West End – the opening chapter

Hi, All.  I was feeling West End today. I wanted to share a little portion, but couldn’t decide, so I give you all the opening selection for West End.  Enjoy.

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BEFORE MY MOTHER drank herself to death, I knew her as a gentle creature who fed wild squirrels from her hand.  On the back patio at mid-day, she’d stand very still, calm, peanuts laced in the fingertips of her outstretched hand. The squirrel, a female, her babies came later, approached with caution, across the railing, onto the windowsill, grab the nut, run to the other side of the patio where the squirrel peeled back the shell, ate the meat, then returned for another and another. For a while, the squirrels became my mother’s greatest pleasure.

When the female squirrel stopped coming, my mother worried, but the baby squirrels continued to visit. Then, the cubs must have grown, left the nest, because one by one they disappeared until only a single squirrel came to the daily meeting.

That winter, mother’s heart sucked itself dry. Familiar faces appeared, distant relatives, long-ago friends, who talked our concerns away with assurances for tomorrow and beyond.

“Little honeys, it will be okay.”

“I brought the eggplant casserole, green dish.”

“She was a wonderful woman.”

“Call if you need anything.”

Sarah and I stood at the door where someone’s aunt told us to stand. We pointed people who carried in food to the kitchen, guided people with flowers to the dining room, pointed the rest to Daddy who sat on the couch, gaze glued to the floor. We didn’t have to say anything, and no one asked.

The familiar strangers came and went and with them, our mother, our hopeless youth, our language.

The house became quiet. I couldn’t remember the last complete sentence I spoke or heard, couldn’t remember the last partial sentence I’d said to my father or he to me. My sister and I exchanged words, hushed, sometimes soundless breaths only we knew the meanings for. We lived our lives in half-words, pale sounds that sunk into the silence, in ideas of what we had to do next: breakfast, school, homework, laundry, dinner, dishes, bed. This soundless process became our lives; a strange off-balance way to live, but we did it for some months content not to break that pattern.

One cold February morning, a descending snowstorm blocked the roads, locked us indoors, kept us from going to school, our father from his work. Our first full day alone together in the house. Sarah and I sat at the painted brown kitchen nook picking at our cold Raisin Bran; the milk just tangy enough for us to question the freshness. A tapping noise brought our eyes to each other’s. Then silence.

“Wind.” Sarah exhaled with barely enough voice to make a sound much beyond the breath itself.

“Yeah.” My voice not much stronger. We returned to the cereal.

Tap…Tap…Tap…

Her gaze followed the floor to the sink, the counter, the back door.

“The door?”

I shook my head. “Nah.” Not today, at mid-day, in this storm. “Wind.”

I slipped from the nook; she followed. We stood, somewhat unnerved when the tapping came again. We could see through the glass in the door; no one stood there. I moved to the windows to get another view of the patio, leaned over, heard shuffling, then rattling against the window. We jumped. A squirrel clattered against the window, caused us both a momentary and laughable fright. Sarah touched my arm. We each took a deep breath. Our first that winter. The squirrel, the female or one of the children, we didn’t know and could never tell anyway, gave us a quizzical look, stretched up against the window; her little paws stretched against the glass. Tears welled. Quiet, unmoving, we held our breath, each other, tried not to let out the flow of emotions the winter built up.

Father’s footsteps, heavy on the linoleum, came toward us. We straightened.

“What’s going–”

“Shhh,” we both hushed him; his rough, dry voice might drive the squirrel away.

“It’s the squirrel,” Sarah said.

He looked puzzled.

She motioned toward the window. “The squirrels Mom used to feed. She used to give them nuts.”

“Well, give it some.” He waved his hands at us.

“Where are they?” Sarah pulled open random cabinet doors.

“I don’t know.” I opened the opposite cabinet doors.

“Well, look, look. They have to be here.” Father took to the drawers.

The three of us searched for a bag of peanuts Mother bought for the squirrels, hid from us to deter our snacking.

“He must be hungry.” Father gazed out the window at the back yard covered in snow. The porch railings, the powerlines, all draped in sheets of white; the squirrel, nervous, waited at the end of the banister. “Peanut butter. Get the peanut butter.”

“Will he eat that?” Sarah reached for the jar.

“Certainly,” Father assured us. “It’s peanuts, isn’t it?”

I grabbed for the bread.

“Just spread it on,” he said, more animated than I’d ever seen him.

We did.

“Wait, he can’t eat it like that Break it up.” He put his hands in the mess with ours.

Of course, we knew, but at the moment, that strange, unsettling, yet somehow comforting moment, we all needed to take part.

Sarah set the plate on the patio just outside the backdoor. The squirrel chattered, juddered its head from her to the door, the windows, its tail jerking back and forth as if with nervous jitters, then approached the plate, took a piece, and skittered back to the railing to eat it.

Dad ordered us away from the window. The little squirrel tittered, danced delicately, tail flitting, to take more food. We backed out of the kitchen.

Something shifted inside the house. The rooms warmed. The silence faded. The house took on old noises; the refrigerator hummed; the kitchen light buzzed; switches flicked with their old sticky clicks.

Our voices returned. We spoke more than mere sounds. We’d broached full sentences. But I don’t know if we ever surpassed that. We’d never been a family of paragraphs or stories. Laughter rarely rose to the ceiling. Now, with one of the speakers forever hushed, we were destined to be something less than complete.

Winter dissolved into spring; the strawberries mother planted last summer grew green, red, wild. We left nuts out all the time. Sometimes squirrels ate them; sometimes they’d sit until the birds got them or the ants swarmed them.

Sunrise reopened in summer, but never again did we hear our names called from the front patio as we walked up the street, never again did the light intonation of words follow us through the night, “not too late,” never again, upon our return, would we be met with a drunk asleep on the table with just enough consciousness to whisper “too late” when we passed through the kitchen to go to bed.

 

*West End is available on Amazon, Kindle, and Audible.

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Coffee and your Character – Writer Wednesday

I’ve been thinking of coffee shops. And it’s not only because I’m a caffeine addict. Coffee and coffee shops are a part of our everyday lives and, therefore, our characters’ lives. What type of coffee shop and what they order will inform our readers of who they are in ways we won’t need to spell it out.

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I, personally, savor that first sip of morning tea. For a few moments, it’s the perfect temperature and I hold it close to my face, ready for the next sip as the first drips of bitter black tea warm my throat and my body, the caffeine going to work immediately to bring me to full wakefulness in anticipation of a busy day.

A friend described a man in her carpool who stopped every day at Starbucks for a large quadruple espresso latte on their way to work and on their drive back from work. But, she added, he also complained constantly about his budget. This told me a lot about the person in just a few sentences.

Does your character rush into Starbucks and curse the line? Probably orders ahead for pick up, but what if it’s not there? Or is your character the kind that seeks out the independent coffee shop because it may be less busy or just because it’s independent.

There used to be a coffee shop on Ventura Blvd between Hazeltine and Woodman. I don’t pinkremember the name, but I do remember the walls were pink. I liked it for it’s small town charm. Local home made jams lined the shelves behind me while local artists’ paintings adorned their walls. They only had a few wooden tables, a few more outside, and a few bar-type seats at the counter. Instead of the iced black or green tea choices at you-know-where, I opted for their daily choices, which might icled iced peach or raspberry-ginger. They offered an array of vegan or gluten free cookies as well. Who could resist?

I used this coffee shop in my story “Harvey Levin Can’t Die” (originally published in Pilcrow and Dagger Sept 2016). The story really is about change. How society reflects the harveylevincan't dieindividual and how the individual internalizes society. One of the characters worked there, but felt out of place. This also represented her life, she felt out of place and hadn’t really begun to make real decisions about who she was or what she wanted. But, of course, that changed and so did her involvement in the coffee shop and the guests as she becomes more proactive in her life. The reader is left to decide the interaction between her and society and whether the influence is good or bad.

It would have implied something different about my character if she’d worked at a chain coffee shop. The chain itself would have had an influence and been a foil. She wouldn’t have been able to grow and and the readers couldn’t see the change within the coffee shop itself; therefore, the setting was important in that instance.

Each place, each chain, is different. The people who go to the local Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Company are different than those who go to Pete’s or even Starbucks. As writers, I imagine we’ve all spent time in these places. And our jobs as writers are to observe. Beyond the color scheme and coffee served, there’s a different atmosphere garnered by and at these places, and the people are different or act different.

I rarely see the impatient phone-bearing customers from the Monday morning Starbucks run at Pete’s. Nor do I see the more relaxed culture of the Pete’s “give me the multi-grain scone and flipped macchiato” at Coffee Bean.

1dollarstorysmashwordsI used another independent coffee shop for “$1.00 Stories” (originally published in The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal April – 2016). A mixture of independent coffee shops, one of which still squeaks by in the recesses of North Hollywood. I wanted a friendly owner and regulars my character would recognize. Not that he cared about them; it was more important for the story that they were familiar with Cris, and they accepted with good-natured-humor his occasional weirdness. I didn’t want to make him completely unlikable. I wanted him to come across as a little more complex, so he went to this coffee shop where he knew the owner and sneered at the community table while the regulars chuckled.

The joy I get from using independent coffee shops (or even invented coffee shops) is that I get to describe them, which will also tell us something about the character. In “Harvey Levin”, the character hated the pink walls. But using a chain also tells us something about the character.

Our characters are going to need caffeine at some point in the story. Giving the reader their choice of coffee shops, even in one line, gives the reader an insight into the person we’re creating.

Now my tea’s cold. But I don’t own a microwave and that never tastes good anyway.

 

Harvey Levin Can’t Die is available on Kindle and at Smashwords.

$1.00 Stories is available at Kindle and at Smashwords.

 

 

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What’s New With You?

I’ve been remiss in my posting – which is a social media no-no.  icecreamCan I tell you a secret? I’m really just an introverted writer and I really want to do is:

 

Write!

 

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I had a fantastic time at the Poe Museum reading Eddy. They live streamed it (I didn’t know they were doing that!) and I’ve been invited back, hope to go soon!

 

 

 

 

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In the meantime, I’ll be at AWP.

 

 

 

 

 

But the real news today: my short stories – loving the covers! – are available for .99 cents on smashwords and kindle.

 

So – whenever you need something to do – click the link, read a story, let me know what you think!

Be Joyful!

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Happy Birthday, Eddy!

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The celebration of Poe’s birth date does not go unrecognized.  The Poe Museum in Virginia, as well as many others, will be throwing an Edgar Allan Poe Birthday Bash.

And, rightfully so, Poe is an important figure in American literature.  For my friend who said the other day, “like, what’s the big deal?!”  LET ME TELL YOU THE IMPORTANCE OF POE.

In the early 1800s, the American government called on writers to create a true American Literature to differentiate and separate ourselves from all things Great Britain. Remember, America had just gained it’s official independence from the mother land. By the time Edgar and his contemporaries were born, we were only a generation out from under British rule. There were still loyalists, still people very attached to the “old ways”.

Literature affects society just as society affects literature. By creating a true and distinct American Literature, we could become a true and distinct nation. And while Hawthorne, Emerson, and Thoreau were definitely refining our style, Poe made waves. The stories he published made people sit up and take notice. His style was not always taken seriously here in the states, but authors and critics abroad were giving him credit.

Sometimes it takes someone to shake up the status quo, to capture the deeper, darker parts of our soul individually and collectively to make us look at ourselves and see us for who we are. I think Poe did that. He had a lasting effect that artists, authors, musicians, and readers are still inspired by.

The Poe Museum will be celebrating his birthday on Saturday, January 20th.

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If you can’t be there, you can still take part in the birthday bash.  Buy yourself a cupcake, throw your own Poe party, join an online group and celebrate with the members.

 

You might notice a familiar name on the list!

 

I’ve attended before. The first time, I did my own Poe Tour.

 

 

I’m looking forward to attending the event, talking Eddy with Poe fans, and CAKE!!!

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I’ll be reading, discussing, and signing my new book, Eddy.

The inspiration, the facts, the conjecture.

The reviews for Eddy are kind and generous! Thank you. Thank you.

Described as:

“Poignant and piercing!”

“Creative and very Poe-like.”

“Equally as enthralling as it is tragic”

“Edgar would be proud!”

 

 

Have a lovely new year! Be kind to one another.

 

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Eddy Lives

 

Eddy, my new short fiction, is an imaginative fictional account of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1848 near-fatal laudanum overdose is available on Amazon.

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My first reading and signing takes place this Saturday in Santa Clarita at 12:30.

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I’d love to know what you think of the video, the cover, or the audacity I have to write about the legendary author.

Much love and happiness in the new year!

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The Secret to a Joyful 2018

Happy New Year, Beautiful People!

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Reading comments on social media gives the impression many people are feeling quite negative about the New Year. There’s definitely positivity, people looking forward to the celebrations, but I was struck by so many people barking last year stunk and 2018 would bring more the same.

We get what we believe we will!

Someone asked, “What is the new year celebration all about?  If you know me, you know I had to look that one up!

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New Year celebrations began in medieval times when those who honored nature brought green trees into the house to celebrate the coming of another spring.

A number of traditions, beliefs, and myths have come about since that time and we all take part in some sort of celebration. While some love the coming of a new year, a new chance, promises to make and keep, resolutions to make and break, others dread another year. This I’m confused about.

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, joy is a choice! There are thousands of reasons to be happy every day. Blue skies, rain clouds, bird song to name the simplest things. joy3Add to those, a roof over your head, coffee.  Acknowledging how important the little things are is just as important as being thankful for the things you do have.

Many people wander around wishing for something more, something different. They fail to recognize 1. the things they have and 2. the things they can have if they work for them.

 

 

I asked people what they would do if they woke up with a million dollars in their bank account. Many said, pay off debts and travel. What are you waiting for? Do it!

joy5I’m not a millionaire (trust me on that one) and my debts are paid, I refuse to use credit unless I have to. (Consider what you need vs what you want! Decide accordingly.)

When my children were young, I was a single mother with two (sometimes three) part time jobs and we traveled. You don’t need to be wealthy to travel. You need to know the tricks! (Just ask!)

I think most people believe they would have more time if they had a million dollars and, therefore, live their dreams. But accomplishing goals has more to do with organization and time management than having the money to work with.

The secret to joy is not what we have or what we can do. The secret to feeling true joy, no matter what we have or do, is two-fold:

  1. Acknowledge the good things in your life – no matter how small (or big) they are. Some people keep a small book with them and write a note of something they found beautiful and makes them smile. They look at this when they need to be reminded.
  2. Lose the negativity. I mean get rid of everything that is negative, that drains you, that does not support you. This does mean people. I know this sounds mean. Someone told me that those “negative people” were their friends. Uhm, would friends drag you down? would friends stomp on your dreams? Friends want you to be the best version of yourself and will work to support you on that and you will do the same for them.

Remember that old cliche – if you can believe it, you can achieve it?  That doesn’t mean what you want just comes to you – but believing is the start.

If you have a job draining you, start looking for a new one. Hate where you live? Start planning and organizing a move.  And, if right now, you’re thinking, “oh, it’s easy for you to say, I need…..” that’s negative! Whatever you “need” in order to get to where you want – start moving toward it by being positive, by being happy!

My mother used to say wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills faster. So – are you wishing?

Be happy. Not for a moment. Not for a day. But just be happy every day!

Believe in what you want. Believe you will get it; it will come to you, but you have to meet it half way!

Move in the direction of joy, of your dreams, and understand that everything we do is a choice!

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I know a good year is waiting for all of us!

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Eddy – Win a Copy

Eddy, my new novella, will be out next month. I’ve eddycoverfinalbeen invited to read and speak at the Poe Museum’s Birthday celebration upon its release.

However, you can win a free copy before it’s released!

This is a fictional account of an actual event in Edgar Allan Poe’s Life. In 1848, whether accidental or purposeful, Edgar took an overdose of Laudanum, which was an opiate based medicine available on the open market. It was sold in pharmacies as well as pubs!

Poe nearly died as a result. This is a fictional imagining of that experience.

Poe reimagines the life and death of each of the women he loved. The story begins and ends in the Boston rooming house in which Poe found himself in November 1848 right after he’s bought the Laudanum. His overdose rouses images of his mother backstage at the theater in Richmond during her last performance  and continues on to Virginia in their Philadelphia home while she played the piano for their guests. The story doesn’t neglect his other loves.

Debbie the events coordinator from the Poe Museum said she was “blown away” and couldn’t wait to share it with her colleagues.

Eddy won’t be available until January 6th. But you can WIN a advanced copy by entering your email address.  You don’t need to enter more than once, your email address is your entry. A single one will be randomly selected by a generator, and the winner will be notified by email on or about January 5th.

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If you need more to whet your appetite, take a look at my interview with Super News Live on their Dark Mysteries Show about The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe.

I’m excited about releasing this as Poe’s work and life has been such an inspiration, not only to me but to many. His work will continue to inspire writers, artists, and film makers for many years to come.

 

EnJOY!

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