"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)



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.