Archive for the ‘Muse’ Category

Girl in the Wind –

01/18/2012

Girl in the Wind

Chapter 1

Cassie ran as fast as her long, skinny legs would carry her. The screen door banged shut behind her. A sound guaranteed to piss off her mother  but she didn’t care. She had to get away from her. She had to escape the cutting words that sliced into her as sharply as any knife, carving away at her heart until the only way she could stop the bleeding was to run to the big oak tree across the yard and climb high into its enveloping branches. Past the long abandoned robin’s nest.  Past the broken limb that snapped off in the thunder storm last year.  Higher and higher she went until the branches thinned and she doubted the next one would hold even her slight weight.

She inhaled deeply, saying her personal version of a prayer, “Please God, don’t let me blow away in the wind before I show her a thing or two!” and stretched her arms as high as she could, wrapped them around the tree trunk, and stepped out on a limb so thin it seemed barely strong enough to hold the trio of leaves dangling from its tip.

She raised her gaze to the sky and felt the sun on her face  calming her.  White clouds of summer drifted overhead in a sky so blue it made her want to cry. A gust of wind rocked her as the tree swayed. Cassie welcomed the feeling of vertigo that came with the thrill of fear that she might fall. That was why she was there after all. To face the fear.  To prove she was more than what her mother claimed. Although she would never admit it, she was terrified of heights. Even more terrified her mother was right. She was clumsy. She was school smart and life stupid.  She would never be very pretty. Not like her mother. Not like her sister.  How many times did she have to listen to the same story? She got the message the first time she heard it.

They lived in the apartment house then. The one with two families and one bathroom on each floor. More than once she’d peed her pants waiting for someone to finally clear out of there.  It was bad enough if they were just whizzing or pooping, but if someone was taking a bath it could take a very long time and it wasn’t fair to get spanked or have your nose rubbed in wet pants if you tried and couldn’t get in.

That’s the place where they all got sick and the doctor had to come and give everyone but her father a shot of penicillin every day for a week.  Cassie, who was four at the time, and her big sister, Sue, six-years old,were with Mom in the big bed. Their little brother, Billy, was in his crib pushed up against the wall. All of them were sweaty and coughing. No one was getting any sleep and Daddy had to bring them soup and pass out pills and change Billy’s diapers.  Every day the doctor would ask Cassie and Sue who they wanted to get a shot first. Neither little girl would answer. Cassie always wanted to tell him to give the shot to their mother first. She was the only one who didn’t cry and maybe, just once, he’d get confused and forget about her.  But she never got up the nerve to say anything. Some days she was first, some days Sue or Mom. Billy was always last everyone always got the shot

Finally they were all better. Her father was at work and her mother was brushing Sue’s hair, getting her ready for school. Sue thought she was big because she was going to first grade and Cassie was still too little for Kindergarten.  Every now and then, as her mother talked and brushed her hair, Sue would turn to Cassie and give her a look that seemed to be a mix of superiority and embarrassed pity.

“You have the most beautiful hair,” Mom said. She brushed the long, naturally curly, locks at least five-hundred strokes every morning.  “Strawberry blonde is such an unusual color. When you grow up you will be beautiful and have lots of boyfriends. You will go on lots of dates and break a lot of hearts.”

“What about me? What color is mine?”  Cassie asked. She had hair too, but Mom rarely brushed it. After all, she wasn’t going anywhere but outside to play and she always came in a mess so why bother.

“You? Your hair is dirty blonde. Some people call it dishwater blonde because it reminds of them of the dingy water they pour down the sink after doing the supper dishes. It’s not unusual at all. And your hair is super fine. It won’t hold a curl like Sue’s. You’ll have to spend hours curling it or get a permanent. You won’t be pretty like Sue but, if you spend a lot of time doing your hair and putting on the right makeup, you could turn out to be cute. ”

“Will I have lots of dates?” Cassie asked.

“Not a lot,” her mother answered, turning to scan her younger daughter from head to foot. “Some of the boys that Sue isn’t interested in or has dated for a while and then jilted will probably ask you out. Maybe one of them will really like you.”

“I hope not”, Cassie said. “I don’t want to go on dates anyway!”

But she did. Not then of course, but someday she would want someone to think she was pretty and take her for a ride in his car. Somebody who wouldn’t care about the color of her hair. She secretly wondered if boys cared as much about hair as her mother seemed to. The ones she knew certainly didn’t do anything with theirs.

“Oh look, the sun is coming out,” Cassie’s mother said. She stopped primping Sue’s hair and crossed the kitchen to open the curtains over the sink.  All morning it had been raining hard with occasional crashes of thunder and bursts of lightning.  “It reminds me of the day Sue was born.”

“Tell us,” Sue said.

“April is a wonderful month to have a baby. Everything is so fresh and pretty in the Spring. However, it stormed all day and all night when I went to the hospital to have you. When I was in the delivery room the lights flickered out a few times and I was getting scared. Even the doctor said he hoped you would get here before the electricity failed for good.”

“Did I?” Did I come before the lights went out?”

“Yes, you did,” her mother assured her. “And just as the nurse was bringing you to me, the storm ended and the sun came out, filling the hospital room with light. It turned out to be a perfect Spring day after all. I had never known what it felt like to be so happy.”

“Tell me about when I was born,” Cassie said. “I’ll be you were very happy that day too.”

“No, I wasn’t,” her mother answered abruptly. “You weren’t due for another three weeks and your Dad and I had planned to go out. Aunt Celia was coming to stay the night and watch Sue.  It was the last time your father and I would have a chance to go have dinner in a restaurant and go dancing before you were born. “

“What happened?” Cassie asked. A chill ran up her spine as she waited for the answer. She knew that something had gone wrong and it was her fault.

“What happened is you!” her mother snapped.  Instead of having a night out I was in pain in the hospital. No, I wasn’t happy. I was mad. My last night out was spoiled. ”

“I’m sorry,” Cassie whispered, tears glistening in her big blue eyes.

If her mother heard, she didn’t respond. She simply finished brushing Sue’s hair, helped her put on her prettiest dress, and with Cassie following a few feet behind, walked her daughter to school.  Later that afternoon, when her mother shooed her out of the house so she could have some peace and quiet, Cassie pushed a rickety ladder up against a tree, climbed up on one of the branches and faced the sting of her mother’s rejection for first time.

Why did feel so much like falling?

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Blogging in 2012

01/04/2012

Last year at this time I was committed to writing a blog a day. As you well know, I started out strong and fizzled out half way through. This year I am going to be much more realistic in my goals. I make no promises for a daily blog. I do hope to post weekly but if writing, teaching, and/or spending quality time with my family interfere, so be it. I will get back to posting as soon as possible.

At best this new plan will result in better blog content and more followers. At worst it will give me a little time to goof off and that’s not bad at all.

So, what can you expect to find here?

1. Installments of a fiction piece titled,  Girl in the Wind.

I’m not sure how long it will be or how it will end. It’s a story that is writing itself as I type it. Reading that last sentence will drive writers who have a clear outline in place before they begin a little crazy. I apologize for that. But, I’ve discovered that when a story starts telling itself it’s best to let it flow. I’m often delighted by how things work out in the process. In this case, I hope you will be too.

I repeat, the story is fiction. However, in places I will draw on my life for inspiration. If I write it well you will be left wondering what is true and what is pure imagination. When asked, I will smile an inscrutable smile and assure you I am innocent of all wrong doing. And please, don’t rely on whether or not I blush when saying so in order  to determine the truth of my assertion. Blushing  happens often to fair-skinned people like me and, at my age, it could be signaling the onset of a hot flash.

2. Guest bloggers. Authors, aspiring authors, bloggers and others with something of interest to writers and readers are invited to contact me about doing a guest blog.  Readers enjoy a change of pace from time to time and so do I.

3. Book reviews.  I will post my review on my blog, Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. I also write a monthly book review column for About Families Publications with a circulation of 48,000 families. I prefer hard copies of books but I do have a Nook e-reader so I can accept electronic copies.

4. Odd comments and things of interest as they come to my attention.

Installment one of Girl in the Wind will be posted tomorrow with future installments appearing weekly after that. I look forward to your comments.

 

Looking Forward – What’s Happening in October?

09/29/2011

A lot.

I leave for Dubois, PA in the morning to attend a Pennwriters board of directors meeting. In the past I was only able to attend one meeting a year. The one on the eve of the annual conference.  This one promises to be more detailed and much longer. I’m looking forward to it.

Next week Mike and I are taking the long weekend to go on vacation with friends. Tennessee here we come. I’m looking forward to it.

The week after that I’m scheduled to do a book signing at Trummer’s on Main in Clifton, VA. I’m looking forward to it.

The following weekend is a birthday celebration for Ava, our Granddaughter. She will be three.  It should be a lot of fun. and I am looking forward to it.

Closing out the month, I’m scheduled for a book signing at the Winchester Book Gallery in Winchester, VA. Of course, I’m looking forward to it.

Oh, and I almost forgot, on Halloween I’m scheduled to teach two REACH writing workshops in Fredericksburg, VA. This is an all day event followed by a drive home to pass out candy. I’m looking forward to it.

As for November, check back soon. Whatever it brings,I’m looking forward to it.

The X Factor – Rejected

09/23/2011

If the new TV reality show titled The X Factor  were a book the author, Simon Cowell, would receive a letter reading something like this:

Dear Author:

Thank you for your interest in XYZ Publishing.  While your story touches on a subject of interest to many we must decline to accept your work at this time. The opening contained far too much exposition and back story to hold our interest. The frequent retelling of information about the characters identified as  judges causes the reader to begin to lose interest almost immediately.

You should know that the excessive use of flash and bling in your presentation does not make boring material more interesting.  A more subtle hand would result in your audience wanting more, not less, of what you’re offering.

On a positive note, you do show talent for interesting character development in some cases. Scenes with Melanie Amaro and Stacey Francis indicate you do have talent.  Unfortunately, you rushed through a number of scenes that could have added credibility to the story in order to back slide into blatant pandering to what you must believe is a very immature audience. The inclusion of a ridiculous nude scene and the over reaction of a grown woman to the sight of a penis indicates your lack of  ability to self edit and cannot be overlooked.

If you plan to continue to market this material we suggest a major rewrite.  By being less self-indulgent and focusing more on the strength of your characters you could end up with an interesting  and much more appealing piece of work.

Sincerely,

The Editors

XYZ Publishing

XYZ

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

09/12/2011

PREPPING FOR NaNoWriMo with SUSAN MEIER: Online Course

INSTRUCTOR: Susan Meier
DATE: October 1 – October 31, 2011

REGISTER: http://tinyurl.com/PennwritersCourse201110
(LIMITED CLASS SIZE. Enroll now.)

COURSE DESCRIPTION:
Everybody believes NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which runs every November at http://www.nanowrimo.org) is a race against the clock, a fight with procrastination and inertia. In some ways it is. But once you’re in the thick of things, you’ll discover NaNo is really all about ideas. Writers don’t stall because they’re lazy. Writers stall because they don’t know what to write next.

The month BEFORE NaNo, get proven tips from Susan Meier—the author of almost 50 books for Harlequin and Silhouette—and let her take you through several different ways to examine the story you want to write, to capture the natural scene possibilities within your idea, to generate new ideas, and to push yourself through the most grueling, but fun, month you will spend this year! Lessons include:

* The List of 20 (How to generate ideas quickly so you have little downtime when your natural ideas run out)
* Turning a “Want” into “Need” (How does knowing why you’re writing this book provide you with both energy to write and ideas for your story?)
* The One-Paragraph Story Summary (Say it succinctly…3 kinds of one-paragraph story summaries: back cover blurb, core story question, and growth paragraph)
* Could, Might, Must and Should List (How to capture ideas that spring up naturally)
* Storyboard Versus Synopsis (Breaking your idea down into manageable bites)
* The Psychology of Pushing through the Hard Times (What to do when you get stuck)
* The Psychology of a Draft (Push, push, push!)
* What Are You Doing in December? (Editing tips)

Discover how to get the most out of NaNo and write a publishable novel. LIMITED CLASS SIZE. Enroll now.

REGISTER: http://tinyurl.com/PennwritersCourse201110

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR:
Susan Meier is the author of over 45 books for Harlequin and Silhouette and one of Guideposts‘ Grace Chapel Inn series books, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. Her books have been finalists for Reviewers Choice Awards, National Reader’s Choice Awards and Cataromance.com Reviewer’s Choice Awards and nominated for Romantic Times awards. Her book, HER BABY’S FIRST CHRISTMAS won the traditional category in the 2009 More Than Magic contest. HER PREGNANCY SURPRISE, her first release for the Harlequin Romance line, made both Walden’s Bestseller List for Series Romance and Bookscan. MAID FOR THE MILLIONAIRE, MAID FOR THE SINGLE DAD, and COUNTRY TWIN CHRISTMAS are her 2010 releases. Susan loves to teach as much as she loves to write and is a popular speaker at RWA chapter conferences. Can This Manuscript Be Saved? and Journey Steps, Taking the Train to Somewhere! are her most requested workshops. Her article “How to Write a Category Romance” appeared in 2003 Writer’s Digest Novel and Short Story Markets. Susan also gives online workshops for various groups and her articles regularly appear in RWA chapter newsletters. For more information about Susan Meier, visit http://www.susanmeier.com.

* Subscribe to our announcement list for email on our latest online courses!
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PennwritersOnlineCourses

*****
* For more information on this course, contact Laura M. Campbell, Online Courses Coordinator.
To mail in your registration and payment, send payment at least one week before the course starts using the mail form at this link.

Novel in Six Words

08/22/2011

Handsome man. Killer smile. Graveyard’s full.

Driven to Love By Denise Meyers

08/08/2011

Driven to Love is more than the title of a book written by Denise Meyers, a Pennwriters Past President and friend to every writer she ever met. It is also a fitting description of how she lived.

Her family and friends know what I’m talking about. Her strength, tempered by a not-so- well- disguised vulnerability was equally matched by a quick wit and warmheart that drew people to her wherever she went.

It was with great sorrow that I learned of her death on August, 4, 2011.

Whenever I walk to the halls of a writer’s conference I will think of her. When I hear a group of people burst into laughter during a writing workshop I will hear her laugh ringing through the room. When an aspiring writer announces a first sale I know she will be celebrating along with him and, more than likely, nudging any nearby angels to join in the celebration.

When one of us hops online to announce a rejection letter or share a moment of doubt hers will be the voice we hear in our mind urging us to keep trying, reminding us that an acceptance letter or book contract can happen at any time, but only if you keep writing and continue to submit.

If we are lucky we are privileged to meet someone who truly inspires us on the road to publication. A mentor who doesn’t pretend it’s easy but does everything that can be done to help us find the tools we need to succeed. Through Pennwriters, I am blessed to know many people like that. Denise was the first and I will never forget her. Rest in Peace my friend.

Driven to Love by Denise Meyers is avaialble in ebook form on Kindle and Nook.

Summer Writing Camp for Kids – Some Results

08/01/2011

Kids pull no punches when asked for commentary and sometimes they volunteer their comments without being asked.

Three weeks ago I taught my first summer writing workshop for kids ages 7-12. It was a weeklong writing camp held at a local community center. For three hours each morning I tried my best to convince 19 kids that being inside with me was more interesting than playing outside with their friends or participating in the Minute-To-Win-It camp across the hall.

Sometime midday on the first day one of the kids asked my why I have a boy’s name. Whoever formatted the sign-in log each child and parent had to sign each morning had listed my name as Ms. Bobbi at the top of the page.

I’ve been asked that question by kids for as long as I can remember, starting with my grade school classmates. I explained as I alway have,  that some names, depending on the spelling, can be used by boys and girls. Bobbi with an “i” is a rare but not unheard of nickname for Barbara, my given name.  And besides, I look like a girl so it’s not a problem.

“Except for that hair,” one observant boy commented to the approval of the rest of the class. Clearly they had been wondering why my hair is so short. I was happy  to tell them about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and how my husband and I participated in a fundraising event to raise money for research into a cure  for cancer in children. In support of the cause we had volunteered to have our heads shaved.

“I was completely bald then,” I said. “What’s up there now is a lot longer than it was a few weeks ago.”

“Cool,” seemed to be the consensus in the room after that.  And they seemed to settle into the rhythm of creative writing a lot easier when I brought in a photo of Bald Bobbi the next day and we talked about the stories we could write based on that picture.  They accepted me, funny name, weird hair, and all. And I accepted their comments no matter what.

When, at the end of camp, the time came to ask them and their parents to fill out a comment sheet, I trusted them to tell it like it is. They did.

You Are the BEST!  – by Enzo

It’s Good. – Rithvik

This was the BEST! She always gives new things to help us write. When I first got there I was a bit confused, but the next day it was great! Maybe I will sign up next year. –  Joe

I now know how to write a book with chapters. I also learned a lot of skills. – Simran

I wish my Grandma had signed me up for something else. – Nicholas  (Oh well, you can’t win them all and I did ask for the truth.)

Next week I meet a new group of kids for fice days of writing camp. I hope they are looking forward to it as much as I am.

Two Paws Up and a Snap for Rewriting.

07/11/2011

I am very  excited to announce that my book, Storee Wryter Gets a Dog, is named A Best Dog Book for Young Readers in the latest issue of Cesar’s Way Magazine. Cesar being Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer, of TV fame.

In honor of the dog theme you may catch me  doing a  spontaneous Snoopy Happy Dance at any moment throughout the coming weeks.

The idea for the Storee Wryter series had been percolating in my creative mind for several years. In fact, the original version of Storee Wryter was very different from the one now available in print, e-book and audio book form.  It was intended as picture book suitable for kids in kindergarten to first grade. The illustrations were clip art and the cover was a self-portrait drawn on card stock. I printed a few copies on my office printer and stapled the pages together.  Then I approached local schools for an opportunity to present the story to a classroom full of kids.

Somehow I pulled it off. I remember being incredibly nervous the day I faced nineteen shining young faces. I was dressed in the same outfit Storee Wryter was wearing in the book.  In the current book Storee represents me at the age of eight. The age I was when I started writing. In the original version Storee was pictured as an adult. I thought it would be a great hook to have the character in the book come to life when doing a reading or book signing.

Most of the kids seemed to enjoy the simple story and I was very pleased when they realized that I was Storee Wryter. However, there was one little critic in the audience  who let me know he felt the story was lame. He rolled his eyes and yawned throughout the reading and when I asked the class if they liked the book he responded with an emphatic, “no.”  That one little voice stayed with me long after I left his school that day. Despite the fact that I knew I had a good concept, I had to agree that something wasn’t quite right and so it sat in my files and in the back of my mind waiting for me to figure out what the problem was.  Eventually I scrapped the orignal version.  Storee Wryter was conceived, in part, to inspire kids to write. I wanted to show them that creativity can be a lifelong passion and that they are natural story tellers now.

That’s when I realized that Storee should be their age. I wrote at eight-years-old. I used the things I knew in everyday life as inspiration. In this new version she would too. Excited by this new inspiration I crafted a completely new story including Crtitique, Storee’s cat, and Addie, a therapy dog in training, providing both Storee and the young readers with inspiration for their writing at the end of each chapter. I  also included writing prompts in the back of the book to encourage the kids to write about their own pets, real or imagined, and send them to Storee on her website or blog.  I was very pleased and thought I was done.  I wasn’t. It took many months and  another complete rewrite suggested by my editor, involving writing for an audience the same age as Storee and expanding the book into a sixty page chapter book,before it was ready to go into production.

Holding the first printed copy in my hands was a moment I will never forget. Receiving  a glowing comment in Cesar’s Way Magazine not only has me dancing in my kitchen, it reconfirmed my belief that the concept is a good one. There will be more Storee Wryter books with Critique as a continuing character.  It was also and excellent reminder that  good writing is, in reality, re-writing. I’m thankful that I listened to my young critic and my wise editor and didn’t stop writing until the book was truly finished.

My question of the week: Have you worked and reworked an idea to finally rewrite it into exactly what you hoped it would be? If so, please tell us what you did and how the story changed through the process.

Now for a short commercial break: Please help me inspire young writers by purchasing a  signed copy of Storee Wryter Gets a Dog for a young reader in your family or donate a copy to a library or charity promoting literacy in your community. To place and order go to: www.storeewryter.com

Versatile Blogger Award Leads to Startling Revelation About Past Sins

06/29/2011

 

I want to thank  my friend and fellow member of Penwwriters, Clar Bowman -Jahn for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Until I received it I didn’t know anything about this award. Now that I do, I’m honored to have been chosen and will promptly comply with the obligations that go with acceptance.  Those being to nominate five others for the award and to share seven little known facts about me.

The nominees are:

Help Kyria Help Them

Dixianne Hallaj

Annette Dashofy

Lisa Kastner

Heidi Ruby Miller

Seven little known facts about me:

  1.  I wish I could still climb trees.
  2. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I always answered, ” brain surgeon.”  I was captivated by Dr. Ben Casey on TV.
  3.  Sometimes when I went to confession I’d make up sins so the priest wouldn’t be disappointed that I didn’t have much to say.
  4.   I wish I had a best friend who knew me when I was  shy and geeky and liked me anyway.   
  5. When it comes to martinis it’s imperative I remember that one is not enough and three is too many. Unfortunately the first one tastes so good I want the second and once I have the second I forget the rest of that saying.
  6.  I was more afraid of my mother than the uncle who molested me so I didn’t dare tell her what he was doing.
  7.  When my husband has to be away overnight I sleep with a light on in the bedroom AND in the bathroom.