So You Want to be a Writer

I was at a bar one night and ran into a woman I used to date over fifteen years ago. In our exchange of pleasantries, my being a writer came up and immediately my ex grabbed my arm and exclaimed to me with vigor how she is planning on writing her autobiography because she’s led a very interesting life, and all of her friends tell her she just has to write a book.

I told her I was sure she had many great stories to tell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could fill a book, but I asked if she’d had any training in writing. The uncertain look on her face answered my question. She hadn’t studied writing in any way past a classroom in high school, but figured since she had a story to tell (most people who are alive have a story to tell. It’s called life.) and knew how to write in complete sentences, she could write a book.

I didn’t roll my eyes in front of her. I’m not that rude. But I did suggest to her that if she was serious about writing her book, she should enroll in a writing course at her local college. Three months before I contracted my first book, Her Name, I had taken a writing course at my local college and it helped me more than I imagined one class would. I was lucky to have had some terrific writers in my class who gave me incredible notes on my story, which I still possess over five years later.

After I published my second book, Loving Again, I enrolled in another writing course at the same college. It was during that course that my third book, A Penny on the Tracks, was contracted. I value all of the critiques of my work by my peers and instructors because they have helped me become a better writer.

But as a writer, I have to put in the work, and it bothers me to no end when people think they can just pick up a pen and start writing the masterpiece that is their life without studying the craft.

I’m writing my current book in a point-of-view I’ve never attempted — subjective omniscient.  My former books were written in first-person and third-person limited. This is completely new to me. I feel like I’m starting all over again as a writer, and that isn’t such a bad feeling. I may enroll in another writing course. I need the guidance my fellow writers have given me on my previous works for the story I am writing now.

The writing community is tremendously supportive.

I thank all the writers who share their time and their knowledge to inspire and encourage those aspiring to write.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Penny on the Tracks

Last November, I published my book, A Penny on the Tracks. It is a YA book based loosely on my childhood friendship with my best friend. I wrote this story in college. At the time, it was written as a short story and was titled The Hideout. The finished product hardly resembles anything of the original.

In fact, the college version of A Penny on the Tracks was so bad that when I reread it nearly fifteen years ago, my first instinct was to throw it away, but the writer in me remembered the agonizing hours I put into the piece, so I stuffed it in an overfilled drawer of mostly unfinished old works and left it there.

About three years ago, for whatever reason, I searched that overfilled drawer for that story and this time when I reread the piece I didn’t want to toss it into a fire. This time I saw potential. Although I ended up rewriting almost the entire thing, the core of the story has stayed the same — two friends sharing their childhood together while dealing with personal tragedy.

The importance of friendship is prevalent in this story, and I’m proud of the way A Penny on the Tracks has turned out. I’m proud that I not only finished the story, but a publisher liked it enough to contract it. I’m hoping the same thing will happen with the story I am currently writing tentatively called Annabel. 

This is another awfully-written college short story and was titled The Attic. This piece was also stuffed in that same overfilled drawer and for some reason I also fished this story out and decided to salvage it with a rewrite. I’m over two hundred pages in and am still unsure about an ending, but I have some ideas. With A Penny I always knew how the story was going to end, and of course knowing the direction you’re writing to makes writing a story so much easier, but I do have a knack of making life harder for myself. Why should writing be any different?

The story of A Penny on the Tracks deals with friendship, coming out, and tragedy.  A girl names Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

Here is an excerpt from A Penny on the Tracks:

I JERKED FROM my sleep while the phone was still buzzing its first high-piercing ring. I glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It read 4:17 a.m. I knew something was wrong.

The second ring was abruptly broken up, and my mother’s muffled voice carried into my room. I was already sitting upright in my bed when my bedroom door squeaked open, and my mother’s slight figure appeared as a shadow near my door.

“Lyssa? You up?” she asked.

“What’s wrong?” My voice was no louder than a whisper.

My mother made her way into the dark room. I couldn’t make out the expression on her face, but her movement was stiff and hesitant. 

She turned on the lamp and sat down beside me. Her face was pale and she let out short, shallow breaths. It seemed difficult for her to look me in the eyes.

“What is it?” I asked. “What’s happened?”

My mother looked at me with pain in her eyes. “Lyssa . . .” She smoothed her hand gently across my arm. “Abbey’s dead.”

I took in her words without an ounce of denial. The reality of what my mother had told me was instant.

My best friend was dead.

 

 

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A Penny on the Tracks

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from my YA book, A Penny on the Tracks

 Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence is lost when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

As they’re about to graduate from high school, Abbey’s family life spirals out of control while Lyssa is feeling guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality. After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the tracks is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth.

APennyontheTracks-web
A Penny on the Tracks

 

 

Excerpt:

I WAS MAKING our favorite sandwich—bologna, lettuce, and cheese smeared with mustard and mayo on white bread—when Abbey called for me from the living room.

 “Lyssa! Hurry up! Poison’s on!”

The sandwiches lay on the counter amid a mess of open condiment jars and scattered pieces of lettuce and lunch meat. I quickly smashed the top slices of bread onto both sandwiches against the piled-stack of a sloppy mess I had created and hurried into the next room, dropping bits of food as I ran.

Abbey was standing on the couch, shouting out the lyrics we both knew by heart as Brett Michaels’ voice filled the room.

I handed her a sandwich, jumped on the couch, and screamed out the chorus to “Talk Dirty to Me.” I took bites of my sandwich during the guitar solo, and Abbey held her sandwich high in her left hand, as though it were the end of a guitar, and strummed her right hand against the front of her shirt. We banged our heads in unison, hair (and food) flying everywhere.

Abbey’s house had a bigger TV and better food options than bologna and cheese sandwiches, but we never could have done what we were doing right then if we were at her house.

Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” came on next, and we both lost our minds. We dropped what was left of our food onto the table and yelled out the lyrics to our favorite song. Abbey sang the song with more conviction, as though she had a lot more that she didn’t want to take anymore.

The video ended, and we both collapsed onto the couch and finished our lunch. After, I went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple cans of pop from the fridge. Hanging on a magnet, on the side of the refrigerator, was a note from my mom reminding me she was working late that night and that there were frozen dinners in the freezer. At the end of the note she promised a home-cooked meal soon.

Abbey was often envious of the lack of parental supervision at my place, especially when it came to dinner. She was jealous I got to eat whatever I wanted. Even if my mom left dinner for me in the fridge, if I wanted to eat S’mores for supper, I ate S’mores.

“You eat dinner on the couch while watching TV?” Abbey had asked me one day.      

“If I feel like it,” I answered.

“You’re so lucky. My mom makes me eat with her at the table, even if my dad isn’t home yet. And I can’t even put my elbows on the table.”

I ate on the couch while watching TV because my friend didn’t know the loneliness that crept inside a person while eating dinner among empty chairs.

But I had forced a smile. “Yep. I am lucky.”

I walked back into the living room and handed one of the cans to Abbey.

Abbey didn’t take it. “My mom said I drink too much pop.”

“Your mom’s not fucking here.”

Abbey smiled and grabbed the can from my hand.About eight videos later and a sore neck from head banging, Abbey had to go home.

I walked her to the door. “Let’s ride our bikes tomorrow.”

“Where to?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere far.”

“Last time we did that we were almost too tired to ride back,” she reminded me.

“That was because of the wind,” I explained. “It was blowing against us on our way back.”

Abbey considered this. “Okay. If it’s not very windy tomorrow, we’ll ride our bikes far.”

 

You can purchase A Penny on the Tracks on the link below at Amazon.com.

Thanks for reading!

2018 Couldn’t Come Fast Enough

It’s a week into the new year and gyms no doubt crowd with people making good on their ambitious fitness resolutions.  I do my (occasional) workouts at home, so I won’t be bothered by this sudden burst of energy from the masses.  But I have a friend who is a gym rat, and I asked him to be nice to the newbies and refrain from rolling his eyes while he waits for his favorite machines that just a couple weeks ago used to be empty.

I didn’t swear to any major resolutions this year. I’ll just piggyback on last year’s resolutions I failed to accomplish. At the start of every year, my goal is always to read more books than I had the year before. In 2017, I read eleven books. Pathetic, I know. The year before I clocked in at thirty-two books. Why the dramatic fall in books read this year? I’d like to say it was because I was too busy writing books, but that wasn’t the case. I did write some, but not as much as I had intended.

I got distracted. Distracted by politics. Distracted by the threat of healthcare being taking away from millions of people. Distracted by environmental protections being rolled back. Distracted by a crazy, unhinged president whose reckless tweets and idiotic speech damage the image of our country.

So far this year I have backed off my political breaking news obsession. The TV is turned off. No more stressing over Twitter and monitoring the moron’s feed. I’m backing off this year, but I won’t bury my head in the sand. I’ll keep up with the day to day news, and I’m sure there will be plenty to keep up with. But I won’t lose myself in the worry, the stress, in the “how much worse can it get” horrifying thoughts.

2018 is about writing. Reading. Yoga. Meditation. Shelter animals. My sanity. And Robert Mueller’s investigation that will end with Trump in handcuffs.

So looking forward to 2018.

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net

Trying to Stay Sane During Insane Times

I’ve been working on a story for a while, and for a while I’ve been making some good progress. But lately I’ve been distracted, and the usual culprits of previous distractions–Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram–are innocent in this go-around.

My writing time has been severely hampered because I can’t turn off my television to the everyday breaking news drama of this chaotic and dysfunctional administration that is the Donald Trump presidency.  But what really traps my attention are the constant revelations of the Russian investigation, run by special prosecutor Robert Mueller, that leaves me hopeful that someday (hopefully very soon) justice will prevail.

But until that time, my days are spent stressing over what will come of the country I love because the people in charge are trying to pass policies that will hurt the most vulnerable, while benefiting the most privileged.

A few months ago, the Republicans in Congress made me sweat-out a healthcare vote that would have kicked 30 million people off insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Three Republican senators were the difference between life and death for a lot of sick people because the Republicans had no viable replacement plan to ensure their care.

This is sick, but luckily, they didn’t get the vote.

But late last Friday night, the Senate Republicans had me geeking out and watching CSPAN 2 as they got the votes to pass their tax reform bill that according to independent reports, including the CBO, will knock 13 million people off insurance, and raise taxes for everyone making less than $75,000. The tax plan will also add 1.5 trillion dollars to the deficit, which will segue into rhetoric by the Right to attack Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid (all programs they hate because non-rich people depend on them) to offset the deficit.

This is sick, too.

I’m not a perfect person. I’ve done things I regret, but I would never work to cripple programs that I know benefits children, the disabled, the elderly, veterans, and the working poor. This tax plan, designed to give relief to big corporations and wealthy individuals, at the expense of the middle and working-class, is devastating.

 

The Republicans are trying to play the ‘trickle-down’ theory game again. We saw this movie in 2000 under Bush. It ended badly. Seriously, only Rosemary’s Baby that ends with a woman finding out her newborn baby she thought was dead is actually the spawn of Satan, had a worse ending than the result of Bush economics.

I don’t want to hear Republicans lecture us about why the country’s most wealthy deserve tax breaks first, and why we, the peasants, deserve only what trickles down. Why not give the money to the middle and working-class people first, and then let whatever is left over trickle to the top 1%?

If you haven’t grabbed a poster and stood outside your representative’s office or made phone calls, then you are doing exactly what these incredulous politicians want – nothing.

This plan hasn’t passed yet, and it’s not too late to stop it. But action needs to be taken now. Grab a sign. Make a phone call or two…or fifteen…if that’s what it takes.

But note to self, turn off the TV for a little while and get back to writing. Your sanity and writing career depend on it.

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marci Boudreaux and Her Sweet Romance

Sweet Romance at its finest is what Marci Boudreaux promises and delivers with style. Her books receive top marks for drawing readers into the story with well rounded characters and a plot you can’t help but love. Here is a little from Marci’s new release.

Now serving second chances.

Jenna Reid purchased the Stonehill Café to prove to herself that her ex-husband was wrong…that she could make her dreams come true. Three years later, all she has is a crumbling building, no social life, and her bruised pride.

Pride is something Colonel Daniel Maguire lost long ago and isn’t likely to find living in the alley behind the café. He just needs a little time to get on his feet. In the interim, keeping an eye on the overworked café owner gives him a sense of purpose. He has no intentions of making his presence known until he hears the woman screaming late one night.

He rushes into the café but instead of finding her in dire straits, he finds a broken pipe and Jenna—soaking wet and holding a wrench. With her last bit of hope fading, Jenna accepts Daniel’s help to fix up her building, but it doesn’t take long for them to start trying to fix each other.

This Old Café is available at these retailers:
AmazonB&NiBooksKobo

As a teen, Marci Boudreaux skipped over young adult books and jumped right into the world of romance novels. She’s never left. Marci lives with her husband, two kiddos, and their numerous pets. Until recently, she was a freelance writer appearing monthly in a variety of local magazines. She now focuses on writing and her work as a content editor.

Romance is her preferred reading and writing genre because nothing feels better than falling in love with someone new and her husband doesn’t like when she does that in real life.

Learn more about Marci Boudreaux on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

A Penny on the Tracks

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is a program that challenges writers to complete a 50,000 word novel in one month — 50,000 words in 30 days.  If it sounds insane, that’s because it is, but I’m sure I saw a quote somewhere from Stephen King stating that a writer should be able to finish a first draft in 30 days.

I have never finished a first draft in 30 days — not even a first draft of a 15,000 word short story I recently wrote. That tale took me two months to complete.

 

For four straight years, I have promised myself I’d take part in this challenge, and for the fourth November in a row, I backed out before I even began.  I’m not against pushing myself as a writer. I think this is a great motivator for people to actually finish writing a book because so many books are left unwritten because, well, writing is hard.

So, if this gets writers to stay in their seats and write, great. But I don’t approach writing with a word count. I really hate getting caught up in counting words, which is probably why I have not been motivated to take a shot at this challenge. I shut the word count feature off on my computer so that I can’t see the number as I write.

When I sit down to write, I tell myself, “Alicia, write one good, solid scene.” My hope is that I come up with a page or two of dialogue or prose that either advances the plot or develops the characters, basically anything that moves the story along.

I’m currently writing a book about a teenage girl in the 1950’s called, Annabel. Even if I wanted to compete in this NaNo challenge, I’m too far along in this story (about 250 pages, don’t ask me the word count, because I don’t know) to even attempt to write a thousand-plus words a day. I’m mostly in the “fill-in-the-blanks” part of the writing process.

My YA book, A Penny on the Tracks, will be released tomorrow. It is a 75,000 word novel that took me about a year to complete. I couldn’t tell you how long I had been working on the book before I finally had a first draft completed, but I can tell you there were a ton of revisions. An absolute ton.

But in the end, I came up with a story that I’m very proud of and was totally worth the many frustrating late nights I spent writing it.

Here is an excerpt from my coming-of-age book about life, love, and friendship:

I was making our favorite sandwich—bologna, lettuce, and cheese smeared with mustard and mayo on white bread—when Abbey called for me from the living room.
“Lyssa! Hurry up! Poison’s on!”

The sandwiches lay on the counter amid a mess of open condiment jars and scattered pieces of lettuce and lunch meat. I quickly smashed the top slices of bread onto both sandwiches against the piled-stack of a sloppy mess I had created and hurried into the next room, dropping bits of food as I ran.

Abbey was standing on the couch, shouting out the lyrics we both knew by heart as Brett Michaels’ voice filled the room. I handed her a sandwich, jumped on the couch, and screamed out the chorus to “Talk Dirty to Me.”  I took bites of my sandwich during the guitar solo, and Abbey held her sandwich high in her left hand, as though it were the end of a guitar, and strummed her right hand against the front of her shirt. We banged our heads in unison, hair (and food) flying everywhere.

Abbey’s house had a bigger TV and better food options than bologna and cheese sandwiches, but we never could have done what we were doing right then if we were at her house. Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” came on next, and we both lost our minds.

We dropped what was left of our food onto the table and yelled out the lyrics to our favorite song. Abbey sang the song with more conviction, as though she had a lot more that she didn’t want to take anymore.

The video ended, and we both collapsed onto the couch and finished our lunch. After, I went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple cans of pop from the fridge. Hanging on a magnet, on the side of the refrigerator, was a note from my mom reminding me she was working late that night and that there were frozen dinners in the freezer. At the end of the note she promised a home-cooked meal soon.

Abbey was often envious of the lack of parental supervision at my place, especially when it came to dinner. She was jealous I got to eat whatever I wanted. Even if my mom left dinner for me in the fridge, if I wanted to eat S’mores for supper, I ate S’mores.

“You eat dinner on the couch while watching TV?” Abbey had asked me one day.

“If I feel like it,” I answered.

“You’re so lucky. My mom makes me eat with her at the table, even if my dad isn’t home yet. And I can’t even put my elbows on the table.” 

I ate on the couch while watching TV because my friend didn’t know the loneliness that crept inside a person while eating dinner among empty chairs.

But I had forced a smile. “Yep. I am lucky.”

I walked back into the living room and handed one of the cans to Abbey. Abbey didn’t take it.

“My mom said I drink too much pop.”

“Your mom’s not fucking here.”

Abbey smiled and grabbed the can from my hand. About eight videos later and a sore neck from head banging, Abbey had to go home.

I walked her to the door. “Let’s ride our bikes tomorrow.”

“Where to?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere far.”

“Last time we did that we were almost too tired to ride back,” she reminded me.

“That was because of the wind,” I explained. “It was blowing against us on our way back.”

Abbey considered this. “Okay. If it’s not very windy tomorrow, we’ll ride our bikes far.

 

APennyontheTracks-web
A Penny on the Tracks