Monday, January 15, 2018

Character Profiles - Jamil

On this Martin Luther King Day, I want to share the fictional story of Jamil  Ramos. I have always been inspired by the words of MLK, even though he died before I was born. His message was one of hope that the injustices of men would one day be replaced by equality and freedom from fear. Dr. King had a dream of a better life for those who have been oppressed just because of the way they look or where they were born. His dream is the American dream, that anyone, no matter how poor or disadvantaged, can become whatever it is they want to be. And this is the theme of Crawdad

Jamil, as well as all the other characters in Crawdad, have challenges in their lives, but they each do the best they can to overcome those challenges. Jamil dreams of being a professional trumpet player despite having no money and very little family support. He doesn't let it stop him.

~Meet Jamil~

I spent most of my math class, staring at my trumpet, thinking about what Mr. T said. I sat next to the window so I always put my trumpet on the window sill. It had a few dents in the horn. Mama said it was probably from too many late nights playing in the juke joints of New Orleans. She bought it in a pawn shop there before I was born. A few of those dents were from me though.
I grew up playing with it all the time, like it was some kind of weapon till I figured out you could make sounds with it. I made all kinds of awful racket with it. Mama said it sounded like dying rooster. Sometimes it got so bad, she’d take it away, but eventually I got the hang of it.
Mama would play her old vinyl records of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis till the record player broke and we had to throw it out. I’d play with those records over and over till I could make my trumpet sound the same. Lots of times I’d play by myself till Mama got home from work. My trumpet kept me company like a friend. When I played, I wasn’t lonely by myself.
By the time I was old enough to start band at school, I was hooked. I was also way past the other kids my age. I wasn’t too good at sheet music, but I could usually play what I heard. I thought everybody learned that way till I joined band.
I wanted to play trumpet for real, professionally. I always had, but now I wanted something even more. I wanted to meet my dad, Leon Ramos in Charleston. I wanted to ask him a million questions, like what he did to make Mama hate him so much. Or why did he never come around? What had he been doing all these years? The more I thought, the more questions popped into my head the way dish soap bubbles grow bigger and bigger until they fill the whole sink and spill over the side. I was filling up with questions I had no answers for and they were pushing my music out of the way.

If I was going to play well at audition, I’d have to clear out all the cobwebs out of my mind, but how? The only way I could think of was to find him.

You can find out more about Jamil and read Crawdad on AMAZON

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Character Profiles ~ Angel

Of all the characters in Crawdad, there's nobody quite as damaged as Angel, but she's probably one of the toughest too. She's made some bad choices in her short life. Choices that have left her with nothing. She ran away from home on a whim, misled by someone she thought she could trust.  Can she ever go back?

~Meet Angel~

Mikey glared at me like he might hit me again, his eyes so dilated they were like huge black holes in his head. I got up and went to the kitchen before he could do it again. There was nothing inside him. He’d burned it out a long time ago and now he wanted to burn out my soul too.
     I hovered in the kitchen by the sink overflowing with smelly, putrid dishes because no one ever washed them. I stared out the back window at the yard filled with weeds as high as your waist and remembered the smell of fresh cut grass when my dad mowed the lawn back home. The buyer came banging on the front door. When Mikey opened the door, I slipped out the back unnoticed. I sprinted across the overgrown lawn, glad I’d put my flip flops on this morning. They weren’t great for running, but at least the rocks didn’t hurt as much as barefoot. Once I hit the alley, I was out from under the shady trees in the shabby yards.
The sunlight blinded me at first until my eyes adjusted. It had been awhile since I’d been outside much. I could feel the sun burning my pale skin, but it felt good to me, like it was burning away the crust of filth that had grown over me like moss on a sick tree. For the first time in a long time, I felt alive, maybe even happy. Maybe I could go home? I could finish school. I was still young enough to go. They had to let me in, right?
Mikey’s voice nagged my brain. You can’t do that. You’re too stupid. They don’t want you. It had become. a constant in my life. Sometimes I believed it, but I never wanted to think those things about myself. I knew I wasn’t stupid. It’s just I wasn’t sure about the other two.
I shoved Mikey’s voice out of my mind and tried to put some distance between me and his house. All I had in my pockets was a dead cell phone somebody left at the house after a night of partying and a watermelon Jolly Rancher. My tummy grumbled so I unwrapped the candy, stuck it in my mouth, and kept walking.

I got a few blocks before I saw a cop car, its lights flashing, stopped in the middle of the street. It wasn’t a busy neighborhood so it wasn’t blocking a whole bunch of traffic, but there were a few gawkers across the street. Part of me knew I should turn the corner and avoid the mess, but curiosity got the better of me, so I kept walking the way I was going. Pretty soon I could see two officers hassling this big black kid. Some cops think they gotta interrogate every person they talk to, but I couldn’t see how the kid was doing anything wrong. I supposed he could a robbed a gas station, but he didn’t act guilty. Suddenly, one of the cops went for his Taser gun.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Goodbye 2017 ~ Hello 2018

2017 has been a good year for me personally. I'm cancer free so far. My job is going well. My garden succeeded for a change. My kids seem to be doing well in school, dare I say thriving? In fact, I've been so busy that a few things have fallen off the plate. I've pretty much been on a writing hiatus since my diagnosis in 2016. 

At first, I needed the time to focus on my health, but after that improved, I never got back into the habit. Now I'm one of those people who says "How do you find the time for that??" except I already know how. I'm ashamed to say the news of the world has knocked me out of my "happy writer place" and made it difficult to concentrate on most anything fictional. I've even been reading less fiction, which is probably the opposite of what I should be doing, for my sanity's sake.

I have plenty of writer chores I need to do: write a couple sequels, finish Troll Teeth, begin querying again. It's hard work and there's no one around forcing me to do it, is the problem. If I had a deadline, I'd be more effective. Of course, the answer has always been, make your own deadline and make yourself meet it. It's no easy feat, which is why not everyone is a writer.

I also don't exercise like I did before my diagnosis. Again, busy work got in the way and it was easy to put it off. When I was diagnosed, a part of me was angry about all the exercise and weight loss I'd been doing. Wasn't I making myself healthier?? Apparently not. After my surgery, yoga and arm exercises were painful for me. I've since learned I have to stretch through the pain to become flexible again, but at the time, it was easier just to not do it. Part of me was like "*uck it, you only live once, might as well eat what I want to". But the other part of me likes to eat healthy and fit into size 8 jeans. I feel better. I've come to the realization that women only need 1200 calories a day, maybe less, to survive. Anything after that is stored away as fat. It's not fair, but its a fact. I still love a good Krispy Kreme, but I want to try to get back to my 2015 weight. Again, work no one makes you do but you.

Written goals are always better than "somedays" so here's my list for 2018~

* write more - finish projects in progress; write sequels; maybe write something new; blog more
* eat healthy - eat out less often, eat less in general
* exercise more - yoga and cardio
* less internet news

What are your plans for 2018? Whatever it is, I wish you peace and happiness in the coming year~

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Poppies for you~

Veteran's Day always reminds me of my grandmother, who was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II.  She grew the most wonderful gardens, so grandma...these are flowers from my garden for you.  Love you forever~

Monday, September 4, 2017

Release Week Blitz: Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel with Giveaway

Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Week Blitz for
Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel
presented by Entangled Teen!
Grab your copy today!
Congratulations Meg!
A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.
Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human. What's more, she knows something most don't. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.
Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel Publisher: Entangled Teen Publication Date: September 5, 2017
His soft voice clashes with the intensity of his gaze. “You’re adorable when you’re trying to be mad at me. You needn’t work so hard at it, though. We aren’t meant to be adversaries.”
“I, um…” My thoughts disband, leaving nothing for communication purposes. I’m adorable? Adorable has many definitions. I think my dog is adorable, for example. “That…wasn’t what I was going to ask you.”
He inclines his head. “Okay, then. Ask.”
But that “adorable” echoes through me, clinking around like a penny down a well. “What are we meant to be, then?”
His lips curls up at the corners. “That wasn’t your question, either.”
Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson's School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer. She now lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and is busy at work on her next novel. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart© winner in YA.
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Saturday, August 19, 2017

This life is not a line...

The older I get and the more I live through, the more I realize this life is not a line. It's not some magical set of stairs to the top. It's a circle, a spiral that goes around and around and around. We experience things, we learn, and then we start again, experiencing yet more things, learning new truths. We all prefer happiness, but often times, experiencing pain is what teaches us the most. We are sensory beings, feeling the things around us. Not really soaking them up like a sponge, but reacting like sea anemones - open to what we desire, closed to any perceived danger or threat. I say "perceived" because we can let irrational fears rule us just as easily as real fears.

Most of us no longer live in true "fight or flight" situations, but that ancient part of our brains still thinks we do. If we can recognize that irrational fear and overcome it, we often learn that it wasn't so terrifying after all. Meeting new people, taking a class, starting a new job can all be daunting, but ultimately satisfying.

Sometimes we lose though. When you lose or things don't go the way you thought they would or should, don't lose the lesson. Ask yourself, what did I learn? Was it as scary as I thought? Probably not. Was everyone as nervous as I was? Probably so. How am I changed for having gone through that experience?

Are you facing new challenges? I hope you do, no matter how old or young you are.

This life is not a line. It's a circle.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Character Profiles ~ Aisha

In life and in fiction, we see what someone is made of when they're under pressure. In Crawdad, all the characters are stressed by something in their lives, usually events outside of their control.

In Aisha's case, she's got a strange insight into people she's learning to understand, but can barely control. Is it voodoo? Aisha doesn't know, but it scares her and the people around her. Who is she? Is she evil? Is she crazy? Is the power real or just her imagination? And when will it go away?

~Meet Aisha from Crawdad~

“Aisha?” I could hear my grandmother calling me from the porch where she’d been shelling peas in a big, red bowl. A vibration, so faint most folks wouldn’t have noticed, had lured me off the porch and out into the woods, wet and green, steaming like a rain forest. I glanced back over my shoulder where I should have seen grandma’s house through the trees. I saw only shrubs. I could still hear her yelling though.
“Aisha, you get back here or I’m a tan your hide!” she was screaming but it sounded like she was a million miles away. She used to scare the crap out of me, but she’d threatened me too many times in my young life. I didn’t believe her anymore. Besides, I had something in me I needed to understand. No one else around me understood, so I kept walking. I wanted to see Naomi.
My head buzzed with electricity. It was just a feeling I got sometimes when I knew stuff. Once, it started on Friday at school. I knew what the answers were on Mrs. Whitnack’s quiz cause she was thinking them. I knew Paul was gonna ask me out, so I hid in the bathroom until most everyone had got on the bus or left for home. I didn’t like that boy and he couldn’t seem to get it through his thick skull. Missing the bus meant walking a long way home, but it was worth it to avoid Mr. Grabby Hands. I took a short cut through the woods, like I was now, and I was overcome by the same feeling both times. Alive with a vibration like no other. Every leaf was sharper, every sound perfectly clear in my ears, like it was right beside me. Something was coming.
I thought I knew the way, but pretty soon there was a creek I didn’t recognize and the trail turned to little more than a pattern of pine needles and dead leaves.
“What you looking for?” I heard a voice say. I looked around me. I was sure there weren’t nobody there before, but now there was a woman, old and wrinkled as the bark of a gum tree, staring at me with eyes blacker than midnight in a rainstorm. She rattled me, but I tried not to let it show. That was the first time I ever met Naomi.
“Nothing. I’m just walking home,” I said.
“Dat’s not what your heart says,” she said in a little know-it-all voice.
“My heart?”
“’Bout to beat right outta your little chest, it’s so loud. I hear it searching.” I gave her my best “you must be crazy” look, which was easy ‘cause she looked kind of crazy. Her hair was covered by a tightly wrapped purple bandana and her eyes darted around like she kept hearing things in the forest I couldn’t hear. She wore a flowered house coat and slippers, like a patient who just wandered away from the old folks’ home.
“What are you?” I asked her.
“My name is Naomi Wentworth. I got a lotta names, but that’s my favorite.”
The name sounded a little familiar, but too normal to be the person I’d heard all the stories about.
“You ain’t Mama Copperhead, are you?” I blurted out.
I always thought Mama Copperhead was a story meant to keep us out of the woods or away from snakes, but his lady made me wonder if it was true. She laughed a raspy sound.
“Well, nice meeting you, Naomi, but I gotta go,” I said, moving my feet away from her.
“But you ain’t told me what your blessed heart is looking for yet,” she said almost pleading.
I paused. What did she expect me to say?
“I know you been misunderstood a time or two,” she offered as she pulled a loop of string out of her pocket and started lacing her fingers through it to make a cat’s cradle.
“That’s the truth,” I muttered.
“So maybe you’re looking for understanding?” I squinted at her, the momentary glare of the sun through the trees blinding me. A rare breeze cooled my face for a second.
“Ain’t everybody?”
“Maybe, but that ain’t exactly what I mean, honey child.”
I never really heard nobody use that expression before, except for in a joke. Naomi made it sound like the most natural thing in the world.
“I won’t hurt you, sweet pea,” she murmured. I felt the humidity dripping down between my shoulder blades now, itching.
“I know,” I said, a little too smart mouthy. I didn’t mean to be rude, but snapping at people had gotten to be a habit with me.
“Sometimes it’s ok to ask folks to help us, especially when we can’t see the path too clearly,” she said shuffling toward me.
“I heard you was some kinda witch,” I said, backing away a few steps.

“Maybe, maybe not. All in how you look at it, I suppose. They don’t call them witches in voodoo.”

You can find Crawdad on AMAZON