Saturday, December 29, 2012

Or, Do You Say It Like This?

Res-o-lu-tion n. 1.The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination. 2. The act of resolving to do something.*

*The American Heritage Dictionary 1980

Or is it Re-so-lu-tion n. 1. The act of responding to a deficiency, again.**

**LeeAnn Rhoden 2013

The year is ending and a new one is about to begin. And with each turn of the annual calendar, many of us make New Year’s Resolutions. You know, “This year I’m going to work out four times a week,” or “I’m going to home cook all my meals and eat healthier,” or “I’m going to watch less TV and read more.” Uh huh, right. We may start out with good intentions and go like gang-busters throughout the months of January and February and possibly into March but then…
Then comes the warm weather and the kids are out of school, you go on vacation, it’s time to do yard work again, house guests come, you still have to get to your job, bills need to be paid, vet appointments, doctors’ appointments, that surprise maintenance item hits on the house or car or both, football season, autumn and outside winterizing, and with each thing that comes up it becomes easier to put off that trip to the gym, order that pizza, and flop on the couch with the remote control at the end of a busy day. Suddenly it is Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and we arrive right back where we started and what do we do? We make resolutions! Yes! “This year I’m going to work out four times a week, I’m going to home cook all my meals and eat healthier, and I’m going to watch less TV and read more.”

I don’t make resolutions. Why on earth would I tell myself how inadequate I am and that I need to change, sorry, improve? I have enough outside people telling me that. Doctor: “You should lose weight and eat better. It will be good for your blood pressure and cholesterol.” Mother: “You should get your hair done and get some new clothes.” Husband: “Honey, did you have a chance to do the laundry?” Little Man: “Mommy, poop.” Dogs: “Kibble again?” And really, aren’t the resolutions we make for ourselves the very things that fulfill the way others want to change us? I mean sure I’d like to lose weight but I don’t see how going to a gym is going to help me do this anymore aerobic housekeeping is. And I already cook pretty healthily. I guess I could go vegan or eat raw but, yuck. As far as reading more and watching less TV, perhaps. Will any of these things make me happier?

The last resolution I made was some fifteen years ago. I resolved to get organized. It worked! I had a place for everything and everything was in its place. I lived out of a day planner (still do not that it means anything). I would not go to bed until everything on my list was done. I had a laundry day, a shopping day, an errand day, a cleaning day. It was great! I love structure! And while I was single I could keep my life organized and scheduled down to the minute. I’m married now to a spontaneous type of guy. “Hey, let’s run over to the big-box hardware store,” he casually says. Inside I turn to ice and go immediately to my day book. Is it errand day? Did I forget to put something on my list? Can I squeeze in an impromptu trip? What will have to get bumped? How long will we be gone? What if this leads to another trip? And let’s not forget the Little Man who has his own schedule and agenda. And everything has a place but nothing is ever in it. Chaos! Am I happier? Absolutely.

For me, resolutions rarely work. A leopard cannot change its spots any more than I’m going to eat raw food. Personally, I think the best resolution you can make is to know yourself and to accept yourself for who you are.

So, what does all this have to do with writing? When writing our characters, we should take the time to get to know them. What is their backstory? Who are they? What do they believe? What do they think about themselves? Politics? Favorite flavor of ice cream? How do others view your character? Does your character accept himself/herself or does he want to change? And is it merely a want to change or an actual resolution to change. How does that work out for him? Interview your character. Write his biography. The more you, as an author, know about your character the better your writing will be. Remember, they are real people too with all the same quirks, idiosyncrasies, insecurities, and desires to be happy as we have.

 So, Happy New Year and happy writing!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friend Me

Technology and social media has made it possible for people from all over the world to connect with one another. It’s an amazing thing to be able to email, text, tweet, Facebook, Pinterest, instant message and let people know what you are doing and what you are interested in at the very moment you type it into your tech device. But the question that has been haunting me for several days is: are we really connected?

Initially, I was going to make a comment about Christmas cards in contrast to mass tweets/texts/emails. After all, it is that time of year. I was going to be a little snarky (love the word Allison!) and voice my opinion on how these methods of communication has made us lazy. After all, why put in the effort to individually let people know you care when you can just send a mass email? And by sending mass communications we have lost our individuality and become a collective and anonymous thus less important to one another. Really, when was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter to someone? And then I was going to bring it all back to the characters in my novel and their relationships to one another because I am writing a novel and I want people to read it when I’m done.

But in light of the horrible tragedy that took place on Friday the question of connectivity is even more important. Are we really connected? What we do with all our postings is outreach which is nothing more than marketing really. We are offering ourselves, our interests, our thoughts, our goings-on to the public at large. “Look at me! Look at me!” But do we ever really reach out? When was the last time you had a real conversation with a friend over coffee or lunch or sitting on a park bench? Or offered to help someone on a personal level?

We will eventually have the conversations about mental illness, gun control, community values, computer games and security procedures. That’s just great. But ask yourself why these things didn’t happen thirty years ago with the frequency they do now? What was different? What did we have then that we don’t have now? I suggest we had real connections with each other.

So this holiday season, while you are tweeting where you are eating your holiday feast and pinning the sweater your Great-aunt Fanny knitted for you, try to take some time to have a real conversation with an old friend or a new one.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sooooo...This is Christmas?

We are into December. Still, only single digits, but it is Christmas time and the BIG day is approaching faster than eight reindeer can fly! This year is the first year that Little Man is aware of Santa Claus and understands that there will be presents.

His first Christmas was special to my husband and me, the Little Man was only five months old and had just mastered sitting up so he didn't really care. Last year he was seventeen months old and it was FUN to shred the wrapping paper and run, but other than that not a big deal. The tree was a big attraction and something that made mommy yell "Don't touch!" to him all day.

This year it is different. We have told him about Santa Claus, watched the Christmas shows, talk about getting and giving presents. Told him the meaning of Christmas. He lights up at the lights in the neighborhood. We talk about the family members that will travel to visit through out the next few weeks and he is excited.

Do we have a tree yet? No. Do we have the house decorated yet? No. Have I baked ginger bread cookies or started Christmas cooking yet? No. We still have the autumn wreath on our front door. We'd still have a pumpkin too if it weren't for the fact it started to decompose. I can barely keep up with the groceries and cooking needed to feed the Little Man on a daily basis let alone start cooking for a future meal. And the cookies wouldn't make it to Christmas anyway. Sadly, I suffer from procrasti-Christmas.

I start each season with excellent intentions to be perfect. I DO have the wreath ordered. I DO have all the gifts purchased. I DO have the Christmas letter written. I DO have some Christmas cards. But for all that, I can't finish. I don't have enough wrapping paper or tape. I don't have enough printer ink. I don't have holiday printer paper. I don't have enough Christmas cards. I don't have stamps. I don't have packaging tape.

My goal is to have all of these obstacles addressed and overcome by the middle of next week. I have to because that's when the travelling relatives start coming and the cut-off date for shipping hits. I'm beginning to feel holiday stress. And is this what Christmas should be about? Should I feel inadequate because I'm not quite done? And just who are these super people who already have their Christmas cards mailed and their houses decorated?

I have to remember that Christmas is for the Little Man and to show family members and friends our love. That message doesn't change whether there are lights on the house or not or if the cards go out in time to arrive before Christmas. I must embrace my procrastination and not let my wannabe inner perfectionist start making me feel bad. After all, 'tis the season to be jolly!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

There's nothing ice cream can't fix. With sprinkles.

This evening my Little Man learned the meaning of the word "hot." He's two and he's babbling up a storm and has a huge vocabulary already. He knows words that he can put his finger on like puppy dog, socks, shoes, lunch box, etc. He knows how to say "hot" and that Mommy and Daddy caution him against things that are hot, he didn't understand the concept of "hot." Until 6:00 this evening.

While I'm chopping green peppers and onions I have the pan with olive oil heating on the stove. He starts talking to me and I turn around just in time to see him put his little precious finger on the side of the pan. He pulled it away quickly but there was a delayed reaction of about 5 seconds before the pain set in. Then the tears. I was amazed at his stoicism. There were tears, BIG tears and crying but not the screaming I expected. I picked him up and took him to the sink and put his finger under the running cold water. I cried with him. I told him it was hot and "no touch hot." He was saying "hot, hot, hot" over and over again.

Then he pushed away from me. His crying stopped.  He looked at his finger and pointed it up to me and said "hot boo boo." My God he's smart. Then he went to the refrigerator, pointed his finger up to the freezer and said "boo boo ice cream." Then, pointing to the sprinkles container he says "that." Genius! Already at the age of two he knows that ice cream with sprinkles cures all ailments! Is it cultural? Genetic? It doesn't matter, he's right.

I've reached the 43,000 word mark in my novel and the story line is closing in on completion. I look forward to writing every second I get to do it and I'm thinking already about revisions and editing and cover art and formatting. I know I'll be sad to see my characters go and this vignette into their lives be completed. I also know that once I say my book is done and I must put it aside, there will be ice cream with sprinkles.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Research - Who knew?

Okay, I'm a freak. I LOVE doing research. No, I'm not being sarcastic, I'm serious. I love learning new things. But not everything is easily researched on the Internet or library and I find I need to ask specific questions to knowledgeable people to get the answers I seek.

Let me remind you that I'm writing a murder mystery (actually, I'm writing two of them but I'm soooo close to finishing my first one, that I've put the other one down for a few months). Anyway, some of my questions are mundane about investigation jurisdiction. Others are questions about medical examinations. My favorite questions are the ones about methods of killing.

Now you can type into Google your question and you'll get LOTS of "helpful" sites to go to that may or may not answer your question completely. The paranoid part of me knows that by typing in a method of murder (I won't tell you because you'll have to read my book) I get a little cookie put on my computer and my information is sent directly to the agency that watches people who ask macabre questions (which explains the dark car parked in front of my house).

But what these sites do have is usually a "contact us" button. So, yes, I click it and send my email. "Hello. My name is LeeAnn Rhoden and I'm a writer. I am working on my first novel involving blah, blah, blah..." And yes, I send the email (after spell checking). Then I wait eagerly and hopefully for a response. Meanwhile I know that as soon as I load Little Man into the car to run to the grocery store, a team of people wearing dark suits come into my house and plant bugs and monitoring devices to keep tabs on me.

Surprisingly, I do receive responses! And even more surprising is how NICE these people are to take time out of their day to answer creepy, morbid questions from a still unpublished writer. I could understand their willingness to reply if I was Steven King or Tom Clancy, but I'm just little old me! I guess after their surveillance teams came back with an all clear (It's cool. You can answer her questions, she just a suburban housewife) then they felt free to send me the information I needed.

Even more impressive is all of them, without fail, have encouraged me to continue my writing and wished me success. I have saved all of the responses I've received. Mainly because I still need the information for editing, but also because I want to make sure each one of these kind professionals gets an appropriate thank you notation in my book. And I can't imagine why these professionals aren't writing their own novels with all the cool stuff they know.

That's all I have for today. I have to go back to writing now that I have information, after I sweep for bugs!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Good Work!

I've been cheering my writer friends and acquaintances who have broken the 30,000 word (or more) barrier during NaNoWriMo. During this month, and I'm not participating, I've managed to break the 20,000 word glass ceiling and I can venture forth toward 30,000! Yes! Into the abyss I go!

Abyss? Yes, because up to this point I've had a clear picture in my mind of how my story goes. But, during the writing of my novel, the main character changed, one of his compadres changed, and weirdest of all the murderer in my novel changed and with that the motive. So now I'm following my characters' leads writing in a different direction than I first envisioned. I must say, their story is MUCH better than mine!

I try to explain to my husband that I'm listening to my characters, or waiting for my characters to tell me what to write while I'm sitting idle in front of the computer instead of cooking dinner. He is really supportive but he is of the analytical persuasion rather than the creative persuasion so he usually shakes his head and tells me I'm a geek and gives me a hug. That's fine, I learned a long time ago to embrace my geekhood. And as far as geeks go - math and science - need I say more?

So while it is quiet in the house - the husband is off to work, the dogs have been fed, the off-spring is asleep and the sun is not yet up - it is time to stare at the computer waiting for my characters to talk to me. I hope they're up!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Novel Update

So, for me, finding time to write is difficult. I have a lot of irons in the fire (as my Dad says) at any given time. I hear people say "I kicked out 2000 word today" or my personal favorite "it takes only two or three months to write a novel." Really? Am I slow? Yes, I go back and edit as I move along. So maybe that's my hold up? Perhaps these lucky people can write for several hours a time. I'm lucky to get 30 minutes in a row. Or maybe, I'm over extended? I have a two-year-old, a fixer-upper house, I knit and crochet and do needlepoint for our church projects (OH! I'll be cooking in the near future too), I'm working on a couple of knitted gifts, have two yellow labs (the twins) who need care, and the everyday household chores that I can't ignore (my husband enjoys clean clothes and meals).

But, even with only 30 minutes at a time (at MOST), I have managed to reach 16,000 words!! Yay! And, even if I do say so myself, my novel is getting pretty interesting! I look forward to my next writing session!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

Ahhh, fall! Football, cooler temperatures, World Series, fairs and festivals, Halloween, Thanksgiving and NaNoWriMo. What?! YES! It is NaNoWriMo time of year! National Novel Writing Month is the time when writers will lock themselves into their writing spaces and for one month, November 1st to November 30th, and attempt to write a novel of 50,000 words or more emerging only for a brief period to gnaw on a turkey leg and say hello to Uncle Joe and Aunt Fanny.

This is a great opportunity for writers to practice writing. It's like practicing scales in music. NaNoWriMo is not about proofreading or editing. It is not about using a dictionary or thesaurus. It is just writing. What you get, if you finish, is a rough, very rough, 1st draft. And in theory it is realistic to meet. After all, 50,000 words is only 1667 words per day.

The website for more information and lots of goodies is You will see a whole list of published novels that sprang from this. Water for Elephants is one that comes to mind. Also, the rules are listed there but as a synopsis I borrowed this bullet list from Christine Powell Gomez on the Write Now Facebook page (a great group of writers and very supportive). Here is Christine's list:

•Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
•Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works).
•Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!
•Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up.
•Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
•Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30.

You have 14 days to go buy you candy for Halloween, plan your menu for Thanksgiving, and get your outline and character sketches done!

I participated last year and have 30,000 words into an untitled novel that I will continue to work on until it is finished. This year I'm focused on completing Murder at the Primrose Inn so I will not be participating. However, for those of you who need encouragement, a cheering squad, a butt kicker, I'm here for you! Good luck!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Novel update

So, I thought I'd take a break from, well, everything and touch base on my blog. Aside from the typical insanity of my life - a two-year-old, two BIG yellow dogs, a "fixer" house, church knitting group and needlepoint group, book club, writer's group, my "projects", housework and trying to find a blood pressure medication that won't make me dizzy or make my legs swell up - I have been diligently working on my novel. The working title is Murder at the Primrose Inn. I'm not good with titles so I don't know if it sucks or not. We'll see. Anyway, I'm just over 10,000 words. I know it doesn't sound like much, but I've rewritten my novel from the beginning and I've edited at least three times 8000 of those words. I promise I will finish it.

Something I discovered, thanks to Kyle Martin a member of my Wordmongers writer's group and a talented writer himself, was that the reason my first draft of my novel sucked, was because I didn't know my introductory character. What could I do? I scrapped what I had written (which means I moved it to a different folder) and I took an afternoon to get to know Walter Martin. See, when characters come to me with their story, I assume that they are the main character. In this case, that was not so. Oh, the character who came to me is interesting and fantastic, but she plays only a small part in this tapestry of intrigue. Walter, I came to realize, is truly a dynamic, three-dimensional man with depths that we will only begin to see in Murder at the Primrose Inn. In fact, I discovered that the "problem" I'm having with my other novel is that I'm trying to write a character that doesn't really fit. Why? I asked myself. The reason is that Walter is the character that needs to cross into my other novel. As an added bonus, Walter has such a tremendous back story, that it could be a novel in and of itself! So thank you, Kyle, for telling me my story sucked!! Please check out Kyle's site at

Amanda, another member of the Wordmongers group, shared with me an ebook by Kristen Lamb Are You There Blog, It's Me, Writer. Very helpful in kicking me in the butt to write something everyday even if you don't feel like it. Amanda is another amazing writer working on her YA novel titled Paragon. A big frowny face here because Amanda recently relocated and left us Wordmongers to monger without her. I am in awe of her. She has multiple off-spring and manages to spend more time writing than I do with only one! Please check out her blog at I've had the pleasure and honor to critique her first chapters of Paragon and it will be a smash hit when it is finished!

Anyway, it is time to pack the diaper bag and wake the Little Man from his morning nap. It is church needlepoint group time and the babysitter bailed due to illness so he has to come with me this time. I'm sure everyone will be delighted that he came and brought his fire engine complete with siren!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


The Next Big Thing!


This is part of an author’s blog tour. Each author who is tagged has the privilege of answering 10 questions about their current work-in-progress. I am honored to have been tagged by Amanda Harms. You can see the link to Amanda’s blog at the end of this post. I’ve included links to other writers blogs you might enjoy. After reading about my “Next Big Thing” be sure to check out the other authors to see what their NEXT BIG THING is!

 What is the working title of your book?

The working title of the book is Murder at the Primrose Inn. I’m sure it will change; I just don’t know what to yet. I seem to struggle with titles.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

It came from one of the characters in my book. That’s how most of my stories come to me; they are presented by characters who need their story told. Sometimes they come to me in dreams, sometimes they come to me while I’m doing something mundane like washing dishes. Ironically, this character is not turning out to be the main character. They usually are.

 What genre does your book fall under?

My book is a murder mystery suspense novel. I love reading them and so, naturally, I’m comfortable writing in that vein.

 What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That’s a difficult question to answer. To me, each of my characters has a very specific look and personality. They are very real. Trying to put someone else into their place is difficult.

 What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Retired cop, and private detective, Walter Martin is hired by the innkeeper of the Primrose Inn when one of his guests, the wealthy Baron Nigel van Rojin, is found dead in his bed.

 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

 I would LOVE to be traditionally published so I will submit it to agencies for representation. If no one picks it up then I will likely self-publish. I am reminded by a member of my writer’s group that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected a number of times before it was picked up by a publisher. I’m not that patient.

 How long did it take you to write the first-draft of your manuscript?

 I am still working on the first-draft. It germinated for a while and then I started writing it but had to put it down. It was stuck. Recently, I pulled it back out to work on it some more but had to toss out most of what I had written and started over again. I’ve been working on it, off and on, for about a year. I hope to get a first draft done by the end of the year.

 What other books would you compare to this story to within the genre?

Definitely Agatha Christie’s works are a good comparison to what I want to write. I just hope I can live up to that!

 Who or what inspired you to write this book?

 I’ve always had the writing bug, ever since I was a little girl. My father and my husband have been very encouraging in my writing. They would like to see me fulfill my life-long dream.

 What else about your book might pique your readers’ interest?

I like puzzles and patterns – sudoku, jumbles, jigsaw, challenging knitting patterns, needlepoint and embroidery. I also like cooking – layering herbs and spices, mixing and matching flavors, and bringing everything out with perfect timing. I write like that. My book is a puzzle that can be solved by looking at the patterns and hopefully the words and language make a wonderful meal.


I was tagged by Amanda Harms

Tag Kyle Martin! Your next!

 Check out Angel Zapata


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

So, I'm supposed to be writing but I'm having a hard time finding time. Does anyone else have this problem? Baby up from 11:30 pm to 2:00 am last night. We, my husband and I, get up at 5:30 am. My husband leaves for work at 6:45 am which is supposed to start my writing time. Baby up at 7:00 am wanting breakfast, but not feeling well.

Tuesdays and Thursdays the Little Man goes to Play School for four hours, which is writing time. Not today. Today he went to the doctor only to discover his crankiness was due to an ear infection. The doctor's visit (that took 2 hours) was followed by a trip to the pharmacy (half an hour) for antibiotic and the grocery store (45 minutes) for sick baby foods.

Finally it was nap time (possible writing time) but was struck with a migraine. I ended up napping with the Little Man until my husband got home. Then it's cooking dinner, eating dinner, cooking a second dinner for the Little Man who did not like the first dinner, cleaning up after dinner.

So, what happens now that it is between dinner time and bedtime? Writer's block! So, I'm throwing this out there to anyone else who has challenges (or a two-year-old) during the day that delay your writing time and how do you overcome your writer's block?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Just uploaded my stories to Nook! So, all you Nook readers, they are available to you too! Still on Kindle! More stories coming soon! Hopefully, I'll have a collection ready to print soon!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Another snippet of another short story. Hope you enjoy it. It was inspired by a woman I saw at Wal-mart, bless her heart. I call the story Circles for a number of reasons.


She entered the kitchen and sighed. The sink was full again – cereal bowls, spoons, glasses – and spilling over onto the counter. There was something sticky on the floor. The cupboard door was open and the flatware drawer too. Why can’t this mob of kids, and their leader, their father, close cupboards and drawers? Why can’t they put their used dishes into the dishwasher? Why can’t they wipe up whatever it is they spill? She just cleaned the kitchen after feeding them all lunch. She left them unsupervised for only a few minutes. Amazing they could make such a mess in such a short time. And now where were they? It is Saturday so they must be around somewhere. “Hey! Tom, Stevie, Carol! Where are you? Come clean up this mess!” They’re probably outside making a mess out there. She sighed again and turned to cleaning the mess.

Upstairs the beds were unmade. She’d told them over and over again to make their beds. They were old enough to start taking some responsibility for their rooms. And they could pick up their dirty laundry. When she tells them to clean their rooms, Tom pipes up and says, “Don’t worry about it on weekends. Go out and play.” She hated that. Why did he have to contradict her in front of the kids? And if they don’t pick up their clothes and straighten their rooms on the weekend, just how does he think they’ll be ready for school on Monday? He doesn’t think. He just takes her for granted, and so do the kids. “I’m just spinning my wheels,” she said to herself. She made their beds and collected their clothes. Four loads at least. This will take all day.

Downstairs a tornado must have spun through the family room; shoes, socks, newspapers and backpacks all strewn throughout the previously tidy room. “Oh come on! Stop cluttering up the place!” She hadn’t seen the brood for some time, but she was hot on their trail. Saturday or not they needed to pitch in. She couldn’t spend all day running in circles chasing their mess. Why did they get to take the weekend off and she had to pick up their slack?

Her frustration and anger grew as she moved through the chores. It was dizzying how quickly the messes could return. She felt like she wasn’t making any progress. She’d get one room clean and move to the next only to return to the first room to find that they’d been there and made another mess. There was chaos and confusion everywhere. She felt consumed by it.  She didn’t expect perfection, but it would be nice to have some order for a few minutes.
“I’m not cleaning another thing this weekend! Don’t come crying to me if you lose something!” she shouted to the empty air. “I’m going to rest a bit before the brood returns looking for dinner. No matter where they go they always come back and they are always hungry,” she complained out loud to herself. She sat on the sofa and buried her face in her hands and softly sobbed releasing the tension she felt so frequently.

Monday, September 17, 2012

So excited to announce that my first three short stories are now available on Kindle! Go to and check them out!

Working on a couple more and hope to have the partials here by the end of the week and on Kindle then too!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Trade-In

This is a story, well, part of a story, that I've worked on for some time off and on. Thanks to my critique group, it is much better than it was. This is fiction but I've taken some elements from real life which I hope resonates with you.

The Trade-In

            "How did this happen?" Ted asked himself as he maneuvered his 1971 convertible Stingray Corvette down the road.
            "Ted, meet me at work. We need to trade cars." That was all the message said. He never heard the phone ring; he had been in the shower. So he took Katie to the neighbor's house for a few minutes and headed toward Cindy's.
            Trade cars? The Stingray was his car. He bought it when he was in his early twenties and he restored it with his own two hands. He did the engine work, the body work, replaced the top and even repaired some of the interior. He did not paint it because he wanted it to be perfect, but he did pick out the color - red. He loved that car. It was an extension of himself. He dated in that car. That car got him laid a number of times. It had to be the car; Ted didn't consider himself all that good-looking.
            He swung the car into the parking lot and Cindy was waiting for him outside the office building. He parked his car next to the Explorer and greeted Cindy with a kiss.
            "Sorry, Ted. I took my car out of habit. Thanks for this."
            "No problem, Hon. Are you sure you're okay driving my car? It has a lot of power, more than you're used to. And it is a stick shift. Can you shift okay? Without grinding?"
            "Ted. Your car will be fine. Don't worry. Did Katie have breakfast?"
            Katie? Breakfast? Shit. He took her from the crib to the neighbor, Mrs. Fields, and didn't think about breakfast. "Don't worry about Katie. Have a good day and we'll see you later tonight." They traded keys.
            He climbed into the Explorer, adjusted the seat and mirrors and started toward home. What was that smell? And what was banging around back there? What has Cindy done to this car? He'd have to investigate it when he got home.
            The smell was a combination of an old banana peel discarded under the floor mat of the back seat and of a sippy cup of what used to be milk that had lodged under the driver's seat. The banging was the stroller sliding from one side to the other in the cargo area. As he removed the offending items and strapped down the stroller Mrs. Fields came over carrying Katie.
            "I gave her some oatmeal. Poor thing was fussing to eat. She's wet but you didn't bring the diaper bag. She'll need to be changed." Was she being judgmental or was it all in his head? Just because he forgot to feed and change his daughter didn't mean anything. Where is the diaper bag?
            Three weeks ago, Ted had been working and Cindy was a stay-at-home mom. It was nice. He cruised in his Stingray to work, put in a full day, ate lunch out with his friends, and sometimes stopped for a beer after work. In the warm weather he drove home with the top down and his music playing. He enjoyed the looks from people, especially the women, who admired his car. And therefore, him. When he got home, Cindy had dinner almost ready, and Katie would toddle up to him with arms stretched out saying "Dada." Everything and everyone was "Dada." It didn't matter to Ted. She called him Dada.
            The evenings were cozy. Dinner was usually good. Cindy was a good cook. And then he'd relax in front of the TV. Sometimes he'd play with Katie but if she was fussy Cindy generally took over. Sometimes there would be sex although not as often as there was when they first married it seemed.
            Weekends were better. His only chore was to mow the lawn, which he'd do every other week. Once a month he'd go all out and trim the hedges too. Other than that, he would relax watching a game, maybe play a round of golf with a friend, take a ride in his car, and take the family out to eat. It was indeed a good life.
            That was three weeks ago. Then the announcement came and the investors were closing his office and consolidating in another state. Severance packages were passed out along with pay checks. A final word of gratitude and appreciation from management and that was it. It had been hard to tell Cindy that he was no longer working. He had been fired. What kind of man doesn't have a job to support his family?
            Cindy was calm. Cindy was a pillar of strength. She said not to worry, they'd get by and everything would work out for the best. Ted spent the weekend in a cold sweat surfing the internet job sites and circling jobs in the paper. He worked on his resume, he beefed it up and he made himself look as good as he possibly could. He updated his reference list and made sure everyone on it liked him. He wrote cover letters. He sent emails. He paced anxiously waiting for Monday so he could make calls. He would treat looking for a job, as a job. It would just be a matter of time.
            Monday came and Ted made calls. He called recruiters. He called contacts. He made follow-up calls to the emails he sent over the weekend. He kept a log of the calls and emails. Cindy made one call. Cindy's old boss hired her back. She would start in two weeks.
            "What about Katie?" Ted had asked.
            "You can take over here while I'm at work. You're home anyway. When you get something, then I can quit or we can put Katie in day care. We'll work it out." Cindy replied calmly. But her reply cut him deeply. He thought she had no confidence in him, was disappointed in him. Or was he reading too much in that? Maybe she was just being supportive and he was being paranoid.
            And so this morning he had to trade cars with Cindy. He would need the car with the child seat and room for the stroller. It was more than trading cars, it was trading his identity.
            He spent the rest of the morning on the computer, making calls and sending emails. Katie was playing somewhere. Three weeks and still no bites. Something would come up soon, he hoped. He attempted to make a few calls only to discover that when he was on the phone, Katie would come from the recesses of the house to hug on his leg and whine during the entire call. When he hung up and gave her his attention, she'd smile and toddle off again.
          "What is that smell?" he thought. And he looked at Katie who was standing next to him with tears beginning to well up in her eyes. "You stink," he said to her. Shit. That meant she pooped. He'd have to change a nasty diaper. Maybe he could call Mrs. Fields? Should a man change a girl's diaper?
            He opted to call his wife; she'd know the right thing to do. "Cindy, she pooped."  
            "Change her, Ted. And don't wait too long. She'll get a rash if she stays messy too long. The diapers, wipes, and ointment are on the shelf above the changing table. I have to work, Ted. You can do this." Cindy hung up.
            A rash? How long is too long? He could barely hear Cindy since Katie was wailing. Katie wanted him to pick her up. He didn't want to get that close to the stink. Fortunately, he had a respirator in the garage and he retrieved it for this task. It scared Katie and she screamed louder.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Every other week a group of creative writers and I get together to critique each other's work, discuss dreams of publication, and practice writing. One meeting we took a writing prompt and kicked out stories. This was my effort. I call it Demolition. I hope you enjoy it.

He sat looking at the empty building wondering if he should go in. He thought he had removed everything but maybe he should just take one more look. There should be a little time left.

But then again, maybe not. He wasn’t really sure he had enough time. And certainly they had gotten everything. They had loaded all the boxes and furniture into the truck. Shannon carried more than her share; hauling boxes and furniture down the four flights of stairs and into the U-Haul. And she managed the kids too. She made sure that they never went unwatched or off their schedules. She also managed to have drinks and food available in anticipation of hunger or thirst.

They needed a bigger truck. Then they could have moved everything at once and there wouldn’t have been as much chaos. But with his being laid off last year and Shannon only working part-time, they didn’t have the money for a bigger truck. His unemployment check barely covered rent and groceries and her check barely covered utilities. They didn’t have cable.

Silly thought. The building didn’t have cable. When the city condemned the building the cable company disconnected the cable. The tenants could stay for four months, the city said, to give the tenants time to relocate. Most left before the four months were up. But they didn’t. They couldn’t, so they stayed.

They dutifully paid their rent to the city and prayed they would lift the condemnation. There wasn’t any money for a deposit on a new place and they wouldn’t be getting their security deposit back on this place. They had nowhere to go.

Four months passed. The electricity was turned off, the gas was disconnected, and the water was turned off. Then another two months passed. Hard months making due with candle light and bottled water. Then there was the knock on the door. It was two police officers with a final eviction notice. They had three days to vacate. The building was to be demolished.

Why not? Their lives were already demolished. Shannon cried. He cried. The babies cried. Tommy and Sandy, precious children. Tommy was only four and already a little man; wanting to be big and strong. He cries when he feels helpless or can’t get his way. Lucky to be that age. When should he tell Tommy you will always feel that way but at some point you aren’t allowed to cry anymore?

And Sandy – only two. Just beginning to talk and ask why. Why do we have to move? Where will I sleep? Where will we eat? All good questions that he was asking himself.

Two trips it took to get everything. First trip was boxes of clothes, bedding, towels and food. The second trip was of furniture. They would stay in Shannon’s parent’s house. The furniture would stay in Shannon’s parent’s garage.

It was gracious of them to let the family stay. Four of them in Shannon’s childhood room. Tight, but together. It was uncomfortable, especially for him. The judgment he felt from her parents. What kind of man can’t provide a decent home for his family?

Just a couple or three months. That’s all. Long enough to save up a deposit for a new place. Nothing fancy but theirs.

Where’s Mookie? Sandy loved her Mookie. What it was no one was sure. It was a stuffed creature with wings, feet, antenna and a snout. Just a fuzzy green thing she loved. It was her comfort object. And it was missing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Well, this is an effort that I've been picking at for a couple of days. Not nearly finished and I don't yet know where it will go. I don't have a title yet but I'm calling it Balmy. Would love any input.


They advertise as “balmy.” You know, warm, sunny beaches with white sand, turquoise water, colorful sunsets, tropical breezes rustling the palm fronds overhead as you sway lazily in a hammock sipping a frozen alcoholic beverage with an umbrella sticking out of it. It sounds good and it looks amazing in the four-color tri-fold brochure. The pictures are fantastic.

The reality is different. “Balmy” actually means humid. The sun beats down on you like a hot weight, the sand scalds bare feet and the water is warm and not a refreshing retreat from the heat. The breezes do rustle the palm fronds but they also blow sand into your eyes, your hair into your face and mouth. Your little umbrella skitters down the beach in the wind, there is sand in your beverage but it has long since melted anyway. Reality.

The sunsets however are indeed superb. Amazing salmons, pinks and purples filling the sky around the golden orb. Twilight also ushers in cooler temperatures where it becomes possible to venture outside without suffering from heat stroke. It also brings out the mosquitoes.

Only the models in the brochure have the flawless moist tan, firm athletic bodies and can wear white bikinis. And are young. The off-season beach-goers are more leathery of derma. Some are thin, some are not, most do not wear white bikinis and those that do, well, you wish they didn’t. And they are not young.

After a while, you get used to the heat and humidity. Women give up wearing make-up in lieu of sunscreen. Men give up on the antiperspirant. The natives call it acclimating. Which I guess means coming from wherever you were, lured by the brochures, and staying here waiting for the magic to happen and getting used to the heat and bugs thus turning you into a “native.” It is really the process of changing your expectations.

The brochure brought me to this place. I came with anticipation and hope for a new and “balmy” life. But the “balmy” life is expensive. Living where you get the sunset views puts you in one of two financial categories: the very wealthy where your manicured Bermuda grass lawn abuts the white sand of your private beach, or the destitute consisting of the nomadic homeless, the drug dealers and the male prostitutes. Not belonging to the former group and with no desire to join the latter, I have no sunset views of my own. Instead, I watch the sunset from the deck bar where I serve up drafts to natives and some new-comers all with the same dreamy look on their faces that I had.

I wasn’t expecting to come here to tend bar. I haven’t tended bar since I was in college. Then it was fun. I got good tips and I flirted with all the pretty girls. Seldom did I go home alone. Rarely did I go home with the same girl twice. Then I did. And I kept going home with her. The next thing I knew I was graduating followed in rapid-fire succession, marriage, career building, home purchase, children, middle age, and finally divorce. The list was supposed to end with college tuition and retirement; not divorce. But my wife had other plans that I was unaware of. So now I have college tuition and alimony and so I tend bar because I can no long retire. Especially in a “balmy” place.

I had intended to come here, maybe get a boat and offer charter fishing trips to tourists, or scuba excursions, or island tours. But, there are a lot of fishing boats for tourists here. It must be a common dream among the transplants. I don’t scuba dive, nor do I know anything about it. And
I know nothing of the island history to give legitimate tours. And I don’t care to know about the island history or what pirate sunk what ship where. Really, what does a city boy like myself know about boats anyway? The only time I was on a boat was the cruise we took on our honeymoon.

The bar I work at now isn’t the kind of bar I worked at when I was young. And it is precisely because I’m not young that I work here instead of the trendy kiosk bars on the beach. They only hire the young good-looking buff guys that flirt with the nubile young tourist co-eds, and occasional cougar, and can keep them at the bar, buying drinks, or having drinks bought for them, late into the night. I’m not young anymore and my flirting with the young girls would be creepy. And I’m not interesting to the cougars since I am the man they just dumped or got dumped by. The bar I work at sits off the beach and caters to the old men who run charter boats for tourists and the new-comers wanting to be more of a “native” and hang out in a local bar rather than a tourist trap. I don’t want to flirt with them and they don’t want me to flirt with them.

The bar is on a deck with a wooden floor, wooden bar, and corrugated metal roof covering only the bar and stools that surround it. The wooden picnic tables sit unprotected from the weather. The bar is splintery. The decking has splinters, the tables have splinters and the bar has splinters.
When it rains the metal roof mimics the steel drums that are so common on the island only out of tune and flat.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Endeavor

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a writer. It has not been a lack of imagination that has prevented this dream from coming true but a lack of discipline, time, confidence, connections, and knowledge about how to go about being successful at it. So I have decided that this year there will be no more excuses. I have dug through the spider infested boxes hiding in the dark attic and rescued the bits and pieces I have written and tucked away in notebooks and on scraps of paper and cocktail napkins. These I will turn into completed stories (hopefully) and post for your enjoyment and with any luck some encouragement.

I like interaction too. So, if you have a topic or suggestion you'd like to challenge me to write on, I'll be happy to give it a go!