Monday, June 28, 2010

2010: Day 177. The Day Brought Some Progress

Well, I'm back and pleased to say all's not lost. I followed through with the steps I mentioned in yesterday's post and when I was ready to tackle the edits ... again, I put on my earphones, popped in my CD of Mr. Holland's Opus and got it done. ;)

My word count is down by around 300 words, so I'm obviously missing some text, but that's easily fixed.  All I need to do is compare my good printed chapters with the earlier electronic version to see what I need to update.

It certainly didn't take as long as I thought it would. So glad I didn't lose any sleep over this either.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

2010: Day 176 A Devastating Mistake--Or Was It?

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to attend a ladys' tea and listen to a talk given by a missionary titled, "See Through Faith."  I'd listened to one of her talks several years before so I was really pleased to know she was the speaker again this year.

Her message was that no matter who you are, what you believe in, how much money you have, bad and unfortunate things happen to everyone, but if we look at those things (experience them) through our feelings or with our eyes instead of through our faith, we will only see the negative side of the situation and open the floodgates of anger and resentment.

"Imagined," she said, "that a loved one has a terminal illness, what are you going to do?  Your unwed daughter is pregnant, what are you going to do? You've lost your job; your home, your business, what are you going to do?"  She continued with several other examples each time ending it with the question, what are you going to do? Will anger make these things go away? "No, instead," she said, "accept that these things have happened, have faith, and keep trying, keep living and go on with your life."

I've always firmly believed that all things happen for a reason--the people we meet, the things we do, the events (good or bad) that happen to us, come into our lives for a reason. And so, as she spoke I thought of the many things that have happened to our friends, their families, our family during these turbulent times and I was touched by her words.

Now then, what I'm about to share, isn't devastating or a life changing event, but as minor as it was in comparison, when it happened, I immediately thought of this woman's words and knew I'd been meant to hear them.

As those of you who have read my posts over the past few weeks know, I've complete my novel and have started working on the synopsis.  With the help of a handful of trusted friends, I've been busy polishing the manuscript. This morning, I read over the comments and suggestions my crit partner made to chapter 29 (out of 49). I worked on the edits until around two this afternoon. Imagine my thrill when I looked down at the word count: 74,350+!!

Today felt as if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and it wasn't a train. When I finished working on the recent edits, I decided to work a bit more on the synopsis. This is when the train came plowing through. We were under another severe storm warning. It had started to thunder and in my rush to save my synopsis and shut down my computer, I saved it over my manuscript.

Yes, that's right, it's gone.  I won't lie, I gasped, I panicked, little beads of sweat formed on  my brow, but then I heard those words again. What are you going to do?  I can't explain it except to say they had an amazing calming affect on me. She was right, of course. Throwing a fit or banging my head against the wall wasn't going to reconstruct a 74,350+ word manuscript--only thing "to do" was to roll up my sleeves and get back to work.

I always print my latest edits and e-mail the entire manuscript to myself as soon as I'm done so on the up side, I have a hard copy of my final edits. Unfortunately, I hadn't gotten around to e-mailing it yet. When I checked, the latest version in my mail box was dated June 22. I opened the document and SAVED it to my hard drive. Then I pulled up all the edits JD sent to me since the 22nd.

I had to go back to chapter 13 and started comparing the edits to my hard copy and then updated my computer file again. Sure it's frustrating and it'll take me  several days to get it done, but like I said, it's not a life or death thing by a long shot.Will I be more careful next time? You bet!

Ironically, in the process of going back and checking the chapters one sentence at a time, I found a few things that he and I both missed and edits I'd overlooked. As I read through the text, I also discovered something I'd forgotten about one of the characters that will be key to a final chapter. Cool, huh?

Just another day in this writer's life. ;)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

2010: Day 168 A New Review For Silenced Cry

Some days when we least expect them, good things do come our way and this one was most welcomed! This past week, I received a note from a dear friend and author of "Dead Witness," Joylene Butler, that she had posted a review of my first novel, "Silenced Cry" on her blog.

Here goes:

Marta Stephens, SILENCED CRY, Bewrite Books, 2007, 284 pgs

As a writer, I'm well aware of how difficult it is to write a good pitch. For that reason when I read the publisher's blurb for "Silenced Cry", I bought a copy. Bewrite Publishers promised that Stephens's novel would keep me entertained from start to finish.

Author Marta Stephens delivers on that promise.

Homicide detective Sam Harper stands by helplessly as his partner is shot dead at what should have been a routine pick-up for questioning. His late-partner was so certain of the lack of danger that he declined to wear his vest before confronting the witness. Now Harper is left with more questions than answers. And to make matters worse, he's taken off the case and assigned to Homicide and a new partner.

When Harper is called to investigate a cold case, (the skeletal remains of an infant are found stuffed in the wall of a building due for demolition) the investigation leads him to a possible involvement by his police hero father and his boss, a man he respects and trusts. As more leads surface, the investigation becomes baffling. What is surely a horrific crime also involves rape and police brutality. Stephens's depiction of the grieving mother Roxanne Lewis is unforgettable and deeply moving.

Someone once said that if you've read one mystery, you've read them all. That is so far from the truth here. Sam Harper is not your run-of-the-mill hero. Though the story is about a good cop, it's not reminiscent of any other good-cop story. Harper is his own man, troubled, sincere, loyal and complexed. Silenced Cry is an intelligent story about a police detective determined to do the right thing even if it means it might destroy him.


For those interested, here's an excerpt:


The hour-long sessions started at nine in the morning, twice a week, whether narcotics detective, Sam Harper liked it or not. The only good thing about this damp and cold Massachusetts morning was that it marked the midpoint of Harper’s commitment. Internal Affairs had drilled him for three days in a row. Now the police shrink wanted a piece of him. He was sick of her dogged questions. That was his job, to wear the other guy down. Three sessions left, three hours of digging into his past, into the events of that night – that goddamned night.

Neither the mild vanilla scent floating up from a flickering candle on the doctor’s desk nor the subtle gurgle bubbling from a tabletop fountain were doing their job to relax him. Harper rubbed the arms of the leather chair with his thumb as he calculated his next move. He stared at her and finally broke the silence.

“You ever kill a man, Doc?” A subtle twitch of her brow told him he had her attention. “A split second. That’s all it takes, pull the trigger, and whoosh! He’s gone.”  more

Click here to read other reviews

Friday, June 18, 2010

2010: 167 Days--The Wheels Are Turning Again

My apologies for sounding like a broken record, but I’ll hate myself if I don’t leave a marker on this day, June 18, (2009) the anniversary of the initial writing of “Shroud of Lies.”

Yup, it was exactly a year ago today that I typed the first words to “Shroud of Lies" and wrote the last word on June 16, 2010. Now that it's done, a few dear souls have volunteered to give it a read/crit, so while I wait for their comments/suggestions, my mind is off wandering (and wondering) what to work on next.

I have a couple of choices. For homicide detective Sam Harper fans who have repeatedly asked what’s next in Sam’s life. I wrote the original draft to the third book in 2004-2005 (never did come up with a title) and placed it on the shelf while I worked on the two Harper books that got published. So that's one choice. Needless to say, my writing and voice has changed quite a bit since 2005 so it’ll take a chunk of editing, but it’s a good suspense story and worth the time to do it right--me thinks.

I have a fourth Harper novel written as well, “Grave Witness.” I worked on it throughout most of 2009. Unfortunately, it gave me fits right about the 50,000 words point. I was so frustrated with it that I dropped it to begin writing “Shroud of Lies.” Sometimes, dropping a troubled manuscript like lead balloon is the only solution. Again, it’s worth finishing, but this time my complicated plot got too complicated even for me.

I have two other Harper books still rolling around in my head, but I’m nowhere near ready to write them so Harper is far from gone, just taking a brief "vacation".

Choice two is a novel I outlined earlier this year during one of my must-to-walk-away-from-this-blasted-manuscript phase. I titled it, “The Pendant.” It’s a suspense novel about a serial killer and the unsuspecting woman who is attracted to him. I’ve had several people ask if I’d every write romance, this will be my attempt, but of course, there will be a few bodies scattered about. Sorry, can’t help myself.

So, in the meantime, while I wait for a brilliant thought to sneak into my head, I’ve picked up my copy of Paul Harris’s “The Secret Keeper” (excellent writing, BTW) and jog between reading it and writing that darn synopsis.

Friday, June 11, 2010

2010: 160 Days. Happy with the results

I think every writer at some point in their writing career experiences a time when their writing has taken a back seat to life. Mine certainly has these past several weeks. It's inevitable. Cars and homes need repair, families need our attention, gardens become terribly overgrown (because we haven’t tended to them in a couple of years because of the writing), work demands zap our creative energy, and life goes on. We continue to cram every possible thing we can into a day and, like I said, at some point something has to give.

Last week was an especially difficult week that began with a shattered car window. It was immediately followed by a broken water heater part that took a week for Sears to deliver, a tornado that touched down just outside of town (thankfully it missed us!), and the whole mess of a week was topped last Saturday when I took our 12-year old Boston Bull dog to the vet thinking she might have a bladder infection only to discover it was a tumor. I was so advanced that Maggie had to be put to sleep. It was heart-breaking to do, but in truth, it was the best thing for her.

Through it all I managed to continue to work on Shroud of Lies. Amazingly, the manuscript I began to write on June 18, 2009, is done seven days shy of the anniversary of its inception and I’m pretty happy with the results.

Now I feel I'm better able to get on with the darn synopsis.