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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 28

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 28

“I’m just a friend,” she said, instictively showing her hands and trying to ignore her racing pulse. “Dillon was kind enough to let me have his guest room for a few nights.” Pasting a smile on her face, she extended her right hand just a little. “It’s nice to finally meet you – he’s told me so much about you.”

It was clear from the widening of the woman’s eyes that she was taken off guard by that, but she didn’t take Shelley’s hand.

“I don’t believe you,” she said, her eyes narrowing again. “Dillon’s a man, and men don’t just let women stay in their houses without wanting something more. I don’t blame him – men need what they need and I’ve been away working. But I’m here now, so you’re going to have to leave.”

Shelley nodded. “I can do that.” She took a step toward the short hall that led to the front door. “I’ll just be on my way then.” If she could get out of the house, she could run to the administration office and find Dillon before this woman did.

“Don’t you want to get your things?” The woman’s eyes darted toward the other hall – the one leading to the bedrooms, and Shelley knew she must have come in the back door and passed the open guest bedroom on her way to the kitchen. She didn’t want to waste time – she just wanted to go get Dillon, but she had to make this convincing, so she nodded.

“Of course – silly me. Let me just get my bag and I’ll get out of your way.” She moved toward the other hall, slowly. “Have you seen Dillon yet?”

“None of your business. Hurry up.”

Shelley hadn’t seen a weapon yet, but she didn’t feel comfortable turning her back all the same, so she sort of side-stepped down the hall. The other woman definitely gave off an unstable energy, and Shelley just wanted to get the hell away from her. She could see why Dillon was so paranoid.

“That’s a gnarly scar on your face,” the woman commented as Shelley went into the guest room and hastily threw stuff in her bag. “Where’d you get it?”

Shelley considered giving her the same reply she’d used just a minute earlier, but considering things were still reasonably amicable, she decided against it.

“There was an accident when I was a child.” She didn’t offer more, just zipped up her bag and turned to find Dillon’s stalker blocking the doorway. “I’ll just let myself out now. Congratulations on your engagement.” She tried to make it sound sincere, but the other woman didn’t look like she bought it. Not that it mattered, as long as Shelley could make it out of the cabin.

Moving aside, the woman nodded her head. “Thank you.”

It was a tense walk to the front door, and Shelley pulled it open, hoping she could find Dillon quickly.

“One more thing,” the woman said from behind her. Shelley turned and raised her eyebrows, waiting. “What’s my name?”
Shelley frowned. “I don’t think you ever told me– ”

“No, I didn’t. But you said Dillon talked about me all the time so surely he mentioned my name at least once. What is it?”
Shelley shook her head. “He didn’t say your name, I swear. I’m sorry, but that’s something you’ll have to take up with him. I’m sure he’ll be back soon.”

She has no weapon, Shelley reminded herself. Just go. She walked through the doorway and pulled the door shut behind her, even though she thought she heard the other woman speaking again. Striding purposefully down the trail away from the cabin, she didn’t stop, even when she heard the door open behind her, and the woman’s voice following. She had to warn Dillon, and as soon as she knew she was out of sight from the cabin, she started to run.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 29!

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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 27

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!

*Note: A lot of this scene is me working out backstory for Shelley, which I should have done much earlier in the book. It will probably be integrated into earlier parts of the book and a discussion with Dillon eventually.


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1

Chapter 27

After breakfast, Shelley watched Dillon walk down the trail from his cabin to the camp’s administration building. He’d invited her to go with him while he helped check in a large group of campers, but she’d declined. She hadn’t had any time to herself since this whole debacle started, and all she wanted was a shower and some space to think.

Ten minutes later, she stood under the shower and let the warm water slide down her skin. Running her hands over her face, her fingers traced the scar extending from just outside her left eye down and across her cheek, ending just above the left corner of her mouth. It had been there so long now that she wasn’t sure she’d know who she was without it. It had been Tabitha’s fault, kind of. They’d been playing in Uncle Andrew’s barn when they were kids, and Tabby had pushed her into a pile of hay. Only an old rusty combine blade had been hiding underneath, and Shelley had rolled right into the very last disk…with her face.

She’d been in first or second grade at the time, and she didn’t remember much after Tabby pushed her, just a lot of blood and pain, more pain in the ambulance, and way too many shots before she finally passed out at the hospital. When she’d woke up, Aunt Jane had held up a mirror so she could see the long line of stitches in her face and told her she was going to look like the monster her namesake wrote about as her punishment for playing in the barn when they’d been told not to.

Everything about that moment was clear as a bell in Shelley’s mind. Tabby laughing and pointing, the mixed look of contempt and satisfaction on Jane’s face, and the look of sympathy and horror on the nurse’s face as she watched, and then quickly took the mirror from Jane and told her visiting hours were over.

That nurse had been really nice to her. Brought her ice cream and found cartoons on the TV so she could watch with the one eye that wasn’t swollen shut. She’d spoken in hushed tones to the doctor later, and some woman in a suit had come in and asked a bunch of questions about Jane and Andrew and the barn, and then she’d gone back home with Jane and Tabby. They hadn’t visited Uncle Andrew much after that.

Jane had favored Tabitha before, but Shelley figured that was because Tabby was actually her child, and Shelley wasn’t. After the accident, Jane had constantly drawn attention to Shelley’s face, apologizing to strangers for it, telling Shelley not to look at people, and making sure Shelley knew that no boy would ever want to date her. It had taken many years for Shelley to leave that way of thinking behind, and oddly enough, Tabby had been one of her most staunch allies, negating much of her mother’s commentary – often with a well-timed eyeroll.

No. Shelley turned the shower off and toweled dry. The Tabitha she knew would not do that. She wouldn’t just blindly follow whatever Jane said, especially when it came to Shelley. She pulled on clean clothes and went to her bedroom, digging her cell phone out of her bag. She was going to call the hospital and talk to Tabby. Get everything straightened out once and for all.

Padding out to the kitchen for another cup of coffee, she tried to get a signal and couldn’t. Leaving the phone on the counter, she poured her coffee and went to the island and picked up the landline handset, pressing the button to get a dial tone.

Only there wasn’t one. She frowned at the phone, pushed the button again. The light came on, but the line was dead. She wondered when Dillon had last tried to make a call.

Putting the handset down, she sipped her coffee and considered her options. She could either wait there at the cabin until Dillon got back, or walk down to the admin office and let him know the phone was out. She remembered the cell service being better at the base of the camp where it was more open, so she could probably make her call down there anyway.

The coffee was only lukewarm from earlier, and she downed the rest of the cup and rinsed it out in the sink. Turning around, she reached out for her phone, but it wasn’t where she’d left it.

But a woman was standing on the other side of the kitchen, holding it in her hand with a smile that looked more like a grimace. The stranger didn’t mince words.

“What are you doing in my fiance’s house?”


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 28!

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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 26

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!

*Note: Sections denoted with an asterisk are new details that will eventually be added to the earlier parts of the book as well. 


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1

Chapter 26

Dillon sat beside her, his expression contrite, but there was something else there too. Something she couldn’t quite put a finger on.

“I thought you were a plant,” he said, not bothering to beat around the bush, which she appreciated. “I had a stalker when I came back from California. That’s part of the reason I moved way out here and started running the ranch – so it would be harder for her to find me. I love it here, so it was a good decision, but from what I hear, she’s been hiring private detectives to try to figure out where I am. I thought you might be one of them, playing a part. You were interesting. Too interesting for one of those speed-dating desperadoes.”

Shelley frowned. “But you gave me your card. Why would you tell me who you are or where the ranch is if you were afraid I was a detective? Isn’t that kind of the exact opposite thing you should have done?”

He shrugged. “I figured if you were looking for me specifically, you already knew who I was. I guess maybe I thought if I could just talk to you, I could convince you not to go back to her with the information. But when I had Preston run the background check to find out your “real” identity and you didn’t have any ties to her whatsoever, I figured if we hit it off, we’d eventually talk about the stalker thing and the background check thing and my general paranoia.”

“I see.” Shelley was quiet for a few minutes, trying to process everything. “You have a stalker.” Saying the words aloud felt weird, like she’d been transported into some bad classic comedy. “Is she trying to kill you, or…what does she want?”

“I met her when I was working in Silicon Valley.” Dillon paused to take a sip of orange juice. “We were friends, I thought, but I never asked her out, never even went to lunch with her without someone else around, and I didn’t think I showed any kind of romantic interest. But apparently I was missing some key clues that she was into me, and the next thing I know, I’m getting cards and flowers and gifts at my desk, at home, left on my car…all from her, all saying she loved me and would do anything for me and begging me to marry her.”

“That sounds like more than just a crush.” Shelley took a sip of her own orange juice, relaxing back into the seat. “Is that when you moved back?”

He shook his head. “The company transferred me to another branch – not because of her, just because they needed someone with my skills up there. I jumped at the chance to move and thought that would be the end of it. And it was, for about two months. Then she showed up in town and started the same old shit again. That’s when I quit my job, packed up my stuff and moved back here, without a word to anyone about where I was going.”

Shelley nodded. “How long ago was that?”

“About three years ago. I still have a couple friends in that area who keep tabs on her for me – one of them called last week and said she’d been showing off an engagement ring lately. Which would be great news – except she’s telling everyone that I’m her fiance.” He sighed and reached for the bacon, helping himself to two strips.

“Wow.” Shelley shook her head. “She really is unhinged, isn’t she? The police can’t do anything? Seems like she should be institutionalized or something.”

“Nope. Not unless she does me physical harm. And to do that, she has to find me, but…she seems pretty determined.”

“That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.” Shelley’s stomach rumbled, to her embarrassment. Dillon grinned.

“We should eat something. Is that…are we good? I’m sorry I ran the background check without saying anything, I just needed to make sure you weren’t connected to her.”

“I understand why.” Shelley took the plate of pancakes he offered, and put two on her plate before handing it back. “I still feel kind of…I don’t know. At a disadvantage, I guess. You know all there is to know about me, but I still barely know anything about you.”
Dillon held up one finger and got to his feet. “Hold that thought for two seconds.” He walked to the sideboard and picked up a thick yellow mailing envelope.

“I know this doesn’t make up for it, but I want you to have this. I had Preston run a background check on me too. It’s all in here – I told him not to hold anything back. You can read it at your leisure. It’s yours to keep.”


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 27!

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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 25

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!

*Note: Sections denoted with an asterisk are new details that will eventually be added to the earlier parts of the book as well. 


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1

Chapter 25

A frenzied feathered chorus and the smell of breakfast sausage woke Shelley from a deep sleep. Confused, she shifted on the bed, her pillow too soft and the blankets heavier than her own. She blinked a few times, staring at the ceiling and thinking back to the last thing she remembered.

Falling asleep in Dillon’s truck.

She thought she had the vague impression of being carried into the cabin, but that couldn’t be right. She must have woken up enough to walk inside and take off her shoes. Checking under the blanket, it looked like she’d had enough energy to shuck her jeans too. It was light outside, and she wondered how long she’d been sleeping.

The clock radio beside the bed said six-twenty in the morning, but that couldn’t be right. They’d left the hospital just after sunrise. She couldn’t possibly have slept nearly twenty-four hours.

Tossing the covers back, she sat up on the edge of the bed and rubbed her face. Those birds outside sure were chipper. And loud. Breathing in deep, she inhaled more of that wonderful sausage scent. Her stomach rumbled. No matter what the clock said, it was time for breakfast, apparently.

Standing, she looked around the room and found her jeans on a chair by the door with her travel bag. She pulled the jeans on and rummaged through her bag for a clean shirt and socks. Pulling her hair back into a neat ponytail at the base of her neck for now, she opened the door and padded down the hall to Dillon’s kitchen.

“Wow.” The word sort of slipped out when she saw the spread on the table. A plate piled high with pancakes sat by a whole pan of sausage and a big bowl of cut-up fruits. Buttered toast, two different syrup containers and a pitcher of orange juice completed the meal. Dillon was at the counter pouring two cups of coffee with his back to her, but he turned when she spoke, and it was all she could do not to crack up laughing at his bright red apron sprinkled liberally with rubber ducks all decked out in different little outfits. with his bare chest and jeans underneath, ti a She grinned.

“Nice apron.”

He looked down, and then back at her with a wink and a smile. “Thanks. It’s my chick-magnet. Get it? Chicks? ”

Shelley groaned and rolled her eyes. “Seriously – that is so bad. And those are ducks, technically. Does it work?”

“That’s up to you. Want to kiss the cook, pretty lady?” He sidled closer and wiggled his eyebrows, turning his head to present his cheek and tap it with one finger. Shelley laughed and leaned in to press a soft kiss just there but he turned his head at the last second and her lips met his instead.

Tentative and gentle, his mouth moved against hers, and she ignored the niggling feeling that she shouldn’t be doing this as his hands slid around her waist and pulled her closer, hugging her tight as he placed tiny kisses down the side of her jaw and neck.
Then he just hugged her close, and she turned her face into his chest and breathed in the warm, comforting scent of him. When he pulled back enough to look at her, she didn’t want to let go.

“You looked like you needed a hug.” He smiled, caressing the side of her face with one hand. “Now let’s eat, before all this food gets cold, and then we’ll talk, okay?”

Shelley nodded, reluctantly letting go of his shoulders. Talking. His revelation from the day before came flooding back, and a sick sense of dread settled in her stomach as she sat down, suddenly not hungry.

“I think we should talk now. Why did you do that background check on me?”


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 26!

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Priorities & Forced Balance

Last week wasn’t nearly as bad as the week before in general, which is kind of odd since work was decidedly difficult. The difference is, I dealt with it much better, and while I didn’t stay caught up all the time, I did prioritize a lot better. It’s amazing how much just setting solid priorities can alleviate so much stress – and allow us to get more done than we might otherwise.

The poetry challenge was especially “challenging” this past week, but I managed to end Saturday caught up for the week (I’m behind a poem again as of right now, but I’ll catch up tonight). Poetry is all about “flow” and ironically, fitting it into my schedule has been exactly that. Looking for the proper flow, so I can slot it into each day at some point.

I think I mentioned that I was trying to use some of my nightly knitting/crochet/TV time to catch some of the overflow, and my body told me very quickly that it was just not going to happen. My eyes went downhill again, my brain refused to work, and pretty much every night sitting there with the computer on my lap, I eventually just gave up and shut it while I finished my hour-long TV show.

Incidentally, we’ve been watching Iron Fist and Wynonna Earp on Netflix. Iron Fist is entertaining, but I highly, highly recommend Wynonna Earp. So, so good!

In any case, that hour is very necessary down-time, and my body & brain were quick to correct me when I tried to use it for work. So…it would appear that time is just as sacrosanct as my writing time. This week, I’ll get the knitting back out while watching TV.

My neck is healing, but very slowly, and I’m kind of to the point where it feels like it just needs gentle stretching and then to build up the muscle around that nerve to protect it from being pinched again. I have to be careful, as it still won’t really “work” at several angles, but I’ve started doing light weight training in my shoulders/arms again. We’ll see how that goes, but hopefully it will be helpful. Stupid neck.

In any case, my writing output increased again last week, and no matter how much this poetry thing stresses me out, I am *loving* what it’s doing as far as just getting me back in the daily writing habit. That right there was worth the cost of the workshop (though I’m obviously learning so much more…).

And for those who have been following along weekly – yes, my taxes are done and will be in the mail on April 18th. I’m not efiling because I owe the feds money, and they can just wait for my check to get there, thank you very much. This coming Friday night, I’m adding some dedicated bookkeeping time to my weekly business hours.

I’ve been thinking lately of pulling a couple of shelved drafts out and reworking them for publication. The basic plot is sound enough, but they need revision/additions to work. I do believe that might be something to work on after poetry month is over. I’m excited at the prospect, and I hate revising with a passion. So there’s gotta be something there, right? We’ll see.

Serial story chapter coming Friday, and another week’s worth of poems Saturday. Stay tuned!

Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Chapter 1

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 1

It’s not easy being right all the time.

Shelley Frank watched the fourth guy of the night walk away and for a second, pretended to wonder what would happen if she just played “normal” with the next one. But she already knew. Guys were so predictable. Which made them boring, which made this whole evening a complete waste of time.

Maybe not a complete waste, she thought as that annoying bell rang and the next speed-dater approached. He wasn’t particularly interesting at first glance, other than the fact that he didn’t actually seem interested at all. Well, that and the five-o-clock shadow that darkened his jawline with a perfect amount of shade. He sat down across from her with a bored look that probably matched her own.

He met Shelley’s gaze with two startlingly-green eyes and she was surprised at the confident dismissal reflecting back.

“I don’t mean any offense, but I’m only here ‘cause my buddy needed backup and you don’t look like you’re any more into this than I am. So if it’s okay with you, we’ll just skip the whole getting-to-know-you bit, and I’ll get a little work done before the next switch. Is that cool?”

Shelley nodded, but didn’t figure he even saw it considering his smartphone was already in hand and his thumbs were moving a mile a minute. The vibe he gave off was clearly a don’t-talk-to-me one, and Shelley pondered that for a minute.

Was it a ploy to catch her interest by appearing to be uninterested? Or was he really not into this whole thing — and if that was the case, why didn’t he just leave? Then again, she was still here too. The clock was ticking, and considering he was the only challenge she’d seen all night, she decided it was worth the risk.

“Let me guess,” she started as she had with all the others. He was wearing worn, comfy-looking jeans and a semi-wrinkled teal button-down shirt casually untucked with just a hint of curly chest-hair showing in the vee at the top. His black hair was a little long and naturally wavy, and a few errant strands kept falling across his eye.

With those looks and that always-on attitude, it was hard to draw conclusions without knowing more, but she’d give it a try.

“You’re an IT geek with a boner for the latest gaming system and a God complex. A programmer, maybe, which gives you a sense of purpose and at the same time, takes away your ability to connect with other humans on any meaningful level.” Okay, maybe not that last part, Shelley thought. But if it got his attention…

He didn’t even look up from the small screen and his fingers never stuttered. Shelley figured he hadn’t even been listening, so her assessment was just wasted breath. By the time the bell rang again, she’d decided to call it a night and move to the other side of the bar while her cousin finished running the event.

Her partner for that round got to his feet before she could, and finally looked at her, a sharp, appraising gaze that made her want to take a step back.

“Bored, smart woman who somehow got roped into attending this thing against your better judgement, and you’re trying to make the best of it, but you’d rather be at home curled up on a couch with a book and your beloved…leopard gecko or something. Maybe a glass of wine. But you definitely don’t want anyone here taking a liking to you, because that would make him ‘not boring’, and that might make you think you have a chance for half-a-second. Which you don’t, of course, because you always push people away before they have a chance to do the same to you.”

He paused for a minute, started to say something, and then appeared to change his mind. He reached into a back pocket and pulled out a card, dropping it on the table.

“Just for the record – your first assessment was a little off. Might want to brush up on those people-reading skills.”

Shelley watched him walk away and grabbed the card, moving away from the table to avoid yet another round. Holding his card under one of the dim bar lights, she peered closely at the tiny print.

“Dillon Riley — Outdoor Enthusiast/Tour Guide/Owner at Rattlesnake Falls Lodge and Resort.” There was a PO Box listed in Big Timber, and a cell phone number she assumed was his. She had never heard of Rattlesnake Falls, but there were a few different camps up that way and it was beautiful country for it.

Brow furrowed, she looked up and scanned the room, trying to spot Dillon again. Outdoor enthusiast? Really? He didn’t look even remotely outdoorsy with that pale skin and slender frame. Did he have enough muscle to lift a hiking pack?

She knew she was being both unfair and bitchy, but she couldn’t seem to stop, and that was as good a cue as any to leave.

Slipping the card into her purse, she searched the crowd again – this time finding her target, and pushed through the people to where her cousin was holding court from a bar stool.

“Hey Tabby – I’m gonna head out. Do you need a ride?” She only asked to be polite. Her cousin never needed a ride, and rarely came home on nights like this anyway. Shelley wasn’t sure why Tabitha felt the need to drag her along. Tabby insisted it was to keep her company until the party ‘really got hoppin’, which took all of about ten minutes in any bar her cousin had ever set an insanely-high-heeled foot in.

Tabby shook her head. “You chased everyone off again, didn’t you?”

Shelley just shrugged and smiled. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she yelled over the jukebox and elbowed the ribs of a guy with roaming hands on her right. “Take care!”

“In the morning- sure…maybe!”

Tabby turned back to her adoring fans and Shelley pushed her way back through the crowd, somehow managing to find the door. A gust of cool air hit her face as she pushed it open, and she immediately lost her balance as the lower-but-still-substantial heel Tabitha had insisted Shelley borrow caught on a crack in the concrete just right.

Helpless against both gravity and momentum, she reached for the railing she knew was attached to each side of the three-steps down to the parking lot. Her fingers hit the cold metal and slid off just before her shoulder slammed into something warm and solid. She grabbed on for dear life, hoping whatever or whoever it was would at least slow her fall as the momentum kept carrying her sideways.

And right into a thick, steel band of an arm that encircled the center of her back as if she’d been meant to roll right there the whole time. Strong fingers wrapped around her ribs, and she gasped when the world finally stopped spinning and she found herself staring into the same startling green eyes she’d seen at the table inside.


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That Could Cause Cancer, You Know…

…and water is wet, and the sky is blue.

But we’ll get to my rant on supposedly well-intentioned cancer warnings in a minute. First, a bit of blog news:

If you were/are a fan of my blog serials, I have good news! I’m around 6 chapters into my next romantic suspense novel, and I’ve decided to serialize it again. One chapter every Friday, right here on the blog. Keeps me motivated and accountable, even if I know there are only two people reading. And since I rarely look at my stats (too lazy), I can pretend there are at least two people reading, which keeps me writing. Ignorance/fantasy is bliss, you know.

So, if you’re interested, stop back on Friday for Chapter 1 of…hmm. That’s a pickle. I should probably pick an actual title for this book, eh? I’ve been calling it Rattlesnake Falls Book 1, because the series will be Rattlesnake Falls, and this is the first one (I know, so logical). But I haven’t come up with an actual title for it yet. I’ll think on it, and hopefully have one by Friday.

I currently have subscription options for either “all posts” or “non-fiction only”. I’ll have a “fiction only” option as well by Friday, so those who prefer to get each chapter (but not these rambly weekly posts) via email can do so.


Alrighty then. Admin business done, now back to the rant o’ the week:

As I understand it, cancer isn’t really a disease so much as a cell mutation, and the things that turn it on/off are varied and individual to specific people depending on their own genetics and lifestyle. Cells mutate, and those mutated cells spread through the body and left unchecked, it will eventually kill us. Odds are incredibly good that a high percentage of us will eventually be killed by cell mutations (cancer) at some point (hopefully very late in life when our bodies are worn out, but that’s if we’re lucky).

Why am I thinking about this, you ask? Because I was challenged about my tattoos twice last week, and one of the arguments used was “tattoos can cause cancer, you know – and especially lymph node cancer”. The reason that last part was tacked on, obviously, is because Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma runs in my family, and it was an attempt at emotional manipulation. Scare tactics. Needless to say, I didn’t appreciate it, nor do I respond to such things all that well.

There are a *lot* of things out there that can cause (trigger, really) cancers. And we have a lot of warnings all over the place alerting us to that danger. The main cancer that runs in my family is genetic, and has a tendency to hit the same oldest (or only) child of the family in the same place on the body (lymph nodes at the side of the neck) at the same time in life (one week before a 50th birthday). It’s been very predictable for at least three generations on my dad’s side, and I’ve lived a great deal of my life knowing that one week before my 50th birthday, a lump will probably appear on the side of my neck, and it will be my turn to get radiated/chemo-ed/poisoned/whatever-the-current-treatment-happens-to-be in order to keep my body from killing me in the process of turning into a giant mass of monster-cells.

We humans are nothing if not hopeful, though, and to that end, I’ve done and continue to do a lot of things in order to reduce the risk of my genetic switch from “flipping”, or at least to prolong the process. With the occasional lapse, I workout fairly regularly and do my best to keep my weight under control (all previous generations where the cancer triggered, the “victims” were quite overweight). I eat as healthy as I can stand to, which is pretty healthy and includes a high-fiber, low carb diet, I stay away from most extra sugars, all artificial sweeteners, and I try to keep my indulgences to a minimum. I drink the equivalent of six cups of tea per day, no sugar added, and I do my best to get a proper amount of water for good hydration.

I read labels religiously, do my best to avoid potentially harmful chemicals in skin care, makeup, soaps/cleaners, household cleaning products, and personal care items. I use herbal-only hair dyes, and my nail polish is all “big-three-free” (which means it has less toxic chemicals, but it’s still not perfect). I don’t use plastic water bottles or storage containers if I can help it – everything is metal, glass or ceramic. I stay away from commercial drugs as much as possible, and use herbal/holistic remedies whenever I can.

You’d think I’d be confident in my ability to prolong or circumvent my family’s genetic curse, but honestly? I have no idea whether or not any of it will even help. And there’s a very good possibility that nothing I can do will stop that genetic mutation from triggering in my body in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time as my dad, and his mom, and her dad before that. Even if I can prolong it, there’s no guarantee that it won’t trigger differently, maybe at some other time, in some other place. That’s the thing about cancer. If the genetics are there, there’s no guarantee that anything we do differently will ever be able to stop it from actually manifesting.

I have tattoos. One of the few things I indulge in knowing full well that it isn’t the healthiest thing for my body, and that some of the pigment particles *will* settle in my lymph nodes. And I fully plan on getting more tattoos. Because I love them, and because no one can guarantee me that any of the things I do to keep my cells in line is actually going to work against my base genetics. I could live as pristine a life as possible, and still end up with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma one week before my 50th birthday. Or, the curse could mutate differently in me, and manifest as some different sort of cancer at some different time of my life too. Earlier, later…impossible to say. The potential is there, dormant (hopefully) for now. The possibility that something will eventually trigger it is high. If not my tattoos, it will be something else.

At some point, you have to just stop worrying so much, live your life, and deal with things as they come.

Well, you don’t have to, I guess, but it’s sure a lot more fun/less stressful than constantly worrying about every single thing that could go wrong and trying to control things that really are pretty much out of your control.

I’m keeping the tattoos and nail polish, thanks. My two main unhealthy vices, and the nail polish has been one since I was a young kid, way before they thought about things like avoiding toxic chemicals (nail polish is derived from automobile paint, you know, and then there’s polish remover, of course…), so I’ve certainly absorbed my fair share of those along with all the tattoo pigments.

Yes, I know tattoos could/may trigger cancer, thanks. I’ll take my chances.

2015 in Review

Normally today’s post is when I’d go back to my 2015 resolutions and see how I did (okay, normally I’d have done that Monday, but last weekend got away from me yet again – funny how they do that). I’m posting the link there so you can go back if you want, but the year got derailed almost as quickly as it started, and just spiraled right out of control from then on out. I had challenges in pretty much every part of my life, and I’m annoyed but not too proud to admit that I didn’t deal with them nearly as well as I should have. In any case, I’m not going to go back point by point on last year’s resolutions, because it seems…pointless, given the year I’ve had.

But, water under the bridge. I learned a lot, made some pretty significant changes, and kept going, which is ultimately all any of us can really do.

I also started three serial novels in newsletters that are not, and will not be finished. To those who may have actually been reading along, I apologize for that. It was a great idea, poorly timed, that got caught up in an existential writing crisis of sorts, and while I could go ahead and force myself to finish those stories, I’m not going to. In fact, I’m leaving behind serialization altogether in the new year, as well as several other writing projects that I was working on for the wrong reasons.

As a matter of fact, I don’t plan to publish any of the stories I wrote in 2015. They weren’t wasted, by any means – in fact, all three are very significant in the fact that each of them revealed something very important to me about myself as a writer and the direction I want to move in as far as storytelling goes. Some hard decisions came with those realizations, but I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

I kicked off last year with a new tattoo – my first in 13 yrs or so. You wouldn’t think you could learn much from getting an image inked into your skin, but I got two more tattoos as the year went on, and I actually did learn a lot about myself, and who I have been vs. who I want to be in the process. The last one especially was very…defining for me, and even a relief, in a way.

My job has changed over the past year too – “evolved”, if you will. I make a point not to talk much about specifics of my job or the people I work with online (for obvious reasons), but as difficult as it was there for awhile, I end the year very contented/satisfied with what I’m doing and the environment I’m in.

In my personal life, I did a lot of things wrong last year. But the biggest “sin” was putting my obligations (most often self-appointed) above my personal needs. I spent a lot of time resenting all sorts of different things, and way too much time trying to decide how to deal with it all rather than just…well, dealing with it all. It took a week-long “vacation” just this past month to get my head screwed back on straight, and as annoyingly enlightening as it was, it really clarified things for me and allowed me the “reset” I desperately needed. Hopefully I can carry those lessons through the next year and not let things get so mentally “out of hand” again.

Surprisingly, the key to prioritizing/managing my personal life has simplified itself through the menu “plan/system” I adopted this past fall (the only one I’ve ever managed to follow for more than a week or so). Odd how inspiration comes from the strangest of places, isn’t it?

In any case, the year is basically over, and I’m ready for the new one to start. Onward to 2016!

On Newsletters, Concerts, & Rolling With It…

So…my newsletters are late this month (they’re supposed to be out today). All of them (four – me, my two alter-egos, and BSB). Because the serial story installments aren’t finished (one is, two are not). And the reason the one that is done hasn’t been sent out yet is because I have a mental quirk about doing things in groups, if they belong to a group. Like the newsletters. I do them all at the same time and then schedule them to send and that’s that for another month. Then again, I normally have the serial installments done close to the first part of each month, so I don’t have to worry about finishing them close to the newsletter deadline…

This month, we had some holidays, some family stuff, and a lot of unexpected dog health stuff to deal with all in the first two weeks of the month. Needless to say, when I had the time to write, I often didn’t feel like it, and when I finally forced myself, it was to get my weekly blog serials done.

Yes, I’m overbooked, and yes, I did it to myself. I do this *every single year* with the writing…and then I get behind, and I kick myself for doing it, and I swear I won’t do it again next year. And I begin the year with good intentions, and then I get an idea (or three), and it all just spirals downhill yet again.

Planning ahead would probably help this considerably, and I am a planner, which is what’s so weird about it. I am ultra-organized in pretty much every aspect of my life – except writing. I’m not really sure how to fix that, since I do *try* to organize that, and always end up just throwing my beautiful organization out the window…

The artsy side of me isn’t all that responsible, apparently. It really bugs the intellectual side of me, but reasoning with the artsy side is just…pointless, really. Which is also annoying.

Some of you may have noticed that this blog post is also late. The reason for that is far simpler – well, somewhat simpler, anyways. I could have written it Saturday, but I was having a bit of a “reflect and regroup” day. Sunday was crazy-busy, because hubby and I went to the Alice Cooper/Motley Crue concert here in town, so I had about four hours less than normal to get all of my normal Sunday housework done.

A few notes from the concert, including about a hour in line (it was sold out):

– “Oh my God – we forgot glitter!” (overheard in line…amusing, since I spent most of the day just waffling on whether or not to shower and put makeup on for the concert…I did, but it was a close call)

– “I was smart – brought my own beer.” (from a man in line a couple feet ahead of us, who promptly dropped his plastic cup and spilled all but the couple of sips he’d taken off the top before the line even started to move)
Our main entertainment venue has about the worst sound ever on a good day, but it was actually worse than usual last night, which sucks. The last time Alice was here, he played the Alberta Bair, a smaller local theater where our symphony performs, and it was spectacular. This time…the stage show was awesome, as always, but the sound wasn’t even close to what it should have been. I should note that I’ve heard it sound just fine on very rare occasions under the hands of master mixers – the Volbeat/Five Finger Death Punch concert was absolutely awesome, and the only different was the sound techs (and maybe their equipment?).
Alice Cooper’s stage show is never disappointing. I just wanted more (and better sound). And I wanted the girls in front of us to stop blocking my view, dammit.
Motley Crue’s sound was even worse – the mic (or the lead singer’s voice, not sure which) kept cutting out every third or forth word), for very muddled lyrics. Not that it mattered much – the music was mixed poorly and there really was no balance between the lyrics and music, so if you didn’t know the songs, it’s not like you were going to really “hear” them.
The drum-kit roller coaster was incredibly cool. So was the light show.
The pyrotechnics were…really loud, really bright, and made me feel old for wishing they would just stop already. My ears have since recovered (more or less), my eyes, not so much. Extra eye drops today, thankyouverymuch.
Skunky weed is so…not cool. Whoever was toking up near us last night had some of the nastiest smelling weed ever. Seriously, dude…if you’re gonna bring it out in public, splurge for something more mellow to share with the group. No one wants to smell that cheap (I assume/hope) crap at a concert.

On a possibly related last note: The Taco Bell nearest the concert venue was hoppin’ afterwards…

So…that was…well, it was fun, but not as much fun as I’d have liked it to be. And we had to adjust Lucy’s dinner/insulin schedule just a bit, which seems to have screwed with her blood sugar a little. Just gotta wait and see if it was actually the schedule change, or just her body still adjusting to the insulin. Either way, the hubby’s off work this week, so that will make a difference too. It’s pretty amazing how even the slightest thing can make a huge difference in blood sugar (rarely thought about unless diabetes is in the picture).

As for rollin’ with it…that’s exactly what I’m trying to do at the moment. There are a lot of changes that come with having a diabetic dog, and a lot of routines that have to be added and adjusted for. Hubby and I are also making changes in our workout/evening habits, which are good, but still create stress during the initial break-in period. There are changes afoot in my professional sphere (good changes, just…changes) as well, so among all of those, life has been pretty topsy-turvy lately, and I’m really not fond of topsy-turvy, overall. This past Saturday I was attempting to make some sense out of things, but didn’t get much farther than realizing it was going to be awhile before that could logically happen. And reminding myself that it hasn’t been topsy-turvy for all that long, and I can roll with the changing tides a while longer.

It seems so simple in theory, doesn’t it?


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On Reading, Writing, & A New Serial Story…

Happy(?) Monday!

First up, the Jasmine plant I bought a couple weeks ago and was worried about killing? As I was doing my weekly “plant check” on Sunday, I noticed that the new vines have flower buds. How cool is that? A good sign, methinks…

I’ve also been reading more again…thank goodness. On the rare occasions that my life gets really hectic, I have no mental energy left for much of anything – even reading. But things are evening out again, and I’ve been reading more regularly, and I have some books I’m excited to recommend. So look for the return of the weekly reading post coming this Wednesday.

In writing news – I finished a draft this weekend! Woohoo! It’s an upper middle grade adventure story that I wrote for submission to Black Wolf Print, a brand new small press just opening up this year. It’s book one of five (or six, maybe), and it was a challenge all the way through because it was completely out of my normal comfort zone. But I think it turned out well, and I’m looking forward to continuing the story in the next book (not until sometime next fall – I have a lot of other books to write before I get back to this series!).

I’ve been beta testing a new writing program for a few days, and I really like it so far. It’s called Shaxpir (shakes-peer), and while a lot of features are still in development, I can see this replacing both Scrivener and Evernote for my writing needs (I’ll still need Evernote for a host of other things, of course). We’ll see, but so far, I’m excited about it.

It’s kind of funny, but while I move deeper into technology for my writing needs, at the day job, I’m actually moving back to more…traditional project management methods. Just Friday, I asked my boss for a whiteboard and markers, because I need a place to write things out and color code and do it all by hand just for that better memory recall and the constant visual reminders. I don’t know how it will work, exactly, but I think it’s gonna be good. I’m excited about that too, in a different way altogether.

And last but not least, I’ll be starting a new serial novel here on the blog on Friday. Yes, I know…not going to do them anymore, etc, but…it’s my blog, and I can change my mind if I want to. And I do. So if you’re interested, check back Friday for the first chapter of Live With Me – second book in the Be With Me series. Wanna read the first book? Sleep With Me is available in digital and print formats at your favorite online retailers. A great summer read, if I do say so myself.

And for those of you who follow my alter-egos, keep an eye on those blogs too. Similar announcements are coming…

That’s it for now…here’s to a hopefully productive and spring-like week for all of us!


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