Celebrations Friday & A-Z Summary
Posted on April 30, 2015
First things first, lets celebrate the small things this past week (or two):
  • Spring is finally here. My budding roses are proof, and so are my allergies. Zyrtec, I bow down to you...
  • Soccer and softball have taken over my evenings and weekends. Love being outside!
  • I'm assistant coach for my daughter's softball team, and I coached my first game last Sunday, solo. We lost, but I had loads of fun.
  • My manuscript is back from line edits. Another round of proofing and I'm done. 
  • A-Z is over. I'm both elated and deflated. (A summary is down below.)



A-Z Complete. Time to boogie!

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Xavier's Promise
Posted on April 28, 2015
Like his father, and his father before him, Xavier is destined for the King's Guardsmen. At eight years old, he picks up his first blade, a thin needle sword that could easily be mistaken for a piglet skewer.

"Always respect the sword and your opponent," his father says as he raises his real sword up to his chest with the tip pointing straight up to the sky and whips it sideways towards the ground. Xavier raises his sword to his chest and imitates his father's motions. His swing makes a swoosh sound, and Xavier smiles grandly at his own strength. 

Frowning, his father waits with his sword in one hand and the other hand behind his back. Xavier's smile disappears, and he quickly resumes his position. 

"This is not a game, son. Holding a sword, swinging it wildly does not give you power."

"Yes, sir," Xavier says with his head in a slight bow. 

"Now, let us begin."

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Wynona Learns The Truth
Posted on April 27, 2015
White beach sand rains below her knees as Wynona shakes the metal sifter. "Still nothing, Dr. Reyes," she says to her older brother.

"Keep looking, Dr. Reyes," her brother replies through the black handkerchief over his mouth. He fills his sifter with more sand and begins shaking it. "The treasure is buried here somewhere. Keep looking." 

"Right away, Dr. Reyes."

After covering three feet of beach with no results, Wynona dusts off the sand from her knees and heads back to their tent. Before she reaches the tent's opening, she hears her mother and aunt whispering, and her mother sobbing uncontrollably. Soon, Wynona returns to her brother who is waist deep in a hole - a hole he is painfully digging with the sifters.

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Victoria Prepares To Meet Her Prince
Posted on April 26, 2015
It never takes two hours to comb Princess Victoria's hair, but today is a special day, and her hair needs to be in a perfect do. The white satin dress with pink lacing her mother chose for her is and hanging next to her mirror. Pink and white mini roses are sitting in a bowl awaiting their adornment on the princess's head.

The queen sighs when the maid finishes Princess Victoria's hair. The princess scratches a tiny section on the side beneath her ear, and her mother slaps her hand down. "Leave that alone, you'll ruin it."

"But it itches. It's too tight," the princess says with a frown.

"It's perfectly fine. Prince William will love it."

"Prince William is a dork. Jenna told me he only loves his dog, Rufus. He probably doesn't even know how to ride a bicycle."

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Uzi And Bullets
Posted on April 24, 2015
His long, red cape is secure around his neck, and the white laces on his red sneakers are double knotted. Uzi is ready to battle evil in the treacherous world of The Backyard. With a forceful leap from his bed, Uzi hops down from his upper bunk and lands on his two feet with a solid thump. Bullets barks twice, his tail wagging.

"Ready Bullets?" 

After another bark, he stands on all fours and pants with anticipation.

"Let's go!"

Across the corridor and down the stairs he zooms, his red cape flapping in the trailing gust of wind. Looking through the holes in the red mask over his eyes, Uzi sees danger at the bottom of the staircase. "It's the grocery bags from hell, Bullets. Quick, jump!"

Bullets dashes down the stairs and over the obstacle in one giant bounce. Uzi carefully holds onto the railing, climbs down the steps one by one until he passes the white bags blocking his path. 

"We made it Bullets!"

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Talia Says Goodbye
Posted on April 23, 2015
The noise from the machines doesn't bother Talia like they did four weeks ago. She walks past the soft beeps and hums, with a thin book in her hand, and heads straight for the bed. With a little girl's grunt, Talia lifts herself up to sit next to her grandfather.

"What are you reading me today?" Her grandfather asks slowly, taking a breath after every other word.

"The Adventures Of An Astute Girl In An Obtuse World, by Diana St. Thomas," Talia says. She lifts the book so her grandfather can see the cover of a little girl with two braided pigtails swinging from a tree. "If that's okay with you, Grandpa."

"I'm good with it," he says with a weak smile. "Please, proceed. And remember," he takes another breath, and, with his fist in a ball he says proudly, "read it with passion."

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Ricardo And Sebastian Fight To The Death
Posted on April 22, 2015
This isn't the first fight I've been in, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be my last. Sebastian is pretty big for a fifth-grader and has arms like a grizzly bear. You might be wondering why he wants to beat me up. Well, me too. I haven't the slightest idea.

So here I am in the middle of a circle of fifth-graders with Sebastian staring at me as if I were a trout in the river he was trying to catch for supper. I look for my friends and there they are with the rest of the kids in the circle, pumping their fists and chanting "fight, fight, fight."

Hmm... I never took the math club for a cheering squad.

No need to break another pair of glasses, so I stow mine away in my backpack before setting my backpack down at the base of a weeping willow tree. I snort - it's weeping, in my honor.

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Qinadi And Her Gods
Posted on April 20, 2015
In the ancient palace of Nir, at the top of the highest mountain in Ornesta, Princess Qinadi struggles with her nanny as she combs her long rosy tresses. 

"Ouch!"

"Sit still, mistress. There is still some dirt in your hair. I ought to whip Joden for taking you to the mudslides. Look at all this dirt." 

"I don't want long hair anymore. Why can't I cut it off?" Qinadi asks. 

"Your long, pink tresses are a gift from the gods, and we must respect their gifts." Her nanny pulls out a twig from another section of Qinadi's hair and clicks her tongue.

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Piper's Spirit
Posted on April 18, 2015
Piper's mother closes the windows as Piper jumps into bed. 

"Why do you close the window, Moma? It's so hot in here." 

"I know, Piper, dear, but in this part of the countryside we must close the windows to keep bad spirits out of our house."

"Even now, during our hottest fall ever? Can't we open it just a little?"

"You will be fast asleep before you know it. Now don't stay up reading for too long. You'll hurt your eyes under that candle."

"I promise, Moma, I won't read too much," Piper says with a mischievous smile, her cheeks smiling under her eyes.

Shaking her head in happy defeat, Piper's mother moves the candle from the dresser to Piper's bedside table and closes the door when she exits her bedroom. 

"I don't believe in spirits," Piper whispers to herself.  In a quick shuffle, she jumps out of her bed and opens the window just a finger's width, feeling the fresh fall breeze caress her cheeks, and hops back into her bed. 

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Octavio's First Day At Junior High
Posted on April 17, 2015
It was cloudy the day Octavio kissed Liana in the playground in fourth grade. After she had slapped his face, he fell on his back and lied frozen on the ground with numbness from both pain and glory, and he stared up at the sky and wondered why the clouds looked like white puffy hearts. 

"That was hilarious." Brian smiles. "You had the goofiest look on your face."

Octavio nods. "I think she kicked me while I was on the ground. Yeah... I'm pretty sure she kicked me." 

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Nina And the Pink Pig
Posted on April 16, 2015
Nina's mother doesn't seem to notice the sound of Nina's pink piggy toy, so Nina puts it closer to her mother's ear to see if that will do the trick. She pumps the air in and out of the toy, creating a sharp, high-pitched squeal, and Nina's mother jumps up to a sitting position in her bed. 

"What the hell?" Nina's mother says as she rubs her eyes.

"Momma!" Nina shouts at her mother, smiling with a wide open mouth exposing her tiny white teeth. 

"Nina, you can't do that to Momma. Momma needs her sleep." 

Giggles trail her exit as Nina dashes out the door. With heavy steps, Nina crosses the length of the long hallway to her ten-year-old brother's bedroom. She squeaks her toy.

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Myrna's Vengeance
Posted on April 15, 2015
Dry leaves crackle under the soldiers as they march through the ancient forest. The metallic armor clamors against itself, announcing their presence. Myrna, high in a tree and blending with the leaves, watches them closely. She spots her target, the soldier with the backwards leaning gait, taking a bite of an apple. Myrna hisses as he throws the pit into a bush.

When the soldiers are far down the road, Myrna takes her satchel hanging on a nearby branch and climbs down the tree. Edward, who is in a tree on the other side of the road, climbs down to meet her.

"I believe that was the last of them. Was he there?" Edward asks as he picks leaves off his brown shirt. He picks out a leaf from the top of Myrna's curly hair.

"Third from the last. I recognize the lazy walk." She turns to him with a dark glint in her eyes. "We'll wait until nightfall." Edward returns a sad stare and nods. They follow the soldiers' path and climb out of sight just over the front of their camp. After pitching her satchel on a branch to her side, Myrna raises her arms and stretches her fingers, palms, and wrists to form different words. Edward nods in agreement to Myrna's message: Sleep now. I will wake you when the time is right.

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Leandro's Destiny
Posted on April 14, 2015
Ice cubes clink in the glass as Leandro shuffles his drink back and forth on the patio table. The jingling takes him back to the last time he had an ice-cold drink with his seven-year-old brother. Leandro was ten years old then, dirt poor, and sitting outside at a patio table at a local cafe in Sao Paolo. Cold sodas and pastries were extravagances Leandro earned on a lucrative day picking the pockets of rich tourists.

He wasn't a bad kid, only a child born to an unbalanced world where dishonesty brings more earnings than an honest living and local governments value maintaining luxurious appearances over feeding its people. The streets were the only way to go if you wanted to get out of poverty. Leandro grew up fast; his brother didn't make it past nine.

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Kenzi Finds Her Match
Posted on April 13, 2015
Kenzi dashes into the small music store, a jingle bursts above her head from the slamming bell. 

"Slow down Kenzi. The instruments aren't going anywhere," her grandfather yells behind her.

Blushing, and with a quick nod, Kenzi stops in front of the counter and turns around to watch her grandfather inch his way through the front door. Bouncing on her toes, Kenzi shakes her hands hurrying her grandfather forward.

He chuckles as his glance falls upon the old man behind the counter. "Excited about getting a new instrument, is she?" the old man says in a high-pitched voice. 

"Indeed," Kenzi's grandfather says.

"Nothing like a child's enthusiasm to bring about the sunshine in a day, eh? What can I do for you Little Miss?"

Kenzi jerks her arm out back and forth with her index finger pointing at the violins hanging in the string section of the store. She sucks in air and breathes it out, presses her lips together and grunts at her grandfather. The desperate wrinkles in her forehead beg for speed from these two old men.  

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Janina And The Genie
Posted on April 11, 2015
On a glorious sunny day on the beaches of San Juan, eleven-year-old Janina goes fishing for treasure. With her cracked red bucket in one hand and a folded piece of fishing net in another, she walks to the edge of the resort limits and wades into the water until she is knee deep in Caribbean waves. She pulls out her fishing net, wired around two re-purposed broomsticks, and starts combing the ocean in search of lost tourist possessions. 

Every day she finds something different. Yesterday, a gold Rolex appeared in her net, along with designer sunglasses and wide bangles with gems wedged into one side, all which fetched her a good price with a buyer in her neighborhood. The day before she found a leather wallet, and, although the seawater ruined the material, Janina was able to sell it to a leather dealer. On average, she makes enough money to buy three meals a day for her and her father, and occasionally some new clothing.

Today, however, she catches what she believes to be a teapot made of bronze. The snout is long and curved out like a downward flowing wave. The handle is in the shape of a large ear, with a ruby at the base where the ear drum would be. Janina flips it upside down and over to see if there is anything inside. She finds nothing.

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Galder, Hernan, And Ivan Are Out Of Control!
Posted on April 10, 2015
"Get down from that tree!" I yell as Hernan follows Galder up the old oak in our neighbor's backyard. Ivan giggles from the topmost branch, dangling his feet in victory. "Mr. Ortiz doesn't want you up his tree. Get down now!"

They boys don't listen - they never listen. After years of chasing my sons through mud, small streams, up trees, down hills and... you name it, I've chased them through it... you'd think I would be used to them not listening. But I'm not. I can already hear myself going hoarse. "I'm serious Hernan, Galder, Ivan! Get down right now, or I will throw out the XBox. I mean it!"

Hernan and Galder reach the top, thick branch that casually bounces as they sit next to Ivan. They whisper to each other, then Galder shouts, "What Ma? I can't hear you from up here?" A gust of wind rustles the leaves of the tree as if aiding Galder's claim. The branch slowly bobs up and down, enough to make my heart beat a little faster. I swear the tree taunts me.

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Filomena's Chore
Posted on April 7, 2015
At the top of a two-hundred-year-old Spanish house, underneath rows of orange ceramic tiles on a slanted roof, lives a tiny night pixie named Filomena. She stretches her thin arms outwards and upwards as the moonlight shines down upon her from a crack in the wall.

"Time to wake up, Filomena," the moon says shining its ray a little brighter.

"So soon? Olivia has a bad cold, and her parents keep giving her medicine, so she was asleep for most of yesterday. I am still exhausted. Just a few more minutes?"

"I know you are tired, my dear Filomena, but who else will guard Olivia as she sleeps?"

"I know, I know," Filomena says. She rubs her eyes and scratches her long, jet-black hair.

"Your human child must survive at least until her fifth birthday, and only then will you prove yourself to be worthy of wings."

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Emilio's Going Pro
Posted on April 6, 2015
Springtime means rain in Emilio's town. The sun seems to be afraid to show its rays and hides under a constant parade of gray clouds. The bad weather doesn't stop Emilio from going outside, as it does everyone else. The streets are devoid of the town's residents, and Emilio loves it.

With his older brother's worn out soccer sneakers laced around his ankles for extra security, Emilio heads out into the misty day. When he arrives at the ball pit, he sees Fernando waiting, also wearing an orange jacket with their favorite team logo. Their black caps match, as they planned.

"Not too much rain today, huh?" Fernando says, tossing a soccer ball to Emilio.

Emilio shrugs his shoulders. "It's only a drizzle. I'm going to kick to the corners."

Without hesitation, Emilio runs to the middle of the concrete soccer field and places the soccer ball on the midfield line. He wipes his hands on his track pants and nods to Fernando across the court. When Fernando nods back, Emilio begins his dance.

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Dante's Tree
Posted on April 4, 2015
With the energy of ten bunnies running after the same carrot, Dante dashes towards a tall scary, tree at the end of the park. Although his mother screams after him, worried he will fall at any moment, Dante runs faster. He jumps up on a bench and, with his back arched like a skydiver, he jumps down to the ground, tumbles onto his back and then bounces up to his feet. The yelp from his mother doesn't stop Dante's urgency - he must get to the tree.

As he stands with his head staring straight up to the overhanging leafs of the ancient tree, Dante's mother tugs on his arm and turns him around to give him a scolding. She picks him up and walks back to the bench where they were sitting. 

Being unable to communicate at such a young age, Dante simply points at the tall, scary tree and attempts to speak like an adult. He's trying to tell his mother that he heard the tree call out his name and invite him for a climb, but all that comes out of his mouth is, "Chree mia gonja kaly mee mowma." 

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Corina's Last Night As A Princess
Posted on April 3, 2015
Corina is not ready to be Fairy Queen of the Astunias Islands. She has much chasing of her younger brothers to do and not to mention the mud games with Zana, her best friend and soul mate. Because they were born on the same afternoon, within a minute apart, Corina and Zana have always considered one another as a twin sister. They will be seventy-three fairy years old at the next solstice, making them equivalent to eight human years, which is mature for fairies though they are just as innocent and playful as eight-year-old children. 

Corina and Zana spend most of their time in the mud fields of Xulema Gardens, dipping and diving against the Juaranez brothers in games of volley. Today, Corina comes home from their latest match, where she and Zana beat the boys 27-20, with Corina kicking the last acorn into the web, solidifying their victory. As her nanny finishes washing the mud out of her hair under the lily waterfalls, Corina asks, "Will I be able to play volley after the coronation tomorrow?"

"No more volley for you, Princessa," Paloma says, drying Corina, preparing her for bed. "You will be a queen tomorrow, and that means no more mud and no more playing volley with Zana."

Corina turns abruptly and faces Paloma with sorrowful eyes. "But I love volley!"

"Yes, well, your child wings will be replaced with royal crystal wings, and you will see they are not as nimble. Besides, you will be busy with affairs of the realm. There will be little time for volley."

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Benito And The Last Orange Juice
Posted on April 2, 2015
Ten-year-old Benito stares at Carla and wonders how she gets her long silky hair to twist and turn into perfect curls. He doesn't know what it is about Carla that attracts him so much, he just likes looking at her. 

"Benito," James pushes his shoulder, waking him from his trance.

"What?"

"Are you going to eat your lunch or not?"

"No. You can have it."

James snatches Benito's lunch and takes a mouthful of the turkey and cheese sandwich as Benito returns to gazing upon his muse. After a deep inhale, Benito releases a sigh so loud that James takes notice.

"You are going to freak her out," James mumbles through the food in his mouth.

Another deep breath. "I'm going over there."

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Alvaro Speaks
Posted on April 1, 2015
Alvaro excelled in his English language class, unlike all the other students in fourth grade. In Valencia, English is taught sparingly, with very little importance, but Alvaro loved it. As his love of languages blossomed, so did the pride of his English teacher, an Irishman, who moved to Valencia over twenty years ago. Mr. Kilridge had never seen any of his students show passion for the English language the way Alvaro did.

But aside from Mr. Kilridge, Alvaro never put his language training to the test, until one day at Turia Riverbed Gardens he saw a little boy staring at his soccer game. With his hands in his pockets and eager eyes, the little boy watched their match, following the ball so precisely that anyone would think he was controlling its movements. With the usual inviting manner he possessed, Alvaro asked the little boy if he would like to play.

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