Trading Lives Sample Chapter

Trading Lives1989

The girl was young, tired, and strung out. So strung out she had put herself here, a place one could officially call rock bottom.

Rock bottom and trapped.

She didn’t mind it at first, because the people she called The Keepers provided enough dope to her she really had no good reason to leave. As long as she had chemical freedom, she was good. Better than good, because The Keepers wanted to help her with her baby. They said they had a nice family who desperately wanted a child to love, and well, the fact she had found them was Divine intervention. How else would she, a young girl who found herself pregnant but without support, be able to deal with such a responsibility? She had wanted to know if her baby would be well taken care of and The Keepers said absolutely. They had sufficient resources to see that her child found a good home.

When she first arrived, she was allowed the freedom to roam around beyond the compound proper. Yet she never felt alone on those walks and started to worry about her safety. One day she caught one of the men from the compound being less than discreet as he tried to catch up to her. She lost him and returned to her cabin, unsure if she should mention it to The Keepers.

They came to her, first. She was told that sometimes girls, against their better judgment, ran away because they were not sure giving up their baby was something they wanted to do. The Keepers understood these emotions and considered them to be healthy feelings indicative of a good mother. But, they explained to the girl, being a good mother also required a stable home and considerable resources. Citing the best interest of the baby, they confined her to her cabin until her baby was to be born.

The Keepers advocated allowing the poor young mothers to continue their habit because it made giving up their children a little easier. This wasn’t a treatment facility; it was a place young women came to fix their mistakes and hopefully survive their guilt.

The girl was suspicious about why The Keepers provided her with meth, but she knew she was in a difficult situation with absolutely no other options. At least here she didn’t have to turn tricks. Here, people cared about her and the baby. Here, she didn’t have to carry such a heavy burden of guilt. She could at least share the burden of being an expectant mother and when that didn’t suffice, lose herself in a familiar chemical world.

She understood that when this was all over, she could leave with a promise of some money in her pocket. Enough, maybe, she could get her own apartment. Then she could find a job. One thing the pregnancy had done was give her a glimpse of the future. For the first time, she wondered what it would be like to have a family. It’s just, she couldn’t do it now. Not where she was in life. That much she knew. She wasn’t dumb. She knew her limits, and unlike a lot of the other girls, she knew when she was trapped.

The girl walked around the room. The walls were solid, the windows high and narrow. It was like a prison, but she understood what The Keepers were saying when they told her sometimes you had to accept the fact you can’t be free until you know why you are imprisoned. Sometimes you had to reach bottom before you could even begin to climb out of the hole you were in.

Suddenly, she felt it let go. Her underwear became soaked and she reached down and eased herself onto the simple pine frame and firm mattress of her bed. She dried her thighs with her blue denim dress and, for the first time since coming here, she was really, truly afraid. She didn’t want to give her baby away. Not now. Not ever. How could she have ever agreed to such a thing?

But it was too late. She needed the help of The Keepers now.

The girl more or less waddled to the door and banged on it with her fist. And then she remembered the door buzzer. It wasn’t a normal because it worked in reverse. You rang it from the inside and someone came to see what you needed. She moved her fist to the doorbell and began desperately hammering it.

She felt a stab of pain, like a cramp, but nothing like any she had experienced before. The baby was coming, and it was coming hard and fast! She doubled up and sank to the floor.

The door opened. The girl heard voices. Calm voices, which comforted her. Lying on her right side, she brought her knees up as high as she could get them, just to ease the stabbing pain. Someone caressed her forehead, combing her blond hair away from her eyes. She could feel the beads of sweat above her brow.

“The baby. It’s coming. Is it too soon?”

“No, no, my girl. It’s not too soon.”

“I—I want to keep it . . .”

“Sure you do, dear. This is a normal reaction. It is to be expected. But you know the rules. There would be consequences.”

The girl didn’t remember all the rules, and she had not really believed the consequences would be as harsh as The Keepers had eluded to. In the drug world there were threats of beating and even death, but if you bargained hard enough, you could save yourself from any mistake. This could not be any worse.

Two men wearing camouflage T-shirts and BDU pants brought a stretcher to the door for her and helped her lie down. Then she was rushed from her hut to the main building. Strong hands lifted her from the stretcher and placed her on a cold steel table. She felt something prick her wrist. An IV line was inserted. Somewhere in the back of her consciousness, she remembered that when she was a little girl, she wanted to be a nurse, maybe even a doctor.

Then she realized she was getting sleepy. Desperately, she tried to raise her head up to see what was happening.

The girl wanted to be awake when her baby was born. She wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl. She wanted to hold him. But this was as close as she would ever come. Instead, she vaguely knew questions were being asked of her. She tried to remember how she had answered those questions before, tried to provide the same consistent answers, but she really never knew if she answered out loud or only in her head.

Coming Late Summer 2016

Still Here, Still Writing

My interaction with social media ebbs and flows, primarily due to time. I do enjoy seeing what projects fellow writers are working on. For those of you out there who have been achieving your writing goals, excellent work. You continue to motivate me.

I haven’t been slacking. I continue to plug away at a novel with the working title Trading Lives. It began as a short story to introduce a dynamic female character in my main project but has grown into a full-length novel. I am happy with the writing. It is a complicated plot with what I think will be some shocking twists and a satisfying conclusion for readers.

Look for Trading Lives in the not so distant future.

Watch “Bike in the Window” on YouTube

A cute short movie my son made.

The Scenery is Beautiful, But When Do We Get There?

I was speaking to a writer friend and work colleague yesterday and, as usual, the discussion turned to our writing projects. He asked me how mine was coming along, and I told him I was hovering around 150,000 words at the moment, but at least I had the end in sight.

He said, “Finish the book already.”

Okay, okay, I know that. I wish it was finished. Boy, do I.

But I want this to be a really good story, too. I want to make sure I do it right. The process I’m using to create works well for me now. (see previous post), and, it’s enjoyable.

My friend is right, though. I need to finish it up.

Writing is such a balancing act. The process, the excitement, the doubt, the blank page, the endless pages, the clarity, the confusion . . .

At some point I will stop saying “I’m working on it” and instead say, “It’s finished.” But until then, I’ll enjoy the process.

Is Your Outline Killing Your Writing?

My biggest roadblock during the past year has been trying to use an outline. Not that I wasn’t having some writer’s block issues before, but I always felt my lack of an outline was unprofessional and a detriment to creating a solid story.

And so I started doubting my writing. Then, my writing slowed down.

Then, it stopped.

I tried figuring out the whole outline process, but it just wasn’t my style and it wasn’t fun. Call me crazy, but I need fun to keep me interested and writing.

Fun, it turns out, is not knowing what my protagonist is going to do next. Fun, I learned, is being surprised by what a character just did, just like my protagonist was surprised to learn his old detective partner was murdered and he is the prime suspect.

I know outlines work for some writers, but they don’t work for all writers. Whichever process you use, I encourage you to give yourself permission to write the way that works best for you, the way that keeps you interested and happy . . . and productive.

Your story-telling rhythm

If you’re like me, you often wonder how to improve your writing. This quest is what prompts me to read posts about writing, and because I realize I’m not the only one looking for ways to improve, I like to share the real treasures.

However, I can’t help but become a little depressed about my writing when it doesn’t come easily, when it doesn’t flow the way I would like, and when it doesn’t compare to the ideal I have set for myself.

Today as I was enjoying a boat and snorkeling tour in Maui, an idea came to me. Maybe I’ve got it backwards. When I become most frustrated with writing is when I find myself forcing my prose and not letting it flow. I can’t say for sure why, while bouncing over ocean swells the idea came to me, but it might have had to do with spin the tour guide was putting on the adventure. It was his story, and he had a rhythm that fit him, and he was enjoying himself. And those of us on the tour were enjoying ourselves, too.

We all have our own rhythm, but it’s too easy to believe it’s not good enough and no one will appreciate it. And so begins the cycle of doubt. I’d say, use the rhythm that works for you, and I’ll use the rhythm that works for me, and we’ll all share our stories.

Writer’s Café, The Other Top Writing Tool

As I am putting my latest book together, I often wonder how many of you use writing tools to help organize your work. The most talked about tool has been Scrivener, which I have looked at a few times and seriously considered purchasing. It’s great Scrivener gives such a generous trial period, because I think generally writers are a cautious breed. And most, I fear, are not a wealthy bunch. The price makes Scrivener a good bargain.

However, the organization and writing tool I use and am heavily invested in with my book is Writer’s Café. To anyone considering Scrivener or a similar product, I would suggest giving Writer’s Café a look. Writer’s Café covers all the basics, such as organization of scenes, lining out chapters, story-boarding,  and character development. The software comes with a ton of options, including the ability to use it on a flash drive.

In fact, if there is one aspect of Writer’s Cafe that has caused me some consternation, it is how many options Writer’s Café actually has, which can be a bit intimidating. Just as a footnote, Writer’s Café is also compatible with Windows 8. I took the plunge and upgraded to Windows 8 this weekend and that was one of my questions. Question answered. It works just fine.

As for cost, Writer’s Café is priced the same as Scrivener, which is $40.00. You can also try it for free with a few limitations. And in case you’re wondering, I have no financial interest in Writer’s Café. Just thought I’d share.

5 Step Conversion To eBook Process

Previously: Self-publish style preferences and eBook formatting

Once I had the complete manuscript file in OpenOffice format, I was ready to create the eBook. (Again, OpenOffice worked really well for this project.) The next step was to import the .odt file into Calibre, an open source electronic book management system.

Calibre is a great tool for converting a manuscript into the final stage—your completed book. Here are the steps:

1) Add book. First icon on the upper left of Calibre. Just select the file for your manuscript and Caliber loads it into the directory under that file name.

2) Edit metadata: Second icon from the left. This is where your book gets all that cool author and publishing info. And most important, this is where you can add a cover. However, when uploading to Barnes and Noble or Amazon, you also add your cover there as well.

3) Convert Books: Third icon from the left. This is where your book gets its “Look & Feel”. I generally use the icons “Look & Feel” and “Page Setup”. For the look and feel of the book, I prefer the selection “Remove spacing between paragraphs” and leave the indent size at the default 1.5 em. All other selections I have left at the default. For the page setup, I simply leave the “Input profile” at “Default Input Profile” and change the the output to the selected device I am targeting. I’ve only used .epub and .mobi formats, so I toggle between Nook Color and Kindle Fire for the output profile. I also leave the margins at 5.0 pt. Select OK to convert your book to the output format you chose.

4) Review Format: Now that your book as been converted, it’s time to review it and make sure it is properly formatted. I repeated this step several times in order to produce a product that met my expectations.

5) Proof and Correct: Don’t worry, you will have plenty of opportunity to create these files a few times over. Unless, of course, you’re a master at getting things right the first time. Now is the time to proof your nearly-finished book a few more times. Now that it is in it’s final format, simply upload your .epub or .mobi file to their respective devices and read through a few more times. Highlight those pesky errors and go back to your word processing document to correct the errors. (This is a main reason I tried to create a template that was as close to the finished format as possible. It made finding the fixes a lot easier.)

NOTE: When uploading a file to Barnes and Noble Pubit or Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, each publishing interface will accept native .epub and .mobi files. Using this process, I felt comfortable the finished product on each store looked like what I had created in Calibre.

Self-publish style preferences and eBook formatting

As I talked about before, I used OpenOffice for setting up the electronic versions of our books, Eleventh Hour and Midnight Hour. I created a template that I copied each chapter into. The master template held all the formatting and style preferences, and as soon as I copied the text into the master, I saved it as its own chapter.

I made the template page dimensions approximately the same size as a standard electronic book so that what I saw in the word processing document would closely resemble what I saw in the finished product on my Nook Color. (This really helped when it came to proofreading.)

Once the working file was saved, it was time to begin formatting and correcting formatting issues. Of course, since we were creating a fiction book, there were not many styles to employ.

For the books Eleventh Hour and Midnight Hour, I was working with copy scanned using optical character recognition (OCR). Which meant a lot of conversion errors. Many of the errors were easily corrected by applying pre-designed body text and paragraph styles. However, text and paragraph styles don’t always convert the way they’re supposed to and often latent formatting continued to cause problems until they were completely removed from the document.