Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday -- Empty Spaces

Since I've been unable to write much on Empty Spaces lately, due mainly to my anxiety at having my first partial out, I figured I would start a new weekly series, Teaser Tuesday.

It's my hope that once I get either a thumbs up or a thumbs down on the partial, I can relax and get back to my WIP. I decided to go with this particular weekly feature because it's commonplace among writer blogs, and it's relatively easy.

Before we start, I wanted to let you know that my blog, A Writer of Wrongs, was a featured blog on The Written Connection, a new directory of writer blogs assembled by A.M. Kuska. It can be found here http://www.uninvoked.com/writingblogs/wordpress/

My blog was rated 7 out of 10, and I received relatively poor marks for my lack of responding to comments and dearth of writing tips. I hereby pledge to do better on responding to comments, but I'm holding the line at offering advice, since I honestly don't feel I'm far enough on my journey to publication to be posting any writing tips.

I was interviewed for the feature, although I'm afraid I came off sounding like a doofus. (Interesting sidenote: I was just talking to a friend on the phone and asked him how to spell doofus. "Are you blogging?" he asked. Sigh. He knows me all to well.)

Now, on to my teaser for this week. It's a selection from Chapter 3, right after 17-year-old Annie DeWitt's suicide attempt. College teacher Grant Bachman, who survived a horrific school shooting along with Annie, arrives at the hospital and, upon learning the girl has no parents, takes her home. It sets up pretty much everything, plotwise. Enjoy:

* * * *

By 9:30 that Tuesday morning, the concentration of vodka and valium in her blood had decreased enough so that she could be released. The emergency room doctor, a young man with a fresh haircut who wore sandals with his khakis, spoke to Grant in the hallway as a nurse helped Annie get dressed.

“She hasn’t been very helpful in terms of how this happened,” he said. “She’s unwilling to tell us where her parents are. They don’t answer their house phone.”

Grant shrugged. “I’m afraid I can’t be of much help. I really don’t know her well. She’s a student of mine, but classes just started a couple of weeks ago.”

The doctor nodded. “I realize that, Mr. Bachman. You seem like a nice guy, so I’m willing to release her into your custody. Take her home and make sure someone keeps a close eye on her. She’s been through a lot and, while I can’t prove it, I suspect her accident last night might not have been so accidental.”

The doctor placed his hand on Grant’s shoulder. “I would strongly encourage you both to get counseling. No one goes through what you two did and comes out of it unscathed. I can recommend someone if you’d like.”

“Thank you,” Grant said, smiling. “That would be nice.”

“And you’ll speak to her parents?” the doctor asked as he scribbled a name on a sheet of paper and handed it to Grant.

“Yes,” Grant said, sliding the paper into his jeans pocket. “I will.”

* * * *

An hour later, they pulled up in front of a ramshackle Cape Cod on West Avenue F. The front yard looked like it hadn’t been mowed in weeks and ivy creepers covered one of the two front windows. He killed the engine and looked at Annie, who slumped in the passenger seat looking pale and ill.

“You’re home,” he said, aiming for cheerful and missing badly. “Let’s find your parents and get you to bed.”

“Parents,” she repeated, gazing at her home. “That might be a problem.”


She turned to him and he was surprised to see tears in her eyes. “I don’t have any fucking parents. Not anymore.”

“You don’t?”

“The sperm donor left when I was a baby and my mom took off with some skanky meth addict a few weeks ago.” The girl blinked back tears, and Grant again fought the urge to take her into his arms. She sniffed and continued, “Mom likes to get wasted, and sometimes she just leaves. You know? Usually, she comes back in a few days. But not this time.”

“Crap,” Grant muttered, running his hand through his hair. He’d texted Lindsay to tell her he was taking the girl home, but by now she was at her part-time library job and the girls were at daycare. He’d been looking forward to a nice, long nap and then maybe a Red Sox game on television—anything to take his mind off of the past twenty-four hours.

“Look, Mr. Bachman—”

“Grant,” he said. “Call me Grant. Please.”

“Whatever. Grant. Just let me go in. I’ll be fine. I’m used to it.”

He shook his head. “I can’t just leave you here. You’ll have to come back to my house, until we find your mom.”

“I’m not a fucking kid,” Annie said, opening the car door. “I can take care of myself.”

Grant jumped out of the car and caught her just as she was sticking her key into the front door lock. He spun her around, harder than he had meant to, and held her by the shoulders.

“Look, Annie, you just tried to kill yourself. There’s no way in hell I’m leaving you here alone.”

“It was an accident,” she said, her lower lip quivering. “And you’re hurting me.”

“Sorry.” He let her go.

She smiled up at him. “Why don’t you come in and watch TV while I take a nap, if that makes you feel better? We don’t have air conditioning, but I think the cable is still working, unless the fuckers shut it off again.”

He hesitated. This was not a good idea. But leaving the girl alone was an even worse idea. And really, what else did he have to do today?

“Okay,” he said, “as long as you promise to talk to me about your situation when you feel better.”

She beamed. “It’s a deal, Grant.”


  1. Oooooooh....*shivers* I love it! There was only one thing that made me kind of cock my head to the side and go, "Eh?"
    I find it hard to believe that a girl who's totally sick and emotionally exhausted can be crying one minute and beaming the next. Unless of course, she's insane and kind of scary, in which case that kind of dramatic swing makes perfect sense. :) Good stuff, Terry!

  2. Thanks, Annie. And yes, the girl turns out to be scary crazy. It takes poor Grant a while to figure it out, though. Like, after his life is pretty much ruined. ;)

  3. Interesting set up for trouble for Grant later.

    And yes, I've worked with people on that level of emotional swing. Especially in girls, bi-polars, and addicts. Abuse victims too. But also in normal people who aren't used to dealing with drama and tragedy.

    It is a little hard for a lot of people to understand the various reactions of people in crisis though.


  4. Yes. Annie and Grant survived a horrific school shooting, and both are dealing with their own versions of PTSD. Plus, she's a bit mad anyway.

    Writing this particular novel has me doing lots of research on insanity and setting up some interviews with professionals. I really want to get it right.