Comparison of the Two

For the last few days I’ve had a mental and soulful breakthrough. I had realized again, but more deeply this time, that I was free from the abuse of my family and it had been five years since I left the abusive husband. I felt it was safe to really let it all go.

In that realization, I found myself drawn to my original first draft manuscript. I was afraid for years to read it – 22 years since I began writing it and only since 2006 had I finished that first draft finally. Thing is though, it was a terrible mess. It was a complete blundering Mary-Sue with hardly any action, inner dialogue, plot or any form of character development. I was a teenager at the time when I started writing it on September 1, 1995 to May 9, 1996 of 18 chapters by hand in ruled notebooks and later in my mid 20s I continued from chapters 19 to 26 and still after all that time it was a damn mess.

In 1998 I submitted the first three chapters to Baen Books. I have since lost the rejection letter, but I still remember the poignant words from the editor –

“It has potential, but it needs work.”

Ever since reading those words potential and needs work I’ve kept on typing a new manuscript. Later those three manuscripts would become something more. As for the original manuscript, it has now become a distant memory and is barely noticeable as a story to be continued with the new three books. A whole new fourth manuscript will be so different than I originally had intended back then and that’s okay. It’s part of the process of being a writer.

Now, I’d like to share with the world something I’ve only shown to a small handful of people. I’m only going to show one page that should give a good enough comparison of the new revised from scratch chapter 12 of the original manuscript.

(Book 4 is far from getting started in writing. I just did this revamp of chapter 12 to help myself understand how far I’ve come as a writer and how I can continue to improve.)

MythiaCh1202Yes, I edited a bit of it last night in red pen. It needed it so badly.

Now, for the revamped version….

November 18, 2017

A disclaimer – Twenty-two years have passed since I wrote my first manuscript titled Mythia. Chapter 12 from that manuscript is being rewritten to showcase a comparison of writing styles to see how I have progressed. This is the finished example.

Mythia

A Manuscript

by: Tara B. Dobbs

Chapter Twelve

The Isle of Sperotus was bathed in cool blues giving the plant life a haunting effect as the evening crept in with the double moons hanging in a partly cloudy sky. The southern side of the island, with its long sandy beach was kissed by the full moon in silver light; the pale blue moon at quarter. Ocean surf gently fell over the sand and in the distance waves crashed among the rocky outcrop of a massive plateaued cliff.

Ynycornus had arrived first to the island a few hours earlier. His mind raced with doubtful thoughts with fear nipping at his heart. He had to tell her how he felt this time; finally for the first time. It had been a thousand two hundred years since he last laid eyes on Mythia’s princess.

Princess Ira had been imprisoned in a crystal orb by the actions of a malicious criminal by the name Katema – a noblewoman who was displeased with her lot in life at court that she had to stoop to kidnapping the Princess in hopes for a ransom. Ira was only a child and Ynycornus could do nothing to save her once the little girl was placed in the orb. A powerful magic had sealed her in and to add more pain, the little princess thought she could be crafty in protecting herself with a spell she had found hidden away in the lost pages of the Book of Anora. The single spell for continuous sleep Ira put on herself.

Ynycornus thought of this a bit more in hopes to understand Ira’s actions. Maybe she was afraid Katema would take information from her? As long as Ira was in the clutches of the Eternal Slumber spell, Katema, not even Ynycornus or anyone in the kingdom, save for maybe Tibrus, could wake her. The spell had been designed to work itself out once the danger had passed. There was no telling how long the sleep would be. For that, Ynycornus was the most angry with Ira still to this day for her actions.

While she slept for 1,200 or so years, Ynycornus was voted by the High Council and the Noukadian Priesthood to be Steward of the Kingdom. There were no heirs to the throne since King Cyrus and Queen Tamera, Ira’s parents, were murdered by Katema that same day as Ira’s imprisonment. With great pride Ynycornus accepted the position but with a lingering broken heart.

Tonight though, Ynycornus would get a chance to speak with Ira alone. The princess had meetings with the High Council and the Priesthood for months now on how to go about taking over as Queen and leaving Ynycornus back on the High Council as Second Command Councilman and return to the Priesthood as High Priest. To Ynycornus’ disbelief, the Princess gracefully declined for Ynycornus to return to his original duties. She wanted him to stay in the position the people had voted for. The Council and Priesthood had informed her on all the good hard work he had done for the kingdom in her absence and had begged to differ that Ynycornus was in need in current affairs of Temple and Council. Ynycornus was grateful for her loving gesture, but how would she react to him of what he had to tell her; of what his heart must confess?

Far into the distance a small row boat, adored with the royal crest at its bow, came into view. Far out away from the shore behind the rowing boat the Mythian Fleet’s Galian ship laid anchor. Ynycornus could see Ira cloaked in black to hid herself from any possible prying eyes. She had only been awakened for three months and only the High Council and Priesthood were allowed to see her for that time. Not even the four men rowing the boat to shore were allowed to see her.

As the boat came ashore, the four rowers jumped off; pulled the boat further in away from the surf. Ira sat, her head down as she waited for Ynycornus. No one had touched her hand, let alone her shoulder when she awoke from the orb’s shattering. The best physicians looked her over, barely touching her for the examination and found her to be in perfectly good health, save for one major change – she had grown and aged to a full adult, but how? The Eternal Slumber spell could not force someone to grow and age and yet stay physically one age for so long. Under natural circumstances Ira would have been in her elder years by 1,200 years and possibly close to death.

Making his way toward the boat, the rowers holding the boat steady, Ynycornus took Ira’s gloved hand helping her off. Ira’s grip onto his hand was strong and warm. A warming slipped through his body as she stepped onto the wet sand. It was now that Ynycornus felt as though she had come home at last.

Leading Ira onto dryer sand near the tree line Ynycornus turned to the four men, “You may go. Give my thanks for Anya for this meeting.” With that the four rowers pushed their boat back into the waters and began rowing toward the awaiting Galian ship.

Once the rowers were far out of sight and the ship took up anchor, heading back to the mainland going North, Ira slipped off the black cloak. Long dark brown wavy locks fell down her back and over her shoulders. Her blue eyes the color of topaz finally set sight on Ynycornus’ elder face.

With a gasp seeing how old he had become, she stepped back covering her mouth to restrain a scream.

“I’m sorry,” Ynycornus apologized. “Maybe we should have met sooner, but this was the only way I could get you here.”

Dropping her hand to her chest, taking in some deep breaths, “You’re so handsome, but you’ve aged. Are you in good health?” What was she expecting anyway? Ira was not allowed to see Ynycornus until all the meetings were done. It was Tibrus who had found her slumped in the clear gelatinous substance of the broken orb in the Grand Ballroom which was also the throne room. Even while she slept in the orb, no one was allowed in that room save for Tibrus who worked all those years trying to break the spell. All those she saw were of the Highest Council, higher in rank than Ynycornus by far and only three Priests and many physicians. Ynycornus was the High Priest, the highest in rank anyone could go, so why wasn’t he allowed to see her? This flew through Ira’s mind as she continued to look him over to get her barrings.

The last she saw Ynycornus was when she was a child, maybe as far back as a baby. She remembered him holding her, rocking her to sleep and at times feeding her when her mother Queen Tamera slept and while her father King Cyrus was off doing kingly duties of state. Ynycornus looked young back then when she was little. He looked no older than late teens at least. To the royal family Ynycornus was more than just High Priest and Second Command Councilman, he was a surrogate brother to Ira. Her love for him showed through her smiles, cries and worries she bestowed on him over the few years she got to know him.

The realization of having lost her surrogate brother, her best friend finally hit her. She kept up a fecade of royal duty for just a few months, not allowing herself to grieve. Her parents had been taken away from her which made it all the more worse.

Her breath calming, she looked around seeing the island, which was forbidden to all but the High Priest Ynycornus, she fell to her knees burying her face in her hands as the long, long awaited tears poured from her eyes.

Kneeling on both knees in the sand, his blue and silver robes flared out on the sand, Ynycornus pulled Ira close to his chest. Dropping her hands from her face, she pressed her tear filled face onto his chest slowly soaking her sorrows into the fabric. Her arms wrapped around his neck and shoulders as she sobbed to nearly screaming.

Once she had calmed enough, Ynycornus helped her to her feet. “Follow me. I want to show you something.”

Guiding her through the tropical forest onto a well warn path to nearly the center of the island, a creek flowed beside them. Far up ahead the sound of a waterfall flowing into a pool echoed amongst the trees. Just at the entry way to the falls, a pale blue barrier flickered as Ynycornus walked through. Ira hesitated. “It’s alright. It’s a circle barrier of the magic that lays here. Once you’ve crossed it you can’t speak while inside the space. See there?” pointing to the trees and bushes, the flowers began to wilt and the leaves began to dry and fall to the ground. Putting a finger to his lips, Ira stepped through the pale blue lighted barrier in silence.

For many minutes the pair spoke nothing to one another. Slowly the plant life around the waterfall returned to its former beauty. The flowers grew swift; blooming with radiant colors. It matter not that the nighttime had come. This place was strange and yet beautiful in all it showed inside the circle. Even the waterfall and the pool below seemed to glow a delicate blue.

Sitting on the ground, near the pool, Ira looked around slowly. She sighed, turned to Ynycornus and pointed to her throat.

With a gentle smile, Ynycornus answered her telepathically.

“Are you strong enough to speak with your mind?” he asked.

Hesitating, she took a breath, closed her eyes, “I think so. Why couldn’t I come to the island when I was a child? I have memory of this place.”

“You did come here once before, but you were very little. You were barely learning to walk when your parents brought you. It was forbidden even for royalty to be here. I was there in the forest watching. I could have easily removed you all, but I couldn’t allow myself to do it.” Ynycornus smiled softly at her as he remembered that day so many years ago. “You loved it here. Even though you were only allowed to be on the Southern beach. I could not permit you and your parents any further.”

“I’m glad to be here now then,” she paused, blushing, “with you, but it’s too quiet. I’ve had my fill of silence. Not enough beauty though.”

For just a little longer, they sat and watched the flowers bloom and grow. The waterfall sparkle in the moonlight and then Ira realized it – there were no birds singing. On Mythia there were plenty of nighttime birds that would sing softly, but here at this waterfall, this closed off area of the island there was no sound of birds. The water made splashing sounds, but no birds. Ira began to panic. Standing in a hurry, she gathered her long white and silver dress and ran out of the circle. The thin lighted barrier flickered as her legs went through.

Chancing after her, she was heading back to the Southern beach, Ynycornus grabbed her arm pulling her back gently her back against his chest. Her breath was fast and uncomfortable to hear.

“I can’t have any silence like that for long!” Ira cried as she turned around to look at him. “Didn’t anyone tell you? Tibrus learned quickly I couldn’t take it. I have to have someone talking aloud or music playing somewhere at all times. I can’t handle the silence. So much silence all these years!”

Ynycornus had not been told of her condition. A thousand and two hundred years in silence with only your own thoughts to keep you company. By the Five Lords, how could a little girl handle such a thing for so long? It was then Ynycornus understood that part of Ira’s mind was still a child. How could he confess anything to her now? She was still just a child inside.

Shaking away the disgusting thought of his mind, “I’m sorry, Princess. No one has kept up in telling me anything of what you’ve gone through.”

“No one? How? Why?” A rage formed behind her eyes. A rage Ynycornus had never seen from her. An unease crept into his soul as though he had done something terribly wrong to her somehow.

“Let’s not worry about this now. I’ll have a talk with the Council and Priesthood tomorrow morning.”

Taking a breath, stepping away from him, “You must have wanted to talk to me about something important to take me away from my duties.” Ira touched his chest where his heart lay inside beating. “I appreciate the effort to give me time away from the work, but what was it you wanted to really talk to me about?”

Now wasn’t the time. The only thing he could think of on the spot was to show her the truth. She had only known of him in his humanoid form for six years. She deserved the know the truth. Only the Highest Council of the main eight and two Priests know of this truth. A few others in the past had known, but they were long dead. Not even Ira’s parents, the King and Queen of Mythia, knew of this truth. It was hidden as though the kingdom depended on it.

Looking around at the clearing Ira had run into, he nodded to himself. Closing his eyes, dropping his hands slowly from head to hips and then finally bending over just slightly as though his arms and hands would touch the ground, within a few seconds his whole body transformed in the shape he was original born – a white unicorn.

Flowing pearly white mane and long thin tail with thick tufts of hair at the end. A tall strong build, a foot taller than a typical farming draft horse, but with cream cloven hooves and nostrils at the end of his muzzle looked different almost the shape of a deer. A single spiraled bone white horn in the center of his brow and his eyes the same stunning blue as the ocean.

Stamping one front hoof to the ground, he nodded his large head at Ira. His flowing mane catching the moonlight.

It was quite the sight to behold as Ira found herself trying to find a tree to steady herself against as she walked backwards. Once she found a tree to lean against, she looked the beast over carefully. Her eyes were the size of skipping stones. Face nearly pale with shock.

Gently to her mind, “It’s okay. What you see is the truth.” The only thing he expected next he would not be angry at her for.

Sure enough, within a few more seconds Ira ran. She ran as fast as she could with the long dress clutched in a thick gather of fabric. The only way now off the island was natural to her – she had to fly.

Once she was clear of the trees and on the sandy beach, she spread her white feathered wings wide. She had not flown since a year before her imprisonment. Not having much practice her instincts took over. Higher she climbed with the occasional misbeat of her wings to flap in unison. She had to find her way back to Hayemore Castle as soon as she could. She could not understand what had happened. Everything was happening far too fast.

In the forest, Ynycornus still in his natural form, he watched through the break in the trees Ira flying away from the Isle of Sperotus. Once she was out of sight, he made his way through the forest back onto the beach. Finding the wet sand more sturdy for his large equine body, he pawed at the water a bit and slowly pawed at it some more and more until the sand turned the water to mud. Neighing aloud with a snort of anger, Ynycornus galloped down the beach at full speed. Turning around, he galloped again even faster, but once he was close to the rocky cliff, having done this time and time again with ease, he climbed his way to the top on the gagged rocks until he was safe on the plateau face.

How could he be so foolish? He was the High Priest of the Noukadian Temple and Second Command of the Council. He was one of the highest ranking officials in the kingdom – that had made a grievous mistake. It wasn’t that he had transformed to his born form in front of his precious surrogate sister and possible love, it was that he had forced her into something that was against nature and now there was no going back. The realization of his mistake from centuries past had come to full form.

It was then he realized, “Maybe no one will know. If I just help her adapt back into her the life she had lost, maybe just maybe she’ll be free.” He paused, looking out over the night sky and ocean below, slowly transformed back to his humanoid form, but this time a young man, “As long as the Council doesn’t know, but I have to tell my brethren at my side.”

But could they keep even this secret? They had before of his born unicorn form for thousands of years, but this – how long could sealed lips last?

***********

I don’t think I’ll repair any other chapters in the original manuscript. It’s just too painful to look at anymore, save for the 1% of notes I found that I’ll use in book 4 later in the next few years.

If you are expecting some more excerpts of book 4, I’m sorry to break your heart but this is the only excerpt I am willing to showcase until it’s truly published. It took me many, many years to get up the courage to show any piece of the original. I’m ashamed of the mess the original had become, but at least I got that work of 197,000+ words out of my system to show to myself that I can write novels.

And here I am, 22 years since I wrote my first, I’m still writing them. Knowing that, makes me the happiest person alive right now.

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The Eastener

Day 1: March 20, 2013, Wednesday – Train 8, Empire Builder

We got to Everett, the first thing on our minds was breakfast or in this case, brunch. Poor Dan looked bummed as he ate his pancake sandwich – bacon, scrambled eggs and two pancakes. It was to be our last time together at Kate’s Restaurant. Dave was doing very well to distract me with jokes and making my brain pop. It’s a special talent he has with me.

The three of us, myself, Dan and Dave hung out in Everett for a few hours. I did not expect us to do much, however, Dan had some fun ideas. We stopped off at Mulkiteo Beach watching the wind howl up the waves into white caps. The shells were picked clean by the birds. The wind was blowing so hard that I was afraid Dan’s crumbled old leather hat would blow away. Walking along the pebbled and semi-sandy beach line, Dave was taken by surprise by some waves that got his shoes and bottom of his pants leg wet. He tip toed funny like to get away as I laughed. Once the wind was too much for all of us, we headed to Forest Park to hike the trails for a bit.

At some point Dan got the bright idea to hike to the bottom of one trail were it meets the windy street below. He wanted me to see the fountain. I had seen it so many times, it’s lost it’s enjoyment. Heading back up, we had to walk up a hilly service road. He has odd ways of being inconsiderate to others. Poor Dave on the 18th of March had walked his way from Arlington to Marysville just see me on my birthday. The poor guy had walked enough and Dan was making us go up this hill that nearly kicked Dave’s ass.

We get to Everett Station checking in my ticket and baggage. Turns out the odd time differences between Washington and Chicago doesn’t allow for baggage check in. It has something to with the three hours difference. I don’t get it. Afterward, Dan gave me some cash to buy a drink. I got an Italian soda with coconut, pineapple and banana flavoring. All three of us chewed the fat for an hour, until someone showed up at the station that I thought he wouldn’t make it. It was Nate Conley, one of my NJROTC classmates from MPHS. I had left him a note on FB since I saw his profile picture on a side bar and thought it would be wise to tell him of my new life and adventure.

I rushed to him hugging him tightly. I hadn’t seen him in a few years. There was an odd falling out that I wanted to clear up. Ann, his wife was with him and so was their three year old son Allistir. Their son is very rambunctious just like Nate apparently. I updated him as to what happened with Dan’s issues. Nate add, “Oh, good reason to move to Maryland so you could get as far away as you could. I totally understand.”

Nate and Ann had a hell of a time chasing their son down from running around all over the place. Who needs a gym membership or a treadmill when you have kids? They’ll keep you winded, but excising just fine for hours. After a while, Ann came back from their car with some art supplies and coloring pages. The boy was entertained for the rest of the time before my train arrived. A few minutes just before the call went out, Allistir gave me his colored picture of a Littlest Pet Shop kitty. I gave him a hug as I teared up from the kindness and cuteness of his actions.

Nate’s family and him went to the second floor of the station so Allistir could see the train better. Dan held onto me as long as he could before the train arrived. I said to him, “And for goodness sakes, take a vacation and relax.” Just then the train cruised into the station as I gave Dan a kiss good-bye on the lips. Yeah, not very appropriate, but who cares. I gave Dave a big hug and a kiss on the cheek as I went into the train with my luggage. Found out an hour later, Thor could not make it. He was stuck in the parking lot at his work trying to make his way out so to see me off, but it was way too late.

There was some confusion as to which sleeper I was to be placed in. Once that got figured out, the car steward lugged my belongings to the second floor. Next time, I’ll leave the main larger bag downstairs. Once I was settled in, I sat back and watched the Northwest pass me by as I realized I was free at last. I had cried tears of happiness finally. Being so worn by tears of sadness for ten years by Dan’s foolish; cold hearted withdrawals of me, that I actually recognized what tears of happiness actually felt like. As I blotted my tears with my handkerchief, that dinner was announced at 6:45pm. They do dinner in shifts by car. That way there is no over crowding in the dinning car. I had the steak with steamed vegetables and baked potato. For dessert I had the cheesecake with blueberry topping and a glass of water. The coffee isn’t too bad. Everyone was seated with another passenger or two. I struck up conversation with the two men about the economy and what forms of work each of us did for a time. It was very engaging conversation.

I apparently was more stuffed than I thought, however my room was overly stuffy cause the vent was closed. As it got dark, I could hardly see anything pass me by. This made me motion sick. Thankfully I brought along some anti-nasia pills with me and I took one the moment I realized what was going on. A middle aged woman, whom was picked up at one of the stops in Washington, let me borrow her mini fan. The steward was so saddened that my first train trip was starting out so poorly. There is always a first for everything.

I had pulled down my bed before the steward could get to me. I was impatient and ill, so I had to do something to keep my mind off of my swirling stomach. I propped myself up watching the night sky and some town lights go by while the fan blew in my face. After two hours my stomach felt better. However, sleep wasn’t so great. I never do well sleeping in a new location on the first night. I toss and turn most of the time, but for this case I had to urinate six times as I tired to go to sleep. I had drank two bottles of water and one glass of water with dinner and that cup of coffee. Yeah, I had to pee a lot. I think I did find sleep, but the gentle cradle like rocking and sound of the tracks beneath the wheels kept me awake. I dosed off countless times, but I’m not sure if I found sleep fully or not. I had left the curtains open so the morning light would wake me instead of an alarm clock.

Day 2: March 21, 2013 – Thursday –

I awoke this morning to the sun hazily peaking over the horizon. I wanted to stay in bed, but couldn’t cause breakfast was announced just as I woke up. I had a bowl of Special K cereal, four strawberries which were really, really tasty, half a cup of Greek yogurt which I didn’t care for and a whole wheat biscuit. I didn’t want to over stuff myself like I did with my dinner from last night. The way through the Rocky Mountains was snowy and windy. Just now, at 10:41am MST the train left the mountains behind and we are now on our way across the Great Plains.

After breakfast though, I was recorded some footage of the mountains with the camcorder. I’ll edit the pieces all together through this trip later on. The snow is scattered here and there in small or large mounds on the prairie grass. The skies are clear with some wispy clouds. I have traveled through the Great Plains many times before as a child and preteen on family vacations or on the whim weekend road trip by automobile. Traveling the plans by Amtrak train is the best way to see the plains by far. Nothing else compares. ‘Amber ways of grain’ is exactly as depicted in the American anthem. Our founding fathers and pioneer ancestors said it best while describing the vast flatness and rolling hills of this expansive earth and sky. There is nothing else like it I have ever seen and I’m not just saying that.

Lunch was very tasty. I had the Chilope Black Bean Veggie Burger with everything on it, but cheese. Struck up conversation with two middle aged women. The woman across from me had a terrible lisp and stuttering problem. I learned a little bit more about patience with people this afternoon. The other woman next to me is going to see her grandchildren and daughter. Not much else to say, but I told them a tiny bit of why I’m on the train. They congratulated me on my new life and freedom. The women were surprised that my ex-husband paid for my trip and move. Dan’s not a ‘bad guy’ per se, he just doesn’t understand giving love back in return. He didn’t understand human interaction of how normal people react to bad situations. That it’s not normal for someone to strike up an argument just to get a rise out of someone even if that argument was false from the beginning. If you love someone you give them respect as much as the other person respects you back. He just never ‘gave back’ to me and it hurt, quite literately physically hurt and I have the scar on my right leg to prove it.

Before dinner though, right after lunch I took a nap for three hours. I didn’t ‘fully’ fall asleep, but I know I got rest. While I waited for dinner time, I recorded a few bit of the Montana scenery. I was able to capture a moment of life beginning. A cow was giving birth to her cafe in the cold spring snow. He or she was half out of it’s mother as I recorded the scene. Evening dinner was really good, even though I should have reserved for a later dinner say at seven o’clock. I ate at least half my dinner of the beef rib, mashed potatoes, vegetables and half my brownie pie. I’m pretty full, but not sickly full. More conversation with some more new passengers. The guy to my left was heading home to New York. His ex-wife did not want to move to New York while they were married. I can understand that. New York can be intimidating and large. He said he was a teacher for English and writing classes in many schools across the country. Now, he wants to calm things down as his epilepsy has now taken over his life, getting worse as the years continue.

The elderly couple, that I had met at the beginning of my journey had visited family in Seattle. They are heading to Fargo, North Dakota to see her daughter and the grandchildren. I had explained about my plight of my ruined marriage….they just called out over the intercom of needing help with someone downstairs for medical needs. I hope there is a doctor on the train…..Well, anyway, the elder woman added onto my story of her daughter’s bad marriage. The daughter’s ex-husband did not work for three years and kept abusing her. He basically went off the deep end. The daughter had to file for restraining orders, court issues of giving him the house, but she kept the kids and moved to North Dakota. So far the ex-husband has left her alone for six months at least.

Soon after that conversation, it shifted talking about the environment of ‘Global Warming’. I said my two cents of – If Mother Nature wants us dead, she’ll do it on her won terms. Why worry about something we don’t fully understand yet in ways to control it. The Earth will still be here long after we are all dead. All this thawing and warmer weather is a seventy to hundred year cycle. We don’t know enough in modern weather pattern to know any better or worse of this planet. I’m all for electric or hybrid cars, but other than that, forget it. The woman then explained about her time in China of how smoggy up the country is. I won’t get into that fuss, but it would be nice if the Chinese would get their heads out of their asses. It’s that simple.

It’s been snowy all the way from the Washington Cascade Mountains all the way across Montana. It was, however, very clear and partly cloudy at the beginning of Montana. Now it is getting dark. The snow is blending into the gray evening sky like white cotton sheets meeting gray silk. Ever so often I saw oil drills doing their ‘dirty work’. Left over oil that would come up from the vertical pipe would be burned off with fire ablaze at the top. I don’t know if it’s natural gas or crude oil in general. It’s something I thought I would never see but on television of the news. It seems unnatural to see oil fires like that in the United States. Maybe some day there will be a new form of working the oil out of the ground without burning off the excess. Maybe some day, in my life time, oil will be a thing of the past.

One of the most interesting bits about this journey so far, is hearing about how many passengers are taking the train for the very first time. There are at least five that I could hear in ear shot that say brightening good fortune thoughts of their new lives. I’m not the only one looking for a new start. I may be going the longest distance to get to it, but riding this train is like going down river to leave all my nasty past behind. Or, it’s like going up river, to ‘spawn’ for the first time like a salmon…nay, it’s more like going down river, enjoying the current taking me on a ride of a life time.

Stanly, North Dakota is the next stop. It’s nice to get off the train every once and awhile to get fresh air. The train will be filling up with seventeen more passengers. The conductor said the train would be nearly full. Amazing how many people actually take the train these days. I thought not that many did so, but considering the price of flight and baggage prices, it would be understandable to take the train instead. I keep hearing that it’s so much cheaper. So, if I took a flight it would have cost me maybe two hundred or three hundred dollars more. Not counting the baggage charges. Baggage is not charged for train travel. I really like that a lot about Amtrak.

Just now I’m passing into the Central Time Zone. It’s 9pm and it’s dark as pitch out there. The clouds are thick with snow, so the stars are hidden from view. I hope on the third day I can see some stars. I hear by some passengers it is to be sunny all day tomorrow. Here’s hoping so.

River of steel,

Deliver me to my new future.

Tears of happiness,

Finally let go false bondage.

Flowing down stream,

Leaving all past pain behind.

Sights never before seen,

Give inspiration to my mind.

Rocking gently,

Like the rhythm of the heart.

Vast skies of blue and white,

Open my eyes to life’s delight.

Blankets of cotton white snow,

Meet evening gray silk skies.

Haunting silvery white half moon,

Watching silently as the train passes by.
Train horn echos forth,

Does the vast plains hear the haunting sound?

Day 3: March 22, 2013 – Friday

I might have done a little better at sleeping last night, but still woke up off and on by the sound of the train and rocking movements. Apparently I’m not used to sleeping on trains yet. I thought for sure I would be able to sleep better last night.

Continental breakfast with oatmeal, strawberries and Greek yogurt and two glasses of orange juice. I didn’t eat the yogurt. I didn’t like Yoplay’s style of it. Those strawberries on the train are the tastiest I’ve ever had in a long time. Washington strawberries, that come from California, taste bitter and don’t have that real strawberry flavor.

I packed my belongs early as it is dangerous in Chicago like never before. I’ll be in the station the whole time waiting for my next train. Our car steward said we would arrive in Chicago by 4pm. This will give me just two hours to wait for my next train to Washington, DC. It is 8:48am and we are on our way now. It is snow all over the place here in Minnesota, Minneapolis. One of the fun things seeing the snow in the day time is figuring out the animal tracks. Deer and rabbit is what I can find so far. Deer are not afraid in this area, that’s for sure.

Even though I’m on a train for the first time and we go through many train stations and railways, I do not count the cars that go by right next to me. Family and friends who know me best know that when a train goes by while I’m in a automobile or walking down the street, I will stop and count the cars. I’ll count the engines separately and the cars all together. I’ve done this act since I was very little. Don’t know why I do it, I just do and it’s cute and fun. However, being on a train and seeing other trains go by, it’s not as cute to count the cars so close to me.

For the last two minutes I recorded some of the Mississippi River. You don’t know how large it is by automobile until you see it by train. Yes, nothing compares to traveling down river by steam boat, but to me this train trip is very special to me. Sights I had not seen since I was a little, little girl. Rebuilding old memories to make my own is a treat and a good strengthening excise for the mind and happiness for the soul. Half the river is frozen with ice at varying thicknesses. I thought maybe there could be some animal tracks, but the deer in this area are smart. They don’t dare venture onto the ice. There are deer tracks next to the rail tracks. How cool is that? Oh, even some coyote tracks and rabbit.

For some strange reason, the music of Enya goes very well with train rides. Something about her music that just mixes with the energy and movement of the train and scenery going by. The song, “Trains and Winter Rains” fits perfectly. I can see this song being used as a soundtrack to an Amtrak commercial in the future. Traveling by train is the best way to go. Not enough people realize how easy it is to travel by train to and from work. There is one man at today’s breakfast that he works as a construction protection consultant. He lives in Minneapolis, but works in North Dakota. He would rent a car in Minneapolis, take the train to work and rent another car. He would do this three days out of the week. I don’t remember how much car gas he said he saves, but the main perk is ‘sleeping while someone else drives’. I found that amusing. I’m glancing over ever so often and I see many, many tracks of deer. Hunting must be really good. I see grouse and pheasant tracks, too.

Dreaming for years to live on the East Coast, I thought I would drive myself. A road trip to a whole new beginning. Little did I realize that dreams aren’t what they seem to be. You may dream one process to get there, but then the Universe shows you another way. The train was one of those ‘other paths’ that never crossed my mind for the past three years. I didn’t realize I waited for another route. This blessed surprise by train, that my ex-husband paid for, is a wonderful treat for the senses. You get to see things you never thought you could passing you by on smooth, sometimes bumpy track. Leaving the driving to someone else is very nice indeed. It gives me time to reflect on my future. Not my past. My past was left behind on tracks of the West Coast. Fallen away like sheds of darkened; hurt soul fragments. Breaking free from a dark shell that no longer has purpose. I feel the ‘steel river’ below my feet delivering me to my future as my new wings of my inner self build up strength for the days and years ahead.

Lunch was very good. I had the Penini Pasta with meatballs and a salad. The three other passengers this time were different and had lots to say. The middle aged couple in front of me, her and her husband of three years are heading to Chicago to see an opera. The gentleman has been retired for many years now. His wife works at Angie’s Gluten free product company. She helps distribute new products to new locations. The beginning of Angie’s got started with their ill son who could not eat any gluten foods. She had made a kettle corn popcorn for her son that helped him digest his food better and become healthier. The product went so well that she then made a business out of it. Angie’s products are making their way to the west coast at this time. I gave the woman as much information as I could remember of gluten free stores and other grocery stores that would take the products. If I remember correctly, Angie’s products are already in some Fred Meyer stores.

The young man next to me is heading to Washington, DC for school, I think it was. He boarded the train in North Dakota. For the life of me I can not remember what line of work he does. I’m so sorry. He will be taking the same train into Washington, DC as I am. Maybe I should hang out with him in the station while we wait for our train in case there is trouble. Soon after the conversation repeated with more gluten free products. I mentioned my favorite bread – Dave’s Killer Bread. Praised the 21 Grain the most and wrote the website down for her to check out later. Next time I take a train I’ll be sure to keep a pocket sized note book of paper on hand.

Our train was late to Chicago by an hour due to signals not working properly in Minneapolis. Once that got figured out, we headed out. The conductor called out over the intercom that the train would be kept in the station until all Seattle passengers were on board the Capital Limited. All ten passengers, including myself, had to hoof it really fast down to the end of the station. Union station sure is large, but I only got to see the interior of the trains themselves, not the interior of the station itself from the inside. Oh well, I wanted to get on that train as quickly as possible and so did everyone else.

Dinner on the Capital Limited was the best dinner I’ve had on Amtrak. You want to know why? Sure you do. They were serving my favorite sea food – crab. Maryland Crab Cakes with green and white beans and rice and salad with roll. I love crab cakes. When I heard my car steward mention the crab, my ears perked up. The passengers next to me started to giggle at my expression and inquired about the crab in Washington state. I promptly wrote down my crab and salmon patty recipe and gave it to the man’s wife who he said was the chief in the household. I hope she likes them as much as I loved cooking and eating them back in Washington. I do intend to make those crab and salmon patties at my friend’s house as soon as the funds let us be able to.

My dinning buddies for tonight were a middle aged woman and her 9th grade son. He played flute at one time, but gave up as he was being teased. However, he picked up trumpet and liked it very much, but did not practice in the house as it was too loud. I can understand that. He also played piano and is still playing today. He’s getting a head start in physics to help with his math skills and is excelling in his studies. I didn’t quite catch what his mother does for a living, sorry.

The elderly woman next to me had been traveling for decades on Amtrak. She happily told of her experiences as the years went by that the services and food got better and better over time. When I say, ‘she traveled everywhere’, I mean it. She’s got some millage under her belt for sure. Maybe she should write a book about all those decades on Amtrak.

Well, now I’m on my way to Washington, DC. I won’t arrive until mid afternoon. Then I will be taking the Northeast Regional to Penn Station in Maryland.

Day 4: March 23, 2013 – Saturday

I actually slept. How can I tell? I had a dream. I know I woke up at 3am to go to the bathroom, but fell back to sleep fast. I guess I got used to the movement and sound of the train finally. I was so comfortable, I nearly didn’t get out of bed for breakfast. I had corn beef hash, potatoes, and crusant. I ate mostly the corn beef hash which was the best I’ve ever had. That canned stuff is nasty compared to the train service of corn beef hash.

As for my breakfast buddies, three middle aged women. The woman on my left was visiting family in Washington, DC. The woman across from me near the window was doing the same, but then mentioned she lived in New Jersey once and expressed in fair detail the beauty of New Jersey of the back country, rolling hills and even a few mountains that not many people hear about. She expressed that ‘it’s the Garden State’ is a true thing by far. Then the conversation shifted to ‘what is your profession?’ the other woman across from me asked. I mentioned my novel ‘Soul’s Little Lie’ and told a little bit about it. The woman near the window said she too wrote a few books, but has a nice stack of rejection letters she has tacked on the her wall. She has not given up. The woman across from me is named Regine Thomas. She wrote a children’s book – ‘Mister Taxi Man Meets Irene’. Her book is about a young man who drives a taxi and one day picks up a young woman. He goes out to lunch with her and later discovers it is a young version of his deceased grandmother. The book is written into a rhyme about twelve pages long with her own illustrations inside and the cover.

Her book can be found on AuthorHouse.com and Amazon.com. She kept saying she’s having a hard time trying to sell it since she self published. Everyone in her town bought copies and loved it, but she can’t seem to understand why AuthorHouse isn’t doing good in sells for her. I then mentioned about Deviantart.com to help promote her book and art there and see about self publishing on Lulu.com. After a while Regine and I got an itch to write out all our info to each other at the table. Each woman got a copy of our novel, website and email information. Next time I’ll be sure to bring a host of business cards with me. Never leave home without one when going on a long trip. You never know who you’ll meet.

Throughout this whole train experience I have expressed by words all the people I have met while having meals. The goofy part is, I can’t seem to remember any of their first names, save for Regine. How peculiar that is. Next time I’ll be sure to bring out my digital recorder. Apparently, I have found a new hobby. Writing short story excerpts of travels going by. There is a market for such things or if there is not, I’ll make one. I’ll have to clean this ‘journal’ up to show to a publisher later. Somewhere amongst this note taking babble is a short story waiting to be noticed. In a why the whole seven pages is a short story, but in my prospective as much as I can remember. The details of the scenery outside the windows can be put in later. I have a good memory for such things.

You know, even though this journey by Amtrak train was during the early spring with many areas of the country still full of snow and the trees have yet to grow their leaves, I will have to take this trip again back to Washington state when it has become green all over. That trip is long ways off into the future. As for what I have seen, besides fifteen new; expressive and polite people, I saw a mother cow give birth to her cafe in the snow of Montana. Thousands of Canadian geese waiting out the snow storm across the Great Plains. Wild turkey, at least six hens, walking around in the early morning mist. A few white tailed does grazing in the early morning. Many, many snow tracks of coyote, deer, rabbit, pheasant and grouse. I even saw two dark crowned cranes in a field. Streams and rivers moving past my eyes in the framed window by my side. The Mighty Mississippi never before seen from such a view by train. What a sight to behold.

Fields of gold, reddish brown. Stones of brown-red and granite gray. Oak, ash, pine, apple, birch, aspen, and silver birch. Old growth forests with twisted, knotted trees that could tell stories past. Old farm houses kept in good order for prosperity of American history. Snow caped mountains with spring waters trying to thaw the snow around them. Waterfalls cascading down hill or mountain sides bring life to spring. I now understand, in a small manner, why I feel a pull to the east coast so much since I was a little girl. The country of the United States is old here. The west is young and too wild. Here on the east coast it is set in it’s ways with wisdom and old growth forests that give a pleasant haunting of the past. I feel at home on the east coast. I have family in Tennessee, but I feel home near the Atlantic Ocean.

My task at hand, once I settle down in Denton, Maryland with my long time friend, is to save every penny I earn in a job. Once I have a comfortable amount of funds, I will move my way up north to Massachusetts. That is where my heart and soul are waiting for me. A part of me stayed behind in the Northern Shore in that summer of 2010. I intend to retrieve that part of me so I can ‘come home’ to where I feel I belong. This journey has been in the making since 1986 when I moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee so long ago.

Crying out, “Mommy, I don’t want to leave! We shouldn’t leave here. I want to stay!” the little five year old Tara proclaimed with tears in her eyes. The house on Palmar Drive was my grandfather’s that he built at the early stages of the Rothwell Enterprises Construction Company. Alas, she had to leave for new pastures that her parents set out for since the economy in the 1980s was getting worse. It would not be for three decades later that her parents would say, “Dear Tara, you were right. We should have never left Tennessee,” her mother expressed after having moved back there in 2004.

Where we moved to was New Orleans, Louisiana. Daddy had gotten a job at a Nissan dealership being a certified mechanic. He was good at his job, so good that I had somehow inherited his internal knack for ‘listening to cars’ of what made them ill. However, early on in the three years we lived there, Daddy had become ill himself with two hernias and some contagious sickness. He was unable to care for the family of two kids and wife.

(**To Be Continued of possible novel**)

Short Story: Three Coffee Pots

I wrote this little short story back in 2010 while I was still married. The situations in this story are all true. Enjoy the laughs. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments. Thank you.

“Three Coffee Pots”

By: Tara B. Dobbs

Coffee can be drunk in many ways. This smooth hot or chilled liquid can be drunk at any time of the day or night. It only takes seconds to prepare into the machine, and takes minutes to create through the machine. What kind of machine you buy from a store, given by a friend, or find at a thrift store can make a different in the taste of that first cup you pour out of the pot. It’s not just how the beans are roasted that makes the difference, it’s the machine that really makes or breaks that first cup in the morning. Here I shall give an in depth comparison between three totally different machines. The very lives these machines lived and some that are still living.

The first one, a very unlikely candidate for any bachelor living in an apartment, was a 32 cup restaurant coffee dispenser. My boyfriend, now husband, had been living in the same apartment in Everett, Washington since 1996 after being honorably discharged from the Army after the Gulf War. He would tell me stories of the ‘Army coffee’ he consumed then. How black and very, very strong it was.

Joking that, “There’s Army coffee and maintenance coffee. Army coffee are these little single serving packets in a soldier’s MREs. Pour twenty of these into one cup, you’ll be awake all day, but you’ll crap your pants. Then there’s maintenance coffee or gentleman’s coffee. You can degrease parts with it and strip rust right off of steal.” I shuddered to think of such horrors if they were ever true.

When I moved into the apartment in the Spring of 2003, I met the coffee machine. There it was, sitting proudly on the mantel corner of the fireplace. It’s shining, tall cylindrical body but slightly dulled silvery appearance, with a black top and black four legged base gave a looming presence. He had told me stories of how he came across this machine and I could only imagine the stories it could tell if it could talk.

“I bought it at a restaurant supply store that two friends introduced me to when I first moved here,” he said proudly as he unplugged it at the base taking it off the mantel and carrying it to the kitchen. Opening a can of Foldgers coffee, he proceeded to make a whole pot full – a 32 cup maker full. “I bought the machine, a three pound chocolate bar, and a five pound can of coffee. I had no furniture, but I at least had a coffee maker.”

“You drink out of this?” I asked, turning my nose up at it.

“Yeah. I make it on Monday morning before work and drink out of it all week. It saves me time and money this way,” he replied as I nearly lost my cookies.

“I’m so glad I don’t like coffee,” I added as I walked out of the kitchen.

As time passed, I watched in horror as he would do the same thing every week. Make a machine full for a whole week. Making the coffee from this machine for more than three people at a party or basic gathering is a logical idea, but for one man alone? No way.

One day, in late 2003, he headed off to his parent’s for the weekend to help around their house. It was late and I was bored. Casually I walked up to the mantel and glared at the tall; silvery beast. Unplugged it from it’s base and carried it to the kitchen saying, “You’re mine! Finally I get to see how dirty you really are.” I had only seen him once clean the machine out and this was my chance to clean it myself.

The water ran in the sink taking longer than usual to heat up. I opened the top, poured out the contents and looked inside. To my astonishment I didn’t see a ‘clean’ basin, as he had claimed was clean. Looking with the kitchen light there were crusted burnt coffee grounds and coffee liquid at the base and around the sides. Filling the basin with hot water and loads of Dawn dish soap, I let it soak for a few hours. I could remember the elbow grease it took me to wash it. It was a serious workout to say the least. After an hour of scrubbing, the inside and outside of the basin shone brightly like new chrome on a classic car.

Once he came home I made the 32 cup amount for him.

“What did you do to my coffee maker?” he asked, seeing how clean and shinny it now was. “You cleaned the taste right out of it!” Of course he was joking. If he wasn’t, that may explain his upset stomach he sometimes got from drinking from such a dirty machine.

All was well for many years. He still used it as usual making the full 32 pot. Until one day, in mid 2005, I started to protest to him that he should get a new coffee maker. I loathed that monstrosity. Drinking so much coffee was unhealthy in many ways. I soon told his stepfather of the situation and urged me to get rid of it.

“It’s healthier to drink just the first cup. After that, the coffee becomes acidic and can rot the lining of your stomach over time. How can he drink so much and let it stand in the pot heated for so long?” the old man was sickened by the thought. I agreed with him completely.

For a whole week I protested to him. “You can’t drink out of that thing forever. You keep drinking coffee from it all the time even after work and from that you stay up for hours on end. I wake up in the middle of the night sensing that you’re not in bed and I find you drinking more at the your computer desk.”

One faithful day, he tried to make another pot full. After pouring the water and putting the grounds in the filter, he turned the switch. Nothing happened.

“You broke it!” he yelled. I came running from the bedroom seeing him taking it apart. “You broke it with your hate. You broke it with your hatred for this machine!”

Looking inside the mechanics of it, I saw that one of the wires had frayed and broke away. “The maker died on it’s own. I knew it was going to die soon.” I got up and danced. I was elated that it had died finally. “This means you have to buy a new coffee maker! You have no choice now!”

A few days later, we went to Starbucks down on Colby Ave. There we purchased the Starbucks Barista Aroma coffee machine. It was a little pricy, but I figured it would be worth it. The amount of coffee made was considerably less than the restaurant 32 cup machine. He could easily make two cups or just twelve cups at a time. By this time also, I grew a taste for coffee starting with Starbucks Frappachinos.

You might be asking, ‘Why not buy a more basic brand like Mr. Coffee or Black and Decker?’ My experience with those in my parents’ home is just the same as any other ‘basic’ coffee maker. Brewing the coffee and then letting it stand in the pot on a burner creates an acid that can be toxic to the stomach. The Starbucks coffee pot itself was made like a thermos, so there is no worry of burning. However, drinking from a full 12 cup pot over time isn’t good either. It’s only good at the fist cup that is poured.

Just like the 32 cup maker, my now husband, we married that very year, would still make a full pot of coffee just for himself on the weekends. It took me many, many months to get him to stop drinking a full 12 cups in one day. Again, just like the old restaurant maker, he would stay up late hours having drank the whole thing and not gone to bed. He did after much whining off, drink one cup or two cups a day. Not much else went wrong with this coffee maker until late 2009.

I had called Tulalip Casino Resort to see if they had any rooms available during the Valentine Day weekend. Sure enough, they had one room left. A room with two queen sized beds on the top floor where children were not allowed. Not only was this a spur of the moment outting, I wanted him to have a nice birthday on me. We got to the room and found a Keurig coffee maker on top of the open bar. I thought it was the cutest one cup coffee machine ever.

The first day there, I made him a cup. I did as instructed by the manual. Soon after the cup was ready. The coffee came out perfect every time. The samples on the bar even had tea and hot chocolate. I had myself a cup of Earl Gray tea the next morning. I was so impressed with the machine I knew I had to have one.

Once we came home from our little weekend, just like clock work he made a full pot of coffee with the Starbucks brand machine. As he did so, the machine started to act up. I cleaned it afterward with vinegar and hot water a few cycles through. All was great, until I saw him drinking the whole pot again to himself. I finally realized what I had to do.

With the money I had left over from grocery shopping one day in the Spring of 2010 at Fred Meyers grocery store, I picked up one of the Keurig basic models and a few of the assorted K-Cup packages. I couldn’t wait to take it home and make my first cup. If not for myself to make the first cup, at least for my husband when he came home from work. Of course I couldn’t help myself and made a cup anyway. I like having creamer in my coffee. Never black, I could never stand it black. The machine was so easy to operate, of course all coffee makers are easy to operate, but this machine at least to me was special.

After a few days of using it, at least one cup for my husband and one for myself each day, the machine stopped working. I cleaned it out like it suggested, hot water and vinegar. Still nothing. I then proceed to call the company to see what could be done. They instructed me to mail in the K-Cup part of the machine with a special number taped on it. I did so and then a few weeks later a new Keurig machine came in the mail. I turned on the new machine like normal and it worked just fine. Along with this new machine they sent an assorted collection of K-Cup coffee flavors and brands. It was fun trying out each one as no two coffees or teas are created equal.

Now, it had seemed my husband had been successfully whined off of a large amount of coffee. Starting from 32 cups, then to 12 cups, 6 cups and then 4 to 2 cups. Now he drinks one cup in the morning before work, and one cup before bed. However, if I’m deep in sleep, he’ll make a second cup and I’ll know this because the leftover grounds have been dumped into the sink. Call it, woman’s intuition. You’re probably asking, ‘what ever happened to the Starbucks machine?’ we still have it and use it for company when needing to make more than one cup.

I do, on occasion think about the large 32 cup coffee machine that graced it’s presence into my life. I can only imagine the stories it could tell of the long nights that my husband stayed awake typing at the computer. The faces of friends and family walking past it and stopping only for a moment to refill their cups with the brown ‘bean juice’ contents inside. Did the 32 cup maker have a soul? I’d like to think so. Even though I hated that my husband drank so much of the boiled brew for days on end, I did not hate the machine itself. The 32 cup restaurant coffee maker lived a long life a top the mantel of the fireplace. I will admit that I too took at least one, maybe two cups, from it in the morning just before it died, but only when I cleaned the machine myself. I believe this coffee maker had no fuss about me pouring creamer into the cup afterward. All it cared about was making my husband happy all throughout it’s life in that simple apartment.

A few months just before the coffee maker died, I drew a picture of it, depicting it shining in all it’s glory. Inked it in black with hatch markings and stippling dots. Immortalizing it forever on card stock paper for an art project exam. The simple inked art piece still lays in my portfolio folder to this day. Sometimes, just sometimes I wish the coffee maker never died. I knew the coffee maker died only doing what it loved most – brew a full pot of coffee for anyone who needed a cup at any time of day or night.