Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

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Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author, Ron Yates, is also one of my favorites! His background as a journalist and meticulous research makes his historical novels come alive.


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OUT TO PASTURE

Musings of an Erstwhile Asia Hand

by Ron Yates, RRBC 2017 KCT Int’l Literary Award Grand Prize Winner

He watched the hawk circling high in an infinite Southern California sky, far above the shaggy brown hills that loomed behind acres of avocado and orange trees. Every so often the hawk would dip as though preparing to dive on its unsuspecting prey, but then it would pull up abruptly, unsatisfied with the approach to its target, waiting perhaps for a better opportunity.

He knew this hawk. He had seen it before. There were two patches of vermilion feathers on the underside of its broad chestnut wings that reminded him of the red circles that adorned the wingtips of the Japanese fighter planes he used to see in the Pacific during World War II.

He closed his eyes, allowing the warm sun to wash over him. The only sound other than the crisp dry wind that blew up the long pass from La Jolla, was the dull whine of the automatic pool cleaner as it made its programmed passages back and forth in the pool next to the patio. For a moment he could feel himself being pulled back to a time when the heavy coughs of old propeller-driven fighters ripped through the dense, fragrant tropical air like a dull knife through perfumed silk.

For a brief moment, he pictured himself sitting at his old black Underwood, pounding out another story of some long-forgotten battle in World War II, or Korea, or Vietnam that he had covered. He could almost see the white typing paper rolled half-way out of the typewriter and he could see his By-Line typed neatly just above the first sentence of the story:

“By Cooper McGrath

 Global News Service.”

He sighed and shifted his body in the pool-side lounge chair, allowing his growing potbelly to slide slowly to the other side of his frame. “Typewriters,” he thought. “Nobody even knows what they are today.”

Then he reached for his binoculars so he could get a better view of the hawk.

“Look at old Zero-sen up there. He’s going in for the kill.”

“Zero-sen?” Ellen was still puttering around the patio, watering potted plants and trees.

“Yeah, the hawk. That’s what I call him. Look at those red spots on his wings. He looks like one of those old Japanese Zeros.”

Ellen squinted up at the sky and frowned. “You have a lively imagination, Cooper.”

The hawk continued to circle, but it was moving further away. Finally, it dipped below a small rise and disappeared. When it reappeared, it was carrying something in its talons. Cooper exhaled and at the same time pounded his ample belly, the sound of which reverberated across the patio like a hollow drum. Then he pulled himself upright in the recliner.

“I always did, you know.”

“Did what?” Ellen asked, only half paying attention to what her brother was saying.

“Have a lively imagination.”

“Oh, that.” She was on her knees pushing sticks of fertilizer into her potted plants. “And as I recall, it always got you in trouble.”

“Is it time for lunch?” he asked, rising slowly to his feet. “God,” he groaned. “I’m stiff as a dead tree.” He looked at his watch. It was already one-thirty in the afternoon—way past his usual lunchtime and his stomach was growling.

“You don’t get enough exercise, Cooper. I keep telling you, you should enroll in that aerobics class they’re offering down at the clubhouse.”

She stood looking at him for a few moments, hands on hips, white, wide-brimmed gardening hat shading her beige face from the hot sun. She loved her brother mightily, but it saddened her to see him in such physical and mental decline. Why had the Global News Service pushed him into retirement? He had given his life to that ungrateful news agency.

As he stretched his arms skyward Cooper’s ever-expanding belly caused the bottom of his shirt to pull out of his shorts at the midriff, revealing a roll of untanned flesh the color of boiled pork. Finally, she shook her head and made one of those disapproving clucking sounds with her tongue.

“I’ll call you when lunch is ready. Why not take a few laps in the pool, or even better, call the clubhouse about that senior’s aerobics class?”

Cooper mumbled some acquiescent reply as Ellen walked into the house. She was right of course. But at 70 he didn’t feel any particular need to jog around a room with a bunch of other ill-proportioned old farts in tights. Hell, he was retired. Why did he have to do anything at all? Hadn’t he worked his ass off all his life? Didn’t he risk his life reporting stories nobody cared about? Didn’t he deserve some time off to do, well, to do nothing? Nothing at all? Hell yes, he did.

He sighed heavily, and a bit guiltily. He always did when he remembered the half-finished manuscript in his small office. It sat there day after day on the desk next to his laptop computer—unfinished, unedited and unsold. Sometimes he half expected it to finish itself, to somehow link up magically with his mind, download forty years of journalistic experience and then turn it all into some kind of marketable prose that a big time publisher would snap up without hesitation.

But it didn’t work that way. He knew that. Oh, how he knew that. After years of meeting one deadline after another—thousands and thousands of them—if there was one thing Cooper McGrath knew it was that nothing got written until he sat down at his typewriter and began banging it out. Then, about five years ago, toward the end of his career as a foreign correspondent, he had reluctantly traded in his typewriter for a computer. The laptop had been sent over to Singapore by his editors. He would no longer roam the Asian continent as he had for most of his professional life. Instead, he would write a column every two weeks that focused on current events. And that’s what he had done for the past few years. His job, he was told, was to insert his years of historical perspective into dispatches written by less knowledgeable, more youthful correspondents.

Cooper knew what was really going on, of course. He was being put out to pasture. Sure, the discipline was the same. You still had to sit down in front of a blank screen and create something worth reading. The difference was the burnout. He felt as burned out as an old war correspondent could feel—like the old iron kettle in which he cooked up his special chili. He had served up so many portions of his life that there just wasn’t anything left to spoon out anymore. It was 1990, and the kettle was empty—empty and caked with rust.

Yet he knew he had things to say, stories to tell, history to recount. He was, after all, an eyewitness to some of the greatest history of the Twentieth Century. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, not to mention more than a score or so revolutions and coups d’état. When he thought about it that way, he could feel the juices stirring and bubbling in the bottom of the kettle, and he would get excited enough to walk into his small office, turn on the laptop and type a few lines. But after a while, an inexplicable gust of arid self-doubt would blow through his mind, and he would feel the passion receding. Then it would be gone—as extinct as that old black Underwood he used to pound on day after day in places like Rangoon, Saigon, and Hong Kong.

“Nobody gives a damn,” Cooper would say when Ellen asked him why he didn’t finish his memoirs. “It’s all ancient history. Hell, I’m ancient history.”

Ellen knew he was feeling sorry for himself. But she couldn’t bring herself to tell him that. Instead, she guilefully nudged and tugged his ego gently back to its perch above the bleak valley of his self-doubt.

“You’ve seen so much, and you have such a gift for describing what you’ve seen,” Ellen would say. “You must write it all down, to preserve it for others. That is your gift to the world. It shouldn’t be wasted.”

Cooper knew Ellen was right—if not for the sake of history then for the sake of his own mental and physical health. He needed to be doing something. And he had to admit, when he was writing, he felt like he was contributing again. It gave him a sense of power and purpose.

But after Toshiko’s death most of the power and purpose he still possessed deserted him. He retreated emotionally and physically from the world. He gave up the grand old house in Singapore where he and Toshiko had spent the last ten years of their married life. He just couldn’t bear living in it anymore—not when everything in the place reminded him of Toshiko and their life together.

For the first few weeks after Toshiko had succumbed to the ravages of cancer, Cooper would sit on the verandah of their house built during the British-raj, drinking one vodka-tonic after another and wondering why Toshiko had to be the first to go. He always figured he would be the first. After all, he was the physical wreck, not Toshiko. She had taken care of herself. Her 5-foot 2-inch body was as lithe and slim as it was the day he met her in 1946 in Osaka.

Cooper knew the hours spent on his verandah were nothing more than a boozy ritual of self-pity. But he didn’t care. It was the only way he knew to deal with abandonment. And that’s what had happened. He had been abandoned; and cheated, and irreparably damaged. By dying, Toshiko had deserted him. These were the emotions that had churned in Cooper’s sozzled brain with ever-increasing velocity until late afternoon when he was, as they say, “decks-awash and listing severely to starboard.” Then, with the sun descending past the tops of the traveler palms and tamarind trees that populated his front lawn, Cooper would stumble into the house and collapse on the small bed in the guestroom. Even drunk he couldn’t bring himself to sleep in the bed he had shared with Toshiko.

The self-pity finally wore off in a couple of months and so did the appeal of Singapore. After minimal coaxing from Ellen, he left Asia and moved in with his only living relative. Ellen, his little sister, lived in the sunburnt craggy hills just north of Escondido. The house was one of those rambling Spanish-style places with a red tile roof and bleached stucco walls. It had been built by Ellen’s husband just before his untimely death ten years before.

Moving in with Ellen wasn’t Cooper’s idea, but he was thankful she had offered. One evening in Singapore during a fierce tropical storm that had forced Cooper to retreat from the Verandah, Ellen had called, and in the course of the conversation, she suggested he come to California and help out with her thirty acres of avocado and orange groves.

A month later, after selling off five decades of Asian bric-a-brac, several rooms of teak, rosewood and rattan furniture, half of his oriental carpets and various silk screens, wall hangings and jade statuary, Cooper returned to the U.S. It was the first time he had been back in almost 20 years. When he stepped off the plane in San Diego, he couldn’t help observing how sterile, how ordered, how incredibly mind-numbing it all was.

“Where’s the texture?” he asked as Ellen drove him north toward Escondido.

“What?” Ellen responded.

“You know, the texture. The dirt. The coarseness. The graininess that makes a place look lived in.”

Ellen had dismissed Cooper’s outburst as a sign of jet lag or crankiness.

In fact, Cooper was frustrated by how little the change in scenery had done for him. He had merely traded the verandah of his house in Singapore for the poolside patio of Ellen’s mountainside villa. There was one huge difference, of course. There was no booze to be had anywhere in Ellen’s house. Just lots of lemonade and cases of those flavored ice tea drinks that were so irritatingly trendy.

And so it had gone for the past six months that he had lived with his sister in the hills north of Escondido. He purged the booze from his system, but not the pain. He drank lots of ice tea and lemonade and every so often the two of them took day trips to places like the old missions at San Juan Capistrano or San Luis Rey, or the old stagecoach town of Temecula, or the posh resorts of La Jolla.

If nothing else, Cooper was getting to know his kid sister once again and Ellen was rediscovering her brother. Nevertheless, sometimes she thought he would have been better off staying in Singapore. But she was the only family Cooper had left and it distressed her to know he was alone and suffering in Asia.

Cooper watched Ellen as she reemerged from the house and moved across the patio with the water hose trained on the hanging plants. He closed his eyes and imagined Toshiko standing on the long wooden verandah of their Singapore house under slowly turning teakwood paddle fans fussing with the bougainvillea and orchids. It was too easy. All he had to do was will her into his consciousness and there she would be, just as she had always been. That was the problem. As much as he had loved Toshiko in life, he found himself consumed with an even stronger love for her in death. Sometimes he thought it was becoming his own personal cancer, and he had no doubt that it was killing him.

Cooper paced the length of the patio, spent a moment or two pushing himself up by the toes, then walked back to the lounge chair, eased himself onto its thick foam rubber cushions and closed his pale blue eyes under freckled eyelids.

“That’s enough exercise for today. I think I’ll take a little nap.”

Ellen looked over at him and shook her head. His tanned legs with their crepey skin extended from knee-length blue shorts and his meaty, liver-spotted hands rested on a half-buttoned red, yellow and blue Hawaiian shirt that threatened to burst open with each of his breaths.

“You really are a lazy old bear, Mr. McGrath.”

Cooper, muttered an indistinct reply and watched Ellen as she pottered past him into the house. He closed his eyes, yawned, and began drifting away to another time in a vanished world where his personal cloistered refuge awaited.

“Tomorrow,” he mused. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll come in from the pasture.”

 The End


Thank you for supporting this author along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Ron Yates’ RWISA Author Page


How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!



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Today’s Writing Tip

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One thing you can do as an author is to start a book club in your neighborhood. However, don’t focus on promoting your own books! People will see through that in a heartbeat and be turned off. Rather, make new friends and share your love of reading. As an author, you should be reading as well. Being part of a book club is a natural place to be.

Personal interaction is the best way to attract fans. If people like you and/or find you interesting, they will be curious about your books. It’s okay to let them know you write, but be humble about it. If your books are free somewhere, you can certainly point that out. There’s no telling what networking and connections can result from interacting with your community. Many writers, myself included, are introverts. If you’re not up to starting one, think about joining one. People who love books are what you’re looking for.

“Kicker” by R. Grey Hoover: The Perfect Read to Celebrate #VeteransDay

Kicker Cover

#FREE on Amazon November 9 – 11! Get your copy today! Amazon Link

World War II is raging. A young father must choose between his family and duty to his country- a decision that could cost him everything.

Based on actual experiences of United States veterans and official military aviation history records from World War II, this is the thrilling story of a family’s journey into war. While his loved ones struggle with shortages and rationing at home, Sam endures relentless Japanese attacks against his unarmed aircraft over the treacherous mountains and torrid jungles of Asia. His job is to drop supplies to Merrill’s Marauders and over 750,000 allied soldiers fighting in the perilous jungles of Burma. If the enemy is not stopped, the American way of life will end.

If you like non-stop action with a touch of humor and romance and the chance to learn about the “forgotten front” of WWII, then this is the book for you. I dare you to read the excerpt below and not absolutely HAVE to read this story!

Amazon Link

EXCERPT

April 4, 1944 – Dinjan Airbase, India

                Sam and Bobby Joe were totally exhausted when they crawled into their charpoys. The harrowing events of the day had taken its toll on them physically and mentally. In spite of the heat and noise of the jungle, Sam felt the blessed relief of sleep approaching soon after his head hit the pillow. However, as he drifted off, a feeling of unease came over him. It was a feeling that something was wrong, not here in India, but at home. He didn’t know if he felt uneasy because he still hadn’t received mail from home or because of some unknown reason, but the feeling stayed with him until he finally succumbed to his exhaustion and slipped into a deep sleep.

Thankfully, his slumber was not disturbed by his recurring nightmare, and he slept soundly until the wee hours of the morning when he suddenly awoke not knowing what had disturbed him. A light rain was falling outside, and except for an occasional flash of distant lightning, the basha was in total darkness. He lay very still, listening to the sounds around him. He strained his hearing, but no sound came except for the steady breathing of the sleeping men around him. After several minutes, he relaxed, thinking his imagination was playing tricks on him. He was almost asleep again when he thought he detected a faint unfamiliar sound coming from somewhere in the basha. Once again, he listened intently, not sure he had heard anything; but then he heard the sound again—only this time it seemed closer, and he was sure it came from within the basha. He couldn’t quite place the sound, but it seemed like something soft brushing against an object. He listened closely, but all was silent. None of the other men in the basha stirred, and after an extended period of silence, he relaxed once again in anticipation of sleep.

He was in that dreamy state just before slumber when he felt the presence of something or someone nearby. Once again, his senses came to full alert, and he made a conscious effort not to move. He listened carefully, bringing all his senses to bear. He could see or hear nothing, and yet he was sure something was there. He was startled when someone at the other end of the room moved, but then all was silent once again. He was lying on his back, so he slowly moved his head to the right and scanned the darkness.

At first he saw nothing, but then attention was drawn to a slight movement at the foot of his bed. He couldn’t make out what it was. It appeared to be an undistinguishable shadow against the darker background of the room. As he watched, the shadow moved, and he held his breath as it silently glided along the side of his bed. There was no sound as it moved, and it slowly drew nearer and stopped near the head of his bed. He could tell that it was something large, but due to the extreme darkness, he was unable to see what it was. His instincts told him this was something dangerous and evil, and the hairs on the nape of his neck stood erect. At that moment, a distant flash of lightning faintly illuminated the scene, and in that instant of light, Sam could see the large form of a tiger standing beside him.

The animal’s head was enormous. Its eyes, momentarily reflecting light from the faraway lightning, gave the beast an evil, devil-like appearance. This was death incarnate staring directly at him.

Sam was frozen with fear, and his heart seemed to stop. His .45-caliber pistol hung on the wall not three feet away, and he cursed himself for not keeping it inside the mosquito netting with him. He knew the tiger could see that he was awake, and he feared any movement would cause it to attack. The animal stepped closer, and Sam could see its dim outline and smell its damp fur and the fetid odor of its breath. The tiger appeared to know its victim was helpless. The great beast took its time as it sniffed the mosquito netting as if testing its strength. Slowly it raised a huge paw and placed it against the puny impediment. The tiger’s claws caught in the netting, and with a mighty swipe, it ripped the flimsy material away from the bed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

greyhooverR Grey Hoover is an Air Force veteran with a family tradition of military service that dates back to the American revolution. He wrote his book “Kicker the Forgotten Front” to honor his father and the other veterans of World War II who fought in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre.  During the war, the European and Pacific theatres got most of the supplies and media attention leaving the CBI theatre with the leftovers. Even in today’s media coverage of World War II the CBI theatre is never mentioned. The author’s book is an attempt to correct this gross oversight.

R Grey Hoover’s social media links:

Website https://rgreyh.wordpress.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/rgreyhoover

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/rgrey.hoover

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/rgreyhoover/

Blog https://rgreyh.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/2019-tribute-to-veterans/

Today’s Writing Tip

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What kind of car does your protagonist drive? Use the make, style, and color to further define his or her personality. James Bond drove an Aston Martin, not a Volkswagon bus. Think about it.

Think about your friends and what they drive. What does it say about them as a person? Do they lease a new car every year or so or, conversely, drive one that’s over a decade old? Is it in good condition or beat up? Is it clean inside or littered up with fast food containers? What color is it? They say that red cars are targeted most often by police. Why do you think that’s true? If you’ve had a variety of different cars throughout your life, how did you feel driving each one? Was it simply a means to get from point A to point B, or did you feel omnipotent, or perhaps even vulnerable in it? I sure felt differently driving a Porsche than an aging Suburban.

One example from the TV show “The Big Bang Theory” is how Penny’s “check engine” light was on. What did that tell you about Penny? What about Sheldon, who didn’t drive at all (at least for the most part) and had his friends chauffeur him around? What about the Ferrari in “Ferris Buhler’s Day Off”?

You can tell readers a lot about your characters in so many ways. Their favored mode of transportation is definitely one of them. Even if you write historical fiction, horses and carriages can be used in a similar manner. Science fiction, likewise. Think of Luke’s land-speeder in the original Star Wars.

Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

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Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is Karen Ingalls!


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JUST ONE MORE

The bright neon lights of Las Vegas did nothing to improve Jack’s self-loathing. He walked the Vegas strip with head hung down and his shoulders slumped, ignoring the people rushing past him. He was desperate as he fingered the five coins in his pocket, knowing they were the last of his money

The hot, bright sun did nothing to lift Jack’s spirits. “What am I going to do? Where should I go?” His questions went unanswered. He did not know how long he had been walking, but he soon realized how hungry he was. He stopped at the intersection looking in all directions, not knowing where he was and not caring. The crosswalk signal changed, and the crowd of laughing and drunk people, pushed him out into the street. Jack looked down as he stepped onto the curb and saw a wallet. He picked it up and looked around. The people that had once surrounded him had dispersed in different directions moving far away from him.

Jack slipped the wallet into his coat pocket and walked into the nearest casino and entered the men’s room. He went into the first open stall and with shaking hands he opened the wallet revealing a large amount of one hundred-dollar bills. “This can’t be. I must return the wallet.” He searched further and found a driver’s license for a Stephen Richardson from New York City. There were credit cards plus a family photo of a man, woman, and two young girls. “I suppose this is his family.”

“I will get hold of Mr. Richardson and tell him I found his wallet.” Jack put the wallet back in his coat and left the stall. He stood in front of the mirror looking at the unshaven face and unkempt hair. He washed his face and ran his fingers through his hair. He pulled his tie up and tucked in his shirt. “Well, I look a little better. Maybe I could use one of these bills, get a shave and haircut and have enough left over for dinner and a room for the night.” Jack reasoned that Mr. Richardson will never miss one hundred dollars out of the thousands in the wallet.

The lights of the casino were less intrusive, and the noise lifted his spirits a little. Jack walked past the slot machines and gaming tables out into a hallway. He walked past clothing stores and gift shops until he came upon a barber shop. The shave with the hot fragrant towels followed by a shampoo and haircut were what Jack’s weathered appearance needed. He hardly recognized the face in the mirror looking back at him.

“Perhaps a new shirt, slacks, and jacket would not be too expensive.” Jack reasoned that he would pay Mr. Richardson back every penny once he gets back on his feet.

The memory of his gambling habits which caused the loss of his marriage, job, and friends had faded. “I will never become that person again. I will change for the better.”

The new clothes and filling steak dinner with all the trimmings, relaxed Jack, and he confidently made his way back through the casino. The slot machines were well occupied and occasionally Jack heard the screams from a winner while the lights and sirens of the winning machine blared. “I would rather play poker than throw my money down the one-armed bandit.” He stopped at a Texas Hold ‘Em table where there was one vacant seat. “A few hands won’t hurt anything. I can play with Mr. Richardson’s money and pay him back with my winnings.”

The free drinks, the smoke, the cocktail waitresses and the sound of the cards being shuffled were magic to his ears. With each hand dealt, Jack became more determined to win the big one. He eyed each of the players trying to read their body language. On the fourth deal he opened his hand to reveal two queens. The flop showed a queen, seven, and a five. Jack made a modest bet. The dealer placed another card up which was a ten. Jack called the bet made by a player across from him. They placed the final card up revealing a seven, which gave Jack a good hand of two pairs. He raised the bet from another player and watched as other players either folded or called.

“I must have a winning hand because no one is aggressively betting,” he reasoned. “I’m all in,” he announced as he pushed all $500.00 of his chips into the middle. Players folded one after another except for the man sitting across from him. Jack tried to remain calm and put his shaking hands in his lap. The noise in the casino seemed to become louder and perspiration ran down his face.

“I’ll call.” The man turned his cards over to reveal two sevens.

“That can’t be. I had you beat.” Jack felt weak and nauseous. “Hold my place. I’ll be back.” He knelt in front of the commode and vomited up his lunch. At the sink he washed his face, straightened his tie and took another $500.00 out of the wallet. At this point he did not care and had convinced himself it was his money. “I found it. Finders, keepers.”

The evening turned to long hours. There were no windows or clocks in the casino, so Jack had no awareness of the hours slipping by in the same way the money was slipping away.

Jack’s luck and poker skills did not change. He won a few small hands, but he never recouped what he lost. He took his last $100.00 bill out of the wallet. “All I need is one good hand. Just one more.”

The big winning hand never came. Jack threw the empty wallet into a trashcan and walked out into the bright, sunny and hot day. He could not adjust his eyes to the brightness as he staggered down the street. “What am I going to do? Where should I go?”

Jack did not have one more game to play. He was found on a park bench late that night, alone, penniless, and without any life force in his body, still dressed in the new clothes.


Thank you for supporting this author along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:


Karen Ingalls’ RWISA Author Page


How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!


Today’s Writing Tip

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Little details like street names help bring a story to life, even if it’s purely fictitious, i.e. an imaginary street or restaurant in a nonexistent town. If it’s set in a big city, however, feel free to use the names of actual streets and other landmarks. Anyone familiar with that area will get a real kick out of it and relate more closely to the story. If they live there, they may even tell their friends about it, which is even better.

I remember years ago when I visited Chicago for a conference. When I got home, I made it a point to watch a few movies set in that city, such as “Ferris Buhler’s Day Off” and “The Fugitive.” I really got a kick out of the fact the climax of the latter took place in the hotel where I stayed.

Just make sure you do so correctly or this could backfire. Don’t say someone turned west on Broadway if in reality it only runs only north and south. Assuming your reader knows otherwise, this will commit that cardinal sin of throwing him or her out of the story. Do it right or not at all.

Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

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Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is ME! Woo Hoo!

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The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon

by Marcha Fox

Charlie Whitehorse caressed the soft texture of the wool blanket as he gathered its folds around himself against the evening chill. He savored it’s earthy scent, unlocking an onslaught of memories. This wasn’t just any blanket. Over three decades before, he’d watched his ama’sa’ni create this one from scratch. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of his log cabin, gazing into the roaring fire, he recalled how he’d longed to hunt deer with his father and the other elders. But he was a child of seven yearsNavaho_spinning_and_weaving_page_928, his job to help his grandmother, one of the tribe’s weavers. The process of making blankets was long and tedious, one far too boring for a young Navajo boy who felt embarrassed and demeaned performing chores assigned to squaws.

Even now, he remembered every step. First, she’d shown him how to separate the shoulder sections of the fleece, which were the cleanest with the longest staple. After that, she’d instructed him how to prepare the raw wool for spinning. This involved teasing a few locks with his fingers to separate the fibers. Next came combing them with a pair of carders that looked like large, flat dog brushes, manmade imitations of the prickly teasel. Then he’d place the resulting bats in a reed basket, miniature clouds of fluff awaiting her skilled hand. Pure lanolin coated his fingers, making them squeak when rubbed together, its odor one he’d never forget. Nor how it softened callouses earned practicing with his bow. Often he couldn’t work fast enough to keep up with her spinning, accomplished using a spindle to twist the prepared fibers into yarn.

Fortunately, once she spun enough yarn, his part became more interesting. Then he no longer had to sit for hours on end, arms aching from carding. Now he could explore a bit as he gathered the materials she needed to dye the yarn into a variety of warm colors.

The collection process for some substances required a knife or ax, which contributed to the feeling of it being a worthy task for a young brave. Bloodroot, hickory twigs, pokeweed berries, and oak bark were some of the things she requested. Among the most challenging were cochineal beetles which, when dried and ground into powder, would yield crimson. It could take an entire day to gather enough bugs for a single batch, but to both him and his ama’sa’ni, it was a day well-spent.

In fall, goldenrod blossoms were gathered to produce vibrant yellow, though color and intensity depended on various factors. When ama’sa’ni was ready to start the dye process, he’d haul water from either the iron-rich spring to the north side of their village for reds, or the alum-rich one to the east for the yellows, the resident minerals necessary for the fiber to permanently retain its color.

When she’d prepared sufficient yarn, Charlie helped her warp the loom constructed from tree trunks, then wrap the different color yarns on separate sticks that served as shuttles. Then, the best part–weaving–began. He marveled as she’d skillfully alternated shuttles, colorful geometric patterns emerging with each row of weft, until at long last their collective labors produced a finished blanket that was not only functional but a work of art.

Only now, as a grown man, did the wisdom of that experience impress itself upon his mind. Not only the work itself, but what it taught him about nature, going full circle from the vegetation the sheep ate to dyeing the yarn with some of those same plants. Yes, the process was tedious and long; yet the result was well worth it. It taught him patience, perseverance, and appreciation. For simple things. Like a blanket that felt softer to the touch each year, improving with use, unlike so many things that didn’t last. Analogous to life itself. And old friends. A cherished cover that had kept him warm for what would soon be thirty winters, many of which were spent in the frigid Colorado Rockies.

His cultural roots demonstrated man was intended to be an integral part of nature; stewards, not conquerors. Unlike those who’d invaded their land, forced Indigenous population to settle in inferior regions, then even drive them from there, when a wealth of silver, gold, copper, and other minerals were discovered beneath what they considered sacred ground.

Rather than extracting and processing it in a way that honored the earth and showed gratitude for its abundance, they’d virtually raped the land, leaving gaping holes and tunnels behind. Some hundred-fifty years before, his people had sadly admitted defeat and had no choice but to tolerate such behavior.

Yet, their misfortune didn’t end there. It was harvest time in 1869 when a band of drunken Whitemen raided the village, waiting until the tribesmen were away for the final hunt in preparation for winter. The invaders not only ravaged the women and burned their homes, but stampeded the horses that remained in camp. A few young braves, not yet old enough to join the hunt, had attempted to save the steeds, only to be driven by a hoard of deranged miners over the edge of a cliff to be decimated in the ravine a hundred yards below. Charlie recalled when he’d first heard the story as a youth and how he’d imagined himself as one of them.

Was it any wonder that when the tribesmen returned and found the resulting devastation that their medicine man, likewise a shaman, cursed that canyon?  So far, however, the Whiteman had continued to benefit from exploiting and abusing the entire area. Perhaps the dawn of  the curse resided in the aftermath of the leaching and other processing methods used to extract the precious metals. These involved noxious substances such as arsenic and mercury. Their residue poisoned the ground and eventually migrated to nearby streams when abandoned mines filled with rain and snow melt. The toxic drainage eventually killed all aquatic creatures and drove away wildlife that depended upon such channels for drinking water.

The mines were mostly exhausted, yet water continued to accumulate in their cavities. The latest bitter irony that they were using the excavations’ polluted aftermath to further devastate the ground. The acid mine water was being used for hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, again dishonoring the earth while stealing from its depths.

It was easy for Charlie to question whether or not the curse was real. So far it was questionable, no apparent consequences answered upon those who had wreaked so much destruction for the sake of greed. Only the earth and local wildlife had suffered.

Local tradition dictated that the curse would manifest in its entirety when their actions reached the pinnacle of evil. After that, it would dissipate, but only when the Whiteman and his Indigenous brothers mended their ways; when they closed the persistent rift between them in friendship and cooperation. Unlike many, he was one of the few who had tasted of such sweetness with his friend, Bryan Reynolds. They’d met in their teens, when Charlie had moved north to live with his father in his male parent’s native Cheyenne country. Oddly enough, the two boys even shared the same birthday, spending dozens of adventurous summers together, exploring, hunting, fishing, and growing up in separate cultures, yet being of one heart.

But now Bryan was dead. His life terminated in that very ravine known to his people as Dead Horse Canyon. Charlie suspected his friend’s tragic accident had been orchestrated by those to whom the curse had been directed. Yet so far, no guilty party had been identified, much less suffered due consequences. It didn’t make sense. Seven generations has passed. Surely it was time. And intuition assured him fulfillment was in progress.

But why Bryan? Why now? And what, if anything, was Charlie’s role?

The blanket’s warmth enjoined him to patience. From that first bat of carded wool to its liberation from the loom, it had comforted and instructed him in the ways of life. Legend assured him that the curse would end. Soon. And in some way, currently unknown to him, he would be part of it.


P.S. This is a glimpse at my WIP of the same name. This one is a conspiracy thriller and quite a bit different than my usual genre, YA science fiction! Hopefully I’ll have it done by the first of the year. Stay tuned!


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Today’s Writing Tip

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One thing that makes a story more vivid is a 360 degree sense of place. This includes place, time, scenes, location, weather, and all those things that are apparent when you walk into a room or outside your front door.

This doesn’t mean that you should slow down action and dialog with constant description. One technique is to describe the setting earlier or you can essentially sneak in little bits throughout. If two characters are having a lively conversation, think about what else is going on. Are they just standing there, head to head, staring at each other? Or is one walking around, engaged in some activity, or pondering a bird outside the window? Such things not only add to the atmosphere you’re trying to create with the setting, but the mood as well.

It’s been said the we perceive more from visual clues during a conversation than the words alone. Anyone who has even found themselves in trouble because someone misread something they said in an email should know what I’m talking about. Details should be used to help round out the story to one that feels real, similar to how you perceive the world around you.

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Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is Bernard Foong.

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Stop Worrying

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.

 –Corrie Ten Boom

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, London, England

I was delighted to see Uncle James after several months of absence. The evening before my mother’s arrival in London, I had a heart-to-heart talk with my English guardian. He had kindly invited Andy and me to sup with him at one of London’s oldest English establishments – Simpson’s-in-the-Strand.

“What is worrying you, boy?” Uncle James pressed. “You know you can ask or tell me anything. I promised your mother that I’ll do my best to assist you, while you are in my care.”

Touched by his kindheartedness, I muttered, “I know my mother is in London to whisk me away from Andy. She’d gotten wind that I am having a homosexual affair with a boy. Is that true?”

My guardian gave a hearty laugh. “That is indeed true, and it was I, who told her about Andy. Most importantly she is here to see her darling son and to meet his mannerly beau.”

“If she intends to get to know Andy Why is she bolting me, with her female entourage to Europe for two weeks?” I questioned.

“She misses her son and wants to spend time with you,” my guardian answered on my mother’s behalf.

“Knowing my relatives, they’re likely to convince her that my homosexuality is a sin,” I countered.

James acknowledged. “Although that is true, you should evince to them that you have come into your own and you have the right to love whom you choose. Young, positive actions will always speak louder than words.

 “Your mother is a worldly and a well-traveled woman. She understands you more than anybody else, besides Andy.”

“It’s hard not to worry,” I opined.

Andy, who had thus far remained quiet, expressed, “My dearest, the answer lies in your beliefs in the negative and the positive about worrying. On the negative side, you may believe that your worrying is going to spiral out of control, which will drive you crazy, and may damage your health.

“On the flip-side, you may believe that your worrying will help you to avoid bad things; like preparing you for the worst and then coming up with solutions. In my opinion, your worrying shows you’re a caring and conscientious person.”

Uncle James denoted, “Andy is in part correct. Negative beliefs or worrying about worrying add to your anxiety.

“But, positive beliefs about worrying can at times be damaging. It’s tough to break the worry habit if you believe that your worrying protects you. To stop worrying, you must give up your belief that worrying serves a positive purpose. Once you realize that worrying is the problem and not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.”

He paused before he rejoined, “Young, you can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more positive perspective.

“Let me cite you an example: daily, I have tough decisions to make as the CFO of The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and it is not easy to be productive if I allow worries and anxiety to dominate my thoughts….”

My Valet asked before my uncle could finish. “What techniques do you use to rectify that, sir?”

James responded smilingly, “It doesn’t work to tell myself to stop worrying; at least not for long even if I can distract myself for a moment. I can’t banish those anxious thoughts for good. Trying to do that often makes these thoughts stronger and more persistent. 

“Thought stopping often backfires because it forces me to pay extra attention to that very thought I want to avoid, thereby making it seem even more important. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing I can do to control worry. This is where the strategy of postponement of worrying comes in. Rather than trying to stop or get rid of the anxious thought, I give myself permission to have it, but I put off dwelling on it until later.”

He took a breather before he resumed, “Postponing worrying is effective because it breaks the habit of dwelling on worries when I’ve other more pressing matters to attend to, yet there’s no struggle to suppress the thought or judge it. I simply save it for later. As I develop the ability to postpone my anxious thoughts, I realize that I have control over them.”

Andy inquired curiously, “How do you stop thoughts of worry from reemergence by deferment?”

The CFO answered, “There are three steps I take to accomplish this goal. 

“First, I create a ‘worry period.’ I choose a set time and place for worrying. For me, it is from 6:00 to 6:30 PM so that it is early enough for me to not be anxious before dinner and bedtime. During my worry period, I allow myself to worry about whatever is on my mind, while the rest of the day, is a worry-free zone.

“If an anxious thought comes into my head during the day, I make a brief note of it and then continue about my day. I remind myself that I will have time to think about it later. Therefore, there isn’t any need to worry about it for now.

“Lastly, I go over my worry list during the appointed worry period. If the thoughts I had written continue to bother me, I allow myself to worry about them. But only for the time I’ve set aside for my worry period. If those worry thoughts don’t seem important anymore, I cut short my worry period to enjoy the rest of my evening.”

My Valet exclaimed, “What a brilliant way to deal with worry and anxiety.”

James gave an acceding nod and added, “You see, worrisome thoughts and problem-solving are two very different things. Problem-solving involves evaluating a situation, before coming up with concrete steps to deal with it, and before putting the desired plan into action. 

“Worrying, on the other hand, rarely leads to solutions. No matter how much time I spend dwelling on the worst-case scenarios, I am no more prepared to deal with them should the actual event happen.”

I queried, “How then, do you distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries?”

“Young, It is much easier than you think. If a worry pops into my head, I start by asking myself if the problem is something I can actually solve. I ask myself these questions: 

Is the problem something I am currently facing, or an imaginary what-if? If the problem is an imaginary what-if, how likely is it to happen? Is my concern realistic? Can I do something about the problem to prepare for it, or is it out of my control?”

He sipped his wine and continued, “Productive, solvable worries are those I can take action on right away. For example: if I’m worried about my bills, I could call my creditors to see about flexible payment options. 

“Now, unproductive, unsolvable worries are those for which there is no corresponding action. Like: What if I get cancer someday? Or what if my kid gets into an accident?

“If the worry is solvable, I start brainstorming by making a list of all the possible solutions I can think of. What I try not to do, is get hung up on finding the perfect solution. I focus on the things I can change, rather than dwell on the circumstances or realities beyond my control. After I’ve evaluated my options, I draw out a plan of action. Once I have a plan, I can start to do something about the problem. This way I feel less worried.”

My lover questioned, “How do you deal with unsolvable worries or a worry I cannot solve?”

Andy, you’re not a chronic worrier, but if you are, it is vital for you to tune into your emotions. In the majority of cases, worrying helps a person avoid unpleasant emotions. Worrying keeps one in one’s head – like thinking about how to solve problems rather than allowing him or herself to feel the underlying emotions. Yet, one cannot worry one’s emotions away. While a person is worrying, his/her feelings are temporarily suppressed. As soon as the worrying stops, the feelings bounce back. Then, the person start worrying about his/her feelings, like: ‘What’s wrong with me? I should not feel this way!’” James paused when our waiter fill our wine glasses.

When he departed, my uncle resumed, “It may appear alarming to embrace one’s emotions because of a person’s negative belief system. For example, I may believe that I should always be rational and be in control and that my feelings should make sense. Or I shouldn’t feel certain emotions, such as fear or anger.

“The truth is that emotions, like life, are complex. They don’t always make sense and are not always pleasant. But as long as I can accept my feelings as part of being human, I will be able to experience them without being overwhelmed, and I can learn how to use these emotions to my advantage.”

I remarked, “Uncle, it is difficult to accept uncertainties when I don’t know the outcome.”

“That is indeed true. The inability to tolerate uncertainty plays a huge role in anxiety and worry. Chronic worriers cannot stand doubt or unpredictability. They need to know with a hundred percent certainty what is going to happen. Worrying is seen as a way to predict what the future holds, to prevent unpleasant surprises, and to control the outcome. The problem is, it doesn’t work.

“By thinking about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable. You may feel safer when you’re worrying, but it’s just an illusion. Focusing on worst-case scenarios won’t keep bad things from happening. It will only keep you from enjoying the good things you have in the present. My dear boy, if you want to stop worrying, start by tackling your need for certainty and immediate answers,” my surrogate dad counseled.

“Worrying is usually focused on the future, on what might happen and what you’ll do about it. The centuries-old practice of mindfulness can help you break free of your worries and redirect your focus back to the present. This strategy is based on observation and release, in contrast to the previous techniques I mentioned; that of challenging your anxious thoughts or postponing them to a worry period. Merging these two strategies together will help you to identify the roots of the problems and will assist you to be in touch with your emotions.

“By not ignoring, resisting, or controlling them, and through acknowledgment and observation of the anxious thoughts and feelings, one then views the worrisome thoughts without immediate reactions or judgments, from an outsider’s perspective.” 

 “My dear fellas, let go of your worries. When you don’t control your anxious thoughts, they will pass; like clouds moving across the sky. Stay focus on the present, pay attention to your ever-changing emotions, and always bring your attention back to the present,” my surrogate dad reassured as our English roasts arrived for us to dig in.


Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Bernard Foong’s RWISA Author Page


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Today’s Writing Tip

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The judicious use of pronouns is a skill every author must master. Knowing when and when not to use them to achieve clarity without undue repetition is essential. Use them too much and the reader gets confused, especially if there are several characters of the same gender interacting. Unless the action or dialog clearly fits a specific character, they may get lost as to who’s saying what. This throws them out of the story, usually to back up several paragraphs or even a page to sort things out.

On the other hand, using a character’s name too often is annoying as well. When that happens in something I’m reading, I tend to roll my eyes and think “Okay, okay, I know who it is already!”

In most cases, there’s no need to use a character’s name more than once in any given paragraph. If there’s interaction with someone else, then in some instances you may have to clarify. When a single character is the only one “on stage” at the moment, however, you can go for paragraphs and in some cases, even pages, without repeating their name, particularly if it’s written from their point-of-view. How often to you call yourself by your first name?