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Friday, November 27, 2009

Give Thanks

Today, citizens of the United States celebrate a day to be thankful for everything you have in your life. Thanksgiving was historically a religious observation where the pilgrims gave thanks to God for surviving a brutal winter, a harvest festival that expanded three days. Our modern day celebrations are compared to this meal held in 1921. Although it’s not the first official Thanksgiving in this country.

A similar harvest festival took place in 1619 at the Virginia Colony and some say it dates further back to 1565 when 600 Spanish settlers held a mass of Thanksgiving after arriving safely to St. Augustine, Florida. However, it wasn’t a harvest festival and thus, some refuse to acknowledge it as the first Thanksgiving in the New World. President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving about 200 years after the Plymouth celebration. However, it was not made an official national holiday until 1941 by Congress.

In the United States, many people will be participating the tradition of eat Turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. For those of you who are not celebrating Thanksgiving, you could always take this time to give thanks. There is always something to be thankful of: family, friends, a great writing career and a wonderful life in general. It doesn’t exactly have to be a national holiday for you to show how appreciative you are. What are some things you’re thankful for?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sinister Tales

Was it the ghosts? Or perhaps Simon found an entrance after all. Either way the noise rendered me frozen. No sound proceeded it at first. Then furniture tumbled over, sending a candle in a glass container rolling in to the hallway. The evidence mounted in Simon’s favor. Another crashing sound. Why was he in a spare bedroom? If the book was anywhere it was in Aunt Lilian’s room. He had been in this house numerous times. He should know which room was which. In effort to identify the intruder, I slowly sulked to their location.

Avoided spots I know creaked with age. Articles of clothing flew in to the hallway followed by a few mumbles. As I approached the doorway, I listened for the familiar identification. A sample of their voice. A familiar saying. Something. The person remained eerily quiet as they tore the room apart. I had to see who it was. Leaning towards the entrance, I gradually peered through. The man’s back was to me but I knew it wasn’t Simon. This man appeared inches taller and was wearing an onyx suit. Simon had blue jeans on. Not many people in this town opts for a suit, especially in this heat. Who could the man be? I looked on as he dumped the contents of drawers on to the flower. He sifted through the stuff with his foot. Disappointed, he pulled out another drawer and repeated the process.

The man refused to turn in my direction. What was he looking for? The book? If only he would show his face. I could toss something. Cause some kind of noise and get his attention. However, that would bring attention to my own location. Where were the ghosts when I needed them? I wouldn’t have to wait long. A door from below slammed shut, echoing throughout the house. The man twisted in my direction. My eyes grew wide. It was the last person I ever expected to see.

To be continued...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vocabulary for Charity

I know I’ve written concerning this before, but it’s something you can’t say enough about. National Novel Writing Month can be a stressful time. If you need something sort of fun to do and learn while donating charity, FreeRice.com is the website to visit.

American computer programmer John Breen set up FreeRice in October 2007. In March 2009, he donated it to the UN World Food Program. The premise is simple. You play a word definition game in order to help donate rice to the United Nations World Food Program. Your food donations are paid for by sponsors.

Here's how you play:

  • You’re given a word and four definition choices.
  • If you pick the right one, you donate 10 grains of rice and get a harder word. Three right answers in a row moves you up a vocabulary level.
  • If you get it wrong, you drop a vocabulary level and get an easier word. Plus you’ll get a second chance to get it right later on.
  • There are 60 vocabulary levels in all and according to the site and several subjects to choose from including math, science, and geography.

Here’s a chance to improve your vocabulary skills for your Nano novel or other projects and help feed the hunger. What is the highest vocabulary level you reached? My best is 35.

Friday, November 06, 2009

What's Your Nano?

Last year, I decided to create a personal goal for myself. The minimum daily word count is 1,667 words (when it is all broke down). I set a goal to meet that minimum everyday in November. When I crossed the 50,000 word finish line, I also achieved what I set out to do.

This time around I wanted to up the stakes. I'm still meeting the minimum but I also created my first Nano blog called Sinister Tales. The purpose was to post excerpts everyday in November. It goes along with the theme of my Nano project. I also signed up for National Blog Posting Month. This technically takes place during every month in the year but November counts the most. I saw it as an extra incentive.

Instead of doing a series of short stories, which is what I have been doing every Nano since 2007, I am writing journal entries in my main character's voice. She's a wealthy city girl who lost her high paying job. Then, her life of luxury was the next to go. She learns her aunt has died and left the house to her only niece. The girl remembers visiting her aunt as a little girl and knows the house is haunted. She decides to use this opportunity to capitalize on the situation but doesn't get what she was bargaining for. Below is the excerpt from Day 4:

"Maybe they all have. Maybe it was all one big conspiracy. It would certainly explain Simon's demeanor. Would explain a lot of things. Was the answer that simple though?

Simon was my only link to anything. I asked him if he could help clean up the place. Maybe get the screws out of the windows. He hesitated at first. Maintained the smile with obvious discomfort. He didn't want to answer the question. I assured him he didn't have to. He wasn't bound to my every need. The offer seemed to heighten his confliction. He wanted to leave but something was keeping him here. I told him if he had more pressing matters to please go and take care of it.

He stammered. Said he didn't have any appointments for the day. Offered to stay and help me in any way. His smile faded. He turned and walked to his truck. Simon pulled out a tool box and walked past me. he avoided eye contact. It was like he was blaming me for keeping him here. He took out all the screws from every window. Never argued. Didn't say much of anything. After completing one task, just asked for another.

It was like he was afraid to be idle in the house for any period of time. The more he was willing to do the faster the house would be clean and smelling better. Plus it was stuff I didn't have to do. So, I stood back and let him.

I watched as he tackled one project after another. He tried ever so hard to play it cool, but he wasn't fooling me. I know he'd rather be anywhere than in this house. I wanted to force him to drop everything and go. I didn't want to be there by myself but I couldn't make him stay. It broke my heart observing his bravery. I tried to focus on the cleaning but found it difficult. The dust and mold all made me want to vomit.

By dusk, every surface had been disinfected. Dishes washed. Refrigerator cleared of spoiled food. Sheets washed. Floors swept, mopped or vacuumed. Our hard work transformed the house in to something livable. It didn't even look like the same place. I felt quite proud of myself I did domestic work. First time in like...ever. So much accomplished with no interruptions...of any kind. The time had come.

Simon had to go back to town. I was left with the decision on whether or not I would follow. I now had a house to sleep in. We had no strange occurrences all day. Could I survive a night here...alone? I had my car. I could take comfort in that. If anything happens, I could just leave. No big deal. I had food. All the utilities were still connected. I needed to save as much money as I could. No reason not to stay. Well...there was one. But nothing happened all day. There's a chance nothing would happen tonight either.

I wasn't exactly feeling completely sure about my decision. However, I was willing to take the chance. Simon, trying to hide it, was happy to leave. I gazed at his departure. I was left to face whatever the night held for me...alone."

What personal goals have you set for yourself? What is your Nano project?