Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! IRWA friend Valley Brown is visiting this week and talking about the not-so-solitary part of being a writer. She's also sharing an excerpt from Rough Piece of Road, book two in The Rocky Road series. Be sure to comment for a chance to win signed print copies of Rough Piece of Road and Speeding Tickets, book one of the series (available only to the continental US because of shipping costs). Take it away, Valley!
Thanks for having me back, Mellanie. I’m always eager to spend time with those of us who obsess about language and storytelling. And speaking of that…
We’ve all heard how writing is such a solitary undertaking, and how lonely it is to be a writer. I disagree. Yes, there are times when being totally alone is needed to put a fine focus on your work. However, there are scads of times when you need feedback from others – especially other writers.
Only another writer has walked in your shoes, hit the same snags and bumps. Only another writer has experienced that profound connection to a set of characters that has you wallowing in sympathetic despair one moment and breathing hard with heart-thumping desire the next.
When two or more of us congregate to discuss our work, the benefits go far beyond suggestions and catching typos. Close examination of someone else’s WIP wakes up our brain cells, the ones glazed over from rehashing our own WIP ad infinitum. Revelations may be small at times, but they can have far-reaching effects, much like a cascading row of dominoes.
Right now, my brain cells are working overtime. I’m mentoring a writing friend, acting as her developmental editor, a new role for me. Usually, I’m on the receiving end of a “Devil Ed”!
My friend made the big decision to try writing a novel earlier this year. She has a great (and complicated) story line and characters, all of which are still evolving. She’s a dialogue-driven pantser, meaning she fixates on conversation to the exclusion of setting and physical/body language clues from the characters. My goal is to keep her thinking about her plot and characters.
We meet every weekend for coffee, and to go over what she’s written since our last meeting. I read her chapter(s) and scribble notes while she checks her phone emails. Then the fun begins.
We bat each comment back and forth. Is the story going where it needs to? Sometimes we argue amicably about the ramifications of a twist, or that something a character said is “out of character.” I ask my friend questions, try out “what if’s,” and try to stretch her thought process, because writing is, after all a process. Thinking so deeply about where she’s going with her story forces me to re-evaluate my own WIP, and that keeps me humble, for sure.
My friend is amazed at her word count so far, having written mainly short stories or articles. I try not to laugh. I have been in her shoes and know that right now she’s simply up-chucking on the page. She will add tens of thousands of more words, and hack away as many. It will take as long as it takes, and we’ll both have a terrific experience along the way.
The Rocky Road romantic suspense series is about one woman’s journey through trauma and tragedy, moving forward as she deals with invisible wounds that never heal and finds the strength and courage to love again.
Excerpt from Rough Piece of Road – Book Two of The Rocky Road Series:
We took the freight elevator down to the lowest level, where incoming shipments were unloaded and held for processing. Being confined in the small space with a known mobster messed with my blood pressure.
“I guess you didn’t have any paperwork go missing, eh, Chris?” Tony rocked back on the heels of his black leather shoes.
“I know you catch my drift.” He narrowed his eyes. “Your ex-boss trusted you, with everything.”
He raised a hand as my mouth fell open. “Oh, I know all about you two. I also know he saved your ass so my boy wouldn’t find the dough that he managed to hide from everyone.”
“That’s not…There was no money,” I choked, pressing my back into the wall of the elevator.
“Don’t waste my time, Chris. Something of mine is missing, and I want it found.” The tendons in his thick neck stood out. “I suggest you look harder, and fast.”
The elevator stopped and opened up onto the lower level. Tony gestured for me to precede him.
With some difficulty, I swallowed and walked past him. The dock appeared to be empty of people other than ourselves. I strode anxiously to the stack of boxes that contained all the student work.
“Quite a pile of stuff. Should fill that big space nicely, don’t you think?”
“Yes. It should.” My head was reeling. He needs you alive, Christine, to find what happened to his money. He’s not going to beat you up or waste you down here.
“So, now I can go to my daughter and tell her I’ve seen her stuff. Family is what it’s all about, Chris. We all have family.” Tony pulled his gloves out of his pocket and focused his attention on them.
“Family takes care of each other. We do what we need to do to keep them safe. Yeah. It’s nice if you don’t have to worry about anybody. I imagine you worry a lot about your husband, what with him working around all those power tools and heavy pieces of sharp metal all the time. Not to mention him riding that big bike of his a lot. Those things can be dangerous, yes. Then again, I hear you ride one of those things, too. Extra reason to be careful, don’t you think? Makes me concerned for your future health. Your husband’s, too.”
The threats were so barely veiled, they were practically naked. Doug’s tire damage was no accident, and Tony had the resources to effect far greater – and deadlier, results. Doug was one hundred percent correct that Tony would come after us and everyone around us. How was I going to prevent that, when there was no money to find?
“I’ll talk to you soon, Chris. Maybe at the reception, if not before?” He chuckled to himself, and stepped back into the elevator.
The door slid closed and I slid to the floor, backed against a large carton. I had trouble breathing. The world darkened, with tiny specks of intense light, and the next thing I knew, George was squatting next to me, patting my face and calling my name.
“Miz Hartford? Miz Hartford. You okay? Say somethin’ to me.”
My stomach boiled with acid that tried to gush up my throat. I forced it back down, and inhaled erratically. “Doug. I have to talk to Doug.”
“Well, that’s all fine and good, but let’s see if we can get you on your feet first.”
George helped me stagger upright. I made bracing myself against that carton my first priority.
“What happened down here, Miz Hartford? I saw Mr. Turdanno come out of the elevator alone and leave the building. That left a bad taste in my mouth, so I came looking for you.”
“He was in a hurry to leave. I got dizzy after he got in the elevator, and, and I guess I passed out.”
“Miz Hartford, think about who you’re talkin’ to. My momma didn’t raise no fool. Now are you gonna spill the beans, or what?”
Tears burned my eyes. I shook my head and chewed my lower lip. “George, I can’t talk about it right now. I really wish I could, but right now I need to be in my office. Would you just help me up there, please?”
George scowled as if I were four years old, but he assisted me all the way into my office, sat me down, and then brought me a cup of coffee.
“I know you’re in some kind o’ trouble with that guy, and you don’t want to involve me. That’s fine, as long as it isn’t somethin’ that hurts this place. My job is to protect this place and everyone in it. Should I be worryin’ about a security breach here?”
“No, nothing like that, honest.” I took a sip of coffee. “It’s…personal, and I need to find a way to take care of it before I can talk to you about it. Just keep your eyes wide open for me, but don’t say anything to anyone else, not yet. Please?”
“I don’t like this, none of it, but I will be watchin’ things a lot closer until I know what this is all about.”
“That’s all I’m asking, George.”
The museum shut its doors at 4:00 p.m., but it was almost 5:00 by the time I made it down to my car. Taking a deep breath, I tossed my coat and purse onto the front seat, locked the doors and buckled up.
“Don’t turn around.” A raspy voice came from directly behind me, startling me into a high-pitched gasp.
A sharp, distinctive click assaulted my right ear, followed by cold steel pressed to my neck. I tried hard not to look straight into the rearview mirror, afraid to make eye contact with whomever was in here with me. A dark, knitted ski mask was visible in my peripheral vision, along with the blunt, finely machined tip of a handgun. It was a very compact weapon, short and as dark as the ski mask, like nothing I had ever seen before.
“Drive out of the lot, exactly like you normally would. When you get to the main road, turn right.”
Left would have taken me in the direction of the university. Right would take me to parts of town I would rather not be in. This late in the year, especially after the time change, it was dark enough outside that no one would ever notice someone in the car with me.
“Go straight until I say otherwise.”
I drove slowly for several blocks, wondering what was going to happen when we reached the destination my hijacker had in mind. Doug wouldn’t think to worry about me for at least an hour. I was off everyone’s radar for at least that long, and a lot can happen in an hour.
“Take a left at the next light, then keep straight. You take directions well, Mrs. Hartford. I suggest you remember that you have something you need to find, and the sooner you find it, the better off you and your husband will be. You have until the 24th to locate what’s missing. If it doesn’t show up, don’t be surprised if your husband has a little accident.”
Shivering, I gripped the steering wheel so hard I thought the bones in my hands would break.
God, please help me. Don’t let them go after Doug. Please. I really need some help here.
Doug was everything to me. How was I going to get us out of this mess in one piece?
“Stop here.” He pressed the muzzle into my neck muscle. “I’m going to get out now. You drive on and don’t attract any attention to you or me. Lives will depend on it.”
Sniffing hard, I nodded ever so subtly. The muzzle withdrew from my flesh, and a few seconds later, my passenger exited, walking casually into a crowd milling around a run-down corner tavern.
I saw his dark form in the side view mirror, but never saw his face. A car honked behind me. Startled, I pulled forward, not certain where I was. It was several blocks before I recognized a street name and turned in the direction of home.
How I managed to cover the distance without incident, I had no clue. Suddenly I was in the garage, getting out of the car, then walking unsteadily to the dark house. When I closed the front door behind me, Beebee jumped at my leg, and I screamed. She fled with a hiss, and I fled in the opposite direction, to the commode, to upchuck. I was still curled up there when Doug called my cell phone, worried. He blew a gasket when I told him what happened. I was too upset not to tell him. He ordered me to stay right where I was, to wait for him. Only fifteen minutes passed before he came in the door.
“Baby, are you okay?” he dropped down on his knees beside me, crushing me against him. “God, if anything had happened to you…” He trembled, as much with fear as with rage, and kissed the top of my head repeatedly…
Author Valley Brown writes and lives in Southwestern Indiana. She is a member of Romance Writers of America – including the Indiana Chapter, ABATE, AQS, IQA, and the Raintree Quilters Guild.
Amazon Author page: http://amazon.com/author/valleybrown_romance
Thanks for visiting, Valley and readers! Remember to comment by midnight on Wednesday, December 17, for a chance to win signed print copies of Rough Piece of Road and Speeding Tickets, book one of the series!
Romance...With A Kick!