A Vigil for Justice: Episode Fourteen

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all, but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie sunk her hands into the warm soapy water in the kitchen sink. She fished around until she found another dish. The bubbles clung to her forearms and hands as she pulled a plate out, scrubbed it, and held it under the running water. She set it in the dish drainer.

She grabbed the frying pan off the stovetop and it disappears below the surface of the water like a boat going down.

The news was on in the living room. The Justice Law goes into effect tomorrow. J-Day, they were calling it. It was a far off hope that it would be repealed at the last moment, but if it happened, she wanted to know.

“This just in, Safe Zones, on the eve of J-Day.” The male news broadcaster said. “Congress has been in special session for a week on this one piece of legislation titled, Safe Zones, which was proposed shortly after the announcement that the Justice Law had been passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.”

“Mom, you want to see this,” Melanie called up the stairs. She stood in the doorway to living room with a dishtowel in one hand and the frying pan in the other. Soap bubbles dripped to the floor. Melanie looked down at the soapy pan.

“I’m busy Melanie what is it?” Jennifer said.

“Safe Zones. You want to see this.” She held the pan beneath the running water.

Hurried footsteps come down the stairs.

The screen switched to an image of the Whitehouse.

“Turn it up,” Jennifer said. She ducked passed Melanie and sat on the coffee table in front of the flat screen television mounted in the wall.

With the towel and pan in one hand, Melanie turned and pushed the volume button on the wall next to the couch.

President Vick stood at the chestnut podium with the American flag fluttering behind him. He adjusted the microphone attached to the lapel of his sharp black suit. “The states of Oregon and Maine will be safe zones. No guns will be allowed within their perimeter. Anyone who is seeking admission into a safe zone will go through a screening process. In order to be admitted you must not have any Justice kills, no felony convictions, and no illegal drugs in your system.” He looks out across the crowd of reporters. The camera scans over them and then returns to the president.

“The Safe zones will be secured by Homeland Security. All boarders will be patrolled. Anyone who kills within the safe zone will be put to death by lethal injection after a trial.”

Jennifer clapped her hands like a child who sees a pile of birthday presents labeled with her name in bright pink.

“All residents now occupy the safe zones who do not qualify for admission within the safe zone must vacate the safe zone. You will be provided with similar accommodations outside the safe zone, including housing and employment.”

Jennifer jumped up and grabbed Melanie by the shoulders. “Can you believe it? Someone has sense. This is just the beginning. The whole law will be abolished soon. The safe zones will spread.”

“Shhhh mom.” Melanie knitted her brows and waved her mother away.

“Visitation areas will be set up for immediate family members who are expelled from the safe zone. It will take time for the safe zones to be established and cleared of anyone who is not eligible for residency.”

Melanie rubbed the dishtowel around the rim of the pan. “I’m not sure this is a good idea.” Her mother’s mind always went the rainbow and roses route.

Jennifer didn’t say anything to her, just continued to watch the screen without blinking.

Melanie finished drying the pan and walked into the kitchen to put it away. Safe zone. I’m not sure safety is what they will find there, at least not within the first year. We can’t go to the safe zones. I’ll have to convince her of that. Melanie looks through the doorway at her mother perched on the edge of the coffee table.

It will be a blood bath at the border, everyone fighting to get inside. There is only so much space for people to live. Medical treatment, food, and other necessary items will have to be brought in. Melanie shook her head and hung the towel over the handle on the oven. Those inside will be trying to hide their ineligible loved ones. A modern day witch-hunt.

Tomorrow will be different, even if everything looks the same. It will feel different like waking up and not knowing where you are or that out of body sensation where you see the world, but you are so emotionally distant from it that you almost don’t exist within it.

She doesn’t want it to be that way, but how else do you deal with every person being a possible threat to you or someone you love. Behind each set of eyes, lies the ability to decide whether you take your next breath, or caress the one you love one last time.

Melanie took a deep breath, expanding her chest. She closed her eyes and held it until it burned. She let it out slow like breathing through a coffee straw.

The last rays of the setting sun fell over Melanie’s face. She opened her eyes. The mountains like black teeth were devouring every morsel of the remaining day. It was impossible to know whether being swallowed by this valley would be better than running in the open streets anywhere else.

Why Write?

I am Writing

Ever writer has a different reason for writing, and each work in progress (WIP) has its own unique spin on the ultimate reason for writing. If you don’t know why you write, you will lose your motivation and your WIP will languish in a closet and never be finished. One reason is not better than another, what matters is that it’s big enough. It must be unwavering in its determination and passion.

There are a million reasons to write. It’s fun and interesting, and you’re always learning. You get to be in control of what happens and write the story you have always wanted to read. It’s an provides a legitimate reason to travel to exotic places. It pays the bills. It brings notoriety and possibly fame. You want to entertain others or provide them with experiences they may never be able to enjoy otherwise. It may be a combination of all of a few of these or something entirely different.

Each individual WIP takes your ultimate driving motivation to write and slices it like a piece of pie. The more you write the close you get to having served the whole pie.

Whatever it is, staying focused on the one piece while you are creating your WIP is essential to writing tight prose through the first draft and killing your darlings during editing. It acts as your guide, when your characters want to go off on a tangent or when you think that providing a bunch of backstory is “absolutely necessary” despite not being able to work it in and maintain forward momentum in the plotline.

I write ultimately for hope, to never give up no matter how tough things get. It’s the theme of my life you could say because it bleeds out, not just in my writing, but in every aspect of my life: my day job, parenting, hobbies, and friendships. That’s how I know it’s the correct theme and motivation for my writing. It couldn’t be anything else. It’s big enough.

Each of my novels has an overall theme of hope and then I slice that into a specific challenge for the protagonist to address such as trust, which creates their character arc along with minor characters arcs or personalities to flesh out the slice and force the protagonist to change either negatively or positively. The antagonist can have the opposing arc to the protagonist or just be the central force pushing against the protagonist. The plot drives it all forward creating internal and external conflict.

To find your why, look over your life and see if there is an overriding theme that drives you in your other roles it may be just the thing your WIP needs to get to the last page.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 13

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all, but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie drove into the gas station around the corner from her high school. She pulled three five-gallon gas cans from her trunk and began to fill them. She was going to miss her friends who were leaving for colleges and Universities. The last day of the school year had never been as difficult as todays. Her chest ached. Friends always moved away or they drifted apart over the summer, but now some would be dead. She wiped the tears from her eyes before they ran down her cheeks.

A black Dodge truck rumbled into the gas station and parked up on the other side of the pump. Richard Stein dropped to the ground.

He stepped around the end of the pumps and put his thumbs in his pocket. “Hello Mel, how’s your mamma?”

“She’s doing all right.”

“She still working on that petition of hers?”

“Yep.”

“You sign it?”

She looked up at him. “Yep.”

He nodded his head and took a deep breath. “Holly too, I assume.”

Melanie nodded.

He walked over to her car and lifted the two full gas cans into her trunk. “I’ve got something for you.” He waved her over to his truck.

Melanie finished filling the gas can and hung up the pump. She lifted the last can into her trunk and closed it before following Mr. Stein over to his truck.

“You’re a smart girl, Mel. And the best friend my daughter could have.” He opened the back door of his truck and pulled a long gun off the back seat.

“This is a sawed off shotgun. You carry this and not many are going to mess with you. You fire it within five yards and you aren’t going to miss. It sprays small pellets.” He broke the barrel and showed her how to load it.

“I’ll get you a holster for it. I want it on your back every time you walk out your front door. You can tell your mamma it’s prevention.”

She nodded. “Thank you.” She wrapped her hand around the chilled metal barrel.

He turned and pulled another gun off the back seat. “This one is a .22 long rifle. Won’t kill unless it’s real close, but even Sam could shoot it without much practice. Good for hunting and scaring off people.”

“Mr. Stein—“

“Melanie, I love you like my own. You and Holly have been friends for a long time. I know your mamma isn’t going to do much to protect the three of you and that means the responsibility of all this is falling on your shoulders. Let me help.” His grey eyes and decision were set in stone.

Melanie nodded. She wrapped her hand around the second gun. Its barrel was smaller. He took four boxes of ammunition off the floor of the truck and walked over to Melanie’s car.

“Probably shouldn’t put these in the trunk with the gas.” He smiled at her and set the bullets on the roof of her car. He opened the backdoor and set the ammo on the floor. He took the guns from Melanie and set them on the back seat.

“Probably shouldn’t tell your mamma about this either.”

Melanie nodded. “You think it’s going to get bad here too, don’t you? Once the law goes into effect.”

He rested his hand on her shoulder and fixed his eyes to hers. “Yep, I certainly do. Folks are as dumb as cattle with these sorts of things.”

“I think so too.”

“You’re a fighter Melanie Craig. Makes you different from most folks. Let me know if you girls need anything.”

“Thank you Mr. Stein.”

On Saturday morning, Melanie sat on the kitchen counter drinking coffee and reading the Denver Post. Jennifer stood in the doorway between the kitchen and living room squinting at the bright kitchen lights. The soft sounds of jazz drifted into the kitchen from the dimly lit living room where Jennifer had been drinking her chamomile tea.

“Can you believe that man! He’s doing this just to thwart my efforts on the No Kill Petition.” Jennifer stalked back and forth between the kitchen and living room.

Melanie rolled her eyes. “I really don’t think so mom. It’s two days before the Justice Law goes into effect. You are both doing what you think is best to protect others. His approach is just different, that’s all.”

“He is promoting vigilantism by forming a militia.”

Melanie thought the militia was the best idea yet and wanted to join, but now was definitely not the time to discuss it with her mom. She probably wouldn’t discuss it at all. Another one of those forgiveness over permission situations.

“This says the Pope and other Christian leaders are denouncing the Justice Law. It says, Thou Shalt not kill is a commandment and man cannot change God’s laws. Maybe more people will sign your petition if you take it to the churches?”

Jennifer put her hands on both sides of Melanie’s face and squished her lips with her own. “That is a wonderful idea my girl.” Jennifer turned and walked up the stairs with a bounce in her step.

Melanie pressed her lips together between her teeth. Guess she’ll be watching Sam today.

Jennifer bounded back down the stairs dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. “Can you watch Sam awhile?”

“I can this morning, but I have things I need to do this afternoon.”

“Sam can’t go?”

“I don’t think you want Sam at the gym mom.” Melanie sipped her coffee.

“I don’t want either of you there. I’ll pick her up and take her with me this afternoon if you can watch her this morning.”

“Sure, we can watch cartoons.” Then Melanie would be able to go talk with Mr. Stein about the Watch Dog militia when he got off work. “A bunch of us are going to dinner tonight in Breck, so I’ll be home around midnight.”

Her mom made a face.

“It’s the last weekend before the curfew goes into effect mom.”

 

The perfect couple

perfect couple

Running and Writing sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g,

First comes love, then comes marriage,

Then comes baby in the baby carriage.

I may be a little biased, but running and writing are the perfect couple. They rarely fight or argue. The weakness of one is the strength of the other.

Writing requires a lot of butt in chair time, fingers whirling over keys, and brain checking off plot points and character arcs. Butt in chair, adds up to a lot of butt. That’s where running comes in, to work off the butt. Running does a lot more for writing than just working off all the crap you shove in your face while you agonize over what’s happening in your character’s lives.

Running increases creativity and problem solving through clearing stress and flooding your brain with oxygen. Writers block? Lace up and head out the door for five miles. Let go of the writing and let your mind wander. You could see something that will get your muse back to work or something may just pop into your head. Running also helps with sleeping, as writers sleep is the time when we do our best work.

Running can take you physically and emotionally to places you have never experienced. It teaches you to dig deep, stick to a schedule, and build slowly, which are important lessons for writers who sometimes think they can only write when they feel like it. As a runner, there are days when you would rather stay in bed than go out in the cold and run 800-meter repeats (which suck if you’ve never had the experience).

Writers have the tendency to hole up and not socialize much and running with a group or training for a race can get you out the door and around people who don’t inhabit your head. Runners come from diverse backgrounds and their stories of running adventures may fuel your next novel.

All right, so how does writing help running? Runners by their nature like to push themselves to their limits. This is a good thing, when that’s what is on the training schedule, but rest is equally important. Sitting in front of a computer or pad of paper is excellent rest.

 

A Vigil for Justice: Episode 12

FlagA Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie sat on the table in the courtyard of her high school eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She watched as Holly moved in a box formation blocking, punching and kicking. Holly extended her limbs with concentrated deliberation expelling a hard breath with each imagined impact. Melanie knew Holly wouldn’t last three seconds in the boxing ring even after a month of Taekwondo classes.

“What belt are you now?” Melanie asked combing her hand through her long hair.

“High white. My teacher said I moved up faster than anyone he has taught.”

“That’s good, right?” Melanie watched a few other students drift in and out of the courtyard. She handed Holly her hoodie and picked up her backpack to go back inside.

The brightness of the sun made you believe it should be warmer outside than it actually was. The distance the heat waves had to travel was still too great to warm the earth. High wisps of white were strung through the pale blue sky.  Red and white tulips stood beneath the branches of the maple tree grove in the center of the courtyard.

The locker-lined hallways of Summit High were easy to navigate given the reduction in bodies flowing through them. A severe decline in attendance is typical during the last week of school, especially for the seniors who have been dying get out into the world for nine months.

“We are going to be the only students on campus by Friday.” Holly opened their locker and exchanged books.

“Mitchel said he would be here too.” Melanie gave Holly a wry smile. “This could be our last week of normal. I’m not going to miss it.”

“Normal? Is not being here.”

A quarter of the population of Blue River had decided to go back to Mexico. The cartel was a more appealing type of vigilante government than whatever was going to spring up in the United States. Familiarity, regardless of its awfulness, is sometimes better than the unknown.

“We don’t have to come Friday, I guess.”

Holly raised her eyebrows and laughed. “We’ll be here. Are we going to the firing range again today?”

Melanie nodded. “My mom is going to the council meeting, and I’m picking Sam up from dance. So I have to go right after school.”

 

Melanie held her 9 mm out, emptied the magazine, and reloaded in less than a minute. She was getting faster and more accurate. She didn’t flinch at the now familiar sound of the shot and impact of the recoil. The smell and weight had become comforting. The gun was an extension of her hands. The sight of his little angel with a death stick attached to her hands would have made her father sick. She pressed the button bringing the man shaped target to her. If her father were still alive maybe, none of this would have happened. He would have convinced them the Justice Law was a bad idea and to give the SAFE chip more time. Two clusters of holes pierced the heavy paper in the chest and head area. She pulled it down smiling.

It was 10:00 p.m. when Jennifer slammed the front door of their house. Melanie raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips.

“Bad night?”

“I just don’t understand why they won’t sign the No Kill petition.” Jennifer tossed a stack of stapled papers toward the coffee table. The pages flipped and pulled at one another.

Jennifer stalked into the kitchen and slapped some cold turkey and cheese on two slices of bread. She rips into the sandwich.

“I just don’t get it. It gives everyone more security.”

Melanie had heard why people didn’t want to sign the petition at work. People talk of everything at coffee shops. Most, didn’t think a signature on a page meant anything and it was a farce they didn’t want to promote.

“We should work on our food storage this weekend Mom.”

Jennifer stared at Melanie she looked confused by what Melanie had said. Jennifer burst into tears and covered her face with her hands.

Melanie scrambled to her feet and ran over to her mom.

“What’s wrong?”

“Everything. This is not the life I wanted for you and Sammy.” Jennifer choked on her words.

“It’s not your fault mom. We’ll be alright.” Melanie rubs her mom’s back.

Jennifer wiped her face. Her crying had stopped as suddenly as it started. She nodded her head.

“We’ll go get food storage tomorrow afternoon.”

Her mom dumped the half-eaten sandwich into the garbage. “Good night Mel. I wish things were different.”

“I know mom.” Melanie watched her mom climb the stairs. Melanie picked up her book on surviving in the wild, turned out the light, and followed her mom up the stairs.

The morning sun warmed Melanie’s back through her bedroom window as she sat on the edge of her bed. She pulled the laces tight on her running shoes and rubbed the mound that was Daisy under the blankets.

She walked to the calendar she hung on the wall. She put a big red X through May 23rd. One week and one day.

“Let’s go Daisy.”

She unstrung the leash from her doorknob as Daisy snuffled her way out and plopped onto the floor. Daisy shook off the remainder of her dreams from head to tail, and her big brown eyes settled on Melanie tail wagging.

They ran around the neighborhood. Melanie didn’t want to take Daisy too far. She had to build up Daisy’s miles the same as she would her own. They didn’t need to be able to do a marathon, ten miles would be enough.

When they got back to the house, Melanie loaded Daisy into the car and drove to the boxing gym.

Daisy bounded through the doors of the gym and clobbered Jake who had crouched to greet her.

“She’s getting huge.” Jake laughed and picked up his cowboy hat from the floor. He dusted it off before setting it back on his head.

Melanie walked up to the SAFE scanner, but Jake just waved her into the back.

“Someday Jake, I will have to pay.”

“We’ll see.” Jake handed Daisy a chew toy. She took it and darted to a pillow in the corner.

Jake had her warmup on the punching bag. Melanie and Jake ducked and jabbed at one another in the ring. She didn’t cringe each time his fist came flying at her face. If she couldn’t move, she would throw up an arm to block bracing for the impact. He got her once with an uppercut to the ribs, but she had returned the favor.

She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her glove. She pulled her glove off and pulled out her mouth guard. She blinked a few times to get the burning sweat from her eyes.

“Are you staying to lift today?”

“Yes, of course. Have you seen these guns?” She pointed to her biceps.

He laughed.

“Come on then, we’re increasing weight today.”

Cover Creations

digital media

Wow! I have a new level respect for cover designers. Seriously, I have been trying to learn to use Adobe Photoshop to create covers for my books and it is not as easy as I thought it would be to pick up. I understand the ideas behind it, but trying to remember where everything is, what it does, and learn new tricks is hard.

I have to say I have developed a new perspective on pictures and seeing the world in general. I see it in layers! To create a cover, or manipulate a picture you layer pictures on top of one another. When I went for my run this morning, the scenery around me went through my mind as possibly backgrounds, foregrounds and in pieces with other central objects as the focus.

I’m excited to be learning Photoshop, but it is a time suck right now. Eventually, I will be faster and be able to modify pictures and create covers more quickly (I hope). I have searched the local high schools for a community education class on Photoshop, but all they have is digital photography, which would probably help, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

Jazz, my 17 year old, took Digital photograph last year. When he saw me struggling with Photoshop, he clicked a bunch of things and made it do, in a few minutes, what I had been trying to get it to do for an hour. He is sweet and willing to help me, but he has his life too and can’t spend hours teaching his lame mom how to use a computer program.

I’ll continue my search for a class because I learn well in that type of environment especially if I doing it while they are. Until then, I will watch Youtube videos on Photoshop on my phone and mess with it on my computer at the same time.

I’ve gone through a few of the Youtuber’s who have created Photoshop video’s for beginners and here are the ones I recommend for anyone who knows absolutely nothing about Photoshop (like me). Learning is enhanced if you can watch and do it at the same time.

This is Kingtuts Pro https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZlXagXwcn4&app=desktop

This is Andrei Oprinca https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL236FDF187D1CEB85

There is Baka Arts for more advanced things. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjKIPQOlTASJrIWQ9H-i5mA

To be a successful independent author, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and learn new things, and face truths about yourself that you wish you could hide.

 

Connection is Essential

digital media

We all seek a connection with others. Without it we stagnate and go through life performing the same actions without meaning. Connection is what makes everything we do worth doing. The digital age is here and it has changed the way people connect to one another.

In some ways, this has been positive, and in some ways, this change has been negative. We start relationships, friendships and intimate relationships, through the internet more often than we do by face-to-face contact. My 13-year-old son has more on line friends than he does friends at school.

The negative side of this, is that he lacks some of the basic skills of interacting with people in person. You can tell he is uncomfortable in a group of people. He has a hard time talking on the telephone because he is use to bite size pieces of information through texting. Despite my efforts to get him to interact with others more frequently, the problem persists because he is resistant to stepping outside of his comfort zone.

The positive side of this digital communication is that we can reach just about anyone around the world. Anyone can find and build connections with their tribe of people because they are just a click away. If you live in a small town and no one there quiet understands you, you can still find others who do. Digital communication makes it easier for people to be authentic because the fear of rejection is buffered by your computer screen.

Nothing can replace real face-to-face interaction and connection with others. The more you can be out there connecting with people on an individual level the easier it is to market and sell your books. But you also have to be able to engage with others on a more personal level using digital media as well because that is where your audience is.

If you create an individual connection with your readers, promotion and marketing become easier. You don’t have to be as aggressive. Your readers want to know more about you because of the connection. They care about what you have to say because you care about them.

 

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Eleven

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Church always seemed unnecessary to Melanie, even when her dad was alive, but since his death it was more senseless. Regardless of how she felt about it, she pulled on a full knee length blue skirt and white button down shirt and prepared to go with her mother and sister.

She bent down to tie her converse, and Daisy licked her on the mouth.

“Yuck. Ya little sneak.” Melanie reached for the puppy and rolled her over on her back rubbing her belly. Daisy bounced onto her feet and danced around Melanie barking. Daisy noticed her yellow squeaky toy in the corner and darted across the room for it.

Melanie played tug-a-war for a few seconds and then tossed the toy down the hall and followed Daisy. They all climbed into the van and drove over to the church. Melanie glanced around at the vacant stares of the people seated in the wooden pews lining the room. She wondered if any of them believed in god after all the atrocities of World War Three and now the Justice Law. Her mother believed as did Sam, but Sam is just a child. Mom’s eternal optimism fuelled her beliefs.

The arched painted glass windows fill the room with a rainbow of sunlight. Sam walks up the isle to the space behind the altar where the children’s choir is seated whispering to one another. Melanie follows her mother gliding along the hardwood floors. Melanie turns in the pew and searches the rows of people. She knows all of them by sight. She knows the names of most and what they do for a living. A few smile as her eyes meets theirs.

Mitchel opened the double doors at the back of the chapel, looked around, and backed out. The doors opened again, Mitchel held the door open wide and pointed to an empty pew near the back of the room. Seth came in with their mother, Anna, leaning on him as if she didn’t have quite enough strength to get there herself. They slid into the pew, one twin on each side of Anna. Anna had dark circles around her eyes, like she hadn’t slept in days. Her face was cast down at her feet. Mitchel found Melanie. His mouth smiled, but his eyes didn’t.

Jennifer nudged Melanie with her elbow. Melanie turned forward and then flicked a quick glace back at Mitchel. Jennifer turned to see and a frown formed on her face before she turned back. She let out a long breath and patted Melanie on the hand.

Father Chris approached in his green vestments. “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nations shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines and pestilence, and earthquakes, in diverse places. Matthew 24 verses six and seven.”

The Father’s words offered no comfort to Melanie during what she considered a national crisis. Her thoughts returned to Mitchel’s family at the rear of the chapel. She threw another glance back at them. Anna was kneeling Mitchel’s hand rested on her shoulder and his eyes didn’t move from the altar.

The parishioners stood and kneeled and Melanie followed along as one drone among the masses. When the service was over Melanie stood and began pushing past people trying to reach Mitchel. Jennifer caught ahold of her arm. Melanie turned and glared at her mother.

Jennifer shook her head. “This probably isn’t the best time Mel. Let’s wait for Sammy. You can take soup over afterward.”

Melanie wrinkled her brow. Her mother was right. Anna probably wanted to get away from the prying eyes as quickly as possible before the questions started. Everyone knew about what went on behind those doors, and everyone had tried to help at one time or another, but Anna would never leave Evan. She had tried once when the twins were small and she almost died.

Jennifer stopped at the grocery store on their way home.

“How come we’re here mom?” Sam asked from the back seat.

“Because we need to make some things for Mitchel’s mommy who is sick.” Jennifer pulled open the sliding door to let Sam out.

“What does she have?”

“The flu.”

Sam scrunched up her face. She had the flu last year and it was not pretty. “She will need lots of chicken soup.”

“Yes and a casserole for the boys.” Jennifer smiled and grabbed a cart from the curb next to the van.

Sam’s eyes got big. “Boys eat a lot.”

Melanie rolled her eyes.

Melanie drove to Mitchel’s home. It was on the other side of town. She passed a few house on the outskirts of Blue River. A few had backhoes in their yards and mountains of dirt. Mitchel had mentioned that people were building bunkers, and she assumed that was what was happening here.

Mitchel’s was the only house down a two-mile dirt road. Nothing was around, besides fields no one farmed anymore. The lawn had died long ago and was now where Mitchel and Seth parked their cars. Mitchel’s truck was there. Seth’s car was not. Evan’s royal blue old Chevrolet with rusted out wheel wells was still hitched to the caged flatbed trailer he used to haul the lawn care equipment around for his business.

Melanie turned off her car and just sat there staring at Mitchel’s home. The moss green paint on the door was peeling, as was the pale yellow of the greying wood siding. Was it a home? Mitchel called it home, but what else did he know. She had hoped that Mitchel’s dad would not be home. There’s that word again. She prayed to a god she didn’t believe in that Evan did not answer the door.

She took a deep breath and got out of her car. She walked around to the other side and stacked the casserole on top of the large container of chicken noodle soup, and added rolls to the top. Jennifer knew that Anna wasn’t sick, but sending food for other reasons may get Anna hurt.

Melanie walked up to the door. Her hands were full. She kicked at the screen door causing it to bang against the frame.

“Get your fat ass to the door.”

Melanie winced. Evan was home and awake.

“I got it mom.”

Melanie knew that voice too.

Mitchel peered around the curtains, eyes opening with surprise and then disappearing. The deadbolt knocked back.

The door made a grating sound as he pulled it open. It was dark in the house.

“What are you doing here?” Mitchel asked glancing into the house and then at Melanie. They never hung out here. They had only stopped by to pick things up that he had forgotten. Over the year they had been dating, she had never seen inside.

“You’re mom said she was sick at church. So my mom thought we should send some dinner over.”

He arched an eyebrow.

“Who’s at the door Mitchel?” Anna’s voice was soft.

Melanie could see her small frail form below Mitchel’s arm. Anna held onto the wall. The sun’s fading light from the kitchen window surrounded her in a white glow.

“It’s Melanie mom, she’s brought over some soup for you.”

Melanie stepped past Mitchel and into the house. Mitchel lifted his hand and started to say something, but she handed him the food she was carrying.

“This is heavy. There’s a casserole for you boys too.”

Her foot ground into something and she shifted her foot. Smiling faces lay on the floor, their wooden frames broken. Shards of glass were scattered. The coffee table was turned on its side jagged broken legs protruding from its belly. The brown rocking recliner was turned on its face.

“Don’t trip Mitch.” Anna clicked on the light. “That smells delicious Melanie.”

A family picture, without the frame and curled on its ends, was thumbtacked to the wall. It was old, the twins could only be three and there was a young girl of about five, who looked just like Anna. A thinner more muscular version of Evan stood with his hand wrapped around Anna’s bicep.

Melanie smiled and tried not to look around the room any more than was necessary to cross without falling.

A metal screen door slammed at the back of the house. Anna cringed. Melanie’s shoulders and stomach gripped her bones. She wiped her hands on her jeans.

Anna was still dressed in her church clothes and shuffled into the kitchen her arms wrapped around her as if it were the dead of winter. “Bring it into the kitchen.”

A truck started outside. Melanie turned toward the noise and her shoulders let go of her spine. Evan was leaving.

Mitchel slid the glass bowl up onto the counter and turned to face Melanie. No one uttered a word. There was enough awkwardness to coat every wall with a fresh layer of it.

Melanie looked down at her hands and feet. “Well, I had better get back home before the sun goes down.”  She brushed her hands on her jeans again.

Mitchel pushed himself away from the counter. “I’ll walk you out.”

“Thank you again Melanie. Tell your mother she’s a wise friend.”

Melanie turned around to say goodbye when she reached her car door. Mitchel slid his fingers into her hair holding the back of her head while his other hand rested on her lower back and pulled her into him.

“Thank you.” He whispered. His lips brushed against her earlobe.

Her eyes filled with tears as they met his. “I’m sorry.”

He put his finger over her lips. “It’s not your fault. You and your mom have done what you can.”

Melanie nestled into him.

“Where did he go?”

“The bar.”

do you want your readers to change?

stages of change 2

As writers, we want our books to influence others or at least resonate on a deep level. Over this last week, I’ve ran into the above question twice. Both times, it has really caused me to pause and think about it. Initially, I thought I don’t want my readers to change, but within a second I knew that was not true. I do what readers to change. I want them to change their perspective on the world. The perspective and the particular aspect of the world depend upon the book’s theme.

People change their behavior and thoughts when their core beliefs shift. Influencing someone’s core beliefs is hard work. In order for a story to change a person, they must become emotionally connected to the characters in the book. They must feel the pain, fear, and joy along with your characters. They must go through the cycle of change vicariously.

Changing our beliefs is painful and no one really wants to do it, our characters are the same. The first stage of change is precontemplation. At this point, the character/person doesn’t realize there is a problem or isn’t interested in changing it. Contemplation is the stage where the character sees there is a problem and is thinking about changing it. Finally, the character will take action to change, third stage(midpoint of your novel), and seek out solutions to the problem. This often leads to a relapse (usually at the third plot point) where the character falls back into old ways of thinking or acting before getting back on the horse and facing the problem full on in your climax.

Asking yourself how do I want my reader to change while you are writing can help you map your character’s arc, focus on the goal of each scene, and decide which conflict will ramp up the tension in the most effective and influential way.

 

Failure is an event not a personality trait

failure1

We have to be willing to risk failure to truly live and give back to the world. If there was no risk of failure involved, then there was no challenge to begin with.

Everything I do, I do with all the fervor and passion I can muster. I give it all that I have, yes sometimes that means it comes out all wrong especially when I am first learning to do something. In fact, the worse it comes out, the better because then I’m able to see how much I improve along the way. Of course, I don’t think this at the time. Usually I tell myself how I will never learn it, there is too much to know, I don’t have time to learn it all. Eventually, I stop freaking out and apply myself.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly” G.K. Chesterton.

What does this mean? Why would we want to do something badly? we don’t really want to do things badly that’s not what Chesterton was trying to convey. It’s more like what I was saying above. If we do something badly, but we have put in our best effort, we are going to learn and improve. Failure is an excellent teacher.

When we fail at something, we beat ourselves up for hours and sometimes days. We make it into some huge self-defining moment and not in a good way.

Failure should never be used in reference to a person or a piece of art in any of its many forms. A failure is an event in a specific moment in time. What may be seen as a failure now could be a huge success in two weeks.

If we write a novel and it never sells to anyone but our parents, we just have to keep writing. We have to work hard to get better and produce better stories. Stories that touch the heart of readers. Not everyone is going to like what we produce, and that’s fine because we don’t write for everyone. We write for those who share our passion.

If you write trying to please everyone, you will fail because you are not going to say anything worth saying. You will shy away from anything that may offend the left side of society or the right. Writing isn’t about walking down the middle. It’s about jumping over the edge to reach the rest of the outcasts, your tribe.

cliff jumping

 

 

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