Everyone has a Story to Tell

I meet the most FASCINATING people when I travel! Friends have told me I can strike up a conversation with a brick wall… and it will answer back. Well… I doubt that’s true… however when I travel I DO initiate conversations with strangers. By the time we have landed, pulled into the station or finished our drinks, I usually have another interesting story tucked away in the back recesses of my brain. Everyone has a story to tell.

Speaking with strangers is kind of like reading Facebook posts… you only hear the really fun and exciting stories. No one tells me the boring, everyday humdrum stuff that life is really made up of. No… I get to hear their passions, their dreams, why they are on the plane and so much more. Knowing I will most likely never see them again makes them feel comfortable and open up more. Are the stories even true, I ask myself? Who cares, is my reply… I was entertained and that’s all that matters.

I keep a journal. I’d like to say I write in it every day… well, I used to… but I don’t any more. Long story… I won’t go in to the details of why I don’t… BUT, I stumbled across a journal from a year ago and began to flip through the pages. WOW! I was struck by the entry I made of a guy I met on a plane. I wrote in every amazing detail he shared with me. His journey was so incredible it was difficult to believe it was true… but he had pictures to prove it… so I believed every word.Pen and PaperEUREKA! I should write these stories and share them with you, my brain screamed at me. What a GREAT idea, I answered back. I sat still for a moment and came up with an enterprising idea… then ran it passed a few friends, who thought it was a SUPER idea! So…. My great idea is to write the stories, then post them as an e-book.

Now here’s the really INGENIOUS part of the plan… I have also had the pleasure of ‘bumping’ into people without sharing stories. You know… when you see a family trying to take a ‘group shot’ and you offer to take the photo for them? Or… when I go to an Estate Sale and learn about the people who lived there? Some of them were so interesting in their own right that I can easily MAKE UP a story of their life… total FICTION!!! The goal for you, as the reader, will be to VOTE if you think the story is fact or fiction.

I will release one short story a month for an entire year… for a total of 12 stories. At the end of the year I will take all of the people who voted correctly and hold a lottery for a prize. I haven’t decided what the prize will be yet… most likely a hefty Amazon Gift Card and a copy of the final book when the stories are all combined… but the details will be ironed out in a few days before I actually make this ‘go live’ on October 1, 2015.

Don’t freak if you know me personally. I will not write about you. Even if you don’t know me that well, but we have some kind of contact… I WILL NOT WRITE ABOUT YOU!!! The stories I will share are of people I have only met once in my life for a very brief moment and will never see, hear from, or have any means of contacting them again. I figure if they had the courage to tell a complete stranger the story of their life… then I should feel free to write about it and share it with you. In most cases I don’t even know their name or where they live.

I’m anxious to see how this idea pans out. For ME… I get to keep my writing skills ‘greased’. I want to see if I write differently when telling the truth, or if my style changes when making something up. In addition to explore the notion that writing might be a career path for me. YOU benefit by being entertained, hopefully winning a prize, and learning about very interesting people… in addition to judging if I’m a decent writer or not.

Mark your calendars! The fun begins October 1st. I will be posting the link/s on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/deb.hunter AND website www.debhathaway.com. I hope you decide to play along!

EDIT: This project has been delayed a month to a month and a half. Life has caught up with me and I need to learn how to publish my stories the best way.

 

 

Story Inspiration!

If you attend author signings on a regular basis, then you know the most frequently asked question is, “Where do you get your story ideas?” I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard this question asked… and yet only one author, Christopher Moore (Bite Me, A Dirty Job, You Suck) answered it by way of a humorous story.

He replied, “ From real life. I read the newspapers.” From there he explained that just a few days earlier he read a newspaper story about a girl who was hoarding bunny rabbits. The authorities said she had too many and they would have to remove them from her home. Before they could return with cages and such, the girl stuffed as many bunnies as she could into her… wait for it… Volkswagen Rabbit.

The newspaper story continued to report that not only was she driving with all the rabbits in the car, BUT she was A. Wearing a diaper so she could drive for long periods without having to stop to use the restroom… and B. Brought along her goldfish, in the fish bowl, and was using a long straw to blow air bubbles into the bowl for aeration. Can’t you just picture the scene?? Yes, before you ask… she was blonde.

This week on Facebook a friend posted an article about a person who purchased some cows. Authorities were called in because a cow was found wandering around the area. Apparently the 800 lb cow got loose as the new owner couldn’t fit it in his small car. Why wouldn’t it fit you ask? Because they already had a 400 lb cow in the back seat and another in the trunk!!!! Seriously!!! You can’t make this stuff up folks!!!

I seem to think a great mystery can be written about the Michigan woman who was found dead a few weeks ago in the back seat of her jeep in her garage… mummified after being there for six YEARS. Add that to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 and there’s a real thriller in the making!

Do YOU know of any fun and/or interesting news stories just BEGGING to be made into a book??? Please share!!!

Refreshing Salt Air – DP#46

Beach

 

Ahhhh… the salty sweet smell of the ocean air fills my soul and brings me back home.

In an effort to exercise the extra pounds I gained while away this past month, I rode my bike to my favorite beach this afternoon, hauled it up onto the boardwalk, sat on a bench and took a deep breath. There is nothing better!!!!

The sights, sounds, and smells of the sea set my creative brain in gear. Looking out into the vast ocean I day dream and think of the most amazing stories.

One day, after beach combing on a rainy morning… I came home and wrote a short story. Just a little ditty that ran through my head as I was searching for shells, sea glass, and drift wood. Every day… without fail… someone ‘googles’ that story and reads it. EVERY DAY!!!

I understood the popularity when it was first posted as it was something new, but months later it is still the most viewed post on my blog. My statistic app isn’t the most robust so I don’t know if it’s the same few people reading it over and over… or all different people. Sometimes it is viewed only once… and other days it is viewed as much as 10 times.

Obviously the story hits a nerve with quite a few people. Instead of leaving public replies… I get private emails of similar tales. Most with happy endings.

In case you missed it and want to read it yourself… CLICK HERE.

As you fall asleep tonight envision the calmness all around you. Listen for the waves, smell the salt air… and drift off to never never land.

 

 

And So It Begins…

Who’s been waiting to read an excerpt from my book??? Wait no more! Here is what I have come up with for the very first page.

If you care to share any portion of this excerpt I ask that you send that person to this site to read it as oppose to copying it and sharing via any method. This excerpt may change as I re-write, and re-write, and re-write some more. I would appreciate the final draft being spread around instead of this original attempt.

Thank you for your consideration and understanding.

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He looks frightened lying in that hospital bed. His wild eyes are darting back and forth seeming to be searching for something. He knows why he is here. He understands what’s going to happen. The ventilator has been disconnected and although he is fully conscious, he can not speak clearly or with much force. His eyes are the only body part he has complete control of.

As far as hospital rooms go, this one is pretty nice. Cheerful yellow and cream, not the drab supposedly calming blues and greens I am used to seeing. It’s a rather large private ICU room with a state of the art hospital bed in the center, a few chairs scattered around the perimeter and the required wires, monitors and bells and whistles mounted on the wall. It is clean, cheerful, and sparse… the exact opposite of the room he has been in for the past four years.

From my vantage point pressed against the wall I look around at all of his friends and family that have gathered to watch him take his last breath. The machinery had been disconnected for a few hours now. “How long does this take”, is the question we all have been silently asking ourselves. We are running out of things to talk about. Prayers for his soul have been said singly and in unison. We have sung through the verse of every hymn and silly song we can pull from the far reaches of our minds. We are all becoming uncomfortable, and hungry… afraid to leave the room to pee in case we miss the big moment. There is nothing left to do but wait.

Earlier in the day nurses and doctors would come in to check his vitals and ask if we needed anything. Now they leave us alone. I know where to find them if needed. They are tracking his vitals from the monitors at the main desk just outside the door. I don’t even have to leave the room, I just have to look out the door and catch their eye… they will magically appear.

I am afraid to go near him. No, not afraid… just keeping my distance. His sisters, brother, children and other friends are here to be with him. I am just another face in the crowd. I will be here to the end. When the others have gone home, I will be here. When it really matters, I will be here… just as I have always been. Yes, I will have my time alone with him when it is all over.

Complaining he is hot, we pack him in ice. His blankets are removed with only a sheet to cover his withered body. Without his glasses his eyes look smaller than normal, surrounded by his slack, pale skin billowing out on the pillow. His high round cheeks are flushed pink from his heat. Excess fluid swells his ankles and feet, and his sausage fingers look ready to burst. He can’t lift his hands and shake the fluid down as he has been paralyzed for the past six years, so his sisters, Helen Lee and Judy each take a hand and massage them. We are eager to do everything humanly possible to make him comfortable and keep us busy at the same time. This moment is all about him. A king, presiding over his court.

He calls us over to his bedside one by one to horsely whisper his last words, as privately as possible in a room crowed with loved ones. He saves me for last. The room falls silent. I lean over his body placing my ear near his mouth so I can understand the loving words my husband of 27 years wants me to hear before he is no longer with us.

“Sue the bastards! Make sure they can’t do this to anyone else… ever!”

I step away from him and retreat to my corner confused. Not… “I will love you forever”. Not, “Take care of yourself and the kids”… or, “I will wait for you on the other side.” Not even a kiss. No… in a moment of time where you think you know what to expect… I have been thrown a curve ball.

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So… what do you think? Would you want to continue reading a book that started off that way? Does this beginning surprise you? Are you intrigued to know how we got there or what happens next?

If you are an editor or in the book biz do you have any suggestions?

Should I continue writing?

I personally read each comment and would love to hear Your Two Cents!

Thanks for reading,

Deb

Damn!

After working all week on my story… I have come to the realization my fabulous beginning makes a much better ending. The whole story flows better that way when I map it out in outline form.

It’s not THAT big a deal… it’s still written well and only a few minor changes need to be made to accommodate… but now I’m stuck searching for a good beginning point. I need a ‘hook’ to pull readers into the story fast and entice them to read more.

Strange thing though… I’m learning it is easier to plan a book from the end to the beginning. Working backwards allows me to pace the story without running out of time… and prevents rambling on too much in one particular area. Is it a coincidence I do maze puzzles the same way?? I start at the end of a maze and move my pencil towards the beginning… not unlike meeting goals when you think about it. You set a goal, then plan the stages you need to accomplish the goal. So I guess I’m doing what comes naturally.

IMG_0249It’s so easy to work in these conditions. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get home.

How many notebooks does it take to write a book? In my case, 3. One that has my notes I made while taking an online refresher course, another for my character development, structure and outline and finally the last for jotting down scenes and thoughts I want to fit in the book but am not ready for yet. There is nothing better than watching the paper curl at the edges when you begin to write on the back side. I love the permanence of pen and paper… the smell of the ink… the crispness of the paper… the way the pen glides across the surface. Ahhh… nice.

Once things are formed in my head… THEN I go to the computer and start typing… and type, and type, and type some more. There have been times I became so involved in the story I forgot to move for hours! My biggest wish is when all is said and done you get so involved reading my story YOU don’t move for hours.

Good News – Bad News

Day 3 -Myrtle Beach

So…. How’s that book of mine coming along?? Well… it’s coming. Slowly but surely, it’s coming.

Monday was a dream. Words flowed out of my finger tips across the keyboard at the speed of light. All 1,609 of them. AND… they are all ‘keepers’… meaning I like them so much they should make it through the re-writing process unscathed.

Tuesday wasn’t as productive. I spent most of the day finishing up an online writing course which was extremely informative… although most of it was simply a repeat of things I already knew just presented in a new light. However… it DID remind me that I am trying to write my memoir, but have it read like fiction.

So today, Wednesday after dropping my car off at the dealer’s for repair… I spent my time planning structure and character development INSTEAD of writing actual words for the book. Don’t let me mislead you… some of what I wrote today will end up in the book… it’s just I’m not calculating them in the word count because I haven’t PLACED them yet.

Time for Good news – Bad news.

Bad News – My car has been giving me troubles off and on and not always starting. It’s not a battery problem. I never knew when I would have issues or not. On the way down here Sunday it worked fine… until I arrived at check-in. It took 20 minutes before the blasted car would finally fire up and I could park it in the lot. THAT was embarrassing!!

Good News – There is a Volvo Dealer 5 miles down the road and can schedule a repair this week.

Bad News – It’s the coldest day down here in YEARS… and my car decides to not start… not even 20 minutes later. So I call the dealer to let them know I will be late. I begin to freeze. I didn’t bring warm clothing.

Good News – My daughter purchased AAA coverage for me before I left. I’m told someone will be here in 30 minutes.

More Good News – The AAA guy gets my car started! Due to his 35 years of road side assistance experience, he deduced the problem was my starter. He popped the hood and tapped the starter with a piece of pipe while I turned the key and Vrrrroooommm! I drove straight to the dealer.

Bad News – The dealer agrees it’s the starter… but they don’t have one in stock. The car won’t be fixed until tomorrow.

Good News – While waiting for the service department to arrange a ride back to the resort for me… I struck up a conversation with a nice woman waiting for her car. She told me all the fun places I need to go while down here. Where to eat, what to see, what to bring home. So tomorrow, once my car is repaired I plan on playing hooky. Pawley’s Island is calling me and I understand Roz’s Rice Mill makes a Shrimp and Grits to die for… not to be overshadowed by Hog Heaven’s BBQ and slaw to bring back to the condo for dinner.

Now… if I only had a place to hang a hammock back home. I understand the first rope hammocks were made on Pawley’s Island and they still make them today. Hmmm….

 

 

Overwhelmed!

Writing a book is HARD!!! There are so many things to think about when crafting a well worded sentence.

My fingers fly over the keyboard as I type out the story of my life. All in all I think I’m a pretty decent writer… until I re-read what I’ve written. Change a few words here, delete a paragraph or two there, tighten up the sloppy middle… OK, not bad. Three hours have passed without moving from the computer… not even a bathroom break, and all I have to show for it is 436 words. 436 words which will look all wrong when I read them with fresh eyes tomorrow.

Taking a break, I check a writer’s website for a new nugget of knowledge. An interesting article on obtaining an agent and writing an attention getting query letter catches my eye. According to the guest blogger, you should print out the first two pages of your book and walk away from the computer. Now read the two pages out loud. If an agent were sitting in the room listening to you would they want you to continue reading?

Hmmm… I can’t do that exercise. I have been so busy getting all the words out of my head that I haven’t given any thought at all as to where my story begins. I don’t have the first two pages written! I can’t do that exercise… ACCKKK!!

“Okay Deb, don’t panic… get off that website. Remember it for later, but for now move on”, I instruct myself.

Next up is a site extolling the virtues of correct grammar. I read as much as I could, wishing I paid closer attention in school. My head is beginning to spin. The examples the writer is using are crafted better than anything I have written so far. I begin to have doubts about writing this book. Ugh!

Thinking I need more education I google ‘Writer’s Conferences 2013’. Living in the northeast has its advantages. New York City is a quick train trip away and usually is the trade show center of the world. As predicted I find a conference will be held in May. Running through the course offerings I begin to feel overwhelmed. There are so many diverse classes. So many things I need to learn… or at least have a working knowledge of.

Realizing I am stressing myself out, I shut down the Internet. As Scarlett in Gone With The Wind said, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow”.

In a few weeks I will be sequestering myself for an entire 7 days JUST to get this book under control. I must make a mental note to STAY OFF THE INTERNET.

To give you some idea how long it takes to write a book… this post is 44 words LONGER than what I accomplished on my book today.

Photo Shoot…

Oh my!!! I can not begin to tell you how much I detest having my photo taken. Seriously!!! I am not being coy, I really HATE being on the other side of the lens. If given a choice of enduring a root canal or having my picture snapped I would choose the root canal every time. It’s so awkward having someone stare at me through a camera lens. I never know where to look, if I should smile or be pensive, stiff or relaxed. Whenever I know someone is taking my picture I usually act silly, like stick my tongue out or hide behind a tree.

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The picture I have been using for social media was taken on a trip in Australia… too many years ago. It was time for an update. My children… all pretty handy with a camera in their own right, didn’t seem to jump at the chance to volunteer to photograph ‘MOM’.

Thanks to the power of Facebook… I stumbled upon Kathy Oppito Photography. Her husband was a classmate of mine back in the dinosaur age and through mutual ‘friends’ I ‘liked’ her fan page. I remember meeting her face to face a little over a year ago and CLICK, the light bulb flashed! I took a quick peek at her website and liked what I saw. Her talent and creativity shouted at me through the computer. I just KNEW if ever there was a photographer I would be comfortable around, it would be her. The next morning I sent her an email… and within a few days she was at my house taking pictures.

I will admit, I was extremely nervous. However my instincts were spot on, Kathy put me right at ease. She began with a tour of my house, looking for the perfect lighting situations and backgrounds. A curtain pulled back here, a chair and pillow moved there and Ta-Dah, she was ready to shoot. I was able to do what I normally do… sit in my overstuffed leather chair wrapped in an afghan and WRITE while Kathy quietly snapped away.

This is me... doing what I normally do... writing in my leather chair all wrapped in a blanket.

This is me… doing what I normally do… writing in my leather chair all wrapped in a blanket.

Once finished at the house we headed to the beach… and my favorite bench, Celeste Vaccaro’s bench. Celeste was another classmate from so long ago, who left this Earth entirely too early. I started visiting that bench when things got too much for me to handle. It was a reminder that life isn’t so hard after all and the alternative is not an option. Now that I am under control I go there because it is calming and comfortable. I feel I am sharing the sound of the surf and salty breeze with an old friend. I can relax and let my pen glide along the paper… as I write my book.

Writing at the beach... on my favorite bench.

Writing at the beach… on my favorite bench.

I am glad the photo shoot is over… and now that I have done it I can honestly say it wasn’t so bad. Kathy was the perfect mix of friendly, professional, and creative talent. The photos turned out AWESOME… mixing textures, lighting, and various backgrounds to make ME look fabulous! Thank you Kathy!!! I keep looking at the CD of pictures, and every one has merit. Kathy caught the ‘real’ me… I can be funny at times and sullen at others. She snapped them all.  It is so hard to pick just ONE to represent me on the social media sites… so I’m going to have to keep switching them out.

During the photo shoot I got to ask Kathy about her ‘day job’… photographing newborns in their mother’s arms. How sweet. What an unusual job! It’s not your regular nine to five, pencil pushing, time clock punching employment. My writer brain went into overdrive and I asked if I could do a short piece about her job. Kathy said yes. So… she photographed a day in the life of Deb Hathaway, now I get to write about a day in the life of Kathy Oppito. Fun!!! Like combining peanut butter and chocolate… I think we are on to something. Stay tuned!

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