Fiction–Mermaid Waiting

Often I walk my German shepherd Harold on the beach. And like any day of the week, we set out towards the cliffs and down the steep trail to the surf with Harold tugging at his lead. We stumbled across a body of a bikini-clad woman lying repose on the sand. The woman no younger than twenty-one years of age and no older than thirty-five breathed slowly in one nostril and exhaled out the other, reminding me that I had skipped my yoga class that day. If she had noticed Harold sniffing at her bare arms, she gave no sign of it.

Tugging on Harold’s lead, I tried to steer the dog away from the woman basking in the sand. After all, it was none of our business why she was lying there on a rainy day on an isolated beach. However, just as we pulled away from the woman’s body, her eyes blinked and then opened as if she was taken in the marvels of the planet for the first time, like a newborn. She stared at Harold dumbfounded and then her eyes roamed over my face.

“I fell asleep after waiting for him for so long. Where is he?”

Harold looked at me with a baffled dog grin. I could understand his puzzlement and I wondered if we were going to experience some kind of psychotic episode with the woman.  Instead, she appeared calm enough as she blinked sand from her eyes. She gazed into the distance at an outcrop halfway out to sea.

I straightened out my raincoat and brushed sand off my running shoes. “You mentioned that you were waiting for someone and I’m wondering if it’s someone I might know. Perhaps I can help you. I know just about everyone around here.”

I referred to a beach community on the Oregon Coast tucked away from the tourist traps and near Haystack Rock. The community of stone cottages where mostly people fifty-five and older resided was not the sort of thing to interest a vibrant twenty-something woman.

The woman shook her golden curls, highlighted by the dim sunlight piercing through a bank of clouds. Her aquamarine eyes penetrated mine, something unnatural about her gaze. “I don’t think you know him. He’s not from here and neither am I.”

I sat down on a log and Harold rested in the sand near my feet. I watched the woman open an aquamarine lunch box shaped like a fish. She pulled out a seaweed sandwich, which I found rather odd.

“What are you eating there? Is that some kind of sushi?”

She blushed. “Yes, it’s a sandwich entirely made of seaweed.”

“I’m not fond of seaweed. Is it any good?”

She took a huge bite of it and pleasure lit up her face. “Oh, yes, there’s nothing like a seaweed sandwich.”

At the time, I just wrote the woman off as some raw food type that I read about in alternative nutrition magazines. Sure, I read those magazines, but never tried any of the recipes, not because I lacked a sense of adventure, but after you have eaten the same foods for over thirty years, why try anything new?

The woman pulled out a tin container and unscrewed the lid then she popped some kind of miniature sea creature into her mouth.

“May I ask what those are?”

“These are sun-baked periwinkles.”

“Did I hear you right?”

“They’re a Portuguese delicacy and quite delicious. Here try one.”

She poured a few of the snails into my palm. I felt like feeding them to Harold instead of consuming them myself, but I tried not to appear rude. I reluctantly popped one into my mouth and felt surprised by the explosion of tastes. I crunched on it and swallowed before my body protested the strange food. The woman laughed as she watched me struggle with the shells.

“You get used to them then they become an addiction.”

“I can’t imagine. Now, back to this man you mentioned earlier, are you sure that he hasn’t lost his way trying to find this beach? It’s not on the map.”

Her eyes searched the ocean and the horizon. “He’s not coming here by road, but by the sea.”

“You mean in a boat?”

“Not exactly, but he’s coming from the direction of the sea.”

“I don’t understand. Is he going to swim here? Is he coming by seaplane?”

“Yes, he’s swimming here.”

“Who is he, an Olympic athlete? Besides, I haven’t seen any swimmers out there this time of year. It’s rather cold and drizzly.” Just staring at the woman in her bikini caused me to shiver.

The woman stretched out her legs and gazed at them for a long time, waiting for something, I did not know what, to happen. “He said he’d come here on this day to take me to his home.”

“My dear, do you know this man well? You should be more careful a young woman such as you hanging out on an isolated beach waiting for a strange swimmer-man.”

“He’s not quite human.”

Alarmed by the woman’s declaration I wondered again if I would experience a psychotic episode. I had not heard of anyone escaping any mental institutions. The woman seemed clear-eyed on the surface, even gregarious. Perhaps, she had tripped on some bad mushrooms found in the nearby woods. It could happen, especially with all the youth that wandered through in their vans and whatnot. The tent and van crowd, we called them.

“I once said that about my former husband. He didn’t seem quite human at times.”

The woman shook her head in frustration.  “You don’t understand.  He’s a merman and he’s coming to transform me into a mermaid. It’s what I’ve wanted my entire life, ever since I swam with the dolphins in Florida as a toddler.”

“And did you meet this merman at SeaWorld? I’m sorry, but your story sounds ridiculous.”

I wondered if she had been reading too many supernatural young adult novels. Her generation grabbed onto some far-out ideas, not that my generation never experienced the unusual.

“That’s what everyone says, that my story is ridiculous and that mermen only exists in fairy tales and fantasies. But I tell you, I met this man at a kite festival near here a few months ago. He looked like a human, spoke like a human, but then when he swam out with the tide, he disappeared beneath the waves.”

“Did you call the lifeguards? Perhaps, he drowned.”

“No, no trace of the man was found. He told me to meet him here today and so here I wait.”

The woman gulped down a quart of water. Her eyes roamed the distant horizon.

Who was she kidding? I scribbled down my phone number on a piece of paper and handed it to the woman. “Look, if he doesn’t show up and you need somewhere to stay, I rent rooms nearby. Phone me.”

I rose from the log brushing sand off my jeans and raincoat. Harold leaped up rearing to take his walk. As we strode off down the beach, I looked over my shoulder one last time and noticed that the woman had disappeared from where she was sitting. I glanced at the shoreline and witnessed to dark figures swimming towards the outcrop, and then they dove under the waves and disappeared.

Moments later, I pulled out binoculars from my pack and aimed them at the outcrop.  And what I saw nearly caused me to faint. Human figures with fishtails reclined on the outcrop. 

Harold had taken the opportunity to explore the area where the woman was reclining earlier. He sniffed, barked, and whirled around a few times puppy-like. So I returned to the scene to see if the woman left any traces behind. All I found was her lunchbox and the tin she abandoned on the beach. I watched Harold crunch on the remaining mollusks. Who would have thought the dog would go for Portuguese delicacies. I would have to remember that when his birthday rolled around.  So easy to please, that dog.

After I returned to my cottage, I checked the internet for stories about mermaids and mermen. Just as I had thought, they only existed in fantasies. So then what had I witnessed earlier that day? I vowed to myself never to tell anyone my story. Then later, I came across a National Geographic article about the emergence of strange human-fishlike creatures so I thought I had my answer.

I returned to the beach at noon every day and waited. I did this for several months hoping the woman would return, but I never set eyes on her or her partner again. Still, I wait, sitting in the sand, eating Portuguese delicacies with Harold patiently by my side. She will come up for air eventually, and she’ll find me here to comfort her.

By Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

An Author in Lockdown

DSCN4890
This is a selfie from 2016-17.

 

 

No, an author in lockdown is nothing like an American in Paris even if I’m riffing off that movie title. And sadly, I used the lockdown as an excuse not to write with the exception of the blog posts for this and my other three active blogs.

You would think that all the ballet dancers, musicians, and craftspeople using the YouTube platform for sharing their work during lockdown would inspire me. Certainly, the internet has blossomed as a renaissance of creative pursuits with an invisible audience that makes its presence known with clicks and likes. Authors who were unable to give book signings or tour also found new platforms online. Even writers’ conferences adapted to video-phone technology such as Zoom and Google Chat.

Although as a gift to myself, I bought the Scrivener software. And during the past two months, I uploaded three manuscripts on the program along with photos and research. However, they are my completed manuscripts with the exception of my memoir, Bitch which is in the rewriting stage.

I’ve thought about writing flash fiction and I experienced those lightbulb moments when story ideas popped into my mind and didn’t follow through. Perhaps, the lockdown experience has blocked my muse from coming through and it certainly has hindered my motivation. But this is not to say that I haven’t felt motivated to take online Reiki classes or to practice yoga, or spend time cooking healthy meals.

lady street
pixabay.com

Yet, with all this “free” time on my hands, it still feels like time is racing and the weeks have sped past me. Within the span of three months, I have evolved and morphed into a new person with Corona hair. However, I have changed little with my outer self because most of the growth happened with the inner self. Like so many other people, especially those who have experienced loss, I stand at the proverbial crossroads or the point of four cardinal directions.

I used this time to set stronger boundaries with others and reflect upon my values which have changed drastically or if not, took me back to the core of my authentic self. Oddly, finding old journals I wrote during the 1990s triggered my old muses and dreams of publishing my work. You would think that would inspire me to sit down at my computer and at least write flash fiction.

As far as submitting my already completed work, I’ve done little with that, mostly out of lethargy. With the numerous rejections I received from literary journals and agents, I hardly see the point of disappointing myself during a time of even greater loss. Having said that, I have revisited novels and submitted to two or three agents–not that they’re getting back with anyone during their lockdowns.

Still, I’m hoping that something I wrote that wasn’t previously trending or of popular demand might become so with the New Normal. Perhaps, I’m thinking, that book lovers won’t want to indulge in a thriller or conspiracy theory novel and instead seek escape literature in the form of a good romance or a spunky YA novel or perhaps, they would care to revisit the Greek story of Orpheus and his wife Eurydice set in modern-day Seattle.

Oddly, I have read little in the way of novels or even non-fiction books during the lockdown when this would have been the perfect time to indulge in the writing of others. I have joined a group of writers in San Francisco via Zoom for discussions with published authors. And I will be joining a writing workshop with the online version of the Chuckanut Writers Conference this month (since I applied for the conference’s scholarship).

For me, this is a time to regroup and reevaluate my mission as an author. I won’t begin my next novel until 2021 (which involves a young horse jockey). And I will create a Patreon campaign for that novel. I’m going to do things differently as I embrace new technology and ways to build a community around my work.

In the meantime, if you are an author in lockdown, please leave your experiences in the comment section. I would love to hear from you.

Write It–Deconstructing a Novel

woman-645705_1920

 

You have written a 300-page novel that took you several months or possibly a year. So, why would you deconstruct your novel after reaching the finish line?

Any published author will tell you that their published novel is the result of several drafts. I read one article in The Writer magazine where the author wrote 11 drafts before publishing a novel. This doesn’t suggest that you start from a blank page and rewrite the entire story–not if you have a computer and writing software (or even if you don’t have writing software).

My approach is to write the first draft. Print it out and begin my deconstruction process on the hard copy. I bring in my demotion team which consists of my critical mind (I once reviewed movies, books, and music) and beta readers (friends or colleagues I meet on social media). Hopefully, the beta readers give me helpful notes to allow me to improve my manuscript.

I also attend writing workshops such as the Write on the Sound conference I attended a few weeks ago and the Chuckanut Writers Conference which I attended in previous years (2014 and 2016). I find writing technique videos on YouTube, read the writing blogs, read articles in the writer magazines, and I read books on writing better. In the future, I plan on buying Scrivener software. I also use Grammarly.

I look for the following which I immediately delete from my manuscript or make the appropriate changes on my hard copy first.

  • Passive verbs and sentences
  • Tell versus show passages (which I rewrite)
  • Overwritten exposition
  • Repeated scenarios or phrases
  • Pet words
  • Bad dialogue
  • Overuse of adjectives and adverbs
  • Sentences that start with “and” or “but” (I simply remove the “and” or “but”)
  • I sometimes combine characters (if I have too many characters and they don’t move the plot forward) or I delete the characters
  • A middle section of a novel that moves too slowly

One instructor at the Write on the Sound conference mentioned the practice of deleting 30 percent of a novel. Then you have space to slide in some chunks of backstory, build the plot, and even pepper the story with the appropriate description that allows the reader to engage their senses as they read the story.

While it might seem strange that the deconstruction process is where the story develops, it beats completing the rough draft and staring at the screen asking, “Now, what?” We all know no editor will accept a first-draft or even a third-draft for publication. The rough draft gives a writer the opportunity to plot out the story and develop the characters. Writing a novel is an on-going process that reminds me of old-style photography when a photo developed under chemicals. Emergence takes patience and the willingness to return to the drawing board several times until the story is hot off the press.

If you would like some creativity coaching using metaphysical tools or my experience writing articles, essays, poetry, and fiction for three decades, sign up at Whole Astrology.

In Honor of the Day of the Dead (November 2, 2019)

day-of-the-dead-1868836_1920This beautiful image comes from Pixabay.com

 

From 1999 to 2005, I was a proud member of the Seattle Latino literary troupe, Los Nortenos. We gave performances (songs, poetry, and stories) for the Day of the Dead in the Seattle area.

For each performance, we wrote pieces that were juried by other members in the troupe. Here is one of the poems I recited during performances.

Spider Man & The Shamans

By Patricia L. Herlevi

Sometimes when I fall asleep, I fall deep into the heart of Africa.  Wooden men with painted faces conjure spirits forth into the starless night. They pound out rhythms with their bare feet and their shrill cries echo into the chambers of the forest.

Ancestors enter the circle as ghosts. They enter into our souls as we breathe them in and they blow wisdom into our hearts thus allowing us to teach the next generation. They educate us about our ignorance and illuminate our individual paths.

The shamans recite the legend of Spider-Man. The shamans warn us not to be tricked into Spider Man’s wicked web of illusions.  For once we enter into this illusion we are tempted to destroy the planet and other lives. Spider-Man, the trickster mirrors our deepest fears, our most vengeful anger as well as, our greed and our lust. We find him hard to resist since he presents himself in a glorious light promising us treasure.

But once we fall for the trap, we sell our souls for the smallest trinkets.  We sell our children to slave labor, our forests to the highest bidder and we slaughter the animals while leaving no place for the beneficent spirits to enter or the sprites to reside.

This is why the shamans dance tonight as if our lives depend on it. They’ll dance for twelve hours, pounding their aching feet on to the hard soil and chanting songs until their throats become coarse and raw. They tango with death and drop into the underworld where they plead with the spirits to save us from illusions. And in the end, they set us free from Spider Man’s dark ways.

Spider-Man can be tricked and he can be blinded through the strength of our ancestors.  Tonight Spider-Man will be sedated as he watches the shamans spin and gyrates around a fire.  Tonight Spider-Man will be hypnotized into a deep sleep that will last for centuries. Tonight the shamans will set their people free from their inner and outer oppressors.

The dance ends when dawn arrives and the dew appears on thirsty leaves and animal spirits return in full force reclaiming the earth, water, and sky.   The dance ends after I awake and face my daily life.  And yet, the raw pounding feet and shrill cries linger in my conscious brain reminding me that I must face my daily duties same as the shamans who wash the paint off of their bodies and tend to their harvest. I must stay awake and not fall into Spider Man’s illusions by honoring my ancestors and nature’s spirits. And by following the heart of a shaman, I sidestep the traps of greed, rage, and cravings.  I too hypnotize Spider-Man and dance with spirits at night in the manner that the Africans have taught me.

This story was originally performed with the Latino/Latina literary group, Los Norteños at North Seattle Community College, 2000.  While I was reciting this story on stage, my necklace (a beaded one from Peru), broke and beads fell on the stage.  Therefore, I feel that this is a powerful piece that should not be taken lightly.

 

Write It–5 Tips for Rebuilding the Fantasy Novel

Reflection Moi

 

At a writing conference recently, an instructor told authors about a practice that involves cutting out 30 percent of a novel. This practice works for authors who overwrite, use too many filler words, include too much exposition, and dialogues that don’t propel the story forward. However, what happens for authors who underwrite and fall short of the genre word count?

When I revised my novel Enter 5D, I came up short 10,000 words. This started the wheels of my mind to churn ideas of ways to add more content to this fantasy novel. Here are five tips.

1. Add action and description to long dialogue or paraphrase the dialogue in chunks instead of as single sentences of direct speech.

I have been reading Sarah Addison Allen’s Lost Lake and this author uses this practice throughout her novel. She also includes different points of view while including pieces of backstory for several characters. Some experts in the industry advise against several points of view in a novel, but this is also my style with writing novels.

2. Spread chunks of exposition on the characters and even the setting or place throughout the novel while still moving the story forward.

Again, read Allen’s Lost Lake or her other titles for a good example of how this is achieved.

3. Spread the plot out by adding new twists or suspense. Keep the readers with a question in their minds for more chapters.

4. Add new characters for the protagonists to respond to but only if this doesn’t block the progress of the story.

5. Lengthen an important scene by highlighting the characters’ hopes and wishes or by them ruminating on their greatest fear.

The trick is not to pad the novel with unessential material. Also, use discernment when adding more words or pages to a novel. While many publishers have a minimum and a maximum word count, if a novel feels complete at 70,000 words or 75,000 words, adding more material might destroy its flow and deter readers with a short attention span (which is many readers including me).

I hope these and other tips on Belle Author are helpful for you as you craft your novel. I have been writing novels since 2005 and I’ve learned from pitfalls along the way. I never earned a Master’s degree in creative writing and I didn’t earn a BA in English.

However, I have received compliments from professional editors who have encouraged me to keep writing novels. Obviously, there is no shortcut to writing and publishing a novel. And even some of the novels that have been published were done so prematurely while many great stories have yet to become published books.

 

 

5 Must-Have Tools I Acquired at a Writers Conference

John Williams Waterhouse “Pandora”

I returned from the Write on the Sound conference held at the Frances Anderson Center in Edmonds, Washington. The conference attracts around 250 to 300 writers in all stages of their careers and representing a variety of genres. Although most of the writers I met were working on their memoirs.

On Friday, participants sign up for a half-day or a full-day workshop. I signed up for the half-day Think Like a Development Editor workshop taught by Shirin Bridges. I gained insight from that workshop and much of what the instructor-editor shared with us was repeated by other instructors throughout the conference.

On Saturday we attended 4 workshops from blocks of 4 workshops (it was hard to choose in some cases). We also were invited to the keynote speaker event featuring Retired UW Professor Charles Johnson. And the conference hosted a reception or the authors teaching at the event. A private group hosted an open mic in a cafe. I didn’t attend the open mic because I had too much information to digest from the day’s events.

On Sunday, my first workshop started at 9:30 and by the last workshop at 3 p.m. I wasn’t able to concentrate. Fortunately, that was a lighthearted panel discussion on travel writing in this modern age.

Here are the 5 Tools I acquired at the conference that every writer can use for writing, revising, and editing manuscripts.

  • Delete 30% of the completed manuscript

(Yes, that’s right. Eliminate filler words, an overabundance of adjectives, adverbs, and passive phrases. Eliminate long passages of exposition or backstory. Eliminate scenes that don’t propel the story forward).

  • Map the scenes

(Write all the scenes down and what occurs in each of the scenes. This is best done with a software program like Scrivener or you can write them out in a notebook by hand. Then make a note on whether the novel requires each scene. Delete repeated scenes or scenes that are blocks of expositions).

  • Watch out for pet words and don’t overuse them

(Every author has favorite or pet words that they overuse in a manuscript. Since they the words are red flags to a reader, find other words to replace the pet words).

  • Show, don’t tell

(For me, this is not a hard and fast rule. I think it’s best to include both showing and telling in a narrative non-fiction book as well as, a novel. However, if you can show the story and not just tell it, you’re more likely to engage readers).

  • Consider the modern attention span

(While this one mostly refers to younger readers who want authors to get to the action, many authors include too much detail which slows the pace of a story. Obviously, if you write literary fiction you can include more details and meander a bit. However, if you write genre fiction or YA fiction, cut to the chase or lose your readers).

After three days of attending intensive writing workshops, I gained more tools than what I mentioned here. I hope these tips are helpful and even new in some cases. The show versus telling and the refrain from using adjectives and adverbs have been rules in the book publishing world for some time. They are still relevant today.

Also, make sure that you are not following trends. It can take up to 5 years to complete a manuscript, 2 to 3 years to find a publisher and another two years before your book hits the bookstore shelves. By that time, zombies or vampires would be passe. Always write what’s in your heart and not what you think will contribute to your bank account. Write because you enjoy the craft because writing and publishing are always hard work.

Acknowledgement to four friends who donated money to me through Go Fund Me and by private checks that paid for the registration fee, a manuscript critique, and two nights at the Best Western Harbor Inn.

Thank you to the kind folks at the Harbor Inn, the volunteers, staff, and faculty with the conference. I hope to return.

 

 

Prologue to my Memoir “Bitch”

DSCN1733

 

Bitch

Fostering a Dog; Fostering an Attitude (By Patricia Herlevi)

 

Prologue

The day I dreaded arrived. Three weeks had passed since my brother and I signed the legal papers with the Seattle Purebred Rescue organization so that the senior German shorthair pointer could go to a new home. Although I had only known Sobaka for a year-and-a-half, I had fallen deeply and madly in love with him in the way that dog-people bond with their canine friends. But like other types of love affairs, I also knew that each day had a number on it. My elderly parents were unable to take care of an active dog and I was in no position to take Sobaka. I had no permanent home.

I had looked forward to Sobaka’s birthday which falls on May 4. I had plans to take him to a special place and I had even bought two giant dog cookies and salmon sticks to mark the occasion. Then, the prospective pawrents (parents for dogs) asked the organization to set up a meet and greet with Sobaka on the last week of April. At first, I thought they just wanted to meet the dog and then return later to pick him up. However, the retired couple didn’t want to make two trips to Whidbey Island so they had plans to take Sobaka with them, thus interrupting my birthday plans and my goodbye gifts for the dog.

I wept for most of the week prior to Sobaka meeting his adoptive parents. I had wished that he would’ve been adopted by a family closer to me and not across Washington State. I wondered about handing the leash to the retired couple who responded to the Pet Finder ad when I clung to it as if the leash were my lifeline.

I knew I was doing the right thing for the sake of Sobaka’s wellbeing, but I experienced a hole growing inside me—a hole where my heart should have been. Wasn’t it me who placed the ad portraying Sobaka as a Bach Connoisseur and portraying a dog that enjoyed the finer things in life? He looked regal in the photos I took of him in his favorite armchair lying on his ratty blanket he had since his puppyhood. What the people viewing the photo would never know is that Sobaka also had a favorite couch and another chair he enjoyed stealing from my father and then anchoring his large body into the cushions while digging his claws into the armrests. This drove my father nuts every time the dog snuck into the chair and refused to budge. Sobaka was going places even if he refused to budge.

The people who viewed the ad also didn’t know about Sobaka hoarding crackers, potato chips, and candy between the cushions of the couch now covered in tiny white hairs and drool stains.

As the dreaded day approached, I feared that my bones would shatter. I felt pissed off at my brother for abandoning his dog and leaving me with a heart wrenching decision. In contrast, I also thanked my brother silently for blessing me with the best friendship I had experienced in 54 years—not with a human, but with a canine.

The weather forecast for that April day predicted rain and wind. I thought that would have deterred the couple from driving from Olympia to Whidbey Island and that I would have been able to hang on to Sobaka for another week. But then the sun appeared.

I spent the morning cleaning Sobaka’s bedding, sewing his toys and his pillow which he had ripped apart. I gathered all his belongings and placed them in bags and boxes while trying not to cause Sobaka anxiety. He knew something was up because I wept more than usual. He also noticed the tension in the household when my father protested the adoption. After all, even though he complained about the vet bills and fed Sobaka junk food (leading to an obesity problem) he said that Sobaka was his friend. But before sympathizing with my dad, you must understand that he thinks everything is about him and he didn’t acknowledge the anguish I experienced. Blame it on his Depression Era childhood or his stint in the Navy. I might have well been a captain of a ship witnessing mutiny.

So, I packed the car and I had several conversations with Sobaka using words and telepathy. And when I spoke to him, he trembled and his eyes pleaded with me to let him stay with us. The problem remained that he did not get enough exercise and his weight problem placed him in danger. I had gone over all the options and I pleaded with my parents to hire a dog walker, to pay for the flea prevention, etc. Although my mother was sympathetic and she was the one who paid one-thousand dollars to have Sobaka’s rotten teeth removed, she also thought Sobaka needed to go to a wealthier home with healthier people.

And prior to his final day with us, I spent quality time with Sobaka that week in April. I created Easter treat hunts in the backyard to put his nose to good use. I took him for longer walks to his favorite places in the neighborhood. I sat with him and played classical music for him (which he loved). And my mom and I took him to a beach when the tide was out where he ran free. In fact, when he ran on the beach whimpering and barking with delight, I realized that Sobaka needed to experience that freedom every day just like he needed to play with other dogs.

So, I packed him in the car while wiping tears off my face. I chose Bowman’s Bay in Deception Pass State Park to meet with Sobaka’s prospective parents and the dog rescue volunteer. I also like the fact that Sobaka got to ride in the backseat of the car listening to classical music. He remained calm for most of that journey until we turned on the road to Bowman’s Bay and he picked up the scent of the giant cedar and pine trees. He sat up in the backseat which he had never done before when the car was moving. Then when we turned into the park and we heard the wind and the waves beating against the shore, Sobaka barreled out of the car and he pulled me onto the beach. I had hoped that the couple would have showed up late, but as Sobaka and I walked away from the car and onto the beach, they approached us. I worried that I would have lost the strength to hand over Sobaka’s leash. Was it too late to change my mind?

When I took Sobaka to meet his new parents he sniffed at them and allowed them to admire him. He had no idea he would be leaving with them. And the message I received from Sobaka was, “Thank you for introducing me to your friends. Let’s go play on the beach and let me run on the trails.”

I kept the leash for a bit longer as the couple walked with me through the wooded area. Sobaka pulled me up a trail causing my arm to ache. He yanked on my arms and I couldn’t get him to stay still. He was anxious and in one of exploring moods after all, he loved the wild waves crashing on the shore and the pine and cedar trees perfuming the air. Since his sensitivities are acute he picked up on my emotions. “Why are you doing this to us, human?”

So we headed to the minivan where the representative asked me to give a final signature on the adoption papers. I legally released any ownership of Sobaka (not that I ever owned him). And while I did this, Sobaka saw the open door of my mother’s car inviting him to return to his old life. He yanked on the leash wanting desperately to run to my mother’s car and hop again in the backseat, another place he loved to relax and shed his fur. Plus he wanted to say goodbye to my mother who advocated for him when my brother stopped buying food for the dog or taking him to the vet when he suffered from ear infections and other health issues.

I realized that Sobaka didn’t die that day, but part of me did. Sobaka left in a minivan to a new adventure and a new life. Meanwhile, I wondered if I would ever heal from a broken heart much worse than any breakup with a boyfriend, the loss of a job, or even the loss of a home. I hugged Sobaka for as long as I could before he was hoisted into the minivan. I petted his velvet ears one last time and I experienced pangs of jealousy for the retired couple who had the right home and the right resources to take Sobaka as their own. I sacrificed my happiness and some people thanked me for my selfless act. But those hollow words hardly soothed my heart.

Nothing or no one will ever replace Sobaka.

All Rights Reserved Copying Not Permitted C 2019 Patricia Herlevi

An Accidental Memoir about Fostering a Dog

DSCN1655

 

As I have reached the completion stages of my first YA novel, Lately, Queen Mamadou, I started work on a dog memoir. This book was not in my plans and in fact, I was going to rest after completing the YA novel. However, as I heal my grief from adopting a dog out that was a dear friend to me, I also have the motivation to write a dog memoir.

My working title is “Bitch” because this word has the usual interpretation such as what I’m sure family members were muttering underneath their breath when I took the dog’s fate into my hands and found a better home for him. And then there is a new meaning which I describe as beautiful, intelligent, talented, creative, and holistic. Fostering any dog whether that is a family companion or a stray dog in need of a temporary home, involves some spunkiness. People-pleasers should not apply. I have journeyed from a people-pleaser to a spunky b-i-t-c-h. We all need to embrace our inner bitch.

In the meantime, I’m reading other dog memoirs. I read Lauren Fern Watt’s Gizelle’s Bucket List and I started on Kay Pfaltz’s Flashes Song. While I have a different writing style than these two amazing authors, I’m learning about different structures and attributes for a dog memoir. And yes, I read Marley and Me years ago. Didn’t everyone?

DSCN1733I hope I make it through the crazy rough draft writing stage without drenching the world in my tears. I’ve never written a happy memoir. I even placed my memoirs about homelessness on the backburners. I have another memoir slated for me to write in the distant future called Lit Up (From Rock Musician to Spiritual Channel) which chronicles my days as a rock musician in 1980s (1990s) Seattle and my journey into new age spirituality.

But for now, I give my loving respect to Sobaka, a quirky and anxious German shorthair pointer who taught me how to love unconditionally.

BTW, dogs like bitches.

Flash Fiction–Sun Salutations

persephone-1397228_1920
Persephone on Pix a Bay

 

 

I’ve not been able to get a handle on this flash fiction. However, I feel that it still has a hopeful message in it so I’m posting it here.

Sun Salutations

Katerina lounged in bed as sunlight peeked through the lace curtains. The warm silk sheets clung to her skin as she rolled over to glance at her pink alarm clock.  Six a.m., she procrastinated crawling out of bed and getting ready for work.  She worried about a deadline for a press release because her boss had an aversion to procrastinators.

She yawned then yanked the blankets back. And then she slowly sat up. Stuffing her swollen feet into her fake sheepskin slippers, she glanced around the room. Meanwhile, dreams lingered in her thoughts.  The Portuguese lover arrived again. And his kisses lingered on her lips and on her body.  Caressing her face, Katerina felt her skin pulsating beneath her fingers.  Lately, everything she touched took on a life of its own that left Katerina contemplating the Universe.

She slipped a Malian groove CD into the player. Moments later, Katerina swayed her hips to the African rhythms as she pulled on a skirt and a blouse she picked off the floor. Housecleaning wasn’t one of her specialties.

After assembling her business look, she made coffee. Then she ambled out of her house and to the bus stop.  Fortunately, the bus ran late that day. But the winter chill worked its way into her bones causing Katerina to long for her warm bed.

Arriving at the public relations firm on time Katerina made her way to her cluttered desk. She dug through her files in search of her notes.  She panicked when she didn’t find her press release. So she glanced at her co-worker Gus who sat at his tidy desk typing on his computer.  She watched him take nervous sips of coffee and then return to typing.

Katerina cleared her congested throat, “Gus, have you seen my notes for the Green Lifestyle Company release?”

Gus kept typing. Moments later, he responded to Katerina with his eyes glued to his screen. “I’m working on the press release.”

“Why are you working on it?”

Gus typed the final sentence.  Printing out the release, he handed it to Katerina.

“Here it is. Why don’t you proofread it?”

“You didn’t answer my question?”

“I was going to leave that for Harold. He’s out of the office at the moment. But he requested a meeting with you after he returns.”

“I thought my deadline wasn’t until five p.m. today.”

Gus shook his head, “You had to five p.m. yesterday. Harold had gone to a meeting with the client this morning without the press release.”

Katerina proofed the release and handed it back to Gus.  “Thanks for covering for me.”

“I didn’t cover for you.” A smug look crossed Gus’ face.

Later that day, Katerina met with Harold in his office. She was distracted by the walls painted in garish orange with the company logo in bold red letters. Somehow she managed to feel exhausted even around those perky colors.

She grabbed a seat as she stared across the expanse of her boss’ desk. “You wanted to see me?”

Harold looked away from his notes and he scowled at his employee.  “Why wasn’t that press release on my desk?”

“I thought I had until closing today. I realize that’s not a good excuse, but I …”

“You were out of the office last week. I thought you had returned to your old habit of taking lunch with our clients.”

“No, I had doctor appointments for this sinus infection that won’t go away.”

“I’m sorry to let you go.”

Katerina gaped, “What?”

“I know you’ve been with our firm for several years and up until recently, you did good work.  But now, I get the impression that you don’t love your job. You arrive at work late and you leave early.  You wait until the last minute to meet a deadline. And you lack the enthusiasm that we require from our employees.”

Katerina knew that her boss exaggerated her behavior. She wasn’t late for work and she only left early one time. But she didn’t feel like fighting and oddly, she didn’t shed a tear over the loss of her job.

Stunned, Katerina sat on a bench waiting for her bus to arrive. She felt as though her life force gave her the boot. She needed a game plan if she didn’t want to end up as a bag lady.

Sitting behind her laptop at her clean kitchen table, Katerina wiped perspiration off her forehead. She had sent out five resumes in the past hour. And she received a phone call for an interview.  That cosmic kick rallied her senses. She was constantly on the move as she typed cover letters, sent off resumes, and attended women-in-business meetings across town.  She shook more hands in one month than she had in several. As the day wore on, she felt more enthusiastic about her future.

After working with a life coach, she discovered that she preferred to work at an upscale spa giving massages. She was fully-licensed and needed to get back to her real life’s work. The only reason she had taken the public relations position was that communications ran in her family.

With spring around the corner, Katerina came out of hibernation. When the sun rose earlier each day she rose with it. Every day she practiced yoga poses. After she started eating salads instead of pizza, she noticed lightness in her step. She welcomed each day, serving humanity through her hands instead of through her previous corporate laptop.

Write It: 10 Ways to Trick the Procrastination Monster

lady

 

You’re on a roll. You have written five pages a day on your novel. Or you have stayed on schedule with your submissions and pitches. But then an illness strikes and you experience bedrest for two weeks. And then, the procrastination returns.

Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up. Find ways to get back in the groove such as editing a flash fiction story or rewriting a poem. Start small. And then return to your calendar and make adjustments for page and word count for longer work. Or return to your submission calendar.

If you missed deadlines then scratch those journals or contests off your lists. And find new ones to enter (a Google search pulls up blogs with lists of literary journals and agents).

Here is a no-no list:

  • Hang out on social media or watch the YouTube video stream for an hour+
  • Watch television
  • Gossip
  • Shopping for things you don’t actually need
  • Gorging on sugary foods (which leads to exhaustion and a non-productive day)
  • Texting or talking on the phone (instead of writing)
  • Over-cleaning the house
  • Helping others to avoid writing

 

Here is a to-do list:

  • Edit or proofread a short piece
  • Write a poem or flash fiction
  • Research a topic or person for your story
  • Read magazines on the writing craft
  • Read books on the writing craft
  • Take a writing workshop
  • Join a writing group (that does timed writing exercises)
  • Join an editing group
  • Visit a blog for writers
  • Make a list of agents
  • Make a list of editors or publishers
  • Research writers conferences
  • Attend a writers conference
  • Go for a walk and take your camera
  • Spend time with a writing buddy
  • Clean up your submission database

Feel free to add other enriching experiences to this list.

Once you get back on a schedule (and remember to take breaks to eat lunch and walk the dog), the procrastination monster return as often. Pat yourself on the back knowing that you have taken responsibility for your destiny as an author.

I am an author and a creativity coach who uses metaphysical tools. Contact me for a session at wholemusicexp at gmail.com My fees start at $100 an hour.