The Amazing Things I Get to Do

I jumped out of a helicopter today without a parachute. I used my ability to see the future to save my mother’s life, I stared down two villains at gunpoint, I orchestrated a corporate take-over and I played with penguins. It was a great afternoon.

Years ago, I loved to read fiction and I still do. However, in recent years, that same energy has gone into  my writing  instead. Writing is hard work, and stories don’t always go as well as the writer would like, but when they do, the feeling that you are doing what your characters do is even more compelling.

These people live in my head. I know far more about them than will ever appear in my book, and when they set foot in Antarctica or on a beach in Brazil, I am there with them.

Because many of my characters have superpowers, I get the added bonus of doing things I never could in real life. Today, I wrote this scene about one of my characters who can “travel”, that is, have conscious out of body experiences.

Vanida had never used her energy body to travel to someone who was on an airplane, so she was alarmed when she ordered her body of light to seek out Yuden and found herself rising thousands of feet into the air and moving westward. It took effort not to panic and snap back into her physical body which was resting quietly on the beach in Brazil.

She was glad she had persevered, though, once she sighted the tiny plane approaching, and realized why she was where she was. The skill with which her energy body matched the speed and direction of the craft amazed her, and allowed her to cross through the metal as gently as if it had been sitting on the ground.

Tonight, I will go to sleep dreaming about flying through the air, matching my speed to that of an airplane and passing gracefully through its walls. It should be a night of sweet dreams.

“Because I Can”

beautiful life6Not sure when women got March as Women’s History month, but I’m glad they did. Her story isn’t told nearly as often as history. It is a little surprising, though, that along with this attempt to add more balance to our knowledge of the past, there is suddenly a wealth of sites celebrating songs that empower women. Buzz Feed offers 17 Empowering Songs By Female Artists To Boost Your Self-Esteem, The BoomBox has 20 songs to celebrate the superwoman in you, and vh1 has The 15 Greatest Girl Power Anthems. Each site features best lines from the song, the reason the song is great, and a video to enjoy.

I thought it was interesting that only three songs showed up twice.  The honors go to “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child, “Stronger” by Britney Spears and the all time classic “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. It is worth checking out all three sites, but if you are just curious which songs were chosen, an alphabetical list of all 49 songs is at the end of this post.

Do you have one or two of your own to add? Of course you do. We all have our personal favorites.

I needed to find an anthem celebrating female power when I was writing c3, but because my hero was a fan of country music, I needed to find it in that genre. Country music isn’t my own first choice for listening, so I couldn’t think of a single one. I did a search and was surprised at the number of contenders. I finally settled on a song commonly called “Because I Can” by LeAnn Rimes and after listening to it and writing about it, I’ve come to really appreciate it. Here is how it got used in the book.

Teddie returned to her room mid-morning and pushed herself to stay awake through the rest of the day’s classes. Most of her life she’d been a good student, and she was trying to accept the fact that this year would be the exception. While kids back home were already stressing out about college applications, Teddie could only trust that her sense of adventure in spending a year abroad was going to count for something.

LeAnnShe was hoping for a nap before dinner, but Haley was already in the room, happily singing along to one of Teddie’s favorite country songs. Haley preferred pop and rock, but she had slowly warmed to some of Teddie’s music. Right now she was belting out the empowering words to song often referred to as “Because I Can”. It was impossible not to ask what was going on.

“One blogger called it ‘Barbie climbs Everest,’” Haley laughed, “and you know what? Even though I am not climbing Everest, I wasn’t offended.”

“Can I assume that means that you are part of the expedition again?” Teddie asked.

Haley’s wide grin was answer enough. “’Cami girl’—that’s my other name—‘set to climb Kanchenjunga.’ That was the other big blog’s headline. I can’t believe that it is really going to happen. You do know that this means that I am out of here in less than a week?

“What? Why? You don’t climb until May,” Teddie said.

“I know, but I’ve decided that I’ve got to spend more time adjusting to a higher altitude. We’re only at 6,700 feet here, so my dad is coming in a few days. We’re going to drive up to Lachen. It’s only about fifty miles from Gangtok but takes six hours to drive. It’s supposed to be gorgeous, and it’s at almost nine thousand feet. After a few days there we’ll drive up to Thangu at thirteen-thousand feet, and I’ve decided that I’m going to live there until the climb. I’m even going to let my dad do all the last minute coaching and training that he thinks he needs to do, because if I’m going to do this I have got to stack the deck in my favor every way that I can.”

Haley gestured to the pile of schoolwork on her desk. “I’m bringing my schoolwork with me, even though I’ll probably have to take incompletes in everything.” She looked hard at Teddie. “Are you going to be alright here by yourself?”

Teddie had to laugh. “Haley, you are about to go do something where people actually die, and you’re worried about me?”

“Well, there’s a lot going on here too.”

The song is also called “One Way Ticket.”  LeAnn Rimes gives the lyrics everything she’s got in this well-made video of her and her band performing it live. Enjoy.

Here are the songs from the other three sites.

  1. A Woman’s Worth by Alicia Keys
  2. Body Of My Own by Charli XCX
  3. Bust Your Windows by Jazmine Sullivan
  4. Can’t Hold Us Down by Christina Aguilera (ft Lil Kim)
  5. Conceited by Remy Ma
  6. Control by Janet Jackson
  7. Doo Wop (That Thing )by Lauryn Hill
  8. F**kin’ Perfect by P!nk
  9. Feeling Myself by Nicki Minaj (feat Beyoncé)
  10. Fight Song by Rachel Platten
  11. Flawless by Beyoncé ft Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  12. Fly by Nicki Minaj Feat Rihanna
  13. Follow Your Arrow by Kacey Musgraves
  14. Freedom  by Queen Latifah, Yo Yo, Lisa Left Eye Lopes, MC Lyte, Nefertiti, Salt-N-Pepa
  15. Girl Talk by TLC
  16. Girls by Santigold
  17. Goodbye by Kristina DeBarge
  18. Hair by Lady Gaga
  19. I Look So Good (Without You) by Jessie James
  20. I’m Every Woman by Chaka Khan
  21. Independent Women by Destiny’s Child
  22. Ladies First by Queen Latifah Feat Monie Love
  23. Love Me by Katy Perry
  24. Love Myself by Hailee Steinfeld
  25. Man! I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain
  26. Milkshake by Kelis
  27. No More Drama by Mary J Blige
  28. No Scrubs by TLC
  29. None of Your Business by Salt-N-Pepa
  30. Obsessed by Mariah Carey
  31. On My Own by Miley Cyrus
  32. One In A Million by Hilary Duff
  33. Pretty Girl Rock by Keri Hilson
  34. QUEEN by Janelle Monae Feat Erykah Badu
  35. Respect by Aretha Franklin
  36. Run the World (Girls) by Beyonce
  37. Satellite Call by Sara Bareilles
  38. Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine
  39. Stay Beautiful by Taylor Swift
  40. Stronger by Britney Spears
  41. Try by Colbie Caillat
  42. Unpretty by TLC
  43. Video by India Aire
  44. Wannabe by Spice Girls
  45. Whatcha Think About That by Pussycat Dolls (ft Missy Elliot)
  46. Who Says by Selena Gomez
  47. Who’s That Girl by Eve
  48. You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo by Yo-Yo Feat Ice Cube

 

Everywhere

crowdThe first few months after my father died, I kept seeing him in crowds at the airport, just out of the corner of my eye. He’d show up in restaurants too, and sometimes in bars, anywhere that there were lots of people. Often he’d be gone before I could get a good look at him, but every once in awhile I would get a closer look, and clearly see that it wasn’t him at all.

Years later I read that this was common for those missing a loved one. It was a disconcerting side effect of death, divorce, serious break-ups, deployment overseas or any prolonged physical separation.

The country-western songs referred to in the novel c3 came from a larger group of songs suggested by a young female C&W fan. I knew the first time that I heard her suggestion of Tim McGraw’s song “Everywhere” that I wanted my character to like this song and mention it. Love comes in all sorts of flavors: that of a child for a parent who dies too young, that of a young girl worried about a missing friend, that of a man who has said good-bye to childhood sweetheart but never really left her. Those of us who suffer a loss (isn’t that all of us) tend to see our missing person “everywhere”.

From the novel c3:

Tim McgrawAs Teddie worked her way through the relaxation and concentration exercises, she was all too aware that this would be her first conscious travel attempt over any distance. It was sort of like that first time you take off driving all by yourself.

To keep from being nervous, Teddie let her mind play a soothing song, and found that she was humming “Everywhere,” the country music tribute to a man who loved to travel and yet saw his stay-at-home ex-girlfriend in the crowd wherever he went. That was funny. Over the last couple of months it had seemed like she’d seen Michelle everywhere she looked. Must be a common thing when you missed someone.

Teddie thought sadly of the used black and white two-tone pick-up truck setting in her folks’ driveway. She’d only been able to drive by herself for four months before she’d headed to India. She thought of all the places she and Michelle had driven in it before they left and all the places they hadn’t yet gotten a chance to explore. She felt a little pang, and then there she was. Standing outside her truck in the blazing sunlight. Of course. It was daytime in Texas. Her folks were at work. Her truck looked fine. She touched its faded paint lovingly but she couldn’t feel it like she could in the solid world. “I’ll be back in a few months,” she mouthed the words. Then she added, “Now I want to go to my friend Michelle.”

Right away she began to move quickly, speeding down the sidewalk and then down streets and she thought, “Wait, I know this route. I’m on my way to Michelle’s house.” And sure enough, Teddie found herself on Michelle’s front lawn, baffled. Had Michelle come home? She hesitated, feeling odd about invading the Tran’s privacy. She told herself sternly that her friend’s safety was at stake. The outside wall of their house was harder to penetrate than the walls at Usha’s convent, instead of merely tickling her, it left Teddie with a feeling of passing through some kind of unpleasant mush as she went through it. Ick.

Inside it was deserted. Both Trans were at work as well, and Michelle’s room showed no signs of having been disturbed any time recently.

“Take me home,” Teddie said in frustration. She felt a momentary confusion, as if on some level she was trying to decide if home was across town or across a world. That’s when she realized that she had somehow covered thousands of miles and crossed an ocean and she had no idea of how she had done it. She froze in absolute terror.

There are several decent enough concert videos out there of this song, but the ones I watched all made me feel a little too much like I was in the audience, right there with the crowd noise and the bodies occasionally blocking my view. This acoustic version is a little different. It is performed at a fancy dinner with violins, acoustic guitars, a back-up female vocalist and a couple dancing in the back of the audience. I thought that it all captured the song well. Enjoy!

You can purchase this song at Amazon.com

c3: synopsis and my 6 favorite mini-excerpts

I’m talking a close look at all of my blogs, making sure that they are up to date and that they represent my novels well. I’ve placed a few of my favorite short excerpts on a page for permanent reference, and thought I would post these improvements as a blog post as well. Enjoy!

c3 is the third novel in the loosely interrelated collection known as 46. Ascending. Each novel tells the tale of an otherwise normal person coming to terms with having unusual abilities. The stories are designed to be read in any order as they overlap in time and build upon each other in all directions.

This page contains a short description of the book c3 followed by six of my favorite excerpts from the first part of the novel. To read more, please purchase c3 at smashwords.com, at amazon.com, or at Barnes and Noble.

Book Description:
TeddieTeddie likes her country music and her old pick-up truck and she’s not sure how she let her best friend talk her into spending a semester abroad in Darjeeling India. Once she arrives, her innocence quickly collides with an underworld in which young women are bartered and sold. As she fights to understand a depravity that she never dreamed existed, Teddie finds that her own mind develops a unique ability for locating her friends and that an ancient group is willing to train her to save others by using her innate skills for out of body experiences. It will require trust in ideas she barely believes, and more courage than has ever been expected of her. When it becomes clear that the alternative may be her friends’ deaths and the unchecked growth of an evil crime lord’s empire, Teddie accepts the challenge and shows those guilty of unspeakable crimes just how powerful a young woman can be.

Excerpt 1:
At night, Teddie took refuge from all the strangeness. The collage of colors and faces and smells that permeated her world now by day subsided into the comforting greys of darkness. She lay in her bed and thought of how much she missed boots. Western boots, on her and others. Pickup trucks and country music and bar-b-que and dead armadillos in the road. Now wasn’t that stupid? Pine trees and Tex-Mex food and front lawns and churches everywhere even though her family didn’t belong to one. It was her world, and she missed its familiarity.

Luckily she had been able to keep her MP3 player, and sometimes she thought that the music was saving her sanity. She fell asleep that night crying softly and listening to the song “Texas Kind of Way” while she smelled the musty non-flower smell of her mother’s geraniums in her head. And that was the night that she starting sleepwalking.

She didn’t remember getting out of bed, or walking down the hall or going out the front door of the school. Didn’t they keep it locked at night? She thought that they must. Maybe she had climbed out the window? Could she even do that in her sleep?

Yet there she was, walking down the street in front of the school in the middle of the night. Lights were mostly off and half a moon was high in the sky. A group of older boys stood huddled together a couple of blocks away, smoking cigarettes. If they noticed Teddie they paid her no mind.

She looked around, enjoying the chance for once just to soak up the view without people jostling her and trying to move her along. The mountains in the distance glistened with snow. The boys down the street all wore jackets, and Teddie wondered if she had thought to grab a coat as well. She glanced towards her arm, and the next thing she knew she was back in her bed, not the least bit chilled, and with no memory of how she got back there at all.

Well, sleep-walking was supposed to be an odd phenomenon, she thought. It had probably been set off by homesickness, to be honest. Luckily her subconscious seemed to have found ways to safely navigate her in and out of bed. This time. Hopefully this wasn’t something that was going to become a habit.

Excerpt 2:
Lhatu came to India often, and he had become adept at absorbing the noise and chaos without allowing it to warp his inner peace. He tried instead to gain energy from the surroundings, energy to do the bidding of those he served.

His large size made travel slightly harder on him, but he recognized that it also made him an unusually capable operative on behalf of his group’s needs. At thirty-one years old he was tall and physically strong by the standards of any race. He could see over the crowds to find others, and thanks to clearly visible muscles he was seldom a target of the pickpockets or scammers that preyed on those who traveled. The simple robes he generally wore bought him a certain amount of automatic respect from those of any faith. The deception of dressing much like a monk bothered him slightly, but he reminded himself that his costume was merely a means to an end.

Today he arrived in Bagdogra, and he had been told to take the train to Darjeeling. He liked Darjeeling. It had a certain spirit about it. There was a girl attending a school there, a young woman whom he had been asked to observe. Do not make contact. Just bring back information.

Very well. Lhatu was used to such odd assignments. He did not question the wisdom of those who directed his life.

Excerpt 3:
So when the three American girls came to her office begging for help to find their friend, Amy sighed. This had all the markings of just the sort of case that would get her in trouble with the agency. The involvement of the three American students only made it more probable that this whole thing would reach the press and ultimately the ears of Amy’s superiors back home. So many reasons to give these girls the brush off.

And only one not to.

“What did you say her name was?” Amy asked.

“Usha.” It was the girl with the East-Asian ancestry who spoke up first. “She’s really smart and so happy to be in school, and she has these beautiful big trusting eyes and you’ve got to help us find her.”

The tall confident girl with the long blond hair jumped in. “The school’s been really busy with the aftermath of the earthquake all week. Last night they finally got a hold of her mother who says she has no idea where her daughter has gone and so the school now says that she is just a runaway who couldn’t handle the advanced classes and they are washing their hands of it!”

The pretty one with the head full of black curls added, “We know better. There is no way that’s true. Usha was doing great in her classes. She is in some kind of real trouble.”

“Okay,” Amy sighed. “Start at the beginning and tell me honestly everything you know. No holding back.”

The three girls sat down eagerly and starting talking all at once. Amy smiled at their vehemence, their innocence and their concern for their friend. There was an uncle from another city, and huge debts to be paid. There was no one local to help. The girl wasn’t even from Darjeeling. Amy looked at the photo one of the girls had on her laptop. She sat for a minute in silence as she carefully studied Usha’s face.

A young hopeful human being, full of potential. Just as all young people were. Was that reason enough to get involved? Of course it was.

Excerpt 4:
“So why not kill her?’ Vasily persisted as they finished their lunch. “You don’t want her. She’s useless.” He was talking about the American girl of course, in which Pavel had no interest and who now sat bound, gagged and heavily sedated in a walk-in closet in a vacant rental home in Manali.

“Because if she is dead, we know that she is useless,” Pavel said. “If she’s alive, it remains to be seen. Get her out of here, far away from this town. In fact, get her to Southeast Asia where she looks like the other girls and won’t stand out. We have a business in Bangkok, send her there. I do not—repeat, do not—want any trouble to come from this one. Make sure that you don’t lose track of her, just in case she turns out to be any kind of bargaining chip down the road. Now go. I need some peace and quiet to drink my coffee and think about what to do next.”

“Okay,” Vasily sighed. He had been looking forward to killing the girl.

Pavel, who knew him too well, admonished him as he started to leave. “I don’t want you or any of your goons laying a hand on her either. I’ve told you before. Your guys do not know the meaning of the word restraint.”

“Plenty of others gonna lay hands on her where she’s going,” Vasily muttered.

“Yeah well most of them don’t like to do so many things that leave marks,” his boss glared back. “I mean it, Vasily. Get her to Bangkok where she can earn her keep and be out of our way. If we can use her, we’ll bring her back.”

“Yes boss.” Vasily thought sadly that power did strange things to men. There had been a time not that long ago when Pavel not only would have okayed the kill, he would happily have joined his men in the fun.

Excerpt 5:
The next time Teddie went sleepwalking, it occurred to her that she wasn’t really walking. She was floating. And she was pretty sure that she was headed towards the train station. It was the middle of the night and this was no time to catch a train. What was she doing going there? Wasn’t this the same way she had gone to check on her brother Zane, when she was only four years old?

She was moving fast now, almost like she was in a car, and certainly like she knew exactly where she was headed. How did she know where she was going?

She thought that maybe she should go back to her bed when it occurred to her that if she actually got to the station, she could take a train all the way to the airport. And if she could just get to Bagdogra where the airport was, then she could get on an airplane and fly far, far away to a place where eleven-year-old children didn’t have to be scared when their mother got a cold, and girls didn’t have to plead to get admitted to classes for men only, and high school juniors from Texas didn’t have to cough up their entire allowance just to keep a roommate from getting taken out of school by evil uncles.

Was the uncle really evil? He must be.

And then she thought that she felt the uncle grab her arm and she jumped. But it was just Usha grabbing her arm, and she was in bed.

“You were making noises in your sleep,” Usha said worriedly. “You were having a bad dream?”

“I didn’t think I was dreaming at all,” Teddie muttered as she turned over, and then she felt confused. So she wasn’t going places in her sleep? She was just having dreams about going? Why?

Excerpt 6:
I want to go to Usha and see if she is unharmed. It was a simple command and Teddie had no idea what to expect. But she began to move, not by force, but by what felt like her own choice, down the hall and out the door and down the street. Teddie had never been particularly comfortable with heights, so she was relieved that while it felt like she was flying, she was flying in just the manner that she personally would have chosen. She was skimming really, just maybe ten feet above the ground, close enough that if she fell she would be okay. She made her path down roads rather than over buildings, but she was certainly picking up speed as she went. It seemed like she was guiding herself, that a part of her that knew Usha’s location was leading the rest of her to where she wished to go.

She was headed north towards the mountains, speeding now over the major road that leads out of Darjeeling into the Himalayas. Weren’t those some of the renowned tea fields off to the left? Teddie looked closer, and the next thing she knew she was standing in the middle of the tea field, examining the beautiful green tea leaves up close and personal. Great. She’d stopped moving and she had no idea of what to do next. She was stuck in a field.

She felt herself about to snap back. No. If my body is safe then I want to go to Usha and see if she is unharmed. With that, she was back on the road and moving again. This time she concentrated on not looking around and becoming distracted, and she picked up more speed as she went. Finally she found herself slowing back down as she entered a large city. Gangtok? She made her way through streets to a far edge of the town, where she found herself standing next to a small old pick-up truck parked outside of a little roadside hotel. Usha was sleeping in the back of the truck. Oh dear. Her friend was homeless, and had stopped to sleep in the relatively soft, warm hay that lined the back of a stranger’s vehicle.