Friday, June 28, 2013

Hot Chips and Sand 196-200 Draft Comparison

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

Vickie returned from lunch irritable. She tried to work, but couldn’t keep her mind on the simplest task. So she got up and went to the gym.


            ItWhich reminded her of Cliff, but at least it wasn’t the men’s locker room. That would have been intolerable.  She hadShe’d brought some old baggy sweats from her apartment, and climbed onto the stair machine. She was slogging away on her second climb when John entered.

“Thought I might find you here.”

“Why?” she puffed.

“Cliff does the same thing when he gets worked up. He works out. Hey, you’re doing that wrong, you know.”

She threw him a look that, if she had been any less tired, would have wilted him. “Really? I didn’t think you could do this wrong.”

“Oh, sure. You have to stand straight, otherwise you’re not getting the maximum benefit out of it.”

She straightened her posture, found herself worn out in five minutes, and stopped.

John, who had been warming up on the cycle, came over. “Great. Now, what weights do you do?”

She shrugged. “Oh, you know, the manly ones. Two hundred pound bar‑bellsbarbells, and the like.”

“Okay, since this is your first time, let’s start over here at the machines. Free weights are more effective, but you need to have some strength built up first, or you might hurt yourself.”

“Thanks, Arnold. What else?”

“Hey, I built Cliff’s body, I can do yours.”

“I don’t want a body like Cliff’s.” Yes, I do, said her libido. She shushed the traitorous thing.

“What was that?” John looked over his shoulder.

“I said, what is that thing there?”

“This is the first machine I want you to try. We’ll start with twenty pounds. It’s for your back muscles, this set here, feel them? . Okay, now pull smoothly, and don’t let the weights fall on the way back. Good.”

While she worked out, John kept up a steady stream of conversation. Tess had sicced him on her, to distract her from the painCliff, Vickie thought acidly. But, turnabout was fair play, so as long as he was talking, she asked him casually about he and Tess.


            “So I understandheard you and Tess dined at Deliano’s had a romantic dinner last night. Did they burn the crust at Deliano’s again?”

John just grinned. “I wouldn’t have noticed.”


She started pushing the weights savagely.

“Hey, take it easy. You don’t build strength that way, you tear muscles.”

John took her through machines for her biceps, triceps, pectorals, gluteus maximus and muscles she couldn’t even find, much less remember the names of. When John finally called it quits, she felt like a colander full of spaghetti, she was trembling so hard.

“I’ll remember.”  Every time I sitshe sat down I’llshe’d remember. Or try to stand. Or lift something. Or do anything.


            She was sore, but felt But her mood lightenhad lightened for the first time since Cliff had gone.  Though just a short while ago, it felt like years.  She laughed, a little rusty, but mirth nonetheless.  A sudden twinge made . The next day, when her grimace.  With John training her, her body would make it feel like years, too.


            The same thing happened the next day.  Finally her irritation led herblack mood hit she went faster to the gym, where she hit the stair machine, did a . A mile running, and lay a whilefew minutes in the sauna.  Refreshed, she was able refreshed her enough to finish her day’s work.


            The day after that, when Three days later, John told her she gave in to her mood a little faster, John was waiting for her in the gym.  He coached her through the weights, which were somewhat easier this time.  Except then he expected her to do them all again.  Thus she was unhappily introduced to the concept of sets as it applied to physical training.


            Two days later it was the same thing.  It was a little harder today because she hadn’t slept well the night before.  But she made it through with John’s help, and sleptwas doing better that night.  The next day she did over one hundred flights of stairs on the machine, and ran another half mile.  The day after that she did three rounds of weights.  John smiled, pleased.


            “You’re coming along well, Vickie.  . “Your stamina has improved significantly. . That means your cardiovascular system is stronger.”


            “Then why is it my arms hurt?” “I’m even getting muscles.” She flexed one biceps, rather proud she’d gotten rid of the small knot there.  At least it wasn’t flab.


            “All your muscles are getting a work out.  But your body is responding well.  You should be seeing some real results next week.”


            “Great.  I’m looking forward to decking you.”


            He ignored her.  “The only person I’ve had respond faster is Cliff.”  HeJohn wiped his hands on a towel.


            “Wonderful.  He seems to beat“Yeah, he beats me in everything. No, wait. There is one thing. I probably have more hair on my chest.”

A week later, Vickie was finally packing the HCC300 prototype, all its software loaded up, for beta testing in Middle Yemen. The chip factory there should bewas almost done, and ready for. When everything was set, the HCC300 would go into mass production of the HCC300.  The computers would then be shipped back here for software bundling and sales.

Vickie hated her own part in it, but at least she wasn’t involved in hadn’t worked on Fahrrad’s national defense net.  Cliff had taken the reins on that when he got to Middle YemenThat was all Cliff.


            All communications were handled through John.  She hadn’t talked to Cliff, nor had he asked for her.  Although she knew he was aware she hadn’t left.  She saw many hardware and defense net requisitions and specifications coming through the office, but nothing on the HCC300 general software or development.  She didn’t think he’d just forgotten it.  John must have told Yet she could only seem to remember him she was still there.

            In a way, that was more painful than if he had yanked the project away from her.  He still trusted her with his company, his people.  Or he didn’t care.  Or he was so certain of his charisma, he knew she would do her best job.  Why was it so easy to find less flattering reasons?  And why did the most hopeful reason occur to her first?


            She avoided her thoughts most of the time, but on some days, she couldn’t help it.  Like today, when the HCC300 prototype and all its software loaded up was packaged and ready for shipping to Middle Yemen.  No matter how often she flogged herself with her own gullibility, with Ron, with Fahrrad, Cliff rose in her memory the way he had been at the park, and the zoo. Just a little boy, who had found a friend at last.[M3] 

Vickie sighed. If she kept this up, she wouldshe’d not only be here when he came back, but she wouldshe’d be apologizing to him. She had finished all but some very small details, which Tess and John had promised they’d take care of. Tess, of course, was staying. Vickie was packing up this weekend. She didn’t have to be back at workFitzwater until Wednesday, but she was planning on taking a few days off when she got home to relax.  Two days ‘til Saturday,’ she thought.  ‘Then. I’ll pack up and go home, and Sir Humphrey Hawkesclyffe in all his radiant glory will fade from my mind like a bad dream. Sure he will.’would.

 She okayed the shipment and watched as the special couriers carefully lifted the large freight box and carried it away. She turned from them before they could see her eyes glistening. Even if she managed to rout Cliff from her mind, every day she wouldshe’d still see reminders of him.  every day. The company appeared daily in the stock columnmarket columns of the news, the man himself was often quoted in the trades. With the arrival of the new computer and DALE chip on the market, she was sure, the exposure would only increase. Maybe she should find a new profession. Like stunt pilot.  Or maybe the armedArmed forces. ? She laughed ruefully. The way John had trained her, they’d snap her right up.

She’d been standing there too long. Some of the employees walking past were staring at her strangely. Well, she felt like a stranger now, too. She shook her head, remembering it was less than three months ago, her first month here, when she felt like she was home at last. Ironic.

Vickie walked slowly to the gym for a workout. There was really nothing much more for her to do. She avoided John and Tess, feeling like a wet blanket around them. She couldn’t even face a sundae any more. After she worked out, she returned to her office and buried herself in detail. She worked until 9:00, went home, slept poorly, and did it all over again the next day.

Finally it was Friday. She said good‑bye to all her people, then all of his. Tess and John were cleaning up some detail off‑siteoffsite, so she was spared the hardest good byes of all.  And she wouldBesides, she’d see John and Tess off and on, after all.  Butthem around—though it would never be the same.

She dragged herself home.  ‘No, my…no, to her apartment, she corrected herself.  My. Her flat iswas her home.  She started packing, but found herself too tired. As she got ready for bed, an abbreviated version of her normal routine, she promised herself she would get up early tomorrow to do it. Tomorrow she would pack. Tomorrow she would go home. Good‑bye, Tess. Good‑bye, John. Good‑bye, Cliff.




            * * * * *

The man at the desk waited tensely. If the phone did not ring today, he would have to call some of his most highly‑placed contacts.

It just wasn’t usualwas highly unusual not to hear at least something. The man knew the other’s disposition had been sour when he hadhe’d gone, but now he wondered just how muchsour.

At eleven p.m.., worried, he packed his things up to go home.  He was very worried.  He hesitated, just a little while longer. Maybe the phone would still ring.

It did. The man grabbed it immediately.

“Where the hell have you been?  What isWhat’s going on over there?”

There was static from the line. Then the other man’s voice came, flat and weary. “The old system is gone. I had to install the new one.”

The man’s tirade died immediately. “Then it’s hopeless. Why did you do that?”

“He was paranoid enough to pick. He picked up some traces fromof  my hacking with the old system. . But there’s still a chance.”


“I only connected the local system. And I know how to break it.”

The man was even more concerned. “You said you’d get out as soon as everything was ready.”

Crackling obscured part of the reply. “…finish this myself.” Then the line went dead.


            Oh, God.  I hopeThe man stared at the handset. He hoped it isn’twasn’t as bad as I think it ishe thought.


 [M1]The idea of the humor was here but it didn't click. I took most of it out.
 [M2]I left the first training session in but the rest made it into a fitness book. Research and knowledge are good, but it's a novel. The emphasis is on character, motivation and conflict, not their workout routine.
 [M3]This is a great example of how event hopping can get confusing. She's reflecting on two weeks from now, then two weeks ago, then she IS two weeks from now...I cleaned out considerable clutter. Which will make it easier to see dust and damage in the next edit pass.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Crush--Guest Barb Meyers!

Here's the smokin' excerpt Barb sent along for your reading pleasure!

From Barb Meyers's The First Time Again
There’s no defense when love blindsides your heart. 
The Braddock Brotherhood, Book 3 

There was enough light from the half-open door to see what he was doing. His hands shook. He stared at them for a second in amazement. He got the condom on in record time anyway and got back to business.

He ran the flat of his hand down her tummy from beneath her breasts to her pubic hair. He kissed her above the navel.

“You’re hot,” he whispered. Her skin felt like a fire burned beneath the surface.

“I want you.”

Trey froze, his hand stilled where it was, splayed against her. He could see the depths of her amber eyes. She’d said the words clearly, directly.

That was new too. Blatant honesty turned out to be another turn-on for him.

He kissed her again. Slow and hot. It was a wonder the bed didn’t burst into flames, he thought wildly. He pressed as much of her as he could as close to him as it could get until he couldn’t stand it anymore.

“You’ll have to get on top, darlin’.”


“Come here.”

He rolled to his back, taking her with him. It took her a second before she acted on his direction.

He watched, fascinated, as she braced herself above him and ever so slowly sank down against him, taking him inside her bit by agonizing bit. He didn’t realize he was holding his breath until he let it out when he was completely, deeply inside her. She’d sunk her top teeth into her bottom lip while she’d lowered herself onto him. But once it was done, he could feel her relax a bit, although she was sheathed around him so tightly he wondered how long he could last.

She gave him the most beatific smile he’d ever seen, like she’d accomplished something magnificent and she was immensely proud of herself.

“Wow.” Whatever was happening, he got the idea it was more about her. What she needed. Or, as she’d said a minute ago, what she wanted.

“What do you want, darlin’?” he asked, his gaze never leaving hers. He stroked her thighs, her tummy, her breasts.

“You. I just want you.”

“You’ve got me, babe. Now what are you going to do with me?”

That brought a choking giggle out of her. “To tell you the truth, I have absolutely no idea.”
He grinned at her. “I’ve got a couple. Want to hear them?”

The First Time Again now available at Amazon, BN, Samhain

The First Time Again
There’s no defense when love blindsides your heart. 
The Braddock Brotherhood, Book 3 

Once Trey Christopher was the small-town golden boy. Now he’s just another burned-out, washed-up ex-quarterback with a bum knee, a tarnished reputation, and a simple wish. To be the kind of man he can face in the mirror.

Moving back home is a start, as is hiring a down-on-her-luck local woman to help him out around his grandparents’ old homestead.

The last thing Baylee Westring wants is to clean house for a high school crush who barely remembers her name, but Trey’s money will finally top off her get-out-of-Henderson-forever escape fund.

Before she hits the road, though, Baylee’s got something for the man she still finds wildly attractive: the virginity he almost—but not quite—took during a drunken teenage party.

Neither is prepared for the emotional impact of that encounter. But just when Baylee dares to believe in happy ever after, an old enemy turns up to even the score. And Trey finds his heart left in the red zone, with his last chance for love ticking down to zero.

Warning: Contains an overeducated housekeeper who’s open to receiving a pass or two, and an ex-football player who can’t seem to stop himself from showing her all his moves.

Return to Barb's blog post

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hot Chips and Sand 191-195 Draft Comparison

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

Chapter 12Twelve



            She informed JohnVickie went back to work with Cliff’s tacet blessing—all communications were handled through John, who must have told Cliff she was still there because no project managers showed up to take her place. In a way, it was more painful than if he had yanked the project away from her. Didn’t he didn’t care she’d come back? Or he was so certain of his charisma, that he knew she’d do her best job?

She did her job but inside her stomach was a blizzard and she walked around in a cold daze. Last minute SNAFUs extended her two week estimation into three, then four but she just couldn’t shake the feeling of her intentions first thing thatwrongness. Cliff was gone. Though she didn’t want to, she missed him desperately.

Maybe she hadn’t walked away soon enough. [M1] 

Or maybe she simply hadn’t cut her ties completely enough. She’d come back to do her job, but it was  his company. He was everywhere, from the company pictures on the walls to the ghost of him at the half-dozen restaurants she frequented for lunch.

So obviously, she needed to make a clean break.

The Monday. “I’m leaving once after she’d made that decision she marched into John’s office. “We deliver the HCC300 is delivered, John.”  in two weeks. I’m leaving immediately after that.”

It was supposed to be a catharsis; instead it felt flat.

“But Cliff is expecting to talk with you when he gets back.  He’s very impressed with your work here, and I know he’d like you to stay.”


            “I wouldn’t like it.”


            “He “Not happening.”

John’s expression conveyed his sympathy. “He had to go, Vickie.”


            She was too depressed to be irritated by his deliberately calming tone.  He “I know he thought he did.”

“Look, I understand what you’re thinking.” , really I do.” He spread his hands in a gesture of appeal. “But there are some other thingsfactors you should know about.”

“Like how much profit he’ll make?” Vickie arched an eyebrow.


            “Oh, Vickie.  Personal profit is meaningless to Cliff, you know that. . But do you know how mucha lot of the company Cliff hasis wrapped up in this new HCC300? . This industry is so competitive. New products come in a blizzard. Cliff has been making machines now for six years, and he’s only introduced one new model since the first line. That’s not enough to remain in business long. He’s milking the cash cows for all they’re worth, but those cows are beginning to run dry.


            “So heHe absolutely must begin production of the HCC300. The big boys aren’t far behind us on the DALE chip; Cliff’s breakthrough was as much serendipity as genius.”

“Yes.” John had since learned the whole story from Tess, so there was no point in being secretive.  “Cliff knows what we went through; he was there.”


            John shook his head and sighed.  “Vickie, try to understand. “But you’re two people. Hawkesclyffe Computers employs over five thousand people worldwide. Cliff is ultimately responsible for those people’s jobs, their livelihood.  He hires only the best, and those people havelivelihoods. Without a right to expect Cliff to have their best interests in mind, too.profit, Cliff can’t do that. The DALE chip is best produced from the mix of sand, heat and minerals in Middle Yemen, and making it there will give us all a profit margin with room enough to breath. This was not an easy decision for him to make.”[M2] 


            “John, I know what you’re saying.  I realize all this; I’ve been thinking about it, too.  But I just can’t see any other way out of this.  I’m sorry.”  She had been betrayed.  By her own wishful thinking more than anything else, but she could never face Cliff again.


            “Look“John, I’m sorry. I understand and I even applaud Cliff for making the tough decisions. But I can’t live with the choice he’s made.” She turned to go.

“Wait, Vickie. When Cliff left, he had something else he was up to, something he wouldn’t tell me anything about.  On my honor, I don’t know what, but itIt may change your mind.  .”

She didn’t turn back. “I doubt it.”

Cliff is an honorable man, no matter what you may think. Will you agree to wait until he gets back before you leave? Hear him out, listen to his side of the story?  He’s due back soon.  You don’t have to leave as long as you’re on the payroll, after all.”?”


            Vickie sighed and shook her head.  John looked disappointed, but not surprised.  He would have a few weeks to work on it.


            “When he wouldn’t listen to mine? No.”

She left.

Within two weeks the project would be by and large complete, even the modifications adapting it from bank security system to a national defense network, needing only to be tied up and delivered. Vickie mechanically went through the motions, holding meetings here, negotiating contracts there. To most outward appearances, she was at the top of her form.  Only Tess could read the numbness behind the warm, crisp exterior.  She said as much during a sundae break.


            “Goodness,Tess called her on it during a sundae break. “You know, you’re acting as warm and efficient as always. But I can see the numbness in your eyes.”

“Eat. But it seems ages since we’ve been able to talk together, just the two of us.”

“Yeah, it has been a while. You know how it is, working for a certified genius like Cliff. Never a dull moment. Always on the go.” Vickie gave Tess her best smile.


            “How sparkly white your teeth are.” Tess dipped up glossy fudge. “Really contrasts with your dull red eyes. I suppose you have some great times working for the certified genius, huh? Must be nice.”

Vickie closed her annoyingly red eyes. “Pretty nice, yeah.”


            “Say, Vickie.  You know,“And the wall goes up. Vickie, I’m concerned, but if you won’t talk…well, I have a problem and you’re my best friend and I need to talk about it. Okay?”

“Of course.” Vickie opened her eyes. “You know I’m here for you.”

“Thanks.” Tess smiled briefly. “You know John and I, well, he asked me out a weekfew weeks ago. We had a terrific time, but and since they we’ve gone out some more.”

“Good for you!”

“But frankly, I’m also worried. You know how office politics are. I’d hate for the harpies to make a mess of us.  I know you’ve thought a lot about this, after Ron and all.  How do you suggest I play this one? And don’t tell me not to get involved; I’ve got a feeling this one’stime’s for keeps.”

For keeps.  VickieVickie’s heart squeezed the pain back.  At least someonein her chest. She breathed through it. Tess was happy.  She tried not to be a wet blanket, for the sake of her friend.  “Aha, so that’s what it is.  , that was the main thing. “I knew there was something up! Says right here in the rules ‘Tess does not buy sundaes unless there’s an ulterior motive.’ So, how serious is it?” [M4] 

“Serious enough to have me start looking into joint housekeeping.”

            “Why Tess, that’s wonderful.“Awesome! But you’re right to be concerned;  mixing your business and personal life is an open invitation to people like, if Mel Pinlow tofinds out he’ll make bothyour life miserable.” She thought briefly of Ron, then more painfully of Cliff. What advice could she give her friend? “Let me think about it, okay?”


            “Well, one of the problems“But isn’t there anything you’d never do again in an office romance? John and I are just starting out and I don’t want to screw it up.”

“No. Yes. Ron and I used to have was bringingwould bring our disagreementsfights into the office.  You know, a fight we started on Sunday verySunday’s personal disagreement often made its way into Monday’s memo and Tuesday’s meeting, although disguised as a business problem. I thought at the time that the solution was to completely separate my business and personal life.”[M5] 

“I remember. You said you’d never date a co‑worker again.”


            “I’m not so sure anymore, Tess.  I don’t think a person can separate their career and their home life without becoming slightly schizophrenic.” Vickie sighed wistfully. “You certainly can’t separate your feelings.”


            “So what“What can I do?”

“The only thing you think now?”


            “I think you have to staycan. Stay professional. Of course, there is some disagreement as to what is professional.”


            Tess considered.  “Well, I suppose it’s“Isn’t it ‘dress for success’, a go‑getter attitude, but keep your feelings to yourself. ? You know, like Mr. Spock selling used cars.”

Vickie smiled in spite of herself.  “That’s like saying anyone who“Yup, and if you can throw a tantrum you can be Toscanini[M6] .  No, I thinkOr maybe, just maybe a professional is someone who takes all the circumstances they can know into account and does theirthe best work possible under those circumstances.  A professional, if they’re not feeling well, tellsshe can with what she’s dealt. If you’re sick, tell the client ‘I’ve got a cold, I feel miserable, but what can I do for you.’


            “And dress for success?”

“Sizzle. You’ve got to sell the steak along with the sizzle.  Dress for success is the sizzle; a moronalongside. A monkey in a Brooks Brother’s suit will soon be found out for what they are. is still a monkey. I guess the bottom line here is you do your job like you’ve always done it, some times better.” , if you can.” Vickie shrugged. “The only difference is you drive home together.”

“But what about the rumor‑mongers? I don’t want people saying nasty things about John and me, especially if we have to work with them.”


            “Tess, the only“The kind of people who are going to do that—well, I don’t think you’d? Why care about their opinion anyway.”




            ? Do you remember how Mel always brown‑nosed around Jerry Fitzwater, then bad‑mouthed him behind his back?”


            “And not“Not just Jerry,”.” Tess frowned.

            “But I don’t think we have anyone “No one like that here at HHC.”


            Now“So you’re safe.”

“Sure.” Tess nodded, then looked shrewdly at her friend.  “I think you’re right, Vickie.  But I wonder if it’s really honest on your part.  This is quite a turn around from what you used to say.  What about“Despite Ron?”

“Ron?” Vickie blushed. “What aboutdoes Ron have to do with this?”

“When Ron broke your engagement andhe ran out on you, you swore a mighty oath you would never indulge in an office romance ever again. Now you’re saying it can be done. What changed your mind?”


            “Well, I’ve done a lot of thinking about it since then, a lot of maturing.”  She shrugged.


            “I’m more mature?” Vickie shrugged.

  “Lame, Vickie.  Out with it.”


            Vickie sighed.  winced. “I hate friends. Especially smart ones. Oh, this is not going to be easy.” She took the plunge. “Cliff did it. Cliff changed my mind..”


            “You see, before he left for Middle Yemen, well, we got to know each other better.  A lot better.  Among other things, “I knew it! All those late nights and working lunches.”

“And more.” Her cheeks heated. “Well, I broke down crying in front of him. I thought I was history, but that night he told mesaid some of the same things I’m telling you now.  And I started thinking about them.” .” She shook her head. “I don’t know how a man who is so smart can be so dumb.”

“You meanbroke up? But he’s perfect for you and Cliff are…both of you…”.”


            “Not any more.  “Tess, please. He’s smart, he’s sensitive, and I think I’mmay be in love, for life…but I just can’t hack his attitude of ‘business at any cost.’ It’s just too much like Ron. I can’t handle Cliff’s going back to Middle Yemen and dealingdoing business with that slime Fahrrad.  I just can’t.  How can he do that after what Fahrrad did to me, and knowing what Fahrrad will do to Middle Yemen?”So yes. We broke up.”

“I’m sorry.” Tess turned back to her sundae.



            Vickie felt bad for spoiling Tess’s good news. But she’d asked.

 [M1]Futzed some more on this since last week.
 [M2]Vickie making John's point for him doesn't make sense. John making the point while Vickie sticks to her guns does.
 [M3]POV issue, from deep 3rd in Vickie's head to Tess's head or omniscient
 [M4]As originally written, it was more an information dump in dialog format. I tried to make it more like two people with separate agendas. This whole couple chapters will take more work.
 [M5]And this was more like a lecture.
 [M6]I know 99% won't get this reference but my husband likes it :)
 [M7]This is a sample of where one "show" (Tess glared) is better than a ton of words.