Saturday, January 31, 2009

Alex Asks Miranda A Question

“Can I ask you a question now?” he said.

“Absolutely,” I said. The last living teenage boy in America was asking me a question.

“The bruises on your face,” he said. “When we got here a week ago, they were pretty bad. I’ve been wondering how you got them.”

It’s nice to know the first thing he’d noticed about me was my ravishing collection of black and blue marks. “I fell off my bike,” I said. “Headfirst.”

Alex nodded. “Julie and I had a bet going,” he said.

“Who won?” I asked, trying to keep the irritation out of my voice.

“We both lost,” Alex said. “Her money was on you and Syl having a fight. Mine was on Matt slugging you one.”

“Matt’s never hit me,” I said. “I don’t know how you were brought up, but we’re not animals.”

“We were brought up fine,” Alex said.

“And you think brothers attack their sisters like that?” I cried.

“I think a lot of things happen you can’t imagine,” he said. “Of which brothers hitting their sisters is the least of it.”

“Not in my household,” I said, sounding exactly like Mom.

“Fine,” Alex said, sounding exactly like me.

Past Is Prologue in B3

Alex and Julie have shown up in B3, and I need to refer fairly regularly to d&g, to make sure I get my facts straight.Here's more proof- the poll on the right (and thank you everyone who has taken the time to vote).

I needed to know whether readers had doubts when reading d&g about the fate of Alex's parents and now, thanks to you, I know

.B3 has some very specific problems because it's a sequel to two different books. I'd been figuring on people who've read both books reading it, but what I hadn't thought about was people who've read LAWKI reading it and then going back to read d&g. I'd decided early on to limit references to LAWKI characters who weren't going to show up in B3. There's no mention of Megan or Sammi or Dan, but that's because it's Miranda's diary and she wouldn't feel the need to explain who those people were, and since there could be readers who wouldn't know, the characters were better left unmentioned.But Miranda doesn't know anything about Alex and Julie, so any information she learns about them would go smack in her diary.

Here's where I first realized I had a problem. I wrote a scene between Alex and Miranda, where Alex has opened up, at least a little, to her:But mostly I felt grateful to Alex, even though there was no way he could know how much his comment meant to me.So I tried to show him by letting him know I cared about him and Julie.

"What about your parents?" I asked. "What happened to them?"

He turned into a different person. No, that's not right. He turned back to the Alex I've known for the past week, not the Alex of the past few hours. "They're gone," he said, and his voice was as cold as a January night.

Nice, right? Except what about all the people who are going to go from LAWKI to B3 and then back to d&g? Talk about spoilers. If there's a chance any readers could read d&g in its entirety, not being sure what happened to Mami and Papi, then I'd be killing all that suspense for a little bit of dialogue.

So I read the poll results, and I threw the dialogue away. Now, Miranda remains grateful, but Alex asks her a question instead.

There's actually a chance most writers don't do rewrites based on poll results on their blogs. Silly them.

I'm currently dealing with the question of the passes into the safe town that Alex is given in d&g. Actually, answering that question (and cleaning my apartment) is pretty much the reason why I'm not doing any writing until Monday. I can justify Alex not using the pass to get Julie to a safe place, but once it becomes public (i.e. Miranda's family learns about it), I have to know which characters might end up going there, and when. Alex has three passes, and the only thing (I think) I wrote about them is that dependents have to be under the age of 18. But originally, Mr. Flynn (who gave Alex the passes) was going to use them for his wife and two kids, which means the passes can be used by adults. And what I just this second realized is Mr. Flynn's daughter is in college, so she's probably over 18. What I must have meant was that dependents getting onto the bus convoy had to be under 18 (I can't believe that with all the people who edited and copy edited d&g, no one picked up on that).

Back to B3. Assuming one pass is used by Julie, could the other two passes be used by Dad and Lisa? Or would Gabriel the baby (previously known as Baby Rachel) be counted as a person, in which case the passes could only be used by Julie, Lisa, and Gabriel. Would Lisa agree to go if it means being separated from Dad? And now that I've remembered about Mr. Flynn's daughter, I have to decide if Alex would use one of the passes for himself.

You know something. I don't have the answers to those questions yet. To be multilingual about it, le oy.

By Monday morning though, I'm sure I'll know, and nobody is going to know about those passes except Alex and Julie and me, until the very end of next week, or maybe the week thereafter. And I enjoy solving these kinds of problems.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Plot Developments

I may not have done a lot of writing this past week, but I have done a fair amount of thinking and I've come up with some new ideas for the second half of the book.

For starters, when Dad, Miranda, Alex and Julie get to the convent, they discover it's no longer there (this is a huge change, since it keeps Alex and Julie in the book until either the very end or very close to it). Having nowhere else to go, Alex and Julie return with Miranda and Dad, and resume living at Mrs. Nesbitt's. There's a lot of pressure on Alex anyway for Julie to stay with Dad and Lisa, and this only adds to his confusion about what to do with her. This could make the scene where Jon talks about the safe town even more powerful, since now it makes sense that that that remains an option for Alex in terms of Julie's future. Does he leave her with strangers where he knows she will be safe, or does he leave her with people she's come to love, but no guarantees about the future. All of which is news to everybody except Julie.

After the tornado, everyone moves back to the LAWKI house, but there's no electricity. That means the electric space heaters no longer work, and the families sleep in shifts in the sunroom (and since Alex and Julie are still there, that's 10 people plus the baby). The washer and drier no longer work and (I just realized this), all the food at Mrs. Nesbitt's has been lost.

I'm not sure what day of the week the tornado is going to hit, but most likely Monday, after they've gotten their food for the week, or Tuesday.

I think just to make the characters suffer more, following the tornado there's going to be a horrible cold spell, temperatures below zero at night. Pipes may freeze. There's the realization that what they hear on the radio is what has already happened; there's no ability anymore to warn people about what's to come (like 10 day weather forecasts). Possibly there's ice on the roof, and that leads to Charlie falling off it.

Alex and Miranda go to town on Monday to get their food (so maybe the tornado is more like Wednesday/Thursday), and find City Hall is gone. Much of the town has been wiped out by the tornado. They also discover how hard it is to navigate the road, because of tree limbs and detritus. That's got to happen before Charlie falls off the roof, so maybe the tornado is Thursday/Friday.

It's got to work something like this- tornado/cold spell/no food in City Hall but no certainty that they can travel/Charlie falls off the roof. Leaving has to be just as desperate a choice as staying.

Mom says she isn't going to go; she'll tough it out. Miranda, who has walked the four miles to town and who has fears of her own, says she'll stay home with Mom. Either Mom or Matt say Miranda must leave. They're all aware, although none of them are saying it, that no matter how risky leaving might be, staying home is suicide.

Then Syl says she and Matt will stay with Mom, and Matt agrees. That night, Miranda thinks this is the last she'll ever see her mother and her older brother (and Syl too for that matter).

So Miranda's last diary entry has to be her first night on the road, since when they leave, Mom, Matt and Syl do go with them. It's nine of them now (unless Alex has already left before the tornado, which remains a possibility), and they can't have gotten very far, given the condition of the road. Oy. This book is going to end even more uncertainly than LAWKI/d&g. I love it, but I'm not sure how readers will feel.

A Couple Of Mid-January Updates

I am enjoying writing B3 though, and I'm looking forward, maybe even tomorrow, to having Alex and Julie from the dead and the gone show up. In my head this morning, I rewrote a scene so that Miranda and Alex do something together, rather than Miranda and Julie. I need to give Alex more facetime.

I've been writing scenes where Miranda goes what I now call house hunting, searching deserted houses for things like toilet paper. Sometime around yesterday I realized that while Miranda, Matt, and Jon were leaving the house, Mom never seemed to join them.So I had a wonderful idea. I decided that Mom has become agoraphobic. And this afternoon, I wrote a scene where it would make perfect sense for Mom to leave the house, but she chooses not to.

This is what I love best about the writing process. Having an usable insight that takes me by surprise, and leads the plot in slightly different directions.Today, after working, I got on the treadmill and tried to remember the last time Mom went out in Life As We Knew It. First I thought it was before she twisted her ankle the second time. Then I remembered she shoveled snow from the garage door in early December. And then I remembered she went Christmas caroling.But B3 starts April 25 (I know, because I just checked the manuscript), and since I don't recall Mom leaving the house after Christmas, that would be four months of growing agoraphobia.

I don't know who's going to confront Mom about it. I'm assuming not Miranda, because I think it's the kind of thing you don't notice if you're living in the situation. So maybe Matt's bride Syl, or maybe Dad. And I don't know how long I'll play it out, whether it will be a factor at the very end of the book, when I plan for the family to leave on the long (over 300 miles- I google mapped it) journey to Pittsburgh. But I can hear Mom saying that she's afraid if she leaves the house, her entire world will collapse. Except by book's end, her entire world will have collapsed (something Miranda may point out), and Mom, terrified but courageous, will take those first steps outside.

Also on the treadmill today, I decided Miranda is going to bike into a pothole and fall down hard. Nothing like major bruising to make the end of the world even more unpleasant.

No wonder Mom is staying in these days!


For those of you keeping score, I'm on page 132. I'm not going to hit my fantasy number of 150 this week, since tomorrow the skating starts in the morning and then never ends, but I do know which two scenes come next, and they're both really good ones, at least in my mind. I'm not quite sure what happens after that, but I'm assuming by the time I'm ready to write it, I'll figure it out.

It absolutely does not count as a spoiler (I have spoken) to say there's a character named Charlie in B3. I needed a last name for him, and I considered naming him Charlie Davis since that's the name of the John Garfield character in Body And Soul. But then I decided I didn't want to picture John Garfield every time I wrote about Charlie, so I searched for other names that worked with Charles/Charlie.

Names for characters are so important to me, and I regret not using more ethnic ones, but once you name a character O'Hara or Budanov, readers will make associations with them which may or may not be what you want to convey. And there are spelling issues to contend with. The same New York Times article which mentions Budanov also refers to Isa Khadzhimuradov.Isa I could spell.

I ended up giving Charlie the last name of Rutherford, in honor, I thought, of Rutherford B. Hayes (I don't like Charles Hayes, because of the Z/Z sound, and besides, Charlie Hayes used to play for the New York Yankees and caught the final out in the 1996 World Series). Then I realized my Rutherford association is Lumpy Rutherford from Leave It To Beaver.

You know, Wally Cleaver seemed like a socially apt kid. It's remarkable his two best friends were Lumpy Rutherford and Eddie Haskell. Now there's something I didn't worry about in my peak Live It To Beaver years.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Don't Tell Miranda About This Blog!

May 17

I wish Syl hadn’t said anything about my diary. I can’t blame Matt for telling her about it, but I really wish he hadn’t.

I’m writing this entry in the kitchen, using one of the flashlight pens Jon found for me. Mom’s asleep in the sunroom, not that it ever mattered before. I’ve written in my diary with her in the room for months now, her and Matt and Jon. But even though I know Syl’s upstairs in Matt’s room, probably asleep also, I still feel like everybody’s looking over my shoulder.

Last summer, Dad and Lisa were here, on their way out west. With six of us in the house, I felt more private than I do right now, with just three of us here.

Not that I have anything to write, except to say these diaries are mine, for my eyes only.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mom And Miranda's Fight Scene (And What Ensues)

May 11

I told Mom I was going to bike up and down Howell’s Bridge Road, stopping at the houses to look for space heaters. If I found any, I’d figure out some way of dragging them home.

“You can’t go by yourself,” Mom said. “It’s too dangerous.”

Sometimes I’m so stupid I amaze even myself. “I went all through Shirley Court by myself,” I said.

“When did you do that?” Mom asked.

Then I won the Olympic Gold Medal in stupid. “On Saturday,” I said. “That’s where I found all my stuff.”

“I thought you all went looking together,” Mom said.

“We started out together,” I said. “But we split up right away.”

“You mean you lied to me?” Mom asked.

Somehow I knew that “you” was directed right at me. Matt didn’t lie. Jon didn’t lie. Only Miranda lied.

“We didn’t exactly lie,” I said. “Besides, it was Matt’s idea.”

“I don’t care whose idea it was,” Mom yelled. “It was unsafe and you knew it and that’s why you lied to me.”

“I don’t believe this,” I said. “Matt and Jon can go anywhere they want. We don’t even know if we’ll ever see them again, and you’re mad at me for going to Shirley Court because I didn’t ask permission?”

It’s been months since Mom and I had a real screaming battle, and I guess we were overdue. She screamed, “Insensitive! Uncaring!” and I screamed, “Overbearing! Playing favorites!”

Right after I screamed, “I never want to see you again!” I ran out, got my bike, and began pedaling as fast as I could. I didn’t care where I ended up or even that I’d been too angry to put on my coat and it was too cold to be outside without one. I just wanted to escape, the way Matt and Jon had.

I started by going down Howell’s Bridge Road, because downhill was natural and faster, but I knew I didn’t want to end up in town. So about two miles down, I turned onto Bainbridge Avenue, and then I turned again and again and again. The only thing I watched out for were streets I knew, because every street I knew had a memory, and I didn’t dare face my memories.
I must have biked for an hour before I acknowledged I had no idea where I was and very little sense of how to get back home.

I was out in the country by then, not that it mattered, since there’s no one else alive anymore, so I couldn’t just knock on someone’s door and use their phone to Mom and tell her to figure out where I was and come get me, even if there were any houses with doors to knock on.

I thought, Of all the stupid things I’ve ever done, this is the stupidest, because I could die out here, ten miles from home, and no one will ever know what became of me.

That was when I totally lost it. It’s been hard to cry in the sunroom, the past few months, because we’re all in there all the time, and tears are better if you shed them alone. But I’ve never been as alone as I was, sweating and shivering and hungry. First one tear trickled down, and then another, and then I sobbed six months worth of sorrow and anger and loss.

I think I could have kept crying forever, except I didn’t have any tissues on me, and the only thing I had to blow my nose into was my sweatshirt. Which made me sweating and shivering and hungry and really disgusting. The thought of which made me start laughing, so for a while I was laughing and crying, and then I just laughed, and then I just shook. After a few minutes of that, I thought I’d be okay, but before I knew it I was sobbing again.

I told myself Mom wasn’t shedding any tears over me, but I knew she was. It was like that scene in The Wizard Of Oz, where Dorothy looks in the crystal ball and sees Auntie Em crying out for her. I knew Mom was crying. She was crying because she’s worried sick about Matt and Jon and now she was worried about me. Only that made me cry even harder, because I was worried about Matt and Jon too, and I was a lot more worried about me than Mom was. Mom thought I was just breaking into houses on Howell’s Bridge Road, like a sane disobedient daughter. I knew I was crazy and lost and cold and scared.

I knew I couldn’t stay there forever, so once I’d stopped shaking from the hysteria and resumed shaking from the cold, I got back on my bike and let my legs direct me. I favored right turns and downhill, but for the longest time I was in countryside, with just a handful of unoccupied farms around me.

Then, because right turns weren’t doing much for me, I made a left. I biked maybe a half a mile down the road and in the distance I could see a mound of some sort.

At least it was something to look at. I biked towards it, and since I was still favoring downhill, it was below me enough so that I could look down on it.

Once I was close enough that the dust in the air didn’t block my view I could tell. It was a hill of bodies.

I got off my bike in time to throw up. Part of me said to get back on and ride in the opposite direction, but I kept looking anyway.

The pile was about six bodies high, and it was kind of pyramid shaped, a lot more bodies on the bottom than the top. It wasn’t a neatly formed mound though, and there was more snow on some places than others, so it looked kind of lumpy. The cold had preserved things though, and I could see hands and feet towards the bottom of the pile, and heads with hair higher up.

People have been dying around here since the summer, but until the ground froze, they’d been buried. At least that’s what we’d been told. There were cremations too, although maybe they were just funeral pyres. You don’t ask about things like that. Not unless you absolutely have to.

But the colder the weather got, the more people who died. Starvation, sickness, suicide. And no place to put the bodies.

I thought, what if Mrs. Nesbitt is in the pile? I’ve known so many people who have died, but she was the only one I thought of then. Just that Mrs. Nesbitt could be in a pile of unidentified bodies in a field somewhere near town and if Mom ever found out, it would kill her.

I told myself not to look, but of course I did. It was hard to make out faces, between the snow and the distance, since the top of the pile was taller than me. And I didn’t see Mrs. Nesbitt, who most likely was cremated, which was what she had wanted. But I did see Mrs. Sanchez, my high school principal, and Michelle Webster, who I’d known since fifth grade, and I thought I recognized Henry, who Matt worked with at the post office. But I didn’t know Henry all that well, and it could have been some other guy, his age and bald.

I thought I should say a prayer over these people, show them respect for the lives they led, the people they were. I don’t know a lot of prayers, and the only phrase that came right to me was Deliver us from evil, which didn’t seem appropriate. So I just said, “I’m sorry,” out loud, and then I said, “I’m sorry,” again.

It could have been us. It should have been us. We have no more right to be alive on May 11 than any of them. Why should I be alive and Michelle Webster dead? She did better in school than me. She had more friends. Yet there I was standing by her dead body.

Deliver us from evil. Deliver us to evil is more like it.

I got back on my bike, turned around, and rode for the longest time before I saw a sign for the hospital. I followed the arrows and eventually made my way back to town, back to Howell’s Bridge Road, back to my home, back to the sunroom.

Mom had to open the door for me. I thought she’d be loving and comforting when I got in, but she wasn’t.

“You came back,” she said. “I wasn’t sure you would.”

“I had no where else to go,” I said, walking towards the fire, desperately needing its warmth to heal me.

“The others,” she said. “Will they be coming back?”

“How can they?” I asked. “They’re dead. Everybody’s dead.”

Mom turned white and for a moment I thought she was going to collapse. “Matt and Jon are dead?” she screamed.

“No!” I cried. “Not Matt and Jon!” I pictured them on the mound, all of us on the mound, and I made a sound I can’t even describe. It came from deep within me, the place where I hide all my rage and grief, a sound no one should ever have to hear.

“Miranda,” Mom said, and she grabbed me and was shaking me. “Miranda, how did you hear about them? Did someone tell you about them?”

“I saw them,” I cried. “Oh Mom, it was so horrible. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Where?” she said. “Can you take me to them? Now, we have to go now.”

“I don’t think I can,” I said. “I was lost and I found them. But you don’t have to go there, Mom. I’m sure Mrs. Nesbitt wasn’t there.”

“Mrs. Nesbitt?” Mom said. “Why would she be at the river?”

“I didn’t go to the river,” I said. “Is that where Matt and Jon…” I couldn’t even finish the sentence.

Mom took a deep breath. “Matt and Jon,” she said. “Are they coming back?”

“How can they come back?” I asked. “You just said they…” I still couldn’t say it.

“I didn’t,” Mom said. “I thought you did.”

“Did what?” I asked. “Said what? I came in here, and you said Matt and Jon weren’t coming back, and I assumed. You mean they’re all right?”

“Tell me,” Mom said. “Slowly and carefully, everything you know about Matt and Jon.”

“They left on Tuesday,” I said. “To the Delaware River to catch shad. They were supposed to come back on Saturday. That’s all I know. What do you know?”

“Exactly the same thing,” Mom said. “Oh, Miranda. You gave me the scare of my life.”

I stared at her and we both burst out laughing. It’s funny. Horton slept through all the hysterics, but as soon as he heard us laughing (and I have to admit, our laughter was pretty hysterical also), he got up and walked out of the room. Which made us laugh even more.

“What about Mrs. Nesbitt?” Mom asked. “What were you talking about, Miranda?”

I thought about Mom, how terrified she must have been that she might never see any of us again. I thought about all the people she’s lost this past year.

“Nothing,” I said. “I saw a field with unmarked graves. I was biking all over the place, so I don’t know where it is. But I figured Mrs. Nesbitt probably wasn’t there. I hope not anyway.”

Mom nodded. “There must be graves like that all over,” she said. “All over the world. Come on, Miranda. Change into something warmer, and I’ll make you some soup.”

I did as she said. I even ate the soup. But I saw what I saw, and I know, with a cold cruel certainty, that someday, somewhere, we’ll be part of a mountain of bodies, reaching up towards the heavens.

B3 Turns 50 (Pages That Is)

I'm back at work on This World We Live In, aka B3, and I just finished and printed out page 50. I'll do ten more pages tomorrow, taking advantage of the cushion of a few extra pages this week, because I was able to salvage the first five pages or so from my original effort in December.

The biggest challenge so far is the willingness to work. Once I get started I'm fine, but when I have errands to run beforehand or any kind of distraction, I have to push to get going. In the immortal words of Lou Grant (or whichever scriptwriter wrote the immortal words), "That's why they call it work."

One thing I'm totally ignoring is chapters. When I wrote Life As We Knew It, I didn't include chapter breaks. They were entirely Harcourt's idea. I think I did the same for the dead and the gone, only since I knew Harcourt would want chapters, I put them in before sending the manuscript off. So the first 50 pages of B3 are one giant gloomp, although I know for sure that there'll be the start of a new chapter at Miranda's May 13 entry (I'm writing May 12 now).

It turns out sequels are tricky suckers. If someone picks up B3 without having read LAWKI or d&g (could be my new editor, whoever that may end up being, although my guess is said editor will read the first two books before grabbing the infamous red pencil), they have to understand what's happened beforehand. But I discovered yesterday the risk of repeating material.

In LAWKI, Miranda and Mom have some really big fights. I decided to put one in B3 at a moment when Mom feels particularly vulnerable, since Matt and Jon are gone for a few days, catching shad in the Delaware River (Miranda doesn't go with them because I know nothing about fishing and there are limits to what I'm willing to learn for my fiction). But as I was writing the fight scene, I realized I couldn't just repeat the fights they'd had in LAWKI, even though when mothers and daughters fight in real life, a lot of times they cover their customary turf. It wasn't so much the setting off point, since explosions can start with different fuses. It's the screaming back and forth that has to be different, yet still believable for those characters, given that most of the people who read B3 will have read LAWKI first.

Or take the scene which I was working on before I reached page 51 and called it a day. Mom just made the very interesting (to me at least) point that perhaps all the loss they'd endured before had been preparatory for all the loss they've suffered in the past year.

Now Miranda can't think of pre-LAWKI loss without remembering her friend Becky, who dies before LAWKI begins. She just can't. So even though B3 is moving along without any references to Sammi or Megan or Dan or Mom's boyfriend Peter, I had to have Miranda think of Becky. It would be untrue to her character if she didn't.

It's a tricky balance. Later on in that scene, I threw in a real fast reference (and not really a necessary one) to Henry, the guy Matt worked in the post office with. I needed a name more than anything else, and I'd already referred to a couple of people from Miranda's school, so I didn't want to use another one of them. I could have gone with something like Joe, who worked at the deli, but that got me thinking if Miranda would even know the name of someone who worked at a deli. She mentions fast food chains in LAWKI, but not neighborhood stores. So I used Henry instead, although it could be confusing to first time readers, who might wonder why or when Matt worked at the post office.

Speaking of Matt, tomorrow he and Jon should be returning from their sojourn at the Delaware, shad and Matt's extremely unexpected bride Syl in hand. Or on bike. I have a line I came up with in Missouri that I've been looking forward to putting in B3 for months now: It was like the whole world came to an end just so you could really notice her cheekbones.

Then I'll take the weekend and most likely Monday off. I'm having lunch with my mother on Monday, and that means buying groceries for her and running some errands of my own on my way to her home. And I have no illusions that I'll get home mid afternoon all fired up for a good day's work. But I figure if I average 50 pages a week, then 8 weeks would mean 400 pages, and I certainly don't plan for B3 to be 400 pages long. Syl's cheekbones aren't going to be that worth noticing. But I'm excited about adding a new character to the mix, so I'll be ready, even eager, to resume work on Tuesday (or so I tell myself on Thursday).

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Update

I've been trying to work out the start of B3, putting in something reasonably big, to give the readers incentive to move forward.

I realized that although Life As We Knew It starts a little bit leisurely, by page 20 the world has come to an end. In the dead and the gone, the world is over by page 3 or 4.

But in B3, all those dramatics are done with. And while I'm confident I've thought of enough interesting action as the story progresses, I still wanted something fairly early on.

I called my friend Christy to discuss this with her, but it took her a while to figure out which B3 plot this was. I guess there've been enough to confuse anyone.

Finally I straightened her out, and we talked about the rain that I have the book starting with. First Christy thought the rain could allow things to grow, but I reminded her of those pesky volcanoes. She then suggested that the rain uncover something. She thought this might be a good thing. Christy likes happy stuff.

I like happy stuff also, but not necessarily when the entire world is in a state of collapse. But I did like the idea of the rain uncovering things.

So I came up with a scene where Miranda is out walking (easier to do now that the rain has washed away so much of the snow). She's doing a house search, looking for things that her family can use. She finds, tucked away, a box of rice pilaf (that's in tribute to people who feel I should have put more rice into LAWKI, and besides, those rice pilaf boxes are really small and could be easily overlooked). Excited by her triumph, she continues walking, and ends up at some kind of field where she sees a mound, previously covered by snow. Only it's a mound of dead people.

Whoo hoo. Nothing like a pile of corpses to make me happy. Miranda realizes that once the ground froze, bodies weren't buried; they were just piled up. She sees people she knows on the pile (I'm thinking maybe her nice high school principal, or possibly someone from her high school class- no one that needs a lot of introduction, since I'm trying to keep B3 as independent from LAWKI/d&g as possible).

I'm not sure if she sees Mrs. Nesbitt towards the bottom of the pile. I've been thinking that Miranda is haunted (not in a literal sense) by Mrs. Nesbitt, or more to the point, by thinking about how while Mrs. Nesbitt's dead body was lying on her bed, Miranda searched through her house for food. Now that Miranda isn't worrying about starving quite so much, the niceties of life are getting to her.

I also pictured a scene where Matt and Alex are playing chess, and we discover that they don't like each other. Matt could even warn Miranda not to get involved with Alex, that he wouldn't be good for her. This could increase Alex's importance to the story, which I like. There's an off chance that Alex will accompany Miranda and her family as they begin their journey westward (say to Pittsburgh, since Alex is planning to go to Ohio), but I can't see Alex leaving Julie at the convent and then returning to Miranda's home and lingering there, so that may not work. But I have weeks before I'll need to decide that.

Anyway, that's where things are right now. I'm feeling more comfortable about getting back to work on Monday. There's nothing like mounds of dead bodies to get my juices flowing!