Posts Tagged Fiction

Beneath the Willows – Chapter 21

Simone’s head raged. Her, a delivery girl for this pompous planter! The mere thought of it forced her heart into overdrive; the desire to smash the painting over his egotistic head was near overwhelming.

True, he’d seen her art, and appreciated it for what it was. Yet he still had the gall to ask HER to deliver it! It was all she could do to keep from telling him to shove the painting up his, well, shapely derriere and take it himself!

She noticed its tight, carved form when he bent over to lift her box, the way the trousers curved in just the right places. Normally she stowed the paints in the music store across the pathway, but when she felt his eyes undressing her while she was in a compromising position, she couldn’t resist the all-to-good temptation.

Plus, she did some undressing of her own. He wasn’t too bad to look at, now she had spent part of the day checking him out. The trip to the market had been planned, hoping she might run into him again while shopping for lunch.

His appearance in the Square was a surprise, made more so with his purchase. Normally, she would have charged ten dollars for a painting, but for some reason, she wanted to test him – see if he was cheap, like most of the other men of his type.

He passed the first test, but failed the other. Instead of being a gentleman and looking away when she bent over, he took advantage. He was a pig. Just like all of the other men of his type. Perhaps a refined pig, one with good taste in art and women, but still pure grade swine.

He would pay.

“Rue St. Peters?” she said, after following him in silence for two blocks toward his home. They were at the intersection of Rue Chartes and Rue St. Ann, just up the road from all of the flop houses that lined Rue Bourbon. “Isn’t that a bit low for one such as yourself?”

He cocked his head. “What do you mean?” he said. “The neighborhood’s quite charming.”

She nodded. “I’m sure you see it that way, Monsieur,” she said. “Most of your type would. Perhaps living among the lower class makes you feel more powerful.”

He stopped and placed the box on the ground. “Now see here, Mademoiselle,” he said.

“Simone,” she replied, cutting him off.

“Simone,” he said, waving a dismissive hand. “Whatever. I’ve resided in that house for over ten years. I’m as much a part of the neighborhood as any other person living here.”

He tapped his silver-capped cane on the ground, creating a rapping noise that echoed along the brick streets, turning the heads of a couple standing beneath a porch awning.

“And what is it to you where I live?” he said. “I can live any damned place I choose!”

She smiled, not the face lighting one she used when truly happy, but one saying she had him on the ropes. Feeling his anger build, she thought it best to tone it down a notch. Inside, she laughed. It was like playing with a child.

“Of course you can, Monsieur,” she said. “Forgive my insult.” She opened her arms, still holding the painting in one of her hands. “I was merely suggesting you appeared to be living beneath your means.”

“That’s all.”

“Humph,” he said. “As if you knew my means. Didn’t I just buy one of your paintings?” He shook his head and grunted.

“I’d think you’d be more appreciative.” He stopped, awareness suddenly filling his face.

“Wait a minute,” he said, his eyes narrowing. He pointed his cane at her. “You’re trying to get me angry, aren’t you? You’re mad because I asked you to deliver the painting yourself.”

Uh oh, she thought. Maybe not a baby after all. Perhaps he was a BIT smarter than she imagined. He’d figured out her game rather easily, and now it was time to create a new one or she’d be in trouble.

“Yes!” he exclaimed. “That’s it.”

He leaned against the plastered wall of a row house and crossed his arms. Her eyes went to the box. “Well,” he said, shaking his head. “The game’s up. I’m not going any further with that shipping crate of yours until you fess up.”

Simone thought for a moment, taking time to quietly inspect his features. He appeared angry, yet at the same time playful. Was this part of a game as well? Who should she be in this charade they played: coy, innocent Simone, or worldly all-knowing Simone?

“You caught me, Monsieur,” she said, thrusting her hands into the air, but not before gently setting the artwork on the sidewalk, and leaning the painting against her leg. “Red handed, in the act; guilty as charged.” He rolled his eyes.

“What?” she said, frowning and lowering her arms. “You don’t believe me?”

“No,” he said. “I DO believe you. That’s the problem.” He laughed. “Here I was, trying to find a way to talk longer and in the process, insult you.” He shook his head. “What a world.”

Talk to me longer? She thought. It hadn’t occurred to her he might want to do such a thing. Something felt off with his statement, so she played it out further.

“You were being lazy,” she said, pointing her finger at his chest. “I thought you were a gentleman. Asking a woman to carry your painting for you?” she shook her head, allowing feigned anger to rise. “It’s sad to learn chivalry is dead.”

“What?” he said, confusion wrinkling his brow. “You asked if I wanted it delivered. I simply thought if you, uh, were the one who delivered it…” He paused, letting the sentence slip away as he looked into her eyes.

She shook her head slowly, tapping her foot. “You thought wrong, Monsieur,” she said. “Had you used your head for something other than a hat rack, you’d have realized asking a woman to do your grunt work was the wrong decision.”

There, she thought. That should put him in his place. He could have at least asked her to accompany him to see it hung, or to accompany the delivery boy to insure its safety.

Men never think, she said to herself. Not with the proper brain, anyway.

He ran his hand through his hair beneath his hat and frowned. “But,” he said. “I, uh, meant for… well, you see.” He stopped when she held up her hand.

“You’ve said enough,” she said. “Shall we make our way to your house? I’d like to eat dinner before sunrise.”

He nodded, bent down and lifted the crate, then motioned down the street. “Three more blocks and we’ll be there,” he muttered. “Allow me to carry your bag.”

She nodded, handing over the satchel in silence.  “Once we get there,” he said. “I won’t trouble you any longer.”

She sighed. What an idiot. Now he’s pushing me away. Men had such an interesting way of playing games. Just because she was insulted, didn’t mean she wanted to stop playing. How had he built a business being so meek?

“Monsieur,” she said. “What do you do for a living when not insulting talented, beautiful artists?”

They turned down Rue Royal, passing by mixtures of commercial shops, houses and large residences. Here, wrought-iron, gated passageways led into courtyards and gardens hidden behind colorful, two storied walls.

“I deliver things,” he stated without looking back. She smiled, hearing the sarcasm in his words. He owned a shipping company, so of course he delivered things. Moving her hair back over her ear, she picked up the pace until she was walking beside him.

“Like paintings?” she said, giving him a sideways glance. He stopped, smirked, then laughed.

“Yes,” he said. “I’ve been known to ship a few of those, especially when a customer was moving their estate overseas.”

“Really?” she said, pretending as if she didn’t know who he was or what he did. “All by yourself?”

“I have a little help,” he said. A carriage rumbled past, horse hooves echoing off of the houses with every clip clop. The driver tipped his hat at the pair, which Tomas matched in return.

“That seems like a mighty chore,” she said. “With just a little help.”

She cocked her head, allowing the excitement in her stomach to grow. The rage in her head was gone, replaced by a buzzing just behind her eyes. “Are you a sea captain?”

He shook his head and turned. “No,” he said slowly. “But I do know how to pilot a vessel. My position dictates I stay behind, though I do love the sea.”

Huh, she thought. I’d never have guessed that. She glanced at his hands, once again noting the rough, yet delicate, thick length.

He cocked his head and leaned against a green stucco wall. “Why so interested?” he said. “A moment ago, you were tearing my head off, and now you’re curious about what I do.”

“Small talk,” she piped in. “I like to know my customers. Just in case they choose to become patrons.” She held up her hand. “I’m still upset at delivering your painting, though.”

“I see,” he said. “But not as angry as before.” He looked her up and down, then nodded. “I’m glad.”

“Oh really?” she said, not minding his eyes on her this time. “You should be. My anger knows no bounds.”

He pushed himself away from the stucco wall, then motioned toward the direction they had been walking. “Shall we?” She nodded.

“So if not a ship captain, then what?” she said, walking beside him again. She felt his warm presence radiating in an inviting way. “Warehouse manager, or shipping clerk, perhaps?”

“Why’s it important?” he said, pausing at the intersection of Rue Orleans to insure a carriage didn’t run them down as they crossed.

“Isn’t it enough knowing I find your work fascinating?”

She smiled, allowing the compliment to fill her being. He meant more, just didn’t say it. How hard should she push? “It’s not ‘that’ important,” she said, grasping for words. They were on the seven hundred block of Rue Royal, so her time was running short.

“I’m just curious.” She shrugged, spotting movement on a second floor balcony across the street. A gray-haired man sat in a rocking chair reading a book, smoke curling from a pipe clenched in his teeth.

“You seem to be well off,” she continued. “Perhaps even a planter by the clothes you wear.” She eyed him up and down to emphasize her point. “And your fiancé certainly seems like a belle.”

He sighed, gave her a sideways glance, then motioned her forward to cross the street. “My fiancé,” he stated. “I’m still shocked you knew about that.”

“I know many things,” she said. “It’s how a lovely woman like myself survives life as a street artist.” She caught his glance and noted he said nothing, only lifting his eyebrows as if impressed.

“Then you probably know I own and operate a shipping company,” he said, tossing the idea out casually. “And I now also own a plantation.”

She shrugged and smiled, yet said nothing. They turned up St. Peters then stopped about halfway up the block. Across from them rose a burnt-orange colored, two story house with green shutters hiding the windows.

Being a mix of French and Spanish influence, it was uniquely New Orleans. Gas lamps lined the wall between the windows, flickering in the fading light of late afternoon. Abutted next to the sidewalk, the house, like all others on the street, grew from the edge toward the sky.

“It’s a recent acquisition,” he said, pausing on the last word. His pointing finger led her gaze to the house across the street.

“We’re here,” he said. Looking both ways, he led her to a closed, black wrought-iron gate. An arched brick tunnel led through the building toward a garden peeking from beyond the gate.

“Lovely,” Simone said. “You’ve lived here for ten years?” She met his eyes, but only for a moment – just enough to feel the truth of his words.

“I have,” he said, his voice tinged with a hint of sadness. He turned his gaze upon his house. “I was born at the Willows, but this is home for me.”

“I see,” she said, scrambling for words. He appeared hesitant to walk beyond the passageway’s black gate, choosing instead to stare through the iron bars as if lost in memory. “It fits you.”

He glanced over his shoulder at her. “How do you mean?”

“It’s the way you gaze upon it,” she said. “Like seeing a dear friend you’ve always known.”

Like the way he looked at her.

He bobbed his head. “That makes sense, I suppose,” he said, then removed a key from his pocket, and inserted it into the inset lock. With a clicking twist, the latch opened and the gate swung inward, it’s iron screech of protest ringing off the bricks.

The dim, tunnel-like passageway gave way to a warm, open air garden. Expanding from the adjacent vine-covered, three story brick wall to her left, the oasis swept outward. Large, square paving stones sat within a carpet of green, forming a path from the tunnel to a small pond in the center. A willow tree draped over the water, offering a canopy of rustling green leaves as shade for a carved, wooden bench.

She turned, smiling at his almost sad face. The sun had settled behind New Orleans, yet still provided evening light into the rectangular courtyard. Its splashes of brilliance illuminated the red, yellows and purples of the garden’s flowers, while shimmering silver sparkles on the pond and casting long shadows into the lush, green corners.

She breathed in the fresh fantasy of honeysuckle and jasmine, their yellow and white blossoms intertwined among the leafy vines – striving for the freedom of a clear, blue sky. Using white, wooden lattices, they clambered the heights beside her, creating a living wall of wall of flowering green, – filling the air with aromatic dreaminess.

Nestled against red brick columns of the arched, open porch to her right, heart-red roses sang for attention, each planted in such a manner, as to demand attention. Matching the design of the entry tunnel, these arches formed two sides of the garden – balancing the mass of yellows and whites, with the individualism of the elegant roses.

The fourth side of the courtyard, opposite the tunnel, was solid red brick with three lion’s head fountains set within recessed arches. Matching the height and shape of the porch, the recesses rounded out the design, appearing as if they could one day be opened as well. The fountains spat water from their carved mouths into stone, half-circle basins, happily bubbling like an eager, forest brook. Set like walls, the sides of the basins rose high enough to act as benches, with blue-tiled sides and stone caps.

Above the fountains, three rectangular balconies curved out from the wall, matching the basins in shape, while using wrought iron railings to contain matching bistro sets. Shuttered windows flanked green wooden doors, shut tight to the mysteries that lay behind.

“It’s so beautiful,” she whispered, turning her head this way and that – taking in all of the elements of the oasis.

“Thank you,” he said, suddenly standing beside her. His tone breathed the words, and she shared the breath. They made their way to the pond, where a green, spotted frog hopped from one of the four lily pads –  rippling the water with a soft, deep kerplunk.

“I tried to bring what I loved most about the Willows here,” he said. “Recreate it in a small way, so I could enjoy it on evenings such as this.”

“What a blessing, Tomas,” she said, smiling into the water. The darkness of the ponds depth reflected their shimmering image upon its surface, flowing together like one of her paintings. “I could paint this scene every day,” she purred, “and never capture all of its essence.”

“You’re welcome to do so,” he said, moving closer to her. She felt it, more than heard – his warmth splashing her body with energy. “Anytime you wish.”

She nodded. “I’d like that,” she whispered, though why, she wasn’t certain – it just came out.

The light danced in this garden in ways she’d never seen in Jackson Square. She looked skyward, trying to discern from where it came. It had to be bounce light, the manner in which the courtyard was framed by surrounding buildings. Light did funny things when it reflected, and the color of the bricks combined with the greenery of the garden made this light unique.

“This way,” he said, motioning toward the porch. “I’ll introduce you to Joe.”

“Who’s Joe?” she said, slipping from the trance and following Tomas as he walked toward the central archway opposite the lions head fountains. A green door could be seen beyond, flanked by framed windows and as welcoming as the garden.

“My housekeeper,” he said. “Though he manages my home more than keeps it.” Once beneath, he pointed toward a small table against the wall, just beside a pair of whitewashed rocking chairs.

“You can put your things there,” he said. “We’ll take the painting inside.”

Dropping the paint box and bag in the place he pointed, he reached for the doorknob.

“Excuse moi?’ Simone said. “We?”

The feelings of awe were gone, replaced by tension in her stomach and a constriction in her throat.  “I said I would deliver your painting, and so I have.”

“It’s time that I bid you adieu, Monsieur Laiche.”

Tomas turned and cocked his head. “You don’t wish to meet Joe?” he said. “If you come to paint, he’ll need to let you in the gate.”

She breathed a breath, feeling a sense of being lured into something she did not wish to happen. However, she had agreed to paint in the garden. She sighed. Might as well see where this goes.  

“Very well,” she said. “I’ll meet Joe,” she said, lifting a finger. “But I’ll not stay for dinner.”

Damn! She thought. Why did I say that? The words had come without thought, as if on their own volition.

He chuckled, then turned the door latch. “I don’t recall inviting you,” he said. “Now you mention it, perhaps we can make room.”

“Maybe.”

He dipped his head inside. “JOE!” he called. “Could you come outside a moment, there’s someone I want you to meet.”

“Be right dere, Marse Tomas,” a deep, elderly voice called back. “I just put da po boys on for you an Marse Anton.”

Tomas smiled a boyish grin, the charm of it lifting her spirits. “He’s on his way.”

“So I heard,” she stated, trying not to sound interested, even though her heart raced with excitement. Isn’t this what she wanted? She’d followed the man into the Market of all things. Now he’d invited her to dinner. At his house, at HER silly suggestion.

Things were getting out of control, and she gathered her thoughts to make sure they no longer did. “It sounds like you already have plans for the evening, Monsieur,” she said. “Perhaps I’d best be on my way.”

A kinked grey-haired head poked out the door, then the entire man – wiping his hands on a dish towel as he stepped out onto the porch. Offering a bow, and then a grin, he looked to Tomas for the introduction

“Might I present Mademoiselle Simone,” he said, opening an arm wide as if sweeping her forward. “She’s an artist. Simone? This is Joe.”

“My, oh my,” Joe said, shaking his head – not hiding the fact his eyes were taking her all in. “What a pleasah, what a pleasah indeed.” He bobbed his head in a bow. “I’d shake ya hand, but I been choppin shrimp.”

She laughed, feeling the sincerity in his voice. “The pleasure is mine, Monsieur Joe,” she said.

“Jus’ Joe, Miss Simone,” he said. “I ain’t no one special. Joe’ll do just fine.”

She shook her head and smiled. “If you take care of this place, you’re more than special. I’ve never seen a garden like this in the entire city.”

Joe’s face lit up and he met Tomas’s eyes with a ‘where did you find her’ sort of look. The planter nodded in agreement and Joe turned back to Simone.

“Why thankya miss Simone!” he said. “I does my best wits what I got.” He pointed toward the door.

“You joinin us for dinner? Shore be nice ifn ya did.”

“I’m not sure Mademoiselle Bourgeois would approve,” she said, letting her shoulders slump. “Monsieur Laiche bought one of my paintings,” she added, glancing at Tomas as she did. “I helped him bring it here. As a gift.”

Tomas grimaced and frowned, yet Joe remained undaunted. “Don’t you be silly,” Joe said. “This house ain’t hers yet, Miss Simone. Ifn we wants comp-ny, we’ll ‘ave comp-ny.”

If it had been Tomas saying it, she would have said no. While she was intrigued by the man, he was still engaged to be married. However, the way Joe said it made her feel truly welcome as a guest. She looked to Tomas, whose grin looked a bit silly and shy.

“Very well, then,” she said, inspecting the richness deep within Tomas’s eyes. “I guess I’ll have to stay for dinner.”

“Sounds good,” he said. “Let me help ya wit ya things.” He lifted her easel, a rig as Tomas called.

“You say Mistah Tomas gone an bought one a yore paint-ins?” She nodded, lifting the wrapped canvas for him to see.

“Well I’ll be,” Joe said, gathering up the rest of her supplies, then waiting for her to enter the house. “In ya go, Miss Simone. I’ll be right behind.”

“You just tell ole Joe where to put em, then we’ll see about hangin that new paintin’.”

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Frank, My Ideal Reader, Takes a Holiday. What Now?

Hello Lovely Reader!

Frank, my ideal reader, has left for the Bahamas, taking a holiday after reaching the halfway point of our novel. I’ve moved well beyond 50K words and plowing toward 60. It took sixty four days to reach the halfway point, though only portions of that was spent writing. I fully expect to finish by the end of November, if not before.

So why did Frank go? Why did he give up the free coffee and head for the beach just when we’d crossed the downslope?

I found out yesterday while I prepared to write at my little corner table inside Steveston’s fabulous coffee and bookstore: Village Books.

“Stephen, my boy,” he said, offering me a bag of Kicking Horse coffee beans, the dark roasted variety called, 454.

“I’ve done all I can for you in this romance novel of ours.”

“What?” I said, mouth dropping open in shock. I took the beans, noting that a card was attached with a red, silk ribbon. If I’d know he was leaving, I’d brought a gift, too.

“What do you mean? We’re just getting to the good stuff!”

“That’s the point, kiddo,” he replied, kicking his booted feet atop my table at Village Books. Fortunately, no one noticed. “The good stuff’ll need a different ideal reader if you want it to connect.”

“Ah,” I said, nodding. I had wondered if this might be the case. Apparently, I was correct. I took a sip of my maple macchiato.

“Please, continue.”

He smiled, hoisting his mug of dark roast. “I talked to a friend of mine,” he said. “And she’s willing to sit in for me, so you don’t feel so alone.”

“Willing to meet her?”

“Hell yea!” I said, leaning forward. “What’s her name?”

“Francine,” he said, sipping his coffee and smiling at me over the top of the mug. “She’ll be here in a few moments.”

“You’re going to introduce me, right?” I mean, I’m sort of shy. I don’t just walk up to random women and invite them to be my ideal reader. Surely he understood that.

He shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “I can’t be seen here, or she’ll get suspicious.”

Oooh, I thought. That sounds intriguing. What did he mean by suspicious? My mind went to thoughts of a hot, torrid affair that Frank might be a part of. That sly…

“Ah,” I said, choosing not to ask.

“She knows who you are,” he said. “She’s accepted the job and will meet you here.” He took a final sip, then placed his mug on the table.

“Well, lad,” he said, pushing his chair away from the table with a screech.

“I’m off for sunnier climates. Keep going, work with Francine, and I’ll catch up when you’re done.”

Tears formed in the corner of my eye as I watched him stand.

“You’re really going?”

He nodded, hoisting his courier bag atop his shoulder as he pushed the chair back under the square, wooden café table.

“Not for good,” he said. “Just for now.”

“Connect with Francine. She’ll give you what you need.” As he walked toward the door, he turned and tipped his hat.

“Adios, amigo!” he exclaimed. “Write on, brother! Right on!”

He vanished through the door as I stared, watching him fade into the setting sun of sugar white sands and green, rolling waves. But not alone, I noticed, smiling to myself.

Two kids, a bikini-clad woman and a fluffy, black dog joined him on the beach, gathering together to wave back at me.

“Thank you,” the voices whispered from the fading scene, and even the dog barked a farewell. For now.

“Thank you, Frank,” I whispered, daubing my eyes with a paper napkin. “Thank you for everything.”

Sighing, I flipped open my Surface and opened to the document about Simone, imagining the scene as I stepped forth into the writing. She was about to experience tragedy, and I really needed to connect with the horror in order for you, my lovely reader, to experience it.

Bells jingled from the Village Book’s door, drawing my eyes toward the sound – hearing the click of thin, spiked boot heels upon the concrete floor.

“Hello,” a raven haired woman said to me, standing by the chair that Frank had recently vacated.

“I’m Francine. Mind if I join you?”

Fair Winds and Following Seas my lovely reader, wherever your horizons beckon.

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Perceptual Projections of Being…

Hello Lovely Readers!

Salutations and good even-ink!

Ahem.

Update on the Romance novel: Today, at 3:32 PM PST, inside Village Books in Steveston, BC Canada, Frank and I surpassed the 40K word milestone on the highway to completion. in celebration, we hoisted a cup of 49th Parallel Dark Roast (go bold or go home, I always say), drank a toast, smiled out the window at a sexy, dark-haired angel walking her pug (ignored by both) and motored on toward 41.

One can’t stop and ogle the signs when on the highway to completion! If you do, you might get run down by a random ice-road trucker texting updates from the Writer’s Circle onto Facebook. Not that “I” would do that!

Double Ahem.

So, what’s up with the metaphysical title? Well. Let me tell you: it’s a warning and a clue to life.

Have you ever made friends with someone and then, for some rather odd and unknown reason, pushed them away? Have you ever been really excited about a new job, then had it crash and burn around your feet? That’s the dark side of this rule, “What we perceive, we project.”

The Light side, where the Jedi Knight live, uses it to their advantage. They PERCEIVE a state from their audience and PROJECT it back in the manner they wish it exist. They project what they want the audience to perceive, thus intensifying the wholesome goodness of it. The audience sends it back – A Fine flow of the Force, would you not say?

O-o. Whaaaaat?

Here is how it works:

Let’s say you’re having a conversation with one of those sexy, shapely, blue female aliens from Star Trek and all is well, you’re really enjoying where it’s leading – hopefully to infinity and beyond. Then, all of a sudden, you PERCEIVE a disturbance in the Force. ‘She’ frowns, crosses her arms, says something that maybe hints at the Dark Side (and not the ‘good’ dark side, either).

Using your Jedi mind powers, you PROJECT them back. I mean, you don’t want to go over to the dark side. Don’t hit ME with your dark Jedi Mind tricks, you think. I’m on to you! Hand up, reflect! ::whew!::

However! She’s a master, too! And now, you PERCEIVE an even greater disturbance as she does the same thing, and in order to save yourself, you PROJECT it back!  Jedi Master Ping Pong. And before you know it, the possibility of exploring her Nebulae has gone where no man will ever return from – complete isolation; Exile!

Makes sense, does it not?

I didn’t think so. It’s not like it does, really. Who truly knows the emotional mind of sexy, blue Star Trek aliens? I mean, I’m a romance writer, and even I have no clue!

Triple Ahem

So, Stephen, tell me: what the hell does this have to do with writing and your journey of a thousand pages?

It has EVERYTHING!

Because.

What you perceive you project, even onto paper (or pixel). Perceive your character as you truly want them to be, wholly and completely, and you will KNOW exactly what it is you need to write.

Perceive your scene exactly how you wish, and you will project it into the right words at the right time.

PERCEIVE your story from an empowered, emotional state, and it will appear on the pages before you – as if it were always there. The more you do this, the stronger the Force and the greater master you become; maybe even Yoda, though that ‘might’ be pushing it a bit.

See? Jedi Mind Tricks at work.

What about the Light side, you ask? Same thing, just reverse it. Perceive what it is you want, then project it to the pages. Or onto sexy, blue Star Trek aliens. In fact…. if she does the same thing back, then nebulae are only the beginning!  We’re talking final frontiers here! O-O   ::fans self::

Okay. enough of that for tonight. More of this, and I’ll need another bottle of red wine.

Cheers and as always…

Fair Winds and Following Seas, lovely readers, wherever your horizons beckon you!

-Stephen R. Gann

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The Mission of Each True Writer…

Good Evening Lovely Reader!

When I am inspired, I feel energized. When I feel energized, I become empowered. When I become empowered, I embody PASSION.

The Impossible Dream is a song that bubbles up from time to time whenever I feel inspired to create something really amazing. Frank loves it, and HAS been known to march around my deck as if he were Don Quixote himself – lance held high and armor shining (even though it wasn’t in the musical).

“Pancho! Bring my armour and MY SWORD!”

So the other day, while I was moving toward 35K words writing the scene where Tomas meets his future wife, the song echoed between my ears and I suddenly burst into song (in private, of course).

Then, after queuing up the youtube video, I heard the opening line to that song:

“The mission of each true knight is duty. Nay, it’s privilege.” – The Impossible Dream – Man of La Mancha

Like a lance to the shield, my brain shattered into brilliance:

“The Mission of each true Writer is Story; nay, it’s Passion.”

That’s my take on it, and therefore the theme today.

So, in honor of my amazingly not-so-special singing voice, I have re-written that song into the Mission of Each True Writer  Feel free to sing along, as if you were Don Quixote singing to his lovely Dulcenea. If you care to add music, please feel free to load Impossible Dream – Man of La Mancha

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“The Passionate Tale”  by Stephen R. Gann

“The Mission of each true Writer is Story; nay, it’s Passion.

“To write – such a passionate tale. That your read-er lives in your heart.

To hold, a space filled with your power. To build, a link into your love!

To write – with description and joy. To hear – what it’s like to sing pain.

To feel, what your character dreams for, to fly into arms of your Soul!

This is your quest! To follow that Love!

No matter the stories, just write what you know.

To draw from your heart, without question or pause.

To be willing to show and not tell so your readers will care

And I know – if you’ll only be true – to this glorious quest.

That your words – will show passion and truth, when we open your book.

And the world – will be better for this:

That your tale, filled with feeling and song – will sing with it’s full breadth of courage –

To FLY.  Into arms   of     your      SOULLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!”

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Fly into the arms of your souls, lovely reader and soar to heights unknown.

Stephen R. Gann

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To Steal or Borrow? Frank Prefers Theft! O-O

Hello Lovely Reader!

Yes, I know. It HAS been more than 7 seven days since I last posted. Perhaps even… TWO WEEKS (insert dramatic music here).

I’ve been busy.

Stealing, in fact. or borrowing – depending upon which side of the fence you are. Frank prefers the dynamics of theft. More action oriented, dangerous-sounding – INTENSE. I mean, borrowing is so slow, long and passive. You can borrow a book, a lump of sugar or a sock. Well, maybe not A sock. Two would be better.

But theft!

Woohoo! We’re onto something here. Call the police, summon the SWAT teams – raise an army! Highway robbery, carjackings, cat burglars and jewel thieves.

Perhaps a bit ‘too’ dramatic? ::nod:: But intrigued? ::shrug:: Maybe…

You see, for the past several days, I’ve spent my time stealing TRAITS: faces, nabbing names, wahooing gestures and looting looks. Filling my bags with all of those details that bring people to life, provide clues into their souls and gift us with knowing. It’s been an exhilarating experience, and believe me when I say that my bags are stuffed to the lip.

I was curious about something that I’d heard from a friend of mine when she described another person. As we stood at the helm of a hostess desk just inside a Mexican Restaurant in Vancouver while waiting to be seated, I overheard my friend tell another friend about someone who was “Filled with Joy.”

It certainly sounds amazing, right? Who wouldn’t want to be filled like that?

But here’s the question: “How do you KNOW that someone is filled with joy?”

Really take some time with this one, because it’s what brings your story to life. How do you know? Most people go into feelings of some sort, while others might describe it conceptually. However, if you were to imagine yourself sipping coffee at a cafe patio, watching someone walk down the sidewalk filled with joy, how would you describe it?

It’s those sort of details that I’ve been stealing. I watch people stroll the streets, give them states and describe those states in such a way that my readers can really experience that state as if they were there.

So see? Stealing is GOOD and that’s okay. Theft is good as well, much better than borrowing. Be a trait thief, and steal some images – bringing your characters to life. It’s intense and your readers will thank you.

Until next time…

Fair Winds and Following Seas, my lovely reader, wherever your horizons beckon…

Stephen R. Gann

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Empower Your Story Through POSITIVE Feedback

Good Morning Lovely Readers!

I’m going to take a few moments to post a quickie while Frank is brewing his own coffee – a new brand called Kicking Horse 454.

Now THAT (Frank brewing his OWN) is a feat in, and of itself. Normally, I’m the one taking care of his every need. However, to be kind, he decided it’d be best if I wrote something for all of you while he took a break. Not a break from keeping me on track. No, he’s been brilliant there. In fact, I’m past 30K words, and now digging deeper into the character motivations to truly enhance the story.

Suffice it to say, Frank is happy. And caffeinated. And brewing his own coffee! A triple win. What could be better?

Positive Feedback

As a coach, I deal with feedback all of the time, and there is definitely an art to providing feedback. When done wrong, it can lead to some major confidence issues. How many times have you been told, “That’s not good?” or “That’s bad.” or “I didn’t really like what you wrote there. I think it should have been like this.”

Often, that’s the sort of feedback we get when handing our work to others. They focus on the negative, ‘what didn’t work’ and then make it personal, by saying it’s bad. Not they MEAN it to be personal, but anytime a judgement is placed, it can go straight to the heart and we wear it like a battle wound.

Ever experienced that?

What if feedback could be framed in a different way? One that was productive and really assisted you in moving forward in a positive manner? What if judgement could be removed?

Guess what? There is! ::insert loud cheering noises from the crowd::

If comes in two parts, each equally valuable and both stated in the positive. Ready? Here we go…

A. What Works Well

So, when asking your beta reader(s) for creative feedback, have them START with ‘What Works Well’ within your story. Such as, “What works well with the plot?” “What works well with the characters, their interactions, the transitions…” Anything you are seeking feedback around.

Now, many people might find this odd. They might think, “Isn’t feedback supposed to be about what doesn’t work?” I mean, if it works, why do you need to know? Here’s why: By knowing what works, you know what direction to follow as you move forward with your writing. Knowing what your reader enjoys (works well), allows you to continue filling their needs.

Here’s the second part:

B. Even Better If

Let that sit in your brain for a moment. How is this feedback? One, it takes negative judgement out of the equation. Two, it provides valuable information into what your ideal reader WANTS instead of what they don’t. When writing toward something, you make it greater – you make progress. By writing away from something, you move backwards.

Okay. Example, you ask? Sure.

Lovely Reader: “There was one part that gave me pause. You wrote, ‘The space train stopped on the tracks, then backed up.’ The scene would have been EVEN BETTER IF the train had launched into space, maybe with jet engines.

Amazing Writer: “Why would that have been better, lovely reader?”

Lovely Reader: “Well, amazing writer, by empowering the train with jet engines, it would able to launch into space, which is where your story was heading.

Amazing Writer: “So, if I wrote it like this: “The space train stopped on the tracks, powered up it’s jet engines and launched itself into space.’ What that work better?”
Lovely Reader: “Yes! That would be so amazing, I would never stop reading your work.”

Now, that was a wacky sort of example, but certainly explains how it works. The point of the story is this:

EVEN BETTER IF framework allows you to determine what the reader WANTS, instead of what they don’t want. Which would you rather have?

Okay! That’s it for me today. What brought this post forward, was the feedback I recently received from a couple of beta readers around a short story. By asking them to provide feedback in this format, the required changes were empowering and really inspired me to move deeper.

IN Joy, lovely readers!

Stephen R. Gann

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Step Into Another World, AS IF You Were There…

Hello Lovely Reader!

Good morning, good evening and good night. It happens to be morning here.

This will be quick, maybe, since the idea just appeared and demanded to be released. No pills required, just write this blog, and ‘poof!’ there it goes into the nether world for you to enjoy.

Amazing how that works.

I ‘may’ have touched on this before, but I feel the need to do so again. Yesterday, I wrote about being in the flow. Like a raging river of ideas roaring past in surging, whitewater rapidity. I also mentioned writer’s block (or maybe not. ::shrug::), which so many people discuss as being problematic.

Here’s how I see it:  You can sit by that torrent and hope to be splashed with an idea. That’s writer’s block. Maybe, if you get close enough, a salmon will leap out and land in your lap. Then you have a winner. However, the wait might be a V E R Y long time. Do you know what the odds are of a salmon leaping from a river to land in your lap? No? Well, first you have to be NEAR a salmon river. Second, there actually has to be salmon in said salmon river. And third…. well, I’m getting a headache trying to imagine it.

OR

Step in.

Simply step into the water, into the flow and let it carry you away. Sounds nice right? trust me, it is.

Now here is the key point. Pay attention, because the current’s swift.

AS IF

Last night, the topic was “then what?” Asking questions around then what to move your outline forward. However, for it to be truly powerful, for it to flow, you have to imagine the scene AS IF you were there.

Catch it? Slippery as a salmon in a raging river.

Imagine for a moment, that your notebook, laptop, tablet – whatever medium you use to capture your ideas, is a portal to the world/reality in which you are writing about. That this world/reality actually exists, and when you put pen to paper, fingers to keys, you are stepping into that world.

As you do so, imagine AS IF you were there. What do you notice? what do you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? What if you were to imagine AS IF you were the main character? Where are you? what are you doing? How do you feel? How do you KNOW all of this?

Trust what comes and capture it. Don’t wait for the salmon to jump into your lap. Instead, go swim with the fishes.

AS IF = FLOW

This is where the magic lives.

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Lovely Reader!

Stephen R. Gann

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It Flows From an Outline: Then What?

Hello Lovely Readers!

I’ve officially passed the 1/4 completion marker on my novel and pushed on to 28K words. I will hit 30K by tomorrow with the end goal being 100K. I can’t explain how, nor why I’ve been able to pump out so much, but suffice it to say that I am quite pleased.

When in flow, do not question it’s origin.

Speaking of flow, I have to admit that the very thing I pushed myself away from on a previous project, I actually DID on this one:

An outline. 

No, not the I.i. A.a. type of outline. That’s like beating me in the head with a baseball bat. The mere THOUGHT of it locks my world into a procedural nightmare from which there is no escape; the eternal pit of writer’s block damnation. It even makes Frank spill his coffee. And that’s worse.

Besides, he hates em, too.

HOWEVER, lovely readers, I found a way that worked for me, which is why I write this blog tonight:

Outlines – paragraph style . Paragraphical outlines; My word.

It came to me one morning while sharing coffee with Frank. It was a nice, sunny summer day in Vancouver just a few weeks ago. I had just sat down to write ‘something’, when Frank demanded a Romance. I’ve written about that already, so I won’t go into detail here.

However, once I chose to take the challenge, I wrote the opening line to The Willows and then heard my ideal reader ask, “Then what?”

Well, this lit me up. It’s the very same process I used to build my coaching practice. In fact, I like it so much I shared it with other coaches, too. Here’s how it works: you write out what it is that you do, then explain how you do it. Step by step, always asking, “Then what?” until there is no more ‘what’ left.

So, after answering Frank’s ‘then what’ question, I found that I had to explain my answer. Something like, “Tomas sits on the bench pondering his life, trying to figure out what he is going do now that his father has passed away and left him The Willows.”

“Then what?” Frank asked. I answered.

“Then what?” Frank asked. I answered, each time in the form of a small, descriptive paragraph.

“Then what?” Frank asked, sipping coffee and watching my creative juices overflow with excitement.

“Then what?” Frank asked, and I wrote, “The End.”

I leaned back, wiping sweat from my brow, and tears from my eyes. I lived the entire story in just under two hours, and the proof was there in a multitude of paragraphs. So much so, that I THEN wrote the entire ending to a book I had yet to write – only its outline.

And you know what? I think it’s pretty good.

So, in honor of Frank’s amazing question, I offer it to you as well. When deciding what you will be writing about by asking the magical question, “What if?”  Why not follow it up with, “Then what?” and continue onward until you reach, “The End.”

Even better, especially if you are not a procedural by-the-book outliner like me, put the answers into a descriptive paragraph and see what happens. Who knows? You might just fall into the flow of creative juice and before you know it, be swept away into the magical land where novels live.

What if that were to happen?

Then what?

Mhmmm. I Thought you’d like it.

Fair Winds and Following Seas, my lovely reader. Wherever your horizons beckon…

-Stephen R. Gann

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Change Is Inevitable. And Hurts, too. Yet the Dance Continues On.

Hello Lovely Reader!!!

Fifteen thousand words and climbing! Tonight, I should cross 20K and then, it’s on toward glory.

Frank’s tickled pink, I must say; pleased as punch and happy as a church mouse in the cheese wheel. Or any other happy-like cliche you wish to toss into the fire.

Suffice it to say, I am giddy, too. As well as change will allow me, that is.

Fantasy was tough. I loved it (still do), but connecting with the story was difficult for me. It seemed that for every step forward, I took two steps back trying to explain (and understand) what it was that I had just written. It was time consuming, and in certain moments, down-right misery. I love reading it, I am not so certain I care to write about it. At least not in the genre that it appears.

But Romance…. ::sigh:: For some reason of which I am not yet certain, stories have flown from my fingertips onto page like water from a fire hydrant. I am in the groove and feeling it, as if I’m living vicariously through my characters. The more I research New Orleans, the richer my words become, creating vivid images and characters for you to experience once completed.

So why the title, you ask? Is it the change from fantasy to romance that hurts?

Nope. It’s the changes one experiences in life through growth and new awareness. We exist in a state of change, though most of us fail to see it as it occurs.  When we understand the truth behind the statement, “Change is inevitable,” we can more easily move through it by recognizing its existence.

That’s the theory, anyway.

Some changes take time to swallow, time to process and time to accept. What once seemed fair and good, now passes into shadow and memory – fading into the backdrop of life before disappearing all together. The music changes and a new dance begins.

Sit or twirl, that’s our choice.

I’ve chosen to Dance. I might step on some toes, bump a few people along the way – maybe embarrass myself from lack of ability. But, as a friend of mine recently wrote, “Life’s long if you wait to Dance.” How true…

Frank agrees. So long as it includes finishing this book. And it does, which makes him happy as a peach.

So, now that is off of my chest, I can get back to the project at hand: The Willows.

So until next time, lovely reader. I bid you goodnight and adieu!

-SRG

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Frank Delivers a Gift: DRAMA

Hello Lovely Reader!

Today marks a milestone on the highway to completion. Just this morning, while sharing coffee with my good friend, Frank, I crossed the ten thousand word milestone marker. All words for the novel which does not count historical reference material, outlining or backstory.

Frank is pleased. He especially enjoyed the coffee at Waves in Vancouver, my local haunt for the past two weeks. Every morning at 7:30am, we’d get busy. Well, I would get busy. He’d watch over the top of his mug as if expecting me to finish that very day.

It’s interesting how the vibrancy of an active city stimulates creativity. I’ve often wondered about that. Here, I was writing on an outside table while people walked by, cars roared and honked their horns and sirens blared. It did nothing to break the trance of creativity. I might offer that it helped.

What’s interesting about being out in public, is that I pick up bits and parts of people to mix into the character slush. What comes out are uniquely designed beings that live life on the pages that I write – filled with life and color. This is especially true of the heroine, Simone Plachette.

Two people especially contributed to her beauty, and one loaned me her name – all of whom shall remain nameless until we roll credits. I imagine they’ll come to know who they are if they read the book, perhaps even pick up a few hints along the way. Maybe it will make them smile.

Speaking of smiles, Simone has the brightest you could ever imagine. It not only lights up her face, it brightens her eyes to the point of radiance. When characters experience it, they find themselves uplifted – like being smiled at by an angel. You don’t forget.

Difficult to describe, it’s so easy to see.

Frank likes this, too. Being able to really SEE a character keeps him enthralled and wanting more. A good thing, I think.

What he also wants is drama. Lots and lots of drama. The type that people pay big money for at the box office, while real life lovers try to avoid like the plague. It’s also good for books. EXTREMELY good for Romance novels.

So, where does one find drama? Look no further than Frank.

My dear, beloved ideal reader brought it right to my doorstep and let it loose. Sunday, while out for drinks (he still had coffee, which baffled me), he carefully unfolded drama on the table and allowed it to dance.

Who knew Frank could be so helpful? I mean, I could have easily created something from scratch, maybe even imagined it while sitting at the table on Robson Street in Vancouver. A blueberry muffin on one side of my Surface, a maple machiatto on the other. Easy, right?

Nope. That’s not what Frank wanted. And we all know that when Frank wants something, he wants it done right.

And man, did he deliver!  He gave me so much juicy stuff, that I’ll not sleep well for days trying to decompress from his gift. And that STILL might not be a short enough time to recover. Frank has certainly done a number on our New Orleans lovers, I can tell you that. Simone and Tomas are in for a treat, and after this, they might not ever talk to me again because of it!

However, so long as they still talk to one another, then that’s all that matters. Maybe by the ending… just sayin’ ::wink:: ::wink::

Of course, I won’t get into the details. You have to read the book to learn that. But suffice it to say, it’s pretty good. Or bad, depending upon your point of view.

So there you have it. As promised in the title, Drama galore. A gift from Frank, light bless his over-caffeinated soul.

So until next time, lovely reader:

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Wherever your horizons may beckon you…

-SRG

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