I have 'writer's block.' Usually, there are a gaggle of characters in my head, all trying to tell me their story, but lately...nothing! I've issued an 'all points' bulletin for Carrie, my heroine in First Degree Innocence. She got me to the part in the story where she's actually met the heroine, working in the prison garden, and now, she's left me flat. I think this is a great story and I really want to finish it, but... Here's an example...maybe it will catch her interest and get her talking to me again:
“Carrie.” Someone called from across the room. Susanna beckoned to her.
After placing the book back on the cart, Carrie made her way to her friends. She cast a wary glance at the door leading outside, making sure that Jet wasn’t watching. For the past few days, Jet had kept her distance, giving Carrie the time and space she requested. Carrie hadn’t told Susanna and the girls about Jet’s proposal.
“Hey, girlfriend,” Susanna chirped, slapping Carrie lightly on the back. “What’s with the anti-social behavior?”
“I was looking for an interesting book, but there aren’t any to my liking.”
“Wanna go outside for a breath of air and see if we can hear the men again? If we get lucky, they might be working in the garden and we can actually see them.” Susanna struck a hands-on-hip pose that made Carrie chuckle. She almost accepted then remembered Jet was in the outer yard.
“No thanks, I’m not feeling quite up to snuff. I think I’m getting ready to start my period, and I always feel like crap for at least a week.”
“Make sure to request your pads now,” Di chimed in. “If you don’t, you’ll never get them in time. I always ask the guards for them at least a week before I need them.”
“I hear they’re going to take pads off the list of freebies and add them to commissary. I don’t know what those of us with no money will do,” Helen said, a crease marring her brow.
“Can they do that?” Carrie asked, her jaw dropping in disbelief.
“They can do anything they want,” Susanna said. “I had to settle for using pads because they refuse to stock tampons. Can you believe that some stupid idiot tried to smoke one?”
Di chuckled. “I believe anything these days. When I got here, I found missing pages in the Bible they gave me. My cellmate told me that some of the gals tear them out and roll apple peels inside and smoke that.”
Carrie rolled her eyes. “Somehow, besides being an infraction of the rules, that most certainly must be a sin.” Her brow rose. “Smoking the Bible? Where does the insanity end around here?”
Ruthie patted her on the back. “It doesn’t. It just gets more and more bizarre.”
Carrie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The voice behind her was all too familiar.
“We were just regaling Carrie with some of the shenanigans people pull around here,” Celia explained to Jet.
“You won’t mind if I borrow her for a minute, will you?” Jet hooked her arm through Carrie’s and led her away before anyone had a chance to respond.
“Well?” Jet steered Carrie toward the door to the outer yard.
Carrie forced a smile. “Well what?” Feigning ignorance was all she knew to do.
“I’ve given you some time to make up your mind. So, how about it? You wanna switch from cellblock D to C?”
Stepping outside and shielding her eyes against the descending sun, Carrie took a big breath and released it. “I really don’t see any reason to move. We have the same recreation time. Can’t we just spend time together during our break?”
Jet stepped in front of Carrie, glaring at her with beaded eyes. “You don’t get it. It’s not about spending time together during rec. It’s about you having a better time in my cellblock than you do in your present one.”
Now Carrie wished she had shared her dilemma with Susanna. She wasn’t sure why she hadn’t. Now, the right words weren’t forthcoming, and Carrie worried when they did, they’d be the wrong ones. The last thing she needed was to anger Jet.
Better to change the subject. “Oh, look how tall the corn has gotten in the garden.”
She started to walk toward the fence, but Jet grabbed her arm and spun her around. “You haven’t answered my question, and who gives a rat’s ass about the fuckin’ corn?”
A silent gasp pushed past Carrie’s lips. Still words failed her.
“It’s your choice, but you might want to consider my offer seriously.”
“I like you, I really do.” Before thinking, Carrie’s concerns bubbled to the tip of her tongue, begging to be voiced. “But honestly, I think you need to know that I’m not into same sex relationships.” She swallowed hard, feeling a flush creep up her neck and heat her cheeks.
Jet’s eyes widened and her face softened as she broke into laughter. Finally, she calmed herself enough to speak. “Where did you get the idea I wanted you for sex?” Her mouth curved into a smile.
Carrie was certain her face was beet-red. “Well… you… you gave me that impression when you said you could be a very loving person. You put a little too much emphasis on the loving part, I thought.”
“Then let me set you straight, my friend. I don’t care how long I’m in this joint. If it ain’t got a dick, I’m not interested. If I need pleasure, I can take care of myself, so you needn’t worry about me playing grab-ass with you.”
A wave of relief swept through Carrie. “That makes me feel a lot better. You just never know these days…”
And what the heck happened to Odessa? I was working on First Degree Innocence when she intruded and started screaming about her Pa being trapped under a wagon. See:
“Can anyone hear me?” Odessa Clay screamed. Nothing in the desert stirred except the hot wind that whipped her long hair into tangles. In the distance, a dust funnel swirled across the trail. Her nails dug into her fisted palms when her gaze returned to the overturned wagon atop her father. Again, she struggled to lift the cumbersome weight.
“God, please help me.”
The veins in her neck strained to the point of exploding, but her effort to budge the wagon proved futile. Odessa, at one hundred pounds and barely five feet tall, lacked strength. She brushed the sweat-dampened hair from her brow and knelt. Her effort had only succeeded in setting the left rear wheel into a slow spin. It created an eerie whirring in the silence.
“Hold on, Papa. I’ll find some way to help you.”
His pale features contorted, and fear clutched her heart. She rose and stared up and down the trail. It unfurled like a brown ribbon between the expanse of cactus and sagebrush. Refusing to display her hopelessness, she blinked back tears.
This was all her fault. First Odessa’s mother died giving birth, and now her father was dying because of her. He wanted her to have a woman’s influence in her life—have more opportunities. Their trip had gone smoothly until Papa whipped the horses to a faster pace to combat the heat—stir a breeze where none existed. The same wheel that spun now had been the one that slipped into a ragged rut and tipped the wagon over. She’d jumped clear, but her father’s bottom half remained pinned beneath the sideboard. The accident snapped the harness rigging, and the animals ran off.
His survival lay in her hands. She rushed to the other side and pulled with all her might on the front wheel. Praying for strength, she gritted her teeth and tugged until splinters from the prickly-wooded spoke tore into her flesh. There was nothing she could do. The wagon wouldn’t shift.
Something stung above her left eye and she swiped her knuckles across it. Blood mixed with the dirt on her hand and created rust-colored mud. She wiped it on her sleeve and scanned the area for something to use for leverage. Her father had often lifted things by using a piece of wood or a log from a fallen tree. She hitched up her skirt and waded through the knee-high weeds, praying to find something—anything.
“Stay with me, Papa, I’m looking,” she called back and cast another hopeful glance at the trail. Still no one in sight. Why had they decided to make this wretched trip to Phoenix? Just because Aunt Susan lived there? Odessa’s stomach churned with fear and her mind spun in a hundred directions. What if she couldn’t get Papa out?
She spied nothing but rocks, boulders and a broken saguaro limb too rotten to use. Her shoulders sagged as she returned to the wagon empty handed. Her father’s face appeared even more ashen and his breathing ragged. A scarlet pool colored the dirt beneath him. She hunkered next to him and took his hand. Why had God let this happen?
Before she found her voice, his eyes fluttered open. “It’s all right, Dessie. I’m not afraid to die. Your Ma is waiting for me.” His weak voice faded into a cough then his face puckered into a grimace. He licked his lips.
“Do you want water, Papa?” She swiveled to fetch it, but he grabbed her arm.
“No.” He took a shallow breath. “I’m worried about you, darlin'. Find your Aunt Susan and let her know what happened. She’ll take care of you.” He moaned and swallowed hard. “All I know is she’s somewhere close to Phoenix. Tell her I’m sor….
Odessa squeezed his hand. “Don’t leave me, Papa.”
His hand went slack in hers, and a final breath escaped his already blue lips. She remembered the distinct death rattle from when her grandmother passed a few months back. Odessa collapsed across her father and wept. The day had started out with such excitement, and now she’d become an orphan. Being alone in the middle of nowhere magnified the pain of her loss. Was she destined to die too?
I was just getting into the story when she turned mute. Luckily, Meagan stepped in and filled the void, prompting me to start, Tender Return:
Meagan bolted upright. She strained to hear what woke her, but the room remained silent. “Maybe I imagined it,” she muttered.
She squinted until her eyes adjusted to the muted rays from the streetlight below her window. Shadowed movement of tree limbs outside danced across the wall, and everything took on an eerie form. The sweater she’d draped over the chair gave the appearance of someone sitting, and when she realized it wasn’t, she released a pent up breath.
“You’re such a coward.” She sagged back onto her pillow, her heart thudding.
She closed her eyes and waited for her pulse to slow. About to doze, a tinkling against the window brought her straight up in bed again. Her gaze locked on the glass in time to see the pane shiver from contact with a pebble. Meagan leapt to her feet and tiptoed across the room, embracing herself against the chill. The clock on her nightstand showed a few minutes after midnight.
Ryan Cullen stood on the front lawn looking entirely delicious in his uniform. With his garrison cap tucked beneath his arm, his cropped dark hair glistened beneath the street lamp. The army cut he shared with his peers made him look years younger than his actual twenty-three.
She eased the window up and leaned out. Goosebumps peppered her skin and she shivered. “What are you doing out there at this hour?”
She kept her voice low, hoping her parents wouldn’t hear. At twenty, she still lived under their roof, and there were rules to follow. Having a young man throw rocks at her window in the middle of the night certainly fit the ‘don’t do’ list for a proper young lady.
Ryan cupped his hand alongside his mouth. “I had to see you.”
She peered over her shoulder and chewed her bottom lip. Her door remained closed. The last thing she wanted to see was her father’s face. His burning stare had singed her more often than she cared to recall. As an only child, she was his one chance to prove to the world what a great parent he was. She loved him, but at times he could be overbearing.
She gazed back down at her boyfriend. “Couldn’t you wait until morning?”
Although mid-March, the Texas air still held a stinging chill. She rubbed her arms, certain she’d hear footsteps in the hallway at any minute. Reaching for the sweater on the chair back, she pulled the cashmere warmth around her shoulders.
“We got our orders tonight. The 36th is shipping out at long last.” His shoulders widened and he stood straighter.
“When?” Her breath hitched. “Where?” She’d dreaded this moment ever since they locked eyes six months ago over the USO serving table where she volunteered. “Wait right there, I’m coming down.”
She turned the knob ever so slowly and crept into the hallway and down the stairs, hating every creak. At the front door, she paused and glanced back up at her parent’s closed door, then opened the front one and tiptoed outside, closing it behind her. Holding her breath, she fastened her top sweater button to secure cloak-like warmth around her shoulders.
Ryan crossed the grass and bounded up onto the front porch. Even in weak light, his wide smile showed glistening white teeth and tugged at her heart. “I’m sorry I woke you, but I couldn’t wait to give you the news. I’m finally going to see some action. I can’t tell you when or where, but I had to tell you I’m going.” He tucked his khaki cap into his web belt and took her hand.
She pulled him into the shadows behind the large shrubs. “Keep your voice down. If Daddy hears us, he’ll probably arrange for you to peel potatoes in the mess hall for a month.” Wriggling against the cold, she rubbed her hands together. “You know how much I love to see you, but we’ll both be in trouble if we get caught.” She cocked her head. “Should you have left the barracks without permission…the base?”
“O’Connor is covering for me, and all I need to get back on base is my ID, but in case we get caught, let’s at least do something to earn our punishment.” His eyes mellowed with longing. He reached for her.
She took a step back. Cold air penetrated her thin gown. Her sweater did little to hide her puckered nipples and was certainly not what her father would consider proper attire for receiving guests. “I have to get back—”
Ryan pulled her into his arms and silenced her protest with a kiss. Between his spicy smell and the warmth seeping from him, Meagan’s resolve melted. She locked her arms around his neck and sagged against him. His tongue probed her lips and she parted them. He tasted as good as he smelled.
His manhood hardened against her, but instead of pulling away as always… before things moved too fast and too far, she pressed closer. That little angel on her shoulder who always provided a voice of reason seemed to have fallen off. Meagan caressed the smooth skin of Ryan’s neck, craving more than just kisses this time.
Her father’s sermon about the pitfalls of dating a serviceman flashed through her mind. She snapped back to reality and shoved Ryan away. “Not now! Not here!”
He teetered against the porch railing. “A simple ‘stop’ would work. It always has.” He rolled his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Ryan, but all I can think of is getting caught by Daddy. I want you as much as you want me, but we have to plan things a little better. I’d doubt you’d feel the same excitement at spending the rest of your tour in the brig over shipping out. As a councilman, Daddy has connections, you know.”
He nodded. “I apologize, Baby, I just get carried away around you.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets, and waggled an eyebrow. “How about if I borrow O’Connor’s Ford and we take a little ride out to Passion Pinnacle?”
Then I had the brilliant idea to start NaNoWriMo. What was I thinking, adding another title to the mix? Now I have visions of "The Locket" stirring in my brain, but I'm so intent on finishing the previous ones that I dropped out. This is going to be the one, according to my sister, that gets me noticed by a bigger publisher. Right...all I have to do is finish it...right after I finish the other three. I pray I live long enough. :)