Working on my first story book…

I’ve been encouraged by my family and friends to write and illustrate a children’s book.  While I have been writing poems and have had little ideas here and there I’ve never really REALLY tried to take the process further.  My biggest step so far has been in creating this blog and sharing what I’ve written with the blogging community.  I have so enjoyed the feedback and motivation from other writers on this site (even though life has sent me several pauses in my evolution as a writer.)

I’m hoping that my friends on this platform will help me as I try to turn my idea for a children’s story into a reality.  I’ll chronicle my process on here, but would appreciate feedback, comments and help about my piece and the publishing process if anyone out there has experience with that.

So without further ado… here is my story that I’m working with currently.  I hope to do some rough illustrations soon.  Comments and feedback is appreciated!

The Choo Choo Flu

It was a beautiful morning when the conductor made his way out to work on his very favorite train, Steamer Stu.  The birds were singing, the wind was warm, and there wasn’t a cloud in the bright sunny sky.  The conductor tipped his head back and closed his eyes, resting for just a moment before beginning his busy day, when suddenly he heard a loud,

‘AAAAAAAHHHHCHOOOOO!!’

“My goodness’ thought the conductor.  ‘who could possibly be in the yard so early in the morning?’

He hurried around the corner to see Steamer Stu sniffling in the rail yard where he had been parked all weekend.  Stu didn’t look good.  His nose was all runny, he sniffled a lot, and when the conductor placed his hand on his engine he was really quite hot.

The conductor made his way around the locomotive looking here and there, inspecting and checking Stu with great care, before stepping back, his diagnosis complete.

‘Stu it is clear from your sniffles and sneezes, your puffs and your coughs, and your aches and your wheezes that you have come down with a case of the Choo Choo flu.  I’m sorry to say there will be no trips on the tracks for you today.’

“AAAAAAAAAHHHHCHOOOOO!!’ sneezed Stu ‘Are you sure it’s a case of the Choo Choo flu?”

“Certainly,’ puffed the conductor, ‘and there is only one thing to do.”

Now the conductor had seen this flu before, a long time ago, and what’s more he had helped the poor train get better and quickly.  The only problem was he couldn’t remember the Choo Choo flu cure for a train that was sickly.

‘Ah yes!’ he exclaimed ‘I remember what’s needed to treat Choo Choo flu!  I’ll be right back.  I’m going to buy you new shoes!’

Is that what you’d do to help Stu fight the flu?

‘Wait, no… that doesn’t sound right.  I think the best way to cure Choo Choo flu is, oh yes, to spend the day at the zoo!’

Is that what you’d do to help Stu fight the flu?

‘I don’t think that’s right,’ Stu offered sweetly before he was cut off completely with another loud  AAAAAAAHHHHHCHOOO!’

“Hmm…now let me think.  Oh!  I’ve got it!  Open wide and say MOO!  Chocolate milk is the trick, open up, drink it down now and quick!’

Is that what you’d do to help Stu fight the flu?

No, of course not.  That wasn’t the cure and Stu wasn’t feeling up to very much more.

‘I’m tired.’ He sniffled.  ‘I think I need rest.’

Just then the conductor put his hand to his chest and found in his pocket a page from a book.  He opened it slowly and saw when he looked, the perfect way to help rid Stu of flu.  Can you guess what the page told him to do?

To cure Choo Choo flu a train needs only two things:

  1. Lots of hot choo choo stew
  2. Time for choo choo to snooze.

So the conductor made Stu some hot stew and he tucked him in tight and left him to snooze all day and all night.

When the sun came up the very next day Stu’s Choo Choo flu had all gone away!  So the conductor and he set out on the tracks, when the cars were all loaded and smoke poured from the stacks.   All that could be heard as they pulled away was a happy ‘Choo Choo!’ and a friendly, ‘good day!’

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Isabella: A (Short) Northanger Abbey Sequel

I just want to say that I normally don’t care for sequels not written by the original author.  That being said, I had an assignment for my Jane Austen class five years ago, where we had to write a sequel to one of her novels.  I chose Northanger Abbey because it is a little less known and because Ms. Austen wrote that novel when she was a new writer too!  I’m kind of proud of writing this piece, and am interested in any comments you might have!

It is a generally acknowledged truth that a lady should, if adventures not befall her in her own village, seek them elsewhere. Isabella Thorpe, a handsome young woman of nineteen years, living in her mother’s modest home in a droll little village in the south of England, and though seeming to know little of adventure, was quite acquainted with it. Indeed, her impatience and eagerness to attract the attention of all the world sent her as frequently to Bath and other desirous towns as possible. Her unfortunate mother was always eager to spare her eldest daughter whenever an opportunity arose and was generally helpful in seeking opportunity when it didn’t. The concern of three unmarried daughters and a foolish son was felt daily and either nerves or a perception of duty prevailed her to bestow Isabella on any willing traveling neighbor or acquaintance.

A full fortnight had passed since the family had last quit Bath and already the eldest Miss Thorpe was suffering from the pace of life in the country. The rain of late had kept her indoors where the company of her sisters and of her mother afforded her very little pleasure, leaving poor Isabella very much alone for a great deal of the time. A walk was unimaginable as the weather had been so disagreeable and Isabella was not going to suffer a dirtied gown at any cost. She perused the bookshelves in hope of finding some entertainment but was very disappointed in the selection as there were no new novels.

‘Mama we should have purchased some new novels while we were in town,’ said Isabella with a grim face. ‘There is nothing to read.’

‘I’m sure we have something dearest,’ said Mrs. Thorpe looking concernedly at her daughter. ‘Why, you could read one of those dark novels you love so. I’m certain one of those would set you in better spirits my dear.’

Isabella turned impatiently from the books toward the window. ‘That will be quite impossible Mama, for they could never be as interesting nor as horrid upon a second reading. I fear you would find me quite vexed over such an odious endeavor.’

Mrs. Thorpe looked quite at a loss for what to say. She was saved from a response, however, by the sound of someone coming down the lane.

‘Why, who could possibly coming here at this hour? I am certain the roads are in no state for travelling.’ she exclaimed. “Hurry dear make the room presentable, there is no knowing who might be paying us the honor of a visit.’

Mrs. Thorpe busied herself straightening cushions and setting aside her needlepoint as to make the room appear as presentable as she could manage in a matter of minutes. Isabella directly went to the looking glass and upon finding no hair out of place and her cheeks sufficiently red settled herself by the window in what she imagined to be a very romantic posture.

‘Where are your sisters?’ Mrs. Thorpe inquired with hurried breathing. ‘Our guest should arrive now any minute. I am certain of it.’

‘I am sure I do not know Mama.’ Isabella returned. ‘Wherever they may be I am sure you will find them doing one droll thing or another. What care have I in their affairs?’

Mrs. Thorpe anxiously settled herself onto an old cushion opposite her daughter. ‘Yes, yes I am sure you are right dearest, they are such silly little girls. Their presence could not be of much benefit to our party.’

This exchange of dialogue was interrupted as the front door swung open with such force as to knock the modest wreath that was upon it to the ground.

‘Isabella! What news have I! You will never believe, dear sister, what I have learned just now. Inconceivable! I assure you I am astounded to my very core. That d— girl, and to think I once believed she loved me!’ John Thorpe burst forth.

‘John dearest we had no idea to expect you-’

‘Oh do hush Mother I am trying to speak with Isabella can not you see?’ John interrupted pointing to the door. ‘Haven’t you some cooking or other task to occupy yourself with?’

With this sufficient dismissal and upon his mother’s quitting the room John turned once again to his sister.

‘Can not you guess?’

‘I am sure I have no idea of what you are speaking of. Do get to the core of your message John, you know how I despise riddles so.’

‘It is to do with Tilney, to be sure Isabella. I must say that fellow always had the strangest manners. I never could understand his method of speech to be sure.’

Isabella rose on this and interrupted her brother with a rush of hope. ‘Oh my dear brother! Has he come to you to inquire after me? Is he returned to Bath? I knew I had conquered him! How un-gentleman like of him to tease me so and for all this time! Oh, I must go at once to be sure.’ she proclaimed with the greatest happiness. ‘There is not a moment to lose. Will you drive me brother? Oh you must drive me.’

Without waiting for an answer she continued, ‘we must set off at once. I’ll be sure to tell mama.’ Isabella began to reach for her new ribbons and bonnet and was only stopped when they were stolen from her fingers and flung to the furthest corner of the room.

‘D— foolish girl.’ John laughed. ‘Your rushing off to Bath will certainly do no good, for he is recently married!’

‘Married?’ Isabella sank into a chair under the weight of her despair.

‘Indeed. I heard it nearly straight from the source of the matter. He was married to Catherine Morland just this past week. It was a pretty quiet affair from what I understand. No doubt the General was unpleased to have his son marry such a girl. From my understanding Henry could have done much better, her dowry was hardly tempting.’ John continued.

‘Catherine Morland!’ Isabella exclaimed rising from her chair to pace the room and quickly attaining a rather lovely purple color. ‘Catherine Morland!’ Then again after a pause she declared, ‘Catherine Morland? Are you quite certain?’

‘Indeed I am. I heard it from her brother James, whom I am sure you remember, that she and Mr. Tilney were married.’

‘I never would have believed her to have stolen away Captain Tilney from me. I was quite certain that her heart was engaged to Henry Tilney. Oh how odious.’

‘Captain Tilney!’ John snorted picking at mud that had splashed upon his jacket. ‘My dear sister I am afraid you misunderstand me. It is not Captain Tilney of whom I speak but of his younger brother the very Henry Tilney you just mentioned.’

A few moments afforded Isabella sufficient time to recover from the most grave of shocks. Her cheeks returned to their pretty redness and a smile graced her face once again.

‘Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland? Oh how delightful! They should be most happy in their marriage to be sure. Oh brother I am most grateful for the news you have brought me. It has given me considerable happiness!’

‘I am only glad to be rid of the d— girl. She is the most incorrigible creature I have ever met. Better she is married than to let her run free to ruin the hearts of young gentlemen and refuse perfectly adequate proposals.’

‘Indeed, brother, indeed.’ Isabella responded, pleasantly absorbed in her thoughts.

‘I do wonder at our paying them a visit soon…’

The Lesson

This is a short piece of work I had to do for class.  The professor asked us to write a reflective piece on someone we knew.  I wrote about a teacher of mine that I never had the opportunity to say goodbye to but always wished I had, so this is partially a work of fiction.  I found it on my computer today.  I thought it was interesting that my writing style has changed a bit, even in the course of three short years.

 

All was quiet in the room except for the constant beeping of the monitors.  He looked as if he were peacefully dreaming. At least he was peaceful; at least he wasn’t suffering from the pain, anymore.  The doctors had given him so many drugs to chase away, well, pretty much everything.  He was only just still alive; hanging in there just so I could whisper my gratitude and thank him for all the wonderful moments he’d shared with me.

I met Mr. Lawson when he was in his sixties, so I never really knew him as a young man.  My mother had forced me to choose an instrument to help me become a well-rounded person, and when I chose the violin fate guided me onto Mr. Lawson’s path.  I was shy and didn’t really talk all that much, but he was patient, he understood, and he waited.  Just as he was doing now.

We had our lesson every Monday afternoon for an hour.  How I dreaded those hours!  I didn’t care much for practicing my allotted half an hour a day as I was supposed to, and I always felt uncomfortable being left alone in the music room with only one other person.  I was also afraid he would one day find out I didn’t know how to read music.  I was first chair in my school orchestra, and we had worked our way to a level six violin book.  That was the level where you start having notes higher than human ears can hear or so it seemed as I made my fingers stretch further than my skin told me they were supposed to go.  I learned it all by listening to him play it first.  He thought I just wasn’t a good sight-reader, so he would play it and I would match the sounds.   He never discovered that I never read a single note.

A lot of the time he would take breaks so I could rest my fingers.  He had been playing forever so I knew the breaks were for my benefit alone.  He was kind that way.  Since I never talked he would tell me stories about his life.  He told me about working on the Panama Canal, living through the Depression, and fighting and losing his brother in the war.  He talked about his family most of whom were long gone or had moved away leaving him pretty much alone in his little house.  I loved that whenever one of his cats dropped by for a mid-lesson visit he always let me stop to pet it.

I looked at him now.  Each line on his face told me those stories again.  The whispers of air that came from his shallow breaths asked me to remember.  To remember the stories, remember the music, and to remember him.

The beeps of the machinery kept tempo like the tapping of feet.  I smiled remembering how he always had to get me to keep the rhythm on my feet during the lesson.  My feet always wanted to surge ahead with the fast notes, and nap along with the bow on the slow ones.  His foot always steadily tracking our movement through the songs we played, patiently guiding my foot to eventually do the same.

He was having trouble keeping pace now; the machine began to beep a little more loudly to alert the nurses that something was wrong.

“Can you stand back, just a second please?” the nurse bumped me out of the way appearing from nowhere.

It took only a few listens of the stethoscope and a quick glance at the monitor to see the life slipping away, like the deepest notes we played together, disappearing beneath the staff to finish their journey elsewhere.

“You might want to say something now.”  The nurse kept her fingers against his wrist to keep track of his pulse.

“I…” There were so many things I wanted to say but couldn’t seem to find the right words.  Once I did, a large thick knot kept me from breathing any life into them.

“Thank you.” I managed to whisper as the rhythmic beats of the monitor changed into one long note.  Then the machine malfunctioned slightly causing a sort of wavering in the sound.  Vibrato.  Not five seconds in heaven and he was already making music.

Mariana and the Great Green Beast

Since starting this blog I’ve been going through some of the older pieces I have written.  This little piece was from an assignment.  I was given a picture of a little girl sitting by herself on black and white checkered patterned floor and told to write a short piece.  I think it’s more of a character snapshot than a story and I think my love for children’s literature guided where it went…  This is the first time I’ve ever let anyone see one of these ‘snapshots.’ (Besides my professor…obviously)  I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts!

 

It was near now, very near.  Mariana felt the air around her grow warmer and warmer until it was quite hot.  There was no time to move.  She must stay as still as she possibly could.  The floor shook with the beast’s approach and as it grew closer the hot air began to fill with the stench of rotting flesh.  Mariana’s heart began to pound with a deep throbbing that made her chest ache with every beat.  Faster and faster it pulsed until she was sure it would betray her to the monster.

From behind her fingers she could just see the front of the green beast slither into the room.

Where was the prince?  Wasn’t it his job to slay the dragon and rescue the lonely princess from her doom?  Mariana had been waiting for the prince for what seemed like forever.  The wicked queen had locked her away in this tower such a long time ago that she could only guess at how long she had been here.  She couldn’t remember what it felt like to have the sun shining on her face, and she couldn’t recall the last time she laughed.  This room, far away from the rest of the life in the house, was so very dull.  There was nothing interesting about the plain white walls or the black and white checkered floor that repeated itself into oblivion.  Her little mural was all she had to comfort herself.

The mural was a reminder of happier times when the kingdom was alive with excitement and cheer.  She remembered frolicking about the green countryside and looking for fairies in the nooks of the trees and in the garden that overflowed with flowers of all types and hues.  It seemed the sun always smiled for the kingdom in those days.  She was sure that if her prison had windows she would behold stormy weather in the fields she loved so much.

It had all changed when the baby arrived.  Her mother and father had tried for so long to have a second child, a son, to carry on the family name and rule in their stead.  Their wait was lengthy but not in vain.  In April of the past year her mother, the queen, had successfully delivered a healthy baby boy, three days later he was christened Eliot, and two days after that the princess was left to fend for herself.  Everyone wanted to see baby Eliot and only Eliot.  From that moment forward Mariana had begun to despise her brother.  It was because of her brother she was locked away now.

The green monster continued to make its way into the room.  The heat was incredible and Mariana began to sweat.  A drop rolled down her cheek, and because of the way her head was tilted, made its way towards her nose, tickling the whole way.  Mariana tried not to move, but the sweat continued to dance around her face brushing her skin so lightly and tickling her.  Finally she could stand it no longer, beast or no beast she couldn’t fight the sneeze that had risen inside her and was introducing itself to her nostrils.

“AAAACHHOOO!”

The monster heard her and turned to face her, teeth bared and eyes wide with fire.

“My goodness that was a big sneeze!  Bless you.”

Mariana froze at the sound of the monster’s voice.

“Mariana I said, ‘bless you’, now what do you say,” her mother asked as she brushed a few crumbs off of her very green sweater.

“Thank you.” Mariana mumbled.

“Have you thought about what you have done?”

“Yes mother.”

“And?”

“And I promise I won’t do it again,” she grumbled in an attempt to get the whole awkward moment over with.  Isn’t that what you were supposed to say?  Isn’t that what the monster had wanted to hear all along?

“Won’t do what exactly young lady?”  This was one mean beast.

“I won’t try to give Eliot away to the neighbors anymore.”

The beast let loose a fiery breath, and then the real roaring began…

“I don’t want anything like that to happen again do you hear me?  Ever.  You have got to start being nicer to your little brother.  He hasn’t done anything to you.  You have to act like a big sister now.  It’s a good thing Mrs. Kain called me; I was worried sick about you two.”

A short silence followed.  Princess Mariana had surrendered to the monster.  Her prince hadn’t rescued her.  The fight was over.

“Go ahead.  Wash your hands, dinner is almost ready.”

Defeated again.

 

Written January 20, 2010