Lowell, MI- While finalizing my interview draft for the WGVU Morning Show with Shelley Irwin in downtown Grand Rapids, I was able to come up with a common theme; renaissance of the written word and literature overall.
That was my final takeaway message for the audience.
“We’re in a renaissance era of the written word,” I said. “Write every day, put together what you have written and send it out. Don’t let dust settle on your manuscripts. If you can’t find an agent or a publishing house, do it yourself. Find a self-publishing platform.”
Over the last two decades, people have been getting increasingly sick of technology and trying to figure everything out on devices, and the ever-changing algorithms.
On the other hand, the renaissance is partly thanks to Google’s keywords, business and product reviews and captioning on TV.
I’ve noticed an explosion of literature on my author’s adventures since I’ve penned “Shifting Sands Short Stories.” Poets are popping up, as well as memoirists and there is a huge demand for historical fiction.
As a true lover of history and artifacts, I brought in with me to the WGVU Studio at the Eberhard Center a remnant of a word processor; a font reel or wheel with my favorite script font 10/12. That’s all I have left of the word processor that had a screen for three sentences at the max. I bought it in 1990 at, the close to being extinct, Kmart.
“The millennials don’t know what it is, but I used the Smith- Corona word processor to write my first stories,” I said.
Irwin looked at the reel wheel with the script font puzzled.
“I am not a millennial, but I can’t figure this out either,” as she looked at the artifact.
“It was inspired by a hometown parade to the 175th anniversary of fictive Riddleyville, organized by one of the town characters,” I said. “It is about the assassination on the liberal presidential candidates.”
When Irwin asked about my favorite stories out of the collection of 13 short stories, I said: “If I had to choose it would be a toss between “The Death Song” and “The Temptation of Martin Duggan.”
“Because the characters stay with you long after you’re done reading,” I said. “My daughter-in-law Maranda asked me what was wrong with the guys.”
That’s exactly what I want; that resonation with the characters and questions left hanging in the air. That’s why I am writing a sequel to Shifting Sand Short Stories, as well as the Greenwich Meridian memoir.
“iIt’s a balancing act,” I said.
The main character in “The Temptation of Martin Duggan” is a math professor, perfectionist by nature.
By pure coincidence, and with “Back to School” looming in the air, there was also a mathematical conference going on at the Eberhard Center. A girl offered me an AlgebraNation pencil and a flag.
I have to check if it is pencil no.2, that professor Duggan used in the story. It’s got to be just right, not too soft, not too hard.
“Obviously, you have a passion for writing,” said Irwin.
It was a great experience being in the same studio with Irwin and the intern, and other adventurers like the Iron Fish Distilleries.
I heard their story driving back to Lowell on WGVU 88.5 FM.
Thank you, Shelley, until we meet again on my next venture.
Books and events
Shifting Sands Short Stories is available locally at Schuler Books in GR and in Lansing, Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, KDL libraries and it is coming to “Epilogue Books” in Rockford. It is on Amazon.
Author events @LowellArts
July 28 & Aug. 4, 1- 3 p.m. Book signing & discussion
Aug. 6, 7 to 9 p.m. panel discussion with poet Ian Haight
To join LowellArts Writer’s Group contact Debra Duiven Dunning at 897-8545
A long journey starts with the first step, leaving footprints in Ludington
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI – I attended the Ludington Writers’ Rendezvous on the shores of Lake Michigan last Saturday. It was my first encounter with the Ludington Writers group, and my second author’s conference experience after Calvin College in the spring.
It was a great gathering of 28 authors with a total of 80 titles and the tension of 10 million volts.
As the raindrops drummed on the roof of the Arts Center lodged inside the former Methodist Church in beautiful downtown Ludington, I absorbed the energy output of the organizers and fellow authors.
I loved author Carol L. Ochadleus’ poster designed by her son.
“We got the wrong cover on the last one,” Ochadleus laughed. “This time we got it right.”
The rush before the authors’ events is always nerve wrecking. An author, whose name I didn’t catch, stormed in with her pink luggage. Sudanese author Dominic Malual of “Barefoot in the Boot” had a wooden giraffe in front of his table.
In most cases, the conference attendance was the result of teamwork of entire families. The “assistants” were usually the partners of the authors, while the “runners” were book lovers who delivered food from the local restaurants. The extensive menu featured everything from the “Swiss Hammer”, “Ojibway Dip” to “Dirty Russian.”
Since, I missed my dad Vaclav’s birthday lunch, my assistant Ludek personally delivered my grilled chicken wrap from Jamesport Brewing Co., where the international family crew got together.
That fusion of aspirations, dreams and hopes fueled my own author’s drive that sometimes goes into overdrive.
“I want you to have a good experience,” wrote author/organizer Joan H. Young in her final approach to the conference message. “We want this to be the event to come to.”
For many authors it was their first time at anything and everything. Author Joseph Tilton debuted with his “Apocalypse” book here.
I thoroughly enjoyed the “wannabee” authors circulating around the authors’ tables. I didn’t catch their names. One wanted to write a dystopian novel and was seeking some direction. The other one carrying a stack of papers asked me about my book, “Shifting Sands Short Stories.”
“It’s a collection of short stories, that I have written for over two decades,” I said.
“Oh, I would have had a book like this big,” she said pointing to the huge stack of papers.
I smiled, thinking, “So, why didn’t you put it together?”
Today, on my morning walk to the Franciscans, I realized I should have said that out loud:
“Whatever you have written, put it together.”
I sat next to Ludington author Jeanie Mortensen and that was the greatest delight of all. The locals knew her and came to buy her books; both poetry and a novel.
I bought her “Taking in the Seasons” poetry collection, because I can’t handle long chunks of text. Mortensen bought my book; we swapped business cards with other authors.
It was not only an authors’ event, it was also a family deal like I mentioned before.
Mortensen’s daughter Amy stopped by and so did my adult children, Emma & Jake to say hi.
It was an unforgettable rendezvous, both professionally and personally. The survey asked: “Will you come back?”
For me it was a definite, “Yes.”
Thanks to organizers, Joan, Hanne Kelley & Barry Matthews of the Ludington Center for the Arts and the Writer’s Group.
My next author’s events:
July 26 @ 10 a.m. WGVU Morning Show with Shelley Irwin 88.5/95.3
July 28 & Aug. 4 LowellArts, Lowell 1 to 3 p.m.
Aug. 6 panel discussion and reception with poet Ian Haight at LowellArts.
Check out the Grand Rapids Magazine City Guide at your local newsstand for the “Reading Room” article. My book is available at Schuler Books, Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo and on Amazon in paperback and kindle formats.
To join our local Lowell Writer’s group contact Debra Duiven Dunning at 897-8545 at LowellArts.
Lowell, MI – Lowell author Emma Palova will be featured live on WGVU Morning Show with host Shelley Irwin on July 26 at 10 a.m. WGVU is a service of the Grand Valley State University, a PBS member.
Palova will be talking with Irwin about her book “Shifting Sands Short Stories.” Palova, a former reporter for the Lowell Ledger, penned the collection of 13 short stories for more than two decades.
The stories are based on her immigration experience from former Czechoslovakia, journalistic and retail experience in the USA.
Author Emma Palova
Most recently, Palova was featured in the Grand Rapids Magazine City Guide 2018-2019 in the life & style section, Reading Room: The long road to resilience.
“I know it might sound cheesy, but even though not all the stories have happy endings, that doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us is either good or bad. It isn’t always that clear,” she said. “The real art is in discerning it.”
This Saturday, July 21st, Palova can be found at the Ludington Writer’s Rendezvous along with 28 Michigan authors. The event runs from 10 to 3 p.m., at the Ludington Center for Arts. It is free to the public.
She will be at the Lowell Arts Gallery on July 28th & Aug. 4th from 1 to 3 p.m. to sign books and offer writing and publishing tips during the new “Captured: A Photography Exhibition.”
Palova is a member of the newly-formed LowellArts Writer’s Group which meets every Monday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. Contact Debra Dunning for more information at 897-8545.
Palova is currently working on a sequel to “Shifting Sands” and a memoir about the family immigration saga spanning three generations. Palova has also written a screenplay “Riddleyville Clowns”@Emma Palova.
Shifting Sands Short Stories is available on Amazon, Schuler Books in GR and Lansing and at the Kent District Library branches.
Palova is looking for a publisher for her first novel “Fire on Water” based on her experience from former communist Czechoslovakia.
For more info on the WGVU morning show go to: wgvunews.org.
Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Moving forward with author’s events in West Michigan
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI- It’s unbelievable what all can happen in one day; even if it is a Monday.
WGVU Morning Show with host Shelley Irwin
First, I opened my inbox, and there was the response from host Shelley Irwin of the WGVU Morning Show.
“I get to share stories in a talk show format,” she wrote. “I would like to interview you at a time frame of your convenience.”
So, we are scheduling the time frame for the TV segment about my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories.” I thought it was a radio segment. I freaked out when I found out it was also TV.
As I went into the panic mode, Mr. Self-Doubt introduced himself into my writing studio; what am I going to say and wear?
I jumped on the dreaded treadmill that I have been neglecting because we have a special visitor here. That is our French granddaughter Ella.
I felt like Oprah, who started exercising two days before her birthday. And to make up for the excellent Sunday pork schnitzels, I dined on vanilla SlimFast tonight in front of the computer screen.
“That’s great mom,” said my son Jake about the TV interview. “It’s easy.”
“Yeah, how many times have you been on a live TV show?” I asked Jake, the business man, who made the schnitzels.
“The main thing is you have to know what you’re talking about,” he said. “You know the buzzwords.”
I like to think that after almost 30 years in the writing business, I can offer insights, rather than buzzwords.
And the Monday goodness continued when I discovered the best kept secret on the lakeshore.
3rd Annual Writer’s Rendezvous in Ludington, July 21
I’ve been looking for writers’ and authors’ events in Michigan for years. But, it was only yesterday at the Ionia Free Fair that I found out about the Writer’s Rendezvous in Ludington.
It is my parents’ favorite place on the Michigan lakeshore. They’ve been going to Ludington ever since they moved to Big Rapids in the 1980s. We immigrated to the USA from former Czechoslovakia based on the 1968 Soviet occupation of the country. I am writing a memoir “Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West” about the family immigration saga.
Annually, my dad Vaclav celebrates his birthday on Stearns Park Beach.When we couldn’t find a hotel, I told my mom Eliska:”There must be something going on.”
“There’s always something going on there,” she said on the phone in the heat of the Sunday afternoon.
While searching for a hotel on mom’s smart phone, dad came across “some kind of a writing conference.”
I refined the search this morning and found out that the 3rd Annual Writers’ Rendezvous featuring more than 20 Michigan authors will be this Saturday, July 21.
I was ecstatic, hoping to get in at the last minute. Barry Matthews from the Ludington Arts Center immediately responded that there is some space left for $25 for half a table.
“Yes, I am in and I can’t wait to meet the other authors and visitors.”
The goal is to bring cultural and literary perspective to the lakeshore, according to the Visiting Writers group.
Ludington has always inspired me ever since I visited the town in 1990 around the 4th of July holiday. The visit inspired one of my first articles I have written for a publication in the USA. It was also the only time I wrote in my native Czech language for the Czechoslovak Newsweek. I had a regular column for the biweekly newspaper. In spite of the longevity of the print paper, it never made it to digital format.
I remember this opening line of the lead paragraph.
“Thousands of red, white and blue petunias lined the Ludington Ave on the back drop of the shimmering blue waters of Lake Michigan.”
I went back many times; most recently last year in August for a voyage on the Badger across Lake Michigan.
Now, I am getting ready for it all. I’ve been told a million times; you’re not ready.
Other than the treadmill and Slimfast, I ordered books, brochures and posters for my upcoming author’s events.
And finally from a Facebook friend, I found out about a new local book store in Rockford.
“Shockingly nostalgic entrepreneur opened a book store next to my law office, wow. There is hope,” Genie Eardley, owner of Eardley Law, PC posted.
The name is Epilogue Books.
That’s what life is about: adventures, surprises on Mondays, shocking entrepreneurs, the joys and pains of technology, our lovely French granddaughter Ella and family get togethers on Lake Michigan.
See you at the Writer’s Rendezvous this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
I will be offering writing, marketing, PR and publishing tips, and of course my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories.”
It is also available locally at Schuler Books in Grand Rapids and Lansing. It will be available at the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and hopefully at Epilogue Books in Rockford.
The long road to resilience
You can pick up an issue of the Grand Rapids Magazine City Guide at your local bookstore or newstand to find out more about me.
My book is now available on Amazon Prime special for the next 30-some hours at a discounted rate.
I encourage readers to buy the book, print or Kindle, ahead of time for signing and discussion. I will have print copies available at my station inside the Ludington Area Center for the Arts located at 107 S. Harrison St.
Lowell, MI – Today is my favorite day of the year. It is also the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, known as summer solstice. I woke up this morning to a striped sky with orange, white and blue and to a cacophony of sounds; the nature sounded to me better than any symphony in this world. Ludek left at 6:05 a.m. for work in nearby Grand Rapids in full daylight.
It is my morning ritual to wish him a good day on the doorstep into the garage. I make a point to do this in the deadbeat of winter, as well as in the beauty of summer. I may have missed maybe two mornings sleeping in.
Then I continue my morning with yoga, treadmill or a walk to the Franciscan Sisters , meditations with coffee and tying myself to a chair in the studio to write. I missed the solstice last year, as I was wrapping up the formatting of my new book “Shifting Sands Short Stories.” I could not believe it, when I found out from the evening news that it was indeed the summer solstice. It stayed with me for the rest of the solar year. I felt cheated.
Most often people ask me, “What inspires your writing?”
I do have to say that it is definitely nature and its seasons.
I had to make up for that this year. The saying goes, that real stories are in “what you have missed” or “what is not there” and “what is not said.”
On this day, the Earth’s axis is most inclined towards the sun.
I felt better when I saw at the Franciscans that the grass hasn’t been cut yet.That’s what I missed last year, the first grass cutting. I drove there instead of walking because of a new assignment that is very close to my heart and to the nation’s heart: immigration.
The meadow was delightful in the sun’s direct rays, as the grasses and wildflowers swayed in the breeze. The Japanese lilac tree was in full bloom as well as the ornamental dogwood by the tower. I discovered a birdhouse made from Michigan license plates inside the lilac tree. Hundreds of spirea shrubs were in full maroon bloom.
Earlier in the morning at my hideout on a nearby lake, I took photos of the local heron resident on the swampy shores and hundreds of lotus blooms.
I would never want to miss this longest day of the year again. I will keep it in my heart forever. I will savor the fragrances of the meadow, and all the sounds of this first day of summer.
The Sizzlin Summer Concert Series in Lowell is now in full swing on the Riverbank, and the Farmer’s Market is open.
Life is good.
It’s been hot and it’s been cold, so far. But, it’s summer in Michigan on the Great Lakes. And I am ready for it.
Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
“It struck me that as writers, we have a unique opportunity – a responsibility, even- to voice our own truth and to help others do the same.”
Writer’s Digest editor-in-chief Tyler Moss
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI -I got an e-mail today from the BlogHer 18 Creators Summit seeking nominations for Voices of the Year. The deadline to nominate an inspiring woman influencer is May 31. The tradition of celebrating women’s voices has been around for 11 years in the ever-changing world of blogging.
Just a few minutes ago, I happily removed the metal stakes designating the driveway for snowplowing and stored away the snow shovel. Only our famous blade for the Jeep reminds me of a winter gone by. It’s too heavy for me to lift it.
I picked up my Fleet Street Missy spring coat yesterday at J.C. Penney in Greenville. I hope I won’t need it until late fall.
I ran into a fisherman at my favorite hideaway at the tip of the horseshoe-shaped lake three miles away.
“I am just poking for bass and pike before I get my boat out,” he said.
“Yes, it’s a very nice lake that gets really busy on weekends,” I said.
“Sure, that’s why I come out on weekday mornings,” the fisherman said.
Me too; I always come out to the lake in the morning seeking inspiration in its calm waters. Today, I also discovered my Lenten Rose poking its purple head out of the thawing ground.
Earlier in the week, I had an interesting interview with a writer for the Grand Rapids Magazine about me and my new book Shifting Sands Short Stories. My husband Ludek wished me good luck, as I assured him that I am equally comfortable on both sides of the interview.
I absolutely loved the question that Lauren had asked me during the interview at Jamnbean Coffee Co. in Ada.
“How do you want your readers to feel after they are done reading the book?” she asked.
I had to get to the right answer with a lot of prelude. Finally, I responded.
“Transformed and maybe bewildered,” I said, “because that’s how I feel when I am done writing them.”
The article will come out in the print version of the Grand Rapids Magazine in July.
The interview was also an opportunity to list my forthcoming author’s events. I realized I wasn’t a great planner, by not being able to look that far ahead.
But, after reading “Roar,” a profile of emerging and groundbreaking authors in the Writer’s Digest, I realized something very important. And I quote:
“It struck me that as writers, we have a unique opportunity – a responsibility, even- to voice our own truth and to help others do the same.”
Editor-in-Chief Tyler Moss
Don’t Fret your own voice. It will shape your destiny.
As an author, blogger, screenwriter, journalist, short story writer and a novelist, I really have a unique opportunity to “Seize the day” or “Carpe Diem.”
Book me for your events in the physical world or on the web today. Don’t wait another 100 years.
Following are the topics that I will be addressing in the upcoming months:
Creating an author’s platform & following
How to create your author’s platform using WordPress blog/website plus social media.
Writing your life story/memoir
Memoir writing does require an outline or a timeline with important milestones pertaining to your story. It should be chronological, but you can open each chapter with the most interesting episode/scene.
For example: When daughters write about mothers, their complex relationship does not necessarily end with the parent’s death.
When writing about a business that has been handed down from generation to generation, start with the generation that has made the most profound impact or the generation that has pulled the business through a major crisis or to new heights.
When capturing a segment of your life, focus on how has a certain experience changed you and why.
Researching your roots, ancestry. Why does it matter and to whom?
Book trailers, video productions and podcasts are a must in an increasingly visual society. Always script everything you’re going to say. Create an audio version of your book.
How to write an effective press release to get media interviews and publicity.
Have an email list of useful contacts. Inform your contacts on regular basis about your progress in a newsletter.
From idea to final
How to take the initial inspiration on a journey to the final product; whether it be a book, a screenplay, a movie or a video production.
You find yourself one lovely afternoon struck by a fast-fleeting thought that will soon disappear along with others into the imagination swamp.
How do you make it stay or how do you rescue your idea from the swamp?
Test and explore your inspiration.
What genre to pick, and what format to use?
Depending on your topic and how you treat it, it will land you with a certain format within a genre.
This may be a novel, novella, a short story, a play or a screenplay.
Don’t just go by what’s big now, because it could be little tomorrow.
By that, I specifically mean the current phenomenon of historical fiction.
Women’s fiction involves a transformation of the hero with a bit of romance, but not as the major plot.
Pick something you know well, but give it a new angle. Pick the right market/audience from Writer’s Market.
Know how and when to pitch the right editors.
Become an expert in a certain area.
Don’t be afraid to stand out with a unique opinion a new perspective.
Here is a link to my author interview at LowellArts on April 7, 2018.
The reason I picked this venue is because of their recent move to Main Street. The new location on Main has been a dream come true for LowellArts much like my new book “Shifting Sands Short Stories” has been for me.
Main Street is the major source of inspiration for the lead story “Tonight on Main” in my new book “Shifting Sands Short Stories.” It is also featured in my Shifting Sands: Secrets book II. (c) 2018 Emma Palova
The interview followed a short video “From Idea to Final.” I am currently editing the video about the creative process from the initial spark through incubation to the final product, whether it is a book, a play, a screenplay, video production or a film.
I will also post a transcript to both videos. I wrote the script on celtx script app. It’s easy to use; perfect for pre-production.
Here is an example of a manuscript proposal that I have submitted to the Calvin College writing conference in Grand Rapids. As a standard, everything must be submitted electronically via app Submittable by a certain deadline.
Always Explore the option of submitting your manuscript to a writer’s conference. Some conferences accept manuscripts even if you are not a registered participant for a fee.
manuscript proposal for Shifting Sands Short Stories, contemporary fiction with excerpts from “Tonight on Main” and “The Temptation of Martin Duggan.”
A manuscript proposal should include the following: author’s bio, book summary including page length, book’s audience/readership, brief comparison to similar titles on the market, marketing strategies/promotion ideas, possible endorsers and chapter samples.
Emma Palova (Konecna), born in former Czechoslovakia, is a Lowell-based short story writer, novelist, screenwriter and a journalist.
Palova wrote for Czechoslovak Newsweek and Prague Reporter in the 1990s. She received bachelor’s degree from the University of Brno in 1986.
She started an eclectic collection of short stories during her studies of creative writing at the International Correspondence Schools in Montreal, and at the Grand Rapids Community College in the early 1990s.
The collection “Shifting Sands Short Stories” is now in its first edition. Palova self-published the book on the Kindle Direct Publishing (kdp) platform on Amazon in the summer of 2017.
“I did not want the stories to get lost,” she said.
The collection continues to grow with new stories in volume II of Shifting Sands: Secrets.
Palova’s passion for writing dates back to grade school in Stipa near Zlin in the region of Moravia.
“I’ve always had a knack for languages and adventure,” she said. “Our family immigration saga has been a tremendous inspiration for all my writings.”
The short story “The Temptation of Martin Duggan” captures some immigration details embodied by math professor Martin Duggan.
Palova’s work at a major Midwest retailer has enabled the core of the Shifting Sands stories. While working on the second shift at the women’s department, Palova wrote in the morning emulating Ernest Hemingway’s writing habits, short story form and journalistic career.
During her journalistic years, Palova continued to write fiction inspired by real life happenings as in “Iron Horse” and “Foxy.”
Palova became an American citizen in 1999 in a naturalization ceremony at Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.
In 2012, she diversified again with the digital platform WordPress. Palova founded Emma Blogs, LLC, a portfolio of blogs for marketing in 2014. She combined her passion for history and writing by working with history clients such as the Fallasburg Historical Society.
Palova wrote the screenplay “Riddleyville Clowns” in 2009. It is registered with The Writers Guild of America.
Shifting Sands: Short Stories book summary
Book complete self-published on kdp platform
The book is a collection of 13 short stories where the heroes and heroines shift their destinies like grains of sand in an hour-glass, quite to the surprise of the reader.
Sometimes the characters like the grains have to pass through the narrow part, only to emerge in a new form, that is transformed into stronger human beings. They’re packed in the crowd with others, suffering or loose by themselves, either stranded or pushed to the wall. The shifting shows that everything changes and is like a fluid energy in life.
The stories are divided into three circles. The first circle comprises stories from the early years of immigration spent between the USA and Montreal, Canada until 1993.
These would include: The Temptation of Martin Duggan, Danillo and Honey Azrael.
The second circle draws on retail experience from a Midwest store. These are: Tonight on Main, Therese’s Mind, Boxcutter Amy, Orange Nights and the Death Song.
The third circle of stories was inspired by journalistic career in the regional print newspaper and magazine media through 2012. These include: In the Shadows, Iron Horse, Foxy, Riddleyville Clowns and Chatamal.
Most of the setting is in fictive Midwest Riddleyville. The stories are a tribute to hometown characters and their hardiness to survive.
Adults 18 and up
Brief title comparison on the market
Much like in Anjali Sachdeva’s “All the Name They Used for God,” the characters in Shifting Sands Short Stories attempt to escape their fate. However, in a lesser fantasy world.
As in Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things,” the stories came into existence under different circumstances, and kept changing. Time molded these stories into unconventional shapes, as the hour-glass on the cover suggests.
As in Jeffrey Archer’s “Tell Tale” some stories are closely tied to travel like the story “In the Shadows” based on Milwaukee meetings.
And Earnest Hemingway’s classics based on reshaping different experiences: “The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio” will be reflected in the works “The Writer, the Nun, and the Gardener.
The book is available throughout the Kent District Library (KDL) system in Grand Rapids, in Hastings and in Big Rapids.
Blog tours, author tours, book signings, libraries
Book stores, print companies,
Book excerpt with samples from two stories not to exceed 3,000 words
Tonight on Main Excerpt
Cards with red hearts and hearts again land on the table covered with a lace doily in the old house located at 534 E. Main Street in Riddleyville. Waiting for his ace, young Willy stretched back into a dilapidated arm-chair that squeaked under his light weight. He took a long look around.
Old clothes and empty boxes were laying on the floor and on the couch. An open can of cat food sat on the dining table. Yellow and red drapes with a green and blue hydrangea pattern were drawn down to further dim the dark room. They looked like hanging rags with holes in them.
An antique lamp cast dim light in the living room. The house was filled with old smells combined with the aroma of rum. Willy admired the vintage Coca-Cola collection in the corner. He also peaked through a hole in the drapes to get a good look at the porch and the Main drag through sleepy Riddleyville.
The Midwest town of Riddleyville breathed past with old-fashioned lamp posts, an old Opera House under reconstruction, two rivers crossing paths downstream from the dam, and the remnants of the defunct railroad.
Furniture was piled up on the porch and flowers of the summer were wilting in the cracked pots. Willy recognized millionaire Roby pedaling on his bike. Roby waved as if he knew someone was peaking. Maybe, he just saw the three old women moving the card table on to the porch to play a game of poker.
The house is old, the lady of the house is old, and her daughter Irma is old. The daughter’s cat is old. Aunt Bertha who came to play cards is old. The old has settled in. The porch is half rotted as it leans into the ground. The construction studs are crooked.
The sun is setting down on Main. The three old women are sitting in the late afternoon sun on the half-rotted porch joined by the little angel Willy, the godson of Aunt Bertha. A black fat cat with the French revolutionary name, J. M. Robespierre snuck under the table ever so silently in the deafening noise of the passing by cars.
The noise is unbearable, but the women cannot hear. The pervasive smell of rum has invaded the porch.
“I can’t hear you, mom,” yelled Irma.
“Well, unplug your ears or wash them,” yells back old mom Goldie who will turn 97 in the fall.
Goldie can’t see or hear anymore, but she can still smell. She can smell what the neighbors had for dinner last night.
“I said, isn’t your rum cake burning? I can smell the rum in it burning,” the old lady rocked back and forth as her voice dies in the noise of the street.
“Did you say to get another deck out?” Irma shouted at the top of her lungs.
The street talks at night. It whispers its secrets.
End of excerpt
The Temptation of Martin Duggan Excerpt
The professor’s bald head was shining in the bright morning sunlight. He was bouncing in front of the blackboard explaining triple integers. He was now on his fourth board, all scribbled with numbers and strange symbols.
Martin was wearing a perfectly ironed white shirt with long sleeves from J.C. Penney. Rose made sure that the shirts had a pocket on the left side when buying shirts. He still favored light pastel colors, mostly blue, that matched his grey blue eyes so well.
But, Martin always bought his own pencils. They had to be pencils no. 2, not too soft, not too hard. He found them the most comfortable somewhere in the middle of the scale on the hardness of graphite. The pockets of all his shirts were full of pencils and pens. Martin took great care not to have any smears from his writing tools on his clothes. He diligently put the caps back on pens; black had to match black, blue had to match blue. That way he wouldn’t confuse the color of his ink. Martin never used red.
To match the white shirt, he wore his favorite gray striped pants from his striped suit reserved for special occasions. There was something about lines that had always comforted him. Lines commanded respect.
They could be lines vertical, horizontal, or curves. And then came symbols, and Martin’s love for them; like pi or the toppled 8 symbolizing infinity. He traced the origin of his love for numbers and symbols to his childhood and later growing up in the strict austere atmosphere of the seminary in Brest. He had no intentions of becoming a priest. But parents lodged him in the seminary with his older brother Peter, so they could both receive good education.
In the cold walls of the seminary, Martin found warmth in numbers.
He felt free unleashing his power in numbers and their swift magic. Numbers and ellipses on curves were stories to Martin. His own story was a rollercoaster upside down racing on a fast track starting with a jerk at the faculty in Brno, former Czechoslovakia, which perched him to new heights at the University of Khartoum in Sudan, Africa. This was part of a socialist program to help the Third World countries in the late sixties.
Fresh with a new title, a wife that had just turned 30 and the Prague Spring 1968 movement tearing the old country apart, Martin was ready to climb higher into different unknown spheres.
At 34, he had a receding hairline, an impeccable command of English and an expertise of an old professor. He made decent money in English pounds and bought Rose a set of pearls for her 30th birthday, that she would later hate. She blamed the pearls for her destiny.
According to an old legend, pearls bring tears and bad luck to their owners.
“Do not return home,” letters from the occupied Czech homeland by the Russians kept arriving at the “Pink Palace” apartment complex in the arid desert city on the Blue Nile.
Rose wearing a yellow headband and a lime colored dress, suitable for the late 60s, shed more tears than the Nile had water in it, as the two fought over immigration. She faithfully followed her husband on his career trek that flourished to serve both the developing Sudan and the tossed Czechoslovakia in the heart of Europe.
However, a new house, sick parents and a jealous sister were awaiting back at home, along with a good pharmacy job in the apothecary.
One hot night in the late summer, right around her birthday, Martin kept fidgeting nervously around the kitchen holding a piece of paper. The kids were outside with friends.
“I got accepted to a post doctorate program in Canada,” he said calmly suppressing fear..
End of excerpt & proposal
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Come for inspiration and author’s insights to my February book signing of Shifting Sands Short Stories tomorrow on Feb. 3 at 1 pm at LowellArts.
I will share writing tips on how to write about love, with or without a happy ending.