"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)


It's A Wonderful Year

Let's end the year with a look back at some of the best moments of 2010:

Best book I read: Hands down, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The characters, the imagery, Death as narrator -- everything about this book delighted me and inspired me as a writer. It haunted me for days after I read it. I hold it up as the holy grail of writing, a greatness that I can only hope to achieve someday.

Best writer's retreat: OK, I only went on one, but it was wonderful. I think I'm going to have to make it a yearly tradition.

Best new writing friends: I've had a great time getting to know Cathryn Grant at Suburban Noir and Carrie Dair at Come On...I Dair You. Wonderful, encouraging, fun people to get to know. I can't wait to get my hands on Cathryn's soon-to-be-released book, The Demise of the Soccer Moms.

Best online writing tool: Write or Die by Dr. Wicked. Perfect for writing rough drafts, it is just what I need to break through the panic of perfectionism and just write.

Best book on writing: The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Although not intended just for writers, it introduced me to my muse and helped me see the joy in creativity.

Best gift for a writer: My new Kindle! Bah! I love it, and I love having access to all those classics FOR FREE! I'm currently reading The Phantom of the Opera, and I'll be reading The Island of Dr. Moreau next, and after that, I've got The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and then... well, you get the picture.

Best scientific breakthrough: The Whittemore Peterson Institute found a link between a new retrovirus, XMRV, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Say what? It's not all in my head?

Best health breakthrough: Finding out that I am, indeed, XMRV positive, and that new treatment options are now available to me. The New Year is suddenly looking a lot brighter!

I hope your 2010 was a wonderful year, and that 2011 promises to be even better!


A Woman's Job Is Never Done

The members of the Justice League gathered around the commissioner's old walnut desk. They looked at each other, curious to know why they had been called in for duty the night before Christmas.

"Thank you all for coming," the commissioner said. "I know you'd all rather be spending time with your families right now. But this is an emergency."

He paused to give weight to his announcement.

"Santa Claus has been kidnapped."

Several groans rifled through the crowd of super heroes. Wonder Woman rolled her eyes. Of course. Some nut job always targeted Santa this time of year. She remembered slapping the cuffs on a middle-aged man who was apprehended before he could do any damage last year.

"Legos," he had spat at a flustered Santa. "I asked you for Legos."

The red splotches on the jolly old elf's cheeks were not exactly rosy.

"Look, it was a typo. And you can still build with Lincoln Logs."

She had led the man away, still muttering. Sheesh.

Batman took her arm, startling her out of her memory. He led her out of ear shot of the rest.

"You know we're going to need someone to cover Christmas, don't you?"

"No way, not me." She shook her head. "Why do I always get stuck with this kind of crap?"

"You're the only one here with any real super powers, besides Superman. And you know his ego isn't going to let him skip out on all the good fighting stuff."

She glanced over at Superman where he stood with his arms folded, his hands underneath his biceps pushing against them to make them look bigger. Why did he do that? Everyone already knew he was the strongest man in the world.

"Besides, you've already got transportation. Nice and roomy. You won't even need to figure out how to drive the sleigh."

"And what about sliding down the chimney? You don't think that being an Amazon might make that difficult?" She squinted and a sly smile lifted her lips. "Don't you think Robin would be a better choice?"

"Nice try. You forgot about the elves. We'll throw in a couple to help you out. Whatta ya say? Will you do it?" He smiled at her with all his Bruce Wayne charm. She sighed and dropped her head.

"All right, all right. But you owe me one."

"I know." He winked at her, then walked over to the commissioner to whisper the good news.


This week's prompt:

Santa Claus has been kidnapped only hours before he is set to start his Christmas deliveries. Whilst the other superheros rescue and punish the offenders, it is up to one Superhero to undertake Santa's role this Christmas. Who will it be? How will they go?

Want to play along? Visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


The Waterfall Concept: A blueprint for addiction recovery

I was given the opportunity to read and review this book, and I am so glad I accepted it. This is an excellent book, filled with information and suggestions to help someone as they struggle with addiction recovery.

Roger Stark is not only an addiction counselor, but a recovering addict himself. He approaches this book with the same attitude required of anyone attempting recovery -- humility. He offers so many tools in this book and covers all the bases: spiritual, emotional, physical. His suggestions progress from the easiest to follow early recovery techniques to more challenging techniques in later stages and the maintenance phase.

Stark clearly defines what an addict is and describes how they got to their place of addiction. I found it to be a good book for any parent who may have a child that is beginning to use drugs or alcohol as a coping technique for their feelings. I think many of the suggestions could be used as preventative tools, not only as recovery tools.

Stark is positive and encouraging throughout the book. He helps put relapses into perspective so they can become learning experiences rather than stumbling blocks.

What I loved most about his book is that many of his techniques are helpful overall life skills. Anyone can benefit from learning and incorporating the suggestions for coping, self-care, and expressing feelings.

The book had a lot of grammar and punctuation mistakes that made the reader have to work a little too hard. But it was well worth the effort. I strongly recommend this book to anyone, those who are currently in addiction recovery, parents, or anyone looking to become healthier emotionally.


Creating the NYT Bestseller List

Ever wanted to know how the New York Times comes up with its Best Sellers list?  It's not what you think.


Love Interest

I've just introduced a new love interest for my MC, Ice.  She's an operative that has just arrived on the island.  Think she can thaw him before the big extinction event?


Stand for the Family

I was given a copy of Stand for the Family to review.  Thank you, Cecily, for giving me the opportunity to discover this fascinating and eye-opening book.

Sharon Slater makes the case that the traditional family is under attack.  She unveils the attackers and shows us the methods that they use to undermine the family.  She then gives us suggestions on what we can do to fight against the onslaught.  The book is very well-researched, and she cites study after study backing up the information she includes.

The two groups she identifies as being the biggest threats to the family are radical feminists and homosexual activists.  Slater does a good job differentiating between individuals and lobbying groups; she's not saying that every homosexual and every feminist are against the family, but she exposes those groups who have declared that their intent is to dismantle the institution of the family.

Some of these groups' methods are obvious, such as bypassing public opinion and legislatures to take their issues to the courts.  Others are more surprising, like lobbying the United Nations to include anti-family language in the resolutions that are passed.  Slater shows how although you wouldn't think that such resolutions carry much weight, governments and courts around the world use them in their decision making.

Slater's book is a call to vigilance, a call to civic action.  Our greatest weapons against these attacks are speaking out and using our vote to elect individuals who are willing to fight against these groups.

I would have liked to see a chapter devoted to the topic of divorce, which is as big a threat to the family as the other groups she mentions.  It is something that most people have more control over than what is happening in governments or the UN.  I also think she should have cited some of the evidence that is out there showing how important fathers are to the development of their children.  It would have strengthened an already strong case for the traditional family structure.

I thought that the organization of the book was sloppy.  Slater begins the book by discussing battles at the UN over a cause she has yet to convince us to believe in.  It isn't until the third chapter that she talks about the importance and benefits of the traditional family.  Also, the suggestions at the end of each chapter tend to ramble and overlap.  I would have preferred to see just one final chapter with suggestions of how to fight back. 

I would highly recommend this book.   It is a wake-up call to what is going on around us.  Buy it and then pass it along to your friends and family.  We need more people to stand for the family or suffer the consequences when these groups succeed.


Sick :(

Well, I just found out that the blood work I had done TWO MONTHS ago came back positive for mono.  Um, thank you doctor's office for your timely response.  I guess that explains why my normal symptoms have been exacerbated and why I haven't felt much like writing lately.  And why I've neglected my blog!  Tsk tsk.

I'm hoping to get back on track this week.  After my root canal.  Hey, when it rains, it pours, right?


The Perfect Story

It's sooooo good!  My main character is interesting and strong, with deep convictions that help move the story along.  I have a wonderful love interest for him.  She's gentle and caring as well as beautiful, although not in a traditional way, of course.  They are thrown together by their work, which they are both deeply committed to, although they see it differently.  I have great action, an incredible build to a heart-wrenching climax and a denouement sure to leave my readers in tears.  I have a theme that runs through the whole story that will keep my readers pondering for days after they've finished the story.  It's perfect!

And it's all in my head.  I haven't had the chance to write any flaws into the story yet.  I haven't stumbled over an important scene, a critical introduction, or a subtly placed symbol.  I have my three building blocks -- my three flash fiction pieces -- but everything else is beautifully, perfectly dancing in my head.

This is where writer's block comes in for me.  This is the moment when I am paralyzed by fear, because once I start writing, my perfect story won't be perfect anymore.  It will be flawed.

I need to remind myself that that is a good thing.  There is so much beauty in imperfection.  The imperfect is much more interesting than the perfect.  And if I were able to create a perfect story, where would I be found in such a thing?

No, I'm certain that I prefer a story with my own imperfect, flawed voice ringing through it.


The Ol' Switcheroo

I am abandoning my novel.  FOR NOW.  Not forever.

I have an opportunity to submit a short story for publication at the end of the year (tiny advance, tiny royalties).  I've decided I'd like to take my Ice stories, pull them together, and make them into one big short story (hm, oxymoron, yes?).  So, to do that, I'm abandoning my goals for my novel this month.

It's not failure, it's flexibility. 

When I come back to my novel, I've had some super great ideas that I need to weave into it before I continue.  The changes will make it a gazillion times better.  And yes, it does have a lot to do with knowing my main character better and making her a more likable, compelling person.

I've also been asked to write an article for Life Skills e-zine this month.  And I found out that another article of mine has been accepted for a religious publication, The Ensign.  I'll link to the articles when they become available.

See, all the good news is making it easier for me to squelch the old me ("must finish goals at all cost...").  And maybe next year, I'll be in a position to participate in NaNoWriMo for real.


Fess Up Friday

Time to see how I did for the week:

I added 5,752 words this week, just 248 shy of my goal.  Woohoo!
I have a total of 25,254 words written in my work in progress.

More importantly, I slogged through my major slump and learned something important about my novel.  Of course.  I always seem to struggle most right before I discover something significant.  I have a few ideas that I can work into my novel that will help me around some of the issues I've been having.  I'm a little closer to figuring out who my main character.  I'm not going to panic if I don't really know her yet; Leo Tolstoy took several revisions to come up with his Anna Karenina.

Um, did I just compare myself to Tolstoy?  Sorry about that.  *blush*

Overall, I'm pleased at the progress I've been able to make this week, especially in spite of dealing with the unexpected and unpleasant (a root canal).

Here's hoping I get into a nice rhythm this upcoming week!  It would be nice to surpass my goal for once.


Reasons Why You Should NaNo

Here are the reasons why you should participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo):

1.  Because you want to.

Now, you may be a student who hates writing, and NaNo is the only thing that makes it fun.  Or perhaps you're a bored housewife who wants to try something new.  Maybe you'd like to experience a month-long experiment in creativity.  Perhaps you've always wanted to write a book but have been to afraid to try.  Or maybe you're already a writer and you'd like to train yourself to be more disciplines.  Maybe you'd like to raise your writing goals to a higher level, just to see if you can do it.  You may be a seasoned, published author, who would like to share your encouragement and enthusiasm with younger writers.  Who knows?  It doesn't matter.

Ignore the literati elitists who look down their noses at you because you're not a "real" writer.  Don't listen when they say you shouldn't be doing this, that writing is reserved for the serious author who does not dabble in such silly shenanigans.  Go ahead and NaNo.

But only if you want to.


When The Going Gets Rough, I Rant

I hate my novel.

There.  That's right.  I said it.  Out loud, even as I typed.

It's boring, flimsy, plodding.  My characters are cardboard.  I have no "voice."  My 15-year old main character sounds like a 45-year old housewife.  The setting is fuzzy and nondescript, the scenes are weak and predictable.  I hate my novel.

Now, don't panic.  I had the same problem with my first novel four months before I finished the first draft.  I was madly in love with it by the time I had finished.  I still am in love with it; when I'm feeling rebellious, I plan my rewrites on it when I'm supposed to be focusing on my current work in progress.

So, I'm not going to do anything rash like abandon this story.  But I do find it interesting that I hit a huge wall of resistance at this stage of the writing process. 

I think it has something to do with fear.  I am just getting used to hearing my voice speak out through my work.  It can be quite powerful, and it surprises me.  It scares me.  I'm supposed to be the good girl, sit down, shut up, don't make waves.  With each new scene I write, I am making waves -- sometimes ripples, sometimes a tsunami.

I'll keep writing.  There is something there, under the surface, that is screaming to get out.  I'm going to let it.  One ugly scene at a time.


The Art of the First Draft

Sorry, folks, no Fiction Friday for me this month.  I'm dedicating the time to my novel, via NaNoWriSlow (thanks to Literary Mouse for coining the phrase!).  I'm making wonderful progress, by the way.  I'm at 19,502 words, and it's only day 5.  I think I'm on track to finish my first draft by the end of the month.  A very skinny first draft, that is.

But that's OK.  The purpose of a first draft is to just get the story down.  A first draft, to me, is like a pencil sketch.  It's bare bones information, kind of dull and boring, I admit.  Reading through it is almost like listening to a kindergartner tell a story.

"And then, the princess, she's banished to another world, a world where they are mean to her because she's different from them.  But her sister is really nice.  And her mom isn't mean, even though she's not really her mom.  And then she meets a nice boy who pretends to be her friend, but then he's really a wolf in disguise..."

You get the gist.  It's crap, I know, I know it's crap.  But that's OK.  Because once I have the story in place, I can go back and erase the rough spots, add a lot of color, depth, light, and nuance.  I can weave in my theme, heighten the emotional impact of my key scenes.  I can build something great, but I have to have the foundation in place. 

The foundation is the story.  And NaNo helps me focus so I can spit the story out onto the page.


AndThey're Off!

Let's go, NaNo!  Good luck to everyone participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Quote for the week:    You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. -Eleanor Roosevelt


Wild Things

It was my favorite time of year to be hiking in Yellowstone -- fall, when the leaves turned brilliant colors, the days were cooler but the nights not yet freezing, and the tourists packed their broods into station wagons and left the surroundings littered but quiet.  The stillness in the air enticed the wild things to come back out of hiding and return to their normal habits.  Sometimes I'd pass another seasoned naturalist on the trail, and we'd nod, but mostly it was just me and blue skies and birds, squirrels, elk, deer, and a few big horn sheep.

I made good time, five to six miles before stopping for lunch, and then another leisurely four this afternoon.  When the temperatures started cooling and the sun darted in and out of trees closer to the horizon, I knew I needed to look for a place to camp for the night.  I liked to settle in and then listen to the awakening of the nocturnals.  I wandered off the main trail and found a nice clearing under a few trees, the ground fairly even and free of rocks and shrubs.  I shrugged off my backpack and popped up my one man tent, then scouted around for wood to use for a fire.

By the time night fell, I had a warm, blazing fire.  I heated some of the water from my canteen and poured it into my styrofoam cup of soup.  I settled myself against the trunk of the nearest tree.  I stirred my soup, took a spoonful, blew on it, and slurped a long, salty wet noodle into my mouth.  Not exactly gourmet, but it reminded me of my college years, and it suited the mood of the evening -- young, free, and just a little out of touch with reality. 

I finished the noodles and threw my head back to drain the last of the liquid from the cup when I noticed a large black feather falling from the tree.  It landed beside me.  I picked it up.  It was sticky.  I brought it near the fire so I could see better.  Deep maroon, still almost black unless the light from the flames glinted just right.  Blood? 

The feather looked too big to be from a duck or woodpecker.  I worried it might be from a falcon, or worse, a bald eagle.  Curious, I fished my flashlight from my backpack and shined it up into the tree I had been leaning against.  The faint beam landed on a dark, feathered body, wings splayed and head tilted askew.  It was a big bird, but probably not an eagle; more likely, just a hawk.  Looked like the predator had become prey.

The light illuminated something else on a branch a little further up the tree.  A deer, or at least what was left of a deer.  Its legs dangled lifelessly, its head flung backwards, exposing the ripped, hollowed underbelly and a few pieces of flesh still clinging to the fur.

A deer?  In a tree?  I'd heard of leopards doing that with their prey, but this was Wyoming, not the Serengeti.  I shined my light back and forth, along the branches, and then dropped it with a clatter at my feet.  I fell to my knees, groping around in the dark, desperate to find it again, while reason fought against what I thought I had just seen.  A human hand, glistening white, dangling from a branch.

I heard a deep-throated growl and froze.  I shifted my head to see two yellow eyes towering above me.  So this is what it was like for Steve Irwin and that guy who lived with the grizzlies.  The last thought flashing through my mind: what was that guy's name?


Today's prompt:

In most parts of the world, Halloween is celebrated – in some form or another – this weekend. Your challenge this week is to write a horror scene (or something horrific) using a wet noodle, a styrofoam cup and a feather.


Predator and Prey

Ash took the bulging manila folder from his briefcase and set it in front of him on the table in the cruiser's only cabin.  A thin fluorescent light swung from the ceiling, casting shadows around the tiny room.  He pulled out the dog-eared pages of the analyst's report.  He glanced over the words, although he had them almost memorized.  Sixteen biological terrorism attacks, innocent civilians, no known motive, no political group claiming responsibility.  Just one man.  He turned to the worn photos.  The aftermath, piles of bloodied bodies, some that looked like they had been blown up from the inside, others that looked like they had imploded.  A photo of stillness, as if the multitude of people were just sleeping, a mid-afternoon siesta.  And a single photo of his target, blurred but enhanced enough to see the man's likeness.  Tall, unusually pale, ice blue eyes.  The eyes marked him.  He would know the man in any crowd by his eyes.

His instructions were simple.  Neutralize him.  But be careful.  Ash must not, by any means, be seen.

That would not be a problem, under normal circumstances, because Ash preferred to hunt by night.  He knew how to slip through the shadows like a lynx, undetected by his prey even at the moment of striking.  But this was different.  His guide had taken him to the wrong island, and he had wasted precious black hours searching for a man who was not there.  As they approached this island -- the right island, he had been assured, and it better be the right island, because he would not be so forgiving a second time -- dawn had already crept in, and slashes of pink rested on the horizon surrounding the lip of the rising sun.  Ash desperately wanted to wait until darkness descended again, but he knew it would be impossible.  His instructions emphasized it must be done now, and he was already hours behind schedule.  He would have to improvise.

Ash brusquely swept the pages and photos back into the folder, returned it to the briefcase, and pushed the bag under the bed.  He hadn't really needed to look over the information again, anyway.  But anger and disgust helped him be more efficient.  He felt the fury pulse in his veins.  He was ready.

He climbed to the deck of the cruiser and watched as the island came into focus.  Black sand beaches leading into a thick jungle overgrowth.  Very good.  The hunter would feel right at home.  He relaxed a little, feeling that his job may not be too difficult after all.

The captain cut the cruiser's power, and they drifted the boat to shore.  The crew busied themselves with boxes of medical supplies to be delivered to the doctor, their cover should the natives become curious about the strange men landing on their island.  Ash slipped away silently, disappearing into the dense canopy.

The island was small, merely a few miles radius.  Ash moved lithely, traveling in a circle, alert to the sounds of the waking jungle, closing in tighter and tighter around the village.  Soon, distant voices drifted to his ears.  He moved in their direction.  He found a clearing, saw several grass huts.  He readied his weapon, then crept closer, confident in the camouflage of the trees and vines.  There.  To his left.  His target.

Ash hesitated.  Something wasn't right.  The man in front of him was stripped down to his ragged jeans, his tan chest bare, as were his dust-covered feet.  A dozen small, dark, laughing children surrounded him, and they kicked a hollowed out coconut shell back and forth between them.  The coconut rolled in front of the man, and just as he was about to kick it, a tiny boy snaked in front of him for a steal.  The man threw back his head, his laughter loud and raucous, and Ash saw the sun glint off his perfect white teeth.

Ash sucked in his breath.  The man snapped his head in his direction, their eyes met.  Ash felt the blood in his veins turn to ice, fingers skittering through his body before closing around his heart.  In the milliseconds before his heart exploded, he did not see his life flash before his eyes.  Instead, he saw the bloodied bodies, the hollow eyes, the piles of victims he failed.


Today's prompt:
Include this theme in your story… After a long night, a hunter sees something he/she cannot believe.


NaNoWriMo Or No

There's something in the air this time of year.  It's not the sudden chill of autumn, nor the excitement of the approaching holidays, or even the frisson of annoyance at Christmas displays popping up in stores before Halloween.  No, it's the buzz and electricity as authors all around the U.S. contemplate the great National Novel Writing Month.

To NaNo or not to NaNo, that is the question.  Or is it?  Does it have to be so black and white?

As much as I'd like to jump in wholeheartedly, I recognize my limitations.  I physically cannot sustain writing 2,000 words a day.  Not even 1,667 words a day, if I don't take any days off, including Thanksgiving.  Yet, I don't want to sit on the sidelines, watching and hearing about authors taking on the herculean task of completing a novel in a month.  I want to play, too!

So, here's my compromise.  I may not sign up on the official website.  I may not bust out a full 50,000 words in one month.  But I will participate in spirit.  I'm setting my goal at 1,000 words a day, broken into two writing sessions.  That's doable!  I've already written over 13,000 words on my current work in progress.  I can use the rest of October to "warm-up," as it were, bust out a lot of writing, and maybe I'll get up to 20,000 words before NaNo starts.  Then maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to finish my novel about the same time as everyone else.  At least a nice, sketchy, skinny first draft.

There.  I've made a public commitment.  Count me in, fellow crazies!



Vivian lit the trio of lavender tea candles, put a CD of nature sounds in the player, and adjusted the volume to a gentle trickle filling the room.  She turned to her client, naked under a slightly warmed flannel sheet in the middle of the room.  It had been cold last night; she didn't want her catching a chill.

She moved to the top of the table and folded the sheet down to expose Monica's bare back.  She reached for the bottle of ylang ylang massage lotion and squeezed a liberal amount into her palm.  She brusquely rubbed her hands together and smoothed them around Monica's shoulders.

Vivian closed her eyes and sighed, letting her hands move instinctively, searching out the tight knots embedded along the neck.  Monica had such a lovely energy about her.  It was because she was a mother.  There was something about mothers -- they were always so giving, sending so much positive energy out into the world.  Not every mother, she knew, but Monica was one of the good ones.

Vivian found a particularly stubborn knot and paused to give it a little extra attention.  She pressed her thumb into the heart of it, rotated, wiggled it just a little.  She felt it release.  Monica sighed, and Vivian felt her body release a little, too.  Ah, this was going to be a good session, she could tell.

Vivian worked her fingers up through the base of the neck, up to the cranium.  She felt a tightening under her fingers right behind the jawline.  Monica must have been fighting with her husband recently.  Vivian massaged the area with her index finger, felt it leading down the side of her neck, so she followed.  She followed the tightness across her shoulder, around the curve of the shoulder blade, pausing to jiggle it a little, feeling the release.  It ended just under her arm.  Smooth, the whole path was smooth now.  Monica wouldn't be having any more of those tension headaches for awhile.

Vivian added a little more pressure as she moved down her back, pushing then pulling the muscles into submission.  She moved to the side and worked along the spine.  She heard a little pop, and then another, as the vertebrae slid back into place.  Vivian took pride in knowing most of her clients didn't need a chiropractor.  During a session with her, everything just kind of melted into balance.

She lightened her touch as she reached the spot in the middle of Monica's back.  This was a touchy area, she knew.  She'd once asked if Monica had ever had a traumatic injury, ever been in a car accident or injured herself playing sports.  No, Monica didn't remember any such thing.  Vivian knew then; it was something deeper, more traumatic, not talked about.  Something when she was very young.  Vivian always approached it with great care, and she noticed it was healing a little bit more each time she worked on her.  If Monica did choose to ever bring the trauma to the surface again, she'd be surprised at how much better it is now.  It was one of the gifts Vivian gave her clients without them knowing.

Vivian paused and squeezed more lotion into her hand.  She took Monica's arm in her hands, smoothed over the large muscles, worked her way to wrists and pressed into the fleshy palm of Monica's hand.  She noticed the callous marks from finger nails of clenched fists.  Tension here, too.  She stretched each finger, rotated the hand until it eased softly back onto the sheet.

Vivian pulled the sheet up over Monica's back, moved to the bottom of the table and folded the sheet away from Monica's legs.  She repeated the motions along the large muscles, and then pulled up her stool to sit while she worked on Monica's feet.  The feet told everything.  Monica needed a gentle touch today, and Vivian gently prodded the heel, rolled her knuckles into the arch, walked her thumbs across the toes.

She replaced the sheet, moved to the top of the table, and gently brushed her hands down Monica's covered body, corralling the negative energy and moving it down the planes and banishing out of her body.  She looked at the clock.  The hour was up.  She spoke softly, telling Monica to take her time getting up.  She walked to a back bathroom and waited until she heard Monica stirring, waited longer until it was quiet again.

Monica's face shone when Vivian came back into the room.

"You are amazing," Monica said.  She rolled her neck back and forth.  "I feel so good.  And it's never the same massage twice.  You're very intuitive."

Vivian smiled, hoping Monica didn't notice the hint of sadness behind it.

"Thank you.  Yes, you're right, I am.  But it's a blessing and a curse.  See, people can't lie to me."

Monica looked puzzled.

"That's why I don't date much," Vivian said lightly, and Monica laughed as if it were a joke.

"So, I'll see you next week?"  Vivian asked.

"No, sorry, I can only come every other week right now.  Make it the following."

"All right, I'll pencil you in."

Vivian led Monica to the door, watched her get into her car, and waved as she pulled out of the carport.  She walked back inside and found the calendar on her desk.  She looked at all the blank white squares and wrote down "Monica, 10 am" under the 24th.


This week's prompt:   What is your Character's Very Mild SuperPowers?


Righting Wrong

I stood on the round metallic teleportation device in the middle of the room.  I turned to face the only other man in the room.

"When you enter, you should arrive in the southwest corner," the old man said.  "The oval table will be to your right.  He will be sitting at the head of it, of course."

I nodded.  Nervous perspiration broke out in tiny droplets on my upper lip.  I brought my arm up and wiped it away on my sleeve.  I didn't speak for fear my voice would crack.

"You will have only a few seconds before their surprise turns to action.  You must act quickly."

Again, I nodded.  I steadied my voice.

"Should I have my gun drawn already?" I asked.

"No.  That would raise alarms immediately.  Let them see you and wonder first."

I could see the old man had thought this through, over and over, reliving it again and again throughout the long nights leading up to this moment.

"Are you ready?" he asked quietly.  I placed my hand on the butt of the gun tucked inside the front of my jeans.  I closed my eyes.

I nodded.

I opened my eyes to see the scene exactly as the old man had described it.  I was in the southwest corner of the room.  The oval table was to my right.  He was sitting at the head of it.  His impeccable black hair, parted down the right, gleamed, the broom bristle mustache twitched under his nose.  His uniform was crisp, and he held his hat casually in his left hand.  The swastika band was blood red around his left bicep.  He threw his head back and laugh, momentarily disconcerting me.  I had never seen more than a frown turning his lips down at the corners.

The men in the room became aware of my presence incrementally, as if in slow motion.  Expressions turned from surprise to confusion to concern as I pulled the gun from its hiding place and trained the sights on the laughing man.  I pulled the trigger and blood erupted from the clean white shirt beneath his jacket.  The smile faded from his lips as I pumped three more shots into his chest.  The room felt silent for a millisecond, and then a buzzing roar filled my ears.  I let the gun drop from my fingers, bouncing innocuously at my feet with a clatter against the hard wood floor.  I was tackled and fell to the ground next to it.

I waited for the crack that would signal the bullet meant for me.  It didn't come.  Two burly men rolled me onto my back, and I felt cold metal handcuffs coil around my wrists.  They hauled me to my feet, and I stood to face these men, his cronies and accomplices.  They stared back at me in horror, as if I were the butcher of millions instead of the man bleeding lifelessly at their feet.

The two men pushed me through the door, out of the building, into a waiting car.  They drove for miles, and I wondered what would happen next.  A dark dank cell?  Torture?  Encampment and a cyanide shower?  They pulled up in front of another building, pulled me out, pushed me through the door.  They led me down a corridor, turned left, and opened the door to a small room.  They shoved me forward, then turned me around and removed the cuffs from my wrists.  They left me standing in the middle of the room, alone, and I heard the door shut behind me with a click.

The room was sparse but comfortable, a blanketed twin bed in the corner, a round table and wooden chair in the middle.  A few books, a pad of paper, and a pen were stacked on the table.  Behind a small privacy screen were a toilet and a sink protruding from the wall.  And in the corner opposite the bed was a TV.

A TV?  But that hadn't been invented yet.  I blinked back the surprise.  I found a remote control on top.  I picked it up, pushed a button, and watched the images spilling from the screen.

I watched for hours.  Somber announcers with tears in their eyes.  Mourners spontaneously gathering on the stairs of the building I had been taken from, not just blond-haired, blue-eyed mourners, but brown and black mixed in.  A sea of flowers growing like a garden at the top, flowing down the steps like a waterfall.  Similar displays at German embassies in foreign countries.  Interviews with dignitaries from all around the world, in languages I couldn't understand, and then Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"The American people join our hearts to the great people of Germany and share their sorrow during this horrendous moment in history.  We honor this man who has done so much to further peace and prosperity in the world.  We vow to continue his fight against the very thing that took his life: blind hatred enforced by violence.  We will not stop or falter until every weapon has been safely buried in the ground.  Even in these darkest moments, his legacy shines brightly before us, a beacon to follow, and he will go down in history as the greatest man ever born."

Dear God, what have I done?


Today's prompt:

Your Main Character is a time traveler. He/She arrives at a destination but not all is as expected….



Why Do I Write?

Because someone told me I was a good writer when I was a child.
Because I love the taste of words.
Because I think I'm very clever.
Because I believe 45 is old enough to pry the hands away from my mouth.
Because I love it.
Because I become intoxicated by it.
Because I love to read.
Because I'm looking for meaning in my life.
Because I'm looking for meaning in my tragedies.
Because sometimes I want to scream.
Because I can.


Paradise Lost

Ice expected the agency to punish him, but he thought they might have gone too far.  He knew he had to be reassigned, but here?  This is where they sent the rookies, the unstable recruits, the burnouts, and the offenders.  Apparently, he fell into the latter category.

He stepped out of his grass hut into the sunshine and took off his sunglasses.  He turned his face to the sun and closed his eyes.  It was undeniably beautiful here.  The weather held steady at 80 degrees, the foliage was lush and green, the beaches were pure white and glistening along the shores of crystal blue seas.  But those same seas, calm and inviting, tasted like acid on his skin.  He knew this from the boat ride over from the mainland; the ocean spray had burned his skin like tiny flaming needles.  His clothes clung to his skin damply and no amount of toweling after his shower ever got him quite dry.  The siren song of a refreshing dip held the promise of agony, agony if he answered, agony if he did not.

He made his way into the village, and the local children gathered around him.  It had taken them awhile to accept him here.  He was tall, his hair bright silver although his face was young and fresh.  His pale skin practically glowed like an angel.  The villagers were small, calloused, and very dark, their hands and faces worn from hard labor.  At first they thought him a demon, but after the miracles began, they believed he was a god.  And there was very little he could do to change their minds.

His new cover was as a volunteer with Doctors Without Borders.  He joined a small crew of three for this particular island; two would have sufficed.  Every morning, he and Drs. Brant and Daley arrived at their medical facility -- a shanty made off wood, thrown together by their own unskilled hands.  Yet it was the most luxurious building on the island.  The villagers came to them out of curiosity, and the doctors inspected them in turn.  Dr. Brant, the pediatrician, treated the children for parasites and chicken pox and gave their parents advice on nutrition.  Dr. Daley treated the adults for cholera and scabies and work-related accidents.

Ice was responsible for the vaccination program, but often he provided much more.  The children came, sat patiently on the hard metal stool, and submitted to the inoculations.  While he talked to them, soothed their nerves, he allowed his feelers to move freely through their bodies, searching hidden viruses and removing them.  They left him protected from polio and no longer complaining of stomach aches, raw throats, open sores, or burning eyes.

And in return, he collected samples, hundreds of samples that would be very helpful to the agency.


This week's prompt: Lonely in paradise.

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


Distant Stars

You'd think I'd be used to it by now, like a farmer gets used to the scent of manure.  But I wasn't.  The smell of tonight's dinner decomposing and being digested, oozing from human pores, mixed with the leftover stench of rancid grease and burned oil.  Pork chops.  My mom made pork chops.  For some reason, pork smells so much nastier than chicken or beef or even fish, really.  At least fish is digested quicker, and the stink doesn't linger so long.

To make things worse, it was a hot and muggy night, and I could smell them sweating in their sleep, the bacteria spreading and dancing in the moistness.  The odors mixed together so unpleasantly I started to gag.

I threw off the covers, deciding sleep was useless like this.  I peeked over at Lily to make sure she didn't stir.  Of course she didn't.  She slept like a forbidden temple every night.  Nothing disturbed her.  I didn't bother changing my clothes or putting on shoes; my pajama pants fit me loosely, letting air circulate, and my tank top invited cooling, too.  I tiptoed to the window and opened it slowly, quietly.  I stepped out onto the roof as lithe as a lynx, walked down the slanted tiles, and agilely leaped to the sturdy oak tree like I had so many nights already this summer.  I shimmied down and felt my feet touch wet dewy grass.

I walked, much further than my parents would have been comfortable with, but I knew where I wanted to go.  Where I needed to be right then.  Nobody passed me as I traveled, and it dawned on me that I hadn't bothered to check the time.  No matter.  I'd head home when the sky turned from charcoal black to dusty gray.  They'd never miss me.

I could smell fresh grass now, and I knew I was getting closer.  My feet picked up the pace intuitively, until I rounded the corner and stepped into the vacant filled.  Blades of wild grass reached up to my thighs.  People were far from here, and animals didn't come by frequently.  I breathed in deeply, feeling the dread seep from my body, feeling my muscles relax and my shoulders slump.

I moved towards the middle of the field and chose a spot that felt like even ground beneath my feet.  My hands worked instinctively, weaving the grass back and forth until I'd made a soft, comfortable bed.  I laid down and gazed up at the sky.

It looked beautiful tonight.  So far from town, the city lights were unable to dim the stars brilliance.  And yet, I couldn't help but feel that I was looking at the mixed up pieces of a jig-saw puzzle, that the patterns were off somehow.  And in spite of my logical brain, as I stared at the moon, I couldn't help but search the skies for the other two that I knew were missing.

I heard the haunting song of a barn owl, and it nearly made me cry.  Not because of the loneliness it carried, no, I was OK with being alone.  It was because it was such a foreign sound, something I knew I would never hear back where I came from.  Or rather, where I was supposed to have gone.

Fifteen years.  Fifteen years I'd been building a wall around my heart, keeping the homesickness at bay.  It wasn't like I'd be going anywhere soon.  I allowed on -- just one -- small tear to glide down my face.  Then, with a deep breath, I closed my eyes to the foreign sky and rested.


This week's prompt:
Use this lyric from Shore Leave to flavor your story: “Hong Kong drizzle on Cuban heels.”

This week's  prompt was about being so far away from home, and it fit very well with my current work in progress.  So, I developed a story using my main character.  I hope you enjoyed it.

As always, to play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


Rules for a Great Rough Draft

1.  Keep your hand moving.  If you stop your hand, you stop the creator's flow and give the editor in you an opportunity to interrupt.
2.  Lose control.  Just say what you want no matter how inappropriate.  Just go for it.
3.  Be specific.  Don't write flower, write narcissus.
4.  Don't think.  Stay with the first thing that flashes into your mind.
5.  Don't worry about punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
6.  You are free to write the worst junk in America.  (Or, in your case, it could be anywhere in the world!)
7.  Go for the jugular.  Whatever comes up, no matter how frightening or disturbing, write it down.

Sadly, I don't remember the source for this list.  I was blog hopping one day, found it, and printed it out.  I love it though, and I wanted to share it with other writers.  If you are the author, please let me know so I can give you credit!


A Business Proposition

The Tooth Fairy sat at the table sorting through the last night's haul.  She picked through the tiny little teeth, the molars and bicuspids, setting those with cavities in one pile, those with fillings in another, and those rare gems, the shiny white ones, in another.  Several were broken in half and useless, thrown into the trash.  Hundreds of teeth later, she looked at the piles in front of her in disgust.  The Grade C pile was huge, the Grade B pile slightly smaller, and Grade A?  Seventeen teeth.  Seven freaking teen.  She pushed her chair away from the table with a screech.

She walked over to her crystal mirror and pushed a button.  Dozens of tiny faces filled the screen, children being tucked into bed, peeking underneath pillows to make sure the teeth were still there, simultaneous kisses on foreheads, and a chorus of, "Get right to sleep so the Tooth Fairy will come."

"Screw 'em, the little peckers."  The Tooth Fairy pushed the button again, and the screen went blank.  She grasped the cigarette hanging from her lips and flicked the hanging ash away, singeing another hole in the carpet.

She thought about when her mother had been the Tooth Fairy.  What a racket that had been.  Kids knew how to brush their teeth back then, or their parents would teach them a thing or two, by gol.  And she only had to pay twenty-five cents a tooth.  The Fairy government had been isolationist in those days; no foreign currency vying for their commodities.

Everything changed with free trade and a globalization of the economy.  The trolls were harvesting piranha teeth -- piranhas, for Gad's sakes! and the human teeth had become seriously devalued against the leprechauns' gold.  Add to that the collective bargaining power of parents, and she now had to pay as much as five bucks per tooth.  If it weren't for a few conscionable parents who were still trying to teach their children temperance and moderation, she'd never make even a measly profit.

She walked back to the table and scooped each pile into an envelope, deposited each into her file cabinet.  The plan that had been niggling at the back of her mind pushed its way forward, demanded her attention.

What if she didn't show up tonight?  The goblins had been looking for a little more muscle to help out with their collections department.  She could moonlight for them for awhile.  They paid well enough; better than this, anyway.  She'd put all these teeth into savings and wait until supply had dwindled and demand shot through the roof.  If she timed it right, she'd have enough for that vacation home in the Bahamas she'd always wanted, and some to spare.

She turned back to her crystal mirror, clicked it on one more time.  A sea of peaceful, sleeping faces blanketed the screen.  She stared for a minute, then clicked it off, chuckling as she made her way into her bedroom to get ready for bed.


Today's prompt:  Why did the Tooth Fairy fail to deliver coins one evening?
To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.

For the record, this is NOT the story I told my children when the Tooth Fairy failed to show up at our house.


Eight Questions

I’ve been tagged in a game that goes like this, I answer a series of questions with entertaining comments (although not sure how entertaining it will be). Then I tag others who do the same on their blogs.  The only reason I agree to play along is because it's only eight questions.  How hard can that be, right?

1. If you could have any superpower, what would you have? Why?

My boys believe that earth bending is the very best superpower to have, but that's because they have visions of destroying things.  I think I'd like Jasper Cullen's ability to manipulate emotions and make everyone around me happy.

2. Who is your style icon?

I love Stacey on TLC's What Not To Wear.  She has convinced me that a v-neck and empire waistline are my friends. She is the reason that I only have one pair of mom jeans (and only because I haven't had time to shop to replace them yet).

3. What is your favorite quote?

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." -- Henry David Thoreau

4. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

My mother-in-law once took my kids, all six of them, to McDonald's play place when they were little.  A woman stopped to compliment her on how well behaved they all were.  My mother-in-law still talks about that time.

5. What playlist/cd is in your CD player/iPod right now?

Joseph Arthur/America on Pandora.  It's really a fun, eclectic mix of my favorite kind of music.

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

I am a barely get through the day kind of person.  More of a night owl than a morning person.  I'm death incarnate when I first wake up.

7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?

Dogs.  Except the ones that bark all night every night in my neighborhood.  I could do without them.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name

I started with "Naissance," which means "birth" in French.  But then I felt like my writing had graduated from the newborn stage into the playfulness of childhood.  A*Musings means I'm amusing myself with my musings.  Hm, I wonder if I'll go all dark and brooding when my writing reaches that awkward teenage stage.

I tag Carrie Dair, Cathryn Louis, and Monique.

Carrie -- you can either view this as more homework, or an easy blog post idea.  ;)


Dancing Queen

I don't go to clubs to meet men.  I go because the music calls me, because it sings to my soul.

I know I've always been periapt at dancing.  I just have to move when I hear that beat, beat, beat.  I start with my booty, 'cause I got plenty of junk in the trunk, and I know where to put the focus.  I ain't never been no big boob kinda girl.  I start out rocking my hips a little bit.  My hips are full, woman hips, lay down your worries here and rest, child-bearing hips.  They're mesmerizing, like a hypnotist's watch.  Then, if the music picks up, I put a little more kick into it, a little snap.  And when I hear a song with a little Latin flavor, I let go and really shake it, til it's a shimmering blur of motion.

I really start to feel good once I've had a couple of drinks.  Not a couple of beers, because that's low class, but maybe a couple of those pretty little daiquiris.  Then, I'll put my hands on my knees and swing my head around, back and forth, get my hair whipping around my face.  And if I get going fast enough, it feels like I'm a little girl on the swings again, you know, when you lean your head back as far as you can go, then pull it up again to feel the blood rush to your face, and you feel all dizzy.

I put my hands in the air, wave them back and forth.  Add a little bit of shoulders, but not too much, like I said, I ain't no big boob girl.  Sometimes I'll close my eyes and just feel the rhythm move through me.  Then, I'll look up and see the ball spinning above me, shooting stars all around the room, and I'll think I'm on another planet, in another universe, flying somewhere through space where I don't have to worry about rent being late or the lights being turned off or somebody's tiny little mouth waiting to be fed.

I stay there all night long, embrangled with all those other hot, sweaty, writhing bodies who are just like me, who feel the music just like me.  I stay there until the DJ stops, and the lights go up, and I put on my coat and go home.

This week's prompt:

Use one or more of these words  in your story (but resist the temptation to look them up first!)
  • Periapt
  • Vilipend
  • Embrangle

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


A New Writing Group

Well, I've taken a leap of faith and joined a new writing group.  I'm currently in David Farland's (Of Daily Kick in the Pants fame) Women's Fiction writing group.  All the groups are new, and ours hasn't quite taken off yet.  By sheer force of attrition, I am the group leader.  Interpretation: Literally EVERYONE refused to be group leader.  Haha!  No problem, I've got some pretty good organizational skills, so it should be fine.

I'm looking forward to another forum for sharing and learning.  I'm excited to be exposed to a greater variety of work and experience.  I like the idea of setting goals and having other people hold my feet to the fire.  You'll have to tell me if you think my stories get better because of it. ;)


Watching Albert

Linda stepped out of the shower with determination.  This was the day.  She would do it.  She would tell Albert that she was leaving him.

She dried off brusquely, getting the blood pumping, garnering her strength and courage.  She slipped into a pair of jeans and her yellow tie-dyed T-shirt.  Albert hated that shirt.  Albert hated everything.

She blew her hair dried, then pulled it up in a high pony tail.  She looked at herself in the mirror.  She looked like a teenager.  Did she really want to look like a child when she confronted him?  Ha.  Yes.  Yes, she did.  It would seem a special kind of affront for him, daring to defy him like a rebellious daughter, and not his loving, obedient wife.

Last night with Marco at the Wild Notes Karaoke Bar had helped her finally make up her mind.  The beers, the singing, the dancing on the dance floor.  And later, a trip to the women's room private stall... It wasn't only the notes that were wild at that place.

It's not like she was in love with Marco.  She realized that.  But singing XXX with all her drunken heart, she realized she still had a good voice, and she was still young enough to do something with it.

She squared her shoulders and walked upstairs to his room, opening the door and entering his inner sanctum unbidden.  She braced for the backlash, but none was forthcoming.  He wasn't there.  Odd.  He never left his room.

She looked at the blinking screens of his surveillance system.  Oh, that explained it.  He stood at the foot of the neighbor's new driveway with the owner.  Linda recognized that stance, the waving arms, the flush that could be seen on the hi-def screens.  She could only imagine the minor infraction that had elicited such rage.  She thought the man had remarkable self-control.  He didn't seem to be rising to the bait; he simply spoke a few words, turned on his heel, and went inside the house.

Linda watched as Albert made his way back to the house, then she turned her gaze to a second screen that showed him walking into the kitchen.  Apparently, he had worked up an appetite.  He opened the pantry, removed a loaf of bread, then moved to the fridge and took out the leftover meatloaf from last night.  He made himself a sandwich and took a bite as he headed toward the door.

He stopped, grabbed at his throat, pounded his chest.  He retched as if to cough, but there didn't seem to be any force behind it.  His eyes grew wide.  Beads of sweat formed on his forehead as his face, already red from the altercation, turned crimson.

Linda watched as he grabbed frantically for a chair, pulled it toward him, positioned himself above it, and slammed forward onto the hard back.  His face took on a purplish tinge.  He slammed forward again.  Again.  Again, but with much less force this time.  His skin had turned a pallid blue as he sank to the floor.

Linda watched.  He was unconscious now.  Perfectly still.  She waited.  When thirty minutes had passed, she turned off the computer screens.  She shuffled through his desk drawers, gathering all his files, all his DVDs, and threw them in the garbage.  She took the bag, tied it off, and walked downstairs.  Walking outside, she put the garbage into the bin, just as the trash collector arrived.


Today's prompt: "Albert is dead."

To play along, and to read about Albert in his original story, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


Missed Opportunities

Ah, Mockingjay, wonderful, anticipated Mockingjay.  Our dear Ms. Suzanne Collins had set our expectations SO HIGH with her previous works, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.  Would it even be possible to meet such expectations?

No, of course not.  What I noticed -- and loved -- about Ms. Collins in the previous two books is that she is an excellent, but flawed, writer.  I found Mockingjay to be just as marvelous as the first two books, but I feel in some parts she missed the boat.

Ms. Collins recognized that the greatest appeal from the first book was all the action inside the arena.  She deftly brought Kat back into the arena in her second book, through the introduction of the Quarterly Quell.  Definitely on the right track, she brought Kat back to the "arena" again during the attack on the capitol.

And yet, I can't help but feel that Ms. Collins failed to understand just what readers found so engrossing in the arena.  It wasn't the traps, the creations that intrigued us so much.  Sure, they were imaginative and interesting, and we tolerated them as such.  But the real magic happened between people, allies and enemies alike.  We loved to see our self-proclaimed heartless heroine bond with Rue, fall in love with Peeta, and match wits against Cato.  In the third book, we see many more traps, but far less teamwork and bonding between Kat and her comrades.  And the enemy they are fighting is completely faceless.  Kat's survival in this book seems based much more on luck than on skill, ingenuity, or instinct.

Still, I think that Kat resonated as the Mockingjay, and I think her last act of assassination showed her to be a true champion of the people, and President Snow's death was a fitting demise for him.

I personally found the ending (the very end, not The Big Twist) to be very satisfying.  It wrapped things up and gave me a sense of closure, if you will.  I think Ms. Collins does an excellent job of foreshadowing who Kat chooses in the end.  For those who feel like Kat was "just settling," I think you may have missed the hints.

I think Mockingjay is the weakest in the series, but I still recommend it as a must if you have read and loved the other two books in the trilogy.



Ice stepped out of the greystone office and into the bright sunlight.  He pulled off his sunglasses and tucked them into the left breast pocket of his navy Armani suit.  He turned his face to the sun, and closed his eyes.


His head snapped toward the sound.  An elderly man, about 70ish, with white hair and wide, frightened eyes, stood pointing a shaky bony finger at him.

"It's you.  I know it's you."

Ice locked his gaze onto the old man's eyes and let his mouth go slack.  His feelers moved through the skin, past the cranium, and searched through the gray matter to find a weakness.  There.  Right there.  He focused intensely for a second or two.  That's all it took.  The man crumpled to the floor, his fall finally breaking eye contact.

Ice rushed to the man's side, pushing through the surprised bystanders that moved in to help.  He pulled off his jacket, dropping it to the ground as he knelt down.  He turned to a young woman with a cell phone.

"Call 911," he said. 

He placed two fingers on the side of the man's neck.  A faint pulse still fluttered beneath his fingertips.  He tilted the man's head back and checked for breathing.  Barely a wisp.  He clasped his hands together, positioned them under the man's breast bone where the ribs of each side came together.  He began CPR, pushing against the man's chest, knowing he was sending more blood to the damaged brain, building more pressure.  He paused to give mouth to mouth resuscitation, listened again to the slowing breath, returned to massaging the man's chest.  He continued as a crowd grew around them, until he was certain the blood vessels in the old man's brains were exploding under the onslaught, until no breath and no heart beat could be detected.

He heard the sirens.  An ambulance pulled up next to them.  The paramedics pulled him back, took over the CPR where he had left off.  The senior paramedic pronounced the old man dead at the scene.  He patted Ice on the shoulder.

"You did all that you could."

Later that afternoon, back in the dark of the greystone office, the captain paced angrily.

"What the hell did you do that for?" he said through clenched teeth.

"I had to," Ice said.  "He almost blew my cover."


Today's prompt included one of my favorite writing exercises, eavesdropping.  I'm afraid I didn't follow directions very well; I only used one line of dialogue.  It's just that it was such a good line of dialogue, I couldn't pass it up.

Step 1. Go to a busy locale—a cafe or coffee shop would be easiest. Sit down with a notebook, and make sure you look busy, so people don’t know you’re listening. Now write down random sound bites of  conversations.Try to get at least 10 lines or snippets.
Step 2. Now use all ten in a cohesive scene of dialogue or as dialogue in a story
Step 3.  Leave a list of the lines plucked from real life at the end of the story for people to see.

The line I took was "He almost blew my cover."

The rest of the conversation revolved around new NFL rules, how bad the Rams are this year, and golf.

Anyway, to play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


Wild Notes Karaoke Bar

Sheila noticed a small white piece of paper taped to her front door as she got home from work.  The note taped to the door said: See you at Wild Notes Karaoke Bar.  She grinned.  It seemed the girls wanted to start early with their wild weekend.

She went inside and slipped out of her business suit, letting her clothes fall into a mass on the floor of her room.  She took a quick shower and changed into a pair of jeans and her favorite teal top, the one that brought out the blue in her eyes.  She brushed her teeth, freshened her makeup, and gave herself a spritz of perfume.  Then she breezed out the front door.

A good crowd had already formed by the time she got to Wild Notes.  She took a peek inside to see if her friends were already there.  From a booth in the corner, she saw Jen wave to her.  She pushed through the waiting customers and slid in next to Pattie, who was already flagging down the waiter.

"Happy hour, one dollar margaritas," Jen said.  The waiter, a good-looking guy about their age wearing a Hawaiian print shirt and a name tag that said "Mitch" made his way to their table.

"Another round, please," Pattie said.  "She'll have what we're having."  He nodded and disappeared through the crowd of bodies.

"Anyone interesting yet?" Sheila asked.

"Not really," Jen answered.  "We've had one girl who is obviously practicing for American Idol, and an old guy singing country who looks like he missed the boat.  The rest of them have been the regular drunks making fools of themselves."

Sheila laughed.  "Those are my favorites."

"I know, right?" said Pattie as she took another swig from her glass.

The waiter arrived and passed the glasses around the table.  Sheila leaned back in the booth, swirled the liquid in her glass with her swizzle stick, and took a sip.  She looked at the stage area to see who would be next.

The next guy up looked intriguing.  Not one of the usual suspects; he didn't trip over the cord of his mike, and when he looked out at the crowd, his eyes were clear.  Dark green, clear eyes.  He wore jeans and a button down shirt over a t-shirt, and it didn't look like he had spilled anything on himself yet.  He wore flip flops, and when his brown hair fell in his eyes, he whipped it away with a sharp flip.  He turned on the microphone, tapped it a few times.

"Ahem.  I feel like I should warn you guys," he said into the mike.  "I subscribe to the Japanese philosophy of karaoke.  They believe it's not about talent, it's about the emotion you put into the song.  So, this is just for fun, OK?"

A Bon Jovi tune started playing through the speakers.  He began to sing.

You say you're cried a thousand rivers
And now you're swimming for the shore
You left me drowning in my tears
And you won't save me anymore

Now I'm praying to God you'll give me one more chance, girl

I'll be there for you

Sheila's felt the blood rush to her face.  He stared right at her while he sang.  It was at her, right?  She turned to see if her girlfriends had noticed, but they weren't even watching him.  The only other customers in his line of vision were a couple of elderly women at the table in front of her.

I know you know we've had some good times
Now they have their own hiding place
I can promise you tomorrow
But I can't buy back yesterday

His eyes never left her face.  Memories of old boyfriends swam to the surface, the fun she'd had, the heartbreak she'd suffered.  It felt like he sang for every one of them.

I'll be there for you
These five words I swear to you
When you breathe I want to be the air for you
I'll be there for you
I'd live and I'd die for you
Steal the sun from the sky for you
Words can't say what a love can do
I'll be there for you

She didn't break away from his gaze.  She let him sing to her.  She felt, for the moment, that he meant what he said, that he was the one to erase all her pain, that he was her promise.  He finished, and he smiled at her.  He ducked his head, set the mike down, and jumped off the stage.  He was lost in the crowd.

She exhaled.  She hadn't realized she'd been holding her breath.  There was a lull on the stage; no one else was waiting to sing.  She stood up.

"Um, Sheila?"  Jen asked.  Sheila didn't answer.  She walked to the karaoke machine and flipped through the titles.  She found one that she liked and selected it.  She held the microphone to her lips as the music started.  Her voice was shaky as she sang the first lines.

I heard he sang a good song
I heard he had a style
And so I came to see
And listen for a while
And there he was this young boy
A stranger to my eyes

Sheila scanned the crowd, but she didn't see him.  At their booth, Jen and Pattie stared at her, their mouths open.

I felt all flushed with fever
Embarrassed by the crowd
I felt he found my letters
And read each one out loud
I prayed that he would finish
But he just kept right on

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softy with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life
With his words
Killing me softly with his song

She finished and set down the mike to a scattering of applause.  She made her way back to the booth, where Jen and Pattie still looked confused.

"What the heck?  When did you start singing?"
"Really, are you crazy?"

Sheila reached into her purse and took out a silver business card case.  She snapped it open and took out one of her cards.  On the back, she wrote her home phone number.

The waiter walked up to their table and set a drink in front of Sheila.

"The gentleman over there asked me to bring this to you."  He gestured behind him.  Sheila smiled and handed the waiter the card in her hand.

"Thank you very much.  Can you please see that he gets this?" she said.  The waiter smiled, took the card, and gave her a small bow.  Sheila turned her attention back to her friends.


Today's prompt:  The note taped to the door said: See you at Wild Notes Karaoke Bar.

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


My New WIP

I guess I could have saved this for WIP Wednesday, but I'm too excited, and I wanted to share.  Here's the unedited, first draft opening of my new work in progress, working title "Not Like Me."   I'm not looking for critiques at this point.  Just one question.  Hooked?

Have you ever notice how families just kind of go together? I mean, some of them are weird, but they are weird together. You've got your scouter families, where the wife refuses to marry anything but an Eagle Scout, and then the dad ends up being Scout master for forty years. You've got your super high achieving family, where the dad is a doctor and the mother is a lawyer and all the kids are on student councils and end up at Harvard. Then there's the screw up family, the one where the kid is sent to the principal's office in first grade for bringing a knife to school, and when the mom comes to get him, the principal just nods his head, "Aha." Sure, some kids rebel, that's always going to happen, and you may have a black sheep once in awhile. But they still have a place, they still fit in somehow with their family.

I've wondered about God before. I've listened to discussions between the devout and the devoid. I think the arguments against him are pretty solid. But I think the atheists are wrong. In fact, I know they are. There is a God, but he's not all-powerful and perfect, like everyone thinks. Nope, he makes mistakes. And I'm one of them.

I don't belong in my family. I'm not like my mom, my dad, my brother, or even my twin sister. In fact, I'm not like anyone. God, whoever he or she is, screwed up big time. He not only sent me to the wrong family, he sent me to the wrong world.

Query, Query, Quite Contrary

No, I'm not thinking of querying my 36,000 skeletal rough draft of my first novel just yet.  I'm not quite there.  However, I do have friends that are in the thick of things, and The Query Letter looms greater than Godzilla for them.  Here's a great site I found for learning what to do and what not to do with a query letter.

Janet Reid's Query Shark

I will be eating up this information, hopefully preparing myself for the Big Day when I, too, will have a query letter ready to send.


Best of Bruce

"All right, all right," Louise said, fanning her face with her hands.  "I've got one.  Best movies by Bruce Willis."
"That's easy," said Samantha, bringing her glass of wine to her lips.  "Die Hard, his first break out role."
"Please, I hate those shows," Anneli said.  "Blow it up or shoot it up, no acting required.  How can that be the best?"
"It's just that he looked so good in those," Sam said with a pout.  "You know, before he went bald."
The women squealed.
"OK, I'll give you that," Louise said, "but he's still sexy, even without hair."
"I think his best role was Pulp Fiction," Anneli said.  "The boxer.  Still manly, still sexy, but finally showing some acting chops."
"Yeah, he was good, but you have to admit he was upstaged by John Travolta," said Sam.
"Finally, we had our Vinnie Barbarino back.  And he grew up so well, too," said Louise, smacking her lips.
"You still haven't told us your favorite, Louise," said Sam.  She took another drink and looked at her friend.
"Easy.  The 6th Sense.  It was so good, and so creepy.  The best kind of ghost story."
"Aw, he was such a good husband in that one, too.  So sad for the wife," said Anneli.  "All right, you're tempting me to change my mind."
"Wait.  I've got it.  We're wrong, we're all wrong."  Louise and Anneli looked at Sam.  Sam held a bread stick up for emphasis.
"Look Who's Talking.  Bam, hands down winner."
Everyone burst into laughter.
"Oh my gosh, that thing was so lame.  I could barely stand sitting through it," said Anneli.  "Please, tell me you didn't see Look Who's Talking, Too."
Sam raised her hand, shaking her head in confession.  "Yup.  I did.  Bruce Willis may have done all the talking, but John Travolta was the one looking good on the screen."
Louise sighed.  "I wouldn't mind having his baby."
"Whose?  Bruce's or John's?"
"Both," Louise said with a laugh.
"Well, I wouldn't," said Anneli.  Sam and Louise looked at her skeptically.
"No, seriously, can you imagine what kind of kid he would look like?  Why would I do that to my child?"  She smiled slyly.  "No, I think I'd rather my child look like Ashton Kutcher."


   This week's prompt:  The conversation took off when Louise mentioned Bruce Willis.

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


Running Away From Home

I highly recommend it.  I think this will be my new annual tradition.

My husband drove me up to Idyllwild, CA on Friday afternoon.  We stopped at the delightful Aroma Cafe for lunch alfresco.  The food was delightful -- he had a veggie sandwich with delicious artisan bread and fresh sauteed vegetables, and I had a yellow squash gratin.  Plenty of leftovers to take home with me.  He then stopped at a boutique and picked me up a dozen hand made truffles.  Worth every calorie, the owner promised.  She did not, however, promise they were worth every penny -- at $2.50 a truffle, they were a trifle pricey.  But on a week-end like this, the splurge was worth it.

We then made our way to the cabin.  It was every bit as charming as the photos suggested.  My husband brought in my luggage, helped me mess up the covers on the bed, kissed me goodbye, and left me in bed for my afternoon rest.  With no fear of traumatizing the children, I walked around naked until dinner -- body image issues be damned.  (I don't believe anyone reading this will find that information titillating.  I am, after all, a 45 year mother of six children.)  When it cooled down enough for clothes, I put on my fuzzy jammies, ate quiche for dinner, and crocheted while watching an episode of Top Chef.

Ah, but you are wondering... Did I ever get any writing done?  Yes, yes, yes!  I wrote in the evening of my first day, the morning, afternoon, and evening of the second day, and the morning and afternoon of my final day.  My muse was on high alert, and I finished one flash fiction story and my short story rewrite.  The rewrite of my short story, "Wishes," was the most satisfying.  I knew I had some heavy lifting to do, writing in scenes that didn't yet exist.  I knew what I wanted to achieve, and by the end of the weekend,  felt I had achieved it.  The second to last scene made me outright cry.  I can't say everyone will react the same way to my story, but at that moment, I knew that I had pulled everything I had in me out onto the page, and I felt so satisfied, like I had really done it justice.  I couldn't stop grinning once it was finished.

I drank my Celestial Seasonings under the pines each morning, listening to the lyrical sounds of the birds and the creek running through the property.  I saw hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, squirrels, trout, daisies, Indian paintbrush, and a couple of birds I couldn't identify.  The air was crisp, and it was so beautiful and peaceful.

My husband brought all the kids with him to pick me up Sunday afternoon.  I enjoyed showing them around the place and seeing how many people we could fit in the hammock.  It felt good to see them again, and I was happy to be home... but I can't wait to do this again next year!


Don't Worry

My vision came slowly into focus, the blurry edges pushing outward, fading, until I could see around me clearly.  I looked through a maze of wires and tubes.  Machines encircled the head of my bed.  A monitor showed lines dancing across its screen, smooth and then jump!  a happy little leap.  An accordion-shaped cylinder trapped in a glass tube inflated and collapsed in rhythm, I realized, to my breathing.  I tried to move, but found I could not, and suspected clamps and restraints held my body in place.  My mouth felt dry, and I looked around for someone I could ask for a drink of water.

My husband sat in the visitor's chair at the foot of the bed, his head in his hands.  I tried to speak, but my lips wouldn't move, not even a rumble or squeak came from my vocal chords.  The doctor walked in, wearing a crisp white coat and a stethoscope around his neck, carrying what must be my chart in hand.  My husband looked up when he entered, and I noticed how haggard he looked, his eyes red-rimmed and darkly circled.  How long had he been sitting there, watching me?  How long have I been here?

The doctor's voice was kind, but distanced, a professionalism that comes with practice.

"Mr. Collier?"

Eric stood, shoved his hands in his pockets, and waited.

"Mr. Collier, you know your wife has suffered substantial brain damage.  We've waited four months to see if she would come out of her coma.  We have no reason to suspect that her condition will change, and even if she did miraculously come out of her coma, we would expect her to remain in a non-communicative vegetative state."

What?  No, I'm here, I have come out of my coma.  I'm not vegetative, you idiot, I can understand every bit of your medical mumbo jumbo.

Eric simply nodded.  The doctor put his hand on Eric's shoulder.

"You knew this day would come, but I know this isn't an easy decision for you.  Have you talked it over with your family?"

Eric nodded again.  "Yes.  They all agree it's the best thing to do."

The doctor patted Eric reassuringly.

"Yes, it is for the best," he said.  "I'll give you a moment alone with your wife."

He left the room, and Eric shuffled to the side of my bed.  Carefully pushing aside the wires and tubes connected to my body, he joined me.  He slid his arm underneath my neck -- no restraints, after all -- and pulled me into his chest.  He stroked my hair, caressed my face.  His voice broke when he spoke.

"Jenny, I love you.  You have no idea how much I love you.  I don't know how I can do this without you."

Eric, I'm here!  Don't give up on me, please don't give up on me.  I want to come home with you.  I want to see my girls again.  Please, Eric, our girls need their mom.

"I won't let Maia and Kirsti forget you," he said.  "I'll show them pictures, I'll tell them stories, I'll tell them you were the best mother in the world, and you loved them.  I'll do everything I can to make sure they grow up to be just like you."

This isn't real.  This can't be happening.  Eric, please stop, please make this stop.

He kissed the top of my head, my forehead, my cheeks, and finally he kissed my still, unresponsive mouth.  Then, he pushed himself out of bed, leaned out the door, and nodded to the nurse waiting outside.  He sat back down in the chair, his head in his hands, no longer looking at me.

I heard a strain of music above my protests, faint at first, but louder when I quieted and listened for it.  The nurse began turning nobs and flipping switches.  Eric didn't move.  I turned my head -- it turned, this time, I could move -- and looked for the source.

The tune was familiar, jaunty with a Jamaican beat.  I slipped from my bed and moved towards the sound.  I walked out of my room and into a soft, golden meadow.  I was barefoot, and the grasses tickled my feet.  Glancing around, I noticed all the colors, wildflowers of fuschia, yellow, violet, and orange.  A small, black dog with white patches around his eyes came bounding up to me, nipping at my feet and wagging his tail.

Don't worry.  Be happy.

I smiled.  I reached down to pick him up, and he wiggled in my arms, squirming as he licked my face.

"Scamper?  You silly dog, is this really you?"  I looked around, wanting to see where he had come from.  I saw my grandma walking toward me from the distance.  She had her arms outstretched, and I ran to meet her, throwing myself into her familiar hug.  She smelled of lilacs, but her face looked younger and happier than I remembered.

Don't worry.  Be happy.

A crowd gathered behind her, and I knew them all, even though many I had never met or even seen a picture.  My grandmother took my hand.

A heartbreaking wail pierced the serenity around me, and I looked back.  Eric sat in my bed, my body limp in his arms.  His shoulders shook as the sobs broke through his stoicism in ugly heavy groans.  I started to walk back to him, but my grandmother pulled me back.

"Don't worry.  He'll be all right.  They all will be.  And you'll be here for him, waiting."  I hesitantly turned back to her, trusting her.  She led me to the waiting host of welcomers.


Today's prompt:

Strains of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” floated into the room.

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.


Goodies To Share

Have you discovered Blogger's Pages yet?  Blogger now allows you to create stand-alone pages that make your blog look more like a "real" website.  It's fun -- if you look at the top of my blog, just beneath the header, you can find out all About Me, discover which books find a permanent home on my Bookshelf, and learn how you can Tweet Me.

But the very best Page that I have up there is my Toolbox.  Maybe I should have called it my Goodie Bag.  Whenever I find a website that is helpful, and sometimes downright essential, to my writing, I go to my Toolbox and add the link.  I invite you to dig through it.  Some of my personal favorites?

The Bookshelf Muse's Emotional Thesaurus
Dr. Wicked's Write or Die
Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday
52 Projects
Writing the Natural Way

Are there any websites that you find have been so helpful to you as a writer?  Tell me about them, and they may find a home in my Toolbox.


Catalog Worthy

Who knew that my fetish for stacks of books would make me catalog worthy?  My house looks just like this.


The Good House

I giggled as I put the key in the lock, turned it, and opened to the door to our very first house.  Jason pulled me inside and closed the door behind me.  He kissed me on the mouth and we made love on those exquisite hardwood floors before we had even started bringing in boxes.

His job transfer to Boston couldn't have come at a better time.  I was restless, anxious for a new adventure, and sick of the heat.  I was expecting our first child, and I dreaded facing an Arizona summer nine months pregnant.  Then, the call came, and he whisked me off on a plane across the continent, and there we were in a home of our own.

I couldn't believe our luck.  It was my dream home, a beautifully restored colonial right near the coast.  I didn't think we'd be able to afford it, but our real estate agent assured us the seller was "very motivated."  Sure, Salem was a good 30 minutes from Boston, and Jason would've liked a shorter commute, but he couldn't say no to me after our first walk-through.

Jason left me to explore our new home while he went to the moving van to begin unloading our belongings.  No heavy lifting for me, he insisted.  I visited the kitchen first, drawn to the heart of the home.  Or at least, it would be; I hoped having a kitchen to myself would motivate me to learn how to cook.  I walked into our bedroom, mentally placing our furniture so the sunshine would come through the window and wake us in the morning. Except on weekends, when I planned to keep the curtains drawn so we could sleep in.  I went to the baby's room next door and pictured a nursery decorated with my old time pal, Winnie the Pooh.

I came out into the hallway, and for some reason looked up and noticed a trap door on the ceiling.  I knew there had to be access to the attic, but I hadn't really looked for it before.  Too high for me to reach, I called Jason over to open it for me.  He pulled it down, and unfolded the attached ladder.

"You be careful up there, OK, hon?" he said.

"I know, I will, worrywart," I said.  "I'm not that pregnant, yet.  I think I can handle it just fine."

I scaled the ladder and peeked my head inside.  I could barely see around me.  It was dusty, no footprints; I guessed no one had been up here in awhile.  A thrill from childhood ghost stories ran through me, and I came all the way inside to explore.

I could stand, but just barely.  I thought it was a pretty good size.  Enough room to keep our Halloween and Christmas decorations.  And I could stash a few of Jason's boxes up here, too.  He was such a pack rat.  I could probably make a box or two disappear and he'd never notice it.  Although, of course, that would be the one time that he needed that one thing in that one box...  At least up here, they'd be out of the way.

My eyesight adjusting to the darkness, I noticed a chest in the far corner of the room.  Had the previous owners forgotten it?  It didn't look like anyone had been up here in a long time.  Maybe they had forgotten it was up here to begin with.  I took a closer look.

It was exquisitely made, a simple cedar chest with hinged lid.  The finish on top was worn, as if it had been used as a seat.  It looked old and authentic.  I pictured myself with it on "Antiques Roadshow," my eyes wide and my hand covering my mouth as they revealed what it was worth.  My conscience pricked me.  Well, if it was left with the house it was ours, wasn't it?  I should at least check to see if it contained any family keepsakes that I should try to return.

I lifted the lid.  Inside were some papers and another, smaller box.  I picked it up.  It looked like a shoebox made out of pine.  I lifted the lid.

I should have screamed, hurled the thing away from me in horror, but there was something so sweet about the tiny mummified figure laid on a faded silk pillow, curled up as if she had simply gone to sleep and not been disturbed for centuries.  I felt like I was trespassing on sacred ground, like I had stumbled onto an ancient Indian burial ground.  I carefully replaced the lid and set the little box aside.

The papers inside the chest were old and yellowed but astonishingly well-preserved.  I picked one up gingerly, careful to not crumble the edges.  I read:

(Examination of Sarah Good)
The examination of Sarah Good before the worshipfull Assts John Harthorn Jonathan Curren

(H.) Sarah Good what evil spirit have you familiarity with
(S G) none
(H) have you made no contract with the devil,
(g) good answered no
(H) why doe you hurt these children
(g) I doe not hurt them. I scorn it.
(H) who doe you imploy then to doe it
(g) no creature but I am falsely accused

Other pages, similar, witnesses testifying against Sara Good.  Then I found a water color picture of a woman being hanged, her hands tied behind her back, officers holding the crowd that watched at bay.  The picture was extraordinarily vivid and realistic.  I saw her auburn hair, her heart shaped face, even the small black mole below her right temple.

It was as if I were looking at a portrait of myself.  The woman with the noose around her neck looked exactly like me.


Today's Prompt:
A covert trip into an attic reveals something unexpected.

If you'd like to play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.