Category Archives: Authors – Debbie Mumford

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FREE Fantasy Story: DEMON DAZE – part 1

I’d like to introduce you to Dani Erickson, a normal teenage girl with a not-so-normal heritage. I’ll be posting Dani’s initial story, DEMON DAZE, in six installments to be posted on Mondays of every other week until the story is complete.  I hope you enjoy meeting Dani and I look forward to your comments.

Demon Daze
DEMON DAZE

by Deb Logan

 Fortune Teller…

A SHIVER OF ANTICIPATION raced along my spine as Allie and I ducked inside the fortune-teller’s tent. My parents didn’t approve of psychic nonsense, but they’d allowed me to come to the carnival with Allie’s family as a pre-birthday treat. The even bigger treat? Not a single one of my older brothers was tailing me. If the Erickson boys were at the carnival, they were enjoying their own night out, not watching over their baby sister.

Turning fourteen had its advantages!

The inside of the tent lived up to all my expectations. A thick Turkish rug covered the brittle, brown August grass and swags of colorful silk festooned the sidewalls and ceiling, ropes of twinkling LED lights camouflaged within the folds. A small table draped in blood-red velvet sat in the center of the small enclosure. A single intricately carved high-backed chair occupied the far side, while two folding chairs waited for us.

Allie glanced at me as if seeking reassurance. The corners of her lips curved in a timid smile and her eyes widened. “Are you sure we want to do this?”

I grabbed her hand and pulled her to the folding chairs. “This was your idea, remember? We’re here. We’re not backing out.” I plopped onto a chair and waited. Allie lit on the very edge of hers, muscles tensed for flight.

A figure disengaged from the draping silk and approached the carved chair.

“I am Madame Simone. Welcome to my den of enlightenment. This place is hallowed, serving as a threshold to the great beyond.”

The olive-skinned woman was swathed from head to toe in a rainbow of silk. Small golden discs dangled from her headdress, gracing her forehead and calling attention to dark, liquid eyes. She studied my best friend for a moment and then turned her attention to me.

“You have come at an auspicious moment,” she said, and lowered herself gracefully into the high-backed chair. Leaning forward, she placed long-fingered hands upon the velvet tablecloth. “Tell me what you seek.”

Allie uttered a nervous squeak and huddled back in her chair, moving as far from the fortune-teller as possible without jumping and running.

I glanced at Allie and then faced the psychic. “Aren’t you supposed to tell us what we need to know?” I don’t like people intimidating my friends.

“What you need to know,” the woman murmured, holding my gaze and refusing to allow my escape. “Are you sure you’re ready for that? Wouldn’t you rather I told you silly tidbits about boys and kisses and who to dance with at homecoming?”

I straightened my shoulders, but didn’t look away. Her sarcastic tone bugged me. Allie and I might be young, but we were paying for this woman’s time.

“Look, just do your thing, okay? We paid for a reading, so read.”

Madame Simone’s smile could’ve frozen Boulder Reservoir. “As you wish.” She inclined her head, breaking our eye-lock, and turned to Allie, “Your hand, my dear.”

Allie placed her right hand in Madame Simone’s left and shuddered slightly when the woman traced the lines in Allie’s palm with a perfectly manicured nail.

“I see a long life if you sever your relationship with dangerous friends,” the psychic said, spearing me with a pointed glance. “You will dance on the stage to the acclaim of millions. Beware the company of demons.”

Allie snatched her hand back the moment Madame Simone released it and cradled it to her chest.

The fortune-teller cocked an eyebrow at me and held out her hand.

Time slowed. My heart thumped wildly, but the air had thickened, making it hard to breathe. Something moved just beyond my peripheral vision, and a desperate desire to flee seized my soul.

And then the moment passed and everything snapped back to normal. I sat in a stuffy little tent with too many silk drapes and a middle-aged woman who looked at me expectantly.

“Sure. Whatever.” I placed my hand in hers…and a jolt like electricity convinced me I’d made a huge mistake. My hand jerked reflexively, but she held on tight and smiled an enigmatic little grin.

“As I suspected,” she murmured, drawing her index finger along my palm and studying the lines like they spelled minuscule words. “You are the seventh … the child of a seventh … and you stand at the cusp.”

She closed her eyes and held my hand open between both of hers. A sharp intake of breath and her eyes widened and sought mine. Fear glazed her eyes.

“Tomorrow a great burden will descend upon you. Have a care lest it crush you…and all who care for you.”

With that happy thought she released my hand, sprang from her chair and melted back into the shadows.

“That’s it?” I yelled after her. “Whatever happened to you’re going to meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger?”

Anger mixed with a heavy helping of fear and roiled in my stomach. I wanted to hit someone. Instead, I grabbed Allie’s hand and the two of us sprinted from the tent.

“What a load of …”

“Hush, Dani,” Allie said, glancing over her shoulder. “Let’s go find my folks.”

I huffed, but allowed my pretty little ballerina of a buddy to drag me into the throng of people wandering the midway. Alejandra Chavez had been my best friend since preschool. She was everything I’d ever wanted to be; everything my whole family still hoped I’d become. Dainty, graceful, feminine to the core, Allie was a lady, in all the best senses of the word. She played the piano with finesse and danced like a rose petal on a summer breeze. Of course, grace came more easily to her five-feet-two-inch frame than it did to my towering five-feet-ten-inches. At least, that’s how I consoled myself. Whatever my talents were, I’d yet to discover them. I just kind of bobbed along in Allie’s wake, never quite measuring up to her shining example.

She pulled to a stop when we spotted her parents tossing rings over bottles at a nearby booth. “Okay. Listen, we don’t want to upset Mom and Dad, so let’s pretend we never went in that psycho’s tent.”

I inhaled lungfuls of crisp night air, doing my best to calm my breathing and make my sprinting heart slow to a peaceful crawl. Alarmed parents would only ensure a quick trip home. Besides, there were still plenty of rides and games to explore that didn’t involve weird middle-aged women wrapped in silk.

“Gotcha.” I nodded. “Everything is peachy. We’re having a grand time.”

Allie stared at me, a small frown creasing her flawless brow. “Are you alright, Dani? She didn’t scare you, did she?”

“Of course not,” I scoffed, wishing my stomach agreed. “Tomorrow’s my birthday. What kind of great burden hits someone on her fourteenth birthday? I mean, it’s not like I’m turning sixteen and Dad’s gonna give me a car I could crash. Get real.”

Allie smiled a knowing little smile, one that said she saw right through my bravado. She patted my arm and said, “I knew you’d be okay with it. Let’s see if we can help Dad win that stuffed tiger for Mom.”

I grinned and we joined Mr. and Mrs. Chavez, but I had to force myself not to turn around and study the crowd. Someone was watching us. I could feel their focus … and my skin tingled in response.

*~*~*

Thanks for reading! Part 2 will be posted on 6/1/15.

Can’t wait to find out what happens? Demon Daze is available online:
Buy Now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

 

 

Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, and Other Exciting Events…

The second week of February is always an exciting time in our household. It not only brings my birthday, but Valentine’s Day, and finally my youngest’s birthday. Whew!

This year, in the midst of all that family celebration, I applied for and obtained a new job!! Same company, same department, but a different team, a step (or two) up the ladder, and a nice pay increase. Yep. February has been amazing this year!

PLUS…in anticipation of an upcoming workshop, I spent the month of January and the first two weeks of February writing a short story per week. Specific stories for themed anthologies. Most of them were SO not in my chosen genres, but…well…stretching is good.

I’m really proud of each of those six stories. A couple of them are so far beyond my comfort zone I was tempted not to even try. But I pushed past my fear of failure…or worse, mediocrity!…and produced stories that I’ll be proud to send out to markets if they don’t make the cut for the anthologies they were written for.

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, birthday celebrations, new jobs, and a very productive start to 2015, let me share with you a flash fiction romance from my SPUN YARNS collection, Love In a Flash

Fairly Godmother

by Debbie Mumford

Crowds of happy people thronged the streets and sidewalks of the weekly farmer’s market. Evelyn floated among them, a stranger in a sea of good-natured jostling. She should have come earlier. She’d never find a place to set up in this ocean of humanity. Hugging her violin case close, she drifted to the edge of the flow and anchored herself in the relative safety of a flower seller’s stall.

Heavenly scents and rich, earthy colors tempted her from every surface. Bouquets of roses, buddleia and lavender dragged her attention from lush baskets dripping with fuchsia and delicate baby’s breath. The flora of her native Montana paled to insignificance when compared to the bounty and variety of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

“May I help you, my dear?” A tiny gray-haired woman peeked out from between immense buckets of cut flowers, making Evelyn wonder if a fairy had been harvested with the blooms.

“Oh, no thank you,” she said, smiling at her whimsical thought. “I’m just resting. I hadn’t expected so many people.”

The petite woman laughed. “Yes, the crowds can be overwhelming if you aren’t accustomed, but they’re excellent for business.” She stared pointedly at Evelyn’s violin case. “Are you looking for a place to busk?”

Heat scorched Evelyn’s face. Her father considered buskers lower than slug slime. “Beggar,” he’d said whenever they had come across a young man playing his guitar, case open for contributions. “Get a real job.”

“No, I mean, not really.” Evelyn sucked in a deep breath and pushed her father’s disapproval to the back of her mind. “I’ve just moved here. I teach violin. I thought I’d try some creative advertising.”

“That’s an excellent idea. Why don’t you set up right where you’re standing?” her fairy godmother asked.

“Oh! I couldn’t. I’d block your sales.”

“My dear,” she said, “if you’re any good, you’ll draw folks like nectar, and they’ll stop, even linger while you play.” She winked at Evelyn, enhancing her fairy godmother image. “That’ll give my flowers a chance to enchant them. It’ll be good business for both of us.”

The rest of the day passed in a blissful mixture of performance and quick conversations followed by an exchange of business cards. Mrs. Spenser, her fairy godmother, proved to be an acute businesswoman. Her prediction came true; people seemed entranced by the intoxicating combination of sprightly Irish jigs performed by a grateful musician, colorful flowers and heady aromas. By the end of the day, Evelyn’s supply of business cards had dwindled significantly.

“What a boon you’ve been to my business today,” sighed Mrs. Spenser, wiping her hands on the towel she’d tucked into the waist of her twill trousers. “If you haven’t filled your schedule with students before then, come back next week,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “I’ll save you a place, and who knows? I might even have a surprise waiting for you!”

*~*~*

The next week, Evelyn arrived early, before the hordes of eager shoppers. She picked her way carefully through the craftsmen and merchants setting up their booths until she reached her fairy godmother’s flower stall. Her sprightly little benefactress was nowhere to be seen, but something new had been added since last week. A comfortable canvas folding chair complete with positionable umbrella stood in a place of honor just to the left of Mrs. Spenser’s stall. A stunning bouquet of lilies and Shasta daisies rested on the seat.

“You must be Evelyn.”

The deep baritone voice startled her, but she held tight to her violin case and turned to face its owner. A tall young man with auburn hair and sparkling green eyes smiled down at her.

“Gran said you’d come. She told me to set up a special place for you and picked out each of these flowers with her own hand.” He deposited the tub of cut flowers he’d hauled from his van on the ground near her feet and plucked the bouquet up from the canvas chair. Pausing for an instant with the blooms near his face, he closed his eyes and inhaled before handing them to Evelyn with a flourish. “Gran certainly knows her flowers. I hope you’ll enjoy them.”

She accepted the bouquet, smiled and held out her free hand. “I certainly will. I’m Evelyn Connor, by the way.”

“Edmund Spenser,” he said, taking her hand in a warm, firm grip, “but everyone calls me Ned. Gran tells me you’re new in town.”

“I am,” she said, already looking forward to a day of music and fragrant flowers spent in Ned’s company, “but I’m feeling more at home every day.” Almost like I had a fairy godmother watching out for me, she thought, with a very likeable grandson.

~The End~

Debbie Mumford Release: TALES OF TOMORROW

I’m thrilled to announce that WDM Publishing has released a new SPUN YARNS collection: TALES OF TOMORROW!

TALES OF TOMORROWTofT Cover-2x3
by Debbie Mumford
Audience: Science Fiction | Short Story Collection

From science fiction to the edge of fantasy, this collection of five short stories includes, two “right around the corner” tales (“Wakinyan’s Valley” and “Beneath and Beyond”), one far flung space odyssey (“Astromancer”), and two stories of future families (“Izzie” and “Spinning”).

Buy Now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

November Means NaNo

…and I don’t mean tiny technology!

November means NaNoWriMo for many writers. If you’re participating, congratulations and good luck! If you’ve never heard of it, check it out here. You might find you want to play along this year and join the fun for real next year!

I’m not a registered participant this year, but I’ve won the challenge several times in the past. My Deb Logan novel, Faery Unexpected, came out of a NaNo experience, as did my Sorcha’s Children novel Dragons’ Choice. It’s a great program and a fabulous way to kick-start a daily writing habit.

If you’re doing the challenge, you’re firmly into your second week, and you may find yourself flailing a bit. “I don’t want to write today” or “I don’t know know what happens next” are frequent complaints as you move toward the middle of the month. In fact, you may be reading this post in silent protest, a rationalization (“I’m finding tips about NaNo”) as a form of procrastination.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re here, but here are a few thoughts that may help you disconnect from the Internet and return to your work-in-progress.

First, don’t wait for inspiration. Just start typing and have faith that your muse will show up for work. Much as I love the rush of adrenaline and words that come from an inspired writing session, I’ve discovered that when I read back through my finished draft, I can’t tell which passages were inspired and which were harder than slogging uphill in thigh-deep snow. Get the words on the page. You can revise later, but you can’t edit what you haven’t written.

Not sure where your story should go from here? Try some of these tips:

  • Whatever is happening, escalate the challenges your characters are facing. Do that by:
    • Deepening the conflict — make it more personal to the character. If your detective is searching for a rapist, let him discover that the victim lives in the same dorm, on the same floor, as the detective’s daughter. Is his little girl on the rapist’s radar?
    • Broadening the conflict — give the conflict a wider scope. Maybe your detective is searching for a missing girl and discovers the MO repeated across the city, perhaps across the state. How many girls are missing? Are they still alive? Is this a serial killer or perhaps a white slaver ring? How wide do the ripples of this crime extend?
  • You’ve got conflict (Yay!), now be sure you’re varying it! Don’t have your character fight the same battle over and over again, just against different foes. He was in a death-defying battle against a goblin, then he fought an orc and narrowly escaped death, next he was attacked by troll — yawn. Been there. Done that. Here’s a list of types of conflict. See how many you can pack into that middle you ‘re trying not to let sag!
    • Man vs Nature — Mother Earth can present some pretty extreme challenges!
    • Man vs Man — yep, we all understand that one!
    • Man vs Society — Hunger Games, anyone?
    • Man vs Self — Is your hero a tortured soul?
    • Man vs God — Talk about a powerful adversary…
    • Romance — lots of potential conflict there–enough for its own genre, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate a little romantic conflict into your police procedural.
  • Avoid quick rescues — this is one I struggle with. I like my characters, but I know I need to toss them into conflict. So I do it. I throw them to the lions … and then immediately pull them out of harm’s way! *whew* Conflict generated, but danger avoided. Bad writer, Debbie! Don’t rescue that character, make the lions hungrier!

Whatever happens, you’ve embarked on a challenging, but rewarding, journey! Go for the win and keep those words flowing. At the very least, you’ll arrive in December with lots of ideas and a habit of writing every day. No matter what :D

New Release: GHOSTS AND GHOULIES

I’m proud to announce that WDM Publishing has released my alter-ego’s first SPUN YARNS collection: GHOSTS AND GHOULIES! Just in time for Halloween, too :D

GHOSTS AND GHOULIESG&G Cover-2x3
by Deb Logan
Audience: Juvenile  | Short Story Collection

Spooky, supernatural stories for younger readers. This collection of five short stories includes a ghost story (“Lilah’s Ghost”), two urban fantasy tales (“Demon Daze” and “School Daze”), and two stories of dragons and faeries (“Deirdre’s Dragon” and “Lexie’s Choice”).

Ghosts and Ghoulies and Dragons, Oh My!

Electronic Edition Publication Date: October 2014
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Upcoming SPUN YARNS Collections

I thought I’d do a bit of blatant self-promotion this week :D

Each of my writing personae has a collection of short stories scheduled for release within the next month! Here’s what you should be watching for:

Tales of Tomorrow

Tales of Tomorrow by Debbie Mumford will feature four science fiction stories. From first contact to interstellar travel, these tales will carry you into the great beyond!

Ghosts and Ghoulies

Scheduled for an early October release, Deb Logan’s Ghosts and Ghoulies, a collection of five haunting tales for younger readers, will be available just in time for Halloween! And a second collection is already in the works for Halloween 2015!

What Makes a Story Unique / Original?

I’ve been doing some research / study on originality in fiction. Remembering the conventional wisdom that there are only so many plots in the world, and all of them have been done many times…and by the masters, how do contemporary writers have a hope of writing original, unique works?

One persistent response is “voice”, that elusive element that marks your work as your own. Something that an individual writer often can’t recognize in their own work, but that others read and say, “Oh. Of course. That’s a Deb Logan story.”

But more than voice, where does originality reside? Is it in a gimmick? Some little detail that no one else has thought of that an author can build their plot (which has been done before…and by the masters) around?

I decided to look at three of my favorite series and see what insights I could gain. Each of these three has a distinct gimmick…but is that the answer to their uniqueness? Let’s see.

  1. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – Colfer built an entire series of eight middle grade fantasy novels around an imaginative bit of word play: leprechaun = LEP Recon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance). I love that … wish I’d thought of it first *lol* I heard Colfer speak once and he revealed another bit about why this series is so original: he based the main character, Artemis Fowl—who begins the series as a 12-year-old criminal mastermind—on his older brother, thereby pulling in Colfer’s own emotional history. It’s a delightful series with a great character arc leavened with lots of age-appropriate humor.
  1. Storm Front by Jim Butcher – The first book of Butcher’s Dresden Files series introduces us to Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, a contemporary wizard living and working in Chicago. It’s the little touches that really make Harry unique – the fact that he advertises in the yellow pages under “W for Wizard”; his sidekick and helper, Bob, is a disembodied spirit who lives in a skull and loves romance novels; his cat, with the nondescript name of Mister; and eventually his dog, Mouse, a gentle giant with magic of his own – a Tibetan Temple dog (Foo dog). All through this series Butcher creates memorable and unique characters, giving them a life of their own while breaking traditional stereotypes. (His vampires are truly terrifying…and completely original.)
  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – this series could be described as time-travel romance, but you’d be limiting its scope. Diana’s gimmick is that Claire Randall, a nurse who has just survived WWII, is sucked back in time through a circle of Scottish standing stones. Doesn’t sound all that original, but her characterization is amazing. Diana writes really LONG novels, and there are eight in this series (so far) all centering on the passionate love of ONE couple: Claire and Jamie. I don’t know many writers capable of keeping me interested in the life and love of a single couple over that many words, but she pulls it off. Plus, her main characters jump from being in their late 20’s in the first book, to nearing 50 in the 2nd, and the relationship remains just as intense.

Interesting. A good gimmick is great to start the ideas flowing (LEP-Recon; Wizard for hire; time-travel), but what makes the story original ultimately is the depth of characterization and the author’s own emotional history woven into those characters. All of these books have characters that I love as well as characters that I love to hate.

Each of these writers has created characters so real, that I feel like I know them … and not just the heroes. Even the secondary characters have personalities so distinct that I can recognize them from dialogue alone.

Which leads me to conclude that originality, uniqueness, memorability, isn’t a function of the gimmick or the plot as much as it is a by-product of characters so real they leap off the page and drag you into their lives, loves, and adventures.

What do you think? What makes your favorite books memorable for you?

Thoughts on Genre

I’ve been thinking about genre recently. The genres I prefer to read…and the genres I choose to write.

I know the defining characteristics of genre. I can tell the difference between fantasy, science fiction, and mystery. I can even tell when they overlap (I’ve been reading a very good series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch which melds science fiction with mystery. If you haven’t met Retrieval Artist Miles Flint, I highly recommend you do so quickly :D ), but where in the story does genre reside?

Let’s look at the bare bones of a story: A character – in a setting – with a problem.

What part of that equation represents genre? I’m going to posit that genre resides in the setting.

The character has to be relatable to the reader, someone the reader can identify with and care about. Even if the character is an alien, s/he has to have enough “humanity” to allow the reader inside his/her skin. So, genre doesn’t reside in character.

The problem also has to be relatable. Something the reader understands and can identify with. So no matter the genre, the problem must be of a common enough nature to allow the reader to care whether or not the character solves it. Nope, the problem (plot) doesn’t represent genre.

Setting is where genre resides. Science fiction settings are vastly different from fantasy settings. Mysteries can take place in a sci-fi or fantasy setting, but then they aren’t classified as mysteries (unless the setting is so minimally sci-fi as to make it almost invisible – JD Robb’s “In Death” series fits this bill).

Romance is character-centric with the essential element residing in relationship, but romance also transcends all the genres. You name a genre, and there’s a romance sub-genre covering it.

So, setting, and how the character understands and interacts with the setting, is where genre resides.

In order to write science fiction, an author doesn’t have to be a scientist. S/he just needs to imagine a rich enough world (setting) for the reader to know that the characters don’t live on our planet / in our time / or within our current understanding of the physical universe.

Back to the bones of story:  A character the reader can identify with (thereby gaining access to the story) – in a setting (which determines the genre) – with a problem (which defines the plot).

What do you think?

SPUN YARNS: Love In A Flash

My publisher recently launched a new Imprint: Spun Yarns.

Spun Yarns features collections of short stories, from flash fiction to romance to science fiction.

I thought I’d celebrate my first Spun Yarns collection, LOVE IN A FLASH, by sharing one of its stories. Enjoy!Flash

LOVE IN A FLASH
by Debbie Mumford
Audience: Romance | Sweet | Short Stories

A collection of romantic Flash fiction stories—complete tales told in less than a thousand words. Each of these seven jewels presents the exhilaration of budding romance. Experience the thrill of discovery with Love in a Flash!

Buy Now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

 

The Eyes Have It

Amy Davidson forced herself to look away from Brett Rawlings’ beautiful, dark eyes. Lord, have mercy, she thought as she bent to adjust his riding helmet. It’s a good thing you’re only five. I could lose myself in eyes like those.

“Will you be observing his session today, Mrs. O’Rourke?” Amy worked as a therapist for a therapeutic riding center in New York’s Central Park. She loved her job and on a beautiful spring day like this, her heart fairly sang!

The grey-haired governess shook her head. “No, I’m just dropping him off on my way to the airport.” She smiled, a dreamy expression softening her no-nonsense gaze, “I’m off to visit my newest granddaughter. Born just two days ago in Baltimore.”

“How exciting! Will you be gone long?”

“I’m taking a month off. This is Lisa’s first child. She and Ben begged me to come and stay.” She glanced at her wristwatch. “I’ve got to run. I’m not sure whether Mr. Rawlings will pick Brett up, or the temporary nanny. But whichever, you’ll know you can release him by their code word: Hopsalot.”

“Hopsalot?”

Mrs. O’Rourke laughed. “A remnant of Mr. Rawlings’ childhood.” She stooped to kiss Brett’s cheek. “Be good, young man. I’ll see you in a month.” With a cheery wave, she disappeared into her white minivan and drove away.

“Well, Brett, it looks like it’s just you and me today.” Amy leaned down and unfastened the myriad straps that held Brett’s twisted body upright in his padded wheelchair.

The little boy smiled, his liquid brown eyes sparkling with anticipation. Amy loved those eyes, a gift, she felt sure, from his deceased mother. Brett’s medical records told a sad story; his delivery had been complicated, robbing him of his mother while leaving him with Cerebral Palsy.

Though she knew she shouldn’t have favorites, Brett held a special place in Amy’s heart. She blessed the day she’d decided to blend her physical therapy degree with her Montana-ranch-girl love of horses. However, her best decision (much to her parents’ chagrin) had been to leave the Big Sky country and move to New York City. If she hadn’t, she’d never have met this precious child. On the other hand, despite her love of the City’s vibrant pulse, she often despaired of finding a man who would share her country-bred values; family must always come first.

“Today’s the day, Brett,” she said, hoisting the little boy out of his chair and into her arms. “Today we get to leave the arena and follow a bridle path into the park.”

Brett didn’t answer, Amy had never heard him speak, but his eyes glowed with excitement as she lifted him onto Molly’s saddle and adjusted the supporting harness.

Molly turned her head as far as the cross-ties allowed and neighed a greeting to her small rider. The sorrel standardbred appeared too tall for the slight child, but Amy knew the mare’s placid disposition made her the perfect mount for Brett’s first foray into the open air.

Once Brett was securely seated, Amy moved to Molly’s head, released the cross-ties, and holding her bridle in one hand and lead in the other, led the mare from the stable. Glorious sunshine assaulted her eyes and she glanced up to be sure Brett’s helmet provided adequate protection as his eyes adjusted. His smile outshone the sun as he gazed happily around. The special saddle provided adequate support for his spinal column, but didn’t prevent his head from jerking from side to side as he took in his new surroundings.

Satisfied as to his safety and comfort, Amy led the horse slowly across the street and down the block and a half to Central Park. Her dark brown hair, tied up in a pony tail, swept her shoulders as she walked. She wore comfortable hiking boots, jeans, a white twill shirt and a red windbreaker emblazoned with the Center’s logo. When she reached the trailhead for the bridle path, she pulled Molly to a stop and stepped back to check on Brett.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

He grinned lopsidedly, and slowly blinked those gorgeous eyes once, and then stared at her with glittering anticipation. A clear “yes.”

“All right, then.  Here we go!” She clucked to Molly and they set off on the two mile beginner’s loop.

*~*~*

After Brett’s ride, Amy held him with his back against her chest; her left arm supported his weight while tucked in the curve behind his knees, while her right arm held him firmly across his chest. They approached Molly’s nose. The big sorrel snuffled his honey-blond hair, released now from his riding helmet, and softly lipped his clenched fist. His attempt to relax his grip telegraphed itself through Amy’s body; she held her breath, willing him to accomplish this feat.  Slowly his fingers opened revealing a slightly sweaty peppermint.

Molly accepted the tribute with gentle lips, and Brett breathed a contented sigh.

“Very nice, Brett,” Amy praised. “Molly loves peppermints. You’ve just made her day.”

Amy turned to find a tall, healthy, adult version of Brett watching them from behind mirrored sunglasses.

“Dah!”

Brett’s exclamation surprised Amy, but left no doubt as to the man’s identity. A huge grin wreathed his features as he stepped forward and relieved Amy of her burden.

“Hey there, big boy! Have you had a good time?”

The obvious love in his voice tugged at Amy’s heart. She’d worried occasionally about her favorite client, having only met his governess. No more. Father and son had a tangible bond.

When he finished arranging Brett in his wheelchair, Mr. Rawlings straightened and turned to Amy with an outstretched hand.

“David Rawlings,” he said, shaking her hand in a firm, but pleasant grip. “You must be Amy. Mrs. O’Rourke raves about you, and I can tell Brett likes you, too.”

Amy stammered something unintelligible, but David Rawlings kept right on talking.

“If I’d known you had such a sweet smile, I’d have dropped by sooner.” An infectious grin destroyed any condescension the words might have held. He swept his sunglasses off and added, “Oh, and the password is ‘Hopsalot,’” in a conspiratorial whisper.

Amy found herself gazing into the most gorgeous pair of eyes she’d ever seen. Brett’s father’s eyes were deep chocolate pools, heralds of an honest and forthright character.

“Lord, have mercy,” she murmured, as a flutter of possibility tingled down her spine.

~The End~

Change

Change is one of those catch-22 elements. We all dislike it, but we all need it.

Without its stimulation we settle into cozy habits, establish comfort zones, and fight tooth-and-toenail to stay inside them…despite the fact that comfort zones rapidly disintegrate into ruts. And NO ONE wants to admit they’re in a rut.

The fact is, much as change disturbs us, it’s a necessary part of life. Without change we fall into stagnation, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go there.

Why am I blathering on about change? I recently spent a little over a week with my daughter and her family watching them step into the deep end of a major life change. I flew across the continental USA to stay with my preschool grandkids so that my daughter could accompany her husband to a job fair specifically designed for military officers who are exiting the service.

Lots of change in store for that young family, but when they emerge from the turmoil of indecision, the upheaval of moving who-knows-where, they’ll have a new stability, a new family dynamic. Daddy will not be missing from the little ones’ lives for months at a time. It will be a good change, but at the moment, their lives are filled with anxiety and the discomfort that change brings.

Closer to home, I’ve been thinking about my experiences in an anthology workshop I attended in late February. Everyone who participated had the opportunity to submit stories for six anthologies. Each story had to be written specifically for the workshop, and we were given limited time to create them (about a week per story). This was to ensure that we didn’t have time to edit out what makes our stories uniquely our own, that the editors experienced our authentic voices.

Six stories in six weeks in six different genres. It was a frightening experience, but at the same time, exhilarating. Five of the genres were ones I’ve never attempted to write – talk about blasting past your comfort zone! The last one was young adult. Ahhh! At last…my genre.

I only sold one of the stories. You guessed it: the YA. My voice and skills are established there. I know what I’m doing.

Was it worth it to move out of my comfort zone and attempt to write in those unfamiliar genres? You bet! I received feedback on each of those stories from six professional editors. I learned an incredible amount about my own strengths and weaknesses, and, even though those stories weren’t accepted for these particular anthologies, I discovered that I have a flair for writing mysteries and steampunk :D Thrillers and gambling fiction — not so much, but at least I know the basics of where I fell down.

Change can be unsettling, even downright uncomfortable, but when you emerge on the other side you discover new strengths and gain additional knowledge that will inform the rest of your life. So let me encourage you to step beyond your comfort zone every now and then. After all, you don’t want to let those ruts get so deep you can’t even peer over the top.

Remember: Change is good!

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