Entertaining The Neighbors

Copyright: Jan Wayne Fields
Copyright: Jan Wayne Fields

My table set, guests on their way, I wait. I imagine the last time I saw them. Saw anyone.

“Which day did you tell them?”

“Did you say Saturday? Sunday?”

“Which day? Which day!”

The voices make me second guess myself. I pace. I stop. I stare out the window onto the view I’ve grown accustomed since…since that day. That terrible, terrible day I fell for the girl next door. How lovely she was. Her smile, kind and fragile, my heart’s delight. My soul’s torment.

“They’re not coming!” I shouted to no one. “Oh, wait. They’re already here,” I whispered.

*****

Never fear, Friday Fictioneers are here. Yes, I know the story is creepy. Sad really, in a Tell-Tale Heart meets Ina Garten sort of way. That’s what you get on a grey, cold January day when I’m cooped up waiting for classes to start. For those interested, okay, you two over there, I’m feeling better despite the bleakness of the season. Thanks for reading.

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My Writing Process – Blog Tour

A friendly place where there is always more than meets the eye. That’s the blog of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, hostess of the weekly challenge for fiction writers to make every word count. Rochelle specializes in history with a twist. Her exceptional attention to detail is reflected in every story she creates, and I enjoy her writing so much that I once travelled to a cemetery in Queens, NY to further explore the subject of one of her stories.

You can read about it here.

The challenge to create a 100 word story using a photo prompt provided by a different person each week has significantly tightened up my writing. For this, I am grateful to Rochelle and all of the Friday Fictioneers. When Rochelle invited me to share my writing process, my first thought was, I’m supposed to have a process? Readers who follow this blog know that I have a predictably random creative process. For anyone who has read my first book, “Summoning the Strength,” I hope it is apparent that my writing has improved.

My writing process when I first began went something like this:

Awaken in the middle of the night, if I’d gone to sleep at all, and let my grief gush into the keyboard until I had no feeling in my left hand. Seriously, this is exactly what happened, and when my book was finished, I went to see a neurologist to determine the damage. I do not recommend that process. However, passion being a lesser vice than indifference, if you must, you must. An interview which clearly shows my nerve naiveté nerve is here.

I am working on a second book entitled Beyond Belief. Although I have received positive feedback for excerpts I have posted, completing it has become a much longer process than I expected. This is mainly due to my priority being the completion of the degree I am currently pursuing at the University of North Texas. I’m also taking my own sweet time to avoid mistakes I made with my first book, e.g. too many characters, too much telling and not enough showing. That’s writer speak I heard somewhere which simply means I couldn’t shut up fast enough. It’s true; I was driven to tell the story of Katherine Doyle and the women who influenced her.

My work differs from others of its genre in no significant way. My life experience drives every word I write. Authenticity is job one, as they say, and if I cannot express my genuine self, I have learned, I dare not try to fake it. There are plenty of topics of which I know nothing, but I know more than enough than to waste my time and the reader’s with piffle they can get more easily somewhere else. I write because to do otherwise is to prove the prophecies of those who ever doubted I could do it, including myself. Of course, what I have to say about most subjects has been said before, and yet, if I die tomorrow I will not have said enough. So, I write.

My writing process today goes something like this:

A sensation akin to heartburn sears an idea into my brain. So, I guess you could call it brain burn. Once an idea is in there, it is hard to ignore. Kind of like a tabloid cover of Elvis and Tammy Faye Bakker being abducted to repopulate a dying planet. Your imagining that now, aren’t you? People like me are called pantsters, as in “flying by the seat of our pants.” But there is a method to my madness. Sort of. A story begins with a spark. If the spark grows past the tabloid stage to ignite disdain for manipulators or fascination with human nature, then I move forward with purpose to turn analysis into action. However, I usually end up deleting three five ten times as many words as I write.

Some things really are better left unsaid.

If an idea doesn’t spontaneously combust to reveal something amazing or at least amusing, I have to accept that I don’t know enough to develop a story. After all, anyone can Google “great loves of habitual liars” and discover a melodrama I could never tell. But I can spin a fine yarn about the deceptive practices of rat bastards. This I know beyond belief.

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Okay, the point of this is to share some useful information. So, here goes…

I think. I write. I think it over and write some more. When I get tired of writing, I take a walk and think it over again. For me, there is more process in editing than in writing.  This may not be anyone else’s cuppa joe. I am an over thinker and it works for me. However, over thinking can make even a good writer go bad. For instance, thinking about characters, what they desire and despise, what they fear and fiercely protect, these are thoughts worth thinking. It is when thoughts turn to distribution, marketing, and the many details that go along with storytelling for the masses that a writer can be driven to distraction.

Speaking of distractions, Author Carrie Rubin crafts a story we only think we’ve heard then turns it completely on its head. I couldn’t put it down. The same thing happened when I started reading “No Time For Kings” by Mark Petruska. Another thrill seeker whose writing I enjoy is S.W. Lothian, author of the Quest Series created for kids and adults alike.

Scarab BeetleS.W. LOTHIAN is a funny and cool guy from Australia. His kids call him ‘Phil Dunphy’, because he reminds them of the dad from Modern Family. He isn’t sure whether this is a compliment or not, but he takes it as a compliment. As an imaginative kid he dreamed of creating exciting worlds and funky characters, and thought he’d be the most famous person to ever do this. He loved to draw and was dux of Art in High School. Top of his dream list was to be an animator. He loved watching all those classic cartoons on TV – Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Road Runner, Wacky Races, The Simpsons, the list goes on and on.

BOOM! Reality hit. The dreams were parked as the corporate world beckoned. Then, 25 years later, the long-held dream to create erupted like a jam donut in a microwave and S.W. started writing fiction for kids of all ages. His books can be summed up as fun-action-packed-time-travel-adventures-for-the-kid-in-everyone. He writes stories to excite, inspire, teach and thrill. Stories with awesome edge-of-your-seat fun. Stories that let kids escape to new places, and adults remember the dreams of their own childhood. He is the author of the very popular Quest Series (The Golden Scarab, The Cursed Nile, The Fallen Pharaoh) and the first book in his new series, TIME SQUARE | THE SHIFT will to be let loose on readers in April 2014. His debut novel, The Golden Scarab, was a 2013 READER’S FAVORITE BOOK AWARD FINALIST.

ntfk-coverMARK PETRUSKA is a writer by trade, though he regrets turning down the drumming gig offered by “that Cobain guy in Seattle.” Born in Hawaii, he lived in a variety of exotic locales growing up (Dayton! Rapid City!) before settling in the Pacific Northwest, where his penchant for rainy days and bacon-topped doughnuts was richly rewarded. Mark is married to a woman he met online, but would like to make it clear she was a fellow blogger and not a mail order bride. He is estranged from his two children…wait, that should read “strange to his two children” who, as teenagers, believe anybody over the age of 30 is strange, especially dad. In his spare time he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, indie rock, and all things paranormal. Mark is a published author whose novel, NO TIME FOR KINGS, is available on Amazon. He is hard at work on a follow-up he describes as “a blend of Dickens’ satirical caricatures and gift for allegory, and Twain’s rich narrative and social criticism…or it’ll make a great coaster for your cup of coffee.”

rubin2CARRIE RUBIN is a writer, physician, public health advocate, humor blogger, mother, wife, fitness enthusiast, movie fan, and avid reader. To her, every experience is worthwhile, even if one’s path deviates from where it started. She is the author of “The Seneca Scourge,” a medical thriller, which was awarded Best New E-Book: Fiction in the 2012 USA Best Book Awards. She is currently seeking publication for her second novel and has just started work on a new one. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two teenage sons, all of whom take great pleasure in teasing her.

Check them out, and as always, thanks for reading.

Tales From The Crypt: A Poet Revisited

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The grave of Emma Lazarus is located on a hillside cemetery in Queens, New York. Emma’s headstone stands beside those which mark the final resting place of her parents, Esther and Moses Lazarus, and two of Emma’s sisters, Josephine and Sarah.

GPS coordinates for Emma’s grave.

My mission to find and photograph the headstone of Emma Lazarus was prompted by a story written by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. You see, Emma was a poet, and while her name may not ring a bell, her sonnet, “The New Colossus,” engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty with its famous line “…give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” is recognized the world over as the call to the disenfranchised to come to America to realize their own version of the American dream.

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Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) is a person worth knowing. Her voice resonates with me. Discovering her poems made me curious and took me down a path to discover she was a young woman with high ideals, and then as now, high ideals didn’t come cheap. Her writing and writings about her life bear this out. By today’s standards, her family would be labeled as the one percent, most likely derided by their fellow Americans for their personal wealth. That’s right, Emma Lazarus lead a privileged life. She was well-educated, well-connected, and well-respected within her elite social circle. You wouldn’t know it by her gravesite, but it was written about beloved Emma that “With her own hand she has sown the seeds that shall transform her grave into a garden…”

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As you can see, her grave is no garden. Of course, this was metaphor, but still…

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Acres and acres of dearly beloved dearly departed take their place in silent galleries etched by sun and wind and rain. What remains of who they were in life are admissions into the record by those they left behind and perceptions of those who came after. Emma’s story leaves me with more questions than answers. Does nature thrill while passion spills from vessels overflowing with contempt? Do hearts beat with abundant life or merely the longing for an after life? Do we hold sacred the promise once embraced by people of conscience or let it slip the surely bonds of earth unobserved?

I wonder. I wonder with every breath of freedom I draw.

Poets through the ages give us a glimpse into the future. It is easy to see when we look into the past. Human experience tells the tale we must not ignore. Why not break through the ancient barrier that the art of race or creed or rank devises [still, to breed] hatred between heart and heart? Is this a question to which the answer is past due or an idea whose time has come? The system removed from the system, could we see our way to finally letting hatred rest in peace? I do not know. One thing is for certain, I will ask these and other questions until I find answers or die trying.

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Click here to read more about Emma Lazarus.

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path to gravesite

Smart Girl Palooza 2013

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So, last week I hurled across the sky in a metal tube with a friend to visit some other friends on the east coast once again breathing that lean mixture of oxygen, jet fuel, and assorted pressurized odors after a forty-five minute delay after American Airlines found someone hanging out on the tarmac who knew what to do about a worn tire that was discovered after we’d all fastened our seatbelts. 

Yes, of course it was good that they changed it before we had a blow out. GAAAHH!

While we waited, my seatback was kicked by Damien Return-of-the-Damned, who had abandoned his McMeal and was writhing in spasms beside his oblivious mother. Not to be condemned by fellow passengers for being intolerant of a child, I mildly grumbled to my traveling companion until…

“Beverage?”

“Hmmm.”

Yeah, it was 10:30 a.m.

The fun had only just begun. In fact, it escalated a bit after we landed. Waiting to exit the aircraft, oblivious mother stood in the aisle holding a barf bag, telling her other attention craving child that she should throw up her McMeal. “It will make you feel better if you just throw up,” she said. Oblivious father made no effort to calm his whimpering, travel weary offspring. Why this woman was encouraging her daughter to throw up there in the middle of everybody is beyond me, but I swear the girl seemed to be making a sincere effort to comply for even a sliver of attention.

Yeah, we couldn’t exit fast enough.

I get it. Really, I do. Kids! Confined Spaces! People need to be more understanding of other people’s poor choices! Whatever! Some quality time beforehand might be in order, people! Seriously! Then again, quality time with their children isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Sadly, this is too often the case and all of humanity must suffer the consequences.

On the upside, I did get to use the TSA Pre✓™ line, avoiding the one invasion of personal space we have all strangely come to accept when traveling by air. What a difference being allowed to keep a shred of dignity makes in a person’s behavior! That’s probably why I didn’t rage against oblivious McFamily.

Yeah, that’s the reason.

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While there is no such thing as perfect parenting, there are parents who get it so right that it blows you away. It’s true; I’ve met them. Fast forward a few days into our trip to a visit at the home of Celia and Anabella, granddaughters of our hostess and two of the smartest girls I have ever met. To give an example of just how smart, when asked ‘Should we have steak for dinner?’ Celia knew the answer was yes, yes we should. It’s no wonder she received the President’s Award for Academic Excellence. Celia is one smart girl!

She prefers dogs to cats and she’s super tech savvy. Of course, it helps when the WiFi cooperates. Having experienced techNOlogic issues myself, we chatted about it after dinner and discovered we share a love of books. So, I introduced Celia to S.W. Lothian’s great middle grade reads. Who knows, maybe she’ll decide to write some book reviews.

Celia
Celia

Anabella, understanding that I was a tourist, graciously offered to show me around her home and gave an amazingly articulate presentation about feeding the hungry. TED Talks are definitely in this girl’s future. Yeah, Anabella is that smart!

Anabella
Anabella

In addition to demonstrating how to get really good at playing the piano and how to execute a perfect cartwheel, Anabella’s tour showed me that she lives in an environment where smart girls flourish. Celia and Anabella’s parents, who both have careers by the way, obviously know how to prioritize. The family often prepares meals together and besides having strong female role models, Anabella and her dad enjoy watching Wrestle Mania together. She prefers WWE action figures to Barbie. How awesome is that?

Confident, imaginative, compassionate, and engaging, Celia and Anabella made quite a positive impression on me. They are excellent examples of what is possible when mothers and fathers actively engage in the lives of their children. It was a pleasure to share in the preparation of a delicious meal and my privilege to be in the company of smart girls!

Check out this smart girl’s TED Talk. It’s awesome.

Caution: Contents May Shift During Mood Swings

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Many bloggers do a great job sharing the whys and wherefores (explanations) of their choice of content for their blogs. They tell readers right up front their reasons for blogging. So, we know where their head is at. They’re consistent. They share their comic genius, photographic masterpieces, or prowess for discovering inspirational videos. Some like to do a little rant now and then just to shake things up a bit. They knock our socks off and then kick back while the comments roll in. They don’t come at us from out of left field without providing a reason for the departure from the agreed upon format.

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In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not one of those kind of bloggers. Some days this is a photo blog. Some days it’s a test balloon for my writing. Some days a lead balloon, one mood swing away from a slam poetry rampage.

“What exactly was going on over there at HonieBriggs.com today?” My loyal follower says to the woman slumped over the keyboard with her hair wrapped in a towel, because rather than take fifteen minutes to dry her hair so it doesn’t look like a meth head squirrel has styled it, she’s got to figure out if everyone in the blogosphere is pissed off at her or if she’s just bored them all to death. (this scenario happens frequently)

LouAnn, who I tried, unsuccessfully, to call HomeFab because the name of her blog is onthehomefrontandbeyond, inspired this post. So, you can thank her for this little detour into the fascinating world of personality typing. More specifically, my personality type.

I am wysiwyg, which means, what you see is what you get. I put myself out there and sometimes it seems I’m waaaay out there. I know this. It’s a curse some boll weevil high priestess put on my ancestors in 1483. What happened next is irrelevant. Suffice to say, ever since then the women in my family have been what we like to call, a little touched.

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The Myers Briggs (no relation) personality type indicator used by many companies tells me I am an ESTP – Extrovert – Sensing – Thinking – Perceiving which means I am flexible and tolerant and take a pragmatic approach focused on immediate results. Theories and conceptual explanations bore me – I want to act energetically (proactively) to solve problems. I focus on the here-and-now, am spontaneous, and tend to enjoy each moment that I can be active with others as well as enjoy material comforts (who doesn’t?) I learn best through doing.

In other words, I’m a pantster with an attitude and the scars to prove it.

For those interested in knowing more about the most widely used tool to create functional and productive work groups, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, check it out for yourselves. I created a personality assessment of my own in this old post. If you’re interested, and if not, maybe you’d like to take a look at my Friday Fictioners pages. Feel free to comment on my attempts at flash fiction. I’ve been using this exercise to tighten up my writing. It has helped tremendously as I work to complete my next book, Beyond Belief.

I appreciate the other Friday Fictioners for their encouraging comments. I appreciate the bloggers I follow for the endless inspiration. I LOVE my followers, all but two so far, sight unseen. That’s saying quite a lot to total strangers, but no stranger than this guy…so….

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Those of you who are humans are truly amazing, hilarious, and talented people. I wouldn’t keep blogging if it weren’t for the fact that it’s cheaper than therapy comments you share with me here and on your own blogs. You mean more to me than you’ll ever know.

THANKS FOR READING.

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