New Short Story Releases! #RRBC

Once again, it’s that time of the year when the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB sponsors the 90-Day Alpha/Omega Beginning To End Short Story Contest!

I have discovered that I truly love writing short stories. So, I look forward to this contest every year as it gives me the push I need to keep creating. This time I wrote a Western and that is a first for me. I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely.

BLURB:

War-torn drifter, Jack McClean is left with nothing but bad memories, scars, and a restless soul. When he stumbles upon a burning homestead, and an unconscious woman, beside the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, he stops to render aid. Grieving widow, Savannah Logan, sees no reason to live, and only wants to join her husband and children in their graves. But, Jack refuses to let her die. In saving her, he might somehow find redemption for himself and hope for a new tomorrow. Is it possible that both Jack and Savannah can find a new destiny in the changeable flow of the Brazos wind?

PURCHASE LINK – AMAZON

The second story I wrote for this contest came from a conversation with a family member that left me scratching my head. Two brothers – one responsible, the other not so much and family dynamics that twisted my heart as I wrote it.

BLURB:

Quentin Marks’ mother can only love one son, and from the day Rowdy was born, she makes Quentin, his little brother’s keeper. She demands that Quentin fix every problem for Rowdy and that he also protect him. The truth is, after a deadly snakebite, Quentin owes his very life to his little brother, a debt that will never be paid in full. Only now a man is dead, and once again, their mother calls on Quentin to make the problem go away and save Rowdy from prison. When is enough enough, and how much of his own life will Quentin Marks have to sacrifice?

PURCHASE LINK – AMAZON

I hope that these stories grab your attention! They are both only 99 cents on Amazon. Keep your fingers crossed that maybe one of these stories will win the contest! 🙂

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Welcome to Day 8 of “THE LOST AND FOUND BILLY BATTLES” Blog Tour! @JHawker69 @4WillsPub #RRBC #RWISA.

GIVEAWAY:  (2) Complete sets of the Billy Battles trilogy.  For your chance to win one, please leave a comment below!

I am thrilled to welcome talented author and journalist, Ron Yates, to my blog today where he’ll share some hard-earned wisdom with you.

The Lost and Found Billy Battles Tour

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing: Annotated

At least once every year I find it useful to take a look at the late Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. It is sage advice from a master. Every writer should read these rules and remember them. I’m doing my part by posting them here at the beginning of 2019 for your edification and enjoyment. 

I began reading Elmore Leonard’s books before I knew anything about writing or even that I wanted to be a writer. Back then, a lot of his books were westerns filled with gritty characters, compelling stories, and robust, convincing dialogue.

I remember reading Last Stand at Sabre River and Hombre, both of which became successful movies. Later, after Leonard had moved from westerns to crime and suspense stories, I read Mr. Majestyk, The Big Bounce, and the Moonshine War.

From 2010 to 2015 I watched with great pleasure the TV series “Justified,” based on Leonard’s book “Raylan” and partly written by Leonard. It has run its course, but I encourage you to take a look at the series. I am sure it is available on Netflix. Timothy Oliphant plays Raylan to a “T.”

Elmore Leonard was a writer’s writer. Not only could he spin a great story, but he could also create characters you loved to hate or hated to love and some you simply learned to tolerate because they made the other characters interesting.

If you like reading William Faulkner or Thomas Wolfe, you probably will not like reading Elmore Leonard. As brilliant as those two writers were, their stream-of-conscious narration probably drove Leonard nuts.

Leonard believed the writer should never get in the way of the story. (NOTE: See “Hooptedoodle″ at the end of Leonard’s rules)

I am not sure when Leonard wrote his 10 Rules of Writing, but I found them a few years ago and filed them away.

Some of you may already know those ten rules, but I am betting a lot of you don’t. So let me share them with you today. Read them, consider them and most of all, and try to follow them when you write your books. I think you will be glad you did.

Here they are in Elmore Leonard’s own words:

These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

    1. Never open a book with weather.

If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

   2. Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks . . . Figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside, so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.” (NOTE: I already violated that rule in my Finding Billy Battles trilogy. Sorry, Elmore. I won’t do it again.)

    3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary. (NOTE: I learned this important rule in journalism school at the University of Kansas. It has served me well.)

     4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” …

…he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost anyway) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.”

     5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

     6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

    7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

     8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

In Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants, what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

     9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison, but even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

     10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. I attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character — the one whose view best brings the scene to life — I’m able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what’s going on, and I’m nowhere in sight.

What Steinbeck did in Sweet Thursday was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. “Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts” is one, “Lousy Wednesday” another.

The third chapter is titled “Hooptedoodle 1″ and the 38th chapter “Hooptedoodle 2″ as warnings to the reader as if Steinbeck is saying: “Here’s where you’ll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won’t get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.”

Sweet Thursday came out in 1954 when I was just beginning to be published, and I’ve never forgotten that prologue.

Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.

And there you have it: Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. They are well worth remembering and following. Of course, there are some who believe there are no rules when it comes to writing. I don’t believe Leonard himself felt his ten rules were inviolable. To me, they seem like common sense–especially when it comes to avoiding the dissemination of hooptedoodle.

BOOK BLURB:

The Finding Billy Battles trilogy tells the story of a remarkable man who is born in 1860 and who dies in 1960. For decades Billy lives an improbable and staggering life of adventure, peril, transgression and redemption. Then Billy mysteriously disappears. For several decades his family has no idea where he is or what he is doing.

Finally, with his life coming to an end, Billy resurfaces in an old soldiers’ home in Leavenworth, Kansas. It is there, when he is 98 that he meets his 12-year-old great-grandson and bequeaths his journals and his other property to him — though he is not to receive them until he is much older.

Years later, the great-grandson finally reads the journals and fashions a three volume trilogy that tells of his great-grandfather’s audacious life in the old west, as well as his journeys to the Far East of the 1890s—including French Indochina and The Philippines—and finally, in the early 20th century, to Europe and Latin America where his adventures and predicaments continue. One thing readers can be sure of, wherever Billy Battles goes trouble is not far behind.

AUTHOR BIO:

Ronald E. Yates is a multi-award winning author of historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy. His extraordinarily accurate books have captivated fans around the world who applaud his ability to blend fact and fiction.

Ron is a former foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Illinois where he was also the Dean of the College of Media.

The Lost Years of Billy Battles is the final book in the trilogy and recently won the Independent Press Award’s 2020 Distinguished Favorites Award. In 2019 it also won Best Overall Book of the year and the Grand Prize in the Goethe Historical Fiction Category from Chanticleer International Book Awards as well as a Book Excellence Award and a New Apple Award. The second book in the trilogy, The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles, was published in June 2016. It won the 2017 KCT International Literary Award and the New Apple Award in the Action/Adventure category. The first book in the trilogy, “Finding Billy Battles,” was published in 2014 and won a Book Excellence Award and Laramie Award from Chanticleer International Book Awards.

As a professional journalist, Ron lived and worked in Japan, Southeast Asia, and both Central and South America where he covered several history-making events including the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia; the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing; and wars and revolutions in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, among other places. His work as a foreign correspondent earned him several awards including three Pulitzer Prize nominations.

Ron is a frequent speaker about the media, international affairs, and writing. He is a Vietnam era veteran of the U.S. Army Security Agency and lives just north of San Diego in Southern California’s wine country.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

-Twitter   https://twitter.com/jhawker69

-Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ronaldyatesbooks/

-Website   https://ronaldyatesbooks.com/

AMAZON OR OTHER PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon:

Barnes & Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/finding%20billy%20battles/_/N-8q8

I hope you enjoyed Ron’s post today. Please remember to leave a comment to be entered in the GIVEAWAY!

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to schedule your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  Thanks for supporting this author and his work!

Some Recent #Reviews – @maeclair1 @pursoot @teagangeneviene @spolakoffauthor @maurabeth2014

It has been a while since I took the time to post some reviews for books I’ve read recently, so here we go!

If you want to hop over and purchase a copy of any of these books, simply click on the titles.

From the super talented author, Mae Clair – “In Search Of McDoogal.”

Quirky and Entertaining!

This short read from Mae Clair is funny and filled with quirky characters. When Brady mistakenly sells his girlfriend’s painting, her talisman, her treasure, (or so he is led to believe) he will move heaven and earth to get it back. He grabs his best friend, Declan, and the two set out to retrieve the painting before the girlfriend returns from out of town. The search almost reads like a “who’s on first” scenario, as they met dead-end after dead-end in a small town four hours away. The characters come to life and jump off the pages, from the love-struck Brady to the star-struck Dorie and a confused sheriff. I loved everything about this story. It is well-written, a quick easy read, and will make you laugh out loud! But my favorite part of Brady’s quest was his own discovery of how much he’d come to care for (no fall in love with) Vanessa. While the quest was to retrieve the dreadful painting, it accomplished so much more. If you’re looking for a lighthearted escape from life, this is a perfect choice! It is well-written and shows the diverse talent of this author! I highly recommend it!

From Author, S. Burke, “The Reckoning Squad.”

Full of Action!

This story gripped me and drew me in from the first sentence on the first page. Unimaginable tragedy strikes a young girl, Chastity, crippling her mentally for a long time. When she has to shoot and kill another classmate to save lives, she struggles to recover. Her desire to see justice served to those who deserve it send her on a path of becoming an FBI Agent once she graduates college. But, the unexpected offer to join an elite team appeals to her even more.
As the story unfolds, we see her bond strongly with her teammates as they face arduous training, with only a handful completing the training. But the bond cements itself as they begin to work cases and bring about justice in whatever way it takes.

When they’re assigned to an extremely high profile case and there is a breach, causing great loss of lives, things move into overdrive for Chaz (the name she shortened Chastity to after the school shooting) and other team members. The intricate web of deceit, murder, and high finance proves to be a challenge beyond anything they’ve imagined. These characters come to life at the hand of this talented author. I particularly loved the characters, Chaz and Zach, and the romantic tension between them. This story has everything any reader could want. It is a definite page-turner. I couldn’t wait to see the outcome. If you are a fan of fast-paced, deep stories, you’ll love this one! This story deserves to be made into a movie and I hope Ms. Burke has more in store for the characters going forward.

Suzanne Burke is a member of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

From author Teagan Geneviene, “Brother Love – a Crossroad.”

An Imaginative Tale At a Crossroads!

This author serialized this story on her blog before publishing it, and I enjoyed following along then. But reading the story from start to finish was an entirely different experience. There are several things I love about this story. A girl who is ostracized because she happens to live in a house that sits at the crossroads and believed to be evil. A magpie, Jinx who can talk and sing is another aspect of the story I loved, But the tent revival setting and shenanigans that occurred captured me the most. This author took word prompts from her blog followers to include in each chapter of the story and that is such a unique idea. She also included some fun facts or educational information at the end of each chapter. This story is well-written. The only criticism I have for it is the way it ended abruptly. I would like to have had a more satisfying conclusion. Great story with an imagination that knows no bounds!

Teagan Geneviene is a member of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

From Maura Beth Brennan, “Stardust.”

So Many Different Levels of Goodness!

I thoroughly enjoyed this short story. Maeve is a retired librarian and the children in the small town adore her. As a ritual, each year at Halloween, when the trick-or-treating is over, many children along with their parents gather in Maeve’s living room for stories and refreshments. Maeve is beloved by everyone despite her eccentricities such as riding her bicycle all over town. But, when she ventures out of her safety zone to visit a new supermarket, tragedy strikes in the most horrific way. Maeve is mugged by a group of thugs and would have met her death without the intervention of a young boy, Eddie. The two become best of friends as she helps him with his school lessons. That is until his older brother finds out, and makes threats he is known to carry out. Maeve is drawn to a chest left to her by her great-grandmother, where inside, she finds a shawl that she remembers being told was woven from stardust. That starts a series of magical events. I will not leave a spoiler for this story, but will say it is very well written and compelling with many different levels and layers of goodness! I highly recommend it.

Maura Beth Brennan is a member of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

From author, Sam Polakoff – “Shaman.”

A Reincarnation Journey!

Dan Alston has spent a lifetime building a reputation – that of the last clean politician. He’s now serving in the U.S. Senate and represents his constituents with honesty and integrity. But things are not all rosy for the Senator. As his life starts to unravel, more and more strange occurrences – visions – voices and mystical possibilities unfold. This book gets off to a slow start and I was almost at 50% before the story grabbed me and wouldn’t let me rest until I reached the end. There are dual timelines and souls intertwined and reincarnated to learn lessons and for some, to seek revenge. The ultimate revenge to bring down the Senator and destroy the world at the same time is a huge undertaking for Maritza Coya and her accomplice. I won’t tell you what happens, as I do not want this review to be a spoiler. I’ll just say this is a journey from start to finish. While I am a believer in reincarnation, some parts of the scenario I found to be a bit unbelievable, but still entertaining. The last scene in the book left me confused. A wedding in Peru with both living and deceased people in attendance left me scratching my head. However, after contacting the author, it all became clear. The story came to a satisfying conclusion. If you are intrigued by reincarnation or mysticism, you will enjoy this book.

Sam Polakoff is a member of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on these books. If any grabbed you, click on the title to purchase. I’m now reading a book by an author new to me, Linda Trout, and the title is “Tangled Promises.”

I’ll share my thoughts on this book later. What are you reading?

Celebrating Harriet Hodgson @healthmn1 #RRBC #RWISA

Today, Wednesday, 5/27/20 we are honoring the GRAND PRIZE Winner of our 2019 KCT INT’L LITERARY AWARDS Contest“SO, YOU’RE RAISING YOUR GRANDKIDS!” by RWISAAuthor, Harriet Hodgson.

And I’m SUPER excited about that. At 84 years young, Harriet is an inspiration!

HARRIET HODGSON BIO

Rochester, Minnesota resident Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for 38 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 36 books. She has a BS from Wheelock College in Boston, an MA from the University of Minnesota, and additional graduate training.

Hodgson is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). She is a contributing writer for the Open to Hope Foundation, The Grief Toolbox, and The Caregiver Space websites. Visit www.thecaregiverspace.org/authors/hhodgson to read her articles.

Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 talk radio shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of television stations, including CNN, and dozens of blog talk radio programs. A popular guest, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, bereavement, and caregiving conferences.

Her recent work is based on Hodgson’s 21 years as a family caregiver. She was her mother’s family caregiver for nine years, her twin grandchildren’s guardian and caregiver for seven years, and is in her fifth year as her disabled husband’s caregiver.  Visit Harriet’s RRBC Author Page to find out more about this busy wife, grandmother, caregiver, and author, as well as more information on her many other books listed in the RRBC catalog.

BOOK BLURB:

If you are a grandparent raising your grandchildren, help has arrived.

According to the US Census Bureau, more than 10% of all grandparents in the nation are raising their grandkids, and the number is going up. You may be one of the millions of these grandparents and it’s a role you never expected. Willing as you are to assume this role, you have some questions. How will I find the energy for this? Is my grandchild normal? What if I “blow it?” Each day, you look for ways to make life easier.

This book will:

•Help ease your worries and guilt;
•Offer tips for creating a grandfamily;
•Give methods for improving grandparent-grandchild communication;
•Suggest ideas for how you can connect with your grandchild’s school;
•Provide child development information;
•Recommend approaches to help your grandchild set goals;
•Stress the importance of having fun together;
•Offer ideas of how to foster your grandchild’s hopes and dreams.

So, You’re Raising Your Grandkids blends Harriet Hodgson’s wise and moving grandparenting story with recent research and findings. It shares her 21 years of caregiving experience, including seven years of raising her twin grandkids. Each chapter ends with What Works, proven tips for grandparents raising grandkids.

At the end, you’ll cheer for all the loving grandparents—including you—who are putting grandchildren first.

PURCHASE LINK:

#RWISA “RISE-UP” TOUR DAY 12, Nonnie Jules @nonniejules #RRBC #RRBC_COMMUNITY #RWISARISEUP

Today is the final day of the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour and we close it out with our RRBC and RWISA President, Nonnie Jules.

by Nonnie Jules

By Friday, I doubted that I would even be part of this event.  I’m sure many of you noticed that I kept moving others ahead of me and ahead of me, until I ran out of members to move – as I struggled with finding the time in my schedule to write something.  As of this morning, I had finally decided that I just wasn’t going to be able to participate, as again, I saw no opening in my schedule that would allow it. 

Then, I got a phone call at 7:37 this evening from a friend, sharing that her relative had just attempted suicide due to his personal struggles since the arrival of COVID19.  He had lost his job, had received an eviction notice, and saw no clear path to anything remotely close to “better” while the Coronavirus lingered.  That conversation forced me to sit down at my desk just as soon as I hung up the phone.  What you will find below may not be that great, but it’s what my heart rolled out in the final hour. 

***

And So, I Believed

We are living through what is possibly the most trying time in many of our lives.  We are a world on lock-down, and though there are those of us who are living a bit more comfortably than others during this pandemic, many in the world are suffering.

Some of us are not concerned with how our mortgages and car notes will get paid.  Some of us aren’t concerned with where our next meal will come from, or, if we’ll have to suffer through another night filled with tears streaming down the faces of our hungry children, along with our own tears of helplessness.

For those who suffer with mental illness, their situations are creating a new wave of crisis, as many who see no way out, are, out of fear and desperation, turning to suicide.

My heart breaks for these innocents in this war.

***

It’s quiet.  

I’m afraid​. ​

I’ve been locked up inside for so long, I don’t know my nights from my days.

It’s lonely.  

I’m scared.

There’s no place to hide, ​and ​no other place to go​, ​because it’s everywhere.

I need to make a run

​…​just out to the store

…but, I’m not even sure

…it’s safe to open my door.

It’s in the air ​we breathe​

​…​on everything that we touch

I never realized ​until now​

​…​I needed people so much​. ​

I’ve no medical insurance

…so, I mustn’t get sick​. ​

My stomach is growling​​​ 

​…​but, it will soon quit​. ​

I’ll just stay inside for now.

I do need my meds 

…to kill the voices in my head.

They’ve never been this loud before.

A little knock at the door 

…would really help right now.

It’s ​too ​quiet.

I’m ​so ​afraid.

I open my wallet and remember…

I haven’t even gotten paid.

What will I do?

​How will I survive?

I don’t even know if it’s worth staying alive.

And, what will I eat?

What about the heat?

I know that it’s summer

…and it’s supposed to be hot

…but​, ​this thing has me terrified

…all tied up in knots.

​So, I strangely shiver as if it is cold.

While parts of the world move, my life is on hold. ​

Under the covers

…the only place I feel safe.

Oh, how I wish

…to feel the sun on my face.

How will I ​cover​

…the rent that is due?

My landlord’s expecting 

…to be paid at two.

Some understand 

…but others not

My luck ran out

…with the landlord I got.

“I’ve got a family to feed – you’ve only got you.” 

He does not ​see​ that only me has to eat, too.

I don’t have the rent, dear Lord. 

What will I do?

Where will I go?

I need a sign

…because I just don’t know.

How long will this crisis last?

No one knows for sure.

I’m afraid​ of my thoughts​.

How much more can I endure?

I just don’t know.

My mind is racing

…it just won’t stop.

Please slow it down, Lord

…these thoughts are just not – to your liking.

I cover my mouth

A cough escapes.

​I d​rift over to the window

…and pull back the drapes.

Unlocking the locks

…one by one

I can hear the calling ​

​…​not a voice​, ​but a gun.

​No, too noisy, I think.

And what if I miss?  

I’m already afraid to even consider this.

Now, it’s a voice – louder – more clear  

Almost a shout – deep in my ear.

“Come closer to me. 

Look, I’m down here.” 

Five stories below me

Cars rush​ing​ by

​I hear the voice again​

“​C’mon, you can fly.”

I look back over my shoulder

As my landlord knocks

Then I glance at the wall

…it’s straight two o’clock.

“Why are you hesitant? There’s only pain here for you.

There’s nobody to help, so, what will you do?

The world is on lockdown, but you can be free.

Do not wait another second; come and join me!

You see, I am free – down here. 

And don’t forget, you can fly.”

And so, I believed.

***

To everyone reading this who might be struggling with thoughts in their head, that under normal circumstances wouldn’t make sense, yet, they seem to make sense in the moment, what you should always remember is that the devil is alive and well, and sometimes looks and sounds just like you and me. {And of course, he wants you to join him…in hell.} 

Fight those voices that encourage you to harm yourself and others. 

If you were not born a bird or created in the likeness of some type of aircraft, listen to ME – you cannot fly.

Please take a moment to visit Nonnie Jules’ RWISA Author Page!

Thank you for supporting today’s RWISA author along the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour!  To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page on the RWISA site.  For a chance to win a bundle of 15 e-books along with a $5 Amazon gift card, please leave a comment on the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page!  Once you’re there, it would be nice to also leave the author a personal note on their dedicated tour page, as well.  Thank you, and good luck!  

#RWISA “RISE-UP” TOUR DAY 11, Peggy Hattendorf @peggyhattendorf #RRBC #RRBC_COMMUNITY #RWISARISEUP

I’m happy to welcome RWISA Author, Peggy Hattendorf to my blogsite today.

by Peggy Hattendorf

“Mother is the most beautiful word on the lips of mankind.” Kahlil Gibran

We define, mother or mom, as the female parent, whose responsibilities center around the physical and emotional care of a child, who may or may not be her own biological offspring. In certain circumstances, childcare commitments may be handled by the grandmother, stepmother, foster mother, godmother, or mother-in-law.  All categories of “mothers” who have a hand in nurturing, teaching, and fostering the development of a child, deserve respect and admiration.

The American terms, mother, or mom, adopted from the British English names, mummy or mum, sound remarkably similar or are spelled the same, in many languages around the world.   

Whether we say,  

  • Mother or Mom – American English
  • Mummy or Mum – British English
  • Mother or Mom – Canadian English or Maman – French-speaking province of Quebec
  • Madre – Spanish
  • La Mere – French
  • Moeder – Afrikaans
  • Ma – Hindi (India)
  • Moeder – Dutch
  • Madre or Mamma – Italian
  • Mama – Romanian
  • Matka – Polish
  • Mor or Mamma – Norwegian
  • Mum – Australian English
  • Mum – New Zealand English
  • Mueter – Swiss German
  • Mamma – Swedish
  • Mutter – German
  • Me – Vietnamese

the meaning and the identity of the person referenced is the same – the female parent of a child.

The initial love and affection, devotion, and care, given by our mothers, cultivated our early introduction to life and the universe around us. It provided the initial foundation and perceptionsof the world as a happy, gentle, and kind place or a world to be viewed as hostile, brutal and unkind.  

Without the support, training, guidance, and discipline set by our mothers, we would not have grown into social beings, in the image of God. Mothers help prepare us with knowledge, skills, and abilities to mature and become independent. In so doing, our mothers sacrificed many of their desires and needs for our necessities and demands.

If the virtuous governing principles of life are learned by teaching and examples bestowed by our mothers, then a “world without mothers” would be:

  • A world with significantly less women
  • A world devoid of selflessness and unconditional love
  • A world less disciplined and restrained
  • A world less organized and efficient
  • A world less righteous, decent, and understanding
  • A world less emotional, demonstrative, and affectionate
  • A world with less compassion and empathy
  • A world less patient, kind, and gentle
  • A world with less encouragement and motivation
  • A world less balanced and controlled
  • A world less polite and respectful
  • A world less thoughtful, tender, and considerate
  • A world less merciful and forgiving

Mothers play an indispensable role which is hard to duplicate.  As infants nearly all of our physical needs are attended by our mothers. That physical care prevailed as we started to crawl and then walk, babble, and then talk, and shed our diapers when toilet trained. Our safety, protection and physical well-being remained paramount to our mothers even as we matured and entered adulthood.

For many of us, the emotional care given by our biological mothers originated before we were born. After birth, we were embraced with love and affection. That unconditional love stands as the cornerstone of the mother and child relationship. As our mothers motivated and inspired, encouraged, and supported, they provided the strength necessary for us to grow and mature. As our first instructors, they taught us about love, and hope, faith and spirituality, acceptance and tolerance, courage, and bravery, confidence, and determination, giving, and charity.

And they raised us to let us go and assume independence; all-the-while, we remain in our mothers’ hearts and souls forever. Mothers change the world with every child they raise.

Women are not handed an “instruction kit” as they assume the role of motherhood. No guidebooks, training manuals, or college courses prepare them for the most challenging, yet most fulfilling experience of their lives.

It is hard to envision a world without our best supporter, best listener, and best friend forever. Mothers are the ones who are always happy to hear from us, no matter what we are calling about, or when we are calling. They are the ones that will drive us crazy – but we know will always be there.  And no matter our age, we always need our mothers.  My mother has been gone for twenty-one years, but there is not a day, I do not wish I could pick up the telephone and speak with her.

Below, my grandchildren and daughter have shared their perspectives on what life would be like without mothers.

From my 16-year old granddaughter Anabella:

“I can’t imagine a world without moms, as my mom is my biggest supporter and sometimes my biggest critic. My mom has always been there to laugh at me when I fall, but to also pick me up and wipe my tears. I love my mom; she is always there to help me. She is my best friend. I can come to her with all my problems and she is always there with a witty comment and some friendship knowledge.”

From my 15-year old granddaughter Skylar:

“A world without moms would be dark and unforgiving. There would be no one to love you unconditionally, no one to bring you back up when you are sad and feeling down. You would not have your biggest cheerleader and fiercest defender by your side. You would not have that unconditional love that a mother gives to her child. And you wouldn’t have anyone who utterly understands you like your mother.”

From my 10-year old grandson Erik:

“What a world without moms? No, that cannot be, because it means everything in the world to me to have a mom. She takes care of me when I am sick.”

From my daughter Rebecca, the mother of Anabella and Erik:

“Strong women raise strong girls and you are the strongest woman I know. I can’t imagine the world without you and all the other strong wonderful moms.”

It would be a decisively different and fragmented world without the love, hugs, and the comforting touches of mothers.

In a world without moms, we would lose our navigational compass, our emotional barometer, and our positioning in the world-order. We would be set adrift in an ocean of ever-changing conditions and unknown dangers. Thankfully, we have mothers and live on a planet fondly called “Mother Nature” or “Mother Earth” from the Greco-Roman personification of nature that focuses on the life-giving and nurturing aspects of nature by embodying it, in the form of a mother.

Please take a moment to visit Peggy Hattendorf’s RWISA Author Page!

Thank you for supporting today’s RWISA author along the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour!  To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page on the RWISA site.  For a chance to win a bundle of 15 e-books along with a $5 Amazon gift card, please leave a comment on the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page!  Once you’re there, it would be nice to also leave the author a personal note on their dedicated tour page, as well.  Thank you, and good luck!  

#RWISA “RISE-UP” TOUR DAY 10, Maura Beth Brennan @maurabeth2014 #RRBC #RRBC_COMMUNITY #RWISARISEUP

Today, I welcome a new RWISA member, Maura Beth Brennan to my blog.

MEMORIES OF MOM

By Maura Beth Brennan

I miss my Mom’s quirks. Her superstitions, for instance.

“Don’t you dare put your shoes on that table,” she would say. She wasn’t talking about putting shoe-clad feet on the coffee table. She didn’t want anyone putting a shoebox containing new shoes on a table—any table. Such an action could have dire consequences. That box must be placed on the floor. Period.

No one in our house would have dared leave a wet umbrella open to dry inside the house. That would have, according to Mom, invited disaster. And if you left the house by the front door, you had better return that way. If not, who knew what tragedy might befall you?

Now, when I walk my dog through the woods and take a shortcut home, I double around the house to reenter through the same door. I can still hear her voice, warning me. I leave that dripping umbrella on the porch. I place that shoebox on the floor. Because my mother—she’s a deep, tenacious part of me.

I miss so many things about her—her funny remarks, her kindnesses, her soft voice. I say things to my daughter and think, there is my mother talking. She blurted the funniest things sometimes, and Dad, my brothers, and I sometimes teased her about it. One source of our amusement was her habit of mixing up common clichés. “Sit down, let’s chew the breeze,” my mom would say. Or, “It’s six of one, a dozen of the other.” When we’d laugh, she’d look confused until she realized what she had said. Then, she’d laugh along. She was the inspiration for the mother in two of my short stories, where the mother’s sayings always came out wrong.

I miss having Mom to lean on. One difficult year, I had to take a leave of absence from work. A new house, a demanding job, a young daughter, night school to earn a degree—it was suddenly all too much for me, and I couldn’t seem to stop crying. One morning, as I sat feeling sorry for myself, I heard a knock at my door. There was Mom, smiling, bearing homemade muffins for us to share. She settled me at the kitchen table. “Now, don’t you cry anymore,” she said. “It will all work out.” She made me a cup of tea and brought it to me. “This is nice,” she said. “Isn’t it? Just us girls.”

What I would give to have a cup of tea with her now. To let her know how much that meant to me.

Mom was a shy and quiet woman, but she had courage and a steely spine when it came to her family. Her courage showed when, during World War II, she packed a suitcase and took her baby daughter (me) three-thousand miles across the country, by train and bus, to be with my father while he was stationed on the west coast. She stayed there, making a home for us until the war was over.

She showed that courage when she won her first battle with cancer. She never told either of my recently married brothers how ill she was, not wanting to worry them. She told them she had “a little procedure.” When her health returned, it was as if it never happened. She never spoke of it.

But cancer struck again, a different one this time, more deadly.

And this is the memory that breaks my heart. She was in the hospital after exploratory surgery and a terrible prognosis. I went to visit, pulling my chair close to her bed to hear her quiet voice. Her eyes stretched wide and she grasped my hand in hers. 

“I’m so scared,” she said.

She died nine months later. That January, the doctors had “given” her three months to live. But she was determined to live until her fortieth wedding anniversary on September 20th.

The afternoon she died, my father, my brothers and I were gathered around her bedside. She asked my father, “Bud, is today our anniversary?” She was suffering and my father couldn’t bear to watch it go on. It was September 19th, a day too early.

He pulled her close and embraced her for the last time. He knew what he had to do.

“Yes, sweetheart,” he said. “It is.”

Please take a moment to visit Maura Beth’s RWISA Author Page and take a look at her work!

Thank you for supporting today’s RWISA author along the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour!  To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page on the RWISA site.  For a chance to win a bundle of 15 e-books along with a $5 Amazon gift card, please leave a comment on the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page!  Once you’re there, it would be nice to also leave the author a personal note on their dedicated tour page, as well.  Thank you, and good luck!  

#RWISA “RISE-UP” TOUR DAY 9, Heather Kindt @HMKINDT #RRBC #RRBC_COMMUNITY #RWISARISEUP

RWISA Author, Heather Kindt joins me here today to share her post for the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour! I hope you enjoy!

LOSING MOM

By: Heather Kindt

Have you ever lost someone? The pain is unimaginable, ripping through you like an express train. But what if you lost that person again and again? The agony of the loss knocks you off your feet until you’re numb. That’s what it’s like when you lose someone to dementia.

My mom was my best friend.

She was my shoulder to cry on, and I told her everything. On summer mornings, she’d lie in bed thinking, so I’d hop in next to her and we’d talk about everything or nothing at all. She was there to hold me when I lost my first love and to celebrate with me when I found my last. We spent an entire summer planning my wedding and finding ways to keep the costs within my measly teacher salary. Rummaging through bargain bins at the Christmas Tree Shop, we found the perfect, gold-trimmed ribbon to don the pews at the church.

After I was married, I moved to Colorado and being two thousand miles apart put a dent in both of our souls. But, she was there when my babies were born, helping me figure out the tasks of new mother for the few weeks she was able to be away from home. She was always there, even if it had to be over the telephone wires.

Until she wasn’t.

It started off slowly—spoiled milk in the refrigerator, aluminum foil in the microwave, and accusing my uncle of leaving tiny, recording devices under her couch. She’s getting forgetful with age…paranoid. That’s what I told myself.

But then things weren’t so small. When my mom and dad finally moved to Colorado, she and my brother took separate cars to church one night. Matt followed my mom back to their house but instead of turning down their road, my mom went straight. I received the phone call from Matt frantic, explaining the situation.

“Why didn’t you follow her?” I thought it was a reasonable question.

“I don’t know?”

I lived an hour and a half away, and it was eight o’clock at night. Pulling on my coat, I waited by the phone. There was no way I’d be able to find my mom in a city at night, though I’d search all night if I had to. Before leaving out the door, I called Matt one last time. Why wasn’t he searching?

A pair of headlights turned up our driveway. Impossible. We lived in a housing development in the country littered with dirt roads and deer. I rushed down the stairs to greet my mother. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and her whole body shook as she melted into my arms.

“He left me,” she sobbed. “I found a road that I recognized that went to your house, and I kept going.”

I wrapped her in a blanket and lay next to her on the bed in the spare room, her body heaving as she fell asleep.

As time went on, the incidents became more frequent. My parents moved back to New Hampshire because Dad couldn’t handle the altitude. My sister insisted they live in a retirement community. My mom didn’t like the price tag, so six months later she found an apartment in the town I grew up in. I was their telephone caregiver, calling every day on my way to work.

That summer when we visited, it was becoming more and more apparent that Mom couldn’t care for Dad, who was eighteen years her senior. He fell a couple of times, and she called the ambulance because she couldn’t lift him. Being there, I learned it was because he was malnourished and dehydrated. A local independent living facility provided them with at least two meals a day, and they could make friends. It worked for a while. Mom accused the maids of stealing her things, but it was her paranoia setting in again.

But then Dad got sick.

My mom insisted on coming to live with us. It was always how I imagined things would be. When Dad passed away, Mom would come live with us and help me with my children. But Dad wasn’t gone yet.

She insisted.

We moved her out to Colorado, and she lived with us. Frequent plane trips to New Hampshire drained my bank account. She missed him and in less than a year she wanted to move back. Things were different now. We hid her car keys, we arranged for her to go to a local senior center while we were at work, and she became severely combative.

For three years, my mother lived with us as I lost her day after day. At times, it felt like she ripped my heart out and stomped on it. I lashed out at her in my own frustration one day when she helped me clean out a closet. I missed our conversations, our comradeship and the love we’d always shared. It was as if someone reached down to Earth, snatched my mother and replaced her with a stranger. After three years, my husband and I made the decision to place her in a nursing home on a memory care unit.

I lost her again.

It was the most difficult thing I’ve done in my entire life, but I had to do it for her safety. Mom would get angry with me for no reason at all and storm out of the house. My husband followed her in the car until he could coax her inside. Her leaving also saved our marriage. The strain and stress it put on us those three years isn’t something I would want anyone to go through.

Have you ever lost someone? I lose my mom everyday, but it’s not as painful now. When you lose someone to dementia, at least for me, it’s like you’re going through the pain of losing someone suddenly again and again over many years. At some point, the pain numbs because it has to, or the stress will eat you alive. I love my mother, but the disease has stolen precious years of her life. It’s in the small glimmers of her spirit—a smile, an mischievous eye aimed at my husband, a hug from recognition—that I find hope that someday we can be together fully again.

Please take a moment to visit Heather Kindt’s RWISA Author Page!

Thank you for supporting today’s RWISA author along the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour!  To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page on the RWISA site.  For a chance to win a bundle of 15 e-books along with a $5 Amazon gift card, please leave a comment on the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page!  Once you’re there, it would be nice to also leave the author a personal note on their dedicated tour page, as well.  Thank you, and good luck!  

#RWISA “RISE-UP” TOUR DAY 8, Yvette Calleiro @YvetteMCalleiro #RRBC #RRBC_COMMUNITY #RWISARISEUP

I am more than happy to host RWISA Author, Yvette Calleiro today. I hope you enjoy her contribution to this blog tour!

SIGHTS by Yvette M. Calleiro

What if,

In our hustle and bustle,

In our go go go,

We made it a point

To slow down and meditate –

Tune in to the now,

The beauty of each moment?

If only we had slowed our lives down

To enjoy the present moment,

We’d have less people living with anxiety,

Fewer suicides and more survivors,

More productivity in our workplace

With fewer hours at the job.

What if we chose

To care about the foods we eat,

To focus on nutrients from our earth

Without pesticides or genetic modifications?

If only we had stayed away

From GMO-products and processed foods,

We’d have fewer loved ones suffering

From obesity and digestive issues

And autoimmune disorders.

What if we cared

About our fellow man and woman and child

Enough to help them find shelter

And food

And employment?

If only we had cared more about

The community as one

Instead of individualism,

We would have risen up

To find solutions for homelessness,

To help rehabilitate the hopelessness

And leave no human hungry.

What if mothers and fathers

Could spend quality time with their children,

Laughing and playing,

Nurturing and comforting,

Molding them into loving human beings?

If only we had valued the family unit,

There would be fewer broken families,

Children would grow into

Caring and confident adults,

Valuing love and laughter.

What if we chose

To heal the mind, body, and spirit

As one,

With natural remedies,

Focused on healing and curing

Instead of masking and prolonging?

If only we had focused on healing

Instead of profiting on illness,

Our immune systems would be strong,

Able to fight harder against viruses and diseases,

Our minds would be calm and serene,

Our spirit would be at peace and

In harmony with the world.

What if we cared about our planet,

Sharing the earth with

Its other living inhabitants,

Making small sacrifices

So our planet can grow and prosper

Alongside us?

If only we had not been so selfish in our ways

And had made the necessary changes

To allow our planet to heal,

Our forests would flourish

And shelter our animals,

Our oceans would provide life and enjoyment,

And our air would be clear and breathable.

What if we changed our ways?

If only we could do something

To stop this downward spiral of catastrophes

That we have created.

We can.

We should.

We must.

When RWISA asked its members to consider the new world we are now living in, they wanted us to consider what we would have done differently to better the situation we are currently in. This led me to think about foresight and hindsight. We all have the ability to pause and wonder what the world could be if we choose to make the hard choices and work toward a better world. Similarly, once the catastrophe has happened, we can look back and realize what we did wrong.

So, I created this poem. Choose to read it line by line or read the left side in its entirety and then go back and read the right side. Either way works! 😊

So often, our leaders look back and say, “Oops!” and then just keep trudging along without righting their wrongs. We, as citizens, do the same. We have become quite comfortable in our spoiled lives. We, as a society, focus on individualism instead of community. We live in a bubble that is only concerned with how enjoyable our own little world is, forgetting that we do not live in isolation. We ignore the pleas of others to help the planet/hungry/homeless/poor because that would mean putting effort or perhaps making sacrifices, and who wants to give up the luxuries that they have become accustomed to?

And so it goes. Our current path is not sustainable. If we are to survive and thrive, we must put the planet and all who encompass it as our priority. We need to make changes/sacrifices to flourish. Just look at what the past month or two of stay-at-home orders has done for our planet. Endangered turtles are being born and surviving. The peaks of the Himalayan mountains can be seen in India for the first time in decades. Pollution levels have shown a decrease in nitrogen dioxide over China. The waterways in Venice are crystal-clear and fish can be seen swimming in the canals. The signs are everywhere.

Can anyone still doubt that humans and our ways have hurt our environment and will continue to hurt our planet unless we make serious changes to our ways of life? How many businesses are realizing that their workers can actually do their jobs from home? That one change can cut back on car emissions, stress, and other pollutions. I don’t have all the solutions, but maybe it’s time that we, as a society, start to use our foresight to change our world for the better.

Please take a moment to visit Yvette’s RWISA Author Page!

Thank you for supporting today’s RWISA author along the RWISA “RISE-UP” Blog Tour!  To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page on the RWISA site.  For a chance to win a bundle of 15 e-books along with a $5 Amazon gift card, please leave a comment on the main RWISA”RISE-UP” Blog Tour page!  Once you’re there, it would be nice to also leave the author a personal note on their dedicated tour page, as well.  Thank you, and good luck!  

#RWISA “RISE-UP” TOUR DAY 7, Wendy Scott @WendyJayneScott #RRBC #RRBC_COMMUNITY #RWISARISEUP

It’s Wendy Scott’s turn to share her amazing writing with us, and I relinquish my blog site to her with great pleasure!

FOLLOW THE LEADER by Wendy Scott

Darkness swallowed dormitory B49. The lights had been extinguished an hour before at 8 pm. Stevie listened for the rhythmic breathing from the cots, aligned with military precision, one metre apart. Twenty beds, divided into two rows, sat on opposite sides of a red painted aisle. Identical grey bedding topped each hard mattress. The sheets were starched so stiff they were difficult to tuck under the corners, and the pillow was as unyielding as set concrete, but its worst feature was the coarseness of the blanket’s weave that threatened splinters.

Controlling his breathing into an even flow, he opened his thoughts to the ones forbidden by the masters. Silently, he recited his litany of self, as he had every night for the past five years.

“I am more than the number B49-17.

My name is Stevie Robinson, my birthday is the 11th March, and I’m 12 years old.

My father’s name is Mark.

My mother’s name is Katie.

My sister’s name is Jenny.

My family existed.

I vow to always remember our life together before the invasion.”

Tears gathered, but he was careful not to snuffle aloud. The cameras and microphones embedded in the walls monitored any transgressions every minute of every day.

Further, up the row, bed springs creaked as B49-3 tossed in his sleep, deep in the throes of another recurring nightmare. The silence shattered. His roommate screeched into the blackness, “Mama!”

Heart palpitating, Stevie squeezed his eyes closed, stilled his body, and faked sleep. Moments later, boots thundered into the dormitory, followed by scuffling sounds as the offending boy was dragged out his bed and marched away. The doors crashed shut, muffling the boy’s protests. Stevie had witnessed numerous night raids, so he knew to remain frozen.

A torch button snapped on, then measured boot steps resonated on the wooden floor boards. Three paces. A pause. Stevie imagined the torchlight scanning over the statue-like faces. A few paces at a time the master inspected the dormitory until he halted by Stevie’s cot. The smell of leather polish ripened the air. Stevie focused on breathing. In and out. In and out. No twitches. Feigning sleep. Early into his captivity he’d learned the harsh consequences of non-conformity.

Finally, the boots trod away. Before he exited the master intoned, “The Leader watches over you all.”

***

Clad in identical uniforms, the boys from B49 trooped into the instruction room, their orderly line pausing as each boy bowed before saluting the oversized portrait of the Leader. A shadow of crew cut hair, a creased forehead, lips thinned into a disapproving line, and demon eyes bored out of the frame as if tracking each boy’s movements. The identical image dominated the boys’ access zones: the dormitory, the canteen, the corridors, and the ablution’s block. The Leader’s face had become more familiar than Stevie’s own. It had been five years since he’d seen his reflection in a mirror.

Without a murmur the boys filed to their designated desk and stood beside their seat. Stevie glanced at the empty space allotted to B49-3. A sickly sensation puckered in his stomach but it wasn’t due to the beige mash the servers had dished up for breakfast. Years ago, his taste buds had withered away as he learned to chew the gluey texture for its sustenance value. Refusal to eat resulted in ejection, and reassignment to the intensive reprogramming wing. For boys who cried out in the night, the punishment was the same. None ever returned, and within days a different boy would be slotted into their place, and assigned their numerical identification. The Leader’s message clearly delivered. They were expendable cogs in the Leader’s war machine, merely insignificant numbers. Individuals didn’t exist.

Head straight, eyes forward, Stevie snapped to attention as the master strode into the room. “Be seated.”

Chairs scraped across the floor boards in synchronised motion. The master’s laser gaze scanned above the boys’ heads. “It seems a reminder is necessary. Our lesson will focus on our basic principles until the Leader is satisfied that B49 understands their function.”

Lies. Propaganda. Brain-washing. A turmoil of thoughts swirled through Stevie’s brain, but he kept his expression bland and his body language submissive.

Do. Not. Attract. Attention.

The master picked up a cane and whacked it against a board, directing the group’s focus to the three sentences printed in regulation white chalk.

“Recite together.” He traced the written words with the tip of his cane.

Obedience—Leader knows best.

Conformity—Leader made everyone equal.

Conception—Leader created each of us for his divine purpose.

The taps acted as a metronome commanding repetition until their voices sounded like they’d gargled gravel.

“Halt.” The master consulted the clock on the back wall. “Proceed outside for drill instruction. Convene back here in one hour. The Leader watches over you all.”

***

Under the direction of another master, the boys marched around the quadrangle in orderly lines under an overcast sky. Beneath his cap, Stevie swept his gaze around his surroundings. Windowless concrete high-risers towered around the compound, each one housing identical dormitories. Electrified barbed wire fences and fortified watchtowers incarcerated the thousands of boys within the indoctrination camp. Overhead, a drone buzzed, surveying the sea of uniforms for any sign of non-conformity.

A mine field separated a squat building from the rest of the compound. It accommodated the reprogramming centre. The only entrance was via a rusty metal door. Stevie’s nostrils twitched, the air tainted by the black smoke belching out of the stack of soot-stained chimneys on its roof. The air stunk like burnt barbecued ribs. The boys’ route included parading past the centre’s outside gallows platform. Relief flooded Stevie when he spied the empty nooses. A brief respite as today, they wouldn’t be forced to stop and stand to attention, witnessing the distorted faces of those who broke the Leader’s rules.

For years, he’d shared a room with B49-3. They’d eaten, washed, and marched to the same regimented routine day-in and day-out. He shuddered to think of what the other boy was suffering inside the bowels of the centre. Trained sadists, the masters displayed no capacity for compassion.

Behind him, a voice whispered, “His name is Tom.”

Heart thumping, Stevie’s foot fumbled the next step. He didn’t dare turn his head and acknowledge B49-18’s forbidden comment.

From the front of the line the master roared. “Keep in time.” The cane whacked on the concrete. “Left, right, left.”

The path turned sharply by the outer fence. A flash of purple and yellow caught Stevie’s attention. A lone pansy grew between the cracks in the pavement. He risked peeking at the master before stooping down and plucking up the flower. Careful not to crush its petals he tucked his stolen prize up his jacket sleeve. A tidal wave of adrenaline coursed through his veins; he hardly believed he had dared to jeopardize his life for a pansy.

No outcry ensued and he concentrated on keeping the rhythm. Sometimes the authorities planted informants among the dormitories. Boys who traded secrets for extra rations. He could not afford to slacken his guard.

***

The clock hand ticked over to 8 pm, and the dormitory plunged into darkness. Stevie waited ages before rolling onto his stomach. He extracted the flower from his pillow case and brushed the petals across his nose. The floral bouquet reminded him of the tubs of pansies his mom had grown on their porch. After gardening, the pansy fragrance lingered on her skin.

Memories cascaded like a broken dam. Blowing candles out on a chocolate frosted banana cake. Giggling with his younger sister as their dad spun them around in circles on the back lawn. Wet kisses from his puppy, Sparky. Rainbow lights flashing on the Christmas tree. His mom reading him a bedtime story before pressing a goodnight kiss on his forehead. “Sweat dreams, son.”

He smothered a sigh with the pillow. Silently, he recited the words that kept him sane.

“I am more than the number B49-17.

My name is Stevie Robinson, my birthday is the 11th March, and I’m 12 years old.

My father’s name is Mark.

My mother’s name is Katie.

My sister’s name is Jenny.

My family existed.

I vow to always remember our life together before the invasion.”

Stevie swallowed the flower, destroying the incriminating evidence. He added to his mantra. “The Leader watches us, but I’m watching back. In my heart, I will never follow the Leader.”

Please take a moment to visit Wendy’s RWISA Author Page!

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