Friday, October 19, 2018

Fairy Tales, Banned Books, and Censorship

This week, Twitter was on fire with a story covered by news outlets such as USA Today, Parents Magazine, Pop Sugar Family, E! News, and Sky News. Actresses Kristen Bell and Keira Knightley came out, in separate, unrelated interviews, with some anti-classic Disney princess arguments. Bell raised issues about Snow White and consent because Prince Charming kisses her when she's sleeping. Knightley was concerned that Cinderella teaches little girls to wait for the rich guy to save them. Many opinions—both in agreement and opposing—have flooded the Internet.

In response, I tweeted, "Remember it’s fiction. Fairy godmothers aren’t real either. Just educate your children so they can make intelligent choices vs outright banning the movies." In the case of Snow White...the prince kissed her when she was (for all intents and purposes) dead and lying in a glass coffin. The kiss that brought her back to life could arguably be a life-saving procedure in which Good Samaritan laws apply. As for Cinderella...she wasn't waiting around for a prince to rescue her. Even though she had been reduced to a life of servitude in her own home, she was content. She only wanted to go to the ball. And she did. In killer glass slippers.

Banning a movie or a book because you don't agree with its content? That seems remarkably like censorship.


***

Books are often banned because they introduce threatening ideas. Some that have made the cut over the years may surprise you... Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Jack London's The Call of the Wild. Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. William Golding's The Lord of the Flies. Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey.

How many of these books have you read?


***

I grew up in a very sheltered home. My mom pre-screened movies before she let me and my sister watch them. I missed quite a few movies that way. And, needless to say, I was a little unprepared for real life when I went away to university.

When it comes to our boys (currently aged 10 and 8), my husband and I mildly disagree over what they can and can't watch on TV. Where I cautiously check commonsensemedia.org before family movie nights; my husband let our oldest watch Family Guy. 😲 First of all, I am not a fan of Family Guy. Back in the day, I wasn't allowed to watch The Simpsons. Something about Bart's disrespectful attitude? (One of the shows I definitely watched in university!) Well, The Simpsons don't have anything on Family Guy. My husband said it was better that our oldest get exposed to "grown-up" topics at home where we could explain them versus the playground where anything goes. I agree. To a point. Family Guy isn't exactly the most accurate of sex education sources. Come on, the family dog talks! And is probably the smartest member of the family. So, son #1 repeated some questionable dialogue from Family Guy at an inappropriate time and that ended his Family Guy watching days. For now.

I'm not naive. I know my kids know bad words. I've heard them say bad words. My husband and I have talked to them plainly about understanding what those words mean and when is the right and wrong time to say them. i.e. wrong time = anytime in front of Mom At the end of the day, it's a lesson we, as their parents, are tasked with giving. We can't hope to raise them in a protected bubble of rainbows and sunshine. That doesn't do them any favours.

***

My takeaway on the objections raised by Kristen Bell and Keira Knightley? Be respectful of others. Arm yourself with education to make intelligent decisions. It's okay to believe in fairy tales. 👸

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fight for the Right

When I was a kid, my friends and I would play a game called 'what sense could you live without'. We'd list the pros and cons of losing 'taste' or 'sight', for instance. I'd usually pick 'taste' as I couldn't imagine living without 'sight' and the other senses, like 'touch' and 'hearing', seemed important for safety. We also played 'what limb could you live without', but losing a limb is a serious fear of mine, and I didn't participate. What we never imagined was forfeiting any of our rights.

I'm 38 years old and, until 3 years ago, I would have finished the sentence 'You gotta fight for your right' with the Beastie Boys' lyrics "to party" - I'm only half-joking. What changed for me 3 years ago? I was placed in a position that threatened my human rights, and I decided to fight. Since then I have faced opposition, complacency, and even distain.

Situations similar to mine, unfortunately, occur frequently. What are we doing about it? If we begin to sacrifice even the most (seemingly) insignificant rights, when will it stop? Part of the beauty of democracy is freedom of speech. If we cannot speak, we are truly imprisoned.

Yes, there are worse places to live in the world. That doesn't mean we must accept less here (in the western world). In fact, we must protect our hard-earned rights - to vote, to marry the person of our choice, to express our opinion - and continue to pursue what is right, for us and for our neighbours.

What right or freedom are you willing to live without?



If your answer is "none", then what are you willing to do if your rights or freedoms are threatened?


Friday, October 5, 2018

Are you playing the Chapters - Interactive Stories app yet?

I am seriously excited about the release of my TapTales story Heart's Storm on the app Chapters - Interactive Stories.


Aspiring screenwriter Lissa Edward dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Her heart has other ideas. Does the past hold the key to her future?


Chapters - Interactive Stories is available through the Apple App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store. Read stories where you play as the main character and make decisions that impact the story. It's like a choose-your-own-adventure story for adults! You can read stories in the romance (steamy), romance (sweet), paranormal romance, young adult, mystery/thriller, and fantasy/sci-fi categories. Plus stories, like Heart's Storm, are also available as TapTales, the simple chat story format, in all genres. If you love reading and playing mobile games...you'll love Chapters - Interactive Stories!

https://www.facebook.com/ChaptersInteractiveStories/


Check out the app...and stay tuned for more stories from me!

Friday, September 28, 2018

My Point of View

I've always written in third person. Recently, I've read several books written in first person, and I'm starting to rethink how I view Point of View (POV).

 

If you're like me and your school days seem to be a distant memory, then a little refresher in Point of View may be in order.

What is Point of View? In a novel, the POV shows the perspective of the narrator. In other words, who is the narrator of the story? For instance, if the narrator refers to him/herself as "I" or "me", then the story is written in first person.

Points of View:
  • First Person
  • Third Person Limited
  • Third Person Omniscient
  • Second Person
A sentence written in first person would look like "I drove to the store." and makes the reader adopt the perspective of the character. You are the character. First person is used for fictional or autobiographical material, but it's considered too subjective for academic writing.

Third person, limited or omniscient, is the most commonly used point of view. In this view, the narrator does not refer to him/herself as "I" or the reader as "you" and uses pronouns like "he" and "she" to describe the characters or subjects. A sentence like "He drove to the store." The third person limited is written from the perspective of one character where the reader has access to his/her thoughts. Using the third person omniscient provides the reader with full access to all characters.

Second person is not commonly used, although you may see it in nonfiction. An example would be "You drove to the store."

Identifying which pronouns - "I" "you" "he" "she" - are used is a quick way to determine the POV.

As a reader, the POV selected by the author very much influences my overall feeling of the book and its characters. First person lends to a more intimate, emotional experience.

As a writer, I have always written in third person limited. I usually write from the removed viewpoint of the female protagonist and include a portion of the novel from the male protagonist's perspective. I choose the POV by assessing which character has the most to lose at that point of the story. Head-hopping (switching characters too frequently) is cognitively avoided. Since reading several novels written in first person, I am contemplating doing the same and perhaps I will. Reading in first person has literally given me a new perspective on Point of View.


*** May contain spoilers ***



'Outlander' series by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander (and the seven books (so far) that follow it) is written in first person from the perspective of the heroine Claire Beauchamp Randall. I found the TV series first, but after I watched season one I had to buy all eight books—in trade paperback format—published between 1991 and 2014. The popularity of the TV show made finding the older books, especially, a bit easier. It still took stops to several bookstores over the course of a summer to find the books I wanted in the format and condition I wanted. Yes, I became a little obsessed with everything Outlander. The investment is worth it as I know these books will be reread—and often.


'Percy Jackson' series by Rick Riordan
The Percy Jackson books, five novels about a young demigod and his adventures, is written from the perspective of the main character Percy Jackson. I originally picked up the series to read with my sons, ages eight and ten, but I've enjoyed them as much (or more). The writing is compelling, the concepts are original, and the characters are realistic (as real as characters based on Greek mythology can be). As I read the books, I referred to the Greek god family tree and learned some fascinating facts. The first two books were also made into movies which I watched first and also liked. Fingers crossed that books three, four, and five will also find their way to the silver screen.

'50 Shades' series by E.L. James
The 50 Shades trilogy is written from the perspective of Anastasia Steele, the love interest of the main character Christian Grey. To say this is a controversial series of books is probably a grave understatement. Fortunately, I am an open-minded reader (and movie viewer) so I didn't miss out on this beautifully written series. I had watched the movie so, when I read the first book, I knew what to expect or thereabouts. However, I didn't expect to enjoy the writing so much or that the ending would leave me in an emotional wreck. The movie was okay—perhaps a little cheesy—I guess they had to Hollywood-it-up—but the books were exceptional.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Writer's Google Search History

The Internet has made research so much easier.

When I was a kid, I remember trudging down to the library (don't get me wrong, I love the library) every time I had a research paper. Instead of poring through the countless books in the fiction section, I would gingerly carry the heavy tomes from non-fiction back to my table. I would painstakingly write notes, include the information I would need for the bibliography, or carefully select the pages I had to photocopy at the cost of ten cents per page.

If I was lucky, I found the information I needed at the local library. If I wasn't—I spent many of my formative years in small towns—then my amazing parents would drive me to the next closest library—a two hour plus drive away.




Today, through the advent of the world wide web, I have access to an enormous amount of data. This excess is not without problems of its own. Too much information means difficulty in... narrowing searches; discerning reliable sources; and avoiding distractions.

The Internet, and namely social media, is a major distraction. Have you ever picked up your phone or logged into your computer to check email and...




Raise your hand. Be honest.

I often put my phone out of arm's reach in order to get any decent writing done. Sometimes, I even turn the wifi off on my laptop. Too much information. Unless you manage your notifications. And, even then, my devices always seem to be ping-ing about something.

But I need the Internet. I use it for research. How else would I know how long it takes to drive from Evanston to Chicago or what a group of vampires is called? Seriously. You would probably be surprised (or perhaps not) at the things I google.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The 'Happily Ever After' of Your Dreams

Why do you read?

I love the written word. To say it has impacted my life is a vast understatement. I read many different genres, but the main pull of fictional novels for me—other than the progression of the story itself—is the happy ending. Reading is a source of pure pleasure. It's escapism at its best. You can be anyone, and you can be anywhere. If you read historical novels, then you can be in anytime as well.




Life sucks. Reality bites. Shit happens.

The same rules don't (usually) apply to fiction. Yes, the hero or heroine will have conflict as facing trials and tribulations—like in real life—is necessary for growth and development. But fiction offers (usually) a tidy happily-ever-after (HEA) or, at the very least, a happy-for-now (HFN). Anything less is very unsatisfying. And, dare I suggest, emotionally devastating to the reader.

Perhaps the typical romance novel plot is slightly less than realistic—who wants to read about someone's ordinary life—but there's a reason we see reoccurring tropes—surprise baby, arranged marriage, alpha male, fake engagement, marriage of convenience... It's because we want to read them! Every author will add their individual tweaks, and we, the readers, want to see how their story will proceed.

I think reading books allows you to vicariously live multiple lives and experience drama that would otherwise be unwelcome in real life. What do you think?

At times, I come across a scene so powerful, so moving, that I become simply absorbed and enthralled. This type of writing makes me want to scream, "Yes! I want to write like this!" and also hope that someone, somewhere, is reading my work and thinking the same thing.

I'm reminded of a Barry Manilow song "I Write the Songs" in which he sings:

I write the songs that make the whole world sing
I write the songs of love and special things
I write the songs that make the young girls cry
I write the songs, I write the songs.

Those lyrics summarize perfectly the emotion I wish to invoke in my readers. I want to make you feel love...and hate. I want you to root for my characters...and bet against them. I want you to rejoice in their triumphs and grieve in their sorrows. And, at the end of the journey, I want to give you the HEA of your dreams. Until next time...

Keep reading. Keep dreaming. And never stop believing.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

We All Feel Pain

Is it really 'better to feel pain, than nothing at all'? –"Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers

So much of life is pain. A child's entry into the world is often a painful experience for the mother. As children, we injure ourselves learning to walk or ride a bike, and we suffer ear infections and strep throats. As teenagers, we face the emotional pain of rejection and heartbreak. As adults, we share in our children's pain as they make their own way. As we age, our feeble bodies fall victim to disease and decay.

Preventing pain—physical or emotional—is futile. Unless you live in a bubble, there is no surefire way to insulate yourself.

***

"Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word." –George R.R. Martin

"No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown." –William Penn

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." –Buddhist proverb

***

So, what do these adages tell us about the human perspective on pain? "Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." (William Goldman's The Princess Bride).


Pain is an integral part of life. We all face trials, but it is our response which defines us. Every day we live is one day closer to the day we die. What a morbid, albeit realistic, view. It is our responsibility to live each day to the fullest, to bring meaning and purpose, despite our personal difficulties and tragedies.

I am no stranger to adversity. Ten years ago, my husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. This incurable disease stole my husband's ability to work, leaving him in unconscionable, chronic pain. Five years ago, I was harassed and assaulted at my workplace. The trauma I suffered, and the stark absence of support after, led to development of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, manifesting in chronic physical symptoms.


I am no stranger to pain. I know many of you share similar experiences and difficulties. I am sympathetic to your plight. I have connected with many readers whose lives are impacted by chronic pain. Most people do not understand the misery that accompanies lingering disease or injury. They cannot begin to comprehend the feeling of loss and frustration, the isolation, and the devastation. A health crisis takes from your life. When you become ill and unable to work, you lose more than financial stability. You lose friends. You lose ability. You lose purpose. These things are stolen from you. You are the only one who can take them back.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said: "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." A harsh observation indeed. What I have learned is that I am much stronger than I ever thought possible. I struggle to complete ordinary daily activities and endure unfathomable agony for my efforts. I am limited in what I can do. Even pleasurable activities come at a cost. The requisites to writing—clear mindset, ability to concentrate and focus, being in a good emotional place—I often lack and cannot implement at will. My mind is at war with my body.

My internal war is not the only one I am fighting. I have also spoken up against the abuse—the systematic torture—I experienced at work. With the hope of preventing what happened to me from happening to anyone else, I have taken my employer to task with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal. This fight exacts a high price. One I have paid with my health.

I must do the right thing. I cannot do less.

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's story is an apt illustration of the cost of standing up for your beliefs. In 2016, he knelt during the national anthem in protest against social injustice, especially for the police brutality of African-Americans. Kaepernick opted out of the final season of his contract with the 49ers in March 2017 to become a free agent, but no other NFL team has signed him, most likely due to his activism.


Life is precious. Life is not perfect. Life is made to be lived. And, at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself and the choices you've made. I can live with myself. Can you?


Monday, August 27, 2018

Flash Fiction Summer Series - Story #3

The inspiration for this week's piece is a picture from Disney's Enchanted, featuring Giselle (the soon-to-be princess) and Queen Narissa (evil stepmother to Prince Edward and soon-to-be mother-in-law to Giselle).

Fairy tales often feature an evil stepmother as the villain. Looking to my favorite fairy tale portrayals—Disney, of course—I found...

Snow White - lived with a jealous stepmother who tried to have her killed
Cinderella - lived with a jealous stepmother who made her work as a maid and limited her social interaction
Princess Aurora - raised by three magical surrogate mothers, although not technically stepmothers, after she was threatened by the evil fairy Maleficent
Princess Ariel - tricked by the sea witch Ursula in her plan to capture King Triton, although Ursula is not technically a stepmother...she does want Ariel's widowed father (Ariel's mother had been killed by Captain Hook)
Princess Rapunzel - in Disney's version, Princess Rapunzel was stolen by Mother Gothel who used the healing powers of the princess' hair to retain her youth

And don't get me started on the films that feature mother-less protagonists...


The Evil Stepmother by @mayatylerauthor




Everything she had ever wanted was within her grasp. The man of her dreams. The crown. The title of Queen. Plus one bothersome brat.


Belinda donned an appropriately sorrowful expression as she entered the sick room. "How is her majesty?"

The nurse moved to the side, revealing a pale-faced diminutive form lying on the well-appointed bed. "I'm afraid your sister doesn't have much time left, Miss Belinda."

"And nothing can be done?"

"No, Miss. The sickness came on suddenly, and she has faded just as quickly." The nurse shook her head. "Do you want to sit with her for a bit?"

"Yes."

The nurse ducked her head and left the room.

Belinda sat on the high-backed chair next to the bed. "Oh, sweet sister," she murmured. "How things have changed." In my favor.

Queen Catherine moaned and blinked rapidly.

Leaning closer toward the bed, Belinda watched her sister's expression change from distressed to tortured. "Are you trying to say something, Catherine?"

With her blond curls spread across the white pillow and her eyes closed peacefully, Catherine appeared to be sleeping. Belinda smirked. Like Sleeping Beauty. Except this time there wouldn't be a handsome prince coming to her rescue. Not even the charming King Cayden could save his regal wife.

Belinda chuckled. "You can hear me, can't you? But you can't speak or move. You're completely helpless. This has worked better than I imagined! Soon you will succumb to the dastardly effects of the poison, and I will be the one comforting your grieving husband."

A single tear rolled down the queen's still cheek.

"Poor Catherine." Belinda narrowed her gaze at the motionless figure. "You had everything you desired handed to you on a platinum platter. You had to but point at Cayden, and he fell at your feet. No more. It's my time now. I will marry Cayden and rule this kingdom. Once you leave us."

"Ah!"

Belinda turned her head toward the sound. Princess Hana stood, mouth gaping, in the open doorway.

How much did she hear? Belinda forced her lips to curl into a friendly smile. "Come to auntie, dear."

Hana shook her head violently and backed into the hall.

It hadn't been the plan, but she couldn't take the risk. Belinda rose from the chair, walked toward the shaking child, and wrapped her hand around the girl's arm. "Come with me, child." She grimly escorted the princess to her chamber.

Catherine's mysterious ailment just became contagious.

THE END




Monday, August 6, 2018

Flash Fiction Summer Series - Story #2

From the Woods by @mayatylerauthor




Once upon a time—because all the best stories begin that way—there lived a fairy princess in the enchanted woods now known as Foloi Forest. Princess Xylia was loved by her people, holding not only their love but also their deepest respect. Princess X—a pet name bestowed by her fairy family, The Glitter—carried the appearance of youth and the wisdom of age. She happily wore her long blond hair free, letting it flow behind her like a yellow river as she raced through the great forest. Under a carefree guise, she surveyed their domain with the cunning of a hunter. Her intelligent green eyes missed nothing.

The Glitter depended on her to keep them safe. Although they lived an immortal life, they were still susceptible to harm and potentially even death. A revelation painfully learned ages ago when the human world became a lot less hospitable to the fairy folk. For thousands of years, humankind and fairies had lived in harmony. In a symbiotic relationship. Until The Great Divide when a faction of fairies embraced dark magic and became wizards. Afterward, the humans began to distrust and fear fairy magic.

Fairies once roamed the earth, assuming the stature of humans. Now, they hid from the world outside the woods in their diminutive form, making their homes nestled in the majestic oak trees. The tiny creatures cared for their environment, using their magic to help the plants grow and the seasons change. For most this existence was enough.

***

A shrill voice resonated throughout the quiet woods. "Xylia!"

Princess Xylia wrinkled her nose in distaste. Her young sister Talia was the only fairy to achieve such a pitch. No doubt disturbing more than one fairy at work in the woods. "What do you want now, sister?" she muttered.

"There you are!" Talia bounced exuberantly toward her sister. "I have been looking everywhere for you. Didn't you hear me call your name?"

Intentionally ignoring the blatant criticism, Xylia reached inward for every scrap of patience she could summon to withstand the whirlwind exchange. It was difficult acting both mother and father to the high-strung sprite. "I thought your schooling occupied your time today, Talia."

Talia had the decency to blush. "I'm bored. Why must I study letters and sums on such a beautiful day?"

"Oh, Talia."

"Please, Xylia, may I go play? I'll study twice as hard tomorrow."

Xylia rubbed the back of her neck. Fighting with Talia always brought on head pains. "Very well. You may go, but remain in the woods. I don't want to hear of any more daring explorations."

Talia smiled demurely. She dropped into an absurd curtsy before dashing away.

"That girl." Xylia shook her head slightly and watched Talia's retreating form. "If anything becomes of me, then our future will rest in her hands."

***

Talia skipped through the woods, elated to escape the tedious yoke of her studies. Xylia would become suspicious if she begged off every day, but today was special. Fenix waited for her at their place just beyond the fringe of the woods. She nervously smoothed her unruly blond hair. Like its owner, her crown of golden locks had a mind of its own and refused to be tamed. Other than her striking green eyes and lithe figure, she differed from her elder sister, in all manners, like day to night. Xylia had been born old, knowing that she would one day hold all the responsibility of The Glitter. Her burden had only increased with the death of their parents during The Great Divide. Talia had been born with the freedom, and reckless curiosity, to move like the wind. Even so, she felt a twinge of guilt at shirking her own duties. Although seeing Fenix—the exciting adventurer she'd been meeting in secret for months now—was worth every sacrifice. Especially today. She was sure he would declare his love for her.

Talia was in love with Fenix. Perhaps it had even been love at first sight. Her heart skipped a beat excitedly as she neared her destination. She stepped through the barrier of translucent blue sparkles that shielded the fairy folk. As she passed over the magical gate, she assumed the human form, by increasing her stature and changing her clothes.

Stepping away from the safety of the trees, Talia was unaware of two things: how ethereal she appeared with the sunlight glittering through her hair; and how Fenix had betrayed her trust and, ultimately, her love.

"Talia!"

Instinctively, she moved toward the sensuous voice of her love. She stopped in her tracks when she spotted Fenix. He was surrounded by strange men in uniforms.

"Fenix?" She evaluated the scene shrewdly. "What's going on?"

Remorse covered his face like a weighted blanket. He stood there woodenly except for the mournful shake of his head. His shoulders were hunched over in defeat, and desperation raged in his dark eyes.

One of the men stepped forward. His uniform held decorations, and he looked older than the others. "Good work, son." The man patted Fenix soundly on the back and assessed him proudly. "You've done well."

Fenix looked directly at Talia with a wild, panicked look in his eyes. "Run!"

Talia jerked out of her trance-like, surreal state and turned toward the woods. Sounds of the men shouting and moving behind her faded into the background as she ran. She connected sure-footed against the uneven undergrowth and made way for the gate. She saw the shimmery blue sparkles beckoning to her as the heavy net collapsed over her head.

"Xylia!" She extended her hand toward the gate as she screamed her sister's name.

THE END

***

If you liked this short story, then you may enjoy my paranormal romance A Vampire's Tale, available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Check out my publisher's book page for more details. http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Tyler_Maya/a-vampires-tale.htm

Also, stay tuned for more magic in the anticipated sequel of A Vampire's Tale about Kurtis Warde and the wizards of The Circle.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Flash Fiction Summer Series - Story #1

Welcome to the 2018 Maya's Musings Summer Series. In the past, I have planned special, themed guest posts, featured my own work, and re-posted popular posts. This year, I decided to write photo-inspired flash fiction.

The Informant by @mayatylerauthor


She had trusted him completely. Was there a man out there less deserving of her trust than Rowan Drew? If so, she had yet to meet him.


Five years ago...

It all began when she was still Ms. Blair Cole, the newly minted Vice President of Operations. She thought seeing her name on a shiny brass door plate meant she'd made it in the business world. How naive she'd been. This world did not measure success, and it did not abide by laws. They—the powers that be—had sucked her into the belly of a covert criminal organization. And they had intricately laid a damning document trail making her appear as guilty as the rest.

Five years ago, the job had sounded like an amazing opportunity. Vice President of Operations for the largest import / export company—Drew Shipping Limited—on the west coast? For someone greatly interested in logistics, it was truly a dream job. Mr. Rowan Drew had personally interviewed her. She remembered that day clearly. When she entered the large conference room, sweating under her suit jacket despite the frigid air conditioning, Mr. Drew had greeted her, impeccably groomed and dressed in a designer three-piece suit. With an engaging smile, he shook her hand, holding it a second longer than required, and pulled out her chair. He listened to her responses with intense scrutiny like every word she said was of the utmost importance. His intelligent, dark eyes seemed to take note of every detail. He'd offered her the position, at the conclusion of the interview, quoting top salary and benefits. She accepted without hesitation.

Rowan was intelligent and charming. Long hours and close quarters quickly turned their amicable working relationship into a fiery, romantic entanglement.

It took her two years to discover the shipping discrepancies. How they managed to pull the wool over her eyes for that long still baffled her. At first, she suspected false billing. When she dug a little deeper, she found a hand-written shipment log in a dusty corner of the walk-in vault. Flipping through the log, she noticed that the dates corresponded with the digital log, but the manifests and shipping destinations varied greatly—with cargo like military grade weaponry delivered to hostile countries. She felt sickened by the duplicity she had involuntarily participated in. She had to stop these shipments, but who would believe her? Rowan? Her mind swirled with unanswered questions and burned with the guilty knowledge that these weapons could have hurt or killed innocent people. She took a deep breath and looked for additional clues in the log. Then she saw her trademark loopy signature. On the bottom of every page. Only, it wasn't actually her signature, but a masterful forgery. Her shoulders shook, and she swore she wouldn't cry. Rowan knew. He had to have known. It was a virtual improbability that he wouldn't be aware of a cover-up this deep. He had betrayed her. Once she regained her composure, she realized that, on paper, she was impossibly implicated and, with her signature on every manifest, the authorities had all the evidence they would ever need to charge her.


Present Day...

Blair clutched the manilla envelope, holding all the documents she had collected on the contraband shipments, including those that proved her innocence, in her lap. She stared at the fountain, spying a rainbow reflected in the spray. A good omen, perhaps? It felt like she'd been waiting for hours, yet a quick glance at her watch disproved that notion. Shelby Marks of the ATF would be here shortly. Then, she'd hand over the envelope, and Special Agent Marks would supply her with the ticket to her new life. Bye-bye, Blair Cole. Hello, whatever witness protection identity she'd assume until she testified against Rowan Drew and his shipping conglomerate.

"Ms. Cole?"

She tensed at the sound of her name from the mouth of a very familiar man.

"Mr. Drew."

He sat down on the bench beside her, pressing a cold metal object into her rib cage.

"I believe you have something that belongs to me."

It wasn't a question. His voice was void of all emotion. The Rowan Drew she had known and loved had been replaced by this impassive stranger. She gripped the envelope tighter. Despair coiled in her stomach, and she knew it was over. Special Agent Marks wasn't coming. "They" had won.

THE END


Friday, June 22, 2018

The Right Thing

I'm a stickler for doing the right thing. I'm the kid who pointed out the teacher's marking error...even when it wasn't in my favor. I'm the kid who told my mom when I broke the rules. I'm the woman who stands up for what's right...even at the expense of my health and financial well-being. Why? Because it's the right thing to do.

My husband and I are watching New Girl on Netflix. We are a couple episodes shy of completing season 5 so if you aren't there yet...

<<spoiler alert>>

On the episode we watched last night ("Return to Sender"), Jess is faced with a dilemma when she meets her boyfriend's female best friend from med school. Jess discovers Diane has been in love with Sam for years and even told him in a letter that recently returned to her unopened. Diane gives Jess the letter because she can't destroy it and, now that she's met Jess, she can't give it to Sam either. Does Jess stay silent and keep the man she loves or stand aside and let him decide? In the end, Jess gives Sam the letter. She wouldn't have been able to live with herself if she'd kept the letter from him. His happiness is important to her. The audience understands the selfless motivation behind Jess' decision, but watches as Jess comes to terms with the inevitable reality of losing Sam.

Sometimes (most times), the right thing to do is not the easy thing to do.

This episode struck a chord with me because, had I been in Jess' shoes, I would've made the same choice. I often choose to do the right thing even when the alternative is easier or more beneficial. I have a strong moral compass. And, I believe in karma. Reward or benefit may not be immediate or ever materialize, but, at the end of the day, I can live with myself. The alternative? If you can't live with yourself, then it's pretty hard to escape.

Everyday, we are given choices. Choose carefully. Karma is watching.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Soundtrack of My Life

I always say my life story on screen would be a musical. Music is, and always has been, an important part of my life. I sing when I'm happy, and (excuse the total cliché) I sing when I'm sad. I have go-to rock out music—mostly from the year 1994—and I sing Broadway show tunes to my kids. Because I love music... many of my CDs were movie soundtracks... My Life: The Musical has the best soundtrack... I narrowed it down to ten tracks, but there were many other contenders.


I didn't watch a lot of TV when I was a kid. We didn't have cable TV until I was ten, and I loved to read. I do have fond memories of Sesame Street, a classic kids show. Oscar the Grouch was my favorite character so "I Love Trash" is track one.

New Kids on the Block were emerging onto the music scene just as I grew beyond children's music. I had the Hangin' Tough tape and my sister had Step By Step. They were the first band I ever liked... if you came of age in the 1990's you either loved or hated New Kids... and "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" makes the cut for track two. BTW, I still have Merry, Merry Christmas on tape, and I play it in the car (the only tape deck I have) at Christmastime.

If I had to describe myself in one word it would be romantic. I loved love (still do) and hoped to find my very own Prince Charming. My high school M.O. was having many hopeless crushes and dreaming of a tall, dark, and handsome dream guy. (I found him!) I love the Disney Princesses. What little girl doesn't dream of being a princess and marrying a prince? The classic princesses get a little flak for falling into the 'damsel in distress waiting for her prince to rescue her' stereotype, but the truth is that role was their personal choice. Just like the empowered, modern princesses who decide to go it alone. After all, feminism gives all women the right to chose their life, unrestricted by their gender. In my younger years, I had career aspirations and I never doubted that I would be successful, but what I wanted most of all was to get married—preferably to my true love—and have children. I didn't picture myself wearing a power suit for a thirty-year nine-to-five, but I recognized the importance in having the ability to support myself—and my family—in a worst case scenario. Disney's Enchanted is one of my favorite movies. <<Spoiler Alert>> Giselle begins as a 'damsel in distress' waiting for her prince and, as the movie progresses, faces adversity alone and evolves into her independence. In the end, she finds her happy ending—a successful career and her handsome love—the very definition of having it 'all'. I spent my teenage years waiting for "True Love's Kiss"—the most powerful thing in the world, you know—so this beautiful song is track three.

For every crush that ended in heartache, I had "Always" by Bon Jovi blaring on my boom box as I sang every word. Ironically, "Always" also became my go-to cleaning house song in the early 2000's. There were a few years shortly after I found out Jon Bon Jovi cheated on his wife where I boycotted his music, but "Always" has always had a special place in my heart, and the song isn't to blame, so this hit makes my track four.

"Self Esteem" by The Offspring is one of my go-to songs from 1994. I love this song. It's not so much that the lyrics apply to my life or anything, but it was a great song for a mosh pit. I still rock out when I hear it played—my kids recognize the riff "la la la la la la" as their brushing teeth music—so for those and other reasons, "Self Esteem" is track five.

"It's a long road when you face the world alone... And then a hero comes along, with the strength to carry on. And you cast your fear aside. And you know you can survive." High school is hard—you often have to be strong for yourself—so my pick for track six is "Hero" by Mariah Carey. It's also a great piece to play on the piano.

"What a Feeling" from Flashdance is my track number seven. I have seen the movie countless times, and I've even seen the musical—it was pretty good. This song "What a Feeling" is my go-to karaoke song; it's my 'on-the-way to an exam' song; it's my 'singing in the shower' song. The lyrics are so motivating. "Take your passion and make it happen."

We played "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing for our bride and groom wedding dance so this special song is my track eight. The soundtrack for Dirty Dancing has a ton of awesome songs too that are great to belt out.

There are a few reasons why I picked "A Whole New World" for track nine. Aladdin happens to be my husband's favorite Disney movie. When we got married (we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this year), we embarked on a journey together. Along the way, we added a nine-pound shih tzu and two amazing sons. It's "A Whole New World" seemed most fitting to illustrate starting a new life, and a family, together. My life would be incomplete without my family.

Nothing forces you to face your own mortality more than a death. Sudden death, especially, has a very sobering effect. When I heard Tom Petty died, I was stricken with grief. All I could think was how amazing an artist he had been and that there wouldn't be any more songs. "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty has become my anthem as I struggle with my health issues and confront the root causes. I am determined to succeed on both fronts, and "I Won't Back Down" until I do.


My Life: The Musical

1. "I Love Trash" - Oscar the Grouch
2. "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" - New Kids on the Block
3. "True Love's Kiss" - Enchanted
4.  "Always" - Bon Jovi
5. "Self Esteem" - The Offspring
6. "Hero" - Mariah Carey
7. "What a Feeling" - Irene Cara
8. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing
9. "A Whole New World" - Aladdin
10. "I won't Back Down" - Tom Petty


What songs would you include on the soundtrack of your life?



Friday, June 1, 2018

People Watcher, Feeling Analyzer

Sometimes I make a point to avidly observe everything around me. I note what people are wearing, the expressions on their faces, the cars they are driving. I give these strangers back stories and motivations. All in an attempt to understand humanity a bit better. There is much in life that doesn't make a lick of sense. I peer into the murky lake that is reality and create a world that does make sense. At least to me. For fiction is the lie that is often more truthful than the reality we perceive.

I love a novel that ends in happily-ever-after. No matter what sort of adversary the heroes face, the reader knows happiness is just around the corner. Honestly, a story without conflict would be rather boring. The characters need to bleed and cry. Suffering and obstacles and forks in the road make better stories. Conflict is relatable.

My characters and stories are significantly influenced by my life experiences. Writing is a tool I use to figure things out—solve problems, make decisions, discover hidden truths within myself. I'm terribly introverted. I don't even share my thoughts with myself. Instead, I depend on the words that flow from my fingers to interpret what is going on in my brain. A method more common, among writers, than you would think.

I consider the mind and the body as somewhat separate entities. Two parts that communicate, or not, with each other amidst the human experience. The absence of this communication is the starting point of many health issues. I am plagued by a mind-body disconnect where each part takes turns engaging in malfunction. Some retain their minds yet are imprisoned within their bodies while others lose their minds and not their physical function. And some lose both. Totally or fleetingly. I reside in such a prison. My mind is inflicted with an illness that freezes me under a menacing dark cloud for minutes or hours or days. Held in place without ability or desire to move. My body shuts down unexpectedly while my mind laments for the things I want to do and the places I want to go. I have searched unceasingly for the key to my prison. I feel like I could find it... if only I could write the answer. But my mind has failed me in that regard as well. I struggle to compose a short blog post. I lose my ability to think, concentrate, construct. I lose my desire to create. I sink into a deep despair. And, sometimes, it is all gone. Mind and body. And all I can do is cry or sleep. Until time eases my unceasing suffering.

Time, the most precious commodity, slips away before my eyes.

Friday, May 25, 2018

I Woke Up, Realized It Was Friday, And Groaned...

Who does that? Apparently me.

Before May began I knew it was going to be a busy month—and I mean busy—not productive or active or any other 'ive' word you can possibly imagine. Busy. A writing opportunity arose at the end of April. My last editing course—the final project—started on May 2. My youngest son turned eight. May 2-4 happened. I volunteered to scribe for the EQAO (which stands for Education Quality and Accountability Office) standardized testing for six consecutive mornings. I had doctor and dentist appointments. We carted the kids to swimming, tutoring, and soccer. Buddy needed his summer haircut. And all the regular life stuff.

I knew what May was going to be like. I knew. And yet, for all my planning prowess, I failed to schedule May's blog posts. So... This morning, I woke up, realized it was Friday—the day I post my (usually) weekly blog—and groaned. I missed May 11 because we had our son's birthday party on the 12th. I missed May 18th because of the Victoria Day long weekend. I didn't have an excuse at the ready for not posting today. So, here I am.

Everyone is busy. Life is busy. Sometimes, busy means productive—I dedicated a whole post to that in February—but sometimes busy just means getting through the day, putting one foot in front of the other, until what needs done gets done. My husband and I make a great team. Between the two of us, we cover the kids and the house. The kids help more too, usually with incentives.

It's the 25th, and we're almost through the month of May. I submitted my final editing project today—fingers crossed—and checked that item off my list. I have three more mornings of scribing, but no more appointments so ***fingers crossed again*** I'm hoping to finish my writing project—if my health, and life, cooperate.

Despite our best efforts, we constantly dodge the wrench in our plans. I think we run in 'Plan B' mode most of the time. I'm getting better at rolling with it. Maybe? Since 2012, my health has taken me on a rollercoaster ride of decline. In September 2014, I wrote a post on losing the war against stress. Years later, I am better at listening to my body, managing my condition, and carrying on, but I am still far from home free. I am trapped in a series of bad, and worse, days. Every day is different. I can't anticipate a symptom attack or how long it will last. My typical day is best described as 'random', and this has been my reality for five-and-a-half years.

Our plan is no plan. It's a 'do what you can' approach. No matter what I do, I suffer the consequences. Even having fun is hard because I know, without a doubt, I will pay the price for the next day or two or three. But life goes on, and so shall I.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May the 4th

I have a horrible May the 4th confession to make. I am a bigger fan of Star Trek than Star Wars... much to the chagrin of my boys, but the appeal and insight of the Star Wars story is undeniable.




Once upon a time becomes "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" and, after the introduction in bold yellow font scrolls off the screen, the adventure embarks. An epic and intricately woven adventure.

Re-watching the (entire) Star Wars series... including Episodes 4-6, then Episodes 1-3, then Episode 7, then Rogue One (my favorite, by far), then Episode 8... with my boys was an amazing experience. Their excitement became my excitement. When we play Star Wars, I'm always Padmé. I hum the Darth Vader entrance music for dramatic effect. (In fact, I find that the movie soundtracks are actually quite impressive. The beautifully composed music interjects foreshadowing and helps set the mood, especially the very recognizable pieces like Princess Leia's Theme.) And, I have light sabre battles (until I, inevitably, get hurt for real).

So, I've come a long ways from the girl whose boyfriend made her watch the original 3 movies before seeing Episode 1 in the theatre. I'll see Solo later this month, but I'll take a pass when the boys decide to re-watch their favorites again and again.

This May the 4th, enjoy your favorite Star Wars flick, wear your favorite Star Wars tee, and tell everyone you see "May the force be with you."

Friday, April 27, 2018

Dangerous Liaisons

How did I emerge unscathed?

In my pre-adult days... How many times did I put myself (unknowingly) into potentially dangerous situations. Unfortunately, more times than I care to remember. Except one particular incident came to mind this morning, and I’ve been trying to forget it ever since, quite unsuccessfully. When I was 14 going on 15, I became enamoured with an older guy, an 18 year old. Looking back, I wonder what in the world a, for all intents and purposes, man saw in a newly minted teenager, but it’s best not to overthink that.

It was 1995. The summer loomed before me, brimming with countless possibilities. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d be moving to a different town, several hours away, in the fall. I encountered him, “John” at a teenage dance. He asked me to dance to a slow song. I had a crush on him so I was thrilled. The next thing I knew, we were kissing in the middle of the dance door like there was no tomorrow. To my recollection, he was the second guy I’d ever really kissed so I totally fell into the inexperienced category. I wasn’t even sure if he was sober or knew exactly who I was. He may not have been sober, but he did know my name. I checked several times. That was good enough for me.

Throughout the summer, we’d meet around town and drive off to go make out in his truck. My friends told me he was bad news, but I didn’t care. I liked him. The river was a favorite spot to park. It had secluded going for it and a romantic atmosphere. My adult self screams, “what were you thinking parking with a guy, with probably only one thing on his mind, in such a secluded area?” to my 14 year old self. Young me was just over the moon to have this cool guy paying me any attention. Like I said, I was terribly innocent. And, to his credit, he didn’t really try anything with me. One night, he slipped his hand in my shorts, but the minute he reached the short and curlies, I pulled away in complete shock.

Then, I found out he was taking another girl parking on the same nights as me AFTER he brought me home. I confronted him and that was that. Except for one night, a few months later, when I had a moment of weakness, and we made out at a dance. He was a good kisser, and I really liked kissing.

If I hadn’t been such a prude set on protecting my virtue... oh the trouble I might’ve found in those days. Luckily, the few other dicey situations I landed in didn’t end badly either.

But it made me think about how my view of the world has changed since I was the innocent 14 year old. And, really, why kids take such risks with their lives. Lying down in the middle of the road to play chicken. Joyriding in the back of a pickup truck. Leaving the bar late at night to catch a cab alone. Not that I ever did any of those things.

Examining human nature becomes second nature to a writer. We’re always asking questions about what we observe around us. Why do people do the things they do? I postulate. And it doesn’t always make sense. Not by a long shot. But what would be the fun in that?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Not A Damsel in Distress

The Classic Disney Princesses

The classic Disney princesses played the role of damsel in distress, waiting for their princely true loves to rescue them from their individual predicaments. This role was representative of the times. Women had less autonomy, migrating from the control of their fathers (or guardians) to the protection of their husbands. Going your own way was never an option.


Elsa

Enter Elsa. Frozen was the first Disney film to broadly challenge the old stereotype. For the first time, the princess didn’t need rescued by a prince. Elsa represented the liberated woman, the mistress of her own destiny. She had the strength and ability to stand on her own. She even protected her sister Anna. There was no Prince Charming in Frozen.

Feminism is about choice. And having a choice is a true source of freedom. You can wait for your Prince Charming to rescue you or you can simply save yourself. Independence does not mean loneliness. You can have it all. You decide what “all” means to you.



I dream of true love and happily ever after, but that doesn’t make me a damsel in distress. I can stand alone, if I so choose, and I choose to be a part of something bigger than myself.

Cinderella

My favorite princess is Cinderella.

Cinderella is one of the best known folk tales with thousands of different versions and adaptions throughout the world. It's a story of unjust oppression and triumphant reward that resonates with people of all ages.

I love her story—the ultimate tale of rags-to-riches—and her gorgeous blue dress. Despite losing her parents and dealing with an evil stepmother and stepsisters, she remains optimistic about the future. Cinderella is intrinsically good. Her kindness is demonstrated in the manner she treats her cruel stepfamily and how much her animal friends love her. She has truly made the best of her circumstances.

In an apt example of karma, her fairy godmother grants her one magical evening. Cinderella doesn't beg for a fancier dress or a longer period of freedom. Content with one night, she knows her memories will sustain her through a lifetime of domestic drudgery. She meets the man of her dreams only to have the stoke of midnight tear them apart. And she returns to her position of servitude never expecting to see him again. Little does she know, there is nothing more powerful than true love, and her prince moves mountains to find her.

But the part of the story I love the most? They lived happily-ever-after.

Your happily ever after is whatever you decide it to be. Mine includes my real life true love and our two handsome princes.

Seize the day, and "Be the hero of your story."


Friday, April 13, 2018

Promo for What If...? Short Fantasy Stories: Volume 1 by @abbeymacmunn



What if…?
Short Fantasy Stories: Volume 1
Abbey MacMunn
  

Genre: Short stories, paranormal romance, fantasy
Word count: 12,000

Blurb:
A magical short story collection from paranormal romance author Abbey MacMunn.
What would you do if you discovered you were a ghost, or a mermaid, or even an alien? Or perhaps vampires are more your thing?

First Bite: When vampire-obsessed waitress Madison meets her very own dark prince, is she ready to make the ultimate sacrifice?

Ghost: All Sarah wanted was a chance at a happy life, but as her husband lies dying on the hospital bed, can she confess her ghostly secret?

Song of the Sirens: Found alone on the beach as a child, Kai has always been drawn to the ocean, but can the appearance of a soaking-wet, naked Adonis offer the truth about what she is? 

Otherworldly Dreams: Art student Amy dreams of strange alien galaxies, but what if learning the truth takes her out of this world?

FREE bonus content: Chapter 1 of TOUCHED, a fantasy romance from Tirgearr Publishing.

Buy links:
Amazon universal link




ASIN: B079RJSPD6


Author bio:
Abbey MacMunn writes contemporary, paranormal and erotic romance. She lives in Hampshire, UK with her husband and their four children. She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
When she’s not writing, she likes to watch films and TV shows – anything from rom-coms to superheroes to science fiction movies.





Contact links:
Twitter  @abbeymacmunn