Saturday, March 22, 2014

Writer's Questions, the DFW Writers Convention, & a Snippet from "Snow"

Designed at Bitstrips

It's spring. After all this mind-crackling, bone-fracturing cold, it is spring. I suppose most people are cavorting with great abandon with the vernal equinox, warmer temperatures, and the promises of blooming flower beds. I love the season, too. But something comes with it.

With spring comes something else on the all-too-soon horizon. The DFW Writers Convention is coming up and , yes, I'm going again. Will I pitch Snow, my current WIP? I don't know. I have a pitch session scheduled again. I will research the agents I've asked for. Look at their biographies. Chase down their tweets. Read their blogs. Oh, I'll look for every piece of information I can find on them. I don't know which one of my three choices I will end up with.

I'm not as anxious as I was last year. The situation could change as the date grows closer. But I did manage to get through a pitch last year. Strange, isn't it? Someone who expresses themselves best in written form attempting to express it in spoken form---and evaluated accordingly. To me, it is very strange. Even in my former profession I hated doing performance art; although they called it BCLS, ACLS, and Clinical Competencies.

But the pitch for Snow will depend on whether I finish the rough draft in time. I don't like the idea of pitching something that isn't complete. If it isn't complete by then I suppose I use the time just to natter and ask questions.

Now there's a quandary. An odd one for me. I've labeled myself a Pochemuchka (Russian for someone who asks a lot of questions) but I'm afraid when it comes to asking actual people actual questions which would do me some good----I am terrible. It's so important to have the right questions. So what questions? I will only have ten minutes. Those questions will be the most difficult things I have ever written. I think finishing the rough draft of Snow will be easier.

So I think I will share a scene from Snow. An excerpt, not a snippet. This is one of the first scenes I wrote for it. Yes, it's one of the pivotal points. And , if summarized like a logline, it can be read almost like a comedy. I dislike writers who explain their writing but I will simply say Snow is not a comedy, romantic or otherwise. It is a love story and this scene happens midway.

It was chaos, pure and simple. Desiree felt herself jostled from one direction to another. Shoulders---elbows. The press of people squeezing her from all sides. Her notebook fell to the ground and only her shoulder bag hung bandoleer-fashion across her stayed in place. The movement of shouting people pressed her closer and closer to the front, despite her efforts to break free. She turned into the flow then seeking a possible opening through the sides. The change in direction helped but only a little. Police cars with their lights flashing sat diagonally across the wide asphalt egress leading to the student union.
Desiree saw seven students sitting on the pavement in just one glance. Police appeared to be everywhere. Someone pushed her and she fell to the wet grass. She attempted to get up and fell again on the slippery ground. Mud splattered over her from rain-soaked slashes in the new grass.  As she emerged on the edge of the crowd she looked back and saw Nick sitting on the curb, holding his hand to head. Blood spilled through his fingers and saturated his long blond hair. Desiree stumbled to her feet and ran in his direction. Nick did not turn his head but continued to argue with the officer in front of him.
Aaron glanced at his watch– 11 p.m. His eyes burned from reading and his shoulders ached. Desiree would be home by now but he couldn’t say she hadn’t warned him. Samantha could and probably would keep them till midnight, arguing over the most useless details of the project. Best to go to bed. Desiree would probably wake him when she got home anyway.
It wasn’t that she made any noise when she came in or turned on the lights. Oh, no, she would creep to bed in total darkness, slip between the sheets without letting in a single draft of cold air, then her icy feet would land on his thighs or his calves, jerking him awake. He wasn’t quite sure if it was deliberate or not but he grinned and headed to bed. He had his own method of revenge.
What woke him he couldn’t say but it wasn’t Desiree’s cold feet. A sleepy groping quest of the left side of the bed yielded nothing but emptiness. For a split second he thought she was in the bathroom before he sat up wide awake. Desiree wasn’t there. Not just not there but had never been there–her pillow undented and the bedcovers unturned. Damn! Aaron reached for his watch on the bedside table. Four o’clock!
She wasn't stretched out on the couch with a book lying across her stomach either. His own paperwork was still in haphazard piles. Shit! What in the hell? Flipping through the little notebook by the telephone he found Samantha’s number and dialed.
“Your Honor, I hate to say this but you look terrible. Can I get you a cup of coffee or something?” Edith asked him as he hung up his coat and scarf just inside the office door. Her wide-eyed, pale face told him he probably looked as bad as he felt.
“Please,” he responded. “I just saw Richard in the hallway. He said something about changing something this morning.”
“Yes, your two juvenile cases have been rescheduled. There’s a surfeit of arraignments. Judge Ross is swamped so the clerk divided them between the two of you,” Edith said as she poured him a cup from the coffee pot and handed it to him.
“I’m not surprised,” he said as the first sip hit his stomach like solid matter instead of liquid.
Where was Desiree? Samantha never picked up the phone and he had tried at least four times. His call to the police department yielded nothing but chaos and noise. St. Vincent’s Hospital could not find any Johansson admitted or in the ER but did refer him to the regional hospital in Madison they sent some of the cases to. No, they couldn’t tell him who they had sent, not that they didn’t want to–the list simply wasn’t readily available and could he call back later? He started back toward his chambers.
“Just a second, your Honor,” Edith said as she came around her deck and pulled a tissue from the box. “I think you nicked yourself.” She tore off a corner of the tissue and pressed the scrap against his jaw.
“Thank you,” Aaron responded and took the tissue remaining from her. “When does this circus start?”
“Whenever you’re ready. The sooner the better were Judge Ross’ exact words,” she said.
“Shit,” he mumbled and turned toward his chambers then stopped. “Edith, I’m expecting a couple of very important calls. Send me a note through the bailiff. I’ll want to return them immediately.”

“In the middle of court?”


The holding cells were packed with bodies, some which had not obviously showered or bathed recently. There was an underlying smell of urine from the toilet, cheap cologne, and a touch of patchouli from somewhere. Desiree simply wasn’t sure of anything, except it wasn’t supposed to have ended like this and she was bone-tired.

“O.K. people listen up,” the burly officer announced. “The jail is jammed. I guess we just weren’t prepared for all the love. So things have been shifted upstairs and we’ll be arraigning you peace-nicks today. The whole damn lot of you. You have fifteen minutes to make yourselves pretty so you better get busy. And I would highly suggest you mind your manners if you have any. Judge Johansson does not take any shit in his courtroom on a good day and today is not a good day. rumor has it he’s even in less of a mood to deal with it.”
Oh, shit! Shit, shit, shit! Aaron was supposed to have been doing juvenile court. They shifted things? Aaron was doing arraignments! She was appearing before her husband? Oh, God, anyone but Aaron. Not a good day?  Desiree could imagine all too well and inform anyone exactly why. Why hadn’t she called him? Why had she allowed them to process her in as Williams instead of Johansson?
“Officer, I still haven’t made my phone call.” Desiree pressed herself against the cold bars and called to one of the guards.

“We offered over two hours ago and you turned it down,” he growled back at her. “If you don’t like it you can take it up with Judge Johansson. Not that it will do you any good.”

“Dez, are you all right?” Someone asked behind her as they were lined up. Seized with muteness, she could only shake her head.
The courtroom was packed as the guards let them in. Everyone and their Uncle Clyde, as her grandmother used to say, were there for the proceedings. No cameras, thank God, but she could see at least five people busily scribbling into small spiral notebooks. The officers herded their group into the first two empty rows. Desiree jostled for a space behind Frank Madison, who stood six foot three and weighed over two hundred pounds. She didn’t know if she should pray for them to be taken in alphabetical order or the reverse.
“All rise!” The bailiff began the rote words. Desiree ducked her head and made sure she was completely behind Frank. The crack of the gavel sounded like a gunshot.

“Please be seated.” Aaron’s voice did not contain enough clues for her to make any conclusions as to his mood. She slouched on the hard wooden bench and lowered her head so her hair fell forward, hiding her face . Why hadn’t she given her married name in processing? At the very least it would have spared her appearing before Aaron.

Aaron shook his head as he looked at the crowded courtroom. Last night’s demonstration on campus had turned into a royal mess and he would truly love to find out who started the fracas. It would be most satisfying to see them in his court. He nodded to the clerk and the process began.

Twenty minutes later, the clerk announced, “Docket #5841 Elizabeth D. Williams, trespassing, disturbing the peace, and disorderly conduct.”
His head jerked up at the name and the notes he had been making became totally irrelevant. Desiree walked up to the front , flanked by George Levi, the public defender, and wearing the same clothes she wore the night before. Dirt and grass stains decorated her blue jeans and blouse. He shuddered as he took in a multitude of small lacerations and a growing bruise on her forehead then drew himself back with the realization. What in the hell was his WIFE doing in his courtroom?

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