Current work projects: Two stories for the Vancouver Foundation’s June magazine; business coaching with four new entrepreneurs who have great ideas; curriculum for a workshop called “Bring Your Business Plan to Life.”
Current fun projects: Having my completed manuscript, Drinking Scotch with Strangers, critiqued while I wait for the courage to send it to publishers; finishing the last few thousand words of the first draft of Mother Teresa’s Advice for Jilted Lovers; and developing a detailed outline for a ‘choose your own ending’ story (it has one beginning, three turning points, six climaxes and twelve resolutions).
Special thanks to Heather Webb for yet another good reason to post to my blog. The only reason, it seems, these last few months!
First 250 words of Drinking Scotch with Strangers
Genre: Women’s fiction/rebel romance
Telling my husband he could have an affair—no, actually encouraging him to—while he was away on a business trip was probably not the smartest thing I’d ever done. It seemed like a good idea at the time, though. A way to let him know that I felt awful about not wanting to have sex anymore and that I understood he didn’t feel the same way. We put rules in place to make this an entirely safe experiment:
“Don’t have sex with anyone local. Anyone who lives within a two-hour drive is off-limits.”
He nodded his understanding, although the look in his eyes suggested I was speaking Latin.
“Wear a condom.”
“Of course,” he said.
“And be honest when I ask if anything happened while you were away. If I want details, you have to promise not to keep secrets.”
That was really my most important rule since I could accept the love-of-my-life in bed with another woman but I couldn’t stand it when he lied to me. And he had. More than a few times during our fourteen years together.
In a way, giving him permission to have an affair was not only easing my libido-less conscience, it was also protecting our relationship from the fall-out that would inevitably follow if he ever did have a secret affair. And I totally expected he would.
Hell, had I been in his shoes, I’d have cheated on me years ago.
Special thanks to Heather Webb for this blog hop contest. Based on the feedback of the first four ‘hoppers’ I’ve revised the opening 250 words… see if this is more engaging…
First 250 words of Mother Teresa’s Advice for Jilted Lovers
Genre: Women’s fiction/dark humour
I didn’t wake up that morning expecting to kill my boyfriend. In fact, after four months of sharing sheets, I was feeling like James and I might be going somewhere. Somewhere together. As we lay relaxing after making love, I thought we might be transitioning from being casual lovers to officially declaring ourselves ‘a couple.’ It felt far enough to consider, but not quite far enough to talk about. At least, not with James.
He got out of bed to make coffee and connect with head office. I stayed put, not wanting to disrupt my post-sex vibration. I imagined the conversation I’d have later that day with Betsy about my future with James.
“I think we’re getting serious,” I’d tell her.
She’d be skeptical and snarky, “Better you than me,” she’d say.
“He bought me a toothbrush when he replaced his own. Feels like a good sign.”
“Yeah, a big orange caution flag.”
That’s Betsy. She’s not one for love or commitment. We’re like yin and yang that way.
I heard the coffee-maker sputter and James clinking mugs so I got up. His laptop sat on the coffee table open to an exchange with his boss, Sandra. As I dropped to the couch, two words jumped out at me as though they’d been typed in large, bold, red letters—’blow job.’ I looked away and rubbed my eyes. He must mean something about not blowing a job he has to do for Sandra.
I’m not usually one to invest very much thought or any money into Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t dig a good love scene! Today’s post is courtesy another fabulous and fun blog hop from Heather Webb and Between the Sheets. Once you’ve read – and hopefully commented on my short scene – hop over to Heather’s blog and find a few more love scenes to put you in the mood for Valentine’s Day… or night!
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I sat on Connor’s bed and watched him undress to his boxers. It felt surreal. A déjà vu moment, but different. I imagined that this was a normal night for me. For us. That the fifteen years I’d spent with James were just a blip, an affair, an accident. I’d always been meant to be with Connor. Tears filled my eyes.
“Oh, Becka. I’m sorry. You’re not ready. It’s too soon,” Connor said, wrapping his arm around me.
“No. No, that’s not it. I’ve missed you. For years now. And just seeing you again, naked,” I laughed, “reminds me of how great we were and that makes me sad that we gave it up. That I gave it up.” Tears fell.
He took my face in his hands again and kissed me. James had never held my face in all the years we’d been together. James’s kisses had always made me think of that toy we all had as kids, the glass drinking bird that dipped its beak into the water then stood up, then dipped and stood, over and over. James’s kisses were like that, non-committal pecks, three at a time. Peck, peck, peck.
Connor breathed out through his mouth and I breathed him in. Perfect rhythm. If we did it enough times we’d both get light-headed. I opened my eyes to see him looking at me. James never kissed with his eyes open, either. How did I fall in love with James? Why did I give up Connor?
“Becka, you’re crying again? Are you thinking of James? Should we stop?”
“I’m sorry. I am thinking of him, but not like I’m missing him. I’d forgotten how a kiss was supposed to feel. I’m crying because I’m happy to be reminded. I love you, Connor.”
“And I love you, too. But you know, Becka, that it’s not the kind of love that will replace James, right?”
*** *** ***
Now hop on over to Between the Sheets and immerse yourself in more love!
I hit the 50,000 word mark three days ago and am an official NaNoWriMo 2012 Winner. Yay, me! But the story isn’t done so neither am I. Still writing. Almost at 55,000 words as of this afternoon. I’m thinking another 1,000 will complete the first draft of this manuscript.
And then–how many months of revising and letting the story sit in a drawer and editing and letting it sit again and revising? I hope not as many as Drinking Scotch with Strangers took. Sixty months seems like far too long for one silly story.
I’ll be looking for readers for Mother Teresa’s Advice for Jilted Lovers in the next month or so, people who will give me honest and critical feedback. People who are willing to hurt my feelings if needed. Takers?
A few days ago I donated $25 to NaNoWriMo and in return was given a 30 minute Powerpoint lesson about the Seven Act Structure by StoryWonk. It. Was. Exceptional. What I learned? That the 40,000 plus words I’d written were doing well per the “rules” of a good story. Hooray! Just one small challenge to fix: I needed to figure out how to add about 10,000 words to the start of the story, between my INCITING INCIDENT
I didn’t wake up that morning with a mind to kill my boyfriend
and the ACCEPTANCE OF TROUBLE
And that’s when we had our a-ha moment. That’s when we realized that I have a gift and if I could learn how to communicate directly with my spirits, I could use this power to help other women get themselves out of dead-end relationships and break free from good-for-nothing men.
Basically, I’d written the whole story exactly the way a well-structured story is told — but I’d left out 90% of Act One. Hm. Days of struggling. Of writing notes by hand, hoping to find that magic creativity people say comes from putting pen to paper as opposed to fingertips to keyboard. Of asking my brother to give me ideas. Desperate times, desperate measures…
Then, a serendipitous synchronicity. I got a message from a man I’d known in high school whom I hadn’t heard from in…almost thirty years. He wrote something that made me think, That’s the man my main protag would fall in love with! And, today I wrote over 5,000 words. Fun words. Useful words. Plot-rich words. Words perfect for Act One. Hooray!
Word count at the end of today: 46,269. NaNo target is 50,000 words by November 30. My personal target is closer to 55,000 words and a finished story. And I’ll do it! Thank you Glenn Harris, Massey Vanier grad 1982!
Well on my way to becoming a 2012 WriMo winner, with over to 20,000 words already written!
Here’s a scene from one of the clients Mother Teresa helps, but not the way she’d expected. This is a turning point in the story. One of the many bad things that happens to our protags, Tara and Betsy. Poor Tara and Betsy, they’re not having an easy go of this new business!
One caveat: this is a first draft. Most writers don’t share first drafts since they’re not the best draft. I don’t have time to edit since my goal is to get 50,000 words written in one month. Here you go!
Home of Pamela Talbot & Pete Whiteley
The maitre d’ walked Pamela and Pete to a table for two at the back of the restaurant, feeling the ominous weight of knowing that the night would not end well. It was Saturday and the busiest shift of the week. He didn’t have time to deal with challenging customers and, as he smiled and pulled out Pamela’s chair, wondered if they might leave and never come back if he ‘accidentally’ pulled the chair away from her descending backside rather than catch her in it. He wondered, but didn’t act. And he hated himself for it.
The waitress serving the back table scowled at the maitre d’ then stormed into the kitchen, slamming the two way doors against the counter where the prep cook was chopping onions.
“Hey! Relax. It’s just a door. What did it ever do to you?” he joked.
“They’re back,” Kvetoslava said though clenched teeth.
The prep cook poked his head around the corner. His shoulders and his smile dropped when he saw Pete.
“You should have called in sick,” he said.
Kvetoslava stared at the closed doors and yelled, “Oyobuk! I can’t serve him. I won’t”
The Maitre d’ entered. He looked down at her and said quietly, “It is your job to serve all customers.”
“Why do you always put him in my section? You hate me?”
“He asked for you again,” he replied smiling, “Be nice.”
The sommelier popped his head into the kitchen and frowned, “He’s already been drinking. Good luck.”
Continue reading NaNo Update, Day Nine
Perhaps I’ll share the process that took me from the idea I explained in my previous post for this year’s NaNoWriMo effort to my current work-in-progress at a later date. Needless to say, since it’s November and I have 30 precious days in which to write 50,000 words towards my next novel, that story will have to wait.
For now, if you care to see where the muse has taken me so far on this adventure, you can follow along here: Mother Teresa’s Advice for Jilted Lovers. The first chapter has been posted. If I feel the work continues to be not-too-embarrassing to post, I’ll share more.
Yesterday I was frustrated. National Novel Writing Month, lovingly known as NaNoWriMo starts in three weeks. I want to participate, but I can’t come up with a good idea. I tried (and failed) to write 50,000 words of a novel in 2006. That manuscript, originally called My LavaLife: A Year of Drinking Scotch with Strangers, has been through several iterations over the last six years and is this close to being ready to submit… somewhere. An agent? A traditional publisher? An e-book publisher? The archived files of this old laptop?
The story started as a pretty straight-up account of how I lost my mind in the first twelve months after my husband unexpectedly left me for another woman. Draft One was a harsh and angry story. It had lots of humourous moments but overall it was dark. And, it was long. Over 110,000 autobiographical words, written in the third-person.
Draft Two, only 105,000 words, softened a little and, having been revised in 2011, five years after the inciting incident, was less emotionally charged. I decided it would be fun to write the story in the first-person. I also started to see where it would be interesting (and legally wise) to fictionalize aspects of the story. I called it creative-nonfiction.
Draft Three was undertaken under the tutelage of a published author. She read the first 25,000 words of Draft Two, handed it back and told me to eliminate 20,000 words. I did. She made fabulous suggestions to improve the story—like leave the bedroom door open so readers could see how the main character’s dates ended—and, she told me to cut another 10,000 words.
Draft Four felt strong. The bedroom door was open. The story was tight. I renamed the manuscript a much simpler, Drinking Scotch with Strangers. It was now a fiction-based-loosely-on-a-true-story since my editor’s notes on the third draft clearly showed that my most engaging writing was when I was making s#it up. But she had one important question for me to address: Decide if your book is a novel or a collection of short stories connected by the main character and the theme of dating. If the former, she said, clean up the typos and you’re done. But, I wanted to write a novel so …
Draft Five took a most unexpected turn. I basically started with a blank page, working with many of the personalities of the characters I’d created, but reducing the number of men in the story from twenty to three and blending the main character’s two female friends into one antagonist. By the end of that edit I had 55,000 words that were one hundred percent fiction and written in a genre I had no experience reading, let alone writing: erotic romance. How did my sad and angry autobiography become so hot?
And what the heck would I do with a manuscript that I’d invested six years of thinking, countless hours of writing, and thousands of dollars of mentorship on, but, that I’d not want my mother or work colleagues to associate with my creative mind?
That’s what I was thinking about yesterday night as I pondered starting a new NaNoWriMo project. That and, “AJ Jacobs is a year younger than I am and infinitely cooler. I want to be like AJ Jacobs.” Those are the thoughts I was thinking when I posted this request to my Facebook Author page:
I’m looking for a 30 day project that I can write about each day. Some activity I can do every day for 30 days that I will learn from or change in doing. A journey kind of theme. Since I don’t need to lose weight, or quit smoking or drinking, the easy ideas are not applicable.
AJ Jacobs-inspired (he read the Old Testament and lived biblically for a year, he read the entire encyclopedia in a year, and was a guinea pig for a year), but shorter.
Before shutting down for bed I’d received a dozen suggestions. Several more came in today. Continue reading NaNoWriMo 2012 – The (Rebel) Idea
I have the great pleasure and honour of writing stories for the Vancouver Foundation’s magazine from time-to-time. I have another in the Spring 2012 issue called, Growing Trust. Like all stories I do for the Vancouver Foundation, the people I interview as story subjects always leave me in awe of the amazing generosity and kindness that exists in our community.
Here are the first few paragraphs of Growing Trust.
Every year approximately 2,000 temporary farm workers from Mexico come to the Fraser Valley on a government work program. Most of us never see these men, working on tree farms, in nurseries and greenhouses, and in fields far from the main roads. But they are out there, sunrise to sunset, planting, weeding and picking crops like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.
These temporary workers play a vital yet invisible role in providing us with affordable berries all summer long at our local grocery stores. Their tremendous contribution to the local food system entitles these workers to basic health care services. But ‘being entitled’ and ‘having access’ to health care are two very different things.
Two obstacles stand in the way of these Mexican farm workers accessing basic health care when they need it. First, the distance they work and live from medical clinics, on rural roads without public transportation, requires taking an unpaid, half-day away from work to reach a clinic during regular hours. (Something none of them want to do.) And second, a cultural and language barrier that makes it next-to-impossible to communicate their health concerns to local doctors.
Read the rest of Growing Trust in the Vancouver Foundation magazine.
Looking forward to getting feedback on the following query letter. This blog hop is sponsored by the fabulous Heather Webb and her blog Between the Sheets: A Novelist’s Adventures.
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Becka Black is an ambitious and successful, 39-year-old filmmaker, with a stable life and a happy marriage — until her husband of 14 years returns home from a business trip and announces that he’s had an affair and fallen in love with the other woman. In the weeks that follow, Becka loses more than her husband; she loses her mind.
Grief-stricken, but singularly-focused on not being single past 40, Becka signs up with an online dating site just days after her husband moves out. Thus begins her hilarious and heart-wrenching year of DRINKING SCOTCH WITH STRANGERS (80,000 words).
With Becka’s judgment just a little off, she can’t see the dogs for the fleas. She dates a cross-dresser who decides he may be gay after sleeping with her, a convict who won’t take his meds, a compulsive liar who only ever calls her ‘Babe,’ a cop with a fetish… in all, twenty-four men who are, for the most part, as emotionally unstable as she is. The result is like watching a train wreck after a car crash after a towering inferno; you want to look away, but you can’t. And you just can’t decide if you want to give Becka a good, hard slap or long, hard hug.
Donna Barker has been a professional writer and communications consultant since 1992. Her stories have been published in a dozen publications. In university, she wrote and edited the award-winning mockumentary, Barker. DRINKING SCOTCH WITH STRANGERS, completed 22 years later, is Barker’s all-grown-up, fictionalized memoir about the year she spent after her marriage unexpectedly imploded and she, blind to reason and deaf to good advice, set out to find a replacement life partner within twelve months.