Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pages of Fear Blog Hop and Three Chances to Win...Oh, and a Free Book

Hey all,
I'm participating in the Pages of Fear Blog Hop. Don't know what that is? Go HERE to find out how to win 20 signed paperbacks. The secret word is hidden in this excerpt from my Kindle Scout winning novel WITCH WAYS--the book you'll score if you win the hop. You can also win a signed copy of just my book, WITCH WAYS by signing up for my newsletter. Just tell me that you did so in the comments for your chance to win. Plus, EVERYONE who signs up for my newsletter gets a free e-copy of my novella MAKING MUSIC. (The sign up is on the top righthand side of the tool bar.)

So here's the excerpt for WITCH WAYS. The hidden word is all capitalized.
And here's the link to the next blog in the hop!

After English class, Mrs. Price requested I stay.
My stomach flipped, and not because it knew lunch was going to have to wait.
“Excellent article, Evelynn.” Mrs. Price motioned for me to take a seat.
I pulled up a chair and saw my paper on her desk. I was surprised that there wasn’t one red mark on it. In fact, it looked exactly as it had when I’d first turned it in, which was surprising. Mrs. Price usually returned everyone’s papers covered with painful scratches of red ink. Had I finally written a perfect paper? And if so, why wasn’t there the familiar WELL DONE! scrawled across the top?
My stomach flipped again.
Mrs. Price slid her thick glasses up her nose. “You’ve demonstrated not only strong writing skills, but also a true nose for news and the passion that all great journalists need to ferret out a story and pursue it.”
I flushed beneath her praise. “Thank you. So, I’m on the paper?”
Mrs. Price held up her finger. “I’m afraid not.”
“But you said I needed a great article . . . and you just called my article excellent!”
Mrs. Price fished something from her drawer, stood, and carried my article to the waste bin. Seconds later, she flicked the small cylinder in her hand and my article caught fire. The acrid smell of smoke filled the air, as flames licked away at my paper, making me feel sick.
Memories of the last time I was in a school on fire flooded me while smoke and ash lifted in the air, mingling with the smell of the dry-erase board and dusty books.
“That’s why what I’m about to say may surprise you.” She dropped the flaming article into the empty trash bin. “You’ll have to write another piece.” She tossed the cigarette lighter back into her top drawer.
“But why?” I fought tears and disappointment, knowing I’d never find another story as compelling as Andrew and Lauren’s.
“I’m sure you’ll stumble across another story, perhaps one less, shall we say, revealing?” She raised an eyebrow at me, as if to ask if I understood what she was trying to say.
I absolutely did not understand what she meant.
Leaning forward, she braced her elbows on her desk. “As you are fully aware, this school—this community—harbors a unique and talented collection of women. The safety of this community is dependent on discretion and trust. I’m afraid that publishing your article may raise unnecessary questions.”
I sat back in my chair. “Because Lauren thought she was a witch?”
Mrs. Price pinched her lips together, but didn’t say a word.
“But she’s dead! Nothing I can say can hurt her!”
“We have said too much already.” Mrs. Price pushed to her feet. “If you wish a place on the paper, you must find and write another article, a safer article. I hope, and trust, that in time you’ll understand. And learn to be more judicious.”
I stood slowly, my thoughts reeling.
“I know this must seem harsh, but I can’t guarantee you a place on the paper without a publishable article, and I will not publish an article that might garner suspicions and unnecessary questions.”
“But I don’t even mention witchcraft, or anything . . .
She lowered her eyebrows, and pointed to the door. “You have until the semester break. I wish you well. You’ll make an excellent addition to our newspaper.”
“Thank you?” I mumbled, feeling dismissed and confused. After gathering up my book bag and glancing at the smoldering ashes in the TRASH bin, I headed for the door.
“Oh, and Evelynn,” Mrs. Price began.
I turned around.
“It’s not necessary to be a witch to be successful at this school, and in life, but it certainly helps.”
Outside the door, I leaned against the wall, clutching my book bag to my chest. Down the hall and through the open cafeteria doors came the sound of laughter, clinking silverware, and talking—hundreds of students, each trying to be successful academically, musically, athletically, by studying, practicing, and sweating.
She’s wrong, I decided. Every day I make the choice of whether or not to be a witch over and over again. Magic and witchyness don’t have to be the key ingredients. I can be my very best self on my own.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bullet Points from Brene Brown's Rising Strong

I'm reading and loving Brene Brown's book, Rising Strong. I'm only about halfway through, but there's so much good stuff that I thought I'd better share now rather than wait for the end where there'll be so very much it'll be overwhelming.

The quotes are italicized. My thoughts are not.

We're all just walking each other home.

An arena is any time or place where we have risked showing up and being seen.

When we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect, but when we're defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we allow in our lives. If you're not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback.

We can rise up from our failures, screwups, and falls, but we can never go back to where we stood before we were brave or before we fell. In the process of rising, we may feel homesick for a place that no longer exists. This so clearly explains how I often feel about my writing. I often feel--or long, really--for the years before I ever published, back when I wrote solely for my own pleasure. Back then, it seemed everything was a just long, heady, exhilarating rush of imagination. I didn't write with an editor sitting on my shoulder. I didn't consider those who might be reading my works. The only voice in my head was my own. I can't go back to that place. I know I'm a better writer now, in large part because of my writer group friends, critique partners, and the letters and reviews I receive, BUT the growth came at a cost. And I can't go back, even if I wanted to...which I don't...but sometimes  I do. Those voices in my head will never go away. They're a part of the process now.

Our interconnectedness and love--our everyday experiences can be spiritual practices because the cultivate awareness. Rising strong after a fall must be a spiritual experience. Grace will take you places hustling can't.

When you're on your path, the universe will conspire to help you. 

We own our stories so we don't spend our lives being defined by them or denying them.

Our bodies respond to emotions first. This was a breakthrough concept for me, helping me realize that I have a tendency to stress-eat when I'm being dishonest with myself and disowning or denying my emotions.
Nothing is wasted. All those messy relationships, conflicts, painful episodes--learning opportunities.
We can't pack down hurt, nor can we download it to someone else while maintaining our authenticity and integrity.
If we numb compulsively and chronically--it's addiction.
What we must ultimately confront is ourself. The most difficult part of our stories is often what we bring to them--what we make up about who we are.
Stories are patterns. We're wired for stories.
Because our minds are designed to try and understand things that happen to us, translating messy, difficult experiences into language makes them "graspable."
Self-righteousness is just the armor of self-loathing. This concept really made me stop and think. I've run into self-righteousness so often. I hate it when I spot it in myself. But I would never have thought of self-righteousness as a mask for insecurity. I would have thought it a pride thing, and I'm better than you because my standards are higher, more difficult to keep, and therefore superior to all of you wallowing in the mud thing. But what is the purpose of self-righteousness if not to make us feel better about ourselves? And why would we need that if we are comfortable in our own skins?
The trick to staying out of resentment is to set and maintain better (more honest) boundaries.
Generosity isn't a free pass for people to take advantage of  us, treat us unfairly, or be purposefully disrespectful and mean. Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.
Our silence about grief serves no one. We can't heal if we can't grieve; we can't forgive if we can't grieve; we can't heal if we can't grieve.
Dependence starts when we're born and lasts until we die. No amount of money, influence, resources, or determination will change our physical, emotional, and spiritual dependence on others. I personally believe that God intentionally gave us strengths and weaknesses so that we would learn to work together and recognize that we're all stronger together than a part. It's like St. Paul said, we all have gifts and we all have weaknesses. 1st Corinthians 12
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My Upcoming New York Trip

The strangest thing happened today. I was thinking of my upcoming trip to NewYork, which led to thoughts of my friends in Connecticut where we used to live more than 25 years ago. Recently, my friend Marilou, who lived in Greenwich, died of breast cancer. As I was sitting in church, for some inexplicable reason, her address popped into my mind, 21 Bishop street, Greenwich, Ct.
This was so strange, that I took out my phone and googled the address and sure enough, a picture of her house showed up. I thought of my other friends from that time and place, and I couldn't even name the streets they lived on. I wasn't %100 sure of our old address.

And yes, I know, my thoughts should have been elsewhere, but I was sitting in the nursery with the three and under crowd and everyone was playing very nicely without my interference.

I shared the experience with a friend and she said, you'll have to tell me the rest of the story. But I don't think there is a rest of the story. I don't plan on going to Connecticut on my short visit to New York and even if I did, I wouldn't go to Marilou's house. It's not as if she's there. I'm not sure why I'm sharing this, except that I'm trying to make sense of it.
Has anyone else had moments of clarity that needed clarification?
I once a wrote a blog post on Marilou's house. Interestingly, it's one of my most popular blog posts, but I can't say why since I've never done a thing to promote it. Here it is:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Current Work in Progress-Canterbury Heights

Nora had known this day would be hard, but she didn’t think it would be this hard. She stepped out onto the patio, away from the noisy party, to watch the gulls wheel and cry over the harbor. Boats bobbed against the moorings. Her parents’ newly purchased yacht, The @ floated nearby.
This was supposed to be a happy occasion for them—her dad’s retirement. She couldn’t ruin it for them, could she? But she had to know. She couldn’t just let them sail away for six months while curiosity burned in her belly like cheap whiskey. Could she?
“What are you doing out here, sweetie?” Crystal Clare, her mom’s best friend stepped through the French doors that separated Nora from the party’s laughter and music. “Hiding?”
Yes, but probably not for the reason Crystal suspected. Nora gave Crystal a bleak smile.
Crystal wrapped her arm around Nora’s waist and pulled her into a sideways hug. The older woman felt smell and brittle like a collection of dry bones. Her lacquered hair smelled of chemicals and a hint of alcohol clung to her breath.
“It was hard for me to attend social gatherings after Clyde and I split up, but—” she sighed and brushed a loose curl off Nora’s forehead, “you’ll get used to it, I promise.”
Nora smiled. “I knew it would be hard.”
“Do you miss the dirty little rat fink?” Crystal asked, her smile softening her words.
Nora nodded. “I do. I’m trying to be understanding, but…”
“Where is he now?”
“San Francisco, with Teddy…that’s his lover’s name.”
“Sounds like a bear.”
“And he totally fits his name, too.” Nora still couldn’t believe it. It was impossible to believe that Blake had left her…and for a man who looked like he’d just lumbered out of the woods in search of a picnic basket. Nora sniffed, wiped her hand under her nose, and looked back out at the boats. “Crystal, you’ve been friends with my mom for a really long time.”
“Nearly thirty years.”
Ah, then she would know…
“And your father for even longer. We worked at the same firm back when I thought I was a hot shot in a power suit.”
Nora grinned. “You’re still a hot shot.”
“Yeah, but I’m no longer putting the bad guys behind bars.”
It still surprised her that loud, forceful Crystal and her quiet, reserved mom were acquaintances, let alone best friends. She wondered how that had happened. But at the moment, she was wondering how a lot of things had ever happened.
“It’s not Blake, is it?” Crystal studied Nora, giving Nora the uncomfortable feeling of being read like a laundry list.
“It’s Blake,” Nora lied.
“But there’s something else, isn’t there?”
Nora glanced at her parents through the window. The dying sun reflected off the glass making the party look shimmery but blurry. It seemed apt. Her parents had often seemed glittery but insubstantial. Not quite real.
Everyone’s been lying to me, Nora thought. Anger stiffened her spine. “Tell me about 1991.”
Crystal looked surprised. “What do you want to know? You were there, weren’t you? Big hair? Shoulder pads? A bunch of Madonna wanna-bes?”
“I was born in 1991.” The hardness in Nora’s voice surprised even herself.
She watched the comprehension dawn on Crystal’s face. The older woman took Nora’s arm in a gentle but firm grasp. “Maybe we should go for a walk.”
Neither of them wore walking shoes and Crystal was a good six inches shorter than Nora, but Crystal led the way down the steps of the Shore Cliff Country Club’s patio to the marina’s floating dock.
“What do you want to know about 1991?” Crystal asked when they were safely away from the party and any of its revelers.
“I want to know why there’re photographs of my mother looking—as always—rail thin, days before my birth.”
Crystal sniffed and rubbed her nose. “And where did you see those?”
“Tom Thacker brought an album.”
“And do your parents know?”
“Know what?” Nora practically exploded. The curiosity in her had turned into a raging animal that demanded satisfaction.
“For the record, I never agreed with your mother’s decision,” Crystal said.
“To do what?”
Crystal slid her glance. “To keep your birth mother a secret.”
“Birth mother?” Nora leaned against the rail as her knees gave. “My whole life is a lie,” she breathed. First her husband and now her parents? Unbelievable.
“Not everything, no,” Crystal said, worry etching the lines around her eyes. “Your parents adore you.”
“I’m adopted…”
“Well, sort of,” Crystal said.
“What does that mean? Either I’m adopted or I’m not.” Nora’s thoughts spun. Everyone told her she looked just like her dad, because she did. They were both tall, blond, with fair skin and pale blue eyes while her mother was small, dark, and impish. Her family consisted of just the three of them. No grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. The three musketeers, her mom called them…and now Crystal didn’t even have them. Or did she?
“What happened?” Nora demanded.
“Sweetie, you know this is a conversation you should have with your parents.”
Nora pointed a trembling finger at the @BOAT. “You know as well as I do that in any moment the people I thought were my mom and dad are about to sail away! For six months!”
“Darling, don’t,” Crystal said in her courtroom voice. “You’re upsetting yourself, and you’d undoubtedly cause your parents an enormous amount of embarrassment and pain if anyone overheard you.”
“And my failed marriage has already embarrassed them,” Nora said bitterly.
“No one’s blaming you for Blake’s…change of heart.”
Nora swallowed and tried to tamp down her anger. “What happened?” she repeated.
Crystal pinched her lips together and met Nora’s glare.
Nora pointed her finger at Crystal’s bony chest. “If you don’t tell me right now, I’m going to go in there and confront my—”
“Just stop,” Crystal said, taking Nora’s hand and interlacing their fingers. “I’ll try to tell you everything I know. But keep in mind, I don’t know everything.”
And for Crystal to admit that she didn’t know everything so surprised Nora and that she fell silent. For a moment, the sound of the waves lapping the moorings and the cry of seagulls filled the air. Then Crystal told her a story she didn’t want to believe.
“So, do you know who my birth mother is?”
“No, but I have an idea,” Crystal said with a speculative glint in her eye. “Let me do some subtle investigating, and I’ll get back to you.” Her eyes narrowed. “You know, if I were you, I would be dying to confront your parents, but I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”
On a distant pier, the cheer of a small crowd rose as the @ boat pulled into the harbor.
Ignoring Crystal’s warning, Nora ran after her parents. After a few faltering steps in her high heels, she pulled off her shoes. “Mom! Dad! Don’t go!”
Her parents, too far away to hear, waved.
Nora cupped her hands and shouted, “Stop! Wait!”
Her dad lifted his hand to his forehead and gave her a solute.
Nora fumbled for her purse, but then remembered she had left it in the club. With tears streaming down her face she pounded down the boardwalk, skittering around the others on the dock. Inside the club, she scanned the tables looking for her purse. Where had she left it? How could she have been so careless? She’d been so shaken and confused when she’d seen the photographs…She spotted the offending albums on the table next to the partially eaten sheet cake, half-empty wine bottles, and goblets smudged with lipstick. Beside the album lay her purse.

Her relief whooshed out of her. She scooped up her bag and knew immediately something was wrong. It was too light. Even before opening it, she knew it would be empty. Her money, her credit cards, her phone…like her parents and Blake, they were all gone.