Category Archives: Writing for My Life

Crossroads

After writing and publishing for over 25 years, I am at a crossroads.

Romance or mystery?

Screenplay or graphic novel?

Self-publish or traditionally publish?

Self-produce a movie or sell an option through an agent?

Upon professional advice, I have made some changes:

1. Given up my Facebook Fan page
2. Queried the top 5 publishers on my bucket list
3. Bought Final Draft to write a screenplay and a graphic novel
4. Solicited my favorite movie production company
5. Read the classics I was not assigned in school

I spent the majority of my summer in a rented space rewriting THE DIVORCE PLANNER on spec. For those not in the publishing business, “on spec” means the editor is interested in the concept but not the execution of a story and will not commit to a contract until the story delivers. Now I am waiting to see whether or not my rewrite results in a written contract to publish the story.

After warning my fans that I would be moving to this website for news and updates, I said goodbye to 10 years on Facebook. That doesn’t bode well if I ever want a job in marketing, but it does give me peace of mind after my business consultation.

Why a business consultation? Because writing for publication is a business. It needs to be profitable. The IRS can deem my writing a hobby if I fail to make the numbers that result in a tax bracket that pays them each year. And, after the time I have invested, I owed it to myself to see what I can do to maximize my potential before I decide to pursue other interests.

Right now, I do not want to commit to another writing project. During my morning runs, a story idea is developing. I have written the synopsis down. But I have not opened up a blank page to write the first chapter.

Why?

Because I need this time to breathe and wonder before I plunge back into the writing waters and swim to another shore.

Pick a Scene

I’ve been asked to rewrite THE DIVORCE PLANNER and have narrowed down the opening scene to the following choices. Please pick one and let me know in the Comments section below.

Scene 1:

Darcy was thirty when she first thought of representing a client through a divorce. Not in a legal sense. But a supportive sense. A celebratory sense. A sense that evolved, after many years of dedicated effort, into a lucrative career. Until she left Southern California with its self-reflective gaze and moved to Northern California to be closer to Joyce, her only daughter, who lived and worked in San Francisco, a little over an hour south of Santa Rosa, where at fifty years old Darcy settled with roommates she hardly saw in a city where she knew next to no one in a life that felt even lonelier than the one she had left behind.

Scene 2:

Darcy sat in her roommate’s living room with her laptop propped on her thighs as she scrolled through the hotel listings, searching for the perfect spot for her client Cyril’s Freedom Party. Cyril was a thirty-five year old working woman finalizing a divorce after twelve painful years of marriage who had hired Darcy as her divorce planner. The hard work of attorney’s meetings, mediation, custody battles, distribution of assets, payment of liabilities, and personal counseling sessions would be over in six weeks, and Darcy wanted to surprise her client with a wonderful Freedom Party in Las Vegas, suitable for her client’s slim budget.

Scene 3:

Darcy realized she should have not picked up her phone when she noticed her daughter’s number, but she pressed the speaker button anyway as she drove in afternoon traffic to the attorney’s office to meet her client, Xavier, for the three o’clock mediation with his soon-to-be ex-wife. Joyce’s voice sounded tinny against the wind that whipped through the open windows of Darcy’s ancient Audi that lacked air conditioning, but Darcy wasn’t about to roll up the windows when her back stuck against the seat from Sonoma County’s summer heat.

“Mom, I need to talk to you,” Joyce said.

“Then talk,” Darcy said.

“I’m getting married and I want you to plan my wedding,” Joyce said.

Scene 4:

As an experienced divorce planner, Darcy was prepared for nearly every kind of emergency that might occur on the big day.

Except for reconciliations. That was a new one.

The distinctive moment when her client, Richard, barged into the Freedom Party to announce he was getting back together with the woman who should have become his ex-wife slithered up her spine like an eerie promotion. All of Richard’s remaining friends, family, and co-workers had gathered in the ballroom of the Vineyard Creek Inn around tables decorated with red, white, and blue streamers drinking colorful alcoholic beverages and listening to loud music while a Santa Rosa Junior college student dressed in an American flag bikini waited to jump out of an American flag cake to give the newly divorced man a lap dance of freedom. Darcy rushed into the kitchen nearly tripping on her heels. “Stop the meal preparations!” she shouted.

Burger Queen

They sat in a booth in a fifties diner after a long drive from Sacramento. It was a locally owned joint with charming black and white checkered linoleum floors and red leather bar stools and framed photographs of the Rat Pack and James Dean on the walls.

“How do you like the food?” the cook asked.

She stared at her hamburger. “It’s not what I thought I ordered,” she said, feeling ashamed.

The cook checked her tab and confirmed she had ordered the hamburger with barbecue sauce and onion rings. “I can make you another one,” the cook said.

“I only need a half,” she said, pointing to her half eaten burger.

“I’ll make you another one,” the cook insisted.

When the cook returned to the kitchen, she sat up straighter. “Mikey would be proud of me,” she said. “I stood up for myself when I usually don’t say anything.”

Her boyfriend frowned. “What’s going on with you and Mikey?”

She sat back, as if pressed against a wall. Her eyes widened with fear and confusion. “He’s coaching me on how to be more confident,” she said.

Her boyfriend stared at her, his frown deepening.

She continued. “He could tell I was unhappy. He had a heart-to-heart with me. He said I was worth being someone’s wife and that if that’s not what you wanted it was okay but that I needed to leave you because I’m not getting any younger.”

His face darkened.

“He was just trying to build up my confidence.”

He glanced away.

“I shouldn’t have told you,” she said.

He turned back to her, his eyes flashing. “No, I asked you to tell me,” he said.

“But you’re angry.”

“I’m not angry.”

The cook returned with her hamburger. She took a bite and smiled. “It’s perfect,” she said. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” the cook said.

It felt good to be heard. It felt even better to have received exactly what she had asked for, even if it was only a hamburger.

STRANGE AND REAL

“You’re worth it,” he said.

Strange, she thought, that’s the same mantra I’ve been telling myself since October and it still doesn’t feel real, but it is. Real.

They stood in the street in front of his truck after she had shown him a fixer upper house that wasn’t worth fixing. The sun slanted dangerously low in the west.

“I blame your boyfriend for some of it,” he said, “because he’s smart. He should have known better. Women are cyclical. They’re emotional. They change their mind. He can’t pick this, this, and this about you and leave out that, that, and that.” He jabbed the hood of his truck with his fat finger. “I know. I was married to someone like him who only wanted this, this, and this.” He pointed to the spots on the hood he had smeared with his finger. “But I had to remind her I was one person. I came with that, that, and that.” He pointed to the other spots he had previously missed.

Tears clung to the bottom of her lashes. She was not going to cry. Already her teenage daughter had told her that she had cried one too many times this week.

“You know what I’d like for you?” he asked.

“What?” She looked up with an expectant gaze.

“I’d like for you to get your legs,” he said. “Find your bearings. Stand up for yourself.”

She took a deep breath and exhaled. “How do I do that with him?” she asked.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “Your boyfriend isn’t a bad man, but he doesn’t like variables.”

“I’m full of variables.”

He laughed. “So am I. That’s why I’m single.”

She smiled. At least, she thought, I didn’t say, ‘Why am I with him and not you?’ like I said the other night at the restaurant when I told him the story about how my boyfriend ordered for me the first night we dined there because the dish I wanted to order was fried, not baked, and he didn’t want me to ‘spoil my lovely figure.’

“Maybe you should invite me over. Let me tell him what is what.”

“Only before he’s had a drink,” she reminded.

“Ah, yes, that’s the dark horse for him.” He gazed up for a moment. “For all of us,” he corrected. “I’m a happy drunk, but he’s closed off. He doesn’t let anyone in, and I’ve known him for 10 years.”

A lifetime, she thought, compared to me.

“Maybe someday we can get together, have a few drinks, talk about life,” he said, a belated invitation. “But right now, we have to talk business. And that means you need to stand up for yourself because you’re worth it. Your feelings are worth it.”

“It takes practice,” she said.

“Then let’s start practicing.” He stood up straight and said, “Say it. ‘I’m worth it. My feelings are worth it.’”

She stood up straight, shoulders back, but still she felt small, crouched over, a coward. “I’m worth it,” she mumbled. “My feelings are worth it.”

“Louder!”

“I’m worth it! My feelings are worth it!”

“LOUDER!”

“I’M WORTH IT! MY FEELINGS ARE WORTH IT!”

“That’s it, dear,” he said. “Now we both have to get home. Tell your boyfriend I said hello.”

She didn’t want to have to return to the empty house with her daughter who huddled behind a closed door completing her homework while her boyfriend was out having dinner with his friends. She wanted to go anywhere but the house he owned. It was the house he would not sell so they could buy a home of their own with money from her divorce and whatever he wanted to add to it. But she had nowhere else to go, no place to call home. She stood up straighter, shoulders back, her confidence abating under her stance. “I will,” she said, her voice weak. “I will,” she said, her voice stronger. “I WILL.”

Writing Between Once Upon a Time & The End

After I finished writing the first draft of my latest novel, I thought I had succeeded in crafting a new genre.

How unaware I was of the dangerous second draft.

Upon rereading the manuscript, I noticed the story fell apart in the middle, although the ending was exceedingly strong. My intention was only to fix the glue between “Once upon a Time” and “The End.”

After editing the first 100 pages, I hit the middle. The sludge depressed me. How was I going to make sense of the mess? The characters had evolved, but not consistently. The conflict had escalated, but unrealistically. The complications were more complicated, but required charts, graphs, and a Power Point presentation to understand it.

Luckily, my daughter came to the rescue. She sat down with me one evening and asked me why my mood reflected the rain clouds in the overcast sky. I confided how I was mired in the middle of my story.

“What should I do?” I asked.

My daughter thought it over. “If I was the main character, I would go to my best friend.”

It seemed like such a simple action, but it cut through the dense confusion that I almost cried from relief.

Immediately, 50 pages disappeared from the manuscript. I started writing where my daughter suggested and a whole new middle unfolded effortlessly.

By the time I reached the third act, the characters had evolved and the conflict needed a new resolution. What was I going to do? I loved the original ending. It was strong. It was unconventional. But it no longer worked.

I had to write a new ending.

Is the second draft perfect? Hardly. But it is one step closer on the road toward publication.