Tag Archives: Writing

Things with Wings. The Detail that Makes Your Writing Fly. #MFRWAuthor #IAN1

Grabbing a reader’s attention is all about hooking her emotionally. Prying beneath the surface as she scurries along from sentence to sentence and page to page. Hitting her where she truly lives – in her heart.

We do that first and foremost by creating a main character about whom the reader not only cares but cares very much. So much so that she begins to behave as if this character were a real-life human being.

Red Jeep 1The reader roots for your character to succeed and dreads that she may not. When such rooting and dreading happens your reader is engaged on an emotional level with your story and that engagement keeps her eagerly turning pages all the way to The End.

Meanwhile, beyond this deftly drawn main character, lies another engaging element of great storytelling. An element that compels your reader to stop short for an instant in her pell-mell plunge through your plot to be hooked yet again by the Deeply Felt Detail.

This detail draws your reader to a particular moment in your story and holds her there to experience a flash of connection. She recognizes the essence of what you have written. She responds at an emotional level even if she doesn’t consciously understand why.

You’ve caught your reader on the hook of your deeply felt detail. But first you must experience that detail even more deeply yourself. Where do you find such resonance – moments, sights, objects, whatever they may be? You find them among your own deeply felt attachments.

For example, I feel such attachment to my red Jeep Wrangler. When I think about that vehicle my heart flies to a fond place, soft and warm and sentimental. Or it can fly more frantically to a place of terror. The difference depends on the circumstances of the scene.

Fond and tender if that scene is of my grandchildren filling the backseat with cookie crumbs and squabbling between bites. Frantic and fearful if that scene involves a wrong turn of the steering wheel that could send us hurtling to disaster.

I drive my red Wrangler onto the page and make my story fly straight into my reader’s psyche and most especially into her heart. I do that by revving my writer engine to the max on every drop of drama fuel this detail holds for me personally. I give it storytelling wings.

I possess a lifetime’s worth of emotionally potent details – moments, sights, objects, whatever they may be. You do also. Think back. Feel deeply. Engage your heart and your nerve endings in the search. Make a list. Then use those details in your writing and watch your stories soar.  Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com/

RR

A Villain for Vanessa – Riverton Romantic Suspense Book 4 and my other books are available from Amazon HEREA Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1 is a FREE EBOOK  there also.

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The Crucial Cool Read – Ask Alice Saturday

Coolness imageQuestion. You talk about the cool read. Could you explain what that is?

Answer. The cool read is what needs to happen after you finish the first draft of a manuscript.

 We all know we must always submit Only Our Very Best Work. We achieve our very best work by revising. Revision is where Excellence happens. Revision is where a salable story happens.

We must beware of the blush of enthusiasm we all feel when we complete our first beginning-to-end draft of a manuscript. This is euphoria and it is totally misleading.

We are overjoyed to be finished. Certain our story is a thousand percent wonderful. We’ve lost all capacity for critical judgement. We’re in love – in love with our accomplishment. As we well should be. The completion of a first draft is a huge achievement.

BUT we must never submit our work at this point. This is where the crucial cool read comes in. We need to let the manuscript “cool” for a while. A few days at least. A bit longer if possible.

Set the piece aside. Do something else. Give yourself a total break. Or catch up on your social media/internet presence which will also be crucial to marketing your work. Or do some background prep for your next writing project.

Whatever your choice of cooling mode the purpose is the same. To give yourself distance from your creation. To clear your eyes and your mind and your heart so you can come back fresh – with your critical judgement intact.

When you return to the manuscript read it All The Way Through. Preferably in one sitting if you can manage that. If you can’t manage that – as many of us cannot – read it in subsequent sittings with no other writing work in between. You’ve cooled your head. Take full advantage of that.

Then Revise. Prepare for that revision by interrogating your manuscript. Ask it – and ask yourself – Six Crucial questions.

  1. How can I give this work a stronger narrative hook? A more intriguing Story Idea or Premise? A more riveting Dramatic Opening?
  2. The next 3 questions are for fiction writers. How can I make my Protagonist more sympathetic so the reader will really care about this character and thus be emotionally involved? Is my Protagonist a decent, admirable, heroic person?
  3. How can I make the Villain more formidable and still believable so he is a real source of conflict for my Protagonist?
  4. How can I make the Plot work better? Perhaps, by strengthening character motivations?
  5. For both fiction and nonfiction. How can I keep the Middle move rapidly along without sagging or getting muddled? With cliffhangers? With revelations?
  6. How can I make the Ending as satisfying as possible?

Congratulations. You’ve done the work. You’ve taken the truly cool road to producing your hottest work. You’ve earned a euphoria boost. Don’t forget to celebrate your work and yourself.

RR

A WRONG WAY HOME – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book 1 – the eBook – is FREE at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T9RVGGC. It is also FREE at Barnes & Noble and iTunes and KOBO and other online platforms. A YEAR OF SUMMER SHADOWS – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #2 – is available at those same platforms including http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZBOTH5O. These are my 12th and 13th novels. They are both cool reads. Alice Orrwww.aliceorrbooks.com.

 

How to Be a Pantster – Ask Alice Saturday

Flying Woman imageQuestion: Are you a Planner or a Pantster?

 Answer: Back when I was first a book editor then a literary agent and still a publishing author I was a Planner big time. I even wrote an article called “The Painless Synopsis” for Writers Digest Magazine. I was devoted to planning my stories in detail up-front. I had to do that because my writing life was regularly interrupted by my day job.

My workday mind had to be deep into agent tasks. I needed a synopsis to keep track of my story as I dragged my head back and forth between my agent brain and my writer brain. My guess is that most people juggling a full-time job with a writing regimen need to do the same.

Now that I’m a full-time writer I can indulge myself with the joy of making it up as I go along. Because I write Romantic Suspense I start out with three characters – a murder victim, a heroine and a hero. I also know the conflict that motivated the killing and at least a little about how the heroine and hero fall onto opposite sides of that conflict.

I also try to have an idea how the story ends – who committed the murder. But I’ve written two books this way so far and by the end of both of them the identity of the killer had changed and the stories were better for it. I now understand that I shouldn’t cast the ending in stone up-front. It’s better to leave room for my imagination to find its way.

Kurt Vonnegut compares this approach to driving at night. You can see as far as the headlight beams allow you to see. A former client of mine Jo Beverley calls it “Flying into the Mist.” I call it fun.

I’m playing with my story and my story is playing with me. I can afford the luxury of this playfulness because my head is pretty much always in the story. I no longer have to interrupt the flow to bury my gray cells in my day job.

In my case at least the choice between Planner and Pantster couldn’t always be about preference. It had to be about my circumstances. Like so many of us – I did what I had to do. I feel blessed that what I have to do now is have a storytelling good time.

RR

My current novel is A WRONG WAY HOME – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #1 – available at amazon.com/author/aliceorr. A YEAR OF SUMMER SHADOWS – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #2 – launches with summer on June 22nd. These are my 12th and 13th novels and both were Pantster born and brought to life. Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com.

 

Plots Thicken in Mom’s Kitchen – Riverton Road Monday

Bad Mom imageMaybe this is a backhanded way to celebrate post-Mother’s Day. But I can’t help pointing out what great story complications can grow from the seeds of mother-child relationships.

In my workshops on writing mystery and suspense I often mention that there’d be far fewer fictional serial killers if it weren’t for fictional mothers screwing up their sons. Not at all fair to real life mom’s but we’re talking about make believe mom’s.

My favorite example is the super crazy and super delusional villain of Thomas Harris’s The Red Dragon. I don’t believe a writer must provide readers with a reason to like or even sympathize with an evil character. I do believe the writer must give us a way to understand the character.

A brief flashback scene does exactly that in The Red Dragon. A scene in a pantry between then young Francis Dolarhyde and his mother. The details are too gruesome to recount here. I will say that after reading this scene we recognize the genesis of the monster adult Francis to come.

The mothers in my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series are nothing like the Red Dragon mom. But they generate story complications anyway. That’s the role of secondary characters. To complicate plot and add more obstacles the main characters must climb over to succeed.

In the first book of my series A Wrong Way Home the heroine Kara’s mother is no longer around. Still she remains a stumbling block from the past that intensifies Kara’s struggle to come to grips with the present.

The hero Matt’s mother Angela is a continuing character. She’s the matriarch of the Kalli family at the center of the series. I want readers to be drawn to her and empathize with her. But if she’s totally likable she won’t work for the story in terms of causing conflict for other characters.

Angela is a strong woman – mostly in ways we admire and her son loves her dearly. On the other hand – in a past incident he knows nothing about – Angela overstepped a boundary she should have respected. Matt and Kara are now paying the price of his mother’s intrusiveness.

BUT – the story is stronger because of it. More conflicted. More complicated. Creating more trouble for the characters we care most about. Thank heaven for conflict/complication/struggle producing mama’s.  (Find A Wrong Way Home at www.amazon.com/author/aliceorr.)

And wait until you see the plot twists two of these mothers come up with in Book 2.

RR

 A YEAR OF SUMMER SHADOWS – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #2 – Mark & Hailey’s Story. Launches with summer on June 22nd at amazon.com/author/aliceorr. This is my 13th novel and there are moms thickening the plot for sure. Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com

 

Hello & Goodbye to the Victim – Riverton Road Monday

A YEAR OF SUMMER SHADOWS – Mark & Hailey’s Story – Riverton Road Series – Book 2  Contemporary Romantic Suspense

 Finley Yates

 A Year of Summer Shadows - Final Cover -JPG file smallFinley Yates was bigger in bulk than he was in character. He’d have said that about himself with a sneering laugh, but he wasn’t sharp enough mentally to think that way. He wasn’t ashamed of the kind of man he was either. Finley didn’t bother himself with useless feelings like shame or guilt.

“Why waste your head on crap like that,” he’d say.

Finley had enough to do just carrying around a body that could fill up a closet or maybe even half of a small room. He preferred planting himself in a sitting position as much as possible, and once he got into that position he wasn’t going to use up his time or energy worrying about useless crap. He was going to put his feet up and let the punks around him do the worrying.

Finley really didn’t like to bother with dragging himself out of doors after dark on a night like this, or any other night for that matter. It might be summer, but he’d rather be indoors in his oversized chair, taking a load off in front of the TV. The news guy had been bragging about how beautiful the temperature was, but Finley didn’t care a rat’s behind about that.

Those weather jerks got all worked up about summer because this place was so far north in New York State it was almost Canada. Any weather that wasn’t a blizzard was news in this town. Summer went into winter, bang, just like that, so you hardly got to notice any fall. Still, Finley wasn’t going to send up fireworks just because it was warm outside for a change.

Besides, it wasn’t that warm tonight. Whose idea was it to meet outdoors anyway? Not Finley’s, that’s for sure. He had more sense than to come up with crap gangster movie stuff like having everybody get together in a parking lot late at night. He’d been in on enough left side of the law deals to know most of these meet-ups happened in barrooms.

He’d love to be in a barroom right now. The Tick Tock Tavern was his favorite. It was so loud in there nobody’d be able to listen in on what they were saying or anything else. At the Tick Tock, he’d be tossing back a shot with a cold beer to wash it down. Instead, he was out here messing around in a parking lot on the back end of town.

This is what happens when you do business with amateurs. You end up dragging yourself outside on a damp night, thirsty for a beer and a bump, shuffling through gravel, stepping in who knows what. He’d just as soon take off out of here right now, and he might do that. Except then he wouldn’t get the money.

A grin cut a crease across Finley’s lumpy face, and for half a minute he stopped thinking about all the stuff he didn’t like about tonight. What he did like was the money. Lots of it, in his own damned hand pretty damned soon now. He was getting a kick out of the thought of that so much he didn’t notice the low rumble of an engine at first, off to his right.

You’d think a guy like Finley would get a tipoff from somebody when the big one was coming his way. Small time connected was all he’d ever been, but connected all the same, and that meant he had ways of knowing what was going down. From day one, he’d been real careful too and never let his guard down like he was doing right now for a minute or two.

That’s all it takes to do you in sometimes. A minute or two. He’d tell you that himself, if he had time left to tell anybody anything. Maybe it was because of it being amateurs he was dealing with. Maybe that’s why he wasn’t paying tiptop attention tonight.

The bottom line is this. Finley didn’t figure out what was happening soon enough to save himself. By the time he heard the car engine and wondered why he wasn’t seeing any headlights to go with it, his ticket was punched for good.

He didn’t really feel it happen either. The bumper caught him from the side, aimed square and hard enough to knock him down flat so fast he almost didn’t feel a thing.

“What in hell’s going on here?”

That was the last thing he asked himself before the car barreled all the way over him and put him under so far he didn’t mind that in the next minute the engine revved again and the tires screeched into a tight turn then headed back at high speed toward the spot where the bloody, fleshy layers of Finley Yates lay waiting.

 RR

 My next story is A YEAR OF SUMMER SHADOWS – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #2 – Mark & Hailey’s Story. Available May 15th at amazon.com/author/aliceorr. This is my 13th novel and the above is the dramatic opening.

 Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com

 

Catastrophe Looms – Riverton Road Monday

Excerpt from A Wrong Way Home by Alice Orr.

Dramatic North Country SkyMatt had to get back to Kalli Corner and tell Kara, but first there was one more thing he needed to know from Junior Dawson.

“Why are you telling me all of this?” Matt asked.

Dawson shrugged.

“Let’s just say my loyalty was to Tony Benton. I got no loyalty to nobody else. I could have helped this damned fool, but he wasn’t smart enough to do what he had to do to make that happen.”

“What did he have to do?”

Dawson rubbed his greasy fingers together in a gesture Matt recognized to mean money, probably a lot of money.

“I gave him a chance, but he wouldn’t come across,” Dawson said. “So I’d just as soon see him go down.”

Matt remembered what Kara had seen through the window. Dawson being threatening, except that maybe Dawson didn’t have solid evidence like Benton did. If that was true, Dawson’s threats would have been as empty as his eyes were now.

Telling all of this to Matt could be Dawson’s way of getting even. He was left out in the cold now that Benton wasn’t around to offer a cut in his dirty deals in return for whatever equally dirty jobs Junior was willing to perform. He’d tried for a final payoff, but that hadn’t worked out either. Now Dawson was having his revenge.

“So did you get what you came for?” Dawson asked.

Matt hesitated before answering. He couldn’t help feeling a little dirty himself from just talking to this guy.

“Yeah, I got what I came for.”

Matt didn’t say thank you. He walked fast to his truck and drove away even faster. Away from Vincent’s Garage and Junior Dawson. Matt drove with one hand and clicked Kara’s number on his cell phone with the other. Several rings later, she answered, but it was only her recorded message.

“Leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you.”

Matt reacted to the sound of her voice by pushing the gas pedal closer to the floor.

“It’s Matt. I’m on my way home. Call me when you get this.”

Matt put the phone on the dashboard and concentrated on piloting the speeding truck in the direction of Riverton Road and Kalli Corner. Something told him he’d better get there soon, not just because of what he had to tell Kara or even because of how much he missed her. Like a premonition, something told Matt that Kara needed him, and she needed him right now.

He spun the steering wheel and roared into the Kalli driveway with gravel spraying from his truck tires. The front door of the house flew open, and his mother hurried across the porch and down the steps. One look at her face made Matt’s heart clench with the terrifying recognition that his premonition had been correct.

“Kara’s gone,” Angela shouted as he screeched to a stop. “I thought she was resting in her room, but I just went up to check on her and she’s gone.”

RR

My latest story is A WRONG WAY HOME – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #1 – Matt & Kara’s Story. Available at amazon.com/author/aliceorr. This is my 12th novel and this post is a dramatic excerpt.

 Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com

 

All’s Well that Ends Well – Ask Alice Saturday

Question: How do I make my story ending sell my book?

Casablance ending Answer: The ending of your story doesn’t sell this story as much as it sells your next story. Have you ever finished a book and wanted to throw it across the room? Or maybe actually did throw it across the room? Very often the book’s ending made you do that. And also made certain you wouldn’t buy that author’s next book. Avoid being thrown across the room. Avoid losing a reader for your next book and the ones after it. Create a story ending that doesn’t frustrate. Create an ending that satisfies.

The end game of your story is a danger zone. Partly because you’re most likely tired of these people and their situation by now. In fact your head and heart are already deep in your next story. So you must be careful not to write the end in this rhythm. Gallop – Gallop – Gallop – The End. That ending does not satisfy. That ending lacks the essential Big Bang.

I’ve used the film classic Casablanca in earlier posts to illustrate the Dramatic Opening and the Middle That Moves. Casablanca is also a great example of the Ending That Satisfies. The story has two threads – an action suspense thread and an emotional suspense thread. Both are tied up with a bang at the ending.

The action climax is an actually audible bang when arch villain German Major Strasser is shot dead. The emotional climax is more drawn out and that slightly slowed down pace is part of what gives it impact. Rick – played by Humphrey Bogart – tells Ilsa – played by Ingrid Bergman – why she must take the plane to Lisbon and safety not with him but with her husband Nazi hunter Victor Laszlo.

The plane engine rumbles to life in the background. A single tear trembles on Ilsa’s perfect cheek. And Bogie says some of the most memorable lines of his career. Later on he’ll walk off with Vichy Captain Louis Renault who has suddenly discovered his inner good guy. But the Big Bang really happens when brooding cynic Rick finds his own true heroic nature and sacrifices his heart for the good of the world and his soul.

We could hardly be more satisfied and it all looks smooth and easy but don’t be fooled. To carry off an ending that works like this well there has to be a plan. To create a Big Bang ending for your story you must plan the climactic scene in detail. Don’t write a word till that plan is perfect. Plan mostly action and dialogue and keep all of this action on stage in the immediate present. There are more steps as well.

How to Plan Your Big Bang Ending

  •  Plan mostly action and dialogue, very little narrative.Plan to keep all of this action on stage, in the immediate present.
  • Plan dialogue that is spare, to the point and memorable.
  • Plan on intensifying the pace, faster than what has gone before.
  • Plan lots of physical movement in the scene.
  • Plan lots of intense sensations – sight, sound, smell, texture and more.
  • Plan to plunge your protagonist into peril.
  • Plan one more obstacle to arise for your protagonist.  Make it formidable.
  • Plan a confrontation between your protagonist and antagonist.
  • Plan on milking that confrontation, while keeping up the intense pace.
  • Plan for your protagonist to cause action, not merely be overtaken by it.
  • Plan to communicate your protagonist’s feelings, with impact, to the reader.
  • Plan on incorporating fear, even terror, among those emotions.
  • Plan the presence of real danger to your protagonist in this scene.
  • Plan an outcome in the balance.
  • Plan that outcome as crucial to your protagonist.
  • Plan for your protagonist to be nearly vanquished in this scene.
  • Plan for your protagonist to be racing against time.
  • Plan for your protagonist to triumph in the last possible moment.
  • Plan for your protagonist to triumph by the narrowest of margins.
  • Plan for this triumph to be uplifting and inspiring.

The purpose of a Big Bang ending is to reverberate after the last page is turned. To lodge in the psyche of the reader and be remembered. All the way to the bookstore or the Buy Now button and the purchase of your next title.

You must stage your final scene the way a choreographer stages a dance. The result will be a powerful Dramatic Ending at full circle from what will have to have been your Dramatic Opening. And equally or even more thrilling. Find out how to write that Dramatic Opening in my previous post “Well Begun is Well Done”.

Now you must recognize that your story is over. You and your protagonist have exploded out of the explosive situation you exploded into on page one. You must resist the temptation to hang around a while longer. You’ve taken your reader on an unforgettable ride. Leave before she has a chance to catch her breath. Leave before he’s had enough. Leave them wanting more.  No Epilogues Please.

When you’ve accomplished all of that – Here’s looking at you kid.

RR

 My latest story is A WRONG WAY HOME – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #1 – Matt & Kara’s Story. Available at amazon.com/author/aliceorr. This is my 12th novel and it does have a dramatic ending.

Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com

 

Well Begun is Well Done – Ask Alice Saturday

Question: How do I make my opening sell my story?

Casablanca - RickThe opening of any story is crucial. A potential reader may be standing in a store aisle scanning the first few pages or reading the free sample offered on an electronic device. The situation is the same. A storyteller gets one chance to make a first impression and mustn’t squander that chance.

So – begin with a Dramatic Opening. That doesn’t mean you have to start out with a murder scene the way I like to do in my romantic suspense novels. Your opening can be more subtle than that. But it must be dramatic. Let me use an example from a favorite film of mine – Casablanca. Which is in my opinion one of the great romantic suspense stories of all time.

By the way – I’ll often use movies as storytelling examples. Maybe more often than I use books. I do this because I find that more of us have seen the same movies than have read the same books. And I want all of us to be able to relate to the examples I use. You also have easy reference to these examples because you can stream most of them on your computer.

Casablanca came out in 1942. Already the world was immersed in the most dramatic of times. The opening taps directly into that with a map of Europe and then Africa and Northern Africa beneath the credits. Maps meant something very significant in WWII. They ran in newspapers almost daily alongside stories of heart-stopping events. Battles – even troop movements if they could be made known. Maps were a life and death visual to a 1942 audience.

There’s also music. Exotic at first as the map moves toward North Africa. We’re headed for a world distant and different from our own. A complicated and possibly incomprehensible world. We need to be on guard and maybe even afraid. On an abrupt beat the music changes. Loud and rousing – La Marseillaise makes our hearts beat to a different tune. Even more dramatic and affecting than what we’ve already heard. And we’re not even past the credits yet.

We aren’t even at Rick’s Café Americain with Rick himself at the bar. Brow furrowed – cigarette stub smoldering – weight of a heavy wound beneath the square shoulders of his white dinner jacket. Want to see what a romantic hero – or any kind of hero – looks like? Screen this scene ASAP. Plus in the next two minutes you’ll see his inner character nailed as well.

A story’s dramatic opening has a lot of work to do. A lot of weight to carry beneath its square shoulders. This film does that in spades as clear and unmistakable as the ones on the cards the croupier turns in Rick’s gambling den. Does your story opening carry that weight as well? Why don’t you ask it if it does? Here are the 10 Crucial Questions to use in that interrogation.

1.   At this moment my protagonist must be plunged into a situation where she feels as if her world is being yanked out from under her. Is that happening and how does it happen?

2.   From this point on his life will never be the same again. How, specifically, will his life be changed?

3.   From this moment on, my protagonist will be engaged in struggle. How specifically does that struggle begin in this opening scene?

4.   This scene must begin in the middle of something dramatic already in progress. How specifically is that the case in my story?

5.   I need to describe what my main character looks like. I must describe her or him via a couple of significant details rather than by interrupting the dramatic action of the scene. What specifically are those significant details?

6.   This scene must at least suggest that something important is at stake for my character in this story and preferably for others too. What specifically are the dire circumstances that will result if my character fails to succeed in this story?

7.   Obstacles to that success must already be evident in this scene. What specific obstacles to that success are already evident or at least hinted at in this scene?

8.   My main character must make a conscious decision to act in response to the situation in this scene and that decision sets the story in motion. What specifically is that decision and how does it set the story in motion?

9.   My character must be a person with whom the reader will wish to identify – motivated to act by something the reader can relate to and find sympathetic. How specifically does my character fulfill these expectations?

10.   The action of the story must begin immediately in this scene. How specifically does that happen in my story?

Re-read these 10 Crucial Questions. Think about them in terms of your story. Be hardnosed with yourself and with your story as you answer each one. If your responses aren’t solid and dramatic – your story opening isn’t solid and dramatic. Make it so.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed – stream the opening of Casablanca. Take notes on how simply all of this is managed there. And be specific yet again.

While you’re doing that. “Here’s looking at you kid.”

 RR

 My latest story is A WRONG WAY HOME – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #1 – Matt & Kara’s Story. Available at amazon.com/author/aliceorr. This is my 12th novel and it has a dramatic opening.

Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com

 

Home is for Homicide – Riverton Raw Monday

Anthony BentonExcerpt from A Wrong Way Home

Anthony Benton wasn’t in the habit of walking across the lawn to his condo complex, especially not on a miserable night like this one. He valued his Bruno Magli’s too much for Anthony Benton Murderthat. What if somebody saw him slipping and scrambling through wet leaves like a snake in the grass?

Good thing nobody important enough to care about would be out here in this damned weather. It was supposed to be spring, but you’d never guess that in this godforsaken place.

Spindly young trees whipped in the wind as far as their short trunks would bend while Anthony counted the weeks backward in his mind – one, two, three, four, a month. This crap had only been going on for a month. Aggravation made it feel a lot longer.

He woke up each morning with anger churning inside him. He could barely remember when he didn’t have to think about things like whether taking the straight route across the lawn was safer than the longer way around the curved sidewalk.

How could he have ended up in such a humiliating position? Scurrying from his car to his house like a scared animal. He’d worked too hard making himself into Anthony Benton for this to be happening. Worst of all, there was nowhere in this jerkwater town he could turn for help.

What was he supposed to say? “My dim bulb ex-wife is persecuting me?”  He’d be the butt of jokes from every hayseed in the county. Too many people envied him, and most of them were dim bulbs too. He’d have to put up with their sneers or be roasted all the more. That’s how it was in a place like Riverton.

The damp mist had turned into steady drizzle. Anthony cursed under his breath and walked faster. He’d left his umbrella in the car. A month ago he would never have made that miscal­culation.

He’d have had a plan all laid out in his mind with each step thought through and not a single flaw in the thinking. He’d have grabbed the umbrella from under the driver’s seat and had it at the ready in the outside pocket of his briefcase.

He’d parked under those dripping trees tonight because the walkway to the complex was only a few yards across the macadam from there. He’d done that because of her, to cut down on the chance she’d catch up to him between the car and the building, the way she did two nights ago.

She’d shouted and sniveled and grabbed at his clothes. He was sure some of his neighbors must have witnessed the scene from their windows. She’d made threats, too, said she’d get a gun and come after him.

He’d itched to pick her up and throw her as hard as he could onto the pavement right then. He was plenty strong enough to do that. He’d picked her up and thrown her before, but that was in private. If he laid a hand on her in public and somebody saw it, he’d be the one in trouble.

That’s how it went these days with bitches like her. They’d whine about being victims and everybody was on their side. But he knew what to do about that. When payback time came for all of this, he intended his revenge to be very sweet, with an extra measure of punishment for the soggy leaves on his car. And he’d make sure payback time came soon.

The wind picked up in a chill, wet blast down Anthony’s neck. He didn’t have a raincoat any more than he had an umbrella. He hunched as far as he could into his saturated shirt collar. Payback was on its way for this, too. He’d make her regret every discomfort he’d suffered because of her. He’d commit himself a thousand percent to that happening.

She whined about how unhappy he’d made her in the past. Those days would feel like a kindergarten picnic compared to what was coming in return for these past four weeks. With tonight at the top of his list of reasons for making her sorrier than she ever thought she could be.

He hated her so much it almost warmed him up on this frigid night. He hated her so much he’d love to choke her dead with his bare hands, squeeze harder and harder till he felt her bones snap under his fingers.

As soon as he could figure out a way to kill her, he’d do it, not with his own hands because he’d be too likely to get caught. He’d have her killed without a second thought or a single regret. He knew guys who’d do that for a price, one guy in particular.

The bitch deserved it, but that pleasure would have to wait. Right now all he wanted was to get out of this rain and into the classy condo he loved almost as much as he loved his car.

Anthony flashed on an image of Victoria opening the door the way she liked to do every now and then, wearing nothing but the fur coat he bought her last Christmas. She wasn’t anything like his ex-wife.

Victoria was the kind of woman who knew how to make a man feel good. He almost smiled. Maybe it was the vision of Victoria slowly opening the coat for him that caused Anthony to relax his cautiousness for just an instant.

Or, maybe he was forced to pay too close attention to his footing. The harsh Northern New York State winter, the first since this condo complex was com­pleted, had already heaved some flagstones out of line with the others, making for treacherous walking in the cold April rain.

Whatever the distraction may have been, Anthony didn’t hear the footsteps behind him or sense the jagged rock lifted above his head as he finally reached the top of the stairwell leading down to the basement service door that was the building entrance closest to the parking area.

He did have time to feel the edge of sharp pain and hear a voice echo out of long-ago memory. It was his mother calling to him, though she’d been dead a dozen years.

“Be careful, Tonio!  Don’t fall!”

Then everything went black and silent for Tonio Bento, aka Anthony Benton, and would remain that way forever.

Find out who may have killed Anthony Benton & why. Find out who did kill Anthony Benton & why in A Wrong Way Home. At amazon.com/author/aliceorr.

Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com

Sleeping with Cheerios

The angels are in the details. And the more specific those details – the sweeter those angels will sing. Nobody knows that better than Stephen King.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-cheerios-cereal-background-image28465937When a refrigerator opens in a Stephen King story we don’t just find ketchup on the shelf. We find Heinz Ketchup on the shelf. Heinz Ketchup is a cultural icon for most of us. We see the dark red through the glass – the white crest shaped label – the metal cap that’s hard to unscrew.

King understands our mental associations with the objects of American life – especially brand name objects. Evoking these iconic associations makes a scene feel more real no matter how outlandish other elements of that scene may be. And we do know Stephen can get outlandish.

Here’s an example from the Stephen King novel Carrie. “The explosion of Toni’s Citgo on upper Summer Street had resulted in a ferocious fire that was not to be controlled until nearly two o’clock in the morning.”

He could have said “the explosion of the gas station.” But “Toni’s Citgo” is much more real. We are right there on upper Summer Street seeing and believing. However incredible the events of Carrie White’s life may be – the specificity of Toni’s Citgo helps us suspend our disbelief.

In another Stephen King example from his novel The Shining Wendy Torrance is terrified of her husband Jack as usual. She “paws through her purse and comes up with an Anacin” after complaining timidly of “a really bad headache.”

“’No Excedrin?’ Jack snaps back. He saw the small recoil in her face and understood.” We understand too and wish we could offer her a Xanax and a ticket out of there.

My personal example resonates more privately. Except maybe if you’ve had a beloved relative in pain and peril and were beside yourself with overwhelming feelings of grief and powerlessness.

This relative was my precious granddaughter and she’d just gone through radical back surgery. I was at her parents’ house exhausted after hours at the hospital. But I couldn’t sleep because I was miserable and afraid. I needed something sweet at a bitter time.

I prowled the kitchen trying not to wake anyone but all I could find was a box of Cheerios. I spirited that box back to my granddaughter’s single bed where I was sleeping – or supposed to be sleeping – while she was hospitalized.

I stuffed dry circles into my mouth as tears wet my cheeks. I woke the next morning with those circles crushed underneath me. I’d been sleeping with Cheerios. If I ever write that full scene – how much less real and resonant will it be if I say I’d been sleeping with cereal?

Find my books at amazon.com/author/aliceorr.

Alice Orrwww.aliceorrbooks.com