I was hoping to have another book out by this time, but since I’m working on two projects at once, that didn’t happen. But I’m determined that one of them is going to be out by the end of the year… unless I end up working with a publisher.
In the meantime, I have KEEPING SCORE on my brain. I’ll be putting it on sale for 99 cents at the end of the week and hoping to generate some excitement through that. The sale will be advertised on EReader News Today, Booktastik and the Fussy Librarian.
KEEPING SCORE went through several drafts, and the last one was the most painful. That’s because I’d hired a freelance outside editor, and he told me to kill my babies, and cited names and pages. He said I had a tendency to include “I Love Lucy” – type scenes; scenes with madcap hijinks that didn’t add to the plot.
But I love “I Love Lucy…”
So I ended up cutting out a minor subplot about Shannon’s ex-husband David needing a hernia operation and completely overreacting. But due to the wonder that is writing on a computer, those scenes will live on forever as long as Mozy continues to back up my work and Word is still a functioning program. And today, to celebrate the book birthday, is one of my favorite KEEPING SCORE scenes to end up on the cutting room floor:
By the time I fought with traffic (there's no such thing as a reverse commute when you're driving in the city), found a parking space, managed to parallel park, and walked three blocks to David's house, it was already after eight.
"Dad said to just walk in," Sam told me as we approached the front door, so I turned the knob and entered.
My jaw nearly dropped onto the floor. Behind me, I heard Sam giggle nervously. Neither one of us could believe it.
Right in the middle of what had been the dining room, David had installed a state-of-the-art hospital bed. And it was on that bed where he lay, panting, as Chloe ran a washcloth over his forehead.
"All this for a hernia?" I snapped.
Chloe dropped the washcloth on David's face. She ran over and hugged me while David whimpered.
"I'm so glad you came!" she exclaimed.
"Oh my god," David whined. "I'm going to be sick. Chloe!"
Chloe ran back to David's side and shoved a garbage bag at him. He retched in it for a few minutes, making a huge deal out of every hack.
Sam looked like he was about to toss his cookies himself. I put a hand on his shoulder.
"We're so glad to be here, too," I said, as Chloe wiped vomit traces off of David's mouth.
"Come here, son," David whispered, his voice as raspy as Marlon Brando's in the Godfather. "I need to hold my boy."
Sam's eyes went wide. He turned and looked at me in horror. I gave him a little shove toward the bed. It was his fault we were here to begin with. He cringed as David ran his hands over Sam's head like a dying blind man.
When Chloe came back over to me, I whispered, "I thought a hernia was a routine operation."
I saw the first signs of strain around Chloe's mouth. "The operation was routine. The recovery… not so much."
She sighed. "He's a complicated man."
I opened my mouth to warn her that she didn't know the half of it. But then I shut it abruptly without saying anything. An ally in David's house could be a valuable thing. I needed to keep her here as long as possible.
"I really don't see how he's going to be back to work tomorrow," Chloe continued.
"Tomorrow! Tomorrow you're going to be out buying a catheter because he's not going to be able to make it to the bathroom," I told her. "Are you kidding?"
Chloe shook his head. "Believe it or not, he's out of sick and vacation days, so every day he misses is coming out of his paycheck. He's already in the hole three days."
Her eyes shifted over to him, as if she were afraid he was listening to us. No worries. David had Sam's head firmly clasped in his hands, and he was speaking urgently to our son. No doubt conveying life instructions that you give your child when you're on your death bed.
"And with the furlough…" she whispered.
"Wait -- what furlough?"
"He didn't want me to tell you," Chloe admitted, "but if I were you, I'd want to know. He had to take a pay cut. Everyone did. And now that he's got to give even more money back… Shannon, he's afraid he's not going to be able to pay much toward Sam's check next month."
The giant rock inside my stomach just turned into a boulder. My face must have given me away, because Chloe put her hand on my shoulder and said, "I have some small savings… it's not much, but I could…"
She trailed off, and as hard as it was, I shook my head. "This isn't your problem. David shouldn't even have told you what was going on."
Chloe shrugged. "Everyone needs someone to talk to," and I felt even worse. And then she hugged me, which just compounded the guilt. "I have to run to the store for more soup," she whispered. "Maybe I should look into Depends while I'm there."
I laughed. It felt good. She kissed David and Sam on their heads, then dashed out.
I finally made my way over to the hospital bed, where David lay pale with a fine sheet of sweat over his face.
"That girl's a keeper," I told him.
"Yeah," he admitted. "She'll wake up soon enough, though. She can do so much better than me."
For a second, I actually felt sorry for him. David tried to force a grin, a hint that he was just kidding, but I knew he wasn't. I also knew he was right.
"Sit up," I ordered him. "Sounds like you really need to go back to work tomorrow."
He grimaced. "I told her not to tell you."
"She thought I needed to know. To prepare. I do."
"You going to be okay?" he asked. The question was more like a plea, and I could almost see a hint of the man I married. I really didn't have a choice. I nodded and smiled.
"I'll be fine," I lied. "Everything will be fine."
In the car on the way home, Sam blurted out, "You know what would be great? You and me and Dad and Chloe, if we could all live together!"
It just might come to that, I thought. It just might.
Of course the editor was right. The scene’s just too unrealistic; it changes the tone and the focus of the book. And while changing David into a standard work-obsessed Washingtonian wasn’t necessarily the funniest choice I could have made, it was one that best served the book. Reforming the character allowed me to express my theme of “competition kills relationships” in an additional way.
But I still think hypochondriacs are funny.
Buy KEEPING SCORE on Amazon today! (Or wait till the end of the week when it's on sale.)