Apr 29 2009

Becca’s Review Forum

Published by at 9:12 pm under Review Forums

Who am I? Hey. I’m Becca. I’m eighteen, Creative Writing Major, Canadian (I live in that city where the Olympics will be). I’ve been writing since I was six, but only got super-serious about it about four years ago.

What am I writing? More like what aren’t I writing?! But what I’ll be posting here for review is a novel called The Superhero Effect, written in NaNo 09 and beyond. Basically I got thinking… what if a superhero didn’t have a secret identity, or a day job? What if being a superhero was his job? And that lead me to write The Superhero Effect, which takes place in a somewhat near future in a city taken over by gangs, and where superheroes are employed by the police in an elite task force, and called SCFs – Specialized Crime Fighters.

Target Audience? It’s YA. I’m thinking it would have much the same audience as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, as its level of violence is much the same, as is its slight romantic subplot.

Notes for Reviewers: Be honest, but polite and sympathetic. It’s a NaNo novel, not revised yet, and I know there are some rough patches. Hopefully posting it here will help smooth the rewrites and edits I know I have to do. Thanks guys!

81 responses so far

81 Responses to “Becca’s Review Forum”

  1. Beccaon 26 Dec 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Chapter One

    Nice girls shouldn’t have to wake up to globs of hot, sticky blood. This curse of ours sure does suck.

    I stumble out of bed in the early morning light, moving as fast as I can so it doesn’t have a chance to touch my bed sheets. It was a close call: my sweatpants are soaked almost through with the stuff. It makes me feel even groggier than I normally am upon waking up. I mean, I barely know mornings exist. Without a job, why should I ever have to experience 8 am?

    I guess this stupid emergency has the right to wake me up, though. The last thing I need is to spend more on dry cleaning. I strip off my sweatpants and ruined underwear and chuck them straight into the garbage on my way to the bathroom.

    I want — need — a shower so bad, now. Just the thought of hot water washing away the pesky blood has me shivering in anticipation. But when I reach out to turn on the shower faucet, it breaks off in my hand.

    Goddamn it. I didn’t even know that was possible, but that’s my luck, right there. Period catching me unawares, shower broken – I should just go right back to bed. Crawl back under the blanket and start fresh tomorrow.

    But I can’t. I had a few tiny plans for today. I have to do something. Standing naked with blood running down my thighs just won’t do, not today.

    So I grab my bathrobe off its hook and head for the superintendent’s apartment two floors below. He’s super good with stuff like this, usually has spare parts on hand and everything. I’m anticipating Robert’s quick-fixiness until I get to his floor and I’m confronted with a line of yellow tape and blue uniforms.

    Behind the tape and in Robert’s apartment beyond that is a bustle of activity. No one notices me, a girl clutching a bathrobe around herself, for a few minutes. Then a bald, careworn cop approaches.

    “Can I help you, miss?” he asks.

    “What’s up? Something happen to Robert?”

    The cop sighs.

    “Yes, unfortunately. Bullet to the head. Apparently he had gang connections.”

    It takes a moment to process that information.

    “Well…” I start. “Any chance you can check his apartment for a part for my shower?”

    “Sorry, miss. Not authorized to remove anything from the crime scene. Go wash up in the sink.”

    I slink back up to my apartment but I don’t do what he suggested. I go for the phone instead, and I call Landon. He answers on the fourth ring.

    “Hullo?”

    “Hey, it’s me. Were you on duty last night or what?”

    “What?” he groans. “Yeah, of course, but I’m sleeping off the shift right now.”

    “Well, you let my super die,” I tell him, “and now there’s no one to fix my fawcett. Thanks a lot, jerk.”

    “Poppy, I’m sorry. But I can’t be everywhere at once, we’ve gone over this.” His bedclothes rustle; he’s getting up.

    “Who’s going to fix my shower if you let my super get shot, hmm?”

    “Okay, fine, I’ll come have a look,” he concedes. “Gimme a minute to get into my suit.”

    “You said you’re sleeping off your shift. Why do you need the suit?”

    “I got another one lined up soon,” Landon sighs.

    “Hurry up, Landon, a girl needs a nice hot shower,” I tease.

    “Shut up. Why couldn’t you wash in the sink?”

    Landon arrives on the fire escape five minutes later. His armoured suit creases in the armpits and at the knees, as if it’s been worn too many times between washes. Landon’s eyes, under the mask, look dead tired.

    “God, you look like everyone,” I remark when he walks in.

    “What do you mean? Tired? Yeah, that’s how people with jobs look, Poppy.”

    “Don’t take that tone with me.” I follow him into the bathroom. “Anyway, your job takes more of a toll than most peoples’. Your job makes every other job look like a cake walk.”

    Landon gets on his knees to examine the broken handle. He pulls off the mask to get a closer look at the problem.

    “You don’t seem to care,” he says. “You wake me up early to come fix your little problems without caring much about my stress levels.”

    I just shrug, looking down at my bare feet and his big industrial boots.

    “I just know you’ll help me.”

    Landon stops tinkering and looks straight at me.

    “Poppy, you get that it’s not my fault Robert died, right? Just because I’m a Specialized Crime Fighter doesn’t mean -”

    “I know, we’ve been through this,” I groan. “It’s just you’re a superhero! You should have the power to intervene in these things!”

    As always, Landon rolls his eyes at the slang term. His hands, made white hot by the power-suit, are carefully melting the handle back into place.

    “Superhero,” he scoffs. “That barely describes me at all. I think this will work now, though.”

    He pulls himself to his feet and fixes me under his stern gaze.

    “Well, then I need this shower,” I say. “I’ve got some stuff to do today.”

    “Really?” he sniffs. “I have to go. Poppy, be really careful. Vigilant, even. If anything happened to you, I’d…”

    He doesn’t have to finish. In fact, I’d prefer if he didn’t. It gets way uncomfortable. I just punch him in the arm to get rid of that tension.

    “Yeah, yeah. Just go.”

    I go to lead Landon to the fire escape, but he walks to the door.

    “What, you’re going to just walk out of here like a regular human?” I laugh. “Why don’t you like big, fancy exits anymore?”

    Pulling his mask back on, Landon is frowning.

    “Poppy, you don’t know. You don’t know what being an SCF is like.”

    “Come on,” I beg. “Make a big, fancy departure! Fly off all heroic-like!”

    Landon opens the door.

    “Be careful,” he says, before walking out.

    Calmly, quietly, like the ordinary guy he so isn’t. I finally get my shower, but I feel worse about it.

  2. B. Macon 27 Dec 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I like the first sentence and that she clearly has a voice in the first paragraph. However, being sort of oblivious to everything less masculine than fantasy football and gatling guns, I misread the second sentence to mean that she was talking about “this curse of ours” being something like being a vampire. I think that women would get it, though.

    The visuals in the first two paragraphs seemed to me to be gross bordering on disgusting. Being soaked in blood is bad enough, but the image of soaked clothes and nearly-hit bedsheets is pretty intense. On the plus side, I like that something is happening that’s more interesting than just waking up. Another positive is that it would probably make her a bit more relatable to female readers (because she’s going through an unpleasant experience they have probably experienced themselves). But what does the bleeding have to do with the plot? Is it just a slice of life element?

    On the issue of relatability, I suspect that opening with this particular event will cue guys “this story is not for you.” If your target audience is mainly women, that’s not a problem.

    Hmm. The period is an interesting way to connect the character to a random mishap (her breaking the shower) to the hook (the untimely demise of the superintendant).

    “He’s super good…” I would be really careful about using the word super in a book about superheroes. It usually connotes something extraordinary, like someone at a Batman-level of competence. Also, it can sound a bit ditzy when used as an adverb.

    When she breaks her shower, I assumed that she was superstrong. Given that she appears to be the protagonist of a book that may have Superhero in the title, I think that most readers will assume the same. If this was just a random accident that has nothing to do with how hard she pulled on the knob, I would recommend making it a bit clearer. (For example, perhaps the problem is that the water just stops coming out of the pipe and not that she rips something off).

    “It takes a moment to process that information.” You can probably show this.

    I’ve never seen it spelled “fawcett.” It could be a regional or national thing, but I’m used to “faucet.”

    “Poppy, you get that it’s not my fault…, right?” I’d recommend replacing “get” with “know.”

    “Specialized Crime Fighter” is a bit wordy. Could you cut it down to maybe two words? For example, in Superhero Nation the equivalents are “Special Investigator” (detective) and “Special Agent” (combat specialist). If you’re looking for a word that denotes combat, you could try something like tactical, strategic, commando, operative, enhanced, assault, etc.

    “He doesn’t have to finish. In fact, I’d prefer if he didn’t. It gets way uncomfortable.” I’d recommend showing this last detail.

    “You don’t know what being an SCF is like.” I’d recommend shortening “what being an SCF is like” to “what this is like” or “what it’s like.” Also, this line is a bit overwrought. It might help if he gave a detail about how hard his life is. What are some of the preposterous things he does as an SCF? Maybe he could say 10-20 words about a few of his assignments over the past day or two. (This is a good way to introduce us to him, by the way).

    Why is she goading him to make a big, fancy departure? That seems like an unusual way to treat someone who’s doing a favor for her on top of a rather stressful job. She seems to be trying to accomplish something, but I don’t understand what she’s getting at.

    Are these two characters dating? If not, it may help to establish the nature of his special willingness to help her. (I assume that repairing a shower is a special favor for him).

    “…like the ordinary guy he so isn’t.” ‘So’ can be smoothly used as an adverb (“don’t be so selfish,” etc) but here I think that it makes her sound a bit ditzy, like a valley girl. It might help to replace “so” with something like “obviously,” “clearly,” or “definitely.”

  3. Beccaon 28 Dec 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks, B. Mac! Now, this is the post where I try to explain and redeem myself and offer up lame excuses 😛

    Sorry if it was gross… remember, this was written at midnight, when NaNoWriMo began, and I was desperate for an idea to start me off. I’ll probably keep it, seeing as the target audience is primarily teenage girls. Maybe tone it down a little.

    I’ll probably change it to something like, the hot water taking forever to turn on and Poppy just sitting there and sitting there… that seems like a problem I would have and not know how to fix.

    I meant for this scene to introduce the reader to the setting, as well as the characters. The place and time where this is taking place is overrun by criminals. Gang battles, drug deals, and grudge killings happen every day; it’s all pretty mundane. It’s not shocking that Robert was murdered. Poppy’s main quarrel with her superintendent’s death is that there’s no one around to fix the shower. Did that come through very well? If not, how could I improve that effect?

    PS “Specialized Crime Fighter” is supposed to be wordly and overly technical. Maybe another name would suit them better, but I really like SCF as an acronym…

  4. B. Macon 28 Dec 2009 at 6:18 pm

    If gang battles are pretty mundane, I’d recommend showing that with the police officers. They’re utterly used to this and they may look unusually tired, bruised, scarred, etc. Also, the character’s voice could show that this isn’t a total surprise to her (although the target may be). The building may have taken bullets before in a hit-and-run. There will probably be gates on the window. She probably has a bajillion locks on the door. She’s probably extra careful to check her surroundings. People in crime-ridden places tend to be.

  5. Beccaon 30 Dec 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I’m definitely taking notes on everything you’re saying. Good points. Anyway, here’s Chapter Two.

    Chapter Two

    After my shower, I get out all my stuff from under my bed. Loose pages of script, pens, and half-finished drawings. Then there’s all the guide books and references, Alan Moore’s Watchmen being the most used. I have to hide it all at the end of the day. Well, I guess I don’t have to. I’m allowed to write my own graphic novel. I’m just worried Landon won’t like it.

    He can be such a downer, you know? He’s become so jaded. If I even let him know I’m working on this thing, he’ll suddenly become some huge, accomplished critic of the publishing industry and give me a million little reasons why I’m going to fail. I don’t need that. I just need to work on this thing, that’s all I know anymore.

    Page five is the first thing I get out. It’s really been haunting me. It’s a shot from, like, ground level just by Sara’s boot of the bad guys she’s about to get beat up by. The thing is, I just can’t get their expressions right. The gangster with the piece of piping just looks kind of coy, when he’s supposed to look absolutely vicious. Idly, I pencil a new draft of his face in the margin of the nearest script page.

    I’m stalling, I know. I was supposed to get myself down to the comic book store today. I promised myself I would. But even the thought of opening that door and just waltzing on in there is freaking me way the hell out. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Just walk in and act like I own the place? I don’t know anything about comics. Or graphic novels. Or whatever the hell you want to call them. I barely even know why I’m writing one. Maybe I’m in way over my head. But it’s kind of too late now to fix that. I’m already quite a few pages in, art-wise, and I have way more pages of script done. The script may not have reached the end of the story, but I have extensive master plans of the entire story, for God’s sake. It’s too late to turn back: I’m already addicted.

    Oddly enough, I never thought of myself as a writer. Or as an artist, really. I was in all the high school art classes, even had my art displayed at the local gallery one time with a bunch of other student pieces, but that was it. It was never something that was my lifeline, you know? It was just something I did sometimes. Then suddenly, this idea came along. Maybe it all started with Landon going into police training, then being chosen to go into the SCF program. But anyway, I got this idea of a female superhero who flies around in a dress beating up bad guys. And this idea totally hooked me. I just started scribbling plot points and random situations down all the time, or punching them into my phone as a text message when I didn’t have any paper. It just totally took over my life. It was awesome.

    But yeah, it’s still a secret. Very hush-hush. Not even Landon knows. No one else does, either. But no one else matters. Since I’ve moved to this apartment and shut myself off, Landon’s pretty much my only contact with the world.

    I grab myself an apple for breakfast and bring a page of script into the kitchen with me. I change random words around, doodle in the margins, and generally fuck around for a while. God, I’m pathetic.

    I want to go to the comic book store so bad, but this fear, this stupid, irrational fear is almost crippling me.

    You know what, I should just bite the bullet and go. But just thinking about it makes my knees go weak and my stomach start to rebel. Maybe I should take it in baby steps. I know, I’ll just start with getting dressed. I pick out some jeans, a nice shirt, a jacket. Next I brush my hair. This is easy enough, I guess. I throw my battered copy of Watchmen into my purse, I put my iPod earphones into my ears.

    But the next step kills me. Opening the door and walking out into the hall. I stand in the doorway, Simon and Garfunkel in my ear, wishing I knew how to trick myself into going out the door. I should just pretend I’m going somewhere besides the comic book store. Yeah, that’s it. I’ll tell myself I’m going grocery shopping. Just harmless grocery shopping.

    So that gets me out the building and onto the street. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Once I pass the grocery store, it’s a matter of getting my feet moving. Left, right, left, right. Better.

    Finally, the comic book store is looming on the horizon, just a few hundred metres up the street. I start thinking about all the awful things that could happen to me there. What if I walk in, and everyone looks at me? What if they all point at me? What if they all start shouting, fake, fake, fake! That girl doesn’t know a thing about comics!

    The apple I ate for breakfast wants to make a reappearance on the street in front of me. The comic store is getting closer and my knees are getting weaker. It’s coming it’s coming it’s coming!

    I can see the posters in the window now, the posters advertising new releases that I’ve heard about online, and the vintage Superman poster than makes my mouth water.

    What was I thinking? I could never screw up the courage to go in there.

    My feet carry me past the comic store and around the block to loop back towards home. Failure.

    *

    I found a weird channel on TV.

    I’m doing what I always do, almost every night. Watching TV half-heartedly, with parts of my script in my lap or a page of art. But tonight I’ve forgotten about the graphic novel. It’s sitting in chunks on the couch beside me. I’m watching TV.

    This channel doesn’t have a name. It’s way up in the numbers, higher than I thought channels could go. I don’t even know if this is a show that’s on, or if it’s just some weird shit the channel cycles all day. I’ve been watching this city explode for about fifteen minutes now. It’s this big city, with lots of towers and skyscrapers, and at first one shorter building just caught fire. Now the whole thing is blowing up and falling down all over. No commercial breaks or anything, just this massive disaster. I don’t think it’s real; I went to check the news channels but no one else is talking about it at all. So, pretty sure it’s just fiction, I’m sitting here watching it.

    Then it switches to a quick, minute-long thing about a little kid playing with a dog in the backyard. Then we’re watching a mother shout at the camera, pointing her finger like it’s me she’s cussing out. After that is a stage with a stage magician performing tricks.

    It jumps around like that, getting increasingly esoteric.

    My phone rings across the kitchen and I jump to answer it. It could only be Landon.

    “Hello?”

    “Hey, it’s Landon.” Sure enough.

    “How’s it going?”

    “I’m dead tired. Want to hang out?”

    “Sure, bud,” I say. “You can help me figure out this wacko channel I found on TV.”

    “Yeah, okay.” I don’t think he was really listening to me. “See you.”

    I go back to watching but it gets crazy and sexual after a while. What kind of TV station plays crazy footage of cities blowing up, then domestic bickering, then all-out porn?

    The news is a little more sane. Sane, but depressing. It’s just moving on to more crap about the gangs when Landon climbs in my window.

    “Hey,” I say as he shuts it behind himself. “You’re on the news.”

    “When am I not on the news?” he sighs.

    “Mr Famous,” I laugh. “What, are your diamond shoes too tight? Did you eat too much caviar at lunch today? Drink too much champagne?”

    Landon frowns.

    “Hey, if I’m not on the news, it’s been a good day.”

    I hit the mute button. The female newscaster is still detailing this big fight that went on earlier. The camera switches out to amateur footage of Landon and another SCF, Eagle, I think, blocking bullets with their power-suited chests and knocking guns out of the hands of gangsters.

    “Jeez,” I mutter as the footage shows Eagle getting punched in the jaw.

    “I know,” Landon says darkly. “Anyways… hey, what’s all this?”

    He is rifling through my papers on the couch. My script. My art. I snatch the whole package out of his hands.

    “Oh, it’s nothing.”

    “Nothing? Yeah, that’s about right, that’s all you do here,” Landon says with a smirk. “But seriously, what is it?”

    “Just some, ah, tax forms. Seriously, it’s really nothing,” I laugh to try to sound at-ease.

    “Tax forms? You don’t have a job.”

    “As you’re so fond of reminding me,” I say. “None of your business.”

    “I know…”

    He’s sitting back on my couch, his head in his hands. His breathing is slowing, like he’s finally relaxing for the first time today. Which, I remind myself, he probably is.

    “Tired?” I ask.

    “Yeah, but do we always have to talk about that?” he groans, head still hung. “What’d you do today?”

    “Uh… not much.” Disappointed myself, yet again. The usual.

    “Like what?”

    “I, uh, went grocery shopping.”

    He could so easily tell I’m lying. Just open a cupboard and my lies are all exposed!

    “That’s it?”

    I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got to tell him. I’ll just verbally spar with him a little if he gets to be Mr Crankypants.

    “No. Sorry I haven’t told you yet, but, uh… I’m writing a graphic novel?”

    Yeah, with a question mark at the end. It makes me sound like I don’t even know if I’m doing it or not. Pathetic. But Landon is looking at me with a sort of… I don’t know, fascination or something.

    “A graphic novel?” he repeats. “Poppy Gerschwin is writing a graphic novel?”

    I nod and duck into my fridge, like I’m urgently looking for something. All that’s in there is a case of Diet Coke. I grab one and concentrate on it instead of Landon’s face.

    “Poppy, that’s – that’s awesome,” he announces. A smile is plastering itself all over his rugged face. God, he needs a shave.

    “Yeah? I don’t know, I kind of think so, too. It’s just, I don’t really know what I’m doing and stuff, so…”

    “Can I read it? Or look at it? Or something?”

    “Um, not yet?” I get up the courage to look him in the eye. “It’s barely started, really, and it sucks so bad right now. It needs a lot of attention before it’s ready.”

    “I want to read it!” he pleads, looking like a little kid begging candy from his mother. “Please, Poppy?”

    “Well, I don’t know if you’d like it. It’s kind of about…”

    “What?”

    I know he won’t like it. I just know it.

    “It’s about girls, and it talks about periods, and it has…”

    “It has what?” Landon is getting so frustrated. “Come on, what does it have?”

    “…superheroes.”

    His face falls a little. I can tell he’s lost his enthusiasm, and I find myself despretely wanting to get it back.

    “Well, they aren’t your kind of superhero, Landon,” I blurt out. “They have powers, and one girl kicks total ass! It’s awesome, Lan. I want you to like it.”

    The last bit comes out all meek and quiet. He looks tired again. His face, which is a little too handsome for his own good, looks unhappy. That’s not the way it looks on the covers of magazines.

    “Superheroes. You and your superheroes.” He sits down again and gestures towards the TV, still showing the news. “It’s not as romantic as you seem to think it is, you know. It isn’t all flowing capes and gadget belts and I don’t know what else. It’s violent. It’s blood and guts, Poppy. It’s dangerous.”

    I roll my eyes.

    “I know that! You’d think I’d know that better than anybody, with you as my best friend. It’s just… I gave mine real powers, Landon. That’s the fun part. In real life, you guys can’t, I dunno, make fire with your eyeballs, or lift cars and stuff. It’s fantasy, what I write. Can’t I just have a little fantasy?”

    Landon flicks through the channels.

    “It’s a dangerous fantasy,” he says.

    “Oh, for God’s sake, it’s a comic book,” I grumble.

    “Anyway,” Landon sighs. “I don’t want to get in, like, a fight over this. So, what was that weird channel you said you found?”

    “Oh yeah,” I murmur, grabbing the remote and punching in it’s number. “There. It was showing all this weird, weird stuff earlier.”

    It’s still porn.

    “Okay,” Landon says slowly, half-laughing. “What were you watching, crazy girl?”

    “It’s not always like this,” I say, feeling my cheeks go red. “See, there, it’s changing again, look.”

    The camera melts into a shot of a horse jumping a fence in a wide field. Almost as soon as that came into focus it changed to more porn. And then a school with little kids swarming everywhere, and one big blond boy punching his fist into his palm menacingly.

    “This is really strange,” Landon says.

    “I know, eh?”

    I keep watching, as I changes into just an average bedroom, semi-dark and still. It doesn’t change from this for a long time. Landon has lost interest.

    “So, Poppy… I was wondering how you’re doing here,” he says.

    “What do you mean? I’m fine.”

    “Just wondering if you wanted to take me up on my offer. Remember?”

    I remember.

    “I don’t need you to move in with me,” I tell him. “I’m doing totally fine. Don’t worry about me.”

    “How about money? Is what your uncle left you running out?”

    “No! I’ve got this figured out, Landon. If you’re going to offer me more pity, you can leave.”

    I get up and open the window again. He looks so sad.

    “Come on,” he whispers. “Why won’t you let me?”

    “I don’t feel that way,” I say. “Go home, Landon.”

    He gets up and pulls his mask back on. At the window he tries to hug me but I point to the window again.

    “Go. Go save the city, Landon. They need you more than I do, I can guarantee that.”

    He looks at me for a long, long time before he finally leaves.

    Wow. I sit on my bed, staring at the wall, for a long time. We haven’t had a blow-up like that in a long time. There used to be a time, a while back, when Landon would constantly ask me out. We’re best friends, though. I just don’t think about him that way at all. Is that so hard for him to believe? That I don’t need him? That I don’t need anybody that way?

    I don’t know, he is just so medieval sometimes. Why do I have to have a boyfriend to be considered “okay”? Why can’t I be okay all by myself?

    He frustrates me sometimes. But he hasn’t asked me that question in a long time. I thought he was over it. I wasn’t expecting another offer of companionship, after that last time.

    Great. Now, when I’m trying to go to sleep, all I can think of is Landon on one knee, last Christmas. And then his fallen face, washed over in sadness, when I had to reject him. God, that’s not something I want to think about, ever. Now it’s going to haunt my dreams all night. Excellent.

  6. B. Macon 31 Dec 2009 at 12:09 am

    Thanks for moving to chapter 2.

    I think the opening to chapter 2 could probably be a bit more coherent. I’d recommend tying it to one of the two main plot threads left open at the end of chapter 1: the murdered superintendent and the tension between the two protagonists. On the plus side, I think that ignoring the murdered superintendent for now may be a good idea because it’s such an unusual choice that it develops the setting. (In real life, if someone you knew got murdered, that’d probably be the only thing you thought about that day. Here, it’s treated as almost an everyday, mundane event, which helps show us that serious crime is a part of life here).

    So, in terms of coherence, it may help to connect the opening of chapter 2 more to what was left unresolved between Poppy and Landon. So, for example, she feels that she needs to hide her guidebooks and reference materials and the superhero stories she’s working on. Maybe go back to chapter 1 and tie the reason she feels the need to do so (he wouldn’t like it? why not?) to the reason their conversation ends a bit more turbulently than it could have. Does that make sense?

    Also, umm, the element that she’s working on a graphic novel seems kind of out of the blue. I got the impression that she was kind of down on the SCFs. If she’s interested in writing superhero stories, why wouldn’t she think it was damn cool he’s a real superhero? (Maybe she’s a bit concerned about getting too close to the story. I would imagine that supervillains in this world wouldn’t have too many compunctions about killing friends).

    “He can be such a downer, you know?” Hmm. This is interesting, but I think you can show it more effectively. Going back to chapter 1, when she’s talking about his job, you can make it clear that she has a super-romantic view of what his job is like. (He flies around at preposterous speeds! He ninja-kicked a bank-robber in the face! He’s saved the city God knows how many times! He’s experienced feats of coolness the likes of which we can only dream about! He can kiss upside down in the rain!) However, to HIM, that’s obviously not the whole story. He may have killed people and has almost certainly put them in the hospital. He may have seen people get killed, he knows what it sounds like when a bone snaps, he’s seen the very worst of mankind, and there have probably been a few times where he DIDN’T save the civilians in time. Also, I imagine that he’d be a bit bored of his powers and that he’d be a bit paranoid.

    “He’ll suddenly… give me me a million reasons why I’m going to fail [with my manuscript]. I don’t need that.” Indeed. One Cadet Davis is quite enough.

    When she starts describing the page she’s working on, it’s not clear what the point is. I think a more pressing goal would help this scene. For example, if she’s a graphic novelist, maybe her editor wants this script NOW. That would raise the stakes for her. I think it’d make us care more about her writing/drawing process.

    “It’s a shot from, like, ground level…” I’m not sure about the insertion of “like” here. I could imagine a teenage lady using it in conversation here but on the page it looks a bit forced.

    I think that working another person into this scene might help bring her creative process to life. Does she have a teammate? (Like a writer or an editor or a colorer or whatever?) Alternately, maybe she’s an independent producer (self-publisher) and she works directly with a customer(s).

    If her work is so important, I’d recommend mentioning it in chapter one. Maybe he knows she’s a writer but isn’t quite sure what she writes. (I introduce myself as a fiction writer in real life, for example, because I like to keep it as vague as possible).

    “I don’t know anything about comics. Or graphic novels.” Hmm. I think you could show that she’s an amateur sooner. Maybe the art is really bad and the story doesn’t make sense, but she can’t stop herself. Some people write/draw like they’re in a dream–the story doesn’t make sense to anybody else but for whatever reason it seems to fit together for them.

    In the paragraph starting “I’m stalling…”, I’d recommend reducing the use of “I.” I counted 15. I’d recommend using something besides her as the subject of the sentence more often.

    I’m not clear… is she a writer, an artist, or both?

    The paragraph beginning “oddly enough” could probably be shown in dialogue or perhaps action more smoothly. It’s kind of info-dumpish. Giving her a dialogue partner might help.

    Normally, being a writer (or a poet) might be a sign of Mary Sue-dom. I like that she’s not very successful, or even proud of her work. She pretty clearly isn’t an idealized version of your writing persona.

    I don’t understand why she’s afraid to go to the comic book store.

    “I found a weird channel on TV.” Ion Network, I bet.

    “I’m doing what I always do, almost every night.” A lot of time passed. What happened? Does she have a day job?

    “What kind of TV station plays crazy footage of cities blowing up, then domestic bickering, then all-out porn?” CNN, MSNBC, Fox… Incidentally, I first caught the Whitney Houston “wardrobe malfunction” on a “news” channel.

    “When am I not on the news?” he sighs. I’d recommend changing this so that it’s a bit clearer why he hates being on the news. For example, maybe he’s bothered that he’s in the middle of a dangerous fight and some idiotic cameraman decides he has to get in close for the closeup. Or maybe he’s annoyed about being put through the usual news-as-entertainment merry-go-round.

    “Hey, if I’m not on the news, it’s been a good day.” Does this connect to his earlier statement?

    “As you’re so fond of reminding me [that I don’t have a job]” makes him sound like sort of a bitchass. It might help if she said something that were a bit defensive and less aggressive. (Maybe something like “I’m between jobs” or “Maybe if I could fly, I could find something” or whatever).

    “It’s about girls, and it talks about periods, and it has…” HAHA. (This is an amusing way to tie her fiction writing into the story she’s experiencing, by the way).

    “It isn’t all flowing capes and gadget belts and I don’t know what else. It’s violent. It’s blood and guts, Poppy. It’s dangerous.” This could be more stylish. Give some details from his work.

    “It’s a dangerous fantasy” could maybe be “some fantasy.”

    I like that she stands up for herself with “if you’re going to offer me more pity, you can leave.”

    I’d recommend ending the chapter with more of a cliffhanger. Maybe he hears something like a police siren whizzing by or an explosion and has to go. Superheroes never sleep…

    I’m a bit confused by the TV station. Will the book explain what’s going on later?

    I’m looking forward to chapter 3.

  7. Beccaon 03 Jan 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks so much for your time, B. Mac. I agree with most of your suggestions. And yes, the TV station features prominently in the next few chapters, and it ends up leading to the introduction of another major character. Don’t worry, it’s not just random filler! And, Poppy is the artist and writer of her graphic novel. It’s basically a little project she’s started that’s gotten out of hand. Anyway, here’s chapter three.

    Chapter Three

    The little showers keep coming on in the produce section, so that’s why I keep standing here with my hands on the Romaine lettuce. I love when that misty spray comes on. It feels so fresh and nice.

    I had to come shopping sometime. I was almost out of the thrice-holy Diet Coke. I swear I’m an addict. Anyway, besides that, I’m just buying some sandwich supplies. Good bread, lunch meat, lettuce and stuff. When my hands and sleeves are soaked from the vegetable showers I move on. I grab some salt and vinegar chips (because chips and sandwiches are the best meal ever), and when I’m waiting in line I listen to the people ahead of me talking.

    I think they’re just harmless soccer moms shopping together, but what they say sparks my attention.

    “Hey, have you ever watched channel 1020?” one asks the other as she loads her vegetable cocktails onto the conveyor belt.

    “Channels go that high?”

    “Apparently! Anyways, it’s totally bizarre. Just flashing images and the craziest things. You should check it out tonight with Dave, after the kids go to sleep.”

    That’s my crazy-person channel. So it does exist outside the realm of my apartment. Weird.

    I go home and watch it but it’s mostly static. The occasional shot of Batman and Robin, like from the old cartoons.

    I don’t feel like watching it anymore so I go to work on my graphic novel. I was thinking of titling it Superheroine. Since it’s about a superhero who is a girl and stuff. Yeah. I don’t know yet, though.

    A thought strikes me as I’m inking a certain frame I think will be a final draft: I should go to the comic book store now. Earlier in the day. Would it be better to go early, so it’s empty? Or would it be better in the evening, when it has other customers besides me? Is it ever really busy there?

    Well, one thing’s for sure: if I never go there, I’m never going to see the kind of stuff they have there. If I never see what exists in the wonderful world of comics and graphic novels, mine won’t be the best it can be. If Superheroine isn’t the best it could be…

    I don’t know. But that isn’t a good thing. Who knows if it’ll be good enough to get published someday or anything. The future of my graphic novel is too far off for me to even see at all. But somehow the thought of Superheroine languishing on my drafting table, unread, for all eternity fills me with a deep-seated fear. And after the fear, a flood of determination.

    So there you go. I have to get myself into that comic book store. One way or another.

    I manage to get all the way down the street, all the way to the very front door of the store before that determination wavers a little bit. My heart feels like it’s going to explode. But where I am now, the guy at the counter can see me. And I would look so, so stupid if I came up to the door, put my hand on it, then suddenly turned and walked away. And I find myself caring what the guy at the counter thinks.

    Anyway, he isn’t going to shoot me for coming into his store. Quite the opposite. Whatever the opposite of shooting someone is.

    So I open the door and dart inside.

    It smells like paper and ink in here. I fire a quick smile at the guy at the counter and zoom down an aisle. I don’t really know what I’m looking at, but I start looking anyway.

    And, of course, what I see blows my mind.

    I don’t restrain myself. I pick up anything that seems the slightest bit interesting, flip through it, and widen my horizons a little every time. Whoa… these guys are pushing the boundaries of what I even thought comic books were. I guess I need more education than Archie comics had given me, because I didn’t even know that graphic novels could get this intense. Some of them have, I swear to God, fully-realized oil paintings for illustrations. Then there’s the classic Batman and Spiderman stuff, but a lot of it is given a totally new, modern spin. What I wouldn’t give to write a Spiderman comic! And then there’s the Japanese anime stuff, too, and any number of different styles and writers and…

    “Hey, you.”

    I snap my head up. The guy at the counter, an older guy with glasses and curly hair, is looking at me. There’s another, similarly geeky guy standing beside him, staring at me too.

    “Y-yes?”

    “You’re really into comics?” the other guy, with a blue t-shirt, asks.

    “Yes,” I answer.

    The guy who works here, whose nametag introduces himself as Kevin, makes a face between exasperation and disbelief.

    “What, you don’t believe me?” I ask.

    “I would take some convincing,” he sneers.

    “Well, for starters…” I fish Watchmen out of my purse. “This is my bible.”

    Mr Blue Shirt’s lips contort, and Kevin just shakes his head.

    “O-kay then, little girl.”

    I frown.

    “Little girl? Little girl?”

    He nods, while Mr Blue Shirt laughs.

    “Yeah, I said it. Gonna beat me up, little girl?”

    I’m too shocked to even say anything. My heart is racing. What do you know, the worst thing I thought could happen upon walking into his store has happened. The proprietor points at me (well, metaphorically at least) and laughs!

    “I’m in your store,” I point out. “You should be treating me like a good, paying customer.”

    “Well, I’m not so sure I want you as a customer,” that despicable Kevin says.

    “And why not?”

    I’m sure most self-respecting people would just turn around and leave at this point, after being so insulted. For some reason I feel like sparring with this idiot.

    “I don’t want my store to be infected by wannabes,” Kevin says, his squinting eyes so ridiculously condescending.

    “I’m not a wannabe,” I say. “I’m – I’m a writer. And an artist.”

    “Oh, are you?” he laughs. “I very, very much doubt you’re anything more than a wannabe, second-rate artist, and I bet your writing is nothing but cliche drivel.”

    I just blink. Blue Shirt Man is even getting a little uncomfortable; he turns away and starts attending to a stack of papers. Kevin looks a little less smug as his cronie abandons him.

    “What’s wrong with you, Kevin?” I ask, approaching the desk. “Are you so insecure you just want to pick on every potential customer that walks in here? I’m surprised you’re still in business.”

    I shock myself with every word that comes out of my mouth. How’d this get so hostile?

    Kevin doesn’t say anything, just narrows his eyes a little. I keep staring, too, and eventually he turns and walks through some plastic curtains and into the back of the store. Shaking a little bit, and so very, very confused, I wander back to the aisles and browse some more. After a few minutes I’ve settled on some things to buy, and I take them to Blue Shirt at the counter.

    “Kevin’s a douche,” he tells me as I pass him my credit card.

    “No kidding,” I snap. “What’s wrong with him?”

    “Well, after hearing you’re an artist and a writer, he probably got a little jealous,” Blue Shirt confides. “Even if you’re a shoddy artist or a shoddy writer, he’d be jealous. He has about as much talent in those areas as a water buffalo does at roller skating.”

    This place just gets stranger and stranger. I take my newly purchased graphic novel gold, pop it into my purse, and leave.

    I can’t tell if I’ll end up coming back or not.

  8. B. Macon 03 Jan 2010 at 5:18 pm

    The chapter is around 1300 words long. I think that’s a snappy length, which will help the reader feel like he’s completing chapters at a quick pace and getting somewhere. (Also, it’s somewhat easier for me to read and review stories in sets of 1000-1500 words than in 10,000 word orgies).

    The opening paragraph of chapter 3 is really out of the blue. She’s talking about, umm, the produce section. What! I’d recommend moving forward with either something about the Poppy-Landon relationship (like her wondering what he would buy in a grocery store, or even if he shops for groceries) or alternately something that will move the plot forward in another way. For example, what ever became of that murdered superintendent? Maybe she hears something about it at one of the TVs in the grocery store. “And in other news, an area man was shot repeatedly in the face… the police suspect foul play.”

    It seems kind of awkward that these bystanders just randomly talk about channel 1020 so soon after it came up for her. I think that this lucky break would feel a bit less contrived if it came later (to make it seem like more time has passed).

    “I was thinking of titling it Superheroine. Since it’s about a superhero who is a girl and stuff. Yeah. I don’t know yet, though.” That reminds me a bit. So this book is about someone who’s sort of a stand-in for her, down to having the same period experience. So this could be an interesting view at what she thinks of herself. But we don’t really know anything about the Superheroine character. What’s her idealized personality like? What sort of abilities does the idealized character have? What sort of wrongs does she right? Also, I bet this is intentional, but Superheroine is a very banal name for a comic book series. Definitely not as fresh as, say, Superheroin.

    I think it would help if she had someone to talk about the series with. It doesn’t have to be a coworker but just anyone who knows what she’s going through. I don’t think Landon can fill that role, because she’s sort of keeping him in the dark about it, but maybe she has some other friend she talks with.

    I think it’s amusing that she’s so attached to a character that sounds pretty bland. I think that most writers have that experience.

    “Whatever the opposite of shooting someone is.” 🙂

    “It smells like paper and ink in here.” Hah, I need to get to THAT comic book store. Every store I’ve ever been inside smells kind of like mold and dust with a bit of sweat in there.

    Sadly, I think the concept for the Kevin character is totally believable. However, “I would take some convincing” could probably be a bit more stylish. For example, I think some comic book guys look at stuff like manga as an attack on their clubhouse. He might say something like “Sailor Moon is that way.”

    I think it would help if there were more physical differentiation between Kevin and the other guy behind the counter. For example, maybe one is lanky and tall and the other is a bit pudgy. Differentiating them by t-shirt color may lose some people.

    “Little girl” strikes me as a bit too cartoonish to be believable. “Girl” by itself would probably get the same point across.

    “I’m not so sure I want you as a paying customer,’ that despicable Kevin says.” I don’t think that you need to tell us he’s despicable. It should be pretty obvious from what he said, right?

    He does sound a bit two-dimensionally sinister. He doesn’t feel like a real person. For example, could you imagine anyone saying “I’m not so sure I want you as a paying customer”? I would recommend rephrasing it as something like “The last thing I need is another wannabe.” At least that way it’s a bit clearer that he sees himself in a heroic position, standing up for artistic authenticity or whatever.

    “I bet your writing is nothing but cliché drivel.” I’d be careful here. We don’t really know anything about her story at this point. So far, it DOES sound like cliché drivel. We don’t know what she’s fighting for, how she’s different than any other superhero (besides her gender), or anything else that distinguishes her.

    I think crony is spelled with a y rather than an ie. It could be a regional/national thing, though.

    “I’m surprised you’re still in business.” She’s a writer, right? Give her a more stylish putdown. Also, if she IS an authentic comic book fan, she might use an in-joke here. “You and your store are so dirty that not even Garth Ennis would set foot in here.” 😉 (Ennis is a writer that uses gratuitous violence and rape in pretty much all of his comics). Alternately, many <comic book aficionados hate Robert Liefeld because his work is childishly bad. I mean REALLY bad. Normally, I’d recommend against in-jokes because a lot of the readers won’t get them, but I think it might help develop the character in this case.

    I think you could take out the grocery store from the beginning of the chapter and maybe just do the entire chapter in the comic book store.

    I like that there was conflict here, but I think that it would be more interesting if the conflict felt realistic. If Kevin was slightly more likable, I think he’d make a better villain. 😉

  9. B. Macon 03 Jan 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Also, I think that a lot of unpublished authors (myself included, sometimes) have a major chip on their shoulder about it, particularly when so much crap gets published and goes on to make bajillions of dollars. (See Liefeld). Some unpublished authors have taken to calling themselves “to be published authors” rather than “unpublished.” Then you have the literati who complain incessantly about how no one appreciates their brilliance and how stupid the book-buying public is. “But I’m way better than Twilight! Why doesn’t anyone publish me?” Boohoohoo. Don’t quit your day job.

  10. Beccaon 06 Jan 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Sorry about the slight delay, start of second term and all that. Thank you again for your insight, B. Mac, I highly value it. And, Superheroine is supposed to be a super bland, awful title. A better one is suggested to her later, to kind of show her amateur-ishness. So here’s the fourth chapter, in which we get some action.

    Chapter Four

    I picked up Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and haven’t put it down for the past three hours. The sky outside is dark now, and my ass on the cold bathroom floor is way past numb. Have you ever done that? Just picked something up when you’re in an inconvenient place and read just a few words, and found yourself so absorbed that you end up devouring hundreds of pages even though you’re so uncomfortable? Like me. I sat down, just for a second, I told myself, in the bathroom to read one page, just one page – or so I thought.

    Eventually I find a place in the story suitable enough for me to stop at, for just long enough to make dinner. I stand and massage the pins and needles out of my ass. Still perusing the book, I head to the kitchen and prop it up on the counter so I can read as I make a sandwich. For ultimate distraction, which I need for some reason, I flick on the TV to that crack-addict channel.

    After a few weird scenes of basically nothing interesting besides some pages of old comic books, a few words from the TV set catch my attention and cause me to simultaneously lose my page in V for Vendetta and cut my finger slicing onions.

    “I’m not a wannabe. I’m – I’m a writer. And an artist.”

    My voice. My own voice, my own words, are coming at me from the TV.

    Sucking the cut on my finger, I drop everything and focus on the TV. The same images are there, the same weird stuff. Superman as Clark Kent, some Spiderman shots, a random elephant thundering over the African plains. But my voice is playing overtop of it.

    “Little girl? Little girl?”

    “I’m not a wannabe. I’m – I’m a writer. And an artist.”

    “What’s wrong with you, Kevin?”

    All things I said today, in the comic book store.

    What the fuck is going on?

    I grope between the couch cushions for my phone and call up Landon as quick as I can. The phone rings and rings and rings. He doesn’t pick up.

    “Goddamn you, workaholic,” I growl as it goes to voicemail. I hang up. If he doesn’t get the call now, it won’t matter to him later. The TV channel won’t be cycling my voice all night.

    Except… it almost does.

    An hour later, it’s still playing all the stuff I said today. I’ve left V for Vendetta and my sandwich on the counter, abandoned, so I can just sit there and stare. And try to control my shaking limbs. Landon still won’t pick up there phone, so I’m just left alone in this weirdness.

    How would this station get my voice? Do they have microphones in the comic book store? I mean, really, what is going on here?

    I look up the number for the cable service provider. Maybe they can get me some answers. But no, I end up sitting on hold for twenty minutes before I hang up, and I hang up totally answerless. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

    Just when I’m starting to get used to this numb panicky feeling, and just really starting to hate the sound of my own voice, there’s a big fat screeching sound down on the street below. It’s too loud and reckless to be normal, so I go to the fire escape to check it out.

    Under the sky, in the wind and the tiny specks of raindrops, I squint around for the cause of the noise that’s still going on. The main street my apartment building is on is empty – a rarity, almost unheard of on a Friday night. It should still be almost rush-hour. Then the source of the ear-splitting engine noises hurdles around the corner.

    It’s a big, fat Hummer. It fishtails onto 32nd Street and comes to a sudden stop in the middle of the street. A few tall, brawny men climb out, and my heart clenches when I see the machine guns slung over their chests and in their arms. They are locked and loaded, ready for a fight. I dart behind the stairs, further into the dark. A visible figure on the building above them might be too big a temptation, and I don’t want to get shot.

    I strain to hear the gangsters as they start to talk amongst themselves, but their voices are blocked out by more loud, chopping engine noises. Above the street, a police helicopter hovers. My hair whips around my head, the chopper is so close. They have searchlights and someone is shouting with a bullhorn, words I can’t make out. One of the gangsters yells something skyward, lifts his massive gun and fires a few rounds playfully up at them. He laughs and jokes to one of his buddies.

    This seems like the last straw for the police. A short ladder is thrown down and a small figure climbs down just a short ways before dropping. I gasp, thinking the person is falling to their death, but I should know better.

    I know Landon does his job better than that.

    It’s him. I could recognize him a million miles away. He’s outfitted in the armour and mask he always wears, but it no longer looks benign. I always see his SCF standard issue power-suit in my living room, but on the street doing battle it inspires fear in me the same way it must inspire fear in his enemies. The black armour glows red as Landon lands on the street and stalks towards the Hummer. The gangsters lift their guns.

    Horror floods my whole body till it feels like I’m no longer in it. They shoot – but it looks like they all miss. Landon, or as they know him, Captain Beckwith, is still striding towards them. A few more bullets fly at him but he blocks them with an armoured forearm, scattering them harmlessly to the pavement. Another SCF plummets from the helicopter and joins Landon, with an SCF-issue rocket launcher on his shoulder. He sends a bomb flying at the Hummer, and it hits with an explosion so loud it rocks the street. I’m knocked off my feet by the force of it.

    The gangsters are scattering now, eager to put distance between them and their flaming vehicle. Landon is firing a pistol at a few of the guys while the SCF with the rocket launcher is blasting them apart.

    I can’t watch anymore. Not tonight. I’m in rough enough shape as it is.

    I crawl under the covers on my couch, trying to ignore the warfare outside my window and hoping it’ll be over in the morning.

  11. B. Macon 06 Jan 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Hello, Becca.

    There have been a lot of references to how much she likes Alan Moore works but we haven’t seen anything she’s actually gotten out of them. There are a lot of different ways to read something. For example, if she were a literary scholar, she might talk about themes, motifs, hidden meanings and symbols. If she were a businesswoman or editor, she might try to figure out which of his stories sold and which didn’t and why. If she were a criminal profiler for the FBI, she might read something to establish personality traits and other characteristics to identify a criminal. How is she reading V for Vendetta? What does her reading suggest about her? Why does this book matter enough to her that it’s worth mentioning here?

    “What the fuck is going on?” Now she’s reading MY thoughts. Creepy!

    “The black armor glows red.” That doesn’t quite feel consistent. I get what you’re trying to say, though. The black armor is reflecting some red light from a fire or police light or something?

    Unless there’s some reason that hasn’t been laid out yet, I feel it’s a bit contrived that this firefight with Landon just happens to break out (of all the places in the city) within viewing distance of her apartment. You could get around that in a lot of ways, but the ones coming to me now would require tinkering with the plot a bit. 1) She catches the fight as it happens on the news, or even on the creepy channel, rather than watching it personally. 2) She’s near the fight because he’s on the way to see her and the criminals are gunning for him. 3) She and Landon are meeting together in public (like in a sparsely-populated area or at a late-night diner or something) when the criminals try to assassinate him. 4) She knows where he’s working tonight and tries to find him. She finds him as he’s carrying out the takedown mission.

    I like the detail that she’s knocked to her feet. It sort of puts her in the fight even though she’s not actually a participant.

    I thought this chapter could possibly be connected a bit more to what has been going on. It seems kind of random and doesn’t feature her as much as I’d like.

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

  12. Beccaon 08 Jan 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Hey, B. Mac. Thanks for the mention of the Alan Moorething. In my next drafts further development of her work will be a priority. “The black armor glows red.” – with that I was trying to capture a burning-coals kind of description… but it was NaNo, so when it was hard to describe I moved right along.

    I love the idea of an assassination attempt on Landon when they’re out in public. That would be a really cool scene, plus it would bring Poppy into the action more. Great ideas, as usual. So here’s another chapter (: Sorry if it’s long.

    Chapter Five

    “Poppy? Wake up.”

    I crack my eyelid open. Landon is standing over me. He’s not wearing his mask. He’s not even wearing his power-suit.

    “What, do you have the day off or something?” I croak, sitting up.

    “Yeah. After last night…” he shakes his head. “They kind of had no choice.”

    “Are you hurt?”

    “Just some bruises and scrapes,” he assures me. “Want some breakfast?”

    “Uh, sure.”

    Landon waits for me to get dressed and then we head out. I don’t know what I was expecting the street to look like, but not like this. About two blocks of the street are cordoned off with police tape. The blasted-out Hummer is sitting in the intersection like an abandoned, blackened turtle shell. A few police officers and a clean-up crew are working on scraping some bodies off the road.

    “Oh, God, Landon,” I sigh.

    He looks uncomfortable.

    “I know,” he says. “I’m sorry it had to be right outside your door. But at least none of your windows got blasted out.”

    I look up and see that some of my neighbours are missing a few panes of glass.

    Landon leads me out from under the police tape and away from this mess. Waking up to this is sobering; suddenly I’m not in a very good mood. Landon doesn’t look to be in one, either.

    “You’re okay, right?” I ask. “And the superhero with you, he’s okay, too?”

    “Yeah, Eagle’s just fine,” he answers. “And you’re okay?”

    “Yep.”

    “It’s sad, but it seems like every time anyone greets anyone else in this city, you’re just making sure the other person is safe and secure,” I sigh. “It shouldn’t have to be like this.”

    “Well, that’s what we’re trying to fix,” Landon tells me. “It shouldn’t have to be like this, but it is. We’re trying.”

    “I know. I just wish there was more I could do. Maybe I should join the police force.”

    “No!” Landon says, alarmed.

    “Why not?” I demand. “They need more people. The city needs more defenders. I don’t want to stand by and watch while the gangs totally take over.”

    “They won’t take over,” he mutters. “But there’s no way I’m letting you join the force. We don’t need people that badly.”

    I glare at him, but he’s resolute. He just stares straight ahead, eyebrows furrowed. We see almost eye-to-eye, a fact that has always embarrassed Landon, but right now it’s helping me in my stare-down.

    “Whatever,” I say. “If the police force doesn’t want me, maybe I’ll join the Cobras or the Scorpions.”

    He rolls his eyes. No one ever believes me when I make threats to join a gang.

    We get to our favourite diner and take a booth with a view out the front window. We order a ridiculous, vast amount of food and eat gazing up at the skyscrapers and the singles moms and business people passing on the street. I knew there was something I had to tell Landon and it suddenly bursts in on me.

    “Hey, remember that whacko TV channel?”

    “How could I forget?” Landon says around a mouthful of scrambled eggs. He’s charming.

    “Last night…” I trail off. “You’re never going to believe this. You’ll think I’m completely crazy, just out of my mind.”

    “I already think that. But go on.”

    “My own voice was on that channel last night,” I tell him.

    Landon looks up at me, frowning again.

    “How did you know it was your voice?” he asks. “It might not have been. People’s voices sound really different sometimes.”

    “Duh, I know my own voice. Plus, what it was saying… was stuff that I’d said earlier.”

    I keep my voice down so the other people in the diner won’t think I’m delusional, too. Landon is suddenly no longer skeptical; now he’s concerned. The police officer in him comes out.

    “Really? Where were you when you said those things? To whom did you say them?”

    To whom? “I said them while I was in the comic book store. To the guy there. We kind of had a fight. I bitched him out, it was awesome.”

    Landon’s dark eyes narrow.

    “If they have some kind of illegal surveillance system in there, if they’re recording customers’ voices and selling them to the TV people… that’s really bad,” he says. “Why would they do that?”

    I shrug, drawing smiley faces in the condensation on my glass of water.

    “I don’t know,” I tell him.

    Thoughtfully, Landon wipes his mouth with a napkin. He throws it down on his empty plate and stands up.

    “Wait here,” he instructs.

    I get up and follow him, anyway. He gives the woman at the counter a fifty dollar bill and stalks his way out of the diner. His legs are longer than mine, even though we’re the same height. I have to almost jog to catch up to him.

    “Where are we going?” I ask.

    “To the comic book store,” he answers shortly. “I’m going to check out this situation.”

    “Landon,” I groan. “You’re going to embarrass me in front of all the nerds!”

    “I don’t care. This is about more than looking cool. This is about your safety and privacy.”

    I’m too out of breath to retort. We arrive at the comic book store and Landon throws open the door. I dart in and rest a moment, with my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. Landon, however, is totally unfazed by the exertion. He marches up to the counter, where that jerk Kevin is, and takes out his SCF identification badge.

    “Captain Beckwith, Specialized Crime Fighter,” he announces. “What kind of surveillance black market are you running here, sir?”

    The look on Kevin’s face is worth a million dollars.

    “W-what are you talking about?” he stutters.

    “How is that this girl’s voice,” he points at a stupidly grinning me, “shows up on a television station repeating things she said in this shop earlier that day?”

    Kevin is blinking repeatedly. I wave at him.

    “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he says, “but can I get your autograph, Captain Beckwith?”

    I laugh, but Landon doesn’t even crack a smile. He turns on his heel and rushes around the room, reaching into corners and glaring at the ceiling.

    “There’s no surveillance system here,” Kevin insists. “Just the camera on the wall behind me, that’s it!”

    “Silence! You’ll speak when spoken to.”

    “Landon, maybe he’s telling the truth,” I suggest.

    “You shut up, too,” Landon snaps at me.

    I realize now that this really isn’t a time to be joking. I stand there with my hands behind my back as a stunned Kevin stares between me and Landon, who is still conducting his crazy-person search of the premises. When Landon pushes his way through the curtains and into the back room, Kevin looks at me.

    “You know Captain Beckwith?” he asks. “Maybe you’re not as much of a wannabe as I thought.”

    “Oh, so you’ll admit your error?” I ask. “You’ll offer up an apology? Very well, I accept.”

    He glares again.

    “Then again, maybe you are just an Alan Moore-worshipping poseur,” he says.

    I honour that remark with silence. Thankfully, at that moment Landon storms back into the room. His search looks ungratified.

    “I’ll be back here,” he says to Kevin, pointing a finger in his chest, “with a full police investigation team behind me, and you better hope you aren’t hiding anything. Come on, Poppy.”

    He pulls me out by the hand.

    “Ouch, Landon, you’re destroying my hand,” I complain.

    Letting go, Landon lets out a grunt of frustration.

    “God, I was so sure they were hiding something back there,” he says. “But not so much as a shitty little computer or camera or anything!”

    “If that’s the case, how do you think they recorded my voice?” I ask, massaging the life back into my hand.

    Landon stops walking and sighs, his hand on his forehead.

    “I have no idea,” he confesses. “But listen, now that I think about it, that was a pretty stupid, rash thing to do.”

    “You think?” I intone. Landon ignores me.

    “Maybe I’d better walk you home,” he says.

    “Why do you need to walk me?”

    “I just revealed my face to the public. And you were there. And now everyone knows you know me.”

    “Not everyone!” I groan. “Just that stupid Kevin. Come on, it’s not like the whole world saw you!”

    “But we’re not really encouraged to reveal our identities,” Landon admits.

    “Yeah, but it’s not an imposed SCF rule, is it?” I ask. “No, I know for a fact it’s not. It’s like if Brad Pitt walked into a public place and said, ‘I’m Brad Pitt!’ That wouldn’t be bad.”

    “I’m not really on par with Brad Pitt,” he says, his cheeks pink.

    “Whatever. The fact of the matter is that I don’t need you to walk me home, thank you very much. I’ll see you later, alligator.”

    With that, I turn on my heel and walk away, leaving Landon on the sidewalk alone. I’m a block away by the time I realize I’m heading the wrong direction. I circle back and correct.

    I get to the line of yellow police tape and duck under it before I realize part of why Landon needed to walk me home.

    “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” a cop says, rushing to catch me by the arm. “What are you doing, miss? This is a crime scene. I’ll have to ask you to step back behind the tape, please.”

    “Oh, crap,” I mutter.

    The police officer shoves me back over the line, completely disregarding my pleas and explanations. Landon, looking a little smug, is waiting on the other side.

    “Officer Harquail?” he says, flashing his badge. “I was just about to escort this girl up to her apartment, if I may.”

    “Ah, Captain Beckwith! Yes, yes, of course!”

    The officer parts the yellow tape for us, and Landon walks me up to my apartment with a grin on his face.

    “It wasn’t really an offer I was making, you know,” he teases. “It was more of a necessity.”

    “Well, why didn’t you say that before?”

    “I thought it was obvious,” Landon chuckles.

    We stop as I unlock my door. I go inside, expecting him to follow, but he stays leaning against the door frame.

    “Are you coming in or not?” I ask.

    He shrugs and swipes some of his blond hair out of his eyes.

    “Want me to?”

    “I guess. Whatever you want,” I say with a shrug to match his own.

    I leave the door open for whatever he decides and head to the kitchen, where I pour myself a glass of water. I’ve been running all over the city this morning. I’m already tired and dehydrated.

    “Poppy…”

    Landon is walking inside slowly, looking down, kicking his feet. Crap. It’s this conversation again.

    “What?”

    “Are you sure you don’t want me to move in with you?” he asks, hands in his pockets.

    “It’s not that I wouldn’t like living with you,” I start. “We have a lot of fun together and stuff, and of course I love you, you’re my best friend. But…”

    “What?” He stands in front of me grabs my hand. Once he’s done it he looks uncomfortable, but he’s already done it so now he has to live with it. “What the matter?”

    “We’re not boyfriend and girlfriend,” I point out. “In case you didn’t notice. I don’t know, but I think it might be awkward.”

    “Aww, Poppy,” he whines. “You know it wouldn’t be! Come on, don’t you get lonely here? Don’t you like having me around? I’m here all the time as it is!”

    Somehow Landon, Mr Hotshot Superhero out all night saving the city, manages to turn into whiny little boy-next-door in about half a second.

    “We could just try it out,” he says. “Just for, say, a month. That wouldn’t be too awful, would it?”

    I sigh and take another sip of water.

    “You’ve got a spare bedroom just sitting there,” Landon reminds me. “I’ll pay half the rent, half of everything, and that’ll go much easier on your trust fund so you can live like a child on your daddy’s money for much longer. How’s that sound?”

    “Fine!” I explode. “Fine, have it your way! You can move in on Monday!”

    Landon whoops and kisses me on the cheek. I spill half my water down the front of my shirt.

    “You will not regret this, Poppy!” he shouts, grabbing his jacket and bounding out the door. I can hear him banging down the steps all the way to ground level.

    What have I done?

  13. Beccaon 15 Jan 2010 at 6:23 pm

    I know you’re busy, B. Mac, but if you could look at this again I’d appreciate it. No hurry though (:

  14. B. Macon 16 Jan 2010 at 12:15 am

    Thank you for reminding me. I get kind of scatter-brained sometimes. In the future, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that I’ve lost a post if I haven’t responded to it within three days.

    “They kind of had no choice.” Could you explain that a bit? It suggests that he was injured, but he says that he was just scraped up. What I inferred from that was that he was hurt or shaken up more badly than he’ll admit (because we guys are macho like that).

    “I look up and see that some of my neighbours are missing a few panes of glass.” This could possibly be done more stylishly as a line from Landon. Maybe something like “we have reports of broken glass as far away as [LANDMARK].”

    “Suddenly I’m not in a very good mood. Landon doesn’t look to be in one, either.” I think that this could be shown more effectively. So far, I got the impression that he has been acting more or less cheerfully, if maybe a bit guarded about the extent of his injuries. If he were really in a bad mood, I would expect that he might, for example, get more testy if she tried probing into exactly how serious the injuries were.

    “And the superhero with you…” “Yeah, Eagle’s just fine.” I was under the impression that the word “superhero” annoyed him. If he is in a bad mood, I think that he would react more irritably, especially if what we saw last night turns out to be an assassination attempt. “Superhero” makes it sound like his life is fun and games, and that contrasts very starkly with someone trying to kill him and his partner.

    The conversation between Landon and the protag is okay but I think it should be a bit tenser. Maybe higher-stakes. If we take what they say at face value, he’s fine and she’s fine and she didn’t even lose any panes of glass. Is he worried about another attempt (either by associates of the original attackers or perhaps someone else entirely)? Is he upset at his bosses that they won’t let him back on the job even though (PROBLEM X) is brewing? (For example, he may be insulted that someone tried to kill him and that his boss didn’t even ask him if Landon wanted to investigate HIS case). I’d recommend trying to focus our attention more on the problems that are brewing rather than the particular attack that just ended.

    Why does she wonder if she should join the police force? Is she being serious? She doesn’t strike me as that macho. If she were that intrepid, I imagine she might have wandered out of her house to get a better look at the fight. She might have justified it as research for her upcoming graphic novel. (Similarly, I know a journalist whose career instincts make Charles Darwin roll over in his grave).

    I think he’s being a bit too polite with her when she says she wants to join the police force. He might take it as a slight to his toughness if someone not particularly tough said she wanted to join the force. It might imply that it’s a job that just anybody could do? Also, he’s suggested that this job is more brutal than she thinks and this attack was presumably just the tip of the iceberg.


    “How did you know it was your voice?” he asks. “It might not have been. People’s voices sound really different sometimes.” –I think the word “different” here should be “similar.” 😉

    “The police officer in him comes out.” This could probably be shown more smoothly by referring to him as “the police officer” rather than “Landon” to suggest that he’s acting a bit differently than before. If he’s really serious, he might start scrawling notes in his notebook.

    “Really? Where were you when you said those things? To whom did you say them?” I really like these questions. They make him sound a lot more like a cop investigating a case than a person making fun conversation. In particular, it sounds like he’s throwing out a barrage of questions.

    I’d recommend cutting her monologue line, “To whom?”

    “I shrug, drawing smiley faces in the condensation on my glass of water.” Haha. I think that’s an excellent way to show her state of mind at this particular moment.

    I like that he’s open to the possibility that something bizarre and illegal (like the comic book store guys selling surveillance footage to the TV station) might be going on, rather than him saying something more skeptical (which I think would be more rational at this moment). It makes him sound both paranoid and friendly. I think that’s a really likable combination for this character and it plays off quite nicely against the nonchalant novelist scrawling smiley faces on her glass.

    “He gives the woman at the counter a fifty dollar bill”—this is a conspicuous detail, particularly given that he works for the police. What are you trying to show about him here?

    “His legs are longer than mine, even though we’re the same height.” I don’t think this line is necessary—she already mentioned she’s as tall as him.

    “To the comic book store,” he answers shortly. I think the phrase “he answers shortly” is probably unnecessary. It’s sort of implied by him answering in a clipped, five word phrase, right?

    I like the conflict here—him taking the possible crime more seriously than she does. It feels very believable based on what we know of the characters so far.

    Since this is a comic book store and Landon is sort of a superhero, I imagine that the comic book guys might have a stronger reaction to actually meeting him, maybe something like the reaction a priest would have if the Pope walked into one of his masses on a quiet Sunday. Or maybe they hate Landon (like I hate Superman because I find him boring and forgettable). The autograph request works well but I would recommend using it sooner. For example, maybe Kevin excitedly introduces himself to the Captain as one of his biggest fans and knows something really random about one of his past exploits. (That would be a really coherent way to introduce a piece of backstory about the captain… or maybe he brings up what he heard on the news about Landon’s fight last night?) UPDATE: Reading through this again, I’d recommend making it clearer early on whether Kevin recognizes him or not. He’s not wearing his mask, right?

    “Silence! You’ll speak when spoken to.” This sounds really over the top, like he’s putting on a show. Unless he’s TRYING to sound over the top, I would recommend toning it down a bit. Like “I’m asking the questions, buddy” or something like that. (Kevin’s sentence would have to be reworded into a question, though).

    “You shut up, too,” sounds really intense. I’d recommend building up to that line. He hasn’t actually snapped at her yet in this chapter, and I wouldn’t recommend starting with a snapping that severe. Also… I got the impression that he came out here because he was super-defensive about her, maybe in a somewhat paternalistic way. Maybe you could rephrase this sentence in a way that makes it sound more dismissive of her concern but maybe a bit less abusive. Like “Hey, I’m the police officer here. I’m running this.” (That would sort of tie in to his objections to her joining the police force earlier, I think).

    “Then again, maybe you are just an Alan Moore-worshipping poseur,” he says. Haha. I think it’s amusing that the presence of Landon has improved their relationship somewhat (they’ve both been kind of bullied by the overprotective Landon and Kevin now has somewhat more respect for her authenticity). I sort of assumed that the book was leading up to a romance between Poppy and Landon, but my mind would be BLOWN if the love interest were actually Kevin.

    “Now that I think about it, that was a pretty stupid, rash thing to do.” That sounds very introspective for this character. It might feel more believable if he admits that he made a mistake a bit later, when he’s a bit more removed from the heat of the moment.

    “You think?” I intone. –I think the word “intone” is a bit too high-brow here. It sticks out. I’d recommend replacing it with something more invisible like “say” or “ask.”

    Since it’s a big deal that Landon identifies himself as Landon without his mask on, I would mention that in-story as it happens.

    Landon just identified himself as an SCF in a building that he thought was under secret surveillance? If he takes his secret identity seriously, you might want to rework the scene a bit so that it’s less of an unforced error. Maybe Kevin says something that pressures him into making that mistake. (For example, maybe Kevin doesn’t believe that the guy in civilian clothes is actually a police officer and asks for his ID. When Landon pulls it out, Kevin can excitedly ask if he’s the Captain Beckwith—“But I thought you guys always wore masks!”)

    A little bit of discrepancy here: “Yeah, but it’s not an imposed SCF rule, is it?” I ask. “No, I know for a fact it’s not.” The first sentence suggests that she’s not really sure. The last one says explicitly that she feels certain. I wonder if the discrepancy would momentarily disorient readers? Alternately, I guess it could work a bit more smoothly if she were shown to be inarticulate more often.

    In ten or fifteen years, will people know who Brad Pitt is?

    “I’ll see you later, alligator.” I think this is a bit cliché. Maybe you could come up with something that says a bit more about their relationship? For example, “Catch ya later, babe” obviously wouldn’t fit with this character or relationship, but in another book it might help establish a casual and/or dismissive relationship.


    I’m a bit confused about the extent of their relationship. If they’re just kind of friends but not dating, it seems a bit weird that he’d ask to move in with her. (Especially if it’s not a money issue—a guy that can tip $50 doesn’t need a roommate). It seems like there might be more subtle ways for him to establish that he’s interested in spending more time with her in a semi-intimate way. Even besides asking her on a date, he might try serving as her bodyguard after someone tries to harm her.

    “What the matter?” I think that’s supposed to be “What’s the matter?”

    Landon is behaving REALLY obnoxiously. I sort of wonder what leads her to decide to let him stay with her. Is she really that concerned about the money? Or does she feel that bad for how pathetic he sounds right now? One thing that I think she’d be worried about is why he wants to live with her. Even if it weren’t likely to cause semi-romantic awkwardness, he does seem like a bit of a controlling personality. (Ahem—he told her to shut up that morning and didn’t even care that there was a witness!).

    “What have I done?” I can’t think of a good explanation. We might be stumbling into an idiot plot.

  15. Beccaon 22 Jan 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks a lot, B. Mac, I’m taking notes 🙂 Anyway, here’s chapter six, in which some more stuff happens.

    Chapter Six

    Okay, I realize it sounds a little stupid and spoiled-brat-ish of me, not wanting my best friend to move in with me and stuff. But I have reason behind it. Believe me, I’m backed by logic.

    I already mentioned that Landon proposed to me once, didn’t I? Yeah, well, that was awkward. Really awkward. I couldn’t look at him, much less talk to him, for months. I obviously don’t want that kind of scenario played out again, especially if we were living together. Can you imagine that? We’d have to face each other the next morning, eat toast together, stewing in our awful feelings. I’d be racked with guilt, Landon would be totally depressed… and our friendship would be ruined.

    Plus, there’s all this other awkward stuff in the past with me and Landon. Not that he knows about any of it, really. But back in high school, he was totally awesome. Everyone loved him. Everyone wanted to be friends with him. And who was he friends with? Two-years-younger me. Socially inept, chubby, redheaded… the list of my failings goes on and on. Everyone who was anyone was perplexed by our friendship and totally convinced of my being unworthy of Landon Beckwith’s camaraderie. Which was annoying. Why does there have to be a reason for people to be friends? We’d grown up as next-door neighbours. That cinched it. Friends for life.

    Anyway, with all that scrutiny from the people who wanted to be BFF with Landon came this weird pressure to date him. I don’t know why. Maybe that pressure didn’t even exist, maybe I invented that whole thing. But it sure felt like no one would credit our relationship unless there was sex or something going on under the table. Like everyone could understand his spending time with me if he was taking advantage of me , but not if we just hung out and played video games.

    It was so stupid, obviously. But I still feel slightly embarrassed whenever I’m around him. It’s like there’s a weird, sexual tension or something. But Landon has never felt it.

    Or maybe he has.

    But anyway, I’m totally nervous about his moving in. And Monday sneaks up on me too fast. The movers Landon hired, since he’d be away working all day, are brisk and professional, ignoring me drawing at my drafting table while they move all of Landon’s boxes. They drop the bill on the kitchen counter after a few hours and that’s it.

    Landon is all moved in.

    I order Chinese takeout, Landon’s favourite. I wait a while for him, but he doesn’t come home. I end up eating my dinner alone. When he finally walks in the door I’ve stopped work on the comic and I’m sprawled in front of the flavour-of-the-week reality show.

    “Where have you been?” I groan. “It’s like… late!”

    “Sorry,” he croaks. Landon slams the door. I wait for him to arrive in the living room but it takes longer than I expect. I raise myself off the couch enough to see him and gasp.

    “Landon! What happened?”

    He’s leaning against the wall, clutching his left leg. He inhales sharply, breath hissing between his teeth.

    “What happened?” I press. “Are you hurt badly?”

    I rush to Landon’s side and lift his arm over my shoulder. Very, very gently, we hobble to the couch.

    “Stray missile from the rocket launcher,” he says grimly.

    “You… got hit by a rocket launcher?” I repeat.

    “Well, yes, but… the power-suit absorbs a lot of the shock.”

    “So let’s see the damage,” I murmur.

    Landon starts pulling off the power-suit. He’s never been that modest about his body. He’s never had to be: he’s pretty friggin’ ripped, ever since he’s join the force. He squirms out of the suit, slowly and carefully, and when he’s left sitting there in his boxers, peeling down the legs, I’m faced with the wound on his calf.

    I retch.

    “Oh Landon,” I say, swallowing hard. “Why didn’t you go right to the hospital? This looks awful.”

    “It was just at the end of my shift,” he says, probing the dark bruising around the welts and bloody tatters of skin. “I was pretty much on my way home. No point, really.”

    “Yeah, there is. Don’t touch it,” I say, smacking his hand away. “This could get infected and disgusting – plus you won’t be able to go to work for a while with this. You should at least call the SCF commissioner. Can’t you collect disability?”

    Head hung, Landon shakes his head almost imperceptibly.

    “Funding was cut,” he says. “We’re no longer eligible. High-risk profession and all that.”

    “That’s bullshit,” I whisper.

    We sit there staring at his leg.

    “What can we do about it?” he asks, wincing.

    I throw up my hands.

    “I don’t know! Do I look like a friggin’ nurse? I don’t know what to do about this kind of thing.”

    “Come on, think of something. It hurts.”

    “No shit,” I sigh, getting up. “I’ll see if I have something.”

    The medicine cabinet in the bathroom is full of dusty bottles and boxes of expired pills. No one’s lived here since my uncle died of cancer, so some of his crazy insane medication is still in here. I make a mental note to throw it all out. The only things in here that could be of use to Landon are the regular, over-the-counter painkillers and the peroxide.

    “I have Tylenol and that stinging alcohol stuff,” I announce, returning to him. “What’ll it be?”

    “I’ll take ‘em both,” he says.

    “Hope you’re feeling tough,” I warn him, unscrewing the bottle of peroxide.

    When I pour a few drops of the liquid into the wound, Landon immediately screws up his eyes and clenches all his muscles. He lets out a wordless cry. I wince just watching him.

    “Argh!” he groans, relaxing a little. “You’re killing me, Poppy!”

    “You asked for it.” I toss him the bottle of painkillers. “God, they don’t pay you enough for this.”

    Landon says nothing as he opens the bottle and swallows a few pills. I stand listlessly, watching him.

    “Need anything else?” I ask.

    “Can you just help me to bed?” he sighs.

    I help him hobble into his new bedroom and onto his bed, which is much nicer than mine. It probably doesn’t even have springs that poke you.

    “Thanks,” Landon says, settling down. “I can take it from here.”

    “Yeah, okay,” I say, rolling my eyes. “Don’t you dare go to work tomorrow. I’m not going to let you be their bitch anymore.”

    His eyes are closed. He’s ignoring me. I close the door and go back to the desk to work some more.

    I need to write and draw all the rage out, so I start inking in lines on a drawing I did the other day. Inking is a violent aspect of my art, and I’m angry. Landon’s job… I’ve never really been all right with it. I mean, it’s perfect for him, personality-wise. He makes the perfect superhero. He’s clever, he’s strong, he’s agile, but most of all, he’s ridiculously kind. Saving people is his kind of thing. He’s the opposite of me, that way. I know this city’s falling to its knees, almost drowning in all the violence and hatred it’s being immersed in. I know that, but I don’t fight it. To me, it is what it is.

    Not to Landon. He can’t let sleeping dogs lie, and I admire him for this. He cares so deeply about this godforsaken place. Who knows why, but he can’t stand to see all the stuff that goes on, all the stuff the rest of us turn a blind eye to. He wants to save us.

    But his job just takes advantage of him every fucking day. He gets slammed with double shifts in dangerous parts of town so often you would wonder if they had anyone else running this place. He does the work of three guys, every day. He gets paid a lot, admittedly, but it’s not enough for the kind of stuff he does.

    I’ve inked this wrong. Just a few wrong lines, too hard over someone’s eyebrows or lips, and the whole thing is ruined. I didn’t like this frame anyway, luckily, and I have copies of the others on the page. I crumple it up and toss it into the recycling bin. I’m too distracted even for the mindless task of tracing lines.

    I turn on the TV and go to work editing a page of script, but my concentration is broken when I recognize the voice on TV.

    “I’ll be back here with a full police investigation team behind me, and you better hope you aren’t hiding anything. Come on, Poppy.”

    I whirl around and stare at the TV.

    Landon’s face is on it.

  16. Susan Boneson 22 Jan 2010 at 8:49 pm

    I know I’m not an English major, but, I’d like to put in my two cents of comments. Here goes:

    “Okay, I realize it sounds a little stupid and spoiled-brat-ish of me, not wanting my best friend to move in with me and stuff. But I have reason behind it. Believe me, I’m backed by logic.” Actually, I think, what she said in the previous chapters justified that she didn’t want to move in with him. Maybe you could start the chapter differently?

    ” ‘I’ll be back here with a full police investigation team behind me, and you better hope you aren’t hiding anything. Come on, Poppy.’ I whirl around and stare at the TV. Landon’s face is on it.'” Huh? That might just be my reaction but that got me totally confused. More explanation, perhaps.

    When Landon gets hit with that rocket launcher, you could show that he is in more pain. Not to sound upright, but it seems it Landon doesn’t have pain after he gets himself on to the couch.

    Other than that, I really like your chapters. It is a very fresh turn in the superhero genre! :-).

  17. B. Macon 23 Jan 2010 at 12:10 am

    I’m not sure what to make of Landon having proposed to her before. First, it seems odd that it hasn’t come up (or even been alluded to) until now. (Unless I missed it?) Second, it makes it seem even more questionable that she decided to live with him even though he’s sort of controlling and, umm, closer to abusive than not. I think that this setup would work better if they were driven together by circumstances, rather than her deciding to drive herself towards him on a sort of flimsy rationale. For example, she got outed as his friend, right? And the assassination attempts? There’s enough here that I think that he might rationally decide that the only way for her to avoid getting killed is to be with her pretty much all the time. It’d be paternalistic and uncomfortable and she’d probably chafe at the situation but there’d be at least some observable reason for her to agree to it.

    “But I have reason behind it. Believe me, I’m backed by logic.” The more she says it, the less I believe her. 😉

    The pacing in this chapter is slow and thrown off by backstory. So far, I’ve been pretty impressed by how steady and smooth you kept your writing during NaNoWriMo. However, with this chapter, I think that a restructuring might help. For monologuing to work, I think it needs more voice, more showing and less telling.

    “taking advantage of me ,” – I think that the space between me and the comma should be removed.

    “It’s like there’s a weird, sexual tension or something. But Landon has never felt it.” WHAT. HE PROPOSED TO HER. And, after being rejected (!), asked to move in with her. He is well beyond an innocent platonic friend, I think. Also, I think that this monologuing is a passive, bland way to tell us something that should be really special. Could you show this unreciprocated tension during a scene featuring the two of them? Also. Has she ever felt this sexual tension? That wasn’t the impression I got of their past encounters. If anything, it seemed like he felt something and she’s always tried to make the relationship just a simple friendship (like playing video games with him or whatever).

    “The movers Landon hired, since he’d be away working all day, are brisk and professional, ignoring me drawing at my drafting table while they move all of Landon’s boxes.” Awkward sentence, I think. What do you think of something like “Landon hired movers, since he’d be at work all day. They’re brisk and professional, ignoring the woman [or me] drawing at the [or my] drafting table as they move all of Landon’s boxes.”

    I really like the touch of having him hire movers to do something that’s usually pretty personal, because he’s at work. It helps characterize him and their relationship.

    I’d recommend coming up with a better, more believable reason for why he can’t collect disability. The funding was cut because it’s high-risk? Isn’t that the point of disability? For example, maybe he can’t collect disability because he doesn’t want his boss to know he got hurt. Maybe there’s something going on at work like his boss thinks he’s getting careless. Maybe he thinks that his partner can’t get on without him (probably believable, given his personality). Maybe he doesn’t want the other guys to wonder about whether he’s up for this job. Maybe the police force has regulations requiring a certain amount of time off the job after a hospital stay and he would feel guilty leaving them a man short for weeks or months. Maybe there’s political pressure, like an emerging scandal about police or SCFers playing up injuries to collect disability and he feels that it wouldn’t be worth the hassle to try proving it’s real now. (Similarly, the British public took it pretty seriously when their MPs padded their expense accounts).

    “I know this city’s falling to its knees, almost drowning in all the violence and hatred it’s being immersed in.” Please show this.

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter. I feel like you have a really good grasp of how to move a plot forward without throwing in Michael Bay-esque action sequences. “And then ninjas attacked!” “But they’re in space.” “ASTRONINJAS.”

  18. Beccaon 25 Jan 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for your enthusiasm, B. Mac and Susan! To address some stuff you said: Susan, that bit at the end that confused you, the italics are meant to convey the voice on the TV. So it’s Landon’s face, and voice, on TV saying the exact stuff he said in the comic book shop. *dramatic* Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    And B. Mac: Yeah, I agree that the proposal thing kind of comes out of nowhere. I think I threw it in when I was bored during NaNoWriMo, and I’ll probably cut it. It’s not very important. I also had a good idea recently to fix the randomness of Landon moving in, and to bring Poppy into the action a little more. I think I’ll rewrite that fight scene earlier as an assassination attempt on Landon while they’re hanging out (I think that was your idea, I liked it a lot), at his apartment (so he is unable to continue living there, and has to move in with Poppy, etc.). I’ll probably repost that here once I’m done with it.

    Moving on now to chapter seven.

    Chapter Seven

    His angry, rugged face is on the screen. Really close-up. You can see every detail of his skin, every neglected facial hair springing up, every old acne scar.

    “Landon!” I call, my voice edging towards hysteria.

    “What?” he shouts back. “What’s wrong?”

    I can’t move. I’m arrested there, staring at the TV, as the image switches to someone a little more familiar.

    It’s me.

    Landon has hobbled to his doorway. Leaning against it, he looks wildly around.

    “What’s the matter?” he demands.

    I raise a shaking finger.

    “We’re on TV,” I say faintly.

    He looks, and his mouth falls open. His own face is there again, looking angrier and more haggard. Almost ugly. Not at all like he looks in real life. But it’s unmistakably him.

    “Oh my God,” he whispers. “Is this that channel? What the fuck is going on?”

    More of Landon’s words from the comic book shop run through the audio. Real-life Landon grinds his teeth in rage. My face appears again, but I don’t look like myself, either. My hair is a deeper red, fuller and curlier. My lips look lip-sticky, my cheeks are flushed. There’s no way my teeth or eyes are that shiny and bright, either.

    “That – that isn’t me,” I say. “Landon, that isn’t me, is it? Tell me that’s not me.”

    He nods slowly.

    “I’m sorry, but that’s you. You look – different, but that’s you.”

    I shake my head.

    “No – no.” I don’t want to believe it.

    “Well, is that me?” he asks, pointing at his own face, which is now on the screen next to mine. “Do I look like that? I look like my face went through a mind grinder!”

    “That’s you,” I say slowly. “You don’t really look like that, though.”

    I stay braced against my desk; Landon stands there in a defensive stand, clenching his fists.

    “What are we going to do?” I ask, praying that he has an answer.

    Still staring at the TV, where our faces are become backgrounds to more weird images and scenes, he shakes his head.

    “I don’t know,” he confesses. “But we’re going to do something.”

    I wake up to Landon making a lot of noise in the kitchen. At first this just pisses me off. He was never very quiet in the way he handled plates. I pull the pillow over my head.

    I take it off when it gets hard to breathe. Oh, and I remembered that Landon is hurt and might need help.

    I pad out to the kitchen in my pyjamas, yawning. When I open my eyes, I realize that the kitchen is full of police officers and guys in SCF-issue power-suits. I yelp and cross my arms over my braless chest.

    Landon, in a circle of officers around the kitchen table, looks up at me and smiles humourlessly before looking back down into the eyes of the other officers.

    I try to listen as I sheepishly pour myself a bowl of cereal, pretending that I knew all along they were all here and that I was just comfortable enough to come out here anyway. Really I’m wanting to burst into tears out of my embarrassment. They’re ignoring me, though. They’re just talking police jargon.

    When I put my bowl of Rice Krispies in the sink, the circle breaks with lots of ‘Ten-four’s and ‘Roger’s. The officers and SCFs gradually leave the apartment after wishing Landon a speedy recovery. Eventually it’s just me and him in the kitchen.

    “What was that about?” I ask.

    “The whole TV thing,” he sighs, rubbing his eyes. “The police didn’t know about that channel, it wasn’t on record or anything. I alerted them, and told them the whole story. The comic book store is going to be searched today, every corner of it.”

    For some reason this only makes me feel marginally better. Lame. I act like it makes my day, though.

    “Great!”

    I’m surprised Landon didn’t catch the obviously-not-me-ness of that statement, but he just smiles and nods like everything is fixed.

    “So, what are you going to do today?” he asks.

    “Um… work on my comic.”

    “I thought it was a graphic novel,” he says teasingly.

    “Yeah, well…” I start fiddling with the jar of peanut butter. “I don’t know.”

    “Can I see some of it?”

    Instantly, my heart clenches.

    “No!” I blurt.

    “Aw, why not?” Landon makes a baby face.

    “Because it’s – it’s not – I can’t just –”

    “Come on!” he coaxes, standing up. “Just let me look.”

    He’s edging closer to my desk.

    “Landon, don’t you dare!”

    He snatches up a page of practice sketches and looks it over.

    “Landon!” I shout. “Put that down!”

    I rush at him, but he holds me back with his arm as he continues staring at my drawings. Some previously-hidden fear is almost choking me. It feels like I will die if eyes other than my own see those sketches. Especially when those eyes are squinting in such critical confusion.

    “Fuck you,” I moan in despair, still trying to reach the paper.

    “Who is this?” Landon asks as if he’s totally bewildered.

    “That’s nobody, it’s just a drawing. Give it here.”

    “Really, who’s the character?” he shows it to me, finally letting me grab it out of his hands.

    I hold it to my chest for a moment, backing away from him. My heart is racing; I feel like I’m going to cry.

    “Jeez, Poppy, I’m sorry… I was only kidding.”

    “Yeah, well,” I murmur, looking at the drawings myself.

    “Who is it? I’d love it if you told me about it,” Landon says gently.

    They are sketches of a girl with a harsh black bob, looking moody and dangerous from various angles.

    “It’s Vixen,” I whisper.

    “Vixen? Cool name,” he says, but I get the feeling he’s just trying to get on my side.

    “Yeah. She’s a bad guy.”

    “Cool.”

    “Yeah.”

    Divulging that tiny piece of information, and receiving that tiny bit of approval – that felt good. Really good. Like so good I might want to tell him more. What’s wrong with me?

    All it takes is Landon to sit down and start looking comfortable for me to open my mouth and spill the entire thing.

    “See, it starts with this girl, Sara. Ever since she first got her period at age twelve, she’s had these bizarre powers that fluctuate with the cycles of the moon and her period.”

    Landon is nodding. “What kind of powers?”

    “Well, she, uh… she turns into a cat-like, wolf-like thing,” I say, and I never realized how weird that sounds before I said it out loud.

    “Cat-like wolf?” he questions.

    “I guess it’s actually a wolf. The way I draw it kind of makes me think it’s a cat, though.”

    Why am I writing this thing? It doesn’t sound like I know what I’m talking about at all.

    “It should be a wolf,” Landon says. “That way she’s a werewolf, not a made-up thing. Makes you sound more credible.”

    “Whatever. At this point I’m just trying to get some sketches going. I don’t care about credibility yet.”

    “Tell me more,” Landon orders.

    “Okay. Um, Sara basically fights some bad guys, and then Vixen decides she’d like to kill her, and that’s basically all I have so far. God, it sounds lame.”

    “Actually, I think it’s a good idea,” he says. “You told me it was about superheroes, though.”

    “Yeah, it is. Sara is a werewolf-slash-superhero.”

    Landon nods. After a moment, he says, “Do you have anything more planned out for it?”

    “I think Sara ends up falling in love.”

    “Are you serious?” he groans.

    “Shut up,” I say, and I can feel my cheeks start to redden. “Anyway, I had the idea for her to get pregnant just as the plot gets to a really intense part. So she stops getting her period. So she loses her wolf powers for a while, and it looks like the bad guy’s going to win.”

    “Wow. Good twist.”

    “Thank you.”

    I lick some stray peanut butter from the jar off my fingers. Landon’s mouth is open and his whole head keeps twitching to the right, like he’s grasping for something to say.

    “Do you have a title yet?” he finally asks.

    Superheroine,” I tell him.
    \
    His lips form the made-up word. His eyes are evaluating it.

    “Don’t like it,” he says.

    “Why not?” I ask, trying not to be offended.

    “Too… flashy. But at the same time, not flashy enough. It needs to be more shocking, more individual.”

    I stare at him.

    “What would you suggest?”

    “She gets her powers from her – period?” It took effort to say that word. “And she’s a werewolf?”

    “Yeah.”

    Blood Werewolf,” he says simply. “It sounds catchy, it sounds morbid, which your audience would like, plus it creates mystery.”

    I taste the title, whisper it to myself. Try it on for size.

    “You know what, I like it,” I say. “Thanks.”

    “No problem. Now, show me more of this art of yours.”

  19. B. Macon 25 Jan 2010 at 6:51 pm

    What’s a mind grinder?

    “I don’t want to believe it.” Maybe you could show this. When someone is confronted with something unpleasant, for example, they sometimes come up with rationalizations that make no sense. This is an odd case because there doesn’t seem to be a logical explanation for what IS going on. It doesn’t seem to be that there’s a secret camera hidden in the comic book store, although all of the tapings so far have occurred there (as far as I remember).

    I wonder why she’s gotten more hot on the camera and he looks like a wreck. Perhaps the TV studio is being run by one of Landon’s enemies and making Landon look ugly makes him feel better.

    “praying that he has an answer.” Could you show this?

    Hmm. I like that she’s surprised to discover that he’s invited a retinue of police officers to the apartment.

    “I try to listen as I sheepishly pour myself a bowl of cereal, pretending that I knew all along they were all here and that I was just comfortable enough to come out here anyway. Really I’m wanting to burst into tears out of my embarrassment.” Show this, please.

    “For some reason this only makes me feel marginally better. Lame. I act like it makes my day, though. ‘Great!’
    I’m surprised Landon didn’t catch the obviously-not-me-ness of that statement, but he just smiles and nods like everything is fixed.” Please show us more! Like her being not totally satisfied with the massive police investigation idea.

    “Can I see some of it?” I’d recommend changing that to “Can I see it?” because I think it’s more natural-sounding.

    I like the confrontation where she tries to keep the sketches from him. However, I feel like maybe these lines could be better-shown: “Some previously-hidden fear is almost choking me. It feels like I will die if eyes other than my own see those sketches. Especially when those eyes are squinting in such critical confusion.”

    I don’t know if it matters, but Vixen is already a DC character. Sigh. After ~80 years of comic books, it feels like every good name is taken. Hell, I can think of three characters (including my own) named Agent Orange, for God’s sake.

    “Are you serious?” he groans. HAHA. If I told my editor that I thought Gary was going to fall in love, I would TOTALLY get the same reaction. I think this is a strong example of voicing, too. One thing I’ve noticed is that male writers tend to speak like “I think I’ll have him fall in love” whereas a lady might write something like “I think he falls in love,” like it’s something that’s happening on its own rather than at the author’s command. (Have you noticed that too, or am I just off my rocker?)

    Landon’s throwing around some writing buzzwords like “credibility” and the like. If he were a writer, it’d make sense if he sounded like that, but I don’t think he is. (Unless you later reveal that he himself is secretly a writer on the side or has some sort of writing/editing/artsy background). If he’s not a writer, it might help if maybe he drew on some of the experiences he does have. For example, maybe there’s some suspect in his backstory that had a really catchy name. Or maybe one of his teammates has a particularly catchy call-sign. Or maybe he wonders how goofy he’d feel if he had to hold a press conference introducing the city to its latest SCF member, Sergeant Superheroine.

    I did not like Blood Werewolf at first glance, but it’s growing on me. What do you think about Bloody Werewolf?

    Some other possible names that amused me at this late hour: Red Fang (“it’s like White Fang, but with blood!”), Blood Moon Rising, or the terribly cheesy Howling for Vengeance or Howling for Justice. (Note: TERRIBLY cheesy– when SN’s Agent Orange tries to publish a novel about a mutant-alligator-turned-juggernaut-of-liberty, he names it Hungry for Justice without realizing how lame that sounds).

    “I taste the title, whisper it to myself.” I like that.

  20. Susan Boneson 25 Jan 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Blood werewolf?! Haha! Just a few little things I caught:

    ” pyjamas” I’m pretty sure you ment pajamas.

    Vixen is a DC Comics heroine. Is it possible to change the name?

    It also seemed as though the police just showed up! Is there anyway to change that Poppy just wakes up and sees the cops? But that isn’t very major.

    I really like the hero Poppy has made, really creative, and much better than sparkly-angel-superpowered-vampires!

  21. B. Macon 25 Jan 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I think “pyjamas” is an accepted way of spelling it in Canada. Then again, those wily Canadians do all sorts of wacky things (like putting mayonnaise on burgers), so I wouldn’t put anything past them.

  22. Holliequon 26 Jan 2010 at 12:09 pm

    It is also an accepted British spelling. Or rather, the ONLY accepted British spelling of that word, haha. 😛 Canadians are not as crazy as you think!

  23. Susan Boneson 26 Jan 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Yipe! Soo.. how do you pronouce that? And several burger joints in the US have a special sauce they put on burgers that is really just katsup and mayo. Maybe non-Canadians are the weird (and awesome) ones!

  24. Beccaon 26 Jan 2010 at 7:19 pm

    ‘Pyjamas’ is pronounced the same as ‘pajamas’… I wasn’t aware of the different spellings prior to this, which is odd. But… AMERICANS DON’T PUT MAYO ON BURGERS?? This blows my mind. We also have ketchup flavoured chips here, and I hear you guys don’t.

    If there’s no danger of me getting sued over the name Vixen (which I doubt, there are name overlaps all the time), it really does not matter. The character bears no importance in the story, and I don’t even think she’s mentioned anywhere else. I could change it if you think it’ll be a problem, but I couldn’t care less about the name.

    I feel excited that you haven’t guessed the ‘plot twist’ about the TV channel, B. Mac… does that bode well for it to be good? Somehow I feel like this makes me a very clever little Canadian indeed xD

  25. B. Macon 26 Jan 2010 at 7:36 pm

    The good news is that the name Vixen probably won’t affect your odds of getting published. However, after you’ve been published, your editor or legal department might ask you to change it. I wouldn’t worry about it until then.

    I feel pretty good about the TV channel. On one hand, I’m a bit annoyed that I don’t know what is happening. But, more importantly, it’s an effective mystery. The characters don’t know what is happening and are trying to solve it. It wouldn’t be much of a mystery if you gave it away!

    Perhaps a supervillain is broadcasting the thoughts of people that venture into a particular comic book store… perhaps Kevin is the main antagonist! As long as it’s not aliens or clones, I’m game.



    Extremely few Americans put mayonnaise on their burgers. I think America’s favorite burger sauces are ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce.

  26. Beccaon 29 Jan 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Ketchup and mustard are the norm here, too, but on the top of the bun… mayo goes on the bottom in addition to ketchup and mustard (: Haha things like this are fun to learn about. Anyway here’s chapter eight. I don’t feel too confident about this chapter, something feels wrong with it. I don’t know.

    Chapter Eight

    The day passes, devoted to nothing but my graphic novel, which is now titled Blood Werewolf, the new title I’m coveting. Me and Landon sit on the couch, on the floor, or out on my miniscule balcony, discussing the whole thing. The plot, which I had had next to no plan for, is now fully constructed and realized in my head. I’m giddy with adrenaline. Landon doesn’t even seem to be bored by this, either. He seems like he really loves talking about this with me. And he isn’t just mindlessly complimenting me on my work; he’s offering real, useful criticism and offering his own ideas, which often turn out to be incredible.

    “No, no, no,” he interrupts during my description of Vixen. “That isn’t good motivation at all. So she just wants to kill Sara because she wants the stupid pretty boyfriend for herself? That’s so lame.”

    “Oh…”

    “It’s like you haven’t spent much time in the real world, or something,” he laughs. “You just don’t know what would motivate someone to kill someone else.”

    “And you know these things?” I ask, impatient.

    He reflects for a moment, stroking his chin.

    “There should be some kind of past connection between them,” he says. “What were their childhoods like?”

    “I don’t know,” I say, shrugging.

    “You should!” Landon sighs. “Well, could they have been, like, friends? When they were kids or something? Maybe Sara hurt Vixen super bad or something.”

    “Maybe she, I don’t know, bullied her or something?” I offer. “Sara can be like that sometimes, I think. Maybe she teased her for being fat in gym class or something.”

    Landon nods. “That could do it. And now Vixen is super hot and grown-up, and looking for revenge. And Sara doesn’t learn her true identity until the end.”

    “Okay!” I jot a few quick key words down on the piece of paper I’ve had in front of me for this purpose.

    “You know shockingly little about your own story and characters,” Landon chuckles.

    “It barely feels like it’s mine. It feels more like I came from it than it came from me,” I admit. “I don’t really have anything to do with it.”

    As I make notes, Landon is staring down at the street, but not really seeing it.

    “What’s up?” I ask him.

    “I’m wondering how the search of the comic book store went,” he says.

    “Hmm.”

    I’ve been wondering, too. I just haven’t wanted to voice my thoughts. But now that Landon has, we have no choice but to talk about it. I can feel the conversation shift off my story, and I’m a little disappointed.

    “It’s just so scary,” he sighs. “What this city is becoming. I hate it.”

    I nod.

    “I just feel so helpless to do anything, though.” The pain in Landon’s voice shocks me. His eyes are screwed up in anguish.

    “Landon… you’re a superhero,” I remind him. “You have a power-suit that can stop bullets, that has a built-in machine gun, that makes you able to fly! You’re every little boy’s dream, and you’re giving everyone so much hope for the future. That’s a million miles away from powerless.”

    He looks straight at me, his face set in a serious expression that makes my heart feel like lead.

    “Do you know what they call that? They call that, what you just said, the Superhero Effect. It’s spelled out in the mission statement of the Specialized Crime Fighter program.”

    “What? What is it?” I ask, curious.

    Landon sighs heavily. He doesn’t say anything for a long time. I know him well enough to know he’s severely bothered by this.

    “The Superhero Effect,” he says, “is that everyone looks up to us and admires us, and that makes them feel better about how shit their lives are. Poppy, basically, our entire purpose is to increase morale. We were never meant for anything more.”

    I blink.

    “That’s ridiculous,” I cry. “You guys do a lot! You beat up bad guys and you save innocent people and stuff! Superheroes make a huge impact!

    Still levelling his gaze at me, his eyes deadly serious, Landon shakes his head.

    “That’s a lie,” he says. “SCFs are nothing but an institutionalized lie fashioned out of the guilt that the government feels over having lost control. Think about it. I think you already know it.”

    I want to retort, but I can’t find words to say it. So instead I just sit there, opening and closing my mouth like a fish. A fish that knows Landon is right. I sigh and let my head fall to rest on the tabletop.

    Landon breathes a laugh.

    “It’s okay,” he says. “Things are still the same as they were before you knew the truth. It only feels different.”

    “It feels a thousand times more dangerous,” I mutter.

    Again, he’s silent for a while.

    “It is,” he finally says. “The truth is very dangerous.”

    *

    We avoid that TV channel tonight. Instead we play Monopoly on the living room floor. I have three houses, but mostly dirt lots, and Landon has four hotels when the phone rings.

    “I’ll get it,” he grunts, leaning over to grab the receiver off the coffee table. “Y’ello?” he answers it. “Good evening, Captain… yes? And?… You’re sure?”

    Whoever the Captain is, he talks for a long time, and Landon listens with his eyebrows scrunched together.

    “Yes, sir,” he sighs after a minute. “Thank you. Have a good night.”

    He hangs up and returns to the game.

    “Okay, so you landed on my property. Gimme your money.”

    I pause.

    “So? What was that about?”

    “You aren’t going to like it,” Landon says.

    “What’s that got to do with it? Tell me.”

    Still staring down at the game board, moving his little race car onto Park Place, Landon murmurs, “They found nothing. The place is clean.”

    “The comic book store?” I ask, as if it could be anywhere else.

    “Uh huh. Yeah. There’s nothing there.”

    I sit back against the couch and shake my head.

    “That makes no sense,” I say. “How the hell could… what could be…”

    “Yeah, give it a few minutes and you’ll be where I am now. Which is wanting to punch something.”

    “Get away from me,” I joke. “But seriously… what the fuck?”

    “I have training in this kind of thing and I’m just as baffled as you are.” Landon stares down at the game board, giving Old Uncle Moneybags the evil eye. “I’m going down there again, tomorrow.”

    “You’d be lucky if that prick Kevin didn’t toss you out,” I laugh.

    “That’s true. Maybe you should go instead.”

    “I’m hardly less conspicuous,” I remind him. “He’ll just spring on me and start randomly cussing me out.”

    “Oh well. You probably want to look at more comics, don’t you? What if I give you twenty bucks to go check the place out for me?”

    I bite my lip, remembering the mortification of having Kevin lay into me for absolutely no reason.

    “Make it thirty?” I counter.

    Landon rolls his eyes, but says, “Fine. You drive a hard bargain, Gershwin.”

    “I know. By the way, you’re on my Park Place. Thirty-five dollars, please.”

    “Damn it!”

    I give an evil laugh as he hands me the fake money. I’m feeling much better about everything right now. Even hearing my own voice on the TV wouldn’t freak me out too much.

    “Put on the crazy channel,” I tell Landon.

    “Fine.”

    He flicks the TV on with the remote. It was already on the right station, and right away we get assaulted with a fairly graphic cartoon image of a woman in some kind of superhero costume. I recognize Wonder Woman. She’s horrifically over-sexed. Landon is roaring in laughter.

    Over the course of the night we spend in the living room, the TV on in the background, we hear our voices a few times. They sound less like us, though, as if they’re being made slightly lower or slightly higher. Our faces appear just a handful of times, fleetingly, and they don’t really look like us, either.

    “It’s almost like the channel’s memory of us is fading, or something,” I muse as we’re brushing our teeth.

    “That’s crazy.” He spits in the sink. “It doesn’t have a memory. They people operating this thing must be subtly changing it.”

    “I don’t know,” I say quietly. “It seems more like an independent entity than something people control, doesn’t it? Like a – like a creature or something.”

    “You are hugging Daisy!”

    “What?”

    Landon spits out all the toothpaste foam. He repeats himself, minus the slur.

    “You’re fucking crazy.”

    “Maybe,” I say with a shrug.

    When we both have toothpaste-free mouths and are about to part ways to our separate bedrooms, Landon grabs my arm.

    “Sleep with one eye open,” he says.

    I feel like I misheard him again. “Huh?”

    “I just mean, be careful,” he sighs. “With all this stuff, that stuff on TV, I just feel like you’re in danger – like we’re in danger. Maybe you should, you know, sleep in my room.”

    “Yeah?” I cross my arms. “You really think we could be in danger?”

    “It’s a definite possibility,” he says. “I don’t want to scare you, but… I’m worried about this. You locked the door, right?”

    “Of course.”

    “And all the windows?”

    “Yes, duh!” I say impatiently.

    “Then come on. Please. I would feel much better.”

    I follow Landon into his room and we shut and lock the door. He sits on his bed and his injured leg sticks out at a funny angle as he manoeuvres himself under the covers. I gingerly climb in on his other side and he turns off the light.

    The streetlight filters in the window in a way I’m not used to. It’s darker in here than it is in my room. Landon breathes heavily beside me; I can tell he’s awake. I’m sure he knows I’m awake, too, but I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t talk to me. So we just there in the dark, probably both awkwardly wondering what to say.

    “I had fun today,” Landon says finally. He shifts so he’s facing my back.

    “Me too,” I say and yawn. I’m suddenly tired.

    Good. I don’t really want to talk to him.

    “What comic are you going to buy tomorrow?”

    “Mmm… I don’t know.”

    He says nothing at first, then:

    “Have I ever told you…?”

    I don’t catch the end. I’m dead asleep before he can finish his question.

  27. B. Macon 29 Jan 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Hmm. I accidentally scrolled to the bottom before reading this and thought that I read this as the final paragraph of the chapter: “I don’t catch the end. I’m dead before he can finish his question.” That would have been a head-trip.

    As this chapter starts, I get the vague feeling that there aren’t enough pressing goals in play at the moment. Maybe increasing the urgency of her comic book work would help. For example, maybe she’s in a creative writing program and her advisor has already warned her that she’s not making enough progress. Or maybe she is in economic trouble and needs to finish the book to actually make money.

    “The day passes, devoted to nothing but my graphic novel…” As opposed to what? We haven’t seen her do a whole lot besides the comic book. She spends time with Landon. And occasionally heads down to the comic shop. And… ?

    “And he isn’t just mindlessly complimenting me on my work; he’s offering real, useful criticism and offering his own ideas, which often turn out to be incredible.” Show this.

    “And you know these things?” I ask, impatient. — Well, he is sort of a SWAT officer. It wouldn’t be surprising if he had killed somebody. He’s probably at least had training for it.

    “And now Vixen is super hot and grown-up, and looking for revenge.” Haha! That sounds like the sort of superheroine plot a guy would come up with. “Well, see, she used to be ugly and now she’s hot! There’s a story here.” 😉

    This comic book musing could be more urgent. What’s at stake? Right now, it seems disconnected from character goals.

    I think mission statements are usually pretty sober-sounding. For example, you can see the mission statement for the FBI’s Critical Incidents Response Group here. I think that a phrase like “the Superhero Effect” wouldn’t at first glance fit into a mission statement. It might make sense in context if we read the mission statement, but I’m not feeling it on its own.


    “A fish that knows Landon is right.” Why? It might help to throw in some details about how much the government HAS lost control. The assassination is a good start. We have some evidence of random street crime. If the situation is really coming loose at the seams, there might be riots brewing, mass violence, etc. Right now, the characters are mainly focused on writing a comic book and investigating some sort of curious TV station. Not exactly life-and-death issues. If we’re really supposed to feel that the SCFs are just a PR feel-good strategy, it might help to give them some cosmetic assignments that clearly won’t make a long-term difference. For example, perhaps they’re given endless orders to patrol a certain part of town and the police leaders are really pleased that they’ve had violent encounters X times a week. “Look, they’re making progress! These Y criminals aren’t on the streets anymore!” Perhaps, but how much of a difference are they making if new thugs come out every week to fight them?

    What convinces her that Landon is right?

    “What comic are you going to buy tomorrow?” “Mmm… I don’t know.” Superhero Nation #1, of course. 🙂

    The ending could use some work. They have a plan for tomorrow, but I don’t think we’ve learned anything exciting that will convince readers that tomorrow is going to be exciting. Some foreshadowing might help. Maybe an exciting new development on the TV station?

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

  28. Beccaon 31 Jan 2010 at 6:32 pm

    As I was copy-and-pasting this, I decided I hated it and cut a giant chunk out. Hooray for me, learning how to recognize useless, superfluous scenes! If it still seems disjointed, lame and/or pointless in any way, I have no doubt you’ll point it out to me.

    Chapter Nine

    The morning dawns cold and bright. Or, maybe it dawns that way. I don’t know. I woke up at eleven. But it’s cold and bright enough, for the middle of the day.

    Landon is in the kitchen doing a crossword from a week-old newspaper I’ve had lying around.

    “Hey,” he says brightly as I enter the kitchen.

    “Hi.” I grab the box of Golden Grahams from the table. “You sound remarkably cheery for a police officer about to organize a sting operation today.”

    Landon grins widely.

    “That’s why I’m excited, that’s the whole reason!” he says. “It’s so much fun.”

    “Yeah, but what if we don’t learn anything?” I fill up a giant bowl of Golden Grahams. Seriously, it’s massive. “Which we probably won’t, since I’m no professional and I’ll be absorbed in comics.”

    “Well, that’s part of why I’m excited,” he explains. “I want you to learn something about comics as well as about that stupid shop.”

    “Ah, an ulterior motive,” I say darkly.

    “It’s pretty harmless for such a dastardly assessment,” he says.

    “God, stop being so pretentious.”

    “When do you want to go?”

    Landon glances at his watch.

    “I have a doctor’s appointment for my leg in an hour,” he says. “You can go while I’m dealing with that. How’s that sound?”

    I swallow hard; I’m more nervous about this than I should be.

    “Sounds great,” I lie.

    *

    I part ways with Landon at the corner near his doctor’s office. From there to the comic book store, I’m on my own. I try to act all strong and invincible but it doesn’t work. I’m practically shitting myself all the way to the store’s front door. I open it, and then I’m really there. Kevin is unloading a box in the first aisle, stacking new issues and frowning in concentration. When the bell rings to alert him to my presence, he looks up and snorts when he sees it’s me.

    “What was with your friend, the other day?” he sneers, eyes back on his work. “What was with the freak-out?”

    I dart down an aisle and start my browsing, but I reply in a raised voice.

    “You’re not even going to mention how Captain Beckwith is my best friend and how obviously jealous you are?” I retort.

    “So what, so your boyfriend is a superhero. Who are you trying to be, Lois Lane? Mary Jane?”

    “I’m not trying to be anybody,” I say while I’m casually reading the back of the big hardcover edition of Ghost World. “We grew up together. And he’s not my boyfriend.”

    “No? Well, cry me a river.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” I demand over my shoulder.

    “Your superhero buddy won’t date you? I bet he’s more interested in his groupies than in you.”

    I roll my eyes. This guy doesn’t know me at all! I walk back around to face him in person.

    “Fact remains,” I say, “I know superheroes. I write them, I draw them. I’m not the wannabe you originally accused me of being.”

    I put my hand on my hip for extra cockiness.

    Kevin pauses and looks up at me, eyes looking bored.

    “I’ll believe it when I see and read it,” he says.

    “Is that a challenge?” I say mockingly.

    “Maybe!”

    He goes back to shelving, leaving me standing there, eating my words.

    “So? Are you going to elaborate?” I prompt him.

    “Mmm, nope.”

    “Okay, fine. I guess we’ll just never settle this,” I say as I walk away.

    “Wait, wait.”

    I knew I’d get him with that. People like him just have to be right. And apparently have to enter into weird challenges just to prove it.

    “Yeah?”

    “Why don’t you bring me some of your stuff?” he asks, grudgingly.

    “How will I know you’re giving it an honest appraisal?” I laugh. “You hate me, for some reason. No matter what, you’ll tell me I’m crap.”

    “I promise I’ll be as objective as if you were a real writer and artist. I’ll just pretend it isn’t your stuff I’m reading.”

    I think about it. Maybe this could be a good thing. He may be a douchebag to me for no reason, but he’s the closest thing to an industry professional I know right now. A review from someone other than Landon could be very useful.

    “To be honest, I don’t have that much done,” I admit. “My script is fairly far along, but my art is all in concept sketches and a few rough drafts.”

    Kevin rolls his eyes this time.

    “Of course it is,” he says. “Whatever, I’ll look at what you have. If it shows any promise whatsoever, that’ll be evident no matter how rough it is, okay?”

    “Okay,” I say.

    “Bring it down tomorrow,” he grunts.

    I agree, and go back to browsing through his stock. Fifteen minutes of silence between us, I’ve picked out what I’ll spend Landon’s thirty dollars on and I take it to the desk. Kevin rings it through slowly, almost lazily.

    “Oh, and by the way,” he says, handing me the bag. “Those police guys combed this place. There’s nothing here.”

    I take it from him. “I know that. They called Landon – I mean Captain Beckwith.”

    His eyes narrow a little.

    “So you can stop bitching about being recorded, okay? Since it isn’t happening. You can stop looking for attention here now.”

    “I wasn’t!” I protest. “I heard my own voice on TV! And I know for a fact it came from here!”

    Kevin opens his arms wide, sweeping them across the store.

    “Well, we got nothing. So how could you be telling the truth?”

    I glare at him and turn to leave.

    “I’ll see you tomorrow,” I grunt.

  29. B. Macon 31 Jan 2010 at 8:04 pm

    If he’s excited to organize a sting operation later today, why’s he doing the crossword puzzle? I wonder if he’d be doing prepwork or looking at diagrams of the building(s) involved, etc. Maybe watching the TV station for clues about where the camera footage is being taken from. (Based on the footage, it should be possible to determine where the camera is hidden, unless we have something really supernatural going on).

    My best guess about where the scene is deleted is when she leaves Landon at the doctor’s office. I can easily see myself writing a superfluous scene going through the doctor’s visit.

    “I’ll believe it when I see and read it,” he says. I think this line would be fresher and slicker as just “I’ll believe it when I read it,” he says.

    “You hate me, for some reason. No matter what, you’ll tell me I’m crap.” That reminds me of a guy who’s convinced I’m pretty much the worst writer in the world and STILL asks for my advice. How’s that for cognitive dissonance? 🙂

    It’s probably too soon to have Kevin say much about the plot, but he could give some opening thoughts on the art. If he’s a comic book guy and she’s a lady, one thing he might say is that this will never sell because the heroine is missing The Most Common Superpower. In fact, he might even call it The Most Common Superpower.

  30. Beccaon 02 Feb 2010 at 6:52 pm

    No, the part I cut was a really long, pointless scene where Landon has a stalker fan. It was stupid, just a waste of space. So, I’m sorry if this chapter is kind of long, but this is where the whole TV channel mystery is kind of discovered so I didn’t want to slice it in half.

    Chapter Ten

    In the morning I wake up and eat some waffles before heading back to work on the comic. It has to be perfect. I’m intent on impressing that stupid Kevin. I concentrate on inking good copies of the first five pages. Not supremely good copies – just good enough for Kevin’s eyes. But, good enough for Kevin’s eyes has to be good. So I take a few hours to do it properly. Everything has to be perfect. I redraw Sara’s hair a few times, trying to think of what style Kevin, the adult comic book geek, would like. Long, blank-slate hair, kind of like mine? Or a short, spiky cut? Then I realize that that kind of aesthetic isn’t going to make an impact on how Kevin likes my graphic novel. What’s going to matter to him is the real stuff, like the dialogue I filled in with dots and question marks because I didn’t know what these people should be saying to each other.

    The store opens at nine; before Landon has even woken up I’m out the door. The city has scarcely woken up yet. There are still a few police helicopters in the sky, finishing up leftover work from last night. A few cop cars pass me as I make my way through the crowds of cranky, half-asleep people. More than a couple people glare at me as I push through them, clutching my pile of papers.

    “Watch where you’re going, punk!” one guy in a purple tie shouts.

    “Oops, sorry,” I say with a brief smile to make it all okay.

    But it’s not okay enough for him.

    “I’ll teach you to walk right into me!”

    The guy splashes his coffee on my shoulder. On my shoulder, over it, and onto the pages of my comic.

    I stop in my tracks and turn around slowly.

    “Fuck you, jerk!” I shout, waving the damp pages at him. “These are good-copies of my fucking graphic novel you’ve ruined! I could sue you!”

    He shrugs with a self-satisfied smile as he climbs onto the bus. To my satisfaction, however small, the other commuters are staring at him with disgust equal to mine. One good-natured bald guy calls, “Don’t worry, I’ll spill my coffee on him when I get on there!”

    I throw the guy a thumbs-up before continuing on my way. I’m walking so much slower now, my lips starting to quiver as I look at the ruined pages. Luckily only the corners of the pages with art are wet, but a couple pages of script are total garbage. I dump them in a trash can I pass, a few tears starting to trickle down my face.

    I try to clean up my face before I arrive at the comic book store. When I walk in, there are no more tears, but I’m afraid my eyes are red and swollen.

    I approach the counter, but start when I see that the guy there isn’t Kevin. It isn’t even Mr Blue Shirt. It’s some kid with messy brown hair and perfect cheekbones.

    “Is Kevin here?” I ask him.

    He stares at me a moment before answering. My eyes must look worse than I thought.

    “Um, yes,” he says. “Let me go grab him.”

    “Okay.”

    He disappears into the back. I sniff and wipe my eyes and nose once more on my sleeve. The last thing I want is to look like a total loser dork crying in front of Kevin. He already chews me out bad enough when I’m managing to hold it together. Imagine how apeshit he’d go on me if I looked like this?

    Kevin strides through the plastic curtains lazily, obviously trying hard to look bored.

    “Okay, wannabe, let me see what you got.”

    “Some asshole poured his coffee on me on the way here,” I say, handing the pages over. “So I had to throw out some of the pages of script, but I think there’s still enough for you to, you know, get the gist of it.”

    “Boo hoo,” Kevin says, but he settles his elbows down on the counter to read. “Piss off for a bit while I read this, okay?”

    “Um, okay.”

    I idly head towards the aisles of comic books, but I was just here yesterday so there’s not much I haven’t looked at.

    Although… I didn’t get to look at that new guy yesterday.

    He reappears through the plastic curtain gingerly, looking around. He spots me in the anime section and heads for the opposite direction of the store. I watch him straighten up the action figures on the far wall, rearrange a few things, then stand back and look at it all.

    He’s super tall, and so skinny it looks painful. He’s wearing a striped sweater and jeans, and skateboard shoes that accentuate how gigantic his feet are. He looks awkward in the cutest way.

    “Teddy, get over here and look at this,” Kevin calls to him.

    Teddy. Perfect.

    Teddy hurries to Kevin’s side to look at whatever he’s pointing at. I crane my neck to see what they’re look at. My stomach clenches a little bit; it’s my comic book. Kevin is whispering to Teddy about my comic book. Teddy keeps nodding, and he says a few words I can’t catch. When Kevin goes back to reading, Teddy returns to his work but his eyes slide up and meet mine. His are wide, almost like he’s afraid – but they’re a lovely brown. I find myself blushing and looking back down at whatever it was I was looking at.

    “Okay,” Kevin announces. I hurry back to the counter. “I’m done.”

    “And what’s the verdict?” I ask. I’m tried so hard to sound blasé, but that’s not what I’m feeling at all. I’m shaky and nervous, and not all of it is from the stress of wondering what Kevin thinks. A great deal of my anxiety is from Teddy, who is staring at me still.

    “What’s your name?” Kevin asks, looking at me harder.

    “Poppy,” I tell him. “Poppy Gershwin.”

    “Well, Poppy, can I get your email, please?”

    “What? Why?”

    He rolls his eyes. “I’m not trying to be buddies. I just need to email you my review, don’t I?”

    “Email it?” I repeat. “What, you can’t just tell me what you think now?”

    “What do you want from me?” Kevin throws up his hands. “I’m just trying to give you the feedback you so desperately need! How am I supposed to just instantly evaluate it? This takes time, girl!”

    “Fine,” I grumble.

    I scrawl my email down on a scrap of paper he hands to me.

    “Thanks,” Kevin says grudgingly. “Now get out of here.”

    I do as he says. I pass Teddy on my way out.

    “Bye,” he says, so quietly I only realize he said it when I’m halfway down the street.

    *

    When I get back, Landon is on the couch with a bag of chips, licking his fingers.

    “Guess what,” he says. “You’re the only thing on today.”

    “What?”

    I stand at the back of the couch and watch the TV. I see myself enter the comic book store. It’s a crystal clear picture this time, no distortion of my voice or features. I ask the camera, “Is Kevin here?”

    My stomach drops to the floor.

    “Wait,” I say. “Wait.”

    It shifts. The recording isn’t in chronological order. Suddenly all the pages of my art occupy the screen, and some of the characters burst into life and it’s like a little cartoon of a comic. A female voice even reads out the overheads and each character’s dialogue is spoken in their own voice. My heart rate doubles. My story has leapt to life before my eyes.

    Then it’s more of me. And I’ve figured it all out, the mystery of this channel. I know exactly who is behind this.

    “Landon, I have to go again,” I say. My voice quivers as I grab my purse.

    “You just got here,” he complains.

    I storm back down the stairs to the street. I feel like a hunter who has sighted the deer, and the thrill of the chase is coursing through my body. I break into a run, my shoelaces come undone and they’re flapping around but I don’t care, I just have to get back to the comic book store, just have to confront this before my courage runs out.

    I throw open the door and the bell rings violently. Kevin looks up and says, “I told you, I’ll email you what I think!”

    But it’s not him I’m here to see. I stalk right up to Teddy and look him in the eye.

    “What the fuck are you playing at?” I shout. “What, do you have a camera hidden in your hair? Well, do you?”

    He doesn’t answer, just stares at me, terrified. So I grab a handful of his hair and comb through it. Nothing.

    “Well, aren’t you going to say something to defend yourself? Who do you think you are, invading my privacy like that? And Landon’s? Aren’t you going to say something?”

    Teddy looks like he’s going to burst into tears. Kevin is staring at me, open-mouthed.

    “Wait,” he says. “Is this about that surveillance thing? Teddy, are you the one filming? Are you filming her and her boyfriend when they come in here?”

    Teddy has gone completely white. He’s shaking his head so hard he might give himself brain damage.

    “No, no! I haven’t filmed anybody!”

    “Than how come every time I come in here, my face and voice and exactly what goes in this store ends up on channel 1020?” I shove him in the chest.

    Teddy staggers backwards.

    “I swear, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” he pleads. “I have no idea!”

    Behind me, the bell rings again. All our eyes whip to the front door to glare at the intruder, but to my relief it’s Landon standing there, bent over, catching his breath.

    “I got here as fast as I could,” he gasps. “Poppy, it’s him! The footage is all from his perspective, I saw it…”

    Teddy looks utterly horrified.

    “I promise you, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” he says, his voice squeaking. “I have no idea! I don’t have a camera on me, you can even check.”

    Landon flashes his police ID badge. Poor Teddy – no, I shouldn’t call him that, he’s been filming me! – looks like he’s a few seconds away from tears.

    “Come on, buddy,” Landon says, nodding towards the store’s back room. “I’m going to have to take you up on that offer.”

  31. B. Macon 02 Feb 2010 at 8:01 pm

    TEDDY IS A ROBOT. Or not? 🙂

  32. B. Macon 02 Feb 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Okay, so let’s speculate for a moment that Teddy is just some regular guy who’s taping the comic book store for some reason. Umm, so what? Why does it matter? I would hope that there’s something more to it than one character going on a vaguely ill-tempered joyride.

    Maybe it’s part of a bigger plan. For example, maybe the bad guys are trying to send a message to somebody (probably Landon) and it might be something as simple as “when you’re out on the job, we know where the love of your life is.” (They may have similar operations in a few other places, like her favorite grocery store, etc). (Please note: this would probably make more sense if she were a regular customer at this comic book store from the start of the book).

    What’s at stake for her with the comic review? Could you give her a tangible goal, like wanting to get published? For example, maybe in the previous chapter he could tell her that he’ll pass the script along to a friend at Wonder or Washington Comics if it’s good enough to not embarrass him. That would make it really important for her to impress Kevin. Right now, it just feels like a pride thing and this character hasn’t shown before that pride is a terribly important part of her life.

  33. Beccaon 02 Feb 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Hmm, I’d better post the next part. I realize now I kind of left it hanging. It all becomes clear in chapter eleven. I promise.

    Chapter Eleven

    Kevin and I are left standing in the store while Landon checks Teddy for cameras in the back room. To say it’s awkward is a major understatement. I look around the store for something I haven’t seen yet today or yesterday. Kevin is almost shitting himself. I should have known he was a coward.

    “I’m sorry about this,” he says after a moment. “I didn’t know… I mean, I wouldn’t have hired him if I’d known…”

    I shrug. “It’s okay.”

    More uncomfortable silence. I don’t know what to do with myself.

    “I thought your graphic novel was good,” Kevin says.

    “What?” Did I mishear him?

    “You heard me,” he says shortly. “You aren’t a wannabe, okay? Your story is solid, your art is proficient. I mean, so far. You don’t have much to go on. But I’d say it’s going places.”

    I manage a smile.

    “Thanks,” I reply.

    “It’s not a personal compliment, so don’t get excited. What you do is all right. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a jerk, yourself.”

    “Thanks,” I repeat. It’s still enough of a compliment to warrant a thank-you.

    Kevin rolls his eyes. “You’re welcome.”

    Landon reappears through the curtains. He doesn’t look pleased; he looks lost, totally confused. Teddy follows a moment later. He, however, still looks like he’s about to cry.

    “He’s clean,” Landon murmurs to me. He passes me and walks to the door, which he locks, switching the ‘open’ sign to ‘closed’. “We all need to talk. Kevin, you didn’t know about Teddy when you hired him, did you?”

    “Know about him? What do you mean?” Kevin asks.

    “You didn’t know he could do this.”

    “Landon, that’s hardly any clearer,” I tell him. “Just come out and say what you mean.”

    He looks at me, hard. He means business, but I don’t know what kind.

    “Poppy,” he says softly. “I think… I think Teddy is powered.”

    “Huh?” I wrinkle my nose in confusion. “What do you mean, powered? What the hell does that mean?”

    Landon turns to Teddy.

    “Leave,” he says. “Get out of here. Go take your lunch break or something.”

    I start to protest, but Teddy sees nothing to protest. He nods and obeys Landon, walking out the front door and disappearing.

    “Landon, you’d better have a good explanation,” I say, watching Teddy disappear, his head drooping.

    “I think,” he says, “Teddy has a power. A superpower, I guess you two nerds would call it. He can transmit his thoughts over radio waves.”

    “What?” Kevin screeches.

    The pieces come together in my head.

    “So everything we saw on channel 1020, those were Teddy’s thoughts?” I say hurriedly.

    “That’s my theory,” Landon murmurs.

    Kevin is blinking, leaning against the wall for support.

    “But that’s… that’s impossible!” he says. “Superpowers don’t really exist! That’s comic book stuff!”

    “If anyone believed in superpowers, I’d have thought it would be you,” Landon says.

    “That’s just irrational!” Kevin splutters. “And what kind of power is that, anyway? He can transmit thoughts and images over radio waves? That would never fly if Marvel came up with that!”

    “What does the marketability have to do with it?” Landon counters. “If it’s real, it’s real. It doesn’t matter whether or not Marvel could market a comic based on it.”

    He looks disgusted. I’m still sitting there processing.

    “He wasn’t there, though,” I say, “the first few times I heard myself.”

    “I’m betting you didn’t see yourself fully before you’d met Teddy face-to-face, today,” Landon says.

    He’s right. I didn’t. Just my voice, or a brief, distorted image of myself, as if he hadn’t seen me very well.

    “That’s right.”

    “I’m willing to bet the first few times, Teddy was in the back room, just listening. Right, Kevin?”

    Kevin nods.

    “Yeah, he would have been doing some restoration work,” he agrees.

    “God,” I sigh. “A real, live superpower.”

    Landon nods, but his expression is dark, his eyes shadowed. It looks like a battle is being fought inside him.

    “So, what do we do?” I ask him.

    “Do? What do we do?” He turns on me. “There’s no we, Poppy. You have nothing to do with this.”

    “Oh, don’t I?” I say shrilly. “I’d say I have as much to do with it as you do! Who originally stormed in here?”

    “She’s right,” Kevin pipes up.

    “You don’t understand,” he says, pointing at Kevin and I. “Neither of you. This is a police matter and I’ll ask you not to interfere.”

    “What? How is this a police matter?” I almost laugh at the absurdity of it.

    “Poppy, remember what I told you?” he says in a low voice so Kevin can’t hear. “About the Superhero Effect?”

    “Yes, of course, I’m not stupid.”

    “Well, this is real power. SCFs are just normal people. Imagine how the existence of a real superpower could improve the reputation of the SCF Program. Imagine how the Superhero Effect could be boosted by the existence of a real power.”

    “Landon, did you see that kid? Power or not, that kid is a skinny weakling,” I point out. “I don’t think he’s superhero material. Could you see him battling gangsters, wielding a rocket launcher like you do?”

    “What are you guys whispering about?” Kevin pouts.

    “That isn’t the only purpose a superhero could serve,” Landon says. “We could use him behind the scenes.”

    “How? How could his weirdo power help you guys?”

    “I don’t know, I haven’t worked that out yet, but…”

    “Hey!” Kevin shouts. “Don’t I have a right to know what’s going on here? This is my shop!”

    Landon looks at him pointedly until Kevin is squirming, then he says, “How would you feel if I offered Teddy other employment?”

    “You want to offer me a job?”

    Teddy has crept back inside.

    “I told you to leave,” Landon says.

    “Well, I got bored,” Teddy murmurs. “But what’s this about a job?”

    Landon sighs and pushes a hand through his hair.

    “Don’t quote me on this,” he says, “but I think you have a superpower. A real one.”

    Teddy blinks a few times, then his eyebrows scrunch together.

    “What?” he says.

    “I thought you had a camera on you,” I tell him, “because I’ve been seeing and hearing myself on TV every night.”

    Teddy looks horrified, and his look of horror only increases after Landon says:

    “I think you have been transmitting your thoughts via radio wave.”

    His eyes look like they’re about to pop out of their sockets.

    “Oh… my God,” he gasps. “I… I can’t believe this. Are you for real?”

    “Yes,” Landon says gravely.

    Teddy’s beseeching eyes latch onto me.

    “Please,” he says, “tell me this is a joke!”

    I shake my head.

    “I’m so sorry,” Teddy says. “I’m sorry I’ve – frightened you, or made you uncomfortable in any way. I – I have to go.”

    He walks out the door and stumbles away. Landon’s eyes are full to the brim with worry.

    “I’m going after him,” he says, walking to the door. “I’ll meet you at home, Poppy. I just need to talk to him.”

    Suddenly it’s just Kevin and I, alone again. My heart is still beating a little too fast. Kevin looks like he’s trying to recover from the shock of a lifetime.

    “Anyway,” I say to him. “Email me the full review, okay?”

    “Okay,” he says, slightly breathless as I open the door to walk home.

  34. B. Macon 03 Feb 2010 at 12:58 pm

    “Kevin and I are left standing in the store while Landon checks Teddy for cameras in the back room. To say it’s awkward is a major understatement.” Please try to show it’s epically embarrassing. What are some of the ways people act when they are hugely embarrassed?

    “I thought your graphic novel was good,” Kevin says. It may help a bit to replace “good” with something more descriptive.

    “What?” Did I mishear him? “Did I mishear him?” is unnecessary, I think– implied by the question “what?”

    “all right” should be alright, I think.

    How does Landon know the guy has the ability to transmit his thoughts?

    “That would never fly if Marvel came up with that!” I think this could be stylish. For example, maybe something like “What a worthless superpower! What can you do with that?”

    “I’m still sitting there processing.” What’s she processing? What are some of the things that are going through her head? That’d probably be more visceral than having her telling us. Maybe she’s recounting the times she’s seen or heard herself on the channel?

    How does Teddy tie into the rest of the plot?

    What does Poppy bring to this scene? It seems like she’s the odd one out. Could you give her a bigger role? Even if she is right that storming in here first gives her a role, she isn’t doing anything with it now.

    I feel like this scene could be stronger if we felt the problems of the story more urgently. Why does Landon NEED this guy? Why does Poppy NEED to get published? What’s at stake?

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

  35. Beccaon 04 Feb 2010 at 12:03 am

    I was always told that “alright” was a popular mistake, but incorrect. “All right” is what I’ve always been told to use. Might be an American/British-Canadian English usage thing, though.

    Teddy is a fairly major character throughout the rest of the novel. He’s not just a random useless insert, don’t worry. What kind of bigger role should Poppy take, do you think? Maybe she should be more indignant over being filmed/watched? Or maybe worried about why he was thinking about her so often?

  36. B. Macon 04 Feb 2010 at 10:18 am

    Ah, I agree with you on “alright” vs. “all right.”

    If he’s a fairly major character throughout the rest of the novel, I’d give him more of a personality now. Does he have any sort of opinions about what’s going on? I notice that Landon asks Kevin whether he’d be okay with giving up Teddy before he asks Teddy whether he’d like a new job. Teddy’s a person, too! 🙂

    Also, try to build the Poppy-Teddy relationship in some direction. If he doesn’t know what she’s talking about, maybe he should be more indignant when she comes in and makes accusations that (he thinks) are outlandish. At work! This is after she and the police have repeatedly searched the comic store and found nothing.

    For example, she probably thinks they’ve handled this situation pretty well. Does he? Personally, I wouldn’t. Landon blabs about the investigation to two people that have very little business knowing anything about Teddy’s special situation, and one of them is his boss! That’s a major breach of personal privacy, particularly if his power is something that a criminal enterprise might be interested in. Moreover, Landon curiously discusses the case with Poppy (why?) and Kevin before he talks to Teddy. That sort of makes sense from the author’s standpoint (Poppy is, after all, the main character) but why would it make sense to Teddy? How does Landon justify that in-story?

    I’m not sure about how to play Poppy here. She seems indignant enough. It’s just that she needs to DO something about it. She’s just kind of watching and listening in this scene. For example, you could have her accuse Teddy of having a real superpower (rather than Landon).
    1) Unlike Landon, she works with superpowers (in her comic books) so presumably she’d be the best prepared to identify them in action.
    2) So far, she has less reason than Landon to be in this scene.
    3) It would reinforce the theme that the police don’t really know what’s going on in this city.

    A more distinct voice for Teddy wouldn’t hurt, in case he talks more in the future.

  37. Lighting Manon 04 Feb 2010 at 11:35 am

    I’ve been quietly reading this for a while, I haven’t said anything because I’ve felt like everything important has been covered. However, I personally found Teddy’s non-involvement to actually be quite good characterization, particularly of Landon and Teddy. Landon is an authority figure, even if he happens to be laid back and relaxed, that is a portion of who he is at this point in his life, so when he tries to handle a personal situation like what happens and his suspicions about Teddy, he is so distanced by that from the natural flow of things that he doesn’t even take personal things into consideration, he talks to the person in charge to deal with it, much as a police officer is going to speak far more to the neighbor that called the police on the wife and husband fighting in front of their house, rather than either of the people actually involved.

    It characterized Teddy, because regardless of Landon’s handling of it, he is such a wallflower that Poppy and his boss don’t even realize how discussing him and possibly even making decisions about his life and his future in his absence is wrong. He is such a non-entity, that even when he is the center of attention, he doesn’t need to be present. I think it gave a good texture to some solid flaws in the characters, at least in my opinion.

  38. B. Macon 04 Feb 2010 at 3:34 pm

    “He is such a non-entity, that even when he is the center of attention, he doesn’t need to be present.” Well, okay, but I would hope that treating him like a wallflower is used to create drama later. [UPDATE: Yeah, I think it is.]

  39. Beccaon 06 Feb 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Yes, it pretty much is used to create drama later. So here’s chapter twelve… I’m not so keen on Poppy’s little story a few paragraphs in. It’s pretty cheesy and lame, so it’ll definitely be deleted soon. I’ll need to just work on the intro to this chapter, then.

    Chapter Twelve

    Landon isn’t home yet, a few hours later. I work on my graphic novel for a few tortured minutes before I decide I’m too – I don’t know, unstable. All I can think about is what went on in the comic book store earlier. Well, of course it’s all I can think about. Superpowers were proved to exist! How can I possible think of anything else?

    Not only am I having a hard time believing that Teddy has the ability to broadcast thoughts to a TV station near you, I’m only just starting to think about the other thing.

    The fact that so often, those thoughts he was broadcasting were about me.

    I think back on everything I’ve seen on TV. That time I saw my own face, that very first time, Teddy had me all made-up in heavy lipstick and makeup and everything. There’s no way I’d ever look that done-up in real life. And I just now remembered the times Landon and I had to change the channel because things got pornographic.

    Oh, God. Is he in love with me? He can’t be. He doesn’t even know me.

    I open the jar of peanut butter and dip a finger inside. Sucking on the glob of thick, gooey peanut butter, I think this over. You don’t really have to know someone to feel something for them, I remind myself.

    It’s embarrassing to even think about, but this one time, there was this guy. We met at a mutual friend’s house, then spent five whole days together non-stop at his apartment. I only came home to grab clothes maybe twice. We didn’t have sex, but I lost my kissing virginity to him. And then, when I finally went home, he called me and told me he was getting back together with his ex and that was the end of that.

    It felt like my heart was breaking. I barely knew him, but I’d been so caught up in this stupid fairy tale that it hurt like hell to have the rug ripped out from under my feet like that. Actually, that pain is what gave birth to my graphic novel. Or the first seed of an idea, anyway.

    But that goes to show, you can sure get caught up in a person even if you barely know them.

    “Poppy?”

    I almost jump a mile at the sound of Landon’s voice.

    “Fuck you, when did you get here?” I ask, closing my eyes to recover from the shock.

    When I open my eyes, Landon is standing in front of me, and Teddy is lingering by the fridge.

    “Oh, hi,” I say to him, softly, so I don’t scare him

    Teddy smiles weakly and looks away.

    “Is it okay if he stays for dinner?” Landon asks.

    “Of course,” I answer, hopping off the counter where I’d been sitting. “We’ll probably just be having pizza or something. What kind of pizza do you like, Teddy?”

    “Um… any kind,” he says. “I’ll like anything you like.”

    “Okay.” I grab the phone and toss it to Landon. “You dial, Mr Tough Cop.”

    I realize after I do this that it was kind of a bad move, because without personable Landon, Teddy and I have to find something to talk about.

    “So,” I say with a grin, “big day for you, huh?”

    Teddy smiles in a way that looks like a wince. He almost looks like he’s in pain.

    “Yeah,” he admits.

    “Where were you and Landon?” I ask.

    “We just went to the park and sat down and talked,” he says. “About… my power.”

    He looks like just saying the word amazes him.

    “Are you excited about it? Or scared, or what?”

    “To be honest,” he says, “I don’t know what to think.”

    I nod. Landon finishes ordering the pizza and exhales loudly.

    “Well, Poppy,” he says. “I was thinking tomorrow I’ll take Teddy down to Headquarters and ask them what we should do.”

    “Teddy? Do you want to do that?” I ask him.

    He nods quickly, then says, “I think so.”

    I look at Landon. His eyes are shifting around awfully fast.

    “Can I talk to you for a minute?” I ask him. “Teddy, help yourself to anything, you can watch TV or whatever you’d like.”

    He smiles shyly as I lead Landon toward my bedroom.

    When I’ve closed the door behind us, Landon starts in on me.

    “What? What do you want to say to me that he can’t hear?”

    “It’s not that he can’t hear this,” I sigh. “I just don’t want to scare him. He seems pretty nervous, pretty freaked out.”

    “Well duh, everything he knew about himself was thrown out the window today,” Landon says, like this is nothing. “Well?”

    “I’m just wondering if you’ve consulted him on this. On what he wants to do. Does he really want to go to the police? Offer himself up as their slave?”

    “Poppy,” Landon groans. “He won’t be their slave! He’s doing this willingly. I told him he could have quite the future, if he wanted to. He seems pretty excited.”

    “Look at your life and tell me you aren’t a slave,” I whisper. “They won’t even give you health insurance, Landon! How much did that doctor’s appointment cost you today?”

    He looks away.

    “That’s not the point,” he says.

    “Landon, that is my point. You’re a good person and the police take advantage of that. Teddy, he’s a good person, too. Don’t tell me they won’t exploit him even worse than they exploit you.”

    “How do you know he’s a good person?” Landon says with a sarcastic laugh. “You’re his porn star, remember?”

    It’s my turn to look away.

    “People can’t help what they think, sometimes.”

    He’s staring at me, drilling his eyes into my soul. His hand finds its way to my face and strokes my cheek. I pull away from him.

    “Landon…”

    “You like him, don’t you?” he says softly.

    “God, you’re acting like I just married him! I barely know the kid!”

    “But you wouldn’t mind getting to know him better,” Landon accuses.

    “He seems nice, of course I wouldn’t mind. Look, we should get back to him.”

    Landon looks at me with a tortured grimace, like I just kicked him in the balls. I reach around him and open the door.

    “What’s on TV?” I ask Teddy brightly, sitting down beside him on the couch.

    I’m on TV. My face as it is right now, or its profile anyway. As Teddy sees it. He changes the channel in a hurry.

    “Oh my God,” he groans.

    “It’s weird, huh?” I ask gently.

    Teddy nods. “I had no idea.”

    Landon is leaning against the door jamb with his arms crossed, looking at us. Eventually he walks away, into his own room, and shuts the door.

    “Is he mad at you?” Teddy asks.

    I shiver. His voice, so close to my ear, is actually quite pleasant. Why didn’t I notice before? Not too deep, a hint of an inner-city accent or something.

    “I don’t care if he is,” I declare.

    Teddy squirms. I’ve never seen anyone actually do this before. His fists tighten around handfuls of denim on his lap, and he just – wiggles or something. It’s the most awkward thing I’ve ever seen and it’s adorable. I almost have tears in my eyes.

    “Shouldn’t you care if he’s mad?” Teddy asks.

    “Why should I?”

    His eyebrows are knitted together.

    “Isn’t he your boyfriend?”

    I actually laugh. Maybe a little too loud. Teddy almost jumps.

    “No, no!” I say. “He’s my best friend. We just live together. We’ve known each other for forever.”

    His eyes widen in understanding.

    “Oh. Okay.”

    We both fall silent and turn our attention to the TV. Wheel of Fortune is on and Pat Sajac is looking as sleazy as ever. Don’t even get me started on Vanna White.

    “Do you really like this show?” I ask.

    “No,” Teddy admits, scratching under his hair. “I just flipped to the first channel I hit the buttons to.”

    We both laugh.

    “I’m sorry I ended up watching your thoughts so much,” I say. “That must be uncomfortable for you now, huh?”

    His laugh fades into an embarrassed smile.

    “You can just nod if you want,” I tell him.

    A few moments later, Teddy nods before looking away.

    I stop bugging him. No need to be such a jerk.

  40. B. Macon 06 Feb 2010 at 2:49 pm

    “How can I possible think of anything else?” This might be an American thing, but I think that possible should be possibly here.

    “I’m only just starting to think about the other thing. The fact that so often, those thoughts he was broadcasting were about me.” This is probably something that could be shown; maybe have her run us through a few of the memories and notice how she’s a recurring theme. What’s her take on that? Is she worried (stalker!) or flattered (touching!) or sad (he was pining after me and didn’t think to say anything!) Also, one thing you could consider– if Teddy really is pining after her– is to work him in as a secret admirer earlier. She starts getting flowers or something (maybe based on something she says in the comic book store) and assumes it’s Landon (maybe because Landon is the one she told in the comic book store).

    “Superpowers were proved to exist!” This could be “Superpowers are real!”

    “That time I saw my own face, that very first time, Teddy had me all made-up in heavy lipstick and makeup and everything. There’s no way I’d ever look that done-up in real life. And I just now remembered the times Landon and I had to change the channel because things got pornographic.” Umm, okay, I think that definitely rules out the flattered/touching angle. Sad/unrequited romance and (especially) creepy are still on the table, though.

    “Oh, God. Is he in love with me? He can’t be. He doesn’t even know me.” Based on what she’s seen, I think this is too obvious to ask. I’d recommend changing “Is he in love with me? He can’t be” to something like “He’s in love with me.” What does she think about him loving her? Is this something that disgusts her?

    “I almost jump a mile at the sound of Landon’s voice.” I didn’t like this “almost jump a mile” here because it feels kind of cliche to me. Maybe you could come up with something more unique to her voice?

    I think the phrase “I don’t scare him” needs a period at the end.

    So Landon’s sort of in love with Poppy, right? And he’s sort of a possessive, commanding guy, right? Very protective of Poppy? And he knows that Teddy’s mind has inserted Poppy into pornographic fantasies, right? It seems kind of strange that Landon brings him over for pizza with Poppy. If that does happen, I would imagine that his feelings for Poppy would REALLY complicate his relationship with Teddy.

    So it sounds like Poppy’s being very gentle with Teddy. She even notes that she’s careful not to scare him. How does Landon feel about that? I imagine he might be a little upset if it looks like the love of his life is falling for a stalkerish-former-comic-book-store-employee. In front of him! (CAVEAT: My romance advice should be taken with a huge helping of salt, of course).

    I love the Landon-Poppy dialogue here. It’s tense. “You wouldn’t mind getting to know him,” he accused is particularly good. I’d like at least a hint of this sort of tension when Teddy is there.

  41. Beccaon 07 Feb 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Here is some more. I managed to chop lots of annoying tagents out of this. I’m so proud of myself, haha.

    Chapter Thirteen

    I wake up to the pitter-patter of rain on the street outside. The sky is fairly bright but I can’t tell if that’s because it’s near mid-day or if it’s because the sky is covered by clouds. Instead of fully waking up I prop myself up on my elbow and look outside. Cars are whooshing by at a fairly voluminous rate, so it must be rush hour. I’m hugging my pillow to my bare chest and staring out the window when my door is knocked upon gently and opened.

    “Poppy?” Landon whispers. “You up?”

    I turn and look at him and croak, “Yeah.”

    He comes inside and sits on the edge of the bed.

    “Do you know what time it is?” he laughs softly.

    “What time?”

    “Twelve-thirty.”

    A woman across the street is crying at the bus stop, her wet, reddened face juxtaposed against the stupid mug of a sleazy real estate agent.

    “Does it surprise you, me sleeping in?” I ask. “I mean, really. You should know me by now.”

    “Mmm,” Landon sighs. His hands are worrying at a loose thread in my blanket.

    “Teddy and I just got back from the police station,” he says.

    “How’d that go?”

    “Well…” Landon scratches his ear. “We were right. They tried it out on a TV, and on a radio. He’s got a transmitter for a brain.”

    “So, are they trying to come up with ways to whore out his power now?” I ask.

    He exhales. He sounds frustrated.

    “Poppy, you just don’t…” he trails off. “Are you wearing a shirt?”

    Still watching the sobbing girl, I shake my head. My bed lightens considerably as Landon stands suddenly.

    “What’re you doing?” he groans. “What’re you doing to me? Argh! Just tell me you’re not dressed and I won’t come in, jeez!”

    I just stare at him, trying to make my eyes look as bored as possible.

    “You’ve seen them before,” I remind him. “No big deal.”

    He looks as close to contemptuous as Landon can get.

    “That was different. That was an accident. Anyway, Teddy’s here, I think he’s freaking out. I was going to get you to talk to him. I’d suggest you put some clothes on first,” he snarls.

    Landon slams the door behind himself. I get up; not for him. For Teddy. Because he’s a sweetheart and I want to see him again. After I’m dressed in a pair of Landon’s flannel pyjama pants and a t-shirt, I poke my head out of my room. The first thing I see breaks my heart.

    Teddy is sitting outside on the balcony. The crappy balcony that’s practically falling to pieces. He’s on the ground, legs crossed, shoulders hunched forward. He’s getting wet from the rain. I take stock of where Landon is (clanking around angrily in the kitchen), and go out to Teddy.

    He jumps at the sound of the sliding glass door.

    “Hey,” I say with a smile.

    “Hi.” Teddy returns his gaze to the rainy street. The street out this window is the opposite one to the one visible outside my window. I crane my neck but I can’t see the crying girl anymore.

    “How was the uh, the thing today?” I ask. “Landon says you’re freaking out.”

    “Well…” he says, looking as uncomfortable as ever. “I don’t know what to do. It seems like everyone wants me to do something different. Landon and the police want me to join them, but you seem like you don’t want me to.”

    “I want you to do what you want to do,” I tell him. “Not just what they want. What do you want to do, Teddy?”

    He looks me right in the eye for the first time ever, and when I start to drink in the warm brown of his eyes I can feel my stomach both clench and release all its tension, at once. I swear his eyes are full to the brim with innocence.

    “I… I want to help,” he says. “I just don’t know if they’ve realized yet that my power’s kind of useless.”

    “Maybe you want it that way,” I point out. “If they decide you’re useless, you won’t have to put up with all that SCF crap Landon puts up with.”

    Teddy turns his head to watch Landon in the kitchen for a minute.

    “So he’s Captain Beckwith, eh?” he says, shaking his head. “That’s insane. My sister used to really like him.”

    “Oh yeah?” I chuckle. “Well, I used to really like him, too.”

    “My sister died,” he says. “What made you stop liking him?”

    “Oh, God, I’m so sorry.”

    “It’s okay,” Teddy assures me. “Why’d you stop liking him?”

    “It’s not like I stopped liking him entirely,” I say with a shrug. “I just… I don’t know. We just don’t have fun like we used to. Now that he’s a big hotshot superhero he’s become all jaded and worldly. He isn’t just my stupid friend Landon anymore, he’s got all this baggage.”

    Teddy nods, over and over until the nodding just fades out. I don’t know what to say anymore, so I ask him about himself.

    “So, Teddy. Who are you, anyway?”

    He laughs and starts to blush.

    “Oh, uh, I’m Teddy Campbell! I like comics books and shoes and apparently I can transmit thoughts to a TV or radio set near you!”

    This sets us both to giggling. After a moment he turns to me and tries the same trick.

    “Tell me something about you now.”

    I think for a moment. What would I tell someone who knows next to nothing about me? The first thing that comes to mind is my graphic novel. But it’s also the thing I censure myself from thinking. Why would I ever tell someone about that, first thing?! I mean, yeah, it’s impressive that I’m writing and drawing it all myself, I guess. But just think about all the crap in there! There’s some promiscuity, there’s blood and guts, there’s even a lesbian scene between two minor characters. Is that the kind of thing you use to introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met before?

    Then I remember – Teddy’s seen it. He saw the first five pages over Kevin’s shoulder, where Sara is beating up a girl at school. And it’s no pussy artwork I’ve got in there, either.

    “Well,” I start. “I’m Poppy Gershwin. I’m writing a comic book. I don’t have a job. This used to be my uncle’s apartment but he died of a brain tumour.”

    He’s staring. Maybe the promiscuity, gore, and lesbian sex would have been a better lead-off.

    “I think it’s awesome you’re writing a graphic novel,” he says quietly, those brown eyes shining. Hot chocolate – they’re like hot chocolate.

    I tuck some hair behind my ears and say, “Thanks. It’s the one thing in my life that feels really, really safe and good. You know what I mean?”

    He nods, but then says, “No. Not really.”

    We’re silent for a moment. Three city buses pass. I wonder where the crying girl was going. My hair is losing its ability to hold single rain drops; it’s soaking wet now.

    “I was wondering,” Teddy sighs. “I know you don’t know me, but… could I stay with you guys? At least for a bit?”

    “We don’t really have room,” I admit.

    “I’ll sleep on the couch!” he volunteers. “I already sleep on the couch at my place, I share it with three other guys. Please, I just feel like I need to be around people who understand me. Understand what’s going on.”

    “Your power, you mean?” I ask.

    “Well, yeah. But also, I just feel like you and Landon really get me. Especially you. You watched all my random thought processes on TV, remember?”

    I laugh.

    “Yeah, that was an experience,” I tell him.

    He’s blushing again.

    “Well, from that, you must know I’m no danger,” he says. “Please? Just one night?”

    The hot chocolate eyes are so soft and comfortable and I can’t take the pleading look. I cave in less than a second.

    “Of course you can stay here. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

    He smiles so big he raises his hand to cover his mouth, as if he’s ashamed of it.

    “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry, I’m just so happy.”

    The sliding glass door opens behind us and Landon is standing there looking down at us. I smile mildly up at him, but Teddy is grinning so wide it looks like it hurts.

    “Lunch,” Landon says.

    We follow him inside. He’s made a massive pot of mac and cheese. My stomach rumbles, almost on cue.

    “Thanks, Landon. This is exactly what I was craving,” I tell him.

    Landon, Teddy and I sit down at the kitchen table. It’s covered in my script pages and a few sketches. I pull a few of these close to where I’m sitting and read a few words over as I shovel macaroni into my mouth. Landon is staring at me in disapproval.

    “What?” I ask him.

    “Huh?”

    “Why were you looking at me like that?” I demand.

    “Like what?” He’s trying to look all innocent.

    “All angrily. God, it pisses me off.”

    “Sorry,” he says, in a way that suggests he’s not really sorry. Like he’s saying it while rolling his eyes. “Anyway, I was going to tell you. I’m going back to work tomorrow.”

    “Really?” I put my spoon down. “You’re still hurt!”

    “It’ll be fine.” Landon shrugs.

    “You don’t want to hurt yourself even worse,” Teddy says quietly.

    “I won’t. The power-suit more than makes up for any inequality in balance or anything. It’ll be all right.”

    “What if they put you on some huge raid or something?” I counter.

    “Relax. They promised me light duty. Just a patrol or something. It’ll be fine. I’m excited, actually.”

    I frown into my mac and cheese. It don’t think it’ll be fine. With his employer’s track record of near abuse, I don’t think it’ll be fine at all.

  42. B. Macon 07 Feb 2010 at 8:14 pm

    “A woman across the street is crying at the bus stop, her wet, reddened face juxtaposed against the stupid mug of a sleazy real estate agent.” Wait, what? This is something she sees out of her window, right? It’s sort of random. It’s a high level of detail for something that’s presumably happening many feet away. Also, what’s going on withe the real estate agent? How does she know this person is a RE agent? If it’s raining, can she see the person closely enough to know that she’s actually crying and not just getting wet in the rain?

    She is falling for Teddy quite quickly. It feels too fast? I know romance is hard to hold to logical standards but it seems kind of weird that she thinks of him as a sweetheart so soon after she learned he’s got some weird ideas about her. (Also, she hasn’t talked with him much–maybe you could show them getting to know each other more).

    “I just don’t know if they’ve realized yet that my power’s kind of useless.” This could be rephrased to be more active, if you’d like: “They haven’t realized yet that my power’s useless” or “I don’t think they’ve realized that my power is useless yet.”

    It seems like we’re pretty deep into romantic territory, so I’m 100% useless here.

    If she has these issues with Landon, why’d she move in with him? She doesn’t even like him? The only thing I can think of is that she’s a pushover (which would explain why she can’t tell Teddy no, either). To keep her from feeling like she’s holding an idiot ball, I would recommend establishing earlier on the trait that justifies her getting into these predicaments. For example, maybe she has trouble refusing people or hates confrontations. (I don’t think that’s consistent with the way she dealt with Kevin, but I don’t have those pages in front of me right now). Also, some handwaving might be in order, like having Landon say (later on) that having Teddy come to live with them is a really, really bad idea. I think that the drama of having Poppy, Landon and Teddy will be more entertaining and easier to read if we understand why Poppy gets herself into that situation. Right now, it feels sort of like an idiot plot. (Not the entire plot, of course, just that particular decision; I feel like the plot generally feels intelligent and believable).

    Info-dump, I think: “I think for a moment. What would I tell someone who knows next to nothing about me? The first thing that comes to mind is my graphic novel. But it’s also the thing I censure myself from thinking. Why would I ever tell someone about that, first thing?! I mean, yeah, it’s impressive that I’m writing and drawing it all myself, I guess. But just think about all the crap in there! There’s some promiscuity, there’s blood and guts, there’s even a lesbian scene between two minor characters. Is that the kind of thing you use to introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met before?” This could be shown in dialogue. Maybe she begins to introduce the graphic novel but stops herself in the middle of the thought.

    “He’s staring. Maybe the promiscuity, gore, and lesbian sex would have been a better lead-off.” Her familiarity with the male psyche is unsettling. Clearly you have at least one brother.

    “Yeah, that was an experience,” I tell him.” I think this could be a bit more stylish.

    Since the police force’s treatment of its men is a big issue, I’d recommend coming up with a better rationale for its iciness when you go through the first few chapters. Being desperately short on funding/manpower would probably work– there aren’t enough people to do all the work, so they expect a hell of a lot of effort from everybody.

  43. Beccaon 09 Feb 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Oops, the real estate agent thing is on an advertisment. /Facepalm! You know, they’re always on bus stop benches. Haha I’ll have to fix that for sure. Anyway here’s some more.

    Chapter Fourteen

    I wake up to rain the next day, same as the day before. Same as many days in this city, actually. Rain is one of the only fixtures in my life. Something I can depend on, no matter who is sleeping on my couch.

    It’s Teddy, of course. The second I walk out of my room I see him, wrapped in a thick blanket, flyaway hair poking out from the top of the sausage roll that is his body. He snores really softly. I gave him the comforter off my bed and slept in a couple thin afghans. I wanted to make sure he was warm and comfortable. For some reason I find myself not wanting him to leave and go back to where he came from.

    Before I start to think too hard about this, I go to the kitchen for something to eat. I throw some toast in the toaster and get the peanut butter out when I see a bag left on the counter. I peer inside and realize that it’s Landon’s lunch. Damn it. His first day back and he has nothing to eat. It’s starting to feel like I’m holding him together at the seams, and he’s only lived here a few days.

    I eat my toast, have a quick shower and get dressed to take Landon’s lunch to him down at the police station. I don’t know if he’ll be there, but it’s still early. I can give it to one of his co-workers who’ll see him later, if all else fails. He’ll be embarrassed about me coming all the way down there to bring it to him, but I don’t give a damn.

    I write Teddy a quick note explaining where I am and grab my bag. I head to the bus stop across the road, where the girl was sitting and crying yesterday. Of course, she’s not here today. So it’s me sitting down next to the ugly real estate agent’s ad. The bus pulls up before long and I sit down at the back, pulling out one of the many books from my bag.

    It takes a while to get from my neighbourhood to the police station. Where I live, the north end of the city, is fairly clean compared to downtown. Ironically, throughout the years, the area around the police station has grown into a garden of crime, with murders and drug deals springing up around its walls like flowers – or weeds. Since the gangs really started to take control, the police have really fallen out of power. Sometimes it feels like they don’t even make a difference. It’s so ironic, Landon says. The time they’re most needed is the time funding is cut, training has to be neglected, and officers keep dying off.

    The Specialized Crime Fighter program was designed to restore police reputation. Now that they had these powerful young guys in bullet-proof leotards that make them fly and shoot lasers out of their fingers, criminals and gangsters were supposed to be scared out of their minds and stop doing all the stuff they did. The program is only a year old. No one can really say if it’s worked yet.

    Really, the only thing the SCF program has given us is tabloid fodder. I study the covers of magazines held in the clutches of bus riders’ hands. Landon is on one, in his power-suit and mask, descending from a police helicopter. The other covers depict Rook, Eagle, Sparrow… any and all of our heroes.

    A few other commuters get off the bus at the police station. It’s a big, old building, the old City Hall, I think. Now it’s starting to look pretty run-down. Some people are congregated around the steps of the building, in a line leading up to the big pillared entrance. Most of these people are women, lots have children grabbing at their hands. There are some men there, too, in work gear or suits, dark circles under their eyes. There are also journalists, with tape recorders, microphones, and big cameras. I groan; I just had to arrive during some big media frenzy, didn’t I?

    I approach the friendliest-looking journalist I see.

    “What’s going on?” I ask her.

    She blinks her mascara-coated eyelashes.

    “I’m hear to ask the Chief of Police and the head of the SCF program what they think of the latest electoral candidate!”

    “Electoral candidate?” I repeat. “What’s that about?”

    She doesn’t answer: just at that moment, the doors of the police station open and the journalists go insane. Cameras start flashing, questions start getting hurled around. I can make out Thomas Sarsgaard, the Chief of Police. Nigel Forster is there, too, the SCF Director, Landon’s boss. There are a few more heads I can’t see, bobbing around in the ocean of people. Then I see one head, a bit shorter than the rest, wearing an SCF mask emblazoned with the right symbol.

    I push through the crowd, ignoring protests. When I get to the front layer of people, journalists’ screamed questions pound my ears.

    “Chief Sarsgaard! Mr Forster!”

    “What measures will the police be taking to deal with…”

    “Will there be a police presence at the voters’ booths this year?”

    The questions melt into each other and I just don’t listen anymore. Neither do Chief Sarsgaard or Mr Forster, nor do any of the SCFs. They continue on their march toward the cars waiting on the streets, wading through the crowd of people. Landon is one of the SCFs helping push the more invasive questioners away from the Chief of Police and the SCF Director. His eyes, cold and calculating under his mask, glare down the aggressive ones. He fixes them on me, tries to push me back, before recognizing me. The implied threats in his eyes disappear.

    “Poppy!” he hisses. “What are you doing here?”

    “You – you forgot your lunch,” I stutter.

    Landon shakes his head, his eyes dark. He seizes me by the arm and pulls me into the centre of the group he’s protecting, right behind the Chief and the Director. His fingers tighten their grip around my arm as he steers me toward the cars. Ignoring the journalists packed in around us, ignoring the flashes from the cameras, Landon opens the door of the nearest police car and shoves me inside.

    People are still trying to take pictures but the windows are tinted. I’m safe in here. I realize that this is the SCF vehicle as Rook and Eagle slide in with me. It reminds me of a limo inside, with car seats lining the perimeter of a small, portable room. There are fridges full of energy drinks, and all the guys take one as they get inside. Landon knocks on the glass that divides this side from the driver and shares a few hushed words with the driver. When the doors are closed and the armoured limousine pulls away from the ocean of cameras and microphones, the other SCFs start talking.

    “God, what a mess,” Rook says.

    They all take off their masks. Landon’s is the only face I recognize. I see these guys on tabloid covers, in newspaper headlines every day, and I hear about them all the time from Landon, but I’ve never actually seen them. It’s interesting. Rook is dark, with five o’clock shadow already covering his jaw line. Eagle is black-haired, too, but his looks dyed. Sparrow is freckled and strawberry blond. I can’t stop staring at them all, but then Landon breaks the spell.

    “What did you think you were doing?” he growls at me. “Coming down here just for my lunch! You could’ve been hurt!”

    “Hurt?” I mock. “Yeah, right. It was just a bunch of reporters. I could’ve taken any of them!”

    The other superheroes are staring at us. I can feel my cheeks start to heat up but Landon couldn’t care less.

    “I don’t care,” he says emphatically. “You should have stayed at home. I could have waited to eat. Anything but coming down to find me!”

    “I just wanted to do something nice for you. You’re still hurt, if you haven’t noticed. You need your strength.”

    “She’s right,” Rook says. “I don’t even know why they let you come back to work, man. You’re pretty much limping.”

    “Not like we were doing anything difficult,” Landon mutters. “I needed to be there to protect Chief Sarsgaard and Forster. My responsibility.”

    “Your responsibilities don’t come before your health!”

    He glares daggers at me. The other SCFs seem to know to be careful. They conduct their own little conversation on the other side of the limo. Landon and I sit together in tortured silence. He just stews there while I stare out the window. We’re pretty much going back the way I came on the bus.

    “We’re taking you home,” Landon says when he thinks I’ve figured it out. “Just stay there, hang out with Teddy. I don’t care what you do. Just stay home.”

    “You aren’t my father,” I tell him, but it’s such a joke.

    “You haven’t got anyone else,” he says, as if he can read my mind.

    In a few minutes we’re pulling up to our apartment building. I can see Teddy on the balcony a few storeys above us as the limo pulls up and I open the door. Standing on the sidewalk, I open my bag and pull out Landon’s lunch. I throw it on the seat and turn around.

    “See you tonight,” I say as contemptuously as possible.

    Without a backward glance, I go in through the door and walk up the stairs to our apartment. I’m trying to convince myself I don’t care if Landon even shows up tonight, but I’m kidding myself. If he didn’t show, I’d fall to pieces, I just know I would.

    I enter the apartment noisily, shoving the key in the lock a little too hard, slamming the door too hard. It feels good to take out my anger on something. Why am I so angry? I should be stoked. I got a free ride home, in the SCF vehicle, no less. I got to see the city’s superheroes as no one else ever sees them: relaxed, without their masks, chugging popular energy drinks. But no, I’m pissed off.

  44. Beccaon 14 Feb 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I think you might have lost the post, B. Mac 🙂

  45. B. Macon 14 Feb 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks for reminding me.

    –The rumination about rain feels a bit off. I think it would make sense if rain were more of an obvious motif but right now it just feels like it’s come up as idle background a few times. In particular, I thought “Rain is one of the only fixtures in my life. Something I can depend on, no matter who is sleeping on my couch” was a bit heavy-handed.

    –“ For some reason I find myself not wanting him to leave and go back to where he came from.” Could you show this affection rather than having her narrate it?

    –“ when I see a bag left on the counter. I peer inside and realize that it’s Landon’s lunch” could probably be shortened to something like “when I see Landon’s lunch, forgotten on the counter.”

    “Since the gangs really started to take control, the police have really fallen out of power.” Repetition of the word really. I’d be careful with that—empty modifiers like really and pretty seem to crop up quite a bit in this chapter.

    The two paragraphs beginning “The Specialized Crime Fighter program was designed…” and “Really, the only thing…” seem a bit too expositiony to me. Could you possibly take this out of narration? Or at least take this narration and intersperse it with more story (like what she sees, what she does, dialogue, etc)?

    “I’m hear…” I think “hear” should be “here.”

    I can only speak to the US political system, but it’d be REALLY weird to ask a US police department for its opinion on a political campaign. Would that feel out of place in this story? Or would it be believable for a police department to get involved in politics? One way you might be able to handle this a bit more smoothly without changing the substance of the scene would be to ask the police union to offer its opinion. Police unions endorse candidates all the time.

    “Mr Forster!” My guess is that Forster would have a title of his own. However, if you use Mr, I’d recommend either just spelling it out as Mister or abbreviating it with the period afterwards. “Mr. Forster!” That might just be an American thing, though… Americans do abbreviations very differently than Britons do.

    I don’t get it. How does she hear what Rook says or see them take off their masks? Is she in the limo with them? I might have missed that part– why did they take her along with them?

    Stories, rather than “storeys,” I think.

  46. Beccaon 24 Feb 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Whoa, sorry I didn’t post anything for a while… Olympic stuff is taking over my life. So here’s chapter fifteen. PS – “storeys” is the British spelling, “stories” is kind of derivative but accepted, like “alright” vs “all right”.

    Chapter Fifteen

    “Where were you?” Teddy asks, venturing in from the balcony, his hair wet from the rain.

    “I went down to the police station,” I grumble. “To give Landon his lunch. I ended up getting caught in some media frenzy and Landon got super pissed off and brought me home.”

    “I saw you getting out of the limo,” he says, his voice excited. “That’s so cool.”

    “Yeah,” I admit. “Hey, that could be you someday. If you decide to join them.”

    Teddy doesn’t say anything, just kicks at the ground.

    “I ordered Chinese food,” he says a moment later.

    “Oh, good, I’m starving.”

    After eating I start to feel restless. I pace around the apartment ceaselessly, wringing my hands. Teddy, who is packing the leftovers into the fridge, offers me a solution.

    “Hey, do you want to go for a walk, or something? You look like you could burn off some energy.”

    “Yeah, sure,” I sigh. “Where should we go?”

    Teddy shrugs. “Do we have to have a destination?”

    So we get suited up in our coats and head out. The weather hasn’t changed since I was out earlier; it’s still wet and rainy. We don’t care though. Like other lifelong residents of this city, we just put on a waterproof jacket and head out in it anyway.

    I let Teddy pick the direction of our walk. He goes left when we get out the front door, which isn’t the direction I’m used to taking. This measly detail reminds me that I don’t know Teddy at all. He’s just some random guy who was thrown into my life. Fate left him sleeping on my couch but I have no idea who he really is.

    “Well, Teddy… what’s your name short for, anyway?”

    “Theodore.” He pauses, seeming to understand that that question was really asking who are you? “Um, I live kind of down this way. A few blocks. It’s actually that brown building down there, the shorter one near the car dealership, see?”

    “Oh yeah,” I say, nodding.

    “Yeah. I moved there when I turned seventeen, with a few other guys.”

    “You mentioned that you slept on the couch there, too,” I say. I look up at his face under his hood. “Why’s that? Why didn’t you guys just get a bigger place?”

    He snorts a laugh. “Because we were – are – pretty broke. The other guys outrank me, I guess.”

    “Outrank? Jeez, are you living in a military base or something?”

    It’s a weak joke, but it’s all I’ve got. Teddy laughs at it anyway.

    “Nah, the others were just outspoken enough to claim the bedrooms when we moved in. It’s okay, though. When Matt is out I’m allowed to sleep in his room.”

    “That’s pretty sad,” I tell him. “You know that, right?”

    “It’s easier for me to give up things to other people,” he admits.

    “Yeah, you’re self-sacrificing, I get it.” I’m so sick of this trait in people.

    “That’s kind of why I’m…” he trails off. “Oh, never mind.”

    “That’s why you’re what?” I ask. “Oh, come on, you can’t just start and stop! What were you going to say?”

    “Well, that’s why I’m confused about my power, and stuff.” His expression is offhand and awkward. A raindrop lands on his cheek. “Like, I don’t see how I’m superpower material. I’m kind of a pushover.”

    “Pfft, that’s exactly the kind of people superheroes need to be,” I say, stepping over the foot of a homeless guy sitting against a lamp post. “Have you seen how much energy Landon’s job saps out of him? You need to be a pushover in order to lay down and take that.”

    “Yeah, I guess,” he says.

    We’re passing his building now, and he’s glancing in the windows into the tiny, cramped entryway. There’s a guy in there, checking a mailbox. Teddy stops walking.

    “Can we go in here for a minute? Sorry, that’s my roommate, I should talk to him.”
    “Sure,” I answer.

    We duck in the door into the entryway. It smells like old carpet in here, and there’s an earthy undertone to the scent. Teddy approaches the tall, trendy guy who’s flicking through his mail.

    “Matt, hey,” Teddy says.

    The guy looks up from under his eyebrows.

    “Hey, Ted,” he says, his voice sounding enthusiastic but his posture or actions not changing at all. “Where’ve you been?”

    “I’ve been staying somewhere else,” Teddy says. “Is it cool if I go upstairs and get my stuff?”

    “Go right on ahead,” Matt says, starting to open an envelope.

    We push past him and go upstairs. I glance over my shoulder at Matt but he keeps his eyes on the mail. Something tells me he hasn’t even wondered where Teddy’s been. He hasn’t even worried for a second.

    The apartment is four storeys up, and my legs are aching when we reach the door Teddy opens. As I expected, the apartment is dark and small, like the entryway. We walk right into the living room, which has a kitchenette attached. The couch that must be Teddy’s bed is old and missing an arm.

    “Go ahead,” he chuckles. “Say something.”

    “It’s, um…”

    “Don’t worry, I know it’s a dump. But,” he says quickly, “I don’t mean to impose on you! I – I just thought I’d come up here and grab my stuff and, you know, stay at your place now. I’m sorry, I just assumed it was okay.”

    He’s biting his fingernails, looking horrified with himself.

    “You assumed correctly,” I tell him. “I was going to ask you if you wanted to stay permanently, anyway. As long as you don’t mind the couch.”

    “It’s a better couch than this piece of crap,” he says, kicking the couch in question with the toe of his shoe. “God, how could I thank you enough?”

    “Don’t,” I say, shaking my head. “Don’t even worry about it. You, me, and Landon need to stick together, I think.”

    “Will Landon be okay with it?” he asks. Teddy bends down and starts to collect a few random objects from the floor, stuffing them into a nearby backpack.

    “Yeah, sure,” I say. “I think he likes you all right.”

    “I’m not so sure,” Teddy says gloomily.

    “Why don’t you think so? Did he do something mean?” If he did, he’s really got it coming to him. I’d punch Landon in the face if I found out he did something to Teddy, best friend or not.

    “No,” Teddy assures me as we leave the apartment. “I just kind of got the impression he didn’t like having me around.”

    “Why?”

    “I can’t explain it,” he says, shrugging and looking generally uncomfortable. “I just feel like he thinks I’m a threat? I don’t know.”

    “Because of me? Yeah, he kind of loves me, sometimes.”

    “Oh, I was thinking more because of my power,” Teddy says. His cheeks are crimson. “But maybe that, too.”

    I’ve embarrassed myself. We don’t say another word until we’ve passed that jerk Matt and gotten back onto the street. We continue in the direction we were going.

    “Anyway, why’d you move out when you were seventeen?” I ask.

    “My mom wasn’t a good mom,” he says. “I moved out after I graduated. Couldn’t take it anymore.”

    “Oh. I’m sorry.”

    “It’s all right. How about you? You’re pretty young to be living alone,” he points out.

    “I’m old enough,” I argue. “Almost nineteen.”

    “Okay, okay,” Teddy says, smiling.

    “Well, my uncle died,” I say with a shrug. “He left us his place.”

    “I already knew that. I meant, why aren’t you with your mom or something?”

    “I’ve been on my own since I was sixteen. She didn’t want me hanging around, so I asked Dad for money to leave. No big deal.”

    “Hmm.” Teddy looks toward the sky as we walk. “Seems like everyone has a look-how-screwed-up-I-am story.”

    “Yeah, for sure,” I say, laughing. “Teddy, watch out!”

    He’s walked headlong into the counter of a sidewalk news stand. He staggers, slips in a puddle, and falls down. I rush to his side.

    “Are you okay?” I ask, helping him back to his feet.

    “Ouch, yeah,” he murmurs. “I forgot to mention, I’m the clumsiest person you’ll ever meet.”

    He grins at me, his cheeks even redder than they were before. We laugh and I realize I’m still holding his hand from when I yanked him to his feet.

    “Are you two lovebirds just going to stand there, or are you going to buy something?” the guy at the news stand grunts.

    To prove that I’m not a lovebird, not the slightest bit, I look away from Teddy and peruse the magazine covers. The latest local gossip rag catches my eye. Landon is on the cover in his mask, his lips pursed in irritation. But that’s not what shocks me – it’s the sight of my own frightened face on the other side of Landon, who is gripping me by the arm.

    The headline reads, ‘CITY’S BELOVED SUPERHERO’S REDHEADED GIRLFRIEND’.

  47. B. Macon 24 Feb 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Canadians spell stories “storeys”? Hmm, okay. I will make a note of that for if/when Gary and Orange go up north.

    There’s a lot of dialogue here. I’d recommend working more nonverbals (scenery, atmospherics like weather, people they see on the way, possibly narratorial asides, etc).

    He seems a bit too self-conscious/aware about his meekness. He ends up telling us he’s meek more than showing it. For example, “The others were just outspoken enough to claim the bedrooms when we moved in.” I think that’s how an unmeek person would describe the situation. Perhaps a meek person would describe it more passively. “All the rooms were taken when I got there.”

    “It’s a weak joke, but it’s all I’ve got. Teddy laughs at it anyway.” This could possibly be shortened to “It’s a weak joke, but Teddy laughs anyway.”

    “It’s easier for me to give up things to other people.” I think this also sounds too self-consciously meek. He’s essentially admitting “I’m a pushover,” when I think he might be better off giving a self-rationalization. Even if it’s pathetic. “Well, Matt needs the bed more than I do.”

    Later on, he actually DOES explicitly say “I’m kind of a pushover.” I think this could be shown more effectively with a unique detail that shows his pushover-ness or general lack of badassery. For example, “I don’t see how I’m superpower material. Even Johnny Knox beat me up, in sixth grade.” “Aww, that sort of stuff happens to everybody.” “He was in second grade!”

    “His expression is offhand and awkward.” Can you show this? What does his awkward expression look like?

    “The apartment is four storeys up…” Ack, there it is again, spiting my American eyes. 🙂 Speaking of Canada and the US, I hear there may be a hockey rematch in the medal rounds if both teams win out. That’d be very exciting. Maybe those dumb ****s at NBC will actually air it this time rather than whichever figure-skating event is on. (Americans without cable didn’t get to see it live).

    “Will Landon be okay with it?” he asks. Teddy bends down and starts to collect a few random objects from the floor, stuffing them into a nearby backpack. “Yeah, sure,” I say. “I think he likes you all right.” — It might be more dramatic (and rational) if she recognized that Landon is not likely to be pleased with having Teddy live with them long-term. Here, I think she has a pretty good reason to increase her own level of personal drama (by inviting Teddy to live with them long-term), because she sees that his previous living situation isn’t very healthy. That said, there will almost certainly be more conflict from having two romantic rivals in the same apartment as the object of their affections, and I think it’d be kind of inane for her not to acknowledge that (at least internally, if not saying as much to Teddy).

    “I forgot to mention, I’m the clumsiest person you’ll ever meet.” I think this is unnecessary. Tripping suggests that he’s clumsy. If it’s particularly important to show that he’s REALLY clumsy (for example, because you need him to make an important mistake later based on clumsiness), you could possibly show this more artfully by having him say something like “Oh, that was nothing. You should have seen the time I [had some epically clumsy mishap.]”

    Okay, so before I mention this next thing, I should mention that I have problems with it too. The ability of minor characters to recognize characters that have been in the news recently. (For example, no one recognizes Gary even though his supposed murder-by-carbombing would probably be a major news item). However, in this case, the guy is running a newstand and her face is right there! I’m wondering if he would recognize her. If not, maybe it’s because the photo of her isn’t particularly good (like it gets her from the side as she’s getting into the limo.

    The magazine headline might sound better with a verb, and possibly a more sleazy/scandalous touch. “SUPERHERO TAKES GIRLFRIEND ON TAXPAYER-FUNDED LIMO RIDE.” For a REALLY sleazy touch, you could add scurrilous and wild-eyed speculation like “WAS IT A THREESOME WITH THE POLICE CHIEF?”

    As always, I’m looking forward to the next chapter. Can you believe it’s been 15 chapters already? 🙂

  48. Beccaon 28 Feb 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Here’s some more! I’m actually having a lot of trouble with the Poppy/Teddy relationship… when I was writing this, during NaNo, I originally meant for Teddy to be the main love interest. I quickly realized that this wasn’t right, so the change in chemistry happens fairly soon after this chapter. So now I’m trying to look for ways to downplay the very minor attraction they have, trying to really keep it minor. If you can point out any places that really need that downplaying, that would be great.

    PS – congrats on the silver medal in hockey, America 😉 hehe. I’m sure we’ll have another showdown in Russia 2014.

    Chapter Sixteen

    “Hot off the press, that one,” the proprietor tells me, his massive stomach bursting with pride.

    “I’d say!” I cry. “That was just a few hours ago!”

    I grab the magazine and flip to the page with the story. There are more pictures of Landon shoving me into the SCF vehicle, protecting me from the paparazzi. In all of the pictures my face looks white, meek, and scared. In all of them, to my disgust, I’m gazing at Landon like he’s all I have in this world, and he’s staring away from me with a steely glare. I roll my eyes at myself.

    “Hey,” the news stand guy says. “Hey, you’re the girl on the cover! You’re Captain Beckwith’s girlfriend!”

    He points his sausage-like finger accusingly. Apparently he’s completely forgotten that he just saw me staring into Teddy’s eyes a moment ago. Other people gathered around start staring.

    “Come on,” Teddy says, grabbing my arm.

    We leap into a run down the street, our sneakers slapping the wet ground loudly. I’m still clutching the magazine, and it’s still warm in my hand from the printer. No one is shouting after me, accusing me of stealing, though. No, all they’re shouting is “that’s Captain Beckwith’s girlfriend!”

    Teddy steers me through the crowds that have somehow accumulated, and it feels like hours later that we stagger in the door of our building and drag ourselves upstairs to the apartment.

    I growl wordlessly when we get in and throw the tabloid down on the table.

    “What the fuck! This happened all of two hours ago and the paparazzi pigs have published it already?!”

    Teddy looks mournful, but he says nothing.

    “I can’t believe this! I am not his girlfriend! God, why am I even looking at him like this?” I yell, brandishing the magazine in his face.

    I collapse on the couch and hide my face. I can’t look at Teddy anymore, can’t look at the way his shoulders heave as he tries to catch his breath after all the running. But I can’t hide from the sound of it – his lungs keep pumping the air and it tortures me. Why did this have to happen? Why did me and Landon have to come up two seconds after I had a moment with Teddy, where I suddenly noticed him and his eyes, his gorgeous brown eyes…

    “You look good in these,” he says. “At least there’s that.”

    “Optimism,” I curse. “I don’t have any optimism. This is awful. Do you know what Landon will say when he sees that?”

    Teddy doesn’t reply.

    “I know what he’ll say,” I go on. “He’ll explode. He’ll blame me for coming down there, he’ll demand why I put him in this situation. He’ll go on and on about how this will damage his career.” I pause to sigh. “God, why did I have to grab that thing? Why’d I have to bring it home? If he doesn’t see it on the way here, he’ll sure as hell see it now.”

    “It’ll be okay,” Teddy says.

    “How do you know?”

    I say it too harshly. Of course, I only realize that after I’ve said it. Instead of answering me, Teddy goes out onto the balcony in the rain and shuts the sliding glass door behind himself.

    When I’m alone I just sigh. It feels like the calm before the storm. I can almost feel the energy building up, and I’m pretty sure it’ll explode when Landon gets home. For now, though, I sit here on the couch, watching Teddy watch the street. The profile of his face is sweet. His eyelashes are long, his nose big but full of character, his lips pouty. I love the way his ears stick out just enough to make it noticeable, just enough for his hair to not hide it. I find myself smiling, just studying his appearance.

    All that makes for some good creative energy.

    I get up and sit at my draft table and spread fresh, new paper out in front of me. I take a few minutes to draw in my panels with a ruler, according to a page of script I’ve pulled out. I know exactly the scene, the page number of what I’m drawing. I’ve had it planned for weeks but I haven’t been able to do it yet. I hadn’t been properly inspired. Now, hell. I’m so inspired I could burst.

    I start drawing. It’s the scene where Sara meets Adam, her love interest. I know everything about this scene: where it is (the arcade where he works), who’s in the background (fat old nerd and his nephew drinking sodas), and what they first say to each other. But I didn’t know who Adam was. Turns out, he’s Teddy. It all comes together perfectly.

    Okay, he isn’t exactly Teddy. His nose is different. His eyes are different. He dresses way different. But the essence of him, those ears and that happy smile, is so Teddy it makes me want to shout it from the rooftops: I love this kid.

    In the middle of harsh line detailing Adam’s jacket, I put my pencil down.

    I love him?

    I glance at Teddy again, out on the balcony. As I’d expected, and as I’d hoped wouldn’t happen, my stomach jumps when I see him. He’s still just sitting out there, getting wet. My heartstrings twinge. Carefully, I hide the new pages of drawings and go to slide open the glass door.

    “Are you cold out here?”

    Teddy looks up at me. It’s gotten dark outside, and the light from inside illuminates half his face as he looks at me.

    “It’s all right,” he says. “It’s just dark.”

    “It’s November, is what it is,” I sigh. “So depressing. It’s only five o’clock.”

    “I think it’s nice,” he admits.

    I sit down beside him. I wonder what he would think if he knew what was going on in my head, if he knew that my whole body has broken into a sweat. What if he knew the strange realization I’d just come to?

    “What were you doing in there?” Teddy asks me.

    “Working on the comic book,” I say. “No big deal, really.”

    I tried to make playing it down sound casual. Didn’t succeed.

    “I still can’t believe you’re writing a graphic novel. That’s so awesome,” he breathes.

    “Meh. Seems so normal to me.”

    “It’s not,” Teddy laughs. “It’s so not normal. Most people our age are just wasting their lives, or becoming slaves to their jobs, Poppy.”

    It’s the first time he’s said my name. Every pore of my body is opening up, trying to pull him into me, it seems. All that, and the first thing I can think to say is, “Like Landon.”

    “Yeah, like Landon,” he echoes. “Anyway, not enough people are following their dreams anymore. More people need to do what you’re doing.”

    “Yeah,” I sigh.

    Teddy’s looking at me, kind of oddly. As if he’s never seen me before.

    “Who did you say your dad was?” he asks.

    “I didn’t. He’s famous, though.”

    “Is he…?”

    Teddy’s voice trails off, and our faces are so close together now. It feels like every fibre of my being is straining towards him, just trying to get closer. I let myself inch in, just a fraction. Our lips are just a breath away from the moment I’ve been waiting for when suddenly a loud noise breaks through our silence.

    Reluctantly, I tear my eyes away from Teddy. Two men have just smashed a window on the electronics store across the street. One of them, in a leather jacket bearing a Cobras logo, is climbing in the window among the TVs on display. The news is flickering across the screens, coming in surprisingly poorly.

    “Oh, crap,” I groan. “Not again.”

    Teddy and I stand up, grabbing the railing in front of us, as if that’s going to help.

    “What do we do?” Teddy asks nervously.

    “I don’t know, do we go down there?”

    “No,” he says. “Are you crazy? We don’t want to get hurt.”

    “Yeah, but we can’t just… wait. Can you – can you think harder, or something?”

    “Why?” Teddy asks, confused.

    “Just try to think about those guys,” I instruct. “Try to imagine them getting caught by the police, right now.”

    Apparently Teddy obeys, because down in the electronics store, all the TVs are showing the same thing: the two thugs we’re watching getting rounded up by the police, the SCF helicopter swooping in, their whole operation getting busted. One of the guys breaking in, the one who crawled in the broken window, is shouting to the other. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but he sounds panicked, freaked out. The other one, who seems like the leader, is trying to tell him what to do.

    “Keep thinking it!” I tell Teddy. “It’s working!”

    I rush back into the apartment to where the phone is, sliding in my wet socks. I dial 911 and report the break-in across the road, describing the suspects, giving the license plate number of the shitty truck they drove in. The images of their capture and arrest are still playing on the screens. Teddy’s face is scrunched up in concentration.

    After I hang up the phone I hurry back out to him. The burglars are really scared now. Their panic is making their fingers slippery, and they drop a TV as they try to hoist it through the window. Sirens are sounding from down the street, and a cop cruiser comes hurtling around the corner. It’s all over in a flash of red, white, and blue strobe lights.

    “We did it,” I say breathlessly. “You did it! That was awesome!”

    Teddy is blinking.

    “I can’t believe that worked,” he says. “Maybe my power does have a use, after all!”

    “Of course it does,” I laugh. “It’s an amazing gift, Teddy.”

    “Yeah,” he whispers.

    He’s staring me in the eyes again, and this time cowardice overcomes me. I look away, back across the street to where the burglars are being apprehended. The police don’t seem to notice, but my own face, as it is right now, is being broadcasted all over those screens. I’m blushing.

    Teddy touches my cheek, too shy to turn my face towards him so I do it for him. Slowly, haltingly, he leans in and kisses me.

    I know it’s all over the airwaves, and the other side of the country could probably tune in and see us. I can almost feel the electric waves in Teddy’s mouth as his brain sends our first kiss out over the airwaves.

    After the kiss, all the TV screens show are fireworks.

  49. B. Macon 01 Mar 2010 at 3:48 am

    “This happened all of two hours ago and the paparazzi pigs have published it already?!” I think this is redundant with ““That was just a few hours ago!””

    “I had a moment with Teddy, where I suddenly noticed him and his eyes, his gorgeous brown eyes…” This feels a bit over the top.

    “How do you know?” If this is supposed to be crossing some line, I’d recommend writing it to be a bit harsher. Maybe “You don’t know that” or “That’s very easy for you to say.” Personally, I’d prefer the second one or a variation on the second one because it plays up the contrast between what Teddy and Poppy are going through at this moment.

    It seems sort of weird that she’s pretty much ogling Teddy at this tense, angry moment. “I can almost feel the energy building up, and I’m pretty sure it’ll explode when Landon gets home. For now, though, I sit here on the couch, watching Teddy watch the street. The profile of his face is sweet. His eyelashes are long, his nose big but full of character, his lips pouty. I love the way his ears stick out just enough to make it noticeable, just enough for his hair to not hide it. I find myself smiling, just studying his appearance.”

    “I start drawing. It’s the scene where Sara meets Adam, her love interest. I know everything about this scene: where it is (the arcade where he works), who’s in the background (fat old nerd and his nephew drinking sodas), and what they first say to each other. But I didn’t know who Adam was. Turns out, he’s Teddy. It all comes together perfectly.” I feel like this might be a bit more effective if she weren’t explicit that Adam is a stand-in for Teddy. Perhaps you could show that rather than tell it? And/or perhaps she isn’t entirely sure and the decision isn’t entirely conscious.

    “I’m actually having a lot of trouble with the Poppy/Teddy relationship… when I was writing this, during NaNo, I originally meant for Teddy to be the main love interest. I quickly realized that this wasn’t right, so the change in chemistry happens fairly soon after this chapter.” So that she can get together with Kevin, I hope! 😉

    A slightly different angle to the comic book story could be that she writes a romance for herself as the heroine dating a conventional love interest, a larger-than-life superhero (ie Landon). But it doesn’t work out, which could be paralleled by Landon and Poppy getting in a fight over something (perhaps Poppy bringing him a lunch at work, which is normally a sweet gesture but not in Landon’s superworld). Then the character discovers, or the author pieces together, a character that actually does click, and he’s a stand-in for Teddy. I think that the comic book story would work a bit more smoothly if it were a vehicle for discovery rather than exposition.

    I’m not exactly sure what your plans are with regards to the romance, but if you’re trying to play down the Poppy-Teddy romance, you might want to look at “But the essence of him, those ears and that happy smile, is so Teddy it makes me want to shout it from the rooftops: I love this kid. In the middle of harsh line detailing Adam’s jacket, I put my pencil down. I love him?”

    “As if he’s never seen me before.” I’m not familiar with romance, but this strikes me as a sort of cliche expression.

    Where are they relative to the break-in across the street? I was sort of under the impression that they were watching the break-in from their apartment. (Which floor?) If so, how did she catch the license plate number?

    Teddy’s power was surprisingly useful. I approve! 🙂

    “I know it’s all over the airwaves, and the other side of the country could probably tune in and see us. I can almost feel the electric waves in Teddy’s mouth as his brain sends our first kiss out over the airwaves. After the kiss, all the TV screens show are fireworks.” I like this ending line, but the rest of the paragraph could probably be shortened/removed because I figure that readers will know why the TVs are showing fireworks.

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

    I would also be looking forward to the 2014 Olympics, given how great a lot of the ice hockey was. In particular, Canada-Switzerland and both US-Canada games were dynamite. Unfortunately, ice hockey only had two events (men’s and women’s), as opposed to ~5 bajillion variations on figure skating. I think that figure skating would benefit IMMENSELY from cross-checking and body slams. Sadly, the women that actually watch figure skating do not agree with me.

  50. Beccaon 02 Mar 2010 at 9:59 pm

    I agree about figure skating! Although it is a really deceptively difficult sport, there are TONS of variations. I had no idea ice dancing was different from figure skating until a week ago, and I still don’t really get it. We got a gold medal in it though so who cares! The hockey was incredible. Sochi is going to be really good. Anyway, I feel like this chapter is really cluttered and long, but nothing in it really feels unimportant enough to cut…

    Chapter Seventeen

    Okay, it wasn’t just our first kiss out on the balcony – it was the first, second, third and fourth. We just work at it a few minutes and soon we’ve got quite a few kisses under our belts. Then we eat some leftovers for dinner, and I excuse myself to bed early.

    It’s only once I’ve closed the bedroom door, leaving Teddy out in the living room with a book and an incredible, happy grin, that my other feelings start to emerge. I’m so, so excited. I really like Teddy, and I’m just over the moon about kissing him. But then a whole other range of emotions attack me when I hear the front door open. Landon’s home.

    I pull on my pyjamas faster than the speed of sound. Well, maybe not, but I’m in bed with the light off when Landon knocks and pokes his head inside. I close my eyes and pretend to be asleep.

    “Poppy?” he says softly. “You up? I need to talk to you.”

    I stay silent, praying for him to go away. He doesn’t.

    He turns on the light and comes inside. Landon sits on the edge of my bed. He’s breathing super loud and he feels really heavy. I open my eyes the tiniest bit and see that he’s still wearing his power-suit, probably hasn’t taken it off since seven o’clock this morning. He just sits there, staring at a fixed spot on the floor. I wonder if he’s going to say anything. Then he reaches out to my shoulder and shakes it roughly.

    “Poppy? Wake up, I need to talk to you.”

    “Aw, shit. I’m awake, I’m awake,” I groan.

    “You were awake that whole time?” he pouts. “Why didn’t you say something?”

    I sit up and try to look him in the eye, but it’s hard. So I concentrate on his chin instead.

    “I knew you’d be mad at me,” I say to the small dimple. “I didn’t want to have this super serious talk you want to have right now.”

    Landon heaves a big sigh.

    “I know you just wanted to bring me my lunch,” he says. “But it’s dangerous out there, for all of us. But especially you.”

    “What?” I say blankly. Nothing about the stupid tabloid pictures?

    “I mean, not that you can’t take care of yourself. It’s just that, there’s a lot of gross guys out there, Poppy. It’s a scary time to be a young girl, you know?”

    “Whatever,” I say, “but aren’t you mad at me? Didn’t you see the newspapers and stuff tonight?”

    Landon’s eyes narrow in confusion.

    “No,” he says slowly. “What are you talking about?”

    I groan inwardly and stand up.

    “You’d better come with me,” I sigh.

    We go out, cross the living room and into the kitchen. I pretend I don’t see Teddy, sitting there smiling to himself. That kiss is a whole other can of worms I don’t want to open with Landon tonight. I grab the magazine and hold it up in front of my face. Again, I’m too scared to look at him, but when he slowly takes it out of my hands I have to.

    “What?” he says, his voice frosty. “Oh, shit.”

    “Yeah,” I whisper. “See, I knew you’d be mad.”

    Landon is staring at the picture on the cover, minor horror in his eyes and the set of his jaw. He opens the pages and his eyebrows raise a little higher at every new picture he sees.

    “Oh, crap,” he groans.

    Landon sits down in a chair at the kitchen table, and the way he exhales and leans into the table reminds me of an old man.

    “You should take off the power-suit,” I tell him. “You’re exhausted.”

    He waves my comment away. He’s still absorbed in the magazine.

    “This isn’t good,” he tells me, as if I didn’t know that.

    “I know, that’s why I thought you’d be so mad at me.”

    “I’m not mad at you,” he sighs, closing the magazine. “It’s just the way things turned out. How could you have known?”

    I don’t reply, but Teddy calls in to us from the living room.

    “You guys are being discussed on TV,” he says. “They’re comparing you to Spiderman and Mary Jane.”

    Landon looks at me, a helpless expression in his eyes.

    “Look, is it really that bad?” I ask.

    “It’s… it’s not the best situation, but it doesn’t ruin anything,” he says. “And I guess as long as no one draws any resemblance between you and your dad, I suppose everything’s all right on your end, right?”

    “Ugh, I didn’t even think of that,” I say. “What if they do? What if some overachieving journalist uncovers all that crap? My dad will seriously disown me!”

    Landon shakes his head. “Really, does your dad have any claim to you, in the first place?”

    “I guess not.”

    “So it’s fine,” he says, standing up. Landon grabs my hands and stares into my face. “It’s okay. It’s going to be fine.”

    “I think you’re saying that more to reassure yourself,” I point out.

    He smiles.

    “Maybe I am,” Landon admits. “Anyway, go back to bed, paparazzi bait.”

    I turn to go back to my room. Landon sticks his head into the fridge to look for a snack, and while he’s distracted I go to Teddy. He’s watching the news, which is playing camera footage of Landon steering me through the crowd and discussing our so-called relationship.

    “Are you okay?” I ask him, but what I really mean to say is more along the lines of “are you okay with all this shit that I just dragged all over your life?”

    Teddy nods, looking up at me with a little smile.

    “Uh huh. I’m fine.”

    I squeeze his shoulder before I disappear back into my room to fall asleep for real this time.

  51. B. Macon 03 Mar 2010 at 7:37 am

    Hmm. I’m notoriously bad at romance, so I have absolutely no idea what will work for your target readers and prospective publishers.

    I imagine that the detail about eating leftovers for dinner could probably be taken out because it’s not particularly important.

    I get the impression that she’s telling too much about what she’s feeling. “my other feelings start to emerge. I’m so, so excited. I really like Teddy, and I’m just over the moon about kissing him. But then a whole other range of emotions attack me.”

    “It’s a scary time to be a young girl, you know?” Hmm, what? I thought that they were about as old as each other (didn’t they go to school together?) If so, I think this would feel out place.

    I feel like the Poppy-Landon conversation could be executed more tensely. She’s repeated variations of “I knew you’d be mad” and it feels like she’s sort of spinning the wheels. I don’t feel like the story is gaining very much at the moment from having Landon discover the tabloid photos here instead of off-screen. The element of discovery here is pretty bland, so if you’d like to keep it on-screen, I’d recommend juicing it up.

    “You guys are being discussed on TV. They’re comparing you to Spiderman and Mary Jane.” “Look, is it really that bad?” I ask. Hmm, I think it’s unexpected for a graphic novelist to be insulted that she’s been compared to Spiderman and MJ. This could be funny.

    What’s the deal with her dad? (I vaguely remember her mentioning something to Teddy about why she’s living alone despite being pretty young, but giving a reminder here about what’s up may help).

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter…

  52. Beccaon 06 Mar 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Her dad a politician of reasonably high stature who gives her whatever she wants, in return for her silence (Poppy was conceived when he was quite a young teenager, and he doesn’t want a scandal for obvious career reasons). At first it was kind of a cop-out so that I wouldn’t have to deal with her parents (heehee) but I’m writing a sequel right now and her parents are coming into the story. Don’t worry, there’s a reason… I’ve got this all worked out 😉

    I think this next chapter is too long… if you find a good breaking point, could you point it out? Or just some filler junk, you find that.

    Chapter Eighteen

    I’m woken in the morning by a timid knock. It’s definitely not Landon.

    “Hmm?” I grunt, and the door opens.

    “Poppy?” Teddy whispers. “I have to go down to the police station for more interviews and tests… can you come?”

    I make a grunting noise that sounds somewhat like a ‘yes’.

    “Okay, thanks!”

    Teddy closes the door and leaves me to get dressed. I don’t like to open my mouth in the morning, really. Not until I’ve brushed my teeth. It’s very uncomfortable most of the time, and often it’s just plain disgusting. Where does all the gross come from in the morning?!

    When I’m in my plain jeans and a plain t-shirt and a simple jacket and my teeth are nice and brushed, I grab my purse and Teddy and I take off. He’s telling me about something funny that he watched last night on TV as we thunder down the stairs, so I’m looking at him when he opens the door. I’m not paying attention to the hell I’m walking into just outside the door to the street.

    Suddenly we’re lost in a crowd of people, and those people all have cameras flashing in my face. Fuck!

    “Come on!” Teddy shouts, grabbing my hand. He pulls me through the crowd and we take off running down the street, like yesterday.

    “How did they find out where I live?” I yell. A paparazzi photographer is running alongside me, taking pictures of my probably retarded-looking face as we run through the rain. I make a face at him and the flash goes off.

    “Easy! They probably just saw where we went yesterday,” Teddy calls over his shoulder. “Look, the bus is pulling up there! Let’s get on.”

    He pulls me onto the bus and the photographer decides he doesn’t want to follow us to the police station. We collapse into seats at the front of the bus, and I pull up my hood when we pass our building again and the other reporters tag along beside the bus trying to take pictures. The other bus passengers are staring at us, wondering who the hell we are.

    “Oh, no,” I groan. “This is already the worst day of my life and I’ve barely left home.”

    “It’s okay,” Teddy reassures me. “We’re all right now, aren’t we? No one will get you on the way into the police station or anything.”

    True enough, as we pull up to the station and run to get out of the rain, no photographers or journalists are there to plague us. The massive entrance hall is booming with sound. Lots of people are rushing around to different desks, with stacks of paper in hand or radios they’re shouting into, and all the sound echoes in the big vaulted ceiling of what used to be the elegant foyer of the old City Hall. Teddy hesitates in the formal, police-y atmosphere of the place, then turns left to a smaller reception desk.

    “This is where I went before,” he explains. “I guess I go this way again.”

    I accompany him up to the desk; he’s shaking so I lace my hand in his and squeeze. He smiles at me briefly and speaks to the receptionist.

    “Excuse me. I’m Teddy Campbell. Chief Sarsgaard and Mr Forster want to speak to me again?”

    The woman fixes Teddy with a stare from over her reading glasses. Her blond hair is brassy and she’s chewing gum, which strikes me as surprisingly unprofessional.

    “Just a moment.” She turns and grabs a phone, punching in an access code. “Chief Sarsgaard? Teddy Campbell here to see you. Yep. Yep.” She hangs up and looks at Teddy again. “Go on in. Your girlfriend can sit and wait.”

    She gestures to a block of chairs against the wall.

    I frown at her a bit. Not a single ‘please’ or ‘thank you’. Why would the Chief of Police hire her?

    “See you in a bit,” Teddy says. “Or you can leave, if you like. If I take too long.”

    I shake my head. “I’ve got a book. I’ll wait.”

    I sit down on one of the chairs against the wall and fish Watchmen out of my purse. I open it, but glance at the receptionist over the top. She’s texting on a Blackberry now, holding it right in front of her face. Texting at work! And not too subtly, either. Maybe she’s the wayward daughter of the Chief’s cousin or something. I can’t think of any other reason to hire someone like her. She notices me staring and reluctantly puts down her phone and returns to work.

    I can’t concentrate on Watchmen. The police station is too interesting for me to focus on even my favourite book. There are people bustling all over, shouting information back and forth to either other, shouting into cell phones, shouting into two-way radios. This is so Landon’s world. This is where he belongs. These are the people he shouts information to. I see a few other SCFs among the regular police officers, Eagle especially seems to be making some rounds, but I guess they’re mostly out on shift. I know this isn’t the part of Landon’s job he enjoys the most. He likes to be out and about on the streets, rounding up bad guys and stuff, but this place just reminds me of him for some reason. I’ve got to remember some details about this place so I can put it in Blood Werewolf somewhere. I think the high ceilings would be at home in Sara’s high school, and the police officers… I’ll have to save some details of their appearances, too. Sara deals with a few police officers, especially when she’s in wolf form.

    As I’m sitting there, gazing around, a figure strides into the mini office I’m seated in. It’s an SCF officer, and I recognize the emblem on his chest when he’s almost past me.

    “Landon!”

    Landon stops mid-step, turns slowly on his heel and stares at me. He raises his arms almost helplessly.

    “Why is it that every time I turn around, you’re there? I can’t escape you for a minute, can I? Not even at work.”

    The unprofessional secretary is watching us intensely, her eyes shooting back and forth as she chomps on her gum.

    “I’m here with Teddy,” I tell him.

    “Oh, that’s your excuse, is it?” he says, turning around again. “Well, stay there. I have something to tell Chief Sarsgaard. I shouldn’t even have stopped to talk to you.”

    “Wait, what is it?” I ask, but he’s already gone into the office.

    I sit back down, disappointed. Not like I actually expected Landon to let me in on this big police secret. Actually, pretty stupid, now that I think about it. Of course he wouldn’t indulge me.

    The door to the office opens after a moment, and a dazed-looking Landon pokes his head out. He motions to me.

    “Come on. Chief wants you.”

    I point to my chest. “Me?”

    “Yes, you,” Landon says impatiently. “Hurry up!”

    I shuffle into the office. It’s not how I imagined the Chief of Police’s office to look like. It’s fairly nice. The City Hall’s original marble floors have been preserved here, and the desk is probably original, too. It’s spacious, with big bookshelves housing various artefacts and manuals and things I have never seen before.

    “Poppy Gershwin?”

    Chief Sarsgaard is holding out his hand, and I shake it. He’s an older man, as you’d imagine, tall and thin with an impeccably trimmed greying moustache. He has a deep Morgan Freeman-type voice.

    “Chief Sarsgaard, hello,” I stutter.

    “You’re the girl the tabloids are picking on?” he says with a smile.

    “Yeah,” I laugh weakly.

    “Poor you, accused of being Landon’s girlfriend.” Chief Sarsgaard winks.

    I can’t even reply. I’m blushing so hard, I must look like a total teenage idiot.

    “Anyway, introductions aside,” Landon says, prompting the Chief. I can’t believe he’d be so presumptuous as to get impatient with the police chief.

    “Yes, yes,” Chief Sarsgaard says. “Well, I’m not here to lecture any of you on proper conduct. Frankly, I don’t care what the tabloids say about you two. But something has happened, Landon tells me, that concerns all of you.”

    “What?” I say dumbly. “Concerns all of us? Even me.”

    “Even you, Ms Gershwin,” he confirms. “I assume you know by now who the controversial mayoral candidate is?”

    “No, but someone mentioned some kind of controversy, yesterday.”

    The Chief nods, shuffling some papers on his desk. His wrinkled forehead looks tired, as if he’s anticipating a big fight to come and he’s expecting to lose.

    “Tony Mancini is running for mayor,” Landon says, sighing in the same exhausted way Chief Sarsgaard is.

    “Tony Mancini?” I gasp. “Is that allowed? There must be some law against that, isn’t there? Mobsters and – and criminals can’t run for mayor, can they?”

    “Anyone can run for mayor,” Landon points out. “You could, or Teddy could, or anybody.”

    I turn and see Teddy standing beside me, where I didn’t notice him before. He gives me a weak smile.

    “Well… what does that have to do with us? With me?”

    I feel stupid, being the only one asking questions, as if Teddy and Landon both already know everything and this little meeting is being held solely to talk down to me. Chief Sarsgaard and Landon exchange a tense glance.

    “One of Tony Mancini’s promises for after election includes big cuts to public safety and policing,” the Chief sighs. “And a near abolition of the Specialized Crime Fighter program. I’m sure you can all imagine the grave consequences of any of these actions.”

    Landon looks like he’s gazing into the future at his own worst nightmare. Teddy merely looks about to cry.

    “He’s not going to be elected,” I say. “No way. Who would want that? Who would want no police and no superheroes?”

    Landon smiles bitterly. “Any member of the Cobras, the Mancini family’s gang. Or any enemy gang, really. If Mancini was elected, we’d be diving headfirst into an open gang war.”

    His words have clubbed me over the head. I feel almost physically sore from the realization of what the city could become.

    “So don’t let criminals vote,” I suggest.

    “Poppy,” Landon sighs, shaking his head.

    “What? It could be done.”

    “Imagine the outrage of the international community if a first-world country suddenly revoked the democracy it is famed for and refused the vote to many, many people,” Sarsgaard says with a slight smile. “May I remind you, Ms Gershwin, that many gang affiliates are ordinary people, just like yourself?”

    “Remember your superintendent?” Landon adds.

    They’ve cowed me into silence. I sink down into the chair waiting for me and cross my arms.

    “I still don’t get what this has to do with me,” I say. And yeah, I’m trying to sound like a moody bitch.

    Landon picks up something off Chief Sarsgaard’s desk that I hadn’t noticed before.

    “Take a look at this,” he says. “Both of you.”

    Teddy leans in over my shoulder and we study the cover of the newspaper. At first I can’t believe what I’m reading. Once it sinks in, cold fear prickles up my spine.

    “Oh, God,” Teddy says.

    The headline reads, ‘REAL SUPERPOWER CONFIRMED.’

    “That was yesterday’s,” Landon says, his voice shaking in fury. “This is today’s.”

    He shows me another paper.

    “I don’t want to look,” Teddy whimpers, turning away.

    My worst fear is confirmed, upon reading this headline.

    ‘THEODORE CAMPBELL, CITY’S SUPERPOWERED SECRET!’

    I can’t bring myself to read the article. I just can’t. Teddy is pacing the room behind me.

    “How could this have happened? It was that ratty-looking secretary out there, wasn’t it?” I stand up. “I’m going to rip her hair extensions out!”

    Landon pushes me back in my seat.

    “Ms Gershwin, I’d advise you not to worry about it,” Chief Sarsgaard says sternly. “This is a matter of police internal affairs, and we are looking into it. What I do advise you worry about is the safety of yourself and Mr Campbell.”

    Teddy lets out a tortured yelp at the sound of his name. I turn to see him pacing back and forth, hands clasped over his ears, eyes wide and panicked. Chief Sarsgaard is right. Teddy needs taking care of.

    “Yes, sir,” I murmur.

    “With Tony Mancini’s promises to cut the police and abolish the SCF program, I’m sure I don’t need to impress upon you the danger Mr Campbell could be in,” the Chief says. “I want you both to be very, very careful.”

    I stand and go to Teddy, catching his arm before he turns to pace back the other direction. He takes his hands off his ears.

    “It’s okay,” I assure him. “Okay? It’s fine!”

    “Poppy,” he whines. “Help me!”

    “Of course I will,” I say gruffly. “Did you expect anything other than my total support?”

    Sarcasm in the face of awkward emotional expression fails: Teddy looks even more frightened after I attempt to calm him. So I wrap my arms around his skinny, bony torso and hug.

    “Come on, guys,” Landon says, and I spring off Teddy. “I’m taking you both home.”

    After saying goodbye to Chief Sarsgaard, Landon leads Teddy and I off to the back of the police station, where legions of cruisers, armoured cars and other vehicles are parked in a massive lot. Apparently Landon’s power-suit has another function I didn’t know about. He clicks a button somewhere and the lock on a nearby SUV pops open.

    “You have your own police car?” I ask him.

    Landon shrugs, but doesn’t reply. He climbs in the driver’s seat and Teddy and I get in the back. He takes us out of the parking lot, where he signs the vehicle out at a booth, and another cop car arrives. It leads us out of the lot, and down the street.

    “Who’s in the other car, Landon?” I ask again, hoping for a reply this time.

    “More guys,” he says shortly.

    “Like, backup? What are they coming for?”

    “They’re starting their new job today.”

    “Landon, come on, just tell me!”

    He cranes his neck to look at me in the rear view mirror.

    “They’re Teddy’s personal guard. Yours, too.”

  53. B. Macon 06 Mar 2010 at 7:24 pm

    WHAT YOU WROTE: I’m woken in the morning by a timid knock. It’s definitely not Landon.
    WHAT I READ: I’m woken in the morning by a timid knock. It’s definitely not Abraham Lincoln. 🙂 Of course not! He’d kick down the door.



    It’s not a huge deal, definitely not remotely as hazardous as opening a book with a wake-up scene, but the first few paragraphs of this chapter could probably be more interesting, I think. For example, waking up with gross teeth. Why does it matter? (I think it WOULD matter if, say, she went out thinking it’d be a sort of casual day and then the paparazzi blitz her and she looks like an slobbish idiot, etc).

    “Suddenly we’re lost in a crowd of people, and those people all have cameras flashing in my face. Fuck!” I think that this sentence could be a lot more visceral/immediate. For one thing, the language doesn’t strongly convey the idea that this is an unpleasant experience for her. Could you show us that this is unpleasant? For example, instead of just saying that cameras are flashing in her face, you could show that the glare of the cameras is hot and blinding, that they have shoved cameras in her face, that people are screaming lurid and highly invasive questions at her, etc. This should, I think, be a really intense and wild moment. I don’t feel that it has enough energy. Also, I think that it would benefit from playing up the elements or invasiveness and/or claustrophobia.


    “This is already the worst day of my life…” Show this more! Establish that this is a distinctly unpleasant experience. Right now, it feels like at most a minor nuisance. Play it up!

    “as we pull up to the station and run to get out of the rain, no photographers or journalists are there to plague us.” Hmm, this might be an American thing, but celebrity courtroom coverage is sort of a favorite media pasttime here. I wonder why they wouldn’t cover the police station, too, if they had her apartment staked out. (Maybe nobody thought she’d be crazy enough to return to the station or didn’t think she’d have reason to).

    “No one will get you on the way into the police station or anything.” It might help if he offers a reason here.

    I think the logistical details with the secretary can probably be shortened a bit. ““Just a moment.” She turns and grabs a phone, punching in an access code. “Chief Sarsgaard? Teddy Campbell here to see you. Yep. Yep.” She hangs up and looks at Teddy again. “Go on in.” Alternately, instead of shortening it, perhaps you could use this interaction to show us more about how the police force treats Teddy. Lot of options there (like how a secretary would be very deferential to a super-valued employee vs. obnoxiously unhelpful to somebody who absolutely doesn’t matter, etc). Does the secretary drop everything when he arrives or is this just a minor hassle for her?

    One option at your disposal is that the secretary recognizes Poppy. She’s probably something of a headache for the police brass at this point, right? (This sort of publicity is unusual for the police force, right?)

    I wonder if it is a continuity issue that no one on the bus recognizes her. The paparazzi has been stalking her for two days, right? Not a major issue, in any case. It’d be worse if the story veered back and forth between her being an uber-celebrity recognizable to everybody and a C-list celebrity notable only to the paparazzi. I would, however, keep track of all of the times she is recognized, to make sure that her notoriety doesn’t vary wildly. (I vaguely remember that a magazine seller recognized her because she was RIGHT on the magazine he was selling, but I think that exception makes sense because the picture was right in front of him).

    “Maybe she’s the wayward daughter of the Chief’s cousin or something. I can’t think of any other reason to hire someone like her.” Clearly she’s new to government hiring practices. Have I mentioned I was a federal communications contractor?

    “The police station is too interesting for me to focus on even my favourite book.” Like “funny,” “interesting” is one of those traits that really needs to be shown and not told. I would recommend showing her transfixed on whatever it is she finds interesting rather than telling us that the place is interesting.

    “There are people bustling all over, shouting information back and forth to either other, shouting into cell phones, shouting into two-way radios. This is so Landon’s world. This is where he belongs.” This seems pretty important, the characterization of Landon’s workplace. I would recommend showing us more, if you can. Also, I perceived the implication that this place isn’t a great fit for Teddy but maybe you could make that a bit more obvious.

    The references to Blood Werewolf seem like a bit of a distraction here. On later rewrites, one of the main structural changes I would recommend is coming up with a different way to tie her comic book into the forward story. For example, you might use the comic book as a way to show her romantic preferences evolving from somebody strong and loud like Landon to someone more sensitive and lowkey like Teddy.

    One thing that sort of strikes me here is that she doesn’t pay much attention to what the people here are doing. The cops here are “shouting information back and forth to either other,” for example. Okay, what kind of information? (This could be a good opportunity to introduce a particular criminal, if you have somebody in mind coming up. It’s been about 20 chapters in a story where a police force factors prominently and I don’t think we’ve had a named criminal yet, or a strong antagonist for that matter).

    So this secretary is obviously texting in a fairly public place at work? Two main scenarios come to mind: one, everybody does it at this workplace so nobody finds it out of the ordinary. Two, there’s conflict at this office between people that take the work serious and those that take it less so. For example, maybe one of the SCF guys mutters under his breath when he sees the secretary texting. And maybe SHE feels the SCF guys are total hardasses that need to lighten up, etc.

    “It’s not how I imagined the Chief of Police’s office to look like. It’s fairly nice.” I feel like this could be removed because I think the sentences afterwards do a better job of establishing the office. If you’d like to show that there’s a contrast between what she sees and what she expected to see, you could do so by inserting words like “surprisingly” or “unexpectedly” or whatever into the description.

    Telling us he has a Morgan Freeman voice might date the story. In ten or fifteen years, I don’t know if your readers will infer what you want them to infer from that reference. If you hit the medium-time, your first book will probably be on the shelves 10-15 years later. 😉

    I sort of like that she’s clueless about the political angle, about Tony Mancini, etc.

    “A near abolition of the SCF program…” I’d recommend just making it an outright abolition. Fewer details to worry about that way.

    “I’m sure you can imagine the grave consequences of any of these actions.” Are we supposed to take this at face value? We haven’t really seen the SCF do anything and, by their own admission, they’re more about making people feel safe than actually making them safe. (And, based on the gratuitous amount of crime in this city, I wonder if they’re even effective at that).

    “One of Tony Mancini’s promises for after election includes big cuts to public safety and policing…” This could be shortened. “Tony Mancini’s platform promises to slash public safety…” or “Tony Mancini is campaigning on…”

    “With Tony Mancini’s promises to cut the police and abolish the SCF program, I’m sure I don’t need to impress upon you the danger Mr Campbell could be in.” I’m not quite seeing the connection between Mancini’s campaign and any danger to Campbell. Maybe you could fill it in a bit more. For example, maybe it’d be harder to shut down the SCF program if it had a superpowered cop. (That feels sort of weak to me, but maybe believable). More believably, it’d be a major blow to the SCF if it lost its most high-profile recruit. Mancini could argue that the SCF is an utter failure if it can’t even keep its own people safe.

    “Landon shrugs, but doesn’t reply.” You could probably remove “but doesn’t reply,” because I think it’d be implied by him not saying anything.

    “They’re Teddy’s personal guard. Yours, too.” I really like that cliffhanger.

    However, at this time, it doesn’t make sense to me why they’d be guarding her, too. One thing you might consider on later rewrites is that the media reporting the alleged romance between Landon and Poppy hasn’t really amounted to much. For example, the boss brushed it off like it was nothing, and Landon didn’t react to it in any notable way, either. In later versions, you could change it to the media correctly revealing the romance between Poppy and Teddy. I think that’d be stronger because Teddy is getting a lot of news coverage of his own. Then giving them both a protective detail would make sense because she’s well-known as the girlfriend of the main target.

    One minor detail, though. It seems unusual that they’d hire new guys for a protective detail (rather than use experienced agents). This leads me to be 90% confident that at least one of the new guys is going to be a criminal mole or otherwise gunning for the good guys. If you are planning on going down the criminal mole route, I would HIGHLY recommend going with experienced agents. (It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cobras have bought off one or two of the cops– after all, the press got wind of Teddy’s identity pretty quickly).

  54. Beccaon 10 Mar 2010 at 8:21 pm

    “WHAT I READ: I’m woken in the morning by a timid knock. It’s definitely not Abraham Lincoln.” Hmmm, I think you’re a little too excited for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 😛

    So here’s some more. Thanks a million, B. Mac, this is so educational.

    Chapter Nineteen

    Landon escorts us up the stairs to the apartment and acts all inflated and important, like this isn’t his apartment, too.

    “Stay here,” he instructs. “I don’t want either of you crossing the threshold of this apartment, is that clear? The squad downstairs will get you anything you need, just – Teddy, just send a thought or something down to their radios, okay? I don’t care.”

    Teddy nods, looking embarrassed.

    “Poppy, order dinner for when I get home. Whatever you want, I don’t care. As long as there’s lots of it.”

    “God, what’s wrong with you?” I say to Landon, scowling. “It’s like, who died and made you Hitler? You’re like a Nazi superhero, man.”

    Landon stares at me, no trance of humour in his eyes or the set of his jaw.

    “Poppy, I’m sorry,” he says, his voice frighteningly quiet. “But you have no idea what’s going on. I’m trying to keep us all safe here. Just go along with what I say.”

    When he’s gone I slam the door.

    “Good riddance,” I mutter. “Now what am I supposed to do? I feel like somebody’s stupid pet bird, all shut up in here. So, what, are we supposed to just sit and stew in here all day?”

    Teddy looks dejected. He scratches a spot behind his ear and smiles a little bit, though, and it feels like a special present, just for me.

    “Well… I have a suggestion,” he says

    “Okay, shoot.”

    “Do you want to kiss me again? I mean, maybe not this second, maybe now’s not the time, but sometime? In the future, like? I don’t know.”

    He slams his mouth shut all of a sudden and I’m standing there grinning like an idiot. Silence swallows him up and I can tell he’s stressing.

    “So?” I say. “Anything else?”

    “Um… sorry?”

    “Do you have anything else to say?” I say. I’m aware than I’ve being overly tantalizing. I think I have a mean streak in me somewhere.

    “I don’t think so.” Teddy swallows visibly. “Do you?”

    Grinning, I hug him again like I did at the station. At first he tenses up, but when I don’t pull away and rest my head on his shoulder, he relaxes and wraps his arms around me. I give him an extra hard squeeze.

    “I’m sorry for torturing you,” I sigh. “It’s just kind of fun, you know? You just crumble.”

    He laughs into my hair. “I’m sorry I’m such a wimp.”

    “Are you kidding me?” I say, pulling back. “Do you think I’m not a wimp?”

    Teddy’s eyes shift like he thought this was obvious.

    “You aren’t a wimp at all,” he says. “You can do anything.”

    “Clearly,” I emphasize, “you’ve never seen me in any kind of emotional situation.”

    I can feel myself start to blush as I say it. Teddy smiles slightly, like he’s delighted with being teased now.

    “Well, maybe we’ll be in an emotional situation someday.”

    “Actually, I think we’re almost in one now,” I point out.

    The atmosphere changes. I don’t know how to describe it, but we’ve distinctly entered a phase where no more talk is needed. Action has to happen now. There’s just one problem: no one has the balls to start the action. Teddy is blinking his ridiculously long eyelashes. I’m stuck with what I think could be a seductive half-smile on my face, but I know it’ll wear off soon and I’ll have to do something else. I reach out and touch Teddy’s face. My fingers are trembling. Suddenly he touches my waist with his equally nervous hands.

    Whatever. I lean in and kiss him. Something had to be done, here. He kisses me back, and it’s nice. Nice… what a lame word. But it’s true, it is nice. Teddy is soft and careful; his lips feel like cotton candy or something. Sweet and good, but just when the flavour gets intense you have to bite off some more. So I’m not afraid to admit it – I bite Teddy a little bit.

    We’re sitting on the couch, my legs in his lap a little awkwardly, but again, nicely, when the phone rings. I detach myself from him with a groan.

    “Do you have to answer?” he sighs.

    “What if it’s Landon, what if it’s important?” I pick up the phone and answer it. “Hello?”

    “Is this Poppy?”

    “Yes.” I frown. “Who’s this?”

    “It’s Kevin, from the comic book store.”

    “Kevin, you douche,” I cry. “How are you?”

    “I’m fine, I guess. Have you heard from Teddy? Haven’t seen him in a while.”

    “Yeah, he’s right here,” I say, smiling at Teddy, who looks away with a grin. “He was just stuck to my face.”

    Kevin groans. “So you’ve stolen away my employee?”

    “Sorry. But I thought he didn’t work for you anymore. Is that not official?”

    “Whatever.” It sounds like Kevin’s waving his hand. “I understand, what with the superpower stuff. Anyway, that’s not why I’m calling.”

    “Please, enlighten me with your true reason,” I say, leaning back and crossing my ankles against Teddy’s leg.

    “I’ve been looking at your graphic novel really closely the last few days. I have some suggestions for you, if you want to take them.”

    I think about this, but it requires no thought. Kevin might be a bit socially – well, weird, but he obviously knows comic books. I should eat up any advice he’ll give me.

    “Of course,” I say. “I’d love some advice, I really don’t know what I’m doing with it.”

    “That much is obvious,” Kevin says. “Well, can we meet up? Have a chat?”

    “Sure, but uh, I can’t really leave my apartment right now. Could you come here?” I ask.

    “Yes. Where are you?”

    I explain the address to him and hang up. Teddy is looking out the window, looking adorably ponderous. I grab his face and kiss it.

    “Kevin’s coming over,” I tell him. “He’s going to tell me what’s wrong with my comic book.”

    “Are you sure you want this?” Teddy says with a laugh. “He won’t go easy on you.”
    “I need all the help I can get.”

    I’m sitting up again, basically inviting Teddy to kiss me again. But either I’m not clear enough about this or he’s a little bit clueless, because he just sits there looking at me.

    “Teddy, you don’t have to work up to say something romantic before every kiss.”

    “Thank God.”

    He kisses me again and I hold his face in my hands. Finally I pull myself away.

    “I’m going to get some of my pages together,” I tell him.

    Teddy moans as I leave. As I rush around my drafting table area, he flops down onto his stomach, perches his chin on the arm of the couch and watches me.

    “I want to read your graphic novel,” he says. “Can I?”

    “You know, it doesn’t really warrant being called a ‘graphic novel’ at this point,” I admit. “It’s barely a few cohesive pages. What you saw is pretty much all there is.”

    “Oh well. It’s mostly written, anyway, isn’t it? The script, I mean. I keep finding pages of it all over the place.”

    “Really? I keep losing the pages,” I admit.

    “You need to keep them all together,” he says. “And keep all your drafts. I notice you keep throwing them out.”

    “Why would I keep them? That’s why they’re called drafts, they’re useless,” I say, balling up a page and tossing it out as I speak.

    “Well, if you keep them, you’ll be able to save them and sell them on Ebay for tons of money once it’s published,” Teddy says with a grin. A single dimple appears in his left cheek.

    I roll my eyes, but I’m secretly touched. And thrilled. Teddy knows comics almost as well as Kevin, and he thinks Blood Werewolf is even slightly decent? My stomach jumps. Maybe I have real, live talent here.

    I’ve rounded up my latest pages and scripts and drawings and placed them into neat piles for Kevin’s perusal when I realize what time it is.

    “Don’t you think Kevin’s a little late? I talked to him on the phone more than half an hour ago.”

    Teddy frowns. “It has been a while. Maybe…?”

    There’s a sharp, pounding knock on the door. It opens and a big police officer with sunglasses is occupying the entire doorframe.

  55. B. Macon 10 Mar 2010 at 10:25 pm

    I may be excited for Vampire Hunter, but Abraham Lincoln is consistently portrayed as badass most anywhere he shows up: The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln, AL:VH, Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny (as a villain!), text-books, etc. Even his condolence letters are kickass!

    “Poppy, I’m sorry,” he says, his voice frighteningly quiet. “But you have no idea what’s going on. I’m trying to keep us all safe here. Just go along with what I say.” At the risk of weakening the somber mood, could I suggest giving us a detail or two to add to the tension? For example, maybe he could mention what happened the last time these bad guys learned about somebody’s secret identity.

    I’m not sure what I make of her mood here. She’s really frustrated by Landon’s laying out a bajillion little things which, in themselves, do not seem very unreasonable given the circumstances. (In comparison, I tried to make the US Marshals feel more unreasonable in the first issue of SN, if you’ve read it). She sounds like she doesn’t feel unsafe. Why not? Her reaction strikes me as intuitive for a thrill-seeker or another kind of really brave person, but I don’t think that she is. (If anyone fit that description, it’d be Landon, I think). Maybe you could come up with some reason that she doesn’t seem to feel (or care about) the danger. Maybe the idea of being murdered is so alien to her that she’s having trouble bringing it home. (I think that’s why a lot of Americans complain about taking off their shoes before getting on flights). Or maybe something else. Personally, I’d feel uncomfortable being cooped up in a place that I absolutely know the criminals will look for me. Second, depending on how competent the police are in this town (and it sounds like they aren’t very competent, or else Mancini would be behind bars), I’d maybe be kind of worried about whether the police can actually protect me.

    “I’m aware than I’ve being overly tantalizing.” I think there are a few typos here. First, I think “than” should be “then” (because “than” is used for comparing two options). Second, I think there are some tense issues with “I’ve being.” I think “I’ve been” or “I’m being” work better. Third, is tantalizing the right word here? The most applicable definition I can think of is “to stimulate interest,” and it doesn’t sound like she’s doing so. It seems that she’s being a bit more “coy” (ie withholding her true meaning) than tantalizing.

    Abraham Lincoln is pretty badass, no doubt. But let us not forget Teddy Roosevelt, either. When war broke out in 1898 with Spain, he quit his job to get a piece of the action. Apparently, that whole “assistant secretary of the navy” gig just wasn’t gung-ho enough for him.

    “You aren’t a wimp at all,” he says. “You can do anything.” Hmm. It might be faulty memory, but bravery isn’t one of the first things that comes to mind with Poppy. What are some brave things she has done over the course of the book? (I thought it was a bit wussy that she caved in by moving in with Landon even after he acted like a jerk). On the other hand, I vaguely remember she did treat Teddy’s awful roommate in a more confrontational manner than Teddy was willing to. So maybe it’s a mixed bag.

    ““Actually, I think we’re almost in one now,” I point out. The atmosphere changes. I don’t know how to describe it, but we’ve distinctly entered a phase where no more talk is needed. Action has to happen now.” I feel like there could probably be a better transition here. What’s causing the change? For example, maybe they soberly realize that they’re in more danger than they had thought (and the perceived threat level rises). Or maybe the threat level actually DOES rise (maybe because Teddy hears something mentally on a radio, or because they get a mysterious phone call, or there’s a troubling news item or something).

    ““Actually, I think we’re almost in one now,” I point out.” Almost? There are probably people that want to kill them, right? 🙂 I think we’re past almost. 😉

    I’m not quite sure why she drops what she’s doing (or who she’s doing, to be more precise 😉 ) to talk with Kevin. I don’t feel like enough’s at stake for her to do anything but say something like “Hey, I’m busy [making out with your ex-employee], could you call me back in three hours?” If the call were from somebody more important, like an editor at a comic book publisher that looked at the script after Kevin passed it along, I could kind of imagine her brushing off Teddy. Talking to Kevin doesn’t get her closer to any tangible goal, but getting published is the Big Dream for most unpublished authors… Getting a review from some guy in a comic book store, not quite as exciting as romance.

    I’m pleased that she answers the phone without waiting for him to agree that answering is a good idea.

    Since Kevin isn’t actually calling about Teddy, I would recommend just cutting that stuff out. He’s calling about the graphic novel, right?

    I don’t know what I make of bringing Kevin to their house. Under the circumstances, bringing him over seems a bit doltish. At the very least, give her a reason. Maybe she wants to show that she’s not 100% limited by what Landon would do. (And I think it’s a given that Landon would get really annoyed if he knew she were bringing unknowing civilians into what might be a dicey situation). The alternative, talking with Kevin over the phone, would work just as well, right? Maybe his phone’s dying or something and he can’t keep talking. Alternately, if you tweak it so that he’s a publishing guy thinking about offering a contract, he/she might want to see her in person so that Poppy can sign The Forms and he/she can get to know Poppy better.

    I like the cliffhanger.

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter. Clearly, NaNoWriMo has been very kind to you. 😉

  56. Beccaon 14 Mar 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I agree, AL:VH looks pretty epic. Why are you guys blessed with ALL the badass politicians?! Like in the last election, you had the oldest man to run for president, the first woman, and the first black man. All we have are fat white guys, the only thing special is that one of them has a mustache 😛

    Aaaaaanyway, here’s chapter twenty… as I was reading this, I realized it was basically all filler and could be cut down to like, a page. So I’m going to be working on that right now, I’ll probably post the “new” chapter twenty after and see what you think of my mad editing skillz.

    Chapter Twenty

    “Do you authorize this man’s entry into the building?” He shoves a disgruntled-looking Kevin into the hall.

    “Yes, yes, I uh, authorize his entry,” I say, and the officer slams the door shut.

    “Jesus!” Kevin exclaims, dusting himself off. “What’s going on here, Gershwin? You’d better have some excuse for me being manhandled like that.”

    “Sorry,” I murmur, “The Chief of Police sent those guys to guard me and Teddy, for some reason we’re in danger or something.”

    “You couldn’t have at least told those lumps of brainless muscle down there that I’d be coming?” Kevin says with a glare in Teddy’s direction.

    “Didn’t even think of it,” Teddy says. “We were busy.”

    Oh God, I can’t look at him.

    “Oh, gross,” Kevin says, wrinkling his entire face up. “Anyway, I’m here about Blood Werewolf. I don’t want to hear about your personal lives. At all.”

    “Yes, Blood Werewolf.” The title still feels strange on my tongue. “Here, I’ve got the latest stuff all laid out for you.”

    I gesture to the table, where Kevin sits down and starts to read. He looks like he’s settling in for a long while. He’s starting with the script, which is good. It’ll take him a long while, during which I don’t have to make out with Teddy anymore. Now we can just sit quietly, watching TV, with no pressure. But that’s not true, I realize as soon as I sit down and Teddy starts flicking through channels, quickly passing over the one with my face and my body on it.

    “Poppy,” Kevin says from the desk.

    “Yes?” I ask, turning to face him, relieved.

    “Why does she agree to move to this town?” Kevin asks, a frown on his face as he flips through a few pages of the script.

    “Huh?”

    “Well, Sara doesn’t like her dad. She’d rather stay with her mom. So why does she elect to move to a place she hates, to be with her father, who she thinks smells like vodka and envelope glue?”

    I blink a few times. “Well, you see, I had to find a way for her to get to this city where there were wolves and where she could get bitten and fight bad guys and stuff.”

    “So you made the character do something completely out of character so you could get her where you wanted?” Kevin snorts, and I immediately feel like an inadequate loser.

    “Yeah, I guess,” I admit. “Plus her dad gives her money.”

    “You know that shit is the mark of the amateur, right?” he asks, looking at me with a raised eyebrow.

    I can feel my heart sink, but I know he’s right.

    “Yeah, I know.”

    “Wow, you’re taking this surprisingly well,” Kevin says. “That’s out of character for you.”

    I shrug. “Well, I know you know what you’re talking about, so I trust you to – hey! What are you doing, you douche?!”

    Kevin has picked up a few pages and torn them straight down the middle. I jump over the couch.

    “What are you doing?” I screech, trying to grab the rest of my materials off the table. “Destroying all my work? Get out of here!”

    “Poppy, listen,” he says, tossing the ripped pages into the trash. “I want this graphic novel to be the best it can be.”

    I dive for the recycling bin.

    “And that was my work you just threw out! How can it be any good if you just throw out my work?!”

    “Poppy, he has a point,” Teddy tells me.

    “What, you’re on his side, are you?” I narrow my eyes at him.

    “Poppy, stop acting like a brat and listen to me,” Kevin says, so serious that I stand up and cross my arms, looking at him to explain. “I want it to be good. I want it to be the best of its kind. There are so many stories out there similar to yours, but they’re all inflated with this teenage angst shit and it’s just so mindnumblingly stupid. I don’t want your story to be like any of those mainstream, bestseller pieces of shit, okay?”

    I nod, still a little reluctantly. But I see where he’s coming from now.

    “So here’s what I want,” Kevin explains. “I want you to rewrite that crap. All that lame teen novel crap. Make it serious. Make it literature.”

    He places the rest of the script in my hands. The first page on top of the pile is no longer the very first page. It’s the flashback part where Sara wakes up, as a young girl, with her sheets soaked with blood.

    “That’s where the real story begins,” Kevin says emphatically.

    I see what he means. Cut the crap, get to the real story.

    “I understand,” I say, and Kevin nods. “What about the art, the concept sketches? Do you like those?”

    “It’s fine,” he says flatly. “I can’t criticize you as an artist. You need to just work harder as a writer.”

    “Thanks. I guess.”

    “You’re welcome, I guess,” he replies.

    It almost physically hurts to say thank you to him. But I do it anyway because I’m a nice girl.

    “Well, if you don’t have anything else to say, Kevin,” Teddy sighs from the kitchen where he’s eating my peanut butter.

    “Yeah, maybe I should head out,” Kevin says.

    “But you’ve barely told me anything,” I complain. “Don’t leave until you’ve given me ten more pieces of advice!”

    “Ten?” Kevin asks with a raised eyebrow.

    “Seriously, tell me more!”

    “You’re just fishing for compliments,” Kevin murmurs. “I shall not yield. I’m going now, bye.”

    He heads to the door, but as he reaches out his hand to grab the doorknob, the door bursts open. The edge of it smacks Kevin in the face and he falls to the floor. Landon bursts into the room.

    “Where’s Teddy?” he roars.

    “Ugh,” Kevin groans, rolling onto his stomach.

    “Landon, you just hit Kevin in the face with the door,” I cry.

    Landon glances over his shoulder at Kevin before looking back at me. He grabs my shoulders and shakes me.

    “Where’s Teddy?” he repeats. His eyes are wild.

    “He’s right in the kitchen! Get off me!”

    Landon hurries into the kitchen. Massaging my head, which is sore from Landon scrambling my brain, I look towards Kevin. He’s struggling to his feet with a hand to his own injured head, but there’s something even more interesting in that direction. Policemen are streaming in the door.

    And not just policemen. Yeah, there are regular officers, but most of them are hoisting heavy machine guns, a few snipers, in full riot gear. They disperse through my apartment at the command of a few SCF team members, superheroes like Landon. Rook and Eagle stalk past me into the apartment, telling their guys which windows to stand at. Everybody’s shouting into a radio or shouting at somebody’s face.

    “Did I hit my head harder than I thought I did?” Kevin groans.

  57. B. Macon 14 Mar 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Canada may be short on badass politicians, but it is no stranger to badassery in general. For example, the US invasions of Canada during the US Revolution and War of 1812 did not, ahem, meet expectations.

    The authorization could be more dramatic. Could you give the cop more of a presence here? (For example, maybe he has some opinion about the situation or is otherwise harder-to-forget… e.g., maybe Kevin sneaks in the building past the police cordon and the cop tackles him as he gets to the apartment room, assuming he’s some sort of assassin). Playing up the element of a misunderstanding is one way to make Kevin’s entry more dramatic. If the cop just lets him in without any inconvenience, I don’t think it’ll be as fun. 😉

    “You couldn’t have at least told those lumps of brainless muscle down there that I’d be coming?” Kevin says with a glare in Teddy’s direction. Haha. 😉

    The discussion of why Sara wants to live with her dad rather than her mom reminds me of the first two pages of Twilight.

    “You know that shit is the mark of the amateur, right?” Haha.

    “There are so many stories out there similar to yours, but they’re all inflated with this teenage angst shit and it’s just so mindnumblingly stupid. I don’t want your story to be like any of those mainstream, bestseller pieces of shit, okay?” Hehe. Quick question about “mindnumblingly.” Mindnumblingly or mindnumbingly?

    “But I see where he’s coming from now.” I think this feels too expository. Could you show us that she understands what he’s saying? For example, maybe she offers some change she could make to the story to make it more mature/literary and less teen-angst.

    I think that Kevin coming in and laying down How Things Are to Poppy isn’t quite as dramatic as it could be. For example, he declares that Sara waking up soaked in blood is where the story begins and she thinks “I see what he means.” Could you make her a more active participant? For example, perhaps he could declare “This isn’t where the story starts” and she can think through it and decide that it’d be better to start with the blood-soaked scene rather than the original introduction for reason X. Right now, he’s saying what the problems are and dictating solutions. I think it’d be more interesting, and more fitting for her as the hero, if she came up with the solutions on her own. (Perhaps with some guidance from Kevin or Teddy).

    “I shall not yield.” Soooo geeky. I approve. 😉

    I think the scene where Landon and the cops burst through the door could be more intense. In particular, I’d like to draw your attention to this paragraph:
    “Policemen are streaming in the door.
    And not just policemen. Yeah, there are regular officers, but most of them are hoisting heavy machine guns, a few snipers, in full riot gear. They disperse through my apartment at the command of a few SCF team members, superheroes like Landon. Rook and Eagle stalk past me into the apartment, telling their guys which windows to stand at. Everybody’s shouting into a radio or shouting at somebody’s face.” One thing I’d recommend looking at is how the commas cause pauses in the narrative and slow down the pace. What I’d recommend is shortening the sentences, cut down on the commas, and use stronger verbs. Maybe more fragments to convey the sense of chaos.

    For example, maybe something like “Cops with heavy machine guns pour through the door. Then snipers. Rook and Eagle. A few other SCF agents. Everybody shouting in a radio or screaming at somebody or waving a gun about.”

    A physical detail that I think might capture the danger of the situation is what the cops are doing with Poppy and Teddy. If they’re worried about an imminent shootout or sniper situation, they’d probably rush the two away from any windows, glass, or anything else a sniper could see through easily. I could easily imagine that she’d be shellshocked by what she’s seeing.

  58. Beccaon 20 Mar 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Hey, guess what I did? I write a quick little query for this and now it’s up on Evil Editor. There are actually some pretty good responses, too, which I wasn’t expecting. But one thing some people said is kind of getting to me… a few different people have trouble seeing WHY the gangsters would go after Teddy, and now that I think about it, it seems a little foggy to me, too. So I was thinking maybe I should go back to when Teddy helped thwart the robbery, and maybe emphasize that a little more. Maybe make it a big drug deal he stops instead, so that the Cobras really see the potential for superpowers destroying their regime. What do you think?

    On the topic of US vs Canada, there’s a song by a Canadian novelty band, the Arrogant Worms, called “The War of 1812” and it’s frigging hilarious. To me. You might be slightly offended 🙂 But it’s worth checking out on youtube if you want.

    So here’s chapter twenty-one, in which Poppy has to pee really bad, and a game of Pictionary is played.

    Chapter Twenty-One

    Suddenly Rook is there. He forces my head to the floor.

    “Crawl! Crawl to the kitchen!” he’s shouting. “Go, go, go!”

    I obey, scrambling across the wood floor as best as I can. He’s still shoving my face down, dragging my cheek against the parquet. He only lets me up when we’re in the kitchen, sheltered from all the windows.

    “What is going on, Landon?” I demand.

    He has Teddy cornered in here. Kevin is standing, petrified, against the fridge.

    “Tony Mancini,” Landon says through gritted teeth, “has basically put a bounty on Teddy’s head. He says he’ll give millions to whoever delivers the body.”

    Teddy faints and falls to the ground. Landon holds me in place.

    “He’s fine,” he mutters. “Listen, Poppy, we’re all here to protect him, and you. You are not to leave this kitchen without my permission. Do you hear me?”

    I strain to see Teddy over Landon’s shoulder.

    “Yes, yes,” I say impatiently.

    He lets go of me and I rush to Teddy’s side. He comes to in a flurry of blinks and gasps.

    “Well!” Kevin says. “I think I’ll be getting out of here about now.”

    “You’re staying right here, buddy,” Landon growls.

    “What?! Do you think I have nothing better to do than hang around some gangster bait and his nerd girlfriend all day?”

    I shoot Kevin a glare. Landon glances at me at the mention of the word ‘girlfriend’.

    “Doesn’t matter what I think,” Landon says. “You’re staying here.”

    “Are you serious,” Kevin whines.

    “Completely. As serious as you should be about keeping your life.”

    Kevin heaves a huge sigh and sits down on the kitchen floor. He lets his head loll against the cupboards.

    “Are you okay?” I ask Teddy.

    He’s still blinking, but he says, “Yes. Oh, God, what’s going to happen to me?”

    “Nothing,” I say so aggressively it scares me. “Absolutely nothing. Landon will protect you, he’ll protect all of us.”

    From my spot on the floor, Landon looks so tall.

    “Won’t you?” I ask him.

    He’s mumbling into a communicator built into his wrist. Scowling, he hangs up on it and hisses, “What?”

    “I said, you’ll protect us, right?”

    “Yes, of course.” He goes back to talking into the communicator.

    I help Teddy sit down against the cupboards next to Kevin. The flurry of activity is still going on in the living room, lots of heavy foot steps on the floor, but the shouts have turned to whispers.

    Landon clicks into the communicator again and asks, “Any visuals yet, twenty-two?”

    A fuzzy voice says, “Negative.”

    “Landon, what are we doing here?” I ask.

    “I’m waiting for further orders from Chief Sarsgaard,” he grunts. “Until we know what our next move is everyone is staying put.”

    The minute my heart stops beating quite as hard and I sit the slightest bit still, my bladder starts to swell.

    “Landon, you’re going to hate me,” I sigh.

    “Why?”

    “I have to pee.”

    He looks at me hard. His lips press together.

    “Well, sorry!” I fake-apologize. “You’re going to make me go in the sink, aren’t you?”

    “No,” he says. His eyes twitch and he shifts his weight. “You need privacy, obviously, but… Poppy, there’s a window in the bathroom.”

    “A tiny one!” I say, exasperated. “What sniper can shoot through a tiny window and make the bullet swing around to hit someone out of sight?”

    Teddy stiffens at the mention of bullets and snipers.

    “Well, if they shot the window out, you’d be covered in glass,” Landon points out.

    “Oh my God, man!” Kevin shouts. “Just let her take a piss!”

    Landon stares coldly at Kevin, but he lifts his communicator.

    “Forty-one, sixteen, I want you two covering the view from the bathroom window. I want every point on Benedict Street in your sights for the next five minutes.”

    The snipers “Roger” and “Copy” back.

    Landon takes his giant SCF-issue gun off his belt, shifts it around. It makes a few ominous clicks. He adjusts a sniper scope.

    “I’m just going pee,” I say, rolling my eyes. “Is this some huge joke about how long girls take? Seriously, one minute tops.”

    “Poppy, unlike you I’m not making jokes about your safety!” Landon suddenly roars. “You are a known associate of both a prominent SCF Team Leader, and a wanted outlaw!”

    Guilt floods through me. Landon is glaring at me, his lips are twitching in a terrifying expression. He looks like he could hit me right now.

    “Okay,” I whisper.

    He helps me up off the floor and he darts into the hallway separating the kitchen from the bathroom.

    “Go, go now!” Landon commands, blocking the view of the hallway from the big main window.

    Fear finally starting to creep into my skin, I hurry down the hall and into the bathroom. I go to close the door but something gets in my way; Landon has thrown his arm out to block the door.

    “I’m coming in,” he growls.

    He pushes his way into the bathroom and closes the door. In one spritely movement he jumps onto the counter, where he props his gun up on the windowsill. He starts fiddling with the scope and squinting into it.

    “So, are you going to go, or what?” he grunts.

    “Don’t look. If you do, I’ll kill you.”

    “Don’t be an idiot, of course I won’t.”

    With another glance at Landon, I pull down my jeans and sit down on the toilet. I’m blushing now, and sweating buckets. From the fear, and the embarrassment of peeing in front of a boy I’ve always tried to appear haughty and untouchable in front of. All the mystery goes out the window.

    Then I’m reminded of something he shouted at me a moment ago.

    “SCF… Team Leader?”

    Landon makes like he’s going to look at me, but hastily looks back out the window.

    “Yeah,” he says. “I was promoted.”

    “Congratulations,” I murmur, kicking my feet idly.

    “Thanks.” He readjusts the scope, but I think it’s just an awkward gesture he makes because he doesn’t know what else to do. “I’m sorry I yelled at you. I just… you frustrate me so much sometimes. You don’t know when it’s time to be serious, Poppy. It’s just joke, joke, joke all the time.”

    “That’s because I’m scared and I don’t know how to deal with it,” I say. “I thought you knew that.”

    Apparently Landon realizes where he is and that this isn’t the time for a super deep conversation to renew our friendship. He clears his throat.

    “Anyway, finish up, won’t you?” he grunts.

    I “finish up” and Landon smuggles me back into the kitchen without event. Kevin and Teddy are still sitting in there on the floor, completely unharmed. Kevin looks lethargic; even Teddy, who’s scared out of his mind, looks bored. I sit back down with him as Landon starts talking covertly into his communicator.

    “Feel better now?” Teddy asks with a nervous laugh.

    I nod. “Did anything super exciting happen while I was gone?”

    “Teddy sighed, then my stomach rumbled,” Kevin drawls. “That’s about it.”

    “Oooh, fun,” I say, sitting down with them.

    “So when does this end?” Kevin asks Landon with a frown. “When will I get to go home and leave these two freak shows behind?”

    Landon crosses his arms over his chest.

    “You’ll stay until I tell you to get out,” he says. “Seriously, this is for your own safety. You should be thanking me for not marching you out the door into a sniper’s sight right now.”

    I shiver. Could there really be snipers on the buildings around mine, just waiting for someone to come into their view? Sitting there, losing feeling in their ass, just hoping someone will stray into sight so they can go home…

    The siege of my apartment lasts longer than I could have imagined possible. We’ve been on the ground in the kitchen, under Landon’s watchful eye, for an hour before he gets a single message from Chief Sarsgaard. It finally comes in the form of a blurry message over the communicator that I can’t make a single word out of. Landon replies tersely, with just a “Yes, sir.”

    “So?” I ask him. “What are the orders?”

    He won’t meet my eyes. “We’re staying here for the night.”

    “The night? We’re spending the whole night here, cramped up on the kitchen floor?”

    Kevin drops his head into his hands and groans.

    “I knew coming to see you was a bad idea, Gershwin,” he says.

    “There’s not much I can do,” Landon says shortly. “If that’s what the Chief thinks will be safest for everyone, that’s what’s going to happen.”

    “Can we at least get something to do?” I ask. “Like, some Mad Libs or something? Or pages from my comic book to work on?”

    “Yes, get that,” Kevin suggests.

    Landon exhales heavily. His eyebrows are knitted together.

    “You want me to put myself or my men in danger so you guys can have some entertainment?”

    I shrug. Kevin nods. Teddy looks guilty. He’s obviously the only decent one of the three of us.

    “Well, that’s what I’m here for,” Landon says. He shrugs his shoulders and rotates his arms, like he’s steeling himself.

    “Wait, don’t.” I grab his leg “There are safer ways to make us feel guilty, Landon.”

    “No, no,” he says. “This is what I’m trained for. Don’t move.”

    Landon slinks around the corner of the kitchen and into the living room. I hold my breath, waiting for a gunshot. Nothing. No gunshot, no sound whatsoever. Landon returns with a stack of the papers from my desk, which he passes into my eager hands. I hold them to my chest, not realizing until now how worried I was about Blood Werewolf being in danger of being sniped. The other thing he’s holding is an old brown box: Pictionary.

    “It’s the only game I could find,” he says, passing it to Kevin.

    “Well, we’re in luck,” Kevin says. “I’m a very gifted Pictionary player.”

    Teddy snorts.

    “Let’s see what you got.”

    This is a situation I never thought I’d be in: playing Pictionary in a cramped kitchen with the biggest jerk and the biggest , with a superhero watching from the counter, under the protection of SWAT team snipers. Surprisingly, it’s one of the best nights of my life. To Kevin’s frustration, Teddy trounces him. I don’t do so bad, either.

    “I can’t believe this!” Kevin roars, pulling at his hair after Teddy recognized a palm tree after just a few swipes of the pencil.

    Teddy smirks, rolling the dice between his hands. He looks up and winks at me. It’s such an incongruous gesture. I never could have imagined Teddy getting cocky over anything. Turns out, his confidence booster is a good ol’ game of Pictionary.

    “You’re going down, old man,” he teases Kevin, who is still fuming silently. “I got your palm tree, you overgrown nerdchild.”

    I laugh, and shoot my eyes up to Landon. He’s sitting on the counter, one wrist resting on his knee. He’s staring at the wall, eyes straight ahead. When he notices me looking at him, he smirks too, but there’s no humour in it. He’s stressing, cheek twitching.

    “Landon? Do you want us to stop playing?” I ask.

    “No, of course not,” he says, frowning. “Why would I want you to stop?”

    “You look kind of annoyed,” I point out.

    “I’m fine,” he says, glancing into my eyes briefly. There’s something in his eyes I can’t put my finger on. Jealousy? Happiness? I can’t even tell.

    Teddy starts to draw his clue, and I think it might be a caboose.

  59. roseaponion 20 Mar 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Hey Becca – This is the only chapter I’ve read (sorry – normally I’m a read-in-order kind of person 🙂 ) but I really like it. This would be a great _first_ chapter, actually – great opening hook, humor, and the practical considerations of boredom and having to pee while under seige. One thing – it does seem unusual to have a novel-length work written entirely in the present tense.

    Great work 😀

    I have to go now, but sometime I’ll be back to read the rest.

  60. B. Macon 20 Mar 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I’m not surprised that they like it. It’s an interesting premise and I think your query sounds smart enough that people that aren’t regularly into superhero stories will give it a fair look. (There may be a preconception in the novel publishing industry that “superhero” is code for mindless action– which is totally unfair to anyone that does mindless comedy).

    I’m also impressed by the improvement between your initial query and your revised version. For example, I think that removing the author bio section frees up a bit of space/time for more important story details.

    I feel a bit uneasy about Poppy developing superpowers–I think that a good deal of her interestingness comes from the fact that she’s purely a regular person–but I guess we can speak more about that when we reach that chapter. I think that a lot of the issue could be cleared up with an origin story that makes sense (ie NOT something random like a mutation–contrivances like that probably need to be used early in the story). If she develops superpowers because of something she does, or somewhere she goes, or because someone targets her for some reason, I think it could work.

    I apologize, but I’m sort of short on time at the moment. I’ll try to look at your new chapter later today.

  61. B. Macon 20 Mar 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Hello, Roseaponi. I’d recommend reading through her first few chapters. If you like chapter 21, I have every reason to believe you’d enjoy 1-20.

    Hello, Becca. Heightening the conflict between Teddy and the mob would probably help. For example, maybe the mob is scared ****less about the idea that he can track the cell phones they use to run the organization. I agree it would help if he shows off his skills by cracking open a significant gang operation rather than some two-bit store break-in. If Teddy really matters, it might help to establish early on, before we meet Teddy, that the Cobras are very logistically modern and depend on (Teddy-vulnerable) equipment like cell-phones or whatever.

    I am not offended by “The War of 1812” or any references thereof. As far as wars go, it was a pretty tame and bloodless affair, and I think it’s pretty obvious that the US and Canada have gotten along pretty well not being part of the same country. Also, if Canada WERE part of the US, that would just mean 30 million more votes for mayonnaise as the national condiment. Eww…

    (PS: In a war today, I’d give Toronto two weeks against the Kentuckian hordes. If Kentucky can survive a zombie Holocaust, what chance do 100,000 Canadian troops have against 60,000 zombie-hardened veterans?)

    I was thinking about naming the boss Tony Mancini. One of EE’s commenters complained that it’s too stereotypical. Personally, I don’t think it’s a problem. (Although I will admit that I switched the main crime lord in SN from “The Colombian” to “The Norwegian” because it’s funnier and sets off Agent Orange more).

    “Tony Mancini [snip] has basically put a bounty on Teddy’s head. He says he’ll give millions to whoever delivers the body.” A few thoughts here. First, if they know Tony has put out a bounty on Teddy, why can’t they put him behind bars? (Maybe he could suggest that the evidence is very sketchy or the person that provided the information has since died in a mysterious accident). I’d also cut out the word basically here… I think whoever should be whomever. Alternately, to keep this whoever, you could rephrase the sentence to “Whoever delivers the body gets [X] million.”

    It seems out of character for Kevin to derisively refer to Poppy as a “nerd girlfriend.” He runs a comic shop!

    “Until we know what our next move is everyone is staying put.” Comma after is, I think.

    The discussion of the window in the bathroom is surprisingly tense. Well-played! It both makes Landon seem competent/elite and Poppy seem like a real person.

    “I want you two covering the view from the bathroom window. I want every point on Benedict Street in your sights for the next five minutes.” I really like these two lines. They fit the character’s voice very well and are refreshingly jargon-free.

    “Poppy, unlike you I’m not making jokes about your safety!” Comma after you, I think.

    “…a prominent SCF Team Leader, and a wanted outlaw!” Erm, when Landon calls Teddy a wanted outlaw, I think it makes Teddy sound like a criminal. I’d recommend replacing this sentence with something specific to Mancini. Maybe he had a judge’s family killed one time just to make a point.

    Her congratulations for his promotion is delightfully awkward. I approve. 🙂

    The stuff he says about her joking too much sounds believable and the extreme shortness of it really fits the mood. However, I feel like her response (“That’s because I’m scared and I don’t know how to deal with it,” I say. “I thought you knew that.”) feels too much like telling rather than showing. I mean, at this very moment she is using a toilet while her live-in bodyguard is playing countersniper out the bathroom window. She shouldn’t have to SAY she’s scared or that she doesn’t know how to deal with this situation– I think you could imply/show it.

    “Apparently Landon realizes where he is and that this isn’t the time for a super deep conversation to renew our friendship. He clears his throat.” I think that “he clears his throat” is an effective way of showing he feels uncomfortable with this line of questioning. The first sentence could probably be removed.

    Here’s an idea. If Kevin and Teddy don’t have anything to do but be bored, you could always play with Teddy’s powers. Maybe he covertly listens in on the police radio?

    “You want me to put myself or my men in danger so you guys can have some entertainment?” I shrug. Kevin nods. — Haha! I laughed pretty hard at Kevin nodding.

    “I’m a very gifted Pictionary player.” If he knows anything about how to make graphics, he should be. 🙂 I think anybody that writes and draws her own comic should kick his ass, though.

    “cramped kitchen with the biggest jerk and the biggest ,…” I think there’s a word missing here after the second biggest. Also, I find it amusing that we don’t know whether the biggest jerk is Kevin or Landon, although I suspect it’s Kevin.

    “Turns out, his confidence booster is a good ol’ game of Pictionary.” I think that this is implied by the previous passage (“Teddy smirks, rolling the dice between his hands. He looks up and winks at me. It’s such an incongruous gesture. I never could have imagined Teddy getting cocky over anything”). By the way, I find it TOTALLY believable that Teddy is a pushover in real life but competitive in gaming. Unlike in real life, a game almost always has clearly-defined, unbreakable rules and depends less on social skills and resolve.

    “Surprisingly, it’s one of the best nights of my life.” Two things. First, maybe you could show this detail. Why is she having such a good time? (Maybe it’s seeing Kevin get trounced by Teddy, who is finally stepping up in something).

    ““I got your palm tree, you overgrown nerdchild.”” HAHA. However, he worked at a comic book store, too. I suppose that’s a bit less nerdy than running the store or working on a graphic novel, but still, he’s not much less nerdy than anyone else at the game. (Although, unlike Kevin, I think he has a girlfriend and is sort of a cop… both are definitely a plus).

    I find it very interesting that she draws Landon into the scene at the end (asking him if he’d like them to stop playing). I like that.

    There’s no cliffhanger, per se, but I found the line about the caboose wacky and refreshing. If readers liked this chapter (and I did, a hell of a lot), I think that they will excitedly continue reading anyway. (Also, this deep into the book, I think that the need for cliffhangers is less urgent… if a reader has made it through 20 chapters, he or she has obviously developed some attachment to the story and/or characters).

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

  62. Beccaon 26 Mar 2010 at 7:26 am

    Ooops, I accidently came to school two hours early. So I did some editing and thought I’d post this. One thing I’m a little bit self-conscious about is using (fake) police jargon and stuff. You’re probably much better at this than me… do you think it’s all right? PS mayonnaise is delicious. Don’t be insulting the mayo gods, they can be nasty 😉

    Chapter Twenty-Two

    We have to stop playing before too long. The sun has set, and Landon won’t let us turn on any lights. We’ve been holed up here for seven hours, according to the digital display on the oven. We’ve returned to just sitting with our backs against the cupboard doors. My stomach rumbles, and Teddy puts his hand on it.

    “I’m hungry,” I say, directing the complaint to Landon, who is still sitting on the counter.

    “Sorry,” he murmurs. I can barely see him in the dark.

    “I’m not allowed to eat?”

    “The light will turn on when you open the fridge. Sorry.”

    The same quiet, tired voice coming to me through the dark.

    “This is ludicrous,” Kevin sighs. His jacket rustles.

    After that, there isn’t a sound in the whole apartment. I’ve almost forgotten about the guys out there, the snipers and SWAT guys in the living room and the bedrooms. I haven’t heard a peep out of them since they got in their positions.

    “Landon?” I ask.

    “Hmm?”

    “Those guys out there,” I say, whispering like he is. “They just… sit there, completely silent? Is that what they’re doing?”

    “Yes.”

    “Isn’t that boring? Don’t they lose feeling in their arms and legs and stuff? Are they hungry?”

    “They’re highly trained,” he says. “This is what they do. Don’t worry about them, they’re fine.”

    “Are there more of them in the building?”

    “On the roof. In the hallways, on the stairs. On neighbouring buildings.”

    “God,” Teddy groans beside me. “This is all because of me?”

    “Don’t take it personally,” Landon mutters. “We have to do this.”

    “So, what happens tomorrow?” I ask. “What’re we going to do?”

    A long sigh. I can almost hear him pinching the bridge of his nose like he does when he’s thinking hard, thinking of something to tell me.

    “Honestly?” he says. “I don’t know.”

    There’s another long silence. God… Landon doesn’t know what’s going to happen to Teddy, to me? Hell, even to Kevin. Landon doesn’t know, and he’s the head of this operation!

    “Well, what could happen?” Teddy asks timidly.

    “You’ll probably have to go into hiding.”

    “Into hiding?” I repeat. “Jeez, Tony Mancini just made this little threat! It’s hardly anything to go into hiding about, is it?”

    “He’s the head of a mob, Poppy. He commissions hits every day, he isn’t afraid to have someone killed. Teddy is barely a blip on the radar to him.”

    “So why have him killed?” I demand.

    “If he wants a superpower knocked off, it’ll happen.”

    I sigh. “I don’t understand.”

    “Goddamn it, Poppy.” Landon says it quietly, not aggressively like it sounds like it should be said. “It’s not for you to understand.”

    It feels like a physical block has been put up: conversation over. It just feels like there’s nothing I could say. I guess there isn’t.

    “You guys had better all go to bed, anyway,” Landon says.

    “How?” Kevin asks, scoffing.

    “Lay down. Close your eyes. Think happy thoughts,” he snarls. “You should be used to the fact that you’re stuck here.”

    To show him how it’s done, I scoot my ass down and lay down on the tiled floor. It’s cold, it’s hard, but my ass is pretty relieved to have the pressure taken off it. Teddy follows suit and lays down beside me, facing me. Kevin, grumbling, lays down, too.

    “Goodnight, guys,” Landon says.

    Teddy’s breath tickles my face. One of his eyes catches the dim moonlight from outside, and I can see he’s looking at me. I smile, but awkwardness is starting to prickle me. I hear him laugh in one breath, and he touches my cheek.

    “Goodnight,” he whispers, and kisses me. It catches me off guard in the dark. I almost jump.

    I somehow manage to fall asleep, with Teddy stroking my hair. I’m too scared to tell him it bugs me.

    *

    A loud bang near my head wakes me up. I burst straight from sleep to sitting up, and the pain of shock follows me a split-second later.

    “Wake up, guys,” Landon says, and I realize the sound was just him jumping to the floor from the counter.

    It’s still pitch dark, as if it’s only been a few minutes since I fell asleep in the first place. The oven clock, however, says it’s three-thirty in the morning. Kevin, grunting, is sitting up beside me, and Teddy is pulling himself to his feet.

    “Are we going to do something?” he asks, his voice groggy.

    “We’re clear,” Landon confirms. “We have our orders. Come on, Poppy, up you get. Kevin.”

    “Yeah?” Kevin grumbles.

    “Peterson and Gravelle are going to take you home. You’re leaving out the front door, guys, right now.”

    I realize most of the SWAT team is clustered around us or at the doorway to the kitchen.

    “Bye, you two,” Kevin says, being steered away by two agents. “See you around.”

    I give a half-hearted wave, but I doubt he sees it in the dark. Teddy and I are left, with Landon and a dozen SWAT guys, of whom we can only see shadows and shapes in the dark.

    “Listen,” Landon says, his voice low. “My orders are to take Teddy down to the alley, where there is an armoured car waiting for him. Poppy, you’re staying here.”

    “Where’s Teddy going?” I ask, my voice high and indignant.

    “I can’t tell you.”

    I look at Teddy, whose face I can see the contours of.

    “Do you know?” I ask him, but he shakes his head.

    “He’s going into hiding, for the time being,” Landon says. “He’s going to a top-secret location. Maybe just for a while, maybe a lot longer. Who knows.”

    I find my hand being grasped and squeezed tight by Teddy.

    “Don’t worry about me,” he says. “I’ll be fine.”

    Staring through the dark into his face, I realize that this could be goodbye. We might not see each other again for a long, long time. A lump of sadness and confusion swells in my throat.

    “At least let me come down to the alley,” I say to Landon. The thought of saying goodbye in the kitchen, right in front of Landon, almost hurts to imagine.

    “Fine,” he murmurs. “Let’s move.”

    I almost don’t have to walk; Teddy and I are pushed to the centre of the SWAT team members and shuffled along like we’re on wheels. We exit the apartment, go down the stairs. The SWAT guys all have their guns out, pointing in every direction, like they’re about to shoot at make-believe enemies. Every apartment door we pass is shut, and every floor we are joined by the SWAT guy guarding that floor.

    I’m hyper aware of Teddy’s eyes on me. I know he’s waiting for me to look at him so he can gaze into my eyes and start saying goodbye. But I just can’t start. I barely know how I feel about him leaving. There are a lot of emotions bubbling up, but the one I feel the most is disappointment. I can’t look him in the eye, I just can’t. Not until we reach the door to the alley, and the SWAT guys disperse. Some of them climb into the back of an armoured van.

    “Poppy,” Teddy says. A masked SWAT team member is trying to pull him into the back of the truck.

    I glance at Landon. “Wait, I have to say goodbye.”

    Landon waves his hand, and the SWAT guy drops Teddy’s arm.

    He rushes to me. His arms lock around me and don’t let go, not for a long time. I’m way past the point where I’ve dropped my arms from around him when he finally stops squeezing me.

    “I’ll miss you,” he says. “I don’t want to leave you.”

    I can’t say anything. I just nod.

    He leans in closer and whispers in my ear: “Turn on the TV.”

    That’s when he gets pulled away from me. Stumbling, he is pushed up inside the armoured truck. The door swing shut, and the last thing I see of Teddy are his eyes, anxiously gazing after me. In just a few seconds the big militaristic truck is pulling away, around the corner, out of sight.

    Landon steps up beside me.

    “I’m sorry,” he mutters. “I know you like him, but it’s for his own protection. And for yours.”

    I nod again. Landon’s hand rests on my shoulder, like he’s trying to reassure me. All it does is land a big, dead weight on my body when I’m trying so hard to keep it upright.

    “Let’s go back inside,” he says. “We’ve been given the all-clear. You can sleep in your bed now.”

    We turn to head back inside. Guilt is choking me.

  63. B. Macon 26 Mar 2010 at 1:48 pm

    The only concern I have with this chapter is showing vs. telling.

    “There’s another long silence. God… Landon doesn’t know what’s going to happen to Teddy, to me? Hell, even to Kevin. Landon doesn’t know, and he’s the head of this operation!” Could you move this into dialogue? Alternately, if you keep it in internal monologue, could you show it rather than tell?

    ““Into hiding?” I repeat. “Jeez, Tony Mancini just made this little threat! It’s hardly anything to go into hiding about, is it?” Two things. First, I think Landon’s response to this could be a lot more interesting. Second, umm, one thing that comes to mind is that Poppy doesn’t seem to have a lot to lose by going into hiding. She wouldn’t be giving up a job, and doesn’t seem to have many friends and family.

    “It feels like a physical block has been put up: conversation over. It just feels like there’s nothing I could say. I guess there isn’t.” Can you show this?

    At 3:30 AM, how long has it been since Landon has last slept? (It seems to me that Kevin and Poppy are griping about sleeping on the floor and he not only does not get to sleep, but has to stay alert all night).

    “I’m hyper aware of Teddy’s eyes on me. I know he’s waiting for me to look at him so he can gaze into my eyes and start saying goodbye. But I just can’t start. I barely know how I feel about him leaving. There are a lot of emotions bubbling up, but the one I feel the most is disappointment. I can’t look him in the eye, I just can’t. Not until we reach the door to the alley, and the SWAT guys disperse. Some of them climb into the back of an armoured van.” Can you show this?

    “the big militaristic truck.” Along with the armor, could you show us something about the truck to show the reader that it’s cold or militaristic? For example, maybe it has piercing headlights that make her really uncomfortable. (Also, fog may be thematically appropriate here—she doesn’t know where Teddy’s going and it’s kind of spooky).

    “Guilt is choking me. Could you show this?

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

  64. Beccaon 30 Mar 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Sorry in advance for subjecting you to this chapter xD I know romance isn’t your thing. Oh well, it’s a little bit important to the story so I’m forcing you to read it. I keep fidgeting around with this chapter, especially the dialogue. I’m not sure of it at some points, which is strange because I usually don’t have a problem with it.

    Chapter Twenty-Three

    I put all my thoughts and feelings on hold until morning, but the guilt almost hurts. When I wake up and I remember everything that happened, I curl up and pull my covers back over my head. Teddy… where is he right now? Could be anywhere, really. I remember his eyes, his pleading, sad eyes and they way they stared at me, and what I was feeling in return. It’s not fair, it’s just not fair.

    Teddy was looking at me like leaving was the end of the world. There wasn’t just mere disappointment in his eyes; there was love. Although I’m the first to admit I don’t know what love in someone’s eyes looks like, I’m sure that was it.

    And in return, I feel guilt. I’m not crying my eyes out over thinking of him as gone, far away. Instead I’m feeling mildly disappointed. Just mildly. Thinking about not kissing him again for a long, long time excites in me… mild disappointment. But to make up for that, thinking about him in that harsh steel military vehicle, that scares me. Thinking about someone wanting to kill him and offer his head up for money, that terrifies me.

    I don’t love Teddy. Kissing him was nice, it was cute, it was vaguely fun. But love? No.

    My door is open, and I can see the living room. It’s in bad shape. My stuff is thrown everywhere from when the SWAT team stomped in to spread chaos everywhere. Maybe I should tidy up.

    But just the thought of that kills me. No way am I going to spend today cleaning. Stuff can just stay on the floor for all I care.

    I hear a few clicks on the floor. Landon must be here, walking around. At least, I hope it’s him. There are no more snipers here to protect me.

    “Landon?” I call.

    “Mhmm?” he answers.

    Oh, good. The beginnings of a cold sweat dissipate. I’m safe, as long as Landon’s here.

    “Poppy?”

    He appears in the doorway, wearing normal clothes. Just jeans and plain t-shirt. I haven’t seen him out of his power-suit in a long time.

    “What?”

    “Well, you called me, and then you didn’t say anything,” he complains. “I had to make sure you didn’t choke and die or something.”

    Funny he should say choke.

    Landon limps into my room. Limps?

    “Oh, God, you hurt your leg even worse, didn’t you?” I groan.

    “No, no, it’s fine.”

    “Landon, you look like an old man and you’re barely twenty-one.” He’s all stooped over, favouring his left leg. “Plus I’m willing to bet you haven’t gotten any sleep in the past twenty-four hours, have you?”

    He shrugs moodily. As if it makes him angry when I point out something that happens to be true. I just shake my head at him and settle back down under the covers. Landon sits down on my bed and lets out a big sigh, probably from all the pent-up tension in his injured leg.

    “Just makes me mad how you can’t seem to take care of yourself, ever,” I murmur, tracing circles on my blanket.

    “It’s because I’m trying so hard to take care of you.”

    I look up at him and he meets my eyes honestly. That’s the kind of remark that would normally send me flying off the handle, but when he tells it to me straight I can almost take it.

    “I don’t need that,” I sigh. “You need yourself more than I need you. For the most part.”

    “I’m sorry about last night,” he says. “And all of yesterday, I guess.”

    “Why?”

    “I ruined the day. Hell, I ruined a lot for you. I took Teddy away.”

    “I wasn’t married to him, you know.”

    “Well, you were closer than I thought,” he says. “Do you love him?”

    “Love him? God!” I go on the defensive to hide the guilt. “We barely knew each other, Landon. We kissed, like, twice. That’s it!”

    “I thought a lot more had happened,” Landon says, frowning. “The way he was going on.”

    “He was being melodramatic.”

    We’re both totally silent for a long time. It feels like Landon is just going to sit there on my bed for forever. This uncomfortably long silence gives me time to stare at the ceiling, stare down every crack in the plaster, every spot on the wall. I make a mental note to write to my dad for another cheque to fix the broken tile in the bathroom, too. When Landon speaks again, I’ve almost forgotten what we were talking about before I drifted off into the land of home improvement.

    “So… you don’t love him?”

    I shake my head. “We pretty much only had one day together. How could I fall in love with him in that amount of time?”

    “He seems to have fallen in love with you,” Landon points out.

    “I know,” I sigh.

    “He seemed like a pussy to me,” Landon says.

    “Well, I didn’t say I hated the guy!” I say. “I didn’t announce that it was time to hate on Teddy. God. I care about him and stuff, I just said I wasn’t in love with him.”

    “Okay, okay,” Landon murmurs.

    “Let’s just drop this conversation,” I grumble, rolling over to face the wall. I expect Landon to leave but he leans over my body to look at my face.

    “Can’t you get up? I’m bored.”

    “Go to work or something. They’d love that. Go break your back for them, or maybe give them your other leg.”

    He rolls his eyes, then tries again. “Please?”

    His stupid face is so enticing. He’s pretty hot, actually, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Some days I can’t leave the house without seeing a gaggle of girls wearing homemade Captain Beckwith t-shirts, calling themselves “Beckheads”. Lame. But Landon is good-looking, with that stupid blond hair and those ridiculously blue eyes. Not to mention his roguish smile and tough-guy scars.

    “Please, Poppy?” he says. “Wake up and hang out with me?”

    “Gah, fine,” I groan, sitting up. “You’re so obnoxious.”

    I throw in the insult so things don’t get too touchy-feely. He’s leaning over my prostrate body, and I expect him to move when I sit up. He doesn’t. His face is a little too close to my boobs.

    “What are you doing?” I ask him.

    His calloused hand touches my hair, which snags like twigs on his rough skin. He winds one orangey strand around his finger.

    “I don’t know,” he says with a shrug. “I’m not going to lie, Poppy. I like that you aren’t in love with Teddy.”

    “Yeah, well, I’m not in love with you, either.”

    In my head it sounds strong and assertive and totally correct. But when the words leave my mouth, they just drift out. From the sound of my voice, I’m having second thoughts about not loving him.

    “Um, I mean…”

    Landon distracts me with his eyes, frowning up at me like I’m some mystery he’s investigating. His thumb and forefinger tighten around a curl of my hair and he pulls me closer.

    He pulls himself up until our eyes are level.

    Suddenly he isn’t my best friend Landon anymore. He’s the popular boy at school, the hotshot police officer, the guy on the cover of magazines. It feels like I’ve stepped into a dream world, one where Landon’s gaze is flickering between my eyes and my lips, one where his hand is running up my leg. One that isn’t real.

    He touches my cheek and it feels tingly and numb in that one spot.

    “Oh my God,” I gasp.

    “What?” Landon breathes. “Is something wrong?”

    “No,” I stammer. “Something’s kind of right.”

    He smiles, but right now it isn’t that slick, confident smile. It’s an excited grin like a kindergartener who just got assigned to the block station. His face is just inches from mine, it occupies my whole field of vision. My heart is racing. Racing what? I don’t know. Landon is smiling. It seems like there’s a line, coming up, and once we cross it there’s no going back.

    He’s tired of waiting. Landon plunges foward and kisses me.

    Line crossed. I am now kissing my best friend. No going back.

    He has a hand at my waist, the other pushing back my hair. And whoa – he’s good at this. Takes it in waves, strong to soft and back again. Full-on wrenching my jaws apart, then barely touching my lips at all.

    How long has it been? Now I’m leaning against the wall and our lips are working lazily. I feel like I’ve just woken from a dream.

    Landon has, too. Woken, that is. He stares at me, searching my eyes.

    “What?” My voice creaks.

    “How are you?” he asks, breathing hard.

    “Just fine,” I answer, sliding down till I’m lying with my head on the pillow. “C’mere, though.”

    Landon slides in beside me, and when he seems a little tentative I put an arm around his shoulder and pull his head to my chest.

    “Now don’t leave,” I tell him. “Stay.”

    “I’m staying,” Landon says. He plays with stray threads on my blanket for a while before adding, “Remind me why we haven’t been doing this the whole time?”

    We laugh, and long after we’re silent and Landon has dozed off, I’m still laying there, smiling at those cracks in the ceiling.

  65. B. Macon 30 Mar 2010 at 2:34 pm

    –Hmm. Like you’ve noted, I’m not very familiar with romance stories. So any advice you’d get from me on writing romance would be like getting help writing a zombie horror from somebody that specializes in Regency romances, which would be suboptimal (unless the book is both). I’ll try my best with this, but I’d expect that people like Evil Editor’s crew would be a hell of a lot more versed in the field and comfortable with what works and what doesn’t.

    –“the guilt almost hurts.” Why does she feel guilty? I can imagine she’s aching inside, possibly because of loneliness or because she’s worried for his safety, but I think guilt would make for better drama if she were responsible in some way for what’s going on.

    –If you get a hold of somebody that knows romance, one thing I’d recommend asking is whether it feels believable that she has bonded enough with Teddy that his absence would make her feel awful.

    –I think that “remember” is a pretty weak verb. Do you think that you could write the line “I remember his eyes, his pleading, sad eyes and they way they stared at me, and what I was feeling in return” without it? (For example, you could move the sentence into past tense). Also, what was she feeling in return?

    –“ There wasn’t just mere disappointment in his eyes; there was love. Although I’m the first to admit I don’t know what love in someone’s eyes looks like, I’m sure that was it.” Maybe this might be more effective in dialogue than exposition? Do you think you could have her talk with somebody? (Maybe like a trusted lady friend or something).

    I feel this first page might benefit from more conflict, maybe something internal like regret. Maybe she regrets that she didn’t strong-arm Landon into having her come with Teddy. She wants Teddy, and now she can’t have him. (Conflict between wants and reality).

    I’d prefer if she didn’t explicitly say what she was feeling. (“I feel my guilt. I’m not crying my eyes out over thinking of him as gone, far away. Instead I’m feeling mildly disappointed”). Could you show her guilt? For example, if she’s feeling guilty because he loves her and she doesn’t love him, I think you could do a lot with the difference between how they regarded their last moments together.

    “My door is open, and I can see the living room. It’s in bad shape.” This could probably be shortened to “My living room’s in bad shape.”

    “It’s because I’m trying so hard to take care of you.” What would you think about “Taking care of you is hard work.” ?

    I like the Poppy-Landon conversation. I’m pleasantly surprised that (she says) she wasn’t in love with him. That was the same impression I got—they had fun together, like the Pictionary game, but so far there hasn’t been any of the red-hot mojo that makes it sound like it’d be a shame if they didn’t get together.

    “So… you don’t love him?” I think this is redundant with what has already been said. Maybe you could tweak the sentence to develop the conversation in a different way? For example, “you seem pretty shaken up over this. You sure?” or “So you’re not taken?”

    “He seemed like a pussy to me,” Landon says. I like this voicing. However, if Landon does not check himself, he is gonna wreck himself. The politically correct term is “beta male.” 😉

    It’s kind of creepy, but totally believable, that a twenty-something celebrity cop would have a fan club. Indeed, my greatest aspiration is to see my face somewhere other than a mirror or a police blotter.

    “And whoa—he’s good at this.” I think you could show this detail.

  66. Beccaon 05 Apr 2010 at 8:15 pm

    So, did you gag at all during the last chapter?! Heehee. Anyway, I think there might be something weird about this chapter. While I wrote this, in the crazy whirlwind that is NaNo, I had this kind of half-baked idea that Poppy would only be Landon’s girlfriend (I added a bit where he asks her to the end of the last chapter) once she’d made a name for herself, to avoid ending up one of those girls who are only famous for who they date. Because I’m a feminist like that. But I don’t think it’s very clear here, or if it works. But I’m pretty sure it works with Poppy’s character, so I think it’s important to keep it. Maybe on another re-write I’ll reall hammer it in.

    Chapter Twenty-Four

    I let Landon walk me to Kevin’s store. He’s almost exploding from nerves after the stand-off last night, twitching and freaking out all over the place. He keeps going on about some random guy is probably on top of a nearby building with a big stupid gun pointed right at me, and apparently he’ll calm down if I just let him walk me to the comic book store. It’s a small price to pay.

    “Why are you going there?” he asks. “We just saw Kevin, like, a few hours ago. And he isn’t going to be pleased to see us after last night, anyway.”

    We walk into Kevin’s store. He’s at the counter on the computer, eyes bleary and shot through with red.

    “You’re looking a little worse for wear, Kev,” I comment, leaning up against the counter.

    He looks up at me, his chin rested on his hand.

    “Right back atcha,” he says, but there’s no fight in his voice. He’s exhausted. “So, did anyone get shot after I left?”

    “Of course not,” Landon scoffs.

    “All due to your superb leadership and heroics, I’m sure,” Kevin sighs, standing up. “Anyway, what are you doing here? I thought we’d had enough of each other last night.”

    I reach into my bag and pull out a folder, into which I’ve stuff a bunch of pages of Blood Werewolf. I pass him one page.

    “I want to know if Sara’s shoe looks realistic enough,” I say.

    Landon groans. “You dragged me all the way down here for that?”

    Kevin picks up the page and barely glances at it before dropping it back to the counter.

    “It’s all right. If flat shoelaces and incorrect shadowing are your thing.”

    “You prick,” Landon cries. “God, picking apart everything she does, like you’re so awesome”

    “Thank you, Kevin.” I pull out a pad of paper, the one I take with me everywhere. I do a quick composite sketch of the same shoe, with a few more lines and concentrating on the shading. After a moment I hold it up to him. “Is that better?”

    “Yeah, I guess,” he says. “What’s this about, Gershwin?”

    I rest my elbows on the counter. “I want you – I need you to tell me every little thing that’s wrong with my stuff. And I need you to help me make it better.”

    Kevin narrows his eyes.

    “What’s in it for me?”

    “Name a price,” I say. “My daddy will foot the bill for anything you want.”

    He thinks about it for a minute, then waves his hand.

    “Never mind about money. How about you come work for me?”

    “Deal.”

    Landon looks at me, utterly shocked.

    “You?” he says. “You, willing to work?”

    I don’t say anything. Landon is staring at me.

    “What’s going on?” he asks.

    “I just need this to be the best it can be,” I say.

    I don’t want to tell him the real reason – that I’ve decided that Blood Werewolf will be how I make a name for myself – but after I’ve left Kevin the pages I want him to review, which is all of them, and I’m walking out of the store with Landon back onto the busy street, he asks me.

    “What’s up with this? You’ve never wanted to get a normal job before… what’s your motivation, Gershwin?”

    “I decided,” I tell him, “that I’ll go out with you once Blood Werewolf has made me famous.”

    He stops walking, his mouth hanging open. To taunt him, I just laugh and continue on my way, maybe swaying my hips a little more than usual.

    *

    I arrive in Kevin’s shop at ten o’clock the next morning. He’s just unlocked the door and is setting some new posters or something down on the counter.

    “Good morning, new slave,” he says.

    “Hi,” I answer apprehensively. “So, uh… what am I going to be doing, exactly?”

    Kevin shrugs. “Well, I guess you can just mind the counter. Teddy used to do the archival work in the back, working on preserving some of the old, rarer stuff we have, so I’ll primarily be doing that now. Can’t trust your newbie hands to do it well enough.”

    “Will you teach me someday?” I ask.

    “If you’re planning on staying here longer than a day,” Kevin says, raising an eyebrow.

    “Of course,” I say. “Are you kidding? My first job, and I can land one in a place where I can read comics and daydream all day? I lucked out. I’m staying as long as you’ll let me.”

    Kevin looks shocked.

    “All right, then.”

    He shows me how to use the cash register. My heart starts racing; what if a customer walks in right now and I’ll have to do this all alone, without his help?

    “Relax,” he says. “It’s not difficult. Plus I’ll be right behind this curtain if you need me.”

    With that he steps into the back room and I’m left alone. I feel like a kid in a candy store, all alone in a room full of comic books and graphic novels. My bladder swells, from the sheer excitement and the silence itself. Have you ever noticed that bookstores are the best laxative you can get without a prescription?

    I spend the first customer-less hour studying the rare editions that are on the wall in a glass case, and then I grab a copy of Ghost World, one of my all-time favourites, to peruse. I can read this graphic novel over and over, and never get bored. So that’s what I’m doing when the first customer of the day walks in the door, ringing the silly little bell that hangs above it. It scares the shit out of me. I look up and see two young teenagers, both boys, both wearing heavy raincoats and toques. Big honking rain boots, too.

    I get myself all hyped up for nothing. The boys spend a long, long time just browsing, whispering like conspirators over new issues of Batman or Spiderman. They look like hardcore fans. Even though they’re just little kids, I want to be let into their world, or something. So when they approach the counter, I introduce myself.

    “Hey, I’m Poppy,” I say.

    The boys, one short, one bulky and tall, just stare at me. The short one blinks. He passes me a glossy new issue.

    They both buy the same issue. After they’ve both paid, the tall one asks, “Where’s Kevin?”

    “He’s in the back room,” I tell him. “Want me to get him?”

    They both nod.

    I duck into the back room and immediately pull in a sharp breath. It’s beautiful back here. No, seriously, it’s really beautiful. The dark room is covered in posters, and I’m guessing some of them are pricelessly rare because Kevin has them framed and spotlighted. It smells like rich, thick paper, one of my favourite smells. And ink. And old food, but that’s faint enough to ignore. Kevin is sitting at a desk, eyes to a magnifying glass, appraising the quality of the ancient Superman comic in front of him.

    “Is that Joel and Mark?” he asks in a murmur.

    “Two kids in raincoats? I guess.”

    “Mhmm.”

    He finishes whatever he’s doing and sets down the magnifying glass. He follows me out into the main room of the shop.

    “Hey, guys,” he says, grinning. The boys smile, too. “You guys are coming to game night tomorrow, right?”

    “Hell yeah,” one boy says. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

    “You want us to bring the Coke this time?”

    “Yeah, man, if you could that’d be great. Also, bring my scimitar. I think I left it at your place last week,” Kevin says.

    They make their little arrangements and they leave. Once the door has swung closed behind them, Kevin turns to me.

    “You didn’t make a total idiot out of yourself in front of them, did you?” he demands.

    “No,” I say, indignant. “Why? Are those your friends?”

    “Those are some of the guys I play D&D with, yeah,” he says, leaning against the counter.

    “Dude, those kids are like, twelve,” I laugh. “And D&D, Kevin? Really?”

    “Joel is fourteen,” Kevin corrects me. “Mark is thirteen. And who cares? Dungeons and Dragons is fun at any age.”

    I just shake my head. I’ve just discovered an entirely new dimension of Kevin’s nerdiness.

    “Did Teddy play with you guys?” I find myself asking.

    “Yeah, he was damn good,” Kevin says. “Our games are going to suck without him.”

    The silence that follows his words is full of that guilt I still feel. Kevin probably doesn’t feel it. To him, Teddy is a friend who is missing in action for a bit, but who will turn up eventually. To me, he’s just someone who likes me in a way I don’t like him. A source of confusion.

    Grudgingly, Kevin says, “You know, now that you’re going to work here, you should probably come to one of my D&D nights.”

    “Really? I’m honoured. It sounds pretty exclusive.”

    “Yeah, yeah,” Kevin says. “I can do without the sarcasm, all right?”

    “I wasn’t being sarcastic,” I say. “God, you’re so defensive!”

    “Well, you’re a bitch.”

    “So are you.”

    Kevin just looks at me, like he’s sizing me up.

    “If you’re wondering what kind of work you’re going to be doing here,” he says, “I have a suggestion.”

    “What kind of suggestion?”

    “I’ll show you.”

    Kevin leans over me and opens up a program on the computer. The white glare from the screen reflects off his glasses.

    “This program will show you how to format a comic book script,” he says, and opens another program. “And this one is for art.”

    My mouth drops open.

    “This program is so expensive!” I cry.

    “I know. I paid for it.”

    “Why do you have it?” I ask.

    “I bought it for you to use. You can work on your shit while you’re here. Since you’re useless to me in every other respect.”

    I grin at him. “You can’t just compliment me, can you? Everything has to have an insult included.”

    “Of course,” he grunts. “Don’t you know me by now? Now get to work. It isn’t going to write itself.”

    I watch him stalk back into the other room. There’s definitely more to Kevin than I would have ever thought.

    “Thanks!” I call.

    I hear a vague grunt in reply, but that’s all I expected.

  67. B. Macon 06 Apr 2010 at 8:42 pm

    “So, did you gag at all during the last chapter?!” No comment. 😉

    “I let Landon walk me to Kevin’s store. He’s almost exploding from nerves after the stand-off last night…” We’re talking about Kevin here, right? (Erm, based on the next paragraph, I don’t think so. Maybe this could be clearer? Why would Landon be the one that’s exploding with nerves? He seemed pretty cool about the life-or-death situation as it was happening).

    “It’s all right. If flat shoelaces and incorrect shadowing are your thing.” Haha!

    I think that her decision to work for Kevin (ick!) would make a bit more sense if it more clearly advanced her comic book career.

    I like the idea that she’ll date him after she becomes famous. I guess the wild-eyed kissing is just for kicks, then. 🙂

    “My bladder swells, from the sheer excitement and the silence itself. Have you ever noticed that bookstores are the best laxative you can get without a prescription?” Uhh… I can’t say that I have. Nothing personal. 😉

    Why does she like Ghost World? (One way you could talk about that more freely would be to have her discuss her favorite with a customer– it’ll show us something about what she gets out of comic books).

    If I had kids, I would FREAK if they were hanging out with Kevin. 😛

    I hate to stereotype your readers like this, but I think that a lot of them won’t know what D&D stands for.

    I’m sort of wondering why Kevin has expensive formatting software. My guess is he’s doing work on his own with comics. This might provide part of the reason that she thinks working with him will advance her own career. (Also, making friends with shop-owners is not a bad thing. I have an agreement with a local owner to stock anything superhero-related that I publish, albeit on the bottom shelf).

    I liked this. I’m looking forward to the next chapter. (Although hopefully I’ve said that so much that it’s superfluous at this point).

  68. B. Macon 07 Apr 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Hey, could you do me a favor? I have the first twelve pages of the script I’m doing for Script Frenzy. Could you tell me what you think?

  69. Beccaon 07 Apr 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Sure thing! Where would you like my response? Your review forum?

  70. B. Macon 07 Apr 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Sure, thanks.

  71. Beccaon 08 Apr 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Here’s some more, where cool stuff starts happening near the end. I’m actually very iffy about the first half of the chapter, now. Maybe you can think of something that would be better to happen in the comic book store. Or would it work to cut it all together? I actually might.

    Chapter Twenty-Five

    The next morning I walk into Kevin’s store with a giant folder under my arm. When he sees me he rubs his hands together.

    “The mother load?” he asks.

    “Yeah,” I say, plunking the whole thing down on the counter. “Every note I’ve made, every sketch, every shred of writing I’ve done.”

    “Excellent,” Kevin says. He’s starting to get less sarcastic to me about this, and more serious.

    We spend most of the morning on the computer. We scan all my drawings onto the computer and use the super high-tech art program to layer the drawings, clean them up, and even start colouring some of them. In just a few hours, we get more done than I’ve had after months of working longhand. Computers are nifty.

    “You don’t have a computer?” Kevin asks, sounding totally shocked after I say this. “Why not? I’d die without my computers.”

    “I don’t know, it’s something I’ve been meaning to ask my dad for. It’s just never been a priority. Now it is,” I say, as I draw in a thick, edgy line with the electronic pad and pen gadget.

    “You seriously have to invest in a decent computer,” Kevin says, and it’s not so much a suggestion as an order. “Seriously, you can’t be a writer these days without a state-of-the-art computer and these programs. You can use mine, but you’ll definitely want to look into buying all your own stuff.”

    I make a mental note of it. To pound in his expertise, Kevin writes me a super technical, exhaustive list of all the computer junk I need to get.

    Kevin’s shop is empty until noon. Then a few customers, a couple die-hard geeks like Kevin and a few browsers, start to trickle in. For the most part Kevin stays by my side at the computer, just taking breaks to ring in a few orders. Then a couple of twenty-something guys walk in. They are dressed nerdy, in collared shirts and corduroys and stuff, but they look cool, different from the other customers. One of them has big plastic-framed glasses. Kevin detaches himself from me and greets them warmly, then they start bantering about comic books and collectable action figures. I stay at the computer, listening in as I work.

    “Who’s this?”

    I turn around to see one of the guys nod towards me.

    “Oh, this is Poppy,” Kevin says. “Poppy, these are Donovan and Jett. Jett is an artist, like yourself.”

    “I just tag along and leech off him,” the one with the glasses says with a wink. He must be the artist.

    “And Donovan is a writer,” Kevin says, rolling his eyes.

    “Really?” I ask them. “What do you write? And what do you draw?”

    “Not much,” Donovan the writer jokes.

    “I draw a series called Shark,” Jett says, quietly.

    “I think I’ve seen it,” I tell him. “The one about the deserted island, right?”

    “Yeah, that’s right,” he says with a smile. “Anyway, what are you doing here?”

    They both crane their necks to see the computer screen. I start blushing.

    “Poppy is writing a graphic novel,” Kevin says, semi-proudly. “And drawing it, too.”
    “Really?”

    “Let’s see!”

    Kevin invites them behind the counter, and suddenly there’s a crowd of three people standing just at my back.

    “Go back to the first page, Poppy,” Kevin bosses.

    I take them through all of my pages, one by one. There are only a few that are anywhere near done.

    “That’s all I’ve got,” I say at the fifth page. “I just started scanning stuff onto the computer, so the rest of my sketches I have in longhand. Everything needs to be lettered still, and inked and everything. It’s barely started, really.”

    “Do you have the script finished?” Donovan asks, gripping my shoulder.

    “Yes,” I say. “More or less. I mean, it’s pretty much done.”

    “Because once these pages are done, totally done, and you have the script, you can submit to publishers, you know that?” he says.

    “Really?” My heart starts to thud.

    “Yeah! You just need the finished script and the sample pages. If they decide to publish you, you can finish the rest of it on contract. This is pretty much all you need to start sending it out.”

    It’s like the world is swirling before my eyes. I mean, I knew I wanted to eventually think about publishing, but I didn’t know it could be so soon.

    “Do you think it could be good enough to impress a publisher?” I ask doubtfully.

    “Your art… shows some real promise,” Jett says.

    “I haven’t read your script, but the art sure does look good,” Donovan adds. “Hey, can I read your script?”

    “Really?” I squeak. The thought of another writer reading my writing is almost panic-inducing.

    “Yeah, I’d really like to,” he says.

    “Well, I suppose I can, uh,” I shuffle some of my script papers, “I suppose I can get you some of it to read…”

    “How about I have the script for you on Friday?” Kevin says, stepping in.

    Donovan looks impressed. “Sounds good, man.”

    *

    Donovan and Jett hang around until the sun goes down. By the time Kevin locks the doors behind us and we say goodbye on the street, the streetlights are on and the sky is dark blue. It had been raining all day so the concrete ground is slick and wet, and reflects orange from the lights. Donovan and Jett have ambled off on their way, so Kevin and I are left alone on the street.

    “Thanks for, uh, helping me and stuff,” I say lamely.

    “No problem,” Kevin says. “What about suddenly become your agent and publicist? You know, connecting you to the wonderful world of publishing?”

    “Yeah, thanks for that, too.”

    “No worries. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

    “Bye!”

    I turn to walk home along the main street. It’s still fairly crowded; rush hour goes on into the night, it seems, when it’s daylight-savings time. It’s only five o’clock, but it’s pitch-black. I wrap myself a little tighter in my jacket. The crowd suddenly starts to thin out, and I realize that the sidewalk up ahead is closed for construction. Damn.

    I could cross the street and continue on my way home on the other side. But that involves a lot of jay-walking, and it’s dark and there are fast cars. Plus I hate crossing the road, everyone stares at you and wishes you’d walk faster. I don’t know what to do!

    Then I notice that I’m at the mouth of an alley. If I head down this one, then turn right at the bigger alley it connects to, I could be home in ten minutes. Easy.

    So I hurry between the two buildings into the alley. The premature darkness is even deeper in here, and I bump into a sticky, smelly dumpster within seconds. I keep my hands in front of me to navigate. There are a few lights in the cross-alley, so I head towards those. It smells back here, like restaurant garbage that’s been hanging around a few days, mixed with piss and barf and the stench of death. I have no idea where that would come from. A scuttling sound titters in the darkness, and I jump. Something touches my foot briefly. I’m almost about to vomit in fear, before I discover that it was just a rat I frightened into leaving his dumpster hideout. I let out a big sigh of relief.

    I finally get out of the narrow alley and into the bigger one. It cuts through the middle of the block, separating the different buildings from each other. It’s wide enough for a car to drive through, and therefore merits some better lighting than the tunnel I just crept through. Before turning to go on my way, I check out the rest of the alley. Graffiti on the walls is a given in this city, and this alley has some stunning examples. Dark doorways, with mysterious black lumps and shapes. All fairly typical. So are the piles of stinking garbage.

    I’m about to head off towards home when I notice a few shapes at the end of the alley. A group of guys. They’re walking jauntily, shoving each other. Their voices echo up towards me, rushed and excited. Two of them get in a brief fight, throw a few punches, then disperse in hyperactive laughter. They must be drunk or high or something. I’m just about to hurry off into the darkness when I notice something bad.

    Red arm bands. Died red hair.

    These guys are Cobras.

    I’m such an idiot. I stand there and stare at them, sizing them up and wondering if they can see me. Before I can start to run, one of them spots me.

    “Hey!” he says sharply, pointing. “You, bitch! You a Red, too?”

    Fuck. Just my luck – the alley I pick to be my shortcut turns out to be a gang meeting place. What do I do? Pretend to be one of them, which I’m quite obviously not, or run and be followed?

    There are other options, sure. But they don’t come quick enough. I act on the first remotely viable option. I run.

  72. B. Macon 09 Apr 2010 at 12:57 pm

    “You seriously have to invest in a decent computer,” Kevin says, and it’s not so much a suggestion as an order. “Seriously, you can’t be a writer these days without a state-of-the-art computer and these programs. You can use mine, but you’ll definitely want to look into buying all your own stuff.”
    –Kevin uses seriously in back-to-back sentences.
    –I like that Kevin sounds a bit authoritative, pounding in his expertise and the like. I also like that he’s giving advice that’s, ahem, a bit questionable, such claiming that state-of-the-art programs are absolutely essential to writers. (Perhaps if you’re doing your own art, but otherwise the most advanced applications you would need would be e-mail and word-processing).

    Just to clarify, when you say they look cool, you mean stylish (rather than aloof), right? Could you show that? (I mean, if anything, the collared shirts and corduroys suggest to me that they aren’t cool/stylish).

    She has a knack for finding these controlling guys, doesn’t she? 😉

    “It’s only five o’clock, but it’s pitch-black.” Oof. Any Chicagoan can sympathize with that.

    She has a rather convoluted explanation for why she decides to venture down the alley, and I don’t feel like it’s particularly believable. If this city has a lot of crime (something we’ve heard a lot about but haven’t seen much of*), I think that walking down a pitch-dark alley to save time seems a bit implausible. One alternative that might be more believable, and maybe more consistent with the city you’ve built, is that crime is so bad that she gets jumped walking down the sidewalk like it’s an alley. Right now, this encounter with the Reds is precipitated by an inexplicably idiotic decision, but I don’t feel like it has to be.

    *Here’s a run-down of the crimes I remember: The guy that runs her apartment gets killed because he was running with a mob. Teddy uses the TVs to stop a store robbery. Mancini wants to have Teddy and Poppy killed.

    If she does go walking down the alley, it might be more believable if she draws out pepper-spray preemptively. (Then, when the inevitable jumping happens, you could set it up so that it doesn’t help her much… maybe somebody gets her from behind and grabs her arm).

    “I’m such an idiot.” I have to agree with her, sorry. 🙂

    “You, bitch! You a Red, too?” Haha. My instinctive, first-moment response to this was “a Communist street-gang? Wacky Canadians.” Somehow, I don’t think that will be a typical response. 😉

  73. Beccaon 09 Apr 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Hey, we have not one, but two Communist Parties, and a political party called the Marijuana Party. Communist street gangs aren’t that far-fetched! This is a super short chapter. I get what you mean about the scene in the alley. I think it would be much more effective if the gang attack takes place on a main street in the early evening. I’ll be changing it for sure.

    Chapter Twenty-Six

    The sounds of my shoes slapping the wet pavement echo off the alley walls.

    “Hey! She’s running!”

    “Get her! She ain’t one of us, I bet she’s off to rat to the cops!”

    They’re following. I try to put on an extra burst of speed – maybe I can get to the main street, maybe someone there will help me. But nothing happens. If anything I slow down. My bag, it’s weighing me down. Should I drop it? My hands, my shoulders itch to. No, no, Blood Werewolf is in there! No matter what, can’t let it get hurt.

    My shoulder is yanked off my body. Or that’s what it feels like. With a grunt, someone directly behind me has grabbed the strap of my messenger bag. I am pulled backwards, clothes-lined. The guy who did it swings me around to face the rest of the gang.

    “Pretty,” someone says. “She got nice long hair.”

    One of the guys, pierced eyebrow, pierced lip, tattooed neck, leans in and squints in my face. Horrible, horrible breath.

    “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” he says. “I swear I seen you before.”

    I thrash. The guy who stopped me running pulls my arms behind my back. I try to rip them out of his grasp but it’s impossible with his iron grip. I kick out but everyone just backs up.

    “Leave me alone!” I scream.

    “Hey, hey,” the pierced guy says. He seems like the leader. “Get something in that loud mouth of hers, before the whole neighbourhood hears her!”

    The one behind me pulls my messenger bag off my shoulder and shoves the strap in my mouth. Bitter taste of plastic-y fabric. I try to scream around it but it just muffles the sound. Vomit stings the back of my throat, it tastes like terror.

    “What should we do, boss?”

    “Throw ‘er in the river!” one hysterical voice howls.

    “Nah, give ‘er to me!” someone says, making kissy noises.

    Suddenly, as visions of my grisly murder are flashing before my eyes, a big fiery explosion rocks the opposite end of the alley. All the gangsters, and me, shout out in alarm, and turn to face the wall of fire and smoke. A single figure is striding towards us, compact rocket launcher perched on his shoulder. It’s got to be Landon.

    I try to scream his name through the strap of my messenger bag. The guy holding me yanks it further into my mouth, pushing my tongue down my throat. I choke.

    “Fuck,” the pierced leader shouts. “It’s a goddamn hero!”

    A few of the gang members scatter. The brave ones, the ones that remember the loyalty oaths they swore, stand their ground like they’re ready to fight. How are they going to fight a fucking superhero?! He’s got guns and a frigging rocket launcher, they’ve got – what? A few of them have drawn measly switchblades or handguns. Lame!

    “Let her go!” Landon’s voice booms, artificially amplified over the roar of the fire still roaring in a few corners and on a few walls. His voice is made deeper, more menacing. It even stirs fear in my stomach, and I’m the one he’s here to rescue.

    “Fuck, just do it!” the leader growls, furious. “Let’s get outta here.”

    Another superhero drops out of the sky next to Landon, and takes off running after my captors. I fall to the ground when the guy releases me. My messenger bag hits the ground and a few books and papers fall out. I scramble after them all, ignoring the blood in my mouth.

    “Poppy!” Landon sounds angry. “What are you doing?”

    “Have to get my drawings,” I mumble, picking up the loose papers. “Important.”

    “You’re bleeding all over!”

    I raise a hand to my mouth. The corners were ripped open, almost into my cheeks, by the strap of my bag. It’s like my smile got widened. When he sees this, Landon’s eyes pop open in shock.

    “That’s disgusting,” he gasps. “Come on, we’ve got to get you to the hospital.”

    It doesn’t feel like my face. The blood, it doesn’t feel like mine.

    “I don’t need to go to the hospital,” I argue, following another drifting paper. “I’m fine, Landon.”

    “Listen to you! Your voice is all garbled up! Your lips were almost torn off!”

    I grab the last of the papers and shove them into my bag. The stuff my eyes see doesn’t feel real. What is real?

    “Come on, Poppy.” He lifts my bag onto his shoulders and grabs my arms. “Hold on to me. Come on.”

    Rolling my eyes, I do as he says.

    “Tighter, Poppy. We’re going to be flying, here. You don’t want to fall off.”

    We take off. The power-suit has some kind of flight system, I’ve never known how it works and I still don’t now that I’m experiencing it. Rockets on the bottoms of his feet? Maybe. I close my eyes. Maybe I’m starting to feel the blood loss now. Or maybe it’s the shock. I don’t know. But somehow everything fades out. After a few minutes of wind rushing, blowing my hair around, Landon’s boots hit the ground running. We must be on the hospital roof. Somehow there are people waiting here for us, waiting with a stretcher. Landon drops me on the stretcher, and I’m about to complain, but then the world goes black.

  74. B. Macon 09 Apr 2010 at 10:25 pm

    “Get her! She ain’t one of us, I bet she’s off to rat to the cops!” I think that this could be shortened to reflect the intensity of the scene more effectively. Maybe “Get her! She’s gonna snitch!”

    Maybe you could wait a few paragraphs longer before bringing in the rocket-bearing cop to save the day. For example, maybe she kicks at somebody and makes an unsuccessful attempt to escape. (Remember, she says that she won’t date him until she’s made a name for herself–I think that she’s the sort of lady that wouldn’t just wait around for a knight in shining power-armor).

    “Let her go!” I think this could be more stylish and maybe savage. Or maybe matter-of-fact. “Let her go or I will shoot you in the face.”

    I don’t understand why she’s so concerned about her pages. Doesn’t she have this stuff on her computer? (UPDATE: Now that I think about it, she might not actually have a computer. But I don’t think it would hurt to remind us of that).

    Is it contrived that Landon, of all the cops in the city, is one of the ones that saves her? Maybe he’s been following her– I think that would make sense and would be consistent with how he’s behaved throughout the book.

  75. Beccaon 12 Apr 2010 at 7:10 pm

    I actually really like this chapter. Not too much of it that I want to bash myself over the head because of 🙂

    Chapter Twenty-Seven

    I wake up to a bizarre amount of pain. My mouth feels like it’s on fire, but it isn’t like, blinding pain or anything. I don’t know, actually. Maybe this isn’t real pain, maybe I’m imagining it. It feels kind of like I have a separate heartbeat in just the corners of my mouth. Ka-dunk, ka-dunk, ka-dunk…

    I think I’m on some kind of drug. I’m in a hospital, that much is clear. Waking up in a shared emergency room, with the curtains open. The bed across from me is empty but the one kitty-corner to mine has a sleeping guy in it. There’s no one around. On the bright side, I’m still wearing my clothes. No hospital gown with the gap down the back so everyone can see my ass. That’s definitely a plus.

    I stand up and immediately feel a little woozy. But I’m lonely and bored, and obviously itching to get out of here. So I look around, but the room appears to be empty besides the sleeping guy. After a minute a team of people rush through the room with a stretcher, shouting hospital jargon. They race through the room and through another door, and then there’s peace again.

    “That guy got shot,” a voice says behind me.

    I jump and whirl around, but it’s just Landon. Still in his power-suit. It’s all sooty and dirty. He’s sipping coffee.

    “Where were you?” I ask.

    “Well, I was bored just sitting there watching you drool,” he counters.

    “Can we get out of here?”

    Landon glances towards the nurse’s office. “I’ll go ask.”

    I sit down on the bed again. Landon returns with a nurse, who is too perky and happy for my tastes. She’s probably just super stoked to be around Captain Beckwith, the almighty.

    “You’re feeling okay?” she asks.

    I nod. “Hurts to talk. Hurts to just exist, actually.”

    She gives me a lipstick-smeared smile and bends in close to check out my mouth. She smells like Chanel number 5. Gross – I prefer fruity perfumes.

    “Looks fine,” she says, softly touching something with a gloved finger. “The stitches are dissolvable, okay? No need to come back to get them taken out.”

    “I have stitches?” I raise a hand to my mouth.

    “Don’t touch.” Landon catches my hand. “Yeah, you have two on each side. Don’t touch, you’ll get them all gross.”

    The nurse grins at Landon.

    “Take care of her,” she says, sickeningly sweet. “And, before you guys go… could I get your autograph?”

    I have to turn my head to roll my eyes in private. Landon handles it very graciously – asks her name, addresses it to her all personally. How very, sickeningly sweet.

    “Thanks for taking care of my klutzy friend,” the nurse reads. “Thank you! Keep up the good work, Captain Beckwith, you’re single-handedly saving this city!”

    Landon’s face darkens after that.

    “We’ll see,” he says with a half-hearted smile as we leave the room.

    We trail through the hospital corridors, heading to the doors. My cheeks, the stitches, are starting to sting.

    “They gave us some antibiotics,” Landon says, like he’s reading my mind. “They said it’s going to hurt, but scarring will be pretty much minimal.”

    Fantastic. Now I’m going to have these weird scars, and everyone will ask what they’re from, and I’ll have to say they’re from the time I got jumped by gangsters and a guy cut me with my purse. Right before my superhero best friend got there. Or, you know, I could make up some outlandish story.

    We get out the doors and under the awning. It’s raining hard, and the cold attacks me. I shiver, and my stitches start to hurt even more.

    “Wait here,” Landon instructs. “I’ll go get the car.”

    I stand there hugging myself. Landon disappears into the parking lot and I’m left alone. Alone except for the homeless guy on the bench near the door. And he’s so spaced out he doesn’t even notice me.

    After a few moments Landon pulls the police cruiser, the big white SUV, around into the drop-off loop. I climb in the passenger seat beside him. The car is warm; the heater is roaring.

    We start the drive home. I’m just waiting for Landon to explode on me. How much longer until he unleashes the rage? Five minutes, two minutes? Two seconds? Or will he wait until we get home?

    “Aren’t you mad at me?” I mutter, and it comes out mostly garbled.

    Landon sighs. He has one hand on the steering wheel, the other out of sight. I suddenly feel one of his fingers touch my leg, out of nowhere in the dark.

    “A little,” he admits. “But I was mostly pretty fucking scared.”

    I stay silent. Hoorah, just what I need: more guilt.

    “You’re so lucky I happened to be on my way home and saw you. God, Poppy, why’d you go through the alley? Are you that stupid?”

    His voice is pleading rather than angry. I hang my head.

    “Jeez,” he exhales. “With all the stuff I try to press into your head, I guess even the basic safety stuff slips out sometimes.”

    “I’m not stupid.”

    “I know you’re not,” he says. “You’re just not the most practical person. Even you can agree with that. You’re more creative, more of an idealist, you know?”

    I know he means that as a compliment, but coming from Mr Rational it sounds like an insult. I start to say something but he cuts me off.

    “Don’t talk,” he says. “Let me talk. You don’t want to rip your cheeks open even farther. Anyway… I hope you’ve realized that you shouldn’t take shortcuts through alleys after the sun has gone down. Or at all, really, any time. I won’t always be conveniently overhead to save you.”

    The rain on the window is dragged sideways by the wind. We pass an empty restaurant, with an old man at the counter looking out over the sea of tables and chairs. Shoulders bowed, like all his hope and faith has been drained by night after night of empty tables. I see it for a split second but it breaks my heart.

    “So, when will Blood Werewolf be famous?” Landon asks softly, and just under the surface I can tell what he’s really asking: when will I be his girlfriend?

    I tell him, “I don’t know. But I met an artist and writer today, and they want to read my stuff. They said it’s good.”

    “Of course it’s good,” he grunts. “Are they going to help you? Do they have connections you can use?”

    “Maybe,” I say, with a smile that rips painfully into my stitches but I can’t stop it.

    “Good,” Landon says.

    After that neither of us says anything, and the silence hangs around until we pull into our building’s parking lot. We climb the stairs slowly, wearily. I glance at the clock on the oven; it’s later than I thought it was. It’s basically the middle of the night.

    Landon sits down on the couch and holds his face in his hands. He gives a great big yawning groan. He’s all slumped over, like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. Landon is Atlas. I realize it all at once. He’s trying to hold up the city on his shoulders. He’s holding up the police, he’s holding up his superiors, he’s holding up his inferiors. Hell, he’s holding me up. How long until he can’t bear it anymore? How long until Landon’s shoulders just collapse and buckle under all that weight?

    I go to him. He’s slowly rubbing his eyes, like a little child. I sit down close next to him, and he looks up at me sleepily. Without a single word passing my injured lips, I hug him. It’s no ordinary hug. I do it slowly: wrapping my arms around his neck, pulling our chests in close, burying my head against his. His arms encircle my body. He knows it the second I do it, this isn’t the kind of hug we’ve ever had before. This isn’t the kind of hug we had as little kids, nor the kind we had as unlikely friends in high school. This is all new.

    Landon lets out a sigh against my shoulder.

    “Oh, Poppy,” he says. “What are you doing to me?”

    I pull away to look at him. No words come to me, nothing can explain this. So instead of offering an explanation, I point to my lips and shake my head: I can’t talk, remember?

    “Come back here.”

    He hugs me again, tighter, more violently. His hands tangle in my hair, grasping. He caresses my back, my waist, my hips. Landon touches me so softly, so lovingly I almost want to laugh. Then his kisses start to cover my cheek gingerly, then my neck less gently. It’s perfect, my God it’s perfect. With these kisses on my skin it feels like the world is right. I can just picture the old man’s restaurant filling up with appreciative customers, I can see the tears of happiness on his cheek at the glowing review in the paper tomorrow morning. I ache to kiss him too, so I do it carefully, pecking his cheeks between his feverish attacks at my neck and collarbone.

    “Poppy,” he moans. “What is this? What are you doing?”

    I stare at him, trying to communicate with my eyes. I could talk, but I don’t want to break this spell.

    “God, you kill me,” Landon says. “If you keep doing this tonight, promise me you’ll do it tomorrow morning. If this is it, if you’re just doing it to torture me, please stop now.”

    One more moment of torture: I just look at him, blinking. His eyes start to crinkle in pain.

    Then I lean in and kiss him hard, for real. Screw the stitches.

  76. B. Macon 12 Apr 2010 at 11:53 pm

    “I stand up and immediately feel a little woozy. But I’m lonely and bored, and obviously itching to get out of here.” Could you show this? For example, I feel like “It feels kind of like I have a separate heartbeat in just the corners of my mouth” is the right sort of language to describe the woozy, surreal pain she’s experiencing.

    “She smells like Chanel number 5.” You know your readers better than I do–Will they get a good mental image out of that? Personally, I don’t know what that perfume smells like.

    “Or, you know, I could make up some outlandish story.” Haha. I like that wry sense of humor.

    “A little,” he admits. “But I was mostly pretty fucking scared.” Could you show the fear more? I feel like he’s expositioning his emotions right now.

    “Hoorah, just what I need: more guilt.” Could you show this? For example, you could have her say something that shows she is angry that (she thinks) he is blaming her for this.

    ““You’re so lucky I happened to be on my way home and saw you.” If he were telling the truth, I think it would be contrived that he just happened to see her on the way home. I don’t suppose he’s lying to cover up that he’s sort of stalking her? 😉

    “God, Poppy, why’d you go through the alley? Are you that stupid?” His voice is pleading rather than angry. How does he say “are you that stupid?” in a pleading voice? I sort of feel what you’re going for, I think, and I feel that it’s plausible for somebody to be frustrated with a loved one’s stupidity/inanity even though you love them. Maybe replacing “Are you that stupid?” with something a bit less accusatory, like “What were you thinking?” would work better.

    “So, when will Blood Werewolf be famous?” Landon asks softly, and just under the surface I can tell what he’s really asking: when will I be his girlfriend? Personally, I understood what he meant when he was asking when Blood Werewolf would be famous. I think it’s unnecessary to mention that “just under the surface I can tell what he’s really asking: when will I be his girlfriend?”

    Ick, more romancy stuff. I’m just counting the pages until somebody’s brains get splattered. 😀

    “I could talk, but I don’t want to break this spell.” I think this could be more artful.

    I think that the readers that are hooked into the romance will want to keep going after the end of this chapter.

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter. How is Script Frenzy going? (I’m making excuses now, but I’ve had work and apartment issues come up and I’m stuck around page 18).

  77. Beccaon 17 Apr 2010 at 6:11 pm

    I pretty much have to bow out of Script Frenzy. This has been the worst month ever… a death in the family, planning funerals, term papers due. Plus my laptop pretty much exploded from viruses the other day so I ended up losing said term paper. So now, a thousand bucks later, here I am on a new Mac 🙂 So yeah. But I was just adapting a book for fun, so Script Frenzy’s not really a big loss.

    Anyway! You don’t need to read chapter twenty-eight. It’s basically a little romantic tangent and I know you hate that. So I’ll spare you. Soooo in chapter twenty-nine there’s some gang politics and rioting in the streets. Whooo!

    Chapter Twenty-Nine

    We step into Kevin’s shop in the afternoon. He’s at the computer, leaning on his elbow and clicking around. His eyes dart lazily to the door when we ring the bell, and when he sees who it is he perks up.

    “Hey, where were you today? And, holy crap, what is wrong with your mouth?”

    “I got jumped on the way home yesterday,” I tell him with a laugh. God, it feels like a million years ago, or like it never happened at all.
               
    Kevin is gaping.
               
    “Are you okay?”
               
    “Yeah, totally fine. They gagged me with the strap of my bag, and it kind of ripped my lips. Good thing Landon turned up in time to save the day.”
               
    I glance and Landon, who is looking at me with a proud kind of smirk. Kevin narrows his eyes at us teasingly.
               
    “Hey… what’s going on?” he asks, eyes darting between the two of us.
               
    I shrug, but Landon is grinning too big for inconspicuousness.
               
    “You slept together,” Kevin says, eyes popping open wide.
               
    “No!” I deny.
               
    “Not quite,” Landon corrects. I aim a lazy slap at him.
               
    Kevin is shaking his head, trying to look disapproving but his smile is betraying him.
               
    “What about Teddy?” he asks me.
               
    It’s like he dropped a stone into my stomach. Teddy… I haven’t even so much as thought about him.
               
    “Um…”
               
    Kevin’s head-shaking is looking more serious. Landon points out a comic book cover and starts to browse around, but nothing will distract me. I’m a dirty, good-for-nothing two-timing bitch. Oh my God, I’m a slut.        
               
    I decide the best course of action is to pick an entirely different subject to go off on a tangent about.
               
    “So, how’s it going?”
               
    “Fine, change the subject,” Kevin says with a shrug. “Oh, by the way, I sent Donovan and Jett your full script and emailed the completed art to them.”
               
    “Seriously? Where’d you get the full script?”
               
    He taps a folder on the desk that I recognize as mine.
               
    “You left it here,” he reminds me.        
               
    “But how’d you get it onto the computer?”
               
    “I typed it up,” he says. “Duh.”
               
    I think about how long this would have taken him.
               
    “Thanks,” I say quietly.
               
    “Don’t worry about it. Now, why don’t you kids get out of here. I’ve got some stuff to do.”
               
    “Yeah, right,” I snort. “Anyway, I was going to check to see if you had something.”
               
    “Go right on ahead, I don’t care.”
               
    As the words leave Kevin’s mouth, there’s a loud crash on the street. Our heads whip around. The street outside the comic book shop is full of people, and the sound we heard was a big shop window breaking. People are running, terrified, in every direction. Cars are whizzing by at three times the speed limit, and there’s already one car smashed against a pole. It’s complete and utter chaos.
               
    “What the fuck is going on out there?” Kevin screeches.
               
    Landon has already sprung into action. He’s running to the door, about to disappear out into the crowds of people.
               
    “Neither of you move,” he barks at us. “Kevin, lock the door behind me. Stay put!”
               
    I see no reason to argue, but once he’s gone and Kevin has locked the door, I get restless.
               
    “What is going on?” I murmur, pressing my face up against the glass door. “What could be happening?”
               
    “I’ll try to find out,” Kevin says. He picks up the phone and dials a number. “Goddamn it, the police line is busy.”
               
    “Of course it is, there’s a riot in the streets. A thousand people are probably calling to find out what’s going on.”
               
    People are being trampled. Cars slide into head-on collisions, or inanimate objects if they’re lucky. The sounds of sirens are constant, and I count three ambulances flying by before Landon returns.
               
    “Bad news,” he pants as Kevin lets him back in.
               
    “Well, duh, it’s bad news, Captain Obvious,” Kevin mutters darkly. “When is rioting in the streets ever caused by a good thing?”
               
    “When we win the hockey game,” I suggest.
               
    “Shut up!” Landon commands. “God, both of you are just… never mind. What happened was, the Cobras won.”
               
    “What?”
               
    “The gang war,” Landon says, his eyebrows drawing together even more. “The Cobras actually beat the Titans.”
               
    Kevin is actually stunned into silence.
               
    “What do you mean, beat them?” I ask.
               
    “Killed the leader,” he says. “Jon Lang is dead.”
               
    I allow for five seconds of mourning. After all, this guy’s name has been present in my life for years. All the years he’s been plaguing the system in jail, or evading punishment on technicalities, generally pissing off the entire country, it’s like he’s been an estranged uncle to me. A subplot in my life. Five seconds of mourning. That’s all he deserves.
               
    “So what’s going to happen?” I ask Landon.
               
    “Honestly,” he says with an ironic laugh, “I don’t know! The Cobras are the ruling gang. They’re obliterating the Titans as we speak.”
               
    “Obliterating?”
               
    “Killing,” Landon says shortly. “Gangsters kill, Poppy.”
               
    “I know that! God, I live here, Landon. I know gangsters kill each other.”
               
    “Then don’t ask stupid questions,” he snaps.
               
    We’re silent for a minute before Landon pulls himself out of his pout to give a forecast.
               
    “I think Tony Mancini is going to throw himself into his campaign,” he sighs. “And, unless I’m very mistaken, he’s going to win.”
               
    Kevin lets out a short blast of a laugh. I frown.
               
    “How do you figure? He’s a criminal, a gangster, who’s going to vote for him?” I scoff.
               
    “This is a Cobra city,” Landon reminds me. “His gang runs us. All the guys in power are his cronies, anyway. It’s just one step away. His gang’s going to vote him in.”
               
    There are a million arguments welling up inside me. Why can’t the government just discount all the votes for him? Why can’t they just pull him right out of the election? If having him as mayor is going to ruin the city, which it obviously will, why won’t anyone do anything about it?
               
    But I don’t let any of these arguments past my lips. Landon is settling himself down onto the ground, his head in his hands. I know he’s trying hard to think of something to do. He’s trying to muster up his world-saving skills, and I don’t want to disturb him. He’ll chalk it all up to my cynicism, my disbelief in the system of our democracy. He’ll say I don’t have any faith, he’ll say there’s too much legal crap to fix before we can just take away peoples’ right to vote or run for mayor.

    And I don’t want to damage his faith in the establishment. I don’t agree with him, but I don’t want to tear him down. He needs all the faith he can get.
               
    “What are you going to do?” I ask him.           
               
    I don’t know what I expect from him. Maybe despairing eyes, a deep sigh. A wrinkled forehead, a few tears. Definitely not this. Landon lifts his head, and his face is taut with resolution and purpose.
               
    “I’m going to work,” he says. He stand up and motions for me to do the same. At the door, he points at Kevin. “You. Stay here. Don’t go out there, for your own safety.”
               
    Without waiting for a reply, Landon leads me out of the comic book store. He keeps a tight grip on my arm as we weave through the panicking crowds. Landon strides through the waves of people as if they aren’t even there, dragging me behind him.
               
    “Where are we going?” I shout.
               
    “You,” he says, “are going home.”
               
    “What about you?” We weave around a car that has been beached on the sidewalk.
               
    “I’m going in to work. They’ll need me.”
               
    He’s right. If a city doesn’t need its superhero when it’s been pulled to its knees, when does it need him?
               
    We don’t speak until we’ve reached our apartment building. Landon drags me up the stairs right to our door. When I’m over the threshold, he gives me the lecture.
               
    “Stay here. Don’t leave home, not for anything.” One of our upstairs neighbours rushes past, fleeing for the stairs. “Close the curtains and lie low, okay?”
               
    I nod, rolling my eyes. This is mostly for effect. I’m really pretty damn scared.
               
    Landon kisses me. Hard. He forgets about my stitches, but so do I. Don’t care. All I want is to stay like this, attached to Landon at the lips with his arms around me. But all too soon, he breaks off.
               
    “I have to go,” he whispers. “Lock the door. I’ll see you tonight.”
               
    I close and lock the door behind him, leaning against it. Landon’s footsteps pound down the stairs and out of earshot. I let out a sigh. Great. How am I supposed to stay here, completely, utterly alone, without worrying myself like crazy over him?
               
    I start to pace. I make a few rounds around the living room before I decide to turn on the TV, just to have some noise in here to cover the sound of my heartbeat. The news, as always, is depressing. The newscaster is blathering on about the riots, in her ugly blue blazer with her big overblown hair. Rambling on about repercussions to an event that happened half an hour ago, as if we know or care what the consequences will be yet. We’re so wrapped up in the panic we’ve barely realized we’re running rampant in the streets.
               
    So I switch to a channel I haven’t watched in a long, long time.
               
    It’s Teddy’s channel. And what I see there… well. If I was feeling guilt before, it’s nothing compared to what I feel now.
               
    The only thing playing on this channel is me. My voice, my laugh, shots of me playing Pictionary as if a professional camera had been mounted there, filming me. It’s so crystal clear, high definition. Teddy’s images were never like this before. But it isn’t the quality of the images that shocks crippling guilt into me. It’s the images themselves, it’s the voice-overs.
               
    I love you, Poppy.
               
    Teddy’s voice repeats it. My own face is on the TV, gazing shyly and impishly up into the camera, or Teddy’s face. I sicken myself. I was toying with this boy. Knowing myself as well as I do, I know that look in my stupid eyes and on my stupid face is fake. I know I wasn’t feeling the same eternal love for Teddy that he’s now confessing for me. God, how could I have done it?
               
    So, yeah, I bet I don’t even need to say it. The whole rest of the day, I’m sitting on the couch in front of the TV crying, digitally receiving a love letter from someone I don’t love in return. And it’s hell. I cry so hard my stitches start to pull and hurt so bad, but then I’m crying because of that and I can’t stop now any more than I could before. I eventually turn off the TV, but it barely helps. I know Teddy’s still thinking of me, but at least now I have some peace and quiet. I take the painkillers and antibiotics Landon left me on the counter. I go to bed even though the sun’s barely set.
               
    I just can’t take being awake anymore. At least when I wake up, Landon will be there to fix everything, to save my world, too.

  78. B. Macon 17 Apr 2010 at 11:11 pm

    –“Oh my God, I’m a slut.” I had gotten a bit of that impression, yes. 😉 The good news is that I think this is a convention of romance. If the character only committed 100% to a single lover, there wouldn’t be much drama in the wavering. So I don’t think that a romance editor will mind her wavering/sluttiness too much.

    “I think about how long this would have taken him” could be replaced with something like…
    “It was thirty thousand thousand words long!” [I think this is a reasonable length for a ~160-180 page graphic novel script].
    “176 pages, not that I was counting.”
    “Thanks.”

    –I think that the riot sort of comes out of nowhere. At the very least, maybe you could foreshadow the crowds growing in the streets? (Maybe a character could speculate that people are gathering for a parade or mention offhandedly that there were a lot of pedestrians on the way).

    –“When is rioting in the streets ever caused by a good thing?” “When we win the hockey game,” I suggest. Haha. I like that, you wily Canadians. 😉


    Who are the people rioting? Cobras? Scared citizens? Titans? Somebody else? Could you explain a bit more about why the death of the Titan leader causes the riot?

    If the Titans are a really big gang that’s well-known to Poppy, perhaps you could introduce them (at least in passing) earlier and maybe mention that there’s a Titans-Cobra feud going on.

    “This is a Cobra city,” Landon reminds me. “His gang runs us. All the guys in power are his cronies, anyway.” I think it would help if you showed this. Maybe somebody in the police pressures Landon to drop a key case or at least sit on it until the election is over (probably because the case will hurt Mancini). Or maybe there’s a scare with a leak in witness protection.

    “He’s right. If a city doesn’t need its superhero when it’s been pulled to its knees, when does it need him?” I think you could show that she thinks he’s right.

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

    Some logistical postscripts.

    1. I can take a crack at chapter 28 if you’d like. Lord knows my romance editing skills need practicing. 🙂

    2. You have a LOT of story here. Probably more than 30,000 words so far. At this point, I’d recommend against posting more chapters on an open-access webpage. If you’d like, we can continue working as we have been, or we can do something like exchanging chapters and reviews through e-mail. If you’d be interested in doing that, I can be reached at superheronation [at] gmail [dot] com.

    3. I’m sorry to hear about the death in your family. I hope it hasn’t been too hard for you.

  79. Beccaon 18 Apr 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks about #3. It’s been difficult. My hamster died yesterday, too! This month is the worst.

    Okay, let’s do the email thing. It is pretty damn long, still kind of bloated in places, definitely needs more editing. I’d really like to thank you for spending your valuable time on this! So I guess I’ll go send you chapter 28, if you really want it. It isn’t like, super risqué or anything, just normal YA-aimed-at-girls kind of thing. Just don’t laugh at me 🙂

  80. Newton 20 Apr 2011 at 11:42 am

    Hello Becca 😀

    I’d just like to say how much I have enjoyed reading your novel and I hope it all goes well for you in future. 🙂

    Newt 😀

  81. cool don 20 Apr 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Hey B enjoying your book, looks professional. Would definitely read it.

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