Sunday, April 1, 2018

Writing What We Are

Me with the Easter Bunny

So much of who we are flows into our writing.  Or, at least, it does for me.  This Easter morning, memories of childhood Easters seep through the cracks.

My parents would hide Easter baskets somewhere in the house for me and my brother.  They kept the same wicker baskets from year to year, but would fill them with our favorites and,  perhaps, something new they thought we’d like.  Every year, they would throw in something we disliked, too.  Things like black jelly beans (my mom’s favorite) and white chocolate (my dad’s favorite).  And, of course, they were always happy to take it off our hands.

My grandmother would purchase candy for the house, such as one or two pound eggs filled with chocolate buttercream, fruit and nut, peanut butter, and my personal favorite, coconut.  After sampling some candy, we feasted on my mother’s delicious cooking.

For Bow of the Moon (The World In-between 2), I tapped into my childhood Easters as well as other far flung memories and experiences when writing the following scene:

Twenty minutes later, Berty found himself on a route he knew well.  From the car, he glanced at the houses he knew since childhood.  He used to ride his bike on the streets on which he drove.  He used to play in the backyards of the houses he passed.  The houses, which were built in the sixties and seventies, looked so much smaller to him as an adult.

Rounding the bend, he parked in front of the two-story brick house that he knew well.  The red brick was speckled with black and beige bricks.  He stood on the small covered porch with Hope’s candy as he rang the doorbell.  When his father answered the door, the warm, smoky aroma of ham baking escaped onto the porch.  Inhaling deeply, Berty stepped inside.

After hugging his son, George said, “Your mom wants all the candy in the living room.”

Walking into the living room, Berty placed his candy on the coffee table next to the large chocolate eggs and a two foot chocolate bunny.  Berty’s candy was the only non-chocolate candy on the table, but chocolate was well represented.  After taking one last good look at the array of dark, milk and white chocolate, Berty followed his father down the short hall into the kitchen.

His parents’ kitchen permeated with smells that Berty loved.  He walked next to Kate stirring the liquid contents of a pot on the stove.  “Hey mom,” he said.  “Whatcha makin’?”

Kate kissed her son on the cheek, then answered, “Gravy for the mashed potatoes.”  Rapidly stirring, she poured a thin white liquid into the pot.

“Berty, give us a hand with these glasses,” said George.  He and Robert were plucking stemware from a wooden cabinet.

Crossing the kitchen, Berty relieved his father of glasses and followed Robert into the dining room.  On the table sat his mother’s favorite floral plates.  The buffet held baskets full of plastic green Easter grass in which Lillian arranged the candy from the living room.

“Hope is going to love these chicks and bunnies, Berty,” said Lillian as she nestled them into the grass.  “You have such an eye.”

Smiling slightly, Berty said, “I had help.”

“From a lady friend?” asked Lillian.

Knowing that she meant Silvia, Berty reluctantly answered, “Yes.”

Glancing out the window, Robert said, “The kids just pulled up.  Do you need help finishing that Lill?”

Lillian stood back to admire her work.  “No, it’s done,” she answered turning a figurine slightly.

“You tell Mom; I’ll get the door,” George said to Berty.

Walking back into the kitchen, Kate said, “I heard Robert.  Can you lift the ham onto that platter for me?”

“Absolutely.”  Grabbing two forks, Berty sunk them into the mahogany hued meat.

After he placed the ham on the large white platter, Kate asked, “Where is Silvia spending Easter?”

With a wave of panic washing over him, Berty quickly closed his eyes.  Focusing on her dark red hair, he quickly saw her sitting at a table with six small children and a young woman with her brown hair hastily pinned back.  The children passed food around the table while the woman took a moment to catch her breath.

Opening his eyes, he said, “She is having dinner on a farm.  The farmer broke his ankle and Silvia is helping him and his wife with one child especially.”

“She sounds like a lovely woman.  I hope we get to meet her sometime,” said Kate pouring gravy into a large gravy boat.

Jon and Teresa entered the kitchen distracting Kate.  Berty dumped peas into a bowl as he watched his family interact.  His mind escaped to Silvia sitting around the table.  He wondered why he said anything about a farm or a broken ankle.  Kate corralling her children into the dining room brought Berty’s mind back to the confines of his parents’ kitchen.

In the dining room, Hope said, “Ooh, look at all that candy.  How come the Easter Bunny brought so much here?”

“He didn’t,” Kate answered sweetly.  “Some he left here, some was left at your other grandparents’ and some he left at your Uncle Berty’s.”

During dinner, conversation mainly focused around George’s business, which Jon recently inherited.
“If we can get this account, it would be a huge boom for us, Dad,” said Jon.  “It would give us a strong international presence.”

“You’ve been working on it for some time.  When do you think they will make their decision?” asked George.

“Next month, hopefully,” Jon answered.  “We’re not the only ones vying for their business.”

Berty lost track of the rest of the conversation when Hope asked, “Uncle Berty, do they eat ham in the Land of Sages?”

Smiling warmly, Lillian breathed, “She’s been reading your column.”

“Of course they do,” Berty replied.  “Ham, peas, mash with gravy, all of it.”

Hope nodded sharply with a smile before shoveling a forkful of mashed potatoes in her mouth.

Throughout dinner, Hope did not ask any more questions about the Land of Sages, but Berty suspected that she had been thinking about it.  After the plates from dinner had been cleared, George sliced fruit and nut, peanut butter and coconut eggs while Robert poured Irish Cream in etched cordial glasses.

The filling Easter meal did not make Berty forget about what he saw Silvia doing.  Snatching his chance after coffee, he crept upstairs.  Opening the first door on his right, he entered a bedroom lost in time.

Old college textbooks lazily filled a shelf.  Awards with the name Hubert Chase hung proudly on the walls.  The twin bed displayed his post-college blue plaid comforter.

Berty sat on his old bed and closed his eyes.  Silvia sat at the same table, although alone.  The sound of shuffled footsteps proceeded a woman placing a tray on the table.

“How is he?” Silvia asked.

“Doing so well,” the woman answered.  “I do not know what we would have done if you did not show, Elder.”  Sitting, she took a breath.

Silvia smiled.  “I am happy to help.  He is going to have to stay off that ankle for awhile to allow the fracture to heal.”

“The kids and I can do his work until he is better,” answered the woman.  “At least the fields are planted.”

“Now that your husband is resting,” Silvia said as she rose from the table, “I am going to take a walk with Tait around the farm.  After the children go to bed, we will talk about my evaluation.”

Berty’s body bounced slightly.  When he opened his eyes, little brown eyes stared up at him.

“Hi, Hope,” he said.

“I want to meet a Fairy,” Hope mentioned.  “And an Elf.”

Still looking in her bright brown eyes, he said nothing.

“I have no school tomorrow,” she said.  “Take me with you.”

“Now is not the time,” said Berty.

Her whole body deflated.  “I still have to wait,” she said in a small voice.

Nodding, Berty said, “Sorry.”

Without another word, Hope slid off the bed.  Berty looked after her as she dragged out of his room with her head down.  Feeling awful, his finger traced the plaid lines on his comforter.

“It isn’t easy,” said a female voice from the open doorway.

When Berty looked up, Teresa walked towards him.  “What isn’t easy?” he asked.

Teresa leaned against his bed saying, “She believes in the Land of Sages more than she believes in the Easter Bunny.  Though I am not quite sure where Santa lies on that scale.”  She looked at her feet.  “I don’t know how she is going to take it when she finds out it isn’t real.”

Friday, February 2, 2018

Flash: Blind Date

Flash Fiction for Valentine's Day on display at my local library.

Teri tapped her toes to the beat of the background music in the coffee shop.  Early, as usual, she sipped an easy-to-drink grandé something or other while watching the door.  Every time it opened, she wondered if Steve walked inside.
Sure, she studied his photos before coming.  However, people tended to embellish or downright lie on the internet, especially on dating sites.  The profile stated that Steve was six-four, blond, blue-eyed with an athletic build.  His photos showed the blond part, the blue eyes part, and the not so shabby body part (under well-fitting clothes).  But, his blond might have gone bald and his athleticness could have been long before he found the glorious comfort of cake.  If those were even pictures of him and not ripped out of a magazine.
She glanced at her half gone coffee.  When she looked up, her stomach fluttered.  A man who looked a lot like Steve’s photos approached.  She met his gaze and his smile made his blue eyes dance.
“Teri,” he said, his voice deep.
Her insides melted.
“I thought I was going to be the early one.”  He chuckled.
“Hi.  Steve,” she said.  Her mind blanked before she continued with, “Sit down.  Please.  Did you get a coffee?”
“I will.  Do you need a fill up?”
She shook her head.
“I’ll be right back.”
While he joined the line, she dug a small mirror out of her purse.  She peeked at her teeth and her make-up.  Then, she watched Steve return with long, quick strides, stirring his steaming mug.
He sat across from her, his bright blue eyes sparkling.  He spoke.  She watched his lips move, trying not to imagine them on hers.  While they chatted, he inched as close as the table allowed.  Teri focused on his rugged, blond, stubbly beard, wondering how it would feel against her chin—scratchy or soft.  Blushing, he laughed, and she laughed with him.
He tipped his mug towards him.  “You wanna go for a walk?” he asked.
Teri nodded.  His gentle hand resting on the small of her back guided her outside.
As they strolled down the sidewalk, Steve took her hand.  She noticed the trees’ light green leaves fluttering in the breeze and flower boxes spilling onto the cement.  A slight giggle escaped her lips.  The city’s beauty promised such potential.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Iron Man and the Quest for a Better Beginning

Whilst wallowing in a sinus pressure haze, all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and veg-watch something familiar.  I chose Iron Man.

The movie begins with an attack on Stark’s motor envoy.  Then, it flashes back to all the important details about Tony and Stark Industries.  When it returns to the bombing aftermath, Tony begins his path to Iron Man (even if he doesn’t know it at the time).

It’s a great way to introduce a character, show character development, and create an origin story for a character that will last well into the series.

As I watched, I wondered if I could use the Iron Man method for my book.

The book about which I speak is Dreamweaver.  It doesn’t introduce a new character.  There’s no origin story here.  In fact, it’s a later book in a series with already well-established characters.  So, can I?

The next morning, I answered, “Yes.”

My main method for writing is to get the story out first, everything else comes later.  I have found that in my lapse with writing this book, I need to reread from the first page to continue.  I’m not keen about how it starts.  At first, I thought that mirroring the beginning of the first book was clever.  Then, I thought better of it.  Clever doesn’t always equal interesting to the reader.

For sixth book of the World In-between Series, I have an old character in a new setting.  How does he get there?  What’s the conflict?  How does he escape?

In flies Iron Man.

I’ve decided to start with Berty further into the conflict, where it will develop his character better than if I’d began earlier.  All the pertinent information about the what and how and magical fun can come in flashbacks.  I can sprinkle information instead of dumping, which I felt happened within my first chapters.

After rearranging, I like where it’s heading.  Berty’s in the thick and has to use his wit and know-how to get himself out.  Granted, this portion is already written.  But, I still have a long ways to go.  Sometimes, I find, that being happy with the start makes the rest flow to a better end.

Will Berty have his own version of a suit-perfecting montage later?  Will a carefully placed discarded object in the room give him what he needs to keep his girl from being Big Bad food?  Will his stumbling over an unknown obstacle save him from the Big Bad?  Only the pen will tell.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Big ‘18

On the docket for the New Year:

  • Dreamweaver (The World In-between, 6)
    • Truth be told, I didn’t get much series writing done last year.  This year is already different, writerly speaking.  Not to mention, book 7 wants to get on the page.

  • Cross Country Road Trip
    • Off to see America, or part of it anyway.  While journeying to family, hubby and I plan to visit some of the ancient and early American sites.  Mounds, glyphs, ruins, and nature.  It’s going to be great.

  • More Flash Fiction
    • My writers’ group regularly displays themed flash fiction and poetry in the local library.  I’ll be posting them here as well.

I anticipate a year full of writing, laughter, and adventure.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy Holidays!

In the cold darkness of winter, I hope you find your light.  See you in the New Year!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Christmas Cookie Tour Book Event

This Saturday, Nov 25th
11 am – 2 pm
Mount Pleasant Public Library, Mount Pleasant, PA

I’ll be joining other area authors at this Cookie Tour stop.

Going to be in the PA Laurel Highlands this weekend?  Come say hi and get a book or three.

There’ll be cookies!

The Borough of Mount Pleasant’s 4th annual Cookie Tour supports local businesses.  Tour starts at 10:30 am.  Get tour information, map, and a chance to win a $100 Visa card at the Gazebo in Veterans Park (corner of Diamond [PA 819] and Washington Streets).

See you there!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Halloween Flash

Letter to Nowhere

By: IE Castellano

Agostus Hoverall
Hillside Village Cemetery
Hillside Village, USA

1 November 2017

Haunt Council
Congress of Ghosts and Ghouls

Re: Mountain Top Inn

To whom it may concern:

The Mountain Top Inn accommodations have been quite unsatisfactory.  I have had the worst Halloween in three centuries during my visit.  This so called hotel needs to be stricken from the logs immediately.

In the rooms, the beds have too soft a mattress, allowing one to fall asleep easily and stay slumbering throughout the night.  Precise controls keep water at a constant warm or cool temperature regardless of fiddling.  The wide corridors lack tables, mirrors, vases, or other items, which could fall in front of, on top of, or behind guests as they traverse to and from their rooms.

Common areas have plenty of coffee cups, snacks, and scalding beverages.  Chairs and tables abound.  However, guests only look at their phones at all times.  They do not look up.  They do not see me, let alone pay attention to my haunting ways.

Consider this letter a formal complaint.  I fully expect the Haunt Council to send me elsewhere next Halloween.

Eternally yours,
Agostus Hoverall
Agostus Hoverall