“Recto Verso” by: Scott Parks and Ashley Crookham

Whritmorh Street.  A narrow winding road of clothing stores, café’s, bistros, and curio shops intermixed with art galleries and jewelry stores for the more upscale shopper.  Accustomed mainly to foot traffic, it could be the type of street in any cosmopolitan district.  What makes Whritmorh Street different, is that its clientele are fictional characters. It is one of the many streets they visit after a novel or short story is written.

Miko walked down the street with purpose, eyeing the windows and doors.  She was unaccustomed to the quiet peaceful nature of this town.  Not having to fight for survival since her last novel was as new as friendship and making her own decisions.  She smiled as she walked, she liked this feeling.

She turned into the Recto Verso, her new favorite tea shop.  It wasn’t the tea in the shop she had fallen in love with, it was the smoothie bar inside the tea shop.  The mango fruit smoothies they served were out of this world, literally and figuratively.

Miko waved to the tender behind the smoothie bar and held up two fingers. He was a mind reader from Dale Grove’s Outlier Revolutions and therefore it was an unnecessary gesture on her part but the smoothie bar tender nodded and began clanging glasses readying the frozen mixtures.

At the entrance, Freida held the door for a few more patrons before entering. She meandered past the counter, around a half wall, and through the mismatched furniture until a couple rose from their seats. They were wearing running clothes and stretching their legs as they sought the exit. Even though they had left a signed copy of the short story “Born to Stub” as a tip for their waiter, Freida still thought it was rude of them to leave their dishes on such a busy morning. She bused the table herself, pulling a hand embroidered rag from her skirt pocket to clear the crumbs.

With a final reshuffling of the coxcomb flowers, Freida gestured to Miko to come over, “This one is ready. I’ll wait with you here until your guest arrives.” She leaned in casually, and didn’t notice as Miko stiffened from the proximity, “Ashley Crookham’s book Virtue Chasm actually got me to prefer coffee.”

Miko set down her cups and took off her duster coat. “I’m not meeting anyone here.” She mindlessly wiped dust from her boots, they were still dirty from the novel Helena Chronicles written by Scott Parks, despite the fact that the book had been with beta readers for the past couple of months and the author had only recently reached out to an editor.  It was plenty of time to get cleaned up but she liked the reminder of the adventure she had been on.

“Oh?” Freida took another look at the two beverages but rested her hands on her lap without further comment.

The amber lit shop sloshed with humans balancing things in their hands and tinkled with dishes on lacquered tabletops and metal cutlery on china.

Miko followed Freida’s eyes then glanced sheepishly at her two drinks, “I can’t help it, they’re so delicious.  The drinks here are better than the choices I had in my novel. The food in my hive was packed with nutrients and energy but it lacked variety.  Grimmson and his gang introduced me to some new fruits, but they weren’t very filling.  I was lucky to get orange juice on Helena.”

Freida pointed her chair in the direction of the juice bar and scooted to the edge of her seat as though she were going to stand but the mind reading tender was already placing a perspiring cup in her hand. She reached for some Venuside bills, each with a different female figure. The bill on top featured Annora, lying on her side in her classical pose, torso raised in the air.  Her tunic and pleated ruffled by the wind, she had just loosed an arrow from her intricately carved short bow.  A colorful duck is flying in the background, a moment before her arrow strikes.  Underneath was written “May Annora Guide your arrow.”  When she looked up to pass them to the man, he had evanescenced with the rustle of a page turning.

To Miko she said, “I hate when they do that.” She sipped the blend and smiled. “My friend Orla would like this. Do you see any of your other characters here?”

Miko donned her helmet to check where the blender yielder had stood, “I’ve never lost anyone yet.”  She paused, “My crew is still two blocks over.  Ox, one of the main characters plays a mute in the story.  He’s been enjoying his time here, he goes to karaoke bar almost every day and stretches his vocal cords.  He’s got a decent voice, I have no idea why the author didn’t give him a single line of dialogue the entire book.”

She took her helmet off with a shrug, set it next to her and picked up her drink and sucked through the straw.  “Besides, the boys aren’t suited to tea shops.  We stopped at a nice restaurant a couple of weeks ago.  I wanted to go somewhere new and I thought some culture might do them some good.  So, we sit down and the waitress comes over, see’s Grimmson’s side arm in his holster, gives it a glance and clears her throat.  Of course, he completely missed the sign out front saying to leave firearms outside and instead thinks he’s forgetting his manners.  He pulls his gun out of the holster, and places it next to the dessert fork and says “See I know what I’m doing!  Salad fork, dinner fork, dessert fork, and revolver.  Just like in Oceanfront.”

“He didn’t!” Freida covered her gasp with her hands.

“He did!”  Miko laughed, “Then he sat back with this smug grin on his face like he did the right thing.  What about you?  Where are the other characters from your book?  Where is this Orla at?”

“She’s not here. None of us have seen her, not even my brother, and he got here before the rest of us.” Freida nudged the cup aside and rested her elbow while twirling a dark lock. “Ward guesses the next place we go will be permanent and we’ll all be there. He has a whole flow chart, I won’t even try to explain. Basically, his hypothesis is that this place doesn’t want us to resist moving on, so it doesn’t quite give us everything.”

Miko thought. “You know, I did wonder why none of the shops do dirigible repairs.”

“Exactly. Whritmorh is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. It has thoughtful womanly touches and sturdy manly implementation.” She gave a shrug and flicked her hair behind her shoulder, “I’m not trying to be all main-charactery, but all of the bed covers stay in place. I’m tired of sleeping on top of the comforter.” She took another sip. “I won’t be one of the ones who lingers forever.”

“That doesn’t bother me at all,” Miko replied.  “I’ve been sleeping under my bed, it reminds me of my hive.”

Freida laughed. “Well, you sound pretty content. I believe you’ll be okay if your author takes as long as mine to publish.”

Miko chuffed, “I’ve already been here a long time.  I’ve seen a lot of other characters come and go.  I was in my author’s first novel but instead of publishing us he decided to do a series of short stories and to start a couple of other novels like he was Don Quixote tilting at windmills.  Different genres, different styles, the works.  It’s like he has a writer’s form of ADD.  He’s a master of chapter ones.”

She adjusted herself in her seat and took another sip, “I’m not too worried though, he did come back and do some serious editing to clean the story up and he has promised us a second novel, maybe even a third one as well.  Of course, he’s currently working on two other series and a collab with another author so I don’t know when the other books are coming.”

“I hope the best for you and your crew,” Freida squeezed up her shoulders, then relaxed them when tables cleared at the same time for the queue of waiting shop goers. She gestured a flat hand, “Things could always be worse. No one I’ve met here was from an unfinished story. I’ll bet their version of Whritmorh is not as classy at all, if they even get one.”

MIko shrugged, “There has to be something else, characters in a series have to go somewhere, right?”

A waitress came by and flipped down the bookmark-shaped flag Freida had repositioned. Her name tag said “Celess”. Freida squinted. “You’re all glowy. Do we share an author?”

“Could be, or it could be that I’m a fairy godmother.” Celess flicked through the screen of her tablet without looking up, “Are you ready to order or what?”

Miko asked, “Is that a joke? I’ve lost touch with my sense of humor after Helena.”

“Two parfaits, one to go.” Freida cleared her mouth, then added, “If you have time in between looking at single mens’ profiles.”

Celess left, muttering about necessary research.

“You recommend the parfaits?” Miko asked after inspecting the waitress signal.

Freida pulled in her chair to let someone pass behind her, then scooted back to make room to don her shawl. “No idea. I never eat the same thing twice. My book father taught me to trust my gut though, and the description included honey drizzle so I think you’ll enjoy it.”

“I may have to try one of those parfait thingy’s the next time I visit this shop,” Miko said thoughtfully.  “I’ve learned to enjoy my time here, it’s more peaceful than Helena.  I miss the action sometimes but I can sleep a lot easier at night knowing I’m not being hunted.”

After a pause, Miko continued, “This is a nice place, hopefully we’ll run into each other again, either here or wherever it is characters go after they’re published.”  Her helmet beeped, she stole a quick peek.  “The boys are done with karaoke and are heading to the range for some target practice for the sequel.  I’m going to meet them there, you should join us, if not today then maybe soon.  I think I still have some time here. ”

“Don’t stay here too long, you might meet the fan fiction version of yourself.” Freida stood, then clutched the bagged parfait. “Ward never speculated about what we could bring to the next place, men tend to forget such details.” With a wave and a sound like a hardcover book closing, she was gone.

Miko glanced at the abandoned parfait. Freida had somehow left a drawing on a napkin with a girl in Amish-looking clothes handing a waspish warrior a cup of layered dessert while Miko was absorbed in her smoothie. Also, a fan of Venuside bills lying on the table led Miko to briefly wonder if the fictional characters portrayed on fictional money had their own version of Whritmorh after their scene was over.  She shrugged, sipped down the last of her first drink, then picked up her to-go snack and slipped back out into the busy street.

Why I Can’t Write About What I’m Writing About

When a writer comes up with a story idea, they want to share it just as they would good news about love, work, or family. However there are very good reasons not to tell others. To prevent anyone feeling rebuffed, here a few reason I feel I shouldn’t write about what I’m writing about:

  1. You may have questions I don’t know the answers to yet. I want you to be excited, not inquisitive, and avoiding the subject until every detail is set can prevent unwanted queries.
  2. You might influence the writing. You may give feedback that leads me down a path that would not have been as good as the one I would have carved for myself. Feedback can feel refreshing during creating but can also plant doubt that I’m not good enough to think the idea through on my own.
  3. When you read it, I want you to experience it afresh. If I’ve given you information about it beforehand you will have notions going into it and not be able to give feedback as if you were a reader picking it up off a shelf.
  4. Not telling you will make me want to finish the story. Planning, writing, editing, post-editing, and preparing to publish are all intense processeds. Knowing I will not get to share the story idea I’ve found so important I put the effort into it unless I do my best and complete it all will give me motivation.

These are my thoughts, and the reason I held back on plans after an engagement and a child’s name before she was born.

What are your thoughts on telling a story before it is complete?

 

 

The Palm of My Hand

When you mention the word “author”, the first person I think of is a celebrity who seems to have it all together. She is prolific, travels broadly, and posts about her day to day life without mention of the struggles of creating something she’s ready to publish.

When you mention the word “writer”, the first person I think of is someone like me. Someone who is not ready to share their novel with the world. I think of other writers who drink, eat too much, give up, complain.

I am proud of my words in the newspaper. I am more proud of the short stories I’ve published. And to help ensure I’m one day proud of my novel, I’ve developed a healthy reward system for myself for completing my daily writing goals.

The reward is not a full glass of red wine (which I can’t indulge in while breastfeeding) or a handful of candy (which I can’t indulge in while setting a good example for my one year old). Instead I wear a piece of jewelry related to writing. I don’t wear it on the day I complete my goal. I wear it the next day. This means I have the jewelry on to inspire me to keep going. I like seeing it and thinking about the work I did. If I don’t complete my goal, I want to wear it and it further motivates me to meet my goal on that day.

This system has kept me happy, sober, and not in a sugar coma.

 

What do you do to stay motivated? What do you think of when you hear the words “author” and “writer”?

Co-Authoring

One day a member of my writers group shared a sad story about a beloved pet. The symptoms she experienced, shared by many humans and for unknown reasons, seemed like an intriguing story idea to me.

My fellow writer and I began to flesh it out. “What ifs” sprung up, setting molded around it, and we each envisioned a character from which to view our fictional world. We decided to co-write a story. This is what I have learned about the process so far:

  1. You must agree on how quickly you want the story to come together. In our case, we are not rushing each other in any way. We both have other projects going on and this story is one we can come back to only when we choose to.
  2. You must agree on how much of the story each writer contributes. In our case, we are taking turns with chapters.
  3. You must be flexible. One new idea can mean a lot of work to edit what has already been written. When we agree to go a different way with the story, we must both go back to keep the information consistent.

I’ve enjoyed seeing our story come together from two writers with very different styles and ideas. This might be a long-term work but we will both be proud when it is complete.

 

What have your experiences been with co-authoring?

 

Kwerky Review

 

While editing “Elaty Riaf”, I used the Querkywriter keyboard someone had given to me as a gift. Here are my observations:

Positives:

  1. attractive
  2. keys make a nice clacking sound
  3. easy to use wirelessly with your computer
  4. you can sit things in the ledge at the top (such as photos to keep you motivated or notes to keep you oriented)
  5. reminds me of typing on my mother’s old typewriter as a child

Negatives:

  1. a bit high up for my wrists to sit comfortably
  2. the shift button got stuck constantly, making edits more laborious
  3. numbers are along the top only

Overall, I would not have bought this for myself and I prefer to use a wider, lower, quieter keyboard. The faulty shift key was not compensated for by the attractive typewriter appearance. I am glad I got a chance to make an informed decision about this product.

Have you used this before? Something similar? What did you think?

Coffee & Tea

Now that the Western Maryland Writers Group 2016 Anthology is out, I have returned to editing Gender Chasm.

When I’m working I like to have a beverage at the desk with me so I thought I’d spend one post discussing my favorite ways to brew and steep.Author Ashley Crookham coffee station

Hot Coffee. Even when I’m not restricted in my caffeine consumption, I tend to use a few scoops of decaf in with my flavored grounds. My favorites are chocolate, hazelnut, and Scottish grog.

Author Ashley Crookham hanging mugs

Old Coffee. I tend to make a pot of coffee, but only drink one cup. The rest I put in a reusable mug and stick it in the fridge for the next day(s).

Cold Brewed Coffee. Overnight in coffee sock. So worth the wait. Any flavor is clarified and crisp.

Author Ashley Crookham coffee sockHot Tea. I pour water into the mug, then dump that amount into my stove kettle. I use tea bags or loose leaf tea in my hanging tea man. My favorites are Celestial’s tension tamer and Yogi’s bedtime.Author Ashley Crookham hanging tea man

 

Cold Brewed Tea. Insert into filter, screw onto a mason jar, and you get tea to take to work the next day.

Author Ashley Crookham tea drawersI drink all of these black. (Well, as long as I’m not meeting old friends at an English tea shop where milk and outstretched pinkies are required.) Coffee first thing in the mornings, tea is for when I get home from work.

 

What do you like for coffee and tea? Is anyone out there able to live without both?

 

Divorce

Note: The Western Maryland Writers Group Fairy Tale Anthology with the “Elaty Riaf” short story is out. Get it in print, or on your kindle.

Author Ashley Crookham sunray

We began dating 11/23/2005. I was still a teenage. We got married, got separated. Our divorce came through exactly 11 years later.

 

Since my short story “Elaty Riaf” dealt with this subject, I thought I’d write a brief post about my experience.

 

Divorce is the abortion of marriage. It’s a choice and will cause you to doubt yourself. There is power in the choice you may wish you didn’t have.

For us the cause was that he needed to be on his own, and, afterwards, I needed to not take him back. We both could have tried harder to find another way. But we failed. Together.

 

There are few comparable situations in which you have the chance to discover so much about you. The uncertainty of the future, the depth of pain from the past, what you are capable of, what you don’t want to endure.

 

What I’ve learned is that you should not be with someone who comes to you looking for something, but instead commit yourself to someone who found something in you.

 

Love, Ashley (Crookham)

Hey, you’re a Goodreads Author now!

One of the most exciting e-mails I’ve ever received had the subject line: “Hey, you’re a Goodreads Author now!”

Feel free to check out my page there, if you haven’t already. Then, vote on the best line from my short story “Born to Stub”.

Love, Ashley (Crookham)

 

 

 

 

P.S. Are we goodreads friends yet?

Alphasmart

author ashley crookham alphasmart library

To write the rough draft of “Elaty Riaf”, I used my Neo by Alphasmart. This was the first time I have done this. Here are my observations:

Positives:

  1. not very expensive ($28 used on Amazon)
  2. comfortable to type on
  3. the battery lasts for a long time
  4. this is a word processor only, and therefore I am not distracted by the Internet while writing

Negatives:

  1. the screen only shows a few lines at a time, which makes it difficult to refer back to character traits and names
  2. no thesaurus
  3. when I was in public, people interrupted me to ask about the “weird keyboard”
  4. once I transfer the file to my computer, I no longer feel like using the Alphasmart
  5. I must re-format for publication after transfer, rather than setting up formatting at the beginning of writing

 

Author Ashley Crookham alphasmart home

Overall, I would use this again, especially during times where I am on a strict schedule for writing. However it did not change my life enough to insist on use.

Have you used this before? Something similar? What did you think?

 

Love, Ashley (Crookham)

Elaty Riaf interview

Dr. Dale A Grove took time from writing his latest novel Outlier Revolutions to interview Ashley about her soon-to-be-published short story.

Here is a little more information about Dale:

“Dr. Dale A. Grove is a product developer by day and a writer by night. He has worked for such firms as Owens Corning, Johns Manville, LNP Engineering Plastics, Tekni-Plex, and US Silica. He possesses a vivid imagination in creating new stories and new products with over ten US patents.

In his spare time, Dr. Grove has written four books in the science fiction genre entitled, Gray Maneuvers, Gray Extraction, ELIZA, and most recently Loose Strings. His next book entitled Outlier Revolutions will be coming out in 2017. It’s the story of a mentally deranged, yet gifted female transporter that battles for evolutionary dominance on a frigid ice world.

For further information on these and other short stories check out his website, or go to Amazon.com or Goodreads.com and search for books by Dr. Dale A. Grove.”

 

Interview 11/27/16

  • Dale: What inspired you to write the story Elaty Riaf?

Ashley: One day, as I navigated the oceans of online dating, I thought about how much easier it would be if fairy godmothers were real. Then I had a pessimistic thought about the usefulness of magical godparents. That became the crux of this story.

 

  • Dale: How did you come up with the name Elaty Riaf?

Ashley: Read her name from end to beginning.

 

  • Dale: Why did you choose the occupation that Elaty Riaf has? Did you do research on it or have you personally experienced it?

Ashley: I have personally experienced the role of activities director and saw no reason Elaty couldn’t be in the same position. My passion for this story comes from the life lessons taught to me by the elderly people I’ve worked for.

 

  • Dale: The dating conversations were particularly humorous, especially how they tied into the rest of the Fairy Tale. How did you come up with those lines?

Ashley: That was the most fun part of writing this. Some of the lines were straight out of my dating inbox. I just altered them with fairy tale references. A good use for some of those negative experiences. One I couldn’t fit in was “I want to sniff your glass slipper”.

 

  • Dale: I understand that the author of Elaty Riaf is working on a full length novel. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Ashley: I took time from editing Gender Chasm to write “Elaty Riaf”. My novel is a new adult fiction about a girl named Frieda who tries to save her brother. The theme is Men’s Rights. In their world, the nation has been divided into two sides: one ruled by Men, and one ruled by Women.

 

  • Dale: Do you believe in the happily ever after ending?

Ashley: Yes. You can live ever happily if you find someone who loves you for you. You both need to want to be besotted. If you have those things, and the same life goals, I believe all dragons can be defeated.

Ashley Crookham in a castle