A Vigil for Justice: Episode Five

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

“Pleep, pleep, pleep.” Melanie’s alarm clock went off. She swung her limp arm over and pressed the button to turn it off. Cracking her eyes open just a little, she looked at the blue glowing numbers, 5:00 a.m., May 5, 2021. She rolled out of bed. She needed to go for a run. Shaking the sleep from her mind, she pulled on running shorts, a sports bra, a shirt, and her running shoes. She stepped out the front door. The morning air was chilly and crisp with the scent of fresh rain. Goose bumps rose on her arms and legs. She knew she would warm up once she was moving. She checked the door to make sure it was locked and set off at a warm up pace.

Cross-country summer training would be starting at the end of the month, and she wanted to have a strong base of miles before then. But cross-country wasn’t the only reason Melanie was running this morning. Running was her time to think and really process the world around her. She felt free and her mind could work through any challenge with little exertion on her part. It just happened, she didn’t know how, but it did.

By the end of her five miles, Melanie was sure she would know what her next steps should be regarding the Justice Law. For the first mile, her mind spun around the nightmares that the Justice Law could bring into their small town. What if others came here seeking solace from the law or to hide from someone hunting them? What if some lunatic who had a horrible vacation in Breckenridge decided to open fire in the bar her mother worked in? What about all the secrets that small town are famous for? So many horror novels begin in small towns, it’s like they breed serial killers.

Melanie made a conscious effort to relax her tightening shoulders and released her fists. What if’s won’t help, she needed to answer the question what now? Melanie knew she had to protect her family. Especially since her mom refused to accept that things could get bad, really bad. How was she going to protect them all? Mitchel, Holly, Seth, Sam, her mom, and herself. She had to focus. She turned a corner and the familiar pounding of her feet along the ground brought her back from the paranoid fantasies. She had to get a gun. She had to learn to use it. And she had to learn to fight. Her arms swished past her waist and she picked up her pace.

She had twenty-six days to prepare, and she couldn’t waste any of them. She bounded up the bleachers at the high school. The sound of her footsteps echoed in the empty stadium. She took it slow going back down and then pushed herself on the way back up. She did it again and again until her breath was coming in heaves and she wanted to vomit.

She cooled down on the way home, and now she had a plan. The kitchen light was on and she knocked on the door. Her mom opened it.

“How was your run? You’re starting early this year.”

Melanie smiled. Sweat was streaming down her face, and she wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “It was a good run.”

“There are eggs, bacon, and toast for you on the table.” Her mom must have the day off work. She only made breakfast when she had the day off.

“Thanks mom.”

Melanie shoveled the food into her mouth, showered, and got ready for school.

“I’ll be home late, mom,” Melanie said as she pulled the door to the house closed.

Jennifer opened the door again. “Are you working tonight?”

“Yeah,” Melanie called from the curb. Not in the coffee shop, but she would be working none the less.

“Your curfew is nine.”

After school, Melanie drove to Breck. The blue snowcapped mountains peaked over all the buildings in the small vacation town. The resorts brought in people from all over the world, year round. Locals and visitors walked along the streets going in and out of the stores that line the main street through town. Most of the buildings looked more like homes than business with peaked roofs cottage windows and doors. The light blues, greens, and browns of the buildings ambled by as Melanie slowed down to twenty miles an hour.

She pulled into the empty parking lot of a two story light brown building with ivory trim. It was one of the few that actually looked like a business rather than a house. A bell jangled as she went through the glass door.

A well-muscled man with a maroon tank top, tight jeans, and a white cowboy hat strode out from the back. He wiped his taped hands on a towel from the counter. The place smelled like sweat and leather.

His smile was kind.

“Morning, how can I help you?” he said, setting the white towel back on the counter.

Behind him was a line of black punching bags hanging from the ceiling by chains as thick as her wrist. Her eyes moved around the room. The American flag hung on the wall. Blue and grey mats laid across the floor and a weight bench sat in a corner with rows of free weights and dumb bells. Jump ropes and gloves hung from hooks next to a drinking fountain.

Three yellow and black speed bags jutted out from a wall. Tires were leaned against the wall below them. Swiss balls and medicine balls sat in another corner. A bay door stood open to the back alley and a cool breeze brought in the mountain air.

“I want to learn to fight.”

His smile widened, but he tried to hide it by tucking his chin and scratching the back of his neck. “When did you want to start?”

“Today.” She dropped her gym bag on the floor and reached out her hand. “I’m Melanie Craig.”

“Go change, let’s see what you got, Melanie Craig.” He was still smiling as he turned and walked back into the gym. He had an eagle tattooed on his left shoulder. The wings were up as it came in talons extended for a landing or the capture its prey.

She came out of the bathroom in a pair of running shorts and a sports bra. He tossed her a pair of white gloves and climbed into the ring. She followed him in pulling on the gloves. He hadn’t changed and didn’t have gloves on either.

“Don’t you want gloves?” she asked.

“I’m not going to hit you.” He adjusted his hat on his head and took a fighting stance, his left side toward her.

“You want to start with your weaker side toward your opponent.”

She turned so her right side was toward him. She looked up and down at him memorizing his stance and adjusted hers to match.

“Keep your hands up,” he said, raising his own.

She raised her hands close to her face. The smell of leather and sweat strong. He couldn’t be more than five years older than her. His steel grey eyes watched her with a ferocious intensity she had never seen. They looked more through her than at her. She could see the fringes of his honey colored hair just below his hat.

“Most people are out buying guns and spending their time at the firing range, why are you here?” he asked, moving around her left side.

“Because,” she said, as she jabbed her right fist at him. He slapped it away without even looking directly at it.

She stopped. “You see what you did there?” she asked.

He raised his eyebrows, and continued to bounce around her on the balls of his feet with his hands up protecting his face. She dropped her own hands to her sides.

“I need to be able to do that. I need to be able to see what’s coming from all angles without having to look directly at it. I need to be able to assess the risk someone poses to my family and me by looking at them. I want to look a person in the eye and know if they can kill.”

He stopped and looked squarely at her. He nodded his head once. “I’m Jake Simpson, and I can teach you that.”

I need a freaking doggie door!

My writing tip of the day: If you are a writer with dogs, get a doggie door.

Meet the slave drivers, Annabelle (black)  and Ignacious (brown). dogs 3

Adorable aren’t they? Yes well they are the first three times I get up to let them out the door, but after the fiftieth time, they are no longer adorable. In fact, they are hell-spawned demons.

You see, Satan, let them outside three times too, and then he was fed up with their cuteness and sent them packing.  You can only open a portal from hell so many times a day after all.

I sit at my computer happily typing away. I glance away from the screen to consider my options in the story and rest my eyes a little and there she is. Those floppy ears and big brown eyes, she knows their power. boot

She gives her tail a little wag and you think, “Oh how sweet.” No! Stop right there. She is the queen of the damned. Everything she whispers to you makes perfect sense, and then you realize you have fallen into her trap and you are completely under her spell.

She gives a little chirp and you stand up. She waddle to the door and you open it. Five minutes later, she barks and you stand, walk back to the door, and open it. She waddles in and grins up at you with her perky ears. 213

She waddles toward the couch and checks to see if you are following her. You are. She stops in front of the couch and gives a little bark, you bend over, and put her on the back of the couch so she can spy on the neighbors through the window.

She lies there content for a while until her brother hears something outside and then there is raucous barking and dancing little feet. You stand, walk to the door, and open it. Blurs of black and brown fur fly down the stairs and around the corner of the house. Their friends are outside next door.

My much wiser neighbors make their little beasties come in the house after ten or fifteen minutes of them flying along the fence barking like maniacs. I’m sure they hate me because I’m a well-trained human, who lets the beasts run, tongues lulling, and smiling ear to ear to their hearts content.

Lilly stares at me from across the room.

lilly “I told you not to bring them home, but do you ever listen to me?”

Annabelle  is the smarter of the two. She has a variety of chirps, barks, and whines she uses to tell you what she would like you to do. Once she has you on your feet, she will lead you to what she wants. If she goes to the kitchen, she wants a treat. If she goes to the door, she wants outside. If she goes to the couch, she would like you to lift her little butt up so she can spy on the neighbors out the window.

Ignacious is content snuggling you all day long. Of course, he wants his ears rubbed while you think about the next sentence you are going to write, or a treat when you get up to refill your coffee, but if you just let him curl up right next to you, he is a happy green eyed fur face. He really likes it when you throw his dinosaur so he can get it and bring it back for you to throw again, and again.

I got home from my run at 7:30 am. Now, it’s 10:30 a.m. and I have honestly let them outside fifteen times.

Shhhh, They are sleeping now. So maybe I can get some writing done.

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Are all stories horror stories?

fear one

The themes of our stories tackle tough issues. More often than not, they deal with conquering fears: Fear of the unknown, fear of others, and fear of ourselves.  The novel may be packaged as a romance, mystery, fantasy, or adventure story, but at its very core it’s about facing the things that make us tremble, sweat, and run the other way.

Few writers start with a theme when they begin a story. Usually, one of the voices in our heads (AKA characters) demands that we tell their story. Their story is, of course, intricately and impossibly entwined with our own.

The theme is discovered along the journey to the climax of the book. It is woven in your character’s arc and the challenges faced throughout the book by any character. The various decisions that are made about each challenge shows a different facet of the theme. The character’s turn it every which way as the plod along trying to figure out what it is, and how to ultimately deal with it.

Someone famous once said, a writer only writes one story. The characters, setting, and plot all change, but the theme is the same. The theme of a story is what resonates with readers. It draws them in because they see themselves in the characters or they see their life in the challenges and decisions made.

I don’t have a degree in literary arts, but my guess is that if you look at a group of books written in any particular generation or era you would find similar themes running through all of them. The challenges and achievements of a culture or particular people.

Books create a safe space. A place where writers can express their darkest rational or irrational fear and readers can feel validation and companionship in their suffering and pain. How often do we come across a line in a book or just a few words and say to ourselves, “Yes, I know that feeling. It is an old friend of mine.”

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I look at my own writing and reading, and I see patterns that match with the patterns and journey of my life. Overcoming adversity, conquering what appears to be overwhelming odds, an indomitable spirit, issues surrounding trust, and discovering who we are as individuals and within the world as a whole.

Within my stories, I am safe to relive the lessons again and again until I finally figure it out.

What are the themes of your life?

fear two

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Four

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A Vigil for Justice is a serial thriller novel. Updates of 1000-1500 words are posted every Friday.

Recap: Melanie has returned home from school on the first day after the Justice Law was passed. She is angry and confused about the law. She is afraid of how it will change the lives of her and her friends. She gets into a fight with her mom and retreated to her bedroom.

A stabbing pain in her hip woke Melanie. She had fallen asleep on the hardwood floor at the foot of her door. Her shoulder hurt on the same side of her body and her neck. The moon shone through the window. It was nearly full and threw its glow about the room. Melanie pushed herself up off the floor and powered on her ipad. Her stomach rumbled and she realized she didn’t finish much of her dinner. She opened her bedroom door. The house was pitch black. She headed downstairs for some milk. A blue glow was coming from under her mother’s door. She stopped and leaned toward the door listening. The president’s muffled voice reached out to her. Her mom was watching the press conference from earlier in the day.

Melanie poured a glass of milk and looked in the pantry. She grabbed a package of graham crackers. Back in her room, Melanie typed “Justice Law” into google. It was a broad search term, but she wanted to be able to decide what to read. The first few hits were the language of the law and how they would be tracking justice deaths, but that’s not what she wanted to know. She scrolled down until she found it.

It wasn’t the language of the law or the technology which had Melanie confused and struggling for understanding. It was the reasons and justification behind it passing.

“Meow.”

Melanie looked up at her door. Austen’s gray paw flicked beneath the door. Smiling, Melanie let him into her room. He sprung up onto her windowsill and stretched his long lean body. She rubbed his ears and then went back to the ipad.

Lobbyists had made two vastly different proposals to the Crime Prevention Committee. The committee designed a separate bill and fiscal note for each proposal and sent them to the House of Representatives for a vote.

The first option, which was the most popular among the Democratic Party, was called INDECT. It’s an intelligent information system that uses observation, searching, and detection for security of citizens in urban environments, at least that’s how the scientists and research teams who developed INDECT described it. Basically, it would be the ultimate big brother nightmare of the conspiracy theorists come true. It included video cameras with heat sensitivity being set up on just about every street corner throughout the nation. Walls would be virtually invisible to the cameras.

INDECT would record, code, and rank everything everyone did for the possibility of violence or any criminal activity. Something similar, but less extensive, was used experimentally in New York City in the early 2000s, and there were major reductions in crime rates. The major issues with INDECT, and the reason the House ultimately voted against it, was the amount of money it would cost and the high level of invasion into the private lives of citizens.

The remaining option was the Justice Law, which was much less expensive because it was set up for the NCPS to piggyback on the SAFE system, and mass production of RFIDs would create jobs and cost pennies to produce.

A transcript from the legislative session had Representative Hartford statement about the reasons the Republican Party felt the law was necessary. There were not enough police officers in the United States to investigate, control, or prevent the massive amounts of crime occurring in all but the smallest cities across the country. Every city was in bankruptcy, due to its attempts to hire more officers to protect the citizens. There was no conceivable way for the federal government to fund police agencies. Alternatives to officers patrolling the streets had to be found.

The transcription of Representative Hartford’s statement continued, with the passing of the Justice Law the government is giving control of personal safety back to the people. The hope is that the criminally minded will stop committing criminal acts against others when their potential victims have the ability to immediately exact justice.

The next morning, Melanie said little to her mom, and her mom gave her the space she needed. Melanie and Mitchel walked into the school to find it in pandemonium. Students were crying, posturing up to one another, and a few fights had broken out. Teachers were trying to get control over the students, but it wasn’t going well.

Mitchel took ahold of a passing sophomore. “What’s going on?” The kid shrank back like a turtle and pointed toward the lockers. Black and red targets had been painted on some of the light yellow lockers.

“Holy shit,” Mitchel said. Melanie ran to her locker. Mitchel was on her heels pushing past the students who filled in the space behind her as she went. She was like a boat cutting through the waves in a lake.  No target. She then went to Mitchel’s locker. No target. Thank god at least her friends had not been targeted.

The loudspeaker blared over the din of crying and yelling teenagers. “Clear the halls immediately. All students must report to their first period classroom.” Melanie didn’t recognize the voice.

“I’ll walk you to class,” Mitchel said. Melanie looked into his eyes and saw that there was no arguing the point.

“You still think it will be safe in Blue River?” she asked as they made their way through the sea of bodies.

He looked down at her. Nothing was certain anymore.

“We’ve still got 27 days to prepare,” he said. They stopped just outside the doorway to her classroom. Holly waved at them from inside and took a desk at the back.

“I’ll see you at lunch?”

“Of course.” She gave him a kiss and watched him melt into the sea.

Once the hallways were cleared, Mrs. Christensen closed the door to the classroom and sat quietly at her desk. Dark circles hung below her eyes and she wrung at her scarf.

The loudspeaker crackled. “All Sophomores are to report to the gym immediately.  All juniors are to report to the theater in ten minutes. All seniors are to report to the dining hall in twenty minutes. Teachers do not release your classes until the appointed time.”

Holly held Melanie’s hand as they walked toward the theater with the rest of their class. Melanie wondered if the principal had contacted the parents of students with targets on their lockers. She was relieved that there were not targets on her friend’s lockers or hers, but she felt awful that there were targets at all. She and Holly took a seat near the front, but on the edge of the row.

Mayor Brady stood on the stage.

“Good morning, class of 2022,” he said smiling down at them.

“I know that things have been a bit chaotic this morning, but I want to talk to all of you about the Justice Law.” He was reading from a card.

“I’ve been instructed,” he held up the cards, “to provide you all with a copy of the Justice Law and to briefly go over the basics. Please save your questions until the end. Some of this information many of you already know, but bear with me.”

“The Justice Law goes into effect on June 1, 2021. All citizens over the age of 16 will have the ability to purchase firearms and to issue three justice deaths. Justice deaths will be tracked by the local and federal police agencies. No other agency or individual will have access to that information. Local police officers will conduct an investigation as appropriate into each death within their jurisdiction and determine if it is a justice death, suicide, or a murder. Torture is considered murder and will be punished as such. Justice deaths must be issued by firearm. All firearms over a .22 caliber must be registered and chipped.  Schools and churches are safe zones. Firearms will be remotely disabled using the RFIDs. Metal detectors will be installed at schools and churches as another level of protection. In addition to these precautions, Blue River is instituting a curfew of 10:00 p.m. for all citizens.”

The room was silent. Mayor Brady took a drink from a water bottle at his feet and pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket to wipe his face. Sweat was seeping through his light green shirt under his arms.

“I’ll take questions now.”

Hands shot up.

“But know that I don’t understand all the technology behind this new law. So I can’t answer those questions,” he said.

Everyone’s hand sank down like a sinking ship in the ocean. He glanced around the room and shuffled through his cards. Stopping at the last one, he held it up and stared at it for a while.

“One last thing I need to mention. If you scrub, Homeland Security will hunt you down and shoot you on site.”

Whispers began and the students all looked at one another. A small girl in the front raised her hand.

“Yes, sweetheart?” asked the mayor.

“What do you mean scrub?” she asked.

“If you remove your SAFE chip from your arm.”

Text to Speech

AI

A useful strategy for editing your manuscript is to read it out loud. By doing so, you focus on each word more and can catch mistakes in your writing whether it is a missing comma, a misspelled word, or an auto-correct that is not correct.

Another tool that writers can use is text to voice programs. NaturalReader is a program that will read your manuscript back to you. They have a free version with a male and female voice, and they have a paid version where you get two more, higher quality voices and a few more options for $69.50 U.S. One option I am interested in is turning the book into an MP3 audio file giving me the ability to listen to my manuscript as I do other audiobooks. Granted the electronic voice is a little weird, but if you can get over that issue, having your manuscript read to you is a great way to find extra sneaking mistakes. NatrualReader has multiple languages options such as German, French, and Spanish.

I’ve looked at the IVONA text to speech program too. It’s an Amazon product. IVONA has a thirty-day free trial of their program. You can buy different packages of voices. It’s $59.00 U.S. for one voice and the ability to convert into an MP3. You can get three voices for $119.00 U.S.

yWriter is a free writing program that you can download. It helps with structuring your novel and keeps track of location, time passage, characters, and any other object you put into the program. You can input as little or as much information as you want into the program. It also has the ability to read the scenes to you (you have to be in the Scene page).

Another way of having your manuscript read to you is by changing it to a PDF document and emailing it to your kindle and having your kindle read it, which makes it more portable than a laptop.

Having another voice read my manuscript adds another layer of objectivity, at least for me. Separating myself from my memoir has been difficult. I’ve waited four month before going back to edit it, and I still find it hard at particular points to step back and experience the book as a reader.

Has anyone else tried any of these programs and have a favorite?

 

I’m a full time writer! well sort of

I am Writing

For the next two weeks, I’m a full time writer. I’ve taken vacation from my day job, since the judge is out of town and I don’t have to worry about missing court hearings or finding coverage it is the best time for me to take vacation as well. Of course, I will have a rather large pile on my desk and I’m will be walking back into four trials in four weeks, but you gotta get it when you can.

Over the weekend, I went shopping and cleaned house so that I wouldn’t have to worry about those two things during the week and I could focus on writing. I also decided that I would need a schedule or some sort of structure to my day otherwise I would just waste away unfocused and accomplishing little.

My goal is to finish the first draft of my epic fantasy novel, Syrain’s Marrow, by January 1, 2015. Given that this is my primary goal, I knew that I needed to dedicate a significant amount of my day to working on that manuscript.

I’m also editing my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream, which has been sitting since the end of April trying to be forgotten. Thus, this would be my secondary goal. Finally, because I like three’s and a triangle is the strongest shape, decided I would work on the outline for my serial novel, A Vigil for Justice, as my third goal.

The schedule I’ve worked out is that I will spend four to five hours working on Syrain’s Marrow each day. I will spend one hour editing Fighting for a Chance to Dream and one hour on the outline for A Vigil for Justice.

This shouldn’t be too difficult, so long as I fight the urge to check Twitter, email, Pinterest, Facebook, and Goodreads.Right. Hmmmm. Okay. How do I deal with that urge? Yeah I put it into the schedule too. One hour for social media.

I’m a morning person, so I’m out of bed by 6:00 am at the latest every day. From there, I head out to swim, bike or run depending on the day and voila the rest of the day can be dedicated to writing and taking care of my boys.

The house is eerily quiet other than my fingers on the keyboard, the blowing of the swamp cooler, and occasional barking of beasty little dogs needing to go out into the sun.

“Boys,” I call into the empty house. Oh yeah, Sky went camping with his grandparents for the week and Jazz, well he’s seventeen, has a social life, and this is after all the last week of summer vacation.

I happily wish Jazz a great day and tell him not to worry I will have an excellent time. He is a bit disturbed by the fact that I am perfectly content to spend my vacation alone, but for the voices in my head.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Three

A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: The Justice Law, which allows civilians to put to death up to three other individuals for any reason without repercussions has just passed. The law takes effect on June 1, 2021, giving Melanie, her friends, and family 28 days to prepare for however that may change their small Colorado town high in the Rocky Mountains.

Holly pulled her eyebrows together and pursed her lips as she stared at Melanie across the orange table. Melanie could practically see the wheels turning inside her head as Holly tried to figure this one out.

“Look Holl.” Melanie pointed to her left wrist. “The SAFE chip is inserted inside everyone’s arm when they are only hours old. These chips have the ability to communicate with one another and with the SAFE program. If they are then linked to the National Cybersecurity Protection System which is the most advanced big brother program out there, the government can have their virtual eyeball on everyone all the time.”

“Isn’t that an invasion of our personal bubble or something?” Holly asked cocking her head to the right.

“Majorly. The two programs were never intended to be linked to one another, but apparently those policies are being modified for some compelling reason.”

Seth popped a mexi-fry into his mouth and leaned back. “Yeah, so the police can sit on their asses eating donuts and monitoring everyone from their air conditioned rooms while regular people do their job.”

“We gotta get back to school.” Mitchel said, sliding out of the booth and shaking his head at his twin.

Melanie looked at Seth who smiled and gathered up their trays and garbage.

“Look it up,” Seth whispered to Melanie as he passed her on his way to the garbage can. He was probably at least partially right, which mad her skin itch. Mitchel held the door as they all went through. She slide her sunglasses on and ran her fingers through her long brown hair. Pulling the keys out of her jeans, she clicked the button to unlock the car doors.

She looked across the top of the car to Mitchel. “SAFE will work if they would just give it a chance. I just don’t understand why they had to do something so drastic.”

“I don’t know Mel, things outside of Blue River are bad. People are killing one another for a can of corn or a spare blanket. The gangs rule the streets. Everyone is afraid.” They slid into the front seats and pulled the doors closed.

Melanie looked left then right preparing to pull into traffic.

 

“The Justice Law gives the responsibility to protect yourself back to the people,” Mitchel said laying his hand on her leg. “Maybe it’s not such a bad thing.”

“Humans don’t have an innate sense of right and wrong. They do what they need to do to survive like any other animal,” Seth said.

Melanie glanced in her review mirror at Seth. He was watching the trees blur by out the window. Holly had her earbuds in and was dancing to whatever was playing on her phone. The radio in the car hadn’t worked for years. Holly smiled at Melanie in the mirror.

*                             *                             *

Sam bounded through the front door of the house dropping her backpack on the floor and dashing toward her bedroom in her pink leotard and ballet slippers.

“Hi Mel,” she said, as she ran passed.

“Hey Sammy, how was your field trip?” Melanie called looking around the wall at the pink streak.

“It was okay. Mom needs help getting the milk.”

“Can you stir the soup?”

Sam came into the kitchen still in her tutu. She grinned and drug a chair over to the stove. Melanie handed her the whisk.

“Just keep stirring, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Don’t touch the pan though, it’s hot.”

“No duh.” Sam rolled her eyes.

Melanie walked out to her mom’s van and grabbed the milk and a bag of groceries.

“Thanks hon,” Jennifer said. Her keys clenched in her teeth. Her hands were full of two or three white plastic bags leaden with fruits and vegetables. “How was school?”

“It was fine.”

Melanie set the milk and groceries on the table and went to turn the grilled cheese sandwiches over. She poured the tomato soup into three bowls and set them on the table with the sandwiches. Sam chattered away about dance and the museum. Melanie stirred the specks of pepper around in the thick red soup. She picked the crust off the sandwich letting the melted cheese drape across the plate before eating it.

“You should change out of your dance clothes,” Jennifer said.

Sam had stuffed her cheeks with cheese and bread like a chipmunk does with nuts. She nodded and whirled down the hall.

“If dad were here—“

“Stop.” Melanie’s mother set her spoon on the table and reached her hand across the table laying it on her daughters. Her voice was gentle and soft. “There is no use dwelling on what he would do if he were here. He’s not, and we need to deal with the situation on own. Blue River is a quiet town. Everyone knows everyone. Things will stay the same here,” Jennifer said.

“I wish people would stop saying that. This changes everything! Can’t you see that? How can I look at anyone the same? How can I look into Mitchel’s eyes always wondering if he would kill me? Or you? Or Sam? Or anyone?” Melanie was yelling now. Tears filled her eyes. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.

“Nothing is the same. You can’t just love this problem away, Mom. The world isn’t rainbows and butterflies anymore. Humans are animals. They’re predators. If they feel threatened, they will do what they need to do to survive.”  Melanie’s face was flushed with anger. She pushed her chair back from the table. It screeched across the tile floor.

Jennifer moved to wrap her daughter in her arms, but Melanie pushed her away.

“There’s nowhere safe left to go.” Melanie stalked down the hall, pushing past Sam who was returning to the table.

“Don’t push Melanie. Mom.”

Melanie slammed her bedroom door. She leaned back against it and sank to the floor with her hands over her face trying to control her breathing. How is she going to protect them? Her throat felt like a tiny red coffee straw. She wheezed and chocked on her own saliva. She wrapped her arms around her knees. She had to think. Get control, she told herself. Breathe.

 

Structuring Your Novel: Part Three

Structuring-Your-Novel

The motivation-reaction unit (MRU) helps writer’s structure sentences and scenes alike. It is a way of thinking about the cause and effect relationship of incidents within your story. Many writers place the effect before the cause, which makes readers slow down and think about what happened. Even a seconds slowing can distract and/or confuse a reader, so it’s best to keep things in the right order.

Here are a few examples:

Effect then cause:

The cat scratched Simon’s face because Simon pulled it’s tail.

Cause then effect:

Simon pulled the cat’s tail, and it scratched his face.

Effect then cause:

Gertrude slammed the front door, after seeing a man with a shotgun running across the lawn.

Cause then effect:

A man with a shotgun was running across the law. Gertrude slammed the front door.

Each of these examples is more powerful when the cause comes before the effect. The reader has to think less about what just happened when the motivation (cause) come before the reaction (effect).

Sequencing your reaction in the right order is also important. A person reacts to a stimulus in a very specific way. When you get things out of order, it slows the reader down. Reactions occur in the following order:

  1. Emotional and thoughts
  2. Action including involuntary actions
  3. Speech

If you stop to analyze how you reaction to various things in your environment, you will see that you have an emotional response or thought first, followed by an action, and finally speech. Keeping things in the right order helps readers suspend their disbelief and reduces the acrobatics their brains have to engage in to understand what is happening with your amazing characters.

If you want to learn more about structuring your novel, I highly recommend K.M. Weiland’s book Structuring Your Novel (picture above).

Part one of this series can be found here.

Part two of this series can be found here.

Happy Writing!

Structuring Your Novel: part two

Structuring-Your-Novel

The Scene is the basic building block of a story. A Scene has two parts: the action part and the reaction part.

The action half of a scene consists of a goal, conflict, and disaster.

The goal of a scene is usually a small piece of the overall plot goal or it can be a major piece of the plot goal. The goal of a scene must make sense in the overall plot of the story. It cannot be something random just to add something interesting to your story. It must move the plot forward. The goal of the scene has the PoV character (generally the protagonist) trying to obtain or avoid something physical, emotional, or mental. The goal must directly affect the PoV character, if it doesn’t you may what to switch to a character who has a higher stake in the scene. The goal should also lead to a new scene.

The conflict within a scene must flow from the goal. It should be about something that matters to the PoV and threaten the PoV’s ability to achieve the goal. It must be logical or your reader will not be able to remain in the story. Not every scene has to be a major battle. It can be something small that gets in the way of what the character wants.

The disaster should answer the question driven by the goal of the scene and prompt a new goal for the next scene. It needs to be flow logically from the goal and conflict. The disaster needs to raise the stakes, but not be melodramatic.

For example if your protagonist has a goal to obtain information from another character. The question is will he get the information. The conflict could be a million things but for this example, it is that the character with the information is intoxicated and doesn’t make any sense. The disaster is the protagonist never getting the information he needed because the character dies in a car accident on the way home.

The reaction half of a scene consists of reaction, dilemma, and decision. The reaction half can be very short, just a couple sentences, or it can be much longer. At times, it is interlaced within the action.

The reaction needs to correlate to the proceeding disaster. The reaction must make sense in the context of the story and be true to the PoV character’s personality. Reactions are important because they create the bond between the character and the reader. Don’t skimp on the reaction half of scenes.

The dilemma of the reaction portion is where the character reviews what happened, analyzes it, and plans his/her next step. The disaster of the action part of the scene influences the dilemma of the reaction portion. Be as clear and specific as called for in the story.

The Decision must be an organic result from the dilemma. It also needs to lead to a strong goal for the next scene and advance the plot. As will every piece of the scene it must be an important logical step in the plot of the story.

All the scenes of a story should line up like dominos. Each triggering the next in the line.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Two

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

RECAP: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig just found out that the Justice Law was passed. The Justice Law allows all US citizens to take the life of three other people without consequence. Melanie is disgusted by the law and can’t understand how something like this could have been signed into law. She dropped her sister off at school and then headed to school herself. She met her friends in the parking lot and headed to class.

A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

RECAP: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig just found out that the Justice Law was passed. The Justice Law allows all US citizens to take the life of three other people without consequence. Melanie is disgusted by the law and can’t understand how something like this could have been signed into law. She dropped her sister off at school and then headed to school herself. She met her friends in the parking lot and headed to class.

Melanie’s second class was history, and her teacher had the television tuned into the president’s news conference on the Justice Law. After the assassination of President Faust last year, Vice President Ammon Vick assumed the office.  President Vick was a military man with a clean-shaven sharp angled face and long nose. He had piercing blue eyes and short obsidian hair. President was a title Vick had held at the NRA as well, but that was during the war. He held himself straight and bold, shoulders back and his expression even the American flag rippling in the wind at his back. His hands rested lightly on the podium

“—the NCPS will be synced with the SAFE system allowing the tracking of justice deaths. The security codes emitted from the RFID’s in designated safe zones will disable all firearms reducing the possibility of justice deaths in the vicinity of schools and churches. Metal detectors will be installed at the entrance of all schools and churches, which do not already have them. The safety of our citizens while at an educational facility is paramount. If we are to overcome this crisis the education of our children is essential.”

Melanie’s dad had helped develop the SAFE system. It was never meant to be connected with the National Cybersecurity Protection System.  The NCPS had the ability to monitor any cyber activity of U.S. citizens. Homeland Security has always said that they only monitor for terroristic threats and acts of violence, but Melanie knew it was more. Ever since the Homeland Security Act was passed in 2002, the government has inched its way into private homes. It had become such a ubiquitous presence that when the SAFE system was proposed, it was accepted by the people with minor opposition.

Her father had been so proud of SAFE.

“It will change everything Melbelle,” he said. The flecks of green in his hazel eyes caught the rays of the sun as he danced her around in a circle holding her small hands in his larger ones.

“Five years, that’s my prediction. It will take five years to really get going, but then it will fix everything.”

It has been four years, and she still believed in her father’s dream. Just a little more time and things would get better, she thought. SAFE revolutionized the social services system of the United States. The economy was going down before World War 3 broke out in 2016, but the war finished the job. In 2017, SAFE, Social Alliance Freedom Emission, was implemented. Her father had appeared on television with the flag waiving behind him to announce SAFE to the public.

“The Social Alliance Freedom Emission system will create thousands of jobs through manufacturing, installation, debugging, and monitoring. Every American is entitled to food, shelter, and medical care despite their income, race, religion, or sexual preferences. SAFE will replace the current social security and public welfare systems that are bleeding our depleted economy dry. Meeting the basic needs of the starving will eliminate much of the crime.” Her father’s words had convinced sixty-three percent of the American population to vote for SAFE.

“The SAFE system was supposed to fix many of the problems you are now saying will be solved by the Justice Law,” commented an off screen female reporter.

“The SAFE system has failed to do what Robert Craig promised it would,” said President Vick.

Melanie clenched her jaw. Several of the other students who were listening turned their eyes toward her at the mention of her father’s name, but just as quickly refocused on the television.

“We have seen some decline in the street violence, but it is just taking too long. Our cities are war zones and something more has to be done. The Justice Law—“

The bell rang, and the teacher clicked the television off.

“This is history in the making Mr. Johnson, why’d you turn it off?” asked a boy named Harrison.

“It will be your children’s history Harrison, not yours.” Mr. Johnson pushed his black wide framed glasses up on his nose. His brown plaid button down shirt was tucked into a pair of light blue jeans. People in Blue River held onto the past. That’s one of the reasons Melanie’s family had moved there. Her father had been a technological genius of Steve Jobs proportions, but he also held onto relics of the bygone age of the hippies. He was a contradiction in many ways.

In Blue River, you could forget that the war and resulting economic crash had happened, at least on most days. The only reminders that the US economy had fallen into the abyss were the newscasts of the violence in other cities and of course SAFE. And although these were a constant backdrop to daily life, people had a way of not noticing them.

As Melanie walked out to the parking lot to meet up with Mitchel, Holly, and Seth for lunch, she sent a tweet to a couple of her dad’s geek friends she had remained in contact with after her dad’s death. People in Blue River may be happy going with the flow of a simplistic life, but she needed information.

Seth was leaning against Mitchel’s truck clicking through messages or something on his phone.

“Hey Melbelle,” he said, glancing up at her for a flash. She hated it when he called her that. Only her father called her by that name.

“I’ve asked you not to call me that Seth.” She frowned at him.

“Sorry. Did you catch any of the president’s press conference?” He shoved his phone in his pocket.

“Bits and pieces, Mr. Johnson turned it off. You?”

“Not much. June first is the big day.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s when the Justice Law takes effect. Guess they wanted to give everyone time to prepare, so they announced it early,” Seth said.

Twenty-eight days, Melanie thought.

Mitchel and Holly strode up. Mitchel fist bumped Seth, and kissed Melanie. His eyes were soft as they met hers. They piled into Melanie’s car.

“Where to for lunch?” Holly asked, leaning forward between the two front seats.

“TacoTime,” Mitchel suggested.

Seth groaned, and Melanie started the car. None of them wanted to talk about the Justice Law, but everyone’s thoughts were consumed by it. Melanie knew they would eventually have to talk about it. Something like this couldn’t be ignored by friends. The ride to TacoTime was quiet other than the pine filled air blowing through the windows of the car at freeway speeds. TacoTime was in Frisco, which was only a few miles away. Melanie slowed down as they reach the town. Still no one spoke.

They stood staring at the menu inside the brightly colored dining room. Melanie looked at each of them. She would trust anyone of them with her life. They were her best friends. She had trusted them with her life many times already camping, hiking, rock climbing, and swimming.

None of the others were ready, so Melanie stepped forward and ordered. She waived her left wrist over the SAFE scanner. It beeped indicating it had received the signal. Her credit union information appeared on the screen below her order and the total. She tapped her finger on the touch screen to pay and then stepped out of the way to wait.

Melanie checked her phone, pushed her earbud into her ear, and listened to the video @geekedout had sent her. The others ordered and paid just as she had. They slid into a yellow and orange booth in the corner of the dining area.

“Do you think it is really possible Mel?” Holly asked.

Melanie’s mouth was full. Holly had never had much interest in technology. She relied on Melanie for all of her information on the latest innovations whether it was a device or a program. Unlike Melanie, Holly never wanted to leave Blue River. Holly had no reason to leave. Everything she could ever want was right here.

All of them waited for her to finish chewing even though both Mitchel and Seth had an idea of what Melanie was going to say. Especially Seth, sometimes he had information that not even Melanie, with all her dad’s connections, had heard about yet. She thought he was a hacker, but Mitchel didn’t think his twin was that smart.

Melanie swallowed and took a pull off her soda. She assumed Holly was asking about tracking what the president had called justice deaths. She disagreed with the terminology, but answered Holly question.

“Yes, it’s possible to track justice deaths. Most of the early technology has been in place since 2012. It just wasn’t rolled out to the public. In 2012, a guy named Ron Conway started the Smart Tech Challenge Foundation, which offered millions of dollars to innovators to come up with new idea to stop the school shootings. They developed the Radio Frequency Identification Device or RFID to track firearms and to disable them. I’m sure they have continued and with the combination of the NCPS and SAFE, anything is possible.”

She loved twitter, without it, she wouldn’t be able to answer her friends or her own questions.

, without it, she wouldn’t be able to answer her friends or her own questions.

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