Friday, January 25, 2013

Hot Chips and Sand 86-90 Second Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
The secretary had been the one to break it to her then, too. HeRon hadn’t even had the decency to handle it himself.  HerOr did she mean Cliff? She blinked again as her eyes burned and her chest started to heave of its own volition. Then John’s voice came again.
“He left you a message, though. I guess he didn’t want to disturb your getting introduced to everyone. Do you want me to read the message[MH1] ? it? It’s short.”

            “Of “Y…yes. Yes, of course.” The corporate mask came up automatically now, and her voice sounded quite normal. She owed that to Ron.
“It says, `Develop system for banking network, not defense.’ Does that make any sense to you? Oh, he left all the project docs and his itinerary with me. We can go over them tomorrow.”

            Vickie sighed.  He hadA weight lifted. “Develop for banking.” He’d heard her, then. He was telling her he’d [MH2] decided on the banking system, not Fahrrad’s defense network.  She didn’t know whether to cry or be grateful.  Apparently he had some heart after all.
Maybe he cared after all. Maybe Mel was wrong.

            It turnedAfter that first day, Vickie put Cliff out thatof her mind. Mostly. She had too much to do and even though she came up to speed quickly, there was always more to learn.
Fortunately John had beenwas actually Cliff’s personal assistant, and knew far more about the business than anyone else there. In the first several weeks, she leaned on him heavily for just about everything, except jellinggelling the team, which, sure.
Sure enough, she seemed to be a natural at.

             that. John said as much when he brought in the morning mail.

            June[MH3] Belva told me you can stay here as long as you want. That’s a great compliment, coming from her. Oh, by the way, there’s a letter in there from Cliff.”
“Finally.” She had written him several times, trying to keep her tone as impersonal as possible. “Did he answer all my questions?”
“Ah, no. Actually, he probably hasn’t gotten your letters yet.”
“Didn’t he answer any of them, then?” Vickie tapped her foot impatiently. “I didn’t think overseas mail was that slow.”
“Not usually. But you saw his itinerary. I’d imagine the letters just missed him and will now have to follow him around the world.”
“Oh, come on, John. He was supposed to be in Greece for five days last week. Any mail would have caught up to him there.” She pulled out Cliff’s letter and started to read it. “Dear Vickie:  I just remembered you need to follow up with Ray about the compiler designs before the end of the month, dah‑dah, dah‑dah[MH4] blah‑blah-blah…John, this letter’s dated only two days ago! Overseas mail delivery’s not slow at all. What’s going on here?”
John grinned and shrugged his shoulders slightly. “Sometimes Cliff doesn’t like to be interrupted.”
“By a letter? Maybe incessant phone calls would break his concentration, but a few letters…”—”[MH5] 
“Now Vickie. Maybe you should contact Ray about the compilers before you forget…”.”
“Don’t digress[MH6] try to sidetrack me, John.” She paced the room, tapping the note angrily with her hand. one agitated finger[MH7] . “The least he could do is answer thosemy [MH8] questions. Doesn’t he even care what’s going on in his own company? I thought this project was important. I thought…”  I thought I was important, at least to dofor the job. Boy, was I wrong.
“Now, Vickie,” John began again.  said.
Vickie could recognizerecognized [MH9] the placating tone of voice, designed to calm hysterical mothers and overheated project heads. She gritted her teeth.  The next thingAs soon as she left he would do was call Cliff and let him know he’d chosen the wrong person to run this project. Shoving theher anger deep inside, she put on her best corporate face. “You’re right John.  ,” she said, so sweetly she gave herself a honey high. “I’m running this show, after all. . I don’t really need Cliff to make my decisions. Now, let’s see what else came in this morning’s mail.”


            * * * * *
The phone rang late that night. He answered it in one ring. “Hello?”  His voice was private, muted.
“It’s me.  Send the second shipment.”
“All right.” A pause.
“You have somethinga problem?”
“Maybe. I think she suspects something.”
There was a soft curse from the other end of the line. It echoed eerily on the weak connection. Then the other man spoke again. “It can’t be helped. Do what you can to throw her off.”
“I will.”
“I’ll take care of it when I get back.”
“Of course.”
He hung up quietly, and sat back in his chair, thoughtful. Throw her off. Hmmm. Won’t be as easy as it might look.
Then he got up and went home.


            * * * * *
After another week ofwith no more communications from Cliff, Vickie started to worry. Did he even remember she was here? Since she didn’t want to be obvious about her interest, and to be honest, she wasn’t even sure if her interest was business or personal, she asked John to go out to dinner with her, there to pump him as casually as possible.
“So, how long have you worked with Cliff?” she asked him in a suitably casual tone.
John laughed, and winked gently at her. “I thought that might be it.”
Vickie blushed.  ‘I’m busted.’  “What are you talking about? I just invited you to dinner to celebrate one month of good business, and to thank you for your help. No other reason.”
“C’mon, Vickie, I’ve worked closely with you for almost seven weeks now. I worked for Cliff for seven years before that. I know how attractive he can be to women. In fact, that’s one of my unofficial jobs,  to side‑tracksidetrack women’s affections before they can interfere with business. You’re different, though. I’m not sure anything can side‑tracksidetrack you.”

            She gritted her teeth. Oh, stars above. Interfere with business. She’d cut her own heart out before she’d let ither stupid emotions do that. Especially before she’d let Cliff see it.   “Nowthem. “Really, John,. I only think it’s natural to be curious about the man who’s given me such a greatbusinessopportunity. You seem to know him fairly well. I just thought it might make a goodbusinesstopic for dinner.”
John grinned, not fooled at all.  “Yeah, sure[MH10] .. “Naturally. Well, I met Cliff in England during that crisis in the islands ten years ago.  (*Find a more recent crisis*).[MH11]  I was a U.S. soldier on duty in London, and they pulled me as Chief of Staff to the British naval commander. I was a great administrative assistant even then.”
His grin faded and he became more thoughtful. “Cliff had dual citizenship. His dad, before he died, had been in the U.S. armed forces, stationed in England. His mom, or mum as he called her, was a blue‑blooded English lady. Only daughter of a baron, I think.
“At any rate, Cliff was an electronics wunderkind even then.from the get-go. He invented  thea nano-black bugging device the Brits used to spy on the islands’ invadersenemy and underminestopped their invasion without a single drop of blood being shed.”
Vickie gasped. blinked. “I remember reading about that. It was a marvel of the time, far ahead of anything Britain had, or the United States for that matter. Precursor to invisibility metamaterial[MH12] . You mean Cliff madeinvented that?”
“Cliff, who has always had a sense of responsibility the size of a Big Ten marching band, felt he had to personally get the thing working[MH13] .” Vickie’s eyes went wide.
Vickie’s eyes went wide. “You mean he went to the islands to fix it?”
John nodded.  “Well, maybe“Maybe he was the only one who could. But never mind that he was as scrawny as a bean‑pole then, or that he had never done anything more active than lifting a physics text. He spent the next two weeks working out and learning self‑defense techniques and training with the best undercover agents in England, and darned if he didn’t pull it off. Earned himself a KBE for that. That’s Knight of the British Empire.”

            ‘This isThat was not the Cliff Ishe’d talked with on the way up here.  I wonder whereWhere had that idealism went?’ gone?

 [MH1]Echo. Message is already used on this page (worse, in the same paragraph).
 [MH2]This actually is cutting showing for telling. But a sigh can mean many things and I wanted the reader to experience that weight lifting where the spine lifts and decompresses.
 [MH3]This name comes without explanation and could be a month. Changed to something that's obviously a name. Might consider adding some description before this of who Belva is in the future (short meet when Vickie does her initial tour).
 [MH4]dah-dah has been replaced by blah-blah
 [MH5]again, interrupted speech is signified by an em dash.
 [MH6]Digress is the correct word here but it's wrong in that it sound unnatural.
 [MH7]angrily tells. Agitated finger shows.
 [MH8]makes more immediate and personal, those questions vs. my questions.
 [MH9]Almost all fiction can be made cleaner simply by getting rid of modals.
 [MH10]The dreaded POV blunder. John's grin is something Vickie can see. John's "not fooled at all" is only something John can experience.
 [MH11]A note to myself. I need to update this reference or make up a conflict for the final cut. Either will involve research.
 [MH12]Naturally the science wonk in me had time to research and update this :)
 [MH13]This is correct--both paragraphs are John, as indicated by no close quote after "crapped out". But readers on small escreens might miss it, so I'll probably join this up for the final cut.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hot Chips and Sand 81-85 Second Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved

            Vickie bit back that thought, but on its heels came another.   ‘I wonder if he’ll give the job to Mel Pinlow.’

            She keptUnless she was the one being unreasonable.[MH1] 
She eyed Cliff from the corner of her eye, without moving her head forward, but attempted to study Cliff with her peripheral vision. . He was sitting rathersat ramrod straight.  She turned her face slightly, then took a quick glance at him.

            Cliff’s, his jaw was set like iron.  Vickie felt bad,
Doubt and started going over what had just happened in her mind. misgivings washed hot and cold through her stomach[MH2] . She had been right, hadn’t she? He was allowing himself to be corrupted by the lure of the almighty dollar, wasn’t.

            Or was she just being a prig?  Immature, naive. Of course, if it weren’t for the almighty dollar she would have food on the table or a car or a place to live. Multiply that by all of HCC’s employees…maybe she was being immature. Or, not immature exactly, but naive. Maybe Mel was right, and she and her high‑handed attitude didn’t belong in the business setting.  Maybe, that boss that had fired her had been right.  Feelings should be covered upfeelings didn’t belong at work.

            Maybe Cliff was right.  There were thousands of people who counted on himCliff for their very livelihood. How did they and all their families weigh against one small country and one lonely deposed ruler?

He slowed to turn down . His competent hands turned the wheel onto a small lane marked private drive’. drive”.
The road was even lovelier, lined with large arching trees, giving it like the appearancecenter aisle of a wedding chapel aisle[MH6] .  Then, suddenly. Suddenly, the tree-lined lane gave way to a parking lot surrounded by small ponds, and over.
Across a footbridge was the corporate headquarters for Hawkesclyffe Computers.

            ItEven from here, it was the most beautiful building she had ever seen. The low, one‑story structure blended with its rustic settingthe flowers, trees and green lawn as if it had grown there. People walked, alone and in groups, through the greenery[MH7] . down garden-like paths. No one hurried, yet the air seemed full of quiet excitement and purpose.
As Vickie got out of the car, she saw Tess and Phil come out of the building, and waved to them. They saw her and [MH8] waved back. She looked at Cliff, wondering if he was going to fire her now or later. Cliff, oblivious to her mood however, was calmly taking her suitcases from the Mercedes and transferring them to her Ford. He’d parked next to her car and she hadn’t even noticed. She started toward him, to offer an apology[MH9] .

            “You’reTess rushed up. “Vickie, you’re going to love it here.” TessShe grabbed one of herVickie’s hands and started pulling her toward the building.
At the same time Phil put his arm around her in a fatherly way and started walking back. along. “This is what we’ve always talked about for our team. , Vickie. You’ve got to see the size of the offices!” .”
As her friends shepherded her away from the man who was so frustrating, yet who’d made it all possible, Vickie turned back.
Cliff had finished unloading the Mercedes. He saw her looking at him and smiled. “Go on, Vickie.  ,” he called. “Get used to the place. We’ll talk later.”
Hope rose suddenly in her chest. Maybe he was different. Maybe he did care. She felt like laughing. At least he hadn’t fired her.
The entry was a glass atrium two stories high and as big around as her apartment. The reception desk in the center, took up maybe twelve square feet. Everything else was casual meeting and relaxing spots and nature.
Greenery was everywhere, potted plants and trees and flowers. One whole side was screened in to a depth of three feet. Inside the large area was the whirr of wings; cheeps and chirps filled the air. Birds, brightly colored and of all sizes, filled it. Water fountains were everywhere. On the other side of the atrium was a big pool. Gold flashed. Vickie peered in before Tess dragged her away—there were hand-sized goldfish.[MH10] 
Tess and Phil were right.  She did love the inside as much as the outside.  took her on a tour. Well, more they dragged her here, then there, then to the next thing, exclaiming every time “You’ve got to see this!”
The offices were quiet, well‑spaced and well lit. Everywhere she turned, there seemed to be a window, and the roof was dotted with sky‑lights. There was an abundance of greenery inside as well as out.  even once they left the atrium.
The people therein the offices seemed as fully charged as those who were outside. She found out later that the people outside were not just on break; it didn’t matter where people wanted to work, outside or in.

            She then was shownFinally Phil said, “Okay, we’ve saved the best for last. Here’s where the people from her company werewe’re working.  Even though .”
“How good can it be?” she asked as they were ‘dragged her along. “We’re the vendor’, they hadvendor…good grief.”
Her jaw dropped. They’d been given offices every bit as big and nice as those she had already seen.  safari’d through.
“And wait ‘til you see your office!” Tess grinned in excitement.

            ‘Her’Vickie managed to get her jaw retracted just in time for it to loosen again. This time it hit the floor.
“Her” office looked morewas the size of thea conference room they had been in only yesterday.  ‘Her’. “Her” desk was the size of an aircraft carrier.
Then she got the real shocker.  ‘Her’ secretary
A young, handsome blond man walked in, carrying a steaming cup of coffee. “For you.” He held the cup out to her with a smile. “Cliff says you like it plain,” he said, smiling..”
She stood there, staring at this polite, handsome, blonde young man. “Who are you?”
She heard Tess gasp, and knew that her friend’s matrimony radar was pinging off the scale, but the only thing she could think of was that Cliff knew how she liked her coffee. Cliff cared about how she liked her coffee. He must care a little about her, mustn’t he? Even if he didn’t care about anyone else?
She realized she had waited too long, and took the coffee from him. “I’m John,” he said.  “I’m your secretary. And before you ask, I type 90 words a minute.”
“I’m Vickie,” she responded in kind, “and I type 75 words a minute[MH11] .” John smiled at her. She put her coffeethe cup down on the aircraft carrier and held out her hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
He shook her hand with a firm clasp, one she returned easily.
“This is Tess, our lead designer, and Phil, our top project manager.” They shook hands all around, and Vickie started to settle back. John was so natural and friendly toward her.
She sighed. If only Cliff could be, too.
Vickie spent the rest of the afternoon touringwith John. First she toured the facilities, oohing without being dragged. She oohed over the company gym and aahingaahed over the gourmet subsidized cafeteria[MH12] , then meeting . Then John introduced her to Cliff’s people, and re‑acquaintingor at least the few dozen she’d be working most with. Then she excused herself to reacquaint herself with some of her own people whom she hadn’t worked with in a while.
She was winding the day up in the big office, and —her office, and her jaw still gaped a little at the thought. She pushed it shut absently with one finger. Wouldn’t want Cliff to catch her drooling.
The thought of Cliff made her wonder where he was. She felt better now. , more in control of herself. Maybe she could even face him without making a fool out of herself. She buzzed John. “Could you tell me how I contact Mr. Hawkesclyffe?”
John’s voice came through the phone. “Cliff? He left for England an hour ago. He’ll be gone three months.”
Vickie’s heart dropped suddenly in her chest.  He hadstopped. What? But…but he’d said they wouldthey’d talk, later.  In reality he didn’t
He hadn’t even saysaid good‑bye.  She
Her heart tried to start beating again, and maybe it did, but it felt very bad, angryso cold, like a block of ice. Her eyes stung and hurtshe alternated between wanting to pound the desk and confused. wanting to curl up into a little ball on her chair.
It was just like Ron all over again.  She still remembered that day, after one of theirShe blinked her stinging eyes. A hot, fat tear rolled down her cheek. They’d argued, ever‑increasing arguments.  She had…but she’d called his office finally, to apologize, to try to work things out. He was gone.

 [MH1]I'm going through a period where I don't think it hurts to make a character sensible :)

 [MH2]More showing versus telling.

 [MH3]I was trained to keep everything belonging to one thought together in a paragraph, and put the stinger at the end. 
Fact of the matter is, for speed-readers (who only read the 1st sentence in a paragraph), that stinger will get lost. If a sentiment deserves it, I now pull it into its own paragraph.

 [MH4]Unnecessary words.

 [MH5]The first thing I had to overcome to be published, and something I still work at, is what to imply versus what to spell out. I imply here that Vickie relaxes at the sight of the open fields, but that's based on my own commute home at the time. My experience is not universal, therefore I chose to spell out her relaxing.

 [MH6]The chapel aisle metaphor was good, but I think wedding chapel pops more. Not everyone will have seen a chapel but most of us will have an image of a decorated wedding aisle, if only from television.

 [MH7]On the reread, the image in my head was people whacking away with machetes :)

 [MH8]This is legitimate but seeing her first is not necessary in my opinion. Cliff seeing her would be charged with more importance but her coworkers can just wave.

 [MH9]Another thing I work at is not to have cars, people, or random body parts appear out of nowhere without explanation.

 [MH10]I'm an "action" writer--what's going on is more important to me that miscellaneous stuff. I like to drop right into the action of the scene. But setting is important. Think the couple-second establishing shot at the start of most television scenes. So I added this description of HCC. I had fun with it so it may have gone on a bit longer than necessary. I may trim it for the final cut.

 [MH11]I have to look up what's a good rate for keyboarding. This is from my typewriter days.

 [MH12]This second tour is probably a bit much. But I needed the information in it for a later scene so I left it here for now.