Saturday, September 29, 2012

Where's Michaela?

            Yesterday was "39 For the First Time’s" second blogiversary. I started blogging for a few reasons—to force myself to write on a regular basis, to record the journey into my forties, and to tell stories of my kids. I didn’t plan on posting fiction. These days though, I post fiction more than anything else.
            Last year I heard of this crazy project called NaNoWriMo. People all around the world pledge to write a complete novel in the month of November. I decided that setting an insane goal like that was just the kick in the pants my writing needed. By the last day of November I had finished a 51,000-word novel about a character named Michaela. It had a beginning, middle and end. It had likable characters and a complicated but happy ending. When finished, I had the most peculiar feeling. It was like the aceing the hardest exam of your life combined with watching your child walk into kindergarten for the first time. Pride. Elation. And a profound sense of “now what”?
            I had it printed out  and put it into a giant blue binder. But I decided to let it settle for a month so I could tackled it with a clearer mind. But while it rested, I started writing about a new character. Her name was Karen and she was infinitely more interesting than Michaela. Michaela’s story began to fade into the background.
If fiction writing was a dance, Michaela was the girl who brought me and I ought to be dancing with her. I learned so much about writing while I created Michaela. It’s time to give her story some attention. So I declare October NaNoEdMo—National Novel Editing Month. It’s time to take that big blue binder and turn it into a novel.

This week’s prompt from Write on Edge was to take break from fiction and spend some time exploring our writing ambitions and goals.

Friday, September 28, 2012

100 Word Song: Wait

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog
            I'm linking up with the 100 Word Song challenge over at My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. Each week we're given a song to inspire a story told in exactly 100 words. This week's song choice was "I Will Wait" by Mumford and Sons. The gorgeous lyrics that caught my attention were:

Now I'll be bold, as well as strong
And use my head along side my heart
So tame my flesh and fix my eyes
a tethered mind freed from the lies

            They made me think of my character Karen. If you'd like to read more of her story, click here.


            Karen watched Henry’s car pull away. He had held her in his arms and wiped her tears away as he tried not to cry.

It isn’t the end.

It’s only an internship.

Chicago isn’t that far away.

            But she knew.

            Chicago could be next door or on the other side of the world. More than miles separated them now. She could pretend he’d be back for her. But that wasn’t her way. She stared the truth in the eye as she always had. Lying to herself would keep her tied to the ground. Knowing the truth would cut the tethers.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What I Like About You

...An Ode to Fall
            I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s writing workshop this week. She asks the timeless question, “What do you like best about fall?” So here are ten of my favorite things about my favorite season.

            1.) Apples Apple picking, apple crisp, apple pie, caramel apples, apple cake, apple cider, apple crisp. Did I mention apple crisp? It’s my favorite dessert on earth. Serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have heaven in a bowl.

            2.) New Beginnings Fall is the ultimate time of renewal. Forget about making resolutions in January. January is cold and dark. It's a time for bulky sweaters and hot chocolate. From the time we let go of our parents’ hand and walk into school for the first time, our new beginnings happen in September. Even though it’s been years since I sat in a classroom, I still feel like fall is the time to make new things happen.

            3.) Pretty Colors I would be remiss as a New Englander if I didn’t mention the fall foliage. I can’t imagine living any place where the leaves don’t make their dramatic costume change before taking their final exit every fall. What’s fall without pictures of kids jumping into a giant pile of leaves?

            4.) Halloween The truth is, I have a love-hate relationship with this holiday. As a person with a deep theatrical bent, I feel the desire to go above and beyond with costuming and decorating. But as a working mom, I just don’t have the time or the desire to turn into a giant stress ball over a holiday that neither celebrates my religion nor my country. And, for which I do not get the day off. On the other hand, the kids look so cute and I love those little “fun-sized” Snickers bars...

            5.) Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. You can check out the recipe here where they're called Pilgrim Pies. Even though I can buy Pumpkin year-round, I only make these treasures in the fall. Maybe they're more special because you can't get them any time of the year, like those pumpkin spice lattes everyone is so crazy about. Not me though. I like pumpkin in may baked goods—muffins, breads, pies. Keep it out of my coffee and out of my beer. And that goes double for blueberry.

            6.) Apple Crisp What do you mean I already said that? Well, it bears repeating.

            7.) Soccer No, I’m not a raging sports fan and my kids aren’t hard-core athletes. I may whine about dragging my butt out of bed early on the weekends, but I adore Saturday morning soccer in my hometown.

            8.) Sleeping The air is cool enough to stop using the air conditioner and warm enough you don’t need to turn on the heat. The only hard part is getting out of the cozy warm nest and facing the cool air. I’m writing this right now at 6:00 am and it’s still pitch black outside and the perfect temperature for sleeping.

            9.) Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Now if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may be aware of the fact that I am Catholic. So why are these Jewish holy days my favorite things about fall? The first is purely superficial. Schools are closed in this city for both holidays. So my kids and I have the day off with no obligations at all. Last week we had a long visit to my parents and picked apples in New Hampshire. On a more meaningful level, I have long thought of September as the real start of the new year (see number two). As far as Yom Kippur goes, I love the idea of practicing a day of atonement. I think society as a whole would be much better off if we all spent more time reflecting on our own shortcomings and less time judging those of others. Besides, Jesus was Jewish!

            10.) Apple Crisp Well, I was going to say watching football. But we all now how that’s going so far this year.

Nothing says autumn like New Hampshire. For your amusement I present "Granite State of Mind".

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Perfect Gift


            Karen logged onto EBay on the library computer. The pawn dealer had offered her fifty dollars for the teapot Henry gave her mother thirty years ago. She though she could get a better price selling it on-line.
            As Karen entered her password, she recalled the night Henry had given the teapot to Peggy. He had been desperate to think of the perfect gift—an engraved cigarette case, a silver candlestick, a fur stole. But he knew nothing would ease Peggy’s mistrust of Henry.
            Karen held her breath when Henry handed Peggy the scarlet gift box on Christmas Eve.
            “Romm’s, eh?” Peggy said seeing the gold foil seal on the box. “You can’t buy me Henry.”
            “Mum!” Karen whispered.
            “It’s okay Karen. No Mrs. O’Brien It isn’t a bribe. The gift isn’t even from Romm’s. The box was just the right size.”
            Peggy pried the lid off the box and looked inside. Her face was emotionless for a moment, then her eyes became glassy.
            “How? Where did you find this?”
            “Karen told me she broke your teapot when she was a little girl. She described it so vividly that when I saw this one in a shop on the Cape I thought it must be similar.”
            “It looks just like the one my mother brought with her from Ireland. It was the only thing she had besides the clothes on her back. It’s perfect Henry. Thank you.”
            Karen shut down the computer. There were other ways to pay the rent.

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
            I’m linking up with Write on Edge this week to continue Karen’s story. In homage to the classic game “Clue”, we were challenged to use the words candlestick, library and scarlet in a piece of fiction or non-fiction in 250 words or less. If you like this, read more about Karen here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Charlotte: Looking for Answers

            Charlotte pulled up in front of a 1960’s ranch that looked like all the other houses in the neighborhood. The only difference was a lack of toys in the driveway and a slightly overgrown lawn.
            “You must be Charlotte,” the psychic said opening the door. “I’m Georgia. Come in.” 
            Georgia’s hair was dyed an artificially vivid red and she wore a loose fitting sweatsuit over her ample curves. She led Charlotte into the sun-filled kitchen and gestured for her to sit.
“Can I get you some tea?”
            “No thanks. May I record our conversation?”
            “Certainly. Many of my clients record their readings. Sometimes a great deal of information comes through.”
            “I’m not here for a reading. As I explained on the phone, I want to interview you. I’m happy to pay your fee of course.”
 “You may find I can tell you much more interesting things about yourself than I can about me.”
            “Do your predictions just come to you? Or do you have to work at it?”
            “A little of both. When my talents first emerged, I had no control over them. Over time I learned to direct them.”
            “How old were you?”
            “Seventeen. I was terrified about some of the things I saw and felt. I’m sure you know what that’s like.”
            “That’s why your here. A journalism student would never pay for an interview. You’ve been having feelings you can’t explain and you hope our conversation will help you figure things out.”
            “So, you’ve made in inference from my willingness to pay and come to a conclusion. That doesn’t sound like psychic ability to me.”
            “It isn’t. The only thing I’ve proven is that I’m observant. I can demonstrate my psychic ability if you like.”
            “You aren’t insulted?”
            “Honey, I have plenty of clients who believe. Why should I care if you do?”
            Charlotte sat quietly, not knowing what to do next.
            “Give me your hand,” Georgia said. “Maybe I can tell you something you don’t know.”


           I’m linking up with the Trifecta challenge again this week. The challenge is to write a piece between 33 and 333 words long using the third definition of the word “ample”. This piece picks up with my character Charlotte as she begins her search for answers about her burgeoning psychic abilities. You can read more about Charlotte here.

AMPLE (adj.)

1: generous or more than adequate in size, scope, or capacity (there was room for an ample garden)
2: generously sufficient to satisfy a requirement or need (they had ample money for the trip)
3: buxom, portly (an ample figure)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Trifecta Challenge: Radical

            Professor Melville Andrews leaned back in his chair, propped his elbows on the armrests, pressed his fingertips together and waited.
            “The thing is,” Charlotte said. “I think I’m losing my mind.”
            Mel merely nodded for her to go on.
            “That accident where the student was killed last week? I knew it was going to happen. I was about to pull my car out of the driveway right before the crash. But I something told me not to go. I shut off the engine and went back inside. The minute I closed the door I heard the crash. I held her hand while she died.”
            “I’m so sorry Char. Anyone would have trouble dealing with something like that.”
            “But there’s more. Last week I was having coffee in the student lounge when I started having this feeling of pure joy that I just couldn’t explain. I’ve never felt anything like it before. When I checked my mail later there was a letter from Brendan McGee.”
            “Your old flame.”
 “He’s coming into town next month and he wants to get together.”
“A happy coincidence?”
“The thing that really freaked me happened when my roommate Cary was washing the dishes. I had a vision of them covered in blood.”
“Did she hurt herself?"
“No. She was cast as Lady Macbeth in the Spring production.”
Dr. Andrews pressed his lips together, trying to suppress a grin.
“I don’t believe in any of this crap. From the time I was in kindergarten I wanted to be a scientist. I don’t buy into this psychic mumbo jumbo. If I can study it and prove it it’s real.”
“So study it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Look Char, something is happening to you. It sounds real enough to me. Start keeping a journal of what’s going on.”
“I can’t believe you aren’t going to recommend I see a shrink about this.”
“Is it really so radical to believe that your brain is capable of more than you thought it was?”

I'm linking up for the first time this week for the Trifecta Challenge. The challenge this week was to use the word "radical" in a piece that is between 33 and 333 words long. I made it by 1 word.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Fiction: Labor Day

             I’m linking up this week with Write On Edge. Their prompt challenged us to use local items or industries as a focal point to develop our setting. I thought a Dunkin’ Donuts on a road that leads to Cape Cod would be perfect for painting a certain picture. I’ve written most of the dialogue phonetically, except in cases where I didn’t think the phonetically spelled word would be understood by the reader. For example, Danny and Debby would pronounce the word “we’re” as “weyah”. Below is a video called “Shit Boston Guys Say” that very accurately (and humorously) portrays the way a lot of young men from the Boston area sound. It’s full of strong language, so if that offends you, you may want to skip it.

Labor Day Weekend

            “Occupational hazid,” Debbie muttered as  she smoothed her uniform shirt over her muffin top. Ignoring the unflattering reflection in the plate glass window, she unlocked the front door to the Cranberry Highway Dunkin’ Donuts.
            It was Labor Day weekend and the store would be crowded with people on their way to the Cape for the next couple of days. Debbie’s feet and back would be killing her by Sunday afternoon. But by Tuesday the traffic would slow down and if the warm weather held on long enough, Debbie might get a visit to the beach herself.
            Danny Sullivan came in as he had everyday for the last two years. Debbie had his large regular iced ready before Danny reached the counter.
            “Youra life savah Debbie,” he said pulling his wallet out. “What ah you gonna do if I come in and ohdah one of them fancy flavahed lattes?”
            “I’ll probably have a haht-attack if that evah happens Danny.”
            “That’s fresh Debbie. I’ll staht goin’ to that Stahbucks if you keep that up.”
            “Right. You’ll nevah go to Stahbuck’s Danny. You’d hafta cross the bridge.”
 “True. Tourist oughtta hafta learn to drive in a rotary befoh they lettem go down the Cape.”
            “Damn right Danny,” she said with a grin. “You should run foh govenah.”
            He laughed, took off his Red Sox cap and nervously ran his hand through his sandy hair. His summer wiffle was starting to grow out and his hair stood up in awkwardly even spikes around his head.
            “Listen Debbie, you doin’ anything tomorrow night?”
            “Probably just soakin’ my feet? Why do you ask?”
            “Me and my brothah are gettin’ a bunch of people togethah. We’re gettin’ some lobstahs and steamahs. You should stop by. It’s gonna be pissah.”
            “Sounds like fun. What can I bring.”
            “We could always use moh beeh.”
            “I’ll stop at the packy on my way ovah.”
            “Great! I’ll see you then.”
            “See you then Danny.”
            He picked up his coffee and walked out the door.
            “About friggin’ time Danny Sullivan,” Debby said as she watched his truck pull away.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Rules

             As my kids head back to school tomorrow morning, I’ve been reflecting on all of the parenting expectation I had before I had kids. In my perfect little fantasy world I would be firm but fair and my children, recognizing this fact, would be angels.  The would certainly never be exposed to junk food…

            …or video games.

            My family would always eat nutritious, homemade meals…

            and our vacations would all be educational.

            But parenting is much less black and white than I ever realized. And sometimes a quick call for a take-out pizza or a half hour in front of the television can save Mommy’s sanity.
            Lately I’ve had the chance to observe thousands of new college students converging on the Boston area. Some of them are ready to live on their own. They know what they need and how to get it. And some… well let’s just say it’s difficult to picture some of these kids living and thriving on their own.  My greatest wish for my children is to give them the tools they need to become independent.
            Sometimes it’s hard to let kids do things for themselves. We’re constantly saying we'd do anything for our children. And let’s face it, there are times when it’s easier to do the task yourself. But maybe we’re doing our children a disservice by not letting them do things for themselves—even if it means a few small failures along the way.
I want to know when we drop Owen off at college in eight years (shudder!), he’ll know not to wash his white socks with his new red sweatshirt. I want him to know that it will take him two hours in his work-study job to earn enough for that pizza he’s craving (and sometimes it’s worth it). I want him to believe that if a piece of furniture needs to be assembled, he can do it. I want him to know he can call us whenever he needs to, but I hope he’ll always try to solve his own problems first.
This parenting thing is a balancing act between providing for our children and giving them the tools to provide for themselves. I have a few new rules for myself these days. I hope I can stick to them.

Monday, September 3, 2012

100 Word Song: Twilight

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

             I’m linking up with the fabulous 100 Word Song meme over at My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. The source of this week’s inspiration is “Monkey Wash, Donkey Rinse” by Warren Zevon. Charlotte is a character who has been on my mind for some time now and I’m just now beginning to put her story on paper. You’ll be hearing more from her future posts.

            Charlotte’s hand was still on the doorknob when she heard a crash. Through the window she saw the remains of a slate blue Honda Civic crumpled against a telephone pole. She slid awkwardly across the icy sidewalk and wrenched open the car door.
            “The sun was in my eyes,” the girl whispered. “I couldn’t see.”
“You’re going to be okay,” Charlotte insisted. “I can hear sirens. Help is on the way.”
            “That’s nice of you to say,” as the lids drooped over her green eyes. “I can’t feel anything. We both know I’m heading for a hole in the ground.”