Saturday, December 24, 2011

California Girl Chronicles: Chapter 1

I have a treat for you right before Christmas. I revised book one for the second print run. I did an early focus group for the book, but after a broader "micro" release of the book, I received some feedback I liked and wanted to incorporate before the book goes national into the bookstores this spring. Now several producers are interested in making this book into a TV series. In fact, I am in serious talks with one production company, and their head decision-makers loved the first version; but you can always improve your work. I had the opportunity to do so.

P.S. A little CGC trivia fun. Brea is pronounced: Bre-e. Where did I get the name? I call my daughter two nicknames, Bree and Lulu. In book two watch for Brea to say her sister's name ;).

Now back to the changes ...

I did four important revisions:

  • Narrative: I took out the colloquial expressions and tamed it. Most readers understood that as a first-person narrative, I was staying in her voice. Some readers, who decided to measure this against traditional narrative, did not appreciate the non-traditional approach. So, I revised my technique without stripping her voice, which is important.
  • Drew, our resident bad boy, needed a clearer motivation for his behavior (I thought). I didn't want to be "on the nose" in adding his background to help explain his actions. So, I rewrote some Drew material to point readers in the right direction.
  • Kale and Brea: aren't they fun? Their witty banter is so enjoyable to "sit in on". I wanted to show more layers to their relationship other than their obvious physical chemistry. I wanted readers to see more of their natural chemistry as a couple. So, I added more conversations. I also dropped some more hints related to Kale's character development that become more fully explored in book two. Kale becomes more complicated in book two, and I planted a hint about what he says and ultimately does that are in direct conflict. 
  • Brea at work: I wanted readers to see more to Brea than her relationships and her bikini job. I wanted to form the basis for her professional life that is front and center in book two. In this version, you will see Brea work on her script, but in humorous ways. She tends to quip and joke through her comments in her writing. I think readers will find this funny and interesting about what a screenplay actually looks like. 
So here is an excerpt from the revised first half of chapter 1. Please enjoy. The re-released book will be available in two weeks. 

1

I am the ideal California girl born and raised in the great state famous for sun and fun. I have blond hair, blue eyes, and a fake tan. You know no respectable California girl would actually lay in the sun anymore without sunscreen, right? I’m practical and smart. No way I’m going to be 40 with a bad case of basal-cell carcinoma aka skin cancer. Although I do find it logical to slather 50-proof sunscreen on my skin, let it gradually tan, and add golden spray on top of it. You can’t be taken seriously as a true California girl with white skin. Even Irish descendants know that a well-sculpted spray tan is a girl’s best friend. I find it odd when my best friend Denise, who has wonderful brunette hair, gets an orange-looking spray tan. I’ve never said this to her, but she looks like an Ompa Loompa – and not the little green-hair-colored midgets from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. She looks more like the cute dudes in the modern version with the different title of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that stars Johnny Depp. I think Johnny Depp is sexy, but now he is around 50-years-old – and that’s kind of “pervy” and gross. Let me clarify that I am 22 years old. He could be my dad. I don’t want to have sex with a guy who looks old enough to be my father.

I defy all of the stereotypes about blonds. I am actually a slightly “geeky” and bright California girl. People see the blond hair and think I’m stupid or my IQ is around Forest Gump’s level, which as I remember he had an IQ right below the borderline that would put students in special education. What throws everyone off is that I’m very smart. I managed to get my first bachelor’s degree at 21 from Sacramento State University, which is located in my hometown. I earned my bachelor’s degree in three years, which all my friends took five to six years. Sometimes, though, my teachers talked to me really slow like I was a dimwit. I rolled my eyes and would respond in the most eloquent way.

“So Brea, what did you think about The Stranger?” asked Professor Nelson, peering down at me through his spectacles that looked straight out of Jeffrey Dahmer’s eye doctor’s office.

“Which one? The book by Camus or the movie directed by Orson Welles?” I quietly replied without looking at him. He was silent, which made me look up into Professor Nelson’s dark eyes that flickered in surprise. His reaction was a common one and always amused me. I would also make things slightly worse by painting my fingernails on my desktop and only half listening to his lectures. Professors never said anything about this stinky, toxic habit (to my surprise), but I think they “crushed” on me anyway so I got away with it.

Sometimes I didn’t make a lot of friends in class. I’m gifted in English and writing. My other classmates hated me. I only attended half of the lectures and still got perfect test scores. They worked hard and grumbled it wasn’t fair. One girl had the nerve to “tell on me” to the teacher, who was blessedly one of my admirers. He admonished her for not minding her own business. I just shrugged and winked at her. She slammed her books on the desk, sat down, and folded her arms against her chest.

When I started graduate school, one guy named Lance sat next me in every class and stared at me. He had super intense green eyes that were as translucent as clear water. He was very tall and stood 6’ 4”. When he walked into a room his height made him stand out. I have a fetish for tall men. I don’t know what it is about a tall, sexy, and well-built guy, but it’s so appealing to me. So Lance sat next to me in every class and either consciously or unconsciously stared at me. I kept wondering if he was going to ask me out. Lance is an engineering student about to graduate who had to take a few English classes to finish his degree. He was pretty good at writing, though, and I found it aggravating that he was good at math and English. It didn’t seem fair to me. I am decidedly not gifted at math and science.

One evening, Lance was staring again. It was the last day of class. I was writing down something when I turned and found his eyes fixed on me. “Lance, are you going to graduate soon?” I asked out of curiosity.

“Yes,” he smiled with pride and continued, “PG&E is hiring me down south in LA,” he replied. “I move in about a month.”

I nodded and thought it was too bad he was moving. Yet he never asked me out so what did I care if he moved? Just as I thought this, he started to leave, stopped, and stared. “Jesus, what is it with the staring?” I thought to myself.

“Hey, can I have your phone number?” he asked. “We could go out sometime.”

Now the staring made sense, but he just said he was leaving. “Well, I’m not marrying him, so what the heck?” I thought. I gave him my phone number. Maybe we could go out during the holiday break. “At least I’ll have a date on New Year’s Eve,” I thought. “Sure,” I heard myself say aloud as I wrote down my number on a piece of paper from my notebook, tore it out, and handed it to him. 

A few days later, Lance called and asked me to dinner. I was pretty excited. I have to admit his piercing light-green eyes melted me. So I invited him over to pick me up. I live alone in an apartment with this gas fireplace that lights up when you flip a light switch. It’s really quite disturbing to be able to light a fire with a light switch. I personally think you should use wood and a match. I don’t know why I’m telling you this information. It’s an unimportant detail about my apartment. I think, though, it says something about the place. It also suggests I don’t have much money to afford an apartment with a real fireplace.

Lance showed up on time. Nice! I like a guy who has good manners and doesn’t think it’s sexy to leave me waiting. I’m dressed in my best skin-tight black skirt, black leather boots, and a dark purple angora sweater that hugs my breasts perfectly. The sweater sends out the message: perky, average-sized, and hot! My long blond hair is softly curled and left loose. I just bought this Smashbox makeup case and played with the eye pigments, trying to create smoky eyes with the purple and black. I figured this would be attractive and alluring, according to Cosmo, which I don’t read but glance at when I get my hair cut. I also recently started messing with fake eyelashes, but I try to make sure it’s not obvious. Nothing is worse than someone saying, “Nice fake eyelashes.”

I heard the perfectly timed knock on the door. I pulled my skirt straight, peered through the peephole, and swung open the door – and there stood Lance in all his hotness dressed in an Ed Hardy t-shirt and jeans. “Hmm, not too casual and definitely sexy,” I thought. He held out daisies and smiled with this uncomfortable look. “Daisies? Not exactly red roses, but flowers are flowers and that’s a sweet gesture,” I thought. I took them from him and stepped backward to let him through.

“Hi,” I said, “come on in.”

“Hey,” he replied. He looked uncomfortable, standing there with this boyish look on his clear, milky complexion.

“Let me put these in water,” I said.

I turned to head toward my kitchen to the left. I suddenly felt two hands wrapped around my waist. He briskly swung me around. Without warning, Lance kissed me with fierce passion. I was stunned and taken off guard. I was being pushed into my dining-area table. It’s not exactly a room, but more of an extension of my living room – and the table is not that big (it’s only made for two). I was not sure how to react. I enjoyed the kiss, but I was not ready to have sex on the tiny table that will surely break anyway. It’s not very big and pretty old. My dad’s friend gave it to him, and he gave it to me. It wobbled ready to crash. I tried with all my strength (did I tell you I’m tall but very petite) to push off this big man. I finally escaped his grip and moved away. I stared at him, trying to muster up true indignation all the while more attracted to him than ever. I set the daisies on the nearest counter and glared at him. He now stood there with this impish and half-embarrassed look on his face. “I’ve wanted to do that for months,” he admitted enthusiastically.

I adjusted my clothes and grabbed the daisies, crossed around the counter, and walked into the kitchen. I opened a cabinet, pulled out a red vase, and tossed the daisies in. I wondered if I should fill them with water, but I figured daisies are hardy flowers – well, they are technically weeds – and decided to leave them there. I walked back around and just stood there, waiting for him to open the door. I also hoped he would offer an apology for attacking me.

“Can I kiss you again?” he suddenly asked.

“Interesting,” I thought. “He’s not apologizing but at least he’s asking to kiss me this time.” I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or give in. He smelled pretty good, and he eyed me with those damned sexy eyes again. I pondered the proposition and realized he intended to skip dinner. Now I am an editor on a local magazine, but I don’t make much money. A free dinner was definitely on my list of ways to skip a trip to the grocery store. I decided no way was Lance going to get the “pooty” unless he paid for a great meal. I also felt he should make an effort at some kind of real conversation perhaps over at least raspberry muffins and Folgers coffee at Denny’s coffee shop. Food is food – and I’m hungrier than I am horny. 

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