Imagined Conversations: A Status Report Six Months In

Jay Duret

Jay Duret

At the New Year I decided to try my hand at cartooning. I had been drawing figures – mostly faces – for a few months and wanted to see if I could add text in a pleasing way. I committed to posting a cartoon a day, an undertaking which sounds painfully unambitious but then, well, I knew what I had to work with. And so I began with a New Year’s post on January 1.

Over subsequent weeks I kept the promised cadence, dutifully posting each drawing to my blog in a section called Imagined Conversations”. I also started an Instagram series under the name @joefaces. After a month at it, I wrote a brief report on the effort for this blog and posted it here.

In the months since I have continued to post. I have found a weird satisfaction in the daily ritual: once you become a daily poster and settle in the groove, your day does not feel complete without going through your workflow. It’s like writing in that way. You can’t produce a book on the strength of a mood, at least I can’t; you need to settle into a steady rhythm of daily tapping at the keys. I think of it as running laps.

My cartoons have touched a number of topics as I listened and took notes on the conversations that endlessly rattle around inside my head. Some dealt with writing:

Arnie

Poetry Month

(I doubt that anyone reading this blog will have trouble filling in the blanks,  but on the off chance that someone skipped out on poetry class in 11th grade I will note the answer below.)

Some of my cartoons are part of a mental project of building a set of emoticons that have more to them than the stupid little circles and smiley faces and thumbs up that come in every text message. Wouldn’t it be better if those little nuggets of cuteness were replaced by drawings like this:

Party

or this:

 

Watch

Some of my cartoons are just what came rattling along my train of thought that day:

Ginger

Lean In

When I began the project I told myself that I would stop when it wasn’t satisfying any more. I think that was a good approach and I am sticking with it. But I confess to some surprise that after producing nearly 200 cartoons I am still interested in the project. If I had predicted at the beginning, I would have said that Imagined Conversations would have begun to limp in February and fall on the ground in March. Yet at the mid-year I am still working away. We’ll see how much longer I’ll last. In the meantime – thanks for the support. And if you aren’t receiving the daily postings, follow my blog or Instagram.

– Jay

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Jay Duret is a San Francisco-based writer. Second Wind recently published Jay’s first novel, Nine Digits. See the trailer here. And for all puzzlers: These famous lines begin T.S.Eliot’s The Wasteland: “April is the Cruelest Month”. No surprise that April is National Poetry month.

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Don’t Love My Characters, Please by L.V. Gaudet

where the bodies areI do not want you to love my characters.  I am quite serious about that.  I do not even want you to like them.  They are all fallible creatures who do not always do what they should.  They are full of idiosyncrasies, flaws, and sometimes downright poor judgment.

Revile them and admire them.  Root for them to win and cheer when they fall.  Get passionate about getting angry with them.  Pity them and feel vindicated at their suffering.  Share their emotions and their troubles, love them, hate them, and empathize with them.  But please don’t just love them.

A character who seems endearing, drawing you to their side in their pursuit of evil, might just reveal their true driving force is not entirely for purely good reasons.

The victim who you might sympathize with, rooting for when things get rough and cheering them proudly when they rally their strengths to pull him or herself out of trouble, may prove to be more the cause of the trouble than the antagonist is.

The bad guy, committing atrocious behaviors, pulling you into his web of evil until you despise him and want only to see his downfall come to him in a most inglorious way, might throw you with a show of tenderness.  He might just make you sympathize with him when you know you should hate him.

Making characters that draw the reader in is not about making the reader simply love or hate them.  They need to feel what the character feels.  They need to love, hate, and sympathize with that character.  Root for them even as they want to see them fall because you are supposed to want to see the bad guy lose.

Characters do not have to be all good or all bad.  In fact, I would say they should never be all one or the other.  They should be a complex layering of traits that include both.  Even the vilest creature has feelings; dreams and desires, loss and sorrow, loneliness and love.  They have a flaw and that flaw is their own emotions.  The gentlest of characters, pure of heart and soul, have a dark side beneath.  They are capable of anger and resentment, even of acts of revenge.

Every character should have a hidden back-story.  This is what gives them life.  Even the smallest bit player should have one.  That waitress who served the coffee looks tired, but really, she is sad.  You don’t have to reveal why she is sad.  That is just one more mystery that gives a little more depth to the scene where the true focus is your protagonist or antagonist.  Make the mystery of the waitress’s personal life draw on the personality of the character who is the true focus.  After all, your character did notice the lines of exhaustion hide a deeper sadness.

Drop hints and clues about your characters’ back-stories.  Make the reader feel they are slowly drawing the character out of their shell and learning just a little bit about them as they progress through the story.  Let the reader be drawn a little at a time into your character’s life, their personality.  Let them yearn for more, drawn to dig deeper into your character’s psyche as you see fit to reveal it.

The reader becomes more familiar with the character with each revelation, feeling a little closer to them like a new friend, wanting to know more.  As you draw out a little more back-story, those secrets add to the drive that pushes the story forward.  That simple story is no longer so simple.  What other secrets do the characters have?  What flaws?  What strengths?  What new lines of drama will wind into the story, adding more layers of sub story?

MEET THE CHARACTERS

WHERE THE BODIES ARE (available now in paperback and eBook)

Detective Jim McNelly is perhaps the hero of the story, if anyone can be described as such.  He works with missing persons and homicide cases, taking each case personally as his own personal failure for not stopping the victimization of the victim before it could happen.  For a hero, he has a lot of flaws.  He is obese by as a result of his own failings, which is the cause of additional health problems and exacerbates his insomnia, which in turn causes him to feed his obesity.  He is no people person and doesn’t much like most people.

And yet, Jim McNelly honestly cares about his job and the victims.  He has a lot of back-story that has not been revealed, including hints dropped about his wife.

Detective Michael Underwood is a likeable kind of guy.  He is described as being the kind of guy who is just as at ease at grandma’s quilting group as watching sports with the guys.  Even the nervous and suspicious nurse Molly can’t help but feel a tingle of excitement at the idea he could possibly have an interest in her, as impossible as she knows it is.

Michael Underwood is perhaps a bit too obsessed with protecting their victim, an obsession that itself has its own back-story, almost a personality of its own.

Lawrence Hawkworth is an investigative reporter with the InterCity Voice, who is described as being a man of less than moral morals.  And yet he and Jim McNelly have a shared back-story.  He is the one person McNelly would trust with his life, despite McNelly’s dislike for the man.  It’s kind of a love-hate friendship, like unrelated brothers.

Jane Doe, the victim and the sole survivor of the killer’s madness doesn’t even know her own back-story.  Her own weakness, her amnesia, puts her directly on a path to her own destruction.  Or does it?  She has a surprising reserve of personal strength, something gained from her own unknown past.

Kathy Kingslow is a train wreck of a woman.  She is a weak creature who knows only one thing, how to survive an abusive relationship.  She does not even know how to escape one, if she could get up the courage to.  She also has the potential to become one of the most powerful characters in the story, if she can pull herself up off the floor and put a little courage into her spine.  She has a hidden strength, the killer’s own inexorably being drawn to her.

The Killer is nothing but evil, right?  The killer is driven by a compulsion, his reality blurred between past and present, with a dark secret locked in a fractured mind.  But he is also tormented by his own actions and desperate to stop killing.  The search for the killer will lead to his dark secret buried in the past.

The appearance of the mystery man is the embodiment of the ultimate back-story of Where the Bodies Are.  He enters the story just at the moment when the as yet unidentified killer is reaching a plateau of temptation by the dangling bait that is Jane Doe, the one victim who escaped alive.  He quickly becomes McNelly’s prime suspect in the kidnapping and murders of multiple women.   His arrival embodies the pivot point where the story climaxes and the killer is being drawn into the readers’ sight from the shadows of the story.  That back-story is revealed when you take a step back in time with The McAllister Farm to learn the secret behind the bodies.

THE MCALLISTER FARM (coming soon in paperback and eBook)

William McAllister is a hard man.  He demands respect from everyone he encounters and absolute obedience from his family.  His children respect him with the fear of a harsh disciplinarian.  He keeps his family apart from the community around them, not allowing them to have friends or participate in the community.  Visitors to his farm are threatened off, and his children know well the sting of his hand.  William is also absolutely dedicated to the safety and well-being of his family.  As stern as he is, nothing matters more to him than his family.

The entire community is distrustful and hateful towards William for his strange ways, but that does not stop him from doing what he thinks is the right thing to do without hesitation.

Marjorie McAllister is a frightened deer of a woman, always nervously wringing her hands.  She silently disapproves when William strikes the children, not brave enough to stand up to her own husband.  She leans on his strength too.  As desperately lonely as she is, his keeping her apart from her family and community is like a safety net for her.  She does not have to face awkward situations if she never leaves the farm.  But, when push comes to shove, Marjorie finds a hidden well of strength to stand against the hostility of the townspeople against her family.

Jason McAllister is the oldest child of William and Marjorie.  He has the expected problems of a ten year old who is different because his family is different.  He takes the brunt of the community’s sense of his family’s strangeness through his difficult interactions with the kids and teachers as school.  Jason is expected to be more man than child and it weighs heavily on him.  He is a troubled youth, something that his father comes to realize just how deeply troubled in the most disturbing way.

Sophie McAllister is the youngest child and as such has the childhood freedoms and innocence her brother Jason envies and is not afforded.  Naturally, this breeds some resentment in Jason.  She also in a way symbolizes the need each family member feels to protect the family as a whole.  Her very innocence acts as a contrast to the events surrounding her family.

Sheriff Rick Dalton certainly is not a favorite of the community when he fails to both catch the killer stalking young women in the area before another body turns up and listen to the needs of his frightened community.  A man of the cloth is threatened, the school principal is sent scurrying, and everyone except the sheriff seems to know just what kind of a monster the McAllister man is.  Or, Rick Dalton is simply a wise sheriff who knows that what appears to be is not always what is.

Book three, which is still a work in progress, will bring both of these stories together, finally revealing answers to some of the questions left hanging as the characters of both books are brought together in a disturbing conclusion that may very well leave a new trails of bodies.

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Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

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The Cuban Connection in my Writing — by David Pereda

People often ask me at book readings or during blog tours, “Why do you write so much about Cuba?” “Is it a place that intrigues you?” “Do you have a business connection?” “Do you have a personal nexus, perhaps a wife or a girlfriend in Cuba or from Cuba?” “Have you ever visited Cuba?” “What is it about Cuba that stimulates you to write all these books with a Cuban background?” “What inspires you the most to write about Cuba?”

The answer is simple — and it’s personal, not business. I am Cuban.

Most people don’t know this, so this might be news to many of you.

Much like Cid Milan, the main character in my book However long the Night, I arrived in the United States — Tampa, Florida — when I was nineteen years old. Like Cid, I left a girlfriend behind named Sonia. Unlike the Sandra in my book, Sonia was blonde and blue-eyed and, hopefully, not pregnant since I never saw her again. Like the Sandra in my book, Sonia was the daughter of Spaniards, as I am. The love scene in However Long the Night between Sandra and Cid as teenagers in Santa Maria del Mar Beach in Cuba is, well, a poignant memory of my life.

I’ve been to most of the Cuban places I describe in my books with a Cuban theme. In fact, I’ve been to, literally, all of the places I describe in any of my books, be it Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, Australia, or Dubai. I’ve been to more than thirty countries and have lived in six – Qatar, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba and the United States.

Several of my books have thinly-autobiographical passages of my experiences in Havana, Tampa, Miami, Dubai, Qatar, Rome, Paris, and Mexico. The Dubai scenes in my most recent book, Twin Powers, depict real locations and describe fictionalized, but real-life, people – more often than not with their salient traits toned down to make their fictitious characters “fathomable” for you, the reader.

One thing I’ve learned in my travels around the world is that life is often stranger than fiction. I have also learned that time allows you to look at the past from a different perspective.

That’s why I write about Cuba. I was born there. I left my childhood sweetheart there. My grandparents on my mother’s side are buried there.

Writers should write about things they know about. I know about Cuba.

Here is the Amazon link to Twin Powers, so you can check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Twin-Powers-David-Pereda/dp/1630661112/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425253277&sr=1-2&keywords=twin+powers.

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David Pereda is the award-winning author of seven novels, dozens of articles and a handful of poems. His latest thriller, Twin Powers, published by Second Wind Publishing in February 2015, has received rave reviews. Visit www.davidpereda.com.

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Romanian Romance by Sherrie Hansen

My husband and I are going to Bucharest for Mark’s son’s wedding in a few weeks. Every time I mention our plans in conversation, people ask me if my next novel is going to be set in Romania. I have to admit that seeing Dracula’s castle and roaming around remote areas of Transylvania has captured my imagination. While researching our destinations, I learned of a forest that is reputed to be the most haunted place on earth. Deep in the woods, there is even a place where no vegetation grows, and where hundreds of people have gone missing. Some consider it to be a portal to another time. Even thinking about going there makes me feel nervous and unsettled. Sometimes I’d like to escape from certain realities of my day to day life, or at least, take a lengthy sabbatical. But what if I never found my way back home? I would miss my family and the people I love. But who knows what adventures or people I’d meet up with if such a thing were to happen… 

 Rainbow - Becky

I wonder if L. Frank Baum took a trip to some exotic locale before he wrote The Wizard of Oz? Were the Emerald City, the Yellow Brick Road, the scary forest, the Munchkins and the Wicked Witch’s castle pure figments of his imagination, or did a glimpse of this or that, or a travel documentary, or stories told by his grandmother prompt his wild literary adventures?

 

What inspires you? In my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, it was a copper, rabbit- shaped downspout on St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe (Wild Rose), the legend of a Spanish galleon, fully loaded with gold, still believed to be at the bottom of Tobermory Bay (Blue Belle), and the melancholy melody of a bagpiper in front of Eilean Donan Castle (Shy Violet) that gave my muse voice.

 Shy Violet

When I was a child, it was the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, and her tales of close friendships, the Crowd’s adventures, grand social events with dance cards and flowing lawn dresses, and extravagant hats with blue ribbons, that revved up my imagination and made me want to be a writer (check), live in a Victorian house (check), and wear all kinds of wonderful hats (check).   

 

When we visited Florida a few years back, a historic hotel, The Pink Palace, on St. Pete’s Beach, and a trip to the alligator-infested waters of the Everglades, made my mind start whirling.

Romania  Cerna 

So – will my next novel be set in Romania? There’s a spa with healing waters near the Black Sea that’s calling out to me – Cema Spa in Turcoaia. It’s in the opposite direction of the other places we want to see, yet I’m scheming in my mind to find a way to go there. Something about it… maybe it’s a story waiting to be born.     

 

Sherrie Hansen’s Bio:
Twenty-three 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
http://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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Gay Marriage: A marriage, by any other name – Velya Jancz-Urban

toothbrush

(The perfect day to re-post this essay I wrote 4 years ago)

I attended my first gay wedding today.
I attended my first same-sex wedding today.
I attended my first homosexual wedding today.

What is the politically correct term for such a wedding? Who cares? Frankly, I don’t understand the furor and uproar over same-sex marriages. I was a guest at the wedding of two women who have been together for thirty-three years.

As our breathtakingly beautiful daughter handed out programs in the rear of the church, our twenty-four year-old son sat alone in the front pew waiting to sing for these two women in his rich bass voice. I sat on the truly uncomfortable pew in the austere little Congregational church, next to Jim, my one-and-only husband of thirty-two years, and thought about our marriage and this man.

He hates celery and he calls me “Wifely.” He made me whole again after our first baby miscarried. I don’t know who made him whole. He usually gets in bed first and every night when I go in the bathroom to wash my face, my toothbrush sits next to the sink topped with a minty white line of toothpaste – waiting for me. It’s there every morning, too.

As we prepared for the impending birth of our son who is now, incredibly, six feet five inches tall, our midwife gave Jim two jobs to fulfill during our forty-five minute drive to the hospital: Keep the car warm, for it was bitterly cold that January, and get to the hospital quickly. I had read somewhere that drinking a quart of whole milk at the onset of contractions lessened labor pain. So, I dutifully guzzled the milk as my body went into automatic pilot with a course set for childbirth, and just seemed to go along for the ride. Jim took the midwife’s directions to heart. He cranked up the heat and zipped down pot-holey Connecticut back roads I never knew existed. All the while, the quart of milk sloshed and bubbled until finally, like a human Mount Vesuvius, I erupted and threw up cottage cheese consistency clumps of milk all over myself and the floor of the car. Jim drove along in the eighty-five degree car while I was astonished and kept repeating the obvious question, “Isn’t that the smelliest barf you’ve ever smelled?” I told him to pull over while I chucked the pukey floor mat out the car door. He never complained and he insisted he couldn’t smell a thing, which I knew was a big fat lie.

When our son began to sing my attention returned to the front of the church. The mood changed when he smiled at the women and the spotlight moved briefly from them to him. The women, one a social worker and the other a successful businesswoman, prepared to exchange their vows. They have been together for thirty-three years. They have crow’s feet, graying hair, anxious smiles, and appeared nervous. They faced each other, holding hands and said, “You have been the steadiness that has kept me on an even keel over the years, and for this I love you dearly” and “I am a far better person because of you and love you more than ever.”

Wedding rings, the same rings they’ve worn for years, were “re-exchanged.” The Congregational minister offered the following blessing: “May your lives together be joyful and content, and may your love be as bright as the stars, as warm as the sun, vast as the ocean and as enduring as the mountains.”

How is this wedding different from any other? To me, marriage has nothing to do with religion or God – it’s about stuff like the waiting toothbrush and the clumpy throw-up. Why should anyone be denied such love because of gender? Same-sex marriages might make some people uncomfortable, but they can’t hurt anyone. Are people afraid that gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall?

Guests were teary, rice was thrown and we all walked down the country road to an evening reception at the home of the women.

I attended a wedding today.

Velya Jancz-Urban is the author of Acquiescence published by Second Wind Publishing.

Visit her at: http://acquiescencethebook.com

http://www.amazon.com/Acquiescence-Velya-Jancz-Urban/dp/1630661023/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Velya Jancz-Urban, and her protagonist Pamina Campbell, have a lot in common. Both are teachers and hoodwinked Brazilian dairy farm owners, and both share a 1770 Connecticut farmhouse with a spirit woman. Velya has been married for 32 years, and is the mother of two grown children. She has a few too many rescue dogs and cats, is happiest with a fresh stack of library books, loves thrift shops, and is passionate about alternative medicine. Velya is the creator/owner of “How Cool Is That?!” (Hands-On Science) (www.howcoolisthat.name), as well as the east coast instructor for the “Earth Balloon.” Her entertainingly informative presentation, The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife is a result of the research completed for this novel.

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Don’t Hold Your Breath by Calvin Davis

You work on your novel like a person possessed. It haunts you.

writer2You lie awake at night speaking to the characters. They talk to you as if they are made of flesh and blood and not the stuff of dreams and fantasies. One may haunt you that, nagging he is not satisfied with how you’ve portrayed him, that he deserves a more sympathetic treatment. He mumbles that another character, a minor one, had taken over the novel. He berets you for being an unfair author. Heavens, he even claims you, the writer, is guilty of gender discrimination.

Finally, he stomps his phantom foot and declares he wishes you’d never created him. He wants to leave the novel completely–and now!

At that point, the writer pulls rank and announces the he or she, not the character, is the boss and this character must stay within the confines of the plot–like it or not.

Such disputes between writer and his created children are endless, but finally after a thousand headaches and almost as many sleepless nights, the novel is finished. Your child is born, edited and reborn stronger. It is published in ebook format.

images (1).jpghackerThen, your troubles.begin. Some scoundrel hacks a website and steals the book you have sweat blood to produce. Guess what? He is giving it away. Giving. It. Away! Your labor is free to anyone who goes to this thief’s website. Often, these hackers gain the free-loaders confidential information in the process making a lot via identity theft.

You console yourself when you learn that the same thing has happened to most every author, even the great sellers, those with the letters after their names. NYT or USA Best Selling Author. A few years ago, Nora Roberts went before a senate committee to ask for protection against these hackers. Congress passed no new laws to protect authors.

So, what is the answer? I wish I knew. Maybe writers should hire platoons of lobbyists. Then, maybe Congress would listen. Maybe. Maybe not. My advice? Don’t hold your breath.

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Wish List, by Carole Howard

It’s my birthday today. There, I’ve said it.

If you’re wondering what you could get me, and you can’t manage to bring about peace in the Middle East or an end to childhood hunger, here are some other ideas – of both the sublime and the ridiculous persuasion. If you could work any of them out, I’d really appreciate it.

IMG_2599

I’d like it if:

… all politicians told the truth.

… ice cream were really really good for you.

… they didn’t have to torture those poor geese to make foie gras – what my friend calls “Liver Haagen Dazs.” Then I could start eating it again.

… I could read as fast as my niece, who seems to inhale books.

… all schools, public and private, were as good as the very best schools are now – and I’m not talking about the results of standardized tests.

… my left-hand pinky were a little longer, so I could get some of those notes on the violin without feeling like my finger’s on the rack.

…everyone bought, read, liked, and reviewed my books. (I just couldn’t resist.)

every citizen did some community service: military, Peace Corps, road-building, candy-striper, whatever.

… ice cream were really really good for you. (You say I listed that one already? Oh well.)

… the blooming period of peonies and lilacs were longer. I’d settle for just two extra weeks. I honestly don’t think I’d value them any less if they weren’t so fleeting.

… there were no mosquitos. (Actually that one’s for my husband. You’re welcome, honey.)

… ice cream were…… Oh right. I’ve mentioned that one already.

There are so many more. I haven’t even gotten to cures for various diseases, finding a place to put your purse when driving a car, or accommodating lefties in a right-handed world.

If you have any wishes – wacky or realistic – that I might also like, I’ll add them to my list. Tag, you’re it.

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

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ACQUIESCENCE (excerpt) – Velya Jancz-Urban

book cover changed croppedLara stopped suddenly and said, “They’re in there.”
“Who’s in there? What are you talking about?” I responded.
“Spirits,” she said, putting down her boxes and feeling the door frame.
“What? What spirits? What are you talking about?” I asked.
“There are spirits in that room,” she calmly explained.
“How do you know?” I asked skeptically.
“Didn’t Luke tell you?” she asked.
“Tell me what?” I said, my voice rising.
“That I’m an intuitive?”
“An intuitive? What the heck is an intuitive?”
“An intuitive uses their psychic abilities to sense, feel, hear, and see the energy fields of a person,” she explained.
“Uh, no,” I maintained, “this is the first I’ve heard about this.”
“I’m able to see pictures and images around people that help me tell their stories,” she continued.
“Luke never said a thing. I had no idea you had this ability.”
“Well, they’re in there,” she repeated, putting her hands in front of her like a mime.
“Okay, so what do we do now?”
“Let me see if I can see them.”
“SEE them? You mean they’re in there right now? Like in the room?” I asked in disbelief.
“Maybe. Let’s see,” she said and we entered the cluttered room. Lara looked at the foot of the stairs and said, “She’s right there,” pointing to a corner of the room.
“She is?” I whispered. “Who is she?”
“Give me a few minutes alone in here,” Lara said.
I left the room and waited in the kitchen, leaning on the counter. I wasn’t scared, or upset – excited best described it. This spirit idea had never crossed my mind. Yet, I admitted to myself that I really didn’t know Lara very well. Was she a crackpot? She was a little flaky, but then, most people I was attracted to were free-thinkers and open-minded. I wasn’t religious, but did believe everything is made up of energy and energy cannot be destroyed. Why couldn’t the energy of some dead person be in our home? Right from the start, Jim and I said we didn’t feel like the owners of the house, more like the stewards, and I often thought about the women who came before me in this old home. As I was leaning on the counter digesting all of this, Jim came home from work. Noting her red Audi sports car in the driveway he asked, “Where’s Lara?”
“Well, you’re not going to believe this, but she thinks we have a spirit in the back room. Apparently, she has some kind of psychic powers. She calls herself an intuitive,” I explained matter-of-factly. “Oh my god,” I mused aloud. “I wonder if that’s why she said the stuff about the grandfather clock!”
Jim, in his usual calm way, took all of this in stride and a few seconds later we heard Lara’s footsteps in the hallway. She came into the kitchen, greeted Jim and said, “Pamina, I want to do a reading of you in that room once you have all the boxes cleaned out.”
“What’s a reading?” I asked.
“In a reading, I’m able to contact and channel the spirits of deceased people, and it’s an opportunity to help you connect with your own higher self. There’s a woman in a rocking chair in that back room, holding her dead baby. She stays there all the time. She has a very close bond to you,” Lara said, nodding at me.
“To me?” I breathed, not really registering the dead baby part.
“Yes, her connection to you is incredibly strong,” Lara explained, “but we’ll learn a lot more when I come back. I walked through all the other rooms, but that’s the only one that has a spirit.”
As Lara prepared to leave, she advised, “Get a runner for the hallway outside that room.”
“A runner? What’s a runner?” I asked.
“You know,” Lara explained, “one of those long narrow carpets people use in hallways.”
“Oh, yeah, yeah. I know what you’re talking about,” I said. “But why do we need one?”
“So she can leave the room if she wants to. Put one end of the runner right in the room and extend it out into the hallway. It will serve as a bridge for her.”
“Okay,” I said skeptically. Oddly, the thought of this spirit lady roaming around the house didn’t faze me.
“I’ll come back when you guys are more settled in here. Pamina, you and I will do a reading in that room.”
In a fog, I walked Lara to her car, came back to the kitchen, and found Jim looking through the mail as he leisurely ate a handful of almonds.
“Can you believe this?” I asked.
“Of course,” Jim said in his unflustered way. “It’s a house built at least two hundred years ago. Of course there are spirits here. I’d be surprised if there weren’t. I have no doubt there’s a woman in there.”
“But in that room,” I said. “Don’t you think it’s weird she’s in that particular room?” For the room – the room that now held a mysterious spirit woman – had been intended for my mother, and had also been home to the multiverse bats.

Velya Jancz-Urban is the author of Acquiescence.

Visit her at: http://acquiescencethebook.com

http://www.amazon.com/Acquiescence-Velya-Jancz-Urban/dp/1630661023/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Velya Jancz-Urban, and her protagonist Pamina Campbell, have a lot in common. Both are teachers and hoodwinked Brazilian dairy farm owners, and both share a 1770 Connecticut farmhouse with a spirit woman. Velya has been married for 32 years, and is the mother of two grown children. She has a few too many rescue dogs and cats, is happiest with a fresh stack of library books, loves thrift shops, and is passionate about alternative medicine. Velya is the creator/owner of “How Cool Is That?!” (Hands-On Science) (www.howcoolisthat.name), as well as the east coast instructor for the “Earth Balloon.” Her entertainingly informative presentation, The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife is a result of the research completed for this novel.

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A Strong Four Letter Word: Hope – Chelsea Bolt

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               Death. Famine. War. Despair. Hate. These thoughts and actions flood our newsfeeds and oversaturate our daily lives. Constant fighting and acts of violence seem to dominate our senses. Both in fiction and in reality the general public is constantly reminded of how bleak the world they live in is. In the fictional worlds of Hollywood, life and the future of our civilization is portrayed as a failure. In the very real world in my own state’s Charleston, a man opened fire in place that people should feel the most safe, a church. It was a tragic event. Lives will forever be changed because of that. I can’t say that our present day world is a bed of rose petals because it isn’t. Many tragedies have occurred, but it’s the reaction to these devastating events that truly matter. I don’t expect everyone to walk through life wearing rose colored glasses, but people must make a choice regarding the future: we can either choose to let the state of current events drag us down into the bottomless depths or choose to fight in the trenches to deliver ourselves a better tomorrow.

What I see in my own life has never been described as perfect, but I can certainly say that I am blessed. I have however experienced trials. The best example I have is my interesting family dynamic. It can be compared to a pack of peanut M&Ms: normal on the outside, but absolutely nuts on the inside. There is certainly more to my own life, it is more like a tangled spider web that you run into on an afternoon hike. I expect that most people’s lives also feel that way as well. Life is wonderful journey full of ups and downs. The valleys of life are the ones that teach you lessons and more importantly, mark you with battle scars. The reactions during and after the venture in the valley are what mold the future we want. In my own personal journey of life I have learned that there in order to have a happy and fulfilling life you have to use a strong four letter word: hope.

Hope is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Hope is what keeps me believing that tomorrow can always be bigger and brighter. Hope is what you want it to be. Take it wherever you go. Dream big and create the world you want to see.

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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Deus Ex Machina?

After Sunday services, Jack, Sam and I went to our favorite Indian restaurant for brunch and some friendly banter. After an hour or so of swapping light-hearted anecdotes of family and friends, we became mindful of our surroundings, and conversation inevitably turned to Eastern spirituality.  Just then the check came, and I signed the credit card receipt.

“Hey Bob, I didn’t know you were a lefty.  You do know that we southpaws are in our right minds.”  “Funny you should mention that Jack, because it reminds me of a story about this guy who had the entire left side of his body surgically removed.  “No kidding”, said the other two in unison.  “Yeah, but he’s all right now.”  Forcing a half-smile, they rolled their eyes as if to say, “Duh! Got me!”

Finishing our tea, I brought up the subject of puns.  Jack was quick to add, “I don’t even know the correct definition of a pun.”  Sam asked: “Isn’t it where two words sound the same but have different meanings? “No, I think that’s a homophone, but I’ll double-check to be sure.”

Holding up my cell phone, smiling, I said, “Isn’t technology great?  With a couple pushes of a button, I can tap into the sum total of humanity’s recorded history right here in my hand.  Thank God for Google!  Well, let’s see: Oh, here it is!  I can’t believe this.  Listen!”

Pun. Noun,      The humorous use of a word or phrase, so as to emphasize or suggest 

                         its different meanings, for example; A man had the entire left side of his body

                         surgically removed, but he’s all right now.”

Jack and Sam looked at each other, shaking their heads, as if to say “He’s got to be making it up.”  So I held the phone up for each to read it, to their amazement.

Do you believe in things that are beyond coincidence?  I do. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Sometimes, if you really pay attention, you will see and hear things that will make any doubting Thomas a believer.

Thanksfor indulging me with my random ramblings. More to Come.

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