Writing Can Be Murder

April 24, 2007

Tone?

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 8:31 am

I recently entered a “hook” contest and I thought it was worth sharing the results. Below you’ll find my hook and the judge’s comments. I’d be interested in finding out whether you agree/disagree with the comments and if you read this on the back of a book, would you consider buying it?

Oh and before you tell me it needed to be longer, please know that there was a 300 word limit.

————————————————————————————–

Lizzie Greene was dropped on her head by her mother. That’s why she’s never lived up to her potential.

 

Bankrupt, divorced and homeless, Lizzie moves in with her sister Gina (the daughter who DOES live up to her potential) to help care for their senile father.

 

Lizzie is trying to get her life together without losing her mind or her new job, when her client Ralph, tells her about a theft he witnessed and asks for her help. Lizzie reluctantly agrees. It’s not like Ralph can go to the cops…he’s a miniature schnauzer.

 

Pretending to be a psychic with information about the case, Lizzie inserts herself into the investigation, arousing the suspicions (and the temper) of Detective Ryan Post. Lizzie of course is not a psychic. She’s a witch, albeit an extraordinarily inept one (that whole dropped on her head/potential thing). Her only real talent is her ability to communicate with animals.

 

When the clues (supplied by neighborhood pets) Lizzie “senses” start adding up, cynical Detective Post finds himself relying on the psychic/pet sitter to help solve the case and catch a ring of thieves, but when her sister disappears and her father’s addled ramblings start to make sense Lizzie starts to worry that the crimes are being committed by a group of rogue Magic Makers.

 

Investigating her sister’s disappearance with the detective (while trying to prevent him from finding out that magic exists) Lizzie realizes she’s stumbled onto a plan to shift the balance of magical power in the world and that there’s little time to stop it.

 

Lizzie must team up with her feeble-minded dad, the skeptical (but sexy) human detective and a pack of domesticated pets to rescue her sister, thwart the plan and save the world.

 

She’d like to do it on a good hair day.

_____________________________________________________________________________

 I think there’s a bit too much going on here which leads to the plot sounding more convoluted than perhaps it is.  In terms of the hook, I wasn’t sure if the “dropped on her head” bit was to be funny or serious. As I continued on, I couldn’t determine what the tone was intended to be. On one hand, some facts seem light (dropped or her head, her informant being a dog), but on the other hand some facts seem more serious (ailing father, kidnapped sister).  I think a clarity of tone is the best recommendation—whether it’s in the hook or the plot, I’m not sure. 

April 23, 2007

Rock, Paper and freakin Scissors

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 8:05 am

The world is a strange and bizarre place. I was just reading about a Rock, Paper, Scissors Championship taking place in Vegas. The grand prize is $50,000!

http://www.rpschamps.com/

 Personally, I’d rather watch the jacks championship or maybe odds/evens….

April 20, 2007

Subjective Art

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 1:09 pm

I am a slow (okay, sometimes, really, really, painfully slow) learner, but a couple of years ago I learned that everything is subjective. (Yeah, I know this isn’t exactly a lightbulb moment for most people.)

I sat in a room full of actors/directors/backstage staff (who always looked busy but I have no idea what their purpose was) and listened to a script of mine read aloud. (I’ll save the “it’s awful hearing your work read aloud” post for another time.) At the end of the reading, the room was divided between those that “got it” and those that had no clue.

Did I take to heart the idea that everything’s subjective? Nope. I decided I’d done a crappy job and spent a week rewriting the script.

Then new actors showed up and read the new-and-improved script. And again, half the people in the room didn’t get it.

 By now I was riddled with self-doubt and was really starting to wonder if I was just plain nuts because I KNEW what I wanted to say was on the page and I’d explained it to my director (multiple times) but he just didn’t get it.

Thankfully another actor showed up, read it once and when the director started asking him questions about his character and the story he said, “Oh yeah…blah, blah, blah.” He GOT it. Same exact script, same lines, same words, but he GOT it.

Ah ha! I wasn’t the world’s biggest failure any longer.

A week later the piece was performed and there was a Q&A section afterwards. (I’ll save the “it’s terrible sitting in front of an entire audience and having them critique your work” for another post.) Can you guess what happened?

Half the audience got it (and LOVED it) and the other half didn’t get it (and were monumentally confused and decided they didn’t like it.)

 Every kind of art: music, painting, writing, dance, sculpture, etc. is subjective. Not everyone is going to get it. Not everyone is going to love it.

So don’t take any critique or rejection to heart. It’s only one person (or one group’s) opinion.

April 17, 2007

Benefits of Tragedy

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 8:51 pm

Three people that I can think of that are benefitting from the VA Tech Tragedy:

 1) Don Imus  — The news cycle is not centered on him

 2) George Bush — He got to show up on tv with Laura (one of his greatest PR assets) at an event that had nothing to do with Iraq

3) Jodi Piccoult — Her  new book “Nineteen Minutes”  must be burning up the charts

April 16, 2007

Flotsam

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 11:57 am

So I was poking around the files in my computer and I found the following. It’s obviously the beginning of a longer piece. It’s definitely a first draft. Beyond that, I can’t tell you why I wrote it or where I thought it was going. Do you ever find the debris of former “brilliant” ideas and wonder “what the hell was I thinking?”

 

Little had changed about the beach house. The same knotty pine furniture filled the rooms. The same chintz curtains, now faded by time and sun, covered the windows. Even the wind chimes clinked the same tune when blown by the summer breeze. The same full length mirror hung on the inside of the kitchen pantry door.

 

Ann’s mother had outlawed mirrors in the Wiley family’s summer home. “This is our place to relax,” her mother had declared.

 

The year Ann turned sixteen she’d cajoled her father into hanging the mirror in the pantry. She’d spent so many hours back then facing her reflection, examining herself, berating herself. Was she too fat? Was her hair right? Did she do her makeup correctly? She’d stood in front of that mirror for countless hours perfecting the image she presented to the world.

 

She stood in front of that mirror now, twenty years later, with the same sweaty palms and nervous stomach wondering if she’d pass muster with her peers.

 

“Oh get over yourself!” she berated her reflection. “You are an intelligent, successful woman who is not defined by her hair or a couple of extra pounds.”

 

Her mirror-image self cocked a skeptical eyebrow. Sure she owned her own company but she also was, as her hairdresser reminded her every five weeks, “over fifty percent gray” and as her personal trainer gently told her, “fifteen pounds over your ideal weight”.

 

Ann stuck her tongue out at herself, the reaction of a mature woman of 36 for sure, before whirling away from the mirror and slamming the pantry door. She wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans and scooped up her purse.

 

She couldn’t back out of going. She’d RSVP’d to Sheila’s invitation six weeks earlier. She’d been looking forward to this party. She’d wanted to see the old gang again, most of who, like Ann, were back at the beach houses to attend Sheila and Donny’s renewal of vows ceremony. She’d been anticipating a fun, lighthearted weekend. Then she found out that Brian was going to be there. Brian Pott had been her first love twenty years ago.

 

Two years older than her, he’d just graduated from high school when they met.  Twenty years later she could still remember the moment she’d laid eyes on him. His parents had rented the house next door and he’d been sent over to ask where the nearest convenience store was located.

 

Ann had been sitting at the kitchen table reading the latest of Tiger Beat when suddenly she sensed someone at the door. Looking up, she saw him there, a shadowy figure on the other side of the screen door.  Her mother, sitting at the table smoking one of  her endless cigarettes and playing solitaire with a deck of cards, because that was back when solitaire was played with cards and not a computer, waved him in.

 

And Ann had fallen in love.

 

Of course it had been a schoolgirl crush. She’d worshipped him, hung on every word he said, trailed behind him on the beach, and laughed at all his jokes. Her stomach had flip-flopped every time he looked into her eyes and her body had tingled with electric attraction every time they’d touched.  She’d been so nervous around him, blushing at every mistake she made, muttering excuses for every foolish thing she did.

 

Those same nerves were plaguing her now. All because Sheila had told her that Brian would be at the party too and “wasn’t that great?”

 

It would be great to see him again Ann told herself as she trudged down the beach towards Sheila and Donny’s place. It would give her the chance to stop comparing every man she dated to some silly schoolgirl crush. Maybe he’d be fat, or bald, or broke. Maybe he’d bring a wife or a girlfriend. Maybe she’d see that those eyes of his, those eyes that seemed to be so intelligent and kind, maybe they wouldn’t be so….green.

 

It had been years since Ann had walked across sand and she’d forgotten how quickly a simple pair of flats could fill with sand. She stopped three times to empty her shoes before she reached the party at the opposite end of the beach.

 

Sheila ran out onto the sand to greet her, wrapping her arm around Ann’s shoulders and chattering away like they were sixteen again. Some of the faces at the party were familiar. Some of the names had a familiar ring to them. Most of the people there were people Ann couldn’t remember or that she’d never met before. Most of the people there were accompanied by their significant other. Most of the people, Ann decided after several hours of mind-numbing small talk, were boring.  And none of the people was Brian Pott.

 

Ann would have liked to say she was disappointed that Brian hadn’t shown up, but the truth was that she was disappointed. She hadn’t realized just how much she was looking forward to seeing him until he was nowhere in sight.

 

She downed another sour apple margarita to drown her sorrows. She’d never had one before tonight but she’d already decided they were now her official favorite drink. She’d had a couple of them, or maybe a few, she’d lost count. This last one went to her head and she began to fan herself as a flush warmed her face. Slightly unsteadily she wove her way through the crowd and out to the beach to get some fresh air.

 

She sucked in the cool sea breeze greedily, tasting the saltiness on her tongue.

 

“Getting some air?” a male voice asked from behind her.

 

The voice was familiar. Ann closed her eyes. “Yup.”

 

“Care for some company?”

 

She wanted to say no. She wanted to say “hell no!”, but she didn’t. Instead she shrugged.

 

Michael Freeman, former sand-castle-wrecker, current CPA sidled up to her. “Beautiful view.”

 

Ann had been doing this dance with Michael all evening. He pursued her, she tried to avoid him. He was the only other unattached person at the party under sixty. As such he’d latched onto her and relentlessly pursued her all evening.

 

Ann wasn’t interested in him. In fact, she was repulsed by him. She always had been.

 

He stepped closer, intruding on her personal space. “Have I told you about my boat?” He slid his hand from her shoulder, down to the small of her back, resting his fingertips on the swell of her butt.

 

She considered slapping him, but worried that if she made a scene, Sheila would think she was ruining the party.

 

“Three times,” Ann replied and tried to step away, but she was caught between a piling and a man with a hard on.

 

“You’re very beautiful in the moonlight.”

 

“Don’t let that fool you. In the light of day I’m a fat, gray-haired old lady.”

 

“Modesty is so attractive on a woman,” Michael muttered, leaning in and grabbing her earlobe between his teeth.

 

“Get off of me,” Ann hissed while driving an elbow into his ribs and a heel into his instep. She hadn’t taken those self-defense classes for nothing. This felt much more satisfying than punching a man in a rubber suit.

 

It was neither subtle nor sophisticated, but it was highly effective. Michael Freeman C.P.A. collapsed like one of the sandcastles he’d taken such pleasure in wrecking two decades earlier.

 

A light smattering of applause erupted from the party and Ann looked up towards the partygoers, most of who were pointing at and laughing at Michael’s misfortune. Ann winced and ducked her head as she blushed with embarrassment. The evening was a disaster.

 

As self-conscious as a teenager, she skirted past Michael and forced herself to head towards the party to apologize to Sheila and Donny.

 

“Well done,” a male voice said from the shadows. 

 

The voice had a familiar quality, but was deeper than she remembered, huskier. But his eyes, those green eyes, when he stepped out of the shadow and into the light, they were exactly as she remembered. Brian.

 

Jane’s stomach flip-flopped and a sharp pleasure-pain settled in the pit as his gaze slowly slid down then back up her body, before settling on her face, examining her features, seeming to memorize the lines of her face.

 

“It’s good to see you Ann.”

 

She gulped and licked her lips, her mind desperately casting about for a reply, any reply.

 

Amusement crinkled the edges of his eyes. “Sorry. It’s been a long time. I should introduce, or rather reintroduce myself. I’m Brian Pott.” He offered her his hand and she instinctively raised her own to shake.

 

The moment her slender fingers slid into his work-worn palm, the electric attraction sparked to life between them, almost hurting as it traveled up her arm. As though burned, she tried to yank her hand back, but he held on, trapping her hand in his, holding her gaze with his own.

 

The amusement was gone from his eyes. Awareness lingered there now as he took in her pink-tinged cheeks and parted lips. Without releasing her hand he once again perused her body, this time appreciating her curves and exposed skin.

 

Michael, who’d gotten back on his feet muttered, “She’s not worth it Pott,” as he limped past them, back into the party.

 

Brian opened his mouth as though to reply but then snapped it closed as though thinking better of it.

 

Bringing his eyes back up to meet Ann’s he said simply, “It was good to see you again Ann.” Then he released her hand, turned on his heel and strode back into the party.

 

She watched him go, watched him walk out of her life again.

 

“You are so stupid!” she muttered, finally regaining her voice.

 

The man of her dreams, okay he’d been the boy of her dreams, but now he was man, definitely a man, had tried to have a conversation with her and she’d stood here like a drooling, lovesick idiot. The night couldn’t get any worse.

 

She stalked back into the party, intent on apologizing to Sheila and Donny and getting the hell out of here before she did anything else monumentally stupid.

 

She tracked down Sheila in the kitchen and tried to apologize, after all Donny and Michael had been in the same freakin Boy Scout Troop, but Sheila waved her off dismissively. “He deserved it. He’s a jerk.” Sheila told her. “Isn’t that right Donny?”

 

Donny nodded, earning another merit badge in Ann’s mind.

 

Making her excuses Ann prepared to leave the party. Smiling politely at the guests, she’d almost made it to the door when her gaze collided with his. It was those damn green eyes that did it to her every time. They might as well as have physically slammed into each other. Ann stumbled, the breath knocked out of her.

 

Muttering yet another apology to the woman she crashed into, Ann made it to the door, not daring to look back to see if that amused look had crinkled the area around Brian’s eyes again. Still unsteady on her feet, Ann lurched across the sand, desperate to put as much space between herself and anyone and everyone at the party, as possible.

April 13, 2007

Imus tried to kill the NJ governor! What will he do next?!?!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 8:23 am

So our governor (not our “I am a gay American” governor and not the poor guy who had to sit in the office for like a year, waiting for a “real” governor to be elected) anyway, our governor was on his way to host a meeting between Imus and the Rutgers basketball team and somebody smashed into his motorcade. (Sounds like a bad Law&Order episode — scratch that — sounds like a typical Law & Order episode.)

When I went to bed last night he was in critical condition with a broken leg, ribs, etc — haven’t turned on the radio or tv yet today to check on his condition.

Meanwhile the poor guy who had to step in after the “gay American” scandal, is back in the office again.

And I’m left wondering two things:

1) How incompetent are the police that they let this hit-and-run driver escape? Maybe it was a conspiracy…

2) Hmmm…a former Democratic Senator (he left to become governor) who is either a millionaire or billionaire is the victim of a hit and run. Who is behind it and what’s their nefarious plan?  A political thriler by M.E.

 This is why I am an insomniac…

April 12, 2007

Morality, CPA’s, Generations & Dogs

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 8:51 am

I bet you’re wondering how I’m going to connect those disparate elements aren’t you? I’m not. They’re just some of the things on my mind this week.

 Morality — I took my car in for an oil change and ended up having a discussion about whether morality is objective or subjective with the service manager of the shop. I’m still flipflopping back and forth on it and it’s giving me a headache.

 CPA — Drove past a CPA’s office where there was a sign that said, “Procrastinators Welcome” — that was my chuckle of the day

 Generations — Okay, so I realized I’m officially old when a 20-something clerk at a store told me, “Spaceballs is a classic. Even MY generation knows about it.” (In case you’re wondering Spaceballs was made in 1987 — I looked it up).

 Dogs — On a mat outside someone’s door: “Ask not for whom the dog barks…It barks for thee”  🙂

April 9, 2007

Lazy parents and printer problems

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 3:01 pm

 First I want to say that there are some good parents out there. Last week I was amazed by the stellar behavior of a 5 yr old boy and his 3 yr old sister. They were at a party where they were the only kids. I observed them from 4 in the afternoon until 9:30 at night.  Neither one threw a single temper tantrum. The boy said “please” and “thank you” every time he wanted anything WITHOUT any prompting. Mom and/or Dad were vigilant and kept them occupied or at least kept an eye on them the whole time. I repeatedly told them how impressed I was by their kids.

I say that because I yelled at a couple of kids in the food store today.

Just let me say that those stupid sneakers with the built-in wheels should be outlawed (or at the very least they should be used to beat idiot parents about the head!). These two boys, probably 10 and 12 were racing around the store, getting in the way, etc. The third time they headed towards me I shoved my cart in front of them so that they had to screech to a halt and I said in the same tone I berate my dog, “Stop it! You’re in a store! Behave!”

And their mother said…. and this was a classic… she said, “See!”

And being the always polite person I am, I said, “I see a mother who’s too lazy to do her job.”

The other shoppers gaped and gawked and generally looked appalled.  Better to let the kids run wild, run over some poor old lady or crash into a display, right?  Or better yet, maybe they can roll right out to the parking lot and get themselves run over.

What really bugs me is that this bad behavior (LAZY parents and unruly kids) is now the acceptable norm.

To round out my day: 

 My printer has suddenly stopped working.  A piece of paper gets jammed, but the printer says that it’s out of paper. I take the jammed sheet out and the printer says it’s jammed. I’ve turned it off, unplugged it and tried all of the manufacturer’s troubleshooting suggestions — nothing works. I’ve beaten the heck out of this poor machine for about 4 years, maybe it’s time to get another. Any suggestions?

April 6, 2007

Strange pairs

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 9:42 am

What is the universe trying to tell me?

 That’s what I’m wondering lately. I’ve been told some strange things over the past few weeks, and while I would have ignored them if I’d only been told them once, I’ve been told them all twice, by different people, in different contexts.

Here are a couple:

1) I’m getting younger

 Okay, I’m not getting younger (just had a birthday last month) but apparently I’m looking younger. (This from the person who when I was 18 could waltz into a 21-and-over place without getting proofed while the 27 year olds I was with all got proofed.) Someone told me that my younger sister looks older than me (which made me want to stick out my tongue and do a happy-dance — a very mature reaction to be sure) and then someone (okay TWO someones) asked if my friend who is less than 10 years older than me was my mother. My friend has Energizer Bunnyish energy and I’m a tortise, so I didn’t understand this at all.

2) I should be a Stand-Up Comic

TWO different people have told me that over the  past two weeks. According to them, I am SO funny, hilarious, my observations crack them up, blah, blah, blah.

Isn’t that strange? (Esp. since just the idea makes shy me want to barf)

 2) In the same vein: I should write humorous books (this idea at least doesn’t make me want to puke)

Two OTHER people have told me that recently. I don’t write funny books. I write doom and gloom and suspense and dead bodies.

I am not funny. I’m serious. I’ve always been “the serious one”. (I’ve also ALWAYS been “the world’s biggest worrier”.)

Apparently people no longer think I’m serious, they think I’m funny (and young!). So I’m left wondering if my perception of myself is outdated and if I should be giving more credence to my funny (and younger!) side.

Which got me to thinking about my characters in my WIP — how they view themselves vs. how the world perceives them.  Maybe I’m not using that enough. Maybe that’s what the universe is trying to tell me. Or maybe my characters should be younger, or maybe, just maybe, I should be writing funny books.

How often does your “real” life influence your fictional life?

April 5, 2007

Book Trailers

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 9:34 am

Everyone loves book trailers, right?

Not me.

Because, here’s the thing about book trailers. You click on an author’s site — maybe you’re looking for info on one of their books, or you want to peek at their blog, or you’re hoping to find their secret Chicken Salad recipe — you click on their site and the damn trailer starts.

 You’ve seen the trailer. Once you’ve seen it once, do you ever want to see it again? I don’t.

So you click on “skip trailer”. The “skip trailer” button NEVER works the first time you hit it, NEVER and now you’re stuck listening to some dumbass music, or a woman screaming or waves crashing (which makes you want to pee). So you hit the blasted button again and your computer hangs for that long second, like there’s some kind of brainwashing going on, like if you’re exposed to just one more second of dumbass music, or screaming, or waves crashing, you’re going to run right out and buy the book.

 I have NEVER bought a book because of its trailer. Have you?

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