The Odyssey to Where I’m At Guest Post

I have a guest post over at the Odyssey website (and you’d never believe how hard it is for me to spell Odyssey. It’s a word that does not make sense and cannot be visualized!).  It’s my own experience taking one of their workshops.  It was quite eye opening to look at where I was at then in my writing and where I’m at now.  Enjoy!


Writing in Public, Story 6, Scene 23


Charles almost refused to come over to Randy’s house, especially after learning “one of those Chandlers” was there.

Randy, frustrated by the stupidity of the feud, blurted, “So you’d the whole town go to hell than deal with a Chandler?”

That had gotten him a stony silence for so long he wondered if his father had hung up.

Then: “Fine.”

Not happy.  But coming.

Randy hung up his iPhone and tossed it on the coffee table.  Nikki started at the sound and glanced up at him with wooden eyes.  She hadn’t moved from the sofa once.  Molly hadn’t moved from her lap either.

“What does he have against Chandlers?” Nikki asked.

Randy sprawled out in the armchair, slouching down.  Maybe he should have paid more attention to the masonry work of his family.  But he’d wanted to stay out of all the petty bickering.

“I have no idea,” he said at last.  “It was like what happened with your family when they just stopped coming to the house.  One day, we were friends with the Chandlers, and then we weren’t.”

“They never tell us anything.”  Nikki managed a smile that brightened up her face.

Randy laughed.  It felt good, releasing some of the bleak tension.  He fished out a dog treat from his secret stash in his jeans back pocket and extended it out to Molly.  She poked at it with her nose, then took it delicately, crunching it down.

He rested his elbow on the arm of the chair, propping his chin his hand.  “Tell me what you do remember about that last summer.  Maybe there’s something kind of connection.”

“I don’t know.  It was so long ago.”

“C’mon.” Randy gave her grin.  “Let’s start with something easy.  What did you always do here?”

Nikki lifted Molly up and set her on the sofa, then stood.  Molly turned in a circle three times and curled up in the warm spot were Nikki had sat.

Randy watched Nikki pace.  Actually he watched the way her hips moved.  The jeans fit her very nicely, though that cat shirt—

Mind back on topic, mind back on topic.

“There was a playground we always went to.”  Her voice warmed with the memory.  “It had a giant rocket ship.  I used to climb all the way to the top and pretend I was going into space.”

Randy knew what she was talking about.  It had been in the days when playgrounds were just a little bit dangerous.  Now everything was all plastic and too safe.  Didn’t prepare you for anything.

“You do the slide?” he asked.

“In shorts.”

He laughed.  “You live for danger, lady.”

He knew well how hot that metal slide got with the summer sun beating down on it.

“I’d come off the end of it and tumble into the sand,” Nikki said.  “Get it all over my knees and on my palms.”

She stopped pacing and stared out the window that overlooked the yard.

“There was someone there that day, watching us,” she said.

Randy stilled.  He wanted to dash out questions, fix this problem.  And he knew it would be a bad idea.  Memories could be fleeting.

“Did you know him?” he finally said.

“No.  But my mother did.  He was an older man. I remember him because I thought I was seeing Santa Claus in summer.  White hair, white beard, rosy cheeks.  He looked like a man who smiled all the time and enjoyed smiling.  He came over and talked to her.”

“Did you hear anything?”

Nikki turned away from the window, arms folded across her chest.  The cat eyes on the shirt watched Randy.

“No,” she said.  “My mother looked upset though.  Maybe angry. I wondered why she was mad at Santa Claus.  I was afraid I wasn’t going to get any presents.”

Who was Santa Claus?  Randy knew everyone in town, and there was no one that he could recall who fit that description.  He would have been still on the sidelines of the family masonry business; the Southworths had still been a powerful voice in the town’s politics.

Yes, he would have known who this man was if he’d been from around from him.

Could he have traveled from the portal?

Writing in Public, Story 6, Scene 22

Sorry for the delay on this.  I’ve been taking the Novel Structure workshop.  It’s a lot more work than the other workshops I’ve taken, and it’s a huge learning curve for me.  Might have another lesson with a lot of work this week, and then the next two weeks, I’ll have two workshops at the same time (Teams, then in February, Secondary Plots).  But a lot of good stuff that I really do need and am ready for.


Bit by bit, Nikki felt better the futher away from the portal they got.  The air seemed to clear, as if it had been fouled.  She still felt like she needed to wash herself.

They arrived at Randy’s house, and all around, it was disturbing to see the portal’s effects.  People here weren’t frozen, but they were moving very slowly.

Maybe the portal was something to do with time?

Her brain felt like it was going to explode.  They were the only ones seemingly unaffected.  How were they going to fix it?

“I have to check on Molly,” Randy said.  His voice was too fast, thinning out.  “She was scared before.”

Nikki followed him into the house, breathing in the smells of dog fur.  A jangle approached.  Molly came through a doorway.  Not her usual energetic self.  She trembled, and her eyes were fearful.

Randy scooped her up, stroking her back.  She flicked out a pink tongue, licking his chin.

Why wasn’t Molly affected by the portal either?

Nikki scratched the little dog behind the ears, finding some of the tension easing.  Dogs were good people.

“You’ve been keeping some things from me,” she said quietly.  “You need to tell me.  Everything.”

Randy glanced up at her, and his eyes were wooden. “I know.”

He gestured to the sagging sofa.  Nikki had to clear off a stack of newspapers.  Randy gave her Molly, and she resettled the dog in her lap.  He went into the kitchen and poured two plastic tumblers of water.

“I’d do something stronger…” Randy handed her one of the tumblers.  “And I think I wouldn’t be able to stop until I passed out.”

Nikki felt the same.  She rested her glass behind Molly’s trembling body and stared at the water.

“All the houses were portals,” she said.  Not a question.  She wanted to hear the confirmation.

Randy parked himself on the coffee table, close enough she could smell the fear rising off him.

“Yes,” he said.  “Each house has a portal in one of the upstairs rooms.  When the houses were built, the masons–my family–did a special mortar mixture that helped focus the portal’s energy.  Each of the houses were built like a giant conductor for the portals.”

Nikki took a moment to digest this, wondering if her aunts had known.  Had her aunts used the portals?

“Where do they go?” she asked.

Randy shrugged.  “Depends.  The piano in the living room is a control device.  You play one tune, and the portal opens up to a particular location.”

Nikki remembered all those times she’d banged the keys, and got an ugly jerk in her stomach.  Had she done something to the portal when she played the piano?

Her hands were trembling.

Randy, as if reading her thoughts, reached across to squeeze her knee. “It has to be a specific tune.  There’s supposed to be a book somewhere with the tunes and the locations.”

“But where does it go?”

Molly, sensing Nikki’s agitation, stood up, claws digging into her legs.  The little puffball tail wagged half-heartedly.

Now Randy was squirming. He glanced away, focusing at a painting on the wall.

“It’s a place where art is reality,” he said.

“What does that mean?”

“Your family and mine…we came from a different place, a different existence.”

Nikki’s stomach jerked, sourness rising in her mouth.   What did that mean?

“I’m sorry.” Randy tickled Mollie’s triangle ears, his eyes flicking up to meet hers.  “I should have told you sooner.”

She wanted to be mad.  She should be mad.  Yet she found herself comforted by the way he looked at her, like he was a dog ready to jump in help, even if he didn’t know what he was helping with.

“I probably wouldn’t have believed you anyway.” Nikki managed a rueful smile.  “Part of me still doesn’t believe it.  I don’t know what to make of that portal.”

Randy shifted his hand from Molly’s ear to her hand, his warmness against her skin.  It did little to ease the icy chill in her heart.

Adventures Around the Web Nov 11-17, 2017

Your Story Lives in the Details

It sounds simple.  Add details.  Be specific.  It’s not.  It’s an incredibly hard skill to learn, especially when writers a cultured to treat description as boring.

Leadership lessons from a female Apache pilot

An officer talks about resiliency and failure, plus being a woman in a male-dominated place. Most notable is this quote about the culture for women:

”… It is a culture shift but it has to come from the top down because that is how the military works. It can’t be organic and it has to be the men who are taking the responsibility because the women can’t change it in the very small numbers that they are in.”

When memberships in the VFW or the American Legion come up, women say they don’t feel welcome, and they’re told to join and fix it.  ^^ That’s the reason that suggestion doesn’t work.

The Meaning of the 13 Folds (of the U.S. Flag)

My experience with seeing the flag folded is from NCIS and other TV series where the soldiers or Marines in their crisp uniforms and white gloves precisely fold the flag, then hand it to the family member at a funeral.  Scroll down past the image for a text version of the image describing what each of the folds means.  Link from my reunion cabin mate Lila Sise Spurgeon.

Are You Writing a Book or a Movie?

A lot of writers gravitate to movie writing advice to write novels.  This link above shows why that’s not a good idea.  There’s value in studying movies, like I’ve been doing Die Hard as part of the Novel Structure workshop. But it’s easy to veer away from the other senses and visceral reactions when trying to write a like movie, and have POV problems.

And, finally a quote I ran across at work this week, perfect for indies.

“If you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.”

– Donald Trump


Writing in Public, Story #6, Scene 21


Nikki’s knees gave out.  She would have fallen to the sidewalk, but Randy caught her arm and held her up.  He was a warm, comforting presence.

Which wasn’t much out here.  The portal in the street glared back at her like it was an eye of evil.

But the sliminess had receded.  Now she felt the coldness of satisfaction emanating from the portal.

“What do we do?” she asked.  “How do we fix that?”

Randy’s face was as pale as she thought hers was.  His words were drawn tight.  “I don’t know.  We need to leave.”

“Leave?” Nikki’s voice sharpened.

Randy leaned in close, his breath hot on her ear.  “It might be able to hear us.”

Her mouth turned dry.  “What about Brian?  The others?”

There were at least five people who had come outside, frozen in place.  Why wasn’t she frozen?  Why wasn’t Randy?”

She’d ask that later.  She circled around the front of the truck.  Heat rose from the idling engine. She felt eyes on her from the portal, watching like a cat stalking prey.

The door opened easily enough, so it wasn’t frozen.  She touched Brian’s arm.  Still warm.  But he didn’t respond to the touch.  Not even a twitch.

“Brian, can you hear me?” she asked.


She tried again.  “Brian, if you can hear me, I’m going to try to fix this.  I’ll going to leave, but I’ll be back.”

She reached across his lap to turn off the engine.  He’d be mad if his truck ran out of gas.

A laugh rose in her throat.  It was a wrong kind of laugh.  Not for something funny, but for hysteria bubbling up from her belly.

Randy was right.  They needed to get out of here.

It was all she could do not to run away.

Short Story out in a book!

My flash fiction story “The Library Patron” is out in a new anthology! This was a fun story to write. I saw a prompt that said “Neighborhood Zombie,” and the story simply happened.

Cover for Fabula Argentea


Fabula Argentea: 5th Anniversary Anthology

To celebrate the first five years of publication, we have selected stories that we feel exemplify the spirit of the magazine and the variety that it offers our readers. These thirty-four amazing stories, from both first-time and established authors, will take you on unforgettable, and sometimes unexpected, journeys to places real and imagined. They will take you to the past, the present, and the future. Some will make you laugh; some will bring tears. And some may call up memories from your own past. We hope that you will find these stories as enjoyable and memorable as we have.

Available on Amazon

Writing in Public, Story 6, Scene 20


Nikki couldn’t see the hunger.  But she felt it.  Cold and slimy.  Thick with darkness.

It was interested in her.

She could sense its curiousity.  Like she was a piece of food, and the hunger was poking around it, seeing if the food was tasty.

Her body was rigid.  Sweat prickled down the hollow of her back.  Her breathing stuck in her throat.

The music swirled around her, and she thought she heard a voice chiming in with the notes: I want to help.


And then someone was behind her, a warm presense.  Hands touched her shoulders.  Warm breath puffed on the back of her neck.


She allowed the music to pull her in, and Randy came with her.  The music was like an old tapestry with holes in it.  The hunger snuffled along the holes, trying to find the biggest gaps.

To get through.

“Take the lead,” Randy murmured.

To do what?  Fear jabbed at Nikki’s chest.  She didn’t know what she was doing!

The hunger pushed at the music’s barrier again.  Its strength horrified her.   The music wasn’t strong enough to keep it out.

Fear rose up from her belly, coppery and bitter.  She didn’t think.  She just reacted.

Bouncing along in the flow of the music, she found the biggest of the holes.  In her mind, it was gaping, and black.  Dead.

It was from the house on the other end. It had been gutted in a remodel.  Nothing left.

How could she fix this?

She felt the hunger grin.  It could get through here.

It pressed against the gap.  Too big.  But it could work at the hole.  Make it bigger.

“Spackle it,” Randy murmured.  “Like mortar.”

Nikki’s mouth had gone dry.  The need to hurry pressed at her.

She pictured the wall of the house with the lines of bricks, the overlapping rows providing support.  Spreading the mortar in the cracks.

Randy squeezed her shoulders.  She was trembling with exhaustion.

Breathe, breathe, breathe!

The world titled sideways.  Nikki fell away from the music.  The sidewalk bounced up to her face.


Her chest locked up tight.  For a terrifying moment, she couldn’t breathe.

Randy pulled her up into his arms, wrapping them around her.

Better.  She could breathe.

The hunger had receded from the air.  But its satisfaction tinged the air.

Bit by bit, she took in her surroundings again.  Brian was still frozen in his truck, reaching for the passenger lock.  A neighbor across the street was stuck in mid-step.

Randy?  He was moving, alive, resting his chin on her shoulder.  But his eyes were alarmed.

She’d been avoiding that thing in the middle of the street.  Now she looked.

Her breath caught in her throat, souring.  The edges of the portal had solidified.

She’d made it worse.

Discoverability Adventures: Week 2

This week, I got my feet wet with something I have very mixed feelings about: Content marketing.

That’s like writing for the Huffington Post for exposure.  Of course, they don’t pay the writers.

Even before the internet, fiction writers have always been told to get exposure by writing for free.  At one point, I ran across numerous magazines that made it sound like they were doing a favor by publishing the writers at all, even though they wouldn’t have had any business without the same writers.

Plus the big name publishers have been trying to cut paying the writer out of the process as much as possible.  The advances are getting smaller and smaller.  Some publishers do a “royalty-splt” which translates out as not-much in the payment department.

One of the BookBaby panelists said to everyone, “You need to get over getting paid.”

Yeah. Right.

But I also need to get more visibility so people will discover my books.

So I’m wading in content marketing.

I’m looking at doing them from the woman veteran perspective.   In all the anthology calls I’ve submitted to, I’ve often been the only woman soldier.  There might be other women, but usually a daughter or a spouse of a male soldier.

I tried one site, really on a lark.  It’s site that is an active publisher of military books.  They had a blog up and were looking for content for it.


That part of the site hadn’t been updated in almost a year.  The rest of the site was current, so it made me wonder if the veterans simply weren’t submitting stories.  Writing is challenging to learn to do well for publication.  Writing about military experiences is another story entirely, especially if they’re painful.

So we shall see what they say.

A second one was just an opportunity that landed in my lap, from a class I took about 6 years back.  They have a new session coming in January and were looking for blog posts to promote.

For a third, I’m following the blog and monitoring what they publish to see if I can do something for them.  It’s a site that publishes all things about the military.

I’m also gathering sites that might be possibilities and just thinking about what I can do.  Not all of them are good fits.  I want to make sure my time is being well used.

If any of these get in, I’ll post the links here.

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting site (aside from the annoying pop up) that I ran across that talks about content marketing and has some interesting ideas.  Hmm.  Slide share.  Could I do something there?

I also emailed my local library. They had a WWI exhibit of women veterans that was pretty awesome, so I told them I was a Desert Storm vet and asked if they wanted a Q&A session on “What was it like?”  Or a writing session on how to write military characters if you’ve never been in them military.

The Voice of Women Veterans

The Washington Post published the Five Myths about Female Veterans today, and unfortunately, all of the are true.

When I came home from Desert Storm, I was hungry for something that explained how I was feeling.  China Beach had just been cancelled and gone into reruns.  I devoured it.

I also read and reread A Piece of My Heart, which is a book of stories of women veterans from the Vietnam War.  It was just about the time when the Vietnam vets started telling their stories, so there were a lot of books coming out.  I read all of them, because, other than Pieces of My Heart, there wasn’t anything representing the voice of the women.

I even went to the Veterans of Foreign Wars down in Tacoma, Washington.  I walked in and there was a bar with a bunch of old men sitting at it.  I might as well have been asking directions.

That’s still a mixed bag for the women.  Some have great success at their local organizations.  Others come in and are told to apply for the Women’s Auxiliary.

I’m also on a Facebook page for Desert Storm Combat Women.  Many of them report going to the Veteran’s Administration, and their civilian male spouse is addressed as if he is the veteran.  Or they have to prove they are a veteran while the male veteran standing next to them does not.

We have a local grocery store in Washington, DC that gives veteran parking. For the overseas people, it’s not a disabled slot or has any legal requirements; it’s merely something that a store does as courtesy, like the slots for pregnant women.  Two women have come out to find nasty grams on their windshields.  I park there myself, so I’m expecting one day for someone to do the same to me.

There’ll be an article in the Washington Post on something like PTSD, disabilities, or problems with the VA, and the reporter gravitates to all the men, unless it’s about a woman’s issue.

As a writer, I’ve submitted to a lot of veteran anthology calls. I was often the only woman veteran.  Usually they got a wife or daughter talking about a family member, but even there wasn’t many women’s voices represented.

Obviously, the women need to speak up more, but at the same time, it gets old hearing the same stories again and again.

Just remember that there were 40,000 women in Desert Storm.

Cover for Women at War: Stories & Poems

Desert Storm war veteran Linda Maye Adams shows the diversity of what war is like for the women who deploy in this collection of short stories and poetry.  The stories run from “First Night,” and “Between Black and White,” because war seldom ends when the war does.  The poems include

“A Woman Goes to War,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Only Questions,” “Little One,” “The Lonely Sounds of War,” “No Safe Places,” “Just Like Me,” and “That Wish.”




Soldier, Storyteller: A Woman Soldier Goes to War

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.  Within twenty-four hours, he controlled the entire country.  Five days later, the United States was deploying soldiers and had named the military operation Desert Shield.

This would be the largest deployment of women at the time.  Over 40,000 women went to war.  It was so new that people questioned whether women should be there, and what would happen to the families they left behind.

Linda Maye Adams was one of those soldiers.  Soldier, Storyteller is a rare inside look at war from a woman’s perspective.

Her memoir answers the question: “What was it like?”

Cover for Red, White & True

Even as we celebrate the return of our military from wars in the Middle East, we are becoming increasingly aware of the struggles that await veterans on the home front. Red, White, and True offers readers a collection of voices that reflect the experiences of those touched by war-from the children of veterans who encounter them in their fathers’ recollections of past wars to the young men and women who fought in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The diversity of perspectives collected in this volume validates the experiences of our veterans and their families, describing their shared struggles and triumphs while honoring the fact that each person’s military experience is different.

Leila Levinson’s powerful essay recounts her father’s experience freeing a POW camp during World War II. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder provides a chilling account of being a new second lieutenant in Vietnam. Army combat veteran Brooke King recounts the anguish of raising her young children by day while trying to distinguish between her horrific memories of IED explosions in Baghdad and terrifying dreams by night.

These individual stories of pain and struggle, along with twenty-nine others, illustrate the inescapable damage that war rends in the fabric of society and celebrate our dauntless attempts to repair these holes with compassion and courage.


Adventures Around The Web November 4-10, 2017

It was unnaturally warm in Philadelphia last week. For Veteran’s Day, we’re getting cold and blustery. Down into the 20s.  The fall colors are finally coming in, but largely pretty washed out.  Not the vibrant ones that are so pretty.

10 Ways Posture Affects Productivity (and How to Improve Both)

Writing can be pretty sedentary, so it’s important to not park in the chair for hours on end and never get up and move around.

From pom-poms to combat boots: Miller joined Army in high school

Ah ha!  A story about a woman Desert Storm veteran.  But scroll all the way to the bottom for a slideshow about more women veterans.


Got this one from the BookBay conference.  You can plug in another writer’s site and see what kind of traffic they’re getting.

Google Speech Recognition

Also from the conference, if you want to try dictating stories.  Being handy too if you wanted to give your hands a break.

Daylight Saving: The Movie Trailer

This is hilarious! Last year, I showed up at the farmer’s market an hour too early.  This year, I worried about missing my train (which showed up late).  From Piper Bayard.