Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday Author Focus #3

I was recently pointed to a sample copy of Sarah Scutt's short story, Vera's Ring. This review, because it was a samply only, is by necessity short. However, I think I can say that the story begins well and you immediately know you're reading a haunted house story. I love haunted house stories so I'm looking forward to getting the full short story.

Vera is a thrift store owner living in her family home. This is no ordinary house, by the way. The doors, drawers, and various items are moving around. Vera doesn't appear to notice. . . unless they break something.

I can't say if the whole story will keep me reading but the opening chapter certainly peaked my curiosity and I'd like to know what's up. I'll post when that happens.

Ms Scutt writes well but there were two errors that her editor missed in this sample chapter. Since it is a short story, it can easily be fixed. I always mention when I find errors. If it were me, I'd want to fix it. They don't detrace from the writing but unfortunately, I'm that reviewer sees the small things.

I'd encourage you to pick this story up if you're into haunted houses. No pun intended.

You can find the story here: Vera's Ring on Amazon.
You can find Ms. Scutt on Facebook here: Sarah Scutt
And her blog is here: Sarah Scutt Writes

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Terror in my Mind

Courtesy Pixabay.com
It is raining but that's better than snow. It is still cold. I'm slightly better but I'm fighting fatigue like it was some giant troll from The Hobbit. I'm coughing less but no less choking. Either the crud in my chest is gone or I'm starting over.

I did attempt a little bit of writing one day over the weekend but I couldn't tell you which one. A few times I sat down to write but was so tired I couldn't sit up. This morning, after going to bed at 8:30 last night and getting up at 6 a.m., I still had to lie down at 8 a.m. and sleep for 2 hrs. After which, I was still tired and couldn't even put away that last load of laundry.

It is depressing. I recognize the symptoms. I've been sick a month and after the year I had last year, it is so discouraging to not be able to do anything worthwhile. I have a story that is 5000 words short of a completed first draft. Oh, a piece of cake, you think? Only if your brain works and you can stay awake. Before all this, I could have done that in 2 hours. Really.

I would really be curious to hear from other writers with auto-immune disorders that are impacting their life in this way. I retired in 2013 and thought that less stress would help. It hasn't. In fact, I've gotten worse. Most days I feel totally out of control of my own life. When I read over what I've written, I can see that it is really good, very good. And it makes me a sick to think I'll never get it finished.

Oh wow. This wasn't meant to be a pity party. I'm sorry. I was going to write about something else entirely. It is 8:40 p.m. here and I'm about to head off to bed. Despite about 12 hrs sleep in the last 24, I'm tired. I keep thinking this will pass soon. Time is relative.

In a few weeks, I'll see my doctors again and discuss this with them. I do think one problem is that I've lost a lot of physical strength since I blew the disk in my back. I have no stamina and I need to get out and do some physical activity to rebuild that. But it is harder the older you get. Once, I'd have just started an aerobics routine and built up in a few weeks to an hour workout. The thought exhausts me now.

I hope your writing is progressing and if you're struggling with physical problems that interfere with your writing, just keep going. Don't give up or lose heart.  You'll feel worse if you stop. I've been entertaining that thought for weeks now. I'll just give up. No more writing. No more stories. No listening to the voice whisper adventures in the night. Just stop.

That is the most terrifying thought I've ever experienced.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Battling the Kraken

Within weeks of my October back surgery, I began to feel better. In fact, I couldn't remember when I had felt that good. I'd even begun to write again a bit. It felt nice. I found I could do some house cleaning. 

The holidays hurried by with virtually no notice on my part. No celebrations here. But despite the depressing state of Humbug, I was up and doing things. So much so I pulled a shoulder muscle and was knocked out of things for a week. 

Winter rolled up on me and by the first part of January, I was beginning to think the new year was going to look pretty good. 

Until. 

In the middle of January, sometime around the 14th, someone released a Kraken. Yes, I know that a Kraken is a mythical sea monster from Norway. I'm borrowing the name to make a point. 

This thing began to devour everyone in town. Specifically, me. For the last three weeks, we've battled it. Mike at his house and Sarah and I here. Sleepless nights of violent coughing, choking, and lack of sleep. Days of raging fits of coughing and choking. Mike and I have both seen the doctor while Sarah, youth and beauty combined, bounced back. He saw them twice. We've had cough suppressants, antibiotics, steroids, inhalers, and OTC cough meds. As of today. . . we're still coughing and hacking. Although one could say the severity is less, it is no less miserable. 

I laid off the steroid because, after 3 days, everything I put in my mouth tasted horrible and made me sick. Even water was nasty. Admittedly, Evansville water is nasty on a good day but this was even worse. I started back on the antibiotic after one day off also. They're just wrecking my days. I feel sick and sluggish.

I stopped taking my immunosuppressants weeks ago because I need my immune system at the moment. The cold and this other deadly beast, flu (we've been spared), require extreme measures. I'm staying in but the immune system has to be loaded. 

The drawback, last night I touched the back of my left hand and screamed. It feels like there is a knife stuck between the second and third knuckles and the nerve is in bad shape. There is no sign of an injury, just unholy pain. I put a med called Pennsaid on it and then, covered it for the night with a patch containing the same. Today, let's just say the knife is smaller but I don't dare move it. I was concerned it might be all tissue related but I think it might be the joint and ligament inflamed. I need to be back on the meds soon.

This morning I got up and realized stopping the steroid was probably a good idea. I felt a bit better. I even managed to put away most of the laundry I've washed the last two weeks. Except for the sheets. The sheets are where things live that suck your energy. Probably baby Krakens. I'll get them. Eventually. 

What does all this foolishness mean? It means that precious little writing has happened in 2018. Say, none? Well, maybe a few words. I'd have to check the calendar. I began with good intentions and if you go back and read every year for, well a while, during the first few months of any year, you will see this sort of thing happens every single time. I'm pretty sure now that something is out to get me. 

Just because I'm paranoid, doesn't mean I'm wrong. I'm not letting it get me down this time. I'm hanging on to one thing. This cold will pass. Winter will end. The air will warm up. The Krakens will go back to Norway. I'll try and head to the Gulf for a bit. 

I'll take my computer with me.







Thursday, January 18, 2018

Saturday Author Focus #2 (Delayed due to Weather!)

This week, as the title shows, I'm late. However, it is better late than never. Let me get right to it.

The author focus this week is indie author Brian Scutt. I am following him on Twitter and saw him post that the Kindle edition of his book was free for a limited time. One never knows what you'll get in a free book. This was worth the risk. 

Brian's story, Hemmingway's Shoes is one that was profoundly significant to me. I can't tell you why because that would give it away and it is, after all, short story. Let me just say it's well-written and although graphic in its details, by the time I finished it I was terribly moved. I encourage you to check it out and watch for other stories by this author. You can see my review by clicking on the title.

You can connect with Brian in a number of places!
Personal website: Brian Scutt, author
Twitter: @ScuttBrian
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16693505.Brian_Scutt


Please share this post so others can find Brian's book and visit his sites. Help support an indie author!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Perspective

This is nothing like what I thought it would be.



Shelly ripped the garland from over the archway and flung it into the plastic storage bin at her feet. Tacks flew around her head and clattered on the tile floor. It didn't matter. She still had to sweep anyway. Next, she ripped the lights from the stair banister, rolling it around her arm and dropping it into the same bin.

Never in her life had she been so humiliated. Hours and hours she'd spent on dinner, not to mention hundreds of dollars, and all they'd done was complain. The turkey was dry and the gravy lumpy. The rice was too sticky. And, "Shelly, dear, I believe the green beans are a tad overcooked." Never mind that Todd liked them that way. The only thing they'd not complained about was the banana pudding. But of course, sugar was Natalie's weakness. She didn't weigh 300 pounds from eating lettuce or overcooked green beans.

"Ahhhggguh," Shelly growled at the ceiling. She hated being like this. All she'd wanted was a nice family dinner. It was the first time they'd been able to get Todd's parents to come to their house for the holiday. Every holiday had to be spent at their house. She'd even invited her own parents but they'd declined when they knew Todd's parents were coming. Lucky them.

Exhaling a long sigh, she shook her head and climbed the stairs to the landing to dismantle the decorations there, dragging everything off at once, sending more tacks flying, this time into the carpet.

A glass bauble fell to the carpet and she kicked it, shattering it against the railing. Backing up to avoid the glass, she squealed at a sharp pain in her foot. She bent over and scowled at the protruding red shard. It sparkled in the light. She pulled it out and hobbled to along the hallway the bathroom to patch up the damage, careful to watch for any other sharp objects out to get a stab at her.

The toilet lid banged as she dropped it. No one ever closed the thing. She didn't know why she bothered. Someone left the box of bandages open and she pulled one out and carefully closed the box and put it back into the first aid basket she kept stocked and rooted around for the anti-bacterial ointment. Next, she grabbed cotton pads and peroxide. Then, medical supplies in hand, she sat down on the toilet seat and examined her foot, noting the blood smeared all over the floor where she had walked. She sighed and shook her head.

It wasn't a bad cut. She cleaned it and put ointment on it and then affixed a bandage to it. It promptly fell off. Shelly stared at the brown adhesive strip on the floor. She forgot they wouldn't stick to foot pads or palms. Sighing through clenched teeth, she looked again at the bloody floor. What a mess.

"Shelly?"

A voice drifted up the stairs from the foyer. Todd was back from taking his parents home. It wasn't enough that they roasted her at dinner. The conditions of their attendance were that Todd had to pick them up and take them home. She could imagine the dessert he was served during the return trip. She shook her head.

"In the bathroom." She bent over to examine the cut, which was still oozing blood onto the blue rug at her feet.

"Oh my God, Shelly! What happened?" He stood in the doorway, legs spread to avoid stepping in blood, horror twisting the usually handsome face. As the initial shock passed he moved to kneel at her feet. "Let me see that.

He grabbed her foot and twisted it to get a better look.

"Ouch! Don't rip it off, Todd. I need it."

"I'm sorry," he said, giving her an apologetic smile before bending back over the cut. He took a cotton pad and patted it. "Shelly, I think it needs stitches."

"No."

"But its deep." He frowned. "Oh, and I think there is something shiny in it."

She studied the dark head bent over her foot. How had he turned into such a nice guy with those parents? "Mmm, yeah, red bauble."

"What?"

The confusion on his face made her smile. The pain lessened. "Red ornament. From the stair rail. It . . . I broke it and stepped on it."

Lowering her foot, he sat back on his heels and looked up at her. "I saw... why are you ripping down the decorations. Its Christmas Day for gosh sakes."

Shelly glared at him with red, tear-washed eyes. "Because they just suck the joy right out of any situation. Every holiday, it doesn't matter if we're there or here, they ... no, she just takes any pleasure out of everything."

Todd sighed and stared at her. His shoulders slumped and his eyes grew sad. "I know. I'm sorry."

The thought that Todd might blame himself never entered her head and it upset her now. "Oh! Oh, no, Todd. It isn't your fault." She clutched his shoulder. "You -"

She couldn't go on. Her voice broke and she buried her face against his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her and held her.

When the sobs abated, he gently put her away from him. "Shelly, you can't let her do that to you. It isn't worth it. And it won't change anything."

"I can't understand how your father deals with it." She paused and then added, "Or how you do. Neither of you ever say a word. You just let her go on and on."

"Dad stopped years ago. I stopped when I left home. I never went back to live there." He stared at the wall opposite, frowning slightly. "It was like being released from prison. I couldn't remember living where you weren't criticized for everything you did."

"You mean she's always been like this?"

He nodded. "I don't remember when I was very small. I think, yes. My realization of it started when I was about 8 or 9." He stopped and his brows drew down as he tried to remember. "I . . . it was a Saturday and Dad and I were cleaning out the garage. I dropped a pot, a terracotta flower pot. You'd have thought it was a Faberge egg. She made me feel about three inches tall. Dad tried to stem the tide but . . . well, you've seen her in action. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth but she can flay you alive with that tongue."

She rubbed his back. "Oh, Todd, how awful."

"You know, I learned to deal with it. I think. But my Dad, he had it far worse than I did. Everything in her life that was wrong was his fault. Me, I could stay out of her way. Dad had nowhere to go."

"Why does he stay?"

Todd looked at her and smiled a sad, lopsided smile. "The same reason all men stay when it is bad. He really does love her."

It wasn't what she expected. How could anyone love a woman like that? She shook her head. "What happened to her, Todd? Surely she wasn't like this at some point."

For several minutes, Todd sat and stared at his feet. He looked up and said, "I don't know. I can't remember a lot of my childhood before that day." He laughed. "Don't know why. Must have been pretty uneventful."

Or pretty traumatic. She didn't want to suggest it. Everyone remembered things from their childhood. She could remember falling down stairs when she was four and eating ice cream on a hot summer day with her parents in the park when she was five.

With the hem of her shirt, Shelly wiped her face and sat up straight. "I'm OK. I just needed to vent. I'm sorry you had to see it."

He gave her another hug. "Not a problem. That's why I have these broad shoulders and," he reached behind him and pulled a box of tissues around. "I always travel with these."

They both laughed and got up.

"There's a great movie on tonight. Wanna watch with me?"

"I need to clean up my mess."

Todd caught her arm. "Nah, it won't go anywhere. Tomorrow is plenty of time. Besides, I kind of like the look. Makes it look like we had a big bash that got out of hand." He led her downstairs.

She stared at him. No complaint. No criticism. No reprimand. His mother would have eaten her up, spit her out, and turned on Todd for allowing it. How did he manage to survive it unscathed? As quickly as she thought it a second thought occurred to her. Maybe he didn't survive it. Maybe he resurrected from it. He became someone totally different. In a way, she should probably thank his mother.

The thought boggled Shelly's mind. Still, it was probably true. She'd created this wonderfully kind man who was sensitive to all her hurts and never made her feel stupid or inept.

She smiled as she curled up on the sofa next to him.

"What?" He was looking at her, smiling and suspicious.

"Nothing."

He looked skeptical and wary but turned his attention to the television remote.

Tomorrow, bright and early she would get up and call her. She'd tell her how thrilled she was that they came. She'd tell her how much she appreciated how she'd raised her son. And when she asked her why  . . . she'd tell her because if she had not done it, he might have become just like her.

Shelly laughed and kissed Todd on the cheek.






Photo Attribution

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If known, unless otherwise noted, all photos are either my own or from Pixabay.com. You may not copy, download, or otherwise use my personal photos. Visit Pixabay.com for information on their photos.