Tag: Handful of Wishes

Weekend Writing Warriors 8/18/13 #WeWriWa

Today’s snippet continues on from my novel-in-progress, A Handful of Wishes, about a kid, Zeke, who gets a wish-granting genie, Paribanu. One afternoon when the school bullies were chasing him, he ran into a second-hand store owned by the eccentric Cornelius Zwyklychski (pronounced Zwick-lich-ski – from the Polish word for ordinary), who offered him after-school safety in exchange for working around the shop. Zeke, of course, has been lording it over the school bullies, who finally catch up with him, beat the crap out of him, and leave him lying next to some knocked-over trash cans.

(BTW, this particular chapter takes place in 1953.)

Zeke lay back on the ground, hurting so badly he couldn’t move, couldn’t think, could only lay there amid the old newspapers and coffee grounds, staring up at the sky.

After a while a shadow fell across him. He looked over and saw Cornelius standing above him, regarding him with a studious expression on his wizened face.

“Odd place to be lying.”

Zeke blinked. He hoped it was a good enough response.

“Come into my shop. I have something for you.”

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Weekend Writing Warriors 8/11/13 #WeWriWa

Today’s excerpt is a continuation from last week’s. My novel-in-progress, A Handful of Wishes, is about a kid, Zeke, who has a wish-granting genie, Paribanu. In this scene, eight-year-old Zeke is being chased by a gang of bullies. He darts into a second-hand shop full of junk, and the shopkeeper, Cornelius Zwyklychski (pronounced Zwick-lich-ski – from the Polish word for ordinary), invites him to stay.

Last week, Cornelius introduced himself as “a repairer of dreams.” Here, he’s picked up a dirty old embroidered pillow sitting in the back room of his shop and is telling Zeke about it.

“Someone made this pillow, perhaps as a Christmas present for her father, and worked hard on it, staying up late into the night to finish it, but two days before the holiday she discovered her father had a mistress, so in a rage she tried to destroy the pillow, punishing it as a surrogate for her father, but she quickly lamented this decision, as she realized that she could have given it as a present to her mother instead, perhaps as a means of consoling the dear, heartbroken woman. The damage was done, however, and now the pillow became a reminder of both her and her father’s folly, so she threw it into the yard, the better to be rid of it rather than see it around her house or that of her parents. It being a well-constructed pillow, it was retrieved by a passing hobo and was used for many years as he traveled the countryside, as it reminded him of the upscale New York farm upon which he had spent a cheerful boyhood, before joining the ranks of the traveling vagrants in our fair country.”

“Golly, sir, you can tell all that by looking at a pillow?”

“No, this pillow was made in a factory, if the small tag in the corner is to be believed, and with a little stitching and a good washing should be serviceable again. But perhaps that poor creature will come into my shop some day, see the item, and derive a bit of joy from it.”

“So you sell junk, but you make up stories about it?”

“One man’s onion is another man’s water lily, my dear boy.”

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Weekend Writing Warriors 8/4/13 #WeWriWa

Today’s excerpt is again from my novel-in-progress, A Handful of Wishes, about a kid, Zeke, who has a wish-granting genie, Paribanu. In this scene, eight-year-old Zeke is being chased by a gang of bullies. He darts into a second-hand shop, and the shopkeeper invites him to stay.

Zeke followed the man past the suit of armor and into the back room that was just as cluttered as the rest of the shop. Books were piled almost to the ceiling, and several workbenches were covered in tools and various odds and ends. Against one wall leaned dozens of paintings, watercolors of distant lands and garish carnivals, scenes of animals with eyes so lifelike they seemed to watch the viewer, and portraits of disappointingly ordinary people.

Zeke looked around in amazement. “What is this place?”

“Please forgive my poor manners,” said the shopkeeper. “My name is Cornelius Zwyklychski, and I am a repairer of dreams.” He bowed, sweeping his arm out in a small flourish.

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Road tripping for research

As I’ve pointed out previously, I love road trips. I went on a short one a couple weeks ago, up through Minnesota to Thunder Bay, Ontario, then down through Duluth and over to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, down to Green Bay and across Wisconsin back home – 4 days, 5 states, 2 countries, 2000 miles, and 1 bear I almost hit when he ran in front of my car. And today I’m off again, this time with my kid, to Detroit, Toronto, and Niagara Falls.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking – “Why Detroit? Doesn’t she know she’s going to get shot?”

This road trip, however, is happening for a reason. A real reason, not just to say I’ve driven the entire length of Hwy 61 in North America, or because I’ve never been to a particular city, or because I want a new book cover.

First, my novel-in-progress, A Handful of Wishes, has decided it wants to be set in Detroit instead of its current Chicago. I’ve never been to Detroit, so I want to check it out to make sure my story is accurate.

But there’s a personal reason for this trip too.

In addition to writing and reading and crocheting and gardening and taking random trips, I also love genealogy. Besides the fun of researching family members, I also love the stories their lives hold. And for one branch in particular, there are a LOT of stories (variations of which are told in my upcoming short-story collection, The Futility of Loving a Soldier).

My great-grandparents’ wedding photo

My grandma’s parents both came over to the States from Belgium when they were in their 20’s. They met on a farm my great-grandmother’s relative owned, where my great-grandfather was a farmhand. They got married, had my grandma, and moved to Detroit. Lots of relationship problems culminated in my great-grandmother falling in love with a bootlegger/truck driver living in their boarding house; she ran off with him, my grandma, and a sewing machine, and together during the Great Depression they traveled all over the Midwest under an assumed name before eventually settling down to run a tavern in the town I live in now.

My great-grandfather and his second wife

All I know of my great-grandfather is that he stayed in Detroit, worked at Chrysler, and later remarried someone named Agnes. Oh, and he had a temper, and during a fight with her one night he stabbed her. Filled with remorse at her death, he then killed himself. Or so the story goes, 50 years later.

I want to find out the truth, be it through obituaries or newspaper articles or anything I can find. And why pay the Detroit Library to do the research when I can go and do it myself?

So we’re off to Detroit. My son has been fascinated with Toronto’s public transportation system – subway, bus, ferry – for several years, so we’re spending a couple days there. And then Niagara Falls is so close, we may as well see it too (and yeah, maybe I do want to be able to brag that I’ll have seen all five Great Lakes this summer – we’re detouring up through Sarnia, partly because yes, it rhymes with Narnia).

What lengths have you gone to while researching a story? And any suggestions for what to see or do while in Detroit or Toronto (besides “not get shot”)?

Weekend Writing Warriors 7/28/13

Today’s excerpt is from my novel-in-progress, A Handful of Wishes, about a kid, Zeke, who has a wish-granting genie, Paribanu. While originally set in Chicago, the novel has decided it now wants to take place in Detroit. I’m headed there later this week (then to Toronto – fingers crossed Canadian immigration doesn’t want to run a background check again – and Niagara Falls), so I plan to scope out the city and see if it’s feasible to set the story there. Any tips on places to go and things to do are appreciated!

In this scene, the start of the second section, Individualism and Exchange, Zeke is twelve, and he last saw his genie’s bottle four years prior, when he threw it away after blaming Paribanu for his parents’ deaths (he wished he’d never see them again, and he always gets exactly what he wishes for). It’s the end of the school day and he’s just discovered Paribanu’s bottle sitting in his locker.

He extended a finger and prodded the bottle; nothing happened, although he wasn’t sure really what to expect: maybe a flash of light, a puff of smoke, even Paribanu standing next to him. Could other people see her? What would they think if they saw her? More importantly, what would they think about him?

He grabbed the bottle and shook it slightly, but again nothing happened. He tried to think back to his last wishes; the bottle had remained dark afterwards. A recharge period, probably, or maybe it wasn’t even the right bottle.

Only one way to find out.

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Death in a story

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” – Norman Cousins

In my novels (Both The Lone Wolf that I’ve been working on for the past eighteen months, and A Handful of Wishes, my 2010 NaNoWriMo WiP), death plays a central role.  I don’t use it lightly – it’s there so my characters can learn and grow.  Each death serves a purpose, no matter how inconsequential it appears.

In that vein, I came across this advice for incorporating death in your stories:

One of the things that, for me, is a stopper in books is when someone dies and somehow all the ‘stuff’ that happens afterward is lost in the shuffle. The characters just go on with their lives as if nothing momentous has happened. Funerals or memorials are cursory. Just as in real life we seem to need that closure, so to do our characters. Besides, it is an added occasion to show what our characters, their friends and families are made of–what their characters are truly like in a time of loss, sorrow, or in some cases, ‘unnatural’ glee. Who’s concerned with the will? Who truly cares? Who is there to be seen. Were they buried or cremated? Were ashes flung from a bi-plane over Lake Michigan or scattered along a mountain stream? Were they kept in a hand-made wooden box or porcelain urn? Are they kept on the mantle in the drawing room or in a box in the basement? Were they tossed in the backseat on the drive from the funeral home, put in the trunk or seat-belted in the front seat? Do the characters talk to the urn? And if so, what is it that is said? There is much opportunity, in death, to explore the characters and their individual motivations.

Why roses, or daffodils or lilacs at a service? Is it a military funeral? Is it formal or not? Afterward, is it a wake or a party with folks sharing stories and memories? What happens as the liquor flows? Do embarrassing moments come up? Do we learn something about someone we didn’t know before? Do our characters stay ‘in character?’ Do we find out something important that is intrinsic to the ‘who’ that they are? Who can’t wait to get out of their heels and runs around barefoot? Who’s funeral suit doesn’t fit that well any more? Which character doesn’t ‘have’ appropriate clothing to wear in the first place and is everyone in black (or what-ever is the color in their culture) or dressed in bright, happy colors? Are there children there and if so, how are they behaving? Who is right in the middle of things and who is off on the side, at the outer edges of the gathering? Is there a huge crowd or just a few people? Are the people focused on what is happening or thinking about missed phone calls, meetings, or what will be happening next week? Are several people meandering around forming strategies on who will take over the family business and wondering how they can be sure it is them and not Uncle So-and-so? Is there a gathering in the church social room, a fancy restaurant or does everyone go back home? Do folks bring tons of food or do the central characters go home to an incredibly empty house? And of course, the whys behind the author’s choices.

How does this death change some of the characters? Does it change how they might go forward? Does it have an effect on future plans? Do they act differently now that they are no longer under the deceased’s thumb or no longer worrying about letting someone down or feeling free to go off in a new direction? It seems to me that a death in a book needs to serve a purpose or else why should the reader care that they died?

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