Interior Book Design

book design

Have you ever really looked at a book? I don’t mean just the cover of it, but the interior of it too. As a reader, much of the design of a book goes unnoticed, which is what you want as a book designer. You want the reader to focus on the story and not on the format and design of the book.

As I’ve delved into the indie author world, I’ve discovered that interior book design is a HUGE deal for the reason I mentioned above. You don’t want your reader to notice it on a conscious level. So what goes into the interior design of a book?

Font choice is only the beginning. Most people go with Times Roman, which is not a bad choice it is easy to read. Whatever you choose you have to stare at it for a long time, is it easy on the eyes for hours? Because I’d like readers to sit with my book for as long as possible and set it down for reasons other than the font giving them a head ache.

Other things you have to consider is where do blank pages go in a book? Which side of the book has the even page numbers? Is it okay to start a chapter on the left side or does it always have to be on the right? Should I use a header or footer with the book title or author name? how big should the margins be? How far down the page should the chapter begin? Are all of these things the same across genres?

The best way to learn about these things is to spend time in a bookstore and man handle some books. Look at different genres and multiple examples within each genre. There is also a lot of information online about book design and many companies are popping up to help indie authors with formatting.

http://www.bookdesignetemplates.com is one such site. You can purchase different templates to use depending on your personal preferences, genre, and licensing needs. Learning about all of this and how to do it myself has been an eye opening experience and a lot of fun, but it can be very overwhelming as well. If you find yourself getting too overwhelmed with all of it, it may be worth hiring someone to help you with it all.

The last piece you have consider when designing the interior of your book is how do these things change for an ebook verses a print book? Of course you can choose to only publish in one or the other, but as a reader there are books I’m all right with having on my kindle and there are others that I want in hard copy. As an indieauthor limiting yourself to one box is the worst thing you can do for any facet of the whole writing gig.

Thebookdesigner.com is an excellent resource for all things involved in designing books.

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A Vigil for Justice: Episode Nine

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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 and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie sat at the kitchen table drinking chai tea and eating a bagel, while she flipped through the Denver Post. May, 14, 2021 Friday, more riots, robberies, rapes, and murders pages of it reported from sea to shining sea. The announcement of the Justice Law had not stifled the flow of violence on the streets anywhere, what made them think its institution would.

Jennifer shuffled into the kitchen in her floral print bathrobe and white slippers. She pressed start on the coffee machine. “Will you be home after school today?”

“I’m going to the firing range with Holly and have something I have to pick up. I should be home around seven. Do you need me to do something?” Melanie sipped her tea, but didn’t look up at her mother. The percolator bubbled to life and Austen jumped onto the table bumping his grey head against Melanie’s hand.

“I was hoping you could make dinner.” Jennifer took down a mug and set it on the kitchen table across from Melanie.

“I can grab a pizza if you want?” Melanie looked up from the newspaper and rubbed her hand along Austen’s slender form, which was now sprawled across the newspaper.

Jennifer nodded toward the paper. “Anything new in there?”

The aroma of coffee filled the kitchen. Austen meowed and bumped Melanie again. “Same stuff.”

“Could you take your sister with you after school? But not to the firing range, I don’t want her there.”

“Sure. We were planning on the firing range first anyway.” Melanie took Austen’s head in both of her hands and rubbed his ears. His purrs rumbled like a distant dirt bike motor. Melanie flipped the fur off her fingers and it drifted to the moss green tiles.

“What do you have going on tonight?” Melanie asked and bit into her bagel.

Jennifer poured a package of strawberries and cream oatmeal into a pink Hello Kitty bowl, poured some milk in, and set it into the microwave. “There is a city council meeting tonight and I want to get more signatures on the no kill petition.”

Melanie nodded and pressed her lips together. “So, you’ll be late?” She raised her eyebrows.

“Around ten, you don’t mind putting Sam to bed do you?” The microwave peeped and Jennifer set Sam’s breakfast on the table.

“Nope, we’ll paint our finger and toenails while we watch one of her shows.”

Jennifer smiled and patted Melanie’s hand.

“Samantha, your oatmeal is ready.”

Melanie pulled up in front of Sam’s elementary school ten minutes before the bell rang releasing the children. She and Holly were going through two boxes of ammunition more quickly now that they both had guns and Melanie was more confident with hers. She could load, unload, and clean her gun as well as Holly and her marksmanship was improving. She needed to thank Holly’s dad for paying for their ammunition. There was no way that Melanie could afford to practice as much as they had been, and without the practice, the gun would be more of a danger than security for her family.

The bell rang, and a swarm of children exited the building running, laughing, and shouting at one another. Melanie smiled and filed the image away with all the others she was saving for when everything changed.

Sam charged at Melanie’s car, eyes full of childhood sparkle. She wrenched the door open and climbed in, backpack still attached, breathing hard, as she clicked her seatbelt into place.

“Hi Mel.” Sam smiled.

“How was your day Sam?”

“Loads of fun.” Sam rattled off everything she had done during class and at recess while Melanie drove out to a large house on a secluded mountain road. She pulled onto the long dirt drive way.

“Where we going?”

“You’ll see?”

“Oh a surprise? Will I like it?”

“I can guarantee you will love it.”

Melanie stopped the car in the horseshoe shaped driveway and turned it off. She and Sam climbed out of the car. Pine trees towered over the house on all sides. They were so dense you couldn’t see the road where they had just come from.

Low barking came from behind the door as they stepped up onto the white weatherworn porch that wrapped all the way around the house. A porch swing, small table, and two wicker chairs sat before the windows hung with white lace curtains.

Melanie knocked on the gray door. Sam looked up at her and slid her small hand into Melanie’s. A woman’s voice came from inside of the house.

“Gideon, Iris, sit. Stay.” The door swung open and a petite woman with silvering black hair stood before them with a smile that tugged at the corners of her eyes.

“You must be Melanie Craig?”

“Yes, and this is my sister Samantha.” Melanie reached out her hand and the woman shook it and invited them in.

“I’m Amber.”

Samantha eyed the two ninety-pound Rottweiler’s and inched in behind Melanie.

“Don’t worry about them sweetie. They’re the reason you’re here aren’t they?”

Sam cocked her head to the right and glanced up at Melanie.

“I didn’t tell her why we were coming here. Surprise.”

The woman beamed.

“Well then Ms. Samantha, let me show you to the backroom, she said with a wry smile and quick glance to Melanie.

Samantha followed Amber, dragging Melanie along by the hand. Gideon and Iris pushed passed them. They went through the kitchen and stopped at a dark doorway. Gideon and Iris disappeared into the dark. Melanie could hear whining.

Sam looked up at her. “Puppies?”

Melanie nodded and smiled. “Will you help me pick out a girl?”

“Mom’s going to kill you,” Sam said, but the board smile never faded from her lips.

Amber turned on the light and waved for them to come in. Iris was laying inside the huge kennel with eight or nine puppies surrounding her and clamoring over one another trying to find a nipple.

“Are they ready to be separated from their mom?” Sam asked.

Amber nodded. “They are three months old. Let me take Iris and Gideon out, so that you can look at the puppies.”

Once the adults were out of the room, Sam got down on her hands and knees to see the pups. Melanie sat next to her legs folded.

“A girl?” Sam asked.

“Yes, and her name will be Daisy.”

Sam picked up one puppy after another checking to see if they were girls. Amber slipped back into the room.

“I can’t find a girl,” Sam said as she put her hands on her hips and scanned the wiggling mass of fur.

“Let me help you. There are only two girls left.” Amber kneeled down next to Sam. “Here you are.” Amber placed a black ball of fur into Sam’s lap and then another one into Melanie’s. The one Sam had was playful with bright eyes and larger than the one Melanie had.

“What do you think?” Melanie asked.

“I like this one.”

“We’ll take that one,” Melanie said getting to her feet. They stopped at the pet store on the way home for a collar, harness, leash, and food.

Daisy slept in Sam’s lap for the ride home filling the car with the sweet smell of puppy.

“You’re going to help me potty train her right?” Melanie ruffled the fur on the puppy and gripped the extra skin she would soon grow into.

“I don’t know how.”

“Guess we’ll learn together then.”

It was raining when they pulled up to the house, Melanie put the red collar and leash on Daisy, and then handed it to Sam. Daisy bounded through the front door and peed on the kitchen floor.

Melanie frowned and Sam laughed. Melanie pulled a bunch of paper towels off the roll hanging beneath the counter and began wiping up the mess.

Austen growled and arched his back when Daisy toddled toward him. She was not afraid and licked his face. He bolted for the stairs causing another fit of laughter from Sam.

“Is Daisy going to protect us from bad people who want to hurt us?” Sam asked.

“When she is big like Gideon and Iris she will.”

“How long will that take?”

“Not long.”

Melanie and Sam spent the evening painting their finger and toenails yellow, purple, and green while eating pizza and taking turns letting Daisy outside to use the bathroom.

Sam was right, Jennifer was not happy about the dog.

“A gun, boxing, and now a dog,” she yelled at Melanie the next morning. Melanie pushed passed her mother, and walked to her car.

“Don’t you walk away from me Melanie Craig.”

Melanie turned to face her mom. “I’m doing everything I can to make sure this family is safe when that stupid law goes into effect. What have you done?”

Sam stood in the doorway with Daisy dangling from her arms. Jennifer stalked toward Melanie, but she got into her car, slammed the door, and drove away squealing her tires on the wet roads.

Count down to Halloween

demonica

The costumes began appearing in stores a few weeks ago. The Spirit store and Halloween Store have opened their doors. The haunted houses have begun operation for the greatest of holidays, Halloween. I love Halloween. I get so excited the closer it gets. I’m not sure what I should be this year, last year I was the wicked witch of the west. I’ve also been a dark fairy and vampires many times. I have to be something evil, never something nice. I was always so bummed when my boys would choose to be something like a ninja rather than a devil, death, or a zombie.

Neither one of my boys are going trick or treating this year, but that won’t stop me from dressing up and having an excellent time. It just opens doors to new possibilities of celebrating, since I don’t have to wander the neighborhood street until 10:30 collecting candy from all of my neighbors.

My boxes of Halloween decorations outnumber the boxes for every other holiday. My boys have banned some decorations from the house requiring me to take them to my office. Like the one in the picture, that is Demonica. As Christmas approaches, I put an elf hat on her and a card asking for sub-for santa donations on her behalf.

Wandering the isles of the Halloween and Spirit stores is almost as fun as bookstores. Each year I add one new decoration to my collection, I put a lot of thought into which one I add because it has to fit within the theme of the rest of the decorations. Vampires, witches, and demons are my favorite creatures of the night.

Halloween is the day you can become anything you want, whether it is real or not as a writer I am able to do this every day. I’m free to chase any dream or idea until its end.

My personality definitely leans toward the darker side of things. You can find it in all of my writing, there are few happy endings and when there is, it has come at a high cost. I’ve honestly tried to write happy stories, but it’s just not in me. They all take a horribly dark turn as I giggle and type away at the key board. Thankfully, there are readers in the world who are just as dark as I am.

There is an audience out there no matter what type of writing you do, never be afraid of who you are and where your writing takes you, as long as you are authentic someone will enjoy your books. Even if you had to sell your soul and sacrifice a goat to make sure they find your book.

 

The Catcher in the Rye and Coffee

pile of books

As I drove to Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to have a plan and I went in with determination and a plan. I was getting a copy of Catcher in the Rye, a coffee, and leaving. No browsing, no other books.

I needed a classic book written in first person for ideas on sentence structure for the memoir I am working on along with the two others I have in progress.

The scent of books and coffee assailed me as I passed through the doors. I could easily spend hours here, drinking in coffee and words. But I have my plan Catcher in the Rye and coffee. Focus.

I stopped at the biographies, looking at covers, font choices, and title length. Before I knew it, I was flipping books over to read the back and perusing snippets from chapters. I totted a couple books around to the next shelf and noticed a book, I knew was at home yet to be read. Hmmmm.

Focus, damn it, Catcher in the Rye and coffee!

I hung my head in shame and placed the two books back on the shelf, caressing the cover and whispering next time and a long sigh escaped my lips.

I took the long way around the store to the fiction and literature section. Dangerous I know. I ran my fingers over some covers, stopped at the new release table, and flipped to the back cover to read a bit. Nothing really sang to my soul, so I gently placed them back with their brothers and sisters. I breathed in the aroma of the coffee and glanced at all the free souls sitting at tables sipping and turning pages.

I found Catcher in the Rye and was heading toward the coffee counter, but to get there I had to go through the fantasy and sci-fi section. Like a drug addict, I had to walk the isles. I smiled at the new book covers on Terry Brooks, Sword of Shannara. I loved those books. I looked over the new books in the Dragonlance Sagas.

Books appeared in my hand and I was obligated to read their covers and flip through sampling their words. Reluctantly, I returned them to the shelf and committed their titles to memory for further exploration later. The cover art on fantasy novels usual depicts the protagonist in an epic battle against some beast or the antagonist. Some of them are taking a more cartoonish or animated look, which I don’t especially like. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series does not do this. The cover is very simple the hilt of a sword, a crown, or a goblet. It is not flashy but catches your eye because it is different among the color of the other covers.

I look down, more books are in my hand. How did that happen? Hmmm. The pile of books to be read in my bedroom is rather higher than I would like, if you add in the ones on my kindle, it really is a sad state of affairs, which I must address before purchasing more.

I get in line for coffee and continue my mantra Catcher in the Rye and Coffee. As I left the bookstore, there was an emptiness inside. Maybe I should find a book anonymous support group…

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Eight

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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 and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie winced as Mitchel pulled her into his arms. Jake did not take it easy on her at the boxing gym yesterday. He had used gloves, but her ribs were still sore.

“Move,” Jake had said to her as he bounced around the mat jabbing and crossing at her. She had tried, but his hands moved lightning fast. His fist had caught her on the right cheek, the shock of it made her lose focus on what was happening, and she stood there in a haze and caught two uppercuts to the ribs.

“Now you know what it’s like to get hit,” he had said pulling off his gloves and reaching down to help her up. She had wanted to vomit, but he was right, now she knew.

Mitchel brushed her hair back around her ear. “Tough day at the gym?”

Melanie pressed her lips together and smiled. Mitchel had been complaining that ever since the Justice Law had passed, they had not spent time together just for no other reason than to be together. He pulled her hand up to his mouth and pressed his lips against her knuckles.

“You should be more careful.”

“It was my first real lesson and Jake didn’t take it easy.”

“Did you want him to?”

“Well no, but I thought he might at least not hit so hard.” She touched her right cheek.

Mitchel laughed. Melanie took a step back from him and frowned, creases forming between her eyebrows. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and guided her toward the trail along the river. The emerald green of the leaves reminded her it was the season of new life, her favorite time of year. The smell of the decaying leaves from last year filled her nostrils along with the fresh scent of the running water as it tumbled over the rocks. Ice and snow capped the mountains sparkling like crystals in the distance.

Mitchel wanted to forget about the Justice Law for one afternoon, but Melanie could hardly get it out of her head. Everything she and her friends were doing recently was in preparation for it coming into effect. They had less than three weeks to be ready for whatever it was going to bring.

“So Holly’s in Tae Kwon Do?” he asked.

Melanie nodded. “I tried to get her to come to the boxing gym with me, but she wouldn’t. It will take her forever to learn anything useful in a class like that.”

“It’s better than nothing.” He took her hand in his as they balanced on rocks to cross a marshy section of the trail. The run off was in full swing and icy rivulets leaked over the lip of the river in a few places. The leaves rustled in the wind that still held a touch of winter within its tresses.

Melanie shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Are you still planning on going to the University of Denver after graduation?” she asked, glancing up into his hazel eyes. Their green was more prominent today, as if the spring had felt the need to spread new life even there.

“What else can I plan to do? I refuse to believe that this law will be the end of all our dreams and plans.” He helped her up onto a fallen tree. She always walked along it when they hiked this trail. He walked along side of the log as she held her arms out to balance while traversing the narrow aspen trunk. It still held the elasticity of life.

“I still want to take you away from here, get my degree in Veterinary medicine, and build a life for us. Maybe even a family.”

He reached up with both hands under her arms. She slid down his body coming to rest against his chest. She stayed there feeling the rise and fall of his breathing and the hushed sound of his heart.

“I want that too.”

Mitchel dropped her off at home just as the sun’s final rays were fading into the deep blues of the night. She kissed him goodbye, and slide her backpack off the seat of his truck.

Her mom sat in a navy blue rocking recliner reading a book. The lamp beside her made her glow. She smiled and turned the page of her book, To Kill a Mockingbird. The house was filled with aroma of her mother’s chamomile tea.

“How was your hike?”

Melanie’s smile stretched across her face, her teeth exposed. “It was good.” She loved Mitchel and wanted to spend her whole life with him. Her mom always cautioned her to not move too fast and to wait to get married until she was finished with college. But what if she never finished college, what if they never had the chance to do anything they had planned?

The smile melted off Melanie’s face.

“What is it Mel?” Jennifer asked setting her book on the almond coffee table beside her tea mug.

Melanie shook her head, her eyes filling with tears. Jennifer stood and moved to her daughter. She wrapped her in her arms.

“I can’t lose him, mom. I just can’t. This law, this stupid law.” Tears slid down Melanie’s cheeks. They stood there together with her wrapped in the cocoon of her mother’s arms for long minutes before Melanie took a step back wiped her face and said good night.

When Melanie was alone in her room, she removed her compact 9 mm from her backpack. She and Holly picked it up after school. She pulled the metal box from beneath her bed and put the gun and a loaded magazine in the lockbox. Pushing it back under, she let out a held breath and stood. Twenty more days before she had to carry that with her wherever she went, and she wasn’t going to do it any earlier. She put the ammunition in the top of her closet and she got into bed.

Melanie awoke to a sliver of blinding yellow light darting across her face. Samantha’s small form blotted it out as she passed through the door.

Sam crouched down almost nose to nose with Melanie. “Mel?”

“Yeah Sammy?”

“Can I sleep with you?”

“Turn out the hall light and you can.”

Sam shuffled back to the doorway and then back to the side of the bed.

Melanie wiggled to the edge of the bed and opened the blanket for her sister to slip into its warmth. “Bad dream?”

“There was lots of blood, mom wasn’t waking up. You were crying.”

Melanie ran her fingertips along her sisters back trying to comfort her. “I won’t let that happen, Sammy. We are all going to be fine.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

Hook your Readers

hook

Five to ten pages, that’s it. If you don’t hook them into your story within that time, most readers will put the book down. In order to hook a reader, you have to grip them emotionally with action and a specific character.

Throw them into the middle of some action. It doesn’t have to be something intense, but intriguing. It needs to get them to ask a question, such as what is going to happen next? It is better if it is more specific, which is why you use a character in action. Opening with a character gives them someone to connect to, someone’s eyes to see through.

Keep your prose tight and description light. You don’t want them to get lost in your big fancy words or trying to create a very detailed picture in their head. Readers are going to connect with a character more easily than multi layered description of the weather and setting. Don’t completely eliminate description, but don’t overdo it.

Many writers want to open with explanation of who a character is and what is going on in the story, but readers will wait for explanation. It is better to start by throwing them into the mix of the story and attaching them to a person/character.

Here are some articles to help with hooking readers with strong opening lines:

Avoid boring opening lines

The all important human element

Hook your readers

 

Here’s the opening to my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream. What do you think?

This house is a cage. “I’ve got to get out of here,” I whisper to my reflection in the mirror. A thin eyeliner pencil glides around my hazel eyes in an Egyptian fashion. The walls push in around me. The pencil follows the smooth curve of my lips like smoldering coals surrounding a fire.

I push aside my lace dress, skull leggings, and long skirts. The hangers screech across the metal bar. Black velvet leggings slide off the hanger. Pulling them on, I decide on my burgundy velvet blazer. I untuck the ruffles of my antique white shirt and slide my feet into my combat boots, lace them up, tie them, and tuck the laces.

My fingers close around the strap of my velvet gothbox, which is like a purse. Flicking my bedroom light off, I step into the dark hallway and wait for a few seconds listening to my mother’s light snoring across the hall. The dog’s tags clink, as she raises her head. The moonlight catches in her golden eyes. We stare at each other across the empty expanse.

Thanks for your thoughts in advance!

 

When is your WIP ready for publishing?

I am Writing

Let’s admit it, you could change your work in progress (WIP) endlessly. Sentences can be rewritten in a bunch of different ways. You can spend days choosing the perfect word to describe one moment. Paragraphs and scenes can be reordered, added, deleted, and amped up on crack.

So how do you know when your book is ready to publish either traditionally or independently? You look at your WIP and you know it is the best you can make it. There is no little voice in your head saying, “You know you should look at your dialog and spruce it up a bit,” or saying “You should rethink X, Y, and Z.”

There are always changes that can be made, there are in the best works, but the little voice in your head, your inner editor, does go quiet with satisfaction eventually. If an editor has reviewed your book and your inner editor is quiet, it’s time to publish and stop fiddling and tweaking.

I have going over my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream, again. I am focusing on POV and targeting sense words (smell, taste, hear, saw, touched). I am also watching sentences that begin with “I.” Fighting for a Chance to Dream is written in first person present tense, so I am careful to vary the sentences, so they don’t all start with I did this or I did that, which gets very annoying and boring.

When editing, it’s important to pick one or two things to focus on as you go through the manuscript. If you don’t, the task becomes overwhelming. After completing a first draft, the first round of editing focuses on major structure and story development. I read the manuscript start to finish (I print it out because it’s easier to keep notes) and make notes in the margins about those two things.

The second round of edits focuses on each scene making sure there is a goal, conflict, and disaster and in the sequels making sure there is a reaction, dilemma, and a decision.

The third round of edits focuses on Motivation Reaction Units making sure at all levels (scene, paragraph, and sentence) I have set the MRU up like a row of dominos.

The fourth round looks at character arc and development of the main and minor characters. Characters need to change and grow throughout the story not just at the climax. Changes and realizations need to be initiated by something with enough weight to actually make the change in a person. A change to a person’s beliefs and values is a process not an instant reaction.

The fifth round focuses on POV and senses making sure that I’m showing where I should be and summarizing/telling when I should be.

Once I’ve finished all of these, I send it out to beta readers asking if there are any holes in the story or major questions that go unanswered. I ask them to mark parts that are boring or confusing. I usually take the manuscript to an office supply story and have it spiral bound, so my reader can go through it like a book.

I make more changes based off what my beta readers suggest. I try to take an objective stance when I get feedback from others about my writing although it can be r hard to hear. Sometimes it is best to just listen, keep notes, and allow yourself a day or two to mull it over. I have found that their suggestions are worth listening to and much of the time taking even if it means killing parts of the manuscript that I love. I just save them in a separate file that way my darlings are never dead.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Seven

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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 and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie pulled her car into the parking lot of the red brick building of the gun range. She parked the compact car between two trucks with tires that were level with the bottom of her windows. She and Holly stepped out of the car. Melanie wiped her hands on her jeans and shoved her keys and phone in her pockets.

Guns were not something her family had passed down as heirlooms from generation to generation. Her parents had never fired a gun let alone owned one, and her mom probably never would. That left it to her.

Holly walked to toward the glass doors. “You coming Mel?”

“I’m right behind you.”

Holly held the door open while Melanie passed into a world of new sights, sounds, and smells. Holly grew up around guns, and has been shooting them since she was eight.

The men behind the counter wave to Holly as they approach.

“Ms. Stein how can I help you today?” asked a short pudgy man with a greying beard.

“We’d like to rent a 357 Magnum George.”

“I thought we were shooting your guns?” Melanie whispered to Holly.

“We are, but you should shoot a revolver too.”

Melanie wiped her hands on her jeans again.

“You need ammo?” George asked. He set a silver barreled revolver on the counter.

“Just for the 357.” Holly set a black bag on the counter and picked up the gun. She flipped the cylinder out and spun it. “Did my dad call today?”

George set a box of ammo on the counter. “He did, just a few minutes before you ladies walked in.”

Holly handed the gun to Melanie, who took it like it was a piece of rotting meat. It was heavier than she expected it to be. She didn’t know what to do with it or how to hold it, so she held it by the black handle barrel down.

George raised his eyebrows. “First time?”

Holly smiled and picked up the ammo and her bag.

“Lane thee and four are yours.”

“Thanks,” Holly called back. Melanie followed. The smell of gunpowder accosted Melanie as she passed through the door behind Holly. They were in a concrete room. Twenty-five yards out were plain circular targets.

Holly put the bag on the floor next to their lanes. She set two other guns on the top of the concrete barriers between lanes. She dug around in the bag, pulled out two boxes of ammunition, and set them on the floor. She handed up a pair of eye and ear protection to Melanie.

“When I first started shooting my dad gave me a .22 because it doesn’t have a lot of recoil. Now I shoot a compact 9 mm semi auto.”

“Okay,” Melanie said not sure what any of that meant or if it was somehow important.

“You want to shoot both a revolver and a pistol to see which one you like more.” Holly put eye and ear protection on and Melanie did the same.

“Does it really matter? A gun is a gun. You pull the trigger and it shoots a bullet out the other end,” Melanie yelled to make sure Holly heard her.

Holly rolled her eyes. “It matters.” Holly slid bullets into the revolver. “I want you to watch me shoot it and then you will shoot it, okay?”

Melanie nodded and took a step back. Melanie had never seen Holly so confident and serious. It was strange to see her bubbly slightly ditzy best friend take control of a situation, especially one involving instruments of death.

Holly stepped up between the concrete dividers and pressed a switch bringing the target toward them. Melanie took a step forward to see what Holly was doing. Her stance was about shoulder width apart and her knees bent a bit. She held the gun out with both hands, took aim, and pulled the trigger.

Melanie jumped with the first shot and cringed at each successive one. The shots were loud.

Holly lowered the gun and turned to face Melanie.

“There are four things you have to remember whenever you are around guns. First, treat every single gun as if it were loaded. Second, always point a gun in a safe direction. Third, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Fourth, do not point a gun at anything you are not willing to totally destroy.”

Melanie nods.

“I’m going to drill you on these every time we shoot, so remember them,” Holly said.

Melanie starts to smile, but Holly is totally serious. Holly releases the cylinder on the revolver, spins it, and closes it.

She hands the gun to Melanie. “Check it first and always.”

“But I just watched you do it.”

“Do it anyway. You don’t know what I saw in there. Load it while you have it open.”

Melanie checks and loads the gun.

Holly motions for her to step up to fire the gun, and she stands behind Melanie. “Okay, now when you hold it make sure your thumbs are on top of one another, so they don’t get in the way. Hold it steady and pull the trigger slow at first. You gotta lean into it a little to catch some of the recoil.”

The gun is heavy in Melanie’s outstretched hands. She takes a deep breath and pulls the trigger as she exhales. The recoil drives the gun back into her hand, and she nearly drops it.

“Don’t drop it,” Holly cries out.

Melanie holds on. She is a shade paler and shaking. She wants to put it down and never touch the thing. She had to learn how to shoot. There wasn’t a choice.

“Okay?” Holly asks looking at her.

Melanie presses her lips together and nods.

“Give it another go. Make sure your stance is solid and don’t flinch now.” Holly made her fire off all of the rounds. The recoil made her arms and hands ache. She was going to have to get use to this and the only way to do that was to shoot many more rounds.

“All right, now I want you to shoot the 9 mm. Then you can answer your own question of whether or not the type of gun matters,” Holly said.

Holly showed Melanie how to load the magazine with cartilages and then how to slip the magazine into the well. She pulled the slide back and had Melanie watch her empty the gun into the target.

“Your turn.”

The first thing Melanie noticed was that the balance of the gun was more even. The grip was larger, but not too big for her hands. She took a few deep breaths and held her arms out. She pulled the trigger one after another until the slide locked back.

“So?” Holly asked.

“I like this one better.” Melanie said sheepishly.

Holly tilted her head and smiled crookedly. “Do you want to try a smaller one?”

“Sure.” The 9 mm didn’t feel as sinister as the revolver. It felt more natural to shoot. She knew that it carried the same potential, but it didn’t feel like a cannon at the end of her arms.

“This one is small enough to be a conceal carry, but its shoots the same caliber as the compact,” Holly explained.

They took turns firing off some rounds.

Melanie took off the ear and eye protection. “I’m going to get a compact 9 mm.”

Holly was packing everything into the bag. “It’s my favorite. We can go fill out the paper work tomorrow. They don’t sell guns here.”

Melanie looked at her best friend with fire red hair and emerald eyes. She could not imagine Holly aiming a gun at a person and pulling the trigger. Here at the range, it was different.

They returned the 357 to George and walked out to Melanie’s car. Melanie could smell the gun powder on her hands and wondered if her mom would be able to smell it too.

Relentless Call to Love

Hope nestles warm against frigid stone.

Joy and happiness found in the solitariness of a dark life.

Like a silver blade slipped between ribs, the soul seeks a twin harmony.

Its incessant song grates against reason and objectivity.

No amount of desolation or isolation can silence its call.

 

Dangerous Deadly love

Honor and virtue blind you to the wickedness that fuels my soul.

My demon is nourished by the anguish and misery I visit upon myself.

But your smile unravels the walls built to protect the world around us.

An aching desolation inspires my self-destruction.

My skin crawls with the devastation it longs to reap.

Searing thoughts burn, as they pass over my lips.

This is a battle you cannot win, for it rages within.

I always rebuild and blood and bone serve as my brick and mortar.

 

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