Monday, October 24, 2016

Short Stories & Such 26: Inside the Old Box

The following prompt was given by Writer’s Digest on May 7, 2013. I didn’t get a chance to share it online, but I’m posting it here, but don’t hesitate to use the prompt for your own version to the story.
When I first wrote it, I had only dialogue, then, I went back and added some more details. I hope you enjoy=)

You are at the neighborhood garage sale, looking for nothing in particular. Something inside an old, wooden box catches your eye. The old woman who is running the sale comes over to say something about the object. What is it? What did she say and why?

Inside the Old Box 

  “How many of these things are we going to go to?” Tony turned off the ignition and pulled the key out to fumble with the beads that were attached to its chain.

  “This one’s different, Tony.” Gretta grabbed the empty tote bag under her seat.

  “How’s this one different?”

  “For one, there aren’t a lot of customers and second, it’s a garage sale.”

  “Ho ho ho.” Tony pretended to be amused and, then, formed a lopsided grin. “A garage sale and a yard sale are the same thing, Gretta.”

  “You have no idea of the difference.” She shook her head and pinched his nose.

  “Fine, suit yourself, but I’m going to stay here with the windows down. You’ll find nothing to go with your antique shop. Trust me. All we’ve picked up is more junk to go in our garage! This hasn’t been a positive shopping spree.”

  “Oh, phew!”

  Tony shrugged his shoulders, but didn’t remove his seat belt.

  "I still love you when you're no fun." 

  Gretta stepped out of the car and crossed the street toward the garage sale. She looks through items as if eyeing nothing in particular. She rummaged through old clothes and old records. She turned to the car where Tony had propped the car seat back and sighed.

  Then, a spot opened up where the old books were. She picked up a children’s book on the Raggedy Doll Annie and browsed the pages. When she set it down, she caught a glimpse of the edge of a wooden box. She moved some books and placed both hands around it. She used her fingers to trace the impression on the top of the box. It looked like a shell used to be glued on it. The wood had faded and could use some polish. She knew exactly where she could get a flat shell to go with it.

  Right before she opened it, the old woman who ran the sale approached her and said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

  Gretta raised her eyes. “Excuse me?”

  “The box has been lost for many years. It holds a secret about your great grandfather.”


  “He was a seaman.”

  “Y-yes, how do you know that?”

  “It’s written on your face.” The woman’s faded blue eyes twinkled. “You are Gretta.”

  “Yes, yes I am. Did you know my parents?”

  “Only in nightmares.”

  Gretta’s pulse quickened and she backed away from the old woman. She set the box down on the next table, but the old woman picked it up and opened it. She walked toward Gretta with an eerie pace, extending the box with her shrouded arm. Inside was a golden locket, an old pocket watch, a picture, and a note.

  The old woman handed the note to Gretta and gestured with her pointy chin to open it.

  Gretta unfolded it and straightened the paper. “I don’t understand?”

  “It is your destiny.”

  Gretta bit her lip and re-read the note. She surveyed the long hand, most probably written with a quill and black ink. Her eyes took in each word written. When she finished, the old woman was gone.

  She searched for her frantically, leaving the box and its contents on the table. No one seemed to see the woman and Gretta returned to the wooden box. She placed the note inside, left ten dollars with a young woman assisting other customers, and headed to the car.

  Tony yawned as Gretta climbed inside.

  “What did we get?”

  She handed the box to him with vacant eyes.

  He slowly reached for it with a raised eyebrow.

  “Read it.”

  Tony opened the box and picked up the blurry picture of a dark haired man with his arm wrapped around a young woman who looked like… Gretta. He set it down, dismissing it as her grandmother.

   He fancied the tarnished silver pocket watch, but the locket was very Victorian. He heard Gretta gulp and he set the items down. He then unfolded the note carefully. The paper was torn from the edges and the folded creases had a few holes.

“My dearest beloved Gretta,
I have reached the pier where we last met.
I await your arrival.
I’ve missed you with all my heart.
Love, James”

  Tony squint at the name on the greeting and turned to Gretta. “Say, what is this?”

  But Gretta had already put on the locket around her neck and was walking down the street in the direction toward the beach.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Art 11: Unfinished

It’s fun coming across drawings I had made a while back.
This particular Life Drawing was done during an art class I had in 1998.
The focus is obvious on this piece (and it was hard even getting it down), but that’s not what struck me as I reviewed the stokes I made for getting to this phase in my art.
I like the way the dark lines contrast sharply with the smudge that represents the spine. Negative space is used to make the body. The piece is unfinished due to running out of time for the pose, which is clearly evident on the arms and stool.
The more I viewed the drawing, the more I liked that it wasn’t finished and I came to feel proud of it. Then, I realized, I could transfer that feeling to my writing. If I don’t finish a scene, I could pick it up again at a later time.

I’ve picked up the art bug again, and I’m hoping to improve my shading. There’s always room to do more I suppose…

Monday, October 10, 2016

Books I’m Reading 26

Steering the Craft: A 21st-century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin. Le Guin provides good writing tips and examples for POV differences.

Es un decir (translates to ‘It’s a saying’) by Jenn Diaz, a writer from Spain. The story is from the point of view of a young girl named Mariela who finds her father murdered on her birthday and who tries to find the answers as to why, but no one is giving them. She enters the adult world with blinders on and must learn to deal with the silence and, then, the truth. This is a great story and is similar to the novel I’m querying about father and son.

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountain: A tale of travel and darkness with pictures of all kinds by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Eddie Campbell. This is a full color illustrated book of a story Gaiman wrote a while ago. The story follows two men on a journey to a specific cave in the mountains of Scotland where neither man trusts each other. The ending is quite interesting.

The Islands Project: Poems for Sappho by Eloise Klein Healy. This poetry collection delves into the theme of Sappho as it relates to the poet’s life. If you haven’t heard of Sappho, it’s best to do a little research before reading this. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Teaching Moments 5: Pawing for Good Leaders

Some peers caution against comparing teaching proper behavior to students to good dog training, but I am using it here as a metaphor for what modeling and guiding good behavior requires. In both instances, patience and a drive to understand are at the heart of behavior. Asking what and why and how are also part of our job.

Here’s a quote from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Top Tips from Top Trainers (2010, 211):

“Teachers who are calm, patient, and encouraging usually have more success getting through to their students and earning their respect. Teachers who are demanding, out of control, and unfair are usually not successful in establishing trust and respect from their students, and they make them feel hesitant and self-conscious.” –Angie Kober

Here’s a list of things to keep in mind when answering the call to train/teach children:

be a good leader
understand they will make mistakes (and so will you)
help them learn from their mistakes (yours too)
be successful
be clear of what you want (or leads to a communication problem)
be consistent
make it fun
teach positive behaviors and learn from each other

think: stop, take a breath and smile

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pet News 22: Senior Pets Mirror Seniors

It’s been said that as children, we are taught to be adults. In fact, we yearn to be adults and forget about being a child. Then, when we’ve got the gray and can’t do much on our own, we want to return to that child who could do all those things we loved.

The same can be said about our pets. If you have an older dog like I do, you could attest to this.
My senior dog has always been a feisty girl. She could knock down a large German Shepherd during play and get him into trouble with a wink regardless of her small size. Then, she stopped playing, not because she didn’t want to… she still played fetch and ran and did everything. It was the amount of time doing play that decreased. She was now a ‘lady’ and behaved accordingly.

As the years passed, our fourteen-year-old began to revert to that puppy stage where you had to train ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ and such. Sometimes, she pretended not to listen. Her stubbornness had always been there, but now it was twofold. We had to start over again and take the time to play and train for at least five minutes a day so as not to tire her. It was strange to see her behavior change this way. We read books and found that it’s normal.

What’s not normal, is limping, crying out in pain, not eating, constipation, etc. or a recent behavior problem. So, if you see behavior that’s not normal, that’s when you take your pet to the vet. We had to take our senior dog because she started being lethargic. Thankfully, it was something we could prevent from happening by supplementing more vitamins in her diet. The love and affection never stopped, which is something that should never stop with our aging family.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Why I Write 11: Live Life Write Now

Last week, I completed the first draft to my fantasy novel about a different race protecting Earth, and I realized that after many years practicing the craft of writing, I have finally got to a place where I can write at different times in the day. Especially since my day job hours vary, I can always find a time to write. Of course, there are times I cannot fathom a sentence, but the muse is still there.

Getting into the querying process is probably the hardest thing about aspiring to be an author. The waiting and waiting for some kind of response to the novel queried really digs deeper and deeper into your soul. So, I keep writing. Hoping that the next one would be better.

I write because it’s part of who I am. I can have many days without writing. It has nothing to do with writer’s block (if you believe in it). It has to do with life. We’re here for a short time and the least I could do is enjoy it by creating characters and situations so others may find a break in their lives.

p.s check out my latest published poems:

            “Road Atlas” @
            “Youth” @

Monday, September 12, 2016

Quote 20

“Inventing is the mixing of brains and materials. The more brains you use, the less materials you need.”

--- Charles F. Kettering, U.S. scientist and engineer (1876-1958)

I like this quote because it says a lot about what we are capable of if we only let ourselves. For example, learning to compute in our heads without calculators or learning to play without having to turn on a video game.

Inventing has a lot to do with thinking about our world and what will be useful, not just remove tasks to free ourselves from actually doing the work. Vacuuming burns calories, but if we let robots do all the work, we won’t remember how to do the most basic of needs.