COFFEE CHAT: TIDBITS, CHORES, AN EXCERPT…

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of holidays of the past.  The collage above features some of those moments.

I am sipping my third cup of coffee this morning and thinking about the food, the fun, and even the Christmas holiday right behind this one.

Today is a day of errands, house cleaning, etc.  I had been pondering giving my kitchen a Deep Clean…and I ended up dreaming about the process!  Now that’s annoying…I only want to do it once, not during my sleep, too.

But if there is one thing I know about how much I hate this kind of housework, I also know how I tend to think through every process, breaking it down to little manageable tidbits.  As if the activity will become as automatic as rote.  As if I can slide right into it mechanically and it will be so smooth that I can think about other things while I’m doing it.

When I was a kid doing chores, I used to spin stories in my head.  Fully developed plots, characters, etc.  Afterwards I might even write some of these things down.

Who knew that I would grow up to write a few books (Six, so far), an activity that constantly reminds me that stories can take us out of our daily grind and even help us leap over life’s hurdles.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter One of An Accidental Life, picking up where I left off with the last snippet:

***

On the city bus, Bridget sat with her backpack at her feet. Seeing the unfamiliar faces, that ever-present anxiety hovered in the form of a lump in her throat. A quiet girl, Bridget had a small group of acquaintances, and only one really close friend. That friend, Fawn Holleran, also fifteen, was now spending the whole summer with her father who lived in LA. When Fawn had announced her summer plans, Bridget had felt the beginnings of the now-familiar anxiety. Even though she was attending summer school everyday, that only used up the mornings; every afternoon, she would be all on her own for the first summer for as far back as she could remember.

She and Fawn, who lived in an adjacent apartment within the same complex, had always hung out at the mall, trying on clothes and sipping slurpees or sodas. Their days had been crammed with lazy activities and they had usually ended up in one or the other’s apartment, watching TV or listening to the latest tunes. So now what was Bridget to do? She couldn’t think of any of her acquaintances to share such moments with, and couldn’t imagine that same closeness with any of them. Of course, she could go to the mall alone and see what happened. Maybe she could pretend she was waiting for someone and then none of the other kids would realize that she had nobody. She tried to take some kind of inspiration from her mother, who was used to being alone. Karin often went off to the movies or the mall, completely solo, and seemed so blasé about it. Maybe she was only pretending too!

As she tentatively planned out her afternoon, Bridget closed her eyes. She felt her body thrown slightly forward as the bus lurched over the potholes in the road, and when she breathed, she smelled the noxious fumes mixed with the body sweat of the passengers. The temperature was already at 90 degrees, very hot for so early in the morning.

Trying to imagine she was at the beach, Bridget could almost feel the ocean’s breezes and smiled to herself. It would be so great to have a beach house. She sometimes watched those entertainment channels on cable, the ones portraying the lifestyles of the rich and famous. She pictured herself walking down the beach in front of her own elegant home, calling out to neighbors whose lives were equally glamorous. Maybe someday. She was jolted back to reality by the grinding brakes of the bus. When she opened her eyes, she realized that they had reached the campus. Struggling to a standing position, she collected her backpack and moved to the front of the bus.
* * *

To read the whole chapter, click HERE.

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What do you do to while away the boring hours of chores, errands, etc.?  Come on by and let’s chat.

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THE BAD BOY/BAD GIRL SCENARIO: AFTER THE DREAMS….

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Our protagonist, Merrilee Hennessey, in Chasing Stardust is caught up in stardust dreams and fairytale endings, so what happens when her teenage son falls hard for the “wrong girl”?

In this excerpt, Merrilee’s son Colin is walking on the wild side with “bad girl” Carly.

***

In this excerpt from Chasing Stardust, Colin (the bad boy) meets Carly (the bad girl).

At sixteen, Colin looked much older than he was.  His muscles were hardened by his compulsive workouts at the gym; he went there to escape the control of those in authority, especially his mother.  Everyday, he checked himself out in the mirrors, flexing his muscles, taking his measure, so he knew that he looked every inch the Bad Boy.  And he could tell that she wanted him, just by looking at her tight little walk as she tried to pass him by.

“Hey!”  He reached out, lightly touching her arm.

“I’ve been watching you,” he continued, grinning charmingly, and running his other hand through the rakish curl that hung over his forehead.

“Are you some kind of creep?”  She stared back at him boldly, but she didn’t seem offended at all.

“Yeah, right,” he laughed, matching her steps with a shorter stride.

He headed in the opposite direction, just so the two of them could walk side by side.  “I’m Colin…Colin Winslow,” he offered suddenly, grinning again, and then blatantly stubbing out the cigarette on the wall.

Her eyes widened at his open gesture of defiance.  And then she laughed.  “Oh, I’m supposed to be impressed by how bad you are,” she laughed, and then stared straight at him as if wondering just how cool he really was.  And then, as if satisfied, she grabbed his arm and leaned in toward him.  “I’m Carly Santos,” she purred.

He didn’t need any more information than that.  He’d heard the guys talking about this new girl, this Carly Santos; she was supposedly as wild as he was.  She’d even been in the juvenile detention center a couple of times already.  He also knew that she was only fourteen and a freshman.  But despite that obstacle, there was no way that he would let this one get away.

They walked silently for awhile until they reached the chain-link fence surrounding the campus.    “Got another cigarette?”  She reached out, slipping her hand into his pocket.  As she retrieved the pack, she let her hand linger there over his chest, slightly stroking him while gazing into his eyes.  Her eyes seemed backlit, burning with a flame that could not be extinguished.

He grabbed her hand, and then held it while he flicked the lighter, leaning in to connect with the tip of the cigarette.

The gesture reminded her of a scene from a movie.  She inhaled, and then blew the smoke into little rings, showing off, hoping he would be impressed.
He lit his own cigarette, and they silently smoked, leaning against the fence, barely touching.

***

 

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DREAMS FROM THE PAST: AN EXCERPT FROM “INTERIOR DESIGNS”

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In this excerpt from Chapter One of Interior Designs, Martha dreams of a family car ride that illustrates her feelings about not fitting into her parents’ world.

***

My dreams took me along a quiet country road.  My parents were in the front seat of their old Pontiac, driving and chatting.  They always seemed to be talking about something that only they could understand.  Greg and Jon sat on either side of me in the back seat, pushing and shoving, with me sandwiched in the middle.  But I knew better than to complain.  Nobody dared interrupt my parents when they were deep in conversation.

 
But then one of Jon’s jabs hit me hard in the stomach and I cried out.

 
I noticed my mother’s frown, even before she quickly turned into the parent who smiled and took care of me.  But the momentary annoyance I saw there reminded me of how I should behave.  “I’m sorry, Mommy,” I quickly spoke.  “It was an accident.”

 
She stared at each of the boys, giving them that look that she reserved just for them, and then smiled at me again.  “Okay, then, sweetie.  We’ll be home soon.  Then you can work off some of that energy.”

 
I could hardly wait, and soon, sure enough, we were pulling into the driveway.

 
Running into the house and up the stairs to my room, I settled into my window seat and curled up with a tablet of blank pages for drawing.  I tried to turn my thoughts and frustrations into pictures I could later give to my mother.  Then she would remember that I was the good girl and not the one who complained.

***

 

 

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BEFORE REALITY HIT: AN EXCERPT FROM “WEB OF TYRANNY”

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In these opening lines of Web of Tyranny, a young girl named Margaret dreams of happy days.

***

For the first few seconds of every day, before reality hit, she felt her body floating in a cloudy tangle as she came up from her dreams.  Beautiful dreams of sunny days filled with music, ice cream and lots of laughter.  She could still remember a time when her days had been like that; she’d been much younger then, granted the indulgences of early childhood.  Those moments usually happened in the warm, cozy rooms at Grandma’s house, when she’d had a feeling that everything would work out somehow.

 

But she was not at Grandma’s today, and as she tossed aside the heavy tangle of sheets and blankets, she knew she wouldn’t be going to Grandma’s again any time soon.  Father had other plans for her.   Her summer days would be full of farm chores, beginning in the early hours of the day and ending only when the last box of fruit had been emptied and the last peach had been cut and placed on the trays.  In the shed, with its overhang that shielded from the hot summer sun, the smell of ripening fruit made her gag, but she had to stifle the urge.  Otherwise, she could end up with a far worse punishment than cutting fruit all day.

 

Margaret shuddered as she recalled some of those punishments.
At least when she worked in the shed, she was surrounded by the friendly faces of aunts and cousins.  Living within five miles of each other, the Graham relatives, especially the women, rallied around one another during harvest season.   As she worked, she pretended to be a fly on the wall, listening to the adult’s conversations; they hardly noticed her and when they talked in those hushed tones, her ears perked up.

 

That was how she learned about Aunt Noreen’s heart condition and Aunt Molly’s foster child, the one who was expecting…When Aunt Molly’s voice fell into that whispery tone, Margaret knew that secrets were being revealed.   Lola’s pregnancy and the dilemma about what would become of Lola’s baby after the birth.

 

Of all the aunts, Aunt Molly could tell a simple story and make it fascinating.  Every day of her life sounded like melodrama.  Even her physical ailments seemed like something out of a storybook.  No matter what else was happening with her though, Aunt Molly always had a friendly word for the younger members of the family.  She and Uncle Chester had only one child of their own; Charles was an oddly quiet boy who seemed misplaced in that family.

 

Before Aunt Molly had started taking in foster children, Margaret recalled summer nights when she had been allowed a sleepover at her house.  In the tiny little cottage next to the meandering canal, Aunt Molly made up a bed for Margaret in the sleeping porch.  While she lay there, Margaret would study the walls of the tiny room, her eyes following the pattern of the knotty pine; wide awake, she reflected on Aunt Molly’s warning words as she tucked her in.  She’d spoken of the evils in the world and how Margaret had to be very careful to stay away from the field workers who roamed their farms during the summer.  Because the men who worked the fields had evil intentions where young girls were concerned.

 

Aunt Molly’s warnings introduced fear into her life, like opening a door onto a dark netherworld.  But in the mornings, all the blackness disappeared as Aunt Molly cheerfully served breakfast in the tiny little nook that looked just like a booth in a diner.

 

So in the summer of her tenth year, Margaret Elaine Graham paid attention to all the melodrama swirling around her and made up stories of her own to add to the mix.

 

She imagined that Cousin Lucy, who had turned fifteen that year, must have more excitement in her life than she could handle.  Eldest daughter of Aunt Noreen and Uncle Joe, she sashayed into the shed every morning dressed like she was going out on a date.  Today she had on tight Capri pants and a little white shirt with a Peter Pan collar; it seemed just a little too snug for the occasion, so Margaret knew that she must have a secret lover.  She probably met him during lunch break.  They would rendezvous down by the barn, behind the bales of hay; or maybe, they would meet down the hot country road at the next farm, behind the rows of grapes.  Down where the packing boxes could be pressed into service as couches or chairs.  He was probably one of the fruit pickers’ kids.  Maybe that boy with the mysterious and brooding expression, the one whose jeans were too tight.  Or maybe he was an outsider, a city boy working on a farm for the summer.

 

Margaret sometimes wandered down behind the grapevines, hiding in the foliage, hoping to catch a glimpse of Lucy kissing her boyfriend.  But no matter how hard she tried, Margaret never caught her in the act.  She sometimes wondered if Lucy’s boyfriend was something that she’d made up in her head.  But then she remembered hearing Vernon and Lucy whispering their secrets and laughing.  No, she wasn’t imagining things.

 

Sitting on the empty packing boxes one day, Margaret flashed back to a time when she and Vernon, three years older, had made trains out of them.  Lining them all in a row, turning them right side up, they could sit inside the boxes, pretending they were train cars.

 

Now Vernon was too old to hang out with the likes of a ten-year-old.  He followed Lucy, or even Charles, and they would disappear behind the barn.  Probably smoking cigarettes.

 

Left to her own devices, Margaret listened, spun fantasies in her head, and tried not to be noticed.   Sometimes, if she was really lucky, she could sneak off during lunch break and read a couple of chapters in her library book.  She had to be very careful, because Father wouldn’t tolerate her reading those books.  They were just adventure books, or sometimes love stories.  But Father thought the books were frivolous and ungodly.  If he saw them, he would toss them out in the incinerator.  Margaret knew this because it had happened just last year.

 

She still shuddered at the memory of her father’s face as he’d shouted condemnation and lit the match to the blaze that had engulfed the trash, consuming her precious book.  She had a hard time putting this new version of her father together with the daddy he had been, because once upon a time, Vincent Graham had been her hero.  Sometimes Margaret could almost see traces of that daddy in his face; in the evenings, when he sat there reading his newspaper, all the sharp lines in his face disappeared.  Or when he sat back in his big chair, falling asleep after dinner, she recalled how she had once trailed along after him when he took the milk cans out to the road.  He would lift her up and put her on the cart; she could feel the breeze in her hair, smell the heavenly aroma of the countryside, and feel safe.  Back then she’d still called him Daddy.

 

When had it all changed?  Her memories blurred.  One minute she was childlike and carefree, with Daddy tossing her in the air; then he was this stern Father with the gruff exterior and the harsh tones to his voice.

 

In the background were the blurry images of her mother Mary.   The mother who did nothing to soften Father’s tone, but who did allow Margaret to tag along to town on shopping day, and even let her go to the library to check out books.  Books she warned Margaret to keep out of sight.

 

Margaret loved the smell of the library.  In the little village, the library shared quarters with the post office.  From the main door, the post office portion veered off to the left.  But to the right, the wonderful library beckoned with its shelves and shelves of unread books.    Margaret felt immediately drawn to the shelves containing her favorites.  Sometimes she just wandered up and down the aisles, taking books down and examining them.  Feeling the spines of the books and inhaling the scent of the ancient pages.

 
And then she would sigh with the sheer ecstasy of being a part of something so magical.

***

 

 

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DISTURBING DREAMS: AN EXCERPT FROM “INTERIOR DESIGNS”

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Martha’s dream filled with childhood memories shakes her up, disturbing her equilibrium.  Excerpted from Interior Designs.

***

 

My dreams took me along a quiet country road.  My parents were in the front seat of their old Pontiac, driving and chatting.  They always seemed to be talking about something that only they could understand.  Greg and Jon sat on either side of me in the back seat, pushing and shoving, with me sandwiched in the middle.  But I knew better than to complain.  Nobody dared interrupt my parents when they were deep in conversation.

 
But then one of Jon’s jabs hit me hard in the stomach and I cried out.

 
I noticed my mother’s frown, even before she quickly turned into the parent who smiled and took care of me.  But the momentary annoyance I saw there reminded me of how I should behave.  “I’m sorry, Mommy,” I quickly spoke.  “It was an accident.”

 
She stared at each of the boys, giving them that look that she reserved just for them, and then smiled at me again.  “Okay, then, sweetie.  We’ll be home soon.  Then you can work off some of that energy.”

 
I could hardly wait, and soon, sure enough, we were pulling into the driveway.

 
Running into the house and up the stairs to my room, I settled into my window seat and curled up with a tablet of blank pages for drawing.  I tried to turn my thoughts and frustrations into pictures I could later give to my mother.  Then she would remember that I was the good girl and not the one who complained.

 
***
“Martha!”  The voice intruded on my dream life, and I lifted my head, feeling foggy and disoriented.  Where had I gone?  Caroline was staring at me with that look of concern that everyone seemed to wear these days.

 
“Oh, I guess I must have needed my power nap,” I laughed, trying to pretend that everyone took a nap halfway through the afternoon.  “What’s going on?  More client calls?”

 
“No, I was just going to ask if you needed anything else before I leave.”  She seemed apologetic, so of course I quickly reassured her.

 
Well, I thought, after she’d gone, it must be almost time for Meadow to arrive home.

 
I hastened into the adjacent bathroom, checking the mirror for any telltale signs.  My hair was tousled and a deep pink crease divided the left side of my face.  Great, I thought gloomily.  But I splashed cold water on my face, tried to smooth out the marks, and ran the brush through my hair.  After applying a touch of makeup, I straightened my slightly rumpled outfit.

 
As I scurried out of the office wing and toward the front of the house, I tried to remember what I was fixing for dinner, but then recalled that we were dining with my parents.  Relieved, I opened the fridge and grabbed a water bottle.  I sat at the kitchen table, sipping it as if I were parched.  Feeling somewhat better, I glanced at the kitchen clock, noticing the time, and headed toward the front porch.  I grabbed a book from the coffee table in the living room just before I opened the door.

 
Settled in the wicker chair, a water bottle on the table and a book in hand, I waited.

 

***

 

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INTERIOR THOUGHTS: THE COLLISION OF PAST & PRESENT – DISTURBING DREAMS

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I knew that staying up late and watching movies with disturbing elements would be a bad idea.  But even when I don’t do that, sometimes my dreams feel like a collision of past, present, and the nightmarish elements of both.

Last night’s dream started out strangely, to say the least.  I was hassling with the bank over my card, which was repeatedly destroyed by the ATM machines I used.

As I meandered through endless lines, I stumbled upon a group of children, looking lost.

Now I am starting to see the past inserting itself into the present, in a nightmarish fashion, as I try to deal with both troubling situations at once….and, of course, handling everything very badly.

I was all too happy to awaken, even though neither situation in my dream life had been resolved, and I couldn’t wait to leap out of bed.

 

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There were just enough “real” elements in those strange dreams to be disturbing, but with twists and turns that were unlike any “real life” experiences I had had.  Like repeatedly trying to persuade the bank officials that their cards were defective…or their ATM machines.  And hoping to find a suitable foster parent for the four lost children, without actually talking to the potential parent first.  Something that would never happen in the real world I inhabited for so many years.

Obviously I have some unresolved issues with that world…and I’m not sure why the bank card issue inserted itself into my dream.  I have NEVER had a bank card “eaten” by an ATM machine!  LOL

Do you try to make sense of weird dreams, or do you just shake your head and laugh at how ridiculous the mind works?

What I know for sure (yes, an Oprah-like remark!), is that my thoughts and behavior before sleep are destroying my dreams…and perhaps I can do something about that.

Meditating?  Yoga?  Warm milk or tea?

 

 

 

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- tea

 

What do you do to make your sleep life uneventful, or free from disturbing dreams?

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FOLLOWING THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD — A JOURNEY — JUNE 29

FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about journeys. 

I have participated in various writing challenges during the past year, hoping to jump-start my writing.  I had begun a WIP in early 2010, and then set it aside for NaNoWriMo, which required a new project.

In each of them, journeys are a large part of what the characters are exploring.  In Interior Designs, our MC is facing up to her “interior world,” not liking what she sees.  She will attempt to figure out what drives her, and then change some of her behavior.  Will she succeed?

While the character in Defining Moments has to veer off the course she set for herself when her marriage falls apart, she now has to come to terms with some of her hidden obsessions and compulsions.

When I selected a photo of my Wizard of Oz collectibles for today’s header, I was thinking about journeys.  How they often lead us to unexpected places, and how we end up transformed.

I do like to illustrate my thoughts with fantasy images; not necessarily because I “believe” in these fantasies, but because they do offer metaphors for our lives in the real world.

So when I set off to explore a new path, or take a unique twist or turn in the current one, I have to ask myself what lies ahead?  Will my “yellow brick road” reveal the secrets that I need to know in my journey?

What about you?  Do you think about journeys and how they might teach us what we need to know?