Monthly Archives: February 2016

Short Story

I wrote this back in November/December for a feature that was being done. It was published in the January/February issue of BTS magazine. If you missed it there, as tomorrow is March – here it is again.

 

What they didn’t know
Savannah Verte

 

They thought she was a boy. Morgan’s mis-matched clothes, outgrown bowl haircut, and second hand sneakers hid every detail of who she was. The kids had ignored her since long before they were old enough to form the cliques they now claimed and the teachers were indifferent, the by-product of a system where everyone did the least they were required to do to get by, and it was allowed.

For years they thought she was mute, or dumb. Few had ever heard her speak. Many had seen her sign to her grandmother at the curb when she was dropped off, but none had bothered to find out why. The administration knew her story but were too overburdened to share it or try to draw her out of the hard little shell she had erected around herself. No one had seen her father in years though they knew he was around. No one knew who her mother was. Morgan was just another kid to everyone around her.

It was high school before anyone saw anything more. Miss Foster, the music teacher, looked at Morgan suspiciously as she walked down the hall past her room. Someone had been humming. The Doppler effect of the sound had grown and faded with Morgan’s course. Could it be? She wondered out loud to her empty classroom. She simply had to know. Not that her workload was less than anyone else’s, she went out of her way to find out more about the introverted child. Her heart cleaved and broke to read the story.

Morgan had been born a twin. Her mother had not survived the birth. A brother no one seemed to know about, was impaired and in a home with others of his abilities so he could have the round the clock care that was needed. Morgan lived with her father, but he worked two jobs to keep his son in the facility and a home for him and his daughter. Notes from registration and previous conferences about Morgan revealed that the grandmother was deaf and mute, but also a primary caregiver making sure Morgan went to school and was fed while her father worked. Other notes indicated that while Morgan could speak and was quite bright, she just communicated better with ASL than words.

The music teacher could not imagine it and determined upon closing the file that this could not be the end of the story for this girl. She watched Morgan for several weeks, waiting until just before fall break to approach her.

“Morgan Gaffen.” Miss Foster called quietly from her doorway.

Morgan stopped but did not respond or immediately turn. Her inset eyes were wide and conveyed more than a little fear as she turned halfway at the calling of her name.

“I’m Miss Foster, Erin Foster. I’m the music teacher here.” It was said with careful quiet phrasing. “I understand that you know sign language.”

Morgan only nodded in response. Her guard was still quite obviously raised in silent alarm.

“Can I talk to you? I have an idea, but I really need some help. I think you might be able to help me.” Erin continued, watching Morgan carefully as each word registered. When she stood still but didn’t move to get away, Erin pushed a little farther.

“Would you like to come in and sit down?”

Morgan drew back but didn’t step back. Erin didn’t want to rush her, so she amended her request. “Or, we can stand here too if that’s more comfortable.”

Morgan nodded. Erin thought she heard an ‘okay’ squeak out, but it was so soft she couldn’t be sure. Standing in the hallway just beyond her room, she presented her idea.

“I’d like to have someone sign the songs and stories for the Winter Festival.”

Morgan’s eyes were again wide but from interest more than fear this time. No one had ever asked her to participate in anything. Skepticism crept up. She had come to the festival for years through grade school and middle school, no one had ever signed before that she could remember. Why would they start now, and why ask her? Erin didn’t miss the change of emotion flash across Morgan’s usually stoic face.

“There is a class of deaf children at one of the grade schools. They are never invited to the festival performance because they cannot hear it. I thought,” she shrugged, “that if you could sign the songs, then maybe they could be invited for a change.”

Morgan’s jaw dropped. She knew all too well about how different groups were excluded or over-looked for things. She was one of those groups all by herself, but she didn’t say so. Erin thought she was making headway and pressed on.

“I understand your grandmother is deaf. It might be nice for her to get to come too.” She added quietly hoping that her knowledge wasn’t more than the girl could take.

Morgan’s lips were pressed together and a tear ran down her cheek. She brushed it away quickly. She knew she was going to have to speak. Erin watched as the girl cleared her throat and licked her lips. When she replied it was quiet and her voice shook. “She would probably like that.”

Erin didn’t want to overdo it. “I tell you what, we probably should make sure it’s okay with your family before we go any farther. How about you come by after classes and I’ll have a note explaining what I’m asking and why that you can take home. If dad and grandma agree, we’ll talk more. Okay?”

Morgan nodded. “Okay.”

By mid-December it was all set. Morgan had been working with her grandmother to make sure she had the signs right for everything that had been chosen. They decided that Morgan did not need to come in until the day of Festival performances, but would work to recordings of the choirs singing to have the tempos for the music. Corralling a class of kids was enough without the distraction of them watching her sign. Erin was sure they would not get much accomplished that way.

The week before the performances Morgan appeared in the doorway to the music room after school. Erin was busy tearing down the day but stopped to see why she was there. “Is everything okay?”

Morgan held out a note from her father. Erin took the paper and wept at the request.

 

Miss Foster,

We’ve not met, but I want to thank you. Your request to have Morgan be part of the program this year has reminded all of us of what is important. I have a request in return for you. Morgan’s brother Michael, and others like him where he lives, do not get invited to participate in things either. Some are hearing impaired and Morgan has been signing to them the songs she has been practicing. Is there any way that they could be invited to a performance?

                                                                              Mike Gaffen

 

Erin quickly scribbled a response. She knew that the afternoon performance would be to a full house but that the morning one had plenty of room. There would be parents and other families there too as they were given the option to come since no evening performances were to be held. There was no reason she could see to deny the request. She would do whatever was necessary to make the invitation happen, and she did.

Thirteen children were wheeled in or escorted in with a caregiver. They sat around the perimeter of the room, mostly fidgeting, but generally quiet. The parents milled in too, many complaining about work and deadlines, shopping and other trivial things. Morgan listened absently. Lastly came in the class of hearing impaired children. They were seated down front near the side where Morgan would be.

Once the choir was set, Miss Foster invited her special guest up to the stage. The kids in the choir had been told someone would be signing, they had no idea it would be Morgan. More than one jaw dropped as she came up to the stage in a simple green dress with her hair pulled back behind a headband. They nearly didn’t recognize her.

The stories were told and the songs sung. Morgan signed them all. She even smiled as she watched the class of hearing impaired children sign with her once they knew which piece was being performed. Near the end, several of the children from Michael’s group home were restless. They could only really sit still and be quiet for so long. She heard Michael, and she heard her father’s voice as he tried to quiet him. She didn’t know he had come. He should be sleeping at this hour. She was happy and sad to hear his voice as it wasn’t working to quiet Michael down.

Her heart sank as she noticed them start to take Michael from the room, but she kept signing. Miss Foster noticed the change in the girl, walked over between numbers and asked quietly if there was anything she could do. Morgan asked if there was a pause that could be taken or something so she could step out in the hall and calm him down. She knew what to do but couldn’t from the stage. Erin told the audience there would be a brief pause, but they would be right back.

Morgan jumped from the stage and caught up to them just outside the doors. The conversation, while private, didn’t stay private as it carried through the door into the auditorium.

“Don’t go. Not yet. His favorite is coming up. He doesn’t get to come out that much, please.”

“Morgan, we know. He did his best. We just want everyone else to get to enjoy the rest of the performance. You did great honey.”

Morgan had to try. Without further conversation, the choirs listened as Morgan sang to her brother unaware that she could be heard. The audience too eventually caught the words as Morgan sang ‘Believe’ from The Polar Express to her brother. The auditorium went quiet as the sound carried through to them. All the hectic and crazy that had come into the room with them suddenly wasn’t so big or problematic.

When she was done, there was no further conversation. Michael was brought back in, set just inside the doors, and Morgan returned to the stage. It took all of two seconds for her to figure out that she’d been heard. She was not embarrassed but didn’t want to dwell on it. Believe was one of Michael’s favorite songs in the winter. He didn’t know it was the last one on the program and she didn’t want him to miss it. She hand gestured Miss Foster to continue so that he could stay for the end.

The story and two songs before Believe passed quickly. Finally the full choir stood up to sing. Morgan was watching Michael to see his reaction and wasn’t watching the stage. A tap on her shoulder startled her. A girl she didn’t know but had seen around school, was standing there. Morgan instinctively drew back as the girl leaned in to whisper.

“We decided when you were in the hall. You should sing this if you’re up to it. We’ll back you up. We didn’t know.”

Morgan missed a few of the words signing and singing at the same time. Thankfully, once she started, the class down front had all joined in. They all knew the song and were signing to everyone else. Morgan watched Michael and sang to him. It was the only way she would manage to do this. She didn’t notice the adults crying, or other children smiling. She smiled for him and sang for him.

When it was over and the house lights came up, Morgan knew it had been worth it. Michael was smiling and her father was crying. Next to them was gran signing applause. It was better than any ‘thank you’ or ‘you did great honey’ that had ever been. There had been gifts given that day by people who didn’t know they gave them or to whom. They might never know, and that was okay with Morgan because what they didn’t know was that dreams come true in strange places and that day, her family was together.

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting close

I am getting more nervous and excited each day. The first conference that I am going to this year is less than 6 weeks away! Everything is starting to come together.

All of my swag has been ordered and the last of it should be arriving this week. Most of the books have been ordered and should be arriving any day. I have all the items to make a basket for the raffle.

I got all of the containers so that I can try and organize my tote. I am hoping that I will be able to get everything in there, but don’t really think I will.

I am using the same stand up banner as last year. I did order a banner for the front of my table with my logo on it and it has already arrived. I absolutely LOVE it!

I have signed up to be on panels at the conference and marked the ones that I want to attend. I have scheduled a photo shoot that I am extremely excited about! I can’t wait to see those pictures and share them with you all!!

There is a villains ball at the conference. I have gotten my costume and all the accessories are here. My friend will be showing me how to do the make up for it soon.

It sounds like I have it all under control right? Then why do I feel like there is still so much more to do? Because I will be going over everything until I leave that’s why. Honestly, even after I leave I will still be going over it all in my head trying desperately to figure out if I have forgotten anything. That is the curse of the chaos in my head.

As you can see I am so excited to get this years events under way. I hope to see all of you at one of the events I go to!

~Miranda

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Coming into the homestretch …

Anyone that reads this blog is probably aware that I’m a first time author. This platform has been a diary of sorts of my journey into the world of writing and getting my first book published. Not only has it been an exciting adventure, it has also been educational and eye opening.

I’m in the home stretch now. This past week, I have been going through the final edits. My publisher preceded the edits with a letter. I read that letter three times before I even glanced at the waiting manuscript. I respect her in so many ways, her advice is not to be ignored if I want to become the best that I possibly can.

I flipped through the manuscript with the edits. My emotional roller coaster began. At first, it wasn’t that bad. Every suggestion she made was a call that made my story stronger, better. I had gone through this with one of my beta readers who is also a decent editor in her own right. I was prepared for this and had no problems.

Then I came across one page that was totally crossed out. Delete. What?? I was confused. I didn’t understand. I was hurt, I pouted. I vented. I left it in. I slept on it. Next day, I deleted it. Why? Because I’m taking the advice of a person that has way more experience than me. She’s got my back and she wants me to succeed. When you have someone like that in your corner, you listen. You heed their advice. Two days later, I understood her call and realized her wisdom. I learned.

I made suggested changes. I’m not going to lie, there are a couple of things I left. It’s my book. I wanted it in there. Besides, it will come up again in the next book. No one knows that but me, however.

I am learning as much as I possibly can, as fast as I can. Phoenix Rising is going to be a book that I will be proud to put my name to, even if it is my pen name. And even though I have the bulk of Book 2 done, I have a hell of a LOT of revising to do. I knew this going in, but in this last week, I have a new way of looking at things … and there is more work to be done before I let anyone see it. Book 3 will just have to simmer.

The last 6 months or so have been the most gratifying time I’ve spent in ages. I have a keen appreciation for authors and the heart and soul they pour onto the page. As a reader, I always enjoyed the story, never seeing the angst that is part of the writing/publishing process. I now straddle the fence and see both sides. And I can honestly say I’m proud to be a part of this world.

Till next week,

~ Madison

                                               300 dpi final

week #9 – It’s “I” week

REPOST
By Abyrne
| May 30, 2013

As I sit and think about this post and all of the “I” words that influence our skill set ((there’s another I word)) that we have that encompass what we know about being a good writer, and have always known; I find that for “I” week, I actually need an “A” word to get it done. Affirmation.

According to my Webster’s Unabridged (big ass, don’t drop it on your foot size) Universal Dictionary;

Affirmation is defined as: “the act of affirming or asserting as true; that which is asserted, positive declaration; confirmation, ratification or a solemn declaration made, under the penalties of perjury, by persons who conscientiously decline taking an oath and is in law equivalent to an oath.”

For this, I will use the “positive declaration” definition.

Do we remember playing on the snow-mounds in the play yard at day-school? Even though we were told not to, we did it. I did. Do we remember getting to the top declaring “I am KING of the mountain”? Usually from the top of our lungs, which invariably called attention to us on the snow-mound we were told not to play on? I digress. Was there any doubt in our mind of our status as King? Nope. We declared it, it was fact. Or, how about our responses to “What are you going to be when you grow up?” I’m going to be an astronaut. No doubt, statement of fact. Am I an astronaut now? No. Let’s contrast this with that little train that kept saying “I think I can, I think I can…” instead of “I know I can”. There is a vast difference in thinking. In the first examples, we are. In the second, we hope.

The question then becomes are you a writer? Do you know it? Do you affirm it to yourself and everyone around you? OR, are you hoping you are a writer telling yourself, “I think I can”. The difference is absolute and will show in what you say, do, and accomplish.

It’s true. While MANY MANY writers have horrible pangs of self doubt and are their own worst critics, they still call themselves “writer.” They sit down, bang away at the keyboards and while loathing their production, have written and claim the title. Do you? If the answer is yes, please jump to item “TWO” below. If the answer is anything but yes, please pause for two things. ONE, to have a serious heart to heart with yourself and decide if you are or if you hope.. If you don’t get to yes, then you need to revisit this more at length I think. If the answer is yes however…go to ’TWO’, which is stand up and shout out loud (because we all can use the kick in the trews), repeating after me…

I. AM. A. WRITER.

Congratulations. Purpose affirmed.

Nuances

A subtle difference  in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound that can make all the difference in the world.

Norman Bates - All rights reserved to original artist.

Norman Bates – All rights reserved to original artist.

Nuances are the things that writers pick up on. It’s the telling signs that the guy sitting next to you on the bus might not be Mr. Squeaky Clean. In fact, to the observant the blood-stain spatters on his shoes and around the ankles of his jeans are obvious. The nervous agitation in which he is constantly scanning and looking out the windows. The  bulge in his backpack that he keeps his hand over could easily be the gun he used to kill with and plans to toss in the river as far as he can throw once he makes certain that no eyes are watching him.

What differentiates him from the guy in the seat behind him who is a nervous, insecure accountant that  is terrified of losing his job and his girlfriend and failing like his father did? He is also scanning and looking around, nervously  touching his briefcase, adjusting his jacket,   and working something over in his pocket that you can’t see.

Which guy would you be concerned about? Which one looks suspicious to you?

It seems obvious doesn’t it? Of course it does! The first guy has blood stains on his pants! DUH!

OK, so what if I added the racial card. Let’s say the first guy is Hispanic and the second one is  white.  Anyone?

“Welcome to my world of fun . . . “

Think like a writer! What is obvious is the subtle nuances.  Some people jump to conclusions because of circumstantial evidence.  If  he looks like a punk, he’s guilty. If he’s different from me, he’s guilty of something.

Danger  lurks where we least expect it. In my world,  my writing world that is, the guy with the blood spatters has just left his job at the slaughter-house and he didn’t move out-of-the-way fast enough before his coworker made the cut. Guy A whose name is Juarez by the way, is pissed because those were his new jeans and he only has 2 pair.  The bundle in his backpack that he is guarding is in fact a present for his mother, and he’s late for dinner because he had to stay after and clean up his coworker’s mess.

Guy B,  mild-mannered insecure accountant Robert has just come from his latest victim’s apartment where he strangled her with piano wire then neatly arranged her corpse before cleaning and leaving.  The used condom and rubber gloves that he wore are in his briefcase. The piano wire is inside of a plastic bag inside his pocket. He acts out the sinful nature  that his mother has warned him about and in an act of defiance to her, and yet  in honor of her he cleanses the world. All of his victims have been hookers, exotic dancers and other “sinful women”.

He is one sick messed up dude! So far he has managed to escape the law and keep his habit secret from even his girlfriend, an upstanding young lady who is a nurse  that works for the local pediatrician.

Be careful where you step, there are land mines inside a writer’s mind.

Till next time ~

Ellie

 

No particular harbor

I’ll never be rich. I know that at this stage in my life, and have managed to come to terms with the revelation. Actually, I think I rather like the idea of it. The only downside is I have a dream of one day sailing off and disappearing away somewhere to read, write, and lie in the sun. No particular harbor calls me to it, just the idea of escaping the world as it exists now, and the direction it seems to be headed. I’ve been stocking my library for decades now. The books are ready to be consumed.

The last year plus a few months have been frantic and discombobulated. I can see more clearly the destructive side of it now that I’m looking back. It didn’t seem quite so lost a cause in the middle. I was sure I could pull out of the funk I was in and make it a tally to the good column. I was mistaken. Only with intervention and a whole lot of support did the spiral still, and eventually move in the upturned direction again.

Fortunately for me…and you, as I think the book coming out before I’ll know how to react yet is better for it. The language is stronger, the scenes are tighter, and I know the story is more fully realized and fleshed out. Some day I’ll go back and pick up the first run of it. I’m not ready to see it just now. I want to take this time to enjoy the success of the one that is and to stand in the light with it, the darkness had its turn.

Kingdoms Fall will be out in the next 21 days. Are you ready? The cover reveal is March 1st…keep an eye open. I think it is stunning.

Read something good!
-Aedan

 

The elusive ‘enough’

I’m no longer young. I know that. I’m not willing to concede middle-aged though. I fight tooth & nail to keep up and stay ahead. Sometimes, I amaze myself, others…not so much.

This last week was a colossal failure of epic proportions. Some things, were absolutely my fault and I take full responsibility for them. Others, well…I recognize that everyone does not drive at the same light speed I engage most days. It was actually a bath tub epiphany Friday night that part of my frustration stems from knowing that everyone isn’t like me, but expecting them to be, and to have the same sense of urgency that I do anyway – even as I know they don’t.

For example. Kingdoms Fall will be out and with me in Biloxi in three weeks give or take. I ordered dragon charms to bead bookmarks for it to have with as well. As of Friday, the charms were still somewhere in transit even though it had been over 30 days since I ordered them. I contacted the seller who asked me to wait an additional 7 days before they would reship or refund. Neither option will help me get the bookhooks done in time. Time to find Plan B.

I had a major editing project that left my desk midweek. I was thankful to send it off to its recipient finally. I had taken several passes through it and wanted it to be just right, so it took a couple extra days, but I think they were worth it. Sitting down at the desk the next night, I found roughly 30 pages under some images I had downloaded for cover work…Ears in the neighborhood likely blistered from the string of words I let out. They were edited, but had gotten separated from the bulk in my busy multi-tasking as I packaged the MS to ship. I had been so consumed with everything else, I didn’t notice that I hadn’t included them until I found them after the fact. EPIC fail!

The work week in the non-writing world was hectic as can happen. I am an operations manager for a Fortune 500 company. Reality doesn’t always cooperate with the expectations from above and it falls to me often to clean up the slack and tighten the line. Missing staff and other management at a conference out-of-state left a bigger slice for me to handle. To claim it went smooth would be a lie. It didn’t. It got done, but…

So, last week was abysmal in a lot of ways. There are other things that happened, or didn’t as the case may be, but who really wants to read the list of shortfalls? Not me and I lived them already. Here’s why I mention it though…

I am a perfectionist. I am a functioning obsessive-compulsive workaholic. I run this little house here and rely often on others to pick up pieces. If they do, or if they do not, at the end of the day…it falls to me and I refuse not to try. I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead.

I’ve been asked when enough will be enough. For me, I think the answer is never. That means that somewhere in the mix, I’m going to lose my mind. I cannot change who I am, and for the frustration that stems from the expectations that I cannot hold others to ever truly meet unless they wish to for themselves, I have to accept that sanity is not amid the litany of what I will achieve or retain.

I am moody. I am ornery. I am demanding. Those who work with me likely have other colorful attributes to describe me and they aren’t wrong. BUT, I am the person you want in your corner in a storm when the world around you scatters to the four corners. I am the one who will die trying because quit is not in my vocabulary. I will learn what I need to learn to make everything happen, or will find someone who can bridge the gaps. Love me or hate me…I’ll always fight for and pursue better; for myself, for my house, for my authors. That is the only ‘enough’ I accept. I’m a Rhino…and damn proud of it.

open magic book, stories and educational stories floating

~Sav

 

Set backs

Everybody has a timetable that they want to follow. As things get marked off or overlooked the time table changes. As a writer I have to be able to go with the flow and adjust to what is going on.

That may seem like an easy task but when you are knocked down on your butt for a week adjusting to a new timetable can be pretty frustrating.

I ended up in the ER last week and had to have emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder. For most people that would be bothersome but not something to cause an upheaval. I am not most people. I have a strict schedule that I follow to make sure that I can get everything done.

I was kept at the hospital from Sunday evening until Tuesday afternoon. Of course I had not taken my laptop with me to the ER so I was left with nothing to work on. Sitting and not doing anything is very difficult for me.

The first day that I was able to sit in the chair and get on my laptop was Friday. By this point I was reaching anxiety attack level at not having gotten anything done. I know that it will all get done in it’s own time, but that doesn’t change the fact that I feel like I need to be doing something.

Anyway, I am a little behind but not too bad on my self-imposed deadlines. I can move things along and all will be well. The good thing about wanting to make sure that nothing is ever late is that I usually have things done early. That has saved me this time. I am no longer early but right on time. That helps me to relax a little more.

Now I just have to remember when I get to the office on Tuesday that not all of the work waiting for me has to be done immediately. I can work my way through it just like any other day.

Till next week, keep on working through it and you will find that it was easier than you thought.

~ Miranda

Chaos, plus some …

For the first time since I started writing my weekly blog with the Bard, I find myself unprepared. It’s been that kind of week. I seem to be a victim of Murphy’s Law. If it could wrong, it did, in spades. I’m trying to rise above the chaos, but it’s a struggle.

Looking back, there have been a few positive notes. I’ve started on Book 3 of my series. OK, it’s a small start, but at least it’s on the board. Really need to learn that plotting idea that Savannah raves about. I think looking into Cherry Adair’s genius might be on the agenda in the near future. My characters have told me the beginning and the ending. They haven’t filled me in on the middle yet. We shall have a talk in the near future.

I’ve gone through Book 2 with my first pass at revisions. There will be more before it’s all said and done, I’m sure. I have time on that one. So it’s not a pressing matter. It’s nice knowing that I have the bulk of it done.

As soon as the Pony Express (local mail delivery leaves a lot to be desired) delivers my manuscript, I’ll be working on the final edits of Book 1. Intense work, and then off to the publisher it goes. Phoenix Rising will finally become a finished product. I can’t say it’s about time. From start to finish, this journey has only taken 6 months. But for this new author it has been an intense journey. One that I have learned so much and still have so much more to learn. It’s been an exhilarating experience.

And in between, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Snagged onto some new authors (to me) that I want to keep track of for future books. I love falling into a good story. And now, it gives me motivation to be a better writer.

I hope you find a good book to fall into. Get swept away for a while.

Till next week,

~ Madison