Archive for December, 2013

New Picture Prompt: The View

In reality, this photo was taken from the top of Willis Tower (usually still known as the Sears Tower) in Chicago, IL, USA. If that doesn’t strike a chord with you, write from your own perspective. Happy writing to you! 🙂

Memories: Replacement

The memories always came back the same way. I would be going about my daily life and someone or something would remind me of them: my two close friends who were no longer my close friends.

Don’t worry, they didn’t die or anything. They were simply replaced in my life. Not that anyone could replace them…not really, anyways.

The memories, vivid as they were, shut everything else out. If I was having a conversation, I would go on auto by saying “yes” and “uh-huh” repeatedly. If I was working on something, my fingers would keep moving but no longer have a purpose until the memory played out.

It was sort of like being tasered. Or what I imagine being tasered might be like…

The last memory that had accosted me was still laying somewhere in my mind, like a lily pad in a pond.

I let myself explore it once more.

“You know, Cathy, I couldn’t imagine not having you in my life. I don’t know how that would even work!” My friend Beth told me as she plucked a leaf from a tree and admired it.

Todd piped in with, “It’s odd, but I think I actually agree with Beth, here.”

“This is so unfortunate, I think I’m simply going to fall to pieces,” Beth replied as she ripped the leaf she had to shreds.

I laughed at them, throwing my hair back and noticing the trees and just how tall they were. I wondered how many other groups of friends had walked along this path.

“I’m so glad I can trust you two,” I told them warmly. They smiled back at me and at each other but their smiles didn’t last nearly as long as mine did. I didn’t even wonder why, at the time.

I know why now.

They were never really true to me, oh no they weren’t. They were only using me. And in the end, I was only using them until I found their replacement.

 

 

 

Merry Christmas to our readers

Merry Christmas to our readers

Writing for the Holidays

by: Rebecca Taylor

For this month’s writing reflection, I decided to share with you all of the wonderful things I like about when writing about the holidays.

 

  • You get to incorporate the food into the story and make your readers smell it, taste it and try it right along with your characters. If there is a food mishap, they might laugh or cry too. Maybe, your character gets invited to multiple Christmas meals, and mixes them up, so instead of bringing her cranberry gelatine salad that everyone has been hoping for, for weeks, she shows up with a tortiere.
  • Emotions can run high in a story all year round, but when it comes to the holidays, tension tends to be higher. Maybe last Christmas, your character had a major break-up and is now soured against the holidays, or her boyfriend has had to be away on business all year round and she will now be able to have his undivided attention over the holiday season.
  • Christmas is the time for miracles, so whether you write about something divine or a new holiday perspective, amazing things could be in store for your characters.
  • There are so many holiday symbols that can be incorporated into your story – mistletoe and love, snow in places you don’t often see it, Santa Claus and believing, stars and wishes, Christmas trees and ornamental memories. The list could go on forever. Some of these scenarios have been used before, but have some fun and choose one and make it your own.

 

I hope my holiday thoughts have inspired you to write your own holiday story. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas this year. 

Remember the Unmentionables

There are blogs and books and and conferences  out there that seem to know it all. Visit their website, pages or location and it’s filled with the advice of what seems like seasoned experts who went to some Worldly Writing Academy and have gained Great Knowledge.

What I think writers forget to remember (myself included) is that no one knows it all. Writers forget the unmentionable fact of how, while you could define the word writing and picture the act of writing, it is an intangible concept.People forget about the disclaimer the author inserts on how the tricks and tips they are giving are simply what worked for them and not necessarily what works for everyone.

I think that, once in a while, we forget that there is no Worldly Writing Academy and that sometimes we need to forge our own advice. That sometimes Great Knowledge and the intangible degree from WWA is not something you study for. Its something you practice at.

Its all about looking at the unmentionable fact that no one knows it all. We write to learn it all.

3 Websites That Could Boost Your Writing Session

I cannot lie; sometimes the internet is a big distraction when I write. Sometimes I disconnect my computer from the Wi-Fi signal so I won’t have the urge to check Facebook if I hit a rough spot in my story. On the other hand, the internet is filled with countless resources for writers. Here’s three sites I’ve found to be especially helpful.

1. www.wordle.net

I have a lot of fall back words – those boring, vague and cliché things I type when I’m feeling lazy or just unimaginative. Some of my apparent favorite words are lame things like very, few, rather, and quite. With this site, you can create word clouds based on the most common words in your manuscript. This is extremely helpful, since it is much easier to strengthen your word choices once you know what your weak ones are. Go to the website, click create, paste in the text of your story, and discover your fall back words.

2. www.culturecrossing.net

Ever written a story set in a country where you’ve never gone? Wondering if what you wrote matches the real life culture of the location? Culture Crossing will provide you with information on many cultural issues specific to that country. This site is not made specifically for writers, but it offers fascinating information that will help you get the details right.

3. www.pinterest.com

Pinterest. I saved my favorite for last. First, let me start by saying that Pinterest should be used in moderation. No using it for when you are just too lazy to write. Use it for occasional inspiration. Seriously, there is real danger in becoming a Pinterest addict.

Pinterest has a variety of already compiled boards of writing prompts. My favorite is Amanda Patterson’s Writing Prompt board. Also, Pinterest is great for finding pictures of potential characters, settings and objects that spark something in your mind. There are boards out there for everything. For example, there’s a board with currently over 700 pins of brunette characters. What if there’s a story idea waiting for you there? For a previous story, Ghost Town, my character Talia and her ensuing story was inspired from one picture on Pinterest. Read the full story and see the pin that inspired it.

Do you see how there can be countless stories waiting to be told?

 

What online resources do you use?

Memories for a Hero

**Previously published by Perspectives Magazine**

by: Rebecca Taylor

           It is cold outside and snowflakes are dancing around the window making patterns on the glass. Inside, I am warm. The electric fireplace is on and the Christmas tree is aglow with its colourful lights and decorations. My friend just placed me beneath the tree’s beautiful branches. I am wrapped in gold paper that shimmers and am ready to be opened tomorrow if my recipient makes it home as he plans. I am a photo album filled with special memories collected by my friend fourteen year old Janey Merritt. As Janey worked on me, I could feel the emotions surge through her fingertips. The love she has for my recipient, her father, Lieutenant Peter Merritt fills me. The pictures and captions she has created swell within me. I am filled from cover to cover. The anticipation is everywhere in this house, I can feel it sitting down here with the other gifts. We sit together all waiting for our turns to be unveiled come morning. Each package is different, but we all have a common goal, to have our recipient enjoy us and be happy with the choice our giver made. 

            “Is it morning yet?” asked a small present wrapped in paper with a reindeer design on it.

            “Not yet,” I reply, “if we are quiet, Santa Claus will soon be coming and then in a while, the family will get up. I hope Lieutenant Peter makes it home in this snow.”

            “I’m scared,” said a present that was sitting inside a gift bag. What if Mrs. Merritt doesn’t like me?”

            “Why wouldn’t she like you?” I asked.

            “I don’t know. I’m a sweater and Timmy wasn’t sure if his mother would like me because I’m pink and he liked me better than the yellow one but….”

            “It’s the thought that counts,” I answer, “I’m sure she’ll like you. Everything I’ve seen of her tells me she’s a great person. I’m filled with photos of her and the rest of the Merritt family.”

            Just then the light outside the house came on and the gifts heard the thump that comes with the closing of a car door. This was followed by the rattling of the doorknob in the kitchen and the blowing snow that whooshed into the room. Lieutenant Merritt closed the door and walked into the living room in his military uniform to look at the splendour of the tree, which cloaked us.

 “It’s good to be home,” he said speaking to the room, which was empty except for us, the tree and the furniture.  The lieutenant placed some packages beneath the tree and then he quietly walked up the stairs. Later on in the night, Santa Claus came and gave us some more friends to get acquainted with.

The business of Christmas Day settled upon the Merritt family as it began to get light outside. When the children, Timmy and Janey greeted their father, their lasting hugs brought tears to my eyes and I had to rush to dry them because nobody likes a soggy present and I knew that Janey wouldn’t appreciate having the special gift she had worked so hard on be ruined by my waterworks. I was excited at the same time because I knew that I was the perfect thing for a man like Lieutenant Merritt. He has all the material possessions he desires and a family that adores him. Me, I am a souvenir of his life and what makes him special to his family and especially his teenage daughter.

When breakfast was finished, both Mrs. and Lieutenant Merritt’s parents joined the Merritts and the family settled into the living room onto the chairs around the tree to open the gifts below. When it came time for my grand opening, Janey handed me to her father and then stood by his side to watch him open it. He tore back my paper and was met with my face, which held a family photo taken the previous spring. He opened me up to find the message that Janey had written to her father. It said, Daddy, to the world you are a hero because you’re a soldier who has to go and fight to protect everyone’s freedom. You will always be my hero because you’re my Daddy. I want you to have this album for when you can’t be with us, so you can remember all the good times we have and come back home to us. Love you always, Janey. Lieutenant Merritt set me on the table beside him and stood to embrace his daughter once again.

“Thank you, Janey,” he whispered tears spilling from the corners of his deep blue eyes. “You, your mom and your brother, are my heroes because you’re the ones who are here having to deal with me being gone so much. I will always treasure this album, whether I’m overseas or home, it is precious. I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Daddy,” answered Janey.

I had to struggle once again not to let the emotions of this wonderful day get to me. Later that evening, Lieutenant Merritt sat by himself in the living room, I sat on his knee and he looked over my pages, admiring the photos some of which he had never seen before. I have missed so much, he thought, but that is a sacrifice that I agreed to undertake. My daughter couldn’t have given me a better present. Having my children be born was the best gift I have ever received. They are so precious to me. I pray that I will always make it home to them and my wife, so that they will not have to face what life is like when you lose someone you love. I’m going to make the best of my three months leave and let them know how much they mean to me. I’m going to make memories that could fill another album. Feeling Lieutenant Merritt’s love as he looked through me was an amazing feeling. I have discovered that Christmas is a very special time of year, one where people try to choose something to give those they love that has enough meaning to show how they feel. Miracles really do happen at Christmas. The snow could have kept the Merritt family apart but they ended up together for this special holiday. I feel blessed to have been able to spend it with them. I’m looking forward to my life with the Merritt family.  I know that I will be treasured forever and that is an wonderful feeling.

           

 

Shout Out

This week I want to give a shout out to this post rather than my story: http://thewritersalleys.blogspot.com/2013/12/novel-habits-and-holidays.html

 

Enjoy your week and happy reading and writing 🙂

Masquerade

Majestic Theatre. From behind the heavy, scarlet curtain, the theatre felt more ominous than majestic. I’d done this musical dozens of times – as an extra, of course. Tonight was different. Tonight was the first night my role as under study was being put to good use.

“Ava, you have two minutes.” Shawn was at my side. A smile inevitably formed on my face. The role of assistant director suited him well. We’d seen each other through our four years at Julliard. Somehow we bonded over nail-biting auditions and cruel rejections from theatre companies. After graduation, when we were invited to be a part of the Phantom of the Opera set in New York City, I couldn’t believe my luck. We were great friends, and he had a calming and yet invigorating effect on me. Of course, he had yet to know that. “You ready?”

I forced myself to pay attention. I am Christine Daae. Raul is the one that thinks of me fondly. I squared my shoulders, or at least squared as much as my laced dress would allow. “Who’s Ava?”

He grinned. “Good.” He scribbled something on his clipboard.

Adrenaline surged through my body and I took a deep, soothing breath to calm the fluttering in my stomach. It didn’t work. I am Christine Daae. I have nothing to fear. I’m not even afraid of the Phantom.

Music swelled. I stepped out from between the side curtains. The royal theatre didn’t intimidate me as much as it used to, but the sea of faces still made me slightly queasy. I sang out the opening lines with precise accuracy.

“Can it be? Can it be Christine?” Raul’s voice sang from the other end of the set.

Throughout the entire performance, I allowed myself to feel it. I was Christine Daae. I was in love with Raul, my childhood sweetheart. We had so many memories in store, and we couldn’t help but wanting to make more. He was terribly gentle and safe. What more could I want? We concealed an engagement, but then there was the Phantom. He thought himself to be so beastly, but I could see he, like everyone, had his own beauty. Everyone else told me to stay away, for we all knew what he was capable of. Yet I knew he was simply a wounded man, and I could hardly blame another human for being in pain.

Time flew on like a runaway kite, and suddenly the end was upon us. I did not think the Phantom to be at all ugly, but I knew choosing Raul was the only way. Everyone disapproved of the Phantom – and perhaps they had reason to after all. What sort of future would we have together?

The main curtains slid shut over the ending scene. The crowd roared and echoed with applause and praise.  First I, then Raul, the Phantom and the rest of the cast filed on stage, each of us taking our respective bows.

An hour later, I slipped out of the VIP section backstage. After spending so much time with special guests who sprinkled me with the highest of compliments, I was torn between two options: ripping out my hair from the shallowness, or letting it all go to my head.

I retreated to the dressing room and became engrossed with the tedious task of unlacing my dress. With each lace I loosened, I envisioned a different scene from that night’s performance.

A knock sounded on the door. “Ava, that you?” Shawn’s muffled voice called.

I grunted a yes, as I finally stepped out of the dress.   “I was wondering if –”

“I can’t hear you, Shawn. Hold on.” I threw on my T-shirt and Jeans. Rather than bothering to brush out my hair sprayed ringlets, I placed a baseball cap over the mess. While I enjoyed the ritz of the theatre, when I was off duty, I was the most casual woman in the universe.

I threw open the dressing room door. “What was that?”

He blinked. “You look beautiful.”

“I still have all that make up on.” I touched my face.

“I didn’t mean your make up; I meant you.”

I paused and pretended to dig around in my purse. I found my car keys –  the perfect distraction. “I really should be getting home.”

His hand grazed my arm as I started to walk away. “Actually, would you care for a bite to eat?

There’s that Italian bistro over on 35th street.” I didn’t answer, and so he continued good-naturedly. “I was meaning to ask you before the show, but in all the back stage drama, I couldn’t find you until just before you went on stage. I didn’t want to distract you then.”

I flashed a smile. “Thanks, but I have other engagements.”

“You sounded like Christine there,” he said, grimacing slightly.

I laughed. “I did not. That’s what I sound like.”

“You both sound the same to me.” Now he was starting to look a bit hurt that I hadn’t taken him up on his offer. “Tell me, in your life’s cast, am I Raul or the Phantom?”

“What?”

“Am I the one you gently reject?”

“That’s not fair, Shawn.” I crossed my arms. “You know I love doing things together. But tonight I have to –”

“Ava, your excuses don’t work anymore.” His eyes pleaded with me to change my mind. “You live in a flat with your gerbil. You’ve told me you always go straight home after shows, make homemade spaghetti, and watch I Love Lucy reruns. I know you don’t have any plans tonight.”

I’d really told him all that? I supposed I’d forgotten how well we knew each other. I paused and all that I’ve ever been told about Shawn flashed back in my mind. When my mother had met Shawn once, she’d told me not to be like her. “Don’t be careless, Ava. Don’t get attached too easily,” were her exact words. That was when she knew we were just friends. She always said she just “didn’t want me to get hurt,” but it frustrated me. Now more than ever, it worried me. When my younger sister Millie learned that my best friend was male, she told me to watch my back. She was never convinced we were just friends anyways, although that really was the truth. While she was solid five years my junior, Millie had a lot more experience with heartbreak than I did. Her first boyfriend ended up in jail. He was a drug dealer, but hid it well. Her consecutive boyfriends had their own set of problems – a kleptomaniac who stole her clothes and then a liar who claimed didn’t already have a wife. My mother’s romantic life started off on the wrong foot when my father left as soon as he found out I was on the way. Clearly, the women of my family weren’t likely to be naive hopeless romantics.

I thought back to what I’d said just seconds before. “That’s not fair.” It certainly wasn’t fair to Shawn. Perhaps there had been something growing deep inside my heart these last few years. I knew I had suppressed before it could surface. Whenever he’d suggest we do something outside of study sessions or line rehearsals, I’d back down. I always had a family thing or a headache or a special appointment. He’d only been a gentleman, and I’d forced him to wait for me to grow a brain.

It was all only a few seconds, but with the thoughts pressing on my brain, it felt like hours of contemplation. He frowned slightly and nodded. “Well, have fun with Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, then. Goodnight, Christine.”

Okay, that stung. “Shawn.” I jogged after him in my flip-flops. “Wait.” I knew now that being good on stage wasn’t good enough. I had to have enough of me inside me to be honest with those I loved most. I couldn’t let myself act my way out of things anymore.  For the first time, I was becoming alright with that.

A Family Christmas

By: Rebecca Taylor

 

Looking at this week’s prompt made me think of a chapter from a novel I’d written and while I know you don’t know the characters in my book, I thought you might enjoy this festive chapter. Feedback is appreciated and if you like what you’ve read, perhaps I’ll share more of Lee and Lilyana’s lives with you. It is important to note that this is fiction and Thanksgiving and Christmas have their own unique schedule in my make believe town.

 

            The first weekend in November arrived, and with it so did Thanksgiving. Lilyana had settled into married life easily over the past three months and was happy to have Lee home for the holidays.

            “Of everything I have, waking up with you each morning reminds me how precious love is,” said Lilyana as she lay in bed, Lee’s arms wrapped around her Thanksgiving morning.

            “And I’m thankful to have you; I thank God for you every morning when I wake up and every night when I go to bed.”

            “I wish we didn’t have to get up right now, lying here with you feels so good but I have a turkey to put in the oven if we’re going to have our dinner party. I’m glad Nan helped me cook one yesterday for in the bunkhouse.”

            “Then I guess we’d better get up, I’ll come have my coffee with you, and then I’ll head out to the barn while you get our feast cooking.”

            Over the next several hours, Lilyana cooked and cleaned. Nan eventually joined in helping her. At dinnertime, a delicious meal of turkey, biscuits, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, peas and pumpkin pie was served and enjoyed by Lilyana, Lee, John, Nan, Mac, Ally, Wade, Dustin and Rosamunde. Since the wedding, Lee had been able to manage his jealousy towards Dustin because he had Lilyana and Dustin had found someone to love too. At dinner, Ally and Wade announced that they were going to get married in the New Year.  

            The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas passed quickly on the ranch and it came time to put up the Christmas tree. Lee and a bunch of the ranch hands including Mac had gone out to get three trees – one for the ranch house, one for the bunkhouse and one for Nan and Mac’s cabin. Inside the ranch house, Lilyana brought the decorations, which she and her parents had collected over the years into the living room and started going through the boxes. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a red sweater, and was humming to a Christmas song that was on the radio. John came in from the office where he was doing paperwork. He was smiling as he watched his daughter’s enthusiasm. Since she’s married Lee, she has been so happy. Last year she pretended to enjoy the holidays but this year she’s really into it.

            “Hi, Daddy,” said Lilyana looking up from one of the boxes, “this is Mother’s angel collection. We haven’t put it out in a while, what do you think if we did this year?”

            “I think that would be just fine,” he answered touching Lilyana’s shoulder. Hannah would be happy seeing her angels out this year. I think we’ve only put them out one or two times since she died, putting them out was just too much of a reminder of what we had lost and then last year with Lee gone Lilyana wasn’t in a real holiday mood.

            When Lee and Jeff Dawes came in with the tree and set it up, the angels were on display on one windowsill and so was the crèche on another. Once Jeff had gone out to the bunkhouse to help with the tree there, Lee kissed Lilyana on the cheek.

            “Where do we start?” he asked, “This is the first year when I’m really going to have a tree, it’s not going to be the one in the school house from when I was a boy, or the bunkhouse tree or the Vance’s tree like last year. This year, I’m going to really have a tree. This year I won’t be intruding on somebody else’s tradition.”

            “This year and many more to come,” said Lilyana wrapping her arm around his waist. “We start with the lights, we have clear ones or multicoloured ones, we have to decide which.”

            “Which ones do you think we should have, you know what decorations we have to go with them.”

            “I think the clear ones,” she answered, “sometimes we alternate but I think you’ll like the way the clear ones really show off our decorations.”

            Our decorations, thought Lee, I like the sound of that, especially when my wife says it. I really like the sound of that.

Lee and Lilyana put the lights on the tree, John watched from the sofa smiling as Lilyana brought Lee up to date on tree decorating Moderna style.

            “Will you put the star on top?” asked Lilyana, “You’re tall enough to be able to reach; if I do it I’ll need the ladder.”

Lee took the star from Lilyana and positioned it on the top of the tree. Next he and Lilyana arranged the rest of the decorations around the tree and then they plugged in the tree to show off the beauty of the glowing lights and the star.

            “I like it,” said Lilyana as she and Lee stood back admiring the tree.

            “Me too,” answered Lee taking Lilyana’s hand in his.

            “It is beautiful as always,” answered John, “although I think this year it is really something.”

            “And it was fun,” replied Lilyana.

            “It isn’t always?” asked Lee.

            “I’m feeling festive this year,” she answered. “We’re having Christmas together. I’ve missed you the last two.”

            “Well we’re going to make this one very special,” answered Lee.

            On Christmas Eve, a party was held at the ranch house where all the ranch hands and many friends from town were invited. Everyone who was invited came, except for Dustin and Rosamunde who had gone their separate ways for the holidays – Dustin home to Pastime to see his family and Rosamunde to Holdings to see hers. There was dancing and Christmas carols, baked goodies and hot apple cider.

            This is joy, thought Lilyana, and peace, that feeling that everything is going to be all right. After all that time of debating about my relationship with Lee, now I have something so wonderful, it’s an unreal feeling, a great feeling.

            When everyone had gone home for the night, and Lee and Lilyana were finally in bed, it was past midnight.

            “Merry Christmas,” said Lee kissing Lilyana.

            “Merry Christmas,” answered Lilyana returning his kiss before snuggling under the warmth of the covers and putting her head on Lee’s chest. “Good night.”

            When daylight came, they went downstairs to make coffee. Lilyana started the pancakes and Lee sat keeping her company in the kitchen. Outside snow was falling; big flakes were swirling around the windowpanes.

            “I’m glad we had our party yesterday,” said Lilyana, “we might end up with quite the storm.”

            “Yes, but by now everyone has been home for hours, safe and enjoying their Christmas too. And for the first time in my life, I am having a real Christmas, one where I belong. Last year with the Vances was nice, but it was their Christmas that I was intruding on, this year I feel like I’m a part of something.”

            “That’s because you belong with me.”

            A little while later John joined them for breakfast and then the three of them went into the living room to open presents. Lilyana gave Lee a new saddle.

            “Thank you,” he said. Mine is starting to wear out and this one is a beauty.”

            “You’re welcome,” she answered, “I hope Rusty agrees with my choice.”

            “He will,” said Lee handing her a large gift-wrapped package. Inside was a quilt, big enough for a double bed. It was similar to the one she had on the bed in her old room, the one her mother had made her. The blues, browns and reds blended together in an old fashioned country pattern. Lilyana rubbed her fingers over the soft fabric.

            “Lee, it’s beautiful, it’s just the thing for our room.”

            “I saw you looking at your quilt one day, I know that your mother didn’t make this one but it is made with love, hand stitched by the ladies at the quilt shop in town.”

            “And I’ll love it always because it’s from you.”

            And I plan to love it too, with you under it, thought Lee smiling as he put his arm around Lilyana’s shoulder from his place beside her on the sofa.

 

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