Wedding Light Blues

I’m getting re-married in six weeks. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown since we were walking the quaint, sandy streets and popping into all the wonderful little shops of Old Mesilla, NM looking at pretty things and little did I know at the time, rings, but flown it has! They say time flies when you’re having fun, or in a coma – or in this case, planning a wedding.

One of the first questions all my gal pals asked was what the colors were going to be. You see, for a lot of women colors are everything. What kind of car are you getting? Oh, I don’t know, as long as it’s red. What style curtains are you thinking to buy? Oh, I don’t know, as long as they’re green. The first time around my wedding colors were black, red, and white.

This time it’s light blue and white with touches of yellow. Quite the contrast! And no white wedding gown for me! I always loved the light blue dress my mom wore for her wedding to Dad and that was really my biggest inspiration to wear the same, even as far as the style of dress goes.  My groom is going for a black tux with silver\gray vest and tie.

We’re doing all the decorating and food prep pretty much ourselves. I never thought finding light blue and white decorations would prove as challenging as it has. People and circumstances keep trying to sneak in bits of light teal instead of blue. While talking to the florist the first time, she mentioned dark blues and purple. I’m like, “No, LIGHT blue.” No dark blue. No purple.

I’m a lot more laid back and willing to accept variations and compromises than I was for that first wedding. Don’t read that as ‘anything goes’, mind you! This has surprised a few people, the women especially.

Look, I’ve done this before. In the grand scheme of things, the colors REALLY don’t matter that much. Of course, I’d love everything to match and be exactly like I’ve been picturing in my head for all these months, but honestly – it doesn’t matter and it’s not going to happen. Some brides-to-be would have insisted that their groom’s tux accessories perfectly match the dress. Why? That’s what he wants to wear and that’s what he’s comfortable in. Heck, my first notion didn’t even involve him wearing a tuxedo! That was his idea! And, the gray will look amazing, too. It’ll match the plates that we couldn’t find in light blue! It will also go with the flower accents on the girls light (not blue) teal dresses! Darn that pesky teal!

Speaking of dresses… nope. They aren’t even close to that late 50’s-early 60’s style I’ll be wearing though that was the initial plan. They are very pretty dresses and my daughter says hers is super comfortable. Matching shoes? Forget about it! She’s wearing white flip-flops. I have no idea what my Maid of Honor is wearing on her feet, nor do I care. I told her to be comfortable. Although my poor feet are going to be crammed into these cute little shoes that are about ½ size too narrow, I will very likely be putting on some comfy sandals after the fact.

One friend made the comment that a wedding is all about the bride. No. It’s not. A wedding, a marriage, is about two people who want to spend the rest of their lives together and to share and celebrate that decision with their family and friends. It’s not ME DAY! It’s not insisting-on-your-own-way Bridezilla Day. It’s about TWO people, two lives. Just like life in general, it’s about compromises and going with the flow. It’s about NOT freaking out if the color of your dress does not EXACTLY match the color of your shoes. This way of thinking has made the planning so much easier than the first. I’m older now, maybe a little wiser, maybe a little less selfish and starry-eyed.

Just like a marriage, wedding planning has a lot to do with trust. I refuse to be a control freak (though, yes, there are a couple of things I am being insistent on) and I refuse to stress over issues that, at the end of the day, really won’t matter. I’m trusting my dressmaker, the florist, and the woman decorating the cake to understand and create using the guidelines and pictures we’ve discussed. I’m trusting we’ll have music of some sort though the fine details of that haven’t been worked out entirely yet. I’m trusting my daughter with my hair and make-up. I am trusting a lot of different people to do a lot of different things with the attitude that the only real thing that matters at the end of that day is that I am married to man who has made me believe in (and trust in) love and happily ever afters again.

I’m not a religious person, but the sooner people out there learn and accept that there is wisdom behind 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, the better off they’ll be, not just in our marriages, but in our ever day lives with family members and friends.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

In just over six weeks I’ll probably be an emotional basket case, but trust me when I say I’m far more worried about how I’m going to NOT bawl through the entire ceremony than how the heck did MR. TEAL become so much a part of the light blue and white with touches of yellow color scheme.

Stepping Stones Across Hell’s Half Acre

It has only taken ten years since the release of my first published novel, but I finally reached a milestone I’ve been dreaming of for much longer than that decade. Last night I had my first book signing event! I got to talk about my progress as a writer, my novels, my inspirations for those novels, and answer questions from the audience. I got free food and even sold 80% of the books I took with me! All while feeling old and youthful at the same time.

As this was a private, local event, the gathering was only around 30 attendees, but among them were several folks from my much younger days! A former grade school teacher, a woman who remembered me from when I was in Headstart, the parents of two girls I went to high school with, and a former baby sitter. Even if they didn’t know me, a lot of them knew my parents! Ah, the world of being ‘a local girl’ as I was called. Yes, to these folks, this 50-year-old was just a girl. They were a fun bunch of ladies and gentlemen and I enjoyed hanging out with them for a few hours talking about books in general. Funny how I work in a large university library and almost never talk to any of my co-workers about what we’re reading. Maybe it just feels too work-related and who wants to talk about work-work? Blech! Not me! Unless it’s away from the office and really has nothing whatsoever to do with my job or most of the people that job pertains to. It’s weird.

I even managed to get a laugh out of them with my opening and the story about how I first realized maybe I wasn’t like the other in Mrs. Dodd’s 3rd grade class. It was in that moment that something deep inside me clicked and my writing dream was born.

So, really, last night was something like 40 years in the making and wishing and dreaming. These things take time and I’ll admit I’ve not always been very patient about it getting here. The writing gig has given me more lows than highs, but the highs are what keeps me going. This may seem like small potatoes to those who are further along in their journey than I am, and I know I’d be jumping the gun if I believed for a moment I’d made the big time with this single and simple event, but it’s one step closer.

A week or so again I posted a Facebook status of “Remind me again why I am doing all this.”  It becomes so frustrating and disappointing at times. You want something so badly and it’s so important to you and you pour so much of yourself into it that when things don’t happen how you hoped and dreamed or as fast as you want, you feel like a complete failure and like giving it all up. You question what’s the point in even trying. Why even bother? No one cares. No one appreciates. No one understands any of this, let alone you, and it seems it’s all for nothing.

Then, something like last night happens. I am forced to remember that day in 3rd grade and a little girl who was terrified she’d done her weekend homework assignment wrong. I am forced to look back at where I was ten years ago in this process. I have to remember how devastated I was when the publisher of my first murder-mystery went out of business and how utterly defeated I felt. All that work … and I’m sent back to Step One again.

But, once I really looked and understood, I knew I wasn’t at Step One at all. My path had merely been diverted by a very annoying and slippery rock that sent me on my ass into the icy cold stream. It took me two years to regroup and in those two years I focused on other projects. I built my resume one little article and a second murder-mystery at a time. I looked back and saw my stepping stones zig-zagging all over Hell’s half acre, but I’d traversed them. I may have slipped, stumbled, crumbled, cried, and cursed, but I mostly FOUGHT my way across those damned stones. I was not about to give up now. I’m too stubborn for that and seeing all the progress I’d made helped, too.

I’ve got at least two more events planned for this year and now that I have the first one under my belt, I’m looking forward to the others even more. Baby steps. This process is not going to happen overnight. The trick is not to let the down times and the imagined failures drag me into the muck of my own raging self-doubts. I will continue to fight for this dream because I don’t know any other way. It’s too much of who I am. I am blessed by being surrounded by those who believe in me when all I really want to do is chuck it all into a bonfire. Words of encouragement are not just words, they are vital to the process that keeps me going when I feel like I just don’t want to anymore.

All that from a simple two-hour event held in the middle of nowhere. Thank you all for your continued support, your kind words, and the opportunity to share and entertain you with my dream. You are each a hand held up out of that crazy stream of life that helps guide me from one stepping stone to the next and I am truly grateful beyond all measure.

Excerpt from “No Rest For The Wicked”

     The following is the the intro and first two chapters of my upcoming ghost story, NO REST FOR THE WICKED scheduled for release Fall 2016. Please note this novel contains some explicit sexual content. If that sort of thing turns you off, you may not wish to read further. However, it is intricate to the plot and to the hauntings you will learn about further in the story. The rest of you brave souls … read on.
August 1882
     She didn’t have to see it to believe it. She could hear them just fine. She’d suspected the truth for months. It was time to do something about it. She’d waited and planned long enough. Lucy looked up the stairs, gripping the top of the wooden balustrade with a firm, steady hand. Oh, yes, he was up there. He thought her so meek and submissive, but he knew as well as anyone who had not hesitated to shoot those damned Yankees point blank during the War. Yes, Beauregard Addams and his little trollop really should know so much better than to do what they were doing up there. You didn’t cross Lucy Addams without paying a price.
     She dried her palm against the folds of her dressing gown before pulling the revolver from Beau’s holster. Idiot, she thought, keeping his gun loaded and ready on the table at the foot of the stairs like that. He’d done it for years, though and now it would be his undoing. Her footsteps were silent and slow as she climbed each tread. Sweat dampened the brow above her hazel eyes, but her heart had gone cold and the color of her rage was icy blue and lethally calm.
     “C’mon, suck it,” she heard him order. “Suck it, my little slut.”
     Feminine moans and grunts of pleasure shuddered through the closed bedroom door as Lucy’s damp hand wrapped around the knob. She turned it oh-so-slowly. Lucy licked her lips.
     He had his back to the door as a dark-skinned woman knelt on the floor in front of him, naked. Beau’s trousers were pushed down to just above his knees. He’d not even taken off his waistcoat yet. Both of his hands held the kneeling woman’s unseen face against his groin as he rocked his hips back and forth faster.
     Beau moaned.
     Lucy knew that sound well. He was about to climax. Let him, she thought as a smile touched her lips and she raised the gun, aiming it at the base of his skull not ten feet away. Her husband’s ass flexed as he pushed himself into the other woman’s mouth and tipped his face towards the ceiling with a helpless groan that bordered on a yell.
     “Beau,” Lucy said just loud enough to be heard over the noise of his release.
     His eyes shot open.
     Lucy exhaled slowly and squeezed the trigger just like he’d taught her to do.
***
Chapter 1
     Twin, square columns painted ghost white and topped with massive cast iron planters stood guard on either side of an iron gate into which had been worked an impressive letter ‘A’. Vines poured from the tops of the planters and reached out in opposing directions. Their delicate stalks twisted along the top of the fencing to create a thick, tangled drapery of vines and leaves. Behind the fence, two more sentinels loomed tall and foreboding in the guise of ancient gray elms. Their yellow-tainted leaves shivered as the Harley and its two riders passed slowly beneath the entwined branches of the trees.
     Hidden further back stood the house. A ripple of fear stroked Grace’s spine and set the hairs on her arms on end. She hugged Eric’s sides just a little tighter. Bone-white with black shutters, the entire front facade boasted a two-story porch where thick, lathed spindles held aloft paint chipped railings. Half a dozen steps led up to a wide door framed by a fan window on top and glass side panels. Two more urns, like the ones atop the front columns, squatted empty on either side of the front door.
     As they passed beyond the elms, Grace turned her attention to the left. A single story room of some sort jutted out from the main body of the house. Solid-colored drapes prevented any chance of seeing what was inside. More of the familiar vines spread their long, greedy fingers around the corner and had worked their way halfway across the front, almost touching the narrow windows.
     The grounds were unkempt and ragged. Wisteria grew at random lengths over the porch while shrubs stood tall and jagged at the corners. In the center of the circular carriageway they now rounded, a scantily clad statue of a woman stood poised above a brier of roses gone wild with dead and withered blossoms.
     Eric pulled the bike to a stop behind a white compact car while lowering his boot-shod feet to the ground. The engine was cut. For a moment, silence rang in Grace’s ears. The house would easily accommodate both of their businesses, but for what price? Grace put her hands on her husband’s shoulders and swung one leg over the back before landing with a soft hop on the dry, Virginia soil.
     Both worked off their helmets before speaking.“What do you think?” Eric asked. At just under six foot Eric was a lean one hundred seventy pounds and towered a good nine inches over his petite wife. He hung his helmet on the end of one of the bike’s handlebars.
     “It’s huge,” she said.
     Eric chuckled.
     “Oh, stop it!” she mock punched him on the arm, “Men are such pigs.”
     “Oink,” he grinned and leaned in to give her a tender kiss. Eric looked every bit the bad-ass biker dude with an unruly beard, made even more so after the ride, and long blonde hair he kept pulled into a ponytail that, even when braided, reached the middle of his back, but Grace knew all too well he was nothing but a teddy bear inside. In their eight years together, she’d never seen him start a fight. He’d broken up a few, but he was never one to throw the first punch or deliver the deciding blow. Eric used his hands for making music and when they saw the ad in the paper for this property, it had sounded a perfect space to set up the private studio he’d been talking about for the past year.
     The front door squeaked open and a well-dressed, balding man emerged carrying a single manila folder, “Afternoon, folks. Welcome to Greenbrier,” he grinned like some seedy, used car salesman. “Couldn’t help but hear you pull in.” He thrust out his free hand to Eric. “I’m James, James Fletcher. Pleased to meet you.” He shook Grace’s hand, too.
     “Eric McLaughlin, and this here is my ol’ lady, Grace.”
     “Pleased to meet you both.” The realtor looked slightly uncomfortable. “Well, let’s not waste any time, shall we? Let me show you around.”
     “Lead on,” Eric replied as he reached back and took Grace’s hand. “C’mon, woman. Let’s see what this boy’s got to offer.”
     Grace gave him a little smirk that the realtor didn’t catch, “Stop,” she mouthed silently and was about to punch her husband in the arm again until Mr. Fletcher turned around.
“This poor place really only needs some T.L.C., you understand? It’s been empty for years,” the realtor said. His thin lips turned up in a grimace. Grace didn’t like it.
     “How come?” she asked.
     “The last folks abandoned the property nearly five years ago. Just up and left. Some sort of family emergency, I’m told.” Mr. Fletcher pulled the grand front door open and motioned for the prospective buyers to proceed ahead of him.
     Even before she stepped through the door, Grace’s nose crinkled. “What’s that smell?”
The front entry was generous, but not overwhelming. To the left and right doors, led into what appeared to be twin rooms on either side. In front of them a large staircase ran up along the left hand wall. A wide hallway running parallel to this staircase led to rooms lost in a murky haze of dust and cobwebs. Grace sniffed the air again. “Do you smell that?”
Eric and Mr. Fletcher both sniffed but shook their heads.
     “What’s it smell like?” Eric asked.
     She shrugged. “Like something burning, maybe? Or like … like when we went to Gettysburg.”
    Eric’s eyebrows arched, “Gettysburg?”
     “Oh, you know how all that cannon smoke smelled.”
     “Gunpowder?”
     Grace nodded, “Yeah, just like that, just like gunpowder.” She sniffed again, but the air held nothing but the scent of an old, shut up house, dust and aged wood. “It’s gone now.”
     Mr. Fletcher chuckled, “Well, you’re near Winchester. We saw a lot of the War here. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a re-enactment going on west of here about sixty miles. Get the right sort of wind blowing and you can smell those things for miles. However, I can assure you this house saw no part of the real war. Greenbrier Plantation was built several years after it ended to replace the original house that burned down in 1862. The story goes that the owners, Dr. Addams and his young wife, Lucy, fled in the middle of the night and spent the rest of the battle torn years in France.” The realtor adjusted his glasses and walked into the room immediately to the right. “This was the front parlor, the ladies parlor as it was known, very bright and cheerful in its day. Just needs a bit of paint and new paper on the walls to bring it back to that.
     Grace hugged her elbows to her stomach, looking at the room and the cobweb-draped light fixture that hung from the ceiling. “I like it,” she said as she turned slowly in place. “Would make a great room for painting in. The natural light that comes right through is perfect.”
    Mr. Fletcher grinned his approval and ushered them towards the room across the hall.
“Originally, this was the dining room.” He headed towards another door along the back wall. “Kitchen is through here. Plenty big enough to be an eat-in if you’d like.”
     “Hold up,” Eric said. “What’s all this about?”
      The realtor paused and looked at the pile of sheetrock and stack of two-by-fours as if he’d not seen them at all before. “Oh, those, well, the last owners were renovating the place. Those are the materials they left behind.”
     Eric strode closer in long, easy steps over. “He left his toolbox,” he bent down and picked up what appeared to be nothing more than an old rag, “and his apron. Still has nails in the pockets.” Eric steadied his gaze at Mr. Fletcher. The biker knew how to look mean when he had to. “Tell us again why these folks left, Mr. Fletcher?”
     The older man licked his lips nervously. “In the night, quickly. They packed up their car as if a tornado was coming and were gone.”
     “I thought that was how the first owners left.”
     “Yes, well,” Mr. Fletcher stammered, “yes, they did. It was during the War and the original place was on fire. They had to run for their lives. These folks just had a family emergency.”
     Eric crossed his arms and planted his feet firmly on the hardwood floor. “That must have been some family emergency.”
     “I only know what the office told me, Mr. McLaughlin.”
     “It’s haunted, isn’t it?” Grace’s voice was edged with hope.
     Dust motes sparkled in the beams of sunlight that streamed through the dirty dining room windows.
     “I’ve heard that, too.” Mr. Fletcher conceded. “Most places around these parts claim to be haunted.”
     Grace felt herself smile, “How exciting. Who by, Mr. Fletcher? What happened?”
     The realtor nudged his glasses up on his nose again and was about to speak.
     “Another time, huh?” Eric said with a chuckle. “Let’s finish the viewing first. If we decide we’re interested and want to discuss price, you two can talk about ghosts.”
     “Party pooper,” Grace mock pouted, “ruining all my fun.”
     Eric reached back and swatted her ass playfully, “I’ll show you some fun later.”
     Fletcher cleared his throat and looked away. Eric chuckled, “Sorry. Back to the business at hand.”
     The kitchen had been updated completely by the last owners and from Grace’s perspective needed nothing more than a good, hard scrubbing and some fresh paint more to her liking. A narrow staircase led from the back left corner of the kitchen up to a small room that the realtor told them was probably used by a servant A second door led into the upstairs hallway, but Mr. Fletcher took them back to the foyer the way they’d come.
     “The den,” Mr. Fletcher said as he swung open the second door on the right. It was the same size as the ladies parlor but was dim and very little sunlight came in through the single east-facing window. Layers of brittle wallpaper clung to the walls. “Electric was put in sometime in the early fifties. Apart from the kitchen and bathroom, it’s not been updated as far as I know.”
     “Damn,” Eric let out a breath and shook his head. “All I’m seeing are dollar signs, babe.”
     Grace ignored the remark. “How long did the last people live here?” Grace eyed the walls, calculating how much work would have to go into peeling, scraping, priming, and repapering them.
     “About six months.”
     “Things that go bump in the night,” Grace snickered.
     Mr. Fletcher smiled. “Family emergency,” he corrected her. “After the family left, the estate was handled by their lawyer and the bank. They never came back. The house was foreclosed and has been empty and on the market ever since.”
     Eric nodded. He had never been one to believe in ghosts or any of that kind of thing. That was Grace’s fancy, not his, and he had always let her have her harmless fun with it. Her sense of wonder and fantasy had also helped make her series of children’s books and illustrations very popular. Who knew, maybe the house and its alleged ghosts would inspire that young adult novel she’d always wanted to write. She found inspiration in the oddest places.
     Mr. Fletcher stepped back out in the hallway. “Shall we go upstairs?”
     “Lead on,” Eric replied.
     Hand-carved woodwork greeted them throughout the house, from the carved balustrade to the floors, the wainscoted hallway, doors and frames, and windows casings All spoke of the finest craftsmanship. Sunlight streamed through the dust motes the three of them kicked up in the front bedrooms. A room in the back had been updated into a large bathroom. The claw foot tub with its draw-around curtain was lovely and nostalgic but not practical; plus, the thing was an oasis of rust. With four bedrooms and the servant’s quarters, the place was almost too much.
     “What about that little room I saw from the outside, along the west?” Grace asked as they descended the front porch steps.
     “Ah,” the realtor’s eyes lifted. “If you think the thought of ghosts is fun, you’re going to love what went on over there.” He pulled the ring of keys from his pocket and fished through them.
     “What’s over there?”
     “There were coffins,” Mr. Fletcher said, giving Grace a wink.
     “Coffins?” Her heart gave an excited extra beat.
     Eric pulled back to a halt. “Whoa now, wait just a fuckin’ minute. Why the hell were there coffins here?”
     Concern etched deep into the realtor’s forehead and the hopeful look of a sale dwindled. “Alright, I’m having a bit of fun with you two. Let me show you and I’ll explain.”
     Eric didn’t move even when Mr. Fletcher started to walk away.
     The realtor turned back. “I assure you, there are no coffins in there, not anymore. The original owner, Dr. Beauregard Addams, was a very successful undertaker until the time of his death. That little addition was his place of business.”
     Still, Eric didn’t move. “You’re saying this place was a funeral home?”
     “A hundred and thirty years ago, yes.”
     Grace giggled as she watched her husband’s face. “Don’t tell me big, bad biker man is afraid.”
     Eric scowled, “No, I just think it’s damn creepy, that’s all. Let’s go look.”
     Mr. Fletcher resumed walking as he fiddled with the keys in his hand. “If it helps any, Mr. McLaughlin, there is no access from this wing to the main house. From what I’ve heard, the doctor’s wife was about as thrilled with her husband’s occupation as you are. She requested the two areas be kept apart during the reconstruction.” He slipped the key into the lock and swung the door open. “Well, here we are…”
     Grace stepped forward and peered in.
***
Chapter 2
     Mr. Fletcher moved aside, letting Grace tug Eric into the room as if leading him into a cheap carnival spook house. It wasn’t a big room by any means, fourteen feet wide and maybe twelve feet deep, but with nine-foot ceilings, the emptiness gave the impression of being much larger. Sunlight poked through what remained of a shabby, brown curtain coated with dust and partially eaten by moths.
      Rubble from the crumbling ceiling crunched under Eric and Grace’s boots. From every corner, sheets of cobwebs sagged under their own thick weight. Each was filled more with dust and debris than food for the spiders that had spun them. Portions of the plaster walls that had not already fallen away from the lathe were bowed and cracked.
     At dead center, a trash can waited to be filled by the heap of wallpaper on the floor next to it. Grace let go of Eric’s hand and bent over to pick up the push broom from the floor. “Wow,” she whispered as if afraid her breath alone would send more of the walls and ceiling crashing down around them.
     “Just a little T.L.C., eh, Mr. Fletcher?” Eric chuckled, stroking the length of his foot long beard with one hand.
     The realtor moved away from the doorway and joined them in the dark staleness of the space. “You’ve seen the rest of the house. I assure you, this is as bad as it gets. Even the carriage house is in better shape.”
     The biker grunted and crossed his arms.
     “Someone started to work on it, at least,” Grace said, leaning the broom handle against the trash can from where it had fallen long ago.
     “Where’s that go?” Eric nodded his head towards a door on the opposite wall from the front one.
     Mr. Fletcher searched his key ring again, “That’s the embalming room.” He hesitated when neither of his clients said anything, “Do you want to look or …?”
     “Baby?” Eric deferred to his wife.
     She nodded and brushed her hands off on her jeans.
     The inner room was only slightly larger than the first, but instead of hardwood floors, these had been tiled in white. There was a large drain in the middle of the floor. “Lovely,” Eric muttered. “Bets on what went down there?” For him, at least, the place had lost all its Victorian charm.
     The walls matched the floor a third of the way up before yielding to more cracked and crumbling lathe and plaster walls. There were no windows. Eric noticed Grace’s nose crinkle as she tried not to breath in the bitter tang of what he suspected was formaldehyde. “The tiles aren’t in too bad a shape,” she noted. “Only a dozen or so would need to be replaced.”
     Mr. Fletcher smiled then laughed weakly, “See, no coffins. Just empty rooms.”
     Eric couldn’t help but shake his head, “I dunno. It’s a lot of work and what the hell would we use this for?”
     Grace sidled up to her husband and took his beefy hand in hers. “Let’s go see the carriage house.”
     Eric didn’t like the look he saw in his wife’s eyes. He knew that look and it told him she still liked the place despite the damn funeral home wing. “Alright,” he gave her hand a quick squeeze and looked towards Mr. Fletcher. “The Old Lady’s still interested. Let’s do like she says or I’ll never hear the end of it.”
     Mr. Fletcher broke into a smile, “Excellent, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
     “Better be,” Eric grumbled and followed the realtor.
     The lower level of the carriage house was much as Eric expected, a cobbled-stone floor, thick plank walls and open beams. The logs appeared hand hewn and were notched together at the corners. Both sets of double doors, one on the front of the building and the other at the back, moved with surprising ease on huge iron hinges. On the left and right hand sides were open-air carriage ports. Bright sunlight reflected on the single, but fairly good-sized, window over the front doors.
     “Would make a good garage,” the realtor offered.
     Eric hated to admit it, but Mr. Fletcher was right. He hated not having a garage for the bike and with the carports, they would have room for it as well as Grace’s car and his pick-up. “And up there?” he pointed to the window.
     “Let me show you. Entrance is around back.”
     It was clear the back stairs were a recent addition. They ascended along the back of the right hand port and ended with a nice-sized deck that ran the full length of the main body of the carriage house. Eric estimated it to be about eight feet wide. It was all pressure-treated lumber and not in the least bit unstable.
     “Oh, look at the view from up here!” Grace’s eyes sparkled.
     Beyond a gently sloping embankment that stretched several hundred feet, a stream sparkled in front of a line of trees. “That stream is the property line,” the realtor told them.
     “What’s the acreage again?” Eric asked.
     “Just under five. It was five times that originally. And you get the added bonus of a small slave’s cemetery just over there. It’s hard to see from here, but it’s there.” He pointed off to the east to an area that looked like nothing more than overgrown fields.
     “Ooooh,” Grace cooed with interest, craning her neck to try and see anything off in that direction.
     “Oh joy,” Eric sighed. “But five acres is plenty to keep the neighbors at bay,” Eric found himself smiling again. Maybe he could tolerate that old funeral home idea. He wasn’t so sure about being a cemetery caretaker though.
     “Let me show you inside.”
     Grace gasped as Mr. Fletcher swung open the door, allowing them their first glimpse of the interior. “Oh, wow! It’s an apartment.”
     “The previous owners were living here before they got called away.” He remained out of the way and let the couple roam the space at their leisure. “Bathroom is through there. It’s small but all redone five years ago.”
     “It’s incredible,” Grace was looking through the cupboards. “It’s perfect!” she added. “We could put the leather sleeper sofa up here, Eric, and decorate it all southwestern. Look at these beautiful beams. They must have taken ages to sand down like that.” She ran her fingertips over the glowing wood.
     “All it needs is a good cleaning,” Mr. Fletcher said. “You could do what the other owners were doing, live here while they worked on the house.”
     Eric nodded slightly, not wanting to seem too interested, but the realtor did have a very good point. They couldn’t afford to keep the apartment they had and the mortgage on this place, too. In all their house-hunting over the past few months that had been an issue they’d discussed at length, move-in-ready or no deal.
     “Were you expecting to show the house to others, Mr. Fletcher?” Grace was standing at the front window, looking out.
    “No. Why?”
     “I just saw someone upstairs, a young woman. She looked out the window at me and smiled. She’s gone now; went further back into the room.”
     Mr. Fletcher and Eric came up beside Grace. “Which window?” the realtor asked. Grace pointed it out. “That’s the room over the kitchen. We better go look. The last thing we need here is vandalism.”
     They took the shortest route, through the back door that led directly into the kitchen. A quick search of the house revealed no intruder or signs of anyone having been there other than themselves.
     “There was plenty of time for whoever it was to go out this way,” Eric offered as they stepped off the front porch.
     “We’d have heard a car, wouldn’t we?” Grace looked back at the house. Worry lines creased her forehead.
     “Not if it were kids, baby.” Eric could almost hear his wife’s imagination working. “It wasn’t a ghost,” he added.
     “You don’t know that.”
     He rolled his eyes and shook his head as he turned away, knowing to argue was pointless. “We’ll have to talk it over, Mr. Fletcher,” Eric said as he extended his hand to the realtor.
     “Of course. It’s a big decision.” Mr. Fletcher reached into his suit coat pocket and pulled out a business card, “Call me as soon as you’ve decided.”
     Eric handed the card over to Grace who tucked it into her purse without even looking at it. Her attention was still firmly focused on the house. He knew that look all too well. She was in love; funeral parlor, cemetery, ghost story and all.
     “Babe?” Eric nudged his wife’s shoulder.
     “Huh?” She snapped out of her semi-dazed state, then realized the realtor was extending his hand towards her. She gripped it and muttered some sort of nice-to-meet-you gibberish and smiled.
     Mr. Fletcher headed back towards the house.
     “You alright?” Eric touched her arm.
     “Yeah, tired. Long day.” She shuddered as if cold and gave him a peck on the lips. “And I’m famished! Let’s go eat.”
***
     Grace offered Eric full access to her already satisfied and sweat-dampened body. The sound of her moans alone made him twitch, but he wasn’t quite ready to fill her that way.
Eric drew his mouth back slightly to blow on her sex then slid two fingers inside her. He pumped them back and forth a few times before introducing a third digit. He wet the fingers of his other hand with her spent juices and pressed on her anus, easing them in slowly. Grace was not always receptive to ass play, but she’d had a couple of glasses of wine with their dinner and that was sometimes enough to make her more willing.
He was throbbing hard and he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to hold off. “Come on, baby. Do it again for me.”
     Grace’s tempo increased in response as her hand slid down to rest atop his. Her whole body went rigid and still. Her breathing stopped then gushed back into her as he felt his fingers clenched and released by the involuntary throbbing inside her.
     He rose up between her fully spread legs and entered her with one smooth thrust of his hips. Grace’s legs wrapped around him, hands shifting to his flat stomach before finally coming to rest on his hips. She urged him forward and down until his chest pressed to hers.
     Her hands moved to the small of his back as her lips parted and pressed to his. Eric pumped harder until the muscles of his body clamped him into place as he shouted with the orgasm. Eric’s head grew light as his consciousness threatened to slip away. Then he was back, grunting and sweating over his wife again.
     “God, baby,” he mumbled, pressing his face into the side of her neck, tasting her damp skin and smelling her hair. Eric’s hips rocked unconsciously and he wished he could spend the rest of his life just making love to her over and over.
     She made a soft, soothing sound beneath him as her hands slid up his back and stroked the base of his skull with a tenderness he found unreal. Grace kissed his shoulder and sighed, “I love you, hon.”
     “Love you, too, babe.” He knew he should roll off her but this felt so good right now. Eric flexed his ass, giving another playful nudge into her.
     “Mmmm…” she clenched around him, teasing. “We should sleep,” she whispered against his ear.
     Reluctantly he withdrew and rolled to his back to lie beside her in the bed they had shared for nearly ten years.
     Eric was half asleep when Grace spoke again, “What?”
     “The house, what do you think?” she repeated.
     “I dunno, babe. Too tired to think about it right now.”
     “Oh,” she was quiet, but after a few minutes he felt her roll to her side, away from him, and sigh.
     “What do you think?” He gave up trying to sleep and turned to wrap his left arm around her waist, pulling her close under the blankets.
     “I like it.” “It’ll be a lot of work. I thought we’d decided we wanted a place move-in ready?”
     Her shoulders sagged a little. She didn’t just like it, he could tell. It was the house she wanted. “But with the price so low, we could have a lot left over to fix it up with, maybe even hire people, too. And we can live in the carriage house. It isn’t much smaller than what we have here.”
     She was right on all counts. “Let’s sleep on it, okay?” He really was tired and if he let her go on much longer, she’d have him signing the paperwork in his sleep. She had a way about her that sometimes he just couldn’t say no to.
     “Deal,” she said, hugging his arm tight and kissing his forearm.
     Eric closed his eyes. Few things in life felt better than laying with her like this, except maybe the way they got to this point in the first place. His mind drifted, letting the feel and smell of her and their lovemaking sink deep into his muscles and bones.
     “She was naked.”
     His eyes popped open again. “Huh? Who?”
     “The woman I saw in the back window of the house. She was naked.” She said it rather timidly which was somewhat unusual for her.
     “You sure you weren’t just seeing some sort of reflection in the glass? You know how the glass in those old houses can be warped and rippled. Maybe it was a cloud or something.”
     “It wasn’t a cloud,” she insisted. “It wasn’t a reflection of anything. I saw her, Eric, clear as I would see myself in the mirror. She was young, early twenties, I’d guess, and real pretty. I saw her face, her breasts, and they were bare. She looked right at me.”
    He pulled her a bit tighter into his arms. “I believe you saw something, baby. Can’t we just sleep and talk about all this tomorrow?”
     “Sure,” she said, her voice dull and resigned to dropping the subject for now.
     Eric kissed her again. “Go to sleep.”
     Grace said good night, but it was hours before she was able to sleep. The woman’s face would not be erased from her inner eye, the soft tilt of her dark brown eyes and the curve of her full lips turning up ever so slightly. She’d told Eric and the realtor that the woman had smiled and she had, only it wasn’t a happy smile. It was forced and pleading and it begged to be seen. Their eyes had locked for a split second before the woman seemed to step away and fade back into the darkness of the room behind her.
    Or maybe, Grace thought as sleep did finally pull her down, she’d not stepped back at all. Maybe she’d simply dissolved like the ghost Grace believed she was.
***
    The warm aroma of brewing coffee tickled the inside of Eric’s nose before he opened his eyes. Grace’s side of the bed was cold. She’d been up awhile. Pity, he thought rather selfishly as he lightly fondled his morning erection. His initial idea was to toss off right here and now in bed. Grace would have a fit, though. She’d either be upset she’d missed out, or pissed off he’d made a mess, or both.
     Naked, Eric padded to the bathroom and closed the door, still holding himself. He lifted the toilet seat and gazed into the blue water with a blank, just-woke-up stare. Having Grace know he still jerked off now and then never sat comfortably in his head. He didn’t want her to think she was doing something wrong or maybe she wasn’t enough. Women were weird like that. The only time she ever turned him down was when she was having her monthly.
     With a generous amount of toilet tissue, he cleaned himself and the edge of the toilet bowl off, then flushed. As he washed his hands, he looked in the medicine cabinet mirror. “Damn, you’re getting old.” He scowled a bit, wondering where all the wrinkles had suddenly come from. The wild days of his ill-spent youth were catching up way too fast. Eric ran his fingers through the head of hair that was already starting to gray even at thirty eight. “Better old than dead,” he said, quoting his grandfather now many years the latter.
     A pair of arms snaked around Grace’s waist as warm lips and the brushing of long whiskers tickled her neck. “G’morning,” Eric’s soothing voice whispered against her ear.
     She let out a soft purr and turned her back on the eggs she was scrambling up in a bowl. “And a good morning to you, too,” she kissed him on the mouth. “Sleep well?”
     “Yes,” he grinned and was on the verge of adding how he’d waken up with a hard-on but decided against it as soon as the thought crossed his mind. He didn’t want her asking what he done about it, and she would. “Whatcha making?” he asked instead, eyeing the eggs.
     “Scrambled eggs, omelets or French toast. Name your poison.”
     “Omelet,” he decided and pulled away slowly from her inviting body to pour himself some coffee. “Going for a smoke,” he continued, lifting the half pack and lighter from the countertop and heading out to their small patio. It was just off the kitchen through a pair of sliding glass doors and just big enough for two lawn chairs. Eric lit up and looked at the cityscape below. He found himself imagining standing on the back deck of that carriage house in Virginia instead. Maybe he had made up his mind.
     He had grown to dislike city living more and more lately. Twenty years ago when he’d been a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed high school graduate it was everything he wanted. He’d landed a job with a security company helping to install and update systems. This led to designing layouts for contractors, builders, and pre-existing businesses all over the city. The pay was good, real good, and he enjoyed doing it. The rest of the time he’d spent with his band mates getting way too drunk and stoned after practice and gigs. They were good, or at least he thought so. But, as it goes, people meet new people and end up not wanting to, or being able to, hang out with the old ones.
     Eric was just as guilty as the rest of them. He blamed Grace.
     There she was, sitting off to the right one night during a show. He could barely take his eyes off her. His playing suffered. He’d never believed in soul mates or love at first sight until that night. Maybe it was the dusting of freckles on her otherwise flawless skin or her light brown eyes. Whatever it was, Eric was hooked. This one was not going to get away. The whole thing had felt crazy. After only a month of dating, he’d popped the question. Without a moment’s hesitation, Grace had said yes. He’d do everything in his power for that woman.
     He drew in the last bit of smoke from the cigarette and crushed out the butt in the clear ashtray. “Good-bye, city lights,” he said to the gray steel and brick buildings nearby then went inside to tell his wife the good news. She cried, just like he knew she would.

Movie Review – Let Me In (2010)

Movie Review: Let Me In (2010). Directed by Matt Reeves. Rated R.
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins, and Elias Koteas

Not only must twelve-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) endure the nightmare of his parents going through an ugly divorce, he also faces the tortures of being the main target for the school bully. Owen keeps to himself and has no friends until a new family moves into the apartment next door. He meets barefooted Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), who says she’s also twelve, more or less, at the apartment complex’s playground one night. She’s not particularly friendly and tells Owen they can’t be friends. When he asks why, she only shrugs and says, “Because that’s just the way it is.”  Despite this, their mutual sense of loneliness and need for a companion, draws the two children together.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I adore vampires! I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was very close to the same age as the two main characters in the book. My book shelves once housed well over 100 vampire novels and non-fiction titles dealing with the undead. Christopher Lee’s version of the Count enthralled me through my impressionable teenage years. Over the years you start to crave something unique. It’s all well and good to be about vampires, but a new spin is always welcome. Let Me In, a remake of the 2008 Swedish film, Let The Right One In, certainly puts a new spin on things yet remains true to the classic Horror idea that vampires are monsters! Abby doesn’t sparkle, that’s for sure.

Abby’s father (Richard Jenkins) knows all too well the price of loving her. She’s blood thirsty and feeding that animalist hunger can only push the boundaries of those who love her to the breaking point. When he realizes that Abby had made friends with the boy next door, he makes his disapproval very clear. However, he’s helpless to end the relationship blossoming between the two. No one is safe from Abby’s thirst: not her father, not the policeman (Elias Koteas) investigating the strange Cult-like slayings in the area, not the other neighbors in the complex, not the bullies that torment Owen, and maybe not even Owen.

The performances by Kodi and Chloe are amazing. Kodi, especially. When he’s on the phone trying to talk to his father you could feel the torment and fear in his voice. His expressions begged for help. His rage at the bullies was palatable. His young love for Abby was pure bliss and yearning. I’ve already recommended this movie to several people over the past week since seeing it. Great film!

5 stars out of 5!

Why Do We Say That?

Installment #3: Tying The Knot.

As a writer, I ponder not just words and how to string them together into some sort of interesting and entertaining tale, but the meanings behind certain common words and phrases. I’m in the beginning stages of planning an August wedding and in keeping with that theme, my thoughts have turned to “Tying The Knot”.

Some sources say the expression came to us from the ancient Roman Empire where the girdle of the Bride was bound into place with many knots by her attendants. It was the task of the Groom to untie those knots on the wedding night so the union could be consummated. Celtic Pagans have long referred to their wedding ceremony as a Handfasting in which the right hands would be fastened, or ‘fasted’ together in some way. Another origin suggests that soldiers and sailors who spent a lot of time out to sea and of which a majority were illiterate at the time, would send a piece of twine to their intended as a way of proposal. Should the lady return the string tied in a knot, the answer was ‘yes’. In Hindu traditions, the Bride and Groom would tie a necklace of flowers together to finalize the marriage.

From The Codex Mendoza of 1434, we find an image titled Aztec Marriage Couple depicting a man and woman seated on a mat. The Bride is powdered with yellow earth and adorned with red feathers. The wedding, which took place in the Groom’s home, was finalized by the couple having their wedding garments literally tied together.

Circa 1225 in The Legend of St. Katherine the word ‘cnotte’ was used to mean the bond of matrimony. “Swa ye cnotte is icnut bituhhen unc tweien.” roughly translated to mean, “As we are fastened and tied together, so the knot is knitted between us two.” Actual knots have been used in wedding ceremonies for centuries with the tying of the wrists of the Bride and Groom with the use of twine and sashes. Sometimes the sash or twine is merely wrapped and draped over the wrists. Other times a lose knot is created.

According to The Encyclopedia of Superstitions by E. & M.A. Radford, in the 17th century there was the tradition of placing pieces of knotted ribbon, always blue, to the Bride’s gown. These were sewn in place with a single stitch and the lucky reception guest who was able to get one of these ribbons would then wear them for good luck. T. May wrote in The Heir in 1620, “The happy knot you tie, Concludes in love two houses’ enmity”. This was followed by “You meane to tye the knot, nothing but Death is able to vundoe.” in 1621 by J. Shirley. Even Shakespeare used the metaphor in his famous play, Romeo and Juliet. “Send for the Count. Go tell him this. I’ll have this knot knit up tomorrow morning.” In other words, there’s going to be a wedding in the morning.

In 1717, the English poet, Matthew Prior used the phrase, “So to the priest their case they tell: He ties the knot.” in his poem Alma: or, The Progress of the Mind.

The 1811 edition of The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue included the example “He has tied the knot with his tongue, that he cannot untie with his teeth: that is, he is married,” to define the term, “knot tied with the tongue”. Like so many others, Jewish tradition also has a long history of using knots during a marriage ceremony. In January 1826, The Wilmingtonian And Delaware Advertiser reported on “Miss Rothchild’s Marriage” with, “At an early hour on Monday morning, Stomford Hill, the county residence of N. M. Rothchild, Esq. was in a great state of  bustle, and most of its inhabitants were in qui vive, waiting the approaching hour when Hymen was to tie the knot of a son and daughter of the house
of Judah.”

Clearly, the symbolism of knot tying to represent a strong bond or unbreakable pledge has had a place in history and folklore for centuries and spans many cultures. From illiterate sailors to the wealthy Rothchild family, tying the knot stretches not just through the years, but across the classes. This, to me, shows the power and deep meaning of what true love and a marriage should be all about. When you tie something into a knot, you want it to remain in place. You want it to be strong. You want it to last. Knots are powerful symbols indeed, and what better symbol to use when making a vow that’s intended to last a lifetime?

The Attractiveness of the Well-Read Man

There are a lot of lists out there suggesting what books a Well-Read Man should read. I didn’t agree with any of them. Mind, they are good books, fine books, classics even, but in many ways, limiting. Even when that list included 100 books, how could that possibly cover the entire gamut of what’s out there to read? I’d like for my man to enjoy reading the same things I do, but that hasn’t happened entirely. My man is into science fiction, David Weber to be more specific. I lean in the direction of Stephen King. I dare say neither of us has read even half of the books on those Must Read lists, and yet I consider us both well-read individuals.

But being well-read isn’t entirely based on the books a person has read. When I think of a well-read man I think more along the lines of his life experiences; his willingness to explore and try new things. The well-read man of my dreams can be found learning about HTML, CSS, and Javascript or driving the back roads with his camera looking for the perfect old barn to photograph and when we get home, he fires up the computer and plays Fallout for a couple hours or plops down in front of the television to watch some college football. He’s a man who wants to learn new things. He has a sense of adventure and wants to share those adventures and explorations with me. The sharing part is vital. I find that very attractive. Well-read, for me, is synonymous with well-rounded; complex, deep, and multi-dimensional. I consider my father a well-read man though he freely admits he’s probably not read more than a dozen novels in his entire life. He’s a newspaper and magazine type guy.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Let my well-read man have a variety of interests. Let him read all the science fiction he can find, but let him also be willing to pick up a murder-mystery or a romance or a western and enjoy it just as much, too, or at least try to. My well-read man can wear jeans and a t-shirt, smell of motorcycle grease, and guzzle down a six pack one day and the next he’s just as attractive and comfortable donning a suit and tie, combing some Bay Rum oil through his beard, and taking us out to a romantic dinner.

Being well-read, like being well-educated, isn’t all about the books we’ve studied and enjoyed. I’ve worked a good many years with some highly educated people. They know their field of study inside and out. They’ve worked hard to get where they are in life and I’m not putting them or that hard work down, but all that book learning doesn’t always make them attractive to be around. All too many times what they’ve gained in education, they’ve lost in common sense, and a person without common sense is not at all attractive in my book.

As an author and an avid reader, I value the written word. Reading increases your vocabulary, improves your spelling, ignites the imagination, improves your memory, and allows one to explore the worlds we may not be able to visit in person.

Reading, like everything, is subjective and highly personal. A fussy eater limits themselves to a very narrow pallet of flavors. An artist who paints only in black and white, narrows their creative powers. A person who listens to only one type of music denies themselves a world of new sounds and rhythms. Locking yourself into a room with only one window that permits a singular view day in and day out, narrows what you know of everything beyond that window. Though we all have our preferred genre when it comes to books, mixing that up is just as important as trying new foods, listening to new music, or walking out that door to explore a brave new world beyond the mailbox.

This attractiveness isn’t limited to just men. Being well-read applies to all of us. Does a man want a partner who is only interested in one thing? Maybe some do. If all he wants is for you to be a good cook, keep a clean house, and be great in the sack, is that the type of guy you want to be around? To each their own, I suppose. That’s not what I’m into. I want a partner and friends I can discuss a myriad of topics with. That reminds me of an old boyfriend I had back in my early 20s. He was really good looking and he could tell you just about anything you ever wanted to know about the local fish population or the trees that grew in our area. And that’s where it ended. Yep, fish and trees. Not that I have anything against fish and trees, mind you, but I need more, want more, deserve more. The relationship lasted about six months.

I expect more from my partner and I want to be more for them as well as for myself. I don’t want to ‘complete’ anyone. No person, relationship, or religion should complete you. They can enhance what is already there, but the completion of the self comes from within, not from anything beyond that. Nor do I want to feel complete only because I am with someone. Come to me whole. Come to me well-read, well-rounded, and multifaceted. For me, that is where the attractiveness of a well-read man lies… that and he really must be a lover of books and reading.

Take Time To Enjoy Your Time

Death stalked me and my family this year. In most cases those that passed were people we’d not seen in a good many years. I guess that sort of softened the blows that were dealt. The family dog of 15 years went peacefully in her sleep in April. That was, and still is, tough for us. My dad’s brother passed at the end of August from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. In September two dear people from the Wild West group I was once in were killed in a motorcycle accident. Come November, a cousin’s husband died of Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 31. A couple weeks later a cousin was killed in car accident. He was 41. The week after that, another uncle died. I was really hoping that we’d make it through the rest of the year without seeing any more deaths in the family, but this morning I found out yet one more cousin had died at age 51. On top of that I saw the death of English author, Tanith Lee, who was a HUGE inspiration to me on many levels. Christopher Lee died at age 93 this year. Oh, the many hours I watched and pined over that man as Dracula.

This isn’t the most cheerful way to start out an end of year blog post, is it? No, but maybe it will help put things into perspective. We can’t stop death, at least not permanently. It’s going to happen to us all. In the meantime, it’s important we do as much living as we can. I did a lot of living in 2015, a whole lot!

In January I got my long-awaited second tattoo; a very pretty rainbow monarch with my kids’ names around it, done by my daughter, on my right calf.

I’m a planner. It may have seemed way too early to some people, but in February I made hotel reservations for our planned trip the first week of September to White Sands and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

March & April brought the urge to purge my life of those material things that no longer bring me joy. I went through three closets, a big dresser, and got rid of more books than I ever dreamed I’d be able to part with.

May saw Jim and I taking our first, and thus far only, group ride together down in the Athens-Wysox area of Pennsylvania with our friend Amy and a friend I went to school with, Kathy, her husband Tim, and about 200+ other bad-ass looking bikers to raise money for breast cancer awareness. The first draft of “No Rest For The Wicked” was completed and the long, yet to be finished series of edits, began.

Along came June and a Father’s Day breakfast spent with my dad on Hiawatha Island. He passed on some words of wisdom that I’d forgotten about until now. He said, “Take time to enjoy your time.” It’s not about things or money; it’s about the moment, the time spent with others, and enjoying whatever it is in life that brings you joy. Words to live by indeed; take time to enjoy your time

July saw the United States pass the Marriage Equality Act giving same-sex couples the right to marry. I really don’t want to start a political or religious debate here about that, but I do need to express that I truly believe that Love is Love. If the Bible is right and we are all created in God’s image, male and female, then it stands to reason that we all have male and female aspects within in us. Some people lean more strongly in one direction or another and there’s nothing wrong with that. Those that are expressing so much hatred, clearly see the teaching of Christ very differently than I do. Christ did not teach hatred. Stop doing things in His name that are so hateful. I do not profess to be a Christian any more than I am Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or any other of the plethora of religions out there. I don’t believe any of them hold the Be-all, End-all answers to anything. What I do believe in is Love and the power of Love in all its forms. I think it’s wrong to tell one group of people that they their love is wrong or an abomination. “There is no greater power in all the world than that of Love.”

In early August I got a call from a member of the Berkshire Reading Club asking if I’d like to be the guest speaker for their annual dinner in May 2016. My brain balked at first, but I’m glad I told my brain to be quiet and accepted it. It made getting something new published more urgent. It spurred me to swallow some of my pride and move in a direction I have forever before resisted going in.

September found Jim and I out west once more. I was finally able to make my own memories of White Sands and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Once we got home, the adventure still wasn’t over for it was then that Jim proposed and I said yes and I finally got to wear the ring we’d picked out together in Mesilla. If for no other reason, that little ‘village” will forever hold a special place in my heart.

October meant writing, submitting, and being rejected by one publisher after another. I lost track how many queries I sent out. Despite the continued disappointments, I kept on writing new things. By then “No Rest For The Wicked” was out with my proofreader and I was deep into work on “Dark Hollow Road’. This month also saw Jim hitting his first New York State deer.

Along came November and the decision to not only self-publish “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of”, but to do a re-write and re-release of “Blood Of The Scarecrow”, too. We’ve worked hard, Jim and I. I re-read and edited both books again and again. Jim worked on the cover art and set to work re-creating my website. Proofs were obtained. More corrections followed. Apart from the updates to “…Scarecrow” and it being re-titled to “Secrets Of The Scarecrow Moon”, no new writing really took place.

On December 11th, the new book finally made its debut into the big bad world. Granted, the timing of the release may not have been a priority or at all well thought out. Folks were already in the midst of their Christmas shopping and delivery before Christmas was slim unless people ordered almost as soon as the word was out. The important part was to get something we could both be proud of out there.

In conclusion, 2015 has been insane and mostly wonderful! Apart from the numerous deaths, everything has been taking a slow and steady upward trend. Far too many times in the past I’ve looked back at the year that was and felt dismayed, disappointed, and frustrated. This has not been the case in the past few years. There’s clear progress now even if not in the way I thought or hoped it would be in some cases.

2016 promises to be just as interesting and, I hope, even more good and productive things come our way.

New goals are already setting themselves up, not the least of which is a wedding in August.

To read and comment more of the blogs I am subscribed to and improve on my own blogging habits.

To see another new novel unleashed on the world.

To be able to meet some friends I thus far only know via Facebook and Second Life.

Travel always ranks pretty high on my list of things to do. I love seeing new places and doing new things.

We can’t always avoid the negative, like death, but we can control how we deal with it and so my biggest goal of 2016 is to follow my dad’s advice and take time to enjoy my time, wherever, however, and with whomever I get to spend it with.

Surviving Narcissism & Why Karma Won’t Work

There has been an odd influx of articles about Narcissism posted by friends of mine on Facebook over the past couple months. It seems dealing with these mentally ill monstrosities that pass themselves off as “normal” human beings is a lot more common than I thought. It’s good to know I am not alone. I find it empowering to know I have friends I can talk to about this who will know exactly where I’m coming from on the subject. I was lucky enough to escape a seven year relationship with a narcissist about five years ago. It derailed my trust in others for a while, but I’m happy to report the train is back on its track and I’m returning to the person I was before this madness all happened.

Wikipedia defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as “a personality disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others.”

At PsychoCenter.com they state, “Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. … People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with this disorder may complain about a clumsy waiter’s “rudeness” or “stupidity” or conclude a medical evaluation with a condescending evaluation of the physician.”

Those are great definitions, but they really don’t come close to describing what it’s really like to be involved in a relationship with someone who has NPD. Truth of the matter is, you’re likely not going to know until it’s too late. I had no idea there was such a thing as NPD until after I was out of the relationship. The first time I read about it I was stunned. Why had I never heard of this before? The stories and descriptions I read fit the man I’d been with all those years perfectly! It helped me finally get answers to the questions I’d been asking since it all came crumbling down, why? Why had this happened? Why had he done this? Were all the things he told me about how he felt and the things he did that appeared to be founded in love a lie? Did he ever really love me? How can someone be so cruel, heartless, and unfeeling? Had I done something wrong?

No, I had done absolutely nothing wrong. Yes, every word he said and every deed he performed to convince me he loved me was fake; a lie, to get what he wanted out of the relationship. He wanted the control. He wanted to be the one to decide what was what. When things didn’t go his way, it was everyone’s fault but his own. He was full of rage towards anyone that did not agree with his philosophy. He was right. Everyone else was wrong. The only time he was happy was when he could prove himself right or could use his intelligence to manipulate people into agreeing with him. Oh, yes, he is a very intelligent man. Make no mistake about it. Most narcissists are very smart people. They know exactly what they are doing – they just don’t care who it hurts in the process. They are incapable of empathy.

My anger and confusion has dwindled over the past five years, but I’d be lying to say I didn’t wish all sorts of nastiness to befall this man. I prayed Karma would kick his sorry ass to the curb more than I care to admit. I hoped he’d suffer the pain he’d dished out to me, my family, and Lord knows how many others. I know, we aren’t supposed to pray or wish for bad things like that, but damn it – I’m guilty as charged, but I doubt that Karma is going to do any such thing and here’s why.

Lady With A Truck recently posted an article on her blog about this very topic called, “Law Of Attraction and Why The Narcissist Seems Immune to Karma”. It makes a whole lot of sense to me. In a nutshell, Karma doesn’t work on a Narcissist because they have no sense of doing anything wrong. It’s believed that Karma and the Law of Attraction works based on some sort of ‘vibration’ level. The more positive the feeling, the higher the vibration and the more positive the Karma. Things like love, joy, peace and gratitude give off high vibes. Shame, guilt, fear, and anger give off low vibes. If that’s the case then how does that nasty, manipulative narcissist escape Karmic retribution when their whole life is devoted to hurting others for their own gain and that they don’t even feel love, joy, peace, or gratitude?

To quote from Lady With A Truck’s blog,”…the narcissist does not believe he is bad, he feels justified in the things he does, he does not fear anyone, nor is he ashamed, or feel guilty and even his anger he blames on someone else. The law of attraction doesn’t know if what it is attracted to is a lie or not, it responds to the vibrational level of the person. If that person is sick and has a distorted view of their value whether that distortion is good or bad, they will attract the vibration they send out to the world.”

What about love? Again, Lady With A Truck seems to have stumbled upon a theory that makes a whole lot of sense. She writes, “The narcissist’s brain is wired differently than a normal person so when he meets a new victim his brain releases the same chemicals our brains do when we meet someone who we think we could love, only he is excited because he sees a source of things he wants. He acts much like a person in love, but what he is drawn to is the prospect of being able to suck in another prey and bleed them dry. It is intoxicating to the narcissist much like love is intoxicating to a normal person.”

I really think she is on to something here, unless you go with the idea that Karma is set into action by a Higher Intelligent Being (aka God). Surely, a benevolent, All-Knowing God would be able to tell the difference between real love and false love, right? Maybe it’s a combination of the two. I don’t know. I’d still like to believe those who have NPD will be paid back somehow.

On the positive side, you can chose, as I did, to not be the victim once you realize what’s going on. During the period between this realization that I was with a very, very not-nice-at-all-person and the time he moved out, I treated him as if he were completely invisible. I did not speak to him or acknowledge his presence or existence unless absolutely necessary. It was a very uncomfortable few weeks. He got nothing from me. I put up the biggest, thickest emotional wall I could between the two of us. I admit, I smiled when I saw his pathetic post on Facebook during this time, “I think I know what if feels like to be a ghost.”

After he left, if he emailed me about things he’d left behind, he got the shortest possibly response. The freedom and joy I felt with his departure was intoxicating!! That is not to say I wasn’t emotionally hurt. My trust in others was shattered. It’s been almost five years now and I am happy to report that trust is coming back into my life slowly but surely. The wall is crumbling. I have a wonderful life filled with love, joy, and appreciation.

My hatred and rage has turned to pity. I feel sorry for that man. He’ll never know what REAL love and happiness feels like, ever. As for Karma and the Laws of Attraction, I have faith he will be rewarded in due time. When, by who or what or how it happens isn’t my concern. Enough of my time and negative energy was wasted on that man already. I have way too many positive, high vibes to share and enjoy with others and the universe. I intend to enjoy and appreciate every minute.

PS – I wrote this article five months ago. Recently I learned that Karma had indeed found him and struck with its mighty Karmic Hammer in the best way possible. So, maybe Lady With A Truck’s theory is wrong after all. I know I got my closure on the matter.

Road Gators, Vultures & Turkeys, Oh My!

I got me one of those new-fangled ‘smart’ phones about a month back. My previous phone was pretty old, took lousy pictures, and internet was next to impossible. I balked at spending so much on a new phone considering how little I used the old one, but not wanting to fall too far behind in the world of technology and thinking having something better for an upcoming road trip might not be such a bad idea, I bit the bullet and took the plunge.

Miraculously, I was able to transfer my minutes from my old phone to my new and input my contacts all by myself. Over the next two weeks, amongst other things, I learned how to answer my phone! Remember when all you had to do pick it up and say, “Hello?” I wanted to get to know this new piece of equipment as best I could before my teacher, my 23 year-old-son, was no longer available. Amazingly, my computer geek boyfriend’s phone is even more primitive than my old phone! He would be of no help whatsoever.

They say there are two tests that will either make or break a relationship; a building/remodeling project or a road trip. A road trip with a smoker not allowed to smoke in the car and this unfamiliar method of phone GPS promised to be an adventure. I was assured his need to smoke would coincide with my need to use the ladies room. This was not quite how it happened.

Our trip west was just over 1600 miles long one way. He’d traveled the roads twice on his own before and we’d made the journey together one-way a year and a half ago. His trips took two days. Our prior one-way took three, but we were pulling a U-Haul with a car stuffed to the gills. We allowed ourselves the time he’d made it in, two days. It seemed reasonable at the time. It also seemed a simple enough plan to take along lunch and drinks and snacks for the road. These were strategically placed, or so we thought, so that the passenger could easily turn around in their seat and get whatever beverage or edible was wanted.

Long story short, someone had to stop to pee AND have a smoke a whole lot more that there was need of the ladies room. Course, being as my daddy always taught me never to pass up a chance to pee while on the road, I made use of these stops, too. There was no hope of visiting Boggy Creek in Fouke, Arkansas, let alone play at Dinosaur World in Kentucky, but we did see plenty of Road Gators. Clearly we have different priorities when it comes to travel! Next time, damn it! As for those snacks and drinks, ease of retrieval involved undoing ones seat belt, turning around and half crawling into the back seat while your pilot cruised along at about 70 miles-per-hour keeping an eye out for the numerous police cars. Of course, if a cop had been spotted chances are pretty high in our less than nubile conditions, we’d never had made it back into our proper forward-facing seated positions in time. Hot coffee in a foam cup or thermos top was a blast. It was an adventure alright.

Admittedly it took longer than planned. We would like to blame a generous amounts of stop and go traffic due to construction, but I think it had more to do with too much coffee, sore bottoms, tired arms, head and neck aches, full bladders, nicotine fits, leg cramps, hunger and just plain “I’m tired and I’m cranky” moments. We rolled into the driveway of our final destination at about 1:15AM, a good three hours later than we’d hoped.

Our return trip thinking may not have been as well thought out as we’d intended. It’ll be faster if we miss all that construction, right? What’s a couple extra hundred miles, right? We’ll be going faster, right? It’ll be fine. Even if we get in by midnight, that’s alright. Did I mention Jim had to be to work by 2pm the day after we planned on getting home? No? Well… yeah. That’s not quite how it worked out either.

We got off track before we even left Texas! This is where the aforementioned new phone technology comes into play. It seemed a simple enough plan. Instead of going through construction riddled Waco and congested Dallas, we’ll just cut across and head towards Shreveport, Louisiana. Piece’o’cake. ‘Cept somehow we found ourselves heading towards Houston. Why does the car’s compass say we’re headed southeast? Without a paper map, we had to rely on my phone’s GPS which I had used maybe twice before and, of course, ‘Connection To GPS Has Been Lost’. Eventually, it kicked in well enough and long enough for me to figure out where we’d gone wrong and get us back on track, while Jim expertly avoided hitting a flock of five or six vultures dining on road kill armadillo. Past experience told him that it was in our best interest to not be driving around in the Deep South with a dead vulture pressed into the grill of the car.

We zipped through Louisiana and Mississippi like nobody’s business, keeping an eye on the numerous road gators, making certain they weren’t flesh and blood gators. We even stopped at the Mississippi Welcome Center and did a touch of site-seeing. Alabama welcomed us and at 9:30 we started looking for motels. By 10:00 our exhausted bodies and brains were settled in. As we unloaded the car, and the loud drone of whatever big and bizarre nocturnal bugs and birds they have in the woods of Alabama buzzed around us, we wondered what State “Deliverance” is supposed to be set in and if we were anywhere near there. (Answer: The remote northern Georgia wilderness on the fictional Cahulawassee River and no.) Course… there’s still Big Foot or Skunk Ape or whatever they call him down there, to deal with!

Our hopes high, we gobbled down hardboiled eggs, blueberry muffins, bananas, and coffee the next morning in the motel room and headed out, bright and early by 7am. Tennessee and Kentucky proved to be our friends. Yeah, we’ve made it to Virginia. I silently wished there was time to visit my cousin in Roanoke. And then, we saw the flashing lights.

“Urgent Message When Flashing” the roadside sign warned and told us where to tune for details. We tuned in. We listened. It didn’t seem to pertain to us. We sallied forth, returning to whatever decent rock station would come in, settling on country as we had to. Several miles later, “Right lane closed ahead. Prepare to stop.” Traffic reports on the radio told us there were delays ahead. We slowed to the pace of a rolling parking lot. Dead still and a walking pace swapped places for the next fifteen to twenty miles, at least. It seemed like a hundred. Jim threatened to get out and walk alongside the car while I drove so he could have a ciggy. It probably wasn’t really such a bad idea. I’m sure we’d have stayed abreast of each other well enough. Thank God neither of us needed to use the restroom.

Over the radio we heard something like this: “The right lane of Interstate 81 North in Botetourt County near mile marker 154 will remain closed until approximately 7 p.m. while crews continue clean up from a tractor-trailer accident. The tractor-trailer was hauling around 2,700 turkeys. Crews on scene are still removing turkeys from the area. Drivers are advised to keep watch for any other birds that may still be loose in the area.” What could we do but burst out laughing? I know, I know. It shouldn’t have been funny at all. Poor terrified turkeys and all, but all I could imagine were turkey running amok along the roadside like some sort of Warner Brother’s cartoon and an incident with my brother when he was just learning to read.

It was a different road trip entirely. I was seven. My brother would have been about ten. We were headed to Florida and suddenly he said, “Well, where are they?” One of my parents asked, “Where are what?” He said, “The chickens.” Confused looks were exchanged. “What chickens?” “The chickens I keep seeing the signs for.” More confused looks took place. He was instructed to point out one of these signs if he saw another and sure enough in only a few more miles he announced triumphantly, “There’s one! See! Speeding chicken by road! So, where are the chickens?” My parents both burst out laughing. “No, honey, that says, ‘Speed Checked By Radar’. My brother was quite disappointed.

We, too, were disappointed in some strange way. Not only did we not see any amok turkeys, speeding or otherwise, by the time we reached the accident site there was nothing but a dusting of white feathers scattered along the road while clean-up crew men picked up traffic cones and freed us to return to full highway speed once more. The Cracker Barrel in Bristol, Virginia fed us and the skies just outside of Winchester delighted us with a beautiful sunset. It was clear by now we were not going to make it home by midnight, not even close. GPS told us we still had five and a half hours to go. Stopping for the night seemed more sensible than getting ourselves killed.

Sleep was short and fitful. I felt so bad for Jim, knowing he was not sleeping any better than I was and that he had to be into work that afternoon. I took first shift driving, hoping he’d be able to get in a couple more hours of sleep at least. I’m pretty sure we were both feeling the stress more than either of us let on. We just wanted to get home.

By noon, we’d passed yet another test of our relationship. I realized along the way that different things about these trips and driving seemed to annoy us. That really worked to our advantage, because when one person was getting antsy and annoyed, the other was able to remain calm and interject some humor into the situation. We make a good team, me thinks.

Now… about that building project.