Write On, Wednesday: A Day Late and a Dollar Short…but I have a Sandwich!

By Leslie Lindsay Ireland 2014 171

It’s Thursday, I know. Yesterday came and went in a blur and well, I didn’t get to my blog. Plus, the very busy and very kind Thomas Christopher Greene, author of 4–most recently THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE–was also living life in the blur and was unable to appear on the blog as promised. But never fear-for he plans to make an appearance next Wednesday, October 1st! Oh gosh–the cover of his book even *looks* like October! You’re in for a treat. Also, be on the look-out for interviews from Darcie Chan and her Mill River series.

In the meantime, I am happy to announce that I’ve completed, revised, and polished my most recent manuscript and will soon be in the process of submitting to literary agents. Yahoo! Fingers crossed someone loves the book and concept as much as I do. For more information on what I’ve been working on tirelessly for the last year, check out “Zombie Road” right here on the blog.

Okay. And for today, my 9 year old loves to give me ideas for my stories. What she doesn’t know is she inpires me all the time without doing much other than just being herself. She knows I am in serious brainstorming mode for the next one and so whipped up this uh…sandwich: the art of story writing. I love the first part: get a “peace” of paper and start brainstorming ideas….add some lettuce (“ledece”) which says, “When you are ready, you can start thinking of your characters, setting, problem, arch emeny.” Okay…and then you plop a piece of meat down (beginning, middle, and end.) and then “write ‘the end,’ add some pictures, and come up with a great title.”

I had to smile–and give the kid a giant hug–I mean, seriously–‘arch enemy?’ and the whole idea that a book needs to have a problem….well, I am embarrassed to admit I totally didn’t know that when I was 9. She beamed and said, “I think I might want to be a writer like you when I grow up.” And how’s that for some inspiration?

Kate's book sandwich 001 Kate's book sandwich 002 Kate's book sandwich 003 Kate's book sandwich 004

Fiction Friday: Inspiration is all Around, Excerpt from “Zombie Road.”

By Leslie Lindsay Write on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel

For a writer, anything and everything is inspiration for writing. It’s just something with the way our brains are wired. We’re firecely observant. We scruntinize small things. And when we stare at something innocuous for a little longer than what might be “appropriate,” you can bet we’re thinking of some sinister little story or perhaps how to describe whatever it is in words that eventually make it on a page.

Yep. We’re weird.

And so it comes as no surprise that I found this little patch of land while walking my lumbering geriatric basset hound the other day. “It’s Mel’s yard!” I wanted to scream. No, not really. Well, kind of. Sure, my stomach did a little dip as I felt the story coming to life. Here’s an excerpt from an early chapter in my WIP, “Zombie Road,” which ironically contains no zombies. Sorry to disappoint.

“As I pulled the back door of Marianne Ashton’s home closed, a silent gasp worms through my throat, something grazed upon my back. I turn, but no one is there. I shake the feeling and teetered along the slate path between the side of her garage connecting our yards.

When I approach the bed where my begonias lay, the tiny plastic cartons are upturned, their heads broken off, revealing slick wet stalks.

Vandals. That word tumbled around again. This time, I consider the history of our lot. It doesn’t make sense. An animal, then?

My eyes scan the yard to the front porch, and up and down the driveway, to the small tree in the middle of the yard. No spade. Finally, I glance to the retaining wall where the land slopes downward, but no yellow spade.

Anxiety presses forth. Clumsy. Forgetful. Stupid. Maybe I took it into Marianne’s kitchen? No.

The sky darkened and appeared mottled with swaths of muslin contrails. I sit the pile of publications on the grass, patting the utility pockets of my pants. I frown at an old piece of chewing gum encased in worn, dented foil. Swarming at my ankles, as if a colony of ants has moved in, the ground peels back, revealing a patch of dead grass. Did Ran’s Lawnboy do this?WP_20140829_001

Clouds moved swiftly, an animated visage circulating god-knows-what. Just wait a minute, it will change. At least the rain will revive that dead patch of grass. Little Sally Water, choose the one you love best. I lean to retrieve the plastic flower bins as fat, heavy drops of rain splash the stack of reading materials.

A rumble of thunder, then a snap of electricity brightened the sky. No car ever arrived at Mrs. Ashton’s home depositing a music student. But her face, shrouded in a flowing curtain of Dorothy Hammil hair peers from the front window where the piano sits, a blank stare. I squint, tenting my hands over my forehead to get a better look. Maybe she’s not there, my imagination again. Maybe her student cancelled. Granite clouds lumber in from the west, darkening the sky. I raise my hand anyway, a semblance of recognition. She does not reciprocate. Embarrassed, I duck my head, scoop up the papers, and hustle to shelter in our garage, first passing by Ran’s “Big Green,” caked with cut grass. I toss the plastic tins into the recycling bin.

Another clap of thunder booms. Startled, I press the interior garage door button, allowing it to lower. I step into the mud room then, deposit water-logged papers from Marianne on the bench. A crack of lightening rocks the house with sheer ferocity. A hollow emptiness scrapes my gut. Solid, unyielding drops of rain smack the roof, resonating with life.”

[Thanks for reading! As always I appreciate feedback and “likes.” Remember, this is an original work of fiction and not to be taken as your own.]

Fiction Friday: Long, Strange Trip

By Leslie Lindsay

My father-in-law lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He reads the newspaper religiously. And actually, today–July 4th–just happens to be not just the birth of our nation, but his birthday, too. Happy birthday, Pop! It only seems appropriate I’d share this article he clipped from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and sent my way (dated Saturday, June 21st 2014).

The day it arrived in my mailbox, I needed it. You see, I was thinking of shelving the whole “Zombie Road” book and calling it done. It’s not. Far from it. I just wanted to be ‘normal,’ you know enjoy summer, raise my kids, read a book, go on vacation. I didn’t want to slave work on this nebulous thing called a manuscript.

But the article–small that is–stirred the muse within. I showed my hubby when he walked in the door at the end of the day, “Hey, Pop sent this. It’s about Zombie Road.” I waved the clipped article in his face. Eye roll. Mine, not his.

Jim grinned over the clipping, “Hon, you’ve gotta write this book. I want to see it, to hold it in my hands. You’re almost there.”

“First draft, maybe,” I mumbled.

Okay, and so the article:

Blogger Darcy Strange (great last name, btw), noted the top five “weird” spots in St. Louis:

  • The suicide history of the Lemp Mansion
  • The City Muesem
  • Mastadon State Historic Site, visitors can picnic in the former mastadon bone field. Yuck. Hey, wonder if you’ll find any passenger piegon skeletons there, too?!
  • The Alter of Answered Prayers, at the Shrine of St. Joseph in downtown St. Louis, and the areas only recognized “miracle site.”
  • Finally, “Zombie Road,” a spooky 2.3-mile hiking trail in the Wildwood area.

I’m batting 4/5 of these places…never been to the Alter of Answered Prayers, but perhaps I ought go and put forth a petition that this manuscript gets finished.

[Lemp Mansion image retrieved from www.legendsofamerica.com on 6.28.14, for more information on Darcy Strange’s Weird places to visit on her Roadtrippers blog, see https://roadtrippers.com/blog/offbeat-guide-to-st-louis-5-best-places-to-get-your-weird-on-in-mound-city. Tree-lined path image retrieved from Roadtrippers/Darcy Strange, American flag image from http://www.united-states-flag.com/valley-forge-brand-koralex-ii.html%5D

The 5 best places to get your weird on in Saint Louis

Write On, Wednesday: Finding Symbolism in Your WIP

By Leslie Lindsay

One hundred years ago, in 1914, a bird cheekily known as Martha (after the first First Lady, Martha Washington) died in a Cincinnati zoo. Did she die lonely and broken-hearted? Well, yes. And for good reason: she was the last remaining bird of a species that declined from several billion to one in a mere 50 years.

Hunt of a flock, depicted in 1875

And what, you wonder does this have to do with writing?! Bear with me. We’ll get there.

It is reported these birds–passenger pigeons–darkened the sky for hours or even days at a time, “The beats of their wings would create drafts that chilled the people over whom they flew.”

See where I’m going with this? They’re creepy. And they just happen to appear in my WIP. Not intentionally, mind you but sort of by accident. This, I am finding is the absolute best way to incorporate symbolism into one’s work.

I’ve never been a fan of birds (sorry, Audubon Society). Ever since I learned birds may have an evolutionary root in dinosaurs, they stopped topping my list. And then there was that time my sister’s two parakeets escaped their cage and flew around the vaulted ceiling of our home, their lime-colored wings flapping viciously, their beady eyes taunting. You get the picture. And then I started writing a book with a naturally creepy undercurrent. I threw in some birds that “darkened the sky.”

My critique partner liked them, but quitely scolded their appearance, “Birds are done a lot in books in which there is some ghostly stuff; maybe you could sub butterflies or moths? Locusts?”

I get it–be original. And yes, moths and locusts are equally creepy–if not more–than pigeons.

But here’s what struck me with these passenger piegons:

  • They existed at the time my book takes place (a certain POV takes place in the mid-late 1800s, though it’s mostly a contemporary read)
  • Given such, I find  a certain chill-like factor when these birds make a reappearance after they have technically been extinct. A little remnant of the past, perhaps?
  • Also, passenger Pigeons called to one another with a “loud, harsh, and unmusical call,” referred to as a ‘keck.’ Still yet,  others claimed a scolding call, “kee-kee-kee-kee” or “tete! tete! tete!” Also great because there’s a  little element of music in the book…and if these guys are unmusical, then all the more reason to have them chant, chirp, and caw.
  • Finally, the Wyandot people or Wendat, also called Huron, (indiginous peoples of North America) believed that every twelve years during the “Feast of the Dead” the souls of  deceased changed into Passenger Pigeons, which were then hunted and eaten. …And so the third reason these lovely creatures show up in a book about, well…the dead.

So little bells and lightbulbs are going off in my head. Yes, the birds must stay and they have a story purpose!

But back to those now-extinct birds. Hundreds of thousands of them swooped through the sky in the mid-late 1800s, darkening and causing a chill below, a loud rustling sound deafened communities as their mighty wings flapped. And then they were hunted,  shot…and sold at urban markets–their meat was apparently pretty tasty–for about $1.40 per dozen. That’s how they became exinct, well except Martha who died in captivity, the last remaining passenger pigeon.

So what are you waiting for? Write on before you–or books–become extinct!

For More Information on topics mentioned in this article, please see:

[above image retrieved from Wikipedia on 6.28.14]

Fiction Friday: Dark & Haunting Excerpt from Zombie Road

By Leslie Lindsay Write On, Wednesday:  Creating a World So Believable Your Critique Partners Think You're Having an Affair

Slowly plugging along at the next novel while in the midst of submitting the other one to agents…not to mention stuffing the Tofurkey and zipping around the southwestern sbuburbs playing Santa’s helper.  This is an out-of-sequence sence written from protagonist Melanie Dunbar’s POV in which she’s doing some digging on her new St. Louis suburb, the fictional Chestnut Ridge (read Wildwood).  It’s still pretty rough still, but gives the general impression of what I’m looking to convey.

“There wasn’t much in Chestnut Ridge. A single street whose wooden sign read, “Zombie Road.”  I cocked my head and narrowed my eyes…was it a joke?  Who really names a road after a zombie?  I walked past a dozen cottages, built in pairs.  Here and there a distinctive feature stood out—a children’s swing, a wooden bench, a massive tree.  But for the most part, each dwelling, with its thatched cedar siding, the limestone foundations, and sloped porch coverings resembled its neighbor as if a mirrored image.  Cottage windows looked out onto what had been a resort community, each boasting  simplicity that conjured sun-drenched days along the shore, a scramble of laughter giddy with life, nostalgia, and all things warm and cozy. The landscape was studded with massive trees, a rocky spread that would have been nearly impossible to farm.

There was no traffic in this seemingly deserted copse of land, no sign of human life at all. I passed the last cottage and came to a combined post office general store and that’s when the feeling of life overtook me.

Two children bounded out of the door, their clothing (old-fashioned), their mother scurrying behind them…a silence of ragtag music pierced my ears, I held my cupped hands over them, wincing. A boy reached up, a wrapper dropping on the ground. His face dirty and hair disshelved. He turned and upon recognition—did he recognize me—let loose a chirp, a wave and then scampered away with his mother and presumably sister.  Like he was pleased I was there to catalog his small, but not insignificant life.

He then launched into a dash, then jolted to a halt when they saw me.  Two brown fringe fell into their eyes.  A smattering of freckles, a sheepish grin…they were children I had known.  Somewhere.  Somehow.”

Feedback is always appreaciated. Thanks for reading!

[This is original work based on an urban legend in St. Louis, MO county. Please do not copy or take as your own. Thank you.]