Monday, March 7, 2011

Catch Me If You Can!

~~Yeah! The day has dawned and I'm ready...I think. Really, I've been editing and rewriting the first 550 words for the last week to get ready and I've happy with the result. Hopefully, you will all agree that my first scene of FRIENDY FIRE catches your attention.
~~For more info on Kristina's first ever blogfest go to KayKay's Corner. You'll find links to the other bloggers posting their first words as well. Hop around and sample a few.
~~Writers know that their first few pages have to hook a agent, editor, and readers to make it, so without further delay, here's the first scene of FRIENDLY FIRE.
~~Kristina suggested we include an email link for lengthy critiques. I'd love the input if you're inclined. ; )


Happiness crinkled my friend Jen’s eyes as she looked around the large fellowship hall and turned to me. “Isn’t it great, Laura Grace? I didn’t expect so many foster kids, but we have enough goodies for an army.”

She was right. The foster care respite party was a big success so far. Who knew so many would come on Mother’s Day weekend?

But why had I set myself up for this torment? I knew better, and yet here I was helping with a Mother’s Day party and scheduled to sing in the Mother’s Day service tomorrow.

Rosemary joined us. Her voice rose just loud enough to be heard over the racket of nearly fifty kids as they ran and shrieked around us. “Laura Grace, are you going to be okay?” My backup had arrived.

I winced as two kids shoved each other into me. “I taught high school for a reason, Jen. I haven’t a clue how to entertain a herd of toddlers and elementary kids.”

“I know you think that, but you love kids or you wouldn’t have taught for so long.” Frowning, Jen said, “I know you have ideas about how we can help their foster parents. Giving them a two hour break once a month is a start.”

Noise ricocheted off the block walls. “Yes, they need help, but I’m not the one for this job.” My shoulders hunched with the onslaught. A cloud of soiled diaper stench drifted over us.

A petite blond girl eyed the rest of the children from in front of the stage at one end of the room. Soft curls framed the big blue eyes staring stoically at the mayhem, but her face was closed, contained. “Who’s the older kid?”

Jen swiveled toward the child. “Samantha Smith. She’s a challenge. I hoped she would find someone to talk to.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Her fragile beauty reminded me of a student who had endured years of abuse.

“That’s the challenge. Her foster mom has six kids. Samantha isn’t difficult if she’s allowed to withdraw. Though…” Jen frowned. “She’s twelve. Acts older.”

“Most of them do at that age. Why is she special?”

Her eyes scanned the room, not looking at the child or us.

“Spit it out, Jen.”

She leaned close and lowered her voice. “Her mother was beaten to death by a live-in boyfriend. Samantha saw it all.”

“That’s horrible!” I looked at the girl again.

“I know.” Jen’s voice trembled and creases appeared between Rosemary’s brows.

Tearing up, I said, “Is she in therapy?”

“Medicaid provides a little, but Samantha needs more. How do you expect a parent to provide that on foster pay?” Jen’s frown deepened. “Just how long did you teach?”

“Thirty years. And I didn’t leave a day too soon. The kids’ problems were tearing me up. Parents don’t appreciate the gift God gives them.”  Through a scrim of tears, I looked at the girl. “Tom and I tried so long and now he’s dead and I don’t even have him anymore.” The old familiar ache seized my heart. “I can’t stand this. I’ve got to go.”

As I reached the door, I heard Rosemary’s voice. “Jen, you knew being here would upset Laura Grace. Why did you badger her into coming?”


  1. Weighty subject matter. Well written. I suggestion putting Laura Grace's reaction to the foster care respite party sooner. Something like this:
    Happiness crinkled my friend Jen’s eyes as she looked around the large fellowship hall and turned to me. The joy escaped me. Why had I agreed to help with a Mother’s Day party and sing in the Mother’s Day service tomorrow?

    “Isn’t it great, Laura Grace?" Jen still beamed. "I didn’t expect so many foster kids, but we have enough goodies for an army.”
    For me, this brings emotion into it sooner. Also, I suggestion adding more action between the dialogue to show Jen and Laura Grace interacting with the environment. Overall, I enjoyed this piece. Thanks for posting.

    Natasha Hanova

  2. Thanks, Natasha. I'm going to consider everything everyone says. This is about the 126th version, but it always gets better when someone else sees it. ; )

  3. It's a good start. It would be interesting to find out where you are going with this.

  4. I really enjoyed this beginning. I could see myself sitting down to read what happened next. I agree that I'd like to see a little more action in between the dialogue. Though I admit the dialogue is really, really good. It flows easily and for me, that makes for a good read.

  5. Thanks, Heather. It's a mainstream about a retired teacher and her life with an abused child. This scene sets the connection up.

  6. Very emotive writing. I'm a teacher and it really saddens me when I hear the things that some of the children I teach have been through. It certainly makes me feel blessed to have had a (relatively) normal up bringing.

    Thanks for visiting my entry. I can tell you it was HIM, but it wasn't good news. If it was, I wouldn't have much of a story left :)

  7. LOL! Oh, no! HIM, huh? ; )
    Thanks for the comments. I'm a retired teacher and the MC of my wip is very close to my heart.

  8. I'm glad you're writing on this topic. People need to be more aware of foster care.

    I was a little confused about what the "respite party" was and what she was doing there. Is she going to be a foster parent? I'm also not sure why she's uncomfortable being there: either she's upset because she couldn't have kids, or she wants to keep away from taking care of kids because being a teacher was too traumatic, though I don't think it's either of those things.

    Thanks for taking a look at my entry, and for following!

  9. I enjoyed reading this piece. I want to read more. Thank you for stopping by Writing with Debra and your nice comment. I am now following back. Stop by Friday for Fiction Friday if you want to read more of the Frank saga.

  10. Thank you so much for your comments on my first few words. ^.^I know my POV is a little weird, but my story is told from a very weird POV. My 3rd person POV is actually a third person telling the story as it happens.

    As for yours, wow. I am hooked. I am normally a reader of fantasy, but every once in a while I find a realistic book that hooks me. I want to know more right away, you have a gift for dialog that I do not. I’m a little confused about Laura Grace’s intentions but not horridly so. I feel like just confused enough to know you are holding something back to keep me reading. And I think that is the point.

  11. Teralyn,
    You've nailed it. Laura Grace is a retired teacher, widow, and childless. She's had no experience with children under 13 and that makes her uneasy. I don't want to slow down and explain the party too much here. I'll have to think about how to do that.
    Thanks for dropping by.

  12. Alexis,
    Wow! Thanks for the compliments. ; ) I'll have to figure out how to share that Laura Grace gets involved in all the missions of her church. Hmmm. Things to think about. And that's all to the good. ; )

  13. I really like this - and I pretty much picked up on a lot about Laura Grace from just reading this excerpt, it's very emotive. I really like it :)

    Lady A x

  14. Hi- it's nice to read this. I think you set up a lot of plots here. I've been warned in my own writing about too much backstory at the beginning. I think you balance it pretty well, but watch that it doesn't become an info dump. So for example, do we need to know right now about the murder of the girl's mom, or could it be something that unfolds gradually? Something just hinted at now.
    I hope this helps, like all advice, take with a grain of salt.

  15. Antimony,
    Thanks. I'm glad you liked it. ; )

  16. Hi, KO,
    Yes, the murder should be revealed now. There's far more horror to find out as we go and it's revelation will be unfolded slowly.

    Thanks for the comments. ; )

  17. I smell an adoption! You painted the picture of a circus of children wonderfully. Try for a first line that sinks its teeth into the reader. 'Another wave of poopy diaper snuck up my nose, and I turned to Jen.' Maybe? Nothing sets the stage like poo. :)

    This is heavy stuff, so I figured Jen was frowning. Consider taking a couple of the 'Jen frowned's away, but otherwise, keep going!


  18. Thanks, Marie. I'm struggling with the stage direction. I'm going to enjoy digging into all the comments and seeing what comes out in the wash.

  19. I'd keep reading. I was in foster care as an older kid. And a high school English teacher took me in and changed my life.

    It is a tough subject to do justice. I like that the save-the-day adoptive mom isn't a fairy god mother looking for a place to swoop in and save the day. She has wounds too, and that adds depth and complexity that appeals to me.

  20. I am a retired teacher as well! So this is what we do when we retire? Excellent!
    The topic is close to my heart.
    The dialogue lines are stark, like they need some support to give them imagery. They are needing that, to create the whole picture. I will be following you. :)

  21. I love this :) It's a subject more people should be aware of and I'd really enjoy reading on. You've got a nice balance of character development, conflict, backstory, and voice.

    Great work! Thanks for sharing!

  22. Good suggestion from writesbymoonlight. I also wrinkled my nose at this: 'A cloud of soiled diaper stench drifted over us.' hehe

    It's definitely powerful subject matter you're addressing here, and I'd want to read on for sure.

    I don't know if you should have all of what Laura Grace says in dialogue - we're seeing her point of view, so she can narrate it to us without speaking it aloud. Her friends will know the story already so they don't need her to say it again.

    Just a thought :)

  23. Amber--I'm grateful that my story has touched you in a real place. That's a goal of for this wip.

    Susan--well, this retired teacher writes. ; ) I'm still working on balance. thanks for following.

    Kristina--thanks. ; ) I'm working on the balance. This is close, but it needs some tweaking yet. And thanks for this neat blogfest!

    Trisha--Good suggestion on the dialog. That's my starting point and strong suite. I always struggle with the details, body language, and setting. Thanks for comments.

  24. Hey Zan Marie. This is definitely heavy (I'm not the first to mention this, I see). I'm also glad you're writing on this. It's good to make people more aware.

    The voice is strong and consistent. I think you do a nice job showing and not telling throughout.

    This line is important: "A petite blond girl eyed the rest of the children from in front of the stage at one end of the room." But it's also kind of bulky. Can you trim it? I stumbled over it (the only one, I promise).

    Also, I don't know your MC the way you do, but I was surprised she started crying so quickly. Had she been upset before? I thought she was just irritated and frazzled by too many little kids. Did she see her husband get killed? Is there some kind of connection she has to the 12yr old? I feel like a more typical reaction to that kind of news is more like morbid curiosity rather than tears. I'm also confused as to why Jen would ask Laura Grace in the middle of that conversation how long she had taught. It seems out of place. Probably there are connections, but I don't see them. Can you give us more?

    I really like where this is headed, and I would certainly read more. Well done, Zan Marie! Thanks for sharing :) And feel free to email me if you'd like to discuss it further. My email address is connected to my account.

  25. Hi--the emotion inherent in your subject is a compelling hook. But, without reading more, I suspect your story starts in the wrong place. You said in an earlier comment this scene was necessary to set up their meet. So, really, this scene is backstory; it feels almost prologue-ish--its only purpose seems to be to show the first time they meet and learn the girl's and LG's tragic history. You could easily have Laura Grace recall that later. Agents/editors/craft books always say to drop the reader in the middle of the conflict/action. So what is that moment in your story? What is the moment when everything changes? What is the inciting incident for your main character that sets her off in a new direction/on a new journey? Is it the first time she spends time with the girl, or talks to her? Does the girl come to live with her? Does she adopt her? THAT's your starting point. Since, on average, agents decide within 3 pages whether they're interested in your story, you don't have the opportunity for them to read long enough "to get to the good parts." You have to open with them. Just my two cents! Good luck! And thanks for commenting on my excerpt!

  26. Rosie,
    I stumbled on that sentence! Funny how it takes someone else saying it to make you realize it. ; ) The reason the MC is so taken is to be revealed. Maybe it needs to be earlier, not later. Hmmm. Thanks. ; )

  27. Laura,
    LOL! This is the inciting incident! You are in the middle of the story--believe me! There is a lot more backstory than is revealed here. And the adoption is a long time coming. The MC has to realize she can be a mother and that's a tall order. But, FWIW, you've given me a lot to think about and that's exactly why we do these nifty little blogfests, isn't it? It's all good. ; )

  28. Your scene is set really well. At first I wasn't sure what age group of ladies were involved, but obviously if she's a retired teacher it's more grandmotherly. The introduction of the girl is a little awkward. I can imagine the attention being drawn just by her unnatural stillness amongst the chaos. I assume she takes in the foster girl.
    Now, this reaction is just personal -- the sharing of the girl's situation is inappropriate/breach of confidentiality. A retired teacher might bristle at that. I mean, yes, you want to know, but have to avoid letting gossip happen. (that's my 2 cents)
    In all, a well written scene that gets my attention.

  29. An important, fascinating and heavy topic. I like the tone of your writing, but I do agree with the other commenters up there on two things: first of all, bring up Laura Grace's problem with being there first, second, introduce Samantha with a little more subtlety. Maybe have her watching the kids, only then noticing the girl?

  30. Contemporary Fiction isn't my thing but this is good stuff. Really nice to see this topic written about. It's a hard one.

    I foresee a future between Sam and Laura.


  31. Erin and Tessa,
    I'm having so much fun reading the feedback. My brain is spinning with ideas. And, Erin, you've made a great point on the revelation of the trouble. It's only the tip of the iceberg, but it shouldn't be as open. And Laura Grace hates gossip. More to think about. And I'm thrilled!

  32. Thanks, Jodi. I read all genres, but I do have favs.

  33. Hi - have a suprise for you over my place

  34. Hi! You've already got my comments on this one, so I'm just coming by to say, go Laura Grace! yay for Friendly Fire!
    +waves pompoms*

  35. Hiya! Just wanted to stop by and let you know I gave you the Stylish Blogger and One Lovely Blog award :) They're waiting for you on my page.

  36. WOW! Surprises and awards and pompoms to greet me this morning! I'm loving it. I'll be hopping over to see what's what is a bit. ; )


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