Keeping it real

No I am not dissuading anyone from reading fantasy novels or imagining a whole new world set in the future and steeped in science fiction. As with most of my postings here I blog with a double edged sword enabling a dance back and forth over the line to which each sentence argues for. Today will be no different.

I’ve lost time reading many novels who lose someone close to them and in two paragraphs the character has run through the gamut of emotions and is ready to move on to the next hurtle in the story faster than 24’s Jack Bauer. (Ever notice he receives bad news, stares off to some random spot for five seconds, blinks and then moves on? He DOES have only 24 hours after all…)

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Maybe your character is a psychopath with an incredible emotional disconnect. Or maybe you weren’t keeping it real. That type of loss immediately cuts us deep. The hurt and anguish continue on, rearing their head at inopportune times with a burning despair that does not simply pass from distraction. Write your protagonist with flesh that bleeds and bone that breaks. It is these crucial moments in the story that pull the reader in and connect with the character.

In that same vein, ensure the way you write your own world is authentic. Look at your life with legitimate eyes; at those around you and your encounters in life. I have a propensity to say what is on my mind, announce how I see things without consideration of those around me. It’s a habit that I cannot shake. So I have learned to try and temper it but delivering my thoughts and feelings with a smile or with as much benevolence as possible.

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On occasion this method has been branded passive aggressive. Because I try to tell you the choice you made mirrors that of what a two year old or a rabid red squirrel would make but do so nicely? Passive aggressive is “I really like that skirt; it hides just how big you’ve gotten”. Sharing on how you see things with a sugar coat is “You know I love you, right? The skirt is wonderful but the button is begging for a merciful execution. Try the next size up.” Did I just go off on a tangent? I believe I did. I mean this in the nicest way, but when you label me something I’m not just because I’m direct and you can’t handle it… Well, you can’t handle it. Keep it real. Admit it. Move on.

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Where was I? Keeping it real.Write your life as you would type your story. Believable story lines with believable reactions. Not all readers appreciate this. (I’m looking at you, people who bought over 100 million copies of Twilight. What the wha?!) Most will. Then surround your protagonist with supporting characters that tell it like it is. “Oh my God that skirt must be from Japan! It is completely smaller than American sizes!” That doesn’t help with this particular blog’s directive.

Now maybe your story requires that type of antagonist for the story to find conflict and eventual resolution (all good stories have a resolution for the reader). But let’s leave that to our fiction. The ones we love, truly love, need the truth from people they trust. Only we can give it to them. With sugar on top. Not everyone likes cornflakes. But if you sprinkle a little sugar on top with the milk you’ll find even the pickiest four year old will enthusiastically dig in with their spoon.

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This topic is broad for sure. Six hundred words in and I could easily drone on for a thousand more. The simplest summary is keep it real even when it hard to. That’s probably when it’s most important.

Hurt and angry at first, most will thank you in the end.

-P

 

 

Birth Write

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Bringing life into this world is not a right; it is a privilege. One that many of us take for granted. With a child comes an onslaught of responsibilities, important ones, that supersede all your wants and often your needs. Relaxation, socializing, sleep, hunger, bodily functions; all of these must take a backseat to this new breathing, sleeping, eating, crying thing thrust to the forefront of our lives. There is no timeout for us to collect ourselves. There is no do over. Everything unfolds and how you handle it comes with dire consequences for the life you now guide 24/7 for quite some time – not just when they are first born. It’s not forever. It’s not for the rest of their lives. Just the rest of yours.

You see the change in the world we want to see doesn’t start with them.

It starts with you. With me. With us. 

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I am not advocating spoilage, doing anything or buying everything the child wants or desires. That is not the answer nor my charge to my fellow parents everywhere. On the contrary, it is teaching them how to do everything they want and need. It is giving them the tools so that they can build a stable, comprehensive life around them and achieve their life’s dreams.

And how do we do that?

Being there. Not by proxy. It is true it takes a village to raise a child but it takes a selfless parent to raise a good one. Be involved. Not a helicopter parent, hovering and needling in. Just… there. Really there.

And if you cannot fully listen to your child’s bad day with captivated ears because you have a text to reply to? Wait… To have a child. I am not a neurosurgeon or a five star general but I have never received a text message more important than the human being I created from my flesh and my blood. We are the one safe constant in their lives, one that they trust implicitly. 

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Our children are born viewing us as their superhero. We are infallible. We are all powerful in their eyes. Think of starting a job and your employer already pays you as though you have solved every last one of the company’s problems before you set foot on the premises. That’s where we start. It is tempting to fall back on our laurels and know that no matter what we do we are still going to get a glowing review. They see you that way regardless of your true parenting capacity. See yourself through their eyes. Not to find complacency but to drive you to be that help they see you as.

Honestly and perhaps a little too polarizing notion, I suggest individuals who want to have a child must attend a government provided free course and pass a test. Or that child cannot be claimed on any tax return or be included in calculating any state aid. If that doesn’t spur prospective parents to do the right thing, fines and consequences for those who don’t adhere must be put in place. We fine drivers for driving above the speed limit. We give jail time for breaking and entering but cannot act proactively to avoid a child being raised by people who simply are not ready?

Extreme for sure. So is not being responsible enough to adequately prepare for the most important and complex job there is. Could it be viewed as brash and cold? Yes.

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But. Is some small piece of what I suggest a step in the right direction? If anything it should give pause to anyone wanting to have a child. It is  your physical right to create a living, breathing human being who will interact with others in this world. I would never endorse taking that ability away. By the same token it is that child’s right to have a set of parents ready and willing to prepare a foundation for them to face the world with confidence, care and optimism. Those things start from the first moment a newborn cradles in your arms and locks eyes with you. You are officially the coauthor of their story.

They are ready to learn, to follow.

Are you ready to teach, to lead?

-P

 

 

A New Excerpt from the forthcoming sequel to More Than A Memory…

The Birth of Nathaniel:

   A team of doctors swirled around the delivery room, the epitome of organized chaos. Their child came into the world only to be immediately whisked from view. Devin stood close by Sera’s side and tightly held her hand. The grasp they held sought comfort in the turmoil.

Tired and disoriented, Sera looked to Devin for answers. “What’s going on? What’s happening?” Emotionally distraught, tears leaked from the corner of her eyes to rest inside her ears.

“I don’t know.” Devin felt helpless.

The flurry of the medical team worked as though Devin and Sera no longer occupied the delivery room. All of them gathered around the clear plastic bassinette on the other side of the green tiled room.

“Excuse me?” Devin ventured a tap on the shoulder of the last passing nurse. “What is going on?”

She didn’t stop. “I’ll get one of the doctors.” Six words methodically spoken that intimated little to nothing at all. Her eyes said more: Concern. Worry. Even fright.

Sera raised her head to see what was happening. The circle of bodies clothed in white lab coats and green scrubs only allowed brief glimpses of their little boy. Weak, she gathered what little energy she had left. “Will someone please tell us what is going on?!”

Her frenetic scream got one of the doctor’s attention. He approached them both with extreme urgency.

“Your son was born not breathing.” His voice shook. “We’ve seen this before. There is no surfactant in his lungs.” The doctor grew impatient; his time, these precious moments, were better spent with their child – not in explanation. “Our lungs have fluid in them. It keeps the lining from sticking together each time we exhale. Your son was not born with this liquid. He breathes only while we use a manual respirator. I have to get back.”

“Will our son be okay?” Sera’s manic tone rang within the four hospital walls. Devin tried to calm her but the fear only a mother can feel pulsed through every fiber of her body.

The doctor called over his shoulder, “Nurse, please give our mother a mild sedative.” He looked to Devin. “We are doing everything we can. We don’t know how long he was without oxygen. Please…” He took his arm and ushered Devin out of the room. “I’ll let you know something as soon as we know something. Until then, please find a seat in our waiting room.”

“Devin!” Sera screamed.

As Devin’s removal from the room became complete, he caught the distraught panic in Sera’s eyes while the nurse added the sedative to her IV. Helpless. Confused. Emotionally ravaged. He felt all of these things and more.

Martin’s cheerful demeanor evaporated the instant Devin appeared.

The look on his Devin’s face said it all. An obvious inner turmoil waged war within his son at a level Martin had not witnessed before. Any questions Martin wanted to ask would have to wait; the needs of his son vastly outweighed his need to know the details.

Devin rooted to the floor barely outside the delivery room doors. His feet would not move. His mind spun like a roulette wheel. How could he procure answers when he didn’t know the questions?

Two tortuous hours passed.

Devin finally moved to pace for most of those minutes.

His father helplessly watched his son come undone with each passing moment. Jay left to get Deborah a while ago leaving just the two of them. This wasn’t Martin’s area of expertise: watching the boy he loved toil in emotional anguish.

The same stoic doctor appeared from the double doors of the delivery room.

Devin stopped on a dime, eyebrows knitted and eyes watery.

For the first time since Devin was a child Martin slipped his hand into Devin’s and held it; this wasn’t his little boy about to cross a busy street, this was his son facing the greatest hurt in the form of heartbreak. Martin West knew the need to not be alone. Neither Heaven nor Earth would budge his steadfast grip.

When life spirals out of control, the ones who love you are all you have left.

 

An excerpt from More To Remember

From time to time, as I write the sequel to More Than A Memory, I will post random excerpts to gather my reader’s thoughts on the direction I am going. They will be in no particular order and sporadic at best but I hope that your early feedback will provide a more satisfying read once it is released at the end of 2017.

   Syn continued to push despite the knife to her throat; she had a sister that needed her warning to live and that was all that mattered.
The air was damp and musty. The hanging lamp above snapped on. It swayed back and forth from the jolt. The metal pull chain rattled against the shroud with a random eerie echo. She blinked in rapid succession to chase the change from night to light from her eyes as quickly as possible.
“Your father is not very happy with you!” The voice, obnoxiously loud and wreaking of cigarettes, proved uncomfortably close.
She squinted up at him unfazed. “Is this his version of sending me to my room without dinner or can I expect a spanking out of all this?”
The man, whom she knew well, further pressed in the knife. “Does this feel like a spanking?”
She wiggled her wrists that were tied to the chair arms. Not as tight as they should be. Clearly this was more bark than bite but the sharpened blade felt all too real.
Syn took in her surroundings for the first time. “Which one of my father’s New York City warehouses am I at this time?” She jerked her head back and to the side to move the bangs of her pixie style haircut out of her eyes. The dark hair acquiesced only to return an instant later.
“I’ll be asking the questions!” Spit flew from his lips. Syn gagged yet held her composure. “Have you communicated at all with your sister?”
“I have…” The bald man’s eyes opened wide with anger at her admission. “…not. Not yet,” she confirmed.
“I don’t think you understand the trouble you’re in.”
“I don’t think you know what I could do to you if you untied one of my hands.”
“There’s a reason he keeps you a secret.”
“And I suppose he shared the reason with you from his prison cell?”
“He’s in there but I still hear from him.” He traced his free hand down her cheek. “You know I’m just supposed to relay a message, but I could tell him you put up a fight, we struggled and were killed in the heat of things.” He licked his disgusting teeth as he smiled and narrowed his eyes. “He trusts me. Not you.”
“Well, let’s not make you a liar.”
Baldy stopped; he opened his eyes up to dart them side to side. “What are you talking about?”
Fixated on her face he missed her right hand as it wriggled free from the ropes. She buried her thumb as far as it would go into his eye.
“Jesus!” Baldy screamed in agony. He dropped the knife right into her lap to cover his eye with both hands.
Syn freed her other hand and gather the knife. “You won’t be meeting Him if you ever touch me again!” She buried her boot into his crotch with everything she had.
Baldy doubled over on the cold cement floor close to passing out.
Her eyes surveyed the four walls for the nearest exit.
Thanks to her father she now had no choice.
Thirty-five dollars in cash and now a switchblade were all she had to get her to Vermont.
More than ever Synchronicity needed to get there to warn her sister she’d never met that her father was coming for them.
Somehow, someway, she needed to let Jay Harmon know Ken and all his resources were coming.

Then Again

With the busiest time of year for me (and most of us) at hand I simply wanted to reach out and wish all my blog followers a Happy Holidays!

My next novel, Then Again, will be available for purchase before the end of the year with any luck at all. Thank you all for your dedicated fandom!

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oh the stories I could tell

lifestoriesExperience tells us of life, how it tests first and teaches later. With those lessons we move forward, either learning or destined to repeat the same mistake again until we do. What decides which path or choice we make? I don’t know. To write of that would take insight into what makes us all tick and react to each situation independently. It is what defines hero and villain, antagonist and protagonist, our genetic coding altered by upbringing meets outside stimuli.

We all experience life in our own way as well. We see the same sunset but some stop and stare to soak in the beauty that it holds while other, caught up in something else, miss it entirely. Some were never guided to appreciate the red and orange hues of the sun bidding goodnight to their part of the world.

Some fail to notice the baby in the supermarket line ahead of you seeking eye contact while their parent loads the conveyor belt. Others smile, make funny faces and engage to see the small, breathing, wonder grow in luminescence. Maybe that is where the cycle lies; a child disengaged from the world never having the happy stranger smile upon them while swathed in innocence begets an adult one day that picks the National Enquirer to gaze at rather than the child right in front of them.

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Breaking that cycle requires someone at some point to step outside their comfort zone, to turn against their hard coded makeup.  It’s not easy. And we as human beings rarely take the path untraveled not just because it isn’t easy but because it is unfamiliar.

It is that exact path that leads to the stories we remember for a lifetime, events that fly us off course, for the better or for worse, into the unknown – both with the most risk and the most reward; which is which to be decided at a later date.

Dead men tell no tales but neither do the mundane living.

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Don’t be this guy…

The more life altering the more due diligence should be given. Blind faith is a weapon of choice in the things of minor impact; don’t step off the cliff to jump without knowing the waters below. That would be fool hardy and dangerous. Those who calculate the risks and take the plunge find glory just the same. Those who jump into shallow shark infested waters in high winds and no knowledge of how to swim aren’t brave – they’re miracles. Miracles are all too rare to count on for things that matter most.

Break your complacent cycle with conviction. Chase it with consistency until you reach acceptance. Despite the saying ‘people do change’; it doesn’t happen all that often because the task is difficult and seemingly impossible. The longer you do something the harder it is to undo. Obvious right?

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We are creatures that fall back on excuses, feign serenity for appearance sake and actively seek reasons to not do something. We’re human. Being human also means if we set our minds on something spectacular we can make it happen. It’s your choice and it always should be: shooting star or a stationary glowing incandescence in the crowded night sky. Both have purpose. Both are gazed upon by many in awe. One makes a memory that puts a pin in a place and time that years later can spur an instant, vivid retrospection.

Those are the stories to tell.

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Days like today remind me I like to ramble. Personal matters have jumped to the front of the line on my to do list leaving the blog as an occasional afterthought. I still have things to say that you might find interesting. The problem is they build up and push and shove to be the first one out when I open the door. This creates a post with ideas piled on top of thoughts wedged between alternating currents. My sincerest apologies if it comes across as calculatingly random.

If life goes to plan – I can hear you laughing from here – Then Again should hit the shelves by the third week in December. More info as the date draws near. Thank you all for your support.

-P

pulling back the veil… How More Than A Memory came to be.

The past seven weeks have been a whirlwind. While I am enjoying the success More Than A Memory is experiencing, I really wasn’t prepared for the amount of work that goes into promoting a book.

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This is cute. I’m a mess in the morning…

Coupled with a busy work and family life and there are honestly times when I want to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed all day and let just this one day go by…

Then I remember why I am doing this.

The story within beckons; the characters prod me one at a time that not everyone knows about them. So again, on a day just like today, I throw back the covers and leave my stuffed animal to fend for himself while I use the minutes – sometimes seconds – in between the rest of life’s demands to spread the word as best I can.

I owe Devin and Sera that much.

During these walkabouts, both virtually and physically, I get asked how did I write this novel. From what genesis did I create a story and characters so memorable?

In no particular order as they are all highly important:

Immersion. our-insanity-is-not-that-we-see-people-who-arent-there-its-that-we-ignore-the-ones-who-are-quote-1I felt the character’s turmoil, anger, angst as they would. You can’t interpret it – that is filtering. You must be the conduit. I’ve had conversations with my characters. Do I hear voices? If I am doing it right I do. I see them standing before me, nervous ticks, doing things they are prone to do; they are living, breathing entities. I’ve written a scene and had them tell me it wasn’t how they would have reacted. Their insistence sent me back to change it.

Total. Immersion.

Have a beginning and an end with a lot of ideas to fill the middle. You can’t have a great sandwich without something between the bread.

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You don’t need the fries when the sandwich is this good.

You need more than a slice of cheese and two pickles otherwise the sandwich will be discarded and forgotten the first time it is picked up. The meat is as important as the bread. Don’t forget that – not more important however. In the interest of instant gratification, the beginning has to hook or you’ve lost half of your readers by page 5. While I stress this I have to admit I don’t let it drive my story away from what I intend it to do, what they want it to do. The prologue of More Than A Memory was intended to create a slow burn, enough to get the reader curious, because I knew the subsequent chapter would be spent laying the foundation of a twisting turning story to come.

That said, I approach a new novel with pages and pages of notes and ideas – things that I don’t even intend to have happen a hundred or so pages from now. They don’t all make it in, but I don’t strike down a good idea because I’m not ready for it yet.

Don’t force a story down a path it was never meant to go. You’re invested in these characters. You have a goal you want to accomplish with them.

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“Not all who wander are lost.” – Gandalf

Never lose sight of that as the words appear one by one from your fingertips; keep this not in the back of your mind, but in the front, as you create. If the idea is strong enough, take it there, but don’t fully commit – releasing all that was planned before – until you know it will still get you to the other side of the sandwich, the bookend piece of bread. If you find yourself bending timelines or showing square pegs into round holes, let it go. No matter how far off the beaten path you’ve gotten. Find your way back and continue on as intended. Save the knowledge of the way that didn’t work. It just could be your sequel.

Find what inspires you.

Let it be the epicenter from which the tale pours forth and the rest will fall into place.

-P