Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – The Willow and the Stone (New Revised Edition)


Carli grew a bit louder for a moment, and then her voice subsided altogether.

 “Does she do that a lot?” Adam’s voice sounded half-amused, half-worried.

“Almost every night, and it’s the same dream over and over.” Glad to have a neutral subject, Renee explained the recurring dream of the Native American and the petite blonde’s obsession with the Rock. “I worry she’s losing her grip on reality,” she finished.

Adam’s voice was thoughtful. “Quite a few people believe dreams are omens. That’s not nuts. Heck, my grandma used to read tea leaves.”

“Carli truly believes the Indian and his hideaway are real. Not only that, she thinks the man purposely calls to her through her dreams.”

“If it means so much to her, why hasn’t she struck out on her own?” Adam asked. “If she’s sure it’s there, why isn’t she chasing after it?”

“She doesn’t believe she can survive by herself. She’s scared silly to try, and I refuse to look for a place that doesn’t exist. Trust me, she’s not going anywhere alone, not even if God Himself demanded it.”

“How long have you been stuck with her?”

Renee bristled a little at his choice of words. However, she decided to let it go. This once.

“We’ve been together almost since the aliens landed.” She shuddered at the memory. “I found her in a state of shock, standing in a looted grocery store eating stale Cheetos with tears streaming down her cheeks. She looked pathetic and lost and at the same time so sweet. I’d lost all of my own family to those bastards so I took her along with me. I’ve looked out for her ever since.”

“That’s great for Blondie, but what do you get out of it? Don’t get mad; I mean it’s obvious you care for her, but it’s hardly fair to you. It must be hard to have that much responsibility and not feel taken advantage of.”

Renee felt another flash of anger. “It’s not like that. Carli doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, and she’s not out for a free ride. She’s just afraid. Some people need more reassurance than others.”

Renee’s temper faded as she thought of Carli sleeping without fear at the back of the warehouse, her lovely face peaceful. “She’s been a great companion, always spewing out little trivial bits of information about the places we’ve been. She used to be a librarian so she knows tons of stuff. Until she started on this dream kick of hers, her company was great. She’s the reason I keep going.”

Renee swallowed a sudden lump in her throat and realized she may have said too much. She toughened the tone of her voice. “She’s so damned sensitive. I don’t know what I’ll do if she goes off the deep end.”

“She can’t be too far from reality if she knows enough to stick with you. I don’t think Carli’s going nuts. I think she’s dealing with the situation the best way she knows how.”

Renee had nothing to say to that. All she could do was hope Carli would be okay.


Available from Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and in print.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Toys Are Us

With the beginning of the school year comes another annual event that I face with mixed relief and angst. For while this activity means a return to freedom, organization, and fewer injuries, it also means a lot of work. I am referring to the Annual Toy Purge. 

Ah yes, at last I can dispose of the unplayed-with, the broken, the forgotten bits of fun. It’s clean-out time now that Kiddo is safely ensconced in school. Obviously, I would prefer him to do this job with me. I would love to give him the option of choosing whether or not something is too loved to be sent on. The trouble is, he loves everything he has, even the broken toys. Even if he doesn’t play with it, it is treasure to be held onto no matter what.
Hence, the Fabled Treasure Den (halfway through Purge). Enter at your own risk.

As you can see from the above picture, the child has too many toys. This is just a fraction of his hoard, by the way. I swear, the things are breeding amongst themselves. Like cells, one toy becomes two, then four, then eight. Pretty soon you have Toy Mountain ... or my house. It’s actually embarrassing. When people come over I have the urge to protest, “It’s not me! I don’t spoil him!” 

Oh yes I do. But I’m not alone. I have plenty of help from relatives. It’s a vast psychotic mindset of ‘It’s perfect for the boy. Therefore, he must have it.’ And so throughout the year, toys creep into our home.  

When I was a kid, I got toys at Christmas and my birthday. At no other time did I receive playthings. When school started, I got clothes and pencils. On Halloween, I got enough candy to turn me into the world’s best pinata. At Thanksgiving, I got the missive to clean my plate or no dessert. On Easter, I got a basket with chocolate, jelly beans, and tons of fake grass that ended up in all corners of the house. But the toys – that was only twice a year. 

I’m not sure that a week goes by without a new toy donated to my son. He even gets them from school, for heaven’s sake. And the dentist. I think they appear out of thin air sometimes. Perhaps there’s a wormhole in my home with the other end at the North Pole. I have a vision of Santa’s elves shouting, “Hey, we’ve got a surplus!” “Send it through the wormhole. It’ll end up on some other planet where no harm will be done.” 

Yes, I envision a sci-fi portal with Santa’s elves. No, my medication does not need adjusting. 

At any rate, we’re tripping over the toys in my home. They overflow the bins, the tubs, and everywhere else I attempt to contain them. Plush Angry Birds  and the Millennium Falcon own my couch, leaving me only one tiny corner to huddle in.


Birds: "We’re saving this seat for anyone but you."
Toy trains run from one end of the house to the other. Did you ever see the ‘Trouble With Tribbles’ episode on Star Trek? That’s what I’ve got, except I’m overrun with Matchbox, Tonka, and Mattel.

And then there’s Lego Hell. 

Legos. Legos. LEGOS!!! A neverending sea of Legos, particularly the small ones. We have Legos for at least half a dozen projects: trains, bulldozers, Star Wars fighters -- all lying on the floor, all waiting for bare feet and the resulting pain that comes with stepping on them. 

Freakin’ Legos. 

None of the project sets are intact. Kiddo is delighted to get them, that much is true. He’s even more delighted when I put them together for him. Those directions tend to be a bit much for someone with sensory overload, so it’s up to Mommy and her handy-dandy collection of curse words to handle these jobs. The creations last all of a day before Small Fry The Destruction Guy must pull them back apart. And then tiny pieces are on the floor, attacking my toes and daring the vacuum cleaner to bring it. 

Guess what? The vacuum wins, and nothing ever gets put together again.


 I think I have enough left to build a memorial to those kits though.

I fear sanity may never be restored as long as stray toys keep finding their way to my home. However, I can pretend by cleaning out what’s already here. I can fool myself for a little while, donating boxes of the still-good toys to those who are not in the path of the North Pole Wormhole and setting out dumpsters of the broken ones. I may even find my floor has a carpet under all those @#%& Legos. I know what I’m really doing, however. I know what’s truly going on. 

I’m making room for the next round of goodies that will find their way to my son. Well-meaning goodies that will be greeted with shouts of joy from Kiddo and a tight smile on my face. “Oh thanks. You really shouldn’t have.” 

Seriously. You really shouldn’t have.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – Lilith’s Return


The priest stared into Lena’s eyes.  “I call you forth, Lilith, first woman, first demoness.  I call forth the one who turned your back on the most high God.  Come forth and show yourself to us.”

Lena broke out in a sweat as the room suddenly blasted furnace hot.  She felt out of breath, as if she’d just run a mile.  The pain in the middle of her head returned, and she had an image of a rusty fish hook buried in there.  Trembling broke out over her body.  Yet Lilith didn’t come forward to challenge them.

Alex handed Father Jackson a vial of holy water.  Lena squeezed her eyes shut, knowing what would come next, anticipating it would feel a lot worse than the oily sensation she’d gotten at the little chapel nearby.

The priest’s voice rose, hard and commanding.  “I have your name, and therefore control over you.  Come forward now, Lilith!”

The water hit the exposed flesh of Lena’s face and arms.  A sound like bacon sizzling on a griddle filled Lena’s ears.  The pain hit an instant later.  Before she could scream against the vicious torment it faded away.  The alien mind that lurked within hers roared forward, eclipsing Lena in utter darkness.

Now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back To School, Back To Sanity

The wails are nonstop in my home. “I want to stay home! I don’t want to go to school!” 

My poor child. Summer vacation is over, and he is facing the 2nd grade with 10th-grade level angst. Beach visits will now be few and far between, as will jaunts to railroad museums and parks. Getting up at 6:30 a.m., which has been done with ease that makes me and my husband groan, has suddenly turned into a chore for the boy. He faces the bus coming for him with all the enthusiasm of a man heading for a Siberian gulag. 

So off he goes, his forlorn face pressed to the window as he looks at me with an expression that clearly says, “How could you do this to me? I thought you loved me!” 

I wave with fake cheerfulness, feeling guilt well up in my gut. It’s like I kicked a puppy. 

I turn back to my house, trudge up the front steps, and open the door. And it hits me: for a few hours, I am free. 

Free. Free to shower in solitude. Showers over summer have become the time when Kiddo decides sitting on the toilet and telling me all about Angry Birds is a glorious occupation. And yes, he’s usually putting that toilet to use. It’s as if the sound of the shower awakens his bowels. They rouse immediately and shout, “We have a job to do!” My scented soap cannot compete. 

Free. Free to eat sushi in the Japanese restaurant at lunch. This is one of those places where Kiddo cannot find anything in compliance with his grease-sugar-mystery meat diet. Oh my gosh, I can sit in a place that does not have hot dogs on the menu. Sweet sushi liberty. 

Free. Free to go into Target and browse without shrieks of “Toys!” erupting my eardrums. Or any store. Kiddo is firmly convinced that every store in the universe contains toys somewhere and he must find one to buy. It’s a delight to not have his yells eclipse mine. “Purses! Shoes! Clearance sale!” 

Hubs and I have been feverishly planning our first day of school foray into town with the kind of excitement usually reserved for an all-expenses-paid cruise. It’s quite pathetic to note how much we’re trying to crowd into one day instead of understanding we have nine months of like days to come. But it’s been over two months of nonstop parenting. Yes, we treasure our child. However, something’s about to give. School has started just in the nick of time. 

When 3:00 rolls around, bringing our precious progeny back to us, we’re exhausted. We’ve crammed a lot of grown-up time in those few hours. It’s actually a relief to see our equally relieved son clamber off the bus and run into the house, bypassing all the unimportant stuff (me and his dad) for what he’s missed most of all (his tablet and computer games). In two hours the stress will return as the first homework assignment is brought out, but for now we’ll revel in having had some time to ourselves – and appreciate how good it is to have Kiddo home for a few hours before we ship him off again.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – Lilith


           Once she felt safe from curious eyes, she crossed from that backyard to the next.  Right away she saw one window at the back of the demoness’ house was cracked open about an inch.  When she reached it, she found the window was over her head.  Alex looked about for something to stand on.  A child’s tricycle stood on the back porch of the house on the other side of the demon’s lair.  She edged towards it.  No one seemed to be home.  She grabbed the tricycle and hurried back to the window.
            Alex placed the tricycle beneath it.  She listened for any sounds within.  Only the far-off hum of traffic and the drum of her heart disturbed the stillness.  Gripping the windowsill, she stepped onto the toy’s seat and peered inside. 
            Alex looked into the wide open eyes of a wasted man who stared up at her from a bed beside the window.  His face betrayed a horror unimaginable.  Alex froze.

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Getting Away From It All – State by State

I just got back from vacation. In two weeks I’ve had new adventures, connected with loved ones, enjoyed favorite foods I can’t get at home, and shopped for items I can’t find but in a few certain spots. 

Thank goodness it’s over. 

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy myself. I did. Probably too much. It’s just that I’m exhausted. I am so tired from the whirlwind of ‘unwinding’ that sitting at my computer, cleaning my house, and getting Kiddo ready for another year of school is amazingly – relaxing. 

When did getting away from it all become so much work? I suppose when instead of getting away from It, I decided it was best to pack all of It and bring It with me. Then I do end up getting away from It because I leave bits of It behind all over the place. 

In years past, the It left in a breadcrumb trail from Georgia to upstate New York and back has consisted of Kiddo’s favorite toys, a pair of shorts, contact lens fluid, WD-40 (don't ask), and too many hair ties to count. This is not even considering the things I meant to take and left at home by mistake. I return home to find It sitting in the middle of my bed, looking forlorn because It didn’t get to go on the journey and possibly be left in some exciting place, like beneath the nightstand at the Comfort Inn in Fredericksburg off I-95. No, It just sat at home, waiting to be cursed at upon my return because I just knew I packed It and searched everywhere for It during the entire trip. 

This year however, I took all of It that I intended to. Every single piece of It. I took the makeup because around family it’s all about presentation for the first two days before I say, “Screw it. They know how awful I am under the paint.” I took thirty changes of clothes, including the designer dressy dress, because who knows when the Chippendale Dancers will show up en masse at the rez? A girl’s got to be prepared to make an ass out of herself in silk and sequins.  

Then there was packing for Kiddo. All of his underwear went with us. All of It. Because he’s 8 years old and autistic with a sensitivity to those jetliner-loud hand dryers at the rest stops and McDonalds. This means he will refuse to visit a bathroom until the situation is at Defcon 5. I can’t say I blame him. Going to a public bathroom these days necessitates hearing protection, or you come out as deaf as if you’ve been to a Rammstein concert (pyro may or may not have accompanied this trip depending on what fast food slop you were eating just prior to your bathroom visit). 

Plus Kiddo packs a busload of toys. Heaven forbid he not take two train sets, all 50 plush toys he owns, plus various other bits and pieces. Along our way, representatives of under-stocked Toys-R-Us locations wave beseechingly by the side of the road, begging for a portion of my son’s bounty.  

There are snacks too. You can’t go on a car trip without snacks, right? So we have them. Healthy snacks abound, because Hubs and I are trying to stick to our diet until we reach our destination (at which point it’s a caloric free-for-all from which no one emerges unscathed). There are also some naughty snacks for Kiddo, who’s blood type is Sugar-Positive. The allure of my son’s vacation snacks sneaks up on us on stealthy little feet, slowly seducing us into having ‘just one nibble’, then ‘split a powdered donut with me?’. Much later on during the trip, say around Hour 2, all three of us are gobbling Gummi Worms, Pop Tarts, and Hostess Diabetic Coma Cakes. The healthy snacks come back home with us two weeks later. 

I also take along a huge case for my computer, tablet, promo copies of books, and notes. Yes, I work during my vacation, especially since it’s a great way to pass the miles in the car. Otherwise, I would have to face meaningful interaction with my family. Eek. 

This time around, I didn’t do all that bad on leaving It all behind. Only two things have left my life: my $60 electric toothbrush, which is now living in Pennsylvania and which I KNOW I had in my hand at one point during the repacking the overnight bag process. We parted company on my way up to New York. The second item to leave my realm of existence bid adieu on the way home, also in the black hole that apparently exists in Pennsylvania. This one made Hubs mad, as he swore up and down he did an exhaustive sweep of the room in Navy Seal gear to make sure no one got left behind.  

Considering the huge amount of It I refuse to leave behind, this year’s losses were not too bad. I brought the kid home whole, and Hubs is not wandering some Ramada parking lot in North Carolina calling  plaintively for me. I’d call it a successful vacation. Now I can relax, surrounded by It All, and recover just in time for the next trip.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday's Serving - Willow in the Desert


Somehow she found her voice.  “Arner, someone just went down that way.  I think it was human,” she whispered.

Her breathy voice broke the spell the team had been under.  Arner’s voice was a welcome rumble in her earpiece.  “Both teams continue recon as planned.  Carli and Leo are with me.  We will meet in twenty minutes at the greenhouse near the west gate.”

Like wraiths, the others drifted away, heading for the middle of town once more.  Putting their backs to their comrades, Carli led Arner and Leo towards where she’d seen the figure move.  The shadow had been furtive and small; assuring her it was a fellow person.  Still, her heart thumped thunderous and fast as she crept closer to where she’d sighted it.  As they neared the end of the building, a small hand came from a huddled mass next to the corner.  She blew out a pent-up breath when she saw it was a young boy.  A good look at his face was impossible because, like them, he also wore night vision goggles.

The scrawny kid, looking no older than nine or ten years old, put his finger to his lips.  Carli nodded.  He signaled them to follow him.  Turning away, he padded down the darkened streets and alleys.  Keeping to the shadows, Carli, Leo, and Arner flitted like spirits after the child.

They followed him through a maze of darkened streets, watching where he hugged the buildings and doing the same.  At last he slipped into the shadowy realm of a crumbling pawn shop.  The Freetowners were inside in an instant.  Carli saw the child open a wall of shelves.  She was impressed with the hiding spot.  She never would have known a room was there.

They crowded into the secret room with the boy, and he shut the door behind them.  Hearing the click of it closing helped Carli relax a little.  She and the two men peeled off their headsets, so they wouldn’t confuse the reconnoitering team with conversation.

If she discounted his high, piping voice, the kid was every bit as commanding as Arner.  “Don’t ever follow anyone else around here like you did me.  Some are leading the monsters to the Gulch’s hiding places where people went when the attack started.  They’d turn you over in an instant to those freaks.  I think they’ve gone traitor to save themselves from getting eaten.”

Carli blew out a breath.  “It never fails.  The Save-My-Own-Ass Brigade marches on.” 

Available from Amazon, Barnes &Noble, and Smashwords. You can get it in paperback too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Love Affair With Tim -- And Why My Husband Doesn't Mind

Every year, I am beguiled by Tim. During my annual trip to upstate New York, I ache with a searing passion for that warm embrace that is like no other. Our relationship is a steamy one. With my husband at my side, I spend the ride through Pennsylvania, gazing out at the passing mountains with longing, waiting for that first glimpse.

And as I watch for Tim, actually moaning in anticipation of our first encounter and the coming one-and-a-half week torrid love affair that will ensue during my visit with the in-laws, my husband laughs. He does not begrudge my desire for Tim. In fact, it amuses him. He helps me watch for my beloved, the dark object of my desire. 

And then, just before the state line that separates Pennsylvania from New York, there it is. The sign I’ve been waiting for. Tim is there, and I am complete. 


I am a coffee addict. Flat-out, unapologetic, I worship at the altar of java. Me without caffeine is not a pretty picture. When it comes to waking up in the morning and simply contemplating existing, it comes down to one thing.


For me, Tim Horton’s is nirvana. You can keep your Starbucks, because it’s a joke. Dunkin’ Donuts? Nothing but swill. But a medium cup o’ Tim Horton’s brew with two creams – cue Meg Ryan in that scene from When Harry Met Sally.  Yup, it’s that good. I make noises that should only be come from a honeymoon suite when it comes to Tim Horton’s coffee. Passing priests cross themselves and pray for my salvation. Cops call in, because this level of enjoyment shouldn’t be legal. Even Lady Gaga is scandalized by how much I love this stuff. 

I have recently completed this year’s pilgrimage to visit Tim – er, I mean my husband’s lovely family. Now I must mark time as the calendar drags slowly through the days when I return to that roasted bean heaven that awaits me. My Keurig must endure my scowls until then. Local coffee shops are treated to my withering glare. For I must have coffee, even though it cannot compare to that of the mighty Tim Horton’s. I must drink and I must suffer through. And I dream of the day when I can once more embrace that warm, delicious cup of heaven between my hands. 

Wait for me, Tim. You know I’ll come running back to you.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday's Serving - The Willow and the Stone


Renee pulled her gun from the hip holster she’d taken from the gun shop yesterday. I feel like a kid playing cowboys and Indians, she thought.

“Hey, I’m not rolling yet. Pay attention, Carli. I haven’t given up on you.” Adam studied Renee’s posture. “Okay, you’ve got a good stance. I’m glad one of you pays attention.”

He suddenly moved behind Renee, his arms reaching around. His hands covered hers as she held the gun. He hadn’t done that with Carli. His breath tickled her ear. Despite the warmth of the day, her skin erupted in goose flesh.

“Now hold the gun out like this...”

“Uh, I think I’ve got it.” Her voice shook, but Adam didn’t comment on it. Instead, he released his hold and stepped back.

“Let ‘er rip!”

She squeezed the trigger. With a startled ping-wow, the can on the end flew straight up.

“Nice shot!” Adam cried.

Now that she knew how the gun recoiled, Renee was ready to roll. In a deafening volley, she sent bullets plowing through the row of cans. She cleaned off the log of all but one. As the last echo of gunfire died off, she grinned up at Adam’s stunned face.

“Damn,” he mumbled. “Maybe you should be the one giving the lessons. You’ve done this before?”

“Unless you count all the video games I used to play, no.”

Carli clapped her hands like a delighted child. “That was great! Annie Oakley, move over!”

“See? That’s what happens when you keep your eyes open,” Adam teased.

“Hey Renee, I think you should practice on a moving target now.” Carli kicked a rock towards Adam.

“Don’t give her ideas, Blondie. Go set up another row of cans. I want you to knock out at least one before the sun sets.”

She stuck her tongue out then moved off humming. Adam shook his head and chuckled.

He turned to Renee with an admiring grin. “If things were normal, I’d reward you for doing such a great job by taking you out to dinner.” He chucked her under the chin. “Don’t look so surprised. I’d love to see you by candlelight.”

“Uh, thanks,” she stammered. Adam’s interest surprised and chagrined her.

“You don’t accept compliments too well, do you?”

Renee folded her arms. “Don’t you think you’d do better chasing Carli? She’s the pretty one.”

Now why did I say that?

They looked at the blonde, who had finished setting up the cans. She stared up at a tree, watching a brilliant red cardinal. Her face suffused with delight which made her lovelier than ever. Renee swallowed and looked away.

Adam shrugged. “I don’t think she’s interested in me. Besides, Carli’s not quite what I’m into. Don’t get me wrong; she’s a sweetheart, but she’s a little fragile for my tastes.”

“She’s stronger than you think. She just doesn’t believe in herself.”

“Maybe.” He gave Renee a mock frown. “Did you call her the pretty one?”

“Well, duh. Look at her.”

Adam shook his head. “You shouldn’t sell yourself short in the looks department, you know. You’re a beautiful lady with depth to match. I find that more attractive then the damsel in distress.”

Adam stepped forward. Before Renee could react, his lips pressed hers. His fingers twined in her hair. She let him kiss her, too stunned to move from his embrace. His lips were soft on hers, the contact gentle.

Available from Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and in print.