Saturday, February 25, 2012

Looking for me?

Have you been looking for me? I'm no longer posting on this blog.  For more stories about my crazy life please go to  Be sure to click follow!  Thank you for reading and supporting my writer dreams.

--Elizabeth Michels

Monday, June 13, 2011

Flash Fiction Fun- The Fortune-Teller Part 1

     The orange sky darkened into night as they wound their way through the gypsy camp, approaching Madame Nadya’s tent.  Sue Greene was sure that four young ladies did not often wander into such a place and at night nonetheless.   She shivered as a whisper of nervousness blew through her.  Distant music and laughter flowed on the air mingling with the sparks from small camp fires where families were gathered.  The dark eyes of the Romany people followed them as they passed, speaking to one another in a language Sue did not recognize.  Groups of the travelers sat outside the carriages and tents, making their homes in the tall grass of the roadside field. 
     “We should not have come here, Evangeline,” Sue murmured close to her sister’s ear. 
     “How could we not come?  Truly Sue.  We leave for London in a fortnight.  We must know what to expect once we arrive,” Evangeline returned.
     “I should think I would know what to expect by now.  There will be balls and luncheons and dinners and the same silly chat at every event.   Then I will return home with Mama, just as I did the past two years.  Why do I need a fortune-teller to tell me what I can see for myself?”  Sue grumbled, but pressed forward until she was standing before the tent bearing a small wooden sign that said Chovihani.  Beads hung at the opening blocking all view but the flicker of candlelight inside.
     “Perhaps you will have luck this season,” Evangeline said with a delicately raised brow and a nod toward the tent, making her blonde ringlets bounce in agreement.  “How often are Gypsies camped on the border of our property?  This only happens once in a lifetime.”
     One of her cousins nudged her in the back to push her forward, closer to the opening in the Gypsy woman’s lair.  “Go on Sue!  You go first.  You’re the oldest and most in need of her advice.”
     Sue rounded on Isabelle and Victoria shooting the identical girls, identical glares. 
     Just then, a dark figure appeared at the tent opening.  “Gaje girls.  You have come to learn the future, no?  I felt you near.”  One long finger pointed at Sue.  “You, come.”  The old woman’s deep set black eyes seemed to be looking into her soul. 
     Sue swallowed back the fear that held her feet firmly planted in the field with her family and followed her into the tent feeling unable to resist the draw of the unknown or the magic the woman held over her.  Inside, she sat at a small table opposite the woman.   Scarves and candles adorned every surface and the smell of incense swirled in the warm air, yet Sue noticed none of it.  She saw only the life etched face of the slight woman across from her.
     “Give me your hand,” Madame Nadya said, her deep voice scratching through the thick air as the band of bracelets on her wrist jingled with her movements.
     Sue complied, unable to make a sound.  The woman’s finger traced over her palm as she hummed some exotic melody.  Suddenly falling silent, she turned her dark gaze on Sue.
     “You will hide in crowds and chase after death itself.  Your journey will take you to foreign lands.  He will find you.  He will always find you.”
     “Who?  Who will find me?”
     “The future is not yet written in stone.  You must take care and watch your step for your steps will lead you to danger.”
     “Danger?  Isn’t there anything I can do?”  Sue’s voice came out in a squeak.
     The woman rummaged in an old trunk at her side before pulling out a small wrapped parcel.  “Take this and wear it for protection. “ 
     “Protection from him?  What is that?”
     “Do not open it here!”  She pressed the package into Sue’s open palm.  “Watch your step Gaje girl.  Danger surrounds your future, of that I am certain.” 
     Sue nodded and dropped a coin on the table in thanks of her warning.  She rose and left the tent without a backwards glance.  She wanted as much distance as possible between what she had learned of her future and her present life.  Sighing in relief as a fresh breeze cooled her cheeks; she stepped into the moon drenched night outside the tent and gazed into the faces of her two cousins where they stood with her sister.  She knew her life would never be the same from this night forward.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Are you finished reading that magazine?

“What time is it?”
“You just asked me that 5 minutes ago.”
“That couldn’t have only been 5 minutes ago.”
“How much longer do you think we’ll be here?”
“Another 30 minutes?  I wonder if they forgot we’re here.”
“Maybe I should go check.  Should I go check?  I’ll just go check…”
I have spent the past year caring for ill parents.  It’s not something I have talked about here until now.  But, when something consumes your life to this degree, there isn’t much space for the freedom thought that leads to my usually frivolous blog topics.  For today my mind can’t seem to leave this room, this waiting room.  Because of my parent’s illnesses, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a large amount of time in waiting rooms.   I’ve even made jokes about creating a waiting room ranking system that gives stars for comfort of chairs, convenience to drink machines, cell reception and magazine selection.  But, as I sit in yet another waiting room, it occurred to me that although some rooms have beige walls and some have green, they are all really the same.  There is always the family gathered together discussing anything but the one thing on all of their minds, the sleeping man, the woman escaping into a book and in this case me with my pink laptop writing this blog entry.  
Did you know that 2-3 years of your life will be wrapped up in waiting?  (And yes, I got curious and googled that while waiting.) When you consider the volume of time spent on this most boring activity, the question of what you do while waiting becomes an important one.  Whether you’re waiting to hear back after a job interview or waiting for that hot guy you met to call you, life is filled with waiting situations.  I am currently waiting for results of writing contests and reaction to a submitted partial manuscript.  Yet, I’m writing my next story.  I am waiting for my life to return to normal.  Yet, I am spending time with family.  I am waiting to get out of this windowless, overly air conditioned room with hard vinyl chairs.  Yet, I am using the time I have to…okay so I’m not really accomplishing anything right now.  But, my point is this: life is short.  Appreciate the time you have with loved ones and use every second you are granted to try and reach your goals. 
There is a long list of things you can do in a real or a metaphorical waiting room to fill the time: read, sleep, talk, pray, text, knit, write, balance the checkbook, surf the internet, watch something mindless on the TV… 
The question is how do you choose to use the small moments of your time while you wait?  What do you do in waiting rooms?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Long Live Cody Bear

This week marks the second year I have been without my furry sidekick.  Cody Alexander, better known as Cody Bear, was a constant source of comfort, laughter and drool for twelve wonderful years.  I still occasionally think I see him at the back door or have to look twice if there is a dark colored shirt left on the floor.  I find it hard to believe I will never again find my feet pinned to the floor under his sleeping weight. He will never again nudge me against the knee under the dining room table when he wants me to share my food.  No more slobbery tennis balls will be dropped at my toes.  No more half eaten bones will be found in the corners of my house.  And, I will not wake up to find him beside me during a thunder storm.  Even as I write this blog two years later, tears are slipping down my cheek to fall with silent finality on my shirt. 
Today however, is a happy day.  Today is a day for celebration of a life that was and a life that will now live on forever in fiction.  For today, I want to share with you an excerpt of Abigail’s Secret where Cody Bear will forever fetch balls and beg for food.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Do you have a little furry one you’re missing today?  I would love to read your comments.

Abigail’s Secret
Charles Towne, South Carolina
     “These are my cousins, Sarah and Emma Terrington.  They are…presently in my care.” Alex refrained from saying to Banyan what he truly felt about his cousins at that moment.  Instead, he looked past them and into the stone covered streets of the city he would now call home.  The buildings were all tall and thin, stacked like books on the shelf of a library.  It was a clean city when he compared it to soot covered London, where he had just come from.  The businesses that lined the streets all seemed peaceful and quiet, adorned in muted colors and topped with red tile roofs. Perhaps this would not be such a horrible fate after all. 
     “Nice to make your acquaintance Sarah and Emma,” Banyan said easily with a twinkle in his eye.
     The twins were obviously happy to be on solid ground, and in the company of someone who did not want to kill them.  They beamed up at Banyan as he began tossing their bags into the back of his wagon.  Alex noticed a large coal black dog sitting up on the front bench.  It seemed to be taking advantage of the premium views the bench offered of the action around him.  Just then, the dog hopped over into the back of the wagon, came to the side of the conveyance where Alex stood with the girls, and began sniffing them.  Sarah turned her face up to him, and he licked her from chin to eyebrow; she laughed and reached out to pet him. 
     “That’s Cody Bear,” Banyan offered as he lifted one end of a trunk and indicated for Alex to get the other. 

As Alex lifted the trunk he watched the girls giggle and fuss over the beast of a dog.  "If there is an animal within sight, Sarah will befriend it,” he shook his head and looked back at Banyan.  “I’ve never seen that breed in England, what is he?”
     “He’s a new breed.  I found him while on my travels,” he said with pride.  “He’s a Labrador Retriever.  He’d be a great hunting dog if he weren’t gun shy, the worthless fur ball.”  Banyan looked up at his dog, and scratched him behind the ears lovingly. 
     “I had a mastiff as a boy; however, when he ate most of the stores in the kitchen during the dead of night and then moved on to the drawing room furniture, my father insisted I give him away.  Never had another,” Alex finished wistfully, as he looked into the warm brown eyes of the dog regarding him as a slobbery ball was dropped at his foot.
     “Now Cody, we don’t have time to play right now,” Banyan said as picked up the slimy ball tossing it back into the wagon where it was pounced on like a jungle cat would devour its prey. 
     “Last one,” Alex said lifting the last of the trunks into the wagon.  “How far is it to Darby House?”
     “Oh, just right up the way, not far at all.  I’ll give you the grand tour as we go.”
     “I think Charles Towne is a lovely city,” Emma interjected looking up at the building tops looming above their heads on the street behind them.
     “That it is,” Banyan agreed.
     “There sure are a lot of churches,” Sarah observed gazing at the steeple tops that dotted the skyline of the port town. 
     “That there are. Charles Towne is even called The Holy City on occasion because of that very reason.”
     “Why are there so many?” Sarah asked, as she ran her hand over the black fur covered head of the hound leaning on her shoulder where it left a puddle of drool on her dress that she would never notice.  
      “I reckon that’s because nobody can agree on what they believe.  So, they just build another building down the street, and invite the friends who agree with them to sit there on Sundays instead of where they sat the Sunday before.  Nobody agrees, and we don’t have to, welcome to the New World.” He grinned and handed Sarah up into the wagon.
     “Well, they are lovely nonetheless.  I think Charles Towne will be a wonderful place to live,” Emma offered, as she joined her sister in sitting on a trunk at the back of the wagon. 
     Banyan raised the gate at the rear of the wagon and hooked it with chains to secure it before looking up at Alex, a question in his glance, “Once you get settled in, I’ll show you around some of the establishments in town if you like.”
     “If one of those establishments is a place where a gentleman can get a moment’s peace from family, and have a glass of something that numbs, I would like that,” Alex returned with a slight smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. 
     “Ah, I know just the place that will suit your needs,” Banyan laughed in a great booming voice that reverberated off the pastel painted buildings of the city.  “You might not be all bad Darby, not bad at all.”  He laughed again, and jumped up onto the front bench of the wagon to set off for Darby House.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Little Crooked House

It all began last September with the simple wiggle of a fence picket.  Snap! 
“Oops,” my next door neighbor offered with an unrepentant smile.  “I guess we have to tear the fence down now.  Darn.”
We had hated the warped and twisted gray fence that encircled our backyard ever since we had moved into our house three years earlier.  Every time we went outside the conversation would always turn to our ugly fence and what we could do to fix it.  Over these discussions of what could be, what might be, what would be nice and what we could afford, we built a lifelong friendship with our neighbors.  The fence became our joke and our gathering place for chit chat.  We leaned against it to talk about our children, our families, our work and our plans for the day.  So, that September day when the first picket was ruthlessly ripped off, (Just kidding Dave) we took great joy in tearing down the fence.  Only, when it came time to remove the last post, there was a distinct air of sadness that filled the backyard.  Nobody was ready to say goodbye to that last post, the most crooked and warped post of the entire fence.  After all, it had been the post that brought us together as friends. 
It’s my belief that all places of happiness in life can only be reached by crooked paths.  We weave through dark forests, bright meadows and narrowly avoid the occasional pit of quick sand to finally reach our goals.  And I think the same adage can be said of friendship.  Deeper bonds are forged in hardship and over twisted, gnarled wood, than over perfect fences with perfect landscaping.  So, we left the crooked post standing as a reminder of the crooked paths that have led us to this happy place of friendship. 
As I was walking past the crooked post this week watering my flowers, I couldn’t help but feel thankful.  I’m thankful for the past, for how far my backyard makeover and how far my life has come over the last year.  The forty-one bushes we planted are beginning to grow.  The bulbs we planted are beginning to sprout.  And the grass seed…well, it still just looks like dirt, but that gives us something else to discuss in the backyard this spring. 
 Celebrate your imperfect and beautiful crooked path today.  You never know where an ugly fence could lead you.  Do you have something crooked and ugly in your backyard?

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

Happy Spring Everyone!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Tartan

Here’s to it!
The fighting sheen of it.
The yellow, the green of it.
The white, the blue of it.
The swing, the hue of it.
The dark, the red of it.
Every thread of it!
The fair have sighed for it.
The brave have died for it.
Foemen sought for it.
Honour the name of it.
Drink to the fame of it.
The Tartan.

This poem hangs on the wall of a restaurant where I love to go to in the mountains of North Carolina.  Every time I eat there I think that I will someday use it at the beginning of a book about some handsome highlander that lived long ago.  However, I seem to only be dreaming in Regency England at the moment, so I thought I would share it.  I can remember eating at The Tartan Restaurant as a little girl with my family.  I come from a family that has always been very proud of its Scottish roots, so a themed restaurant at the foot of Grandfather Mountain was the logical choice when we attended the Highland Games.  It’s also not uncommon to wake up to bag pipe music at 7:30 am on Saturday mornings at my parent’s house, but that is another blog for another day.  In recent years Mr. Alpha Male and I have become regulars there mostly due to his love of country ham, my daily need for coffee and the fact that it is the only restaurant within five minutes drive of the house.  And it is the perfect place for one of my favorite pastimes, people watching.
The Tartan is one of those places where only the locals eat and most of them have blue hair.  The walls are dripping in Scottish folklore and there is plaid covering every surface lying in wait for the annual Highland Games.  Yet, filling the tables inside the restaurant on the other fifty one weekends of the year are all the simple mountain folks that stopped in for a sandwich or a cup of coffee.  Friends are hailed from across the room as neighbors and acquaintances pause to say hello.  It makes an interesting mix of foreign and local that I find irresistible.  Keep your swanky bistros and your elegant fine dining establishments, I just want to people watch from my booth at The Tartan.
“I brought you some extra country ham.  Didn’t think that servin’ they gave you in the kitchen looked like enough for ya,” Diane offered as she slid another small plate onto our table.  Mr. Alpha Male thanked her as I continued to munch on my French toast. 
“How’s that baby o’ yers?”
“Well, ya know, my chickens roost in that tree in the yard every night.”
“Is that a new shirt ya got there?”
“I hadn’t seen ya round church lately.”
Pieces of conversation swirl around me inspiring questions of who these people are and where they are going when they leave here.  What dramas have they had in their lives?  Have they loved?  Have they lost? Everyone has a back story and ultimately an impending doom, so why not weave them into fiction as I sip my coffee?  Could I ask for better inspiration than the mountain folks found in The Tartan?  I don’t think so. 
What is your favorite place to people watch?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lost in the Query Letter Woods

Do I have any idea what I’m doing?  No.  Do any of us?  No.  Here is my story.  Be entertained by my blunders and learn from my mistakes.
I finally wrote “The End” on my first manuscript at the beginning of January.  After jumping up and down for several days, toasting with my blog partner, and printing my book—just to look at it and smile, I had no idea what to do next.  As I began the editing process, I bought two books on  One book was a listing of literary agents and the other was a “how to” book on writing query letters.  I was proud of my resourcefulness.  Why did everyone stress over this process when there was a book conveniently for sale out there that would hold my hand, and walk me through the writing of this dreaded letter? 
I read.  I highlighted.  I dog-eared pages.  Then I wrote a two page long letter proclaiming in the first paragraph my need of a literary agent and why the reader of my letter would be the agent for me.  Keep in mind I sucked up in a manner that was still vague enough to be a form letter or “specifically unspecific” as I like to say.  I then outlined the entire book—no need to look any further to discover more about this story, it was all right there.  How easy I was making some literary agent’s job!  Then I closed with my list of writer credentials which included my college degree in an unrelated field, my love of books, and my travels to places not even in my book.   My query letter was written just as the wonder book told me to write it.  Perfect!  
And then I sent it to a few literary agents.  I was sure this was it.  This was all it would take to get “The call.”  That was when I started getting the form rejection letters.  After the forth rejection that, (Thank you Jessica Faust at Bookends Literary Agency) said I didn’t have enough hook, I started to do some research.  I began to follow every literary agent’s blog that exists or once existed.  I listened to their complaints.  I read their critiques.  I learned.
Here is what I found:  I was so wrong; it was embarrassing.  A query letter should be 1 page or less, (250 words.)  It should start with the synopsis, which should tell what the story is about without revealing the ending.  If you can’t hear the engaging voice of the movie trailer guy in your head as you read it, it needs more hook.  Use phrases like: she had a choice to make…or he had to decide between…  The essence of your writing should shine though the synopsis of your book without telling a series of events.  Take out the agent kiss up routine.  Hello, they know why you need an agent!  That’s what they do for a living.  And if you, like me, have no experience, don’t try and make some up.  Let your story speak for itself.  To summarize, start with your synopsis, then tell the title, word count and genre, thank them and that is all you need.  Cut everything else!
Now, here I sit about to send out the first round of revised query letters to the literary world.  I hope the Query Shark will be proud, and she and her friends will not rip me limb from limb.  I’ll let you know what happens this time…
Am I the only one who has been lost in the query letter woods?
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