Challenges & Choices

I wasn’t actually sure I was going to survive last week. Everything that could go wrong pretty much did, and not just one or two days, but every day. On top of that, doing the poem-a-day workshop took up a lot of time I didn’t have, which means I didn’t get to bed on time any night last week (including this weekend). That means I didn’t get any reading time, or enough rest. Which put me behind today (Sunday, as I write this), because I slept late, and just a little bit ago I finally sat down to look at last year’s bookkeeping for the publishing business to see where I left off.

As far as I can tell, I started updating my financial program last year, decided I didn’t have enough time or energy or whatever, gave up, and just added up my sales reports for the total income & used my bank statements to calculate my expenditures. Which is absolutely fine/accurate for taxes, but now I’m two years and 2.5 months behind on bookkeeping for the business, and because I didn’t look at this earlier, I’m going to have to do the same thing this year. Which is way more work than actually clicking the button in the finance program to generate a sales/loss report for the year to plug into my tax program.

It’s also a lot more work than just keeping my finance books up to date once a month. Seriously.

Yet another thing in my life that I really need to just get control of and keep control of. It’s not hard, it’s not mysterious, it’s not something I need to “learn” how to do…I just need to do it. Because it will make my life exponentially easier, at least once a year.

I have no idea why I have such a mental block about taking care of finances, but there’s got to be a way to get past it and be more responsible in that area.

In other news, the poetry challenge has been both negative and positive. As I mentioned earlier, I really didn’t have time to do that, and I still don’t, and my sleep and reading/relaxing schedule was completely shot (not to mention any knitting/crochet time i the evenings). I really need to figure out some other way to keep up this week, because I can’t do a whole month like this…I’ll go insane.

On the other hand, I’ve discovered that poetry is a great warm-up for writing prose, and I’m actually enjoying writing poems far more than I thought I would. It has also increased my prose output just due to having that extra deadline hanging over my head, and I’m finally getting back to a reasonable per-night word count again. I think after the month is over, I’ll keep writing poetry…though at a much more moderate pace (say, one poem a week or so).

I’ve also discovered that I really like writing by hand on my cell and/or tablet. I have Samsung Note devices (cell & tablet) with the SNote program, which makes it easy, and I’ve found that handwriting first drafts and notes, and then typing the manuscript back in is a great editing tool.

Another boon is that it’s making me think more about word choice and sound in my prose, which is exactly what I was hoping it would do. So definitely worth it, if I can just regain some balance this week. Thankfully taxes aren’t due until the 18th this year, which gives me next Saturday to actually fill out the forms (yay TurboTax!), but I’ll have to calculate my profit/loss numbers working in the evenings this week. My eyes are already squinting at the thought of all that extra screen time.

This week is going to be all about collecting/calculating the business info I need for taxes, and also figuring out how to fit my poem-a-day in with my regular writing and still get to bed on time so I can read and recharge the brain before sleep (and getting enough sleep).

Next week, after my taxes are done and filed, it will be time to figure out how I’m going to get the bookkeeping all caught up, and keep it up to date from now on. *sigh*

And someday, maybe I’ll be rich enough to pay someone to do my accounting for me, right? (Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath either.)

Poem-A-Day Challenge: Week 1 Poems

If you’ve read Monday’s post, you know that it’s National Poetry Month, and Carol and I decided on a whim (okay, she dared me) to do a Poem-a-Day challenge for the month of April. I signed up for a workshop here in town (I’m doing it online though, because time & people), and while I work to daily prompts (mostly), she’s decided to explore different poetry forms daily. If you click on her name, you’ll get to her blog, and she will be posting her weekly poems on Saturdays as well.

So, these Saturday posts will be a bit longer than normal, because they’ll contain an entire week’s worth of poetry – good, bad or ugly. Much like my serial stories, these are posted in draft form, though since I’m handwriting a lot of them and typing them back in, they’re getting at least minimal editing (hooray!).

Without further ado, I give you this week’s poems. Want to share some of yours? Feel free to paste or link to them in the comments!


Saturday 4/1: The Well

The well was dry, or so they thought
a bucket dropped in and brought back for naught.
Toss a coin down, wish on a prayer,
perhaps our dark secrets will disappear there.

Years after, the well still stands in a field
holding cursed coins and treasure appeal.
But for all who would visit, a sacrifice made,
another dark secret in the well must be laid.

Sunday 4/2: Mornings

It starts with a buzz
then another
vibration
harbinger of imminent doom.

The ship bell tolls loud
banishes sleep
irritation
summoned for immediate gloom.

Stumble into the kitchen
doggy duties
infusion
tea before leaving this room.

Down to the basement
sun salutation
meditation
illumination begins to bloom.

The shower runs warm
brainfog clearing
realization
today no early tomb.

Monday 4/3: Ode to Bindweed (also posted on the Snake Bites blog for this week’s poetry prompt)

Solemn and quiet the brown earth lays,
newly exposed after winter abed,
waiting patiently for nutrients and UV rays,
to warm the dark soil and summon the dead.

Deep underneath, where no light penetrates,
the tiniest microbes wiggle and churn,
tough twisted roots begin to replicate
preparing for their evil master’s return.

The rake turns the soil, pulls back the top
tiny seeds scattered wide, a last ditch hope.
The rake cuts the roots, but they don’t ever stop
indeed they grow into stronger, deeper rope.

Those arrow-shaped leaves, the bell-shaped flowers
would surely be pretty at some other abode.
In this place the sight is one quite sour
akin to licking the back of a toad.

Tuesday, 4/4: Affairs of the Heart

Maybe we shouldn’t
do this.
It’s going to hurt.
It always does.

We could, I suppose
but then
if bliss fades away
we’ll be alone.

The thing about love
is that
it keeps coming back.
There’s no escape.

But sometimes it comes
for one
and not the other.
Longing is pain.

The heart is fickle
and so
often I don’t know
how to proceed.

Maybe we shouldn’t
but then
again maybe we
should.

Wednesday, 4/5: Voices

It was there in the wasteland
of mid-afternoon that I heard
the voices.

They called to me with whispered
insistent ferver that I could
not ignore.

You want it, we know you do.
You know it’s true, so why don’t you?
They said.

Alas, no coin or paper
graces pocket, wallet or purse
this day.

Apologies, dear voices.
No sweet, or salt, or extra fizz
for us.

Thursday, 4/6: The Secret

Come sit closer
and I’ll tell you a tale
of something lost
something hidden
a curse on a gale.

I wouldn’t divulge
but my last breath is nigh
and someone must
know the secret
of how to survive.

Out back past the tree
where we had our first talk
a wooden box
buried shallow
with gold straps and lock.

Listen — do you hear?
The wind begins to blow.
The restless curse
comes closer now
but you need to know.

The box holds a key
that will open a door
in the basement
behind bookshelves
where rests our folklore.

As soon as I say
this next bit you must run.
Retrieve the key,
unseal the room.
My work here is done.

Hush now, don’t fear, child.
I’ve accepted my fate.
Find the gold tome,
chant the third verse.
Do not hesitate.

The curse, how she howls
like a wolf at the moon.
She comes for me,
go quickly now.
Save yourself from doom.

Friday, 4/7: How Handsome

How handsome you would look
in a puzzle-piece suit.
Jigsaw lines making pinstripes chaotic
and a tie sporting straight-edge simplicity.

When we’d walk down the street,
people would smile and laugh
and say that you’re very well put together.

How handsome you would look
in a crocheted woolen sweater.
Colorful twists of thick fiber knotted into
stylish cables, ribbing, and affectionate warmth.

When we’d walk down the street,
people would snuggle deeper into
their own coats and wish they could feel your softness.

How handsome you would look
in a paperback shirt.
Creamy white paper with black letters dancing
across your chest, and a kilt of colorful covers to match.

When we’d walk down the street,
people would attempt to read your
pages and peek between your covers.


Whew! A good, but challenging week, methinks. Next week, seven more poems. Anyone want to join in? It’s not too late…just start writing!

Poetry & Taxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Really Good Day & Retirement Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a really good day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

More random vacation days, perhaps?

First Quarter Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Concert Late Night Musings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental Flotsam

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

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

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

Never a dull moment, eh?

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

Archery & Eyestrain

Things have been a bit busy around here lately, what with getting a couple of new releases ready and promoted for BSB. Hence my missing last week’s normal discussion post here – I just sorta ran out of time. We have one more new release today (My buddy Carol’s new book – go check it out here!), but since today is also a federal holiday, I’m off work, which leaves a little more time for things like blog posts. And archery!

Yes, archery. I’m heading out to our local archery range late this afternoon to try my hand at a bow and arrow. From what I understand, they have simple compound bows for rental, so it won’t be all “medieval” like, but I think it will be a lot of fun, and I’ve been wanting to try it for awhile now. So I’m really looking forward to that, and who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire a new story or two. Possibly even a new hobby? We’ll see…I really don’t need another hobby, but something physical aside from dog-walking that gets me out of the house occasionally wouldn’t be a bad thing.

I did spend a little time this weekend watching beginner archery videos, and a video or two on the type of bows they rent. So I’ll still look like an idiot to start with, I’m sure, but at least I’ll know *why* I look like an idiot, and I know the basics of bow safety so I shouldn’t hurt myself (too badly) or anyone else. A perk of being an over-analytical INTJ personality type.

So that will be fun, methinks. So far this morning I’ve entertained the dogs, made yogurt, chatted on FB, and tried to write this blog post – a task that just keeps getting interrupted (mostly by the cabin-feverish dogs). I had to stay away from the screen for the most part this weekend, as I’ve neglected to take care of my eyes over the past week (too much screen time, too much wind), and they’re pretty strained. They felt better this morning, but I need to be careful – pushing them too hard will end me up on steroid drops and constant watering again, and I *do not* want that!

I used to have a “no computer in the living room” rule back when I lived alone. If I wanted to use the computer (I didn’t have a laptop back then), I had to go into my office deliberately. That limited my screen time because I like to watch TV in the evenings. Then I got a laptop, that rule went out the window, and now I have to be firm with myself and leave the laptop closed or in the office again at night while I watch TV and crochet or knit, rather than staring at both my laptop and the TV for the hour or so I have. Using my cell isn’t quite so bad, as long as I’m only on to check messages/emails or post photos. The keyboard is too small to do much else efficiently, so it’s self-limiting.

Last week I was working on graphics and other things for a book launch, so I did have reason to be online other than just gawking at social media feeds, but even that, I could and should plan better so I can stay away from computer screens between the time I leave work, and my writing time. That will give my eyes plenty of rest, and if I remember to use eyedrops after particularly windy or cold walks, those two things should keep them in good shape.

That, and remembering to stay hydrated. I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember to drink a glass of water between mugs of tea, but it is. And it makes a noticeable difference in my eye health when I remember to do that.

Good grief. It’s a lot of work to keep a body running properly…

Now, lunch. Then a dog walk, another blog post, and archery and some TV/crocheting, and then writing. If you have the day off, I hope you’re doing something fun! And if not, I hope your Monday is going quickly and quietly.

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.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 2…

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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.