Wednesday, February 15, 2017


I haven't participated in Write..Edit..Publish (hosted by Denise Covey and Yolanda Renee) in a while. I've been busy off-line. Or, just busy with nothing important to anybody except me.

I had an idea in mind for WEP February post, love and mayhem of course, but then a song got stuck in my head, which probably went well with love and mayhem (You Don't Own Me) and oddly enough a feel-good song (Life In A Northern Town) uploaded on the u-Tube play list and I changed my mind about the WEP concept.  I should be writing a Valentines Day theme, but I'm a cynic, especially when it comes to romantic love.

Anyway, Here's my contribution to WEP; BACK OF THE DRAWER prompt; a 1000 word flash fiction titled TOWNIE. Click here for blogfest details and other participants.


The whole town turned out to help pack up. Not literally the whole town; but everyone that anyone would know.

Jackie Downs who owned Towne Cafe, and her wife and two adopted children. Cindy Foster, head nurse at the ER; Jacob Mears, Cruz Santos and Jeremy Hollister from the volunteer fire department. And the Hostler sisters, Maris and Berdine, head of every social or charitable organization in Oxford County, or so it seemed.

There were so many people crowding the halls, rooms, garage and lawns that plain old Susan Gumms didn't know where in her parent’s house she could catch her breath. Or how to ask for two minutes with all the objects being boxed and carted to a 24 foot moving van.

"No, no," she commanded breathlessly, racing into the kitchen as she spotted Cindy Foster tugging noisily at the top drawer of a cabinet next to the sink. "That drawer contains things that aren't related to the kitchen. I'd like to go through it myself if you don't mind."

Cindy looked up and frowned, wisps of her brown hair artfully framing her perfectly painted face. "Its just a junk drawer Suz. Every house has one."

“Yes, I know. But I want to go through this one myself. Please."

Susan put two hands on the drawer as Cindy gave it another yank.

"But -"

"Ease up Cindy," said a deep male voice from behind Susan. "Let the girl have a say over one thing in her childhood home."

Susan turned to see a tall, muscular man in orange shirt and blue jeans leaning against the door frame between the kitchen and dining room.

"Peter Jennings, are you implying that -"

"Yes I am," Peter said, peeling himself off the door frame and legging his way to Susan's side. "Whatever it is you are implying, I'm saying."

"Well, I never."

"Sure you have." Peter cocked his head and gave a sly wink to Susan as Cindy tugged on her silk blouse and stalked out the back door.

To have a cigarette, Susan imagined. One of those secrets that the whole town knew about but pretended not to notice.

"Thank you," Susan said as she leaned over the half open drawer.

"For what?"

Susan tried to close it, but the drawer wouldn't budge. Tugging it open more didn't work either.

"Well, he-"

"Let me try," Peter said, laying his hands on hers. "I have experience with immovable objects."

Susan quickly moved away, but not before the warmth of his light touch ignited years of forgotten passion. She was a nerdy girl of fifteen, running from the taunts of the popular girls. Strands of her brown hair escaped the pigtails she'd bound her hair in. Rain obscured the well used path through the woods behind her home, and although not in danger of getting permanently lost in the copse of trees, she'd made the attempt to hide out in places even her twin brother hadn't discovered yet.

Peter knew the woods better than anyone except his father, a Forest Ranger and head of the local search and rescue. She had fallen, was covered in mud and shivering from cold and embarrassment. Peter had smiled, brushed the moss from her hair and wrapped her in his coat.

An annoyance before, she’d fallen instantly in love with the boy who rescued her. Her brother’s best friend, who always treated her like a sister. Even through college, where she never seemed to lose her geeky awkwardness, he’d come to her rescue t unexpected moments when her brother’s football teammates would get too fresh, or the sorority girls’ teasing became too cruel.

“Townies gotta stick together,” he say, usually with a soft kiss to her cheek or forehead.

Children’s screams from outside nearly drowned out his soft curse. “What the heck is in here Suz? Its stuck pretty tight.”

She bent over the drawer, nearly bumping heads with him as she reached a slender hand into the half open drawer.

“Careful,” he cautioned as she jerked her fingers out of the drawer.

“Uhm,” she mumbled, putting her bleeding index finger into her mouth.

She looked around guiltily, not wanting every medic in the house to come offer a band aid. She was grateful for all the help and concern, but it was becoming overwhelming. She worried they would all want to follow the moving van to her apartment in the city and try to unload it all. Maybe hang out and hear her father’s talk about the good old days on the force. And then they’d again offer condolences on her mother’s death, share hospital stories of their own.

Which naturally would lead to pity and further speculation regarding her brother’s tragic death in the fire two years ago. She didn’t have the heart for reminiscing and all that smothering concern.

“Let me see.”

She hesitated, and Peter gently tugged her finger out of her mouth.

“Pretty deep. Come here, lets rinse it off for a better look.” He led her to the sink, an arm around her waist as he held her hand in the air.

She winced when the cold water hit the cut. “Just a scratch.” She swooned a little, remembering how often she’d wished he would hold her close like this, like the first time she’d fallen for him. He looked up from her finger as a series of exaggerated grunts and groans mingled with a woman’s shouts to be careful.

“That sounds like my wife,” he said, a smile lighting his face. “In here Judith. Wait, go see if the bathroom medicine cabinet has been packed up yet. Should be some gauze and antiseptic in there.”

“Is it bad,” the blond woman said with a frown. She looked to be about seven months pregnant, the weight not slowing down her long strides at all.

“Hardly worth a band aid,” Susan assured the woman.

She pulled her hand out of Peter's and stepped out of his embrace. The magic of Peter’s touch had worn off with his wife’s appearance. He had never looked at Susan with such warmth, and in truth, she’d stopped chasing him during their sophomore year in college. She had let the tequila convince her to kiss him at an after game party, and it had felt like kissing her brother.

“I think there’s a first aid kit in that drawer.”

Judith went to the drawer, shook it when it wouldn’t budge, then gently pushed it closed. It slid out smoothly with her next try.

“This must be what cut you,” Judith said, removing a large, broken, plastic heart from the back of the drawer.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IWSG: The Writing Reader

Hey Y'all

How's the year treating you so far? January went by so slowly for me, but it seems I never found the time to get back online after last month's IWSG. This may be a long post; never know when I'll post again, but I have several uncompleted blogging tasks from last month. Feel free to skim and read only what tweaks your interest.

This month's Insecure Writers Group question is: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader? That works perfectly with the incomplete tasks from last month because there were a couple book reviews I wanted to post. Lets see if I can make this concise yet informative.

Before I started taking my writing whims seriously (about 10 years ago), I think I was your average slow but voracious reader. I liked series books, mostly sci-fi/fantasy and horror/thriller, but a good adventure with likeable characters was all that was needed to keep my interest. Typo's have always bugged me, but I never cared if the story was believable (plausible), had any structure, was historically accurate, used cliche phrases. I never assessed a book for anything except pure entertainment value.

Would I love to have those happy book reading days back? Absolutely! Its so rare to just lose myself in a story - let alone stick out an entire series. I seem to be in constant critic mode, analyzing everything from POV, writing style, depth of character arcs, plausibility, factual accuracy (creative license only gets so much leeway), genre tropes. But most of all: originality.

I know, there is almost no original story concept to write about. When I wrote my first novel I thought it was unique because I'd never read any fiction like it. Turns out there is a whole genre of fiction dedicated to the concept, I'd just never read it. I've spent a few years reading in the women's fiction genre, and revising the book (now a trilogy) so that it meets the genre standards, but has some original scenes and twists. Its not easy.

Genre criteria is an area I pay close attention to now in books I read. Its an obsession; not always a good one. But it has allowed me to expand my reading into multiple genre's, just to see how other authors tackle the complex issues of being unique yet standard.

For instance, I've never been much of a romance reader - I was in my early teens (1980's) when I discovered ALL romance novels have the same themes. Men are drop dead gorgeous, rich jet setter play-boys (or spies); women are slightly ditzy yet beautiful, usually poor, swept off their feet by nothing more than a stunning smile and expensive gifts; and lots of long looks and life threatening rescues occur to seal the romance. Got boring quickly. I learned not to like HEA (happily ever after) endings.

Then I learned there were several categories of romance (and wouldn't you know, women's fiction nudges into that niche) and I kinda like some of them. A friend of mine gave me a Regency Romance book after learning I sometimes enjoy Historical and Regency's. The book was THE SUBSTITUTE BRIDEGROOM, written by Charlotte Louise Dolan.

I enjoyed the book; a light hearted, humorous, emotional, period romance that doesn't miss a single criteria beat. Yet, from the opening scenes, a curricle race between two English "gentlemen" that ends in a spectacular crash and the scarring of a beautiful society lady, I was drawn in by the authentic language (vernacular) and setting, the strength of the Hero's character, and the smooth and progressive flow of the story. Some of the secondary characters (the villains who strive to keep the two love interest from truly falling for each other) were too obviously written as props to provide character growth for the two main characters; but I did enjoy the banter and devious antics.

And of course, the chemistry between the Captain and his complacent bride when they actually had scenes together. There was just enough tragedy to keep the expected happy ending from being too cloying, and just enough humor to allow forgiveness for over-writing the selfishness of the villains. I recommend this book to true fans of classic romance.

I read several of the other reviews of this novel (after writing mine), and I was shocked at how many reviews stated that this was nothing new, same old same old for its genre. The oldest review was dated in 2011 after a re-release of her novels, but I believe the original publication date was (Signet) 1991. Most of the reviews were dated 2013 and later. I mention this only because it goes with my assertion that some publication criteria for genre's haven't changed over the last - what, maybe 30 years? Maybe more. And I wonder, if general public reviews were as easily submitted in 1991, if this novel would have gotten the same customer reviews?

I suppose this is why there are so many new genre's opening up. Readers and authors looking to expand on the "tried and true" with some new twists.

Another book I read that tweaked my reader/writer critic was PERSONAL, by Lee Child. Now I have to admit that I like Jack Reacher movies better than the novels (nope, don't care about Tom Cruise's politics or religion, he's a good actor and that's all that matters to me in a movie); but that's because I have a hard time following all the intrigues and techno writing in the books. I liked Lee Child's books NOTHING TO LOSE and WORTH DYING FOR, even though I thought they were just a tad over-written (wordy), so when I was looking for an audio book on CD, I at least knew I liked Lee Child so took a chance on PERSONAL.

The story hooked me right away, but it did not take long for the writing to become repetitive, and info dumpy. By half way through the novel, I felt as if the author was both dumbing down the writing for readers (like me) who have a hard time following complex plots with over explanations and repeats of plot points (investigation progress) so far. Then, it seems the author was pleased with himself regarding all the research that went into the bullet proof glass that was the main subject of the plot, and several times spent pages and pages explaining every aspect of the technology and its development.

Boring. Had I been reading an actual paper (or electronic) book, I would have been skipping pages. As a reader - and perhaps because I'm also a writer - I'm unreasonably offended by an author who feels they have to over-explain a story concept/plot for the reader to "get it."

Over the summer I beta-read a novel for a friend, and my biggest critique was the amount of info dump on every nuance/scene. Yet, here is a best selling author doing the same info dump and repetitive summations that I advised against for a novice author. As a reader (which influences me as an author) I want to get the gist of the concepts through context. As in, if the author can't give me a basic visual within a couple sentences, maybe a paragraph, then I'm pretty sure I'm not the target audience. What I liked about Ms Dolan's novels - although not totally my preferred genre - is that I could understand all the unfamiliar terminology within the context of the story. She trusted her reader, unlike Mr Child.

Did I get off topic? Sorry. This has taken me several days to write. I spent last weekend in Salt Lake City, and had the privilege of visiting with Michael Offutt, who unluckily purchased a gorgeous home that currently has no internet connection, so he has sadly been offline since November. Always a pleasure to hang with Mike, and of course the IWSG question of the month came up. His paraphrased opinion is essentially: how can it not affect your reading opinions?  We had a lively discussion over dinner at Olive Garden about whether ALL author's reading have been affected by their writer knowledge, or if some authors still read with the same enthusiasm and wonder for the written word as before..

So tell me: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

Please be sure to thank your IWSG host (by visiting the blog) Alex J Cavanaugh; and this months co-hosts Misha Gerrick, LK Hill, Juneta Key, Christy, and Joylene Butler.