Archive for March, 2014

A Vegas Vacation

by: Rebecca Taylor

 

            It was supposed to be a getaway, a chance to have some fun and let her hair down but Maisie Monroe had found everything but what she was looking for. And all in front of the tux and bridal store. She had been out for a walk, sightseeing – checking out the interesting facets of Vegas. She thought maybe she’d find one of those pawn shops she was always seeing on television and stop in – maybe even meet a celebrity or two. Instead, she had found reminders of past heartbreak and despair in the form of her ex-fiancé’s brother. To be fair, the engagement had ended three years ago and Maisie was glad that she had seen fit to end the relationship before she married a man who claimed to love her yet refused to accept that she was entitled to have opinions about things. He had tried to use his love to hold her back from meeting people or advancing in her career. Thankfully, she had seen the signs before it was too late.

            “You’re the last person I expected to see in Vegas,” said Tom Banyon.

            “Why is that?” asked Maisie, “You didn’t think someone like I could be attracted to such a booming city?” The edge in her voice made it obvious that the pain she felt from Ryan’s behaviour still existed.

            “It was just a statement,” said Tom, “How’ve you been?”

            “Fine.”

            “That’s good. We’ve missed you, Maisie, just because you broke up with my brother doesn’t mean you had to cut us all off.”

            “Generally that’s how broken engagements work,” replied Maisie, “in order to respect your ex, you don’t become friends with his family anyways.”

            “I know Ryan did and said some things to make you leave, but that doesn’t mean you and I couldn’t get a cup of coffee – after all what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas right?”

            “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” answered Maisie.

            “Come on Maisie, just because my older brother has issues, doesn’t mean you and I have to, what would a cup of coffee hurt? It’s not my first time in Vegas either, let me show you around.”

            “See it starts off a cup of coffee and then ends up being the sights, what next a Vegas wedding chapel? We are standing in front of a bridal and tux store. If that doesn’t send up red flags for you.”

            “Are you superstitious?”

            “Wouldn’t you be?”

            “Why don’t we start with the cup of coffee and see where it leads. I promise I will not marry you on this trip to Vegas,” answered Tom with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

            “Thank you,” answered Maisie, “that means that when I get back home and see sense I will know I didn’t do anything that I cannot undo.”

            “You can undo a marriage – especially a Vegas fast one,” said Tom, “if you want a chance at making it to the alter.”

            “That’s not fair,” answered Maisie walking away.

            “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. It was supposed to be all in fun,” said Tom following her.

            “Do you think it was easy for me to admit that I made a mistake and had to walk away from Ryan and your family? But it wasn’t meant to be, there was no happily ever after there.”

            “Want to talk about it?” asked Tom gently.

            “I think we’ve dredged up enough of the past.”

            “It’s obvious that you’re not over what happened. You wouldn’t be so upset if you were.”

            “Do you have a degree in psychology now?”

            “No, but I can see when someone is hurting.”

            “Please, just leave it. I should be getting back to the hotel anyways.”

            “It’s early still and Vegas doesn’t sleep.”

            “I need time to think. It was nice to see you again.”

            “If you change your mind about coffee or whatever, I’m staying at the Round Tree Hotel.”

            “Are you kidding me?” asked Maisie, “So am I.”

            “Good, then I’ll walk with you.”

            Back at the hotel, Maisie reluctantly agreed to meet Tom for supper later. After all, they were going to be in the same dining room. It was hard to refuse. In her hotel room, Maisie screamed into her pillow. So much for her plan to see some sights, play some slot machines and be free of deadlines and responsibilities for a few days. She hadn’t spoken to any of the Banyon family for three years and now, she was eating supper with the ever so handsome Tom. And to make matters worse, she liked him, and always had. Is it a coincidence that I found him where I did? Ryan’s engaged again, I read that in the paper. What if I have a chance at love, even if it is with his brother? Slow down, Maisie, it’s just supper. We will see where this leads, and wherever it does, I will have to proceed with caution. I know what I want this time, and I’m open to the opportunities supper brings, but I won’t get swept into the romance, first I will think with my head and then ask my heart what it thinks. I won’t let a Vegas romance take over. What happens in Vegas, really should stay there. Unless it doesn’t…anyways, I will have something to tell my friends back home.

One little chapel

One little chapel

To take a girls name

Switched for a ring

 

One little chapel

Seemingly a hollow place

No one knows

The lady behind the counter

 

One little chapel

With a few cheap seats

For the couple-in-waiting

 

One little chapel

On a street in Vegas

With a bright open sign

And white picket fencing

 

One little chapel

For you to enter

Yet never truly leave

 

One little chapel

Simply a wedding

Rooted to its core

Yet robbed of authenticity

 

One little chapel

Open only in the dark

Pouring out iridescent light

 

One little chapel

A young girl may see

And leave as a woman

Without a name

The Exchange Policy

Christina Aguilera crooned on my car’s radio: Say something – I’m giving up on you. I quickly shoved my key to ‘off’ position and sweet silence reigned. I sigh, peering through the rain at the shop across the street from where I parked. Bridal and Tux.

Seven months ago, I parallel parked in this very spot, accompanied by my maid of honor and bubbly bridesmaids, all of us smiles and happy tears. That was my dress fitting. Today was the day before the wedding. The now called-off wedding.

The “called-off” part brought a rush of angry adrenaline into my system and I leapt out my car. I lugged the plastic-covered, puffy, fluffy dress out of the backseat. Carrying it in front of me, I couldn’t see a thing, and after almost getting hit by two different taxis and trying to push the pull door, I made it to the front counter of the shop.

A bright blonde in a tight pink dress stood behind the cash register.

Huffing and puffing, I leaned the dress against the counter. “Hi, I’d like to return this.”

The blonde nodded as if completely understanding, but uttered the words: “We have a strict no return and no exchange policy.”

I remembered that from my dress fitting. “Can’t we overlook that for a minute?” I asked, with a pleading look in my eyes. “It’s just been a… crazy few days, and I need to get this off my hands.”

She half grimaced but half smiled at me. As if there was anything even half happy about returning a wedding dress. “Strict policy. Sorry. There’s a consignment shop two blocks over.”

Consignment shop? But I wanted a receipt that attested to the return transaction. I wanted to be sure I had something in return. Something for me to figuratively shake in his face to tell him that I would not leave this situation broken and empty handed. He may have exchanged his love for me for some other younger, blonde woman, but he could not take everything.

The fake blonde with her plastic smile disappeared into the back room, leaving me with the big, fluffy, plastic-covered mass in my arms.

Why did this whole thing seem so backwards? My fiancé told me he’d love me forever, and then he returned his love. Isn’t love the thing that is supposed to have a strict no return – and no exchange –policy? For him, love had no limitations on returns, but I can’t return anything. I’m left cheater and a giant reminder of him in the form of this lacy, itchy, wedding dress.

Picture Prompt: Vegas

IMG_0849

What brings you here?

How to Keep the Writing Momentum

by: Rebecca Taylor

            We’re human; we’re struck with all sorts of emotions at all sorts of times. We have wonderful days, happy days, exhausting days and sometimes sad days. Our minds are also full of many things like appointments, work commitments, family activities, shopping lists and household chores. How do we keep our writing momentum when all sorts of things are happening around us?

 1. We can have more than one writing project on the go at a time. If we are writing an incredibly happy story and we’re not in the mood to give it what it needs, we can switch to writing a different scene in the same story or we could switch to a different story, or we could do an exercise on writing about different emotions. I had to do this for a writing course I took, and I found it an interesting experience. It makes you think of the way emotions can be shown in your writing instead of just saying something generic like the girl looked happy. Here are a few examples of sentences I came up with from that exercise:

 

Fear: The fear in her heart stirred like dark clouds ready to pour rain.

Joy: Her face was joyous like a sunflower’s smile.

Anger: The pain he’d caused her was like torrential rains hammering the earth repeatedly.

Longing: Waiting for grass to grow would have been easier than longing he’d listen to her pleas.

2. Sometimes a story can go in so many directions and we get to a place where we don’t know what we should do and it could change the whole outcome of the story. We could write book blurbs (example, if I write the story like this the back of my book would maybe say…), or do an outlining activity or write a pro-con list to the possible outcomes. Example: Sarah could marry Jack or Steve. If she marries Jack she will have, but if she marries Steve she will have…

 3. Write anyways. Whether what you write stays in the final draft of your book in part or not at all doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are writing. What you write may lead you to another storyline you had never thought of before, or maybe even an idea for another book.

 4. Write a letter or a journal entry. It doesn’t have to be sent or shown to anyone. The point is something is that whatever has got you down or up is real and other people are experiencing it too. Are you mad at someone? Write it down, put those fiery emotions onto paper. A character may just need them someday. You can change them up when you need them so that no one knows the original situation.

 

Good luck. 

Make ’em suffer

I like to write when I’m feeling emotional.

I don’t like to plot or plan or work out any sorts of logistics.

I just want to write. Sometimes I write it all out in a journal. Other times, I give my feelings to my characters. It helps me.

How to do this?

Pick a character

I often choose my main character because I usually know them the best of all the characters. However, it can be useful to choose a character that you don’t feel as comfortable with so that you can explore their personality.

Harness your feelings

Figure out how you feel about whatever is going on in your life. Identify what is going through your mind and what truths you can pull from the situation.

Give your feelings to your characters

Give your feelings to your character. In order to do this, you may have to come up with a situation that would make your character feel the same emotions that you are feeling. Then you can let your character explore the emotions and feelings.

Make ‘em suffer.

Micro-Editing Excercises

The next time you’re scrambling to fix all of those tedious, nitty-gritty things in your draft, try a few of these exercises:

 

1. Creating potholes

What I mean by a pot hole is this: divide your work into sections of three sentences. Delete two sentences out of every three sentence group. What remains will seem completely disjointed, and that’s okay. Read through your draft and fill in the holes, but without looking at the sentences you deleted. Think of the original idea you had and rewrite it; don’t try to just rework the words you had written. This is a fantastic way to rewrite and it often results in a more concise draft.

2. Vary long and short sentences.

Whether on paper or electronically, highlight all  ‘short’ sentences – sentences that are one line in length or shorter. Ideally, there should be close to a 50/50 balance between long and short sentences. Edit as necessary.

My fiction writing teacher once told our class to do this, and I thought she was crazy. The exercise sounded too tedious for me, but once I tried it, I believed. In my stories, I often use short sentences, sometimes to emphasize certain thoughts, which is alright, but other times I am simply too lazy to link two thoughts into one witty sentence. Consequently, several months ago I wrote a very flat story for my writing class, with around 95% of the sentences one line in length or shorter. I highlighted all of the short sentences in gray, and as you might imagine, most of my document was discouragingly gray. I found ways to combine sentences, delete unnecessary short ones, and ultimately, I picked up the pace of the story.

3. Commonly repeated words

Search for your ‘lazy’ words and strengthen them. If you used the word ‘very’ 12 times in the first page of a draft, you’ve found a problem. Instead of having a character who is “very tired,” say that she is exhausted instead, or better yet, show how the character is exhausted, as number 4 talks about.

4. Highlight and change places where you could show and not tell.

I know I have been guilty of telling instead of showing. That little rule is so difficult to follow sometimes,  but the results of following it can strengthen any sentence or scene. Telling is when you say a character is “scared.” Showing is when the reader sees the physical affects of the fear. “Unaware of what might be awaiting him on the other side of the corner, his breathe quickened and his hands clenched defensively into tight fists.” That may not have been the perfect description, but I think it serves its purpose. Showing instead of telling is all about taking a cliché, vague, or dry statement and turning it into tangible imagery.

***

What editing tactics do you use?

The Gentle Island

by: Rebecca Taylor

Two children ran along the beach laughing, their bare feet splashing in the water. Their parents sat on the porch of the beach house they were renting for their PEI vacation, their feet touching the wet, grainy sand. It had been twenty years since they had visited the island, the place they had met. They’d been in PEI for two weeks and were considering moving to the gentle island to escape their city lives where they worked a minimum of ten hour days. Not only did they love the salty smell of the water, the stars and clear sky were absolutely breathtaking.

            “This island makes people smell the air; watch the sunset, the ripples and waves of the ocean. The kids are going to grow up and have their own lives, they’ll grow up and move away…” said Marissa.

            “We’d be moving away from our lives.” replied Lewis.

            “It isn’t a home anymore, we don’t enjoy it. We’ve got to slow down; this island has shown us how to do that. Selling the house and our savings give us a chance. With fifteen years of experience, we could find other jobs, might not pay as much but we’d make out okay, we wouldn’t be bringing work home. We can play on the beach in the summer and in the snow in the winter with Abby and Jake. It is perfect, water, sand, bliss.”

            “Let’s do it, we can start house hunting tomorrow.”

            “We’re finally going to have our own lives again and to live on this gentle island would be like paradise.”

Lonely girl

The blonde girl at the bar was pissing me off. There she went, flipping all that blonde hair everywhere like she was simply here for the fun of it. Flirting with the boys like she had nowhere else to be but here for everyone to adore her.

I looked at my measly wallet full of small change and knew that I didn’t give off that impression. I thought about my old brown flats, my old jeans and my blue sweatshirt that was getting faded in a bad way.

I wondered how I felt about who I was. I wondered if I was jealous, if part of me wanted to be her.

I turned to the blonde at the bar again. She leaned forward towards one of the guys and laughed sexily at whatever he said.

I’d had enough, I thought to myself and walked out. I knew no one was watching me leave because I didn’t dress my self up like she did.

* * *

The next week was a transformation week. I got a new coat of paint on my pickup truck that had previously been a bit spotty in the paint department.

 

I got layers on my hair and dyed it a copper red color. I got a pedicure. I went and found the heels I had in the back of my closet and set them out. Then, I went shopping with my credit card and got a few flashy clothes.

* * *

I called up one of my old friends named Angela whom I hadn’t seen in a while, “Lets hit the bars tonight. Nothing too crazy or whatever, just some showing off our young bodies.”

Angela agreed and I picked her up. I had a new shine on my pickup. I was in heels. I hadn’t died my hair blonde but my hair looked pretty dang good. I felt beautiful and confident and just a little bit like Marilyn Monroe.

“Here I go,” I told myself as I strutted into the bar with my friend, like I was just here until I found my beautiful people universe.

“Well my night just got better,” one of the old men said as I walked in. I gave him a smile as I went up to the barstool. And so that night I ran the town. I wondered if anyone was pissed at me for just being so confident and the center of attention. I wondered if no one cared.

Later on, I was talking to one of my friends named Andrew. “So what’s with the new look?”

“I wanted to prove to myself that I could be someone else. I wanted to be that girl,” I responded airily, like I did this everyday.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because now I know I can be someone different. Why do I need to explain myself to you?”

“I don’t get it, it seems kind of dumb. Just let everyone be who they are. Not everyone was born to be that girl,” he said. I knew they were wise words but didn’t want to hear anymore when he continued, “Maybe you don’t need to try being someone else. Maybe you should watch the it girls when no one is looking. See if they look happy then. Or see if you can see the loneliness in their eyes.

I rolled my eyes, “You just don’t get it.”

* * *

Years later, I was sitting in a restaurant where I was eating with my husband and longtime friend Andrew, and kids. I saw her across the room. The blonde girl who had made me so mad one day.

She was sitting there with her family, just like me. She was still the center of attention, I watched as the young guys looked at her across the bar. She threw her hair over her shoulder and so did her two young daughters. She wiped her face off with a napkin and then smiled and her son did the same, smiling back at her.

I saw her and then I turned my attention back to my family with a slight smile on my face. Andrew was looking at me with love in his eyes. “See?” he asked.

I did see. I saw that she was different than me and yet we both had families. I saw that she got so much attention and I saw her eyes when she thought no one was watching. I saw that she would always be the center of attention but she would also feel lonely inside.

I saw her and she no longer made me mad. I no longer wanted to be like her.

Dust and Spider Webs

“There is no cause to worry. The high tide of prosperity will continue.” — Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury in September 1929. Just one month later, the American stock market crashed into what was later called the Great Depression. The following is a fictional account of the impact of the historical events.

~     ~     ~

When I walked into the kitchen for breakfast, Mother stopped me. “You’re not going to school today.”

I blinked. Mother’s face was pinched was stressed, and I knew better than to interrupt.

“I need you to do something.” She took my hands gently in hers. “Mrs. Brathwaite knows of another house that needs cleaning.” Mrs. Brathwaite, my mother’s boss. The weight of that statement sunk in. “Now, you’d be just down the street from me, a few houses down, doing chores just like you do at home, except you’d be earning your wages, like me. She said you can start this morning. Can you do this for me, Evelyn?”

“Of course I can.” Several girls in my class had already left school to go work like their mothers and fathers. My chest puffed out in pride that I, Evelyn Stork, would be able to help my mother like the other girls help theirs.

“When you’re there, you can’t give her no back talking.”

I nodded. “But what about baby Faye?” I helped my sister in the mornings, after Mother went to work and before I left school.

“Grandpapa will look after your sister this morning, like he does during the day. Don’t worry about it.” She ran a hand over my hair, smoothing my obstinate fly-aways, and then she straightened. “I will walk with you this morning, on the way to Mrs. Brathwaite’s. Let’s go.”

My stomach growled just then, but I quickly pulled my arms over my belly, trying to muffle the noise. I knew that the ice box and the pantry were still empty, just as they were last night. I didn’t want Mother to hear my hunger and feel worse than she already did.

My first day as a cleaning lady was like most first days at school – awkward and bumbling. I was too short to reach some of the spider webs in the corners of the foyer, I didn’t polish the silver well enough, and I slipped once when I waxed the stairs. The lady of the house was kind, and when she told me she’d like me to stay on, I could have hugged the elegant, gracious old lady. I made mistakes that were perhaps worthy of being let go, but all day I thought of the grief – and hunger – I would cause my family if I didn’t have this job.

The hardest part of my day came as I walked home, in the fading light of the evening. Mother would be home already. Today was pay day for her, so we’d most likely have a feast tonight. A feast would only be a couple baked squash to share, but the thought made my stomach ache even more.

Suddenly shadowy figures appeared in front of me. I knew who they were before I saw their faces shine in the moonlight.

“Well, if it isn’t Evelyn Stork,” a voice purred.

It was Clifton and his crew of two idiotic sidekicks. I rolled my eyes at them and kept walking, but my heart picked up speed and my free hand was already clenched into a defensive fist.

“Didn’t see you at school today,” he said in a sing-song voice, following me.

“That’s because I wasn’t there.”

He glanced at the dusty apron I was wearing. “No more school for you, I see. Another school girl bites the dust.” He slapped his knee. “The dust,” he said between spurts of laughter. “How cute. Really, it is. You dropped out to help your cripple grandpop and your snot-nosed little sister.”

“Just because he used to have polio, doesn’t mean he’s a cripple,” I growled through a clenched jaw.

“Oh,” howled Clifton. “The cleaning lady can talk back!”

But he wasn’t done. He started to say some crude comment about my mother, and that was when something inside me cracked. I picked up a stick on the side of the road and held it in front of me as a weapon. I swung at him, purposefully missing – by a mere centimeter. “I’ve been cleaning cob webs all day, and I found I have pretty good aim when it comes to sticks.”

Clifton only laughed. “Hey now, you know I was just playing.” But he muttered to his two silent friends, “She’s not worth all this trouble.” The three of them scampered off in the opposite direction. I felt my fists begin to relax, and I tossed the stick back into the ditch.

I was grateful when I reached the warm halo of my home. The first thing Mother did when she saw me was pick the cob webs out of my hair. “How did you get all that on you?”

“Must have hit my head on the ceiling once,” I said, as if I didn’t remember how it happened. But I did. I was on a ladder, using a broomstick to collect the sticky web, when I was starting to get sleepy from being so hungry and started to doze off. I dreamt of Mother’s disappointed face if I got fired, and I jolted awake. I hit my head on the part of the ceiling I hadn’t cleared yet.

“Are you alright? Did you have a bump?”

“I’m fine, Ma. I have a strong head.”

“That’s true, you’ve always been headstrong,” said Grandpapa with a twinkle in his eye.

I knew I was headstrong, and even though everyone made it out to be a good thing, I longed for the day when I didn’t have to be anymore. I sighed, watching the three of them. My pinched-faced mother, limping grandfather, and gurgling baby sister. My first day of cleaning could’ve gone smoother, of course. And I already missed my friends from school. But strength is what kept my patched up family together. Looking at them, I knew I would be headstrong for as long as they needed me to me.

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