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

Monday, May 30, 2016

Reflections on a Family Veteran

My grandfather fought in WWII. By the time I was a teenager, we had only ever heard one or two stories from his time in the service. He never spoke about those years even though we always suspected they featured predominately in the landscape of his life. He would have his old war buddies over or meet them at the local Mcdonalds. On those rare occasions when I would tag along or get roped into delivering a tray of ice tea to the picnic table in the back yard, the conversation always stalled in my presence. The animated banter simply dropped off until I'd retreated to a safer distance. I was in high school when an old boyfriend, a history buff and military collector, convinced my Grandfather to do a video-tapped interview on the war for a project. It was only then that my grandfather opened up about his years in the service and his feelings about a war that took such a devastating toll on his generation.

I remember now how he had looked uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed, sitting side by side with Roland, his best friend and fellow veteran. My boyfriend Alan had some scripted questions about specific events and dates but the most revealing answers came when the men were prompted to simply talk about their most memorable moments and feelings. My Grandfather spoke quietly, sometimes becoming emotional especially as he described being marched through a town where buildings and homes were on fire. A woman had run out into the street, her body engulfed in flames, and fallen practically at his feet. His eyes teared up as he described being ordered to "keep going, not to pay her any mind." My Grandfather seemed to stare a few moments into the space in front of him, swallowing and shaking his head slightly, lost in that memory.

The two men spent about an hour swapping stories that were representative of the best and worst of human nature. They spoke about camaraderie and of forging friendships and bonds that extended beyond the trenches, evidenced by the way they often finished each others thoughts or smiled fondly at memories of fellow soldiers and inside jokes. They spoke of the brutality of war, the corruption of their youth in battles fought on foreign soil for causes that at times, they had felt remarkable removed from. The most tragic revelation was realizing while the war had ended, it had left them and hundreds of thousands like them, forever marked and wounded in a way that would never heal. Suddenly my grandfather's midnight dreaming and ranting seemed to have a root cause. I discovered a new well of patience and understanding for a man that could so often be grumpy, aloof and very difficult. Only a few years later, my grandfather took his own life, with the very same weapon he had shouldered as a young infantry shoulder. The revealing and intimate portrait preserved on that videotape seemed to go at least part of the way toward explaining his tragic final action.

Memorial Day is a time to remember and to honor the sacrifices men and woman have made over and over again to protect our precious freedoms. I appreciate all our veterans but I have a special connection to those WWII veterans who are disappearing rapidly from our population. I see my grandfather in every aging veteran selling paper poppies outside the supermarket. I always stop. I make sure to thank them after they hand me my poppy flower. I note their shaking hands, their military dress hats and medals worn proudly despite the obvious age and wear. These were once the same young men who may have fought side by side with my grandfather. They may have had the same dreams. They may suffer the same kinds of nightmares. They certainly share the same pride and devotion to country and they deserve to be remembered, this day and all others.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

It's Here! Once Upon A Scream - Horror Fairytale Anthology

It is here! HorrorAddicts.net Presents 

Once Upon a Scream

 "Once Upon a Scream...there was a tradition of telling tales with elements of the fantastic along with the frightful. Adults and children alike took heed not to go into the deep, dark woods, treat a stranger poorly, or make a deal with someone- or something-without regard for the consequences. Be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it. From wish-granting trolls, to plague curses, and evil enchantresses, these tales will have you hiding under the covers in hopes they don't find you. So lock your doors, shutter your windows, and get ready to SCREAM."

Paper Version Available on Amazon - click here!
Kindle Version Available May 28th!

I'm very excited and honored to be in the company of such great authors here. Dan Shaurette and entire the staff at HorrorAddicts.net are just fantastic to work with.  I'm extremely grateful they chose to include my work and appreciated their insight and talent at helping me flesh out all the best elements and details to make Lake Tividen all it could be. 

My story is a modern retelling of old legend about Lake Tividen, home to a dangerous creature from Norwegian folklore called a Nøkken. A desperate fisherman strikes a bargain with the manipulative entity. When the cruel Nokken comes to collect his fee, the man discovers that no measure of success and comfort is worth the price the Nokken demands.

I've always been a big fan of those classic fairy tales that feel dark and ominous. I enjoy exploring that old adage, "be careful what you wish for", and the moral debate over whether or not we deserve what we get when we make a deal with the devil.  In the case of Lake Tividen, I really wanted the readers to engage with the characters in way that would allow them to experience their fear and powerlessness in the face of a creature that held every card in the deck.  I do also believe that there is always hope, even in the bleakest situations. In Lake Tividen, that hope comes in the form of the fisherman's brave and clever daughter, Greta.  The ultimate showdown is that familiar but epic battle of good verses evil, steeped in creepy, supernatural horror.

This volume, Once Upon A Scream, is full of creatures like Nokken...evil things that lurk, threaten, terrify and chill. My fellow authors had crafted tales that are all unique in their ability to simultaneously entertain and totally creep you out.  I'm looking forward to curling up with my own copy and spending some quality time reading their creations - with the lights on of course!

Already ordered your copy?  Drop me a line below or visit me on Facebook
at https://www.facebook.com/MDMaurice and let me know what you thought of Horroraddicts.net latest anthology, Once Upon A Scream. 
Want more? Visit HorrorAddicts.net to find the other collections they have available.  Be sure to check out their podcast, Episode 124 on Horroraddicts.net, where the editors discuss the authors and stories featured in this collection.

As always, thanks for reading!

 #horroraddicts #OnceUponScream #mdmaurice

Friday, May 20, 2016

Jaden, My Crazy Love

Sometimes I have a moment when I understand why I've always been driven to write...why it has been always been such a huge part of how I define myself. This morning my husband sent me a link to a blog entry I had made years ago when my daughter was just about 17 months old. The date/time stamp reads May 20th, 2011 12:42pm. I took a moment to read over my words from that time and I was instantly transported back there, to that shining and wonderful moment when I was still a new mother.  It makes me realize and remember that I write first and foremost for me, because having this testimony feels like the best gift I can give myself on this journey of life. My words give me the vehicle to look back, and experience those moments again in living color.  I love this entry so much because I see myself as that new mother just taking in all the joy and wonder of raising a daughter.  It is such a bright and sweet snapshot of our amazing journey as a family. 

Jaden, My Crazy Love...                                                      May 20th, 2011 12:42pm
Jaden is feeling better. There is still a slight rumbling sound when she breathes but her eyes are bright and her laughter and smiles are again effortless and joyful. She bounced around the house this morning leaving a narrow swath of destruction in her wake. She kicked over the dog's food bowl, scattering pieces across the floor, tossed my neatly folded laundry all around the living room, crushed a graham cracker under her shoe in the kitchen and left a trail of cherry puffs down the walkway. I followed after her, amazed by her energy and enchanted by her gleeful giggle. There was a moment this morning, when I was so captivated by the beauty in her little face, that the world stopped for me. There was only the morning light and the perfection of her tiny profile, still so much her father's yet still so exceptionally unique at the same time. If she would let me, I'd love to cup her little face in my hands and just study her, every inch, so I could memorize her features before they change again, before she grows up - growing ever closer to the girl, the teenager, the woman she will one day become.

When Fatih and I got married, we played Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" for our dance with our wedding party. I always loved the song. I always wanted to be loved like that, have a love that was that powerful, consuming, unconditional. Dancing with my new husband, I had felt like I had found it at last.

This morning, that song came on the radio and as I listened, I found a whole new meaning in it, a new connection in my life. That feeling I get with Jaden, the desire to hold time still and just watch her, take her all in until my heart aches with the impossible fullness of it...that's my Crazy Love. She is the thing that "brightens up my day", "takes away my troubles, takes away my grief" The heavens really do seem to "open up every time she smiles" and I feel as if I could, without any effort at all, "hear her heartbeat for a thousand miles", that same sweet sound that pulsed inside me for nine months. But nothing is more true about this Crazy Love, than the fact that her very existence makes me complete in a way I never imagined was possible...

"Yes it makes me righteous, yes it makes me whole, yes it makes me mellow down into my soul.."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tasting Life

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 801 May 17th, 2016
Prompt: How strong is your taste imagination? Have you ever felt the taste of any food inside your mouth just by thinking about it? Write about this.

  I've had the opportunity to travel. One of the best part of going anywhere is to sample the local cuisine, especially if its another country. International travel becomes some what of a food odyssey with certain dishes and tastes become as much as part of the memory of a place as the sights and sounds.

I spent a lot of time in Mexico and my favorite tastes have been from all corners of that country. I had been warned about eating "street food" but the best things I've ever eaten where prepared on the streets Mexico City, in the zucalos of Oaxaca and sold from vendors at aromatic, if questionable, open markets.

There is nothing in the world like the taste of tacos al pastor at 2am in the heart of the zona rosa after a night of dancing and tequila. The meat is savory and a bit briny, the spices staining it a terracotta red. The vendors cut it off from the vertical machine that slowing spins, cooking the mass of dripping meat, slowly, crisping the edges to perfection. They wrap the chunks of greasy pastor in fresh, warm corn tortillas that are topped with fresh cut cilantro, onion and lime. The combinations are so well balanced, and the taste sensation explodes on your tongue and settles in your stomach with a deeply satisfying heat.

It was during the La noche de los rábanos (Festival of Radishes) in Oaxaca that I first tasted blue corn tortillas stuffed with the bright orange pumpkin squash flowers and Oaxacan string cheese. It was an exotic combination, sweet and savory on the tongue. The colors contrasting, beautifully vibrant. Washed down with lukewarm coca cola in those little glass bottles, these quesadillas would rival any gourmet creation anywhere. The old woman grilling the tortilla crisp on her wide iron skillet was as much a part of the night as the oddly beautiful sculptures of radishes lined up around the town center. The sights, sounds and tastes of that evening in Oaxaca will stay with me always.

If I had to pick one dish from Mexico that stood out as my favorite among so many, it would easily be Elotes. Elotes are great ears of large kernel corn, about a long as a human forearm. They are sold in alleys, from carts in village streets, from vendors outside busy nightclubs and ruta stations. They are speared on wooden sticks, roasted to perfection and covered with crema, cilantro, chili pepper, lime juice and spices. They are messy and visually chaotic but they are in a word...spectacular. The first time you bite into one, the kernels pop from the cob and fill your mouth with flavors of the culture around you. The taste is all at once buttery, spicy and sweet. You can taste every element on your tongue, uniquely blended, somewhat familiar, but amplified somehow in their combination. Elotes are simply the best thing I've ever tasted, ever. 

I did do a lot more than just eat in my travels but clearly eating was as much a part of my experience abroad as visiting the ancient historical sites, touring the towns and villages of coastal Mexico and dancing in the streets of Veracruz.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Legacy of Madness

Alexia peered down the dark shaft at her feet. It was an inky black chasm not much wider than the span of her thin hips. She strained her ears listening for the music that had seemed so prominent before. It was silent. A few moments ago the music had come floating across the yard, a chorus of voices, right through the window of her bedroom. It was so distinctive and rich in sound that her eyes could almost follow the notes as they floated in the air. It drew her out of her house and into the yard. Alexia had followed the sound all the way to the back of her yard, behind the big maple that marked the outer boundary of her family's property. There, just beyond the old tree, she'd found the hole. Alexia was fairly certain it had not been there before. As she stared down into the darkness, the toes of her keds resting at the edge of the hole, the music had abruptly stopped.

Alexia looked back over her shoulder at the house. She could hear her grandmother talking on the phone, animated and distracted. She quickly dropped to her knees and leaned into the shaft, trying to hear or see anything. A pungent odor filled her nostrils, something sweet and fermented, like the apple tobacco her grandfather sometimes smoked in his pipe. She debated running back to house to get her grandmother, to tell her about what she had found. Alexia dismissed the idea immediately. Her grandmother was a serious woman who did not traipse into the back yard to look at holes that spewed music and smoke. Alexia's grandmother did not subscribe to anything that did not involve church or school and was not a valid part of the mundane routines of life. She had lost a daughter, Alexia's mother, to madness and folly and had no tolerance for such things.

Alexia knew very little about her mother Alice. She had gone to live with her grandmother at eighteen months old when her mother had been institutionalized. Shortly after her daughter's birth, Alice began suffering from hallucinations and insomnia so severe that she would go without sleep for weeks at a time.  She became obsessed with keeping time, wearing watches on both her arms and constantly asking the orderlies if their clocks were set correctly. Alice had slowly deteriorated until she had dissolved almost entirely into a raving lunacy, screaming about the red queen and covering her room with charcoal drawings of terrible winged creatures and misshapen dwarfs.

Alexia had been sleeping peacefully in her grandmother's arms when her mother had, desperate to free herself of the madness griping her mind, barrelled through several sets of orderlies to throw herself off the balcony of the hospital mess hall. Seconds before her death plunge, witnesses had reported hearing her mother talking about the blue butterfly and being "out of time". Her grandmother had told Alexia more than once, that as a young girl her mother had let madness in, and it had never let her go. In her grief, Alexia's grandmother had crafted a safe and practical world for her granddaughter to grow up in. There would be no fairy tales, no princess, no red queens...and no holes that appeared as if by magic in the back yard.

Alexia thought she saw a sudden flicker of light in the darkness, something flashing bright in the depths. She craned her neck to peer down, leaned over the shaft just a little more. All at once, the ground under her knees gave way and she felt herself dragged forward into the hole. Her hands scrambled for purchase in the earth above but gravity took over and she fell, the hole eagerly swallowing her as she dropped.

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Into the Woods...

It wouldn’t be long now. At some moment, very soon, he would burst through that narrow, paneled door and…she squeezed her eyes shut and violently shook her head to erase the thoughts. She replayed the scene of her own death so frequently and with such graphic horror, that it had become unbearable. Shari wriggled her wrists again, the bonds still tight and unforgiving. Her arms ached and the ropes had worn angry welts into her skin. Her tongue felt thick and swollen from hours of trying to loosen the shredded linen gag in her mouth. Sometimes she would feel a strange peace settle inside her, a warm floating feeling and she would be thankful that she was at last dying.  She welcomed the release with thankful tears only to wake up hours later and bitterly realize she was still alive. She was still held captive in a rotting old house by a man she’d never seen but hated so fiercely that in her moments of rage and strength, that Shari fantasized about killing him with her own hands. The primal drive gave temporary life to her fight and she would struggle anew against her restraints until once again she was exhausted and her energy depleted.

Her body jerked awake. She could sense him standing over her in the dark. She shrank back in terror as he leaned down. The eye holes of the white plastic mask were misaligned and thick ropes of matted hair swung toward her face. He reached for her, and hauled her to her feet without a word. He spun her away from him and sliced through her bonds, shoving her forward into the room and toward the open door. Shari's sudden release temporarily stunned her. It took a few moments for her engage her new freedom but as the blood rushed back into her arms, her limbs came to life. Adrenaline propelled her out the open door, up the wooden stairs and out. Into the night. Shari bolted across the clearing, headed for the trees, certain he was at her heels.

She zigzagged through the woods, crashing through the underbrush, her arms windmilling out in front of her. Shari could hear her own breathing, a ragged and frenzied wheezing, punctuated by frightened sobs. "Move", she commanded her feet. After what felt like mere minutes her lungs were on fire. She spied an old tree with a dark hollow that looked just big enough for her body. Shari squeezed inside. It smelled like rot and decay but she was grateful for the respite. She tried to slow her pounding heart, straining to listen in the dark.

The night had gone silent around her. Silent. The strangeness of that silence gave life to a new fear building inside her. The woods weren't just quiet, they were devoid of sound of any kind. Shari began to question her true nature of her situation. Why had her captor suddenly just let her go? After days of threatening her with torture and death, he just cut her bonds and threw open the door, why? She was fairly certain he had not chased her, that perhaps had hadn't even left the cabin at all. She didn't think she had not heard him pounding up the stairs after her. He had stayed behind and just let her run out...into the woods. "Into the woods", as Shari thought those words a cold panic seemed to wash over her. Then she heard it.

It was moving through the undergrowth to her right, slow and deliberate. It sounded bigger than a man, broader somehow. "Bear?" she thought with alarm. Her body began to tremble. It was making a snuffing sound, "No", Shari realized, "not snuffing, it's sniffing."  She heard it draw nearer to her tree, passing around behind it. Every cell in her system told her not to look but Shari had to know what she was up against out here in the dark. She twisted her head to peer out the slit in the bark. She could see sky and ground. She waited, watching the spot of earth within her line of vision, listening to the sound of it moving in the dark. Then, it was there, stepping into view. It was not a bear, not a wolf, not anything she had ever thought possible. It was a hulking, hairy beast that walked on two powerful legs, so broad they looked like logs. She could make out the slope of it's back, saw the tendons in its thick neck twist as it turned its head toward her. Shari felt her sanity fraying at the edges as she got a look at the creature head on.

The werewolf, because that is what she now understood it to be, stared back at her with red eyes. It's muzzle was elongated and its lower jaw hung at an odd angle, as if the impossible number of ragged fangs prevented it from fully closing its mouth. The saliva ran in thick bands from either side, soaking the fur of its massive chest in dark rivers of foul wetness. Shari shrank back against the tree, covering her mouth with both hands to keep from screaming. It sniffed the air again and began to keen, a sound that was ten times more horrifying than it's sniffing had been. All at once, it raised it's ugly head toward the sky and howled. Shari's scream tore from her throat, and echoed endlessly in the woods around her.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Color Me Wicked

Elphaba got to her feet and surveyed her new surroundings. The twister had swept her up, mere seconds before she managed to squash that little brat Dorothy with her perky breasts and howling little mutt. How unfortunate! How ill-timed and unfair!

The witch felt the old rage. When had things ever been fair for her? From the first moment, she had been born cursed. Her mother and father had been horrified by the wretched color of their infant daughter's skin. Under the cone of her parent's obvious disdain, she grew up isolated with only the tomes in her family's library for company.

In the early days, the school boys had been fascinated by her. She was smarter, faster and more skilled than any of them. Overtime, the cruelty of youth took over and that fascination soured and became revulsion. Then there was that incident at boarding school. Elphaba had only been defending herself but in the end, none of that had mattered. Oz, in all its wonder, was an oddly unforgiving place. Truth be told, she knew wasn’t half bad looking under all that black and green. Her skin was still tight and firm, her figure was lush and of course she was brilliant, far more so than that sparkly, vapid Glinda! All the same, these days there weren't too many suitors ready to woo her emerald-colored visage, no matter how pretty her dark eyes or how ruby red her lips.

How did they not expect her to go mad with the constant rejection? Sitting all alone in her tower with nothing to keep her company other than a legion of chattering, filthy flying monkeys? She was angry. She was lonely.

Elphaba looked around. The twister had deposited her in a park of sorts. There was a pond and a wide expense of open ground fenced by trees. Beyond the tree line was a village of modest little dwellings. The doors to those dwellings all seemed to open at the same time, spilling out a number of strange beasts and beings who joined up in loud, little groups at the edge of the park. The witch ducked behind a large bush. This wasn’t Oz, one couldn’t be too careful! Too late! She had been spotted by a grotesque demon. It rushed over to her with stunted, ugly feet. It called out to her and she was startled to find she understood it.

“Hey lady! Hey lady, hot costume!,” the little monster flashed some unremarkable teeth in her direction before sauntering off into the night.

“Hot?” She wasn’t even warm. In fact, the climate here was refreshing, almost chilly.

She took a few steps closer to the tree line, feeling emboldened by a stiff breeze that lifted her full shirts a few inches, tickling her bare knees. She crossed a wide, flat black river that felt as hard as rock under her heels. The witch approached the closest of the dwellings, a fat, glowing pumpkin sat grinning at her from the stoop. There was a thumping sound coming from inside the house and she could make out shadows moving around inside behind panes of glass.

The witch drew back, preparing to flee into the night when a door to her left flew open.

“Hi there. Great Costume! Come on in.” A large man dressed in red and yellow rubber ushered her inside by her elbow. The sudden contact sent shivers radiating down her spine.

Inside, the place was dimly lit and smelled unfamiliar but not unpleasant. She flicked her tongue, tasting something sweet in the air about her. There were creatures in here too, bigger ones. Elphaba gazed into a sea of dancing bodies, swaying against each other. She suddenly felt very warm indeed.

“That really is an amazing costume,” the man in red rubber was speaking to her.

The witch turned to look at him. He was broad and dark, bare-chested under his bizarre suit. He shifted uncomfortably under her stark gaze. He smelled slightly rotten, like fermented fruit. He swayed a bit, unsteady on his feet.

“Fireman, " he said, somewhat embarrassed.

"I know....not much of a stretch.” He shrugged. Elphaba continued to stare.

Suddenly, the man reached out and touched her face.

“How long did that take? All that green? It’s really amazing.”

The witch realized two things simultaneously; first, the man thought her skin was amazing and second, this man, this large and very fit man, had touched her.

Elphaba was suddenly, almost painfully aware of a burning need to be touched...more. She stepped closer, ran her nails down his smooth flesh. She parted her full lips and smiled. It was all the invitation the Fireman needed. He pulled the witch down the hall, whisked her inside a small dark room and closed the door behind them.

He wasted no time working his hands under her robes, parting the cloth to expose more of her green flesh. He moaned when she wantonly grabbed onto him, pressing herself against him. She bit back a raucous cackle. The fireman's hands entwined in her long tresses. He pulled her hair back and kissed her neck, her earlobe and at long last, her mouth.

Elphaba was overcome with a new sensation, a hot white heat exploded inside her and at last she did cackle, wildly and with great pleasure. The fireman collapsed against her briefly before falling to the floor in a heap. The witch smiled down at him, warmly and with gratitude. She smiled as the green began to creep into his features and flow across his skin, staining it. His look of bliss abruptly changed to one of alarm as he too began to notice the change.

"What's happening..." his voice trailed off as his pupils turned into ebony pools, then dimmed.

The witch leaned down and kissed his emerald-colored lips. Sadly, she thought, he did not look as attractive as he had moments ago.

“Perhaps green just isn’t everyone’s color....” she thought, and started off into the night.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Playdates and the Power of Descriptive Writing

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 793 May 9, 2016
Prompt: What, do you think, creates the most delightful usage of language in literature? Descriptions, dialogue, rhetorical devices, style, voice? Anything else?

The authors that I admire the most are the ones I believe to be descriptive artists. These writers can describe a place or setting with such exquisite detail and attention, that I am virtually transported there through the magic of their phrasing and use of language. For example, when James Lee Burke writes about the bayou in New Iberia parish, I can see the tall cattails swinging at the water's edge in that moonlight southern night. He delivers me in an unparalleled way to a place I've never been but can come to know through his words.

"I drove north along Bayou Teche to Carmouche's home. The house was dark, but next door the porch and living room lights were on at the Labiche house. I pulled into the Labiche driveway and walked across the yard toward the brick steps. The ground was sunken, moldy with pecan husks and dotted with palmettos, the white paint on the house stained with smoke from stubble fires in the cane fields. My face felt warm and dilated with alcohol, my ears humming with sound that had no origin." An excerpt from Purple Cane Road, James Lee Burke

In much the same way, Stephen King masters the task of taking me into dark places. King has so often found the right mix of words to describe his disturbing nightmares so compellingly that they take life. You can feel the terror as a visceral thing in your gut, leaving you uneasy hours after you close the book. Who can forget the lasting impression Pennywise made on them the first time they read about that manic clown?

"And George saw the clown’s face change.
What he saw then was terrible enough to make his worst imaginings of the thing in the cellar look like sweet dreams; what he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke.

They float,' the thing in the drain crooned in a clotted, chuckling voice. It held George’s arm in its thick and wormy grip, it pulled George toward that terrible darkness where the water rushed and roared and bellowed as it bore its cargo of storm debris toward the sea. George craned his neck away from that final blackness and began to scream into the rain, to scream mindlessly into the white autumn sky which curved above Derry on that day in the fall of 1957. His screams were shrill and piercing, and all up and down Witcham Street people came to their windows or bolted out onto their porches."
An excerpt from Stephen King's "It".

Description, for me, is one of the most powerful forces in literature. I have tremendous respect for those writers who have perfected tool. They are artists with words. The power of their descriptions transcend time, and even translate across language barriers. For example, in case of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for whom English was not the language he wrote his masterpieces in, his descriptions are so acute and beautiful that they read perfectly even after suffering translation into multiple languages.

“Then, for more than ten days, they did not see the sun again. The ground became soft and damp, like volcanic ash, and the vegetation was thicker and thicker, and the cries of the birds and the uproar of the monkeys became more and more remote, and the world became eternally sad. The men on the expedition felt overwhelmed by their most ancient memories in that paradise of dampness and silence, going back to before original sin, as their boots sank into pools of steaming oil and their machetes destroyed bloody lilies and golden salamanders.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

I spend a lot of time thinking about description in my own writing. I think about how a place or situation affects all my senses and then try to convey as much of that experience into words that justly represent those qualities. It isn't easy though these writers I've mentioned make it seem effortless.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1272: May 9, 2016
Prompt: Title: A Popularity Contest. Take this any where you want. Write a story, a poem, an essay, or a rant. Have fun. Be creative.

Clara glanced at her phone to check the time. She had less than an hour. She raised her eyes and confronted the tired, unadorned face in the mirror. She groaned aloud. She looked every bit like a woman pushing forty-three who spent far too little time in the gym or the cosmetic department for that matter. Clara rubbed concealer under both eyes in a last ditch effort to mask the dark circles before applying the rest of her make-up.

She stopped midway through her mascara to call up to her daughter.

"Jenny, we are leaving in five minutes."

She prayed Jenny's six year old mind had reasoned that sneakers, and not white patent leather heels, were proper footwear for a play date at a playground. It had been a discussion she had failed to have with her in advance of today, one of several she thought about now.

Clara went back to her face. The blush and gloss and bit of color on her lids did make some improvement and she felt her mood, if not her anxiety, lighten a little. Having waited well into her thirties to have Jenny, Clara was one of the older Moms among Jenny's circle of friends. She was also one of the few that worked full time, a discrepancy Clara felt more acutely than the age difference. Most of the other moms showed up to school for pickups looking fresh from the or comfortably dressed, ready to engage with their children over how their day had been. Clara, on the other hand, often rushed in at the eleventh hour, hobbled by her heels, her work clothes rumbled, her cell phone pinned between her shoulder and her ear. She tried to disconnect, but often failed miserably. At school functions, her phone often buzzed so loudly despite being on silent mode, that she was certain every parent, teacher and administrator could hear the offensive noise.

The truth was, Clara had worked hard to find the balance between raising a child and having a successful career. Most days she felt she was doing a pretty good job at both but still felt the judgment every time she walked into a PTO meeting late, or had to skip school function for work. There were also the days she felt inadequate. The other moms always seems so much more youthful and engaged, free to be more... cool? Was that the word?

Jenny's best friend was a girl named Samantha, "Sammie" as she was known to all her peeps. Sammie's mom was definitely the "cool mom", sporting a nose ring and a cherry red jeep with a "Shoreline Roller Derby" sticker on the bumper. Clara often saw her striding across the parking lot at pickup, instantly envious of her black hair tied in a knot at the base of her neck, her doc martins and torn cut-offs.

Gabby's mom was the other end of the spectrum. She never missed a PTO meeting or a chance to volunteer. She was indelibly cheerful, smiling warmly at Clara over the bake sale table as she accepted her tray of store-baked cupcakes, careful not to let the judgment show on her pretty, Mary K perfected face.

"Mom...let's go!" Jenny appeared in the doorway, bouncing in excitement, her pretty features glowing. Clara was relieved to see the pink sneakers on her feet.

Three minutes later they were in the car, headed to the park.

Gabby's mom had organized the play date as soon as the weather had turned warmer. She had billed it as a relaxing afternoon when the Moms would be able to "hang out", while the girls played in the park. Clara didn't feel relaxed though, she felt nervous. As she drove and Jenny fiddled with the radio, Clara agonized about finding common ground with the other moms and being the "odd mom out". She realized with growing dismay, that this play date felt more like an audition for a part she knew she wasn't 100% right for. It felt like a popularity contest she could never really win.

Jenny found a song she liked and was soon dancing in her seat and singing along with all the carefree abandon of a happy six year old. Jenny was happy. Clara thought, "I have a happy child, who has a lot of good friends." Clara thought that had to mean she was doing something right after all. As she rounded the bend, Lighthouse Park came into view. She pulled in along side Sammie's Mom's jeep. Without waiting, Jenny bolted from the car, racing toward the little group of girls. She stopped just before reaching them, turned, and ran back.

Clara's heart burst with gratitude as she realized her daughter was coming back for her. Jenny slipped her hand in Clara's and looked up, smiling. "Come on Mom, let's go find the other Moms for you."

Clara looked down at her daughter. "Yes, she thought, I am definitely doing something right with this amazing kid".

Friday, May 6, 2016


There was a time, not so long ago, that I knew more of life. There were days when I sparkled in the sweet spring sunshine of April. There were long afternoons when I wore the juice of fresh-picked strawberries and toiled in richly scented potting soil. I spent hours nestled in woolen mittens as snow blanketed the ground and Christmas lights twinkled in neighborhood yards. These sensations, all so vivid and wonderful to recall, fail to light the world inside this dark place to which I have been banished.

One memory, above all others, brings me back to joy and leaves me with a bittersweet modicum of hope in my exile. It is a feeling. The feeling of being slipped, virgin and new, on her delicate finger by the shaking hands of a youth whose eyes were pooled with pride. It's the sensation of being wrapped in warm flesh as they walked hand in hand in the days when their love was bright and brimming with hope. I twinkled in the twilight of their humble home as they planned their lives together. I remember happy voices that talked of all the life to come; of splashing dogs and Indian summers, of frozen lakes and gardens filled with flowers and of children laughing in hallways. They talked often of those children. They pondered how they might look, what their names would be and how they would raise them. Their love was bound by faith in dreams and they loved and dreamed with an astonishing fierceness.

After a few years though, those hushed and secret conversations stopped. They rarely held hands. I longed for the embrace that was so frequent in the earlier years, the years that were full of promise. There were gardens and frozen lakes but the laughing children chasing running dogs, did not appear. The house expanded and filled with all the material trappings of success but it became less of a home and more of a space into which both retreated. I no longer felt the thrum of her heart, the life beat of her love. It was as if I had become dulled by the pallor that seemed to hang over her. She spent silent moments looking down at me, twisting me slowly around her thinning finger. She was lost to me, lost in a world of empty hallways. The children she could never bare became phantoms that haunted her.

That fateful night the argument had started slowly, like a licking flame. It grew and grew until the words became brutal weapons that inflicted mortal wounds. She lashed out in anger and disappointment. He shot back at her with blame and resentment. In the end there was a slamming door and then a hollow, aching silence. She wept for hours into her hands, bathing me in her anguished tears. As the morning sun crept through the curtains, she opened eyes that were red-rimmed and clouded. She stood before her dresser looking down at me for a long time before she slipped me off her finger and dropped me into this cold pine box.

I've been here with my memories for a long time, longer than you would think that love could survive. I still believe that it is there, lying dormant, waiting for a kind word of forgiveness or a sudden tender touch that will resurrect it. Despite the years alone, I have not given myself over to tarnish. My metal has not faded or lost its resilience. I live with the persistent hope that one day she will lift the lid of my prison and find me once again, shining with the promise of a million happily ever afters.