If you liked that Sparkle story, you’ll love this one. 

So my seven-year-old daughter went out to collect the daily egg in the chicken coop on our pool deck, and she reported that her pet chicken Sparkle had laid two eggs!

 

What that really means is, we did not pick up yesterday’s egg, but I have assurances from Savvy’s grandma (who has 40 chickens of her own), that leaving one egg out there overnight is no big deal. It’s still okay to eat.

 

So Savvy went to collect the two eggs.

 

This requires kind of climbing into the coop and reaching into the cat carrier box that Sparkle makes her a little home in. And since we are still learning how much we can carry, Savvy tried to take both eggs out at the same time. And then stepped over the threshold and lowered the net back down over the coop. Which resulted in her dropping the eggs onto the pool deck.

 

Which, as you might guess, didn’t bode very well for the eggs.

 

Savvy immediately began to cry. I was in my office and didn’t really know what was going on. When Michele said that Savvy broke the eggs, we thought Savvy was embarrassed over not being able to do something that a big girl should be able to do.

 

Nope.

 

We got her calmed down and I picked up the eggs – they were what I would call cracked pretty badly, but only a little of the egg white had actually come out. I cradled them in my hands and took them inside and my wife and I both explained that accidents happen and this is no big deal and she didn’t need to cry.

 

So once I got inside I was about to throw them away when I thought, you know what? They’re fresh eggs. Why don’t I just crack them into a bowl and show my daughter that nothing too awful really happened. Worst case, scrambled eggs for breakfast.

 

I brought her in and showed her the two eggs in the bowl. She was still sniffling a bit.

The yolks were unbroken. I told her if wanted to have this for breakfast, we could just put them in the fridge overnight and they would be fine. Again, no reason to cry.

 

And of course, me being me, I couldn’t let it go. “Why were you crying so hard, sweetie?”

 

“Because I dropped the eggs and they broke.”

 

More sniffles. Gotta tread carefully here or she’ll start up again. “Yes I know. I don’t think that warrants all this.”

 

She looked down. “I thought I might have hurt Sparkle’s feelings.”

 

And that is why I had two fried eggs for dinner last night.

 

Because any kid who’s that conscientious of other people’s feelings deserves to know there’s a wide margin for error. Even if the aggrieved party is a chicken.

Author Profile: 15 Questions With Author J.A. Alexsoo

danOccasionally on the blog we will talk with one of our author friends, gaining valuable insights into their behind the scene world. Today we meet with J.A. Alexsoo, a brilliant writer and friend of the blog.

  1. Dan: What’s your favorite genre and is that the genre you write in?

J. A. Alexsoo: Fantasy, but science fiction is a close second. The Knights of Mythreth series is fantasy, but I have a science fiction story simmering until it’s ready. I’ve explored many genres, but I enjoy fantasy and science fiction the most.

  1. What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Dragonlance: The Legend of Huma.

ALEXSOO_colour
author J. A. Alexsoo

As a youngster, reading was more of a chore than a pleasure, until this book. Dragonlance was given to me and was the first novel I read. it ignited my passion for fiction and fantasy. Richard A. Knaak had me so emotionally invested in the character. Falling in love with the genre was inevitable.

  1. Best book to movie you’ve seen?

Lord of the Rings. In the book, at the part where they fight in Moria, I remember wishing I was there. It sounded so exciting. Then the movie came out and changed my mind. I didn’t have any nightmares, but looking back, it’s funny how my perspective did a one-eighty.

  1. Have you had any nightmares because of fiction?

When I was young, I had a nightmare about mummies. It bothered me that they couldn’t be destroyed. That wasn’t true for all mummies, but it was for this one.

And dinosaurs. I’ve also had nightmares about being chased by them. Silly as that is. I probably had recently watched Jurassic Park.

  1. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Daydreamer.

As a child, my head was always in the clouds. It still is a lot of the time.

I would create my own character in the fiction I read or the shows I watched, and imagined a role I would play in the story.

Skygazer.

I love watching clouds and staring at the stars at night. I think about how tiny we are in the universe and it blows my mind. It would be fascinating to explore other planets and solar systems.

Adventurer.

More with the imagination than actual traveling. I’ve been a fan of all things fantasy and science fiction since I was young. Games, movies, shows, books. It didn’t matter. So long as it had a satisfying story, then I loved it.

  1. How did becoming a writer change you?

I’ve had to pay more attention to the details of the world and people. It helps to create more realistic characters and interesting adventures. I’m also happier, doing what I love.

  1. Do you have any regrets?

Not starting sooner. Sometimes I wonder if I would’ve been an author earlier if I’d gone into the arts instead of science. But at the same time, my science background has influenced my writing and ideas. So, it’s actually a treasured resource.

  1. What was your favorite subject in school?

Physics! Just kidding. I took calculus.

Another_picMy favorite was English. Not for the grammar— I hold a profound respect for all those editors out there— but for the story assignments. I always had fun with that.

In university, I took biology and environmental studies. The environmental courses were especially valuable.

  1. What’s one adventure you’ve had?

I have snorkeled with sharks and sting rays during a vacation. The sharks weren’t the big scary kind. But, the sting rays were huge!

  1. Have you ever broken a bone?

I was quite the climber and fell from a tree and broke my wrist. The hazards of being active and adventurous.

  1. Indie publishing has become quite popular. How did you first learn about it?

The Martian was coming to theaters… It introduced me to the world of indie publishing.

The Martian was coming to theaters, based on Andy Weir’s novel. I was curious as to how he managed to have his book made into a movie and did some background research. It introduced me to the world of indie publishing.

Alexsoo_TKO_FrontCoverI was still writing my first book and had no knowledge of the publishing world. It opened my eyes to the possibilities and gave me hope. The movie was great by-the-way! The book is in my “To Read” pile for sure!

  1. Your first book, The Knight’s Order, was published last year in October. What did you learn from the experience?

A lot! From writing and editing to publishing and marketing. I jumped head first into the indie publishing world, and the learning curve was steep. It still is some days, but I keep learning and improving.

  1. What’s your best piece of advice for a new writer?

Surround yourself with supportive people. Friends, family, readers. You may be one of those people who says they can do it alone, no matter what people think. But,

support is important. It can really help on those dark days. It can drive your enthusiasm!

Doesn’t your motivation skyrocket when someone wants to know what happens next? Find those people who enjoy your stories. Nothing is better than that.

  1. What’s your favorite social media?

Pinterest! I love browsing it every day. The images are beautiful and inspiring.

  1. Where can readers connect with you?

Well, you can find me on Pinterest of course, but I also have a little corner of the web at JAAlexsoo.com. I like to post updates about my books and other fantasy, science fiction, and reading related topics. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you don’t want to miss any updates. It’s my hub, so you can find all my links there.

getPart (1)If you like Facebook, I have a page I dedicate to all things fantasy and science fiction. Some other reading and book related topics slip in there as well.

And don’t forget Goodreads too!

Before I go, I’d just like to thank Dan for this opportunity. I’m new to the author community, so I appreciate the interest. Thanks Dan!

It was my pleasure, J.A.! Readers of the blog enjoy seeing the writerly process from different viewpoints.

Gang, J.A. will be back next week to share some insights on how to find the perfect date book!

 

Creating “Sparkle The Chicken, A Savvy Story” – Maybe

mothers day project (1)
our pet chicken, Sparkle

Sparkle, A Savvy Story

(Possible alternate title: Sparkle The Chicken, A Savvy Story)

 

It’s time to consider moving our pet chicken, Sparkle (no S; it’s not Sparkles), over to Grandma’s farm. Because we staged it properly (by sheer luck, but also because I know my daughter) it shouldn’t be a traumatic event.

I’m mentioning that since Sparke was in fact my daughter Savvy’s pet, and Savvy is a big girl now, so Savvy needed to start taking the lead in the care and feeding, etc., of Sparkle.

I shrewdly mentioned that meant daily water and food, among other things.

Which meant Savvy needed to get up 30 minutes earlier . . . (this was met with a small sigh)

Which meant going to bed 30 minutes earlier . . . (this was met with a larger sigh)

And also spending time each weekend—before my daughter could go swimming—cleaning the chicken coop we kept on our back porch/pool deck area.

That was met with a heaving of the shoulders and an audible “Ugh.”

Or, I proposed, we can take Sparkle to Grandma’s and let Grandma do it.

11042016 (8)(The Grandma thing had been suggested from the day the baby chick came home, that we would only keep her for a while and eventually she would go to Grandma’s farm. That isn’t such a bad thing, because Grandma lives five minutes away and has about forty chickens on her farm. Savvy also goes to Grandma’s every Wednesday so it’s not like she’d never see Sparkle again. Not like some story where you tell the kid the family dog is going to live on a nice big farm when really the mutt is headed to the pound or the vet’s to be put down. This isn’t that.)

And so an idea that a friend suggested – writing a story about our pet chicken – seems like it may come to fruition.

Might.

Maybe.

There’s a lot of pots on this particular stove.

However . . .

IF I were to tell the story, it’d be reverting back to a style I haven’t really done in a while (which is fine).

And it would require an – DUN DUN DUNNNN – outline.

Kinda.

See, I put ideas down so I don’t forget anything good (you’ll see that in a sec), and I write using that as a guide.

Add an intended starting place and a finish line, and it’s an—horrors—outline!

11042016 (1)Also, it’d take a while to do, but as with most things written by me, once the idea goes from a NO to a maybe, it usually goes to YES pretty quickly.

(Right now my editor is reading this and thinking the yes part has already occurred. She is shaking her head. I can see if from here.)

If that were to happen – the story thing – it might be worthwhile to tell you about it along the way.

Let you see the process, so to speak, because it’s pretty much how I do every story.

So in the unlikely event that this story happens, this is day 1 of the adventure.

If writing a story can be called an adventure. For writer types, I guess it is.

 

IMG_2123So over the past hour or so I jotted down what my thoughts were, creating a bit of a story – that’d be the ending and the epilogue, which you’ll see in a moment unless you scrolled down – and then backtracking to start an outline and a few notes that explain what’s going on. Which is what you’re reading right now. (Again, unless you scrolled, but then you wouldn’t be reading this… so I’ll keep going, shall I?)

Writing my thoughts for the ending now was necessary because that’s where my head was at. I’m talented enough to do it equally well later, but I’m also creative enough to want to capture the nature of the words this particular mindset has in it.

I believe we choose different words and structure our sentences differently if we write when we are actually sad, as opposed to recalling the sadness later.

Both are necessary, but one is important for reasons I haven’t identified. It’s as though the digital 1’s and 0’s that make up the computer language’s words that are written in that mindset somehow capture the resonance of the writer’s mood, conveying it better to the reader. Editing is required to make sure the words do their job, but the mood is required, I think, to really capture the emotion. It’s always seemed to do that for me. When I write with actual emotion, readers seem to get those passages better.

Anyway, this is where we are as of 7:34AM on May 13, 2017. Plus another fifteen minutes or so of revisions and edits.

If more happens, I’ll let you know.

 

These are just notes, so forgive the shorthand. That’s the process. (I took out most of the typos.)

 

START

IMG_2651Working out and get a text, knew we’d adopted a baby chick

Welcome Sparkles – not a typo. For at least a month we all thought the chicken’s name was Sparkles, when one day our daughter announced it had no S. Sparkle, not Sparkles. We have basically said it wrong 50% of the time ever since. But I know Savvy called it Sparkles for at least a week when it first arrived, dammit. She forgot the name, and changed it.

Nightmares I’d heard about birds – from parakeets to my brother’s bird to Ellie May Clampett to being laid back and maybe finding the good side of it

The story of old McMickey’s farm (school field trip) and the kid who wouldn’t touch anything (ours), terrified in the chicken coop

Maybe not a bad idea to have a baby chick. She’ll grow out of the squeamishness. Went from fearless at age 2 to afraid of bugs like ants by age 5

Baby chick fun: lots of petting and snuggling (baby chicks are SOFT and they say peep peep peep)

Medium Grown up chicken fun: putting a scarf on it, reading stories to it, rides in the big Barbie motorized Jeep

03132017 Sparkles eggs (1)Taking Sparkles to school for show and tell

Playing every day – because before Christmas

As soon as this phase passes it goes to grandma’s

Building a coop (big enough to sit inside – oops, poop)

Pool deck petting, parades, car rides, scooter rides

Turtottle the tiny turtle (at Grandma’s, found in Grandma’s pool), and touching, feeding, eventually playing, putting in a toy truck and taking the turtle for walks across the living room)

Post Christmas – no playing with Sparkle = time to move her?

Heat lamps and storms

Madeline’s house of lizards

Growing up. Why not have a chicken? Maybe it’ll be her hobby

Eggs – eat? Sell? Make brownies? Take to grandma’s.

Eggs, eating finally (us not Savvy)

Sparkle loves you so much she wants to provide you breakfast

Big chickens poop a lot

They dig up your plants

 

04012017 (9)

ENDING

In the end, we loved Sparkle—all of us. And if you love something, you have to do what’s best for it.

For Sparkle, we knew that as much as she loved us, and loved chasing our daughter around the pool, and sitting in our laps (yes mine too when nobody was looking) that meant letting her not be so lonely—and moving her to where she’d have other chicken friends. I saw this when our daughter started school. Going from an only child household to a room full of boys and girls her age, she didn’t miss her parents; she forgot she even had parents. And I knew if Sparkle could talk she’d never admit what we all knew. She was lonely most of the time. Thirty minute here and there during the week, and a few hours on the weekend? Not enough for such a social bird.

She was a product of her upbringing, and our very social daughter had brought her up. She needed people, but she’d be happy surrounded by others. Even if they were chickens. And who knows, maybe she’d like them even better.

I doubt it, but who knows.

 

EPILOGUE

mothers day project (9)Sparkle was fine at Grandma’s. Savvy visited every week, reading her pet chicken new stories and playing in the yard.

Sparkle seemed happy, and that was best. She laid eggs every day for grandma (still taking Sundays off, of course) and she seemed to like her new chicken friends.

We were happy to have our pool deck back, and to not have poop everywhere. The tomatoes started growing again now that nobody was digging them up every day.

Still . . .

mothers day project (6)When it’s just me, I occasionally wander out onto the back porch and think about a tiny parade around the pool, led by a child and followed by a baby chick and a curious poodle.

Rides in the motorized Barbie Jeep with a chicken passenger.

Scooter lessons with a willing but terrified chicken student.

I mean, I’m happy. The porch stays cleaner. It doesn’t smell. And there aren’t wood chips and poop to clean up.

We’re busy people. There’s work and school and vacations. We can’t have that kind of a pet.

One that follows you everywhere and greets you each morning with such enthusiasm.

I don’t know . . .

She was a sweet bird, and we can’t exactly uproot her now that she’s made all those new friends at grandma’s.

Maybe we should think about getting another baby chick and just see how it goes.

(that would be followed by THE END)


 

danReaders of Savvy Stories will see the same “feel” here as in those books, a combination of learning on the part of the kid and the parent. As it should be. And some memories being captured, too, I guess. Nothing wrong with that.

 

* Reaches for tissue *

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious new romance novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.”

Get your copy HERE.

Hey, Look At Me! Hugely Insightful Interview of Dan Alatorre on “Writing To Be Read” – Learn Important Stuff! (Probably)

Check me out! The fine folks at Writing To Be Read were kind enough to talk to me about my latest books and also my writing habits, plus I pass along some insights into the writing world.

I sound pretty good in this!

writing to be read interview

By far, this is my most involved, educational interview I’ve even done, You really should read it if you want to write books.

Here are a few samples, and the rest is over at Writing To Be Read.

Today, I have have a real treat for you on Writing to be Read. My interview today is with a very funny guy, who is a successful independent author. He’s a family man, with a background in business, so book marketing and promotion is just another part of the  job for him. He’s got two books which have both been recently released, Poggibonsi: An Italian Misadventure? and The Navigators, which we will learn more about right here.

Dan has so much to share with us that I’m going to structure this interview a bit differently than I have on interviews in the past.

  • The first part will allow us to get to know Dan a little as a person.

  • The second part will delve into his marketing knowledge, followed up with

  • the last section which will probe into his writing techniques, what writing means to him and questions on craft. 

So, without further ado, let me introduce to you, independent author Dan Alatorre.

Dan’s insights on family and writing

Kaye: You are a family man, Dan. What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

Dan: I think if you are a writer you need to prepare yourself for the inevitable “you spend too much time on the computer” conversation/argument.

On doing and conducting interviews

Anyway, one of the best interviews I ever did was when Jenny and Allison interviewed me for the release of The Navigators. We set up a three-way video call that we recorded. That was really a lot of fun.

The interview that hands-down was the funniest interview I ever did was interviewing the author of the bestseller The Fourth Descendant for a trilogy she was releasing called Project Renovatio. We probably spent two hours doing the interview and we probably laughed hysterically for one hour and 50 minutes of it. The 10 minutes when we weren’t laughing is most of what we used for the interview.

On choosing a book cover

Anyway, when you have good success you have to look if you can make bigger success. Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes the answer is no… I am very fortunate they’ve (my cover designers) done a terrific job, too! Look at how eye catching The Navigators cover is. That’s all part of it, making your book stand out. I’ve been very fortunate to work with so many skilled people.

On where I draw inspiration for my stories

I was talking to an author friend of mine the other day and I was explaining to her that she was very creative in setting up a new world or a situation that is different from our current existence. I, on the other hand, have taken things that we are all very familiar with and looked at them from a very, very different view point. I’ve never tried to create a fantasy world like she has. So my complement to her was how creative she is at that, and she’s great storyteller in addition. My complement to myself was that I can take things that everybody knows and all of a sudden they are questioning everything about it and laughing their butts off or crying their eyes out or being scared to death of these things that they already knew.

Plotter versus Pantser (I am SUCH a plotter!)

Having a goal and having a destination, that will help you finish your story. I think 90% of writers block and unfinished stories happens because of the lack of an outline.

But again, it is not locking you in a cage, it is simply directing your creativity. Having an outline does not stifle your creativity, it directs it.

This is one of the most in depth, insightful interviews I’ve ever done.

Head over to Writing To Be Read and read it all. You’ll be glad you did.

If you are a new writer or have questions about the process, this will give you a few years of information in one interview.

Read it now and please leave a comment over there! Retweet, like, and share her post! Spread the word!

Thanks to Kaye at Writing To Be Read for giving me the opportunity and space to share these views! She’s the best!

 

 

Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest: 5th Place and Honorable Mentions “Destination Seoul Tokyo” By Heather Hackett, and “Trip Of A Lifetime” by Carrie Ann Alexis

Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest

Word Weaver logi FINAL trimmed

* 5th Place Winner and Honorable Mentions *

download

 The Last Letter by Maribel C. Pagan

This story had some great elements to it, and a lot of emotional range in a short span.

Read it and be sure to continue on to the Honorable Mentions

Like the 4th place winners, we didn’t create a prize for these folks, so I am posting their winning entry here and I’m going to request they do an author interview or author profile here on the blog, as well as hooking them up with some signed copies of paperback books from some of the following authors.

 

HERE are some of the AMAZING AUTHORS whose books will be in these prize packages

51CShaKNiTLAllison Maruska, The Fourth Descendant, the Project Renovatio trilogy

With over 550 reviews on Amazon, a signed copy of Allison’s runaway bestseller The Fourth Descendant should be part of any book lover’s collection.

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Allison’s amazing Project Renovatio trilogy has captivated audiences around the world. You want to win that, too.

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Hugh Roberts, Glimpses

28 short stories that will take your mind on a rollercoaster of a ride into worlds that conceal unexpected twists and turns. You REALLY wanna win that!

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Phillip T Stephens Cigerets, Guns & Beer; Raising Hell; Seeing Jesus; and The Worst Noel

Is murder, sex, buried bank loot and legends of UFOs your cup of tea? Or maybe a clueless optimist who “ruins a perfectly good hell” Phillip T. Stephens offers crime, dark fantasy, young adult – and a good dose of humor.

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Jennifer Weiner, 24 Love Letter Ideas

Love letters are a nearly lost art form, but they are the easiest and least costly way to show your partner love and romance. Plus, it’s quick to do! I’m a fan of quick!

24 Romantic Date Night Ideas

Jennifer’s beautiful companion book is a terrific way to round out your romantic evening.

516Q3s98MCL

Colleen Chesebro, The Heart Stone Chronicles: The Swamp Fairy

Come on, who doesn’t enjoy a fairy story? Plus, it’s set in Florida, a win-win. Then along comes a  primeval nymph, who explains young Abby’s true destiny is to protect the nymphs from evil in an ever-changing modern world.

414Z3XL3KBL

T. A. Henry, Scripting The Truth

Any story that takes place in post-WWII Britain and has the phrase “She’ll try to do it all while trying to keep the seams on her stockings straight” has to be read. You’ll agree.

poggi-cover-final

and of course, ME

A few folks will be selected to receive a signed paperback of my hilarious sexy romp through Italy. It’s not available in stores yet, so these will be hot commodities. Probably.

TheNavigatorsFinal

A few other folks will win my amazing sci fi thriller The Navigators as a signed paperback or an eBook. Don’t even ask me if I’ll sign the eBook. Just. Don’t.

When I post their stories, I will tell you a little about why they won, and more about how tough the decision process was.


The Last Letter
Maribel C. Pagan

Passports were laid upon the coffee table. Adam held a pamphlet in his hand. Travel to Spain.

His Mom walked into the room, coat on and dragging a suitcase. His suitcase. “Are you ready to go?”

He stood up. “Not sure I would like to go.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “And why not?”

“Because, Mom,” he slammed the pamphlet onto the coffee table, “I don’t think this will be a good experience for me.”

“It will be a great experience visiting another country, and…” she paused. “Is this because of your Father? You know he wants to see you again. He misses you.”

He scoffed. “Yeah, or you wish he did.”

She squinted her eyes. He realized his mistake and lowered his head.

“You are going to see you father again. It’s not right that you leave him like this, wondering how you are doing, missing you, and wanting to speak with you again.”

Tears formed in his eyes. He looked up at his Mom. “Why not? That’s what he did, isn’t it? Admit it. He shouldn’t have done that. I am not going to a foreign country just to see his damn face that betrayed you—that betrayed me—and ruined out lives! And that’s final.”

Her eyes widened. “Adam!”

Before his tears spilled out, he ran up the stairs. A door slammed above.

She let out a deep, long breath.

***

A man stood in the airport. He checked his watch, glanced back at the screen listing the plane departures and arrivals. His hand scrubbed his hair back.

He opened a paper. Only five words jotted down in a hurry:

Dear Adam,
I’m sorry.
-Dad

He looked back up at the screen, checked his watch again.

Then left, the door slamming behind him.


Your humble host.

I was like, hey, a fun trip! Spain!

No….

I enjoyed the mystery and the tension, plus wondering how it would end. Short and bittersweet

Good stuff, even if it’s sad.

 


 

Honorable Mentions

I enjoyed these two stories a lot, feeling as though they had good bones and a good writing style, and probably in a different contest on a different day, they are 1st place winners.

Here, in this contest, the stuff that appealed to me more had to win, but I wanted to explain what I found special about each of these.

“Honorable Mention” is a lackluster title, but these stories – and their authors – are anything but lackluster. Expect great things from these two writers in the future.


Destination Seoul Tokyo
Heather Hackett

To say we were unprepared for Japan is an understatement of no small proportions. A week before we arrived we weren’t even headed that way. We were off to Korea to teach English. Only a chance meeting with a recently retired TEFL teacher in Hong Kong changed the direction of our journey toward the Land of the Rising Sun. We really had no plan at all.

We landed at Narita International Airport in early afternoon rain. Immediately it was obvious we weren’t in Kansas anymore. The signs directing inbound passengers were pretty clear – Japanese this way, Aliens over there. We didn’t seem to belong in either category. I didn’t know whether to be mildly confused or profoundly offended, and I wondered exactly how I was going to answer the inevitable question, ‘Where are you from?’ Should I launch into a long and convoluted explanation about how we were actually heading for Venus but our space ship had been thrown off course by the rings of Saturn and we were forced to drop out of warp speed and de-cloak just south of Jupiter? Maybe the flight from Hong Kong had taken us off-planet and this really wasn’t Earth. Though I was unaware of it then, I would begin to believe this was in fact the case in about three hours’ time.

We were admitted without further insult, other than some heavy eyeballing of our scruffy backpacks and the baby on my back, and a difficult conversation in pidgin English about the bananas pictured on a box of cereal we were carrying. Armed with only a dog-eared and out of date copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Japan, we headed for the banks of bright green public phones. For the next six hours, James entertained Mani – no small feat – and I made phone calls.

But my pleas for a room for even one night fell on deaf ears. At first it was just a matter of being fully booked, but soon the real reason for the refusals came out, in the form of a confession, as if they had been caught out – ‘We don’t want any baby!’ One innkeeper even started to lecture me on my poor holiday planning. Holiday? We had arrived here to look for work and start a new life with a nine-month old baby and only the contents of two backpacks. We must surely be insane. It wasn’t going to be a picnic, let alone a holiday.

Disheartened, and with my face still wet from the tears of begging, we headed for the official airport reservation counter. I’d been on the phone almost continuously for over six hours, apart from crying breaks, during which I also wrung my hands in despair. The last train had long since left on its 60-kilometre journey to Tokyo Station, and the only remaining option, that we could really not afford, was the Limousine Bus. It was a quiet, dejected, one-hour ride, just the three of us and the driver, on a dimly-lit, luxury coach. We arrived at Tokyo Station around midnight with a booking for a hotel on the Ginza that we could also not afford if our stay in Japan was going to last longer than a few days.

Tokyo Station is like a small city, with 3000 trains and millions of passengers passing through it every day. Finding the right exit from the hundreds of options was a nightmare, but somehow, we managed to emerge into the cool, rainy night on the right side of the tracks. Breaking the golden rule of travel – never trust a local – by asking a local for help, an elderly gentleman waiting for a taxi pointed us in the direction of our hotel. Luckily, he spoke a little English, and he hurriedly advised us that it was a very long way, and we should take a cab. In typical stubborn Aussie style, after confirming the correct direction, we set off on foot, in the rain, without umbrellas.

Fifteen minutes later, we stumbled into the expensive-looking lobby of a four-star hotel in Tokyo’s ritziest neighbourhood, soaked to the skin, with our two backpacks and baby, much to the horror of the doormen in their pristine suits and white gloves. To their credit, they still managed the slightest of bows in our general direction as they swung open the heavy gilt and glass doors.

Despite their obvious contempt for the two grubby gaijin creating puddles in front of their clean white counter, the reception staff checked us in with the utmost politeness, and just a hint of disbelief that we actually had a booking. I think they would have preferred we hadn’t so they could ever so politely turn us away. But alas… we were in.

Our room was on the tenth floor. I remember that distinctly for the oddest of reasons. An earthquake. As seasoned backpackers, we had rarely found ourselves in the midst of such luxury for a place to sleep. The ¥15,000 price tag ensured that it would be for just one night, so prudently we took advantage of the handheld hot shower and deep Japanese tub to soak away the woes of the previous 12 hours.

Our son, never one to sleep at normal hours for his age, set about exploring the technologically-enhanced accommodation, starting with the mini bar. Settling himself in front of the open fridge door, he liberated two cans of soft drink in quick succession simply by pressing on each one in turn, marvelling at the way they fell at his feet and grinning from ear to ear. As I recklessly tried to reinsert them into their pigeon holes, another two swiftly popped out, sending my son into peals of laughter. What an excellent and expensive game. The blurb in the information folder informed me that drinks from the mini bar were automatically billed to the room via a sophisticated electronic link to the shelves in the fridge. Excellent news! We were already up for four unwanted cans of Coca Cora and something called Calpis.

A couple of hours later, I finally started to relax, lying on the double bed admiring the neon view over this new city. The entire day had taken its weary toll, and the words of a hotel manager I had spoken to on the phone that afternoon were still ringing in my ears. He had told me, rudely and in no uncertain terms, that he didn’t think much of my planning skills, and that I was going to spend a lot of money in Japan. It seemed he was right after all.

It was well after 2 a.m., when, without warning, the bed began to vibrate, a gentle, easy, side to side motion reminiscent of the old massage beds frequently found in cheap Australian motels in the 70s. Alarmed at the thought of more Yen being added to our account, and assuming my son had somehow triggered a switch, I began frantically searching for a way to shut it down. But I couldn’t find one.

As I looked up from the floor in desperation, I noticed that the bed wasn’t the only thing moving. The chandelier light was also swaying from side to side. It was only then that I realised we were experiencing our very first earthquake. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it stopped, and the room returned to an eerie quiet. Welcome to Japan, sitting squarely on the edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Over the next few years we would become well-acquainted with the ups and downs of Japan’s volcanic geography, and learn that more is actually better when it comes to earthquakes. Upheavals every few days – pleasantly inconvenient. A couple of weeks with no movements – prepare for imminent disaster.

Even though I was exhausted, sleep still eluded me. So, I continued poring over the guide books and information pamphlets we had picked up at the airport reservation desk, looking for a cheaper option for our second night. I didn’t really find one, well, not one that was going to prolong our stay in Japan anyway.

But a little ryokan in a slightly less-expensive, leafy suburb near Roppongi came to our rescue. With a price tag about one-third that of the Ginza hotel, it became a base from which to make another thousand phone calls to what were affectionately termed gaijin houses, places where poor, broke backpackers like ourselves congregated in the hope of saving money by sharing the rent and utilities. Eventually we found one, a former dormitory-style apartment house built by a local company to accommodate their employees. It was located in Chiba Prefecture, just a half-hour train ride to the east of central Tokyo. Together with about thirty other international expatriates who already inhabited its rustic carcass, it would become our home for the next six months.


Your humble host.

I liked the shared experience we’ve all had as unlucky travelers, but what caught me was the opening: unprepared and not even headed there… Usually, Seoul is a place you know you’re headed to. They were headed to Korea. That caught my attention, and the frustration after that was palpable – as well as the lighthearted moments.

It was well done and I think we’ll enjoy more of Heather’s writing in the future.


Trip Of A Lifetime

Carrie Ann Alexis

“1.2 million dollars? Did you actually say one. Point. Two. Million. Dollars?” Michael questions as he scoots to the edge of his chair as if getting closer will allow him to hear better, one hand clutching his chest and the other resting on the desk in front of him. With an eyebrow raised he looks at the lawyer waiting for his reply.

“Yes, Mr. Alexander that is correct. Your Aunt Hazel instructed me to tell you the amount of your inheritance, and to give you this.” The lawyer hands him a sealed envelope.

“What is this?” Michael inquires.

“Read it.”

Michael struggles to open the envelope, as he alternates from fanning himself, to dabbing his brow with one hand, as the other shaky hand holds onto the envelope. He finally manages to get it open, he takes a deep breath as he unfolds the paper, recognizing his Aunt’s handwriting, he is overcome with emotion his hand involuntarily covers his mouth as he reads to himself.

My Dearest Michael –

Surprised? I can just picture you now, you frantically fanning yourself like you are about to pass out. Breathe dear, calm down, no need getting all verklempt.

Let me explain. I’ve spent my whole life trying to make everyone happy by doing what was expected of me, and what was right. I have decided that in my passing, I will finally do what I want. You and your mother are the only family I have left. Well…the only family by blood. There is actually someone else. There always has been someone else, but I think you already knew that. She is the other beneficiary.

Being neighbors for so many years, and then young widowers for many more, Rose and I formed a bond that went beyond friendship. Our husband’s life insurance policies paid off our houses, and left us enough money to raise our kids and live a comfortable life. Together we invested wisely, and multiplied what we had. We had a good life together, and we were very happy.

Michael, she adores you, she remembers the conversations we all had talking about traveling and seeing the world. That is what I want for you Michael. I have watched you live your life to the fullest, not caring what anyone thinks of you or the choices you make. I want you to use this inheritance to travel and see the world. I want you to be happy. Please resist the urge to put this money into the hair salon. You’re smart as a whip and a damn good hair stylist, the salon will be just fine. Go. See the world!!

One final request. Please look after Rose for me, and be sure to send her a postcard from all the faraway lands you visit.

Love-
Aunt Hazel

With a smile on his face, Michael carefully folds the letter, and places it back in the envelope, and whispers more to himself, “Wow.”

With pen in hand, the lawyer says, “I just need you to sign these papers. I’ve known your aunt for many years, she was an exceptional woman, she will be missed by a lot of people.”

Michael handles the paperwork, albeit in a bit of shock. Thanks the lawyer by shaking his hand and leaves the office.

The top was still down on his bright red BMW Z4 Roadster, the sun was still shining, as he started the car. As he pulled out of the parking lot, he didn’t turn the music on, instead he let the wind wash over him as the memories flooded his mind, as he made the short trip to Rose’s house.

He has so many fond memories of long summer evenings spent with his Aunt Hazel and Rose. No topic was off limits with the three of them. They would sit on the back porch talking and laughing until the lightning bugs came out. Even on the hottest of days, they sat and drank coffee, and snacked on Sara Lee Coffee Cake. Aunt Hazel would bring out the flavored coffee creamers whenever she had company, calling herself fancy.

He smiles at the memories, and continues his drive. It’s amazing how drastically life can change in the blink of an eye.
As he pulls into the cul-de-sac, he sees the two familiar houses standing side by side. Even the house itself displays a loss all of its own. A house once so warm and inviting, seems to have lost its fervor without a life residing within it. Even the neighborhood has seemed to have lost its sparkle. He sees Rose, sitting on her porch swing, the slow motion not unlike a pendulum of a clock that is just abiding its time. As he walks up to the front porch, she sees him and smiles, it barely reaches her eyes. They greet each other with a hug, as Michael says, “Hello there Doll Face.” This time with a little less enthusiasm, and a lot more melancholy.

Rose can only muster a single word response, “Michael.” As she holds back tears and leans into his much-needed embrace, knowing this once joyous reunion has quickly turned bittersweet.

She reluctantly steps back, and quickly wipes her eyes. “Let’s go inside. Hazel would have a fit if she knew we were standing out here blubbering all over the sidewalk.”

Michael follows her into a well-kept house. “Make yourself comfortable hon, the coffee is already on, I’ll be back in a minute.”

“I can help you.” Michael insists.

“It’s no trouble, you sit, relax, you’ve been driving all day.”

Michael stops and looks at all the beautiful pictures of Rose’s family displayed proudly on the mantel. Children, grandchildren, and a few great-grandchildren. Many include his Aunt Hazel, with that fabulous smile of hers. She did live a happy life.

Rose enters the dining room and sets a tray on the table. Michael takes a seat as she pours coffee. The Sara Lee coffee cake is already sliced, he smiles as he takes a piece. “You know I had to do it, kind of feels like she’s here with us.” She says with a half-smile.

“Ok Missy, spill it. Did you know about my inheritance?” He eyeballs her as he prepares his coffee with cream and sugar.

“Yes. Yes I did.” She says nodding her head knowingly. “Hazel was so practical that way. You know, my Frank passed away first. She saw how difficult it was for me to make all the arrangements and decisions at such a vulnerable time, but she helped me through it then. Shortly afterwards, she sat your uncle down, and they got all their affairs in order, not knowing she would be burying him just a year later.” She pauses and solemnly shakes her head in disbelief. “Then once her and I started investing together and sharing more of our lives together, she sat me down too. I hated having to think about all that stuff, but that was Hazel, she was the planner, and she wanted the final say for her life.”

Michael quietly takes it all in as he sips his coffee. “So Lovie, we have all this money to see the world, where to first?”

“Oh, Michael dear, those were just silly pipe dreams from a couple of old bittys. We were trying to live vicariously through you. Besides, I don’t think I’d want to travel alone at this point in my life.”

“First of all, you are not an old bitty Sugar. But I do understand your apprehension.” He reassures as he reaches over to lay his hand over hers. “But I tell you what, if ever you get a bug in your bonnet and you just need to get away, you call me, and I’ll be your travel companion. Belize…France…Switzerland…Wisconsin, skies the limit Chica, you let me know.”

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly ask you to do that Michael.”

“Rose. Look at me.” Michael says with a dramatic point towards himself, and an eyebrow raised. “I’m serious.”

“If you’re serious…there is some place…”

With an excited gasp, Michael says, “Really? Where?”

“My granddaughter is having one of those destination weddings in Hawaii in December, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there alone, everyone is so busy preparing for the wedding I didn’t want to bother anyone to travel with me.”

“It’s done Darlin’, I’ll be your plus one. After the nuptials, we’ll get ourselves a place on the beach, hire us a cabana boy, and we’ll be sipping margaritas as we watch the sunset. Give me all the info, and leave the details to me. You just worry about looking like the fabulous grandma that you are.” He takes her hand and kisses it with a loud “muah” sealing the deal.

“Oh Michael, thank you so much, I’m excited now.” She reaches over and gives him a hug.

Mumbling more to himself in silent outrage, “Hm…missing your grandbaby’s wedding…no siree…not on my watch!!”

Michael stays overnight and heads home in the morning. He genuinely enjoyed his visit, he makes a mental note to do this more often.

Before he gets on the road, he calls Nita. She’s not only his business partner, but his best friend. He knows she’ll want to hear all about his trip, and he’d rather talk with her without the interruptions of a busy day.

“Hey, I’m on my way back, let’s meet somewhere for lunch. I have so much to tell you!!”

“Ok great, I just found this wonderful new sub shop, called Firehouse Subs, it’s decorated like a firehouse, and was actually founded by fireman.”

“Ohhhh sounds delicious.”

“Michael, they’re just subs. It’s in the strip mall on 119th Street. What time should I meet you there?”

“I can be there in about an hour and a half. Oh, and Nita, I wasn’t talking about the subs. Bye!!” he disconnects the call with a mischievous grin.

As they walk up to the sub shop, Michael reads the sign on the door aloud, “Founded by Fireman, Ohhh now that’s fun, I hope we run into some. I mean literally…run into them.” He turns his head and nods as he looks at Nita and opens the door.

Giving him a playful push through the entrance, “Oh my god Michael, behave.” Nita says shaking her head.

After taking far too long to decide what he wanted to order, they finally get their food and find a table and sit down.

“So, tell me all about your trip.”

“Well. The ride down is always nice, the weather was gorgeous, I was cruising in my Beemer with the top down, and the tunes cranked up, the wind in my hair and not a care in the world.” He dramatically says as he looks off into the distance.

“Michael!!” Nita startles him out of his reverie. “How about you get to the part about meeting the lawyer.” She nods her head with a smile as she takes a bite of her sandwich.

He clutches his chest and laments, “You wound me with your harshness.”

With a dramatic eye roll, Nita takes another bite of her sandwich.

“Fine. I was getting to that part anyway. It seems that dear Aunt Hazel had a secret. Pfsh, like I didn’t already know.” He gave a dismissive wave of his hand.

“Really?” With eyes wide and eyebrows raised.

Michael knowingly nods his head and hands her an envelope, “The lawyer said he was instructed by my aunt to inform me of my inheritance, and then give me this letter to read. Here, read it for yourself.”

Nita wipes her hands on a napkin and reaches over to take the envelope. She pulls a folded letter from it and reads it to herself.

“Wow Michael, that is wonderful!! When is your first trip? Where is your first trip?” truly excited for him.

“I’ll get to all that. Don’t you want to know how much?”

“Sure, if you want to tell me.” She replies as she reaches for her Coke.

Michael looks to his left then to his right. He leans forward and whispers, “One point two million.”

She almost spits out her drink, but instead starts coughing, but manages to say, “Are you kidding me?”

“Nope.”

“Oh. My. God…Michael!!”

“I know right?” He says with his hand splayed across his chest. “But anyhow…before I left, I went to visit Rose. We had a nice visit. Turns out, her granddaughter is having one of those destination weddings in Hawaii. Rose didn’t want to travel alone, so she thought she would miss it.” He lifted his shoulder in a half shrug, “I suggested that I be her plus one. The wedding is in December.” Thinking nothing of it, he takes a bite of his sandwich, then looks up at Nita.

She is just staring at him with a huge smile on her face.

“What?” He questions.

“Michael!! You are simply the best.” She says with admiration.

“Yeah, I know…it is a gift.” He replies with a smirk.

Nita wads up a napkin and throws it at him. Shaking her head, smiling, she rolls her eyes.

© 2017 Carrie Ann


Let’s face it: $1.2 million dollars caught my attention, and I was wondering what he’d do with the cash – as well as what was up with all those kinda zany characters. It was equally fun and mysterious to read. Again, I expect great things from Carrie Ann going forward.

Your humble host.If you liked these stories, please share this post on StumbleUpon and other social media so our winners can get the recognition they deserve.

AS WE GET THE INTERVIEWS AND PROFILES COMPLETED ON OUR WINNING AUTHORS, WE WILL, RUN THEM HERE ON THE BLOG

If you would like to sponsor our July 2017 Word Weaver Writing Contest and get this kind of exposure for your book or a product or service beneficial to authors, please contact me.

Interview with Dan Alatorre

An interview with me! J. A. Allen holds my feet to the fire and asks the tough questions you’ve always wanted to know…

J. A. Allen

danLongtime followers of Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins will recognize this face. Dan Alatorre has been a great friend to the site from day one. Dan and I first “met” in June, 2015. I use the term met loosely, because we didn’t actually meet face-to-face until a year later, when he invited me to attend the Florida Writers Conference with fellow out-of-towner, Allison Maruska.

Our paths first crossed in an online critique group. At the time, he was looking for feedback on his WIP, Poggibonsi. What the hell is a Poggibonsi, you may ask? It’s the name of a city in Central Italy. It’s also the title of Dan Alatorre’s incredibly funny, sexy, and surprisingly heart-warming novel.

Dan’s book pulled me in the moment I opened chapter one. It’s about a man who takes his family on a work trip to Italy where things go terribly wrong. And, while it would…

View original post 4,300 more words

Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest: 4th Place TIE. Travelling Man by Adele Marie Park and High Desert Plateau by Richard Ewalt

Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest

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* 4th Place Winners *

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 Travelling Man by Adele Marie Park and High Desert Plateau by Richard Ewalt

Two very different stories and two very different outcomes.

First, Adele, then Richard. Be sure to read both.

 

I said I’d have to think up a prize for the 4th place winners because we didn’t really have one when we started. Each will receive copies of signed paperbacks by some of the authors listed below, as well as being featured in an upcoming interview or author profile here on the blog. Maybe a $10 Starbucks gift card just so they can read this post publicly and see if people read over their shoulder and notice it’s about them. CONGRATULATIONS!!

HERE are some of the AMAZING AUTHORS whose books will be in these prize packages

51CShaKNiTLAllison Maruska, The Fourth Descendant, the Project Renovatio trilogy

With over 550 reviews on Amazon, a signed copy of Allison’s runaway bestseller The Fourth Descendant should be part of any book lover’s collection.

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Allison’s amazing Project Renovatio trilogy has captivated audiences around the world. You want to win that, too.

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Hugh Roberts, Glimpses

28 short stories that will take your mind on a rollercoaster of a ride into worlds that conceal unexpected twists and turns. You REALLY wanna win that!

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Phillip T Stephens Cigerets, Guns & Beer; Raising Hell; Seeing Jesus; and The Worst Noel

Is murder, sex, buried bank loot and legends of UFOs your cup of tea? Or maybe a clueless optimist who “ruins a perfectly good hell” Phillip T. Stephens offers crime, dark fantasy, young adult – and a good dose of humor.

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Jennifer Weiner, 24 Love Letter Ideas

Love letters are a nearly lost art form, but they are the easiest and least costly way to show your partner love and romance. Plus, it’s quick to do! I’m a fan of quick!

24 Romantic Date Night Ideas

Jennifer’s beautiful companion book is a terrific way to round out your romantic evening.

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Colleen Chesebro, The Heart Stone Chronicles: The Swamp Fairy

Come on, who doesn’t enjoy a fairy story? Plus, it’s set in Florida, a win-win. Then along comes a  primeval nymph, who explains young Abby’s true destiny is to protect the nymphs from evil in an ever-changing modern world.

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T. A. Henry, Scripting The Truth

Any story that takes place in post-WWII Britain and has the phrase “She’ll try to do it all while trying to keep the seams on her stockings straight” has to be read. You’ll agree.

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and of course, ME

A few folks will be selected to receive a signed paperback of my hilarious sexy romp through Italy. It’s not available in stores yet, so these will be hot commodities. Probably.

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A few other folks will win my amazing sci fi thriller The Navigators as a signed paperback or an eBook. Don’t even ask me if I’ll sign the eBook. Just. Don’t.

When I post their stories, I will tell you a little about why they won, and more about how tough the decision process was.


Travelling Man

Adele Marie Park

 

Sweat poured down my thighs like a river bursting its banks. Hell, it was hot. Too tropical to be working.

Digging ain’t for ladies but I got my gloves on, protecting my delicate little hands.

I laugh and something echoes round me.

Good time for a pause, so I lean on the handle of the spade and listen.

Damn me, it’s a duck, one of them whistling ducks.

I slide to the ground and wipe my forehead. It’s going to leave dirty marks but whose waiting for me at home?

My Daddy? Oh, yeah he’s going to be waiting for me to hand him his next beer.

He never made any sense even before Mama died. Although he did tell me to stay away from the travelling man. Said he would be no good for me. Damn if he didn’t get that right.

Up on my feet again. Piercing the earth with the blade of the just. Almost done enough, just a few more shovels.

Jesus wept and the heavens rolled with thunder. Don’t get the blues, not now. As good as done Josie, don’t give up now.

By the time I finish the heat of the day has gone to sleep and I welcome the coolness of the night like a lover.

I had a lover. Travelling man you were my lover. Hot and sweaty like noon day when ordinary folk stay inside. You loved me like you were already gone.

I look at the water. Calm now. Like my heart except my hearts empty the river ain’t.

I wade in, clothes and all.

A memory comes when I don’t want any.

Last summer, the dry heat of a dust bowl blew in for little John’s baptism. The preacher ducked him under and everyone there wished it was them so they could cool down.

The water laps around my neck and my hair fans out behind me. A beauty about to drown. No one here to see, what a damn shame.

Under the water I can see shapes darting in and out of the light. I got no interest in them, live on don’t mind me. I got a job to do, then I’ll be gone.

I tied the stone to the shovel on dry land and it was heavy until I got into deep water. I let it sink. It’ll lie there until green widow weeds cover it like a shroud.

The water spurts up around me as I surface and I feel like a phoenix reborn from the flames and chains of slavery. I shake my head and water flies around me like diamonds.

When I climb out the night strokes my flesh with goose bump fingers.

Hurry, Josie, lest you catch cold.

That voice always sounds like my grandma. The only one who cared or noticed me.

Mama was too sick and daddy was always a drunk. With that home life I was fodder for the travelling man, fresh fruit to snack on as he ran on his way.

The hidden suitcase, the dry clothes and the watch. Later I can look over the treasures, right now I need to get warm.

I hesitated over taking mama’s Sunday coat but now as I feel the softness against my cold skin I almost break down.

I can smell her. She must’ve looked so good in this coat. The buttons are big and my fingers stumble on them but I won’t be beat. I’ve come this far.

My fingernails are still painted red. I went to him like a sacrifice, laid my chest open so he could see my heart beating and it beat faster as he touched me.

Tidy up now, everything in the case, don’t think, just do.

Grandma’s back again. Love you old woman. I saw the photos that mama kept. You were a prize. Milk chocolate, velvet skin, hair curling round your face like temptation.

My heart shivers. No tears, not now. It’s done.

I walk away from the river leaving a shell of myself behind.

The trees thin out and I’m going to emerge on the other side of town. No one will know I’m gone but, I made sure their tongues were wagging.

Walked around with him like I was his bride. They saw and they digested their own viciousness. Long as it’s happening to someone else, they feel safe.

The plan. I struggle to remember when I felt the first tendrils of it run through my brain. Lucky I got grandma’s brains. The feeble strings built up into a tapestry that whispered to me then roared a battle cry in my ears. That was after.

Love was fine, it made parts of me speed up and throb that I’d only thought about. Our skin slid with the juices of our love and he told me I was too good for this town. Well, I already knew that. He knew it too when I took the knife across his throat.

One last kiss, one last sinful coupling before you go. I made myself look weak and powerless. He took the bait like a fox after a chicken dinner.

How did I ever think his ugly face was handsome. Love is blind after all.

No one will find him but if they do, they won’t care. I made sure they’ll think I left with him to travel with him. A whore after all they’ll say.

A rumbling comes and I look up at the sky it but it’s clear. Then I see the yellow eyes getting closer. It’s my ticket to freedom.

The night bus rolls along on the back roads. The ghost bus that only runaways and outlaws ride. Well, I’m both and I got the dirty loot in my pocket to get to that town called freedom.

He had money to burn, so I saved it from dying in the flames of hell and damnation. It’s going to go a long way in freedom town.

Oh, daddy you were so wrong. The travelling man set me free of you and this town of memories and spit.

Put your foot down Mr. bus driver, I’m in a hurry to start living.


Why did it win? What spoke to me?

Your humble host.I was intrigued by sweaty thighs (and hoping they were a woman’s thighs and a not a fat hairy guy’s) and had to read on – but I DID NOT SEE THAT TWIST COMING, and when you smoke one by me, I have to tip my hat.

Again the story was full of questions I wanted to know the answers to, and the ending was a happy surprise.

 


 

High Desert Plateau

Richard Ewalt

During my college years, I went on frequent road trips between my home in California and my home-away-from-home in Colorado. I loved to drive by myself, to watch the scenery of the desolate West fly past. These trips afforded me the opportunity to reflect, to philosophize about life and love and the universe and my place in it all.

These were the late eighties and early nineties of the tail end of the twentieth century. It was a great time to be alive, to be a young man. Unattached. No responsibilities. The open panorama of the high desert inviting me to explore the unknown future. Basically, for me at that time it was the closest I felt I could come to having an adventure—there being no orcs ready to hand.

My beverage of preference on these trips was the much beloved (at least by college students) Jolt Cola. Its catchy, no-nonsense tagline, which flew in the face of the health-conscious consumers of the time, was this … Jolt Cola! All the sugar and twice the caffeine! I loved that stuff, mostly because of that tagline and how it made me feel defiant and young.

The reason I drank Jolt on these trips was because the distance between start and finish was right on the borderline between a one-day or two-day drive. Less adventurous souls would sleepover halfway through, often in the windswept town of Windover, Utah. But not me. Armed with a twelve pack of Jolt, I would drive straight through—usually taking about twenty hours end to end. When I finally arrived (always in the dark), I would be so sleepy and wired at the same time that I would basically just pass out and sleep for half of the following day.

Well, on one of these trips, I had an experience that has stuck with me throughout all the subsequent years. I like to call it my epiphany. It was the one time I thought that God himself (I tended to be more religious in those days than I’ve since become) actually spoke to me. Not audibly. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t have a vision, and there was nothing supernatural about the experience. However, in a strange, backward sort of way, that made it all the more meaningful and powerful. To put it cryptically … its complete lack of any supernatural quality MADE IT feel supernatural tome, more than I imagine an actual supernatural experience would feel.

Of course, that could be the caffeine talking. I don’t deny that at all.

This particular road trip must have been in the early nineties. Either ’92 or ’93. It was summer, or possibly spring break. In any case, there was no snow on the ground as I drove, but the mountains still sported snow-covered peaks.

For those who don’t know, Nevada and Utah are the two states that lie between California and Colorado. This intervening region is a high desert plateau, which connects the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with the western reaches of the much more regal Rocky Mountains. It’s considered a desert because it gets very little annual precipitation. However, it’s a cold desert due to its altitude. The entire breadth of the plateau can be blanketed in snow for much of the winter and into the spring.

On these trips, I normally drove along Interstate 80, from San Francisco to Reno, then across Nevada and half of Utah to get to Salt Lake City. After that I’d continue into Wyoming all the way to its capital, Cheyenne, where I’d turn south toward Denver on Interstate 25. On this trip, however, I drove a slightly different route because I was heading for Grand Junction, not Denver. I turned off the main road in Salt Lake City and headed south instead, toward Provo on Interstate 15. From there, I turned off the freeway system to follow a smaller road which ran southeast though the mountains. My epiphany took place in this mountainous region between Provo and Grand Junction, an atypically beautiful area in the middle of an otherwise featureless desert. Who knew that Utah had such great skiing!

This time period in America was very different from what we’re used to today. In retrospect, I see it as an interregnum of sorts. You might even call it a high desert plateau of time that connected the glory days of the 1980s with the dawn of the Internet age, which began in earnest in the late 90s. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know this. The term “world wide web” was still two or three years away from its sudden and ubiquitous domination of the vocabulary of the nation. Heck, I don’t think I even had a cell phone back then, although that technology had largely spread itself throughout the populace. I was always a late adopter of new gadgets, preferring the tried and true over the trendy.

So, there I was. Driving alone through unfamiliar territory. Essentially cut off from the rest of the world. In those days, if your car broke down in the middle of nowhere, you couldn’t just tap on the triple-A app on your smart phone and have a tow truck show up in twenty minutes. There were no smart phones, and even those with cell phones often found themselves in dead zones without any service. The only thing to do was to wait on the side of the road for another car to drive by and hope that it would stop and help you. If nothing else, you could get a ride to the nearest town to use a pay phone.

And yet, I had no worries. I loved being out there. Today we might call it being off the grid. The feeling of freedom predominated, and, as I said earlier, it put me into a philosophical mood. I may have been listening to music, although I don’t recall. More likely I was simply driving and thinking. Plotting out the novel I was working on. Or,nerd that I was, parsing Greek verbs in my head. At some point, I started truly noticing and admiring the scenery. The fact is that it caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting to find anything so magnificent, so majestic. Since I’d never driven on this road before, I guess I’d simply expected more of the same. More desolation, more empty desert. What I found instead was a scene straight out of a picture postcard. Breathtaking mountain vistas. Snow-covered slopes that seemed to come right down to the edge of the road I was driving on.

This beauty startled me. Utah in my mind was a flat dusty plain filled with actual salt mines. It was the place paleontologists went to dig up dinosaur bones. It’s possible that I’d recently watched Jurassic Park, although that may have come later. Some corner of my mind had a vague memory of people talking about skiing in Utah, but it hadn’t taken hold in any significant way in the conscious overlay of my known world.I felt a great welling up in my soul, and I began talking with God in my mind. Not praying. I wasn’t asking for anything. Just chitchatting. I’d grown up in a very laid back religious tradition where having a mental conversation with God would have been considered normal. Of course it was a one-sided conversation. I talked, or rather I thought thoughts. And God, well, pretty much just listened and nodded in agreement at the appropriate moments.

Except this time, something different happened. I remember very clearly the line of thought I was on. I was feeling overwhelmed by the beauty, the transcendence of the mountains as I drove through them. For several minutes it was as though I were partially hypnotized. Except instead of staring at a dangling, shiny pocket watch, I was staring at the contours and crevices on the surfaces of the mountain slopes. The dappled snow catching the sunlight in random arcs of color and sparkles.

Thinking back, I was probably lucky I didn’t run the car off the road. But I guess my conscious mind was driving while my subconscious, or possibly superconscious, mind was deep in the throes of wonder. I’d always known that the natural world could transport you into a transcendent realm, but this was the first time I’d experienced it to any significant degree. And this is when my epiphany happened. This is when God answered me.

I was thinking along these lines. These mountains are incredible! I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. I didn’t even know this place existed. It all seems so unreal and real at the same time. And then I asked God a question in my mind. In amazement I wanted to know how all this beauty had come about, by what means God had created it all. The words I thought were: How do you do it?

Before the question had even completely exited my frontal lobe, while it was still on the tip of my mental tongue, as it were, I heard—thought—the answer. It was so immediate and seemed to intrude into my stream of consciousness, as if from the outside. As if the thought were not my thought but rather was God, or the universe, answering my question. One very loud and powerful word filled my brain. Erosion!

That stopped me dead in my mental tracks. All other thought ceased. I was mentally dumbstruck. Of course! How obvious! And yet how subtle! It was the perfect answer, and I instantly knew the perfect application of that knowledge.

For the truth was that I wasn’t really asking about mountains and the beauty of nature. I was really asking about myself. I wanted to know what the future might hold for my life. I was on the cusp of full-fledged adulthood, and I was traveling through a high desert plateau of my life. Through the period between youth and full maturity. My life was being shaped, or I was shaping my life. Sometimes it seemed to be an active process, sometimes a passive one. But the point was that I didn’t know what lay ahead. An adventure through an unknown country. And I desperately wanted something to guide me, some map to follow or some torch to help light my way.

Without realizing it, I had asked for help with my life, and I had been given one thing, one thought, a single word. Erosion. And I was ecstatic! It was the deep, philosophical mooring point that I needed. There was no doubt of its fundamental truth. Of course, I had no clear idea what it meant in relation to my life, although even then I had the inklings of how it might play itself out.

Some people go out into the wilderness to seek their spirit guide, hopped up on peyote. A good friend of mine went all the way to Peru to learn the deeper meaning of life from a shaman in the high Andes. Me? I drove through Utah, buzzing on Jolt Cola, and high on nature. And I found the answer to one of the most fundamental questions of all time. Where does beauty come from? What is the origin of transcendence? How does creation actually happen? Turns out it’s quite simple and obvious. Erosion.

 


Your humble host.
your humble contest host

It has been my pleasure to showcase these amazing writers. Look for interviews and more on them in the upcoming weeks.

Why did it win? What spoke to me?

This was one of the very first stories I read, and it just seemed to have an energy I enjoyed. As I read other stories, this one kept staying in my head as one that would probably place well overall in the contest. It stuck with me, and that’s a good sign.

It had a real feel to it, and even though I’m not one to push religion in my stories, this had an even keeled balance of human experience to it that I found refreshing.

If you liked these stories, please share it on StumbleUpon and other social media so our winners can get the recognition they deserve.

Tomorrow, the 5th place winner in the Word Weaver Writing Contest:

The Last Letter by Maribel C. Pagan

and

Honorable Mentions:

  • Destination Seoul Tokyo By Heather Hackett

  • Trip Of A Lifetime by Carrie Ann Alexis

If you would like to sponsor our July 2017 Word Weaver Writing Contest and get this kind of exposure for your book or a product or service beneficial to authors, please contact me.