Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If You Want to Write...

I've begun reconnecting with area writers and writing groups after a long period of isolation (the reasons why are not relevant here). Something that came to me while fighting insomnia last night is this: if you want to write, you must READ BOOKS.

If you write fiction, you must read widely, both in your genre and out of it. Study styles, how dialogue is crafted, what is said and what is left out, and how the author manages to communicate images and feelings without blatantly spelling them out (i.e., no "She felt sad" sorts of sentences). And that's only a small part of what you need to study, because there are ways characters are formed, how settings are communicated, how the plot is paced, and so on.

I recommend reading best-selling authors, not because their writing is flawless (in my experience, it's workmanlike at times). However, many best-sellers have one strong, compelling aspect, and that is the plot. Now, the plot may not work for you, or it may resolve stupidly and make you throw the book at  the wall. But the best-selling author knows how to hook you, knows how to keep you reading page after page after page when you have an early meeting the next morning, and knows how to make the pacing consistent.

I meet so many writers or people who want to write who feel they have stories and characters to share, but a number of these folks don't seem to read much. I'll mention some favorite authors (well-known people, usually, in various genres), and get blank stares. Come on, people! If you want to write a novel but never read novels, it's not terribly likely you'll be able to write one that will eventually be published.

To quote mega-best-seller and consummate storyteller Stephen King***: "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

So, if you want to write, find some good books and read, damn it all!

***Disclaimer: I don't like some of King's stuff, but that's mostly because really gory horror is too disturbing for me at bedtime...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Go Ask Alice! (an excerpt to read)

Friends who have known me for years know that I've been working on a novel entitled "Alice in Shtuppingland" for about seven of those years. This long, complex story, set in Seventies Boston, is in the final edit stages and will be ready to submit very soon.

I am thrilled that I've finally gotten it together enough to revise the story. The original version had some plot and character weaknesses, which I have now (I hope) corrected. I'll have details on publication dates for Alice, I hope, within the month. For now, here's a teensy excerpt that I hope will whet your appetite.

***Excerpt, "Alice in Shtuppingland", by Barrie Abalard. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. DRAFT--MAY DIFFER FROM FINAL, PUBLISHED VERSION.***

My lust didn’t keep me warm for long. Thirty-five frigid minutes later, I was staring at a street sign, shivering upon feeling the bite of the wind off the Charles River. Neither Todd nor the tasty Doug had said anything about a Brookline Street. I rechecked the map to locate Putnam Ave and, after a short walk, found it. When I turned left, I could see the Cambridgeport Spa two blocks down.

A funky mixture of wet wool, spicy Caribbean food, and smoke of at least one illegal variety assaulted my nose. I'd never need to buy dope again—I could get high just stopping by to pick up my bread and cigarettes here.

The man behind the counter nodded. I nodded back. "I know Todd and Marcus. They want me to call them from here, and they said you'd let me use the phone." More silent nodding—the clerk must have been enjoying a mellow ganja high—while he handed the phone to me.

Todd answered on the first ring, telling me they'll meet me in five minutes. I thanked the clerk, who, of course, nodded. The store, at most ten by twelve, reached capacity when three additional customers walked in, so I went outside to smoke a cigarette. Before I could finish, two men, one short and stocky, one tall and skinny, approached, bundled in bulky parkas that looked like military surplus from the army-navy store I'd seen on Boylston.

Short and Stocky, his curly hair hanging past his shoulders with his face's lower half masked by full mustache and flowing beard, said, "Hi. I'm Todd. He's Marcus. You Just Alice for Now?"

It was my turn to nod. "Hi, how are you?"

Marcus, his Afro so large it obliterated my view of the weak sun, smiled. "We're musicians. That's how we are."

Todd bent over, howling with laughter at Marcus's non sequitur. Okayyyyy. Apparently someone else besides the nodding Rico was one toke over the line.

After his hilarity subsided to intermittent giggles, Todd stroked his mustache as if it were a pet. "Want to see the place? It's a dump, of course, but cheap, and no worse than other dumps around here. At least there’s no cockroaches. Marcus and I are gone most weekends for out-of-town gigs, so we need a roommate who'll be home more than we are. Having the place occupied most of the time scares off the burglars."

"Mmm, is crime a problem?" At the thought of burglars, I dropped my cigarette so I could shove my nervous hands in my pockets. Some big-city woman I was.

"No more than any other part of Cambridge. It's mostly property crime, not muggings."

"Not in the daytime, anyway," Marcus added.

Oh, great. That meant, this far north in January, I'd be housebound from four p.m. to seven a.m. But it was cheaper than the Y. Besides, who said it was any safer after dark near the Y?

"We've got six other calls to return. You're the first applicant, so you have dibs. Want to see it?" Todd pushed.

"Let's go," I said before my inner straight person could freak.

"You working, or a student?" Marcus asked while we three dodged icy patches on the unshoveled sidewalks.
"Working," I said, crossing the fingers hidden in my pockets.

"Your voice sounds southern. What brings you to Boston?"

"Fame, fortune, and men. Hey, why do you guys have an answering machine? They cost big bucks."

"Our manager was tired of us missing calls, so he gave us one." Marcus locked eyes with me, smiling as if he were the cat and I was the delectably-lappable cream. "Find any men you like yet?" he purred.

I was considering my reply when Todd butted in. "You got the money for one month's security deposit and two months' rent in advance? That would be, uh… “

“Two-twenty-five," I said. I’d always been quick with figures. "Yes, I have it."

"Where you working?"

"Shamrock Cab." I’d seen one moments before and I prayed these guys wouldn’t demand pay-stub verification.

"Cut the bullshit," Todd said. "You look fresh from the farm. Cabbing in the city would have eaten you alive by now."

Panic can make you tell strange lies. "I don't drive. I'm the announcer.”

Todd squinted at me. I put on a hard stare and my best tough-bitch expression.

"The 'announcer'? It's called 'dispatcher'. Now I know you're lying."

"Hey, don't hassle the chick," Marcus said. "If she's crazy enough to live with two musicians, I say we believe her."

My boldness faded. Living with two musicians. Were they expecting more than rent? I had to ask, stupid as it might sound. I liked lots of sex, but I wasn’t ready to sell myself for anything, to anyone. "I’ll have my own room, right? And we're talking a roommate situation, nothing more?"

Todd brayed with laughter. "Now I know she's fresh from the farm. Where you from, babe, Kansas? Toto living in your luggage? Shit, you don't look like the type to run out on the rent—the guilt would kill you. Hell, you could be a Combat Zone hooker for all I care, as long as you pay up the first of every month. And yes, we want a roommate, not a piece of—"

"Hey," Marcus interrupted, his voice as sultry as Barry White's. "The lady wants to hang with me, I won't toss her out for eating crackers."

Parts of me were melting under the glare of Marcus's bald flirtation. I liked him better than squat, hairy Todd. Marcus was fine.

"Here we are." Todd pointed to a sagging triple-decker painted baby-poop-yellow. The paint was peeling like skin after too much sun, and the minuscule yard lacked enough snow cover to hide abandoned odds and ends. "We've got the whole third floor," he bragged.

"Oh, goodie," I muttered while climbing the creaking steps. They were so narrow, Todd had to walk in front of me, and Marcus, behind. I could feel the man’s eyes on my ass. Not that I minded much.

"You got a TV?" Marcus asked. I shook my head. I didn’t even have a bed, just a couple of suitcases of stuff that I hauled via Greyhound.

"You can watch mine whenever I'm away,” he offered. “Just don't spill crap in my bed. Late on Saturday nights they show Creature Double Feature, with all that old science fiction shit from the Fifties. Like the giant ants. You know that movie?"

"It's called Them, I think."

"Yeah, that's it. Channel 56. Check it out. Lots of fun if you're high. 'Course, if you're high with a righteous dude, forget the TV. You'll have better things to do."

***Excerpt, "Alice in Shtuppingland", by Barrie Abalard. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. DRAFT--MAY DIFFER FROM FINAL, PUBLISHED VERSION.***

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wolves--a free short story

What follows is part of a very short story I wrote a long time ago. It's not kink or erotica, but it might appeal to you if you're into gritty and raw. Email me at barrieabalard [at] gmail [dot] com if you'd like a copy of the entire story. Here's the intro.

"Wolves" by Barrie Abalard
Copyright 2010 by Barrie Abalard. All rights reserved. Copying this to post or distribute without the permission of the author is NOT allowed.
"Homo, Homin, Lupus: Every man is a wolf to every other man."—By Roman playwright Plautus, from his work, Asinaria
Lady Luck was a slut who'd never tumbled for me. The room's tatty furnishings spoke volumes about my inability to score with the universal whore.
Guess she's not into women.
Who would've thought I'd be trapped by a raging blizzard in a North Carolina boarding house? My beater car and I would never make it to the factory tonight. Like I cared. Working in the chicken-processing plant left me slimy, not unlike the time my rat bastard brother threw me in the swamp.
I'd gotten him back good, though. Grampa had whupped his little ass proper for the crime I actually did but framed him for. He still had tear tracks on his face when I vowed to him that I'd do worse next time, if he messed with me again...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

You Say You Want a Revolution...

The Pill is fifty years old, if not today, then soon. (There's some debate about exactly when the birth control pill's birthday is.) And, boy, did it make a difference in the lives of women.

I first took The Pill in college because I wanted birth control, and an acquaintance volunteered to drive me to the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic. This was back in the dark ages when many doctors would not prescribe The Pill for unmarried women. (I recall going to a gyno in the early Seventies where I had to lie and wear a dime-store wedding band to get birth control and sexual health care. Feh!) I'm extremely happy that such experiences in my youth aren't ones that women younger than me have had to deal with. (Now, aren't you glad a bunch of us old farts protested and carried on and forced various sexual issues?) Before that, I wouldn't have intercourse at all because I knew how unreliable pre-Pill birth control was, and I had no intention of getting pregnant and thereby ending my big plans to Have A Life. (This was pre-Roe v. Wade, so abortions were simply not an option unless you wanted to go the illegal and dangerous route. Note that I am not arguing a position on abortion here, so calm down. Facts are facts.) But obtaining reliable birth control changed not only my life, but the lives of many women around the world. The sexual revolution of the Sixties simply wouldn't have happened without birth control. And I also believe that many of the hard-won freedoms we have as women wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been able to control our bodies' procreation.

Birth control for women has always been a political issue. We owe much to pioneers like Margaret Sanger (who I admit could espouse extreme views not always consistent with my own). Did you know distributing information on birth control was illegal at the beginning of the 20th century? Just telling a woman how to prevent conception (and the options were pretty limited and unreliable back then) could get you arrested. And forget sending such information through the mail--to do so meant you broke federal laws, and in fact Sanger was arrested for doing just that with her paper, Woman Rebel, whose motto was, "No Gods, No Masters."

So, today I am remembering my roots, sort of, and counting myself lucky that I hadn't been born even ten years earlier than I was. My life would have been so different if I had been, and I'm thankful that I was able to live my life pretty much the way I wanted to, even with all the pitfalls and problems. The Pill was part of what made that possible. And I believe that the inroads women made after that--careers and so on--would not have been possible without reliable birth control.

If you know a woman who blazed trails, be sure to thank her on Mothers Day, whether or not she's your--or anyone else's--mother.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Romance and Spanking and Delicious Food!

I've been neglectful in mentioning my latest Discipline and Desire book, a long contemporary spanking romance novel titled "The Baker's Man."

The book is special to me, because it's the first real novel I ever wrote. Years and several edits later, it was ready to be published. I hope you'll find the story of the four main characters--Lena, her younger sister Annie, Lena's catering rival Jackson, and Jackson's main employee, Ricky--as happy and sad and romantic as I do. Below is a description of the book, and the entire first chapter. Happy reading!

THE BAKER'S MAN by Barrie Abalard

"After years of hard work, Lena Korhonen and her sister Annie are finally making it as caterers when rival caterer Jackson Portsmouth appears, threatening their livelihood—and Lena's heart. The two are thrown together when Annie is injured, and Lena's cantankerousness requires Jackson to spank her—more than once—to bring her around. Well-matched in many respects, the two fall in love with each other when they work a job together.

But an overheard phone message after a night with Jackson convinces Lena she's put her trust in the wrong man—again—so she backs out of the catering job she was supposed to work with him. Then someone sabotages Jackson, jeopardizing his reputation and career, forcing Lena to decide if she’ll obey her heart and stand with him rather than against him. Only now, an angry and heartbroken Jackson wants nothing to do with her. Will these two stubborn people, made for each other, ever combine their hearts and lives and find a spanking-ever-after happiness? Read "The Baker's Man" and find out!"

Excerpt from "The Baker's Man", © 2008 Barrie Abalard. All rights reserved.

Karolena Korhonen turned to watch as the man in the old Mercedes sedan pulled away. She narrowed her eyes, automatically memorizing his plate number. At first she'd thought he was a potential buyer for the triple-decker across the street, but the longer he’d parked there, the more she'd wondered about his purpose. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had expressed interest in the dump. The place across the street had been on the market for so long, the metal “FOR SALE” sign was rusting.

She had sensed his eyes on her, so she’d patted her right front pocket to reassure herself that her cell was still there, available for any emergency. Although she liked her new digs, this area of Gainesborough occasionally had problems, and any stranger sitting in a car staring at her rather than going about his business made her wonder exactly what his business was.

Still, she had caught a glimpse of simply styled, jet-black hair, a strong profile, and large, capable-looking hands. She imagined his long, tactile fingers skimming slowly down her torso, trailing fire. She also imagined his hands spanking her bottom with authority, as if he had a perfect right to do so. Then those long fingers of his would explore the hot wetness between her legs…

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Best Chick Show You're (Possibly) Not Watching

If you haven't seen Men in Trees yet (ABC, Friday nights at ten), you don't know what you're missing. If you party on Friday night, just tape/TiVo the damned show and enjoy it another night. You can always get the back story and back episodes on ABC's web site.

Anne Heche plays Marin Frist, a relationship coach who flees her cheating fiance back in NYC, ending up in "man-centric" (ABC's term) Elmo, Alaska. The characters are quirkily human and the writing is great (love the dialogue!), so the show is soooo worth watching. (The occasional naked male chest doesn't hurt it any.)

I fell for Men in Trees from the first. (And I don't even like Anne Heche, so the show had one strike against it. But Heche as Marin has won me over.) In fact, now that Ugly Betty has stumbled a bit in its second season (my opinion), Men in Trees is the one show I truly look forward to all week. Well, okay, Boston Legal is the show I most look forward to--I need that weekly Spader fix--but Men in Trees is a close second. It moves me. The voiceover of the Marin Frist character at the end of each show often produces a lump in my throat.

The DH insists that the reasons I like the show (he definitely doesn't) are A, I'm crazy for Alaska, and B, it's "Northern Exposure" done as a chick show. I admit to also loving "NE" when it was on TV. But "MiT" is special. It really, truly is. I suspect it's the writing that keeps me coming back for more.

I'll have to riff on ABC's fabulous new show Dirty Sexy Money another day (Peter Krause!), because, while it is fabulous, it's just not...

Men in Trees.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Here's to All Those Who Support Writers

I've been away or otherwise preoccupied with family for the past ten days. Here's part of a post from my old blog, circa July 2006. I've updated it heavily. Hope you enjoy it!


Being a writer is not one of the easier careers to have. Getting published is damned difficult, requiring lots of work, a boatload of patience, persistence, and a fair dollop of luck.

But working with a writer--as well as living with a writer--can also be damned difficult.

So, here's to the editors, the agents, and the administrative staff who work with writers, helping them publish their works, and to the friends and family, who help the writer in more personal ways.

I live with a husband and a grown child. I know I'm not always the easiest person to get along with. I'm certain some of the things I celebrate--or feel sad about--don't make as much sense to them as they do to me. Yet, my family continues to support me, and celebrates with me when I want to celebrate, as do my friends.

I'm here to say, having people who are in your corner makes a huge difference in a writer's life. I know a number of writers whose families aren't supportive, mostly women whose husbands don't support (or who actively belittle) their career. Not having people in your corner is like trying to swim for shore while weighted down with baggage: it can be done if you try hard enough, but it's also possible you'll sink.

I currently work with two epublishers, and I have nothing but praise for them. (For the record, it's Amber Quill Press's Amber Heat and Loose-id.) These folks catch my mistakes and make me look good. And I am thoroughly grateful! (I admit I don't understand writers who get mad at editors who catch mistakes and make corrections.)

These two publishers stand in marked contrast with the publisher who filed for bankruptcy, screwing hundreds of writers they had under contract, me included. I'm grateful I only have one book in play, as opposed to those who have as many as a dozen books in limbo. As the case is in process, I can't really say much more about it. But I can say this:

There's a special rung in Hell for people like the ones who owned the business in question. Not only did they lie and spend money that wasn't theirs, but by going under the way they did, they managed to cast a pall over epublishers in general.

So I'm going to publicly praise Loose-id for their stated intent to purchase all the author contracts, giving all rights back to all authors. They are offering to spend money they don't have to spend, to help authors that may not even write for them. They don't need to buy contracts to pad their list of published books--they have tons of great writers in their stable already. Now, for various reasons, the purchase may not come to pass--but their intent is worthy of much praise.

Thank you, thank you, Loose-id!

And, while I'm at it, thank you, family, friends, and publishers I work with. Together, we create a little bit of magic that entertains and pleases those who read.

I'm asking you to do the following: if you know a writer, contact them today, to let them know you care. If you're the writer, make sure those around you realize how much you appreciate their support.