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Books, Business, & Valentino

It’s been a few weeks since I raised the prices on most of my books. And sales are…still not good. Or flat, more or less. I have sold a few at the higher prices, and thankfully, the profit from those is only a little lower than it would be from more sales at lower prices, so it’s not as bad as it could be. But it would be nicer if sales were a bit more like they were before.

I’ve done this before – raised prices, and generally about this time, I throw in the towel and lower them again, because I need to make some sort of money for the year just to justify the money I spend on web site hosting, cover art images, various marketing tools, etc (we’re not talking profit here, just general operating expenses, which I subsidize with personal funds). And then I tell myself that people will only pay what they’ll pay, and what we indies have “trained” them to pay, which is rock-bottom prices, and that there’s nothing I can do about it until I write more and better books.

This time, I’m going to stick it out. I have a few series that still need to be bundled, a host of books that need updated covers and blurbs, and a lack of sales seems like good motivation to get all that moving. And to keep working on the drafts I have going, of course. Because nothing sells old books like new books, really.

In other book news, I’m finally almost done reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (just have the epilogue left). I never know when I pick up a “literary” book whether I’m going to be engaged or get bored, because they do take more mental focus to read than my favored thriller/action-adventure novels, or a good romance romp. But this book…well, it’s engaging, poignant, and managed to hold my interest in a subject I normally actively avoid (World War II). It’s brilliantly written, though in saying so I feel like I’m selling it short. And it really brings the everyday struggle of society, even now, into pretty sharp focus.

If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend it.

On a completely different and frivolous note…oh man. I’m fairly certain I’ll never in my lifetime be able to justify paying for a true designer handbag, but I am completely smitten with the new Medium Valentino Rockstud Spike Chain Bag in Denim. It’s adorable, and fringy, and kinda rugged in a fun, casual-elegant sort-of-way, and if there truly was a Santa Claus, I’d ask him for one of these for Christmas. Or Independence Day (Christmas in July, anyone?).

A dual-color Valentino Candystud bag would be fun too. But the only thing less likely to find its way to my closet than a $2k designer handbag is two $2k designer handbags. Why are these things so expensive, anyways? *sigh* I know, I know. Made for the elite, to distinguish from the riff-raff. Or, just way, way overpriced. In either case, still on the list of “things I want but can’t have”. Dammit. I suppose that list is what keeps me from being too spoiled, eh?

On that note, I’m going to go finish The Book Thief before I sleep. Because nothing goes with designer bag envy so well as WWII atrocities. *eyeroll*

I often find my internal dichotomies kind of annoying. And yet, I don’t think there’s really any way around them. It’s just how the human mind works (so to speak).


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The Chair, Assigning Value, & Fear

The Thinking Chair

I’m a member of the local online rummage sale group on Facebook, which is a great way to get rid of unwanted stuff in a hurry, but it’s also a great way to find/buy stuff you never knew you needed (and really, you don’t). Like the old Red Robin booth I got for my writing desk. And the old fabric and wood rocking chair I bought this past weekend. I didn’t/don’t need it, had to rearrange a bit to make room for it, it doesn’t match the rest of our furniture or the decor, and according to hubby, I don’t look like I “fit” it when I sit in it. Apparently tattoos, a cap, and a superhero shirt clash with beautifully carved thick wood and faded tapestry fabric. Who knew?

Whatever. My personal style may not match the chair, and the chair may not match the rest of the house (though it does blend well with the tapestry and wood dining room chair that it’s close to, and the antique sewing machine behind it that I still haven’t put back together), but I love it. I love just looking at it – it’s calming and reminiscent of past lives and lifestyles that I sometimes wish we could incorporate into today’s world, even if just in a small way. It’s not the kind of chair you’d spend hours in…it’s comfortable, but not plush. But it’s the kind of chair you could sit in when you need to noodle something out, or deal with something that’s been on your mind, maybe with a crochet hook or knitting needles in hand.

I have a wingback recliner in the office that I use as a reading/writing chair. I think I’ll dub this new rocking chair the “thinking chair”.

The Reading Chair

And perhaps look for a small, tapestry-covered footstool to go in front of it since I can rarely reach the ground to rock when I’m in a rocking chair (relatively short legs, I guess).

I’ve been thinking a lot about value lately, and how we assign value to things – including how much we’re willing to pay for something. A week ago, I was raising the price of my alter-ego’s new book to “normal retail” online, and I decided to raise the prices on all of my other books too. Previously, I’d priced books by what I thought they’d sell for – the value I expected others would put on them. I determined that almost exclusively by page count/length, and genre. I was trying to get them to sell based on price alone, and sales generally trickle at those prices for me.

Here’s the thing. It takes a lot of time for me to get a book written – even a short one, and even more time to edit, check the formatting, write the blurbs and create the covers. It takes money to get the formatting done (I’ll probably go back to formatting the digital versions myself…more time!), and money to buy cover art images. And even pricing for the lowest-spending reader, I still get only a handful (sometimes not even that many) of sales in a month.

Does this mean I’m not a stellar writer? Possibly (I’m certainly not a “bad” one, considering some of the incredibly/inexplicably popular messses out there for sale). Does it mean I’m not good at marketing? Absolutely. Does it mean that my admittedly possibly mediocre books should be priced at bargain basement?

No. No it does not. $3 is nothing for a story, even a short one. Some people spend more than that on coffee in the morning or lunch during the work day. I spent just shy of that on a cup of tea at the bookstore last night. $3 for all the hours and work I put into that story is a pittance. And if people won’t pay that for one of my short stories (and $4-5 for a longer novel), then I’m really not doing a very good job with either writing or promoting them, and don’t deserve the sale.

With that in mind, I raised all my prices. And sales went flat. And that’s okay. It is what it is, but I’m done with bargain-basement pricing. I’m assigning more value to my work, and my time, and readers can decide whether it’s worth that to them or not, but at least I feel like I’ve shown some confidence in my abilities, and that I’m not undervaluing what I do (or try to do, anyways).

I am going to be going through and redoing cover art and blurbs on some older books, to bring them up to date. And I’ll be working on some promotional things as well, just to draw attention to them and let people know what I have available. I have one book I’ll be going back through and re-editing too, but that won’t be a normal thing. most of my books are already well-edited, this particular one sort of slipped through the cracks and it won’t take me long to fix the minor nits within.

So, I’m assigning more value to my work, and whether it deserves that valuation or not will depend on each individual reader. And my mission/goal is to make sure that what I put out is worthy, in my own eyes, of the value I assign to it. Fair enough, I think.

As far as that whole promotion thing goes, I need to be more “forward” (aggressive?) about letting people know that I write. I don’t know why it’s such a difficult thing, but somehow, it seems stranger and uncomfortable to talk about being a writer (and even openly acknowledge it) locally than it does to say I’m a database administrator for the county. Probably because I make a good wage as a DBA, and there are measurable activities that tell me I’m fairly decent at my day job. But because I make very little money as a writer, and that’s really the only measurement I have for that particular “job”, it’s harder to acknowledge/admit to. I feel like people will think I’m a fraud, or a “wannabe” writer (even though I’ve published around 40 books now…it’s only the ones people have heard of that matter).

And we all get annoyed by those people who claim to be writers and never write or publish anything, don’t we? Even though I have written and published quite a few books, a lot are under pen names, and none are popular, so I feel like I come off like the wannabe, even though I do actually write and publish (okay, so I took a couple years off, but I just published two stories this year, and I’m working on a couple more). Gotta love “imposter syndrome”, eh?

In any case, I went to the annual shareholders meeting for our local bookstore co-op last night, and beforehand hubby was looking at the site and asking why my name wasn’t on the author/shareholder page. My answer was that I guess they overlooked me, or that I haven’t really pursued getting my books in the store yet (I don’t currently have any that meet their “criteria”), but really, it’s probably just because I haven’t emailed them and said, “Hey, I’m an author/shareholder – would you add me to the list, please?” Because it’s probably just that easy. And I’m just…not that forward. But there’s no reason not to be.

Aside from fear.

Fear is why I priced my books so low to begin with – I was afraid no one would see the value in them and pay a higher price. Fear is why I don’t talk about being a writer with people I know personally – because I’m afraid of all the negative connotations that might bring, and also the “oh, I’ll read your book” or “I’m reading your book this weekend” statements that never result in feedback.

Incidentally, if you’re going to read my book(s), be kind. Don’t tell me you’re going to. Just do, and then if you liked it, tell me (or just leave a review wherever you got it). If you didn’t like it, we’ll both be happier (and things will be less awkward) if I don’t even know you read it.

But seriously. I’m more afraid of what people will think if they know I’m an author than what they think when they see my tattoos. Even I know that’s seriously messed up and backwards. Especially when I’ve devoted an entire arm to tough, resilient animal tattoos reminding me to be bold and strong and fearless. I really need to work on taking my own advice.

And yes, I got the bookstore manager’s card, and will follow up with that whole “will you add me to the author page, please?” thing. And getting my books into the store.

Do you have a “thinking” chair? What are you afraid of? Post a comment – as Red Green says, “We’re all in this together!”


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Housework, NaNo Update & Other Stuff

*yawn*

It’s Sunday night as I write this, and I am *tired*. I planned to put away Halloween yesterday, and just…didn’t. I mostly sat around and thought about doing stuff, with the exception of going grocery shopping and then out to dinner and a movie with my husband (Thor: Ragnorok – very fun, can’t wait for the next one!).

In any case, that meant today was the day to do “all the things”, including all my housework (which I was already behind on from last weekend) and putting as much Halloween away as I could, given the snow outside. But with the extra hour (I do love fall-back-to-standard-time), I got up earlier and subsequently finished earlier, which is nice because I’ll be able to get to bed on time (which almost never happens on Sunday nights).

Yes, I should have been writing. All weekend. My NaNo word count so far is a measly 1700 words…which is about what I should have for one entire day. But my house was a wreck from all the festivities last week, and there was no way I could focus without doing something about that.

Why is my word count so low, you ask? Well, I got a decent start on Wednesday, but not fast enough. Thursday I thought I was doing well, but I ended up starting my writing session late, and I’m just not willing to give up sleep this time around. So I went to bed. And Friday was a horrible Tuesday-clone all the way around, so I honestly just didn’t feel much like writing. Or anything else, for that matter.

I want to write this story…badly. And when I am working on it, it’s flowing really well – better than any other story I’ve written so far. I think it’s due to the fact that I know so much of the backstory. It really makes everything, including the character motivations, more clear in my head. I think this coming week the word count will go better, or I hope it will, anyways.

But this time, I’m not willing to give up sleep, or health, or my normal priorities just to make a specific daily/monthly word count happen. I’ve done it before, and while I could do that again, it’s just not worth it to me. I do have this coming Friday off work though (in observance of Veteran’s Day), which means I’ll be able to work on the story on and off all day (bliss!). And since I got most of the Halloween stuff put away today, I should be able to grab a few longer writing sessions next Saturday and Sunday as well.

So, way too early to give up on NaNo. Plenty of time and opportunities to raise the word count without compromising my health-related priorites.

Of course, there are some other things I’d like to do this month, like cleaning up that old sewing machine and getting it running, and starting some knit and crocheted Christmas gifts. Maybe this week will be the week I get my schedule together and figure out how to work on those at the same time I’m working on the NaNo novel. Wouldn’t that be cool?!

I live in hope.

Now, since I have everything all wrapped up early for once, and I have an hour until bedtime…maybe I can make that word count a little more respectable before I sleep. To everyone else out there “writing the good write”…many words to you!

 

Old Stuff, Basketballs & Book-Moving Report

Last week was kind of crazy, and this past weekend even moreso. My tattoo touch-up on Thursday initiated a thrift store stop that I normally wouldn’t have made and a dog-walk at a non-normal time, both of which ended up with odd outcomes. Funny how small decisions can make such a big impact, isn’t it?

At the thrift shop, I bought some clothes to rough-up for the skeleton bride in our 13th Anniversary Halloween display (which is why I stopped in, so mission accomplished). I also bought a few pieces of clothing for myself, and then looked around the shop as one does. One thing I saw was an older sewing machine – like, much older. I was curious at the time, but I don’t sew, and couldn’t really get to the cabinet for a good view, and figured I didn’t have room for something like that anyway. So I left.

Later that afternoon, I took the dogs for an early walk (since I was home early), and we walked by a couple sitting out on the curb enjoying the fall day. They had a leather basketball with them (one belonging to one of their kids, playing nearby), and Murphy decided to start playing with it. I warned them that he’d ruin it, but they kept rolling it back to him, because they found his antics most entertaining. They couldn’t believe it when he punctured the outside leather and was able to pick it up and carry it…

We chatted for a bit, and since the ball was all slobbery by that time, they told me he should just take it home. I really didn’t have a good way to carry it, but Murphy would not leave it at that point, so I tucked it under my recently tattooed arm, and prayed we didn’t run into any loose dogs on the way back, since I couldn’t easily control both leashes with one hand (we didn’t, thank goodness).

So, Murphy got himself a basketball simply by amusing a couple while we were out walking. Silly dog.

That night, I thought about that sewing machine I’d seen earlier. I have sort of a “thing” with manual machinery…I am fascinated by it. I love that it requires no electricity to work, and that ultimately, one can figure out how it works and repair it to keep running indefinitely given enough time. Understand, I love electricity and how much it enriches our lives, but there’s just something about a hand/foot driven machine that is incredibly cool and inspiring to me.

In any case, while searching images for a machine like the one I’d seen in the thrift shop, I fell down the internet rabbit hole of vintage sewing machines – treadle machines, to be specific. And while I couldn’t remember the one I’d seen having a hand wheel of any sort, I became completely entranced with the history of sewing machines and treadle machine restoration and use. I read and watched videos and learned everything I could in a small amount of time about them.

I mentioned to my husband the next night that I’d become fascinated with them, and not half an hour later, he showed me an ad on Craigslist for an old treadle sewing machine that someone locally was selling. Taking that as implied approval of the purchase, I emailed the lady to see if it was still available, and then proceeded to look up that particular sewing machine and read everything I could find about it, including a scan of the original instruction manual.

This is probably as good a place as any to mention that while he was looking through the antiques section on Craigslist, he also found and pointed out to me an old LC typewriter that was available for sale. I love antique typewriters, and emailed that guy to see if it was available too.

After that, my husband quit telling me about cool stuff on Craigslist. 🙂

In any case, long story shorter, that treadle sewing machine (a “Free No 5” model) is now in my living room waiting to be restored with some sewing machine oil and elbow grease, and yes, it does work. The typewriter is also in my living room (the counterpart to my old portable Royal typewriter) where I can stare lovingly at it every day (it works too, but the spacebar is cracked/needs replacing, and it could use a new ribbon).

Then there are new bookshelves, too. Saturday morning, I started cleaning off the bookshelves in my office and piled all the books in stacks on my living room floor. All except my antique/vintage books, which went on the dining room table, and my stamp collection, which got piled in my writing chair.

Sunday I took the bookcases out of the office and put them in the driveway, and hubby installed the new bookcases he built in the office. They are big and bold and amazing…I love them so much. They still need trim, which will happen next weekend, and also drawers for the bottom cabinets, which will happen as he has time. But I put most of the books back Sunday night, and just need to move the antiques/vintage volumes back sometime this week. No, I didn’t inventory anything. No time! Will that project ever get done? Maybe, maybe not. Not in the near future, for sure.

So…crazy busy four days or so, but filled with so much groovy-ness that I don’t even mind being way behind on pretty much everything. I’ll catch up next weekend. And then start on the Halloween decorations…

Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 34 (Final)

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. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 34 (Final)

The next morning Shelley woke to someone pounding on her front door. She groaned and just barely refrained from telling whoever it was to go away in rather colorful terms. She’d been up long past midnight shuttling her things in from the car and digging out necessities like blankets and the tea kettle, counting on the fact that she could set her own schedule now.

Or so she’d thought.

She sat up and shoved her feet into slippers, thankful she’d collapsed in her sweats and t-shirt so she didn’t have to try to find her robe. Whoever it was knocked again, and she stood up, yawned, and made her way to the front door, only stubbing her toe once on a box.

Pulling it open a crack, she peered out, squinting at the bright daylight. It took a few seconds to register the face peering back at her.

“Dillon?”

He smiled and held up both hands – a keyring with two keys on it in one, and a brown paper bag in the other. “I have gifts. Can I come in?”

Stepping back, she opened the door wide and wished like hell she’d taken a peek in the mirror. Or at least pulled her hair back. It was probably everywhere, and the thought of how she must look made her blush.

“Of course…please. I don’t have much furniture yet, but there’s a bench in the kitchen.”

She closed the door and followed as he zig-zagged through the boxes and piles until he found both the kitchen and the built-in breakfast nook. Sliding in on one side of the bench, he put the bag and keys on the table, then unzipped his jacket and pulled out two bottles of plain iced tea and set them out as well.

“Wow.” Shelley sat down on the bench opposite him. “Those are some big pockets to hold iced tea bottles. Thank you. I found the kettle last night, but haven’t unpacked the tea just yet.”

“I figured.” He opened the bag and pulled out two napkins, placing one in front of each of them, and then brought out two of the most delicious looking Danishes Shelley had ever seen. “Mom told me you stopped by yesterday, and said you’d bought this place. Said your car was full, but that you were alone. I thought I’d drop by and see if you needed help. And also give you these.” He pushed the keys toward her. “She told me what she said to you. I’m sorry. She shouldn’t have treated you like that, and I told her so. Those are for your new PO box. You can just leave the rent in the box, next time you go into town.”

“It’s okay – I understand.” Shelley took a bite of her Danish – possibly the best she’d ever tasted. “Dillon, I’m sorry–”

He shook his head, held up one hand while he finished his own bite. “No apologies necessary. Like I told Mom, you had a lot happen to you, and so did I, and you needed space to deal with that. It’s okay. I was angry at first, but I get it. I needed some space to work things out myself.”

“So you’re not mad?” Shelley didn’t know whether to believe him or not. He seemed fine, but it wasn’t a small thing she’d done. “I want to make things right between us. I…” She wasn’t sure how to say what she felt. “I mean, if you’re still–”

He reached across the table and took her hand. “I am. And I’m glad you are. But you didn’t have to move all the way out here – we could have figured something out if you wanted to stay in the city.” There was a teasing note in his voice, and she smiled, relieved on so many levels that she suddenly felt lighter than she had in weeks.

“I needed a change – a big one. I really didn’t like my old job, and I’m excited about freelancing and setting my own schedule. I was tired of all the people and bustle, and I’ve been wanting something quieter for awhile now. Tabitha moved back in with her mother for the time being, so she can finish her therapy, so she wasn’t coming back, and I figured this place would be as good as any to start a new life, so to speak.”

Dillon nodded, still holding her hand. “How is Tabitha? I take it she’s talking to you again?”

Shelley shrugged. “Sort of. She texts. Every week it gets a little longer, but she’s still cool. Maybe eventually we’ll be able to be friends again. She’s got a lot to deal with right now, and Jane still in her ear. But that seems to have less influence than it did at first, so there’s hope.”

“Good.” Dillon released her hand to pick up his danish, and Shelley missed his touch immediately. “Hope is good. You don’t deserve what Jane did to you. I hope Tabitha comes around eventually.” He finished off his danish and looked around, his gaze settling on a stack of boxes nearby. “So, what can I do to help?”

Shelley stood up and held a hand out to him, her heart pounding in her chest. “I can think of a few things,” she said as he took her hand and stood too. “But one thing first, if you don’t mind.”

He grinned as she moved closer and slid her hands up to circle his neck. Pulling her close, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead, her nose, her lips.

“I don’t mind at all,” he murmured before he claimed her lips again.

The End


Thanks for reading along with the first draft of this story! I’ve got quite a few revisions I want to make, so it’ll be different by the time it comes out, but I’ve enjoyed the journey of discovering this story, and I’m glad you came along for the ride. 

Stay tuned…starting next week, I’ll be serializing one of my earlier novels. Anyone want to revisit the campy fun and romance of Fantasy Ranch? I hope you’ll join me! 

Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 32

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. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 32

Dillon held her there on the sidewalk until she started to pull away. He reached up and gently wiped the tears from her cheeks.
“Ready to go upstairs?” At her nod, they went into the building and up to her apartment. She held out her keys, and he unlocked the door, ushering her inside.

“I’m sorry,” she said, kicking off her shoes and hanging up the scarf that she’d wrapped around her neck. “It’s just…everything feels like it’s changed, and I don’t know what to do about that. I’ve tried calling Tabby a million times, and she won’t pick up. Do I keep the apartment? Move? What do I do with her stuff? I just don’t know.”

He nodded, not really sure what to say, but wanting to ease her mind. “You might want to just give it some time. It’s only been a few days, and she’s been through a lot. We all have. It’s okay to just rest now. See how things look next week, or even the week after.”

“I know. It’s all just so overwhelming. And then the world just goes on like nothing happened. I was at work this afternoon, and no one knew what happened to me this past week, and I didn’t want to tell anyone because why would they care? But it was surreal, being there, and doing stuff and trying to talk to people like everything still makes sense. Because it doesn’t.” She hesitated for a moment, then walked past Dillon to the kitchen area. Filled the electric kettle and turned it on to boil. Got a mug out of the cupboard.
“Would you like some tea? Or you can have some of Tabby’s coffee, but I don’t have any idea how to work the coffee maker, so you’ll have to make it.”

Dillon smiled. “Tea is fine, as long as it’s strong and black.” He leaned against the counter, watching her get another mug and two teabags. “Can you take a few more days off? So you have a chance to ease back into things?”

Shelley shrugged. “Maybe. I have the time, but they said they need me. I don’t know though…it might help to just jump back in. Get back to some sort of normal routine. Do something besides sit here and think about everything.” She gave him a sidelong glance as she poured water over the teabags. “When are you going back to the ranch?”

He shrugged. “I should probably head up there tomorrow. We have a big group coming in from out of state, and with Mike gone…” he swallowed hard at the thought of his buddy not being there. Blinked several times.

“I’m sorry.” Shelley left the mugs and came to him, putting her arms around him. “I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine, I mean…”

He hugged her tight, appreciating the sympathy but not wanting to add to her pain. “It’s okay. I’ll be okay, it’s just going to take some time.” He pulled back. Kissed her softly, and then took a full step back.

“I think I’m going to drive back and spend the night at Mom’s tonight, and then I’ll head out for the ranch tomorrow morning. Are you…will you be okay here, by yourself, I mean? I can come back in a few days, see how you’re doing…”

Shelley nodded, then shook her head, and then gave a half-hearted laugh. “I’ll be okay, Dillon – thanks. You don’t need to make a special trip, really. We can just get together the next time you’re in town, and talk then.”

There was something in her voice that worried Dillon – a non-committal tone he didn’t like. The evening was wearing on though, they were both tired, both heartbroken, both trying to figure out how to move on. Maybe this wasn’t the best time for the kind of talk they needed to have about their future together.

So he nodded. Smiled. Kissed her on the cheek, and then on the lips.

Felt like he was making a huge mistake as he walked out the door into the night.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 33!

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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 31

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. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 31

Twenty-four long hours later, Shelley walked into her apartment and bolted the door behind her. Tossing her keys on the table beside the door, she kicked off her shoes, went to the couch and collapsed into the soft cushions.

It all seemed so surreal now – like she’d laid down for a nap and dreamed the whole crazy week, and now she was just waking up and waiting for the nightmare to fade. She glanced around the living room, saw bits and pieces of Tabby’s life strewn about, and almost thought maybe she’d just walk through the door any second, plop down on the couch beside her and hand her a cup of that too-expensive coffee-shop tea she brought home when she’d gotten herself a tall latte.

They’d talk about Shelley’s crazy dream, about meeting some hot guy speed-dating and how Tabby ran off up a mountain with another guy and ended up with her leg cut off and how Aunt Jane disowned Shelley and that hot guy’s ex was really a stalker who he’d ended up shooting in the end…

And then they’d laugh, and Tabby would punch her arm and tell her that she’d just this morning set up a speed-dating event for a local bar next week, and would Shelley please, please come with her because it would be so much fun and maybe Shelley would meet that hot guy after all?

Groaning, Shelley laid down on the couch. Her ribs still hurt, but now that she was sitting and alone, everything else was starting to hurt too. As much as she might want to, she couldn’t deny that everything she remembered had actually happened, and now she was alone, her body beaten up and her spirit not in much better shape.

Nothing would ever be the same again, and she was tired. So tired.

She’d just about drifted off to sleep when her phone rang. Jerking upright and then wincing from the pain, Shelley grabbed her cell off the coffee table and answered.

“Shelley – thank God! I wasn’t sure when you were getting back, but we could sure use you around here, if you’re up to coming back a day early.”

She sighed. “I guess I could do that.” She looked at the clock, tick-tocking at her from across the room. Life goes on. “Give me an hour – I need to clean up first.”

Disconnecting, she rubbed her face with her hands and forced herself to her feet. The warmth of the shower felt good sluicing over her body, and she lingered longer than she should have, but what the hell. She’d get there when she got there, and they’d be grateful. She was still technically on vacation, after all.

She did her hair and makeup and got dressed, all the while feeling like something wasn’t right. It was all just so…shallow. So mundane.

So lifeless.

Her phone rang – the ride service she’d ordered was waiting. She’d have to call the insurance company too, see what she could do about a new car. Tomorrow.

Four hours later, she was back in front of her apartment building, staring at the front door as if it was her arch-nemesis. She didn’t want to go in. Didn’t want to be reminded of everything she’d lost.

The door opened and Dillon came down the stairs toward her, slowly.

“I was hoping you’d be back soon,” he said, his lips quirking up in a small smile. “I was worried when you weren’t here, actually. Are you okay?”

She stared at him for a moment, and then shook her head, the tears starting to fall.

“No. I’m sorry. I’m trying, but I’m really…not.”

He nodded, took another couple steps forward and pulled her into his arms. She laid her head on his shoulder and let the tears fall.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 32!

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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 30

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. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 30

It took every ounce of discipline Shelley had not to run to Dillon’s cabin after those shots. She forced herself to wait, pacing anxiously in front of the main building until the sheriff pulled up and parked his cruiser.

“Thank God,” she mumbled, rushing to meet him as he opened the door. “I just heard shots from the cabin – Dillon went up there to confront his ex about ten minutes ago! Maybe fifteen!”

The sheriff nodded, reaching back instinctively to lay a hand on his holster. “I’ll go check it out, but I need you to stay put, okay? Don’t go up there. It’s not safe. Just wait.”

“I…” She wanted to argue, but he was right. “I’ll stay here.” There was no time to argue. Dillon could be laying up there bleeding to death for all she knew. But one way or another, he needed help and the sheriff needed to get there now. “Do you know the way?”
He nodded and then he was gone, jogging up through the trees. Shelley paced for another two minutes before she finally gave in and followed.

Careful to stay back in the brush, Shelley approached the cabin cautiously. The Sheriff knelt beside the stalker’s body, his fingers wrapped around her wrist.

But where was Dillon? Staying hidden, Shelley peered all around the clearing, but didn’t see him. Was he hurt? Had he run off for some reason?

The cabin door opened, and she let out the breath she’d been holding as he stepped onto the front porch. He was wrapping a bandage around his forearm, but he was on his feet and not dead and she ran out from the cover of the trees, her only thought to get to him.

Then she stopped short and raised her hands when the sheriff whipped around, his gun aimed square at her chest.

“You have no idea how close you were to getting shot, young lady.” He shook his head and lowered the weapon. “I thought I told you to stay back at the main office.”

Shelley lowered her hands and shrugged. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted…” she glanced at the woman on the ground, and then at Dillon before focusing on the sheriff again. “I needed to know Dillon was okay.”

The man in question had come down from the porch and was headed her way. She went to meet him, looking pointedly at his poorly-wrapped arm. “What happened? Did she shoot you? Are you okay?”

He chuckled. “I’m okay. She grazed me a little – nothing too bad. But I could use a little help getting it wrapped up, if you don’t mind.”

“I can do that.” She reached for his arm, but he turned so it was just out of reach. Looking up, she saw mischief in his eyes, and raised an eyebrow of her own.

“First, this,” he said. Pulling her close with his uninjured arm, he bent to meet her lips with his and she leaned in gladly, holding him close, celebrating that he was alive.

The sheriff cleared his throat behind them, and she pulled back as far as Dillon would let her, her face warm and probably beet red. Dillon grinned at her before he looked at the sheriff.

“I’ve got an ambulance on the way to pick up the body. I’m not a forensics expert and they’ll have to do an autopsy, but I’m not sure how she died considering your shot hit her so high up on the shoulder. I don’t suppose anyone else at all saw this go down, that you know of?”

Dillon shook his head, his expression serious. “No, but I do have a security camera recording from the porch. I’m not sure of the angle, but that might have caught something usable.”

The sheriff nodded. “That would really help a lot. If you tell me where the files are stored, I’ll retrieve them. You’re going to want to call your lawyer. And you’ll both need to come in to the station so we can get a statement on record.”

Dillon nodded. “Anything you need, Sheriff. I really didn’t mean to kill her. I just didn’t want her killing me.”


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 31!

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Exercise, Focus, & House Names

I tend to think of my brain as the “command center” for my body – I think we all do, at least to some extent. And in a lot of ways, it is. But as with so many things in life, it’s more of a symbiotic relationship than I generally like to admit. If something’s wrong with the body, or the body as a whole isn’t getting what it needs, then the “command center” won’t function properly. The only way to ensure optimal “processing power” between the ears is to make sure everything below the neck is in good functioning order as well.

The command center only works as well as the body allows it to. Which is why I should not be surprised (but somehow always am), when taking better care of my body results in more focus and disciplined decisions coming out of my brain.

I started last week like always, trying desperately to find my way back to more disciplined, focused writing sessions morning and night. And failing to really focus well, though I did get some writing in. Then cooler weather hit mid-week…cool enough that I could walk the dogs a decent distance in the evening, and it was like a switch flipped in my head – when I sat down in front of the laptop later that night, it was much easier to just ignore the browser and email client, open my writing program and start typing.

Incidentally, I also work out in the mornings right before I do my half-hour writing stint, and just after a workout, I’m alert and focused, and find it much easier to resist the temptation to scroll.

We got a walk in the next night as well, and once again, opened the writing app right away and got to work, no fuss. This week, I’m going to start doing a small set of squats and/or crunches mid-way through my late night writing time, and see if that helps boost the focus even further.

I’ll admit, I did cut out my crochet time in favor of “screen time” as well (cell and TV), so I didn’t feel so much like I was “missing out”, which undoubtedly contributed (crochet will just have to be a weekend activity). And I also made sure to get my kitchen chores done early so I could have a full hour late at night. But I’ve done both of those before and still had a hard time focusing on writing rather than just surfing…the activity was the only real difference last week.

I’m still not losing the weight I need to lose, and neither is hubby, so we may shift back towards a low carb diet and replace white breads for wheat/whole grain for at least a little while and see if we can’t break the plateaus we’re on. That will be a gradual change over the next few weeks. I’m betting it will help even more with the focus and discipline issues. I’ve always done far better on a very low to no-carb diet, which sucks, because it’s kind of boring, but if it’s what my body needs, then so be it. There will be more probiotics in my immediate future too. A daily dose of yogurt isn’t something I really notice eating, but my whole body notices when I stop for even just a few days. Details, details.

Because while I do worry about my body, my genes, and triggering latent cancer cells, I also really want my brain to work as well as possible for as long as possible. And the health of the brain is largely determined by the health of the rest of the body, inconvenient as that is.

In other, writing-related news, I was alert enough last week that I actually caught up on several other blogs as well, so if you’re so inclined, go check them out (links below). My “theme” for the week was named houses in fiction, inspired by this article I read early last week: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/29/pemberley-manderley-howards-end-real-building-fictional-houses

I’m working on changing my own perspective to see settings in fiction as “characters” rather than just window-dressing for the characters, and starting with something very solid and normally tangible made sense to me. And the more I thought about it, the more of an “a-ha!” moment it became, and it feels like something has finally clicked into place that I can actually use in my writing. A very good feeling indeed.

You can check out the other blogs for more in-depth info (and an example) at these links:

Alex Westhaven (one of my alter-egos – you’ll recognize the name of the town where this fictional manor sits)
The Writer’s Desk (my writing blog)
Snake Bites (the BSB blog)

Yes, three. So I get a little excited when I figure something out. Also, themes make writing all those posts easier. I may just do that every week, at least when I can… 😉

The Pensive Season

I don’t know what it is about summer, but warm, sunny weather always makes me pensive. I mean, I’m an over-thinker on a good day, but summer is when “what if” becomes almost a daily mantra. What if I choose this over that? What if I’d made a different choice 20 yrs ago? What would I do if this life-changing event happened tomorrow? Would my life turn out the same no matter what decisions I make, or do I actually have some control over fate/destiny/whatever you call it?

Yes, I know. Exhausting and in the end, pretty much pointless, but that’s how my brain works, and in the summer, it just seems to be worse. Not much I can do aside from indulging it for a little while, and then forcing myself into a different, more productive headspace.

I’ve always been a dreamer of sorts, which is kind of at odds with my otherwise very practical, logical nature. I remember very clearly laying on my waterbed in the basement as a teen, steno notebook and pen in hand, scribbling/lamenting about whatever guy I happened to be obsessing over at the time (bad habit of mine). I’d lay back, close my eyes, and lose track of time day-dreaming about different scenarios involving said guys and wishing I could just stay in that fantasy world forever.

Writing, of course, is a physical (digital?) manifestation of that sort of day-dreaming habit…when I write, I’m basically day-dreaming on paper, just not about myself anymore. Well, not always, anyway. 😉

And of course when I get in these ultra-pensive moods, I tend to slip back into “day-dream” mode more easily, and it makes me want to write more. Which is frustrating because I only have so much time to spend on that right now. Ideas/day-dreams keep piling up, waiting for me to exorcise them from my head by getting them down in book form.

The co-worker who backs me up when I’m out (and I do the same for him) is in and out of the office for the next month and a half. But after that, I do believe I’ll schedule a week off just for writing. Get some of these ideas out of my head and at least started on paper. Perhaps that will ease the pensiveness a bit.

Even if it doesn’t, it will be fun!