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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Kitchen Organization & Irony

If I were to sum up this past weekend in one word, it would be: “whew”. I’m tired. I was almost happy to be back at work today, except my muscles had more time to try to stiffen up as I sat at my desk. I used quite a few this weekend that I haven’t used in quite a long time. A couple trips up the stairs and back down plus morning yoga seemed to keep the stiffness down a bit though.

Saturday I had a good time book shopping with a friend met on Facebook, and then the work began. We loaded up our two couches, took ’em out to the dump, and then it was off to the furniture store to pick up our new sectional. Back to the house, I vacuumed while hubby freed the new furniture from its packaging, and then we hauled everything in, put it together, and man…it’s a very nice sectional. Not too big, looks great, plenty of room for me and both dogs, and room enough for the rare guest too.

Hubby took a shower and headed out for a night with his brother, and I set out to clean off/out the refrigerator for our next project: fixing a leak in the water line that popped up and ruined the kitchen floor a week and a half ago. I cleaned off old appliances and such that had been living on top the fridge – just tossed ’em, since I don’t need them or they didn’t work any longer. Dusted, took off the magnets, cleaned all the old food out, and…decided to go ahead and replace the water inlet valve, which we suspected was the leaking culprit. I was on a roll…didn’t feel like waiting for hubby to help on Sunday.

I replaced the valve, turned the water back on, and…turned out there was a pinhole leak in the water line. Dammit. Taped up the leak, pushed the fridge back, and called it good for the night (around 10pm).

A good deal of Sunday was taken up with going out to get the new line, snaking it up with the old line, not having the right connector fittings (so another trip to the store for hubby), and then finally getting it fixed late in the afternoon. After that, I finally got to my normal weekend chores – vacuuming, garbage duty, recycling, laundry, and grocery shopping (which I normally do Saturday afternoons now, but I didn’t want to fill the fridge again until we were done moving it around).

I’ve been thinking a lot about my kitchen lately (I tend to do that when stuff breaks and/or doesn’t work like it should), and wanting to make a few changes with how things are organized. So cleaning out the fridge/freezer this weekend was a good start, and also a good way to really take stock of my counters and how I want to rearrange them to accommodate the appliances I need/use.

Cleaning off the top of the fridge also gave me storage for appliances I use, but only once a week or less – like my yogurt maker. I’ll use it tonight, and then it will sit again for a couple of weeks, so instead of having it in front of my crockpots (in the way), I’ll put it on top the fridge between uses. It’s one of those things I have no problem actually reaching for when I need it. Same with extra pitchers/etc for my Ninja blender (that I mostly use for smoothies). Right now, they tend to “float” on the crockpot trio just because I’m out of cupboard space. Those can live up on the fridge as well.

I’ve ordered a smaller microwave, which may or may not end up being a mistake, but I’m tired of the huge one we have taking up 2/3 of the countertop where it lives. It’s a beast, and we’ve been getting occasional “door not closed” errors on the display, so it’s time to replace it anyway, but the one I ordered is half the size and wattage (only 700watts!), so…we’ll see. The new one is much cuter – a retro look, and it will leave enough room on that counter for my dehydrator, which currently lives by the stove. Then the few cookbooks I refer to on occasion can move to that tiny counter, leaving room on the other side of the stove for the toaster oven I want to get later in the month.

I don’t use the microwave for cooking, only defrosting/reheating. I’m hoping this smaller one will do the job. It does have excellent reviews. And I’m hoping to eventually use the toaster oven more than the microwave or larger oven. At least until I can buy a new convection oven, maybe even one with two separate cooking zones…because I love kitchen gadgets just as much as I love other electronics, and because there are only two of us, so it’s not like I need a whole lot of space to make dinner most nights, and it would be nice not to heat up an entire large oven for just a single pan of veggies (or 3 slices of toast on the weekend).

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

I need a new oven (one burner on my stovetop doesn’t work, and the oven itself doesn’t heat evenly), and I’d like a new fridge, but those are going to have to wait awhile. Crazy how much appliances cost, isn’t it?

I’m always looking for ways to make my little galley kitchen more efficient…and I freely admit I have too much stuff packed into it already. But, I use it daily, and use most of the appliances I have on a very regular basis, so it’s not like I’m just collecting a lot of stuff I don’t use. Aside from baking dishes. Because I rarely bake (calories!), but when I do need them, at least I have them.

I’d also really like to keep a running inventory of the fridge, freezer, pantry, and deep freeze, in hopes of using things up on a more regular basis (instead of buying too much and wasting food). Alas, that’s a project I’ve been trying to get going for years, and still haven’t managed. But maybe this next weekend I’ll be able to finally get a good inventory entered into an app of some sort. I’m taking this coming Friday off work, and the plan is to give the pantry and deep freeze the same “clean it out” treatment I just gave the fridge. Which would be a good time for inventory…if I were so inclined….

Better efficiency and inventory of course doesn’t just mean better food management. It makes it easier to cook and eat healthier. Which makes it easy to manage weight and stay healthier overall.

Ironic thing number one this past week: We switched to whole grain breads in order to be healthier with our carbs. Neither of us have ever particularly cared for the taste, but I did find some that are at least passably palatable.

The irony is, for years I’ve been struggling with how to keep bread from molding without keeping it in the fridge. Apparently, whole grain bread keeps better than white – not one roll or bun molded last week in the breadbox on the counter. So apparently, healthier is actually heartier, in the case of bread at least. Who knew?

Ironic thing number two is that all weekend, my SHealth app was pestering me because I “wasn’t as active” over the weekend as I normally am on weekdays. The truth is, I was far, far more active, but I tend not to put my cell in my pocket when I’m doing things like…moving couches, cleaning out and moving refrigerators, pulling new water lines, vacuuming, laundry, etc. I mean…why would I have my cell in my pocket for all that, when it could get lost or broken or whatever? Duh.

In any case, new couch – check. Working refrigerator – check. Plan for the kitchen this weekend – check.

Energy/motivation to get all this stuff done…well, let’s wait and see what I’ve got by Friday.

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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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… 😉

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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Of Couches & Habits & Things That Are Old

A week ago last Saturday, I ordered a new couch (sofa, whatever). I like couches. Recliners never seem to fit me well, and I like being able to have my dogs laying with me when they want to. A good couch and ottoman are my “necessities” for comfort in the living room.

When we got married and moved into this house nearly 13 yrs ago, we bought a couch and loveseat, but we each had a bunch of other furniture to “merge” as well. So the couch got put downstairs in the “TV/Workout room” (where it still resides) the loveseat was mine, and we had a couple of extra chairs in the living room. The one chair that survived all those years is my reclining armchair, which my parents bought for me when I first moved out of their house. I love it, and now it’s my “reading chair” in the office.

The thing about a loveseat is, there’s really only room for me and one dog. Or one dog stretched out. It was never really an issue before, because I had dogs that never really wanted to be on the couch at the same time, or were only up there together when I wasn’t so they could look out the window. Now I have two dogs who would both be happy cuddling with me on the couch in the evenings…and who get jealous of each other if one is up and the other is not.

So, I decided a sectional would both solve that problem and make the room look a little more “put together” than the mis-matched pieces we’ve had for all these years. Hubby still has his recliner, of course (needs a new one, actually…soon), and we got an old worn out couch free from one of the neighbors last month just to make sure having a sectional wouldn’t make the room look weird/too small. When the new sectional couch comes in, both my old loveseat and that old couch will head to the dump. It’s pretty exciting, really, considering how long we tend to keep furniture. I can’t wait until it gets here…later this week, perhaps?

In other news, breaking my scrolling habit has been…difficult. I need to refine the times I’m allowed to to scroll, because the times I set just really aren’t working for actual interaction, and part of the goal is to be productive while I’m online – not just on Facebook, but on Instagram and Twitter too. I need to set aside time when I can scroll *and participate*, not just scroll. The scrolling is the time-wasting part. So that will be this week’s goal – to find the best time to do that.

As for the “Things That Are Old” part of the title, well, it’s my husband’s birthday today, and he’s 11 yrs older than I am, which makes him “Old(TM)”. LOL And I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind him occasionally throughout the day/year. Because that’s what good wives do. Or what this one does, anyways.

I love older men – I always have, and this one especially (of course). Happy 53rd to the most important man in my life. Like a puerh tea-cake, you’re aging to perfection!

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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Feed Scrolling & Getting Things Done

I’ve noticed something about myself…something some of you might have noticed about yourselves too. I tend to scroll my social media feeds long after I’ve ceased being entertained or amused by them. Even after I’ve commented on what I want to comment on, liked, reacted, or otherwise interacted with people and posts, I keep scrolling. It’s like an automatic Pavlovian response – I don’t get rewarded often, but it’s often enough to keep me hoping for one more little connection somewhere.

It’s a waste of time, is what it really is. And I’m about over it.

Understand – I love social media, even when it makes me crazy, because it’s one of the few ways I can comfortably interact with people I like and/or find interesting while ignoring everyone else. When I need to disconnect, I just do…no fanfare. And then I reconnect again and it’s all good.

But, after I’ve put in whatever meaningful commentary I feel like contributing for the day, I tend to feel like I’m going to miss something if I don’t check back later for replies/comments/reactions/etc. Which is stupid, because every single social media account I have will *let me know* if someone is virtually talking to me. I mean, my cell will buzz at me, or at the very least put a little notification icon up in that left corner. And obviously I’ll reply to notifications as I have time (and a full keyboard, in many cases) – no need to limit that, as I don’t get terribly many.

I don’t have to keep checking back unless I have something to share, or unless I want to check for news, and I only really need to do that a couple times a day – takes 10 minutes or so.

Why do I feel compelled to scroll mindlessly through my social media feed when I could be doing something productive with that time…like writing, or writing a blog post, or watching TV or crocheting, or…well, any number of things, really? I mean sure, sometimes it’s just to relax the mind, and I have no problem with that, but when I feel compelled to scroll through just as I’m sitting down to write or crochet?

Yeah. That’s not a “break”. It’s procrastination coupled with the irrational fear that the world is going on without me and I’ll miss something big if I’m not constantly connected.

I don’t quite “get” why I care what I miss, really. Or even why I feel like I’ll miss something. There is really *no way* to miss something important happening in this day and age if you’re even a little tiny bit connected, and I’m far more connected than that. I couldn’t miss something happening in the world if I *tried* – and often I do try to avoid hearing about certain things with rather mixed results.

Seriously. It’s kind of ridiculous.

I need to just stop. But how? If you said “discipline & redirection”, you’re right! If you said anything else, you could be right too, but those are my personal go-to habit-breakers. I need to decide on a couple of times to check my feeds per day, and then what to redirect to when I feel compelled to scroll outside those prescribed times.

There’s really no need to check my feeds before work – I have other things I need to do with that time (workout, write, *get ready for work*). I may start doing a daily post for my feeds just as a personal accountability writing-goals thing, but I don’t need to scroll to do that, just post. And I normally don’t scroll during the day while I’m at work, so that’s not a problem (too busy, with the occasional lunchtime exception). So once after work and maybe once late at night should be plenty. Then on the weekends if I want to go all-out “zombie-‘netzian” and I have the time (which I often don’t), I can go nuts with the mindless scrolling.

I normally scroll feeds while we’re eating dinner, which is a good time for it, since we’re just watching TV – though I can’t really reply all that easily since I’m generally using my cell. So that will be my main scroll time. The late night time will be dependent on how much writing I get done right away. If I finish the evening’s minimum word count goal (say, 500 words) with time left to spare before bed, then I can use the remainder of time to scroll and reply. Otherwise, no scrolling for the night. That just might be good motivation to settle in and write right away instead of screwing around (ie, scrolling feeds *ahem*) first, actually. Especially if I have comments I need to reply to that evening.

Redirection is easy enough. If I find myself tapping a social site in the morning, just have to redirect myself to whatever I’m supposed to be doing just then (my morning routine is pretty tight). If I find myself tapping over in the evening after my walk, it’s put the cell down and get the yarn. And of course if I’m supposed to be writing, I need to close the browser and write. Discipline plus redirection.

Less mindless scrolling. A good thing, methinks.

Do you scroll mindlessly through your social feeds? Does it bother you, or are you fine with that behavior (which is a perfectly fine/valid perspective, of course)?

Convenience vs. Privacy: Smart Speakers?

Amazon Prime Day was this past week (like the “Black Friday” of summer), and apparently their Echo smart home devices were the best sellers. Other companies took advantage of the day as well, and sold similar products (most notably the Google Home) at a discount too. So now we have a crazy number of households with these smart devices in them, all hooked up either to Amazon or Google’s databases, recording pretty much everything said and responding when the AI algorithms tell it to.

Now, I’ve never actually wanted to talk to my computer, Star Trek-style. I’d rather say hello to my dogs when I walk in the house and flip a light switch than actually tell the lights to come on. I’d be okay using an app with buttons to tap to turn the lights on, or schedules to input, but I don’t want to do any of that verbally – I want it all text-based. I am often “verbally challenged” – what I want to say doesn’t come out correctly. So I’m not keen on verbal commands.

*Quick note: as I’m writing this, Evernote keeps blip-ing and telling me it can’t save. This only adds to my conspiracy theorist paranoia…

ANYways. I don’t particularly want all of my appliances connected to one app or main control “unit”. It’s the same reason I still have a landline phone – and not a digital “landline” that travels via digital internet cables and is bundled up with your cable & internet, but a “real” analog landline – the kind that will still work even if all the power is out, internet is out and cell towers are down or whatever.

I don’t ever want a single point of failure for all of my stuff. Nor do I want a single point where someone could hack into my personal “mainframe” and gain control of my door locks, my thermostat, my lights, and my oven/washer/dryer/whatever.

Don’t get me wrong – I love gadgets and convenience as much as anyone else, and the very thought of controlling the whole house via one app is appealing on many lazy levels, I just can’t actually make myself “go there”, because I’m all too aware of how easily it could all turn upside down and work against me in a very short amount of time.

It also makes me uneasy to think that there’s something in my house always listening for verbal cues. Some would argue that my cell is always listening and my laptop probably could too (I should check if it has a built in microphone…probably does!), but I’m fairly certain the cell companies aren’t organized enough with their data to actually make anything of what it hears (I mostly know this because I’ve seen the kind of reports they run…they’re…antiquated, at best). Amazon and Google though? Conspiracy theory hat on again – they are ready, willing and excited to mine everything anyone says in a room with one of their connected smart-devices for every little bit of usable information they can get from it. Much like the whole smart TV fiasco…except those companies were listening without permission.

Amazon and Google have your explicit permission…probably laid out in those “Terms of Service” documents that no one ever reads.

I talk to myself when I’m home alone. I talk to my dogs. When my husband is there, I talk to him, sometimes saying things I wouldn’t say to anyone else. We have private conversations, like most couples probably do. I have private conversations with myself. And the last thing I want is for these discussions to be logged and tagged and cross-referenced and stored in some big data repository where it can potentially be used against me – either by the original collectors, or the hackers who steal it (eventually).

And no, reassurances from the company that they don’t, won’t, would never, ever do that are meaningless, because…well, once the data is out there, it’s out there, and you just never know what the government or other entities might do years after these particular people are long gone.

Understand, I’d still like my washer/dryer to text or message me when they’re done. And I’d like to be able to control the thermostat through an app. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind controlling some of the lights via an app, as long as some are left “dumb”.

I just…have very strong security and privacy concerns with this whole “connect all the things!” movement. And I’m kind of surprised that more people don’t, to be honest. But maybe I am just being all paranoid about nothing. Certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Do you have an Echo or Home device? Are you working on connecting all your “things” to one master controller? Is the convenience overcoming any skepticism you might have, or are you just not worried about what might happen?

Inquiring minds…

Sometimes All You Need…

…is a little “flip”!

Bonus points if you know the movie I’m referencing with the title & first sentence (whether I’m quoting exactly or not is up in the air, but if you know it, you’ll know it).
As you can see, I finished my writing office rearrangement last Tuesday, as per the plan. I can’t even tell you how much just having a clean, well-organized office has helped with the writing. Moving the table to the back wall insulated me from latent noise and activity in the living room, which made a big difference in focus, and just having a much cleaner, larger “open space” on the floor has made the whole room feel much bigger/less closed-in. The armchair is a very welcome addition, and I even used it a couple times last week for both reading and journalling. I think this is going to work very well for a long time. And the hubby is going to build bigger, nicer bookshelves for the “book wall” as well, so that will be much more organized in the near future too.

I also changed my morning routine last week, as I said I was going to. I got up early, played a few simple games to get my brain moving, had my matcha, did my workout, and then two mornings out of three, I had a full half-hour to write before I needed to jump in the shower and get ready for work. And I was awake enough to make productive use of the time too. I’m really going to try to keep that going this week. It was so nice being caught up by the end of last week, instead of behind!

One of the other two notable things that happened this week were that I got another piece of my right arm tattooed, which means I only have one more session, and this arm will be done. It looks great, and as with all the other tattoos on this arm, the new piece has inspired another part of the story I’m just itching to start writing. Soon, my pretties. Soon!

And the last thing is, I got my hands on a public beta of an android app for the first writing software application I ever used, and still compare every other piece of writing software to: yWriter. This allows me to use yWriter on my PC at home, and access (or even edit, though I doubt I’ll be doing much of that on my cell) all my notes and drafts on my cell when I’m not at home. It’s a game-changer for me, and I’m going to switch back to this software for all my writing. I may be posting more about that on my writing blog one of these days.

So, really great week last week. Here’s hoping I can keep the new schedule going this week…