Excerpt from Lorna versus Laura (unpublished)

When Mr. Rock Garden stepped into the flowerless place next door, for the first time, he seemed to be standing amongst tombstones.  He was the only living thing.  His back was to me as the orangey hue of dusk settled on his hunched shoulders.  I watched carefully, leaving my chair to go to the window to get a better look.  His shoulders shook erratically, and through the opening in the window, his desperate song of “They need to take me away” came with sobs.  I gasped and recoiled.  My right index finger came away from my cheek with the saltiness of a single tear on it.  A single tear that would drown in Mr. Rock Garden’s torrent of tears.

I closed the curtains, feeling I had intruded on a private funeral.  While curiosity was my main culprit for watching my neighbor these past several weeks, I was beginning to wonder if I had developed some sort of unhealthy obsession with him.  What was his story?  Who was he really?  What was his name?

Character Friday – Meet Hannah Rechthart Grunner

Hello there, I’m Hannah Rechthart Grunner.  Someone thought it would be a good idea for me to write down a bit about myself, so here it is.  I don’t know how exciting my life has been, but it’s been a good life, ups and downs and all.

I was born on April 12, 1912 to Gus and Lucy Rechthart in Cleveland, Ohio.  They already had three children — my older sister, Amy, and my brothers, Erik and Harry.  Growing up, even though Amy was ten years older than me, we banded together.  My brothers were always joking around, especially Harry, mostly driving me crazy.  When Ma became pregnant years later, we were all surprised, but I was overjoyed to have a younger sister, Irma.  I was ten years old when she made her debut into the world.

Our family life kept me on my toes.  There was rarely a dull moment in the Rechthart household.  With five children, we were a noisy, rowdy bunch.  We weren’t rich, but we didn’t lack for anything.  Ma baked bread every Saturday and was the queen of her kitchen (and made sure we all knew it).  Pa was the old softie, especially toward his daughters.  He worked long, hard hours at his trucking and delivery business.

When I wasn’t being kept busy picking berries, feeding the hens, or doing some sort of chore, I was with my friends in the neighborhood.  There was a group of girls who I was the ringleader of, but sisters Louisa and Rosemary were my closest friends.  While Rosemary was a couple of years younger than us and rather shy, Louisa was my age and outspoken.  We argued often, but we had each other’s backs.  I’ll never forget all the times we girls spied on the boys as they skinny-dipped!  I also pulled the fire alarm in the school when I was in eighth grade — something I would never dreamed of doing if it hadn’t been for Louisa!

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Hannah Rechthart Grunner – main character

I guess you could say that I was the “good girl.”  I worked hard, got good grades, and rarely got into trouble.  My dark blonde hair and hazel eyes may have matched Amy’s, but I never had her confidence around boys.  When I was out of high school, that was the first time I began dating seriously.  I worked as a secretary and met a young woman named Kat.  Kat was a few years older than me and introduced me to her brother, Will.  Harry and I had actually grown quite close in the past few years leading up to the end of high school for me, and I told Kat about my crazy brother.  We were double dating for several months, but those times were short-lived.  Harry, who always knew how to have a good time, had too much of a good time and developed an alcohol problem.  

Worse than that, his alcoholism landed him in jail because something really, really terrible happened.  I hate to even mention it, but years later, he was out of prison and came back to the family.  

I have since married a wonderful man who I met at work — Edward Grunner.  We have a family of our own with three children, but I’ll never forget where I came from.  My parents and siblings are always in my heart.

And how could I forget to mention what else is part of me?  Music — or, more specifically, playing the piano and organ.  I began piano at age seven and haven’t stopped.  I played the organ at church for years until my children were born.  Maybe one of my kids will inherit my love of music.

As for now, I can rest happy in knowing that my family, my faith, and my music will keep me going until God deems it time for my earthly life to end.

Hannah is the protagonist in my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful. 

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I will post a new character bio every Friday!

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

Poetry Tuesday – Empty

Smiles fall false from cracked, closed lips,

Breaking, shattering, exposing the lies,

Lying hidden so long,

The only truth the bitterness and anger —

Released in bleeding, beating ugliness.

Scorn, judgment, misunderstanding greet,

Eyes afraid to meet,

Hearts no longer beat,

Walking this path alone down a dead-end street.

03/29/15

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Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

Character Friday – Meet Tristan Blake

My name is Tristan Blake, and I can’t believe I’m writing this down.  I may be a writer, but if you really want to know the intimate details of my sad life, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere.  Why?  That’s a long story.  First, I’ll just say that I’m 35 years old, quite tall, have sandy hair (sometimes on the long side and with a beard),  have striking blue eyes, and am told I’m muscular, although not overly-so.  Physical details seem harmless enough, but I suppose you want to know more.

I grew up unwanted by my family, being born much later than the rest of my siblings.  Being told you’re “a mistake,” especially by your alcoholic father, doesn’t exactly do much for a guy.  I was out of that house as soon as I finished high school and began working in construction, just trying to get by.  During all those dark years growing up, I always had my imagination.  I wrote stories at a young age and had been working on a novel when I met my future wife, Julie.  I couldn’t believe my turn of luck when I got an agent and a publishing deal.  On top of that, when I proposed to Julie, she said yes!

You’d think this was the start of a happy life, but that happiness was short-lived.  While we were doing well financially when others were broken (the Depression had just started), Julie and I suffered.  I can’t say more.  We were broken, and Julie gave up in every sense.  I turned to drinking and to escaping with my writing instead of supporting my wife.  This probably isn’t making any sense, but I told you I didn’t want to write my pathetic plight of a life down.

As if this weren’t bad enough, Julie…she died.  I can’t even write it down; the pain is too great.

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I would remain living in my self-induced cell for years.  I couldn’t bear to change anything, but neither could I have her looking at me, so I blackened out her eyes in all her photographs.  I also killed all the plants outside, wishing to live among dead things…rocks.  Really, I was dead.  I was delirious in my isolation.  I did manage to write and publish one more novel.

Then she moved next door in late 1942…Lorna Ashford.  A tornado threw us into the cellar of my house a few months later.  For some crazy reason, maybe because I’d gone too long without human communication, I felt drawn to Lorna.  But grief and guilt also consumed me.  I began in earnest to clean up her yard after the tornado.  I fixed her roof.  I later offered to fix her car.  I mowed her lawn.  Despite everything in me telling me to stay away, that I would only hurt her, I couldn’t stop myself.

I grew to love her.  We spent the whole summer together.  She had come to confide in me too much, to believe that I was the source of her comfort and healing from her suffering from losing her parents.

I am not a source of comfort, but how can I tell her that?  I love her, but I am not good for her.  What happens in our story?

I may be a writer, but that’s one story I can’t write the end to.  It’s not up to me.

Tristan is the second main character and love interest of protagonist Lorna Ashford in my unpublished novel, Lorna versus Laura. 

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I will post a new character bio every Friday!

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

Why I Write What I Write

“Where some might see ugliness, I see beauty, at least the potential of it.”

A question many writers and authors get asked is why they write what they write.

You have probably also heard it said that you should write what you know.

I’ll admit, much of the details of what I write isn’t what I know directly — that is, I haven’t experienced it firsthand.  But I can tell you that I know what it is to feel suffering, pain, pleasure, sadness, anger, or any number of emotions.  This is part of the human condition.

Someone once suggested I write about my experience of raising an autistic son.  While I write about this in my blogs, I do not do so in fiction.  Why?  Because it’s too close to home.  I live this reality every day.   When I write, that is my escape.  Why would I want to bring something that has caused me tremendous emotional pain at times into my fiction?  For some writers, this works.  This is therapeutic for them.  It’s not for me, so I’ll stop right here and not address that issue further.

However, what I can say is that I can take my anguish from my own experiences and pour it into my characters.  When I am describing a character whose sadness is so overwhelming that she cannot even find the words, I know this.  She has dropped to the floor like a rag doll, her head flopped forward as tears stream uncontrollably down her face.  Her nose drains.  Her throat is closed up.  She’s shaking, almost convulsing.  This pain runs so deep, her body shudders.

Or the opposite: such elation, such euphoria that she feels like she might very well burst out of her physical body.  The body can’t contain the soul!  It’s the closest thing to flying without feet actually leaving the ground.

The cool thing about writing my experiences with different emotions is that I can show, rather than simply tell, my readers what the character is feeling.  That alone is huge, so what I choose to write about translates into how I write and how I feel I am supposed to write…if that makes sense.

I write what I write mostly based on what I love to read.  Most of the books I read are based in reality.  They take place in this world, not in some fantasy world like Middle Earth or Narnia.  I have read The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, and I love those stories, but it isn’t the fantasy aspect that spoke to me in them.  It was the hardships the characters went through.  Like anything I read, I am attracted to highly-flawed, even broken, protagonists.  The underdog or even the anti-hero is who I root for.

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I love seeing how these smashed vessels are made whole again, even with pieces missing.  If romance is involved, I adore seeing two such characters come together to create something beautiful by the end of the book.  Again, their love story isn’t perfect.  They won’t live happily ever after, but they will have each other.

I was never the popular girl growing up, although I wouldn’t make the assumption that just because someone is gorgeous, wealthy, and well-known that they are happy.  My experiences in my youth as someone who was ridiculed incessantly for any number of reasons (take your pick — I was too skinny; my parents wouldn’t buy me the “cool” clothes; my dad liked to garbage-pick; I was a nerd; I wore glasses; I didn’t stand up for myself and other reasons I won’t get into) made me drawn toward the characters who were ugly.  Maybe not physically ugly, but they could be.  And I don’t mean so ugly personality-wise that they have no redeeming qualities.  A male character who is simply a jerk and treats women like pieces of meat isn’t someone I am going to root for or write about.  A female character who is a bitch toward everyone just for the fact of being so isn’t someone I’d want to read about, let alone write about.

Where some might see ugliness, I see beauty, at least the potential of it.

I write for my characters.  My characters, in turn, drive the plot.  Flimsy characters that are as flat as a sheet of paper won’t stand up to the trials I will put them through in the story.  My characters need to be believable.  It’s like stepping into another body for a time, learning how that soul operates differently from mine, and listening to the voice that inhabits it.  I am merely a visitor who’s holding a notepad, writing down that character’s story.  The character’s voice is strong enough to tell me what to do, not the other way around.

The stories I love to read are character-driven.  My writing is character-driven.

A part of writing character-driven stories comes with having to do things to characters that hurt me deeply.  I have had to kill off several characters, for example.  It’s heartbreaking every time.  I think one of the saddest character deaths I wrote was a man who was a father-figure to the protagonist in the story.  This guy had given the protagonist, a young man who had made many foolish choices and was trying to rebuild his life, a leg up.  He loved this young man like his own son.  The protagonist adored this older man, and then I killed him.  It’s something that happens often in stories — the mentor figure must die so that the hero can rise to the occasion.

I kind of hated myself for a few days after doing that, but if I can convince my reader to feel the heartbreak of that character’s death, then I have done my job as a writer.

My first story evolved around my late grandma’s life.  I told the story of Hannah, a character loosely based off my grandma, from her birth to her death.  Writing her death was the most realistic thing I’ve written, as that part of the story was based very much on my experience.  From that story, I branched out to exploring other tough topics, like alcoholism, car accidents, illnesses, miscarriages, and simply the inner conflict of the character struggling to figure out who they are.

When someone reads one of my stories and says it made them cry, I know I’m doing an effective job at creating believable characters.  When I read a story, if I don’t care about the characters, I don’t care about the story.

Sometimes I still take a step back and wonder how I can create characters and the worlds they inhabit.  I guess it’s just practice, time, effort, and perseverance.  And listening to what others tell me.  The feedback I get, especially the constructive criticism that tells me what I’m screwing up, is invaluable.  This sort of criticism only serves to improve my writing, so long as I am willing to listen and put it into practice.  And I am.  I do.  I take my writing seriously.

For me, writing is part of my soul, as much a part of me as my children or my husband.  It’s like breathing.  To not write, to me, would be to die a little every day.

At the end of the day, I write because I must.  As for why I write what I write, I will show you rather than tell you with this excerpt from one of my stories:

“We were, neither one of us, one persona or the other, but rather some beautiful, messy, complicated version splattered on a canvas, but a masterpiece painting nonetheless.”


 

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog at the end of every month.

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

Poetry Tuesday

My Beauty – Red, White, and Blue

My beauty, she flies for everyone,
In times of rain, in times of sun.
I close my eyes and try
To see beyond each lie,
For falsehood is mud
That longs to cover up the blood —
Blood spilled with each life given
For us and the land we live in.
It’s not a party, but a time to remember,
Every hour, every day, January to December.
Their battle cries in some foreign land
Pierce straight to the heart, begging we understand
That each heartbeat, every breath
Is protected by their death.
Red for the blood poured out with each life,
Blue for the tears wept during the strife,
White for the good they swore to protect,
Billowing proud, though tattered — but without defect.
Her stars spell out victory that came with a price.
This beauty shines of sacrifice.
Millions died, brave and true,
Fighting to honor Red, White, and Blue.

05/29/17
In honor of those who gave all, this Memorial Day and every one.

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I will post a new poem every Tuesday!

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful