Tag Archives: sytycw

SYTYCW Judge Tina Burns on Editing & Winning

9 Nov

Writing Out Loud aka How I picked a winner….

First off, let’s give Bria a HUGE round of applause for her diligence, hard work and creative genius in the SYTYCW [we had it first HQ!] contest.  I had a blast reading all the entries each week. A second round of applause goes to all who entered!  It’s not easy to put your writing out there for others to critique so bravo, bravo.

True confession, as each week went by and the playing field got smaller and smaller, I had small moments of panic. How am I going to be able to pick just one? Will the others hate me? Will there be a public stoning if I don’t pick the fan favorite?!?!

Okay, okay, so the stoning panic might have been a bit on the drama side, but I think you get my drift. [yet at the same time, I’m seriously hoping I didn’t give anyone ideas. Please make them fake stones or gem stones even…]

I know, I know, you want to know who the winner is, and I’ll get to that, but I felt the “How” of who won would make good blog fodder.  Since I’ve got your undivided attention, and Bria gave me free reign of the place…

Let’s see a show of hands as to how many of you have looked at your writing so much that all you see is black blobs of ink on the page and yet still wonder if it’s clearly written?  Did you show or tell your story to the reader?  Is it clean enough for submission? Does it flow?  [looks around blog….yep, lots of hands]

There are many ways to answer all of those questions and more, but one of the easiest is my favorite way to self-edit: Read your story out loud.

Seriously? Yes, seriously. No, they’re probably not suitable bedtime stories for your kids, although they may be bedtime stories for your significant others so snag them for an extra pair of listening ears.  Reading what you’ve written aloud, or even in an “I’m crazy and I talk to myself” whisper can bring to light so many mistakes that you miss because you can no longer “see” your story aka black blobs on paper/screen.  I can almost 99.9% guarantee you that if you start reading your writing out loud, you’ll have less rejections or requests for revisions due to your writing skills. Not content, that’s another blog post for another day, but the actual writing.

How does it work? Well, writing can go something like this…

Visual Inspiration = plot idea = furious writing/plotting = quick read through to self edit = more furious writing/plotting = semi-coherent read through for self-editing = even more furious writing/plotting = crap I need to change something 10 pages ago = furious editing and rewriting = whew, fixed that enough to continue furiously writing = ack, my story looks like black blobs on paper so it must be the end = the end.

You hand your “masterpiece” off to your beta or your critique partner and wait, biting your nails down to nubs. When you get back “eh, the pacing was off” or “I don’t really get this part” or “I’m just not getting it” or if you’ve got a brutally honest Beta/CP “Are you sure you sent me the edited version?” You freak. What? GASP Pacing? Not edited? 

This is a classic mistake that’s easily rectified and with a little practice, you can eliminate this from your writing process for good. Here’s the mistake: you’ve not clearly put on paper the “world” or “story vision” in your head. It’s a simple communication problem, something got lost in translation from your brain to your hands typing or writing the story.  But there are other ways to communicate right?  So rather than trying to turn your story into an Interpretive Dance [though that would be one for YouTube], just turn on your speaker box and use your voice!

Reading your writing out loud will help you find misspelled words, wrong words [ie, I just typed woods vs words. Spell check wouldn’t have seen that because it’s spelled correctly], and pacing.

Pacing, I think, is the biggest of the three. Remember, we’re showing the story, not telling so think of it as a movie scene. By reading aloud, you’ve shouted “action” to your characters and their world.  Is your character in the right part of the room for their actions, did you get them to that place in an easy manner, or did they jump there, or even worse, did they walk in slow motion, looking at every nook and cranny all the while contemplating the very essence of those nooks and crannies. 

Do you have too many short sentences?  Does it sound like Robot from Lost in Space wrote your story? Too many long sentences?  Are you going on and on and on and never ending your thought because you just keep adding to the previous thoughts, those thoughts that you said previously?  You can catch those by reading out loud.

Voicing your story will also help you with the voice of the story. J Does your dialogue fit with your character? The setting? Does it date your character outside of your story setting? [modern slang in historical setting]  Get creative with it, make it fun. Is your heroine a Southern Belle?  Add some twang to her dialogue. Do you have an Irish hero? Do your best to add some brogue.

It may seem silly but trust me, reading what you’ve written out loud will help improve your story and your writing skills.  If you don’t want to do the reading yourself, ask a friend, or like Bria, use this website http://www.readplease.com/

So why the lecture? That’s how I picked the winner! I read and re-read the top three entries until I couldn’t see each one individually any more.  That’s when I decided to read them out loud. I snagged Mr. B’s semi-undivided attention [he turned the football game down, but not off] and read the entries to him.  As I read them out loud, I knew without a doubt that I’d found my winner. The pacing worked, the dialogue worked, and I could see the movie version.

And so, without further ado… Congrats to Author #3 and the story of Lauren Franklin!

PS: Yes, I read this out loud before I sent it to Bria.  🙂

————————————————————————

Thanks Tina!

Want more of Tina? Follow her on twitter at @TinaBurns

This has been an amazing few months watching these entries ebb and flow. And congrats to our winner! I know how much everyone worked on cleaning up their openings to compete.

So, if you have a question for Tina, please post it — but I’m just asking that everyone be patient since she has a crazy schedule and can’t stalk the blog.

I want to take just another second to thank all the people who played along, the voters, the pimpers, the candlestick makers. It’s truly been a TON of fun for me.

AND – I’d like to throw a special challenge out there. If you don’t know, I’m also the co-founder of Excerpt Monday. coincidentally, EM is this Monday – yay – I would LOVE to see the rest of these openings – post what you got through in the contest, or a few more lines, or what the heck! Post the entire opening chapter! Just join in and show us what your entry would have looked like if YOU had made it to the final round. The deadline is Friday and you can see the Guidelines HERE.

It’s been a joy, everyone ~ Bria

EDITED TO ADD THE WINNING ENTRY:

“On behalf of Historic Philadelphia Alive, I’d like to welcome you to the City of Brotherly Love.”

I smile at the small group waiting for me inside the Independence Visitor Center as I take their tickets, relieved that my last tour of the long Fourth of July day consists of only four elderly couples, three generic tourists, two Jersey Shore cast wannabes, and a mom pushing a little boy in a stroller.

This will be the easiest 75 minutes of my life.

“I’m Lauren Franklin, no relation to Ben,” I lie.

I usually always deny that Benjamin Franklin is my great-to-the-eighth-power uncle, but there’s been two exceptions. The first time I name dropped, I was a stupid freshman at the University of Massachusetts, desperate to get the cute grad student teaching the World of Thomas Jefferson to notice me. His name was Grant McConnell.

“Today we’ll be following in our founding fathers’ footsteps, learning about the places where the events of the American Revolution occurred,” I say to the group.

The second time I name dropped, I was desperate to get this job as a tour guide. Not only was Grant incredibly cute, but he was also incredibly smart and passionate about Colonial America, so when he became Dr. Grant McConnell, assistant professor of history at the College of William and Mary, I went there for grad school, believing we could write a beautiful thesis together, but I screwed up his life instead.

SYTYCW – The Finals!!!!

28 Oct

You’ve been voting for 10 weeks and now we’re down to the final 3. This is when our fabulous guest judge (and prize) comes in! Tina Burns will be picking from the top 3 for an opening crit.

Stay tuned for her to pick the winner…Next Wednesday 🙂 I know, I know, a week feels like a long time.

In the meantime, check out the entries and vote for your favorite. Let’s see if your fav and Tina’s match up!

ONE

The thick cloud of confusion occupying my thoughts lifted and was instantly replaced by paralyzing fear. My body stiffened as my mind raced uncontrollably with realization; this harsh, sterile environment was unfamiliar. I tried desperately to speak, to scream out, to connect to something concrete. The barren, cold walls began closing in around me, suffocating my senses. I couldn’t say a word, couldn’t move, could barely even breathe. Behind a thick, wooden door I heard voices muffled by the barrage of questions ravaging my mind. In a single moment of clarity I heard a baby cry, just as I felt myself fading.

An uneasy feeling hovered over me all day.

Something was wrong. Distress engaged my every thought and I wondered where Hell had frozen over. I rambled apprehensively through my day; my normal routine had been a chore and my mundane secretarial job required more focus than usual.

TWO

Miss Marcia Elizabeth Drummond snatched the ivory invitation from the salver and perused the elegant handwriting. Dashing away a tear that clung stubbornly to her lashes, she wished six years of accumulated shame could be brushed away as easily. Her hand trembled as she crossed the room and flung the horrid thing into the fireplace.

Then, with her arms wrapped tight about her, she encouraged the grasping flames while reflecting on how the Avery’s annual masquerade never failed to transform her into a watering pot. Burn before Mother sees you, please.

As she stared into the unobliging fire, the memories she cherished renewed their endless struggle with those she was unable to forget. First, the visions of fairytale splendor and extravagant costumes became a phantom flight of swirling, snapping black capes. The gentle masculine hand, firm at the small of her back, turned into rough paws groping, pinching and lobbing her back and forth. And perhaps worst of all, the feelings of anticipation and freedom were replaced by the stickiness that had lingered in the wake of their slobbery kisses.

Pulling Marcia out of her reverie, her mother’s footsteps echoed in the hallway only to be followed by the inevitable cheerful greeting, “Darling, did you see Lady Avery’s invitation finally arrived with this morning’s post?”

THREE

“On behalf of Historic Philadelphia Alive, I’d like to welcome you to the City of Brotherly Love.”

I smile at the small group waiting for me inside the Independence Visitor Center as I take their tickets, relieved that my last tour of the long Fourth of July day consists of only four elderly couples, three generic tourists, two Jersey Shore cast wannabes, and a mom pushing a little boy in a stroller.

This will be the easiest 75 minutes of my life.

“I’m Lauren Franklin, no relation to Ben,” I lie.

I usually always deny that Benjamin Franklin is my great-to-the-eighth-power uncle, but there’s been two exceptions. The first time I name dropped, I was a stupid freshman at the University of Massachusetts, desperate to get the cute grad student teaching the World of Thomas Jefferson to notice me. His name was Grant McConnell.

“Today we’ll be following in our founding fathers’ footsteps, learning about the places where the events of the American Revolution occurred,” I say to the group.

The second time I name dropped, I was desperate to get this job as a tour guide. Not only was Grant incredibly cute, but he was also incredibly smart and passionate about Colonial America, so when he became Dr. Grant McConnell, assistant professor of history at the College of William and Mary, I went there for grad school, believing we could write a beautiful thesis together, but I screwed up his life instead.

 

Thanks to everyone who played along or voted (or both!) It’s been a great time and I can’t wait to see who the winner actually is!

SYTYCW – Final Four – VOTE

26 Oct

This is the last week you can vote for your favorite lines to get in front of fabulous editor Tina Burns (@tinaburns) – Only the Top 3 will be moving on to the editor round. Help spread the word and get those votes in before Wednesday night at 10pm EST!

And so, there they are, your Final Four:

ONE

I never saw the truck coming. It’s the story of my life, I get blindsided by something that’s obvious to everyone else. My memory is a bit hazy, not that I want a vivid recollection of being flattened by a garbage truck. Seriously, a garbage truck, I didn’t even get dignity in death.

I do remember standing in a long line, the kind of line that makes the DVM look like a model of efficiency. I tried to engage some of the people around me in conversation and failed miserably if the monosyllabic responses are any indication, so I spent quite a while contemplating my shoes. They were very comfortable, practical, good quality; oh forget it, they were ugly. That sounded like an insult or maybe a curse, ‘May you die in practical shoes.’ Which would be funny, except I did die in practical shoes.

The end of the line, or the beginning of the line, I guess that was more accurate, loomed just a few feet away.

TWO

The thick cloud of confusion occupying my thoughts lifted and was instantly replaced by paralyzing fear. My body stiffened as my mind raced uncontrollably with realization; this harsh, sterile environment was unfamiliar. I tried desperately to speak, to scream out, to connect to something concrete. The barren, cold walls began closing in around me, suffocating my senses. I couldn’t say a word, couldn’t move, could barely even breathe. Behind a thick, wooden door I heard voices muffled by the barrage of questions ravaging my mind. In a single moment of clarity I heard a baby cry, just as I felt myself fading.

An uneasy feeling hovered over me all day.

Something was wrong. Distress engaged my every thought and I wondered where Hell had frozen over. I rambled apprehensively through my day; my normal routine had been a chore and my mundane secretarial job required more focus than usual.

THREE

Miss Marcia Elizabeth Drummond snatched the ivory invitation from the salver and perused the elegant handwriting. Dashing away a tear that clung stubbornly to her lashes, she wished six years of accumulated shame could be brushed away as easily. Her hand trembled as she crossed the room and flung the horrid thing into the fireplace.

Then, with her arms wrapped tight about her, she encouraged the grasping flames while reflecting on how the Avery’s annual masquerade never failed to transform her into a watering pot. Burn before Mother sees you, please.

As she stared into the unobliging fire, the memories she cherished renewed their endless struggle with those she was unable to forget. First, the visions of fairytale splendor and extravagant costumes became a phantom flight of swirling, snapping black capes. The gentle masculine hand, firm at the small of her back, turned into rough paws groping, pinching and lobbing her back and forth. And perhaps worst of all, the feelings of anticipation and freedom were replaced by the stickiness that had lingered in the wake of their slobbery kisses.

Pulling Marcia out of her reverie, her mother’s footsteps echoed in the hallway only to be followed by the inevitable cheerful greeting, “Darling, did you see Lady Avery’s invitation finally arrived with this morning’s post?”

FOUR

“On behalf of Historic Philadelphia Alive, I’d like to welcome you to the City of Brotherly Love.”

I smile at the small group waiting for me inside the Independence Visitor Center as I take their tickets, relieved that my last tour of the long Fourth of July day consists of only four elderly couples, three generic tourists, two Jersey Shore cast wannabes, and a mom pushing a little boy in a stroller.

This will be the easiest 75 minutes of my life.

“I’m Lauren Franklin, no relation to Ben,” I lie.

I usually always deny that Benjamin Franklin is my great-to-the-eighth-power uncle, but there’s been two exceptions. The first time I name dropped, I was a stupid freshman at the University of Massachusetts, desperate to get the cute grad student teaching the World of Thomas Jefferson to notice me. His name was Grant McConnell.

“Today we’ll be following in our founding fathers’ footsteps, learning about the places where the events of the American Revolution occurred,” I say to the group.

The second time I name dropped, I was desperate to get this job as a tour guide. Not only was Grant incredibly cute, but he was also incredibly smart and passionate about Colonial America, so when he became Dr. Grant McConnell, assistant professor of history at the College of William and Mary, I went there for grad school, believing we could write a beautiful thesis together, but I screwed up his life instead.

SYTYCW – Final Four

23 Oct

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re down to the Final Four of the SYTYCW contest.

Don’t forget, this week only 1 person gets voted off. Good luck everyone!

SYTYCW – Week 9 Results

21 Oct

I can’t believe we’re almost to the end of SYTYCW! It’s very exciting. This is our last week losing two entries, next week — we just lose one…and I think we all know it’s going to be close.

Entry # / Votes

1  —  69
3  —  43
5  —  25
6  —  23
4  —  19
2  —  13

Just like last week, the race stayed close until the last few hours — Although, we did have about 25 less votes than last time. So, let’s take a last moment to say good buy to entires number 2 and 4. Thanks ladies!

TWO 

Lady Phoebe Howard had been in and out of trouble all her life; but kidnapping was new ground, even for her. She grunted as her knees hit cold wet earth. Cursing the ancient tree roots that conspired against her escape, she scrambled to her feet. The unfamiliar terrain of the Scottish Highlands played tricks on her senses, as the threat of being caught again by the brutes who kidnapped her terrified her.

Fear drove her to plow into the herd of cows she found lazily munching grass, but half way through the maze of beef she was grateful for the instinctive decision. She spotted the hulking shape of a man highlighted in the moonlight, and he seemed to be looking for someone. She eased toward the edge of the herd intending to slip away when he turned his back, but a cow jabbed her in the derriere with a horn just as the brute turned around.

She squealed as she shot out of the herd and right into the chest of the Scottish savage.

His arm came down around her like an iron band stealing her breath.

FOUR 

Lucy shoved the door to the laundry room open with her fanny, struggling to keep hold of the basket, detergent, and the baggie of quarters clenched in her teeth.

“Hello there, need some help?” A cute bearded stranger jumped off the vinyl couch and hurried to the door, scooping up a sock and two black lacy thongs that fell out of her basket.

“Wow, not awkward at all,” she nodded in thanks and tried to nonchalantly jam them into the mound of clothes as he propped himself up onto a washer.

“I’m apartment 26 B, Andy.”

“What happened to Susan, is she okay?” Lucy asked as she shoved fistfuls of laundry into the machine under his watchful eye.

“She’s fine, I’m just crashing with her for a little bit.”

Susan didn’t strike her as the cougar-ish sort, but this guy was at least twenty years Susan’s junior, not that she was judging.

“I’m Susan’s son.”

Make sure to come back next week to vote for the top 4! We’ll be narrowing it down to the top 3 and then our guest judge –> Editor Tina Burns!

SYTYCW – Top 6 – VOTE!

19 Oct

I know it’s been a long time coming, but we’re at the Top 6! We’ve seen a lot of amazing entries over the last 3 months, but these are the ones left standing for that coveted editor crit!

This is the last round where the bottom 2 are dropped. Next week, we lose 1 to bring us to the Top 3. And then, our esteemed judge Tina Burns.

And so here they are… You’re Top 6! Make sure to vote for your favorite at the bottom!

ONE

The thick cloud of confusion occupying my thoughts lifted and was instantly replaced by paralyzing fear. My body stiffened as my mind raced uncontrollably with realization; this harsh, sterile environment was unfamiliar. I tried desperately to speak, to scream out, to connect to something concrete. The barren, cold walls began closing in around me, suffocating my senses. I couldn’t say a word, couldn’t move, could barely even breathe. Behind a thick, wooden door I heard voices muffled by the barrage of questions ravaging my mind. In a single moment of clarity I heard a baby cry, just as I felt myself fading.

An uneasy feeling hovered over me all day.

Something was wrong; distress engaged my every thought and I wondered where Hell had frozen over.

TWO 

Lady Phoebe Howard had been in and out of trouble all her life; but kidnapping was new ground, even for her. She grunted as her knees hit cold wet earth. Cursing the ancient tree roots that conspired against her escape, she scrambled to her feet. The unfamiliar terrain of the Scottish Highlands played tricks on her senses, as the threat of being caught again by the brutes who kidnapped her terrified her.

Fear drove her to plow into the herd of cows she found lazily munching grass, but half way through the maze of beef she was grateful for the instinctive decision. She spotted the hulking shape of a man highlighted in the moonlight, and he seemed to be looking for someone. She eased toward the edge of the herd intending to slip away when he turned his back, but a cow jabbed her in the derriere with a horn just as the brute turned around.

She squealed as she shot out of the herd and right into the chest of the Scottish savage.

His arm came down around her like an iron band stealing her breath.

THREE 

Miss Marcia Elizabeth Drummond snatched the ivory invitation from the salver and perused the elegant handwriting. Dashing away a tear that clung stubbornly to her lashes, she wished six years of accumulated shame could be brushed away as easily. Her hand trembled as she crossed the room and flung the horrid thing into the fireplace.

Then, with her arms wrapped tight about her, she encouraged the grasping flames while reflecting on how the Avery’s annual masquerade never failed to transform her into a watering pot. Burn before Mother sees you, please.

As she stared into the unobliging fire, the memories she cherished renewed their endless struggle with those she was unable to forget. First, the visions of fairytale splendor and extravagant costumes became a phantom flight of swirling, snapping black capes. The gentle masculine hand, firm at the small of her back, turned into rough paws groping, pinching and lobbing her back and forth. And perhaps worst of all, the feelings of anticipation and freedom were replaced by the stickiness that had lingered in the wake of their slobbery kisses.

FOUR 

Lucy shoved the door to the laundry room open with her fanny, struggling to keep hold of the basket, detergent, and the baggie of quarters clenched in her teeth.

“Hello there, need some help?” A cute bearded stranger jumped off the vinyl couch and hurried to the door, scooping up a sock and two black lacy thongs that fell out of her basket.

“Wow, not awkward at all,” she nodded in thanks and tried to nonchalantly jam them into the mound of clothes as he propped himself up onto a washer.

“I’m apartment 26 B, Andy.”

“What happened to Susan, is she okay?” Lucy asked as she shoved fistfuls of laundry into the machine under his watchful eye.

“She’s fine, I’m just crashing with her for a little bit.”

Susan didn’t strike her as the cougar-ish sort, but this guy was at least twenty years Susan’s junior, not that she was judging.

“I’m Susan’s son.”

FIVE

I never saw the truck coming. It’s the story of my life, I get blindsided by something that’s obvious to everyone else. My memory is a bit hazy, not that I want a vivid recollection of being flattened by a garbage truck. Seriously, a garbage truck, I didn’t even get dignity in death.

I do remember standing in a long line, the kind of line that makes the DVM look like a model of efficiency. I tried to engage some of the people around me in conversation and failed miserably if the monosyllabic responses are any indication, so I spent quite a while contemplating my shoes. They were very comfortable, practical, good quality; oh forget it, they were ugly. That sounded like an insult or maybe a curse, ‘May you die in practical shoes.’ Which would be funny, except I did die in practical shoes. 

SIX

“On behalf of Historic Philadelphia Alive, I’d like to welcome you to the City of Brotherly Love.”

I smile at the small group waiting for me inside the Independence Visitor Center as I take their tickets, relieved that my last tour of the long Fourth of July day consists of only four elderly couples, three generic tourists, two Jersey Shore cast wannabes, and a mom pushing a little boy in a stroller.

This will be the easiest 75 minutes of my life.

“I’m Lauren Franklin, no relation to Ben,” I lie.

I usually always deny that Benjamin Franklin is my great-to-the-eighth-power uncle, but there’s been two exceptions. The first time I name dropped, I was a stupid freshman at the University of Massachusetts, desperate to get the cute grad student teaching the World of Thomas Jefferson to notice me. His name was Grant McConnell.

“Today we’ll be following in our founding fathers’ footsteps, learning about the places where the events of the American Revolution occurred,” I say to the group.

The second time I name dropped, I was desperate to get this job as a tour guide.

 

GOOD LUCK!

SYTYCW – Top 6!

15 Oct

Welcome Top 6!

First off, I know we’ve been running this contest for a few months now, but if you were unaware, Harlequin has taken over the #SYTYCW hashtag. I’m going to say this right out loud: Stealing an active hashtag (no matter how big you are and how small they are) is tacky and rude.

And so, please make sure that you adjust to follow #sytycw1 (that’s a one) for the final rounds of the contest.

We’re so, so close to the finalist. Don’t forget, that critique the winner gets from the editor… the editor will be choosing from the top 3. So, make sure your people get their vote on!

Without further ado, Round 6 entrants, post below!

SYTYCW – Week 8 Results

14 Oct

This was a crazy week – I found myself watching the numbers and hitting refresh. The voting slowed to almost a stop 2 hours before voting closed, but before that it was anyone’s game. The bottom 6 changed order every 15 mins. It really came down to the last few votes. Again we lost one I was dying to see where it was going!

And so, we want to send a big thanks to the bottom two who will not be returning next week:

FIVE

There are two rooms my mom and I don’t rent folks at our motel: No. 3 has all kinds of problems with the plumbing and the wiring never works right, but the main problem is No. 13… it eats people. No blood, guts, or gore… if they go in they just won’t come out and that means we’d have to hide another car.

It’s not a secret that’s easy to live with, turns my stomach most every day, but the night that policeman showed up I nearly lost my dinner all over my shoes.

He handed me a photo of a man in a prison uniform and somewhere under the beard and long hair I recognized him, even though it had been a couple of years since I’d seen my father.

I listened as he told me he’d tracked my father halfway across Arizona and into Utah like it would make some difference to me, “He’s supposed to be dead.”

“He was alive the last time I saw him, son,” he reached for his wallet saying he’d need a room while he searched; I picked up the key to room 13 and wondered what the hell I was doing.

He asked me if I’d bring him some extra towels and some of those little shampoo bottles when I got a chance and I told him I would, after all he probably wouldn’t even be there, the longest anyone had lasted was a half an hour and that was only until the door blew shut behind him.

He stepped outside and suddenly I wanted to stop him, not because I’d suddenly grown a conscience; my mom’s car was turning into the parking lot and I was pretty sure that when she saw the police lights strapped to the top of his car, easy enough to spot even with the covering of dust, I was going to have some explaining to do.

SEVEN

The night after the biggest promotion of my life, I woke up with a monster hangover and my bra on backwards. I tried to recall how I’d reached the back seat of my Honda Accord, but everything from the previous night blurred into memories my mind refused to hold.

I leaned forward and found my dirt-covered cellphone on the floor. Oh God, I’d likely done fifty freaky things my friends would joke about for the next six months. With trembling hands and pain rocketing through my skull, I tried to search for my purse. After a few seconds of searching, I flopped back and rested against the window. The sun, ever cruel and early rising during the summer, beat against my face—increasing the raging pain. I rubbed my forehead using my fingers.

Entry / Votes

#4  —  70
#2  —  48
#8  —  19
#1  —  18
#3  —  18
#6  —  17
#7  —  15
#5  —  14

SYTYCW – Top 8 – VOTE!

12 Oct

It’s your Top 8 SYTYCW entries. Which opening rocks your socks the most? Who most deserves to get her work in front of an editor?

ONE

Lady Phoebe Howard had been in and out of trouble all her life; but kidnapping was new ground, even for her. She grunted as her knees hit cold wet earth. Cursing the ancient tree roots that conspired against her escape, she scrambled to her feet. The unfamiliar terrain of the Scottish Highlands played tricks on her senses, as the threat of being caught again by the brutes who kidnapped her terrified her.

Fear drove her to plow into the herd of cows she found lazily munching grass, but half way through the maze of beef she was grateful for the instinctive decision. She spotted the hulking shape of a man highlighted in the moonlight, and he seemed to be looking for someone. She eased toward the edge of the herd intending to slip away when he turned his back, but a cow jabbed her in the derriere with a horn just as the brute turned around.

She squealed as she shot out of the herd and right into the chest of the Scottish savage.

TWO

Miss Marcia Elizabeth Drummond snatched the ivory invitation from the salver and perused the elegant handwriting. Dashing away a tear that clung stubbornly to her lashes, she wished six years of accumulated shame could be brushed away as easily. Her hand trembled as she crossed the room and flung the horrid thing into the fireplace.

Then, with her arms wrapped tight about her, she encouraged the grasping flames while reflecting on how the Avery’s annual masquerade never failed to transform her into a watering pot. Burn before Mother sees you, please.

As she stared into the unobliging fire, the memories she cherished renewed their endless struggle with those she was unable to forget. First, the visions of fairytale splendor and extravagant costumes became a phantom flight of swirling, snapping black capes. The gentle masculine hand, firm at the small of her back, turned into rough paws groping, pinching and lobbing her back and forth.

THREE

Lucy shoved the door to the laundry room open with her fanny, struggling to keep hold of the basket, detergent, and the baggie of quarters clenched in her teeth.

“Hello there, need some help?” A cute bearded stranger jumped off the vinyl couch and hurried to the door, scooping up a sock and two black lacy thongs that fell out of her basket.

“Wow, not awkward at all,” she nodded in thanks and tried to nonchalantly jam them into the mound of clothes as he propped himself up onto a washer.

“I’m apartment 26 B, Andy.”

“What happened to Susan, is she okay?” Lucy asked as she shoved fistfuls of laundry into the machine under his watchful eye.

“She’s fine, I’m just crashing with her for a little bit.”

Susan didn’t strike her as the cougar-ish sort, but this guy was at least twenty years Susan’s junior, not that she was judging.

FOUR

The thick cloud of confusion occupying my thoughts lifted and was instantly replaced by paralyzing fear. My body stiffened as my mind raced uncontrollably with realization; this harsh, sterile environment was unfamiliar. I tried desperately to speak, to scream out, to connect to something concrete. The barren, cold walls began closing in around me, suffocating my senses. I couldn’t say a word, couldn’t move, could barely even breathe. Behind a thick, wooden door I heard voices muffled by the barrage of questions ravaging my mind. In a single moment of clarity I heard a baby cry, just as I felt myself fading.

An uneasy feeling hovered over me all day.

FIVE

There are two rooms my mom and I don’t rent folks at our motel: No. 3 has all kinds of problems with the plumbing and the wiring never works right, but the main problem is No. 13… it eats people. No blood, guts, or gore… if they go in they just won’t come out and that means we’d have to hide another car.

It’s not a secret that’s easy to live with, turns my stomach most every day, but the night that policeman showed up I nearly lost my dinner all over my shoes.

He handed me a photo of a man in a prison uniform and somewhere under the beard and long hair I recognized him, even though it had been a couple of years since I’d seen my father.

I listened as he told me he’d tracked my father halfway across Arizona and into Utah like it would make some difference to me, “He’s supposed to be dead.”

“He was alive the last time I saw him, son,” he reached for his wallet saying he’d need a room while he searched; I picked up the key to room 13 and wondered what the hell I was doing.

He asked me if I’d bring him some extra towels and some of those little shampoo bottles when I got a chance and I told him I would, after all he probably wouldn’t even be there, the longest anyone had lasted was a half an hour and that was only until the door blew shut behind him.

He stepped outside and suddenly I wanted to stop him, not because I’d suddenly grown a conscience; my mom’s car was turning into the parking lot and I was pretty sure that when she saw the police lights strapped to the top of his car, easy enough to spot even with the covering of dust, I was going to have some explaining to do.

SIX

I never saw the truck coming. It’s the story of my life, I get blindsided by something that’s obvious to everyone else. My memory is a bit hazy, not that I want a vivid recollection of being flattened by a garbage truck. Seriously, a garbage truck, I didn’t even get dignity in death.

I do remember standing in a long line, the kind of line that makes the DVM look like a model of efficiency. I tried to engage some of the people around me in conversation and failed miserably if the monosyllabic responses are any indication, so I spent quite a while contemplating my shoes. They were very comfortable, practical, good quality; oh forget it, they were ugly. That sounded like an insult or maybe a curse, ‘May you die in practical shoes.’

SEVEN

The night after the biggest promotion of my life, I woke up with a monster hangover and my bra on backwards. I tried to recall how I’d reached the back seat of my Honda Accord, but everything from the previous night blurred into memories my mind refused to hold.

I leaned forward and found my dirt-covered cellphone on the floor. Oh God, I’d likely done fifty freaky things my friends would joke about for the next six months. With trembling hands and pain rocketing through my skull, I tried to search for my purse. After a few seconds of searching, I flopped back and rested against the window. The sun, ever cruel and early rising during the summer, beat against my face—increasing the raging pain. I rubbed my forehead using my fingers.

EIGHT

“On behalf of Historic Philadelphia Alive, I’d like to welcome you to the City of Brotherly Love.”

I smile at the small group waiting for me inside the Independence Visitor Center as I take their tickets, relieved that my last tour of the long Fourth of July day consists of only four elderly couples, three generic tourists, two Jersey Shore cast wannabes, and a mom pushing a little boy in a stroller.

This will be the easiest 75 minutes of my life.

“I’m Lauren Franklin, no relation to Ben,” I lie.

I usually always deny that Benjamin Franklin is my great-to-the-eighth-power uncle, but there’s been two exceptions. The first time I name dropped, I was a stupid freshman at the University of Massachusetts, desperate to get the cute grad student teaching the World of Thomas Jefferson to notice me. His name was Grant McConnell.

“Today we’ll be following in our founding fathers’ footsteps, learning about the places where the events of the American Revolution occurred,” I say to the group.

SYTYWC – Week 7 Results

7 Oct

So, as you can see below, there are the results – how is your favorite doing? Will you help it stick around for the final round?

Without further ado, here are the top three entries this week:

FOUR

The thick cloud of confusion occupying my thoughts lifted and was instantly replaced by paralyzing fear. My body stiffened as my mind raced uncontrollably with realization; this harsh, sterile environment was unfamiliar. I tried desperately to speak, to scream out, to connect to something concrete. The barren, cold walls began closing in around me, suffocating my senses. I couldn’t say a word, couldn’t move, could barely even breathe. Behind a thick, wooden door I heard voices muffled by the barrage of questions ravaging my mind. In a single moment of clarity I heard a baby cry, just as I felt myself fading. 

SIX

Miss Marcia Elizabeth Drummond snatched the ivory invitation from the salver and perused the elegant handwriting. Dashing away a tear that clung stubbornly to her lashes, she wished six years of accumulated shame could be brushed away as easily. Her hand trembled as she crossed the room and flung the horrid thing into the fireplace.

Then, with her arms wrapped tight about her, she encouraged the grasping flames while reflecting on how the Avery’s annual masquerade never failed to transform her into a watering pot. Burn before Mother sees you, please.

As she stared into the unobliging fire, the memories she cherished renewed their endless struggle with those she was unable to forget. First, the visions of fairytale splendor and extravagant costumes became a phantom flight of swirling, snapping black capes.

SEVEN

The night after the biggest promotion of my life, I woke up with a monster hangover and my bra on backwards. I tried to recall how I’d reached the back seat of my Honda Accord, but everything from the previous night blurred into memories my mind refused to hold.

I leaned forward and found my dirt-covered cellphone on the floor. Oh God, I’d likely done fifty freaky things my friends would joke about for the next six months. With trembling hands and pain rocketing through my skull, I tried to search for my purse. After a few seconds of searching, I flopped back and rested against the window. The sun, ever cruel and early rising during the summer, beat against my face—increasing the raging pain.

 And so, since you can see the results below, the one entry not rejoining us next week is a rough one since I’m dying to know what happens in this one. But, sadly, good Number 3

THREE

My first memory of James is what keeps me here, smoothing hair out of a boy’s blood-spattered face. The sirens screaming in the distance are too late.

They’re always too late.

Forehead pressed to his, I choke on the burnt stench of gun powder and try to hum the lullaby James used to sing to me.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…

James is why I never left.

I should have left.

 And here are the rest:

ENTRY/VOTES/%

4     —      62    —    35%
6     —      27    —    15%
7     —      22    —    13%
9     —      18    —    10%
8     —      14    —      8%
5     —      13    —      7%
2     —      10    —      6%
1     —        6    —       3%
3    —        4     —       2%

SYTYCW -Top 10 (which is 9) – VOTE!

5 Oct

We lost another person this week, so our Top 10 is now our Top 9! What does this mean? It means that only ONE entry will be dropped Thursday.

Also, a big game change for the Top 10 – If you recall, I said I’d show the results for the top rounds. Well, here they are. So, when voting is done, Thursday I’ll make the announcement and make the poll visual so contestants and readers can see.

So, without further ado… Your Top 9!

ONE

Lady Phoebe Howard had been in and out of trouble all her life; but kidnapping was new ground, even for her. She grunted as her knees hit cold wet earth. Cursing the ancient tree roots that conspired against her escape, she scrambled to her feet. The unfamiliar terrain of the Scottish Highlands played tricks on her senses, as the threat of being caught again by the brutes who kidnapped her terrified her.

Fear drove her to plow into the herd of cows she found lazily munching grass, but half way through the maze of beef she was grateful for the instinctive decision. She spotted the hulking shape of a man highlighted in the moonlight, and he seemed to be looking for someone. She eased toward the edge of the herd intending to slip away when he turned his back, but a cow jabbed her in the derriere with a horn just as the brute turned around.

TWO

Lucy shoved the door to the laundry room open with her fanny, struggling to keep hold of the basket, detergent, and the baggie of quarters clenched in her teeth.

“Hello there, need some help?” A cute bearded stranger jumped off the vinyl couch and hurried to the door, scooping up a sock and two black lacy thongs that fell out of her basket.

“Wow, not awkward at all,” she nodded in thanks and tried to nonchalantly jam them into the mound of clothes as he propped himself up onto a washer.

“I’m apartment 26 B, Andy.”

“What happened to Susan, is she okay?” Lucy asked as she shoved fistfuls of laundry into the machine under his watchful eye.

“She’s fine, I’m just crashing with her for a little bit.”

THREE

My first memory of James is what keeps me here, smoothing hair out of a boy’s blood-spattered face. The sirens screaming in the distance are too late.

They’re always too late.

Forehead pressed to his, I choke on the burnt stench of gun powder and try to hum the lullaby James used to sing to me.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…

James is why I never left.

I should have left.

FOUR

The thick cloud of confusion occupying my thoughts lifted and was instantly replaced by paralyzing fear. My body stiffened as my mind raced uncontrollably with realization; this harsh, sterile environment was unfamiliar. I tried desperately to speak, to scream out, to connect to something concrete. The barren, cold walls began closing in around me, suffocating my senses. I couldn’t say a word, couldn’t move, could barely even breathe. Behind a thick, wooden door I heard voices muffled by the barrage of questions ravaging my mind. In a single moment of clarity I heard a baby cry, just as I felt myself fading. 

FIVE

There are two rooms my mom and I don’t rent folks at our motel: No. 3 has all kinds of problems with the plumbing and the wiring never works right, but the main problem is No. 13… it eats people. No blood, guts, or gore… if they go in they just won’t come out and that means we’d have to hide another car.

It’s not a secret that’s easy to live with, turns my stomach most every day, but the night that policeman showed up I nearly lost my dinner all over my shoes.

He handed me a photo of a man in a prison uniform and somewhere under the beard and long hair I recognized him, even though it had been a couple of years since I’d seen my father.

I listened as he told me he’d tracked my father halfway across Arizona and into Utah like it would make some difference to me, “He’s supposed to be dead.”

“He was alive the last time I saw him, son,” he reached for his wallet saying he’d need a room while he searched; I picked up the key to room 13 and wondered what the hell I was doing.

He asked me if I’d bring him some extra towels and some of those little shampoo bottles when I got a chance and I told him I would, after all he probably wouldn’t even be there, the longest anyone had lasted was a half an hour and that was only until the door blew shut behind him.

SIX

Miss Marcia Elizabeth Drummond snatched the ivory invitation from the salver and perused the elegant handwriting. Dashing away a tear that clung stubbornly to her lashes, she wished six years of accumulated shame could be brushed away as easily. Her hand trembled as she crossed the room and flung the horrid thing into the fireplace.

Then, with her arms wrapped tight about her, she encouraged the grasping flames while reflecting on how the Avery’s annual masquerade never failed to transform her into a watering pot. Burn before Mother sees you, please.

As she stared into the unobliging fire, the memories she cherished renewed their endless struggle with those she was unable to forget. First, the visions of fairytale splendor and extravagant costumes became a phantom flight of swirling, snapping black capes.

SEVEN

The night after the biggest promotion of my life, I woke up with a monster hangover and my bra on backwards. I tried to recall how I’d reached the back seat of my Honda Accord, but everything from the previous night blurred into memories my mind refused to hold.

I leaned forward and found my dirt-covered cellphone on the floor. Oh God, I’d likely done fifty freaky things my friends would joke about for the next six months. With trembling hands and pain rocketing through my skull, I tried to search for my purse. After a few seconds of searching, I flopped back and rested against the window. The sun, ever cruel and early rising during the summer, beat against my face—increasing the raging pain.

EIGHT

“On behalf of Historic Philadelphia Alive, I’d like to welcome you to the City of Brotherly Love.”

I smile at the small group waiting for me inside the Independence Visitor Center as I take their tickets, relieved that my last tour of the long Fourth of July day consists of only four elderly couples, three generic tourists, two Jersey Shore cast wannabes, and a mom pushing a little boy in a stroller.

This will be the easiest 75 minutes of my life.

“I’m Lauren Franklin, no relation to Ben,” I lie.

I usually always deny that Benjamin Franklin is my great-to-the-eighth-power uncle, but there’s been two exceptions. The first time I name dropped, I was a stupid freshman at the University of Massachusetts, desperate to get the cute grad student teaching the World of Thomas Jefferson to notice me. His name was Grant McConnell.

NINE

I never saw the truck coming. It’s the story of my life, I get blindsided by something that’s obvious to everyone else. My memory is a bit hazy, not that I want a vivid recollection of being flattened by a garbage truck. Seriously, a garbage truck, I didn’t even get dignity in death.

I do remember standing in a long line, the kind of line that makes the DVM look like a model of efficiency. I tried to engage some of the people around me in conversation and failed miserably if the monosyllabic responses are any indication, so I spent quite a while contemplating my shoes. They were very comfortable, practical, good quality, oh forget it, they were ugly.

SYTYCW – Top 10!

3 Oct

Wow, can you believe we’ve come down to the Top 10? It’s almost to much to really accept as we’ve watched some *AMAZING* entries slip out of our fingers. There’s several I had wanted to keep reading.

And so, without further ado, please post your 7th week entry in the comments below.

SYTYCW – Say Hello To Your Top 10

30 Sep

With the high drop out rate we had this week, it brings us to our top 1o. And so, without further ado, the top five (in numerical order):

ONE

The thick cloud of confusion occupying my thoughts lifted and was instantly replaced by paralyzing fear. My body stiffened as my mind raced uncontrollably with realization; this harsh, sterile environment was unfamiliar. I tried desperately to speak, to scream out, to connect to something concrete. The barren, cold walls began closing in around me, suffocating my senses. I couldn’t say a word, couldn’t move, could barely even breathe. Behind a thick, wooden door I heard voices muffled by the barrage of questions ravaging my mind.

FIVE

Miss Marcia Elizabeth Drummond snatched the ivory invitation from the salver and perused the elegant handwriting. Dashing away a tear that clung stubbornly to her lashes, she wished six years of accumulated shame could be brushed away as easily. Her hand trembled as she crossed the room and flung the horrid thing into the fireplace.

Then, with her arms wrapped tight about her, she encouraged the grasping flames while reflecting on how the Avery’s annual masquerade never failed to transform her into a watering pot. Burn before Mother sees you, please.

As she stared into the unobliging fire, the memories she cherished renewed their endless struggle with those she was unable to forget.

SIX

There are two rooms my mom and I don’t rent folks at our motel: No. 3 has all kinds of problems with the plumbing and the wiring never works right, but the main problem is No. 13… it eats people. No blood, guts, or gore… if they go in they just won’t come out and that means we’d have to hide another car.

It’s not a secret that’s easy to live with, turns my stomach most every day, but the night that policeman showed up I nearly lost my dinner all over my shoes.

He handed me a photo of a man in a prison uniform and somewhere under the beard and long hair I recognized him, even though it had been a couple of years since I’d seen my father.

I listened as he told me he’d tracked my father halfway across Arizona and into Utah like it would make some difference to me, “He’s supposed to be dead.”

“He was alive the last time I saw him, son,” he reached for his wallet saying he’d need a room while he searched; I picked up the key to room 13 and wondered what the hell I was doing.

SEVEN

The night after the biggest promotion of my life, I woke up with a monster hangover and my bra on backwards. I tried to recall how I’d reached the back seat of my Honda Accord, but everything from the previous night blurred into memories my mind refused to hold.

I leaned forward and found my dirt-covered cellphone on the floor. Oh God, I’d likely done fifty freaky things my friends would joke about for the next six months. With trembling hands and pain rocketing through my skull, I tried to search for my purse. After a few seconds of searching, I flopped back and rested against the window.

EIGHT

“On behalf of Historic Philadelphia Alive, I’d like to welcome you to the City of Brotherly Love.”

I smile at the small group waiting for me inside the Independence Visitor Center as I take their tickets, relieved that my last tour of the long Fourth of July day consists of only four elderly couples, three generic tourists, two Jersey Shore cast wannabes, and a mom pushing a little boy in a stroller.

This will be the easiest 75 minutes of my life.

“I’m Lauren Franklin, no relation to Ben,” I lie.

I usually always deny that Benjamin Franklin is my great-to-the-eighth-power uncle, but there’s been two exceptions. The first time I name dropped, I was a stupid freshman at the University of Massachusetts, desperate to get the cute grad student teaching the World of Thomas Jefferson to notice me.

 

And now, the bottom five, remember – only the bottom two are eliminated:

TWO

My first memory of James is what keeps me here, smoothing hair out of a boy’s blood-spattered face. The sirens screaming in the distance are too late.

They’re always too late.

Forehead pressed to his, I choke on the burnt stench of gun powder and try to hum the lullaby James used to sing to me.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…

James is why I never left.

FOUR

Lady Phoebe Howard had been in and out of trouble all her life; but kidnapping was new ground, even for her. She grunted as her knees hit cold wet earth. Cursing the ancient tree roots that conspired against her escape, she scrambled to her feet. The unfamiliar terrain of the Scottish Highlands played tricks on her senses, as the threat of being caught again by the brutes who kidnapped her terrified her.

Fear drove her to plow into the herd of cows she found lazily munching grass, but half way through the maze of beef she was grateful for the instinctive decision. She spotted the hulking shape of a man highlighted in the moonlight, and he seemed to be looking for someone.

NINE

Lucy shoved the door to the laundry room open with her fanny, struggling to keep hold of the basket, detergent, and the baggie of quarters clenched in her teeth.

“Hello there, need some help?” A cute bearded stranger jumped off the vinyl couch and hurried to the door, scooping up a sock and two black lacy thongs that fell out of her basket.

“Wow, not awkward at all,” she nodded in thanks and tried to nonchalantly jam them into the mound of clothes as he propped himself up onto a washer.

“I’m apartment 26 B, Andy.”

“What happened to Susan, is she okay,” Lucy asked as she shoved fistfuls of laundry into the machine under his watchful eye.

TEN

I never saw the truck coming. It’s the story of my life, I get blindsided by something that’s obvious to everyone else. My memory is a bit hazy, not that I want a vivid recollection of being flattened by a garbage truck. Seriously, a garbage truck, I didn’t even get dignity in death.

I do remember standing in a long line, the kind of line that makes the DVM look like a model of efficiency. I tried to engage some of the people around me in conversation and failed miserably if the monosyllabic responses are any indication, so I spent quite a while contemplating my shoes.

ELEVEN

They say you can’t go home again, but then they’ve never been down to their last hundred bucks when home called demanding their return. Which was how Evie Bell found herself driving back into town in her ancient Civic with one suitcase full of clothes and a big box of adult toys her best friend had given her as a going away present.

“I don’t have any shops in Tennessee,” Benny Silver, owner of Goody’s Goodies, the fastest-growing chain of sex-toy shops in the country, had said when he’d loaded the carton into her hatchback. “I know you told me the people in Fairview were prudes and all, but maybe they’ve changed. And you’re a great saleswoman and manager; don’t bury yourself in some dusty, small-town bookstore forever just because you feel like you owe your aunt.”

Evie had agreed to get Benny off her back, but she suspected the box would be stashed in her aunt Patricia’s garage the minute she arrived in Fairview, never to see the light of day.

TWELVE

You would think that waking up in a coffin, buried six feet under would be the lowest moment of my day—but you would be wrong. Oh sure, it wasn’t exactly a highlight either but you see, I wasn’t dead and in my dirt smudged notebook of The Rules, that meant I had a chance. It wasn’t every day a girl found herself buried with the skeleton of a long dead drug dealer, but I suppose if I had to admit anything, I did have it coming. I’d forgotten that first and foremost important rule: stay away from the Johnson garage.

The saddest thing of all this was that no one would be looking for me. I was a nobody, unimportant, my name not even my own.

This gets harder every week as more and more of my favorites get hit with Bottom 5itis – The smaller the number, the closer the race — and the votes — too.

So, unfortunately, the two not joining us again next week are: 11 and 12. Ladies, it’s hard to say good bye (I know these two, I’m sure they’re working on world domination on the side)

I can’t stress enough how close the races are getting. I’m considering showing the poll results for the top ten from here in so people can see them clearly. It’s time to really start begging your fan base!

Good Luck Top 10!

SYTYCW Week 6 – VOTE!

28 Sep

So, you might notice that we managed to lose 7 people. Apparently, several people didn’t wish to participate any more. I felt horrible. I thought of all the people who have been dropped who would love to be in the contest still for a chance at an editor’s crit. I wondered if I could some how take 7 back and see what happens. In the end, I announced that anyone who was out because they accidentally missed the 10pm deadline this week or last could be back in. One person jumped at the chance which means we have twelve entries left.

I won’t be doing the “We lost people, so no one gets eliminated again” thing this week again, because we lost 4 weeks — a whole month — of participants! Wow!

So, here are the remaining entries. You know the drill, pick your favorite and vote at the bottom.

ONE

The thick cloud of confusion occupying my thoughts lifted and was instantly replaced by paralyzing fear. My body stiffened as my mind raced uncontrollably with realization; this harsh, sterile environment was unfamiliar. I tried desperately to speak, to scream out, to connect to something concrete. The barren, cold walls began closing in around me, suffocating my senses. I couldn’t say a word, couldn’t move, could barely even breathe. Behind a thick, wooden door I heard voices muffled by the barrage of questions ravaging my mind.

TWO

My first memory of James is what keeps me here, smoothing hair out of a boy’s blood-spattered face. The sirens screaming in the distance are too late.

They’re always too late.

Forehead pressed to his, I choke on the burnt stench of gun powder and try to hum the lullaby James used to sing to me.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…

James is why I never left.

THREE

When the phone call came from a man identifying himself as an attorney in Ohio, Rowena’s first thought was, who’s in jail this time? She’d had her fill of phone calls from attorneys. The past six months had been a non-stop parade of rescheduled court dates and press conferences, each one splattered across the front page of every rag mag in the country. She didn’t need any bad press about her family compounding the media circus.

As far as the public was concerned, her relationship with Hollywood’s eternally separated leading man, Brett Fontaine, had come to a screeching halt the day she filed suit against him. But once they learned the reason behind the lawsuit, they were more interested in the particulars of the emails he’d leaked than in Rowena’s sense of justice, or her broken heart.

FOUR

Lady Phoebe Howard had been in and out of trouble all her life; but kidnapping was new ground, even for her. She grunted as her knees hit cold wet earth. Cursing the ancient tree roots that conspired against her escape, she scrambled to her feet. The unfamiliar terrain of the Scottish Highlands played tricks on her senses, as the threat of being caught again by the brutes who kidnapped her terrified her.

Fear drove her to plow into the herd of cows she found lazily munching grass, but half way through the maze of beef she was grateful for the instinctive decision. She spotted the hulking shape of a man highlighted in the moonlight, and he seemed to be looking for someone.

FIVE

Miss Marcia Elizabeth Drummond snatched the ivory invitation from the salver and perused the elegant handwriting. Dashing away a tear that clung stubbornly to her lashes, she wished six years of accumulated shame could be brushed away as easily. Her hand trembled as she crossed the room and flung the horrid thing into the fireplace.

Then, with her arms wrapped tight about her, she encouraged the grasping flames while reflecting on how the Avery’s annual masquerade never failed to transform her into a watering pot. Burn before Mother sees you, please.

As she stared into the unobliging fire, the memories she cherished renewed their endless struggle with those she was unable to forget.

SIX

There are two rooms my mom and I don’t rent folks at our motel: No. 3 has all kinds of problems with the plumbing and the wiring never works right, but the main problem is No. 13… it eats people. No blood, guts, or gore… if they go in they just won’t come out and that means we’d have to hide another car.

It’s not a secret that’s easy to live with, turns my stomach most every day, but the night that policeman showed up I nearly lost my dinner all over my shoes.

He handed me a photo of a man in a prison uniform and somewhere under the beard and long hair I recognized him, even though it had been a couple of years since I’d seen my father.

I listened as he told me he’d tracked my father halfway across Arizona and into Utah like it would make some difference to me, “He’s supposed to be dead.”

“He was alive the last time I saw him, son,” he reached for his wallet saying he’d need a room while he searched; I picked up the key to room 13 and wondered what the hell I was doing.

SEVEN

The night after the biggest promotion of my life, I woke up with a monster hangover and my bra on backwards. I tried to recall how I’d reached the back seat of my Honda Accord, but everything from the previous night blurred into memories my mind refused to hold.

I leaned forward and found my dirt-covered cellphone on the floor. Oh God, I’d likely done fifty freaky things my friends would joke about for the next six months. With trembling hands and pain rocketing through my skull, I tried to search for my purse. After a few seconds of searching, I flopped back and rested against the window.

EIGHT

“On behalf of Historic Philadelphia Alive, I’d like to welcome you to the City of Brotherly Love.”

I smile at the small group waiting for me inside the Independence Visitor Center as I take their tickets, relieved that my last tour of the long Fourth of July day consists of only four elderly couples, three generic tourists, two Jersey Shore cast wannabes, and a mom pushing a little boy in a stroller.

This will be the easiest 75 minutes of my life.

“I’m Lauren Franklin, no relation to Ben,” I lie.

I usually always deny that Benjamin Franklin is my great-to-the-eighth-power uncle, but there’s been two exceptions. The first time I name dropped, I was a stupid freshman at the University of Massachusetts, desperate to get the cute grad student teaching the World of Thomas Jefferson to notice me.

NINE

Lucy shoved the door to the laundry room open with her fanny, struggling to keep hold of the basket, detergent, and the baggie of quarters clenched in her teeth.

“Hello there, need some help?” A cute bearded stranger jumped off the vinyl couch and hurried to the door, scooping up a sock and two black lacy thongs that fell out of her basket.

“Wow, not awkward at all,” she nodded in thanks and tried to nonchalantly jam them into the mound of clothes as he propped himself up onto a washer.

“I’m apartment 26 B, Andy.”

“What happened to Susan, is she okay,” Lucy asked as she shoved fistfuls of laundry into the machine under his watchful eye.

TEN

I never saw the truck coming. It’s the story of my life, I get blindsided by something that’s obvious to everyone else. My memory is a bit hazy, not that I want a vivid recollection of being flattened by a garbage truck. Seriously, a garbage truck, I didn’t even get dignity in death.

I do remember standing in a long line, the kind of line that makes the DVM look like a model of efficiency. I tried to engage some of the people around me in conversation and failed miserably if the monosyllabic responses are any indication, so I spent quite a while contemplating my shoes.

ELEVEN

They say you can’t go home again, but then they’ve never been down to their last hundred bucks when home called demanding their return. Which was how Evie Bell found herself driving back into town in her ancient Civic with one suitcase full of clothes and a big box of adult toys her best friend had given her as a going away present.

“I don’t have any shops in Tennessee,” Benny Silver, owner of Goody’s Goodies, the fastest-growing chain of sex-toy shops in the country, had said when he’d loaded the carton into her hatchback. “I know you told me the people in Fairview were prudes and all, but maybe they’ve changed. And you’re a great saleswoman and manager; don’t bury yourself in some dusty, small-town bookstore forever just because you feel like you owe your aunt.”

Evie had agreed to get Benny off her back, but she suspected the box would be stashed in her aunt Patricia’s garage the minute she arrived in Fairview, never to see the light of day.

TWELVE

You would think that waking up in a coffin, buried six feet under would be the lowest moment of my day—but you would be wrong. Oh sure, it wasn’t exactly a highlight either but you see, I wasn’t dead and in my dirt smudged notebook of The Rules, that meant I had a chance. It wasn’t every day a girl found herself buried with the skeleton of a long dead drug dealer, but I suppose if I had to admit anything, I did have it coming. I’d forgotten that first and foremost important rule: stay away from the Johnson garage.

The saddest thing of all this was that no one would be looking for me. I was a nobody, unimportant, my name not even my own.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!

SYTYCW – Week 6

26 Sep

Are you ready for week 6? This will get us down to the 1/2 way point – Wow!

So, if you’re still in the game, enter your lines below. Don’t forget, entries must be in by Monday 10pm EST.