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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 9

In choices, divorce, fiction, marriage, relationships, Writing on October 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick

Rachel’s court date is delayed. She stuffs Mrs. Stone’s journal in her briefcase and heads out. It’s 9:05 AM.

The first poem in Mrs. Stone’s journal was short, but drenched with pain—my pain. Betrayal and lies all wrapped up in a cloak of romance. It stung, and dredged up nasty memories of when Steve first rode into my life like a prince. How hard I fell for his deceptions!

My cell rang and pulled me from the prose.

“Rachel, your case got moved to 9:45. Where are you?”

It was my attorney. Great guy—why didn’t he ride into my life instead of Steve?

“I’m still at the office. We had a passing last night and I had to meet with the widow. I’ll be right there.”

“Okay. Steve’s not here yet.”

“Big surprise. See ya,” I said, and clicked off. I shoved my cell into my briefcase along with Mrs. Stone’s journal. The courthouse is just blocks from my office so I determined to jump right back into those poems as soon as I could.

The courthouse is crazy. Seems everyone is suing someone, but no one wants to be here. My heart rate rises at each floor on the elevator. I watch the numbers change. Four is where my marriage will be declared dead. I hope Steve isn’t here yet.

My attorney is pacing by the elevator doors as I step from them with a dozen other nervous souls. He grabs my elbow and leads me quickly to a bench. We drop and he barrels into typical, 90 mph lawyer-speak.

“Slow down Jeff, I don’t even know the meaning of half those words!” He sighs.

“Rachel, if Steve doesn’t show up, we can still go forward with the divorce. I’ll ask the judge for favor, given that you have been amicable throughout this process and I think he’ll go for it. I don’t think Steve has any more leverage to stop this again.”

I shudder. The past year-and-a-half of motions, continuances and the deposition damaged my emotions beyond anything I had experienced in my life. Why won’t he just let go of me?

“Okay. Good plan, thanks Jeff.” I pulled Mrs. Stone’s journal from my briefcase, un-wrapped the cord from around its cover and leaned back against the stark white wall.

“Where’d you get that?” Jeff asked.

“From someone at the facility. It’s poetry.”

Jeff raised his brows, “Looks valuable.” I smiled, catching his sarcasm. He knew I was not the poetry type and I detected his curiosity as to this odd distraction.

My eyes found the second poem. A lump formed in my throat as its first line: When lies are love and love is a lie …

I sensed a hunger form deep inside—I need something from this book. If you had asked me on that day what I was looking for in its pages, I couldn’t have told you. I just had this strange ache inside me; a strong force that held my wrist as I dangled over a deadly precipice. I wanted to do nothing but read that journal. I looked at my watch. It was 9:20 AM. Still no Steve.

To be continued….

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Read from the beginning…

In Case of Stress: Reach Under Chair

In Christ, God, Jesus, kids, office, Writing on June 26, 2009 at 10:19 am

Well, we’re in. My back is killing me, my nerves are frayed and here we are with an echo in our new home.Paperwork Overload

We pared down to essentials and it’s bittersweet. It’s refreshing, like a good, overdue haircut and unsettling, like waking up in your bed at someone else’s house.

Overall, it’s a blessing. I’m the official babysitter of our grandson every Thursday. Job opportunities are pouring in for my husband (thanks to a great friend who sends listings to him every day!). We’re literally 15 minutes away from our kid’s house (it was a 3-hour drive one-way), and we can now attend church with them every Sunday!

Nonetheless, we’re still quite in the middle of transitioning our lives. We need to list the house (e-mail me if you’re looking to buy a charming Victorian dollhouse in Peoria), and there’s still much to clean, box up and move. Ugh! My back hurts just thinking of it!

Smack dab in the middle of this lightning speed move, I squeezed out four days to attend a writer’s conference. I was having lunch with another conferee; a lovely woman named Leslie, who relieved me of much stress by sharing her emergency strategy for such times.

“I have a bag of M&M’s taped to the bottom of my chair,” she told me. “You see, I can’t trust myself around M&M’s.  If I was Eve in the Garden of Eden, there would not have been an apple tree; it would have been an M&M tree.” I laughed hysterically (note to reader: laughter also relieves stress, though chocolate is tastier)!

She explained her plan, “One day I’m eating a bag of M&M’s at my desk at work and realize I had to stop.  So I taped up the bag and then taped it to the bottom of my chair. This way, when it’s a real emergency, I can just reach under my chair and there they are!”

What a concept, to have chocolate so readily available for times of stress! No driving to the store like a madwoman, shoving people aside in the aisles, ripping open candy bars and devouring them in public (I’ve never done that, I was just hypothesizing).

I ponder this plan of Leslie’s as two cold packs ice my throbbing back and realize that there is no chocolate within my reach. Obviously, I need to make some changes in my strategy. OK, I don’t, but I am glad that I have a new friend, a new home, new opportunities and can hug and kiss my kids every day. Life is good, despite the stress.

I would be remiss if I did not tell you that Leslie also shared how God changed her whole life and that He is her true stress-reliever. All kidding aside, He is mine too and at that lunch table we communed and mused on the mysteriously awesome way He fills our hearts with hope and carries our burdens and heals our hearts.

Jesus’ anti-stress strategy is better than chocolate:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  (Matthew 11:27-30 The Message)

The Next Chapter

In books, career, God, Jesus, plots, publishing, Uncategorized, Writing on June 23, 2009 at 7:46 pm

If you study the anatomy of a book, you’ll find its chapters consists largely of suspense, as in, what’s going to happen next? Writers craft words in such a way as to keep that book in your hand so you cannot put it down until the very last word.

Open Book

I have always viewed my life as a book with each season being a chapter. However, I’ve spent most of my adult life bemoaning the fact that the past chapters of my life contained mainly horror, fear, and tragedy. It never occurred to me that such negatives build hope in the reader. After all, which of us does not have a built-in cheerleader that starts cheering whenever they encounter an underdog?

It’s true. We all rally around those who have suffered injustice. We have a natural desire to right the wrong, to reverse the outcome or aid the victim. Many who have been ‘reading’ my life ‘chapters’ have rallied around me – even those of you who regularly read my newspaper column. I have been so blessed by many of you as I’ve written my stories on this page, month after month, year after year – can you believe I’ve been writing for the Community Word since 1998?

Here I am at the fourth paragraph and am still toying with my point. You must know by now that I plan to build suspense and then hit you with it all at the end! Ok, where was I?  Oh yes, chapters. If you’ve followed this column, you know that I acquired it on the heels of a court battle. I was a victim of domestic violence one cold February night when my teenage son rescued me and drove me away from a near strangulation – an act that closed the door on my radio career.

But God opened a window.

An essay contest sponsored by Children & Family Services offered me an opportunity to nominate a local family who was instrumental in my rescue from that night of horror, and I won! A wonderful woman, Suzette Boulais, was captured by my essay and referred me to her friend Bob Renner, then owner of CW. Bob offered me this column and a new chapter in my media career was born.

Many chapters have come and gone since. I had always liked writing, but it was more of a hobby. I certainly did not qualify for a career in television, having only a ‘face for radio’ (the camera and I are not speaking), so my print media career was born. I embraced it here in this column and have since become a co-author and soon-to-be author. I now ghostwrite books for a living and I could not be happier.

But, last month a page turned and I found myself at a much unexpected new chapter. Are you ready for the BIG NEWS? I’m leaving Peoria.

After 11 years in Central Illinois, I’m moving back to live near my family by my home town. Now, when I bought this house – my House of Grace – I thought I was home. I thought this is where I will live out the rest of my days.

But God had another chapter to write in my life.

It seems Peoria was a healing ground, a place of preparation. I thought it was the last chapter, when actually it was a pivot point in the plot of my life.

I leave here as a full-time freelance writer, healed, cleansed, stable and content with whatever God has planned for the climax of the book he is writing titled, Cheryl Courtney Semick. Who knows what glorious things he has planned for me! I used to fret about my future. I used to wallow in pity over my past chapters. Now I anxiously await the turning of each page, anticipating the Author’s point and purpose for creating a story with me as its protagonist.

I’ve learned much here in my Peoria home, the most clear lesson being that life boils down to two choices: live by fear or live by faith. Everything we encounter, every path we follow, every place we end up is based in either faith or fear. I chose faith when I stepped into print media and stayed in the town where my life nearly ended. I couldn’t run any more.

I faced my greatest fears in Peoria. I realized that fear isn’t a place or a person – it’s a choice. Jesus faced the ugliest of all fear when, at a wicked cross he put his faith in God, his father, trusting that his story would not end in a cruel death – that there was a happy ending.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

I am eagerly anticipating the events that are written in the end of God’s book, the Holy Bible. If you’ve not read it, you’re in for a big blessing! I don’t want to ‘ruin it for you’ but let’s just say that the ‘underdog’ becomes the Prince and justice is served!

Having Kids

In books, Children, kids, Moms, plots, publishing, Writing on May 1, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Having children doesn’t always involve diapers and new mommies don’t always have kids.  Sounds like I’m heading into a metaphor, doesn’t it?  You got me.

To an empty-nester like me, motherhood is all about birthing books.

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Of course conception is the most fun.  A thought, an idea or a dream plays around in your mind pretending to be plots and titles, scenes and scenarios. But until one germinates it is just fantasy.

Writers, who entertain such titillation without a commitment to capture those thoughts on paper, or to develop them into publishable means, exist with the frustration and disappointment of a dreamer.

For years, my writing life was just that – until I got tired of staring at books and imagining my name on their spines.

I had become disgusted with my non-committal attitude toward my craft and exhausted by day dreams. Since my teen years, when a word winked at me or a phrase whispered in my ear, I, the willing prisoner, would stick my hands in the air and cry, Ok!  I give up! I had no clue how to arrest the wild onslaught of creative energy.

Instead, I’d be carried away captive and existed in a cell of false belief that someday I would just morph into an author.  I still have stacks of nothing books stuffed with unfertilized seeds – tales that will never be told.

When I finally got busy learning my craft and taking it seriously, I still had to fight off the temptation to sit and dream. I’d often get lost in thoughts of standing in a bookstore, reaching for my offspring, bound and stamped with my name, flipping through the leaves of the work of my days.  I’d imagine the feel of its cover in my fingertips, squeezing it and stroking its letters in unbelief, thinking, did I give birth to this beautiful child?

The other fight I encountered by choosing self-discipline was the work itself. Give me the baby all bathed and wrapped in soft a cuddly blanket, resting contentedly in my arms and everyone around me saying, “What a beautiful baby!”  Yes!  That’s what I want!  To drive to the bookstore, walk to the shelf and just pull my book off and see it complete, bound forever in its own identity.  Forget the labor!

Then a fear emerged. What will I do when my child is grown and gone?  How do I send my book off into the world wrapped in a box only to arrive at some publishing house where it may be shelved or thrown away, unread, unopened?  How do I cope with the thrill and pain of watching it be read, then hearing all about its flaws and reasons why it’s not good enough to print – to be cut down, edited, critiqued and rejected by strangers?  My precious child, of whom I labored day and night to create, I’d rather not give birth to you than to send you into a world so cruel and watch your life be so treated!

mystery murder suspense

The 'Novel Vigilante'

Enough drama; authors become authors because they birth books. Authors become Moms when they raise books.  And so I must engage in the shameless self-promotion of my first child.  My novel, The ‘Novel Vigilante’ will be published later this month!  Come see all my ‘kids’ at www.ccsemick.com.