Sunday, December 1, 2013

Her Special Day

As readers of this blog know, I help with a writing class at a local retirement home. My friend Selma had fallen and broken her hip. I have visited with her a few times and by all indications not has she healed well, she will be returning to class tomorrow. But as I do on occasion, I wanted to share with you the writing prompt and my story. I thought the timing was appropriate.

Writing prompt:
Catching the signal from one of her friends, Angela brushed her dress, took a deep breath, and waked toward where he was sitting.

My Story:

There are few days in a girl’s life so well remembered. This occasion would be one of those times. The day had been anticipated and marked on her calendar for weeks. Angela Miller took out her magic marker and put a large X on the day just before the magical day.  She later spent a restless night in her bedroom surrounded by mementos of her short life.

Her mother insisted Angela close her eyes and get some sleep, but that request was near impossible. Angela needed to come up with the perfect words for when the two would meet. She tossed and turned, rolled over several times, staring at the eggshell colored ceiling, now barely visible from the darkness of the night sky. Only a small night light plugged into the wall several feet from her bed, kept the room from total darkness. Impossible to think any longer, Angela fell asleep soon after the stroke of midnight.

As the morning light made its way through her white lace curtains, Angela raced from her room downstairs to make sure she had plenty of time for her mother to help wash and curl her hair into picture-perfect form. The dress that Angela hand-picked for this special day was laid out across the sofa. The red dress offered her the confidence she would need later in the day.

The telephone rang a few times. They were calls from friends questioning if Angela was ready. She was. The clock crept along at a protracted pace. But as the appointed time neared, Angela was ready to leave with a smile glued to her face.

When she arrived, the room was crowded. Her eyes spied who she had waited to see. He was sitting in a chair fit for a king, donning the perfect suit. She inched closer. The noise from all others surrounding her was drowned out by her inner thoughts. She never dreamed her body would be this stuffed with nervous energy. But after weeks of running this moment through her head, the time had come. Catching a signal from one of her friends, Angela brushed her dress, took a deep breath and walked towards where he was sitting.

She was assisted up onto a makeshift stage decorated in shapes and colors designed for the event. This was her first time. The young Angela inspected her surroundings one last time. He looked kind and gentle. His soothing voice settled her nerves. “Please, come sit with me,” he said.

Angela took that last leap of faith and climbed into his lap. All the planning, all the anticipation came down to this one moment in time which would never be forgotten. After all, her mother was paying for the photo. “Hello, Santa, my name is Angela Miller and I have been a very good girl this year.”


Monday, November 18, 2013

Fortunate Soul - Opening

Sadness and euphoria are intertwined within the fabrics of our lives. I should know; they are the emotional landscape I’ve crossed back and forth for decades. I never wanted for material items, mine were more spiritual. Maybe I didn’t care about the material things because I never had to think about them. They were always provided to me by my fellow disciples. The spiritual ones developed over decades of following my instincts and intensive education. My entire life was dedicated to my craft, which led me to another dangerous exchange between sadness and euphoria.

        My name is Caeles Novo. My grandfather believed I was sent from the heavens to change the ways of our lost disciples. This is why I was given my particular name. You won’t know me. I work in the shadows. I look like any other human wandering the busy streets of large cities. I can also look like a broken man on the side of a country road. That’s the idea.

My education and that of my fellow disciples was more extensive than most that travel the earth. You see, my life expectancy was once more than three times longer than ordinary humans, so my structured learning lasted three times longer as well. Ordinarily you would think more education could only be a plus. Think again. Our superiority has destroyed our way of life. We are not ordinary humans.

Despite my superior intelligence, I was victimized by some who no longer found my way of leadership in compliance with their own way of life. Priorities changed for some, mine were more secure. My fellow disciples and I were trained for one mission in life. I followed my gut and continued our predetermined journey, others didn’t. But suddenly, I again crossed over from euphoria to sadness. I realized I lost the ability to do what I was destined to do. In those mere seconds of self realization, when you have once again crisscrossed back to the other side, you must decide who you are.

Some are designed to lead, while others follow. Some are dominant. Others live a more submissive way of life. Some live very conservative lives while others want to change the structure of every institution they meet. Some are men, some are women. Some have dark skins, others the shade of cream. None of that mattered to me. I only cared about the next soul on my list. I could read souls like some read the daily newspaper. If yours was broken, I stole it. That was my mission in life and I make no apologies for who I am. If you couldn’t appreciate all that life had bestowed upon you, welcome to my list.

I was trained to be an unseen shadow. You never found me. I found you. When I did, you would either fall to the ground or barely feel a scratch. Everyone has a soul. However, depending on how much one believes they own a soul, determines how much the loss affects them. Non-believers are fools. I know the truth. I will steal your most possession if you make my list of being a dark soul. I’ve taken from some who laugh in my face, or cry for redemption within moments of my thievery. Either way, I was completing what I was born to do.

If I wasn’t taking your soul, one of my fellow disciples would do so with as much passion as me. After all, we trained for fifty years to be experts in our decree sent from the heavens. However, some of our disciples claimed that the extra education, they evolved past being mere soul stealers. For their sin in wandering away from our mission, I will destroy their perfect lives.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Be yourself

Sometimes it's not easy to tell other writers why it's important to find your own voice and not someone else's.. this says it all and not just for writers.

“Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else” – Judy Garland

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Writers Groups

I'll be the first to admit I wanted to quit my writers group after one session. I had taken the first page from my first book about a guitar player. I explained to the group, the main character would go on to be a world class musician and travel with his band. One of the members in the group stated, "Wow, you really are that good of a guitar player?" To which I stated, "No, but Dylan was, my character." Which brought this person to state, "If it never really happened to you, you cant write it."
I wanted to get up and leave right then. When I asked this person if they had ever heard the word fiction or not, the stares around the table were not pleasant. I've now survived that meeting and close to 100 more. There are still days I scratch my head like at my last one where again one of the members wants to debate me that I can't possibly write about a soul stealer because stealing souls is not possible. When I asked him if he was sure, only another dirty stare. I've survived critiques that were justified and some that I think were over the top. I've learned to balance them and there is no question I am a better writer for continuing to go most Wednesdays and the occasional Friday. I bring this up because I just read this piece from Writers Digest Online which shares some of my same sentiments. If you are an aspiring writer or even one who has published a few things, I would encourage you to join a group. But find one where the members know you can write about things you have never done. And when someone critiques you, remember that's why you went in the first place.

From:  How to Become a Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

Writers are not editors. (File under D for “duh.”) They have different priorities and different perspectives. (And they’re probably also raging drunkaholics. Editors are nice and drink wine. Writers will drink all the cough syrup at CVS if they can get their ink-stained fingers on it.) Whereas an editor will often highlight a problem, a writer will come up with a solution. That doesn’t mean it’s a solution you want, but it’s worth it to have that perspective just the same. Submit your work to other writers. Demand that they not be kind. Mercy will not strengthen you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

2-4-6-8 Who should we appreciate

Wives and mothers, that’s who. How do we show our appreciation? We grumble about dinner being late, or our clothes not being ironed correctly. Other times we just don’t bother to take the proper time to express gratitude. Throw me in that last category. You would think being a writer, I could find the proper words, but it rarely happens.

This past weekend my wife and I attended a writer’s conference. She wanted to come along because she wanted a relaxing weekend away from the world. She intended to spend the better part of the weekend losing herself in outlet malls and a local green market. Instead, the first day she spent hours getting the tire fixed on my car that picked up a screw along the road. Did she complain? No. She was perfectly content getting her nails done while waiting for the tire to be serviced. While I was sitting in classes, picking up a nugget here and there about learning how to be a better wordsmith and eating more food then I should have, she was content to sit in the room and eat a salad from nearest fast food joint.

At the day’s end after learning how her day was ruined, it would have been very easy to show some gratitude for me not having to take care of the car. What would have happened had she not been along with me? I would have come out from the conference three days later wanting to go home after an exciting time, only to be delayed for hours waiting for the tire to be repaired. Oh, I imagine, I said thank you. But we all know there is a difference between saying thank you and being grateful in your heart. Inside I was grateful, but a weak thank you was all I uttered.

After the long weekend was complete and I was home, my youngest daughter caught me in the kitchen to tell me she came to a realization. She informed me how difficult it was being responsible for the family dog while we were away. The dog had to be fed and let outside early in the mornings and in the evenings. Our spoiled pooch starts to whine if she’s not let out at her usual time before daybreak. My daughter realized how much work goes into caring for others. Who did she tell? Me, not her mother who gets up and opens the door first thing every morning.

Those are two small examples but ones that happen on a daily basis. So much goes into running a family and household that we all take for granted. I know dad’s do their share as well but let’s be honest. In most families, the mothers and wives are the glue that keeps it all together. You don’t have to wait for that one day a year on Mother’s Day to show them how much they are appreciated. Find the words today.

Thank you to all the mothers and wives who keep us heading the right direction on a daily basis. You are appreciated and even if we don’t say it enough, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you.   

Monday, October 14, 2013

Our assignment from today's creative writing class about sneaking into an abandoned house at the end of the street. Inside an upstairs bedroom was a treasure chest on a dresser. It had a sign saying, don't open. There was a key on the wall. This was my entry. I hope you enjoy it.

What did he know anyway? Tommy told me to stay away, but we spent our entire summer vacation riding past the old abandoned house on Cole Street. If we were ever going to get up the guts to go inside it had to be last Saturday. I knew my mom and dad were driving me out to Aunt Marie and Uncle Jack’s house for the end of summer BBQ on Sunday. So there was only one day left to see what was inside that ghoulish looking place.

I got up at my usual time on Saturday and munched on a couple a blueberry muffins before hopping on my gold Schwinn with the Mickey Mantle rookie cards in the spokes. Those Mantle rookies sound so much better than the Duke Snider cards when I cruise the neighborhood.

It only takes me two minutes to ride over to Tommy’s house from where I live. Tommy Stafford is my bestest buddy. We use to tell each other all our secrets. That was till the end of the last school year when I told him about getting an “F” on my math test. Tommy was the only one who knew that when Mrs. Damone sent the test paper home to get it signed, I signed it. I never showed it to my mom or dad. Somehow, my dad found out and did I ever get a whacking. That wasn’t the way I wanted to start my summer vacation. Tommy still swears he didn’t say nuttin. But how could Mrs. Damone ever know it was me who signed it? I mean I practiced for over an hour copying my mom’s handwriting. That paper looked close enough to me. My dad said it hurt him more than me after whacking my butt. I find that really hard to believe. Anyways, ever since my whooping, me and Tommy are still bestest buddies, but next time I don’t do so good on my math test, I aint telling him.

I banged on Tommy’s front door. His mom answered with her hair all mashed up in pink rollers and her furry bathrobe asking me if I knew what time it was. I guess they don’t have clocks in their house. I told her it was about seven and asked if Tommy could come out and play. She said he was still sleeping. It’s really hard having a best friend who’s as lazy as Tommy.

I sat on Tommy’s front steps hoping he would come with me. He still won’t admit it, but I think he was awake the whole time I was sitting in his yard. He knew Saturday morning was the time he finally promised he would search the old house with me. Ah, who needed him anyway? I decided not wait any longer for my lazy bones bestest buddy. I hopped back on my bike and rode past our school, the old church, the store where my mom does her shopping and across the railroad tracks.

The house sits at the end of a tree lined street. No one has cut the grass for a long time. If someone would pay me, I’d cut it for em. I could use the money for more baseball cards. Mr. Leo has some leftover packs of Bowman’s he says I can have, if I can come with eighty five cents by next week. I asked my dad, but he said money don’t grow on trees. I guess he still aint forgotten my math scores.

I parked my bike in the weeds and high grass in front of the house that needed a paint job. I walked up the three creaky steps to the wooden screen door. The front door was jammed shut but not locked. I gave it a good shove and the door flew open. I sure coulda used Tommy’s help, lazy bum.

I spent all summer guessing what was inside the old house and to my surprise once I busted in, all I could see was open rooms. Not even a chair. I tried flipping on the lights but they didn’t work. I walked through to the back of the house to the kitchen. The only thing in there was an old stove that looked like no one had cleaned it for a long time. It had rust all over the bottom too. I looked in the drawers but the only thing I could find was a pack of half used matches. I stuck them in my pocket.

When I got to the house, I have to admit I was scared to go in alone. But once inside I was OK. So I decided to go upstairs and keep exploring. At the top of the steps was a smelly old bathroom. I made a left turn to see a small hallway and three bedrooms. The first one had nothing in it, not even in the closet.

The second one had a big spider web in the window but I didn’t see nuttin else. The third room had a cherry colored dresser. On the dresser was a box shaped like a pirates treasure chest. There was note saying don’t open. Yeah, right. Like that’s going to stop me. I waited all summer to get inside this place. I tried to open the box but it was locked. I looked around the room. There was a key hanging on the wall.

The key fit perfectly. I opened up the box. When I did music started playing. What kind of boxes play music? The only thing inside was bunch a crummy necklaces and rings. What a waste of a summer vacation being scared of going inside that house. I think I’ll tell Tommy I found a dead body inside and I rode my bike over to tell the cops. He’s gonna be so ticked off he missed out on all the fun.

I put the key back on the wall and left the jewelry inside. Who wants a bunch of gold rings and pearl necklaces? I don’t even wanna give them to my mom. She likes new shiny stuff, not somebody’s old crap. But over the last day or so, I done some thinking. Maybe after school I should ride back over and grab up that box. If I’m lucky, maybe I can swindle Mr. Leo into giving me his left over packs of baseball cards for some old lady’s jewelry. I don’t know, if what’s inside that box is worth eighty five cents or not. But until then, I better stop thinking about that box and pay attention ta my math class. My dad is still steaming about last year.   

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Seed


The end. It’s the place where too many start. Think of your idea as a giant seed sitting in a jar with a sign on it that reads, “Never open this jar.” Why not, you think. You’re told, you are too young, too old, too small, too big, and clearly not smart enough.

Your idea is sealed like that seed inside a jar. You are told the seed must be shut off to the outside world. We have been conditioned to not even try to open the jar, plant the seed. See what grows.

No idea is too small to plant. No one is ever too old, too young or not smart enough. But some are too afraid because they always read the sign on the jar.

There are some who want to keep all the seeds for themselves, for they know the beauty that grows when you plant just one seed. One seed becomes a beautiful vibrant plant. One plant produces more seeds, for more plants. Yes, the sign reads never plant the first seed. I can read too, just like you.

A journey doesn’t start at the end. A journey starts at the beginning. A beginning with one simple idea, one perfectly formed seed that everyone tells you can’t possibly grow. The seed needs the sun, needs water, and requires your special nurturing. It’s very easy never to open the jar and plant the first seed. But one thing you should never forget. It’s your seed. It begins with you.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Can you write the perfect novel? I've debated this within my local writer's group several times. Is it better to do your best and publish your latest work and move on, or keep working until you think it's perfect and maybe release one novel every ten years? Is it better to build an audience over several books and allow them to see your work, or only show your best? It's an interesting debate. I have my own personal views, what's yours?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Writing is a lonely business

Sometimes the most difficult part of writing is knowing when you can share with others and when to finish the story alone. When you share with people you care about, who want to read it as your story you write it, they want to offer suggestions. It is difficult to keep it from people other than ones you rely on for critiques like in a writers group. Writing is a very lonely business. If you are smart, you will learn that is also the best way.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Spring is in the air which means spring training baseball. That means one more thing to add to my list of things to do over the next month. The follow up to Soul Intentions is moving slowly, but it's moving in a forward direction with a new villian.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I'm working on the sequel to "Soul Intentions". For any of my readers who read Soul Intentions and has an idea for a character or wants to name a character in the sequel, let me know.