Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Reflective Last ‘Latest Reads’ of 2014

Hard to believe another year has come to an end. As I sit here, writing for the first time in ages, I find myself staring out the window, watching a rare blustery winter storm wage war on my normally sunny desert. Thankfully, I am snug and cozy in my own little rabbit hole, pecking away on the keyboard, while tunes pump through the speaker and a cup of tea steams next to me. Woodland blossoms waft through the air, and it’s pure bliss. After all, sometimes it doesn’t matter what I write…I just have to write…a cleansing of the soul, if you will. Other times, there is more intent and purpose. Today, I find myself in a deep reflective state, but this year is very different from previous years. Usually, it’s all about what goals did I accomplish? Which ones did I not accomplish? Why? Do I still need/want to? What new goals do I want to set for next year? But, like I said, this year is…different…

I find myself insanely thankful for all those meaningful moments, large and small. And some of mine at the end of this year have been amazing. From quality time with my brother and my best friend to a memorable 4th birthday celebration for my niece filled with friends, family, laughs and love. Only to be followed by a special Christmas with my in-laws, and much needed free time enjoying Disney with the husband. To wrap it all up, I get some serious warm snuggly time my two, favorite, four-legged dudes, and downtime before the rest of the school year kicks into high gear. All in all, one hell of a way to say good-bye to a lovely and wonderful year!

To be fair, I also reflect on the bad, but I find this bubbly feeling from my recent slew of meaningful moments has clouded my normal realism (some call it cynicism), because I can’t even find fault in rough times, both successes and failures. Of course, there are the tragedies that left holes in the heart, but most of the tough times feel like valuable lessons, some harsher than others, but each one meaningful and necessary, in its own way. I don’t know what it all means,  and I'm not going to spend too much time dwelling on it. I do know that I’m going to continue to follow my dreams and shoot for the stars, making sure to stop and take time to enjoy the journey, wherever it may take me. Truth be told, I’m very interested to see where it leads.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, prosperous, harmonious, delightful 2015!

Now, a few things before I get to the original intent of this blog…

First, there are a ton of them. Some, I think, I read over the summer and parts are fuzzy. A lot has happened since summer to cloud bits and pieces, so you will find my thoughts short and sweet.

Second, let me explain my method of evaluations…
*** Pick up at your own risk, even if it’s your preferred genre
****It’s doable. You can probably get through it, if it’s your preferred genre
***** PICK IT UP, especially if it’s your preferred genre
I don’t give one or two stars. Congrats, you wrote a book! You jump immediately to THREE. I know what it takes to write a book. And I am certainly not the last, only or final say on any book.

Finally, the books and my thoughts…

Looking for Alaska by John Green
I have mad respect for Green. He has an intense way of writing within the parameters of very sensitive and heavy topics. In this story, he leads the reader on a journey into the life kids in a private school, filled with teenage angst and agony. Along the way the characters have some very meaningful moments, and learn some intense life lessons about friendship and immortality. It was a great read, but I cried opening…Green does that to me. I also chuckled every now and again. The characters are believable and intriguing.
Final thought: I’ll read just about anything Green writes.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
OK, I read this because it was recommended by an agent I was trying to solicit at one time (at the very beginning of this adventure). It was okay. Tough to follow at the beginning, and I hate being confused at the beginning. I like to be intrigued, not confused. It was tough to identify with the characters, although I liked Evie, so I pushed through it. It ended up being an interesting storyline.
Final thought: Yes, I would check out the next one, if I can catch it on sale.

Dark Water Rising by Mariah Hale
I read this as a possible book to use with my 5th graders. It’s a good story about a family and people responding to the crisis of a devastating hurricane. The author created a realistic and frightening picture of the destruction a hurricane would leave in its wake. The characters were believable and heroic.
Final thought: A good read for grades 6+

Manaic Magee by Jerry Spinelli
One of my all time favorite books to read and teach! Spinelli is a god in my eyes. It is the outlandish tale of the legend, Jeffery ‘Maniac’ Magee, and his quest to find a forever home. No matter what life throws at him, he preserves and remains a kind decent human being. He sees people for who they are, based on their character and actions, not by the color of their skin or where they live.
Final thought: Read this with your kids. Use it to teach respect and acceptance of people that are different. Make the future a better place than we have now!

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
It started off very confusing (again…intrigue, yes…confusion, no). Darkness kept coming, but I didn’t understand what it meant. The more I read the more I loved it! Until the halfway point, then it lost in interest for me. Once I figured out what the darkness meant, I couldn’t get enough, especially when Ursula was mingling in the same circles as Hitler prior to World War II, but the older Ursula got the less and less I liked it, not because she grew older, but once I realized she was destined to continue to make poor choices, again and again. There was a chance for redemption at the end, but the author never pulled it off for me. I can only stomach a terrible ending if the book is amazing. This one lacked a lot for me.
Final thought: This rollercoaster ride was tough to enjoy.

Spellbound by Sylvia Day (18+)
Three has three paranormal short stories wrapped up in one book. These erotic tales intertwine the many highs and lows of Max, a Hunter, and Victoria, his feisty Familiar. Victoria is a fun, strong, female character to read. The intense relationship these two share is enough to keep the pages turning. I would have preferred a little more depth to the storyline at points.
Final thought: The author can create an intense picture and I’m reading another one of her books now.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz
I love this book. I’d read it before and enjoyed it years ago, when I was becoming a teacher. Now, as a veteran teacher and a new author, I love it even more. Munoz constructs the heartfelt realistic fictional tale of Esperanza with grace. She plagues a spoiled young woman with sudden challenges and ill fortune, but the character digs deep and finds unimaginable strength. The scenic setting the author describes is intense and beautiful. The lessons learned are poignant and meaningful.
Final thought: Read it with your kids. Use it to teach them about persevering when life is tough, because life can be very mean.

Current Reading List:

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Thirty percent in and very intrigued to see where this goes.

Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Sixty percent in and there are times when I can’t put the sucker down, then there are times I roll my eyes and get up to do just about anything else.

Dances with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
This will be done soon…the next season on HBO starts in March!

Thanks so much for stopping by! See you in 2015!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Shadow Soldier and Becca Boucher

I’d like to start with Happy Veteran’s Day. I love this holiday, I really do. I’m thrilled there is an entire day devoted to the brave military men and women of this nation! The courage they possess amazes and inspires me daily. I truly have my utmost respect for what they give (and give up), so that I may live my life of luxury. The only flaw I find in Veteran’s Day is that there is only one a year. I think there should be one every month, like the third Tuesday of every month is Veteran’s Day!

However, while we only have one, I want to extend my deepest gratitude of appreciation for the courage and sacrifice of these men and women. With that being said, I thought a blog that promoted the military both figuratively and literally would be a great way to show my support today. Without further adieu, please welcome the amazing and talented Becca Boucher with her latest story, “The Shadow Soldier”!

SG: The Shadow Soldier. I’m intrigued by the title alone. Where did you get the inspiration for this story? Please tell us more about it.

BB: My family has a long history of military service on both sides. My dad was a Vietnam Veteran who suffered from PTSD, a lot of my inspiration comes from his stories and struggles. The Shadow Soldier came to me around the time that young Afghan girl was shot by the Taliban for her work with other girls and education. And I was thinking, what if we had tried to get her out? What if we knew about her? But then my mind was overtaken with the story of a young widow close to my home town who had lost her husband in Afghanistan. I was like thinking the grief must be unimaginable. I just kind of combined the two and The Shadow Soldier was born.

SG: I am a huge fan of projects that support our veterans. I thought I read this had something to do with the Wounded Warrior Project?

BB: You read right. My publisher, Visionary Press Collaborative, is led by a fantastic veteran, Blaze McRob, who donates a lot of his proceeds to various charities. One close to his heart, as well as mine, is the Wounded Warrior Project. I decided whatever royalties I get from this story will be donated to them. We are also hoping for a print version that Blaze will be handing out at VA hospitals.

SG: Wow! That’s an incredibly generous offer. Here’s to hoping for incredible sales for both you and our veterans! So tell us, what are you currently working on? What can we expect next?

BB: I have a romance/erotica piece coming out in an anthology very soon. I am finishing up Midnight Raven, the second book in my moon series, and I am working on a post-apocalyptic novel dealing with domestic abuse. Very intrigue mix of stuff I know.  But just because the world has ended as we might know it, doesn’t mean man gives up all his other dark issues.

SG: What’s your biggest challenge as a writer?
BB: Time! Finding the time to write. Between my day job and two busy teen boys I never get to write as much as I want.

SG: Me, too! Time sure has a way with us all Suppose you have time…what’s your idea of the perfect day?

BB: Coffee, a secluded cabin, and my lap top. All alone to write lol…… Other than that cuddled up with my kids watching movies is pretty darn nice. We don’t get much time for that.

SG: That sounds quite peaceful! One last one…who’s your favorite character?
BB: Wow. My favorite character of all time would have to be Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. I think she was brilliantly written. For her time period to be a strong woman, who goes after what she wants, and who she wants, very intriguing. Both for the time period it was set in, and the period Margret Mitchel lived in. She was a misunderstood character. A lot more depth than people give her credit for.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat, Becca. Wishing you nothing but wonderful success with this and all your future endeavors! 

Be sure to pick up your copy from Amazon today: The Shadow Soldier by Becca Boucher
OR find Becca online:

***Next blog may be coming soon…there is a long overdue "Latest Reads" simmering! And I finally finished “Life After Life”…a terrible ending, so tune back in before the end of the month (I promise) to see my perspective on my “Latest Reads”!

Friday, August 15, 2014

No Sympathy for the Wicked Blog Tour

I was recently contacted to participate in the “No Sympathy for the Wicked” blog tour. My knee jerk reaction, was no, just because I have been swamped this summer, and I HATE to say ‘yes’ to something only to complete the task half-assed because I’ve run out of time, BUT once I found out the story is set in Vegas, I was ‘all in’, so to speak. Since I’ve lived in Vegas off and on since ’97, I always enjoy reading stories set here…just to see…and this one was worth it!

My review of “No Sympathy for the Wicked”

Let me preface with, this is not your run-of-the-mill read! It is actually a compilation of three short stories, all intertwined around the underbelly of Vegas life. We meet a wide barrage of ‘wicked’ folks from meth heads to mobsters, and they are all tied together via dog fights, drug deals, music moguls, death, and police investigations. Mark Rico is the central character that threads through all three stories. He’s a likable ex-gangster from Atlantic City. I especially like his golden pit-bull, Queen! In fact, I LOVE the author actually writes from the dog’s perspective from time to time! In these stories, the point of view can change at a moment’s notice. At first, it was disconcerting, but once I got the hang of it, I enjoyed being privy to the thoughts, feelings and experiences of different characters. I found the Vegas details to be accurate and entertaining! All in all, “No Sympathy for the Wicked” is a gritty, unusual, gripping, fast-paced page turner!

Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter for your shot at prizes

Important Links

Other Participating Blogs

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Path to Writing Blog Tour from IC Publishing

 Well, this little blog tag/hoptour from IC Publishing sounded like fun! I eagerly jumped at the chance once I was contacted by the amazing and talented June M. Pace of Pressed Leaf Publishing to participate! She sent me four questions to answer, and the wheels started spinning. (Click to check out June’s answers)

Here’s how I write…

How do I start my writing projects? (BRAINSTORMING/PREWRITING)
Most of my writing projects start with a spark. Now, where that spark comes from is anyone’s guess. It could be the music or endorphins of a run, a gift, a spoken word, or something I encountered while walking my dogs. The spark can come from anywhere, really, and once it happens, then the characters begin to form. I have to hear their voices, see their clothing and understand their personalities and mannerisms before I know how they will behave. The characters always come before the plot. During the character development, there are multiple notes in notebooks, on post-its, scribbled on a bar napkin or a store receipt, and this handwritten ‘outline’ is labeled and kept safe until the story reaches completion. After character development, I write. I sit at the computer and write, regardless of how I feel.

How do you continue your writing projects? (DRAFTING)
Continuing my writing projects can prove tricky. From late August to early June, I am an elementary school teacher and this MUST take priority. I find myself jotting notes at school (I teach English Language Arts to very creative kiddos, so there are constantly ideas flowing). Then I try to keep Saturdays as sacred writing days; it’s important there is always time carved out for my writing. If I’m lucky, I can sneak into my office in a few nights a week, allowing my fingers to peck away…if I’m lucky.

Now, once I start a story, it writes itself in stages. A story plays in my head and I write what I see. Most of the time it’s a consecutive sequence, but there are times I have bits and pieces of a story in a random clutter. It sorts itself out at the story progresses. Every story has a ‘junk pile’. When I cut something, I place it in the ‘junk pile’, just in case…

Sometimes, the story won’t flow, so I write a lot of TELLING…’he was sad’…to remind myself of my train of thought and to move the story forward. During the editing phase, I will come back and SHOW the reader how/why he was sad.

The rough draft can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the length and flow of the story. Every time I finish a rough draft my mind flashes to Kathleen Turner’s character in “Romancing the Stone”. At the beginning of the movie, she finishes her book and has a drink. It always makes me giggle!

How do you finish your writing projects? (REVISING/EDITING/PUBLISHING)
Once the rough draft is completed a few different things happen. First there are revisions. I reread it, checking for plot holes and making sure my timeline is clear. I revise for content and fix as many mistakes as I can find. Then I edit it. OK, I don’t actually edit my own work. I send it out to a professional editor. Lately, I have been lucky enough to work with Carol von Raesfeld of The Von Raesfeld Agency. While the editor has my manuscript, I don’t touch it. I don’t open it. I don’t read it. I don’t make changes to it. I let her fix my proofreading errors and I wait for her feedback. During this time, I also send it to my creative advisor, the talented Jennifer Paquette, and several beta readers. This is a time when I rely heavily on feedback from others to check for plot holes and to see if the story is any good. After a few more revisions on my part and another pass through my editor, the story is ready for publication. I’ve been self publishing lately. I tried one summer to write and send query letter to solicit agents. With such a limited time (summer) to dedicate to writing, I hate to spend hours poring over letters that barely get read, let alone a response. Right now, self publishing suits my needs.

One final challenge or tip…
Tip: WRITE! Even when you don’t feel like it…WRITE! Even when your fingers are tripping over each other…WRITE! Even if you think you have nothing to say…WRITE!
Challenge: Look at yourself critically, so you can become better. Have an open mind when someone has constructive criticism to offer. (This doesn’t mean take abuse. It means truly listen to opinions of others. Yes, write for yourself, but remember the reader is an important part of the equation.)

Next up:
Liz Kingsbury McKeown: A blogger and indie writer, Liz uses social media to connect with others.

Also check out some great responses from some talented others!

Josh Stanton: UK SteamPunk author.

Andrew Knighton: writer, teacher, blogger

Russell Phillips: non-fiction writer specializing in military technology and history

On Friday, the “No Sympathy for the Wicked” blog tour will be featured! Be sure to stop by for my review and some awesome prizes!

Friday, August 1, 2014

If you Give Stephanie a Story to Edit…

One of my favorite all time children’s book is “If you Give a Moose a Muffin…”.  I love this crazy ass moose! He gets offered a muffin, but then he's faced with some serious distractions at every turn. One thing leads to another as he makes his way through the house, leaving messes and silliness in his wake. BUT he’s a good-natured congenial moose! Just cute stuff! And there are other variations: “If you Give a Pig a Pancake” or “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie”. In fact, there are a whole slew of them now. If you hang out with children, you’ve probably heard of them. If not, look them up. Who knows? They may brighten your day and make you chuckle.

The other day, I found myself in a similar conundrum to the moose. Here is a silly tale with a similar premise of “If you Give a Moose a Muffin…” set in a modern day adult world.

If you Give Stephanie a Story to Edit…

If you give Stephanie a story to edit, she’ll want a green tea to go with it, so off to the kitchen she’ll go.  Of course, she’ll need to turn the Keurig on. While the Keurig warms up, Stephanie will notice the floor is dirty and grab a broom. When she’s done sweeping, she’ll realize the throw rugs need to be washed. And when she goes through the house collecting rugs, she’ll decide she might as well sweep ALL the floors. When she finally puts the broom away, she’ll see the new magic erasers, and want to try them out on the scuffs on the walls. Once the scuffs are cleaned, she’ll see all the dust on the blinds and grab the Swifter. In the middle of changing Swifters, she’ll remember she wanted a green tea and load the Keurig cup. While it brews, she’ll realize she’s in too deep to quit. Shrugging, she’ll finish the blinds, only to see the terrible mess it’s left on the carpet. Off to the closet, she’ll grab the vacuum. Once the carpets are cleaned, the trash will need to go out. As Stephanie replaces the kitchen trash bag and washes her hands, she’ll decide she’s starving, so she'll makes herself a sandwich and lemonade before heading back to edit.

True Story! See you next time!

Friday, July 4, 2014

America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful
On this holiday, I find myself reflecting on a bevy of things: choices, experiences, failures, success, goals, summer leisure, etc. And I know the only reason I’m able to live the life I live is because I live in the greatest country in the world! Don’t get me wrong, I have severe qualms about the current administration and the direction of society, but today isn’t about that. It’s about a desire for freedom so strong it spouted a country. A desire for freedom so great, our forefathers stood up to a tyrannical administration centuries ago. Freedom our brave soldiers have fought and died to maintain. Freedom the courageous men and women of our military willingly risk their lives every day to protect.
So what does that mean in 2014? People have the freedom to choose a life, any life they want. It’s a truly beautiful thing. In the USA, you really can be anything you want, IF (this is a BIG ASS IF) you work hard enough. Now, that is not to say everyone who works hard will succeed, and I think this misnomer has brought about confusion and spouted a disgusting sense of entitlement. There will be times, you may work incredibly hard, and still fail.  Think about our forefathers’ fight. No one handed this country over to them. It cost blood, sweat and tears, intermingled with strategies, failures and successes. Failure doesn’t necessarily mean the desired goal isn’t attainable; it just means it’s going to be complicated to achieve. It may take multiple attempts again each time growing and learning more. Think of it as success preparation. Achieving success is all about the willingness to persevere; to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again, and again, and again as many times as needed.
So what is success? How will I know I’ve become successful? The idea of success, for each individual, can (and should) be different, because we are all unique individuals. Even the most basic forms happiness and success (money, love, family, power, peace, etc) come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Personally, there are days when success is not being an asshole or punching anyone in the face. Most of the time, I’m successful, and I haven’t had to punch anyone yet! In all seriousness, the freedom to choose my own form of happiness and success allows me to adapt and grow.
America the Beautiful, where reaching your desired success is possible. It all depends on your level of commitment. America the Beautiful, where you are free to grow, change, learn, adapt, succeed, fail, love, laugh, live. America the Beautiful, the greatest country in the world!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Latest Reads: 3 INDIE and 2 BIG PRESS

Latest Reads: 3 INDIE and 2 BIG PRESS

This summer kicked off with a bang! Thankfully, so has the writing! Three weeks into summer, I have a 16,000 word count total, bringing the next Ruby Hood (The Twistedly True Guardian Tale) to a whopping 28,000 words. In this sequel, Snow White’s soul has just been stolen, the witch wants the diamonds to change the past, Robin Hood thinks he’s a Guardian, and now I need to bring Kent and Kayla back from Africa with their uncle to wrap-up this story. THEN, I will go back and add my details/descriptions, and make sure I’m showing not telling (a weakness for me, but I’m improving). However, there are some days my prolific nature eludes me and I have to write words like DESCRIBE in the middle of a page to remind me to come back to that particular moment/event in the story. At those moments, I just couldn’t envision my description, but I needed to continue move the story forward, so I leave my reminder!
Writing has been quite enjoyable lately, and I’ve become consumed by this story. I’m very excited about the next phase in Ruby Hood’s life. She’s growing up, changing and learning about herself, as young woman and as a Guardian. I like to think I’m also growing as a writer (yes, I see the parallels). I’ve learned so very much since I wrote my first story, which incidentally is a HOT ASS unpublished MESS, BUT it was the catalyst that propelled me to this point, along with so many other amazing experiences and supportive people in my life. Believe me, I truly understand how incredibly blessed I am! There aren’t many people who get to spend the majority of their days doing things they love, which of course always includes reading, and the original purpose of this rambling blog: Latest Reads.
In this edition, I have three INDIE books and two BIG PRESS books. Incidentally, two of the INDIE books are zombie books, and both are pretty good! (Just between you and me, I don’t really feel the love for zombies…they freak me out…just a personal thing, but I like to stay on top of current reading trends, and zombies are trending.) In fact, every book kept me guessing and I like that in a story; plus there were some very original storylines. Please read on and enjoy my thoughts on these five ‘latest reads’.

Tonight the World Dies by Amber White
In this zombie apocalyptic novel, four friends survive an earth-shattering virus, only to scramble for food shelter and escape zombie attacks. Eventually, they meet a small group living in a compound, and they decided to try out a more stable life. And that’s about the time things go from bad to worse for these friends, all with a dramatic end. The author took a new and unique turn on the traditional zombie story with good pace and likable characters.
Final thought: I enjoyed it.

Hunting the Moon by Becca Boucher
In this story, we meet widowed Lilly and the very handsome Daemon. To refer to these two as star crossed lovers, wouldn’t even come close to describing the problems and road blocks they encounter. Boucher weaves paranormal goodness into the budding relationship and heat between the two main characters. She keeps the reader engaged with plot twists and action, not to mention the exciting and interesting pull Daemon and Lilly feel toward each other. I enjoyed it and look forward to the next one!
Final thought: It’s a good read, especially for the paranormal romantic!

Reinfection by Cynthia Melton
This is the fourth book in this zombie series and I will say I have enjoyed all of them. In this book, the wayward group of survivors think they are about to have a place to settle down and rebuild, but Melton has other plans for the characters.  As readers, we see a new spin on the classic zombie tale. Something about the latest zombies is different and beyond frightening for this cast of characters. That being said, I have always enjoyed the main characters, Colton and Chalice. They really are just kids, but they have turned into leaders many look up to for safety, security, protection and, most importantly, hope! Looking forward to the next one.
Final thought: I am big Melton fan and enjoy reading her stuff!

Confessions of Murder Suspect by James Patterson
In this young adult thriller, we see a new side of James Patterson. As an avid Patterson fan and a YA writer, I just had to check this out. I was not disappointed, as his take on wealthy children and murdered parents was new and fresh. Four siblings find their parents murdered, but they are the only ones who had access to the house. As this mystery unfolds there are multiple twists and turns. The oldest living female child, Tandy, is determined to solve this mystery, even if she turns out to be the killer (Tandy both narrates the story and speaks to the readers in second person at certain points). Of course, when you are a wealthy, high intelligent, somewhat famous family, nothing is as it seems. The deeper Tandy digs into the murder, the more she learns about herself and her family. A dramatic end, which I didn’t see coming!
Final thought: I will definitely check out more of Patterson’s YA books!

Defending Jacob by William Landay
In this novel, we follow ADA Andy Barber as he begins investigating the local murder of a fourteen year old boy. Soon his son, Jacob, becomes the prime suspect. As you can imagine this leads to a bevy of problems and impressive twists and turns. The reader watches as two parents vehemently defend their child, and the different ways they cope with this murder charge. Landay weaves a tale that keeps the reader on the edge of the seat. And the ending is as dramatic and tragic as they come; one I certainly didn’t see coming.
Final thought: This ending still haunts me, but I will certainly check out more of Landay’s work.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Coming next to ‘Latest Reads’
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Looking for Alaska by John Green

Thursday, June 12, 2014

American Gothic Part 3: Final Installment

Let me preface with: I LOVE SUMMER!
Hard to believe I’m a week into summer and still haven’t accomplished much! In my defense, things haven’t exactly worked out the way I anticipated. I did some unscheduled dog sitting. And just for the record…5 Labrador retrievers in one house is a total chore…just walking from one room to another is an ordeal! Then there was a massive issue with one of my pups, Divot (he’s missing a chuck of his ear, hence the name). Apparently, he has some birth defects. One in which his diaphragm didn’t form properly and his intestines have been sliding between his abdomen and chest cavity for years. Imagine his regular vet’s surprise when she saw his intestines floating around his heart in an x-ray! So a semi-serious surgical procedure was needed. Thankfully, he survived the surgery and is recovering!
So as you can see, other things have gotten in the way of my original plan. BUT I have managed to write 3,500 words on the next Ruby Hood, bringing the total word count up to 16,000 words. Ideally, I would love to have the second book finished by the end of June and off to my editor. I’m shooting to have it released in Oct. 2014 (a year after the first). And I must say, this one is good…lots of twists and turns. In The Twistedly True Guardian Tale (working title that I don’t love), we meet my version of Snow White, the 7 Dwarves and Robin Hood. Questions about Kayla’s heritage also get answered, and the budding relationship between Kent and Ruby will blossom (or wilt…I haven’t decided yet). Then I’ll add in some more strife and conflict to propel the characters onto a third book!
But since the school year has officially ended, I thought I should post the final segment of the American Gothic project I did with the kiddos. In case you missed the first two parts, follow the links to check them out: Part 1 and Part 2.
Enjoy the final installment of my short story, American Gothic!
“Oh good heavens!” the young woman exclaimed. “What on earth brings you to our quaint little town?”
“Sadly, a missing child.” Agent McClint added.
“Well, please come in. I’d be happy to help.” Lilia responded.
 “Would you care for a cold drink of lemonade on this particularly warm spring day?”
Agent McClint beamed. “That would be lovely, ma’am. It has been a long day.
Maude settled the very handsome man at the kitchen table with an icy cold beverage, and was about to sit down when a phone rang. “Please excuse me while I grabbed the phone,” She said smiling affectionately, before she walked to the foyer to answer the ringing phone. The moment she stepped into the room, the ringing stopped. Maude paused and looked around. An odd sensation made her shiver. She brushed it off and turned to head back to the handsome FBI agent.
Once Lilia returned to the kitchen, her eyebrows shot up to her hairline. Clark McClint was standing over the stove, peering into her potion pot.
“Agent McClint, how does my grandmother’s homemade allergy medicine smell?” Lilia composed herself and walked into the room smiling.
Clark rubbed his eyes and turned to face the young blonde. “Umm, it smells interesting.” He said before he sneezed. “I guess, I could use some. May I try it?”
“I’m sorry, Agent McClint, but it must simmer for several more days before it’s ready for human consumption. How long will you be here?” Lilia asked .
“I hope not very long, but it depends on how quickly I can solve this case.” The agent responded.
“Well, tell me how I can help.” Lilia said sweetly and gestured to the kitchen table for them to sit.
Clark choose a chair and Lilia sat next to him. “There is a little missing girl, Macie Trims. She was last seen in the woods between your farmhouse and the Cummings’ farm to the east of you. She is about 10 with brown hair and green eyes. I’d like to know if you have any information about this little girl. Anything you can provide might help.”
“Oh, that is just terrible!” exclaimed Lilia. “Those woods are dense and terrifying for me and I’ve lived here my whole. I can only imagine how scary they would be for a little girl who’s new to the area. Have you searched the woods?” Lilia asked as concern dripped from her lips.
“We have. Our dogs picked up a scent near the edge of the Cummings property, but we found nothing.” Agent McClint said dismayed.
“Hmmm…” Lilia got up to stir her potion and refill the agent’s lemonade. “I assume you’ve searched the bomb shelter old Mr. Cummings built in the 40’s.”
“The bomb shelter. He built it back during World War II.” Lilia turned to look at the agent. Her cobalt eyes held his firmly.
Clark pulled a notebook out of his pocket and looked through his notes. “I don’t have any information about a bomb shelter.” Agent McClint furrowed his brow in confusion before he looked backed to the young woman.
Lilia said, chuckling. “Of course not, Agent McClint. Old man Cummings wasn’t known for sharing that sort of information with the city. I’d be happy to show you, if you have some time.”
As the two walked through the woods, conversation flowed easily. The two exchanged stories about their childhood, books, movies and the weather.
Lilia stopped abruptly when they neared the underground bomb shelter. She could find it with her eyes closed, as a child this is often where she went to get away when she needed some time to herself, especially those difficult high school years.
Clark McClint followed her lead and froze. He brought his finger to his mouth, and pulled out his gun, listening intently.
A faint crying could be heard, when the birds weren’t chirping and the leaves weren’t rustling in the breeze. “Oh no!” Lilia shouted, before bolting into a broken and battered barn.
“WHOA! Where are you going?” Agent McClint shouted as he holstered his gun and ran after her.
Within moments, Lilia leapt like a gazelle over two roof beams that had fallen down and ducked under a doorway that was about to collapse before her eyes. She grabbed the trap door in the floor, pulled it open with ease and disappeared down the dark rickety ladder to the bottom.
Agent McClint mumbled under his breath as he climbed down the wooden ladder, which creaked with every step. The agent huffed at every splinter that dug further into his skin. He groaned as his feet touched solid earth. After grabbing his flashlight, he turned around and gasped in surprise.
In the corner, Lilia sat holding a little girl on her lap. “Sshhh, it’s okay now, sweetie. You are safe.” She cooed as she cradled the young girl, gently wiping away the little girl’s tears.
“I want my mommy,” the little girl whimpered.
“I know, darling, and we’ll get you home soon.” Lilia said softly before she looked up and smiled at Agent McClint.
Clark returned her smile and sighed, then he grabbed his two way radio and called it in to his boss. “We found her. I repeat the girl has been found!” There was a loud rejoicing in the background. The agent then leaned down next to the little girl. “Are you Macie Trims?” He asked and the child nodded in agreement. “How’d you get here, sweetheart?”
The little girl snuggled closer to Lilia. “I don’t know. I just woke up here.” She whimpered.
“OK, kiddo. We can talk about it more once we get you home. Are you ready to see your mom?” The agent asked and held out his hands to take the little girl, but she shook her head and clung tighter to Lilia.
“I’ve got her,” Lilia said as she deftly stood up with the young girl in her arms. The three carefully climbed the battered ladder back to the warm sunlight spring day.
Ending: Wrap up loose ends and provide closure. If you intend to end with a cliff hanger, you MUST resolve the first part, and then introduce a new problem to be dealt with in the next segment.
BEEP BEEP BEEP…the alarmed sounded and Lilia bolted out of bed. She had been having some odd dreams lately and last night’s was super strange. She stretched and shook off the eerie feeling. Today was the day she was going to meet the little girl that had just moved onto the Cummings Farm, Macie Trims. Macie and her family had just moved to town, and she had promised Mrs. Trims she would show the little girl around, especially the woods. They were scary for Lilia and she had lived here her whole life. That must have been where that bizarre dream had come from.
“Lilia, hurry up dear. I made breakfast. You are due to meet the Trims in 30 minutes. Hurry up, Darlin’” Grandma shouted from the kitchen.
“Coming,” Lilia shouted as she pulled her long blond hair into a ponytail on the top of her head and grabbed her running shoes on the way out the door. She hopped down the steps toward the succulent smell of bacon and pancakes.
Before she walked into the kitchen she stopped and looked at the picture over the fireplace. This painting had a special place in her heart. ‘Good morning Mom and Grandpa. I miss you terribly.” She said sadly. Lilia had lost her mother and grandfather almost a year ago in a terrible barn fire on the Cummings’ farm. Her unselfish and brave mother and grandfather had rushed into the barn to rescue the animals trapped inside moments before the burning barn collapsed. After their death, Gran M had this painting made from a picture to keep their memory alive. In the picture her mother and grandfather stood stoically in front of the farmhouse. Like father like daughter, both were people of few words and forget a smile for any sort of picture. It always made Lilia smile; she kissed her forefinger and lightly tapped the painting before the hurried into the kitchen.
“Morning, Gran M.” The 20 year-old said before she kissed her grandmother’s cheek and snuck a piece of bacon.
“Morning, Darlin’, grab a quick bit and get moving. I ran into Mrs. Trims at the market this morning and Macie is anxious to meet you.” Grandma Maude said absently.
“I had the strangest dream about the little girl and you last night, Grandma. The little girl had gone missing and you were an evil old witch sold her soul for youth.” Lilia said and then laughed, as she grabbed a to-go coffee mug.
“Heavens dear!” Grandma exclaimed. “You know your powers will be in full force on your 21st birthday next week when the Blood Moon rises. You need to be careful. That may have been a premonitions that something terrible is coming.”
“Grandma! Be serious! I know you think I am destined to become some powerful witch, but really? I’m sure it was just a reminder to be careful in the woods, especially with a kid. Besides, what could possibly happen in Farmtown? You worry too much!” Lilia said as she dismissed her grandmother’s warning and headed out the door and bound down the front steps. “I’ll be back later,” she called and headed off, humming a soft tune, completely oblivious to the unfamiliar van parked at the neighbor’s house.
A sinister voice snickered. “Have fun with Macie Trims today, Lilia. I have her kidnapping set for this evening. That will give me a chance to get close to you before you come into your powers next week. I will have those powers. You won’t even know what hit you, witch!” Clark McClint spoke to himself and watched the young woman in the rearview mirror. Laughing, he pulled off his sunglasses and his eyes blazed red.
The End

Coming Soon: Latest Reads
Hunting the Moon by Becca Boucher
Reinfection by Cynthia Melton
Defending Jacob by William Landay

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mona Lisa and American Gothic (Part 2)

It’s the Friday of a three day weekend and I’m getting ready to grade. Sound like a good time? Go ahead and laugh…I’m 12 days away from having 10 weeks off and damn near losing track of time…hehehe!
In all seriousness, I had to stop grading and give a shout out to my class. I’m reading their Mona Lisa stories and I AM IMPRESSED! They all worked tremendously hard on this project and it shows. Their work is creative, witty, dynamic, and engaging! In all honesty, the end result is why I do what I do. I thoroughly enjoyed this project and look forward to many more like it in the very near future!
To inspire the kids, I wrote a story for them with a different picture, American Gothic (you know the one with the old man, holding a pitchfork and standing in front of a farmhouse with his daughter). It’s aptly titled American Gothic. Sadly, that’s the best working title I’ve got at the moment, but I’m open to suggestions! (To access previous blog, click here: American Gothic Blog: Part 1)
Without further adieu here is the second installment of my portion of the picture/story, language arts/art, 4th grade collaborative project.
Middle: Use points of action to construct your plot or storyline. Make sure one thing leads to the next.
Maude hummed a happy tune as she ground up the last of the eye of newt before she dropped it into the boiling black steel cauldron. In fact, she was so relaxed she let her wrinkles show. At this point in the cycle it took so much effort to show her younger face. She was old. There was no denying that; Maude had already had a long life. She placed the lid on the potion simmered on the stove, when she heard it again.
“Mommy, please help me. What have I done wrong? I promise I won’t do it again.” The little voice cried.
Maude shook her head tried to push the sad childish voice away. Then walked to the window to think about her life.
She had been born at least a century before. She wasn’t exactly sure when or where. There had been so much magic in the early years, it was sometimes hard for her to differentiate between what was real and what had just been a magical illusion. Something tugged at the back of her mind. Something she felt very close to understanding. Just when she was on the cusp of figuring it out a cloud of dust off in the distance distracted her. With the full corn fields, she had no idea what to expect.
“He’s coming for you! We told you he would!” Bonnie shouted from the painting.
Maude shot a menacing look through the large spacious farmhouse to the painting. She snarled and narrowed her eyes, sending a small red flare into the painting above the fireplace. The gray barn in the background went up in flames.
But Bonnie, only laughed as the fire quickly went out. “You can’t hurt us anymore, old woman.”
“That’s right, Maude. It’s you who put us here.” Clyde said stiffly.
“Oh, SHUT UP!”Maude yelled. Her old gray hair fell around her head, and she seemed more wrinkled than ever. Her blue eyes shifted from bright and lively to dead and black. Catching a glimpse of herself in the reflection of the window, she gasped in horror at what she saw: a monster.
As the car approached the home, Maude could tell it was a sedan, and it had a siren on top. Frantic, she had no idea what to do. The car stopped and a man jumped out. He was young and he was handsome. His sunglasses and business suit alarmed Maude even more. He took the steps two at a time with ease, and wrapped on the door as he called out.
“Maude. Maude Clemins. Ma’am, are you home?” The man  paced to the front windows and peaked in before he banged on the front door. When no one answered, he began to pace around the porch, which wrapped around the house. With every step he got closer and closer to the back kitchen window, to seeing the real Maude Clemins. The evil witch, who would do just about anything to stay young, including banishing her husband and daughter into a painting. She neared the point of desperation when, the timer buzzed.
For an ancient woman of 100+ years, she had the grace of the youth of a ballerina, as she bounded over to the simmering pot, grab a large ladle and took a gulp of her potion. She moaned with relief and the pain of old age left her body. Her soft golden hair returned, along with her ocean blue eyes and her smooth skin.
“Just a moment. I was in the shower.” Maude cupped her hand around her mouth and hollered projecting a melodic voice through the house, then she snapped her fingers, turning her hair wet and a fresh pair of shorts with a new black tank top.
The footsteps on the porch stopped, paused and turned toward the front door.
Grinning her herself, she walked toward the door with a swagger, stopping only to pull the American Gothic painting off the wall. This was not the time to have her husband or daughter yapping in her ear about her choices. “I’ll deal with you two later,” she muttered as she shoved the painting into the closet.
With a flickity flick of her wrist, a copy of Van Gogh’s ‘A Starry Night’ filled the void over the fireplace. Maude took the last step to the door and pulled it open flashing her gorgeous grin. “Hi there, can I help you?”
The handsome man took off his sunglasses, revealing his emerald green eyes. A friendly smiled covered his critical eye, “Why, hello, ma’am. Are you Maude Clemins?”
The young blond tossed her head back and giggled a bit, “Goodness, no. That was my grandmother. She passed on a few years ago. I’m Lilia, Lilia Hawkins, so nice to meet you.” She held out her hand and smiled kindly.
The young man smiled and shook her hand before he spoke. “Nice to meet you, Lilia. My name is Agent Clark McClint and I’m with the FBI.”

To be continued…