I killed one of my characters in Resilience. Here is a little unedited teaser.
RESILIENCE – coming soon.
Johanna squinted against the light. Shit. She had forgotten to close her blinds again and the morning sun flooded her small bedroom. She hated this place. Her bedroom in her parents’ basement was much better. But since Louis had moved the children to another school without her consent, instead of fighting with him and placing the kids in the middle of their disagreements, she chose to move closer to their new school.
The banging on the door restarted, adding to her annoyance. Johanna rolled over and glanced at the electronic clock on her nightstand. 6:01 a.m. Who the hell is up at this hour? She hated mornings and she hated people. She hated people who could do mornings.
Rolling out of bed she mumbled some swearwords directed at whomever stood on the other side of her door. “This better be important,” she groaned as another pound on the door seemed to shake the wall.
“I’m coming! No need to break the damn door,” she shouted while walking the short distance to the door, still in her pajama.
She opened the door and her eyes landed on a fist ready to knock again. The fist belonged to a bulky man whom Johanna recognized instantly. Ted Lewinsky, Louis’ partner. Was Louis okay? For a moment she wondered if she asked aloud.
“Johanna White?” The tone sounded practiced. Distant. Surely he knew who she was so why was he asking her name as if he had never seen her before.
“Yes, Ted, that’s me,” she said letting a bit of sarcasm flow in her tone.
When she and Louis were together, Ted had joined her and Louis for dinner several times. After she and Louis separated, Ted acted polite but cold toward Johanna. As if to make it clear to her that he was on Louis’ side. She wasn’t shocked. Everyone was on Louis’ side because everyone knew Louis by the façade he presented to the world. But now, for Ted to pretend he didn’t know her, that was just rude and she opened her mouth to give him a piece of her mind.
Ted pulled one side of his jacket to show his badge. “Detective Ted Lewinsky. Ma’am, you are under arrest for—”
The rest of his words were lost under Johanna’s squeal. “I know who you are.” Then as if just registering Ted’s words, Johanna lowered her voice. “What did you say?”
“Put your hands behind your back. You’re under arrest for the murder of Louis White. You have the right to remain…”
Ted’s words trailed off and morphed into Johanna’s muddled thoughts. Louis was murdered? How? When? A day ago his lawyer told the court that he had gone undercover. Yeah, that was always dangerous but why would they blame her?
“For the thousand time,” Johanna shouted, “I had nothing to do with Louis’ death. How many times can I tell you the same thing?”
Ted’s eyes remained on her face. “Until you actually tell me the truth.”
“Are you crazy or deaf? I didn’t kill Louis?”
“Well, some people seem to disagree.”
Johanna blinked in surprise at his remarks. So in his eyes she was guilty as charged and he was the judge, jury, and executioner. Why the hell look for the real killer when he had made an arrest and now he could go back to his waiting box of doughnuts. “Oh, let me guess. Karol.”
Ted remained unyielding. “Are you going to deny that you threatened to kill Louis? Because there are a few witnesses who will testify that you did.”
She had threatened Louis. In a public place. But that was because she was mad at him for letting Aidan suffer. She didn’t really mean it. Dammit! She and her big mouth. How was she going to get out of this? Motive.
“What motive would I have to kill Louis?” she blurted.
Ted shook his head. “Fighting for custody for four long years, I think that’s plenty of motive there; don’t you think?”
Johanna gritted her teeth. This didn’t look good. The more she looked at it, the more she realized how deep in trouble she was.
“Louis was the one dragging me to court.”
“I know. He thought you’re a pretty unstable parent.”
Okay, that’s enough. Johanna rose and slammed a fist on the table separating her from Ted. “Louis lied!” she screamed. “The judge is just beginning to see through his lies.”
“That must have angered you.”
She slowly sat back in her seat and lowered her voice. “Frustration. That’s what I felt when he and I crossed paths. He has killed every other feeling I had toward him. In the beginning I was angry with him, but I slowly realized that I had no control over what he does.”
Ted nodded. “Control…”
Johanna raised her eyes and studied him for a moment. This man was not here to help her. He was here to bury her. What was she doing sharing her feelings with him. “You’re not even going to look for another suspect, are you?”
He raised an eyebrow. “I already have a suspect.”
She nodded. “I think we’re done her. I want my lawyer now,” she said matter-of-factly.
Ted picked up the folder in front of him and slammed it on the table. “Fine. Have it your way,” he said then he walked away.
“Ted…” Johanna called after him. He stopped but didn’t turned around. “If I were you, I’d investigate this with an open mind. I didn’t do this, Ted.” Her voice sounded somewhere between wishing and begging.
Ted nodded once but didn’t reply and walked out of the room.
When I tell people that I am an author they immediately get curious; about the process of writing a book, about where I get my ideas, etc. To write a book it takes more than a pen, a bunch of papers, and some imagination. A lot more. It takes hours of research, missed lunches and dinners, countless hours of back-breaking writing, re-writing, editing, pots of coffee, bottles of Tylenol for back pain, and a lot more.
To help you understand what I’m talking about, I created a new category called *How my books were born* where I will share with you a short history about the making of each one of my books.
I will start with Unsung Victims.
Unsung Victims is book one in the Resiliency Series. It was not an easy book to write. Beside the facts mentioned above, when I wrote Unsung Victims, I went through every emotion with my characters. I cried with them and laughed with them as we traveled from a beautiful beginning, true romance really, to open hostility. The book has a sentimental value to me because it is based on the story of someone near and dear to my heart.
Divorce happens every day. We all know someone who is divorced or divorcing. We might have seen someone rise from the ashes of their divorce and forge ahead. We might have seen others who never get the strength to move on and start a better life. But what most people don’t think about is that the pain and discomfort of divorce is only known to those who go through it. In Unsung Victims art imitates life. Even under the best of circumstances, while going through a divorce people are compelled to act in a way they wouldn’t normally act under any other circumstances.
Though no longer the ugly word it once was, divorce must be one of the hardest decisions someone has to make. Your entire world crumbles with that single word. Everything comforting and stable and reliable, crumbles with that single word, and the decision to part ways is always painful because it affects not only the couple but those around its epicenter – children, parents, in-laws, friends and acquaintances.
(A friend of mine once said, “If you’re widowed you get all the sympathy going, death benefits and all the family assets. Divorced, and you’re suddenly perceived as a danger to other people’s spouses, lose most of everything you’ve worked for, and have to sink or swim on your own.”)
Here is another fact that few people, who haven’t been affected by divorce, consider. There is no justice, no sense of equality, in Family Court. One spouse has the house, the other one doesn’t. One parent has the kids, the other one doesn’t – even in a fifty/fifty custody – when the children are with the mother, they don’t have a father; when they are with the father, they don’t have a mother.
In Unsung Victims, both, Johanna and Louis make mistakes. Johanna is railroaded by Louis’ anger and by the system, her children are put in jeopardy, and they might not love her with the same innocence as before the divorce. I like happy endings, but in real life one is never guaranteed.
Book 2, Resilience, is expected to be released before the end of this year.
Copyright © 2012 by Ica Iova
Once Joseph stepped out in the rain, he breathed a sigh of relief; the school was finally over. In the fall, he would go to high school. Play with the big boys. He sighed and decided to take a shortcut through the woods. The absence of traffic and the serene backdrop allowed him to consider all the things he could do over the summer. Early in the spring his parents had split up, and this year it didn’t look like either one of them was up for an out of town vacation.
The sound of heavy footsteps on crunching leaves interrupted his thoughts. He stopped and turned toward the sound. His friend, Raul, came into the view.
Joseph and Raul had known each other since kindergarten and their friendship became stronger when Joseph stood up to some kids who bullied Raul during grade four. However, when Gina moved to their neighborhood, she drew a wedge between the two best friends. Raul liked her, but she seemed to like Joseph. To the untrained eye, Raul and Joseph still looked inseparable because Raul kept his personal feelings hidden, but Joseph knew better.
“Hey. What are you doing tonight?” Raul inquired once he caught up with Joseph, shifting his weight from one foot to another.
Joseph shrugged. “Hey. Nothing, I guess. You?”
“Let’s play Flashlight Hide and Seek,” Raul suggested.
“Who else is coming?”
“Sandy and Gina.”
Joseph sensed the same anger in his friend’s tone that he had been detecting throughout their grade seven. However, as usual, he acted as if he hadn’t noticed. If Raul decided to confront him, he would deal with the situation accordingly. Until then, better not stir the pot if nothing smelled. “Okay. I’ll see you tonight,” he agreed.
When Joseph’s parents separated, his father moved out allowing Joseph and his mother to live in their family home. Located next to an old church on one side, and the woods on the other side, Joseph’s backyard provided endless places to hide. With plenty of room to play a good game of Hide and Seek, they always played behind Joseph’s house.
Flashlight Hide and Seek was as much fun as it was scary. While the seeker had a flashlight, none of the other players did, so they sat in the dark waiting to be found.
When Joseph arrived home, a note from his mother waited for him on the kitchen table. ‘I’ll be working late. Beef stew and mashed potatoes are in the fridge. Love, Mom.’
He piled a plate with food, carried it in the living room and began to watch a movie.
Joseph wasn’t sure when he fell asleep but awakened suddenly by banging on the front door, he jerked and headed toward the sound. His journey halted momentarily as he stopped to turn on the interior lights, revealing a pathway from the messy living room to the front hallway. An inexplicable shudder ran up his spine as his hand reached forward to open the door. Nightfall had engulfed the atmosphere and his friends had come for the game.
How long was I asleep? He shrugged and stepped outside to greet his friends.
“Hi guys,” he said groggily.
Gina placed a hand on his shoulder drawing an immediate gaze from Raul. “You just woke up, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, I feel asleep on the couch,” Joseph said, massaging the back of his neck with one hand.
“Well, c’mon, let’s play,” Raul urged them.
With all rules pre-set, stepping over a pile of rocks deep in the backyard, they spread in different directions and the game began.
A few rounds later, it was Joseph’s turn to be the seeker. He gave everyone a few minutes to hide before he began his quest to find his friends. He first started to go toward the church in search for them but changed his mind and began to walk down the tree line toward the moss-draped woods. Some rustling in the woods caught his attention and he smiled knowing he had found someone. Slowly, creeping up on the sound he could see branches and tree trunks. Massive dew-covered rocks glistened in the dim moonlight. The brushwood crunched beneath his feet. He took a few more steps and began to feel as if someone was watching him. A strong feeling that it was not his friends settled in the pit of his stomach. Whatever it was, made him feel very uncomfortable, so he began to withdraw. He made it out of the woods and then began to walk further down the tree line when he heard that same noise again.
Pushed by curiosity, he decided to see what it was. With his flashlight aimed at the ground in front of him, he walked a few feet then stopped to listen. Then walked a few more feet, and then he stopped again. The noise seemed to come from his side and slightly in front of him. He slowly lifted his light upward and strange grayish feet, long, powerful legs and a hunched back appeared in the ray of light.
Joseph froze and his hand shook violently, dropping the flashlight. With only the moon as his light, he saw the form turn around and reveal what had been hidden in the darkness. Joseph took a step back; his breath caught in his throat as the creature moved slowly, twigs snapping beneath his feet. In the moonlight standing motionless in front of him, was a creature that he had only seen in horror movies. Seven feet tall with wings tucked behind itself, and arms hanging by its side, the creature horrified Joseph. Joseph did not look up for facial features frightened of what he would see, but two glowing red eyes drew Joseph’s gaze to a lipless hole filled with sharp, blackened teeth, and no nose to speak of.
The moonlight amplified the horrific features, and as the creature began to raise its head, a high-pitched scream escaped its throat. It came fast and quick as if the souls of thousands expressed their torment. Behind its teeth a bloody red, jagged and forked tongue wiggled, overpowering Joseph’s brain.
Frozen with fear Joseph gasped and took a shaky step back needing a plan to get out of there as soon as possible. He took another step backward and slowly began to retrieve trying not to make a sound, although deep down he knew the creature was aware of his presence. Slowly, very slowly, he kept walking backward. The creature remained motionless. A few more steps and he would be out of the woods.
He could no longer see the creature but when he heard sticks breaking, he knew it was moving. Only moments later the monster stood in front of him blocking his way. Joseph tried to go around, but the creature picked him up and threw him in the air. He landed on his back with a loud thump a few feet away. Rolling onto his stomach, Joseph scrambled to stand but before he succeeded, the creature picked him up and threw him in the air, this time more forceful.
Sure that this would be his last living day as his strength wavered, Joseph forced himself to hold on. His body screamed as his energy slipped away. His brain gave a series of commands, which his body ignored. He wanted to cry, but he couldn’t. He wanted to shout, but he couldn’t. Wanting to survive more than anything else, his adrenaline kicked in. As the creature prepared for another attack, Joseph gathered all his energy and crawled out of the creature’s way. Just then, he caught sight of a form collapsed against the rocks.
“Oh God, that’s Gina! And she is not moving,” Joseph cried out. “Help! Someone, please help!”
He shouted louder hoping someone would come and help, but when no one did, he shakily stood and wobbled as fast as he could toward his house. He reached his backyard and stood there breathing heavily and wondering if the creature was real of just his imagination. Just then, he heard a loud swooping noise like a giant bird taking off. He turned around and saw the most incredible thing he had ever seen in his life. The giant creature was flying. In the moonlight, Joseph saw its enormous wingspan before it disappeared from view. He remained there in the middle of the lawn speechless and looking at the sky. Still in shock, he forgot that he and his friends were playing.
Sandy appeared from the tree line. “What’re you doing?” he asked Joseph seemingly unaware of what had happened.
“Did you see it?” Joseph asked still scanning the sky.
“See what? What’re you talking about?”
Suddenly, Joseph remembered Gina and took a few steps toward the tree line. Still unclear about Joseph’s trance-like state, Sandy followed closely behind him when Gina emerged from the woods and ran toward them.
“Raul,” she gasped, trying to catch her breath.
Joseph breathed a sigh of relief. “I saw you laying there. I thought you were dead.”
“Raul,” she mumbled. “He tried to kill me.”
Joseph’s eyes widened in surprise. “What? No. It was the creature. Where is Raul, anyway.”
“Raul is the creature. He left me alone when I wasn’t moving,” Gina said, still shaking.
For the rest of the night, all Joseph could think was the unbelievable creature. Was that really his best friend? How? Where did he go? Why didn’t he kill Gina and him? Would he return?
I was always an avid reader. Long before I ever considered becoming a writer, I couldn’t understand why some stories put me there in the scene while others felt almost as if parts of the story were dry or missing or undeveloped.
Many of my readers have expressed in their reviews that my stories feel real. That the reader feels as if he/she is right there with my characters. They feel what my characters feel and see what my characters see.
Here is one example from a Goodreads group where I published a short story.
Ica: What a stunning début in WSS! I am very impressed with your skill in building the setting and keeping your reader guessing. Your characterization is delicate and also practical. Raul, Gina, and Joseph’s development was just enough to make the following events believable, but wasn’t excessive.
So what makes good writing?
Here is my humble opinion: Dialog and Description contribute equally to good writing.
Dialog: I believe it’s important for a character to talk naturally, the same way a real person would. However, before you put any words into your character’s mouth, decide and develop a personality for that character. Do you want your character to be strong, in control, weak, pathetic, sarcastic, rude, kind, emotional, straight up evil, etc.? Of course in books, just as in real life, some characters change traits. If, and when that happens, the way he/she talks should also change. Brian Klems and Nancy Kress talk extensively in this article about character personality, change, and motivation so I will not repeat what they say here. http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/4-ways-to-motivate-characters-and-plot
Description: Now let’s talk about the narrative part of the story.
Show the readers everything, tell them nothing. ~ Ernest Hemingway ~
Hemingway refers to this as “reader’s dignity” meaning that the reader should be given respect, trusted to develop a feeling for the meaning behind the action without having the point painfully laid out for him or her.
Sandra Brown, whom I have great respect for and think she is a great editor, once told me that a good story has to have specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.
I highly agree with both, Sandra and Hemingway. When you hand an emotion on a platter to your reader, his/her brain goes into a thinking mode instead of a feeling mode, skipping over the emotional part.
Here is an example: It snowed heavily all day. Signs warning of road closure were everywhere. His windshield was frozen, he could no longer see the road, and he feared that in these wintry conditions he might end up in the ditch.
Clearly, there is a lot of snow on the road, there are signs telling him that the road is or will be closed, and the man is afraid of ending up in an accident. I haven’t painted that wintry picture in the reader’s mind and though he/she knows that my character is afraid, they can’t feel the character’s emotions. I told the story and left no room for emotion or imagination.
Now look at this example: Giant snowflakes continued to drop from the gloomy sky and splattered against the windshield then froze, making it hard for the wipers to keep the windshield clean. Up ahead blinking lights warned of road closures. His were the only tires to blemish the slick, white blanket. Dammit! The last damn thing he needed was to send his car flying off the road. Dry-mouthed, he swallowed hard and gripping the steering wheel firmer he squinted, trying to locate the road.
I still conveyed all the above except that I didn’t tell, I showed the scene. Notice how I painted the picture of my character being afraid, without actually using the word afraid.
With this being said, you can’t show every single scene in your book. Why? Let’s look at the examples above.
I told the scene in 38 words and I showed it in 80. All scenes are relevant to the story or else they should not be there.
However, some scenes and moments are more important than others. If you try to paint every scene vividly in the reader’s mind, besides the fact that you’ll have a very, very, long novel on your hands, important scenes that are supposed to stand out will get mingled with all the others. In other words, you will have a novel without any highlights, which will likely leave your readers’ minds the moment they read that last paragraph on that last page.