Work in Progress: A Thousand Winds

I’ve written and published seven books under the pseudonym Brenda K. Stone. They’re fun and a little frivolous and I am extremely proud of them. Lately, I’ve taken a renewed interest in what I refer to as my “rock and roll series” and plan to read it after a long break away from it. The idea to pick it up and start writing again is a complete possibility. But not much will get in the way of finishing my current work in progress, “A Thousand Winds.”

The best writing I’ve ever done? “A Thousand Winds” is it. Since my cancer diagnosis, I come from a different place, and it’s not always a bad thing. It’s a deeper, more thought-provoking place. Interesting fact: I came up with the outline of the book before my diagnosis, and guess what disease one of the main characters was dying from? You guessed it, cancer. I’ve since changed that to ALS, so it wouldn’t hit too close to home. But like most authors, a lot of me is in the story.

The first few pages of any book are so crucial, and I’ve been reworking the prologues of “A Thousand Winds.” For a limited time, you can still read the “old” prologues here. Please enjoy the “new” prologues below, and drop me a line to let me know what you think!

A Thousand Winds

Janice

The way she looked at me is burned into my memory. The message in her eyes spoke volumes: You’re old. Therefore, you’re worthless.

She has no idea.

She thinks her generation invented sex. Drugs. Rock and roll. Millennials, or Generation Z, or whoever the hell they are, with Facebook and Instagram and TikTok, invented the world as we know it. The generation of youngsters who are afraid to show their faces without a “filter”, because one of their “friends” might see their soul, invented history. The “been there, done that” Me Me Me Generation covering up who they really are with whiskers or a pig nose, think they have the world at their fingertips.

 Will she ever know what it’s like to truly be loved? By the same man, for forty-eight years? Could she find joy in a sandbox? Or playing house in the woods, where the rocks are her toaster, the trees her shower stall? Did she ever have to disappear into that same forest to escape a man that would hurt his own daughter to satisfy his sick fantasies? No, because Jim and I protected her from that.

 I wasn’t so lucky.

 Coachella is a town one stop removed from the nightmare of my childhood, yet her biggest adventure. But was she marching in Selma, Alabama in 1965? Was she in the crowd for the “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC, 1963? Did she watch the Beatles land at JFK on February 7, 1964, after hitching a ride from California?

Am I old and worthless now?

There’s so much more to tell. The life I’ve led even overwhelms me, to the point I have to leave it in the past sometimes as I struggle to move forward.

Kimberly doesn’t know any of it. All she knows is that seven years ago she found out that I’m her grandmother, and who her parents really were. She hasn’t spoken a kind word to me since.

Perhaps she’ll never know where her grandmother has been.

Because she hates me. And I’m dying.

Kimberly

“You’re such an asshole.” I toss a soiled napkin at Zac. I can relate to the crumpled paper as it floats to the carpet.

“I’m just gonna sleep through the whole fuckin’ scene,” he moans.

“C’mon, you have to help me,” I remind him.

“Grandpa Jim and me don’t exactly see eye to eye, remember? And you know what happens when a guy doesn’t see eye to eye with ‘ole Jimbo.” Zac makes a horrid noise as he pretends to cut his own throat with his index finger.

I blink, because his words sting. I feel like he should know better, and if he doesn’t, that I should tell him that he should know better. But I don’t.

Instead, I keep the light mood going.

“Do you think Kylie Jenner gets a visit from her grandfather that used to be her father the day after Coachella?”

We have a much-needed howl when Zac quips, “Did you forget that Kylie Jenner’s father is a chick now?”

My mirth is interrupted by the definitive sound of a car door slamming somewhere on the street in front of my apartment complex. A quick glance out the sliding glass door has me snatching up the napkin and running for my bedroom to put on the nearest pieces of clothing I can reach.

“Put a fucking shirt on, you sexy slob!” I shout into the living room.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Zac scratches his belly and yawns, but is soon behind me pretending to hump me doggie-style as I’m putting on my underwear.

“I see Grandpa Jim still hasn’t traded in the Oldsmobile for the Porsche he deserves,” Zac deadpans. He seems to think that Grandpa has a lot of money stashed away in his mattress. In fact, Zac is obsessed with the thought. Maybe that’s why he’s so hard to get rid of?

“Shut up.” I suck on his bottom lip and rumple his hair. He’s so beautiful that I put up with all his other nonsense.

Zac pats my butt and chases me for a few steps as Grandpa’s knock falls on the door. I’m trying to stifle a grin when I swing it open to face the man who used to be number one in my life.

“Kimberly…”

The look on Grandpa Jim’s face forces my smile to disintegrate.

I’m Writing Another Book!

Well, what the heck do you know…I’m finally writing another book! Yay, me!!

My last (and seventh) book was published more than two years ago now. Since then, my life has changed so much and I’ve had so many other things to think about that my writing career pretty much went to the birds. You might say that fighting cancer with all ten fingers was more important than any book that I could write, but not doing something that I love so much has left a big hole in my existence. I’ve been lucky enough to slowly put my favorite pastimes back on track. But finding the right manuscript to delve into was tougher than I thought. I wouldn’t quite call the possibilities “endless,” but I had a few irons in the fire to choose from.

Questions to self:

Do I continue my rock and roll groupie series? Do I continue my “Women Like Us” series? I wrote both under the pen name Brenda K. Stone and really didn’t want to go back to that, so I turned them both down, as much as I loved putting them out to the world.

Do I edit the romance that I finished shortly before my diagnosis? I pulled it out of “the drawer,” read it, loved it, got really excited about it. But I’m here to tell you that being excited about something and following through on a hell of a lot of work are two very different things! I simply lost interest, and back in “the drawer” it went!

Do I edit the true story of my cancer journey, plucked from journals that I wrote freehand in those cloudy days when I was just getting my sea legs to get me through a really frightening experience? To do so would be to relive and relive and relive something I was already beyond. I published a shorter version with an online magazine and kept searching for what I was looking for.

Before “all this” happened I had decided to focus on nonfiction, and started a little thing called “How to Road Trip.” That didn’t do it for me either; who needs to know how to road trip during a pandemic? And after a pandemic, everyone and their cousin will be writing a tome about how to road trip, so back in “the drawer” that went too.

And then, something popped into my head. A real “Oh Yeah!!” moment.

A few months before my life imploded I had written an outline for a a book I dreamed of penning. A small book, short on pages but long on meaning. Something that everyone could relate to; a story of love, loss, adventure and, you know, all that’s good and bad in the world. Well, I found it and I thought it out and I kicked it around, and I decided that it was The One. Rather than just tell you about it, allow me to interview myself (since no one else wants to interview me!)

INTERVIEWER: Does your book have a working title?

BARB LEE: Thanks for asking! Yes, it does. I first called it “A Thousand Winds That Blow,” but have decided to cut it down to simply “A Thousand Winds.”

INTERVIEWER: Wow, great name. Where did it come from?

BARB LEE: Thanks, I thought so too, and I’m glad you asked. The title comes from a beautiful poem called “Do Not Weep” that I discovered when my beloved mom passed. We used it on her prayer cards. I wanted something with very deep meaning for the title of the book and started thinking about lines in that poem, deciding on that one.

INTERVIEWER: Great reason. Now, what is the book about?

BARB LEE: I thought you would never ask! I’ve always thought how amazing it would have been to be alive in the 60s, to go to Woodstock, to participate in the March on Washington, to be a part of the Civil Rights Movement, and many other historic events. So I decided to create a character who did all those things and everything else I’ve ever dreamed of doing. But now she’s dying and she has a granddaughter that she’s at odds with that doesn’t know any of it, and she wants her to know it all. I think the book has an important statement to make about age and life experience, and how society devalues individuals as they get older, even though these people have done such incredible things.

INTERVIEWER: Wow, that sounds pretty incredible. When will it be done?

BARB LEE: When it’s done! I’m not writing on deadlines or worried about word count. Just going to enjoy the experience and the research that comes with it.

INTERVIEWER: Do you at least have a teaser?

BARB LEE: Can do! Below is the prologue in the perspective of Janis, who has just been diagnosed with ALS, a.k.a, Lou Gehrig’s Disease:

The way you look at me hurts. The message in your eyes speaks volumes: You’re old. Therefore, you’re worthless.

            You have no idea.

            Do you think your generation invented sex? Drugs? Rock and roll? You, with your Facebook and Instagram and TikTok? You, that can’t show your face without a “filter?” Because one of your “friends” might see your soul? So you cover it up with whiskers or a pig nose, and think that you have the world in the palm of your hand?

            Do you know what it’s like to truly be loved? By the same man, for forty-eight years? Could you find joy in a sandbox? Or playing house in the woods, where the rocks are your toaster, the trees your shower stall? Have you ever had to disappear into that same forest to escape a man that would hurt his own daughter to satisfy his sick fantasies?

            Coachella is a meaningless spot on the map to me, yet your biggest accomplishment. But were you marching in Selma, Alabama in 1965? Were you in the crowd for the “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC, 1963? Did you see the Beatles land at JFK on February 7, 1964, after hitching a ride from California? Not looking so smug now, I see.

            But there’s more. Much more. The life I’ve led even overwhelms me, to the point I have to leave it in the past sometimes and keep moving forward.

            You don’t know any of it. All you know is that seven years ago you found out that I’m really your grandmother, and who your parents really were. You haven’t spoken to me since.

            I guess you’ll never know where your grandmother has been.

Because you hate me. And I’m dying.

INTERVIEWER: Powerful stuff! Is there somewhere where I can read more?

BARB LEE: Yes! Click here, or go to my In Progress tab. And thanks for your interest!

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