Birthing the Next Synopsis

Coming up with a catchy summary to describe a book is always tricky. How do you hook a potential reader without giving away the surprises you have in store for them? I’m hoping you can help me decide between the two options below as the description for Cry Baby Cry. Which one do you think works best?

OPTION 1

Lily May Beckett tried to be a good girl and change her ways. But when the path to forgiveness leads to hell on earth, sin feels like the only option.

How far will a father go to save his daughter? How far will reporter Jo Sullivan have to go to save that daughter from her father? Haunted by the memory of her failure to rescue a murdered girl, Jo once again finds herself racing to find the answers before it’s too late.

OPTION 2

Disagreeing with someone’s gender identity is never an excuse for abuse, but what’s a father to do when determined to save his daughter? Lily tried to be a good girl and change her ways, but when the path to forgiveness leads to hell on earth, sin feels like the only option.

Haunted by the memory of her failure to rescue a murdered girl, Jo Sullivan risks her life to save Lily from her father and reveals a reality only a twisted mind could believe was part of God’s plan for humankind.

As always, you can read pieces from the new book posted on Birthing the Next Book.

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Generating Suspense

CryBaby-KDPSometimes I get worried I’m rushing through the plot lines too quickly and sometimes I worry that I’m not moving the story along quickly enough. For a first draft, however, I try not to get bogged down with pacing. I try to think, now that this character knows that, what would she logically do next? Then I start writing.

Last week, the chapters I finished seemed to do more character building than actual suspense plotting, although hopefully the tension of their personal stories will keep the pages turning.

First I tried to imagine what Lily was going through all alone with her unwanted baby.

“Shh, Rosie, shh.” She crawled over to the baby box and patted the writhing, wailing human inside. “Quiet, please. Quiet.”

Next, I visited Avril in her apartment and found she was dreaming, which gives some insight, I hope, into the decisions she’s made in her life.

In her dreams, Avril was kneeling in front of Lily again, hands held out to catch the baby sliding out of the girl. “Push,” she told Lily and suddenly there it was, slipping into Avril’s waiting fingers like a pit from a cherry.

Chris and Franco

Since the new novel is circling back to the first book in the series, Painted Black, I decided it made sense to bring Chris back in the new novel in a cameo role. Chris was the street kid that Jo was trying to help in that novel. I posted an old scene from Painted Black on the Birthing blog if you’d like to find out more about him.

The Chris on the screen struck Jo as slightly uncertain, but covering it with bravado. The bitterness hadn’t yet seeped into his tone.

In Cry Baby Cry, Jo is going to have to deal with guilt about not saving Chris’s friend in time, but will also confront herself and her own shortcomings. Not everyone is going to like her as much as I do, and she needs to deal with that.

I also had Jo meet Franco last week. Franco is Lily’s gay “boyfriend” who is trying to protect her from life on the streets, but may actually be putting her in harm’s way despite himself. Like Chris, Franco has a good heart, even if he is misguided, and he has fully surrendered to a willingness to do anything he can to survive on the streets. If Jo had known him earlier, maybe she could have saved him from it, like she did Chris.

Looking nervously in her rearview window, Jo pulled over to the curb where a slim youth in low-hanging jeans and a muscle t-shirt was leaning against a light pole. As the car stopped, he loped up to them. When Avril rolled down the window, he leaned down to look into the car, saw Avril, and froze.

 

Inching Along is Still Progress, Right?

I’ve been moving along pretty good since setting my goals for Cry Baby Cry a week ago.  It’s now over 15,000 words, which means about 3000 words in a week. Not race car winning speeds, but doable.

I also posted two excerpts on my Birthing blog, one showing Avril confronting another trans woman…

Lonny had transitioned late in life and all the hormones and surgical procedures in the world couldn’t disguise her masculine beginnings.

And one showing how Jo’s experiences in the first novel, Painted Black, are coming back to haunt her as she tries to find Zara.

She had learned of Lexie Green’s fate almost a year before, and the nightmares had, thank God, tapered off since then. Avril’s reappearance in her life, however, seemed to have revived those memories with a vengeance.

 

Setting Goals

I have over 13,000 words drafted in the new novel, which I have decided for certain will be titled Cry Baby Cry.  One thing I like about using Scrivener to write is that I can set a target goal of how many words I want a book to be and when I want to have the first draft done, and it will keep track of how many words I need to write each day to reach that goal.

I’ve told it I want at least 70,000 words, that I want to complete by Dec.1 and that I will be writing on Wed, Thurs, and Fri. (I also work on other days sometimes, or maybe skip one of my writing days, but it is entirely reasonable that I will be able to write at least three days a week.)

Based on that info, Scrivener tells me I need to write 1321 words a day, three days a week. It revises that number based on each day’s word count, and restarts the daily word count at midnight every night.

As of this week I finished the first draft of five chapters, and have 1500 words completed of Chapter 6. Excerpts of my progress last week can be read HERE. As always, I welcome any feedback on what I’m posting.

What’s in a Name?

I picked Katja as the name of Avril’s missing friend because I thought it was unique enough that it would make Avril suspect Lily knows her when she names the baby Katja. But when naming characters, it’s important not to have two names too similar or readers might easily get confused as to who is who.

Jo’s friend Keisha also has a unique name and while maybe both names are unique enough that it won’t be confusing, I see no reason to risk it. Therefore Katja is now Zara, specifically Zara Rose.

“Zara? Zara Rose? I haven’t seen her for months. I thought you two were friends. Why come here looking for her?”

The name works on another level, too, since Zara is transgender and would have chosen her new name, one that she identifies with due to the Algerian heritage in her grandparents’ cultural background.

What do you think of the new name? And don’t forget to check out the latest excerpts posted in my Birthing the Next Street Story blog.

Characters Do Tell Their Own Story

The beginning to Chapter 4 came to me while swimming laps at the YMCA. I had to keep going over and over the scenario in my head while I finished my 40 minutes, dried off, and dressed, so while I was sitting waiting for my Mom to get done with her exercises, I starting drafting it using my phone so I wouldn’t forget.

When I started putting it all into Scrivener back home, it really kept flowing, but I was very surprised to hear Jack reprimand Jo the way he did. I hadn’t counted on that, but it fit well into a sub-theme I want to work on. That led to this bit that I’ve posted on the Birthing blog. I don’t yet know where this will go, probably about mid-way through the book, but I thought I’d share it here to see what you think. Click the quote below to read the whole excerpt.

That was the fourth person in two days to accuse her of being a heartless bitch. What the hell did they want from her?

Avril’s Chapter is Done

I didn’t get as much writing done last week as the week before, but I did finally finish chapter three, told through Avril’s voice.Over 2000 words, in fact, I’m probably going to have to pare it down.

For months before I started plotting, I was researching the subject of LGBTQ, particularly how it affects kids living on the streets. But most of what I’d found was about gay, lesbian, or transgender and when I tried applying any of this to Avril, I wasn’t satisfied, as I’ve written about before.

Thankfully I found a blog by someone who, like Avril, also doesn’t want to completely transition to female and it has been helpful, I think. Here’s a small bit of the chapter. This feels more authentic than my first post, don’t you think? I hope so.

Who is Avril?

This fourth Street Stories novel is a risk. They say write what you know. I know nothing about what it is like to be LGBTQ, but I do know that up to 40% of homeless youth are living on the streets because of their gender preference. Because they have been thrown out and sometimes abused by those who should take care of them. In addition, homeless LGBTQ persons are at greater risk on the streets from a society that rejects them. If you don’t believe me, read what the National Coalition for the Homeless has to say on the subject.

So it is important for me to convey that reality in this next book. To do that, I need feedback from those who know more about the issues than I do. I humbly hope to receive honest feedback as I struggle to make Avril a very real and believable character. Will you help me? I am going to post links to two different scenes where Avril is present, but seen through the eyes of others.

We first meet Avril briefly at the end of Chapter 1, from Lily’s point of view, but we don’t really get much there except that she is a man dressed as a woman. Lily is too distracted by labor pains to pay much attention. I hint that Lily is afraid of Avril for some reason we don’t know. Yet she is still willing to ask her for help. Click the quote below to read the partial chapter.

Avril wouldn’t want to help her if she knew. Would hate her. But to save her baby, Lily would have to pretend. To lie. She was good at that, wasn’t she?

It isn’t until Chapter two, told from Jo Sullivan’s point of view, that we spend enough time with Avril to get a fuller picture. Jo feels awkward around Avril, as many people would, so that comes through, but is Avril’s dialogue coming across as real despite Jo’s discomfort? Click the quote below to read the whole chapter, then let me know what you think.

When Jo first met a street artist nicknamed CRY, the brutal murder of a friend and his fear of being forced to turn tricks to survive on the streets had made the boy somewhat homophobic and yet it had been this Avril who he’d gone to when looking for a missing girl and it was Avril who he’d continued to correspond with by letter after he got into Job Corps.

Already a Stumbling Block

The first week of writing started off pretty well.  On Wednesday, I spent my time writing some of Lily’s backstory.  Lily is the young woman living on the streets that my main character is trying to help. The trouble she’s in has a long and complicated history that I have already plotted out, but I wanted to write a few of the background pivot points in her voice so that I am fully in her head when I start writing the present story-line.  I’m feeling pretty confident that I understand where she’s coming from.

If you want to keep tabs on what Lily is doing, you can follow my posts about her on my new blog “Birthing the Next Book.”

Thursday I started writing the first scenes from Jo Sullivan’s point of view. After writing about her for three books now I feel I know her personality, so I was able to start right in on the story. She’s not entirely the same woman she was in the first three books, however, since any good continuing character should always grow as the books progress, and in the most recent book, Box of Rain, she had kind of a breakthrough regarding her contentious relationship with her mother so I want to make sure that comes across in the writing this time.

On the new blog, I posted part of a scene where Jo meets Lily’s father for the first time if you want to take a look.

The stumbling block arrived on Friday when I tried to write scenes told in the voice of my third point of view character, Avril. Avril is an existing character, first introduced briefly in Painted Black as the transvestite that Chris goes to when he’s first looking for Lexie. She doesn’t appear in the next two books, but I wanted to show that she is a more important character than those two pages warranted. The fact that Chris, who often spouted homophobic BS, went to Avril for help was intended to convey that his anti-gay rhetoric was mostly for show, and I’m not really sure that came across the way I wanted it to.

The problem is that I don’t know any transgender people personally, and the research I’ve found has only confused me more. Is Avril truly transgender, someone who has always felt like a girl and is working the streets in order to earn money for gender reassignment surgery?  Or is she a transvestite as I first imagined her in the first book, someone who enjoys dressing as a woman and acting like a woman, but has no desire to permanently change her sex? Regardless of which she is, I want to be able to portray her over the top personality without turning her into a caricature.

It is through Avril’s eyes that I want to emphasize the change in Jo’s thinking since her latest conversations with her mother. Avril is good at putting on a front from years of transforming from Bobby Boyle into Avril McCartney. So she finds it easy to see past others’ masks, yet at the same time she cynically suspects everyone is hiding behind one. As her opinion of Jo changes throughout the book, I’m hoping the reader will see the same thing.

Until I resolve my questions about who Avril really is, I’ve decided to move forward with the book concentrating on Jo and Lily for now. Seeing Avril through their eyes may help me resolve my own confusion. Even though I don’t feel I’ve quite got the voice down yet, I posted a short scene about some of Avril’s opinion of Jo in the new blog.

I intend to keep posting excerpts or other meaderings about the book on Birthing the Next Book, so if you want to keep up with what I’m doing without waiting for my weekly updates here, head over to www.thenextstreetstory.wordpress.com and subscribe to receive regular email updates.

 

Book Four Begins

This is it. Finally. I have reduced my hours working at the library to only five a week, on Tuesdays. On Wednesday, I begin devoting the bulk of my focus to the fourth Street Stories Suspense novel.

I’m not sure of the title yet. I am playing with two of them: Cry Baby Cry, and When I Die. The first seems to go with the plot which involves a young girl giving birth in the first chapter. The second, though, has lyrics that fit the story better than the other. Perhaps I’ll do a survey here later to help me choose. Click the titles above and see what you think.

I’ve already done most of the preliminary work, research and some plotting. I even wrote a few scenes. Now I need to immerse myself in the world I’m creating, get to know the characters and their motivations on a personal level, and get their story all out on paper (figuratively speaking since I write on my computer).

I’ll touch base here on Mondays to let you know how I’m doing.  I look to you to hold me accountable to make progress week after week. Let’s do this!

Gearing Up for Book 4

If all goes well, I plan to have a new Street Stories novel finished this year.  My focus will be to highlight awareness of the number of homeless youth who are members of the LGBTQ community.  It is estimated that about 40% of homeless youth are on the streets because of their sexual orientation.

Here’s one of the sources I found while researching the specifics:

Free Book – No Fooling!

Check it out on Amazon

To celebrate the release of the second edition of Painted Black, I’ve decided to offer the Kindle version for FREE this weekend only, April 1-3.

PBnewcover

Watch for 2nd Edition Coming Soon | Painted Black

I will be upgrading the cover on Painted Black soon.
Watch back here for more news.

cover final-245px335pI just wanted to tell everyone that I will be releasing Painted Black, edition 2, sometime in early March. The content will be the same, so don’t feel you have to run out to buy a new copy to compare text, but it will have a new cover, thanks to the artistic talents of the amazing Annie Walls, who did the cover for Box of Rain There may be a short transitional period during which neither version will be available as Amazon and other sites remove the old and replace it with the new, but check back here and I’ll be sure to let you know when version 2 is available. Cover sneak peak available soon!

Source: Watch for 2nd Edition Coming Soon | Painted Black

Split Personalities: Painted Black

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Image 1

This week, instead of continuing my blogging theme discussing my three books in one project, I wanted to comment on what happens sometimes when you search Amazon for an author’s books online. When I search Amazon for “Painted Black Borys” I find two results, one of which is a whopping $19.93 and is sold by some company named Wisper Books (see Images 2 and 3).

In Image 1 next to the $5.20 there are also 28 new and used offers you can click on.  These are an assortment of odd sellers offering Painted Black as a new or used book.  This often happens to authors. Their book gets listed for odd, sometimes exorbitant, prices from resellers.  While many of the companies are legit, you should also be cautious since it is possible you might get more than you bargain for if you try purchasing.  This is especially true if they claim you can download the book for free.

The only way you can download any of my books for free is if I or my publisher set up a special sale. If you see an offer too good to be true, check here on my website or my Street Stories site .  I will always tell you about special sales.  The exception to this is that anyone who subscribes to Kindle Unlimited can download some of my books for free.

See images 2 and 3 as examples of what a non-primary seller’s page might look like.

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Image 2

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Image 3

The 2015 Chicago Book Expo

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I have heard great things about this event from other writers and am looking forward to attending for the first time. If you go, stop by my table and say hi.  I’d love to see you.

October Events

I can’t believe October is almost here, but I’m loving this fall weather. If I can just pretend winter snows and cold aren’t right behind autumn, I can be a happy camper. I’m also happy about a couple of events I’m doing in October, three actually, though two of them are on the same day but in different places. Check these out.

Saturday, October 3
Oswego Literary Festival, 9:00 – 1:00
32 West Jefferson, Oswego, IL

The Village of Oswego Cultural Arts Commission along with the Oswego Public Library District will be hosting the 4th annual Oswego Literary Festival.  They will offer sessions, displays, and vendors, including me there selling some books.  I’ll be bringing the new Deb Donahue novel with me, too, so if you’re in the neighborhood and want one, come on by.  They are also raffling off all three books in my Street Stories series (Painted Black, Bend Me, Shape Me, and Box of Rain) and lots of other cool prizes. The library’s Oswego Campus features a beautiful, new addition. This will be the first major event in the new annex.

WOA2Word of Art 2/Fall Art Scene, 5:00 – 9:00
Celebration Gallery at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church
902 Third Ave, Rockford, IL

This is an extended showing of the Word of Art selections being shown in their gallery, and will include 5 minute readings during the first 30 minutes of each hour by In Print members.  My reading will be at the beginning of the 6:00 hour and I haven’t decided yet if I will read my award winning story Spare Change, or if I should read a scene from one of my novels, like Box of Rain.  What do you think?

Saturday, October 24

PPLPrinceton Public Library Author Fair, 10:00 – 2:00
698 E Peru St., Princeton IL

I am especially excited about this event, since this is the library where I work and I am involved with the planning, in addition to being one of the authors who will participate. We have over 30 authors lined up to bring their books for a chance to sell and sign them for readers. We hope to make this an annual event, and may add a few extras to the day like speakers and giveaways.  I’ll be sure to keep you updated if we do.

That’s two, two, two awards in one!

WOA2Last year, I was thrilled that my story An Autumn Afternoon was runner up at Word of Art, an artist/author collaboration sponsored by In Print Professional Writers.So you can imagine how off the wall I felt on September 4 when one of my stories, Spare Change, won their 2015 author award, selected by Dan Klefsted from the NPR station WNIJ. AndAND (as my friend Rex Hohlbein from the Homeless in Seattle group would put it) the story and art combination alsoALSO (sorry, Rex, for the plagiarism) won the Reader’s Choice award.

wpid-cam00990.jpgThat last bit of good news I completely owe to artist Denise DeKing Stredde.  Not only did she create this awesome mixed media painting based on my words, but when she shared WHY she did it and HOW she did it, I was blown away.  You will be too, when you read this:

I chose to illustrate this piece because, not only is Deb Borys’ writing style wonderfully descriptive, but, the message contained in “Spare Change” is extremely important.  As I thought about how I would depict it, I made a sketch for every line.  But, in an ironic twist, I realized that narrowing my view would actually give me the broadest delivery.  Two words told the whole story.  “I am.”

I am

Homelessness has become a headline.  Too often, we read the headline, but fail to see the people.  We fail to recognize ourselves in their faces.  We fail.  I am.  These two words are the most powerful in this piece; and that’s why I put them in my painting at least 65 times.  Look closely – you may have missed them.  I am, in various sizes, bold and standard, forward and backward, upside-down and right-side up. These words are hidden in shadows and blended into the urban sky.  Although I didn’t count as I was placing them in the painting, I attempted a rough I am count upon completion, and there were at least 65.

Now – The Image.  My first instinct was to depict a man.  But, as I started sketching, this woman fought to be recognized.  That’s when I realized that I’d still had my blinders on.  The painful reality is that homelessness can affect anyone, even women, children, and the elderly.  So, I needed to reach deeper, until I was able to relate to this spirit.  And, that’s when everything fell into place.  By the time I was finished, I understood her.  She could be me.

She could be me.

The Composition.  She’s huddled into herself, in a dark corner; surrounded by light and sky – hope – yet unable to reach it and enjoy it.  Although a standard portrait will have its subject centered on the canvas, I purposely skewed the format by shoving her into that corner, forcing her into a lower status, and creating an uneasy feeling for the viewer.

The Medium.  I used a paint thickening medium and a pallet knife, as opposed to a paintbrush, for the majority of this piece.  It created divots and sharp edges, fragmenting her surroundings and making her skin look rough from exposure.  I was careful not to lose her features – you can tell she was “pretty once” when she WAS someone.  The painting is primarily acrylic, but with some surprise mixed media, to make her more real to me.  For survival, she’s been cloaked in a blanket made of my scraps – lint from my dryer – filled with dog hair and debris.  She’s literally wrapped in my cast-offs.  Mixed in with her painted strands, I’ve included 20-30 real hairs – harvested from my hairbrush.  In addition to my own hair, she may have those of my husband and my daughter; to remind me that she could be any one of us.

In my son’s words, “The real hair in there is a bit perturbing – unsettling – but I guess that’s the point.”

See her. She’s real.

Yes.  It is.  Feel uncomfortable when you look at her, because that’s honest.  But then, get over yourself.  See her.  She’s real.  And she needs you to acknowledge that.

What can I add to that?  Denise gets it.  I hope you get it.  I wish everyone could “get it.” because then the world would be a better place.

This year, I actually submitted the maximum number of stories (three) to their followup Word of Art 2. It was gratifying that two of my submissions were selected by writers (the maximum allowed per entrant). Both pieces were dear to my heart. Dixie is a poem I wrote after my geriatric miniature poodle passed away, and Spare Change was written about in invisibility of homelessness.

Artist Terry Werntz certainly got the toothless look down in this portrayal of my little Dixie, and to be honest, when she was wet her fluffy white hair was so fine she did look just

The 2015 Printers Row Festival

printersrowAck! This event is sneaking up on me way too quickly.  Still, I’m excited to be going back to Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Festival. On Sunday, June 7 from 2-6 p.m. I will once again be under the Chicago Writers Association tent from 2 – 6 p.m. selling copies of my Street Stories novels and meeting other book lovers and authors.

If you are in the area, I hope you will stop by and say hello.  This is going to be a great event with lots of events happening all weekend long.  One of these years I am going to go up for the whole weekend so I can enjoy some of the special speakers instead of just standing behind a table full of my books.

Word of Art 2 – I’m in!

woa2ipblogLast year’s Word of Art project was so successful that In Print Professional Writers have done it again.  Word of Art 2 started a few weeks ago with a call to writers to submit essays, poems or stories that are 200 words or less. Artists then select the ones they want to interpret visually on a 16×20 canvas in whatever medium they choose. Stories and art are then put on exhibit and published in a book.

Writers submitted up to three pieces and could have as many as two of them selected.  Since my entry last year, An Autumn Afternoon, was one of the finalists at the end of project judging, I actually submitted three pieces this time hoping to double my luck. I just found out TWO of them have been selected. I can’t wait to see what the artists do with them.

Here are the beginnings of the two that were chosen.  Click continue if you want to read the whole thing:

Dixie

The artist who selected Dixie is Janet Werntz

Her toothless grin
Her pink, pink skin
Her wild, dust-magnet hair
She’d snuggle close beneath your chin
To let you know she cared.
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Spare Change

Denise DeKing Stredde selected Spare Change

I watch as you walk by.  I hear what you’re not saying.

You want clean, swept sidewalks and easy access to the path of your intention.  Impediments in your way are merely obstacles to be removed or ignored.
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