Liebster Award!

I got an email the other day telling me I had been nominated for a Liebster Award.  Having not encountered this particular creature before I sought the knowledge of the Great Oracle.  Google lead me to the link above.  It appears to be a thoughtfully constructed exposure chain for the upcoming year, similar to a blog tour but different.  I find the idea both fun and compelling and I am pleased to be included in this.  According to the rules, I have to include them in my post so here they are, copy and pasted.

  • Link to this blog post in your Liebster Award blog post
  • Answer the questions given to you (if nominated, if you were not nominated you can use my questions)
  • Create more questions for your nominees to answer (I’m looking for unique and creative ones)
  • Comment on this blog post with a link DIRECTLY to your Liebster award. To make it easy for me to read them all.

Right out of the gate I would like to acknowledge the blog that nominated me, The Stories In Between and tell you a little about them.  I hadn’t run across the blog before the nomination so I’ve been doing a little reading.  I have to say I’m quite impressed.  The author’s style of writing is smooth and I have no doubt there is a lot of personal experience behind the writing.  I can feel it in the shape of the characters and their quite natural dialogue.  I always appreciate a story that will take me away from wherever I’m at and leave me feeling like I want to go back.  Truly a talented writer who takes the craft seriously.  I strongly encourage you to have a look at the blog and enjoy the writing.  I’m not finished there yet so I’ll be ramping up the views as I make my way through Thursdays In The Valley.  I am genuinely flattered to have to such a fine storyteller nominate my blog.

EDIT:  This post has taken me a few days to write and before I was finished a second nomination was dropped on my blog.  Thank you so much A Tree’s Roots!  Your blog is quite inspiring.  The energy that you put into your life and your words is meaningful to me on many levels and I look forward to spending more time on your blog.  The answers to your questions follow right after The Stories In Between.  I hope it’s not cheating to do it like this.

Next up is the questions.  The Stories In Between answered ten questions posed by the blog that nominated them, then created ten new questions for the blogs nominated by them.  My job is to answer the ten new questions then create ten of my own.  So here goes.

The Stories In Between

  1. What hobby would you get in to if time and money weren’t an issue?

Cartooning.  I realize this isn’t a big money issue, but I simply don’t have the time for it.  I draw a little bit but it’s nothing major.  If I really had time to devote to it I would develop both a comic strip style storyline as well as an animated version.

  1. What is the most annoying question that people ask you?

How old are you?  Lol.  I’m 51 but I seem to still be holding up pretty well.  The question seems to spark a lot of argument on occasion, prompting me to dig out my wallet and show my ID to prove I’m really that age.

  1. What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t gotten around to it?

Making my own condiments.  My wife just got me a stick blender for Christmas so I’ll be trashing the kitchen soon while I try to make homemade mayonnaise.  Wish me luck!

  1. Do you have a dream job? What would it be?

Writing.  My mother always beat me over the head with the idea of having something to fall back on and as a result I have always devoted my time to the fall back job and never enough time to my writing.

  1. If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what rule would you make?

Walk the way you drive people!  Stop charging up and down whatever side of the sidewalk you feel like.

  1. If you could make a 20 second phone call to yourself at any point in your life present or future, when would you call and what would you say?

I would call myself at a rather specific moment twelve(ish) years ago and say “Don’t apologize.  You are right.”

  1. What do you do to deal with stress?

I write stories and turn my antagonists into demons.  I also play video games to kill things with impunity.

  1. Do you have any pets? What are their names?

I have three pets.  Bill is a gray tabby who stares and chirps at things only he can see; Louie is a fat, orange tabby I bought from PetSmart… cuz I looked at him and he looked back.  Ya know?  Everette is a white ferret that seems intent on convincing Bill and Louie they are adopted.


  1. What is something that is really popular/cool right now that really annoys you?

Memes.  ‘Nuff said.

  1. Do you have a favorite book/story from your childhood?

I have a number of them however there are two that stand out:  A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle (I’m curious about the upcoming movie.  Will my hope for a good translation from book to film be met or shattered?) and Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander.  Taran was given to me by mother who had a bad habit of not bothering to see if the book she was buying was part of a series.  It was only after reading it that I actually read the entire cover and discovered I needed to save my allowance and buy the rest of the series.  I am my mother’s child.

Questions from A Tree’s Roots

1,  What is your favorite color and what does it mean to you?

A deep emerald green.  To me it means health and good fortune.  Just seeing this color will make me smile.

2. What prompted you to start blogging and/or writing?

I’ve always written stories.  When I was around five or six my mother gave me a book with blank pages and it set my mind on fire.  The blaze has burned long and hard.  Starting a blog as an outlet for this seemed like a natural step.

3.  What is the most significant journey you’ve been through?

The one I’m on right now, my life itself.  I have made so many choices that I felt were arbitrary but turned out to be significant in the end.  Where I’m at right now is not a place I would have seen myself even five years ago.  It’s kinda fun to know that I can still blow my own mind.

4.  Who or what is your greatest adversary?

I have to say my own fear of failure.  Judging myself as harshly as I do can become paralyzing.

5.  If you could conceptualize yourself as anything other than a human being, what would you be?

A tree.  My life has been quite nomadic even in childhood.  I would love to find a single location where I could put down my roots and just live.

6.  How would you describe your safe place?  If you don’t have one what do you imagine it might be like?

My safe place is anywhere without other people.  I need to feel like my mind is the only one active in my immediate surroundings.

7.  What is your favorite website?

Hmmm.  I’m not sure how to answer this one.  I don’t think I have a favorite but there are several that like a lot.  I’m a big fan of Reddit and Twitch.

8.  What type of media resonates most with you?

I love audio.  Tell me a story.  Read me a book.  Turn on a podcast!  I think I listen to movies more than I actually watch them.

9.   Do you have any background/education/experience you feel benefits your blog?

Not really.  I took a few college classes back in the day for english and creative writing but I didn’t enjoy them.  I found them to be tedious and unenlightening.

10.  On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) how would you rate your ability to empathize?

I have to go with 10.  I am firmly standing on the side of over-empathizing to the point that it can ruin my whole day if I encounter someone oozing unhappiness.  I carry that stuff around with me.

Before I list my own questions I would like to provide the list of blogs I am nominating.  Each one is one that I follow and have enjoyed.  I would really like it if you would take the time to check them all out.  



Now for my questions.

  1. What is the one piece of advice that will forever jump into your mind because you didn’t take it when your were first given it?
  2. What is your favorite thing to binge on?
  3. What is a physical gesture you tend to use a lot and why?  EX. talking with your hands, winking at someone while you speak, shaking your leg.
  4. Pick a card, any card… a tarot card.  🙂
  5. What are your top two pet peeves with our digital age lifestyle?
  6. What is your all-time favorite blogging beverage?
  7. Name a book/movie that you can watch/read again and again.
  8. What is an activity you enjoy watching other people do but don’t want to do yourself?
  9. How do you explain why water turns into ice to a four year old?
  10. What is a habit you have that you got from someone else?

COL – Distraction

“What the hell are you staring at Ferguson?  Pay attention to your game!”  

Stepping right into his personal space, the Pit Manager Louis planted a large, hot hand on the back of his head and shoved his face down toward the table.

“Head down, ass up!  Nothing else matters!”

Blood surged into Shane’s cheeks as Old Dave the Boxman turned to stare at him with his too small, ermine eyes.  The hairs on the back of his neck leapt straight up.   The players on his end of the dice table started chuckling.  Thinking of them as second rate hyena’s he wished them all a healthy meal of his embarrassment and prayed for them to choke on it.  Six rolls of the dice passed before he dared to pick his head up again and casually glance into the other pit.  Camilla was dealing at optimal speed, her hands and arms flowing like water, placing cards with precision.  She was a perfect study in efficiency.

“Seven OUT!”

Tearing his eyes away he automatically started grabbing up the losing Passline bets in chunks that he dropped on top of his number line amid a chorus of complaints.

“What are you doing, man?”  A dark hand reached down to block him from picking up the next wager.

“Seven out, sir.”  Shane looked up into the older, frowning face.  “The Passline loses.”  It was a stupid explanation but sometimes the players forgot what was going on.  And if he wasn’t mistaken, this guy had laughed for three rolls over the head down, ass up thing.  

“Dude, the dice haven’t even rolled.”  Continuing to block Shane, the man shook his head firmly and used his other hand to point down the table.

Cautiously turning his head to look at Chuck on the other base, he saw his friend standing motionless, hands on the rail with all his Passline bets still in place.  Feeling panic start to slither into his throat, he looked at the Stickwoman.  Cassie stared back at him.  The thick, black braid over her shoulder seemed to bleed its darkness into her eyes.

“It was the table behind you,” she said, tapping the base of her stick lightly against the green felt covering, a clear sign she was irritated with him.

“The dice haven’t rolled, Shane.”  Old Dave the boxman wiggled his swelling finger joints at the mess in front of Shane in annoyance.  “You need to put the bets back.”

“What the hell is wrong, Ferguson?  Still not watching your game?”  Louis barked from his podium, his voice booming and hard enough to split granite.  “Dave, get a grip on this guy, will you!”

With trembling hands Shane started sorting through the chips he had dropped onto his line, feeling Dave’s eyes on him.  His boxman was a lifer, never supervising anything but dice.  If the Pit Manager was snarling at Old Dave then Old Dave was going to rip out someone’s throat.  Shane was positive he would be dealing blackjack for the next week once Dave finished with him.

Five minutes later the bets were restored but his ego was shattered.  Holding onto the rail for support, he stared down at the table listening to his players talk rudely about him like he wasn’t there, and waiting to feel a tap on his shoulder signalling he should clear out.  The dice rolled.  Leaping into action, he paid everything and returned to his starting position, still waiting for the tap.  After two more rolls he heard the harsh, blatting of Old Dave laughing through sinuses that were too used up to support the sound.

“I think he’s got it now, Lou.”

“Good.  I’m already tired of him today.”  Louis’s voice drifted away, signalling he was walking to the other end of the pit.  

“He’s so scared of me he probably won’t look up for the rest of the week.”  Slapping the rail beside Shane, Old Dave rocked slightly in his broken down office chair.  “Don’t worry, Shane, I’m not tossing you over to blackjack just yet.”  He chuckled.  “From the look of things, you’d be happy there right now.”

In the edge of his vision he saw Dave focus on the other pit and knew he was looking directly at Camilla.

Monologue #25

I’m trying to get back into the swing of things.  I gave the blog a new header image and updated my About page which gave me a satisfied feeling.  Getting involved again feels like taking a deep breath after coughing too hard.  I need this air in my lungs.  This air right here.  Yup, that’s much better.

Smashing Pumpkins has progressed tremendously in the past couple months.  I have been forced to face the full size of this work (70k and climbing) and finally accepted the fact that I can’t pants it anymore.  Getting everything into working order now is going to take some seriously focused effort since I’ve got characters running all over the place right now.  To that end I have Googled  how to organize my material with Scrivener in a way that I can work with and found some good ideas.  When I bought the software I was aware of the learning curve and thought I’d just take it slow.  As it turned out, I’m not that patient.  I tore through the information provided and touched everything.  That doesn’t mean that I remember everything I learned, it just means that I got super excited and looked at it all.

Today’s business is really just going to be business.  I need to get out and work so I’m going to set my pen down (I still use one) and download a couple episodes of Star Trek DSN to my tablet and head out into the world to make some money.  What does DSN have to do with anything?  I spend a lot of time waiting, that’s what.

In the meantime please checkout the latest short work, Between The Pews.  As always, I wish you all inspiration and personal satisfaction in your endeavors.  Here’s to a productive year!  Cheers!

Between The Pews

Time always seemed to slow down to a crawl the second he walked in the door.  Minutes took hours to happen.  Maybe it was all the candles?  Did candles have some weird effect on time?  Who knows.  Could it be something actually built into the bricks of the church?  It wouldn’t be a surprise to find out that God’s blessing on the building was actually a rip in the fabric of time.  Everyone inside the church, soon to be fidgeting  through the sermon with him was actually trapped in a long, drawn out, three hour coaching session that only took an hour for everyone on the outside.

Slipping out of his brown leather jacket he draped it carefully over his left arm and tried to relax while looking around at the others..  The red carpet with its twisting black pattern always reminded him of the decor he sometimes saw on wrought iron fencing, giving him the unshakeable idea that he had walked into a trap.  Paired with the bright colors of the stained glass windows and those ridiculous giant wall drapes, he always felt bombarded by awareness when he first entered the church.  The warm, oak stain on the pews was the only saving grace, offering a safe spot to sit and block out the rest of the room.

“Good morning Fred.  It’s good to see you this morning.”

Trying not to look unfriendly, he turned toward the smooth talking salesman of God’s word, his hand already out and ready to be grasped.

“Morning Pastor Tom.”  Ugh, always with the soft, two handed grip.  Holding his face absolutely expressionless, he forced himself to endure it.  The man was a minister.  He was supposed to be gentle and non-threatening.   “It’s good to see you too.  How’s Helen doing?”   He looked the man in the eye, careful to not be too strong about it.  They were the same height, but that was all.  Dark haired Pastor Tom was more than a little portly and preferred a light gray suit for practically every occasion.  His own khaki slacks and charcoal gray sweater, chosen specifically to highlight his sandy hair with its seventy dollar haircut felt a lot more casual now that he was standing here.  He’d never felt this awkward with their previous minister, Reverend Harry.  Harry had rarely worn a suit.  He was a real down-to-earth guy.

“Helen is doing well,” Pastor Tom said with a grin.  “You know my sister, she’s got her hands into every pot she can find, stirring at top speed.”

Um, yeah.  What the hell was the last thing Helen had organized?  He couldn’t remember.  Was it that luncheon for the Beekeepers?

“That’s good.  Busy hands and what not.”  Smile and nod.  Pastor Tom was nodding too, his dark hair held firmly in place by an expert application of hair grease.  They were close enough that he could smell the lanolin.

“You know, Fred, Helen could use another pair of strong arms to help with the Pancake Breakfast on the thirtieth.  We need one more cook for the grill.”  Pastor Tom’s dark blue eyes opened just a smidgen wider.

How strong did you have to be to flip a flapjack and roll over a sausage link?

“I’ll check my calendar, Pastor Tom.  It’s been a busy month for me.”  He felt his face stiffen with resistance.  Those blue eyes might work on the ladies of the congregation, but they didn’t move him in the slightest.  Was that Karen Green just walking in?  He caught a flash of copper red hair just behind Pastor Tom’s bulk followed immediately by a flash of leg.  It took willpower to keep himself from tearing his eyes away from his minister just to stare wolfishly behind him.

“Of course, Fred.  Just let Helen know if she can put your name on the list.”  Pastor Tom turned away to greet another member of his flock, fully blocking the view of Miss Green and leaving a distinctly loud and empty spot behind him.

Feeling like his shoes, long ago broken in to the point of comfort were suddenly too tight on his feet, he turned toward his usual pew and took a seat, laying his jacket gently beside him where another person might be tempted to sit.  Sunday wasn’t usually a work day for him, but he could definitely make it one.  At least the people who worked on the Lord’s Day got paid.  All he got was the ability to repent and be judged by the rest of the congregation.  Sighing softly he looked up toward the domed ceiling with it’s stained, wooden braces and tried to feel something besides resignation.


Monologue #24

It’s funny how the one thing you thought was going to change your daily life for the better can manifest in the completely opposite manner.  Four months ago I was looking at a shift change and was preparing to move myself more into daylight hours.  Working third shift was good but working NOT third shift is better.  I’m a swing shift kinda guy and have my best hours right, smack in the middle of our twenty-four hour cycle.  I was excited and looking forward to this change.  I had high hopes of getting back to something more comfortable.  Well, that didn’t happen the way I thought it would.  The new shift was awful; management turned into demons, and my nerves shattered, making me combative and argumentative.  Four months later I have a different job, a different apartment and a different life altogether!  WTF!

Don’t get me wrong, here.  I’m not usually hard to work with.  My day job was my bread and butter; my entire life up until then.  I have ridden out hard times in the past by simply looking past it and seeing that things would get better eventually.  I put twenty-three years into that job and made a career out of it when I had no other career options; mostly because I hadn’t thought of any.  I had been a goalless twenty-something when I went into that industry.  In my mind it was just another stop on my non-existent travel plan through life, kinda like working at the local chicken-by-the-bucket place had been.  It was something to do that made me better money than slinging greasy food at people and going home smelling like fried everything.  I had no idea that I was going to fit so well into the new job and that it was going to become my employment Mecca for the bulk of my adult life.

I guess I’m actually writing an obituary here for my lost youth.  The past few months have left me bitter and feeling more my actual age than I ever have before.  My birthday was a few weeks ago and added a one to my half century of life.  With all those years behind me, putting up with so much crap from a job that once gave me a lot of happiness just became something I wasn’t willing to do anymore.  Putting up with garbage as you grow is a part of life.  Those shovelfuls of shit that get dumped on you are things you learn to deal with and avoid.  Everyone has to learn those things.  I wasn’t born into a family that was bursting at the seams with money and influence so I had to pick my way along like the rest of the poor and middle class.  Finding a job that was a good fit for me was really a surprise, and in many ways, a gift.  I know in my heart that a lot of folks don’t get to spend their lives working at something they actually like.  For me to find that job before I turned thirty was blessing that I can’t overlook.  To have those shovels turn into dump trucks was not.

Now I’m drifting along on the tracks of self-employment.  My car is my business.  Sadly, a lot of other people have chosen the same path as me and the work is a little scarce right now.  I believe business will pick up soon though.  Once the holidays are over all the part-timers will fade back out and I’ll be able to get back to the business of making money.  In the meantime I have resumed work on my novel and started blowing away the dust from my blog.  I never meant to leave it, especially for so long, but the stress of these past few months was more than my writing could hold.  Something had to fall by the wayside.  It hurts to know that my deepest love is the first thing to get left behind when times get tough, but I understand.  Survival first.  Creativity comes later.

Stay sane during this most obnoxious of holidays and don’t forget to tip your Uber/Lyft driver.  They gotta eat too. 🙂

COL – Perfection

“Every choice you make will alter you.  It will change the chemical makeup of your body and shape the way people see you.  It will give you a baseline for every decision that will follow.”

Tall and strong, Kaleb Ferguson stood beside him, his wide hands with their stubby fingers splayed on the edge of their kitchen table as he leaned down, staring him in the face.  Shane knew his father was only five foot seven, but in that moment his memory made him look so much larger.  The feel of it was like his dad had been towering over him, blocking the bright sunlight that had been shining through the kitchen windows.  Looking at his own hands now, especially the one holding the pen, he tried to feel a connection to that man who had worked so hard to make him understand something that day.  The lesson hadn’t been lost on him, but it hadn’t been learned either.

His own fingers were long, more like his mother, with narrow palms and soft tips that seemed to read their way along every movement.  Kaleb had called it a natural gift for learning, an ability that connected directly to his brain through his eyes.  Whatever he saw, he could do.  His hands would move, copying the motions of what he was seeing, duplicating the rhythms.  It didn’t matter if he was watching someone type a letter on a computer keyboard or being mesmerized by how a machine could carve a small peg from a single block of wood.  His hands would move, following the patterns and flowing along invisible pathways that he could feel.

The pen in his hand was warm, the heat from his skin having created a bond between himself and the plastic.  It was a common pen, a simple thing purchased in bulk boxes of twenty-five with a personalized logo printed around its cylindrical exterior.  The casual appearance of the pen was a sharp contrast to the paper in front of him.  His eyes were captivated by the form, it’s perfect beauty a drug for his eyes.  Whoever had made this had cared very deeply for its shape.  They had taken the time to feel their way along its creation and respect the rhythm of its purpose.  The pen was typical, just ink in a tube.  The employment agreement was a siren’s song captured on paper.

“If you will sign your name at the bottom of the form that you are accepting the position we can move along to wardrobe and have you fitted for your uniforms.”

A perfect form.  A casual pen.  A voice that scratched his ears.

Rolling the pen between his fingers he ignored the blonde woman with her short, frozen hair and impeccable gray, wool suit.  The lesson wasn’t lost, it just hadn’t been learned.  Why now?  Why that memory at this moment?  His spirit ached for him to sign his name, to write it on the amazing form and become a part of what had created it.  His mother had called that rubbing against popularity.  People liked to be near things that were magnificent, feeling they could absorb the greatness and enhance their own existence with it.  Was that what this was?  Was he just trying to rub against popularity?

“Mister Ferguson?”

Ripping his eyes away from the beautiful form he found the woman smiling at him, the bottoms of her perfect teeth barely showing between her painted, pink lips.  Her eyes were fully open, the pupils expanded in the flourescent light of the interview room that somehow brought a

deeper blue to her them.  Was she wearing contacts?  Keeping his teeth to himself, he smiled tightly back at her.

“We should move along now.  We have a lot of ground to cover yet.”

Nodding his understanding he rolled the pen around again, looking for a cooler spot to grip.  Carefully he turned the paper, positioning it at the exact angle he needed to get the proper slant on his signature.  It was his way to write in an upward motion, away from him.  His second grade teacher had made a fuss over it, trying to force him to write from right to left instead, but he had ignored her, waiting until she walked away to turn his paper back to the angle he liked.  Positioning the pen over the line at the bottom of the form he took a last look at it, letting his eyes soak in the love that had been imbued into its creation.  Taking a deep breath he touched the nib to the paper.

“Okay, let’s move along to wardrobe.”

Feeling like the room had become slightly darker, he shoved the paper away from him, not looking anymore.  The form was ruined, its beauty destroyed the instant he had touched it.  All he felt now was regret.

Snippet #21

The glass door was propped open with one of those hard, plastic wedges jammed beneath it. Nervously I peered inside, wondering if I was really going to go through with it?  I’d never done anything like this before.  It was so out of character for me that I could hardly believe I had thought of it all by myself.  The boy behind the counter looked too young to have a job.  His hair was flopping over the brim of his visor, and that vest!  Oh god, to even think about buying something from a boy wearing a vest like that and wasn’t working in a hardware store was almost too much.

Just as I was ready to discard the idea entirely, the kid looked up and spotted me.  I guess I’d blocked the light a little too long.

“Hi!  Welcome to Literation Services!”  His face radiated happiness as he looked at me like I was his favorite uncle.  “My name is Kevin.  How may I help you today?”

I felt my eyes get bigger as I contemplated just running away.  How would that look though?  The other people on the sidewalk might think I was a shoplifter trying to get away with something.  They might try to stop me!

“Come on in!”

In spite of myself I responded to his energetic wave and stepped across the threshold.  The change was like night and day.  The feel of the store from the sidewalk had been pretty normal, like it was any other store on the street.  From the inside it was like holding your breath in a submarine, completely unnecessary but oddly compulsory.  The walls were covered from floor to ceiling with shelves packed so tightly with words it was almost impossible to see exactly where one stopped and another began.  My hard won high school diploma seemed an unlikely aide among all these choices.

Walking around the counter Kevin stood in front of me and held out his hand.  His eyes were shaped like almonds with a perfect duct in each corner, just big enough to hold a single, pristine tear.

“What can I help you with?”

“Um… I’m… uh…”  How did people do this?  Did they just come right out and ask?  Or did they play twenty questions?  I shook his hand, so young and lacking lines.

Turning to stand beside me Kevin looked up at one of the shelves and gestured with his open palm.

‘We have anything you could possibly want, it doesn’t even matter what language you need.”  His face glowed with pride as he openly preened over the inventory.  He looked back at me.  “So tell me, what are you looking for today?”

Okay, so I was just going to say it.  No games or charades, just straight out ask for it.

“I need a word that starts with L.”  My voice sounded clipped and hard, like I might chip it if I tightened it any further.

Kevin’s face grew thoughtful.

“How many letters?”

“Seven.”  Yes, seven letters.  I felt like a huge schmuck.

“Okay.  Are you looking for a noun?  Adjective?”

“Adjective.”  What man can’t come up with his own adjective?  I wanted to cover my face.

Moving away like a hound on the hunt, Kevin raised his hands in the air and let them flow across the shelves like he could feel the words better with his hands than he could see them with his eyes.

“Can you give me an idea of what you want to use the word for?”  His voice floated back, very professional and businesslike.  I could not accuse him of being judgmental.

“Um…”  Crap.

Stopping, hands still raised, Kevin looked back at me.

“Don’t worry, I’ll never tell.  All your business with Literation Services is private now and forever.  We don’t even keep a database.”