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On Reading, Time, & Creativity

It’s been a long, very busy couple of weeks, and things are just starting to get back to normal (though I hesitate to say that, because you know what happens next…). Hence the no blogging thing. I don’t really know how to describe it, and I haven’t really been in a “funk”, so to speak, just…treading water and trying to get my routines back to where they should be. Only every time I think it’s gonna happen, something else happens, and I get waylaid, and then my routines get all screwy and I don’t get anything done at all.

It’s annoying.

The other thing that’s annoying is picking up a box of books free from a former co-worker who was cleaning out her shelves, and staring at the box in my living room wondering when I’ll ever have time to read them all.

I used to be a voracious reader. A typical paperback would take me two, maybe three nights to finish…maybe four if it was incredibly thick. Now the same size books take me weeks to finish, and it’s generally because I short-change my very limited reading time with writing or just getting ready for bed (after staying up too late writing or whatever). Fifteen minutes a night is okay for short stories and such, but it really stretches a novel out to turn-around times bordering on the ridiculous.

Needless to say, I’ve been having trouble sitting down and writing, too. There are some writers out there who insist they just don’t have time to read, but I firmly believe that reading is important for writing – they go hand in hand. You have to fill the well, so to speak. Creativity in, creativity out. And I’ve definitely been neglecting my “well”.

What to do, what to do? The obvious answer is to read more. But when?

Well, I’m not sure. I have a few ideas, but need to see if they’ll work with existing routines, which is not always as easy as it sounds. But I have a feeling that if I get back to reading more, writing more will come naturally as well. Or I hope it will, anyways.

Books I have currently in progress are: a short story/poem collection by Neil Gaiman, and “About that Kiss” by Jill Shalvis.

What are you reading? And if you’re a writer, do you think how much (or little) you read affects how much or little you write?


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Guilty Motivation & Ebook Sale

Doing my taxes this year made me feel guilty. I took a loss on my business, and I hate doing that. Normally if I only claim web hosting fees, I can at least break even, but like so many others, my sales fell off a virtual cliff this summer and were never able to drag themselves back up.

I need to publish, and I need to do some gentle promotion, and I haven’t been making time for any of that. I have gotten into a better writing habit, and I’m slowly finding a few bits and pieces of time here and there that I can allocate to writing as well. So I should have something new *to* publish by the end of the year, if not sooner.

I need to turn a profit this year, no matter how small. Mostly just to prove to myself that I can. I’ve been working on my writing style, trying to be more descriptive and move a little slower through my various “worlds” so as not to leave things out. I think I’m getting better as a writer, but now I need to get back to that pesky habit of actually finishing stories and publishing them.

I also need to do some clean-up work on my older books. Smashwords says my covers are too small on all the first books I published, so those need new covers. They also need new, better blurbs, and I’ve been studying blurbs for awhile now, and have a better idea of how to craft them. Again, something that just takes time, and time on my butt, at that.

It’s a little overwhelming to think about, but I need to just pick an “update” project and work on it alongside my writing drafts until it’s done. I need to update the formatting on The Time Stone (the chapters are screwed up), so maybe I should do that first.

The reason I keep putting these off? Because I’m afraid of how much time it will take. Thing is, pretty much everything takes less time than I think it will – it’s just getting started that’s hard.

So…time to just do it.

Did you know that it’s “Read an Ebook Week”? In honor of that, all my ebooks are marked off 25 percent at Smashwords for the week. Yes, that means a couple of them are even free. If you’d like to take a peek, click on the Smashwords link below. Or if you want to check out my alter-egos (they’re on sale too), use this link.

Are you reading an ebook this week? Which one?


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People & Thought-Provoking Entertainment

Last Friday we went to a ZZ Top concert, and while the music was good, I really wanted to hurt some of the older concert-goers there. The younger people were easy to be around – even when they were dancing they were cognizant of the people around them and polite when they bumped into someone on accident.

We weren’t even at the front of the crowd, but rather in the middle (standing room only – a street concert/festival), and half-way through the set, a crowd of older (probably in their 50’s) people pushed their way up and through and not only blocked the view (stopped right in front of me instead of pushing forward even more), but took up all available space, leaving zero room between me and anyone else. Understand that I *need* at least a couple inches of personal space. At all times. I’ve been to a lot of concerts (less so with standing room only like this one, but still, quite a few, and never had a problem before. I don’t mind the occasional brush-by or whatever, but being in a constant crush of people is not something I can really mentally handle.

It’s odd to me that these people would have been so incredibly rude at that age. People far younger are far more polite at concerts – even drunk young’uns. It really kind of ruined the experience for me, which sucks since it’s the one older band I’ve seen lately who still sounded just as good as they always have (most have been very disappointing, unfortunately).

I was also disappointed they weren’t selling swag. Because I’ve always wanted one of those keychains, and it just isn’t the same just buying one off the rack, so to speak. *sigh*

We’re going to a Godsmack/Shinedown concert in October, and I am so glad that our seats for that are in the lower arena, but the very top row, so no one can be behind us, and we’re not in standing room only. Whew!

Saturday night we watched a movie called Gamer (free with Amazon Prime, if you have it). Totally intense, and had a pretty freaky premise, really. It’s hard to even imagine doing some of the things those people did, and even harder imagining agreeing to what they did (intentionally vague to avoid spoilers). It’s a very thought-provoking (and bloody, fair warning) movie, and a potential warning, really. Because as far-fetched as it may seem, the technology isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility (though admittedly, probably not as it appears in the film). Definitely an interesting watch, if you’ve got a couple hours.

I watched another movie this weekend called Color Me You (also free with Prime), which was slow in spots, and some of the acting was decidedly mediocre (some was just plain bad, I’m afraid), but it was one of those “young artist at a crossroads deciding to follow her dream or a parent’s dream” type coming-of-age flicks. With romance, of course, because life is relationships (or lack thereof).

And I found myself wondering yet again what it would have been like to eschew my parent’s advice to pursue something other than writing as a profession. Honestly, if I’d studied writing (English) in college, my life could still have turned out exactly the same (not like I’m using my history degree for anything, and haven’t, ever). Or maybe I’d have learned the craft more quickly and taken a completely different path with writing at a more central place. I did take some English classes and worked toward a minor (later changed to philosophy), but I never really took it seriously, mostly because my parents insisted there was no money in writing, and I believed them (still do, honestly, but I wish I didn’t, and I do know professional writers, just not many).

Which probably would have meant a completely different life, and completely different people in it. A difficult thing to really conceptualize fully, honestly.

I caught up with one of my favorite TV shows – The 100 on Saturday as well, and man…the character development this season is just outstanding. I’ll be discussing that more on the writing blog later this week.

Since we’re talking entertainment today, I’m just about done reading Douglas Preston’s The Lost City of the Monkey God, and I can say with complete honesty that I don’t really ever want to actually visit the rainforest. National Geographic videos will be fine, thanks. It is quite fascinating, but I’ll take our rattlesnakes over a fer-de-lance any day, and no thank you to all the sand flies, rain and sleeping in the mud, too. *shudder*

And lastly, I’m starting to get caught up with my comic book “to be read” list by reading an issue every morning right when I get up (as opposed to scrolling FB/checking email, which is hard on the eyes and kind of ridiculous when I can’t even think yet). This week, it’s I Hate Fairyland, which is perfect, because it so matches my mood in the mornings…and murderous little Gertrude makes me smile. It’s good to start the morning with a smile (even if it’s a bloody, somewhat toothless one), right?

So…what all have you been watching/hearing/reading lately? Anything thought-provoking or shudder-worthy?

Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Missed it a couple days, but did okay the rest of the week. Progress!
1 push-up per day: Didn’t keep good enough track, but missed a few days. Really need to keep a daily tally.
Goals check-up: Completed Sunday night, adjusted for the week with a specific focus on financial and hobby-related goals.

Writer’s notes for this week


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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!

 

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! 

Maintenance, Literature & Fall Excitement

Taking apart a dryer at 9:30pm on a Sunday night is not my idea of fun. I mean, yes, I did leave the little door/trap open while I cleaned off the screen, and yes, that little booklet to tell how to use the new detergent shouldn’t have been so precariously perched on top of a mountain of mis-matched sock singles, but still.

Our house is older but not super old, built in the 1950’s. It has some issues, like all older houses do. This past Saturday we had the plumbing guys in to snake out the floor drain in the basement, because it was to the point where I was flooding a corner of the basement every time I did laundry. What would have taken us at least a couple hours took him less than an hour, and he said it was nothing we could have prevented – just rusty old pipes. Which kind of made me wonder (but not for too long, because I didn’t want the headache it was bringing on) if the pipes would eventually rust out completely. And if they do, what the heck do we do then? I mean, these are under the basement floor, going out under the foundation and under a two-foot thick patio that the previous owner poured…

Yeah. Not going to think about that this morning either. Our electrical really needs to be redone too, but at least all that is above the foundation. We have a bathroom to fix and remodel, the other bathroom needs some upgrades (yes, needs), the kitchen floor needs to be replaced, and we’d like to put gas fireplaces into the wood burning ones at some point as well. So, lots to do. But it’ll be worth it, eventually.

Last week one of my goals was to make more time for reading. And I did. I’m still working on Tami Hoag’s The Bitter Season – for some reason, the book just isn’t doing it for me, but I’m half-through so might as well finish it. I also read The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie, which really did resonate strongly with me (love her books anyway). Then I started The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, which is written in a much more literary style – very high-level prose with the occasional word I have to look up the meaning of. I don’t read a lot of “literature”, mainly because it takes more time and concentration to delve into, and while it’s almost always worth the effort, I don’t always have the energy or time to spend on such involved reading. I’ve been wanting to read this one for awhile now though, so I’ll keep working through it a little at a time. Lovely writing, for sure, and an intriguing story right from the first page.

The other notable thing I did last week was buy a bunch of tickets. Friday was payday, and I bought tickets to a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party this coming Saturday at our local Moss Mansion, and then more tickets to their haunted theater show on Oct. 27th just before midnight. Another set of tickets to the Highly Suspect concert on Oct. 7th, and yet more tickets to the Yellowstone Art Museum’s annual Masquerade Party.

So that’s our entertainment sorted for this next month, which is all very exciting. Of course one can’t go to a masquerade without a costume, so hubby and I thought about it, and decided to go as Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. My riding hood costume and jewelry is ordered and he’s got a suit coming and a mask picked out. He’ll be a very dapper wolf indeed, methinks…no full fur suit or makeup, because he has to fly out on a business trip at 6am the next morning and removing makeup/spirit gum/etc would be a nightmare between leaving the party and getting to the airport at 4am.

Many fun things to look forward to in October…exciting!

For now…it’s Monday, so back to the week-day grind…

Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 33

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 33

One month later…

The town looked different, Shelley thought as she turned off the backroad into Rattlesnake Falls. Creeping down the main street, she passed the gas station – which looked open this time – and the general store, several houses with children playing in the yards and finally pulled up in front of the tiny post office. Turning off the engine she sat back in her seat for a minute and took it all in.

So much had happened since she’d last sat in this very building, having dinner with Dillon’s mom and anticipating a fun week away in the wilderness. It felt like something that happened in another lifetime…and she guessed in many ways, that was true.

Grabbing her purse off the passenger seat of her new, packed-to-the-gills car, she got out and put her keys in her pocket, not bothering to lock the door. Ignoring the nerves dancing in her stomach, she pulled the post office door open and went inside, ringing the bell on the counter.

“I’ll be right there!” Diane Riley’s familiar voice made Shelley smile, and she was still smiling when the older woman came into view, leaning heavily on her walker.

The expression on Mrs. Riley’s face wasn’t so welcoming.

“Well, well,” she said, stopping before she reached the counter. “If it isn’t the woman who broke my son’s heart right after he lost his best friend. You should be ashamed to show your face around here, missy. You can just turn around and walk back out that door.”

Shelley’s smile faded. “I’m sorry Mrs. Riley. I didn’t mean to hurt your son, or anyone else for that matter. After everything that happened, I just needed some time to sort things out and get my head on straight.”

“And you couldn’t even pick up the phone to tell him that? Selfish girl. You’re not the only one who got hurt that week. But he tried to reach out to you. You couldn’t even give him the courtesy of a quick call. So why are you here then? What do you want? Trying to ease your conscience?”

Shelley sighed. Somehow she hadn’t thought it would be this hard, but in hindsight, she should have known. She did want to talk to Dillon, to try to explain why she’d needed so much space, but she felt like she should talk directly to him about that, not his mother.

“I actually need a post office box. I bought a house just outside of town, and the main post office web site says there’s no delivery out that way, but that there are plenty of boxes available here. I’d like to rent one, please.”

Dianne shook her head. “Nope. Nothing available, sorry. You’ll have to get one over at Meadowlark. It’s about an hour’s drive south, depending on how far out your new place is.” She looked at the clock. “Don’t think you’re gonna make it today – they close in twenty minutes.”

“So every single one of these boxes is rented.” Shelley looked pointedly at what must have been a hundred boxes lining the hall of the old lobby. “The web site says there are twenty available.”

Dianne shrugged. “Not for the likes of you. Now if you don’t mind, I’m closin’ up myself pretty soon, so you can see yourself out.”

Shelley nodded slowly. “Okay.” She pulled one of her new business cards out of her purse and slid it across the counter. “Here’s my new address, in case you or Dillon would like to stop by sometime. Obviously I didn’t handle things as well as I could have, but I can’t change that now. I am sorry for hurting both of you though, whether you believe it or not. I’d like to be friends someday, if that’s possible. If not, then cordial neighbors will have to do.”

Determined not to cry in front of Mrs. Riley, Shelley turned and quickly made her exit, managing to hold off the tears until she was seated in her car. Even then, she swiped angrily at her cheeks and pulled away from the building, knowing the propensity of small town people to snoop and gossip. It was time to check out her new home, and start getting settled in. Now that she was freelancing, time was money, and she needed a place to work.

And maybe someday she could convince Mrs. Riley to rent her a PO box. Baby steps.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 34 – the final chapter!

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Credit Monitoring, Fingerless Gloves & Lottery

Do you monitor your credit? I haven’t for a long time, mostly because I know Experian has my file messed up, and they pretty much refused to fix it last time I contacted them about it. It’s incredibly frustrating because my maiden name is essentially the same as my dad’s name (James/Jamie), which means even when I contact creditors to have them tell Experian that a line of credit isn’t mine, they get confused too due to the name thing. The last two times I applied for a home loan, I had to write and collect a bunch of letters from my dad and to Experian in order to prove that the lines of credit that are his aren’t mine, and vice versa. It’s insanely annoying.

Enter the great Equifax hack of…well, last spring, I guess. No, I didn’t go look to see if I was affected…I mean, I think it’s safe to assume that my data is out there in the ether. I’m still a bit shocked that they cared so little about security as to ignore three warnings and also failed to update their system with prompt patching (mostly because I’m a database admin, and I am completely paranoid/anal about doing whatever’s necessary to keep the data I’m responsible for safe). But then I think about the customer “service” I’ve received from them in the past, and I’m not so shocked anymore.

In any case, the leading suggestion for keeping your data safe is to freeze your credit report accounts and keep them frozen until/unless you need to apply for credit. Which is something I can’t do, because of the mess with my dad’s records being mixed up with mine. Until/unless that gets fixed, freezing my account could freeze his, and vice versa, and getting it unfrozen could be…well, practically impossible. It’s not worth the risk, and that means no using companies like LifeLock, etc either (since that’s basically what they do for their “protection” services.

But, I have signed up for a free credit monitoring account with Credit Sesame (highly recommended, pulls from all three credit reporting companies, doesn’t lock credit accounts), and I’ll probably spring for one of the lowest monthly tiers for a monthly credit report from all three companies. Just to keep a better eye on things than I do now (which is pretty much ignoring it as much as possible).

Heck, maybe it’ll be good motivation to get some credit paid down. If nothing else just to have more money to pay for the credit monitoring. *sigh*

Aside from that, it was back to work last week, and predicatably my writing output took a bit of a header. But it’s all good, because I started using my very low-tech Alphasmart Neo for all of my late-night writing sessions, and I have to say, I wish I’d done that sooner. So much easier to focus – I started a new story, worked on a different short story, and I’m excited about what I might be able to get done using that method going forward. Focus is good. Focus is everything when it comes to writing.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about crochet/knitting lately, and how I’d love to get back to that on a regular basis. Last week the weather turned cold pretty suddenly as a cold front came through, and I took my fingerless gloves to work. They helped a little, but not a lot because they’re thin. And then I thought about the absolutely gorgeous, soft, fuzzy yarn I bought last weekend, and how warm and cozy that would be for fingerless gloves, and now I’m really wanting to make a pair (or several, in different colors) for the office when it’s cold (so, always).

So that’s a project I want to start this week. I should be able to work on those during the hour in the evenings I watch TV with hubby. As long as I use a somewhat simple pattern, anyways. Though I kind of want to try crochet cables, and that would be a nice, small project to learn them on.

I’ve been thinking about my stamp collection lately too, and my comic books, and my to-be-read pile.

Retirement is only…what…25 yrs away?

I should probably start buying lottery tickets again.

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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Sleep With Me  | MacKenzie Saves the World: A Comic Shop Romance | BeauTEAful Summer