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Saturday, December 3, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016 Has Been Conquered!

Why do we participate in NaNo?  For me, it's the challenge.  I know I can do it.  I know I can write 50,000 words in a month.  If I didn't have to work 40 hours a week I could probably double or even triple that, but this is real life and not going to work because you want to write a book just isn't an option for most of us.  So, I cram that writing time into the end of my days and ignore my family on the weekends, just to prove to myself that if I really want to I can do it.  If I'm truly motivated it can happen.  My family hates this by the way.

This is the first chapter of the story I worked on for NaNo.  The book isn't done yet, (almost, but not quite) and I wrote this chapter at the beginning of the year so it wasn't included in my 50,000 word count.  I actually wrote two chapters in February and then decided to live with the characters for a while.  They've been rattling around and arguing with each other in my head for months, so I let them all out to play for National Novel Writing Month.  Since I'm almost done with their story I wanted to share this little bit with you.

A Shade of Winter

Chapter 1

“So tell me, Pansy, how do you feel that you’ve been handling school since the accident?”  He closed the door before she answered but I could hear the low murmur of my sister’s reply through the heavy wood-paneled door.  She was making up some crap answer to placate the therapist, no doubt. Since nothing that I could say or do would help at this point I turned my attentions to the handful of people wasting time in the small, but plush, waiting room. 

No one bothered me as I wandered around the room. There was an older lady, maybe in her late thirties, with a lacquered helmet of dirty blonde hair that ran stick straight to her shoulder before curling under. It didn’t move as she leaned over to scribble something in her notepad and as I looked over her shoulder to see what she was writing, expecting to see the next great American novel, I was disappointed to see nothing but a grocery list. Adults were so boring.
The psychology books in the heavy oak bookshelf by the receptionist’s desk looked new and unopened and I noticed a thick layer of dust along the tops. They seemed to be largely ignored by both the staff and the cleaning crew. Absently, I ran my hand over a mercury glass mirror, its spotted finish looked old and expensive. Maybe it was, but I figured expensive, fragile objects weren’t the best things to have on hand when people were in an emotional state. Not that any of the people sitting out here looked particularly volatile. The waiting room serviced two other therapists' offices and their patients looked pretty placid. For all I knew, they were all doped up on meds, so maybe the mirror and the little glass tchotchkes on the shelves would live to see another day. My combat boots didn’t make any sound on the thick baby blue carpet as I continued my tour around the room. Blue is a soothing color, I’d read that in a magazine once.

Dad was paying top dollar for this therapist, even though Mom had had to bribe my reluctant twin to get her to agree to this session of the touchy-feelies.  Our parents felt that Pansy wasn’t showing enough depth of despair, or grief, or whatever, over the accident and together they’d made the decision that she should talk to a professional.  It was one of the few times since the funeral that they’d even spoken to one another and we’d been pretty shocked when this had been the decision produced from their little pow-wow.  In the last few weeks Dad had spent more and more time at work, and Mom, well… she spent her few waking hours lying in bed, staring at the wall.  We’d assumed their conversation was about her need for therapy, as clearly, it should be our mother sitting in that silky beige chair.  But no one had asked for our opinions. No, instead, my sister had to endure this emotional poking and prodding into the most private aspects of her life, and I fully expected her to lie her way through most of it.  She couldn’t tell them the truth or I’d be visiting her in the looney bin.
There was a kid who looked about two or three years younger than us with lanky dark hair, slumped in his seat, sitting next to a woman I presumed was his mother.  I wondered which of them needed the therapist.  She was reading a book and he was playing a game on his Gameboy, thumbs flying over the controls as he shot down flying saucers.  He didn’t notice when I rolled my eyes.

I made my way around a dusty fake fern on a spindly table to see what the overweight guy sitting on a settee in the corner was doing.  I sat down next to him but his gaze never wavered from the magazine he was holding in both hands.  He was just staring at an advertisement for Keds and not actually reading anything.  Upon closer inspection, his eyes were dilated and his breathing seemed shallow so I stepped away, convinced he was definitely on something.  Whether that something was prescribed or not, I had no idea.

I hadn’t wasted nearly enough time touring the room but since I had made a complete circle back to the door where my sister was being ‘treated’ I eased into Dr. Noonan’s office with its cheerful yellow walls and big windows that let in as much of the weak November light as possible.  Dr. Noonan didn't look up from his notes but my sister gave me a warning glance as I perched in the chair next to hers.  It was her way of telling me to behave although she didn’t speak to me directly. Her eyes were red and I could see that she’d already been crying.  Maybe she was laying it on too thick.  After all, we wanted the doctor to believe that she was well adjusted and capable of grieving, not that she was a big blubbery mess.
“But you were driving the vehicle, at the time, correct?”

“Yes, sir.” She dropped her eyes to the tissue she was twisting back and forth in her hands.  Avoid eye contact.  Good thinking, Sis.

“Your father said you blamed yourself for the accident, but the police report says that a man crossed into your lane.  Have you actually seen the police report yet, Pansy?”

“No, sir.”  Short and sweet, that was good, don’t say too much.

“I have a copy here and I think you should look at it.  The man, Justin Woodbridge, was well over the legal limit, but surely you already know that.”

“Yes, sir.”  She took the manila file folder from Doctor Noonan and laid it open across her lap.  Standing, I moved behind her to read it over her shoulder and she nudged it a little to the side so that I could get a better view. 

“Now, some of the pictures you’re going to see are graphic.  It’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to see them.  Don’t feel bad if it makes you anxious or brings up bad memories. This is just a folder.  All you have to do is close it.” Dr. Noonan leaned back in his seat and crossed his ankle over his other knee.  He smoothed his longish dark hair back from his face before settling his hands across the pooch of his belly.  I assumed that he was getting comfortable so that he could observe Pansy’s reactions while reading through the report.  When I glanced down I saw that there wasn’t much to it, really.  It looked like there were a few statements that the police had gathered, the first responders, one from my sister, and one from this Justin Woodbridge guy.  There was a hand-drawn diagram of the accident scene showing the placement of vehicles in relation to the bridge.  It looked so nice and neat on paper.  Almost orderly. 

Pansy flipped to the next page, which was a glossy 8x10 photo from the scene, and I admit, I had to look away.  That was too real, much more like it had been that night, and I suddenly felt a rush of adrenaline, fear, grief, something... hit me hard.  My chest tightened like I couldn’t get enough air.  Trying not to hyperventilate, which was ridiculous, really, I walked over to the windows.  The roses in the flower bed outside the window had been cut back for the winter, their woody stems whacked off at strange pointy angles and I stared at their ugliness until I got myself under control.  Dr. Noonan had resumed talking, but I hadn’t been listening.

“I know it’s not my fault.  I know that.  But I’m afraid I’m never going to forgive myself.  Maybe I could have reacted quicker.  If we hadn’t been out so late it wouldn't have happened, but I was the one that had wanted to stay at the party.  Why Gerri? Why not me?”  Her words were tinged with a hint of panic and pulled my attention away from my own feelings.  I didn’t know if she was acting for the doctor or if she really meant it, but my intuition told me that she was being sincere.  I frowned.  “It’s not your fault,” I said.  She shook her head and I couldn’t tell if that meant she was agreeing with me or not.

“Survivor’s guilt is common in these kinds of cases,” the doctor began to drone on in his soothing voice.  I began to wonder if part of the therapy was to hypnotize the patients with his voice.  Hypnotherapy was a real thing, right?  Recomposed, I walked back over to stand behind my sister. 

The file was still open on her lap and the picture that was currently on top of the pile was of the car we’d been in - our 1994 Chevy Cavalier that we’d gotten brand new last year for our sixteenth birthday.  The front end was smashed and crumpled, but the firewall had held.  It wasn’t the force of the oncoming car that had killed me, no, it was the broken end of the guardrail being forced through the passenger side door that had ended my life.  I shivered with the memory and laid a hand on Pansy’s shoulder.  “It’s not your fault,” I said again, more firmly this time.

She laid her hand over mine, or tried to, anyway. To Dr. Noonan, it probably looked like she was just touching her own shoulder for no reason.  Dr. Noonan could suck it.  As far as we could tell, my twin was the only person who could see and hear me since I’d died.  In the last few weeks we had adjusted to this strange turn of events as well as we were ever going to. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

In Which, by some miracle, I've made it to Challenge #3

I won't say that I was waiting for the results of Challenge #2 with baited breath because honestly, I'd forgotten about it. When I got the email from NYC Midnight last week that the results for Challenge #2 were in I hit the link with dread, afraid of what I would see.  My previous prompt was to write a drama and I was afraid I'd gone a little too cheesy.  However, I still scored 7 points, and that was enough to eek me over the line and into the third challenge.  That left two days of anxiety, knowing I was going to have to do it again and not knowing what my prompts were until midnight on Friday. I was hovering over my phone at 11:55, waiting for the email that would give me the info I needed. When I saw that my prompts were Action/Adventure, at the North Pole, and that a tourniquet had to be mentioned I knew immediately that I'd have to call upon all of my years of reading Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels to craft my 1000 word story.  And so, here it is. Let me know what you think.

                                                 Rescue 965

The titanium-edged rotors of the CH-149 Cormorant were just beginning to turn as Search and Rescue Technician John Perrin crossed the frozen gravel airfield of RCAF Resolute Bay. The mustard yellow paint scheme of the rugged helicopter, call sign Rescue 965, shone dully in the morning light of early September. Today’s temperatures were expected to reach a balmy negative 25 degrees and the 15-knot winds sent chills down Perrin’s spine even through his orange constant-wear flight suit.

Captain Mark Marribeau was already at the controls doing his preflight check as Perrin entered the craft.  “What now?” he asked while strapping on his helmet with a built-in communications headset.

“The research vessel Varusk. The crew was supposed to overwinter near the North Pole while they examined core samples of the ice for pollen and airborne particulates, but there’s been no radio contact for the last four days. There's also been no distress beacon, but the powers-that-be are worried that she’s broken up in the ice.”

Tech Team Leader Bill Deering was the last to board, taking his place next to Marribeau while Perrin did a final inspection of the duffel containing his mobile field kit.  The bag contained everything from regular Band-Aids, to combat application tourniquets, warming blankets, even a surgical suture stapler.  Satisfied that everything was in order, he secured the five-point harness that held him in his designated seat behind the pilot.

Once they were cleared for takeoff, Marribeau increased the rotor speed, launching the craft into the cloudless sky. They followed the migration path of the magnetic North Pole as it crossed a series of uninhabitable islands covered in gravel and ice scattered across Nunavut, Canada. Soon they had left terra firma behind and were crossing the Arctic Ocean, the dark blue of the freezing water appearing infrequently between ice flows. “Are we going to have enough fuel to get back?” Perrin asked. Although the Cormorant could clear 1000 kilometers without refueling, an empty tank this far from civilization could be disastrous. 

“With the reserves we have in the hold we should be fine,” replied Marribeau. “We’ll at least make it back to Alert. We can refuel there.” Unlike the South Pole, where the landmass of Antarctica kept the ice somewhat stable, the geographical North Pole was in the middle of the ocean and the shifting ice prevented a permanent base from being constructed. The airbase in Alert was the most northern of the inhabited places where they could expect assistance.

The CH-149 had a max speed of 248 kilometers per hour but as Marribeau fought crosswinds the entire way, his speed was curtailed terribly.  Most of the three and a half hour trip to the last known coordinates of the Varusk were made in silence while Marribeau concentrated on keeping the seven-ton bird on course. Deering and Perrin were more than happy to give him the quiet he needed to focus.

As they crossed the 80th parallel the ship's black prow came into view against the expanse of shining white ice that surrounded it.  The decommissioned Russian-built ship had been retrofitted as a research vessel with dual cranes straddling a helipad on its stern and all weapons systems removed. She was firmly lodged in the ice, but on first viewing seemed to be intact. As they approached, Perrin found the lack of movement on deck disturbing. Marribeau lowered the chopper, hovering just off the port side as Deering tried to reach someone by radio. Varusk, this is Rescue 965 out of Resolute Bay, do you copy?” When there was no response Deering tried again, waiting a moment for an acknowledgement before changing radio frequencies. After he’d cycled through every frequency twice with no reply, he turned to Marribeau, “Set her down. Something isn't right.”

Uneasy, Perrin unbuckled his harness and grabbed his kit, jumping onto the helipad before both skids had completely touched the ground. The wind swirled snow across the steel plate decking as he hurried past the large capstans towards the bridge.  The whine of the Cormorant’s triple engines wound down behind him as the wind whipped at his suit, snapping the fabric against his body.

He opened a waterproof hatch on the forward bulkhead and was assaulted by the odor of blood and decomp in the heated interior.  In his haste, he almost stepped on the first body. 

She was on her belly, long brown hair covering her face, one arm stretched forward like she had been crawling towards the hatch.
The single bulb that lit the interior of the passageway was too dim to get a good view and Perrin pulled a flashlight from his belt. Ignoring the metallic taste in the air and trying not to breathe too deeply, he knelt to turn her over, casting the beam towards her face. As it came into view, he stumbled backwards, tripping over the raised lip and landing hard on the cold metal deck. Panicked, he swung the flashlight further down the passage noting several more bodies. All were in various positions of agony, all surely dead.

“R-965, we have a problem.” He turned to look at the chopper and spotted Deering coming towards him. “Stop! Don't come any closer. Repeat, stop!”

Deering stopped mid-stride and threw his hands up. “What’s going on?”

“They’re dead.  All of them. It looks like they’ve bled out from the eyes, nose and mouth.  I don’t know what it is, but we’re definitely going to need a Hazmat team down here.”

"Copy that. Don't go any further. We'll return to base." Deering did a 180, heading back to the Cormorant at double speed. 

Shaken, Perrin stood and secured the heavy hatch with a dull thud. Feeling his throat constrict and his eyes begin to water, he turned back to the Cormorant to get out of the cold. He was halfway there before he noticed the blood dripping onto the front of his flight suit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

NYC Midnight's Flash Fiction Challenge, Part Deux

So, having entered the longest contest I've ever seen, I recently submitted my second piece for Challenge 2.  Everyone who enters completes Challenge 1 and 2 and are then assigned points for each story.  So far, I'm at 15 points (out of a possible 15 points) for the first story, but won't know how I've done on this one until mid-October.  The suspense may kill me!

Without further ado, here is what I extracted from the prompts I was given.  I hope you like it.

Group 19
Genre: Drama
Location: a dog park
Object: a pistol

In the Quiet

It was late November the day I pulled to the far end of the blacktop lot separating the city playground from the dog park.  The smell of cold earth and decaying leaves was the first thing I noticed as I stepped from the car.  The sound of barking dogs was the second.  I threw the keys onto the front seat before closing the door and self-consciously patting my jacket pocket.  The small caliber pistol I’d bought last week was still there, right where I’d left it.  Someone may steal the car, but I wasn't going to need it anymore.  It would be days, maybe even weeks, before anyone noticed that I was gone.   

The stretch of woods that I had in mind was located behind the dog park and as I started around the fenced enclosure a particularly bouncy dog, a Jack Russell maybe, caught my attention.  As I watched, it lept across the open field and caught a Frisbee in mid-air.  I took two more steps towards the back of the enclosure before deciding to turn around.  I wasn’t on a schedule, I could spend a few minutes watching the little dog play.

I entered the gated park and found a bench at the top of a hill some distance from the entrance.  The wind was stronger here and I found myself shivering a little as it cut through the jacket.  I wouldn’t stay long, and besides, I wouldn't be uncomfortable for much longer.  I was tired of being uncomfortable.  I was tired of being alone, tired of feeling sorry for myself.  As I watched, the little brown and white dog missed the Frisbee.  It rolled as it hit the ground before bounding after the red disc like it was no big deal.  I can’t do that, I thought.  One miss and I’m done, I never just bounce back and keep going, it wasn’t in my nature.

I was so intent on watching the little dog that I didn’t notice the German Shepherd until it jumped onto the bench next to me.  Startled, I started to push it away, but something in its eyes struck a chord in me.  It had one eyebrow raised like it was asking for permission to hang out with me over here in this quiet place.  I looked around for its owner, but there were no unaccompanied humans nearby.

“Hey there, buddy, where did you come from?” I asked.  The dog seemed to take this as an invitation and circled twice before laying down with its big head in my lap.  Its long tail hung off the other side of the bench and it gave a deep sigh like it had finally found the perfect lap to lay on.  I smiled, a genuine smile, for what I realized was the first time in a long time.

As a kid, I’d always wanted a dog of my own, but that hadn’t been an option with the constant shuffle between foster homes.  There’d been a dog once, a huge bad-tempered old thing that had tried to bite me.  I’d almost forgotten about that home, that temporary family.  I hadn’t stayed long.  I laid a tentative hand on his grey ruff, sinking my fingers between the silky strands and stroking him gently.  After a moment, after my strokes became more confident, we both sighed.

“I’ve never had a pet, ya know,” I told the dog.  I moved the hair away from the black collar that circled his neck, noting the words “I’m a rescue,” written in a repeating pattern around the woven nylon circle.  I twisted it around until a flat aluminum tag stamped with the word ‘Angel’ appeared.  “Angel, huh?”  The dog just yawned again before rolling over onto its back in the universal sign for ‘rub my belly.’  I complied.  “Since you asked so nicely."

For a rescue, he looked well fed and clean, his coat shiny and free from ticks and fleas. “What happened to you, buddy?  Did you run away or did someone dump you?”  He licked my hand and to my surprise, I smiled again.  I couldn’t imagine such a good boy being sent to the pound.  The pound was where they killed dogs no one wanted, the ones who were a nuisance or didn’t play well with others.  As a child who’d been unwanted, one who acted out and been treated like garbage, I could sympathize.  As an adult, I still never quite managed to fit in and something tightened in my chest, squeezing a tear from the corner of my eye.  Wasn’t I about to do the same thing to myself?  My time was up, no one wanted me, time to check out?

As I sat in the quiet, peacefully bonding with another living creature, I felt my soul begin to lighten.  There was a shift in the sadness that had filled me for so long and it actually began to ease.  I thought that maybe this was a sign.  Maybe not all signs were rays of sunshine or flashing neon lights.  Maybe I wasn't done yet.  Maybe I could still be loved.  Still give love. Sometimes, even when you were close to death, you could still be saved.  

Angel sat up, his tail thumping against the bench, urging me to get up and do something about it.  So I did.  I looked back as I got to the gate, just to make sure I hadn’t dreamed the whole thing, but Angel had already disappeared, probably in search of his human.

My car was untouched so I made a bee-line for the animal shelter.  When I saw them, brother and sister, huddled together in the corner of that dirty concrete pen, I knew I hadn't misinterpreted the sign.  The two lab-mixes were shaking despite the heat in the shelter, and I recognized their twin looks of fear and confusion.  I knew in that instant that while I could give them a better life, they were going to save mine.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

So I Entered a Flash Fiction Challenge...

Flash Fiction.  It's a thing.  Who knew?

While there's no nudity, it does require stripping - stripping a story down to less than 1000 words.  That's about 2 pages.  That takes about twenty-five minutes.  No biggie, I can totally do that.  But see, the thing with the NYC Midnight Challenge is that you only have 48 hours to write your less-than-a-thousand-word story, and you don't know what your going to write it about until they say 'Go!"

My prompts were as follows: 
Genre - Mystery
Location - Homeless Shelter
Object - Shovel

The problem is that typically when I'm 1000 words into a story I'm still setting up the scene.  If you've ever read anything I've written, you know I like to ramble, so this was harder than I thought it would be.  After typing up the story I could make of those prompts, I was at 1589 words.  This is where the stripping comes in.  Paring it down to only the most essential parts of the story; cutting out anything that wasn't necessary.  

So, here's my first attempt at Flash Fiction, let me know what you think!


The moth was back, dancing between his face and the tattered newspaper he’d been reading on the back steps.  He swatted at it with the paper, hoping it would join the other bugs flitting around the light over the shelter’s back door.  With a critical eye, he noted that the faded blue paint was peeling from the door, revealing streaks of rust beneath it.  Maybe he would offer to paint it.  The paper said it wasn’t supposed to rain tomorrow; he could do it after he set the posts for the garden pergola.

The garden, located behind the low-slung block building that housed the Guiding Light Shelter for Men, had been a big part of the reason he’d accepted this job.  The abandoned lot, enclosed on three sides by the flat, windowless walls of the surrounding buildings, had been purchased by the shelter and turned into a vegetable garden.  A privacy fence separated the lot from the street to keep vandals out.  Tended by the men here, they planted, weeded, and harvested the vegetables.  It gave them a sense of purpose.  He’d known as soon as he laid eyes on it that this was the perfect place for him.
The earthy smell of the composted horse manure he’d tilled into the garden earlier in the day hung thick in the air around him as he enjoyed his well-deserved break.  He didn’t mind the smell.  It was of the earth, serving a purpose, just like him.  He leaned against the iron pipe of the stair rail and took a drag on his cigarette, barely noticing the quickening of his heart rate as the smoke filled his lungs.  The moth was back again, so he blew the smoke in its direction, chuckling as it fluttered away into the dark.  Like people, insects were easily confused. Blow some smoke, misdirect, and they wander off, no questions asked.

He turned back to the front page of the paper where the smiling face of a pretty woman stared at him under the headline, “Body Found Under Bridge.”  He wadded the paper in disgust and took another drag.  He’d been following this particular story for a few days - a suburban housewife killed in her home.  Blood spatter, shoe prints, hair and fiber samples… and now the police had a body.  He disapproved of such negligence.  He drew in the last pull of smoke before grinding the cigarette butt beneath the heel of his mud-spattered work boot.  He picked up the discarded butt, depositing both it and the newspaper into the garbage can next to the stairs.  He paused for a moment to admire his handy work - the large hole he’d just dug in the tilled earth.  Brushing the loose dirt from his overalls, he turned to go back inside.

A single row of lights in the open kitchen were kept on all night, and the light that spilled over the long counter cast deep shadows on those that slept here.  The strong smell of the ammonia he used to mop the floors every evening comingled with the aromas of body odors and urine stained fabric.  He didn’t much mind that either.  Pulling black cotton gloves from his pocket, he slid them over his hands as he walked.  His rubber soles were silent on the cracked green linoleum tiles.  Tonight’s head count was thirty-four, and all were sleeping like the dead.    He walked amongst the rows of cots, listening to their breathing, their soft snores.  Everything seemed normal.  No adverse reactions.

He’d been hired three months ago as a sort of combination night-time janitor, and bouncer.  While sometimes the general sadness and despair here was overwhelming, overall, he enjoyed his job.  He liked talking to each man after the bustle of the dinner rush was over.  He enjoyed getting to know them, hearing their stories, their triumphs, and their sins.  Especially their sins.  He could sense them either way, but he liked to talk with them before making any decisions.

He came to the cot where David slept.  David was a child molester.  He’d known, of course, as soon as he shook the man’s hand.  He’d sensed it.  It had oozed like a sickness from the man’s pores.  Subsequent conversations had confirmed it, even if David had been too smart to admit it.  He preferred his contributions to confess to their sins, but no, David had played coy.  Rolling David onto his back, he was happy to see that the GHB he’d slipped into everyone’s juice before bed was still working.  The body was slack and malleable.  He stripped off the man’s clothing and wadded the shirt into a ball.  Holding it over David’s mouth, he pressed down until the feeble attempts to fight ceased.

He tossed the shirt onto the pile of clothes to be dealt with later.  He carried the body across the room, back through the peeling blue door and into the garden.  Dumping his offering into the hole, he curled the body onto its side to make it fit.  He picked up a bag of quick lime from his stack of construction supplies and ripping it open, poured the contents over the body.  It would dissolve soon.  No one would notice two bags missing, just like they would never notice a homeless man missing.  Rolling the bags into small balls, he set them aside.  He would throw them away with the clothes before the others woke up.  The garbage would be picked up in the morning and all the evidence would be gone.  Picking up his shovel he began pushing dirt over the body, burying the sin.

An offering should never be violent and bloody, he thought as he shoveled.  His mission wasn't to  kill innocent people and leave evidence all over but to weed out the evil in society.  Quietly, quickly, and with no trace left behind.  For twenty-three years, the Lord had shown him the truth, and he’d done his part, steadfast and unwavering.    

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hell or High Water is now Available on Kindle!

My third book, following the life and adventures of Grace Jackson, is finally finished and published.  I've tried to wrap up all of the loose ends, so Grace and Co. can enjoy their lives peacefully for a while.  Not too long I hope, but I have other projects waiting.  I hope you read it and enjoy it.  And if you do enjoy it, please leave a review!

Grace Jackson is getting her life back on track. Mamaw is back home, Nate has moved in, and Grace and the crew are heading to a job on Blair Mountain in Logan County, West Virginia. Their dig is hampered by heavy rain and flooding, and when a nearby mudslide uncovers some bones, Grace finds herself digging up old secrets as well as human remains.

 Amazon link

Monday, June 1, 2015

Mud, Sweat, & Tears is Free This Week for Kindle!

While I'm still working on my third book, "Hell or High Water" I'm currently running a promotion on Amazon for my second book, Mud, Sweat, & Tears.  It's free!! (June 1-5, 2015)  


Returning home after a ten-week stint on the Chesapeake Bay, Contract Archaeologist Grace Jackson assumes life will be returning to normal. However, she doesn't make it through the front door of her home before that illusion is shattered. Mamaw is missing, Lottie is still on the run, and Grace and the gang will be called to the forests of Fayetteville, WV to assist with the recovery of a body buried in the park for more than two decades. Set against the backdrop of Bridge Day in the New River Gorge National River, normal will have to wait.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Castle Diaper Cake

Diaper cakes are a dime a dozen on Pinterest, so for my niece's baby shower, I decided to try my hand at it.  How hard could it be?  Well, plan to set aside at least two hours if it's your first time.  I'm sure the pros can knock one out in under an hour, but I'm certainly not at that level.  I could, however totally do it, and so can you!

What You'll Need:

64 diapers - I bought a box of 100.

A 6" x 60' roll of tulle.  This will lend a very slight color cast to the diapers, so choose a color that works with your theme.  I believe organza ribbon would also work, although I didn't try it!

1 roll (or partial roll, it won't take much) of crepe paper.

3 to 4 sheets of scrapbooking or construction paper - various patterns.

About 5 feet of 2-3" wide ribbon and any extra bits of ribbon, buttons, pompoms and/or any other bits you want to use to decorate the castle.


Hot glue - preferably low temp.  You can use high temp, but it takes longer for the glue to dry and it's much more painful when you stick your finger in it.

Step 1)  I started by making four 'towers' by rolling up three diapers lengthwise, rolling the first one to make the middle, then adding the other two on each side.  Try to keep the printed side of the diaper on the inside of the roll so you don't have a cartoon character sticking out somewhere you don't want it.

 Step 2) I cut a length of tulle to wrap the tower in, leaving enough to overlap, and then slid a piece of crepe paper underneath the overlap.  Since diapers are crazy expensive, I wanted her to be able to actually use the diapers later, which wouldn't be possible if they're covered in glue.  The crepe protects the diapers and gives the glue something to hold onto.

Step 3)  After I scribbled some glue down the length of the crepe paper, I ripped another section off and placed it on top, sandwiching the the two ends of the tulle between the two pieces of crepe.  Once the glue was dry, I trimmed off the extra tulle and crepe paper.  (Because, as you can see from the picture below, it looks like a hot mess at this point.)  If you wanted to make this a little fancier you could use a piece of ribbon over the seam, but I had these turned to the inside and you couldn't see them anyway.

Step 4 ) For the castle walls, I staggered 6 diapers, three on each side, making sure that the printed sides were all facing the same way so I could hide them later.  I slid the crepe paper between the diapers and the tulle, then wrapped them lengthwise, with the seam over the printed area.  Again, I cut enough tulle to leave an overlap, then sandwiched it with the hot glue between the crepe.

Step 5) For the base of my 'castle' I ran a strip of tulle down my table, and then laid out 12 diapers, overlapping them in a regular pattern.  As a word of advice, don't cut the tulle from the roll until you've rolled up the diapers, because they're going to shift as you go.  Because I couldn't predict ahead of time where my strip of crepe paper should be, I stuffed it under the tulle after I had it rolled and tulle cut off.  Using an ungainly method of holding the roll against my body, placing the hot glue on the seam and then ripping off another piece with my teeth, I managed to make the bottom of the cake.  I did this again with 10 diapers for the middle section, and a third time with 6 diapers to create the top layer.

Step 6 ) Stack your layers, place your towers, and then set the walls around it all.

Step 7) Once you have your diapers stacked up into the shape you want, then comes the decorating!
I used wide ribbon around the base of the walls to keep them from falling over, around each tower and the two visible bases.  To make pointy castle-like roofs, I cut half circles in sheets of decorative paper.  The large top roof was a full sheet of paper, while the smaller ones were only quarter sheets.  Then I glued ribbon around the bottoms, lace on the inside of the top, and ran a bamboo skewer down the top of the largest roof with a flag I'd glued onto it (paper, although ribbon would have been cute too) so that the roof wouldn't fall off.  A rounded 'drawbridge' completed my castle, and I later added a sparkly monogram sticker on the front.

All in all, I thought it turned out pretty well, and it added a little extra something to our fairy-tale themed baby shower.