Tuesday, December 24, 2013

50 States of Pray


Today  Mark Koopmans has brought writers from all over the world together to share our hopes and dreams for 2014. Thanks to Mark for creating this worthwhile effort, and thanks to our troops for keeping us safe. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year. Be sure to visit the talented contributors to 50 Shades of Pray . In the meantime, I've decided to go in a slightly different direction.
Grey Matter

What is this place,
Lots of strange devices.
No, I'm not making a face,
Yet, another guy with vices.

Please don't tell my folks,
They raised me to do the right thing.
If only I hadn't eaten those yolks,
My thighs look huge in this swing.

Sometimes I want to raise my fists,
At all the duds I've gone with.
Wasted time on that psychotic machinist,
Not to mention, that misguided multi-linguist.

Though bitter at first,
Sweetness flows in gentle gates.
Flourishing in pounding bursts,
Blending together to percolate.

I pray that we'll stay,
Tightly bound at the hip.
How my lips burn to the fray,
For his deep, rich macchiato with extra whip.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mom's Reflections On The Headline: Man Shops For 5 Hours 'Til He Drops 7 Floors


On December 9th, a man in China became undone after shopping with his girlfriend for over five hours. When he pleaded to go home, she said that she still had to buy shoes. They began shouting back and forth until he decided to throw packages over the seventh floor railing. Their argument ended when he jumped after them, crashing through Christmas decorations along the way, as he plummeted to his death.

My mom is an avid shopper. She will work tirelessly to find you whatever you need whether it's a large item for your home, down to the perfect pocket square accessory. She worked in retail for several years, and even her bunions didn't slow her down.

Lately, it's been harder for her to get around, but if someone is willing to take her (me), nothing will stand in her way, even if she has to do it sitting down. "How can I see anything from this angle? Nothing is arranged properly for handicapped people. Bring it closer. Push me faster. Back up. Go check all of the fitting rooms. That top has to be here somewhere. What do the salespeople know?" Several hours later, you could still find us in the same department of the department store.

Recently, we found a new place to have lunch at my mom's favorite store. We picnic in the bedding department. I lay out our drinks and sandwiches on one of the display beds, while we take a short break. We had to relocate to this section, as all of the regular public seating areas have been filled up with holiday shoppers. I keep waiting for a sign that says; FOR DISPLAY USE ONLY.  NO PICNICS ALLOWED YOU TWO, but  people just smile when they see us. You know that smile for people who had a day pass from the asylum.

My mom still has a great eye, and a wonderful sense of the most flattering cuts for your body type. She continues to help me shop for the whole family. It's not too late to hire my mom for Christmas and New Year's. If there's a man in your life that you won't miss much, my mom is here to help. And she can do it in less than five hours.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cheers To Arlee Bird


Today we are celebrating the genius of  the man who brought you the A to Z Challenge, and  Tossing It Out,  as well as five other intriguing blogs, Arlee "Lee" Bird. Thanks to Mark Koopmans, Morgan Shamy,  David Powers King,  Stephen Tremp,  and 2012 CheersFest recipient Alex J. Cavanaugh, for creating this good spirited roast.

Without further ado, here are the questions that our hosts compiled:

Why did Lee come up with the A-Z Challenge?
He wanted to share his love of blogging with people from all over the world; inspiring creativity while forming friendships. 

If someone dreams about being a juggler, what does it mean?
It means they have perfect hand-eye coordination, and lots of nervous energy.

Is a post by Mr. Bird worth two in the bush?
Absolutely, and so are his comments. Once I wrote something that completely misfired, and Lee swooped in to my defense.

 · Who could play Lee in a documentary? (Living or dead.)
Why Bruce Willis of course.

 In +/- 100 words, (excluding the title) write flash fiction using all these (bold) prompts:

The Fearless Juggler

The juggler twirled his dapper mustache,
Before slipping into his brown prom jacket.
He grew it to cover an upper lip rash,
From tossing some old tennis rackets.

His act was in full swing on stage,
When a heckler flipped him the bird.
He used his wits rather than rage,
Without even uttering a word.

He added flaming daggers to the mix,
Lee's rise to the challenge was sky high.
He risked it all with his dangerous tricks.
When he stopped abruptly to zip up his fly.

"I've told you a million times, I didn't play a doctor in that Linda Lovelace movie. I'm not that kind of performer."
Thanks for all that you do, Lee. I will always be grateful to you, and I hope that you enjoy this special day in your honor.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lexa & Julie's Dream Destination Blog-Hop

Julie Flanders  and  Lexa Cain  are hosting the Dream Destination Blog-Hop to celebrate their book releases.  Julie's  The Ghosts of Aquinnah, and Lexa's Soul Cutter are both debuting this week, so they're celebrating with lots of fantastic prizes. Be sure to visit  http://julieflanders.blogspot.com/  and http://lexacain.blogspot.com/  to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway, and learn more about their fascinating novels.    

Speaking of dream destinations, I've always wanted to visit Paris, or explore all that Greece has to offer, but there are some unusual sights worth seeing right here in the U.S.     

According to Wikipedia, "Bubblegum Alley is a local tourist landmark in downtown San Luis Obispo, California, known for its accumulation of used bubble gum on the walls of an alley...lined with chewed gum left by passers-by." It's not clear whether the alley was created after WWII at the San Luis Obispo High School graduation, or if it began in the "late 1950s, as rivalry between San Luis Obispo High School, and Polytechnic State University students. The strength of the alley has been tested by objecting store owners, ecologically minded locals, scrapers, and even fire hoses." When firefighters sprayed the walls in 1985, the walls were refilled within a month.

I would only accompany my family to this germ infested alley, because they don't chew gum. Of course we would still be outfitted in Hazmat suits, and gloves to be on the safe side. Fortunately, it's not far from San Francisco which would be a wonderful place for the whole family.

If we wanted to stay even closer to home, we could take a road trip to Olney, Illinois, home of the white squirrel (photo courtesy of Wikipedia).

As cited in Wikipedia, "White squirrels have the right-of-way on all public streets, sidewalks, and thoroughfares in Olney, and there is a $750 fine for running one over." The police even wear a white squirrel on their badges. Since my husband and older son love wildlife this would be a great attraction for them, and it's only about a four hour drive from Chicago.

Sometimes you can visit the best Dream Destinations while you're curled up with a good book or two. Thanks to Julie Flanders' The Ghosts of Aquinnah, and Lexa Cain's Soul Cutter, you can take off on thrilling adventures without ever leaving home.  


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

IWSG: Pick Your Battles


I can't believe that this is the last 2013 post for  Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group.  Fortunately, you can head on over to the official  IWSG Website which is open 24/7 to get you through those rough patches that don't always fall on the first Wednesday of every month.  

A few months ago, I was at a dinner party when I noticed that the hostess had a little something in her nose. I decided to ignore it hoping that someone else would mention it.  A moment later, the object had mysteriously made its way to the tip of her nose. A male guest took me aside, and suggested that I tell her "woman to woman."   

I gathered all of my courage, and gently approached her in the kitchen. She asked me exactly where it was, and then she just flicked it away with her fingers. Afterward, she continued to serve dessert without even washing her hands.

I on the other hand, would have slithered into the bathroom, and blown my nose so hard that the room would've shaken. Then I would've inspected my nose from every angle with a magnifying glass to insure that there was nothing on the horizon. Afterward, I would've scrubbed my hands, and sanitized the magnifying glass before serving the next course. If some of the guests decided to leave during this long and drawn out process, then so be it.  For those who have decided to stay, there is a point to this madness.

What if I remained silent. Would the object have eventually fallen in to our food anyway, or would it have simply vanished in to the background? As writers, is it better to let the chips fall where they may, or do we have to speak up, and give an honest critique of every chapter?

I've learned a lot from the Insecure Writer's Support Group, and often writers say how they don't choose their stories, because their stories choose them. I'm still waiting to tell my story, but my fear is that no one will want to read it. Oh sure, they'll be very polite about it, but how will I really know if it's worthwhile?

In other words, you can pick your friends, you can pick your Internet provider, but if your story is lacking, you risk getting  picked on, or picked over. After months of hard work, finding out that your story is nothing more than a runny mess can really burst your nose bubble.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Very Polyamorous Thanksgivukkah

Gothukkah poster. Photos courtesy of Dana Gitell

I decided to give my husband an early Hanukkah present, and he couldn't have been more delighted. My husband met the woman who would change our lives at our synagogue during Saturday morning Shabbat services. Soon she began saving a seat for him, and they would join in prayer while I slept in. They shared many common interests like bike riding, and going to sporting events. Our boys loved her cooking, and enjoyed her vast knowledge of sports trivia. She even impressed my mom, "Why can't you make a left turn without a stoplight? We're never late when your husband's lover takes me to appointments, and she brings better snacks. Oh, and that soft, silky skin. The woman simply glows. You know, I don't think I ever gave your husband enough credit."  It was time to take the next step.

She officially moved in with us a few weeks ago. We quickly settled into a comfortable routine. When our son came home for Thanksgivukkah break, she didn't mind going from room to room gathering up his clothing. She even convinced him to make his bed without raising her voice. Our son was thrilled that she made all of his favorite dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It stung a little the first time he called her mom and me Mrs. Pick, but I was too full to fret over it.

Since she was busy cooking, cleaning, and raising our son, I had to bring something to the table. I thought long and hard about what I could contribute to our polyamorous relationship. As she was preparing our Thanksgivukkah feast, I generously offered to give her the night off.

After our son went out for the evening, I invited our husband upstairs while I casually slipped into my sexy long flannel nightgown with matching tube socks. Then I put on his favorite TV shows, and was ready for action. Each time he said 'what' or 'hmm..,' I delivered the actor's lines with reckless abandon. I even watched him play with the remote while he cranked up the volume. Earlier in the day I had his polyamorous partner carry up the mini fridge from the basement where I loaded it with his favorite food, and drink. He couldn't have been happier, as he lay giggling in our king size buffet.

Strange thoughts started going through my head while I tossed and turned. How were we going to arrange our cemetery plots? The odds were that I would die first. Would I simply be cast aside at one end of the cemetery, while they would spend eternity together?  And if our husband went first, would she continue to cook, clean, and move furniture around for me? Were we destined to become a couple of old maids together though she was technically older, and a much better maid?

Just as I was about to drift off into sleep, I woke up in a cold sweat to the sound of the burglar alarm. I ran downstairs, and almost tripped on our son's hat, gloves and shoes that were sprinkled like bread crumbs leading to the back door. The wind had blown the garage door open which set off the alarm while the boys slept. There was no polyamorous Mary Poppins to clean up the mess, and phone the alarm company. I didn't get my Thanksgivukkah wish after all. Boy was my mom going to be disappointed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ladies' Room Confession


I was silently singing happy birthday while washing my hands in a department store restroom, when a stranger approached me. She looked like she was around my age, and felt the need to tell me that she had an accident in the stall. Naturally I assumed that she didn't get there in time due to a weak bladder, or stomach ailment. That wasn't the case. Her problem was that she "miss-aimed," and soiled her pants. 

How does a seemingly sober fifty plus year old woman "miss-aim" in a toilet? Surely she has had many years of practice. Was she trying to save time by not pulling her pants down, or did she squat instead of line the seat with toilet paper?  Should public bathrooms have instructions on the doors to prevent future accidents like this from happening?

She looked at me, as if she was waiting for a reassuring response. A friendly pat on the back, and "we've all been there," just didn't seem appropriate. Sure, I thought about asking her to become Facebook friends, but I couldn't help thinking about the next poor soul who would be doing the "slip 'n slide" in her stall.

I was pondering all of these questions, as I was trying to get the electronic paper towel dispenser to work. I tried everything from waving across the machine to banging on it with my elbow. Of course, a fresh paper towel came out on her very first try. That she knew how to do. 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Forking Over The Perfect Holiday Gift

HAPIfork Bluetooth  Enabled Smart Fork

Every year it seems that the holiday shopping rush begins earlier and earlier. Now there is the added pressure of an event that has not occurred since 1888; where Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah collide. Thanksgivukkah is upon us, thus creating a new shopping frenzy. Instead of  getting into the holiday spirit by searching for the perfect turkey menorah, I decided to look for the latest  innovation from the Brookstone catalog.

The ad that caught my eye was for an electronic fork that helps you, "eat slowly, cut calories and feel great. The HAPIfork alerts you with vibration and LED lights when you're eating too fast. It also measures how long it took you to eat your meal, the amount of fork servings per minute and more. Upload information via Bluetooth to your smartphone so you can track your progress." 

The HAPIfork video shows an attractive mom who is enjoying herself at lunch with friends, and dinner with family. The whole family was counting their calories together at dinner with their colorful HAPIforks, but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen to the other family members outside the safety of their own home.

Any boy who brought his HAPIfork to school would be at high risk in the cafeteria. Other boys would notice his fork lighting up, and he would be ridiculed for days. The worst scenario would be if after he was attacked on the playground, he realized that he had accidentally thrown out his $99.99 fork in his paper lunch bag, and came home to another round of fighting.

What if this unfortunate boy had a twenty seven year old brother who relocated to a small town for a new job? In order to meet girls he signed up for a dating service, and tried hard to stay in shape. He arranges a date with the girl of his dreams, and takes her to the nicest restaurant in town. The conversation and wine are flowing smoothly until the salads are brought out. Then she notices that his fork is vibrating and lighting up. When he explains that he is simply trying to eat smarter, she looks at him like he's nuts.

Then his boss approaches him on his way to his table. "Nice toy you got there Brody. This looks like something that a man would need if he can't think for himself. Maybe something that your mom got for you? (Brody nods)  I thought so. Since you must really miss her, why don't you fly home to spend Thanksgivukkah with your family. Take all the time you need, 'cause your job will NOT be waiting for you when you get back."

When the bill arrives, he realizes that he barely has enough cash to pay for it. Brody would've asked his date to pitch in, but finally caught on that she wasn't still in the ladies room.  He works out a deal with the restaurant manager...

While he's finishing up washing the dishes, one of the other employees notices the HAPIfork. Brody pretends that he doesn't know where it came from, but the bus boy tells everyone who it belongs to. On his way home, they jump him in the alley, and beat the fork out of him.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

IWSG: Still Struggling


It's time for another edition of  Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit all of the talented members of this group that is over two years strong. The following is a repost from December 2011.

Still Struggling

She runs into his arms sobbing, "The letter came today, and they rejected my manuscript. This was the fifteenth publisher who turned it down. All of my hopes and dreams are over. I'm finished!"

He gazes knowingly into her eyes and says, "Got anything to eat? I'm starving!"

Then the director yells, "Let's take five everyone!" He gives the chiseled actor an 'attaboy' slap, before he motions the beautiful actress over for a chat. He tells her that her performance lacks realism, and suggests that she spend time with a struggling writer to better understand her plight.

The next day, the beautiful actress goes over to the struggling writer's apartment. She has trouble making her way through the crumpled up papers, magazines, and books until she finally stumbles upon the struggling writer. They are about the same age, but the struggling writer looks worn out in her baggy sweatpants, and oversized unraveling robe. She apologizes for not having showered, as she doesn't have any running water.

They end up spending the day laughing, crying, and fighting over remnants of sweet and salty snacks. The struggling writer shows the beautiful actress her pile of rejection letters while they wrap themselves in blankets to stay warm, because the landlord turned off the heat. The writer helps the actress rehearse her scenes while interjecting double doses of angst and plucky determination.

They say their goodbyes before nightfall, so that they don't have to continue rehearsing in total darkness. Not once does the beautiful actress offer to invite the struggling writer into her luxurious Manhattan apartment to have a warm bath, a nutritious meal, or sleep in a lovely heated spare bedroom during one of the coldest nights of the year.

The following morning, the beautiful actress confidently strolls back into the playhouse. She is assured that her new "method acting" approach will impress her director, as well as, entice her chiseled leading man. As she gets closer to the stage, she notices that they started without her. Her leading man is facing the director, while another woman is saying her lines. The beautiful actress with a newly acquired pulsating vein in her forehead, rushes the stage to confront her.

She can't believe her eyes. Her competition is simply gorgeous with cascading auburn hair, breathtaking features, and a perfect figure. Her voice sounds familiar, but she still can't place her. Then the director chimes in, "Sorry kid, you just don't have what it takes. We decided to go in another direction."

While the beautiful actress stands motionless, she overhears her former leading man invite his new costar to join him for a drink later. Suddenly it hits her, "You're the struggling writer that I poured my heart out to yesterday. How could you do this to me? And how could you deceive me by not washing your hair, and hiding under those ridiculous plus-size rags?"

Then the struggling writer/ knockout actress replies, "I deceived you? I bent over backwards trying to teach you how to act, and in return you let me rot in that freezer of an apartment. Besides you idiot ingrate, I'm the one who wrote this play!"

Friday, November 1, 2013

How We Were Almost MIA When Our Son Became An Esq.


Yesterday our older son was sworn in, and admitted to the Bar. He was presented with his license to practice law, though we were almost not present for the ceremony.

The ceremony took place at the Arie Crown Auditorium in Chicago. It's located at McCormick Place which is where my dad officially became a CPA over forty years ago. I'll never forget driving to the city with my dad, and brother. I was probably nine or ten at the time, and I had a terrible bout of car sickness. While we were all excited about my dad's accomplishment, I never saw the inside of the auditorium.

After I got sick in the ladies room, I thought I'd feel better if I walked around a bit. This worked for a few steps until it began again. Since there wasn't time to make it to the bathroom, I ran to the nearest trash can and missed. I was determined to make things right, so my aim was better on the next try. By the end of the ceremony, I had made my mark in every trash can in the lobby. At one point, I thought a strange man was following me too closely in the deserted hallway. Fortunately, any concerns I had were short lived, as he slithered away when I hit the final barrel.

Afterward, we picked up our grandpa, and went out for a lovely lunch. Of course, I made a complete recovery, determined not to miss a meal. Our older son never heard this story before which made us question the events that followed.

A few weeks ago, my husband did a Google Search on the number of people who passed the Bar Exam when he found an announcement about the admission ceremony. Later we asked our son why he didn't mention it, and he replied, "Because I didn't think it was a big deal. Everyone gets sworn in together, and then it's over."

Fortunately,  my husband found out in plenty of time, and we were able to attend. The Illinois Supreme Court Justices, and Bar Association Representatives gave short meaningful speeches. One of our favorite speakers advised, "Never argue with a fool, because from a distance people will not recognize which one is the fool."

It was very emotional watching our son and over a thousand men and women take the Attorney's Oath at the end of the ceremony. We went out for a quick lunch before we took our son back to work. It made us think about how lucky he was, as many of these lawyers may not even have jobs.

It's a good thing that we won't be arguing this case in court, because the judge would definitely rule in our favor, as sharing this important moment in our son's life was a very "big deal." My husband said it best, "What greater gift should parents have than seeing the return on their investment."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Maniacal Miserable Tour

My mom (second from the right) with our dear girlfriends, and tour guide at Masada

Last week my husband's cousins from Israel came to visit. They had shown us such a wonderful time when we were out there, and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing them again. This brought back memories of my first trip to Israel with my mom in 1984.

It all began when one of my mom's oldest friends and her husband asked her to join them on a tour of Israel. My mom invited me, and then another close friend decided to share a room with us. I loved her friend dearly, but sometimes they would just get too rowdy late at night when I was trying to sleep. Neither of them knew how to whisper, and I remember curling up with my pillow in the hallway one night until my mom dragged me back in. Yes, I was clearly not the fun one in the group.

Mornings were like boot camp with the three of us sharing one bathroom. My mom woke up two hours before we did to get a head start. She put on her makeup and teased her hair for an hour and a half before it was my turn. I had to take a quick shower while my mom got dressed. Next our friend moved at the speed of light. She was showered and completely ready in about seven minutes flat. Everything was precisely planned out so that there wasn't even a hint of humidity in the air while my mom ignited herself with hairspray. Between the hairspray and cigarette smoke, it was refreshing to go on a tour bus through the smoldering hot desert.

We traveled to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the resort city of Eilat. A highlight was when an eighty year old woman in our group grabbed my arm, and we climbed Masada together. I started screaming for back up when my mom came up behind me. She was sporting an off the shoulder mountain climbing number when she said through clenched teeth, "Shut up Julie. You're embarrassing yourself."

My reward was sitting in the death seat on the bus ride back to the hotel. We all took turns up front next to the fan, and everyone who sat there caught a terrible cold. Everyone that is, except my mom.

In Tel Aviv, I took a day off to go to the beach. There I met a tall, skinny young man who was quite chatty. At first I thought he was being friendly until he turned into a bit of a stalker. After he followed me to my hotel across the street, I politely sat with him by the pool. Then he asked me for a glass of water. I told him to get one at the bar, but he thought it would taste better in my room. I asked him if he thought all Americans were easy, and he said yes. Needless to say, I finally ditched him, and double bolted my door.

Another hotel had a beautiful jewelry store. The owner's son was very cute and flirty, so my mom kept nudging me to flirt back. The next day he called to ask me out. He was very busy, and could only meet at midnight. After I didn't accept his invitation, my mom was disappointed. She couldn't believe that I turned down a nice Jewish boy who was the son of a jeweler. What could possibly happen with a stranger in a foreign country at midnight when odds were good we could get a discount on jewelry cleaner?

Based on those experiences, I would've never dreamed of marrying an Israeli. Though after twenty six years of marriage, my husband would be the first to tell you his wife is a shining example that not all American women are easy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why Cheaters Cheat At Any Age

(Tapiture: theCHIVE)

Recently in AARP Magazine, Joe Queenan shared his theories on why many married men don't cheat on their wives. Instead of giving credit to the wives for providing them with everything they could possibly want or need at home, this journalist took a different approach. "Once a man has been married a few decades, the energy he would need to expend on an extramarital affair could be a life-threatening shock to his nervous system. That's why so many older men wouldn't even think of cheating on their wives. It's too exhausting,"

Though this temporarily gave me peace of mind, it reminded me of an incident that occurred many years ago. Long before I met my husband, there was a couple who lived in the nursing home where he worked. Since they were married, they shared a room. They were very social, and made friends easily.

One night after the wife went to bed, the husband decided to stretch his legs. A few minutes later, a nurse's aid walked in on him socializing with his pants down.

This was a perfect set-up for him, as he was able to have dinner with his wife, go out for a late night snack, and be back in his own bed by 7:00 pm. His wife didn't seem to mind getting the extra rest either. He didn't have to worry about buying the other woman gifts, taking her dancing, or even getting dressed for that matter. As for transportation, he was only an elevator ride away.

Therefore, I'm not convinced that most older men are too physically and emotionally drained to even think about cheating on their wives. As long as a man is still breathing, and has a tooth in his head, he could always find someone who's willing to do all of the thinking for him.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

High Heels and Butterflies

A new study revealed that women who wore high heels while shopping were likely to spend less than women in comfortable shoes. Some women might use this theory to rationalize buying expensive stilettos as a good investment. This could only lead to trouble in the shopping malls.

Just when I thought that I had heard every abbreviation imaginable for embarrassing conditions, I saw an ad for Butterfly, "A new kind of discreet protection for ABL (accidental bowel leakage). Butterfly adheres securely and invisibly in the buttocks, giving you a new kind of protection you can count on."

The ad features a youthful fifty three year old smiling woman. Would she still be smiling if she tripped in her high heels, and had a Butterfly lodged up in her heinie? What if this woman was also suffering from OAB (overactive bladder)? Then she would likely be sporting a Poise prevention pad. A bad fall could cause it to disappear into the abyss. How would the ER doctors decide which end to operate on first?

Between Stayfree, Always, Tena/Serenity, Poise and now Butterfly, women will be faced with even more challenges as to what goes where. As for men who also suffer from ABL, otherwise known as ESM (excessive skid marks), I suggest a masculine body liner in the shape of a catcher's mitt aptly named Stayhome.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Ninja, A Ghost and A Freelance Editor

The writer sat at his computer eager to embark on his novel. A sudden wave of thirst swept over him, so he decided to go downstairs for a glass of water. He spotted a hummingbird at the kitchen window. He glanced up to see another hummingbird next to it. He wondered if there was a nest outside, and had to get a closer look. The writer quickly slipped on his shoes before stepping out on the patio. He reached in his pocket to snap a shot with his cell phone, when he realized it was still in the house. Then he saw that the wind had blown the backdoor shut, so he reached into another pocket for the key. How could his key and cell phone both be missing from his coat pockets? Then he saw his reflection in the patio door window. The writer was locked out of his house wearing only his bathrobe in the middle of the afternoon. Oh well, he would just have to hide in the bushes for a few hours until his wife came home from work. If only the skunk hadn't gotten there first....

This is where our friend Nick Wilford,  Freelance Editor comes in. He could turn any stinky story into a rose.

With the unstoppable rise of self-publishing, it’s easier than ever to put your words and stories out there in the world. This is a great thing, and I’m all for it. However, it’s not just about the story - although of course, that is the most important part - but the way it’s presented. After spending months or years on a novel, building an incredible world and honing your characters and storylines to perfection, the last thing you want is to be let down by a lack of editing. It’s just as important as an arresting cover image.

Nick Wilford, Freelance Editor is a one-stop shop for affordable editing, proofreading and formatting services. With professional training and ten years of experience as a journalist and editor, the time has come to transfer these skills in order to help out the fellow authors I have come to love.

But it doesn’t stop there. I’m ready to edit anything; from a crucial term paper, to memoirs and other non-fiction books, short stories, articles or job application letters. Let me put that finishing touch on your masterpiece.

Feel free to take a look at my  website  for further details of my services and prices.

Nick Wilford is a writer, freelance editor and stay-at-home dad. Fascinated by words from a young age, he trained as a journalist before embracing the calling of fiction. When not writing he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something. He has four short stories published in Writer’s Muse magazine. Nick is also co-running a campaign to get a dedicated specialist college built in Scotland.  


Another friend and IWSG member Julie Flanders is about to come out with her second book in a year. Not only would Julie have motivated this character to focus on his writing, but after reading The Ghosts of Aquinnah, he would have been too terrified to venture outside his home.


A brilliant flash of light transcends through time.

Another freezes a cloaked figure within a frame of salty mist as waves crash against a rocky shore. Her harrowing expression shadows the beacon to a pinprick.

By the next blaze, she is gone. Only the lighthouse remains.

Hannah’s eyes blink in step with each heartbeat. Images of her deceased parents and Martha’s Vineyard explode like firecrackers inside her mind.

She shakes her head.

For weeks this eerie woman dressed in nineteenth century garb has been haunting my webcam, but tonight she stared into my soul.

Why? ...

Who is she? ...

Casting aside months of research on historic lighthouses, Hannah drives to the coast and boards a ferry.

What is the strange connection she has to this mysterious woman suspended in time?

Hannah finds out.

But, it’s not at all what she expects ...

Hannah unravels a century old murder.

The Ghosts of Aquinnah
will be released by Ink Smith Publishing
on December 5, 2013

Julie Flanders is a novelist and freelance writer in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has a life-long love affair with the ocean and has spent more summer vacations than she can count on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. When not writing, Julie can be found reading, cheering on her favorite sports teams, and watching too much television. She is an animal lover and shares her home with her dog and cat.
                                                          Find Julie at:

Be sure to visit Julie and  Nick. Just think that  Alex J. Cavanaugh  brought us all together to read, write, and fight the war against poor punctuation.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Calling In The Senior Fixer

 On Ray Donovan,  Liev Schreiber stars as a professional "fixer" to some of LA's most powerful players, while struggling to keep his own family together. Jon Voight plays his criminal father who was just released from prison. They are both multi-dimensional characters, though Ray has to memorize a lot less dialogue.

Some of Ray's duties include: silent intimidation, fighting bad guys, hiding bodies, gathering blackmail material, and having short but meaningful conversations in his walk-in closet that is larger than most people's homes.When one of his client's threatened to let him go he replied in his gruff  Boston accent, "I'm not the kind of guy people fire."

This made me think of my own special skills. Instead of  packing a pistol, I was armed with an AARP card. Yes I had all of the unofficial requirements for being a senior fixer. Like Ray, I was always up to the challenge. If my mom needed to know what time and channel her favorite TV show was on she called me. If she didn't remember to hang up the phone after she called, I would find a way to get the message to her. Soon she told her friends about my skills. When they didn't care, I flew fourteen hours to see my mother-in-law.

I noticed that she was more frail than she had been just a few months earlier. After she had gone to take a nap, my husband and I waited for her in the living room. While my husband talked, I moved from the dining room table to the living room couch. The couch was too low, and the chairs were too stiff. Then I realized that if I was uncomfortable, a ninety year old woman who weighed about eighty two pounds would be in agony. Truth be told, you would have to be built like a Kardashian to sit comfortably on any of her furniture for more than a few minutes.

My husband's aunt recommended a store that specialized in supportive chairs for people with back injuries. We tested the height, and arm placement to insure that my mother-in-law would be able to sit, as well as rise with relative ease. The store promised that the chair would be delivered the following week. They lied.

We found out that the chair still hadn't arrived almost two weeks later. I immediately went into Ray Donovan mode. I threatened, made inappropriate gestures, and even chugged some chocolate milk. Then I grabbed the remote control, and held it over the toilet during the Chicago Bears game until my husband made the call.

When my mother-in-law finally got her comfortable recliner, she regained some of her energy. She thanked my husband and me up and down, and sounded more like herself. Sure Ray brings home a larger suitcase of cash than I do, but that's not going to stop me from pestering seniors to help them help me feel better about myself.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Storm of the Century

In case you've been living under a rock, I'm pleased to announce that CassaStorm, the final installment of Alex J. Cavanaugh's thrilling space opera trilogy is finally here. Since Alex gave everyone the opportunity to ask a question, I decided to delve deep into uncharted territory. 

I asked him what his middle initial "J." stood for. Surely his explanation would  reveal what drove him to become an award winning author, mentor, friend, and leader of the blogging community. It would also explain his love of science fiction. Just as I was about to introduce Alex "Jedi" Cavanaugh, he unveiled his middle name as "Joseph." Then it all started to make sense. The soundtrack from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat began playing in my mind. Alex is all about making the author's and insecure writer's dreams come true. He also never leaves his followers starving for attention

By Alex J.  Cavanaugh     
From the Amazon Best Selling Series!
A storm gathers across the galaxy…

CassaStorm by Alex J Cavanaugh

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

“With a talent for worldbuilding and a compelling cast of characters, Alex J. Cavanaugh combines high powered space battles and the challenges of family dynamics to provide readers a space opera with heart.”
- Elizabeth S. Craig, author of the Southern Quilting and Myrtle Clover mysteries

“I thought the revelation was going to be one thing and I was completely wrong … CassaStorm pushes the limits…”
- Tyson Mauermann, Speculative Reviews

“…mesmerizing story of survival, personal sacrifice, tolerance, and compassion. It’s a rare jewel that successfully utilizes both character and plot to tell a story of such immense scope and intimate passion…” - Nancy S. Thompson, author of The Mistaken

$16.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 268 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction/adventure and science fiction/space opera
Print ISBN 9781939844002 eBook ISBN 9781939844019
$4.99 EBook available in all formats

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Find Alex - Blog, Twitter, and Goodreads

Visit Alex's blog for your chance to win - books, mouse pads, mugs, magnets, posters, and more! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Strange Stirrings In The Bedroom

Shortly after we were married, I awoke from a loud noise. At first I turned to see if it also startled my husband, but he was fast asleep. As I inched toward him, the noise grew louder. It sounded like a giant rat was scratching behind our bedroom door. Since we lived in a high rise, it was unlikely that a rat found it's way into our apartment, but I was still scared.

I grabbed a flashlight, and began my search. I wanted to make sure that no other creature had slithered up eighteen flights for a midnight snack. What if it had been hiding behind the wall before we moved in, and was plotting a surprise attack?

I couldn't take it anymore, so I decided to wake up my husband. He'd know what to do. Just as I started nibbling on his neck to stir him, I heard more nibbling. It was coming from my husband.

When did he have time to get up for a snack while I was running around in the dark like a lunatic? I was trying my best not to disturb him, and he was off raiding the fridge. Yes I was a young bride determined not to scare off her groom, but enough was enough already. I turned the light on, and saw that he was sleep chewing. Now I had a craving for some crunchy nuts. Wait a minute, what if he choked to death?

I scrubbed my hands like a surgeon before I opened his mouth to take a closer look. There was nothing. I even went underneath his tongue to see if he stored some extra nuts away like a squirrel, but it was empty. Not only was he still sleeping, but the noise continued. When I decided to go back in for another look, he caught me in the act. When I explained that I was looking for the lost nuts, he assured me that there weren't any. That's when we both realized that he was grinding his teeth.

Soon he was fitted for a mouth guard, and the grinding stopped. Next came braces for both of us. I wore the tops, while he wore the bottoms. We lived in fear of locking braces, which only ignited our passion. By the time things finally quieted down, the snoring began. It is amazing that this thrill seeking couple managed to have two children together.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

IWSG: Serving Up A Savory Story


Congratulations to Alex J. Cavanaugh on the second anniversary of the  Insecure Writer's Support Group.  The group has grown to over three hundred participants, and continues to flourish. I've watched many of the writer's become published authors over the last two years, and would like to finally fulfill my dream of writing a novel. As tomorrow begins the Jewish New Year, I can't help but equate the essentials of a good story to the ingredients of a traditional Rosh Hashanah feast.

The prologue sets the tone for the story. You want to provide just enough to whet their appetites for more. A little chopped liver goes a long way spread out on a slice of challah. At first the gefilte fish complements the liver; however, there's no telling if things will erupt later.

The most difficult part about serving the soup is in making sure it is the right temperature. Although the broth tastes better when it's hot, it's important not to overheat the matzo balls. This could bring on severe shrinkage which draws more attention to the lopsided noodle.

The secret to preparing the brisket is adding the right amount of savory spices. You want it to be mild for your parents, sweet for your kids, and to have just enough bite for your contemporaries. The potatoes are the loyal sidekick. They are there to support the main course, while the squash and green bean casserole conspire a takeover. The squash goes down smoothly, as the casserole teases us by slowly peeling off crunchy layers. By this time you're too full to fight, thus leaving the potatoes out in the cold.

Being over-served usually works one of two ways; you either pass out at the table, or you keep going in fear of not regaining consciousness from a food coma. There's a two dessert minimum followed by a caffeine fix. We toast to a sweet New Year, and hope that everyone leaves before the gefilte fish kicks in. It could take hours or even days which always makes for a surprise ending.

Happy and healthy New Year!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

For The Sake Of Arguing


The phone rang just as I was about to leave the house.
Mom: It's raining hard now, so you don't have to take me to physical therapy.
Me: But it was raining earlier.
Mom: Yes, but I'll just cancel my appointment. That way you won't get wet.
Me: You weren't worried about that before. I told you I don't mind. Besides, I made you lunch and didn't you want to go shopping first?
Mom: Yes, but it's too much trouble going back and forth in the rain.
Me: It's not coming down as hard now and don't you think you need the therapy to get stronger?
Mom: Well if it's not too much trouble.

Later that afternoon my mom told me that I really should be more patient.

This made me think about other ridiculous arguments I've had throughout the years. Shortly after I started driver's ed, my dad suggested that I drive to work. As I was pulling out of the driveway, my mom came home. She hopped in the back seat, while my dad sat by my side. All was calm, until I had to make a left turn without an arrow. My dad was telling me to be assertive and speed up before the light changed, while my mom was telling me to slow down. Instead, I got so nervous that I backed out of the intersection and waited for the next light. Needless to say, neither of my parents volunteered to take me driving again.

The summer my younger son turned thirteen was during travel baseball season, so we decided to have a little celebration after the game. We ordered pizzas, and brought a cooler filled with soft drinks for the team. Earlier that evening I asked my husband to pick up a few bags of ice for the cooler at McDonald's. He asked me how much it would cost. I told him 99 cents a bag. Then he wanted to know how much other places in the area were charging. I assured him that 99 cents was the best rate in the Chicagoland area  and that if he wanted to miss his son's birthday to scout for 97 cent bags of ice in Wisconsin, I'm sure that he would understand. Of course, he still had to make some calls just in case there was a fire sale on ice at the end of July. It took me a long time to thaw out from that whole experience.

After all these years, my mother still puts her foot on the imaginary passenger side brake whenever I make a left turn. As for my purchasing power, I'm in charge of finding the best deals on cars and the occasional travel destination, but I never go further than my freezer for ice.

This is a repost from November 2011. In a few days we will be visiting my mother-in-law, so I'll have limited Internet access. I look forward to catching up with everyone at the end of the month.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Anti-Blogfest Gary Fest


Today bloggers from all over the world are celebrating a man who has a heart of gold and a tongue for sarcasm at the Anti-Blogfest Gary Fest. He will support his fellow bloggers as long as they don't bestow him with awards and try  to elicit him for blogfests. That is why Mark Koopmans,  Alex J. Cavanaugh,  Tina Downey,  Robyn Alana Engel,  and  Morgan Shamy  are doing it anyway. To salute our dear friend I've attempted a play on words; though no one can truly match the unique genius of Gary Phillip Pennick.

Gratuitous Comments Blogfest

Where bloggers are forced to guess the subject matter based only on the following comments: Great post!  Fab photos!  Happy weekend!

For every wrong answer they lose a comment on their own blog. If they still don't get it after three tries they lose a follower. Alex J. Cavanaugh is banned from this blogfest as he has the unfair advantage of always being right.

Annoying Accomplishments Blogfest

For example:  Today I wrote 1500 words for my WIP:  500 words at breakfast; 225 words when I was brushing my teeth; 475 words when I was driving my kids to soccer practice and 300 words while I was in the tub with the pool boy. I'll decide on a theme once I know what a WIP is.

Relentless Raving Blogfest

Loved, loved, loved so and so's book even though I haven't read it yet! It's on my TBR (To Be Read) list on my TBD (To Be Dusted) nightstand next to my TBM (To Be Made) bed.

Yesperate To Participate In All Blogfests Blogfest

According to Urban Dictionary, "Yesperate is the condition to be desperate to please, resulting in 'yes' responses to everything regardless of the reasonableness of the 'yes' responses."  Enough said.

Put them all together and they spell Gary. Though he will be the first to tell you that he's not all together, it never stands in Gary's way of being one of the smartest, wittiest and most thoughtful bloggers I know.