The Girl in the Locket

This is one of my favorite ghosts stories from my book SCARY MONDAYS. With snow and ice falling here in Oklahoma it seemed appropriate.

Cold slithered under the crack between the back door and floor, snaking its way up the stairs. It wiggled like a side-winder across the landing, through the threshold of Grandma’s bedroom door. There it coiled around Emma’s feet, hissing up her calves. Standing at the window, watching the snow blow in a straight line over the orchard in the distance, Emma drew her arms tight to warm herself. She blew warm breath against the glass, and drew a heart on the fogged pane. In the distance, the peach trees, coated with ice, seemed angry at being left out in the winter storm.

With a bored sigh, she turned, crossed the braided rug to Grandma’s bureau. In the mirror, she watched Grandma’s reflection as she rocked and darned socks. Her dresser was scattered with items Emma had come to associate with old women: a silver plated brush and comb, a carved jewelry box, a paper fan with a balsa wood handle that read “McConnell’s Funeral Home, 1930.” Emma closed her eyes, waved the fan, trying to remember how in the summer the air was so thick, so hot people dreamed of a day like today when the snow fell a half a foot deep. Her Momma said people were never satisfied. When it was hot, they wanted cool. When it was cold, they wanted warm.

Emma sat the fan back in its place, picked up a locket. She opened it and studied the miniature portrait inside. She always wondered about the woman in the picture. She had pretty blue eyes, a peaches and cream complexion, lovely dark hair.

“Who’s this?” Emma finally asked. She’d wanted to know for just about forever.

Grandma glanced up. “That’s my oldest sister, Marylou.”

Frowning, Emma studied her grandmother for a moment, tried to imagine her as young as the woman in the locket. “I didn’t know you had an older sister.”

“Oh, yes, child. I was the youngest of six, all boys except me and Marylou. My Momma used to say a girl in front and a girl in back to keep all the boys in line.”

“What happened to her? You never talk about her?”

Putting her sewing aside, Grandma motioned for Emma to sit in her lap. “She died. And we don’t speak of the dead, child.”

“She was very pretty.” Emma said of the girl in the locket. “What happened to her? Please tell me.”

With a long sigh, Grandma patted Emma’s thigh. “Marylou was in love with a young man, Reginald J.T. Waterbottom.”

“That’s a funny name.” Emma giggled and Grandma pressed her lips together trying not to laugh.

“Yes, it is. But he was very handsome. They elected Mr. Lincoln and the Yankees all came down here. Reggie put on a uniform and went off to be a soldier.” Grandma got a funny, faraway look on her face. “He died, of course. We all knew he would. Not because so many of our brave boys died, but because Marylou said he would. She dreamed of his death, night after night. And when Marylou dreamed about something, we all knew it would come true. One time my daddy lost his pocket watch. Don’t know how a man could lose something as large as a biscuit, but he did. Marylou dreamed he’d find in the chicken coop. ‘Course he scoffed at that. But you know what? He found that watch, right where Marylou said it would be, under Miz Clucky, all warm as she’d been waitin’ for it to hatch.”

“Did Marylou find someone else to love?” It suddenly seemed vital to Emma that Marylou found someone to spend her life with.

“No,” Grandma said with another thick sigh. “She went half mad with grief. She wandered around the house and in the orchard holding hands with thin air. She said Reggie had come back to her and that all she had to do was wait and she’d be with him forever.” Grandma huffed. “She made us set a place for him at the dinner table every night.”

“How did she die?” Emma asked softly.

“The flu. Winter of 1876. I remember because that was the year of the Centennial. But if it hadn’t been the flu, it would’ve been something else. Momma and Daddy always said Marylou wasn’t long for this world. Not after she lost Reggie. ‘Course Emma always said she hadn’t lost him. He was right there with her. Girl was daft.”

Grandma shifted, set Emma on her feet, then went back to darning socks. Emma wandered back over to the window, stared out at the orchard. She thought Marylou’s story was terribly romantic and she couldn’t wait to tell her best friend, Jenny.

Between sheets of blowing snow, Emma caught a movement in the orchard. She leaned forward, hands pressed against the glass. There under green-leafed branches dotted with peach blossoms, a handsome young man uniformed in grey and a woman dressed in pale pink, walked arm in arm. Marylou turned toward the window with eyes that danced, and a smile that promised spring.

To Blog or Not to Blog–That Really Isn’t the Question

I’m piggybacking on Susan and Linda’s blogs this week.  I’ve been terrible about blogging on a regular schedule. In part because I’ve been struggling with how to best use my limited writing time. Writers are told we have to self-promote, meaning we have to blog, tweet, Facebook…etc. etc. etc. Naturally the question arises–about what? Writing? That’s interesting to other writers, but fans don’t get that jazzed about blogs that drone on about the  dangers of passive voice or telling vs. showing.  So if not writing, then the weather? Favorite recipes? How I spent my summer vacation? How adorable my grandkids are? (and BTW, mine are the cutest!)

Then I ran across an article on Writer’s Digest. I’ve probably read dozens of similar articles, yet for some reason this time the message finally resonated  The issue isn’t whether or  we what we post, it’s how we use the posts to build an audience for what we write. (Well, duh, Lynn! )Its all about Branding, aka building an Author Platform. According to Chuck Sambuchino, author of Create Your Writer Platform, Author Platform is your individual ability to sell books by way of your visibility as an author. Posting on Facebook or Twitter, or blogging are only some elements of building a successful platform.

The trick is to find what works for you, what reaches your audience. Don’t try to do it all,instead be selective. Be willing to try, fail, try something else until you find your “happy place.”

To learn more check out http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/build-a-platform-start-blogging/building-a-writers-platform or buy the book at http://www.writersdigestshop.com/create-your-writer-platform?lid=wdccar102212V6500-tod

And no, I don’t know Chuck and I have no financial interest in Writer’s Digest :)  But I did find this information helpful. Now will someone please smack me up side the head?

Seriously?

Okay I know I should be serious here. I mean there are so many monumental things to consider right now–fiscal cliffs to teeter, stock prices to weep over and New Year’s Resolutions to stress about.  My number one resolution this year is to find at least one thing a day  that makes me smile or laugh and then share it with others.  So…

True Story: Have you ever gotten the giggles at the most inappropriate time, like at a funeral?  Well, last Sunday in church we sang The First Noel, only in the hymnal it appeared as The First Nowell. Yep, that’s right there was a major typo: NOWELL! Our suppressed laughter shook the entire pew!

Happy New Year  :)

A Little Christmas Carol Trivia

I’m going a different direction with my late blog and sharing a little Christmas carol trivia.

  1. What was the original title of the Little Drummer boy?  The Carol of the Drum
  2. What does the Little Drummer Boy have to do with the Sound of Music? The Sound of Music tells the story of the Trapp Family Singers escape from Austria during WWII. The Carol of the Drum was recorded by the Trapp Family Singers in 1955
  3. What Christmas carol has been recorded by nearly every singer, present and past, in dozens of languages including Gaelic? Silent Night
  4. What Christmas carol did Dr. Sheldon Cooper sing while playing Dungeons and Dragons? Good King Wenceslas
  5. Which popular carol is based on a melody composed by Felix Mendelssohn? Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
  6. Which carol was written during the Puritan era in England to help young English Catholics secretly learn how to practice their faith? Twelve Days of Christmas
  7. And speaking of Twelve Days of Christmas what does two turtle doves refer to? The Old and New Testaments
  8. And four calling birds? The Four Gospels
  9. What popular carol was written in 1857 for a Thanksgiving play? Jingle Bells
  10. What carol recalls the ancient pagan custom of singing door to door to drive away evil spirits? Here We Come A-Wassailing

World View

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading and watching interviews about other writers on the topic of writing–specifically how their world view influences the content of their novels.  As a writer myself I know my particular world view sometimes slips into my work either in the words I choose, the decisions and actions my characters make, or by the reactions other characters have to those decisions and actions.

Two writers really got my attention, Piers Paul Read, in HELL AND OTHER DESTINATIONS, and Dean Koontz, interviewed on EWTN in October. What I found interesting about these two novelists is how much of their world view they and other writers decide to allow into their books. Some authors nearly club their readers over the head with their world view, while others are more subtle.  In either case, an author’s world view will wind up in their work since we’re human after all and simply cannot divorce our writing self from who we are as a person. And naturally some writers need to include their world view in their novels, especially those writing in Christian and Inspirational genres.

Now when I read novels written by other authors I find I wonder about their world view and look for the clues.

So as a reader how much of the author’s world view is acceptable and what puts you off. And as a writer, how conscious are you of your world view and when it’s creeping into your story?