Ghost Town

September 10, 2017

Ghost Town

Walking through our town, we felt like we were in a ghost town.   The streets, normally flooded with tourists, were instead empty.

In between the bands of rain, what started as gentle winds of about 15 miles an hour began building strength.  By the time we walked from the Village Inn to the Fort, the winds were tossing waves over the seawall and shooting spray and rain into our faces like atomic arrows.

At the wooden walkway at the north edge of the Fort, we stopped to watch the ocean beat against the seawall.

Lucas spied every vehicle that slowly drove down the small river that used to be Avenida Menendez and squealed “Big truck!” or “Police truck!” (Sport utility vehicles are trucks to Lucas.)  Three or four big jacked-up trucks moved through the river.  A police SUV appeared to be patrolling.

The girls raced up the Fort’s hill.  The walkway was underwater!

We didn’t check the depth, but the people behind us with the cute black and brown dogs were wading along the walkway up to their knees!

 

We stood on the Fort hill and surveyed the area of downtown in our sight.  Outside of those few vehicles, there were only a handful of scattered walkers.  (Our party of 8 made up about 50% of the walkers.)  The beautiful city was boarded up and sandbagged.  Colorful tape blocked the few windows that didn’t have boards or shutters.

After spying water in the moat, the girls decided not to roll down the hill because of the giant “lake” of water.

So off we went toward St George Street. (Back toward the car, because now the icicle raindrops were “too hard.”  This also meant no more pictures as our camera isn’t waterproof.)

On our way back home, Rebeccah said, “Mom, that was like a real ghost tour through a ghost town.”  With that began the ideas for what will soon  be released as another in the Five Alive: Funny Sisters series!  Gale at the Ghost Town

We left praying for those who would be affected as the flooding we observed was over 12 hours before the storm’s highest winds and storm surge were to reach us – and our city wouldn’t be the hardest hit.  Hurricanes display such raw, natural power that a mere human can only stand in awe.

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

 

The Shelly Seashore

September 4, 2017

The Shelly Seashore

In Sisters at the Seashore, the Funny Sisters, Tina, Becky, Kim, Ellen, and Jill visit the seashore with Mom and Daddy.

Like the Funny Sisters’ home, this seashore is actually a real place!

As a family, we end up meeting our family at this specific beach because it’s closer to most of them.  It isn’t the girls’ favorite beach because of the tiny broken shells that replace sand as the shoreline.  They have a special nickname for it: “the shelly beach.”

Whenever we go there, these shells get everywhere!  They get stuck in between toes, in bathing suits, and I think they even use the salt as a glue to attach themselves to human bodies.  Oh, there’s a beautiful stretch of pretty white sand up to the waterline, but past that are tiny shell fragments that carpet the beach even out into the water.  One must carefully step so as not to cut the bottom of one’s feet.  The good news is that, just like a carpet, the shell blanket is not very deep.  Usually, someone has already shuffled their feet through the shells like a bulldozer to make a thin shell-free sandy path into the water.  We look diligently for these tiny safe-foot-paths.  If we can’t spy one, we make one.

The water here is slightly greenish and usually clear enough to see various sea life in the shallows.  Often as the tide changes the younger girls will dig for various mollusks and crabs.  These tiny creatures are usually less than a quarter of an inch in length!

Once, though, we saw a giant conch!

Rebeccah loves to collect very small complete shells; these you have to uncover in the sand as the water grounds them to fragments quickly.

This is the beach that the Funny Sisters visit.  We have many fun cousin-time days here!  Because of the unique properties that make this one of my favorite beaches to play at, North Vilano Beach at the walkover has become “the beach” for the Five Alive series!

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Meet Chloe

August 29, 2017

Meet Chloe

Sometimes when authors create a character, the character is based on a mash-up of features and attributes they admire in many people or desire in themselves.  Chloe in Web of Deception is such a character.

Chloe has beautiful dark skin with dark hair sensibly braided and clothes she’s managed to make out of skins.  Her leather clothes are because she denies using the linen tunics common to the slaves in the household where she’s been captive for many years.  Chloe is determined (some say stubborn).  Keeping her traditional dress reminds her that she will not remain a captive.  She keeps memories of her homeland even though she was very young when she was captured.  Chloe is bold but quiet.  She is calculating and analytical.  She prides herself on not being emotional; her captive life has taught her emotions are only a weapon others can use against her.

Chloe’s deer-like appearance hails from her birth land.  She blends into the forests and jungles like a ghost.  Her boldness and shrewd logic are qualities I wanted in myself.  Her passionate fire and unstoppable determination were qualities I observed in my sisters.  Her bane is a streak of passion that can ice to frigid darkness – this is the evil twist of her positive qualities.

Creating Chloe was a challenge and manipulating her character believably was complicated.  This is what makes her character fit perfectly into the dynamic of Web of Deception’s storyline.

Chloe has lived waiting for a specific person to enter her village.  She has one close friend, Vi’liam, a military trainee with no family, who listens to her and sees her as a little sister to be protected.

She feels the presence of this person when a captive is taken by the military commander and she determines to release and follow him.  This captive is Jordan.

Be sure to check out the rest of Chloe’s story in Web of Deception on the nook!

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

A Storm and Chicken Story

August 26, 2017

A Storm and Chicken Story

One day we were playing outside and a storm came up.  Not a cute little Pooh bear thundercloud with a few raindrops, but a giant, hurricane-wind, flash-lightning-fireworks-in-the-sky, shake-the-whole-house-thunder, all-people-hide-inside kind of thunderstorm.  (Okay, it was a simple, everyday, Florida thunderstorm.)  The winds were swirling chicken feathers and fluffing them out like towel-dried cats.  Smaller chickens were hop-flying to stabilize themselves as they fought for the safety of the henhouse.

After drying off from the first wave of rain, the girls peeked outside and giggled at the chickens until the raindrops were so large we couldn’t see the henhouse anymore.  The late summer winds blew the tree limbs around like strong autumn breezes scatter just-raked leaf piles.

“Mom, can you tell us a story with a storm?” Asked Rebeccah.

“A Long Tail story!” yipped Kimberly.  She was five, and she loved Long Tail.

So we snuggled on the couch with lightning flashes illuminating the room through the big windows and started what would become “Long Tail and the Big Storm.”

The chickens of the yard were ruled by Long Tail, the great yellow chief, and guarded by Long Tail and Alfredo, the white rooster imported some time ago.  Under this rooster team, the hens and pullets scratched and gossiped and laid eggs all day with no worries.

On one autumn day the bright sky darkened with angry clouds.  The sun hid.  The birds in the woods started crying warnings and flying away.  Two small humans who were playing in the henhouse with the baby biddies, heard a booming crack of thunder and jumped!  They put the baby biddies back in the safe brooder and left the henhouse.

“Look at those little humans!” cawed Alfredo, laughing, “running like rabbits!”

A giant bolt of lightning lit up the sky just behind the woods and a cannon-loud BOOM of thunder shattered the air.  Alfredo scrambled into the henhouse and hid under the brooder.

All the hens laughed at the silly rooster.

Even Red Feathers and Golden Eye, two of the youngest pullets, laughed at him.

Long Tail strutted by, “when the water falls from the sky, we come in.” Long Tail was not afraid.

A big wind shrieked through the henhouse.  It blew the people door open!

Can Long Tail save his flock?  Be sure to check out Long Tail and the Big Storm to see just how this courageous rooster accomplishes this brave feat!

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Meet Corgi Dawflawn

August 21, 2017

Meet Corgi Dawflawn

Corgi was one of those characters who originally had a bit part in the story, yet was loved by my proof-readers.  Because of their suggestions (repeated begging and sadness when I laughed at bringing Corgi into a larger role), this character morphed into a secondary player.

Corgi Dawflawn was born to Warrior-Spirit parents during the early stages of the Border War.  He was recruited into the military school of Ja’hline.  He becomes a member of the Klnu’mori and ascends in rank quickly.  Corgi enters the story in the upper ranks of training at Ja’hline.  Upon graduation, he chooses the Cobra discipline which specializes in bare-hand techniques.

Corgi gets assigned to the Border Wall, finds a skill with a machete to become a machete-master, and his commander discovers he can read and write in several languages.  He becomes a scribe.

He reads a message instead of tossing it.  By this tiny split-second act, his life is forever changed.  (You can read his full story in “Web of Deception.”)

Just like Corgi, sometimes decisions that appear minuscule actually end up leading to the biggest adventures of life.

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Slices of Stories

August 16, 2017

Slices of Stories

Have you ever wondered about the stories of people you barely touch?  I do. Each time I see a person or group of people my brain asks that question and sometimes I theorize about the answer.

A biker in full regalia changing a tire on the sidewalk, a child standing in a full school bus with both arms protruding from the open window, a pair of women talking with their hands in the car next to you at the traffic light, a tall, thin girl crossing a 6 lane roadway with a drink in her hand; what are their stories?

These were all people I passed just on a twelve-minute ride this morning.  All bits of five full vibrant life stories and I eavesdropped on a few seconds of each.

Consider now: I’m at a park bench.  It’s early morning, school busses transporting children are still flying by the three roads that surround the park.  A mother and her toddler enter the park, they are the only ones besides me.  He laughs and runs free.  Mother checks out the surroundings from behind dark sunglasses – the same thing I do when I enter new surroundings.  Mother pushes him on the toddler swing as he smiles and points out squirrels and birds in the overhanging trees.

My mind asks me; what is their story?  I can describe them in detail.  I observe tiny things like how many keys dangle from her keyclip over her back right pocket, he is wearing the easy-slip-on canvas shoes I love (even in navy blue, my favorite color), her blonde hair is darkening at the base (maybe she dyed it blonde about six months ago or it’s summer-kissed) and twisted up in a becoming bun atop her head (It could be called a “messy bun” but it looks good on her), he has a cowlick (maybe he took a nap in the carseat).

It sounds weird, doesn’t it?  This is the overworking mind of a writer.  I only glanced at them twice, once when they entered and once when he squealed at a bird or squirrel, yet I imagine an entire storyline connected to them just from those glances.  Odd.  I’m probably wrong on all counts.  My mind has been doing this as far back as I can remember.  I see people and write sketches about them.  Many of these character sketches based on a 2-second glance have become bit parts in various stories.  I trained myself not to believe my assumptions and imaginative storylines about the people I meet. (That doesn’t mean my brain doesn’t still analyze and make storylines!) I allow people to fill in their own story as I get to know them.  I had to teach myself not to judge others by what my perceptions of them are.  As I learned more about people, took more psychology classes, watched lives unfold, and lived my own life, my assumptions came truer to reality; but I still don’t judge others by them.

It does help me get inspiration for story characters, though.  So, that’s just a glimpse into the mind of a writer.

I wonder what goes through the minds of the mother and toddler as they catch a glimpse of this woman sitting cross-legged on a huge picnic table by herself with keys, business cards, a banana peel, and a phone lying in front of her and tapping away like a diesel locomotive on a not-so-silent laptop keyboard.  What do they perceive of their observation of a slice of my life’s story?

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

 

Meet Bria Addison

August 14, 2017

Meet Bria Addison

Today we get to meet Bria Addison, the eldest child of Dr. Drake and Dr. Alayna Addison.  Bria was born over a mile below sea level in the mining colony of Brantley Station.  Her father is the chief medical officer on Brantley Station.  Her mother is the chief Botanist.  Bria shares her mother’s passion for the flora and fauna of the station and is one of Dr. Alayna’s apprentices.

Bria has a younger brother named Benjamin.  Ben likes helping with plants and is in charge of one of the chicken flocks.  Bria’s youngest siblings are twins.  Kaya and Kevin act like their older siblings’ shadows!  Kaya usually follows Bria around and helps with the plants and animals.  Kevin usually follows Ben around; unless Ben is following Ethan.

Bria likes Ethan, who has always been nice to her.  She sometimes calls him her “big brother” though he isn’t.  Ethan treats her like a sister.  Often Ben and Bria seek out Ethan and help him clean something because he smiles a lot and knows a lot about the deep.  Bria loves to join Ethan at the Observation Deck to watch the Delivery Transport Shuttle arrive and depart every cycle.  She enjoys skating along the corridors afterward too.  Bria likes the way Ethan grins.

Bria is normally shy and reclusive.  She says little to those she doesn’t consider family.  Although she knows everyone on the Station, she avoids most places and tries to stay in the BioLabs.  Bria can be bold and is ferociously protective of her baby sister and brother.  She loves her underwater life!

You can read more about Bria and her family in the Brantley Station Saga books.  She is a baby in Pirate Child and Little Thief, but plays a much larger role in later books, starting with The Protector.

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Meet Granny Pecan

August 12, 2017

Meet Granny Pecan

Deep in the Wooded Lands but not too far from most of us, there lives a tribe of furry squirrels known as the Landmark Tribe.  They spend their whole lives racing through trees gathering nuts, berries, and other foods to eat and to store for winter.  The whole tribe works together to keep healthy, grow strong, and raise their squawlers.

Granny Pecan is the wise woman of the tribe.  Although she would laugh at such a title and say “I just speak through my lens of experience so you avoid my mistakes,” Granny Pecan is a sweet, thoughtful, grandmother squirrel loaded with tips, tricks, and wisdom.  The other squirrelesses in the tribe come to her often for all kinds of mothering advice, especially regarding Crunchies (teenage boys) since Granny Pecan and Grappy raised six of those!

She is a baker.  Oh, what a baker!  It is the opinion of every male squirrel in the Landmark Tribe (and maybe all of the Wooded Lands) that Granny Pecan’s hazelnut pie is a golden slice of heaven.  Rumor has it that her second son, Big Oak, loved her hazelnut pie so much that he named his daughter Hazel because of it.

Granny Pecan often snags one or more of the Crunchies to help her gather items.  This is what happens to Chip in Busting Berry Bath.  You can read more about Granny Pecan in any of the Landmark Tribe books!

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Meet Eloi

August 7, 2017

Meet Eloi

Eloi Malikama is a sweet, friendly girl who was orphaned at a young age.  Among the Swavarians, orphans are usually taken in by relatives, but some are recruited by the Warrior-Spirit schools.  Eloi had a teachable talent – she had already been taught basic healing and understood on a basic level the special connection between the medicines in the world around her and the intricacies of the human body.  This made her a desirable asset for a training school.  She was recruited into Ja’hline.

Eloi doesn’t remember her parents or birth village.  Her memories start in Ja’hline.

She is discovered to have another talent; The Second Sight.  This is an inborn talent, few possess it, but when discovered it can be a powerful tool.  Often Eloi sees things about the people around her and sometimes can interpret what these viewings mean.  Eloi’s viewings warn her there is death about a new student – and she quickly perceives him as someone to stay away from.  His strange manner clashes with the culture of Ja’hline.  But soon she sees his faith and realizes he is not as she perceived; rather he is attempting to conform as best as he knows how.  Eloi becomes his friend.  But the death-about-all-around-him viewing stays.  She now pretends it doesn’t exist.

Eloi is strong-willed and usually practical.  She is fiercely loyal to her friends.  She is trained Klnu’mori, but despises the secrecy of it.  Her tendency to follow emotion rather than reason is balanced by another friend’s analytical logic.  Ryn, trained Klnu’mori as well, constantly reminds her of the one vow she made.  She cannot break her secrecy until one specific question is asked.  She hates this charge because she was told it would cause pain.

Eloi loves passionately.  Her friends are her sisters and brothers.  She protects without consideration for herself.  She gives without thought.  Although she is a Warrior-Spirit, she does not see how her small ability can help her friends in their quest; all of them have greater powers than she.  What she cannot see is that her brilliant love is the tool that can pull one heart from the danger she has always seen.

Sometimes we cannot see how powerful we truly are.

Read more about Eloi in “Web of Deception.”

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Meet Jordan Binak

August 2, 2017

Meet Jordan Binak

We’re going to meet another fictional character today.  This one was created over 20 years ago!  Often when authors create fictional characters, they pull from themselves and add strengths they want.  If you study Charles Dickens, you learn that the character of David Copperfield has many traits and experiences that Dickens actually had.  Of course, the story is fiction, but the lead character is very close to Dickens.  I think of this as a “masked cameo” – like when a movie director has a cameo appearance in a film he directs.  Only in a book, since the readers may not know the author personally, the author can give his “masked cameo” a larger role.

When writing “Web of Deception,” I used many friends and family from real life and masked them or blended them together to make my characters.  (Don’t tell anyone!  And, no, I’m not saying who is who!)  Jordan was how I envisioned my character with his backstory.  Strong, bold, self-sacrificing for others, humble, frustrated, confused, content, fearless.  (Actually, he sounds like any teenager!)  I would work out the story in my backyard, acting out each part until I was satisfied with the way each sub-story played out and how the characters acted.  (Quite a lot of it was chopped later, or rearranged, just like a movie!  And my dog, Lady, was my first-ever audience.)

Jordan gets most of his character from his birth family.  This foundation is built upon by the family who takes him in.  He credits most of his character to his sister, who he looked up to and was always trying to be like.  He doesn’t realize it (most young people don’t until later when they choose to analyze themselves), but even his perception of others is influenced by his childhood village.  As a youngster he enters a military training school.  This is common in the World of Kings’ province of Swavaria.  Their Warrior-Spirits begin training between three and five.  Jordan enters “late” at seven and a half.

When he’s graduated from this school, he finds himself thrust into a twisted quest he knows nothing of.  This quest will answer more questions and touch more memories than Jordan knew he had.  “Web of Deception” was written using my “step in their shoes and walk around” model that I use for most characters.  Being that Jordan was my first protagonist (lead character), I discovered that when I was frustrated, it was easy to write confrontation and fight scenes. When I was calm, it was easier to drift to other characters and develop them.  This made for a great release of frustration!  I’d just turn whatever was bothering me into the creature Jordan happened to be fighting!  (This was a major stress-reliever!  When I created Kvortee, I was envisioning a bully we’d just dealt with.)

I completed the first draft of “Web of Deception” when I was fourteen.  When the first edition was published, the ending was cut, so this second edition contains the full ending!  Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart