Single Step Adventure – Short Fiction – Scifi, Time Travel & Geocaching

single step adventure“I think I see it!” Chelsea ran ahead keeping a watchful eye on her smartphone compass. Seti, the families Irish Setter, sprinted beside the young woman barking with sheer joy.

Lexi and Ed paused to tighten drawstrings on their windbreakers. A brisk, grit-filled wind scoured their exposed skin. “You’ve got everything?” she asked.

“I do,” Ed nodded. Reaching into his pocket, he removed three small silver objects. He dropped two of them into the palm of her hand. Lexi thought that the high bluffs of Dover were an ideal location for today’s activities.

“This is it!” Chelsea squealed as her parents gathered around.  From a small box that had been hidden in the rocks, Chelsea removed a strange oblong object. It was identical to the ones concealed in Lexi and Ed’s pockets. She read the paper it came wrapped in. “It says that if I, Chelsea, hold this and step over the edge of the cliff, I will be transported to another place.” Her eyes sparkled with wonder.  When she turned her gaze to take in open expanse, wonder morphed into to uncertainty.

Her father, who stood behind her mother with hands gripped on her shoulders asked, “Are you entirely certain about this Chelsea?”

She bit her lip. Chelsea almost changed her mind. But the hard look on her mother’s face wiped that away. They’d had many arguments over Chelsea’s obsession to prove the existence of Time Travelers. In fact, she was sure that she was on the trail of one such person now. For years, she’d been getting personalized clues in every single geocache she’d located.

Chelsea approached the edge of the precipice. Without even a look back, she tightly gripped the thing in her hand and took a step forward.

The man, woman and dog watched Chelsea wink out of sight. Holding their breath they crept to the rim and peered down at the sharp rocks below. Not seeing a twisted and broken figure, they relaxed.

Reveling in a feeling of completion, Lexi thought of her partner and the toll that the 23 years of parenting and observation duties had taken. She turned to Ed. Placing a hand on his shoulder; she lifted up onto her toes so she could have a level view of his eyes.  She winked and gave him a salute. Squatting down, she opened her arms to let Seti snuggle into them. Burying her face in his fur, she whispered, “I’ve missed you!”

His immediate, silent response, And I you Mistress, appeared in her mind.

Before she rose, Lexi slipped one of the silver ovals into the dog’s mouth. The three of them stood together, taking a moment to regard France across the English Channel. At Lexi’s nod, they winked out of sight and stepped onto the Constellation.

Lexi felt a large warm hand slip into hers briefly and squeeze, before releasing. A voice she had not heard spoken aloud in 23 years inquired, “Shall I set the coordinates for home?”

United Kingdom – Dover Cliff’s Travel Information:

traveltips.usatoday.com/white-cliffs-dover-england-3316.html

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/white-cliffs-dover/

www.visitkent.co.uk/attractions/the-white-cliffs-of-dover/9002

Answered Prayers – Short Fiction – Family Drama

five minute ficiton

A hint of lemons on the ocean breeze coming through the open window brought a wistful smile to Marzia’s face as she pulled more wet laundry from the tiny washing machine. She could already taste those lemons in her mouth at the end of the day.

Carlo would be in the fields now laughing and smiling with the men and women who also worked there. Carlo was always bright and cheerful, not like his sister who’d grown increasingly tired and sour with the years.

Marzia carried a heavy sheet out to the balcony where she added it to the others that swayed and moved with the currents of the warm scented air. Looking down below, she spotted young Theresa and Paulo hiding and giggling near the corner of the market. They didn’t realize that they had an audience as they French kissed and ran their hands over each other in places that would have their mothers squawking.

She remembered when she’d been Theresa’s age, wearing the starched white shirts and pleated skirts of the Catholic school. Toni Marellli had been her boyfriend then. They’d thought that the same corner was private too.  After Carlo’s accident, Toni had gone away. Marzia stalked him sometimes on the internet. The photos of his receding hairline, beer buddies and of his two grown daughters always stayed with her for days. That would have been my life.

When the disaster struck—the one that had left the top half of her brother’s skull missing, Marzia knelt in the surgery waiting room saying prayers on her rosary and begging God to let Carlo live. God had granted that wish. The Doctors warned her that Carlo would probably not live past the age of twenty five.

They were both in their sixties now. Carlo worked during harvest in the lemon and olive fields perched on the steep slopes of the coastal mountains.  In the early evenings, he sat at the edges of the walkway leading down to the Ligurian Sea. He smiled innocently at the tourists who regarded him with surprised pity. There was never a language barrier for Carlo. Turning his head so that they had a clear view of his injury, he motioned toward his hat lying near his feet. The loose change that he proudly poured into their kitchen table did help make ends meet, as did Mariza’s miniature sketches that she drew of seascapes and buildings in their tiny town. The sheets she washed were destined for tourist beds. At night, she sipped on Carlo’s share of the Limoncello that he received at the conclusion of harvest season.

In her top dresser drawer was the rosary that she’d used that night. She hadn’t touched it since. If Carlo beat her to the grave, she planned to put it in with his ashes.

Boost Your Business with a Book

Are you an expert in your field? Do you want to increase the quantity and / or quality of your customer base?  Would you like to expand your service offerings into paid speaking engagements?  If you answered, ‘yes’ to any of these questions, writing and producing a book (e-book or print) may be worth some serious consideration.

Below is an excellent video series that outlines how to organize, compose and write your business boosting book.

Reason for Writing – Target Market – Diane O’Connell – Video Series

Targeted Subject Topics – Manuscript Organization – Blogging – Diane O’Connell – Video Series

Share Your Expertise – Storytelling – Diane O’Connell – Video Series

Research & Statistics – Diane O’Connell – Video Series

Publishing a book is not an endeavor to enter into casually. With the ‘relative ease’ of self-publishing, there are more than a few ways to go terribly wrong and end up sabotaging your business growth efforts.

This video explains the difference between Traditional Publishing vs. Self Publishing

Publishing Options – Traditional vs. Self Publishing – Diane O’Connell – Video Series

The webinar below explains the complexities of interior page layout and design. It discusses what makes a book look like it has been professionally designed vs. a DIY project.

interior design

Under the Covers Book Page Design by Michele DeFilippo

Like any product that one would take to market, a book has production costs at the front end and distribution and marketing expenses once it’s complete. A savvy business person will know when it’s appropriate to do the work yourself and when its time to hire an expert.

The following is a list of the most common (and wise!) areas to plan for investment in your book project.

Cover Art
Editing 
Interior Page Design
Marketing / Website Set-Up

Below are a few resources for editors and cover designers.

Editors

Editorial Freelancers Association (1,100+ members) has a sort function that simplifies identifying the editors who match your search criteria.

Bay Area Editors Forum

Book Expo America

5 Tips to find the right professional editor for your book

What type of editor do you need?
*Content Editing helps with the overall organization of your material
*Copy Editing is fact checking
*Line Editing is the nuts and bolts of sentence and paragraph structure and punctuation.

Cover Design & Designers

cover design

Messenger – Short Fiction – Women / Drama

five minute ficitonIsobel’s youngest, and most beloved child, Agatha, had been chosen by the Order of Mystics to learn their ways at the tender age of four. When the girl had turned twelve, she’d been chosen again—this time to receive the highest honor bestowed upon a member of their tribe; to deliver messages from their people to the Gods. Isobel wondered if the distinction was given because of a childhood rivalry between herself and the sister of the tribal leader.Messinger

For one year prior to Agatha’s Messenger Ceremony, Isobel’s family would receive tributes of food and service by every member of the community.  As the time for the sacrifice grew near, Isobel became increasingly anxious. She felt the eyes of her people on her every move. At night she’d whisper desperately to her husband that they must do something to stop this.

Angry with her, he’d grown tired of repeating the same responses, “It is the will of the people. The Gods punishment would be severe. It is blasphemy to speak those words,” he turned away.

The thought of leaving her home and all that she knew frightened Isobel. But it terrified her even more to consider what would become of her if she continued to live among the tribe after they had killed the most beautiful thing that she had created—Agatha.

Isobel had constructed a plan. It began with a fire. Even the most devoted can be bribed for the right price.

“The Gods may not smite you,” the masked female said in a gravelly voice. It came to Isobel through a heavy cloud of cloying, sweet smoke. “However, the people will take their vengeance upon every member of your bloodline,” the oracle continued. “Their screams will echo into the heavens and their tortured deaths will be blight upon your soul.”

Tilting her chin down, and holding mask away from her face the oracle spat into a bowl of liquid that contained several strands of Isobel’s hair. She tossed it into the fire pit between them. Another cloud of scented smoke stung Isobel’s eyes. She coughed and gagged while crawling out of the sacred, dark, womb-like space.

Isobel hurried back to her modest dwelling without uttering a single word.

Inside the smoky hut, Agatha removed her mask. It was forbidden to make personal statements when seekers came for visions and soothsaying. In this instance, she had broken her oath.

The heavy thrum of drum beats filled the air as Isobel and her family, dressed and decorated in their finest, walked the path that led to the steps of the altar. They stood together as the Priest addressed the gathering. Agatha slipped a trembling hand into her mother’s as they stood, proud, shoulder to shoulder.

Shouts from the far end of the village reached the assemblage. For a moment all fell into a confused silence. As panic began to clutch the crowd, Isobel’s hand tightened on Agatha’s. Their eyes met and held. “Run!” yelled the mother to her daughter.

alternate design

How to Make a Basic e-mail Signature for the HTML Impaired

If you have a product to sell – if you are a performer or an artist – or if you just want to find more clients then a custom e-mail signature can help grow your business.  An e-mail signature is a stylish, effective and non-intrusive way to announce to the world (or at least the people you communicate with via e-mail) an abbreviated bit of your business story.

If you enjoy the do-it-yourself approach to marketing and technical ‘computery’ stuff doesn’t send you screaming for the hills, this article will show you the steps necessary to add flair to your online communications.

Disclaimer: I am not a programmer or an HTML expert. The information below was obtained through trial and error. The steps are for the e-mail program on your home computer. (Many of them will apply if you wish to customize the signature on your smartphone or cloud based e-mail program such as gmail or yahoo, but every platform has its differences and particularities.)

sample sig

html code only

1. Seeing the code. Once you learn what goes where, you can do a search for other types of HTML code that will do even fancier things. The graphic above shows a sample custom e-mail signature along with the code that is used to generate it. The first line of the signature “Samantha B. Jones” in the purple box, corresponds with the first line of HTML code. In the HTML purple box, notice that <b> means ‘bold,’ <font size=”4″> is the size of the font, and <face=”Times New Roman,” is the font type.

2. Basic Design. Simple is always a good rule of thumb. Think about the most effective e-mail signatures that you have received. Which ones invited you to click further to learn more and which ones turned you off?

alternate design

3. Write the Code.  Here is the code for the design above. Copy it and begin to play around with it. *The items that I highlighted in green are areas where you can customize it and where you need to provide links to online images or your websites.

<img src=”http://www.link to online image“>
<font size=”4” face=”Arial Black” color=”maroon“>My Awesome Company Name</b></font><font size=”1“face=”arial“><a href=”http://www.link to website“> visit my website </a>
<BR><font size=”1” face=”Lucida Console“>Subtext #1|Subtext #2|Subtext #3 <BR><p>
Express yourself here<BR>
<i><b>italic bold text here</i></b>

(I included Arial Black and Lucida Console as these are other fonts that are generally recognized by ‘most’ electronic devices.)

4. Test the Code. Copy and paste your code into an HTML viewer to see if it works.

This is the one I use – http://htmledit.squarefree.com/

html editor

Another option is to insert the code into your e-mail program, then send yourself multiple e-mails until you have it just right.

5. Insert the HTML code into your e-mail program.

The screen capture image shows Thunderbird e-mail, but the names and steps for other e-mail programs should be ‘roughly’ similar.

In Thunderbird, go to “Tools” > “Account Settings,” then insert your code in the ‘Signature text’ box. Once you click on ‘Save,’ you can write a new e-mail and send it to yourself to test any links or images that you’ve included.

Thunderbird tools

For Outlook, go to “Tools”> “Options”> “Mail Format” > “Signatures

There you have it – the basic steps to begin creating an enticing e-mail signature.

___________________________________________________________________

Additional Articles & Resources

http://www.emailsignature.com/cloud

http://www.digitechbranding.com/pages/email-signature-HTML-programming.html

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/corporate-email-signature-guidelines-10520.html

http://www.xink.io/news/email-signature-format-101-dos-donts/

http://www.xink.io/news/email-signature-format-101-dos-donts/

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/04/the-art-and-science-of-the-email-signature/

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Add-Facebook-and-Twitter-icons-to-your-email-signature-7b9fc0f6-1c25-45cc-8eae-dab15b78cf08?CorrelationId=d7474074-b1b6-45cc-a0b5-67804a173033&ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

Search YouTube for “How to create an e-mail signature in YOUR PROGRAM”

Positive Gifts from the County Go Beyond Doctors and Medicine

It can start as a cry at a higher than normal pitch, a raging fever that won’t come down, bruises that appear for no reason. A parent, consumed with worry seeks out help. The Pediatrician makes a preliminary evaluation and orders more tests.

Then the moment arrives…words, delivered with professionalism and care from the doctor;  everything has changed for the family and the child with the difficult diagnosis.

For nearly 300 families in Nevada County (California), these experiences are part of their story. But that’s only the beginning. A new reality sets in—one that involves long drives to special care units at UC Davis, San Francisco or Stanford and physician specialists, dieticians, nutritionists, social workers and rounds of medication.IMG_1555-web

Maryellen Beauchamp has a special connection with these families. She is Nevada County’s Public Health Nurse Case Manager for California Children’s Services. 53 webCalifornia Children’s Services is operated by the State of California. Over 80 years old, it has an office in every county. Maryellen acts as the conductor in an orchestra that encompasses multi-faceted medical assistance for children with severe health issues. These issues can range from growth plate or skull fractures, endocrine, neurological, orthopedic, and metabolic disorders to Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy and premature infants.

This type of work comes with a heavy weight and knowledge that is often difficult to leave behind at the end of the day.  On her desk, Maryellen keeps several inspirational quotes that remind her to remain grounded. One of them reads; Today, I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive; I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. –H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama

Maryellen recently had the opportunity to incorporate something important into her program—a sense of positive empowerment for her young clients. It came in the form of a beautifully illustrated book, Toby Bear and the Healing Light.  It is the story of a stuffed bear who teaches a sick child the power of affirmations, meditation and visualizations in the healing process.

Toby Bear and the Healing Light was created by author, Lisa Boulton while undergoing cancer treatments, as a gentle way to help children going through difficult illness. Boulton enlisted photographer and artist Lisa Redfern to create the photo-illustrations. “I wanted the story to feature local people, places and businesses as a way to express my love for our community and for the outpouring of support and caring that I received when I was sick,” says Boulton.SNMH Approved 12-14-12

Maryellen says, “I like that the story features Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital—the place where the journey with California Children’s Services begins for many of our families. It is also a plus that the Nevada  County Public Health Department could partner with the local women who created the book.”

As Maryellen puts it, “You can’t get well with doctors and medicines alone…it takes the right attitude to make it all work.”  She’s excited about the books because she plans to give them as gifts to the age appropriate children in her program. “It is a positive message and gift from Nevada County Public Health Department to the children (and their families) who need it most.”

Read more about this topic at The Union.com.

Toby Bear and the Healing Light

IMG_1563-1web

Good Morning Aboard Caralee – Short Fiction – Romance

 five minute ficiton
[reddit writing prompt]

A married couple start another average morning on an average weekday. No one dies. No twist. Show their overwhelming love for each other without them speaking a single word.

Their movements were automatic with a choreograph-like smoothness.  In a galley smaller than most American coat closets, this was an accomplishment. The 45 foot Caralee housed all of their worldly possessions and had transported them to exotic ports all over the globe.

He reached for bowls while she filled a pot with water. He struck a match to light the flame on the stove as she pulled out spoons from the drawer. She placed the pot on the burner while taking a box of oats out of the cupboard.

When hands were not occupied with tasks, they would glide across or alight upon the other’s body; a brush down the back, coming to rest upon a shoulder, a hip or making a light tap on the behind.

Oats were added when the water boiled, the pot covered and the heat turned down. During the brief pause in their morning dance, their eyes lingered upon each other; they smiled.

He enjoyed watching the light play across the pink facets of the pendant that always hung around her neck. A gift he’d presented to her some thirty-five years earlier on the day that Asmara was born. Their only child had been conceived above deck, on a warm night, under a ripe Sri Lankan moon.

Sitting hip to hip at the tiny table, they held hands as they ate. Her nervous fingers twisted his wedding ring around and around on his finger. She paused occasionally to rub her fingernail over the smooth mound of rose quartz that she’d found in Brazil.

Before taking that first sip of coffee, they clinked mugs together softly. A tradition adopted from their time in the British Isles.  It signified ‘a robust day and a tender heart.’

Photography by: Mark Pepall
Photography by: Mark Pepall

Bundled in coats, they went topside to welcome the sun as it crested the horizon. Elbows resting on the rail they let the cool breeze flow across exposed skin. Smiling, she turned to him, observing the lines on his face and the wiry gray hair that steadily overtook the brown along with the passage of time.  She thought that he looked as good as the day they met…even better. She mouthed the words, ‘olive juice.’ This was a family joke; these words look like something else if one is lip reading. A chuckle from deep in his chest echoed across the water.

 

Find New Books, Authors & Enter for a Chance to Win – Goodreads Giveaway

Have you discovered Goodreads Giveaways?

It’s a great way to find new books and authors…and it comes with the thrill of winning a prize. It’s also a way for new authors to get their work in front of an audience.

the giveaway

Every day hundreds of publishers and independent authors mail out FREE copies of their (print) books to Giveaway winners. To enter the contests, the only requirement is to be Goodreads Member. To set-up an account, all that you need is your name, e-mail and a password.

You can search Giveaway books according to your favorite genre, by popular authors, or just by browsing through the “ending soon” section.

According to CreateSpace, Amazon’s printing affiliate, there are 1,500 new titles published daily. If you are a writer, you know that those numbers mean a sizable marketing challenge. For authors and publishers, a Goodreads Giveaway is one way to connect with their 20+ million members. It exposes a new title to a target market in a selected state, or worldwide and it gets the ball rolling for reviews…and best-of-all, it doesn’t cost a thing.

In order to run a Giveaway, one must become a Goodreads Author. Once you’ve signed up for a general membership, you can then set-up an Author Profile.

Through the Giveaways, I’ve discovered more than a few new books that I’ve put on my ‘to read’ virtual bookshelf. Recently, I won, Making Art Work: A case study for creative skills monetization in a non-traditional way, by Ekaterina Dorozhkinamaking art work

I am looking forward to learning some new art marketing tips and I can’t wait to see samples of her body painting (a Pinterest interest).

My first Goodreads Giveaway campaign is off and running – now through March 3rd. Within the first 24 hours, 171 people have entered the contest. Roughly half of them are in my target market (14-25 year olds).  That’s 171 people who had no idea that Haylee existed yesterday. Already, I’d say that the campaign has been a success.

If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone, click here.

Goodreads Giveaway
Goodreads Giveaway

I hope whoever wins the Haylee Giveaway is as excited as I am to win Ekaterina’s book.

[Note: The fine print in the Giveaway states that winners are not required to write a book review. But as an author and independent publisher, I will say that the hope for reviews is a major consideration when running a Giveaway. If you liked the book you won…please DO write your review!]

Connect with me on Goodreads.

Organization & Social Media for Authors

Author Interview – Resources for Writers

If you are a Haylee fan, you’ll discover a bit of the back story in this condensed author interview. You’ll also learn about the historical research – San Francisco and California Gold Rush – that went into the project.

Created to coincide with the release of Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone (paperback), the interview contains marketing and social media tips for authors. It also delves into character development, creativity and sources for Public Domain images.

The original, in-depth author interview can be read on the blog, You Read It Here First.

Interviewer:

Debbie McClure, author of In the Spirit of Love and In the Spirit of Forgiveness
You Read It Here First Blog owner—Christina Hamlett, Screenplay Consultant, Media Relations Expert and Award-Winning Author.

All Done Key Key – Short Fiction – Mystery

five minute ficiton

[Writing prompt – 500 words or less – topic: repair a hole.]

He followed, ’Key Key’ up the little dirt hill. Key Key was what he called the family pet whose real name the toddler would not be able to pronounce for years.

Jordy Meow
Jordy Meow

Wearing nothing but the wide, padded diaper that securely fastened around his hips—a diaper that sagged heavily at its lowest point—and a pair of shoes, Noah scrambled through the loose soil. It quickly filled every available space inside his sneakers.

Key Key, much quicker and more nimble than the boy on short, pudgy legs, daintily waited near the top for Noah to catch up. Once she was sure that he was paying attention, she began to deepen the hole that she’d started that morning. Bracing herself on her hind legs she leaned her upper body on her forepaws and made a scrambling motion that sent rooster tails of dirt shooting up in the air behind her.

Reaching the same vantage point as the cat, Noah got down on all fours to peer down into the hole. “What doin’ Key Key?”

Pausing, Key Key purred loudly and wove herself in and out of Noah’s arms and legs.

“What in Key Key?” he asked as he plopped down on his bottom and inched his feet down into the open space. Making his way to the bottom, some of the dirt around the edges fell back in. Once there, Noah mimicked Key Key, scooping out more earth. Something felt funny in there, something hard and cold. Noah stopped as he noticed a new smell. Not the rich, loamy dirt smell he loved…but something else.

Carefully, and slowly, Noah excavated more earth. He could see a little bit more of the thing they’d uncovered. He stopped and then he looked up at Key Key.

She sat there at the edge purring and whipping her tail from side to side.

Noah extended a finger and poked it. Then he frowned and looked back up at Key Key. Shaking his head from side to side, “No, no, Key Key!”

Noah climbed out of the hole and turned around to push the loose soil back into the hole.

It was unusual that a boy so young could stay focused on a task like this, but Noah stuck with it until all the dirt was back in place. He stood up on his little legs and tamped his feet over the spot. “Fixed. All done!” he said as he smacked his hands together to knock off the dirt that still clung to them.

He trundled back to his house with Key Key trotting along beside him.

As he walked in the door, his mother said, “Hey, No, what’cha been doing?”

“Dirt. Key Key.”

“I see that,” she said, “let’s go get  you cleaned up and change that dirty diaper shall we?”

 

———————————————————

My muse for the imagery in this story came from the rediscovery of some old family videos. My son was two. It was a hot summer day. He was exploring the yard wearing only his sandals and a diaper.