For Love

Michelle counted her tip from the last table and scoffed at the shrapnel, but she’d take what she could.

“Shelly,” ‘What a ridiculous nickname.’ “can you see to table six?”

“Sure thing Ronny!” she called back.

‘Two can play at that game Sharon.’

She worked in a fancy little restaurant, not that that made a difference to her wages, she still got paid next to nothing. Table six was two gentlemen, laughing loudly and already red-faced from lager.

“Can I get you any starters gentlemen?”

They looked up at her and her reaction was instant: “Shit!”

Probably not the best thing to say to customers but she thought it would be okay for her fiancé to hear.

“Umm…” was the only sound Ross made.

A few facts ran through Michelle’s head: A) this was her betrothed who B) didn’t know she worked in a restaurant and so C) she needed to get away as quickly as possible.

“Michelle?”

“Nope.”

She began walking away. Where to she didn’t know (she had two hours left) and with Ross following her it wasn’t like she could hide.

“Honey?”

“Nope,” she kept repeating as if Ross would give up and think she just had an evil twin sister. Through the restaurant they raced, Michelle now lightly jogging as other patrons watched.

Finally, she reached a storage cupboard and hurried inside slamming the door behind her. However, given the door obviously didn’t lock from the inside she was soon joined by Ross.

There was an awkward minute with Michelle staying on one side of the small cleaning room and Ross on the other.

“So…what are you doing here?”

Michelle was already biting at her nails.

“I don’t work in an office,” she whispered.

“Are you a waitress?”

“No!”

“Then why are you dressed like a waitress?”

There was a pause and her mind drew a blank.

“…Because I’m a waitress.”

He laughed and she covered her face with her hands, sitting down on an upturned bucket.

“Hey, it’s okay if you’re a waitress. How…long have you been a waitress?”

“Umm…since I was fourteen.”

“Since we’ve been going out!?”

“Well you have such a fancy sounding job and I got so worried you’d not like me unless I had an office job too.”

“And so, you lied?”

She nodded.

“For the six years of our relationship?”

“Well the longer I left it, the harder it was to…you know, tell you the truth.”

Ross laughed again, and she winced.

“Please stop laughing.”

“Why not? This is such a you thing to do. To be so awkward to keep up a charade for six years.”

She scuffed her work shoes and they left a black mark on the floor.

“Do you really think I’d hate you for being a waitress?”

“Well not anymore…now I think you’ll hate me for lying.”

Ross chuckled again, shaking his head at the ridiculous situation. He strode across the small room and kissed her.

“I’m marrying you because you’re crazy enough to lie. Just…no more secrets Michelle.”

“Well if we’re not having any more secrets then you probably should call me Amy.”

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An Important List

1.       That feeling in your chest when cheesy music swells Love tree

2.       When you prove a smartass wrong

3.       Watching crappy TV

4.       And then a movie that makes you cry

5.       Cats

6.       The fluffy ones especially

7.       Getting drunk enough that you’re just casually swaying

8.       And laughing so hard you can hardly breathe

9.       But most importantly

10.   Remembering that someone out there is there for you

Writing Tip: 208#

Helen Benedict

‘Another common mistake is to fall so in love with your research that you stick in facts all over the place, thus clogging the narrative and making you sound like a show-off: “She donned her necklace, made of a rare blue amethyst discovered by Richard Burton in the mines of Eastern Peru, and went down to dinner.” This leads to fiction filled with factoids but without a believable character in sight.’

-Helen Benedict

Writing Tip: 206#

Leo Babauta

‘You don’t have to write historical fiction to find your story ideas in history. You could use reports from a disastrous battle and its historical fallout, for example, as the basis for a fantasy battle and its immediate and lingering effects in your own fantasy novel.’

-Leo Babauta

Leonora Meriel – Author Interview

Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.

In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.

I had the pleasure of interview Leonora back in January

***

What inspired you to write Unity Game?

I wanted to write about New York City, where I had lived for several years and where I started my career. However, I needed to find a new perspective on the theme, and it felt right to draw parallels with an advanced planet far from Earth. This is how the novel became Science Fiction, and then I decided to go a step further and add an after-life dimension. The inspiration started with my work on Wall Street when I lived in NYC, and the desire to write about this in an original way.

What’s the hardest challenge when it comes to writing?

Knowing when a novel is done. A novel takes years to write, and as you write, you improve your skill as a writer. Thus, by the time you have finished your novel, you could re-write it better, and then re-write it again – each re-write taking six months to a year. It’s a tough decision to know when to leave a piece of work and start a new one – which will necessarily be superior to the last. Many artists have the same problem with applying the final strokes of paint.

How much of first draft actually made it into the final manuscript?

In my first novel, only about 30 – 40% made it into the final manuscript, as I changed the plot a great deal and re-wrote large parts. In my second novel I think 60 – 70% made it through. I’m hoping this percentage will increase as my writing skill improves!

What advice can you give to aspiring novelists?

The main thing to do is write, write, write. Learn how to complete a piece of work professionally. Set a word count (short story, novella, poem, novel), then write the first draft. Edit the work as well as you can. Then let it go. Write another one. It will be better. Then write something longer. This way, you build up confidence in your ability to work professionally, and also learn to grow and develop your skills.

Are you an avid reader? What kind of books do you like to read if so?

Yes – I am an utterly avid reader. While my favourite genre is literary fiction, I try to read as widely as possible. I read across countries and across genres, I read independently published books and traditionally published books, I read fiction and non-fiction. My favourite books to read are those which have pushed some boundary of literature, for example Virginia Woolf, in her use of language; Haruki Murakami, in his expression of the borders of reality; David Mitchell, in his extraordinary word-crafting. Anything that is doing something new inspires and delights me.

What’s your writing space like? Do you have a single writing space?

I do my main creative writing in cafes, for the most part, and I like to have a corner seat where I can set up my coffee and computer and enjoy observing the bustle of a café. The lives I can see happening around me always inspire me with new ideas and thoughts and possibilities for my work.

My editing (which is 70% of the writing process) is done at my desk in my house in London, with a lit candle and flowers and my favourite Magritte paintings on the walls. This is my perfect creative environment for focusing on the language and plot of a draft and spending hours improving it.

Did you prepare by researching for Unity Game?

I had lived in New York for several years, so the main character and setting of the novel was very familiar to me. I also grew up in London and knew the legal world well, and also knew Canada. The final setting for the novel is on a distant planet, which I just needed my imagination for. Because of this, the first few drafts of the novel didn’t need any research at all, and it was only the final drafts where I had to double check every detail.

What are you planning on writing next?

I’m currently working on seven different projects, some of which are short term and some long-term (10 years or more). The piece that I plan to publish first is a literary fiction novella set in a meditation centre, that takes place inside the minds of the characters. My first two novels have been quite experimental regarding genre, and I am planning for this to be straight literary fiction – no magic, no other planets, no dead people. It’s my personal challenge to see if I can keep one novel solidly on the Earth.

What’s your most/least favourite writing trope?

I think both my favourite and least favourite trope is the metaphor. A brilliant metaphor can light up a passage and make it unforgettable. It can bring the reader deeply into the story or give them a clear insight into a character or a place. On the other hand, a bad metaphor can spoil pages of great work by deeming it ridiculous. It’s a high-risk technique but when it works, it’s wonderful. An example of a great one is Khalil Gibran on writing: “All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.” Bad metaphors are usually clichés, for example, “her eyes were gleaming emeralds” – this is so obvious it takes you out of the story for a groaning session and casts doubt on the writer for the rest of the book.

What’s the worst advice to give a writer?

To write what you know. I think it’s a good plan to start off with something you’re familiar with, but I also think that writers should be courageous with setting and subject matter and character. If writers just wrote what they knew, we wouldn’t have any Sci-Fi at all, and no elves or hobbits. I would modify this advice to: start off by writing what you know, and when you go wider, be ready to learn how to research!