Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I'm DONE!!!!

I'm done!!!!!

The final edit of Running into the Darkness is in - and I'm very pleased thus far with the final results.  For the next couple of days I'm going to sit on it and let it ruminate, possibly make a few adjustments here and there (I'm just never satisfied, am I?), and then get ready for the big conversion to eBook formatting.  Several of my fellow indie authors have told me that can be quite the nightmare, though I've already done several things suggested on Amazon during the final edit process to help alleviate said nightmare.

Last night when I lay me head down to sleep - I couldn't.  My mind is already swirling with the opening scenes of the sequel - Piercing the Darkness.  Thus I awoke this morning with the need for more sleep, and yet at the same time I felt amazingly energized (at least until the early span of the afternoon).

So I must stay focused and finish the task of RITD publishing.  My cover is being edited, the jacket blurb perfected, and September is just around the corner.  There's still alot to accomplish before the big release.

Then I'd like to get in on a blog tour - but that will come later.

So in the meantime, please enjoy one more small chapter, free of charge, of Running into the Darkness.

And if this is your first visit, go all the way to the bottom for the first chapter and work your way up from there if you wish to follow the sequence thus far.

Thanks for reading!

Chapter 4 - Homecoming

            The Kansas wind buffeted the taxi as it rounded the corner and slid to a stop.  Samantha stared through the frosty window at the old home where Gramm had raised her, the white paint weathered by several Wichita winters, and the concrete walk cracked and buckled by the strong root system of the old elms.  Knowing Gramm, a painting contractor had already been retained to repaint the house come spring.  Gramm always looked ahead to what needed accomplished. 
            Samantha tentatively stepped to the icy walk, took her offered suitcases from the taxi driver and paid him from the money Gramm’s attorney had kindly forwarded.  Then she began the long walk up the sidewalk to the airplane bungalow home.  Gramm’s trimmed rosebushes lined the porch, their unencumbered branches almost shivering as they awaited the warmth of spring.  The porch swing swayed and creaked in the frigid wind.  She and Gramm had shared countless ice cream cones nestled there together and read books to one another.  Joe Roberts had also kissed her for the first time in that swing.
            Shame washed over her at all of the missed opportunities since then, of the fears she’d allowed to keep her apart from Gramm and all of those for whom she’d once cared.  Why did the past have to infect every fiber of the present?  As Samantha slipped the key in the lock she hesitated, the years long wasted away since she’d last used it.  With a begrudging click, the key turned and the heavy front door swung open with a familiar creak.  She confronted the past left behind but never forgotten.
            The green living room carpet had been removed and the old hardwood floors refinished, no doubt because of all the cherry kool-aid Samantha had spilled.  The floral furniture remained as did the lace curtains lining the windows.  A faint scent of lavender tickled her nose as she walked into the dining room.  Same old Gramm.  A chill passed over her at the thought – in all the times she’d considered visiting, never had she imagined returning to an empty house.  Her insides felt as hollow as the eyes of New York’s prostitutes.
            Samantha trudged up the stairs to the loft, surprised to find Gramm had not touched a thing since she’d last left.  The loft – her space.  She’d always kept it lined with navy curtains and filled with as many noisy friends as she could cram into the wide room.  Her posters still covered the walls:  basketball, football, race cars and any other sport to drive Gramm nuts, things devoid of femininity – one of her many areas of rebellion.  Samantha swallowed her tears, set the suitcases beside the bed, and quickly returned downstairs. 
            Gramm’s room had only changed slightly since Samantha’s departure.  Floral curtains draped the windows and a matching comforter spread across the bed.  The manufactured scent of roses hung in the air.  She sat at the edge of the bed and gently stroked the silken pink flowers.  Real roses from Gramm’s garden always replaced the fake ones come late spring.
            The kitchen had been renovated, the only room in the entire house that reflected any real change.  Samantha couldn’t believe after all those years of arguing for a dishwasher that Gramm had finally put in one.  Well no wonder.  Her granddaughter wasn’t around anymore to help with chores.  Shame again gripped her as she imagined Gramm taking care of everything all by herself in her increasingly fragile state.  She felt like such a failure as a granddaughter.
            A six pack of Dr. Pepper sat on the top shelf of the new refrigerator, the date indicating they’d expired.  Gramm didn’t touch sodapop, said it contained no nutritional value, and she’d always refused to buy it.  After Samantha had secured her first paying job she’d triumphantly brought home two cases of Dr. Pepper with her first paycheck and thereafter kept them in a dorm-sized refrigerator in her room to share with friends.  Gramm must have bought the cans when Samantha had talked about coming home for Thanksgiving several years ago.  In the end, she’d just not been able to bring herself to accept that train ticket.  Though it seemed almost a sacrilege, Samantha removed a can and poured herself a glass.
            The bookshelves in the dining room contained various photo albums, and after a pensive deep breath she selected several then sat at the table perusing their history.  Hours passed as she sipped flat Dr. Pepper and reminisced over photos covering her life with Gramm.  A picture of Gramm stood out as she turned the page:  a smile.  She’d always had such a pretty smile but rarely ever used it after that tragic day at the airport.  Samantha had been about nine, and they were sharing ice cream cones in the swing.  Ever the ornery one, Samantha had plunged her ice cream into her own nose, leaving a mess trailing down her chin.  For a moment she thought Gramm would be mad, but instead Gramm had laughed at her antics.  Recognizing the moment, Samantha had grabbed her camera and snapped the picture.
            Tears ran hot, puddling on the picture’s plastic cover and blurring the memory.  The setting sun cast long shadows through the room, her sobs echoing throughout the empty house.
            “I’m all alone.”

Friday, August 5, 2011

Another Snippet and Final Editing

For the last several months I've been frantically working on my final edits to Running into the Darkness.  Everything I've ever read has spoken of the culling of words and condensing of storyline that occurs in the final edit process.

That seems to be off with me somehow.

Before I started my final edit, I read through the story and decided there were some areas where I needed to provide hints and foreshadowing for what was to come.  So I've created some new scenes during the process.  And yes, I've also culled a ton of unnecessary words and a few scenes that didn't add anything much to the story.  In the process, however, I've seen my word count actually RISE - what's up with that?

I guess it's something I'm not going to worry about, and it means my initial drafts needed more assistance than I realized.  Now I'm feeling so comfortable with Running into the Darkness.  The story feels like it has more depth.  I'm hopeful you'll find it that way too.

So next up, please find below another snippet from Running into the Darkness, continuing on in Chapter Two.  Enjoy!

*          *          *
            Snow and ice swirled around the New York night sky and pelted like tiny pieces of hail.   Hail. 
            Hell on earth adequately described her existence.  The biting wind whipped around the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan, cutting through her worn mustard-brown jacket.  Samantha tightened the belt and drew the worn lapels up around her frozen cheeks and hunched down into what little warmth the flimsy coat provided.  A hat and gloves would come in handy on such a night.
            The congestive throng threatened to sweep her from the sidewalk into the street among the honking cabs and cursing drivers.  At least they were all snug in their vehicles with someone to speak to, their rumbling bass keeping par with her chattering teeth.  Sleek stretch limos glistened in the streetlamps, no doubt ferrying the well-to-do to their Connecticut cottages and svelte downtown apartments or a game or concert at Madison Square Garden. 
            Samantha shut her mind to the swelling pity-party and focused on putting one foot in front of the other while keeping her head down from the raw wind.  A nearby subway vent steamed its frosty breath.  She paused to savor the warmth it provided before being crushed forward again by the wave of bodies working their way toward the nearest subway entrance.
            The scent of grease and grime flowed up from the tunneled depths as she made her way down the stairwell.  Thankfully the aching wind could no longer rip through her bones down in the pit known as the New York subway system.  The clink haunted her ears as she dropped a precious token into the turnstile.  At least she wouldn’t be heading this way again soon.  Good riddance.
            Huddled at the platform with the masses, Samantha continued her mental barrage as she waited to board the next train, repeatedly blowing her warm breath into frigid and reddened hands.  Exposed fingers felt as if they would shatter if someone so much as touched them, difficult to avoid in the pressing crowd. 
            Grandma would be disappointed if she ever found out that she couldn’t control her blasted temper enough to hold a residency in even the most meager of New York City hospitals.  Thoughts of Gramm riddled her mind, longing to see her after all of these years, but she just couldn’t bring herself to return home.  Gramm wouldn’t dare set foot on a plane and come to New York – that reasoning she well understood.  Almost ten years and a lifetime of heartache had passed since she’d shaken the dust of the Kansas prairie from her feet and loaded her belongings into that old Chevy Camaro for the long trip to New York University. 
            She’d tried, but the ghosts of the past haunted her previous visits so that she always cut them short.  There was no way she could go back now.  New York was home.  The weekly calls satisfied them both.
            The stench of wedged bodies and sweet perfume coupled with the grease of the pit brought Samantha back to the present.  Her head swam and pounded as they pressed en masse into the rickety silver beast slithering along the tunnels.  Luck finally smiled as a seat opened up for the long ride to her apartment.
            The night shift always presented the most striking characters on the trip home:  businessmen working all hours, Broadway attendees, dock workers, partiers with tattoos and body piercings in areas she didn’t even want to think about, pimps with hollow-eyed prostitutes.  She’d seen enough traumas of street walkers to last a lifetime and harden the average soul. 
            Dr. Gibbon’s words flashed through her mind.  Anger reared again against her chosen profession.  Doctors with years of standing saw the prostitutes not as flesh and blood with names but as numbers, mere things to be thrown away.  Was she the only one who saw them as members of the human race?  Pimps saw them only for the cold cash their bodies brought.  The average person saw right through them as if they weren’t even there, except the johns who secretly needed to use them to satisfy their own urges.  Then the stupid girls who survived their trips to the emergency rooms would go right back onto the streets all bandaged and bruised, returning like dogs to their own vomit. 
            There goes the emotional turnstile.  Emotion always got in the way – and therein presented her biggest hurdle.  Time and again her instructors cautioned her to turn off the spigot.  If she didn’t stop wearing her emotions, no matter how talented she grew, the industry would end up chewing her up and spitting her out.  Try as she might, Samantha was either controlled by sorrow over circumstances she witnessed or the anger which welled up at feeling utterly helpless.  Now she couldn’t even control her emotions enough to keep a paying residency position.  At least she still had the clinic in which to keep her sanity, but volunteer work didn’t cover personal expenses.
            Twenty-seven, unemployed and riddled with more debt no normal human being should carry.  Samantha sighed.  If she said anything to Gramm, the woman would bend over backward, mortgage the house, find her a job at a local hospital and beg her to complete her residency in Wichita.  However, New York offered the opportunity to hone her surgical skills among the best hands in the world.  She couldn’t pass it up.  But she’d blown it – blown it big.  Monday morning she’d have to fess up and try to explain the latest snafu in her residency requirements.
            The train finally released her from its grasp just as she’d achieved normal human body temperature.  Samantha had almost forgotten how desperate the late February cold had felt forty minutes before until she stepped from the grease pit into the aching wind.  Tenement buildings with homeless living under the stairwells lined the road as she stumbled to the one called home.  With stiffened fingers she maneuvered her key into the lock, slipped into the dark and dingy alcove to gather her supply of mail before trudging up rickety narrow stairs. 
            Good old 1104, with the rusting bathroom sink and creaking walls that kept out only the faintest noise.  Pretty amazing digs for a doctor.  If only for the university dorm again.  It wasn’t for the sparsely furnished room itself she pined, but the bubbly roommate with whom she’d shared it.  They’d managed to room together during the last four years, but fellowship and residency didn’t allow for anything but long persistent hours.  Slowly all of her classmates had drifted back to their little corners of the world.  Oh to have time for a friend.
            An overnight envelope lay just inside under her front door.  The return address caught Samantha’s eye – Mr. Eddis’ law firm out of Wichita.  Maybe he’d discovered something left over from her parents’ estate.  If so, it couldn’t come at a better time.  She ripped through the envelope and drew out a $5,000 check, but the memo line cut her celebration short – ESTATE ADVANCE.  A cloud of unease settled over her as she scanned the enclosed letter, the words swimming before her eyes.
            Gramm was dead.

Chapter 3 - Fireball

            The boarding pass wavered noticeably as Samantha passed it to the attendant, sweat gathering on her brow even as she made her way down the cold tunnel and stepped across the threshold into the 737.  The air stale, her knees weak.  The flight attendant must have recognized her dazed state and therefore helped her find and settle into the assigned seat. 
            Until that moment she’d kept her promise never to fly.  Even now Samantha knew she could leave the plane and rent a car, but covering that distance in her present state would only make for another funeral.  Anyway last night’s macabre call to Mr. Eddis confirmed the need for haste only a plane trip offered.  She dug around her purse for the prescription she’d picked up on her way to LaGuardia, begged a water from the attendant, then washed down four pills instead of the prescribed two.
            Just to be sure.
            Her eyelids drooped even as the plane taxied then lifted off the runway, her stomach fluttering as the plane banked toward Kansas and what awaited.  The thoughts had long been buried with her parents, but the old memory surfaced in a dream as Samantha slept away the long plane ride. 
*          *          *
            She’d been five years old then as she stared at her reflection in the big glass window.  How she hated the long brown ringlets Gramm had curled that morning.  Brown poop, that’s what they looked like.  Then  pink – of all colors she could have chosen for her dress Gramm had chosen pink, a girlie-girl color.  She scratched at the crinoline skirt and practically danced a jig trying to reach the spot where the tag itched.  Momma would never have made her wear such a thing to the airport.
            “Samantha, stop dancing around and stand still,” Gramm commanded.
            Prim and proper, that described Gramm.  Sit up straight and lift the chin.  Everything in its place and a place for everything – or was it the other way around?  Gramm’s white gloved hand clutched the navy handbag while she adjusted the white pillbox hat then applied yet another coat of bright red lipstick.
            Samantha focused her attention back to the runway and leaned her forehead against the cold glass.  The wild wind off the Kansas plain blew the snow across the concrete.  Gramm had called it the ‘tarmac’.  Sounded like something from McDonald’s.  Yes ma’am, I’ll have a Big Mac please, hold the ‘especial sauce and add some tar.  She giggled, imagining Daddy saying that in the drive-thru.  Maybe they’d stop there on the way back to Gramm’s house for some real food.
            As the glass fogged over, Samantha leaned closer and smashed her nose against the window, puffing and filling the surface with steam.  She grew lost in her world of stick figures as she smeared the fog into shapes.
            “Samantha Jane Bartlett!  Stop that this instant and come be seated.”
            Samantha rolled her eyes and dragged her shoes across the carpet, knowing it would drive Gramm bonkers if she didn’t pick up her feet.  Scuff marks on the white patents would surely send her flying higher than an airplane.  When Samantha plopped down in a chair she made certain to leave an empty seat between them.  The space disappeared as Gramm moved over and patted her knee.
            “They’ll be here soon, Samantha dear.  Just try to be patient.” 
            The speeches began on the importance of Momma and Daddy’s trip to D.C. while Samantha slumped in her chair and scratched against the plastic back.  Gramm droned on and on about how nice it was that her Samantha could visit her in Wichita and that she didn’t get to see her little Samantha enough, blah, blah, blah.  But then Gramm said something that caught her ear.
            “Boeing merged with Stearman here in Wichita years ago.  Your father had such an opportunity knock at his door that he packed you all up and whisked you off to Seattle when you were just a baby.”
            “You mean I was born in Kansas?” Samantha asked.
            Gramm smiled and patted Samantha’s cheek with a scratchy gloved hand.  “But of course, my dear.”
            Too much to stomach.  She was a good Seattle girl, not some hokey from the sticks.
            Glancing at her watch then staring out the window, Gramm interrupted Samantha’s drear thoughts.  “I’ll bet that’s your parent’s plane coming in for a landing.”
            Samantha shot out of her chair and plastered her body against the glass, ignoring the chill.  Gramm stood beside her without scolding and said something about a 737, but all Samantha could see was the plane that carried Momma and Daddy.  They’d never left her alone with Gramm for two whole weeks.  Her heart pounded as the plane’s nose turned toward them and scooted along the concrete.
            Then she stared in confusion as a huge orange ball took the place of the plane.  The building rumbled and swayed beneath her feet like they were having an earthquake, but they were in Kansas not Washington.  People screamed as the explosive power swept across the tarmac and hit the glass enclosure.  The windows crackled and erupted as Gramm swept over her and cradled her body beneath her own. 
            As the flying glass settled and the winter wind blasted through the building’s shell, Samantha craned her neck to see balls of fire fall from the sky.  Sirens wailed as emergency trucks raced over and surrounded the fire, spraying pink foam all around the area.  Fluffy like Daddy’s shaving cream.  Pink like that Pepto stuff Momma would take when her stomach hurt.  Pink like her dress. 
            Her chin burned.  Samantha freed an arm and scratched at it, blood oozing down her arm and dripping bright red spots on her dress.  She never liked pink anyway.
*          *          *
            Turbulence jolted Samantha awake, her pulse pounding in her ears as her past closed in on her present.  Instinctively she scratched at the thin scar trailing across her chin – forever the reminder of the promise she’d made never to set foot on a plane.
            After the day of her parents’ death.