Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Writing Sample Wednesday: A Taste From Book #2 in the Watcher Series (Still Water)

Well, we sort of got behind in our posts this week. Unfortunately, we've had an ugly flu rip through our house and guess who got it right after each of the kids did?

Oh well, with all of us on the mend again we'll get right back into it.

A few weeks ago, I shared the Prologue from the next book in my Watcher series (Dark Water was the first). Today, I'm going to give you another little taste with our first chapter that introduces the main character.

We might share one more snippet, then we'll have to hold back until the rest is published (yes, I am that evil. HAHAHA!!).

In this segment, we are introduced to Alonzo and given a little glimpse into his history, as well as hint to his contribution to the story. For those who have read Dark Water, you'll also recognize his subtle connection to one of the characters from the first book. Feel free to read the Prologue we posted earlier (link above) to get back into the story.

Without further ado, here is Chapter One from Still Water. Enjoy!


A couple of months later…

“Mom, stop fussing over me,” Alonzo Sanchez said to his mother, Martina. “I’m seventeen, not seven. I can hear you over there. I can pack up my own stuff.”

“I know you can,” Martina said. “I was just trying to help. There’s so much to remember to take up for the summer and I—”
“It’s fine. I’ll do it myself.”

Alonzo spun his chair around, and pulled himself up. As he stepped forward, he ran his fingers along the top of the desk’s smooth surface until he got to the edge. From there, he knew it was only five short steps to get to his bed.
The last year had been tough, to say the least. Alonzo was one of the top Canadian water skiing champions. He had won almost every local and provincial competition he’d entered since he was eight in the categories of slalom, trick and jump. His room was filled with trophies, medals and other awards.  His dream came true the year before when he’d qualified for the National Championships in Abbottsford, British Columbia. He was kicking butt in all of his categories. Then, the unthinkable happened.

During his last trick jump, his ski caught on the top of the ramp and it was yanked off of his foot. He had the consciousness to let go of the tow rope, but not before being tugged down into the side of the ramp, and tumbling into the water. The worst part was that as he came up for air, his ski crashed down on him, plummeting into the back of his head.
He was in a coma for weeks with a massive brain trauma. His family and doctors had no idea the extent of the damage that was done. Until he woke up and realized that couldn’t see. The force of the ski hitting his head had ruptured his optic nerve. Ironically, when he finally woke up from the coma, all he saw was black. Well, he saw glimmers of light occasionally, but his brain surgeon told him that was normal in such cases and didn’t imply his full sight was going to return.
“At least you’re alive,” his mother kept saying to him. “Thank Mary, Joseph and the Saints you are still with us.”
“And you can still ski,” his dad, José, also reminded him on a daily basis. “There are people out there skiing with missing limbs or other hurdles. You can re-learn.”
He appreciated his mother’s prayers. She was a devoted Catholic, something deeply engrained in her Hispanic roots. She was there in the hospital every night from what he’d heard, rubbing her Rosary beads and praying. She did the same through his recovery and therapy.
And he knew his dad was just trying to stay optimistic but, seriously. Alonzo knew his skiing days were through. There was no way he was going to be able to do what he did before the accident.
And no one was going to convince him otherwise.
He was a champion.
Now he’s blind.
A nobody.
Washed up at seventeen.
With step number five, the tips of Alonzo’s toes touched his bed sham.  He reached out and fingered the rough material of his duffle bag, then patted around the bag until his palms hit piles of clothes.
“You folded everything?”
“Well, it fits in the bag better when it’s all folded. I knew you’d have just shoved everything in there, as usual.”
“And you would have taken everything out and ironed it all, as usual.”
He picked up the pile closest to his hand, and heard his mother snickering behind him. He smiled. It was nice to hear her laugh. Their family had gone through so much the last couple of years. And that day was particularly difficult for his mom.
“We leave for Uncle Mateo’s remembrance service in ten minutes. I want to light a candle before it begins.”
Alonzo slipped his hand under the top shirt to feel the sleeve.
He thumbed down the pile, counting ten, then placed them into the open duffle bag. “Are they honoring Lieutenant Colonel Worth this time too?”
“No.” His mother’s voice sounded closer, and on his left. “They only did that the first year to honor both tío Mateo and the Lieutenant Colonel for their brave work in Afghanistan. Mr. Worth did all he could to save our Mateo. He should be honored each year as well. But it is our family’s tradition to celebrate life on the anniversary of a death. Maybe their family has a different tradition, yes?”
Even though his parents had been in Canada for just under twenty years, their Puerto Rican accents were still quite strong. They’d learned English, but always spoke Spanish in the house. A few years before Alonzo was born, his dad gotten a job offer to manage one of the bakery plants in Winnipeg, a position he’d never would have been able to get in his homeland. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he couldn’t have passed up. Of course, it meant leaving each of their families behind, but they’d brought their culture with them.
Shortly after getting their Canadian status, his Uncle Mateo, his mom’s younger brother, had joined them in Canada. He’d worked at the plant until he’d received his Canadian status, then joined the military. Although the family was rather shocked at first, they had been proud that he’d felt such gratitude for his new country by fighting for it. He’d jumped at the opportunity to go to Afghanistan on a Peace Mission. It just sucked that his time had been cut short in such a horrific way.
 Alonzo shrugged in response to his mother’s question, then picked up the pile his hand, recognized as hoodies.
“Guess so. I’ve never talked to them. But I heard about all the stuff that happened to them last summer.”
“Oh, Madre de Mios. That poor family.”
Alonzo pictured his mother doing the sign of the cross over her torso.
“They have suffered so much. We must add them to our prayer list today.”
He felt his mother’s eyes on him as he packed the rest of his clothes, shoes and toiletries into his bag, then he zipped it shut. He knew it must have been excruciating for her to stand there just watching. The therapist told his parents to back off, and let him do more for himself.
He knew his parents loved him, but it was starting to tick him off how they hovered over him every second. At one point, they wouldn’t even let him go to the bathroom on his own. He finally had to complain to his therapist, who took his side and told them, as gently as possible, that they were hindering his progress. It finally worked.
  “By the way, Mia called you a few minutes ago.”
Alonzo closed his eyes.
“You told her I was busy, right?”
“Alonzo, mi querido angel. Why do you push her away? She is such a beautiful girl and so in love with you.”
“Because she could do better.”
“Than you? Never.”
Alonzo sat on the bed. “I’m not the same guy.”
His bed creaked in response to his mother sitting with him. “You stop that, now. I will not listen to this. Just because your eyes don’t work the same does not mean you are a different person. You haven’t changed one bit. Only how you see the world.”
“Mami, I appreciate your optimism, but this is none of your business. Mia is…amazing. But I’m thinking of breaking up with her.”
“Oh, Alonzo, no. She has been there for you every day since your accident. You can’t just push her away. You know, your father and I have had very tough times too, but we made it through. She’s a keeper, my son.”
He didn’t answer. She was right, of course. Mia was the most amazing girl in the world. She was there for all of his competitions, she supported him in everything he did and she came to the hospital every day during visitation hours when he was in his coma. His mother even arranged for her to be able to visit on off-visitor hours when she couldn’t come because of her job. He loved her. He was ready to tell her before his accident.
But things changed.
She was truly the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. Her long, caramel-colored hair, blue eyes and perfect freckle-kissed skin made his heart race, even after over a year of being together. And whenever she smiled, it lit up her whole face. She has always been able to cheer him up, even on the darkest day. But he’d never see her beautiful face again. And she deserved someone else.
“It doesn’t matter anymore. She deserves the best.”
“You are the best.”
“Not anymore.”
“Alonzo, I—”
“Just let it go, Mami. I can deal with this myself. It’s my decision.”
After a silence of several seconds he felt the mattress shift, then his mother’s hands touched his knees.
“I understand. But she will be up at the lake tomorrow too. I told her we were going up after Tio Mateo’s ceremony. She was looking forward to seeing you.”
Wish I could see her, he thought.
“I was a little surprised when she told me that you hadn’t returned her calls in the last little while. She was worried that something else had happened.”
“You see? That’s why I stopped calling her. She’s always going to worry. So will you. Jessie is the only one that hasn’t changed towards me. Well, not as much.”
Jessie Motto and Alonzo had been friends since Kindergarten. They did everything together, including competing in water ski events. There was never any animosity or jealousy between them.
Just pure friendship.
When they were younger, everyone thought they were brothers, not just because they were always together, but more because they had the same dark hair, slim, but muscular, body type and Ricky Martin-styled Hispanic features that the girls swooned over. The only differences between them were that Jessie was slightly taller and had deep, brown eyes while Alonzo inherited his father’s green eyes. And Alonzo was less of a lady’s man, and a bit more reserved than his best friend.
His mother rubbed his knees, then leaned on them to stand up. “I know, love. Jessie has been so incredible. But Mia loves you too. And you cannot keep pushing people away who want to be close and who care. It saddens me to see your heart so filled with bitterness. This is not my Alonzo. You have been through so much, but all of the goodness you had before the accident is still here. Don’t let it go because your pride is guiding you. Listen to your heart. That’s where Mia should be.”
Alonzo didn’t respond. He waited until he heard his mother shuffled to his bedroom door, and closed it. Then he flopped back on his pillow, and closed his eyes. Tears flooded under his lids as he sputtered a short laugh.
How ironic to close his eyes. Most people do that to shut the world out for a few moments. The world looked the same to him whether his eyes were open or closed.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Writing Prompt Saturday: A Walk in the Forest

I have a connection with the water and the animals who live beneath the waves. As a child, I remember swimming out a fair distance away from our dock, then laying on my back floating on the surface.

What an amazing sensation to have every part of my body surrounded by water, including my ears and tuning out the world around me...even if just for a little while. Then I would flip over and completely submerge myself under the water, fluttering as deep as I could until my lungs reminded me of the importance of oxygen.

Next to those moments, I think the moments I'd go for walks on the trails in the forest surrounding our lake were just as special. I'd try to take a different route each time, absorbing myself in the beauty of nature - the sounds, the beautiful vegetation, the freshness of clean air.

I found this picture that reminded me a lot of those moments and it actually triggered a short story from me.

So I thought, perhaps, it would also make a wonderful prompt for all of you today. As a lot of you know, the Watcher Series I am working on focuses on the lake I grew up around, and the beautiful forest surrounding it.

Let's delve into nature today. Gaze this picture envision yourself right there, and use it to get those writing juices simmering. Feel free to share what you create.

Happy Writing!!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Food For Thought: Beans, Peas and Lentils ~ 'Pulses' of Good Health

Since we shared a whole bunch of wonderful recipes last week in celebration of the Crock Pot, this week we are going to just have a discussion about an ingredient: Pulses.

Now, I'd never heard of this group of food called 'pulses' before but, essentially a pulse is any edible seed that grows within a pod. In this category, we have beans, peas and lentils.

These wonder foods are high in protein, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Not only that but they are versatile enough to be used as a main dish, transformed into something totally different (like burgers) and, of course, as a yummy side dish. I think it's important for everyone to add pulses to their diet, however, they should be one of the main focuses for vegetarians out there who aren't getting protein from meat.

We are going to focus more on the dried version today rather than the canned. Yes, it is a bit more work to start prepping them from dry, but you have to be a bit more careful with the canned ones in that you could have extra salt, additives or preservatives you just don't need.

Usually, they should be soaked overnight, then boiled for about 10 minutes or so to get rid of any toxins. The following is certainly not an exhaustive list, but these are some of the most common, easiest to find and with the highest protein contents. We have almost all of these in our pantry (they make a wicked chili!!).

Beans and Split Peas
Black-eyed beans: aka 'black-eyed peas' these are the only beans that don't need to be soaked!
Lima beans: aka 'butter beans' are super in soups because of their smooth, subtle, buttery texture.
Chickpeas: These are my personal favorite. They have a wonderful nutty flavor and are great in Indian cuisine and, of course, hummus.
Navy beans: These are the little small, white ones and are great in stews, chili, and dishes requiring long simmer time because they absorb all the spices, herbs and other goodness really well.
Kidney beans: These can be red or white. The nutritional components of each are pretty much the same. The only real difference I found was that the red seem to be better for Mexican or Indian cuisine or for chili because they are hardier. The white ones seem a bit milder and although you can still add white ones to the same dishes, I find that you can even add them to lighter dishes, such as salads.
Green and yellow split peas: Again, these are terrific in soups and I've even found a great recipe for making burger with them.

Brown and green: These are both wonderful in soups, stews and hardier dishes as they don't seem to disintegrate into the liquids as much as other beans or lentils do. If you want a strong punch in your dish, the green ones have a stronger flavor.
Red: These are the most used in vegetarian cooking as they are easy to cook.

This is a soy bean curd that you can find in most grocery stores now. It is available in various textures from soft to firm and can be used in both sweet or savory dishes. It is very popular in Asian and vegetarian meals. Watch out for some of the naturally sweetened versions which can be eaten straight as a pudding-like treat or added to a smoothie.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Writing Sample Wednesday: A Y/A Supernatural WIA

For today's writing sample, I'm going to share a snippet from the first book in a series I started a few years ago. I shelved it as I had a few other projects on the go that become priorities, so this one has stayed on the backburner for a bit.

Since it's starting to build a good layer of dust on it, I thought I'd pull it back out and work on it a bit at a time in between the other three books I'm writing (...sleep? WHAT'S sleep?)

This is half of the Prologue. I'll share the other half next week, if you guys are interested.

It has the working title of 'Immortality Sucks' but that, I'm sure, will change the further into it I go.


Scotland, 1523

“Malvina! Stop your daydreaming and put your mind on your chores,” Gwendolyn Campbell shouted to her seventeen-year old daughter. “The sooner they’re done, the more time you’ll have for play.”
Malvina was the oldest of her four siblings and the only girl, so far. There would have been seven of them but two of her brothers were taken by a fever and the baby girl her mother had the previous year died at birth. Born two months too soon in winter’s cruelest days, she was too little to survive the harsh elements. So Malvina prayed daily that the new bub living in her mother’s womb would be a girl and all the burdens of growing up female in a house filled with men would finally be shared.
She watched her brothers practice swordplay with their father, William, aching to have that time with him too. So what if she wore skirts while they sported pants. She was strong and, unbeknownst to them all, she honed on her own sword skills while they worked in the fields and their mother rested. Her skills were equal to those of her brothers; perhaps even greater. And yet, being female, her interest and talents were overlooked forced instead to wash britches, clean the home and help her mother with cooking.
Stupid, lucky boys, she thought.
“Malvina!” her mother shouted even louder, startling out of her thoughts. “I can’t see this laundry jumping up to the line on its own, now. Please come and have it done.”
“Coming,” she said, flinging her dark, auburn hair over her shoulder.
Malvina was the spitting image of her mother with her beautiful, waist-length curly hair and eyes as green as emeralds. She had a slight figure but was strong from doing chores and helping in the fields when needed. William was a doting father who treated all his children equally and believed man and woman were team members, sharing life responsibilities. The only thing he forbade Malvina from participating in was swordsmanship. Because she was the only girl, he didn’t want her to participate in any of the fighting going on around them at that time. She understood but was still disappointed she wasn’t given the chance to at least practice with him.
She grabbed the basket of soaking wet laundry her mother had left for her at the door and steadied it on her hip. Her mother appeared at the door.
“Ah, Mallie-girl,” she said, placing her palm on Malvina’s freckled cheek. “I know how much you’d like to go out there. I guess your Pa is afraid he’ll lose you.”
“It’ll happen one way or another,” Malvina said, pressing her mother’s hand closer to her face with her shoulder. “I have to go off to have my own family one day, don’t I? I can’t be a maid to this lot for all times.”
Her mother laughed. “Aye. I guess you are just the dear one being the only girl. He knows you practice out back, you know. Between us, he thinks you are very good. He couldn’t deal with losing his beautiful Malvina should a soldier take her in a fight. It isn’t just because you’re a girl. But don’t tell him I went and said so.”
Malvina didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud that her father knew she picked up a sword. She smiled, kissed her mother’s palm then nodded to the clothing line running from the side of the house to the tree several feet away. “Our secret,” she said. “You go on in and lay down while I hang these. Then I’ll help with supper.”
“Sweet Mallie-girl. What would I do without you?”
With that her mother pushed the door closed and Malvina lugged the basket over to the line and dropped it on the ground beside her. She grabbed one of her father’s shirts by the shoulders, flicked it into shape then hung it over the line. The boys had dropped their wooden swords into the grass and were wrestling with their father. He was well over six feet and stronger than most other men. With all three of her brothers dangling from his shoulders and arms, he was still able to run about with little trouble.
Malvina smiled. She was about to bend down to pick up another shirt when something caught her eye in the distance. She squinted. A chill exploded through her body. A massive band of men on horseback thundered across the field. A trumpet blew and the band divided into several smaller ones, each heading to a different section of the entire community.
Their family lived in the lowlands of Scotland in a small farming community not far from the ocean and the city of Edinburgh. There were several families living around them, each with their own patch of land, and during harvest time they’d all travel to the village, now known as Musselburgh, to celebrate and sell their wares. At that moment, she watched as the larger group of the band came straight at her father and brothers. As they got closer, Malvina recognized their English uniforms.
She dropped the shirt she was holding and ran to the edge of the field. “Da! Da! Soldiers!
William froze, looking around them, then threw the boys in the direction of the house. “Malvina! Get them inside and shut the door. Secure the door and hide. Now!
Was he insane? She wasn’t about to let her father stand up to those men alone. But she knew she had to get her brothers and mother to safety. As she rushed out to meet the boys, her father picked up his sword, holding it close to his side. It had to be the size of her five-year old brother, Duncan, if not a stone bigger.
Fear paralyzed her.
The two older boys ran past Malvina into the house, screaming at their mother to hide. Duncan, whose right leg was lame, wasn’t able to keep up the same momentum. He kept stumbling the harder he tried to run. Malvina sprinted to him, yanked him off the ground then hoisted him up. He wrapped his arms and legs around her torso, hiding his face in her hair. She paused.
The leader of the group coming toward them looked nothing like the rest of the soldiers. First, he wasn’t wearing a uniform. He was dressed like a Highlander, the Scotsmen in the mountains who wore their clan’s robes. His black, wavy hair hung past his shoulders and his eyes, darker than any tea her mother had brewed. His skin was leathery and rough, same as any man who has spent many years in the cold weather. He held himself tall on his horse, commanding control merely with his presence. And he scared Malvina worse than any demon could.
He seemed to know her father. “William of Campbell,” he yelled, his sword held out, leading the men. “You cannot hide any longer. Today is your turn.”
Hide? From what? Malvina had never known her father to hide from anything. In fact, he was one of the first to storm out whenever a neighbor was in trouble. That wasn’t the first time their land had foreign feet stomping on it for a fight. But it was the first time so many came at once. Despite the dark man’s words, her father stood his ground. He turned his head to Malvina, their eyes locking for mere seconds before he screamed, “Get inside, girl. Now!
She walked backwards, Duncan clutching her hair in his fists and sobbing, In her panic, Malvina forgot about the basket of clothes and tumbled to the ground, Duncan flipping from her arms. Momentarily dazed, she instructed Duncan to go.
“Crawl back around to the door. Stay under the tall grasses. Knock on the door three times, Brodie will know it’s one of us.”
“What about you?” Duncan said, tears streaming down his cheeks. “I can’t go without you.”
“Just do it! Tell Brodie and Alasdair to get you and Ma into the cellar. You should be safe down there because it’s hard to find. It’s just like hide-and-seek, right? Stay very still and quiet and you’ll win! Don’t come out until you hear no noise then count to one hundred before coming out. Now get going!”
Duncan nodded then crawled faster than she thought possible over to the tall grass surrounding their house. When she saw him disappear, she rolled over into a crouch and crawled into the wood pile beside the clothes line.
Her heart pounded in her ears, her mouth as dry as sand. She peeked from among the logs and kindle. She was smaller and nowhere near as strong as her father, but she wasn’t going to let him face this fight on his own.
The dark man was about a horse-length away from her father. When he spoke his voice was deep, gravelly. “I have wasted many years trying to find you William of Campbell and here you are living as common as they come.”
“I was never hiding,” her father said. “You just weren’t looking very hard. That, or your Watchers weren’t doing a sufficient job.”
“Enough of this idle talk,” the dark man said, swinging his sword around. “I have ordered my men around to kill all around here. No sense in leaving others behind now is there.”
Malvina repressed a gasp as her father held his sword out. “Leave the innocents alone. You have found me. You have what you want. They mean nothing to you.”

“Ah! But they mean everything to you,” the dark man said. “And we can’t have witnesses around, can we? Besides, this fits right in with the Anglo-Scot wars going on all around us. They will not be missed. And neither will you.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Talk About It: When Food Becomes A Problem

What's the first thing you think of when you see someone, male or female it doesn't matter, who is painfully thin? Or another person who is tremendously overweight? The first thing that usually pops into someone's head is often, "Oh, that person totally has an eating disorder." Many times, this can be the case, however, there are many other times where an issue with eating and/or food is not the underlying cause of the outward result. And that's what we're talking about today.

There are many possible reasons a person can appear to have a problem in this way, but there are several factors to keep in mind.

Is the person struggling with health issues? There are many diseases and illnesses out there that can literally eat away at someone's body. These people eat, but nothing is being absorbed the way it is supposed to be so it eats away what is there...usually muscle. For those that are bigger, cancer treatments can cause a person's body to swell up and, again, there are health issues that can cause a person to retain fluids to the point where they appear to have a food issue.

Is the person dealing with a tremendous amount of stress or anxiety or going through a tough time? Some of us do not always deal with life's bumps well, and don't always reach out when they come up. A person can completely stop eating without even realizing that their body is suffering along with their emotions. Another person may be the opposite in the same situation, and be eating without realizing the amounts consumed. Neither of these situations means an eating disorder is present but more requiring a different way to deal with their emotional struggle.

These points in mind, eating disorders are, sadly, behind many people with weight issues, especially our youth who can be more body-conscious than most. If you are concerned that what is happening does not fall into one of the categories above, by all means, intervene. But do so with caution.

One who is struggling with body image issues does not see themselves as an outside person does. You can shove a greasy burger in an underweight person's hand and yell, 'EAT!' or take that same burger away from an overweight person and say, 'STOP!' but these actions do not get to the root of the problem.

Eating disorders are all about control and power - the power a person feels to refuse to eat, and the powerlessness another feels with not being able to stop eating. And when a person doesn't feel they have any control over what is happening in their life, or to them, food can be that one thing they can exude that helplessness over.

But food isn't the enemy here. In such cases it is treated like a crutch or drug that individuals turn to in order to make things 'feel better'. The ironic thing is that one of the things we absolutely need to sustain ourselves and be healthy, can be the one thing that can kill us.

So, what do we do? How do we help?

From personal experience, the first thing to do is talk to them. It doesn't have to be about your concerns at first, just get the person talking. One thing that often happens is that they can fall into the mindset that no one would care anyway, which isn't true. We help by listening, being there even if you don't say anything, not lecturing and leading by example.

In a lot of cases, we can be our own worst enemy. We internalize, we over analyze, we take things too seriously or too much to heart and we often make things or people crutches rather than standing tall and facing a situation. Like any crutch, food can steer us away from what truly needs to be dealt with. It can give us that quick fix or pick-me-up but the problem is still there, lurking in the background. And abusing food can lead to severe health problems, even death.

I've lost people to eating disorders or health complications stemming from battling an eating disorder. Let's do all what we can to make sure we don't lose anyone else. That we elicit healthier ways to deal with what hurts or consumes. Teach others to embrace who they are, what they're doing and where they're going. Most importantly, we need to teach those who suffer in silence that they will have someone who will fight alongside them.

Just grab the hand reaching out and know you are never alone.

Video trailer for BLACKBIRD FLIES!

Video Trailor for JUST SHUT UP and DRIVE