Red Writing Hood: Sibling Rivalry

“In the middle of the night, you get an urgent call from a friend you haven’t talked to in years. Something terrible has happened. What is it and why is he/she calling you?”

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Amber jerked awake and peered around the room, wide-eyed. At that moment, the small cell phone on her nightstand shrilled again and she held her breath. Nothing good ever comes of a late night call; this would be no exception.

Too sleepy to check the caller id, she hit the call button and breathed a quiet hello into the receiver. Her dozing ears were blasted awake by the shrill, nonsensical blabbering on the other end. It took a second to realize it was Cheryl, they hadn’t spoken in the last year or so. Cheryl tried to mother everyone and didn’t approve of Amber’s partying habits.

“Oh my god, Cheryl, calm down! Honey? Honey, I can’t understand anything you’re saying!”

“…fire…my baby…oh god my Lucy…”

“Cheryl, oh god, Cheryl! What fire? Where are the kids? “ She could hear Cheryl sobbing and heaving when suddenly a smooth male voice flowed through the line.

“Ms. Thurwell?”

Amber tried to push down her rising panic, “Yes, please can you tell me what’s happened?”

“I think Mrs. Mathis would benefit from your presence…”

Amber clicked off the phone and grabbed her jeans off the floor. After pulling a wrinkled t-shirt over her mess of tawny curls and slipping into her Keds, she rushed out the door.

As Amber entered Cheryl’s neighborhood, she noticed the hazy glow on the horizon. As she crept closer, the apricot glow of flames licked the air. Every emergency vehicle imaginable surrounded Cheryl’s yard like a metal and rubber barrier. Beyond them, flames shot up, engulfing her small A-frame house. She could see Cheryl crumbled, inconsolable at the edge of the yard, surrounded by neighbors.

“Cheryl!” Amber rushed to her side and threw her arms around her friend. “What happened?” She looked at the elderly lady to her left who was shaking her head sadly.

“Worse case o’ sibling rivalry I ever did see,” she muttered.

Amber grabbed at a police officer as he passed, “Please, where are the children?” she pleaded.

He took pity on her and pulled her to the side, “The nine year old, Scott, Mrs. Mathis’ stepson, correct? He’s in the cruiser over there,” he pointed behind her and confusion overshadowed the relief her heart-felt.

“Why is he in the cruiser?” she asked cautiously.

“Ma’am, he wedged his little sister’s door shut, started the fire in her room, and climbed out the window. It’s a miracle Mrs. Mathis woke up and was able to escape.”

She wanted to deny the officer’s claims but she remembered a conversation she’d had with Cheryl a couple of years ago. Scotty had been acting out, a lot. He’d gotten into some trouble at school, started screaming at her, and had been hitting Lucy, who was only 18 months old at the time. With Scott on his second deployment in as many years, Cheryl had her hands full.

When Amber first met Scott, he was married to Donna. They were so happy. Scotty was the sweetest toddler. She tried to help soften the blows life kept throwing at the small boy. After Donna’s fatal car accident, Amber looked after Scotty and help with the funeral arrangements. She dragged Cheryl along as an extra set of hands and watched, bewildered, as something lovely blossomed between her and Scott.

Many of their friends were shocked at how quickly their relationship evolved, but Cheryl was the balm to their aching souls. Scotty clung to her, and Cheryl happily gave up her job to stay home with him. When Scotty was settled into preschool, they were ecstatic to find out they had another baby on the way. Scotty was far less ecstatic and first started acting sullen after Lucy came along. The combination of sharing his Mom and missing his dad must have been tremendous stressor for him, and he was taking it out on everyone. But could he be capable of what they’re suggesting?

She rushed back to Cheryl and settled next to her. She grabbed at her hands and gasped, noticing the destruction of her perfect manicure, her fingertips raw and bleeding.

Beside her Cheryl was muttering, incoherent, “I gotta get my baby, can’t open the door, can’t open the door, my baby, my baby…” followed by more soul shattering sobs.

Suddenly she stilled and looked up at Amber, her gold eyes reflecting the fire behind them, “That little bastard killed my baby.”

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I look forward to and appreciate all concrit. When you’re done here why not visit my awesome writing partner Stephanie?

Amanda

Guest Writer: @AwayWeGoNancy

This week I am happy to bring you one of my favorite writers from the Red Dress Club. I am going to jump right into this post because I am incredibly late posting this (because I so awesomely deleted all my emails). So, here’s Nancy!

Away We Go

Writing teachers and gurus throw out the phrase “show not tell” so often that it has become a cliche. What does it mean, anyway?

When I taught middle school, high school, and community college, I used the shorthand SNOT  as an acronym for “Show Not Tell” because boogers are hilarious. I will do the same here, because inside all of us is a thirteen year old with an affinity for bodily functions. Am I right?

Telling in writing is when the author uses words to explain how the reader is supposed to feel or react. It’s a method of control. When you tell in your writing, you’re saying, “I don’t trust that you will get this. I believe that you are stupid and I will therefore spell it out.” Not only is it incredibly boring to read, it is also insulting to your reader.

Showing in writing means that you are entering a relationship with your reader. It’s saying, “I trust that you are smart enough to see nuance. We’re on this ride together. Hold on.”

Think about the books or films that have lingered–the ones that you talk about over coffee or find yourself deconstructing before you drift off to sleep. Those are the stories that have trusted you enough to show instead of tell.

So, what does SNOT look like?

Here’s a classic tell: It was a miserably hot day.

To change this to a show, you can do several things.

1. Use body language: She fanned herself with a paper plate.

2. Use vivid, sensory detail: She fanned herself with a paper plate. She licked her lips, and tasted the salt.

3. Use active verbs: She fanned herself with a paper plate. She licked her lips, and tasted the salt. With a sigh, she lumbered to the cooler for another beer.

4, Add dialogue: She fanned herself with a paper plate. She licked her lips, and tasted the salt. With a sigh, she lumbered to the cooler for another beer. “If he thinks I’m cooking dinner tonight,” she said, “He better think again.” She gulped her beer in two swift swallows.

I am by no means saying this is incredible writing, but it does so much more than explain the weather. It jumps right into the characterization, skipping the set-up and all the clutter. Through this passage we know that she likes her beer, that she may be heavy, and that there is some conflict with her spouse/boyfriend/partner. And yes, we know it’s hot.

A further note. Try to avoid adverbs. Yes, they aren’t evil, but they are often the lazy way to express something. For example, listen to this with added adverbs.

She slowly fanned herself with a paper plate. She licked her lips, and tasted the salt. With a sigh, she clumsily lumbered to the cooler for another beer. “If he thinks I’m cooking dinner tonight,” she said to herself, “He better think again.” She gulped her beer in two swift swallows.

Do you note how it adds clutter? It’s not necessary or interesting to state that she was fanning slowly. Isn’t that how you normally fan? Likewise, the clumsily is redundant and takes away the power of the active verb lumbered.

In short, if you want to trim the fat, the easiest place to start is with adverbs.

I hope that this little tutorial unpacks my perspective on SNOT.  Thanks, Amanda, for the opportunity!

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Please be sure to follow Nancy on Twitter and visit her blog!

Thank you so much Nancy!!

Amanda

Fiction Friday: Sent Away #trdc

Someone has stolen something from you (or your character). Something of tremendous value. What will you do to get it back? Or will you give up?

Write a post – fiction or non – and tell us about it. Word limit is 600.

Come back and link up with us here Friday.

He awoke easily later that evening, stretching unnecessarily and sliding out of the bed. He crept into the sweet freshness of the night air, surprisingly​ silent for his size. He was stunned that Queen Bethia would truly send him so far away, was his punishment not over? Even though the queen had placed Emilia under her protection he feared for her safety. How far would Tiago really go to seek his revenge? ​How would he reestablish their link? Could it be done? No Guardian had tried to do it before. By nature, Guardians do not fall in love. They are simply drawn by a force greater than themselves. Of course, he’d never been one to stick to nature. He would leave for his assignment on this evening, but he wanted to check on her one last time.

Returning to the cottage this time he moved without haste. Every step weighed​​ down by dread. Misery was like a thick cloud, slowing him even further. He skirted the rose bushes once again and approached the same window as this morning. Was it really just this morning that she returned? She lay snuggled in her mother’s arms, they were resting a comfortable distance from the fire. Her mother gazed down at her with a love so deep it was palpable. He felt pained that he had deemed them unworthy. ​As he gazed at her, she opened​ her eyes and peered towards him. She couldn’t have seen him. Even if she didn’t have the near blindness every newborn has, she certainly didn’t have the second sight that would allow her to see through his glamour​. And yet…Her misty eyes looked nearly lavender in the shadows, and there was something there, he was sure he felt it. A glimmer of a connection?

He made his decision quickly, leaving the small sachet with his mother’s necklace and note giving the location of the abandoned hut on the front stoop. The unclaimed land would allow her father the take up livestock and earn a decent living. He could give her that. He wasn’t intervening that much, he assured himself. He returned to window and to look in at her one last time. She was asleep again snuggled tightly against her mother’s breast​.

Tiago watched Rashu from the shadows. He was ready to report any interference directly to the queen and see Rashu punished. He narrowed his​ stormy​ eyes as he​ took in Rashu’s rumpled state. He looked very unbecoming for a Guardian at the moment. His shoulder length hair was normally impeccably styled though at the moment,​ it poked out in every direction making it appear he had an angry porcupine sitting on his head. Rashu turned towards him and he strengthened his shield to avoid being seen. Rashu’s eyes slowly skimmed across the trees, no doubt he sensed some presence, but after ​he quickly ducked down near the door, he took off​. Tiago was surprised that he left so quickly and he edged through the trees to watch him go. In the moonlight, something shimmered by the front door. Sending out his senses cautiously, he discover Rashu was long gone. He approached the small cottage quickly and peered down at Rashu’s small offering. He begrudging left the note with the directions​ to the black house, really, what does he care where the little wench grows up? The incandescent sachet though proved to be quite interesting, so he dropped it into his pocket and headed out to find something to eat.

To learn the significance of this item be sure to read this post!

Guest Author: Janna Willard

I am very excited about this week’s guest. Janna is currently working on a YA series of books teens with disabilities and if you follow my other blog you know what that means to me!

 

The Naming of Cats

My husband and I have a cat.

One night just after we’d started to date, we were sitting on his couch and I felt little tiny mouse feet on my toes. I think I moved and scared the mouse away. “You need a cat,” I said. He said he didn’t, but I insisted that if he had mice in his house, he needed a cat to get rid of them. We named the mice (apparently we decided there were two of them) Frank and Sigfried. Therefore, when he did finally bring home a kitten, we named it Roy.

Roy was tiny, maybe a month old, and fit in the palm of my hand. The baby cat was incredibly cute, with big, wide eyes, that stubby kitten tail, and such gorgeous black and orange fur.

Yup, you guessed it: Roy was a tortie, a “black calico,” and, hence, female.

I don’t think Roy really cared much about what we called her. She was too busy trying to figure out where her mommy was, how to use the litter box, where she could hide and pounce on people, and what those little furry things with tails were about.

She imprinted on me, sleeping in my hair for a good six months. I am “the mommy” to this cat. She sleeps on my side of the bed, between my feet, and she is constantly underfoot when I am moving about the house.

She killed her first mouse within her first month in the house. My husband saw the battle and likes to joke that the mouse was nearly as big as Roy, and there was a question as to who would win.

When Roy was six months old, we moved into a larger house with some friends. She spent the first few weeks hiding in the basement. And then she discovered that she could get up into the space under the house from the basement. There was a hole in the wall alongside the stairs to the basement, and Roy would get up into the space and lie in wait for some unsuspecting human to come along. As we went up or down the stairs, a little kitty paw would strike, reaching out through the hole to catch our clothing or (if we were unlucky) hand as we went by.

The stairs had a boxed in opening running along the other side, and one of the panels that kept it closed off was loose. One day, I was sitting in my office, working at my computer, when I heard Roy miaowing pitifully. I couldn’t find her anywhere, but I could definitely hear her! Finally I figured out that she’d gotten into the space under the stairs and couldn’t get out again because the opening was too high. I pried off the panel at the bottom of the stairs, and out she came! (She got stuck in there at least one more time; you’d think she’d learn…)

When the cat was about 18 months old, we moved to a new city. She cried the whole way there, in her brand-new kennel in the front seat of my car. The guinea pigs, in contrast, were quietly content in their cages, eating their food and sitting in their igloos.

Saskatoon was where Roy really came into her own. She started going outside, and often brought in birds and mice to play with. Mice I was okay with, as they were usually near death by the time she got them indoors anyway (and then I would just sweep them up and take them outside again), but birds were often alive and petrified, which made them difficult to rescue. One morning I came out of our bedroom and found an adolescent robin sitting on the floor in the dining room. It was alive, but scared. I got on a pair of gloves and relocated it to a tree outside. It flew away once it recovered from the shock. Then there was the time Roy jumped back in through the open window with an adult robin to play with. My husband rescued the poor bird. It was nearly as big as the cat!

It was also in Saskatoon that we learned that we have a guard cat. Roy growls at other animals and at people who dare to come near her space. It sounds like a dog growling. She would often sit in the window sill and growl at the neighbour, who was pretty much always in her own yard.

Roy is now three and a half, and we have moved yet again, this time to an acreage outside of Saskatoon. She has killed five mice so far (that we know of) and seems to be settling in quite nicely. Soon it will be nice enough out that she’ll go outside every day, and we’ll have to install a cat door so she can do so freely.

You would think that the cat would behave like a cat, now that she is so definitely an adult, but that is not the case with our little tortie. I don’t know if it’s the tortie personality shining through, or if she’s concluded that she should live up to her nickname of “baby” (well, only I call her that, but I’m the one who’s around all the time); whatever it is, the cat is very different from other cat’s I’ve known – including the ones we had when I was in high school.

Roy is very chatty, you see. She “merps” and “miaows” and “meows”; she chirps and purrs and yowls; and she makes many other sounds I can’t begin to describe.

She is curious about everything; if the old adage is true of any cat, I suspect it is true of her. She’s not the kind of cat who will die peacefully in her sleep; rather she’s the type who will die exploring something because she’s so curious about it.

And then there’s this weird thing she does, incredibly reminiscent of the behaviour of most three-year olds I’ve known (I used to work with autistic preschoolers; I’ve known a lot of three-year olds).

Roy is not allowed on counters or tables, and she is not supposed to scratch at things like mirrors, windows, the bed, etc. (We haven’t figured out why she scratches at windows and mirrors and cabinet doors, but she does it all the time.) We keep spray bottles of water on hand to remind her when she “forgets.”

The thing is, she knows when she’s doing something she oughtn’t to be doing. She will actually lift her paw to start scratching, look around and catch my eye, and then start scratching away, maintaining eye contact the entire time! And then I grab the spray bottle, and she stops, squints, and crouches down like she thinks that will keep the water off her.

And then, just to make it completely weird, she will start rolling around on the floor, snarling and trying to catch her tail, rabbit-kicking herself in the chin.

We’re going to name our next cat Schrödinger. I’m a little concerned about what that’s going to mean for it, but maybe it will allow the new cat to easily escape Roy’s attempts to defend her territory…

Janna Willard is a homemaker and freelance writer and editor on an acreage outside of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She grew up in Alberta, but has also lived in Ontario and BC. She writes Young Adult novels about teens with disabilities and hopes to get the first in the series to final draft this year. She writes other types of fiction, as well as number of blogs, but these novels are her passion. Every November, Janna volunteers as the Municipal Liaison (ML) for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, http://nanowrimo.org), planning and running in-person events for local participants. She repeats the gig in April, which is Script Frenzy (http://scriptfrenzy.org).

Her web site: Artful Words (http://jannalouise.thehoskincentre.com)
Her blogs: Janna’s Thoughts (http://jannalouise.thehoskincentre.com/blogs)
Her Twitter account: @karalianne or @jlhwillard
Roy’s Twitter account: @imagirlcat
Guido’s Twitter account (the guinea pig): @hoskinpigs
Like Artful Words on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Artful-Words/88642793409

Wednesday Writing Tips: Free Writing

I want to start this post out with a quick disclosure: I am not a writing instructor of any kind. I am a student of every kind and I love to share what I learn! So, for now each Wednesday I will be sharing some writing tips from my awesome Creative Writing teacher. You can find him at his personal writing blog: Writing That Matters

Freewriting to Generate Material 

 
Freewriting may be familiar to you.  It is the act of writing without consciously worrying about the words you put down.  It’s also called stream-of-conscious writing, where you literally write down every thought that goes through your head.

The key when freewriting is to let the right brain (the creative side) loose, without interference from the left brain (the analytical side).  When you freewrite, don’t worry about errors of any kind or if something sounds right or wrong.  Don’t worry about where the writing is going or if you’re heading down a dead end.  Don’t even care if the writing makes sense.  Sometimes the most nonsensical writing unearths the most interesting insights.  You just let the ideas fall as they may, a kind of thought enema for the unconscious.

Though freewriting may be familiar to you, you may not know the many ways writers use it.

1.  General Freewriting: Sit down for five minutes and write about anything, no focus whatsoever, and see what comes up.  You may find ideas for future projects here.

2. Revised Freewrting: After your general freewrite, look and see if anything interests you.  Underline a word, a phrase, an image, an insight, anything that might need further exploring.  Then, look at the underlined word or words, and begin to freewrite just about them.  You can do this repeatedly, each time looking to see if you are discovering anything new and insightful.

3. First Draft Freewriting: Whether you’re writing a poem, essay, short story, whatever,  once you figure out what you want to write about, just start writing and don’t stop.  Don’t stop to figure out where you’re going, just go.  Don’t worry about introductions, if the character changes, if your last sentence makes no sense at all.  Just get through the first draft.  Then go back and see what you can use. 

4.  Freewrite to Understand: Say you’re stuck in a scene, and you don’t know where to go next, freewrite about it.  Same thing with a character that you don’t understand: freewrite just about how the character might react to the conflict.  Or maybe you’ve run out of points in your essay.  You know there’s more to mine, but you’ve hit the wall: freewrite to find new insights.

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Ugh, Supermom

This week we want to challenge you to try something new.

Is there someone who drives you crazy?

Someone who really gets under your skin.

It doesn’t have to be someone you know (although it certainly can be). It could be someone famous. Or even a character in a book.

Now, write a first-person piece – as if YOU are this individual. Write from his or her perspective and include the things that really bother you. For instance, maybe there’s a good reason why they eat with their mouths open, or why they use sarcasm as a weapon.

This can be completely fictional or you can base it on a real-life person.

 

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The shrill of the alarm clock slices through my cocoon of sleep. Startled, I open my eyes and am greeted by the familiar predawn darkness. The house is eerily quiet; The Husband’s breathing amplified. I roll out of bed gingerly, careful not to wake him.

I creep down the stairs, checking on the kids as I go, and head to the kitchen where I start the coffee maker and pull out the ingredients for this morning’s breakfast. I beat a few eggs and put them in a pan to scramble for Randall and Jenny before I start preparing Alice’s gluten-free pancakes. I pour the batter onto the heated griddle, then turn to stir the eggs before pouring myself a cup of coffee.

I stop for just a moment savoring the warmth of the coffee and the serenity of the morning. I try to shake off the last of sleep’s drowsy grip as I spread my calendar and To Do Lists across the counter and prepare to tackle the day. I quickly put together The Husbands lunch and place it in the fridge. While there I reach into the freezer and pull out the chicken breast to thaw for dinner. Check and check.

I pull the bento boxes from the cabinet and get to work on each of the children’s lunches. I yawn sleepily as I pierce each little fruit gummy with a pretzel stick. Randall and his friends were on a wizard kick and would love the little wands. For Jenny I place a piece of turkey on white bread and top it with a slice of mozzarella. Digging through the cookie cutters, I pull one out shaped like Hello Kitty’s bulbous head and cut her food into shape.

Alice’s lunch is next; I start by arranging the ham and cheese egg muffins then adding a couple fruit kabobs. I add in a couple stalks of celery filled with GF cinnamon peanut butter and finish it off with a small dish of Greek yogurt.

I head back upstairs and dress quickly, thankful that I remembered to lay out my clothes. Rifling through my makeup case I meticulously apply my eye shadow. I ignore the slight tremor in my hand as I stroke the eye liner pencil deftly across each eye.

“I don’t know why you bother; no one cares what you look like.” The Husband grumbles sleepily from the bed.

I take a steadying breath and brush nonexistent link from my blouse. I reset the alarm clock for him and head down the hall to wake the kids. While Randall takes a shower I help the girls get dress and do their hair. Alice request French braids this morning; Jenny is happy with simple pigtails. Once everyone is dressed I usher them downstairs for breakfast.

As the kids eat, I gather the spreadsheets and graphs for my presentation; hoping that the extra hours I spent perfecting it last night pays off. With this promotion I’ll finally be able to leave The Husband.

I pile everyone into the car and begin the morning rounds. I drop Randall at the middle school first, then Jenny at the elementary where she is in 4th grade. Last, I put into Alice’s rainbow colored preschool.

I plaster on my smile and grab her small hand, heading into the school. Right away I see the “Coffee Moms” huddled in the corner of the lobby having their morning bonding session. They barely glance my way as I continue down the hall with my sweet girl. Their voices float down the hall and I pretend not to notice.

“…with her artsy little lunches…”

“….kid looks like a Gap model…”

“….probably has a nanny…”

“…hate her…”

“…Supermom…”

Hugging and kissing Alice quickly, I push her into her teacher’s waiting embrace. I rush back through the lobby, not making eye contact with the other moms. I climb back into the sanctuary of my SUV and behind the tinted windows before I let the tears fall.

Remembe(red): Opps, No Butter

This week for The Red Dress Club’s memoir prompt we were asked to share our earliest school memory. I immediately thought of butter.

My arms are overflowing with supplies as I saunter through the airy classroom and gather the children; beckoning them with my sing song voice.

“Everyone it’s circle time, circle time, circle time. Everyone it’s circle time, let’s sit down!” I skip and hop through the room with the glass jars and the cold cardboard carton pressed securely against my chest.

While I set up our supplies, the children press in around me, and anxiously await my instructions.  The small baby food jars clink gently as I place them in front of me. The carton of heavy whipping cream nearly tips over, but it is rescued by sticky little fingers. “Oof, I dot it Miss Manda,” my pint sized hero announces proudly.

“Today we are going make butter!”

The children ‘ooh’ and ‘aahh’ as I begin siphoning the thick liquid into the jars.

“Now, I’m going to pass these jars around. We’re going to shake them as hard as we can while we sing our ABC’s. Then we will pass it to a friend. Ready?” Fifteen eager little heads nod furiously.

As the children begin shaking for all they’re worth I am suddenly transported back nearly 20 years.

My kindergarten teacher captivated me with her lilting, crystal-like voice. I followed her to a colorful carpet in the front of kindergarten class where many of the other children were already seated.

The past and the present meld together the happy chatter of children and the lingering scent of grape juice.

She tells us we will be making butter and begins to pass around small jars with a white liquid sloshing around inside. We sing our ABC’s loudly and shake those smooth, cool jars until our tiny arms were tired.

She then surprises us by pulling out a sleeve of crackers and passing us each one topped with a dollop of our freshly prepared butter.  I sighed as the heavenly bit of fluff melted in my mouth.

Later that day I hopped off the bus and darted eagerly to my babysitter’s little apartment. The air is heavy with the scent of my afternoon snack, cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven. Nonny swats my hand gently away from the hot pan, her blue eyes sparkling with laughter, and asks me about day.

Remembering the butter I began riffling through the cabinets until I found an old mason jar. I promptly filled the jar halfway with milk, replaced the lid and screwed it tightly. As I shook the jar I recounted the day’s activity to Nonny, as she smiled and nodded at my excitement.

Once my arms were sufficiently achy I made a big show of opening the jar and….Nothing.

It was still half a jar of milk.

I was so incredibly disappointed; I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong. I placed the jar in the fridge where I proceeded to shake and check the contents every day for a week.

As I return my focus to the antsy four year olds around me, whose arms are now tired and achy from shaking all those jars of heavy whipping cream, it clicked into place. Silly 5 year old me had never heard of whipping cream! White liquid would naturally be milk.

Oops.

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I am open and appreciative to concrit!

Bloggy Moms Writer’s Workshop 1

This week, I want you to find a quote that moves you. Post the quote and the author, if known. Why does this quote move you? How does it make you feel? It doesn’t necessarily have to be one that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Maybe there’s one that makes you laugh or want to scream at the top of your voice.

 
“In strong families there is freedom to step down, yet loyalty to step up.”~Wes Fessler
This got me to thinking. What does it mean to be a strong family?
There are so many responsibilities in raising a family and running a household.  You have housework and homework, children’s extra-curricular activities, PTO….. The list goes on and on. Some parents over schedule themselves and their families. Too many commitments and obligations. No time time to just BE.
Then, there is extended family and close friends. The monotonous obligations of dance recitals and award ceremonies. We all love a good summer barbeque and the occasional birthday party, though the more extended your family the more repetitious these celebrations become.
The first part of the quote says:  “In strong families there is freedom to step down” We don’t have to do everything! Birthday parties can be combined, you can create a co-op with other parents and swap the responsibility of driving and supervising activities so everyone gets a break. Heck, if junior’s got 20 different activities it may be time to help him decide where his passions are.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are, sadly, parents who can’t be bothered with the comings and goings of their children. The second half of this quote says “yet loyalty to step up”. This means while we don’t have to do everything, heck, we don’t have to do anything, we DO. We do, because we love our families and we have a loyalty to them that we express with our actions everyday.

Amanda

Guest Post from Sean Hayden

I have always been an avid reader and admired many authors from afar. In the past year or so I have not only rediscovered my love of writing but I have also gained the ability to connect with and lure them home…wait was I saying? Oh, right I have the great privilege of sharing them here, with you!

My first guest is Sean Hayden author of Origins which is part of the Demonkin Series.

 

                                                                                                              GENRE SHMENRE

Nobody likes labels. It’s a fact. We can’t help it as a species. We truly hate to be clumped (Unless it’s in the millionaires club, the Forbes 500, or sexiest person alive lists). We hate it when people label our children (difficult, troublesome, ADD/HD). Forget about labeling people by race (I’m not going to even make a quirky comment because that just pisses me off too). We have labels for sexual orientation, personal hygiene, body shape, personality, financial status, and even how we speak. None of these are viewed as positive. That makes me ponder one thing. Why the hell would we try to apply labels to books?

Good and bad, fiction and nonfiction, hardcover and paperback. That used to be good enough. “Hey, Charlie, I picked up a good paperback from the general store last week. You should buy it.” Not in today’s world. We have classification labels that are starting to blur around the edges while we try to place some resemblance of order to a chaotic, ever changing written world. “Hey, Charlie! I downloaded a fantastic urban fantasy paranormal romance with overtones of an erotic nature while combining elements of mystery and drama! You should download this!” Just doesn’t seem right, does it?

It’s not entirely our fault as readers and writers either. These labels are being spoon fed to us by publishers and bookstores and websites on a daily basis. If you want to browse for a book where do you look? Do they have an aisle for YA paranormal romance horror aisle? Do you put the book in the YA section? Do you put it in the romance aisle? Or do you shove it next to Stephen King? Who the hell knows? The question should be who the hell cares! I say put it in the damn good book section!

It can be very frustrating at times to see people blinded by these labels. I recently had a friend tell me they don’t particularly care for urban fantasy. So, let me get this straight. You will read a novel about sword wielding, magic using, armor wearing, legions of elves, but if they’re marching through New York, you won’t read it? OMG. Here’s a thought. Make it a thousand pages long and disguise it as an epic fantasy! Then he won’t know the difference!

I’ll admit something to you. And if this admission ever finds its way into a court of law, I will swear on a stack of (Historical, nonfiction, autobiographical) bibles that I didn’t say it. I’m just as guilty as the rest of you. If you attached the word romance or mystery to anything, I’d rather have used the book as an oven mitt than open it up and peruse its pages. That changed when I started writing and editing other people’s books. You’re handed a manuscript clearly labeled as a mystery, but while you’re reading it, you figure out it’s not that much different. So the characters don’t suck blood or have pointy ears, but the STORY has many similarities. How boring would a book be if it ONLY HAD ELEMENTS OF ONE GENRE? Some people would call it pure. I would call it a table leveling device.

That’s the end of my rant. Thanks for listening! I always appreciates an audience. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to go write a URBFANMYSTYAPARAROMSTEAMPUNK (sorry, I mean good) BOOK.

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Sean Hayden works in South Florida as a Fiber-optic Engineer for a cable communications company.

            Born in the Suburbs of Chicago he relocated to Florida as a child, where he grew up and attended school at a small Catholic elementary and high school.   It was there, in literature class, he fell in love with books.  Vampires especially fascinated him as well as the realm of possibilities of the urban fantasy genre.  This fascination gave birth to his first novel, Origins. The sequel, Deceptions is under contract and will be out later this year as well as a variety of short stories.

            He lives at home with his wife, children, and a plethora of pets.

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Chthonian Guardians: A rough Preface

As you know I am taking a Creative Writing Class this semester. Last week it was Exam Time. We were not given any clues as to what the exam would be and we were not allowed to bring anything with us. We were asked to submit a portion of our current project. Not to tell about it but to literally bring him into the story. I decided to go with preface and just let the words flow:

 

The Triple Moon, symbol of the Triple Goddess ...

Image via Wikipedia

DeeAnn flitted around the garden like a humming-bird with her blond hair shining silver in the moonlight and floating around her face like a frothy cloud. She lifted a large magnolia blossom to her fulsome nose and inhaled deeply before tucking into the top of her light blue bodice.

“Me mum started this garden before she passed.” Her whisper was choked with the burden of her loss and she turned her muddy brown eyes towards Rashu. “Do ye think Tiago loves me really?” The plea in her voice was obvious; she wanted desperately to be loved again.

Rashu rolled his eyes and recited his answer, the one he’d given her a hundred times already. “Guardians don’t feel love. Loyalty and devotion, yes, but rarely love.”

“You love Emilia.” It was a statement. Everyone knew he’d fallen in love with his mo cara ama, though no one could figure out what made her special. She was just another human. 

“Yes, but…” Suddenly he staggered forward and was nearly brought to his knees by the waves of fear rolling through his mind. The fear wasn’t his, but rather Emilia’s pulsing through the invisible bond that has connected them for centuries.

As he bolted through the woods DeeAnn called after him, “You can’t leave me! You’re not allowed!”

She turned slowly from the garden and headed up the worn path towards her father’s cottage warily. The night air was cool, a light breeze ruffled the bushes along the path causing her to jump and she giggled nervously at her own foolishness.  As she approached the heavy wood door a slender figure materialized from the shadows and she froze.

She was the most beautiful woman DeeAnn had even seen with luminous green eyes and fiery red hair cascading down her back, past her tapered waist. Her pale skin seemed to reflect the moon above giving her an ethereal appearance. She relaxed at the sight of the woman who appeared so harmless.

“Where is your Guardian, sweet child? Does he not know the dangers of leaving another’s mo cara ama vulnerable?” The woman’s gravelly voice was such a startling contrast to her beauty that DeeAnn began to back up slowly. The woman stepped forward and DeeAnn glanced down, catching a glimpse of a black hoof before it disappeared beneath the hem of her skirt.

“Boabhan sith? No…no…no…” DeeAnn she her head adamantly and repeated the denial over and over as if she could make her disappear just by willing it so.

The woman simply smiled. A wicked smile that started small then stretched wider and wider, revealing her gleaming white teeth. All DeeAnn could see where the fangs.

Rashu approached the cottage cautiously. He was embarrassed that he’d taken off the way he did. Guardians never leave their charges alone. They’re supposed to be able to trust each other to keep their mates safe. It was one of the reasons their society ran so smoothly. He should have known Tiago would keep Emilia safe just as he always…

The smell of blood coated his nostrils like the heady scent of roses in the spring and he picked up the pace, galloping to the front of the cottage. As he rounded the small building he stopped in his tracks. This time when he staggered he did fall to his knees.

From the puddle of blood on the small brick walk there was a trail of blood and hoof marks leading towards the woods. Rashu threw his senses as  wide as he could but there was nothing more than the creatures that inhabited the area. And then e took in the symbol on the door. The Triple Moon, drawn crudely in blood and completely filled in.  When drawn as only an outline this was a beautiful symbol; the maid, the mother, and the crone, the Queen and all female relations. However, when filled in this way it meant only one thing.

The boabhan sith.

 

Teacher’s Note: 

Amanda, this is convincingly rendered.  We’re in a strange world and things are happening and you’re describing it with precision and creativity.  We always want our writing to be detailed, which the writing is here, and in fantasy I think we need the reality set even more clearly to make it even more real.  A poet, I think, once said something like, if you’re going to have a fantasy garden, make sure you have a real toad in it.  I think you’re doing that here.