5 Minute Fiction

The Library – 5 Minute Fiction

Six months and four days ago, I followed him into the library for the first time. He never noticed me. His walk alluded confidence and pride as his shoulders arched up and back. As he made his way to the hold section, I couldn’t help but follow. Something drew me to him. What would he check out? Fiction, mystery, mechanics? Maybe college research books? He appeared in his mid-twenties with a thick part down the middle of his crow black hair.

Soon, I fell into his schedule. He never browsed books, only went to the hold shelf, removed his items, checked them out, and drove off in his blue Nissan. I didn’t need to wait for the library to open, but I wanted to be courteous. Once inside, I’d scan the hold shelf searching his name. If it was missing, I’d leave and come back the next day. If his name appeared on a scrap of paper, rubber-banded to a book, I’d jot down the title. I read every book he requested after he did. At first, the books were from the New York Times bestseller list. Then they grew darker and to less popular titles.

With each new visit, his stride shortened, his shoulders hung lower. Stories about true crime and brutal nonfiction occupied his list. In the last month, self-help books and poetry became his new norm. As I followed in his reading path, I felt his life shift. I knew something was wrong, as it had been with me. Some time ago, the self-help books didn’t work.

On a Saturday morning, I noted he placed another self-help book on hold. With trembling hands, I took a scrap of library paper, a miniature pencil, and wrote a name and number down. I placed it in the book and slid it back on the shelf. As always, he entered the library, went to the holds, and checked out the book. I hoped he would call the number if he needed it. I never did. And today, I’m just as invisible as when I was alive.

*National Suicide Prevention Line (1-800-273-8255)

 

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Book Reviews, Spotlight on Writing

Interview~Author Debbie Burns

Image result for love at first bark debbie burnsYou have two rescue dogs and a cat, how was introducing them to make sure they got along?

Thankfully, our dogs seemed to know from the start that cats aren’t the same as rabbits or squirrels, which I don’t think they’d ever stop chasing if given a chance. However, we made sure to introduce the dogs to our cat on leash at first and made sure to feed them in separate locations. For the first few weeks, we kept them apart unless we were in the room to supervise the dogs’ behavior. In very little time, the dogs seemed to understand the cat was “off-limits.”

The cat, however, is a toughie at heart and never seemed to care. He’s half Maine Coon and has zero fear of dogs. In fact, if we don’t feed him first, he will force one of the dogs away from her dinner and take first dibs. They’ve all three been together over three years now, and they’re buddies—sometimes they even sleep cuddled together—though they definitely follow a “leader” hierarchy: Hazel (the border collie mix) is in charge, Owen (the cat) is next, and Nala (the pit-bull mix) is at the bottom of the totem pole but too happy and playful to notice.

Follow Debbie on Instagram to see her pets! @_debbieburns

I read you love to garden, what are you growing in Missouri?

I do love to garden! No pun intended, but there’s something very “grounding” about digging in the soil and watching something you’ve started from a seedling grow into a fruit (or veggie)-bearing plant. For years it was something I wanted to do but couldn’t find the time. A few years ago, at the encouragement of my daughter, we dove in and created a fairly large garden and made lots of mistakes along the way. One of the big ones was planting too many similar vegetables too close together, which resulted in some crazy hybrids like watermelon/zucchini crosses. In my few years of gardening, I’ve learned just enough about it to know that I have much more to learn before considering myself a knowledgeable gardener.

My favorite things to grow are tomatoes and pumpkins, though I moved houses last year and now live in the city of St. Louis. I love my gingerbread house and neighborhood, but I do miss having a large garden. This year I’ve been experimenting with container gardening only, and my go-tos have been tomatoes, herbs, and peppers. This fall, my teenage son is going to help build a large raised bed in the side of our yard. I’m also excited to start a native plant flower garden this fall.

Image result for sit stay love debbie burnsDid you have a lot of animal rescue knowledge before writing the Rescue Me series, or was it something you gained during those stories?

This question reminds me of a mug I saw the other day: “Please don’t confuse your Google search with my medical degree.” I almost bought it as a reminder to keep by my desk while I’m writing, but I wasn’t ready to replace my current favorite mug: “Writers Block: When your imaginary friends stop talking to you.”

In all seriousness, every time I write a book, I try to do it with reverence for all that I don’t know about the subject matter portrayed in the story. The truth is no amount of research can ever really make up for hours in the field. I’m an animal lover at heart and have acquired a good amount of volunteer, conservation, and nonprofit experience. Over the years, I’ve worked or volunteered with shelter dogs, abused horses, and certain endangered species like wolves and birds of prey, and I was quite comfortable writing about the non-profit, shelter world.

On the other hand, I am not (by any sense of the means) a professional dog trainer. My two rescue dogs are well behaved enough to fit right into my chaotic life with teens in the house. My dogs know (and perform for treats) basic commands but can be a touch forgetful of them when they want to be, especially Nala, my three-year-old pit-bull mix. But her obnoxious works for us. She likes to sit on laps, shove herself into conversations, beg for food, and hog attention. So…yes, while I have the experience, when writing scenes from characters’ points of view who are great trainers like Kurt Crawford in Sit, Stay Love and Tess Grasso in My Forever Home, I feel like just a touch of an imposter.

What drove you to be a writer?

As a kid, I had an active imagination and was always daydreaming and making up stories. I also loved to read and was hardly without a book. It wasn’t until I was graduating college with a BS in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Conservation that I had the idea to write down one the stories that was going through my mind. After so much science and math in college, the idea of creative writing was appealing, but I had no idea how to do it. My first manuscript took years to complete, but I learned a lot about writing in the process. I also fell in love with creative writing. That first novel wasn’t sellable (by any measure), but I enjoyed the writing process enough that I kept on writing in my free time while raising my kids and, at times, managing a full-time job.

By the time I got serious enough about writing for publication and had learned what I needed to learn to produce something publishable, I had quite a few roughly completed manuscripts and had been writing for over a decade—not a quick or easy path to publication by any measure. But I have no regrets. Over the years, I honed certain skills that make writing at the pace I’ve been maintaining for the last few years easier. I also took long enough getting published that I had become very sure that it was what I most want to do with my life.

Image result for love at first bark debbie burnsDo you watch four-legged movies if you know they will tug at your heart, or do you simply avoid them?

I definitely watch them, and try to read the books beforehand, though sometimes I put off doing so until I’m in the mood for a good cry. Old Yeller was the first movie I saw as a kid that made me really bawl (who didn’t?) and a story I never forgot. I wanted that dog to live forever. Same with My Dog Skip. More recently, I loved reading Art of Racing in the Rain and can’t wait to see the movie, though Marley and Me is a personal favorite.

I love Marley and Me (both the book and movie!

You recently had an amazing announcement in Publisher’s Weekly! How exciting, but a lot of work. How will you tackle such a large project?

My recent four-book deal with Sourcebooks was split between two in the Rescue Me series (which was extended from the previously contracted six books to eight) and two stand-alone Women’s Fiction novels. I’m excited and thankful and a touch daunted! Over the last three and a half years, I’ve completed five Rescue Me manuscripts, and I now have writing contracts for five more that extend just beyond when my youngest child graduates high school in three years from now. And I have day job!

Gosh! I have a day job too! It makes our plates very full!

This pace has only been manageable because I love to write. I love to create fictional characters, create havoc in their world, and watch them muddle through to their happily ever afters. Writing at this pace can be a challenge, but not only is writing my passion, I also recognize it’s a tough business. I’ve been at it long enough to have seen several writers’ ups and downs in their careers, and I’m thankful to have this opportunity. I’m also energized by so many great fans who have been loving the series and are so supportive and encouraging as they await the next release.

Image result for love at first bark debbie burnsThen, too, I have other hobbies like gardening, hiking, and hanging out with my teens, friends, and dogs. Making time for things like this that don’t involve sitting at a desk or the use of a keyboard or monitor is essential for keeping burnout at bay. I’ve also gotten into the habit of meditating (almost) daily. Through this practice and a yoga class or two each week, I feel like my creativity and energy are refreshed enough after a day of work to be able to write a few hours several nights a week and the majority of one weekend day as well. I try to take a full day off from the computer each weekend, though when I’m tight on a deadline that’s not always possible. When it’s all said and done, the only way I meet deadlines is because, in each and every manuscript, I fall in love with my characters (two and four-legged) and get great satisfaction in completing the project.

Thank you, Debbie, it’s been a pleasure to learn more about you and your stories.

Be sure to add Debbie’s Rescue Me series to your Goodreads list. The fourth book in the series, Love at First Bark is available on Tuesday! (July 30th). Love at First Bark is a second-chance romance for humans and dogs alike that celebrates the beauty of love that’s meant to last forever.

 

Book Reviews

Free – Read Chapter One from Grounded in January

Please enjoy chapter one from Grounded in January – if you enjoy it, all retailers currently have it on sale. Snatch it up and find out what happens!

 

Chapter One

The chill of outside air seeping through the jetway caused Kate Wilson’s already petrified body to tense up more. She did not want to get on the plane.

A sunny but cold morning, as cold as Phoenix could be in January, only reminded her that going home was a necessity. She wanted, and needed, an honest winter. As an added bonus, winter was the best time to fly since turbulence spiked more so in the spring and summer months. Kate had learned this during her extensive research on the ramifications of flying for those with anxiety.

Kate paused and took a deep breath before stepping from the jetway onto the plane. The gap resembled a drawbridge, except below she didn’t see pavement, but a possible way out. Her mind raced. Does anyone else ever try to shove their foot into the gap and push it apart in order to squirm down onto the tarmac below? Or maybe they try to open the side door leading to the portable stairs which only employees use.

Caught up in her thoughts, Kate’s ebony boot, the right one, clipped the lip of the plane’s threshold throwing her midair.

A pilot and nearby flight attendant reached out in horror as Kate went down, face first. Her eyes just inches from their polished dress shoes. Her InStyle magazine went right, her US Weekly went left. Her unzipped faux leather purse landed in first-class while its contents rolled into coach. The mauve scarf now attached Kate to her carry-on bag.

“Oh, my dear!” a female flight attendant exclaimed. An arm locked around Kate, hoisting her to a standing position once again. Shaken from the mishap, she pushed her copper curls off her face.

“Good thing you aren’t flying this winged beast today, ma’am,” the pilot said, trying to make light of the situation.

Kate smiled, grateful that she was now perpendicular with the plane and once again on her feet. Yet her scarf remained caught on the carry-on bag. She wrestled the scarf free, as her carry-on thumped onto the plane’s floor. Kate’s face went as red as the anti-collision lights on the plane’s wingtips.

Behind her, there was complete silence. She stood, convinced that outside the gate the entire airport stood still, waiting to see what would happen next.

The pilot handed Kate one of her magazines. An attendant had fetched her purse and its contents.

“Are you okay, dear? Would you like someone to check you out?” The attendant held Kate’s purse as though it were her own.

Glancing down, she saw that her jeans were not ripped, but her knees burned. She wiggled her toes in her boots, and they felt fine. Her long-sleeve, charcoal-gray sweater protected her elbows from anything worse than being sore.

“I think I’m okay,” Kate murmured as she reached for her purse. She picked up her carry-on, smiled, and said, “Embarrassed, but okay, thank you.” She turned around to the line behind her. “However, I’m afraid I don’t know what happened to my ticket. I had it in my hand.”

The pilot, the two flight attendants, and Kate searched the floor, making sure they weren’t stepping on it. A little white piece of paper peeked out from behind where the pilot stood in front of the lavatory door.

“I think my ticket is there.” Kate pointed.

The pilot popped open the lavatory door to confirm Kate’s suspicion. Her face scrunched. Why am I even getting on this flying gasoline-filled death trap in the first place? Kate bent down to pick up her ticket at the same time as the pilot. Their heads smacked.

The ticket remained on the lavatory floor as they rubbed the pain from their foreheads.

“Here.” The pilot handed Kate her ticket.

“Thank you.” Kate took the ticket, her bag, and her diminished pride and headed down the aisle to locate her seat.

“Just make it to your seat and sit down,” Kate mumbled to herself. This day cannot get any worse.

Locating seat 13A, she stood on her tiptoes and reached up to place her carry-on into the overhead compartment. However, Kate could not get the bag over the compartment lip. In addition, the pain from the fall started to creep into her toes and knees.

“Let me help you,” a lanky, travel-chic woman said from behind her.

Kate spun around, allowing the bag to nearly fall onto her head.

“I saw what happened when you got on the plane,” the woman whispered. “You need all the support you can get.”

The travel-chic woman winked, snatched Kate’s bag from her hands, and placed it without any effort into the compartment.

Kate produced a half-smile and said, “Thank you.”

In a meek attempt to hide as quickly as possible, Kate squeezed past the seats’ edges and sat. Even without anyone else sitting in the seats, it remained a challenge to move in such a cramped space.

Kate rubbed the spot on her forehead, which felt as though it sprouted a small bump. The sunlight bounced off the airport’s windows as she gazed out. She prayed the actual flight would be far less of a mess than trying to get on the plane. Closing her eyes, Kate ran through her checklist. Dramamine, check. Motion sickness wristbands, check. Lavender oil, check. Puke bag in the seat pocket. Kate leaned forward and searched the seatback. Check. Safety instruction manual, check. Deep breath and counting, check. Plus, I hope I don’t have a seatmate who (a) got sick, (b) gets sick, and/or (c) skipped a shower in the last day.

As the plane filled up, Kate lucked out. Her seatmates consisted of a businessman who was more worried about when he could use his laptop and headphones than flying, and a woman focused on when she could get a glass of wine and read on her tablet.

The air pressure fluctuated and hummed in the cabin as they taxied out onto the runway. Kate took deep breaths and went over her mantra in her head. Remember, a real winter. Maybe she could even dig her skis out of her parents’ garage. This would be a time to clear her head and figure out her unhappiness. She checked to make sure her wristbands were in the correct spots and held her scarf to her nose, breathing in the lavender.

“You can do this,” she muttered as the plane shook with the roar of the engines gaining power. Kate closed her eyes. The plane lurched forward, pushing her firmly into the seat. She tightened the seat belt strap as the front wheel lifted off the ground. The back two were still on the runway. The plane’s nose pointed toward the sky. This was one of Kate’s favorite moments of flight. In that moment Kate was reminded of how amazing a plane can be, and how light her body could feel. She felt as though her body took a breath of freedom in that moment of weightlessness.

But then, the back two wheels came off the ground, and Kate’s stomach dropped. Her favorite moment was over. Put the wheels back down! Kate wanted to scream at the pilot. Noticing the choppiness of her breathing, she returned to her mantra. The last thing she needed was to have a panic attack at thirty-five-thousand feet.

The plane continued to climb, putting pressure on her ears. Kate attempted to fake yawn, encouraging them to pop, but without any success.

“Here,” the businessman seatmate said, and he held out a stick of gum. “I saw you trying to fake yawn. Try this, it works better.” The businessman made eye contact for half a second, before returning his eyes to the seatback in front of him.

“Thank you,” Kate said. She smiled and took the gum.

She folded the spearmint gum into her mouth and shoved the wrapper into the seat pocket. The plane began to level off, as Kate peered out the window at the brown landscape below. It had been an extra dry summer, without much monsoon rain, which set fall and winter up to fail. A few areas of green were scattered here and there. December had seen some rain, but Phoenix definitely needed the monsoon storms to bring enough moisture to make it through the dry spells. Seeing Arizona from above reminded Kate of why she still loved Washington. The state’s lush green landscape and snow-capped mountains often remained throughout the summer months.

The flight attendant came by with the beverage cart as Kate flipped through her glossy magazine pages. She ordered a glass of red wine. Even with all her checklist items checked, she wanted to be anywhere but here.

“Cheers,” Kate’s other seatmate said, reaching over the businessman to tap their plastic glasses together. Despite their toast, he didn’t lose focus on his electronic spreadsheet.

The wine and the Dramamine began making Kate drowsy. She dozed until the pilot’s voice broke through the humming of the pressurized plane.

“We are beginning our final descent into Seattle. For those of you who are visiting, welcome. For those of you coming home, welcome back. Flight attendants, prepare for landing.”

While most people find landing to be the worst part of a flight, Kate found it to be the only other thing she liked about flying. She listened for the snap of the landing gear like a child waiting to hear Santa on the roof.

The plane dipped to the left as they circled around the Space Needle. Rain skimmed across the window. It was as though the sky were crying tears of joy along with Kate. The gray clouds were so thick that it was impossible to tell where one cloud ended and the next one began. Evergreens popped into view as though they were reaching up, trying to touch the plane’s belly. The aircraft lined up with the runway as the houses below came into view. They appeared like a child’s playset, miniature and without the flaws of life. Kate envisioned a tiny toddler’s hand coming in and picking up the plane; spinning them around the room before dropping them onto the carpet.

The wheels touched down on the rain-soaked runway and the brakes worked hard to slow them. Kate yanked her seat belt tighter for safety. Once, as a child, her seat belt had not been tight enough, and she went shooting forward. The seat belt caught under her arms as her legs flailed around, soon choking her.

The brakes finally took hold, grabbing the runway with force. Then the plane bounced softly forward as it taxied toward the gate. The dampness of the air crept down the aisle from the now open door. Passengers hurried to get their bags and disembark. Kate remained seated, staring out at the rain. She hated all the shoving and bumping just to get somewhere one minute faster.

When the last passenger exited the aisle, Kate stood and reached for her carry-on. Forgetting she didn’t put it up there, she now realized she could not get it down.

The flight attendants were busy thanking and saying goodbye to the remaining passengers, so Kate placed her left boot on the armrest of the seat and her right boot on the seat. Hoisting herself up, she grabbed the compartment edge. Letting go with her left hand, she snatched the bag, yanking it toward the edge. In an attempt to climb down and take the carry-on with her, Kate’s boots tangled around the seat arm. Trying to fall forward into the row, she braced herself as she slid awkwardly into the aisle seat.

Getting to her feet, she rubbed the side of her hip. At least her carry-on was on the floor now where she could reach it. Taking a deep breath, Kate headed toward the front of the plane.

“Are you okay?” a flight attendant asked.

Of course, the attendants saw her latest mishap. Kate rubbed at the pain.

“I’m fine,” Kate said. “Have a wonderful day.”

“You too, dear,” the flight attendant replied.

As Kate turned back to give her a smile, she tripped over the airplane door gap again. She stumbled forward, but was able to catch herself this time. Kate straightened her scarf and readjusted her sweater.

With a fake smile plastered across her face, she headed downstairs to baggage claim with her head held high, regardless of the giggles she heard from behind her.

 

If you enjoyed chapter one, be sure to get the book or ebook and meet Oxnard and find out what happens!

Spotlight on Writing

Have You Missed an Interview???

I’ve been busy with interviews and articles on other blogs and completely forgot that many of my readers might have missed out on some interesting facts. (Right? You can never know too much about a person? Hmmm…maybe you can.) If you’re curious, check them out.

To Nature (and Nurture) Your Writing

From Big Wheel to Kiddie Pool

The MS Factor

An interview translated into Greek!!!! (for a blog in Greece)

Rachael Bloome’s Blog

Jacqueline Seewald’s Blog

Shay Laurent’s Blog

Kate Foster’s Blog

5 Minute Fiction

The Book ~ flash fiction

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

THE BOOK by Savannah Hendricks

She gripped the weathered pages. Years of fingerprints touching pages had caused a wrinkled cluster of papers. Glue yellowed, and without much hold left. The cover’s aged leather, velvet against her palm.

She carried it with her as one would a Coach purse. Held close in crowds, in her lap on the bus, and covered it when the sky threatened rain.

Today, they went to the ocean. The salt air ruffled the edges of them both. Waves of thoughts crashed through pondering of conscientiousness.

The unique one-edition story filled her soul with imagination and hope. The dream of something more, guarded, but without a reading by others, it becomes lost in the history of one. She knew it deserved to be read by many more, needed to be. Until the words were no longer pressed with ink into the pages, but recited from memory.

How the arrangement of words on paper were as beautiful as the colors of a setting sun on water.

With time coming for her, she couldn’t allow the book to be buried too. Through her weakened eyes, she noticed the blue roof and the pine frame. Upon closer discovery, inside rested other stories that had seen as much love as the one she held to her heart.

Today, she left the story for another reader. Yet, kept the memory of every word.

Life, better known as blah, blah, blah

WHEN TO PUSH YOURSELF AND WHEN NOT TO

There are days, weeks, maybe even months when we feel the need to push ourselves more so than normal. Sometimes it is okay to do this and sometimes it is not. So how do you know when you should and when you shouldn’t push yourself?

I can tell you from experience, you’ll probably get it wrong more than you get it right. I’ve misjudged things in my past and pushed myself when I shouldn’t have. I also misjudged myself and didn’t push myself when I should have.

We all have goals we wish to achieve. Big and small. Some everyone can understand and some not so easily understand by anyone other than those close to us.

So how the heck do you know what to do when?

Take your goal (one at a time) and a minute or two, maybe even five and ignore all things around you. Think about your goal. Ask yourself why you have the goal and why you made the time frame for it. By allowing yourself individual time with each goal you can assess the importance of NOW or LATER. Maybe the goal needs to be modified to better fit what you need NOW or what you need LATER since you’ve devoted time to it in the current moment. Don’t let someone else determine what’s best for you. Only you can do that.