Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for Zed -- Nonfiction

I love English. It just satisfies my soul. American English, Australian English, British English. English from around the world.

British English comes in handy. I can use the vulgarisms and not feel the least inclination to blush. Nor will anyone around me take me to task for unacceptable language.

British television is such a gold mine of language. Not Downton Abbey. So far their only exclamation has been “Crikey” and that only twice. Plus it’s not really an expletive – I don’t think. I could Google it and the other words to find out how they translate into American English, but then I’d know what they mean and I might be constrained against using them freely.

Doc Martin is a better source. The Portwenn folk call him all kinds of things. And I understand why. He doesn’t have the best bedside manner. He seems usually to take it in stride, though. No doubt he’s used to it.

A couple of weeks ago one young patient, a lad of maybe nine or ten, went off on Doctor Martin Ellingham.

“You’re the W word,” he shouted adding “and the T word and the Zed word.”
Doc Martin stopped in his tracks and asked the young man “What’s the Zed word?”

My husband translated, “wanker and tosser.” He knows his Britishisms better than I, but he didn’t know what the Zed word was either.

Today is the last day of the 2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge and I hope it is the last one of its kind for me. It has been difficult.

My uncle told my father that the Veteran’s Administration will provide him with dentures at no cost to him. And being a naturally thrifty man, he wanted to get new dentures through them. Daddy was in the Navy in World War II, so it seemed possible.

He has some cognition problems and doesn’t walk long distances well so I took on the task of trying to enroll him for VA benefits. There’s an office not far from out home, so I gathered his Discharge papers, my Durable Power of Attorney papers, his 2014 Income Tax information and went to that office.

Today wasn’t a particularly busy day for them so my wait was about forty-five minutes. I had John Lescroart’s Hunt Club with me – on my e-reader which fits nicely in my purse. Then the customer service guy very kindly told me they don’t do that or medical care eligibility there and that I would need to go to the VA Medical Center in downtown Denver.

So I did.

Denver is not the biggest town I’ve ever driven in. Dallas and Houston are bigger. Los Angeles is bigger still. But I was younger then and very nearly invincible.

There are one-way streets, so you don’t want to make a wrong turn or you may not find your way back to the street you’re looking for. And traffic is high volume made up of drivers who know where they want to go and are not patient with the likes of me. But I got there.

And parking in Downtown Denver is difficult to find. I was pleased to find that the VA has a multistory parking garage. Finding the entrance is a little tricky but I got a parking place.

There were forms to fill out before I could see the Enrollment Officer. I filled them out as completely as I could. I got to one area that I had not planned for and tried to call my husband so he could get the information for me. I knew exactly where it was, but my phone wasn’t working. It had been working, but not anymore. I decided to go ahead and get in line. My ticket was 150 and they were serving 148 so my wait couldn’t be very long.

The waiting area was filled with people waiting for the Lab, a different number scheme on their tickets. And they were much worse off than I. Old people with walkers and on oxygen. Young people in wheelchairs. The thirty-something man who sat next to me smelled of tobacco smoke and I knew he must be more stressed than I was.

Again I read, avoiding eye-contact with the other waiting people who avoided eye-contact with me. Everybody there was having a long day and chit chat with strangers would not make it any easier.

After a shorter wait than some there, the Enrollment Officer called my number and asked “What can we do for you today?”

I told him my father needed new dentures and he stopped me right there. He didn’t look at the incomplete forms.

“We only provide dentures if the veteran has a service connected injury that causes him to need dentures.” He apologized for any inconvenience my drive downtown may have caused and called the next ticket “One-fifty-one.”

Backing out of my parking place I accidentally hit the rear bumper of a car parked behind me. It was the plastic bumper cars have and it was just scuffed. At first we couldn’t really tell which car it was I’d backed into. Those parking garages are so dark.

A VA policeman was johnny on the spot. But it took a bit to get some help there to direct traffic. You wouldn’t believe how many cars go in and out of that parking garage. And, of course, my vehicle was blocking one lane.

It took a while for all the paperwork and photographs and discussion about whether to let me go and them notify the owners of the victim car or keep me there until the owners returned. (They were somewhere in that great rabbit warren of a hospital.)

They did let me go, saying they would write it up as “Improper Backing.” Well, no duh. If I’d backed properly I wouldn’t have bumped into that car.

Traffic was a nightmare, I was shaky from the parking garage experience, and I’d never driven on those particular streets before. I knew my way home lay to the west, toward the mountains. The thing is, you can’t see the mountains from down there for all the big buildings and trees.

I stopped and got my phone fixed and finally made it safely home.

I may not know what the Zed word is, but I surely did have a Zed-word kind of day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yellowshift -- Creative Flash Nonfiction

A redshift occurs when a light source moves away from the observer. The wavelength of the light increases and appears more toward the red end of the spectrum. When the observer or the light source move toward each other, blueshift occurs.

Which brings us to yellowshift.

In Denver we have The Mercury Café. The atmosphere is dark, the food is acceptable, and the service is excellent. But what makes The Merc exceptional is the entertainment. Upstairs there’s music and dancing – the styles change evening to evening. It’s all live and local.

Downstairs is performance literature. One night a month is open mic night for Poetry. Another is open mic for Flash Fiction – scatologically referred to as “F Bomb.”

In March F Bomb Night fell on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. I put on my favorite green shirt in honor of Ireland’s favorite saint, a bit of makeup, my Washington D.C. shoes, and I was ready to read.

“I bet you think that shirt is green,” my daughter greeted me as I got into the car.

Instantly, I knew it must not be.

My daughter has accused me of color blindness for some time now.

When we went to see the Dale Chihuly glass exhibit last November in Denver’s Botanic Gardens, she and her boyfriend entertained themselves by asking me “What color do you think this one is?” and 
“Is this blue to you?” or “Are these green?”

When something is a shade of teal or turquoise I seem to see it as more green than they do. Maybe more green than most people do.

So during my annual eye exam I mentioned my accused color blindness to my optometrist.

“Let’s check it out,” he says and brought out a book of photos – numbers formed by different colored circles mixed among other colored circles.

I passed with flying colors. (Pun intended.)

“You remember I told you you have cataracts?” he asked then quickly reassured me again that the cataracts are not bad enough to do anything about, yet. “When you see through cataracts, things look more yellow than they would normally. And what do you get when you mix blue and yellow?” he asks.

“Green!” I say. “Yellowshift.”

“You could say that,” he humors me. Then he tells me about a patient he had last month. She’d had cataract surgery so he asked her how she was doing. “She said ‘fine, but I had to repaint the kitchen.’ Repaint the kitchen?” he asked. “‘Yes,’ she says. ‘It was such an ugly color and I hadn’t realized until the cataracts were removed.’”

So I’m not color blind. What can I say? 

Shift happens. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Security Is Xed Out

security  n. 1. Freedom from risk or danger; safety

The concept of Security is Xed out every day of our lives. Sometimes in small ways. Sometimes in large.

A young man and young woman save their money and train their bodies. They make the trip to Nepal to scale the highest mountain on Earth. Each of their flights lands safely – no bombs, no terrorists. Their transport to Base Camp arrives safely. The change in altitude causes discomfort, but they adjust.

They consider the dangers. They know they might have to cancel their plans to summit the mountain due to sudden changes in weather, striking Sherpas, or a host of other obstacles both natural and manmade. They take what precautions they can and make contingency plans. They know this trip is anything but safe. They go anyway. That is part of the adventure.

We are at risk from natural phenomena – tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, blizzards, wild fires. The list is long. Some things are predictable and we can take precautions to protect ourselves and our property or be prepared to recover, repair, and replace.

When children go to school, we expect them to be safe. A bus ride to the casinos in the mountains or to a church camp or home from a music competition. These are all expected to be safe. Attending a midnight showing in a movie theater should be safe. Working in a post office or office building, shopping in a convenience store or drug store, and filling our car’s gas tank should be safe. Driving on a modern highway in a well-maintained automobile should be safe. And most of the time safety comes through for them and for us.

Sometime in my childhood I learned to mistrust the concept of security. For many years I sought a religion that could replace that lost security. I found lots of reassuring stories and scary stories. I found generous people who professed belief and intolerant people who demanded belief. There were beautiful costumes and simple, grand buildings and austere, and all kinds of music. But no security.

Then somewhere along the line, I discovered that a sense of security is not necessary for me. It is exhilarating to explore life and love people free of the need for a secure future. It’s part of the adventure.

Monday, April 27, 2015

If Wishes Were Horses -- flash fiction

The alarm! Shut it off. Quick, before it wakes Ken. If she can just sleep fifteen more minutes. She wishes she had another blanket over her legs. Damned arthritis.


The plaintive call to arms moves her to the master bathroom. She leaves the light off taking care not to wake Ken. The night light is enough.


David’s a good boy. He’s hardly ever sick.

Snores rise from the man still sleeping. And the dog is stirring. Maybe she can get out of the room before the dog wakes Ken. Poor Ken. He doesn’t have to get up until six. She’s sorry about his job. She wishes he weren’t so worried.


Where are her slippers? She should have put them somewhere specific when she went to bed.

“Hush, girl.” She pats the dog on the head and lets her out into the hall. Mollie’s tail smacks everything. She’ll wake Ken. A dog should wag her tail. She should be happy it’s breakfast time. “Shhhh.” It’s a shame to wish her less than happy.

The hall light is on. The hall light is always on. 

“Morning, Dad.”

Her elderly father shuffles from the bathroom. Yet again. She’s heard him up at least three times this night. It was her habit to listen for him to go back to his room, each time hoping he could find his way. Sometimes he couldn’t.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Haven’t slept since midnight.”

She knows that may or may not be true, but there’s nothing to be gained by pursuing the subject.


“Just a minute, son.”

“What are you planning for breakfast?” her father asks.

“Oatmeal. I’ll have your pill out for you in a minute,” she says as she opens David’s door. “What is it, son?”

“Can’t breathe.”

“Why are your pillows on the floor?”

She’s tempted to turn on the overhead. Why should she care if it hurts his eyes? But the dog wants breakfast. Her father needs his pill. David would just be one more disruption. A fine way to think of her only child. And he really is a good boy. Gets good grades. Stays out of trouble. She piles the pillows on his bed and props him up. Maybe he’ll sleep at least until Ken is ready to leave.

Her father and Mollie wait outside David’s door. Mollie’s tail wagging enthusiastically. She wishes she felt like wagging a tail.

“Could you heat the water? For my pill?”

“Sure, Dad. Let me feed Mollie first.”

She steps out into the garage to get Mollie’s food and wishes she’d found her slippers. If she thought the floor inside the house was cold . . . .

“If wishes were horses,” her mother always said, “even beggars would ride.”

“If wishes were horses,” she thought, “I’d just have more to clean up.”

She misses her mother. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

V Day -- Flash Fiction

[Yesterday was my friend Ruth Ann's birthday and Day V in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Life interfered and I missed writing for the challenge so here is a bit of flash fiction for her birthday and V Day.]

   Luxurious, that was the word. Not quite awake yet, but not still asleep. Not really. Warm and satisfied. The world smelled of gardenias and sex. She must still be asleep and dreaming. Leonard was gone. Five years gone.

   She squeezed her eyes tight to stop the tears. Five long years and still it hurt. Not as much, maybe. But there were still tears.

   She turned her head setting the whole world in motion. Oh, my God. If she opened her eyes she’d be sick. She must be still. Perfectly still until the nausea passed.

   The pillow against her cheek was so smooth she could not feel where her skin ended and the pillow slip began. It had been like that with him. She could not feel where her skin ended and his began.

   She opened her eyes. White walls. White drapes. The ceiling was much too high and the bed too low. Where was she? She had to get up.

   Again the world whirled around her. Her stomach rebelled. She rolled off the bed onto her knees.

   A waterbed? A waterbed. It wasn’t her. She wasn’t dizzy at all. It was the bed.

   My God, how long had it been since she slept in a waterbed? Leonard didn’t like waterbeds. They were too difficult to make love in. He had a bad back.

   That hadn’t been the case last night. But it hadn’t been Leonard last night either. She stood in the middle of the room and stretched feeling the near pain of muscles releasing tension. She felt tall and vital and beautiful.

   “Well, tall at least,” she said aloud.

   “And beautiful,” he said standing in the doorway. He handed her a glass. “Tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and a little hair of the dog.”

   “Vitamins?” she asked.

   “Vitamins,” he said.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Goodbye Gracie Lu

Scott and Gracie Lu

Today I helped euthanize my daughter dog Gracie Lu.

She was.

She was beautiful and enthusiastic. She was fierce and loving. She was a lap dog and an indomitable hiker. She was almost four and a half years old.

She hunted mice and birds and snakes. Indeed she kept bigger game out of our backyard. Mule deer wonder through our neighborhood, but they knew not to scale our fence while she stood guard. And Bentley, our neighbor’s senior dog might outweigh her two to one, but I don’t think he ever won the through-fence verbal war between them.

Gracie came to live with us almost three years ago. She moved from Florida to Colorado following a young man to his new job. His work didn’t allow enough time for him to spend with Gracie so he put her up for adoption on the Dachshund Rescue website.

Our Bassett Hound Bess and our Dachshund Oscar were very senior and we needed new blood for the pack. I saw Gracie the first day she was on the website. I’m an early riser so I had to wait more than three hours to call the number. I wanted to make a good impression and everyone should be up and about by 8:30 even on a weekend. He graciously agreed to bring her to our home so we could see how she would fit.

He brought her in and put her on the floor. Bess and Oscar ran to see the strange dog. Neither growled or threatened, but she was terrified and leaped into my husband’s arms. Not the young man’s but Scott’s.

She was a full-size, smooth-coated, dapple Dachshund, about a year and a half old. And her name was Gracie Lu. Our human daughter’s name is Grace and my favorite restaurant is Lucille’s Creole Café. And she was in my husband’s arms. Of course she fit. She fit very well indeed.

Bess because of her seniority and innate good sense was the alpha dog. Oscar was Oscar. He didn’t care who was top dog, he was going to do his own thing anyway. (I think he may have been a cat in a previous life.) And Gracie Lu was too unsure of herself to aspire to high place. Her integration into the pack was virtually seamless.

A few months later we put Oscar down. He was fourteen years old.  Then it was just Bess and Gracie until we let Bess go. She was over fifteen. With her exuberance, Gracie inspired Bess to youthful entertainments until the end.

Gracie was down to just humans in her pack. She was not unhappy being the only dog. But we needed a new dog for her to train up. Last month a new dog came to live with us. You can read about her. Just click on  Maggie May.  

From that first leap into Scott’s arms Gracie Lu never hesitated to jump – onto our bed, off of our bed, down steps into the basement (for which she was chastised) and back up again. We have a ramp down from the back door to the patio originally installed for my father’s use, then used by Bess. Gracie leaped onto and off of it from whatever angle she might come to it.

My first Dachshund Sebastian had Intervertebral Disc Disease so we knew what might happen, but some Dachshunds do not develop that problem. Oscar didn't. And really there’s no way to prevent its development or, for that matter, Gracie’s jumping.

Sebastian had Laser Disc Ablation at Oklahoma State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital (my husband’s Alma Mater) Back then it was a new treatment. Sebastian did reasonably well with only minor episodes which could be treated with prednisone and cage rest. Until he did not and had to be put down.

Two weeks ago Gracie suddenly presented with pain. She didn’t try to jump onto the bed. But she still walked, indeed ran, normally. She continued to eat well, drink well, and be interested. We took her to the vet and she put Gracie on pred and cage rest. At first it seemed to be working. Then yesterday Gracie began to have problems walking. And sitting. She couldn’t squat properly to urinate.

Scott and I talked about it. Surgery was still a possibility, but her future would include more episodes of varying degrees of severity until at last nothing restorative could be done.

We decided that if she did not improve with the conservative treatment we would not put her through the surgery.

This morning she could not stand. She could still wag her tail a bit. And she did. She had a good breakfast.

My husband had eye surgery yesterday and couldn’t go with us, but he called Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital and explained what was going on. He’s a vet so he was able to talk to them doc to doc. He carried her out to the car in her crate and told her goodbye.

They were expecting us at the veterinary hospital and took us right in. They immediately took her to the back. While they put the catheter in place, I filled out the necessary papers. They were so sweet to me. But I assured them that I understood what we were doing, that I wanted to hold her while they euthanized her, and that I appreciated them and what they were doing for us.

And I told them that I was only sorry that this same service could not legally be provided to humans when it was time. I meant that and I mean that.

Having dogs and cats means saying goodbye. Our lifespans just do not match. And we love them just as much as we love our human family members. I am okay with this. I am more than okay. I celebrate the animals I’ve loved and lost. I celebrate the people I’ve loved and lost.

Losing loved ones after sharing however long we have together – if they know we loved them and we know they loved us – it is the purest form of sorrow – no darkness – only light. And tears.

Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for Ukraine

I didn’t want to take up blogging. Facebook was traumatic enough for me. When I first started with it, I felt insecure. No. Worse than that. Threatened. I felt like I was giving access to my house, my private safe place, ultimately to me, to people I knew but would never have invited into my home. More than that. And worse. Hundreds of thousands, a world full of people I didn’t even know.

With a little help from my tech savvy daughter I learned enough about Facebook to feel like I have some control over who has access to me.

Then I wrote a book.

And people who knew what they were talking about said I would have to use ‘platforms’ to sell my book. To my horror, they meant Blogging and Twitter and Instagram and goodness knows what other invasive technology. All I wanted to do was write a book.

And have people read the book and enjoy it. To do that a writer has to sell the book.

I used to be a reporter for a small town daily newspaper so the concept of having strangers read what I write felt familiar to me. And I wouldn’t have to talk about me like posting my status on Facebook. I could maintain some sense of privacy.

I could write about writing and reading and other people’s books and movies and current events and . . . . Well you see. And it would feel quite normal that strangers would read my blog. It goes right along with people reading my book. I don’t need to know them either.

So . . . .

I chose Google’s blogspot to blog. Not because I knew what I was doing when I made the choice. I didn’t weigh my options because I didn’t know what options were available. I was using Google as my browser, my default research librarian, my street navigator. You get the picture.

Blogspot displays a curious set of information. (Actually a whole bunch of enigmatic sets of information that I have not yet had the courage to explore.) It’s “Stats.”

Stats includes something identified as Pageviews by Countries. I’m still not sure exactly what constitutes a pageview, but I understand the concept of countries. And one of the countries that began to show up on a somewhat regular basis was the Ukraine.

Of course I can’t tell if the person or persons are Ukrainian who are interested in practicing their English by reading a basically anonymous American’s writings. He, she, or they could be Americans currently in the Ukraine and missing home. They could be terrorist spies redirecting their internet connections through the UK to Germany to Japan to Indonesia and finally through the Ukraine.

But somehow, he or she or they felt like real people to me. I know nothing about the geography of the Ukraine, so it wouldn’t mean anything to know which city they live in. But I do know that the Ukraine is a battle ground where competing governments are putting people in harm’s way. And when those ‘stats’ from the Ukraine stopped showing up I worried.

I worried that they were ill and unable to surf the internet. Or that they were without power and I knew it could be cold there in winter. Or that the war had come to them.

I tried to remind myself that they could be on vacation in some nice warm country with good wine and rich food. Or that their own writing was going so well that they hadn’t time to bother with mine. Or worse scenario for me, that they’d gotten bored with what I was writing.

The good news is that they’re back.

Hello Ukraine. I’m so glad to see you.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for Terren -- Excerpts from Murder on Ceres

On Day R we were introduced to Rafe, the protagonist in Murder on Ceres. Terren is his wife, a very important part of his life and his story. He introduces her in the first chapter.

She stood at the cook table, its malleable surface formed into a griddle. Even if she wasn’t a cook like his mother, he liked to give her the latest and best. He wrapped his arms around her from behind and nuzzled her dark curls. Her hair smelled of citrus and spice. She snuggled against him and turned the bacon.  His hands slid across her white silk kimono, smooth and soft like her skin. Her stomach still flat. No change with the baby. Too early.

“How about Cynthia?”  He suggested the name as he reached for a slice of bacon.

She smacked him with her cooking sticks and spun to face him. “Have you washed?”

“I love you.” He pretended innocence, making a second attempt at the bacon. “You are so pretty pregnant.”

“Cynthia? Certainly not, Rafael Sirocco. What if the poor baby has a lisp?” She threatened him with the cooking sticks.

Thinthia Thirocco…” He mused, curling the ends of his mustache.

With his left hand, he caressed her bottom. She relented and kissed him. With his right hand, he snatched a piece of bacon and was out of the kitchen before she could catch him.

[Here Terren is visiting an old family friend and the plot thickens.]

She sat on the rug and felt like a little girl again. She traced the red zigzags of lightning that framed a stylized cornstalk on the rug’s blue field. Perhaps they grow corn in the ground in Denver District.

Floor-to-ceiling shelves lined two walls, filled with old-style books. Different sizes and colors shelved in no order that she could see. How could anyone find a particular volume?

Her mom always warned her. “Don’t ask. Any book you want to read, you can download. You won’t lose it or damage it.”

And her father would say, “Unlike real estate, they ain’t making any more of them.”

They’d been right. But she couldn’t say she appreciated it. Still, even without them there, she didn’t touch. Looking was enough.

The gate bell rang as Mark came downstairs. He spoke with Watson a moment then excused himself. A door banged open. Raised voices echoed down the hall. She set her cup down.

A man’s voice, taut with emotion. “No, I don’t want your damn money.”

“Leave now.” Mark sounded angry. Then in a more composed tone he said, “We need to be reasonable, work this out. We’ll talk later.”

“All you do is talk.” The man lowered his voice which sounded somehow more menacing. “This was your deal. You clean it up yourself.”

The closer she got to the entry hall and the confrontation, the slower she moved, not sure she wanted to see what was happening.

[Then we find her in Ceres’s Commercial Passenger Transfer Station leaving for the alien planet Earth.]

At zero g, surrounded by flashing lights and movement, her stomach rebelled.

The navigation rails into Outbound Security provided a sense of stability. Things could be worse. Head up. Eyes forward. Breathe normally. In. Out.

She handed her mobile to the security tech and passed through a scanner. She wondered what exactly they were scanning for. Weapons perhaps? Stolen diamonds and emeralds and rubies? She glanced at the ring on her little finger. Mark’s ring.

The tech held a small screen in front of her face and instructed her to look at the dot. He compared the retinal scan with her ID. Satisfied that she was who she was supposed to be, the tech confirmed her boarding pass, ticked the box next to Earth, and entered his own ID code. He returned her phone and directed her to the door marked Outbound Ferry.

As she waited, she watched people moving through the inbound side of the partition. New arrivals were scanned for identity, contraband, and illness. Tighter security met those arriving. Without the vaccinations she’d taken in the past six weeks, she wouldn’t be allowed back onto the Colony without enduring a two-week quarantine.

Watching the authorities screen arrivals made her stomach clench with fear. Where she was going, there were things that Cererians must be protected from. Diseases Cererians did not need to vaccinate against. Diseases that had no vaccines. “Perhaps dragons do be there.” She spoke under her breath, not intending to be heard.

“Frightening, isn’t it?” A tall dark-haired man with a well-trimmed beard said. “What the government thinks we need to be protected from.” He also waited.

“Sometimes they’re right.” Her voice was husky. She turned her face away, afraid her tears might show.

All too soon, the reader discovers things the government couldn’t protect her from. Available in paper back or on Kindle from Amazon, Murder on Ceres

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for Sci-Fi/Murder Mystery

My first novel, Murder on Ceres, is a Science Fiction/Murder Mystery. “Why couldn’t you tell the same story on Earth, present day,” asked my writing teacher, William Bernhardt. (Please don’t judge Bill by my writing prowess. He is a much better teacher than I am student.) He has a habit of asking me hard questions. And I have a habit of getting defensive before I think about the answers to those hard questions.

But I do think about them. And why write my murder mystery as science fiction? That answer is “Because.”

Because I like murder mysteries. I like them as puzzles. They are all puzzles. Some are more puzzle than anything else.

John Lescroat adds the enticement of characters I would like to know personally. His characters age and change and grow from one book to the next in his series. (Plural – I tried ‘serieses’ and Word didn’t like it so I looked it up. The plural of series is series, just like deer is deer.)

Some mystery writers take me places in a way that makes me feel like I’ve been there. I’ve seen Venice, Italy, through Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti’s eyes. And I’ve visited many of the National Parks while following Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon who is a Park Ranger and apparently gets transferred a lot. Luckily for us readers.

Diane Mott Davidson has the murder mystery puzzle plus identifiable characters plus good recipes. And I like to bake.

When I was deciding what kind of murder mystery I wanted to write, I knew I wanted to follow a set of characters as they grow and age. That I can do. I like the idea of an exotic setting. As much as I love Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, those are the only locations I’m familiar enough with to write about. None of them seem very exotic to me. And I didn’t write recipes. I have family members who will tell you that I don’t even follow recipes very well.

So the search was on. What else did I like to read? Of course there were literary writers like John Irving and Margaret Atwood. Now I may have illusions of grandeur on occasion, but that is just not gonna happen.

And because I love Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan. I love their nonfiction even more than their fiction.
They inspire imagination. What will it be like to live off-planet, to emigrate from Earth to colonies scattered through the Solar System? How will humans be different? How the same? What will their everyday lives be like? Their problems? Their solutions? What will they call their washing machines?

These are subjects that could keep me interested enough, long enough to write a novel. And, in fact, these things are keeping me interested enough to get me well into my second novel. With concepts bubbling on the back burner for at least two more.

What I want to write are books I’d like to read. With my Sci-Fi/Murder Mystery crossover, I can develop my characters realistically in about as exotic a location as possible. And I believe readers will enjoy thinking about how things will be as much as I do.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rafe from Murder on Ceres

Today is a day for dental and eye appointments in my family. Luckily it’s Day R. Please meet Rafe, the protagonist in my novel, Murder on Ceres. These three snippets from Chapter 1 introduce Detective Rafael Sirocco of the Ceres Colony Police Department and his Solar System. It’s a time when human civilization is centered in the Mars Colonies and Earth is a backwater, truly the Old World. But humans are still human and murder happens.

    TS-17 Raiders screamed overhead. A flaming groundcraft hurtled toward him.
    “Off,” he said and exited the comfort bubble into the silent hotel room. Time for the next security check.
    He touched the control pad opening the bedroom door enough to see Shuller. The inoffensive business man had a wife and child tucked away somewhere safe on one of the Mars colonies. The man’s chest rose and fell. Inhale. Exhale. Quiet and even.
    “Still alive,” Rafe said heading toward the entry door.
    His partner Joe nodded and continued playing cards on the dining table.
    A red pinpoint of light in the upper right corner of the door’s security screen held steady. Locked. The screen showed an empty hallway. All quiet. He keyed his mobile and checked the closed circuit block cams. No unusual activity at the hotel’s front or rear entrances. No change in the last thirty minutes. Or the thirty minutes before that or thirty minutes before that. Nothing unusual for the whole shift.
He dialed the room’s window external view only and made a visual sweep of the street four stories below.  In the twilight which passed for night on Ceres Colony, he saw nothing of interest.
    A short siren blast broke the quiet. He froze. Joe came out of his chair tapping his mobile. The cards on the table blinked out.
    Another short blast. Inside the suite. Not from the bubble. A ringtone. Not his.
Joe crossed the room in three strides and keyed the offending mobile offline. “It’s Shuller’s. Don’t recognize the number, but it’s local.”
    They stood, listening. Nothing from the bedroom. That guy could sleep through anything.
    A second check of the entry door. The lock light still red and the hallway still empty.
    He relaxed. “All clear.” He spoke into his mobile reporting to the precinct. “They say to hold in place.”
    Joe returned to the table. The playing cards reappeared.
    Back in the bubble Rafe was again surrounded by flying objects and high decibel sounds. He liked Earth holographic videos, the effect of projectile weaponry on fast vehicles in deadly gravity added up to a near death experience. As close as he wanted to come. But this one had no plot. Besides cops don’t talk like that, probably never did. You’d think they’d at least get the dialogue right.
    With standard Earth-mix atmosphere and a full g, he knew projectile weapons would function on Ceres Colony exactly as they did on Earth. Like everyone on every colony in the solar system, he knew not to risk it. Being expelled into space through a hole in the super structure couldn’t end well.

    Joe flipped him a thumbs-up and nodded for him to take a seat at the table, then touched his mobile, and the cards reappeared.
    “TePaki was your first case,” Joe said. The faux wood grain of the table showed through the gaming surface and cards. Standard police-issue Ion-D’s graphics left a lot to be desired. Joe touched the next card. A ceramic bowl of fresh fruit distorted the king of diamonds.
    “TePaki was never my case.” He picked up an orange and peeled it. “They took it away from us before we could interview anyone.”
    “Anyway, we broke it.” Joe touched two fingers to the table and was dealt two cards.
    “Just which ‘we’ is that?” The thin, sharp scented skin came away from the orange easily.
    Sure, an early example of Detective Sergeant Joe Hudson exercising seniority. Nearly a year ago Joe had info-dumped all the TePaki files into Rafe’s inbox.
    Hudson reached across the table and helped himself to an orange segment. “It was a natural for you, you being a son of Sirocco Shipping. You got the red hair and all. And TePaki being a pirate, your family’s number one competitor.”
    At first he’d thought Joe was jealous of his family. The Siroccos were a wealthy, old colony family. But his uncle was wealthy not him. Dear old dad, ever the bleeding heart, had folded on the family fortune in favor of some misbegotten dedication to lawyering for the downtrodden. The one thing he liked about his dad was that he didn’t use the family name for status. Neither would he. He promoted early to detective because he was a good cop, a smart cop. But Hudson wasn’t jealous. He wasn’t even impressed.
    He and Joe were done for the night. All they had to do was file their reports and go home.
    “Beats uniform work anytime,” Joe said, as they stepped into the hall.
    “Seems like all we do is mop up. Like this case, we’re baby-sitting Shuller.” He looked both ways down the hall. “Training on Earth’ll give us a break.”
    “Yeah, sure. A break from the tedium, right?” Joe laughed.
    “Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day-to-day living that wears you out,” he quoted. “Manny Turrentine”
    “The philosopher?” Hudson rolled his eyes. “One guy in the Department who quotes philosophers, and I got him for a partner.”
    “Joe, the goad.”
    “You calling me a goat?”
    Rafe ignored him. “They have a chase course for high speed ground craft. And rail guns. We can do things on Earth we’d never get to do here.”
    He was only about seven and a half centimeters taller than Joe, but Joe was at least fifteen centimeters broader, the difference between a runner and a weight man.
    A door to their left jerked open and a bald-headed man collided with Joe. The man bounced off and staggered a couple of steps. He bared his teeth and growled. He charged Joe swinging. Hudson ducked and grabbed the oncoming fist. He twisted it behind the man’s back and turned him to the wall.
    A wild-eyed woman wearing next to nothing charged past Rafe. She jumped on Joe’s back, punching and clawing. Joe and the man went to the floor with the woman on top of the pile. Rafe moved in to help.
    The commotion brought Harper and Gomez out of the witness’s suite. After checking both ways for potential threats, Gomez returned to the suite, and Harper called for uniforms.
    Rafe got an arm around the woman’s head and neck, pulling her away from Hudson. She squirmed out of his grasp and bit his right arm. She bit him hard. He shoved her away. She came at him screaming obscenities. He side-stepped her, grabbed an arm, and spun her to the floor.
    Joe cuffed the man and sat him against the wall. Harper, Joe, and the male combatant watched Rafe cuff the woman. She continued to struggle, screaming and spitting. He forced her to sit against the opposite wall.
“You mother-slagger. You failed abortion,” she shrieked at him, the auto-cuffs biting into her wrists. “I’ll tear your face off.”
    Rafe’s eyes narrowed. “Shut up.” His jaw clenched.
    She blinked at him. “What? What did you say?”
    His face was as red as his hair and mustache. His lips a thin, angry line. His face glistened with a sheen of sweat. He glared at her.

    She glared back, but she was quiet. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quintessential, Quit, and Quiet -- flash fiction

“Oh, my goodness,” she wailed, tears streaking her smoke and ash stained face. “I tried to use the fire distinguisher. I did, but …”

“Maggie, it’s all right. You’re all right.” I hugged her and patted her back. “Take a deep breath, dear. It’ll all be all right.”

“I’m not being historical. Really, I’m not.” She settled against my shoulder, hiccoughing. “But, you always say I should be more remorseful.”

“Resourceful, dear.”

“What?” She pulled away from me, her blue eyes wide, filled with fresh tears.

“Resourceful. I always say you should be more resourceful.”

“I know. That’s why I tried to put it out myself.”

I knew I shouldn't laugh. She was my beautiful daughter who normally smelled of cherry blossoms and lavender. She spoke faster than she thought when she was in the throes of any intense emotion – anger, joy. And today, fear.

“And you did fine. I’m glad the fire department got here so quickly.”

“They asked me how it started. I tried to tell them. But I couldn’t remember all the perpendiculars. 
I’m afraid I got them all mixed up.”

I laughed. “You, my dear, are the quintessential master of the malapropism.”

“Quinta what?” She stamped her foot. “Mom, you are being completely nonsensual.”

“Maggie!” I laughed. I cried with laughter. “Maggie, Maggie, please quit. Just be quiet for a little. My cheeks hurt.”