Thursday, July 12, 2012

Public Humiliation 101

Good morning! Ruthy here and some of you already know what we're doing today!

We're doing a writer's exercise.

Man, I love these things. Some folks call 'em story starters. Whatever name you choose, it's just plain fun and a great exercise to let your imagination and writing skills wander at will. If you're unfamiliar with this technique, let me 'splain:

I give you a story opening.

You read it and add a few paragraphs to it, going in any "PG" direction you choose.

I then (as time allows) critique it and embarrass you in a public forum.

See???? I told you it would be fun! As long as you're pre-medicated, that is!

Why would I do this? you ask.

1. You want to improve your writing.

2. You've been dying to see if I really do butcher other people's work for the sheer pleasure of it. The answer is:  YES.  But jump in anyway because I'm nicer to folks I don't know, trying to give them a sense of false security. Then when the other shoe drops, they wring their hands and say, "But she's really nice inside!"

3. Mary Connealy called you and said to come here today so I don't look like a low-life know-nothing if no one shows up. And she paid you because that's what good friends do.

4. You've been lurking for months and you realize we don't bite, we actually have a clue, and we're free. Seriously, I'm totally all over anything that's got a 20% off sticker. FREE???? Yi yi yi.....I'm on that page times 10.

Some of you have already visited the story starter page at RUTHY'S PLACE. If you have, you can either e-mail me with your additions at ruthy (at) ruthloganherne (dot) com, or post them in a comment!

If you haven't, I'm posting it below so you can copy and paste from here, drop it into a "Word" file, and add on...

I love brainstorming. Not everyone does, but I do. I love throwing out creative ideas. It's literally binge feeding for writers, casting ideas upon the waters.

It's amazing what grains of future story genius are spawned at sessions like this!

So here are your opening paragraphs:


Her feet refused to move. The old mansion gazed back at her, challenging her to step forward.

She couldn't. Maybe wouldn't. In any case, she'd been wrong to come here, wrong to think anything had changed, wrong to imagine anything but heartache behind those doors. She turned, willing her feet to obey, but the sound of a door latch paused her.

The house was empty. Wasn't it? Unless the letter writer had been mistaken, unless...

She turned back, not wanting to see, but needing to know. And the moment she did, she recognized her undoing.


Now it's your turn! Add a couple of paragraphs and let's play! I'll try to opine on as many as possible (yes, it is all right to run, hide, duck your head or otherwise beg mercy and avoid your computer for the rest of the day...Pseudonyms are encouraged because NOTHING EVER REALLY DISAPPEARS FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB!!!) and the reason for that disclaimer is because I opine way too much. It's a sickness, really. Someone should start a foundation to help me. With money, of course. And a lifetime supply of Ghirardelli chocolate.
Hey, coffee's on, there's a mountain of summertime chill food hangin' out inside. Come in, sit down, and set a spell. 
And be afraid.... Be very afraid....  ;)

125 comments :

  1. The mansion saw the woman approach. The time had come.

    Evil emanated from every crevice. A silent scream escaped from the monster with no mouth.

    An arsonist. A witch. A home wrecker. One of the twisted sisters. Her very existence -- a blasphemy.

    Ha, ha, ha.

    So it is now that you have come just as your sister came before you.

    You think me empty? A hollow shell? Nothing but kindling wood?

    Not at all.

    I run a full house. My hunger has absorbed all the souls who have crossed my threshold. I fear no evil yet evil fears me.

    There was no letter writer. You read the words hidden behind your eyes. There was no latch either. What you heard was your own guilt.

    Ha, ha, ha.

    Ah, you hesitate -- but you’ll enter anyway. You are too stupid to live.

    Who will save you?

    I am the hero of this story.

    A thousand heroes in a thousand ships stand ready to come to my aid. No pretty face will deter them.

    Your craft may be love but Lovecraft is mine.

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  2. Im afraid, very afraid only issue is Im not sure what Im afraid of!!!!! this looks interesting for an innocent reading bystander.

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  3. Alright, Vince has opened, and he personified the house, and with a Lovecraft referencre at the end. The bar is already high. Will need to sleep on it.

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  4. How apropos for Vince to lead us into battle.

    BTW I like that green at the end of the post. How did you doooooo that??

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  5. Oh, man. I saw this last week and totally forgot about it. And now it's here! Like one of those really bad school dreams where you show up to the test and realize you're naked and haven't studied.


    Give me a bit.

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  6. Here is my entry into the challenge. It is very gothic because a starter like that just begs for it.
    He stood there on the porch and she knew that the letter must have been written by him. It was just like him to deceive her as he always had. Her mind flew back to the time long ago when Millwood House had been inhabited by living people though they had not even then been happy. It was said even then that the house was haunted and now no villager set foot on the property without fear for their lives.
    Now the breeze which had seemed so inviting as it wafted through the lilac leaden trees felt like a cold and wintery blast. It was not Charles Grey’s ghost that stared back at her for he was not dead. And only dead people haunted houses didn’t they?
    “So you came back, Elaine? I knew you would. This house always draws its unwilling victims back to be tormented anew.”
    She stood for a moment, the blood drain from her head, feeling the dizzy pangs of regret seize her. At this very spot so many years ago she had seen Eleanor die. What morbid curiosity had brought her to Millwood when it was about to be sold, though no one was likely to buy it?
    The secrets that had so long lain dormant in its dark forbidding walls, living only in the hearts of those that had hid them, rushed back like bats in an old cave. The whispering pines might have told the tale to the entire surrounding town if they had understood the language. But now only the two that faced each other knew the reason Millwood house had lain deserted twenty years.
    “I came back because I wanted to see it one last time before it is sold. It will not sell for a good price but a newcomer will buy it and will desecrate Millwood’s quiet sleep with attempts to modernize.”
    “You came back because I am here. I knew that you would when I sent it. I knew that even though you didn’t know the sender you would come. You are fated to it, Elaine.”
    llmarmalade@yahoo.com

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  7. Ok, so she’s looking at the house?

    There it was, clear as day, in the corner of her eye. The house loomed dark and heavy, bulges and spikes where the gargoyles perched and statues of ancient saints stood watch. Her gaze flicked to the house and it settled into the bland, late-century building it had been before. Turning half-way and staring into the middle distance, the castle emerged once more, hazily visible. If she stood very still, she could even see movement. Bustling servants, an oak tree of to the side, swaying in the wind.
    She felt a stab of pure triumph. The deal with herself had been this: If everything was as it should be, then she’d go to the stupid senior prom tonight. She’d wear the silver sheath dress her foster mother had bought her, the one that was cut to the navel and paired with 3-inch heels. She’d arch her back and pose for pictures, arms around the blue-haired boy with the pierced tongue who never removed his ipod ear buds. Her foster father would grunt out a goodbye as he stared at his smartphone and she would feel happy to be so loved because it wasn’t every day the county could place such a difficult child, an older child with a complicated history. The papers had printed pictures of her 8 year old self, long dress and lace up boots.
    Evidence of psychological abuse, emotionally distant, clings to fantasy life. Abandoned.

    She’d known that was a lie. Known it in the way she could feel them searching for her, grieving for her, as if she was holding the end of a string that was being tugged from very far away.
    Raised in repressive environment, restricted from normal interactions.

    But she’d known so many people, traveled and learned and had friends. That didn’t count. At eight, she was new to tropical fruit in mid-winter, to illumination at the flick of a switch, to cars, to reality Tv shows with beautiful people who did nothing important and said nothing worth hearing. But that didn’t matter now.

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  8. She shivered in her red down parka and stuffed her hands in her skinny jeans to keep them from trembling. Whatever happened next, one thing was for sure. She was going home.


    Sorry, the last part got cut and a few of those lines should be italicized.


    BE GENTLE, RUTHY!!!!!!

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  9. There, lying on the doorstep was a box. But not just any box. She recognised this box, worshiped it, idolised it. Genuine Ghirardelli squares. The best kind of chocolate.

    But what were they doing on the doorstep of this house?

    ***

    Have to stop here, otherwise I’m going to dissolve into a fit of adverbs. And it might not be PG rated if she finds Hershey's kisses in the box...

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  10. Hi!

    It's not long what I've got here and I'm not too good with Gothic type stuff but I got 1 paragraph for you:

    Turning fully, she faced the house and began walking; each step closer echoed her uncertain thoughts. The house remained silent but the need to know kept her moving forward. Afternoon sunlight soaked the house in a youthful glow. One could almost imagine it newly built, full of promise and dreams. Looks can be deceiving though and in this light it was easy to forget the ghosts that remained inside.

    jessicarwakefield(at)gmail(dot)com

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  11. Hmm..Blogger ate my first attempt, Vince. Dadgum it, Blogger. Talk about an ENTITY!!!

    Vince, I LOVE THIS!!!! Thank you so much for staying up late to be first. You rock, Dude!!!!

    So, there's very little I'd change here. But they're important changes. First off, I'd change "The mansion" to "It". Make it an undefined entity, allow space for the reader to sense and feel the evil, but no reason to let them know the house itself is EVIL... Let them think whatever, keep an increasing air of mystery working... And drop "the woman" and make it "her" because he has a history with her. So we want to know he recognizes her right off, and is ready to devour an old foe. And you can build here, right at this juncture:

    "It saw her approach. The time had come. Evil swirled, anticipatory abandon, pent energy released in salivating anticipation. Food. He'd waited a long time for another meal, but this particular morsel?

    More satisfying than most.

    And then go to "A silent scream..." and on.

    I'd give the entity/house and old voice, I think. Like changing "Nothing but kindling wood" to something like: "Naught but wood?"

    Vince, I love that you gave me chills of fun with this! Wonderful! I'm grinning in upstate!

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  12. Jenny, this should be fun!

    Come back and see what we've done, sweet thing!

    Walt, sleep... think poppies.... :) And yeah, Vince has set a high bar but I have no doubt that our peeps are ready to rumble!

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  13. Teenster, the green bar crept in from Ruthy's Place. It came along when I copied and pasted the opening paragraphs to Seekerville.

    Kinda cute, huh? If I TRIED to do that again, I would surely flub it.

    Totally.

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  14. will keep checking back I now know what I am afraid of! Went to the dr today and she told me I have to drink almost 3 times what I am a day. I am afraid if you prick me I will leak!
    Off to bed to fast (blood tests in the morning) will check out comments in the morning.

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  15. Amazing how different everyone's snippet is -- and all coming from the same starter. Here's mine:

    He stood in the open doorway and beckoned her inside. She hated the way he turned, leaving the door ajar as if he knew that she would blindly follow him. Hated it more that she did exactly that.

    She advanced slowly, seeking a moment to steady her nerves so that she could hear above the discordant cacophony of her racing heart. The hallway was empty by the time her shaky steps brought her into the house. But that was okay, she knew where to find him.

    The study hadn’t changed since she was a child. The same pictures lined the walls, the same faded curtains slouched against the windowpanes and the same mammoth desk dwarfed everything else in the room – just like the man sitting behind it. He looked positively viperous, ready to strike the second she stepped over the threshold into his domain.

    She knew a moment of panic. The hollowed-out-stomach-kind which set her limbs to quaking and her heart to thundering but she fought it back the way she’d never been able to all those years ago, choosing to face him dead on with a piercing look of her own.

    He’d lost his power over her – he just didn’t know it yet.

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  16. I am afraid so I am hiding in the Library of Congress for the day with nothing but my smartphone. Man O has the laptop!

    But I am looking forward to learning from everyone.

    Peace, Julie

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  17. I am afraid so I am hiding in the Library of Congress for the day with nothing but my smartphone. Man O has the laptop!

    But I am looking forward to learning from everyone.

    Peace, Julie

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  18. How about the tortured one-sided love angle?


    “So that’s it. You’re just going to leave without saying goodbye?” Jake’s gravelly voice broke under the strain of emotion and Lily felt a momentary pang of regret. It was better this way…wasn’t it?

    “You aren’t supposed to be here.” She allowed herself the luxury of taking a few steps closer to the man she’d resolved to never work for again. A resolution she made with more regularity than any other over the years, but this time she meant it with every fiber of her being.

    “Actually, you weren’t supposed to know I would be here.” Jake launched down the porch steps in two bounds, setting gravel spraying as he landed in front of her. “I knew it was the only way you’d come.”

    “You set me up!”

    Dimpled grooves accompanied the crooked smile she knew so well. Quickly lowering her gaze, she stared at the unpaved path at her feet. Number 10 on the meticulous list she had made up for Jake when he’d been her boss and she’d been – what? Employee? Friend? Something more? But no, that was her fantasy, not his.

    “Look at me Lil.”

    “There’s no reason…”

    “If you’re bent on saying goodbye than at least have the decency to say it to my face.”

    Lily grimaced at the steel edge to his voice and risked a peek. What could one last look matter? It wasn’t like she hadn’t already memorized every chiseled feature. From square jaw to crooked nose to the laugh lines that framed the kindest eyes she’d ever seen.

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  19. Oh Ruthy, This is too fun. I'm loving all the responses.

    You folks know I won't try though. I absolutely already know the feel of Ruthy's knife. aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

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  20. HOLY COW, RUTHY, WHAT A CHALLENGE!! I'm hiding out with Julie H.S. because we Julies have cold chills ... not just over all the gothic, goosebump stuff but my brain's not sharp enough to take anybody on this morning, and the samples so far are just TOO DARN GOOD!! Kinda of like I quit playing Scrabble with my kids when they could beat me ... very sad!

    Seriously, I can't believe how FAB the excerpts are so far, truly. Of course, when you kick off with Vince Mile-High-Bar Mooney, the stakes are WAY too high for moi, even with caffeine!!

    YIKES ... Vince, LMARMALADE AND VIRGINIA gave me chills and NO WAY would I have step foot in that house, and YES, I'll admit it -- I'm a big baby!!

    Thank God IOLA relieved the tension by making me laugh -- BLESS YOU, IOLA!!

    WOW, JESS ... one paragraph and yet you had me, girl!!

    And, KAV??? HOLY FREAKIN' COW -- both samples were AWESOME, but oh girl, the romantic one reeled me in and sat me down, sweetie, giving me a thirst for more that even QT's Black Mango tea couldn't quench!!!

    I gotta tell you Ruthy -- sooo much good writing is not good for a critter's ego, so you're a better woman than me. But then we knew that, right???

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  21. For Ms. Marmalade!!!


    Here is my entry into the challenge. It is very gothic because a starter like that just begs for it.

    I love that you went Gothic with this!!!! That’s a cool take on it! And you love Rilla of Ingleside, my favorite Anne of Green Gables book after the original. I just loved Rilla-my-Rilla!

    Okay, I’m shortening you up somewhat for a more immediate feel to her thoughts. And his. Do not hate me for it. If Mary Connealy survived my critiques and became a world-famous author, anyone can, right? With the proper medication, of course! ;)

    He stood there on the porch and she knew that the letter must have been written by him.

    I would change that to something immediate like: “He wrote the letter.” (I’m keeping this short and clipped, imagining her thought process.)

    It was just like him to deceive her as he always had.

    Ruthy note: I would alter that to something self-scolding, showing she knew better… and yet, still came. “Why had she imagined otherwise?”

    Her mind flew back to the time long ago when Millwood House had been inhabited by living people though they had not even then been happy. It was said even then that the house was haunted and now no villager set foot on the property without fear for their lives.

    Ruthy note: Now, this is setting the stage with backstory, but I don’t want too much backstory here. You’ve grabbed the reader. Now you want to hang onto them, right? I’d go right to the chill wind and dialogue.

    Now the breeze which had seemed so inviting as it wafted through the lilac leaden trees felt like a cold and wintery blast.

    Ruthy note: A chill wind swirled ‘round her, cold and wintry despite the lilac-scented spring day

    It was not Charles Grey’s ghost that stared back at her for he was not dead. And only dead people haunted houses didn’t they?

    I’d add a succinct: “Not always.”

    See next comment because I talk too much, LOL!

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  22. “So you came back, Elaine? I knew you would. This house always draws its unwilling victims back to be tormented anew.”

    Ruthy note: I’d lose “unwilling”.

    She stood for a moment, the blood drain from her head, feeling the dizzy pangs of regret seize her.

    Ruthy note: I’d shorten this sentence. “Dizzy pangs of regret seized her.” That’s really all you need here, the reader will get it. They’ll feeeeeel it.

    At this very spot so many years ago she had seen Eleanor die. What morbid curiosity had brought her to Millwood when it was about to be sold, though no one was likely to buy it?

    Ruthy note: Again, I’d shorten. Tighten. “At this very spot she’d seen Eleanor die. What morbid curiosity brought her back when it was about to be sold? Was she the mad one in this dance of good and evil?”

    I added that last sentence to create self-doubt.

    The secrets that had so long lain dormant in its dark forbidding walls,

    Ruthy note: Tightening prose is one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned because it accentuates timing, mood and pacing. “Dormant secrets rushed forth from dark, forbidding walls, like bats in an old cave."

    living only in the hearts of those that had hid them, rushed back like bats in an old cave. The whispering pines might have told the tale to the entire surrounding town if they had understood the language. But now only the two that faced each other knew the reason Millwood house had lain deserted twenty years.

    Ruthy note: I’d delete the pines and this whole thing, etc. A little too poetic for a strong, suspenseful opening I think. Gotta play this suspense mood out and not wax left or right, you know? Stay with the emotions you’ve so nicely created.

    “I came back because I wanted to see it one last time before it sells. It will not sell for a good price but a newcomer will buy it and will desecrate Millwood’s quiet sleep with attempts to modernize.”

    Ruthy note: I came back because I wanted to see it one last time,” she argued. “Maybe needed to see it once more before a newcomer thinks to stir old dust with modernization. Old dust doesn’t re-settle easily, Charles. But you know that as well as I.”

    (Here I’m trying to plant seeds of mystery and suspense and suspicion while letting her rise to his challenge and show her strength.)
    “You came back because I am here. I knew that you would when I sent it. I knew that even though you didn’t know the sender you would come. You are fated to it, Elaine.”

    And if Charles is our dark, brooding Gothic hero, I’d advise going in a direction like this: “You came back because I’m here. Because it is Millwood. And like it or not, our fates intertwine.” He didn’t move but it felt like he stepped forward, encroaching on her space, her spirit, her soul. “You are my destiny. Like it or not.”

    Ms. Marmalade, what a fun job you did on this! Thank you so much for daring to play with me!!!

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  23. This is so fun. I love reading everyone's go of it! Here is mine:


    No one was there.

    Just like before.

    Only flesh and blood can unlatch doors. Not the dead, she reminded herself.

    She touched her jean's pocket to reassure herself the letter was there. That it was real.

    Dr. Kahn's voice penitrated her thoughts. You can't blame your imagination for all the trouble you have coping with reality. It goes much deeper thatn that, Amanda. They never learned who's blood you were covered in when they found you.

    So she'd taken the pills and told everyone at Roseville Institution what they wanted to hear.

    Now she had to prove to herself she wasn't insane. But to do that she had to put herself back into the nightmare. Wide awake.

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  24. Okay, I'm afraid and you're brave! lol

    Hmmmmmm....

    I'm not sure where I'd go with this story yet. There's definitely the romance angle. Her "undoing" could be seeing her ex.
    OOh, IDEA!

    Okay...

    A small head popped out. Dark eyes, round like Ethan's, studied her. A chill scuttled through her body despite the heat of afternoon sunlight.

    "Who are you?" the child asked. His voice lilted with a curious innocence.

    She hugged her body, rubbed her arms. She shouldn't have come. The only answer she had to give was the one that would ruin everything.

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  25. my meager attempt (Mary, you can pay me later *heh*... kidding...)

    A little girl stood on the threshold clinging to a small, dilapidated stuffed dog. The child’s unkempt braids framed a sad, brown-eye dominated face, almost distracting her from the ill-fitting Thrift Store clothing.

    Kat sucked in a shocked breath of recognition. The clothes, the braids, the eyes, the threadbare dog—

    Sweet Mother of…

    She was looking at her childhood self. Tears threatened to form as she focused on the small stuffed animal that had been the most cherished possession of her life. Her heart clenched, reliving the memory of losing Puppy to the hands of a cruel adult. How many years? Kat mourned still.

    The child beckoned and she found it impossible to resist. Kat crossed the threshold before she was aware that she’d moved. Childhood Kat held her hand, gazing up at her with…hope?

    “Help us.”

    “Us?”

    Kat felt the weight of multitudinous eyes, a physical touch, hesitant with an all too familiar fear. She looked about, many more children watching her—silent. She could taste the hope emanating from them.

    “Who are you?” she whispered, her mind telling her she was hallucinating.

    “They are the ones who can yet be saved.” Childhood Kat answered.

    “Saved?”

    “By you. Here—in this house.”

    The letter writer had not been mistaken. The house was empty.

    Apparently waiting for a redemptive future.

    Dare she?

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  26. Her feet refused to move. The old mansion gazed back at her, challenging her to step forward.

    She couldn't. Maybe wouldn't. In any case, she'd been wrong to come here, wrong to think anything had changed, wrong to imagine anything but heartache behind those doors. She turned, willing her feet to obey, but the sound of a door latch paused her.

    The house was empty. Wasn't it? Unless the letter writer had been mistaken, unless...

    She turned back, not wanting to see, but needing to know. And the moment she did, she recognized her undoing.

    Jackson stood in the half-open door behind a rifle that was probably fully loaded. The barrel glowed as black and ominous as his eyes.

    She spread her hands away from her sides in supplication, as she’d never done in their marriage. “Don’t shoot. It’s me.”

    The rifle didn’t move, and neither did Jackson. “I know. I recognized you from the upstairs window.”

    So it had been useless. The new hair, the new clothes, the new car… and the new name. She shouldn’t have come here. She’d known the moment she recognized the handwriting on the envelope, long before Jackson and his rifle told her she still wasn’t welcome.

    “Why are you here?” His voice held the same steel his hands did. And that glare, that legendary Seville glare, remained as powerful a weapon as the gun.

    “I’m sorry. I—”

    “For what?” He kicked the door out of his way, raised the rifle end and took three stomps toward her. “For leaving me, or having the gall to show up here after all this time?”

    Both. “I’m sorry about your mother.”

    Jackson laughed, the harshness of it assaulting her as much as the Alabama heat. “You hated my mother as much as she hated you so I’ll ask you one more time, Reyna. Why are you here?”

    She swallowed and took a backward step toward the safety of the car. If he didn’t already know, this was going to be worse than she thought. “Your mother left me the mansion.”

    Jackson swayed like a falling leaf, all six-foot-two of his lean and rugged frame. “She what?

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  27. I'll come back and play later. Right now I'm giving a test and have to write actual words. Like on my manuscript. But once I'm done... I'll be back.

    You used the Arnold voice. You know you did.

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  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  29. Here’s my entry. What a great story starter you gave, Ruthy!

    The man standing by the door could be none other than Lord Rotham. The outline of his face was shrouded by darkness, but her heart recognized him in a way impossible to ignore.

    She gazed up at the mansion. At him. A few steps and she could face him, not as servant and employer, but as equals. This time she could look into his eyes and tell him she had never forgiven, never forgotten that day two years ago. This time she could hope to see something more than derision in those cold blue depths that had captured her heart on that long ago day. How wrong she’d been then. How wrong she was now.

    Something in her couldn’t take those steps.

    She turned slowly away, swallowing past the unexpected lump forming in her throat. She hadn’t expected this. She’d come here to tell him she’d put him and her former life her behind her. To tell him she was engaged and would soon be his social equal. To tell him the girl he’d known had vanished, like the mist over the moors.

    Still, a single tear slid down her cheek as she squared her shoulders and began the long walk down the avenue.

    “Elisabeth?”

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  30. Thank you for the great idea! Here's my writing:

    Matthew stood behind the door, unmoving, as if he had been waiting for years. His black hair was neatly gelled back. He still wore a suit and tie, even though he had gotten out of work hours ago. Most of all, Matthew’s bright green eyes seemed to penetrate her. The same eyes she had gazed into for years, lovingly. The same eyes that had broken her heart, and were likely to break it again.

    She set her valise down on the ground and glared at Matthew. “Why would you trick me? Why did you send me a false letter?”

    “I needed you to come back.” His voice was so calm, and charming. “We had an agreement, remember?”

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  31. Thanks for a very creative day in Seekerville, Ruthy!

    Unfortunately, I've got a tight schedule this AM and will spend the afternoon at Panera's with my critique partner.

    Waving to Carol M, another Panera's writer. :)

    I'll stop back later to see how everyone is doing.

    Hugs!

    BTW, it's a fall day in GA. What gives? Not that I'm complaining about a break from the heat.

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  32. What fun! Ruthy, you have your hands full commenting on all these clever and fascinating snippets!

    But I'm with the Julies, slinking off to my writing cave and staying out of the fray. My brain is too consumed with my wip these days to venture off into such tempting territory!

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  33. I'd have to start of course by editing your starter.

    That's okay right? If we edit YOU???

    The old mansion gazed at her as wind whipped though the trees howling like a tormented soul.
    "Come in."

    Sarah jumped and looked around but there was no one. The house or the wind or her tortured memories lured her forward.

    She'd been wrong to come here. It wasn't too late to leave even yet, but her feet moved forward seemingly with a will of their own. She stopped at the door.
    The knob turned. If she wouldn't open the door it would open itself.

    And she'd been told the house was empty. The letter she'd received had been clear.

    The door slowly swung inward. The hinges squealed like invading rats. A woman stepped forward into the black rectangle of the open door.

    A woman dressed in flowing white who looked exactly like her.

    Except for the gun in her hand.

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  34. This is fun.
    Note how I've set up the opportunity to shoot someone?
    I try and always do that.

    LOL

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  35. SARA! Lord Rotham! I love regency! SWEET.

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  36. Taking a deep breath, I submit:

    A nightmare stared at her from the doorway, a lazy grin on its face. Not an it, him. Clay Williamson. Her worst nightmare.

    Feet now firmly cemented to the soil, she stood speechless for what felt like eternity. He gazed at her, then ambled forward, the silly smile on his face widening with every step.

    Turn and run. That’s what she needed to do, but that didn’t seem as though it was going to happen, not with feet like cinder blocks.

    He walked right up to her, his over six-foot frame towering above her and blocking what little sunlight peered from behind grayish clouds. The wind wrapped around her, chilling her body. She shivered. A storm was brewing, but it had nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with the jumble of emotions tossing about inside her.

    “Well, well, well. Lacey Carr. Thought I’d never lay eyes on you again.”

    She swallowed, stealing the extra seconds to muster up what little fortitude she could find. “And you wouldn’t have if it were up to me. What are you doing here, Clay?”

    “I live here.”

    Of course he did. No way he would have ever left the sleepy town with its haunting charm and buried secrets. The Williamson family owned half the place and coveted the rest.

    “No, I mean here, as in at this house. My house.”

    He took a step backward, twisting his body slightly toward the hulking structure behind him and said, “I live here. This is my home.”

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  37. I'm reading these entries and loving them.

    RUTHY YOU BE NICE!!!!!!!

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  38. thank you Mary.

    i don't know enough to know how scared i should be. *heh*

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  39. p.s. i already see thing i should fix

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  40. I want to play so badly, but just don't have time today.

    This IS a spectator sport, right? I have my lawn chair and iced tea.

    and I brought a cooler of Gatorade for after the game...

    ReplyDelete
  41. What an awesome bunch of talented people here!

    Kav, both your entries are fabulous! Make them into books - I'll buy them!

    LOL.

    Have fun playing. No time today. Off for lunch at my mom's.

    Cheers,
    Sue

    ReplyDelete
  42. Okay, had to get kids settled with various grown-ups!

    Virginia, love this glimpse into your fantasy mode!


    There it was, clear as day, in the corner of her eye.

    The house loomed dark and heavy, bulges and spikes where the gargoyles perched and statues of ancient saints stood watch.

    Ruthy suggestion: Gazing directly, the mansion stood solid and prime, modern-day elegance. Peripherally, the house loomed… (continuing with Ginny’s sentence)

    Her gaze flicked to the house and it settled into the bland, late-century building it had been before.

    Ruthy suggestion: She shifted her gaze back to the house and it settled,… This gives her the power of the action, more control of the scene.

    Turning half-way and staring into the middle distance,

    Ruthy suggestion: She turned and stared into the middle distance. (LOVE THAT LINE!!!) The castle emerged once more, hazily visible. If she stood very still, she could even see movement. Bustling servants, an oak tree to the side, swaying in the wind.

    She felt a stab of pure triumph.

    Ruthy suggestion: Pure triumph stabbed her.

    The deal with herself had been this: If everything was as it should be, then she’d go to the stupid senior prom tonight. She’d wear the silver sheath dress her foster mother had bought her, the one that was cut to the navel and paired with 3-inch heels. She’d arch her back and pose for pictures, arms around the blue-haired boy with the pierced tongue who never removed his ipod ear buds. Her foster father would grunt out a goodbye as he stared at his smart phone and she would feel happy to be so loved because it wasn’t every day the county could place such a difficult child, an older child with a complicated history. The papers had printed pictures of her 8 year old self, long dress and lace up boots.

    Virginia, I’d tighten that slightly. I like the self-revelation but I’d lose a few words, here and there, but keep the emotion.

    Evidence of psychological abuse, emotionally distant, clings to fantasy life. Abandoned.

    Ruthy note: And this would be in italics if you and I knew how to do it, LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Second part of Virginia's because Blogger doesn't like loooooong comments.


    She’d known that was a lie. Known it in the way she could feel them searching for her, grieving for her, as if she was holding the end of a string that was being tugged from very far away.

    Love the emotion and the implication, but I’d tighten it. Lose words like very... Great emotional tug, though. Love it. Misplaced in time. Ouch.

    Raised in repressive environment, restricted from normal interactions.

    I love the “other-worldly” aspects of this, as if chained by Earthen expectations or this dimension… Or this time period. So fun, Virginia!

    But she’d known so many people, traveled and learned and had friends. That didn’t count. At eight, she was new to tropical fruit in mid-winter, to illumination at the flick of a switch, to cars, to reality Tv shows with beautiful people who did nothing important and said nothing worth hearing. But that didn’t matter now.

    How much fun would this be as a YA? Or if she was older, fantasy across the ages? Love it!

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  44. Ooops, Ginny I forgot to go to that next part...

    And how do you get your hands into skinny jeans, may I ask? Because those babies are so tight, I can't fit spare change into them, much less my hands!

    Just thinking out loud.

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  45. Ah, Lola.... You know me well, because if I were to find a box like that...

    Stories WOULD BE WRITTEN, LOL!

    Hey, did I ever share with you peeps that I once left a BIG BAG OF LINDT CHOCOLATE in Washington Square Park in Manhattan...

    Do you think they called the bomb squad and had a robot probe my 6 lbs. of Lindt Truffles, buy one, get one?

    I'm still wiping tears, remembering that moment of discovery while walking through Union Square, that I was bagless... I hope some down and out person had a pleasant surprise!

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  46. This is attempt, but I'm looking foward to your feedback, Ruthy.

    The images of that night flashed savagely into her mind once more.
    'Father, I am begging you, you cannot let me marry him.' Elizabeth had cried out with everything in her.
    She would never forget that look, reminding her once again that his will was law.
    And this time, she had failed to obey.
    Drawing a steady breath, Elizabeth looked around. The forest was as silent as the one to whom she presented her prayers, every night, a young girl in distress. The thin trees almost looked like ghosts, all ligned up on a path that promised no hope and no future.
    All to punish me for standing strong, when I had been called to submit.
    The sin of defying her father's rules had plagued her. It had robbed her of sleep, tormented her during daytime, until she could do nothing more than to surrender and come back.
    Elizabeth harden her jaw. How could she be so weak? How could she let him- let all of them- manipulate her as such?
    'Lesser than dirt, you are,' would Rajal spit at her, right before a blow would send her sailing on the ground.
    You are - and will always be- a nobody.
    Not this time.
    She squared her shoulders, bringing back the soldier in her as she marched on, straight into the house.
    Elizabeth raised her head, and there before her, he stood. Lucifer, himself, in all of his glory.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Well, Jess, this is simply put and beautifully done. Very nice. Lovely.

    Turning fully, she faced the house and began walking; each step closer echoed her uncertain thoughts.

    The house remained silent but the need to know kept her moving forward. Afternoon sunlight soaked the house in a youthful glow.
    (that is a stunningly beautiful line)

    One could almost imagine it newly built, full of promise and dreams. Looks can be deceiving though and in this light it was easy to forget the ghosts that remained inside.

    Okay, I got nothin'. It's beautiful as written and I can't do it better.

    I might hate you, just a smidge.

    Got chocolate? That would soothe my troubled ego immensely.

    :)

    Great job. Totally different spin, too. Love it.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Kav, I love this… Just love it. And you stayed in present day, so another take on the moment!

    He stood in the open doorway and beckoned her inside. She hated the way he turned, leaving the door ajar as if he knew that she would blindly follow him. Hated it more that she did exactly that.

    Ruthy note: I’d dump the first “that.”


    She advanced slowly, seeking a moment to steady her nerves so that she could hear above the discordant cacophony of her racing heart.

    I think discordant cacophony is too much here. I’d probably use ‘beat’ instead of cacophony so normal folks would understand me. I had a smiley face here, but Blogger slapped it away. Bad blogger.

    The hallway was empty by the time her shaky steps brought her into the house.

    Ruthy suggestion: An empty hall stretched left and right as her shaky steps brought her into the house.

    But that was okay, she knew where to find him.

    LOVE THIS!!!!

    The study hadn’t changed since she was a child. The same pictures lined the walls, the same faded curtains slouched against the windowpanes and the same mammoth desk dwarfed everything else in the room – just like the man sitting behind it.

    Great visual here, Kav. “Slouched against the windowpanes” is totally visual. And lovely. I’d lose the word “else”. It’s not needed. But love the closing line of a bigger than life man, the imposing image that offers.
    Go to next comment, my dear...

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  49. He looked positively viperous, ready to strike the second she stepped over the threshold into his domain.

    This part sounds a little strong. Maybe just lose the “positively” but I’d rewrite this sentence so the reader FEELS the strength and doesn’t SEE it through “looked viperous”. Know what I mean? I want the emotion to flood me here, like it does to her, not the visual.

    She knew a moment of panic. The hollowed-out-stomach-kind which set her limbs to quaking and her heart to thundering but she fought it back the way she’d never been able to all those years ago, choosing to face him dead on with a piercing look of her own.

    And that’s some seriously good writing right there, strong, vibrant, pushed and shoved at the reader from the heroine’s emotion. Wonderful!!!

    He’d lost his power over her – he just didn’t know it yet.

    And an excellent ending, a position of power from a hinted position of strength and growth. I love it, Kav-a-licious!

    ReplyDelete
  50. Sandra, come on... I was a wonderful critique partner...

    :)

    Sandra and I worked together A LOT!!! And yes, she knows the feel of the Ruthy-pen.

    Poor, sweet baby!!! Hugs to you, my friend!

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  51. Y'all are so talented, man!
    My goodness, I think we officialy have some writers in hidding here!

    Virginia Carmichael Munoz! Your name is as lovely as what you've writen here.

    Iola, LOL!

    Jess and Llarmalade, VERY very good choice of words!

    Kav! Lord have mercy, I read yours first and I'm still impressed!

    Bravo, Donna and Jessica!

    And go everybody else! =)

    I'm gonna keep reading.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I'm afraid, but I need Ruthy's knife I think. :)

    ~~ my take:

    "Mother." Her whispered words didn't span the distance. Her words had never crossed the breech, no matter how much space separated them.

    The strong woman she remembered had aged. Even from this distance, Mary Templeton looked as old as the mansion that dwarfed her five-foot frame.

    "Margaret. You came. I prayed you would."

    Prayed. Since when? "Did you send the note?" She couldn't help the bitterness that crept into her voice. The woman had kicked her out and now wanted her back. How ironic.

    "Yes. I needed to see you. Will you come inside?"

    A request? Who was this woman? Certainly not the mother Margaret remembered.

    Her steps, slow at first, led her to the door she had exited eight years ago with nothing. She'd even sent back the clothes her mother had bought.

    She entered the parlor. The furnishings were covered with dusty white sheets. Her mother sat on the only uncovered piece in the room. A familiar looking man lounged beside her.

    "Hello, Mags."

    "John." The man who had turned his back on her love, just like her mother. Figures he'd been in on this need for her to return. "What are you doing here?"

    "I'm your mother's physician." He glanced at the frail woman beside him. "And friend."

    "Doctor?" Ironic for a man with no compassion. "What do you want, Mother? I have business to attend to."

    "You always were in a hurry. Sit down, please. I won't take much of your time. I promise."

    Margaret sat without bothering to uncover the chair. She wouldn't be here long and her jeans could handle the dust.

    "I'm dying."

    "And?" She forced herself to remain unfazed by this announcement. Even if she hated the woman, a small part of her still loved her too.

    "I'm leaving you and John the mansion."

    "He can have it. I don't want anything from you." Margaret stood to leave.

    "Sit down!"

    The mother she remembered still existed.

    "No. I may be your flesh and blood daughter, but you lost the right to command me to do your bidding a long time ago."

    "Your mother isn't finished yet. Sit down." John sat forward on the couch, as though ready to come after her if she fled.

    "I'll stand. Say what you have to say."

    "I'm sorry, Margaret. I know I wasn't a good mother, but I have always loved you. When Jesus captured my heart, He showed me how much pain I had caused you. I just wanted to ask you to forgive me." She stopped and coughed. John leaned forward and handed her a tissue.

    Margaret turned away and walked toward the window. The garden outside, overrun with weeds, reminded her of her life. So many hurts choking out the happiness. Why had her mother asked for the one thing she didn't know if she could give, but knew she had to in order to live in peace?

    "Why now?"

    "I've been looking for you for years. The PI I hired finally found you-just in time. Will you forgive me?"

    Margaret turned around and really looked at her mother. The older woman slouched on the couch as though she didn't have enough energy to hold herself upright. Pale skin hung on bones with no meat between them. Her hat tilted sideways revealed her lack of hair.

    "Cancer? How long?"

    "Yes. Days, weeks. It's hard to say." Another cough. Her eyes closed with a wince. "John."

    He pulled a syringe from his pocket and pushed it into the fleshy part of her arm then laid her down on the couch.

    "She'll rest for a while. Let's take a walk."

    ReplyDelete
  53. And here's Kav's tortured one-sided (hahahahahaha!) love triangle that I loved, loved, loved...


    Kav said: How about the tortured one-sided love angle?

    Not only that but you braved me TWICE!!!!!

    YEEEEE HAAAAWWWW!!!

    You knew I was worried not a soul would show up to play with me! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Okay, here we go, and like Julie, I liked this better than the first one only because you sound more comfortable writing this way… It flows from your fingertips onto the Blogger page…


    “So that’s it. You’re just going to leave without saying goodbye?” Jake’s gravelly voice broke under the strain of emotion and Lily felt a momentary pang of regret. It was better this way…wasn’t it?

    First, I love this. It sounds modern and quick-paced already. You’ve dumped us into the scene wonderfully. I’d lose “just” and I’d make it three sentences, separating Lily’s pang of regret into her own sentence.

    “You aren’t supposed to be here.” She allowed herself the luxury of taking a few steps closer to the man she’d resolved to never work for again. A resolution she made with more regularity than any other over the years, but this time she meant it with every fiber of her being.

    The only change I’d suggest here is to use “stepping closer to the man” rather than “taking a few steps closer”… I’m already loving her toughness, resolve and the fact that she still steps closer… Don’t we all???? Sigh.

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  54. 'Your craft may be love but Lovecraft is mine' - Vince.

    Deb H, so good!

    Nancy Kimball, are you a writer profesionnaly? Would be interesting in your books if you are.

    Aww, Sara... :) And yes, go Sarah!

    Mary Connealy! Oh really?? ;) (mouth agape).

    ReplyDelete
  55. And here's the continuation of Kav's second contemporary:


    “Actually, you weren’t supposed to know I would be here.” Jake launched down the porch steps in two bounds, setting gravel spraying as he landed in front of her. “I knew it was the only way you’d come.”

    I would dump the “actually”. He sounds stronger and more virile without it. And I would probably use “I’d” instead of I would to keep it feeling strongly modern and less librarian… (big grin here!!!! ) And I don’t know that I’d launch him down the stairs, but this isn’t writing, it’s author preference for hero action.

    I’d have him come down, step by step, holding her gaze, letting the seconds mount, eyes locked. I like that slooooow emotional build-up over the take charge leap, but that’s a personal preference thing.

    “You set me up!”

    Dimpled grooves accompanied the crooked smile she knew so well. Quickly lowering her gaze, she stared at the unpaved path at her feet. Number 10 on the meticulous list she had made up for Jake when he’d been her boss and she’d been – what? Employee? Friend? Something more? But no, that was her fantasy, not his.

    “Look at me Lil.”

    “There’s no reason…”

    “If you’re bent on saying goodbye than at least have the decency to say it to my face.”

    Lily grimaced at the steel edge to his voice and risked a peek. What could one last look matter? It wasn’t like she hadn’t already memorized every chiseled feature. From square jaw to crooked nose to the laugh lines that framed the kindest eyes she’d ever seen.

    And I wouldn’t change a thing of this last, and that makes me think my slower step by step above it works better because Holy Hot Heroes Batman!!!! That rocks the biggest romance Kahuna of all, darling!!!

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  56. Julie Lessman, isn't this fun????

    I love teaching classes, I love working with other writers and doing the occasional DRIVE-BY CRITIQUE makes me grin!

    And the lot o' youse know that I'm just throwing my ideas back at ya', right? There is no absolute right or wrong here, but if my sweet and aged brain can be of any service to my fellow authors....

    (gagging slightly, possibly) :)

    I miss get togethers where we all sit around and toss out ideas. I love that stuff.

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  57. It's not Mary Connealy - Oh Really.
    Not anymore.
    It's Mary Connealy Rhymes with Swahili.

    My life begins anew with this trick. Now everyone will be able to pronounce my name.

    NO MORE EXCUSES, PEOPLE!!!

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  58. Ganise,
    Thank you and yes, I am writing professionally. (Thank you for that!) A growing collection of awards and two full manuscripts in two years but still working on the hardest part... getting traditionally published.
    It's okay though. I have time shares in all the vacated seekerville huts on the island. =)

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  59. “Abby?” Luke Snyder bounded down the steps and jogged across the yard, stopping just inches in front of her. He wrapped his arms around her and whispered, “Welcome home, Abby, I’ve missed you.”

    She felt the familiar rush of emotions. Feelings she thought she had squelched with leaving Woodsfield, but there they were, rising up in her throat, choking her words.

    She untangled herself from his embrace. “L-luke, what are you doing here?”

    He turned to look at the house. “I bought the old place,” he said. His tone was light, but she could hear the tension in his voice. “I’m fixing her up. You want to have a look?”

    “Bought it?” she muttered, unable to wrap her mind around the idea. Luke knew what had happened here. He had been the one who had found her hiding under the bed. The one who had coaxed her out of her hiding place and walked her out of the house. How could he possibly want to live in this nightmare that was once her home?

    She was wrong to have come here. No matter what her sister’s letter had said, she couldn’t do it. Facing her fears had never been her way of handling things. Avoidance had always been her safe-haven.

    She had run from her past, from this house and from Luke ten years ago and she was ready to do it again.

    “I have to go.” She turned to put the key in the door of her Volvo parked at the curb.

    Luke reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, then turned her to face him. Lifting her chin, he forced her to look him in the eye. His voice was soft, “Abby, you can do this. We’ll do it together.”

    Tears welled up in her eyes. Together. That’s the way Abby had always imagined her life - she and Luke together, but too much had happened. Too much sorrow, too much betrayal.

    She dropped her gaze and shook her head, “I can’t, Luke.”

    “You have to stay, Abby,” He said, lifting her chin again until she looked him in the eye. "There’s something you don’t know about what happened that day.”

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  60. Sorry for the mistakes. I've noticed them and with more practice, I'll write better.

    Thanks.

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  61. "Grandma?" No, it couldn't be, she walked like grandma, looked like grandma, smiled like Grandma? No, because as far as she could remember Grandma never smiled, not at her anyway.
    Grandma had been gone for three years, so it couldn't be her. But Jill could see smile lines, love lines surrounding the face in front of her.
    "Aunt Jessie! It's you! And what are you doing here? I thought you said you'd never enter this house again."
    "Never say never sweetie, er, um, well, I just learned that last week,she wagged her head girlishly. That's how she was, of course Grandma said Jessie would never grow up, but that's what Jill loved about her. Come on in we need to talk."
    Coolness, freshness entered her lungs instead of the heat and dust she was expecting, and what was that? Lemon Pledge? Aunt Jessie's cane tip squeaked on the glowing wooden floors. Aunt Jessie turned, "Oh, I have a surprise, I hope you don't mind." she looked to her left and there he sat , not smug exactly, not friendly either, but there he was in all his Lukeness ready for anything.

    My internal editor is kicking in too much so I guess I'll quit there. So do you utmost with what there is and thanks Ruthy.

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  62. How about that? While I was typing away Jan Christiansen named him Luke too.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Haven't read the comments yet but loved

    KAV's! Heehee! I got scared!

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  64. Oh, my gosh! I'm loving all of these!!

    And Ruthy, why don't I have clothes on?? It is HIDEOUSLY hot here. But I'm still wearing clothes. Wish I weren't. Little ones are naked. Older ones are half naked. I am clothed. *SIGH*

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  65. GINGER!! I was tearing up!

    I think the worst aprt of reading these is that we don't get to HEAR THE REST.

    Except for the syringe part. *ewww*

    ReplyDelete
  66. P.S. Ruthy, I've never worn skinny jeans IN MY LIFE.


    That would be called out as 'author error', like saying Niagara Falls was in South America.

    Write what you know. And I know not of skinny jeans.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Okay,


    I'm leaving my husband for

    KAV's second hero.


    *SWOON*

    ReplyDelete
  68. Hi Ruth!

    This isn’t Humiliation 101.
    It’s more like Honor Studies 401!

    I’ve read every entry and this is a very gifted group. All entries open well and have a closing that makes me want to know more. All are so different. I’m waiting for a comedic version. I was hoping Mary would do this. (But more on this later.)

    This group would make a great live class. There would be no problem getting role players to play the parts in the stories. I think there are few hams here. : )

    I bet you didn’t think you’d have to do this much work!!!

    BTW: The best way to appreciate your comments is to rewrite the whole entry with your changes in place. This is very different than just looking at your suggestions and shaking your head ‘yes’. That makes sense. It is best to actually see the edited version.

    I did this and I had an real learning experience!

    I edit by reading the copy out loud. It has to sound right. This makes me choose words, in part, because of their sound and the number of syllables in the world. Also, I choose a given word because of the words that appear in paragraphs before it and after it.

    Frankly, I liked the sound and cadence of “The mansion saw the woman approach” better than “It saw her approach.” (The words ‘mansion’ and ‘woman’ have the same sound beats.)

    Now, I really like your revision better than my original, but I had to make the changes to fully appreciate this.

    I’m strongly in the Shirley Jump school of reading copy out loud and it had not occurred to me yet that this process might not provide the most effective prose. I wonder how Shirley deals with ths problem. (Until now I didn’t even know it was a problem.)

    I do have one ‘meaning’ comment on making it seem like the mansion is going to eat the woman. The mansion is much too evil for that. What the mansion eats are immortal souls. Her risk is much greated going into that house.

    Also, in the backstory, and readers did not know this yet, the woman is carrying a can of gasoline! (This is Gothic Horror, not Gothic Romance. But, you got that right away.)

    BTW: I rewrote Mary’s sample on Michael Ehret’s ‘Writing on the Fine Line’ website and now she’s done it to you. Eventually it is going to get back to me. : (

    Vince

    P.S. It has long been established that the internet is clothing optional. Think POV.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Hi Miss Ruthy -- Kav told me that you had this challenge thing going on here and she also said that you liked dogs...a lot...so I know I like you right back! Anyhow, it's hot here today -- too hot to go chasing squirrels so I thought I'd try my paw at writing a little canine romance since you don't feature that much on this blog.

    No need to shred it to pieces, I already know it's perfection just like me.

    Sincerely,
    Simba (Kav's owner)

    He was magnificent. The finest specimen of sheltiedom she’d ever seen. Regal in bearing though his nose might be too long to meet breed standards and he could do with a decent grooming. But oh my when he raised his head in silent greeting she had to paw the drool away from the side of her mouth. He was a stunning symphony in ebony and white.

    “Can I help you?”

    His deep-throated bark sent her withers to quivering but even so, she was filled with trepidation. “I’m sorry to have bothered you. This was a mistake.”

    “Wait!” He moved down the steps with a beguiling agility. “My name’s Simba. Are you here about the ad I placed in Dog Fancy Miss…?”

    “Honey.” He was even more handsome upon closer inspection and the way he plumed his tail made hers wave in response despite her attempt to appear aloof.

    “An apt name for such a sweet lady.” Simba dipped his head and nuzzled her nose and then playfully shouldered her sideways. “I hope your being here isn’t really a mistake because I think you might be the companion of my dreams.”

    “Y-y-you do?”

    He huffed with gentle laughter and her nose twitched in delight at the peanut buttery smell that tickled her senses.

    “More then fulfill my dreams. I didn’t know such perfection existed.”

    Honey ducked her head modestly. “I came from a good breeder.”

    “But you carry yourself with championship comportment.” Simba moaned and nuzzled her neck. “Such fine lines too. Would you care to take a stroll and discuss the…er…other conditions in my advertisement?”

    “Well…I suppose that would be all right.” Honey fell in beside the larger sheltie and marveled at how dainty her paws appeared next to his sturdy ones.

    “And afterwards, if things work out the way I think they will, might you be interested in staying for dinner?” Simba looked so hopeful with his head tilted to one side, tongue lolling out of his mouth.

    Could it be that he was as smitten as she? Was he Tramp to her Lady? Pongo to her Perdita? Hootch to her Camille? There was only one way to find out so, with a yip of joy, she raced ahead...and into her future.

    .

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  70. PLEASE don't fuss at me....but I'm not participating in this today--not because I don't think it's a wonderful exercise, but because I MUST get back to my WIP, and if I "lose myself" in Seekerville I'll be here a looong time....But so you don't think I'm rude, I'm leaving a whole bag of CHOCOLATE for everyone! AND, wanted to say that 2 days ago I was in Walmart and purchased A FAMILY TO CHERISH!! WooHoo!! LOVE that cover, and cannot wait to start reading ( I'll treat myself as soon as I write at least 2500 more words*sigh*). Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

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  71. Simba Sheltie, you're marvelous!

    I wonder if there's a market for K9 romance the way there is for K9 spies?

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  72. This is fun reading.

    Mary I did see you set it up for some shooting. I thought wouldn't be a Mary book without the chance of a shooting or something being blown up. Then I do like that!

    did I mention I am over drinking so much. I am sure they wont find blood today but water!

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  73. Donna… Donna… Donna….

    You had me at “Hello”. You know what I mean, kid! What a great offering!
    No one was there.

    Just like before.

    Only flesh and blood can unlatch doors. Not the dead, she reminded herself.

    She touched her jean's pocket to reassure herself the letter was there. That it was real.

    Donna I would change this slightly because we used “was there” above, so I’d go with existed or something like that. And then I might describe the way it felt to her hand, crisp or worn edges, the folds, smooth or rough… To give the reader a tactile sense of the paper. Her solid reassurance that she wasn’t insane.

    Dr. Kahn's voice penetrated her thoughts. You can't blame your imagination for all the trouble you have coping with reality. (I think I’d shorten that sentence or go to two sentences, or drag it out slightly by her remembering what the doctor was doing at the time. Twirling a pen? Sitting back? Gently regarding her? Matter-of-fact?)

    It goes much deeper than that, Amanda. They never learned who's blood you were covered in when they found you.

    Donna, that right there is a beautifully worded turning point. No extreme. No superlatives. Just plain fact and that makes it more chilling and momentous.

    So she'd taken the pills and told everyone at Roseville Institution what they wanted to hear.

    Now she had to prove to herself she wasn't insane. But to do that she had to put herself back into the nightmare. Wide awake.

    I love this. I might lose the “to herself” words because I’d bet she’s just as concerned about what other people think. We don’t always want to admit that, though.

    WONDERFUL!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR PLAYING!

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  74. Hi Ruth:

    Since Mary offered a starter I thought I’d give hers a try, too.

    A woman dressed in flowing white who looked exactly like her.
    Except for the gun in her hand.


    “If it isn’t my evil twin. Is this how you greet me after all these years?”
    “You mean the gun?”
    “Exactly.”
    “It’s the same model you’re holding.”
    “But I didn’t shoot Sidney with mine.”
    “You shot Wendell.”
    “He was already dead at the time.”
    “You were always good with the excuses.”
    “I had to be good. I was the good twin. I had to be good in everything.”
    “No, you weren’t. I was the good twin back then.”
    “You mean before we switched identities?”
    “Yes. I became bad and you became good or was it the other way around?”
    “We always switched when the other wanted to out and party.”
    “Somewhere along the line we lost track of who we really were.”
    “Is that what this is all about?”
    “Yes it is. We have to settle this before we die.”
    “Tell me first, how can I be sure I’m not looking into a mirror?”
    “Things are reversed in a mirror.”
    “Not if I’m dreaming that I’m looking into a mirror. Dreams follow their own logic.”
    “It makes no difference. We need to find out who we really are.”
    “Then, there’s only one way to settle this. One of us must shoot the other. Because only the evil twin would kill the good one.”
    “Let’s do it then.”
    Nothing happened. They both just stood there. Guns at their sides.
    “Well?”
    “It won’t work. We both know the Bible story about King Solomon ordering a baby cut in half forcing the real mother to step forward and give up her claim to the baby.”
    “Yes? So what?”
    “Well, the fake mother now knows to give up the baby, too.”
    “You mean the evil twin now knows not to shoot the good one.”
    “You got it.”
    “So, is there no way to answer the question of good and evil?”
    “There may be a way but this whole argument is out of control. We’re in too deep. I fear we’re about to go over the edge.”

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  75. A small head popped out. Dark eyes, round like Ethan's, studied her. A chill scuttled through her body despite the heat of afternoon sunlight.

    "Who are you?" the child asked. His voice lilted with a curious innocence.

    She hugged her body, rubbed her arms. She shouldn't have come. The only answer she had to give was the one that would ruin everything.

    Oh, I love this. I got nothin’… “Lilted with curious innocence.” I just love the lyrical quality of that, Jess! Smiling, smiling, smiling!

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  76. Deb H., I love this! I think your lead in was a little loose and wordy… but I love the idea you went with, totally awesome and innovative! SWEET!!!

    DO NOT HATE ME!!!! I’M SENSITIVE!!!

    So I'd trim some words from the initial observation, but I love, love, love the direction in which you took the opening. Sterling imagination and gut-grabber! YES!!!! ;)

    A little girl stood on the threshold clinging to a small, dilapidated stuffed dog. The child’s unkempt braids framed a sad, brown-eye dominated face, almost distracting her from the ill-fitting Thrift Store clothing.

    Love the kid already! I’d drop some of the adjectives, there are too many to keep them all effective in my ever-so-humble opinion. And we probably don’t need “stood on the threshold’ because we know she turned and saw something there… And I would lose “The child’s” because I think it’s stronger if we just say “Unkempt braids…

    And then I’d do a new sentence to describe the ill-fitting clothing, just to make it stand out a little.

    Kat sucked in a shocked breath of recognition. The clothes, the braids, the eyes, the threadbare dog—

    Sweet Mother of…

    She was looking at her childhood self. Tears threatened to form as she focused on the small stuffed animal that had been the most cherished possession of her life. Her heart clenched, reliving the memory of losing Puppy to the hands of a cruel adult. How many years? Kat mourned still.

    I would delete “to form” and I’d make the second sentence into two short, tight sentences. Something like: “Tears threatened. The threadbare stuffed dog had been her most cherished childhood possession.

    The child beckoned and she found it impossible to resist. Kat crossed the threshold before she was aware that she’d moved. Childhood Kat held her hand, gazing up at her with…hope?

    “Help us.”

    “Us?”

    Kat felt the weight of multitudinous eyes, a physical touch, hesitant with an all too familiar fear. She looked about, many more children watching her—silent. She could taste the hope emanating from them.

    “Who are you?” she whispered, her mind telling her she was hallucinating.

    “They are the ones who can yet be saved.” Childhood Kat answered.

    “Saved?”

    “By you. Here—in this house.”

    The letter writer had not been mistaken. The house was empty.

    Apparently waiting for a redemptive future.

    Dare she?

    Whoa, and whoa again. I love the mystery children, the ones who need help!!! This is wonderful, evocative and thought-provoking. EXCELLENT!!!!

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  77. Nancy Kimball, this is so fun, what a great, awesome, wonderful glimpse into how good your stuff is!

    Excellent! Brava!


    Jackson stood in the half-open door behind a rifle that was probably fully loaded. The barrel glowed as black and ominous as his eyes.

    She spread her hands away from her sides in supplication, as she’d never done in their marriage. “Don’t shoot. It’s me.”

    The rifle didn’t move, and neither did Jackson. “I know. I recognized you from the upstairs window.”

    Love it already!!!! Love that he grabbed the gun, knowing it was her. Where’s Connealy???? She’ll be all over this one, Nancy, LOL! The only change I'd make here is to break the opening line into two sentences for short, sharp, succinct sound. "The rifle didn't move. Neither did Jackson."

    So it had been useless. The new hair, the new clothes, the new car… and the new name. She shouldn’t have come here. She’d known the moment she recognized the handwriting on the envelope, long before Jackson and his rifle told her she still wasn’t welcome.

    “Why are you here?” His voice held the same steel his hands did. And that glare, that legendary Seville glare, remained as powerful a weapon as the gun.

    Ruthy note: I think I’d use “as his hands” instead of “his hands did.” And I’d make the opening to the second sentence a question… And that glare, that legendary Seville glare? As powerful a weapon as the gun. I think breaking it up like that gives it added depth. But that might be because I’m bossy and hungry.

    “I’m sorry. I—”

    “For what?” He kicked the door out of his way, raised the rifle end and took three stomps toward her. “For leaving me, or having the gall to show up here after all this time?”

    Both. “I’m sorry about your mother.”

    Jackson laughed, the harshness of it assaulting her as much as the Alabama heat. “You hated my mother as much as she hated you so I’ll ask you one more time, Reyna. Why are you here?”

    She swallowed and took a backward step toward the safety of the car. If he didn’t already know, this was going to be worse than she thought. “Your mother left me the mansion.”

    Jackson swayed like a falling leaf, all six-foot-two of his lean and rugged frame. “She what?”

    Perfect. Wonderful. And those little corrections I made are probably silly in light of your brilliance, Nance. Loved it, totally. Jackson and Reyna… I want to read their story someday. And I’m lovin’ the mother that had chutzpah enough to LEAVE REYNA THE MANSION… Bringing her home… Excellent.

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  78. Thank you, Ruthy! I love the improvements.

    I've been entertained by everyone's responses and learned a lot from your suggestions.

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  79. ((((()))))Tons of hugs, Ruthy. What a huge chunk of your time we've taken up today. I really appreciate my critiques and I'm learning so much reading all the others. It makes so much sense when you break things down -- just wish it would come out the keyboard that way! But I guess that's what edits are for, right?

    And thanks for helping me recognize my true voice. I've been wrestling with that lately -- trying to make it over into something else, but you were right. It was easier to write the one-sided romance one. I've been reading some of my old stuff and that definitely seems to be my style. I need to let loose and just be me from now on. Sigh. I see rewrites in my future.

    And thanks to everyone who has written -- I'm amazed at the myriad directions that intro went in. Also amazed at the great writing, succinct descriptions, the way y'all grabbed my attention and kept it.

    And Vince -- great punch line in yur Mary intro. LOL.

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  80. Ruthy
    how could i hate you for being sensitive?
    once i posted my blurb, i saw a bunch of things to fix (like the adjectives). your thoughts/suggestions provided me with confirmation - i'm moving in the right direction.

    now if i could only expand to a whole story. i'm much better with short stuff (ie. flash fiction)

    thank you for spending so much time and effort on everyone's submissions. i've learned a whole bunch today. i feel much smarter - at least for now *heh*

    THANK YOU!!!!!

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  81. Wow, that was fun! I wish blogger had a LIKE button!

    Vince, loved the evil twins who couldn't shoot each other because they remembered the story about King Solomon.

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  82. WOW VINCE...SURE FIRED BESTSELLER!!!!

    LOL

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  83. You would know this was the one day I was super-duper busy. Okay, instead of moping I'm going to read the comments and enjoy.

    Let's see what Ruthy does to the brave ones :-)

    Nancy C

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  84. Wow, Ruthy. I don't know what to say. And that's rare for me. I liked your suggestions and would incorporate them for sure into a second draft. That you enjoyed my first-draft-ugly, cranked out in 30 minutes this morning version makes me believe I've come a long way baby. =)

    Kav, let me echo that being who you are is what will eventually sell. I almost lost that when I wanted to be published so bad I changed my voice, direction, and writing until it was no longer truly mine. God used Whitney (waving at my Seekerville friend and crit partner) to rescue it. Someone very wise told me once that if you are trying to be someone other than who you really are, you aren't only cheating yourself, but the person who will love you for who you really are.

    I think it was funny how I was one of the few if not the only writer who made "her" the bad one. It's because I'm SUCH a hero girl. =)

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  85. Ruthy, what a fun day! I loved all the different takes on your opening, and I"m only halfway through reading the comments!

    You're playing nice in the sandbox, Ruthy. I'm proud of you : )

    The talent in Seekerville is AMAZING!!!

    I'd love to add a spin on this but after staring at spreadsheets and schedules with no where near enought volunteers to fill up the holes (shifts for the county fair), my mind is hash.

    I'd rather just read the brilliance of others this evening, thank you.

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  86. Ruthy said: Virginia, put clothes on.

    Please.

    Audra laughs hysterically.

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  87. Hi Ruth and everyone!

    I really enjoyed reading through this. Very talented people here!

    Thanks Ruth for your comments on my paragraph :) I wish I could have written more but I had no idea what to write next! Others here really knew where to take this - I'm in awe!

    Thanks again :)

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  88. I have always known that my first chapters are BAD. Maybe I should just delete them and start with the second. Ruthy, you are harder than my SAT essay lol.
    I am having a hard time with my current WIP because parts of the story is historical and part of it is modern. I get those voices mixed up.
    Anyway great advice for tightening.

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  89. Hi Nancy:

    You wrote:

    …the only writer who made "her" the bad one…

    I liked how you raised the stakes so quickly in your story. I was hooked at once. However, I thought the mother was the bad one and the heroine had been somehow abused. It was because the mother felt guilty that she left the house to the heroine. The mother also knew that once her part in the break up became apparent, the couple would get back together again. For some dark reason she could not make this know while she was alive. I guess I'm a heroine person.

    I think you did a great job here.

    Vince

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  90. The gardener had cleared the shrubbery from the lock to make it visible and beckoning, willing to share its secrets to all who entered. There was no way she would be able to turn from here. The lock was her consequence for having the hope that everything would one day be right. For thinking that she could be the one to repair her family history so that they might forgive her sins.
    She jammed her skeleton key into the lock.
    “Do you really want to go in there?” A voice from behind startled her.
    She spun around, not at all surprised to see her old fiancé toting a garden rake. The letter was from him, wasn’t it? “I have to find the truth about my family.”
    He scowled. His tousled sandy hair and heavy eyelids indicated he hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in days. Had he been worried about her? The letter indicated such, but lack of sleep could be due to anything around this house. Each wall was a page of memories. He had helped create more and wasn’t about to erase them.

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  91. Okay, back at it! Oh my stars, this is so much fun and I lost my computer time last night to a kid... and needed to write this morning, but I'm back at it today!

    We've got all weekend, so if I haven't gotten to yours yet, hang in there... and if you haven't posted or sent me a snippet yet, feel free to do so!

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  92. Ganise, here you go!


    The images of that night flashed savagely into her mind once more.
    I’d inside-out this sentence because the visual is so strong, Ganise, and it’s a set-up for so much. Maybe something like: Savage mental images accosted her, pictures of that night. Those moments. The sounds she’d never forget, no matter how hard she tried. (Something along those lines, that pulls the reader into the horrid memory, even if we don’t describe it yet)

    'Father, I am begging you, you cannot let me marry him.'

    (I would suggest an action after begging you… show us Elizabeth’s posture, her face, her stance. Was she on her knees? Clutching his arm? Maintaining a demanded distance? )

    Elizabeth had cried out with everything in her.
    She would never forget that look, reminding her once again that his will was law.

    I’d lose the “once again” because we see that in your strong wording.

    And this time, she had failed to obey.

    Excellent!

    Drawing a steady breath, Elizabeth looked around. The forest was as silent as the one to whom she presented her prayers, every night, a young girl in distress. The thin trees almost looked like ghosts, all lined up on a path that promised no hope and no future.

    Here I’d like to envision this through her eyes a little bit more. Forget the breath… She’s got to breathe right, or she’s dead and the story winds to a crashing close before it gets started… Think of here there, surrounded by the trees. Picture it. And then paint that picture for us…

    “Thin, stick-like trees flanked her, surrounding her, ghost trees lining a path that promised no hope and no future.” If you shorten it like that, we feel her despair more deeply.

    All to punish me for standing strong, when I had been called to submit.

    The sin of defying her father's rules had plagued her. It had robbed her of sleep, tormented her during daytime, until she could do nothing more than to surrender and come back.

    Elizabeth hardened her jaw. How could she be so weak? How could she let him- let all of them- manipulate her as such?

    'Lesser than dirt, you are,' would Rajal spit at her, right before a blow would send her sailing on the ground. You are - and will always be- a nobody.

    Wow, this is strong emotion here… Very strong. I love that she’s conflicted, just love it! You might want to include a hinted common sense, that defying evil parents isn’t truly sinful… I might show a hint of that conflict here, and her growing strength that you allude to below. Very nice, Ganise!

    Not this time.

    She squared her shoulders, bringing back the soldier in her as she marched on, straight into the house.
    I’d lose “on” and have her march straight in…

    Elizabeth raised her head, and there before her, he stood. Lucifer, himself, in all of his glory.

    And this is a crowning sentence, a huge moment, and I think I’d turn it around a little, Ganise. Or break up the sentence into several short, staccato ones. “Elizabeth raised her head, and there he stood. Lucifer himself, in all his glory.”
    I’d probably describe the scene in more depth, the lighting, the scents, the visual of the presence amidst the normal, but what a thought invoking scene, Ganise!

    Thank you for submitting it!

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  93. Ginger, thank you for playing!!!!

    You sent a longer passage, so I added a bunch of advice. Do not be dismayed. I write category romance, and I love it, but I have to chop, slice and dice words every day. So I, um... Kind of did that for you!!!

    You're welcome!!! :)


    "Mother." Her whispered words didn't span the distance. Her words had never crossed the breech, no matter how much space separated them.
    Lovely. Just lovely.

    The strong woman she remembered had aged. Even from this distance, Mary Templeton looked as old as the mansion that dwarfed her five-foot frame. (great use of visual technique of comparison)

    "Margaret. You came. I prayed you would."

    Prayed. Since when? "Did you send the note?" She couldn't help the bitterness that crept into her voice.

    Ruthy note: I would probably change this line and simplify it.
    “Bitterness crept into her voice.”

    The woman had kicked her out and now wanted her back. How ironic.
    "Yes. I needed to see you. Will you come inside?"

    Ruthy note: I would drop the “Yes.”

    A request? Who was this woman? Certainly not the mother Margaret remembered.

    Her steps, slow at first, led her to the door she had exited eight years ago with nothing. She'd even sent back the clothes her mother had bought.

    She entered the parlor. The furnishings were covered with dusty white sheets.

    Ruthy note: This would be great to embellish a little. We know we’re in a mansion. Now a parlor. I think I’d describe the presence or absence of light, the smell, the feel of the room. Is she surprised by the dusty white sheets or half-expected them. I’d like to see her feel the difference of what she left vs. what she’s facing now.

    Her mother sat on the only uncovered piece in the room. A familiar looking man lounged beside her.

    Ruthy note: Would he lounge? As an old love and a physician whose patient is dying? And would she think of John as a familiar-looking man? If she’d loved him? I’d suggest a more heart-thrust gut-punch here, don’t let him idle. Punch it up to invest the reader. Mary, did I say that nicely enough???? (Connealy warned me to BE NICE…. Taken from a woman who SHOOTS ON SIGHT!)


    "Hello, Mags."

    "John." The man who had turned his back on her love, just like her mother. Figures he'd been in on this need for her to return. "What are you doing here?"

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  94. Here is the second part of Ginger's work!

    "I'm your mother's physician." He glanced at the frail woman beside him. "And friend."

    "Doctor?" Ironic for a man with no compassion. "What do you want, Mother? I have business to attend to."

    Ruthy note: we used ironic above. Maybe here you could say something like “And the irony continues…” or snark-like: “Again with the irony? Was it something in the air?” Any other way you want to word it to fit the moment, without repeating yourself from above will work fine.

    "You always were in a hurry. Sit down, please. I won't take much of your time. I promise."

    Margaret sat without bothering to uncover the chair. She wouldn't be here long and her jeans could handle the dust.

    LOVE THAT LINE!!! SO MUCH. A BORN SNARKISM!!!!

    "I'm dying."

    "And?" She forced herself to remain unfazed by this announcement.

    Ruthy note: Right here you might want to enter a hint of mixed emotion without simply stating hate and love.
    Even if she hated the woman, a small part of her still loved her too.

    "I'm leaving you and John the mansion."

    "He can have it. I don't want anything from you." Margaret stood to leave.
    (Ruthy note: This feels like you should continue the sentence. Why is she leaving? Is she disgusted? Frustrated? Indignant? Angry? Let me feel her as well as see her.)

    "Sit down!"

    The mother she remembered still existed.

    "No. I may be your flesh and blood daughter, but you lost the right to command me to do your bidding a long time ago."

    "Your mother isn't finished yet. Sit down." John sat forward on the couch, as though ready to come after her if she fled.

    (Ruthy note: If John is the hero, we need a hint of compassion or redemption in him I think. Right now he’s kind of a jerk and he might have good reason, but it’s good to let the reader sense that, you know? A gentle touch, his bearing, something that hints niceness. Unless a hero is a REALLY OLD WORLD BROODING TYPE and in that case it’s proper to evoke UNHOLY OH MY GOSH, LET ME OUT OF HERE!!! FEAR IN THE HEROINE… But they never run. Why is that????

    "I'll stand. Say what you have to say."

    "I'm sorry, Margaret. I know I wasn't a good mother, but I have always loved you. When Jesus captured my heart, He showed me how much pain I had caused you. I just wanted to ask you to forgive me."

    She stopped and coughed. John leaned forward and handed her a tissue.

    Ruthy note: Right here would be a good time for Margaret to reflect on her mother’s words. She’s seeing and feeling the irony. You could equate this to too little, too late. Or to scripture. To those orchard workers who came to the vineyard at the end of the day and still got a full day’s wages.

    Margaret turned away and walked toward the window.

    Ruthy note: I’d lose “turned away and”…

    The garden outside, overrun with weeds, reminded her of her life.

    Ruthy note: This could be simplified. Or not. It kind of depends who you’re writing for, right? In category, I have to try to say a lot with very few words. But if a songwriter can grab me heart and soul in 16 lines, I should be able to do the same in 60,000 words. So this could be “The weed-riddled garden reminded her of her life.” We’ve gotten the idea across and saved three words for KISSING!!!! Never let the importance of words for KISSING go under-rated!

    So many hurts choking out the happiness. Why had her mother asked for the one thing she didn't know if she could give, but knew she had to in order to live in peace?

    "Why now?"

    Go to next comment, pretty please!

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  95. "I've been looking for you for years. The PI I hired finally found you-just in time. Will you forgive me?"

    Ruthy note: It’s crazy easy to find people these days. I’d adjust this to reflect that somehow. Even folks who think they’ve hidden, are so readily traceable with a decent laptop. This makes it sound dated I think.

    Margaret turned around and really looked at her mother.

    Ruthy note: I’d delete around and really…

    The older woman slouched on the couch as though she didn't have enough energy to hold herself upright. Pale skin hung on bones with no meat between them. Her hat tilted sideways revealed her lack of hair.

    "Cancer? How long?"

    "Yes. Days, weeks. It's hard to say." Another cough. Her eyes closed with a wince. "John."

    He pulled a syringe from his pocket and pushed it into the fleshy part of her arm then laid her down on the couch.

    Ruthy note: I’m about to push a syringe into his fleshy arm… Grrrr…..

    "She'll rest for a while. Let's take a walk."

    Ruthy note: “In a pig’s eye, meany-pants!” 

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  96. Oops, I missed Sara up above... working in catch-up mode today, lovely stuff, Peeps!!!

    Sara’s entry

    The man standing by the door could be none other than Lord Rotham. The outline of his face was shrouded by darkness, but her heart recognized him in a way impossible to ignore.

    Oh. Pitter pat, pitter pat. Love this! I might shorten it to just:

    Lord Rotham. Her pulse pounded. Her stomach seized. (something like that to show her internal GUT STRIKE!!!! HOLY COW, IT’S LORD ROTHAM!!!!) And then continue to your line of “The outline….blah, blah, blah. You know what I mean, I don’t have to re-write it here, right???? ;)

    She gazed up at the mansion. At him. A few steps and she could face him, not as servant and employer, but as equals. This time she could look into his eyes and tell him she had never forgiven, never forgotten that day two years ago. This time she could hope to see something more than derision in those cold blue depths that had captured her heart on that long ago day. How wrong she’d been then. How wrong she was now.

    Ruthy note!!! Well, I’m dragged in by my hair, and my hair is short now, and not easily grasped! Wonderful, wonderful, Sara! “Cold blue depths…” Oh. Be still my Austen heart!

    Something in her couldn’t take those steps.

    She turned slowly away, swallowing past the unexpected lump forming in her throat. She hadn’t expected this.

    Ruthy note: Unexpected lump and she hadn’t expected. … Figure out which you want and toss the other.

    She’d come here to tell him she’d put him and her former life her behind her. To tell him she was engaged and would soon be his social equal. To tell him the girl he’d known had vanished, like the mist over the moors.

    Still, a single tear slid down her cheek as she squared her shoulders and began the long walk down the avenue.

    “Elisabeth?”

    Oh. Well. That wasn’t enough, Sara. Not nearly enough. I want, nay, NEED to run to her, grab her, pull her back, and explain how he did it for her own good!!!!!

    Lovely. Lovely. Lovely.

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  97. Oh, and Iola, I called you Lola...

    Oops! Sorry! Blame Connealy.

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  98. And what about Sarah's?

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  99. Vince, thank you. Praise from you is as superior an accolade as praise from Ruthy, because in both cases, I know it is always hard earned and backed by tremendous experience and knowledge of the craft. It was a great "reward per page" ;-) for me to know I drew you in to that story.

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  100. "Is that you Elaine"? A thick voice of her father echoed through the walls.

    Frozen in place, she couldn't move. Thuds of footsteps and his cane got louder. Then the shadow of his bent posture surprised her. What happend to this man who kept his head high?

    Then he came to full view. Clothes haven't been changed for days.

    "Father, why didn't you change your clothes"?

    "Everyone left me after your mother died."

    "Died? But I received a letter two months back. She was doing well but was concerned about your health. It can't be true. Are you sane?"

    "Don't forget who you're talking to young lady. Don't start crying. You always were a weak one. There is nothing you can do to help her now. Your pretty face will get red. She died peacefully in her sleep. They buried her by your younger brother. I knew you would come back if you won't hear from her."

    "I don't believe you. Why is it that I can't believe you? But you knew. Didn't you? How selfish of you. You haven't changed after all."

    "Where do you think you're going"?

    Not looking back, she opened the door and ran toward the hill to the place where her Willie was put to rest, her brother three summers younger than her. He would be 16 now. Oh, Willie. Why did you have to go? What am I to do? Leave him like everyone else did?

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  101. THE PREVIOUS POST WAS MINE. I DON'T REMEMBER MY GOOGLE ACCOUNT, SO IT'S ALWAYS A PAIN TO REMEMBER HOW TO SIGN IN OR TO SIGN IN AT ALL. LOL

    I DON'T KNOW HOW TO SIGN IN WITH WORDPRESS. IT DRIVES ME NUTS!

    Anna Labno

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  102. Vince, roaring out loud, not just laughing!

    I'm wading through, between stuff with my kidlets. We've had fun outside, now we're back in, anticipating food.

    I LOVE FOOD!

    And did the lot o' youse notice VINCE DOES NOT HOLD BACK???? :) I love that!

    You know what? Blogger's comment columns are unfriendly for this kind of exercise. I'm transferring to Word, then copying and pasting back... there must be a blogsite that's friendlier to this kind of thing, isn't there? I'm open to suggestions because this is so fun, but I'm clicking and changing bit by bit.

    But that's okay because I'm so over-the-top thrilled with how many brave souls we have here.

    REALLY: DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MANY LURKERS WE HAVE, FOLKS WHO ARE REALLY AFRAID TO STEP OUT AND HAVE THEIR WORK LOOKED AT????

    I love it when people are big and brave and bold. And if more entries slip in, I'll keep playing throughout the weekend. It's too hot to work outside, so you guys are actually doing me a favor! Saving my poor, aging skin! ;)

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  103. Hi all,

    I must have messed it up. I didn't know it's supposed to go like a chain. I don't have the time after so many responses came in to continue. Who ever was first got lucky, not fair for others.

    Anna Labno

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  104. Sarah, mon petite! (Whatever that means.)

    Here is yours:

    Matthew stood behind the door, unmoving, as if he had been waiting for years.

    Ruthy note: First, I love this. As if he’d been waiting for years… Sarah, that’s a great contemporary quick-paced line!

    His black hair was neatly gelled back.

    Ruthy note: I’d go on about his hair a bit here, same style that she remembered? Different? Give the reader the shock of seeing him alongside the familiarity… That entices them to read on, wondering why? Why did one of them leave????

    He still wore a suit and tie, even though he had gotten out of work hours ago.

    Ruthy note: I’d lose “still” and I’d probably use “should have gotten out of work” because she’s assuming this, right?

    Most of all, Matthew’s bright green eyes seemed to penetrate her.

    Ruthy note: Ah, the eyes. It’s always the eyes, and women will tell you that’s clutch in finding a mate. The smile. The eyes. So let’s not shroud them with words like “seemed”. Make it direct, go for the jugular, the gold, the brass ring. Here’s an example that sets a scene/tone for the book:

    “And his eyes, those bright green eyes, a gift from his Celtic father. She’d do well to remember that Ian O’ Rourke stepped out on women, too. Including Matthew’s mother. She thought that would turn him off to cheating, but she’d been wrong. She lifted her chin and met those eyes, …”

    The same eyes she had gazed into for years, lovingly. The same eyes that had broken her heart, and were likely to break it again.

    She set her valise down on the ground and glared at Matthew. “Why would you trick me? Why did you send me a false letter?”

    “I needed you to come back.” His voice was so calm, and charming. “We had an agreement, remember?”

    And I love that ending, that pulse, the movement forward. And that he wasn’t devious, he was… charming. Men are such MEN!!!! Wonderful, Sarah! Thank you for playing!

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  105. Ganise! Oh I can't believe you apologized for practicing with us!!!

    Girlfriend, this is what we do. We help each other, and you just take your little apology and bury it somewhere because we LOVE when authors are brave enough to jump in the water. Oh my stars, I would have been so intimidated by this at your age...

    So it's awesome that you're taking the plunge now!!! You rock, kid.

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  106. Ruthie, I think you missed me.

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  107. Drawing a deep breath, she stepped forward. Just as her foot hovered over the first step, the door swung open and a pair of blue eyes bore into hers. Eyes that had once gazed at her with warmness and love were now cold and hard as steel.
    “So the prodigal daughter returns?”
    Valerie straightened, her pointed chin jutted out as she faced the man she had once shared so many secrets with. The man who had taught her how to love. The man who had shattered her world. “Hello, Cort.”
    “You’re a little early,” he stepped in front of the door, crossing his arms over his chest. “The old man’s not dead yet. Your plans to rob and pillage will have to wait.”
    All her previous insecurities fled as she faced her Goliath. “Step aside,” she ordered. “I want to see my father.” She moved around him to make her way through the large oak doors, ignoring the heat emanating from his large body. The breath was knocked out of her and she found herself against the wall, his face mere inches from hers. She wanted to strike out at him, hurt him like he had hurt her, but despite the years of pain he had caused her, her body rejoiced in his nearness. Her pounded in her chest, her lungs relished the musky smell of his cologne and her eyes drank in the ruggedness of his face.
    “I can’t allow you to hurt him again,” his voice was low but strong. His eyes, of their own volition dipped to her full mouth. God, how he wanted to kiss some sense into her. The pleading look in her eyes almost swayed him, but he gathered his composure and stepped away. “He isn’t well. Seeing a ghost might put him over the edge.”
    “Is that what I am now? A ghost?” she struggled to get her heart rate under control. “Funny. For a ghost, I feel very much alive.” Especially when I look at you, she added silently. She knew she had hurt him when she left three years ago. She longed to be able to tell him that she didn’t want to leave, that she was protecting her father, his business and the man standing in front of her. Dread filled her to the core, because she knew that explanations would lead to more questions, and she didn’t have the answers for those yet.

    OK...gulp...bring it on!!! (I'm soooo scared!)

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  108. Hi Patricia:

    It’s probably going to take Ruth until Sunday night to get to everyone!!! Such wonderfully detailed comments. Ruth is very generous.

    BTW: I just loved your story. This is a great line:

    Turn and run. That’s what she needed to do, but that didn’t seem as though it was going to happen, not with feet like cinder blocks.

    It makes my legs feel heavy.

    RUTH: Patricia is a ringer. We were both in Missy’s class on writing. She is very good.

    RUTH…BTW: I featured two of your book covers on my website today. One excellent and one not. You might not want to read it. You can avoid reading it by not going here:
    Book Cover Art.

    Keep the faith.

    Vince

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  109. LeAnne,

    I liked it! :)

    Anna Labno

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  110. Thank you so very much for critiquing my writing, Ruth. The corrections are very much appreciated!

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  111. Thank you SO much, Ruthy!
    You're so sweet =)

    Hugs!

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  112. Vince, I figured Ruthie'd be at this for a few days. But since she seems to be going in order and got the ones before and after me, I didn't want to get lost in the shuffle.

    A ringer? Ruthie! You're too kind. Have at it with a scalpel. I'm ready.

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  113. From Jan Christiansen:

    Abby?” Luke Snyder bounded down the steps and jogged across the yard, stopping just inches in front of her. He wrapped his arms around her and whispered, “Welcome home, Abby, I’ve missed you.”

    She felt the familiar rush of emotions. Feelings she thought she had squelched with leaving Woodsfield, but there they were, rising up in her throat, choking her words.

    Ruthy note: Jan, nice sense of immediacy! He’s bounding and jogging, she’s feeling a ‘rush of emotions… Very nice!

    I might suggest changing “She felt” to something less passive like: “Emotions rushed her.” Or “Emotions engulfed her”… or “Emotions she’d long ago dismissed rushed back, waves she’d squelched when she left Woodsfield…etc.”

    She untangled herself from his embrace. “L-luke, what are you doing here?”

    He turned to look at the house. “I bought the old place,” he said. His tone was light, but she could hear the tension in his voice. “I’m fixing her up. You want to have a look?”

    “Bought it?” she muttered, unable to wrap her mind around the idea. Luke knew what had happened here. He had been the one who had found her hiding under the bed. The one who had coaxed her out of her hiding place and walked her out of the house. How could he possibly want to live in this nightmare that was once her home?

    She was wrong to have come here. No matter what her sister’s letter had said, she couldn’t do it. Facing her fears had never been her way of handling things. Avoidance had always been her safe-haven.

    Ruthy note: We have an instant feeling of an old rescue, a dark moment in a young girl’s life. Jan, I’d change the “had never been” or the “had always been”, they’re too close together.

    She had run from her past, from this house and from Luke ten years ago and she was ready to do it again.

    “I have to go.” She turned to put the key in the door of her Volvo parked at the curb.

    Luke reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, then turned her to face him. Lifting her chin, he forced her to look him in the eye. His voice was soft, “Abby, you can do this. We’ll do it together.”

    Tears welled up in her eyes.

    Ruthy note: I'd lose "up".

    Together. That’s the way Abby had always imagined her life - she and Luke together, but too much had happened. Too much sorrow, too much betrayal.

    She dropped her gaze and shook her head, “I can’t, Luke.”

    “You have to stay, Abby,” He said, lifting her chin again until she looked him in the eye. "There’s something you don’t know about what happened that day.”

    Oh, very nice ending! I would suggest not lifting the chin twice, going for another way to draw her attention.

    The other suggestion I would make is to re-word some of the repetitive phrasing. If we use it too often, we lose some of that impact.

    I’d re-work some of the past tense phrasing to keep the past less distanced from these pivotal moments. (I’m not sure what I just said, but it sounded real smart-like!) 

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  114. And here's Mary's!


    "Grandma?"

    No, it couldn't be, she walked like grandma, looked like grandma, smiled like Grandma? No, because as far as she could remember Grandma never smiled, not at her anyway.

    Ruthy note: AW, already I’m feelin’ bad for this kid. Why doesn’t Grandma just love her to death???? Oy!!!

    Grandma had been gone for three years, so it couldn't be her. But Jill could see smile lines, love lines surrounding the face in front of her. "Aunt Jessie! It's you! And what are you doing here? I thought you said you'd never enter this house again."

    I love Aunt Jessie already. Like THIS MUCH! I’d lose one of the ‘could’s in this sentence group, Mary…

    "Never say never sweetie, er, um, well, I just learned that last week,she wagged her head girlishly. That's how she was, of course. Grandma said Jessie would never grow up, but that's what Jill loved about her. “Come on in we need to talk."

    Ruthy note: Jessie sounds delightfully impish. Love it! And Dave’s Grandma always used that phrase “Never say never.” So true!!!

    Coolness, freshness entered her lungs instead of the heat and dust she was expecting, and what was that? Lemon Pledge?

    Ruthy note:What could smell better except Tide Detergent followed by a bleach rinse, LOL! I love the smell of clean! Probably because I don’t get treated to it OFTEN!!!

    Aunt Jessie's cane tip squeaked on the glowing wooden floors. Aunt Jessie turned, "Oh, I have a surprise, I hope you don't mind." she looked to her left and there he sat , not smug exactly, not friendly either, but there he was in all his Lukeness ready for anything.

    I’d delete one “Aunt Jessie” Mary. I love the line ‘not smug exactly, not friendly, either, but there he was in all his “Luke-ness”, ready for anything. Wonderful! Thank you sooooo much for doing this!

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  115. Virginia, your comment last night said you equated this with dreaming about showing up for the exam naked.

    I figured a reminder couldn't hurt, right??? ;)

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  116. Patti Jo, I never fuss at folks that buy my books!!!! :)

    This morning I spent an hour writing before I allowed myself to come over here and work on these. Because writing is what we do, Sistah!

    :)

    And then you must write us and tell us how much you LOVED that sweet hero and that you were cheering the heroine on when she takes on the old lady....

    :)

    I LOVE THAT!!!! And the two little girls are precious, precious, precious. I love me some babies! You go write, I'll torture folks here, then feed 'em your chocolate to assuage their wounded souls.

    'Sall good!

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  117. He was magnificent. The finest specimen of sheltiedom she’d ever seen. Regal in bearing though his nose might be too long to meet breed standards and he could do with a decent grooming. But oh my when he raised his head in silent greeting she had to paw the drool away from the side of her mouth. He was a stunning symphony in ebony and white.

    I love this! I’m a huge James Howe fan and I love dog-speak!

    “Can I help you?”

    His deep-throated bark sent her withers to quivering but even so, she was filled with trepidation.

    Ruthy note: I think on this I’d go to ‘quivered her withers’ and I’d drop the “but even so”…. I like it a little tighter, but love the quivering withers, LOL!

    “I’m sorry to have bothered you. This was a mistake.”

    “Wait!” He moved down the steps with a beguiling agility. “My name’s Simba. Are you here about the ad I placed in Dog Fancy Miss…?”

    “Honey.” He was even more handsome upon closer inspection and the way he plumed his tail made hers wave in response despite her attempt to appear aloof.

    Ruthy note: Oh, I hate it when my tail does that!!! I so understand!!!!

    “An apt name for such a sweet lady.” Simba dipped his head and nuzzled her nose and then playfully shouldered her sideways. “I hope your being here isn’t really a mistake because I think you might be the companion of my dreams.”

    “Y-y-you do?”

    He huffed with gentle laughter and her nose twitched in delight at the peanut buttery smell that tickled her senses.

    Ruthy note: I’d go to two separate sentences here to keep the senses moving along….

    “More then fulfill my dreams. I didn’t know such perfection existed.”

    Ruthy note: Now here I’d probably scoff at him a little because he’s coming on a little strong, like a Match.Com ‘winked at you’ guy. That keeps Honey in control.

    Honey ducked her head modestly. “I came from a good breeder.”

    “But you carry yourself with championship comportment.” Simba moaned and nuzzled her neck. “Such fine lines too. Would you care to take a stroll and discuss the…er…other conditions in my advertisement?”

    Ruthy note… Oh, man he’s moaning already. Remember, this is a “G” rated blog!!! Simba’s a hottie!

    “Well…I suppose that would be all right.” Honey fell in beside the larger sheltie and marveled at how dainty her paws appeared next to his sturdy ones.

    “And afterwards, if things work out the way I think they will, might you be interested in staying for dinner?” Simba looked so hopeful with his head tilted to one side, tongue lolling out of his mouth.

    Ruthy note: I’d change this line after his invite to dinner. Just refine it a little, let’s feel what she’s feeling not just see what she’s seeing. Emote me!

    Could it be that he was as smitten as she? Was he Tramp to her Lady? Pongo to her Perdita? Hootch to her Camille? There was only one way to find out so, with a yip of joy, she raced ahead...and into her future.

    Oh, stinkin’ adorable! LOVE IT!!!! You made me laugh out loud, envisioning these two! Tramp to her Lady???? Pongo to her Perdita???? Dying here! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

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  118. And this one came in by e-mail from J. Garrett:

    Her feet refused to move. The old mansion gazed back at her, challenging her to step forward.

    It was her past coming back to haunt her. It was him! The man that had destroyed her dreams, her future, her life.

    Ruthy note: I love this opening… The only thing I’d change is “it”… I’d dump one and maybe both to make the sentence pop out more.

    Why had she returned she knew better?


    Ruthy note: I’d break this up into two sentences… Why had she returned? She knew better.

    Her Grandmother had begged her to come back in the letter she wrote. The problem was her Grandmother didn't know about him. She had never told anyone. Now there he was standing there staring at her.

    Ruthy note: This has so much raw emotion that I’d rather see it as felt, not told. To do that you need to describe what she’s feeling using words that evoke a reader’s sympathy, empathy or anger on her behalf. Let those emotions flood the page, let them flow around the reader, sucking him in, grabbing her attention. This could be a lament, a plea… Here’s an example, but it should be done your way…

    Grandma had begged her to return. Even so, she knew better. She’d always known better. Her hand slipped to the thin paper edge curling above the seam of her pocket. She’d never told Grandma about him. What he did. Why she ran. Now there he was, standing there, staring at her.


    She wanted to run but her feet was nailed to the floor she couldn't move. She felt frozen, run, run she kept telling herself, but she couldn't move.

    Ruthy note: And here I’d break this down into short, sharp sentences that feed the feeling of emergency:

    She wanted to run. Needed to run. But dread nailed her feet to the floor, freezing her. Run! Run! The inner voice pummeled her from a long-distant past, but not far enough. Never far enough.

    Grandmother had told her the house was empty, that no one had been there for years. Apparently Grandmother was wrong. "What are you doing here?" he growled.

    She jumped when he spoke. Her mouth was dry, no words came out. All she could do was stare at him.

    "Answer me," he yelled.

    Well you did a great job because I want to thrash this guy myself. And I just might! Well done! Thank you so much for jumping in the sandbox, playing with us!

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  119. Good morning, Peeps! I spent the early Eastern AM writing on next spring's book, but I haven't forgotten you! I'll be back later. Gotta do some outside stuff before it gets too hot...

    I'm bringin' sweet tea back with me!

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  120. Vince, I got nothin' but praise for your take on Mary's good twin/evil twin story but it was clearly in too deep by my gentle standards. You've gone over the edge, my friend. Shame on you. Clearly, you are out of control.

    Pray, my friend.

    Pray hard!

    Or you can just Dirty Harry everything and shoot first, ask questions later.

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  121. De profundis
    (Psalm 130)

    I was in too deep
    but not deep enough
    after winter’s end
    I had to toughen up
    I was out of control
    with many false starts
    waiting out the storm
    reading Mended Hearts.

    Driven over the edge
    there waiting for me
    was an open grave
    by the husband tree.

    Misunderstood men
    all had to perish
    forever denied
    a family to cherish.

    Sidney and Wendell
    reunited hearts
    now six feet under
    having played their parts.

    While deeper meaning
    may well escape us
    in the end it’s always
    De profundis.

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  122. VINCE -- you even have Simba howling with laughter and he hasn't read half of those books so he doesn't completely get it.

    You are a maestro of words!

    And poor Ruthy -- you are still at it and you even did Simba's (the scaliwag for sneaking it in there!) I should never have let him open a gmail account. There'll be no stopping him now.

    We also love James Howe and we love you too, Ruthy!

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  123. Ruthie...

    Whew! I was afraid you would just rip this apart. But I’m happy with the changes you made and think they make the story read much better.

    Thank you, for your input. It’s not every day a beginning fiction writer can score a free critique from a multi-published author. I appreciate you!

    Jan

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  124. Ruth,

    Are you commenting on more scenes?

    I'm still waiting for mine.

    Anna Labno

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