S is for Snippet (and self-improvement, sort of)

Okay, okay. I know there’s a proper post lurking somewhere in this brain of mine, but you know what? It’s buried deep, deep, deep. And I don’t have a shovel (S is for Shovel!) sturdy enough to hack my way through that much dirt.

I’m sure great hoards of A-to-Z-ers have taken advantage of “S” to post a few paragraphs of their latest writing project, and good for them, I say, but I don’t imagine most of them also made a Lucky 7 post on the same day, as I did. Some might say, “Yo, blogger person, I think you could come up with something else, don’t you? Something, you know, new, maybe?” To which I respond, “Yeah, probably. Possibly. Um. Um. Nope. I guess not. “

Others might say, “So, you vain cow, let me get this straight. If your A to Z theme focuses on the things that inspire and influence your writing, are you trying to tell us that your writing influences your writing? Because I hate to break it to you, but that sounds ever so slightly conceited.” To which I respond, “Hey, I’m just lazy, okay? There’s no need to go calling person vain and conceited! Not to mention a cow, which by the way, has no one ever pointed out to you that name-calling shows a singular lack of imagination?”

But, really, our own writing does influence us, doesn’t it? And inspire us? Even if it’s only to inspire us to learn how to use spellcheck, or figure out whether it really is acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition, or to come up alternatives to saying “she said” a million and two times that don’t involve overusing every synonym for “said” revealed by a quick perusal of a thesaurus. Our own writing inspires us to polish our skills, to add a modicum of razzle-dazzle to our tedious prose, to tweak our dialogue and wrestle our characters into more believable beings.

So how about that? I’ve talked myself into two S’s – a snippet and a self-serving little homily on self-improvement. Awesome. My work here is done, or will be as soon as I’ve cut and pasted the snippet. This is from the same WIP as the excerpt in my earlier post. Because the previous snippet was almost entirely dialogue, this one is predominantly prose. (In case you’re wondering why I’m not giving any sort of one line synopsis of the novel, I don’t blog about those details. Not yet. Not until I’m one heck of a lot closer to finishing this first draft than I am now.)


“Johnny! Wake up! You’re late! Come on, get moving!”

Johnny pulled the pillow over his head and tried to burrow deeper under the covers. He probably had a good fifteen minutes before his mother got pissed enough to haul herself up the stairs to put in a personal appearance. Her grunting and gasping would give him enough advance notice to make it out of bed and into his jeans, ready to greet her with an aggrieved “why can’t you just trust me?” look on his face. Provided he didn’t fall back asleep. Which, given his total lack of enthusiasm for the day ahead wasn’t by any means a given. Another afternoon and evening selling homestyle burgers and fries to fat tourists who totally didn’t need any more carbs or fat to bolster their stores. Being polite to whiney children who pissed and moaned about how icky everything tasted and refused to eat anything but the big slab of apple pie their parents ordered to bribe them into behaving well. Ignoring the teenager boys, local or passing through, who found it particularly amusing to squirt ketchup and mustard into their coffee cups and toss bits of half-eaten food at one another.

“That’s what you get for not getting an education,” his mother would say. “You could have gone to college like your sister if you’d kept your grades up. But, no, you had to hang around with your loser friends smoking dope and playing with that stupid guitar. Now you’re paying the piper. It’s called consequences. I told you there’d be consequences. Don’t you whine to me about working at some dead end job, I told you this is what would happen if you didn’t buckle down.”

His mother didn’t realize that what he really missed wasn’t a glowing future. It was the glowing past. He missed being one of the whiney children. He missed being one of the gross teenagers. He wanted to be the loud mouthed asshole tossing bits of burger across the diner. He wanted to be the guy liplocked to the girl with the kohl rimmed eyes and nice tits, getting nasty in the back booth. He wasn’t regretting his lack of ambition. He was regretting growing up.

“Johnny! If I have to come up there you’re going to be one sorry shithead! Get your ass down here right now! You get fired from one more job, you’re out of here, mister! You hear me? Out of here!”

Things were pretty quiet at Finney’s. Wednesday, five o’clock. The rush of high school kids was over, the dinner crowd hadn’t arrived yet. Not that there was ever a big rush on a Wednesday night except in summer. Johnny hoped like hell he was fired before then.

The restaurant was decked out like a fifties-style diner–black and white tiled floor, red leatherette booths, and a gleaming black formica counter supported by glass blocks and fronted by floor-mounted spinning stools. Old record covers and faded black and white studio photographs hung on the walls at jaunty angles, Bobby Darrin, Patsy Cline, and Frank Sinatra jockeying for elbow room with Lucille Ball, Natalie Wood, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Against the far wall, an old Wurlitzer jukebox shook, rattled and glowed as it spat out a rainbow of shifting colours along with the King’s “Blue Suede Shoes.” After three months of waiting tables at Finney’s, there wasn’t one song the juke box that Johnny could listen to without wanting to stuff his ears full of “FAMOUS HOMEMADE BROWNIES!” or “REAL HOMESTYLE CHILI!!!” During one unforgettable shift, Johnny had been forced to listen to “I Fall to Pieces” thirty times when his mother’s friend May had walked out on her husband after discovering that he’d been sleeping with his boss for the past fifteen years and had come into Finney’s to drown her sorrows in coke floats and tube steaks.

Beside the jukebox stood a life-size cutout of James Dean, long, lean and louche, hands in pockets and cigarette attached to the corner of his mouth like a rudimentary fifth limb, gazing with disdain at the empty tables.

A fug of stale fat, fried onions and overcooked ground beef thickened the air, overlaid with the cloying citrus bouquet of cheap cleaning products. The food was pretty good, though. Johnny hadn’t gotten sick of that yet. It beat the hell out of the Kraft dinner, Chef Boyardee and pizza pops that tended to be standard fare at home. His mother’s idea of home-cooked meant something that needed to be heated up, as opposed to peanut butter sandwiches or deli meats, also staples in her culinary repertoire. Once in a while, his stepdad would barbeque burgers on the back steps, but only in July, only if the weather was good and only if he hadn’t downed too many brews before the briquettes lost their rosy glow. It was hard to get too worked up about it one way or another since he usually burned the meat and took mortal offence if Johnny tried to pick off the charred bits or, god forbid, declined to eat one of the blackened patties at all. No, there were definitely compensations to working at Finney’s. In fact, if Finney would only tack up a hammock in the store room, Johnny would be inclined to say fuck it and move right in.

Becky, the girl who came in at eleven to help Mrs. Finney with the lunch through the teenage insanity shift, was sliding into her sweater when Johnny walked in. In typical Becky stupid ass bitch style, she hadn’t bothered to clean off any of the tables, leaving Johnny to deal with the unsavoury concoctions in the coffee mugs, the piles of paper napkins saturated with gravy and ketchup and who knew what all, and the salt cellars crammed with what looked like masticated french fries.

“Sorry, dude,” she said brightly as she raced for the door. “Got soooo busy. You don’t mind, right? I’d stay and help but I have this thing so I’ve gotta motor.”

She was gone before he had a chance to answer. As usual.

During the month of April, I’m participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. My challenge posts will focus on 26 of the things that have inspired me as a writer or that I’ve learned as I stumble my way toward becoming a writer. Clicky-click on the link to read some of the other bloggers who are participating in the April madness.

Lucky 7 Meme: WIP Sneak Peek

A brief time out from the A to Z-ing: I’ve been tagged by the fabulous Angie (that’s @write_me_happy on Twitter) for the Lucky 7 Meme, which is all about sharing the embarrassingly unedited snippets from your current manuscript or work in progress.  

So here’s how it works:
Go to page 7 or 77 of your current MS/WIP
Go to line 7
Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences or paragraphs and post them as they are written.
Tag 7 authors and let them know. 
So, without further ado, I give you seven paragraphs from my current WIP, a novel set in the present day and featuring characters who, it would appear, swear rather a lot. Oops.

Johnny turned to the girl. “How about you? You ordering any food?” Please say yes, he thought. Please don’t be one of those scrawny anorexic girls who puke in the bathroom and scare the bejesus out of you when they finally take off their voluminous sweaters to reveal their freakishly skeletal chests and knobbly elbows.

She peered up from her menu and smiled at him in a way that made him wish he’d taken the extra four minutes to wash his hair that morning. “How’s the veal?”

“Veal is baby cows who haven’t had a chance to experience life,” said Johnny, pencil poised over his order pad, “so it’s fucking awful. The mac and cheese is good, though.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” asked the guy she’d called Sasha. “You one of those vegetarian vigilantes? If you’re so damned principled, why do you work here?”

“Mac and cheese sounds good.” The girl slammed her menu closed and passed it to Johnny. “Don’t pick on the waiter, Sash. It’s not him you’re pissed at.”

“I am now. Can you bring us some waters? If it wouldn’t offend your belief system too egregiously?”

“Sure.” When hell freezes over. What the fuck did egregiously mean anyway? Who used words like that? Johnny wondered if the girl was sleeping with Sasha. She’d ordered his coffee. That was pretty familiar. Johnny had never ordered a coffee for someone he wasn’t sleeping with. Other than his mother. And his sister. And his friend Des that time when Des had to run out and grab some cash from the bank machine. Not that he’d ever ordered coffee for someone he was sleeping with, either, for that matter. So, either way, it didn’t really prove anything. 

And the seven writers I’m tagging are:
If I’ve tagged anyone who’s already been tagged — try not to hate me. If I’ve tagged anyone who would prefer not to have been tagged — ditto with the no-hating efforts. If you wanted to be tagged and I didn’t tag you, hit up one of these fine seven!