"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)


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.


Writer's Retreat

My husband is kind of like my own personal genie in a bottle.  Or, more accurately, he is my Farm Boy from the Princess Bride.

Sometimes he grants me wishes I haven't even said out loud, like when he surprises me with flowers, chocolates, or homemade flan from the Mexican market nearby.  Other times, I will mention something I think I'd like, and he simply makes it happen.  Like this fabulous new laptop I'm using right now to type this post.  He wouldn't let me settle for the cheap one, even when I insisted it was "good enough."  He begged to differ; and now I am the proud owner of a laptop worthy of me.

We have talked about letting me get away on a writer's retreat one of these days.  Head up to a cabin in the woods, just me and my books and my laptop.  I thought maybe I should do it for my birthday, in February.  He thought I shouldn't wait.  He thought next weekend would be a much better time for me to get away.

And so I did it!  I have reservations for the Cozy Rest studio cabin from Wilder Cabins in Idyllwild for next weekend.  The owner was delightful; it's a little slow right now, so she said I could come early on Friday and stay all day Sunday, without charging me extra.  It has a view of Strawberry Creek, and she assured me it should still have water for wading, should I choose.  Fresh air, privacy, clear night skies -- all waiting to inspire me!

So, I need to finish the edit I'm currently working on.  I have a new project that is dancing around in my head that I would like to turn loose while I'm up there.  I don't know yet if I have enough material to turn it into a full novel or just a short story.  Either way, I'm chomping at the bit to get up there and see how much I can get done during my very own, personal writer's retreat.


And The Award Goes To...

The fabulous Dorothy Dreyer at We Do Write has graciously chosen me to receive the Circle of Friends Award and the From Me to You Award.

Dorothy's blog is a wonderful place to meet up and coming new authors.  She does regular interviews and is so kind and encouraging.  Please be sure to visit her blog and follow her on Twitter.

The rules are that the recipient passes the award on to five more bloggers, link back to the giver of the award, and awardees know you've given them the award.

The bloggers that I've chosen are some of the first to find and follow me, who gave me support and encouragement when I first had the courage to put a few words out there.

Karen Adair at From the Desk of Karen Adair
Walt at Walt In PA
Adam at A Fullness in Brevity
Cathryn at Suburban Noir
Renee at Renee's Reflections

Thank you again, Dorothy, and thank you to all my readers who spend some time with me here on my blog.


Boy Meets Girl

He had never been the new kid at school before, and to be quite frank, it sucked.  Everyone staring at him, or everyone ignoring him to talk to their obviously already well-established friends, either way was awful.  He thought back to the new kids he had seen come and go and wished he had been a little kinder.

Even a smile would be nice at this point, but he had his eyes trained firmly on the empty notebook in front of him, so he wouldn't have seen it even if it had been offered.  He opened to a blank page and began doodling an eyeball, anything to keep his attention away from the frightening masses around him.  For once, he wished the teacher would hurry up and start the class.  Even geometry had to be better than this.

Her laugh caught him off guard and caused him to raise his head from its safe place.  He looked over at her.  Her hands gesticulated wildly as she continued telling her story.  The boy sitting next to her snorted, and the girl behind him wiped a tear from her eyes as her shoulders shook with giggles.  He wished he sat close enough to catch the words.  It wasn't a private moment; she didn't seem like she would mind if he stole a little pleasure from her story.  She finished with a wave of hands and a rolling of eyes.  The group around her erupted again, just as the teacher stood and asked them to please turn to page 112 of their textbooks.

The lesson was easy.  He was glad to know he was ahead of the class and wouldn't have to spend hours studying to catch up.  The period passed slowly, and he thought about his next class, physics, and hoped he would be on track with there, too.  When the bell rang, it caught him daydreaming and planning and worrying.  He looked up at the board where the teacher had written the day's homework assignment.  He quickly copied it down and began scooping his books into his backpack.

He hadn't been fast enough.  Somebody pushing past him -- a football player, no doubt, with that mammoth physique -- knocked into his desk and sent his math book flying.  Flustered, he waited for the remaining students to file by before attempting to rescue it.  He reached down to retrieve it, and his hand bumped into hers.  He glanced up in surprise to see the most incredible blue green eyes looking back at him.  It was her.  His thanks stuck in his throat; he stared.  She picked up the book and handed it to him.  She smiled, and her eyes became electric, and he didn't think he had ever seen anyone so beautiful before in his life.

And then she was gone, out the door, and he hadn't said thank you, didn't even smile in return.


Today's prompt:

Pick two established characters, either from your own work or others’. Now write the scene/story of their meeting.  

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


Blog Contest!

Joan is hosting a Double Trouble contest on her blog.  Visit her here for your chance to win a signed copy of The Healing Spell by Kimberly Griffiths Little and a darling gator bookmark to go with it.


The Essentials

I love, love, love to learn.  It's one of my favorite things to do.  And now that my passion for writing has flared into an all consuming flame, my two great loves collide.  There is just so dang much to learn!  And I'm loving drinking it all in.

Here are a few of my essential sources.  They consistently give excellent advice on how to improve your writing, as well as sprinkle in a good deal of wit and encouragement.

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent
KM Weiland at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors
Roni at *Fiction Groupie*

Who are your favorites?  Do you have any essential stalking recommendations?


Break Out

"He's got Mikey."  Hank burst into the room, panting.  Simon stood up so fast his chair fell over.

"What?  You're kidding.  I thought Mikey couldn't be caught."

"Well, he can and he is, I tell you.  And the old man doesn't look like he's going to be letting him go anytime soon, either."  Hank looked around the room at the worried eyes that watched him.

"Should we call the police?" Angie asked.

"We can't.  After all Mikey's done, they'd lock him up forever," Simon said.

Angie pulled at her fingers.  "Well, we have to do something.  Who knows what that old guy is doing to him?"

Hank paced back and forth.  He came to a stop.

"She's right, of course.  It's going to have to be us.  We'll just have to go get him."

Simon's eyes grew wide.  "Us?  What if we get caught?  I don't want to be holed up in that basement with him."

"Do you got a better idea?" Hank looked desperate, defiant.  Simon dropped his gaze.  "No, I didn't think so."

Angie had been quiet during their exchange.  She nodded her head.

"All right.  We'll do it."  She was the brains behind the operation.  They looked to her for a plan.  "Meet back here tonight at ten thirty.  The old guy will be asleep, and he won't be expecting anything so soon.  Hank, you bring a flashlight, and Simon, find anything you can from the toolbox you think might help.  I'll bring the rope."

"What do we need the rope for?" Hank said.

"Just do what I said, OK?"


Angie and Simon crouched beside the small basement window.  Hank slid up along side them.

"All right, I've checked the perimeter.  There's no movement anywhere, no sign of anything out of the ordinary.  Lights are all out.  I think the man's asleep."

"Let's hope he snores," Simon said.  He looked around again nervously.

Angie gave the orders.  "Hank, try the window, see if it opens."

Hank pulled and pried, but the window didn't budge.  Angie shook her head.

"Yeah, I thought that'd be too easy.  All right, then.  I hope he snores really loudly, or we're screwed.  Hank, take off your jacket."

He took off his jacket and handed it to her.

"Simon, what did you bring?"  He showed her a screwdriver, a wrench, and a hammer.  "Try the hammer.  Put the jacket against the window to muffle the noise.  You're gonna have to smash it in."

Simon hesitated.

"Just do it.  The more time we waste, the more likely we'll get caught.  Just make sure you do it right the first time."

Another quick glance around him, and Simon swung the hammer.  There was a loud crack and a tinkling of glass.  They all tensed, expecting to see the lights go on and to hear footsteps heading into the basement.  Moments went by and nothing happened.  They breathed again.

"I guess he does snore," Hank said.  "Or maybe his hearing is worse than we thought."

He used the jacket to clear away the remaining shards.

"Gimme your flashlight," Angie said.  "I'll go in."

Simon tried to protest, but she cut him off.  "I'm the smallest.  It'll be easier for me to get in and out.  Please."

Hank handed her the light and helped her through the window.

She landed with a thud but managed to keep her balance.  She listened.  No sound but crickets and the water heater flaring up.  Oh, crap, she hoped he wasn't keeping Mikey in the house.  She turned on the flashlight and shined it along the floor and into corners.  There.  She found him.  How had he slept through all this?

Unless he wasn't sleeping.  She moved forward, and he stirred right as she reached down for him.  She grabbed him, put her hand over his mouth.

"For once in your life, keep quiet, OK?"  For once in his life, he did.

She carried him back to the window and shoved him through.  Hank leaned down and she took his outstretched hand.  He pulled her up and out of the window.  She scratched her stomach on a stray shard of glass, but she didn't care.  Mikey was safe.  Without pausing, they ran to the end of the street and around the corner.  Hidden in the shadows of a large oak tree, they came to a stop to catch their breath.

"Here, give him to me," Angie said.

Hank handed her the furry, wiggling bundle.  She set him down, but he kept trying to lick her face.  "Hold still," she said.  She took out her rope and fastened it around his collar, tying it with a firm square knot.  He scampered at their feet, trying to get a little attention and a scratch behind the ears.

"Don't ever do that to me again," she said, as they walked home in the moonlight.


Today's prompt:

Use a McGuffin in your story.
McGuffin: An object or person in a movie that has no use other than to drive the narrative forward. (originally coined by Alfred Hitchcock)
examples: The Maltese Falcon in the movie of the same name; the suitcase in Pulp Fiction
To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.



All right, people, don't get your hopes up.  I am not going to start blogging daily.  But this was just too dang funny not to share, especially if you're a writer.


A True Love Story

It was Free Play in Miss Riffle's kindergarten class.  I had just finished playing with blocks and had cleaned them up very nicely, thank you very much.

I looked over and saw Kelly sitting across the room.

We didn't say anything.  No nod or any kind of signal.  Spontaneously, we crawled across the carpet, meeting in the middle.  Our lips touched.  I pulled back and smiled.  He smiled back.

The magic of the moment was broken by Richard's voice.  I hadn't even seen him sitting there, but I noticed him now.  He was staring at us with eyes as big as cupcakes.

"Miss Riffle!  Kelly kissed Shelly.  Kelly kissed Shelly."

Kelly and I scampered back across the room, away from each other, as fast as our scurrying knees would take us.  I felt fear wash over me, bathing my face crimson.  I kept my eyes focused on a knot in the carpet.

"Hush, now, Richard," I heard Miss Riffle say.  "Here, why don't we see if we can find a truck for you to play with."

Richard, easily distracted, was mollified and silenced.  My racing heart slowed as I realized I wasn't going to get in trouble.  I looked up and watched Miss Riffle's retreating back with adoration.

Kelly and I never repeated our cross-carpet tryst.  But through all my school years, Miss Riffle remained my favorite teacher. 


This is in response to Carrie Dair's Treasure Tuesday prompt, "First Kiss," which I missed last week, but I still wanted to share with her.


It's In The Can


Yeah, that needed to be shouted from the rooftops!  I'm so excited, and so proud of myself.  And so... scared.

Let the mental flogging begin:  Ack!  It's awful!  What were you thinking?  You can't write.  No one is going to want to read, let alone PAY to read that dreck.  Throw it away, hide it under the bed where no one will ever see it!

Now, now, I tell myself.  That is just perfectionism and protectionism taking turns at body punches.  True, there were moments when I felt I was literally vomiting the story onto the page.  But you know there's some good stuff in there.  Be kind.

So, now I let the book sit and marinate while I learn how to edit.  I'll practice my emergent editing skills on my flash fiction and short story.  Then I will return for the rewrite.  I'll get rid of the dreck and make it readable.  I'll take risks and let people read it, and who knows -- I may just see my baby published.


Thugs Like Us

He was young; she could see that, now that he was stripped of the bravado he always wore on the streets with his crew.  She passed him often on the way home from work.  He'd try to catch her eye and stare her down, sometimes grabbing his crotch through baggy denim and offering vulgar suggestions.  The rest of his gang banging friends laughed, egging him on.  She would turn away and lower her eyes, picking up the pace to get by as quickly as possible.  Her ears burned with the filth he flung at her.

No more than sixteen, she guessed.  He knelt before her, his fingers laced behind his head, his big, scared eyes flicking from her to the gun she aimed at him.

"You come into my house?" she said.  "My house?  It ain't bad enough you be disrespecting me every day on the streets, you have to come into my house?"

His lip quivered.  Beads of sweat formed on his brow.  His eyes watered, and he squeezed them shut to keep the tears back, then opened them again in panic.

"You think you have the power, out there on the streets.  Some punk kid turned god, with all those boys that got your back.  They ain't here now, are they?  It's just you and me.  And I'm not what you expected, am I?"  Her voice trembled, but the hand holding the gun was steady.

"This thing," -- she looked down at the gun, waved it at him while he cringed -- "you think it's got some kind of magic, think it's your talisman, that's what they call it.  Except it ain't in your hands anymore."

She took a step closer to him.

"No, it ain't in your hands anymore."  She reached her fingers into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out a dirty quarter.

"Let me tell you how it's gonna be," she said.  "I'm gonna flip this here coin.  Heads, I shoot your brains out.  Tails, I call the cops.  Fair enough, eh boy?"

He stared at the clouded silver disk as she balanced it on her thumb and with a flick sent it into the air.  She caught it as it fell.  She held her hand out to him and opened it slowly. 

Tails.  It showed tails.  Relief flooded over him, the tension in his body released as he dropped his head and let the tears flow freely now.  She squatted down in front of him, and he raised his thankful eyes to hers.

"Except I don't need no coin to tell me how to make up my mind." 

She pulled the trigger.


Today's prompt:  In her right hand a woman holds a loaded gun, in her left, a coin that just came up 'tails.'  To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday. 


She Got IT So Right!

I think I need to take pictures of myself at my "dream mansion" for when I, too, become a New York Times bestselling author!


Happy Birthday

Forty years ago, Sean Tucker insisted on being born into a family that did not want him -- not his mother, who had to carry his unwieldy and squirming body for nine months, not his father who saw him as just another mouth to feed, not his teenage brother who found it all so embarrassing, and certainly not his ten year old sister who did not want to give up the rights and title of the baby of the family.

Fate decided to punish Sean for his audacity and tenacity.  It began with his very first birthday, the day that he was born.  There were complications, a placental abruption, and his mother died during child birth.

It's not that he had an unhappy childhood.  He didn't.  His family eventually grew to love and accept him, as families in these circumstances do.  His father forgave him because he had his mother's eyes, and having the boy around was almost like not having to let her go.  His teenage brother discovered that cute little toddlers were chick magnets.  Even his sister decided he could stick around once she found he was much more entertaining to dress and play with than her dolls.

And yet, every year, on his birthday, something invariably went wrong.  Sometimes it was subtle, like his birthday falling on moving day, or the time there was a printing error on the invitations and he spent his party alone.  Sometimes it was quite violent, like the year he fell off his bicycle and broke his arm, or the day his divorce papers arrived to be signed.  One year, he received the announcement that his favorite teacher, Mrs. Simms, had died.  He blamed himself for her death, just as he blamed himself for his mother's.

And now his 40th birthday was upon him.  There was such significance surrounding the number forty.  Half his life lived; half his life still ahead of him. 

He expected fate to be particularly cruel that day, so he had taken precautions.  He informed his ex-wife that he couldn't take the girls that weekend, even though it meant a month would pass before he'd be with them again.  He called in to work sick, the first time he had missed since joining the firm.  He had made excuses to all his friends and his girlfriend, insisting he was too busy to join them tonight.  Safe in the cocoon of his bachelor pad apartment, he faced his birthday with confidence.

The day passed slowly.  He finished the crossword puzzle in the paper.  He worked out on the elliptical for a good hour.  He read through two magazines.  He cleaned out his closet and caught up on his e-mail.  He had leftovers for lunch and ordered pizza for dinner.  Strident voices from the 24-hour news channel buzzing in the background were the only company he kept all day.  Yet, as the minutes and then hours ticked by without incidence, he congratulated himself on finally outsmarting fate and the curse of the birthdays.

He decided to call it an early night.  When was the last time he was in bed by nine o'clock?  That in itself was a luxury.  A birthday gift to me, he told himself.  He brushed his teeth, climbed into bed, and read a book for half an hour.  Then he turned off the light and waited for sleep to come.  As the darkness settled around him, the loneliness of the day crept into his heart, black, acrid, suffocating, and he squeezed his eyes shut tightly to fight back tears.

Ah, yes, fate had been cruelest of all this year.


Today's prompt is: Write about a man with an impossibly bad streak of luck on his birthdays, who, as his 40th birthday approaches, is scared of what might happen.

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