Articles By Jamie DeBree

Poetry & Taxes

April is National Poetry Month, which I normally kind of ignore. It’s not that I don’t like poetry – I like some of it quite well, in fact. Shakespeare’s sonnets were instrumental in shaping romance in my 12 year old heart (that actually sounds sort of scary now, but it’s true), and while I didn’t do well in my poetry classes in college because I had no time to do the assignments with work and other classes (well, and I had issues with some of the analytical methods, but I’ve always been rebellious like that), I still loved reading the poems and have kept those textbooks all these years.

All that said, I’m really not much of a poet. I’ve always been more of a prose kind of girl, and found poetry difficult to write. But considering I like to read poetry, and I think poetry could help me write better prose (whether I can write decent poetry or not), I decided to attend a free Poem-A-Day Challenge kickoff at a local bookstore this past Saturday afternoon. We talked about poetry, heard some poetry, and even wrote some first lines and a poem to start.

By the end, I’d talked myself into paying for the daily writing prompts and online workshop. Which is complete madness, because I have *no time* to work on a poem every day and still work on my prose writing. No time!

Alas, I signed up, so now I have to figure out how to make it so. Which is why I’m missing out on my reading time tonight to write this blog post – I spent my post-writing time finishing the poem I needed to write for Sunday. But I really can’t do that every day this month – that reading time is very important to both my writing and my sleep patterns. So I have to figure out some other time to work on poetry, and not spend too much time dilly-dallying with it.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

In any case, my best buddy Carol who has agreed to write a poem per day with me this month, insists that we can’t just be trusted to write poetry daily – we have to prove it. So we are sending each other our poems every day, and then we’ll both post all the poems from the week on our respective blogs once weekly for the month.

I’ll be posting my weekly collection on Saturdays, so if you want to read what I’m working on this month, by all means, feel free to stop by. It will be…well, interesting, I hope.

In other news, I still have to do my taxes. I always do them at the last minute, because we always break even, so there’s really no point in doing them early. This past weekend, I downloaded all my various sales reports, and Friday night I’ll need to get those entered into my accounting software so I can aggregate the information I need, and then next Sunday will be tax day around here. *sigh* TurboTax makes it easy-ish, but still. Does anyone actually like doing taxes? I think not.

Is there anything remotely poetic about taxes? We just might see…

Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 8

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 8

“Shelley? Are you awake? We should get moving — I think your friend is about out of patience. She’s already called twice this morning.”

She groaned, annoyed that the excitement of hearing Dillon’s voice through the door was tempored by the fact that apparently Tabby was being even more needy than normal and bugging the poor guy. Not to mention his mom.

“I’m up now,” she called, forcing herself upright. “Give me twenty minutes, and I’ll be ready to go.”

She heard the faint ringing of the landline in the background.

“Fifteen would be better.”

Dillon’s footsteps faded as Shelley slid out of bed and got her bag from the floor. Swinging it up to the cozy spot she’d just vacated, she fished out clean clothes and hurried to put them on. Tabby had better hope the trip was long enough for Shelley to cool off, because that girl was going to get one hell of a lecture when they saw each other again.

Shoving the t-shirt and shorts she’d worn to bed into a corner of the bag, she slipped on her shoes and did a quick check to make sure she hadn’t left anything.

Giving the book she’d spent way too much time finishing last night a quick half-smile, she turned and walked out the door. Dillon was on his way down the hall again, his expression serious.

“I know she can be a horrendous pain. I’m really sorry for the—“ Dillon shook his head and put his hands on her shoulders.

“I just talked to Mike. They had a fight after the last call, and Tabitha ran off. He’s trying to figure out which way she might have gone. Do you know if she’s ever been up here before?”

Shelley shook her head. “Never — she told me before she left. Are there trails that lead out of camp? She’d probably stay on the trails. She wouldn’t want to get lost. But she doesn’t always use her head either…” she pushed past Dillon. “We have to get up there. We have to find her!”

Aware of him behind her, she stalked out through the small kitchen and into the living room where Diane was sitting in an easy chair, her brows drawn together. She got up when Shelley came in and reached out a hand. Decorum was the only thing that made Shelley stop and take it.

“I’m sure they’ll find your friend, dear. Now you two drive safely. You can’t help her if you get hurt yourselves.”

Shelley mustered up a smile, and then leaned forward and kissed the woman on the cheek.

“Thank you. For everything. I hope we’ll see each other again soon.”

Dillon pulled his mom into a hug.
“We’ll be careful, Mom. I’ll let you know when we get to camp.”

Shelley followed him out to the parking lot. “How long will it take to get there?” She opened the passenger door of her car and tossed the bag on the seat, shutting the door again.

Dillon reached for the door of his truck. “An hour and a half or so, depending on how your car takes the gravel. Don’t go any faster than you have to — I’ll slow down if you do, okay?”

She nodded and turned to go around to the driver’s side.


She turned at Dillon’s voice and cocked one eyebrow up.

“We’ll find her. Mike’s probably got her already.”

Shelley managed a wry smile. “Thanks. I’m sure you’re right.” She looked at him for a long, awkward moment and then half-turned, pointing to her door. “I…guess we should get going then.”

“I guess so.” He gave a rough laugh and managed to look both embarrassed and adorable at the same time. Shelley got in the car before he could see the warmth blooming in her own face.

Good grief, woman — get a grip! She followed him through town and out onto a two-lane highway, wondering just exactly where this trip would take her. She was attracted to the man, that was for sure. And it sure seemed like he was attracted to her too. But they were so different — their lives were so different. She knew people made that work every day, but she wasn’t sure how. It seemed like so much…work.

But relationships were always about work, she supposed. Lord knows her friendship with Tabitha wasn’t ever easy. She’d wondered on several occasions why she didn’t just move out and leave Tabby to her own devices. But she never went through with it. Maybe because Tabby was her oldest friend and the only person Shelley could pour her heart out to in the middle of the night and know that in the morning, her secret would be safe, and the best cure for a hangover would be sitting on her nightstand.

Dillon turned right onto a narrow gravel road and Shelley pulled her focus back to driving. The country they were passing through was beautiful, so green and lush with new spring growth. The fresh smell of rain still hung in the air, and she wondered if it had rained again this morning.

And if Tabitha was out in that forest somewhere, lost on the side of a mountain because she couldn’t control that damn temper of hers.

The constant vibration and shifting of the gravel road set her teeth on edge, and she gripped the steering wheel tightly for better control. Maybe Dillon was right. Maybe Mike had already found Tabby, and she was waiting at the camp already…

Shelley didn’t see the pothole, but she felt the front right tire hit it, and heard a loud pop.

Suddenly it felt like the whole right side of her car was sucked into a vortex of some sort, and she panicked, slamming her foot on the brake. As soon as she felt the back of the car slide sideways on the loose gravel, she knew that had been a collossal mistake. She yanked hard on the wheel, but it was too late. The world was spinning and she was at the center, hanging on to the wheel for dear life until the car slammed side-first into something hard with a jolt that smashed her body into the door before everything went dark.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 9!

Like this post? Support your author (Amazon links):

Tempest | The Biker’s Wench (Fantasy Ranch Book 1) | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance

A Really Good Day & Retirement Goals

I had some vacation time to either use or lose by the end of the month, so last Friday I played hooky from work. It was a fun and productive day, and I found myself wishing I could have more days like that, which is pretty odd for me with vacation days (I often end up wasting them).

I went to the archery range first, and…well, I didn’t do so well with the targets *and* ended up making my shoulder sore, which means my form was way, way off. I’m blaming it on the fact that it was morning, and I don’t generally do much of anything well in the mornings (aside from sleeping, anyway). It was still a lot of fun though, and nice not to have to worry too much about what time it was. In fact, I didn’t put my watch on once last Friday.

After that, I hit the tattoo shop (Ghosts of Grace Tattoo Collective), and while my tattoo artist wasn’t in yet, the new piercer was. I ordered some expensive but really high quality titanium bars for my industrial piercing (which will take four weeks to get in, so I’m glad I got them ordered now), which I’ve been wanting to do for awhile (I have rather small ears, so the shorter bars I need are hard to find online or off). Once those come in, Nicole can custom color them for me, which will be great fun, and I can get some matching sets of bars/hoops/curved bars for my various gauged piercings.

While I waited for Andrew to get in, I ran over to the grocery store to buy some frozen cut green beans for the dogs (I use them as treats, and we were out). It amused me to just buy the one bag of frozen veggies with cash. Apparently people don’t do that often, because the cashier looked at me a little strange. She could have asked, and I would have solved the mystery for her, but she didn’t, so she’ll just have to wonder…

Then back to the tattoo shop (we’re talking maybe three blocks away here, so not a long trip) to chat with Andrew and schedule my next session for late April. A reward for getting my taxes done (not that we ever get any money back to spend – we break even most years). He seemed excited to continue working up on my sort of Victorian skull cameo/lace arm, and I’m really excited to see what he comes up with for the upper half. It’s odd to think that in a few months, I’ll have a full tattoo sleeve (two to three more sessions). It’s an odd thing, to look at a blank piece of skin and know that soon, it will bear a piece of permanent artwork and will never be truly “bare” again. I absolutely want it, but it’s still sort of an odd thing to really wrap your brain around.

After that, I headed home, had lunch with my husband and walked the dogs. And then while the dogs napped, I sat down with my laptop in our nice quiet house (construction down the street notwithstanding), and worked on a short story until it was time to feed the dogs and make dinner. I really enjoyed writing that story. I was in the zone, and it was flowing, and while it needs some clean-up work, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. You can read the draft version (under  one of my pseudonyms) on the BSB blog, if you’d like.

It was a really good day.

This is something like what I imagine retirement to be like. Wake up slow, maybe run some errands (or work on some household stuff), have lunch, get out and walk the dogs, and then sit and write for a few hours before dinner. Glorious!

When I was in high school, I always wanted to be in college, and I took a lot of time for granted. When I got to college, I just wanted to get out because I was working three, sometimes four jobs to pay my way through and taking several classes every semester. I barely slept, ate on the run, and could not *wait* to have a normal, 9-5 job where I could just go home in the evenings and crash.

Now I have my 9-6 job, I have my evenings for dinner, hobbies, working out and even a little writing, but I’m greedy. I want more time to be “mine” again. And that won’t happen until I’ve paid my dues and finally reach the golden age of retirement.

It’s good to have long-term goals, don’t you think?

Until then, I’ll try to have as many of these “really good days” as possible. I mean, I like my job, don’t get me wrong. But finally being able to set my own schedule is my “Eleanor” (or unicorn, if you prefer).

Hand in hand with that, I need to remember that while having a stockpile of vacation days is good, it’s kind of like collecting nice dishes and then only using them on special occasions. If you have something, you may as well use and enjoy it, rather than waiting for some special event or date.

More random vacation days, perhaps?

Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 7

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 7

Not Dillon.

Shelley expelled the breath she’d taken in all at once, and she wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. She pulled the door open with a smile on her face just as Diane was turning away.

“I am awake – and that was so nice of you! You really didn’t have to go to the trouble, though. I could join you in the living room for tea, if you’ll have some too.” Shelley reached for the tray that the older woman held, wondering how she’d managed to carry it so far without dropping it.

Diane shook her head, a slight grin on her face. “Oh no. I have a cup in my room and a book waiting for me as well. So I’ll say goodnight, and sweet dreams.” She patted Shelley on the arm, and then made her way back down the hall with her careful, deliberate gait.

Shelley carried the tray to her bed and went back to shut the door, marveling at how competent her hostess was, even at her age. She wondered just how old Diane was, and made a mental note to ask Dillon the next time they were alone.

It was too cool to stay on top the covers, so she carefully moved the tray over and crawled between the sheets. The tea was a yellow-green color and smelled like mint, and there were two little lemon-yellow cookies sitting on the saucer. She smiled and shook her head. She’d never in her life met a woman who would serve a stranger tea and cookies before bed, much less make sure there was a book available to read. She honestly hadn’t thought people like that actually existed outside of books.

Her smile faded as she realized what kind of a role model Dillon had grown up with. And what he probably expected a woman to be like. Not that they had any kind of relationship of course, but…she was not the cook dinner every night and bake cookies on the weekend kind of girl. She could cook a little, of course, but she was much better with take-out menus. And baking…well, she hadn’t done that since she was a little girl.

Shelley fingered the quilt that Diane had loaned her. Handmade, of course. Her own mother hadn’t been crafty at all, and while Shelley always admired quilts and afghans and sweaters and rugs that people made, she’d never found herself with enough down time to even consider taking up any sort of hobby.

Leaning back against the simple, rustic wood headboard, she sipped her tea and wondered what it would have been like growing up in this environment, with this lifestyle. So different than the childhood she’d had in the city. Would she have been a good cook? Someone who could be fulfilled running the town post office, raising kids and making quilts?

She couldn’t imagine giving up her fast-paced life for such a small-town existence. Though the quiet of this little place was appealing, she had to admit. A little unsettling, perhaps, but definitely appealing.

It was at that very moment that a train rumbled by on the tracks that ran just outside the town. Her cup rattled against the saucer and she separated them, waiting for the bed to stop shimmying before she put them both back on the tray.

So much for peace and quiet.

She picked up the book and read the back, smiling as she realized it was a “sweet” romance from another era entirely by an author named Grace Livingston Hill. It was on the thinner side, and she leaned back and turned to the first page. One chapter, and then she’d go to sleep.

Maybe two.

The next thing she knew, someone was knocking on her door again, and sunlight was streaming in through a crack in the curtains.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 8!

Like this post? Support your author (Amazon links):

Tempest | The Biker’s Wench (Fantasy Ranch Book 1) | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance

First Quarter Observations

Yes, this weekend I wrote & scheduled my first quarterly newsletter for BSB. I need to get my author newsletters going again too, but…babysteps. This year while I’ve been working to get back on track with the writing (with some success), I’ve also been working to get back on track with the business side of things. Stuff like updating the web site regularly, scheduling promotions, checking sales (my books actually sell better on iTunes than anywhere else – who knew? I do now!), keeping in touch with readers, posting writing samples on the site…and supposedly keeping my accounting up to date so I can get my taxes done (um…yeah. Babysteps, like I said.).

You know. Actually *running* the business, instead of just letting it limp along on its own until I need something from it. Novel (so to speak) idea, eh?

Time is an issue, as you’re aware, but the whole Friday late-night business hours thing is actually working really, really well. I kind of feel like Tim Ferriss (he’s the guy who wrote that 4-hour work week book, right?) would be proud. I start around 11pm, and work until around 3am, and that time is dedicated completely to taking care of business/BSB tasks. It’s not quite enough time, granted, because I still generally end up doing blog posts on Sunday night (just did that before hopping over here), and I don’t have a good workflow figured out yet, so I spend too much time deciding what to work on, instead of working. But that will come in time, and if I can eventually hook up with someone who’s marketing-graphics inclined, that will save me a bunch of time too (I currently make all of our marketing graphics – it’s very time-consuming). But…babysteps.

The cool thing is, stuff is getting done. Books are getting marketed (thanks to the marketing assistant working with me), updates are being done, things are moving forward.

And I’m writing regularly again too. Still need to work on priorities and time management, but Monday through Thursday nights, I am in my booth no later than 11pm, and working on a piece of fiction. I may get a few words in or a lot, but nearly always something. I will have at least one, and possibly two or three new books of my own to publish by the end of the year. That feels pretty darn good.

I’m also reading regularly again (at night, after I write and before sleep), and I’ve taken up archery (I did indeed buy a bow), and this past weekend we got a really good start at turning our backyard into a “lawn” again. It doesn’t sound like much, I know, but all of these things add up to good progress on the things that felt like they were just completely out of control and out of reach altogether just a few months ago (well, aside from the archery – that’s just a new hobby on a whim, but a good addition, methinks).

Things are good. Life is good. And I hope it will just keep the next curve ball to itself for a little while longer, because I’m really enjoying this little interlude from the conflict that tends to plague us all here and there.

Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 6

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 6

“You really don’t need to go to any trouble for me. I just appreciate you letting me stay.” Shelley followed her hostess down another narrow hall and took the quilt Diane handed her from a closet. It was thick and heavy, a patchwork of multi-colored squares sewn together and tied in the centers with yarn. How the woman even pulled it out of the closet would have been a mystery if Shelley hadn’t seen her take the roaster out of the oven earlier.

“My mother made that,” Diane said with a smile. She handed Dillon another quilt from the closet, and then motioned to a door on the right just a few steps past. “You can take that room, and Dillon will be right across the hall if you need anything. My room is just over there.” She pointed to a door they’d passed before reaching the closet. “Now, is there anything you want to get from your car? Dillon could fetch your bag, if you have one.”

Momentarily confused, Shelley blinked. Had she really forgotten that her car was still down the street at the gas station? It felt like a lifetime since she’d started walking through town, looking for signs of life. And a map. She’d been looking for a map. And now she had a human one. Standing right beside her, looking at her strangely, probably because she hadn’t answered Diane’s question yet.

“You really don’t have to,” she finally told Dillon. “I should bring my car over here anyway, so it’s ready to go in the morning. I can just walk down and get it.” She moved to go past him, but he stepped into her path, blocking the hall. He wasn’t that big, but he certainly had presence. She remembered how it had felt, that five seconds in his arms when he’d kept her from falling behind the bar…was it only twenty-four hours ago? Too soon to ask for a replay, she supposed.

“It’s really not a good idea for you to go out there in the dark. You could trip over something and get hurt, and that would make me look bad.” He leaned in, his cheek almost touching hers and his personal scent actually making her a bit light-headed. “Come on. Let me play hero for five minutes. The only person watching is my mom, and she loves it when I help a lady out. Makes her feel like she raised her son well.”

Considering how he affected her senses, Shelley could only think of two options at that exact moment. Choosing the safer one, she took a step back, pulled her keys out of her pocket and held them up between them for him to take.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to…uh…make you look bad,” she managed, the warmth of his fingers brushing hers as he took the keys sending yet another jolt of awareness skimming under her skin. Was he feeling this? Was she the only one apparently enthralled by this seemingly simple exchange?

He swallowed hard, and for a moment she thought he might pick the option she’d discarded and pull her in close for one of those amazing first kisses that really only happen in movies. Then he held his hand up and jingled her keys, looking just over Shelley’s shoulder.

At Diane, no doubt. For a few brief moments, Shelley had forgotten there was anyone else in the room. His mother! Thank goodness the hall was dim, so Diane couldn’t see the heat Shelley felt in her face.

“I’ll park your car out front. Which bag should I bring in and where is it?”

“Uh…the one right behind the driver’s seat, if you don’t mind. It’s…black. I think.” She frowned, looking away for a minute to regain focus because really…who could concentrate with this guy right in her field of vision? “Definitely black.”

He was grinning when she looked at him again. She looked at his mother, who also had a smile on her face.

“What? Did I say something weird?” Wouldn’t be the first time…

Diane patted her shoulder and stepped between them, pulling Shelley down the hall and out of the pheromone beam that emanated off Dillon. “Nothing at all, dear. Don’t you mind us. Let Dillon get your things and I’ll show you where the towels are so you can take a shower before bed if you’d like.”

Shelley made a point not to look back as she heard Dillon leave behind her. “Thank you – that sounds wonderful.”

Twenty minutes and a somewhat guilty conscience for the water usage later, she stood behind the bathroom door wrapped in a towel and wondering if it was safe to dash out and across the hall to her room. The thought of putting her clothes from the day back on was unappealing at best, but…what if Dillon saw her?

Because there’s no possible way he’s ever seen a woman in a towel before, right? Mentally rolling her eyes, she gathered up her clothes and made sure the towel was secure. She listened at the door for a few seconds, took a breath and opened it, then fast-walked across the hall to her temporary room. Once inside, she closed the door a tad bit harder than she should have.

Nothing happened. No one was in the hall, no one saw her, and she was alone in her room with the black bag she’d requested sitting on her bed next to the quilt Diane had loaned her.

It was kind of disappointing, really.

Opening her bag, she found the over-sized t-shirt she liked to sleep in, and pulled it on over her head. Setting the bag aside, she spread the quilt out over the bed, and drew back the covers just as there was a tentative knock at her door.

She froze, her heart beating a million times a minute. If that was him, and she opened the door, was there any hope of not throwing herself at him like a wanton of some sort? And since when had she become “that girl”, anyway? Good grief. Turning, she marched to the door and reached for the knob, taking a big breath and pasting a smile on her face.

“Shelley? Are you still awake dear? I brought you a book and a cup of tea.”

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 7!

Like this post? Support your author (Amazon links):

Tempest | The Biker’s Wench (Fantasy Ranch Book 1) | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance

Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 5

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 5

“Thank you, but I really can’t stay.” Shelley took a step toward the door. She wasn’t exactly sure why she shouldn’t stay, but it just didn’t feel right sharing a meal with this person she hardly knew. The mother of a guy she barely knew who’d invited her to his camp – which kind of made it even more…weird.

Then again, it also seemed impolite to decline. Small town people tended to get offended if you didn’t stay for supper. And she was hungry.

“Nonsense,” her would-be hostess said. “At least let me make you a sandwich for the trip. You’ve got a good drive ahead of you, and I can tell you from experience that the camp kitchen closes at six. I can also tell you that the guy who runs it is a scary fellow if he catches you raiding the food supplies after closing.”

“I take it you’ve had experience with that too.” Shelley laughed, moving back to the counter. “Maybe I will take you up on a plate. I’ve been eating junk food all day, and that roast smells divine. If you’re sure you’re up for company, that is. I don’t want to be a bother.” It didn’t seem polite to eat and run, especially given how difficult it clearly was for Mrs. Riley to get around. She checked her watch. Tabby and Mike should be at the camp by now – had probably been there for a few hours already. Hopefully everything was okay.

“I’m always up for company – we get so little way out here. Come around, dear – we’re not gonna eat standing up at the counter. And flip that closed sign on the door, will you? Then we’ll call the camp and make sure your friend is safe.”

Shelley flipped the sign over and locked the door, then went through the door at the end of the counter and followed her nose through a doorway near the back of the workroom, stepping into a warm, cozy living room with a galley kitchen at the far end where her hostess was opening the oven.

“Here Mrs. Riley. Let me help you with that. It looks heavy.” Dropping her purse on the couch, Shelley rushed over and grabbed a pair of potholders from a hook beside the stove.

The woman chuckled and shooed her off. “You can call me Diane. And I need to keep doing this for myself, or soon enough I won’t be able to. Gotta work these ol’ muscles to keep ‘em!”

Shelley smiled, trying not to worry too much as Diane lifted the roasting pot from the oven to the stove with little effort – no small feat with her back as hunched as it was.

“I see your point, but it’s okay to accept help sometimes. I’m Shelley, by the way. Shelley Franks.”

Diane closed the oven door and put the potholders aside. She wiped her hands on a towel and turned around with a smile.

“It’s nice to meet you, Shelley. Your parents were fans of the author, I take it?”

“Yes they were,” Shelley answered. “Not many people get the connection, but my mom loved reading Mary Shelley. And Frankenstein was my dad’s favorite. So when I was born, choosing a name was easy, or so my mom said.” She took the plate of steaming roast beef, vegetables and a baked potato gratefully. “Why did you make such a big meal for yourself? Isn’t that an awful lot of leftovers?”

“Of course!” Diane filled her own plate and joined Shelley at the good-sized table between the kitchen and living room. “That’s the whole point, dear. Some to share, some to save for another meal or three. If you’re going to go to the trouble of cooking when you live alone like I do, might as well make it worthwhile, I say.”

“Very smart. I should try that,” Shelley commented. “I’ve never liked to cook, so I do it as little as possible. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a home-cooked meal, so thank you.” She took a bite of roast and mashed potato, all too aware of Diane’s watchful gaze. Luckily it was good. Really, really good, and Shelley closed her eyes for a moment just to savor the flavor.

“Oh wow,” she said, opening her eyes to see a look of pleasure on her hostess’s face. “That is amazing! Where did you learn how to cook?”

Diane laughed. “Oh honey – when I was a girl, that was all we were allowed to do. Cook and clean and keep house. I learned from my mama and grandma just a few houses that-away.” She gestured in the direction of the gas station with one hand.

“Were you born here then? What was it like growing up in such a small town?” Shelley wasn’t sure why she was so fascinated with this woman’s life, but she was. Life out here in the foothills was so foreign to her. She’d driven through small towns before, but the thought that this woman had been living in this same small town all of her life was just…mind-boggling for some reason.

The bell on the front door rang, and Shelley jumped. “I know I locked that,” she said, just before a somewhat familiar voice called out from the front room.

“Mom! Did you see a short woman with long black hair come through town awhile back? Her cousin said she was coming out to the camp by herself and asked me…”

A man came through the living room and Shelley recognized him right away. His lips perked up in a grin when he saw her.

“…to find her. And I just did. I see you two have met.” He gave his mother a peck on the cheek and a squeeze around her shoulders before he got a plate and helped himself to dinner.

“Dillon!” Diane clasped her hand over her heart. “I’m so glad you’re here. We’d planned to call the camp and make sure Shelley’s cousin got there okay before she headed up there herself, but got a little sidetracked with dinner.”

“I guess we can assume the answer is yes,” Shelley said, returning his smile. His whole demeanor was different from what it had been at the bar – more relaxed and at ease. She wondered if it was his mom, or just the environment.

“I’m sorry they sent you to find me, though. I can’t be late, because I didn’t actually tell Tabitha what time I’d be there.”

Dillon shrugged, finishing the bite of food he’d been chewing. “They got to the camp pretty early today. Tabitha was just worried your car broke down or something. She wanted to call highway patrol, but I convinced her to let me drive down here and see if you’d made it this far, at least.”

Shelley rolled her eyes. “She can be rather dramatic at times. How’s she getting along with Mike?” Tabby wasn’t always the easiest person to deal with – she tended to be a steamroller and if you didn’t roll with her, you got rolled over.

Dillon picked up the handset of a phone hanging on the wall. It was one of the older landline styles, and there was even a rotary dial on the base.

“I think she’ll be fine once she knows you’re safe.” He dialed a number and waited. From across the table, Shelley could hear ringing on the other end of the line before a garbled male voice came on.

“Hey Mike,” Dillon said. “Yeah, she’s here. I found her with Mom, actually. Can you put—” Dillon yanked the phone away from his ear and winced. “You talk to her,” he said, passing the handset and its long cord across the table. “You might want ear plugs, though.”

Shelley grinned, holding the phone away from her ear as her cousin rambled on about how worried she’d been. Which they both knew wasn’t strictly true. She may have been somewhat concerned, sure. But Tabby was excellent at acting and she rarely missed an opportunity to make herself look good.

“Slow down, Tab. I’m fine, I just stopped to get my bearings and ended up running into Dillon’s mom. Totally random.”

“Everything happens for a reason, honey,” Dillon’s mom stage-whispered. Shelley smiled and nodded.

“Oh good. I was so worried,” Tabby said, her voice so low Shelley could barely hear. “When you didn’t show up, I thought maybe you weren’t coming…” A long, low rumble outside the post office provided the perfect ominous backdrop to her tone. Of course it would threaten to rain just when she was getting ready to leave.

“You worry too much,” Shelley said. “How’s the camp? Are you and Mike having fun?”

“Sort of.” Tabby sighed. “I mean, mostly. I’ve never actually talked to one guy for this long before. It’s weird. I might actually run out of things to say – and I never do that.”

“I really doubt you have to worry about that.” Shelley laughed as the thunder rolled again. It sounded closer. “Hey look – it’s thundering here, so I should let you go so we can get on the road, okay? But we can talk about it as soon as I—” Lightening cracked hard somewhere outside at the same time Shelley heard Tabby screech on the other end of the line. “Tabby? Tabitha – are you okay?”

Dillon took the phone from her and held it up to his ear. “Hello? Anyone there?” He hung it up and turned back to Shelley, his brow furrowed.

“I don’t like our odds of making it up that road tonight – especially if the camp lost power. That’s normally the second thing to go after the phones. Your friend will be fine with Mike tonight, but I think we should stay here in town. We can head up early tomorrow morning.”

Shelley nodded. “There’s no way to let Tabby know? She’ll be anxious enough with the storm – she hates them. But if I don’t show up, and she’s expecting us…”

“Mike will know I wouldn’t drive up in this. He’ll tell her not to look for us until morning.” He put a hand on Shelley’s shoulder and squeezed lightly, the warmth contagious. “She’ll be okay. Mike will take good care of her.”

“It’s settled then.” Diane got up from the table, a wide grin on her face. “I’ll get some heavier blankets out for you two. The spare rooms haven’t been heated in awhile, but that should keep you both warm until the registers catch up.”

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 6!

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Post-Concert Late Night Musings

This will be quickish, because as the title says, it’s a late, post-concert (Adelita’s Way) Sunday night (nearly 1am), and this is the last thing I’m doing while drinking a cup of tea before bed.

It’s been a kind of chaotic/abnormal weekend, and I’m going to pay for it first thing tomorrow when I have to drag a laundry basket up from the basement so my husband has socks to wear to work. I still have another load of laundry in the washer that I’ll transfer to the dryer after work tomorrow night, and I need to take the garbage out too. The consequences of not getting household chores done over the weekend. *sigh*

I spent a good chunk of Saturday writing for the weekly BSB prompt story, and my little fairy tale turned out very well, methinks. Naturally, there are other things I should have been doing with that time (like the load of laundry I’ll have to dry tomorrow night), but it was fun to just sit and write most of the day.

Sunday I was just lazy…so I have no excuse. And we went to the concert tonight, which was okay, but the sound really wasn’t good. They really need to turn the volume down in smaller venues like the one we were at – it was so loud you can hear everything…including the feedback and monitor buzzing and all that, and it’s just a total assault on the ears so you can’t actually hear anything in the chaos. I’m glad we didn’t pay much for those tickets.

We did find a spot in the back to sit down briefly, and while people watching, I made a few observations:

  •  I still don’t have any clue why people want sparkly things on their butts. Nor do I think that would be comfortable to sit on.
  • Louis Vuitton looks awkward at a rock concert.
  • Youngsters don’t seem to care how the music sounds, as long as they can drink and dance
  • I’m not 20 anymore, and neither is my husband. We did okay, but between my still-kinked neck (pinched nerve) and his gout flare-up, we were quite the pair.

Now, it’s time to get some sleep…largely due to that last observation. You know. Adults, work, etc. Mundane, but pays the bills so I can do fun things like buy my first archery bow on Tuesday.

I hope your weekend was far more exciting (and less painful) than mine!

Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 4

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….

Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 4

Two hours later, Shelley tapped the location for ‘Rattlesnake Falls Lodge and Resort’ into the GPS in her car and watched the suggested route show up on the screen. Tabby gave her crap for not just using her cell phone like everyone else, but she liked the GPS unit. It was simple, didn’t drain her cell batteries, and it had been the last Christmas gift her dad had given her before he died. He’d loved to take road trips, and often told her she should get out more, so using the GPS on the rare occasions she went out of town made her feel like he was traveling with her.

After she checked the route for potential problems and road construction, she drove to the nearest convenience store to fill up the gas tank and stock up with a couple bottles of juice drinks and some trail mix packets. Cranking up the tunes and settling her sunglasses on the bridge of her nose, she merged onto the highway and headed for the hills.

Four hours later, she pulled into the tiniest, grungiest gas station she’d ever seen, cursing her GPS, lack of cell service and Tabby too, for not at least driving with her so they could share the pain of being hopelessly lost in rural Montana. A big Closed sign mocked her from the front door of the shop when she walked up, and so did the rack of Montana highway maps that sat near the lonely front counter. Why they were closed at four in the afternoon was anyone’s guess.

At least the pumps accepted credit cards, or she’d be lost and stranded with an empty tank.

Several small run-down houses dotted the landscape around the station – a town of sorts, though there hadn’t been a sign on the road. Hoping that it wasn’t completely abandoned, Shelley finished filling the gas tank and went across the road to knock on a door she wasn’t sure would hold up to the abuse. Something scuttled around inside, but no one answered. She tried another door, and a third before she finally noticed a house two buildings down from the gas station with a flag in the yard and a small, wood-burned sign that said “U.S. Postal Service” hanging by the door. There was a light on in the window, and Shelley hurried over and pulled the door open, thankful it was still unlocked.

The front counter was flanked on either side by a wall of mailboxes, and on the ceiling beam above the counter there was another painted sign that read, “US Postal Service, Rattlesnake Falls, MT.” Maybe she wasn’t as lost as she’d thought.

An elderly, hunched-over woman leaning heavily on a thick branch carved into a cane came out of a room in the back and ever-so-slowly moved toward the counter. Her gray hair was pinned in a loose bun on top of her head, but not a single strand seemed out of place.

“I was just getting supper on – don’t usually see anyone this late in the day,” she said, her voice surprisingly strong given her physical state. “You the one who bought the old Burnstead place? I suppose you’ll be wanting a room for the night if you did. Place is infested with all sorts of vermin, I hear. Maybe a ghost or two, too. My son wanted to buy it, but I told him not to bother. He’s got enough going on without a project like that to deal with.” She cackled, and Shelley had a hard time keeping a straight face because the sound was so very ‘quintessential witch’.

“No, I’m just passing through,” Shelley said with a smile. “I was wondering if you could give me some directions. The gas station is closed, and I’m afraid I got lost looking for a camp – The Rattlesnake Falls Lodge and Resort. Dillon Riley is one of the owners – do you know him?” Everyone tended to know everyone in these small communities, so she figured there was at least a chance.

“Well of course I do – Dillon is the son I talked out of buying the Burnstead place. I don’t know why he put such a hoity-toity name on that camp of his, but he claims it gets the city folk out and spendin’ money.” The old woman leaned heavily on the counter and looked Shelley up and down. “I suppose you’re one o’them, though, so I shouldn’t be spoutin’ off. That’s what Dillon always says.”

Shelley chuckled. Her dark jeans and tangerine fitted t-shirt did look at little too polished for the boondocks.

“I am from the city – Billings, to be exact. But I like to think I’m not too hoity-toity. Can you tell me how to find your son’s camp? Like I said, I’m a little lost.”

The woman looked out the window and frowned. “It’ll be gettin’ dark soon – sure you want to go driving out there so late? It’s still a good jaunt down the road, most of it gravel and some steep. Might be safer to stay here in town for the night.”

Considering what most of the buildings here in town looked like, Shelley figured she’d be camping either way.

“I really do need to get there tonight, if possible. A friend of mine is waiting – she drove up earlier with Dillon’s partner. So if you could just point me in the right direction…”

Shaking her head and clicking her tongue, the woman – Mrs. Riley, Shelley supposed – got a piece of paper from under the counter and held up a pen with a shaky hand.

“Follow the road through town past here and out about five miles. There’s a turn to the right – it’s just a gravel road, but you’ll see a big sign for the camp pointing up that road. Take that, and it’s about twenty miles back. There’s another big sign at the entrance, which will be on your left. You won’t see ‘nuthin else out there – can’t see the buildings or anything until you get back a ways on the property. Just keep goin’ until you see lights.” She drew a rudimentary map with the instructions on the paper, and slid it across the counter to Shelley.

“There ain’t no cell service out there, so if you get stuck, you’ll have ta walk either in or out, whichever is closer. So I hope you have good shoes and a coat. Follow the road and make noise so the bears don’t bother you.”

“Bears. Right. Are there a lot of them around?” Once again, Shelley was reminded of how long it had been since she left the city. Even longer since she’d been out in the wild. She glanced at the paper before slipping it in her purse.

“A few. Some black bears and a few grizzlies, though they tend to be better behaved in these parts than some farther north.” The woman smiled. “Don’t you worry, dear. There’s plenty of food this year, so unless you get between a mama and her cubs, they’re not gonna bother you.”

Shelley returned the smile, though she suspected the woman was just trying to make her feel better.

“I’d better get going, I guess. Thank you for all your help – I really appreciate it. I’ll let you get back to your dinner now.” She tried to ignore the smell of cooked beef wafting from somewhere in the back, but her stomach growled, traitor that it was.

“You should stay for dinner, dear. I’ve got more than I need, as usual. Let me just fix you up a plate.”

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 5!

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Mental Flotsam

Lots of things going on in my head lately – I’m still dealing with the mental “fallout” of that whole midlife crisis thing I’ve recently
crawled out of. I’m still not ready to do a full-blown blog on that, but I will say that it’s been a real roller coaster, and as enlightening and…liberating, I guess, as it’s been, I hope I don’t have to go through another one anytime soon. I go through self-assessment periods every decade or so, where I’m just not happy with…”whatever” in my life and need to make some adjustments, but this…this was different. This was more of a total re-examination of all the major life decisions I’ve ever made (and some of the minor ones too), which causes some major cognitive dissonance that has to be worked through before one can move forward. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable and now that I’m on the tail-end looking back, I can totally see how some people end up hitting the “reset” button completely during this time in life (which a rather large percentage of us go through whether we want to or not). Weird, wild, and wacky stuff.

In any case, there are other things on my mind these days too, including:

  • Archery – I *loved* my first time on the range last week, and will have to post more about it later. Suffice it to say, I liked it well enough that I’m going back to the shooting range this week, and hopefully once a week after that as well. I’m planning on buying a bow kit and arrows, and taking a few lessons. It’s been awhile since I’ve been that drawn to something out of the house!
  • Love Triangles – I was surfing TV channels Sunday night, and got sucked into an episode of “Victoria” on PBS Masterpiece Theater. Ended up watching two episodes, and the relationships therein really got me to thinking about love triangles in fiction and real life, and how there always is one, whether we’re aware or not. It’s fascinating and uncomfortable, and I’d like to explore that phenomenon more.
  • My neck – which is kinked up again. Stupid thing. Or stupid drivers who rear-ended me twice in as many years. I never had problems with my neck before those…
  • BSB Advertising/marketing, and how effective it is/isn’t. Also, getting the documents together for that to do my taxes. Ugh.
  • The ring in my rook piercing, which I want changed out for a bar that will be so much less of a pain to deal with, because it won’t stick out at all like the ring does.
  • The drones in Warhawk, the James Rollins book I’m reading. Yikes!
  • New crochet/knitting patterns I want to try out, now that I’ve finished the dog sweater I was working on.

Never a dull moment, eh?

What’s on your mind lately? Care to share?