The Witch Minnie Brogan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Indian summer began like any other when I turned fifteen years old growing up in the small colonial era farming community of Granby, Connecticut. The last fields of the summer harvest had already been shorn of their corn, alfalfa, hay, and tobacco. The wet smell of fresh cut hay filled the air as well as the mingling aroma of tobacco fields that now lay bare of their crops. The large tobacco leafs would hang neatly from wooden poles to dry underneath white-sheeted tents.

The smell of tobacco, sweet and pungent, hung in the air. It was a grown-up smell, a smell of intimacy and secret goings-on. My cousin Garrett and I would sometimes sneak up behind the white-sheeted tents and listen. Giggles, laugher, and strange noises were not unfamiliar sounds to our ears as we listened. More than tobacco leafs nestled under the white-sheeted tents.

Not far from the tobacco field was an ancient apple orchard that looked like something out of a wicked fairy tale. Walking through its darkly gnarled wood was a rite-of-passage experience for anyone under the age of twelve.

To this day memories of Canton road, where I grew up, float across my senses.  I envision its tar paved darkness as it crosses over Salmon Brook, cuts through McLean’s game preserve, wanders by weird old Stewart Duncan’s farm, and the said-to-be-haunted Sperry colonial homestead. Canton Road weaves it way over-laying the swell of land occupied for ten thousand years by the indigenous people like the Massaco Indians who were a part of the Algonquian tribes. Evidence of their inhabitation is still visible by those who know what to look for.

Spirit Pond is one of those places. There are sightings by the locals of ghost warriors that still drink the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond and are not as rare as one would like to believe. Spirit Pond is a large spring fed body of water surrounded by tall reeds and weeping willows. Its dark cold water and deep recesses still hold untold secrets as well as the body of Minnie Brogan.

My rather strange cousin Garrett was drawn to the story of Minnie Brogan and I followed suit. Beautiful Young Minnie Brogan who lived in early colonial times near the old settlement of Salmon Brook, adjacent to Spirit Pond, was said to have met with a ghastly end. It is a haunting legend of sorts and the story appears in the town’s tourist pamphlets as a way of advertising its colonial history to visitors.

It was said that young Minnie Brogan lived a solitary existence in her meager dwelling on the edge of Spirit Pond and tended a few chickens and a vegetable garden. She also grew medicinal herbs. In colonial times, a female living alone who also concocted remedies was sure to raise suspicions of witchcraft.

Yet, Garrett and I doubted this explanation and we would often sit by the edge of Spirit Pond trying to envision that long ago crime when Minnie Brogan was dragged from her thatched hut, bound by her hands and feet, and thrown into the spring fed pond. We wondered how scared she must have been as she slowly sank into Spirit Pond’s cold dark waters.

I personally believe there was more to it than just medicinal herbs. Minnie was young, alone, and was said to be hauntingly beautiful. She was accused of conjugating with evil forces. As a six grader, I had no idea someone could actually be murdered for not knowing how to conjugate a verb (although there were times I was sure by teacher at thought of it).

So, it was in winter when Spirit Pond was frozen-over that Garrett and I would go ice skating and just as often we would look to see if Minnie Brogan’s ghostly apparition would rise up from the ice. Although we never actually saw her ghostly-self rise from the pond, we imagined what she would look like if she did.

I wonder about Minnie Brogan’s secret hopes and dreams that vanished into the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond one nefarious moonless night long ago. Sometimes I even imagine I can feel her presence as I dip by fingers into the waters of Spirit Pond. It is though the earth remembers her and still holds her secret longings. I, too, will always remember Minnie Brogan.

by K D Dowdall

Copyright 2014

Keep Calm and Keep On Writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was written by Writer in Wedges. I don’t have his or her website, So if that writer is on WordPress, I must give thanks because this is simple and very helpful for a writer.

So you have written your story and cannot wait to release it into the world. But before doing that, it is important to take some extra time to make sure your story is properly edited, despite the fact that editing is nowhere near as fun as writing.

Spell/Grammar Check

The first step towards the best version of your story is hitting that spellcheck button and proofreading it to make sure there are no errors. A story which contains spelling and/or grammar mistakes very often won’t be taken seriously.

Remove Adjectives/Adverbs

Sometimes, less is more, and this is especially true when it comes to adjectives and adverbs. Too much of either can suffocate your story. Instead, opt for using a stronger verb or a noun.
Remove Repetition This is very important to keep your readers’ attention. If you catch yourself repeating the same thing several times throughout the story, you know what to do.

Remove Clichés 

Clichés are a deadly sin of fiction writing. Avoid them at all costs. Begin with a Bang. If you explain too much at the beginning of your story (if you “tell” instead of “show”), your beginning might not be as effective as it would be if you jumped straight into action. Mind you, this “action” does not have to be your characters running away from zombies (but hey, I’m not judging), however, if you begin your story with a lengthy description of the weather, many readers might get bored and abandon the story altogether.

Check For Consistency

Make sure your writing is consistent in every way. This can refer to either checking that the names of your characters are consistent throughout the story, or that their motivation corresponds to their actions. The story has to follow the rules of logic (except when its primary purpose is to twist those rules).
Remove Unnecessary Explanation I cannot stress this enough. Just like long beginnings, explanations are often a lazy way out which indicates that an author couldn’t be bothered to write a scene in which s/he would show something instead of telling it. Let’s face it: explanations are boring. There are many things about the characters that the writer has to know, that never make it to the final version of the story. There’s nothing wrong with that. Make sure the readers know only what they really, really have to know in order to follow your story.

Edit Your Dialogue

Editing is essentially, a conversation where the boring parts have been left out. Make sure that your dialogue truly reveals only the necessary information for the story, and cut all those random chats that do not move the story forward.

Get Perspective Okay

So, you have made sure that your short story does not have any repetition, clichés, or unnecessary explanations. Now what? The best thing you can do is to leave your story alone and come back to it with fresh eyes. You can leave it for one day, or a couple of weeks, depending on your schedule or personal preference. However, I find this step very important because it allows you to gain some perspective and to see the possible shortcomings of the story more easily.

Get Feedback

Give the story to your beta readers. They can be members of your creative writing workshop, your family or friends. In any case, they should be people you consider honest and trustworthy, and preferably experienced readers. It is better to have several opinions than only one. However, take their advice with a grain of salt: even though their feedback can be very useful, remember that you are still the author and at the end of the day should do what feels right to you instead of listening to others.

Once a writer has completed these steps, the writer can be assured that at least all of the most egregious  errors are gone and never give up writing!

 

Hug An Author!

Thank you Jennifer for posting this timely request and I hope more readers will leave a review, it means so much! K. D. 🙂

Novels by Jennifer Hinsman

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If you enjoyed a book please leave a review.  Books make time travel possible, they make magic happen, they take us to different worlds, they entertain, they teach, they make literallyANYTHING possible.

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Foreshadowing – how much is too much?

ForeShadowing 3

I was working on my second edition of a middle grade novel when my editor told me that I should be careful about using foreshadowing to liberally.  It was my writing technique to include foreshadowing at the end of each chapter, if needed. In fact, she eliminated, in each chapter, all but one of my foreshadowing lovelies.  It was hard to take. So, in a state of rebellion I put several of the best, in my opinion, back where they belonged. I kept those rebellious foreshadowing evils in my revision.  The following is an example:

With Foreshadowing:

After supper, Laura cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to wash them. The summer storm had passed and in its wake was a beautiful evening.  It helped Laura to forget about the nightmare that still haunted her.  At the kitchen window above the sink, Laura watched as the first star of twilight became visible. It was the Dog Star, Sirius; the star that guided wayfaring sailors home from turbulent seas. “I wish, I wish” said Laura, that I could fly up to the planets and discover the world my parents knew, my home, somewhere up there. Laura had no way of knowing how prophetic her words would become and the danger therein.

Without Foreshadowing:

After supper, Laura cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to wash them. The summer storm had passed and in its wake was a beautiful evening.  It helped Laura to forget about the nightmare that still haunted her.  At the kitchen window above the sink, Laura watched as the first star of twilight became visible. It was the Dog Star, Sirius; the star that guided wayfaring sailors home from turbulent seas. “I wish, I wish” said Laura, that I could fly up to the planets and discover the world my parents knew, my home, somewhere up there.

Come what may, I will live with this decision. Of course, if anyone out there has  some sage words of instruction, I would love to know how other writers have handled this perplexing problem!

Raphael, The Runaway Winter Rabbit (A Short Story in Two Parts – Part Two)

standing-sniffing-aa2dce07ff93829a0d54d238921086a9Raphael, hidden at the entrance of the rabbit warren, with only his keen brown eyes and brown nose visible to the outside snowy world, realized that his dream was at hand. For so long he had been dreaming about this day. The day that he would prove to the world that he, Raphael, was the Marco Polo of the Rabbit World, a brave rabbit, a hero rabbit, for all the world to see and know.

Raphael was so anxious to set out into the unknown land before him that he threw caution to the wind and hopped out of the safety of the Warren. He was at once overwhelmed by the beauty in front of him. The lush landscape of snow covered hills, an array of wondrous vegetation that filled his senses, it was beyond his wildest dreams.

bunny-and-holly-7dfdbff7bc6fde3a8968ec6eab43fc5aRaphael hopped around in an enchanted daze, wondering which bush to nibble on first, all of them looked delicious. He hopped over to the Hawthorn bush, nibbled, and then off he was to the Willow tree, with its low hanging branches and nibbled. As he looked around he saw the flowering Witch Hazel tree in full bloom. It’s star-shaped yellow blooms held an enchanting scent that drew him, almost spell-bound, to the perfumed yellow star flowers. His full tummy made it difficult for him to even hop and he wished for a bigger tummy. Nonetheless, he began to nibble the succulent blooms until he was drowsy with the sweet yellow nectar.

scared-bunnythht324v53  Suddenly, he heard the flapping of wings and saw the shadow of them descending quickly over him. He froze. It was the hawk he had seen earlier. It grabbed him with its sharp talons around his very chubby tummy. Raphael screamed for dear life.

At that very moment, he heard his mother calling his name and he called out “Mother, help, help!”  His truly brave mother, hopped as quick as lightning to his side, without fear for her own life and bit down on the leg of the hawk still trying to carry Raphael away to its nest.  At the mouth of the warren, he heard the cries of his siblings as they hopped up and down and all were crying out his name.

hawk-winter-flying The gray hawk, seeing he was out numbered, let go of the very chubby rabbit and flew off for easier prey.  Raphael and his mother hopped quickly back to their Warren and all of them returned safely to their warm and cozy abode. Raphael, now ashamed of his dangerous behavior that put not only himself at risk, but his family too!

Raphael, his head bowed in shame and regret, said in a low and humble voice, “Mother, please forgive me and I promise never do such a foolish thing again!”a-shamed-bunny-37c67648d9d663045f7ed1f572f1619a

“Raphael”, his mother replied, “there is more to being courageous than throwing caution to the wind.  A great rabbit once said, “love, caring for others, and the spirit of self-sacrifice is the bravest and most courageous thing of all.”

Raphael now knew that true courage and bravery is found in the love you have for others, family, friends, and even strangers. A lesson, that he, Raphael, would never, ever forget!  The End.

Story by K. D. Dowdall, December 10, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Raphael, The Runaway Winter Rabbit (A Short Story in Two Parts – Part One)

bunny-and-holly-7dfdbff7bc6fde3a8968ec6eab43fc5a Raphael was always dreaming about the world beyond the warren where he lived. Raphael’s brown nose was always sniffing the tantalizing scents and wondrous sounds coming for outside the warren. There are lots of amazing things out there, I know it, I’ve dreamed of it, he thought, “a whole world to discover.” He couldn’t understand why no one else felt the call of the wild but him.

His siblings, however, huddled and cuddled together in their warm abode, while Raphael’s brown nose was always sniffing the tantalizing scents and wondrous sounds coming for outside the warren.  Raphael thought of himself as being like Marco Polo or Columbus, out to explore and discover new lands, except not oceans, that was a bridge too far. He was not yet old enough to learn how to swim, that would happen next summer.  sleeping-bunnies

Rabbits, by nature, are surprisingly good swimmers.  Some warrens are very close to waterways, sometimes a necessary escape route when attacks happen by predators like wolves or worse, yes there are worse-the flying predators like eagles and hawks. Raphael knew about all these predators. His teacher, Mrs.  Rumple, always talked about the dangers of the outside world and taught us about snares, bear traps, wire cages and poisons – a ghastly thing, and not very rabbit like in the ethical and philosophical rabbit rule of right and wrong.

A young rabbit must weigh at least ten pounds or 14 stones, as the British Rabbits would attest too, before they are can leave the warren alone and the reason is that hawks could not possibly carry away, with their talons, a ten-pound rabbit!  Raphael considered the facts carefully. He had taken the preparatory time to eat and eat and eat and finally he knew he weighed at least ten pounds!  He was now almost ready to take the leap or hop into the wild unknown.  fat-bunny-rabbit

Raphael’s mother, knitted for her children, hats and warm vests for the winter.  Food was no problem. In the wild lands outside his warren are delicious Hawthorn, Willow and Maple twigs to nibble as well as fallen apples hidden under the early snow. Raphael reasoned that exploration into this unknown world, is worth the risk, just like his rabbit heroes.  Where would the rabbit kingdom be without Peter Rabbit, The Easter Bunny, and the sage wisdom of Brer Rabbit. One day, thought Raphael, they will write a book about me too and my explorations, just like Marco Polo!

While everyone was taking their afternoon nap, Raphael quietly made his way through the long corridor of their warren, with all its meandering, until at long last he looked out at the snow-covered ground! Well, only his eyes and nose. He had prepared well, he thought. This is amazing he thought, but also very wet and cold. Raphael, not being a dumb bunny, knew that with adventure comes danger and for a good long while, he just sniffed and listened for the dangerous sounds of unfriendly neighbors. As Raphael was contemplating his next move, a shadow fell over the opening of the warren, in the shape of hawk wings. hawk-winter-flying

It was mid-day, and a very poor choice for exploring, he knew full well. Raphael waited patiently until the danger was gone. Now is my chance, he thought, I know I can hop quickly to the hedge of those brambles and hide there until it is safe!”  Raphael was beside himself with joy. He was the smart bunny and he would have lots of adventures of his bravery to tell his siblings and friends upon his return!

End of Part One – Part Two Immediately Now Following This Post!

Story by K. D. Dowdall   December 10th, 2016

 

 

BELLA THE WINTER MOUSE

Bella, The Winter MouseSome time ago, I befriended an adorable winter mouse, I named Bella, who wandered into my yard one day and became my friend for one long lonely winter.  Little Bella first caught my attention by peeking out from behind a wooden rocking chair on my back porch one cold December morning as I worked busily cleaning away cobwebs and dust from window panes and dusty corners.

I pretended to ignore this curious little field mouse. I was hoping that she would scurry away as almost all little critters do to avoid the murderous intent of larger critters.  As I continued dusting and sweeping, I kept stealing glances to see if the little  mouse with the large pink-ears was still watching me from its hiding place behind my old rocking chair.  As I furtively turned my head to get a better view, I was taken-aback to see the funny little brown mouse standing up on its hind legs with its little hands clasped in a pleading gesture as she stared at me.

My heart went out to the furry little winter mouse and I reached into my jacket pocket for the small package of peanut butter crackers I had accidentally left in my pocket the day before.  I opened the package , stepped off the porch (making sure the little mouse saw what I was doing) and placed a peanut butter cracker on the frozen winter grass.  I felt sure this would appease the determined little mouse to take the cracker and scurry back its winter nest, preferably far away from my back porch.  I then stepped back into my house and shut the door behind me allowing the little mouse to know it was now safe to scurry away with the peanut butter cracker.

The next day, as I gazed out of my backdoor window I saw my neighbor’s old Tom Cat on my back porch. He had apparently cornered something behind my old rocking chair. All at once, I knew Old Tom had cornered the little winter mouse who, no doubt, had returned for another peanut butter cracker.  I quickly stepped outside with broom in hand and shooed Old Tom away giving the frightened brown mouse with the large pink ears time to escape. It was the least I could do seeing how it was my fault the furry winter mouse had returned for more peanut butter crackers.

This time the little winter mouse scurried underneath the wooden porch and dashed away, but where to, I wondered. Surely, Old Tom would catch it now and it would be my fault.  Sadly, there was nothing I could do—this was nature, the natural cycle of life and death. I sighed deeply and bowed my head as I turned away from the window.

Little did I know Bella was quite familiar with all the hiding places around my house as I found out one chilly morning in the wee hours before dawn a few weeks later.   While snuggled up in my bed, underneath a quilted coverlet, I reached over to turn on the lamp on my nightstand.  As I did, (to my dismay) my winter mouse stood before me on my nightstand.  Her tiny hands were clasped tightly in front of her, grasping a peanut butter cracker I had left on the nightstand.  Her pink belly and soft brown fur trembled in the bright light.  We stared into each other’s eyes, nose to nose, for what seemed like a long time before she suddenly dashed, cracker in mouth, to wherever she had made a home – in my house.

Well, I thought, a friend it one thing, a Boarder is quite another.  So, early that morning, I crept, as quite as a mouse, with my flash light in hand to find the freeloader’s hideaway.  And find it I did. Apparently, my little curious winter mouse liked music, because I found her and her nest behind my credenza.  Her little brood of six pink baby mice seemed quite comfy— snuggled up in one of my missing fluffy slippers.

Well, enough is enough, I thought.  One winter mouse is tolerable for a winter, but not Bella’s brood of six baby mice.  I found myself in dilemma of what to do with Bella and her babies.  There was the mudroom, I thought, and that presented another dilemma. The mudroom already had several guests.

The injured red flying squirrel was healing well in a shoe box on the third shelf, Tabby, my 12-year-old tabby cat, somewhat incontinent and nearly blind, slept there each night on top of the filing cabinet, Fluffy, my snow white Tibetan Lhasa also preferred to sleep there where his food was kept, like wrapped around the 25 pound bag.  (You should know that Lhasa’s are very protective of their people and their food.)

I had no choice. Bella and her babies were going into the mudroom, in a covered shoe box, secured with tape and with small holes for air.  I placed the shoe box on the floor very near the mudroom backdoor that had a small bit of daylight between the door and the floor.  Every day I would leave one peanut butter cracker for Bella on the back porch. It didn’t take long before she waited for me every day at the backdoor, standing up, her little hands folded across her tummy and I would hand the peanut butter cracker to her. She would reach out with her tiny hands, and grasp it and hold it to her chest before dashing away. She was the sweetest mouse. Her cute little personality and her big brown eyes were so expressive.

In early spring, I went to the backdoor and there was no Bella. I hurried to the mudroom and found the shoe box empty. They were gone. Bella, my winter mouse had gone back to the corn and alfalfa fields with her young.  I hope they all survived, but I would never know. I never saw her again. I still think of her sometimes, on a chilly winter morning when I turn the lights on in my bed room.

Story by K. D. Dowdall – first posted last December 2015