1.07.2007

HH Com Rd 2 - #29 (519)

Hook here

Chapter One

Today could very easily be the worst day of my life. Except that day has already been accounted and paid for, with enough tears to saturate the Mojave Desert.

You see, one year ago today, I turned thirty-four (yes, that means that I, Elizabeth Leanne Stevens, am now thirty-five, but I’ll get to that in a minute). Also, one year ago today, instead of being given flowers and a romantic dinner to celebrate my birthday, I was handed my walking papers. My husband of ten years – my boyfriend for ten years previous to that – announced he wanted a divorce. He was madly in love with another woman and he was moving out. Immediately.

As if that wasn’t crappy enough, he also instructed me to rearrange my schedule for the following day. He wanted me to be at home when the real estate agent came by to put the ‘for sale’ sign up on his house.

Yeah, Marc, my dickhead ex-husband, actually referred to the home we’d planned together, had built together, and had decorated together as his.

The ass.

If you’re wondering how I could have missed such a grand-aptitude toward dickheadedness after spending twenty years with this man – you’re not alone. I’ve spent the last twelve-months wondering the same. What I’ve decided is I married a lemon. Unfortunately, there was no handy guide to check with a nicely organized table of contents. I object strongly to this. Come on, you get a set of instructions in three different languages when you buy any minor appliance, you should sure as hell get one when you commit your life to another person.
Many marriages would be saved if such a manual existed. I am positive of this. And, hey, it could become part of the wedding ceremony, given out in front of all your family and friends. Right after the ‘I Do’s,” and right before the kiss.

Anyway, to get back on track; today is my thirty-fifth birthday. It is also the one-year anniversary of the day my husband stomped all over my heart. I have yet to leave my apartment this morning. Hell, I may as well be completely truthful – I have yet to leave my bed. And if I could figure out a way to do so, without feeling like a self-pitying idiot, I'd stay in bed for the next week.

Because what I have to do today could quite seriously make me ill.

Scratch that.

It could kill me.

As in flat out dead.

I can see the headlines now.

DEATH BY CAKE! HIGHLAND PARK BAKER SUFFERS MASSIVE HEART ATTACK WHILE SWALLOWING EVERY LAST VESTIGE OF PRIDE SHE HAD LEFT WHEN BAKING HER EX-HUSBAND AND HIS MISTRESS’S WEDDING CAKE.

Yep, that’s right. My job today, on my freaking birthday of all days, is to create a culinary work of art for the soon to be Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Stevens. Marc and Tiffany. Otherwise known by my small circle of friends as the Jerk and Jerkette. Personally, I prefer dickhead and brainless twit. Crass? Probably. But hey, it makes me feel better.

You may also be wondering how I, of all the bakers in the Chicago area, would be the one chosen for this momentous occasion.

Did I mention my ex is a dickhead?

Marc swears he had nothing to do with this latest misery, only discovered by me a week ago, but rather it was Tiffany’s mother who chose Indulgence as the bakery for her daughter’s “High Society” wedding.

Ha, high society. Granted, Marc is very successful in his selected field. In fact, he is one of the biggest, meanest sharks in his own little shark tank of personal and business financial planning.

But, come on, high society? I wouldn’t go that far.

Let’s be frank. I wish I could say that a year later I was completely okay with my world and the choices that brought me to today. Not only mine, but Marc’s.

That, however, would be a monstrous lie. And I draw the line at lying to myself. Usually. Mostly. Okay, so every now and then I tell myself a small fib, especially when I want a second piece of anything chocolate. I figure it’s okay to lie about two things in life if you’re a woman: chocolate and headaches.

What I am, if I am bluntly and rudely honest with myself, is a woman filled with remorse, confusion, sadness, and yes…a huge amount of venom. I am the coiled up snake waiting for the perfect millisecond to attack. Unfortunately, I am also the timid house mouse that runs and hides at the first sign of trouble.

That’s me, the mouse hiding the snake.


Windup works if you've got an unexpected payoff (think Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner). The payoff here is undercut because I wonder why the baker didn't notice a name on an order? didn't consult with the bride? uh...even in my extremely limited interaction with the bridally afflicted, that doesn't seem right.

You've got a biz-as-usual set up: husband dumps wife for tiffany setting; previous wife miffed as hell. Something needs to catch on fire, and soon.

This was a great idea in the hook. Have you considered starting with when she discovers she can do magic instead of all this set up?

44 comments:

A Paperback Writer said...

I'm sure Miss Snark is right, but I'm still hooked on this. When can I read the rest?

Simply Faith said...

would it be really wrong if you snuck in a little something that only he would recognize from your wedding?
If nothing else - make it beyond imagination - make everyone oooohhh, and ahhh - you know how it goes at a wedding..."Who did that cake?Could I get the number." You're sure to get a referral, lots of compliments - to which you can smilingly respond to with "Oh yes, it was very important to me to make 'her' day as happy as can be...after all I know what she's in for, she'll need to hang on to that memory." ;-)

Nora said...

I agree that the bride-picks-ex-as-baker setup seems a little contrived. The ex-wife would certainly know the name of the floozy that her husband left her for, and unless she has a giant bakery with a lot of people working for her...well, I don't see how it could have slipped by her. Or why, upon discovering the identity of the bride and groom, she didn't politely turn down the commission.

Also, it's a lot of personal musings to start off the novel. It could be more fun to see her inadvertently perform some magic on the cake as she was making it (set it on fire?) so that the novel begins with some action.

angie said...

Starting with the realization your protag can do magic is a great idea. This could really be a fun book, but right now it's heavy on the pissed off/bitter and light on the humor and magic.

The first part of the chapter seems like stuff that you, the author, needs to know about your character. The backstory can be worked in as you go along instead of giving all this exposition right at the start. Start off with a bang & your reader will follow you (and Elizabeth) just about anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I actually like this and would probably buy it. But...it does sort of drag on. I'd like to see some action a little sooner, because my attention started to flag around the two-thirds mark (right after, "Did I mention my ex is a dickhead?")

Zany Mom said...

I liked the premise in the hook, but this self-involved whining is over-the-top for me. And I, too, am recently divorced. And I don't even think about my ex, except when I have to. Life goes on. I want to shake the whiny protagonist and tell her to get over it. Doesn't bode well for me reading the book.

I Said said...

I agree that the woman scorned monologue goes on too long to be snappy and vibrant. Instead it comes off as the usual bitterly sarcastic poor-me victim that while everybody goes through, let's face it, nobody wants to listen to it. Good writing style, so maybe just some serious cutting down will make it fly.

MWT said...

Well, I laughed. ;) Everything up to "Did I mention my ex is a dickhead?" was great. After that it lost focus, which means it's time to switch topics there. Maybe to introduce the part about magic?

Virginia Miss said...

I like this enough to keep reading even though there's no action.

However, if this did start with action, it'd be dynamite.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

This is long-winded complaining. There is no reason for me to read the story--unless, perhaps, this had happened to me. The other problem is that the voice isn't distinct.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is the author. I've been unsure about the beginning, so this wasn't a huge surprise. I do have a reason for starting there, but I've been thinking on paring down the beginning so the setup is less heavy, so I completely appreciate the feedback!

There is also an explanation as to how Elizabeth didn't know about the cake, but it's a few more pages in. Also, while there isn't a fire when she's mixing the cake, there is definitely something that happens to clue the reader in.

It moves from heavy to quirky pretty quick, and becomes more lighthearted than the opening pages show.

Thank you, Miss Snark, for your time and your comments. Also thanks to everyone else for reading, and for your comments. It really is appreciated.

Tattieheid said...

I like some of this but found it heavy going by the time I got to the end of it. I would read more but I'm already thinking of skipping pages to find some action. Not a good habit for me as I then tend to keep that up all the way through a book.

I think you have a good story but just need to inject a little more oomph into the beginning.

McKoala said...

I'm afraid I also got fed up with her whingeing. It had some witty moments, but went on a bit too long. I'm not a big fan of back story right up front either, and this is a big chunk. Had you considered starting with her actually baking the cake and weaving in some backstory, similar to the Caroline story below? That way you could show some of her feelings through action.

LadyBronco said...

I like the idea of this story very much, but after "the ex husband is a dickhead" I started to lose interest.
Good overall writing, tho.

Dave said...

Laura Esquivel in "Like Water for Chocolate" (a delightfully sexy novel) has the principal character bake a cake that makes everyone weep at the wedding of her rival.

The entire novel is obsessed with food, just like the title for as we all know, when you heat chocolate, you keep it under control by adding a little water.

This novel seems obsessed with revenge and consumed in hate. well, maybe not hate, just strong revulsion.

A Naughty Miss said...

I read happily along until the paragraph that begins, "Ha, high society." At this point I began thinking All right let's get on with it already!

I was drawn in to this, though. I was beginning to suspect a poison wedding cake, but no...that would be too obvious. When I went back and read the hook, I remembered...oh yeah, the cake woman with the Gypsy magic. I say bring on this magic right away. Make something unexpected happen up front.

I could see this as a screenplay. One of those contemporary-romantic-comedy-fantasy things.

Geminipen said...

Well, for what it's worth, I liked it, too. If I opened the cover and read this on the first page, I would carry it with me to the checkout counter. Perhaps there's enough bitterness and misery in me to appreciate it. :)

I know Miss Snark is the expert, so I confer to her judgement.

Pucker

Smack

Me Be Free Someday... said...

Pet peeve: had. Too darned many "had"s.

Mackan said...

Oh, I sooo love this! Edit, rewrite and for crying out loud be published. I want to read this!

(Though, having missed the hook, I was seriously conviced that she would poison the cake. I mean, if I had the opportunity to really make a d***head feel as miserable as he deserved, working with his wedding cake...)

Magic is fun! :)

soaraway said...

This sounds like fun but start somewhere else eg with her thinking seriously nasty thoughts as she makes his cake. This opening monologue does not do the mc any favours (nor does the idea she had dated/married him for twenty years and only now discovers he is such a jerk).

Jack said...

For what it's worth, I liked it quite a bit. I didn't read the hook, or the other entries, so I had no idea it was going to be about magic, actually. But I enjoyed the style.

Indeed, I could almost say exactly what Miss Snark said about the Hook. It may be terrible, but I love it. (Although I thought the reverse about the hook, it may or may not be good, but nothing excited me about it)

Of course, I am atypical. One of my most favourite books is Cryptonomicon, which wanders off into exposition, backstory, and mathematical explanations every few paragraphs. The mainest character's story opens in the second short chapter with a backstory beginning with "evolution of life", a summary of who his grandparents and parents where, and a sketch of his childhood, before getting going once he's at college. It's worse than many of the other examples shown here, but it works :)

If the rest of the book is similar, it would be promising to me, though I'm afraid I've no idea if it would be to most people :)

Mark said...

The lamenting on being 35, is well, a false dilemma.

Anonymous said...

Some of you are confusing the magic part. There is no magic in this. That is the next hook.

I read it again to make sure.

Anonymous said...

"enough tears to saturate the mojave desert"

good grief

e

~Rebecca Anne~ said...

I enjoyed this and would keep on reading. It has enough quirk, satire, and potential for some interesting *screw with the X* appeal! I'll nod with the other commenters, take away some of the personal musings and lets get on with adding magic, poison, mini daggers or anything else a scorn woman would do it that situation.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

"Except that day has already been accounted and paid for, with enough tears to saturate the Mojave Desert."

I didn't understand this line. Are you still talking about today? Or does it refer to your birthday last year?

Is her cake magic going to affect everyone who eats it? or just her ex? (just curious...hehe)

I loved it. People really are more introspective when they're depressed. They actually sound like that! I think it'd be better with the making-the-cake instead of in-bed idea that's already been mentioned. Need that dough, girl!

Is she the only baker at this place? because a lesser woman might just pawn it off on someone else or call in sick :p

the situation does seem slightly contrived, but I enjoyed the voice so much that I found myself being willing to overlook it (just this once) and just diving into the story. Nice Job.

Anonymous said...

:Tired editor perks up:

I like this one. Not perfect yet, move fast getting to the mojo.

But hey--without mojo I'm for putting Ex-Lax into the chocolate frosting to make sure dickhead and the bimbo have an unforgettable wedding night...

River Falls said...

Instead of the typical lying-in-bed not-wanting-to-get-up that we've all seen in countless books already, why not do the exact opposite? She could get to work early, determined to create the greatest culinary masterpiece of her career to prove that she's the grown up, she's over her ex, and his attempt to hurt her will fail miserably. This is also a huge wedding and an opportunity for her to woo wealthy new clients -- which could explain why she did not turn down the commission, something many snarklings questioned. Her co-workers could be the ones asking her if she's okay, if maybe she should just go home and let them take care of it, and that her ex is a jerk for expecting her to bake his wedding cake. She can be in a total state of denial, insisting that she's perfectly fine, no big deal -- but she's sublimating her rage, which comes out when the cake explodes or turns everyone into frogs, or whatever you have planned.

Can you tell I'm very interested in your story? Good luck, Author. I hope to buy a copy one day.

Anonymous said...

The old backboard-to-headboard setup aka rebound-to-romance. If this is actually going to lead to a believable romance (I read that from the mention of the "sexy cop" in the hook.) the narrator has got to ditch the chip on her shoulder and get over her ex. Seriously, if she's still this hung up on her ex a year later, I feel sorry for the poor guy who dates her next.

-Sarah Totton

Henry said...

I'm in the "I like it but it needs trimming" camp. Very fun voice. However, she was with him for 20 years on her 34th birthday? They've been together since at least her 14th birthday? That seems unlikely and a little creepy. I would shorten the time unless you've got a really good reason for it.

Anonymous said...

I love the voice -- didn't find it whiney, more over-the-top miserable, which I find funny in books like these. I also agree with Henry that 20 years seemed waaay long for MC and her ex to have been together. I guess you're trying to make the point that they knew each other well, but 20 years seems 5-10 years too long if they split up when she was 34. (How old is he?)

Marsupialis said...

This is dreadful writing -- but an interesting idea. Sometimes writers think that self-pity will make the reader feel something for the character. Usually it has the opposite result.

Why not start with the cake. That's something specific and visual. It puts the character in action, and having to do a wedding cake for an ex puts the character in trouble.

Kristina said...

I absolutely enjoyed this, and wanted to keep reading. Hope it gets published one day!

jamiehall said...

I liked most of this, but I really did not like "enough tears to saturate the Mojave Desert." in paragraph #1.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth I like it. I'd keep reading. And I was prepared to dislike it a lot because it sounded like it was going to be about girl stuff and shopping and sitting around bitching about men and eating chocolate. And maybe it is but at least it sounds like it's going to be engaging. And there's cake, and probably bridal snark. So it's all good.

...there's magic in it? Interesting.

whgomn: the sound I make when I encounter a particularly magical wedding cake.

Anonymous said...

PS: After thinking about it I'm gonna forgive the protagonist for still being hung up on her ex--after all, maybe she's been more-or-less okay about it since the actual divorce but she's renewing her angst on the day of baking his wedding cake. I'd buy that.

I like what river falls says, too

Anonymous said...

sounds like a shirley jump novel

River Falls said...

I confess I didn't read the hook before reading the excerpt. Now I've remedied that, and, well...I don't think making her ex impotent is very interesting. You're writing in the first person, so how are you going to show his failure to perform from Elizabeth's point of view? Someone's going to have to TELL her that he couldn't perform, and that's not as fun as watching the results of her magic wreak havok on the wedding. I'd expect a lot more from a magic cake than offstage impotence.

Heather said...

Author, have you read Jennifer O'Connell's "Dress Rehearsal"? I didn't like it too much, but it does involve "woman making wedding cake for ex-husband" (or boyfriend, I forget).

Heather

Anonymous said...

Ditch the desert line. Snip her sob story. Get to the vengeance. I liked the pemise, but then again, I'm from Highland Park in the Chicagoland area, so this character sounds pretty plausible to me!

Anonymous said...

I liked it!
Yes, it is a bit primitive and for the lower browed individuals but,I liked it! It seems like a fun and easy read.
M.J.C. Anonymous #2

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is a bit primitive and for the lower browed individuals but,I liked it! It seems like a fun and easy read.

Get the stick out of your ass so we lower-browed individuals can understand what you're saying.

Anonymous said...

You completely lost me at "I figure it’s okay to lie about two things in life if you’re a woman: chocolate and headaches."

I think I'm your audience (love quirky intelligent books, hate romance novels), but that line. Nope. Either you mean lying about sex (in which case a damn big part of the marriage failure is explained, pronto), or something else. It's too chick-lit (which I hated, mostly).

Also... FYI: I started a novel that had nothing to do with being a downtrodden dumped person with a prologue about being bitter and divorced. Agents unanimously hated the prologue. Don't know about the rest, but several who read the full said outright that the prologue ruined the "voice", made her sound bitter and cranky off the bat.

Stephanie Zvan said...

I'm in the minority here, but I liked the voice. There was an exaggeration in the misery that suggests your protagonist isn't taking herself as seriously as she might be. I got more the sense that she was telling herself it was time to be over this.