It’s Written, The End?

Whew! the manuscript is done. My friend and Detective loved it. His wife commented she almost wished my detective were her husband, feet on the coffee table and all.
My family loved it and there it sat. Years went by and I took some writing classes, went to a few author meetings. I looked at the manuscript and it had a great idea with a terrible ending.
I felt frustrated. How do I end a story that is unsolved? How can I work it so there’s a satisfying ending open for the reader to decide who did it? I felt flummoxed. I put it away and began other projects.

In 2006 we sold our house in Minnesota, packed everything we owned (in 3 weeks) and moved to Portland, Oregon. After moving I felt the urge to write again. I needed help writing. I needed to be trained.

I began searching for an online writing site to help me. After a few trial and errors, I came across Writing.com. Over the years I have written literally hundreds of stories and articles. Submitted them to contests and won a few. The writing process helped me hone my craft. Even the best writers continue to work at their stories. To make sure they are going to satisfy their audience. A few don’t. We’ve seen authors who’ve lost their edge or bask in old glories.

A few years ago I received and email from the webmistress of Writing.com telling me she’d received a request for me to contact someone who lives in my area. Curious, I said yes and she sent me the gentleman’s email. I contacted him.

I’ll just refer to him as Jeb until I get permission to use his name. Jeb told me his story. He’d bought a house in McMinnville. Stacked over the hot water heater, on a shelf, were newspapers. When he pulled them down he noticed they had been printed in consecutive months, December 1958-about December 1959. The common thread was a missing family. He became curious and started on a research journey.

Remember my research era didn’t have internet. Jeb had done a lot of research even reaching out to my detective’s family. Which they of course, to my surprise, had my old manuscript. They shared it with Jeb. It was how Jeb found me. He Googled me. Imagine. Me, on Google.
We decided to get together and share what we knew. Over the last few years, he’s continued to do research and share what he’s found with me.

He’s written a non-fiction account of what happened. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure it will be good. He’d published other true crime stories with another writer. He plans to publish it next year.

His excitement has spurred me to rewrite my old work. I’m a little over half way there, but it still needs a lot of work. I’m adding the new information and making the story have a point, drawing the reader to a conclusion, which I will provide. Since this is fiction, I can choose any character I want to be the instigator or maybe more than one. My detective has more of a reason to find the truth.

Salt

I thought to post a spiritual note into the beginning of this week. You’ve had time to recover from the weekend, and there is still time to make this week a memorable one. I hope this brings a refreshing moment to your life.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?

I love to cook. I love flavor. There isn’t anything that tastes better than buttered and salted popcorn or a taco chip with lime and salt. While in Mexico years ago I was introduced to jicama. We bought it from a man on the beach that put a handful of jicama in plastic bag. He added salt and squeezed lime in the bag, zipped it shut and shook it. I couldn’t get enough of it.

I decided to have company for dinner after a long sabbatical. We set a Victorian style table with individual salt and pepper shakers. My husband happened to see that when the shaker turned on its side the salt stayed where it was. He took a toothpick and dug out the salt and tasted it. It had very little taste. Not only was it damp but it didn’t taste like salt should.

Why do we use salt? Salt enhances flavor. So it is with spirituality. When we become Christians God puts in us a desire to enlighten the world around us. We want everyone saved from their sin. We tell people our testimony to share the change God has made in our lives. We smile a lot and speak kind words to others encouraging them in their walk.

As time, maybe years go by, we may lose a little of the vibrancy we once had. We get busy with the business of DOING for the Lord and forget to renew that which was once a living spirit in us. Our Salt. We attend church, sing in the choir, teach Sunday School and drive a van to bring others to and from services. We go in the side/back door and straight to our duty. When its all said and done we speak to those who we see every service in the same capacity and go out the way we came in. Pretty soon we are in such a routine we have lost touch with our saltiness. There are those who attend the service that could use a word of encouragement, a smile, a hug, a pat on the arm or shoulder that says we are glad they attended the service.

I can hear the mental response, “We have a greeting team that does that every week.” I’m sure most churches do. It is OUR salt God wants to renew. By stepping out of our comfort zone or routine, who knows what blessing awaits us?

I heard a story that has stuck with me. A man quit coming to church. When the pastor asked him why, he said he didn’t need to be in church to worship the Lord, he could do it just as well from home. The Pastor asked if he might come for a visit and the man agreed, assured the pastor couldn’t change his mind. When the pastor arrived the man showed him to a chair near the fire. The Pastor sat but said nothing. He took a scoop and picked up a glowing ember from the fire and set it on the hearth. The two men watched the glowing ember flicker for a little bit then slowly cool until it was black. The pastor once again picked up the now cooled ember and set it into the fire where immediately it began to glow and heat. The man turned to the pastor and said, “Sir, you don’t say a lot, but you say a lot. I’ll be in church next service.” God wants us to flavor our church.

We need to have the salt or spirit in our lives alive, fresh, ready to be a voice for God to use where we’re needed. Even if you aren’t able to do any of the jobs I listed above, your salt is important. Your prayers and words of encouragement are used by God when works might not be accepted.

One of my favorite books is; This Present Darkness by Frank E. Perretti. The prayer of one woman caused a reaction that defeated the works of the Devil in a town. That book touched the hearts of many people who read it. Prayer is powerful. As we move among the non-believers or backsliders of this world we can be that salt that brings a life to the gospel. We don’t know who God is working on and our actions and words might be the salt that savors their lives and causes them to answer God’s call.

Don’t let your saltiness go stale. I don’t mean the saltiness of your conversation, that’s another topic, I mean keep your relationship with the Lord fresh, up to date. You never know who is feeling a little bland.

What to Write Part 3

He hung up on me! What a shock. I couldn’t believe it. I began reading the few police reports again. I also called the Multnomah Library and purchased copies of the newspaper accounts. My friend visited there on her day off and made more copies of pages I didn’t have.
As I read the articles one reporter seemed to have all the information and connections for this case. Ann Sullivan. As a reporter she seemed to have an inside knowledge of the police department and their objectives.
Again I reached out to The retired detective when I couldn’t seem to get a handle on the story behind the missing family.

This time when I called, he told me to find the police report about the interview with the waitress at the diner then call him back after I’d read it. Of course, he asked me what the weather was that day.

I found the report he requested, read it and called him. We talked and he asked me questions about the report, which I answered to his satisfaction. At this time he asked me to read what the waitress said the girl’s had chosen to eat.
I looked at the report and read what it said.
“Why didn’t the mother want the older girl to have a burger, fries and a milkshake like her sisters?” He asked.
I looked at the picture of the family. None of them were starving. “Maybe she was on a diet.”
“What other possible reason might a girl be watching what she ate?” Walter prompted.
I have no idea why this idea popped into my mind it came from nowhere. “Was she pregnant?” I asked.
“You said it, not me,” and the phone went dead. He’d hung up on me, again.
There was my story. Now I had to start investigating it.

As I said before I’d never attempted writing a full length novel. I wrote and wrote and called Walter every now and then for some insight on what I was thinking. He in turn sent me copies of pages and pictures from his files I wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere. After another year or so went by, I finished the story, made a copy and mailed it to him.
More next post.

They Came

A short story about the invasion of Allies into a concentration camp

We walked in groups of twos and three’s with little to no conversation. Our rifles lay easily over our shoulders or at the ready on our arms. The men at the front of the line slowed as we followed the curve of the tracks, the rest catching up.

My eyes took in the fields opposite the road and tracks. Workers looked up, but ignored us and went back to their hoeing or weeding. I almost ran into the buddy in front of me, but stopped in time. I jockeyed around to see why everyone had stopped.

There it sat. Just as they told us in the town. They told it in whispers. “Follow the tracks, past the forest. The tracks will follow the wall. It will lead you to the entrance.” The brick wall hid the evil from the town’s folk. The line of soldiered men moved closer to the gate.

A dark pall fell over us. I can’t begin to explain it. A heaviness settled over my spirit. My skin grew cold, but from the inside. There was a familiar smell in the air.

Tom, our commander, pushed the gate open. It moved easily and we followed him into the enclosed area.

A tall barbed wire topped fence ran along one side of the narrow road and train tracks bordered the other. Dark stains dotted the dirt at our feet. I’d seen them before and I shuddered. What was this place?

“Move on up guys. Be on guard.” Tom barked and we responded at attention with our guns ready for any attack. “Group one to your right, group two on to the next gate, group three search the train cars.”

I moved with group two. We walked in formation, single file to the gate. Not a sound could be heard, but the crunch of gravel under our feet. Too quiet. Harry opened the gate. I heard a noise and whirled, my finger on the trigger. A movement in the shadow, near the long barrack caught my eye.

“Harry, One O’clock,” I got the okay and moved alone toward the corner of the building. The stench hit me. The short side of the wooden building had a single door ajar. I held my gun firmly in my hands. It was a part of me, like an extension of my arm.

I heard rustling and whispers inside. They were eerie, Ghosts? There were many times I’d walked through a battle field and heard what I thought might be spirits who wandered the land.

With caution I pushed the door open with the tip of the rifle. No sound. Only a couple of windows, high along the sides of the building, let in light, I crouched inside the doorway and waited for my eyes to adjust. The smell of death in process settled in the back of my throat. It stuck to my tongue, I swallowed hard and pulled my shirt over my nose, it didn’t help.

I saw shelves built along the walls. I heard the scrabbling of rodents on the wood floor under the straw. I didn’t look down. “Who’s there? Come out!” I commanded and stood erect. A moan cut the silence.

Something touched my head and I jerked away; ready to shoot whatever attacked me. I looked up and a boney arm extended over the edge of the rack. A dirty sleeve hung from the appendage.

“Who are you?” I demanded. I pushed the arm with the barrel of my rifle.

Another rustle from a rack further down, “Who are you?” was repeated back to me. It couldn’t be an echo, it had to be someone.

The hand above me didn’t move. It wasn’t a ghost. I poked it again with my gun barrel, but it remained still.

“He’s dead. Been that way three days now,” A raspy voice spoke from the shadows. I turned on my heel and a creature stood in front of me.

The large skull, devoid of hair. The mouth was a hole where rotted teeth, what were left, moved when it spoke. The large eyes sunk into the cavity of the head and the skin that covered the bones looked like parchment paper.

The skeletal body wore some sort of striped shirt, but it didn’t cover much and was open to reveal an emaciated, naked form. I turned my eyes away to the far reaches of the room and took quick breaths through my mouth to fight the nausea.

A sound at the end of the end of the room interrupted my thoughts and I pointed my gun at the intruder. It was Harry, at least what I could see of him.

“You okay?” his voice rough. I tried to see him as he moved past the shelves in the dim light.

“I think so. You?” I turned my eyes back to the form in front of me. I still wasn’t sure what we were facing. Harry clicked the light switch. I’d been too busy with the creature to look for a light switch.

The overhead lights flickered and gradually lit the area with a yellow bulb. I stood in horror at the sight before me. Crawling, from what I now recognized as bunks, were human forms much like the one clinging to the post next to me.

They tried to talk but most sounds were unintelligible. I don’t know much German and even less Polish. Those that could, came from their bunks to stand in the walkway.

Anger rode hot through my veins and burst into my face. I felt hot and itchy. My finger wiggled against the trigger of the rifle and I pulled it out just in case.

“See if you can get them out into the compound. We need to see how many are here and what we can do for them.” Harry strode passed me and I heard his retching outside. The anger had over powered any nausea I’d felt.

“Can you walk?” I asked the band of skeletons. They moved, slowly scraping their feet on the straw like zombies toward the door. The one nearest me stopped.

“Are they gone?”

“Who?”

“The Germans? The guards? ‘they gone or out there?” The voice was scratchy and the English broken.

“There are no guards and no one is in the compound. They all left here a week ago I heard. We are your rescuers.”

“We safe?” the voice asked.

“Yes, you’re safe.” I choked out and stepped aside as the creaking band of survivors made their way to the door.

I checked on the bodies that remained in the bunks. Some were dead, others barely hanging on to life. The words I heard were foreign to my ears, but the tears, boney hands that patted my cheek and arms were a universal language.

All the while, tears flowed down my cheeks. I was not alone. My fellow soldiers and I didn’t speak of it. Where we teased or joked with one another, now we were silent. The conversation was limited to directions; where to put these men who had been tormented.

That was many years ago. I came home from that place a changed man. It wasn’t the only place I was sent. There were others, but that first scene I witnessed, lives with me each day.

I put my talents to good use. I am a gentile but I work for the cause. To find and punish the men who perpetrated this horror. If I had a gun I could notch, there would be no handle left. Together with others we’ve rounded up these criminals and brought them to justice.

I’ve heard there are those who do not believe there was a holocaust. Just let me talk to them. Let me show them the pictures I took, I wish I could share the stench that fills my senses to this day.

WC:1356

© Copyright 2014 Editing with purpose (thekindred at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.

What to Write part 2

I was surprised that Mr. Graven hung up on me. I went back to writing, trying to figure out how to tell this story about a missing family. I don’t remember what I wrote in that first attempt. I never kept it.

Frustrated, I wrote to the State of Oregon and requested all the police reports on the case. It took about a month and I received a packet in the mail. Excited I pulled out about 100 pages or so.

I began reading each one, only to find page after page with black dots on them. White pages with maybe a partial letter but mostly black dots. I came to find out the reports were mostly carbon copies. When copied on to micro phish the copies are white letters on black film. Where the carbon was low from over usage, the letters translated lighter. When the pages were then copied on to paper the action is opposite. Light passes through the black film and the letters are reproduced on the white pages. The less black and more light, the letters don’t show up and I what I received were pages of black dots. I wanted to see the originals, but I lived 1800 miles away.

I did receive enough good copies to put together this wasn’t a witness protection hit. The police ruled that out, along with an number of wild claims. I called the Multnomah County Library and requested copies of the articles sent to me. I couldn’t afford the number of copies there were.
My friend went to the library and had some of them copied when she had time.

I called Mr. Graven. Again I introduced myself and why I was calling. I told him I’d given up on the witness protection story and was reading all the police reports. I questioned him on some of the things I read, but he didn’t really answer me. He asked me who I worked for. Did I write for a paper and what was my connection to Portland. I thought I’d satisfied all his questions when he asked me what the weather was like where I was. I told him it was warm, sunny and humid. He hung up on me.

Again I felt this was ridiculous. I tarried on writing and getting more copies of newspaper reports on the missing Martin family

What to Write

I’ve been told the best way to promote your book is to tell people what it’s about before they read it. I thought I’d tell you how I came to write this book. I’ll do it in short posts so you get to know me and my story, a little at a time.

I wrote the first draft in 1985 and throughout the years I’ve had to copy and paste it into different versions of WORD as technology progressed. I think I lost some of the chapters in the process and now is the time to do a rewrite.

In the early months of 1985 my family traveled to Portland, Oregon to visit my folks. While reading the Oregonian I came across a full page article written by one of their most aggressive reporters, Anne Sullivan. She’d written this article in response to an accident on the Glen Jackson Bridge. This bridge is part of Highway 205 crossing the Columbia River.

Her article pointed out how an accident that caused a car with a family of five to go off the bridge and into the river reminded her of another family.
The rest of the article told how in December of 1958 the Martin family left their home in NE Portland to pick Christmas greens. They didn’t return home and the following day, the husband’s sister called the police to report them missing.

Anne went on to give a brief account of the search that included Larch Mountain, the Bonneville Dam and all parts between. She did include there had been some searching near The Dalles area.

A picture of the family included father, mother, three girls and a son. The article gave the children’s ages as the son-21 Barbie-14, and the other girl’s 12 and 10. The son was stationed on the East Coast at the time the family went missing.

I love a good story and the article peaked my interest to the point I tore out the page and began writing a story. I thought the story might have been a family discovered in the witness protection program and killed for what they knew. I wrote furiously plotting as I went.

I loved to write, but never had I written a book and while my family loved my little stories I didn’t know good writing from bad.

When the muse ran out in May or so, my friend called me with the names of people who were still alive who might help me with my writer’s block.

The first person I called was Retired Detective Walter Graven. After I told him who I was and that I wanted to interview him about the Missing Martin family, he asked, “What’s the weather like in Minnesota?”
Surprised I looked outside and said it was cool and sunny, probably about 65-70 degrees. He then hung up on me.