant to turn off my own light.  I was just exhausted and needed sleep.  Everything would look brighter in the morning.  Just as I reached to turn off the antique lamp, a tanned hand appeared out of the darkness.  I gripped Nick’s palm like a life vest sent from heaven to keep me from drowning. 

He was here.