Day 1 Gaillac to Puycelsi Part I

I still have a few scenes left to write that go before Josh and Ava end up on their bike ride, but I don’t need to write their story sequentially, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve already written the last scene.

The first day kicks off with Ava realizing her Holiday had been Hijacked by Josh.  Here is q quick excerpt:

She made her way down the stairs and out the door, the excitement building inside of her to start her adventure. She saw her bike, a hybrid 2015 Scott Sub Evo 20, leaning on the kickstand in front of a van with open doors that held another bike inside.  To her surprise, the other bike, a man’s bike, was also being unloaded by the man who was there to deliver her bike, brief her on the trip, and answer any questions she might have before she heads out.  She booked a self-guided tour, so she didn’t understand why he was unloading another bike.

“Bonjour, you must be Ava. I’m Anton from Discover France.”

Ava reached out to shake his hand, and introduce herself.  “Bonjour, Anton.  Yes, I’m Ava.  Nice to meet you.”

“And you must be Josh, I’m Anton”

Ava slowly followed the motion as Anton extended his arm pass her to a man standing slightly behind her. She gazed at their handshake and then looked up to see the man whose hand she was staring at – the moment their eyes met, she froze, and possibly forgot to breath.

“You two know each other, maybe?” Anton asked in his French accent as he observed them both.

“Sorta” Josh answered, smiling, and still looking into Ava’s eyes.

They “have it out” and eventually, after setting some ground rules, she allows him to go with her. As you should know by now, the trip starts in the village of Gaillac.

Gaillac Farm Shed

Gaillac Vineyard

Bike Ride Gaillac Vineyard

Today, their ride will take them from Gaillac to the village of Puycelsi.  Much of the morning is spent in the vineyards of Gaillac, where the grapes are grown to make the wines renown for the region.

Gaillac Grapes

20150914_104953I enjoyed riding through the vineyards.  I even stopped to taste some of the grapes. The weather was warm, it started overcast, but the sun would peek through along the way. The stone buildings and farms on the way were charming.

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I stopped at the Chateau de Mauriac, but it was closed so I wasn’t able to tour it.  I did however, make a video introducing the story behind the story while I was there, which I will post tomorrow.

Chateau de Mauriac

Chateau de Mauriac in Gaillac France

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It will at first be silent between between Ava and Josh, but eventually Ava will be ready to break the silence and looking to get to know more about Josh.

The readers will get to know Josh a lot more on the first day and see how the two start developing their rapport.

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You’ve Got Mail: Adding Sex Appeal

As I’ve mentioned, AG is also writing a novel – it’s actually a pretty interesting story and I enjoy reading his scenes…probably a lot more than he enjoys reading mine. I honestly don’t get what he gets out of helping me.  In the last couple of weeks of exchanging emails, we have made little progress in actually getting to know each other…but his feedback remains super helpful.

Anyway, last week he sent me a scene, in which his main character goes off the deep end after witnessing the violent loss of the woman he loves.  His main character ends up kicking some serious ass, which made his character come across as pretty hot and sexy.

Realizing how his scene gave me the hots for his character, it made me recognize Josh was missing that kind of sex appeal. (AG never intended for his scene to have that kind of impact). I’m writing a romance novel after all, I need my readers, who will be 99.9% women to have the hots for Josh.  I’m making Ava this totally kick ass female Marine, but not properly making Josh a good match for her.

I asked AG to help me give Josh more sex appeal. I wrote a scene and I needed him to add his touch to it. I know very little about AG, but intensity, having a serious streak, and being a true professional are definitely strong personality traits for him. Traits women find sexy.

I don’t know AG’s relationship status, but if he’s single, I imagine he leaves a lot of women feeling frustrated and aggravated with him. He’s handsome, intense, focused, polite, professional, and probably completely oblivious how sexy women find him, which only makes him sexier to them.

While I see the appeal myself, it’s way too frustrating and I don’t like being frustrated.  I’m not looking for Josh to be like that.  Josh is a cut above the rest, overall humble about his accomplishments and abilities, but also confident and well aware of what he has to offer.  He doesn’t hesitate or back down in his pursuit of Ava. I need a male character that’s got some game…for Ava’s and my sake.

What’s really sexy is a man who knows what he wants, recognizes it when he sees it, goes after it, and does what it takes to earn it.  I don’t think I could do the type of romance novel where the man doesn’t realize what’s in front of him…till it’s too late. If you can’t realize what’s in front of you, then you don’t deserve it.

I still haven’t heard from him…not sure if he missed the scene or I’ve finally asked him for something he doesn’t want to do!

Exploring Gaillac Sunday Evening

Ava will arrive in Gaillac where her bike trip begins early on Sunday afternoon. Same as I did.  After dropping her things off at Hotel L’Occitan, she will go exploring the small village.

Here is a quick Excerpt on Gaillac, from the France This Way Website.

Gaillac is a historical town on the Tarn River 25 km west of Albi and 50 km north-east of Toulouse, in the Tarn department of the Midi-Pyrenees. The town originally developed more than 1000 years ago after a benedictine monastery was constructed here.

More recently the fame of Gaillac has been built on the fame of the vineyards that surround the town – Gaillac wines are internationally held in very high regard…

Most of the places of interest in Gaillac are concentrated in a small area, along the banks of the Tarn River… The most important monument in Gaillac is the Abbey Saint-Michael, with its origins in the 10th century, although it was substantially enhanced in the 13th and 16th centuries and renovated at the end of the 20th century. Adjacent to the abbey you can see some remnants of the buildings that were once associated with the abbey itself.

View of Abbey St. Michael from the bridge
View of Abbey St. Michael from the bridge

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Gaillac France Street

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The village was mostly deserted, the day being a Sunday, but I wandered around, exploring the different streets, taking pictures of the brick and stone houses. The village made me think of the French Quarter in New Orleans – especially all the colorful shutters. Eventually, I reached the Tarn River, and enjoyed the view before going in to visit the grounds of the Abbey Saint-Michael and tour the Maison des Vins and museum which were opened.

Maison des Vins with its tasting cellar is the biggest shop window for Gaillac wines, with over 100 wines offered for sale.  I purchased two bottles myself, to bring back to the people who were dog sitting Little Man (Little Man, for new readers is my dog).

The Abbey  museum, which is next to Maison des Vin was small and unfortunately, not particularly exciting, but offered a brief history of the area.  I expected a lot more information on the history of the wine. There are two other museums in Gaillac, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Natural History Museum – I didn’t have enough time to check them out.

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Gaillac Abbey

Entrance to Maison Du Vin and Museum
Entrance to Maison Du Vin and Museum

Ava will have dinner in the only cafe opened in town, I myself just ended up eating one of the protein bars I brought with me before meeting up with the guy who dropped off my bike (I don’t remember his name).  After he left, it started to drizzle so I went back to my room, took a shower and settled into bed to watch some French T.V.  I go lucky, my favorite show, Scènes de Ménage, was on.  After it was over I went to bed.

I came across quite a few cats and dogs on the trip…will squeeze in pictures of them at the end of my posts!

Gaillac Cat on Bench

You’ve Got Mail: Marine Speak

I’ve been busy this week working on the initial scenes in the book.  The scenes are designed to introduce Josh and Ava to the readers.  Josh is a Navy SEAL and Ava is a Marine…and my readers, not likely to be familiar with the military. These first few chapters, while easy enough to write being a Marine myself, they aren’t likely to be as easy to read which has thrown a wrench in my storytelling. Especially the scene where I introduce Ava in her work environment, amongst Marines.

Of course I sent the scene to AG, my linear thinker, who also happens to be an Army Ranger, and not so familiar with the Marine Corps.  I asked him to let me know how it might read to a non-military/non-Marine audience.

Besides him not agreeing Ava would be able to do 30 pull-ups, which I’ll take into account his disbelief when I settle on the final number, he pointed out all of my Marine speak and overuse of acronyms.

His comments made me realize it’s better that the military scenes don’t sound realistic to my fellow Marines, but make sense to my readers.  I’ll definitely have some editing to do for that scene to make sense to a general reader.

Some of his feedback: Unless the G6 or G6 Ops are important characters, I wouldn’t spend so much time explaining who they are. Like you hinted at before, it’s super military-specific and is going to make your civilian readers’ eyes glass over.

The other point AG made, is that Ava comes across as too perfect. The irony is, her imperfection is how perfect of a Marine she is – this is also hard for anyone who is not a Marine to understand.  You have some Marines who are just WAY TOO MARINE. Unless you’re a Marine, you don’t know what that means. I will however have to find a way to explain it.  To let the readers know, Ava has nothing outside of the Marine Corps. No friends, relationships, interests or life which is not a good thing.  Josh will help her see this about herself and overcome it.

You’ve Got Mail: The Confessions

I woke up very early Friday morning eager to read AG’s feedback to the scene I’d sent him earlier on. I was excited about this scene. I consider it the second most important scene in the book. I sent him mostly all dialogue because at this junction, I was more concerned about getting down what Ava and Josh needed to get through and understand about each other, than the actual setting in which the conversation took place.

I initially had a hard time reading through what he returned. As always, it was super thorough and thoughtful feedback…which in this case meant, he basically rewrote the entire scene for me.

Let me pause here for a second and explain a thing or two.

First, AG is a better writer than I am. He sent me some of the material he’s written, and it’s beautifully done. He is very intelligent and possesses an extensive vocabulary. We’re not in a competition with each other, he’s helping me, so it’s to my benefit he’s in fact a gifted writer, versus some guy who can barely write his name. But I wanted to believe I was somewhat good for a first time author…well, he put me to shame. Thankfully, I quickly humbled myself and got over it. Once again, choosing to see it as a blessing.

Second, he and I are alike in many ways but different in other critical ways. For example, if we walked into a room, and something was going on between people, I would pick-up on what’s going on much faster and easily decipher the situation. However, he would be better equipped to verbalize it. I’m intuitive, lacking in communication skills. He is more intellectual with the ability to easily express his thoughts, but less apt with reading situations and emotions. In that respect, for the projects we’re both working on, our strengths compliment each other well for what the other person needs.

But the thing with his feedback that got to me wasn’t my lack of writing skills in comparison to his, but that my inabilities to express myself in real life had permeated into my writing.

The dialogue I wrote made perfect sense to me although abrupt and entirely too direct compared to how normal people speak to each other. It however, made little sense to AG.

Confession #1

It was time to confess to AG something he probably needed to know about me, to assist him, as he keeps providing me feedback, and seeing what will likely be more bad dialogue. I confessed to him, as I am now confessing to you all, that I’m a loner and have never been one for expressing myself to others. I don’t spend a whole lot of time with people (mostly known for avoiding it by choice), as a result, my abilities to communicate have both deteriorated and were probably never all that strong to begin with.

His feedback made me realize I needed to slow down and really go over how my characters communicate and express themselves.

My characters need to be more gifted than I am in this, and well…all departments. Another glaring shortcoming AG I’m sure never intended to point out.

However, him unintentionally pointing that out also offered the potential for more depth to my characters, and another challenge for them to overcome together.

Confession #2

The writing of this book I knew was going to challenge me in many ways, which led me to make a second confession to AG, and now to you. As I did the research trip for this story, and worked through what my characters would be facing together, it made me wonder if their love story was even possible. Did I believe something like the story I was about to write could happen to me? The initial answer was “no”. I don’t believe in their love story.

So, as I write Ava and Josh’s love story, they will have to make me a believer. I figured if their story can’t convince me their kind of love is possible, than I best never publish this book. However, if their story can make me believe in love, I will in fact have written a true and powerful love story.

It was really tough to come to and make these confessions to AG in an email I sent him on Friday morning, but I trusted him with the information. Making the confessions to him, has allowed me to come to peace with them over the last couple of days, which is why I’ve written this blog post.

I shed light on them and they no longer have power over me.

I’m a complete loner who is working on forging better bonds through being more open with people and investing time in communicating, and expressing myself. This is very hard work for me.

I’m a romantic who doesn’t even believe in love, but wants to prove to herself it’s possible through writing a love story that challenges norms, pushes her characters to grow, and establishes real intimacy between two very strong individuals.

So there you have it…all because AG rewrote one of my scenes.

You’ve Got Mail: Initial Feedback

Technically, I wasn’t supposed to start writing until November 1st – I tried to wait but honestly, if there’s a story (especially for a first time writer) that needs to be written, I don’t think putting a lid on it is a smart thing to do.

So, I started writing The Hijacked Holiday.  To be fair, I won’t count the words written before November 1st, as part of my 50,000 words.

Besides being ready to get my first novel started, I also wanted to give working with AG a “test drive”, not at all knowing how this would work and what to expect.  We had exchanged a few other emails, mostly me telling him additional background on the characters, so he could be more familiar with them. I’m not writing this story sequentially, so he needed to know as much about Josh and Ava as possible.

Once written, I sent him my first scene.  The scene where Josh shows up to hijack Ava’ bike trip, and she sees him for the first time in six months.

The Feedback

First line of his feedback had me cracking up!  “SEALs are not Special Forces. (haha I’m going to be a stickler about this because if you’re going to insist on writing about SEALs I’m going to make sure your character doesn’t get confused for a real man)”

Much like there is competition and healthy banter between members of the different Services, there is even more “contention” between Special Forces Units and Navy SEALs.

I get it, and it definitely made me laugh, and so did this comment: “SOF dudes don’t put milk in their coffee. I mean, SEALs might, because they’re SEALs, but real men don’t need to fluff it up.”

Solid input, Josh will be drinking his coffee black.

Jokes aside, his feedback was excellent and spot on. He clearly grasped what was happening in the scene, between the characters and what they were experiencing.  He even broke down some of the thoughts and emotions Josh was probably experiencing that I didn’t write in the scene.

He also made me realize the areas I need to amplify, clarify and add.

His feedback was more than I expected.  I asked for his help for a different scene, and once more, the effort he put into his reply was impressive.

AG is not one though for small talk or actually giving me any additional personal details about himself…and that’s okay.  He is going through what I can only guess is a pretty tough course right now, and the fact he’s taking the time to help me out is already more than I can ask for.  Just because I always get off point and put in my personal two cents on most things – doesn’t mean he has to.