Tag Archives: Storytelling

The Strawberry Cookie Jar – A Riverton Road Story

The strawberry cookie jar probably wouldn’t have merited a second look from Amanda if she’d been her normal self that day.

“What will you use it for?” William asked.

They’d always been close and shared just about every confidence, so he understood how troubled she was. Her unusual preoccupation with the ceramic strawberry was added evidence of that.

“A cookie jar maybe,” Amanda answered without much conviction.

William lifted the lid of the foot high, fruit-shaped container, which was bright red and dimpled like its real-life counterpart. A cap of ceramic leaves, resembling a section of vine stem, formed the green curlicue handle.

“The top doesn’t fit tight enough,” he said, pushing Amanda’s strawberry cookie jar precariously close to the edge of the makeshift yard sale table. “The cookies will go stale.”

She didn’t reply. He was starting to annoy her. All she wanted was to clutch this comforting object to her bosom where she’d experienced too little comfort lately. She was fast becoming a listless shell of her customary self, and William had been sensitive to that. He’d mixed delicious apricot sours for her at cocktail hour and taken on some of the more tedious tasks of being the husband and wife chef team at Miller’s Inn on Riverton Road Hill. So why couldn’t he also let her cling to this ceramic strawberry cookie jar in peace?

As far as anyone could tell, William and Amanda had passed the seven-years-married itchy period with hardly a blip on the bliss meter. She’d relaxed then, which may have been a mistake because, almost out of nowhere, a renegade thought had begun to plague her, the thought that maybe they should try living apart. She’d been taken completely by surprise. She’d also assumed they would muddle their way through whatever this might be.

Unfortunately, she hadn’t been able to ward off a growing tendency to snipe and bicker, until she feared her nastiness might reach critical mass and she’d collapse in a cloud of self-disgust, like those high-rise buildings they detonate from within to implode straight down onto their own foundations. There were also moments, like a sunny yard sale morning, when her characteristic common sense was replaced by what appeared to be a random obsession, this time a strawberry cookie jar.

“It’s occurred to me that, if I want to hold onto you, I should go along with whatever you want.”

Amanda was so shocked by William’s words she almost dropped her precious, though actually kind of homely ceramic find. He’d always been a feisty guy, making his own rules and sticking to them. They’d gotten along so well partly because her rules were generally in tune with his. Yet, here he was, standing next to a table cobbled together from splintered two-by-fours covered up by a faded tablecloth, talking about capitulation.

What he had said echoed in the rhythm of the car wheels along the high-crowned North Country road all the way home. “Bumpy, bumpy, bumpy, bump. Go along with what she wants.” When she faced William that evening in the narrow living room of their apartment at the Inn, she was still hearing that rhythm and those words.

“What do you think I want?” she asked.

“The way I see it, you should be asking what I think you need.”

Amanda was stunned by his reaction, or lack of reaction, at least in the flatness of his tone. She was even more stunned by having no answer to offer concerning either her wants or her needs, so she waited for him to provide it, like she expected he would.

“You need to get away from this place,” he said, right on cue.

A heated argument followed, with angry accusations and layering on of guilt, like too many married couple arguments. Amanda might have taken her own cue from what William had said that morning and simply gone along with what he said, but she didn’t. The next day, she awoke regretting this and immediately began formulating an apology. Unfortunately, William had already left, and she would never see him alive again.

Meanwhile, the strawberry cookie jar languished in a storage shed for several years until Amanda rediscovered it among dusty packing boxes, red dimples dingy from long neglect, still probably incapable of keeping cookies fresh. She clutched it to her anyway, as she had all those years ago, while feelings from that time flooded back sharp and poignant as a needle behind the eyes, bringing with them William’s words.

“You should be asking what you need.” Maybe she was now ready to search for that answer at last.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com

– R|R

Read Amanda’s present-day story in Alice’s new novel, A Time of Fear & Loving – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 5. Buy it HERE. Buy all of Alice’s books HERE.

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Honor Your Goddesses. Mom Figures, Mates and Mentors

My friend and mentor Paula Scardamalia gave me some good advice recently via a tarot card reading. Paula and the Three of Cups reminded me to honor my goddesses, my designation for the three women pictured on that card which honors the heart, the emotions and our dreams.

I knew at once who those three women were in my life. They fit to overflowing Paula’s criteria for what they should have been for me. They were my supporters when I most needed them and have remained so ever since, even though they have passed on from this plain. They keep me from being overcome and undermined by the obstacles in my path, including myself.

Paula encouraged me to name these women and keep them present in my mind and heart, but most of all to honor them. I encourage you to do the same. Identify your goddesses, name them, honor them. I bestow that honor by writing about my three wonderful women here. I hope you will do the same for the three women who steadfastly urged you toward your light.

Grandma & Me at Two and a HalfFirst always among my goddesses is Grandma. Alice Jane Rowland Boudiette. She was the bright light of my first seven years and of the past twenty-seven also. I lost her, to some extent, during the forty-plus years between those early and later periods of my life. Maybe because I was bewildered by her sudden absence, hurt and even a little angry at her for leaving me in difficult circumstances with difficult people.

My mother was mentally ill. My father was overwhelmed and increasingly angry. Still, the basic principles Grandma taught me abided somehow. She was my template for how to be a good, caring person who makes the world a better place. She continues to be that model for me. I am grateful she was eventually restored to me. That’s the two of us in the garden when I was two or so.

Marilyn (Swartz) Seven was the first real friend I made after moving to New York City in 1980. I was bewildered yet again and shaken by another loss, this time of the comfortable life I had built upstate. New York was too much for me to handle, or so I thought, and I felt anything but comfortable. Then Marilyn appeared and coaxed me out of the Hell’s Kitchen apartment where I’d been cowering. “Chutzpah,” she said. “We’re going to get you some.”

She dragged me to my first MWA (Mystery Writers of America) meeting and dumped me into a conversation with Mary Higgins Clark. That was my beginner giant step into the publishing world, where I have spent my professional life ever since. We lost Marilyn too, to breast cancer. I miss her spirit and hear her enthusiastic voice in my ear to this day. Because of her, chutzpah became my thing. Thank you, Marilyn.

Artie's DeliSeli Groves called me her little sister, and I was honored by that, as I was honored to know her. Seli’s wit was always with her, lightened by gentleness and good cheer, never harsh. Her smile warmed me through and throughwhenever I was in her presence. We would meet at Artie’s Delicatessen near the corner of Broadway and 82nd Street in Manhattan. I remember sitting in the window with coleslaw and huge pickles in front of us.

Seli was forever teaching me, though never pompously, about life, about people, about writing and publishing. She taught me about Judaism too, and brought me to love its traditions. Of my own religion, she’d say, “Jesus was a good Jewish boy. He went to temple on Shabbat and took care of his mother.” I said Kaddish for her in my imperfect shiksa way every day for a year after her death. I wish I could sit with her in the deli window again and laugh and learn.

These three women, so different from one another in the way they appeared to the world, are together as one in my heart. They blessed me mightily, and I shall honor them as long as I live.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com

– R|R

A Villain for Vanessa Riverton Romantic Suspense Book 4 and my other books are available from Amazon HERE. A Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1 is a FREE EBOOK there also.

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Things with Wings. The Detail that Makes Your Writing Fly. #MFRWAuthor #IAN1

Grabbing a reader’s attention is all about hooking her emotionally. Prying beneath the surface as she scurries along from sentence to sentence and page to page. Hitting her where she truly lives – in her heart.

We do that first and foremost by creating a main character about whom the reader not only cares but cares very much. So much so that she begins to behave as if this character were a real-life human being.

Red Jeep 1The reader roots for your character to succeed and dreads that she may not. When such rooting and dreading happens your reader is engaged on an emotional level with your story and that engagement keeps her eagerly turning pages all the way to The End.

Meanwhile, beyond this deftly drawn main character, lies another engaging element of great storytelling. An element that compels your reader to stop short for an instant in her pell-mell plunge through your plot to be hooked yet again by the Deeply Felt Detail.

This detail draws your reader to a particular moment in your story and holds her there to experience a flash of connection. She recognizes the essence of what you have written. She responds at an emotional level even if she doesn’t consciously understand why.

You’ve caught your reader on the hook of your deeply felt detail. But first you must experience that detail even more deeply yourself. Where do you find such resonance – moments, sights, objects, whatever they may be? You find them among your own deeply felt attachments.

For example, I feel such attachment to my red Jeep Wrangler. When I think about that vehicle my heart flies to a fond place, soft and warm and sentimental. Or it can fly more frantically to a place of terror. The difference depends on the circumstances of the scene.

Fond and tender if that scene is of my grandchildren filling the backseat with cookie crumbs and squabbling between bites. Frantic and fearful if that scene involves a wrong turn of the steering wheel that could send us hurtling to disaster.

I drive my red Wrangler onto the page and make my story fly straight into my reader’s psyche and most especially into her heart. I do that by revving my writer engine to the max on every drop of drama fuel this detail holds for me personally. I give it storytelling wings.

I possess a lifetime’s worth of emotionally potent details – moments, sights, objects, whatever they may be. You do also. Think back. Feel deeply. Engage your heart and your nerve endings in the search. Make a list. Then use those details in your writing and watch your stories soar.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com/

– R|R

A Villain for Vanessa – Riverton Romantic Suspense Book 4 and my other books are available from Amazon HEREA Wrong Way Home – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 1 is a FREE EBOOK  there also.

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