Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holy Jim Caviezel, I'm Flying My Freak Flag

You know that Cheese-Whiz holiday movie called Unlikely Angel starring Dolly Parton? I adore it. So instead of doing a random holiday meme that I was tagged with two days ago, I want to sum up how I feel about this time of year by getting all up into this movie.
If you haven't seen it, it's about a less-than-angelic singer who dies and visits St. Peter at the pearly gates. He refuses her, but not before he gives her a second chance to earn angel wings. Her goal becomes to bring together a family that has lost the emotional ju-ju Hallmark says families should have this time of year. Story goal set, St. Pete drops a ticking time bomb to ensure you won't swig down the sap on a hearty sip of egg nog and nod off: by Christmas Eve. He drops her on this family's front lawn with a guitar. Because, really, who would Dolly be without her guitar?

The family mistakenly assumes she is the new nanny-stop me if you've heard this before-because the troublesome children have exhausted all other nannies. But Dolly's got spunk and a penchant for breaking out into Christmas carols and warming their adolescent hearts. She can't replace their dead mother, but she can be a go-to girly-girl because the overworked, overstressed non-Dad-of-the-year simply has no time for them anymore. He's emotionally vacant. Dolly plays matchmaker and brings cheer to a grieving family. At the risk of a no-surprise spoiler, she accomplishes her feat of bringing Hallmark to the family by midnight on Christmas Eve, thus earning her wings and a primo spot in the choir of heavenly hosts. Ick, you say? Whoa, there. Back up that four-wheel drive.

My opinion of this movie could be colored by my love for Dolly. At the risk of waving my freak flag in a parade of pop culture mainstream, she has a space in my ipod parked right next to Pantera and Avenged Sevenfold. Her I Will Always Love You voice has got to be about the closest things to angels singing as it gets. Like a preview of heaven. She has never apologized for who she is. She's never had to. She has risen above that which has defined her-which, don't get me started, but anyone who has ever told a joke at her expense has never known the emotional pain that goes along with that particular feature-and crafted an empire based on old-fashioned Southern values. Let's face it, the world could use a heaping dollup of that gravy on its plate.

The movie is trite and loaded with saccharine, but Holy Jim Caviezel, it makes you feel good at the end. For that one Christmas Eve night, all is right with the world. As it should be.

And please don't get me started on holiday Folgers commercials. You really don't want to go there.

If you want to fly your freak flag and watch, CMT is showing Unlikely Angel on December 21, 24, and--when else?--Christmas.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Dickens of Adjective-Overload and a Time Twavel Giveaway

What could be more fun than Charles Dickens's time travel classic, A Christmas Carol, a scavenger hunt through his bloated original manuscript and free stuff? Check out this New York Times feature, complete with a magnifying glass to find words Dickens used to describe Scrooge that he deemed unworthy for his final draft. Nice of you to show restraint, Mr. Dickens. Seven adjectives in the same sentence seems perfect. Two more would have been too much.

I've found them, but can't make them out. Can you? Hint: Page 2, paragraph 2. "Grinding" and "turdly" is all I can come up with.

In the spirit of the season and my all-in Twitter movement, I'm giving away a $20 Barnes and Noble or Amazon online gift card (winner's choice) to a random re-tweeter! For every re-tweet of my tweets from now until December 31st, midnight CST tweeps will be entered in a drawing to be held January 1, 2012. Really, can it be any easier? Just an RT click. If you're not following me on Twitter, or still flying the old-school flag, I get it. I still adore you. Everyone on my newsletter loop and every blog comment also gets an entry. And if Dickens can use "turdly" I can make up a Twitterlicious word: Twavel. Heretofore, the giveaway shall be known as the Time Twavel Giveaway. Catchy and annoying at the same time, no?

So search, re-tweet, and be merry and have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oatmeal, If You Must Know. With Slices of Time Travel.

I promised myself I would get back on the social media wagon after my intensive edits were finished. Guess that time is now. Prior to this week, my tweets were primarily feeds from the Vortex posts. I'm not totally on-board yet. It's hard to jump all-in when I'm reading about what people had for breakfast. Here are some nickpicky ranty-mc-rants from my first week wading into the deep waters of Twitter:

#1. I know tweeting is the social media equivalent to shouting in a Cowboys Stadium/Death Star sized arena to be heard but do not bombard me every five minutes with your self-promotion. Yes, I followed you because I'm friendly like that, but I will drop you faster than tofu at a cattleman's convention if you clog up my publishing industry stream with one more announcement about your iPublish masterpiece.

#2. Save the all-caps for your in-laws and gleeful screams that a Hollywood celeb is now following you.

#3. Is there such a thing as hashtag overload? I think so. It's like whoring your message out to whomever might be using the same restroom at the stadium. Your #message #disinterests#me #if you use # too many.

#4. Do not tell me what you're "fixin'" to watch on television. If you used #storagewars in your tweet, I get it already. You're a fan. 'Nuff said.

Great. Now that that's out of the way, how about some Vortex-rific links?

I stumbled upon 10 Codes You Aren't Meant to Know when researching cop codes. Now I know that a code 20 in Wal-mart doesn't relate to ass crack or spandex.

I wasn't living entirely under a rock for the past few months. Why is the dystopian thriller In Time just now coming onto my radar screen? Great premise. Not so stellar reviews.

Speaking of social media and well, time travel, The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler promises to be a fun marriage of 90's nostalgia meets YA.

Trying to find a website long gone? No problem. The Wayback Machine, named after a Rocky and Bullwinkle time travel device allows searchers to find digital footprints of web pages that have gone the 404-Not Found path.

And just to get your freaky chills on, check out this short YouTube vid of a look-alike guy immortalized in photos. Way more believable than the John Travolta-time traveler theory.

The itch to give something away has come back. Must scratch. Details Friday...

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Communist Chocolate Hellhole of Time Travel

First, some pesky business. Vortexer Charles Gramlich is all up into the time travel thing, and it snuck up on me. I learned via a cold Google Alert that "Battles, Broadswords and Bad Girls," is part of the pulp fiction anthology A Rip Through Time. Charles, Charles, Charles. You've been holding out on us. Vortexers, head over to Smashwords and pick this up. Ga-head. I'll wait.

Terra Nova is holding its own in the ratings battle, coming in last week in the middle of the pack in its time slot. I've held on longer than I anticipated after the second episode. Maybe it's the sixteen pack abs and that Jason O'Mara-time travel-effect, but it still slides into my DVR dutifully each week, and I still watch it when I'm caught up on all my Alfred Hitchcock Presents eppies. There are no stellar award-worthy actors here. The CGIs are laughable at best. Do I care that love is blossoming in the younger set? Nah. Give me a skeleton autopsy and a wicked hot flip of the collar, 80's-style, any day. This is, after all, Thriller Island.(Middle Aged Male clip)

Though a bit of old news, still Vortex-worthy and waaaay too sweet to pass up...

A man claiming to be from the future was arrested at Switzerland's Large Hadron Collider back in April 2010. He was searching for his time machine power unit, something that resembled a blender, near the facility's kitchen. According to police, he wore a bow tie and "rather too much tweed for his age," and refused to reveal his country of origin. Upon arrest, the man claimed, "Countries do not exist where I am from. The discovery of the Higgs boson led to limitless power, the elimination of poverty and Kit-Kats for everyone. It is a communist chocolate hellhole and I'm here to stop it ever happening."

To show you how much I adore this six-ways-of-awesome randomness, I will inject a young man with a bow tie and "rather too much tweed for his age" into my next story. When the world becomes a communist hellhole, I can't think of anything better than a Kit Kat to make that medicine go down.

Have a great Monday, everyone.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

So That I Don't Spontaneously Combust

At the risk of inspiring non-writer Vortexers to stab nail scissors into their eye because this post is completely non-time travel, non-Fabio and non-snarky, I must wade into the writing craft waters for fear that if I don't, I might spontaneously combust. Yes, I'm that excited.

I did three things at the end of this round of novel edits that I've never done before. I can feel the difference in my writing, a literary seismic shifting where there had been only fifty-million years of erosion. So that's an exaggeration. Sort of. What are these three secrets, you ask?

Secret #1: echo word list
I kept a file on my flash drive for these little buggar words that constantly crept into my prose. Sometimes when writers think they're clever because they found a way to knit the word tether or decay into their character's introspection, they're really just being tired and lazy because they've already used it five times before and don't remember. Thus, the list. During page-by-page edits, any notion that I might have described someone's nostrils ad nauseum gets an entry on my echo list: nostrils. When page-by-page edits are complete, I pull out the echo list and plug them into the Find/Replace feature in Word. Replace nostrils with nostrils and Word tells you how many times the word appears in the document. Often I would find that I wasn't tired or lazy and the word only appeared twice in 70,000 words. More often, I found better, tighter ways to edit the line, always keeping in mind Stephen King's advice: throw out the thesaurus.

Secret#2: Find feature meet Achillies' Heel
My name is Laura, and I overwrite. Hello, Laura. We're talking goopy, black-tar prose that even Faulkner would have to strap on his rubbers for. I adore long sentences. I mourn that their time has come and gone in modern fiction. My Achilles' heel is the simile. I would eat them with whipped cream if I could, but as with all things sweet, too much is a stomach ache. So I used the Find feature to type in "_as_if_" and "_like_" (underscores being blank spaces) and page-by-page made every simile earn its place. Sometimes I had used three on the same page.  Ick. If that isn't enough to make a reader have sugar-stomach, I don't know what is. This will work on any Achillies' heel: passive voice, -ing clauses, throw-away words like would and had.

Secret #3: The Anatomy of Body Language
In striving to find fresh visceral responses, body language and voice cues, the well runs dry. Body parts like heart and lungs and chest and stomach become tired and lazy. So I went to an anatomy Internet site and printed a list of human body parts. How could I have written an entire novel and not used esophagus? Seriously, at the risk of sneaking in creepy words like thorax, it is a gateway to fresh writing.

Of course, secrets do not come from the ether. They are a gift for which one must thank the giver. I've given many nods to Margie Lawson over the years. This one comes with a visual. Thank you, Margie, for all your practical advice and your cheer leading.

Great company, a heart-pumping vertical hike and nothing but 360 degrees of mountains

And if you are a writer and are still unfamiliar with Margie, my holiday gift to you is this link to all things that will take your writing to the next level.

What's your best editing trick?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Keep Your Mustache Out of the Hole

It's been a bit, but I'm back in full force. You know how those final edits can be. One "find" feature search of a word like "had" unearths all kinds of ugliness. But while I was seeking out potential things to add to chapter breaks, like quotes-which usually annoy me, so why would I go there?-I found old-school phone etiquette rules published before Heloise or Miss Manners were out of diapers. They were so charming, I added them to my must-share list.

Circa 1910-ish, ATT sent out telephone pledge cards to all their customers that read: "I believe in the Golden Rule and will try to be as Courteous and Considerate over the Telephone as if Face to Face." I suppose they expected the rich-y families who could afford such a luxury to gather around the parlor and recite it as if it were Gospel. If they knew we now butt-dial in discourteousness, they might declare "Astonishing!" as they rub their tonic-slicked mustaches in disgust. I love this 1910 ATT ad:

Not only is the guy on the left a handsome Kevin Costner, but he's sporting a pleasing smile while talking to the grumpy old codger on the right. Next time I'm tempted to unleash on my security company for withholding my refund for their mistake for yet another month, I'm going to think of Mr. Costner and how he was able to hold it together while the old guy uses his fist and his middle finger to make his point. Whew! Glad there weren't video phones in that decade. Tisk-Tisk, you old fart. Profanity via telephone was punishable by fine or jail time.

Speaking of mustaches...

"Speak directly into the mouthpiece," said one instruction manual, "keeping mustache out of the opening."

Also, an invitation by telephone was never acceptable. Prevailing thought of the day was that it put the invitee on the spot to accept (or lie), which is the real reason answering machines, voice mail and texting were invented: better lies come with a zen moment to construct.

Lastly, and most egregiously, was the practice of saying, "Hello?" when answering the telephone. Again, from ATT: "Would you rush into an office or up to the door of a residence and blurt out 'Hello! Hello! Who am I talking to?' No, one should open conversations with phrases such as 'Mr. Wood, of Curtis and Sons, wishes to talk with Mr. White...' without any unnecessary and undignified 'Hellos." The most undignified thing about this is the mental picture of someone barging into someone's residence at all.

So where does this leave us? I can't see that breeches in phone etiquette have changed much. People still talk on their phone when they get to the front of a line, speak too loudly in public, blow off the company around them in favor of those who are texting them, and think everyone appreciates their Lady Gaga soundbyte ringtone. Thankfully, keeping the mustache out of the hole is the least of our worries, which must be a tremendous relief to the Tom Sellecks of the world.

What is your biggest pet peeve about cell phone etiquette?

Monday, October 31, 2011

No, You Can't Go As a Nude Clock Guy on Halloween

Happy Halloween, Vortexers!

Oh how I have missed this little slice of real estate. Hope you all behaved yourselves during the hiatus. I return bearing gifts-for the ladies especially-but I don't think any guy would have to check his man-card at the door for this. After all, they are only cartoon parts and not very big ones at that. My new favorite clock is digital and face and all male. Click on any guy at any time and it changes from analog to old-fashioned. What time-traveler-girl in her right mind wouldn't love it?

Next month, look for Stephen King's much-anticipated dip into the time travel waters. In this short clip, he talks about tackling not only such a monumental topic as Kennedy's assassination but the unique challenges of time travel. When I finished my first time travel novel, I brought it to a local published writer who read the first chapter and synopsis and said, "In more capable hands, this can't be done." Her backhanded pessimism could not have been more of a gift. The day it is published, I will send her flowers. Time travel is an enormous challenge to write and therein lies the reward. When the threads weave into a perfect pattern and I've touched on that universal "what-if" we've all experienced, the sense of accomplishment it staggering. I can't think of any more capable hands than Mr. King.

If you're in the mood for creepy, romantic flash fiction this Halloween and haven't yet read it, you'll find my 2010 Bump in the Night Finalist entry, Home, on my website. - If your Halloween costume makes no sense whatsoever I'll just assume you're dressed as Inception Enjoy the night....Boo!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Excuse Me. You Have Hiatus in Your Teeth

Howdy, Vortexers!

Not entirely untrue, as I'm not actively submitting the novel it touts. Random thought to start you down the path of where-I-have-been WTH-ery.

I'm on a deadline so must take a blog hiatus until Halloween. At that time, I will dance through the art museum in a sailor dress, listen to some horribly overblown pop star's music, clean out my meat drawer and paint emoticons on my bathroom wall (not kidding on that last one-will share pic when it's done). For everything there is a season, a time for activity under heaven and now is the time for final edits.

Eat, drink and be merry whilst I work. Better yet, visit those on my blog roll, check out their new releases, buy them on your Kindle. And be good to each other.

See you on Halloween. Boo!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Take My Humor Black. Like My...

Coffee. Jeez.  What do you think this is, an Airplane! quote?

I'm going all random on you today. Let's see where we end up.

First, as the world mourns the loss of Steve Jobs, I'm mourning the loss of writing spot number three. Sure, I hadn't been there in three months. I'm writing at home these days. It still makes me sad to see a mom-and-pop go.

Next, a science fiction submission call for Vortex writer peeps. No romance required. Press release from Angela James, Carina Press: Carina Press is pleased to announce a call for submissions for our 2012 holiday collections. This will be the only open collection call for 2012 and is an excellent opportunity for authors interested in participating in the normally by-invitation-only Carina Press collections. Carina is looking for science fiction novellas with a winter holiday theme, to be published digitally both individually and as a collection in December 2012. The novellas should be from 18,000 to 35,000 words and feature science fiction elements as integral to the novella. The stories do not need to be romance, or even have romance elements, but can be straight science fiction, or science fiction with romantic elements, and can also feature elements of mystery, thriller, horror or other sub-genres. FMI.

Time travel and Jane Austen? I know one Vortex peep who will faint dead away.

Time travel and Disney? Seriously, who isn't doing time travel?

And who knew Wikipedia had an entry devoted entirely to time travel urban legends? Am I in heaven?

This deliciously dark-humored advertisement from Alfred Hitchcock for his newly-released Rear Window popped up in a trade magazine in 1964. Only Hitch could get away with this.

Have a great week!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Terra Nova, The Dino Poo of a Lost Attempt

Let me lay it all out there before I dissect Terra Nova. The show is a thinly-veiled attempt to recapture the win that was LOST, a wannabe that will never be. Good. Now that that's out of the way...

I adored the first hour of the pilot, Genesis. Maybe that's because I'm more into time travel than dino poo. Though a bit heavy-handed with environmental agenda, I loved the concept of where our planet will be in a hundred and thirty some-odd years. I loved a protagonist that I could root for from scene one. I love that he is sixteen ways of hot, is all alpha-male, resourceful, tortured and fiercely protective of those he loves. The selection process to determine who would go back in time to be part of a new colony was exactly as I'd always imagined it: first, the most desirable citizens who had the most to offer a new civilization; second, a lottery. I love the infinite and baser conflicts inherent in trying to begin humanity anew.

The second hour lost me, pun intended. With precision and extensive dissertation, I can draw parallels between the characters in Terra Nova and the characters in LOST. The waterfall, the cryptic drawings, the overbearing, mysterious compound leader, the rogue sect, the young hottie to draw in the hard-to-pull-away-from-the-CW demographic of teenage girls. Need I continue? The only difference I could spot was dinosaurs instead of polar bears. I respect what Stephen Spielberg and FOX are trying to do.  Wait, no I don't. Why is it when networks get something truly fresh like Life on Mars (NBC), they give it a shoestring budget and mere weeks to get a foothold before they yank it, while they spend twenty-plus million on a tired spin they believe to be a guarantee? Sounds like another industry I know.

Will I continue to watch? For a time, I suppose. There is no crime in stacking up the DVR with Jason O'Mara deliciousness. But if they go all black fog on me, I'm out of there.

What do you think of Terra Nova? Am I just disgruntled because the only time travel will be in the pilot eppie?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Senior Will: Twenty Years Later

One of my favorite parts of my twentieth high school reunion last month was re-reading my senior will. For those who didn't have that tradition, it was a final message published in newspaper format filled with inside jokes and send-offs before we were coughed out into the world. A death of youth where we left our last testament to who we had been. Reading it all these years later was like uncovering some ancient Tonkawan language where you and only one other person could deciper the clues that lead you back to a slide in AP European History class of Louis XIV looking like Dee Snyder. Reading it made me want to write another, newer version because, let's face it, no writer is ever satisfied with what they wrote. If I were to write a newer twenty-year senior will it would look like this:

For the guy I thought crashed the reunion from the downstairs bar: the letter A, so you can appear earlier in the posted yearbook pages instead of on top of the janitor's closet near the johns. Oh, and my hangover cure-all...oj, maple syrup and hair of the dog...because there was no prize for the drunkest attendee. For those women who made more rounds than Danica Patrick at the Daytona 500: a sparkly, light-up belly dancing bikini top, the only thing that would have said, notice me! in a more subtle way. For those who became snacky-drunks and partook of the bar appetizers two hours past e-coli: Rolaids, 10-pack. For the boy up the street I had a crush on: Scope, so your cigarette breath didn't shatter your twelve-year-old perfection. For G.P: A hug. I saw you wander the bar as you did the halls, mostly alone. You wouldn't have known me, but I knew you. You were our Einstein. You could have been discovering time travel that night instead of reminiscing in all the pretentiousness. For M.M: a photostrip that will never see the light of day but has a special place above my writing desk. For the name-badge table greeters: A firecracker to wake you. For the same ten individuals in a class of eight hundred who occupied the only scrolling photo display: a life apart from Facebook. For those drowning in a room full of people you think you should know but don't: the life raft and a cheat sheet that, I, myself needed. For those who botoxed, implanted, crash dieted or otherwise altered their appearance to come: the present. The past is no place to live. For who lived near me whose families always pretended to be so happy: my rose-colored glasses, well-worn.

I thought I would have something funny to say about my reunion. I tried. My Vortex 10 List started out as the Top Ten Ways HS Reunions Are Better Than Enemas, but the words never took off. This one night fell victim to the same dangers inherent in any time travel experiment: no matter when you are, you always wish to be somewhen else. In my case, right here, right now, at this moment. I wouldn't trade now for all evil mushroom appetizers in the world.

Next up: Terra Nova, The Dino Poo of a Lost Attempt

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vinnie Barbarino, Time Traveler

Holy Scientology, Batman! Has it been that long since I posted? I'm collecting my thoughts on the reunion (read: Vortex 10 list still to come) but I couldn't leave Vortexers out flailing in the world without a spoonful of time travel fun to make the medicine of life go down.

Check out this 1860s photograph for sale on Ebay. Aside from the uncanny and obvious resemblance to John Travolta, the seller's paragraph is what interested me. For $250,000, who wouldn't want to weave a tale of time travel?

I've been so deep into my edits, I haven't even watched Terra Nova! I know, right? Time travel and Jason O'Mara! I must be sick in the head. Thus, the crickets chirping here, but I hope to have it all back in balance soon.

Next up: A Reunion Vortex 10

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Jordan Catalano

I wrote this post by hand. I don't do it often, but somehow it seemed more organic that way. You see, last week when I mentioned my Jordan Catalano, it wasn't just an arbitrary memory. Sure, I have a few eppies of My So-Called Life in the DVR that I get around to watching when my movie well runs dry, but it's more than that. So much more.

I understand that I'm speaking to a certain demographic of women when I mention that name: Jordan Catalano. But I'm speaking to all women when I tell you that Jordan Catalano's character was an angsty metaphor for that one painful crush we all had in high school. The one boy who could steal your breath and reduce you to Tourette's simply by occupying the same stratosphere. The one whose random eye contact could nourish your preoccupation for months, turning you into a gluttonous warrior who fought in the Darwinian halls of education for another glance. Dramatic? Hell to the yeah. This was sixteen when the world was a Bengali jungle and you just lost your machete.

My Jordan Catalano was Donatelli. Donatelli wasn't his real name. It was a name I randomly opened to in my Character Naming Sourcebook because that's what I do-make up names. He wasn't Italian, either, though I can't be sure he was from any specific heritage but the land of Hottiemanjaro. Donatelli was the pinnacle of the trifecta of three who caught my eye those years (the two others being a mullet-sporting silent-type who was a dead-ringer for a young MacGyver, the other a too-short guy with a swagger who caught me in my most embarassing moment to date).

Donatelli was an athlete: tall, dark hair, who at seventeen already had the superpower to grow a five o'clock shadow by the time practice rolled around. I told my parents I loved Donatelli's sport so I could be a manager, code for a sweat-towel-and-statistics girl who was invisible next to the cheerleaders who also rode the game-day bus. Thankfully, I wasn't alone in my transparent conspiracy. One of my best friends, too, was acquainted with the natives of Hottiemanjaro, one in particular, so we traveled the road of obscurity together. In three years, Donatelli spoke to me once.

I learned Donatelli's sport, really learned it, for all those practices and games and seasons. The head coach wrote me a letter of reference for college and helped me get a great job that lasted long past graduation. I lettered in that sport, even had the jacket, though the idea of earning it for wiping guy-sweat courtside never sat well. I graduated, went to Europe and found a real Donatelli who loved that I could be happy watching planes land at the airport and talk about his country's history with some degree of accuracy and be the geek I always was with a panache for whomping him at a certain American sport.

So why the memory? High school reunions do that, I suppose. Saturday will be my first and last in many ways to go back to the me of twenty years ago, so I cannot help but think about Donatelli. Will he be fat? Bald? Absent? Gone?

I don't live in the past, except for my stories, but for that one night, I will be a traveler there.

If you want to reminisce in Catalano goodness, watch this (7:46) and this (:58). Leave your Catalano here, in the comments, so we can love him, too. Most of all, have a great week everyone!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Page Ninety-Nine Test

I have to be in the right mood. And I can't be judging any other writing contests because helpful-feedback-overload makes me want to stab every page that's not mine with a nail scissors. But sometimes when I've earned a guilty pleasure and I've seen all the My So-Called Life reruns a thousand times and thought about my own Jordan Catalano a thousand more I give myself over to the temptation that is page99test.

This website grew out of the quote by English poet and novelist Ford Madox Ford, "Open the book to page 99 and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." Writers upload page 99 from their manuscripts and readers with user names give feedback ranging from the generic Yes, I'd read more of this to a comment box where thoughtful feedback is welcome. Browsers can select their favorite genre, or like me, choose to read every genre of fiction available.

Why is page99test my newest addiction? Though I've never actually browsed for a book in a brick and mortar using this technique, its merits are undeniable. Page 99 is random. Page 99 is near the first turning point in most novels. Mediocrity cannot hide on page 99. Page 99 is the best slice of truth about an author's ability. How many times have I judged openings of novels that had been polished ad nauseum, but lacked the rawness and fire of an untainted voice? I love that I can sample, like a literary truffle, give feedback or not and move on. I love that my user name icon keeps track of how many times I've given feedback and the number creeps higher. And, though many writer-spaces on the web invite harsh words from mental giants who believe their journey to publication includes stomping on all other prospective authors on the path before them, I haven't found that to be true of this site. In that once space of time I allow myself, I hold out hope that I'll find an author's voice that I cannot resist-that gold nugget in the pan of muddied river water that all editors and agents secretly yearn for.

After a short, short login (I know, I more to remember, right?) you're on your way. It isn't a site just for writers who wish to offer critique. With simple voting buttons regarding how likely you are to want to read more or buy it in a store, it's a site catered to all readers. Do let me know what you think of it. You'll know me there by my user name-guaranteed. Maybe you'll even discover page 99 of a Time Thriller there.

Have a super weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shorty T...The Story, Not Fabio

I have a lamb I wish to sacrifice to the web. This lamb, heretofore dubbed "Shorty T" because it is a short story and it involves time travel-GET OUT! I know, right?-will be given away for free. Shorty T has been previously published. Some of you may be well acquainted with Shorty T, and for that may I be the first to offer you this Etsy item of win as a token of my undying gratitude:

The questions I wrestle with now involve how best to sacrifice Shorty T.

Does the very nature of the story lend itself better to some forms of web publishing over others? Would it be better to lay a short story out in its entirety than to serialize? Does the ease of smartphones make listening to a podcast more appealing? Would anyone really want to listen to my voice?

Recently, I talked about my serialized fiction attempt-how it became so enormously successful it took on a life of its own. Some of you may even remember my attempt on Blogger early on to serialize a romance novel with co-writers from my critique group. Good luck reading it.  No really. Blogger is set up to follow a calendar dynamic, not a serialized fiction dynamic. First installment is here if you're masochistic. Why do I keep making the roundabout back to this idea? I can't deny the serialized nature of delivering stories in the nineteenth and early twentieth century has infinite appeal to me, especially when married to the time travel angle.

I'm realistic about Shorty T. He has a crooked nose and, sure, he has his stinky moments, but I still love him and I think others might, too. Because of his very cross-genre nature I cannot narrow his appeal to one publication, one print stream of revenue in a dying short story print market. My goal is that his freedom will bring others. Give it away and an audience will grow.

So my question to you, faithful Vortexers, is in what form do you like your free reads? Podcast? Serialized Podcast? An interactive experience this story would lend itself to and, perhaps, develop beyond? A self-published read on Kindle or Nook? Serialized and delivered via RSS? You Tube? Twitter? I'm in the early stages of conceptualizing Shorty T's exit, so any and all suggestions are welcome.

Friday: My new-to-me favorite writing-site addiction.  Beware!

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm Your Go-To Girl For Bull Scrotum Questions on Cash Cab

Edits this week have taken me to some strange places in the merry old land of Google. Did you know there were latte art competitions? First prize in this one is a $2500 ka-ching. Looks like I picked the wrong art form to beat myself up over. Mine would look something like this:
Then I had to search for cow-bladders as ice packs to see how they would have been fastened at the top. Would it look like one of those petrified bull scrotums? Mercifully, it did not yield a photograph, but did take me down the yellow brick road of bovine bile.

I also learned what rivers flow through Clear Creek County, Colorado, what a wild fescue looks like, a personal street weapon device that could be hidden in a pocket, whether the word "roommate" existed in 1881, and that all the really cool famous gunfighters hadn't taken center-stage in the mythology of the outlaw west by that date. You would totally want me to be your street shout-out on Cash Cab with all the insignificant things I know.

Last three movies seen:
The Crush-Um, yeah. I thought I was the only one who hadn't seen this Lolita/Fatal Attraction hybrid. I thought I would find a kinship with the writer-ly lead character, played by Cary Elwes with an abysmal American accent, but mostly he was just a TSTL (too stupid to live) protagonist.

House of Sand and Fog-Could Sir Ben Kingsley be any more awesome than this? Wait, six degrees of separation puts him with Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia. There is your answer.  I think not.

Life as We Know It-Not so much. I watched these DVR-ed movies in fifteen minute increments when I'm eating or doing something non-writing so I don't deviate from my edits-count. This one ranks just above watching a makeover on the Hooda-Kathy Lee hour of the Today show while gagging down my frosted mini-wheats.

Reading: Will Lavender's Obedience. Love it so far.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Don't Mess With The Vortex

It seems controversy has been at the forefront of this Vortexer's radar this past week.  First, the lawsuit kerfuffle with romance author Christie Craig and the Texas Department of Transportation's claim that her Don't Mess With Texas release puts a scandalous slant on their anti-litter campaign of the same name and violates the "paper goods" portion of their slogan's trademark. God forbid we marry sex and construction, right?

Too much ridiculous goodness here not to click through and read the article. The cover art is fabulous, the "states of sexual arousal" excerpts cited by TxDOT's lawyers in the frivolous lawsuit will make me think twice about adopting a highway and, it marries the best of those litter commercials (:14) 

with the words "sweet spasms of release."

Best of all is the knowledge that my state tax dollars single-handedly led to the best publicity this novel and author could have received. I hope you reach NYT, Ms. Craig. Don't mess with romance authors.

Also, with a surprising SHABLAM, Sourcebooks's publishing contract receives a one star "shred it" rating from entertainment lawyer Jeffery V. Mehalic in this week's Pitch University The Write Lawyer column. Even if Sourcebooks isn't on your publishing radar, some great cautionary advice on what to look for before you sign.

And, of absolutely no controversy save the outrageous cost of turkey legs, the Fair at New Boston in Springfield, Ohio is offering a step-back-in-time Labor Day weekend of fun. 1811? I'm so there. No reenactor could top my de la Salle, though. Oh, wait, here's his picture.

Don't mess with a woman and her French explorer fantasy.

Have a great Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bless Me Father, For I Still Have Impure Thoughts About The King

I didn't reflect last week on the anniversary of Elvis's death because that's not something I ever do. However, any excuse to celebrate the squeezy-packet of awesome that was The King does make me want to dance like this.

Dolores Hicks (then screen name Dolores Hart), co-star of Loving You starring a very young Elvis, once said of her screen kiss:

"I think the limit for a screen kiss back then was something like 15 seconds. That one has lasted 40 years."

Seven years after Loving You, she left Hollywood to become a nun.

Amen, sister. Why bother sampling the others, right?

Okay, this question is for the Vortex ladies....what kiss would make you become a nun?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Casting a Darling Out to Sea

We are on Thriller Island, after all.

After no less than twelve independent critiques, some anonymous, some not, I have reached the conclusion that one of my "little darlings" (favorite lines, as we writers refer to them) must be buried at sea, never to wash up on the shores of my manuscript again. But as with all things in our lives that have always been there, like family or a genetic deformity, it is hard.  So, so hard. A proper burial needs words. From the most recent draft of The Night Caller :

“’Bout time you started hearing things, Mr. Hughes,” Evan mumbled to himself. “At least Howard got laid.”

Seven pages later in a phone conversation between my main character, Evan, and a mysterious, alluring woman he's trying to impress....

“What’s your name?” Evan said.


“Like the flower?”

No, like in livered, ass. Hughes would’ve had a better line. Something that would have made Jane Russell strip to her torpedo bra.

While I've gone out of my way prior to these lines to establish that Hughes is not my main character's last name and that he is undoubtedly suffering from agoraphobia, these lines have given pause to over half the cold readers. Yes, some had no idea who Howard Hughes was, which explains the problematic reference. Others thought a young, strapping male in his late twenties would not know this cultural reference, even though Howard Hughes died three years after I, too, was born. But I digress.  Not everyone could have seen the motion picture The Aviator-oh wait, wasn't it an Oscar nominee? But these are literary folks.  Probably not a television set among them.  Some simply thought it made my character seem like an old man because it was from a different generational point of reference.
Since the beginning, I held steadfast in my Hughes references.  He was, after all, the most famous agorophobic cup of crazy, then or now. But fiction isn't about me, it's about story. Quite simply, anything that pulls my reader away from the story must go. The people have spoken, and I have finally heard them.
Goodbye, dear Hughes. You and your sexed-up cultural references have been fun.

Friday, August 19, 2011

From Lady Gaga to The Big Zip

It feels amazing to be number one at something, if not the New York Times Bestseller list. Without further hesitation, my newest Google #1 ranking....

This is a proud moment, indeed.

Today's post is a plethora of end-of-summer goodness, hand-picked for Vortexers who are a bit discerning in their internet-hopping moments. I hope I've gathered the very best of what has occupied me this week.

First, Lady Gaga vs. The Secret. Say what you will (and I have) about the Queen of Meat Couture but she is a marketing genius and may have the mac daddy secret to motivational success.

While we're on weird, I hope you'll not think ill of me that I found these early post-mortem vintage photographs fascinating. Some of them I'd seen before while researching The Night Caller because I needed to know nineteenth century photography; some were new and undeniably creepy. 

On the high-brow geeky front, researchers from Vanderbilt and the University of Pennsylvania have discovered neuro-biological evidence of mental time travel.

If my fiction career doesn't take off, I could always look for modern ad-writing jobs inspired by this one from the 1970s...

I think I need a cigarette after The Big Zip and I don't even smoke. This ad could be a drinking game.  Every double entendre, take a shot. Don't worry. The Vortex has extra couches where you can crash.

Finally, Writer's Digest is offering free ebooks on the craft of writing through August 22nd.

And because I really, really need to get this out of my inbox...

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Seismic Shift

In five days, I become a full-time writer for the first time. Ever. As delightfully tingly as this prospect makes me, it also terrifies me. The onus of success will rest completely on me.  No longer will the convenient excuse of a day job feel like a safe justification for not writing. So how am I beating around this tree of inevitable awesome?

Re-organizing my writing space
Remember when coffee shops were my thing?  Yeah, I'm over that. Jockeying for outlet real estate. The cost. With a few exceptions when I'm stir-crazy, I plan to stay home and use the previously outrageous spending output on my career. And what, you may ask, will keep me from cleaning out the fridge's meat drawer when characters no longer cooperate? I don't have a counter-attack planned for that, but looking at something different while I write seems like a new chapter.

Early on in my pursuit of writing fiction, I had this crazy ritual of curling up in a chair and reading for fifteen minutes to get words flowing through my head, then meditating on my story world for a few more. Then I'd stumble to the keyboard, somewhere between God-this-makes-me-sleepy and higher-process thought and pour words into the story. Though this ritual reminds me of a diesel engine-way too slow to warm up-and would mess with my now-established author voice, there is something to be said for the comfort and reliability this framework creates.

Also early on, I frequented a chat room (back when we used to do that sort of thing).  This wasn't your average insult-laden yahoo room. It was back in the early days when specialty networks were establishing their online presence and trying to get their viewers to interact. There were a few men, mostly women, who encouraged my dream. To thank them, I wrote a serial with them as characters. A ghastly thing, really, about a group of mail-order brides who travel west and encounter outlaws and every variation on a cliche in historical romance, but it grew to something close to a hundred pages with thirty characters (all with their screen names, of course). With each successive Friday when the new installment would go up, the room began to fill until it eventually reached capacity. To say that audience devotion to my storytelling was heady is an understatement. Nothing before or since has had the accountability quotient like that serial. Self-imposed deadlines aren't enough. I need industry deadlines-contests or requesting agents or contracts or until writing comes full-circle and I'm back in that role of chat room Nora with salivating readers.

You might be wondering what ended this serial, why it only reached a hundred pages if it was going so well. The guy I'd written in as the hero began to think it was real with me, the author, as the heroine. For him, reality was a blurred line. He smashed his computer in the forest one night, or so I heard.

What works? What is a time drain? Things must be shaken, not stirred, to get fresh results.

Advice is welcome. How would you deal with this seismic shift of time to pursue your dream?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

On Swamp Ass and Etsy Items of Win

I meant to get this post up yesterday, but I was battling this:

in a downtown parking garage, a special kind of hell in the worst heat ever recorded locally. After that, the only creative thoughts one can rub together are If my foot lands askew of my flip-flop, will it be third-degree burns? and Would it mean certain-death to sprint to air-conditioning?

Cliffhanger Books is requesting submissions for paranormal romance shorts. Why the mention here? Aren't we on Thriller Island now? I found this line of the submission call interesting: While paranormal romance authors are generally female, we want story submissions from talented male writers as well. And, if I remember correctly, some Vortexers are paranomal authors of the XY variety who have mentioned writing a bit of hoo-ha into their screams. Deadline: Halloween 2011. FMI.

From Epic Fail's WIN side:

Speaking of time travel...let's go Etsy shopping!

I'm also fairly certain I'm going to start collecting vintage keys.

There's a story in that one.

Have a great day, everyone!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Guest Blogger: Sherry Issac

A huge Vortex welcome to Sherry Isaac. Yay!

Sherry is the author of the just-released collection of short stories, Storyteller. She has a magical, lyrical voice that is warm milk on a cold night. And, she loves all things woo-woo, too! I'm so pleased to have her here.  Enjoy!

Time Warp
by Sherry Isaac

Where a story idea comes from and how it take shape is integrated and tangled up with where we are at the moment.

And where we've been.

And where we are going.

Kind of like time travel.


Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of the ideas. They come so fast, they could be in a swirling, time-traveling vortex of their own. Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the story in front of me, darn near completion, because a new idea won’t leave me alone.

Ideas like this one, an idea I had quite a few years ago now, shelved while I worked on my current novel, took classes and compiled my short story collection, Storyteller.

A time travel idea.

Audience: YA.

Right at this moment, I should be working on my second novel, Homecoming.

I’m not.

Why? Two reasons.

One. Instead of being tangled up in plot points and character arcs, I’m enmeshed in the promotion of my first ever book launch.

Reason Two shouldn’t be time-consuming. It is an important task, but one that can run in the background: soliciting agents for my middle-grade. The book is everything I can make it, tweaked and polished till I have the darned thing almost memorized. Synopsis is written, as is the query letter.

Every 4-6 weeks my only task is to (a) digest the rejection letter, (b) revise and personalize the query letter for the next agent on my list and (c) hit send.

I’m now on Agent #4.

It was the query to Agent #2 that threw life into a jumble.

Agent #2 has a blog. She cites statistics on her blog, discouraging, miserable numbers that tell a sad, sad tale of how many queries she receives, month by month, and the scant number of partials and fulls she requests from out of that ginormous, impossible, nearly infinite number.

On her blog she also reveals the type of book she is on the look out for: Time Travel YA.

My heartbeat flutters.

My lungs grow heavy with the breath I hold.

Time Travel YA?

I have a Time Travel YA!

At least, I have an idea for a time travel YA, tucked, safe and sound, in my idea file.

I made a commitment, though. A commitment to myself, a commitment I must honour lest Margie Lawson beat me with the entire weight of her DSDB lecture packet:

Finish the current novel.

The current novel, Homecoming, has been the heart and soul of my existence for I no longer know how many years. Homecoming is so close to completion, I can smell the ink on the freshly printed pages and hear the first crinkle of that fragile spine as the first copy of the first edition is cracked open.

The time travel idea?

She ain’t going anywhere.

But she does serve as an impetus to keep moving forward, to finish my current work in progress, and to plan what books I will write, and when, over the course of the next few years.

In the meantime, I’ll buckle my seat belt and find contentment traveling the space-time continuum between current century Canadian prairie by day, and 16th century England in my dreams.

And keep that time travel engine running!


Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

Be sure to leave a comment for Sherry and don't miss her beautiful book trailer. Thank you, Sherry, for being here!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Secrets of Love

Didn't get to post the winner of the Great Blog Spruce-Up yesterday, but our winner is Charles, who consistently hit the comment button and participated. Thanks, Charles. Email me at and let me know if you would like a copy of Love, Texas Style or a Vortex-ish DVD.

I am consumed this week preparing for my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary bash. I would be hard-pressed to come up with all the ways this longevity and example of enduring love has impacted my life. Maybe that's why my first writing love was romance.  So while I take care of last minute details, enjoy some quotes from people who've also crossed this marital milestone and have found the secret to happily ever after.  And, don't forget to join me back here same time tomorrow for our very special time travel-lovin'-short-story-authoring guest of Storyteller, Sherry Isaac. I'm counting on you all to shower her with Vortex love.

Now for the laaaahve. From Sheryl P. Kurland's beautiful coffee table book Everlasting Matrimony:

"Your partner is not a mind reader. Say what’s on your mind." ~ Gilda Gittleman

"I think respecting each other’s interests is important and giving each other permission willingly to pursue their hobbies." ~ Rose Savage

"Physical closeness is important; intimacy is important, sharing a bed. And couples need to take time out to do something for themselves. I believe in life together, but you need some time to yourself, too." ~ Fleurette Kurtzman

"Don't discuss sensitive subjects before dinner - eat first." ~ Renee Flager

"Married people have to love one another unselfishly, keep doing for each other. And you have to like one another." ~ Louis Goldberg

"I never thought about it being easy or hard." ~ Claire Berenson

"We both have a sense of humor, and that’s what gets us through. You’re doomed without it." ~ Louise Fradkin

"Trust is most essential to a successful marriage. I always felt that my husband was honest and reliable." ~ Helen Bronson

"For those about to get married — Do not over romanticize. Marriage is not the panacea. Marriage probably will not be problem free. Rather, be problem-aware. If and when problems appear, work them through. Sometimes these are easy, other times difficult." ~ Arthur Cohen

See you tomorrow!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Connecting Dots To Your Future

This is a short clip featuring Ric Elias, a survivor aboard the Hudson River plane crash. Thanks, Melanie!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Favorites: Abraham's Love Letter to Mary

I picked today's favorite for two reasons.  First, I'm watching the PBS documentary series Abraham and Mary: A House Divided which nicely counterbalances the Love in the Wild and Gene Simmons Family Jewels eppies in my DVR. Must. Have. Brain. Balance. Secondly, it is the most-visited post in the five years I've been blogging. I can't say for sure why. Maybe because love letters are a dying art filled with the urgency of falling in love we all crave. From Valentine's Day, 2008...

Abraham's Love Letter to Mary

In this Valentine's week filled with Lord Byron and Barry White, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Hallmark, I offer up a confection-free taste of love at its purest and most vulnerable. It seems before Abraham Lincoln offered up one of the most important documents in human history, he was a simple man in love who dared to pour out his heart in a letter:

My dear Mary:

You must know that I cannot see you or think of you with entire indifference; and yet it may be that you are mistaken in regard to what my real feelings toward you are. If I knew that you were not, I should not trouble you with this letter. Perhaps any other man would know enough without further information, but I consider it my peculiar right to plead ignorance and your bounden duty to allow the plea. I want in all cases to do right, and most particularly so in all cases with women. I want at this particular time more than anything else to do right with you, and if I knew it would be doing right, as I rather suspect it would, to let you alone, I would do it. And for the purpose of making the matter as plainly as possible I now say you can drop the subject, dismiss your thoughts--if you ever had any--from me forever, and leave this letter unanswered without calling forth one accusing murmur from me. And I will even go further and say that if it will add anything to your comfort and peace of mind to do so, it is my sincere wish that you should.

Do not understand by this that I wish to cut your acquaintance. I mean no such thing. What I do wish is that our further acquaintance should depend upon yourself. If such further acquaintance would contribute nothing to your happiness, I am sure it would not to mine. If you feel yourself in any degree bound to me, I am now willing to release you, provided you wish it; while, on the other hand, I am willing and even anxious to bind you faster, if I can be convinced that it will in any degree add to your happiness. This indeed is the whole question with me. Nothing would make me more miserable than to believe you miserable; nothing more happy than to know you were so.

In what I have now said I cannot be misunderstood; and to make myself understood is the only object of this letter. If it suits you best not to answer this, farewell. A long life and a merry one attend you. But if you conclude to write back, speak as plainly as I do. There can be neither harm nor danger in saying to me anything you think just in the manner you think it.

Your friend,

A. Lincoln

At first read, the lines seem to come from a measurable distance, almost political. But to realize, in the privacy of his most intimate thoughts, never meant for public consumption, this revolutionary man could pour out his raw honesty and lay every stake in his future at the hands of the woman he loved is worthy of the greatest truth of this human condition. No matter how we try to capture love's essence, it's still not enough.

Happy Valentines Day!

Late in his life, Abraham Lincoln foretold Mary of his death. Read one of my first blog entries for the story.

Naked and Happy

Displeased with the local selection of shower curtains, I took to the internet.  But if you're here at the Vortex, you must know these won't be any ordinary shower curtains:

Top 500 SAT words shower curtain ($21.99) buy here

Psycho Shower Curtain ($15.49) buy here
Put The Damn Seat Down ($10.00) buy here

Man in Towel ($85.00-not kidding!) buy here

...and we can't forget the hooks, right?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Favorites: Flash Fiction: Home

Today's favorite is one of those sparkling moments of clarity that fully encompass why I blog. Had I not created this space, befriended a circle of dedicated bloggers and committed to fresh content, I wouldn't have written this piece of flash fiction that eventually won second place in the Western Pennsylvania Romance Writer's Bump In the Night contest. I've learned much about writing since this piece, am tempted to fix what is wrong, but for now am content to celebrate it as it was in October 2008... 

Flash Fiction: Home

If we were to pull out a technical card, this is my first piece of flash fiction ever.  Most people know my rambling prose would put Faulkner to shame.  So, I seized the challenge and had a great time.  Thanks to Charles for the idea and the invitation to join him in the spirit of Halloween.  Be sure to head over to his blog to read the stories of others who felt inspired, too.
The sailor maneuvered dress whites, the yards of make-do-and-mend-war-dresses circling curved, lithe bodies, patriotic banners plunging like paratroopers from the warehouse rafters. A saxophone’s low C-note stretched around the crowd like a seductive yawn, the perfect overture to slow bodies in motion. The need for touch, a soft spot to cradle frayed nerves and sear in the mind a warm, liquid path of home, imposed on the July night.

Finn ducked a USO banner, his gaze steady on a petite frame: the perfect hourglass to mark the dwindling hour, butter and cream roses sheathed against pale skin, tea-stained lights reflecting blue from her sleek, black hair. The young woman faced a second-story window, alone, staring out at the sleeping dock, her reflection more fog than substance.

He approached, cleared his throat.Her shoulders shifted, relaxed, as if he’d awakened her from a lumbering sleep.

“A prelude to a kiss.”

She turned, swept vanilla and flowers and everything exiled from a four-thousand ton battleship, into his awareness.Her brow knotted.

“The song,” said Finn.“No one should be alone during this song.”

She smiled, a warm trickle of welcome.Pinned above her heart, an anchor broach glistened.

“Say something.”

She spoke, not with her patriotic red, ample lips, but in the two steps her heels cleared the floor toward him, the uneven rise of her delicate collarbone, a gloved hand filling his palm.The plane of her body neared, a forbidden line with all the temptation of tepid water in an Atlantic winter.

Ellington’s bluesy movements dictated their own, a union of beats, a suspended orchestra of body and mind. Finn waded into a curl along her neck, his body alive in the streak of moonlight cresting the night-sea lock. Her temple teased his lips, the barrier of his warm exhale the only distance left.

He swayed past their first kiss, an impromptu pledge before boarding, love letters bulging beneath his cot mattress. In her nearness, he found years, decades; in her touch, she became a destination that penetrated every ache, every truth within.

“Been looking everywhere, Finn,” a male voice cut in.

Finn started. His gaze awakened, languid from a state more intoxicating than a furlough binge. His hand collapsed, his palm empty.

She was gone.

“Where’d she go?” Finn turned, sought every platform within fleeing distance.His body still swayed from her imprint in his arms.The music stopped. A chorus of polite claps from below rang sour in his ears, his gut.


“The girl.The one who was just here.”

“Every available girl in North Carolina is downstairs and I find you up here, dancing alone.”

“She was just—”

“Right.” His buddy pounded out a few shoulder smacks, a humoring rally of camaraderie when the weeks lengthened and the pill of loneliness no longer slid down easily. “What’s say we find you that blond at the door—she was a real looker.”

The inertia of his friend’s insistence carried Finn to the step’s threshold. The band bounced a swing through the soles of his polished shoes. Finn turned.

A tiny anchor flashed, of stars or polished silver, he couldn’t be certain. He lingered, one breath to savor vanilla, blossoms, dreams—a lifetime lived in the arms of a woman.

All as elusive to a sailor as home.