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“Forbidden” Character Interviews Continue w/ Another Chance to Win!!

Forbidden Ebook Cover

I’m excited to announce next Monday’s character interview for “Forbidden“.

While it might seem that Bernadette Withermoore has a menial role throughout the story, the meaning behind this character is quite significant. I won’t go into interpretations in this particular post but want to make a note that she is not to be overlooked.

Therefore, Monday’s character interview will be with Bernadette. Feel free to comment with questions, because like last week, one question will win a $5 Amazon E-gift card! How exciting is that!

Stay tuned on Monday for Bernadette’s interview, and please leave a question in the comment section!

We All Fall Down

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“Ashes, ashes! Ashes, ashes! Ashes!”

Little Serenity’s shrill voice carried, with ease, through the living room and into the narrow kitchen of the two bedroom home. Ed rubbed his wrinkled forehead and added more vodka to the mug of orange juice that sat alongside piles of neglected plates and glasses that lined the countertop.

“We all fall down!”

Ed guzzled the alcohol-infused mixture until it was empty.

Serenity entered the kitchen, arms spread wide. “No, all of us fall. I’m the queen. I command you!” She turned her large light blue eyes to Ed. “Daddy, you too. Fall down!”

“No, no. Not today,” he managed.

Serenity’s foot was this narrow, tiny thing but that day it could’ve been the foot of a velociraptor as she slammed it against the white tile floor. “Fall down!” 

Ed’s nose flared. “I’ve had about enough of you, girl.” He pointed to the fragile screen door that separated the kitchen from the neglected back yard. “Out with ya.”

Her arms folded across her stomach in a pout. “Fine. Stupid Daddy.” The words faded as she exited. “Stupid Daddy. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

When Ed’s eyes caught sight of a fresh presentation of chocolate chip size deposits trailed across the floor, he grumbled. “Damn things, back again.” A saucer fell and broke as he reached past a pile of plates to grab the box of rat poison. He shook it just to make sure there’d be enough to kill the sickening invaders.

***

Serenity hopped around the yard and eventually settled at her mother’s garden. Flowers blooming in spring, well, they’re a sign of new life, Serenity’s mom had told her daughter the prior year while rubbing her growing belly.

Like your baby? Serenity had asked.

Our baby. 

But the small girl in her jean overalls and fairy princess shirt had never thought of the intruder as someone to be included. Worse yet, as her mom’s belly got bigger, she could no longer play games. Fall down, Serenity had demanded.

I just can’t, baby. 

Soon after that afternoon the young girl’s mom had fallen down, along with her unborn baby brother who her parents were going to name George. Serenity’s mother and George had both fallen down, for good.

Serenity skipped around the square flower box. “Water them, care for them, show them a lot of love, and in early spring they’ll grow with help from sun from above.” Her thin lips curled into a smile as she continued her song. “Sing to them, talk to them, they’re safely in their beds. Then, silently, quietly, rip off their little heads.” Her fingers ripped off the white bloom of a daisy, and a familiar buzz fulfilled her stomach.

The sun that escaped the barrier of trees and branches that lined an old path through the forest caught the girl’s attention. She dropped the dying flower and used her ripped up Sketcher to kick it into the dirt. “Time to go see Maria. She’ll play with me.”

The bumps along the unsure path reminded Serenity of the weary sidewalk outside of her aunt Gerry’s home. Serenity never knew why her mom had decided to send her away, but she was awful glad her dad picked her up just days before her mom fell for the final time.

As she continued through the opening, the trees thickened and imprisoned the sun. Serenity appreciated the darkness as much as she appreciated seeing the mix of purple and black that circled Justine Harrelson’s left eye. The stupid little thing had approached Serenity on the playground, flipping her shiny blonde hair, displaying her marshmallow white teeth, like a hungry lion, a stupid little hungry lion. Weirdo. The girl let out this merciless laugh before continuing. I heard your mom died. Your mom is dead. Your mom is dea–”

Justine didn’t have a chance to do much more after that but scream. Students from all corners of the playground ran toward the chilling cries for help just to witness Serenity’s little hand come up with a fist full of hair before charging back down to the girl’s face. The next time, her hand came up covered in blood. She’d managed to do a number on Justine before a teacher arrived to stop the scene.

Remembering that darkness excited Serenity in a way she’d only known one other time. She took careful steps along the surrounded path until she came upon warm lights that glowed and outlined a mobile home. Serenity grinned and approached the front door.

“Hold on, hold on.” Maria peered out the door. “Oh, it’s you.”

Serenity took note of the rollers.

She motioned for the little girl to come on inside. “I’m not busy, just settin’ my hair.”

Serenity crinkled her nose and ran her fingers through her own short, black hair. “Sitting on it?”

“I put it up in these rollers, here. It stays rolled up for a week. I got it off one of those mailing catalogues. Don’t know if you all see the mail truck comin’ out here.”

Serenity shook her head and took a seat on the couch and swatted away a line of cigarette smoke.

“What are you up to today?” Maria shuffled into the kitchen area and stirred a deep pot before covering it. “I’m making up some stew, here. When I finish, you can take some back for you and your pa. How’s that?”

“Thanks.” Serenity took in a nose-ful of meat and spices she hadn’t noticed when she’d first arrived. “I want to play ashes, ashes, let’s fall down.” Her little eyes flickered and lit brighter than the flame on Maria’s lighter as the woman flicked the spark wheel to light another cigarette.

“Can’t today, button.” She gestured to her head. “Gotta keep these suckers still.”

Serenity huffed. Her face reddened and burned and the fire seared her stomach all the way to the bottoms of her feet. The girl balled her hands into threatening fists as she tried to put out the flames.

“Tell you what. Why don’t you go out and look for frogs in my yard. I seen lots of those things out lately.”

***

Ed poured more orange juice in the navy mug and filled it the rest of the way with vodka. The powder trail of poison blurred and danced when he studied it. “Dumb little shits,” he grumbled. “That oughta do it.”

It had done it for Laurel and his unborn son. Done it to the point the cops had hauled his ass down to the station until he proved he hadn’t been home the night his wife had poisoned herself. When the dumb fucks released him, they’d said, Darn lucky the little girl didn’t eat them cookies.

Ed had agreed at the time. At least he had his little girl, the porcelain, innocent face with wide almond eyes. He was damn fucking lucky. After a few weeks, he noticed how loud she was. She never shut the hell up, ever. Talk, talk, talk, talk, sing, sing, sing. She was Laurel’s job.

He took another sip; he could’ve put her in that dress. That one dress, the navy one with bright yellow sunflowers and those dirty white saddle shoes. He could’ve polished them up real nice. Paired them with white frill socks from the dime store and a big poof of a hair bow. He could’ve appreciated the little girl, then. Her still, slim body resting, motionless in a shiny, wooden box, her doll-like hands sleeping against her chest. He could’ve cried, kissed her forehead, and said a prayer before sending her to a silent sleep.

The bottle of vodka was empty. Ed reached for the Jim Beam.

***

A sharp cry caught Serenity’s attention. She walked toward the noise and saw a fragile creature. “Hey there,” she cooed at the baby sparrow. “I guess you lost your mommy.”

She reached for the bird and cupped her hands to cradle it. It sat still, beak opening ever so often to elicit another squeak. She studied its wide, black eyes. A few feathers had started to grow. The thing’s desperate screech irritated Serenity when she tugged at one of the attached feathers. She pressed the top and bottom of its infantile beak together and noticed how its eyes widened with fear. Her stomach twisted and tumbled, so familiar. The thrilling satisfaction nearly doused the fire.

“Here you go.” She sat the little creature on a bed of grass and grabbed a nearby rock. “We all fall down.” Her hum was peaceful as she tossed the stone and watched it crush the infant’s fragile skull.

“Serenity?”

She hadn’t noticed Maria open the trailer door.

“Over here.” Serenity stood and moved away from the dead bird.

“Soup’s ready. Bring the bowl back.”

“I’ll return it full of cookies just like me and my momma used to make.”

Maria extended the plastic tub to Serenity, purplish-red painted lips stretched into a smile. “I’d like that very much.”

***

Ed had enjoyed Maria’s soup. It’d been a long time since a woman cooked him a meal. A long time, indeed. And then, to follow it up, Serenity had left him with a plate of cookies before rinsing the tub and returning to their neighbor with a few cookies inside.

Maybe she was doing better than he thought. His hand shook as he reached for the bottle of Wild Turkey and took a drink. “Time to bait those fuckers again,” he mumbled and grabbed the box of rat poison from the table. He shook the container. Had he used that much a couple days ago? Maybe. Hell, he couldn’t remember. Ed bit into a still-warm cookie.

***

Serenity skipped up the uneven path. Even the trees that lined the walkway seemed lighter that day. She sang her favorite song, the one her mom had taught her. This is our song. It will always be our game. Nothing will ever come between us. But something did.

Liar, Serenity thought. “We all fall down. We all fall down. We all fall down. All fall down.”

***

I don’t know how he did it, but that sick bastard did it. 

That’s what Sherriff McAllister had said when police had finally arrived on scene and found Ed’s body surrounded in an eruption of fluids that ranged from frothy vile around his mouth to moist stools near his waist and feet.

Thank God that little girl didn’t eat any. See if the neighbor lady heard or saw anything. 

Maria was nowhere to be found.

Her property sat in silent isolation for days until buzzards started to circle the roof of her trailer. Their never ending honks caught McAllister’s attention. Hours later, they hauled Maria’s body from the residence.

Mc Allister glanced at the sun that danced through the forests’ branches. He thought of the innocent tears that had plagued little Serenity’s face. She is the sunshine in all of this, he’d said. That trash of a father she had. It’s a wonder the little girl is as stable as she is.

***

The years weren’t kind to Serenity. The trail of death that seemed to stalk her reminded her of the dark, uneven path of her old home. As soon as she reached adulthood, she moved back to that home. She needed familiarity.

And it was while she was clipping a rosebush that a head of light blond hair appeared at the end of that old path. “What you doing?”

Serenity took in the little boy’s cheeks that had not yet shed their baby fat. He was in red shorts and a blue and white stripe top. A strand of hair fell down his forehead and his lips exposed his white teeth when he gave her a chubby smile. She motioned for him to come over and spent the morning explaining all of her flowers to the boy.

“Go home. I go home,” he finally said.

“Did you just move in?”

“Me, sissy, Momma, and Dada. Just move up there.” His chunky finger pointed at the trail.

“That’s so wonderful.” That feeling surfaced in Serenity’s stomach. It tossed and tumbled through her body with freedom. “Run along home, now. Tell your mommy to have coffee ready. I’ll stop by with sugar cookies.” Serenity’s excited grin made the boy chuckle. “You like sugar cookies?”

He nodded his head.

“Okay, run on home. I’ll be over soon. I promise.”

Serenity’s eyes followed the boy as he toddled up the path and disappeared in the clutches of its darkness. Her grin spread wider across her face, she sang, “We all fall down.”

 

**A Huge Shout Out to Writers Unite for sharing “We All Fall Down” in their writing group! If you haven’t checked them out on Facebook or at their website, please do so by clicking the link!!

Monday: “Forbidden” Character Interviews with Reverend Elijah Colstock

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I get so excited when my characters agree to interviews. I am glad to introduce the first interview in a series of interviews with questions asked directly by readers and answered by the characters of “Forbidden“, my newest novella.

Today, we will be hearing answers from Reverend Elijah Colstock, and at the end of his interview, he will be selecting one question that wins a $5 Amazon Gift Card (woohoo!). Throughout the interview, I will be listed as “E” and Colstock will be referred to as “C”. So, without further adieu, we bring you week one of character interviews.

E: Welcome to my blog, Colstock.

C: *Clears throat*. “C”?

E: Is that not okay?

C: Lest you forget, I am a pastor. Therefore, “PC” is appropriate.

E: “PC”? Well..umm, okay. Let’s not begin on bad footing. “PC”, how’s that?

PC: It will suffice.

E: We have some fantastic questions today. So, let’s begin with our first one. Samantha Ann Leigh asks, “What is your greatest fear?”

PC: The Bible says “Fear Not” approximately 365 times. I do not have fears, for stand, do I, devout in the Lord. Why, the Lord is speaking to me right now. He says, ‘Colstock, thou hast no fear.’ What an affirmation. What a joyous interlude.

E: Well then…continuing. Melissa Sell would like to know, “What is your least favorite Bible passage?”

PC: Blashpemy, for His word commandeth me in my way, lest I slip and burn in the pit of fire. A righteous man, a leader, such as myself finds no error in the Holy Word of God. It is those who misconstrue his Word, those who believe we should accept others and love other people as though we are on even footing that I find disdain in. For our God is an angry God. We must be in constant prayer and vigilance lest we be deceived by lies.

E: Well, that’s umm, passionate. Cait Marie has three questions for you. I will begin with the first. She asks, “What is your favorite childhood memory?”

PC: My father, the late Josiah Colstock would oft take me to the pulpit, and for a brief time, allow me to stand behind the wooden structure–the alter of our God, open his Bible, and read aloud a verse. It was a rather rare occasion, but as the future leader of Paradise Grove and its prestigious religious establishment, one I treasured more than any other.

E: Mine was painting rocks and selling them to the neighbors…not that anyone cares, but…Anyhoo…Back to our interview with another question from Cait who asks, “If you could be an animal, which would you be and why?”

PC: Well, I have yet to think on this. For these are the thoughts of an idle mind. Who would be an animal? For, it is not I. I was created to be a leader of men, to spread the Lord’s word. A sin, would it be for me to contemplate this question. I shall not walk in the ways and path to hell.

E: Is that an answer, then?

PC: Yes, I believe it is.

E: For your final question, Cait asks, “What is your greatest achievement?”

PC: Is that not obvious? Perhaps it is not. My greatest achievement is leading Paradise Grove in the ways of the Lord. When we bide our time in faith, we do not fall into Satan’s evil hands. I will keep my people safe by listening and translating the word and meaning of God to them and for them. They listen to me in all they do, they trust me, and they obey when I speak.

E: Those are all of the questions I have. I really appreciate you taking the time from your “busy” schedule to come and give us clarity on your thoughts and feelings about the world.

PC: I try to be charitable when it suits me.

E: I’m sure you do. By the way, who is the winner of the gift card?

PC: Those plastic cards of yours will lead to your demise. Hear me now, they are the ways of sin. Nevertheless, I abstain from judgement and pick Cait Marie who was astute enough to ask of my accomplishments.

Well, there you all have it. Pastor Elijah Colstock in the first of a series of interviews from characters of “Forbidden“.

Congrats Cait Marie on winning! I will be contacting your soon in regards to your gift card.

Stay tuned, I will be announcing next week’s character on Wednesday!! 

 

“Forbidden” Character Reviews and Your Chance to WIN!!

Forbidden Ebook CoverWell, I can say that I was anxious but excited to release “Forbidden“, as with any novel I publish. “Forbidden” is an allegory, it’s dark. Don’t expect to like the characters; don’t expect to even “get to know” the characters too well.

What I enjoyed most about writing this piece was the challenge of creating a story that a reader can take at face value or that he/she can choose to read into. “Forbidden” has the ability to be as dimensional as one might want to make it. Every word, every stylistic choice, even down to the back cover is a commentary.

With that said, I am excited to announce that I will be trying something new on my blog by releasing character interviews. I think this experiment will be entertaining and rewarding, overall positive.

Monday I will be publishing an interview by Reverend Elijah Colstock. So, feel free to drop questions for him in the comment section of this post. You can also leave a website or social media in the comment and I will link your name to it; that is optional, however.

Reverend Colstock will be selecting one person who asks a question to win a $5 Amazon E-gift card.

I hope everyone has as much fun reading the interview as Colstock will have answering the questions.

Until Monday,

Cheers!

Mental Illness is a Shit Show–Let’s Stop Romanticizing It

MentalIllness

Yesterday someone in one of my writing groups presented a question about creativity and its connection to mental illness. I read through some of the comments and was a little taken aback by the idea that being a brilliant artist while suffering mental illness equates to a certain level of beauty.

I’ll say before I write anything more that I am one person. I am a writer. I suffer from chronic migraines and mental illness. I’m not a psychologist and the following is just my opinion and personal observation:

Mental illness is a shit show, a mess hotter than asphalt in mid-July. There is nothing “beautiful” about pulling into a grocery store parking lot and nearly vomiting while experiencing the simultaneous sensation of being smothered by plastic wrap.

No one in the world says, “Wow! Look at the girl standing in the corner counting to steady her breathing before she has a complete breakdown because she feels as if the walls are going to close in on her and her vision is beginning to tunnel. Give me some of that with a side of the guy fidgeting in the long line because there’s too many people around him and he feels like they’re all staring at him, judging him because that’s what the voices in his head are whispering to him, so it must be true. That sounds mysterious and beautiful and I want to be a part of it!”

Nobody says that! Ever!!

This mindset that artists need to suffer in order to create “brilliant” or “beautiful” art as though it’s a first class yacht club that one can only be a part of if they find themselves in near-constant mental, emotional, or physical turmoil needs to stop. Mental illness is not a trend; it’s not an itinerary. It is a result of real situations that a person has experienced.

Those of us who have endured trauma and survived it or have these illnesses for other reasons are not exhibits for show on society’s gallery. We’re human beings who have turned to artistic expression and use our abilities and talents to heal, cope, process what we are going through, or to reach others and communicate our truths about how we suffer and how we process, heal, and move forward from those circumstances.

I can’t and will not speak for everyone, but I will say that if I could trade artistic talent for great mental health, I would do so without batting an eye. I don’t believe that artistic talent and trauma/mental illness are mutually inclusive. In other words, I believe that many artists such as myself are born with talents. For example, I play various instruments by ear, vocally I have perfect pitch, and I compose by ear. I can’t read music. The child/adulthood trauma I endured has nothing to do with those abilities other than I was able to turn to them when I needed to.
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Throughout childhood, I looked to music, theatre arts, and reading as a mechanism for survival. I learned to appreciate art because it is healing. Even my group When She Walked Away, advocates healing from domestic violence through artistic expression.

I’ve never considered the process of healing to be “beautiful”. Even as a physical wound is healing it itches, burns, throbs, sometimes there’s puss or even blood. It scabs over and sometimes even the scab is irritating. This is the same for emotional and mental wounds; they’re worse because no one can see them. Healing requires tremendous bravery and willpower.

I won’t argue that many great works of literature, art, and music have not stemmed from talented artists who have suffered greatly from physical/mental illness and trauma. But, I believe that we can recognize that perhaps there is some connection (and perhaps not) without romanticizing what they’ve been through.

We can appreciate the works without believing that hardship or distress is required to produce them or that the end product warranted the trauma that the artist experienced. We can look to these paintings, illustrations, poems, books, and compositions for insight into mental health and we can certainly stop referring to the very real and daily battle that others struggle through as “beautiful”.

 

 

Coffee Shop–1

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Mud-water splashes against my pant legs. In no time they’ll dry, leaving spots of dirt trailing up the material. I despise going anywhere when it rains. Fog beats against storefront windows. The air is humid, melancholy whispers that reduce themselves to leaves as they tap the top of a park bench. It’s nothing special, an ordinary bench in a line of benches.

The coffee shop, with its scattered tables, struggles to mimic some endearing quaintness found in larger cities. The atmosphere falls short of the cliché setting in which a girl I used to date in high-school phones to say she’s driving through town that afternoon.

The atmosphere, where, a couple quivering cups of coffee, a bit of small talk, and a handful of tense gestures later, we find ourselves reminiscing between three-hundred-count bedsheets in a hotel a few miles down the road where I realize exactly what it is we’ve both done after thirty-minutes of irreverent silence and a couple attempts at ‘footsie’.

This is the café where baristas forget to properly mix the milk with coffee. The light swirls around dark, and there’s an ease by which my tongue separates the flavors. Nagging, really, like trying to recall where it is I’m supposed to remember her from or how she obtained my number.

From school? Decades have passed since I attended school…never went to reunions. She wants to ‘catch up’, the voicemail says. It dictates to meet her downtown at 2:00 P.M. and to not be late.

Catch up to what? I never realized we’re behind. It’s true, though…as true as the way stagnant water lurks on small town sidewalks and waits for some guy…some guy with a receding hairline and proof that sitting behind desk twelve hours a day utilizes more mental endurance than physical–then, now, here, gone; and all leads to the eventual absorption in pavement or dirt.

She’s in a blue dress, periwinkle if I’m being specific. I’m not, so I’ll go with blue. The back of her head resembles a helmet. Is that a bob? I still can’t recount who she is. I know who I am–the recluse–the stereotypical nerd whose Saturday evenings were best spent programming in VCC++ 6.0, learning the song of FORTRAN, and LINUX–were? Who am I fooling? They still are.

I turn. The bookstore’s having a sale–twenty-five percent off this weekend only. When it rains, I crave an adventure with Herman Melville, to ride along on the Pequod. Will they have a copy?

A tragic journey on the high-seas or a by-the-hour hotel encounter with a chic I don’t recall?

Chanting along with the infamous quarter-deck scene or waiting in a café incapable of mixing caffeinated beverages?

Pages of winding plot, or hours of wondering why anyone would be wearing such a hideous shade of my favorite color?

The bell clanks as I enter. The clerk glances up. “Can I help you?”

“Certainly, you don’t happen to have Melville, do you?”

 

Cocky-Tales Anthology

cocky tails TO CURVES

As I wrap up the final touches on “Cocky-Tales” anthology, I can’t help but be grateful–not for the situation of #cockygate and the inane need to monopolize words–but for the experience. I am thankful that life challenged me with a project that I never thought I would be a part of.

In the end, it wasn’t actually me. It was all of the wonderful authors and poets from a gamut of writing backgrounds coming together and sharing their talents that made “Cocky-Tales” possible.

A few observations–I have a sincere appreciation for publishers who piece together anthologies. People, this is not an easy feat. There’s advertising for submissions, reading those submissions, writing acceptances–and sadly, rejections…I’ll pause…rejections were difficult, because having received many myself…I know the let-down, contracts, edits, the cover–Created by Leslie Safford who doesn’t have any social media links–…and gosh darn-it (!!) making sure the author bios and links were correct with no spaces (spaces within links was a thing…I don’t get it).

Anyhow, kudos to people who compile anthologies on the regular…and that formatting tho…I could write a blog post about nothing but formatting. *Deep sigh*

The feeling of completing “Cocky-Tales” is awesome! I’m not sure if enough celebratory cakes exist in the world to honor the release tomorrow.

The majority of the excitement comes from the opportunity to not only learn but to give back. I think that #cockygate is a situation that could have impacted any genre; it just happened to take place in the romance community. But more so than looking at creative writing as an art that contains the genre-centric borders, the writing community is just that: community, and it is imperative that we view it from that lens.

Talk to any two authors and we will not have the same process when it comes to creative expression, and that’s what makes art so interesting–the ability that artists have to impact a variety of individuals, to express just how each person perceives the experience of life in a different way!

Don’t get me wrong–I believe in marketing and creating a unique brand. I also believe that it can be accomplished without attempting to own common use words. Words such as “cocky”, “forever”, “quantum”…are building blocks with which we create our worlds, and it’s a scary thing to believe that one person would strive to “buy” those building blocks to eliminate competition.

It happened. I hope that it won’t happen again. But I would also hope for an apology from “she who shall not be named”. (I also hope for a million dollar check, a Caribbean cruise, and a beach home–all of the above might be more likely than a simple “I’m sorry”.)

I hope that “Cocky-Tales” encourages those who have taken part in it and those who read it to continue to create and to support all forms of art.

My biggest wish is that through this anthology we illustrate the definition of coming together as a community for an important cause.

To snag your copy of “Cocky-Tales, click here! And Many Thank You’s for supporting our project!!!