Writing Prompt Wednesday 1/18/2017

There was a time where I would visit my father in the summer in a home that was surrounded by cornfields.

The house was old and rickety and it gave me creeps.

Choked with weeds and garbage, it reeked of poverty and in turn, a kid of social death I didn’t even want to fathom. He’d try in vain to invite kids from neighboring farms to visit but no one wanted to send their kids to his house. Who could blame them – the fear their child might get lost in a maze of abandoned appliances or somehow, worse, be murdered by the uneducated hoarder down the dusty road.

But he wasn’t a bad man. No matter how many teeth he’d let rot out of his face or how much he drank, he was a good man at heart.

A garbage man since he was sixteen when he dropped out of school, my father was not the most popular man in town. A recluse, wanting nothing more than to be left alone, he stuck his neck out to invite people over for me.

I didn’t get that until I was an adult.

The house, a faded yellow, nearly the color of the dead grass loomed strangely, crooked in its disrepair but not as large as it once had. The old man had never fixed anything inside or out. Feral cats used a broken basement window as their own gateway to the indoors, living in the lap of barn cat luxury. A dirt cellar I knew, with nothing but more garbage and castoffs he’d picked up at work.

“Got you this,” he’d say when I showed up that first day of summer. An old rusty bike that didn’t work or, as I got older, a weight bench with no weights.

Junk to my eyes.

Treasure to his.

Dozens of cars in desperate need of pulverizing stood sentry, waiting for the next king of the castle. They’d been there for years, waiting for whatever project he’d set them aside for. Certainly, none of them would ever run again. One of them had neither a hood nor an engine.

I used to wonder why my mom would ever let me stay here. Cursed her in fact, on more than one occasion. We didn’t live too far away and we certainly weren’t much farther up the economic food chain, but it wasn’t this.

When I was in the fifth grade I remember learning the word squalor in school and I thought, that’s where my father lives. In that house surrounded by cornfields. In squalor.
By the time I’d grown, I stopped visiting. It was too dirty and far too depressing to see a man dying a slow death in a filth he held dear.

More dear than he held me by far.

They were just things. Broken things that he loved.

I got the call that he’d passed while I was at work and I wasn’t sure how to react. We’d spoken just a few months before and he’d sounded old. He’d always been old. As long as I could remember he seemed old and weathered.

He’d been dead for at least a month, they told me. Natural causes as far as they could tell but he sat there, in that maze of relics, waiting to be found.

They condemned the house. In would be uninhabitable for all time. A complete tear down.
I was not surprised.

That house, hidden in the midst of the cornfields, would be no more.

#WpromptW

Writing Prompt Wednesday 1/11/12017

So, this week’s prompt was fun and challenging. It probably would have been more challenging if I’d set a genre to write in or a word count limit. But, I’m starting small and I want to make sure I can give myself something to stick to.

I wrote just a short blurb – I’m sure I could have written more or written an actual story around this, but I chose just to go with the short scene. I tend to write from a more character driven point of view.

I did challenge myself though by writing in the first person. I usually write in the third person. For some reason, and I’m not sure if people that write in first person have this problem, I have a VERY hard time keeping tenses consistent when writing in first person. So I found that I had to go back a few times and rewrite or rework things because I’d made a few errors.

I just chalked it up to the exercise working! The more practice I get, the better I’ll get at it!!

Enjoy!

****** ****** ******

I didn’t expect it to be so intimidating.

Stately, maybe. Impressive, sure. But intimidating?

I peered at the map in my hands and back up again. All I had to do was walk through the doors, take two lefts and a right.

I looked back at the Everything Library and shook my head. Did I really need to do this?
I knew people that came here all the time. My friend Maria came home a few weeks ago with a cookbook, a vintage dress and a man. She sent me a picture of herself dressed as June Cleaver, holding a casserole with her fake boyfriend by her side. She returned all three items two days later.

“It’s big, isn’t it?”

I turned to see a man about my age standing next to me, looking up at the Everything Library, just like I was.

“That’s what she said,” I mumbled.

He let out a laugh. “Was not expecting that.” His brown eyes smiled down at me as he asked, “What are you checking out?”

Immediately embarrassed and on guard, I said, “Just a book.”

He scoffed. “People borrowing books don’t have that look on their faces. Only people here to borrow people, look like that.”

He was right. I was there to borrow a person. But people aren’t things and I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept.

“You know they volunteer, right?”

I shrugged. “So they say.”

He nodded. “The mysterious ‘they’.”

Two lefts and a right. That’s all it was gonna take. Two lefts and right and I could get on with it.

“Wedding or funeral?” He asked.

I looked back up at him and he was staring at me like he thought he knew anything about me.

“Neither,” I told him.

He sighed. “Come on then.”

He reached out to grab my arm and I pull away.

“I’ve been on lunch,” he explained. “No one gets checked out until I get back.”

Oh God, he’s the people check out guy?

“I’ll help you fill out the forms,” he offered with a smile, like he was coaxing me up the stairs.

The sooner I went in, the sooner this would all be over.

Maybe that’s why I was hesitating.

I followed him into the cavernous entryway, past marble arches and gold plated plaques. It was like a museum inside. I’d expected to see stuff everywhere. It was the Everything Library after all so I thought I’d get to see everything. But the only things to look at were on display, as if they were treasures to be honored, not borrowed.

We took our two lefts and a right and it led us to a small window that almost looked like a ticket booth. My mystery, library worker reached through the window and grabbed a few sheets of paper and handed them to me.

“Just fill these out,” he instructed. “We’ll get you taken care of.”

I filled out the forms and handed them back, looking away as he read the application.

“A grandma, huh?” He asked.

I nodded as my eyes met his quickly and looked away again.

“I know the perfect grandma for the job. Hang on,” he said. He stepped through a door and closed it behind him.

He seemed nice enough. How did he sleep at night knowing that he basically rented out people all day, every day.

Although, the service was kind of saving my butt today, so I shouldn’t complain.

He came back about three minutes later with an older lady who looked about seventy. She was smiling sweetly at me like a grandma might do.

“How’s she?” The guy asked, his hands on her shoulders.

What was I supposed to say? She was standing there looking at me. What if I said she was too young or too skinny and I hurt her feelings?

“She’s fine,” I said truthfully, because, really, she would do.

“Good,” he smiled and then ripped off a piece of paper.

Was that receipt? A people receipt.

When he held it out to me, I couldn’t lift my hand to take it.

His brow furrowed. “You need to take the receipt so you can bring her back,” he tried to explain.

I held up my hands. “I can’t do this.” I cut my eyes to the grandma that wasn’t really mine. “I’m sorry. You’re great, I’m sure. But I can’t do this.”

“Oh, dear, of course you can,” the old woman smiled kindly. She glanced at the receipt and her eyes became sad. “Come, now. Take it and let’s go.”

The guy was watching me too, waiting to see what I was going to do.

Shakily, my hand opened and he put the paper inside of it.

“The return date is on the top of the receipt,” he told me.

“She’ll be back tonight,” I said firmly. I did not need the rented person hanging around. I just needed her for an hour. Tops.

He gave me a quick nod and a sympathetic smile.

“Let’s go see your mother, dear,” the old woman said to me.

I looked over at her. She was holding her arm out, bent at the elbow, just like a grandma might. Like I was supposed to take her arm and lead her.

I did as she wished, led her through the maze of hallways and left the Everything Library.

“How bad is she?” The woman asked.

“She won’t last another day,” I confessed. “She’s been crying for her mother for days.”

It was painful to watch as your own mother deteriorated in front of you, crying for her ‘mama’ as if she were a child.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” I shrugged.

The woman squeezed my hand. “That’s what the Everything Library is here for, dear.”

Twenty Things Readers NEVER Know about a Character

Ah, Pinterest. Or, as I like to call it, the Rabbit Hole.

I have yet to peruse Pinterest for anything less than ten minutes since I first joined years ago. From home DIY projects, to recipes and fashion, its my go to for advice on just about everything!

I know you do it too. No shame – solidarity.

There’s also some seriously amazing writing tips to be found in Pinterest. I tend to pin most on my personal page, but I’ve started adding to my author page as well. Most recently, I pinned something that struck a chord.

You see, I’m a tad stuck in one of my books. A character that I used to feel so close to, so connected with, is now a stranger to me.

It happens. I know it does, but it sure makes writing anything really difficult.

Here’s the pin:

If you're struggling with writing a character...

Twenty things about my character that the reader will never know. Okay, I can do this. Here I go.

I know what you’re saying. But, Jenni, they’re supposed to be things the readers don’t know. They’re supposed to be a secret.

Okay, so, I’m cheating but I want to do this exercise. If you’re a writer, I want you to do this exercise. I NEED this to push me forward and adding more depth to my characters can’t hurt.

Twenty Things Readers Don’t Know About My Character:
(I’m working on Andy Walker – The h from my contemporary romance Forgiving History)

1. She always wanted to be a chef.

swedish chef banging on pots

2. She loves Jenna (her daughter) but doesn’t want any more children.

3. A few years ago she had a mole removed and had a small cancer scare. She never told anyone.

4. She didn’t learn to ride a bike until she was a teenager.

5. She was accepted to three different colleges but didn’t attend any of them.

6. She doesn’t enjoy reading. It gives her a headache.

7. She probably needs glasses but is too stubborn to admit it.

8. She is neither a dog nor a cat person.

9. She hates her car but hates car shopping even more.

10. She isn’t a huge fan of shopping in general.

11. She’s never had a cavity.

12. She’s hasn’t been to her mother’s grave since the day she was buried.

13. She has a poster of Justin Timberlake on the inside of her closet door. Not an old one.

14. As recently as the last six months, she and her twin sister Alex have traded places without anyone catching on.

15. She loves shoes. Especially shoes with heels.

16. She’s always wanted to try a big zip line. Like one of those awesome ones in Hawaii or the jungle they show on TV.

17. She’s never seen Grease. She has no regrets.

18. She likes being active but dislikes feeling like she’s working out.

19. She’s attempted to learn to knit at least ten times. She has yet to learn how to do more than stitch a straight line.

20. She loves to dance at weddings and is always the last one off the dance floor.

Well, there you have it. Twenty things none of us knew about Andy.

Give it a try – see if you feel like you’re any closer to understanding your character and that much closer to finishing your book!

Happy writing, my friends!

Jenni <3

On Holidays and the Art of Procrastination

Ah, the holidays. A time of love and laughter. Giving and receiving. Cooking and cleaning….oh, is that just me?

It’s true that the Holidays are a wonderful time to remember to stop and smell the roses when it comes to family and friends. We’re reminded constantly that this is the time we’re supposed to put our electronics away, look each other in the eyes and become human heart eye emojis.

I wanted to, y’all.  I really, really did.  And I did to an extent.  I smiled and laughed as my kids opened all of their gifts. then I spent what felt like four days cleaning up everything they made a mess of, every five seconds.

Because I should have been writing.

That’s what I kept hearing my inner voice say.

Because you should have been writing.

I have a lot of work to do. I’m supposed to be working on a synopsis for a contest submission and I need to do a run through of BlindSpot to make sure it’s up to snuff.  I should be editing to get my word count down but that’s a completely different blog post.  I’m way behind on writing Forgiving History and need to buckle down and get that finished.

I did none of those things.

In fact, I didn’t even crack my laptop open.

Screaming woman from Thriller video

The guilt is real people.

So, today – I will write. Today – I will do better.

Maybe if I keep saying it, it will happen! Wish me luck!