Friday, August 28, 2015

Sneak Preview – 
First section, first chapter of my new novel 
Go With The Flo

Chapter One – Flo

Life is a paradox! How is it that at the exact same second in time one person can be on such a high that she cannot see the ground beneath her and another can feel so low that not a sliver of air could possibly slide between her and rock bottom? How is that?
Flo had harbored this thought from time to time, and recently, given the fact that she was floundering somewhere in the middle, with every good memory locked as tight as tick in the middle of her brain, and with too many bad recollections gone over the proverbial dam and just as well forgotten, she was able to reconsider it. Contemplating life’s contradictions, and understanding them, had never been her forte, but recent events had given her a chance to see more clearly. Being on a random plane that for her right now was as smooth as polished glass, allowed her to view life, perhaps for the first time ever, without the usual, annoying filters. God knows she had spent enough time reflecting on her own past and finally had come to the conclusion that it was not her fault. Oh, she had played a part, of course; it was her life. Yet it was behind her and the future existed; she actually had a few plans for that safely deposited, for now, on the back burner. Presently, however, in this particular expanse in time she did not have to dwell for one stinking second on the past or the future. Instead, she had been planted here and now, for some unknown reason, in a position merely to watch events unfold. She need not interfere; she need not judge; she needed only to be still and take it all in. And what was it? Well, in the minds of most people in the community, it was a mess. Yes, a fucking mess, and Flo found herself in a quite unique position to watch it play out like nobody else.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Something about Freddy
            A Wednesday Morning Writing Exercise

Freddy Wilson wanted one thing: a chance, and who was going to provide that? No one he knew. His mother worked day and night -- days at home, herding Freddy and his four sisters into a queue for their turn at the bathroom before ordering directions for the day. At night she tucked in her offspring before heading down to Mason’s Bakery where she kneaded dough by hand, poured thick concoctions into mixers, and perspired in front of hot ovens until dawn. Four hours of sleep, and she was back at it . . . day after day.
Freddy’s father was another story. He seldom made it home at all, and when he did, he flopped on the sagging sofa sleeping soundly until duty called. A stench of alcohol filled the air around him as he stumbled to the toilet at the back of the house for a bout there. Freddy had learned to make himself scarce when his father came home. It was safer that way. Freddy sadly knew, early on, that he really didn’t have a father at all.
School was an outlet, but not a pretty one. Freddy’s appearance set him apart. His clothes were shabby, threadbare, and soiled, and his face bore an expression of indifference and distain. He had learned very quickly to set up a defense against the odds and to that end, his eyes seldom met with another’s. Even Freddy’s teachers seemed to maintain a distance. And how was he supposed to learn anyway when his stomach rumbled and his head ached? In time he was given a job scraping and stacking dirty trays in the school cafeteria. The task gave him purpose, provided a spare apple or muffin, and kept him away from the stares of students who should have known better. It gave him a place to think. Amid the clatter of dishes and the chatter of the lunch ladies, Freddy found some semblance of peace, for he recognized a truth. Though he wanted a chance in the worst way, the concept was as illusive as a bird in flight.
Chance didn’t lie in the hands of those who had brought him into this world. It didn’t lie with his siblings. It didn’t lie with teachers or with the students who surrounded him. No. Chance was his alone and he was willing to have at it. Call it risk, luck, or possibility; if chance were accidental, Freddy planned to do one thing: turn it upside down. “I’ll make my own way,” he told himself, “chance or no chance.” And he did.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Ever-So-Satisfying Last Word

The last word has been read and the cover closed; it’s time to move on to something new. How many times have I been here before? Whenever I finish reading a book, I feel a mild sense of accomplishment and whether I loved the book, or simply waded through, I do have an appreciation for authorship. Someone has taken me into a world different from my own or taught me something new.
I’ve been reading, and reading more, all my life. Years ago, when I was a little girl living in the South, I spent lonely, Sunday afternoons reading – The Five Little Peppers series, The Boxcar Children, Bobbsey Twin books and many, many biographies written for children. I learned about Clara Barton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abe Lincoln, Daniel Boone, Betsy Ross, and so many more. Books allowed me to peer into the lives of some amazing people and if I try really hard, I can almost see the orange volumes lined in a row yearning to say, “Pick me!”
As a youngster back in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, I loved visiting the library on Saturday mornings, scooting back to a large room behind the stacks, and being given a task: to cover aging books with thick, wide sheets of colorful wallpaper. The books my pals and I covered had fraying edges, cracked spines, and corners bent ever so slightly inward. Books such as these had been clutched, handled or mishandled, and gripped in too many hands to count. Yellowing pages were loose and corners were dog-eared.
“Why keep this old thing. It’s seen better days,” one might have said. “Why not toss it?”
Not a chance. For the library lady these books were priceless, and on some level, they were for us as well. So we folded, taped, and labeled, giving more than a few, old volumes a chance for one more round.
Memories about reading, about books, abound, and now that I have authored a few of my own, I cherish them even more. Times have changed though. I seem to live in front of a computer – composing, rereading, rewriting, editing, over and over. I completed another novel recently. The last word has been written and the file has been closed; it’s time to move on to something new. Not one word of a new project has been processed yet, but I am writing anyway. I have been for days. My mind has been very busy, and quite soon, I will sit where I am now and begin again . . . word by word until it is done and that, for me, is satisfaction, pure and simple.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pizza – P-town Style

            Rick and I were invited to a pizza party last night. It was something of a random, unexpected invite from Megan, the famous Westside dog walker! Megan knows every dog around the neighborhood by name and EVERYONE knows Megan, SO to be included in a select group of only ten people who were allowed to be a part of the party was quite an honor.
            “Megan has invited us to a pizza party,” I told my husband.
            “Well, that’s nice. We should go,” he replied.
            “I think so too. I’ll tell her we’ll be there.”
            “It’ll be nice to have a night out, no cooking, good company,” I added.
            That statement was not completely accurate, however. We arrived at the Bovine Bakery in downtown Petaluma at 6:30 p. m. And who showed up? Ten of us: Megan, Diane, Ben, Cole, Ren, Lori, Tracy, Tony, Rick, and me . . . just as planned. We walked into the bakery, met Carolyn the awesome owner, and looked around. Where was the party?
            “I won this party,” Megan smiled.
            How? Where’s the pizza?  I was a bit confused.
            Carolyn set things straight. “Come on back,” she said. “We’re ready.”
            We followed her to the back of the bakery only to find ten pizza tins loaded with fresh dough, all surrounding bowls of various cheeses, olives, onions, salami, pepperoni, mushrooms, tomatoes, and myriad other ingredients that we were allowed to pile high on our own creations. We were making pizza!
            Tony, a former baker himself, led the way and before we knew it, all of us were laughing, interacting, picking, oohing, and gushing about our handcrafted pizzas. When we were satisfied, Carolyn shoved them into hot ovens and we stepped back to sip a bit of wine, enjoy a salad, and pull out the iPhones for photos.
            Topping off the evening was the camaraderie. We knew Megan as the dog-walker; Tony was our former mail carrier; Tracy was my former student, and the rest were strangers. Not any more. We’ve made new friends, and because of Megan’s inclusion of us, enjoyed an evening of laughter, photographs, animated conversation, and, for some of us, memories of days gone by. And of course I cannot ignore the delicious pizza. (We all are quite talented cooks! Ha!)
Every one of us who accepted Megan’s invitation left Bovine Bakery last night, two and a half hours after we arrived, with full tummies, smiles on our faces, and the realization that good folks are all around us. It was a simple gathering, I suppose, but I won’t forget it. Thanks, Megan.
AND, if ever in Petaluma, CA, one might want to check out Bovine Bakery on 4th Street. It’s a treat waiting to happen.

In the photo of the group: Diane, Lori, Megan, Judi, Rick (in back) and Ren, Tracy, Cole, and Ben in front. Tony had to leave before this photo was taken.
In the photo to the left: Carolyn, the owner of Bovine Bakery, and OUR pizzas.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Writing the Word

            What is the word, anyway? Is it the truth? Is it a lie? Is it fantasy, imagination gone wild, or secrets divulged? And why do it? Writing is not always easy, but it can be fun, and if the words flow, as they sometimes do, the result is quite satisfying. The challenge of writing comes when words stubbornly resist like a terrible two-year-old. How does one talk sense into them? Likely it’s not possible. They won’t listen, or can’t hear. The parent, the writer, stands aside then, knowing this challenge will pass eventually. A new day will arrive, a blank page will appear, and new discoveries will be made. One moves forward.
            I have written a new novel, a mystery that currently is with the publisher. When I began writing this book, I had no idea where it would take me. Seriously. Writing is like that sometimes. I begin often with an idea, a concept, or a view about life, and let myself go. The characters I develop often emerge having minds of their own. It is almost as if they take charge, pointing the way rather than allowing me to lead them. And as for the plot? It can be equally unruly. Twists and turns occur as those words fill the page taking me, the writer, into places and situations I had not foreseen or imagined. It’s magic, really, and I’m addicted.
So, here’s to words . . . wonderful, delicious words. They are there, millions of them, free for the picking.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Something About A Guy Named Ralph – Playing With Words
Growing up poor had not been easy. Ralph knew better than most. He had felt the pangs of hunger a time or two, had worn shoes that pinched his toes, and had slipped his legs through trouser legs, the bottoms of which kissed his calves above the ankles. He had borne the pain of classmates tittering at him from time to time and with their quips he had grown small, but not for long.
            Fortunately for Ralph, he had a role model in his papa, a man who, without complaint, had worked hard every day of his life on a small farm that eked out summer vegetables, eggs when the hens were cooperating, and goat milk, raw and warm. The two caught a few fish when the river was flowing, but scorching days often pulled water away from the shore, leaving them with a trickling run and slim pickings. Though there wasn’t abundance in the way of food, that hadn’t mattered much, for from his father, Ralph learned reserve, tenacity, and perseverance, and those supplanted the tangibles that were in short supply. Instead of a fat belly and cravings for more, Ralph grew character.
Papa passed on when Ralph was seventeen. It was a blow, under which some with more might have crumbled. Not Ralph. He packaged his grief, packed it inside, and moved forward, one step at a time, not looking back for one second. He was never really alone, he knew, because Papa was within, a memory as sweet and savory as fruit sweetened on a tangled vine.

And what will happen to Ralph? Maybe he’ll appear in a longer story some day; maybe he’ll be the main character in a novel; maybe he’ll surprise us all. I began with a sentence this afternoon. Ralph took over.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Love Note to Alex                                                                                            

            Some days are not easy. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because of all the fire activity in California. Tragic though it is, you would have been in your element. Maybe it’s because Rudy, the dog you rescued, loves his new doggy pad. His big, brown eyes told me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to the Foo Fighters at full volume just like you used to do. Maybe it’s because I saw your brother recently and I was reminded of the love we all shared. Maybe it’s because I walked into your empty bedroom like I’ve done a million times before and found you there, staring out of framed photos. What I wouldn’t give to see that smile again, up close and personal . . . laughter bubbling right behind. Remembering makes my heart crack . . . again and I’ve allowed myself to cry today because no one is around to see.
            The last distinguishable words you said in this life were, “Hey, Ma. It’s me, Alex. Just checking in.” It was your standard greeting every time we spoke on the phone for years. What a gift you gave me by voicing those words so clearly, one last time, before you simply could not go on any longer. I will never forget.
            So, although my morning has been difficult, I am buoyed by sweet memories of you, Alex. They keep me going forward, one step at a time, but I won’t lie. I miss you buddy, my son, my friend, and my confidant. You are never far away. My heart beats for you each day.