Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A New Day, A New Issue, and an Excerpt!

It's cold. It's windy. Arizona is not supposed to be that way. But, I can hardly complain when loads of my friends are buried under blizzards from Kansas to New York. Here it is, February, and these nasty snowstorms are hitting the country. Kind of weird to me. I am ridiculously glad I live in a state where if I want snow, I can drive two hours. If I don't, then I'm pretty safe staying where I'm at.

I wish I had a better outlook today. Due to some outstanding credit debt, bad things are happening, and I need to figure out what to do about it. I am hoping that it can be solved quickly without the judicial process. * sigh* This is a new one on me. I am not happy.

Meanwhile, my brain, while it longs to actually get out some more ideas onto computer chip, has stalled. I was on a great roll. Now, however, I think Karma has decided that I need some comeuppance for the good I was getting, and I've been hijacked. Ironic, really, because when stress hits, I can sometimes escape into writing with gusto. Nope. I am denied.

So. Due to the shitty nature of things, I've impulsively decided to post an excerpt from one of my WIPs. Feel free to read, comment, criticize, etc. Anything to help me get back on track!

The title is (tentatively( "The Play's the Thing."

Lina Harper is a Chicago barista who is good at her job, enjoys the customers, and loves the theater. With such a great musical center in the city, it's difficult not to. Her friend, Tiffany Day, encourages her to join her for stagehand work on an upcoming musical starring Lina's favorite actor of all time, James McKenna.

James McKenna loves his work, but hates the drama, especially with his on-again off-again girlfriend Chloe. After an explosive break-up, he heads to Chicago to begin work on a new musical. Acting has always been his passion, but the theater is where his heart lies.

As production begins, James meets Lina. Quiet, clumsy and capable of turning six shades of red when he speaks to her, Lina intrigues him in a new way. For Lina, it's a matter of trying to remain on her feet around the actor. But as the work on the musical thrusts them together day in and day out, there's a new sort of rhythm starting up between the two.

Okay, likely the worst summary ever, but I hope you get the idea. The excerpt is after a particularly grueling day in rehearsals, and Lina has nearly been kicked out. Enjoy.

Not being cut loose meant not being free to run away with her tail tucked between her legs. As it was, she could feel the tension in the theater that had yet to dissipate with the abrupt ending of her own dramatic scene. In an effort to get past the ugly event, she slowly moved to her knees and began working on the project she had originally been attempting to complete.
Lina tried to swallow down the burn in her throat, to make the angry flush fade from her face, but her traitorous body was having none of it. Staring hard at the floor, she blinked furiously until the tears backed off. She would not let anyone see her cry.
She could feel the sympathetic looks from some of the others boring into her from all sides. No one wanted to be in her shoes.
“You know, if you keep at it, you might discover the bones of the stagehands before you.”
Raising her head too fast, Lina startled to find James McKenna standing over her, an impish grin on his face. Her gaze flicked back down to see the rather impressive dent in the floor she had made. She was supposed to be realigning the carpet, not pulling out the insulation beneath.
“Oh... crap.”
Crouching down beside her, James chuckled once. “Don't worry. Just shove the insulation down here, pull up the panels like this... and good as new.”
The floor was complete once more, rather than looking as if an incompetent gravedigger had gotten to it. Sighing deeply, Lina ran a hand through her hair. “Thanks,” she muttered, struggling not to raise her face again and risk setting off the impending meltdown. The last thing she wanted to do was go Mount Vesuvius on James McKenna. They were getting along so well.
“You okay?”
Lina winced, still staring at the floor, and nodded a little too enthusiastically. “Sure, sure. I'm super.”
James gently touched her arm, and she slowly looked up at him. The calm, slightly amused expression on his face set her heart beating just a little faster. “If you're so super, then why are you trying to create an underground set?” he asked gently.
Swallowing hard, Lina abruptly looked away, certain that if he gave her more concern then she would most certainly cry. “It's just—well--you saw,” she mumbled. “I screwed up. I guess I should be glad I'm still here.”
“I am.”
She was going to get whiplash. She whipped her head back up so fast, she felt her neck complain. The confusion on her face served to say more than anything else. “Huh?”
Tilting his head, James gave her a reassuring smile. “I mean it. I see you working your ass off here every day, and you seem to love it.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she said faintly.
James hesitated for a moment, then reached forward and brushed back a loose strand of hair that was falling into her face. Lina froze. “You make it... I don't know, more pleasant here,” he explained. “I like knowing that you're going to be here.”
“Just because I go get you coffee every day.”
He shook his head, watching her carefully. The discouraged look on her face was slowly receding. He could tell how close to the edge she was, and he was determined to bring her back from it. “No, that's not it. Well, maybe a little,” he amended with a grin. “I like knowing you're watching me. Does that make sense?”
Lina shook her head slowly. “Not in the slightest. I think you're trying to pay me a compliment, but it's coming out a little jumbled.”
“Oh, good. You do understand.”
Lina released a quick burst of laughter, surprising herself. The utter absurdity of the entire conversation was at least enough to help her regain her self-control. She had learned that James had a quirky sense of humor, and now she felt she could safely add the ability to play to the needs of women in distress to his list of talents.
“That's better.” James sounded pleased. “I was afraid I was going to have to do something drastic to get you to smile.”
The smile remained on her lips as her mind momentarily sidetracked with ideas on what he could do to get her to smile again. Lina shook her head. “James, I don't know why you're taking the time to cheer me up, but thanks. I appreciate it.”
“It's no problem. I hate to see anyone get brutalized like that. It's tough to handle sometimes. Just be glad you're not in the cast. I know it seems he's bad enough to the crew, but you haven't had to deal with him when you can't get your lines right.” James grinned widely at her. “Look, don't worry about Robert. He'd probably have an aneurism if he wasn't trying to make everyone's lives miserable.”
Lina shook her head, still trying to get past the horrific day. She took a deep breath, then exhaled, trying to release the rest of the tension. “No, it's fine. I know I wasn't doing my best today. I'm just surprised he didn't throw me out.”
“Don't look a theater producer in the mouth. Besides, maybe he's getting soft in his old age.”
Lina snorted. “If that's soft, I'd hate to see him as a hard-ass.”
Slowly standing up, James extended a hand to Lina. With another brief look of incredulity, Lina accepted the gesture. “You ready to get out of here?” he asked, glancing around. The theater was emptying out fairly quickly, only a few people lingering behind.
“Most definitely.” She paused, looking shyly up at him. Being so close to him was very disorienting. For a second she imagined saying something witty and clever, something that might make her more interesting. Instead, she decided to accept the opportunity to leave without making a further embarrassment of herself. “Have a nice night, James.”
“Hang on.” James studied her for a full minute, his bright blue eyes searching her face. One side of his lips curved upward. “Come out to dinner with me,” he said. “I'd like to talk to you some more.”
Lina felt her eyes pop open wide, then quickly tried to hide the expression. “What—really?” she asked uncertainly. “You want me to go to dinner with you?”
James nodded. “Absolutely. After what you had to put up with from Robert, you look like you could use a drink, not to mention some food. Besides,” he added. “I like the shades of red you turn when I talk to you.”
She tried to glare at him, and failed miserably. Winding up with pursed lips and the telltale flush rising in her cheeks, she sighed. “Well, I'm glad I can amuse you at least,” she muttered.
When she tried to look away, James touched her arm, the one small touch sending a little jolt through her skin. “Hey. Kidding. Sort of.”
Lina rolled her eyes, then glanced down at herself. Her jeans and red v-neck were smeared with dust. She was reasonably sure that her hair was frizzy, and whatever make-up she had on was faded. There was no way she was dressed to go get dinner.
James seemed to pick up on her thoughts. “You look fine, you know. I like a woman who works hard and doesn't need to preen.”
As her gaze found his, Lina felt a smoldering heat rising inside of her. His eyes were playful, one of her favorite looks of his. That half-smile he wore seemed tailor-made for her, and she couldn't help smiling back.
“All right, I could use some food.”
Quirking a grin, James nodded. “Great. There's a new place just down the street from here.”

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