Tag Archives: story

My Prima Dreams by Dennis De Rose

Thank you, author and editor Dennis De Rose for responding to last Wednesday’s Visual Writing Prompt. Your story was vivid and alive, I’m happy to be sharing it here! He’s happy to hear any feedback so comments are welcome!

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My Prima Dreams

… by Dennis De Rose

Bonjour mes amies, have you got a moment? Let me tell you a little story. My name is Mathilda and I am not what I used to be…

It was 1945 and the Big War had just ended. I remember the American soldiers freeing us from those German war dogs. That’s what my Maman called them. All these years later I am still haunted by my memories: looking out my bedroom window, seeing mothers and their children shot and killed or reduced to bits of bloody flesh thanks to German Sprengebombes, so many falling from the sky. I would go to bed shaking and wake up still cringing under my covers. I was only ten years old.

I will never forget the day Maman told me we were going to take a little walk, just a few streets down from our home. After lunch she bundled me up, grabbed a small bag from the floor and we began our little journey, I remember looking around, seeing people who appeared to be dazed as if they were looking for something that should be there but wasn’t anymore. The Americans were busy moving huge blocks of stone with giant growling machines. Ladies in uniform were handing out water in metal containers and sandwiches wrapped in heavy brown paper while talking to the lost ones, trying their best to comfort them. One of the ladies smiled at me and gave me a piece of bread and cheese. That little act of kindness will be etched in my memory forever.

Oh that building, it was like a giant stone masterpiece with its huge arches, two winged angels looked down on me from maybe 500 feet, at least that’s what I saw when I looked up. The golden façade nearly blinded me. And when we stepped inside it took my breath away. The Grand Foyer was magnificent, mirrors everywhere, parquet floors, sculptures and paintings, colored marble all around.

Maman had enrolled me in the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris and we were inside the Palais Garnier, a monument dedicated to producing the best opera and ballet worldwide. You see, Maman knew I had my heart set on becoming the best ballerina ever, she had watched me as I pirouetted through the halls, dressed in my pink tutu. But I did not know I would be staying here for a very long time, only allowed to see my Papa and my Maman every Sunday.

I kissed Maman on the cheek. She handed me the cloth bag and Mme. Carlotta showed me to my tiny room on the very top floor. She had a grumpy face and she was very quiet. Quiet people make me nervous; they cannot be trusted. The room was dusty and very hot, too hot for winter. Looking around, which didn’t take long, I spied a small rickety bed, a wooden chair in need of serious repair, a little beat-up wooden table, an old desk light with a funny looking bulb in it and a clay pot under the bed. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the dust motes flying all around. The one saving grace was the small dirty window that actually opened so I could see outside and get some fresh air.

The hot air in the room, my room now, made me tired so I decided to nap; I hadn’t slept well the night before. A sharp knock at the door shocked me to attention. Opening the door, I expected to see the sour Mme. Carlotta. The lady gestured and mentioned her name, Mlle. Yvette. I followed her down a set of backstairs and into a small poorly-lit dining room.

Our first meal was not gourmet, a bowl of warm thin soup, a crust of bread, a slice of goat cheese and a small glass of watery wine. Mlle. Yvette sat at one end and Mme. Carlotta was seated at the other. Suddenly, it struck me, no one was talking. I raised my hand to ask a question and before I could utter one word, my fingers were whacked with a long narrow stick courtesy of Mlle. Yvette. I cannot tell you what I was thinking, it was very unladylike. If my Maman ever heard me say those words I would have soap in my mouth before I could blink an eye.

Another sharp bang on my door, and I was awake at 6AM the following day. Fifteen minutes later we were seated at the same table drinking weak coffee and eating a slice of stale bread with butter and a slice of the same goat cheese. It looked moldy but I dared not utter a peep. Without a word spoken, Mme. Carlotta grabbed me by the hand and yanked me toward a small closet on the other side of the room. She glanced at me as she opened the door. I remember thinking she might be going to shove me inside and lock the door. Instead, she handed me a dirty white tutu and an old pair of pointe shoes, obviously one size too small, while gesturing toward a screened-in alcove.

My first day of beginner instruction and it continued until 10 that night with only two short breaks in between. I found out the hard way that my pirouette was a disaster, my plie was horrendous and my pointe work was shoddy at best. Over time, my grand plie, my demi-plie and my pointe work improved.

Let me rest. I need something to drink. All this reminiscing is making me thirsty. Now where did I put that bottle of Dom Perignon? Here it is. Half a glass, there we go. You know, I have to laugh. We French must be in love with the letter P, so many ballet words begin with that letter. How funny is that?

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the second day things started to look up. I made a friend, very quietly I might add. Violette Verdy was a third year student and at the top of her class. She was blonde to my black and tall to my short. Maybe she felt sorry for me but we became friends and I never questioned her motives. She was the Ying to my Yang. We became inseparable, on the sly of course.

You know, from that day on, my tutu seemed cleaner, my shoes no longer pained me and the long hours didn’t seem as long as before. But the food was still substandard, nothing could fix that. I felt lighter on my feet and my dancing improved (Violette worked with me afterhours up on the roof). But don’t tell Mme. Carlotta or Mlle. Yvette, that’s our secret. My room was still hot and dusty but I found out Violette was no better off.

I saw Maman and Papa every Sunday and I would show them what I had learned. We talked about the school and my new friend, Violette. But I never complained about what went on at school or during classes. They laughed when I told them the students had a nickname… Les Petite Rats. Maman was such a good cook but when she asked me what we were eating I would change the subject.

In 1950, Violette graduated at the top of her class and was given the coveted title of Prima Ballerina. I graduated from Intermediate two years later, dancing in several shows in and around Paris until I met my future husband, Michel, a pastry chef. By that time, Violette was touring all over Europe but we still kept in touch by post. We spent as much time as we could together whenever she was performing in and around Paris.

Violette gave up dancing in 1965 when she married Charles, a famous singer, and settled on the outskirts of Paris (I remember teasing Violette because Charles was five years younger). Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris was looking to replace Mme. Carlotta and Mlle. Yvette due to their age and less than desirable disposition. Violette was a welcomed addition to the staff. In her free time, she often played with our three children, Mireille, Michelle and Michel Jr. Violette and Charles never had any children of their own.

Time flies when you’re having fun, that’s what they say. After my children were grown and had families of their own I decided to do something else after helping for years in our bakery. I never forgot that little dusty room and how it bothered me so much. I spoke to Michel and we agreed that I should clean houses to help me pass the time. We didn’t need the money. A few years later Michel sold the bakery.

I’m ready for another glass of wine. When I think about it, I have done quite a bit in my life. The love of my life, Michel, passed away eight years ago but we were happily married for almost 60 years. Violette, God bless her, died one month after my Michel. Luckily, Charles is still around and we spend quite a bit of time together. He still sings like he’s 30 and he fills my days with joy as we sit around remembering the “old” days.

Say, it’s been awfully nice chatting with you. I have to rush off. Charles is meeting me at the old bakery (I still get a discount). I’m not what I used to be but I’m happy.

Bon soir!

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Dennis is a wonderful storyteller and a good friend. See below for links to his other writing and his editing business.

Must Have Writing Tools for Story Outlining

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Tools and Templates for Your Story Outline

As a writer, I am a planner. I am a huge fan of outlining a story or book and find the process extremely enjoyable.

Brainstorming

Planning your book with a story outline is a great way to break it down into small writing goals, each with a focused idea.

What I love about brainstorming an outline: I can think up an idea, break it down into major scenes, and get an overall feel for the story I’m wanting to write. I can follow a general story arch and make sure that my major scenes are occurring where they need to. It’s a fun exercise that allows me to see the whole story idea come together before a word of it is actually written.


Tools

Scrivener is the number one tool writers use to write their books. It has great options for storyboarding/outlining. It formats your book for uploading to your publisher. Go check out everything this program has to offer. Honestly, if you don’t have Scrivener, I strongly suggest you make the investment. Below is my affiliate link.

Buy Scrivener for Windows (Regular Licence)

If you have Scrivener, another great tool you may want to try is Scapple. Scapple is an easy-to-use tool for getting ideas down as quickly as possible and making connections between them. It isn’t exactly mind-mapping software—it’s more like a freeform text editor that allows you to make notes anywhere on the page and to connect them using straight dotted lines or arrows. If you’ve ever scribbled down ideas all over a piece of paper and drawn lines between related thoughts, then you already know what Scapple does. Plus, you can drag your notes right into Scrivener.


What’s Great About Outlining

  • Outlining breaks down your story idea into small enough segments that you can write about them in one sitting.
  • You can focus on one scene at a time and know where the story is heading so you can really dive into the scene with confidence.
  • You can add details concerning character development to the story arc. I actually add to my outline, about a paragraph on what’s going on in each scene, or what needs to happen, and what’s changing or coming to light with the characters.
  • You can set a milestone goal for each scene and reward yourself each time you’ve finished one. Rewarding yourself along the way will make you more apt to continue with a writing routine.

Books

Here are some great books I recommend if you’re looking to learn more about outlining.

41rtj4w2zzl-_sy346_ Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success

by K.M. Weiland

 

 


Templates

For those of you who are wanting to get started right away, here are some templates that you can post up as references to help you as you work through your outline. Although there are several different plot themes you could use and many different methods of outlining, in these templates you’ll find a basic outlining method that works well for most works of fiction. However, I highly recommend reading one or more of the books above before you begin.

*Right-click on the template to save to your computer and print. Images should print as 8.5 x 11 inch or you can choose your own printing options if you’d like them smaller.

Step One: Some basics to consider before you start your outline.

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Step Two: Some pre-outline questions that will help you get started.

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Step Three: A layout of a basic story structure for reference.

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Step Four: A story outline template with the story structure highlighted where it should appear within the story arc.

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For an eye-catching book cover design

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How to Find Your Themes

Writing fiction is about telling stories . . . but what is telling stories about?

When you tell someone a story, why are you doing this? What compels you to create lies that have about them the ring of truth; what drives you to invent people and places and events and create a context that pulls them all together and makes them seem real?

When you are creating fiction, at heart you are searching for ways to create order in the universe.

You are digging into your core beliefs on how the world works, and running imaginary people through a trial universe built on these beliefs to see how both the people and the beliefs stand up under pressure. People who write fiction tend not to accept the world at face value — in general, they are the people who always got in trouble when they were little for asking “Why?” one time too many about something that, to everyone else, seemed pretty obvious.

When you started writing fiction, you probably did so at about the same time that you discovered that not only did your parents not have all the answers to the universe, but neither did anybody else. You discovered that, if you wanted an answer to that still-nagging “Why?” you were going to have to find the answer yourself.

Writing fiction is the act of questioning the silent, unanswering infinite and demanding that the infinite cough up a reply . . . and hurry up about it, too.

It is the ultimate defiance of that stock parental response, “Because I said so.” Writing fiction is standing on the edge of the abyss of ignorance, looking across at the cliffs on the other side, and saying, “With nothing but words, I am going to build myself a bridge that takes me from here to there . . . and when I’m done, other people will be able to cross over that same bridge.” It’s an act of ultimate hubris, but of ultimate courage, too, because the abyss can eat you, and will if you slip.

So which bridges are worth building?

You can’t cover the whole abyss. You can run a thousand lines from one side to the other if you live long enough, and you won’t even cast a shadow on the voracious ignorance that lies beneath. All you can do is span the darkness with your slender threads, and build them strong enough that people can traverse them, and make them interesting enough that people will take the risk.

Which bridges are worth risking life and limb and hope and soul to create? Only those that take you to someplace you have not yet been.

And how do you decide which bridges those might be? You ask yourself the following question: To what questions in life have I not yet found a satisfactory answer?

These are some of my answers to that question:

Why do good things happen to bad people? Have you figured that one out yet? I haven’t. Why do bad things happen to good people? I’ve struggled with that one through a couple of books, and I have a couple of angles on it now, but certainly not the definitive one.

Why do we get old and die? Would living in these bodies forever be better? I’ve run with that one a couple of times now, too.

Why do we fall in love? Why do we fall out of love? Why do we hunger for the place that is just beyond the next horizon?

What is evil, and why do some people choose evil? What is good, and why do some people choose good? How are the first group of people different from the second group? How are they the same?

Is there a God, and if there is, does he or she know I’m here? And if he or she does . . . what is going on with my life?

Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? Is there anything that lies beyond the realm of this moment, this breath, this place and time? Do we have souls, and if so, what does that mean? Do we have a purpose for being here? What do we mean to each other? What constitutes living a meaningful life? What is love, and why does it matter?

These have all been my themes. Perhaps they are the same questions you have wondered about. Perhaps your curiosity and doubt run in completely different directions. In either case, your themes will define the power of your work, and its meaning not only to you but to everyone who reads it.

If you choose to work with safe themes — with questions to which you already know the answer — you’ll write safe books.

You can have a very successful career writing safe books; after all, you won’t drive too hard into the core of anyone’s comfort zone, you won’t force your readers to question the meaning of their own lives, you won’t upset yourself or anyone else by reaching conclusions you don’t like or find frightening.

But you won’t grow as a writer, either, and you’ll risk becoming bored with your characters and your stories and your work.

You can have a successful career writing about the questions you haven’t answered, too. Mark Twain, my favorite writer, is also my favorite example of a man whose themes challenged the pat answers and asked the scary questions. He was a marvelous entertainer and a brilliant raconteur . . . but he also dared to look even God in the eye and say, “This doesn’t make sense to me. Explain yourself.”

In books and short stories and articles and essays and letters, again and again he held a mirror up to the world of his day and said, “Your actions belie your words, people. Your beliefs don’t fit the facts. And your hypocrisy shames you . . . you deserve better of yourselves than to act the way you do.” He wrote with everything he had. He dared the tough themes. And now, long after his death, when his colleagues who chose to write safely are nothing but footnotes in unread texts, Mark Twain continues to talk to us. His bridges across the abyss are still strong, still in use, still vital to those who want and need to get to the places he explored.

Every writer has something to say, but those writers whose works endure have dared to say something about the things that frighten them, confuse them, challenge them, and occasionally delight them.

They have not gone across the bridges built by others. They have dared to build their own.

You can find your own themes, and add power and depth to your work by daring to explore them through fiction. You can leave a worthwhile series of bridges into unknown territory, a solid series of roads away from ignorance and into knowledge that your readers can continue to use long after you are dust. In a world that cannot offer you physical immortality, you can leave something of your spirit, your courage, your hope and your integrity behind.

Find your themes — your REAL themes — and write them. I dare you.

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by Holly Lisle

Source: http://hollylisle.com/finding-your-themes/

New Character Painting – 001

Character 001 Painted small

I started this sketch two days ago and just finished the painting this morning. I am using a new technique that makes the painting process a whole lot faster. The entire project took about six hours. I’m hoping that with this particular artistic style, I will get more commissions to do Young Adult Book Illustration.

I really like this character. I don’t really know what inspired her. I decided I was going to start drawing a new character every day to improve my skills.

I might make this painting a story prompt and give her away as a prize for the best story about her. What do you think?


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Character 001 copy small

Copyright 2015

Cover Reveals: Bold & Exciting

Michelle Rene Goodhew: illustrated book covers designed for author Susan Lattwein.

as released on:

Creative Review


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Arafura – Blood, the Wet and Tears: Nobody said the build-up would be easy. No body …

&
Arafura – Unfinished Business: Love is patient. Love is kind. Sometimes love is explosive.


I started this project with the second novel first and was asked later to redesign the first cover in the series. I began with energy and excitement because I knew I was going to try something different in my way of illustrating. Susan had requested a naval ship on the cover dressed in party lights, and this was a romance novel. How was I going to bring her story forward with these beginning ideas? And then I had a great idea, I would bring attention to the intensity of her novel through a bold play on color and my use of line.

As Susan had put it, “It’s not easy explaining what you want on a cover when you’re not sure yourself, let alone to someone on the other side of the earth, via email and not over a cup of coffee with the advantage of waving your arms around to get your point across …”


Arafura BWT 3

Working on the ‘Arafura’ books has been full of rewards. The sunset was a new venture that I started with a wax base for texture. I have never constructed a painting this way and thought it was vibrant and captured the color I was looking for. Susan responded with a request to give the clouds more definition and I’m so grateful she did. The final result is striking compared to my first draft. This is a great new style for me and I look forward to trying it again.

Arafura UB 1.5

I guess I had a good vision of the ship from nearly the beginning. I had started with a side profile and then Susan recommended the front view of the ship hoping for a more ominous feeling. I ran with that and had a clear Idea of how I wanted the colors to play on the surface of the steel. My intention was to have a bit of an abstract feel in the final piece. I thought it would allow me to really bring those bold colors forward, and I think I managed that in the end. Putting the lights on the ship was tedious but satisfying because each one just seemed to spring to life with a little glow. It was the first time I have ever attempted party lights and my technique proved successful. Joy!

I love the energy I have had while putting this together. Susan has been an amazing author to work with, she has a delightful personality with an edge of humor that really is a great combination to collaborate with. I was hoping to mirror Susan’s wit, the charm she displays in her storytelling, as well as the stories vivid depth. I hope I did it justice.


Here’s what Susan has to say about her books…

“The cover briefs were tricky to explain because I’m still not exactly sure which genre ‘Arafura – Blood, the Wet and Tears’ and the sequel ‘Arafura – Unfinished Business’ belong to. Romantic suspense/comedy/drama/action/?”


Here is her description for the first book in the Arafura series:

“Sensible schoolteacher Kat is planning to marry when her long-term fiancé finds the time. When the mysterious and damaged Adam arrives in town, Kat is jolted well out of her comfort zone. Despite her loyal intentions, a dead body and enough pre-monsoonal weather to strangle a Kat, she must wrestle with an instant attraction that is emotionally risky and absolutely, definitely fraught.”


The storyline of “Arafura – Unfinished Business” will be published by the end of October this year.

If you’re interested, Arafura – Blood, the Wet and Tears can be purchased from Amazon, or Smashwords. It’s also available at Smashwords’ global network of on-line retailers, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Angus and Robertson, Collins, Kobo, FlipKart etc.Arafura will appeal to female and male readers who enjoy quirky, witty suspense with dark edges.

Michelle Rene Goodhew
Illustrator