Sunday, August 18, 2013

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Sample Chapters - Falling Over the Finish Line

Falling Over the Finish Line

(Sample - Chapters 6 & 7)

Chapter 6: Gloria

“What in the hell took you so long?” Raymond shouted across the stable as Earl and Gloria walked in. “Didn’t you bring Dr. Maxon?”
“He’s right behind us, Uncle Ray. He’s just getting his things out of the truck.”
“Daddy, why aren’t you in there with Shore? Is she ok?”
“Gloria, I just looked in on her and the last time I checked, I don’t answer to you. You need to learn how to hold your tongue. Now go back up to the house and get your mother out of bed.”
“Ok, but I’ll be right back and then I’m staying here until the foal is born.” Gloria tried to sound defiant, but her father was intimidating and she knew that she was only shortening his temper.
Ray’s eyes fixed on hers with pupils resembling coals turning from black to red hot. He walked over, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of the stable.
“Daddy, stop. You’re hurting me!”
“Then next time you remember your place and don’t you dare sass me like that again! Now go back up to the house. I ain’t going to tell you again!”
Gloria started to trek up to the house through the cold air. She knew she wouldn’t be able to get her mother up this early. The sun had only just risen. It would be a few hours at least before her mother got up.
Gloria prepared some coffee and was finally able to wake up her mother around nine o’clock. As her mother followed her downstairs, Gloria let her know that ShoretoDream was in labor.
“Daddy probably won’t come back up to the house until after the birth.”
“Is Doctor Maxon out there too?”
“Yes, he’s there.”
“In a little while I’ll prepare some lunch for you to take out to them. If your daddy had his way though, that horse would stay in labor for two and a half more weeks.” Faye said as she poured a bit of whiskey in a mug before she poured her coffee.
Having paid close attention to the business of her family’s stable in past years, Gloria knew why her father was so upset. He had taken a chance when he decided to put ShoretoDream with King Duke to breed and it had probably cost him a lot of money. ShoretoDream had already given birth to several foals. The last foal she had given birth to was Snow Angel when she was bred with Fists of Fury. It was a difficult birth for her and Gloria’s father had only been able to race Snow Angel a handful of times.
Snow Angel was a great runner, but he was the most temperamental horse her father had ever had in his stable. He also got spooked very easily. When he was calm though, he made the Earth spin a little faster underneath his hooves. He was something. They named him Snow Angel because of his beautiful pale coloring when he was born. As an adult his coat was a shiny silver color, so the name was still very fitting.
“It’s no wonder the foal is going to be born prematurely. It’s Daddy’s own fault. Shore’s a champion racehorse, but she already had trouble with Snow Angel’s birth. He took a chance breeding her again. He got greedy.”
“Gloria, don’t you dare question your father! I won’t have it! Your father is a smart man. He’s the reason you live in luxury and don’t you forget it.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Although Gloria knew she was right.
As a young girl, every day after school and in the long daylight summer days, her life was horses. She spent her childhood mucking out stables, brushing manes, and learning everything she possibly could from her father, no matter how reluctant he was for her to learn any of it. He was not only the sole owner of Weldon Farms Stables, but he had also started and built the family’s farm from the ground up. He had expanded the business so much that they had to move several years ago from their small, modest house and farm into the mansion they now occupied that sat on many acres of land. He was a very wise horseman, businessman, and trainer.
Her father and Doctor Maxon would be spending the day with ShoretoDream. Gloria had chores to do, but she knew the horses needed their workouts as well. Since she could walk, she followed her father watching him closely as he trained thoroughbreds. He was one of the best in the business until the past two years. Since the start of the season in 1944, the Weldons still had horses in the Triple Crown races, but only a few had managed to place. What was worse was that the Reeds had come in second place in the derby that past summer and were ready for their first big win.
Faye filled a coffee urn and put it on a matching silver tray with two coffee cups. “Take this down to your father and Dr. Maxon. You do your chores and then you come straight back up here to get their lunch and take it down to them.”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“I’m going to finish sewing your dress this morning too, so you can try it on this afternoon.”
“Thank you.”
The tray was heavy and Gloria had to concentrate on keeping it steady all of the way down to the stable. She walked in and set it down on the desk in the office where her father and Dr. Maxon were sitting.
“May I pour you a cup of coffee, Dr. Maxon?”
“Please don’t trouble yourself. I’ll have a cup in just a little while.”
Gloria nodded and smiled to him as she poured her father a cup adding a touch of sweet cream and a lump of sugar exactly the way he liked it.
“Here you are, Daddy.”
Dr. Maxon smiled, “Raymond, you and Faye are raising quite the proper young lady. My compliments to you both.”
“Thanks, Doc. I hope you and Wendy received your invitation to Gloria’s birthday party this Saturday.”
“We wouldn’t miss it for anything. It’s all anyone is talking about.”
“I hope so. We’ve invited the most elite families from three counties, especially the ones with eligible young sons. If we can have Gloria find a well-to-do young man, we won’t have to waste money sending her to college.”
Gloria couldn’t stand when her father spoke about her as if she wasn’t standing in the room. She hated even more that instead of celebrating her birthday, her parents were throwing her an elegant party to give themselves an opportunity to find a rich son-in-law. She wouldn’t be surprised if there was an auction block in the middle of their dining room for her to stand on all evening.
“I have no doubt that Gloria won’t have any trouble finding a suitable young man.”
“Thank you, Dr. Maxon. If you’ll please excuse me though, I have chores to start before I bring out lunch.”
Gloria wanted so much to ask Dr. Maxon about Shore’s progress that he must have seen it written all over her face and also that she was holding back so as not to upset her father. She was relieved when he offered the information without any prompting before she left the office.
“Gloria, you’ll be happy to know that ShoretoDream is doing very well. You will have a new foal by supper time most likely.”
“Thank you, Doctor Maxon.” She smiled. “I’m comforted in knowing she is in the very capable hands of you and Daddy.”
Gloria walked out of the office and let herself relax. Just those brief moments in the office of acting so proper exhausted her. She wasn’t sure how she would survive an entire party. Gloria stopped and thought for a moment. Her father was preoccupied with Shore and her mother would be busy sewing her dress. She decided that no one would notice if she didn’t go back up to the house or if her chores didn’t get done that day. She went to the last stall by the doors of the stable, furthest away from the office.
She took the saddle off of the wall and started to put it on Snow Angel, but he started to fight her from putting it on. She held his saddle and took him by the reigns and led him as quietly as she could out of his stall and out of the stable doors. She walked him around to the other side of Earl’s tiny house and began to put his saddle on there. He didn’t seem to mind it as much after she took him outside.
“What are you doing?”
Gloria spun around. “Earl, you nearly scared me half to death! And keep quiet,” she whispered. “I’m taking Snow Angel for a walk out in the woods.”
“If Uncle Ray finds out, he is going to ring your neck.”
“So don’t tell him. He won’t notice we’re gone. We’ll only be an hour. If Sam or any of the grooms come before we’re back, tell them not to say anything either.”
“Don’t wander too far. You know if Uncle Ray asks me anything that I’m no good at lying to him.”
“I have to be back in time to bring down lunch from the house, so I won’t go far.”
Gloria had the saddle securely on Snow Angel, so she put her foot in the stirrup and hopped up. She guided Snow Angel into the woods. She looked behind her and saw Earl watching her with a worried look on his face. She smiled and winked at her cousin to reassure him, but he just shook his head and got back to work.

Chapter 7: Ben

“Benjamin? Are you out here?”
“I’m in the stable, Pop!” Ben called to his father.
“Do you know where your brother is?”
“He’s not in his bed? That’s where I saw him last. I was up before the sun this morning, so I came straight out here to start today’s work.”
“Well at least we know he came home last night.”
            His father’s tone made Ben realize that Pop was just as fed up with David’s escapades as he was. It relieved Ben a little since his father usually made excuses for David. Ben had begun putting the saddle on FlashbyBoy.
“Pop, I’m saddling up Flash, but he doesn’t seem to want to run today. David pushed him pretty hard yesterday. He ran him too hard in my opinion. I think you should just let him walk and trot around today.”
            At that point Ben heard the truck pull up outside. The truck door slammed shut and David came walking briskly through the double doors. “Morning, Pop. I found out that the Weldons’ horse ShoretoDream is giving birth today. You know the one they matched with King Duke? What everyone has been saying is right: Raymond Weldon is going to run his farm into the ground. With this early birth, he doesn’t have a chance next year.”
“If the horse hasn’t even delivered yet, how could you possibly know that?”
“Oh I uh… I overheard it in town. That’s where I went after I woke up this morning. Ben, you make sure that horse is properly saddled today. It started to come loose yesterday.”
            Ben knew there had been nothing wrong with the saddle, but David needed something to criticize him about in front of their father. Ben started to respond, but Pop jumped in first.
            “Flash is taking today off from training.”
            “Taking off? Pop, I’m the one who has been training him and I know what he needs, not you. We have stakes races to enter him in before The Bluegrass Stakes and the Derby. If he doesn’t run well, we’re going to lose our shot at it.”
            “I know you’ve been working hard on training him, but boy don’t you forget who runs this farm. If you don’t want your ass and your suitcase to be thrown out onto that dirt road at the end of the driveway, then it will do you well to remember that.”
            “Sorry, Pop. But we can’t let him just stand in the stable all day.”
            “Ben is taking him out today. After you work out Golden Girl and Free Runner, get all these stables cleaned out. I’m giving both FlashbyBoy and Ben the day off.” Pop walked away before David could respond.
            David glared at Ben. “Make sure you get Golden Girl and Free Runner saddled before you take Flash out. And I don’t care what Pop said, you run that horse today.”
            “No problem.” Ben replied simply to appease his brother.
            “I mean it, Ben. That old man is losing his senses when it comes to training horses.”
            Ben and David heard Pop’s voice from outside of the stable. “I haven’t lost a single sense, especially not my hearing! And saddle up your own damn horses!”
            David turned and walked into the equipment room and Ben heard the loud bang of something being thrown at the wall. He stroked Flash’s head to make sure the sound hadn’t bothered him and then walked him out of the stall.
            Ben mounted Flash and walked him out of the stable. “Well Flash, we both have the day to ourselves. Let’s go for a walk. You lead the way.”
            They walked along the edge of the woods that lined their farm. After about a half of a mile, Flash turned and walked on the trail through the trees leading away from the property. Ben knew where Flash was going. He wanted to walk through the woods because about another mile through the trails was a clearing, a creek where Ben had walked Flash to before. In the summer time, Ben would go there and swim at night to cool off after a long day, but on that December morning, it was going to be much too cold for that. He would just enjoy the beautiful view while Flash wandered around and drank from the stream.

To read the full book, get it now on Amazon! Just click the following link. Kindle version only $3.99! Leave me a comment to let me know what you think of these sample chapters or write a customer review on Amazon.

Essay: Writing is My Mind Dreaming on Paper

 Writing is My Mind Dreaming on Paper

There have been more times than I can remember when I woke up in the middle of the night and had one of two reactions. The first, and more frequent reaction, is that I wanted to try to fall back to sleep as fast as I could because I was hoping that if I fell immediately back to sleep, I wouldn’t miss what was continuing to happen in the pleasant dream I was having. It would pick up exactly where it had left off and my subconscious could give me the mysterious happy ending it was building towards. The second reaction would be one that was panicked and would make me sit up in bed with my heart racing. I had woken up just before something terrible was about to happen in a nightmare. But if I had seen what happened next, it may not have been scary at all.
            Whether I have pleasant reveries or intense nightmares, I love to dream. The feeling of being totally out of control as to where and when my mind will take me is exciting and anything is possible. For me, writing is like dreaming. Both allow me to release all of my inner thoughts and let my imagination run wild. When I lie down and fall asleep, and when I sit down and start writing, the possibilities are endless.
This is why a dreamless sleep is just as disappointing as not having the time to write. If my mind doesn’t explore its farthest corners while I sleep, in the morning with the feeling of refreshment also comes slight disappointment. What had happened that I missed? What was it that I didn’t see? The same feeling of loss and wasted time also overwhelms me if I look back over a period (a couple days, a week, or even a month), during which I put nothing on a page. Sometimes writer’s block can strike, I might be too tired, or I might just not have the time to write. There are times when I justify not allowing myself to write because I was working two jobs or my mind is constantly bombarded by school work.
Other times I look back and realize there was no excuse for that wasted period of time. I often ask myself, why did I spend that time watching TV or playing video games? Did I miss having ideas because I was being mindlessly entertained? The answer to these questions isn’t as important as the fact that I just wasn’t as happy doing those things as I usually am when I spend my time writing.
            There are many other ways in which dreaming and writing are so similar within my mind. Dreams can have specific plot lines or series of scenes, much like a piece of writing. They also may be flashes of images. In our dreams, our minds don’t always work in a linear way. There is no direct, linear relation between a ring worn on a finger and the ring of a telephone, but in a dream two homophones can easily lead to one another. This can also happen in writing. A technique for writing creative fiction is adding motifs to connect ideas or communicate underlying themes of a story. For example, a ring is a line connected to itself in a round or circular shape. An engagement ring is a piece of jewelry that shows connection between two people who are committed to one another. A telephone rings because one person is trying to connect with another person verbally. The repetition of these things in a work of fiction (if used affectively), can create a motif of connection.
Dreams and writing are also similar because dreams can combine unrelated events, people, or things I’ve encountered. This is how ideas come to me to write as well. Often, like Stephen King (although I am not presumptuous enough to imply that I am or ever will be a legendary writer like Stephen King), I have two separate ideas or events that are combined and inspire a story. The ideas or events could have been from experiences I had or things I observed. They may even come from something I might have looked at one time, but didn’t really see. No matter how the ideas came to me, I can’t explain why my brain decided to present them to me at that point in time.
            If I have a story idea that comes from two different things I’ve experienced, what is it that makes me combine those two events, especially if they are unrelated? For example, this past semester I wrote a creative fiction story for another class about two rebellious teens that got in trouble for drinking from an old bottle of brandy. It sounds like a boring story idea doesn’t it? Rebellious teenagers, underage drinking…It’s been done! But then for some reason I connected this event to the time of the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts. It makes sense that the idea of starring rebellious teenagers in my story came to me. A week prior to writing the story, my aunt told me that she caught my little cousin drinking underage. I also love the city of Boston and visited Massachusetts, but I was only there once and that was six years ago.
What was it that made me connect these two completely separate ideas? Why do two unrelated things collide in my mind and jump start my imagination? Even if I have a dream or writing idea that is completely fictional, where does that come from? I’m posing all of these questions in this essay because I can’t answer them.
Some of these questions could be answered if it was known how ideas come to be. Neurologists can pinpoint the locations and parts of the brain that produce the different cognitive actions. Psychiatrists can analyze why we think certain ways or why we think the way we do, but if you can find me one that can definitively say why thoughts appear in our conscious or unconscious minds at particular times (or just why in general), please give me his or her name because I won’t believe that such a person exists until I shake his or her hand.
This is why I remind myself that when a story idea comes to me, I shouldn’t waste time questioning how or why it came to be. I should sit down and start my writing process, in which I take my notebook or laptop to my comfortable recliner placed in the quietest room of the house. I keep the TV turned off. I close my eyes for a moment and take a deep breath. Then I open my eyes and let myself write freely.
When I write, sometimes I have to clear my head and let my imagination and the pen take me where they want to go. If I do this, it will keep me from over thinking or over analyzing a first draft. I will be able to let the idea put itself on the page and unfold in a natural way. I should do this in the same way that I let myself fall back to sleep in the middle of the night and let my imagination finish the dream for me.

 Carrie Watson - May 2012

Saturday, August 10, 2013

My Entry in the "Your Story" Writer's Digest Contest

Writer's Digest Contest Entry

I recently entered a short story contest run by Writer's Digest. The contest had the following rules:

"Write a story of 750 words or fewer based on the prompt below. You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story."

(Prompt: Begin your story with the following line of dialogue: "Heads, we get married; tails, we break up.")

Depending on font size, line spacing, dialogue, etc., 750 words is usually no more than 1-2 pages, so what I like to do is only give pieces of a fully formed plot and focus more on detail and alliteration. Here is my entry:

Lucky Penny 
By: Carrie Watson

“Heads, we get married; tails, we break up.” Those were the last words Haley remembered speaking as she flipped a coin into the air. Minutes before her wedding was about to start she snuck out into the church’s courtyard for a cigarette. She wasn’t used to so many people constantly surrounding her and making a fuss. It made her claustrophobic.
She would be happy when this day was over. She loved Tim and wanted to marry him more than anything, but it was all the grand wedding traditions that bothered her. She could feel a blister forming on her foot from the penny her mother insisted she put into her shoe. She bent down and removed it.
She pulled the penny out and examined it.  She knew Tim was the one she was meant to be with, so she decided to test whether or not fate was real. She balanced the penny on her thumb and forefinger, flipped it in the air, and said the words, but knew that no matter what side it landed on she would be walking down the aisle in the next few minutes. The penny flipped through the air before falling to the ground, bouncing and clinking on the stone walkway. That was the last thing she remembered before everything went dark.
As Haley began to wake up what felt like only minutes later, she tried to focus her mind. She was struggling to concentrate. No matter how wide she opened her eyes, everything was still dark. She was lying on a mattress. Her arms, tied above her head, seared with pain.  Her feet were tightly bound and duct tape covered her mouth.
The darkness was so still that she could hear the soft footsteps of someone walking towards her. She heard a click and was blinded as light burst through her corneas. She blinked her eyes and tried to see the figure standing in the doorway.
A man she didn’t recognize walked in towards her. Next a woman who Haley knew well walked in behind him. They both stood over her.
“Did he find the letter?”
“Yes, but he doesn’t believe she ran away.”
“Do you think this one’s too risky?”
“I don’t pay you to ask questions.” The woman said as she pulled her ringing cell phone from her pocket and answered it.
“Hi, Honey, how are you today? I know it’s hard. When your father left me I stayed in bed for weeks, but I promise it will get easier.”
Haley knew it was Tim on the phone. She tried desperately to yell from beneath the tape, but it was too muffled.
“I’ll be there soon. Can I bring you anything to eat? Sweetheart, you have to eat something. Ok.” She hung up the phone and looked at the man. “Cut the dress off of her. I’ll put it with the others.”
He knelt down beside Haley and grabbed the top of her strapless wedding gown. She watched him pull a knife. She felt the cold steel slip between her skin and the satin and slide down her side cutting through the dress like it was tissue. Haley tried not to tremble with fear. The man pulled the dress out from around and under her and she lied there in only her underwear.
“Give me the dress.” The woman said as she glared at Haley. The man handed her the dress and then she gave the order. “Do it.”
The man turned back toward Haley. She began to scream from beneath the duct tape, but was cut off when he plunged the knife into her chest.
The woman watched with pleasure. “I have to go. Finish up here and I’ll contact you again when I find another one. One more bride-to-be should do it and then she’ll just be another unfortunate victim in a series of connected murders.”
Haley looked from her once soon to be mother-in-law to the man. She struggled to take a few more shallow breaths and then closed her eyes.
        That same morning, Tim sat at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee. He stared at the letter and knew Haley couldn’t have written it. He played with a penny on the table. He found it outside of the church the day before while he was looking for Haley before the wedding. He picked it up thinking it was a sign of good luck finding it on the ground heads up.

The Top Five in the contest:
I went onto the Writer's Digest website to see which stories were picked by the judges to be the top five out of the tens of thousands of entries. I liked three out of the five, although one of them had a spelling error. Mistakes happen, so that story was still the one I chose to vote for because I honestly liked it the best.
Looking Back:
If I could go back and resubmit this story, I would changed the order of two of the paragraphs. I might have Tim's scene occur after everything went dark for Haley and before she woke up in the darkness. The story would end with, "She struggled to take a few more shallow breaths and then closed her eyes."