Tag: from the writer’s desk

POV: I Want Your Opinion for this MS



Choosing the point of view for my novels is the single most frustrating aspect of writing them. With Cricket and Grey I solved the dilemma by using both. Not a style preferred by all readers but it felt right for that book. It served the story in a way I needed it to. However, I’m working on my Bad Romance manuscript and just like with every novel I have in progress, this is the point that really makes me feel stabby. This particular novel needs to be in one single POV. So I’ve written a short first chapter in 1st and a short first chapter in 3rd.  Here’s what I want to do: show you the first few paragraphs of each version and hear what your preference is. You have to bear in mind that this is merely a first draft which means VERY ROUGH WRITING. So the only thing I want to know is – which version draws you in the most. If neither draws you in at all, don’t comment at all. Ready?

First few paragraphs in 1st person:

The moment our eyes met across the stuffy crowded bar and he grabbed his crotch, licked his lips, and winked at me, I regretted letting my friends drag me to Rick’s place on the night of my homecoming party. I was starting to regret going out at all. The group of friends I’d missed so much while working in Los Angeles seemed different to me now. Maybe because I was thirty two years old and I was getting tired of the bar-hopping lifestyle my friends seemed to be holding onto tightly. By eleven o’clock Kim was barfing into the bathroom trashcan at a bar with the unfortunate name of “Salt Lick”. They all promised me they’d hand Rick’s balls to him if he bothered me, but by the time we reached Frontier, Kim and Suze were licking just about everything that got close enough to their faces for their tongues to reach. Far from protecting me from having to deal with Rick, Suze dragged him to our table as soon as she saw his little performance.

“Look who I found!” she said to him, pointing at me like an exhibit “The little royal highness herself has returned from the south” she tossed back the rest of her drink and burped.

“I knew you’d come crawling back eventually” he said, grinning smugly.

“I’d use those rad psychic skills of yours to save your balls from my knee” I suggested.

“You’re just as hatchet-tongued as ever” he said.

“My works here is dones” Suze said, hiccuping once before wandering off to locate better sport.

“Play your cards right and Suze will lick you without you having to ask for it”

“She’d lick a pile of shit in her condition” he said, looking at Suze’s retreating back.

“That’s what I just said”

He looked down at me with annoyance, opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, and walked off in the casual way he always did.

I could see Kim trying to swallow another person whole in an epic face-sucking session, and Suze was suggestively licking beer foam off of some girl’s glass while the girl looked on in amazed horror. I was much too sober and suddenly feeling more lonely than I had felt living alone in Los Angeles for the last six years.

I squeezed myself between two people at the bar to order myself a drink.

“Want a lift? You can see better from my lap” offered the man to my left. I sized him up and down slowly, to be sure he noticed.

“I get it, clown, I’m short” I said. The bartender, a thin Asian guy, threw a bar towel over his shoulder and leaned in to take my order.

“I’ll try the Garland Special” I shouted into his ear.

“Feeling desperate, are you?” he asked.

“I beg your pardon!”

“You have to be in a desperate mood to appreciate this one. If you’re not feeling desperation of any kind, may I suggest the Coit Tower Fog instead?”

“Desperate and much too dry. I’ll stick with the Garland Special”

It took him a while to get to my order but when he did I watched with fascination as he made my drink with an economy of energy that still managed to communicate a flourish. What he set in front of me did look like despair itself. The liquor was a muddled brownish color near the bottom with floating bits reminding me of flotsam in the bay. A slightly charred dark brown onion stabbed through with a knotted wooden pick drowned itself under the layer of ice. I fished it out and, without thinking about it, popped it in my mouth. It was a revelation. It tasted of balsamic vinegar with the smallest wisp of rosemary and though it had seemed solid enough in my drink it gave itself to me like a prostitute to her last John. Then I laughed out loud at my own thoughts brought on by a goddamn cocktail onion. The bartender looked over his shoulder in my direction and smiled when I raised my drink to him in salute.

First few paragraphs in 3rd person:

The night was clear and hot. The smell of piss on grimy asphalt wafted from the entrances of every alleyway mixing exotically with the heavy perfume of the drunken crowds stumbling down Comumbus and Broadway. This wasn’t the homecoming Geneva had imagined for herself. She watched Suze and Kim chattering with their heads close together just ahead of her. Her best friends through high school were looking old and slatternly in their tiny dresses and five inch knock-off Louboutins. She felt betrayed by time and memory. The friends she left behind were fun and spirited but now they just looked like unprofessional call girls. They’d criticized her look too.

“Chinos, Eva? Really?” Suze said, looking Geneva up and down.

“They’re not chinos, they’re-”

“Are you gay?” Kim broke in.

“You’ve known me for seventeen years and you don’t know I only date men?”

“If you’re not gay, why wear men’s shoes? You didn’t used to wear men’s shoes” Suze looked like a person who knew they’d asked the clincher of a question and practically licked the cream from her paws while Geneva just stared at her with a distinct chill in her expression.

The whole conversation was ridiculous and yet it bothered Geneva. Her friends didn’t used to be so stupid. The fact that she was wearing Dickies and men’s wing tip shoes didn’t make her look the least bit manly. Even her boyishly narrow hips couldn’t do that. She was wearing her signature style, men’s pants and shoes, a fitted scoop necked tee, antique Victorian garnet chandelier earrings, her dense curls pulled into a messy top knot, and her small wrists were weighted with several gold bracelets. Her dark upward slanting eyes were set off with black liner making them appear bigger than they were. In spite of her lashes being straight and not very long, it was her eyes that most people remembered most about her face. More than they remembered her full lips on which she always wore a shade of crimson lipstick that particularly set off her creamy brown skin.

Geneva didn’t regret moving back to San Francisco. The air here had that inimitable blend of city grime and sea fog that was part of her childhood and after six years of living under the heavy hot smog of Los Angeles, it felt wonderful to breath the fresher city air of home. Even on rare steamy summer nights such as this one, the air was so much cleaner. What she was regretting was letting Suze and Kim take her out. They were determined to end the evening drunk in strangers’ beds. Now they were dragging her to Frontier, the bar her ex-boyfriend owned. No amount of objection deterred her two friends. She thought about abandoning them and heading home to the tiny studio apartment she just moved into. Surely unpacking boxes was better than this.

Instead she followed behind them reluctantly telling herself that the sooner she faced Rick, the better. Just as they reached the bar, Kim lunged to the nearest trash can and barfed loudly. When she was finished, she wiped her mouth on the back of her hand,and said “Let’s DO this, bitches!” They entered the crowded bar and looked for a table.

Which version draws you in more? I think doing this exercise convinces me that 1st is the strongest.

The One Trick Pony: I already used up all the words

Geronimo in box

(I’m feeling all boxed up)

I have today off. I decided to sit down and work on my new novel project that I’ve been so excited about for a week. I’ve written a few notes and I even wrote 900 words of the first draft. I sat down feeling so happy to finally take a couple of hours to write. I have had no energy and no time for this in much too long. I sit down and –

A half an hour later I’m still staring at my open document and nothing comes to me. I feel daunted by the project. I don’t understand why I’m trying to write a light hearted book. I don’t DO funny or light hearted. So why come up with a premise for a book that has to be taken with a grain of salt because it’s about a woman who wakes up in the middle of a really cheesy romance novel?

I thought it would be funny and interesting. But I’m not a “fun” person and I’m only funny by accident. I’ve never been able to channel humor into writing at will. So what the hell am I doing?

Then I thought, maybe I should just work on one of my other novels? I took a look at my files and nothing sounds good. None of my stories seem worth working on. All of them sound stupid to me.

Meanwhile, most of the writers I know are working on their third or fourth or even seventh novels. Writing book after book after book. Writing whole books in a couple of months. How do they complete whole novels in just a few months? Even when I was writing constantly and through the night, feverishly working on my first novel, it still took me two years to finish it. TWO YEARS. Most of these other writers have day jobs or kids or kids and day jobs, or chronic illnesses that hamper them down – and yet they are all still writing SO MANY BOOKS IN SO LITTLE TIME.

I know. I’m not supposed to compare myself to anyone else. I can’t help it. I want to know how they all write books in so little time. I want to know how everyone is doing this. I want to know why I can’t do it?

I feel drained and depressed about my writing. I want to be writing full time. But even when I have a little bit of time, all the words in the world dry up in my mouth like dead moths.

I have written and finished ONE book. One. And I can’t even get the second one in that series written. It should be EASIER than the first one. I already have so many characters written and places established.

I am going to do dishes.

Maybe I’m just a one trick pony.

This Old Artery

This old artery wears fresh bruises

like toes drawing new lines in washed sand

didn’t know it still had blood to clot

didn’t know it still had blood at all


This old door missing locks

opens anyway to the faintest prayer

opens to a spidery garden of please

opens like an old whore calling favors


This old voice rides fiddles and drums

like they were jaguars moving in slow motion

shouting down a resilient deaf moon

shouting down funereal half-notes like trash


This old path still damp with the last bleed

leads you down to the place you started from

the place you imagined for your sleeping eye

the place you left your skin for safe keeping


Fiction Book Trends

I spent much of yesterday researching literary agencies and managed to send out two queries.  One of the things everyone in the book business says is to research agencies to see what they specialize in, to be sure you know what specific agents are accepting, all to see if they’re right for you.  I get the importance of doing your due diligence.  It weeds out the real idiots.  If you want to sell a bible, you’re going to have a hard time selling it to someone with a bloody scythe in their hand, wearing a grin.  However, it does become obvious after going through the titles that five different agencies carry that there is a trend and the trend is pretty much the same from agency to agency.  Scifi/fantasy and romance are HUGE.  Literary fiction (and where is the line between “mainstream” and “literary”, that’s something I’m very curious to know) is definitely not a large category for anyone.  I am reading individual agent bios to try and figure out which ones are most likely to want to read and carry my book.  It’s not that difficult to say why I would send my manuscript to one agent over another in the same agency, but why approach one agency over another?  That I can’t answer.  My chances of finding an agent increase in proportion to the number of agencies I query.  All of them carry tons of titles in my genre.

Though, as always, I am having a very hard time accepting that Cricket and Grey is truly science fiction and it isn’t likely I’ll be writing any other science fiction novels.  Or fantasy.  Will an agent care if I want to skip genres?  After the last bout of publishing research I became convinced of things I’m now unsure of.  But those thoughts will keep for another post.  Last night I discovered a couple of interesting trends in genres and I want to note them here.

In Science Fiction/Fantasy (not the same genre but lumped together as I believe there is much crossover and they share the same audience):

Vampires.  Duh.  You knew that.  They’re everywhere in fiction.  Good thing I didn’t write a vampire story because, surely, the market has reached saturation point with them?  There are teen versions, urban modern versions, vampire detectives, vampires on motorcycles.  You name it, there are teeth everywhere.

Werewolves.  Well, that isn’t surprising either.  I think it must stem from the same inspiration.

Girls in leather kicking ass: seriously, does it matter what they’re really doing in the story or who they are?  The covers speak louder than the stories.  Lots and lots of babes in tight leather in various stages of coverage.  They are hot, they are fierce, they are hot, and did I mention the leather?

In romance there are some very surprising trends going on:

Tycoons.  Mostly Texan Tycoons.  I guess men from Texas are supposed to be super sexy and obviously they’re pretty much all either rich cattle ranchers or Tycoons in Stetsons (to remind us that they started off as cattle ranchers? What is it with the Texan love for Stetsons?  I personally think they’re awful.  But whatever.  Of course I do.  I’m a west coast girl.)

Vampires.  Wait, what?  Yep.  Where “drink me” is both literal and metaphoric.  Sexy vampires getting it on.  Or sexy vampires trying to drink up non-vampires but getting distracted by all the tight leather (Yes, plenty of tight leather here too.)  Seriously,  I get the appeal.  I was a huge fan of the Anne Rice vampire books when I was a teen.  Those were very romantic.

Babies.  This one freaks me the hell out.  Women getting pregnant by their lousy ex-lovers and turning to their best guy friend (who is secretly in love with her, obviously) to do “the right thing”.  Or, men falling for single mothers.  Or a woman getting pregnant by the man she is in love with but who only meant to have an affair with her and she doesn’t tell him she’s carrying his baby but tries to win his love while gestating.  Really?  This whole thing with babies and pregnancy in the romance genre really freaks me out.  I can think of almost NOTHING less sexy or romantic than being pregnant.  And babies.  NOT SEXY and NOT ROMANTIC.

Amish Fiction:

This one is very surprising to me.  The only place I’ve seen it is on a rack near the checkout at Winco*.  They have at least 10 Amish themed novels.  After eying them curiously for many months I finally read all the back covers to discover if they were steamy romances for regular women with an Amish fetish or if they are gentle stories written for actual Amish women.  Do Amish women read mainstream fiction?  These are not steamy books.  They are very chaste and alarmingly gentle and Christian in flavor.  I don’t know who’s buying them here in McMinnville but I’m pretty sure we don’t have any Amish nearby.  There are many Mormons and Mennonites.  Could it be that Mennonites are reading them?

I’m off to continue my agent and agency research.

*The photo in this post may or may not have been taken at a Winco or other grocery establishment with a strict “no camera” policy.  No one is admitting anything here.