Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – Willow in the Desert


Jon looked Arner over, amazed that the rough warrior would allow a ten-year old -- well, an almost eleven-year old -- to be his side man.  “How many Old Ones have you killed?” he had to ask.

Arner snorted.  “Hundreds.  Not nearly enough.”  He almost looked angry at himself for killing so few.  Jon didn’t think he knew anyone in Gander’s Gulch who had killed more than a dozen at the most.  His own father had killed only three.

Jon watched Arner stand absolutely motionless by the window.  The man didn’t so much as twitch a finger.  Only his eyes moved as he looked out over the middle of the town.  Jon didn’t think the sergeant would attract any attention, even if enemy eyes passed right over him. 

The boy made himself go totally still as he sat on the floor, to see if he could pull it off like Arner.  It wasn’t easy.  The instant he tried to be utterly motionless, stuff began to itch.

“I heard you Freetowners work with the ones who aren’t done transforming.  Becomings.  That they help you destroy the Pyramids.”  Jon tried saying this without moving his lips.

“We do.  While they’re still human enough to be safe.”

“What happens to them when they aren’t safe anymore?”

“We send them away.”

“They don’t come back?”

“No.  I make sure they don’t.”

Jon thought how awesome Arner was to be so feared that that Old Ones didn’t dare return to Freetown after they’d left.  He’d never met such a brave man before.

Arner’s voice was so low the boy had to strain to hear him.  “Quiet for a bit, Jon.  I see some mutants walking around, and we don’t know how well they hear.”

Jon clamped his mouth together.  He wouldn’t make a sound, not even if a rat came into the tower.  Not even if a rat bit him.  Because Arner wouldn’t let a rat bite faze him.  Heck, Jon almost wished a rat would come in and bite him, just so he could sit still and quiet and impress Arner.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Season’s Eatings


Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Here we are, smack dab in the middle of the Triad of Feasts. I’m trying to figure out if I’m in heaven or hell.

I love food. I love sweet, I love spicy, I love salty, I love sour. I love Italian, I love Chinese, I love Mexican ... I love international cuisine. I fell in love with my husband over a plate of sushi, for heaven’s sake.

Hotter than wasabi
Most of all, I love this time of year. Candy, particularly chocolate, on Halloween. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Christmas morning cinnamon rolls for breakfast and ham, sweet potatoes, and pecan pie for dinner. Not to mention all the treats in between. And leftovers for days. It’s a food junkie’s dream. 

So why does the house ring with agonized groans? Because I can’t indulge as much as I’d like and fit into my pretty clothes. I must make the awful choice between happy food-induced coma or confidence in Armani. It’s down to sinful second helpings or Stella McCartney. Dessert or Dior. Gorging or Galliano. Devour or DVF.


My two obsessions clash head to head at this time of year: eating and designer wear (which I hunt like big game for pennies on the dollar). Which do I want more? Happy tummy gurgling contentedly around its cache of delicousness? Or attending the school holiday program in that absolutely to-die-for $800 Cavalli skirt that I found for $40? 

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal. Those who preach moderation would be horrified to witness me at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Just stand back and watch me re-create Everest on my tray...and then eat every last bite. I’d lick the plate if my parents’ well-remembered screams didn’t still echo in my head. I have no shame when it comes to food. 

But then there’s Versace. Grrr. 

All right, so it’s not just the clothes. I have a bigger reason for counting calories, even during this most edible time of the year. There were also all those months I invested in taking myself from a size 16 to a 4. Across the table sits the reminder of why I got into shape and why I keep myself there.


And his name is NOT Ralph Lauren

I used to be extremely unhealthy. I once ate all I wanted without a second’s pause. I bemoaned my weight, but I didn’t care enough to stop pigging out. Then one day I had an epiphany, right after I found out my blood pressure was going places it had never been before. I realized I want to be around to see the little guy turn into a big guy. Plus I have to be able to catch him before he runs into the street without looking for traffic, as he is wont to do. I can’t do that with my heart bursting or me stroking out because I let myself get out of control. 

So I will push away that double portion of stuffing. I will keep the pie slice down to a sliver with no scoop of ice cream. I will pretend to be content with that half-glass of egg nog. And I will try to not watch with envy as my metabolically blessed son eats everything I can’t and stays skinny. Lucky little beloved fiend.  

At least I get to suffer in style.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – The Willow and the Stone


“Your son is gravely ill from pneumonia,” Elijah said, rising from Jamie’s side. He tried to ignore Geraldine’s presence. How could she stand there with that hateful smirk when a child lay suffering only a few feet away? “He’s drowning in fluid. I might be able to save him by performing an emergency tracheotomy.”

“You ain’t gonna do nothin’ to Jamie.” The big man purpled in rage. He turned to his wife who sat crumpled and sobbing beside the gasping boy. “I told you not to bring this man in here!”

“This is my baby, my only child! I can’t stand by and do nothing!”

Elijah stared at him. “Dave, I don’t think you understand. Jamie is dying. I don’t think there’s anything I can do, but at least let me try.”

“No Satan worshipper is gonna use his poison to cure my boy,” Dave choked. “If God means to take him away, then it’s His will.”

“Not my boy! Don’t ... want him ... to die.” Sarah beseeched her husband through her harsh sobs.

Tears fell across Dave’s wide cheeks. He buried his face in his hands, unable to look at her.

“Let Dr. Webb save him, or God help me, I’ll never forgive you. If Jamie dies, you’re dead to me too!” Spittle flew from Sarah’s mouth as she went from begging to a mother’s desperate fury.

Geraldine’s shrewish voice cut into her wails. “Where’s your faith, woman? When God told Isaac to sacrifice his son to Him, did he cry and call on demons for help? Would you save your son’s life just to damn him and yourself to eternal Hell?”

Elijah looked from one person to another, incredulous. Had Geraldine actually brainwashed Dave into believing Jamie would be better off dead than to accept medical help? Surely they didn’t expect him to not try to save the child!

He laid a desperate hand on the other man’s shoulder. “Listen to me—”

“No, you listen.” Dave dropped his hands from his face. His skin blotched red. “Take this message to your demon friend Black Elk.”

Elijah saw him pull back, saw the big man’s hand clench, but didn’t believe he would actually hit him until the ham fist slammed into his jaw. Too surprised at first to feel the pain, he dropped to the ground.

Lying on the cold floor, his head ringing from the blow and darkness closing in, he gaped up at Dave. The despairing man bent toward him, his face twisted in a snarl. Elijah cringed as he reached for him.

Sarah’s lost scream stopped her husband. The last thing the doctor saw before blacking out was the wretched woman throwing herself across her son’s still, silent form.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In the Mind of a Writer

Okay, the title of this post should stipulate I’m not talking about just any writer. It’s about this writer. Me. Because I don’t know how anyone else’s, artistic or otherwise, works. I can only speak for myself. 

Folks, it’s a jungle in there.


And I never remember to bring a machete.

The biggest thing people who have to deal with me should understand is that I’m not all there. I don’t mean in a mental disorder fashion (although that almost certainly comes into play – no creative person has their feet firmly on the ground). What I mean is, I am not fully present in your company. I’m only half with you. Another part of my brain is writing, writing, ceaselessly writing. 

You and I might be sharing parenting angst, spousal angst, or any other kind of angst. (I’m angst-heavy, if you haven’t noticed.) I hear you. I’m in complete empathy. I’m truly devoted to what you’re saying. I care about how you feel. 

I’m also in the middle of watching people fight, make out, and pull devious tricks on each other. While you and I are deliberating over whether or not the world is coming to an end, I’m also memorizing the details of my latest hero’s finely chiseled body. This is why I’m often caught smiling at inappropriate times. My story heroes are always finely chiseled, a side effect of writing erotica under another name. I’ve got a never-ending parade of abs, biceps, and pecs marching by me. It’s a terrible, terrible burden. Poor me.


Can’t you just feel my pain right now?

I do try to give you my full attention. I really do. I work hard to be present in the moment. Yet my squirrely gray matter, bent on creating nonstop, will not shut down. It’s examining plot issues, creating dialogue, and brainstorming exciting action sequences with those muscular men that run amok in my head.  

It does not stop. 

I wake up thinking about my latest project. I eat meals wrapped in a writing-induced fog. I exercise while worrying over a story problem I’ve gotten myself into. I drift in a neverending sea of plot twists while coaching my son through homework. I do this while trying to live in the real world with its problems and responsibilities. I exist in two places at once.


I’ve done this since I was a child. My fantasy world has always been rich and beckons me with endless possibilities. It sings a siren song which draws me helplessly into its embrace. 

Welcome to my universe. It’s teeming with monsters and mayhem, tough heroines and dastardly villains. And chiseled men ... lots and lots of chiseled men. 

It’s tough being a writer.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday's Serving - Lilith's Return

Devon suddenly appeared, hurrying out of the back door to approach Lilith.  His downcast eyes darted nervously at the dozens of succubi who lounged on his patio.  Feminine trills rose around him, along with appreciative calls inviting him to enjoy his guests in a carnal fashion.  A fashion that Devon knew full well would get him killed in a hurry.  The fear in his eyes revealed he was all too aware of the danger his life was in.

As if a multitude of words would shield him from the destructive attentions of Lilith’s daughters, he began jabbering before he’d even rounded the corner of the pool.  “Security cameras have picked up several vehicles outside the property.  Two men are screwing around with the front gate.  I think they’re trying to disable the system to get in.”

At last.  Lilith stretched lazily, as if her foes were only a minor distraction, as if her heart wasn’t suddenly pounding in anticipation.  “Our enemies are here,” she announced. 

Devon reached her side.  With a solicitous if trembling hand, he helped her to her feet.  His flesh was sweaty on her skin.  “Should I call the police?  Have them arrested?”

She laughed.  “Not at all.  Let come in so I and my children can welcome them.”  Her army of succubi, though not as great as she’d hoped, still outnumbered the Segreto. 

Lilith’s confidence in her offspring came through in her next statement to her daughters, all of whom had risen and waited for the word to finish the ancient war once and for all.  “This world is ours.  We claim it now.”

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Positively No Negativity

Kiddo has an aversion to symbols or words denoting negativity. And by aversion, I mean outright hatred. Whether it has to do with feelings, words, or ... math(???? Yes, math) ... he cannot cope with anything that is not positively framed. 

My child goes to behavioral therapy to help him cope better with frustration and anxiety. When a person’s verbal skills are dysfunctional, it can lead to a lot of angst. Therefore, learning to express himself beyond throwing things is paramount for my child. Especially since the stuff that looks choicest to throw is the most expensive stuff in the room.

Fortunately, I have yet to make friends with those who own an ancient Ming vases.
Being lowbrow has its advantages.

Dealing with challenging emotions is made even harder since Kiddo doesn’t want to admit they exist. We do ‘feelings’ exercises every day, and he is quick to point out there is no such thing as anger or sadness. A transcript of a typical conversation follows: 

Me: How do you feel when someone won’t play with you? 

Kiddo: I feel happy! 

Me: You’re happy when someone won’t play with you? 

Kiddo: Yes. I feel happy. 

Me: I would feel sad or angry if my friend wouldn’t play with me. 

Kiddo: No, you are happy. 

Me: Show me a sad face. 

Kiddo: No. I am not sad. I am happy. 

Then he gives me a big fake smile to show how happy he is while plugging his ears to avoid hearing anymore negativity, as evidence below:

The school photographer charged me mucho bucks for this.
 They found out I express my unhappiness much better than my son does.

Kiddo’s dislike for negativity extends to the written word ... specifically the word ‘not’. At school as they study contractions, he makes a big stink about even laying eyes upon that word. When he reads out loud, he covers all nots with his hand. Words like ‘didn’t’ and ‘won’t’ are fine. But woe unto you if that three-lettered obscenity crosses his path. 

It got so bad last year that long car trips turned into a screaming nightmare. I never realized how many signs proliferate our highways that contain the word ‘not’, and my son greeted every last one of them like the coming of zombies.

A gazillion of these, summer vacation 2014. I counted.

Now we have encountered a new enemy in the battle against negativity. Subtraction. Kiddo wants nothing to do with it, and it has nothing to do with the usual general angst against school and homework. 

I know this because he will do addition all day long without a fuss. He counts by tens, learns about money value, and puts things into sets, never batting an eye at the work. But show him a minus sign and the apocalypse is on.


A shot of my son’s school during benchmark testing last week.

He’s gotten to the point of writing hilarious notes to his teacher. On his last math worksheet, the top half was filled with addition problems. The bottom half was all subtraction. The top half of the page was answered with great accuracy. On the bottom half, he scrawled ‘Coming Soon’ rather than work subtraction. 

I’m an awful mother, I suppose. Rather than trying to discuss the necessity of doing his work, I erupted into laughter and put the paper in the ‘save’ stack. That’s definitely my kid. 

It would be nice if we could follow Kiddo’s example and erase all the painful emotions, the ‘nots’, and negativity of life. At the very least, maybe he’ll show us how to find the positives in everything. If there’s one thing Kiddo has demonstrated in his 8 years on Earth, it’s that he not only learns but teaches as well. I’m taking notes.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday's Serving - Lilith


            Enough light filtered down the hall to see Lilith when she appeared in the doorway. The demoness’ exaggerated body swelled against her sweater and slacks. Despite her impressive proportions, the sharp-toothed snarl that twisted her face ruined any semblance of beauty. Malevolence pulsed from her in noxious, malignant waves. It was as if a cancerous tumor had taken human form.
            Alex battled the urge to bolt. She kept motionless in the shadows as her enemy stalked into the room.
            Lilith walked past her. She passed by, not seeing Alex hiding there in the shadows. It was as good a chance as the Segreto could hope to get. Alex flung the vial towards the demoness and prayed that something remained in it.
            A sound like bacon sizzling and the sickly-sweet smell of burning flesh filled the already rancid air. Lilith’s shriek rebounded off the walls.
            Alex stepped out of the shadows. She shouted, “In the name of God, I command you to depart this world!”
            Lilith twisted to face her. Before Alex could react, the demoness charged at her, talons reaching. Lilith crashed her body into the Segreto with the force of a runaway train, hurling her into the hallway. Alex flew backwards, and her head bounced off the wall. White spots exploded before her eyes. She crashed to the floor. She lay stunned, unable to move. 

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

(Dis)Grace(ful) Under Pressure

I am the first to admit that I fall far short of the person I wish to be. My greatest hero and inspiration is the Dalai Lama. I want to be like him ...  an everyday human who manages to be intelligent, openminded, and serene no matter what kind of poop the world slings at him.  

Instead, I am a big mess o’ crazy, at least on the inside. I do my best to not give in to the ravaging beast that is always looking for a fight, and for the most part I succeed. But it’s not easy. Instead of looking at my fellow humans with compassion and understanding, I have the constant urge to whack them all upside the head and yell, “What are you thinking?” 

Case in point: I am currently dealing with issues at my son’s school that have nothing to do with any wrong he’s committed. Let me tell you, there is nothing that brings my inner mean out faster than Kiddo getting slighted, especially by those who should know better. So I’m stomping around the house, swearing like a sailor, and generally getting my angst on. I’m ready to go Momzilla, breathing fire and stomping buses and buildings.


Mrs. Jock, our signs clearly state no smoking on school premises.

Obviously, me turning into a movie monster that requires subtitles to understand what I’m ranting about is not a good move. In order to make things happen in a positive manner, I must swallow my fury. I must extend my hand in goodwill and camaraderie so that we can all work together to find a solution. Hopefully no one will notice how that hand shakes, as it is the one I always visualize using to whack people upside the head, as previously mentioned.


Angry Hand ... not as popular a game as Angry Birds

I am therefore somewhat glad to note that President Abraham Lincoln used to deal with similar issues. When infuriated by someone, he would write a letter telling them exactly how he felt about them, what new nicknames he would like to assign them, and generally where on their anatomy he’d like to stick his boot. Abe and I are kindred souls in that regard.  

I write blistering e-mails similar in nature. Whereas Abe would tear his letters up and never send them, I read my missives to my husband. I may house a brute in my heart, but I’m smart enough to know not to unleash it without running its slavering growls past someone with better instincts. Hubs usually puts the brakes on my rants by calmly suggesting, ‘Stick to the facts, not your feelings.’ In return, I yell at him for his wisdom ... and then hit the Delete key.


Savior of humanity and what’s left of my reputation.

Will I ever find the kind of inner peace that allows me to ask questions first and lose my marbles later? It would be nice, but I wonder. For now, the best I can do is throw my fits in private and then go out into the world with good intentions, a fake smile on my lips,  and my Whack-A-Mole hands crammed in my pockets.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – Willow in the Desert


The soldier paused, turned back around, and came close to whisper to Gordon confidentially.  “My lady is bringing a cream pie later tonight.  A real small one, you know, because we have to ration.  You poke your head in and I’ll make sure you get a slice.”

The man’s friendliness startled Gordon.  “Thanks,” he said with genuine feeling. He thought of how it was too bad he could only ingest blood now.  Solid food made him sick.

On the heels of that line of thinking, he suddenly became very aware of N.C.’s pulse and the sound of his blood rushing through his body.  Gordon froze all over.

Not noticing Gordon’s change in mood, N.C. chattered on.  “Keep it to yourself, okay?  I won’t have enough to share with everyone.  Just you, me, and Clint, who’s hanging in the guardhouse tonight watching the detectors.”

Gordon barely heard him.  He stared at N.C.’s throat, thinking how easy it would be to rip it open with his fang, how sweet it would be to taste the warm, soothing blood that would flow.

Horror at the idea brought him out of the sick but beguiling vision.  His voice weak, he mumbled, “I really appreciate it.  Thank you.”

N.C. gave him a lopsided grin and nodded.  “Sure, man.”  He went back to the other side of the gate and closed it, leaving Gordon alone, wrestling with the knowledge that Asperger’s or not, the transformation was catching up to him after all.


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