Sunday, September 18, 2016

Third Sunday, Story Teller: Part One

I've decided to start an ongoing story blog the 3rd Sunday of every month. New chapters will be forth coming every 3rd Sunday. I'll try not to put to many cliffhangers. Let me know what you think?

A small, dark room with only a small table in the center. On top of the table sat a framed photo of five people, two young graduating woman with their boyfriends and an older woman in the center of them. They all looked happy.
The only light came from an almost extinguished candle next to the picture.
A beautiful brunette sat cross legged on the floor facing the photo. You can see bruises and small cuts on her body as she lets the air dry her naked body. Her eyes closed, she thinks about the life she once had. 
It's been a year since my fiance was taken from me. A year since I lost my Aunt Mags. Their absence from my life is the price I continue to pay for my vengeance. She took my life from me, and now I'm going to take hers. No matter what it takes. Even it means becoming one of them.

Chapter One A Year Ago

I enter my dorm room and breathe a sigh of relief. Finally made it. I didn't think I would ever make it through the throngs of college students and their parents. I see someone has already made herself at home when I notice suitcases sitting on the floor next to one of the beds. 

I guess there will be no haggling over who gets which bed. It doesn't really matter, I'm just glad to be here. I walk over to the other side of the room and put down my bag and my box of memories from home. 

I hear noise coming from the bathroom and I start to investigate when a pretty red head walks out, and sees me. "Oh, you must be my new roomie. Olivia." She walks up to me and gives me a hug. Oh great, a hugger. I think to myself. She notices my one suitcase and barely full box beside me. "Is this all you have?" she asks.

"I'm afraid so. You must be Heather," I say.

"I guess it isn't going to take you long to get settled in, me on the other hand...," she says as she turns to her bed and all her belongings.

We both look up as a guy who happens to be very easy on the eyes, walks by their open dorm room and waves.

"Or, we could just put it off till later. We can get acquanted with the neighbors." Heather says, with a wink.

I walk over to the door and wave her through and say, "After you."

She walks up to me and puts her arm over my shoulder and says, "You and I are definetely going to become great friends."

***

Later that night, after our "meet the neighbors" and Heather has secured herself a date for Friday night, I finish unpacking my bag and tackle the box. Well, not really tackle, I didn't bring many momentos of home. The truth be told; I don't have many. 

I look over at my new roomie as she lies on her bed listening to music. She lied. It didn't take her long to unpack her things. Once she set her mind to the goal, she doesn't stop till it's achieved. Who knew she was such a fan of stuffed animals? 

I turn back to my task and pull out a framed photo of my Aunt Mags. I really should call her. I put the photo down and pull out my cell phone. "Hey Mags. Whatcha up to," I asks.

"Olivia, my dear. I'm making dinner. How did your first day go? How is your new roommate?" she asks.

"It went well, met some new people and my roommate, Heather is great. She seems really nice and I think we will become great friends. What are you cooking?" I ask, as I lie down on my bed.

"I'm glad to hear, things are going great with you and your new roommate. I'm making dinner for a friend," Aunt Mags says.

"Friend? Is it the man from your book club? " I say. I hear the doorbell in the background.

"I have to go,that's the doorbell. Who say's it is a man. Call me tomorrow, and I will tell you all about it. Love you Liv."

"I'm gone for a few days, now look at you. I'm going to hold you to that. Talk to you tomorrow. Love you, Mags.

We disconnect and I get up to walk to the bathroom. Heather pulls out her earbuds, puts them under her pillow, and asks, "Is everything okay?"

I stick my head out, "Yes, that was my Aunt."

"Oh yeah, your Aunt Mags. I remember you mentioning her at lunch today," she says as she swings her legs and sits on the edge of the her bed.

"I call to check up on her and she has a date," I say as I shake my head, and walk over to Heather's bed and sit down.

"Well, from what you told me, I believe it. I can't wait to meet her. I'm sure she will be fine. I mean she raised you," she says as she runs into the bathroom.

"Hey, I wasn't through in there," I laughingly say.

"You snooze, you lose. I won't be long. Just a quick shower," she says as she closes the door. 

I roll my eyes and look at the time. It's late and I decide just to go to bed. We both have an early morning breakfast meet and greet. I look at the bathroom door, quickly take off my jeans, and get into my bed. I'll just to take a shower tomorrow morning. 

I reach over and turn off the lamp next to my bed and try to fall asleep as I hear Heather singing. Wait, what? Is that the Spice Girls? Who knew, stuffed animals, 90's music lover, but definitely can't hold a tune.

I smile as I close my eyes and find myself singing..."tell you what I want, what I really, really, want..." 





Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Transition


autumn

thick juicy green
fades to whispering wildfire
and falls

the sun shifts
spilling cold diamonds 
across slow water

a scrawny yellow bird
watches the yard
from atop the feeder



I love autumn. While many people see it as an ending, I see it as the first step toward a new beginning. The plants and animals prepare themselves for a season of dormancy. They shed the unnecessary and go deep, protecting themselves from the inevitable challenges of winter and reading themselves to welcome a new season of birth and growth. I find inspiration and courage in autumn. I, too, can gather what I need, let go of what I don't, and look forward with determination.





Sunday, September 11, 2016

Those Pesky Words: Is It This Word or That One?

Lan Lee at MCC
I was writing a sentence and it happened again. Ugh, one of those words. You know what I'm talking about. Those words that mean sort of the same thing but don't. 

Let's take lesser or fewer. These two words may be the most common duo of words incorrectly used, and not just by writers everywhere but grocery stores and big chain retail stores as well. How many of us have been shopping and didn't realize a certain sign was wrong? Which one of these signs is correct?

Many of you, especially this writer, would have chosen the sign containing the word less, because it's what we've seen for so many years growing up, and even still today. But the correct sign would be the sign containing the word fewer. How many times have you heard someone say that? Recalling memories of conversation with people, I have never heard anyone say 10 items or fewer, it has always been 10 items or less. So, here's the rule: use fewer for the things you can count and lesser, for things you can't. 
For instance:      
fewer cars        less exhaust
fewer people      less drama

www.chronicles.com
Moving on, let us look at the words farther or further. I myself have questioned which is the proper word usage in a particular sentence. They are the reason for this blog. These two words are similar in rule. Use farther for physical distance. For figurative and nonphysical distance use further.
Here are some examples:
The farther I drive the  further my pain is left behind.
The further I practice, the farther my kick will go.
Bottom line, The word farther is used for physical distance and all other distances, use further.

medellinbuz.com
Another set of words, that cause me to think twice is who or whom. They are both pronouns but identify with different parts of a sentence. For those of you who can remember the correct usage, kudos. For those of us who cannot, here is the rule and some examples:
Who/whom wrote this blog?
She/he wrote this blog, who is correct.
Who/whom should I take to the dance?
Should I take him/her to the dance, whom is correct.
The rule: the word who refers to the subject of the sentence and the whom refers to the object of the sentence. 
Here is a quick reference to remember:
who = subject    whom = object
who = he/she     whom = him/her
If you can replace the word who with he or she, use who, if you can replace the word whom with him or her use whom.

www.bkacontent.com
The most difficult for me, personally are the words affect and effect. The rule for the most part is: affect as a verb, is used to influence and effect as a noun, is used to impact or to change, but as you well know there are exceptions to the rule. Here are some examples:
My anger affected my feelings toward you. The effect was you broke your arm when I pushed you down the stairs. (Remember, this is just an example. I would never push anyone down stairs.;])
The possibility of you having poor grammer can affect your reader. Hopefully this blog will have a positive effect on your grammer.

Whew, I know, right? So many grammer rules, I can't remember them all, and it's okay if you don't. There are plenty of reference material out there, and I hope you find this as a helpful reference. What are the words that usually get you "tripped" up?






Friday, September 9, 2016

Color Me Green: Illness, Love, Jealousy, and Permission

I'm feeling a little green around the gills. 

Strep throat is visiting me again. When I went to the doctor the yesterday he examined my throat and said it was not too red, but he would do a swab test just in case because I am high risk--I'm around elementary kids and one of my darlings coughed right in my face the other day.
Image result for lemon poster breast cancer
thecbombshell.blogspot.com

You know how you read all the signs, posters, and degrees on the wall in the little check up room while you wait?  All the posters were the same size, more like info-graphics than straight out 'read-me' text. They were laminated. The degrees told me this doctor finished up school in the last few years. While I waited he printed out and an organized OTC medicine guide he'd made himself. He even including herbal remedies. Somehow, it all reminded me of my classroom. He really made me chuckle when he came back in and told me my 'spidey-sense' was right--maybe because I had on a Daily Planet t-shirt and he thought it was the Daily Bugle?--and that I did indeed have strep throat.

Our love is evergreen.

My boys--son and hubby--each gave me a gift yesterday. Son came home from school to have lunch with me. We've been in a rough patch lately; he's sixteen, 'nough said. He made a cup of coffee for me, brought it to me at the kitchen table, and scooted his chair around to sit by me. I was Tweeting my pitches for #PitMad. We trolled the feed and laughed at some, wondered why some were getting likes, and he pointed out a very select few he thought were interesting. At one point I realized this was the least tense I'd felt with him in a while--it was kinda bitter sweet.

Image result for pho

Hubby knows I love Pho and that the best in town is made by the mother of our Club member, Lan. Unable to get his hands on that, he stopped at the next best place and brought home hot soup for my poor throat.  He even asked for extra Hoisin sauce. He's my hero.

I'm controlling my green-eyed monster.

Image result for green eyed monster
I know the literary world is competitive--at that is part of the rush of voluntarily putting myself on the chopping block by entering competitions like #PitMad or #PitchSlam. Unlike other writing competitions in which we send our pages off to some journal or organization, and then waiting to hear back in a month or two, these competitions tease the bejezzers out of us because of the Twitter feeds.

I admit I was glad for the commiseration of my son yesterday when we searched the feeds for entries similar to mine, and found one or two which got 'likes' from agents requesting pages--while mine did not.

Honestly, I don't think the pitches were any stronger than mine, nor did my green-eyed monster. So what made the difference for the agents? Did they see the other posts first? Had they met the author(s) at conferences? Is the universe sending me a message?

How the heck do I know!

I just have to remember the words of wisdom I have heard so often lately, 'it's all subjective'.

I am giving myself the green light.

Image result for green lightMy plan is to keep moving forward. The long and short of it is to use what I've learned to polish my pages--again--and then start the querying process. 

In the meantime, I have a historical romance in the planning stages and a sci-fi MS I can pick up again. A few short story competitions are on the horizon and I have a great local writing group to keep working and celebrating with! My network is spreading on-line, I have new CPs, and I am inspired by the perseverance and encouragement I find from these connections.

There is work to do.

Who Wrote It #2: Reveal

To read our original stories click here.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Grandma

Grandma Lorraine and her amazing smile.
(I'm the blondie in the pink shorts!)
My grandma Lorraine was one of my favorite people. I never doubted for a second that I was one of her favorite people. She came to stay with my parents for an extended stay (a week? more?) and would often tell me about the important bonding we did during that time. That bond remained strong until she died. I wrote about the depth of our connection on that day, promising that she would always be in my thoughts.

Then I stopped thinking about her.

I didn't know I hadn't been thinking about her until last week when I was talking with a dear friend about my family tree and the bonds therein. It was only then that I realized how little I had thought about Grandma in the last decade. It's not like I forgot she existed or I stopped loving her... I just...didn't think about her.

As my friend and I talked, it became obvious that my lack of thought was out of self-defense. Thinking and talking about her brought up an ocean of self-recrimination.

I wasn't there for her when she needed me.
I didn't go to her when she had her stroke.
I was in a movie theater in California instead of by her bed in Minnesota when she died.

Although my mind could rationalize all the truths behind these perceived failures--I had a job and a life in California that didn't allow for hopping on a plane whenever I wished; we had a very tight budget that year (and many years before and after); I didn't know she was going to die that day or during that two hour block of time--my heart never forgave itself. I spent the last ten years blaming myself for failing her.

As these things came to light, my friend and her beautifully empathetic horse helped me sort through them, helped me recognize the pain for what it was and forgive myself. She asked me to remember the bond my grandmother and I shared and feel her presence around me even now.
My beautiful aunt, when she was much younger.

The next day, my mother and her sister came to visit. My aunt has Down's Syndrome and paranoid schizophrenia. Despite being born in an era when children with developmental disabilities were regularly shuffled off to care facilities and forgotten about, she was never treated any differently by my grandparents. She went to school, held a job, had a boyfriend and even lived in her own apartment for a while. After my grandfather died, she moved back in with my grandmother. She spent more time with my Grandma than any other person on Earth, I think.

During her visit to my house, she kept turning to me and saying, "You look different." This didn't surprise me much as A) my hair is currently purple and B) my aunt often lives in a world of her own making comments that may or may not be relevant to what the rest of us are experiencing. We spent several lovely hours together. As we walked out to the car together to say goodbye, my aunt became weepy. She clutched my hand and cried. When we asked what was wrong, she simply repeated, "I'm losing you!" I assured her that I was not going anywhere and that I would be coming to visit her soon.

A few days later, I saw my mom again. She told me that my aunt had remained sorrowful for most of the two hour trip home. Usually, her emotions are fleeting and her thoughts are distracted by pleasurable things (like the cheeseburger she got to have on the way home), so this was strange. As we talked about it, we realized that I am not only the person in the family who looks most like my grandmother, but I am also currently the same age as my grandmother was when my aunt was a young girl. It's very possible that when my aunt told me I looked different and that she was sad to be losing me, she was actually talking to my grandmother.

I can't think of a better reminder that she is always with me.
Grandma and me.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Rejection Letter Blues: Reading Is Subjective.

Bing Images
The other day, I received another rejection letter, but it came with some very kind words. What stuck in my head were the words 'reading is subjective'. It got me thinking about my time in culinary school.

On this particular day, the assignment was surf and turf. My shrimp and steak were cooked to perfection but the instructor didn't like the fact I sliced the corn on the cob into pin wheels, thinking it would be easier to eat. He said it would have been better if I scraped the corn off and mixed it into the rice. So, I received a 99 on the dish.

          Needless to say, I was a little upset. I was a bit of a perfectionist when it came to my dishes. (Okay, maybe more than just a bit). Not only did my food have to make your taste buds do the happy dance but it also had to be pleasing to the eye. So, I thought to myself, you're really going to knock a point off cause you would have preferred the corn mixed in the rice. From that point on, every time I brought a dish to an instructor to grade, I had to remember to cook my food my way and not worry to much if he was going to like it.

          I thought about how similar this is to sending out queries to agents. Maybe my manuscript won't make said agent's brain and heart do the happy dance, or be pleasing to his or her eyes. That's okay. Because I know, one day, I will find that one agent who will love my manuscript no matter how much I 'slice' it.

          When you get the next rejection letter and it says something like this: "I couldn't connect with the material" or "I couldn't get emotionally connected to the characters," remember it's said agent's no and someone else's yes. 


Believe in yourself and your writing, and always continue to write, write, write and read, read, read.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Who Wrote It Challenge #2

Below are our responses to a fifteen minute writing prompt: 


The old house, with its wildly overgrown garden, was silent, secretive.


Can you match the writing sample to the author?

Katie Drake bio


Solange Hommel bio 

J. Rae Moore bio


Lan H. Lee bio

A)


 The old house, with its wildly overgrown garden, was silent, secretive. Annalise 

remembered when her mother had carefully tended the garden. The trellises, now broken 

and dangling, had once dripped with glorious yellow roses. She pictured the fresh coat of 

crisp, white paint that her father had painstakingly applied over the course of a summer, 

using the limited time available each evening between bank closing and nightfall. Over the 

years, the dust and smog had left its mark, turning the siding a dingy gray. She could 

remember the days when Hart Manor regularly appeared on the covers of gardening and 

housekeeping magazines; when locals walked their out-of-town visitors past the matching 

white picket fence with vicarious pride; when her family represented all that was good and 

strong and right in the community. Annalise stood on the cracked sidewalk leading to the 

sagging front door and remembered the old house as the shining beacon it had been 

before the secrets took over.

B) 


          "I bet you five seeds he will only go 25 feet," Eddie says to me, his scavenging partner.
          "You are on, my friend," I reply.
          We both watch as this little boy of about eight takes a tentative step into the overgrown garden. One step, two steps and he stops. The patio of the old house creaks as if on cue, and the little boy turns and runs away.
          "Pay up Eddie, you owe me five seeds," I say as I wait for him to gather the seeds from the sunflower plant.
          "Yeah, yeah, I'm getting them." He hops all the way up to the top of the stem and begrudgingly throws down each seed, one by one.
          "Hey. Watch it." I dodge the seeds being thrown at me.
          "Sorry," Eddie yells down as he peeks his head over the tip of a yellow petal. But, I don't think he's sorry as I hear laughter.
          I wait for him to hop down to help me put the seeds into the cart. My little red wings are too small to carry the seeds.
          "What do you say we go over to Tully's and throw back some nectar when we're done," he say's when he finally makes it down.
          "Yeah, that's sounds great, the quicker we are done here, the sooner we can meet up with the other guys," I say as I nudge a seed his way.
          "Ah, I see what you are doing, and I get it. The first one's on you." Being a grasshopper, he makes quick of the work and we are on our way to the drop off shoot.
         On the way to there as I ignore Eddie's ever constant buzzing, I look around the overgrown garden that I call my home.

C)
Twice I'd been to the town my mother grew up in. I can still picture the endless wheat fields, and of course, my great grandfather Rudy's house. White, with a wrap-around porch and oak trees out front. Even then I new it was a bit shabby, maintained but not cared for.

One Easter I wore a frilly dress with patent leather shoes. All the cousins hunted for eggs and I got my first Easter basket. For Rudy's ninety-fifth birthday there was a parade. I was seven and thought the celebration was just for him. I didn't know it was for Oktoberfest. All the grand kids wore matching yellow outfits made by an aunt. I still have the little matching purse. We piled in the car with Rudy. I remember it was a convertible. I don't remember the actual drive. 

I can picture the table in the kitchen and mother helping make the fresh sausage. I would climb the dark, creaky stairs to the second floor and play with my mother's old barbies. The ones stored there from when she was a little girl. There were only two.

       The back yard was like a strange forest; part junk yard for old tractor and irrigation supplies, and part retreat from too many people. Sometimes there was an odd man out there. He never spoke to me and the others rarely spoke to him. But he belonged there. Once I saw him coating the picket fence with white paint. He also kept an eye on a bird feeder and would sit and watch the birds for hours while he polished little stones with a scrap of felt. I would see him slip through a small door at the back of the house that led to what I thought was the cellar. I was not allowed in. I never saw anyone follow him. They never even told me his name.

       They should have. He was my grandfather, my mother's father, son to Rudy. Now they are all gone and I've come back to the old house. The garden has run wild, covering the rusted metal of the farm equipment. The old picket fence is no longer white, but grey and leaning. The birds are gone. I found the polished rocks lined up from the bird feeder to the little cellar door.

D)
                    16 August 2016
To the Dark Forest Code Compliance Office,
I am sending this letter in reference to the numerous notices and fees I have received from your office about the overgrown condition of my yard.
Firstly, let me remind you of the past accolades my yard and home have earned.
·         The Yummiest Yard Award presented in May 2013, 2014, and 2015 by the Little Gnomes Society.

·         The Delectable D├ęcor Honor presented in August 2013 and April 2015 by The Munchkin League of Fairytale Land

·         The Stripes are Scrumptious Medal presented in June 2013, 2014, and March 2016 by The Fairies for Equality Foundation.

·         The Editable Construction Certificate presented for the year of 2014 by King Phillip –himself!     
As you can see, I am not in the habit of letting my property fall into ruin. Maintaining a gingerbread house is a full time investment. However, because of the debilitating injuries I suffered in an unfortunate incident earlier this year, I’ve had no choice but to fall behind on the maintenance of my estate.
Surely, you read about the incident in the Princess Daily Press. Although the article was extremely one-sided, making me out to be some kind of monster, I’m sure you’ll be reassured once you hear my side of it.
It was in early May when I caught two children nibbling away at the siding on my house. Of course, I felt sorry for the poor dears. They were obviously very hungry, so I invited them inside. If only I knew what was to come.
Once inside my home, the boy, Hansel, went into a frenzy, eating and licking everything in sight. I thought the boy foolish with hunger so I placed him in an enclosure to save my home. I had his sister, Gretel, help me whip together a batch of my famous chocolate chip butter cookies. Sure, the children ate the cookies with no complaint, but when I insisted Gretel help tidy up the preparation mess, she threw a huge temper tantrum. I explained the concept of cleaning up after oneself but there was no calming the child. – I blame the parents –
Seeing I would get no help from the children, I went about cleaning the oven myself. It wasn’t until I felt the firm push that I realized my mistake. Those horrible, ungrateful, evil children had pushed me in and closed the door. Consequently, I suffered major injuries. I spent weeks in the hospital and am still in the process of returning to full health. Thus, all of this has hindered me from keeping up my home.
I should hope you understand. I am asking for the full dismissal of the accumulated warnings and fees your code compliance officer has nailed to my front door. And, compensation for the damage said officer has caused to my door with said nails. Thank you.
Awaiting Action,
The Witch in the Gingerbread House on Canetree Lane
P.S. I was sorry to hear of Hansel and Gretel’s recent disappearances in the paper. I’m sure they’ll turn up.
P.P.S. Please extend an invitation to Code Compliance Officer, Miss Priss. I invite her to come to my house for milk and cookies. She knows where I live.
_______

Thanks for reading! Please, take a second to introduce yourself in the comments below. Don't forget to make your guesses about the authorship of each sample. Even better: set a timer for 15 minutes and share what you've written! 

We'll let you know who wrote which sample next week. Good luck!