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Monday, June 24, 2013


I have three blog posts started but couldn't write any of them to the finish line.  Bear with me. Today, all I've got are garden shots.  If you see weeds, don't tell me!   

Wishing you all a wonderful week.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Little More Flash

Thanks to Old Kitty, the prompt (first lines italicized) for the following snippet came from here.

It wasn't just the murder, he decided. Everything else seemed to have conspired to ruin his day as well. Even the cat.  Well, especially the cat.  If it hadn’t been for her, he would have been far out to sea on the Sara Belle, not tapping his toes in the waiting room at the veterinary clinic when the man in the custom suit strode in.
“Urinary Tract Infection.  You’ll have to take her.” Rena had pronounced before bolting out the door late for her 8:00 a.m. meeting.  Stan hadn’t even had a chance to reply “You’re kidding me, right?” before Rena’s car engine rumbled to life.  Cleo, sensing her mistress’s paramour was up to no good, leapt to the top of the dining room valance and stared down at him as if to say, “Just try it, buddy.”
One long scratch across his cheek later, Stan sat on the wooden wall bench staring at advertisements for vegetarian kibble, satisfied he’d controlled his impulse to ring the damn cat’s neck, when the guy had entered the clinic and surveyed the room.  His shoulders threatened to pop the seams of his suit.  Stiff comb marks traveled toward the back of his head.  He’d glanced Stan’s way before walking through the swinging door to the exam rooms. This guy hadn’t trailed behind some hulking Great Dane or German shepherd and unlike Stan, he hadn’t juggled a bulky carrier filled with hissing, yowling feline.  He'd appeared in the middle of a snarling, moaning, meowing veterinary clinic attached to nothing at all.  That was Stanley’s first clue.

The pop, pop, pop setting off a chain reaction of barking and wailing behind the door wasn’t so much a second clue, as it was a pronouncement.  Christ, Stan thought, standing up beside Cleo’s carrier.  All he wanted was a day off.

“Hang on Cleo,” he called over his shoulder as he yanked his badge out, reached for his gun and strode toward the door marked “Private.”

Whatever was behind that door, he was done with Rena and her foul cat after this.  That was the one thing he knew for sure.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Flash Fiction at Unicorn Bell

Crazy, crazy day.  When you work for a municipality, you can not, not, not use their computers to do fun  things like...say, publish a blog post.  So, late in the day, I'm here to tell you I've got a bit of flash fiction up at Unicorn Bell, a lovely blog that offers advice and assistance to the writing community by giving constructive tips and criticism through submissions.  This week they are featuring the short story, but what triggered me to submit was the post Short Story Structure--And How it can Make Your Novel Better.   Yesterday they offered several pictures to use as writing prompts and that's all I needed to jump right in.

Do me a favor and click over.  If you want to comment on my fiction, great!  But mostly, check out Unicorn Bell and see what wonderful support they offer.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tear Down

They say you can never go home again, but sometimes I do.  My brother raised his family in the house where we grew up, and while he and his family put their own mark on it, I still walk in the door, plunk myself down at the kitchen table and immerse myself in personal history.  I retain muscle memory of how many giant steps it takes to vault the flight of stairs to the middle landing.  The slate floor in the front hallway is still a nightmare for bare toes in the winter, but a bonus in the summer.  Footsteps climbing the uncarpeted flight to the top floor ricochet off paneled walls the way they always have, and a scent, a ghost of my mother and her cigarettes mixed with forced-hot-air heat, conjures up emotions I only encounter there.

The home is within walking distance to schools, a bustling downtown, the library, grocery stores, and a cross-town park intersected by a flowing brook.  Close to major highways and a reasonable commute to the city, nowadays, houses in the area often sell for above owners’ asking prices.  When I lived there though, it was just an ordinary subdivision. Our neighbors made their marks on the modest colonials by adding a room over the garage to accommodate expanding families, bumping out a den or enclosing a porch.  Within the past few years though, this practice has changed dramatically. 

A few years back, around the corner from where my brother lives a developer leveled a house where long ago, my oldest brother used to play with a friend, replacing it with a dwelling three times the original size.  Not long after that, the wrecking ball demolished a pretty grey colonial on a neighboring street.  A hulking monster rose in its place.  Number three occurred when one of my childhood friends had to put her ailing mother into a nursing home.  A “For Sale” sign appeared in front of her mom’s house.  My friend received assurances from the prospective buyers that they'd renovate only and money changed hands.  A short time later the home she grew up in was a hole in the ground.  Now, when I visit and look out to the address where her mother used to serve us bagels and cream cheese, the only thing I recognize is a lie. 

A few weeks before my last visit, one of my brother’s neighbors put his place on the market for a minor fortune.  Two days later he got his asking price.  A developer contacted him twenty four hours later and said, “I would have bought it for more.”  When I pulled into the subdivision, one more house had been leveled and rebuilt, another two doors down from it was in the process and up the street the largest replacement of all is under construction.  It takes up most of the half-acre lot, complete with a princess balcony overlooking the road.  When the neighborhood was developed, six and eight-kid families were the norm.  Now, the streets where I used to ride my bike, “Look Ma, no hands!” have become a mismatched jigsaw of 1950’s colonials juxtaposed between towering manses built for families less than half the size. 

How lucky that I can still drive up to my old home and unpack my childhood, musty but whole, as if pulling  it out of mothballs.  But my brother’s two children are grown now.  I imagine it won’t be long until he and his wife look for a smaller place. When they do, the 1954 split cape my parents extended themselves to build for their growing family will become a target.  The faint aroma conjuring up Mom and her cigarettes will disappear for good.  In our throw-away world, it’s not just bricks and mortar that turn to dust when a house becomes a teardown.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Self-propelled Mower

This is my June post for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  To read other posts, click here.

Sometimes things grind to a halt.  When they do, you have to find a way to prime the choke and power up the engine. 

I’m in an ugly place.  My local writing group disbanded.  This winter, I gathered up the nerve to send my second novel out and the response has not been stellar.  I distracted myself by setting a goal to finish a first draft on my third novel and a few weeks ago, checked that off the list.  If anything, I learned enough during my second novel attempt to know I need to give this next project a good long rest, which means writing-wise, I’m not doing much these days.  Mostly, I’ve been shifting around at my desk, twiddling my thumbs, worried about finding a way to gear up again.  But on Monday life reminded me, things happen when they should.

Okay, so if it were a perfect world, I’d go back to school full-time to learn to be a better writer. But we know how that goes.  Two years ago, I took a fiction writing course in association with the Boston-based independent writing workshop, Grub Street.  The class was sponsored by a grant from our local library, held five minutes from my house and cost nothing.  How could I beat that? The six week session educated and motivated me and I give it all sorts of credit for my forward progress to date.  Mired in my current lull, I contemplated hauling my butt into Boston to take another Grub Street class, but procrastinated.  You know, time, money, distance…oh all right, let’s be honest here and call this issue what it really is…a honking lack of confidence.

Monday though, home after work and longing to write something…anything, I Googled Grub Street summer courses and TA DA…trumpets sounded.  The author who taught the class I took two years ago is offering something called The Novel in Progress, and she is holding it, not in Boston which would be a commuting nightmare for me, but one town over from where I live…at night.  To round out this little bit of synchronicity, I wrote a magazine article last September.  It was published in May…I get paid in the next few days…and guess what?  That subsidy covers close to the entire class.  One by one my excuses disappeared.  Well, except for that lack of confidence thing. Now that I've paid for the course though, my engine is humming.  It's time to mow that sucker right down.   

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Common and Sound Scents

Growing up, traveling vacations weren’t often part of the program.  Unlike other families who summered on Cape Cod or up in Maine, we spent time off from school enjoying the attributes of our hometown.  Once in a while though, we did get a trip away, say, a day on the Cape or the North Shore of Massachusetts.  

During those outings we knew we were getting close because when you get near the sea, the sky changes. The air becomes whitewashed as if scrubbed by a clean sponge and develops a subtle blue.  Everything ahead seems open and infinite, the bright air filmed with high mists.  We’d barrel along the highway and as soon as we noticed wind-stunted pines by the side of the road along with the change in the light, anticipation soared.  Stepping out we’d drink in the aroma of salt mixed with Rosa Rugosa, a robust sea rose that paints the air heavy with a tropical spice.  Always, the same bird song emanated from the marshes or tall sea grass.  A life time later, I can close my eyes, smell that scent, hear that sound and know with absolute certainty I am near the sea.

I’ve lived close to the shore my entire married life now—in the middle of that expansive sky.  Unless I’m coming back home from away, I no longer have the perspective to see it.  Rugosas populate the seaside landscapes around us though, and once June arrives and the first blossoms burst forth, I stick my nose into bushes knowing one breath will permeate my veins and conjure up the delight I first experienced during those precious trips away. 
The bird call is another story.  I hear it often and for years the up and down mix of trilling and chirping  has transported me back to childhood holidays.  Long ago, I set out to find out what kind of bird produced the sound I love, sure it was something exotic.  Over the years, I Googled bird websites and listened to their calls, Wrens, Orioles, Bobolinks, Tanagers, Terns, Cardinals.  I never heard anything close, until this week.  At work, every week we arrange speakers to talk to the seniors and this past Wednesday, two wild bird professionals gave a slideshow.  At the end, I spoke to one of the presenters.  “I don't even know what it looks like, but there’s this bird I remember hearing all the time on Cape Cod.  I hear it here too.  I have no idea what it is but I’d love to find out.”  I didn't have to say anything else.

Apparently in all my years of investigating, I never considered the sound that evokes such strong emotion in me could be something as ordinary as a Song Sparrow.  For the last few days, I’ve been playing this over and over.  Now if only there were a way to capture sky and smell.  

Happy Weekend All!