Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sharon's Decision

Sharon folded her hands in her lap and sat forward on the flowered love seat, unconsciously reflecting the body language of the therapist in the chair opposite. They had finished the preliminary introductions and standard questions that, for both, were routine. Sharon had been to the first marriage counselor with her husband. When the counselor told Matt that he thought the marriage was over and there was nothing he could do, Matt insisted on trying a different professional. The second one came to the same conclusion so Matt involved the pastor he had ridiculed, then the adult Sunday School teacher he had avoided, looking for anyone who would side with him and demand that Sharon stay.

Now Sharon was here alone for the preliminary appointment with Carol, a certified Christian counselor. Matt was sure that this woman would convince his wife that she had no right to divorce him. After all, Sharon was the one who was the Bible believer. She took the kids to church while he golfed or worked out or hunted or any of a dozen other things that, to him, were more important than wasting a Sunday morning in church. Sharon would certainly listen to another Christian woman who would undoubtedly tell her that she was wrong to divorce him.

Sharon sighed. She was ready to unburden her heart again. She didn’t believe in divorce, knew it was wrong, hated the idea of it, but was so torn up inside that she could not go on like this. Just three months ago Matt had rolled over onto her expecting her obedient submission to his sexual demands. She was ready for the usual quick intercourse, never any foreplay, never any affection for her. He told her she was frigid and she believed it. “I love you” he had mumbled and when she was slow to respond he leaned back and actually asked what was wrong. “I love you” she had stuttered back, “but sometimes I don’t like you.” The ensuing row had lasted all night and Sharon had called her father in tears.

Carol listened now as Sharon described the belittling. Though at work she headed five departments and more than a hundred people reported to her, at home she was not good enough, not smart enough, wasn’t clean enough, didn’t have good taste, couldn’t cook or clean satisfactorily. On and on. Her two college degrees were worth less than Matt’s solitary semester at a community college, at least according to Matt, whose verbal abuse made Sharon feel stupid and worthless. The only bright spot was the time she spent with her kids.

“You’re a classic case,” Carol said as she passed Sharon another Kleenex. “Fifteen years of marriage to a misogynist, a woman-hater. You’ve come to the crossroads right on schedule.” She shook her head and explained the characteristics of a man like Matt: younger and less educated than the wife, self-absorbed, ego-centric, possessive, jealous, controlling, cruel, overly critical, domineering, emotionally abusive, sexually selfish. Sharon unconsciously nodded at every trait. “The courtship was good though, wasn’t it?” Another nod. “Well, this is a real conundrum for me. As a Christian counselor I’m completely against divorce, but for women like you in this situation, I have to tell you that it’s not going to get better. You have to decide to accept things and know that this will always be your life or . . . you have to get out.”

Copyright 2011 by Debra Chapoton

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Acceptable Ethnic Slurs?

Is it ever all right to use an ethnic slur in your writing? Well, of course it is. I don’t like it, though, and I wouldn’t use that kind of language even if my character might. There is a thing called freedom of speech just as there is freedom to turn off the TV, close the book, and walk away.

As I was gasping at someone’s harsh dialogue on a certain TV show I got to thinking about the evolution of language. We all know the stories behind certain phrases, you know, the ones that you weren’t allowed to say when you were a kid (um, maybe I mean when your mom or grandma were kids). For example, I got shushed if I said “crap”. I didn’t allow my kids to say “screw” and they were definitely in trouble if I heard “that sucks”. These phrases have gone from unacceptable to everyday normal.

On the other hand, some words and phrases have reversed directions (and connotations). When I was a kid we chanted, “eeny, meeny, miny, mo, catch a n….r by the toe”. Holy smokes, I can’t believe I typed that. In fact, I went back and dotted it out because it is just such an objectionable racial slur. (And way back, before I was born, my dad had a black dog by that name.) Once upon a time gay meant happy, queer was something odd and ridiculous was, well, ridiculous. Ever notice how it’s fashionable to use the opposite word to praise someone’s performance? (“That was so sick!”)

Here are a few ethnic slurs that have totally lost their bite: Indian summer. Doesn’t sound bad at all, does it? Dutch treat. Think about it. Were the Dutch a little stingy maybe? Mulligan. Are you a golfer; do you take a mulligan when you flub a shot? Guess which ethnicity this “freebie” slams?

One last one: Jock. It’s a reference to the Scottish elite. Not so bad. I guess there are some acceptable ethnic slurs.

copyright 2011 by Debra Chapoton

Monday, January 24, 2011

Danny's Puzzle


I wrote this short story and hid my own coded message within as well. After you read how Danny solves his mystery go back and look for my message. Comment below with your solution.

Danny’s Puzzle

Grabbing his pencil Danny set to work again practicing the letters from the workbook his friend, Arnie, had lent him. It was so strange to make the weird symbols and to go from right to left across the page, but he had watched Arnie do it with ease and, though he knew his friend had been in Hebrew school for years, Danny felt that mastering the twenty-two letters within the month was a reasonable goal for himself. Arnie’s bar mitzvah was Danny’s target date and he was the type of kid whose competitiveness would keep him focused. He wasn’t trying to actually learn the difficult ancient language; he just wanted to be able to recognize the letters and maybe a few words.

Old Mrs. Ronketto, his Sunday School teacher, had two posters of the ten commandments on the wall, one in English with all the “thou shalt not’s”, and one in Hebrew, actually just ten words. How could that be, he wondered; how could a whole sentence in English come from only one word? He had asked Arnie who had told him a little bit. He explained that single letters had certain functions when added to the beginning or end of a word. His example had been about the tiniest little letter, the “yod”, which meant hand. Arnie said that if you put it at the end of a word it was like putting your hand on the word and possessing it – so it had the meaning of “my” or “mine”.

Danny put his pencil down and thumbed through the workbook. Ah, here was what he was looking for. He found a chart of the letters with how to pronounce them, their ancient pictographic symbols and their literal and symbolic meanings. He loved puzzles and Arnie had hinted that there were tons of codes, anagrams, acrostics and mysteries in the Old Testament.

If only he could find one, decipher it . . . how cool would that be!

Solving the ten commandment poster was just a little too much. Instead Danny decided to concentrate on just one significant word. He closed his eyes and let his mind wander. The most important word in his church was “Jesus”, but he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to find that in Arnie’s Jewish Bible. Arnie had told him that they didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. Then he remembered how Arnie wouldn’t even write God’s name out, he always wrote G-d. Mrs. Ronketto had told his class that the Jewish people never said God’s name aloud and so nobody was sure how to pronounce it. It could be Yahweh or Jehovah, based on the four Hebrew consonants that made up the name. His eyes flew open.

Leafing quickly through the workbook he came to the glossary and scanned the pages for God’s name. There it was. There were four letters but no pronunciation guide, instead there was a footnote telling the student to always say “Adonai” or “Ha Shem” when they came upon God’s name. Danny wrote out the four letters anyway then flipped back to the page with the chart.

Out of curiosity and a sudden impulse he began listing vertically the literal meaning under each letter. First there was the “yod” which he already knew meant “hand”. Then there was the “hey”, which was kind of funny because its literal meaning was “Behold”. He thought about using that word now to get somebody’s attention. It would make more sense to just say “hey”!

Vav was the next letter and stood for “nail”. Danny thought about that for a second and got a funny feeling that he was on to something. His mother carried a nail in her change purse, a reminder, she said of Jesus’ crucifixion. His dad always had one in his pocket. The last letter was another "hey".

Everything came together now. Danny couldn’t wait to show Arnie. Jesus was in the Old Testament. Plain as day, right in God’s name, even yelling for attention: Hand. Hey! Nail. Hey!

Tweetables:
Jesus is in the Old Testament - in God's ancient name.

Copyright 2011 by Debra Chapoton

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Sampling from Bullies and Bears (book 3 in middle grade series)



Lonnie looked at Ricky and whispered, “Let’s put something heavy on the trap door so they can’t get out.”

“What if somebody else is down there?’

“So?”

“Is there another way out?”

“Who cares? Somebody’ll come along sooner or later.”

“Shhh. Wait. I think I heard something.”

Missy and Kevin creaked the front door open and tiptoed into the cottage. They were whispering, too. Kevin checked the box of flashlights that they kept there and counted how many were left.

“They’re all here,” he whispered. “They didn’t know about the flashlights. They’ll probably use their cigarette lighters or one of the candles that are in the cellar.” He handed Missy a small flashlight and she tucked it into her back pocket.

“I don’t think I want to go down there,” she said. “I’m not scared. I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Kevin picked up a large flashlight and was about to whisper back when Ricky and Lonnie stepped around the corner. “Well, well, well,” Lonnie said, “if it isn’t little Mr. Jackson, son of big Mr. Jackson. Look, Ricky, the little snot-nosed kid got himself a girlfriend.”

“Down the hatch, you two,” Ricky said, gesturing toward the trap door. Lonnie reached out and grabbed the flashlight out of Kevin’s hand then pushed him toward the opening. “Ladies first,” he said, still pushing Kevin ahead of Missy. Missy followed, but was able to keep facing them so they couldn’t see the flashlight in her back pocket. She said nothing as she climbed down. She didn’t even dare to look them in the eye though she was mad and scared and her heart was fluttering faster than a hummingbird’s wings. When she reached the bottom she backed away from the ladder and bumped into Kevin just as the trap door was closed above them and they were thrust into darkness.
copyright 2010 by Debra Chapoton (excerpt from pages 8 & 9 of Bullies and Bears)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Edge of Escape - Chapter 2 excerpt

Edward thought that by now Rebecca would have eaten and probably gotten sleepy from what he had put in the water bottle. She should be stretched out on the cot and napping. Plan B had played out exactly as he had prepared it. Who would have thought Special Eddie could be so clever, sly and crafty. There was even a Plan C and D.

He rode boldly up to the structure and leaned his bike against the stones. He listened. He called her name.

Three steps and he was at the door. Yes, she was lying on her side with her left arm hanging over. The sleeping bag was under her head but it looked too high to be comfortable. He crept closer and lifted her head, pulled out the bag and gently rested her head back down on the canvas.

Edward looked at her lacerated wrist and shook his head. He knelt by the cot and opened his backpack. Slowly he applied some ointment and dressed her wound. He had nothing to tape the wrapping with so he removed her watch from his wrist and fastened it over the bandage.

He pushed a lock of hair away from her eyes and brushed her temple gently with his fingers.

“I love you, Becky,” he mouthed.

He picked up his pack and backed away from the cot. He closed the door and locked it with the padlock. Lifting up one of the stones at the base of the foundation, he hid the key underneath. Edward decided to take a walk and look for his favorite wildflowers.

copyright 2010 by Debra Chapoton

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dreaming of Books? Your Choice Giveaway


Win Your Choice of one of the following paperbacks: EDGE OF ESCAPE or THE SECRET IN THE HIDDEN CAVE or A TICK IN TIME or BIGFOOT DAY, NINJA NIGHT. Or if you prefer you can win all four books in ebook format from Smashwords. Be sure to read each synopsis or excerpt so you can decide which to choose.
To enter: Go to the giveaway page (giveaways tab above) and leave a short comment explaining your choice and don't forget to leave your e-mail address or some other way to contact you if you win.
Contest ends January 17, 2011 and winner will be announced January 18, 2011.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Spanish Stranger

Amanda rode the bus she always took downtown, saw the faces she always saw, passed the sites that no longer impressed her. She did, however, take notice when a strikingly handsome man boarded the bus and began a slow advance down the aisle. He scanned the interior and their eyes met momentarily before she glanced back out the window. She wondered if his eyes had lingered. She looked down at her watch and as she did she had a funny feeling. She looked up to see him still approaching, but he was leaning near one passenger after another, asking a question to which each person was shaking his head. She caught a word or two and recognized the sounds of Spanish; he must be asking for directions.

Amanda rose and headed forward; the bus was nearing her stop. She wondered if he would speak to her. She smiled, hoping her college Spanish wouldn’t fail her if he did, wondering if she should use the polite or the casual form of address. The man smiled back and turned sideways to let her squeeze past. She smelled his delicious cologne, was struck by the width of his shoulders and noticed the cute unevenness of his eyebrows. She used a Spanish phrase equivalent to “excuse me” and he reached for her elbow to stop her. He rattled off a request so fast that she thought she might have been mistaken about the Spanish, maybe it was Portuguese or Italian.

“Lo siento. No te entiendo,” she said. I’m sorry, I don’t understand you. She used the familiar form of address. “Habla más despacio, por favor.” Speak slower, please.

He did and despite being distracted by how his eyes danced around her face as he spoke, she understood enough to tell him to get off the bus one stop after her. He thanked her and told her his name: Miguel Santibañez. She nodded and mumbled her first name. Finally releasing her elbow he offered to shake hands. They held on a little longer than was normal.

The bus slowed, stopped, the doors opened and Amanda stepped off. She half wished he would follow her. She turned left and then right and headed toward her destination with the eerie feeling that yes, she was being followed. She replayed in her mind what she had told him, not sure now if she had made it clear. One stop after her. Had she paused between the phrases, changing the meaning?

Without looking back she broke into a semi-run, the fastest she could do in the crowded morning rush. When she had to stop at the intersection, she glanced back and saw him walking fast to catch up. He smiled and waved. He was flirting. This was what she had wished for. Half wished for.

The light changed and she quickly crossed the street and entered the first door she came to. A security guard was lounging behind a counter and he gestured to a clipboard and told her she had to sign in. The stranger was at her elbow again; she could smell him. She wrote her first name and thought about using Santibañez as her last name. Should she flirt so boldly? She turned her head and stared into his eyes. There was no pretense there. Trusting her instincts Amanda slowly wrote her last name. Then she hurried down the hall knowing it wouldn’t take him long to memorize her name, sign in and follow. The first doorway opened into a large room packed with boxes. There was a curtain along one wall and she rushed over and hid behind it, leaving a small opening from which she could spy.

Miguel stepped in almost immediately. She could see him scan the room in the same searching way he had on the bus. Had he been looking for her then?

Amanda watched him move slowly closer, his smile widening, but then he stopped and waited. She breathed in slowly, relishing the moment. The decision was hers. She trusted the Spanish stranger intuitively and without question. There was chemistry. There was mystery. There was chance. She pulled back the curtain and the unexpected romance began.
###
Copyright 2011 by Debra Chapoton

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Star Wish

Emily G. was six years old when her mother died of cancer just before Christmas. It was a tough year after that, but her father thought they were doing pretty well by the next December. He offered to take her to see Santa at the mall then smiled inwardly when his sweet little Emily did an eye roll and rejected the fantasy. That night, after he tucked her in bed and left her room, he heard her bed creak and he wondered if she was getting back up to retrieve one or another of her stuffed animals. He waited, listened, and heard her precious little voice start to repeat the “wish upon a star” rhyme that his wife had taught her. He crept back closer to the door and peeked in. Emily’s cheek was pressed to the window glass and she was just finishing the rhyme, “I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight”. There was a little pause during which the anxious dad hoped to hear her wish for some toy or game that he could get her and tag it from Santa.
“I wish I could see Mommy one more time,” was what he heard. It broke his heart.
He lay awake that night and an idea came to him. It took a bit of planning, a picture, an internet ad and his wife’s winter coat and hat that fortunately he hadn’t yet given away. The plan came together three days before Christmas.
“Let’s take a little shopping break and do some people watching,” he said to Emily as they approached the sunken seating area near one of the major department stores at the mall. They found an empty spot facing the concourse and began to play a little guessing game about the people heading for the escalator.
Emily found this imaginative game easy. “Oh, daddy, look, see that man? I think he’s a fireman.”
“How can you tell?”
“He’s carrying his packages over his shoulder.”
“Good, Emily. Hmm, see any princesses or ballerinas?”
Emily scanned the frantic shoppers and saw a lady laden with packages. She had the same coat and hat as her mother, the same hair, but she was holding a tall package that somewhat obscured her face. Emily got very still and didn’t speak. She watched the woman get on the escalator and adjust her boxes. Emily hardly breathed.
Her dad looked away from the woman and glanced down at his daughter whose face registered a sort of quiet surprise.  He continued to watch her though his eyes got watery. He had to blink fast so as not to miss the joyful wonder and peaceful smile that spread across Emily’s face. He knew the woman must be looking at them by now, revealing a smile, waving at Emily, leaving the empty prop boxes at the top of the escalator. The lady was supposed to walk a few steps and do a little twirl, so like Emily’s mother, and then turn the corner with one last wave.
Emily stared a bit longer, expecting to see that special someone return for the packages. She glanced to the escalator, but the packages were gone, secretly retrieved by a collaborator. She looked up at her dad who seemed not to have seen the woman at all.
“Okay, pumpkin?” he asked. “Anything you wish to do?”
Emily looked back up to the second level and whispered, “I got my wish.”
###
Copyright 2011 by Debra Chapoton

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Should Not Make New Year's Resolutions

Besides being a waste of time trying to think up something original, I just don’t (or can’t) keep resolutions, let alone remember them. By today, only three days into a new year, I have forgotten what I so fervently and passionately decided to do or not to do. My usual and always first resolution is to lose ten pounds. Easy to remember. So why did I have popcorn with two tablespoons of melted butter last night? And why did I follow it an hour later with a hot fudge sundae? And was that me this morning who got into the leftover homemade fudge topping I left on the counter? I guess I need to figure out exactly when is the best time for me to start these promises. Did the new year start on Saturday or shall I decide that pledges are easier to start on a Monday? Yes, that’s it, I’ll finish the fudge and then I can begin fresh today, Monday.  I vow to lose ten pounds.
Now, what’s an original resolution? Idea: always write blogs and emails on Word first to avoid spelling and grammar blunders. This is a great one for me since I already do this and I won’t have any trouble keeping this resolution.
The third thing I resolved was a really good and smart thing that I just can’t reveal right now, mainly because I forgot what it was. If I remember it later I’ll be sure to add an addendum. Meanwhile I’ll send you off to check out the the best lasagna recipe I’ve ever tried. Yum. And as for that homemade hot fudge recipe: 1 cup sugar, 3 ½ tablespoons cocoa, ½ cup milk, 2 tablespoons butter, heat and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring. Add a heaping serving spoon (like a third of a cup) of crunchy peanut butter and beat wildly. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool a bit. I like to add a handful of mini-marshmallows while it’s boiling, if I have them. Oh, I hope this doesn’t ruin your diet resolution . . . just start tomorrow.
One more thing -
If you received a Kindle, Sony or other type of e-reader for Christmas, please use the following promotional codes for 50% off two of my books. These codes can be used multiple times until Jan. 31, 2011.  Smashwords.com is a great site for finding lots of free books, too.
EDGE OF ESCAPE: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/21973      code: LQ74W
Brilliant but emotionally impaired Eddie has fixated on popular Rebecca. He abducts her and then tries to be her rescuer as she escapes his traps. Whose delicate spirit will break first? Will she accept his fragile devotion or reject his special love? Stalking gets a strangely sympathetic turn in this story of obsession and survival.
THE SECRET IN THE HIDDEN CAVE: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/30483      code: EW44Q
Two 12-year-olds, Missy and Kevin, explore the old lodge, the woods, the cemetery and the dark caves beneath the lake and find surprises, danger and secrets. Can they solve the riddles, follow the clues and save the place from destruction? Or are they being used by someone smarter who needs help to reveal “The Secret in the Hidden Cave”?  Book 1 of the Big Pine Lodge series.