Cassandra on the Island: Her Gardening

To begin with:
Cassandra had four separate plots of land
where she wanted to plant flowers.
She called them “A, B, C, and D.”
In each plot, she placed two different flowers.

Plot A

She had a talent, her mother would say, for shining brilliant in situations. It was not like walking into a room and capturing the eye of everyone there; It was not like smiling and making everyone smile right along (even though they had no idea what they were smiling about). It went far beyond the dictionary definition of “Charisma.” Cassandra’s mother called it a gift of “radiance” and, when on, it could remind people what a wonder it is to be alive.

Her mother first noticed the talent when taking her daughter to swim at Lake Michigan. It was at the lake that she hated her disability the most. She never knew fear until the first moment she watched her eight-year old run across the beach as she could only sit back in her wheelchair and watch.

But while her mother hated the separation on those moments, Cassandra sought it. It became a reward for her. The kind given after keeping her room clean for five days straight or for helping her mother back in her chair after a fall. Her mother cursed how those incidences seemed to humble her (at least in her mind). The moments when she had to rely on her daughter, her little, tiny daughter, to save her.

If the car accident that crippled the mother taught the two anything, it was the ability to adapt; and adapt is exactly what both of them did. They adapted to losing Cassandra’s father. (Her mother never had the courage to tell her daughter her husband used to beat her. She decided to let her have the delusion of gold around his memory.) They adapted to Cassandra’s mother’s handicap. And Cassandra’s mother adapted to trying to hold her daughter as close as she possibly could, as Cassandra adapted to enjoying the escape from her mother’s suffocating love.

So going to the beach became that for Cassandra, an escape from her mother and the life back home and what she faced every day. (Even though, young Cassandra would have never admitted it, she was quietly embarrassed by her mother’s handicap and would rarely invite her friends over.) The lake was a ritual as rich as entering a church. Like placing holy water on her head, every step for this child was important.

Step 1- Getting mama out of the car.

This step took the longest.

Well, it felt that way for Cassandra. The beach was right there staring at her! How could she not feel the pressure to move faster, faster?

            Step 2- Leaving mama prepared.

Her mother had a full collection of supplies that had to be double-checked. Batteries in her megaphone? Check. First Aid Kit? Check. Binoculars? Check.

Step 3- Make sure mama’s chair is in a good position.

This was very crucial; if her mother couldn’t see her, Cassandra’s time in the water was done. So it was very important to her that she had the best view of every aspect of the beach.

Step 4- The slow walk.

Cassandra’s mother always yelled at Cassandra when she ran. Looking back at her youth, Cassandra believed this was all related to her mother’s inability to run herself. But running on the beach could spell disaster for the day. A simple sprint could call for an end to her cleansing in the waves.

…And yet, Cassandra didn’t mind torturing her mother when she met the water.

Step 5- Going under.

Cassandra always went completely under water first. And she would hold herself under… and under… and under…

She loved the silence. She loved the isolation… She loved the quiet and she hated coming up for that first breath. Her mother hated this game of Cassandra’s. There was many a day that she called her daughter back to the car because of that disappearance. To Cassandra, this was as close to the feeling of immortality she had ever felt. Continue reading

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Sherlock By Moonlight

For over a year I have had trouble falling asleep.

There are many things I can point to as possible blames for my restless evenings. Three jump quickly to mind.

  • The obvious one, and the one we probably all share, is the 2016 election and what happened afterwards. For more information on that, tune in to NPR on any day (or hour).
  • The second is more personal. With my writing, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my latest book (which I believe is probably the best original fiction I will ever create). It’s a very unique position, where each reader (agent or publisher) says it is important, some even say they love it, but it has yet to find a home. It’s like being the nice guy in high school; everyone wants to be its friend, but no one wants to date it.
  • The third one is I changed jobs last year. While I am very happy with the results of that experience (and it turned out to be a very good thing for me), everything around those stressful months still wears on me.

I wouldn’t say all of this is dramatic enough to call it PTSD, but it does linger in the gut sometimes at around 11 o’clock when my entire family is asleep and a part of me feels like I need to stay awake to keep an eye on all of them. I don’t have time to sleep. It feels like a luxury I don’t get right now.

I’ve tried a few tricks to fall asleep. The first was I got a sound machine, one of those devices that can do the sound of rain or thunderstorm, etc. (Strangely many of them just make me feel like I have to use the bathroom.)

The sounds did work for about a month and then my nine-year-old son discovered it, and I have not seen it since. It lives in his bedroom now, and while I am struggling to fall asleep he is experiencing a peaceful summer night with crickets.

Analyzing myself (which I love to do), overall, I need to put my mind in a sense of peace and harmony. Give myself the “okay” to fall asleep. Just lying in silence doesn’t do that for me. Reality bears down too much in the quiet moments.

…Strangely what has been working has been solving mysteries with literature’s greatest detective. Continue reading

Short Story: A Children’s Nightmare

The children could have spent all day looking at that tombstone. It was the most foreboding piece of marble in the cemetery. But for the children, the size of that tombstone brought along pictures of giants and monsters. And the fact that it said “Better Dead Than Alive” under the name “Jake Hawkins,” couldn’t help but make them think that it was good he was dead. Did he terrorize a village with his footsteps? Did he steal maidens from their wedding days? Did he eat people? Whatever he did in life, there was a celebration in his death.

It might have been that problem that confused Lisa the most. For Lisa did understand death. She understood the concept at least. Her Grandmother still tells the story of Lisa when she was three and they were at the park across the street from Matt’s house. Lisa was playing on the swings and her Grandmother was talking with her Grandfather about who they knew buried in the other graveyard beyond the playground.

Now her Grandfather grew up in a strong religious background and from time to time he would try to convince people of that fact. Especially in his old age he seemed to go back to those studies as a form of support for the coming end. It also seemed to give possibility (when he truly allowed himself to believe) for a hope, feeling and moment of happiness for the people gone.

But her Grandmother was exactly the opposite of her Grandfather. She was an atheist of the strongest kind (actually she had an opinion about everything and every opinion of hers was strong). Her husband and she would spend days arguing about things like a game perfected over the decades of holding hands in their little time.

Well, on this day her Grandmother wanted to take Lisa and go over the hill and visit the tombstones to pay respect to their old friends. Her Grandfather did not like this idea because of two reasons:

  1. Lisa was just a three year old and he didn’t want to take responsibility for what that experience could do to her precious young psyche.
  2. The second (he said) their spirits have moved on so it would be only a waste of time. They were in heaven or wherever. Of course, there was probably a little of his own fear of death associated with that difficulty.

His wife grabbed this argument and sunk her teeth into it like a shark with raw meat. Her argument to number one was that the sooner Lisa is introduced to the problem the less difficult it would be for her as she grew older. It would help her maturity. She also said that she would “If given the opportunity teach her about sex.”

Now while she went on to argue against the “silliness” of number two the mention of the work “Sex,” awakened the Grandfather to a new understanding of reality. Little Lisa will grow up. Little Lisa will fall in love. She will have children. She will have a life and there is a good chance that he won’t be around to see her and the life she creates.  The concept took his breath away. He just never pictured everything going on without him and it was very stunning. Lisa’s children. Lisa’s children’s children. All that time and ages that will go on and on without him. Maybe even someday he will be forgotten? Lost in the eternity of time. And these little moments of perfection with his wife (playing their game) and Lisa laughing on her favorite swing will slip slide away into a growing void. Her beautiful child laughter. Disappearing until it’s gone….

He fought back a tear. If he allowed it to fall, he would never have heard the end of it from his wife. Over the last few years she has had a hard and harder time figuring out what is the game and what is the reality. Oh well, it made them happy; it made her happy. Continue reading

Short Story: Under The Angelic Glow Of Dusk

“The Time has been catching us off guard,” she said to me and I, still reeling from the wind and the parties, only laughed at her notion and called her mind a good hangover waiting to happen.

She did not like my comments (typical) and shunned me for the first two days of our assignment. This probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much if we weren’t supposed to be wife and husband in this little life moment. On Friday, I got sick of her little games and in a dark corner in a dark moment after breakfast (which consisted of coffee or tea (decaffeinated), corn flakes (dry), and milk (cold).) I confronted her about the so-called importance of our assignment.

As she angrily argued back at me her wings rustled under her silly white dress. She hated me.

I laughed at that and reminded her small mind that she wasn’t capable of hate. Her and her little angels and their white hair and white eyes and white gleaming teeth never hate- Even those easy to. She then said it may not be hate but it was the closest she had felt to it. I had to laugh at her honesty, even though just the sound of her voice annoyed me.

She then stated that she was very sure she hated the sound of my laughter (it is a dark loud, booming laugh that echoes with screams of those inside) and then went and compared it to angry bells banging against the side of her ears. All the noises of lost times.

We had two days and she was going to use them. “For what?” I asked comically (I already knew the answer).

“To spread a little happiness,” she said….

…So Hope spent her days sprinkling the hollows of the Retirement Community with her magical daydreams, moonbeams and silly wishes of joy. I, I being of knowledge and reality and logic pure, wallowed in the dark corners talking with the spiders under my robes. Continue reading

“Cream of the Crop” A New Review for A Jane Austen Daydream

My novel A Jane Austen Daydream has been out for a few years, but now and then a review appears online that warms the heart. This is one of those discoveries from a few days ago.

Erin, who is currently #38 top reviewer and #8 best reviewer on GoodReads, recently discovered the audiobook of A Jane Austen Daydream.

She gave the audiobook version five stars, saying:

Well, this book took hold of me and I listened to it during every moment of the day, right up until my head hit the pillow. Seriously, this book is so goooood!!!… Now I have read my share of reimaginings, sequels, inspirations, and fanfictions of Jane Austen and her books, but “A Jane Austen Daydream ” is by far the “cream of the crop.” I laughed and cried and was just so pleased that someone could bring Jane Austen and her world back to life in the pages.

You can read the entire book review here (but prepare for spoilers!, consider yourself warned).

If you have not read or discovered my novel A Jane Austen Daydream, you can learn more about it on this website here. It is available on amazon in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. I hope you will check it out!

Uses of This World: Chapter 8

hamlet-and-ghostDenmark 1926. The world is on a powder keg, the old world is in conflict with the new, still recovering from World War I. Jazz and flappers. Cocktails and parties. In this tumultuous time, the king of Denmark is found dead… but his spirit is not at rest.

Uses of this World is the tale of the people around the events of Hamlet, from the soldiers to the royal family. Each is tied to the outcomes around the crown. And the country, as well as the world, is waiting to see what happens next.

Previous Chapters

Chapter 8: Son

For the first time in Prince Hamlet’s life he felt lost. Truly lost. This was not the garden maze of his youth. The well-worn turns and dead ends were now covered with dark leaves and thorns.

Unearthly. Unholy.

These thorns dripped black blood and stank of time and neglect.

Hamlet remembered chasing after the vision of his father, racing down the stairs of the parapet walls, and into the royal garden maze. Then everything changed. Not just in the environment but in his mind. The fog was everywhere, more than covering the ground, sticking to the very air around him, entering him, becoming part of him.

What time was it? How long had he been in the maze?

“Mark me,” a dead voice echoed around him in the air; like a wind, passing by and then racing away.

Hamlet stopped, he felt out of breath. Was he out of breath or was the air so dead that there was little for the living? “I will.”

A path opened up in the maze in front of him; the thorns turning aside, granting passage, with breaks and splinters in the wood and vine. The leaves on this new path were a dark green but eerie bright. The green reminded the prince of the glow of the kingly specter. A nightmare was in front of Hamlet, welcoming him, and he entered. Continue reading

Uses of This World: Chapter 7

GhostDenmark 1926. The world is on a powder keg, the old world is in conflict with the new, still recovering from World War I. Jazz and flappers. Cocktails and parties. In this tumultuous time, the king of Denmark is found dead… but his spirit is not at rest.

Uses of this World is the tale of the people around the events of Hamlet, from the soldiers to the royal family. Each is tied to the outcomes around the crown. And the country, as well as the world, is waiting to see what happens next.

Previous Chapters

Chapter 7: Father

The night air was stale and cold. It lingered not on the skin, but on the tongue, on the breath and in the lungs.

“The air bites shrewdly. It is very cold,” Hamlet said, a little louder than a whisper. Yet, his voice traveled easily among the group waiting on the parapet walls that dark night.

Horatio replied before the two soldiers. “It is a nipping and an eager air.”

Was that sarcasm? Even here? Hamlet couldn’t help but be impressed by his American friend. Yet, the more he studied Horatio in the shadows of the torches, he was not like his old self. The smiles were forced, the face more pale and wrinkled; like the blood was dripping from him, but to where?

The previous nights of the specter were marked by a fog, an eeriness, as if the world enjoyed taking part in some foreboding. Now, there was nothing. Just nothing. Like the dry air in a tomb.

“What hour now?” Hamlet asked.

“I think it lacks of twelve.”

Hamlet shook his head. “No, it’s struck.”

“Indeed? I heard it not.” Continue reading

Uses of this World: Chapter 6

OpheliaDenmark 1926. The world is on a powder keg, the old world is in conflict with the new, still recovering from World War I. Jazz and flappers. Cocktails and parties. In this tumultuous time, the king of Denmark is found dead… but his spirit is not at rest.

Uses of this World is the tale of the people around the events of Hamlet, from the soldiers to the royal family. Each is tied to the outcomes around the crown. And the country, as well as the world, is waiting to see what happens next.

Previous Chapters

Chapter 6: Watchman to My Heart

Ophelia was always running, because Ophelia was always late.

Through the hall, into the kitchen, past the guards outside the queen’s chambers (no time for a wave, but she did hear the soldiers call after her), a sprint down two hallways, down a flight of stairs, through another kitchen, and she was in the quarters that her family and the other families of the advisors called home.

He didn’t come to the library today. She was not surprised, considering the state he was in at the morning assembly, but she was still hopeful. Forever the optimist. Now she was late. That is where hope got her.

Her shoes were in her hands as she ran barefoot. The shoes were not made for running and the dress wasn’t either. Usually, she would be adorned in something more casual, more comfortable (but still presentable), but her father expected her to wear her best dress because they would be presented before the king and the entire court. He thought with this look she appeared more nobly. She just thought it made her look childish.

When would her dad see her as an adult? Of course, he would have to first see her.

Around a corner and down some stairs, if she was in a different dress she would have been sliding on the banister. This part was home to her. She past two maids, she heard them snicker as she past. She must have looked like in such a state.

Her governess (who should have retired two years prior) put her hair up in the style of a decade ago. It would have been the height of fashion then, now it was just frustrating and kept flopping in front of her face with each step.

Ophelia was unhappy with her entire look. She dreamed of a short haircut like the bobs the Americans were wearing in her magazines and silent movies, but her father would never have approved of that. She was so certain of that, she never bothered to ask.

An entire childhood of “no’s.” Ophelia had no reason to believe that another word was possible from his lips.

Another corner and…

There was her handsome older brother, ready with suitcase in hand, leaving his room. The look he gave her made her blush. He knew why she almost missed his departure.

He knew she was waiting for him. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, July 2016

This introduction has some spoilers for Game of Thrones, but seriously not a big deal. Don’t worry, I got your back.

Game-of-Thrones-Jon-SnowOkay, I have to say something about Game of Thrones. I have no choice. The fact I am only doing here as an intro is pretty surprising, since I find what we just saw happen over the season fascinating.

Every year I complain about the show. About the darkness, the violence, the aggression. Sometimes I am taking on George R.R. Martin, sometimes the writers of the show. But this season was easily the best the show had ever done.

I think a big part is that they weren’t slowed down by Martin’s books. Honestly, the last two books felt like filler for me. Something to extend the shelf life of the series as compared to moving the story forward. Obviously, the TV writers agreed with me when they cut those two books down to one season on the show.

My big love of the season is finally we are getting some comeuppance on the more villainous characters and we are getting answers to things that book readers have been debating for years. It almost makes a fan of the books want to send a thank you card and a box of chocolate to HBO.

Yet, I wonder what it is doing to Martin. It must be really hard to sit down at the computer each day and work on a book that has been spoiled for so many already. He must feel like he is just going through the motions. It almost makes me wonder if we will ever see the next two books in the series. Wouldn’t it at some point feel like writing one of those lame novels adapted from a film screenplay?

Read the book about the movie you just saw! Experience it again on the page! You loved it on the screen, just wait until you experience it again inside your head, written by someone unconnected to the screenplay or production who is just doing it for the paycheck!

Anyway, Game of Thrones is done. Here are the five things I am really into this summer not related to dragons. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, January 2015

This is Lightning. She only has bad daysSo I’m going through a thing with a video game.

Do you remember this post? (The reference is only a few paragraphs, it won’t take you long.) There I am praising Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

You can feel the love.

It could be argued that it was the honeymoon stage of my relationship with the game.

See, I’ve had a long relationship with Lightning and her role-playing world, playing both of the installments before starting on the third and final part (I’m sure it could almost equal entire months if the hours were embarrassingly added together). And, as you can guess from the post then, everything was going swimmingly in our relationship. We laughed at the same jokes, enjoyed discussing our past history…. Then this damn monster called Grendel appeared in a desert world and ruined everything for us.

Ruined, ruined, ruined!

Now, I love the literary reference in the monster’s name, so the creators get points for that, but that monster destroyed my infatuation with the game and world and Lightning and sent me away. (Actually, over to Gotham City and a Batman game.) It’s not often I leave a game unfinished, especially a Final Fantasy game, so it was rough. I like to think it felt that way to Lightning too.

So here I am, it’s a new year, and I am looking for new beginnings, new possibilities. And since Lightning and I have such a long past I decided to give it another shot….

Of course, this time I am wisely playing on easy.

I have no video game shame.

Here is my first list for 2015, and speaking of video games… Continue reading