I’ve never really told too many people this story, so I thought I’d share it today. It goes a little something like this…a funny thing happened on the way to the dorm…
In spring 1991, I was a senior at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. (I’m sure I’m dating myself, but who cares. For the record, my internal age is perpetually seventeen anyway.) At the time, I was already engaged (with a sparkly rock on my finger to prove it), only a few weeks from graduation, and looking forward to moving to Houston with my fiancee at the end of May. I was walking back from class and starving. (When isn’t a college student starving?) Ahead of me, I noticed one of the campus thoroughfares, Margaret Morrison St., had been blocked off with trailers, canopies, and equipment. I didn’t think too much about why – things out of the ordinary were always happening on campus. I guess I thought someone was selling something or setting up for a rally or concert.
As I got closer, I noticed a table full of snacks – crackers, cheese, bagels, donuts, pitchers of water, that kind of thing. I remember thinking, “Oh cool, free food.” So, I strolled over and grabbed a plateful of snacks. In my haste to scarf free grub, I started choking madly on a dry cracker. Next thing I know, a deep voice I sort of recognized was at my side. “Looks like you could use a glass of water, young lady.” With cracker bits falling out of my now crimson face, I looked up to see who was speaking – it was none other than Walter Matthau dressed in an old dark brown suit and vest. He smiled, poured a cup of water and handed it to me. I awkwardly gulped it down because I was still half choking to death, embarrassed as hell, and struck speechless.
For those of you who might not know, Walter Matthau was an Academy Award winning
actor best known for his role as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple and his frequent movie collaborations with Odd Couple star Jack Lemmon, as well as his role as Coach Buttermaker in the 1976 comedy, The Bad News Bears. He also starred as Max Goldman in the 1993 comedy, Grumpy Old Men, and its 1995 sequel, Grumpier Old Men. As a young girl, I grew up watching his old movies and TV shows with my dad.
When I could finally speak again, I asked the obvious but daft question, “Ummm, what are you doing here?”
“We’re filming a movie,” Walter said. (I was mortified as I realized I must’ve stolen the snacks meant for the actors and crew.) “Would you care to walk me to the set?” He then offered me his bent elbow to hook my arm around and off we strolled towards the building CMU’ers affectionately refer to as Maggie Mo (for Margaret Morrison Hall which sits on Margaret Morrison St.)
At this point, the breeze created by a feather could’ve knocked me over. Here I was, meandering around with Walter Matthau on my arm as if it was the most natural, everyday occurrence in the world.
It gets better.
As we walked along making small talk (he asked me my name, what I was majoring in, when I was graduating, all the usual stuff), we passed one of the trailers. And who should walk out, but Harry Morgan, another TV and film star, probably best known for his role as Colonel Potter in the long-running TV series, M*A*S*H – another popular TV series that, unless you had been raised by wolves in the deep woods of Montana, had become a household name.
Now, truth be told, I had watched nearly every episode of M*A*S*H mostly as reruns (I was young when the show first began). M*A*S*H was the pop culture hit of its time and one of my faves. So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise as Harry Morgan said to Walter, “Who’s this beautiful redhead?” At this point, I’m sure I blushed red as a tomato to match my hair color.
“Her name’s Marlo, like Marlo Thomas,” Walter said with a charming smile. “I saved her life and now she’s walking me to the set.”
“Well, we can’t have you stealing all the pretty girls, so she’s taking me too,” Harry replied with a winning smile of his own and he took my other arm.
“I’m not stealing her,” Walter said mischievously, almost as if he had to one-up Harry on the charm meter. He turned to me and said the most shocking thing imaginable. “Will you marry me?”
Now, I’m sure he meant it in jest since he was married at the time, but it still left me speechless.
Then Harry chimed in with, “She doesn’t want to marry you, you old fool…she wants to marry me.”
At this point, all I could think to do was wiggle my engagement ring hand in front of them and say politely, “Sorry, I can’t marry anyone, I’m already engaged.”
“Oh, too bad,” Harry said, shaking his head. “The best ones are always taken.”
“Isn’t that always the way?” Walter added while patting my arm.
Turns out, Walter and Harry were filming the first of three made for TV movies called The Incident. Walter Matthau was playing the role of lawyer Harmon Cobb alongside Harry Morgan as Judge Stoddard Bell. They would later go on to film two sequels as these characters, namely Against Her Will: An Incident in Baltimore and Incident in a Small Town.
A moment later we got to the set and I saw that Maggie Mo had been transformed into an old courthouse, complete with a streetlamp and a sign to cover over the building’s real name. Multiple cameras dotted the sidewalk and actors dressed in old-fashioned suits milled about waiting to begin filming. Walter asked me if I wanted to be an extra for the day, but unfortunately I was already going to be late for work. When I said I couldn’t, he thanked me for “taking good care of him”, said it was a pleasure meeting me and shook my hand as he wished me luck in the future. Harry did the same and I stood off to the side for a few minutes watching them get ready to shoot the scene.
All in all, Walter and Harry were both charming and funny and it was like being between two sweet, old grandfathers. I walked the rest of the way to my dorm utterly stunned that I had met Walter Matthau and Harry Morgan. When my roommate asked me why I was late, I told her “because Walter Matthau asked me to marry him.” Of course, she didn’t believe me.
Anyone else have an interesting story about meeting someone famous? If so, please share it with us in the comments below!
I met the delightful Sotia Lazu through friends and am delighted to join her blog tour for The Tenant!
Hello, and thank you so much for having me.
Inspiration can struck at the oddest of moments, and with me, it’s usually a random sentence I hear that makes me want to build a story based on it.
The Tenant was a different case entirely.
In January 2010, my own tenant’s lease was up, and I told him I need the apartment cleared by the end of March. My then fiancé and now husband was moving to Greece from Romania in June, and I wanted to get the apartment ready before that time. The guy agreed and said he’d be out of our way by then.
When my father went by to collect the lease in March, he reminded our tenant that time was running up, and the guy said he was building his own place, and it would all be ready very soon. Early April, the latest. When my mom went by to drop off a lapsed utility bill, he told her he’d found a place to rent, and would be out by April 15th.
Then he told my dad the constructor had made a big boo boo, and water had leaked inside the house he was building, so he had to stay till the beginning of May. To my mom, he said the apartment he was about to move into had no electricity, and that was delaying him.
When mid-May was nearing, I called to ask him what was happening. My kitchen appliances were to be delivered in three days. He said we could leave them out in the balcony, because the moving company that was supposed to move his stuff out had stood him up (because that’s how moving companies do business!)
“I believe you’re messing with us, Mr. P,” I said.
He started yelling that I’d insulted him by not taking his word, and for that alone, he’d stay in the apartment another year, if he felt like it. (Greek law is always in favor of the tenant, unless the owner wants the place to live in themselves. If things go to trial, though, proving that’s the case may take a very long while).
That was the first and only time I erupted. “Then I’ll come in with my own keys and change the locks,” I said, doing my Batman voice.
As soon as we hung up, he called my father, apologized for the delay, and promised to be out in two days. This time he kept his word, and to this day I wonder what he was afraid I’d see if I went in with my keys—which, by the way, is totally illegal, but I was beside myself by that point.
When I was telling my sis about that last convo with Mr. P., she said, “Maybe you should move in with him. Is he hot, at least?”
And voila, the idea of The Tenant was born. What if the tenant was hot, and the landlady wasn’t in the best relationship ever? Things could be fun then!
I didn’t start writing it for a long while after that, and even then it wasn’t in the form it is now, but it stayed in the back of my mind, buzzing to be let out. I hope you’ll enjoy the outcome.
The Tenant by Sotia Lazu
In hopes of getting her fiancé to consummate their relationship before the wedding, Amanda convinces him they should check out the apartment her father gave her as a gift for their upcoming nuptials. Darkness and privacy are supposed to work in her favor, but there is one parameter she doesn’t know about: the apartment is not empty yet, and the current tenant has no plans of moving.
Derek has had a hell of a few months. His girlfriend turned out to be a cheater and then stole his restaurant. He’s not about to also give up the place he’s called home for three years—even if his hot but infuriating landlady threatens to move in by the end of the week.
When her own lease is up, Amanda is forced to make good on her threat. As if life isn’t already hard enough, her tenant-turned-roommate is as sexy as he is annoying, and her fiancé is caught with a half-naked woman.
Now she and Derek need to find a way to survive their forced cohabitation. They soon discover sleeping with the enemy can be fun.
Hushed voices. There were people whispering inside his home, and—
It might have been fury at whoever dared vandalize his home that drove his feet from bathroom to bedroom, naked as the day he was born. It could have been hope he’d finally get out some of his frustration that curled his fingers around the baseball bat lying beneath his bed and led him the rest of the distance to his living room in the pitch black.
Weighing the bat in one hand, he pressed the fingers of the other to the light switch he knew to be at his left, and took in the lit room.
A couple was making out on his floor. By his overturned table and his smashed lamp.
He scowled so hard his forehead hurt, but it was all he could do not to charge them and bash their heads in.
“What the fuck are you doing in my place?” he asked the kneeling hulk. He’d heard about people making out in parks, playgrounds, even cemeteries, but breaking into someone’s home to get some was unbelievable.
The small blonde lying on the floor sat upright, eyes blazing. “Your place? My father gave me this apartment!”
Her boyfriend simply blinked at him.
Was it Derek’s imagination, or was the blonde having a hard time looking him in the eye? He was tempted to mention his face was an entire torso—and then some—higher than what she was staring at, but his ego needed some stroking, so he let her take all of him in, while his mind caught up to what she’d just said.
“You’re Kenneth’s daughter?” he finally asked, the bat only slightly lowered. Alice’s sister. This one was shorter, and Alice dyed her hair dark brown these days, but Derek could see the resemblance.
She finally lifted her gaze to meet his, and her eyes were the same bright green as her sister’s. “You’re the guy who’s supposed to be gone?”
He could apologize and say he’d forgotten because of the rain of utter shit falling on him lately.
He could ask for a bit more time until he’d found a new place.
Or he could be an ass. Nobody else seemed to think twice about being an ass to him. “Hardly,” he said with a snort. “I’m supposed to be right where I am. You, on the other hand, are trespassing. Or is it breaking and entering?”
The young woman scrunched her nose, which was adorable in a snooty, bratty way. “No breaking. I’ve got a key.” She narrowed her eyes. “When Mason and I were first engaged, Dad said he asked you to move. That was three months ago.”
Mason. That was the silent brute’s name. “I remember no such thing, and” —he looked pointedly at the remains of his favorite lamp— “there has definitely been some breaking.”
Blondie bounced up and glared. Funny, but she was intimidating despite her small stature. Maybe that was why Mason stood back and let her handle things. “Dad bought the place for me, to begin with,” she said. “You knew when you first moved in that I was eventually going to be needing it.”
That was true. Derek had heard all about how this was one day going to be a wedding present for Kenneth’s oldest daughter—and what was her name, again?—though said daughter hadn’t even been dating back then. Kenneth said his daughter was picky and needed a man with serious backbone before she settled down.
Things had apparently changed.
Derek considered waving the bat to see if the big guy would flinch, but decided to be the bigger man—and wasn’t that ironic, when Mason had at least four inches on him? “Kenneth mentioned something, but he didn’t give me the sixty days notice he was supposed to.” Blondie opened her mouth, probably to repeat her father let him know three months ago. Now was time for the coup de grace, and Derek somehow knew he’d love watching her squirm. “As you know, the notice is supposed to be in writing or it doesn’t count,” he said.
Mason grabbed Blondie’s shoulder, flexing his arm in the process. The look on his face indicated that Derek’s nudity might have offended him more than Derek’s intention to not vacate the premises for at least two more months. “Let’s go, Mandi.” Ah, that was her name. “We’ll talk to your father. He’ll know what to do.”
Her gaze said she knew what to do too, and it involved the painful insertion of the baseball bat in Derek’s most private orifice.
Derek’s smirk widened into a grin. “And now get out of here, before I have to call the police and report you for harassment on top of everything else.”
Mandi stared him down for a split second, but when Derek swung his bat in the air, her overly inflated toy boy all but dragged her out the door.
Derek propped his weapon on his shoulder, grabbed a bottle of scotch, and went to bed. He sensed his swagger had returned. Maybe that was because he’d actually felt he had balls, for the first time in days.
Odd way for his day to improve, but it had. He would give anything for another opportunity to bait Mandi Murphy. If he couldn’t torture the woman who’d hurt him, he’d torture the one who wanted to evict him. He had to be subtle about it, though. He didn’t want to make Kenneth mad at him.
About the Author
She loves romances with a twist and urban fantasy novels, always with vivid erotic elements. Her favorite characters to write are not conventional hero-material at first glance, and she enjoys making them fight for their happiness.
Sotia shares her life and living quarters with her husband, their son, and two rescue dogs, one of which may be part-pony. Sappy movies make her bawl like a baby, and she wishes she could take in all the stray dogs in the world.
Or write to her at email@example.com
If you’re a writer, what’s inspired your latest WIP? And if you’re a reader, how would you have handled your stubborn tenant, if you were in my or Amanda’s shoes? Tell me in a comment (don’t forget your e-mail address), and make sure to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win an e-copy of The Tenant or some Author Swag!
NOTE: The giveaway is for Adults Only. Please do not enter if you’re below your country’s legal age.
WordPress won’t let me embed the Rafflecopter, so click on the link to open it in a new page.
AND THAT’S NOT ALL!
Until the 11th of the month, you have the chance for several more entries. Just stop by the following blogs, and leave me a comment:
|August 8th||Gina Henning Blog||http://www.ginahenning.com/blog/|
|August 8th||Barbara Elsborg – Barbara’s Blog||http://www.barbaraelsborg.com/blog-posts/|
|August 9th||The Naughty and Nice of Romance||http://tdhassett.wordpress.com|
|August 9th||Ana Blaze||http://anablaze.blogspot.com/|
|August 9th||Apathy’s Hero||http://blog.apathyshero.com|
|August 10th||Megan O’Russell||http://meganorussell.com|
|August 10th||Blame It On The Muse||http://blameitonthemuse.com/|
|August 10th||History in the Hot Lane||http://shilohsaddler.blogspot.com|
|August 10th||A Pen Named Brock||http://www.tabrockbooks.com|
|August 10th||Diane Saxon Blog Spot||http://www.dianesaxon.com/blogspot.html|
|August 11th||Tara Quan||http://www.taraquan.com/|
|August 11th||Vincent Morrone||http://vincentmorrone.com/|
|August 11th||Daisy Banks Blog||http://daisybanks.wordpress.com/|
Image Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_ tan4ikk’> tan4ikk / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
The cover is coming – and so is the book!
Way back in the dawn of time, I made the silly decision to not only participate in NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) but to also join the Entangled Smackdown on Savvy Authors. In one of life’s balances to What Was I Thinking? that Smackdown introduced me to some fabulous people who were also terrific writers. One of those women was Teri Stanley, who made us laugh with the Tale of the Cat Blanket.
Today is release day for Teri’s debut story – Deadly Chemistry, released by Entangled Publishing’s Ignite imprint. I had the pleasure of reading random early scenes and jumped on the chance to review an Advance Reading Copy. And it’s fabulous!
Here’s the scoop:
By Teri Anne Stanley
Sex, Lies, and Science Geeks, # 1
Some chemical reactions generate too much heat…
Former undercover cop Mike Gibson has been lying low, working as a maintenance man to put his troubled younger brother through college. But when a beautiful scientist enlists Mike’s help to repair the damage done to her lab by a group of vandals, Mike finds that his, and his brother’s pasts, are about to be brought to light.
Laura Kane was happy having a secret crush on the hot maintenance man at Tucker University, but when the drug she was studying is stolen, Laura has a chance to get to know Mike in person. The problem is, he seems to know more about what’s going on than any maintenance man should. But then the drug turns up in the wrong hands, and Mike and Laura have to decide if their own chemistry will help, or hinder, the race to save innocent lives.
Teri Anne Stanley has been writing since she could hold a crayon–though learning to read was a huge turning point in her growth as a writer. Teri’s first stories involved her favorite Saturday morning cartoon characters, followed by her favorite teen idols. She has also authored a recipe column (The Three Ingredient Gourmet), and scientific articles (Guess which was more interesting!). Now she writes fun, sexy romance filled with love, angst, and nekkid parts.
Teri’s career has included sex therapy for rats, making posing suits for female body builders, and helping amputee amphibians recover to their full potential. She currently supplements her writing income as a neuroscience research assistant. Along with a variety of teenagers and dogs, she and Mr. Stanley live just outside of Sugartit, which is—honest to God—between Beaverlick, and Rabbit Hash, Kentucky.
“Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only? Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
– A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
I’ve written over 20 posts, probably better than 10,000 words about my high school adventures. I enjoyed reliving some of these experiences and dreaded others. I hope some readers have been entertained. Judging from hits, not too many.
Since I may be the primary audience here, I’ll examine what looking back means to me. I am not one who looks back very often. As much as I love history most of my career has been more or less as a futurist. And my fiction bends more toward science fiction than anything else. So, I am not the most likely person to reflect on memoir. What have I learned at this point?
- Small kindnesses make the biggest differences. Over and over again, I’ve seen how things that have value in my life (writing, humor, science, compassion, fiction) were redirected or came to light for me thanks to the thoughtful comments and generous actions of others.
- The young adult is still inside of me. Even something as simple as an old tape recorder can bring up back with his energy, angst, and quirky perspectives.
- Every story has a lesson. With an amazing number of these posts, I had no idea why I had chosen the subject or why it might be of value to others or me. Putting the words down, just as with fiction, caused the full picture to emerge or to reemerge with fresh insights.
- Fears change. I wandered around in some of Washington’s toughest neighborhoods on the heels of it’s biggest riot with regular war protests happening around me. This was not a worry for my parents or my school. I don’t remember any warnings and there certainly weren’t any liability-driven permission slips to bring home.
- I never mentioned the Bomb. It was certainly in my thoughts. Although not as much as during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is vivid in my memory. Maybe I should write about Adventures in Grade School.
Anyway, this has been a positive exercise for me. I’m not sure if this closes out my reminiscences of high school or not. But I’m happy with where this has led me.
Please welcome our guest, Joanne Troppello, to The Muse. I’m delighted to share her latest release and …
The Story Behind Mr. Shipley’s Governess
Since my teenage years, I’ve been a fan of reading first YA fiction and then romance novels. Who doesn’t like reading about a dreamy hero as he pursues the heroine of the story? I began my foray into writing during my high school years. I was not actually published until many years later, but the dream was born in my heart during my senior year in English class. I had a very inspiring teacher who shared his love of writing and literature with our class—it was the first time that I thought hey, maybe someday I can become an author too.
It took me several years to write my inspirational romance novel, Mr. Shipley’s Governess because I had a full-time job while I wrote it. Now that it’s finally published, it’s exciting to bring my characters to readers’ lives for them to enjoy their story. I wanted to write a tale of love and inspiration with a romantic hero, and a heroine in need of “rescuing.” Now, this is not a damsel-in-distress tale per see, like a knight in shining armor rescuing the imprisoned princess. However, this is more of a modern day twist. The hero, Sebastian Shipley is a well-to-do business man who has a daughter with an illness. She is in need of a live-in tutor. Into the picture comes the heroine, Sophie Baird. So what does she need rescuing from? A few months earlier, her parents had died in a car accident and she needs to escape the pain of their death and be rescued from her life. Read the rest of this entry »
I had the pleasure of meeting Eve Devon last year when her debut release, The Waiting Game, hit the streets. She’s just as gracious now, a year later. Let’s celebrate her novel’s first anniversary!
So, here’s Eve -
So The Waiting Game turns one year old today and as it was my debut book it got me thinking about all the firsts I experienced with its publication.
This year has flown by, but I can still remember the flutter in my heart when I first saw ‘copyright by’ and the copyright symbol next to my name.
And seeing my cover for the first time? I can admit that it took me a while to realize Big Ben was in the background—I was distracted by something in the foreground. Abs can say so much, don’t you think?!
Then there was seeing my book appear on all the bookseller sites that I usually purchased books from. Typing in my name and having my book pop up to buy—yep, total rush!
But as I raise my glass in celebration of The Waiting Game being out a year, the absolute icing on the cake was the first time a reader took the time to contact me and tell me how much they enjoyed my book. Read the rest of this entry »
When I was a freshman, I tried to join Gonzaga’s ham radio club. One requirement was learning Morse code, and my dad loaned me his telegraph key. I practiced until I was ready for the test, but my efforts were wasted. My attempts to connect with the club’s president were a failure. He had an identical twin, whom I kept trying to talk to. Confusion was followed by annoyance and ended in embarrassment. I gave up. But, that telegraph key did become a souvenir, now in the possession of my son, who has his amateur radio license.
I think back to all the outmoded technology from my high school years. Much of it was mechanical, like the vending machines that served up (way too many) Hershey almond bars to me. Or the pinball machines in Union Station that ate my quarters.
The slide rule I used in several courses is an antique, but deserves respect. After all, slide rules were onboard Apollo 13 and helped that crew get back to earth (a fact missing from Ron Howard’s movie).
I shudder when I think of the equipment I use in the chemistry lab. Yes, some would be the same today, but I clearly recall how excruciating it was to try to measure out materials on an old-fashioned scale. It was a beautiful device, and I’d loved to have one as a conversation piece, but I would hate to need to use one for serious scientific work. The same goes for the mercury thermometers, some of which I destroyed. I imagine if I were still working with them, I would come to be well known by Hazmat teams.
Many of these devices required me to adapt myself to their world. To learn specific skills and to care for shared resources. I suspect that every generation learns different lessons based on the technologies and materials that surround them. Often, these lessons need to be abandoned or reworked as the world changes, and that’s not a bad thing. Finding ways to adjust to change is, in itself, a valuable life lesson. However, it’s good to revisit the older worlds for perspective and to remember the good lessons that were pushed to the side.
I am writing this blog with voice dictation. That has a curious connection to outmoded technology.
When I was taking physics in high school, I had a deep interest in audio. My teacher recognized this and let me use a kit, provided by AT&T, that synthesized sounds. Mostly, it fed vowels to a tiny speaker.
The kit included strange instructions on how you might use your hands to shape these sounds so that, effectively, you could create some consonants. I worked for hours just to master a variety of vowels, enough so I could form a sentence. Then I worked through all the exercises with my hand shapes just to create a sentence that would make sense.
After some practice, I pulled out a prize possession, a cassette recorder about the size of a lunchbox. This was high technology back then, with ease of use that surpassed reel-to-reel. I used it to record the Apollo 8 splashdown and, a few years later, an absurd debate between Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison.
But, though it was a marvel, its response time was a problem. Each individual phoneme required reconfiguring the breadboard. The starting and stopping of the tape was excruciating until I discovered I could avoid the piano-key-sized play and record buttons. A simple switch on the microphone would start and stop the cassette recorder as well with a lot less effort. With diligence, I was able to collect a set of sounds in the right order, recording them one by one on to my tape recorder. And I almost got the timing I needed to run the sounds together. To my ears, I got the kit to articulate a sentence.
My teacher was thrilled with the work that I did. He gave me time in class to explain how I had put the device together, what was necessary to make it work (including the highly amusing hand gestures), a demonstration of setting up the machine to produce different vowels, and, finally, playing my tape. This last was a complete dud. No one even pretended to understand the sentence I’d created. Pivoting, I explained self-hypnosis was a known phenomenon for researchers involved in speech synthesis.
Then a question came up I knew was coming. Could you build a device that would recognize speech, perhaps even be able to convert speech to text? Luckily, I was prepared. The kit included an essay by a top AT&T scientist that proved definitively it would never be possible to create such a device. Impossible? Life gave me a lesson on that one.
Welcome Ann Gimpel, Amazon bestselling fantasy and romance author, to the Muse! Her newest dark paranormal, Blood and Magic, just released with the wonderful tag line, Can Luke conquer his past and claim the only woman he’s ever loved?
Ann shares Elements of Great Storytelling with us today.
I’ve thought about this a lot lately since I ran into a spate of uninspired books, both on my Kindle and in Books on CD. I will say, though, that in the latter format, a gifted actor reading an audiobook can make even a mediocre story come to life and can gloss over awkward grammatical constructions so they aren’t quite as noticeable.
How about if we start with characters? It goes without saying they need to be three dimensional, which means they have thoughts, feelings, and actions that are congruent with their personalities. In my opinion, if a book doesn’t have characters that reach out and grab your heartstrings, then it’s DOA. It can have the most inspired plot in the world, but it’s wasted if readers don’t care about the characters.
Alrighty, so we have decent characters. Maybe not great characters, but they’re good enough you want to pick up the book to see what they’re going to do next. Plot determines the next moves in a book. Plot is basically the story that the book tells, but it’s how we get from point A to point B that weeds out talented writers from the rest of the pack. Brilliant plotting is tightly woven and the writer’s hand is all but invisible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been somewhere in a book and something happens that just screams “convenient plot twist.” As an aside, this is why all writers need someone—crit partners, publishers, editors—to be a fresh pair of eyes. No matter how seasoned a writer is, he (or she) can’t see the foibles in his own writing. Not all of them, anyway. Another plotting issue is plot threads that go nowhere. They look intriguing, but the writer just never gets back to them. Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t know how historians figure this stuff out, but, apparently, people of the dark ages couldn’t get their heads around the ruins of Rome. Some thought the Parthenon, and the Coliseum, and other buildings were created by the gods. There is thought they were natural phenomena. And, the more practical barbarians saw these ruins as an excellent source for construction materials.
I have a certain sympathy for these unenlightened people since my time at Gonzaga followed a Golden Age (and preceded the successful school sees today). During my tenure there, I don’t remember any trophies being added to the collection I walked past daily. Photographs, old footballs, loving cups that needed polishing–these represented a different time. Hallways with marble inlays and peeling paint made me wonder what life had been like at the school a decade before.
Not everything was in a state of decay. The clock on the bell tower worked. The school seal, made up of hundreds of tiles set in the floor, looked fresh and new. By tradition, no one dared to step on. And the stained glass windows in the chapel were as delightful in my time as they had ever been.
St. Aloysius Church, on the other hand, needed work. It wasn’t especially clean and needed refurbishing. The altar paintings were wonderful, but the grime distracted. It got locked up more often after it was discovered to be a trysting spot for locals.
But even though it was down on its luck, the church had something special. It’s organ. One of the teachers would play it from time to time, but my favorite memory is of an instance when one of my friends caught me in the hall and flashed a key.
“You busy?” Chester asked.
This same friend was a comrade in arms for my Tolkien class and our role-playing game, War. “I don’t have to be busy.”
Chester never walked anywhere, and he never took a direct route. We dashed up stairs, down stairs, through a corridor I didn’t know existed. By the time we got where we were going, I’d lost all sense of direction. He slipped the key into the lock of a massive door, and flung it open.
I was within a few steps of the organ, a massive instrument that included floor to ceiling pipes. It would have made E. Power Biggs salivate.
“I demonstrated that I knew how to play it, and they gave me a key,” Chester said. To him, it was as if he’d been given a record contract. Or maybe a golden ticket to Hollywood. But he wanted an audience, and I was glad he chose me.
He started with flashy stuff. Real Phantom of the Opera. It was an athletic event for Chester and a great demonstration of the variety of sounds (very loud sounds the echoed through the church) the organ was capable of.
He segued into quieter music. A series of short pieces that showed big instrument was capable of as broad a range of emotion as a piano or a violin.
Then Chester finished with thunder. In his hands, the dark ages faded away. The gods were with us. The shabby church took on glow.
I often heard Chester playing on other days, as I went to class or sat in the library or fumbled through math problems. He didn’t invite me again to witness him at work. Perhaps he was giving other people their turns. But I’m grateful that he found potential within the ruins and demonstrated how, in the right hands, a glorious past could be revived.