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Coincidence

 

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Coincidence

I’ve worked on this novel for over three years. When I first started writing, I wrote about 30,000 words then stopped to become a certified foot zoner. After I took a year off writing I tried to get back into the groove of the story. I was able to write a few more chapters, but it was like I was running into a brick wall. I would leave it and write something else for a while then come back. Finally the flow of the story all came together with the encouragement of a few friends.

As I look back at the whole process I think this quote from Zig Ziglar sums it up; “What you get by achieving your goal is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

I can say that my journey in writing this novel has enriched my life. It was hard going a few times but my persistence paid off. I think I’m still on a high from completing it and it turned out better than I ever expected (love the ending). Along the way my family benefited from it also. (Don’t let them tell you we haven’t had a home cooked meal for a long time, because it might be true) Some of my husband’s family (VanLuyk’s) are from Holland which inspired the time and place. Because his relatives lived in Rotterdam, I did my own supposing of what it would have been like when it was bombed during World War II. (Hence, this book is a book of fiction) As I did research on Holland, I learned about a few of their holiday traditions, such as Sinterklaas and his piet delivering presents in black bags and leaving candy in wooden slippers. We’ve adopted some of these traditions as our own.

One of the things I enjoy about writing is the researching. I love that I can educate myself will living in a fictional world. The heartache inflicted on people during World War II is humbling and sad, so I hope I showed the reverence I have for everyone who had to live through such a trying time. What inspired me the most were those who stood up and protected other from harm. What heros! That’s just it a hero doesn’t wear a cape and fly–they concur the evils in their world by standing up and fighting back with the purpose that all are equal and valuable. That is how I believe we all are important!

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Honorable Mention

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Living it Up

I kicked my leg out expecting it to hang over the edge of the bed but it didn’t. I opened my eyes. A Queen size bed? But I owned a twin.

“Merideth?”

A drum set in the dark corner. I jumped off the bed in alarm. Merideth insisted I visit the “new” dance club with her on fortieth. We randomly danced with anyone close to us, but that’s all I recalled at the moment.

It hurt to think. I rubbed my head and winched. It felt like someone had shoved a tennis ball up through my ear canal.

My purse? I untwisted my Lucky Jeans and straightened my red silk blouse. Details of leaving the club blurred in my brain.

I lifted the sheets. No purse, but then again I couldn’t see much in the dim light escaping from the hall. I needed more answers before barging through the house.

Wishing for my phone, I wondered what time it was.

Unsure, I stumbled over a pile clothes on the way to the dresser where a huge dirt bike trophy stood. The gold plate only listed a date. No name. I picked up the worn Dirt Rider magazine for an address and name. Nothing.

My heart raced once I saw the black tarp covering the window. A tarp? Fear crept from my gut confusing my mind. Maybe a drug got slipped into my drink. Worry took over. I wasn’t the party type like Merideth.

Walking toward the window, I tripped over a helmet on the floor. Dirt peppered my toes.

“How did I let Merideth talk me into this?” My forehead wrinkled as I fought off tears, this only made my head pound in pain. “I should’ve never let my guard down.” Pouring over books proved to be much safer.

Earlier Merideth went off, “Girl, quoting bylaws are doing you in. Liven up and live a little.” My goal of becoming a paralegal left me little social life, but look what happened when I let my hair down.

Tears trickled down my cheeks, “Am I a missing person now?”

The tarp had to be pried from the wall to peek out the window. I couldn’t tell if it was dark outside or if I sat buried in a basement. I sank to the floor.

Visions of brutality flashed before me as I held my knees into my chest. My stomach soured. Finding my purse wouldn’t do any good if I was held against my will.

Helping lawyers catch the bad people was what I wanted to do for a living and now I was forced from the books into a real life crime. My assailant was obviously a thrill seeker, he had to be if he owned a dirt bike and played the drums. I sat in despair behind the tarp, refusing to think about how the bump on my head got there.

Footsteps pounded in the hall. I inched into a ball and my heart sped as if it were on a race track.

“I heard–”

The male voice made me close my eyes. Tight. I protected my head.

“I know you’re in here.”

Light pierced through my eyelids so I squeezed them tighter and coward down.

“What ya doing?”

Trying to recall the defensive moves I’d learned, a warm hand circled around my arm. “NO!” I threw out my foot catching him in his parts.

He folded over in pain. To ensure he stayed down I hit him a few times.

“What the hell are you doing?” He lay coiled on the floor.

“Don’t ever touch me again or I will prosecute you to the full extent of the law.”

He looked up at me. Pimples covered his face. “Merideth is going to–”

“What, do you have friends helping you hold women against their will in other rooms? Let me guess your parents are out of town.”

Grunting and whining were the only sounds the boy made.

“How did you get into the club?” I asked, “Let me guess, your best friend is a computer geek and makes fake ID’s. And what about the date drug? Do they sell that at school now days?”

I felt empowered so I kicked him in the stomach.

“Stop it.” He held up a hand and whimpered. “Merideth told me to keep an eye on you.”

“Funny. What room do you have her in?”

“Whats going on?”

I turned to the familiar tone.

Merideth stood at the door and I rushed to her. “Are you hurt?”

“She’s crazy, Mer. Get her away from me,” the teenager said.

“How does he know your name?” I tried to touch her arm.

Merideth dashed over to the kid, “Kim, what did you do? This is my brother Jeb.” She knelt next to him.

Guilt washed over me, they had the same thick eyebrows and brown eyes. “I thought . . . My bump. Do you?” I stuttered, “I . . . ummm.”

“You don’t remember our dirt bike ride?” Merideth helped her brother up as I shook my head. “I’ve never seen you so excited to do something.”

Jeb couldn’t stand straight, “I told Merideth to leave my bike alone, but you were like a school girl. I didn’t dare say no.”

I stood speechless.

“The circles were too much.” Jeb glared at his sister in disgust.

“She kept screaming, go faster. What else could I do?”

I couldn’t remember any of it.

Merideth frowned, “Jeb was holding his ferret when you walked into the living room. Your giggling startled the thing and he jumped out of Jeb’s lap.”

“You ran like it was going to attack you, but you didn’t clear the doorway.” Jeb scowled. “Skuttle doesn’t bite unless you piss him off.”

“That’s where the bump came from.” Merideth said, “We let you rest in Jeb’s dark room.”

I needed to quit studying so much.

Next to the nightstand sat my red purse along with my red pumps Merideth insisted I wear, “Makes you look more exciting.”

Smack

The other morning when I awoke I had the work ‘smack’ just pop into my head as if someone said it. I lay there thinking about it. Maybe my mind is like a computer rebooting with words. I generally read words before I go to bed so it makes since, right? But smack? Smack what? Smack dab in the morning? Smackeroos? Or how about SmackPrint.com? (that’s if I end up self-publishing right?) I guess I will take whatever smacks into my head and see if it fits somewhere in my life. That’s what writers do.

Memories

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Memories

I gazed into the crowd filled stadium. Their cheers seeped into my skin, leaving a sweet taste in my mouth. I took in a refreshing breath. I was ready, physically and mentally.
I swung my racket while looking over to my opponent. Jan-Michael Gambill from the professional circuit. He tipped his ball cap in my direction.
Even though I was the underdog in the match I was excited to give it my all. The phrase, “Just because he’s strong doesn’t mean he can’t be beat,” echoed in my ears. I wanted to take my passion and let it trump logic. Beat the odds.
Feeling pumped, I jogged in place on the green court to warm my blood and loosen my muscles.
“Play!” The chair umpire said.
Jan-Mike had the first serve. I gripped in my ready position, eyes on the ball. It launched over to my side with speed. I volleyed it back then centered myself for the next hit. The crowd clapped and fueled my desire for another successful slam.
My backhand swing returned the ball and the throng of people yelled their surprise. “Ya, Max!”
The commentator declared, “We’ve got ourselves a game.”
I didn’t want to loose my momentum. My next hit came out with a grunt.
Jan-Michael missed it.
“Ooh,” pinged off the walls of the crowd as the ball barely hit over the baseline.
Every moment counted.
The ball torpedoed back at me. I hurried and loaded my weight onto my back foot and coiled for extra torque.
The crowd went silent.
Okay, okay, it didn’t go like that. I didn’t play Jan-Michael Gambill, but it was just about as intense.
It was the high school championship. The announcer listed off my opponent’s name but I couldn’t remember it. All I saw was purple and I preferred Mustang royal blue. The Sting Rays were undefeated so I had to make sure I played my best game.
I had the serve. I extended my right arm in the air and tossed the ball up. I swung hard and ball flew over the net with sharpness. I heard my mom yell, “That’s the way to do it.”
My shoes squeaked as I dashed across the green court hitting the ball. Our volleying back and forth left us out of breath. Backhand, forehand, all holding the grip with strength. And then–I missed the ball.
I had to win, for me, for my team.
With my hands clenching the racket, I focused my eyes. My heartbeat erratic. When I saw his arm straighten, I sank into a squat for more spring. The ball launched in my direction but the officiator yelled, “Foot fault.”
Relief emptied my lungs. I had the control again. The pressure to succeed crowded around me like the fence lining the court. To my right my teammate, Chuck battled for his own win but I had to ignore his game.
I served and my opponent missed. An easy point. I made another point and another. Confidence swelled in my head as I won the first set, but then the second set went in his favor.
I glanced over at Chuck’s scoreboard, he lost his match. Additional weight sat on my shoulders, I took in a deep breath and my head spun. I started seeing spots, big enough spots that I worried I wouldn’t be able to tell which one was a ball.
Alright, Alright, I exaggerated. I wasn’t in the state championship game, but I did go and watch it. Our high school barely won.
I actually played ping pong with my younger brother, Tyrell, but my dad was watching the Wimbledon match on TV.
My hits did hurl over the tiny net with speed, and we did volley back and forth before either one of us scored. There were enough times that we fought over the rules that we needed a referee.
“Quiet!” My dad yelled a few times, but it only fueled our disagreements.
Even though Tyrell was younger, he won most games so I was still the underdog. I wanted to flip the script and finally gain the title of ‘Champion,’ but it was like my paddle had holes in it. The ball slipped passed me too many times. Here it was my turn to tear through the opening before me, I had to be serious and hit with skill to come off conqueror.
I crouched over the table in my position for victory. This was it, I just knew it.
The white ball zipped over the net and hit me.
“Ow, my eye. You idiot.” I yelped.
My dad flew off the couch. “That’s it! Give me the ball.”
Tyrell laughed, “Don’t ask Max to get it. He can’t see a ball even when it hits him in the face.”
“Funny!” I yelled as my eye watered.
“And the game goes on,” Tyrell said as he walked off into his bedroom.

Bad Filters

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Some filters are good, but those used in writing can weaken the story. Filtered words stop or rather separate the reader from experiencing the action in the story. When observations are filtered through the narrator’s voice something gets lost. The action isn’t as clear as it could be or as immediate as it should be. Imagine what gets lost when someone is talking underwater. Okay, humor me. That’s probably not the example to use, but this action would still be delayed and confusing, so it has to be somewhat similar, right?

The way to avoid this is to watch for words like: to see, to hear, to watch, to touch, to wonder, to realize, seem/seemed, felt/feel, know/knew, sounds like, notice, remember. This is something I’m learning to look for as I edit. It’s easy to write with these filters standing in the way. 

Example: Mike felt sick as he walked up to the corner where there had been an accident. He didn’t see it happen, but he saw the man slumped over the steering wheel. He heard the moans and groans as the first responder asked the man questions. He wondered what he could do to help. Did he even ask? Others already helped. Time seemed to stand still until the ambulance arrived.

Removing filters: Mike’s stomach churned. He didn’t see the accident happen, but that didn’t matter. The man in the car slumped over the steering wheel. His moans and groans pierced through the air as the first responder asked questions. Could Mike do anything to help? Did he ask? Others already helped. Time stood still until the ambulance arrived. 

To pull the reader into the fictional world of the characters, authors have to provide events and circumstances that make the reader care. The way to do that is by bringing the reader into the fictional world with the characters so they also experience it. Tricky, yes. But there are tips to help. Removing filters is one way. 

Are there filters in real life that separate us from having a closer relationship with those around us? One is not looking others in the eyes. Another big one is time. We must spend time together to help us care and empathize with others.

Hopefully we can all learn to get rid of those bad filters that stand in the way of connecting with each other on paper and in real life.

A chance of Knowing

THE CHANCE OF KNOWING

Tara had fifteen minutes to make it to work, so there was no way to avoid the railroad. When she turned left, she saw the towering guard rail and sign, “Please don’t flash red.”

For nearly three months she’d steered clear of the tracks. The closer she drove the more feverish she felt. She tried to roll down her broken window but her sweaty hands and weak grip made it impossible. Her foot weighed down the petal. “Not now, Tara. It will all work out.” 

Her foot slipped and the car lagged, spilling her protein shake over her new running shoes. “Crap.” She leaned over to wipe the chocolate film off the carpet and pick up the shoe. The time on dashboard made her heart beat faster. She had no time to waste.

A blue pickup truck pulled in front of her and she couldn’t see past the camper shell. “Oh man, I can’t see the spruce tree. Goosebumps crawled up her arm and a vision flashed before her eyes of a little boy picking up rocks to throw between the railroad tracks.

“No!” Tara yelled, shaking her head. The illusion faded. “This is different.” Tara denied the possibility of seeing this boy while awake.

The sweet innocence of the golden haired child haunted Tara the most. Dreams weren’t reality, but Tara had avoided this area to make sure.

Without warning, the truck stopped. Tara slammed on her brakes to avoid hitting the back bumper. A loud screech echoed in her ears.

The bell rang as the cross arm dropped.

On the verge of tears, Tara covered her face, “How can this be happening? This is real life!”

When Tara opened her eyes all she saw was the back end of the truck. In the reoccurring dream, her silver Honda sat between the little boy and the train. Repeatedly, she had listened to the squeal of halting brakes, which always made her blood turn cold. But this was different. She couldn’t see the track. Was the boy there?

Exiting the car, she ran in her high heels to the crossing. Inconsistencies made Tara doubt this had anything to do with the dream plaguing her nights. In the nightmare, the tender boy threw his rocks over the tracks as he walked along side the rail but he wasn’t there.

The blaring truck horn paled in comparison to the monstrous honk of the oncoming train. Tara waved her hand acknowledging the truck’s warning with a sigh of relief. “Thank heavens.”

When she turned to leave, something red by the tree caught her eye. She turned just as the boy stepped on the rail. His back faced her.

How could he not sense the train behind him, or even hear it?

There was no time to analyze. The train was coming fast. Tara sprinted and threw herself around the boy’s tiny frame. They both tumbled to the ground, but Tara’s foot didn’t clear the track in time. The train seared passed the rail without hearing Tara scream in agony.

Despite the pain, victory flooded her heart; the young boy was safe.

Darkness sank into Tara’s mind as all lights went out.

She woke up in a hospital bed with her leg in a sling.

The beep from the monitors alarmed her. “Where am I?” She noticed the IV in her arm.

Her mother sprang out of the chair. “It’s okay. Everything is okay.” She held Tara’s hand.

“Where’s the boy?” Tara tried to move but an intense pain shot through her leg.

“Take it easy, dear.” Her mother caressed her arm.“The boy is home with his mother. They’re the ones who sent all these flowers.” The room looked like a flower garden. “They’re so thankful you rescued their deaf son.”

“Deaf?”

“Yes, his mother tried to watch him from the end of her street but got distracted. You saved his life.”

The memory of sheltering the boy flashed before her eyes.

“For months my dreams were haunted. I never saw him get crushed by the train, but I heard the brakes and assumed the worst.”

“I understand.” Her mother kissed her forehead. “The train never used his brakes. You both appeared on the scene too fast. The only brakes others reported hearing were yours, all before the train came.”

Tara frowned. “Why did I have that strange dream then?”

“Maybe the dream helped you be in the right place at the right time.” Her mother smiled.

“Then why didn’t it happen the way I dreamed it? The pickup was never in my dream,” Tara lifted up slightly and winced.

“Let me get the nurse. They don’t want you hurting.” Her mother pushed the nurse’s button and said, “Maybe the truck forced you out on the road where you needed to be.”

“In the dream, the boy was never between the tracks, he always walked on my side where I could see him.”

“Honey, you were precisely were you needed to be to make a difference.”

“If this was God’s way of protecting the boy why wouldn’t he just have . . .”

Her mother tapped her finger over Tara’s lips. “‘Be still and know that He is God.’”

Tara stared out the window in a daze.

The nurse came in with medication and started the blood pressure cuff. “You made the news tonight, you’re quite the celebrity.” She pulled out her pen. “Sorry you won’t be running marathons anymore, but at least you still have your foot.” The nurse jotted down numbers in her file.

A quiet peace settled deep within Tara’s bones, she’d helped God protect one of his little ones.

In the corner of her eye she saw a little blonde boy, she turned toward the door where the precious deaf child held his mother’s hand. Any remorse of not being able to run melted away after seeing his big smile.

He pointed in excitement and signed with his hands. His mother said, “I know, that is the nice lady who gave you the hug.”

Broadening your view, or saving your back

My husband’s back started bothering him. He thought for sure it was our queen size bed. Yes, we’ve slept on a WAVE-LESS waterbed since we married. (And yes it’s been a novelty for all of my children’s friends, and I quote, “That’s awesome.”) We’ve replaced the foam mattress once.

Even though my husband was complaining I wasn’t willing to give up the softness and warmth it provided. I’m like the princess and the pea; I have to have a soft, comfy bedding or I don’t sleep. My husband added a pad on his side to help level out the middle of the bed. It worked for a while (almost a year) and then he finally started sleeping upstairs on the loft. I still wasn’t willing to budge much, I liked being able to snuggle into a warm bed that formed around me like my own personal cocoon. But then I was waking up with a kinked neck. However, I was stuck in my ways and wasn’t willing to admit it was probably my bed that was causing the problem.

Then one night my oldest daughter slept in my bed with me. We had our own slumber party while my husband slept on the loft on the too firm queen bed. We have two queen beds up there for company to sleep on. Next morning she said that her back hurt. It was then I said, “Okay, it’s time to get a new bed.” My husband said if we were going to update we would buy a King size.

We went shopping and it wasn’t until we bought the new mattresses that I realized how small a queen is. Yes, I had to approve of the new bed before we bought it. And I do have to say that it felt softer at the store than when we brought it home. But now I love it. In fact now I’m like, ‘why did we wait so long.’ (but I won’t say that too loud my husband might hear. lol He’s a good man to live with this finicky, opinionated wife)

Isn’t this a lot like life? We get stuck in our ways and don’t, or won’t look beyond our believes. Or habits. But once we do expand our horizons our life is usually richer and more fulfilling.

This can apply to writing too. Sometimes we box ourself in when we could have more feet and inches to our plot, our characters, and our scenes. Many times it’s through someone else’s eyes that helps see that the picture is much bigger than a queen size bed! And a whole lot more comfortable. (And you can turn on your heating pad for warmth on the days you need.)