Thursday, June 14, 2018

Manuscript Formatting (Part 3 of 3 Parts)

dontravis.com blog post #289

Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Before we start on this final post covering FORMATTING, let me repeat the warning I gave in the previous two posts. The format I am describing has worked for me, but I do not claim this is the ONLY format or the CORRECT format, but all publishers or agents or editors I’ve worked with found it acceptable.

The instructions for accomplishing some of the tasks named herein are performed specifically on Windows 10, Microsoft Word 2013. Mac users may find it useful but may not be able to exactly follow the instructions.

When you are ready to submit a manuscript, you will go to some source such as WRITER’S MARKET 2018 to select an agent or publisher. They ofttimes give specific requirements for formatting. For example, my present publisher requires manuscripts be spaced at 1.5 lines; many publishers require double-spaced documents.

Now let’s continue:

*****
FORMATTING MANUSCRIPTS

Justify

As noted elsewhere, justify your manuscript should be left justified only, leaving the right margin ragged. It may be appropriate to fully justify some portion of your interior verbiage (a note written to one of your characters, for example). In that case, go to Home/Paragraph/and justify it with the 4th icon showing uniform lines both left and right.

FORMATTING CHAPTERS

This actually covers Chapters, Prologues, and Epilogues. Setting up a chapter heading is a matter of personal choice. Ending a chapter is not. When you are finished with a chapter, use a page break to make certain the new chapter starts on a brand-new page. You can create a page break a couple of ways. The simplest is Shift+Enter. Another way is to go to Layout/Page Setup/Breaks. Hit the arrow to the right of breaks. This brings up options of Page breaks and Section breaks. Select Page under Page Breaks.

Many authors center their Chapter heading using CHAPTER 1 (for example), adding a title on a second line beneath it, if there is one. I use the format preferred by my publisher, which is to use mixed case (Chapter 1) simply indented (1/2 inch) and then begin the chapter right below it, e.g.:

Chapter 1

It was a dark and stormy night.

MINUTIAE

The spacing between words. Back in the typewriter days, we learned to put two spaces between sentences. Today, we use a single space following the period and the first letter of the next word. To do otherwise marks the writer as an amateur.

We also learned underlining as a way to emphasize words, phrases, thoughts, etc. DO NOT use underlining, use italics instead. Again, underlines broadcast the writer as an amateur. As noted earlier, use italics sparingly, as they use their impact if they are overused.

Most Word applications change two hyphens (--) into an emdash (—) automatically. If your operating system does not, then the two hyphens are acceptable.

Either way, the use of dashes sometimes causes the quotation mark (“…”) to misprint, especially in dialogue. For example, in case of interruption of dialogue results in the following: “Smith,” Jones said, “I’m not going to—" Note the difference between the opening quotation mark and the closing mark. To correct, simply type as shown above (…. “going to—“”), type two quotation marks and delete the incorrect mark to get: … “going to—”

Many thanks to Sue Babcock for her assistance in putting this together, and for providing the following links to a very good treatment of Formatting by her friend Rick Taubold. I suggest you check them out.


I hope this was helpful rather than stressful.

*****
At last, we’re finished! I hope I have some readers left. With any luck, these posts have helped a new writer or two to build the confidence to start his or her next writing project.

We’ll return to some short fiction for the next post.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Manuscript Formatting (Part 2 of 3 Parts)

dontravis.com blog post #288

Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Today, I’ll continue to run the risk of chasing away readers by continuing my rant on manuscript formatting with the second part of the paper I prepared for my Wordwrights Writing class held each Monday (other than holidays) at the North Domingo Baca Multicultural Center here in Albuquerque.

Before we start on this week’s post, let me repeat the warning I gave in part one last week. The format I am describing has worked for me, but I do not claim this is the ONLY format or the CORRECT format, but all publishers, agents, and editors I’ve worked with found it acceptable.

The instructions for accomplishing some of the tasks named herein are performed specifically on Windows 10, Microsoft Word 2013. Mac users may find it useful but may not be able to exactly follow the instructions.

When you are ready to submit a manuscript, you will go to some source such as WRITER’S MARKET 2018 to select an agent or publisher. They ofttimes give specific requirements for formatting. For example, my present publisher requires manuscripts be spaced at 1.5 lines; many publishers require double-spaced documents.

Now let’s continue:


*****
FORMATTING MANUSCRIPTS

PAGE SETUP

Show/Hide Function

I always work with the Show/Hide function (¶) on so I can spot excessive spaces between words, before paragraphs, and at the end of paragraphs. This is especially useful in editing your own work. This does not affect what prints on a page, but for reading ease on the screen, you might want to turn off the function (Home/Paragraph/¶) before sending the ms for submission.

Header and Numbering

There are several header styles, but I find the one at the top of this page to be very common. Some people put the title in CAPS, followed by name of the author in mixed case, but I adopted the one at the top of this page as preferred by my current publisher. The page number is where editors and agents normally look for them (not as a footer, for example). Be sure your header is in SAME FONT AND SIZE (POINTS) AS THE REST OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT.

To set a header, go to Insert/Header & Footer/Header down arrow/click on a blank (I use first one). That returns you to your manuscript with your cursor in the proper place. Type in your title and author credit. Then tab so that your cursor is at the right margin. Click on Page Number at the top left of your ribbon/click Current Position/plain, and the proper number will appear. (You can do this on page 50, for example, and it will correctly number the preceding 49 pages as well as all subsequent pages.)

NOTE: You do not want a header or a number on your first (or title) page. One appears unless you prevent it by going to Layout/Page Setup/Layout and click on Different First Page. Then the header disappears and your second page is correctly numbered as 2.

Fonts and Sizes

Use a font with a serif. Times New Roman is commonly accepted, but it is not the only type with a serif. Don’t pick one that looks too different from what you see in other manuscripts. Home/Font/upper left, click the arrow to select right font/click the arrow on size and pick the size you want (12-point is commonly accepted).

Keep the manuscript clean. Never submit one with fancy fonts, colored fonts, page borders, etc. Minimize italics. They can be hard to read.


Indenting

DO NOT USE THE TAB KEY to indent ½ inch. Likewise, do not hit the space bar repeatedly to indent.

Work with a ruler at the top of your screen (View/Show/and click on ruler) to set a hanging indent. When the ruler is up, if you have correctly set your margins, there should be a shaded area to the left and right sides of the ruler. This indicates the area where your margins do not permit you to type. Just to the right of the left shaded area, there will be an up arrow with a down arrow directly above it. To set the indent, place your cursor on the top arrow, hold it down and move the arrow ½ inch to the right (the ruler is marked in inches and half inches). Now every time you hit the ENTER key, the computer will automatically indent the number of spaces you have set it for.

NOTE: Whenever your center something in the manuscript (titles, scene breaks, etc.), you must go back and remove the 5 points it will be off-center by moving the top arrow back in line with the lower one. This will affect only that line.

We finish this presentation next week... I promise.

*****
I continue to hope this was helpful to some and didn’t drive the rest of you away. As I’ve often said, I’m passionate about writing and believe there’s a writer in each one of us. Bear with me.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Manuscript Formatting (Part 1 of 3 Parts)

dontravis.com blog post #287

Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
There were a lot of views of Don Morgan’s guest post, MOUNDS, but few comments. Let him know what you think of his writing.

Because I firmly believe that a writer dwells deep inside every reader, I want to try something different for this Blog. Writing consists of both presentation and content. A part of the presentation element is how to set up your novel, memoir, short story, a piece of flash fiction… almost any form of writing you can mention. In other words, manuscript formatting.

Regular readers know that I co-host the Wordwrights Writing class each Monday (other than holidays) at the North Domingo Baca Multicultural Center here in Albuquerque. In response to queries, I recently submitted a paper on formatting. I occurred to me that my blog readers might benefit from this presentation. (In view of the mantra I cite at the end of every post, perhaps that’s a hope rather than a thought.) I hope this does not chase too many of you away.

*****
FORMATTING MANUSCRIPTS

In response to requests for instructions on how to format manuscripts for submission to editors and/or publishers, I prepared this for my Wordwrights Writing Class.

CAUTIONS

This is a format that has worked for me. I do not claim this is the ONLY format or the CORRECT format, but the publishers, agents, and editors I’ve worked with found it acceptable.

The instructions for accomplishing some of the tasks named herein are performed specifically on Windows 10, Microsoft Word 2013. Mac users may find it useful but may not be able to exactly follow the instructions.

When you are ready to submit a manuscript, you will go to some source such as WRITER’S MARKET 2018 to select an agent or publisher. They ofttimes give specific requirements for formatting. For example, my present publisher requires manuscripts be spaced at 1.5 lines; many publishers require double-spaced documents.

STYLE

Under Home, Styles, select a style. Agents and editors do not want extra spaces between paragraphs, so I click on the No Space style and use it throughout the manuscript. Others more adept than I switch back and forth between styles for headings and the like. I do not.

MARGINS

Margins for manuscripts (mss) should be set at one inch all around. (Layout/Page Setup/Margins- down arrow/click on Normal)

For long manuscripts, editors prefer that they have uniform bottom margins, something that is affected by the Widow/Orphan control, a default setting. This control varies your bottom margin by preventing a single line of a paragraph from appearing on a different page. To correct, go to Layout/Paragraph/Line & Page Breaks/and remove the arrow from Widow/Orphan control/hit Okay.

NEVER, never, never (did I emphasize that enough?) fully justify the body of your manuscript. It screws up the agent’s and editor’s estimate of word count. Yes, I know your computer provides an exact count, but that’s not good enough for some people. Under Home, Paragraph, go to the justify icons and click left justify (the one to the left showing a ragged right edge.)

TITLE PAGE

The title page contains personal contact information, word count, genre, the name of the book or story and name of the author (which will not be the same as your personal contact name if you write under a pseudonym).

I prefer to insert a table at the top of the title page to contain personal and book information. After it is complete, I get rid of the lines of the table. Click on the spot on the title page where you want the table, then insert the table at that spot by going to Insert/Table/down arrow. A table appears (this is tricky)/place curser in the upper left square, hold down and move it one square to the right (you now have two squares highlighted) and move the cursor down a minimum of 5 squares (more if you include a website, Facebook or Twitter contacts). When you have the proper number of squares highlighted, release the cursor. IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE IN GETTING PROPER NUMBER OF BOXES FOR THE TABLE, HIT CTL+Z IMMEDIATELY. A table now appears on your Title Page, as follows:












NOTE: Right justify the second column by highlighting the second column (only)/ Home/ Paragraph /and clicking the third justify icon (with a ragged left margin and a uniform right one). Type in your required information, Once you get rid of the lines of the table (Home/Paragraph/ arrow to the right of small square like a window frame/click on No Borders), it looks as follows:

John Q. Graham
Word Count: 90,500
1111 11th Street NW
Genre: Historical fiction
Albuquerque, New Mexico 8700

Tel: (505) 000-0000

Emai1: JQG@aol.com


Space down so that your title and author credit are about halfway down the page, center using Home/Paragraph/2nd Justify icon showing lines centered (or use Ctl+E)


THE FOIBLES OF BEING A WRITER

By Hope Less

NOTE: The name of the author in our example is different from the personal data at the top of the title page cluing the agent/editor/publisher they are to communicate with the name at the top, but the book is to be published under the pseudonym of Hope Less.

More next week.

*****
I hope this was helpful to a number of you and didn’t drive the rest of you nuts. As you can tell, I’m passionate about writing and believe there’s a writer in each one of us. Bear with me.

Now the mantra I mentioned above: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

MOUNDS, a Guest Blog

dontravis.com blog post #286

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday got a host of hits, but few comments. Stop sending me mixed messages, guys. Let me know what you’re thinking.

Not too long ago, I posted a guest blog by Donald T. Morgan, an excerpt from his unpublished novel, Old Sassy Pants. Today, he’s giving me another one, the opening to another novel called Mounds. Let him know how you like his work.

*****
MOUNDS

By Donald T. Morgan

Courtesy of Pixabay
PROLOGUE

Malcolm County, Southeastern Oklahoma

She lay sprawled beneath him on a frayed horse blanket in the gloomy hayloft. There had been no greeting, no posturing, nothing except a harsh entry followed by a sweaty, steamy explosion. He aimed to hurt. But she was a match for him, meeting his thrusts, absorbing his anger, and frustrating attempts to reduce the assignation to the level of just another roll in the hay.
“Bitch!” He dragged the word across the breadth of his orgasm.
“Bastard.” A self-satisfied smirk hid in her breathy drawl; his had carried nothing but longing and suppressed fury. She sighed, already drawing breath more easily than he, and ran scarlet-tipped fingers through the pale flame of a candle lit to watch him labor over her. “I do like the way yawl screw.”
“Not… make love?”
“Wouldn’t wanna mess up a good thing by calling it wrong.” She laughed low in her throat at the way he vainly fought to keep his eyes off her shadowed curves.
A snarl tore out of him, ending in a sobbing shudder. “I oughta kill you. Someday, I will.” Without another word, he threw on his clothes and left, moving stealthily through the moonless Oklahoma night.
She lingered on the rough, scratchy blanket, allowing his aura of carnal fury to dissipate. Caressing her violated flesh, she inhaled the heady redolence of the barn: manure, urine, and the earthy aroma of the big animals in the stalls below, masked by the woody hay, her own fragrance, and his stimulating musk.
The thick, humid air crackled with the charged atoms of an approaching thunderstorm, although she preferred to believe it was the lingering essence of the most exciting man she had ever known. Drowsily, she mused over her conquest.
Dangerous? Of course, it was. That’s what made it so wonderful.




CHAPTER 1

Figuring his daddy was about ready to emerge from a two-day hangover, Derek Monsum came in from the fields early and found Carlton working on Red Rover beneath the huge oak in the front yard. A good sign. His father wouldn’t take a wrench to the old Chevy pickup unless his hand was reasonably steady. That pile of bolts and faded red sheet metal was their only means of transportation.
“Can I talk to you a minute?” Private code for “Are you up to listening?”
Carlton adjusted the crutch under his arm to compensate for the right leg he’d lost in the Panama invasion. “Sure. Trying to tune this balky carburetor, but it’s a touchy piece of work. Fields look pretty good, Derek.”
“Thanks.” He took heart at his father’s grammar. Carlton’s drawl got heavy and his English went careless when he was under the influence. “Did you hear the news on the radio last night?”
His father pulled his head out of the truck’s innards. A trace of alcohol rode the heavier oil and grease fumes rising from the motor. “What news?” 
“Oklahoma University’s gonna excavate the mounds. Some fellow by the name of Dr. Henry Ericksen’s gonna lead a team from the Anthropology Department down here this summer.”
A flash of pain twisted his father’s features. “Oh, God, I’m sorry. I know that was your dream.”
“That’s okay. It was bound to happen one of these days. I’ll never be an archaeologist, anyway.”
He regretted the words the moment they came out of his mouth. Carlton looked as if he’d been slapped. But it was true—that ambition died when he quit school to take care of the farm after Bowie ran off. His brother had put up with Daddy’s new wife for two years, but Cassie was always on him. Derek was too young back then to understand things he could see plain as day now he was a grown man.
Ashamed of his thoughts, he cleared his throat. “What I was thinking was, maybe I can take a job at the dig. It’d just be labor work, but I could make a little money and get some practical experience, too. You know, see how they do things. At least be a little part of it.”
Carlton hid back inside the motor cavity. “Could be.”
“I’ve got the disking and fertilizing done. I’ll start seeding tomorrow. That won’t take long.” He scraped the ragged edge of a peeling rust spot on the raised hood with his thumbnail. “After that, it’ll be an easy time for a spell.”
“One your old man can handle.” The voice from the motor well held a wretchedness that drove Derek a step backwards.
“Shoot, you’re ten times the farmer I am. You could—”
“Don’t patronize me. I know what I am. What you’re asking is if I’ll stay off the booze for the summer. Well, you gotta ask straight out.”
Derek almost lost heart at the misery in his father’s tone, but he scratched the brown mole on his upper lip—his stress barometer, his mama used to call it—and held his ground. “Yes, sir, that’s what I’m asking. Will you keep it under control for a few weeks so I can try for a job with the dig crew?”
Carlton’s shoulders sagged as he pulled out from under the hood again to face his younger son. “I’ll keep a lid on things. You go see if you can get a job. The extra dollars will come in handy.”
“They probably won’t pay much.”
“Whatever it is, it’ll be welcome.” Carlton put his head down again, signaling the conversation was over.

*****

If I had to guess, I’d say this is a story about a young man trying to recapture faded ambitions. Knowing Donald, I’d also say the novel holds some mystery. By the way, he’s writing about the country we both came from. In real life, it was McCurtain County, Oklahoma, centered around a little town nine miles from Arkansas and thirty miles from Texas. I know it well.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

dontravis.com blog post #285

Apparently quite a few of you like Pedro the Dragon as much as BJ Vinson does. Got quite a few hits. For those of you who are writers, it is a good exercise to take a scene (one of yours or someone else's) and rewrite it from another point of view. Try it.

Today, let’s have an offering that comes in well below 1,000 words. Let me know how you like it.

*****
                                        
  MONDAY, WEDNESDAY, AND FRIDAY

          I left the chapel following Charles Farrelson’s memorial service somewhat spiritually fractured. Chuck, thirty years my senior, had been both father figure and lover for the past five years. For at least 250 of the last 260 Wednesdays, he’d filled my afternoons with good food, sharp wit, and loving caresses. Yet the sorrow tugging at my heartstrings felt selfish. It seemed more centered on what was taken from me, rather than his life being snatched from him.
          Feeling the need for nourishment, sustenance… something. I walked past the cars in the parking lot and struck out for the Famous Four Flavors ice cream shop across the street. A tall hunky guy I’d noticed at the service entered before me. I’d picked up on him not only because he was so handsome but also because he was Chuck’s son Drake.
          Restraining the impulse to introduce myself, I fell in line behind him wondering how he’d feel about meeting his father’s gay lover. Once he collected his chocolate shake, I ordered a strawberry. Keeping my eyes straight ahead, I walked toward a nearby table until a deep baritone brought me to a halt.
          “I noticed you at the service.” Drake indicated a chair. “Join me?”
          When I was settled, he offered a handshake. “Hi, I’m Drake Barstow.”
          I grasped his hand and frowned. “N-not Drake Farrelson?”
         His eyebrows reached for his dark hairline. “No. Why would you think that?”
          “I’ve seen you before. Last December, I saw you and Chuck leaving Dillards. I asked him later, and he said you were his son.”
          His astonished look morphed into glee. “That old dog! Now let me guess. You’re not Carl, Chuck’s nephew. You see, I saw you with him once, too, at the University bookstore.
          “I’m Carl, all right. But I’m not his nephew. I was… uh, a friend.”
          “Yeah, a friend. What was your day?”
          “My day?”
          “When did you meet him? Was it on a special day of the week?”
          “Well… yes. We got together for lunch or something every Wednesday.”
          “Yeah, or something. I was Friday. That’s the day we got together for… something.”
          “You… you mean you and Chuck…?”
          “That’s exactly what I mean.”
          “For how long?”
          “Ten years. I was eighteen when I met him. Got together with him every Friday after that except when one of us was out of town. And that wasn’t often, I can tell you.” He arched an eyebrow at me. “How long for you?”
          “Five years. I was eighteen, too.”
          “Apparently, that’s the age when we first grab his attention. But he was loyal, in his own way, I guess you could say. Outside of Chuck, what do you do?”
          I felt my cheeks burn. “No one. It was just—”
          “Sorry, that’s not what I meant. What do you do to keep a roof over your head?”
          “I’m a commercial artist. You?”
          “Photographer. And I’ll bet you’ve got as many intimate drawings as I have photographs.”
          My cheeks really flamed then. “Uh, a few.”
          “Yeah, I’ve got some scorchers, too.” His attention strayed from me to the front door of the shop. “Hang on, I think we’re about to meet Monday.”
          I looked where his gaze was centered and saw the other individual who’d caught my attention at the memorial service. Impossibly young and blond, the kid was really cute.
          “What makes you think—”
          “Well, he’s not Chuck’s son or nephew, and probably not even a cousin. But he was at the service. What are the odds?”
          We both watched the kid’s coltish, self-conscious carriage as he ordered a coke and then turned to glance uncertainly over the room. His eyes stopped on us before moving on.
          “Have a chair,” Drake said.
          With only a moment’s hesitation, the kid sat.
          We identified ourselves and watched the newcomer’s reaction. His blue eyes skittered back and forth between us as he sank into a chair at the table.
          “Confused?” Drake asked.
          “Uh….”
          “Well, I’m not Chuck’s son, and Carl’s not his nephew. Now let me make a couple of guesses about you. You’re what? About twenty or twenty-one?”
          “Twenty.”
          “Your name’s Jake and you met Carl about two years ago.
          The kid seemed flustered. “That’s right. How did you know?”
          “I saw you with Carl once at the Kimo. He told me your name later.”
          "You saw us?"
          "Bound to happen sooner or later," I said. "Albuquerque's not that big of a town."
          Jake looked as if he was about to bolt.
          “It’s okay,” Drake said. You’re among brethren.”
          “What do you mean?”
          “What I mean is I’m Friday, Carl’s Wednesday, and I’ll bet you’re Monday.”
          “I don’t know what you—”
          “Come on, don’t play coy. You met Chuck for lunch and playtime every Monday, right?”
          “I met him, yes, but—”
          “Butt being the operative word. You got it on with him. We all did.
          Now it was Jake’s turn to send his eyebrows northward. “You mean…?”
          “Yep. That’s exactly what I mean. Old Chuck got his jollies every Monday, Wednesday, and  Friday with us. Who knows, we might be why his heart failed. Hell, he wasn’t even fifty-five yet.”
          That comment sat on the table for a moment while we all digested it. Then Drake took charge again.
          "Now what we have to do is figure out the situation. You know” he turned pedantic. “Let not what Chuck sowed be put asunder!”
          Jake and I blinked back at him for a moment before smiling.
          “How do you know we’re compatible?” I asked.
          Drake winked. “I’d bet on it.”
          After raising a silent toast to our dear departed Chuck, we put our heads together and started working out our Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

*****

Looks like Carl started something. Nice to see enterprising participants deciding to keep a good thing going, right? By the way, has anything like this happened to you before?

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Dragon Named Pedro

dontravis.com blog post #284

Another little piece of short, short fiction this week. I’m particularly interested in the readers’ reaction to this offering.

*****
Maria Fanning, Artist
A DRAGON NAMED PEDRO

          From his high perch, Pedro the Dragon’s lidless eyes seemed fixed on the man in swimming trunks lying on a poolside lounge. Good build, and probably handsome when viewed up close. He knew his owner watched the man as well. The brown nipple Pedro held in the talons of one clawed foot stiffened and puckered, a subtle but sure sign of interest.


          Paul sat in the tall lifeguard’s chair at the North Valley Country Club and watched the man basking in the early morning sun. At this hour, they were the only two individuals at the swimming pool. Even though Paul was new to the club, he knew the man had an interesting history. B. J. Vinson—no one could tell him what the initials stood for—had once been a US Marine and then an Albuquerque Police detective before becoming a private eye. Intriguing.
          But no more so than the man, himself. Strange colored hair… mocha he’d heard it called. Eyes as green as a polished Granny Smith apple. Chiseled features; handsome but not pretty. Lean and athletic. Good, tanned skin without blemish except for one scar on the inside of the left thigh. Scuttlebutt held that was from a gunshot wound Vinson got back when he was a policeman.
          Although aware they were alone, Paul involuntarily glanced around to see if anyone noticed he was taking too much notice of a nearly naked man. Where he came from—Albuquerque’s south valley—interest like that would earn a guy a beating or worse. The thought startled him. Interest like that? Well, he couldn’t deny it. He felt the small tattooed dragon on his left pec squeezing his nipple, making it stand up. And tingle. Pedro often set off so many nerve endings that it became embarrassing for Paul to stand up in polite society.
          To avoid that eventuality, he climbed down from his elevated chair and snared a floating candy wrapper with a telescoping aluminum pole equipped with a leaf net.
          “Kids,” he muttered softly with half an eye on the other man. The aroma of summer roses climbing the club's adobe wall battled the odor of chlorine from the pool, distracting him for a moment.
          Vinson reached for a glass beside the lounge and missed, spilling what appeared to be orange juice.
          Paul dropped the skimmer and picked up the glass, holding it out. “Can I get you another?” Pedro gave a yank on Paul’s nipple when he noticed those fascinating green eyes studying the tiny tattoo.
          “No, thanks. Nothing left but ice cubes, anyway.”
          Pedro about went crazy at the sound of the deep baritone.
          “But I appreciate your offer, uh….”
          “Paul. Paul Barton.”
          “Paul.”
          He noticed the slight hesitation but decided not to enlighten the man. Aware he was a mixture of Hispanic and Anglo blood, he often got that reaction to his last name. But his mother had been the Latina; his father the Anglo. “Anytime,” he muttered as his eyes wandered the man’s lanky form, halting without intention on the purple scar.
          “Bullet wound,” Vinson said.
          “Damn, I’ll bet that hurt.”
          “Like you wouldn’t believe. That’s why I swim early in the morning. Therapy.”
          “Swimming’s the best exercise in the world.” Paul felt his cheeks burn as he revealed himself as a dyed-in-the-wool water bug. He glanced down at his tight trunks. Well, dyed-in-spandex, anyway.
          His cell phone piped “Dixie” on a nearby table. He eyed the other man as he answered the call. Jill Hardwick asked what time he got off work and suggested they go to a movie that evening. He told her “five” and said he had plans. As he finished the call, Vinson tossed him a wave and disappeared into the locker room. Pedro gave a final squeeze to Paul’s nipple, making him wish he could follow the man to the showers.


          By five-thirty, Paul felt foolish hanging around outside the club’s Moorish gate. He’d misread the situation… badly. BJ Vinson, PI, probably hadn’t given him a second thought once he left the club. But Paul had sensed a strong connection with the attractive detective. Wrong.
          Just as he started walking to the employee’s parking lot, a white Impala swung to the curb and stopped. The hunky detective rolled down the window and leaned across the seat. Without exchanging a word, Paul hopped into the passenger’s seat as Pedro did his thing beneath the tight polo shirt. Feeling the need to say something, Paul went trite.
          “Hi, Mr. Vinson.”
          “Call me BJ or Vince. The Vince comes from Vinson.”
          “What do most people call you?”
          “BJ.”
          “Okay, then I’ll call you Vince. At least when nobody’s around.”
          “Where can I drop you?” Vince asked with a smile.
          Paul’s grin almost split his lips. “Wherever you’re going is okay by me.”
          Pedro must have approved because the inky claw squeezed Paul’s tit almost painfully.

*****

Readers of my BJ Vinson Mystery Series will recognize the opening and closing scenes from Chapter 3 of The Zozobra Incident when BJ first meets Paul Barton. But this time, it’s told from Paul’s and Pedro’s viewpoints. The change makes for interesting reading. Let me know what you think.


My mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows sometime in the first quarter of 2019.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

dontravis.com blog post #283

The Never Forevermore

The post this week is less of a story than an essay on life. Those of you who read my work will recognize that I am a fish out of water… I do not write in the style of this piece. Because I am experimenting, I would appreciate any feedback you care to provide… positive or negative.

*****
Courtesy of Pixels
THE NEVER FOREVERMORE

          “You know I’ll love you forevermore, don’t you?”
          The words, uttered with all the fervor and sincerity of Robert Browning’s devotion to Elizabeth Barrett, rolled glibly off my lips on a broad Key West barchan attended by broad blue waters speckled with small sailing vessels that seemed as forevermore as my declaration but in reality, lapped distant shores and broke over rocky cliffs beyond my sight in green, frothy waves. Her proximity on the huge terrycloth towel spread on warm white quartz sands beaded by feldspar and garnet and littered with cockle and conch and angel wings provoked stirrings that seemed somehow inappropriate to the moment, although natural to the occasion. Feeling my desire, she snuggled closer as the endless swash struggled to reach us, always failing and retreating back into the ocean that spawned it.
          But a honeymoon was not eternal, neither in the moment nor in the abstract. It was the appetizer before the meal, the knish before the brisket, so to speak. Ours lasted well into the second year of our marriage, but a woman exhausted by nursing an infant daughter while simultaneously pursuing a professional career occasionally became waspish with a tongue that owned a sharp barb. Once stung, I grew more defensive and less understanding, fraying the delicate silken thread that held it all together. The second child, a son, proved frail and more demanding, denying us the little time we reserved to ourselves.
          Preferring to merely replace one another on this teeming planet, we dispensed with childbearing after that. A fortunate decision, as those two nearly taxed our patience, energy, and resources to the breaking point. Marcie was gifted, demanding special attention, while a fragile Abel sopped up what was left.
          Ruptures appeared when our daughter attached herself to a slothful, sullen youth, and was supported by my wife. I saw the lout for what he was, but the strain of that relationship for the brief time it lasted nearly rent us apart.
          In his teens, our son recovered his health and discovered his homosexuality, nearly driving his mother to distraction. She fought it, but I knew the inevitable end result and supported him for who he was. That wound required time to repair itself. His mother eventually held her waspish tongue on the subject, but I saw betrayal in her eyes for a long time.
          The years passed, and I forgot the eight words spoken in those halcyon days of youth. Many times, it would have been easier to cleave the marriage than to hold it together. But we somehow managed to darn the silken threads that bound us, at times mending gaping holes in our relationship, but never allowing the precious essence of our liaison to escape. Not too much of it, at any rate.
          Now, with our daughter safely married to a good man and pursuing her career as a concert pianist, and our son a graduated engineer testing his relationship with a new employer, as well as a new lover, we find ourselves face to face once again, as alone as when we started.
          Of late, some of those forgotten words have occasionally begun to reappear in our lexicon, although not as naively spoken as then. We have successfully maneuvered the shoals and now sail a following sea toward newly discovered ports, fully aware there was never the Forevermore we envisioned as a young couple. But perhaps we’ve discovered another sort… one designed specifically for those bearing the scars and bruises of a well-lived life, silver in their hair, and a shuffle in their gait.

*****

Covering someone’s life in something under 700 words seems a little abrupt. Yet, what more needs to be said? Would it strengthen the piece to involve the reader in the narrator’s career, hobbies, and the like? I think not. Let me know what you think.

Please: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows sometime in the first quarter of 2019.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.