Sunday, April 29, 2012

A night to remember for all the wrong reasons in Kathmandu

Jo Fuller, on assignment at a women's job skill center, runs into Ted, whom she last saw in Kathmandu the night they discovered Jo's soon-to-be-ex husband was having an affair with Ted's wife. Jo asks if Ted is also divorced now and he says it's in the works.

"Is that anything like 'the check is in the mail'? 'The divorce is in the works'?"

"You can't know what hard work that is," Ted said. "It's backbreaking labor to convince Francesca to let go of anything she once controlled. Speaking of which, she's still with Griff. Did you know that?"

"I made it a point not to know."

That night in the hotel lobby was etched in my memory. Ted and I had met a few days earlier, as both he and Griff had assignments from the same travel magazine. As we waited in the lobby, it became clearer with each hour that our respective spouses, scheduled to arrive at any moment, were both not showing up.

We adjourned to the bar, and began comparing notes. We were able to put together a pretty strong case for the suspicion that my husband and his wife were spending the night together. Ted and I had some quantity of time to reflect on the qualities we both expected in a spouse. Loyalty was high on both our lists but the partners we were with didn't seem to feel the same way.

We got along famously. We managed to laugh quite a lot, considering the situation. The Scotch whiskey might have helped.

Ted had cried on my shoulder that night in Kathmandu. No problem, we were consenting adults crying on each other's shoulders. Now I got the sinking feeling that he viewed me as a warm, fuzzy shoulder to lay his head on and indulge in another sympathy session.I was in no mood. I needed to stop that in its tracks.

"So what brings you here, Ted? Are you planning a sex-change operation, and lining up future employment? I hate to tell you, but the pay cut is the most unkindest cut of all."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

One night in Kathmandu in 7 paragraphs

Seven paragraphs from At Large, Jo runs into Ted Etheridge and sees the light at the end of the Women's job Skill Center tunnel:

I came around the desk to shake hands with him, and he pulled me into a big hug. An inch or two over six feet tall and square as a teddy bear, Ted was not quite fat because he was so intensely physically active. I pulled back to take a look at him. Now in his late thirties, he would always be boyish, with a shock of red-brown hair that seemed to fall into his eyes no matter how short it was cut.

Our last conversation had lasted over a dozen hours—the night in Kathmandu when both of our marriages died.

Ted had been married to Francesca Benedict Etheridge, a gifted mountain climber. It had looked as if she might attempt an ascent on Mount Everest. That climb fell through, and she ended up ascending my husband—as he then was. Leaving Ted to entertain me in the lobby of the Everest Vista Hotel which, incidentally being quite a distance away in Nepal, does not have a view of Mt. Everest.

I had been married to Griffin Fuller, world-renowned as a photographer, and well-known (except to his wife) as a philanderer. Teddy had been playing the part of the supportive husband of a climber, helping Francesca field media coverage, and occupying himself by gathering local color in Nepal. He had a gift for mingling with serious trekkers and climbers, who sometimes mistook him for one of their own. But his appearance was deceptive. Teddy dabbled in climbing and a variety of other sports. But in everything he did, he was always looking for a punch line.

"Josephine, I haven't seen you—well, since that infamous night. Is it still Jo Fuller or did you get divorced?"

"Yes to both questions. My maiden name was O'Toole, so I kept Griff's last name in lieu of alimony. What about you and Francesca?"

He shrugged. "It's in the works."

When I double-checked my spelling of Kathmandu I ran across the Bob Seger song on the right side bar. He spelled it the other way, but I could not resist including a link because listening to it made me so happy.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Seven Paragraphs from At Large

Now that I'm not constricted to prune an entry to six sentences, and yet I'm still in the habit of weekendly posting here, what to do? I happen to be editing/correcting the scanned text of At Large, the third Josephine Fuller book, to be re-issued in ebook and trade paperback soon. I've no reason to impose a sentence count or even a paragraph limit, so here are seven paragraphs from page 1:

Of all the women's job skill centers in all the towns in all the Pacific Northwest, he walks into mine. It had been a rocky week already, and it wasn't Friday yet. In fact Thursday morning was moving so slowly that if I hadn't personally witnessed each second tick off on the big black schoolroom clock across from my desk, I would have sworn that time was standing still. It didn't help that no one was buying my best impersonation of a mild-mannered receptionist. As a woman who has never weighed less than two hundred pounds in my adult life, you might not guess that I can be inconspicuous, but if I keep my head down and my mouth shut, I can usually pull it off. Unfortunately the earnest blue silk pantsuit, pearls and expression of well-bred naiveté weren't working.

Something about this job skill center wasn't quite right. I needed to find out what it was for Mrs. Madrone, so that my wealthy employer could decide whether to award the place a grant. Maybe I had asked too many questions.

By the time Ted showed up, I was already on Delores Patton's radar. The center director was an African American woman who commanded respect with an attitude that could clean brass at twenty paces. She knew I wasn't your usual do-gooder. She just hadn't decided how to deal with it. Ted's arrival made up her mind, and managed to get me fired from a volunteer job—not as easy as it sounds.

Teddy Etheridge was the first male who had entered the office in the three weeks I had been volunteering there. The center was located in Bremerton, about an hour's ferry ride southwest of Seattle. I'd stayed in town during the week answering phones, helping out and nosing around.

For a split second when Teddy walked in the door I thought he might be a potential employer who had strayed in without an appointment. Not that I'd ever seen an actual employer on the premises. Though they did call from time to time to get cheap labor. then I recognized him. "Teddy!" It was always Ted or Teddy to his friends. Never Theodore, not even on his book covers. He wrote humor books for a living.

When he realized it was me, his bearded face lit up in a huge grin. "Josephine Fuller!"

"Ted Etheridge. The last of the hopeless romantics."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hail and Farewell Six Sentences

For over a year now, I've been joining the ever-growing numbers of writers posting six sentences every Sunday linked at Sara Brookes' Six Sentence Sunday. I have got to know some really wonderful writers in the process, but last Sunday for the first time the higher math of pruning my snippet failed me and I had my link disconnected for breaking the Six Sentence Barrier. I probably wouldn't have noticed that if someone had not pointed it out to me, but it made me realize that this effort, which may seem rather small to those of you blessed with abundant energy, was hard on my carpal-tunnel-damaged hands.

It also brought home how this exercise is taking some of my limited energy away from my fiction writing. In short, I don't have enough “spoons" to keep up with the six Sunday pace. If you are not familiar with the spoon theory, a good explanation is here spoon theory.

If you're in writing for the long haul or in life for the long haul, this theory can prove useful.

So this will be my last Six Sunday post. I've gained a lot from this experience, not the least of which is the habit of posting something on this blog every weekend. So if you're interested in seeing what I post here outside of the six Sunday framework feel free to follow or check in-- I always announce my posts on Twitter and Facebook and more friends are always welcome.

So here's my last snippet, as the dominoes continue to fall in Large Target. Jo has parked outside the kidnappers’ hideout when someone knocks at the window of her car.

"Admiral Rhymer, you scared the hell out of me. Get in the backseat and hunch down, they may be looking for you."

He started to scramble in and paused with one leg on the sidewalk. "How do you know who I am?"

"I threw a drink on you at a party."

"I'm sorry, you'll have to be more specific."

To those checking in from Six Sunday--write on!