Tuesday, November 19, 2019

#100 Inside the Emotion of Fiction "GIRL CRUSH" by Stacia Levy

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***The CRC Blog welcomes submissions from published and unpublished fiction genre writers for INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION.  Contact CRC Blog via email at
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****Stacia Levy’s Girl Crush is #100 in a never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece.  (Right: Stacia in 2018)

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? Name: “Girl Crush.” This is a working title, however. It’s a work in progress. Often the best title emerges after the work is complete and specific themes arise.

Fiction genre?  Ex science fiction, short story, fantasy novella, romance, drama, crime, plays, flash fiction, historical, comedy, movie script, screenplay, etc.  And how many pages long? This is a mystery/suspense novel, a genre I often write in, along with romance. I’ve completed about 80 pages so far.

Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no.   If yes, what publisher and what publication date? This is a work in progress, and no part has been published yet, although I do frequently share in writer’s groups.
What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I began writing this in 2014 and have been working on it off and on along with other shorter pieces I’ve published. 
Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?  And please describe in detail.  And can you please include a photo? I most often work in my home office or coffee shops. Starbucks and Shari’s in south Sacramento are favorite places (my plug, if you don’t mind, for the fine folks at the corner of Florin Road and Greenhaven Drive.) I’ve attached a photo of me in my office. Pardon the mess. (Left)

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? I most often write on a laptop. In theory, I’m freshest in the morning; in reality, the time of day I can most often work is the afternoon or evening. I have to be drinking something, most often coffee or water, when I write.

What is the summary of this specific fiction work? In this suspense novel, Detective Sharona Feinstein investigates a suicide of a young artist, Gina Abrams. The case is about to close, but Sharona becomes increasingly suspicious that the suicide may have been murder, due to her conversations with the victim’s brother, Jude. Her attention focuses on the victim's neighbor, Barbara Wilcox, who seems obsessed with Gina. She is taking an unusual interest in the case, making odd claims to have been exceptionally close to the victim, harassing Jude, and even apparently stealing some of Gina’s belongings.
At the same time, Sharona is balancing her complex personal life with her domestic partner Kevin and foster daughter, Michaela. In a prior novel, Sharona and Kevin met when taken hostage in the retail store they both worked in. The incident inspired both to go into law enforcement careers.

Can you give the reader just enough information for them to understand what is going on in the excerpt? This excerpt is a flashback in which Sharona reflects on when and  why Wilcox has transferred her obsession for the late Gina Abrams to her, Sharona.

Please include the excerpt and include page numbers as reference.  The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.
Excerpt, p. 14-16 :
I parked in front of Barbara’s house that day I went out after my conversation with Jude about the strange neighbor. My antennae went up immediately. Because the woman I recognized as Barbara Wilcox was standing not in her own yard but in Gina Abrams’s—actually now Jude Abrams’s—yard next door to hers. There was a “For Sale” sign on the lush lawn that spread out for what seemed half a mile from the porch to the street.
Barbara was lumbering about, watering the bushes around the front porch with what even I recognized as a pretty ineffectual although cute little pitcher. It made kind of a weird incongruous picture, the bear-like woman with her pretty little canister, watering the plants like she was freaking Bo Peep or something.
I had just gotten out of the car to mosey on up to ask her what the hell she thought she was doing, as I was pretty sure she didn’t have Jude’s permission to be there, and it looked like he’d hired pros to take of the lawn anyway.
But then my phone went off. I glanced at it and saw it was my commanding officer’s number. Tom Morris, of the chronically fraught home life and multiple “sick” days that left me floundering, figuring out the job on my own.
I answered the call. “Feinstein.”
“Sharona, where in hell are you?”
“And good morning to you, too, Tom.” I rolled my eyes, a bad habit. “What’s up?”
“I’m sitting here in my office wondering where you are while I’m taking a million calls and my lieutenant is breathing down neck and four people are waiting to talk to me.”
“Oh, sorry about that.” I eyed Barbara.
She was just standing there staring at me from across the lawn, the pitcher tipped.
It weirded me out a little. I turned my attention back to the call. “Really sorry about that, Tom. Truly. But I didn’t even know you’d come in. On another note,” I lowered my voice, although there was no way Barbara would be able to hear unless she had some kind of high-frequency auditory implants, “where I am is outside the Abrams’s place—remember Gina Abrams, killed herself back around the New Year? —anyway, standing here watching her totally creepy neighbor water Gina’s bushes. The brother reports she’s stalking him.”
“Just get in here, asap.”
“Absolutely.” I shook my head and hung up.
And now, looking back, I think it might have been something as stupid as that, that little conversation that I had all but forgotten until sitting here with plenty of time to think, that set off the whole episode. Just me standing there, phone in one hand, other hand on my hip, rolling my eyes, in one of my signature smart-ass poses, totally abandoning any professional demeanor for a what must have been a couple of minutes at the most.
Then I pulled myself together and started up the drive, smoothing down my shirt, tucking in strands of my hair. It was already heating up at not even ten in the morning and would be sweltering by noon. The drive was long, circular, the house set back from the street.
Red flags started going up about then, as I wondered how Barbara could afford this neighborhood, single women with badly permed hair and polyester slacks and no apparent job not usually being rich. In the routine interview we did of the neighbors during the initial stages in the investigation, she’d stated she had a “home-based business.” I’d thought that meant lotions or soap or something, but maybe she was one of the new internet millionaires who worked from home, who knew.
I called out when I got closer, “Barbara Wilcox?”
She was still staring. And actually then it didn’t seem so weird, something that I put down to just not being very used to or comfortable with encounters with the police.
She finally nodded as I stopped a nonthreatening  three feet back from her.
“I’m Detective Sharona Feinstein.  We talked about three months ago regarding Gina Abrams’s death.”
She nodded again, still staring at me.
Most people would have said something by then, like “yes,” or “hi,” so I wondered about this, that maybe it wasn’t just general unease with the police that I was looking at.   
“Well,” I said, “Jude Abrams has been into my office to talk to me about you.”
Her muddy brown eyes widened. Then she nodded. “Yes.”
She set the watering can down on the porch railing and wiped her hands off on her slacks. “Would you like to come over to my place so that we can talk? I think we should talk about Jude.”
That was interesting, that she’d actually want to talk to me about the very guy she’d reportedly been harassing.
“Yes, let’s do that.” I wanted to get her off the Abrams’s property anyway.
I walked with her across the lawn to her place. I asked, “How are you this morning?”
“Fine, Detective.” She now was coming off as normal, just distracted, as if she had a number of pressing chores to take care of today, this being just one of them. She was looking down, searching her pockets, probably for her house keys.
“I won’t keep you long,” I said. “Let’s just sit out here on your porch.” I was following her up the steps and nearly stumbled over a loose board. “So did Jude ask you to water his bushes?”
“Oh, no.” She blinked. “Gina did.”
“Gina did?” Gina had left no notes, letters, anything, and it had seemed, like many suicides, an impulsive act, after having consumed too much alcohol that night, as the toxicology report had shown. “Why would she have asked you to water her bushes?”
“Because she told me she was going on vacation.”
“I see.” I followed her suit and sat on the porch swing with the faded flower print cushions. The house’s paint job, I noted, was cracked and peeling. “You didn’t mention that when we spoke to you after Ms. Abrams’s death.”
       “I know. I just forgot about it. I was still in shock.”
That actually did seem possible. “And you remembered it when?”
“The next day. When I remembered her cats, too, that the poor cats had to be fed.” 
“Her cats. You’ve been feeding her cats?”
“Yes, two of them. She loved them.” Her eyes teared up.
People did get emotional over their pets—I could relate to that, having just dropped a significant amount of money for treating my own cat for an abscessed cheek. “Did she ask you to feed her cats, too?”
“Yes. She told me she was going up to Lake Tahoe for a couple of days.”
“Okay.” So according to this new testimony it seemed there’d been some plan involved. “How are you feeding the cats?”
“I’m just putting some food out on the porch. The cats go in and out of the house.”
“So Gina didn’t leave you a key?”
“Oh, I had a key to her place. We had each other’s keys.” As if out of habit, Barbara set the swing into motion by pushing the floor with her foot. The swing creaked a little, and she stopped. “But Jude changed the locks.”
“Okay. Let’s get back to Jude. Why isn’t he taking care of the plants and the cats?”
“Because Gina told me to.”
“And did Jude tell you not to?”
“Yes. He keeps telling me to stay off the property. But Gina did ask me to do it. So don’t I have some responsibility, some right—?”
“I’m sorry.” I stood up. So maybe that was all this was, a simple misunderstanding between neighbors. I hoped so, hoped I wouldn’t have to come out here again.  “I understand your pain, Ms. Wilcox. And I appreciate your commitment to Gina and how you want to honor her wishes. But the property now belongs to Jude Abrams. If he’s told you to stay away, you need to stay away. Stop texting him; stop calling him. Do you understand?”
And she nodded, staring up at me without speaking, eyes wide and glistening. 

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? The dynamics of obsession and of stalking have always fascinated me. The theme of obsession is related to another I’ve written about, how we actually are and how we appear to others. 
The person who is the target of obsession is usually quite different from how the stalker/person obsessed perceives her, as she has been idolized and then objectified. The emotional impact for me comes from getting inside the head of the target of obsession, the complete confusion over being targeted and why. Also compelling is getting inside the head of the stalker, the internal emptiness that drives the obsession, in the stalker thinking the victim can fill the obsessed person’s
 internal void.

Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt. I write and edit in Word simultaneously, so I have no marked up rough drafts. (Right: Stacia in her office in September of 2015)

Other works you have published? I would like to mention in particular the published short works that feature the same protagonist, Sharona Feinstein: “Father” and “Three Methods to Save Your Life.” Forthcoming are “Group Bonding” and “The Real Me.” 

Anything you would like to add? Success as a fiction writer, I’ve found, depends not only on persistence and perfecting your craft but on organization. Especially for a novel, it is critical to have as detailed outline as possible to stay focused and complete the work. One of the reasons I’ve taken so long with “Girl Crush” is I never satisfactorily outlined it. I still believe in the work, however, and won’t give up on it. I’ll continue outlining and drafting it until I complete it.  (Left:  Stacia in 2016)

I live in Sacramento, California with my husband and daughter. (Right in 2009) I teach college writing, education, and literature classes.
Past publishing credits include short stories in The Blue Moon Review, Sambatyon, True Story, Storgy Magazine, Forge, and The Apalachee Review. Finally, I was a second-place winner in The Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards of 2010 for “Father.”

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/drstacialevy/


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