Tag Archives: Clara’s Wish

Clara’s Wish by S. M. Senden

Clara Lindgren stood at the edge of the desolate field as the chilly December wind whipped about her. The fields were barren now; winter had come to the land. The broken corn stalks, once so full of potential, lay scattered in the fields, the wind tossing them about as it played in the ruins of the harvest.
She felt that the land was a metaphor for her life, barren, and the springtime of her days were far behind her. She shivered against the cold that penetrated her thick, woolen sweater as she thought about her life.
She was twenty-three now and feared that she was doomed to spend her years as a spinster, to live as a maiden aunt and help raise one of her siblings’ children if one of them would be kind enough to take her in under their roof. Clara would cook, clean and do all the menial chores of a servant in exchange for her room and board.
It wasn’t how she had wanted her life to turn out. Clara still held onto the tattered hopes that someday she would meet that someone special. But that dream faded more and more with each passing season. Life was passing her by, and she didn’t know if there was anything she could do to change it.
She sighed, her frosty breath enveloping her for a moment before it faded.
A light snow began to fall. She loved the smell of snow, a cold dryness that tickled her nose. Usually the frigid fragrances of winter wafted on the wind long before the snow began to fall. Clara looked up as the flakes fell from a flat, leaden sky. She had heard someone call it Winter’s Communion if you put your tongue out to catch the flakes. She watched as they fell, growing thicker in abundance from above.
She could hear the chunky flakes as they plashed into the earth, landed on her shoulders and nestled into her hair.
Soon the bleak land would be covered in a beautiful mantle of white, transforming everything into a fairyland. If only her life could transform as easily. Clara knew she was shy, but she didn’t think she was ugly. She had soft brown hair that she wore in a stylish bob, dark green eyes, flawless, pale skin, an oval face and a kewpie bow mouth. These were the attributes that everyone seemed to want, so why hadn’t anyone wanted her? What was wrong with her that no man had chosen her?
Snow was beginning to accumulate in the rutted furrows, filling them up, transforming the land. Soon the fields would not look so desolate or abandoned with the remnants of that which had been once so full of life and plentiful harvest. The snow now covered the broken stalks, making them over into something wondrous, like something out of a fairy tale.
She realized that it was the first snowfall of the season. She could make a wish now. She had learned of an old French custom of making a wish the first time you did something, or, in this instance, the first of something in a year.
This was the first snowfall of winter, 1923.
She closed her eyes; she knew her wish by heart. She had wished it so often. She wondered if it would ever come true.
“I wish that this might be the last Christmas that I ever see on the farm. I wish to leave this place forever.” Her whispered words took shape in the cold air and hung before her for a moment and then were lost in the frosty wind that snapped them away.

To read more….Clara’s Wish is available on Amazon and Second Wind Publishers.

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CELEBRATION

Happy 4th of July.

Today we celebrate the winning of our independence with a flourish of fireworks, gathering with family and sharing of the bounty of food and drink available to us all.

However, as we celebrate let us pause to remember that our freedom is a hard won gift from all those who have served this nation. Many have given their lives so that we can enjoy privileges such as free speech, the right to vote for all~ not just a privileged few who are land owners or possess wealth, the right to worship as we please with no state religion imposed upon us~ to name a few of the many blessings that come with being an American.

Over the years, I have had the rare privilege of living and working overseas in Europe, the Mideast and Africa. Living and working in these parts of the world is a lot different then being a tourist. You see the everyday grind of life in these nations. As a result of these experiences I have come to appreciate even more the freedoms we possess in America.

The United States is not perfect, far from it. However as we struggle as a nation to one more time redefine who we are in the world, we make great strides and we also stumble on the path. But no matter what, there is no other finer place that I know of then the good old USA.

So – with that said, no matter your party affiliation, no matter your religious views, no matter your race or preference of lovers, we come together in this melting pot of diversity to celebrate the birth of this nation.

Our nation.

Our Home!

Happy Birthday USA! May we celebrate for generations and generations to come! May we celebrate with joy and safety as we remember the struggles that brought us to this place in time and history.

HAPPY 4th of JULY !!!

S. M. Senden author of Clara’s Wish, Lethal Boundaries and A Death of Convenience.

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Loyalty

Have you noticed that a characteristic such as loyalty seems to have vanished in our modern day world? It is a tragic loss if it can not be revived. Companies no longer seem to care about their employees and employees change jobs for a few dollars more in a pay packet.
In my parents and grandparents day, people got a job with a company, worked their way up the ladder and for the most part retired from that company after many years of loyal service. This is an out of date notion. Workers, for the most part, are no longer loyal to one employer. In recent times, there are those who job hop, hoping that the new company will offer better pay and benefits. Or they may play one company off the other to negotiate the best deal. However, this is not so prevalent anymore with the job market what it is now.
Employers do not encourage loyalty in their workers like they did once upon a time.
A friend of mine gave a company fifteen years of service and loyalty. Then she was let go along with three others from this same company. There were no satisfactory explanations for their terminations; just good-bye with no severance, no references and few prospects in the job market today. There are not many openings for jobs on that same managerial level.
Another friend recounted to me that her company wants people to start sharing more of their responsibilities because the company wants to eliminate numerous jobs. They have not said what jobs, or which employees will be released, so the sword of Damocles hangs over them all. The company also has offered early retirement sweet deals that are available to the first fifty of the one hundred and fifty that are eligible. Even with retiring fifty people, they still will cut jobs.
Another horrifying item that surfaced about this company: someone distributed a book about ~ how to treat employees so poorly that they quit, leaving the company without having to pay the unemployment fees.
I wonder what is happening in our world.
Where is loyalty?
I remember a story my dad told me about a friend and client of his.
Mr. Lubin loved to bake, and he was good at it. His hobby blossomed into a small business as he took over the family kitchen. Soon the demands for his baked goods grew, and he moved his enterprise to the garage. Orders came in consistently allowing him to first rent, then later to purchase a building of his own to keep up with the growing demand.
In the process of his expansion from the kitchen to the garage he needed proper packaging for his goods. He called a number of companies and met with their salesmen. He had a specific package in mind. No supplier had it readily available. The salesmen told him that his demands could not be met. His order would be too small to make it worth their while. Except for one young man who needed to establish himself with his company. He said it would be worth a try. He would do what he could to fill the order. A week later the man returned with what they company could do for Mr. Lubin. The men shook on the order, and the salesman got the ball rolling to create the packaging Mr. Lubin wanted.
Mr. Lubin’s business grew and grew over the years allowing him to build his own building to make all his bakery products. As his fame and fortune grew, the salesmen from the companies that told him he was too small to bother with began to come back, they offered sweet deals, they undercut the price of that first salesman who had taken the risk with Mr. Lubin’s order.
Mr. Lubin would simply smile; shake his head and say; “No thanks.” He let them know that he was remaining loyal to the man who had been with him from the early days. That the salesman who had had taken the risk to create his packaging needs deserved his loyalty.
Another facet of his loyalty was his constant ability to keep his promises. Mr. Lubin did business on a handshake and his word. His word was his bond. He did not need contracts or signatures. He never reneged on an agreement, if he told you something was going to be done, it was.
Mr. Lubin was also a devoted family man. We all have at some time heard of his company, many of us have enjoyed his products. He named his company for his daughter, because after all; Nobody doesn’t love Sarah Lee.
In this world where loyalty, honesty and keeping a promise means nothing, I am reminded of Mr. Lubin and his principals. An honest, hardworking man who built a multi-billion dollar business from something he loved to do. Mr. Lubin was a man who remained loyal to those who were with him from the earliest days, believing in him, in his product and his abilities. Loyalty was rewarded ten-fold.
My father spoke of Mr. Lubin with admiration and respect. I hope his story will empower you to take a look at where your loyalties lie, and create a better world, because you become a better person. Loyalty is a dying virtue. We can revive it by being loyal. I’m in…are you?

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Compatibility

The other day I was watching the Turner Classic Movie station and they ran an ad where Robert Osborne and Drew Barrymore discussed the film Marty and paired it with the film How to Marry a Millionaire and which woman would be a good match for Ernest Borgnine as Marty. The ladies were Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. Robert Osborne thought Betty Grable might be his best match. For some reason, I didn’t agree.

If you have never seen the film Marty, it is well worth the time to see it. Ernest Borgnine plays a single, Italian man of about thirty-five who works in a butcher shop. He is not handsome, rich or a huge success. He is an ordinary, rather shy man who is overweight and gets tongue-tied around women. His family and customers all nag at him about why he isn’t married and starting a family yet, all his siblings have. The chatter does not help. He hangs out with his male friends and they do the same stuff all the time, bowling, the diner, and just hanging out. One night they go to the dance.

Marty is a shy man, who is reticent but he is a kind person. It is because of this kindness that he finally meets someone. A man offers him $5.00 to take a blind date off his hands so he can go score with a woman he already knows. Marty feels that is cruel and a lie. He refuses, but watches. He feels compassion for the lonely woman the man ditched and speaks to her. They hit it off. Though his friends don’t think too much of her, in the end, Marty feels something special for her, and they begin seeing one another, empowering Marty to come out of his shell.

The women in How to Marry a Millionaire are looking to ensnare wealthy men to keep them in style. Lauren Bacall is a savvy who knows what she wants and goes for it. She does not want to waste time dating the wrong men. She needs a man who will meet her eye to eye and be as strong as she is. Lauren and Marty would never go far. She would give him a look up and down and say; “No thanks, pal.”

Betty Grable seems weary of the chase, and may for a time give a man like Marty a chance. Where Robert Osborne sees her as a good match for Marty, I don’t agree. She may be able to hang out with the guys, be great fun at a party or on a date. She is a good person, also full of confidence. Where does her life really intersect with Marty’s? To me, Marty and Betty want different things out of life, and in the long run would not make one another happy.

Then we come to Marilyn Monroe. Mr. Osborne feels that she would be pursued by men for her looks and sex appeal. It really was the problem she faced in life every day. Yet is that what Marilyn wants? To me, she is a woman who is looking to love and be loved. She is not so taken in by the shallow surface appeal of a sexy body or drop-dead good looks. Marilyn Monroe, though she had an undeniably powerful animal magnetism, she showed her vulnerability. She showed her loneliness, and desire to find someone she could love. To me, Marilyn and Marty would be able to have a successful relationship. They want the same thing ~ to love and to be loved. They could each be vulnerable, open and honest with one another, the basis for a good, long lasting relationship.

It made me stop and ponder; what do we expect from relationships these days?

In writing, creating characters and in my everyday life, relationships need to have commonality on some level or they won’t work. In creating romance for characters, I need to be mindful of their core values, beliefs and desires. A psychologist friend of mine read my books and related to me the depth and intricacy of human relationships I achieved. I even ran a troubled character profile by her, and she was ready for me to refer him to her for treatment.

I strive for relationships in my writing that are able to stand the test of time if they are to last. I construct the relationship with the fatal flaw that will tear the couple apart. I study life, people, their relationships, what works and what does not.

The question that still remains at the end of this discourse is simple. What do you want from a relationship? As you ponder that question, know that the sage wisdom of the ages comes back as well: What you give will be returned.

May your relationships be a blessing to those who know you, because you give of yourself from your heart.

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Teaser of Things to Come

My next book is a collection of short stories that the publisher, Mike, has promised would be out in the spring.  I sincerely hope this will, indeed, be true.  For today’s Blog I thought I would give a little teaser to one of the stories: A Death of Convenience.  This story takes its inspiration from the rash of robberies that have hit these stores more and more.  I thought about the punks who rob them, the clerks who work in these places for pittance wages and the choices they have in any life threatening situation.

 

Here is a taste of this next book.  You can let your imagination take the story where you will.  Look for this book by S. M. Senden soon from Second Wind Books.  My other publications include Clara’s Wish and Lethal Boundaries. 

 

A Death of Convenience

Jerry Wall peered through the heavy cloud of smoke that haloed about his head as the three teenagers made their way to the door of Cathy’s Convenience Store where he worked the graveyard shift.  He hated the punks who came out after dark like grimy rats climbing out of the sewers.  They were usually prowling for trouble dressed in their pseudo gang-style clothes of torn t-shirts with skulls, fake blood spatter and dirty words emblazoned on the front, and scuffed pants falling down from their hips revealing soiled underwear.  Worst of all, their hairy butts were exposed too.  Their profusely tattooed bodies complimented by multiple body piercings.  As Jerry exhaled, then sucked more smoke into his lungs he wondered what female in her right mind would find any of these punks attractive.       

Jerry wished he could have been more like Clint Eastwood and tell the kids: “Go ahead, make my day,” before blasting their sorry little asses to kingdom come as they deserved.  But Jerry knew he qualified as a first class wimp.  He’d always been afraid of confrontation so he endured their taunts and insults and even turned a blind eye to their petty thievery rather than confront any of them.   

It wasn’t worth his life.  

The three punks pushed open the door and stood in the doorway looking around as if the world owed them something.  Jerry had seen so many young thugs think they were entitled to something just because they were breathing.  He also knew that attitude would catch up with them one day.   

 

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GOALS

4 January 2014 

Goals.  January is the time to start fresh, make new goals and promises to do better, to get more accomplished and to follow through.

Goals are what keep us going, keep us motivated.  We all have goals, dreams and plans.  We dream about them, make lists so we can tick items off and measure pour progress as we make plans to have those dreams become reality.  We think about our goal’s potential, do what we need to and wait for them to manifest.

Creating your goal is the first step in making it happen but that is only the first step of many. When we give our goals a purchase on reality by voicing that goal, or putting it in writing we set something in motion.  Then as we strive for the changes needed to accomplish our goals, unfortunately, we awaken all the little demons that like to trip us up in our struggle to reach our goals and make positive changes in our lives.  All those blocks, fears and even the shame that has stopped our progress in the past can be counted on, one more time rear their ugly heads and do all they can to retard any forward momentum we have gotten going. 

Don’t give up.  Don’t let the negativity, the blocks, fears or shame stop you.  We do not need to have those negative impediments derail us in our pursuit of the goals we have set.  In order to achieve our goals, at the very least, we have to make some changes in our lives. By making these changes we are making room for our goals to manifest, to come into being in tangible and measureable ways. One way to think about these changes can be as simple as cleaning out the excess junk in your attic, or close or even your garage so you can make room for the things you want, the goals you have set.

We need to clean out the junk of the past, the rubbish that clutters our path, trips us as we try to pass, or garbage we hold onto to shame ourselves into failing because we may not feel worthy.  These are spiritual blocks and will take some work to clear, but it can be done, and must be worked on so that our goals have somewhere to take hold, put down roots and flourish.

I know I have a great deal of work to do in order to reach my goals.  I know they can be achieved with hard work, a willingness to let go of the past both in the spiritual wounds as well as the physical stuff I have kept that is no longer necessary.  Every day, I will do something, large or small to reach my goal.  At the beginning of the journey, it may seem like it is so much, but as the days pass, little by little I will erode the blocks in my path, for I am determined to reach my goals!  You can do the same and together the journey will not seem so lonely or arduous.  Happy New Year, and may all your goals be achieved.

S. M. Senden: author of Clara’s Wish and Lethal Boundaries.

 

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THE INHERITANCE

Today I am offering a very short story for your enjoyment. It started as a challenge to write a succinct story in very few words. The original story was 500 words, including the title. I have added a few more words for the posting today.

THE INHERITANCE

All my life I heard about some entailed, but incredible wealth in a family estate with an odd secret that had been passed down for generations form some eccentric ancestor with a biting sense of ironic humor. No one knew where it was until they received the letter with the key delivered by messenger.

I’d fallen on hard times. My mouth watered at the idea of the estate and its wealth.

One day, my deadbeat uncle got the letter. Enclosed in it was an old, ornate key and directions to his inheritance.

Later, I was informed, by post, that I was next in line. I needed the inheritance more than my uncle did. I made sure he did not live much longer.

What can I say, he had an accident.

Eagerly I waited for the missive to arrive by messenger about my inheritance. Finally the envelope arrived. Greedily I signed for it, and ripped open the packet. The instructions demanded that I live in the house for one year.

“Piece of cake,” I said smiling as I programmed the coordinates into my GPS and drove off to claim my inheritance. The house was a run down shack that had seen better days. It was not habitable.

I returned, disgruntled.

My cousin greeted me with a bullet. He was next in line.

No one knew there was the entrance to a gold mine under the floor. We all saw a shack, and no one, for generations, stopped to give it a second look.

I hope you have enjoyed this little story, and will contemplate where there is buried treasure in your life that you may not be seeing because of outward appearances.

By S. M. Senden, author of Clara’s Wish and Lethal Boundaries available from Second Wind Publishers.

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How important is research? by S M Senden

I have been complimented over and over again about the depth of my research for Clara’s Wish, and my ability to re-create another era so readers feel as if they are right there.  In preparing for an interview, someone asked me that question ‘How Important is research?’  They thought that research amounted to reading a couple of books, looking up some things on the internet and that would be it.  Then I would be ready to write a book set in another era.

I had to laugh at that, for research ~ at least for me ~ can become a deep quagmire that is difficult to extract myself.  But then I do consider myself a devoted history geek.  Once I find myself doing some research on a subject, all too soon it points me in another direction, to another book, to another set of references and so on.

I am currently researching two historical settings for two books I am writing.  The periods are sufficiently diverse that it is easy for me to keep the research separate in my mind.  One of these stories is set primarily in Europe in the late 1700’s about the time of the American Revolution, running through the French Revolution and into the Napoleonic era.

The story is about a young girl, Eleanor, who has finished her education in the French convent and comes home to live in England with her only living relative ~ her sister.  The sister has married well and has young children.  They introduce Eleanor into the society of the Bon Ton hoping to find her a suitable husband.

In researching this strata of society, I was caught up in the amazing and volatile times in which they lived.  Since I am a hopeless history geek, I like to have readers learn something as well as be swept along in a good story.  Dorothy Sayers always managed to teach readers something, and I aspire to emulate her.  I read about the people that I wanted to include, in some way in my book, for their lives were extraordinary.  Some in particular are Madame Tussaud, Miss Lenormand, the Duchess of Devonshire and the possibilities that arise when the some of these people meet at Spa in Belgium with a whisper of possible spies and political intrigue.

I have no idea at this point where all my research may take me.  I have the idea for the story and what I would like to have happen to the main characters.  Yet, I do not know how this will end.  My research may change the story or it may reinforce it.  That is the process that I love, creating, pulling research and story together to make another era come alive, not just for me, but for those who read the words I have written.

So, how much research is enough?  I can only say that ~ for me ~ my research never seems to end, for it always points me in a new direction.  However, I do have to get the story written, and as I continue the research process, I can add or take something away and make corrections as I work.  Sooner or later, I will need to say, enough and hope that I have done my best to create another era and bring a fulfilling experience to my readers.

Right now, I better get back to research, for there are still so many books to read!

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Interview With Bergin Halverson, hero of “Clara’s Wish” by S. M. Senden

claraswishWho are you?

I am just a farmer, a husband, father and grandfather. I’m a simple man who is content to work my land, care for and love my wife and children. In many ways I am just like everyone else, and in others I am completely unique.

Where do you live?

I live on my farmland in rural Pottawattamie County , outside of the city of Council Bluffs , which is across the Missouri river from Omaha , Nebraska .

Are you the hero of your own story?

Like Dickens wrote, as life unfolds we see if we are the hero or villain of our own lives. I believe, finally I did become the hero, though it took a long time to get there. In releasing the past, I was set free from it, and could finally consider myself a hero, even in some small way.

What is your problem in the story?

I have held a secret for many years about a body buried in an unused area on my land. The grave is in a stand of trees that stand guard over that piece of land. It was not something I could speak of for a long time, I could say nothing until I was sure certain people were dead. You see, they threatened my family. It was not a chance I was willing to take. So I held the secret until my grandchildren discovered the skeleton, quite by accident.

Do you embrace conflict?

I do not run to embrace conflict, but when it comes, I prefer to stand my ground and face it. If one runs away from conflict, it has a way of finding you and making you face the music at a most inconvenient time.

What, if anything, haunts you?

Events of my past, but you will need to read the book to understand them.

Has anyone ever failed you? Has anyone ever betrayed you? Have you ever failed anyone?

All three of these questions have the same answer, my older brother Erdman failed me, betrayed me and worst of all I believe I failed him in that I could not help him. To my shame, I made things worse when I supplied him the alcohol that helped destroy us all.

What was your childhood like?

I always lived in the shadow of my perfect, older brother, Erdman. He was the child my parents doted on. He could do no wrong. I was treated like a servant, a forgotten child, and even the whipping boy for my older brother. I never had any idea why my parents couldn’t love me, but to their dying day, they never did.

Who was your first love?

Ahhh, my first love. If I am honest, I would have to say Clara Lindgren was my first love. I was too young for her, but I spent time with her when my brother, who was dating her, would haul me along to keep her occupied while he lapped up the accolades of his followers. My brother knew how to milk a crowd of every ounce of love and praise. He so desperately needed their adulation. I came to love her in a way that has never left me, though I married and raised a family. One never really forgets a first love, do they?

What is your most closely guarded secret?

Who it is that’s buried on my land.

What is your favorite scent?

It is an elusive fragrance that comes to me in dreams now and then. Or even once in a while it is carried on the soft summer breeze like a memory. It is called Replique by Raphael. It is a perfume from Paris that was popular in the 1920’s. It was Clara’s favorite fragrance. It has an enticing sweetness to it, heady perfume that tickles my senses and makes me remember some things that are better forgotten.

What are the last three books you read?

I don’t really get as much time to read as I would like, the farm keeps me quite busy, but I do love to read. Recently, I read Charlotte ’s Web by E. B. White to the grandchildren. I am still chilled by a short story by Shirley Jackson titled “The Haunting of Hill House.” I was completely repulsed and fascinated by William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and was fascinated by James Mitchener’s book Hawaii. I always wanted to go there, and the book was about as close as I will ever get. And a series by an English scholar, J. R. R. Tolkein’s books; the Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Ring and even his Hobbit.

How do you envision your future?

Better now that I have finally been freed from the past that held me hostage as I guarded the secret I held for so long.

Click here to buy: Clara’s Wish

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Interview With S. M. Senden, author of “Clara’s Wish”

claraswishWhat inspired you to write this particular story?

I like to troll the newspapers for stories, and this story appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1925. It was a story that wouldn’t let me forget about a young woman, who like all of us at some point, trusts the wrong person.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I didn’t try to hide myself at all in Clara’s Wish. I think I expressed some of what every young girl goes through. I always put a lot of myself and my experiences into anything I write. Sometimes I read other pieces I have written, and laugh, remembering what was going on at the time I wrote something. I believe that in writing, like acting, we must bring a piece of ourselves to the characters, or they will not come alive for the reader.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Clara’s Wish was written in a few months. I write fast when I have an idea, and the story just kept unfolding, taking on a life off its own and the characters began to tell me what will happen. I would spend eight hours a day at the computer, writing and another three to four hours a day researching the era and details.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (Searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

The research is the key to any historical piece. The most important piece for me is how people acted, how they spoke and their moral code of the day. It is all different from what we know today. If we pay attention, every decade has a special aura to it. That is the part that must be captured for the story to feel real. I had an advantage about researching this era, because I asked people about that time when I was a little kid. I asked about their lives, their hopes and dreams, their fears and all. I have their memories and recollections and of course I read. I read period books, magazine articles and watch period films too. Then I go for the historical accounts of events. In a book written in 1939 I got the information on starting the old car. I had seen it in a silent film, but it didn’t make sense to me until I read about how to start some early cars!

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

My goal for this book is to have people look at how they treat one another. The problems we face in our lives are the same our parents, grandparents and generations of people faced. That is the question of love. Of being loved, of loving and what it can bring with it, the greatest joy and deepest heartache.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I will try to write a minimum of ten pages a day when I am developing a story. Then I will push to rework 25-50 pages in rewrite. I want to be sure there are many layers to any given chapter. I like to be sure the reader can sense things too. Smells, sights, sounds and even taste and touch are all important. Weather can play a part in a scene, it can set mood, or be a contrast to the events unfolding.

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I am working on the hardest story for me to write because it is the story of my own family skeleton. It happened about 78 years ago, and no one ever spoke about it. Then, when other events offered, it came to light, but only in a vague way. Later, my father, curious to know more, found the newspaper articles about the incident when he was on a business trip. He gave them to me for safekeeping. For years it was something I thought should be written, but I wasn’t ready. Now I am, for I am the one who carries these family memories collected over the span of my lifetime. There is only one person still alive who lived through what happened, and they are reluctant to speak of it, and with good reason. The secret was murder, my grandfather’s murder. It made headlines across the nation.

What was the first story you remember writing?

I always made up elaborate stories as a child when playing. The first story I wrote down was much like anyone writes, terrible. At age eleven I wanted to emulate the authors I loved reading. I adored E. A. Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. I wrote a gothic horror, murder mystery story. I allowed my older brother to read it; he wrote wonderful poetry. He was honest with me too! He told me it was dreadful. I bet he was right. I do not know where that story is anymore. It disappeared, like so many things back then. The second piece I wrote was about a trying teenage experience I’d had, and my mother found it and destroyed it.

Does writing come easy for you? What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process? What is the easiest part of the writing process?

When I have a good idea, writing is easy for me, the story flows and I have written up to thirty pages in one day. That was an amazing thing to do, but the story was ready to be ‘born.’ The most difficult part is making sure the facts are correct. I check them, recheck them and check again. Sometimes it takes a long time to get answers. But it is worth it. The easiest part is the idea. I have no shortage of ideas. If I get to write them all, I will live to be very old!

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I always have paper and a writing implement near by so I can jot down an idea, dialogue, or a scene as it comes to me. I have notes in pencil, pen, crayon and even paint. None in blood, thank goodness! Some ideas come from observing a situation, some can come from the news, some come from dreams, but every story has some nugget of truth to them. I have a huge file of notes, ideas and outlines just waiting for their turn!

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It is one of those stories that is so well crafted, it is a story that will not let you forget. Also it crosses many genre lines. I believe a really good story never fits cleanly into a box. Rebecca is a love story, a ghost story and a murder mystery. It is a story of jealousy, of secrets and of lives intertwined in such a way that it brings them to a tragic intersection where so much is lost. It has an amazing twist to the plot line when we learn the truth about Rebecca. The survivors manage to go on, rebuilding their lives as best they can.

Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?

The best writing advice was from author, Charlotte MacLeod, she suggested that in any situation, play the “What If” game. As one asks “what if this or that,” a story begins to take shape. It is an amazingly simple yet powerful tool.

In another book written and ready to get published, there was a newspaper clipping, again with the newspaper for inspiration! The clipping mentioned that the old opera house, built in 1876, had been closed in 1909 and they never bothered to clear it out until the late 1930’s. When they went up there, the opera house and offices were on the second floor, everything was just as if they had left the day before.

That got my “What If” game going, because the first question was: What if they found a body up in the abandoned opera house complex? To research this, I got permission to go up into the unused second floor where the opera house and offices had been. I read about the history of the building and fell in love with the old place.

Then I thought about, if there was a body to be found, what would be the condition of the body? Again, important research here! I’d seen decimated mummy-like birds in other buildings with unused second floors that I had been given permission to explore. (Always get permission!) I once read an article in Old House Journal, again READ, about someone rehabbing an 1870’s New York town home. In the attics, sealed off behind a partition, they found the preserved, mummified body of a fully dressed woman in clothing of the 1880’s. And the rest is another story, soon to be published!

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Read, read some more, read even more, and write every day, even if it is only a line of an idea on a story. When you sit down to write, treat it like you are going to work, and dedicate a block of time to your writing. If you expect to be a writer, act like one: write.

Always be learning, reading, researching and most of all, pay attention to people. Listen to their stories; hear about their lives, they are offering you a rare look into a whole different world from yours. They have a great deal to teach you.

Write from a place of knowing. Bring your experiences to what you write; be willing to invest a piece of yourself in your writing so it will be real to the reader.

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