Tag Archives: FELL

Say what’cha need to say (tension, part one)

Do you ever notice our conversations? Real life, normal conversations?

We don’t push buttons. We play nice and say good things and generally avoid conflict. At least I do. I really don’t like tension-filled conversations — they make my palms sweaty and they twist up my tongue.

In novels, however, conversations have to snap with tension. There’s no other way. Characters can’t talk about the weather or ramble about their days; they must say things that make other people uncomfortable or angry, they must bare their souls (or hide their souls), argue and gossip and lie.

Take, for example, this excerpt from FELL. Birch, having just gotten on the bus, sees Harley, this kid who doesn’t seem to have a home and also always appears on her bus routes. She sits down next to him. The scene doesn’t have much momentum yet, and it makes total sense for Birch and Harley to say hello. I mean, I would say hello. But “hello” doesn’t establish tension, start things off with a bang, or make me want to read (or write) any further. Instead:

“You’re early,” he says.

“Do you have my schedule memorized?” I choose not to be creeped out by it.

“It’s an easy schedule.” He rolls his head to one side so we’re almost nose to nose. He looks exhausted, shivery. His hair’s greasier and his eyes are darker, sadder, smudged with circles.

“Were you waiting for me?”

Now that is interesting (I hope). When your characters say unexpected things, push buttons, and dive into taboo subjects, your readers will get glued to your scenes.

But don’t try this at home — save it for the books.

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Teaser Tuesday

Drumroll, please.

Here is the much anticipated, completely unedited, possibly horrible opening to FELL.

I see him again on the northbound 17 express: rush hour traffic and nowhere to sit, rain spattering the windshield, and that boy standing in the aisle ahead of me, pretending to read Steinbeck like yesterday but never actually flipping the page.

And it scares me. The day before yesterday, he was just another passenger. Yesterday he was cute, and once I stared back when I caught him looking, fluttered my eyelashes and smiled like a fool. Today, he is terrifying. I don’t know why. I zip my raincoat, five dollars at Goodwill, up to my chin.

He doesn’t normally ride the metro bus. I pick that up right away. Number one, he doesn’t have a bus pass. Number two, he always tries to pay as he enters, even during peak hour when everyone knows to pay on the way out. Number three, he can’t keep his balance.

We stop on Market street. Almost half the bus floods out into the February rain. Shoes squeak, umbrellas pop. I squish to the side of the aisle, half leaning on some poor old lady with a million shopping bags as a bunch of people push past. The second I move, the boy pops out of his Steinbeck. He pretends to drift his gaze toward the side window, toward Ballard blurred by downpour and headlights, but his eyes flick to me. Just once. My heart sends electric shocks through my chest — oh gosh this kid is weird. His eyes are brown, brown to match his hair, which is swoopy and kind of emo. He doesn’t break the stare, and that’s the fourth reason I know Steinbeck’s not used to metro buses. Metro buses have rules: only look people in the eye if you want trouble. Steinbeck is trouble. I feel it in a tingling in the tips of my fingers and a crawling across the back of my neck.

I grip my umbrella, seventy-five cents at Goodwill, ready to use it.

The bus jerks forward and everyone shifts, grabs handholds, sits down. Windshield wipers swish faster as we move into the rain. Like magnets my eyes snap back to Steinbeck. Is he watching my reflection in the window? Or only watching the flickers of night between the reflection of my raincoat and the reflection of the passenger behind me?

Birch, I tell myself, shivering, stop being stupid.

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A survey!

It’s lovely and sunny outside, and I have about five million things to do since I didn’t touch a single stack of homework over the holiday weekend. Sounds like a perfect time to ramble through this survey, which the lovely Kristin Otts tagged me to complete. If I don’t get anything done, I blame her 🙂 although I do love surveys so much more than homework. Thanks, Kristin!

1) What’s the last thing you wrote? What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?

THE INBETWEEN was the last thing I completed, but if you want a more technical answer, the last thing I wrote was  about 2,000 words of FELL last night.

The first things I wrote were stories from first and second grade. Those two years, I had two lovely teachers, Ms. Mathis and Ms. Shields, who loved to write and loved to encourage their students to write. I wrote all sorts of stories about my cat Whimsey, and my family’s vacations, and horses (I was obsessed with horses). They’re all laminated and bound and certified by the words “Room 5/6 Publishing”… and in bookcases back home.

2) Write poetry?

Once upon a time, when I was an angsty high school student…

3) Angsty poetry?

Oh yes. Who hasn’t written angsty poetry? (If only for the sole purpose of later laughter…)

4) Favorite genre of writing?

I love mysteries. Love, love, love.

5) Most annoying character you’ve ever created?

Possibly this guy named Tad, who appeared in THE THRILL SEEKERS as a nerdy, annoying (ANNOYING!) and unwanted sidekick for the main characters.

6) Best plot you’ve ever created?

I suppose TIB…

7) Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?

If I told you, it would no longer be a twist.

8 ) How often do you get writer’s block?

I don’t think I believe in writer’s block — yes, I am one of those people. I don’t know what I believe, because sometimes my stories stop short, but I think that’s because of the internet and/or my own distracting life…

9) Write fan fiction?

Never.

10) Do you type or write by hand?

Type.

I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts; plus I’m one of those neat-freak people who has to make everything they hand-write, including lecture notes, look PERFECT. Too much pressure… so I revert to the computer, where all typed letters look perfect without effort.

11) Do you save everything you write?

Yes, even scribbled things on sticky notes. Check out my closet back home — it houses a *neat* stack of papers from as far back as the first novel I wrote.

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you’ve abandoned it?

I incorporate abandoned ideas into new ideas, but no, I’ve never completely gone back to an abandoned idea.

13) What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

THE INBETWEEN.

14) What’s everyone else’s favorite story you’ve written?

Same.

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

TIB could classify as both…

16) What’s your favorite setting for your characters?

Morrow, the setting of TIB, is misty and woodsy and beachy — and (I think) quite creepy. It used to be my favorite until FELL came along. Now I love the Seattle of that world … full of traffic, sirens, and rainy nights and streetlights.

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Only one — FELL.

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Well… no.

OH just kidding, I totally did. I won the Creative Writing award my senior year of high school, and I will always remember what my teacher said as she presented the award: that I had “delicate genius”. I’ve never been quite sure what that meant, but I think it sounds cool.

19) What are your five favorite words?

Rain, tumble, green, squish, love.

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?

I think Chloe, Sophie’s sidekick and sometimes-best-friend from TIB, sounds the most like me, although we don’t share too many personal similarities. I guess I’d have to say Birch from FELL if only because she and I share the whole fire-nightmare connection.

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?

People around me.

(Yes, people around me, be afraid — but not too afraid, because you’ll only end up as a minor character with a changed name and changed hair color. Major characters just ARE the way they are.)

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?

Not usually. Most of the time I write based on reality — TIB has a few little conversations/interactions that my friends see and go, “hey, didn’t that happen to us?”

But FELL will have several of my fire nightmares.

23) Do you favor happy endings?

I’m not sure how to answer this question. I favor them in books I read, but not necessarily books I write. Books I write must end the right way (the way that grows, changes, and challenges its characters), and that is not always the happy way.

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Yes, especially when my mistakes are underlined with red and green squiggles. I can’t stand red and green squiggles.

25) Does music help you write?

Sometimes. I have playlists for TIB and FELL (although FELL’s only has one song so far). But I like quiet, too — the kind in coffee shops, not libraries.

26) Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops in your head.

I see him again on the northbound 17 express: Rush hour traffic and nowhere to sit, rain spattering the windshield, and that boy standing in the aisle ahead of me, pretending to read Steinbeck like yesterday but never actually flipping the page.

And it scares me. The day before yesterday, he was just another passenger. Yesterday he was cute, and once I stared back when I caught him looking, fluttered my eyelashes and smiled like a fool. Today, he is terrifying. I don’t know why.

~ from FELL

Well, that was fun. Time to write a paper or two. I tag Laurie.

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Teaser Tuesday

After griping for a couple weeks, I’ve settled on a new work-in-progress. I wrote up an outline last week and a pitch paragraph this weekend, so it’s live and official.

Genre: YA urban fantasy
Word count:
almost non-existent at 1,500 words

Why I can’t wait to write this story: it’s set in my lovely Seattle
Which makes me all kinds of excited; I’ve never written a story that’s set in a place that I know, truly know like Seattle. That old adage, “write what you know”? Eh, not so true. Except now.

Why I am terrified: It’s about fire. We Californians know too well the power of fire — I know it more intimately than I ever wanted to. In the aftermath of the wildfires I’ve been through, I’ve avoided writing, thinking, or dwelling on the topic of fire as much as possible. But it’s been months now since the last fire and I want to tease out my thoughts through fiction. The idea makes my palms sweaty — but I’m going to go through with it. See, fire has two parts: the horrifying red and orange part that destroys and damages — and the period afterward, which brings green and gold and new growth and regeneration.

Without further ado, here’s FELL.

After the apartment fire, Birch sees and smells smoke everywhere — until Harley starts riding her city bus route. He’s more country hick than she is city girl, a mystery boy with nowhere to stay whose presence somehow banishes her recurring fire dreams. As his self-appointed tour-guide, Birch lets him into her city — and into her ashy memories. But Harley’s running from his own fiery past. He’s more country than boy, more wild than human. And the inhuman creatures stalking him through the city threaten to consume Birch, too. If she lets Harley go, the fire dreams come back. But if she lets herself fall for this boy with a thousand secrets, her future might go up in flames with his.

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