Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Buckle Up, We're Going to Crash

I don't know why things happen the way they do or why they happen when they do. I just know it is darned inconvenient. I was working on a couple of items, my anthology story, a power point presentation on Character Development, and the recent NaNo novel, All That's Holy. My laptop virtually exploded.

I said virtually. The screen went blank and the thing was making a noise like those seat belt warning buzzers in an old Plymouth. The system crashed, but I had to remove the battery to shut it down. Unplugging and turning it off didn't work. By then it was so hot I had to set it down. Once it cooled, it wouldn't come on. I just put a brand new hard drive in it three weeks ago. I'm annoyed.

But I've calmed down and ordered a new laptop today. I'm just glad I have my trusty desktop. I don't care what they say, desktops are still more reliable. I've been having some issues with it, too. I just discovered today that my suspicion was correct; the hard drive has some bad sectors. The one from
the laptop is small but after having researched, I find I can put it in the desktop! If it wasn't damaged in the crash.

Because of the above events, I've been unable to do any writing. In fact, Grammarly sent me an email to say I haven't written anything all week. Ya think? It was going very well, too.

I did get the laundry sorted thanks to my friend, Sue who came and helped me wash, fold, hang, and put away six loads. When I have problems with pain and fatigue, I simply can't get it all put away because the very act of sorting, folding, and hanging creates severe pain in my neck, shoulders, and back. So, it usually piles up in the spare room. I do a little here and there. but it is never finished before I have to wash the next three loads. Since David and his family will be here Saturday for the holiday, I had to get it all done. And it feels wonderful.

Now, I'm going to just attempt to get some things done before this desktop crashes again. On second thought, I'm going to take a nap.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

One Snowy Night

Originally published on Multiply
Written 12/18/2007

We set off along the path that lead down to the church. The snow crunched beneath our feet and our breath hung in the air in clouds. The night was filled with that hush that one only hears during a heavy snowfall. Around us the trees creaked beneath the weight of snow and ice in their branches.

Occasionally, we heard a snapping sound followed by a crash as a limb gave way beneath its load. Everything has a breaking point, I thought.

My heavy coat gave me a sense of warmth but everywhere the air touched was chilled. My cheeks felt frozen and my lips numb. The tip of my nose tingled. I pulled my scarf up, around my face, leaving only my eyes so I didn't fall down. I'd probably be all right if I did fall. The ground was like a feather bed.

Just west of the church we came out of the trees, near Harper’s pasture. The moon was above the horizon and glowed through an opening in the clouds. I could see the church on the left and the Cooper place on the right. Their tall spruce decorated in colored lights glowed against the snow-frosted branches and turned the snow beneath it into a multicolored carpet from an some exotic land.

Lights glowed from every window of the Cooper home. They were a large family with half dozen children. Always when I walked by I could hear laughter or the wild chattering of playing children. It was a happy place. Even the snowman, in his scarf and slouch hat, wore a grin and waved.

I slipped my gloved hand into the crook of Tom's arm as we passed the end of the rail fence around the pasture. He smiled down at me and my heart leaped from the highest peak. He could still do that to me, after all this time. I slipped on a patch of ice and he steadied me, still smiling.

As we passed the church, Deacon James was leaving and he tipped his hat to us. Mr. Irving and his boy Billy slogged across the church yard toward the warmth of the sanctuary. It was such a lovely little church. I thought how much the windows looked like precious gems set in the walls. I suspected the windows of Heaven would look much like those windows, with their glowing jewels and the light of God illuminating them.

As if to confirm it, in the stillness it seemed as if the voice of an angel floated out on the air and up the road, flowing among the houses and into the mountain valleys in the distance. It was Maggie O'Hara, singing O Little Town of Bethlehem with the choir. I doubted if any angle could utter notes as beautiful as Maggie.

The blanket of snow that lay over roofs and mountainside alike reflected the silver of the moon and created a strangely comforting landscape. I looked up the road and in the distance, I could see the lights of the other village houses along the hillside. We lived on the edge of town and from here, the warm, soft glow was as peaceful and serene as ever a place could be. We walked in silence past the church and as I hugged Tom’s arm, I thought there was no place on earth I’d rather be tonight than in this snow covered place, listening to an angel’s voice sing of the new Savior of the World.

Monday, November 30, 2015


And so it ends. My 10th NaNoWriMo under my belt. I don't know why this one seems so important, but it does. I think it may be because the story this year struck a cord and I have a more complete story than I've ever had before. I know what happened, why, who did it, and how it ends. That feels exceptionally good.

This was my first year doing NaNo as a retiree and I had assumed I'd have more time to write. And technically, I did have more time but I was so exhausted I couldn't tell the difference. First, I've been struggling with severe fatigue for months, and it kept getting worse. I usually got up at 6 a.m. and by 10 I was wiped out. I'd have to lie down and sleep for a couple of hours every day to even process the simplest tasks. So, I just knew writing would be a nightmare because I couldn't think.

In October, they found I have severe sleep apnea and I needed a C-Pap machine. I didn't get it until Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I delayed my trip just to pick it up before I left town. So, most of the month, I juggled writing with sleep, very bad sleep. 

The only way I stayed ahead in the counts for the first two weeks was the ChatNaNo sessions online. I could easily get 3000 words a night in there in a couple of hours. Without that, I doubt I'd have been successful. Because of that, I remained ahead of the goals each day until the holiday set in. 

At that point, I was current but we traveled from Indiana to Atlanta and that's a 12 hr round trip for me. So Wednesday and Sunday were all driving. Thanksgiving day was all family and we were exhausted by the end of it.  On Friday, we all went out and my cousin took us for a flight. He recently got his pilot's license. It was a small plane so only one of us went up at a time. That was fun but again, most of the day was used up and we were tired by the time we got home. Still it was the most beautiful day for flying over Atlanta if a bit windy. My aunt took Sarah and my sister shopping for a bit while I sat home and tried to write a bit.
My sister came up from Florida on Wednesday, too. Since I haven't seen her in a couple of years, it was a lovely opportunity and any free time was actually spent with her and my aunt. Saturday was another shopaholic day for my aunt, my sister, and my granddaughter, Sarah. I sat in the most convenient chair I could find and watched them. No, it is not my thing.

So, although I did a little writing here and there, it was dismal and I ended up 4 days behind by the time I got home Sunday. When I got up this morning, I need 6000 words. I started at 9 a.m. and finished at 8:30 p.m. and I wrote them all today.

One of my writing friends, Diane Whitehead showed up for a write-in tonight and that was nice and two others showed up on the ChatNaNo site. Lulu and Azzure. Azzure always blows Nano away. She's a firebrand at churning out the words. But for Lulu this was her first win. She's been making the attempt for several years. I told her tonight that pregnancy must be the secret. She has an 18-month-old and is pregnant so this is an amazing win for her.

I'm happy I won. For the last couple I wasn't able to reach the goal so this makes me feel better. I wish I could explain to the naysayers how good it feels to do NaNoWriMo. Writing at breakneck speed, meeting wonderful new friends and writers, dashing around to write-ins, and commiserating with fellow Wrimos is all a crazy, wild ride and the most fun I have all year. Going in I felt awful and almost decided to just give up. Coming out... the C-Pap seems to be working. The story is great. The friends are wonderful. And winning is just icing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Riding the Rapids

I've had a very busy month, but it hasn't been bad. NaNoWriMo is  always a rollercoaster ride where every year they move the curves. I usually just jump on and hang on tight. The stories are always different in every way, and I tend to stick to mysteries.
Going into this NaNo this year, I wasn't feeling well but a glimmer of a story idea nagged at me a week before and rolling it around in my head and taking notes. It completely changed my "I don't want to do this." to "When can I start?"

Perhaps a raging river would be a better analogy. I mean, some years the novel rolls off my fingers like a gentle, steady flowing river, with depths you can dive into and search like an ancient wreck, for treasures. Around each bend is something new and exciting, like raging rapids, dangerous rocks, or shallow water. Other years it becomes like a torrent in a storm, flowing fast and hard and then slowing to a trickle as the drought sets in. Those years, you spend a lot of time staring at the screen and pulling your hair out, but I wouldn't trade the thrill of all that for anything. I can buy a wig.

I'm happier with this story than I have been about any story for a long time. It's different from what I normally write and there is a depth to it that scares me a little. Diving into that might prove more exciting that I anticipated. It has made me realize that, as a writer, it might be a good idea to do something radically different once in a while. It is easy to stick to a formula or a genre, but I like to challenge myself as a writer. I like to try writing things I haven't written before.

To tell the truth, this story picked me, this year. I wouldn't have chosen to write it, but it was in my head and rolling out as soon at the starting gun sounded. I could no more resist it than I could control that river I mentioned earlier. And once you enter the rapids, going back is pretty much impossible. You just hang on and ride it to the end.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Writing, the Land of Isolation

Ever hear of a socially active writer? No? Me either. Writing is by nature a solitary pursuit. And you do pursue it. You're constantly chasing characters into seedy dives, hiding in corners, behind sticky menus, and tall drinks just to spy on them and get the story. It is true that writers need solitary times and quiet, but they also need connections, especially chronic pain sufferers. You can't survive in a bubble.

Since my husband died I spend much of my time alone. Immediately after his death I discovered what isolation really meant. I also struggle with joint problems and fatigue. I was amazed at how people abandon you when you have a chronic illness.

It is important for writers to get out and talk to other people, particularly if you are dealing with chronic pain or simple isolation overload. You need brain stimulation and to talk to other writers. You need material. Maybe you have a problem you need to work out and discuss. The only way to do that is to have some sort of connection with other people, particularly writers. That's really hard because, well, we stay home and write.

After I found myself alone in a dark house, I started looking for ways to interact with anyone who'd give me the time of day. I had to just write off a whole group of people. I ended up spending a lot of time online on a blog site and made lots of stranger friends who have turned into some of my most loyal contacts. I looked for other people who write wherever I could find them.

After seven years, I know a few dozen people who write. Some of those are even published. I'm involved with National Novel Writing Month and in November I will see a lot of writers. I've been in a few writing groups. All of this made a huge difference.

Still, on average writers spend much of their time in isolation. It is a lonely existence. And other writers can tell you're lonely because when you get a bunch of writers together we hang on to every word someone says and we talk as much as possible . . . mostly about writing: how, when, where, with what, to what effect, etc.

Recently I obtained an "online writing partner" through a site that specialized in this. We've both been surprised at how much of our taste we share in common. We've even read a lot of the same books, although we write in slightly different genres. For a couple of months now, we been meeting online via skype once a week to catch up, chat, and share our writing.

For me, the contact with other writers is important. It keeps me grounded and encourages me. Hearing about the difficulties other writers experience reminds me that I'm not over reacting or imagining things. Learning about how they write, handled problems in their writing, and their successes all motivate me and provide me with tools to help me handle my own writing difficulties.

Writing is a lonely experience. I've been fortunate to develope a circle of people who understand and make me feel less isolated. If you are a writer, don't sit in the dark alone, at least, not all the time. Find way to connect to other writers. It will make the Land of Isolation a lot less empty.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

From the Bottom Up

I've had a busy few weeks. Writing has been going well, too well. I was actually two days ahead a couple of times. Did I say it was going too well?

Sarah got sick with a bug and missed two days of school. Still was able to write but I had problems with my computer suddenly crashing and giving me BSODs*. Things were not working well.

So, I decided to reload to factory settings. Easy job, takes a day. Flip a switch and boom. Reload software and ready to roll.  I'm ahead, so no big deal. Right?

No. Reset, reloaded. Wouldn't update. Things that did work before didn't. Reloaded. Things that worked the first time wouldn't the second. RELOADED! Things just got worse.

So, I think my laptop hard drive failed. At least I think it is the hard drive. I hope it is the hard drive because I bought one. It arrived today. I have to put it in tomorrow. Then..I have to load it. If I can get the drive installed. There is a story there, but I'm too tired to write it tonight.

I'm not behind. I'm not ahead. I still can use the desktop to write, but I can't leave my house to go to write-ins. I didn't write much today because I've been rather tired and I did some editing for a friend this morning. Now, all I really want to do is go to bed.

Maybe tomorrow things will start looking up. I mean, they have to if you're in a hole, right?

*Blue screen of death

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Almost Halfway There

I'm here, but I'm a bit tired the last two days. I have done really well up to this point; I've had lots of energy and my brain was just pumping out the story. Yesterday and today, I've hit a kind of wall. I just want to rest.

So, I'm posting my current progress and going to take a nap.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Seven Year Itch

It all began Sunday. Well, actually, it began in 2006 but never mind. NaNoWriMo began Sunday! To tell you the truth, I wasn't excited. Really, I wasn't. If you notice, I haven't hyped it on my blogs this year. Usually, I start months in advance harping on it. This year? Not so much.

I've been sick with one thing after another. I know people probably get tired of hearing about it and begin to think I'm a hypochondriac. Let me just assure you, I've been really sick. So, NaNo was not looking good.

But I'm the ML. I have to be excited and eager to get started. I have to rally the troops and lead the charge. I have to drive my steed alongside the pack, poking and prodding and cheering them on to victory!

Dude, I really was sick!

Anyway, Saturday was our Kick-off. Me? I'm in the midst of my 3rd severe cold since August and battling some problem with severe fatigue for nearly six months. So,I hadn't prepared the way I did in previous years. The party started at noon and by noon, I needed a nap in the worst way.

On top of that, half a dozen of my staunchest Wrimos either moved away or were not participating. I was not thrilled. Since it was Halloween everyone was invited to come in costume. I became the Novel doctor and wore a hospital mask . . . to avoid further contamination. I thought it was original.

Thank goodness for my faithful Co-ML! She went above and beyond this year and the results was a really well put together Kick-off party.She brought candy, I brought donuts, and the library provided coffee and hot water for cocoa. We had a drawing early one and there were enough gifts for every person. In my sluggish, cold wracked brain I also forgot what makes NaNoWriMo its most awesome. We had half a dozen new folks show up that are just full of awesomeness.

Others decided to come in costume. We even had....
Yes, a clown. Wayne came as a clown. He said he was sure that he scared people off when they looked in the door. I don't think that is true at all. He was not an intimidating clown and is a really nice person.

Of course, some folks felt it important to be mature about the whole thing...

Gary and Cecile were our resident adults. Cecile was a great help with the powerpoint presentation Tammy gave, so it was a really good thing he was there. He is another new WriMo and Gary... well, he is secretly a funny guy. Get him in the Online Write-in and he'll have our Timmy Bot throwing refrigerators at you in no time.

No event is ever complete without a Zombie. Sam filled that void and Carley sat with him so he didn't feel like we were avoiding him.

I think the whole thing was a raging success. A few others filtered in later in the afternoon but by then, I had become a bit less organized and forgot to take other photos.

I missed my old NaNo crew terribly but this year's crop are just as awesome and I really enjoyed meeting them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Good Story?

For the last couple of days, I've managed to get some work done on my Anthology story. I'm in a major overhaul after I had another writer/reader review it. I want a second edit when I get this done and for that, I've got two people lined up to edit it before it goes to the last round.

I really hate this story. Seriously. I've never written from the antagonist viewpoint before, not in this manner. The whole story is from his POV and it is really hard to write that way. 

It is so negative, too. I have been editing the other stories and they're pretty good. Some funny, some sweet, some happy. This is a black story and I feel a bit like a fish out of water. I don't know if anyone will like it either. I'm okay with that. My opinion is that all writing is a learning experience and not wasted. 

I'm probably going to be crucified in reviews. 

If so, I'm in good company. 

I want to write something else, now. I want to work on two other stories I have and get them finished. After this anthology is done, my plan (help me, God) is to structure my writing times again, as I did earlier this year before my life got derailed for the nth time. I found it was working really well and I'm itching to get back to that schedule. 

Why don't I do it now? Funny you should ask that. I'm am in the midst of a very bad fibro flare that won't seem to quit. Or I'm dealing with some severe sleep apnea. Yes, Chris, I called the sleep clinic and got someone this morning. They said they'd get back with me! Really. I've emailed my RA doctor and asked her to take care of it.

The fun part of this is I have a really cool cover.. not that I need it. We have a good photographer in the group who agreed to get cover shots. My story is only a short story and doesn't need a cover. This is just for my ego. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Lost Gems

I'm looking for something on my thumb drives. They're filled with all kinds of old writting stuff. I ran across this one in the "short story" file. When I read it I laughed. It was written January 18, 2007. I vaguely remember getting some kind of prompt that led to this. I still write shorts from prompts because you never know when something good will jump onto the paper. This one was fun but is really horrible writing.

She drifted across the floor wearing a pink feather boa, the same color as the lemonade in her glass. It was so long it slithered along the floor behind her. She slid smoothly onto the piano bench next to me and placed a diamond-studded hand on my silk cuff. Her shoulder rubbed against mine, like some cat looking for a handout from the kitchen. The heat behind her jade eyes flamed like a Bunsen burner ,but they left me cold.

I looked into the mirror on the wall behind the piano. I could see the parakeet in the cage on the opposite side of the room, his beady eyes staring at us. The hibiscus in the corner seemed to glow in the gray room and I wondered how it could live in this gray cloud. It must be as fake as the smile on her face.

The rain was pounding on the roof. I stared at the mirror and it took on the quality of an old photograph tucked too long in a dark drawer. Its frame was a tarnished gold locket.

She whispered, “Do you have any good memories.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

Writing in the Storm

I've exceeded my goal for the anthology story. I can't believe that. A writer friend of mine read over the story and pinpointed some minor problems, inconsistencies, and cloudy issues that I have to fix so it is possible I'll get even words rather than less. I hope so. I've working on edits and hope that I don't lose those. Well, I was until I got sick.

This week has been a writing wash. I've been battling a horrible cold. This is the third severe cold this year. Every one of them has knocked me down. Not just a little cold, a put me to bed, cough up a lung, smother me kind of cold. If I'm not much improved by Monday, I have to go to the doctor. The low white count is probably why I can't fight them off very well. How does one get a white count up? I haven't gone to the doctor already because they'll put me on antibiotics. I was just one a Z-pac in September during the last cold. Repeated rounds of antibiotics are very bad for an average healthy person. I'm not.

I felt so bad last night that I just suddenly started to cry, sitting on the sofa watching Dr. Who. I know... silly of me. But you'd have to be me. I am tired and sick, and tired of being sick. Anyway, I wiped my nose and asked God to get rid of this thing right away because I am exhausted and my body is just not doing what it needs to do. I went to bed and slept terribly. I coughed most of the night, waking a few times with a cough so bad I was nearly puking. Yes, I'm taking something for the cough, but it is not very effective.

I woke up exhausted but got Sarah off to school. I went back to bed and slept for several hours. The rest of the day is sort of a blur and I know I sat and read stuff online for a couple of hours. The good news is that by 3 p.m. I seemed to be improved. Although I'm still coughing and blowing my nose, the coughing is not ripping me open and breaking my ribs and the runny nose seems to be running out of stuff to drain. So, I'm hopeful that tomorrow will be better. I know, very cliche and optimistic.

Next week, they'll do the CAT scan to see how many nodules I have on my lungs. I don't know what happens after that. I hope there is only the one and they don't have to do anything to it. I can't think about that now. I have to get the writing done and the edits for the anthology. I'm nearly done with all of those. Two left and one of those is half done.

At the moment, I am in an unhealthy storm and writing is difficult. You can't very well type and hack over the keyboard. This cough is so bad that I'm doubled over. I haven't even blogged much... I don't think. To be honest, I can't remember.

I do try to write in the storms. I seem to have many of them. They've gotten worse, as well, but the writing, that can't stop.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Dark and Stormy Night

The wind howled around the corners of the house, rattling the windows and tugging at the doors. It was a scene straight out of a horror movie, but I was living it. I watched the candles guttering on the table, lighter at the ready should they blow out in the gust that forced their way around the old sash windows.

Bob, my rottweiler grunted and shifted his weight around to expose his other side to the fire. I shook my head. I wasn't sure what it would take to rile Bob, but storms were not his nemesis.

The candles settled down and I dropped back into my chair, lay the lighter on the table at my elbow, and picked up my cup of hot chocolate. I sipped; it was just the right temperature now. Earlier, I'd scalded my tongue. I hated when that happened.

I stuck out my foot and rubbed my bare toes against Bob's rump. He didn't move and I smiled and shook my head. I don't know why I'd bought the dog. He'd never proven useful, but I'd convinced myself it was for protection. Although he was a pup at the time, I  knew he'd grow to be a hulk that could put the fear of God into any would-be burglar. Of course, the burglar hadn't appeared and Bob was a more or less a teddy bear.

With a long sigh, I rested my head on the cushioned back of my chair and closed my eyes. The day had been long and arduous. Most of the morning I'd spent getting the storm shutters locked down and securing loose objects that could become UFOs in the storm. One did not want to be walking about in the dark during a hurricane for that reason. By the time I'd finished, the storm had arrived in all her fury. My aunt retired to her room upstairs soon after supper, leaving me to watch over the rambling Greek Revival handed down through five generations. As the last in the direct line, it was a heavy burden that wearied the guardian.

The sound of something exploding across the foyer jerked Bob and me from our repose. I darted out of the room and across the hall, skidding to a stop at the darkened door of the library. Candles glowed behind me, their light reaching only a few feet beyond the sitting room door. Bob ambled up next to me and stared into the room for a moment and looked up at me.

"Well, boy, why don't you go in and check it out?"

He yawned and looked back into the room. I didn't know how well dogs could see in the dark, but Bob didn't seem especially perturbed. With only slight trepidation that I'll admit to, I stuck one foot through the door and paused.

"Hello?" I said and immediately felt stupid. I reached to my right and felt until I found the light switch. I conquered the stupid feeling by remarking to Bob, "Well, they could have come back on, you know."

I took a deep breath and walked toward where I thought my grandfather's half-acre desk was located, clutching Bob's collar as I did so and dragging him along with me. I found the desk when I ran into it. Bob yelped. I stifled language that could have lit up the room and gasped as pain shot up from my knee through my thigh and into my brain.

When I recovered, I released my held breath and Bob's collar and reached out to pat the desk as I smiled into the darkness. "Now," I muttered as I leaned over and swiped searching hands to and fro. "I know there is a candle here with matches. Somewhere."

The desk was a prime piece of real estate, containing a surface you could park a van on and numerous drawers, some obvious and some no longer secret ones. Finding anything on or in it in the dark was probably going to be a challenge. I stood up, placing my hands on my hips and chewing my bottom lip. I never really liked challenges.

Just as I opened my mouth to tell Bob something, another explosive noise shook the room, nearly sending me into cardiac arrest. Bob's claws dug into the carpet and then I heard them skittering across the wood flooring in the hallway and sitting room.

I rolled my eyes. "Gee, thanks, Bob." Under my breath, I said, "Some watchdog."

The windows were only slightly lighter than the room because I'd not pulled the drapes closed, only closed and locked the shutters. As the lightning flashed, tiny glowing slashes revealed themselves between the louvers. It appeared that the shutter over the south window, behind the desk, had come loose. At the moment, it was closed but even as I watched, one of them flew open and slammed against the house, sending a reverberating explosion throughout the room. I jumped despite knowing it was coming.

In the brief moment the shutter opened, I caught a glimpse of a curtain of rain as it washed against the window. Lightning followed and then, the second explosion as the shutter slammed shut.

I hurried around the desk, collecting another injury as my bare feet contacted the desk chair. Fumbling with the window latch, I tried to get it open before the shutter blew open again. I'd be drenched in seconds if I opened it when the shutter was fully extended. I imagined myself crawling up the stairs on all fours, feeling along the carpet so I could find the next step, in soaking wet clothes, fumbling in my closet to find dry ones, and then, coming back down the stairs to the sitting room. If I didn't break my neck, I'd miss a good chance.

"Gotcha!" I snarled as the latch gave way and I opened the window. The shutter flew back and rain poured in faster than an oil tycoon's money. As expected I was doused with rain. I'd swear it penetrated to my bones, it was so wet. With no warning, the shutter flew back and slammed inches from my nose. I grabbed it and flipped the latch, locking it into place this time with the catches my grandfather has added to secure them.

For several minutes, I stood staring at the shutter, dripping all over the wet carpet. I blew water from the end of my nose and shook my head. I shut the door and latched it as well. Then I pulled the heavy drapes over it. I hoped to heaven I'd latched the other shutters securely.

Bob lay on the rug before the sitting room fire, now a memory in embers. I took several logs from the bin and stacked them carefully, then stood back and watched as the flames returned and began to lick at the dry bark. I started to shiver from my dousing.

"Blast." I had to get dry and my clothes were upstairs. I looked at the candelabra. Why Aunt Mary failed to get the lanterns out is beyond me. I'd asked her too but as usual, she forgot. The storm began while I was still battening down the hatches and by the time I realized all the lanterns were still in the basement, the power was out. We'd scrounged around in the kitchen looking a flashlights and matches when I remember the lighter used to light fires in the fireplace. Aunt Mary pulled the silver candlelabra from the dining room table and we had light.

"You know, dear, you could take that down to the basement and get some lantern."

I'd looked at her in shock. The stairs were steep and it was darker than a cave down there. "I think we'll be fine, Aunt Mary. These should get us through the night and I'll go down in the morning." Her reluctance was clear, but she agreed.

I looked down at Bob, snoring before the fire. "Bob, I have to go up and change clothes."

Bob's left ear twitched.

"Why don't you come with me, boy?" I leaned down and scratched behind that ear. "Huh? Come keep me company."

Bob shifted his weight, snuffled, and stretched out on his side.

I stood up. "Well, O.K." I moved to the table and picked up the candelabra. Pausing, I looked back toward Bob. "You know, you'll be alone down here. I won't be able to come rescue you if something tries to get you." Bob adjusted his head on the rug, sighed, and started to snore again. With a final scowl, I made my way upstairs.

My room was dark as the study but the shutters here has adjustable louvers and one of them were stuck to open. This created a strobe light effect with the lightning flashes. I sat the candles on the dresser, in front of the mirror to make use of the reflection. I stripped in my bathroom, tossing the wet clothes into the tub. I'd deal with laundry when the power returned. From my chest of drawers, I grabbed a old t-shirt and a pair of men's flannel pajama pants I'd bought to wear around the house and to sleep in and I pulled them on. My body stopped shivering in minutes. I rubbed my arms to generate a bit of heat in them.

Thunder clapped directly overhead and I jumped about three feet and squealed.


Alas, I am forced to stop here as this is becoming very long and I see now it is something I need to work on offline. I don't know if it will be a short story or if it is shaping up for something else. I'll have to see.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Writing Things


September has been an unusual month and I'm just 9 days into it. I've not written much of my own since the last post. A variety of issues: unrelenting pain of the joints, skin, and tissue, birthday celebrations, and a house in dire need of cleaning have all played a part in my failing to write and perform said cleaning. 

I had a good day this week where I rapidly put away most of the laundry from last week and finished up my granddaughter's bedroom redo, i.e. hanging her pictures, plaques, and decorative items on the freshly painted walls. Also, there are now three loads of fresh laundry keeping company with the laundry which remained from my... well, this is getting as tiresome as the laundry. Just know there's still a pile of laundry. And my feet now are extremely unhappy with their enforced half day march.

I have been making an effort to read more since all over body pain makes it virtually impossible to do anything but lie in a chair that does little to alleviate pain in the pressure points. I've got several books started. Several others I've stopped because.. well, they just didn't hold my fog shrouded interest. I've taken steps to help with this by taking books to the bathroom. One always finds one can concentrate better there. Sadly, the accommodations are not equal to the Lazy Boy. Still, one might get a chapter read at times. It is unfortunate that I can't read in the shower.

Another thing I've been doing is editing the short stories for the anthology. I'm able to sit for this, but I found the long bouts at the computer to be not so good for my back and neck. However, the writers have turned them all in and now we're in the editing/revising stage. We only have two people editing so it is going to take a while and the pain involved will have to be borne. I'm doing the first round, a line edit. They revise. The next editor gets the next round. I will probably have to reread the finished product to ensure everything is formatted, but I don't want to put the horse behind the cart. 

I actually managed a visit to the library the day I had to pick up a prescription from the doctor's office. If you really want to know, see  Update to Medical Woes. I have to mail that in but I've not done it yet. Again, just getting up and doing simple tasks has been difficult with the overall pain. 

Anyway, I checked out several books I wanted to attempt to read. I am reading Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik. Obviously, any writer should get the humor in the title. The cover states it is "A writer's guide to punchier, more engaging language & style." I've found it amusing and I'm actually enjoying the author's ideas of "punchier language". He practices what he preaches, to the extreme to prove a point. The title of the first chapter is E. B. Whitewashed  and he tells about the creation and subsequent incarnations of Strunk & White The Elements of Style. I recommend both books. 

I'm also reading Bloody Mary, by J. A. Konrath, that I got free for Kindle some time ago. I haven't read Konrath before, but I like his writing. This particular book is good and will probably mean that I'll read more of Konrath. That's the beauty of free. I think I've figured who the perp is and I'm not at the halfway point, but his intro promised a twist in the middle so maybe not. He writes so well and the pace is so quick that it is easy to forget how long you've been reading. I couldn't put it down last night and stayed up past my bedtime, which could account for my oversleeping this morning and having to rush to get Sarah to school. Obviously, the brain fog only extends so far.

I checked out two other books that looked interesting, but I'm not sure I'll get them read or even started. 

Fiction First Aid by Raymon Obstfeld: I like the format and the chapter titles sound interesting, so I really want to at least read some of it. It is the kind of book I'd buy for my reference shelf.

Murder and Mayhem, A Doctor Answers Medical & Forensic Question for Mystery Writers  by D. P. Lyle, M.D.: I have to say this book would be handy for any writing. It covers a hospital full of medical issues in question/answer format. You may get a little first aide along the way. I've only scanned some of it. I told my son today that I wasn't sure I could actually read the whole thing. It is quite gruesome in places, a necessity if you're doing research. There is a disclaimer in the preface that says the book is not to be used in the commission of any criminal activity. I believe he's also written a sequel. There are apparently so many ways to die it can't be covered in one book.

How To Write A Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey: I've read something by Frey before but can't remember the name of the book. I've wanted to read this one for a while but ... never mind. So, I checked it out. If it seems useful I'll buy a copy from Amazon. 

Don't be shocked by the volume of volumes.  I used to check out twice this many books before I drifted into the Fibro Fog Bank. These days I take it a book at a time, but it is horrible for a book lover to do that. I want piles of them around me, reading a bit from each daily. I simply have problems concentrating for long periods of time on certain types of things. 

My next trick will be to work on a couple of my pieces. I'm going to stop worrying about how much writing I do and just worry about getting any writing done. 


Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Thousand Words

I'm so excited! Today was a great writing day. Suddenly I had this urge to work on an old piece and I did 1000 words in a couple of hours. It is amazing how energized you when you have a moment like that.  I'd be overjoyed to have it every day.

This morning I got Sarah off to school but got slammed almost immediately with fatigue. I sat down in the recliner with the idea I'd read a few minutes and then I'd be good to go. Not so. A few minutes and I knew I was far to gone to just read. I went to sleep for two hours. I was so annoyed and when I woke up I was basically drunk. No, not literally. I could barely walk on my feet because they hurt, my balance was way off (this is a typical symptom of RA), and it took a good 30 minute to "sober up." I was relieved it was only 10:30 but still, I could have used the two hours to work on the boxes of things I still need to sort.

I got up and got dressed and took care of some calls I had to make and organized the boxes to some degree so I can walk through the den. I can see I'm making progress but it is too SLOW! I was at the computer writing by 11:30 a.m.

I am pleased with the results. I went back over some things I knew after writing today would need to be changed. I would love to sit down and do a full outline of the story I have written and finish the last few chapters. I could do a rush ending now... I'm not happy with that idea,  but I could. I even have a potential ending already written. I dreamed it one night some time ago. LOL, I don't like the ending  because it isn't actually a happy one. I could change it, but I haven't decided to do so. I was just so happy to have two productive writing hours, I don't really care at this point.

After months of struggling to write even a third of what I did today and feeling as if I was barely making headway, imagine how it feels to get 1000 words in one sitting!

Now, if tomorrow and Saturday are as productive!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Writing Pains

I had great plans for writing this week. Last week really a good week for me physically although I didn't write as much as I wanted. I'm still in the throes of disorder from the ceiling repair and getting rid of the computer desk. So, it has been an unproductive week thus far.

I began it with plans but as usual, chaos dropped by and got me off track. The brakes went out on the car. Finally got those fixed yesterday.

This week has been beautiful, with cooler temperatures and sunny skies. Usually, the rheumatoid arthritis is less bothersome this time of year but I seem to be following the same course I've been on all summer. I've had a lot of pain in my hands and my neck and back have been troubling me. I finally put on a patch last night to help my neck. I had to get up and put Pennsaid solution on my hands so I could sleep. They hurt terribly and I could tell the joints in my palms were swelled. This is actually the back side of your knuckles, but you don't usually notice them... unless you're typing or holding a book.

I'd like to find solutions or work out a plan of action that would get me writing more with less pain. I often end writing sessions with neck, back, shoulder, and hand pain higher than when I started. This has a blocking effect on me and triggers avoidance. I don't want to write when my neck hurts, or my hands, or my back because, by the time I'm done I'm so bad that my sleep is affected, which in turn, increases pain levels. So, very little writing is accomplished.

I spent most of yesterday unpacking things that I packed up when I got rid of the computer desk. I don't actually have a lot of places to put the stuff and am going to look for something to replace the storage, something far smaller than that desk. I've already tossed a lot of things, so that helps, too.

I've also been reading a couple of books, one loaned to me by a friend titled Writing the Fiction Series by Karen Wiesner. It is really a good book and it isn't heavy as some of the writing books I've read. The information is clear and concise. There are several appendices in the back so the book itself isn't very long. I'm nearly through with it. I tried to read a couple of other books. I'm usually reading three or four at a time these days. One is Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Navakovich. I'm going to order this book. It seems really good but not a book you can sit and do in a few days. There are lots of exercise and information that needs digesting.  I got this at the library and it has to go back now, so I'm going to buy my own copy.

I know that my greatest problem is making myself write when I'm having a lot of pain. Focus and fatigue is a problem when I'm in a flare. I've been in this particular flare for over a year and so, I've had more problems with focusing and fatigue. From May through July I was forced to take naps for up to two hours a day in addition to sleeping 6-7 hours a night.  I couldn't do anything worthwhile. Reading, writing, and pretty much anything that required me to think was impossible most days. That has gotten better.

This morning I was up at 5:30 thanks to Sarah. She has a bad dream and woke me up. She went back to sleep. I did not. So I got up at six and had coffee until time to get her up. Afer she went to school I finished unpacking a box and sorting through some photos I plan to scan for family.

Now, I'm going to consider what I want to do the rest of the day. I need a  nap and it is just 10 a.m.! The yard must be cut and it looks as if it might rain. I have some stuff to write down before I forget it. I need to work on putting laundry away. Good grief, the laundry never stops!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Flubbed It!

Yep, I flubbed it. I got 9 days in and the roof literally fell in. If you've followed along on Life on the Ledge you know I've had ceiling problems, in addition to others. That took two weeks to resolve. So, writing any story was nearly impossible.

I also had to go to Arkansas the last week of July to pick up my granddaughter and bring her home. I was gone a week. I had expected to write then too, but there was simply too much going on.

Now, the room is fixed and repainted and she was happy with the changes. The electrical problem is fixed. We got back on Friday.

But I flubbed it.

It wasn't a total loss, in my opinion. No writing is wasted and I learned some things.

1. Writing short stories, even short shorts, is harder than novels most of the time.
2. Thirty short stories in 30 days is probably impossible. But I'd like to try it again.
3. Never try to write 30 short stories in a crisis.
4. Taking my own challenge and writing the stories I managed to write inspired me and made me feel better about myself as a writer.

So, I've designed a button for myself to put on my blog. I am not ashamed of my failure. In reality, it wasn't a failure. I learned a lot. I had fun. All but that ceiling part. That wasn't fun.

Feel free to use the shorts photo if you too flubbed. If you happened to complete 30 shorts in 30 days, you can have this one.

Monday, July 13, 2015

30 Days of Shorts - Day 8: One Day in the Park

Every day she came and sat on the bench beneath the oak tree at the edge of the playground, ate her lunch, and watched the children play. No one sat with her. No one intruded. It was as if she had this wall around her that kept everyone out. She never spoke to anyone or sat anywhere else. The only days she didn't show up was when it rained or the temperatures were too cold to allow children to play outside.

It was June and the weather was usually nice this time of year. She must have come early today. When she finished her lunch, she sat back, crossed her ankles, folded her hands in her lap and with a small smile, she watched the half dozen children clamber over monkey bars, swings, and spin on the merry-go-round. They screamed and yelled and giggled, but she just kept smiling.

I'd watched her for several years now and I knew no more about her today than I had when I'd first seen her one hot August day. She never seemed to notice me. I don't remember what drew my attention but after a few weeks of seeing her, I found myself trying to figure her out. Weeks grew into months and months into years. I still hadn't figured her out.

A friend of mine asked me once, after I'd told them about her, why I didn't just walk over and talk to her. I couldn't explain it to them. I just said I couldn't do that. I wasn't embarrassed, well maybe I was a little, but that wasn't it. There was something about her, something... that felt fragile or... oh, I don't know. That wall I sensed, maybe it was more like a bubble, a glass bubble, that would shatter in a million pieces if I approached it or touched it. So, as she watched the children with a smile, I watched her with a frown.

Today was a rotten day. Most days, like the lady on the bench, I was just here to enjoy my lunch. Today, it lay unopened on the seat next to me. It didn't matter if I ate it or not. I'd lost my job and there was no rush to get back to work. So, I just sat there and stewed and fumed over the unjustness of the universe. I'd worked so hard to get that job. It had taken me ten years to reach upper management and in less than two, I was canned. I still didn't know why they fired me.

Oh, they had all the right phrases to hand me. They said it was the economy. They said I was talented and they hated to lose me. They said they'd give me a great reference. Sadly, my job was zeroed and I had to go.

I sighed and watched the children going down the slide. They laughed out loud and cheered their friends and slapped them on the back for their success at conquering the mountain. Today they had no worries. Today they could enjoy the freedom to spend the day in laughter with friends. Someone would feed them, shelter them, and kiss them goodnight. They'd enjoy worry-free security.

Something else was different today. The lady on the bench was absent. Of course, I was early so perhaps I'd just beat her here. That rarely happened on days like today. I looked around the park. There were lots of mothers seated on benches or on blankets on the ground. A few brought lounge chairs and were reading with their children nearby. She was nowhere to be seen.

I got up and walked around for a few minutes, never losing site of her bench. She should be here by now. I ran my hands through my already disastrous hair. I rubbed them on my skirt and crossed my arms. I walked back to my bench and sat down on the edge, clutching it on each side of me so tightly that my fingers hurt.

I relaxed them. I was overreacting. I was way early. She'd show up any minute, walking sedately to her bench where she'd sit down very carefully. She'd open her bag and take out her sandwich and eat it while watching the children. She'd sip her water.... I got up and walked a dozen yards and came back.

Where was she? She had to show up today. I stared at the toes of my shoes. Why was this even an issue? What did I care if some strange woman came to the park?

To be continued.......

Friday, July 10, 2015

30 Days of Shorts - Day 7: The Party

"I don't like this, Johnny." I pulled my jacket close around my neck and slipped my arm through the crook of Johnny's arm, clinging as if my very life depended on it.

He scowled down at me, at least, I thought it was a scowl. It was so dark I could hardly see where I was walking.

"Then why didn't you wait in the car?"

"Because I didn't want to be alone, in the car, in the dark, miles from nowhere."

I scanned the area to my right with straining eyes. The moon came out now and then and bars of light would flood the drive with tangled bars of moonlight, but it was only a temporary help and did nothing to light the woods that surrounded us on every side.

He chuckled. "Dummy. How can you be miles from nowhere?"

I punched him in the shoulder with my free hand. "I'm not a dummy. And if you're a long way from nothing, you are miles from nowhere."

I stumbled and clutched at Johnny to keep from falling. I don't know why I'd agreed to come out here with him. We were thirty miles from town, but it had sounded fun. I'd heard about the Truesdale mansion all my life, but no one ever brought me here. There were rumors, of course, about ghost and midnight parties attended by long-dead guest but I didn't know where the story originated or any details about the house. My parents trusted me and I suppose it never occurred to them that I'd even attempt to come here because they'd never forbidden it. I felt bad about it now, but the excitement had been too much for my 17-year-old brain to handle. Johnny was attractive and persuasive.

He stopped and hissed at me. "Listen."

A rustling to our right sent me into Johnny's side and I held my breath.

"Do you hear music?" He smiled down at me.

I shook my head vehemently. "Why would I?  No one lives here."

"Nope. No one has lived here for decades."

"Why is that?"

He started walking again and I was dragged along. I could have let go, but that wasn't going to happen.

"The story is that old Truesdale threw a huge surprise party for his only daughter's return from Europe on the evening of her 18th birthday. She'd gone on some kind of world tour, you know the kind the Victorian elite took back in the day."

I didn't know, but I nodded anyway.

"Anyway, they had this huge party with all their rich friends. People came from as far away as New York and Boston."

He shifted his shoulders and covered my hand with his. It was warm and I snuggled against him.

I prompted him. "What happened?"

He looked down at me. "What? Oh.. well, old Truesdale went all out. He ordered a small orchestra to play music and tables with all kinds of food. He'd invited at least a hundred people and they were dressed in fancy dress, men in their tuxes and the ladies with their jewels. His daughter's girlfriends stood around giggling with their boyfriends on their arms. People were dancing and laughing and talking. It was amazing. At least, that's the story."

"And?" I prodded him. It was like pulling teeth to get the story out. It was fascinating because I'd never heard this part.

He glanced at me, his excitement suddenly dimmed. "She never came home. Her ship sank and she drowned."

"Oh, Johnny, that's so sad. So, they waited all night for her, dancing and partying?"

He didn't answer the question but said, "I think it is right up here. They said at the end of the drive there would be a light."

I squinted into the darkness. I didn't see any light but then, we rounded a slight curve in the path and there it was, a pole topped by what looked like carriage lamps. Ahead I could see there were several such fixtures at intervals and I sighed.

Johnny laughed. He started walking faster.  "Looks like they're expecting us."

I looked up at him, considering telling him to slow down. His excitement seemed out of place for the story he told me.

The tunnel of trees that surrounded the drive gave way to a broad expanse of lawn with grass nearly waist high. Trees still lined the drive but were much further apart than what we'd just traversed. Beyond, I could make out a looming blackness that I presumed was the house but I couldn't make out any lights.

I stopped and cocked my head to one side, listening. "It is music!"

He laughed and dragged at my arm, tugging me toward the house. "Come on. The party's already started."

The lanterns were stationed along a walk that ran the full length of the front of the house and I could make out a few structural details. It was a huge Georgian mansion with a gabled roof, Corinthian columns, and a full second-floor balcony. I halted in the middle of the drive and stared, open-mouthed. Johnny moved forward a few steps but stopped and turned to smile at me.

"That's impossible," I whispered. From every window, and there were many, dim flickering lights now shone. Shadows moved across the large windows at one end of the house. I rubbed my head.

Johnny laughed. "Come on, silly."

I stared at him. "What is going on? Is this some kind of joke? No one has lived here for decades."

He caught my hand and tugged me along as he moved toward the front door. "No. Let's go see what's inside."

I gave a token resistance, lagging behind him as he strode up the steps to the door. Something didn't seem right, but I couldn't see what. I'd heard the place was abandoned, dilapidated, and some tragedy had happened here but since I'd never had any interest in such places I'd never bothered to get details. Obviously, they held parties here and Johnny had brought me along.

I held back. "I'm not dressed, properly, Johnny. I don't know these people."

He ignored me and opened the carved wood door and pulled me into the hallway.

Music swirled around me like a breeze and there was a smell of some kind of flowers. At my expression, Johnny leaned close and whispered, "Lilacs."

I could hear laughter and there were several people coming down the stairs. They smiled and waved at us, and drifted through an arched doorway to our right. Johnny caught my elbow and led me in that direction. We stopped in the door and stared.

It was just as he described it. A small orchestra was at the back of the room and tables along the wall were ladened with food. On one was a fountain and people filled their glasses from it. Jewels glittered at the necks of beautifully clad women dancing with suited men. A group of girls passed us, giggling and giving Johnny flirting glances.

"You want to dance."

I couldn't speak, but I stared at him. "What is this?"

"What?" He frowned down at me. "A party. For Eliza. She'll be home tonight."

I stepped back. "Johnny. Who is Eliza?"

A booming voice caused me to jump and I whirled. "She's my daughter. This party is for her." He shook Johnny's hand. "Glad you could make it, my boy. So glad you brought another friend for Eliza."

My hand flew to my mouth and I smothered a sob. 'Oh my God." I was in a house of crazy people. I glanced toward the door. Straightening my back I started toward it. "I'm sorry. I have to leave. I forgot I told my Mom I'd be home by nine."

I nearly made it before Johnny caught my arm. "You can't leave. We just got here. Eliza will be home any minute."

"No." I jerked my arm away. "She won't be home any minute. Remember, you told me she never came home."

He laughed. "This party is for her. She'll be here."

I whirled away and raced for the door and pulled the brightly polished knob. The door opened and I started to move forward only to find myself facing a brick wall. I slid my hand along the surface and felt the rough brick and mortar joints scratch my palms. My breath rasped in my throat. No. This isn't right. I turned to stare at the two smiling men standing behind me.

"Let me out."

They smiled. The older man held out one arm and said, "Come, my dear, and enjoy the party. When Eliza gets here, Johnny can take you home."

I could hear the blood rushing in my ears and my heart pound so loud it sounded like drums. I rushed to the nearest window. I could just open it and step onto the porch and be gone. Once I made it to the highway, someone would give me a ride. Or maybe a farmhouse was nearby and I could get help there.

With shaking hands, I tore at the curtains and reached to open the window. Through the reflections in the glass, I saw the same brick that barricaded the doorway. I pounded on the frame. My heaving breath left fog on the glass and I turned away and ran to another window, and then another. Every window was bricked. Sobs tore at my throat and I stumbled back into the hallway. Perhaps upstairs I could find a window or the doorway to the balcony. I could jump down. I'd seen a small tree in one corner near the railing.

They still stood in the hallway, smiling and watching me.

I clutched Johnny's sleeve. "Let me out, please Johnny. I want to go home."

"After Eliza comes home." He caught my hand. "Let's dance."

I could feel my eyes grow wide and my mouth open. I wanted to scream, but no sound came. Music flowed around me like a breeze and the scent of lilacs fill the room. Eliza never came home. She drowned at sea.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

30 Days of Shorts - Day 6: Sandcastles


Five-year-old Scotty looked up at me with beautiful scowling blue eyes. It wasn't the first time that day.

"You told me I could play in the sand all day."

"But it has been all day, Scotty. We have to go home."

He kicked the sand, sending a spray of wet grains over my feet and into my shoes. "Don't want to go home."

I winced and counted to five. Ten took too long, and I was tired. I shifted the lounge chair to my opposite hand, ruffled the silky blond locks and forced a bright smile on my face.

"Mama will be home soon, and we're supposed to be there when she gets home."

Scotty plopped down into the wet sand, picked up his blue shovel, and began to shovel sand into the red bucket. He ignored me.

I squatted down and watched him. "Scotty, maybe we could stop for ice cream."

He hesitated, then looked up at me with that same scowl on his face. "You said we could get a hamburger."

"Well, yes, I did. But I didn't know they didn't sell them here at the beach."

"You passed McDonald's."

"I know, Scotty. I'm sorry." Even I could hear the strain in my voice. It had been a long day. We'd left home at noon and I had packed a lunch for us, but as we pulled out of the drive he'd asked for McDonald's and I'd promised. I thought there'd be a one near the beach. There wasn't and we'd long passed Mcdonald's before I knew it.

"It was lucky we had sandwiches in the car, wasn't it?" Again I ruffled his hair.

He pulled his head to one side and slapped a shovel of dirt into his bucket. The scowl greeted my tentative smile.

"You said you'd buy me a soda." He packed the sand into the bucket, smoothing the top off the way I'd shown him.

"I know. I didn't know the machine was broken, Scotty. But the water we brought stayed cold in my little cooler. It was very refreshing."

He upended the bucket next to him and gently pulled it up, leaving a small castle beside him.

"Scotty, we need to go."

"I'm working." He began to fill the bucket a second time and turned out another sand castle.

"I know. We can do this again one day."

He ignored me and started to fill his bucket again, digging deeper into the wet sand. A wave rushed us but didn't quite reach our spot. The tide was coming in. The sun slipped a bit as I watched. He flipped out his third small castle.

"Scotty, we can't stay until it gets dark. I promised Mom we'd leave before that. And pretty soon the tide will be covering this area."

This time the small face didn't scowl at me. Instead, he turned his head to one side and studied me through squinted eyes for a long time. I smiled at him, a sincere smile this time. He was so cute and really not a bad child at all. He'd inherited my sister's blond looks, but those piercing blue eyes were completely his father's.

"You make lots of promises."

For a moment, I didn't know what to say. Was he asking me or telling me. "Well.... I try... I just... " I thought a few more seconds. "What are you trying to say, Scotty?"

"I have to finish this."

"But what are you making?"

"A castle."

"You've made castles all afternoon." I glanced over where he'd lined up a row of sand castles. The waves rolled over the area and hardly anything was left. "They're all disappearing."

He glanced to where I pointed and then looked at me for a minute. Finally, he put his shovel in his bucket, stood up and picked it up. "I reckon you just can't depend on anything these days."

I watched as he marched across the sand toward the parking lot. Waves washed over my feet and I looked down. Scotty's sandcastles crumbled in the waves.


Monday, July 6, 2015

30 Days of Shorts - Day 5: Flight

Courtesy Pixabay
I peeked around the frame of the window into the yard. Night would soon fall and I wouldn't be able to see but for now, I could clearly see them.

Dressed in black from head to foot, their faces shadowed by wide-brimmed hats, they stood about a dozen feet apart, all the way around the house. I knew they did because I'd gone to every window and checked. For days they had stood, not moving a muscle. I estimated they were maybe 50 yards from the house. It was as if someone had drawn a circle around the building and they stood on the line. Initially, I'd been puzzled by it but that wore off and I only felt relief that they approached no closer. And curiosity.

Why didn't they move? What did they want?

I removed my glasses and shoved them into my skirt pocket and  smothered a sob, swiping at my face with the tattered rag I held in my hand. It was barely larger than my hand. I'd have to wash it soon. It was the only thing I'd brought with me when I ran away. I shook my head. I had nothing else to replace it with and so I clung to it, a filthy scrap that held all the tears I'd cried for weeks.

There wasn't much left in the house. I'd boarded myself in days ago. I'd run as far as I could and when I'd stumbled across this refuge, I'd slammed the door and used everything I could to block the exits. My body ached and I was so very tired of running and hiding. I wanted to rest. My throat hurt from my sobs and breathing through my stuffy nose was difficult. I sniffed and wiped the cloth over it again, wincing at the rawness.

I knew blocked doors wouldn't really stop them. Nothing could. They'd eventually capture me and devour me. Day and night, for so long I couldn't remember when it started they'd stalked me. I sighed. I had no place to run, now. I just wanted to sleep. I didn't dare. They'd gain entry and be on me in a second. I had to stay awake, stay vigilant.

With burning eyes, I sought out the tightest corner of the room and backed into it, sliding down the wall until I sat, pressed into the floor and wall. I pulled my knees up and wrapped my arms tightly around them and buried my head in my arms. I clutched the now sodden rag tightly in my fist  and the last of my strength drained away with my tears. Here is where I would stop. I could go no further.

I heard the door as it gave way, the windows as they shattered. I looked up and screamed as they rushed at me, a cloud of black with hate contorted visages. In one final feeble attempt as salvation, I threw up my hand with its dirty, tattered rag waving like a small, battle-worn flag.

An explosion shook the house to its foundation and spread into my bones. I clutched at the walls. Instantly, the figures turned and literally clambered over one another in their haste to escape. A second explosion caused dust and bits of plaster to shower around me. My heart beat so hard I thought it would rip through my chest. I covered my head with my arms and waited for my destruction.

It never came. Instead, a deep silence fell around me. Not a bird, a cricket, or a squirrel could be heard. There was no wind and not even the house creaked.

I don't know how long I waited. Slowly I pushed myself up, my back still pressing into the corner. I waited, but all was still. I sensed no sound, no movement. Were they waiting until I stepped outside? My body shook so hard I was afraid to move, but I couldn't stay here. I had to leave. I knew that, but I took my time and went to the window. After a moment's hesitation, I peeked around the frame.

There was no one there. The yard was empty. I frowned. Where were they? I moved to each window and it was the same. The yard as far as I could see was vacant. A huge sigh of relief flowed from me and I closed my eyes. Thank, God.

But why? Why had they run? What had driven them out? They were nasty, horrible things with droning voices that never ceased their harassment. And yet, they'd run as if something pursued them.

From me?

I rubbed my forehead and the rag slapped me in the eye. My frown deepened. I'd been running for weeks to evade them. Then, when I'm backed into a corner and waiting to be eaten alive, they run like cowards. I'd even raised a white flag.

I smiled as I looked at the nasty piece of cloth. Well, sort of white. I turned it over and studied it. The hem was gone, most of the fabric worn into shreds, threads dangled here and there. It was filthy from my repeated use. I wrinkled my nose. It smelled of dirt, sweat, and tears. I flipped it over to examine the opposite side and stared.

Someone had embroidered something... no, it was a word into the fabric with a glossy white thread. Originally it probably had been virtually undetectable. Now, against the dingy fabric, the thread stood in stark contrast. I squinted at it. Such tiny stitches, perfectly formed but so small I could not make out what it said.

I pulled my glasses from my pocket and slipped them on as the letters sprang into view, my vision blurred and tears splashed against my lens. In beautiful, swirling letters I read the single word that had sent my tormenters to flight.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

30 Days of Shorts - Day 4: The Trip

Courtesy Pixabay
Emily stared into the thick fog at the end of the pier. She was told to arrive early and she had, a whole hour early.

She attempted to glance around without being obvious. It was a wasted effort since there wasn't anyone to see. The thick forest behind her was devoid of any human presence as far as she could tell, but the wildlife seemed to be very vocal. Birds chirped and warbled and squirrels chattered.

She wasn't used to the forest. A city dweller since birth, the sounds of the forest were alien to her and gave her chills. The gravel of the shoreline crunched beneath her foot as she stepped onto the pier. She felt better with some distance between her and the forest.

There weren't even any cars around except her own yellow VW, the only bright spot in sight but the smiling face on the hood seemed to be mocking her today.

Emily took a deep breath, sat her suitcase down on the rough boards, and peered toward the end of the pier. The fog was impenetrable, just like the forest that lay behind her. She glanced again over her shoulder.

In the same moment, birds and squirrels fell silent. She went still as well, her instincts telling her this was not normal. She scanned the surrounding area, seeking the source that would cause such silence. She was the only living thing as far as she could see in any direction.

With one hand, she rubbed her neck and swiped it on her skirt. She was sweating. It wasn't hot, perhaps a bit humid but not really hot.

A crunching noise caused her to jump and whirl around to her right. She tottered as her foot slipped over the edge of the pier, but she caught herself and stepped back to the center. There was no one there.

"I don't know why you're so jumpy, girl. You came here all on your own. It was your idea. People told you not try this."

The sound of her own voice calmed her a bit. Rubbing her hands together and then up her arms in a hug, she took a deep breath and let it out. It trembled as it left her. She repeated the process as her counselor had taught her. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe  out. In a few moments, she felt her heart slow and her trembling cease. She nodded.

"See, it does work."

I know it works. Stop talking to yourself.

She walked a little farther onto the pier and squinted into the fog again. "I don't think I've ever seen fog that thick. It looks almost solid."

A few more steps and she halted. The fog had moved.

She shook her head. That's silly. She chuckled but she didn't feel amused.

"No, look. It's moving, like ... almost as if it's boiling."

Emily leaned forward, straining her eyes to break through the gray soup. It was impossible. But it was true. The fog undulated. She could see it bulging and swirling and whirling in strange contortions, as if ...

She stepped back.

"May I help you?"

She screamed and would have jumped off the pier if he had not caught her arm.

"Do be careful, my dear. We can't have you falling in."

With a gentle jerk, she extracted her arm and stepped away from him, careful to stay in the center of the pier. "Who are you?"

"You were speaking to someone." He wasn't asking her.

With a vehement shake of her head, she stuttered her answer. "N-n-no. I was merely observing and talking to myself."

He smiled and clasped his hands before him. "I see." He looked past her. "As if what?"

She frowned. "What?"

"As if what? The fog. What were you comparing it to?"

Emily blinked and tried to reorient herself. "I'm not sure.. I don't understand."

He closed his eyes and chuckled and then looked at her with eyes the color of the fog behind her.

She took another step back. She hadn't realized how very tall he was, a good foot taller than she. The clasped hands were merely skin-covered bone. Shoulders beneath the black jacket seemed more like a stick holding the coat up.

Emily started. Like a scarecrow. He looked like a scarecrow.

Breathe in, breathe out.

"You seem nervous. Why?"

Her laugh seemed very brittle and loud to her own ears. "No, no, I'm fine. What time will it arrive?"

He shrugged. "Oh, any moment. But really, I was curious to know about the fog. Your analogy seemed as if it were going to be very picturesque."

A quick look behind her and she turned back, her heart pounding and sweat beading her brow. "I was thinking ..."

He leaned forward slightly, his eyes boring into her own. "Yes?"

She couldn't breath. Breathe in, breathe out.


Breathe in, breathe out. "I was thinking it was bulging and swirling and whirling as if ...." Her eyes wide with terror, she looked once again at the bulging, swirling, whirling mass of fog. "As if someone was trying to get out."

She faced him. He leaned forward, grinning with large, pointy teeth, and his breath was fetid and she cringed away.

"Yessss, it does, doesn't it?"

And then he reached for her.


Larry slammed the car door and walked to the edge of the water. "What we got, Bernie?"

Bernie turned, writing something on the notepad he held. He pointed with the end of his pen. "Abandoned VW." He turned back to the pier and pointed again. "Suitcase. No name on that but we haven't unpacked it. Registration on the car says Emily Brown, Las Vagas, age 23."

"What's she doing way out here?"

Bernie shrugged. "No idea. This is the fifth one in as many months."

Larry scratched his head and looked out at the placid surface of the lake. The day was sunny and the reflection of the blue sky was disorienting, causing a rounded sensation. Were it not for the forest on the opposite side of the lake, he'd think he was in a snow globe. He turned in a circle, studying the layout. He hated this lake.

"I hate this lake." Bernie echoed his thoughts.

"Yeah. Me, too."

"Larry, where'd she go?"

Larry shrugged. "Maybe she got picked up."

Bernie stared at him. "Man, this lake is 15 miles from anything on a dead end road. No one comes here. Locals won't set foot past the turnoff. Who'd pick her up?

"We got five cars and five suitcases and no bodies."

Larry stared at the lake. "I know."

"Someone knows something."

Larry threw up his hands and turned away, headed for his car. "Only happens every ten years for 12 months, Bernie. We only have seven more months to worry about it. Send me the family info and I'll inform 'em."

"Inform them of what?"

The car door slammed and Larry headed back to civilization. Bernie scowled and turned to stare at the lake. He hated this lake.

He picked up the suitcase and turned toward his car. "Hook up that car and take it in, boys. You don't want to be here at sunset."

Saturday, July 4, 2015

30 Days of Shorts - Day 3: The Fourth

The smell of smoke drifted across the yard and titillated my nose. I opened my eyes and stared up at the blue sky dotted with drifts of white clouds. I could hear burgers sizzling on the grill. Shifting my head slightly I looked in that direction.

On the patio, John stood at the grill, his flag apron flapping gently in the breeze as he stood watch over his burgers. The table was spread with red, white, and blue linens. A few feet away a second table contained condiments, utensils, and brightly colored plates, cups, and bowls. Fruit, cakes, pies, veggie trays, and packs of buns staggered throughout. I sighed and looked back at the sky.

Half a dozen children were giggling and playing in the sandbox and on the swing at the far back of the yard. My lounge chair was near the side yard, between the house and the play area. I could relax here, in slight solitude with my book, currently on a small table at my elbow, and a glass of iced tea. Eventually, chaos would ensue, once the children decided they wanted the sprinklers on. My own children were inside watching a movie while their children enjoyed the more common pursuits of a summer holiday.

I looked at the flag flying high over my house. It was such a beautiful thing. John had insisted on a flag pole that was higher than the roof. Upon his return from Vietnam he'd been disillusioned with his country, angry at her betrayal of the men who'd sacrificed their youth, their families, their health, and their lives because they elected leaders who didn't share their ideals. He had been one of the last sent over and one of the last to come home and  had not experienced as much trauma as many of his friends. But it had been enough.

He'd left the military with bitterness and regret. But when the towers came down and the reaction of the country was indignation and swift reaction to terrorism on American soil, John had put up his flagpole and the Stars and Stripes flew over our home. For a time, it had flown over virtually every home in the country. It would always fly over whatever land John resided on. It has saddened him that much of the nation folded many of those flags and stuffed them in drawers, forgotten, like the men who fought for it for 200 years.

Now they were burning it and John was ready to go back to war, this time with his own nation. He was so sick of the disrespect and dishonor heaped on that flag hourly. The latest images on the news had nearly caused him to have a stroke. For days he'd stomped around the house, snapping at everyone who irritated him. Our oldest son lived up the street and was so worried about his father that he came everyday at sunset, when his dad took the flag down to assist him.

I watched him flip the burger and he turned to smile at the children and then, waved at me. I waved back.

I wondered what other people, non-military people, thought when they looked at military families. Did they see the fierce love of country it takes to serve for years in strange places where you have no family, no friends, no home?

Did they know the fear in those men as they sat in dark shacks, in strange lands where they were hated and despised and would be killed without a moment's thought? Did they know the grief they felt when they looked at the dirty, torn photos of their families?

Did they see the fear of the wives, sometimes husbands or parents, sending their loved ones to places from which they may never return? Did they know the terror of possibly never getting even a dead body back?

How could anyone even guess? We protected them from the realities. We never talked about it. We don't have marches, protests, parades spouting our fears, hates, and frustrations. We, the ones left behind fight as well. We, too, are the strong, the proud. Did those outside understand that we were lying awake at night praying that our husband or child would not drive over a bomb, get hit by missiles, shot by a sniper, or have their head cut off by an insane animal?

Did they even have a clue as to why we accepted the risks? Anyone would do it, right? We were Americans. We stand for all that is good and right. We fight when the oppressed won't fight for themselves. We die for people we owe nothing. Did they really think there was enough money in the world to compensate us? Did they really think we reaped enough financial benefit for all we dealt with to serve them?

Did they wonder what we see when we look at them? The ungrateful, the unappreciative, the criminals, the mobs of fools? No. We knew those existed. We did it for a land that was worth saving, that many had already died to shape. We did it to give hope to those who sought freedom and safety. We did it because there were some things worth fighting and dying for and this nation contains much of that within its borders. That despite the bad, it contained so much that was good.

I sighed. At least, it used to. I wasn't sure anymore. I think John was beginning to question it as well. Was anything worth fighting for anymore? We watched the things we'd held dear crumble, hatred burning up cities. And I watched my husband crumble with it. Men like him had bleed out in muddy fields around the world for that scrap of cloth on a pole and the people she represented. Now, those people would take her and turn her to ash. What fools.

My children poured out the back door, demanding food. My husband laughed and received the slaps on the back from hungry sons. Grandchildren raced to the tables. Mothers gathered their chicks under their wings. I watched and wondered.

Above it all she snapped in the breeze and I looked up. Our time of service was over but one never forgot the value of those who served and we never forget what that symbol represented. We knew the value of this nation as no one else. We knew what it cost in blood, tears, and grief. We knew as long as that lady flew, we could enjoy another 4th of July with our family.

Long may she wave. God bless America.

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