Monday, December 26, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit as a Concept


Have you ever needed a creative outlet to help you cope with tragedy or personal challenges? I have. For many years.  

The Year of the Rabbit, A Novel about Fate, Family and Forgiveness provided me with a creative outlet as well as a structured approach to a goal and a dream.  

The title represents hope, respect for traditions and the conquering of fears.  While conceiving and nurturing it, I was able to balance creative freedom and basic project management skills.  Yes, The Year of the Rabbit for me was a concept as well as a project.

This post will focus on the concept.

Events in the 1999 Year of the Rabbit forced me to be more assertive yet maintain a level of compassion and personal sanity.  I sought ways to improve my family’s home life while living with financial uncertainty under a cloud of oppression.  The four years prior and after that year were some of the most difficult in my life.  I won’t dwell on that influence in this post.  You can read about the novel and writing as therapy in another blog.  

Short stories I wrote began to evolve and provided a welcomed creative outlet.  
I pondered and wrote poetry on the concept of time. Short story characters charmed their way into my imagination, encouraging me to write them into a novel.   It was a personal quest that started as an idea in 2007, a way to distract my concerns of the reality of being a single parent and knowing that in five short years, my attacker would apply for parole.   

I wrote many journal entries, asked many questions and explored different belief systems. I read my share of “self help” books.  I declined suggestions by friends and acquaintances to write about my own life altering experience.

During my explorations, Buddhism was one belief system that appealed to me the most because of its respect for the natural world and encouragement to lighten one’s load.  Although the woman’s role seemed limited in monasteries and Buddhist communities, I was still curious. Due to an overly creative monkey mind, I was not yet a good candidate for meditation.  I enjoyed movies like Enlightenment Guaranteed and Up in the Air.  

Writing, editing and sharing drafts of this novel provided me with opportunities to connect with other writers, published authors, to re-open myself to friendship and trust.

As mentioned in the project angle, there were delays and disappointments.  Yet in April 2011, I released the Print on Demand edition of The Year of the Rabbit, A Novel about Fate, Family and Forgiveness under the pen name of Florence T Lyon.  There was no way that I wanted my married name on my new creation.  For the curious, Florence T Lyon is a pen name that represents a renaissance and a philosophical crossroad. I had accomplished a major feat and arrived at a “crossroad” along my difficult journey.  

The reader feedback for the PoD version was encouraging.  Over the next few months, I corrected chronological inconsistencies and grammatical oversights.  In September 2011, I released the eBook version.  

Visit www.yearoftherabbit.ca where you can follow links to enjoy draft excerpts, reader comments and other blog entries.  

As for the missing chapters for the years in-between, they will become a short story collection that I hope to nurture, plan and release in plenty enough time for the 2023 Year of the Rabbit.  For the next couple of years though, I have to focus on practical goals.

Yes, I was born in the Year of the Rabbit, the same year as the novel’s main character, Sera Fletcher.  We both were able to tackle demons through reading and writing.  Sera though succumbed to rage when encountering one of hers for the last time.  I relied on the pen (or keyboard) as my weapon and as an escape.  Forgiveness though will be a long time coming.

Thank you for reading this far.

T


The Year of the Rabbit as a Project


Have you had long term goals that seemed out of reach or just impossible to achieve?  With proper planning, organized teamwork and frequent spoonfuls of determination, we humans are capable of almost any positive accomplishment.  

The Year of the Rabbit, A Novel about Fate, Family and Forgiveness provided me with a creative outlet as well as a structured approach to a goal.  The title represents hope, respect for traditions and the conquering of fears.  While conceiving, nurturing and planning for it, I was able to exercise creative freedom as well as practise some basic project management skills.  Yes, The Year of the Rabbit for me was a concept as well as a project.

This post will focus on the project angle.

It started as an idea in 2007 and was documented in January 2008 with an anticipated delivery date in mid-2010.  I had set targets for completion of various phases and milestones like chapter draft completion dates, novel edit version 1, version 2 completions, etc...  

I acquired resources who helped as readers, subject matter experts and editors.  Some services were obtained in exchange for lunches, dinners or for my own skilled offerings.  Some were offered freely.  Some required payment.  I met new people, made professional connections and obtained some unlikely new friends.

Along the way, it became apparent that I would need to adjust the time span represented in the novel and the intended milestones leading up to the release.  There were real life distractions with family issues, volunteer group commitments, working a day job plus preparing to downsize and move the family home in mid-2011 (yet another project).  

Due to the quickly changing publishing scene in Canada, my dream to have the novel released on target by a credible publisher soon faded.  There were other options but there was no way I was going to pay to have hundreds of copies of my novel printed and eventually end up storing boxes of them in my own home.  No way - especially if this  would hinder the moving project.  I thought about the cost, the space, my energy performing the leg work plus... the possible waste of trees and paper.  

My goal had to be delayed or re-imagined.  I pondered options available to me.  I explored alternatives.

Enter the liberating opportunities for Print on Demand and ePublishing.  

In April 2011, I released the Print on Demand edition of The Year of the Rabbit, A Novel about Fate, Family and Forgiveness under the pen name of Florence T Lyon.  The reader feedback was encouraging.  
In September 2011, I released the eBook version.

Although the targeted completion date was delayed, I am proud to say that this project was completed in 2011.  Visit www.yearoftherabbit.ca where you can follow links to enjoy excerpts, reader comments, tweets and other blog entries.  

As for the missing parts of the final product, they may be part of a new project that I intend to nurture, plan and release as a collection of short stories by 2023.  Another project I can envision is for the novel to be made into a movie.  I think it has the potential to rank with the likes of To Kill a Mockingbird and Stand by Me. I also think I need time to re-energize before even drafting a plan for that project.  

Yes, I was born in the Year of the Rabbit, the same year as the novel’s main character, Sera Fletcher.  

Thank you for reading this far.  Comments are welcome.   

TJ

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The gift of Reading

Although unwrapping a new Ereader loaded with hundreds of titles may not bring the same tactile pleasure as unwrapping piles of books, I'm sure many avid readers will be thrilled to find one under the tree this Christmas.   


If you have a loved-one who enjoys reading fiction by little known but promising Canadian authors, do I have a deal for you!  


The Year of the Rabbit(a novel about fate, family and forgiveness) is available in many electronic formats. 

The following are confirmed distributors for the Ebook version of The Year of the Rabbit : 


Of course, if you purchase the Ebook through Smashwords, the author gets a better return ;o) and I can monitor sales numbers in a more timely manner.   You can also enjoy a 50% discount coupon until December 24th.  



While you're considering the offer, check out some deep blonde thoughts on giftmas.  


Thanks for dropping by.  


T

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I made no sales at the book fair


but I made plenty of contacts and stirred up some interest.  


The reason for no immediate sales is that I didn't have a printed copy of The Year of the Rabbit at the fair.  That was my wicked plan.  I was promoting the Ebook version of the novel with a take away sheet, luring puzzle lovers with a word search puzzle and a 50% coupon code for those who just may be interested in making an online purchase.  


I'm not the type of person who can sit for long periods of time so I wasn't keeping roost at the shared table very long either.  It's just a little overwhelming, having to yell over the noise and straining my own voice.  That's not me.  I think I had more interesting conversations with people after they approached the calmer atmosphere of the canteen where I was volunteering, selling hot drinks, warm drinks and cookies.  I say "warm" drinks because the apple juice boxes were sitting out on the counter all day.  


I invite you to explore some early draft excerpts of The Year of the Rabbit or to visit Smashwords where you can download 20% of the novel for FREE.  That's right!


Distributors:


The following are confirmed distributors for the Ebook version of The Year of the Rabbit (a novel about fate, family and forgiveness) 






Of course, if you purchase the Ebook through Smashwords, the author gets a better return ;o) and I can monitor sales numbers in a more timely manner. 


Just in time for the giving season:


Promotional price: $2.00 (50% off!) 
Coupon Code: FV59E 
Expires: December 24, 2011


Just right for book list ideas when preparing the Nook, Sony Reader, Kindle or iPad for your loved one's gift (wink, wink).


Invitation to publishers:


Since there was a great interest in purchasing an autographed, printed version of the novel, I am open to publishers who will take on this project without screwing me out of hundreds of dollars.  Not convinced?  Read comments from recent readers.  


Thanks for dropping by.  Do visit http://www.yearoftherabbit.ca  often.  


T


Friday, November 11, 2011

Fundraising for CHEO November 20th


Ottawa Independent Writers will once again raise funds at their book fair for the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.  A raffle for a basket of books donated by The Dundurn Group will take place with all proceeds donated to CHEO. In past years the raffle has raised between $200 and $300 per year for CHEO. 

You are invited to drop by the Ottawa Authors & Artisans Fair 2011 to purchase raffle tickets and browse the tables of local talent. Admission is free.

Date:    Sunday, November 20
Time:     10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Place:     Jack Purcell Centre, 320 Jack Purcell Lane (at Elgin) Rm 203
Details:  http://www.oiw.ca/events.php
 


Yours truly will be there volunteering and promoting the Ebook version of my novel.  See:  http://www.yearoftherabbit.ca 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Year of the Rabbit Ebooks to invade the book fair


They laughed (and some scowled) when I mentioned I was going to present The Year of the Rabbit Ebook at the book fair this year.  


Ottawa Authors & Artisans Fair 2011


Date:  Sunday, November 20
Time:  10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Place:  Jack Purcell Centre


Details and updates:   http://www.oiw.ca/events.php#bookfair11link


Do drop by. 


Save a tree!  Buy the Ebook.  :o) 


T








Sunday, October 23, 2011

Get the Rabbit for your NOOK or Sony eReader

Did you know?  


The following are confirmed distributors for the Ebook version of The Year of the Rabbit (a novel about fate, family and forgiveness) Yay!



Apparently, it's also available on the Apple iBook store but I can't find it.  I likely need one of them new fangled iPhones or iPads to load the app first.  Sigh... next time.  



Of course, if you purchase the novel through Smashwords, the author gets a better return ;o) As a special treat, get $3.00 off until October 31st.  


T



Saturday, October 22, 2011

Appreciation and Regrets


Before I went on a much-needed vacation a few weeks ago, I put up a poster in my place of work to promote the novel - and the Ebook discount (until October 31st).  


The response was wonderful with people interested in purchasing a copy of The Year of the Rabbit.  They wanted a printed, autographed copy.  


I appreciate their request for the beloved, printed book format.  Sadly, I have not yet had time or energy to produce a second printed version. If I do, I will have to make amends to nature due to my claim that "no trees were harmed" while publishing the book :o\ 


As readers know, the story contains a strong theme about trees.  


Attention:  For the wonderful people who purchased the first print edition, I am offering a limited-time SmashWords coupon for 100% off the Ebook price.  Send me an email before November 30, 2011.  You know how to reach me.   I will send you a coupon code that you can use at Smashwords


Anyone else can go to the Smashwords link and download 20% of the novel in many different formats for free.  How can you beat that?  At least you can get a taste for the characters and story before committing to a purchase.  I am sure you will enjoy meeting Gio, Sera and Aunt Georgette. 


Thanks again!


T

One more week for that Ebook discount


That's right.  Get $3.00 or 75% off the price of The Year of the Rabbit Ebook.  


Promotional price: $0.99
Coupon Code: JS28Y
Expires: October 31, 2011

See what others have said after reading the Print on Demand version.  In appreciation of the people who purchased the first print edition, I am offering a limited-time SmashWords coupon for 100% off the Ebook price.  Send me an email before November 30, 2011.  

Cheers!

T

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Peace, Rabbits and Frogs, oh my!

The novel is mentioned in Deep Blonde Thoughts.  Hop on over for an entertaining blog entry titled "Frog Princes and Ancient Wisdom".  

Enjoy!
T



Friday, September 30, 2011

Word Search Puzzle

Bored?  Confused if you should purchase a Kindle, a Kindle Fire, an iPad or Kobo?  Who isn't these days?  

Well, once you are able to decide on a new-fangled reading gadget, hop on over to this page.  You can get 75% off the Ebook version of The Year of the Rabbit until October 31, 2011No trees were harmed while publishing this Ebook.

Until then, just pull out the old fashioned stylus (a pencil) and print this Word Search Puzzle. Sit down somewhere comfy and enjoy an old-time favourite.  Thanks to http://www.worksheetworks.com

Have fun!  Remember to follow Flo on Twitter.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

75% off the Ebook price until October 31st

That's right.  Get $3.00 or 75% off the price of The Year of the Rabbit Ebook.  

Promotional price: $0.99
Coupon Code: JS28Y
Expires: October 31, 2011

See what others have said after reading the Print on Demand version.  

Come on down!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

YOTR coverage in the Citizen's "The Wrap"

There was mention of The Year of the Rabbit in the Ottawa Citizen's "The Wrap" Volume 53, #1 September 2011.  

Title:  "Domestic Violence Survivor uses her writing as therapy" 

Read an electronic version of the article in PDF or JPG.  

Read T's ramblings about writing as therapy here

By the way... The Wrap wants general interest stories from Ottawa citizens, neighbourhood news and information.  They also spotlight charities and non-profits.  Read more here.  

About the novel:

Thanks for stopping by.  It has been an interesting journey.

T
 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Save a tree! Buy the Ebook

Announcing the Ebook version of The Year of the Rabbit



Released September 3, 2011 at Smashwords.  Hop on over to nibble a sample in one of MANY formats.  

See comments from readers of the Print on Demand version.  Read some interesting newspaper snippets from the Seguin Sounder.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Seguin Sounder newspaper clipping - Gruesome Discovery



Curious?  Read some excerpts from the Novel.  Read some more news clippings unearthed on the long weekend. 
 

Thanks to the awesome Newspaper Clipping Generator at Fodey.com.  http://www.fodey.com/generators/newspaper/snippet.asp   (Sure beats hours of tweaking around in MS Word!)


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Zodiacs and the Bible


This is a continuation of this Chapter 3 excerpt where nine year-old Sera Fletcher endures Gio's presence in the new sanctuary of her booth at the Red Hare:  http://novel-yotr.blogspot.com/2010/12/red-hare-family-restaurant.html

August 8th is Sera's birthday.  Happy Birthday, Sera! 
- - - 

He stirred, stirred and stirred, gently tapped the spoon on the edge of the cup then placed it on the saucer.  His pudgy hand took the cup’s handle and raised it to his mouth for a sip.

“So,” Gio asked as he set it back down, “What are you reading then?”

“A book.”

He breathed in sharply and then out slowly, “A book about…?”

“The Chinese Zodiac.”

“Ah, well, then that makes sense.  Are you familiar with the other Zodiac?”

"Yep, a little.  Dela and Gwen have a book on it too."

"So," Father Gio pondered, "Since your birthday is August 8th, that makes you a Leo.  Leo the Lion. An early Lion I am told."

"Yep," She lifted her gaze, impressed that he knew her birthday was coming up in a month but slightly creeped out, "How do you know that, Gio?"

"Because it's in the Baptism registry."

"Oh, yeah.  That."

Father Gio sipped his coffee, "You know, Sera.  In a few years it will be time for your Confirmation."

"So I've heard," she sipped her pop and leaned slightly to the left to look over at her parent's table.  Marie smiled back at her and waved.

Sera rolled her eyes and let a sigh puff out from her lips, "Did she tell you to come and talk to me about that again?"

"She may have.  Your father and Father O'Reilly also want you to be prepared... to grow within the Church."

"No offence, Father but I don't like church.  It’s boring.  It’s creepy.  I keep hearing stories about an embarrassing event with a pigeon and dropping my bible into the Seguin River.  Besides, I learn enough from Mrs. Johnson."

"You what?"

"I learn about the bible stories from Mrs. Johnson, and sometimes Mr. Johnson when he is — was — feeling up to it.  I used to read to him too."

"Really?"

"Yes, Gio.  I do know about some of the stories, although they don't always make much sense logically."

"I...I did not know the Johnson's were Catholic." Gio said quizzically.

"They're not.  They're Coptic — from her home country ... in Egypt."

Gio raised his eyebrows, impressed to hear this report from his precocious child.

She continued, "Well, she’s Coptic but he isn't. Wasn't. I think he was Catholic — or maybe it's Baptist."

Gio let out a loud roar of a laugh.  "Well, there IS a difference, Sera."

"Whatever.  They both believed in a God, read their bibles and didn't get into big arguments about the differences."

He sobered his tone, "Yes.  Yes.  That is important to keep in mind."

"Plus, Mr. Johnson told me that he'd rather see her less sad when he's gone than push for ... what was it .. 'geological differences'."

"You mean 'ideological differences'?”

"Sure."

"That's very big of him.  Very ... Christian.  And I think it was very compassionate, very Christian of you to read to him and play cards."

Sera's eyes widened, "Wha... no, I was just doing it to be nice, to help him feel better."

"Well, we can call it what we want but caring for others and easing their pain are Christian goals, Sera."  He frowned and lowered his voice, "Are you embarrassed by your religion, by your Church?"

"I didn't get to choose, now did I?"

Their debate was interrupted by a loud male voice from the front of the restaurant. "Hey, Carl!  What do I have to do to get a coffee around here?"

It was Daryl MacDonald, Victoria's father.  A chill went up Sera's spine.  She scowled in his direction, retreated into the corner of the booth, dragging the book and soda glass with her.

- End excerpt - 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Comments widget is working again

Thank you Google / Blogspot for finally fixing the issue with the comments widget.  (recent blog comments were not displaying)

Flo

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gio Meets Sera


It has been a hot, humid week in the Ottawa Valley this mid-July.  I thought I'd share an excerpt from Chapter 1 so we all could enjoy a refreshing breeze from Georgian Bay.  Yes, Seguin Sound is a fictional place.  It is very, very similar to 1970s Parry Sound, Ontario. 

Travel back in time with me to a slow-moving town.  Enjoy the breeze and the shade of the cherry tree...

The Year of the Rabbit - A novel about Fate, Family and Forgiveness

Chapter 1 (Gio meets Sera)

It was an August morning when Father Giovanni Vinoletti found the courage to drive to the Fletcher house.  He learned that Matthew had a woodworking job out on the Bay and he really wanted to take this opportunity to spend some time alone with his wife. 

As he cruised along River Road in his shiny black Lincoln, he smiled gratefully as the refreshing breeze blew through the driver's window.  He loosened his collar and reached over to the passenger seat to make sure the bottle of wine was well cushioned in his cardigan.  He turned up the volume on the radio to hear the news report on the Woodstock concert from the weekend before.  Almost a million young people had travelled to a farmer's field in upstate New York. 

"I wish I’d been there," he thought.  Those youngsters seemed to have so much freedom, and the ability to pick up and go on a whim. He was turning thirty soon and realized that he really hadn’t had that taste for adventure when he was a teenager — not like his brother Roberto. 

As Gio came to the intersection of River Road and MacDonald, he noticed a black and white police car to his left.  Its exterior was covered with a dusty grey film — Likely cruising some of the dry back roads, he thought.  Someone had written “wash me” on the rear passenger door. 

Smoking a cigarette and smiling, Constable Paul Brown let his left arm dangle through the driver’s window.  I guess his job must be boring in this small town, Gio concluded, nothing much seems to happen.

Brown waved Gio through.  Gio smiled and waved back.  He was glad that he had been able to convince the diocese to let him use the car his family had donated.  He appreciated the reliability of a solid vehicle and the ease with which it could get him around town.  Lately, his knees had started to hurt from his increasing weight.

He approached the Fletcher property at the foot of Harbour Hill, pulled the large Lincoln into the driveway and turned off the engine.  

Gio leaned back on the leather seat then promptly corrected his position as he felt the sweat dripping down his large, hairy back.  The gold crucifix dangling around his neck reflected the summer sunlight onto the dashboard.  He sat with the windows opened and mentally prepared himself for the visit.

He had only arrived in Seguin Sound a few weeks ago.  It was a refreshing improvement to the inner-city parishes in which he had begun his work.  He appreciated the small-town atmosphere, although it was boring, the closeness to nature, the constant, slow movement of the river below, and the refreshing openness of Georgian Bay.  Most of the people living here seemed to move at the same relaxed pace.

Gio wiped perspiration from his brow, adjusted his black-framed glasses and scanned the property. On his right was the Fletcher home, a large, sturdy green two-storey house with an attached shed.  The front lawn was well kept, as were a few patches of irises and tiger lilies. 

To the left, there were what looked like two garden plots.  Leftmost, between their yard and the neighbour’s, were a few small, twisted pine trees growing atop a small knoll.  He saw two young redheaded girls and a dark-haired girl climbing, swinging and jumping from the little pines then running to a hammock strung up between one of the trees and the clothesline pole.  They seemed to be having a great time.  Weren’t they hot?, he thought.  Father Gio had already met the redheads after church on Sunday.  They were the precocious ten-year-old twins, Dela and Gwen.  

One of the twins (he could not tell them apart from a distance) seemed preoccupied with burying something in the soil and patting it down with a small spade.  Behind her and at the back of their neighbour's property was a pine forest that stretched up the hill and beyond. 

To the rear was a large flat rock with a fire pit with log benches.  Straight ahead, stretching towards the trestle of the high and looming CP Rail bridge, ran a small pathway which led towards another cluster of buildings. Beyond this view was the refreshing Georgian Bay.

Near the back of the house was a large tree, a deciduous of some sort, thick with green leaves casting cool shade onto the backyard.  The Fletcher property looked pleasant and provided a safe place for children to play. 

Children.  He sighed.  Gio placed his hands on the steering wheel, almost in an embrace and bowed his head.  He softly repeated words he used seven years ago when confessing to his mentor after his carnal indiscretion.  This was different.

"Heavenly Father, please give me courage to face this possibility, to accept the facts as they are presented. Please forgive me for my indiscretion so many years ago. One act of weakness... Whatever you will for me, I accept."

The scorching reflections from his cross bounced around the interior of the car as he prayed for courage and forgiveness.  His heart was pounding in anticipation. 

Children.  A child.  What if she is my child?  His curiosity had hounded him enough to check the baptism registry at Saint Peter’s church.  Her birth date was too coincidental.  Why do they spell her name S-e-r-a?  Why on the very first Sunday I am serving at this parish do I learn this information?  That woman looked so familiar.  The one-and-only time I ever had intimate relations with a woman and ... I have to find out if it really is her.  I have to solve this mystery. 

Gio took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, prying his large body out of the car.  He stood for a few seconds adjusting his glasses and cross.  He fluffed his damp short-sleeved, black dress shirt to cool his round torso, wiped his greasy, black curls back and pushed the straw hat down firmly.  He reached in and grabbed the bottle of 1962 Vinoletti Red — his gift to the Fletchers.

As soon as Gio closed the car door, the redheads and their friend turned their attention to the driveway and came bounding down to greet him. 

“Hi, Father Gio!” called Gwen and Dela in unison. At this point, he still didn't know one from the other.  They were wearing matching shorts and T-shirts.

“Hello, girls.” He responded politely.  “Are you enjoying this hot summer day?”

“Oh, yeah,” chirped in one, “We’re going to the beach with Amy and her Mom later.”

“Hello,” said Gio as he extended his chubby hand to the friend — a petit Asian girl, “Are you Amy?  I’m Father Gio.”

Amy looked straight up at him with her dark eyes while shaking his hand, her delicate fingers squeezing two of his,

“Hello, Father Gio.”

"We're treasure planting," chirped the other redhead.

"Oh, really?  What does that mean?"

"Oh, we're putting small treasures around the yard so they can be discovered in one hundred years.  You know, like they found in Egypt with King Tut? Except, we're not using real gold and jewels, just trinkets."

"Ah," Gio nodded and responded politely.  He smiled at them and wiped the perspiration from his brow.  He looked at the twins one by one.  Ah, yes.  I think it was Gwen who had the crooked smile and ear.  “Girls, are your parents around?”, he asked.

One piped in, “Dad’s working away on the Bay but Mom’s inside.”

“Oh, I see," he said feigning disappointment.  "Well, if your mother is not too busy, may I speak with her please?”

“Sure, come on back to the shade,” the girl said as she grabbed his hand and led him past the driveway to a set of lawn chairs under the tree.  Amy and the other one ran across the back porch and into the house. 

“Thank you...Gwen...." he thought he'd take a chance at the name and seemed to have succeeded, "It’s so nice here in the shade,” Gio removed his hat, wiping his handkerchief across his brow, “I can even feel a breeze.”

“Uh-huh,” the girl responded, “Would you like a cold drink?”

“Oh, I would love a cold drink, Gwen!”

“I’ll be right back!” she shouted, already running towards the house.

Okay then, he concluded, Gwen is the one with the crooked left ear. At least I've got that straight — as long as they’re not wearing hats!  

Gio tested the sturdiness of one of the lawn chairs then sat quietly under the tree, enjoying the calm and the gentle breeze.  The cicadas buzzed loudly around him, seeming mostly to come from the pine forest.  He looked around the immediate area.  This seemed to be a favourite spot for the family as he observed the chairs and lounger.

A small red object plopped onto his lap.  Another bounced off his belly.  He picked up one of the small orbs then turned to look up at the tree, squinting into the sunlight radiating through the leaves.  Ah, it’s a cherry tree, he concluded, likely one of the Pin Cherry species.  I wonder how they are for wine. 

Gio's family had operated a vineyard in the Tuscany region of Italy for many decades.  When he was small, his parents immigrated to Canada to start a vineyard in southern Ontario.  Growing up on his family’s land, he had learned quite a bit about grapes, wine and other fruit-bearing trees.

He rubbed the small orb in between his large fingers then popped it into his mouth for a taste.  Ooh!   A little sour, he discovered, puckering his face as he leaned over the side of the chair to spit out the pit. 

As he sat cooling off, he recalled meeting the family after mass last Sunday. 
. . .

Father O’Reilly had introduced him to the entire congregation during mass and again, individually, it seemed, in the reception hall.  Gio had shaken hands with many parishioners, husbands, wives and children. The older priest called over Matthew Fletcher whom he referred to as the godsend carpenter who had repaired some of the aging pews. 

Matthew was a muscular, tanned man with rough hands and gentle, blue eyes. Shaking his hand, Gio had felt a warm connection with him. 

Matthew gestured over to some people at the other side of the crowded hall to call them over.   Two redheaded girls of the same age clung to a woman's side while they mischievously stared at the new priest.

“Father Gio,” he said, “I would like to introduce my wife and a couple of our children.”  He pulled closer to his side a small, attractive woman with reddish-brown hair and vivid green eyes whose face became clearer as she raised it to meet his gaze.

“Georgette!” burst out Gio.  His knees nearly gave in and he felt the blood leaving his face.  His mind flashed with memories of a beautiful woman, sweet desserts and a winter’s night of passion. 

“No…” responded Matthew quizzically, “This is Marie.”

“Oh, ohhh.  So sorry. Mea Culpa.  Nice to meet you, Marie,” fumbled Gio with a prolonged handshake.  “You look very much like someone I knew years ago...”  Her hands felt so soft and cool.  He didn't want to let go.

One of the redheaded girls piped in, “Georgette is our aunt in Montreal.”  Gio forced his gaze to the twins standing side-by-side in their Sunday best, smiling at him with their sun-burnt faces.  The only difference he could perceive was that one had a crooked grin and her left ear was slightly bent. The odd-looking twin asked, “Do you know Aunt Georgette?”

Gio stuttered, “Uh, err, I'm not sure.  It was long ago.” He grimaced awkwardly at the girls, then Marie.  He could feel the perspiration trickling down his back and into the crack of his buttocks.

Marie spoke next, smiling nervously, “It is nice to meet you, Father Gio.  These are our daughters Dela and Gwen. The boys, you have met... they were the altar boys today...  Daniel and Perry.” 

“Yes,” he agreed.  “Good boys.”  He turned and smiled to the redheads, ”Hello, Dela.  Hello, Gwen.”

“I want to be an altar girl,” said Dela.

The grown-ups laughed nervously at this young girl’s bold statement.

“Seriously,” she continued, “I really do.  How about you, Gwen?”

“Sure,” replied her twin, “Sounds like fun.”

The rest of the conversation was polite with O’Reilly praising Matthew for the work he did for the church.  Gio only remembered smiling and nodding, while gazing a few times at Marie. He was damn certain that she was the woman he had known intimately as Georgette seven years ago.  She smiled and added politely to the conversation, avoiding eye contact with him. 

Father O’Reilly piped in, “Now, where is the wee girl?  Sera?”

Marie responded quickly, “Oh, she’s with her new friend at her family’s cottage.  She’ll be back tonight.”

Gio’s heart jumped a beat.  A wee girl?  Another child? 
. . .
A train whistle interrupted his reverie.   The girls came skipping out of the house; Gwen, though, approached carefully with his drink with a theatrical expression.  She handed it to him and offered her crooked smile.

“Here you go, Father Gio,” she curtseyed, "I even added a little more sugar for you."

“Oh.. well.  Thank you, Gwen.” He took a sip to taste, concluded it was lemonade then took a few long gulps.  “Ahhh!  This is very refreshing.  Thank you.”

The trio of girls ran back up the little slope to the pine trees.  Gio felt another cherry bounce off his head.  Another bounced off his belly and into his glass. It felt as if a force greater than gravity was aiding in their delivery. 

He adjusted his eyeglasses in preparation for a closer inspection of the tree.  His peripheral vision caught movement: a woman’s form approaching from the house.  She was walking slowly, holding a tea towel and a glass of lemonade.  She wore a light green summer dress.  As she came closer, he recognized that walk.  Those hips.  As she came nearer, he was certain by that smile and those green eyes, this was the woman he once knew as Georgette.

“Hello, Father Gio,” She smiled nervously.

“Hello… Marie,” he responded, raising his glass while struggling to rise from the chair.  He reached down beside his chair to retrieve the wine bottle he brought. 

"A gift from my family's vineyards."

"Thank you," smiled Marie as she accepted the bottle and put it on her lap as she sat in the other chair.

A cherry bounced forcefully off his head.  Another plopped into his glass.  As he looked up to see the source, he heard the train approaching, its horn blowing louder and more frequently as it approached the bridge. 

Marie stood up and shouted to the tree, “Sera!  What are you doing up there! Come down this instant!”

The train rattled through the forest on the hill and onto the bridge, three diesel engines were pulling a trail of cargo cars and wheels clack-clacking over the rails above them.  It blew its horn again and rolled on towards the other side of the valley, dragging an assortment of boxcars, tank cars and flats in an endless stream behind it. 

Gio looked at the train and winced at the noise.  Marie gave him a look of embarrassed apology then moved closer under the tree.  In the middle of the noise and commotion, they observed two bare feet then legs extend down from one of the limbs.  Gingerly, a small blonde girl in blue shorts and T-shirt, hung from a low branch, then dropped to the soft grass below. 

Gio’s heart was pounding.  Could this be?  No, she’s so fair and has dark blue eyes.  She looked like an angel with her fine blonde hair, messed up and decorated with twigs.  She had a peaches-and-cream complexion with rosy cheeks and a small brown freckle under her right eye. 

“Is this Sera?” he shouted nervously over the noise from the train.

“No,” responded Marie with a slow shake of her head, “This is her friend, Victoria.”

Victoria smiled and waved at them then held out her arms upwards to the tree.  Down into her arms dropped a stuffed rabbit, which she kissed on the nose and put on Marie’s chair.  Then she ran back and held out her arms again, catching a golden-brown teddy bear.  It received a kiss on the nose as well. 

By this time, the train had left. Its horn sounded in the distance, as it approached another level crossing.  The air was finally quiet with only a light breeze rustling the leaves, the Chickadees and the distant calls of Blue Jays.

Gio’s curiosity was peaked.  He put his lemonade glass gently beside his chair, shuffled closer to look under the tree limbs, up into the green canopy. Down from one of the branches dangled two dirty bare feet, as another small girl hung from a limb.

-- End excerpt --

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

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Enjoy the Year of the Rabbit in a personal and a literary sense

T