Tag: fiction

Predestination is Lazy and Tiresome

painted vine

My back is trying to go out. My mom is recovering from her hip surgery and might come home today. Chick’s weird ear thing is still a weird ear thing and I don’t think we can afford to fix it. An appointment has been made for aspiration of fluids. I need to be making money. Wait, no! No pressure right now or I’ll curl up into a tight ball of inertia that will eventually implode and become a black hole into which everything will be sucked up and subsumed. The car might be breaking down too. Well, why not?

Bill O’Reilly was my boss in my dream, that’s how you know it was a nightmare.

I’ve been watching The Secret Circle. Another silly witch show. It only ran for one season so not a big run. I wonder why it seems that teen vampires and vampires in general are so much more popular than witches? Personally i find witches more interesting. I loved the Ann Rice treatment of vampires in the 80’s but it got old pretty fast. My friend Catherine posed a question on vampires the other day – how could they father children if they have no living fluids in their bodies? If they have no blood, they must also have no semen. They are, in fact, dead already. I would like to extend that question to this: if they have no flowing blood, how can they possibly get erections? If they can’t get erections, then how can they be having so much sex? These are worthy questions of those creating vampire stories. An explanation is not an unreasonable expectation. If you take a myth and you pervert it to your uses and you make it new, you still need to answer – in some semi-scientific way at least – how your mythical creatures operate and live.

If you create a new mythology based on an old mythology you have to back up your new mythology with some semblance of thought and answers.

One of the things that keeps me from being a real fan of shows involving the supernatural (except for “Supernatural” because of reasons) is the huge theme of predestination and fate. I am so fucking tired of the idea of THE CHOSEN ONE and THE ONE WITH EXTRA POWER BECAUSE OF ANCIENT BLOODLINE and INDIVIDUALS FATED TO BE TOGETHER or INDIVIDUALS ILL-FATED AND ALWAYS STAR-CROSSED AND PINING STUPIDLY FOR EACH OTHER AND ALL THE MELODRAMA OF DYING FOR LOVE AND DON’T YOU KNOW THERE ARE OTHER THINGS IN LIFE AND SOMETIMES WORLD PEACE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ROMANCE?

Humans love this shit. They really love, and apparently crave, the concept of their lives and purpose being decided for them by an unseen force long  before they were born. They love it as much as they love the idea of ancient family royalty. I think it’s total bullshit. (Both predestination and ancient family bloodlines meaning anything other than a nasty tendency towards incest to keep blood “pure”) People love predestination because it means they aren’t responsible for their lives or actions. People love the idea that they were born with a higher purpose. When played out in fiction it’s nearly always means that one person is born evil and another person is born “pure” enough to defeat them. It’s just God and Satan all over again. Infantile bullshit. Simplistic belief in good versus evil. Angels versus demons. Black magic versus white magic.

One thing I appreciate about the show Supernatural is the ambiguous nature of the Angels and the demons. That the angels don’t all agree with each other about their ultimate directives from God, that not all of them even believe that God is still in the building, that not all of them feel humans are worth protecting. And demons are not so cut and dried evil, that they have weaknesses humans can relate to, that they are not all completely evil. It’s still full of predestination and that break-off show they hinted at at the end of Season 10 is all about ancient families. I’m so sick to death of ancient families. Royal families. Special families.

Can we please stop with that bullshit? What I’d like to see is a show about witches that has no royal witch bloodlines. No chosen one. No star crossed lovers. No predestination. I want a show that has myth but without all the religious overtones. I want one that has more realistic characters, where there’s witchery and magic but without the childish themes of good versus evil. How about a show that has curses and spells and interesting characters battling real evil like political corruption and spousal abuse and bigotry? How about witches or other mythical creatures whose power doesn’t come from gods or devils but from the well of humanity and from nature? I’d love to see witches and other mythical creatures taking responsibility for their lives, their actions, and stop looking to blame bad relationships on destiny.

The thing that really ruined Grimm for me was the whole Royal family story-line. YAWNFOREVER. It’s so fucking irritating and soapy. I loved all the monsters and fairytale derived creatures – I loved the crime solving and the relationship between Nick and Hank and them having to negotiate between two worlds. I love the trailer full of artifacts and I love Rosalee and Monroe and the herb shop and trying to figure out how to stop spells and I loved how not all the creatures are monsters but beings from another world who have to learn to live with each other. I loved all that. Then they had to muck it up with the usual stupid bloodline bullshit. Did the Hapsburgs teach us all NOTHING? There is nothing noble about “pure” bloodlines. There is no such thing as pure blood and that people think that’s powerful and desirable creeps me out and it says how little we’ve evolved over the last few thousand years. That depresses me.

I’ve got a black kitten named Tonkatsu in my lap as I type this. How fitting is that? He’s purring like he doesn’t know that lots of people think black cats are bad luck and that black cats are harder to adopt out than other cats. Don’t you dare tell him! He’s the sweetest little boy kitten ever! He’s purring madly and he wants to be part of everything going on. He loves to be in human laps and to play and he has the funniest disco swagger EVER.

It’s time for me to get dressed and go visit my mom in the hospital and ice my back some more and think about what a family Grimoire for a fucked up weird 100% impure and un-royal family might look like. What magic might it contain? What myths might come out of such a tome? The most interesting and powerful families, in my opinion, are ones that are full of members from different origins and legends. People of mixed blood are healthier and stronger. That’s a fact of nature. Mixed genes are better. It also means a rainbow of stories and legends and family histories all mashed together. It’s crazier and harder to track and way more interesting.

So here I go. Having a boozeless Friday. May your family be mixed-breed and your future yours to make!

Sex with Brie and Other Things: Bad Sex in Fiction

nails r us

Until yesterday I didn’t know there was an award for bad sex in fiction but there is and it’s been going on since 1993 and it makes my day to hear it!  I just read excerpts from the 8 nominees (including one from Woody Guthrie who wrote a novel in 1947 that was just published) and all 8 of the entries exemplify why I think there’s too much explicit sex in novels.  Sex is very hard to write well.  It’s not to my taste in the first place but I concede that a really well written sex scene that isn’t just trying to get you off but is authentic to the characters and adds to the story has a rightful place in fiction.  But most sex in fiction IS cheesy or out of place in otherwise non-raunchy writing.

Major pet peeves in fictional sex scenes:

  • Food and sex.  I have friends who like to play with food in the bedroom (so they claim).  I don’t understand it and I don’t care if you love to lick comestibles off of skin but I don’t want to read about it.  I just read an excerpt that included the following elements: a wet nurse, brie on nipple, anus that tastes of chocolate and tobacco.  No thanks.  Not hungry now.
  • Sex as life-altering ecstasy.  Yeah, I know, it feels great to have sex.  I’m not arguing that sex is one of life’s great perks.  But sex is a primal and dirty activity and even the most amazing orgasm isn’t life-altering or transformative.  (This is the point where there’s always someone who suggests that if you don’t think an orgasm can be life-changing then you obviously haven’t had “good” sex)
  • The contest humans have to define “good” sex.  Good sex is any sex that you thoroughly enjoyed and want to repeat.  The most basic sex can be the “best” sex if you forget about the laundry while you’re in the middle of it.  So stop suggesting that other people haven’t experienced “good” sex just because they don’t share your tastes.
  • Sex scenes that are written in a different style than the rest of the book.  Like if Jane Austen used the word “cock” or “cum” in Pride and Prejudice.  Or if Henry Miller used gentle euphemisms for sex scenes suitable for Miss Marple’s ears.  If you write sex scenes in your novels don’t make it hard and dirty if the rest of the book is more lyrical.  And don’t make the writing suddenly soft and poetic if the rest of your book is more earthy and edgy.  Your sex scene should feel authentic and follow your writing style seamlessly.

Go read those 8 excerpts for a great start to your day!

Too Many Screws and Hard Wood


I’m forcing myself to take some chances on fiction lately.  I haven’t in quite a long time.  The first one I read is an old book called “Neither Five Nor Three” by Helen MacInnes written in 1951 about the evil of Communist propaganda and those brave people fighting it by spreading propaganda about the evils of Communism.  Dear Lord.  What’s great about the book are the characters which are all pretty well drawn and the descriptions of New York which make me feel like I’m there.  What’s annoying about it is the passionate anti-communist propaganda that permeates this story to the point of nausea.  It is the McCarthy era so it was reaching a fever pitch where people were told to tell on their neighbors and family members and friends should they suspect even the smallest whiff of communist leanings.  Which includes nearly all free thinkers or people who question anything that their country does.  Kind of like now.  Only much worse.

I was also disappointed with the end.  This is NOT a romance novel at all but the main character ends up with someone at the end and after all the machinations that bring them together – they don’t even kiss at the end.  What a let down.  I love romantic story lines that aren’t sexually explicit (you all know I loathe the rubbings and throbbings of sexual organs in fiction) but I do expect some kissing.  I mean – just because I don’t want a  blow by blow pornographic report about my main character getting it on with someone (or by themselves) doesn’t mean I want a completely chaste book either.  Giving me something, just don’t give me everything.

So that leads me up to the book I’m reading now called “The Typewriter Girl” by Alison Atlee.  So far I’m enjoying the story.  The main character is likable for the most part.  Two words have so far stood out as blatantly not in keeping with the general tone of the book that the author has set.  “Fuck” was the first one.  As in “A fuck made him a sound sleeper…”  This book is set in the turn of the 19th century.  The main character isn’t upper class and is somewhat course but the narration isn’t coarse until that sentence.  Nothing prepared me for that.  It jarred me and has stuck with me ever since.  It’s not that I have any actual belief that Edwardians never get down and dirty but the use of that word in the narration is – I just hate it.  HATE IT.  “Cock” was the next word, a chapter later, that made me cringe.  It wasn’t in the character’s dialog.  Once again, it was in the third person narrative.  “…Avery laughed and groaned as if he quite enjoyed the sensation of her chilled fingers curling around his cock” was the next bit that made me recoil.  I skipped over the next bit, unwilling to be further accosted by coarse sexual words.  It’s like if you were to make Henry Miller write an Edwardian romance novel.  It’s trying to be modern and tough and frank and liberated – but really it’s just porn words to elicit arousal.  Admittedly, in this particular scene the person curling her fingers around the cock goes on to make that cock hurt and no sex ends up happening.  But this is the sudden tone when the main character comes within arm’s length of men.

The main character is definitely being shown to have no reserve when it comes to sleeping with inappropriate men.  So now I can’t trust her to behave around any men.  And as I’m reading, I can’t relax into the story completely because I’m worried about being jarred out of it by mention of hands slipping into Betsey’s* slit and stroking her clitoris.  Because when you’ve already got fucking and cocks in action (soon to be fucking with cocks, no doubt) – it can only get more graphic from there.  I think I accidentally picked up a romance.  Modern romance novelists always include racy sex in their historical settings.  Apparently most women prefer this.  Considering that the only thing my friend Dave wishes my first novel had more of is sex, I am probably in the vast minority on this issue of taste.  I don’t think Atlee will have many other readers dislike having FUCK and COCK shouted at them from an otherwise genteel sort of writing style.

***later, with more chagrin***

So, on to the next chapters of “The Typewriter Girl” and it soon becomes apparent that this book is soft porn.  The story line is only there to provide a back drop for two people to be constantly experiencing breathless swelling of achy sexual WANT.  The two main characters are just going to constantly be experiencing taught breasts and hard  cocks that are so hard they HURT.  Honestly!  I am clearly supposed to be hot and bothered.  But there’s no sexual tension if the reader (me) is constantly aware that the two main characters are going to stroke each other at every possible moment.  YAWN.  Who cares?  Just have sex, get it over with, and move on?  But no, this is all about two people having sex and the reader is supposed to be excited to be with them every second while they’re doing it.  There’s no real story at all.

There could be a compelling story here.  I could be rooting for Betsey if she could be more aware of herself, her potential, and her goals and less aware of all the men around her.  Even when she’s working she’s always aware of the men around her.  I hate women like that.  I really do.  Women with no true interests or calling outside of men (or other women, same diff) and sex.  What of Betsey’s real ambition?  What about her work ethic?  Why does she have to be aware of her attractions to her many male coworkers and consider using it for her benefit?  Why can’t she be proud of not needing to be attractive to the men around her to get ahead and prove her worth?  She’s supposedly an independent and modern sort of girl for an Edwardian – so why isn’t she acting like it?

The minute I got to the part where the genteel broke man who is determined to marry a rich girl but is so attracted to Betsey that his cock HURTS when they touch – I gave up.  I don’t read soft porn.  I don’t read romance where the plot is mostly about when and how the two main characters will hook up and there’s nothing to look forward to near the end because the main characters have already pretty much done everything to each other they can do without the story being called “Judy Gets Poled” or “Betsey Makes Cocks Hurt”.

How do you know you’re reading porn of some kind?  When the narrator (if it isn’t in first person) uses the word cock or fuck.  If it’s in the dialog of characters it might just be a coarse character and not the character of the book.

Anyway.  This is what makes me scared of taking a chance on new fiction.  This is why I read Mary Stewart over and over and over.  I’m not actually saying The Typewriter Girl is a bad book.  I’m just saying it’s not general fiction.  It’s soft porn.  Which I don’t read.  And I’m disappointed that there was no way for me to know this based on the cover or the synopsis.  If anyone wants my copy of this book I will happily send it to them.

It’s important in having read my report on this book that to consider it a bad review is unfair.  This is not the kind of book I enjoy.  I am not who the book was written for.  I am not the intended audience.  It’s like if a spy thriller ended up in the hands of a Proust fan, the Proust fan would get weary of all the chase scenes pretty fast and be longing for flowery nostalgic descriptions of cookies.

*Yes, that’s how the author spelled Betsey.

**Well, mine has no graphic sexual scenes in it, so no one can make the exact SAME complaints.

10 Reasons You Want to Read Cricket and Grey

Feel free to skip straight to the 10 reasons you want to read Cricket and Grey.

I kind of sprang the whole serial fiction thing on you.  No preamble or explanation or working up to the decision.  I apologize.  It’s just that for a whole year I’ve been trying to write pitches and though I did accrue 11 rejections I dropped the ball many months ago.  Partly because I was so sick of trying to write a good pitch.  You can’t sell a good story with a bad pitch.  But there’s no question that the whole pending move thing got in the way of my writing as well.  I finished writing the book last June.  13 months ago.  I haven’t worked on any fiction since then.  I did try.  I tried to write Baby Girl Six and discovered that though I want to write that story – I wasn’t ready.

So once I made a decision to self publish (about 72 hours ago) I burst out of the gates without further hesitation and started re-editing Cricket and Grey.  Once the first chapter was cleaned up I just posted it on the blog – BOOM.  DONE.

So here’s the plan: I’m going to publish one chapter every Monday afternoon until I reach the end of the book.  Each chapter will be available to read on my blog for one month.  Then I take it down.  Meanwhile I will get it formatted so that you can buy it for your Kindle or Nook or whatever electronic book device you have.  I’m not sure of the price range – probably between $3 and $6.  I will also format it for print on demand.  To get a hard copy of the book is more expensive so it will most likely be between $10 and $15.

Once I’ve got all those formats covered and the book is available in every way possible – I will begin working on the second Cricket and Grey book.  Either that or I will work on Jane Doe.*  If anyone reads Cricket and Grey and wants to read a second book I suggest you speak up and say something – these are the two projects I have queued up and I could go either way.  Cricket and Grey is meant to be a four book series (winter, spring, summer, and fall).

10 Reasons You Want to Read Cricket and Grey:

  • Cricket is possibly the first ever small -breasted, all-over freckled, red-headed medium height heroine who won’t make me you want to strangle her for being too perky and optimistic and singing ALL THE FUCKING TIME.  This heroine carries an M&P pistol, gets in fist fights with burly men, but also cares about healing people and animals.**
  • This story features an obese Mormon crime boss and a buxom Mormon teen-bride.
  • Grey is exactly the kind of hero you need on the post-oil semi-apocalyptic scene: he appreciates fine catgut suturing, plays the bagpipes, likes girls who get in fistfights with burly men, knows how to evade federal agents, can build a fire in the rain, doesn’t turn his nose up at stale bread, is not hero-tall and buff (5’11” and strong but not rippling with enormous sweaty muscles), and bathes regularly.  He’s a Scot, what more inducement could you possibly need?
  • There are lots of guns.  Not only are there lots of guns but I did a lot of research to include all these guns and even went shooting for the first time in my life (twice in one year!) in spite of the fact that I’m pretty anti-gun myself.  But this story isn’t about me so my stance on firearms is not important.  What’s important is that I got to spend many hours reading about semi-automatic pistols in order to choose the right weapon for Cricket.  I also got to consider the relative merits between an M16 (sexy, as far as assault rifles go) and an AK-47 (reliable and has a sexier full name if you love Russians like I do*** – Avtomat Kalashnikova).  I know you want to catch me out in weapons errors.
  • This novel includes the words pemmican, orchid, harem.
  • Horse drawn smuggled goods – how can anyone possibly resist Clydesdales as a get-away vehicle?
  • I really love the main villain and I think it shows.  In fact, the whole story ended up changing so that my favorite villain could have a bigger part.  This was unexpected.
  • There are a lot of scenes over meals consisting primarily of old bread, pickled and canned goods made by the people eating them, and some freshly hunted animals.  I had to find out how to pluck a bird and my main source for this information came from my favorite hunting food writer Hank Shaw of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook. 
  • A big theme in the story is about our need for modern medicine and how we’ll all get on when all we have is what we can grow and forage to heal ourselves.  Know how to set your own bone breaks?  Yeah, me neither.  But it’s an interesting thought, isn’t it?  Instead of stockpiling military grade assault rifles to prepare for an apocalypse I think everyone would be better served stockpiling band-aids and ibuprofen.
  • When this book is made into a movie there will be no parts in it for the following actors and “actors”: Angelina Jolie, Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt, Miley Cyrus, Ben Affleck, Rihanna, Beyonce, Kristen Stewart, any other singer-turned-actor, Milla Jovovich, or any other model-turned-actor, Tom Cruise, Daniel Craig, Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, Michele Williams, Uma Thurman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hugh Grant (sorry Hugh), Scarlett Johansson, Ryan Reynolds, Megan Fox, or Kate Hudson.  (The list is exhaustive so I’m going to end there and you may add to it after you’ve read the book)

So what the hell are you waiting for?  Read the first chapter now!

Cricket and Grey (winter): Chapter One

(So did it work?  Did I convince you to read it?  Wait a minute – you’re still here because you’re mad that Grey isn’t like FABIO?  You all know I’m a Nathan Fillion girl not an oily bulgy long haired hunk kind of girl.  Okay, picture Nathan Fillion but younger and Scottish.  Naked.  Now go read…)

*I’m back to calling it Jane Doe because nothing else works right now.

**So maybe if you love little orphan Annie you might hate Cricket.  I loathe LOATHE that story and every single version of that obnoxious little red headed girl and I have nightmares about her curly fro.  (I’m not kidding at all)

***Seriously, I’ll take a Russian over a Frenchman ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

Cricket and Grey (winter): Chapter One

The night my mother was delivered home to us on a donkey cart with four bullets to her chest and one to her head, a dark red coagulated river choking through her curly bright copper  hair; I thought I’d learned all a person needed to know about death.  I saw my father’s spirit empty out like a trickling mountain spring into a great rushing river headed for the ocean to be lost in an anonymous lunar pull of tides and eddies. I saw him leaning over my mother keening low, crushing tears away from his face with his blocky rough hands which, even now, I remember noticing particularly (the way you notice odd details when the greater details are too huge to swallow) how the curly hairs on his big knuckles were shining like red spun gold in the low light of the cottage, wondering how I had managed not to notice how hairy his hands were until that night.  Such are the inane things that go through young heads at the most solemn moments.

When my mother died I learned that watching other people lose their loved ones is much different than losing your own.  I learned that up close and personal death is like a strange gruesome dream; the impossible de-animation of a body that used to scream and laugh and dream and fight and sleep and wake again and again and again, grown hollow, pale, and still.  I took the sight of her in and inhaled the details with a painful hunger to change them; to fill the small crusted hole in her head with flesh and life and pull her hair back into the chignon she usually wore which was always coming loose. Then, just as I braced myself against a rising tide of hysteria, my father took her away from me.

I was not allowed to sit at my father’s side to do my part preparing mother for burial.  He secreted himself in their bedroom to perform these offices alone.  I remember feeling like a powder keg of conflicting emotions: relief at not having to see her naked chest, shame that I felt relief, and a strange feeling of isolation from both of my parents.  My father kept the door closed until she was ready.  He ate nothing.  He might have been drinking but though he was ragged when he finally emerged, patting me on the cheek absently as he passed me in the kitchen and told me she was ready, he didn’t smell sour like a man deep in the bottle.  He left our cottage in town on his bicycle without another word to me, heading, I knew, for Hill Road which leads out of McMinnville proper and into the surrounding hills. We have property up there, about nine miles from town, and a cob cabin father built himself in the likeness of the old thatch cottages common in Scotland where he grew up.  I knew he was going up there to dig mother’s grave.

I think my mother would have preferred to be buried in town, in our own cottage garden, but it was too small to get a permit for human burial there so instead she would be buried in a sunny spot in the half acre clearing around our cabin in the woods.  This was vastly preferable to the public burial ground where people could bury their dead in mass graves that were excavated periodically like huge human compost piles, the bones removed and sent to the local dump, then refilled with fresh bodies.  This was much cheaper than getting permits for burial on private property.  The original old cemetery was still operational but I have never known anyone who could afford to purchase lots there.

After my father left, I went in to see mother laid out.  I’m not going to lie and say I fell in a heap of tears.  I wish I had because I think that’s what normal daughters do. I was scared when I looked at her, more than anything.  It wasn’t the first dead body I’d ever seen.  I’d seen plenty laid out through every winter in my memory, taken by influenza and the bone-chilling cold, through accidents, and old age.  I was scared because I didn’t feel broken but I could see that father was.  It’s not that I didn’t love her but I felt unfinished with her, like we’d been working up to something and never got there.  I was always trying to find myself in her or to find something in myself that I could say “That part of me is hers”.  I constantly fell short of her in everything, even the apothecary work she trained me in which we did together every day.  My mother would say to me “You’re Peter with breasts, my girl!” a comment that made my father laugh loud, the irony being that I didn’t even have much to speak of in the breast department.  She wasn’t wrong, of course.  The things my father taught me came easily to me, the hunting, the boxing, the butchering and the stalking.  My temper was his, as was my innate restlessness.  But every time she mentioned how much like my father I was it felt like a dig in my ribs, like a small thorn caught in my clothing, scratching and stabbing me at random moments.  Just once I would like her to have noticed something in me of her own, so that I could feel as close to her as I did to father.  Seeing her laid out cold and speechless did not make me cry.  Instead I felt unfinished and cheated.  Then, simply numb.

I learned that death makes people obsequious for no apparent gain.  My mother wasn’t a person many people in town loved but she was a person they all needed.  I heard the things they said behind her back because I know how to keep my mouth shut and my feet silent.  I know what most of them said to each other when they thought none of us were listening; that my parents must have been related, that they must have at least been cousins because there were so few redheads in our county.  Ignorant fools!  My parents weren’t from this area.   In Scotland, where they came from, red hair is so common no one even notices it.  I heard them call her a witch.  Sometimes I heard these things through other girls and I spent my early years with a string of black eyes, though truth be told I delivered more of them than I received.  I knew some thought mother worshiped the devil.  She was called “too proud”. I’d be proud too if I was my mother, because no matter how hard she was to impress, she was a person worth emulating, worth loving.  In spite of consistently failing to make her proud, my loyalty and love for her were unshakable.

But when they all streamed through our house for the wake, to give their condolences they said “Mairead was such a fine woman!” and “I’ll miss Mairead so much.” And “She was such a good friend.”  All of this from people who called her a witch, an incestuous bride, and too proud.  They told me how much they would miss her.  They wouldn’t miss her at all. They would only miss what she did for them: how she would come to tend their sick children when no doctor would do it because doctors refused to be paid in cheese, or fruit, or carpentry which my mother wasn’t too proud to accept in exchange for the herbal medicines she made.  She wasn’t too proud to attend bedside vigils; watching fevers rise, never too tired to send overworked sick parents to bed while she stayed with their children all night instead of her own.  Instead of me.  They said, as they slaked their thirst on our loss, that my mother was so loved by everyone and was such a good woman she’d surely be accepted into God’s arms in heaven.

It made me want to vomit.  That’s not true, I wanted to hit them, to lash out and make them shut up.  I held my tongue as long as I could before I had to leave the house.  To leave my father with those liars who would none of them lift a finger to help find out who killed this woman they said they loved so much.  Lots of quiet mention of the horrible nature of her death, many head-wags and pitying looks, but none of them would lend a hand.  They would retreat into their own less tainted lives and feel good about themselves for having said the right thing.  I couldn’t stand it anymore and made for the French doors in the kitchen when father grabbed my arm to detain me “Take your gun, lass, I won’t be up to the cabin tonight.  You know I’ll stay here with James and Mary, drinking.” He nodded to the door “Go on.”  I felt bad to leaving him, but if I had stayed I would have laid someone out under the dining room table.  Maybe if James and Mary Martin had brought their children, Tommy and Julie, who were my best friends, they might have tempered my anger and I would have stayed but they had to tend to a farm emergency and couldn’t be spared.  Such is life.  I left father to play nice at the wake and I rode my bicycle out of town and up the hill to our property in the woods where I could hear the crickets singing in the glorious quiet and my mother whispering over my shoulder that I was being selfish and immature and that father needed me.  It’s an uncomfortable fact that if you were never good enough for a person when they were alive you will never be good enough for them after they die because it’s impossible to impress or please the dead.

I learned that you still have to work, no matter how long you’re in black bands.  Life keeps moving forward.  My mother’s death left a hole in the community that it was my duty to fill as her trained apprentice.  She died in the summer, an admittedly slow time for an apothecary as far as dispensing is concerned, but since we also had to grow and forage most of the herbs we used it was a busy time for gathering and processing the herbs and plants I would count on during the winter months when ailments were exaggerated by the damp cold weather and the diminished supply of fresh produce.  So I didn’t spend a lot of time drowning in my loss, and though I know father struggled with his black grief every day from the moment he woke until the moment he crashed into bed at night, he worked too.  He was an armed guard for various kinds of transport between the surrounding counties so he was gone for periods of time and I believe he found relief in his work on the road.  When he was home he worked hard helping me tend the small crops we grew and foraging for medicinal plants coming into season.  He helped me prepare harvests for the drying shed he built in the back of the cottage garden.  The shed in the town cottage was where we made all of our herbals and stored them as well, because the cabin was too far up in the hills for most sick people to ride or walk to.

We couldn’t take time off from working to grieve because we had hefty death taxes to pay for the privilege of my mother dying.  I’ve heard my parents and their friends reminiscing about the days when you were only taxed if you inherited anything substantial from those who died but how the government, losing so much of their previous tax bases, took an opportunity to take a larger chunk from something they could always count on – death.  I don’t know exactly what we owed because father brushed off my questions about it telling me not to worry, that he would take care of it.  I trusted him, and let it go.

Other people noticed a change in father and hinted darkly that maybe he was never going to recover from my mother’s death.  “How’s your father dearie?” they’d ask.  “Peter was always devoted to Mairead, I’m sure I haven’t heard him laugh for months.  So sad…so sad.” which gave me the feeling that I was somehow outside the sad event, that I was just an interloper in the great life of Peter and Mairead Winters.  What right did I have to expect anyone to think my life had changed at all?  I was not crying at her grave each day or draping myself across their doorsteps begging for surrogate mothering.  I’ll bet they all would have loved that, to see me knocked down with visible pain and suffering.  It’s true that father never removed his black bands but it’s not as though he went dragging his heart through the dust behind him every day in a great display of bereavement.  Still, he was greatly pitied (and sighed over) by women.

If it hadn’t been for the Martins I suppose I would have felt almost completely alone.  Making any trip over the hills to Pacific City where they lived (a small town on the coast about fifty miles of broken road to the west of us) usually required staying the night.  In the years since my mother’s death I made that trip a lot more often than my mother would have approved of me doing, what with it taking time away from my work and my responsibilities.  But Mary and James were my parents’ oldest friends and they filled some of the silence in my life with their comfortable warm presence.  Julie, their daughter, is the best person in the world I know and at the time of my mother’s death she was embroiled in a particularly messy affair with some questionable slightly older man and listening to her tell me all the improbable details that only best friends tell each other kept me tethered to my own life with some enjoyment and when we couldn’t see each other we used our fathers’ pigeon post to send messages to each other which were occasionally intercepted by her older brother Tommy who was running their farm by that time.  James relinquished the reins of the family farm to his son to get more work as an armed guard, work he and my father often did together, and which was how they met each other before any of us kids were born.

I have been in love with Tommy Martin since I was nine years old.  Tall Tommy with hair illuminated with internal sunshine and his startling dark brown eyes that glint with mischief and undress you while he laughs…that’s what other girls say about him but the sad truth is that Tommy has never undressed me with his eyes.

Anyway, Tommy thought we were degrading the pigeon post’s purpose by sending messages about such unimportant things like the men Julie was dating and the men who weren’t dating me.  Before he took over running the Martin farm in James’ stead he was a lot more fun.  I guess he had to become dour in order to be taken seriously but nothing is more tiresome than people becoming so stiff with their perceived importance that they don’t see the fun of sending inconsequential but cheerful notes on the leg of a carrier bird.  He said we could call each other or use the public internet to gossip with each other.  I reminded him that we still hadn’t replaced our phone after it broke years ago because most of the people we would have wanted to call couldn’t afford a phone service anyway and using the public computer was annoying and expensive when we could send Euclid or Troy back and forth for free.  The hidden bonus in using the pigeons is that it necessitated more visits with each other in order to trade birds back (pigeons, you know, only fly one direction which is wherever their nest is) and nothing could have pleased us more than extra excuses to visit each other.

It was within the first year of my mother’s death that Tommy began his ridiculously long engagement to Rebecca Foster, a chaste little dab of a girl with the most exquisite skin I’ve ever had the pleasure to wish a pox on, and it was my personal little hell watching him court her with all the princely gestures a gently bred girl could hope for that rougher girls like me would never inspire.  I was only ever his devoted wingman and he liked it that way.  I don’t think he even saw me as a girl at all.  Why should he?  I have a lamentably flat bosom which doesn’t tend to heave or swell the way attractive heroine’s bosoms are generally expected to do and I’m more likely to get into a fistfight than a gentle embroilment from which I might be rescued and then be eternally grateful for.  Men of Tommy’s cut like a woman with a lot of gratefulness in her, it’s clearly an attractive quality, something I don’t seem to have much of.  When he began his engagement to The Orchid it was clear that my girlish dreams were over.

I thought I knew everything about death when we laid my mother in the ground, but the day my father died I discovered I knew next to nothing at all.

When he first started getting sick we tried a number of remedies we found in our natural medicine reference books.  Sometimes it seemed we were making progress, that whatever was ailing him was going away, only to be disappointed a month later when his symptoms recurred.  Mixing medicine is a precise craft but for a small town apothecary with no fancy equipment, diagnosing is a hit or miss business.  You make the most educated guesses you can without cutting someone open or seeing inside of them with x-ray machines or lab chemicals.  When the symptoms grew worse he applied for a government issued voucher for diagnostic tests which he was approved for through a lottery system.  He made the long tedious trip to Salem General, twenty seven miles away which is a long way by horse cart, but after being diagnosed with stomach cancer he couldn’t get vouchers for treatment.  No one was approved for cancer treatments who didn’t have the money to pay all expenses, the irony being that if you had the money to pay for all your expenses you didn’t need to get a voucher to get treatment.  I did everything I could for him, everything I thought my mother would have tried to keep him comfortable near the end.  I suppose it was the right order of things for a daughter to feed her father at the end of his life just the same as he fed her at the beginning of hers, but the right order of things pissed me off.  I knew it must have been hard for him, an ex-boxer always up for a fight to be fed soup in delicate spoonfuls by his scrappy twenty six year old daughter.

From the time he was diagnosed it took him six months to die.  As he drew nearer to the end he began to tell me what I would have to do when he died.  How to clean him and dress his dead body.  How quickly I would need to accomplish this.  He told me where to bury him up in the woods near the cabin and what permit requests I would need to fill out.  He told me how deep and how wide the grave would legally need to be.  He told me what would happen if I didn’t get him dressed before rigor mortis set in.  All of this he said quietly and no matter how much I might have wished to have more cheerful conversations as his life drew to a close, I didn’t have the luxury to have gentle chats.  I didn’t have the luxury to send him off to a mortuary like I’ve heard people used to do.  Everything that needed to be done had to be done by me.  I could have asked the Martins to help me, father told me I should ask for their help, but I didn’t want a fuss.  Shockey, our nearest neighbor and close family friend who also happened to be the county’s best distiller and possibly the oldest man alive, was the only one I let help and I only let him help because I – wait – I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Take notes, Cricket.” Father said quietly.  “This is important.  I can trust you to take care of yourself girl.  Your mother taught you well and though your temper is deplorable, you’re good at what you do, but burying me is not something you’ve been taught.  I ought to have let you help with your mother.”  I waited for more in that line, secretly hoping he might explain why he’d performed all the cleaning and dressing offices behind closed doors as though he had something to hide but he gave me nothing more so I prompted him “Why didn’t you let me help?”  but he shook his head and said “It’s not important now.”

He told me how I might have to break a bone to get him dressed but as unpleasant as it may sound I had to do it or else my mother would – (would what?  Come back from the grave to spank me?)  I heard her in my ear “You get him dressed as a sign of respect, child.  We have no need of wood coffins or fancy plaques but a man needs to go to ground in his most comfortable clean clothes.  It’s about respect, Cricket.  You don’t care about it now but you will when it’s your turn.”  (Or else mother would admonish me from the grave, apparently.)

He told me what papers I would need to fill out for the county health officer and who I would need to call.  He laid out all of my death duties and responsibilities.  He told me what alcohol to ask Shockey to bring to his wake.  And when I say wake you will think Irish, but we’re not Irish.  We’re Scottish, and not Catholic in spite of me having gone to the Catholic school in town (it was the only school left in town) so having a “wake” might seem strange.  What can I say?  My parents didn’t play by anyone’s rules and though they could have just called it a memorial service, I suppose they didn’t want their own ritual of sending the dead off to be mistaken for the sad, tee-totaling, grim, prayerful, dry affairs that most people favor in our community.  My father chose to let people view mother the day before her burial but not during the actual wake.  Few people chose to view her but many had chosen to attend the drinking and eating part.  For practical reasons my father’s wake wouldn’t include a viewing either because the wake was going to be held at our cottage in town but he died up at our cabin in the woods and I wasn’t going to bring his body to town for people to stare at.  Anyone who wanted to view him could, of course, come all the way up to our cabin in the woods, but that was a long trek to see an emaciated dead man.

I took it all, I think, with good grace.  My responsibilities might feel solemn and daunting but I understood that it was my honor to do these things for my father.  Except for throwing the wake.  I hated that I had to repeat that awful experience.  The things people said about my mother were no more colorful than the things people said about my father behind his back and I didn’t think I could listen to all the insincere honey they would pour over him in death after calling him a shady bruiser, a smuggler, a foul mouthed son of a bitch, and a lady killer.  None of it true, of course.  Well, mostly not true anyway.

His last hours were not comfortable or peaceful.  As his body shut down, organ after organ, he kept trying to suck up enough oxygen into his lungs, reminding me of a fish pulled out of water and left on the shore; mouth opening and closing in a futile effort to fill it with life – the slow drying up of whatever it is that animates us, makes us who we are.  I had always imagined that if one was dying one could simply “give up”, let go, and be dead.  Isn’t that what old people do?  I always imagined there’s some mysterious switch whose location we discover at exactly the right moment we need it, and then we simply flip the switch when there’s not enough air left to breath.

Other than giving me detailed instructions on how to dig his grave and file paperwork and be a good daughter and invite people over to make me sick to my stomach, he didn’t say a lot.  We didn’t have a lot of conversations the way people in books often have long eloquent death-bed soliloquies but we did have two conversations that turned out to be poignant in hindsight.  He told me that I was to be careful of Smith and Hesse.  No – those weren’t his exact words.  It was stranger than that, as though there was a meaning within meaning that came out of nowhere but he said it as though we’d been having a long conversation about it.  (Maybe he was having soliloquies in his head without me.)  What he actually said a few days before his death was “I know you don’t carry but you need to now.  Is your .38 here or at the cottage?” I told him my gun was here in the cabin.  “Get it and wear it at all times, loaded.  Watch out for Smith and Hesse, they’ll be closer than you think.”  I asked him what he was talking about but he would only repeat it and looked so tired I didn’t pester him.  Instead I considered his warning, for that’s what it was, silently.  Mitch Smith and John Hesse were the two federal officers in charge of my mother’s murder case.  They’re the ones who brought her back to us and led the investigation.  I remembered Smith and Hesse only vaguely.  Mostly I remembered Smith throwing his weight around a lot in postures meant to impress and intimidate but however much others might find him impressive, my father was not one of them.

The second conversation we had just before he died was slightly more cryptic than the first.  “Listen to me lass,” I leaned in to listen to his fading voice “Grey is coming.  He meant to get here before, he promised me pipes.  You’ll let him play.”  Grey was a man my father worked with who I’d never met.  I knew he was a Scot and not much else.  “Of course, father.  Of course I’ll let him play.”  My father smiled at me with a mischievous wide grin making deep shadows in his gaunt face.  “You’ll not punch him, little scrapper?” the look I gave him made him laugh which turned to coughing.  I had water ready for him and when the coughing finally eased I brought the cup to his mouth but he pushed it away saying he was done with all that.  He looked at me intently, making the hairs on my arms rise; there was something keen in his look, something hard.  He pulled me close so I could hear him clearly “Do you trust me, girl?” I said of course I trusted him.  “Then you will keep him close.  You’ll need him.” I began to object, because getting directives from your father’s deathbed to keep strange men close to you is irritating, but he shushed me and fell asleep.

He died in the early hours of the morning.  I didn’t even notice because I’d fallen asleep in the chair next to him when it happened so I can’t say if he called out for me or if he just guttered like a candle with no wick left.  Gone and gone.  Done and done.  I was completely alone.

I did all that my father told me to and the preparations for his burial went more or less exactly as he told me they should.  Except for the part where I got myself thrown into jail on the day of his wake.

Cricket and Grey (winter): Chapter Two

Cricket and Grey (winter): Chapter Three

Note: I am publishing Cricket and Grey in its entirety on my blog so that you can read it for free.  I am working on formatting it as an e-book and as a print on demand book that you can purchase if you like it but would like an easier format to read it in.  I apologize for the formatting on this blog – I don’t know how to adjust the style sheet to allow me to format it the way it is in Word.

I will publish one chapter every Monday until the whole book is online.

If you enjoy this work please share this link with friends you think would also enjoy it but please don’t recopy any part of it without permission.  This is my original work of fiction and this website and its content is copyright of Angelina Williamson (Better Than Bullets) – © Better Than Bullets 2010 – 2012 All Rights Reserved

The Third Draft is Done

Finito.  Complete-o.

From the moment I started thinking about this book to now is exactly one year and 9 months.  I didn’t actually start writing it until December 2009.  You can do any math you want to do but I’m going to refrain because it might throw my back out.

127, 367 is how many words this novel is as of five minutes ago.  That’s 28, 363 words more than the second draft.  That’s a precise number.

I know.  That was math.  But that was easy math.

This book is now editor ready.  It isn’t perfect but it’s at the point where if I keep messing with it I will be wasting my time because the second I get an editor (and I WILL get one) they’ll have specific things they’ll want me to work on.  Editors are very specific people.  I’m super pleased with this draft.  I’m proud of it.  I’m proud enough to submit it to a throat cutting editor.  Gulp.

Next step is to get myself an agent.  This requires a brilliant query letter.  As we’ve all observed plenty of times in the past, this is not one of my shining skills.  I make this promise to myself: I will kick fucking ass at the query letter because my future depends on it and there is nothing more important to me right now than getting this damn book published.

I don’t actually need to expend energy agonizing over that tonight.

Right now, this minute, I am going to enjoy the feeling of having finished writing my book.

I am going to pretend that all those petrifying loud pyrotechnics out there are for me.

I don’t think many people can claim I sit around “basking” in any possible way.  I’m basking now.  Unashamedly.  With glittery eye.  Tomorrow may be complete shit.  That’s okay.  I’m in the moment.  The moment is really fucking awesome.

Jane Doe: inspecting writing style

Jane Doe: inspecting writing style

I said I was going to show examples of what I meant by “mood whiplash” and multiple POVs in my fiction.  I’ve selected the opening piece of Jane Doe and then two whole chapters that, I think, illustrate the kind of difference of mood I’m talking about.  The first part (“His Dead Eyes”) is first person, it’s dark and stark.  It’s nightmarish.  The second part (“The All-Night Laundromat”) is told in third person and is lighter, a little irreverent, and then moves back to the dark.  The third part (“The Boyfriend Inquisition”) is a few chapters after the laundromat scene and is silly, light, and totally different in feel from the first two.

These are first draft chapters I’m sharing so they are still quite rough.  I am trusting you all to consider this before judging on detail.  What I’m really looking at, for my own sake and possibly for your interest, is writing style.  I want to know if my writing style (multiple points of view as well as mixing both light and dark moods in the same story) can really work or am I doomed?

I’m putting them here, side by side, to see how it feels moving from one piece to the next.

There’s a lot of text in this post.  It’s a lot to take in.  If you’re interested in actually reading it you may want to print it out.  I won’t be giving such large examples for the Cricket and Grey style post.

If any of you happen to read all of this, please feel free to tell me what your thoughts are.  Is it difficult to or jarring to read a story with such different moods and changing pov?  Do you wish there was less contrast in between the light and dark?  Do you wish I would commit to either a light or dark atmosphere, and if so which do you like better?  Do you wish I would commit to one POV, and if so which do you like better?

His Dead Eyes

His dead eyes, like mousetraps, snap the neck of my hope, snap the neck of my youth, and steal fluid from me until I am as dry and as brittle as an autumn leaf, the last one falling from the empty cold branches. There is no light in them, there is nothing at all in them. They suck and they suck up life, absorbing everything: babies, mothers, acid, Pall Malls by the carton, and me. There is no reflection in death. There is no reflection in evil. There is no reflection of me, anywhere.

Those eyes, never seeing, was better. Never seeing or turning or watching but to say “Pick up the shit, whatever the fuck your name is little nobody!” Never registering on that dull cornea, never appearing in his conscienceless consciousness, where empty river beds cramp with broken glass, where birds hang from trees like effigies of joy, bleeding feathers onto the hot cracked rocks of hell that is the furniture of his mind.

Never seeing was better. Never seeing was living still. Was not dying before hearing my own name said with love, not spat on the floor like chum, inviting the sharks in to feast. Thirteen years of trying to uncover what action, what flicker of haste, what ill timed motion set all to flames and caught the dead eyes, drawing them onto my skin, drawing them onto my body where they waited and sucked and sucked and sucked the life out of the air I breathed and I still cannot find it, this speck of time, this infinitesimal motion which brought me down like a nestless sparrow from the free blue to the waiting ice.

Every night those eyes find me where I hide. There is no sheltering cove, no den of fur and twigs in which to camouflage my broken limbs. Before I close my eyes, holding my splintered bones close to me, they are already looking, turning slowly from the dark where they wait to suck the light from my rooms. I feel them reaching for my skin and I am a thousand snakes coiled to strike but I have no power. I have nothing, because I am no one.

I am a Jane Doe in my own life.


Yet, like the tiniest grain of wheat, there is nourishment in hope, however spare it may be. Someday there will be an answer to the winter hush of my spirit and my bones will heal. I will untie the effigies from their strings and I will lay them tenderly to rest in the soil of my own choosing, where those dead eyes cannot follow to spoil this gorgeous rest.

Then I will know my own name.

I will remove the tag from my toe.

Walk out of the morgue, into the light.

The All-Night Laundromat

Some city nights vibrate with visceral tension, and if you’re paying attention, you can almost feel it like a damp fog, getting under every one’s skin. These are nights when it is best to batten down the hatches, rest your shotgun across your knee, and wait for Armageddon to pass. However, if you must go out into the streets on one of these nights when the natives are looking for an excuse to cut into your comfort like it was butter for their crack-toast, then there is one place you should avoid: Laundromats in questionable neighborhoods. Never do your laundry on one of these combustible evenings in a Laundromat in a bad neighborhood because it’s a magnet for bullets and knives, for sweat and stale doughnuts. This is the place stiffs are discovered in the cold sober light of dawn with the first flush of morning washers. This is the place where you will find notes to the damned and scrawled threats on the walls in garish dripping spray paint.

This is not the kind of place where the sap of young dreams rises to the surface of life to be drunk delicately and nurtured. This is the kind of place where old whores come to clean their pilled up g-strings and to cleanse the micro skirts they wear to showcase their ass cheeks on the corner just outside of where they do this ritual washing. Living, whoring, washing, all on the same block. Life can feel small sometimes when our dreams have shrunk to fit this miserable little Formica covered palace of pay-per-wash detergent boxes with giant (always broken and therefore useless) change machines. This is no place for the ill prepared, or the still milky youths who have moved from mama’s house to find themselves, and their starry dreams, right here on O’Farrell Street. There are no dreams here. Only fossilized broken condoms near the front door, and the gutted frame of what you thought life was going to be.

Into this bleak atmosphere of desperation, on just such a night as I have described, Jane Bauer walked boldly into exactly the Laundromat I told you never to venture into on a night when there is a thick taste of violence in the air. She is not a milky youth, though she is fairly young still, not having reached thirty years of age yet, but you would not guess from looking at her fair clear skin, her dark glossy shoulder length hair, or at her robust tall form that she is a broken person. A person with more contradictions of experience and beliefs you will not find. Everything about Jane is a contradiction. She is broken though you would be hard pressed to find another woman more fiercely independent. She is funny and light and joyful, yet at the same time she carries with her a thousand pounds of sorrow and fear that lap at her light, dimming it in power surges that last for days.

This tall bottle of contradictions with the keen green eyes of a person accustomed to watching came into the All-Night-No-Fuss-Laundromat on O’Farrell Street because she was out of clean underwear. Jane Bauer is not a girl willing to wear dirty underwear. She could feel the thick tension in the city air on this night and it made her alert, her skin alive with warning. Yet she must do her laundry. It is not agreeable to be caught waiting out Armageddon in filthy panties no matter how many shotguns you have to rest on your knees. Jane hates the word “panties”. She hears it a lot where she works, at the underwear factory. She is the shipping manager for the factory and all day long she packs up tiny panties, panties with no crotches sometimes, cheap flimsies, bras and teddies, filmy nothings favored particularly by women with breast “enhancements” and frosty hair. There is going to come a moment when the irony of Jane’s job is going to sock you in the teeth, but that moment isn’t now.

Sometimes these charged nights when no one should be wandering the streets at all are the only nights on which lives that would normally never intersect may cross each other like a streak of stars, blinding, brief, and beautiful. This is one of those nights.

At the very moment that Jane is loading her dirty clothes into a giant washing machine and feeding it ten pounds of quarters, a very tall man in an especially well cut grey wool overcoat and a worker’s cap is walking up O’Farrell Street in the direction of the All-Night-No-Fuss Laundromat because he has just gotten off of work and is cooling the sweat from his day, which has already been full of flashing lights, blood, and the evidence that this is one of those days when it is best to stay home. Isaac is a paramedic, a very good man to have around in emergencies, hands built to receive the most desperate bodies. He is egregiously handsome. Women have been known to rip open their shirts for him in public. But he is not a man who enjoys such shameless displays of breastitude. Well, not overly much, anyway.

There are two more lives that will meet at this intersection of disparate paths in just a few minutes from right now. A pimp and his whore are busy counting her $20 bills earned from alley blow jobs and there is a question about the amount, a slight discrepancy of expectation as often blooms between pimps and their girls. The bricks are being laid for their Friday night as they raise their voices, pace up and down the corner; ugly words begin to flow like the ooze of old sores coming loose in the fray. Everything is fast tonight, in slow motion. Try to understand how slowly everything moves in reverse.

Jane is waiting, watching the street ramping up its thumping party vibe from inside the mausoleum quiet of the empty Laundromat. These are the kinds of moments when we tend to notice the burn marks in the old linoleum from dropped cigarettes- little orange melted craters in the floor, and the flickering florescent lights, casting a sickly green cast onto all the ancient dirty white folding tables and dented machines. Jane is simply waiting for her washing to be done.

The pimp and his whore have graduated from the little fight to the accumulating clouds of aggravation expected to explode regularly on a Friday night. They are enacting their drama publicly, with muscles snapping, jaws gnashing, and pushing has begun. They trip from the corner towards the All-Night-No-Fuss-Laundromat, the pimp getting ugly, letting the crack fueled rage loose on the whore’s stringy body, she is slightly running from him, yet still attempting to placate and absolve.

Isaac is passing Jones Street. He is beginning to feel the blood of the day loosen its grip from his mind. He is taking deep breaths of Friday night air, aware that it is fraught with fight. He is trying to think about mundane things like eating quietly with his Grandmother; heading home to the blessings of good books and long drinks of cold beer.

Jane is standing by the washer near the front door when their three bodies collide: the pimp and the woman crash through the door like an explosion of gasoline; Jane turns to the noise but it has already hit her before she can react to this writhing scratching pushing tangle of charged flesh, hurtling into her, knocking her backwards, the bodies keep moving, following her as she hits the wall; they hit it on top of her and she feels elbows smash painfully into her ribs and the smell is intense- sex and death and pollen- the wind is knocked out of her but she’s pinned to the wall by the weight of these bodies and then, just as suddenly as the bodies pinned her they rolled off in a fresh turn of fight on the wall not ten inches from where she’s left standing.  The pimp’s hard hands are clamped around the whore’s neck.

Jane and the woman are facing each other, Jane sees her eyes looking back at her rather than at him, and they implore, they wish and they seek but Jane can’t move, she can’t actually feel her body anymore. She can no longer tell what is real, what is imagined, if she’s awake or in her other life where it’s all stark grief and dust curls into open mouths. The woman’s skin is turning and the eyes are popping, the man- Jane cannot look at him, she cannot see him, cannot allow herself to see him because she has seen his fingers and already knows what’s in his eyes because she’s seen it in men before and the woman is going to die not ten inches from where Jane stands against the wall, not breathing.

When Isaac passes the picture window of the All-Night-No-Fuss Laundromat he sees a man killing a woman. Without thought, without noise, he has crossed the Laundromat and grabs the pimp by the collar, prying his tight fingers from the woman’s neck and shoving the pimp to the floor like a goddamn super hero who does this kind of thing all night long in capes and gauntlets. He is already phoning 911. The woman, now getting her color back is already leaning down to her man saying “I’m sorry baby, I’m so sorry baby” and no one will ever know whether she’s sorry he didn’t kill her or sorry he was thrown to the ground or sorry she didn’t give enough blow jobs today to score them a dime bag tonight. She sees Isaac’s phone out and tells him not to call the cops.

Jane is the accidental body that is finally falling, a long long way down from where she so recently stood, she is falling and it doesn’t matter to her that her head is catching on the corner of the folding table in front of her. Nothing really matters where she is now, because she is already gone. Isaac, who has been shaking his head at the two drug addicts who will kill each other on some other Friday night when the city fever is running high, has not turned around in time to see that Jane is going to fall, he has had no time to register this extra witness to the unfolding violence. He can do nothing, every super hero’s worst day, she is sprawled on the floor, face down, and her head is beginning to leak out onto the pocked floor, a very small pool of dark red, inching closer and closer to a hard grey lump of old gum near her face.

Isaac has already called the paramedics, he does what he can while he waits, a job he performs all day long, he gently checks for broken bones, checks for other wounds and checks her pulse, then he looks for something to staunch her bleeding. Never once moving the body. He removes his coat and lays it across her sprawled form to help with the shock, then he removes his shirt to fold up and hold against the open gash on Jane’s temple, which is beginning to bleed more steadily. There they sit for what feels like a hundred years of bleeding; Isaac is cold in his undershirt, but he doesn’t move because he would never leave a person to bleed to death. He doesn’t question. He has no thoughts right now. Checks pulse, scans the Laundromat, sees that they are completely alone, and off in the distance, cutting the city fugue into ribbons of light is the sound of approaching mercy.


There are voices to answer, lights rushing in and a thickening of pain. Hey, they say, can you hear me? Can you see me? Can you speak? And it is to her and yet not to her. She feels faces move in like shadows on a wall of blurred color. She has no mouth. Isaac, have you checked for identification? We have a Jane Doe, mid to late twenties, with a head wound, BP’s low, staunch it, staunch it!, how’d this happen? Hello? Can you hear me?

She would like them to stop talking, stop touching her ribs where there is an explosion of white light against the curtain of her head every time those fingers crush into her, and there is so little air she feels as though she might be happiest here in the watery underworld where girls like her go to die.

This is better than those eyes again. Better than all the rushing pictures, the out of focus memories, let them slide away down the muddy riverbanks and let there be no more of this pain. Vaguely feeling hands shift her weight, which is foreign to her, foreign to them. She has heard Jane Doe before, from this same watery place where voices are slow and miles up to the surface, she has been called Jane Doe before.

She hears: “I’m sorry.” She hears it close and it is quiet around the words like a lullaby just for her, a slow burning piano sonata just for her. “I’m sorry.” Close to her skin like a blanket. But whatever for? Who is sorry for what? It comes closer now but not because it comes closer to her but because she is rising like a corpse from the bottom of the lake up to where the faces hover and she emerges from the water but without sound. It seems she cannot work all at once. Nothing can work all at once. When her eyes focus on the faces looking down at her she can not hear them, not even muffled, there is only the most profound silence and she’s not scared because she knows this silence.

They are mouthing things she cannot hear and she watches them with the calm of a person who’s already said everything that will ever need to be said. The calm of the half-dead. Uniforms lean in and out and when they lean out she can see the ceiling moving above her. There is one face left for a moment which she evaluates calmly. Hazel eyes. Pale with dark hair like hers. Taller than people are supposed to be. He is watching her too and she thinks he sees her where she is, so far away from all of them. Impossible. She feels everything shift and shimmer and then the man’s face is looking at one of the uniforms and is mouthing something that looks loud and urgent but it doesn’t matter where she is. She is warm and she is tucking herself away now.

She says, “I am Jane Doe” and she is unconscious again.


It is deeper here. Like a memory within a memory.

Does anyone know who the victim is? Has anyone found identification? There must be something. Does she live here? Where is the smell of urine coming from? Oh. And the blood? Do we know if there is any other wound? Someone check with the neighbors. OK. Can’t see her features well under those contusions. Take pictures before we move her. Quickly. There are flashes and searches for identity. None is found.

We’ve got a Jane Doe in her early teens, unconscious, one eye swollen shut, a patch of hair missing from her scalp, bruising to her abdomen, a possible broken rib, raped, left lying unconscious on the floor. We’re taking her to Marin General. Someone find out who she belongs to.

I have been called Jane Doe before.

I’d like to follow the water.

I’d like to follow the water to the snow.

The Boyfriend Inquisition

While Isaac walked the couple of blocks to the Cafe des Croissants to meet a stranger named “Tim” who seemed to be Jane’s watchdog friend, he wondered why he had agreed to come. What shade of fool was he to agree to meet a person who required him to bring picture ID, proof of address, and his worker’s badge just to tell him if Jane had been run over by a Muni bus? All he wanted to know was if she hadn’t called because something dreadful had happened to her? This “Tim” character had suggested they meet up and if Isaac could prove that he was some kind of legitimate human being and not the next Ted Bundy (yes, these people seemed quite obsessed with serial killers, as though they were in constant danger from them) he would tell Isaac what he wanted to know. This was part madness, ridiculous paranoia, and also intriguing.

Isaac let his curiosity win. It was a gorgeous late spring morning and the cafe was close to his house. He was wearing his usual casual but stylish clothes, his hair was perhaps a little disheveled, and his old fashioned sneakers were a little bit frayed, but over all he was as handsome as always and when Tim saw him approaching he couldn’t help but dismiss him as the guy he was waiting for. Isaac was nothing like Poor George, Jane’s first real boyfriend. This guy just wasn’t the same make or class. Tim had an appreciative eye for lads and this one was pretty exquisite. Not Jane’s man, for sure. He would be looking for someone dumpier, possibly wall eyed, with a slightly sloped posture. This might sound unkind unless you were privileged enough to judge the slew of boyfriends Jane had tried to be enthusiastic about.

There was Charles The Blond who had platinum hair and wore out-dated glasses, the kind that serial killers wear, and he always had a saggy air about him. In spite of this general air of sagginess, he was surprisingly despotic in the expectations he had of his girlfriends. His idea was that girlfriends should always kiss a man when he picks her up at the muni stop where they are meeting and takes very unkindly to any application of lipstick which might render this slurpy greeting less agreeable. He declared that Jane should always want to hang out with him on Friday nights because that’s apparently an expected night for girlfriends and boyfriends to sit close to each other on sad patchy couches watching something meant to inspire a little make out session.

It was fortunate for everyone, especially Jane, that he wimped out on Jane’s issues before Tim or Luca was forced to kill the sucker because later on they found out the dude had gotten crabs from somewhere and the blaring question was undoubtedly “What woman out there with crabs was willing to sleep with Charles The Blond?” Both Tim and Luca had prayed that their own sweet Jane wasn’t serious about trying to see it through with him. Their relief at his departure was thick and joyous.

While Tim was lost in his thoughts about Jane’s past boyfriends Isaac had figured out that Tim must be the person he was looking for and broke into Tim’s reverie with a polite tap on his shoulder and introduced himself. They shook hands and Tim, trying hard not to drop his jaw, motioned to the seat across from him and invited Isaac to sit down. This was a promising turn of luck for his Jane, except that he was obviously suspicious about his degree of handsomeness and apparent ease, a known trait in some serial killers and other creeps. Isaac asked when Tim would like to satisfy himself with his “papers” and Tim said, quite seriously, that it would be best to have a look right away. Isaac couldn’t tell if Tim was being completely serious about this whole ID thing or not, part of him felt it was an elaborate joke in which Jane’s friend got to eye him head to toe, which was exactly what it was, but he admitted it was possible that Tim was a bit loose headed and didn’t know how inappropriate this was.

Either way, Isaac didn’t particularly care. He had the capacity to go with the flow, to see where things might lead, to unearth adventure in the quotidian. If he had been otherwise he would not have had such a wonderful evening with Jane, who was also apparently a little unhinged, but charming. Perhaps he had unearthed a small society of harmless eccentrics. His life outside of work was quiet enough that it could use a dose of the unusual, of the unexpected. It was in this spirit that he solemnly presented his driver’s license, his ambulance driver’s license, his station badge, and a letter that had been sent to him at his home address with his name on it. He laid them out carefully and waited to see what Tim would have to say.

Tim appreciated the sangfroid with which this stranger allowed him to peruse the details of his life that Tim had no right to ask for and it amused Tim that Isaac had completely followed his lead in going through this deadpan pantomime of ridiculous paranoia. Dude must lead a very dull life, Tim thought, to be game enough to go through an inquisition all for a girl he had met once. It piqued Tim’s curiosity, a curiosity completely shared by Isaac.

Tim pushed all the official identification back to Isaac across the table. “OK, he said.” and they looked at each other. “She’s not dead.” he assured Isaac, with a studied serious expression which made Isaac burst out laughing.

“I’m sorry!” he apologized trying to force his face into it’s previous serious mode.

“What you really want to know is why Jane hasn’t called you back.” Tim said, changing from his charade of boyfriend inquisitor to his casual easy going self. “Seriously? I can’t understand it myself now that I have met you and, uh, see that you are an upstanding gentleman with an excellent job who is obviously good in emergencies. Chick magnet I imagine!” and he winked at Isaac who didn’t know where to look or what to do because people under seventy just don’t wink at each other any more. Especially men to other men.

“Yes. That’s it completely.” He admitted and felt lame. Lame because he didn’t want to have to explain the things he was thinking or expose himself as an eager beau. No one wants to be thought overly eager in the pursuit of love because it doesn’t get less cool than that, unless you’re Poor George and you just don’t get it.

“You have to promise me you’re not going to tell Jane that I searched you for proper identification.” Tim said. “She’d kill me. In fact, if you could not tell her we met up, that would be even better.”

“Sure. So are you really close to her?” Isaac asked.

“We’ve been friends since third grade.  My parents unofficially adopted her when she was thirteen. So, yeah.” Tim reminded himself silently not to run off at the mouth just because this guy was so good looking he couldn’t stop thinking slightly dirty thoughts which distracted him from what he was actually saying. Luca wouldn’t feel betrayed, provided Tim gave no details. Still, this was potentially Jane’s man and he owed it to her not to give too much away. Isaac was taking this in and trying to decide how ethical it would be to ask for any details about Jane. It felt slightly stalkerish and improper to pump her close friend for any information. On the other hand, this red headed freckled freak of a man who obviously liked to play deep games might be able to give him an idea if he should just drop this or not.

While Isaac was busy debating stalking ethics, Tim was remembering another manly gem who had asked Jane out. Roger Kinkytail (not his real last name). In a stunning miscalculation of taste Jane agreed to date this very handsome, postureful male specimen who seemed practically normal, except for having the unfortunate name of Roger, which in some circles elicits visions of nekid activities of an explicit nature. Much like the name “Randy” evokes unfortunate visions of horny teens. That and Roger’s vision of unifying Jane, Tim, and Luca in a “cosmic” communion of flesh and fantasy in which the four of them would reach Nirvana through a rich romp in a busy bed. No amount of handsome could erase the horror from any of their minds and Jane was left wondering what signals she had put out to attract such a piece of work as Roger. Tim and Luca consoled her as best they could with offers to set her up with Luca’s heterosexual cousin Mack which generous offer Jane limply waved away, declaring that she was not ever going to date again and instead was going to become the best spinster she possibly could. Petticoats and all.

Tim knew that Isaac was dying for details. He could smell Isaac’s keenness like a fox on the scent of something spicy and personal. So he was trying to figure out what he could tell this tall fellow with the dark hair, pale skin, and dark brown eyes.
“Dude,” Tim began “It’s a little unethical for me to tell you anything about my best friend until I know if she’s even really interested in you and also until I find out if you have a crazy wife tucked away in an attic in Idaho or something.”

“Have you and Jane had a lot of experiences with people that store wives in attics?” he asked curiously.

Tim laughed quietly. “No.” and he appeared to have something else to say yet the hesitation hung out there between them while Tim tried to figure out what the hell he was doing. Perhaps it was Toothsome Barry who had filled Tim with genuine despair for Jane’s future in loving and which made him now so reckless. Reckless with her heart, a place he had no right to meddle. He had no right to encourage this gorgeous tall dark eyed eager (yes, Tim sees through Isaac’s veneer of coolness) man who seems solid and free of sagginess, extra wives, and tricky lusts.

Toothsome Barry left Tim with a foul feeling in his chest just from having to look at Barry’s capacious mouth. It seemed like terrible proof that Jane was going through the motions only to reassure the people who loved her that she really cared about dating; proof that she didn’t have her eyes open. Of all things, to have agreed to date a man with as many long teeth as Barry had was uncharacteristic of Jane who had a fastidiousness concerning mouths that didn’t allow for horsey, dirty, dark brown, creaky, or mossy teeth. Tim had to admit that he had never witnessed Jane kissing this paragon of mouth hygiene gone wrong and it’s also true that she often closed her eyes while looking in his direction, which, honestly, wasn’t much anyway.

Here Tim was looking at a deliciousness who seemed already a little uncomfortably hot under the collar for his own sweet Jane and he couldn’t bear to think of Jane deciding not to see him just because she had only gone out with losers before and figured this one would turn out to be the same. He was grappling with a feeling about this one, feeling a new hope, and unabashedly, for the first time in his life he felt the bow of cupid thrust in his hand and it was irresistible, it was a temptation too great. It was Jane’s damnable lack of self confidence which had landed her so many limp duds. Tim didn’t think her previous forced forays into love were proof of anything. She had always been his magnificent savior, his champion, and the greatest platonic love he had ever had. She was his treasure and these slithery toothsome people she kept dragging home to prove that she was normal irritated Tim beyond belief because not a single one of them deserved her.

Here was a promising specimen with good posture, an estimable job, and obviously a sense of humor (and some curiosity) or he would never have agreed to Tim’s suggestion to come bringing all manner of identification. Jane would certainly kill him if she could see him right now. He shivered a little at the thought because she had a preternatural sight. He could walk away right now, say nothing, give no hoped for encouragement of courtship to this amazon of a man, which (let’s be honest) would be insane, or he could throw a crumb or two in the path of love; be the bow that hits the bulls eye. If he didn’t take a hand, the chances were pretty great that Jane would let him slip away.

“The thing about Jane,” he began carefully “is that she doesn’t have a lot of trust in people.” and at Isaac’s curious look he stopped.

“I’m thinking she’s not the only one!” Isaac said, grinning.

“Yes, well, I have to be careful. She’s my oldest friend. She’s like a sister. Some dude calls me up to ask questions about her- I have to be sure he’s not-”

“The next Ted Bundy. I know. I just think it’s funny you saying she isn’t trustful. And what is it with you two being obsessed with Ted Bundy? There are a lot of other serial killers out there too.”

“Yes, but he’s the only one famous for luring his victims with his handsomeness. Anyway, my guess is that Jane is too timid to call you back. I think she probably wants to but can’t get herself to pick up the phone.” he explained reasonably.

“What should I do? I suppose it isn’t appropriate for me to ask you that.” he said, shrugging his shoulders a little and taking a sip of his forgotten coffee.

“I think you should drop by her work and see her in person. I can’t give you her home address, that would be highly inappropriate, but she works with a lot of very alert muscled men who will not hesitate to beat the shit out of you if you do anything threatening, so I feel comfortable giving her work address to you. I think if you talk to her in person she’ll have a hard time saying no to whatever you propose to her. I mean, provided it isn’t creepy or anything.”

“Won’t she be suspicious that I found out where she works?” he asked.

“Definitely. But you can just say there’s a mole in her life. She’ll be so distracted by you standing right there in front of her she won’t really pay close attention. I mean, if you do it right.” he said impishly. “Once she really thinks about it she’ll know it was me but by then it won’t matter.”

“You’re a strange man, you know?” he said.

Tim wrote down an address on one of the cafe napkins and slid it across the table to Isaac who took it, folded it up neatly and put it into one of his pants pockets.

“Why are you doing this for me?” he asked Tim. “Why not just tell me to shove it on the phone?”

“Toothsome Barry is why.” he said getting up. They shook hands and Tim strolled back towards his apartment with a huge smile on his face and a sudden acute desire to grapple a little with his own dark haired man. Life just might be about to get a whole lot better for us all, he thought to himself. If he knew how to whistle he would have whistled a jaunty tune all the way home.

Isaac watched this stocky fiery man walking away down the street with an air of someone who has a pot of gold stashed in their underwear drawer

He had definitely uncovered a den of eccentrics.

Writing Style

I haven’t taken a photograph in almost a month.  I’m running out of images to use and they are getting less and less related to the actual posts they accompany.

I have spent a week considering what my writing style is.  My sister asked me if it’s important that it have a label.  I absolutely think that when you get to the point, as a writer, that you are determined to get your work in print, you must know what your style is in order to sell it.  No one will be impressed if you say “My style is undefinable”.  It is the great vanity of creative people to believe their work defies all description or labeling.

I am told that having an enormous creative crisis at this point in my project is perfectly normal.  I finished writing the second draft and promptly realized I am a total hack writer with no definable style and no consistency or true gift.  Nothing but a loser and a waste of time.  It’s been pretty spectacular.  I’ve actually been crying about it when no one’s looking.

I realize that I’m letting you know just how pathetic I’ve been behaving over this.  I’ve just been writing in such a vacuum and I am the only one to read my book and judge if the efforts have been worthwhile and I am not able to judge this.  It’s like asking me to say if I made a good enough child, to judge if I might have been better off sticking with cats.

Here’s what really worries me: if I’m to judge by Cricket and Grey what my writing style is I have to say it has multiple personality disorder.  I needed to write in both first and third person.  I struggled with that for a long time when I first started writing it.  It was agonizing until I simply accepted that I needed to write in both perspectives and got on with it.

It’s about seeing in and seeing out.

Do I need both because I’m not skilled enough to pick one and make it work?  Good question.

The other thing is that the style is both light and playful like a Georgette Heyer novel and then shifts to a grainy disturbing darkness full of nightmare and evil and gritty naked truth.

It’s like trying to blend Pride and Prejudice with The Road.

Doesn’t it seem like these are two completely incompatible styles?  So how can my style be a mix of the two?

Yet it is.  Alternating constantly between the two, rather than blending.

Everyone kept saying to step away from the second draft for a while.  My friend Angela suggested I work on some other writing project while letting the second draft breath.  So finally I opened up and dusted off the Jane Doe book I’d shoved under the bed.

There it was again.  First person and third person.  Only I never agonized over it with Jane Doe because I went on instinct alone.  No planning, no outlines, and no plot work (which explains how I got to 108, 000 words and couldn’t possibly end it and had to stash it somewhere to sleep for a while), I went with my instinct.  I just wrote like a maniac.  I wrote those hundred thousand words in less than three months.  It took me over a year to do the same with Cricket and Grey.

I spent much of yesterday rereading Jane Doe.  I was surprised by how much I like it.  How worthy the bones of it are.  The plot is a disaster and huge aspects of it need reworking but there is work there I can be proud of.

My style is as steady in it’s duality as my own personality is.  It also permeates my life, my blog writing, and my head.  To recognize it offered at least the relief of finally seeing that I do have a style.

What haunts me now is how on earth my style will ever get published?  When you pick up a book you expect to be carried along in a smooth and seamless narrative that sustains a specific mood.  There is no part of The Road that is irreverent or playful or light hearted.  Likewise there is no part of Pride and Prejudice that falters from the light social satirical mood, there are no cannibals or serial killers lurking in the bushes at Longbourn and even if there were they’d be fodder for satire as well.

My style is an unblended mix of dark and light.  Harsh and gentle.

My style is likely to give you mood whiplash.

There is the breezy irreverent mood that skims through you like a pretty little boat and then just as you’re relaxed into this kind and quirky place I take you down to hell where your eyes are gouged out by my personal demons, where I rip you to pieces with knives and there is a lot of blood.

Who the hell wants to take that trip for 300 pages?

Aside from me, I mean.  It’s the only trip I know and I’m comfortable with extreme contrasts.  It’s the only trip I’m capable of taking anyone on.  I do it all the time in my blog.  There is the visceral rich writing that is thick with images and stark with violence and then there’s all the joking about penises and Republicans.  My blog is all high contrasts.  There are two moods, two personalities in constant alternation.

Inside versus outside.

Exactly like what I show the world versus the hell in my head.

Exactly how I make light of absolutely everything and just as everyone is enjoying the breezy conversation I dump your heart full of anger, abuse, pessimism, death, and hopelessness.

I do it fast.  I never know exactly when the mood will switch but I doubt there’s a friend alive who hasn’t kind of wished I wouldn’t do that.

My writing style is:

1.  Dual points of view in the same story/piece.

2.  Alternates constantly between rich and dark with breezy and sweet.

3.  Violence is a constant theme.

I still don’t know how to succinctly label the style as I don’t think there’s a whole lot of precedence for it.  There may be a really good reason for that.  Which is what terrifies me.

Having writing crisis’ serve a purpose.  I see what my style is very clearly now.  I just have to convince myself that I can write well enough to make it work, to make people want to go on my trip.

In truth I am completely overwhelmed by how much work it takes to make a novel good enough to print.  I keep telling myself it doesn’t have to be a work of fucking art because I want to be a career novelist, not necessarily a nobel prize winner.  I just want to write.  It doesn’t have to be the most amazing thing ever.  I don’t have to put every single thing I’ve got into one story.

But I do.  It is unacceptable to me to write anything mediocre.  It is unacceptable to me to write anything less than the best I have in me.

How many years will it take me to make Cricket and Grey good enough?

How long will my family, friends, and other responsibilities wait for me to be completely present again?  Writing a worthy novel takes so much more out of you than you ever think it can.  It’s exhilarating and draining simultaneously.

If I was already published, if I already had a novel out there that was reasonably successful I know my family would not grow too impatient, but how long can they sustain patience for this endless project with no results, no reward, no success.

My writer friend Angela asked me if I’d still be writing novels even if I never got published.  I said yes.  I can’t stop this trip now.  I bought the ticket when I was ten and I’m not getting off now that I finally caught the damn train.  But if I never got published I would feel sad if I looked back and found I’d made a sacrifice of my family just to write for myself.  My garden is full of blackberry and choked with quack-grass for this writing.  You can’t write gently here and there, snatching a spare moment when one presents itself if you want to make a story come to life.  It requires you to bury yourself in it, spend shocking amounts of time ignoring absolutely everything else around you.

So if I’m not good enough to get published then it would be really nice to know that now and spare the rest of my life such criminal neglect.

My gut tells me I’m good enough.  My gut tells me that even if I’m an uncomfortable writer to read, even if my style of writing gives readers mood whiplash, it’s at least honest.  It’s the interior and the exterior in one place.  It is the reality: we require efforts at buoyancy and light in order to swallow the swords of hell without dying.  My gut tells me that my style might not be comfortable but it reflects a truth that people will understand because it reflects the order of the universe:

Dark and Light.  Yin and Yang.  Good and Evil.  Virgin and Whore.  God and Satan.  Life and Death.  Summer and Winter.  Men and Women.  Black and White.  Private and Public.  Innocence and Guilt.  Ugly and Beautiful.  Night and Day.  Truth and Lies.

I will find a way to describe this style in one small sentence or phrase.

For my own process I am going to publish a few excerpts from both Jane Doe and from Cricket and Grey that illustrate this style.  If anyone wants to weigh in and describe how they perceive my writing style I welcome it, however, this is an exercise for myself mostly so that I may concentrate on distilling my understanding of my own style so that I can go to a book agent and say “When you read my book THIS is what you’re getting.”

I have to thank all my family and friends who have patiently been coaching me out of this awful crisis.  I have been sinking pretty far this week.  Part of this is no doubt compounded by the cough and the sore throat and the stupid calf muscle.  Being sick is not easy on a crisis already in progress.

I am climbing out of my hole.

There’s much work to be done.