Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Writer's Voice Entry: Query and first 250 words of Truth in Dreams

Hello! I am excited to post the query letter and first 250 words of my new novel, Truth in Dreams. I look forward to any comments and suggestions from my readers.


Dear Writer's Voice Editors, 

When cosmopolitan Margaret Whitefield moves to a small town, the last person she expects to meet is a woman as miserable in her marriage as she is, but on their daughter’s first day of kindergarten, Margaret meets Hannah Lively. Friendship blooms for this unlikely pair, and soon they confide in each other why they don’t leave their husbands. Shy scholarly Margaret has the financial means, but she is emotionally devastated by her daughter’s battle with cancer, and her own mother’s emotional detachment. Hannah has dreamed her whole life of leaving this little Appalachian town behind and she almost made it, but an unplanned pregnancy destroyed her dreams of a college degree. It isn’t until the friends make a pact to leave their husbands when their daughters graduate from high school, that they discover there is indeed, Truth in Dreams. 

Margaret and Hannah’s journey of self-discovery is rife with mystery and superstition. Hannah’s grandmother, called Granny Zee, is renowned for the curative remedies she makes from the mountain plants, and fabled for her ability to speak to spirits. Hannah is in fact, from a long line of Appalachian granny witches and midwives. When Margaret can no longer excuse her daughter’s bizarre ability to find lost things as coincidence, it is Granny Zee who recognizes the child’s gift - what the mountain people call, the second sight. Granny helps the child to understand her abilities, just as she teaches Margaret and Hannah how to heal the body and the spirit.

Truth in Dreams (109,000 words) is a savory dish of women's fiction that sits in that sweet spot between literary and commercial fiction. I am a sixth generation Appalachian living in the coalfields of southwestern Virginia. My grandmother was an herbalist and her mother was a midwife, and both were known in these mountains as healers. All of Granny Zee’s remedies and recipes have been gathered from my family and other folks from central Appalachia.

I am a hybrid author, traditionally and independently published, just waiting for an agent who will foster my literary debut! My first novel, Mama’s Shoes was published by Writer’s Digest as the result of winning their Pitch2Win Contest in 2011. Mama’s Shoes was awarded the WD Mark of Quality and was runner-up for Foreword Magazine’s 2012 Book of the year. As a result, I was a panelist at the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. I have an established audience, website, blog, and social media presence. Endorsements from authors Lee Smith (Guests on Earth) and Amy Greene (Long Man) grace Mama's Shoes cover. I have had numerous short stories and nonfiction published in anthologies and periodicals. I currently direct the Writing Center at the Appalachian School of Law, and I am a teacher-consultant for the Appalachian Writing Project at UVA-Wise.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Rebecca D. Elswick

                                                                   Truth in Dreams

Margaret Whitefield faltered when she saw the long hallway. The worst days of her life had begun just like this – a seemingly harmless journey down an ordinary hallway. Margaret sighed. Why should today be any different?
Addie tugged at her mother’s hand. She half-stepped half-skipped along the corridor. Her Tinker Bell backpack swished back and forth on her thin shoulders. Addie pointed at the bright posters, decorating the walls of Coal Valley Elementary School, but Margaret noticed none of them. She couldn’t stop watching parents say good-bye to their children.
Mother and daughter located the kindergarten classrooms at the end of the hall. A menagerie of brightly colored animals bloomed on the walls, and the entire area vibrated with childish voices. Addie’s teacher stood at the classroom door. She welcomed Addie and introduced herself as Miss Hall. While she talked, Margaret put her hand on top of Addie’s head and smoothed her short flyaway hair. It was beginning to grow faster, but the color was lighter than the chestnut brown it had been before the chemotherapy.
Miss Hall assured Margaret her daughter would be fine and then said a firm good-bye. Margaret crouched down and hugged Addie.
 “Let go, Mama. You’re smushing me!” Addie giggled.
Margaret stood and tried to plant a kiss on top of Addie's head, but she ducked and skipped through the door with a, "Bye, Mama." Margaret raised her hand to wave, but Addie didn't look back.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ten Signs You Have Reached the Age of Comfort

If you find yourself becoming more and more demanding, adamant, and unrelenting about what is necessary to make you comfortable, content, and down-right happy, then you my friend, have reached one of life’s milestones. Call it middle-age, call it a revelation that comes with age, or call it reaching the age of entitlement, but when it does happen, check your driver’s license – that section that says: DOB – because you are getting -  older. 

What I’m referring to, of course, are those fundamentals of life that you insist upon. The things that matter the most. The items you will purchase without looking at the price tag because your comfort is more important than money. If you have reached the age when you say,” Damn the cost!” or you find that your way of thinking has become opinionated, then you’ve reached a pinnacle, (and have started down the other side.)

1.     Toliet Paper. When only “that brand” will do, then it’s happening. Somewhere around age 30, you start to notice that toilet papers are different, and not long after that, it begins to matter! Really matter.

2.     Underwear that’s NOT Fun to wear. Ladies, when you bypass the lacey panties and push-up bra for the cotton granny panties and stretched-out sport’s bra, and for that matter, gentlemen who hang on to those old underthings that are stretched to the max and full of holes, then you’ve reached the age when comfort matters most.  

3.     That morning beverage.
Yes, we know how much money we can save by making our own coffee or tea and taking it to work in our trusty, thermo-nuclear insulated adult sippy-cup. But if you’ve reached that point in your life when you gladly plop down your money for coffee at that specialty place, or you love driving up to the window and retrieving a lovely steaming cup someone else has already loaded with cream and sugar for you, then admit it – you’ve reached the summit of middle age.

4.     Shoes. If you’ve abandoned shoes with high heels and toes that pinch, for clogs with memory foam, then you’ve turned the corner. It’s okay to keep those lovely, stylish heels in your closet. You can even tell yourself you’re going to wear them again, and maybe you’ll slip them on for an evening out, but it’s those comfort-clogs you will search high and low for. It’s those cute flip flops you’ll shop for. It’s those comfortable shoes you will buy, even when they’re NOT on sale.

5.     It’s too hot! It’s too cold! Extreme temperatures never used to bother you, right? As kids, we played outside in the scorching sun and freezing cold. When we were twenty-somethings we sunbathed, slathered in oil, until the last scorching ray disappeared from the sky. In winter, we braved the freezing temperatures, building snowmen, having snowball fights and sledding. Now, we seek that lovely temperature controlled room! Can’t stand the heat; turn on the air conditioner! Can’t stand the cold; build a fire and turn up the thermostat.

6.     Where’s my glasses? If you have numerous pairs of reading glasses placed strategically around your house or wherever you might need to read something, then you my friend, are one of us.

7.     A smaller laptop, please. When that nice big laptop with the big screen gets heavier and heavier, and carrying it around causes pain in your back and shoulder, it’s time to buy one of those new lightweight ones. Bigger is NOT always better, especially when you have to carry it.

8.     Food. Used to have a stomach of steel? Used to be able to eat 
      anything, at any time, and not suffer for it? Fried foods never bothered you? How about spices? Now, if you eat certain foods past ten o’clock at night, you can’t sleep from stomach distress. Do you keep Tums or Rolaids handy? Thought so.

9.     A Schedule. Routine. Routine. Routine. How important is your schedule to you? As we get older, we become more fixed on a daily schedule – wake up time, bed time, meal times, even things like when we get a haircut, or go to the grocery store become scheduled. No more – fly by the seat of your pants.

10.    Tolerance. Or Lack of Tolerance. One sure sign you’re getting older is your lack of tolerance for bullshit. The stupid, trivial, issues that consume others are not worth your time. The same goes for petty small-minded people. Out of the picture. As you get older, you lose tolerance for the petty-minded, mean-spirited people who want to gossip and cause uproar. Save your patience for those who deserve it.