Saturday, May 31, 2014

"Pit-Pat Waddle-Pat"

Ever written something in a fit of genius that lasts with you for ages and ages and will probably still run through your head at random till you are old and senile?

"In rubber boots you're free to wade
Through puddle and through creek;
In rubbers you're invincible,
Excepting when they leak."

That's this little quatrain for me. <3

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Dangers of a Traveling Writer

It really isn't safe to be a writer, to travel abroad and tell people about your work.

First of all, it's harder than you'd think to pitch your novel in simplified English. If you've worked up a perfectly-worded pitch that takes you exactly twenty-five seconds to deliver, chances are that the wording will be too complex for most people you meet. (You know we exhaust every double-meaning of every word in those hellish pitches.) If you haven't worked up that perfectly-worded pitch, you're still awash. We're writers; our greatest weapon is our command of the English language ... but when your "foes" are impervious to glances from your English Weapon, you're sort of drifting in dangerous waters.

One evening early in the trip, I found myself sitting in the back of a little car as a young Romanian man drove. Two of my teammates, Matthew and Oliver, were with me and we had just finished an evening service at a church near Arad. As we puttered through a village and took a roundabout, I chatted merrily to our driver (who spoke excellent English) about wanting to learn Romanian as my second language. He smiled quietly at me through the rear-view mirror and told me that I had much better take Spanish; I would find it more useful, he said, for visiting Mexico.
"But I don't know anyone in Mexico," I said somewhat petulantly. "I have friends in Romania!"
"Don't you have Hispanics in Virginia?" he asked.
"Well, yes."
"Then you see. So tell me more about your writing."
(Here goes, I thought.) I managed to eek out something that sort of resembled a description of Fly Away Home but it was dashed hard. I mean, how am I to know what the 1950's were like in Romania and how much of what the 50's were like in NYC needs explaining to the person who has an idea of vintage Romania in his mind? Would our driver know what I meant by "glitz" and would he even be interested in the premise of my novel or was he simply being polite? There is nothing for making you weigh the value of your words like trying to cross a culture barrier, I tell you.
My American companions were rather silent during my conversation with our driver but I was not going to let my spirits be dampened by their lack of gregariousness. My Romanian acquaintance smiled at me again through the mirror and clicked his blinker on, slowing before making a turn.
"Are you going to write a book about Romania?"
"I would love to someday," I said, leaning into the topic willingly. "For now I'm keeping a journal and writing about everything that happens and everyone I meet. Someday I'll fit it in a book."
After my eager pronouncement, he smiled at me and I heard him say, "Well don't forget to."
"Forget to? I would never. I could never."

My American companions remained silent.

Flip a few pages in my travel journal to the next day when I was finishing up a surprisingly triumphant round of bowling. Oliver sauntered over to me with a silly smile on his face.
"Hey Rach," he said, "did you realize that when you were talking to Vlad last night, he said 'Don't forget me'?"
"No, he didn't!" My heart thudded to a halt and slowly jerked back into business as I realized the import of Oliver's words.
"Don't forget me."
"Forget to? I would never. I could never."

Speaking about your career as an authoress in a foreign country is dangerous. It can get you labeled a flirt and it can make you the laughing stock of your teammates. Thank heaven I soon saw the humor in the situation and helped Oliver make "I wouldn't. I couldn't," a catchphrase in our group that lasted to the final days. Nothing like laughing at yourself, right?

Oh golly. Only a Rachel, darlings. Onnnnnnnly a Rachel.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"You and I Remember Budapest Very Differently."

Hello everyone! I am home in America in one piece with another hundred pages of travel notes with which to bolster my inspiration in the days to come. After not having written terribly much, it felt good to sit down and write and draw every single day. I was able to meet quite a few people (and observe quite a few others) who will someday elbow their places into my writing. There is an especially embarrassing story connected with one of the men which has now probably given him the impression I'm the most determined flirt who every made her family ridiculous. The ordeal has certainly cemented in my mind the fact that I would never forget him ... I could never. ;)

A grand hello and welcome to my several new followers! I am always excited to have new blood on the blog and you are quite welcome here. I hope you find your stay enjoyable.

In the days to come, I will share a little more about my trip to Romania, the two real live castles I met, and the fact that Jennifer Freitag is self-publishing Plenilune. Good heavens, people. You are in a for a cattywampus. For now, I would only like to say cheers, thanks for the prayers and good wishes for my travel, and that watching pedestrians in the middle of a summer storm is a terrific way to get a laugh and heaps of character notes. Ceau!

Hanging out with a Roman head on the Danube.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour (bon voyage!)

I was tagged by Elisabeth G. Foley at The Second Sentence to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour and I figured I would do this last post before leaving the country for 17 days. Ciao ciao, darlings. The idea of this thing is that participants share a little about their writing process via the tour questions, then nominate other writers to carry the tour on. Simply, effective, community-driven. Voila! So here we go:

1.) What am I working on at the moment? Oh this question had to be on there. If I'm entirely flippantly honest, I'd say nothing. Since beginning my job, I've been figuring out the balance of work and family responsibilities as well as reading quite a bit (PLENILUNE) and preparing for Romania. That being said, my next project is quite probably going to be Mob Ink, though no solid promises. I also have some ideas for a second Vivi & Farnham mystery. :3 In defense of this story-less stage, I am taking it rather as a writing holiday because Anon, Sir, Anon is away at the beta-readers and when it comes home, there'll be a toll to pay, I know. Stocking up on brilliance to pour out later, right? Also, I've been scribbling real-life notes for future Social Caterpillar posts and character inspiration.

2.) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Well that'd be the question for many, wouldn't it? I genre-hop because I prefer to be a good novelist period rather than a good historical novelist or a good romance novelist or a good sci-fi novelist. So this question really must be ammended to: "How does my work differ from other authors'?"
Each of my books is laced with that particular Rachel Heffington flavor that, once tasted, never quite leaves the mind. Or so I'm told. I'm sassier than some but I balance it with a load of sweet. My prose is also ... well, Jenny calls it "cat's-paw". It's light-footed, clever, and water-coloured. I can turn a good character or two (or three or four) and I have been informed that I am good at creating three-dimensional, interesting, unusual characters without making them weird. I tend to dabble in telling familiar things in a way that makes people sit up and take notice.

3.) Why do I write what I do? Because I write what strikes my fancy and like to think that somewhere, it'll strike an answering fancy in a reader. I've experienced the thrill of reading something that seems written specifically with me in mind, and I crave to bestow that gift on another reader or thousand.

4.) How does my writing process work? Oh la. Well, I feel that most of you will have heard this many times over, so I'll be concise: I get a phrase, character, or snippet of something stuck in my mind and it festers and out pops a story. First drafts are the bane of my ever-loving existence because (not being a plotter), I panic midway and feel that I'll never complete the story with any semblance of coherency. I do, though, and then I go through two edits of the entirety. I send this edited version to my beta-readers, take their feedback, and sort it all out. (I apply some criticism, discard others, and generally whip the thing into shape.) This process usually contains at least two more edits, one of which is printed off and marked by hand. Then, when I feel the book is thoroughly whipped and decent, it's time to format, final-edit, and publish.

Well, that was not too terrifying, was it? I nominate Mirriam Neal as the next participant, so do keep an eye out for her post next Monday!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

New Cover: God's Will

Ay-up, people! My good friend, Meghan Gorecki, is revealing the cover for her new historical novel, God's Will, this week! God's Will is the book I formatted and--while hellish in that respect--is quite sweet in every other. If you are a fan of sweet historic novels with a hint of romance, you will enjoy God's Will so go ahead and mark the book on Goodreads and keep an eye out for it on Amazon where it will be available in both paperback and e-book version quite soon!

Fun Fact: the cover for God's Will was designed by Rachel Rossano: the woman behind Fly Away Home's lovely face!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Being a Hybrid-Author: Inside Scoop on Both Publishing Worlds

By early June this year, I will be a hybrid-published author. What does that term even mean? It means that I will have at least one project in print by independent means (Fly Away Home) and at least one project in print by traditional methods (Five Glass Slippers). In an age where services like Createspace offer ways for an author to see her book become a bound, printed reality, is traditional publishing being edged out toward becoming unnecessary? In a conversation on Twitter, author J. Grace Pennington suggested I do one blog post centering on the pros and cons of each form of publishing for anyone curious to see the publishing business from both sides. To that end, I've constructed this post to walk through the writing-publishing process and give you the drift from both sides: traditional and indie pubbing:

Step One: Write the Darned Thing

Indie authors: Write what you like. No one really has to love this book but you.
Traditional authors: Write what you like. Someone has to love this book besides you, but we'll worry about that later.

Step Two: Editing/Rewriting

Indie authors: Get as many people as you can to read this book and point out all your errors. Fix these errors and rework it thrice or four times.
Traditional authors: Get at least three people to read your book and help you edit. Critique partners work well for this stage. Rewrite with an eye for your target audience.

Between Stages two and three, if you are a traditionally published author, will be the querying and/or contest winning stage wherein you will secure a publisher for your book. Here, the paths of the two diverge.

Step Three: Further Editing
Indie authors: Keep at that editing. The measure of honor in an indie-pubbed novel is how well it is edited. The fear of most readers in buying an indie novel is that it will look and sound homemade. Uh-uh.
Traditional authors: You will receive a line-in edit for your novel at this stage wherein are notes from your editor/publisher about Things That Need Fixing. This could be the addition of scenes in certain places, the cutting of dialect or certain lines of dialog, the changing of the ending, the changing of names, the clarification of relationships, the news that Google actually doesn't know Italian. Make these changes in the file and send back to the Editor. This could need to be repeated once or twice more, depending on your aptitude in making requested changes.

Step Four: Design/Formatting
Indie authors: Hire a cover-designer unless you happen to be super with digital art. I cannot stress this point enough. The other measure of honor in an indie novel is whether it actually looks like something someone would pick up without being begged on bended knee. This is also the formatting stage. You will need to decide if you are doing an e-book version of your novel and then format the novel into paperback and ebook formats. If you're awesome, you will do a lot with interior design. If you are not like me, you will make it look professional and breathe again when it is finished. This is the stage where you begin your project in Createspace and make decisions like Glossy or Matte, Cream or White, and the size of your pages (all of which, in some measure, has bearing on the formatting and design). When you've done formatting, you'll upload your final PDF and correct all the problems the Format-Checker found. You'll upload the Final FINAL PDF and order a proof copy. When you've received your proof copy, it's time to sit down with a red pencil and circle all the spelling, punctuation, or formatting mistakes you've still found after a bajillion edits on the computer. When you've applied these edits (and/or found and fixed design problems) go ahead and approve the proof!
Traditional authors: This stage is, perhaps, the reason so many authors love the traditional method. You have to do absolutely nothing except (in some cases) approve/advise the cover design, admire the gorgeous interior design file that finally makes it your way, and check through the galley proof file for any last-minute changes you will make. The one difference is that sometimes there are a few lines (insignificant lines) that are not absolutely your own. Slight words changed, or a simple "she walked down the stairs" inserted here or there. If you think too hard about it, it can irk the One Who Published Indie And Kept Everything, but it is how every traditionally published book works. There are certain little changes the editor is entitled to make.

Step Five: Marketing/Publicity
Indie authors: This is the stage that will decide whether you are actually going to make it as an author or not. That sound scary, I know, but it is really quite practical. You'll need to build your platform (a blog is an excellent way--kudos if you already have one), email every writing-inclined person in your address book and beg for interviews, email book review sites and beg they'll accept an e-ARC (Advance Reader Copy), schedule interviews and guest posts, join Goodreads and create an Amazon author profile, figure out what the blazes Shelfari is and then discard it as a bad idea, and choose your release date. You'll probably be majorly stressed in this stage, but when it is over and your release-party and/or blog tour is spinning merrily without you, it feels so good. I haven't gotten into the stage of arranging newspaper interviews or television spots or anything, but you can certainly win hearts that way, I'm sure. Talk about your work, not in a narcissistic way, but as your profession, which it is. Show people your work. Run giveaways and host other authors on your blog. Join Twitter and Facebook as a way to connect with more readers. Be real and personal and embrace your brief moment of glamour. Work hard. It's worth it.
Traditional authors: Read above paragraph. Yep. Increasingly, the job of marketing and publicity rests much upon the shoulders of the author. Gone are the days of letting your publisher do everything for you. As the author, you are the one readers want to know. They want to hear your words, see bits of your writing process and life. They want the real deal and publishers are okay with that. The author can't expect to leave the best interest of their children in the hands of someone who didn't give birth to that child and expect them to carry it the entire life of the novel, right? That's like ... creepy.

So there you have it, world! The pros/cons and paradoxes of being a hybrid author! I hope this post helped answer any questions some of you might have, and if I have failed to address anything, leave a question in a comment below and I'll do a follow-up at some point. I am blessed to have the chance to work in both publishing worlds and cannot wait to do it again and again. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Six Things Every Writer Should Bring While Traveling

I am about to leave for my trip to Romania. I will be scheduling a post to launch the day I leave, and then I'll have it fairly quiet around here until I return from to the country on May 27th. Few Days More means lots of lists: packing lists, To Get Before Leaving lists, To Do Before Leaving, etc. (These, in addition to my daily lesson-plans lists for my nanny-job) There are quite a lot of lists one can make before leaving  for a Grand Adventure, isn't that so? It came into my mind as I opened up Blogger this morning: "So why not write a list of the things a writer might need while traveling?" Thus, I did. Tell me if I've left something off.

#1: A travel journal
This is the place where you will host your brain for the duration of the trip. On last year's missions trip, I scrawled, scribbled, and sketched every spare minute. Some might say my devotion to this leather-bound volume was a little extreme, but the one night I gave up writing every little thing down, I couldn't sleep. The brain of a writer was not mean to see and not save. Your mind will be far too active while you are trying to sleep if you do not give it a paper outlet.

#2: Four good pens (at least)
I swear by Pilot G2 pens, an expensive habit formed in me by an acquaintance with Wyatt Fairlead. There should be a slogan: "Friends don't let friends use G2 pens," because they are addictive. A pack of four pens at Walmart is over $5.00, but I consider it worthwhile. Is there anything more frustrating than a scratchy, balking pen? I wonder if Paul's thorn in his flesh was an empty, scratchy prison-pen which was the only thing he had with which to compose his letters to the churches. MURDER, I say.

#3: One Beloved Book
Contrary to the claims of many readers/writers, you will not be in the mood to read while traveling by plane. (I am assuming that you will be traveling by plane. If you are on a long road-trip, this point will likely be different.) I have traveled much in the past several years and every time I have brought a new book, I never read it. Excitement, distraction, and weariness are the key reasons why you will not form a close friendship with a strange novel while traveling. Rather, pack a book you know backward and forward. You want the kind of book that you can enjoy and understand while halfway asleep on ten-hour flight with turbulence. The old familiarity of such a book will help soothe those very components that would keep you from enjoying a new title. Believe me on this: I have tried bringing a shiny new book I've been longing to read and have formed grudges against said book by virtue of having been distracted, excited, or bone-tired while making the attempt. Better stick with Winnie-The-Pooh. (I think I am bringing The Wind in The Willows to Romania, since Abigail has The Grand Sophy.)

#4: Chocolate
The stand-by comfort food of the editing/rewriting stage, chocolate is a must while traveling. I have a Chocolate War Path, actually. I brought a medium-dark chocolate sea-salt bar for the flight over. (Ten hours; I'll need sustenance.) Next, I have a 72% dark chocolate bar that will last me the first week, as this more bitter, darker bar is harder to gobble. Third, I have an 86% cocoa bar that is like coffee-grounds, it's so dark. I happen to like chocolate this dark, but it is the kind you nibble bit by bit. This bar should last me the second week and the days traveling homeward. Sound like a strategy. I find it amusing how my stratagem skills are limited to chocolate-supply.

#5: Reading Lamp
Let us say you don't feel like having the airplane light scalding down on you from a giddy height while reading on the plane. Or maybe you're in the middle of your trip and can't sleep but don't wish to wake your companions by flipping on the big old light. (There's no knowing how many watts these foreign lights will zap at you.) Having a little, secretive clip-on reading lamp is like having a super-power. Plus, it'll make a good flashlight if you're out creeping around in a dark space at any point in time.

#6: Washi tape & one Sharpie
You never know when there will be a physical something you want to tape into your travel journal like tickets, a feather, a coin, etc. I came home with some pressed flowers, some gold off a convent-chapel's door handle, and the like for which I had no paste or tape. Washi tape is perfect for this sort of thing and comes in itty bitty compact rolls for perfect traveling size. (Unfortunately, it does not come in clear. Sometimes Scotch-tape is the best after all) Washi tape weighs almost nothing and is easy to stick on and take off on a whim. You'll love it.
As for the Sharpie, must I explain? Everyone who does not bring a Sharpie always ends up wanting one at some point in the adventure. I smuggled in a Sharpie last year against such an occasion and sure enough, by day two, one of the team members was looking for a Sharpie. Plus, it's nice for doodling on un-doodle-able things such as fingers, arms of airplanes, paper, and water-bottles. (which item does not belong?)

There it is: The Short-List for Travelling Writers. Bon voyage, darlings!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Those Frenchies Seek Him Everywhere

A few weeks ago, Anne Elisabeth Stengl (my publisher for The Windy Side of Care in Five Glass Slippers ) inquired as to whether I might be willing to ask a question of her mother, author Jill Stengl, and participate in an internet-wide blog tour for the release of her novel, Until That Distant Day. Being the obliging creature that I am, I said yes. Being the prompt creature that she is, Anne Elisabeth soon sent me an email with all the bits and pieces I'd need to host Jill on The Inkpen Authoress. And that, my dears, is the story of today's post. But first, let us hear about the book!

Colette and her brother Pascoe are two sides of the same coin, dependent upon one another in the tumultuous world of the new Republic. Together they labor with other leaders of the sans-culottes to ensure freedom for all the downtrodden men and women of France.

But then the popular uprisings turn bloody and the rhetoric proves false. Suddenly, Colette finds herself at odds with Pascoe and struggling to unite her fractured family against the lure of violence. Charged with protecting an innocent young woman and desperately afraid of losing one of her beloved brothers, Colette doesn’t know where to turn or whom to trust as the bloodshed creeps ever closer to home.
Until that distant day when peace returns to France, can she find the strength to defend her loved ones . . . even from one another?

"Jill Stengl is one of the rare authors with the ability to transport the reader to another world--a delightfully rich world of scent and sight and sound.” – Kim Vogel Sawyer, bestselling author of Echoes of Mercy

Award-winning author Jill Stengl has created her greatest work yet in the inspiring and moving Until That Distant Day.” Jill Eileen Smith, bestselling author of the Wives of King David series.

And now that we have hurled formalities at one another, I will let Jill answer the question I fed her! I asked Ms. Stengl:
"Have you ever begun a story and realized someone else has already done something quite similar and you had no idea? If so, how have you worked to make yours different?"

Yes, I have, but my discovery came too late for revision! Heartsong Presents books, at that time, were mailed out to subscribers, four each month. One month after one of my stories released, a historical by a better-known author came out, another western with a main character whose history was nearly identical to my hero’s history. Naturally, the two books blended together in readers’ minds. The short-romance genre offers little scope for originality. I always struggled to find ways to make my work stand out in the crowd. Occasionally I was successful; more often I was not.
After many years of writing, reading, and observation, I believe that characters make the difference. I can invent a great plot, a fabulous setting, and even a strong story outline; but if my characters are cookie-cutter, my story will sound exactly like dozens of other books out there. Readers might enjoy it at the moment, but they will forget it entirely within days. After all these years I am finally learning how to write characters that think, speak, act, and react like real people instead of behaving like puppets acting out my plot. It is much harder to write a novel than it used to be, but I am far more satisfied with the result. There is always more to learn, and of course I’m hoping the next book will be even better!
Great question, Rachel! Thank you so much for joining my blog tour.

Jill Stengl is the author of numerous romance novels including Inspirational Reader's Choice Award- and Carol Award-winning Faithful Traitor, and the bestselling novella, Fresh Highland Heir. She lives with her husband in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, where she enjoys her three cats, teaching a high school English Lit. class, playing keyboard for her church family, and sipping coffee on the deck as she brainstorms for her next novel.
She blogs at Books, Cats, and Whimsy. Do stop by and follow her to keep up with all her writing and reading-related activities!

And, dear readers, until May 12th, the Kindle version of Until That Distant Day is only .99 so if you are fond of reading on Kindles (as I know many of you are), do drop us a line!

There is a lovely giveaway going on as well, so please rummage about the Rafflecopter below to see the many ways you could win. French Revolution books always give me a thrill--ever since The Scarlet Pimpernel--so I would be quite anxious to win a copy myself. Also, Harney & Sons tea is spectacular.

And just so you don't miss any of the other stops on this tour, I am posting the tour schedule below. Find a stop near you! Bus Fare only .50 a pop. ;)

Until That Distant Day
Launch Tour Schedule

May 5

May 6

May 7

May 8

May 9

May 10

May 11

May 12

May 13 – Giveaway Winner Announced

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Drink isn't Drink

Because I'm a goose and panicked that I wouldn't fulfill my word, I wrote up my own Chatterbox piece between bouts of wheel-barrowing mulch thither and yon today. My shoulders don't thank me for the work, but I had plenty of time for thinking so it all worked out. This piece belongs with Mob Ink. Enjoy!


“May I have a glass of water?” It came out more Oliver Twistian than Fizz had hoped. He’d try again: “I can’t possibly continue with the story till I’ve had a drink.”
Camel gave Spinks a nod. Spinks slank (slinked? Fizz had never been certain of the past tense) to a rusty latch in the wall and turned it. A piece of sheet-rock fell back, revealing a cache as deep and wide as the proverbial fountain flowing. Inside the cache were rows upon rows of flat, amber-shot bottles.
“Brandy.” Spinks took a bottle and brought it to Fizz with a very graceless have at the bow of maitre d'.
“From the waist, not the knees,” Fizz directed. He took the proffered bottle and turned it in the dim light of the warehouse. The muted warmth it gave off was admirable in a world that seemed to be nothing but sheet metal and concrete blocks. “Brandy? Under the ban?”
Spinks rolled his shoulders and eyed the flask. “We’re a mob, loony. Less a’ the stuff the country gets, more of it we gets.”
Camel moved one long leg over the other.
“You got any business sense?” Spinks snapped.
Fizz thought of a recent conversation involving Marvin and something about premiums and interest. “Afraid not. Numbers were never my game.”
Camel grunted. “Yeah, but stories is and till you’s started talking, we ain’t gonna let you off our guns.”
Oh, the guns. He’d almost grown used to having conversations with a Colt .45. So much so, he’d failed to notice Camel and Spinks both wore trench coats--and you could count on one thing for sure: if a man wears a trench coat, it’s never for rain.
Conscious of a tickle in his throat, Fizz tossed the brandy to Spinks with a shrug. He hadn’t seen anything stiffer than apple juice, let alone tasted it, in a solid year, but now was not the time to get bubbly and lose his bearings. Perfectly nonchalant. Fizz took pride in the accomplishment of that toss and shrug, for nonchalance often seemed to go with numbers and The Charleston on his list of Things I Am Less Than Good At.
“I can’t tell a story till I’ve had a drink.”
“Then have some and stop yippin’.”
“Water,” Fizz said in an equally impatient tone.
“Water?” Spinks laughed a choppy, disbelieving laugh and elbowed Camel who, till then, had not seemed to find anything interesting.
“Oh yeah,” Camel said, “Water? Ha heh ha.”
Up this awkward moment, Fizz had assumed the humorless-sidekick gag to be a product of  the below-average imagination of filmmakers in Hollywood. Evidently, it was not.
When Spinks was done making fun of his prisoner’s demand, he settled into a naily glare. “You come up to Eddie Harold Howard--to us--and splash our work all over the newsstands with your book and trow yourself on Big Eddie’s good graces and refuse a glass a’ his gold?”
“Don’t you have any water?”
Spinks pocketed one hand and the flask together then ambled to the cache and latched the door with his free hand. He brought out his other hand but the flask remained hidden. Somehow, Fizz got the idea Spinks saw a lot less of the gold he was so hot over than he’d like his storyteller to know.
“You don’t have water, do you?”
Camel looked up to check with Spinks then bit off his thumbnail in a contemplative fashion more suited to a student of Plato than a gangster with a .45.
“Well, no,” he said. “We can’t have it lookin’ like this is an unabandoned abandoned warehouse, can we? We can’t just go grinnin’ up to d’Lord High Mayor and ask him to send us a water-bill, now can we? gotta keep it abandoned so no one knows anyone lives here, see?”
Put in that way, Fizz had to agree that life as a mobster was on par with exploring the Sahara Desert, as far as the peril of dying of thirst went. It could have been delirium brought on by excessive dehydration, but Fizz seemed to have a vision of himself stopping gang-violence and repealing Prohibition all at once by marching to the Mayor of Chicago himself. It would be a simple conversation: he would explain that the reason gangs smuggled liquor at all was because they were too humble to ask for water.
“Give them water, Mr. Mayor, and the demand for liquor supply would go right down. Then you’d need no Prohibition laws because people would drink responsibly--or not at all! Because, dear Mr. Mayor, when you’ve had a nice glass of water, do you yearn for a glass of sherry? Oh, you do? Well, the American Citizen would likely not, and if he did ... well. Yes, Mr. Mayor, no need to shove. I was just on the point of seeing myself out.”
Oh, the gangs had it very rough indeed. But he guessed it was not written in his script to sort it all out.
“Hurry up with da story!” Spinks shouted. One wing of his trench coat flapped eagerly.
Fizz settled his back against the cinder-blocks and thought about licking moisture off the bricks. "As a point of interest, Mr. Spinks, I'm still thirsty."

Friday, May 2, 2014

May's Chatterbox Announced

Every month, I seem to forget that I host a thing called Chatterbox and that it begins at the start of every month, and that I'm obliged to make up a topic and dispense it to you like aspirin, to chew on at your will and come out with something fabulous. Those of you who don't know what Chatterbox is, may I introduce you?
Chatterbox is a monthly event created and hosted by me, designed as a quick dialog exercise. It doesn't have to be strictly dialog, as I enjoy good description too, but centering your piece around a conversation is the general idea. I assign a topic (usually one that can be taken any of several ways) and it is your job to write a conversation between your characters, using this prompt. When you've posted your piece on your blog, come back here and leave your link on the link-up below.
Quite easy, quite helpful. I always love reading the many entries that come in! I ought to participate myself, someday. I always say that and I always mean it, but it isn't overly often that I do prompts outside of my general course of writing. That's the point of writing prompt, right? To crack you out of the realm of normal? Hmmmm. This month, I might do it. I will do it. Hold me to it, please, won't you? (Such a jolly idea of mine, ten days before I leave the country. Har HAR.)

I threw around quite a few horrible suggestions for May before settling on one that I think will please those of you who are metaphorical, those of you who are literal, those who are humorous, curious, or whimsical. This topic is, of course,
Can't live without it, too much will kill you, it can be a salvation or a terror depending on whether it comes as the last drop of moisture in a desert, or an unforeseen tsunami. I remember reading Little Town on The Prairie and marveling over the intellectual debate held in the town hall over which was the more powerful: fire or water. Water won, for water can put out fire in the end. Water has many biblical parallels, geographical, historical, and environmental effects, and much much symbolism. You can be a scientist and study water, or an Olympic swimmer and use water. Put strychnine in the well and the whole family will DIE in fearful AGONIES. Crush a leaf of mint in a mountain stream and the drink will be the sweetest you've ever tasted. Find the Fountain of Youth and you'll live forever. Go down Niagara Falls in a barrel and you'll live a second.

Water is a marvelous thing. Write about it and leave your link below.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Find a Kid and Keep Him Close

I don't know what sort of Facebook-user you are (if you use Facebook), but I am of the variety of users who rarely follow links to the numerous articles their friends share. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations following invariably the same object led me several times to the Matt Walsh Blog, I began to realize that I actually like much of what this guy has to say. Yesterday was one of those times when I followed a link and was ready to cheer by the end. The title of the post was: Here are 13 things for little kids to worry about instead of college and test preparation. In the post, Matt writes an open letter to one first-grader named Peter, whose love for arts, crafts, and creativity has been sapped by the public school system (specifically the early focus on college prep).

In my new role as nanny to Lila and Sophy, I have been testing the waters as to how far their imaginations go. Going into the position, Sharon told me that they were creative and imaginative children and that they loved to pretend. This was obviously a boon for me--I can't keep uncreative, unimaginative children busy. It just does not work. They don't like me and I don't particularly like them. The first couple of work weeks, I tried their limits and held back a little from the full onslaught of Rachelness they would soon come to know. Ever so slowly, I seeped it in and watched how they reacted to invitations to imagine, create, and pretend. Every challenge I gave, they gobbled up. I liked these girls. I stuck to reading books in different accents, to dancing like different sea-animals, to talking about "unzipping" the kiwis' furry jackets so we could eat them. I felt like we were all holding back a little, getting used to one another, pushing a couple boundaries, seeing just how far the other would go. I didn't want to, y'know, scare them with my whimsical nature.

This week, I branched out into the full me and they branched out into the full them. I lectured a pineapple in a French accent while slicing off its skin. I told Lila not to snip off her nose with her scissors and she responded with a factoid from our butterfly reading this morning:
"Yeah, cuz then I'd have to grow antennae to smell things!"
We have instituted certain traditions, the girls and I. Sophy hangs onto my shirt or pockets as I go down the hall to put her to bed, and I pretend (thrice) to be surprised that I have a tail. (It's Lila's turn on the way back down the hall.) I speak in a man's tone of voice while eating lunch, per Sophy's request. We all discuss which animal we'll be eating like during a particular meal or snack, and discuss the merits of Shark-Chompies vs. Mouse-Nibbles. I stand in front of their swings and introduce myself as Roberta (but they may call me Bobbie), and then mishear their names as "Lola" and "Trophy" and I'm ever so glad to meet them.  I have chopped up conversations on the swings, speaking only when their swings are up close and halting conversation as they drop back the other direction. I tell them "Luke & Liza" stories and refuse to tell more till they've told me a story of their own. We boast about eating cookies as large as their rather-large house and we walk like octopusses to find our snacks.

We jive. It's great.

But today was the real test. I had told three stories already today, and Lila's sapphire-blue eyes (crazy gorgeous) were burning as they do when her brain is going like a motorboat in the background. Sophy's belly laugh and Lila's burning eyes are the way to gauge how well you've caught their attention. I was out of stories temporarily and decided to Shanghai their imaginations:

"My story is broken," I told them, and pointed to the inside of my elbow.
Lila's eyes burned blue. "What?"
"Right here. I don't know what happened but I need you to fix it."
She looked at me a moment and Sophy came up and offered "sugars" (a kiss) to make it feel better.
"What do you need for it to feel better?" Lila asked. She is always one for getting straight to a point.
"Rabbit ears," I said. "I see some under that tree."
Lila dipped behind a magnolia and popped out again. "I see leaves."
"Perfect!" I stuck the two brown magnolia leaves in my ponytail and looked pleased with myself. "Rabbit ears. And now I'm in need of a bird-feather."
Lila stared me down. "Where do I get that?"
"Look around."
She gave me an intense gaze and I saw that little mind scrabbling for ideas. A moment among the bushes, and she came galloping up with a tulip leaf shaped like a feather. "Let me strip it down," she said, and made it look more like a feather than ever.
I put this in the crack of my arm. Sophy gave me a buttercup which I applied likewise. "And now I need a bowl of imagination," I said.
This, I expected to stump her. It didn't. She grabbed a clay plate and filled it with fistfuls of clover which she then deposited on my lap. I pretended to eat it.
"And now some fairy-dust, and I should be all settled."
By now, Lila was quite in the spirit of the game. She dumped the clover and filled the plate with mulch which I proceeded to sprinkle over the ground while she looked on curiously.
"Why, it's all better!" I marveled, and removed the leaf. "And green!"
She snapped blue fire at me and laughed and laughed. Needless to say, she got her fourth story.

I suppose there isn't much point to this post except to commend the imaginations of children. They're beautiful things, they're precious things, and they work so well. Spend some time with a kid tomorrow. It's absolutely wonderful.