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Chapter One: Lainie

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It wasn’t as dark as it could have been. It wasn’t as cold as it could have been. It was late November and in this part of the country that meant snowfall at anytime.
I pulled my thin wool jacket tighter around me, and continued to walk towards the cabin. I was afraid to go back. I was afraid to leave. The wind had picked up and I felt it blow through my hair, left long and loose, partly because I avoided going to the lone hair stylist in Coric Springs. It shuffled the small scrub trees back and forth and leaves fell to the ground. I stopped and picked one up. It was gold and red with a last bit of green at one edge. The trees were losing leaves and I was fast losing my resolve.
I shivered as I reached the porch steps. I stopped and wondered what I should do. I was getting colder.
“I’m too thin,” I thought. “That’s why I feel the cold and he does not.”
I walked up the steps and opened the slatted wood door. Light flowed out into the dusk. He sat at the wood table, chair pulled up close. He whittled a piece of wood. It would be some sort of bird, I thought. He always made birds.
His head came up as I entered the room. The light from the lamp behind him shone on his long tousled hair. He grinned. His beard, long, matted and shaggy, shook as he laughed.
“Ha! I knew you’d be back quick. Too cold out there this time of night. Only the foxes and the wolves like it. Skunks too I guess.”
He looked down at his hands. He tossed the wood aside and stood up. I was rooted to the spot.
He walked over to me and I could smell the man scent, a mix of sweat, beer and a missed shower or two. He reached out and cupped his hand under my chin, drawing my face close to his as he bent down.
He spoke softly into my ear.
“Ready to go home yet?”
I nodded, and shame welled up into my throat. I had no words.
“Okay, I’ll tell your pop that you just ain’t cut out for backwoods living. Go upstairs and gather your stuff. I’ll drive you home.”
I followed his instructions. I had little to pack. My tattered copy of Moby Dick, a Bible that had been my Mother’s, and a few clothes, jeans and sweaters and tops. I struggled to carry my tote and my backpack. I reached the bottom of the staircase, and he took both away from me and strode to the door. He grabbed his red and black plaid jacket from a hook on the wall. He opened the door and went out. I followed him.
As we got into his beat up old Ford pickup, I wondered what Pop would say. I knew he’d view my leaving here as a fiasco, and just one more reason to dislike me.
His words rang in my ears. “No matter what I do for you, you fail. You’re a loser. I’m ashamed to call you my daughter. What would your mother say? She’d be ashamed of you. You have no future. You’ll be a loser all your life.”
“Not this time,” I thought. “I won’t let him say it.” But how to stop him from the verbal tirade? My shoulders hunched and I pulled my jacket close. It was warm in the truck. Bert had turned on the heat, for which I was grateful. I told him so.
“Well, we can’t have a lady gettin’ cold, can we?” He grinned at me. At least he had no hard feelings about my leaving. He’d hired me to stay with him and do the cooking and the cleaning, milk the cows and gather eggs, and be company for him on long winter nights. I couldn’t stand the isolation. I was a town girl.

***

A twenty minute drive and we pulled up at my house. It was a ramshackle affair, with peeling paint and a porch that needed a nail or two and some new boards for the steps.
I turned to Bert.
“I can carry my stuff,” I said. I reached for the door handle.
“No way. No lady’s doing that on my watch.” Bert pushed open his door and got out. He took my things out of the truck bed and walked with me to the house. He set the bags down, as I knocked on the door. He didn’t ask why I felt the need to knock.
The door opened. My dad stood there, a beer in his right hand and the TV remote in his left. His balding head sprouted a few stubborn grey hairs that indicated he hadn’t seen a barber in a while. I thought the comparison between his hair and mine almost funny. But it wasn’t. Not really. It meant that neither of us were making an effort to maintain ourselves. We both missed Mom in our own ways, I guess.
Pop said, “Well, Bert, you brought ‘er back eh? I figured as much.”
He moved aside and Bert carried my things into the house and set them down.
“I gotta get back,” he said to Pop. He nodded at me and left the house. Pop slammed the door shut almost before I was able to step inside.
“You are a disgrace,” he said. He made his way back to his faded blue recliner and plopped down in it. He set his beer beside him on the end table. He glared at me.
“Well, your room’s still there. Might as well go up. Just leave me alone tonight, eh? I have to decide what I’m gonna do about you.”
I took my backpack and put it over my shoulders, and picked up the bag. I said good night to my Pop before I made my way up the stairs. My old room hadn’t changed.
“Of course it didn’t, you idiot,” I said under my breath. “You were only gone a week.”
I set the things down and threw myself on my bed. I buried my face in my quilt.
I didn’t cry. That’s one thing I am proud about. Instead, I got up and unpacked my books and my clothes. I went to the bathroom and put away my face cleanser and my toothbrush. Pop had his bathroom in the master suite, so this one, opening into the hall was, in essence, mine. He still looked in though, once in a while, to check if the room was clean. He left it to me to look after that and I would be in trouble if there was even a hair in the sink.
I wandered back to my room. It was getting late. Maybe tomorrow would bring something better. I hoped so.

***

Morning came, and I woke to sunshine streaming through my window. I loved the east facing room. I had a shower and dressed in a pair of leggings and a denim tunic top. I went downstairs to the kitchen. Pop sat at the table, drinking coffee from his double sized mug. Mom bought it for him for Christmas, a year or so before she got sick.
I said, “Morning, Pop,” as I poured some cold breakfast cereal into a bowl. I grabbed a spoon and the milk and sat down across from him, waiting for him to say something.
When he finally spoke, it was to say, “Morning. Any plans for today?”
I nodded. “Yes. I’m going downtown to apply for a job at the hardware store.”
“What makes you think they’re hiring?”
“Bert told me on the way into town last night that he saw a sign in their window.”
“Fine. You need a job. Help pay for things around here.” Pop took a long drink from his cup. He stood up.
“I’m headin’ down to Mayer’s for coffee with the guys.” He left the room, my voice trailing after him, as I said, “Okay, Pop. See you later.”
I heard the front door slam. I felt my muscles relax. I hadn’t realized how tensed up I was until that happened. If only I could have been content staying at Bert’s. But that was not a job for someone young like me. No, I could do better.
At least Pop hadn’t called me out for failing yet again. I knew it would come though. If not today, then tonight or tomorrow. There was no telling with Pop when the bad mood would hit.
The sun had disappeared behind a cloud, by the time I headed out for the hardware store. It was a nice walk despite the threat of rain. I loved the smell of the leaves as they fell from the trees, and the crunch of dry leaves under my feet as I walked. Old Mr. Allport was raking when I passed his house, and he waved a hand at me.
I waved back, just like I used to do, when I was going to school. Some things didn’t change. I smiled to myself.

***
At the hardware store, I stepped inside and found Mrs. Jensen at the back of the shop. She was attempting to explain the differences between fishing lines to a couple of younger guys, both of whom sported caps with “John Deere” on them, and hiking boots.
I listened for a minute and then I took over, unasked.
“What types of fish are you planning to catch?”
One of the guys said, “Wall eye mostly.”
“Then here’s the lines you need. Anything else would be too weak.”
The men thanked me and follwed Mrs. Jensen to the front till. I waited until they had left, and then I approached her.
“Thank you for your help, Lainie. I couldn’t seem to get it through those boys’ heads what they needed. Guess they thought I was some dumb old woman.”
“Glad to help. Say, I noticed that you’re hiring. Would I be able to apply?”
Mrs. Jensen looked me over. I was suddenly self-conscious.
“Look, Lainie. I’ll be honest with you. Turning up here to apply for a job dressed like that,” and she pointed at my leggings and then my hair, “won’t cut it. Now, if you were to dress in a nice pair of denims and a nice blouse and braid your hair, or even have it trimmed, I’d consider your application. I don’t mean to be harsh with you. I know it’s been hard since your mom passed, but really, Lainie, you need to grow up.”
Tears welled in my eyes.
Mrs. Jensen came close and patted my shoulder.
“I want you to come back and apply, okay?”
I nodded and stumbled out of the shop. I hurried down the street and nearly bumped into someone as I blinked away the tears.
“Hey, watch it!”
I looked back to see Kate standing on the sidewalk. She rubbed her shoulder.
I took a few step towards her and she said, “Well, how’s it going Lainie?”
I sighed. “Okay I guess. I need a job though. How are you doing?”
“I just got promoted at Mayer’s. Now I’m in charge of the afternoon shift.”
“Well, good for you, Kate.”
“I gotta run. I’m shopping for my mom before work.”
Kate turned and continued down the street. I watched her for a minute, and wondered why a promotion at Mayer’s didn’t excite me very much. I thought I was a proud and picky person to not share in Kate’s excitement. Now had she been promoted to manager, I supposed I should be impressed. But shift manager?
I got home in time to watch General Hospital. I wanted to see what happened with Tracy and her scheme. Pop arrived just as the show ended.
He came into the house and threw his hat and jacket in the direction of the hooks by the door. He flopped down in his chair and looked over at me.
“Get a job yet?”
I shook my head.
“Not yet. But I have a lead.”
“She has a lead. Wonder of wonders. So have you started dinner? And bring me a beer while you’re at it.”
“I will, right away.” I got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen. Good thing mom had taught me how to cook, because Pop had no idea.
I set about making dinner after I took Pop a beer.
Then the phone rang and I forgot all about cooking.

***

This is Chapter 1 of a story. I plan to add Chapters as I go along. Let’s see where the story takes us, shall we?

***

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And Half Way Through Camp…

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I tried. I really did. After completing so many November NaNoWriMos one would think the freedom of Camp NaNoWriMo would be exhilarating. Not so. Not for me.

I powered out after about a week. So here I am, cheering on any of you who continue with Camp, but sitting back on the sidelines.

I have started a brand new story and will post it on this blog once it is done. In the meantime, keep writing!

Character

The ability to clearly draw a character in words is a true gift. Once the character is put into a scene, that new person needs to be real to the reader. How to do that?

How to Craft Compelling Characters from Writer’s Digest

Creating Characters in Novels

That is all for now. Back to the story I am working on….

 

Writing in Passive Voice or Active Voice

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My topic today, as I prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo is how to write in active voice and avoid passive voice.

I still find myself puzzled by active vs passive voice, so these sites are as much for my reference as for yours.

I have two links for you. Both are very good at explaining the difference.

The Passive Voice

“… active (The executive committee approved the new policy) or

passive (The new policy was approved by the executive committee)”

Active/Passive Verb Forms

Active: “[Thing doing action] + [verb] + [thing receiving action]”

Passive: “[Thing receiving action] + [be] + [past participle of verb] + [by] + [thing doing action]”

This is active voice: The swimmer reached the end of the pool.

This is passive voice: The end of the pool was reached by the swimmer.

If you are thinking of participating in Camp NaNoWriMo best of luck to you! I am ready to begin tomorrow, although I may start a few hours early.

 

Are You Coming to Camp?

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Camp NaNoWriMo starts in just four days! I am going to try and meet my goals this time. While I’ve had success doing November’s NaNo every year beginning in 2012, I have failed miserably at meeting any goals I’ve set for Camp.

The nice thing about Camp is that you set your own goals, whether it be a word count, or finishing a draft or what have you.

My goal is to complete an autobiography. While I’ve worked out a rough copy, I intend to ignore it and start at the beginning of my life.

Camp is free, as are all the other Camps and November’s NaNoWriMo. Strictly run on donations. If you sign up, look for the Forum and also the option to join a cabin of fellow writers. Additionally, there are some nice products available for sale. The money supports NaNo.

 

Writing in First Person

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I have a bit more to post on writing style. Here we have two options about our friend, Shelley. Remember, she walked into the quilting shop and was surprised at the selection of fabrics?

Now Shelley returns, with a closer view for us of her personality and what she wants to find in the shop.

First person past tense – earlier today or even yesterday or last week

I pushed the door open. I walked into the store and looked around. It was amazing, I thought, how many different fabrics the little shop carried.
Why, there were likely a hundred or more. How would I ever choose just a few?
The quilt I planned to make was going to be a special one and I wanted to find
just the right colors. I walked up to the saleslady and smiled at her.

First person present tense – in the here and now

I push the door open. I walk into the store and look around. It is amazing, I think, how many different fabrics the little shop carries. Why, there are likely a hundred or more. How will I ever choose just a few? The quilt I plan
to make is a special one and I want to find just the right colors. I walk up to the saleslady and smile at her.

It can be easy to slip up and start to write out of the past or out of the present tense. Practice and careful editing can help to avoid the pitfalls for us.

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World Poetry Day

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March 21st is World Poetry Day!

One of my favorite sites to visit and read poetry is Representative Poetry Online.

They offer English and French language poetry over a period of some 1400 years.

There’s little you need, in order to write a poem, although a knowledge of types of poems can help.

Try you hand at writing free verse!

One of my favorite poems is by Alfred Noyes.

Sherwood

SHERWOOD in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake?
Grey and ghostly shadows are gliding through the brake;
Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the morn,
Dreaming of a shadowy man that winds a shadowy horn.

Robin Hood is here again: all his merry thieves
Hear a ghostly bugle-note shivering through the leaves,
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Merry, merry England has kissed the lips of June:
All the wings of fairyland were here beneath the moon;
Like a flight of rose-leaves fluttering in a mist
Of opal and ruby and pearl and amethyst.

Merry, merry England is waking as of old,
With eyes of blither hazel and hair of brighter gold:
For Robin Hood is here again beneath the bursting spray
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Love is in the greenwood building him a house
Of wild rose and hawthorn and honeysuckle boughs;
Love it in the greenwood: dawn is in the skies;
And Marian is waiting with a glory in her eyes.

Hark! The dazzled laverock climbs the golden steep:
Marian is waiting: is Robin Hood asleep?
Round the fairy grass-rings frolic elf and fay,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Oberon, Oberon, rake away the gold,
Rake away the red leaves, roll away the mould,
Rake away the gold leaves, roll away the red,
And wake Will Scarlett from his leafy forest bed.

Friar Tuck and Little John are riding down together
With quarter-staff and drinking-can and grey goose-feather;
The dead are coming back again; the years are rolled away
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Softly over Sherwood the south wind blows;
All the heart of England hid in every rose
Hears across the greenwood the sunny whisper leap,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?

Hark, the voice of England wakes him as of old
And, shattering the silence with a cry of brighter gold,
Bugles in the greenwood echo from the steep,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?

Where the deer are gliding down the shadowy glen
All across the glades of fern he calls his merry men;
Doublets of the Lincoln green glancing through the May,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day;

Calls them and they answer: from aisles of oak and ash
Rings the Follow! Follow! and the boughs begin to crash;
The ferns begin to flutter and the flowers begin to fly;
And through the crimson dawning the robber band goes by.

Robin! Robin! Robin! All his merry thieves
Answer as the bugle-note shivers through the leaves:
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Book!

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Yay! My book of short stories is now available on Amazon!

Find “Thief” here.

Tips to Sell Your Book

Today, I would like to post a little about selling books. What are some ways that we authors can sell? I know, I know, I’m not, like, in the top one hundred when it comes to book sales, but I have some ideas to share.

  1. Blogs are freely available and you can chose plans from free to a fair bit of change. WordPress is my favorite.
  2. Website. A website on a free hosting provider is one way to reach the public. Some free hosting providers are a. Weebly and b. Wix
  3. Facebook. Is anyone not on Facebook?
  4. Tumblr offers lots of options for creativity.
  5. Pinterest  lets you pin anything off the web. I like to use it for my story ideas.
  6. A more recent addition to this list is Medium
  7. Offer a sale on Amazon if that’s where you’ve published.
    This helps to get your book out there and may give you some (hopefully good!) reviews.
  8. Instagram – While I have not used this many authors like it
  9. I nearly forgot Twitter!

I hope that some of these suggestions will be of use to you. All of the above sites can be used free, which may be a consideration for us budding writers.

For a few dollars more, some offer more bells and whistles, which are always nice to have I suppose.

 

 

Past Tense/Present Tense

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I have just published a collection of short stories on Amazon. The book will be available in print and as an E-book. I will post the URL when it is posted on Amazon.

Past Tense and Present Tense

I belong to a number of sites where writers post their works and ask for feedback. I have often noticed when a new author tells a story, there is a flip back and forth from past to present tense. I have found myself doing this occasionally and have to watch when I edit to be aware of doing this very thing.

Past Tense – An Example

Shelley pushed the door open. She walked into the store and looked around. It was amazing, she thought, how many different fabrics the little shop carried. Why, there were likely a hundred or more. How would she ever choose just a few? The quilt she planned to make was going to be a special one and she wanted to find just the right colors. She walked up to the saleslady and smiled at her.

Present Tense – An Example

Shelley pushes the door open. She walks into the store and looks around. It is amazing, she thinks, how many different fabrics the little shop carries. Why, there are likely a hundred or more. How will she ever choose just a few? The quilt she plans to make is going to be a special one and she wants to find just the right colors. She walks up to the saleslady and smiles at her.

I hope this helps in your writing. The present tense lends a feeling of immediacy to the story, while the past tense is a bit more laid back.

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Well, That Was Unexpected

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Yesterday I came close to falling off my chair. Really. I’d gone to the family doctor and was sitting in the waiting room with my husband (he had an appointment). After about 20 minutes, I looked around and saw a sort of bright colored netting across my field of vision. I told my husband I thought I was going to faint. I guess at that moment I did faint though I leaned backward to the wall rather than forward to the floor.

As I came to, I was surrounded by concerned people. A young pregnant Asian girl had come over right away and another woman dialed 911. (My husband told me this later).

The family doctor came into the room as I regained consciousness. He took my pulse and asked some questions like “Do you know where you are?” which I answered correctly.

I was taken in a wheel chair to an examination room and the doctor said he’d be in in a few minutes. He gave me a glass of water. At the same time he returned, two EMS workers arrived and introduced themselves. They asked some questions and then took me out to the ambulance where I was hooked up to a heart monitor, pulse and blood pressure as well.

They joked and kept me amused as they went about their work. The worker who took my blood test for sugar told me that when he poked my finger, it didn’t hurt him a bit.

The other fellow suggested that I must have thought if I fainted, I’d get my husband into the exam room sooner, for the appointment.

During the testing, they discovered that I was very dehydrated and I was given an IV for that. I asked if I had a choice between cream soda and Pepsi, which made them laugh.

 

They asked a lot of questions while the IV was running, about my health issues and so on. I was offered a ride to the hospital to be checked further or I could go home.

As my low blood pressure stabilized, the IV got me hydrated and my heart, which had slowed, increased in rate to normal, I said that I would go home and drink water.

I have been drinking a *lot* of water and other fluids since this happened, and I sure don’t want it to ever happen again. Barring some other cause, I suspect I hadn’t been drinking enough the last few days. I feel so much better today that I must have been tending towards dehydration for a while.

It happens in older people and I will be 64 in June. The workers said that they see a lot of people dehydrated in the summer, especially during marathons and so on.

I wish that I could remember some of the other jokes that the two attendants told, but I was too out of it for a while to remember them now.

It was a life experience. I had never been inside an ambulance before. So there’s something off my bucket list!

This post was totally off topic regarding writing, although it may help some writer to come up with a wise cracking EMS worker and his/her job.

Of course, with the sort of work these people do a good sense of humor is likely imperative.

I was touched when I found out how the strangers in the waiting room responded to my plight. And how quickly help arrived, and how nice my family doctor was through the worst part of it all.

There are good people in this world, aren’t there?