About Me

My photo
A working professional and part-time writer, full-time Mom and modern day Alice in Wonderland...

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Polar Express and the Magic of Believing

Today was Polar Express Day at my daughter's school.  The kids all got to wear pajamas and bring a stuffed toy or doll for a school-wide viewing of the Christmas classic movie, The Polar Express.  It was a happy, festive morning with all the teachers and administrators sporting ugly Christmas sweaters, Rudolph antlers and all manner of holiday bling.  With promises of  abbreviated academics, hot chocolate and popcorn, her day is certain to be a fun one.  It feels like the perfect way to kick off her holiday break. One again I am thrilled with our choice of school and filled with gratitude for a staff and school community that provides days like this for the kids.

I'm pretty sure this will be our last year for Santa.  My daughter is a thinker and she can only hold her pragmatic reasoning at bay for so long.  I get the sense this year that she is avoiding the obvious questions, the "holes" in the story.  On more than one occasion, she has started to question one thing or another, but changed the subject herself rather than pursue the line of reasoning past a certain point. In her heart of hearts, I believe she already suspects
but is not ready to bring herself to the truth. I'm relieved she has given herself this one, last magical year to believe.

To our credit, we have taken full advantage of all the seasonal delights.  We have listened to Christmas carols every morning and afternoon on the drive to and from school. We have driven around looking at the holiday displays in our neighbors yards. We have done the Festival of Lights and the Nutcracker, eaten too many candy canes and torn open the paper doors of our advent calendars each morning.  We have watched countless Christmas specials and movies and drank eggnog dusted with cinnamon from our Christmas patterned china mugs.  It has been a wonderful season and she has enjoyed every moment.

This year I have taken extra care to also talk about the real spirit of Christmas.  I've told her about Mary and Baby Jesus.  She knows about the Star of Bethlehem and the meaning behind all those Nativity scenes where a bed of empty straw awaits a child king on Christmas eve.  While I haven't the foundation to educate her in all the church's mysteries, she understands that this is a time of celebration in Mommy's church, that something wonderful began the night the Savior was born in that humble place. In a marriage of mixed faiths, my husband and I respectfully keep the fundamentals simple for her, finding the common ground between the religions we were both raised with.  We instill in her the belief in one God and the understanding that there are many paths to him, many ways to celebrate our Faith.

My daughter also understands that Christmas is a time of family, of charity and giving. She has taken notice of those people asking for money or work, holding signs and standing in the cold as we drive past. She has taken special pride in putting her coins into the red buckets of the Salvation Army bell ringers outside the stores. I believe she knows what Charity means and why it is particularly important this time of year.

Mostly, I believe she has a good understanding of what really makes Christmas magic, and knows its much more than the man in the red suit and presents under the tree. My heart feels full and certain with the knowledge that she will let Santa go when she's ready and when she does, she will have enough magic and wonder left inside her to believe in things even more magical and special.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stuffed Dates and the Siberian Snow Queen

In the hustle and bustle of a typical December, I have found exactly no time to write. I have watched a distressing amount of prompts pass me by as I struggle to keep my head above the volume of work on my desk. I almost welcome the lull that mid January will bring me as a true New England winter settles in. I tell myself I will get back to my submissions and deadlines then. We will see what the new year delivers...for now, I'm happy to find a little pocket of quiet before the onslaught starts today to get one or two entries out.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1496 December 20, 2016
What's your favorite Christmas, Hannukah or Winter recipe? Does your family have a traditional recipe that is served whenever they get together?

To be honest, I'm not fully aware of how the dates came to grace our holiday table. It seems that they were always there, making their humble appearance between the rolls and cranberry sauce. It was my grandfather's thing, those stuffed dates. I remember watching him make them. I remember having him teach me to stuff them with just the right amount of peanut butter so that when you rolled them, they would get coated with just the right amount of sugar. When I was a child, I never ate them. The shriveled fruit held no appeal, not even covered in a healthy dose of sugar. He loved them though, and would pop them into his mouth, ever third or fourth one made. Then he'd place them, in a little glass dish, in the center of the table where they would stay untouched for most of the night. I never saw anyone but my grandfather eat them and maybe my grandmother, who would eat one or two mostly out of obligation I believed. For me, it was always the creation of the treat that I grew to enjoy, that connection to something that was just simply always done out of tradition.

After my grandfather passed on and my parents divorced, the holidays were very different for a long time. Then, my Uncle brought Christmas Eve back to my grandparent's house and those stuffed dates reappeared again on the Christmas table. I think it was a collaborate effort between my Uncle and I, a shared memory that connected us to man who was a complicated but central figure in both our lives. Making those dates feels like a way of honoring the father and grandfather that we both believe he wanted to be, even if he failed at times. As I watch my daughter making the dates now with her cousin, I am taken back to the days of my childhood when it was me that dutifully took the sliced dates from my grandfather to stuff with peanut butter. I watch Jaden take them now and delicately roll them in the plate of granulated sugar and proudly line them up in the glass dish. I started eating the dates at some point after my grandfather was gone. Over the years I've grown to like them. We don't make a lot, there are still only a handful of us that will eat them, but they get made without fail each year all the same.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 1015 December 20, 2016
Prompt: How would you like to ride in a “one-horse open sleigh” on snow and ice with the cold Siberian wind blowing at your face? Can you come up with a story, a poem, or an essay about it?

The frigid wind penetrated my fur coat like icy talons. I hunkered lower in the sleigh, drawing my heavy hood closed, restricting my vision but protecting more of my exposed face. There wasn't much to see anyway but a wide expanse of a frozen wasteland, stretching as far as the eyes could see. The Snow Queen's domain was devoid of color and definition, with the barren white ground meeting the ice blue shy, the horizon barely distinguishable. I closed my eyes briefly over my burning irises, felt a solitary tear slip free and slide down my cheek, freezing before it passed the tip of my reddened nose. I flicked in away with my gloved hand and cautioned a look at her, worried that she might have seen.

My Queen was a blindingly beautiful vision. She rode with her back rigid, her gray eyes intent on the path forged by the racing sled. Her long white hair whipped out behind her just as that of the albino stallion that dragged our sleigh in its powerful wake. Her skin was so pale, it was nearly translucent and the delicate veins in her hands looked like think lavender ribbons traveling beneath the flesh. She wore no fur over her dress, the gauzy lace hugged her curves and looked like it had materialized from the falling snow itself. The hands that gripped the reins were bare with the exception of a silver ring with a single, large sapphire stone. The jewel blazed and flashed each time she flicked the reins and called to the horse to hurry. Her lovely face betrayed no hint of urgency much as her startling beauty hid the great well of cruelty inside her.

The sleigh raced forward across the Siberian plains and the end of the world never seemed so far.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Art of Lovingly Lying to Children

This morning I outright lied to my daughter. It wasn't a little white lie either, it was a big, fat lie. The kind of lie with legs that demands, by virtue of its incredulity, lots of followup lying. The kind of lie that can run away on you if you are not calculated and careful.

My lie was about Elves. Christmas Spy Elves to be exact. These Spy Elves, as many dishonest mothers claim to know, are an elite force of magical Elves who Santa sends out into homes all over the world. They collect important information on children's behavior in advance of the Christmas holiday. They are strictly recon in nature and their rigid code of conduct decrees that they should never, ever be seen. These Elves are looking for consistently good behavior and will often visit the same home repeatedly to confirm that their collected intelligence is accurate for each subject. They also have super speed and are stealthy quiet.

My daughter regards me carefully. She desperately wants to believe in magical Elves but she also loathes getting out of bed. I see her weighing the facts in her head, considering the probability of these Ninja-like spy elves. She burrows slightly deeper into the blankets and regards me with her sea green eyes over the comforter. This is the part where I understand the lie needs some clever embellishing. She is too bright, too perceptive to be completely taken in so easily.

"I saw one just the other day. Just really quick...running along our stone wall. I thought it was a squirrel at first but it was too fast, like a red blur." I blurt out, a bit too gleefully.

Jaden sits up now, eyes wide. I decide to go just a bit deeper...

I tell her a story about my "friend" who stayed up late one night making pies. Too tired to clean up, she went to bed leaving the counter top covered in flour. In the morning she found tiny footprints in the flour. Tiny footprints and...glitter. I think it's the glitter that seals the deal for her. Glitter apparently, is irrefutable proof of the existence of magical beings for Jaden, everything from fairies to unicorns to reindeer and magical spy elves.

Jaden leaps out of bed and begins to hit me with a barrage of excited questions. Do I know if elves can fly? What do elves eat? Are there girl elves and boy elves? I field the questions calmly and with unwavering conviction. She listens intently, all the while happily complying with my dressing her and doing her hair - things that normally spark epic battles most mornings. I've got her, hook, line and sinker as they say.

Am I proud of my deceit? Not exactly but Santa and magic elves have such a finite existence in the lives of children. Giving them life for such a brief time doesn't seem so wrong, especially...and let me be very honest here, if those things inspire her to be on her best behavior. I know that one day in the not too distant future some bratty schoolmate will convince her that these things don't exist. She will believe their words over my beautifully constructed lies and the jig will be up. I'll have to contend with my daughters realization that I've lied to her all these years, knowingly manipulated and influenced her good behavior. She'll likely demand to know what else isn't real now that the veil has been brutally pulled from her eyes. I dread this most of all - that day she loses the magical promise and possibility of childhood innocence in her life.

For now, I'm at peace with my lies.....mostly. Santa and his spy elves guarantee me at least a solid month of smooth mornings, cooperation and good behavior. More importantly, it keeps magic alive and well in my little girl and that is never a bad thing. As an adult, I look back on my own childhood and I remember believing myself and it was the believing that was the very best part of everything.

So, we will make cookies for Santa and sprinkle reindeer food over the yard with abandon. We will watch quietly for darting elves and trails of glitter and listen for sleigh bells in our beds at night. I will practice the craft of lying with love and keep the magic alive for as long as her heart allows.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Setting Scene and Keeping Positive

Even before I see that coy reminder about my blog in my inbox, I feel the restlessness that always accompanies too many consecutive days of non-writing. I feel that telltale tension in my chest and gut that signals to those creative pockets of my brain. I feel the stagnancy in every pore and it drives an almost biological need to write something, anything. In these recent weeks of so much unrest and worry, I have avoided the only thing that really keeps me centered. As a result, I find myself internalizing things or spouting off over dinner to family members who would honestly, really rather "read" how I feel than listen to my disjointed ravings. I tell myself, in the very least, at least I try to blog...even if I can't make a daily commitment, its good to have a place to go to prompts that challenge me and provide me some mental exercise.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 987 November 22, 2016
Prompt: Can you find a positive meaning in a negative situation or even in a word, such as revenge, mayhem, pain, etc.? Come up with your own examples, if you wish.

In these last few weeks it seems the world is mired in negative situations. I spent a great deal of time trying to find the positive meanings in things it seems, to no real avail. I have to resist the urge to disconnect from the news. It is hard not to get swept up in the mayhem in the wake of Trump's victory. It is hard to reconcile the division in this country, in my community, even in my own family. I try to take comfort in the fact that change can be positive, even as I wonder about half the country being marginalized. I try to find the faith in our new President-elect even as he and his surrogates speak of policies that I find abhorrent. I find I am failing quite often these days.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1468 November 22, 2016
Do your storytelling instincts take you to environmental activism, a futuristic sci-fi universe, or an adventure in the wilderness? Or perhaps, to an apartment scene in which this news seems, for the time being, to have no bearing on the characters?

My storytelling instincts usually begin with a character or a feeling rather than any specific setting unless I'm writing for a prompt that calls for one. I do enjoy setting the scene in my fictional pieces, I think that's important to try to immerse your readers in the environment. I tend to be detailed in that manner particularly when the setting is unfamiliar. For example, I wrote a story about my experiences working behind the scenes at the local aquarium. I used sounds and smells as well as visual descriptions to provide the reader with as much of a vision of the setting as possible. I enjoy reading stories where I am transported to a place. James Lee Burke is one writer who I feel does this extremely well. Take this excerpt for example from his novel, Jesus Out to Sea:

“Then the sun broke above the crest of the hills and the entire countryside looked soaked in blood, the arroyos deep in shadow, the cones of dead volcanoes stark and biscuit-colored against the sky. I could smell pinion trees, wet sage, woodsmoke, cattle in the pastures, and creek water that had melted from snow. I could smell the way the country probably was when it was only a dream in the mind of God.”
― James Lee Burke,

That is pretty amazing-sauce if you ask me...love the way his words let me "see" the place, experiencing it across multiple senses at the same time. His stories are very character driven but his descriptive powers in setting the scene, place and tone of the his novels are simply unrivaled.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Kiss..a working draft

Isabella Ranking sat alone on a cold stone bench contemplating the ruin of her life.  Even she had to admit that it was a little over dramatic, sitting alone in the almost rain by the ragged edge of the coast.  Still, as she watched the somber gray waves and the darkening skies, it wasn’t hard to imagine that her life was over. 

Behind her back, the impressive facade of Greystone Mansion rose up into the sky.  Five Stories of old New England elegance perched high on the prettiest stretch of coastline, Greystone had made the transformation from a once-upon family residence to the administration building of an accredited state university.  She had loved that building once. Today, Isabella could barely bring herself to look at it.  She felt it’s presence bearing down on her shoulders and knew she would no longer find any beauty it its dark windows and sharp angles of unforgiving stone.  

Isabella felt the wave of nausea hit her and turned her face into the wind to fight the sour fit in her stomach. She breathed deeply of the salt air. Her newly minted sense of super smell picked up the cloying scent of decay from the seaweed clumps rotting between the rocks exposed at the low tide mark.  She coughed and spit. The taste of rot was suddenly metallic in her mouth. Not for the first time, she found her hands folded protectively over her middle covering a phantom bump that was not yet visible. How had she managed to end up here? With all her ambition and drive?  She had been the first of her family tribe to go to college, the shining example to her younger siblings.  Isabella imagined the look of anguish on her father’s face when she told him she was dropping out, when she told him about the baby. She felt as if she was going to vomit and the urge drove her to her feet and into motion. 

She began walking the brick path that wound along the coast and through campus. She forced herself to keep moving while she wiped at the silent tears coursing down her cheeks. Fortunately the campus was almost deserted on this eve of the trimester break and she could pass unseen among the few students who raced about making preparations to leave. She was stalling, not ready to go home and face what was coming. She had briefly considered putting it off, she could go another few months without her pregnancy becoming too obvious. Isabella had quickly abandoned that plan. Her mother would take one look at her and know everything. It had always been that way.  Her mother had an uncanny ability to ferret out everything little thing her children had ever tried to keep hidden, especially her oldest daughter. 

Isabella had reached the door of her little red Subaru.  Heavy hearted, she pulled it open and sank down behind the wheel. She looked out over the sound before her.  White caps roiled in the choppy seas now mirroring, it seemed, the tempest raging inside her. She took one last, long look and turned the key feeling the car shudder to life underneath her.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Elementary Electorate, God Particles and the Evil Men Do

My daughter is excited about this election. She is six and the possibility for her to see the first female become President is of monumental importance to her. I wish her enthusiasm was contagious. I wish I could look at this election with all the naivete and promise that she can. Instead, I am dreading my own trip to the polls where the responsibility forces me to choose between two people who, in my opinion, have no business being on the ballot.

She is looking forward to accompanying me to the polling location on Tuesday, an event that to her seems shrouded in epic adult importance. She proudly tells me she is casting her vote in her classroom election for Hillary Clinton and unabashedly explains her decision is because "Hillary would be the first girl president" and Trump is a "big bully".

I resist the urge to tell her than indeed both of the candidates have done their fair share of bullying and that voting for Hillary just because she's a woman isn't the best reason. I resist the urge to expand on Trump's temperament, on how he is so much more than a mere bully and the danger he could pose to our already severely divided nation. I resist the urge to talk about the fear I feel in the wake of a tumultuous election and my reservations that either one of these people could unite and heal us. After all, my daughter is only six and her academic coverage of American politics does not dwell on the realities of corruption, greed, back door dealings, sexism, racism and scandals.

For now, the process of selecting our next president has captivated her interest and it is my responsibility to teach her the importance of being a good citizen - even if I am a most discouraged and disgusted one. I find it easiest to talk to her in general terms about the voting process, about our hard earned right to vote and why it so very important to have our voices heard. Instead of discussing these candidates, we talk about civic duty and patriotism. We talk about who suffragettes were and how they made it possible for someone like Hillary to run today. Instead of party affiliations, we talk about the mechanics of voting and the importance of making a personal, informed choice. What else I can do as a parent in these times? Thankfully she is only six and her questions are much easier than they could be, her interests much easier to deflect. The truth is I want her to be invested in her country. I want her to be proudly American but also see the importance of growing into a compassionate global citizen, regardless of who acts as our Commander in Chief.

And now, because I need my own deflection, the prompts...

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1450 November 4, 2016
" What happened all those years ago? I remember standing on the bridge of all things and in my hands the salvation of the universe. Just as I attempted to save us I heard a ------ It's your blog, tell us what happens next.

The room had gone still and strangely silent. It was odd. It was as if the sudden absence of all sound had created a fragile seal around us. We held our breath, fearing it seemed, the slightest disruption would shatter everything.

I remember standing on the bridge of all things and in my hands the salvation of the universe. Just as I attempted to save us I heard a sharp intake of breath and a soft, insistent "this can not be." I turned toward her now, my brilliant colleague. I saw that her eyes trembled with a primitive fear so great I could feel it take in root in every cell of my being. I knew our discovery threatened everything, nothing more so then that tenuous thread that connected our very existence to the universe itself.

We had searched for this, this so-called "god particle", for most of our adult lives. We had become so immersed in the challenge, in the pursuit that neither one of us had ever once considered what it would mean if we actually discovered its existence. Now, confronted with that very truth, we were both consumed by the weight of where our science had lead us. I watched her, slip slowly to the ground, one hand slipping beneath her collar. Her hand surfaced, clutching the tiny gold crucifix, a talisman I always thought was more sentimental for her than symbolic. Now, watching her shatter, I realized how delicately her faith had existed alongside her scientific reasoning. There had been a place inside her that had allowed for the science and the belief to coincide, a place that had remained safely shrouded in mystery. Now that place had been exposed in one defining moment, in our cold and sterile lab. She had been at all times both the scientist and the believer and now would cease to be one or the other. Her eyes were on mine, a wordless question rising tragically in them, "what do I do now?"  
"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 970 November 4, 2016
What have human beings become? Did war make us evil or did it just activate an evil lurking inside us? Are we guilty of making permanent decisions based on temporary feelings?

I believe in all mankind there is war. It is built into the network of human DNA. I do not believe it make us evil, more that it is a by-product of our biological drive to survive. War does however provide the excuse some evil men need to give license to the darkness embedded in their souls. The opportunity to wage war allows them to paint the world with chaos and pain. It is hard not to think about Syria and how Bashar Hafez al-Assad has made that country a personal canvas for his masterpiece of destruction. It isn't hard to see how war can awaken and give life to a resident evil or how temporary feelings can permanently wound country and its people.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Musical Musings and Smiles for Miles

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 968 November 2, 2016
Prompt: Make a list of 10 things that make you smile.

There is a lot in this life I have been blessed with. It isn't hard to come up with a list of ten things that make me smile but they do seem divided into two categories...which are the "big and the broad" and those that are much more simple in nature.

There are the big things...
1. My daughter, from the moment of her birth and every day since then.
2. Watching my husband's transformation from a good man to an amazing, loving father.
3. Times together as an extended family when we are laughing together, exchanging stories and telling tales.
4. Writing, about anything, just being able to connect with my creative center.
5. Having those good, career days, when I get recognized for my contributions and input.

Then there are a whole host of simple pleasures that bring me joy...
6. A roaring fire and a glass of wine
7. A favorite tune coming on in the car or in the office at just the right time.
8. A long conversation over a tapas meal with my college roommate.
9. Making a big Sunday morning breakfast while listening to NPR.
10. The morning after a heavy snow, when the world is quiet and brand new just for a moment.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
Day 1448: November 2, 2016
Prompt: You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.– Robin Williams. Does music inspire you? Does music cause a connection between living beings?

Music is one of my great loves in this life. My tastes are very diverse with my musical library crossing genres and traveling across decades. It is not uncommon find a little bit of everything in my playlists, from Tchaikovsky the Rolling Stones, Creedance to Pink, Ed Sheeren to Eva Cassidy. I collect tunes that affect me in a multitude of ways. I use those tunes to rage or to heal, to motivate or to grieve. A stressful day at work will certainly send me toward the likes of Jack White for fortitude or to Walk off the Earth to keep me in balance. A long car ride will have me marking the miles with some vintage classic rock delivered by Janis, Santana or Bowie, gritty jams by Elle King or Gin Wigmore, and little bounce with Trombone Shorty or Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds.  My daughter is regularly exposed to such variety every morning on our drive to school. She can readily identify most of my extensive music catalog from Allen Stone to ZZ Ward and everyone in between. I hope I am giving her a foundation in love for all types of music and that she finds as much joy in it as I do.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Horror Writing and Clinical Confrontations

It has been difficult to find the time to write, even the daily blog prompts have passed me by the alarming regularity. I hope the slower months of the Northeast winter season will afford me more pockets of free time where I can focus on it more.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 967 November 1, 2016.
Prompt: What elements can a writer use to make his work in the horror genre scary?

Over the past year I have found a new fascination with the horror genre after some of my work was selected for publication in the Once Upon a Scream anthology. I found the experience of writing horror very liberating in a way I hadn't anticipated. I've always been a reader of the genre and a fan of King, Straub and Koontz. The experience with this anthology exposed me to reading more diverse selections, cross-genre delights that inspired me to consider writing more myself. The greatest appeal for me about writing horror is the freedom of it, the limitless potential of fear. The fact that from phobias to the paranormal, the field of what scares us is wide open and highly relative. Let's face it, there is so much that scares us, fragile, impressionable bags of flesh that we are. The writers I feel master this genre the best are always the ones to take the most liberties with fear. They can take something innocuous and make it terrifying by applying just the right angle. Great horror writers can leave us with pulsing hearts and racing adrenaline long after we close their books. That's impressive.

Who hasn't read Stephen King's "It" and not been forever uneasy with clowns ever since confronting Pennywise among those pages? Stoker's Dracula is as an indelible character in literature as there has ever been. Bentley's "Jaws", had us all thinking twice before "going back in the water" didn't it? What was it that these writers used to scare us so effectively? They exploited the primal fears embedded in our DNA. They mutated the mundane into something that could not be easily contained, controlled or defeated. They made us feel unsafe. For me, the biggest scares always come as a surprise, after we've told myself the worst is over, then we find out Hell has another floor...

I don't know how effective I am as a horror writer but I enjoy making the attempt.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1447 November 1, 2016
Use these random words to discuss something on your mind: drip, clinical, regret, contemporary, greed, power, and balloons. It's your blog, make it a rant, a poem, or a story. Have fun.

Jackie's heels made hollow click-clacks on the linoleum as she walked down the urine-colored hospital hallway. The flowers sagged in her arms, now heavy and smelling sickly sweet from the extra hours in her warm car. She should have tossed them but hadn't wanted to come empty handed. Truthfully, she hadn't wanted to be seen coming empty handed, the man at the end of the hall couldn't have cared less what she brought.

She stopped at the nurses desk, and stood there watching the clinical hustle and bustle and waiting for someone to address her. A hefty nurse with too pink lipstick finally turned and asked if she needed anything. Jackie told her who she was there to visit.

The nurse pointed a thick finger at the big dry erase board on the far wall and said, "Room 151, but he's not back yet. You can wait for him in his room."

Jackie nodded and made her way to her uncle's vacant room.

There was precious little in the small contemporary space aside from a weak, partially deflated bouquet of balloons clinging to the far corner and a dried out violet in a blue clay pot. Jackie added her own flowers to the sad tableau and took at seat across from the foot of the bed. The sheets were tossled and the saline drip bag hung emaciated from its stand, its hose snaking over the mess of sheets like a marauding serpent.

She felt herself shudder. This was the hospital room of a tyrant, a man who had lived a life consumed by greed and power and was now facing death alone because of it. It made her sad. It made her also feel vindicated somehow. Hadn't she warned him about this? Hadn't she hurled the prediction over her shoulder at his scowling face as she had felt his home?

Jackie heard the thumping gurney wheels approaching and she instinctively stood, drawing her arms up around her. Her eyes on the door, she forced herself to breath as she prepared to face a man she hadn't seen in over fifteen years.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Valkyries and Night Demons - Writing to the Prompts

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1425 October 28, 2016
When everyone turns 25 years old they are assigned either a Demon or an Angel based on karma, however ,you are assigned a Valkyrie? What happened, how did you luck out or not?

Distant bells brought Nora back from a sleep so dream-filled she felt exhausted despite her more than twelve hours of slumber. She dragged herself up, shaking her head to rid it of the remnants of last night's mind magic. She hated the nights of dreams, the vivid parade of images and mishmash of hyphenated story lines that always left her strangely restless and discontent the whole day. Nora hated that she always felt obligated to sort through her brain's deluge, looking for hidden messages and directives, unable to ever qualify the dreams as simply a brain dump. She padded into the small kitchen only to find the coffee maker had failed to follow its program and the pot sat empty, taunting her with the lack of hot java. Nora groaned dramatically and flipped the switch.

"Brew bitch!" she commanded, just as her phone began to vibrate with an incoming call.

Nora looked at the clock, barely 6am...right on time....

Her sister Gretchen had started singing before she even got the phone up to her ear. Her younger sister belted through her own uninhibited version of "Happy, Happy Birthday" as she had done every year since Nora had moved away from home. Gretchen finished on a high note that sent her roommates into a chorus of howls and barks. Gretchen lived with a small menagerie of creatures that included three huskies and a old basset hound. Nora waited while her sister quieted the dogs.

"So, big sis is 25 today - how's it feel? Any big plans?" Gretchen asked.

"Same and yesterday and no, nothing planned outside of Chinese takeout and a bottle of wine later. Its been brutal at work, worked every day this week until 8," Nora admitted.

"You wanted to be big city mouse sis...hope its worth it!" Gretchen chided.

After a few more minutes of sisterly banter, Nora signed off and headed to the shower. She emerged, wrapped in her last clean towel, to find the woman standing in her bedroom. Nora screamed, falling back onto to her butt in the carpet, losing her towel. The woman was a tall platinum blonde with amazonian proportions and gun metal gray eyes. She was dressed in a copper armor that hugged her curves and gleamed in the dim light of Nora's room. Stunned into silence, Nora backed away, tugged the towel over her body and pressed herself back against the wall.

The woman smiled, but there was no warmth in it. She crossed the room in two strides and stood over Nora. She bent forward until her chin was nearly touching the top of Nora's head.

"I'm the Valkyrie called Melania. I've been assigned to you. I will have your back in battle until you die. Then I will deliver your soul to Valhalla."

Her heart beating so hard it hurt, Nora could only stammer, "but I'm a paralegal", weakly.

The Valkyrie stood. She shook her shoulders and great black wings unfolded, seeming to swallow all the free space in the room. Nora felt the scream and covered her mouth with her hands. Melania smiled, a fraction less coldly, and extended a hand toward Nora. When Nora was on her feet, Melania folded her great wings away again.

"People in your bloodline usually get demons, a few get the occasional angel but in the rarest of circumstances, they get a Valkyrie. The fact I've been assigned to you means you are destined to be much more than a paralegal Nora. It means you will be a warrior and I will fight beside you until your death. You will die hard but well and I will deliver your soul to eternal rest". Melania delivered this news flatly, without drama.

Nora felt the blackness well up behind her eyes and the world shift under her bare feet.

"Good thing this one didn't get a demon," Melania said, catching Nora before she hit the ground.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 963 October 28, 2016
Do you agree or disagree with this statement. "When you wake up at 2-3am without any reason there is an 80% chance someone is staring at you!" Have you ever woke up in the middle of the night and felt you weren't alone? Tell us about it.
(not counting your other halves)

Red digital digits blinked back at Stevie from the gloom. It was 3:04 am and she was, inexplicably wide awake. The tiny hairs on the nape of her neck seemed to be standing on edge and her forearms were prickled with gooseflesh. "Someone is here," the thought came, rushing into her mind with a frightening clarity.

Stevie sat up, peered into the darkness at the foot of the bed. She tried to coach a shape from the inkiness there. She snapped her eyes to the open doorway of the bedroom, half expecting to see a shadow lurking there but it was vacant, just an empty doorway with only darker space beyond it. She swung her legs out of bed, shivering as her bare feet made contact with the cold oak floors. Stevie reached for the side lamp, switching it on. An arch of weak light cut into the darkness, driving it back a few feet.

Stevie crossed to the door, walking out onto the landing, turning the light on as she moved. The landing was suddenly flooded with light. The bright overhead bulbs illuminated the small space, the bookshelf and easy chair in the corner, the top of the carpeted stairwell and thing crouching low on the first step. It raised its head, partially covered by one of its gray arms, and hissed at Stevie. It struggled to back down the stairs, attempting to move away from the reach of the light.

Stevie felt her insides lurch at the same time her battle weary mind engaged the age-old language. The ancient tongue came back to her as it always did, rolling off her tongue. The thing on the stairs stopped moving and stared back at her with a sharp, new interest. Stevie sank to her knees on the landing, reciting the words that would call it to her. The thing began to rise and creep closer. As it moved into the light, Stevie saw with some dismay that this was a new breed. She would need more than the old prayers this time.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Voting Ills, The Unnecessary and the Ever Joyful Autumn

The prompts blink back at me from my inbox....and my thoughts just won't come together clearly. There is something else in the way this morning. This morning I feel as if I am still processing my thoughts after the second presidential debate. To be more accurate, I believe that I am still trying to justify my ever-solidifying departure from the republican party.

I am the daughter of a staunch Conservative and a registered Republican since I was of legal age to cast my vote. Though I disagreed with some of the party's platforms, overall I felt aligned with the party that I always considered more evenly represented those values and liberties granted us by the Constitution of the United States. For me, the Republican Party was always that shining architect of the "American Dream", the voice of the patriotic nation. Over this last year, there have been many things that have caused me to question my perceptions and ultimately, my allegiance...none more so than the current Republican nominee. For me, Trump is someone deeply unappealing. Despite giving him numerous opportunities, he has failed to show me he is anything more than an egoistical, tempermental nine year old with a limited understanding of the issues and an unwillingness to accept the advice and expertise of people who truly know and understand those issues best. When I have been longing to hear his positions and policies, he has delivered rambling, nearly incoherent babble or repeated stale rhetoric. When I have wanted him to take the high road, he has chosen mud. When I have looked to him to unite and inspire, he has isolated and divided. When I have waited for him to steer my chosen party into back into the white house, he has made the personal choice to drive it off the rails. When I had so wanted to rally behind my party, he has made me question my very loyalty to it.

I understand that this election isn't just about how unlikely each of the nominees are. I understand it has far reaching consequences for the future of the supreme court and the potential impact on the down ticket, state and local government races. I also know that Hillary Clinton represents a continuation of the Obama administration. I fully understand that she is a corrupt politician and habitual liar protected by the media. I understand that she has committed grievous, possibly even criminal acts and that is in in all likelyhood, a terrible person. I am fully and completely aware that she is also undeserving of the honor of being our Commander in Chief. I understand all that and yet I am still struggling. Coming out of this second debate, I am even more perplexed and concerned about casting my vote.

Abstaining all together is not an option. Women have worked too hard and sacrificed too much for me to defile and minimize them by throwing away my hard-won right to vote. I will vote on election day and I have always done. I will take my daughter with me. I will be an example for her. It is a civic duty to vote, even when our options are so desperately limited. I will cast my vote and wear that sticker proudly. I know this with certainty, even as I find myself at such a complete loss as to whom that vote will go to.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 945 OCTOBER 10th, 2016
Prompt: “It has taken me quite a few years to realize the fact that most of the thoughts in my head are not necessary.”
― Bert McCoy. My question is, how can anyone chase away those unnecessary thoughts? Do you have any ideas?

As a writer, my initial response would be that there are no unnecessary thoughts. I would say that I subscribe to the idea that all thought is purposeful. Still, on closer examination, I can admit that some thoughts should be chased away for the good of the organism. Thoughts that are negative, those that would promote self doubt. It is remarkable easy to give in to thoughts that deliver us to dark places. It is easy to reason ourselves to failure when we dwell on bad thoughts. I am guilty of leading myself down a spiral staircase and sometimes I spent too many days in the land of "poor me" before I snap myself out of it. It takes a concentrated effort sometimes to remind oneself of what is really important, to shift focus to the positive. I chase away unnecessary thoughts by trying to remember who I am and what is really of core importance to me. I think about those things that I am thankful for, those things I hold dear. When you realize how precious little in life truly matters, its easier to clear out the trash and noise.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1425: October 10, 2016
Prompt: Write about October.

October is a time of year that recharges me. I love everything about the Fall, and October is pretty much the gateway to that favorite season for me. Apple season officially opens and we spent a lot of afternoons picking the fruit at our local orchard, taking photos in the pumpkin patches and snacking on crispy sweet fried apple donuts and sweet cider. We chase away the chills with autumn scented candles and crackling fires. We spend time outside wrapped in cozy sweaters. We love taking in all the changing colors, the bright sunshine and vivid blue skies. I have a colossal old maple tree in the year and I love it when it covers the black paved driveway in a blanket of deep red leaves. I love the frenzied pulse of Fall, that crush toward the busy holiday season when the world is bustling and dynamic. Then there is Halloween, the October's penultimate celebration, when everyone remembers the delight in things that go bump in the night. Last Halloween, my daughter got to trick or treat, country style, transported from one festive street to the next via a tractor towed, hay-covered wagon. Her hands grew numb and cold but she was electrified with the excitement and joy. October is always a time of year we all enjoy.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Storm Warnings and the Lure of the Romantic

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
Day 1423 October 7, 2016
Storm preparations are necessary, what do you do to prepare?

In my part of the world we are largely sheltered from major weather disturbances, with the last major hurricane impacting us in any significant way back in 2005. We are lucky here in New England in that way. We can, however see our share of snow.  Recent years had brought storms that left us with resistant mountains of blacked snow marring our parking lots and driveways well into Spring. The running joke is that under the threat of snow, we all rush out to stock up on bread and milk...or in my case, wine and cheese. In the event that they are forecasting a major storm, we do try to make sure we've got enough candles and batteries and food that doesn't need to be cooked. We charge up the laptop and cell phones and in the case of a more substantial threat, we would fill up the bathtub with water and stack extra wood inside for the fireplace. We live in a more urban location however, on the same power grid as the hospital, so sustained power outages are rare. During a recent winter storm that brought ice and nearly ten inches of snow, we passed a long weekend inside cuddled under blankets with the fireplace raging away. It was actually very pleasant, all of us together with no work or school...a snow day for the entire family. It wasn't easy to take the dog out but other than that, it was an unexpected and welcomed break.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 493 October 7,2016
Who said romance has to be boring? Discuss your favorite romance story.

Romance had never been a genre I read much other than the required text of Romeo and Juliet. It is hard for me to buy into romance. I think I am likely a bit jaded in that department. There are great romances through history, great stories both fictional and real life and I'm sure if I thought about it, I would find at least one that inspires me. At the moment, I'm drawing a blank which is both disappointing but not unexpected.

I do not spend a lot of time thinking about romance. Even when I write erotica, I'm not sure if my pieces would be considered romantic in nature. It is not something that comes naturally to me. It is not that I consider romance boring, more that I find more...impractical maybe? To me romance is flower petals strewn down a hallway, a long tandem bubble bath, poetry readings and all manner of other things that seem lovely but have little application in my real life. My husband and I are lucky to squeeze in a rare date night that doesn't end with falling asleep on opposite sides of our sleeping daughter. The pace of life for working parents, in my experience, dictates that we be more literal with our demands and more practical with our expectations about romance and intimacy. It would be very difficult for me to read a romance novel without feeling like it was the stuff of fairy realms and unicorns. The prompt today asked me for something more so I will reach a bit farther out for the sake of challenging myself...

If there was one book, one romantic story that stayed with me, I would have to say it would be Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants. There was something about it that was so vivid and touching. The relationship between Jacob and Marlena seemed to grow in a way that seemed credible, if a bit star-crossed. The thing I liked so much is that is sustained itself, stayed true to itself. Their love became a thing that carried them forward through their lives without pretending to always be glitzy and pretty. It was a love that fortified them without stripping away their individuality. They were always very much themselves, with their pasts and their scars, but they were also two people who found love and built a wonderful life around it.

Romance isn't for everyone, but some people do manage to make it part of their lives. I commend them and find that perhaps I am also a bit envious of them too.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Red Sky Warning and the Power of True Love's Kiss

 "Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 942 October 6, 2016
Prompt: Red skies at night, a sailor's delight. Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning. How does this apply to your life?

Living in New England, barely twenty minutes from the shore, you hear this refrain a lot growing up. My grandmother would say this. As kids we would repeat it to ourselves each time we witnessed that red, glowing sunset painted across the horizon. On some summer evenings those beautiful hues of reds and pinks would stretch out before us, the indelible promise of calms seas and clear nights. If one woke to that same vermilion sky in the morning however, it was said to be a harbinger of rough weather and dangerous seas. Truth be told, I have no idea how reliable that system is or how routed it is in actual scientific logic, if at all. There is always something ominous about a blood red morning skyline. I think its possible sometimes to feel the approach of something malicious. I think you feel it in your bones sometimes, that creeping sense of something bad approaching, with or without the benefit of a threatening sky to warn you.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1422 October 6, 2016
You have the ability to make people fall in love with you, but only after you kiss them/ What creative way are you going to get that kiss that doesn't make you sound like a crazed fanatic? Knowing you have this power, would you kiss more than one person?

True love's kiss sounds a lot like the stuff of myth and legend. In much the same way, the power to obtain someones love and devotion by merely kissing them seems to be like a wasted super power. Why? Why would you ever want love to be that easy? How much value does love have when it comes so effortlessly to us? The best loves in my life have been hard won and have been steeped in heartbreak. How else can we appreciate the true gift of love unless we flight and bleed for it first? And that first kiss, isn't that always the one we remember? That kiss can be pure magic, whether it comes awkwardly, as a total surprise or just as we had dreamed about it for hours or weeks before it happens. Here is the truth, life is hard and if love comes without a price, without a fight, it likely won't survive the rigorous task of time. I think its far better for someone to fall in love with me over time than to become suddenly enamored. Love is best when it unravels slowly, revealing more and more about itself as we experience things. I believe it takes some time to realize how much you love someone, and that's perfectly okay with me. I'd rather it take its time after all, I'm not waiting for it to save me from a deep, dark, death like sleep.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Garlic Muffins for a New Friend and the Literary Artisan

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1421: October 5, 2016
Prompt: Random words: garlic, invite, bitter,tower, evade, abrasive, brooch, promote

Note: I find these random word prompts very challenging, they are like aerobics for my brain. Sometimes I feel as if I nail them, other times I churn out something more mediocre (like the entry below) but in both cases I think the exercise is good for me. It keeps me thinking, reaching which is never a bad thing.

Elsa fingered the heavy brooch at her neck. The mother of pearl was cold and solid under her fingertips. Its presence comforted her. It had been a family heirloom and she had worn it faithfully since her grandmother had pressed it into her palm as she expired. She promised Elsa it was a powerful talisman for protection and so far it had proven to be effective time and time again. Elsa stepped off the porch of the old Victorian and into the night. The darkness swallowed her as she turned her back on the lights of her family home. Walking deliberately forward, Elsa looked up at the dark tower that pierced the inky horizon.

She slipped her hand into the pocket of her cloak and felt the crisp invite she had received from her cousin two days ago. Until a month or so ago, she and her cousin Renfield had been very close, more like siblings. He had always stopped in on his way home from work to have tea with her. Renfield was warm and chatty, disclosing even the most mundane details of his day and pausing only to pull her toddling daughter into his lap for a cuddle. Then, two weeks ago Renfield's visits had become more erratic, his jovial behavior turning more abrasive and bitter. He talked about the "disease of man" and wanted to discuss the many ways he had been mistreated and unappreciated. It was as if something had happened that suddenly ostracized him from everyone. When Elsa had pressed him for an answer, Renfield had done everything to evade the question. Then, that last visit, when her daughter had wandered into the kitchen for her customary hug, Renfield had recoiled from her pink, outstretched arms and rushed for the door. Elsa had watched him flee, dismayed and confused at what her child had done to possibly promote such a response in her cousin.

Renfield had not returned after that final visit. He had not responded to her notes and he did not answer the door when she had called on him. Elsa was beyond concerned. She had known something had happened to him and it distressed her terribly. Yesterday, there had been a knock at the door. She had ran to it, hoping her cousin had come back to her. It was not Renfield but someone had slipped a piece of thickly folded ivory paper through the mail slot. Elsa picked it up and opened it. It was a hand-written invitation from Renfield to join her and a friend for drinks at his residence. The address was for the tower, the defunct and derelict building that as far as Elsa knew, had not been inhabited for at least a dozen years. Elsa knew Renfield's new friend was somehow responsible for the sudden changes but she was a proper woman and as such, reserved to pass judgment on someone she had not yet met. She had called for a sitter while she made something suitable to bring to her host. She tried to ignore the pervasive feeling of dread as she dressed which now, as she walked up the road to toward Renfield's new friend, had hardened into something of a knot at the pit of her stomach.

After a time, she reached the base of the tower. It appeared even more ruinous than she had expected. She shifted the bag of garlic muffins to the crook of her arm and raised her fist to heavy wrought iron knocker, hesitating when she found it was in the shape of a horned demon. Before she could use it, the great door was wrenched open and her cousin stood in the dim dome of light. He smiled, his mouth a dark mall, and reached for her....

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 941 October 5, 2016
Prompt: "Fabric is my blank canvas and fashion textiles emerge as wearable art, touched by the possibilities of threads, beads and artful embellishments." If you are an artisan, you will get this. If not, write anything, you want about this.

My grandmother is an artist. She lives as she paints, in a textured world where she looks for and engages with those things she finds aesthetically pleasing to her eye. She had taught me to appreciate those things, to find the "art" in everyday life. I loved to draw and paint but my true artist medium has always been words. I love the way words flow together in a story, how powerfully you can craft images and evoke feelings with words. I think writing is my own "wearable art", I wrap myself in my stories and they become part of my self expression, part of my persona, my own "art".