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Regina Part 3

Peter was a man of action.  He didn’t like living in the unknown and Colin’s phone call had placed him firmly in the center of a vast canyon full of the unknown.  He spent less than a minute deciding what to do and texted Frank to meet him at the warehouse.

When Peter pulled his tan Prius up to the side of the warehouse he saw Pat leaning against the wall next to the loading dock smoking a cigarette.  He frowned slightly as he turned the engine off and got out of the car.  He thought Pat was careless and had been against him being part of the operation from the beginning, but Frank was well-known as the most reliable man to call for…well, for jobs that needed to be done on the down-low.  And Frank didn’t work without Pat.

Peter gave Pat a curt nod of his head as he passed and Pat avoided eye contact.  Peter entered the warehouse through the door beside the loading dock and spotted Frank standing next to a car.  “Is the problem in the trunk?” Peter asked, straight to the point.  Frank replied by pressing a button on the fob in his hand and letting the trunk pop open.  Peter stared down at Regina for only a few seconds before removing her purse from the trunk and emptying the contents into the trunk.

Seeing the prescription package of pills he was looking for, Peter snatched them up and didn’t give Regina even a last passing glance as he slammed the trunk shut again.  “Do you want to know what happened?” Frank asked.  Frank was as straightforward as Peter and was glad he was the one that came down instead of Mr. Tucks.

“No.  The less I know about it the better.  Get rid of the entire car, I never want to see it or her again.  I don’t think I need to tell you that this kind of problem can’t happen again.”  Peter said.

“Nope, I don’t reckon that you do, sir,” replied Frank.  “I’ll take care of it right away.”  Frank paused and looked uncertain for a moment.

“Is there something else?” Peter asked warily?

“Yessir.  I wonder if you couldn’t just deliver these to Mr. Tucks for me.  He asked me to collect them when I called him about…the problem.”  Frank handed Peter two vials of blood.  Anger flashed in Peter’s eyes as he realized that once again, Colin had put the entire operation in jeopardy by giving away too much information to people who didn’t need to know.  Colin was becoming as big of a problem as Regina and Peter resolved to do something about that too.

 

 

Formative Inspiration

I was always an avid reader.  As a child, I would get in trouble for staying up past my bedtime reading by the dim glow of the nightlight.  My mother, as punishment for when she caught me, would take away what ever book I was caught reading.  In hindsight, we laugh together at the absurdity of this practice!  All the punishment did was ensure I became adept at reading several books at a time so I could squirrel them away for harder times when my Mother took a book away.

My taste in literature was, and still is, widely varied.  There are books that feel like home to me; some books just stuck with me and are the equivalent of a big bowl of comfort food.  I have collected a list of 9 books that I feel had a formative effect on me.  Often now, when I read a new book, I find myself making comparisons to many of the texts on this list and finding some way to connect them.

  1.  The Curse of Blood Swamp

This short book by Cindy Savage packs a lot of punch into just a little over a hundred pages.  There are swamps, alligators, witches, voodoo, and adventure on every page and I must have read this book over a dozen times since it was published.  I still own my original copy and it is always a reliable, quick escape from the day.

2. The Chimpanzee Kid

Ron Roy is a children’s author and this is one of his earliest published works.  I have always been an animal lover and the theme of fighting for animal rights is strong in this novel.  It appealed to me as a child to see other children standing up for animals that had no voice, even when everyone else thought they were weird.  Roy’s writing is engaging and I was always able to read this book at a quick pace.

3. Big Red

One of the most popular books written by Jim Kjelgaard, Big Red brought the great outdoors to life in a way that was unique to Kjelgaard’s writing style.  I grew up surrounded by animals and nature, so it wasn’t necessarily Big Red himself that drew me in, it was more the relationship between Danny and Big Red that appealed to me.

4. Black Beauty

Anna Sewell’s writing gives a gentle, soul-touching voice to the various animals featured in this book.  My early love of this book and frequency with which I re-read it ensured that I was never able to stay silent if I saw someone treating an animal with anything short of utter adoration.  This resulted in many awkward situations for my parents who, while animal lovers themselves, had a much more realistic view of the rural farmland in which we lived.  What was, I’m told but still don’t completely agree with, actually normal, humane treatment of animals looked like nothing short of violent animal abuse to me and my close relationship with Black Beauty and his friends simply did not allow me to not speak up about it.

5. All Creatures Great and Small 

This book was the first in a series written by James Herriot about his life as a veterinarian in England.  Herriot writes with a delightful humor that keeps me coming back to his world time and time again.  He introduced me to British humor and opened a whole new category of literature to satisfy my voracious appetite for reading.  My mother is a zookeeper, so this series of books always felt like familiar territory to me, but with an exotic, British twist on what I saw everyday.

6. The Mandie Books

I loved the mystery and the frequent interweaving of Native American culture that Lois Gladys Leppard writes in these stories.  When I think of Mandie, I think of hidden staircases and candlelight and nighttime adventures that always felt so exciting to me as a child.  These were some of my favorite books to read by the nightlight, and very conducive to having multiple stories being read at one time, just in case my Mother took one away!

7. The Island of the Blue Dolphins

I have read this book by Scott O’Dell probably the fewest times of all the books on this list, but it nonetheless carved out a place in my memory.  Being slightly older when I read this book, between being a child and a teenager, the main character’s loneliness and self-sufficiency in survival resonated with me and I thought of her often as I struggled with what felt like the biggest issues in the world (as they are to every pre-teen).

8. The Black Stallion

Another great telling of a special relationship between an animal and a human written by Walter Farley.  Perhaps it was books like this one that convinced me that animals have souls and animals can be friends and companions in a way that humans can not be.  The Black Stallion showed me that when you treat animals with respect and kindness and as if they do in fact have souls like you and I,  you find this special companionship available to you.

9. The Thorn Birds

I first read Colleen McCullough’s story about Cleary’s and Father Ralph when I was 16 years old, and I have read it once a year since then.  This is hands down my favorite book of all time.  I can’t place my finger on what exactly ties me so firmly to this story, I simply fell into its pages and never get tired of being in this world.  Paddy’s dislike and mistreatment of Meggie’s Italian friend and her family tore at my sense of justice and I think of it every time I see someone mistreated for their race.  Anytime I come across someone in real life that seems bitter and mean I think of Fiona and all that happened in her life to make her end up so bitter and mean and I try to be kinder to that person.  When people I just meet take me in as one of their own and treat me like family I think of Luddie and Anne Mueller and how kind they were to Meggie.  There is just so much to this story about humans and how complex we can be and how varied the reasons are that we become that way.  My copy of this book is barely held together by a few strings of bindings – it may be time for a new copy soon!

 

What books inspired you over the years and still play a role in how you write and why you choose the literature you do?

Choose Your Own Adventure

My last couple of posts have included the beginning of a story called “Reconsidering Regina.”  In the first post, I invited the readers to comment and help decide which way the story should go.  That got me thinking about one of my favorite genres to read as a young adult – Choose Your Own Adventure.

Did you ever read any of those books?  An intrepid explorer finds a well-hidden cavern behind a waterfall but is expected back at camp in an hour.  Does she explore the cavern, or check in back at camp and bring someone back with her?

I would have chosen to go back to camp and bring a friend.  What if that choice resulted in injury or even death to your friend?  Looking back at what I remember most about those stories, I realize they really played a role in shaping my understanding of the consequences inherent in any decision.

I often wonder, “What if I go to Chipotle for lunch instead of Piada?  How many people’s days will change ever so slightly because I made a different decision?”

This is an important lesson in writing.  What you write doesn’t exist in the universe until you actually write it – how might your creation change people just by them reading it and absorbing it?  Would my gooey nougat-y moral center be a little harder and more cynical if I hadn’t read so many Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid and really gained an understanding of actions and consequences?

As Uncle Ben says in that Spiderman movie, “With great power come great responsibility.”  Write well, and write to inspire.  Create in to the universe that which you would like to be surrounded with!

Recovering Regina

Colin hung up the phone and leaned back in his leather chair, hands clasped tightly together and lips pursed in deep thought.  He seemed to come to some decision as he leaned forward suddenly and picked up the phone again.

“Yes, Mr. Tucks?” a soft, feminine voice answered.

“Get Peter on the line,” clipped Colin.

“Right away, sir,” replied the woman.

The line rang several times before Peter picked up.  As usual, Peter was impatient and in a habitual hurry as he answered the phone with a simple “Yes?”

“We have a problem.”  Colin said.  “Pat called.  There was an…incident with one of the study participants.  We’re going to need to figure out how to recover this situation.  We’ll lose all our funding if these extra-curricular activities get out.”  Peter was silent for an uncomfortable amount of time before replying with a curt “Yes.” and hanging up the phone.  Colin sighed heavily and walked over to the glass wall in his office that looked down over the city.

His company had invested an enormous amount of money into this new heart drug that was currently being studied and had put Colin in charge of following up on the process.  What they didn’t know is that Colin had found a much more lucrative way of using the study participants and had been stashing away far more money than the company was paying him over the past year.

This incident could ruin not only Colin’s second stream of income, but also the entire investment made by his company.  He suddenly felt very uneasy as he realized that he really had no idea how Peter would handle a situation like this.  Making a swift decision, Colin out on his coat, grabbed his keys, and headed out of the office to go see Peter in person.

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This is the second part of the “Reconsidering Regina” story.  Obviously Frank and Pat decided to tell their bosses that there was a problem!  Keep checking in to the blog to see how Colin and Peter deal with the incident.

Prompting Progress

Have you ever just sat and stared at your computer screen for an obscene amount of time?  I have.  On multiple occasions.  And I hate it!

Over the years I have researched and tried so many different methods of combating writer’s block and after much trial and error my favorite method of working past it is with prompts.  There are hundreds and hundreds of prompts for fiction short stories to be found online and you may be surprised just how well they can get your creative juices flowing!

I was originally going to spend some time researching and gathering prompts to share with you as a resource, but I felt pretty uninspired upon beginning that venture.  I thought, why not turn the tables and be the prompter this time?  So, I put together 10 prompts to inspire you past any pesky writer’s block.  A pro challenge I’ve come across on several different sites is to try and include all of the prompts in one story…if you’re feeling brave!

  1. Sitting alone in your cabin deep in the woods you reflect on what has been the loneliest year of your life.  Suddenly a loud, vibrating tremble shakes the entire cabin and a great big cloud of soot billows out of the fireplace.

  2. You have finally accomplished something big.  You can cross an item off your bucket list, item #17, finish a tube of chapstick all the way down to the bottom.  But you did NOT expect to find what you found there!

  3. Your Grandmother recently passed away and you are feeling pretty down about not being able to talk to her anymore.  Before she passed she gave you some old lace curtains that had been hanging in her bedroom since you were a little girl.  You just hung them up in your bedroom and are sitting in a chair by the window.  What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel?

  4. This morning you dropped your 5 year old son off for his first day of kindergarten.  He was so excited, waving one chubby hand in the air at you as the other hand clutched his blue Spiderman lunchbox.  But when you pick him up in the afternoon, he is no longer excited – he is sad and withdrawn.  Describe what happened that day from his point of view.

  5. You have been given a magical box full of everything you have ever lost in your entire life.  What are the 5 things you are most happy to find and how did you lose them?  What are 3 things you wish you had never found again and why?

  6. You wake up one day and you can’t open your eyes.  Completely blind and living alone you are forced to rely on your other senses to seek help.  Describe how you do that.

  7. You arrive home to find a package on your doorstep.  There is no return address and when you open it there is a walkie-talkie inside.  A conversation ensues.

  8. The man climbed down out of the cargo hold and crouched behind the wheel.  He patted the small package hidden under his shirt collar to reassure himself it was still there and then began planning his escape.

  9. Your sister has been acting so strange lately.  You weren’t sure why until you did what little sisters do and peeked in her diary.  Wow, you really wish you hadn’t!

  10. Sitting at the table, surrounded by people whose language you do not speak, you struggle to find a way to avoid eating the deep fried insects being offered to you without being rude.

 

Use your imagination and go crazy!  Feel free to share some of your story ideas in the comments!

 

 

Reconsidering Regina

 

Regina woke up and it was still dark.  Confused, she tried to roll over and look at the alarm clock but for some reason she couldn’t roll all the way.  She realized her head was pounding and instinctively tried to reach her hand up to her head.  Still confused and quite groggy, a hollow sense of panic chased the breath out of her chest as she realized that she couldn’t raise her hands at all.

Her grogginess vanished in an instant as adrenaline filled the hollow space in her chest with short, ragged breaths.  Her eyes were now opened wide and her black pupils took over all the blue as they expanded to search for a source of light, any source of light, to gain some sense of up or down.

There was no light.  Regina could feel her heart beating at what felt like an impossible pace and had dealt with her heart issues long enough to know that this terror could kill her.  Pointlessly she closed her eyes to the dark and concentrated on slowing down her breathing.

She tried again to roll to first the left, then the right, but found she was unable to roll more than a few inches either way and seemed to be stuck laying on her back.  With a deep, sobbing breath, Regina started moving her fingers around and realized that not only did her wrists seem to be bound together, but when she tried to pull her arms up towards her face she felt her feet try to come along with the tugging.

Regina knew now that she was in real trouble.  Her breathing became irregular again and she started sobbing as she felt her heart pick up its pace.  A loud metallic thud near her head scared her even more and she felt her heartbeat get erratic as the thud was followed by a slow, screeching trail of sound that seemed to go from her head down to where her hands were bound.

The last thing Regina ever saw was a brilliant burst of light as the trunk was flung open and her heart finally gave up.

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“Geez, Frank, you were only ever supposed to take ‘er and scare ‘er, not ever kill ‘er.  The bosses are gonna be pissed!” Pat spat.  “Why’d you have to go and kill ‘er?”

“I never even touched her, besides tying her up and putting her in the trunk!” Frank explained.  “They can’t do nothin’, because I didn’t do nothin’!”

Pat rubbed the stubble of beard growth on his face as he thought about this for a minute.  “Well, I don’t think that’s gonna matter none to em’.  We gotta do something about this,” he finally decided.

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READERS:

Here is where I am undecided in the direction of the story for Frank and Pat.  Do they hided the evidence and cover up the accidental murder from their bosses?  Or do they come clean and deal with the consequences?

Help me decide in the comments section!

 

Murderous Meerkat or Mousy Mole?

I have done a lot of writing over the past couple of decades.  Have you read any of my stuff?  Unless we shared a class together at some point, probably not.  That’s because I have always been a mousy mole about my writing.

Mostly I write just for the fun of writing.  A character piques my interest and the story comes out quicker than my pen can move.  Much like the light-hating mole, I have always been too comfortable underground to let my writing see any light.  Classes such as the one I am taking now about Writing for Professional Publication push me to throw pieces of my writing above ground.  The sort-of anonymity of the online class forum allows me to still dive back underground and hide from negativity when warranted, so that helps.

My goal is writing this blog is to become less like a mousy mole and more like a murderous meerkat.  Did you know that meerkats have been determined to be the most murderous mammals next to humans?

 

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She doesn’t care if you don’t like her writing.

Meerkats may burrow underground, but they aren’t afraid to pop up, tell other meerkats what they are thinking, and apparently become murderous when their fellow meerkats disagree.  Obviously I will avoid any actual murdering – meerkat societal awareness hasn’t quite caught up to human understanding of right and wrong – but I will care less about what other people think about my writing and just put it out there.  Good or bad, I refuse to hide underground like a mousy mole any longer!

Character Building

There are always people running around in my head.  One of my favorite past-times is people-watching because I like to imagine the lives that people around me are leading.  Perhaps this is a defense mechanism that has developed in response to so many years of customer service; if I don’t make up stories to explain away people’s odd behavior I may have lost all of my marbles by now!

I put together a few of the characters I have built over my last several people-watches and have featured them in a poll that you can vote in.  Let me know which characters you would like to keep reading about!

PlayBuzz Character Building Poll

Researching the Path Forward

Besides the creation of content, I realize I have a role and a responsibility in the publishing process if I want to be successful.  Having a stack of completed stories does me no good if I haven’t done my research and made a plan to move forward into getting published.

I spent some time thinking about what exactly my responsibilities should consist of and came up with 3 main things I need to accomplish:

  • Marketplace Research
    • Since I am a beginning writer, I have an opportunity to pair up my love of story telling with current trends in fiction.  Knowing what kinds of topics are trending and looking at book cover art that has resonated with readers can be helpful in guiding me towards successful ventures.  There are many great resources online to help with marketplace research and I have listed a few of the best ones I found:
      • Shortlist.com shows the 50 coolest book covers of all time.
      • Buzzfeed.com covers the most beautiful book covers from 2015.
      • PasteMagazine.com takes a look at the best book covers so far in 2016.
      • slj.com talks about current trends in childrens’s literature.
      • PulishersWeekly.com has this great article full of literary agents sharing what they see as the current trends for young adult readers and what trends they would like to see in the future.
  • Initiate an Official Editing Process
    • There are many different kinds of editing and it seems prudent to research effective, economical options for a writer just starting out.
      • TheCreativePenn.com is an invaluable resource to use for this process.
      • SelfPublishingReview.com is a resource that links to dozens of other resources to aid in not only finding editors for books you intend to self-publish, but also for other elements in the process.
  • Decide on Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing
    • At this point in the writing process, it’s time to publish or put down the pen.  I spent a lot of time discovering the many pros and cons for each publishing method and have decided that for me, self-publishing my first work is the way to go.  Some of the factors that helped me decide that are access to quicker pay and more control over the process, as well as the opportunity to find my footing as a writer and explore the topics that make me happy to write about.  I have included links to some useful websites I found while researching pros and cons of both kinds of publishing:
      • WritersDigest.com does a great job outlining the pros and cons of traditional publishing and self-publishing.
      • TheCreativePenn.com comes to the rescue again with more fantastic content related to publishing your work.

I decided self-publishing is the best choice for me at this point in my career, but if I had opted for traditional publishing, the next step would be to find a literary agent.  I could not in good conscience complete this post without mentioning this outstanding article that shares advice and resources for your journey to find a legitimate literary agent:

sfwa.org

Whatever you decide, the most valuable work you can do is to make a plan and move forward!

Welcome!

I love writing.  Often I find inspiration from people watching.  Sitting on my patio I watch the neighbor from three apartments down taking her dog for a walk.  Something about her will stand out; she walk with a slight limp on her left side, or startles an excessive amount at a backfiring car.  I may forget I was observing her and find my mind wandering.  Perhaps when she was young she preferred cats as pets and had a black and white cat named Mr. Whiskers.  Maybe one day Mr. Whiskers ran out the front door when she was coming home from school one day and sprinted to hide under a bush next to the road.  She loved Mr. Whiskers and left the door open behind her as she chased him.  In her childlike blinded panic she paid no attention to her surroundings and dove into the bush after the cat. The loud blaring of a car horn and the sound of a man’s voice yelling for someone to get out of the way brought the girl’s Mother to the open front door just in time to see the girl get knocked over by a slow-moving car.  The girl’s left leg was pinned under the front tire and she cried out in distress as she struggled to get free.  Suddenly her Mother was beside her, a calm presence trying to help her pull free.  Even through her pain and tears, the girl could feel the icy change in the air as her Father got out of the car and joined her Mother in trying to free her.  Her Father smelled what he always smelled like, sort of strong like mouthwash, but different, and her Mother was no longer calm.  The girl lost consciousness then, and when she woke up in the hospital it took some time for her to heal well enough to walk at all.  The doctors told her Mother that the girl would always have a limp.  The girl returned home after several weeks and even though she was so young, she was intuitive enough to fell the wall her Mother put up after the accident.  The girl never saw her Father or Mr. Whiskers again and much prefers dogs over cats now that she is older.

Or maybe the lady walking her dog just sprained her ankle slipping in the rain.  That just doesn’t seem as interesting to explore.  Around this time frame is when the neighbor walking the dog may notice my glazed-over expression and start walking faster, away from the weird staring lady who sits on her patio doing nothing but thinking.  I hope to capture some of these imaginings in this blog and look forward to interacting with my Readers!