A Christmas Story To Touch Your Heart by C. C. Ansardi

From our new anthology, A Stone Mountain Christmas102decover-0x4_1870x2500-5

CHARLIE’S MIRACLE

 by
C. C. Ansardi

If this keeps up, you’ll be able to build a snow man, Charlie.”

His red curls sparked as he ducked back from the brightness of the window, leaving a smudge from where his face pressed against the glass. Charlie turned and threw me a quick grin. That grin of his could light up a room, and it certainly lit up my heart.

I dreaded the Christmas holidays. Charlie and I were facing them alone. His father was in Afghanistan, his mother on the run from an abusive man, so Charlie and I had only each other. But with the wonderland those tiny flakes promised hope surged from deep within, and I gratefully accepted it.

Snow was rare in the South, but a white Christmas had been predicted by all the weather stations. Folks celebrate snow in Georgia! They even name it—Snow jam! Snow Jam ends all traffic, all work, and all residents are expected to engage exclusively in activities such as sledding, snowball fights, and lumpy snowmen competitions. All of this must be followed by cups of foamy, hot chocolate.

Charlie’s fascination with the falling snow gave me hope. This sad little boy facing the holidays without his parents needed a distraction. Six years old and adorable with his fiery curls and brown eyes that could cut glass or turn a little girl starry-eyed, my grandson had become my Christmas project.

Craig, my son and Charlie’s father, was deployed with the U.S. Army. His letters had arrived from both Afghanistan and Iraq over the past two years. A month before Craig’s letters had stopped coming from anywhere, so in addition to Charlie, I had that to worry about.

But my immediate concern was Charlie’s attitude. Charlie didn’t believe in Santa Claus. Not to mention the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny.

“They’re lies, Grandma!” he had screamed this at me, earlier in the month after I’d asked him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas.

“Why do you say that?” His little tirade had shocked me. Didn’t every child look forward to Santa Claus and gifts? I had to get to the bottom of this. In spite of Charlie’s problems, and he had a lot of them for his tender age, I thought the Christmas season would bring him into a happier place.

“Because Jack said so, and last year he showed me the toys I was supposed to get from Santa Claus!” Charlie plopped down in the middle of the living room and glared at me. “Jack didn’t want to wrap them, said it was a waste of time and he wasn’t my daddy, so he didn’t have to pretend he was an old fat man in a red suit. Then

Mama cried and Jack called her bad names.”

Charlie’s parents divorced two years ago, and until this past September Charlie lived in Memphis with Delia, his mother, and her boyfriend Jack, a thin, wiry type with his eyes set too close, and who never looked clean. That’s a feature I’ve always considered untrustworthy, and Jack certainly couldn’t be trusted.

Trying to still my anger at Charlie’s revelation, I said, “Let’s have grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, Charlie.” Cheese is a happy food.

While I prepared our lunch I sent all manner of silent curses on a beeline to Memphis and directly targeted to Jack and his weasel eyes. For a long time I’d suspected things were wrong in Charlie’s life, but my visits with him had been few. Because I was a sixty-three year old widow who worked part-time and had a modest income, I’d made very few trips from Stone Mountain, Georgia to Memphis to see him. Then one night in July a scared and tearful Delia knocked on my door. Tiny Charlie stood beside her, a frown on his face and an ugly, dark bruise on his right arm. Delia had a huge suitcase. The pitiful child dragged a bulging duffel bag.

I made a late dinner for them, and while we were having our dessert Charlie fell asleep in his chair. “He’s so tired,” Delia said. “He’s been so scared.” She twisted in her chair and stared directly into my eyes. “You have to take care of Charlie now,” she said. “Jack isn’t safe to be around anymore.” Delia had her own bruises, but she refused to talk about them.

She leaned down and wrapped her arms around her son, gently shaking him awake. “Baby, you have to stay with Grandma until we can live together again,” she told him. A tearful Charlie and I watched her get into a cab.

“I’m going to a shelter,” she told us. “and then wherever I’ll be safe.”

I was thrilled to have Charlie under my care. I’d spent restless nights worrying about that little boy and what he might be going through. Now that I had him I’d make his life so interesting and full of joy he would lose that frown and smile the beautiful smile I knew he owned.

Living with Jack had left its imprint on the little boy. While I looked forward to restoring a normal childhood to him, I had no clue of the obstacles I would face.

C. C. has a short story, ” End of the World Bar”,  in Haunting Tales of Spirit Lake,    http://Amzn.to/1oYOmF8

Shaman Woman, a novel by C. C. Ansardi, is available at Amazon.com  http://amzn.to/1yzk8K4

Shaman Woman

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Haunting Tales of Spirit Lake, our Halloween anthology/ Nan Monroe

From Haunting Tales of Spirit Lake

SYBILLA DISANTE AND THE SEPIA WORLD

By

Nan Monroe

The night before my parents were killed in a car accident I dreamed of a huge baby buggy smashing through a window of the twentieth floor of a high rise.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a great talker. My custom has always been to observe, listen, and hold my thoughts inside. People call me “unknowable,” and I can’t say they’re wrong. After the accident I hugged my silence more closely than ever, but in a strange moment when I felt my heart would turn inside out if I didn’t speak I told Ethan Chance about my dream. Ethan was my closest friend, because among all the kids my age, seventeen, only he shared my passion for black-and-white movies. Even when I don’t care to talk about my feelings or my views on society and politics, I can enjoy a good conversation about Casablanca or Metropolis.
He listened as I described the shattering window and the buggy disappearing over the ledge. Then he told me in an awed hush, “You’re psychic.”
I laughed him off but cringed inside. I might like to tell myself stories about ghosts and imagine that the wall separating past from present from future might be frayed in spots, but to suggest I might be psychic was to drag those gossamer daydreams into the bitter cold realm of reality. I didn’t want to be psychic. If I’d somehow prophesied my parents’ deaths, then the right word from me might have saved them. This I couldn’t bear to think. So I changed the subject very quickly to Dr. Strangelove.
Yet in the days that followed I started to wonder whether my sweet-natured cinephile friend had cursed me, or if my Creek grandmother had been right when she told me that gifts can be born from grief. My sense of sight began to play tricks. When I walked alone on the edge of the wood that bordered Spirit Lake I would spy a ripple in the air, such as we sometimes see in the thick heat of a summer day. It looked like a curtain moving, and I thought I could glimpse a shadow-scape beyond the lush trees and glassy lake, a scene with the sepia shade of a nineteenth-century photograph. People moved through it in the garb of long ago, going through the motions of working and chatting with each other and not paying me the slightest heed.

Check out Haunting Tales of Spirit Lake (kindle and paperback)
http://amzn.to/1oYOmF8″ title=”Haunting Tales of Spirit Lake”>

Melba Moon (Author), Mary Marvella (Author), Jackie Rod (Author), Jodi Vaughn (Author), Georgiana Fields (Author), C. C. Ansardi (Author), Nan Monroe (Author), Yasmin Bakhtiari (Author), John Robinson (Author)

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Love Me Some “ing” Verbs.

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Turning from the window, Mary faced her laptop to write her blog.

Love me some ing verbs!

I live in the Deep South, so what else is new? Many of us use ing verbs in our writing to add variety to our sentence structure. We use them in dialogue and in narrative. The problem is that MANY writers use ing verbs incorrectly. Yes, we do. Though I am a grammar teacher, I’ll try to make my explanations simple. (snort)

“I’m fixin’ to go to the store.” works in dialogue if your character speaks that way.

Writing fixing ruins the Southern part of that structure.

“I am going to the store.” works to show intent or in answer to a question about   where a character is going. (There is nothing wrong with using present progressive tenses.  We have a variety of tenses, just as we have a variety of tools in our writing tool boxes.)

Example A:

“Why are you wearing your coat?” Bill asked. ” You don’t need to go anywhere.”

“I am going to the store.” Jean grabbed her keys, glaring at him.

I could have said,

Jean glared at Bill as she grabbed her keys.

or

 Glaring at him, Jean grabbed her keys.

Example B:

“I am going to the store tomorrow.”

or

 “I will be going to the store tomorrow.”

might sound better as  “I’ll go to the store tomorrow.”

Some of the following sentences need fixin’.

I’d love your input! (hint, you might need to replace one sentence with two.)

Example C:

“But we speak that way,” you might object, slamming the door and putting your coat on.

Example D:

Sam heard the bear roaring as he was running into the forest and trampling the small plants in his way.

Example E:

Eating a good breakfast is good when one is dancing for exercise.

Example F:

Sue stared at Greg’s broad shoulders, wanting to run her hand through his shaggy hair and his chiseled cheekbones.

Example G:

 He saw a building walking around a corner.

Example H:

 Share a bad use of an –ing verb that made you sputter!

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Send you muse packing

I went to Dragoncon in September, invited by my good friend, Nancy Knight. Wow, the hotels were so crowded and all the costumes! Eventually I made my way to the workshop room and was lucky enough to attend a workshop hosted by Nancy. I forgot the name of the workshop but it had something to do with men and muscles. Actually, there were three authors of science fiction. Two were on the New York Times Best Seller’s List. The third writer was published as well and was on his way to becoming as well known. In the area of science fiction, I am sure these writers are legends. Did I know them? No. Did it matter? No. Was I just as impressed as if they were authors I was familiar with? Yes. And did I learn a great deal? Yes.  In my opinion, writing is writing. I have immense respect for all kinds of writing, whether or not it is a genre I read.

First, I was most impressed with their intelligence. I can’t even imagine being able to write a 13 or 15 book series. But these men were not only brilliant, they were also friendly, humble, and very hard working.  These writers work every day, seven days a week. They write, write, and write, and then they write some more.  I am not saying everyone needs to work at that level, but one of the writers said he didn’t believe in writer’s block. That was a luxury. Even if you are stuck, your write through it.  If he didn’t know what he was going to write, or didn’t feel like writing, he wrote anyway. He said that’s what we do, we write. Like John Robinson said in one of his previous posts, “Just get it done, you can always edit it later.”  (at least that’s the gist of what he said.)

So, I will take those words to heart. I know from experience, writing is writing, period.  And writing makes you a better writer. So whether it’s research, or editing,or reading, it still comes back at the end of the day to writing. You can research all you want, but it’s still important to get something new for the day.

Good luck!

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East Metro Christian Writers Conference

                        East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers Conference

 

Last weekend I attended the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers Conference.  Among the guest speakers were nationally known Cecil Murphy, Twila Belk, and Marlene Bagnull.  It was a time for me to soak up all the relationships, improve my craft, and experience a life-changing event.  Sporting a twinkle in his eye and curls on his forehead, Cec gave a dynamic speech that left us rolling in the aisles.  Twila, who serves as his handsome ‘Girl Friday’, came all the way from Iowa.  Marlene touched our hearts with her faith, and made us want to attend her conference in Philadelphia.

The benefits of attending writing conferences cannot be measured at the time of the experience.  The networking, workshops, and encouragement will reach far into the future.  I encourage all writers to attend several conferences each year.  There are many regional conferences that are affordable, and you can save for a national conference every other year.  Both will broaden your perspective and get the creative juices flowing.

The writing environment is so invigorating.  You get to meet writers from all over the country or the world.  You can sit at the knees of multi-published writers and experienced faculty.  Take the opportunities to build relationships with these talented agents, editors, and writers.  If these people give you their contact info, write and thank them immediately for the privilege of getting to know them.

When an agent or editor asks you to submit your work don’t delay.  One personal contact is worth one hundred queries to an unknown source.  The more experienced eyes you have to read your work, the better your chance of improving your work in progress and getting published.  New friends from conferences today will cheer you on to victory and promote your published work tomorrow.

The expense of attending a writing conference is well worth the time and money.  The new tips you learn and the great contacts you make are money in the bank to be used in the future.  Above all, writing conferences help you hone your craft, expand your horizons, and make new friends for a lifetime.   Networking at its best!

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A Matter of Trust

Yours truly, writing as MJ Flournoy, has a new book out. A Matter of Trust is a romantic suspense with paranormal elements and was published by Renaissance Ebooks, Sizzler Intoxication Line.

The release date was September 22, 2013 and I am thrilled for Jolie and Mac to have their story in print. There is another character in the book that I found very compelling. In fact, she almost took over the book. It took both me and Mary Marvella to keep the Maniac under control. When a secondary character has a strong, compelling voice and the author really likes the character, they tend to try to take over. But that is something a good editor can help you with fixing. Often a writer gets so caught in the character, that she/he doesn’t realize when that secondary character is trying to upstage the hero or heroine.

Getting the balance right is often A Matter of Trust. Trust your editor, she or he won’t steer you wrong. Read below, you’ll see what I mean!

Excerpt:

A Coke, a fat one, or an orange soda.

“Not gonna happen.” Jolie Wyngate shrugged, climbed from her car and hurried toward the convenience store to pick up a quick snack before continuing on her way south.

And why not?

“Because I have to drive another hundred and fifty miles, and I don’t intend to stop every half hour for potty breaks.”

You are so not any fun! It’s just a Coke, for Pete’s sake.

“And you, lady, are so predictable.”

Make it chocolate then.

Jolie smiled.

Chocolate, a compromise with which she could live. “Right.”

And stop speaking out loud, people will think you’re crazy.

“Me crazy? Get real, Maniac, I’ve talked to you since childhood. If I haven’t landed in the loony bin by now, I hardly think it’s going to happen.”

Humor me, then.

Jolie shrugged, continuing toward the store. She’d pick out a chocolate bar to keep her unseen companion happy.

Serve you right if I quit talking to you all together.

“Put it in writing.” Jolie reached for the door handle.

A giggle erupted within Jolie’s mind. Then, in the tone Jolie hated hearing: Shush, pay attention. There’s something wrong in there.

Oh, hell. Jolie bit the soft flesh of her lower lip. Her hand tingled as if the door was electrified.

Shit, this was the real reason for the Maniac’s sudden thirst.

The cool, dry air of the convenience store surrounded her when she stepped through the open door. For a second, the young clerk behind the counter looked up from the newspaper spread in front of her. Nothing. Jolie expelled a breath of relief, exchanged a quick smile with the clerk, and then headed toward the candy isle.

Then she saw her. The little girl wandered listlessly down the candy isle, her small hand trailing over the rows of candy, gently touching, but taking nothing. Jolie watched her for a moment, then scanned the store and saw no one in sight.

The child turned, her gaze lifting until it found Jolie. She tilted her head to the side, her eyes searching Jolie’s for an instant. Then she moved closer and stared up at her. The expression on the small face caused Jolie’s heart to turn over. She knelt to the child’s level and touched the riot of red curls. A jolt of emotion skittered along Jolie’s spine, but Jolie forced herself not to pull away.

“Hey, sweetie, does your mommy know you’re out here alone?”

The little girl looked about three. She continued to stare mutely. Jolie smiled at her. “That your mommy behind the counter?”

She lifted the child into her arms. Unprepared for the sudden shock of pain and despair that engulfed her, Jolie almost dropped her. Instead, she tightened her arms instinctively around thefrail body.

Something’s not right.

Slowly the child shook her head. She lifted her small hand and traced a line down Jolie’s

cheek, her touch feather-light. Sadness engulfed Jolie at the child’s soft touch.

You feel it.

Jolie pushed the intrusive thought aside. With the small child still in her arms, she moved toward the checkout counter. “Your little girl?” Jolie asked. “Found her wandering on the candy aisle.”

The clerk focused a smile on the little girl. “I wish, got me two boys. Pretty little thing, ain’t she?”

“She’s here all alone?” Jolie tightened her grip on the child.

“Looking for yourself a new momma, are you, Elizabeth?”

A voice from behind her startled Jolie. Her grip tightened on the small child. She whirled

around. Her fight or flight instinct kicked in when she faced a man with long, dirty-blond hair, scraggly beard and dirty clothes. He reached to take the child from her arms.

The tiny body shrank deeper into Jolie’s arms. Her small hands gripped tightly to Jolie’s shirt. Her brown eyes widened and filled with tears, but not a word crossed her lips.

“That’s her grampa,” the clerk explained when the man pulled the resistant child from Jolie’sarms.

Panic filled Jolie. The child’s eyes never left hers while the man paid for his cigarettes and

beer. Large brown eyes, shadowed by a sadness much too deep for her years, eyes that tugged at Jolie’s heart.

Do something: don’t let him take her.

Not now, she silently warned the Maniac.

Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

****

www.authormjflournoy.wordpress.com

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I Need It Thursday

“I don’t need it good, I need it Thursday!” (Unknown, but probably an editor)

Gilded Dragonfly is dealing with a few personal issues, and I’m rushing around getting ready for yet another business trip, so I’ll keep this brief.

A few years back I participated in a fiction writing workshop, where we were given exactly one hour to write a four-page short story.  Any topic, any style – but get it done in 60 minutes.  One hour later I had “The Slippery Slope,” a four-page story about a ghost who was haunted by a living person.  I remember two things about the story:
1. It sucked.
2. It got finished.

It went around and around in a big circle in my head.  It sucked, but it got done.  But it sucked.  But it got done.  But it really, really sucked.  And so on, until I finally realized what the instructor, a horror author whose name you’d probably recognize, was trying to communicate to us:  that writing is as much a craft as it is an art, and only a blessed few will ever achieve perfection.  Anyone who has to write to a regular schedule – newspapers, technical writers, and now even bloggers – knows what it’s like to face that looming blank space as the minutes tick away.  And because nobody wants to turn in their own “Slippery Slope,” the temptation remains to edit and proof and change and revise, over and over again, in pursuit of that magical bullseye.

Well, give it a rest.  For once, ignore your form and just focus on crossing the finish line.  Just get it done.  If it sucks that badly, do it over – and get it done.  Repeat until repetition becomes no longer necessary.  Worry about polishing after you’ve got the hang of producing.

Napoleon Bonaparte is rumored to have said something like, “It takes seventy thousand casualties to train one lieutenant colonel.”  George Patton is known to have said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”  Josef Stalin, definitely a man who knew how to get things done, said something like, “Quantity has a quality all its own.”  Although often misquoted, author Malcolm Gladwell has written that you must invest ten thousand hours of practice to become a world-class expert in anything.  And I’m fond of saying that the perfect is the enemy of the good, while the good is the enemy of the good-enough.  Most bosses don’t appreciate that last sentiment, but editors will understand.

Who knows how much each of us will have to work at this elusive obsession of ours before we get really good at it?  So start today:  just begin cranking out the words.  Sooner or later you’ll drain away all the sludge and cobwebs that were soiling your artistry and gumming up your craftsmanship, and your work will be both good and done on Thursday!

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