Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Christmas Wish

We've lost too many. Their memories haunt our hearts and make our celebrations bittersweet.

We've lost too much. Our freedoms are chipped for a promise of security that will never be delivered.

We've been kicked down, lied to, robbed from, deceived, and trespassed against. Every single hurt builds inside us like a pearl harbored in an oyster. If it grows, the oyster will die.

And on top of all this pain, the season seems to draw out the worst in some people. Snatching and pulling and pushing and shoving so they can feel better about their situations.

There are people who are left in the cold, made to freeze by cold people. And the cycle of winter in men's souls continues.

Let us make a promise, today, that the chain of winter will be broken. We can only get past pain pearls and other hurts if we learn to love one another and forgive.

My Christmas Wish for you this year is that you can let go of your pains before they become pearls, and find love in the shadows of despair, and discover in yourself the power to forgive.

Our Savior would want this as a birthday present, no matter the time of year we remember Him. Let's do our very best to give him this present from here on out.

With love and peace and hope,
I wish you and yours a very, very Happy Christmas.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dispelling the Hierarchy of Cousins

The Roots of the Leaves in the Trees Series- Episode 1

GENE 101: Intro to DIY Genealogy

For those of you paying close attention to my life, you’ll already be aware of the obsession I have in all things genealogy, whether my own or someone else’s, often at the expense of my writing time. (See me procrastinate during NaNoWriMo?) My obsession shouldn't be surprising: I love puzzles and I love research and I love history, so voila: genealogy

My first challenge with genealogy is still one I face daily. How many ways can I misspell genealogy? An embarrassing number of ways, to be honest with you, and my favorite misspelling happens to be gene-o-logy

Moving past my inability to spell the word correctly, I dive down the rabbit hole of my family tree daily. Sometimes I only spend minutes to tweak a birth-date or marriage date, or just to sync my online tree with my offline tree. Other, I spend whole afternoons, well into the wee small hours of long past time I should’ve been in bed, ferreting out the small details of a distant branch, linking that branch to George Washington or El Cid, or to the plumber up the street, Nick…Nick…Something Greek. I have over eight thousand relatives to keep track of now, as if I didn't already have enough cousins that I can’t name right off the top of my head. And the number grows with each of my visits.

But another challenge I face daily with the study of gene-a-logy is what title to give these blood relations. Mom and Dad, simple. Grandma and Grandpa, still simple. My Aunt's kids are my 1st cousins. Not rocket science. My mom’s cousin is my second cousin. Simple.

Wait. My mom’s cousin? Is she my second cousin or is she my first cousin once removed? Now I have a problem. I spent forty years of my life KNOWING my mom’s cousin Lucy IS my SECOND cousin. I spent the last few months puzzled at the online tree stating in black-and-white, Lucy is your first cousin once removed. Not only that but my mom’s uncle Jasper apparently is NOT my Great Uncle, he is my Grand Uncle.

That sound you just heard? My brain cracked itself open like the egg in that “say no to drugs” commercial from the ‘80s and fried.

But, this is a puzzle I have to solve, so on we go.

For those of you who had this figured out already, I applaud you and I ask you not to laugh at me. 

For those of you in the same boat as me, let me help you row this boat a little closer to shore. Of course, maybe by the time I’m done, you’ll be begging to pull the little stopper at the bottom of the boat so we can surrender our souls to Davy Jones Locker.. 

I’ll start with the easy part. Grand Uncle vs. Great Uncle Jasper.

Well my mom’s mother Lena is my maternal grandmother, right. Lena’s mother Jessie would then be my great-grandmother. 

Parents, then Grandparents, then Great-Grandparents. Check.

Uncles, then Grand Uncles, then Great-Grand Uncles. Check.

It makes sense then that Grandmother Lena’s brother Jasper is my Grand Uncle.

Again, for those of you who had this figured out already, STOP LAUGHING AT ME. I've been calling Jasper my Great Uncle my whole life. This is a tough habit to break.

Now comes the fun part. Cousins. 

We don’t call them Cousins, then Grandcousins, then Great-Grandcousins, so on and so forth. Cousins are instead assigned degrees, like the Master Masons of Free & Accepted Masonry. Okay, it’s not an exact similarity, but it’s just as shrouded in mystery to me, so it’s the analogy I’m going with. These degrees are based solely on where the link actually happens.

First Cousins:
The relationship to me of my Parents' Siblings' offspring.
One step up. Sibling. One step down.

  • Once removed: the child of my first cousin.
  • Twice removed: the grandchild of my first cousin
  • Thrice removed: the great-grandchild of my first cousin, etc.

Second cousins.
The relationship to me of my Grandparents’ Siblings’ Grandchildren.
Two steps up. Sibling. Two steps down.

  • Once removed:  the child of my second cousin
  • Twice removed: the grandchild of my second cousin
  • Thrice removed: the great-grandchild of my second cousin, etc.

Third Cousins.
The relationship to me of my Great-Grandparents’ Siblings' Great-Grandchildren.
Three steps up. Sibling. Three steps down.

  • Once removed: the child of my third cousin
  • Twice removed: the grandchild of my third cousin, etc.

Fourth Cousins.
The relationship to me of my Great-Great Grandparents’ Siblings’ Great-Great-Grandchildren.
Four steps up. Sibling. Four steps down.

  • Once removed: the child of my fourth cousin
  • Twice removed: the grandchild of my fourth cousin

There's a few more steps in-between this that I could go into, but I will stop here because I’m running out of frying power in my brain skillet. And my only real goal behind this post was to be able to explain this someday to my nieces and nephew. Or maybe even my cat, if I can keep her attention long enough to listen.

But, I do have a cheat sheet available for those of you who would like to noodle through this. Feel free to share and distribute this as you want. It’s not fancy, but it might help you out. 

Of course, it might also be what sends you to the Funny Farm, so download at your own risk.

My Roots of the Leaves in the Trees series addresses challenges the amateur or hobbyist DIY genealogists face when attempting to map out their family trees. It stems from a passion I have to solve puzzles, compile research, and bring history back to life. The more we know of our past, the better we can understand ourselves and the struggles of others. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Precipice 2014 - Save the Date!

Precipice III is now available for pre-order!

If you don't want to pre-order, mark November 17th as the day you will buy this third volume of Precipice, the literary anthology of Write On Edge. 

If you want to have a physical, dead-tree, paperback copy because you think your e-book reading device is eating your brain, your date is December 1st. 

If you just want a paperback copy as a companion for your other paperbacks, that's good too. Your date is still December 1st

Precipice 2014 will make an ideal Christma-solsti-hanu-kwanz-akkah gift for those of you who participate in the gift-giving festivities of December.

It'll make an even better "I just had to get this for you because I love you that much" present for any of the other days of the year.

The point, honored guests, that I am trying to make is that you don't want to miss adding this volume to your Precipice collection. 

And if you're a Shelton Keys Dunning fan, you'll want to add this volume to your collection of Shelton Keys Dunning works, because, yes this is a shameless plug, I AM IN THIS BOOK! 

If you're tired of all things Shelton Keys Dunning, Precipice 2014 is your chance to check out amazing authors from the talented Write On Edge community. There is something in this volume for everyone!

This is an immoral imperative. This is mandatory fun.
This is a basic human necessity.
So go get it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Toast to Love and Wedded Bliss

Last Friday, my husband’s 96-year-old grandmother eloped with her 99-year-old boyfriend.

Friday. October 3, 2014. My husband’s 96-year-old grandmother married her 99-year-old boyfriend.

They wanted to keep their marriage on the down-low. Technically, I’m breaking a family trust by telling this story, but I can’t help it. So the names and locations are omitted to keep confidence.

Their marriage, whether they believe so or not, is a celebration of hope and acceptance. Due to their ages, they are probably more aware of their finite future together than any other newly-married couple in America. And they took the plunge anyway.

When one encounters beauty in this world, the kind of beauty that shakes one at the core and brings one to one’s knees, one cannot keep it bottled up. I cannot keep this bottled up. I have to share.

Because love this beautiful is too powerful to keep on the-down-low.

I have only been in Grandma’s life a little over ten years. But during those years, I never once felt like I didn't belong in her family. She accepted me straight-up with open arms and a welcome home.

And what I have learned from her in those ten years cannot be quantified. She’s the most amazing person that I am privileged to know.

Grandma is fond of military men – her first marriage was to an Army man, the second to a Navy pilot who survived Pearl Harbor -- and her new husband is no exception. Her now-husband was a Rear-Admiral in World War II and for a time during his military career, he worked at the Pentagon. His dry sense of humor is still quick and sharp, and he still enjoys a finger or two of a fine whiskey neat.

I want it known that I admire Grandma beyond measure. I know of the tragedies that have painted her life with devastating sorrow, the kind of sorrows that most would never recover from and no one would blame them for it. Yet, she is the phoenix that rises from the ashes, more radiant and glorious than ever.

And her husband I am equally in awe of. Again, open-hearted and accepting, from the first moment I met him. A man who knows the price of sacrifice, a man who made the call again and again, knowing that his decisions impacted the lives of his men in the Pacific Theater and the lives their loved-ones back home.

They don’t make men like him anymore.  His breed is so rare that I wonder how I could possibly be so fortunate to have met him. And I get to call him Grandpa now.

My heart is so full: I’m having difficulty finding the words I want to say, or even the words I should be saying. I only know that words must be said.

A toast to the happy couple, who represent hope and heroism in their truest, purest form, an inspiration to all; May God continue to bless and keep you, and give you a thousand years of happiness each and every day.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Something Different: A Poem

And I break radio silence to bring you this poem. Weird for me, I know, but it's been one of those weeks.

My Broken Calendar 

I woke this morning and noticed the hour 
And it was then I realized with a mood most sour
That somehow my calendar had skipped a few days
And huge blocks of time have been completely erased

It was only yesterday, you see, that winter begun
But today there is rising a late summer sun
So where, oh where did the missing time go?
On holiday perhaps, or maybe a show?

Or perhaps the days simply weren't included
In the calendar when its publishing concluded
Maybe for April or May I was supposed to pay more
or to avoid interruption, pay a full season before

Or maybe inflation has levied the summer
And shortened the season with no hope to recover
My springs are shrinking as well as my falls
And as for my winters, there's no hope at all

Someone is stealing the time from my clocks
Perhaps in league with the gremlins who steal all my socks
From the dryer. If so, forgive me for being crude
But if they are in cahoots then I'm royally screwed

For I have yet to find a single stitch of heel or toe 
Of any of the socks that a-missing go
So if these same gremlins are stealing my days
I must put an end to their thieving craze

But how is the question I find I now ask.
How does one take sneaky gremlins to task?
How does one stop these thieves so subtle in crime
When to hunt where they hide takes a great deal of time?

Time I don't have for September is waning
And so I guess I should cease my bitter complaining
But I urge you, dear reader, when a new calender you seek
Please make sure it is not missing a single week

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spambox Sunday: Something Enlightening to Read

Okay, it's that time. Please keep you hands and arms inside the train at all times. Hang on to those hats and glasses, and check that your seat-belts remain securely fastened. All aboard? Here we go again!


whoah this weblog is great i really like studying your posts.
Keep up the great work! You realize, a lot of people are searching around for this info, you can help them greatly.

Thanks! I'm always happy to help.


What i do not understood is in reality how you are now not actually much more well-favored than you might be now.
You're so intelligent. You realize thus significantly in the case of this topic, produced me personally imagine 
it from so many various angles. Its like women and men don't seem to be fascinated except 
it's one thing to accomplish with Lady gaga!
Your individual stuffs nice. At all times maintain it up!

Ah, you've been here before. This is your second visit. I'm starting to think you doth protest too much about Lady gaga fascination.


Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video 
to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why waste 
your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something enlightening 
to read?

You know, I hate to break this to you but this isn't YouTube. I haven't posted a single video here. And I'm not particularly inclined to do so either.

But don't worry, people make this mistake all the time. Cheers!


I'm really loving the theme/design of your web site.
Do you ever run into any browser compatibility issues?
A number of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari.
Do you have any advice to help fix this issue?

You've been here before, too. I think this is maybe the third time? You really need to get someone to look at your Explorer. Maybe drive it to your local Ford dealership and get a Ford certified mechanic to look on it before you take it out on your next Safari? Otherwise, I got nothing

Okay folks, thanks for joining me for this edition of Spambox Sunday. I hope you enjoyed your stay, and you'll tune in next time for some more gems of wisdom from the spambox.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Spambox Sunday: At All Times, Handle It Up!

Some more gems from the Spambox ready for your entertainment.


I'm really enjoying the design and layout of your blog.
It's a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here 
and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create 
your theme? Fantastic work! My site: boston celebrity style

Nope, this is your basic plug-n-play Blogger set-up. I'm technically-challenged like that.


What i do not understood is if truth be told how you are not actually a lot more neatly-appreciated 

than you might be now. You are very intelligent.
You understand thus significantly in the case of this 
subject, made me personally imagine it from a lot 
of various angles. Its like women and men are not fascinated unless it's one thing to do with Lady gaga!Your own stuffs great. At all times handle it up! my weblog

I pledge this to you now, faithful readers: At all times, I will handle it up, despite the fact that I'm not Lady Gaga!


Despite the fact that addiction to pc video games doesn't (yet) 
qualifies to the Diagnostic and Record Manual of Psychological Disorders (DSM), extreme gaming is something which is something which has begun to obtain widespread attention and there's a raging 
discussion on its dangerous side effects.
You are able to customize the body that enables you to change or take away components 
based on your personal preference. Of course, it doesn't demand you to become a 
pro gamer to beat your enemy.

My weblog 

Phew! It's good to know that I don't have to be a pro gamer to beat my enemy. Like any respectable author, I'll settle for having my revenge by writing my enemy into a book. *Insert evil laugh here* 


I seldom comment, but i did a few searching and wound up here 
"Travel Tuesday: The Vista south of San Onofre".
And I do have a few questions for you if you usually do not mind.
Is it just me or does it look as if like a few of the comments look like coming 
from brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are writing on other 
online social sites, I would like to follow everything fresh you have to post.
Would you list of all of all your social sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed,
or linkedin profile?My webpage

Now, hang on a minute. The spambox has several wonderful hacker-type people and scammer-like people and phishing-like people and spambot-like people. You just don't know them the way I do. My suggestion? Lurk some more and get to know them before you call them brain dead. If you insist on this foolishness, you won't make the next Spambox Sunday report. So there. *sticks tongue out and blows raspberry*

So that's it for this installment folks. Tune in next time for more gems from my spambox!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Ordinarily on this day, I would post something profoundly patriotic, an acknowledgment of those who have sacrificed so that I can sit on my duff and blog without fear.

And I would like to post such a thing, especially as the adverts for Memorial Day Sales flood my inbox with deals I can't afford to pass up, and I really can't afford to buy to begin with.

Any drop of blood sacrificed for our sins should be counted and revered. And those gone are not lost from us forever if we honor them and keep them close to our hearts.

This Memorial Day is overshadowed by a tragedy that borders on the peculiar. A man spurned rampaged against those he felt responsible for his loneliness. And the public appears now obsessed with a handful of individuals Tweeting misogynistic dribble in support of this man they feel kinship with at the hashtag YesAllWomen.

The tragedy is three-fold. A broken man. The deaths of the innocent. The martyrdom of one who cannot possibly deserve it by those who should know better.

At first I was loathe to comment, for this sort of circus leaves me uneasy. Participating in blame games at the expense of those burdened with loss and despair is counter-grain to the core of my beliefs. People need their space to grieve and heal and they shouldn't have to see their grief used to fuel any agenda. It's sick and immoral. 

Still, here I am, on this of all days, and I feel compelled to call Humans out on their bullshit..

See, Humans, if nothing else, are predictable in their anti-social behaviors. Individuals said some pretty vile things in the public arena because they're seeking attention. By discussing it, even to point out how viciously flawed their outlook is, we are unintentionally lending them a credible platform for their justification and fueling their frenzy. Negative attention is still attention..

At the heart of this, a deeply troubled man felt justified in taking lives, and while we don't have to condone any aspect of what he did, we can at least agree that his very nature is pitiable, regardless of his motivation. Mental illness takes on many, many forms and any small event can trigger an episode that impacts on a epic scale.

Unresolved frustration leads to anger. 
Unresolved anger will twist broken souls until there is nothing decent left. 

Victims of his violence are to be mourned and given respect, and their families should be afforded what sympathy and support we can provide. Witnesses too, for shock and stress can haunt those ill-equipped to deal with horrors beyond their control or comprehension. Each one of them could have easily been one of us, our siblings or parents, our children or loved ones. 

In short Humans, the lesson we need to learn isn't the lesson anyone else seems to be discussing. We can't move forward as a species until we learn to love each other more, comfort those who despair, heal those who are wounded, and protect those who cannot fend for themselves. And stand our ground against those that insist on perpetuating unconscionable evil. 

Take this time to reflect on the souls we miss. 
Take care of their legacy. 
We are the only ones left who can.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Come the Storm (WoE week 21)

Write at the Merge challenge this week is themed with Abandonment.

First the quote:

"Go off to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path." Ralph Waldo Emerson

and now the photo:

photo by Liam Andrew Cura courtesy Unsplash

Now, this scene is going to be weird. I wrote a short scene some time ago for a WoE prompt (week 20 of 2013) starring new characters: Sofie and Tiko. That scene to me felt like something post-apocalyptic but I didn't give it much thought until this prompt. I promise you, there is a ton of backstory for this scene, but it won't fit in 500 words. Well, to be honest, I'm a tad over that because I didn't want to chop anything out.

If I haven't completely befuddled you yet, read on. But. Since I've only written about Sofie and Tiko once before, and since it doesn't explain anything, I'll give you the Cliff Notes version.

Sofie and Tiko are on their way to Amarillo. (previous installment) Sofie's father, at some point in the past, released something horrible into the world and he died. (not included in previous installment)

I offer the following in response: Come the Storm

Turbulent clouds choked the sickly-green sky. Sofie shivered despite the heat, remembering how the sirens echoed through her hometown under such a canopy. The hairs on her arms and neck stretched in the charged air acknowledging the power in the brewing storm. She stepped up the pace in her hunt for shelter, moving through the derelict businesses of Downtown McCormick.

Each building was branded with the FEMA search and rescue code, though the orange paint was starting to fade after…had it really been fifteen years? Sofie paused to read the symbols on a condominium complex: 13/5/76, TX, 25 DOA, NE. Every possible entrance, windows included, was boarded up.

“Find one?” Sofie barely heard Tiko over the wind.

“No,” she shouted back and wiped a tear from her cheek. “Dead-on-arrival. No entry.”


Sofie drew her finger across her throat – her own perverted sign language – and moved on to the next building, and then the next, and the next, trailing orange x-boxes and DOAs in her wake.


She turned. Tiko formed a W with his fingers and tapped his chin before pointing to a crumbling cement structure on his side of the street. Sofie ran best she could through the driving wind, light-headed with joy as she read the symbol for herself: 13/5/76, TX, 0-0, F/W. The Texas Home Guard finally identified an unoccupied building with both food and water.

Sofie giggled. Even if after 15 years, the food and water was gone, it was still a building unscarred by death. It meant shelter for the night and with any luck, a functioning storm-cellar. Tiko helped her navigate through the hole in the chain-link fence and over the rubble of the building’s crumbling exterior. With a little effort, they pried the boards off a window cavity and climbed inside.

Tiko turned his flashlight on. “Office building, maybe? Condemned long before the plague hit, I think.”

Sofie crossed through the amber light and peered through the blackened solar window at the other end of the hall. “There’s a courtyard. And there’s ivy or moss or something climbing up the sides.”

“Woot! Green means water source. Now we can weather the storm.”

They found the lobby. Exposed concrete floors told the story of missing carpet, but Sofie sighed with relief. She preferred cold seeping through her sleeping bag to bugs infesting her slumber. As she unrolled her pack,  Tiko pulled out his salvage bag and began preparations for a salad of dandelions and wild onions, the fruits of their many stops along the abandoned roadway.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done without you, Tiko, honestly.” She averted her gaze from shame. “People try to avoid me, or hurt me, because of what my father did.”

“People are jackasses. You are not your father. You don’t know a virus from a volleyball.” Tiko selected a fungus from their salvage salad and chucked it across the room. “Or a mushroom from a toadstool, apparently.”

“They’ll never forgive him, will they.” The words tasted bitter across her tongue. For all his sins against mankind, Dmitri Kerov was still her father.

“No.” Tiko shook his head. “They never will. But I hope I can. Someday. When I can exchange my anger for peace.”

Some of the WoE crowd mentioned during the assessment that they aren't always sure when it's okay to leave criticism. I'll try to remember to be a better citizen and put a note at the end of my responses to the prompt, but if I don't, comments and constructive critiques are ALWAYS welcome here. Okay? Okay. so, let me have it. Give me what you've got. I can take it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Travel Tuesday: The Vista south of San Onofre

My husband and I recently took a drive along the coast of California to attend an event in Oceanside. We made this drive several times before as a couple, and hundreds of times during our courtship when we lived 109 miles from one another.

Our shadows

This time though, we left earlier than we needed to, armed with our cameras, so that we could take a few minutes to enjoy the vista turn off south of San Onofre, the nuclear power station. We couldn't have asked for better weather and we got some remarkable pics between the two of us.

San Onofre Power Station
Traffic looking southbound from the vista

Not entirely sure what purpose this was for, so I took a picture. I'm goofy like that.
Wildflowers common to California
a surprise in the sun

At some point, a couple of tourists decided to open a bag of potato chips and started feeding the ground squirrels. The creatures surrounded us in tens and twenties and were so stinking cute. My husband and I stayed longer to snap nearly 200 pictures of ground squirrels doing ground squirrel things.

A word to the wise however: no matter how cute critters are, there is a reason wild animals live in the wild. They are not defenseless, nor are they harmless. Ground squirrels may not be carnivorous, but their teeth are strong enough to crack the toughest nuts and can easily break stray fingers. Tiny fingers of children are exceptionally vulnerable to having a bad day. So please, don't feed any wildlife anywhere. There are dangers and diseases waiting in a single bite or a simple scratch, never mind the danger it poses to the animals. So again, word to the wise, don't feed the wildlife. They're fine on their own, trust me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fading Luxury (WoE week 20)

After a brief hiatus, Write at the Merge is back again and so am I! With 500 or fewer words, we are challenged to create a story or part of a story that explores either or both of the provided topics. First: a quote:

"Are you really sure that a floor cannot also be a ceiling?" M.C. Escher

and then the photo:

photo by Keith Misner courtesy Unsplash

I love wood floors of all varieties. Each plank has a character all its own, perhaps a memory of the tree from which it is hewed. So that's the aspect of the challenge that I've decided to focus on this week.

Now, I want to return to characters I introduced here, although I will need to warn you there is a giant chunk missing from last time we saw them. Patience is still on the path to get her sister back, but this scene comes after her time with the Natives from the last scene. Jeb Grayson is preparing for a showdown against the Lassiers.

If you're new to the story line, and you would like to start at the beginning, follow the Label: Patience.

I offer the following in response: A Fading Luxury

Patience sucked a breath of private pleasure as her feet, unhindered by house-shoes, connected with the wooden floor. She couldn’t remember when last she walked barefoot across planks polished to a shine. Her trials took her all over the wild and uncivilized territories to rescue her sister, and Boston, once a part of her very blood, seemed a distant memory.

A wooden floor, creaking beneath her weight, was pure luxury.  She appreciated it even more than she did her cavalry hosts stationed at Fort Atherton.

A light rap sounded at the door, followed by Jeb’s graveled voice. “Boston, you awake, girl?”

Patience reached for her dressing gown and opened the door just enough to converse through.  “Mr. Grayson, you’re early. I am not yet presentable.”

He averted his eyes and removed the hat she had come to believe was permanently affixed to his head. Jeb appeared nervous, anxious, coaxing concern from the pit of her heart. “Well, there’s no easy way to say this and I’ve never been one to dance about a subject. I came to tell you goodbye.”

His words stung. She tasted bile in her throat and pulled the door inward. “Goodbye? I don’t understand. Where are you going?”

He ran his fingers around the brim of his hat. “Look, I promised to help you git yer sister back, but where we’ve gotta go next…where I gotta go and what I gotta do…a lady like yerself shouldn’t be any part of.”

His tone was so earnest. Panic seized her soul. “Don’t be absurd, Mr. Grayson. I’m coming with you.”

“Now the captain said yer welcome to stay here, or there’s a stage arrivin’ tomorrow that could take you home.”

“No, I can’t go. Not without Charity.”

Her protests ignored, Jeb continued. “Now if I succeed, Miss Charity and I will be back before long.”

If you succeed. If?” Patience flung the door wide on its hinges and gripped her dressing gown tightly about her shoulders. “What do you mean if?”

“Whatjya think I meant?” he barked, fire flashing in his eyes. He took a breath and his tone softened. “Look Boston, I told you a hunnard times the Lassiers ain’t for messin' with. I kick that hornet nest and there’s a very real chance that the devil’ll be there to collect what I owe him.”

“I can help—“

“I don’t doubt that. I’ve seen you shoot. But we’ll be outnumbered thirty to one and there’s no use in gitting us both shot full of holes, or worse.” He finally met her gaze. “They take you, like they took yer sister? No. This is where we part ways. You stay safe, Boston.”

Jeb turned, leaving her alone at the doorway. “How could I ever be safe without you?” Patience whispered as he retreated, his silhouette dark against the rising sun. She held her breath until he cast a long look back from the fort gates. In one fearful beat, her porcelain heart shattered.

Some of the WoE crowd mentioned during the assessment that they aren't always sure when it's okay to leave criticism. I'll try to remember to be a better citizen and put a note at the end of my responses to the prompt, but if I don't, comments and constructive critiques are ALWAYS welcome here. Okay? Okay. so, let me have it. Give me what you've got. I can take it. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Rainy Days & Mondays: Greenhouse Mishap

Agasga gohi-iga.

Cherokee for "It's raining today."

It's also windy, so in the immortal words of Winnie-the Pooh: Happy Winds-day!

For me though, the wind was cruel. Utterly cruel. Before I get to that though, I should explain how I got here. Don't worry, I'm not starting with how my parents met or discussing awkward tales of growing up today.

Of late, I've been neglecting my social obligations - for which I apologize wholeheartedly - mostly because my family and I are in the midst of our annual Spring Rite. We are tearing apart our backyard and creating a Victory Garden of epic proportions. Okay, maybe not so epic in the scheme of things, but pretty epic to me. I'm not even doing most of the heavy lifting and still, every day I go to bed early, exhausted, with every muscle flagging. My parents have been wonderfully obliging and are allowing me to experiment with different plants and layouts this year. I'm trying my hand with companion planting and trellising plants that wouldn't normally trellis, and so far - and this is HUGE - I haven't killed anything yet, at least anything that came already sprouted.

But, I am concerned that seeds will not grow for me.

The first batch of seeds, I had a bit of a labeling mixup. That is to say, the ink washed away when I watered. That's not a big deal, I thought, I'll just figure them out when they sprout right? Well, then the seed-pots did a face plant off of a table when I wasn't looking. Who knew seedlings liked gymnastics? Marigolds really like gymnastics, because they disappeared right after the mishap. I have a suspicion that I'll see my marigolds on the parallel bars at the next Olympics, playing for the Canadians.

No worries though, right? I mean Canada's a pretty cool place and populated with super friendly people. And Marigold dated Dudley Do-Right. No wait, she dated Tom Slick...but I digress.

I made an attempt to salvage the rest of the seedlings, but the usually predictable Southern California weather refused to cooperate and made things colder than normal. I however, learn from my mishaps and mush forth, undeterred. I did a bit more research and went back to the drawing board. My husband didn't even laugh at me.

Next, I purchased a little 4-shelf greenhouse because it was on sale at Harbor Freight. It's not the best design necessarily, but it's functional and with a few extra zipties to provide some stability, it's become the closest measure of perfect I can afford. Oh and the plants I bought from Home Depot LOVE it. I wasn't going through nearly as much water to keep everybody happy. And inside the plastic, it was a balmy heat. The plants could sit in their happy little sauna and wait patiently for transplant time.

And as it occurred to me, the greenhouse was perfect for seeds. (Don't laugh, I'm new to greenhouse gardening) I started a new set of seed pots, excited that this time, with the greenhouse providing the best environment, that the seeds would sprout right up in no time at all. What could possibly go wrong?

Well...I mentioned the wind today didn't I, how cruel it was to me? One enormous gust toppled my little greenhouse right over on it's nose, snapping a green pepper I had in half. But that wasn't the only damage I suffered.

Every seed-pot, every hope for a brand-new, started-from-seed plant, dumped right out onto the concrete in a confused mass of compost.

Some of those seeds had roots starting when this event happened. I know because they were now exposed in the compost mess. I am trying to salvage what I can, but as the labels upturned as well, I have no idea - again - which plants I'm actually attempting to rescue.

And to make matters worse, I just realized I didn't get pictures of ANY of this. Not one. So I can't even show you the progression of my life over the last few weeks.

So much for missed opportunities. I'm a rotten blogger. Bad Shelton, no biscuit.

I do, however, have a few pictures I took this afternoon, between rain drops and chasing the neighbor's third-generation feral cats out of the newly turned dirt. (Honestly people, if you live in a housing track, please be responsible pet owners and keep your cats indoors. I guarantee your outdoor cats are SHITTING in your neighbor's backyards)

At any rate, this is what I've been up to:

A Blue Lake varietal Bush Bean on the far left, an eggplant and four pepper plants to the center and right, and a view of Squash  in the background and the Tomatoes along the white wall in the very back. The redish stuff is mulch we picked out to form little walkways to make it easy to reach everything. I'm all about making things easier. I'm lazy like that. 

The Green Bell Pepper that snapped in half when the wind knocked over the greenhouse. 

Great snap of the deep root waterer (green and plastic, designed for a liter water bottle to screw into) to a Crookneck Squash. It's not very pretty nor particularly interesting I guess. I wasn't paying attention to what I was taking pictures of here...

A Cherokee Purple, an Heirloom variety


Red Onions...or wait, those could still be weeds...

There you have it folks. Shelton Keys Dunning, amateur gardener, attempting self-sufficiency in Suburbia. If my city would let me keep chickens, I totally would...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spambox Sunday: Shame on the Seek Engines

So a few anonymous British massage parlors and a Google Translate nightmare ended up on my Today's Spotlight: Finishing Touches post over the last couple weeks. Enjoy the following from my anonymous friends:

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Well, hey, points for honesty.

Hello. I think you blog might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Opera, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, terrific blog!

Hmm. I have had this issue before. I'll check the Explorer for peanut butter.

Peculiar article, totally what I wanted to find.

I can be peculiar.

And last but not least:

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Google Translate hinted at Polish, turned inside out, and exploded. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ten Chapters, Terrible Minds

Back again to Chuck Wendig and his blog over at Terrible Minds. I enjoyed this week's challenge. We get the standard thousand words, but there's a catch. Those thousand words need to be divided into ten chapters.

I've been wanting to write a story for a while that includes a Kelpie. I decided this would be the challenge for a Kelpie Story. When I sat down to write this, I expected to struggle with the word count and chapter breaks the most, but I almost found it easier than to write a straight, no-chapters short story. So now I pass it on to you. How did I do?

I offer this response:  The Forest of Shadows

The woods lacked the sun's warming grace. Estlyn glanced over his shoulder as a flock of sparrows flushed from the undergrowth, gripping the hilt of his dagger in readiness, and heaved a sigh when a stag emerged. Estlyn rubbed his eyes and wondered if his fears were unfounded. No sane man stepped foot in the Forest of Shadows. It was a good place to get lost, and a horrible place to die.

And he was already lost.

Hedwise stepped from the carriage and stretched. “That’s far enough, m’Lady,” Ogive said. “We are on the Forest Road. There are dangers here.”

Hedwise obeyed with reluctance, peering through the undergrowth into the darkness. “I thought I saw something.”

Ogive pulled her back towards the carriage. “Please. Your father will take my head if we don’t deliver you to your wedding.”

“A small delay won’t start a war, Ogive.” Hedwise didn’t believe the tales of the Forest of Shadows, where evil thrived and twisted trees blocked out the sun. Still, with strange noises rattling on the wind, perhaps it wise not to test Fate.

The throne appeared red in the window's light, a bad omen. Ayman looked to the foul-tempered king and braced for the worst.

The king paced. “I’ve a mind to try him for treason when we find him.”

“We tracked him to the Forest of Shadows, Sire.” The guard shifted his weight. “He’s as good as dead. The devil is in those woods.”

“A ghost story scares grown men from their duty to their king! You will enter those woods and you will drag my son back by his ears if need be, or I will have your heads on spikes!”

“Sire.” The guard spun about and hastened from the chamber.

Ayman genuflected. First a red throne, and now the crowned-prince running away on the day of his bride’s arrival…

Estlyn checked the water, suspicious. Although the water smelled clean, the pond’s surface failed to ripple at his touch. He struggled with his thirst but decided not to risk it.

In the center of the pond, a pale hand appeared and beckoned. Estlyn’s heart lodged in his throat.

Ayman greeted the young Hedwise and her governess upon their arrival. “I’m afraid the king is engaged at present,” he apologized, “but I can answer any questions.”

“Grammercy.” Ogive made introductions. “The journey was exhausting, but uneventful.”

“You’ll want to freshen up. If you care to follow me, I’ll show you to your chambers.” Ayman bowed.

Hedwise stood fast. “I am a Countess in my own right. You will address me accordingly.”

Ayman gulped. The young countess would not be so easy to tame as the king thought. Could the day get any worse?

The hand belonged to a body clothed only in dripping water and bearing eyes that pierced Estlyn’s soul. “You disturbed my sanctuary.” She spoke in an ageless voice. “I demand the reason for your trespass. Your sacrifice will befit your sin.”

“Sacrifice?” He shivered. “Please, I meant no harm. It’s my wedding and my father—“

“I smell deceit. Betrayal. Treason.” She whispered these words and he felt the sting of them. “You have until the morrow. Mark your tribute, or I shall choose you.”

“I apologize for my son’s absence,” the king said.

Hedwise silenced her governess with a raised hand. “Your Majesty, I am still a babe to court politics, but it seems to me that a king should never apologize for another’s actions, especially if it is rare for him to apologize for actions of his own.”

A smile grew in the king’s expression. “My son could learn from your example. Your beauty, I fear, is wasted on him.”

“Where exactly would my betrothed be? Is he aware that he belittles our marriage contract?”

The king snorted. “Unlikely. He’s always been a contrary prince. My men place him in the Forest of Shadows.”

“Why would he go there?”

He rolled his eyes. “To be worthy of you.”

The gate guards did not recognize Estlyn until he flashed his signet ring, but he didn’t blame them. If he looked as miserable as he felt…

He stumbled into the throne room, disappointed to see his bride speaking with his father. Her presence made what he had to do more difficult.

His father jumped from the throne. “You look…where have you been?”

“Majesty.” Estlyn bowed, addressing his bride. “M’Lady, my late arrival could not be helped, but I have procured a gift for you.”

His bride smiled. “A gift? From the woods?”

“A wild horse of such rare beauty, it should be yours.”

“Can I see it now?”

“It’ll be delivered on the morrow, m’Lady.”

Hedwise joined her betrothed and the king in the meadow beyond the castle gate, where a horse of rare beauty indeed drew near. The pale mare glistened as if wet. Hedwise felt the presence from the forest’s edge again.

Estlyn didn’t look at her. “Can you ride, m’Lady?”

Alarm shivered through her spine. “It is unseemly without a saddle, your Highness.”

The king stepped forward. “My son, you fool. You would give an unbroken horse to your bride?”

The prince placed a hand on his father’s shoulder. “But you are the finest horse trainer in the kingdom, Father. You will train her.”

Estlyn watched, nervous, as his father mounted the bareback mare. She reared and stamped and the king gripped her mane.

His bride turned from the scene. “Please say you never meant that horse for me.”

He sank to his knees. “You know what she is?”

“I do. I didn’t believe…I’m the fool.”

“My father intended to impose First Night Rights. And he is the sort of man who breaks wild horses.” Estlyn kissed her fingers, fighting tears. “I couldn’t let him hurt you.”

The kelpie broke towards the forest; the king stuck and screaming the entire way.

“The King is dead,” Hedwise kissed Estlyn’s brow. “Long live the King.”

The End

Monday, March 17, 2014

My First Blog Tour!

The beautiful and talented Karen at Time Crafted invited me to be the next stop on the writer's blog tour.

I'm excited that she has confidence in me, but at the same time, I have no clue what I'm doing. But here we go!

The theme of this tour is the writing process. Four questions. Four answers. Starting in 5...4...3...

1. What am I working on?

I have several irons in the fire. The next scheduled project to finish is the next in my Trouble series. The Cold Side of Trouble is promised to be released this year and I'm a solid 10 chapters in. I'm also starting another series that is going to be more paranormal urban fantasy than mystery, my usual haunt. Not to mention a few short stories and a flash fiction piece for submission to Write on Edge's 3rd Precipice. And that's just stuff on the front burner. On the back burner? It's pretty hectic.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

If I start to compare my work with others, I'm going to get a healthy dose of insecurity. I don't know that my stories differ much from others of the genres they belong to. Other than telling the stories through my voice and vision, and I have a pretty unique view of the world, I don't know how to answer this one.

As far as genre though, I don't stick to one, even within a story. Elements of humor and paranormal and intrigue and history and present day weave through the words I write, but I try to let the characters drive their stories. I think that way, it keeps the situations pretty real, no matter how much fantasy I'm infusing into the plot.

3. Why do I write what I do

I write the stories I want to read, and because nothing beats the feeling of opening the box that UPS or FedEx delivers and finding a dead-tree print copy of a book with my name on it. It's happened to me twice now, and I'm addicted. So I will write and write until UPS and FedEx stop delivering.

4. How does your writing process work?

It doesn't. Not very well at any rate. I'm not nearly as focused as I should be. One thing though, I don't suffer writer's block. Maybe I get stuck in one  story I'm writing. That's okay, I've got others. I cycle through all my stories until I find one that inspires me to keep going. It's slower writing that way I think, and often counter productive, but it keeps me in the habit of writing every day. 

Editing and formatting? Completely different story. I'm aggressive as an editor and I love the process of formatting for publication. So much so, I'm happy to do it for anyone else. Hint, Hint, Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge, Say no more!

Thank you Karen, for letting me be a part of this tour. It was a ton of fun! The next steps of the tour have not yet responded to my emails, so until they do, I will give you over to others in the tour that you might have missed. 

Check out my fellow colleges:

Kirsten Piccini is a gorgeous, gorgeous woman with exceptional talent, and one of the few romance authors I follow. She weaves humor and passion like a master craftsman, and her road to successful publication began with the release of Precipice volume II last year. 

Cameron D Garriepy is a writer am I in constant envy of. She makes crafting setting and memorable characters look easy. Yup, I'm pretty green, but she gives me an ideal to aspire to. 

and stay tuned for more authors coming your way!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Tamsind Affair, Terrible Minds

Chuck Wendig is a writer I love to hate, or hate to love, or however the saying goes. I don't always agree with what he says, and I rarely agree with how he says it. In spite of this, I can't help but like him.

His blog over at Terrible Minds keeps me entertained, and while I use many of his weekly writing prompts to fuel my inner-muse, I don't always post and link-up. This week though, my piece feels polished enough to share.

Warning: This is the beginning of a story, not a complete story, but the seed of it has been floating around my mind for a while. Thank you Chuck for giving me the kick it needs.

We were given 1500 words this week, along with 2 lists of must-have choices. Follow the links for the original lists. I decided to go with 1. a mysterious picture, and 2. a pair of detectives. The result is my attempt at Raymond Chandler-esque noir.

I offer the following in response:

The Tamsind Affair
Chapter 1

The door opened and in walked a pair of forever legs and dangerous eyes. Gloved hands unclasped a beaded handbag and withdrew an old photograph from its shallow confines. She didn’t bother with introductions. The picture, she snapped on my desk. “My sister is missing, Mr. Bishop,” her voice was honey. “I am prepared to pay twice your standard fees to find her and bring her home.”

It was difficult to break away from her gaze. “Please have a seat, Miss – er?”

She didn’t sit. “There’s a substantial bonus in it if she returns in three days.”

My partner leaned against his desk, eager, no doubt salivating. I couldn’t blame him. We were three months behind in rent and owed twice that to our secretary. “A photograph isn’t much of a lead, Ma’am.”

She gaze twisted and her chin followed on delay. She lashed my partner with a sharp tongue. “I was not speaking to you, Mr. Pratt. Your opinion is unsolicited and not required.”

Her attention returned to me. I sighed and inspected the scene in the photograph. It was a high class studio print, a boudoir pose popular with gals sending cheer to their soldier boys. The subject looked sixteen, maybe, but worked a pout like she was born with it. She had the same pair of dangerous eyes partially obscured by a Veronica Lake hairstyle. Strategic shadows only just protected the girl's modesty, and I felt like a peeping tom. I returned Veronica to my desk. “No dice.”

The temperature dropped and the space between us iced over. “Mr. Bishop, if you’re expecting to haggle for better terms, I assure you—“

“No, your terms are acceptable. I said ‘no dice’ to the case, not the money.” My partner twitched. I shot him a look. The last thing I needed was for him to open his stupid mouth. Max Pratt was a fair detective, but a lousy partner, often reacting to situations with the wrong brain.

She sat, flipping her fox stole across her shoulder. “Very well, three times your standard fee.”

“Hold it, Max,” I held up a hand to the charging bull. “Lady, you can make it five times my standard fee or eighteen times my standard fee. The answer is still no.”


“Because you’re a liar.”

She flinched. Her sister’s pout graced her perfect mouth.

I had her attention now. I leaned forward. “Look, lady, I don’t trust you. Now, my partner, he doesn’t trust you either, but you’re offering us enough bread that he's itching to overlook his misgivings. But me, I'm not buying it, for any sum. I’d ask the real reason you walked through this door of all the doors in a city of private dicks, but you’re not the sort to give answers. I don’t think anyone has ever questioned you. I don’t think you’ve ever heard the word no either.”

Her cold expression had yet to melt. “So, I’m a liar and I’m spoiled. Is that all you’ve got?”

“No, but I wouldn’t want to wound your delicate ears.”

“Very well, Mr. Bishop. I will play your game. What is it I am lying to you about, I wonder? I don’t recall giving you details of any kind. Unless you believe she isn’t my sister.”

“No I see the family resemblance.” I reached for my pack of Lucky Strikes and lighter. “The lie is in the money. Your sister ain’t missing; you just don’t know where she is and she’s just not coming home. You need to someone -- maybe us, maybe your parents -- someone to believe that you love your sister. That you want her back. That you’re willing to do anything in your power to see her safe. The reality is, it really wouldn’t bother you to see her on a slab in the morgue. Am I warm?”


I paused to light a cigarette and savored the instant burn in my lungs. “That good family name you’re trying to protect isn’t helping either. It’s a big, rich, name. The sort of name that comes with well-known and very old and deep pockets. So you come to the wrong side of town, gambling that we don’t know who you are, so we can make discreet inquiries that don’t involve the police dragging their muddy boots through your rhododendrons.”

“Ah but there’s where you’ve slipped up,” she leaned forward and mocked a whisper behind her hand. “We wouldn’t dream of keeping rhododendrons.”

“Well, I am from South-Side, I wouldn’t know an orchid from an aphid.” I blew a ring of smoke towards the ceiling. Max gave me the evil eye. I could be mean, throw her to him, let him deal with the yes ma’amin’ that comes with the expensive zip code. “So, no thank you, Miss Tamsind. Since you let yourself in, I trust you can see yourself out.”

She smoldered, her ice exterior yielding to subtle cracks, “You know who I am.”

Max was impressed too: I felt the weight of his glare shift and he gaped like a codfish. “Not formally, no. I'm sure you're aware I don’t get many invitations to your kind of parties. I do, however, pay attention when Miss Brown reads the society page aloud in the mornings. Your engagement was announced last week, no the week before. And this week, a small, one-line correction to the wedding date, placing it further out. So, your fiancĂ© Michael, Michael, something two-faced ran off with your baby sister.”

Whether I was right or not, I struck a nerve. She rose and collected the photograph. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Bishop. I will not require your services after all.”

My under-paid, overworked secretary, Miss Betty Brown exploded through the door. “Yes! Mr. Bishop will take your case. And you needn’t worry about reputations. He’s the very soul of discretion.”

They usurped me, Max and Betty. I took a long drag out of irritation while Max and Betty renegotiated terms with Miss Gayle Tamsind. Miss Tamsind was of the Smithsfield Tamsinds that perched atop North Hill in their alabaster shrines to the gods of wealth and excess. The same Smithsfield Tamsinds that settled in Smithsfield two hundred years ago and made a fortune in textiles and tobacco. Miss Tamsind’s ancestral roots may have been populated with hard-working, blue-collar farmers, but the present day branches hadn't possessed calluses since the tree was planted. Smoke ring after smoke ring wisped to the ceiling while I simmered in my own skin. Max made a mistake of course. My gut told me there was a storm coming, and that this dame was more trouble than she was worth.

“One and a half times his usual fees,” I heard Miss Tamsind say. “And you can keep the photo. Unfortunately, the studio made several copies at Delilah’s instructions.”

“Delilah?” The name rang familiar.  I put my cig out in the ashtray, the set-up becoming clear. “Max, you’re a damn fool if you take this case.”

The comment earned me three extremely toxic looks.

I ignored them. After gumshoeing for a decade, I learned a few things about human nature. Poor girls ran from home hoping to find something better. Rich girls ran from home because they can’t wait to get anything worse. And if Delilah Tamsind was the Delilah Black that checked into Ricardo’s Club for Gentlemen last week, worse was exactly what Delilah was going to find. And what that meant for Michael Two-Face, the fiancĂ©-on-hold, I didn’t know, but I knew damn sure I didn’t want to find out. I rose and crossed the room to my coat rack to grab my hat and coat. Pushing by Betty, I called out over my shoulder, “Don’t forget to lock up.”

“Where are you going?” Betty followed me out to the closet-sized reception area. “Why are you being so beastly?”

I took her aside and whispered. “Listen Betty, Max and I are a great many things and none of them good. You're too good for us. I know we don’t deserve your loyalty. I’ll find some other way to pay you. I promise. Double even, what I owe you, but please get Max to see reason and drop this case. There’s no way this is going to play out to a happy ending.”

She folded her arms and squared off to me, her eyes narrowing behind her budget eye-wear. “This fear talking? This could open doors for us in the right society. You won't have to struggle anymore.”

I shook my head. “Gut instinct, Betty. That dame – this case, it’s trouble.”

"We need that money, Bish." Betty sighed, her chin drooping to her chest. "But all right. I’ll convince Max to drop the case.”

“Thanks, Bet.” I kissed her forehead. “Trust me. It’s for the best.”