Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

August 3, 2009

In the morning, we go down to the big open room where the Days Inn offers a free breakfast. Joseph and I place our orders at the big opening in the wall in front of the cook. He tells us to leave our yellow slip of paper on which we have checked off what we want. Pancakes for Joseph, eggs and bacon for me. As I grab a cup of coffee from the machine, decaf because the high test is out, I notice that the other folks in the room have scrambled eggs. I prefer mine over medium, like Goldilocks – not too hard, not too soft, but just right.

When the eggs come, I’m surprised to see they are cooked over medium to perfection. How did the cook know? No doubt a mind reader. Or perhaps that’s the way you get ‘em unless you ask for scrambled.

Montana requires more miles on Joseph’s Mazda RX8 odometer than any other state. We come in from the southeast, cross the state about two-thirds through and then make a sharp turn to the northwest to come out near the top of the state before heading into Idaho.

The mountains are higher now that we are in western Montana. The mountains are to our left as we make that northwest trek. We seem to be following a long valley looking for a pass through the wall of mountains to the west of us.

The Idaho panhandle gives us the shortest state we have to cross. We’re in the mountains now.

Eastern Washington is dry, almost a desert. Spokane looms in front of us and then we are headed across the landscape towards the coast. The mountains loom higher to the west and the RX8 eats miles until we approach Seattle.

Since we’re not sure about the ferry schedule across the Pungent Sound, and because Joseph wants to cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge where the original bridge collapsed in a famous disaster, we head down Washington State Route 18 towards Tacoma. It’s a good road that moves fast even in the commuter traffic at six-thirty in the evening. Rt. 18 takes us to I-5 where we head south past Federal Way.

The Tacoma Narrows bridge, which is at exit 131, not 132 as indicated on the map, requires a toll if you are traveling the other way. It’s free if you are heading north towards Gig Harbor. We follow Rt. 16 until it turns into state Rt. 3 at Bremerton. Rat 3 winds through the northern half of the island. We turn at Rt. 104 and cross the bridge to Marestone Island and past Port Ludlow on the way to Port Hadlock. We follow my brother Richard’s directions to the home he shares with partner Danelle.

Richard is the poet. Richard Lloyd author of Sixty Spins of a Lopsided Wheel, Woodacre and other books of poetry. He is fairly well known among the poetry set on the west coast around Marin County, California as well as here in the Port Townsend area.

Turns out Richard and Danelle were expecting us to spend a few days at Mount Rushmore and not arrive here until later in the week. Surprise! But they seem glad to see us. This is the first meeting for Joseph and me with Danelle. She is a sweet lady, a hugger, an instant sister for me and friend for Joseph.

My brother David is staying with Richard and Danelle along with his daughter, Catie. They are staying in the carriage house above the garage. The garage serves as a workshop and junkpile.

I am happy – and so is my bottom – to have completed the drive.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

August 2, 2009

From I-90, Joseph and I spy Rapid City in the distance, urban sprawl amidst the grasslands, brown and dingy against pale grey and yellow of dry grasslands. I take U.S. Rt. 16 to avoid the downtown while wondering if the local restaurant from my visit two years ago is on Rt. 16. We don’t spot the place on Rt. 16 or St. Joseph Street when we backtrack into Rapid City.

A brand new Starbucks stands where something else once stood on a corner and we discuss if this was where the restaurant of my memories once stood. Heading out of town, we find a good breakfast in a crowded Perkins.

Outside, the highways of western South Dakota erupt with the roar of Harleys headed to and from Sturgis where the annual biker rally doubles the population of the state. Sturgis is west of Rapid City and after breakfast we head south on Rt. 16 in search of dead presidents.

A biker in a tall silk hat passes us, then a group of three biker women. Later we see a continuous string of Harleys, some outfitted like Hollywood image Hell’s Angels while others appear to be renegade accountants on a weekend jaunt. Two wheelers, three wheelers, and even a tiny four wheeler ride along towards Mount Rushmore.

Joseph takes a gander at Mount Rushmore for the first time while I’m on my second pilgrimage to this icon to presidential greatness. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt keep watch over the Black Hills with a wary eye towards Crazy Horse, the mountain of an Indian forming out of rough hewn rock to the south.

The entry gates are wide and pay tribute to the states with their flags and marker stones. All the while, the presidents stare down upon us as if to ask our politics or how stands the union. If all men are created equal why stand these men so tall and frozen in white granite?

What surprises most about Rushmore is how small the faces actually are. They take up what appears to be about one-third of the hillside. Photographers over the years carefully chose their angle to capture the majestic splendor of this great sculpture. The result was to form an image in the mind of huge proportions. The reality disappoints.

Yet the monument reminds us that with great achievement comes great honor and the greatest achievers deserve the greatest honors.

A Native American Indian might see Crazy Horse as a great leader deserving of a monument, but the carving at Crazy Horse is worthy of a Caesar. An entire mountain melts against the hot South Dakota sun, leaving behind the image of Chief Crazy Horse upon a mighty stallion. His face is complete and polished. I touched that face on my past visit when I received the VIP tour.

Today, Joseph and I follow the parade of Harleys to the parking lot. We walk to the end of the lot and take photos of the mighty warrior whose roughed out arm points to a brighter future for his people.

Crazy Horse, like the rest of us, is a work in progress. Our children’s children may one day see the completed work. The statue will stand without peer in size. Mount Rushmore would fit along the side of Crazy Horse’s head, tucked in above the ear. Even the Colossus of Rhodes was a mere mortal by comparison.

We do not linger at Crazy Horse where no tours of the mountain beckon this day, no fireworks make claim upon our time, and a gift shop overflowing with bikers does not beckon us.

The road calls us south towards Custer where we turn west and follow U.S. 16 northwest on a path heading back to I-90 but this time west of Sturgis and the biker crowd.

Custer is a tourist trap town with a Sheriff’s office and courthouse side-by-side. I warn Joseph that it indicates what they do with speeders in these parts – haul you back to Custer for conviction and fines. We stay within the speed limit.

We make it as far as Bozeman, Montana and stay the night at the local Days Inn. Bozewell is a clean town and home of Montana State University. Imagine going to college in the shadows of great peaks beckoning you to a career worthy of a future stone carver’s craft.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Day 1

Finding time to post is as difficult on vacation as it is in normal times, with the addition of the challenge of finding both the time and place to WIFI. This post begins the story of the trip. My plan is to use description as a writing exercise and avoid dialogue as much as possible.

August 1, 2009

Joseph’s black Mazda RX8 shines in the driveway at 4:30 am as I load the last of my bags. I have the usual duffel bag of clothes, a backpack of cool weather clothes and an extra pair of shoes. My mobile office consists of two more bags, a small backpack and a brief case. A borrowed Sony Cyber-shot 12X camera fits behind the driver’s seat.

In addition to his bag, my son Joseph brings a case of bottled water and a small supply of beef jerky and snack bars. He also brings a spare tire which eliminates most of the trunk space. Turns out the RX8 comes with a tire repair kit rather than a spare and Joseph decided if a tire went out in the middle of nowhere, then he’d rather have a spare tire than a repair kit. I agree. We both have sleeping bags. You never know when you will need one.

What doesn’t fit into the trunk fits in the back seat. I add four books on CD borrowed from the Warrenville Public Library. And we both bring music CDs.

From Warrenville, Joseph drives north on Illinois Rt 59. It’s about twenty minutes to the on ramp for I-90 West. The suburbs rest silent against the dark overlay of a Chicago sky. Lights from stores add a touch of reds, greens and blues as we pass through West Chicago heading north. Also the bright gold and orange of the golden arches inviting us in for a cheap meal. We turn down the invitation.

Farther along, past North Avenue and then Army Trail Road we see more of the same, but newer than downtown West Chicago with it’s haphazard gathering of stores, parking lots and old dreams needing a tear down and restoration. Here the stores are new as are the subdivisions planted where corn once dominated. We pass Golf Road and then I-90 looms ahead. We take the west onramp.

I-90 takes us northwest towards Rockford where we stop for a quick break, giving small victory to those golden arches. Joseph spots a half dozen eighteen wheelers sleeping with their backs against a rising sun that paints the morning sky red over Chicago. We both take pictures.

At Rockford, I-90 turns north by northwest pointing us towards Madison, Wisconsin. As an expatriate Pennsylvanian, I see the rolling hills of the Chester County horse country, now merely rolling suburbs of Philadelphia, in the bumps and rises of the Wisconsin terrain we pass. Why did we remain settled in flatland when in Madison a dream waits to be fulfilled – sip coffee in my kitchen while looking at a mountain out the window. So what if the mountain is really a hill or berm or bump in the road. Higher mountains await us on this trip with a destination named Seattle.

West of Madison the land rises and old visions of Pennsylvania coal country come into view, except these are the original mountains churned up by an advancing glacier ages before Case excavators and Cat dozers cut a path through them.

Joseph, flesh of my flesh, is Illinois born and bred. Does he share old dreams of Pennsylvania mountains we visited when he was a child, when his maternal grandmother gathered him onto her lap so he could make chocolate Easter eggs with her? He is new blood in a new place and shares his bones with new earth. I am the Pennsylvanian. We see the world with different eyes, his younger, mine age challenged.

The Mississippi River marks a crossing and has marked a crossing for hundreds of years, Asian settlers first, those first tribes to see the water’s majestic flow south, making a barrier to their wanderings while yet feeding them with fish and wildlife along her shores. A thousand upon a thousand moons passed their way until French explorers found the region. The world turned for the natives as first the trappers and fur traders arrived followed by farmers, those fencers in of land. Then in time came the world’s two oldest professions, one feminine and the other lawyers. Soldiers, iron mongers, physicians and educators followed. All with their families so that places called Milwaukee and Madison and points between sprang up, the permanent financial hunting grounds of a new people of European and African extraction.

The river is sunken in the depths of rock bluffs, carved of sandstone and granite. I-90 follows the river north, against the current, much as a man travels against the current early in life only to learn it’s best to flow with the river so that you arrive sooner at your destination. I was a swimmer against the current, but my son sails with it and thus reaps the joys of a well-made life.

My thoughts turn to Westley, now two, son of daughter Heather and husband Jeremy. Will Westley swim against the current? He laughs. What a boy. He laughs. His eyes have the twinkle of a toddler about to tease Grandpa with some new tickle that brings more laughter from him for the doing of it, then Granpa for the being done unto. Yet we both laugh. Westley strikes me as a swimmer with the stream. He is a big boy, a future athlete if he so chooses. I vision him a friendly teammate and leader.

Southern Minnesota is more hills and Pennsylvania reminisces for me. As the land rises so I think of my beloved Lynn and her love of mountains, children, creativity and God in somewhat reverse order. And with me tossed in there somewhere.

Gradually the land flattens along with my thoughts, now focused on snacks and miles. We roll onto the prairie to become high plains drifters. Are the high plains the ones in the West because the land rises as you approach the Rockies? Or are the flatlands of Illinois the high plains because the original grass of those virgin plains grew to six feet and higher? I’ll have to look that up or ask a cowboy in Rapid City when we arrive. Later, I ask Wikipedia and discover the high elevation of the western plains defines them as “high plains.”

As we arrive near Chamberlain, South Dakota, Joseph is driving. He pulls off to a rest area because he sees a sign bragging of the view from an overlook. The sign is correct, the overlook is magnificent. My brother Pat – Joseph’s Uncle Father Pat – has served several times with the Sacred Heart Fathers with the Sioux on the Lower Broule Reservation. Why did he keep this view to himself? Maybe he always turned off the highway to drive into Chamberlain before seeing this view. A river runs through Chamberlain – or is it a lake – anyway it’s a big puddle and the town surrounds it, and it’s all laid out in a valley below the overlook. The sign as you enter the overlook area warns of poisoned snakes rather than advertising the view.

Along the route, we have heard the thundering rumble of Harley Davidsons. The West seems full of them, especially as we close in on the Badlands. In Mitchell, we stop for gas and to see the Corn Palace which a friend told me is a “must see” on the trip. My brother Pat never bragged of the Corn Palace in his years spent blessing the Sioux.

My friend was right, of course. The Corn Palace is a must see if you must see an old gymnasium cum shopping mall with bits of corn stalk plastered about. The corn stalks are formed into interesting art work. It’s the kind of art you can imagine entering the imagination of a grower of corn who himself is planted in the maze of a million square miles of corn. We work with the tools we are given and corn is the tool of choice in South Dakota, the structure seems to say.

We did not build structures of corn in Pennsylvania. There we used native serpentine and granite along with wolf-proof brick brought over from England as ballast in Colonial days. We were a solid people, like bricks and rock, and not given to extravagances like corn palaces. We left extravagance to New Jersey folk who build Elephant houses along the ocean. But that is another story for another day.

Illinois folk are solid, too, yet growers of corn beyond Chicago. With Chicago as a solid lump in your northeast corner, you don’t need the extravagance of a corn palace. Yet in my mind, I see the corn farmers of a long ago Mitchell – perhaps old Mr. Mitchell himself – sharing liquid corn on a Saturday evening and dreaming their own dreams of a palace of corn.

With the Harley Davidsons headed to Sturgis, South Dakota, in their thousands, we realize Rapid City will not be the best choice for affordable sleeping arrangements. Nor will it offer a quiet place of rest. Instead, we stop for the night at the Rodeway Inn in Kadoka, South Dakota – the self-proclaimed “Gateway to the Badlands.” Here we dine on steak and buffalo, reminding us of us the transformation of this land where tremendous herds of buffalo beyond counting thundered through where now Harleys rumble through disturbing the peaceful pasture of horses and cows. In the morning I can’t get the darn shower to work.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Speaking and Travel

I’ll be speaking three times this week:

Plant What Others Throw Away
Thursday July 16 at 8:30 am at the Congregational Church Business Networking Group meeting in Batavia, IL.

Unleash Your Creativity
Friday July 17 at 7:30 am at the Waident Peer Advisory Group meeting in Downers Grove. This is a private peer group but if you want to attend, send me an email and I’ll see if I can wangle an invite for you. info@zuklloyd.com

Plant What Others Throw Away
Saturday July 18 at 8:00 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church Men’s Group in Warrenville, IL. Meeting will be in the church house next door to the church. Open to all men.

Attending Karitos Christian Arts Festival
I'll be attending Karitos this year. It runs July 16, 17, 18 in Bolingbrook, IL. Visit www.karitos.com to learn more. I'll be there on Saturday after my speech. Lynn and I will have a table where you can purchase PromiseGarden.com books. And Lynn may have some of her art prints available.

Seattle and back again
I'll be traveling to Seattle from Chicago beginning July 28th. I have speaking time available for Rapid City, SD, Missoula, MT, and the Seattle area. I may be able to speak in other locations along the I-90 route. Let me know if you are interested. info@zuklloyd.com or comment here.

I'll have PromiseGarden.com books with me for sale including my own: PLANT WHAT OTHERS THROW AWAY: CAREER AND LIFE LESSONS IN ORDINARY OBJECTS. The book shows how a proper view of success allows you to live in balance with God's call on your heart as well as your need to earn an income.

Visit my blog during my travels for journal posts. Beginning July 28 give or take a day or two.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sweet Inspirations

I submitted the following snippet to a writing contest sponsored by a purveyor of French wine in America several years ago. A New York fireman won. I think he entered a chili recipe. I’m considering submitting the opening sentence for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

The French country lifestyle inspires me to write fiction that I would share with America, fiction soft as a delicate meadow flower waving gently on a summer breeze along the side of a stone wall where a lovely young girl sits reading her Francisque-Anatole Belval-Delahaye and sheds tears not because Par le Fer et par la Torche inspires tears, which it does in sensitive young hearts, but because of Francisque-Anatole’s senseless death of influenza at Romans, Drone, so close to the end of the first war. She closes the book upon a flower (she doesn’t know the name of it) to save the page and plucks a grape from the dark red bunch upon her plate next to the Saint Agur and those silly American crackers she picked up on her trip to Dallas last year. Her friend takes her hand, nearly scrunching the cracker. She looks at him with dark eyes still moist from her Belval-Delahaye and he smiles. He offers her the wine he brought home from his trip to Chicago. She wonders at first why the bicyclette on the label must be red, then looks about and says, “But of course.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Writing Literary Suspense

Fiction writers are the explorers of the deep places within our hearts as we seek the nature of relationships and create characters out of the dust and ashes of old memories. We slash paths through the tangled rain forest of our inner selves.

You can't blaze new trails without picking up a few scratches, mosquito and spider bites, and an occasional run in with a poisonous snake. Better dress for the occasion when you go delving into the secret places of the heart.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wisdom

When I entered the coffee shop, one customer stood in line. Behind the counter, three attractive teenage girls bounced with youthful joy.

As it turned out, the woman in front of me was the mother of the first young lady behind the counter, the one on the left. When her daughter gave her the drink, her mother said something sweet, “Thank you, my blessed beauty.”

The girl in the middle brightened. “Hey, that’s what my mother calls me!”

The third girl, the one on the right, cast her eyes upon the floor. “My mom calls me her ‘blessed mistake.’”

We sometimes say things to our children as a joke or to tease them, not meaning the words to be hurtful at all, but we forget who we are in their eyes and how much our children look to us, even in their teen years, for approval and recognition. The young lady attempted to cover her hurt with a forced smile.

When my turn came, the young lady on the left took my order and the one on the right, her mom’s “blessed mistake,” filled it for me.

Is there wisdom in keeping quiet at such times, giving my silent approval to the pain upon a stranger’s face? On the other side of the stainless steel machinery, she started making my drink. When she looked up at me, I said, “You were never a mistake, you were a gift.” She smiled and held back all but one tear that trickled down her right cheek as she whispered a hoarse “Thank you.” When she handed me my drink, I found I was blessed with the richest, most chocolaty cafĂ© mocha I had ever tasted. So I guess we blessed each other that afternoon and there’s wisdom in that certainly.

When are our words blessed gifts and when are they blessed mistakes? Wisdom, it seems, is silent until the question itself is asked. Wisdom knows when to speak and when to refrain from speaking. Wisdom knows when to question and when not to question. Wisdom knows when to bless and when to withhold a blessing. Wisdom knows when to teach and when not to teach. Wisdom endures the bad times knowing good times will follow. Wisdom knows in which direction to travel and which path to take, for wisdom knows the goal and is steadfast in achieving the goal.

What is wisdom? Wisdom is not knowledge, for knowledge alone goes nowhere. Wisdom is not cunning for cunning alone does not bless. Wisdom is not intuition, for intuition alone knows no discretion. Wisdom does not reside in the head alone, but also in the heart. Wisdom is the product of a heart that seeks faith, hope and love for these are the true treasures of life. Above all wisdom seeks to love. For in loving, wisdom learns all that it needs to know and do to be happy. Wisdom teaches that you were never a mistake, you were a gift.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thank You, Judge 09-40-MS9034j

STEEL PENNIES, my unpublished novel entry in The Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mainstream Mystery/Suspense Unpublished Division, earned 123 points out of a total of 123 possible points for a perfect score from one of the judges. It takes guts for a judge to make so strong a statement about an unknown work. I benefited from Judge 09-40-MS9034j's positive remarks because the comments reinforce what I know to be my strengths.

Judge 07-23-MS9034j, who awarded me 119 points out of 123, indicated I use too many "extraneous" words, such as "it" and "that." I keep a list of words writers should avoid and those words are on my list, but somehow those two escaped my editing process. I'm going through the manuscript now on a search and destroy mission to eliminate them. My other scores were 107 and 86. I'm making corrections based on the comments from these judges. Bottom line: I'll have a better novel to enter in the next contest. Recommendation for writers: Enter the contests that give you feedback. You'll become a better writer.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Am I There Yet?

Where am I? I completed the forms and hit Finish. Oh, this must be it. That was fast. It’s so big. And so many tiny lights flashing and swirling around. But what else can it be? It has to be the blogosphere!

Ahem. Here I go. Blogging…

Welcome to my blog…

No, much too formal. Need something simpler…

Hi!

No, that’s just silly. I know. I’ll type.

Hi! Welcome to Paul R. Lloyd’s blog. This is the place where I’ll be writing about…

Yes, that’s just it, isn’t it? What am I going to talk about? What do people say on their blogs? Most seem like self-centered blogocrap.

Did I just invent a new word?

Great. I’m as egotistical as all the other bloggers out there in cyberland.

Did I just invent another word?

Shut up and say something.

Okay. This is one tiny step for a person and one tiny step for… well, me.

I will be talking about my writing on this blog, fiction mostly. I write what I’ve taken to calling “Literary Suspense.” My heart is in literary fiction, but every time I write a novel, I end up with murder, mayhem and things that … you know… go knocking about when it’s dark outside. So I’ve decided to embrace the suspense side of my soul while keeping true to the literary tradition.

What literary tradition? Glad you asked. Well, the short answer is the one that says that having a plot is a good thing, but the real story is in the other stuff. I’ll talk about this more in the future.

I also write nonfiction. My first nonfiction book is… Ta-da…

Plant What Others Throw Away: Career and Life Lessons in Ordinary Objects

Who came up with that title?

Anyway, it’s a PromiseGarden.com commercial paperback to be released May 2009.

Available at www.promisegarden.com. Well, duh.

Here’s how we’re describing the book on the back cover…

“How do you achieve success in the business world, provide for your family and honor God all at the same time? Using ordinary, everyday objects, Paul R. Lloyd shows how a proper view of success allows you to live in balance with God’s call on your heart as well as your need to earn an income. Using Bible-based principles, Paul walks you through a seven step process that will lead you to a better life.”

My amazing critique partner, Amy Barkman, says this about my book…

"… a great motivational and encouraging tool for people in any kind of enterprise, whether it be business or ministry. The symbols make the messages memorable. I could see it influencing my own goals in life as I read. I recommend it as something to be studied over and over."

Amy Barkman, Director of Voice of Joy Ministries, and Pastor of Mortonsville United Methodist Church, both located in Kentucky www.amybarkman.blogspot.com

Yes. Well said, Amy. Thank you.

Oh, I almost forgot…

I am available to ghost write and edit books so pop me an email if you want to know more about that. info@zuklloyd.com

And I write copy for the business world through Zuk-Lloyd Associates, Inc. You can learn more about how we turn ordinary business information into extraordinary stories by visiting our website – www.zuklloyd.com.

But enough about me for the moment. I understand you can leave all sorts of comments below. Go on. Don’t be shy. Oh, and don’t be smutty about it either. There are ladies about.