Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Excerpt: Calling the Shots

Here is an excerpt from my hockey dad book, Calling the Shots. It's coming in October 2010 from Harlequin Superromance! There are purchase links on my website.

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Bryan was beyond late. He’d missed Allie’s entire practice. He just hoped she was still at the rink. He’d texted her that he was going to be late, but she hadn’t replied. His sister, who watched Allie when he was gone, wasn’t picking up either.

Not good.

So not good. People weren’t almost an hour late to pick their thirteen-year-old kids up from hockey. At least not people who were good at being parents.

He was going to have to arrange a backup plan for the nights he was coming in from out of town. One more arrangement he needed to get under control in this whole precarious mess he and Allie were calling a family.

He sure as hell hoped Erin’s new life was worth it.

He pulled into the drop off circle at the front of the rink. It was past nine o’clock—no one was going to complain if he left the Lexus there for a few minutes.

He took the stairs three at a time, his bad knee twinging as he landed on the icy top step, but he ignored the old pain. Bryan yanked the doors open, the blast of warmth hitting him hard after the bitter cold air. He was already scanning the lobby, checking the worn, tweed couches for his daughter when Danny Jackson, the rink manager, popped his head out of his office.

“Bryan,” Danny said. “I need to talk to you.”

Bryan glanced over but kept walking toward the locker rooms. “I’ll be back in one sec. I’m late picking up Allie,” he called. She wasn’t in the lobby but she had to be there somewhere. She wouldn’t have asked someone to drop her at the apartment. Not when she knew he was out of town.

“There was fight, Bry,” Danny said. “That’s what we need to talk about.”

Just that quick there was no air in his lungs. No spit in his mouth. “Is she hurt?”

“No.” Danny looked uncomfortable, pulling his wrinkled golf shirt down over his gut as he opened the door wider. “Allie’s fine.”

“A fight?” He’d already started for the office, even though he hadn’t entirely processed what Danny meant. Allie took her hockey seriously, and yeah, she was still playing in the coed league at an age when most girls opted for the single-sex, no-contact league, but a fight? A hockey fight? At practice?

That was when he noticed the mess around the skate shop on the opposite side of the lobby. The display in the front window was knocked to pieces, and the glass from the window glinted on the floor. A rack of jackets was overturned near the entrance door. Allie’s stick with the distinctive fluorescent purple tape lay partially under the collapsed sandwich board advertising current sales.

He looked back to Danny who tugged at his shirt again.

The top of Allie’s head was visible beyond Danny’s shoulder in the office. He tried to push by the smaller man but Danny locked his arm, blocking the doorway, and said in a low voice, “I’m sorry about this.”

“Let me see her.”

Danny stepped back and Bryan was past him and kneeling next to Allie. He barely registered that there were other people in the room as he put his hands on either side of his daughter’s chin and raised her head.

Allie. His girl. For a second he couldn’t focus, he was so relieved that she was in one piece. He stroked her jaw with his thumbs, happy to have her there so close, and then he blinked and her features came clear. Her lip was split, a thin line of blood where the skin was cracked. Her small, upturned nose, with the exact same smattering of freckles his ex-wife had always hated on her own nose, was fine. She had a scratch on one cheek but nothing looked too bad except her eyes. She wouldn’t look straight at him, had her gaze fixed somewhere over his shoulder. Allie was scared. Not hurt scared, but scared scared in a way he hadn’t seen since those first panicked days three months ago when Erin, his ex-wife, had told them she was going on tour with Lush and Allie would be staying with him full-time.

What the hell had happened to put that look back in her eyes?

“You okay?” he asked, his voice rough.

When she nodded, he let his eyes skim quickly over the rest of her. There was blood on the neck of the Sabres jersey he’d given her for Christmas and the knee was torn out of her jeans, the skin underneath raw and weeping blood, but she looked all right. She was in one piece and he’d made it home, late but not too late and whatever else happened, he could handle. He would handle. Somehow he’d make this right for Allie because although she deserved the best, all she had right now was him.

He slid one hand around to the back of her neck and then down to rest on her shoulder, reassuring himself as much as her as he turned to stand. His knee protested when he straightened it, but he barely noticed. With his immediate worries answered, the other people in the room finally registered. His gaze jerked from the woman in the chair next to Allie to the boy sitting on the far side. The boy who’d hit Allie. The boy who better have a damn good explanation for himself.

My Writing "Process"

One thing writers love to talk about is process. What’s your process? Do you use charts or worksheets? Outlines? Do you wing it or do you have a plan? What kind of highlighters? Do you edit on screen or on paper? Do you collage or fill out character sheets or let it come to you during the book?

I can answer all of those questions about my process. I like to think I’m a fairly orderly, organized, and prepared writer. Except, once I hit a certain point in a book, the entire process goes out the window and the one word left to describe what I’m doing is desperation.

Will I ever be able to finish? Will this pile of nothing turn into something someone wants to read? Will my editor ask for the advance back? How many times can the word “just” possibly appear in a manuscript? Who typed this thing? Who thought this was a good idea for a book? How is this ever going to end? Am I really out of M&M’s again?

Etc.

I thought it might be fun to share some pictures of what my “process” looked like when I was closing in on the deadline for Calling the Shots, my hockey dad book coming out in October.

Note for the spoiler-phobes among us: I obscured any actual spoilers. If you can read my notes, that means it’s either not a real spoiler or it didn’t make it into the final cut of the book.

1. This is a collection of some sticky notes that were either on the manuscript, on my desk, or stuck on some of the many versions of printed pages I generated during the course of my "final push." Some of them are quotes I want to get in, some are character insights, and some are pure dead ends.

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2. This book was short on word count for a while.To keep myself encouraged, I started a running count of my word count progress. It took me *ahem* a few tries to get to the proper point. On the yellow sheet is a list of some of the words I overused. When I got bored with other revisions, I'd search and replace these little buggers. Wish I could stop typing them in the first place!

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3. This one cracks me up. I was stuck on a section of the book. Couldn't figure out what should happen or what sequence would make for the most tension. I had this tiny note that I carried around with me for a few days while I considered options. At one point, I dropped the note on the floor at my day job. Luckily, I found it before anyone else did. It's not a note a normal person would have just lying around their cubicle, you know?

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So there's a peek at my "process." Do any of you have systems that work for you that might look a bit odd to someone else? Ever made a list that might have raised eyebrows? Do you think I should change the tag line for this book to Pizza, Sex, and Haircuts?