Shelving Venom

February 29, 2020 - Leave a Response

I know I haven’t posted any new updates on my blog last year, except for the #AMM Mentee Hopeful Blog earlier this month. I wished I could share happy news to share like I landed an agent with an offer. Sadly, it didn’t happen. And yesterday afternoon, I’ve shelved Venom, my first heart baby, my eco-thriller I wrote, after 9.5 years of querying (and requerying.) I also retired it from entering pitch contests after 5.5 years ago. So this blog post is all about Venom and the history behind it in this decade-long journey before I put it to rest this weekend.

The idea of Venom had came to me in 2010 when I read an article in Writer’s Digest Magazine that eco-thrillers were making a comeback trend. Though this was my second novel I wrote for Nano, it was my first I wrote for Julno (aka Summer Camp Nano, when I didn’t know it was called at the time.) I’ve dreamt the concept that summer about Kylie Marx, who’s a herpetologist in Florida, and faces her own fears of snakes from a near-fatal snakebite 12 years ago. It was also inspired by Dr. Donald Schulze from Animal Planet’s short-lived series, Wild Recon, and the medical breakthrough on making artificial anti-venom in the UK a decade ago. The character of Dr. Aidan Rice was inspired by the late Steve Irwin, only as a snake charmer.

My late mother was the first person to read and critique Venom in its early stages with her most valuable feedback. And when she died, I’ve met and friend my consent beta on Facebook, Sandy Shocklee, who took over for her and supported me and Venom up until this point. I’’m so glad I’ve met her. I also shared it with my local critique group a couple of years ago, and then with my online critique list two years ago. And I’m also grateful for my friend and second beta, Kat Turner, who also loved and read Venom last year, who gave me feedback to tweak it. I’ve also had three close Facebook friends two years ago help me refine the first pages. I’ve refined it and edited it numerous times—the last time two years ago even by adding emotional depth.

And almost a year when I first wrote it and edited it, I’ve sent out my first queries in August 2011 via email and yes snail mail back in the day. And yes I received my first early full back then from Agent A as I’ll call her. In spite of a lot of hiccups between my heart surgery and my mother’s sickness and later health, she patiently waited for me and understood how life can get in the way. Later on, she passed. I’ve been querying agents on and off for numerous years since then. I even ventured to Canadian and UK agents for the past few years. I’ve gotten a couple of partials and fulls and even one R&R too. I came so close on landing an agent numerous times, even via #MSWL which had fallen short last year. I’ve also tried small pubs and had no luck to no avail either. If you want to know how many rejections I’ve gotten, I’ve lost count in 2013. Let’s say it’s over 1000+ and call it even.

As for contests, my beta Sandy encouraged me to try pitch contests like #pit2pub on Twitter and Pitch Wars six years ago. I did receive one full request for my first year I’ve entered Pitch Wars, but wasn’t picked to go to the mentee round. The only feedback I got was to polish my ms and my query from this mentor. And the second year I did Pitch Wars with a revised Venom, I got no requests. It did land some request via #pitmad and the now defunct #adpit. I did receive one small pub request via Savvy Authors two years ago, but I never heard back from that editor after numerous nudges to her before I closed her out. I’ve tried Revpit last year with Venom and got zip.

My first time I pitched it to a conference was from Muse Online Writers Conference also in 2010. I did pitch to agents and editors and got some requests. But It never went anywhere since it wasn’t ready and needed more polishing. And then I did live pitch to agents at the Cleveland Writing Workshop. One of my dream agents was there, though I wasn’t selected to pitch to her when I signed up. Though I did get a partial request from an agent, the first page got ripped apart by the panel (with my dream agent) during the first page critique workshop. And then I’ve found a local conference in my area (formerly paid before it went free) every year, but I never pitched it there since they didn’t have the first page critique workshops at the time. And when they did, I had pitched something else instead.

Before my late mother passed away six years ago, I made a promise to her that I would see my dream to get Venom agented and published some day. She knew how hard I’ve tried and struggled e ever since she passed away. I know I didn’t let her down at all. She knows this is the hardest thing I have to do besides saying goodbye to her.

So where do I go from here? I never given up on Venom before. I’ve been told I’m persistent, determined, resilient many times, since I’ve fought so hard to make my dreams come true. But now it’s time to let it go and put it on my backlist for the time being. It’s time to move on and put it to rest. If you’re on Wattpad, I might post it there this summer. If I do get lucky to land an agent and an editor someday, maybe it’ll be moved to the front burner again. Maybe I’ll self-publish it or try my luck with hybrid publishing in the near future. But for now, it’s best to move on.

During last month, my local writing group had a writing exercise about an author taking to a character. It prompted me to prepare saying goodbye to Venom. And I’m going to share it with you right now.

“Do you know who I am?” the person asked at the front of my bed.
“Yes.” I gulped. “You are my character, the one I’ve written about.”
“That’s correct.” My female lead character smiled.
“So why are you here?” I asked.
“To thank you for telling my story and setting me up with a sexy love interest named Aidan.”
I blushed. “You’re welcome. It’s all part of my job as a writer.” I never had a character thank me before. The same could be said for my Muse too. Then it dawned to me. Kylie! I was face-to-face with Kylie Marx from Venom, my first eco-thriller I wrote a decade ago.
“I also want you to tell you it’s okay to table my story after trying to get an agent for so many years. Maybe someday, it’ll be in print…one way or another. Don’t give up. It’ll find a home someday. Goodbye isn’t forever.”
“I won’t, Kylie. You’ll be shelved on my backlist in the meantime…”

In closing, I would like to thank all of my Facebook friends for your support. Big thanks to my 10.5K Twitter followers who commented and RTed it for various Twitter pitch contests. Big thanks to everyone who read and critiqued it at my local writing group and my online critique lists with your feedback) to make it better. To my good friends Cara Reinard and Jaime Hendricks, who’s been there for me, when they’ve told me it’s okay to shelve it. Special thanks to all of the mentors and editors who considered Venom in contests—the same could be said for all of the agents who considered Venom, to those who requested and later passed. I know it’s all subjective with the changing market in publishing. Whether it’s a form or personalized feedback, thanks for giving Venom a first, (second or a third) shot.

A special thanks to my mother who’s looking down at me with sadness. Maybe I can amend that promise to get agented/edited with another manuscript this year or in he future, because I’ll never stop trying and also keep writing. Big thanks to my father, cousin, and my brother, who’s been there for me and understands how hard it is to be a writer trying to make it. To my betas Kat and Sandy, thanks for loving Venom as much as I did.

Thank you for reading and viewing my ode to Venom in this blog post. If you’ve shelved a book, feel free to share your experience in my comments.

#AMMConnect Mentee Hopeful Bio

January 16, 2020 - One Response

My name is Kristen Howe. I write adult thrillers and romantic suspense novels, though I would love to try writing a mystery someday. I’m originally from New Jersey and have been an Ohio resident for 20 years. I’m an unemployed and been a freelancer via Hub Pages and Upwork for a couple of works. I love to do yoga after a stressful day from writing, reading a good book, and snuggling with my 21-year-old cat adult senior male domesticated indoor cat Wylie. I’ve been entering contests for a couple of years like Pitch Wars and Revpit, but never picked with a mentor. I’ve entered Twitter pitch contests and gotten a few likes from time to time. Needless to say, I’ve been querying one novel for almost a decade and had gotten close of landing offers from various partial/fulls requests, but it never happened. I’ll be shelving that novel in March sadly. I’m also at ten-time Nano winner and also a winner for Camp Nano (both spring and summer) in the past couple of years too.
I’m also active on Facebook and Twitter and a book reviewer for Netgalley for a couple of years and really supportive of the #writingcommunity. I also have a blog for my writing/editing/querying adventures (though I haven’t updated it in a few months, except for #writerinmotion this past summer and fall) and now for AMM.

I write because I love reading and have more than a dozen in my head. I have so many stories to tell and would love to get them published (even my backlisted titles too.) I believe it’s my calling ever since I loved to read when I was a little girl. And I would love to make it my dream come true someday. I’ll make a great mentee because I’ll meet deadlines. I’m a hard worker, a fast learner, and can deal with constructive criticism, no matter if it’s negative, neutral, and positive. It would be a a great learning experience for me if I’m chosen as a mentee, if I landed an offer from an agent and then with an editor from a pub house , if when and how to work well with others. And to consolidate a great working relationship for future deals with them too. I just need a mentor to help me push through the final 5-10K to get to the desired word count for romance novels before it could be queried to agents and editors.

My pitch is Dead Heat, my sports-themed romantic suspense I came up with last year. Besides thrillers, I love romantic suspense and sports romance. And I’ve thought this would be a great genre mash-up between the two and place it with an alternate twist on the “Operation Varsity scandal” that’s set during the Winter X-Games. An author friend and my Muse told me this is what agents/editors are looking for when I came up with this idea and brainstormed with her. So I hope it would be a good fit for any mentor who would consider taking it on. I’ve got a Canva mood board aesthetic to set the scene.

#WriterinMotion Weeks 4-5: The Final Draft

November 30, 2019 - Leave a Response

The #WriterinMotion experience had went by this month. And all good things had come to a vastly approaching end. This week, we worked on our final drafts with help from two (or more) beta feedback. And those who were lucky and fortunate to win the raffles by our fabulous editor friend @Jenichappelle had received editorial feedback from them.

This experience was another great one to tighten and rearrange my story a bit from my four fabulous CPs, @rebeccafryar, @songmaiden, @tmnstories and @SKaeth. Thanks you for your valuable input to make it better and polished as it could be at 950 words on the nose. I’ve added a bit of emotional depth to Adrienne and made the ending much stronger. When I wrote and later edited the story, I’ve already dreamed the first chapter of my yet untitled WIM prompt-inspired novel idea I’ll write for Spring Camp Nano 2020. (So stay tuned for more details on Adrienne’s story on how she met Sebastian and later fell for him too.)

Last summer, I’ve used R.E.M.’s The One I Love for the theme song of the short story, Light My Fire. This year, I’ve chosen Garth Brooks’s classic number one song, The Thunder Rolls for The Final Goodbye’s mini theme song. (Did you know that it was originally Tanya Tucker’s song with a fourth verse that’s not included in Garth’s version. It’s only included in metal band, All that Remains’s cover version of it in 2017.)

 

 

The Final Goodbye

The lights flickered out in Adrienne Sinclair’s office. In the dark, she scrambled for her flashlight to find her way out.

Thunder boomed in the distance. Lightning crackled across the evening sky. Torrential rain drenched the streets. She groaned. What else can go wrong tonight?

Before she closed the door, something stuck out to jam it. She widened her eyes at the mysterious envelope and stashed it in her pocketbook.

Adrienne snatched her poncho, her briefcase, and her key ring. The thunderstorm reminded her of Sebastian-the last time they cracked a safe together and made love afterward.

She zipped across the parking lot, and hopped inside her car to dry off and get warm. As she started her engine and fished for her spare flashlight in the glove compartment, she lifted the envelope to inspect the address and the photograph.

There weren’t any train tracks shown in the photograph. The woman looked like her, disguised as a cat burglar. Dressed in black, she held a lightning rod on a stormy night like this one. At first glance, she’d known where to find him.

Taped on the other side of the photo, a skeleton key to open a locker in the Amtrak station at Inverness. At first glance, she’d known where to find him. Clandestine trysts and plotted moves in a treasure-trove filled cubbyhole. The Amtrak train station.

After all this time, he kept this knowledge about the key from her. “Sonofabitch.” She’d sent him to prison and was through with his tedious cat-and-mouse games. Sebastian knew where to get her. She raised her brows and would look for him. “’Rennie, you know where to find me. Follow the clues. Sebastian.’”

At the parking lot, she veered to the right and stopped at the nearest slot, closest to the entrance. She checked the train schedule on her tablet. Surveyed the tracks. Not many people in the terminal. “A half-hour before it arrives. Just like old times, too.” She dashed to the sliding doors. No security detail around, except for the surveillance cameras.

“What the hell? I have no time for this or selfish mind games.”

Lightning struck twice near the complex with rattling thunder. Too close for comfort. She peeled away, flicked on her wipers, and headed for the highway.

A dawning thought hit her like a ray of light. Bastian wouldn’t dare to try to trap me? Would he? After all, she was the one who sent him to prison.

She gazed at the photo once more and flipped it to the back where Sebastian had written the number and its location. I hope I won’t find you there. “’320—Near Cotati Gate.’”

That wasn’t too far for her. With her flashlight, she kept the beam shining bright in the darkened hallway.

She placed her gloved fingers on the lock and turned around. Too hard to detect any moving shadows. But her heart beated pounded in her ears.. She preferred picking locks to spinning dials. Easy to break, easy to crack the safe.

“Bastian, where are you?” Adrienne asked. She couldn’t shake this feeling he lurked around somewhere like last week at the Point Reyes Shipwreck.

“Turn around, Rennie!” Sebastian approached her from the opposite direction.

She jumped, dropping her penlight on the tiled floor, and scowled. She hated it when he scared her like that. “Why are you here? What’s going on? Are you alone?”

“Yeah. But I believe I’m being watched…” He darted his eyes across the hallway. “I’ve cut a deal.”

I don’t like the way this sounds. I won’t bail him out anymore. “What? What deal?” Did he know something else he didn’t let on again?

“With the D.A.’s office. For a lesser sentence, I’ve told them what I know and kept your name out of it.”

Someone like him should spend twenty years behind bars. She blinked. “Go on. Thanks, Bastian, I guess. What sentence?”

“Immunity to testify against my former employers. The whole damned lot.”

Adrienne gasped.Was this some death wish? “You’ve turned State’s evidence against them.”

Sebastian nodded and stepped closer to her. “Yes. I know they’re dangerous and ruthless.”

“Why? They would kill you before they kill me.” Her voice shook. She feared for his life along with her own. No matter how she hated his crimes, she never stopped loving him.

“To be with you and to be free from them. That’s why I’m entrusting you with what’s inside the locker. Open it.” He handed her the key and stood back, swiping her cheeks with his black-gloved hands. “My lips are sealed.”

Adrienne held his hand and squeezed it. She pened it and shone the penlight inside. Bound moneybags, another letter stack, journal entries, and a small framed artwork along with Da Vinci’s secret project. Her jaw dropped. “Woah! No idea there was more….” Holy cow! Is this the Holy Grail? If they ever found out about the missing loot and Sebastian double-crossing them, both their lives would be in danger. She understood why he placed his livelihood on the line. For her. She needed a safe place to hide it away from Inverness. Maybe in Cotati?

“That’s all I’ve stolen from our former fencers. It’s for you.”

“Why?” She whispered into his ears. “I love you, Bastian. Goodbye for now.”

“Because I never stopped loving you. I need to go off-the grid for awhile. Watch your back, Rennie.” Sebastian disappeared into the darkness, leaving her in silence.

Adrienne swallowed hard and closed the locker. She looked both ways, stashed the items into the duffel bags, and fled to the boarding gate to Cotati to go underground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#WriterinMotion Week 4: CP Feedback Round

November 22, 2019 - Leave a Response

Although it took me awhile to get my story for where I wanted it to be, I would like to thank my two CPs, @Rebecca_Fryar and @S_Kaeth for their valuable feedback. Both commented on the same things while they differed on others. I did whittle it down a little and cut it down to a couple of words at 1002 words even. I’ve moved things around and also changed the ending a bit. It would make the perfect segue for a scene change in the future #WIM-prompt inspired story next spring with a working title. But with the ending change, I’m already excited and getting new ideas to write Adrienne’s story in April 2020.  Like with all feedback, I’ve kept what I wanted and disregarded the rest like a grain of salt. Now it’s off to my third CP, @tmnstories to give me bonus feedback in the final round. Unlike this summer, there’s no editorial round except for the lucky raffle winner next week.

Enjoy this new version!

The Final Goodbye

The lights flickered out in Adrienne Sinclair’s office. In the dark, she grabbed her flashlight to find her way out.

Thunder boomed in the distance. Lightning crackled across an evening sky. Torrential rain drenched the streets. She groaned. What else can go wrong tonight?

A mysterious envelope laid by the door’s crack. She widened her eyes on the pocketbook and stashed it in her pocketbook. “What the hell? I have no time for this or selfless mind games.”

Adrienne snatched her poncho, her briefcase, and her key ring. A thunderstorm reminded her from when they last cracked a safe together and made love. It carried a subtle hint of déja vu too.

She sprinted to the front desk and zipped across the parking lot. She hopped inside her car to dry off and get warm. As she started her engine, she fished for her spare flashlight in the glove compartment, and lifted the envelope to inspect the address.

There weren’t any train tracks shown. The woman looked like her in disguise as a fellow cat burglar. Dressed in black, she held a lightning rod on a stormy night like this one.

Sebastian. She shook out her clammy hands as sweat beads formed on her forehead. ‘Rennie, you know where to find me. Follow the clues. Sebastian.’”

Thunder rattled. Lightning struck twice near the complex. Too close for comfort. She peeled away, flicked on her wipers, and headed for the highway.

At first glance, she’d known where to find him at their secret hiding place. Clandestine trysts and plotted moves in a treasure-trove filled cubbyhole. “The Amtak train station.”

Taped on the other side of the photo, a skeleton key at the Amtrak station in Inverness. He kept this knowledge away from her. She sent him to prison and through with his tedious cat-and-mouse games. Sebastian knew where to get her. When intrigued, she would look for him.

The platform and the antenanae held at Amtrak’s station in Inverness. Inside the depot, his skeleton key opened a secret locker. After all this time, he kept this knowledge from her. “Sonofabitch!”

A dawning thought hit her like lightning striking twice in a pitch dark night. “Bastian wouldn’t dare to try to trap me? Or would he?”

At the parking lot, she veered to the right and stopped at the nearest slot, nearest to the entrance, She checked the train schedule on her tablet. Surveyed the tracks. Not many people in the terminal. “A half-hour before it arrives. Just like old times, too.”

She hopped out and dashed to the sliding doors. No security detail around, except for the surveillance videos.

She returned her gaze to the photo once more… and flipped it to the back. Sebastian wrote the number and its location. I hope I won’t find you there, Bastian. “’320—Near Cotati Gate.’”

That wasn’t too far for her. With her penlight, she kept the beam shining bright in the darkened hallway.

She placed her gloved fingers on the lock and turned around. Too hard to detect any moving shadows. But she could hear her heart beating inside her chest. She preferred to pick the lock than spinning any dials. Easy to break, easy to crack the safe.

“Bastian, where are you?” Adrienne asked. She couldn’t shake this feeling he lurked around somewhere like last week at the Point Reyes Shipwreck.

“Turn around, Rennie!” Sebastian approached her in a big stride.

She jumped and dropped her penlight on the tiled floor. She hated him when he scared her like that and scowled. “Why are you here? What’s going on? Are you alone?”

“Yeah. But I believe I’m being watched…” He darted his eyes across the hallway. “I’ve cut a deal.”

I don’t like the way this sounds. I wouldn’t bail him out anymore. “What? What deal?” Did he know something else he didn’t let on again?

“With the D.A.’s office. For a lesser sentence, I’ve told them what I know and kept your name out of it.”

Someone like him should spend twenty years behind bars. She blinked. “Go on. Thanks, Bastian, I guess. What sentence?”

“Immunity to testify against my former employers. The whole damned lot.”

Adrienne gasped.Was this some death wish? “You’ve turned State’s evidence against them for probation or lesser jail time?”

Sebastian nodded and stepped closer to her. “Yes. I know they’re dangerous and ruthless.” He stood close to her.

Tears formed in her eyes and streaked her cheeks. “Why? They would kill you more than me.” She feared for his life along with her own. No matter how much she hated him, she never stopped loving him.

“To be with you and to be free from them. Tha’s why I’m entrusting you with what’s inside the locker. Open it.”

“Key?”

He handed it to her and stood back. He swiped her cheeks with his black gloved hands. “My lips are sealed.”

Adrienne opened it and shone the penlight inside. Bound moneybags, another letter stack, journal entries, and small framed artwork along with Da Vinci’s secret project. Her jaw dropped. “Woah! No idea there was more….” Holy cow! Is this the Holy Grail? If they ever found out about the missing loot and Sebastian double-crossing them, both their lives would be at stake. She understood why he placed his livelihood on the line. For her. She needed a safe place to hide it and away from Inverness. Maybe in Cotati?

“That’s all I’ve stolen from our former fencers. It’s for you.”

“Why?”

“Because I never stopped loving you. I need a safe place to hide and go off-the grid for awhile. Watch your back, Rennie.” Sebasian disappeared into the darkness, leaving her in silence.

Adrienne’s heart slid down to her throat. She looked both ways, stashed the items into the duffel bags from the locker, and made her way to the Cotati gate. If anyone count onto her, she would take the Amtrak train and go underground.

 

#WriterinMotion Week 3–The Self-Edited Version

November 15, 2019 - Leave a Response

Welcome to Week 3 if you’re following along the #WIM feed. Last week, I’ve posted my rough draft version for my adult short story (part two from this summer’s entry Light My Fire). Any rough draft can be messy and a bit long. Before we can get to the polished draft stage, this week focused on self-edits to get it down from 1511 to 1007 words. For my three-pager short story, I went back and forth to remove repetition, shorten sentences, cut words down, and anything else that didn’t help the pace. I kept it during the storm and at the train station. It wasn’t easy. But I managed to get it done and ready to post here (and also at the WIM forum) for comments and feedback. This weekend, it’s off to my two new betas, Rebecca Fryar and Skaeth, two Twiends I’ve known for a long time. And I’ll pay it forward for feedback this weekend. We’re halfway through the journey with two weeks left to go before it ends in December.

I’ve also changed the title, which was also hard, from Cat to Mouse, to the Final Goodbye, which seems to be fitting in the end. Enjoy this new version!

The Final Goodbye

The flights flickered inside Adrienne Sinclair’s office. When it darkened, she grabbed her flashlight to find her way out.

Thunder boomed in the distance. Lightning crackled across an evening sky. Torrential rain drenched the streets. She groaned. What else can go wrong tonight?

She spotted a mysterious envelope by the crack. She stashed it in her pocketbook and widened her eyes on the handwriting. “What the hell? I have no time for this or selfless mind games.”

Adrienne snatched her poncho, her briefcase, and her key ring. Thunderstorms sometimes creeped her out like in the past. It carried a subtle hint of déja vu too.

She sprinted to the front desk and zipped across the parking lot. She escaped inside her car to dry off and get warm. As she started her engine, she fished for her penlight in the glove compartment, and lifted the envelope.

Sebastian. Once again, you’re getting under my skin. “’Rennie, you know where to find me. Follow the clues. Sebastian.’” If she wasn’t stuck in this storm, she would’ve ripped the photo in half.. after she memorized it.

Thunder rattled. Lightning struck twice near the complex. Too close for comfort. She peeled away, flicked on her wipers, and headed for the highway.

At first glance, she’d known where to find her ex-lover, Sebastian Pruitt. Their secret hiding place where they held clandestine trysts. Plotted their next moves in a treasure trove-filled cubbyhole. “The Amtak train station to Cotati.”

There weren’t any train tracks shown. The woman looked like her in disguise as a fellow cat burglar. Dressed in black, she held a lightning rod on a stormy night like this one.

The platform and the antenanae were held at Amtrak’s station in Inverness. Inside the depot, that key led to a secret locker. “Sonofabitch!” Why would he send me this note when I’ve sent him to prison, a week ago? While Sebastian waited for trial, he led her to where he stashed more stolen goods. Like a dog chasing its tail, she flared her nostrils at his cat-and-mouse games once again.

Adrienne focused on the words “cat-and-mouse” in her head. How ironic did he think he was some big cheese? Or referred to his loot, too? Was she the “cat”, who trapped him and sent him packing? Did he consider himself the “mouse” in question? I’m no longer a cat burgular anymore, when he’s still up to his tricks as usual. A dawning thought hit her like Zeus’s trident striking in a pitch dark night. “Bastian wouldn’t daren’t to try to trap me in payback… and from behind bars. Or would he?”

At the parking lot, she veered to the right and stopped at the nearest slot, closest to the entrance. She checked the train schedule on her tablet. Survyed the tracks. Not many people in the empty terminal. “A half-hour before it arrives on schedule. Just like old times, too.”

She hopped out and dashed to the sliding doors. She raised her brows to not see any security detail around, except for the surveillance videos. She preferred to pick the lock than spin the combination dials. Easy to break, easy to crack the safe.

She returned her gaze to the photo once more… and flipped it to the backing. Sebastian wrote the number and its location. I hope I won’t find you there, Bastian. “’320—Near Cotati Gate.’”

That wasn’t too far for her. Straight ahead. Ten paces toward the right and to the vending machines. With her penlight, she kept the beam shining bright in the darkened hallway.

She placed her gloved fingers on the lock and turned around. Too hard to detect any moving shadows. But she could hear her heart beating inside her chest.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are, Bastian,” Adrienne said. She couldn’t shake this feeling he lurked around somewhere like last week at the Point Reyes Shipwreck.

“Boo!” Sebastian approached her and laughed out loud.

She jumped and dropped her penlight on the tiled floor. She hated him when he scared her like that and scowled. “Why are you here? Aren’t you in jail, awaiting trial?” She didn’t hear any prison or jail breaks in the news.

“I’ve been released on bail by my lawyers and made a deal.”

I don’t like the way this sounds. I wouldn’t bail him out anymore. “What? What deal?” Did he know something else he didn’t let on again?

“With the D.A.’s office. For a lesser sentence, I’ve told them what I know and kept your name out of it.”

Someone like him should spend twenty years behind bars. He took the easy way out. She blinked. “Go on. Thanks, Bastian, I guess. What sentence?”

“Immunity in exchange for my testimony against my former employers. The whole damned lot.”

Adrienne gasped. If she’d known anything, they were dangerous and would kill him on the spot. Was

this some death wish? “You’ve turned State’s evidence against them for probation or lesser jail time?”

Sebastian nodded and stepped closer to her. “Yes. A lighter sentence of five years and four months of community service. Two years probation. My trial’s two months from here…”

“Why? They would kill you more than me.” When she worked undercover, she fell for him, and learned insight from Bastian himself.

“I know they’re ruthless. But that’s why I’m entrusting you with what’s inside the locker. Open it.”

First the safe on the ship, now a locker in this train station. “Key?”

He handed it to her and stood back. “My lips are sealed.”

Adrienne opened it and shone the penlight inside. Bound money bags, another letter stack, journal entries, and small framed artwork along with Da Vinci’s secret project. Her jaw dropped. “Woah! No idea there was more…”.”

“That’s all I’ve stolen from our former fencers. It’s for you.”

“Why?”

“Because I’ll be placed under WitSec until my trial. It’s goodbye for now.” Sebastian vanished. Except for his retreating footsteps.

 

 

 

Writers-In-Motion, Round 2: Weeks 1-2:The Prompt and the Rough Draft

November 8, 2019 - Leave a Response

Hello everyone. Writers in Motion is back for a second round this fall. Last summer, we’ve started out from twelve to twenty-four. Now we’re back with a larger group of people, new people who wanted to chip in and join the #WIM moment. And some fellow friends from round one are doing it again while others are passing until next summer. And this time, with a new prompt, there was a raffle for selecting a new group of beta readers, and one chosen winner from another raffle will have their sort story edited by one of fabulous editors. Plus, there’s also a WIM forum when fellow writers will post their short story there for feedback other than their blogs (even if they don’t have one.)

For those who are new to Writers in Motion, WIM for short, it’s a 5-week blog journey to post a short story from rough draft to editorial. (But please be mindful to not use the tag for anything else that’s not related to WIM like your published work or your writing life. Check out the feed down below to see what’s it all about. Even if you’re not participating this time, you can use it and apply to your own writing and later editing from short to long pieces too.)

As for my thinking process, I deliberated on if I should base it on one of my Nano manuscripts (from this summer or currently for this fall), my future WIM-prompted short story-turned novel idea for next year’s Camp Nano, or a new idea entirely different. It took me a few days after this prompt was posted on the blog. So My Muse went into a different direction and did another vignette from my future story. Once again, it was over 1K at 1501 words. So I have 500 words to cut in a week for week 3 for self-edits, 100 words a day, which is a piece of cake on this 3-pager short story.

Check out the photo prompt down below and enjoy my short story, too!

Here’s our photo prompt for this round. Image by engin akyurt from Pixabay

Cat-and-Mouse

 

During the thunderstorm, the flights was flickering on and off inside Adrienne’ Sinclair’s office. When it darkened the room, she grabbed her flashlight, switched it on, and walke down the hall to find her way out.

Thunder boomed loudly in the distance. Lightning flashed and crackled in streaks across an evening sky. Torrential rain downpoured on the streets; the parking lot drenched with heavy hail-sized sheets. She groand as she closed her window and shut her blinds. What else can go wrong tonight? It’s not even 5 PM to call it quits.

On the way out, she stopped to find a mysterious envelope by the crack of her door. She bent down to pick it up and stashed it in her pocketbook. When she was dry and inside her car, she would read it. Under the gleam from her flashlight’s beam, she widened her eyes on the handwriting and who’d addressed it to her. “What the hell?” Adrienne asked herself. “I have no time for this or selfless mind games either.” She had to admit to herself, it did pique her curiosity a tiny bit more.

Adrienne snatched her poncho, her briefcsae, her key ring, and her flashlight. Though it sometimes had creeped her out like it had in the past. It had carried a subtle hint of déja vu too.

She hurried to the door, closed it behind her, sprinted to the front door, and zipped across to her vehicle in the parking lot. More rain had fallen around her, surrouding her with puddles everywhere she went. She escaped inside her car to dry off and get warm. As she started her engine, she fished for her penlight in the glove compartment , and lifted the envelope before her eyes.

She grimaced at the cursive handwriting on the envelope. Sebastian. Once again, you’re getting underneath my skin. “Rennie, you know where to find me. Follow the clues in the photo. Sebasitan.’” If she wasn’t stuck in the middle of a rainstorm, she would rip the photos in half…. after she would memorize it.

Thunder continued to boom above her, shaking and rattling near her car. Lightning was striking near the back of her office building complex twice. Too close for comfort. She peeled away from the wet curb, flicked on her windshield wipers, and headed for the highway.

At first glance, shed known ehere to find her ex-lover, Sebastian Pruitt. Their secret hiding place where they had held clandestine trysts and plotted their next criminal moves in art thefts, various artworks, and stolen artifacts in a treasure trove-filed cubbyhole. “The Amtak train station to Cotati.”

Although there weren’t any train tracks shown in the photograph, she’d known the woman looked like her in disguise as a fellow cat burglar. Dressed in black, she was holding a lightining rod on a stormy night like this one. It reminded her of Benjamin Franklin’s scientific experiments with a lightning bolt and a metal key to conduct electricity.

The platform and the antenanae were held at the Amtrak depot train sstation in Inverness. And inside the depot, that key would lead to a secret locker. “Sonofabitch!” Why would he send me this note when I’ve sent him to prison, a week ago? While Sebastian was waiting for his trail on his nefarious crimes, he led her to where he’d stashed Da Vinci’s letters, diary, and his secret artwork. Like a dog chasing its tail, going in circles, she was fed up with ihis cat-and-mouse games once again.

While driving to the Inverness train station, Adrienne focused on the words of “cat-and-mouse” in her head. How ironic did he think he was some sort of big cheese? Or referred to his loot, too? Was she the “cat” , who trapped him and sent him packing? Did he consider himself the “mouse” in question? I’m no longer a cat burgular anymore, when he’s still up to his tricks as usual. When a dawning thought hit her like Zeus’s trident striking in a pitch dark night. “Bastian wouldn’t daren’t to try to trap me in payback… and from behind bars. Or would he?” She grimaced at the mere thought and shook her head.

At the parking lot, she veered her car to the right and stopped it at the nearest slot, closest to the front entrance. She viewed her tablet and checked the train schedule. Then she survyed the railraod tracks in front of the Amstrak Invernesss train depot. Not many cars in the lot or in the empty terminal. “A half-hour before it arrives on schedule. Just like old times, too.”

She hopped out of her car, grabbed her keys and pocketbook, and dashed to the sliding doors. She raised her brows to not notice any security detail around, except for the surveillance videos. She preferred to pick the key lock than with the combination dials. Easy to break, easy to crack the safe like in a vault.

The question remained at the number of the lock and where to find it. She paid no attention to the pouring rain outside with the thunder-and-lightning in the background. She returned her gaze to the photo once more… and flipepd it over to the backing. In Sebastian’s writing, he wrote the locker number and the place to locate it. I hope I won’t find you there, Bastian. “’320—Near Cotati Gate.’”

That wasn’t too far for her to pinpoint it. Straight ahead. Ten paces toward the right and to the vending machines. The number “320” had no signifcant reference to her, their former relationship, or anything to do with his crimes. With her penlight, she kept the beam shining bright in th darkened hallway, not knowing if it would lead to a power outage or a blackout.

At the locker, she stopped, placed her gloved fingers on the lock, and turned around in the quiet darkness. Too hard to detect any moving shadows. But she could hear herself breahting, her heart beating like a drum inside her chest.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are, Bastian”, Adrienne said. She couldn’t shake this feeling that he was lurking around somewhere like last week, a week ago, on the Point Reyes Shipwreck.

“Boo!” Sebastian approached her in his wide steps and laughed out loud.

She jumped out of her skin and dropped her penlight on the tiled floor. She hated him whren he scared her like that and scowled. “Bastian, why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be in jail, awaiting trial?” She haven’t heard any news of a prison or jail break in the news.

“I’ve been released on bail by my lawyers and made a deal.”

I don’t like the way this sounds. I wouldn’t bail him ut anymore. “What? What deal?” Did he know something else that he didn’t let on or know again?

“With the D.A.’s office. For a lesser sentence, I’ve told them what I know and kept your name out of it.”

Someone like him should spent twenty years behind bars. He took the easy way out. She blinked and didn’t know what else to say. “Go on. Thanks, Bastian, I guess. What sentence?”

“Immunity in exchange for my testimony against my former employers. The whole damned lot.”

Adrienne gasped. If she’d known anything, they were dangerous and would kill him on the spot. Was
this some sort of a death wish? “You’ve turned State’s evidence against them for probation or lesser jail time?”

Sebastian nodded and took a step closer to her. “Yes. You know I can’t stay way from you, Rennie.” He paused. “I do have a lighter sentence of five years and four months of community service and two years for probation. My trial’s two months from here…”

If she was smart, she would run away and place him under house arrest. But not in her home, of course. “Why? They would kill you more than me.” When she worked undercover to discover his lies and later fall for him, she’d learned a lot of insight from Bastian himself.

“I know they’re ruthless. But that’s why I’m entrusting you with this loot inside the locker. Open it.”

First the safe vault on the ship, now a locker in this train station. “Key?”

He handed it to her and stood back. “My lips are sealed.”

Adrienne opened the locker and shone the penlight inside it. Bags of bounded money, another stack of letters, journal entries, and small-sized framed artwork along with Da Vinci’s secret project no one knew about. She whistled as her jaw dropped to the floor. “Woah! No idea there was more that what we’ve found last week, Bastian.”

“That’s all I have and had stolen from our former fencers. It’s for you.”

“Why?” From the tone of his voice, it sounded like a goodbye.

“Because I’m going to be placed under WitSec until my trial. It’s goodbye for now.”

When she locked the door, she turned around to see Sebastian was gone. Except for his retreating footsteps.

#Writerinmotion Week 7: Wrap-Up and How to Perfect Your Own Work

July 13, 2019 - Leave a Response

Well, everyone, this is the end of the seven-week blog journey for the #writerinmotion experience. I would like to thank the editors who signed on for this journey, my friends who commented on my blog and via the WIM Twitter feed. I would like to thank my three CPs for their excellent feedback including my editor, Jeni Chappelle, too. Although I haven’t written a short story in a decade, it did feel good to write one again for this special journey. And I’m glad to share my transformation on how my rough draft sparkled and shined in the final draft last week. And this snippet had prompted me to write Light my Fire in a novel form next spring. I’ve made some new friends and future CPs/betas for future projects as we’ll keep the WIM Twitter feed and Slack channel active after this weekend.

Here are some takeaway tips on how you can use the #WIM experience for your own work. It’s all about how to write something from scratch and polish it in its final draft. (I’ve seen some people misused the hash tag–except for two people–when they’ve gotten the wrong idea. It had nothing to do with self-promoting books, journal writing or traveling.)  WIM is perfect for all types of writing formats–short works (short stories, flash fiction, scripts and plays, poetry and songs, graphic novels and comic books), nonfiction (essays, blogs and articles, biography and memoir chapters, devotions and newsletters, and longer works (novel and novella chapters from any age and genre market). And yes for those who are in the query trenches, it’s perfect for queries, writing a synopsis, and Twitter pitches. Whether you’re going the traditional, self-publishing, indie, small press or hybrid publishing route, it works!

Step 1: Write It Out. Whether prompted by a photo or an idea or not, write it out in free write. Don’t edit and have a daily word count in mind. Start with writing 500 words a day on paper or on your computer. You can do it at home, at the library or coffee shop, or during your lunch hour break for work. No distractions. Keep in mind, shorter works in both nonfiction and fiction would take less time to write than longer ones. After you get one writing, let it rest and set for a moment like a weekend or a week before you can read it with fresh eyes.

2. Self-Edit to Trim It Down. This is when you cut out of the fat and weed out the passive and filter words, the adverbs and extra descriptive adjectives. Take out the fluff and trim it until you have a set word count (or line count for poetry/songs) in mind. There are many useful venues online and in books about which words you can cut out without doing any harm to your work. If you’re an underwriter, you need to add the fat. If you’re an overwrite like me, you need to cut it out. There are other websites that are perfect for self-editing like Pro Writing Aid and Edit Minion for starters. Is there any wordy sentences or big graphs or repetition? Trim it down until it’s good enough for the next step.

3. Betas are Worth Gold. Now it’s time to give it to another set of fresh eyes to help you. make stronger and trimmer. Whether you have one or a few, it’s time to grab an alpha reader, a beta reader, and a critique partner. You can find them online, on Twitter and on Facebook, your local Meet-Up, an online crit list like the Internet Writing Workshop or Scribophile, or even your local writing group if your library has one. If it’s shorter work or longer, make some new friends. Whether you send them a chapter, 3 chapters or 50 pages, or the full manuscript, work out a system that’s right for you and see if it’s works. And if you’re new to writing and editing,  here are the definitions between the three terms: An alpha reader is a first reader that your provide feedback before its done. A beta reader is someone who gives you feedback from a reader’s standpoint. Sometimes they can be one and the same. And a critique partner is someone who tells you what’s working and not working in the story with a bunch of notes for your feedback. After you let the feedback set in, take charge of your work and make it better and see how it works out.

4. Make it Shine. For those who can afford an editor to evaluate a partial or a full manuscript, this is a great investment for having exceptional work to give you excellent feedback on how to improvement your story. For those who are going the traditional or hybrid/small press route, you would have one for your future stories. For those who are doing indie or self-publishing, you’re on your own. See my special note down below. And if you can’t afford one like me, you can go back to your betas and CPs if they read revisions. Some do and some don’t. If not, find a cold reader to read it through to check for errors by proofreading the manuscript. Note: As a book reviewer for Upwork for two years, I’ve read and review some self-published books for my client for one year. Mostly these authors just write and publish without editing it before it goes on final print. I had to turn down two assignments because of that cause: sloppy unedited work. I couldn’t give it a fair score. Others were fine, but still these self-published authors should’ve known better than to hit the submit button to print it out. If you plan to self-publish or go indie, please proofread and spellcheck your own work and have a beta/CP look it over.  Don’t rush the process and let it gradually happen in time. It would be worth it!

5. Just Hit Send! After you’ve have a cold reader or an editor look it over and you’ve implemented all the feedback to make it publishable and ready for print in literary journals or to editors and agents, even for pitch contests as well, you’re done and look at your work. Move onto the next project and do it all over again. Stay busy and stay active!

As Porky Pig said, that’s all folks! Thanks for following my blog! For my regular blog followers, stay tuned for a regular update in two weeks! See you then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#WriterinMotion Week 5–Final Version

July 6, 2019 - 2 Responses

Like the old adage, all good things must come to an end.  And this #WriterinMotion experience has been wonderful for me and my 23 writer friends. But before I say goodbye, I’m happy to post my final version of my adult mystery short story, Light My Fire. My 1038 words have been trimmed down to 867 words.  I’ve kept some of my own writing and took suggestions from my editor friend, Jeni Chappelle, from her 737-word version in make it tighter. I have a screenshot version of it of the first page to show you comments from an editor to make it sound like you.  I did have fun writing Adrienne’s mini story and can’t wait to write it next year for Camp Nano in April 2020. Some of my writer friends are going to be my betas for it to tell my story. One of friends, Paulette Wiles, wants “more” of the story between sassy Adrienne and cocky Sebastian. So I’m going to give it to her next year! I can’t wait.

 

Here’s my screenshot of the first page to show you Jeni’s commnets on how she helped me make it tighter down below. Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 1.12.59 PM   And here’s my final version of Light my Fire.  Stay tuned next week on a wrap-up with my thoughts and feelings on WIM and how to apply you for your writing adventures too.

Adrienne Sinclair sprinted past the Point Reyes Shipwreck sign and headed to the charred fishing boat. She snapped a shot with her Iphone’s camera to capture the moldering beauty of the landmark against the starry night. The Pacific Ocean lapped in the distance, carrying its secrets with seaweed and seashells in the foamy tide.

Her sturdy boots clunked on the deck. She shone her penlight around the splintered wood from aft to starboard and flicked on the blacklight feature. A path of faded dried blood led to the galley. She held her breath as she stepped closer to the crew rooms.

A looming shadow moved toward her from the bow. “Adrienne, what are you doing here?”

Her ex-partner in crime, Sebastian Pruitt. She groaned. She wanted nothing more to do with him. “Bastian!” What was Sebastian doing here of all places?

Sebastian cursed out loud. He’d hated that nickname when they were together. “The same as you—claiming the prize.”

“Get out of my way. Or I’ll call the cops on you.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Shouldn’t you be locked away?” As far as she was concerned, he deserved to rot for the rest of his miserable life. Once a con man always a con man.

Adrienne scowled. Since when they did release his sorry ass?

“Released a month ago for good behavior. I’ve served my time.” He smirked. “I’m here to help you find the letters.”

“Help? Why would you want to help me?” She didn’t trust him as far as she could throw him. “You’ve lied to me in the past. I don’t buy it.” Adrienne stepped away from the crew rooms toward the staircase to go below deck.

He pointed his flashlight in the same direction, closed the distance to her, and fingered a strange of her sandy blond hair. “Come on, Rennie. I know what you’re after.”

“Ha!” Every bone and fiber of her body cringed. “We’re not a team anymore—professionally or personally.”

“I know where it is. Let me lead the way.”

“What are you talking about?” Adrienne asked. A wind chilled her as she went downstairs to the mid-cabin.

“Starry Night.” He led the way and found the locked safe. “Aren’t you a bit interested in why someone set this boat on fire?”

Adrienne didn’t blink. She wasn’t going to bite. She spun the dial to twenty-nine then to seven. “Not really.”

“I have the combination for the safe. Your last number is wrong.” His dark blue eyes widened with obvious delight. “I can read your mind so well..”

Little did he know the surprise she had for him.

To prove him wrong, she spun the dial to fifty and pulled the knob. Nothing happened. It was stuck. She cursed and tried again. She kicked the safe. “Damn you!”

Sebastian laughed out loud and shook his head. “Told you. Let me work with you on this. Trust me.”

She shot red-hot daggers at him. “Why would I?”

“Because we work well together.”

“Not anymore.” She rubbed the back of her neck and sighed. “All right. What’s the last digit?”

He folded his arms across his chest. “Ninety. The year Van Gogh died. Try it.”

She rolled her eyes. Why didn’t she think of that? Adrienne rotated the dial to ninety and yanked the wheel. It clicked open. She removed Starry Night and searched the matting for a bulge. “How did you figure it out?”

“You learn a lot in prison.” He grinned and crouched down. “Including a new interpretation behind the story of this painting.”

“What? Van Gogh was in an asylum when he painted it.”

“True.” Sebastian lifted the artwork and flipped it to the other side. He snatched her flashlight, and in a slow, careful manner, she the light around to the middle of the matting. “But rumor has it, Van Gogh contemplated escaping this world. Failure at love and art and in life…”

Adrienne gasped as Sebastian found a slit opening in the matting.

“He wrote letters to his brother Theo and Dr. Rey. They were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum. Never made it to any biography. It remained hidden in there.” He pointed to the safe. “It’s all in this loot.”

“So what stopped him?”

“The guards.”

A knowing smile formed across her lips. Those purloined letters could make her a ton of money. So how did this boat go up in flames? How is It connected to Van Gogh? “And what happened to the boat?”

“Engine failure caused the boat to go aflame, leaving them shipwrecked here.”

I bet you had something to do with the arson and the theft. She grabbed a stack of missing letters.” How else would you know all this?

He laughed. “I was in prison, remember.”

“The San Diego PD told me about your prison break” .She stepped away from him. “And I know your penchant for starting fires.”

Sebastian cursed.

“You’re busted!” Adrienne revealed the taped wire on her chest. “Game over. You’re going back to prison.”

When the three police officers took Sebastian away in handcuffs, a slow smile formed across her face as she left the boat with the letters and the painting.

 

 

#Writerinmotion Week 3: Third Draft

June 28, 2019 - One Response

I can’t believe we’re halfway through the seven-week blog journey already.  Within two weeks, this experience would come to a close. But let me explain my train of thought of what new changes I’ve made in my short story. Thanks to my three CPs, K.J. Harrowick, Coffee Quills, and Kathryn Hewitt for making great suggestive changes to help me tighten and trim my short story down to 138 words. Although I didn’t get it down to 1K even, it was close enough at 1038 words for a tight word count. And thanks to my author editor friend Jeni Chappelle, she said it was okay and close enough to send it off to her by this weekend. So hopefully she can nitpick those 38 words for a cool 1K even for the final draft.

I enjoyed writing Adrienne’s mini story as I still plan to write Light My Fire into a full novel next spring for Camp Nano. And this final draft would be included in one of the final scenes. The genre and title is TBD next year for sure. Since I didn’t have any screenshots last time, I do have a screenshot of my first page of my short story. Those passages highlighted in pink colors is what my 3 lovely CPs had commented on. Some I accepted and the others I had passed on. I didn’t have time to create a stronger ending to my story.  But it would have one in the final draft.

Screen Shot 2019-06-26 at 3.42.56 PM

Here’s my 3rd draft of Light my Fire, my adult mystery short story.  And down below, I’ve created a special mood mood too.

Adrienne Sinclair sprinted past the Point Reyes Shipwreck sign and headed to the charred fishing boat. She grabbed her iPhone and snapped a shot of that landmark against the starry night. She captured the moldering beauty. The Pacific Ocean lapped in the distance, carrying its secrets with seaweed and seashells in the foamy tide.

Her sturdy booties clunked on the deck. She shone her penlight around the splintered wood from aft to starboard and flicked on the blacklight feature. A path of faded dried blood led to the galley. She held her breath as she stepped closer to the crew rooms.

A dark looming shadow moved toward her. “Adrienne, what are you doing here?”

She gasped at seeing her ex-partner in crime, Sebastian Pruitt. “You!” What was Sebastian doing here of all places?

He stood at the bow and smirked. “The same as you—claiming the prize.”

Once a con man always a con man. “Get out of my way. Or I’ll call the cops on you.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Should you be locked away in prison?” As far as she was concerned, he belonged there to rot for the rest of his miserable life.

“Didn’t you get the email?” Sebastian asked.

Adrienne scowled. Since when they did release his sorry ass?

“Released a month ago for good behavior. I’ve served my time.”

She groaned. She wanted nothing more to do with him. “What do you want, Bastian?”

He cursed out loud. He had hated that nickname when they were together. “I’m here to help you find the letters.”

“Help? Why would you want to help me?” I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you, Sebastian. “You’ve lied to me in the past. I don’t buy it.” She stepped away from the crew rooms and navigated her way toward the staircase to go belowdeck.

He pointed his flashlight in the same direction. “Come on, Rennie. I know what you’re after.” He closed in the distance to her and fingered a strand of her sandy blonde hair. “I know you still want me, too.”

“Ha!” Every bone and fiber of her body couldn’t stand him. She tried not to let him ruffle her feathers when he used her hateful nickname of “Rennie.” It made her cringe. “I doubt it. I’ve moved on. And I don’t know what you’re referring to.” A cold wind blew and chilled her as she went downstairs to the mid-cabin. “We’re no longer a team anymore—professionally and personally.”

“I know where it is. Let me lead the way.”

“What are you talking about?” Adrienne asked.

“Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night.” He led the way and found the locked safe. “Aren’t you a bit interested on why someone set this boat on fire?”

She spun the dial to twenty-nine. “Not really.”

“C’mon.” Sebastian smirked as he folded his hands on his hips. “Don’t you want a nibble?”

Adrienne didn’t blink. She wasn’t going to bite. She rotated the dial to seven. “No.”

“I have the correct combo for the lock safe. Your last digit is wrong.” His dark blue eyes widened with pure delight. “I can read your mind and have known you so well..”

Little did he know what surprise she would have for him. “You think you do.”

“It won’t work…”

To prove him wrong, she spun the dial to fifty and pulled the knob. Nothing happened. It was stuck. She cursed and tried again. No luck. She kicked the safe. “Damn you!”

He laughed out loud and shook his head. “Told you. Let me work with you on this. Trust me.”

She shot red-hot daggers at him. “Why should I?”

“Because we’ve worked well together.”

“In the past, but not anymore.” She rubbed the back of her neck and sighed. “All right. What’s the last digit?”

“Ninety. The year Van Gogh died. Try it.” He folded his arms across his chest.

She rolled her eyes. Why didn’t she think about that before? Adrienne rotated the dial to ninety and yanked the wheel. It clicked open. She removed Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night and searched the matting for a bulge. “Sebastian, how did you figure it out?”

He grinned and crouched down. “You learn a lot in prison. And that’s including a new interpretation behind the story of this painting…”

“What? Van Gogh was in an asylum for his hysteria when he painted it.”

Sebastian lifted the artwork and flipped it to the other side. He snatched her flashlight and shone the light around to the middle of the matting in a slow careful manner. “True. But rumor has it, Van Gogh thought about committing suicide. He contemplated escaping this world. Failure at love and art and in life…”

Adrienne gasped as she found a slit opening in the matting. “What?”

“It’s true. He wrote private letters to his brother Theo and to Dr. Rey. Those were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum. It never made it to any biography. It remained hidden in there.” He pointed to the safe.

“So what stopped him?”

“The guards. It’s all in this loot.”

A knowing smile formed across her lips. Those purloined letters could make her a ton of money. “So what does this painting have to do with the boat?”

“People were trying to find those letters. Someone stole it and kept it hidden here. Engine failure caused the boat to go aflame.”

What a crock! “I bet you had something to do with the arson and theft. How else would you know these things?” She grabbed a stack of missing mail. “Confess!”

He laughed. “I’m telling you the truth. I was in prison during that time.”

She stepped away from him. “You’re lying. The San Diego PD told me about your prison break.” She pointed her finger at him. “I know your penchant for starting fires.”

Sebastian dropped his jaw and cursed out loud. “What?”

“You’re busted! You’ve walked right into the trap.” She displayed the taped wire on her chest. “Game over. You’re going back to prison.” When the three police officers took Sebastian away in handcuffs, a slow smile formed across her face as she left the boat.

 

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#WriterinMotion: Week 3: My 2nd Draft

June 21, 2019 - 3 Responses

This is week three in the seven-week blog journey for #writerinmotion, when we take a rough draft of our short story and make it polished and ready for later stages. And this week after a week of comments from fellow #WIM writers, we get to work on our drafts  by self-editing it on my own.  It was hard to cut a lot of words from my 1935 original short story and get it to 1000 words even. Self-editing and revisions isn’t my strong suit. I despise editing with a passion–the same for writing a synopsis–and that’s another story. On another note, our former group of twelve writers had grown to 24 writers to join our project. We also have added two new editors to the mix. I’ll be adding those links at the end.

Since I don’t have any proof of my revisions for screenshots, I just compared my original with my newest draft. I took out bits about Sebastian’s wet suit for example and other stuff from the original to make it better. I shortened sentences, removed beats and some inner dialogue.  I tightened the story and kept everything in–I only changed two bits and that’s about it. I wanted it to focus on the chemistry between Adrienne and Sebastian’s former relationship with  a shocking new twist in the end. Though my 2nd draft is at roughly 1174 words when I can’t cut anymore, it’ll be now sent to my 3 CPs next week for feedback and to help me cut 174 words hopefully easily to make it at 1K even. I also changed the title from Look What The Cat Dragged In to Light My Fire for my adult mystery short story. Hope you enjoy it and let me know which version is best. Sidenote: this prompt had given me a novel idea to write Adrienne’s story next year for Camp Nano or Nano–the genre is to TBD. And the polished scene would make it into the story. Enjoy!

 

Light my Fire

Adrienne Sinclair sprinted past the sign for the Point Reyes Shipwreck. She headed to the charred fishing boat. What caused it to go aground? And who set it on fire three years ago, and why? That mystery had remained unsolved to this day.

On that starry night, she grabbed her iPhone and snapped a shot of that local treasured landmark. As a nature photographer, she captured the moldering beauty in Inverness, California. The Pacific Ocean lapped in the distance, carrying its secrets with seaweed and seashells in the foamy tide.

She boarded the boat with her sturdy shoes. She shone her penlight around the splintered wood from aft to starboard and flicked on the blacklight feature. A path of dried blood led to the galley. She held her breath and stepped closer to a broken cabinet door. Cobwebs decorated the ship.

“Adrienne, what are you doing here?”

She gasped and narrowed her eyes at her ex-partner in crime and ex-lover, Sebastian Pruitt. “I was about to ask you the same thing, Sebastian.”

He stood at the bow and smirked. “The same as you—claiming the prize.”

Once a con man always a con man. I want nothing to do with this two-timing two-bit former cat burglar. “Get out of my way. Or I’ll call the cops on you.”

“You wouldn’t dare. Would you?”

“Shouldn’t you be locked away in prison?” As far as she was concerned, he belonged there to rot for the rest of his miserable life.

“Didn’t you get the email?”

Adrienne scowled. Since when they did release his sorry ass? “Nope.”

“I’ve been released from prison a month ago for good behavior. I’ve served my time.”

She groaned. She wanted nothing more to do with him since he framed her for a crime. “What do you want, Bastian?”

He cursed out loud. He hated that nickname when they were together. “I’m here to help you find the loot.”

She stared at him while she’d pressed all the right buttons. “Help? Why would you want to help me?” I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you, Sebastian. “You’ve lied to me in the past. I don’t buy it.” She stepped away from him and navigated her way around the sailboat.
He beamed his flashlight in the same direction. “Come on, Rennie. I know what you’re after. I know you still want me, too.”

She scoffed. Every bone and fiber of her body couldn’t stand him. “I doubt it. I’ve moved on. And I don’t know what you’re referring to.” When she headed downstairs, she shivered from the cold that radiated from the shipwreck. “We’re no longer a team anymore—professionally and personally. I’m so through with you.”

“I know where it is. Let me lead the way.”

If she wanted to, she could call his bluff. “What are you talking about?”

“Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night.” He walked ahead of her and found the locked safe. “Aren’t you a bit interested on why someone set this boat on fire and left it shipwrecked?”

Curiosity killed the cat… She spun the dial to twenty-nine. She tried not to let him ruffle her feathers when he used her hateful nickname of “Rennie.” It made her cringe. “Not really.”

“C’mon.” Sebastian smirked as he folded his hands on his hips. “Don’t you want a nibble?”

Adrienne didn’t blink or bat an eye. She wasn’t going to bite or fall for his lies. She rotated the dial to seven. “No.”

“I have the correct combo for the lock safe. Your last digit is wrong.” His dark blue eyes widened with pure delight. “I know you’re interested. I can read your mind. I know you so well.”

Little did he know what surprises she would have for him. She tried not to give herself away. “I still don’t trust you. You think you do.”

“It won’t work…”

To prove him wrong, she spun the dial to fifty and pulled the knob. Nothing happened. It was stuck. She cursed out loud and tried again. No luck. She kicked the safe. “Damn you!”

He laughed out loud and shook his head. “Told you. Let me work with you on this. Trust me.”

She shot red-hot daggers at him. She wouldn’t trust him with her life. She had learned the hard way about his deceit a long time ago. “Why should I?”

“Because we’ve worked well together.”

“In the past, but not anymore.”

“Then let me help you one last time…”

She let out a sigh. “All right. What’s the last digit and the mystery to this puzzle?”

“Ninety. The year Van Gogh died. Try it.” He folded his arms across his chest, tapping his feet against the planks, and winked.

She groaned. Why didn’t she think about that before? She rotated the dial to ninety and yanked the wheel. It clicked and opened. She removed Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night and searched the matting for a bulge. “Sebastian, how did you figure it out?”

He grinned and crouched down. “You learn a lot in prison. I’ve made friends who revealed their trade secrets. And that includes a new interpretation behind the story of this painting…”

“What? Van Gogh was in an asylum for his hysteria when he painted it.”

He lifted the artwork. He borrowed her blacklight and shone at it as he moved it in a slow careful manner. “True. But rumor has it, Van Gogh thought about committing suicide. He contemplated escaping this world. Failure at love and art and in life…”

Adrienne gasped as she found a slit opening through the matting. “What?”

“It’s true. He wrote private letters to his brother Theo and to Dr. Rey. Those were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum. It never made it to any biography. It remained hidden in there.” He pointed to the safe.

“So what stopped him?”

“The guards. It’s all in this loot.”

A knowing smile formed across her lips. Those purloined letters could make her a ton of money. “So why does this painting have to do with the boat?”

“People were trying to find those letters. Someone stole it and kept it hidden here. Engine failure caused the boat to go aflame..”

What a loaded crock! “I bet you had something to do it with the arson and theft. How else would you know these things?” She grabbed the faded burlap bag. “Confess!”

He laughed. “I’m telling you the truth. I’ve been in prison during that time.”

She stepped away from him. “You’re lying. The San Diego PD told me about your notorious prison break. You did it.” She pointed her finger at him. “I know your penchant for starting fires.’

Sebastian dropped his jaw and cursed out loud. “What?”

“You’re busted! You’ve walked right into the trap. I’ve got you on tape.” She displayed the taped wire on her chest. “Game over. You’re going back to prison.”

Three police officers arrested him on the spot and retrieved the missing loot as evidence. Case closed.

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