On the Side of Angels

On the Side of Angels

On the Side of Angels

By: Jay Duret

All writers know it is hard to make any money from a book. You have to get it noticed among thousands of other offerings. In that respect, a new book is something like a start-up company. But start up companies are getting funded all the time. It occurs to me that maybe writers could learn something important from the community of investors who bankroll start-ups. I ask my friend Zuni to take me to an angel investment club in Palo Alto.

Zuni is a cheerful soul. She made some money years ago rolling up floral distribution companies and has no need to go to the office. In the last several months she has fallen in love two times, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, sat for the California bar, become the Chief Operating Officer for one start-up and bankrolled another. She agrees to take me to an angel investing conference, more or less in the same vein.

We drive down from San Francisco on Route 280, fend off the Wednesday morning traffic and exit onto Sand Hill Road. As we approach Palo Alto, I feel as if we are locked into a tractor beam and being pulled into Battlestar Silicon Valley, the epicenter of venture capitalism. If there is any place to be an angel investor in 2015, it is right here.

We are late. The angels have been at it for an hour before we arrive and every seat in the 300-seat auditorium is filled. The stage is now occupied by a broad-faced character named Tony Stevens who sports a tan as rich as an Allen Edmonds shoe. We get ourselves settled and flip open our program brochures to the salient points of the 13 companies that are presenting today. Stevens has endeared himself to me already because he looks startlingly like Fred Willard, the actor who played the color commentator at the dog show in the movie Best in Show. At first, I think they are the same person for Stevens is subject to the same wild fits of digression that Willard displayed in that mockumentary.

Stevens is wearing a white shirt and a gray cardigan sweater vest. He is in ruddy health and clearly loves to be in the center of the stage. He carries a microphone and struts like he owns the space. He yells out to one of his team – his team must have 20 people on it – to tee him up some music, and instantly Rod Stewart is playing Maggie May and Stevens is dancing, poorly and enthusiastically, across the stage.

I look around the auditorium to see how the angels are taking it. I’ve never been in a room filled with angels before, and the expressions are not nearly as beatific as you would think. The angels are a varied crew. There are plenty of 30 year old Asian men in baseball hats, an assortment of characters in suits like they just got off the plane from Baltimore, a variety of women, each of whom looks as if she could easily run a Fortune 500 company, but no one in the audience seems to be in the mood for dancing. Stevens realizes this, ruefully – what’s with you people anyway? – but signals for the music to fade.

He is not embarrassed. In a nanosecond he has regrouped, bounded across the stage, and called up the CEO of an emerging enterprise with a dyspeptic name that sounds something like ZipLock. ZipLock exists to accelerate Internet speeds in the Last Mile. Everyone here knows that the Last Mile is not the route that Christ traversed to Golgotha, but the distance from a telecommunications network into the homes of individual consumers. I am all for accelerating those speeds so I pay close attention to learn what this start-up’s secret sauce might be, but I am quickly lost in the jargon of the presenter. She speaks Siliconese, a kind of Spanglish – though not a mixture of English and Spanish – but of tech talk and finance talk all jumbled together. First mover advantage with an IP fortress in close juxtaposition to convertible notes and managed liquidity events. She explains that ZipLock’s solution will be delivered through the cloud via a USB dongle. Not only is it a global game changer, but, really good news, it won’t be threatened by the next big thing.

I lean over to Zuni. “Are you interested in funding this enterprise?” Zuni rolls her eyes and makes a cutting motion across her neck.

Each pitch is limited to 10 minutes except for a few companies that are seeking seed-level investments: they are given only three. After the pitch, the audience is given 10 minutes of questions and at the end encouraged to indicate their interest on a gold sheet, which Stevens tells us is the most important piece of paper that we will see today. The gold sheet tells the organizers what our level of interest is and will kick off the due diligence process that will lead to investment in those lucky companies that attract the most favorable attention.

I had anticipated that all the potential investments at this Expo would be in tech companies but I am completely wrong. Next up is a gentlemen with mutton chops – really, who wears mutton chops? Is that a thing? – who pitches an investment fund making short term real estate loans to developers in the Portland area. He has closed out an initial fund and says those investors have enjoyed a 20% return on equity. Mutton Chops has presented before at this club in the past and he enjoys a reservoir of goodwill but he doesn’t draw a smile from the angels – this is a sour group of angels or maybe all angels look sour when listening to pitches. MC is not fazed at all, actually he is slightly sour-faced too; he moves through his presentation easily, without hyperbole, letting his numbers do his talking. He exits to polite applause.

The stage is briefly taken over by a kid – I’m not kidding, he’s really a kid, he can’t be 20 years old – who startles us with the news that our pillowcases are as dirty as our toilets seats. From there it is a short step to convincing us that acne is pandemic among people who sleep on pillowcases. He and his merry band are poised to disrupt the pillowcase industry with a new material that can be infused – maybe he said suffused – with oils that repel the crap that ordinarily covers our pillowcases.

The kid is a big hit with the audience, but there is a question. He’s only looking for $1.2 million and it’s just to buy inventory. One investor points out that equity money – that’s the sort of money the angels are supplying: high risk, high return, money – is expensive money to use just to buy product; why doesn’t the kid get a bank loan? The kid says that the product is so hot they need to buy right away; they can’t wait for a bank to go through the painful tire-kicking it will require before doing a line of credit. That answer clearly resonates. These angels don’t have any love for bank lenders, with their methodical low risk, low return investments. Equity money may be expensive money, but it is smart money.

Stevens is back and he quickly shoos the kid off stage. He looks around the room – it is uncanny how much he looks like Willard – and makes another attempt to pump up the crowd. He fires up some rock and roll and he struts a bit – clearly he is convinced that he has moves – I wonder what he does in front of the mirror in his bedroom before he leaves for work. The latest pump up session proves no more successful than his last attempt but the lukewarm reception bothers him not a bit. If possible, I like him even more than I did before.

The holder of multiple patents for a bedwetting product anticipates $109 million in revenue in 2018. I pause over the projections – really? That seems a lot of bedwetters. But the materials explain that 2.2 billion folks suffer from nocturia, “the frequent need to urinate at night.” Nocturia is described as a deadly condition that is linked to “higher rates of heart disease, stroke, deadly hip fractures, brain damage and significantly higher death rates in all categories…” I confess that I have trouble with deadly hip fractures until I realize that nocturia afflicts the elderly among us in disproportionate amounts and these entrepreneurs are expecting plenty of midnight stumbles en route to the loo.

Zuni and I soak up the buoyant optimism of a few more presenters. I am amazed that there are so many ways to generate $50 or $100 million in annual revenue, but who am I to argue with the careful analysis that has been performed on the spending habits of unattended retail environments or the whizzing of those 2.2 billion nightstalkers with nocturia.

I am getting ready to leave when I sit bolt upright – there is an investment offered in the work of a writer! Amazing! This could be the keys to the kingdom. I have to stay and hear this. This could be a way to bypass the whole logjam in the publishing industry. Take it to the Angels!

The investment involves a “young writer/director” with a “buzzworthy, unique personal background” who owns a “powerful, original copyright protected screenplay”. His group seeks a million dollars from the assembled angels to produce and distribute a film from that copyright protected screenplay. Two Oscar-winning actors “have expressed interest from reading the script and have requested offers for the lead roles.” Based on “recent sales of films similar” to the anticipated film “in genre, theme, subject, budget, audience and target distributor,” the company anticipates investors will make a 64% return on their invested capital. I like that it is 64%, not 60% or 65%; precision in these matters is very important to me.

I am getting pretty excited. I have a unique personal background. I could be buzzworthy. I wonder what the script is about. Fortunately there is a synopsis available:

Nicolette is an ambitious journalist who does not love easily. Engaged to Eithan, a charming entrepreneur who struggles to launch his Silicon Valley start up, Nicolette is consumed with an investigative reporting she is conducting on a sex-trafficking ring.… But one night, she learns that Eithan made a bizarre commitment to Alexis McKenzie, a wealthy venture capitalist, in order to obtain seed funding for his tech startup. While Eithan admits his mistake and explains that his indiscretion was purely for business, Nicolette must make an urgent choice. Does she love him enough to forgive him? Or is she willing to sacrifice love in a dangerous revenge that benefits her investigation…

This is a powerful story all right. But could it really raise a million?   I decide to do some real due diligence. I  go look at Kickstarter and see what sort of film projects that they have up for crowd funding. Maybe I can find some guidance as to what the crowd wants to fund.

I go to the Kickstarter website and pick the Film and Video category. Wow, there are 35,151 projects looking for funding. I scroll through, looking for something that I can compare to Eithan’s epic. Almost immediately I come upon To The Flames, a film by Alex Webb. Alex is looking for $25,000 in funding of which he has only raised $650. That isn’t a great start but he has 27 days to go. His film is synopsized as follows:

Kyle, an aimless film student, becomes fascinated with a dark, disturbed couple while interviewing neighbors for class. Big mistake.

I watch the 5-minute trailer for the film – its a long 5 minutes but punctuated by frequent bursts of hilarity – and if I had to choose between this one and Eithan’s story, To The Flames would get the nod, for sure. Not only is the amount of funding so reasonable, but for a pledge as modest as $10,000 I can get myself credited as “Executive Producer” in the opening titles. I will also get a copy of the DVD, visit the set for a day and attend the premiere in New York as well as the wrap party.

As I look through the Kickstarter archives, the film I can most closely equate to Eithan’s venture is:

Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story, A Film

by Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle

Ecosexuals Annie Sprinkle & Beth Stephens fight mountain top removal coal mining and make environmental activism sexy, fun, & diverse.

GCM was fully funded; indeed it raised 134% of what was sought. But I am not sure that it is a good predictor of success for Eithan’s tale. First of Goodby Gauley Mountain only sought to raise $10,000. More importantly, ecosexualism is clearly hipper and more cutting edge than the run-of-the-mill sex-trafficking that Nicolette is investigating. And, by the way, Annie Sprinkle is a much better name than Eithan, in my humble opinion, and it has the additional benefit of being spelled correctly.

I can’t wait to see how Zuni will react to Eithan’s epic. If she is willing to fund this, maybe I can sell her the rights to my book – forget agents, forget the publishing industry; I’ll have Angels on my side! I watch Zuni fill out her Gold Sheet and when it comes time to describe her level of investment interest in Eithan’s movie, sadly she checks the box marked “low”. She whispers to me that the key to angel investing is that you have to be willing to say no.

– Jay Duret

*          *          *

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator who blogs at www.jayduret.com. His first novel, Nine Digits, was published by Second Wind Publishing.  Jay welcomes feedback at jayduret@yahoo.com. 

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The Passage of Time and Little Details by L.V. Gaudet

Just as in life, little things in your story would change with the passage of time.  It’s not a necessity, of course, but those little changes can bring a sub-layer of change to the reader’s unconscious mind.  And if they do pick up on it, it’s a nice touch in adding depth to the story.

 

They said goodbye in the spring.  She ran her fingers through his hair that was cut short just the week before, the hair tips following the curve of the top of the ears they were just shy of touching.  If it were any shorter, it would be called a brush cut.

She frowned inwardly at that.  She had always disliked brush cuts.  They reminded her of the father she had lost the day he enlisted in the army when she was only six.  He died years later, coming back for brief moments between tours of duty.  But something had changed in him.  When he came home for good, he never came home all the way.  Something of him was left behind in the war-ravaged wasteland that was left behind when so-called peace came and sent the soldiers home.  He killed himself ten years ago on her twentieth birthday.

 Now, years later, as she said goodbye to her own six-year-old son in the spring, it felt like a piece of her had been torn out.  She had watched him walk away, holding his father’s hand, her estranged husband, with his freshly cut short hair, she swore she would never let her son join the army like her father had.

 Her husband had joined the army too.  That’s why she left him.  She could not bear to live that again, to have her son live it like she did growing up.

 Summer is over now and fall is coming.  Her son’s summer with his father is over and school starts in a few days.

 She turned at the unmistakable racket of the approaching train, watching anxiously down the tracks.  Butterflies flitted in her stomach.  She told herself it was at seeing her son, but the reality is was over seeing them both.

 The train pulled into the station and she waited the interminable wait of one waiting for their loved ones to arrive in the designated arrival area.

 She held her breath and forced herself not to run to him, to tear him away from his father’s hand and squeeze him tight.

 There he was.  It felt like her heart would leap right out her throat.  Her throat constricted and her eyes burned.  Where is he?  Her son was alone.  How could he send him alone?  He’s only six!  But then her son turned, and he came through the crowd.  Her heart leapt and sank at once.  He was dressed in uniform.

 Her son ran to her, face cracked into the biggest smile she had seen since she said goodbye to him in the spring.  She got down on one knee, opening her arms to him, and he ran to her, throwing himself into her embrace and wrapping his arms tightly around her neck.  She ran her fingers through his hair, the tips of his hair reaching just past the top of his ears.

 “Mommy,” he sighed into her shoulder, “your nails got longer.”

 She looked up at a sense of a presence close by.  Her estranged husband stood over her looking down.

 “You look thinner,” he said. From his expression, she wasn’t sure if it was an attempt at a compliment or sarcasm.  He was still bitter at her for leaving.

 “You were supposed to bring him back last week,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him.

 

If you picked up on it, the above starts with a reference to the boy’s recent haircut and his hair being trimmed above the ears.  When he sees him again, the boy’s comment on her nails is a distraction to the reference to his hair now being just below the tops of his ears.  The ex-husband’s comment on her weight could go in any one of many directions.  It could be used as a reference to a longer space of time since she left him.  It could be a hint into his character, or her own wasting away at the end of her marriage.  It could even mean she’s become more healthy and fit since leaving him, at a healthier weight than before.

 

Even if the character doesn’t noticeably change, and neither does his or her immediate surroundings, some things can’t help but change with the years. Some things grow (plant life); other things inevitably deteriorate with age. Things become modernized as they have to be replaced. After all, that fridge in the kitchen will not last fifty years seemingly untouched by time.

 

images (4)It might be an old ice box from before the age of refrigerators, then be replaced with an early style fridge, eventually becoming more modernized as each one has to be replaced. (Just as an example, assuming the character even has one.)  Or it might be a fridge at a place the character frequents, even if that frequency is once every decade.

 

A change like that the character is certain to notice. Similarly, horses and wagons eventually become replaced by increasingly modernized cars.  Everything has a finite lifespan, whether it is a fruit fly or something that lasts for eons. A small sapling tree will grow and grow, becoming a massive tree and eventually dying.  A stone wall will weaken and crumble over time.  Look around you; everything is touched in some way by the passing of time.  Pick things that can be described well by you and easily be identified by the reader.

 

It is little details that make a story.  The odd little things that might catch one persons eye while no one else in the room even noticed.  Throw them in at the oddest of moments.  A moment so divine, that it is almost out of place – almost.

A moment of utter seriousness, where  picking out that one ridiculous detail only serves to bring home to the reader the gravity of just how serious it is.

That one out of place almost unnoticeable thing in a time of grief, to show how strangely the mind might work in a moment of stress and confusion masked by forced peace and quiet, to reinforce on the reader the many levels of the story and its characters.

 

Amidst the crowd of mourners packed into the room like cattle in a cattle car on the way to be rendered, Annie alone noticed the little loose thread sticking out mournfully from the fabric of the seat where Mrs. Peckham sat.  Annie stared at that thread, mesmerized, unable to look away.

 A stray thought teased at her mind.  With all these people staring at Mrs. Peckham, watching her sit there lost in her private world of grief, weeping for her child so tragically torn from her breast by the drunk driver, what does that thread mean?  Is the chair unraveling in sympathy to the shattered lives of all the mourners who’ve sat there day after day?

 She looked around, wondering if anyone else saw the thread and what thoughts it provoked in their minds.

 

No matter how farfetched and deep within the realm of the unbelievable a story may lay, it’s the little details that suggest it might just be possible.  It’s the ability to sell the story as a “what if”, the idea that just maybe this *could* be real if our world were shaped a little differently … that is what makes a good story.

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Pia Pucknucker And The Mystery Of The Indian Treasure

Kitty: "What Will I Have For Dinner?"

Kitty: “What Will I Have For Dinner?”

Pia Pucknucker And the Mystery Of The Indian Treasure

Pia Pucknucker And the Mystery Of The Indian Treasure

Well I have my corrections made and anxiously waiting for my new proof to arrive. It’s been a long journey but worth the wait. Soon Pia Pucknucker will be available for reading. This summer I have been wondering what my next project will be. I’ve been writing some ideas about Angel Kitty and her desire to be a chef as well as Pia’s next adventure. Pia will introduce some new characters in her next book that will help her and Thumbelina navigate their next investigation. Don’t want to give away any details yet, but I may post some sketches along the way and we will see where they lead us.

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Having a Thing and Then The Loss of it by Ginger King

I recently received this interesting advice from a just for fun tarot card q&a.

Embrace change because it is the only game in town. Without the letting go, as the Death card represents, you would never get a chance to start over in life. This is a card of transition, not end, and its telling you to get past the fear of the end of the old so you can meet the new beginning with a clear mind. Change is the very thing that will keep you alive.

It really started me thinking about some of the characters in my Lost & Found Series.  Specifically Hope and Alex whom you will meet in different books of the series, and both are pretty good and the “moving on” part of life.  The letting go if you will from this reading.  Very many of the other characters and most people find endings hard to deal with.  “It’s the having of a thing and then the loss of it.” to crudely quote Charles Frazier’s blind man in Cold Mountain.

Another scene relevant to loss from that book which sticks with most readers is the conversation between Inman and Ada upon his return from war:

“She fit her head under his chin, and he could feel her weight settle into him. He held her tight and words spilled out of him without prior composition. And this time he made no effort to clamp them off. He told her about the first time he had looked on the back of her neck as she sat in the church pew. Of the feeling that had never let go of him since. He talked to her of the great waste of years between then and now. A long time gone. And it was pointless, he said, to think how those years could have been put to better use, for he could hardly have put them to worse. There was no recovering them now. You could grieve endlessly for the loss of time and the damage done therein. For the dead, and for your own lost self. But what the wisdom of the ages says is that we do well not to grieve on and on. And those old ones knew a thing or two and had some truth to tell, Inman said, for you can grieve your heart out and in the end you are still where you are. All your grief hasn’t changed a thing. What you have lost will not be returned to you. It will always be lost. You’re left with only your scars to mark the void. All you can choose to do is go on or not. But if you go on, it’s knowing you carry your scars with you. Nevertheless, over all those wasted years, he had held in his mind the wish to kiss her on the back of her neck, and now he had done it. There was a redemption of some kind, he believed, in such complete fulfillment of a desire so long deferred.”
Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain

These two quotes are of particular importance in thinking about my own characters and my own life and sense of loss over people places, and times.  It also makes me think of how to frame these two characters differently so that the reader can also easily see that Hope and Alex are wired much differently than most of us in how they process loss.  Even if we later learn the sense of loss was still with them, even perhaps felt quite deeply, it was only their approach, their attitude that was different.

“You could grieve endlessly for the loss of time and the damage done therein.” – True and then what you have lost is the time that exists in the now of your life.  It is loss for the sake of loss, a doubling and magnifying of it that creeps in until one day you look back on how much time you gave over to your feelings of loss.

“…for you can grieve your heart out and in the end you are still where you are. All your grief hasn’t changed a thing. What you have lost will not be returned to you. It will always be lost. You’re left with only your scars to mark the void. – True again, but the scars of grief will help mold you into the new person who values and cherishes things, time spent, and people much more deeply than they did before.  

Here is a little sneak peek into how Hope deals with the loss of her father and the loss of her promised promotion.

“You mean you are still going to North Carolina?  Hope are you crazy.  Thomas promised you that promotion for two years and you broke your back, too many dates, and risked your health to do everything he asked to land this merger.  Now that it’s just about here, he drops the bomb that the promotion is going to Jake!”  Sera shook her head and I just kept packing up files from my office.  “I wouldn’t do it.  Of all the rotten things to do and bad times to do it.  For goodness sake you just got back to work from burying your dad!”

That last comment Sera didn’t need to utter and remind me of.  I knew how much I’d given up to get Southern Foods to even talk with us about the merger.  My sense of loss was more selfish than I wanted to admit but giving in and quitting now would give in to mountains of regret my heart couldn’t bear.  The loss of my dad was hard, nearly impossible to move on from but I knew I had to.  He was the only family I had left. If I let him down one more time I couldn’t live with myself.

“Sera, If I don’t continue this to the end, I have lost everything I missed time with my Dad for.  Don’t you see that in the end, that’s far worse than just accepting that Jake got the promotion and that I have to go do the fieldwork.  Besides, Jake’s deal is much sweeter than mine.  I guess Thomas made his mind up based on that, not what he thought I’d given up to get this tiny little company to turn over their pickles to us.”

I wanted to say more but doing so would let me fall into Sera’s thinking.  I had been promised the promotion but  I had also made promises that I hadn’t kept.  The promises to my father that went long overdue, and some ultimately not kept.  Letting this get the best of me would not be added to my list of regrets.

“Are you going to help me, or stand there feeling sorry for me Sera?  I need you to get a grip.  You will still be my assistant, and in the long run, you may even be promoted because of your work on this Southern Foods deal.  So shape up sister cause the work is just about to go full throttle.  Now take that box out to my car with a smile.”

So Hope’s attitude is much that of the elders Inman referred to in his talk with Ada.

“But what the wisdom of the ages says is that we do well not to grieve on and on. And those old ones knew a thing or two and had some truth to tell…”

“All you can choose to do is go on or not. But if you go on, it’s knowing you carry your scars with you.”

Hope made a decision not to add wasted time of worry and loss to impede her from taking the next step as upset as she was and will later be revealed in a much more intimate scene.  For her this was the only path she saw to walk on in her healing.

Ginger King is the author (and/or) contributor to more than four books.  The first publications are part of the Carolina Wine Country Cooking series which is all about cooking with wines from the Carolina Vines.  King began writing contemporary women’s fiction with her debut novel Diamond Road ~ December 2014.  Watch the book trailers here She likes her characters smart, funny and sweet with a kick!  Look for the second book in the Lost & Found series Hope in Carolina in 2015.

The books are available at Second Wind Publishing Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and many NC wineries and other retail and independent bookstore outlets.

Visit www.gingerkking.com for more information concerning upcoming speaking engagements, winery events, and news about the coming titles You may also find there information about the author’s upcoming release dates, contests, and previews by following her on social media and reading her blogs:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

Watch an interview with the author here

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This Party is So Much Fun, I Wish it Never Had to End by Sherrie Hansen

We’ve been saying a lot of goodbyes lately. Last weekend, we drove 350 miles to help Mark’s aunt and uncle celebrate 50 years of marriage and to see relatives who came from Mississippi, California and North Dakota for the festivities. It was fun being with them, but then, after just a day and a half, we had to say goodbye.

Blog - Imix water

Yesterday, we celebrated my parents 60th wedding anniversary on the farm where I grew up. For the first time in years, all of their kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were together. They came from Boston, southern Brazil, Florida, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. Cousins from Ohio, Washington, Colorado, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Denmark also came for the fun. What a grand time we had – and then, we had to say goodbye, until who knows when. Maybe never, since we’re so scattered. And because, sadly, nothing lasts forever.

Blog - KY - Mom and Dad

Today, we’re leaving for London, Devon and Cornwall, and then, Romania. It’s hard to say adieu to my bed and breakfast and tea house, and the people at church (my husband is a pastor) for three long weeks. I’m already having separation anxiety. Saying goodbye, even for a short time, is difficult for me. That’s probably the reason I keep revisiting castles, kilts and stone cottages in my Wildflowers of Scotland novels. I’m just not ready to say goodbye to Rose and Ian (Wild Rose), Isabelle and Michael (Blue Belle), or Violet and Nathan (Shy Violet).

Shy Violet

But there are much harder goodbyes to anticipate, and I dread them. A few months ago, we attended the funeral of a family friend whose son was just one year older than I am. We were close in junior high and high school, but have lost touch since he lives far from our home town. After our brief reunion,  when we were saying goodbye, he very candidly said that this was probably the last time we would see each other – with his parents both gone, he has no reason to return to the area. The finality of the moment made me sad, yet it was nothing in comparison to the goodbyes he’d said to his father early that week.

Blog - WI2 - cemetary

We’ve had entirely too many funerals lately. This week, another dear family friend passed away. While I believe, as a Christian, that he will be reunited with his family and loved ones again one day in heaven, it’s still a hard adjustment to go from being together in the moment, to waiting years – perhaps even decades – to be together again.

blog - graves

When we were dancing and having fun at Uncle Frank and Aunt Pat’s anniversary party up north, our six-year-old granddaughter said, “This party is so much fun that I wish it could go on forever.” I felt that way yesterday at my parent’s party, too.

Blog - Imix

The thing is, everything in this life is transitory. One party ends, and we say goodbye, and then we’re invited to another, and another, and new things spring up from the old. A tree that we’ve grown to love falls or is cut down, and then, a few months later, there’s a wildflower, or a new tree growing out from what’s left of the stump. We hope for the harvest in the long cold winter, and then come spring, we plant our fields again.

Blog - stump

Knowing that something beautiful will rise from the ashes doesn’t make saying those final goodbyes easier, but it does keep us looking up, moving on, and always looking forward to the next party.

Blog - Lupine

So for now – so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. I’m winging my way to Europe, but I’ll be back before you know it. And, I promise, we’ll party until the sun goes down… or maybe I should say, until the sun rises on a new day.

Blog - Sunset

 

Sherrie Hansen’s Bio:
Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  Sherrie has also lived in Colorado Springs, CO, Augsburg, Germany, Wheaton, IL, and Bar Harbor, Maine. She grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota. After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Shy Violet” is Sherrie’s eighth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

Links:

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor
https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/
http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com
https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

Books Titles: Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Thistle Down (a prequel novella), Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet. Night and Day, Love Notes, and the Maple Valley Trilogy – Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.  

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Men Needed! Lots of Them and Quickly!

HELP!

I’m at the RWA (Romance Writers of America) Convention in NYC with my wife. The sneaky woman mentioned there would be romance writers from all over the country here. She just failed to mention it would be upwards of 2500 women…and me. I feel like I’m in a beehive of buzzing, pushing, shoving, giggling, phone obsessed ladies. There are ten elevators and each one is packed–ALL the time.

Signing

I need some male companionship.

We’ve been to the Penguin Random House Offices several times since my wife writes for them. I got to listen to new trends in romances that shattered my opinions of women being angelic creatures forever. I heard words I didn’t know women knew, much less spoke. Yet they seemed so lovely and cordial.

I have noticed a trend in women authors meeting after long spans of time from not seeing each other. Both participants eyeball each other. Each pops from her seat like a cork from a bottle of champagne. This is followed by a duo of ear piercing screeches. Both scream, “Ohhhhhh my God!” They rush toward each other, locking arms around each other in what in the wrestling profession is called a “bear hug.” In this position, they grapple trying for the takedown. But after a few seconds they declare it a draw and kiss, followed by more squeals and “OMG’s.”

Men would simply shake hands.

***Calvin Davis is the author of The Phantom Lady of Paris

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I Expected to Like My Hiking Trip, by Carole Howard

And I did. Yellowstone National Park, with its spooky-looking landscapes of mud bubbling like pea soup, steam emerging from below, and, of course, geysers. Grand Teton National Park, home of bears, elks, bison. A week of beauty, exercise, good food with good people. In a word, perfect.

Yes, it really was faithful: every 90 minutes.

Yes, it really was faithful: every 90 minutes.

A real live elk with gorgeous antlers

A real live elk with gorgeous antlers

 

What I didn’t expect, though, was how much I’d love the three-day train ride back home. The pleasure snuck up on me; it wasn’t until the end of the first day that I realized how much I was enjoying it. Why did I like it so much, you ask?

Good question. Bad answer: I’m not sure. I just know I did.

You know that bit about “Life is about the journey, not the destination”? Yes, yes, but for a task-oriented closure-seeker like me, the destination is just begging to be reached, beckoning with crooked finger and seductive look, saying “Faster, Carole, faster.” On the train, though, it really was all about the journey, the moment. It was about observing the continually-changing scene outside the window, reflecting on it, zoning out to it. There was no closure to be achieved, other than getting to NY, and I was only too happy to extend my vacation, so didn’t particularly need that closure.

Long distance trains are, I discovered, a bubble in time. Nothing needs to get done; there are no meetings to attend or commitments to fulfill. All I needed to do was just be. Should I read? Or go to the observation car? Or maybe it’s time for the Dining Car. Or a nap in the sleeping compartment.

Then there was the community. (See Community.)  At each meal – and there were eight between Salt Lake City and Poughkeepsie – we were seated at a table with two strangers, from 6 years old to about 70. They were always interesting, sometimes downright fascinating. We heard about competitive pumpkin-growing contests, about role-playing to prepare U.S. Marines for the wartime realities of Iraq, and lots more. We were African-American, white, Hispanic, Anglo, Amish. We were America. These strangers became friends, even though we knew we’d never see each other again.

And, of course, the motion of the train and those choo-choo sounds (there’s no other word for them, really) were supremely comforting.

At the end of the trip, I was amazed that I’d taken far fewer pictures than usual. Even back in the days when it was expensive to get all those pictures developed, I snapped away. And in the digital age, we usually printed out the shots we wanted to include in our albums, now numbering 27.

But not this time. Again, it was about the journey, not about documenting the journey. I was happy to just be there, and didn’t need to show anyone, including my future self, what it looked like. Contentment in the moment. How about you: do you take pictures when you travel? Do you print them out and put them in an album? Or leave them in your phone and/or computer? And then what? Has your picture-taking changed over time?

*     *     *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing.

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What’s in a Word Anyway?

What’s in a Word Anyway
or
How the English Language Can Kill Writing

English: Spógvin is a Faroese wooden row boat....

Corn field

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, a farmer used his farm to produce produce. One day there was a row among the hired help as to which row to hoe. The row about which row to hoe got so bad he had to let them all go. So they all went to the river and got in a row about how to row the boat.

illustration from a book of fairy tales

Back at the farm, to help with planting, the farmer decided to put his pigs to work and so he taught his sow to sow. Things went real well with the sow that knew how to sow the seed until a bore came along and she started to rut with the bore in the rut along side the road. When she started to rut in the rut alongside the road her squealing startled the dove that dove into the bushes.

About that time the wind came up and when the farmer tried to wind up the canvas cover over the haystack the wind put several tears in the cover and that brought tears to his eyes. The wind was just starting to die down when one of the hired hands came back and the farmer thought he could teach him to lead if he could just get the lead out. But the man had been wounded on the row about how to row and so the farmer wound a bandage around the wound. After the bandage was wound around the wound the farmer sent the hired man to take the refuse to the dump, but the dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

 – The End –

Now I ask you, how can anyone write understandable material when you discover that you have a nose that runs and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a lot and quite a few mean the same thing.

And here’s a scorcher/chiller; how can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another?

I just don’t know. I just don’t know, but I will keep trying to write readable material. Why don’t you look inside some of my books and let me know if I succeeded. You have a lot to choose from. There are mysteries, adventure and right now I’m trying my hand at science fiction.

Thank you, and May Only Good Come Your Way.

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To learn more about me or look inside some of my books click here.

S&FL FrntI have signed a contract for another novel with Second Wind Publishing. The title is, A Short and Futile Life. Have no idea when it will be released, but you can bet your sweet boots I’ll let you know when I know.

It is a near future novel about life in the United States when most, if not all, the personal rights stated and the Bill of Rights have been revoked for the good of the whole.

 

churchstepsThe mystery Body On the Church Steps is now available from Second Wind Publishing and on Amazon. Kindle editions is only $4.99.

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Final MSS Cover front

 

Murder Sets Sail is available from Second Wind Publishing and on Amazon. Kindle editions is only $4.99.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Another of Paul’s books, The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99.

To watch The Telephone Killer video click here.

The Telephone Killer is now also available as an audiobook.

Since everything is copyrighted please feel free to re blog any of my posts but please repost in its entirety and giving appropriate credit.

Copyright © 2014 by Paul J. Stam
All rights reserved

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Celery and Mousetraps by Velya Jancz-Urban

Tcelery on a white backgroundhe only food my husband won’t eat is celery. I think it’s because his mother, in the 1960s, made a dish called American Chop Suey. I think she made it many, many times. With six kids in the family, she had to be resourceful in the kitchen. American Chop Suey had absolutely no resemblance to Chinese food – it was more like a kissing cousin to goulash. I remember it appearing on the hot lunch menu at our elementary school, and in other parts of the country it may have been called Slumgullion or Johnny Marzetti. But in New England, it was American Chop Suey. From what I can piece together, on the rare occasions my husband will discuss it, his mother went heavy on the celery in order to stretch the hamburger meat in the recipe. Today, if I have a chicken salad sandwich for lunch, my husband’s celery radar is so fine-tuned that when he comes home from work and gives me a kiss he accuses, “So, you were eating celery again!” in the same incriminating tone a district attorney might use in a high-profile murder trial. If I buy deli potato salad, I’ll find a neat little pile of celery cubes on the side of his plate when we’re done with dinner. Since he’s a cooperative eater in all other regards, we never have celery, ‘the devil’s vegetable,’ in the house.

Currently, my husband’s on a special assignment for work and has been “commuting” to Georgia from Connecticut for the past six months.  Like a sneaky teenager who dips into the vodka when her parents aren’t home, I went a little wild at Stop & Shop and bought celery. Celery with a ton of feathery leaves! I open the fridge to that uniquely-celery aroma (good luck trying to describe it!) and ignore my husband’s ranting in my head, “It’s ninety percent water and tastes like WOOD! It tastes just like it smells! In kindergarten, I had to hear all that ‘ants on a log’ peanut butter raisin bullshit!”

And so I come to the entire point of this essay which is not about the evils of celery. It’s about the fact that you never really know what goes on in other people’s houses. The other night, as we were preparing dinner, I said enthusiastically to my twenty-two year old daughter, “Hey, since Daddy’s not here, how ‘bout if we live it up a little and put celery in the salad!” She looked at me with revulsion, as if I had suggested chopping up our puppy and adding him to the salad!

“Celery in SALAD?  Are you crazy?  Nobody puts celery in salad. You have to eat celery hot,” she insisted.

“Well, when I was little we always put celery in salad,” I argued.

“Yeah, but your family’s weird. Nobody in the entire world puts celery in salad,” she persisted.

“Let’s just see about that,” I countered.  “We’ll put it to a vote. Let’s post the question on Facebook and see what people say.”

The response was overwhelming and comments started popping up within minutes. They varied:

I can go either way. A lot of times I think it’s too overpowering.

No!!! Not in my household! I hate celery!!!! Toxic!

Yes! We always have!!

NO ONE likes celery. It’s only in the grocery store for decoration.

Yup, but I peel the strings off.

I like the passive-aggressive crunch!

Lima beans, okra, and celery should be banned from the planet!

Clearly, our scientific survey proved that there are a couple of people out there who do indeed put celery in salad.

“You know,” I admitted to my daughter. “I just assumed everyone put celery in salad because we always did when I was growing up. This reminds me of the mousetrap story.”

“Oh no, not the mousetrap story again,” my daughter groaned.

We live in the country. We have mice – but I never liked the idea of killing them. I always catch them in Havahart traps, take them for a drive, and let them go. But, if I were a mouse, I’d rather die instantly in one of  those old-fashioned wooden mousetraps with the metal bar that comes down fast and breaks the mouse’s neck, than eat creepy d-Con poison and die from internal bleeding, or have my feet stuck to a glue trap and starve to death. One day, several years ago, the mousetrap topic somehow came up in the faculty room during lunch. When I mentioned how disgusting, yet sad, it was as a little kid to have to take the dead mouse out of the trap, the people at the lunch table looked at me in horror.

“Are you serious?” the fourth-grade teacher had asked in disbelief. “You took the mouse out of the trap?”

“Well, yeah. How else do you get it out?”

I got a quick tutorial from my colleagues. I had no idea you were supposed to throw the traps away after you used them, with the dead mouse still imprisoned under the metal bar! I guess having Depression-era parents had something to do with it. My father always re-baited the mousetraps with peanut butter, so I assumed everyone else did.

Celery in salad, and mousetraps…it’s kinda like finding out the lyrics to a song you always sang wrong.

How about you?  Is there anything you thought was ‘normal’ as a child, only to discover that’s not how the rest of the world does it?

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Lois Lane Syndrome: Inside Scoop Edition- Chelsea Bolt

Perhaps you know about Lois Lane Syndrome, perhaps you don’t. If the term is unfamiliar to you, check out my previous blog post here. In a quick summary, it is a syndrome that affects every woman as she battles the constructs of the modern world while still maintaining the ability to feel a full range of human emotions. Now that we’re all on the same page, there are a few things that need to be addressed, including: being true to you, striking a balance between success and fulfillment, and most importantly, relationship woes with MY VERY OWN REAL LIFE EXAMPLES.

It’s the 21st century and being a single woman is a treacherous place. This is abundantly true for those women that have a severe case of Lois Lane Syndrome. The dating scene has become a terrifying landscape, consisting of online connections rather than the more personal face to face interaction. Potential suitors tend to be on the lookout for a good time hiding behind a screen and may pursue intriguing conversations. The bar is set extremely high for every male suitor that comes my way and a classic Britney Spears lyric further defines this fact, “There are two types of guys out there; ones that can hang with me and the ones that are scared.” It is sad that the previous statement is true about 80% of the time, but you don’t need to surround yourself with people who can’t keep up with you.

Below I have selections of dialogue that are from *actual conversations:

Pining Fellow from Grade School (via text):  

PF: “Hey. It’s me. ~outdated signature line~”

Me: “I didn’t know you still had my number.”

PF: “We haven’t talked in a while. We should change that. ~outdated signature line~”

Me: “Your sister has been talking to me. Congrats on being a father!”

PF: “O yeah. ~outdated signature line~”

8th Grade Art Class Guy (via Facebook Messenger):

8G: “Hey you’re cute.”

Me: “Thanks. I’m part bunny.”

8G: “Haha. So (inappropriate question about the female body)?”

Me: “This is a demeaning question. If you really want to pursue a relationship, friendship or otherwise, find a dictionary and look up the word respect.”

8G: “Haha. Sorry.”

Creepy Middle Aged Superfan (in person):

SF: (whispering) “I like your [Daily Planet] shirt.”

Me: “Uh… yeah. I like Superman.”

SF: (avoids eye contact) “So how old are you?”

Me: “The number ends in teen.”

SF: (whispering again) “Oh. Well, if you were older… What do you think of Tom Welling as Clark Kent?”

Me: “If I were older, I would date him.”

Charming Man I Couldn’t Charm (via Facebook Messenger):

Me: “I know this is weird, but I think you’re truly a great person. We live in a world of Tinder swipes and I would like to let you know that’s not what this is. Honestly, I just don’t want there to be an air of weirdness between us. I like you and I’d like to see where this could lead.”

CC: “I knew it took quite a bit of courage to say all that, but I’m just not looking for a relationship right now.”

*dialogue has been edited for clarity and to keep these folks anonymous

Sure. We’ve all had a little laugh over the grand catastrophes I have in my romantic life, but I published those to make this point: I’m still alive and living. Those little interactions didn’t kill me, they made me stronger. Now I am one step closer to finding and knowing who I should have in my life. My only goal in life is not to find my “Superman”, that will only be a bonus. Besides, I need to pursue my passions, make a name for myself, and enjoy this season of my life. You do you.

Chelsea Bolt is a Second Wind author of the young adult novel Moonshine. For more information check out these sites: 

https://theonlybolt.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chelsea-Bolt/689158317846614

https://twitter.com/theonlybolt

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