Short Story Sunday: Company of Thieves

“I’m nervous,” said Athena.

Dylon got up from his chair and went over to the hospital bed and took Athena’s hand. “It’s a routine procedure. You’ll be back up on your feet in no time.”

“Something doesn’t feel right.”

Dylon bent down and kissed her forehead. “You worry too much.”

Athena watched the nurses and doctors scurry back and forth in the hallway of the hospital. A few moments later her doctor came in.

“Good morning, Athena. How are you feeling?”

Athena looked over at Dylon, her forehead creased with worry lines.

“She’s a little nervous,” Dylon said.

The doctor sat down on the edge of the bed. “What’s worrying you?”

“I don’t know. I just think maybe I shouldn’t do this.”

“Athena, we’ve been through this. You’re monthly periods are too heavy. We’ve tried oblation and we’ve tried birth control pills. Nothing has worked. You have no quality of life. Your blood pressure sank so low with your last period you ended up in the hospital for a week, remember?”

Athena nodded.

“It’s a simple procedure. We’re only removing your uterus, not the ovaries, so you won’t have to do hormone therapy. You’ll be back on your feet in no time.” The doctor looked at Athena, her eyebrows raised with a smile on her face.

“How long will the procedure take,” said Dylon.

“About an hour to an hour and half. The number on her bracelet,” she pointed to Athena’s arm, “is up on that screen. When it’s red she’s in surgery. When it turns yellow, that means we’re finishing up and she’s going into recovery. Green means the nurse will be out shortly to get you so you can be with her.”

“And you’re sure we can’t do this laparoscopically,” Athena said.

“Athena,” the doctor said, “we’ve been through this.”

Athena let out a resigned sigh. “I know.”

“You’re gonna be fine, toots, and this big handsome man will be waiting for you when you’re finished. That’s something to look forward to.”

Two tall men in blue scrubs entered the room. Athena noticed the piercing blue eyes of the one who said he would be her anesthesiologist. He explained his role while the other man checked her chart and told her that he was her ER nurse. Their presence made Athena uneasy. Dylon held her hand as they rolled her out of the room.

“I’ll see you in a bit. It’ll be fast,” Dylon said.

Athena nodded.

“Don’t worry, sir,” the man with the blue eyes said, “she’s in good hands.”

“I know she is.”

One of the men took a card around his neck and held it up to a blue square on the wall. The wide wooden doors opened with a loud click. Dylon watched as his wife was pushed through the doors and disappeared down the hallway.

Things got hastily under way in the operating room.

“So what’s the cover story this time, gentlemen,” the doctor said.

The man with the piercing blue eyes looked down at Athena. “She hemorrhaged right here on the table. So unexpected. What a shame.”

Athena’s brow furrowed with confusion. “What? What are you talking about?” She looked over at her doctor. “What are you talking about?”

“Shh,” the doctor said. “It’ll all be over soon. Your husband will be devastated. But he’ll move on. They always do, toots.”

Athena tried to sit up but the other man, the one who said he was her ER nurse, shoved her back down by her shoulders.

“Time to go to sleep,” the man with the blue eyes said.

Athena felt a warm sensation slide up her arm as her eyes slid shut.

“Okay, boys. Let’s get to work.”

Athena felt her spirit slide out of her body and hover over the operating table. She watched as the doctor made an incision straight across her abdomen and then another perpendicular to that one.

“What are you doing,” Athena yelled from the ceiling but no one heard her. She watched as the doctor and the two men laughed. Her thoughts of Dylon made her appear in front of him.

“Dylon! They are killing me!”

Dylon sat reading his magazine. He couldn’t hear her.

She disappeared and reappeared back in the operating room. Her body lay lifeless on the table. A man in jeans a plain white t-shirt stood near the table, closing a red and white cooler.

“Buying or selling today, Rick?” the doctor said.

“A little of both,” he replied.

In the Blink of An Eye – Short Story Sunday

One of my goals for 2018 is to publish a short story every week.  Well, I’ve been busy reworking my novel and taking a writing class.  But I have still been writing stories.  So instead of trying to find a publisher for them, I am going to publish them myself.  I’ll be publishing them on Sundays and I have named it Short Story Sunday.

Here is the first one for the series called In the Blink of An Eye.

***

Joy. Bliss. Different labels for the same thing: a numbing feeling that lulls you into a sense of euphoria so life can blindside you. It had betrayed her trust and lulled her into complacency so that tragedy could knock her on her ass in the most unimaginable way possible.

From now on, when joy came creeping around the frayed edges of Asia’s life with its feel-good promises of butterflies and fairy tales, she would steel her nerves and brace for the impact. Two days ago her life was perfect. This morning she woke up to the phone call everyone dreads. The phone’s foreboding ring was laced with death, like her mother’s voice would be. She picked up the phone. “Mom, what’s wrong?”

The silence that filled the space before her mother replied told Asia someone was dead, she just didn’t know who.

“Asia, please come to the house.”

“I’m on my way but I need to know who’s dead.”

“Asia, you shouldn’t hear this news alone.”

“Mom, please. Just tell me.”

“It’s your sister, Asia. I’m gonna have dad come get you.”

It was Asia’s turn to be silent.

“Asia?”

Asia swallowed. “N-no. I…ummm…I need to call Atara. She’ll come get me.”

Atara was Asia’s twin sister, the one her mother just said was dead.

“Asia, baby, let daddy come and get you.”

Asia hung up the phone and dialed Atara’s number. She willed Atara to answer. She listened to the phone ring. The tears that ran down her face admitted what her mind refused to embrace: something happened to the other half of her. She sent the phone flying into the wall. Black pieces of plastic and small shards of glass shattered everywhere.

“Atara, you will not do this to me, do you hear me?!”

Asia threw the covers off her legs and stomped out of bed. She snatched her keys and walked out of the house barefooted to her car. Her feet didn’t even react to the frigid, snow-and-ice-covered sidewalk. She was aware of what she was doing but was also outside of herself watching her own body move. She was in a movie and she was the star of the show and also the audience.

Her body was on autopilot as she drove to her parents’ home. The world around her was on mute. Time stretched just beyond her grasp and moved like molasses. Visions of life with her sister flashed like Polaroids in her mind: their first day of kindergarten; first day of junior high school; first dates; getting their driver’s licenses and their first car that they fought over who would be the first to drive it (this made Asia release a little snicker); and college graduation.

Asia forced herself to stop this final review of their lives together. Atara was fine. She had to be. They still had so many things they had to do together.

Asia arrived at her parents’ house without remembering what route she took there or even realizing that she had been shifting the gears in her car to do it. Her father was just beginning to back out of the driveway just as Asia was pulling up behind him. The back bumper of his car hitting her front bumper knocked them both out of the panic they were in. His door flung open as he ran up to Asia’s car door. Asia looked up at her father through her window. The tears on her father’s face confirmed what Asia’s mother said. Asia’s breathing quickened. She shook her head and started to cry. “Nonono,” she started to scream as she kept her gaze on her father’s eyes.

Her father yanked at the door handle. “Asia, baby, open the door.”

Asia kept her eyes locked on her father’s. Tears ran down her face and saliva fell from her mouth.

Her father pulled the handle on her door several times. “Asia! Baby, please, open the door.”

Asia couldn’t hear him. Her father leaned down putting his gaze level with hers. He pressed his huge hands against the window and framed her face within them. He stared at her through the glass, their tears now synchronized. He nodded his head. She shook hers in reply.

“Open the door sweetheart,” he said.

Asia turned off her car and opened the door. Only one of her feet touched the black asphalt driveway before her six-foot-four father grabbed her up into a hug. Her head fell onto his shoulder as her keys dropped with a tinkling sound into the snow-covered grass.

Asia’s mother put her arms around them both. Asia wrapped her legs around her father’s waist like she did when she was little. Her father turned to walk her inside. As her mother walked behind them into the house, she saw Asia’s red toe nail polish. She rubbed Asia’s foot, the only consolation she could offer.

Inside the house, Asia’s father tried to put her down on the couch but Asia wouldn’t release her grip around him. He sat down on the couch and held her in his lap and rocked her. Asia’s mother sat down beside them and rubbed Asia’s arm.

When Asia’s soul was empty of tears, she sat up and looked at her father. “Where is she? Where is my sister? I want to see her.”

Her father let out a resigned sigh. He knew nothing would keep Asia from Atara. “I’ll take you to her. I’ll move your car. You go put some shoes on your feet.”

Asia’s mother hurried up to their old room. She paused at the door. Her hand flew to her mouth to stifle the sobs that wanted to escape. She went to her own room instead and got Asia a pair of her shoes. They all wore the same size. The memory of all the friendly arguments they had over borrowing each others’ shoes without permission ran through her mind as she grabbed a pair of slippers and took them back down to Asia.

She helped her daughter out to the car. She leaned down and cupped Asia’s face in her hand and kissed her cheek. She pressed her forehead into the side of Asia’s face and let it hover there for a moment.

“Mom, please,” Asia said.

Her mother met her father’s gaze and their eyes said what their voices couldn’t.

On the way to the hospital, Asia watched her childhood pass before her: the park where she and Atara played for hours at a time; their schools; the movie theater where they watched way too many movies and stole kisses with boys in the dark; the roller rink where they met their best friend, Angela (their dad called them the name the A-Team…it was his favorite TV show). The warm memories that every place used to hold turned cold as they slid past her window in silence. Asia looked over at her father. He stared straight ahead and blinked the tears from his eyes to keep them from blurring his vision. Asia grabbed his free hand and laced her fingers between his.

At the hospital her father parked and turned to face Asia. “Are you sure you want to do this?” Asia swallowed hard, then nodded her head. They made their way into the hospital and her father stopped at the desk. Asia watched as her father talked to the nurse behind the counter and then pointed to her. The nurse sent a pitying look Asia’s way then picked up the phone and said something into it while she kept her gaze on Asia. After a few moments a nurse came over to Asian and her dad and escorted them down a side hallway to an over-sized elevator. The nurse pressed the round black circle with the capital letter ‘B’ and the doors slid shut. After a few seconds the elevator made a sudden lurch that made Asia stumble into her father. The elevator began its labored descent making a low humming noise that vibrated in Asia’s feet. The elevator ground to a halt. The doors hesitated before jerking open to reveal a large glass window. A man sitting at a desk in blue scrubs stood up ceremoniously as the nurse led Asia and her father into to the door.

As they walked down the hallway to the door, Asia’s eyes kept staring through the glass at the table in the center of the room with a white sheet covering the body she knew belonged to her sister.

They stopped at the door. The nurse put her hand on Asia’s shoulder. “I’ll meet you back at the elevator. Take your time,” the nurse whispered. Her shoes made a squeaking noise as she walked back down the hallway leaving Asia to face her fate.

Her father looked at the table with Atara’s lifeless body on it and then looked back at Asia, who her body trembling now. “Asia, you don’t have to do this.”

“No. I need to see her.” She walked toward the door to go in and her father walked with her. She turned and put her hand on her father’s broad chest. “Alone, daddy. I need to do this alone.”

“Asia, let me–”

“No, daddy. Stay here.”

He grabbed her and hugged her. She buried her face in his large chest and took a deep breath. She turned and walked through door and stopped at the edge of the table. Her father stood on the other side of the door with his hand on the glass wanting to do something but not knowing what it was. The man with the blue scrubs stood at the opposite end of the table.

“You take your time. Let me know when you’re ready,” he said.

Asia closed her eyes. She breathed in deeply through her nose. A movie began to play in her mind of her, her sister, and their best friend Angela, walking home from school one day. They walked past a group of boys and one of them said “look at the monkeys.” Atara was always more subdued than Asia and Angela, but not that day. She stopped and turned around.

“What did you say?”

The boys stopped and turned around. Asia was counting the heads. Three of them. It’d be an even fight.

“I said which one of you cowards said that?” Atara said as she dropped her book bag on the sidewalk, took off her earrings, and handed them to Angela.

“Atara, they aren’t worth it,” Asia said.

“Atara? What a stupid name,” one of the boys said.

“Why don’t you step up here and say that to my face?” Atara said.

Asia put her hand in front of her sister to keep her from moving too close to the enemy. Angela dropped her books and assumed a fighting stance. The stand-off had begun.

“Atara forget it. Let’s go,” said Asia.

Atara picked up her book bag and turned to walk away when it happened.

“You better keep walking, bitch,” one of the boys said.

Before Asia knew what was happening, Atara dropped her bag and ran up to one of the boys and punched him in the back of the head. Asia was stunned for a moment. She’d never seen her sister fight before. When one of the other boys tried to rush Atara, Angela jumped in and clothes-lined him. Asia ran in and started swinging on the third boy just because he was there. The three boys were no match for the A-team. They landed punches like men. It took two crossing guards and a good Samaritan (who let Atara get in one more punch on purpose) to break up the fight.

Asia was jarred from the memory by the voice of the man in the blue scrubs.

“Ma’am? Are you okay?”

Asia shook her head. “I was thinking of the time when my sister and our best friend got in a fight with these three boys.”

The man in the blue scrubs looked at Asia with understanding in his eyes. “I understand.”

Asia nodded her head and the man pulled back the sheet just and tucked it below the chin of the corpse, then moved away to let Asia have a moment alone. Asia looked at her sister. Atara’s face was pale and lifeless. Her father looked on from the door. This was the last time he would see these two faces together.

Asia rubbed her twin sister’s pale face with her thumb and kissed her forehead, then her nose, then her lips. She laid her head on Atara’s chest and hugged her stiff body, hoping her sister would hug her back just one last time.

“How am I supposed to do this without you?” she said.

The room was silent. The hum of the fluorescent lights played like a dirge above them. She suddenly sat up to demand answers.

“What happened to her?” She looked at the man in the blue scrubs.

He looked back at her and then over to her father at the door.

“Answer me! What happened to her?”

Asia’s father rushed in the room. The coroner went to pull the sheet back over Atara’s body.
“Don’t you touch her,” Asia said.

The man in the blue scrubs froze. Asia turned to look at her father. The next words came out very slowly and deliberately. “What happened to her,” she asked again.

“She had a heart attack” her father said.

“A what?”

“A heart attack.”

“That’s not possible. She was a health nut.”

The man in the blue scrubs looked at Asia’s father as if he needed his permission to talk. Her father nodded.

“Sometimes they just happen.”

Asia looked at her sister again. She rubbed her hand over her sister’s hair. “Was she alone? Did she die alone?”

Asia’s father put his hand on her shoulder. “No, baby. She was at her job. In a meeting. She said she didn’t feel well and then she–”

Asia raised her hand. She couldn’t bear to hear any more. “What’s going to happen to her now?”

“We have to make her final arrangements,” her father said. He put his arm around Asia. “Come on. It’s time to go.”

Asia reached down and hugged her sister. Her father took a deep breath and tried to pull Asia back up. “Asia, we have to go now.”

Asia didn’t move.

“Asia,” her father said gently, “ you have to let go now.”

A week later the arrangements had been made and Asia sat lifeless in between her mother and father at the funeral. Staring at her twin sister in a casket was like staring her own mortality in the face. Asia stood and sat on cue but she was numb. The only thing that ran through her mind was how to begin her life without her sister and she couldn’t come up with an answer no matter how hard she tried. Later at the interment after everyone left she stood next to her sister’s casket staring at the flower arrangement. Angela walked up quietly beside her and laced her fingers in between Asia’s.

“We aren’t the A-team anymore,” Asia said.

“I know.”

“It sucks.”

“Definitely sucks.”

“When I walk away that’s it. How do I do that, Angie? How do I just turn and walk away?”

Angela let go of Asia’s hand and walked up to the casket. She looked at the flower arrangement and pulled off a tiny pink rose. Angela pressed her nose into the flower and let the sweet scent linger in her nose. She walked back to Asia. She handed Asia the flower. Asia took it. “Now what?”

Angela put her hands on Asia’s shoulders. “Take a deep breath.”

Asia took a deep breath and let it out. Tears ran down both of their faces. Angela took Asia’s hand. “Now we say something to her.”

“You go first,” Asia said.

“Okay,” Angela paused for a moment then began to speak, “I’m gonna miss you, girl. We ain’t blood, but that don’t matter. You’re my sister. When I have a child, boy or girl, I’m naming it after you, so you can be with me forever.”

“That was beautiful, Angie.”

“Thanks. Now it’s your turn.”

Asia stared at the white casket and all of the pink and purple flowers on top of it. “You always said that pink AND purple were your two favorite colors. You never would let anyone make you pick one over the other.” Asia and Angela both chuckled. “You’re the other half of me. Stay with me, Atara,” she whispered, “even as a shadow, even as a dream.”

#

 

The Magic of Books

I love books. Always have. Always will. My mom read to me since before I had memory. The first memory that formed in my head about books is when I was sitting on her lap while she read Tim and Tom Play Ball to me for about the one hundredth time. I can still see the pictures on the pages in my head. I loved that book. I remember watching her fingers point to the words as she read and suddenly realizing that those letters had sounds that turned into words and then all of a sudden I could read.

My mom said I used to sit on the front stairs of my porch with that book and read to my friends. But that was before I realized what reading was. She said I had the whole book memorized and knew when to turn the pages. All my friends thought I could read. I’ve been reading ever since. There were only two times in my life where I stopped reading for pleasure: after undergraduate and graduate school. I had to do so much reading to get my degrees that I was worn out and couldn’t open a book for any reason.

I get so excited when I see books. I like to touch them, smell them, look at the book covers (they are their own form of art). I want to buy every book I see. And I check out way too many books at the library. Right now I have 55 checked out and more on the way from inter-library loan. I know the librarians probably think I’m crazy. But I read all the books I take out. Unless they bore me or I just can’t groove with the author’s prose. Then I give up because life is too short to read bad books.

I love to get lost in the worlds inside books. Movies actually play in my head – and that’s when I’m really gone – and I can hear the voices of the characters and the smells and sounds of where they are come alive to me.

I learn so many things that I don’t have room in my brain to keep them all. I forget a lot of things. I wish my brain wouldn’t do that. Though I can jar my memory with the right clues. But I’d rather just be able to recall just from hearing the title of a book or the topic being mentioned by someone else. I wish I had been been blessed with an eidetic memory. Although for some things, I do. I can see certain images from my childhood very clearly. I don’t know why some things stick with me more than others.

When I’m rich, I’m going to have a wall full of custom-made bookshelves and fill it with books. I know one day when I’m gone they’ll probably go to goodwill or an estate sale and that’s fine by me. Though I hope my children will each grab a handful just to remember me by. I could sit and read all day, every day and feel complete contentment. I really could. Sometimes I get up and just walk around because when I think of all the books I want to read I worry that I won’t get to them all. Sometimes I find myself hurrying through a book to get to the next one. But when I realize I’m doing it, I slow down and take a deep breath. I don’t want to move over the words too quickly. You can’t soak up the story like that. You end up missing little details and jewels the author hides in between the words. Stuff that isn’t said, but is.

Every book is a song to me. Some are up tempo and have you turnin’ pages so fast you get to the end of the book before you mean too. Others are a slow dance and make you put the book down every so often to feel the rhythm of what you just read. Books are emotions, too. Some have you scared and hearing noises in the house that ain’t there. Some make you angry. Some tear your heart out or leave you in shock. Some books haunt you forever, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. Sometimes you see yourself in the characters. Sometimes you learn things about yourself that you didn’t know. You can come of age reading a book. Learn things before your parents wanted you to know about them. Experience the feelings of things without having to go through it yourself – and sometimes that’s a good thing because there’s some stuff out there in the world that I just don’t want ever happen to me.

You can fall in love in a book. You can fall out of love, too. You can experience things you’ll never experience in the real world, but yet it seems so real when you’re reading it that you wonder if somehow, on some other plain of existence, that shit you just read actually happened to you. That’s why I love fiction. You can make it up as you go and whatever falls onto the page is real. Dragons, magical powers, time travel, life on other planets, it’s all there and anything’s possible. There are no limits to the worlds in a book except the one’s the author puts on him or herself. And sometimes fiction becomes reality, too. I like to think that fiction writers make the impossible possible. They think it up and write it down and then let the more grounded folks like scientists and researchers make it reality. Yeah, writers are dreamers and books are dreams.

The rhythm and sounds of words on a page are hypnotizing. It’s an art to arrange words in just the right way. When I come across a beautiful sentence, I stop and read it over and over again and let it sink into my soul. Beautiful sentences strike chords deep in my soul. They are just as beautiful to me as priceless artifacts or famous paintings.

I think Stephen King said it best when he said “books are a uniquely portable magic.”

And I’m here for it all.

Novel Progress

So, I did it!  I emailed my novel, The House on Horace Street, to five beta readers.  I carefully selected these readers because I know they will be completely honest with me about any areas where my novel may need work.  And if you’re wondering if I held my breath each time I pressed send…well yes, I did!

I finished the novel as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge.  I let the novel sit for December.  Then I read it in January and did two rounds of edits that ended the last week of February.

One of my beta readers responded with some really great feedback that is helping me flesh out some areas of my novel.  This I am very grateful for.  My novel was a novella length, but with the suggestions she gave, I think it will push the length out to a regular novel.

I’m still waiting on my other beta readers to get back to me but I will just keep working with what I have so far.

I also wrote my query letter and synopsis for my novel.  Those are basically the pitch for my book that publishers use to decide whether they want to request the first three chapters of my novel or –gasp–the entire novel!

I’m nervous.  I’m excited.  But I’m ready for it this time.  I’ve got stories to tell and I know that my passion for my stories will come through in my writing.

I’m pushing forward and working on my goal every single day because I know my novel is going to be accepted for publication this year.

So that’s where we are folks.

The Six Hundred

Howdy, friends! I set a goal for this year to publish short stories every month to my blog.  Here is one I wrote about Bloody Sunday written from the POV of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  Enjoy!

***

Bridges are a connecting route over an obstacle. I am the gateway to Selma from Montgomery. The day I was completed I was so proud. Before me, there was an old two-lane wooden swing bridge that carried mule loads of cotton. I replaced that old bridge in 1940 and was a sight to behold: a steel arch bridge with a central span of two hundred fifty feet and nine large concrete arches.

But my beauty was short-lived.

I remember it like it was yesterday. A moment born out of grave injustice and death. You know it as “Bloody Sunday”.  Indulge me as I tell you how it all began.

Since about 1963 there was a hard push here in Alabama for equal voting rights. Less than one percent of black people who were of voting-age were registered to vote and the KKK was fighting with deadly force against anyone who tried to help blacks get registered. It was happening across the country.

One day in a nearby town called Marion, a black man who was a deacon of his church and a civil rights activist, was brutally beaten, shot, and killed by Alabama State troopers while he was protesting the arrest of a fellow civil rights worker. He was trying to stop his grandfather and mother from being beaten by the troopers when one of them shot him in the stomach. He died eight days later. He was only twenty-six.

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Folks in Selma had had enough and decided to march from Montgomery to Selma and the only way to do that was to go across me, the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Yes, that is the name of the person they chose to place across the top of my steel beam in large black letters.

The name of a man whose family owned slaves.

A man who was a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the most violent white terrorist group in Alabama.

I was all at once the link between Selma and Montgomery and a symbol of all that was wrong with America.

I was a beacon for tragedy.

The morning of March 7, 1965 was thick with tension. Injustice and justice were about to clash. Injustice was there on foot and horseback dressed in Alabama State trooper uniforms and riot gear. They were armed with billy clubs and tear gas, and their blinding hatred was fueled by the cheers of supporters flanking the bridge waving confederate flags.

Justice was there in the form of six hundred people armed only with love and sheer determination, to demand what they had been promised a century before: the right to vote.

The time came for the march to proceed. The six hundred waited peacefully for the signal to begin. The troopers stood in front of them, billy clubs in defensive position. The six hundred began to walk in a very thin line on my sidewalk. A voice over a bullhorn told them “it would be detrimental to your safety to continue this march.”

But the resolve of the six hundred was sure.

The troopers pushed back two of the six hundred leading the cause. I heard the troopers’ footsteps quicken. A flood of sounds followed: terror-filled screams of the six hundred, the cheers of confederate bystanders delighting in the mayhem, small explosions and the hissing of tear gas, the thud of bodies being trampled to the ground, the thwacking of billy clubs striking unarmed bodies with brutal force, and the cloppity-clop of horses’ hooves as the troopers atop them drove men, women, and children back over the bridge, swinging at them with clubs, whips, and rubber tubes wrapped in barbed wire. All the while the six hundred never fought back….and they didn’t make it over me that day, either.

The sight was atrocious.

The Alabama State troopers inflicted wounds so bad that fifty people were hospitalized.

Two days later, the six hundred turned into two thousand people determined to walk over my expanse but when they got to the bridge a man named King told them to disperse.

Things went back to normal for a while and the usual traffic went across me as if nothing ever happened. I thought maybe the six hundred had given up, thought maybe those troopers had beaten the dignity and determination out of everyone.

But I was wrong. I should have known that a people descended from those who survived the terrorism of slavery wouldn’t be stopped. Two weeks later, thousands walked over me. They didn’t just use the sidewalks this time. No, they filled up my entire expanse and flowed over me like a mighty river.  I cheered them on and hoped their footsteps were stirred old Edmund Pettus from death’s slumber and made him turn over in his hateful grave as he watched all those people – black and white – flowing steady and sure under his name toward victory.

Before Bloody Sunday, I was a symbol of oppression and hatred. Today I am a landmark of Civil Rights.

I wish I could tell you things got easier but it didn’t.  Death, hatred, and injustice continued to flow freely.

Shortly after they marched across my expanse, the KKK murdered a white woman named Viola Liuzzo. She had driven to Selma from Michigan and was shuttling some civil rights activists to the Montgomery airport. She was only thirty-nine years old and had a husband and five children.

But nothing lessened the resolve of the Civil Rights movement.

Fifty years after that day, this country’s first black president stood before me. He said Selma was a place where destiny had been decided. He said slavery and the Civil War and segregation and Jim Crow and the death of four little girls and the dream of a preacher collided here.

So I stand proud today and wear my name as a badge of honor, not because of Edmund Pettus, but in spite of him. I am a reminder that hatred and injustice are no match for the hopes and dreams of the disenfranchised. I am the connecting route between injustice and justice.

I am the Edmund Pettus bridge.

 

The Year in Review

I can’t believe 2017 is over.

Another year has slipped by.

On this last day of the year, I completed my fourth online writing course, The Craft of Style. I enjoyed not only the instruction, but the feedback on my stories from other students taking the courses.  If you’re a writer, you know how vulnerable story writing is. You can’t help but take criticism personally because your stories come from you, they are you.  But my skin is hardening (in a good way) and I am learning to receive constructive criticism and use it to make my writing better.

I’ve seen my writing stretch and grow so much with these courses.  The capstone course begins in March.  That class is several months long, as opposed to only one month, and the assignment is to write an entire short story.  Though I have been writing short stories all year, I am interested to learn more about the craft of writing a short story and getting feedback from my writing peers.

This was a good year for me.  I dusted off my goal of being a writer, this time for good.  I wrote over forty short stories this year and sent them out to be published. I haven’t been successful yet, but I know it’s coming.

I completed the 12 Short Stories Challenge over at 12shortstories.com.  I got a lot of great feedback from other writers and having a deadline each month helped keep me focused on writing every day.

In case you haven’t been following my blog, this challenge included getting a writing prompt each month with a specified word count.  You had one month to write your story.  On a specified date, you posted your story and other writers gave you feedback on it.  You, in turn, also gave feed back to other writers.

I got a lot of varied feedback on my stories.  I even wrote one on taking a knee, which had the most heated feedback of all.  But the fact that the feedback was so emotional means I did my job.

To really keep myself focused, I decided to make my own writing space in the living room. I found a Queen Anne writing desk on Craigslist and knew that I had to have it.  Something about it spoke to me. The woman that sold it to me was not only a Black woman like myself, but she is a published author.  That wasn’t a coincidence.  She told me that it was her mother’s desk and that it had good energy.  When I left, she told me to make her proud.  I plan to do just that.  This is my beauty shortly after I brought her home.  It’s much more…lived in….now.  Let’s just say it’s neat, but looks like a true writer’s desk complete with papers and lots of books everywhere.  But it’s my most happy place in the home.

 

That t-shirt there on the desk was my next accomplishment for 2017.  After a five year hiatus, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) again.  I finished a really cool novel about the ghost of an enslaved woman who haunts a farm house.  I won’t tell you much more because that is the book I am about to begin editing.  I plan on it being my first published book.  But, I digress.

NaNoWriMo is done during the month of November.  The challenge is to write 50,000 words in one month.  That’s 1,667 words every day, no excuses.  I had already been working on the concept of the novel I wanted to write, so NaNoWriMo was the perfect way to flesh it out into an actual completed first draft.  There’s a whole post about me finishing the challenge here.  But here’s a photo of me on the last day of November, with my NaNoWriMo winner’s shirt on.

Another goal I completed was this website.  I am a writer and will be a very successful published author with a huge, devoted following of readers.  What better way to hold myself accountable to that goal than an author website?

I’ve even posted some of the short stories I’ve written here.  For 2018, I will be writing a short story and posting it each Monday.  I already have some story concepts written out.  I think they will make for some every entertaining reading.  Get ready to meet Penelope Nithercott of Ottertail Falls.  That’s all I have to say about that. 🙂

You may know that I’m a voracious reader.  This year I read 75 books.  I’m pretty proud of that. This was the first year I actually kept track of how many I’ve read.  I never saw the point before because I am always reading.  But it was cool to set a goal and see if I could meet it.  I said I was going to read 70 books this year and exceeded that goal by five! I set my goal for 2018 to 85.  Yay, me!!!

So, it’s been a really productive year.  I haven’t been published yet, other than here on my own site, but I know without a doubt that’s happening in 2018.

I’m excited about what’s on the horizon for me.  Come and visit me here often! Enjoy the journey with me. Leave me comments, too! I’d love to know who’s out there keeping me company.  A writer’s life can be a little solitary sometimes.

Well, here’s to a prosperous 2018 filled with miracles, opportunities, and blessings big and bigger!

Until I write again!

 

 

 

She Cast Her Cares Upon the Sea

That is me at a beach in Rhode Island.  I was watching the sun set and visualizing the life I am creating for myself as a writer.  It was such an empowering moment for me.  Whenever I get discouraged or tired, I look at this picture and remember what the woman in it was thinking.

So, today I finished my second assignment of my fourth class in my writing cluster.  This class focuses on writing style.  The assignment was to write a 600-word short story with a beginning, middle, and end, focusing on nouns and verbs.  Basically, making every word count and evoke imagery and illicit an emotional response.  Below is my creation.

***

Little fires spread through her shoulders, an outward symptom of her inner turmoil. Thoughts of worry have gone from the quiet whisper of a small voice of doubt to the rowdy jeers of utter hopelessness. Nagging ruminations of failure scurry ruthlessly and without permission through the folded corridors of her brain, smearing her mind with their creativity-stifling venom.

When these stubborn, tiny villains of despair refused to be lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of her positive thoughts, she got in her car and zoomed to the ocean. She is not content to sit in her car. Dire situations of the mind call for up close and personal contact with the majestic powers of lapping waves.

She stomps down to the beach and with a dogged determination to quiet her mind, she plops down on the sand just beyond the reach of the sweeping waves. She leans back on her hands and lets the coarseness of the sand scratch through her fingers. She pulls the salty smell of the ocean in through her nose and traps it in her lungs, holding it hostage there until her lungs fight back and push the air back out through her mouth. Over and over she pulls the ocean’s air inside her body to let its powers ooze like a soothing balm over the places that need healing.

Her tear-filled eyes set their gaze on the sun as it slides down from the sky and perches for a fleeting moment on the horizon, casting a shimmering yellow brick road onto the water revealing the path to a land of hope just beyond the sun’s gleaming yellow orb. And the tiny fires that tensed her muscles are extinguished one by one and allow her shoulders to release their hunch. The tranquility of the waves making their swoosh, swish, swoosh sounds beckon the tears gathered in her eyes to make their final ascent down her face.  They accept the invitation as if they hope to become one with the ocean, be a part of something grand and beautiful and larger than themselves.

Her body is now under the spell of the ocean and the sunset beyond it. All thoughts of hopelessness are silent now and she is mesmerized by the sunset, gazing hypnotically into it as if it’s a crystal ball holding visions of the life she visualizes for herself within its magical sphere. With the last fleeting moments of daylight upon her, she nudges a pen and small notebook from her back pocket, and with great purpose she begins to scribble words onto the pages, hoping to get them all onto the paper before the day’s dusk dissolves into the blackness of the night. There was a haze of doubt that settled on her brain like low lying clouds hovering over a mountain’s peak. But as her hand moves from left to right across the page like the carriage of a typewriter, the haze dissipates and her thoughts become vivid and crisp. She dumps all her cares onto page after page, her fingers cramping as they try to keep pace with the flood of words pulsing from her brain down through her arm and into her hand. Then her hand halts.

Her soul is exhausted but also rejuvenated and empty. She rips the small pages from her notebook and presses them together. She tears them in half. Then, as the final glints of the sun melt into the horizon she slides the pieces of paper into the lapping waves and gives the ocean permission to dissolve them into nothingness.

***

I hope you enjoyed that piece.  I can see where my writing muscles are stretching and getting stronger.  I will be applying everything I’ve learned so far to my novel that I finished during NaNoWriMo.

In January, I will begin my personal edits of my novel.  Once I’ve touched it up the way I want it, I will find a professional editor to go through it to get it polished and ready to submit to publishing houses.

I’m also working on the outline and character sketches for my next novel.  Slow and steady wins the race, dear friends.

Until I write again….

 

 

 

I survived NaNoWriMo!

I did it!!!  I made it! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)  has come to a close and I finished strong! In case you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s a challenge every November to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Sound easy?

Try it.

By the way, please enjoy the randomly placed selfies of me in my winner shirt as you read.  🙂

That feeling you feel when you type the last sentence.

It was a long month but it was invigorating.  Not only did I work on my novel every day, but I finished the third class in a creative writing cluster course, wrote a small stack of short stories, continued to read books on writing, finished number book number 66 of 70 novels I pledged to read for the year, and even managed to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family!

Phew!

I never once dreaded any of it.  The more I write, the more motivated I get.  Writers write every day.  It’s the only way to become better at what we do.  It’s the only way to push through the rejections we get (and I got a ton of those, too, during the month of November).

I’m a winner. My shirt says so and that settles it.

So, what’s next? Well, today I am going to work on the book summary and tagline for my novel. The former is basically my 30-second elevator pitch.  Those aren’t my strong suit, so I’m taking some extra time to get that done.

A tagline is that one-liner like what you see on a movie poster.  I will write a slew of those and then let my friends on Facebook vote for the best one.

The novel itself is going to sit untouched for about three weeks.  Then I’ll bring my fresh eyes to it and do my first round of editing.  After that, I’ve carefully selected some beta readers to test the waters.  I have a set of questions that go along with the book.  This will help me to see what works and what doesn’t.

After that, I find a professional editor to tear apart — I mean read — my novel.  Then I find a publishing house to publish it.

No matter how much you write, you must write more.

But I am going to celebrate a little bit today.  This was a major accomplishment!  And then I’m going to continue to write.

Every day.

Writers write and then write some more.  I even have a character scratching around in my head and I’m not sure who she is or what she wants but I’m going to storm write and she where she takes me.  To tell the truth, I’m a little sad that NaNoWriMo is over.  It’s nice to have that support from other writers.  This writing life is very solitary, and I don’t mind that, but every once in a while it’s nice to opine the daily struggles with other writers in the craft.

So, onward we go! I have every confidence that my tagline here on my website will be changing from “pre-published author” to “author” very soon!

I leave you with this quote that is one of many that seems to sum up this precious writing life:

“Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.” —Jim Tully, WD

Until next time, my beloved readers!

A final shot before I bid you adieu.

 

 

A Fall Haiku

I love fall.  The colors actually take my breath away.  I was driving home and saw this tree standing out among a sea of green. I pulled over and took a picture and as I walked back to my car I wrote a haiku in my mind.

Sap returns to roots
Making leaves die in color
Beauty in the change

Don’t you just love fall?

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

There is a smell that signals the arrival of fall and I anxiously await its arrival every year.

Pumpkin spice.

It has magical powers that make me feel like getting cozy in front of a roaring fireplace with a good book or a knitting project.

My first whiff of this nostalgia comes when I go into the craft store in September for some yarn for myself or sketch books for my daughter.  As soon as the doors slide open the smell swarms around me and grabs me by my nose and leads me right to the basket where the scented sachets are tossed artfully into a basket in the fall display. “It’s fall!” they say and since they’re only a dollar piece I throw three or four of them in my little red shopping basket.

At home, I put one at my desk, another on my nightstand, and another in the living room near my rocking chair. I save the fourth for emergencies. As I go about my daily routines, I catch whiffs of my little sachet friends.  I breathe in deep.  Ahh, aroma therapy at its best.

Pumpkin spice.  The perfect blend of cinnamon and Allspice with tiny undercurrents of nutmeg. It evokes images of families gathered around tables for Thanksgiving dinners; of trees displaying the warm, inviting colors of fall; of pumpkin patches and hayrides and faces painted for Halloween; of warm apple cider and sweet potato pie; of cozy knit hats and scarves.

Sometimes I smother my face in the sachet and take a deep breath in and I feel my soul exhale. I breathe in again and meditate on the things I want in life and envision myself already having them because the pumpkin spice makes me content and when I’m content I’m more confident.

I take long walks with the sachet in my hand and I watch fall paint its feelings on trees and bushes and fall flowers and I am grateful for life and the simple pleasures it sprinkles all around me. I feel as if I could grow wings and glide carefree on the invisible thermals that carry me left and right and down and back up again while I yell “woooohooooo!” as if I’m on my favorite roller coaster racing up and down and sideways and around and around. Nothing bad can touch me, no worries can weigh me down.

Yes, pumpkin spice is joie de vivre in a bag.