Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Does Story Trump Craft?

Does Story Trump Craft? is a question on Rachelle Gardner's blog.
The craft does not go away. With self publishing you are seeing an influx of unfiltered stories out there. But those weak stories have always been there. People have always written them. People have always self published who’s story lacked severely. Instead of an agent deciding who’s story lacks and who doesn’t, in self publishing, we the readers decide. The reason plot driven stories succeed is because there are too many book a holics who run out of character driven books. But even the people who usually exclusively read Harlequin recognize when they see something of true craft that are built around the characters and not the plot. With things like 50 shades of gray being so popular, you run into the issue of sex sells but sex is plot and not character. In my research of writing, writing is always a trend. But you can either be the trend or chase the trend. Anyone who is now starting to write about vampires will be chasing the trend. Anyone who crafts a book and drives it through characters are the trend,even if their character driven book happens to be vampires. Don’t forget, for the $30 bottle of wine there is always a box of wine being sold. For every can of Miller Lite, someone is crafting a micro brew that Miller could never touch. Last example, store bought bread versus mom’s home made bread. Craft is always superior.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Deleted Scene 1

           Sammy was frustrated because he had put so much work into curing his addiction to alcohol. A lot of his incentive initially was due to his hatred for jail. He knew no matter what, he did not want to go back. What he found out was that he was ashamed of himself in jail. He was ashamed of who he had become and even more ashamed for his children. He was one of the few dads in the neighborhood where his kids grew up; that was in the home. Not only did his kids know him, but he wasn’t doing any time.
            One set back after another, and his social drinking habit turned into a secret binging ritual, or so he thought. He lost his job and his wife left him, only increasing the need for alcohol to cope with these losses. Then, things began to deteriorate with his children and depression set in. The more emotions he felt, the more he drank.
            He wanted to quit many times. He could see that his life had spun out of control. Every time he thought he had a handle on his life, he knew he could make progress getting his drinking under control.
A small trigger would set him off and he’d binge. If it wasn’t that, the fear of losing alcohol would grip him and he’d binge. Each binge would affect the foothold he had gained in other parts of his life.
Quickly, that progress would deteriorate and he would think it was from something else. Whatever the something else was, he tried to drown it in alcohol. Generally, the alcohol would deteriorate his life and not his life going south causing the drinking, so he’d drink more. The drinking, of course kept him from stopping the deterioration. Through treatment, he realized that alcoholism was his problem and not life in general.
During the treatment, he reflected on his feelings of jail and was determined to never go back. But here he sat, on an aluminum bench, fastened to the painted white, cinder block wall, and anchored to the epoxy covered concrete floor.
He rocked back and forth on the bench, giving his cheeks a break from the pressure of sitting on such a small seat. He winced as a sharp pain would shoot through his aging lower back and out his left leg. Between squirms, he looked across the room at the “welcome” desk, to see what was the hold up and if the corrections officer had even seen him.
Finally, the C.O. called him up to the desk. Ashamed, he moseyed over to the desk. The officer took him down the corridor to the second door on the left. It was a narrow, long holding cell with narrow windows on either side of the door and a window in the center of the door. The door, painted blue to contrast the off white cinder blocks, was equipped with a latch and a tray that opened outwards so the officers could transfer things to the people in jail, without putting themselves at risk.
Sammy was brought past the first one and put into the second one but he counted three beyond the one he was put in. The third one, he saw a couple guys with their faces pressed against the glass, trying to get the C.O.’s attention, but he ignored them.
Sammy was put in the holding cell by himself. The room consisted of the same cinder block walls and the same benches. The nicer thing was that the benches were a little wider. In the back of the cell was a half wall which was for privacy. Behind the wall was a stainless steel, tankless, toilet and two rolls of government issued toilet paper. In the entry way to the toilet area was a rusted, pubic hair covered, floor drain. Across the entry way from the toilet, was a matching stainless steel, push button sink, to limit the water allowed. The soap pump was left empty so that the soap couldn’t be used as a weapon.
Sammy sat on the bench by himself, reflecting on what had happened. There was a burning of sadness in his chest that caused a frown to appear on his face. He couldn’t figure out how this had happened to him, or why Ammi would have pegged him as somebody she was with. He didn’t remember much from yesterday, but he thought he would remember being around her.
Periodically, he would lie down and then sit back up. He walked up and down the cell trying to fight boredom and his thoughts. He used the bathroom a couple times out of fear of using the bathroom in front of other inmates if more of them were put into his cell. He figured at least forty other men could fit in that cell, if they needed to.
After twenty minutes, a lady came opened the door. He was asked to follow her into her office across the hall from holding cells. The office was without a door, but was better lit, with florescent tubes, than the rest of the justice center, so far.
The lady had a round head, with round curly hair. She was rounded at the top, at the stomach, at the hips and held up by stocky legs. She was voluptuous and proud. Her hair was well kept and her makeup was fresh. Her nails were acrylic and painted pink with a rainbow lily on each nail. The tips were white, similar to a French manicure. She had a couple sprits of a citrus smelling perfume squirted on her neck and wrists and was apparent to any incoming inmate. It was as though she was being a tease, because it was the last smell of freedom before officially being booked.
She wore the cornflower blue shirt and navy pants like the rest of the corrections officers but she donned a stethoscope. She had Sammy sit in a chair in front of her as she asked him general health questions and took his blood pressure, listened to his heart, lungs and pulse.
When she had finished the paperwork, the C.O. took him back across the hall, but placing him in the middle holding cell, where there were six other men, waiting. Waiting. in uncertainty, was  the life of an inmate who was waiting for booking, pretrial, trial or finding money to make bail. The times and the dates, for anything happening, were always a speculation. Everybody in the cell were experts on what was going to happen and the exact timing of their, and everybody else’s processes to which they were due.
“What are you in for?” a curly haired, middle aged white guy asked Sammy.
“They think I did something to some girl who is missing. She was the counselor at my drug counseling program. I got dismissed yesterday and I relapsed to alcohol right away. I don’t remember anything from yesterday afternoon but I know I would remember if I saw her.”
“What they got on you?” a young African American asked.
“A voicemail where she said my name. They played it to me. They got it but I don’t know. I think she could just have intentionally disappeared and wanted to tag it on me. You know how white folks are. They know that they can peg something on a black guy as an excuse and you know they are gonna buy it.”
“Shit,” the younger man said, “or just a woman pegging it on a man. That’s what I’m here for. My girl… my ex, she got beat up by her new ol’ man but she said it was me. I was down in Gary with my aunt but they insisted they have proof that I did it.”
“What are you in for?” Sammy asked the curly haired man.
He looked at his feet but didn’t answer.
“He got 20/20’ed,” the younger guy said, smiling.
“The police set you up?” Sammy said.
“No it wasn’t exactly like that. I’m fighting it for sure.”
“You can’t fight something like that,” another African American chimed in. “I mean, even criminals have their standards. It could have been my baby sister. I bet it was. I should just kick your ass for that,” he said. “Nah, I’m just messing with you. I mean, you’re guilty whether you did it or not or were set up. No jury is going to care if the evidence is weak. You’re screwed.”
“Yeah,” Sammy agreed, “you might as well have done it. Then at least the punishment would at least feel justified. We’re all screwed. They don’t care what it is, we are all treated by the C.O.’s and the prosecutor as guilty until proven innocent. They convince the jury to operate that way too. The burden of proof is on us when it should be on the prosecutor.”
“That’s too much thinking,” the white guy said, still looking at the floor.
“Sorry, my son just went through law school and passed the Bar. That’s all he’s been talking about the last six years or something. I’ve always been intrigued by that stuff so I was asking him questions all the time. I learned all kinds of things from him.”
“E’erybody else is in for dee dubs,” second African American said.
An officer with a clipboard, came in and called out a couple names and three of the guys got up and left with the officer.
“Why haven’t I been called yet?” the second African American asked.
“What’s your name?”
“Christopher Hall.”
“Your name isn’t on my list.”
“I’ve been here longer than the guys you just called.”
“I don’t have anything to do with that. You’re stuff is probably held up for some reason. I don’t know. I’ll send somebody else.”
“I’ve been told that already.”
“I just call the names on the list. I don’t know what else goes on.”
“Man, com’mon. Ask somebody.”
With that, the C.O. and the three men disappeared, around a corner at the end of the hallway.
“You just have to wait,” Sammy said. “They are on their own time here. If you bug them, they may sure your name isn’t on the list. As far as they are concerned, everybody didn’t do it. Everybody was here before somebody else. It’s just noise when you say it. They stop listening.”
“Your son?” the white guy asked.
“Naw, I’ve been here before,” Sammy said.
“I’ve never been to jail before,” the white guy said; “not even a speeding ticket, or a car accident. Now this,” he said shaking his head.
“Just watch out for the chicken,” a muffled voice came from beyond the toilet partition.
Chris started snickering, “That guy is so gone.” He pointed at the feet and legs of a man laying on the floor right under the sink. “I gotta go, but not that bad.”
“What’s he, coming down from something?” Sammy asked.
“I dunno,” Christopher said. “He could just be out of it.”
“They have really sharp talons. They’ll get your eyes,” the man said, his Wranglers lying limp and twisted like a Muppet’s legs.
“Wow,” Sammy said, raising his eyebrows. He started drifting back to his thoughts but he knew he had plenty of time to go nuts thinking about it later. He decided to fill up his time shooting the breeze now. He sighed and started asking everybody else questions, hoping the time would fly by and he’d be released before he knew it.
Finally, his name was called with two other guys. Neither was Christopher nor the chicken man. Two other guys were put in the cell when he left. They were taken around the corner and through two sets of doors. The second door wouldn’t open until the first was closed. On the other side of the second door was an elevator. The elevator wouldn’t open until the second door was closed.
Sammy’s stomach turned with each slam and lock of the doors. The elevator seemed normal to him because it looked like any other elevator except the roof. It was solid with a locked hatch on the top.
The elevator opened and they got off into another quarantined area. The elevator was closed before the floor door would open.  The floor looked identical to the first floor, except the inverse layout. At the end of the hall, it opened up to a glass aquarium where desks were set up to separate the C.O.’s office from the population.
“Back’s to the wall,” the C.O. said. “Remove any laces, drawstrings and coats. Once you do that, leave them on the floor in front of you and wait until your name is called. Do not move from your square on the floor. If you do, it wouldn’t be pretty, I can tell you that right now.”
Any laces or drawstrings or anything on a person that was deemed a hazard, was confiscated and destroyed. It was for their protection from each other and from themselves, they were told. Any personal belongings were put into sealed plastic envelopes with a list of inventory, signed by the officer and by the jailed.
When they had gone through the process of being searched, they were escorted to the end of the hallway, where they were given white sack lunches. After they received their lunches, they were led to another holding cell, across from the office aquarium.
The new holding cell looked more like a Greyhound Station in purgatory. It was a room all to itself, but the walls were windows on all four sides. There was no ceiling, so everything going on outside, could be heard inside.
The sound of the news on a television could be heard, but Sammy couldn’t tell where it came from. He thought there was a TV in the cell. If there was it had to be around the corner of the pillar from where he sat.
The chairs they sat in were hard plastic with metal frames, bolted to the floor. Sammy chose to sit at a distance from the other inmates, thinking about what he had done: or better, what he had not done.
Two pay phones dotted the wall on either side of the entrance into the cage. There were only two ways to pay, since personal belongings were being stored. One way was to prepay, but Sammy couldn’t figure out what that meant, since nobody planned on going to jail for the day. The other way was to call collect. This was appealing to Sammy because he figured he could get help this way.
He started kicking himself for not insisting on an attorney but if he lawyered up now, he’d be better off and he might get out quicker. He went back and forth between calling his son for help, or calling somebody else for help.
He decided he was too hungry to make a decision like that. He hated jail food, but it had been so long since he had eaten and worrying had made him hungry. He unrolled the waxy paper bag to find a half pint paper carton of fruit punch. Wrapped in wax paper were four hydroxie cookies. Additionally, there was a wrapped bologna sandwich with no cheese and no mustard between two slices of white bread.
Sammy went for the handful of chips first. His stomach began to feel more unsettled when he ate but the pangs of hunger remained. Next, he ate the cookies, hoping to feel full before he would have to embark on jail bologna. No luck. To his dismay, he stuffed the bologna sandwich in his mouth as fast as possible, trying to taste it for as little period of time as he could. He gagged. The gagging helped him feel fuller once mastication and swallowing were complete.
When he had finished, he got up the courage to call his son. He dialed the number and listened to the recording about how his call could be recorded and used against him. Just outside the window from the phone was a sign indicating the same warning, as well as signs warning that they could be held up to seventy two hours without being charged.
The phone rang. It rang again.
A recording came on saying, “Somebody is trying to reach you from the City of Chicago Justice center. Will you accept a collect call from,”
“Call back,” the voice on the other end said.
“Do you wish to accept?”
Dial tone.
Heartbreak. Sammy felt let down. It was as though his stomach and Adam’s apple had switched places for the day. His son had rejected him, he thought. How could this be? He tried to rationalize it every way he could think of but the answer kept being rejection.
He went to reach for his lunch bag and realized that he might have sat it in a stack of other half eaten lunches. He thought he was sure which one was his but the word Hepatitis kept echoing in his head so he decided against taking the gamble.
Ten minutes of debate had ended when he decided to try to call again. This time his son accepted the call.
“I can explain.”
“I’ve seen it all over the news. And don’t you dare explain. We’ll get you through this.”
“I’m so sorry. I’m sorry Junior.”
“Dad, I forgive you. I love you.”
“I love you too. I just keep letting you down and disappointing you. The harder I try to be a better person and a better father, the more I realize I’m not and I don’t think I can ever be.”
“I’m sorry I had you call me back. I was calling some guys at the firm, trying to get some help in this. We will get you out, today.”
“They said I would be released pending arrest warrant. I don’t even know what that means.”
“That’s good,” Junior explained. “That means they are going to let you out after the book you through the system again. Once you have your spit test, picture, and fingerprints done, they should let you go right away. There won’t be any bail.”
“Oh, I gotta go. They are moving us somewhere else.”
“K, see ya. We’ll get you out of this, Dad. Love you.”
The corrections officer came and let them out of the glass box, bringing them to a row of chairs between the office and the cell they just came out of, and just outside of the hall they originally came in.
They sat waiting for their next set of instructions, on chairs similar to the ones in the previous holding cell. They were in the middle of a shift change so things took longer than what it should have but another officer came around, with new sack lunches that were identical to the lunches they had just eaten. Sammy ate his in the exact same order of items that he had eaten the last one, this time finishing the full eight ounces of fruit punch.
Sammy waited and watched as the other’s that came up with him got fingerprinted, DNA swabs collected and mug shots taken. He was the last to go and he had to hold back a smile, knowing, unless there was a warrant, this was the end of the line for him.
The swab was quick and easy. He kept blinking on the mug shot so they kept retaking it until he got it right.
The fingerprints were scanned on a machine using laser technology. Sammy was so nervous that his finger tips were sweaty. They gave him paper towels to dry his fingers on but they accumulated sweat just as quickly as he could dry them off. Finally, after several attempts he had gotten it right.
He was then told to stand with his back against the wall in the center of the corridor and another officer would out process him as soon as they could. He stood there for awhile, by himself. Slowly, a couple of the guys he came up with started to stand by him, per instruction. While he stood, three holding cells, near capacity, were right across from him.
Men and boys with their faces pressed against the glass, calling for C.O.’s to come talk to them. If a female C.O. passed, they cat called her and they tried to get phone numbers from girl inmates that passed by.
Next thing Sammy knew, an officer came down the hallway and unlocked the door and told the men who lined up, to go into the holding cell. Sammy didn’t think he was supposed to go in but he didn’t dare say anything. He didn’t think they would listen to him because when they weren’t cat calling, the other guys were yelling out and saying they weren’t supposed to be in there. Sammy figured there had to be a better way to let them know, than to be obnoxious and get on their bad side but the opportunity never arose.
This holding cell was identical to the one of the lower level except more crowded. The chicken man who was lying on the floor downstairs had somehow beat Sammy to this holding cell and he resumed his spot by the toilet. Sammy tried to keep to himself as much as possible and fought to stay awake for fear of his life.
Other inmates slept, mostly sitting or leaning over their laps. Others were brave enough to crawl underneath the benches and sleep on the floor under everyone else’s legs. A group of guys stayed at the front of the cell, waiting for anyone to walk by.
After a few hours, a corrections officer called for twenty volunteers, between the three men’s holding cells to be transferred to the pods. Sammy decided against the pods initially but then after hearing that he might have to spend the night in the holding cell, he decided to take the opportunity to leave while he could.
Three officers led the prisoners into back down the corridor, through area between the office and the bus depot holding cell, and around the back of the office. After that, they were led through a lockdown door, into a hallway where they waited for the door to lock behind them. They, then, proceeded through the next set of doors, where they awaited a count off, comparing each of the inmates to a manifest list.
There were two sets of doors in tandem at the end of the hallway. The one on the right was an unknown world for the inmates. After each name was called, the inmate would proceed to the front of the line to compare his name to the directory. Once Sammy’s name was called, he went to the front of the line, was checked off the list and went left, into the pod area.
At that time, he realized that it wasn’t a mistake that he wasn’t released. He figured if his name was on the manifest, then he was supposed to be there.
In the middle of the pod, there was an open area with metal picnic tables bolted to the ground. It opened up like a grand foyer in a four star hotel, showing two floors or living spaces. At one end a steel stair case led up to the second level, with one cell after another wrapping around in a lower case ‘f’ shape. Underneath the second floor walkway were more sleeping pods. They only went the length of the stem of the ‘f’. Around the curve of the ‘f’ were a couple of showers. Across the foyer from the pods, there was a raised area where a couple of correction officers sat, watching TV and keeping civil unrest from breaking out.
Hours past had past and Sammy hadn’t been released. He began questioning if he was going to be charged after all. He figured the way the news covered everything, he had to be the scapegoat until they found somebody else.
Other inmates had come and gone.


Who will fight for Liberty?
Who will proclaim her name?
Who will proclaim her acceptable?
Who will comfort and console her?
Who will standfast for her?

There is a warrior who has been called to Liberty.
He gives her strength and honor to wear.
He adorns her with praise.
He finds her acceptable in his eyes.
He gives her beauty and gives her the oil of joy.

Princes shall see her righteousness and kings her glory.
She is a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord,
And a royal diadem in the hand of God.
She lets her beauty be the hidden person in her heart.
Her beauty is an incorruptible ornament of a gentle, quiet spirit.

The warrior says her beauty is precious in the sight of God.
He provides for her strength,
For she is to be highly esteemed.
They will dwell together in the understanding,
Being heirs of the grace of a life together.

Music and writing.

Nathan Bransford wrote a piece on music. Of course much of writing is tied to music. In his article he says:

        "Music has such a strange power. It certainly doesn't feel at all momentous when you're listening to       a new song, but that song places an anchor in your brain and it takes nothing but a repeat listen years later to bring memories rushing back to a time you might never have remembered without it."

This resonates in a few different ways. The first is the obvious. There is definitely music that takes me back to a certain time. But there is also music that brings up a certain emotion when I listen to it.  A lot of times, when I write, I listen to music to invoke a certain emotion. It can set a tone. I can feel my heartbeat changing and my breath matching and it comes out in what I write. I can take the emotion and feed it into my writing and when it's right, I can describe my emotion in the form of a character.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

First writing exercise

Rules: Go to either page 7 or 77 of your manuscript. Count down 7 lines, then copy the next 7 lines (or more) to here and or your status
When the coaster jerked to a stop before spurting to its final stop, Summer said, “You could have killed yourself.” She grinned in amazement at his ability to make something new about an old roller coaster.
“I do that all the time.”
“Even screaming for your momma?”
“No, I haven’t been here in a long time. I forgot how fast these go.”