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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chapter 26 - Part 3 - The rest of Leesie's poem

Here's the rest of Leesie's poem to finish off Chapter 26. I'm working on a dive log to post  Monday. I hope you all have a Happy, Happy New Year!! 

Thank you for cheering me on through a tough 2010. It's been a hard year for lots of people. I watch what is going on around me and feel so blessed. Sometimes I think I should relax and enjoy my great kids and wonderful husband. 

If I didn't write, my life would be so easy. I'd be bored and grumpy and miss all of you, but I wouldn't be banging my head against the wall, either. The marketing and self-promotion aspect of being an author stresses me out. And I don't want to even think about dealing with publishers. 

But who am I kidding? The challenge of creating fiction is something I can't live without. I've had amazing mentors, wonderful friends, and a editor who believed in my art enough to publish it--huge blessings. At the end of my sixth year post-MFA, I am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that have come. I've learned so much, and I'm still learning.

I am most grateful for all of you. 

Before you get published and people actually read your work, it's hard to even imagine how you feel about every person who picks up your book and loves it. It's like trying to explain to someone who isn't a parent the overwhelming sensations that engulf you when a child is born. You've touched my heart deeply, and I can honestly say I love you all. Thank you for letting me into your lives and joining yours to mine.  When I look back on 2010, I'm not going to remember the rejection and frustration. Or even the relentless PR. I'm going to remember you.

So, no easy life for me. Not in 2011, 2012, or ever. I've got stories to tell!

Here's the rest of the poem we started yesterday. Now I need to go take down the Christmas tree.

Leesie's Poem (cont.)

After dinner at Aunty Jaz’s
while she snores on the couch
with her bandaged foot propped
on a tower of pillows balanced
on a wispy coffee table,
Michael sits beside me
on the step that leads to
a kitchen full of dirty dishes
that I need to wash.
I lean into him and inhale
his presence.

His lips rest on the top of my head
for a moment and then
he carefully places an open
Book of Mormon in my lap.
“I don’t get this part,” he whispers.
“Can you help me?”
I sit up so I can study his face.
My eyes find his and hold them.
“You’re reading this?”
Tears threaten and a lump
in my throat chokes off my words.
He did this on his own? all alone?
Without me?

I sniff and pull a ragged tissue from my pocket.
He kisses my forehead. “Aunty Jaz told me
about that test at the end.”
I try to stay calm, match his nonchalance,
focus on the page open in my lap—
Lehi’s dream? My fingers smooth
over the page as my heart
beats loud enough for him to hear it.
“What do you think so far?”

“I don’t know I just started.”
His arms go around me.
“More action than I expected.
I thought holy guys were wimps.”
I snuggle into his embrace. “Not Nephi.”
“Yeah.” He raises a hand to his neck.
“That dude’s dangerous.”
“We don’t chop off heads at midnight.”
He laughs and stretches his legs out.
“Do you think I’m Laman or Lemuel?”
“The bad boys?” I frown at him. “No way.”
“Who then?”
“Sam?”
“No.”
 I hunch over thinking, with elbows
on my knees and my chin in my palms.
“I know”—I sit up and twist to face him—
“You’re Zoram.” He looks puzzled.
I flick the pages back, searching.
“The guy they capture and force
to come along. Here.” I point to the verse.
He reads and shakes his head. “That’s what
I thought. Join us or die.”

I lean close and press my lips to his.
“That’s not your choice.”
He holds my face against his.
“Join us or lose you.”
I kiss him again.
“That’s not going to happen.”
“Even if,” he murmurs across
my mouth, “this test is a flop?”
I bow my head onto his shoulder.
“Have you prayed yet?”
“I’m on page fourteen.”
I look up. “So?”
“Don’t I have to finish
the whole thing first?”
I take his face between by hands
“Pray ever time you open the book.”
He leans forward and kisses me.
“Like now?”
We kiss again. “Uh-huh.”
He sits up, serious now.
“Can you do it?”
“No.” I push his hair out of his face.
His eyes move away from mine.
“You know I don’t believe
I’m talking to anybody?”
I take his hands and whisper,
“Then what will it hurt?”
He bows his head, closes his eyes.
“Dear Leesie’s God-guy,
Can you get her to explain
this dream bit to me? Amen.”
I squeeze his hands.
“I could call the elders. The guys
at the branch are nice.”
“Nope.” He lifts my hands to his lips.
“This is just between you and me.”
“And my God-guy.”

We sit side by side and bend
our heads over the verses.
“Lehi’s boys couldn’t figure the dream
out, either. The naughty ones sat around
and complained. Nephi prayed and look”—
Michael’s eyes follow as my fingers turn the pages—
“the Lord answered.”
He picks up the book and reads.
“This is talking all about Jesus.
He wasn’t in the dream.”
“The Tree of Life is God’s love.”
I point to the verse.
“Nephi received a vision of Christ
because His mission to earth
is the greatest manifestation
of the Father’s love for us.”
“But aren’t they the same guy?
I know that much from Gram’s church.”
“No.” I flip to a picture of the first vision.
“Father and Son—just like you
and your dad—with bodies like
ours, but perfected—Eternal.
Glorified.”
He strokes my cheek.
“And you’re His daughter?”
I kiss his fingers.
“And you’re His son.”
“Like Pres. Bodden’s blessing?”
“You remember that?”
He meets my eyes with intensity.
“I can’t forget it.”

I put my arms around him and draw
him close. “Thank you—for trying my world.”
I kiss him with all the love in my heart.
He hangs onto me. “Don’t let go or I’ll panic.”
“Don’t worry.” I squeeze him. “I’ve got you.”
He rests his forehead on mine.
“What if you’re God doesn’t speak to me?”
I shake my head in wonder that he
does see what’s so clear.
“He already has or we wouldn’t be here.”
Michael draws away. “That’s my mom.”
I pull him back close.
“She’s on His side.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chapter 26 - Part 2 - Leesie's poem

I think this is only half of Leesie's poem. I need to really take my time with the rest of it. I want the next scene to be from her POV, too. So this is just Part A to the poem. Baby steps today, but an important one for Leesie.

Today is the final day to vote in the Goodreads Choice Award. I'm trying hard not to think about it or I'll go crazy! Thanks again for all your support.


LEESIE’S MOST PRIVATE CHAPBOOK

Sunday.
Church.
Michael holds the silver
bread tray for me until
I take
a tiny white crumble
and put it in my mouth.

I chew slowly, waiting
for a lightening bolt
to fry me in my seat.
I close my eyes, feel
Michael’s fingers winding
around mine.

Did You know he would
be such a miracle?
The heavens don’t answer.
I’m left to ponder until it’s
time for the water.

I don’t hesitate at this
second emblem of renewal.
I feel it washing me inside
as it trickles down my throat.

Michael senses success,
squeezes my hand.
He cares so much
that I find my way
back to the Savior
he doesn’t
admit exists.

Is he pretending?
Is this all show for me—
so I can get that crutch
back under me?

I want it to be
as real as the intensity
his eyes reveal
when he catches mine
and smiles.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chapter 26 - Michael's turn

Yikes! I think tomorrow is the last day to vote in the Goodreads Choice Awards poll. It ends 12/30, but I'm not sure if that means midnight or the contest closes as soon as it becomes 12/30. The giveaways work like that latter. I feel like I should be doing something else, but I've written to everyone in the universe. I don't want to get annoying. So many bloggers have thrown their support my way. ANWA got it in their December newsletter, and SCBWI came through with a great blurb in Expressions Online. If you can think of anyone in your galaxy you haven't cajoled into voting for SING ME TO SLEEP, you've still got 36-48 hours. Thanks for holding my hand through this. And making it happen. It's the first time my work has been recognized in any way. I'm still in shock and still grateful.

Here's a good step forward. Enjoy!



CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

MICHAEL’S DIVE LOG – VOLUME 10
Dive Buddy: Leesie           
Date:  06/25
Dive #:
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site:
Weather Condition:
Water Condition:
Depth:  
Visibility: 
Water Temp: 
Bottom Time:  
Comments:

            I lucked out. It’s slow today. The new kayak I ordered is in at the scuba shop. Aunty Jaz’s nurse comes Thursday afternoon. Which all adds up to me and Leesie paddling out to the mini wall just off Turtle Reef. Jaz lives in West Bay. Close to here where I certified to free dive as a kid. North Wall is close, too. Great diving. Too bad I’m down in East End, but we’ll make it work. I bought a car.  It’s cool.
            Okay, I lied. I’m doing all the paddling. Leesie’s facing me instead of turned around in paddle ready form. She’s lying back on the rugged black nylon the boat’s made out of, eyes closed, fingers trailing in the water.
            I hold the paddle so it drips on her face.
            Her eyes open. “Are we there yet.” She wipes the drops from her face.
            “No.”
            Her eyes close again. “When can we go swimming?”
            “Can we talk first?” We haven’t talked alone much since she moved to Aunty Jaz’s.
            “I’m hot.” She sits up and drops her head on my shoulder.
            I lower my paddle. “Let’s swim then.”
            She hits the water before I can even stow my paddle. I hand her fins, snorkel and mask. “Babe, you gotta wear this stuff. You’re in the ocean.”
            She takes them and smiles. “Have I told you I love you?”
            “Not today.” I slide into the water and kiss her.
            She pushes me away. “That’s so dangerous.”
            “I know.” I hook one arm on the kayak and watch her. “I’ll be good.”
            Her face gets bleak. “I’m not worried about you.”
            “You’re going to flip out and attack me?”
            That coaxes a faint smile. “Yeah. Brace yourself.”
            I maneuver the kayak between us. “How’s this?”
            She hooks her elbows over her side and stares across at me with her chin propped on her fists. “Perfect.”
            “How’s it going, babe? All that stuff Pres. Bodden told you to do?”
            “Okay, I guess.”
            I frown at her. “You didn’t eat the sacrament thing Sunday.”
            “You saw?”
            “Pres. B said you should.”
            Her eyes explore the bottom of the boat. “I know. I need to do it, but I’m scum. It felt wrong.”
            “Hey.” I lift her chin. “Why?”
            “I listened to the wrong voice.” Her masked eyes search for mine. “I felt horrible that I didn’t take it. This Sunday for sure I will. Will you drive us again?”
            “Of course.” I rest my hand on her shoulder.
            “It’s not too boring?”
            I squeeze her arm. “How’s the other stuff going?”
            She inhales deeply, slips her mask up. “I emailed Krystal yesterday. I haven’t heard back. That’s the last apology I can think of.”
            I slip my mask up, too. “What about all that praying?” I stroke her cheek.
            She leans against my hand. “I’m doing that, too.”
            “President Bodden said I should help with that.”
            “It’s okay, Michael.” She slips from my touch. “I can handle it. I know all this stuff makes you uncomfortable.”
            I don’t know what to say to that. Am I relieved? Or upset that she’s blocking me out from it? I pull myself into the kayak and help her back in. She picks up her paddle. We paddle in sync a few minutes up-current along the mini-wall to a good free-diving spot. I rest my elbows on my paddle and lean forward so I can whisper to Leesie. “It doesn’t.”
            She cranes her neck around. “What?”
            I stroke her wet, velvet head. “Your church stuff. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable anymore.”
            She bows her head.
            I wrap my arms around her. “You’re praying right now, aren’t you?”
            “Just saying thanks.” She cups my face in her hand.
            “Let me hear.”
            She twists to face me, takes hold of my hands and bows her head again. “Dear Heavenly Father, Thank Thee for Michael.”
            I rest my forehead against hers. “That’s what you pray?”
            “All day. Every day. 24/7.”
            Then we get in the water, and I feel like everything is slow motion. Breathing down for a free dive, falling through the water to the wall, floating with a couple angel fish, kicking my huge free dive fins back up to Leesie. It’s like a dream. My mom is there all around me—in every drop of water, every smile Leesie gives me, every ray of sunshine that lights the ocean we dive through.
            I get Leesie to try a few free dives. She’s awful at it.—can’t hold her breath. She tries, though. We stay out on the wall until I’m almost too tired to paddle back in.
            When we get to Aunty Jaz’s, I corner her on the porch while Leesie’s changing. “How do I know that what I feel is what you guys say it is? It feels like my mom. You know she died?”
            Aunty Jaz shakes her head. “I’m sorry, sweet boy.” She pats my knee.
            “Me, too. What Leesie says is your Holy whatever feels to me like whispers from my mom. I know that’s real. Why should I believe the way you guys explain it?”
            Aunty Jaz hands me a Book of Mormon she was reading before I sat down beside her. “Turn to the back. It’s marked.” She leans across me, flips the pages to a couple underlined verses.
            It says if someone reads the book and asks God about it, He’ll tell him if it’s true. “That’s it?” I look up at her. “I just have to pray?” That’s kind of their answer for everything.
            Aunty Jaz grins and winks at me. “Read that book and pray.”
            I close it up and hand it back to her.
            She pushes it to me. “You keep it. My gift.”
            “Are you sure?”
            “Of course.”
            I put it away before Leesie comes back out.
            Read the book and pray.
            How hard can that be?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chapter 25 - Part 2 Kim's back!

Did you all have a Merry Christmas? It's been great to have our college kids home. They've been having such a good time together. I love this week in between Christmas and New Year's, don't you? It's kind of a limbo time with the kids out of school and no big holidays to plan. A nice time to rest and relax. This year we're staying at home with the family instead of traveling. I'm glad. Phoenix weather is perfect while everywhere else it's a blizzard. I hope you are all safe, warm, and cozy!

Make yourself a big mug of hot cocoa. Here's a nice, juicy chat with Kim full of lots of information to finish off Chapter 25! Enjoy.


LEESIE HUNT / CHATSPOT LOG / 06/23/2010  3:17 PM

Kimbo69 says:  You moved away from all those beautiful boys before I could come visit?
Leesie327 says:  Poor Mark. Do you drool like this when he’s around?
Kimbo69 says: We have a mutual agreement about eye candy.
Leesie327 says:  You’ll love Aunty Jaz.
Kimbo69 says:  Why do they call her that?
Leesie327 says:  Her name is Jasmine—like the flower.
Kimbo69 says:  Does she smell good?
Leesie327 says:  Michael thinks it’s a sign from his mom. She used to wear gardenia perfume. It’s like one tropical flower to another.
Kimbo69 says:  He’s getting as crazy as you are.
Leesie327 says: He took us to church Sunday. I didn’t even ask. All the sudden there he was in front Jaz’s shack, honking the horn of a used car he just bought because the 4X4 he’d rented was too hard for Aunty Jaz to get into. He wore a brand new white shirt and that Valentino tie I Ebayed for him when I made him go to that dance with me.
Kimbo69 says: He went to church with you?
Leesie327 says:  It took both of us to get Aunty Jaz in the front seat of the car. It was worth it, though. She was so excited to be going to church again. She used to take a bus. Can’t now with her foot.
Kimbo69 says: Is her house really a shack?
Leesie327 says:  Pretty much. There’s running water, a real toilet, electricity—no AC. We spend a lot of time on the porch.
Kimbo69 says:  How sick is she?
Leesie327 says: I have to make sure she eats and gets her insulin shot. We test her sugar, too. The nurse came Friday, and I helped her change the bandages on Jaz’s foot—it’s bad.
Kimbo69 says:  I’d hurl.
Leesie327 says:  I’m tougher than you.
Kimbo69 says: It soulds like you like this stuff.
Leesie327 says:  I do. I’ve got something to do other than flail myself with guilt over the accident or fantasize myself crazy about Michael.
Kimbo69 says:  You’ve stopped fantasizing about Michael?
Leesie327 says:  I’m trying—it’s not that easy.
Kimbo69 says: No fantasizing? That’s not healthy.
Leesie327 says: I’ve got to repent.
Kimbo69 says: Even your thoughts?
Leesie327 says: Yeah. That’s the hardest part. He walks into the room, and I have to start all over again. Let those thoughts go wild, and it’s hard to get rid of them.
Kimbo69 says:  I’ll never figure you out.
Leesie327 says:  It’s not such a mystery. If I can’t sleep with him, it makes it worse if I’m constantly thinking about it. Duh.
Kimbo69 says: Are you still getting married?
Leesie327 says:  I hope by the end of the summer like we planned. I’m never giving him his ring back. He’s stuck with me.
Kimbo69 says: That doesn’t sound too definite. What’s wrong?
Leesie327 says:  Nothing. I have to go home first—he promised my dad.
Kimbo69 says:  Can you do that now?
Leesie327 says:  I’ve been on the phone with my parents every day since that first call. I think I’ll be ready. I have to be ready. So we can get married.
Kimbo69 says: So is Michael pretty stoked? It’s what he wants, isn’t it?
Leesie327 says: We’re not talking about it. There’s still one big complication.
Kimbo69 says: You’re still holding the Mormon stuff against him?
Leesie327 says: That doesn’t matter to me anymore. I just want him.
Kimbo69 says:  Tell him then.
Leesie327 says:  I tried—and I choked on the words.
Kimbo69 says:  He deserves this, Leesie. Don’t be such a wimp.
Leesie327 says:  I know. I know.
Kimbo69 says:  How often do you get to see him?
Leesie327 says: He drives all the way over here every night after work. Hangs out until midnight and then goes back to East End. That’s a lot of driving.
Kimbo69 says: I’d call it devotion.
Leesie327 says:  Aunty Jaz told me her husband got baptized twenty years after they got married. I’d wait that long for Michael—I would.
Kimbo69 says:  What if he never gets baptized?
Leesie327 says:  He brought me back. He must believe a tiny bit.
Kimbo69 says:  He knows you need it—that doesn’t mean he believes it.
Leesie327 says:  I know. That’s why I’m too afraid to even bring it up. After all we’ve been though, I can’t risk offending him.
Kimbo69 says: You’ve got to talk to him.
Leesie327 says: I think I’m going to watch and wait. Nothing else feels right.
Kimbo69 says:  That’s it?
Leesie327 says:  And pray.
Kimbo69 says:  Pray?
Leesie327 says: Pray.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chapter 25! Meet Aunty Jaz

Merry Christmas! I'll be posting again Monday, December 27. I'll miss everybody. I hope this is enough to get you through the weekend. I'll be checking back for comments when I can sneak away from wrapping presents.

Hugs and love to you all. You've given me an incredible gift I can never repay. Your support on this journey means so much to me. I treasure every comment. Thank you.

Okay, here's what you've been waiting for . . . meet Aunty Jaz. I dreamed her up years ago when I first thought of writing a sequel to TAKEN BY STORM. It's cool to finally put her on paper.



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

LEESIE’S MOST PRIVATE CHAPBOOK
POEM # ??

Michael drives me to a world
I didn’t know existed on Cayman.
Narrow roads, no sidewalks.
Cinder block walls, corrugated
metal roofs, wire fences.
Fat chickens and skinny dogs.
Laundry outside drying on lines
strung from trees, baking
in the hot Cayman sun.

No manicured resort lawns
and tropical gardens. No beach,
no sand, no ocean.
Jungle-like growth encroaching
each habitation, green upon green
punctuated by scarlet bougainvillea
in rampant profusion climbing
telephone poles, fence gates,
houses and engine-less cars
rusting in the front yards.
Dusty black children play
in the dirt.

Aunty Jazz’s fish shack is truly
a shack. Vines entangle the tiny
structure as if they’ll pull it apart.
Pres. X told us she lives
in rooms behind it.

Michael parks in front.
“Are you sure, babe?”
He looks up and down the street. 
“This part of the island
isn’t what you’re used to.”
A rooster struts across the road.
“I come from a farm full of pigs.
My grandma had chickens.”
He frowns, uncomfortable.
“But every body here is—”
“Poor?”
“A different color.”
I frown right back.
“That shouldn’t matter.”
His hand rests on my head.
“I’m not leaving you here
until I know you’re safe.”
I lean over and kiss him.
“Deal.”
I climb out, and a small boy
with a huge dog calls from across
the street. “Aunty Jaz is sick.
No fish, lady.”
I cross the street and pat
the mutt’s head. “Hi, I’m Leesie.
I’m Aunty Jaz’s friend.”
His lower lip juts out.
“How come I never see you before?”
The dog growls.
I recall my hand. “I’m a new friend.”
“I thought so.”

Michael won’t unload my bags
until we check things out.
We pause in front at windows
secured with heavy wooden shutters
painted yellow and purple.
And a locked pink door.
“Around back,” the boy yells.

“Keep behind me.”
Michael shields me with his body,
quietly creeping, in case
we’re attacked
by—
the two large, laughing women
we find on a screened porch.

“Don’t make me laugh, sister,”
the gray-haired one shrieks,
“it hurts my foot.”
“Laughing hurts your foot?”
“Everything hurts my foot.”
They see Michael and stop.
“Aunty Jaz?”
She frowns. “The restaurant’s closed
boy.”
I step out from behind Michael.
“Pres. X sent us.”
Her hands flap up and down.
“Mercy, where’s my manners?
You’ll be Sis. Hunt?”
I can’t help but smile back at her.
“Leesie, please. Can I call you
Aunty Jaz?”
“Only if you come right here”—
she holds open her arms—
“and give this old soul a kiss.”

The other sister opens the screen
door wide, beams and nods.
I got right up to Aunty Jaz,
lean over, and kiss her sunken cheek.
She hugs me to her ample bosom.
Her eyes move from the ring
on my finger to Michael and back
to me. “I bet you got a good story for me.”
“Leesie’s a poet.”
Michael stands in the doorway.
“You don’t say.” She moves
over so I can sit beside her
on the sagging couch.
“I’ll be having that after dinner then.”
A void in my soul makes my head droop.
“I can’t. It’s all lost.”
Aunty Jaz’s shoulders heave up and down.
“Write me more then—after dinner.”

“Excuse me.” Michael disappears,
returns with my bags, pulls
a packet of scrawl covered scraps
from an outside pouch I didn’t notice
when I unpacked.
“It’s not gone.”
He places the scribbles in my lap.
“I’ll leave you the laptop.”
I pick the bundle up, stare at it—
unbelieving, jump up and hug him.
“So I can stay?” I whisper.
He nods. “I have a good feeling about this.”
He turns to Aunty Jaz. “My dad loved
your fish fry. Do I get a kiss, too?”
Aunty Jaz grins and puckers her lips.
Michael kisses her cheek like I did.
She kisses him back. “Sit down, boy.
Sit down and we’ll have us a visit."
He perches on the arm of the couch.
She grasps his young, strong hand 
in her ancient one. "I have a good 
feeling about you, too."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chapter 24- The Big Finish

Yay! I made it. I know you're all busy getting ready for Christmas, traveling, running around doing great things for people and probably don't even have time to check in today, but in case you do, in case you be broken-hearted if I don't get this post up, I finally got a chance to break away and pull this scene together.

It was fun chatting last night on Twitter. We'll have to do it again. I feel like we chat every day here on the blog. But live back and forth is a different experience. Let me know if you're interested and I'll schedule another live Tweet.

Tomorrow will be my last post before Christmas. I hope you're all getting ready for a wonderful holiday.  I'll be back next Monday, December 27th--but we'll discover Aunty Jaz together tomorrow, before I leave you.


MICHAEL’S DIVE LOG – VOLUME 10
Dive Buddy: Leesie           
Date:  06/18
Dive #:
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site:
Weather Condition:
Water Condition:
Depth:  
Visibility: 
Water Temp: 
Bottom Time:  
Comments:

            Leesie wants one of those blessings things like her dad and Jaron did back in the hospital before I take  her to Aunty Jaz’s. All the sudden she’s moving in with a sick old lady. Aunty Jaz's fish shack was my dad’s favorite place to eat on the island. A dump from the outside, but the best fish—spicy and moist. It’s sad she had to close the place. The woman’s a perfect stranger to Leesie. But the way her and Pres. X talk about Aunty Jaz, she really is an aunty. Sister this and Brother that. I got sort of used to that when I was in Provo before Christmas last year, but it still sounds weird. Especially, Brother Walden. That sounds the weirdest of all.
            I don’t mind slowing down. Making sure Leesie thinks this through. If this blessing gives her a chance to do that cool. I’m curious to watch it again.
            Pres. X invites a second dude to join us. This guy is short, sunburned, mostly bald with a buzzed blonde fringe. He smiles at Leesie, runs his hand over his head. “I like your 'do.” He speaks with a British accent. He and Pres X make quite the odd couple.
            “This is Bro. Y.” Pres. X’s eyes rest on my face. “He’ll assist.”
            Bro. Y has a silver cylinder on his key chain just like Jaron did. I feel totally useless. If he was here, he could do this for Leese—instead of these strangers—brothers or not.
            Bro. Y opens the cylinder. “This is olive oil, like they had at the time of Christ, that has been consecrated”—he notices the puzzled frown creasing my forehead—“blessed for the healing of the sick.”
            “She isn’t sick.”
            Bro. Y and Pres. X stand on either side of Leesie’s chair. Pres. X grasps the back of it. “Physically, she is well. But spiritually . . . ”
            Leesie whispers, “I’ve got a long way to go.” She closes her eyes.
            “Can I stay?”
            “Please do, Brother Walden.”
            Bro. Y puts a drop of oil on Leesie’s head. He and Pres. X place their hands on her head, too. Bro. Y says a few rapid words I don’t catch, their hands lift off her head a beat and then rest down again.
            “Leesie Marie Hunt.” Pres. X’s rich Caymanian accent fills the room. “By the power of the Holy Melchezedick priesthood which we hold, we place our hands on your head and give you a blessing. . . . ”
            The rest is intimate, personal, holy. I don’t feel right writing it down. I couldn’t if I tried. He blessed her with health, strength, and the power to conquer temptation. Does that mean me or just sinning with me? I get a strong impression that it doesn’t mean me.
            He says stuff about the accident and Phil. Her family loving her. God loving her.
            And then he says, “You’ve found the love of a valiant son of God. Cherish that love. Build upon it. Eternal happiness can be yours.” My first thought is he’s talking about Jaron. Dump this jerk and get home to your destiny. Then a powerful force hits me in the heart, and I know that it’s me. Pres. X is calling me that. A son of God. Valiant. Me?
            I don’t recall anything else in the blessing after that.
Leesie can be eternally happy with me? I didn’t think that was possible. I thought I was against all the rules—even if we got married.
            I can’ t marry you if you’re not a Mormon. How many times has that echoed in my mind since I proposed the first time, and she threw my ring back at me? That’s not fair. She cried. It hurt her as much as it hurt me.
            What’s changed now?
            What’s so different?
            That power speaking to my heart whispers--
            You. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chapter 24 - Part 2 What will Leesie do?

Merry Christmas week! I hope some of you can join me on Twitter @liv2writ today, December 21, either at 4:00-4:30 PM MST (two hours from now!) or 9:00-9:30 PM MST. Add #liv2writ to each Tweet so we can all see your questions and comments. This is my first one solo, so I'm kind of nervous. If you're not into tweeting, you can follow my comments via my FaceBook wall. I'll try to respond to all of you! I hope some of you can make it. If it works, we'll try it again.

Here's today's post. I'm finally answering questions. I think. 

I'm a hero's journey writer. The final leg of a hero's journey story is called "The Return" when the hero returns home in triumph and uses his new skills to set things right there (think of Frodo and Sam in LOTR) or the hero ventures further into the special world and uses their new skills to vanquish a bigger, badder evil--or find true love--or both! I like to write fairly lengthy returns. My editor was an Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 girl. She didn't quite know what to make of my return sequence at the end. She thought it was an Act 4. Act 4's aren't allowed. 

With TAKEN BY STORM, I ended up cutting Michael and Leesie's trip to Florida (Michael's return home and Leesie's venture deeper into Michael's world) from a full week of Spring Break to three short days. But she let me have my return, in SING ME TO SLEEP. She still thought it was an Act 4, but decided it worked. If I ever have another editor (and I hope I do!), I'll hold firm for those returns. 

I am the worst plotter in the universe. The hero's journey has helped immensely. I did read Campbell (THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES, etc.) but highly recommend Christopher Vogler's application in THE WRITER'S JOURNEY.  If I had to choose only one writing book to take me with to a deserted island, it would be that. No question. 

I'm so excited. This poem launches Leesie and Michael into the return. Which direction do you think it will go? Back home? Or deeper into Grand Cayman?

LEESIE’S MOST PRIVATE CHAPBOOK
POEM #??,

Hesitation clutches my stomach
before I enter Pres. X’s office.
Does lost Leesie lurk in the corner
where Grandma and Phil’s heaven sent
light left her licking her wounds
and planning a counter offensive
to retake my soul at dawn’s first light?

Michael guides me through the door—
my buffer, my strength, my love.
The room feels sweet, inviting, holy.
I whisper a prayer of thanks as I sit.
The Spirit washes over me in healing
waves. Slowly, slowly. It whispers. Go slowly.

Michael reports my phone call home.
He knows I can’t speak of it without sobbing.
I stood in the shower for a half hour
last night before I stopped crying enough to sleep.
President X leans forward, hands clasped,
eyes concerned. “Are you leaving us then, Sis Hunt?”
He sounds disappointed?
“My dad said I can stay if I need to.”
I swallow and sniff, blink watery eyes.
President X smiles. “The Lord works
in mysterious ways.”
Michael doesn’t understand. “I can take
her home whenever she wants to go.
She’s known that from the start.”
“I appreciate that.” Pres. X’s voice calms the water.
“I have an opportunity for Sister Hunt
to consider.”
I sit up straight and try to focus.
“Like a place to stay?”
“Like a job?” Michael chimes
in at the same time.

His mouth splits into a welcome
grin. “Let’s call it a service project.”
Michael frowns back at him.
“That’s what she called me.”

“A sister in the branch—
we all call her Aunty Jaz—”
Michael’s eyebrows shoot up.
“Aunty Jaz is a Mormon?”
“You’ve had her fish?” Pres. X closes
his eyes to savor a succulent memory.
Michael does the same. Inhales a phantom
scent. “It’s the best.”

The story unfolds—
Hot oil. Burned foot. Blisters.
Bad infection. Diabetic. Not healing.
Released from the hospital but needs
help round the clock. LDS sisters
from the branch
have taken turns all week.
Her daughter in the states
just had twins. Her son on
Cayman is court-ordered
to keep his distance.
Fish shack closed. No money
coming in now for weeks.
“We’re looking after her rent
and food, but hiring a companion
is beyond what we can do.”

I sit up tall, straight, feel the Lord’s
hand redeeming my life.
“I can do it. I can. I looked after
my grandmother.”
Pres. X holds his hands up,
slow down, girl, slow down.
“You’ll have to cook and clean.
She does have a nurse
stop in to dress the wound
and bathe her.”
“Yes, yes, yes, please let me try.”
I’ve wallowed in guilt day after day
week after week, months now.
I can serve, Lord. I can.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

“Are you sure, Leese?”
Michael’s hand rests on my knee.
I nod. So sure.
His eyes turn to Pres. X.
“What about the son?
Will she be safe?”
“Aunty Jaz hasn’t heard
from him in two years.”
How sad. Poor Aunty.
If not for Michael—that could be me.
Estranged forever. But now I’m released.

“You should pray about it, Sis. Hunt.”
I make a strange sound halfway
between a laugh and a sob.
“I already did. I’m ready now.
But, first, President, will
you give me a blessing?”
I need Michael to see this,
to feel this,
to know the power
he’s brought back into my life.

Pres. X blinks his eyes.
“Of course, Sis. Hunt.
I’d be honored.”


Monday, December 20, 2010

CHAPTER 24 - Part 1

Christmas is in five days! Yikes. I'm never ready, but this year--between keeping up daily posts here--and the wonderful, shocking, overwhelming news that SING ME TO SLEEP was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award, I'm more behind than ever. Don't worry, though. Short post today. I'm heading out shopping with my boys. I have to admit, if I couldn't shop online, nothing much would get bought.

I hope to see all of you tomorrow at my first solo live Tweet Chat. I'm going to try to use Tweetdeck so my comments will post to my FaceBook wall, too. Comment there if you want to join in but are anti-Tweet! Otherwise, come join the fun. 4:00-4:30 PM MST and 9:00-9:30 PM. Follow me @ liv2writ and add #liv2writ to every tweet so everyone following can see your questions. Come with lots of questions. I'm looking forward to it.

Okay. Short Michael Dive log--partly because I need to go Christmas shopping and partly because this is a rest in between poems for Leesie. She needs to narrate the scene with Pres. X (that poor guy--I need to name him!), so Michael gets a turn here. I want his reaction to the phone call anyways.


CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

MICHAEL’S DIVE LOG – VOLUME 10
Dive Buddy: Leesie           
Date:  06/17
Dive #:
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site:
Weather Condition:
Water Condition:
Depth:  
Visibility: 
Water Temp: 
Bottom Time:  
Comments:

            Everyone else is asleep when Leesie slides back open the balcony door. I’m awake in my cot. I whisper, “Babe,” get up, trip over Ethan. He curses me, rolls over, and farts.
            This could be Leesie’s last night. For all I know, her parents want her to get on a plane tomorrow and go home.  I’ll quit, go with her. They okay here with Dani back. I hate to bail and leave them short-handed, but Leesie comes first. And maybe if I take her home, it’ll get me a little on her parents’ good side. I did call her dad—and he was grateful—but I also stole their daughter. Do they understand why I did it? What did Leesie tell them?
            And then there’s Mr. Branch President dude. Who knows what crazy stuff he’s got in line. Probably, same idea. An airline ticket home. Best I can imagine is an apartment I can rent for her. A marriage license? If he insists, I’m not going to debate it. Not any more. It’s out of my hands. It’s all up to her now.
            I reach Leesie. She’s pretty much drenched in tears and other facial fluid. “You okay?”
            She holds her hands out for me and starts crying again. I step out into the warm night air on the balcony. “Hey, hey, hush now. I’m here.” I fold her up in my arms. “Are they making you come home?”
            Her voice squeaks through her tears. “Dad says I can stay here as long as we need to.”
            I close my eyes, don’t want to say this. “I can take you home tomorrow. Just say the word.”
            A shudder moves through her body. “Let’s talk to Pres. X first.”
            “Does your dad have a shot gun? Or that razor knife. Is he buying new blades?”
            She shakes her head—trying to remember. “He said something really sweet about calling you, ‘son.’”
            “He always does that.”
            “He meant it different this time.”
            I rest my lips on her silky soft head. “What does that mean?”
            She bites her trembling lip. “I think it means you can’t get rid of me no matter what.”
            “Even if I’m not a Mormon?”
“My dad’s got a lot of faith.” She sniffs and loses it again.
I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. So far—it’s all good. “Were they angry?” I sit on the chaise lounge and pull her down beside me.
            She shakes her head and speaks into my shoulder. “We were all devastated together.”
            I stroke her head. “You’ve been holding all that in.”
            “It’s coming out now.” She wipes her hand down her face. “All over you.”
            I squeeze her. “Any time, babe.”
            “24/7?”
            “If that’s what it takes.”
            “I don’t deserve you.”
            “I don’t deserve you.”
            “No way we’re even.”
            I kiss her nose. “Don’t worry. I’ll collect.”
            “Michael!” She slugs my arm.
            I love every note of her protest. I kiss her to make sure. All her old barriers are back up. “Freak.” I rub my face against hers. “You’re back. You’re really back.”