A Novelist’s Special Team

A team of people can range in number and style for the needs of a project. I learned early on, like most of us in this world, in school you can’t get any class project done without your teammates. For most of my class work projects that consisted of two to four other classmates, I was shunned by the small group. Because of this, I nearly failed a few projects in History, Science and Social Studies.

I worked best by myself after that. Finding I learned faster on my own and completed projects, when mostly done by yourself anyway, I excelled at the project put before me.

As I began writing my first manuscript from September 1995 to May 1, 1996 I worked alone, of course. I continued to work alone for my second, third and fourth manuscripts that followed. I thought I learned all that I could with all the ‘how to write fiction’ books at my disposal and all the YouTube videos of fellow writers teaching what they learned along the way. I thought I had it all figured out. That I didn’t quite need a team.

I wasn’t exactly wrong, per se. More like I was afraid of being shunned again by fellow writers of the adult age group. I didn’t want to go through the shunning experience again. Yet, it finally came to it that I needed someone to help me critique my work.

My three beta readers are part of that ever growing team that were the starting off point. A few years later, Mike found me on Reddit and the rest is history at this point. He’s one teammate so far in my writing journey for the technical part at this stage of Draft 3 book 1. Critique Partners are so vital to find the developmental problems in a story that the author can’t see for all the words on the pages.

The thing is, all the writing classes in school over the years, English classes, how to writing books and YouTube videos about the process of writing and revision (reshoots I call it), none of them call the Critique Partner, Beta Reader, Editor and Literary Agent and Publisher the following – Quality Control.

Quality Control is when a team works together to check each other’s work on a project. Every nook and cranny of nuts, bolts, panels, electrical wiring, windows, sealant, carpet, etc has to be checked and double checked. Only until the airplane has gone through hundreds of quality control checks and signed by each team manager and that area’s quality control manager, can the airplane go down the next line of manufacturing. Any mistakes found, the process of that section of mistakes starts over again until it is all checked out correctly and signed. I learned this while working for a short time at Boeing.

The same rigorous quality control must take place down the line for a book. No matter how many passes through quality control team members take the manuscript until it is finally ready for publication. Without quality control, which seems to be lacking in the publishing world on all fronts, reading a book can and will bother its target audience. The reader will pull it apart finding basic or crazy mistakes in continuity, grammar, pacing, etc. This will aggravate them to no end because they were hoping to have a nearly flawless prose to read to their heart’s content.

Here’s what I learned at each early to current stage of my writing process.

Early Years – From September 1995 to May 1, 1996 I hand wrote in three black lined notebooks in school during study period, lunch and after my work was done for any said class. I even wrote in the school library sometimes. And when I had time to myself in my bedroom when I got home to write. During this time, once I thought it was ready, I type it all up on the school computers in Computer Class onto hard floppy disks and printed it out at the library.

I wouldn’t go back to this first manuscript again until 2005. I picked up where it left off on chapter 18 but typed it up instead of the painful hand written prose from years before. Once reading it through and giving it to my mother and a friend to read, beta readers to be exact, they both told me the harsh truth that I needed – Mom said, “Honey, I can’t go any further.” She had read up to 150 out of 350. “There’s nothing going on. I can’t even tell if there is a story here or not.”…Then my friend said, “How old were you when you wrote this?” he had read up to page 50. Replied, “Sixteen.” He said in return, “Oh, that’s just as bad as if you were writing it while drunk.”…Shortly after that, I gathered the typed edition and three notebooks and trunked it. I knew even by myself it wasn’t to be edited through. This manuscript was a test to see if I could tell the story to myself while writing it. I am now, however, able to salvage a few chapters for later.

New Stage Early Years – October 2009 to December 2015 was busy and full of turmoil with family and an abusive marriage. Here, I had an affair. Someone to touch. Someone to hold. Someone to talk my grievances to while I cried myself to sleep most nights in my marriage bed. The affair only lasted a few months, but to me that was enough. It was during this time, shortly before the affair started, that I had a slight story concept.

The first character that came to mind was David Geraci, but I had put him up as Ynycornus from years ago from the first manuscript and from the confines of my subconscious trying to comprehend the abuses I endured for most of my life. Something in me saw a story about my ‘spirit guide’. If he was once alive, if at all, what was his life like? What did he go through? In my mind he kept telling me, “Are you sure you want to know?” I hammered him for more. I wanted to know. I wanted to understand his side of the story that lay far out of reach to me.

He told me all he could as I wrote it down as fast as I could in notes here and there in three hard bound black book of shadows. In this process the concept took shape. Even sketching him when he was at first Ynycornus from manuscript one I drew him as best I could. Slowly, with each chapter, the story of Vivian’s journey to the ‘other side’ with the imposter Ynycornus taking her on a road trip across the country to his home in Lowell, Massachusetts. It all began to take shape.

The first draft was 24 chapters and 140,000 word count. With some help from a friend, who had originally read the first manuscript a few years prior, he helped me widdle it down to 120,000 words. For his help, it was mostly brainstorming ideas when I was stuck. Little did I realize until the fourth draft of manuscript 2, that he had convinced me to put him into the story. Since then, going back to an original draft three level for this part, I’ve erased him from the story. It had no purpose to the story what so ever. Slowing things down and all.

March 2013 I filed for divorce from my abusive husband. I then had to make a horrible choice since I had no other place to go – move back to Tennessee to live with my elder parents and brother. I won’t get into that nightmare of a situation of two years, but I will at least say this – got that second manuscript published for a one year contract in 2014.

Oh, the lessons learned from that small publisher. Damn. Won’t go into details, but when she gave me an editor and this editor pointed out problems in the first chapter and then said, “Look through what I edited in the first chapter. Go through the manuscript and find similar issues and fix them. Once you’re done, get back to me.”…Uh, what? I half assed my efforts cause I didn’t know any better, but at the same time, I thought an editor was to help you along the way? Not leave you to the wolves like that. The book was published, but there were loads of mistakes which now I have cleaned up greatly and cut nearly half the book apart to flow better. I was under an unrealistic deadline with that publisher to get the edits done in a month. That’s not how traditional publishing works. Overall, it was an experience and I sold fifty copies at least digital and paperback. I have three paperback copies myself. One of which is full editing marks in pencil and pen as study for future full on edits.

In December 2015 I dropped the contract. By then I had moved back to Washington state in late September 2015 by train. All I had on me was one very full roll duffel bag, one large roll luggage bag and one small roll luggage bag. All inside the bags were the most precious of belongings – manuscript one printed copy, two of the black notebooks of the original handwritten, how to write fiction books as many as could fit, watercolor art supplies and paints and some cloths. Along with mailing my art portfolio bag of art, Robert Forbear unicorn poster and the antique oval mirror. I was panicking when about to leave my family behind. Being threatened to be killed due to my mother’s delusional mental illness and my brother’s mental illness of threatening the same to me, I had to leave.

Midway Years – From January 2016 to 2019 I was ready to continue the story of the Geraci mansion and Vivian’s adventure of facing her pain. I had added many more characters in the now third manuscript. Before I had left Tennessee in fall 2015, I was in the early stages of at least five chapters into the third manuscript. I kept getting interrupted from my family. It was like I was the adult in the house having to maintain three adult children with childish behaviors and demands due to mental illness, Alzheimer’s Disease (my mother), alcoholism (my dad and brother) and drug use (my brother). I was the truth telling; amateur psychology doctor maintaining a mini asylum. All the while trying to write a new manuscript to continue the story.

I had come back to Washington state a mental mess. My mild PTSD, mild anxiety and mild depression running rapid in me like it dialed up to level 10 at least. Thankfully my psychiatrist Dr. K. back in TN was able to help me figure things out before I left. I was at his office at least every week to every other week depending when he had an opening. Knowing of my own mental illness, which is far more manageable than what I could dare say about my father, brother and mother (which they need far more help then I, which should have been given to them way before I was ever born)…Since I could not concentrate on my love for writing, I had to at least take a break for almost two years.

By late summer 2016 I started working more on the third manuscript. I found my zone in my writing. This third manuscript took maybe six months tops. I then dived into the fourth manuscript in the spring of 2017. I at least got 68,000 words down for manuscript three and 40,000 word count for manuscript four. Both needed far more details fleshed out and I knew this would take time. Both these manuscripts, not to mention manuscript two were FAR, FAR from being looked at by a critique partner. I at least gave these two manuscripts to three Beta Readers in 2017 since one of them had bought the first publication of Soul’s Little Lie when it was in print back in 2015. Having these three Beta Readers helped me set up an editing (reshoot) mindset later on.

Current Phase of Writing – 2020…Oh, my God. It started out just fine. I was rolling along for draft 3 of manuscript three and four nearly at the same time here and there. Mostly was working on manuscript three from January to early March. Then, all shit hit the fan for the world. Covid-19 virus.

Concentration went out the window. Concentration took her bags, jumped out of my soul and heart, leaving my brain in shock and flew the coupe! I was a mess like everyone else who had a hard time looking into working on their current or near future projects in writing, painting, animation, music, etc. We all halted to a stand still in shock.

I tried. Damn did I try to get the motor running in my manuscript editing work. I even started cataloging my writing process of what parts I was working on and how many hours worked in a bullet journal since January 2020. I was set and ready to tackle all three manuscripts to Soul’s Little Lie books. I was pumped, but ya know, 2020 year was a dumpster fire times a million percent!

I set up my bullet journal like a basic calendar that would last me a whole decade of logging. Had to do this since my favorite writing log app WriteOMeter on GooglePlay had up and disappeared no longer with updates to it. It was a sad day for everyone who used that app. It was the best.

After months of fiddling about with chapters here for edits and chapters there and note taking and author bible fixes and updates, I bit the bullet in early October. I posted my need for a critique partner on Reddit. All I was looking for was POV issues. What Mike, my critique partner, found was so much more. He’s currently on chapter 13 of manuscript three and has two more chapters to go.

What Mike found was astounding. I had already suspected as much of shifting chapters and character pieces over to manuscript four, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. My suspicions continued to be correct by Mike’s findings that with one character’s story arch shifted over to the other manuscript, it made the whole new first book flow much better. This then lead me to break down manuscript two even further to find it needed to be at the end of manuscript three which bulked up areas that were flat or missing completely.

This now made the new book one a total word count of 138,000. I can chop that down nicely since I already went through the first publication attempt knowing exactly what to eliminate. Then I saw the problems with manuscript four and how the shifted character arch to be placed at the beginning of this manuscript. This too, made its story bulkier and more connected to the drama in the story with a new location for scenes. It kept two characters closer together to complete both their story arches.

All I have to do now is fill in the blank areas of Vivian’s abuses of her husband in Act I that blends into Act II. Act III, which is manuscript two, will have to be cut a lot to make it fit, but I think I can do it. It will make four books turn into three books instead. A trilogy which is far easier to put together. Once all these ‘reshoots’ are done on my end, I go back to finding a new pair of eyes and fresh mind for a second Critique Partner – teammate #5 to the group.

In retrospect, if I hadn’t gone about swallowing my foolish pride in finding a Critique Partner, I would have sent off the manuscript 3 to querying prematurely. This would have caused set backs due to rejections. With each stage of development in the ever changing Quality Control tactics, I’ve learned far more than ever since only ten years ago. In such a short time of three months, I’ve learned exactly how Developmental Edits are done. Why that first critical step in edits, no matter how daunting it may look at first, is far more important than the piddly edits I attempted on my own.

To have teamwork to build a project as complex as a novel will propel you further toward your writing career and dream coming true for publication than you ever thought possible.

So far, 5 Beta Readers and 1 Critique Partner. The team is growing and will keep growing as the Quality Control moves along down the conveyer belt of production for future publication.

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Inner Worries of a Novelist

Nearly ten weeks have been spent on lockdown for self quarantine of the Covid-19 virus for Washington state. The lockdown began for us in Washington state on March 17th, if my memory serves me correct. (The next day my 40th birthday celebrated as best I could) Before then, about early January 2020 I was already watching and learning of the virus online through creditable YouTube channels. Following practicing and licensed doctors that understood how pathology of viruses works. I enjoy studying and keeping up on scientific changes as things like Covid-19 progress. This also made me hyper-focus on nothing but the ever changing findings of the virus as I watched my boyfriend worry about finances in late March as his job slowly closed up shop. This meant he would be in the house every single day starting in late March, early April.

As the changes to the lockdown continued of what we could do to keep active and what we could only do in keeping safe as time passed. Wearing masks and gloves became the norm for us. As the weather got better, with a few days to a full week of sunshine and clear night skies, I was able to take my nightly walks. The walks I call: Writing Walkies. A priceless and cherished time to let my mind focus on the stories I’m writing or trying to write.

With my boyfriend at home all the time, taking his time to be in his office to play video games mostly Sims 4 and at times coming to sit together watching YouTube videos and our favorite shows on Hulu…it has now come to my attention (now that Phase 2 of reopening Washington state begins), I have not had a full comfortable mental process of focuses on Soul’s Little Lie book 1. The times I took to write when my boyfriend would be at work were perfect for me. I was able to think clearly without the mental pull to talk with him, sit next to him on the couch or to do yard work together. (We were able, with help from our neighbor, to attack and kill off the blackberries for seven days worth of hard labor. We are not done by far to make the backyard the way we want it, but those seven days saved us a comparable month or two worth. Thank you Shane!)

Since this revelation has come to the forefront of my mind, this got me to thinking of the psychological aspects to myself of what makes me truly focus as a writer in a healthy way.

First and foremost, growing up in a household that constantly kept me on edge due to my narcissistic, mentally ill abusive mother and the chaos my mentally ill brother brought into our lives and coupled with the few to hardly no friends throughout most of my school years, it was difficult to concentrate on any writing or painting at all. It was only once my mother went to work or when my brother was away from family for monthly stretches or a few years at a time for countless reasons, was I able to do the work I wanted that made me happy. As for my father, who enforced the rules of the house with threat of a belt across my ass (yet mom was the one who beat me) and following the whims of my abusive mother, his wife, I didn’t have much stress over him fogging up my mind.

Once they were all out of the house, even for a weekend trip for themselves when I was old enough to be left alone in the apartment, it would take me a day or two to reset my mind to focus on my arts. This focus would continue for days or weeks until the chaos of the house of my mother’s ravings and gaslighting would flare up again. Then the cycle would continue. I would have to wait until it was safe to concentrate on my work.

The process continued again when I was married to a mentally ill abuser who gaslighted me at every turn. Even when I worked a retail job I wouldn’t calm down to focus until I had a day or two to decompress. Once the husband (now ex-husband for eight years), would be off to work, while I did not work, I was able to focus at will. I would paint, draw, dance or write to my hearts content. It was after all what spawned the first manuscript for Soul’s Little Lie that later was published for a time in 2015.

Now, here it is nearly ten weeks of lockdown quarantine for Washington state and my boyfriend of four years has been in the house constantly cause he can not work at the ice rink until the coast is clear. I’m not pulling my hair out or throwing fits over it. I’m calm and busy studying about the virus and the political changes in the world. Off and on I have been watching YouTube videos about writing, querying, publishing, etc to keep up, but the mental focus to work on rewriting/editing process for book one has slipped away.

All I have to do is type up a new chapter 2 and rewrite from scratch chapter 18 to possibly chapter 20, all these chapters are strictly the point of view of my Frankie Bellington character. Frankie has been difficult to talk to though. It is almost as though my subconscious does not want to see what he has to offer to the story of Soul’s Little Lie of the heartache he feels of what happened. I understand it’s a part of me that’s afraid of failure in a way, but it is also a personification of my inner lack of focus that stems from the past of abusive family and ex-husband’s abuses.

My boyfriend has never been abusive toward me in any fashion, so why am I not able to focus? The full truth could be that – the uncertainty of the future scares me to the core. I’m not alone in these uncertain times of fear and worry. Though, in a way this fear is unfounded. The great saying, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”, comes to mind easily to me, but that inner part of me has been through so much, it makes me hunker down to survival mode.

And yet, the true survival mode that got me through all the years of abuse was directly connected to writing and painting. Writing more helped me flesh out my feelings; my thoughts to the full ability of the English language in which I speak. Though, still, why am I not able to focus on the few chapters I have left in book one during editing draft 3?

Am I yet still afraid of critique partners and new beta readers to come after this? Do I fear what they will say about my work since I was so terribly burned out by my first publisher of the editor they gave me did not help worth a bit.

I linger so in my goals to become the future published novelist I’ve always wanted to be. Even still, Frankie Bellington’s words must be heard, must be spoken at all costs.

Here I am, seated at my computer and I have typed at least this on my author site for all to read. A feeling of relief escapes my lips as I end this entry.

Spring Flowers Of My Truth

I’m writing this article today because of this YouTube video: The Case For Fan Fiction

Since there are more authors coming forward in telling their reader base: ‘Yeah, I wrote fan fiction and it helped me learn how to write better.’…I feel strong enough mentally now to come forward to tell my piece. To allow my spring flowers to come up from the earth to see the light of day.

Fan fiction to me is an outlet to help jump start or a warming up period to writing something original. To get that feeling of the pen between my fingers. To feel the pen moving across the paper as words drip onto the page one by one. To make limber my fingers at the keyboard to type as smoothly or as awkwardly as possible. (With the joy in knowing the spell checker will always be there)

Writing fan fiction is a glorious way to practice, not just in the basic structure of sentences and word usage, but in the process that little is talked about – practice in remembering a whole story and the character(s) formations within. It takes a lot of work to flush out a whole story even if its based on someone else’s previous or current prose. Sometimes, but most often, getting your mind to wrap around the complexity of character development, plot and subplot structure and basic other story beats, there is a lot to hold onto. Writing fan fiction in the character types you loved such as, for example of my own works: 1980s My Little Pony, Dragonball Z and New Kids On The Block (Real Person Fiction), helped me understand the complexities of juggling all of these critical writing structure needs.

Learning what I watched and read of the above examples of cartoon, anime and real life people that I aspired to, I was able to flesh out fairly well constructed original stories. All the while keeping in mind the basic principals of what made those cartoon fictions and real life people who they are and what they became. Coming up with original characters is hard work, but there are times that writing fan fiction helps you understand the structure of a character(s). Fan fiction is just that important to us writers.

Now, here it is, more and more professional authors are coming out expressing that they got their start by writing fan fiction when they were teenagers. All of us writers also got our basic start in English classes and Creative Writing classes all throughout our early school years, some as far as college. However, when in between writing class assignments, spring break and summer break, what do we do? We write fan fiction to keep our skill in top shape. We keep writing no matter the subject manner as long as it is something we love and can mold to our own enjoyment.

As for my own fan fiction, I have a few, but two of them that I posted live, are made with a twist. My Fan Fiction (Mythian)The Island“, it all came from dreams that I put together. I would wake up from the dream with a ‘…To Be Continued’ nearly each morning. I would pick up right where I left off in the dream. Finding at least thirty dreams that made up the whole of The Island, I didn’t start writing it down until 2005. The dream had kept itself hold up for so long, that I’m surprised I remembered it so perfectly to be written the way it was.

The Nightmare” worked the same way. Dreamed it constantly every few days for a whole year. Psychologically I was trying to come to terms if being a New Kids fan was worth my time and effort. Later, wrote it down completely in 2005 or so to keep a record of its originality. Years later, I placed this into my third manuscript, but shortened it to fit my needs for that collection of characters.

On their own, The Island and The Nightmare would never do well by themselves. The way my mind constructed these dreams the only smart place for them was to weave them into my current novels. As for the My Little Pony and DragonBall Z fan fiction, they will stay right where they are and will never be changed to suit my original works. They were for warm up and practice and I love the time I put into them.

The importance of fan fiction writing can take you farther than you realize. The trick is, how do you weave your dreams into something original that will help you grow to go farther as a writer? That’s totally up to you.

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.

Coming To The Home Stretch

I’m nearly done with writing my second manuscript for book 2 Soul’s Little Lie: Whispers in the Hall. I figure I have 5 more chapters to go. I could be done by late October or sooner. We shall see.

My goodness, I haven’t posted anything on my blog in a month or more. This time I want to showcase my progress from my dry erase board of the past few months. On each photo, about four of them, it will show my regular life schedule that also mingled with my writing.

You’ll probably notice a great gap in mouths and gaps in between weeks. Writing is hard at times, especially when that pesky writer’s block kicks in. The story is all there, it’s just life stresses keep you from writing. The darkness inside you of the doubt you have in your craft tries to weight you down with that massive or even small writer’s block. It’s no joke when people say: writing is hard.

What they mean by ‘writing is hard’ isn’t the writing part of typing up and hand writing words on a page, it’s getting the words out from your mind to your fingers to the blank page. That blank page can be intimidating at times. You just don’t quite know how to put the words together in telling the story of what scene or situation or conversation comes up next from where you left off.

Now that I’ve broken free of this nasty writer’s block that lingered for a collective total of six months or more, I’m almost done with the story. This second book has been the hardest cause you ‘feel’ as though the story is done with just that one first book, but oh know, it’s far from over.

At NorWesCon 2016 author Jennifer Brozek gave me some well needed words of encouragement that I will never forget:

“The hardest part in writing a book series is that second book. Most beginning writers have the hardest time writing a second book cause inside they believe that first book is the finished story. If you can show that you produced a second book in a series, that will help you get noticed by publishers. Until then, just keep writing and finish that second novel.”

I may have not repeated exactly her words, but it’s damn close to my ability in remembering them.

Now, onto what my work load looks like. Mind, I write on the board what I have produced and what happened in the day later in the evening. I don’t write a deadline to myself. It psychs me out and upsets me.

I gave up on the original idea of making a deadline, with posting a timeline of each week of which chapters to write, as seen in the first image on the left for the month of February.

In the second image, June 23-July 20, 2016 I began showcasing my real home life of what an author goes through in between ‘writer’s block’ and real life and then finally the writing that flows. Same thing for the third image of July 21-August 17, 2016.

What I used to do back when I wrote the first Soul’s Little Lie manuscript was, I kept all of this in my head of how I was producing chapters. Writing 1 chapter a week or more which spanned a total of 9 months. This time for the second book, it’s been a fussy child to me. I’ve been working on the second novel since late fall 2014. What really bogged me down in my writing for the first year or two was the constant interruptions of my elderly parents. They could not respect what I was trying to achieve. Now, you can see I’m more focused far, far away from them.

To add, I’ll do this little ‘writer’s tag’ questionnaire that I found on Jenna Moreci YouTube channel.

#1 What do you eat or drink while writing? – Maxwell House Coffee w/ International Delights Creamer of a flavor I’m in the mood for, usually it’s Almoretto Cafe and sometimes tea, but in between each cup of coffee, usually 2 cups one in the morning and one at night, I’ll drink a few 8oz water bottles of water. Oh, I don’t eat while I’m writing. I’ll take my food into the living room or watch videos on YouTube while I have my snack or lunch or dinner. Never, ever while I’m writing will I eat.

#2 What do you listen to while writing? – I have a large eclectic collection and it all depends on my mood in the scene I’m working with. I have a few soundtracks strictly for Soul’s Little Lie series. I arrange them in order of the story and use that song that comes up next as a ‘tuned in’ marker for my mind.
#3 What is your biggest distraction while you’re writing? – The negative hurtful words of my mother telling me I’m no good at anything. That then turns into a few days to a few weeks of depression and fear about my work. That emotional manipulative bs of my mother’s voice really hurts my time in the hours I could be writing.
#4 What is the worst thing that has happened to you while writing? – My first manuscript that I wrote by hand, that then I typed onto a Mac computer back in 1996 in computer class, decades later the hard floppy discs became corrupted and I lost all the files of all 200+ pages. Thankfully I printed the file out way before the corruption occurred and I have only one copy left. Recently though, 1 out of 3 hand written notebooks of said first original manuscript, along with 3 hard bound notebooks, artwork sketches, other odd notes and 2 hand written poetry books are in limbo at the USPS Distribution center in Federal Way, WA. The mailing location address was ripped off somehow and I’ve been waiting ever since, for nearly a year, for the box to return to me. I’ll have to just drive down to Federal Way location to get it that way even though I LOST the tracking number in the process of my move back to WA. Yeah, I’m on edge about that and that’s part of my writer’s block. I want my novel materials to come home to me so badly.

#5 What is the best thing that has ever happened to you while writing? – Currently getting Soul’s Little Lie book one published. Gotta consider each publication is a stepping stone to something bigger for my main goal.
#6 Who do you communicate with while you’re writing? – I don’t talk to anyone while writing. No one really should talk while they are writing cause you have to focus your whole energy onto your craft. If you must talk to someone, make sure it’s during a break so you can write down the notes during your talk. Or, just talk to yourself, since that’s where your writing is coming from – your inner soul.

#7 What is your secret to success and your biggest writing flaw? – I don’t have any ‘success’ to speak of yet. I just have one book published and have many more to write that will get published when they are ready. My biggest flaw would have to be – doubting myself and ‘listening’ to my mother’s harsh words. I have to break that habit if I am to ever succeed to my main goal.
#8 What is your inspiration? What makes you productive? – Music, my mind and my dreams that I remember when I wake up in the morning. Seeing that massive goal at the end of all of this. Can’t tell you what that final goal is, it’s a secret.
#9 What is one thing that you do or that other writers do that is super annoying? – There is this one author, I won’t say her name, that I met at NorWesCon2016. She kept on boasting this at the panel and in public at her booth – “I just want the fuck it all money!” Let’s just say, putting the cart before the horse and boasting that the cart can move, when it can’t, is a bad bad thing to do in one’s writing career. I don’t care how many books you’ve published or who your publisher is or how many you’ve sold. You don’t boast about wanting the ‘fuck it all money’ cause there is no guarantee of that ever happening. She was also very rude in how she spoke to me and other fledgling authors as though she was the ‘bell of the ball’, the ‘I’m better than you, cause I have this publisher’.
#10 Are you willing to share something you’ve written? – Since book 2 isn’t finished yet, I don’t want to share that just yet. I’m really not too keen on sharing book 1 either cause I need to clean it up for republication. I’m so sorry, but not at this time. I want to make sure both books are finely polished before sharing them in small bits.

Well, that’s all for today. A fairly long blog post as of late. Hope you enjoyed reading it and got a visual in how I do my work. If you’d like to see more my writing in what I’m up to, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

My Babies Need Me…

I’m thinking of not doing anymore promoting for my books. It’s hard to get noticed when everyone is doing the same thing as you are. Getting noticed is so hard these days with online techniques, even for free. It’s become a detraction. I know I have to do this to get sales, but this is ridiculous. The writing of my novels is much more important than trying to get noticed when the books are not all finished. I have 3 more books to get done. With all this ‘advertising‘ I have to do and getting hardly nothing out of it in the ‘free market‘ it’s getting to not be worth it. I can’t shell out $35 a month or a week to get noticed. My boyfriend Jon isn’t made of thousands of dollars. We have bills to pay. Food to put on the table. On top of that, Facebook is a major detraction to me now. I’m not going to remove my Facebook pages, but I will not be posting anything until all the other three books are finished. If I have a gift to share with the world I must bare this burden by myself.

My books are not just stories.
My books are not just words on a page.
My books are not just something to read.
These books I’m writing, I’m baring my soul to the world of what is inside my mind.
I’m creating something different that I know people will enjoy.
These books are books I would want to read.
These books are my children and I’ve neglected them for far too long.

Book 1 – Soul’s Little Lie (DONE)
Book 2 – Soul’s Little Lie: Whispers in the Hall – (Work in Progress)
Book 3 – Soul’s Little Lie: Echos of the Lost – (Work In Progress)
Book 4 – Soul’s Little Lie: Behind Cloaked Mirrors – Mythia Chronicles – (Work in Progress)

I’m writing something very special. I’m writing something I love into a myth. And I can’t write when I’m detracted by something that demands false attention.

My books are my children.
Babies I give birth to from my mind and soul.
The only babies I’ll ever have.

New Schedule for Book 2

Set schedule for my writing and much more fantastic news and behind the scenes.

As you can see from this photo, I’ve created a schedule for myself starting tomorrow.

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It is time for me to get back into the swing of my writing. After a hard 2 years living with my parents after my divorce, it was hard for me to fix up a set schedule for myself. Everything was hectic in my family’s house were I could not concentrate at all.

When I started writing the first draft to my first novel, Mythia back in high school from Sept 1, 1995 to May 9, 1996, I did a schedule for myself in my head. I pumped out nearly 200 pages in 9 months. During my marriage I went back into finishing up the first draft adding more to the piece which came to a total of 197,000 words, 23 chapters, 4 parts. From chapter 18-23 I think I wrote it in six months. It’s been so long.

Now, with Soul’s Little Lie book one done, that piece taking 9 months, taking weekends off and 2 to 4 weeks off (not all at once), I found myself doing a set schedule in my head. I had quite working at Michaels Crafts Store in Everett, WA from August 10, 2010 and found myself with plenty of quiet time to get the main draft done. I started in June 2010 and finished in February. Another 9 full months to finish a draft.

As for Soul’s Little Lie book 2 – this one has been a pain. I have all the chapters outlined and in order, but it has been hard for me to get back into the swing with the disruptive household back in TN and then the move back to Washington state. It was quite hectic for me.

What was also lagging me was I actually enjoyed having a set schedule. Keeping up on it, not missing a day at all from when I worked in retail. I can still have that type of discipline here at home with no worries.

Now, no excuses.

No, bull shit!

Time is NOW! Treat this book, with what is left, as a real work schedule as though I’m back in retail. Book 2 is almost done, say, 5 more chapters to go and book 3 is demanding to be born. Book 3 can’t happen if I don’t finish book 2.

Also, join me on Facebook at 3:45pm PST (5:45pmCST) A Platinum Event! Provocative Paranormal Online Multi Author Event! with other fellow authors of paranormal romance fantasy adventure writings. Giveaways, Q/A and more.

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of my first book along with a free eBook copy.

Hope to see you there!

 

Interview with blogger Lynne Cruz

Did a little pre-Thankgiving interview with Lynne Cruz here

Not much else to say, but loads of thanks!

I would say more, but food coma, ya know how it is.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Publishing advice…

Wrote this reply to someone on YouTube who asked me about publishing advice. Thought I’d share the love.

I sent in 9 query letters to different publishing agents and all 9 agents rejected my book (Soul’s Little Lie) cause ‘they didn’t know how to publish something so unique‘, that it was out of their range that they publish for. My first manuscript, that I wrote when I was 16, but finished in my late 20s, I sent it in to Baen Books of just 3 chapters and they loved it, that it had potential, but their current publications for the next ten years was backed up pretty majorly, so there was no place for me at that time. Every rejection letter you get, keep them. They are a badge of honor. Tack them on your ‘I Love Me Wall’ or put them in a scrapbook to look back on them when you finally do get published. You’ll wonder why you may have cried over the first few rejections. I’m grateful for making friends with Robert when I moved back in with my parents, I’m 35 now been back with them for two years, and cause of Robert he hooked me up with Eden Glenn an author with RIP (Rebel Ink Press). You’ll find your tactic that brings your book to life. There is a MASSIVE market for children’s books right now. Go to Writersdigest.com for more info and look into their Writer’s Market catalog books at any book store. Keep reading and keep writing, it takes work, but it’s full of love and fun. Remember, each rejected query letter is a stepping stone to your goal that much closer.

********

Mind, this is only my first novel that is being published. I’m still on the learning curve.

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**)

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