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Posts Tagged ‘The Curse Under the Freckles by Terry Petersen’

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy. (Jacques Maritain)


I have attended fairs as a vendor, an author selling The Curse Under the Freckles, the first book in my soon-to-be-released series, The Star League Chronicles. The second book, Stinky, Rotten Threats, will be released soon.

However, I have never tried signing with a broken hand. The swelling is down enough to allow thumb and index finger to meet. I am at a health fair sponsored by a local senior center.

As I wish magic for a reader, it feels akin to a spell because each letter of every word can be read. My signature hasn’t been repeated often enough to reach celebrity status, spasmodic lines that mimic the measurement of earthquake tremors.

Blessings, however, seem to abound.

My table is in an ideal spot—one of the first seen, but it is isolated from the crowd.

My friend, G., gets a fresh cup of coffee for me. Then, later, she watches my table so I can get a sandwich. She collects samples from the booths, and then lets me browse a little as well.

The frozen gel pack I brought for my aching hand has warmed. A YMCA director replaces it with a bag of ice. The director of the senior program at the Y is especially helpful.

I’m impressed by the number of volunteers who pass by. Good, generous, people.

Broken places throb. In my hand, in life. It’s the nature of a broken place. Even in my middle-grade fiction, I don’t avoid the shattered. I suspect the contrast of darkness and light makes the beauty of kindness more striking. Perhaps even exquisite. Thanks to all the givers in the world.

 

 

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Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. (Carl Sagan)

I laugh at my middle granddaughter Rebecca’s antics long after she leaves with Daddy. She loves to play with an old pair of crutches that are too big for a nine-year-old girl. Each time she has a different pretend reason why she needs them.

Today’s reason: “I have boneless disease.”

She relays the surgical procedure, including plastic-skull placement with an occasional ouch; then she rises from a chair and reaches for the crutches. The OR is our backyard. She claims that all she needs to sustain her now, besides the beloved crutches, is a house filled with medicine. She pretends to swallow the first roomful.

I smile on the outside and chuckle internally.

“You raised my daddy. You raised my daddy,” she repeats the same line with a rising chuckle. Yet, I know she wants to be just like her father.

Rebe’s daddy, Gregory Petersen, is an author and a stand-up comic. Rebe’s wit is already sharp. Moreover, she has my complete attention, and she thrives on it.

When she is not in pretend-mode, Rebe is one-hundred percent honest. Two years ago, when I gave her a signed copy of The Curse Under the Freckles, a middle-grade fantasy, she took one look at it and asked where the pictures were. She knows I write, but she sees me as her ancient playmate.

Imagination doesn’t need to disappear with childhood. I happen to be a very old youngster.

By late spring, early summer, the sequel to my first book will appear—Stinky, Rotten, Threats. (No link yet. All is in progress.)

Chase Powers and his magic woods friends are attending summer school. Chase failed sixth grade—he studies both everyday fractions as well as how to use magical skills. His friends are self-motivated. They have natural smarts; they grew up with magic.

Of course, even school in a magical setting doesn’t follow the teacher’s plan. The adults in Chase’s family enter the woods for instruction, and Chase sees how much trouble newbies can be. Add interference from the evil Malefics… Then, Chase sees a change in the magical world he could never imagine even with the most potent tools.

Boneless disease never appears in my story. That fantasy belongs to my granddaughter.

Chase Powers is a fantasy character in a world that does not exist. However, his character thinks, feels, and acts like a twelve-year-old boy.  Anna, his friend, is a near-genius who has a knack for unintentionally getting under Chase’s skin, the way real people do sometimes.

Even so, something incredible is about to happen.  In the story, and in real life. Yes, a lot of bad news rolls off commentators’ tongues with the same tone of voice used to forecast a partly cloudy day. Ugliness is real.

However, so is beauty. A friend calls. A child draws a picture—just for Grandma, Mommy or the dog. Not all brightness comes from sun. Hope is like a seed, or a plot. You can’t tell how it will grow in the beginning.

I do hope you will bother to turn a page that promises a lead out of darkness. Of course, I would recommend my own work. However, if anyone has suggestions for inspirational titles, go for it. I am always glad to hear about a good, positive-minded book.

Peace, and may something incredible touch all.

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We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams. (Jeremy Irons, actor)

I’m at a book signing that is part of a small city pumpkin festival. Two memories, one from long ago and one from last year, hit me as I talk to a couple who stop at my table. The wife asks if there is violence in my middle-grade fantasy, The Curse Under the Freckles. The couple tell me their son is highly sensitive to anything brutal.

I give a short explanation of the story. Chase, an eleven-year old boy, was born with magical abilities. However, his mother knows about the curse and the dangerous side of the magical world. She never tells him. When Chase finally learns about it, he has lost every possible tool to break the curse. He must do it in three steps, but, no one gives him any idea what those steps will be.

They will not include the usual fight.

I say the book does not rely on blood and violence for entertainment. Then I realize a tragedy involves one of the main characters. In an early chapter. A death. Of course this is fantasy, and in a make-believe world a character can die and still be okay. The book has a happy and unexpected ending.

The young boy has been standing behind them. He moves between his parents, and shakes his head. I nod and smile. A silent way of saying I understand. In some ways he reminds me of me in an earlier century.

I recall the mobile library that came one day each week to my elementary school. In the primary grades I browsed for books with the least amount of conflict. I chose stories closest to utopia, places where taunting and meanness didn’t exist, where parents told their kids how wonderful they were. Most kids would have considered the books I read boring. Even then I knew I wanted safety. In real life and on the printed page.

Eventually, my tastes grew up. In fantasy, wild events could occur. I reveled in another world. It became my escape.

This young boy’s experience and mine are probably not even close. Yet, I suspect he has a keen sense of empathy that needs guidance. I am glad to see the concern his parents have for him. I watch as the family walks away, and I silently wish them the best, more than the best if that could be possible.

This is one time I am okay not to sell. To him. And yet I fully believe in the appropriateness of my story for kids. Real life sends difficulties to everyone. It doesn’t care how old the individual is. Chase’s losses would throw anyone, of any age. However, in fiction I can tailor the outcome, create a happy ending. In fantasy, possibilities extend beyond real life’s limitations. All the painful details don’t need to be elongated in a book for kids. Several young readers have requested a sequel. That book should be published next year, time yet unknown.

I remember another book signing when I came as customer, not vendor. A well-known children’s author told a girl the book was not suited for her age. I was impressed. To sell is not a writer’s sole mission. To entertain, to touch the heart, to make a reader’s life a little bit better, if only for that moment—these goals matter far more. Sometimes a story can plant answers, each word, chosen like seeds placed in fertile soil, lined across the page.

When the reader says, yes, I think like that, too, possibilities open. Perhaps healing then can begin…

bookfest-hamilton-2016

 

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Making a living is nothing; the great difficulty is making a point, making a difference—with words.  (Elizabeth Hardwick )

A Monday morning toward the end of August. Rebe has said goodbye to braces. Her smile is free from metal. She is at the orthodontist now for the final X-rays. And big-sister Katie and I shop to prepare a special meal for her. Ravioli, her favorite. A dessert Rebe will help make since she will want to be in on the fun. And a carbonated beverage. Cola, a no-no for younger sister for the past two years. Katie and I find small fancy bottles. We choose to savor, not guzzle, since sweet colas and nutrition don’t have much in common.

I tell Katie about the wind and rain at the Hamilton County Fair last weekend. Mother Nature overdid the crowd control. Sure, I had fun and met a few new people. The day was wild. But wildly successful? Not exactly. I expect my granddaughter to go on to other topics: sports, friends, crafts.

Instead she asks, “So, what are you doing to let people know about your book?”

I hesitate. Katie is twelve-years old. My next event could come in a few months.

“What theme comes throughout the book frequently? Use that. In different ways… Make it stand out.”

We are outside a store as she asks. She grabs my heavy backpack and I carry the empty reusable bags for our purchases. I am aware of the disproportion. Not only in weight carried, but in information exchanged. I look at her and laugh.

“What is so funny?” she asks.

“You are. Because you are amazing. Tell me. How do you know all of this?”

“I go to book signings.”

She does. With her father. Gregory Petersen wrote Open Mike. He is working on other novels and has done standup comedy. Katie has made friends with writers. She has a superb imagination. In fact, she gave me an idea I used in my next book. I will give her an acknowledgment.

Not everyone has a twelve-year-old consultant. But then, she fits my audience. And I think about the typical preteen. The typical preteen who lives inside the average adult. In The Curse Under the Freckles Chase doesn’t have much self-confidence. He is surprised to get help from an inanimate thing, a tree, a Rainbow tree that offers magical gifts he could never expect.

The tree helps its Star League member with its multi-hued magic. It draws out the color inside the Star League student.

Since Katie has been helpful I tell her to get something for herself—she buys a present for her sister’s birthday instead. I don’t need to savor sweet cola. I have this precious time with my granddaughter before she starts seventh grade. My Rainbow-tree granddaughter. She brings out color inside me.

following dreams

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Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. (Melody Beattie)

My birthday has arrived—number seventy. I tell my husband: Let’s celebrate nature. No fancy restaurant. Forget anything that involves crowds. If something happens at the last minute and our plans need to change, I’m flexible. Postponement is one way of saying another day exists.

When I was young the new green of spring represented no more than background. When will we get to the zoo or the picnic? Travel without comic books meant blank, boring space. As a kid, I suspected I had plenty of time left. Adulthood belonged to some unrelated, untouchable dimension. After all, the grownup belonged to a different species. They knew all the rules. Kids didn’t get detailed explanations until after they broke the side laws.

And I was beyond naïve. As well as profoundly less-than-popular. My youth was shattered on an April night I expected to be murdered. I was in my late teens. In fact, as I screamed out that one of the men was hurting me, he said that it was supposed to hurt. And I expected to be found dead in the beautiful nature I had taken for granted. Details of that event are unnecessary. Let the past remain in the past.

I lived. But my mother reacted against me. As I lay in my bed the next day after returning home from the emergency room, she handed me a rosary. “This is what you need.” And I could not pull my fingers along the familiar beads. Instead I pretended to be in a coffin, and prayed that my room would morph into a funeral home if I remained still long enough.

It did not happen. Friends appeared. Few, but vital—Sue—I haven’t seen her in years. But she planted seeds that took decades to grow.

I write about the positive, the beautiful, the glory of being alive. Even while the difficult, the unfair, the ugly continue to try to destroy the world. I do not want to author a full-length-memoir. Sure, the past exists in the present. Someplace hidden within the body. Those tiny nits never go away, but they can teach instead of dominate. They can open the door for compassion.

I mention my experience now to show that I did not come from a utopian existence. With the help of arms and ears, not advice or dogma, I grew. With the direction of people who showed me that I had untapped talents, I found them. And wrote songs, poems, short stories, and a full-length middle-grade fantasy, The Curse Under the Freckles. Love became possible in a fuller life-isn’t-all-about-me sense.

Now, there are days when I look at the time on the clock, backward in the mirror, and wonder if I can get up yet to begin the day. There may not be a way I can go back and tell the despairing young-girl-me  that she was passing through a desert, not eternal damnation. But I can forgive my mother. She gave the solution she knew, albeit inadequate.

Moreover, I can pass on the word that what sometimes seems to be a dead-end may have an exit. And it can begin with something as simple as a genuine, non-judgmental I-care.

Happy Birthday to me. I don’t ask for seventy more years. Only for each day’s blessings, recognized as completely as possible.

May all know the beauty of who you are.

little Terry on flowered background (2)

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Love doesn’t make the world go ’round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. (Franklin P. Jones.)

 On the first day of January I am in the locker room at the Y—that sacred realm where children run naked and women hide their extra flesh behind wrapped beach towels. I see Kathy. Actually, I’m not sure she spells her name with a K. I only know her from the Y. She wears a beautiful soul that emanates enthusiasm for life.

Kathy generally arrives at the pool at about the time I am preparing to leave. Several months ago she bought place mats with the characters from Frozen for my granddaughters. She greets me as if I were family.

I finish dressing and wait to make eye contact with her. She is talking to someone else on the other side of the aisle.

“Oh, Terry, Happy New Year!” she exclaims. “I love your smile. It is so contagious.” She hugs me. Not one of those quick, in-a-hurry embraces. A healing squeeze. A you-are-important-and-I’m-letting-you-know-it hug.

And I choose to remember it.

“First hug of the new year,” I say.

I decide to pass the gift on, leak it out to others as the cold outside deepens and the warmth inside my old ’97 Toyota blows rich comforting air toward me.

In “The Curse Under the Freckles” I tell my readers that Chase doesn’t think much of himself, but he is important. He needs to break the curse; the cousin he relies on for almost every move can’t. Chase faces the impossible. He  sees himself as the kid at the bottom, both in class and in life.

Sure, I will need to go outside into the chill soon. Utopia exists only in the dictionary. However, beginnings are important. And every New Year’s resolution I’ve considered reeks with negativity. Perhaps fictional Chase and I have more in common than I realize.

Thanks, Kathy! You’ve made my day. No, correct that statement. You’ve started my year off right.

beginning makes the conditions perfect

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Not what I have, but what I do, is my kingdom. (Thomas Carlyle, historian and essayist, 1795-1881)

At dinner my husband Jay compliments my cooking and then suggests we go shopping soon. For my Christmas gift. “I don’t want to get something you need,” he adds. He knows I have a pair of shoes with heels that have been losing a battle with city sidewalks. The soles would not be road-worthy if they were tires.

“We will get whatever you need; I want you to get something extra,” he says. “Something you want.”

I understand the difference, yet don’t have a ready answer. Certainly, if I think about thing-possibilities long enough I could probably come up with an idea. But what I want most no one can give me. I want more people to get along. I want violence to stop, listening to come first and speaking to arrive second. I want my friends who are suffering to see an end to pain. I want the depressed to see a purpose in their lives, the grieving to find comfort, the people I have hurt without knowing it to find healing. I don’t feel well now. Neck spasms. Lying down and getting up again has suddenly become monumental. Health cannot be purchased and wrapped.

I smile and tell my mate we will shop this week. And we will. Probably. Next week at the latest.

I recall driving through a fog to my small community’s church service. I was halfway down a long winding road, no other car in sight, when I realized my lights aren’t on. I could see reasonably well without them, but turned them on anyway. Light, one small passageway, created a clearer path.

One small change in perspective makes a difference. Perhaps it is not the item, the purchased thing, that matters. The gift is no more than a symbol. I think about the built-in imperfections of life. Many people have complimented Jay and me on our ideal marital relationship. I smile because we live the muddy, you-said-what real as well as the let’s-go-to-a-park fun times. Moments arise when work-it-out hasn’t found a solution yet.

We don’t live in Utopia. We have our moments of discontent. Neither one of us has sprouted angel wings, levitated, or prophesied before the masses. We are 100% human, flawed, and complicated. Mind-reading 101 could help with the misunderstandings, but it exists only in fantasy. One of my characters in “The Curse Under the Freckles” has this gift. But, even this character finds it noisy, distracting, and annoying at times.

I suspect a perfect world would be predictable and boring—even in fiction.

So, I have no idea what toy I will choose on shopping day, but the product isn’t my focus. I imagine a journey with someone I’ve known most of my life, yet don’t completely know yet. Even if that journey includes a mundane thirty-minute mall walk. In the meantime, sweetheart, I’ll take your hand and you take mine.

At ages 69 and 70 neither one of us is too old to learn. From a geological point of view we are infants. From today’s practical position it doesn’t matter anyway.

how awesome you are

 

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