Sneak Peek at The Repairmen

Today I’m offering a sneak peek at The Repairmen, a novelette I wrote a few year back. The story is in revision no-man’s land, awaiting a time I can put my attention on it. Someday it will see the light of day again. This sneak peek does come with a warning for strong language (curse words). I hope you enjoy the story.

Sneak Peek at The Repairmen, novelette by Lynette M. Burrows
Courtesy of NASA website.

The Repairman

Mark Nichols squirmed uncomfortably. Almost of its own volition, his hand went to his crotch only to be stymied by the bulky space suit. Man, he wished he could tug at his water-cooled spandex long johns. You’d ‘a thought, after a hundred years in space, some engineer would’ve designed a comfortable cooling system. ‘Course, the pencil-pushers didn’t care—they didn’t have to wear ‘em.

He felt his blood pressure climbing higher. Why’d the company buy such old-fashioned stuff? Because, he reminded himself, the Suits back on Earth sit behind expensive mahogany desks, and they don’t have to wear the damned things, either!

He peered at his suit’s control panel on his chest. Oxygen flow at six liters and green. Helmet connecting-ring—sealed and locked. Gloves—sealed and locked. Snoopy hat, uh, Communications carrier—Yup. At least that pesky fiber optic connector on his backpack wasn’t giving him any trouble this time. Waist connecting-ring—check. Suit pressure 8.3 psi. Cooling and ventilation umbilical intact and operational.

He tried to ignore the tickle of gathering sweat behind his ears. It was another itch he couldn’t scratch—not for the next six hours or so. His nose itched, too. That he could and did scratch against the nose clamp to the right of his visor. At least those damned pencil-pushing square-heads could’ve done something so the helmet’s visor didn’t fog up. He blinked and squinted, trying to see across the air lock chamber. Less than half a meter away, he could see his co-worker, J.R. Stedman, suited up and impossibly still. How’d Stedman keep so cool?

Whhhuh! Whhhuh!” His radio crackled to life.

“Hey, mon!” Stedman’s bass Bahamian voice rumbled. “You didn’t fall asleep now, did you?”

“Almost,” Nichols lied. “Nothing else to do.”

“I been thinking,” Stedman continued. “I think I shall turn my suit in for refit when we get back home.”

Damn. He wasn’t going to scrap the EVA, was he? “What’s wrong?”

“This canned air smells like shit, mon.”

Nichols laughed. “Nah, that’s Bohemian sweat you smell.”

“I am Ba-ha-mian, not Bo-he-mian!” Stedman protested, bristling at the old joke once again. “I’m not kidding, mon. I think the filter must be clogged again.” Stedman tapped the control module on his chest. “Reads ‘all systems nominal,’ but my lungs don’t believe it.”

“Let me take a look-see,” Nichols said.

Mutely Stedman turned around, offering Nichols a look at his backpack.

The seamless white rectangle held their life-support: oxygen and cooling water. If the control panel went screwy, how could a guy tell if the Oh-Two was flowing right? Nichols made a show of looking at the vents on Stedman’s suit. “Everything looks A-OK from here,” he told Stedman, then added, “Canned air always smells like shit.”

What if there were a problem with Stedman’s filters? He could suffer a lethal carbon dioxide buildup before either of them knew it. Hell, it could happen right here in the air lock! How do I know my filters are working right? Nichols stepped back to his side of the air lock. What am I doing? Going for a walk in a goddamned vacuum with a fucking little plastic box and some flimsy Beta fabric between me and instant death. I must be abso-fucking-lutely crazy.

“Decompression complete.” Pilot Jan Lauren Dupree’s rich baritone rang over the radio like a well-played trombone. “I read Air Lock Chamber pressure at zero-point-one eight psi,” he continued. “That’s zero-point-one eight psi, confirmed?”

Stedman moved his visor close to the AIRLOCK DEPRESS control panel. “Yeah, mon. Zero-point-one eight.”

“Confirmed,” Nichols said, his pulse drumming so loud he was sure the radio would pick it up.

Stedman gave him a thumbs up signal. Nichols returned the gesture. Let’s do this.

Stedman pressed the AIRLOCK OPEN button. The chamber door snapped open an inch, then slowly eased the rest of the way open.

“Watch that first step,” Nichols said. His mouth felt dry. “It’s only 23,000 miles straight down.”

Stedman stepped through the open hatch. “You need some new material, mon.”

***

Writing near-future science fiction is fraught with danger. This one has dated technology now that you don’t notice in this short section. But irony of irony, the story needs repaired. Thank you for reading. Did you enjoy this sneak peek at The Repairmen? If you did, you might also enjoy My Soul to Keep, book one of the Fellowship Dystopia series.

How I Found the Right Editor

It was more than luck. Creating a book takes a team. I spoke about how I chose my cover artist. How I found the right editor for My Soul to Keep was to search for the right one several months before I needed one. It took some work, some due diligence, and some patience. But it paid off.

How I found the right editor.

Which Type?

The first step in my journey to find the right editor was to research the different types of editors. It can get confusing. When you search the internet there are folks who say there are four types, five types, nine types, and more! But for most freelancers, it boils down to four general types.

  1. Developmental editors who work with you on the structure and arc of the story.
  2. Copy editors examine your finished story for consistency, grammar, and flow.
  3. Line editors address the writing style, language, and content on a sentence level.
  4. Proofreaders are the nit-pickers who look for typos and misplaced words or punctuation.

Each writer’s needs, every novel’s needs, are different. I had a mentor who had helped me with developing the story. But my weaknesses were grammar and consistency. So I needed a copy editor. But there are hundreds of thousands of editors out there.

Where Do You Find Editors

I went to trusted sources. Friends who write and publish in the same genre gave me names. Writing websites I follow had lists of editors. Even professional author groups I belong to had lists. I learned that there’s a professional association, Editorial Freelancers Association. I wrote down a list of more than twenty names. Did I refuse to write down names of people who didn’t belong to the Association? No. I did my due diligence. But members of the EFA ranked a little higher than editors who did not belong to a professional association.

First, every name had to have a website associated with it. If there wasn’t a website where I could learn about the editor, the name got scratched off my list. I paid attention to bios, testimonials, what they said they could do, turn around times, and fees. Did the editor have any experience, an understanding of my genre? Did I like the personality that came across on the website? What did his or her clients say about working with that editor? Were there examples? Did I have a personal relationship with any of their clients? Did I know their clients by reputation? If I knew none of their clients, I looked for them on Amazon and other booksellers.

Narrowing down the list

I removed the least expensive person and the most expensive person. That left ten editors on my list.

I sent an email to each of the editors. In my email, I introduced myself and gave a short blurb of My Soul to Keep, it’s length and genre. I asked if I could send them some pages and get a sample edit. For me, the sample edit was crucial. I wanted to see their work in action.

After I sent the email, I waited. Anyone who refused to do sample edits got marked off the list. If I got no reply after two weeks, I sent a follow-up email assuming that my original request ended up in the spam folder. One reply was rude enough that that person got crossed off the list and got an earful via email.

Reviewing the Sample Edits

I sent the pages immediately with a request for an approximate turn around time. All editors who accepted sample pages were prompt and respectful. From the twenty-page sample, I was able to tell a lot. Editors who did not get my story were evident by the changes they suggested. At least one editor missed deliberate “mistakes” I put in the sample. That one got marked off. And there were editors whose personality came across as a little too critical or snarky. They got crossed off the list, too. Now my list contained two strong editors. I would have done well choosing either of them.

The Right Editor

My final choice came down to who I thought would work best for this novel. Not only do I have no regrets, I am very happy with my choice. She respected my writing style and voice. She thought of things I hadn’t considered. Consistency and grammar errors were corrected. She made my story stronger.

How I found the right editor for my novel, My Soul to Keep

Creating a book isn’t a one-person job. Artist, writer, editors, and printers each have a role. Every book needs at least one of each. Second only to the writer, is the editor. Choosing an editor is both a professional and personal decision. Taking the time to make a professional search was how I found the right editor for my book.

Book Cover Reveal: My Soul to Keep

I’m delighted to present the book cover reveal for my debut novel, My Soul to Keep.

On sale: August 2018
Artist/Illustrator/Designer: Elizabeth Leggett
Publisher: Rocket Dog Publishing

Book Cover Reveal for Lynette M. Burrows' spine-tingling science fiction thriller, My Soul to Keep. Coming soon!

ABOUT MY SOUL TO KEEP

Miranda Clarke lived a charmed life…until she broke the rules.

It is 1961 and America’s a theocracy controlled by the Fellowship and its tyrannical council of eleven men. Miranda Clarke’s family is part of the ruling elite, wealthy and privileged.

Miranda wants nothing more than to stay out of the public eye, but her power-hungry mother has different plans. She forces Miranda into an engagement to an up-and-coming Fellowship member and schemes to get Miranda’s father elected President of the United States.

To escape the arranged marriage and the repressive Fellowship, Miranda makes a break for freedom. But lurid family secrets and a dead man lands her in prison. She not only must escape prison and outwit her mother’s ruthless ambitions but avoid the deadly Azrael, the Fellowship’s enforcers who Take unbelievers.

Will Miranda survive ‘outing’ the family secrets?

Told from four different perspectives, My Soul to Keep is a spine-tingling science-fiction thriller and will be available in all your favorite online bookstores.

My Soul to Keep is the first in a series about the struggle to survive repression and violence on a personal, regional, and national level.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Elizabeth Leggett Elizabeth Leggett is a Hugo award-winning illustrator whose work focuses on soulful, human moments-in-time that combine ambiguous interpretation and curiosity with realism.

Her first paying gig was painting other student’s tennis shoes in high school.  She charged $10 a single shoe and she loved it when they wanted their boyfriend or girlfriend’s name because she knew they would be back again a few weeks later!

Elizabeth has been nominated for the 2018 Chesley Award for best book cover presented by the Association of Science Fiction Artist. The winner will be announced at Worldcon xx in San Jose

Check out Elizabeth’s other art at Portico Arts Illustrations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lynette M. Burrows writes stories of empowerment and survival spanning space and time.

Her publishing career was nearly crushed before it started when a large regional magazine rejected her 500-word children’s story. Then, a writing instructor urged her to change one word and re-submit the story. She did and that story was published by that magazine.

Since then, her children’s stories have appeared in national magazines and an anthology. When she co-authored The White Box stories with Rob Chilson, those were the longest things she’d written to date. By the time the White Box stories appeared in Analog Science fiction Science Fact magazine, Lynette’s days of short-short fiction were over. Don’t worry, she’s not writing anything that approaches the length of Game of Thrones…yet!

Lynette lives in the land of Oz (Kansas) with her artist husband and their three rocket dogs (Yorkshire Terriers).

~~~~

The live book cover reveal for My Soul to Keep occurred at ConQuesT Science Fiction Convention on Memorial Day weekend.

My Soul to Keep is currently in my copy editor’s capable hands. When she’s finished I’ll make all the necessary tweaks and send the manuscript to my proofreader. Once she’s done her magic, I’ll add the final spiff and polish. The book will be published at the end of August.

If you’d like to read more about the research and read a snippet please go to my sneak peaks and inside writing the books page.

If you don’t want to wait that long, join Burrows Insiders (see the sign-up box on the top right). You’ll get an advance copy for free with no obligation, but reviews (positive or negative) would be greatly appreciated. A written review helps the readers and the author, especially when the novel is her debut novel. *grin* Thank you in advance.

Please share your thoughts and reactions to my book cover reveal in the comments below.

An Idea That Grew Into a Story

I met Rob Chilson at a local science fiction group meeting.  He is the soft-spoken author of seven novels and numerous short stories and novellas published in science fiction magazines. Visit his website at www.RobChilson.com to learn a little more about this Oklahoma born author. After one meeting, Rob came to me with an idea for a story.  He thought I would be the perfect collaborator because I was both writer and nurse. It was an idea that grew into a story.

The Spark

We each read a short article in a science magazine about how when you are sick your ‘sick cells’ changed electrical polarity from the ‘well’ state. Two science fiction authors should not have been surprised that we’d read the same article, but we were. When we talked about this discovery we wondered if someday there might be a box that could read and correct the polarity of cells making illness and disease a thing of the past. Rob wondered how that change would impact society. He thought that perhaps we wouldn’t need doctors and nurses any longer. I argued that we would always need someone with a healing touch.  Then we discussed characters, a basic plot, and the type of ending the story would have. I wrote a draft, he revised it, then we sat down and discussed it in detail.

The story that grew out of those discussions was one neither of us would have envisioned without the other.

The White Box was published in Analog, Science Fiction Science Fact magazine in December 1985.  If you’ve seen the magazine you’ll notice my byline changed (divorce and marrying the right guy will do that).  Eventually, I will post the full story in e-book format on my website.  For now, I hope you enjoy this snippet.

THE WHITE HOPE
by
Rob Chilson and Lynette M Burrows

Gloria Bartram took a deep breath when her name was called. It didn’t help. Her heart was beating so hard they wouldn’t need a cardiac monitor or even a stethoscope to know it was racing.

She paused just inside the door and looked them over. Dr. Lapi wasn’t there; she had hoped desperately that he would be. Cathy Tompkins, the Director of Nurses, turned a carefully expressionless glance on her. Dr. Nurbaugh was there, of course. He was the picture of righteous indignation. She returned his glare with what she hoped was a level look of confidence.

Then she faced Arthur Wigginton, Research Hospital’s Administrator. The last time she’d seen him was when he had given all ‘his loyal nurses’ a pep talk at the beginning of the strike. He hadn’t even known her name then. His neatly trimmed, sparse white hair and slight palsy had endeared him to his listeners. He had seemed a sweet old man.

At the moment his blue eyes were as chill as ice and Gloria felt almost as if she faced an executioner. The large walnut desk he sat behind was barren except for a file directly in front of him and a tape recorder to one side. The only visible concession to personal comfort or taste was the high-backed leather chair he sat in.

“Be seated, Ms. Bartram.” His neutral tone did nothing to reassure her. “You know Ms. Tompkins and Dr. Nurbaugh; and this,” he indicated a gentleman seated on the other side of the room, “is Mr. Williams, our legal counsel.” He cleared his throat. “You’ve been summoned here to answer to a charge –”

The lawyer, Williams, stirred. “Not charged,” he said, “not formally charged.”

Wigginton heard him out impatiently, then said, “An informal charge then, of mutinous insubordination. We have a written complaint against you. It alleges,” he emphasized the word slightly with a conciliatory nod toward Williams, “that you wrongfully approved treatment without obtaining appropriate medical orders, and did so with full knowledge that there was a standing order specifically against this electro-neural therapy. This is a very serious charge. One that not only puts your license in jeopardy but also threatens Research. As I understand it, the patient has not regained consciousness since the treatment you administered.”

Gloria nodded. She’d checked on the patient, Debra Sandalescu, just prior to this meeting.

“That is unfortunate,” Wigginton continued. “If the patient or her family conclude that injury has been done, we shall be facing a lawsuit. That must be avoided at all costs, especially in light of Research’s present crisis.” He steepled his fingers together and looked over the tips of them at Gloria. “What have you to say?”

Gloria wet her lips and wished she wasn’t so tired. How could she think straight? She avoided looking at Nurbaugh. “Sir, I did what had to be done to preserve the patient’s life in the absence of her personal physician.”

“She was admitted to the Emergency Room, correct?”

Again, all Gloria could do was nod.

Wigginton laced his fingers together. “Ms. Tompkins, what is standard procedure when a patient is admitted to the emergency room?”

Cathy Tompkins gave Gloria a tight but apologetic smile then turned to the Administrator. “When a patient is admitted to the ER the unit clerk calls the patient’s personal physician while the admitting nurse takes vital signs and begins any stabilizing treatment that is necessary. And according to the records, these procedures were carried out.”

“I received no calls from Research last night,” Dr. Nurbaugh said haughtily. “Not from a unit clerk or anyone else.”

Gloria bit her lip to keep from shouting at him. Any outburst from her would only make things worse.

* * * *

Thank you for spending time with me.  I know you have a hundred other things to do. Please know I deeply appreciate your time and I love to hear from you. Did you enjoy this tiny bit of the story? Was the background on an idea that grew into a story, interesting?

 

From the End to the Beginning

Part 7: Re-visioning Your Story     Why from the End to the Beginning? Many writers spend a significant amount of time crafting the beginning of their story. They know the beginning of a story is critical. If you don’t hook your reader, the story will go unread. But did you realize the ending is just as important?
From the End to the Beginning, lynettemburrows.com

 

No amount of convincing characters, intricate or thrilling plot, nor vivid story world construction can overcome a poorly crafted story end. And a failed ending of your story will cause an agent, editor, or reader to put down the book never to pick up another of your stories. But a great ending will reward your reader with an emotional payoff. Hooked, he’ll eagerly seek out more of your stories. So how do you construct a great ending? In revision.

First, in order to craft a perfect ending, you must understand the key components of the ending of a story: the crisis, the climax, and the resolution.

CRISIS

The crisis is the pivotal moment of your story. Your protagonist’s choices and actions have led her to this point where she must make a final, irrevocable choice. “At the point of crisis,” Bob Mayer says in The Novel Writer’s Toolbox, “the protagonist is forced to make a choice whether or not she wants to attempt to restore the balance that was disturbed by the inciting incident.” She is boxed into a corner and there are only two, specific, concrete actions she can take from here. And she must make a choice.

Robert McKee calls the crisis “the story’s Obligatory Scene. From the Inciting incident on, the audience has been anticipating with growing vividness the scene in which the protagonist will be face- to face with the most focused, powerful forces of antagonism in his existence.” In other words, the antagonistic force must appear to be overwhelming. The protagonist, and thus the reader, must feel the antagonist will win.

In order for the crisis to work, the choice with which your protagonist is faced must be of utmost importance to the character at that moment. He must be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice (whatever he thinks that may be) in order to attempt to achieve the object of his desire.

“The Crisis must be a true dilemma,” according to Robert McKee in Story, “a choice between two irreconcilable goods, the lesser of two evils, or the two at once that places the protagonist under the maximum pressure of his life.” In Techniques of the Selling Writer, Dwight V. Swain suggests this should be a choice that forces the character to act in accordance with or against a principle he has held dear up to this point. He says “to make a choice between self-interest and principle is difficult for any of us, in any situation, at any time. ” Once the choice is made, the crisis leads directly to the climax.

THE CLIMAX

All the choices your protagonist has made up to this point have built increasing tension in your reader. The climax delivers the goods in a big, explosive scene. The protagonist having made his choice succeeds in reaching his goal, realizes he wants something else or fails to reach his goal. In his book, Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass says, “Climaxes are both inner and outer, both plot specific and emotionally charged. The payoff needs to fully plumb the depths in both ways if it is to satisfy. ”

The best climax pulls together subplots as well as main plot into a final deciding action. Dwight V. Swain reminds us in Techniques of the Selling Writer, why this act is important: “In adherence to or abandonment of principle, your focal character proves ultimately and beyond all doubt what he deserves. ” And while the reader’s tension is released by the climax, if the story ends with the climax, the reader feels the ending too abrupt. He struggles to guess the meaning of the ending. He has no sense of closure. You, the author, must provide closure with the third component of the ending, the Resolution.

The Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow

RESOLUTION

The resolution explains that the crisis is over and the effect of the final decision and action has upon the principle characters. It gives a sense of closure by highlighting the emotional impact of the final action. This can be accomplished through the viewpoint of your protagonist or a narrator. And in the best stories, the reader has an aha moment when she realizes that this is the ending the protagonist had been working toward since the beginning. However, if the resolution details every character’s emotional reaction, the ending of your story will drag. It will lack the impact it needs. Keep it short. Give it resonance through a powerful phrase, gesture, or setting that the reader remembers from the beginning. The resolution is the reader’s payoff for reading the story. Make it count.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT

Part One

Now that you know the three key components of a great story ending. Read the endings of five novels that you love. Examine the crisis, climax, and resolution of each novel. What elements do they have in common?

Part Two

So now it’s time to read the ending, and only the ending of your story and answer the questions below. Remember, take notes. Do not try to fix any of the problems or concerns you identify.

  • Is the action on the page or did everything happen off stage?
  • Have you wrung every bit of tension out of it that you can?
  • Did you pull your punches at the end or did you make it difficult for your protagonist?
  • Were there ‘well, duh’ choices your protagonist should have made? Your reader will know and think less of your character.
  • Does the reader have to guess the ending?
  • Do you have a ‘Hollywood’ ending, a la the hero finishes hacking the bad guys to death and the heroine rush to embrace him in a steamy kiss with the sunset/sunrise in the background? Ewww!
  • Does someone other than the protagonist save the day, or have him wake and realize it was all a dream?
  • Was tension maintained to the last possible moment?
  • Did you force your protagonist to make a choice?
  • Is the choice worth the cost to the protagonist?
  • Did you build up his desire or need as he moves through the story so the reader believes the protagonist would go to all that trouble?
  • Did your protagonist translate his choice into two concrete, specific, alternative actions?
  • Was it a choice between an ‘easy way’ and a way that would lead to disaster or sacrifice?
  • Is the alternative to the easy way out disastrous for your protagonist?
  • Did you keep the ending in doubt by making failure look likely?
  • Are there any loose ends or subplots that haven’t been already resolved?
  • Was your character rewarded or punished based on his choice?
  • Has poetic justice been served?
  • Did you focus the emotional fulfillment into a punch line?

Part Three

And now that you know your ending, re-read the beginning of your story.

  • Does the ending answer the question posed in the beginning of your story?
  • Have you planted clues for the ending in the beginning of your story?
  • Is the mood and tone of your beginning echoed in your ending?
  • Finally, are themes, motifs, or phrases from the beginning echoed in the ending?

From the ending to the beginning doesn’t measure up in your first draft? Don’t worry. You now know where the weak spots are. And you’re subconscious is already working on the solutions!

NEXT WEEK:

The final post in the Revisioning Your Story series: Preparing for the Rewrite

You’ve made my day by just by reading my post. And I am thrilled and honored when you take the time and care to comment below. Thank you!

If you haven’t been following this series. Please check out the first six posts on Re-visioning Your Story: