An update

Just in case you were wondering, the sheep mentioned in story #2 yesterday was a full-grown ram, not a cute little baby lamb. Here is a picture of Ferdie:

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He wasn’t a little guy, and those horns! Here’s another picture of him, as he got older.

 

ferdie

 

So for your humor today, just imagine that huge, woolly, smelly, horned animal sitting up like a human (side note — he often liked to sit like a human, weird but true), belted into the back seat of a Honda Civic, as happy as could be as he listened to Jimi Hendrix and went for a ride.

 

 

A Sam Story — well, maybe two stories.

sam smiling

Yesterday, a faithful reader suggested that I tell a story about Sam that makes me smile. The thing about Sam, he made you smile. A lot.

So, here are two stories about Sam that still make me smile.

Story #1:

Years ago, we gave Sam and Ben a trip as their “big” Christmas gift. The trip included going to Springfield, Massachusetts to see Jesus Christ Superstar performed by an off-Broadway troupe. Sam loved JCS. He listened to it year-round, as loud as it would go, singing along. We would stay in a hotel overnight there, then go to Boston, stay overnight, and go see the Red Sox at Fenway. The Red Sox are a big deal in our house, and this was the first time they would see them play at home. So this was the ultimate gift.

Suddenly, it’s the day before we’re supposed to leave, and the Sox tickets still haven’t arrived. The third-party seller wouldn’t respond to inquiries, and the website went black. We headed to Massachusetts, holding onto the idea that it would all work out, and when we got to Springfield, went for a swim in the hotel pool, then I went back to the room to try to figure out the Sox tickets.  Lots of phone calls, finally I talked to our credit card company and they worked out the whole ticket thing for us.

So we went to the show, more relaxed than we had been, and the show was spectacular. Part way through the show, as Mary Magdalene was singing Everything’s Alright, Sam leaned over, and laid his head on my shoulder, and squeezed my arm, whispering, “This is the best night ever.”

We got back to the hotel, tired, but Ben needed to release some more physical energy, so Paul took them back to the pool while I went back to the room to make sure that everything truly was all set for the Sox game. Imagine my surprise when suddenly there was the pounding at the door.

I rushed to the door, expecting an emergency, and it was Sam, flushed, wet from the pool, barefoot, and dripping all over the rug. “Sam, what’s the matter?”

He yelled with such joy and force, “Mom! Mom! I just met Judas. I met Judas, Mom, on the elevator! I met Judas! And he says if I come right down to the lobby with the program, he’ll autograph it for me.” And off he ran with the program — and we have it still, kept safe in his treasure box for all time. His joy about meeting Judas still makes me smile.

The next day, we drove into Boston, and checked into our hotel. We wandered the city, then walked to Fenway. Sitting just past Pesky’s Pole, we basked in the sunshine. All of a sudden, Sam says in absolute wonder, “Hey, guys, that guy looks just like Curt Schilling.”

His little brother looked at him, looked at the guy coming out of the bull pen, and cracked up in gales of laughter, almost choking on his mouthful of hot dog, and shouted, “Sam, dude, who is pitching today?”

Sam’s eyes widened, and he whacked Paul’s shoulder, “Dad, Dad, that’s Curt Schilling!”

Every time Schilling took the mound after that day, someone in the house would yell, “Hey, Sam, doesn’t that guy look just like Curt Schilling?”

Story #2:

The second funny incident occurred a few weeks before Sam’s graduation from high school. I was at work, doing the normal work stuff, and my assistant said that I had a call. She said it was the principal of Otter Valley, Jim, but that he said it wasn’t an emergency, he just needed to talk to me.

So I got on the phone. And he calmly said, “Kris, do you guys have a sheep?”

What a strange question! “Yes.”

“Does he like Hendrix?”

I certainly hadn’t heard him correctly. “What?”

“Does your sheep like Jimi Hendrix?”

“Jim, what the hell are you talking about?”

Now I could hear his suppressed laughter, “I think your sheep is outside the school, belted in the backseat of a Honda Civic, with Hendrix blasting. He’s with Sam and the boys, and they are here to pick someone up.”

I started to laugh, and even now, thinking back to the conversation, I laugh. “Seriously?”

“Yup.”

So I called Sam’s cell phone, and when he came on, Hendrix was blasting. “Sam. Do you have Ferdie with you?” Ferdie (Ferdinand) was the name of our ram.

“Hi, Mom.” There was a chorus of “Hi, Moms” in the background and a bleating of a sheep. “Yeah, he’s right here.”

Sigh. “Sam, why is Ferdie at Otter Valley?”

His voice was patient, “Mom, he was bored. We went to the house to play basketball. ” Okay, he would have been skipping class to do that, mental note to chew him out about that later, “And we let him out to play with us, and he seemed bored, so we took him for a ride.”

The funny thing was that it actually sounded pretty reasonable when explained that way. Wait, no, think about it. I swallowed and took a deep breath, “So, Sam, here’s the deal. Turn down the music, get out of Otter Valley’s circle, and take the sheep home. Got it?”

“Got it. Love you, Mom.”

 

That was Sam, through and through. Every experience was the best, every moment had the potential for wonder and joy, and if the sheep seemed bored, why not take him for a ride in a Honda Civic?

The Ups and Downs

This week has started somewhat strangely. Huge ups of the joy and wonder of seeing my novels showing growing sales. The joys of being featured on two blogs/websites:

ABR on Nancy Wood’s Blog

and

ABR on Awesomegang

Then, the joy of the sense of accomplishment as the first round of queries for Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude went out into the universe. Writing a non-fiction query is different than one for a novel, and frankly, there obviously also is the very deep emotional piece to this memoir. Then, immediately getting interest from an agent and a publisher (just interest, not offers or a contract, but requests for more samples), that was a joy.

Seeing the seedling grow, especially Sam’s hot pepper plants, is a joy. Getting the bee equipment ready for another season, a joy. The garlic shoots poking through the straw mulch, a total and complete joy.

April 9th, not so much of a joy. Four and a half years ago, exactly, we lost Sam. The thing about anniversaries and milestones is that I know logically that one date/day shouldn’t matter any more than another, but the milestones still kick me in the head and heart, make it hard to breathe, make me struggle to think in a positive way about much of anything. And I admit, hitting 4 1/2 years reminds me that the 5 year anniversary is coming, and that terrifies me. I know that I shouldn’t be starting to worry about how much that anniversary will hurt, but I am. I know that I have been scared of other milestones before, and gotten through them, and I know I will this one too, but still, it is looming out there.

So, it’s only Tuesday, and it already has been a powerfully emotional week. I guess it may be time to sit and count the joys again for a while.

 

Guest Blogger — Cyn Ley!

Today I am thrilled to welcome Cyn Ley as a guest blogger! Cyn not only is an amazing author, she also was my Solstice editor on The Phone Call and More Than I Can Say, and I have so enjoyed working with her, and getting to know her.

About Cyn:

Cyn takes much of her inspiration from the part of the beautiful Pacific Northwest she calls home, where fire (the active volcanoes) and water (the many rivers and the Pacific Ocean) actually do mix. Among her many interests are history, embroidery, folklore, and things that are generally rather strange. And she is a top-reviewed author on amazon.com.

The best of her earlier writings (2014-2016) were revised and given new life in the collection Encounters Tales Recounted and Reborn, published in spring 2017. A number of them had made previous appearances in various Solstice seasonal anthologies and smaller collections. This was followed in early fall with an anthology of all new stories, entitled The Ossuary Playground and Other Unexpected Tales. Shortly after, the story Plot Twist found its way into the annual Solstice fright fest anthology Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Volume 5. It is now available as a stand-alone story on Kindle.

In addition to her writings, she was named the 6th top book editor in the 2016 Preditors & Editors poll, and advanced to 4th place in 2017.

Pink Flamingos & Other Follies is her latest anthology, released in March 2018.

All of Cyn’s titles are available on Amazon.com.

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CynthiaLey2@cynthialey2

Blog: https://authorcjl.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Cleyfiction4/

 

From Cyn:

Thank you for the opportunity!

My latest release is PINK FLAMINGOS & OTHER FOLLIES, a collection of five short stories. It follows THE OSSUARY PLAYGROUND AND OTHER UNEXPECTED TALES, and an anthology of older stories which have been in some cases reimagined entitled ENCOUNTERS TALES RECOUNTED AND REBORN. All of these are available on amazon in print and Kindle venues. I also currently have a short story single out on Kindle, entitled PLOT TWIST.

ENCOUNTERS grew out of a challenge from a writer friend. I’ve always loved to write, but never had the courage to do anything with it. She explained what flash fiction was, gave me a topic, and the rest is history. From the very beginning to the present, I discovered I was a top-reviewed author on amazon.com!

I like to experiment with various genres, pushing myself in directions I haven’t gone before. It’s an excellent way to learn the craft behind the types of stories. I write general fiction, humor, horror, paranormal, mystery, social satire—stories designed to entertain, but that will hopefully also make readers sit back and think.

I take much of my inspiration from the place where I live. A town with the motto “Keep Portland Weird” is surely a good location to hunt down the quirks and quarks for many a tale.

A writer’s life is based on language, and what is language but sound? To me, words sing—they have tone, volume, pitch, and nuance, and they have to be right before hitting the page.

I love the challenge of conveying much in few words. A short story can be huge in scope, compressed down to a couple of pages. It’s all about how the words are used. One of the adages for any writer is “Don’t use words because you can. Use words because you should.”

PINK FLAMINGOS & OTHER FOLLIES  is my third short story anthology, just released. The stories here are engaging, funny, and frequently quirky. The collection also introduces a new series—a cozy mystery entitled “It’s A Mystery I: The Lost Boys.”

The stories are:

“Charlotte Plays God”—Take three physics proteges, one adventurous professor, and a cross dimensional portal constructed out of a coffee maker.

“Prickly Weather”—Groundhog’s Day in West Coast Portland. Bring on the hedgehogs!

“’Randa’s Wrath”—It’s Pledge Week, and a favorite late night coffee house is ready for it with a challenge guaranteed to burn.

“It’s A Mystery I: The Lost Boys”—Introducing the first of a series, two bookshop owners find themselves surrounded by clues and conundrums in a case where time is of the essence.

“Bored Laureen & Wally”—Even the most serene of marriages needs a little shaking up from time to time!

Is there a pink flamingo in your future? There could be…

***

Other Works

THE OSSUARY PLAYGROUND AND OTHER UNEXPECTED TALES

All tales are built from bones, the reminders of lives present and past, of lives walking the edge between this world and the ones beyond.

“Remains”—A lonely and forgotten battlefield bears the spirits of those who linger there.

“Calling You Out”—Many a historic house has its ghosts, but for one spirit, all he yearns to hear is his own name.

“Stilts”—A house up in Portland’s West Hills bears a terrible stain and a terrifying manifestation.

“The Ossuary Playground”—It remains to children to recall the past, as only children can.

Praise for THE OSSUARY PLAYGROUND:

“Superb, highly recommended”

“The stories are crafted like jewels”

“Classic ghost stories written in elegant prose. A book well worth reading.”

***

ENCOUNTERS TALES RECOUNTED AND REBORN

These are the best of the early tales, some as originally published, some expanded and reimagined. Ranging from social satire to the paranormal, from fight to flight to friendship, they touch base on the encounters of the human experience.

Included:

“Benefits”—A new home development is all about location. And what you dig up.

“Food Chain”—Wildlife documentarians Owen and Nate are in search of a new challenge. But sometimes the largest challenges turn out to be very small.

“The Logo Men”—What if the Seven Deadly Sins walked into a bar, and nobody noticed?

“Rinse, Repeat”—All the days are the same now. All because of one date.

“Perfect”—Sometimes life is as transformative, and as simple, as a holiday gingerbread cookie.

“The Tin Foil Hat Society”—It’s time for the millennial alien visitation! What could possibly go wrong?

…and other tales of wonder and terror

Praise for ENCOUNTERS:

“Magical, charming, original, and captivating”

“Thought-provoking and soul-searching”

“A satisfying and interesting reading experience”

***

PLOT TWIST

A humorous and horrific little romp about what happens when a demon on assignment shows up at a sci-fi convention.

 

Find me under “Cyn Ley” at http://www.amazon.com

The Ossuary-001Encounters-001pink flamingos-00129425980_10213956853814580_3508501248720502784_n(1)

 

115 A Day! Breaking the Rules — No apology given…

When you start a writer’s website/blog, there is endless advice from “experts” about what you should and shouldn’t include in your posts. Promoting your work (your books and other writing projects) is a good choice. Sharing your political views, a bad choice. Little, mostly positive tidbits about your life, good. Tirades about issues, bad. Post frequently, but not too often. Vary your type of posts. Add photos or videos, but not too many in an individual post, or too often overall. Sharing posts from other people you know, good, as long as those posts stick to the rules. And the lists went on and on…

Those of you who know me personally know that most of the time, I try to be a rule follower. So as I have written this blog, I have tried to keep those suggestions in mind, and have mostly followed them.

I also try to do the “right” thing in the rest of my life, and in doing so, I try to keep the image of staying true to my own internal moral compass. So today, I can’t follow those rules for a writer’s blog.

Today, I am writing from a place of almost imaginable darkness, sadness and rage. Today, the weight of growing grief is too much for me to paste a couple platitudes out there on twitter or Facebook or this page. Today, I need to express that I am so very tired of watching this incredible generation of the most wonderful human beings die due to drug overdoses, and I am not willing to stuff down that rage and sadness to follow the rules of having an upbeat author’s page.

My father is a minister, so when I was very young, he always had a church youth group. In that group were many drug addicts, but in my father’s view of Christianity, he welcomed them into the group, showed them love and support. Many of them became part of the extended family, but continued to use drugs heavily. They dropped out of school, they didn’t have jobs, many were homeless and couch-surfed. They looked like society thinks drug addicts should look, often dirty, unhealthy looking, missing teeth, pale and oh-so thin.

Fast forward forty-plus years, and welcome to the new reality of addiction in the United States or perhaps the world. Our young people are dying in record numbers, the CDC states that more than 115 people a day die in the United States of drug overdoses.

115 a day.

Let that sink in. 115 a day! A day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And the number grows each year.

I have heard some politicians say that this is God’s way of cleaning the earth, getting rid of scum. This is not scum! These are human beings. These are children who are so loved, and so loved others.

When Sam died, and my mother dared to mention drugs at his celebration of life, some people said that we should have not shared his cause of death, that we should have just left it alone. THAT WAS THE PROBLEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We didn’t know that transdermal pain patches could kill him, because our little part of VT had so hidden the drug problem (nice towns don’t have drugs, don’t you know?) — maybe if it hadn’t been so shrouded in shame, the outcome would have been different.

So let me state this now. The population dying of overdoses are not losers. They are bright, educated, loving, motivated, creative people, so very loved by their families. They brought joy, love, humor, music, art, caring to the people around them. Yes, some of them also brought the heartbreak of their struggles to those same people, but many didn’t — many were so able to hide or control their usage so that their ultimate deaths still had an air of surprise to them. And their deaths have caused almost limitless pain due to how much they were/are loved, and the grieving just goes on and on.

I am tired of watching these beautiful lights being snuffed out. I am tired of watching this most incredible generation of 18-35 year olds, who are so amazing, who have showed us such love, given such joy and light to the world, being taken from us.

I rage against a society that spends time arguing about whether to arrest and imprison or treat, who vilifies the addicts and their families. I rage against a world in which these beautiful souls need either the high of the drugs, or the release of their pain through them. I rage against the number of broken hearts they leave behind, in their parents, siblings, extended family and friends.

So today, I don’t have any words of joy or light to share. I have only that I have been so fortunate to have all of these souls in my/our lives, even as they are taken from us. I will not hide from their cause of death, I will not vilify them or their families, and I will speak their names with joy, love, thankfulness, and with a smile at the memories. I will not let them be relegated into the shrouds of history as less-than others.

Let me start with our Sam. Today, as every day, I shout his name loudly, with love, with thankfulness, with grief and rage that he is no longer here with us in person. Today, I share one of my favorite pictures of him, to help others remember the beauty of these lost ones.

sam

115 a day. It’s time for it to stop.

 

Signs of Spring!

Today was the first really sunny and warm(ish) day since it officially became spring. The robins were everywhere, the snow is almost gone (except for the huge pile at the turn in the driveway). The sap is running like crazy, and we were thrilled to see that one of our hives of bees survived the winter. The garlic is poking up through the mulch, the chickens took their dust baths under the deck, and the alpacas were running and wrestling.

Now we start the process of cleaning up all of our vegetable garden areas, getting ready to till then plant. I can’t wait to see the early crops start growing in the next couple weeks!

Updates, updates, updates

This week has been full of meetings, rain, and (thankfully) melting snow. But it has also been a time of self-reflection as I have worked on promoting my novels and working on my memoir. My incredible editor pushes me like a great editor should, pushing me in my editing of the memoir, looking to make it the best possible book it can be. Obviously, when I am writing about the experience of losing our beloved son, Sam, that push can cause tears and re-opening of scabbed grief wounds. I have also started the formal process of looking for an agent to represent it, which is an interesting process as well. It makes me laugh how different the submission requirements are for different agents. Some want a query letter only, some a letter and proposal, some a letter/proposal/pages, and finally some a letter and pages.  I will keep you updated on the progress I make in the process!

 

IMG_1464

Hmmm….

It’s interesting how the continued cold weather is impacting my mood. I’m a Vermonter through and through. I like the four seasons, and by mid-October, I am truly looking forward to cold weather and snow. I never look forward to ice, but the cold and snow, absolutely. Somehow, this winter has seemed long. We’ve had snow on the ground pretty consistently for the last three months, with one amazing week when it all melted away and you could almost feel spring coming. But it’s the ice that has been the true problem. We had several ice storms in January that coated everything in a thick layer of ice, making moving outside treacherous. Keep in mind, our alpacas, bees and chickens all live down the hill from our house, and so getting to them and back (and walking the dog!) was a daily event complete with ice grippers on our boots. Then the ice finally melted, and even with the cold, it was better for mobility.

Then last week we got a bunch more snow, and as the top layer of it melted, then froze, we are back to skating down the hill, trying not to fall, all the while seeing the chickens and alpacas also struggling to keep their footing.

Sigh, I know spring in coming. Soon we all will be done sugaring as the nights get too warm, then we will see the first signs of green emerging — and I can’t wait!

Yay!!!!

 

MTICS final cover image

What a busy week it has been, and it is only Wednesday! We have had family events, work events, cold weather that impacted everything, and then, oh yeah, More Than I Can Say was published late yesterday! I wondered if after my first novel that the novelty (ha-ha) would wear off. It hasn’t. I have to admit that I was dancing around with excitement late yesterday as the book went live on Amazon, and then jumping up and down when the first review arrived (ARC — advanced review copy done prior to release).

I hope that you will visit my other author sites, to keep up-to-date on my projects and updates from other writers. You can follow me on Facebook at:

KFrancoeur/Anna Belle Rose FB

And my Twitter:

KF/ABR Twitter

My Amazon’s author’s page:

ABR Amazon Author’s Page

And finally, if you are interested in reading my latest novel, More Than I Can Say, it can be found at:

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BK8VHHK

Print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1625267584

Winter Continues in Vermont

Today was the second day in a row with stunning sunshine in Vermont. Clear blue skies, very few clouds of any sort, the sun glinting off the endless white snow with blinding intensity. The beauty of the outside world is hard to describe, it was so breathtaking. But then, yes, it was breathtaking outside. Literally. When I awoke this morning to walk the dog under the stars, it was only 5 degrees outside, and it never made it past 25 today. The cold snap is predicted to last all week, with unseasonably cold weather, but thankfully, no more snow predicted this week at least.

Six years ago today, I was planting lettuce outside in the vegetable garden. Yes, I did plant it in the soil, then covered the row with a little hoop house, but it was warm enough to work the soil. Right now the soil is covered by almost 18 inches of snow. The cold weather means that the maple sap didn’t run today, and probably won’t run for the next week. The only good thing about that is that we are so busy this week, it would be hard to find time to boil the sap into syrup.