In a town called High Hope
We do our best to sing a weary song.
We fill our lungs to blow these walls out,
But it takes, it takes wind to knock this house down.
I had the privilege to hear these three sisters perform at the Heights Theater in Houston. It was amazing. The theater opened within the last two years and has brought in a plethora of talented music acts. Thankfully, they are still going strong after Harvey crashed the party here in the area recently.
Houston is my “town called High Hope.” You can let it be yours, too.
-D. Marie Prokop, author
“Remember, wisdom is attained by three methods: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.”
A story of friendship and loss, The Baiji involves young Ai Bao and her best friend in the whole big wide world, Shu Rui, a girl with a beautiful smile and a weak heart. During the Spring Festival, the girls venture on a ferry ride over the Yangtze River, hoping catch a glimpse of Ai Bao’s favorite animal, an endangered species of river dolphin called the baiji. Will Ai Bao see the rare dolphin or is the baiji gone forever?
Read The Baiji this summer and leave an honest review!
Braydon burst into laughter. Today was his tenth birthday. He couldn’t stop smiling. Memories of his last birthday party had faded a long time ago. He had been four years old. He’d loved dinosaurs and was an only child then.
Every year he was given a different, yet equally lame, excuse. His parents claimed they were too poor, too busy, or too something. Brayden knew the truth—all they cared about was Katie.
Brayden’s little sister, Katie, was five years old and had Down syndrome. His parents’ lives revolved around Katie. Last year, they actually forgot it was his birthday, until he reminded them at bedtime. They promised to make it up to him.
-Excerpt from Monster-Shark, my contribution to the Perceptions Anthology: Special Needs by Inklings Publishing, a collection of stories for educators, teachers, and students that include characters with special needs.
I’m honored to be included in this anthology. Growing up with a brother with Asperger’s Syndrome (years before this form of autism had an official name), I wanted to write a story representing kids who feel unnoticed because the special needs of their brother or sister take up much of their parents’ attention, time, and money.
I also interviewed a friend of mine, the mother of a sweet boy named Enzo, who has Cri du Chat syndrome and she told me, with tears in her eyes, about what often happens when Enzo plays with other children in restaurant play areas. They always make him “it” and run away from him, screaming. He has fun, but it breaks her heart. Then I interviewed some kids under twelve and asked them about what games they could think of to play that would include kids with special conditions like Enzo’s.
Monster-Shark was the result.
“What are you talking about? Who’s coming?”
“I can’t tell you. But they want the Guardian. Bad. I tried to get her attention, tried to get her to come to The New Remnant. Why didn’t she come? I did a terrible thing, Li. Now I can’t sleep without hearing his cries. “
The Red Knot, Chapter 6, The Dream-Come-True
F.R.M. President Glenn Masterson was restless. Usually after a few shots of vodka, he went right to sleep. Not tonight. He tossed and turned until he couldn’t take it anymore and gave up trying.
The world was about to change. How could he sleep?
The Red Knot, Chapter 18, The Knowledge of Good and Evil
Critique. It’s not everyone’s favorite thing, right? But as a writer, critique groups are necessary for me, a good hurt. Of course, not every circle of writers is a good mix or a constructive influence. I don’t know the secret formula for finding the perfect critique group. Somehow I’ve been super lucky. I attend three amazing groups that suit my location, my genres, my commitment, and my skill level. They accept my writing for what it is, yet challenge me to do better without insulting my ineptitude. Sure, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Critique hurts sometimes, no matter what. And we still debate the common trivialities: the Oxford comma, clichés, and the ever-popular-bad-apple, adverbs.
Today a writer in my critique group lost his battle with cancer.
William Barnes wrote historical fiction. His latest work-in-progress dealt with the sordid history of the Texas Rangers. Before I continue, I must confess—I’m a Yankee. When we arrived at the “Western Expansion” portion of our U.S. History books in high school, our teacher skipped it, claiming this part of U.S. history wasn’t important, as it contained dubious facts and silly folktales. In contrast, my children took two Texas history classes before graduating from elementary school, which I considered suspiciously xenophobic. Bill read his work-in-progress at critique group and shot bullets through my prejudice. In his native Texan drawl, he read his excerpt aloud, a complex tale with Rangers hunting down Mexican-heritage citizens while those in Congress debated boundaries and laws. Conflict, complexity, humor, and action surrounded the historical facts of his story and I was surprisingly intrigued. Funny how a brilliantly scripted “silly folktale” can change minds, huh?
But I gained more than a new respect for Texas history from Bill. That same night, I shared my piece with the group, a flash fiction horror story. Bill liked it so much he emailed me later and volunteered to beta-read anything I had. I sent him a YA fantasy short story. He sincerely loved it and detailed the reasons. When I lack confidence in my writing abilities, it helps to recall Bill’s words. A Texas grandfather and longtime-writer of historical fiction went out of his way to encourage me, a YA speculative fiction writer.
Though cancer stole Bill from the world, his encouraging words live on. They lend me confidence on days of doubt. Before he passed, I had the precious opportunity to thank Bill for his encouragement. I imagine him riding into heaven on a wild mustang.
Critique is important. Facing tough criticism molds us into better writers. But there’s a flip side. Encouragement also makes us better. If there’s someone like Bill in your critique group, thank them today.
Nate follows Jaycee’s gaze. She’s focused on the bump lying on a bench that’s shadowed by the longest branch of a huge oak. Their breath forms clouds. Nate aches to ask what they’re waiting for, but Jaycee looks angry.
Tigress, a short story by D. Marie Prokop
Shu Rui’s house is not far. There are no sidewalks, but the streets are wide. They’re filled with people because everyone comes home for the fifteen-day celebration of Chinese New Year. It’s The Year of the Tiger, 1998.
I was born in 1989, The Year of the Snake. Everyone says that’s why I talk so much. Grandma always tells me,
“Child, you were born under a sign of wisdom. Remember, wisdom is attained by three methods: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.“
When it’s hard to believe; remember, it’s been done.
(Quote used in The Red String, Days of the Guardian, Volume 1)
Science Fiction Writer
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