Posted in authors, children, Daughters, family, grandmothers, mother, mother & daughters, mothers, son, womens fiction, writer, writers

Mother’s Day Thoughts

As the author of mother-daughter stories, I thought for Mother’s Day, it fitting to look to some of my favorite authors on what they had to say about mothers in their books.

As mothers and daughters, we are connected with one another. My mother is the bones of my spine, keeping me straight and true. She is my blood, making sue it runs rich and strong. She is the beating of my heart. I cannot now imagine a life without her.” Kristin Hannah , Summer Island

 

“Think for a minute, darling: in fairy tales it’s always the children who have the fine adventures. The mothers have to stay at home and wait for the children to fly in the  window”                             Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

 

“I wonder if other mothers feel a tug sat their insides, watching their children grow up into the people they themselves wanted so badly to be.”                                                                                                          Jodi Picoult, Keeping Faith

art-statue-child-mother.jpg

Motherhood is a complicated profession, and anyone that does not consider it a profession, most assuredly has never been one.  My own mother passed away in 1996, and I still miss her every day, The woman she  was when she left us was the not the Mom I remember. Mom was a five foot two spit-fire. She walked so fast that I could never keep up with her. Mom, clad in a red terry bathrobe, stuck her curlered head in the oven to dry her hair while she ran around  the red Formica-countered kitchen preparing casseroles to take to family reunions. Mom did head-stand contests with my brothers and I to the utter dismay of my father who would come home from work and bend at his waist to look at my upside-down mother and ask “What for dinner?” Mom never understood how I never learned to cook, when I spent seventeen years of my life perched on the red stool in the kitchen babbling away while she cooked. She said, “I thought you were paying attention.” Ugh – sorry Mom,  not.  Mom rode my brother’s mini-bike on a dare – and drove it right up a tree. We tried real hard not to laugh. Mom loved fast cars, her favorite being her 1966 red Ford Mustang.  Are you seeing a pattern here of red? Her favorite color and so fitting of her personality.

When I married, moved away and lived in multiple states, I gave little thought to my mother sitting home in the now quite house with a stoic husband who rarely spoke. Her household went from a boisterous family of six to a sedate family of two in only two years. My heart breaks for her now, and I can only hope she understands that I finally get it. One of her favorite saying to me was, “You won’t understand until your are a mother yourself.” No truer words could ever have been spoken.

Parts of motherhood came easy – the loving them unconditionally part. Others, not so much. I am the proud mother of three daughters and a son. As a grandmother many times over now, I see the short-comings I made as a mother. As hallowed as the word “mother” is,  we are a flawed species. We make mistakes – lots of them, and we carry the guilt of those mistakes with us forever. We fall to pieces easily – whether it’s a joyful or a sad occasion.  Tears are a part of who we are.  And sometimes – if we have to defend our young, we will fight to the death.  It’s a humbling existence to be a Mom. You often  feel set aside, obsolete, forgotten. But I’ll tell you this – if you did your job even half right, your thoughts, your words and actions will be so ingrained in your children, that even when they don’t think they are listening to you, their sub-conscious is.  The most we  can hope for is when are time comes, and the good Lord looks at his list, checking of “mother” as your profession, He says, “Come on in, well done.”

Tell me your favorite mother story – either as a Mom or about your own Mom – or someone that fit the bill of Mom. Being a Mom does not have to be genetic.

www.joannetailele.com 

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Posted in addiction, children, coming of age, education, education, environment, family

I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?

I don’t usually re=post things of this nature. I prefer to talk about what I love, writing, But this is worth sharing with anyone who will listen, Who knows, maybe it will save a life.

via I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?.

Posted in academic, business, children, college, college debt, education, family, money, non-fiction

An Entrepreneurial Approach to Getting Out of College Debt

Today we have a very different author to interview.  Abigail Widynski is the author of Making Money the Millennial Way

Abigail  Front Cover Thumbnail

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

For several years, my writing was purely academic. I am grateful for a very honest and tough 11th and 12th grade English teacher who had a Ph.D. in English. He was very critical of my writing and set the bar extremely high. At the time, it was completely demoralizing that he didn’t recommend me a place in the AP English course I had my heart set on. But looking back, this was a sort of fuel later on in my education as I disciplined myself to communicate with precision.

While going to business school abroad, I was often the one tasked in our group assignments to do the speaking, proofing and writing due to the fact I was a native English speaker! Later, the communication niche continued to pop up in my work, both in non-profit and M&A (finance). I just kept writing, trying to communicate the best I knew how. So, while I didn’t take any courses, I feel my life’s experiences have been a never-ending course!
On a side note, I also do sales and corporate communications writing for business owners seeking to increase sales or communicate newsworthy or delicate information to clients. Their feedback has helped me refine a different type of writing and earn while learning! Now, I subcontract some of these contracts and now, in turn, teach my writers how to write for sales and marketing.

What other work have you done, and how has it impacted your writing career?

About two years ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article for my friend and Techli.com’s founder, Ed Domain. Even as I type the title of it, I can’t help but laugh. The name said it all, ‘Dear Recession, Thanks! A Letter From a Millennial MBA.‘ Little did I realize my reality check of a recession would propel me into this dialogue on solutions. As my partner can attest to my saying (especially when he’s refusing to go to the doctor), I’m willing to offer sympathy when you’re willing to look for a solution! Now, before you brand me as cold-hearted, would you agree with me that merely talking about college debt doesn’t solve a graduate’s monthly repayment problem?

So, there it is, why I wrote this book. Students and graduates need a solution to their debt sooner, rather than later. And who doesn’t benefit from encouragement and motivation? That’s what I want to give to my readers who are the very generation of Millennial Money Makers.
Do you always write in the same genre?

Certainly not! I write on business and entrepreneurship, faith, as well as do marketing and sales writing. For my own business, I’ve written a great deal on finance. I believe that learning to write and communicate in your client’s voice stretches you as a writer and refines your own voice.
What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Your writing style is a mirror of your personality. Are you goal-oriented or process-oriented? If you’re goal oriented, consider a writing timeline complete with mile markers and a completion date. If you’re process oriented, setting aside two hours a day/one day per week/etc may make the process both sustainable and enjoyable. Trying to fit yourself into the tips you read on ‘writing best practices’ may strain the process for you. Know yourself, own your style and carry on.
Personally, I’m highly goal-oriented and naturally an organizer. It was no headache for me to develop my title, full outline, etc. I also knew that my peak time is early morning and I need to stay active while writing. So, I took one month and completed my manuscript! I structured my day to be at the coffee shop by 6:15am, work until 8:30am, go to yoga or another fitness class, go to the library for another 2 hours, take a walk, and finish up writing at 4:30pm. At the end of every writing session, I determined which section I would address in the next writing session. This kept my mind flowing with thought and allowed me to get to work immediately when I sat down at my laptop. It worked so well for me because my writing style is a mirror of my personality!
Please complete this sentence….. My first ever published piece of writing was a travel tip that was published in the magazine Budget Travel. I was thrilled and received a years’ subscription. 😉
What is your advice to college students when it comes to college debt and how to handle it?

I think it’s critical to remember that entrepreneurship is a tool, a tool that can be wielded against debt. And as that tool sharpens and debt is eliminated, well then who knows what’s next for that student or graduate!

 

How did you conduct your research? With whom did you speak? Did you go to college campuses?

In researching this book, I wanted to get input from students making ends meet right now. I wanted to hear exactly what students are doing right now to earn money while studying. I needed to listen not just for the facts, but the struggle and resilience behind their pursuits. Also, I wanted to here their own ideas for creative money-making and things their friends had tried out! As a writer and researcher, I made the decision to compensate my survey participants and go to the place where many are trying to make money: online. Advertising for participants, I received dozens of bids and inquiries for two separate sets of surveys: experience in trying to make money (qualitative) and ideas for making money (qualitative). Sifting through a few hundred business ideas, I conducted further research against this criteria: Is it a low-capital venture? Is it quick-start? It was critical to me that I offer practical solutions; the book includes twenty-five low-capital, quick start business ideas broken into the following sections: the idea, getting started, and the nitty-gritty of pricing and overhead.
In addition to the research, I included personal stories from my education experience at Charles University in Prague and Imperial College London as well as a story or two of inspiration from my post education career working with entrepreneurs. Also included are oftentimes humorous testimonials from my college student survey participants.

Thank you, Abigail,  for being on “Writing Under Fire.” Where can readers learn more about your book or purchase it?

Press Release (Local to Marco Island): http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/01/prweb12439299.htm
Press Release (National post-State of the Union): http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/01/prweb12460853.htm
Book Website: http://getoutofcollegedebtnow.com/

Posted in children, coming of age, education, etiquette, family, help

Is Etiquette dead?

 th

Emily Post

Oct 27, 1872 – Sept. 25, 1960

This post has nothing to do with writing, it has to do with living. With the holidays over, I have been thinking about etiquette. What faux pas did I commit by either not following etiquette or by using out-dated protocol that showed my age worse than the wrinkles on my hand?

Without Emily Post to direct me, how do I know what is still current and what is passé?

Below is a list of etiquette I was raised with. I’m not saying I remember to use them all. What do you think is still proper and what ones should be thrown out with the bath water. (I realize that statement will only make sense to certain people – oops dating myself already.)

  1. Men (and I include boys whenever I say “men”) should open doors (including car doors) for a lady. (i.e. girls)
  2. Men should give up their seat on public transportation to women and the elderly. Note: I think women should also give up their seat for the elderly if they are younger)
  3. Men should walk on the outside (curb side) when walking down the street with a lady. Note: Did you know that before indoor plumbing, the rule was the opposite, so if someone threw dirty water out the window of their apartment, the water would hit the man, not the woman?
  4. Men should either place the hand on the small of her back or gently hold her elbow when walking. (Note: I’d settle for holding hands if appropriate.)
  5. Men never let a lady lift something heavy when they are around.
  6. Men stand up when a lady enters or leaves a room.
  7. Always RSVP to an invitation, even if it does not require one.
  8. Shoes and shirts at the table (No shoes, no shirt, no service applies in peoples’ homes too)
  9. Bring a thank-you gift when invited to dinner.
  10. If given a dish to take home, always return it full, never empty.
  11. Women should sit with their feet crossed at their ankles, not at the knee.
  12. When not eating at the table, hands should be in your lap.
  13. Napkins always placed on the lap.
  14. No elbows on the table.
  15. No slurping your soup.
  16. Children should never interrupt an adult. (Arguing with an adult is never appropriate)
  17. Respect your elders, even if you think they are wrong.
  18. Guests to wait to pick up their utensils to eat until the hostess is seated. She picks up hers first. (this applies to dessert served as well)
  19. Never leave the table, even if you are done eating, until the hostess says you are excused.
  20. Never say “I don’t like that.” Always, “No thank you. I don’t care for any.”
  21. Thank-you notes for gifts. Hand written was protocol, but I would assume an email would work today.
  22. Crude or inappropriate language does not belong at the dinner table.
  23.  This is a new one I made up – No electronics at the table.

This isn’t everything I learned. Mom, I swear there are more. But, this is what came off the top of my head. I’d love to hear what you think of these and if there is any etiquette that I grossly forgot, or perhaps a new etiquette that arose in the last century.

Posted in children, Christian, country, family, fiction, Merry Christmas, readers, thanks, womens fiction, writing

A Christmas Gift by Kerryn Reid

My friend,Kerryn Reed,  wrote this beautiful Christmas story and she is allowing me to share it with you. I know you will love it.

Kerryn Reed - A Christmas Story  Kerryn Reid Auriti in color

A CHRISTMAS GIFT

by Kerryn Reid

©2014

 

“Is it tonight, Mama? Please say it is!” Sadie jumped up and down, flapping her arms like a robin fledging in mid-winter.

Marian Barnett smiled for her daughter’s sake. Since she had married John and moved to Yorkshire, wassail nights had been gay occasions. They would collect in shifting little knots of friends and family on Christmas Eve and sometimes again for New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night, laughing at the cold and each other’s antics. They ran to keep warm and sang very badly, yet the rich folk in their snug houses smiled, and provided hot punch for them all, and maybe some cakes, and often pressed pennies or ha’pennies into the children’s hands to be spent on toys or candy. Then the wassailers would run along to the next house to try their luck. And somewhere along the way she would fall into the snow with John, pressed close through all the layers of wool, kissing each other’s numbed lips before hurrying home to strip those layers off and fulfill the craving they’d begun outside, drunk on wassail and Christmas and the long life they would share.

John was gone close to a year now, saving their daughter from the icy swirling river. Sadie was no substitute for him, but she was all Marian had, and her little heart was set on her first time wassailing. It would be Marian’s only gift to her – any coins they received must be hoarded for bread and milk.

“When do we go, Mama? Why can’t we go now?” All morning long the questions came. Where Marian found the patience to answer calmly, she didn’t know. Finally, in the afternoon, she set aside the shirts she was sewing for Mrs. Wallace and lay down with the child. Once Sadie was asleep, she would get back to the work that brought in those few all-important shillings.

She woke up when Sadie clambered over her, humming a tune with some words thrown in. “And all the little children hmm hmmm go, love and joy hmm…” It had been a bright day, but a glance out the window showed the dusk already lowering its veil over the town. Marian sighed. She’d wasted the afternoon. Already it was time to get them both fed and dressed; John’s brother would be stopping for them soon enough.

Sadie jumped from the bench for the dozenth time and ran to the door. “It must be Uncle Peter, Mama!” But it wasn’t, it was no one at all, and the cold rushed in again to mock their little wood fire. Not that Marian could blame the child. Hungry though she must be, hard brown bread soaked in lukewarm broth could not be expected to keep her at table when there was such excitement in the offing.

Marian gave up the battle. Small meals meant small work to clean them up – in a few minutes it was done. As soon as she stepped from the kitchen corner, Sadie flew to her side. “Oh, Mama, can we go now? Is it time?”

“Not yet, my robin.” Marian scooped her up, nibbling at her neck until she wriggled with giggles. “But it’s time to put on all our warmest clothing so we’ll be ready when Uncle comes.” She sat the child on top of the shelves John had built so they were almost eye-to-eye.

Sadie stuck her feet out straight while Marian pushed on an extra pair of socks, and then another. “Will we go to the big house?”

“Lord Ryndale’s? I’m sure we will.” Who more likely to give away money, after all? And oh, how disgusting to think that way.

A miniature pair of trousers, borrowed from Peter’s little boy, went under Sadie’s skirts, the hems rolled up so she wouldn’t trip on them.

“How about the pastor?”

“Definitely.”

A second gown went on over the first, and Sadie crowed with laughter at the idea of wearing twodresses. “An’ the new fam’ly down the lane, with the baby?”

That was easy enough to guess. Aubrey was their name. Marian had seen them at church. She remembered one Sunday in particular when the pastor had prayed for John’s soul. “And for his widow, Marian. She came to us a stranger, yet she was his, and now she is ours.” And all those eyes turned her way and she tried not to cry, because most of them didn’t look very friendly at all. But Mrs. Aubrey stopped her after the service, took her hand and said how sorry she was. A nice lady, gentle and soft-spoken.

“Yes, I expect so. Now it’s time for your boots.” These were also borrowed. Marian squeezed them on over all the socks.

“Mama, they’re too tight!”

Afraid they would split apart, Marian took them off again and removed one sock from each little foot. “Better?”

“Mm hmm.” A borrowed jacket and a knitted cap, and Sadie was ready for the finishing touches when Peter arrived.

Marian lifted her down and started on her own layers. An extra pair of socks, and then her own boots; a skirt underneath her old gown; and then Peter was at the door with Jane and Tommy and some of the neighbors, stomping snow on her clean floor.

Peter swung his niece into the air. “Well, Sadie, are you ready for your grand adventure?”

Her shrieks filled the room with happiness. Marian ran over to them with Sadie’s cloak and mittens, and once they were donned, the group headed out into the near-darkness. She tore her own cloak down from its peg and followed, leaving behind her own hat and the tattered old pelisse she’d intended to wear under the cloak. Peter did not like to wait.

Seven-year-old Tommy swung a lantern, and one of the men had a torch. They were hardly necessary along the main street, with all the light shining from the windows. But the richest homes in town lay farther apart on the side roads, darker and less-traveled.

“Put me down, Uncle,” Sadie squealed again after the third house they visited, and this time he did. Tommy called her a plum pudding and everyone laughed, the description was so apt as she waddled down the street in all her layers. Sadie just grinned. Peter and Jane took one hand apiece and swung her between them until they reached the next house. After that she tottered along between Marian and Jane, then Marian carried her for a while.

By the time they arrived in the square they were sixpence richer. A bonfire had been laid for the evening festivities. The bells would ring and the children would parade around the square with drums or makeshift instruments, making “music” to welcome the Christ child. But that was not ‘til eight o’clock.

The group headed out toward Lord Ryndale’s estate beyond the edge of town, paying their luck-visits at the houses along the way. Marian’s arms and shoulders ached. Who would think a half-starved four-year-old could weigh so much? The effort helped keep her warm, though already she couldn’t feel her feet.

She made Sadie walk and the two of them fell behind, reaching “the big house” as the rest of the group left it. Peter looked surprised when they passed on the big gravel drive. “You just getting here, then? They have good cakes inside. Best hurry, Sadie, before they’re gone.”

“You go on ahead,” Marian said. “We’ll catch up.”

“No, no. We’ll wait.” He did not sound happy about it. The others had not noticed her at all, and he watched after them as they passed on through the grand gate to the lane, talking and laughing. His feet remained rooted to the gravel, but the rest of him seemed to stretch out to follow.

Marian pressed her lips tight. “Go on. We’re fine.” Peter seemed to blame her, somehow, for John’s death. But even before that, he had never liked her much.

He didn’t even look at her. “If you’re sure,” he said, and was gone, may he rot. John had been worth a dozen Peters.

Sadie got a penny and a little Yule cake. “Mmm. It’s good, Mama.” But most of it crumbled into the snow as she ate it. Marian rejected the wassail bowl so they could catch up with the rest, but took her own cake for Sadie to eat later, carefully wrapped in a cloth.

They did not catch up. Marian carried Sadie, but it wasn’t long before she felt her arms would fall off. Thank God, the lights of the town shone clearer now, individual windows pricking out of the darkness ahead. Focused on those, she tripped in a rut and fell to her knees in the frozen lane.

If only she could warm herself, she could manage the walk home. But Sadie, plopping down on her mama’s thighs like a sack of potatoes, made it impossible even to stand up. Hard to believe this night had ever been fun.

“Sadie, love, you must get off.”

“I want to go home, Mama.” She did not cry, but her voice wavered with the threat of tears.

Oh God, so did she! “We will, sweetling, we will. But first I must get up.” She had never felt less graceful, her bottom in the air as she shoved off the ground with her hands. But she managed. “And next, we must visit this house.” It stood just steps away, all lit up, the gate standing open in welcome. Light meant warmth, and some hot liquor in her belly would work wonders.

They were halfway up the walk before she realized it was the Aubreys’ house. Not that it mattered; she would ask only a few extra minutes by the fire beyond the usual wassail offerings, and she would expect that much compassion from anyone.

A footman opened the door, tall and lean – no, he wore no livery. It was Mr. Aubrey himself. At least, she thought it was. “Merry Christmas,” he said, looking out beyond her shoulder to see how many followed her. Not many went wassailing alone.

“And to you, sir.” Curtsies were difficult, Marian found, on legs frozen stiff. “I fear I’m out of breath, or we would sing for you.” Thank goodness she had some excuse! Singing was beyond her capabilities at that moment.

“I’ll sing, Mama,” Sadie said from knee level. “Wish you a merry Kissmas, wish you a merry Kissmas, an’ a happy new year!” It was not very tuneful, but she ended with a shout and a flourish of her hand, and Mr. Aubrey applauded and laughed.

“Do come in, both of you. We leave shortly to watch the celebration in the square, but you are here in time for some punch.” He led the way into the parlor. It was not as grand as Lord Ryndale’s, yet her whole cottage might fit three times into this room. But she hardly even noticed, because of the fire. She could not afford enough wood to keep such a fire alive for three days!

The contrast in temperature made Marian shudder. Oh, it felt wonderful! Regardless of how it must look, she crossed directly to the fireplace, pulled off her mittens and held her hands out toward the flames.

While Mr. Aubrey gave Sadie a cup and a biscuit, his wife came to her with a glass of punch. Their fingers touched as Marian took her glass, and Mrs. Aubrey exclaimed, “Why, your hands are like ice! Please, sit down here and take as long as you need to warm yourself. And your daughter, too. Come here, little one.” She nestled Sadie beside Marian in the big chair.

“Oh, ma’am, bless you for this. We fell behind the others, and Sadie’s so swaddled she can hardly walk.”

“An’ Mama too,” Sadie said. “She falled down.”

“Oh dear. Yes, I see your skirts are wet.”

Marian looked down, appalled to think she might soil Mrs. Aubrey’s floor. “I’m so sorry, ma’am.” She started to her feet, but her hostess put a hand on her shoulder and pressed her firmly back down before seating herself in an adjacent chair.

“Don’t worry about that, please.” Smoky-blue eyes peered into Marian’s own. “I know you, don’t I? Was it not your husband who…” With a glance at Sadie, Mrs. Aubrey changed what she’d been about to say. “…Who saved your little girl? Such a hero. And a soldier too, was he not? I don’t recall the name, I’m afraid.”

“John Barnett, ma’am. And mine is Marian.” It was a struggle to get her own name out of her mouth. Dear God, she hadn’t cried in months. But with the cold, and the wishing, and the sympathy in Mrs. Aubrey’s pretty face… She choked on her tears, and a fancy embroidered handkerchief appeared in her hand. She hated to use the thing, but it would be worse not to.

“I am Anna Aubrey. I think the pastor said you’re not from these parts? I’m a “foreigner”, too, all the way from Bristol. Isn’t it funny, how Yorkshire folk think of us that way, as if we weren’t all English?”

Marian didn’t find it funny at all, but she supposed a beautiful woman with a wealthy husband and a fine home would always receive a warmer welcome than she had found. “I’m from Exeter, ma’am. My John was stationed there with his regiment.”

Sadie had been leaning heavy against Marian’s side, sleepy with the warmth as Marian was herself. But she pushed away and slipped down to the floor. “Don’t you have a baby, ma’am? Where is it?”

“My husband will bring her downstairs any minute. We’re taking her to the town square for the parade, unless we’re too late.”

Marian scooted forward and stood, still stiff and clumsy. She discovered that her knee hurt. “I’m afraid we’re keeping you, ma’am. I thank you, ever so much…”

Mr. Aubrey returned to the room carrying the prettiest babe Marian had ever seen, plump and healthy-looking, perhaps a year in age. A maid accompanied them carrying outdoor garments for the child. Sadie waddled over for a closer look, cooing and chattering to the wide-eyed infant.

Mrs. Aubrey smiled across the room at them, then turned back to Marian. “It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Barnett. And if you don’t mind being a little bit crowded, we will be pleased to take you in the carriage back to the square, or to your home if you prefer.”

Did the woman not realize how far beneath her Marian was? “I could not ask you to…”

“But you didn’t, did you,” Mrs. Aubrey said. “So that’s settled.”

Though the drive took less than ten minutes, Sadie was asleep when they reached town. Kind as they were, Marian had no desire to show these gentry-folk where she lived. But still less did she want to walk there carrying Sadie. In fact, she didn’t think she could. Depending on darkness to hide the worst, she let them drive her home. They would never see the interior, at least.

Yet somehow, when they arrived, it happened. Mr. Aubrey took the child from her as they descended from the carriage. That was natural enough.

But when she reached out to take Sadie, he said, “No, let me carry her for you.” And then, in response to her protest, “It’s no trouble at all, ma’am.”

She had no choice but to open the door to the dark room, only a bit warmer than the outdoors. He said something over his shoulder to the footman on the box beside the coachman, and he took a lantern from its hook on the carriage and lit the way in.

Marian closed her eyes against the light and the embarrassment. Then she led the way to the bed and lit the candle beside it.

His manners were excellent. He said nothing about the place. She could not even tell that he inspected it. But for all that, she felt tension coming off him as he lay Sadie gently down and stood to his full height. His head bumped against the naked beam.

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

He ignored the apology, yet his voice was rough. He sounded angry. “Have you enough wood, ma’am? Where is your extra supply?”

Dazed and shivering, she answered him. He jerked his head toward the footman, who went out the door and turned to go where she had indicated.

“And food; what about food? Tomorrow is Christmas.”

“We sup tomorrow with my husband’s brother. We have enough.” Her voice cracked with the jumble of emotions roiling inside her. Anger of her own, humiliation, grief for John, fear of the long future without him, all played their part.

“I shall be back in a moment,” he said. The footman passed him in the doorway with an armload of wood. He added several small logs to the fire, working it until it blazed with warmth.

“Thank you,” she said, but he was not finished. He went back out for another load, and then another.

It was not Mr. Aubrey who returned, but his wife. She cast a brief glance around the room, then came to stand a foot in front of Marian. They were much the same height.

“I have a proposition, Mrs. Barnett.”

Marian fidgeted with the ties on her cloak.

“Have you ever been in service?”

Marian shook her head. “No, ma’am.”

“It doesn’t matter. We need a maid, and I like you. Will you come to us?”

Marian blinked, shook her head again. “I can’t leave my daughter.”

Mrs. Aubrey’s eyes widened in shock. “Of course not! The two of you will share a room.”

Oh, this was foreign territory. “I don’t know how to be a maid, ma’am.”

“You can learn as you go along. We’ll sit down and discuss your duties with the housekeeper. We can begin with small things, and you will grow into the job. Can you come now?”

Marian jumped at that. She had to try twice to get any sound out. “Now, ma’am?” Her voice rose to a squeak.

“I suppose that is rather abrupt. My husband tells me you dine with family tomorrow?”

Marian nodded.

“The day after, then. We’ll send the carriage for you at one o’clock? And perhaps a waggon, in case you have trunks or other large items. Will that suit?”

Marian nodded again. She stared like a stupid oaf, unsure if she should trust her eyes and ears. Could this be happening? Perhaps she had died out there in the cold, and the woman before her was Heaven’s angel come for her? She looked angelic enough. But the sweet, gentle creature she’d talked with earlier had developed a will of iron, and Marian could no more refuse her than she could fly. And why should she?

Fear, that’s why. Not knowing what to do, what to expect. What would be expected of her.

But it was a chance, better than any other she was likely to receive. A Christmas gift, for herself and for Sadie. Food, fire, and clothes that fit. Shoes, too. A place to belong.

Mrs. Aubrey pulled off her glove and put out her hand. “Do we have a deal, Mrs. Barnett?”

Marian gazed at that soft white hand for a moment, then she slipped hers into it, rough and brown. She felt a grin form on her face, though her eyes were wet with tears.

“A deal, Mrs. Aubrey.”

Posted in children, ethnic tolerance, family, humor, Thanksgving, traditions

What is your most unique Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgving 2

I know everyone has their horror stories of Thanksgivings where family members come to blows with each other. Not my family. We were raised to be civil at all times, to never raise your voice, to “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” However, just because we did not have any screaming matches, does not mean we were immune to the “unusual.”

So, here is mine. I’d love to hear yours.

First – a little background. To understand this story, you need to understand we are lily-white pilgrims. Well, almost anyway. My family first arrived in America in 1786 (I think that is right, but who is going to dispute it?) We settled on our family land where 5 generations of children were born in 1803, in Ohio, the same year it became a state.  You didn’t come to dinner in bare feet or T-shirts.  You wouldn’t dream of saying “I don’t like that.” You waited to be excused from the table by the hostess.  Cardinal rule: always be polite. Still, they (my grand-parents and parents) considered themselves liberal and “tolerant” – their word, not mine, of those people that were different than us.  Keep in mind, I never even met a black person until I was in high school, and my first Asian person was probably not until after I was married.  So, I was brought up slightly (okay- maybe a little more than slightly) naive.

But shortly after I was married, our family included a Mormon sister-in-law, a Italian Catholic sister-in-law, (I was told “if you don’t don’t date them, you won’t marry them) – I guess that didn’t stop by brother. Note: my sister-in-law, Pat is one of my favorite people in the whole world,  an Asian sister-in-law and my cousin married a black man.  So the family was pretty happy when I married a white Protestant boy from our home town.  (Well, almost happy – but that is another story.)

Okay, I am digressing. Back to Thanksgiving and my most unique one.

I believe it was 1995. We had recently moved to back Ohio from Virginia. For a change, most of my children (if not all) were in the same town. I have always been proud that Thanksgiving at my house  meant, “Bring anyone that is alone to share the day.” So I never knew who my children (or I) might bring to Thanksgiving dinner.

My son, Dru (in his 20’s) said he was bringing some guests. Great. The table was all set. Everything was beautiful, good china, lace tablecloth from the early 1900’s, candles lit, my family all around me, turkey on the table.  Dru was late (wasn’t he always?)  With him was a Lesbian Asian couple that did not speak English.  They had never seen a Thanksgiving turkey. They had no idea what to do with mashed potatoes and gravy. Dru had to do a pantomime Charades type demonstration to show them how to put gravy on top of the mashed potatoes. That in itself was hysterical.

After dinner, everyone settled in the living room to watch football.  What else would anyone do on Thanksgiving?  Our guests snuggled together on the couch, much to the chagrin of my 80 year old father, who tried not to stare, but whose eyes were glued like flies on a fly-strip.  They managed to indicate to Dru somehow that they wanted us to change to channel. When he reached for the remote (the only family member NOT a football freak), his sister, Amy said, “What are you doing?”

Dru said, “Changing the channel. The girls don’t want to watch football.”

Jumping to her feet, hand on her hip, Amy glared, voice raised (yes-raised), said, “In THIS house, we watch FOOTBALL on Thanksgiving!”

So much for “tolerance.”

What is your story?

 

Posted in authors, characters, children, coming of age, conflict, cozy mystery, fiction, forgiveness, humor, innocence, love, mystery, novels, publishing, readers, small towns, writers

“Close to the Broken Hearted” equals heartache, innocence and forgiveness.

Close_Broken  by Michael Hebert

Welcome everyone to Author Interview Friday.  It is my pleasure to have Michael Hiebert with us today. I’d like to change up the order of how my interviews usually begin and go straight to the short synopsis of Michael’s book, Close to the Broken Hearted.

 

At twenty-two, Sylvie Carson has known a lifetime’s worth of trouble. When she was a child, her baby brother was shot to death by a man named Preacher Eli. Orphaned by her teens, Sylvie is now raising her own baby with no partner in sight. For all these reasons, Leah Teal, Alvin, Alabama’s only detective, tries to stay patient when Sylvie calls the station day and night, always with some new false alarm. But now, Preacher Eli is out of prison amd moving back to town.

As far as he law is concerned, the old man has paid his dues; though Leash’s twelve-year-old son, Abe, vehemently disagrees. Between that and his relentless curiosity about the daddy he hardly knew, Abe’s imagination is running in all directions lately. While Leah struggles with how much of the past to reveal to Abe, she/s also concerned about Sylvie’s mounting panic. Something in her gut tells her the girl might be a target after all. For as Leah knows well, there’s danger not just in the secrets others keep from us, but in the lies that corrupt from within. It’s a hunch that will be tested soon enough as tensions mount on both sides.

Evoking the South with depth and grace, Michael Hiebert’s poignant, gripping novel captures the strength wrought by heartache and lost innocence; and the transformative power of forgiveness. Wherever it comes. . .

See folks, I knew that would be an attention grabber. Now, may I introduce Michael Heibert.  Michael comes to us from the wintry land of British Columbia, Canada. He  won the  Surrey International Writer’s Conference Storyteller’s Award twice in a row. He teaches  classes online at Writers’ Village University.  (Did not notice that last week, author was also my friend I met at Writer’s village University. A great place to learn online and chat with terrific author friends you just haven’t met yet.

Michael Hebert photo

Michael, do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

I was very lucky to meet Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch about ten years ago. They taught me a lot of what I know today. I went to writing workshops down in their house in Oregon where ten writers were sequestered into one space (we all had our own bedroom) and we’d be given eight hours of lecturing a day and expected to write 25,000 words a week. I write a lot. I write fast. I think these two things impacted my writing career more than anything else. Two years in a row I wrote over one million words (I used to keep track). I don’t write so much these days, but I can still do three books a year without breaking a sweat.

How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?

Well, I quit my day job and decided to become a real writer twelve years before actually publishing anything. During that time I wrote a LOT. I wrote sixteen novels and probably fifty or so short stories.

Twelve years. And you stuck with it. That is determination. Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

It IS in bricks and mortar bookstores and usually found on the mystery shelves, although sometimes it’s just placed under fiction.

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

Kensington Books in NYC publish my adult novels. I self-publish my YA books and my short story collections. My agent found my publisher for me (that’s her job), but finding an agent wasn’t easy. It took me ten years. When I finally did find her, I literally ran into her on the sidewalk in New York. See the About Me section of my website for a more thorough description of how this happened. It’s pretty funny.

I did read your About Me section in your website. I LOVED the line “Fiction will always just be more entertaining than real life, so why not stretch things a teensy bit when you’re retelling them.” I’m going to keep that mantra in the back of my end while I am writing from now on.  You’re casual style of writing in that section makes me feel like I know you already, that we’ve just shared a beer in a musky tavern.  (No, readers, I am not sitting face-to-face with my authors at these interviews, but I hope it feels that way to you as you read them.) Readers, do yourself a favor and go to his website. You won’t be disappointed.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

My Alvin books (Dream with Little Angels, Close to the Broken Hearted, and the third, which will be released next spring and will be called A Thorn among the Lilies) have mixed POVs. My main character, Abe, always speaks in first person. Everyone else is a close third person. When I write other things I like to play with POV. Even in the Alvin books, each has a prologue written in what I call a “floating third” POV. It’s not quite omniscient, but it doesn’t stay with one character.

Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

Write a lot. Your voice will come. Listen to authors who have authorial voices you like being read by good readers. This is the quickest way to developing a good voice, as far as I’m concerned.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

If you want any kind of long term career and actually make money, you have to be a planner. Would you want your house built or your kidneys worked on by a pantser?

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Finish it before starting anything else. Even if it sucks donkey balls, finish it. It is unmarketable until it is finished, and it is probably not as bad as you think. Besides, that’s what first drafts are for. I call them SFDs. Shitty First Drafts. Get them done. Then put it away for two to four weeks before pulling it out and rereading it again. Then fix it.

Links:

Website:              www.michaelhiebert.com

Blog:                      www.michaelhiebert.com/blog

Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/michael.hiebert67

Twitter:                                @Hiebert_M

Posted in authors, books, characters, children, mystery, readers

Welcome award winning children’s mystery author Renee Hand

Renee Hand photo

Today we have Renee Hand, a multi-award-winning mystery children’s author with us.  Renee has created an interactive mystery series known as the Crypto-Capers Series that encourages children to read by incorporating several topics of interest. The reader participates into the story by solving cryptograms and puzzles to solve the case. She is also the author of the Adventures of Joe-Joe Nut and Biscuit Bill Series, which focuses on animal detectives and science. This series is a great way to teach children about animals in a fun and interesting way that captures the reader’s attention, yet fills them with knowledge about science topics they will be learning about in school. All books are great to use in a classroom setting to supplement various topics or to just enjoy. Not quite sure what a cryptogram is and want to learn more? Visit the author’s website at http://www.reneeahand.com to learn about cryptograms and how to solve the ones that are in the books.

Welcome Renee, why don’t you tell us about yourself?

First, I would like to thank you for having me on your blog. It’s greatly appreciated. I’m a multi award-winning author and requested speaker on the topic of using fun fiction to teach science, geography and history. My books can not only challenge readers and the way they think about problems in real life, but I create high interest topics that suck the reader into my stories encouraging them into wanting to know more about the settings, science, history, culture and people. Skills like reading comprehension, reasoning, deduction and observation come together in a myriad of ways.

In my Crypto-Caper Series children get to solve puzzles and cryptograms that are woven strategically inside of the story for the reader to find and solve inside of the books. Each book provides the reader with what they will need to solve the case, providing them with the knowledge and new skills that will help them succeed.

In my Joe-Joe Nut Series, I combine the love of a good mystery with science using the topics of animal tracks, rocks and minerals, as well as weathering, erosion, and art. These books can supplement a curriculum in any classroom. The books also contain extra information like experiments, terminology of the topic, charts, and much more. All books are interactive and fun.

I have also created a coloring book for children, a zoo picture book which incorporates activities to do at the zoo. I also created a storytelling card game which is getting a lot of my readers excited.

What age group do your books center on?

The Crypto-Caper Series is for 4th grade and up into middle school. The Joe-Joe Nut Series begins at 2nd grade and goes up to 5th. The coloring book and picture book are for younger children and my storytelling game is for all ages including adults.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing for over 25 years.

What book are we going to talk about today?

We are going to focus on my new release in The Crypto-Caper Series called The Mystery of the Circus for Hire. The book is #6 in the series. I want to make sure I add that this book just won a Preferred Choice Award from Creative Child Magazine

Renee Hand Book

 

Congratulations! Is this your first award?

No, I’ve won Preferred Choice Awards, National Best Book Awards, Seal of Excellence Awards, Best Book Awards, and won a Beach Best Book Award for all of my books. I’m very proud of my awards.

What is The Circus for Hire about?

The Circus for Hire is a whirlwind of an adventure where the Crypto-Capers travel to Russia to save Max and Mia’s parents, Mitchem and Martha Holmes, from going to prison for a crime they didn’t commit. Finding themselves caught up in a scandal that is beyond their control, they use their skills and talents to try to outsmart the most notorious criminal of all time. Lies become intermixed with truth, yet, with the help of a new ally, the Crypto-Capers find themselves ahead of the game.

I’ve incorporated a different cipher in this book so my readers are going to be thrilled. In all of my books I have added cryptograms, word scrambles, and other challenging puzzles. My readers love them and it makes this series unique.

Where can readers buy your books?

Readers can buy my books at bookstores big and small, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, my website (www.reneeahand.com) and other places.

Are you on any social networks?

Of course. I’m on twitter and facebook as well as LinkedIN and Goodreads. I also have a blog at http://thecryptocapersseries.blogspot.com I like to help authors by having them on my radio show called Stories From Unknown Authors. My blog and website has more info about that.

Thank you so much  for being on my blog. It has tuly been my pleasure.

Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.

 

Posted in authors, children, fiction, novels, publishing, readers, writers, writing

The Ghosted Bridge by Kristy Abbott

Kristy Abbott pic

Welcome Kristy,  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

I’ve always had the desire to write.  I composed my first book in the second grade.

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

I have an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California in Journalism and a Master of Professional Writing Fiction also from USC.  I am a working online content writer specializing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) content (such as blogs, website copy, social media messaging and eBooks) for companies in a wide variety of industries.

How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?

From start to finish 4 years.

Do you always write in the same genre?

Ha Ha!  No.  My first book was a novel – a ghost story set against the backdrop of Minnesota’s I35W Bridge collapse in 2007.  My second which has just debuted is a children’s picture book about a homeless cat searching for a name and a forever family – opposite ends of the spectrum!

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

The Ghosted Bridge shows up on a number of shelves. Paranormal, fiction, I’ve even seen it in fantasy. Of course in Minnesota it also appears on local author shelves. You can even find it at the USC bookstore in the Alumni Authors section.
For Finding Home you’ll hopefully find it cover front out on a shelf in the Children’s section surrounded by loads of happy kids sitting on the floor with the book in their laps!”

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

Yes, both of my books were published by a small regional press.  I did many query letters to agents and publishing houses to no avail.  This publisher – North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc. – was looking specifically for Minnesota topics and Minnesota authors.  I scored on both fronts for both books.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

I did try to change one of my books from 3rd person to 1st person after I read Angela’s Ashes but it didn’t work for my story.

Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

I think the topic of Voice is quite interesting.  The main thing I know is that my writing voice is sometimes quite different from my out loud voice.  For me the writing lets the real Kristy Abbott come out to play without judgment.

Author, Jennie Nash was quoted on Writer Unboxed that she reads other novels to study structure. Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s?

I actually write the type of structure I like to read and that means shifting back and forth between characters as the story progresses.  This includes jumping back and forth in time because I like to explore generational themes – i.e., the ghost in my book is actually the relative of someone living and both story lines happen concurrently. 

I purposely used this tactic to build suspense in The Ghosted Bridge and actually sped up the pacing of the character shifts to heighten the reader’s captivation as I got closer to the climax. I think it worked quite well.  Nearly every reader I’ve talked with brings that up and says, “You captured me.  I couldn’t put it down.”  I’m happy to have contributed to some sleepless nights!

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

A few things were difficult, the query process is very disheartening.  You feel like your work doesn’t warrant an agent or publisher’s interest when you send dozens of letters out without feedback.  However, I have learned that there are LOTS of small publishing houses that are looking for niche books so I don’t feel discouraged anymore.  I’d tell any hopeful writer to acquaint themselves with publishers who might be interested in your theme or subject.

I also found it challenging to make my characters believable.  It’s easy to have a strong picture of them when they live in your head but you’ve got to make them solid for readers, too.  My main character in The Ghosted Bridge is a psychic and I had to really believe that she had these gifts to make her real.  Interestingly, the psychic goes through the book questioning her own abilities and is validated at the end. 

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

Well this is the biggest thing I’ve learned about having a book published.  It doesn’t matter who you are, when you become an author, the hard work is just beginning.  I wrote a post on my blog called, Get out Of Your Longsuffering Writer’s Chair, You Are an Author Now, about the transition from being a writer to being an author.  The writer is the artist who creates the work, the author is the marketer who sells it. 

Today’s authors have to be committed to a nearly full-time effort toward marketing.  You’ve got to have a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Goodreads and Amazon profile, and a big email list.  I am good at some things and not so much at others but I’m doing everything I can think of – including getting television, radio and print interviews to get the word out about my books.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I think I am a combination.  In terms of marketing, I go in stints and try to stay committed for the long haul.  In terms of writing, I let the story come out when it wants to.

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

I say allow the story to be born without judgment.  I have author friends who write a few pages, maybe a chapter and then they go back and edit it before moving forward.  I feel like this completely stalls my process.  I don’t allow the editing policeman in the room until I’m pretty sure the characters are done telling their tale.

What is the biggest thing you didn’t know about being an author?

I never realized how terrifying it can be to do a book signing with the prospect of no one showing up.  We’ve all had to do events at independent book stores or Barnes & Nobles never knowing if the advanced preparation of getting the word out worked.  On those days it didn’t it can be discouraging but as an author you can’t let that derail you.

What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?

I’m encouraging people to check out both of my books.  My novel, The Ghosted Bridge, is a fun paranormal mystery for adults.  The children’s book, Finding Home, is the heartwarming tale of second chances for lucky creatures for kids of all ages.

Ghosted Bridge Cover_The Ghosted Bridge Layout 1

Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet our appetite?

Attached chapter from The Ghosted Bridge.  In these paragraphs, Sedona psychic Madison Morgan is visited by a mysterious ghost for the first time, setting off a search to determine who the ghost is and what she’s trying to communicate.

 

Madison didn’t notice it at first.  The psychic was having so many readings a day that her tablet pages covered with numbers were filling up fast.  She made a note to go to the office supply store and get another.  She looked at her watch and then contemplated the rest of the day, one more reading, and then off to yoga at 5:30.  The phone rang.

“Yup, I’m coming.”  She told the perpetually crabby Miriam.  As she trotted down the stairs she realized that the heaviness that had been hanging around her had lifted a bit.  Mercury was leaving retrograde, she guessed.

Fifteen minutes later she was just warming up her new client (an eight of diamonds – business expertise extraordinaire) in a session on opportunities coming down the pike, when a peculiar vibration filled the room.  Immediately, Madison’s hands went cold and her hair stood on end, but she was so intent on the young woman in front of her that for a minute, she didn’t even see the older woman standing in the corner.  With the ghost’s entrance, she got a stronger shiver that told her someone from the other side was about and she lifted her eyes to meet the measured grey stare from the woman by the door.

“Holy shit,” Madison squeaked.

“What?”  The young woman sat up straight in her chair.

“Nothing, just, just…shut up for a minute.”

The girl sat back quickly with a look of shock.

Madison turned her attention to the woman in the corner.  She looked older and was dressed in a plain pastel dress.  The woman’s skin shimmered as her visible molecules filled the space where she stood.  Madison sat fascinated.  She knew from experience that these people didn’t typically speak in words. In fact, they rarely made themselves seen.   They used pictures instead.  This woman’s ability to crystallize impressed her.

The ghost stood in the corner silently.  Madison realized that this amount of energy was a huge effort.  She whispered softly to the woman.

“You have a word for this girl?”  Madison pointed at the silent girl whose face still registered confusion.  The girl looked over her left shoulder.  Seeing nothing, she looked back to Madison, eyes wider than before.

The woman gave no trace of response.  Madison tried again.  “You need something from this girl?”  The woman’s quiet presence entranced her.

“Is your mother still alive?”  Madison asked the girl quietly.

“Yes.”

“Grandmothers?”

“Yes.”  The girl was brimming with prickling curiosity.  “Is there somebody here?”

Of course there is somebody here, Madison’s internal dialog snapped.  What are you an idiot?  Do you think I’m making this up?  But the voice that left her lips was soft and gentle.  “Yes, we have a visitor here.  Do you know an older woman who has passed?”

The girl brought a ragged fingernail to her mouth and began furiously chewing.

Madison breathed deeply and spoke from inside herself.  “Who are you here for?”  It seemed as though the presence would not respond but then ever so faintly, the woman moved her head slightly toward the door.  It was a subtle gesture but one that effectively told Madison this visitor wasn’t attached to the girl in the chair.

“I can’t think of…I don’t really know anybody….”

“That’s ok.” Madison cut her off.  “Just remember it.  Maybe it will come to you later.”

“Oh, ok.”

Madison looked back at the door.  The corner was empty.  She felt unbearably tired all of a sudden.  This typically happened when spirits spent that much effort to connect with her.  It was as if they tapped her energy to create a link.  She felt the weariness settle about her shoulders.  She passed her hand across her face and turned her attention back to the reading. A familiar tingle rose behind her eyes.  The sensation was a sign she’d get when she realized a heightened sensory connection.  She hadn’t felt this way in a long time.  It took nearly all her concentration to finish the reading.

 

Thank you, Kristy, for being one Writing Under Fire’s Author Interview Friday.  Where can readers go to buy your books?

My website: www.KristyAbbott.com where you can read more about me, purchase my books and leave comments. I encourage you to check it out.