Random Wednesday: Favorite Writing Advice

Favorite writing advice…

At this point in the game I’ve definitely gone out seeking any writing advice I can get.

It starts out with your closest friends, “I am thinking about writing a book but my ability to spell is embarrassing. Like, my-fly-has-been-open-all-day-and-no-one-said-anything embarrassing.” Here is where you get that advice to go for it, don’t worry about your weaknesses. It’s a process. You’ll figure it out. And on some level, you do.

Then it’s time to branch out a bit. You start to visit a mix of blogs, professional sites, look up articles, subscribe to one or two. Maybe pick up a book or a few. It’s about this point I learned about writers groups and saw in more than one source that writers groups are helpful. So you join a writers group.

First meeting, you sit down, someone comments on your shirt and INSTANT FRIENDS! In addition to making friends, you are making friends who can give you more, specific writing advice. What books to read for help, how the industry works depending on your goals, options you might not have know about to try, websites to check out, publishers to avoid, and the advice here goes on and on. But that’s just the people, we also have guest speakers to cover specific topics of interest.

Then there are the writers conferences. A full day of just people telling you what to do and how to do it. ADVICE OVERLOAD!

Here is the thing: It takes all of the above to find good advice. It’s a combination of these things and your skill level to figure out what piece of advice has real value to you.

“Show, don’t tell.” – That piece of advice I ran into a million times and it probably took me a year or more to actually understand what it meant. I had to see a passage with a scene being “told” before it clicked. It’s popular advice that’s not really advice. It’s like saying “Don’t write shit.”

“Watch what tense you are writing in, you jump back and forth from past to present.” – I’m terrible at this and the first time I got this piece of advice was from a person on a forum. A complete stranger gave me this critique before my friends did, but I also want to give me friends credit. Two of them DID tell me I have a bad writing habit eventually which is exactly the kind of friends I want to have. This is the type of the feed back that will make me a better writer and that’s the best kind of advice. Most importantly, it’s advice I had to seek out, I wasn’t going to find it in a book.

“Write every day.” “Push yourself.” “Practice.” “Make goals, set challenges.” “Write now, edit later.”- Burn yourself out. Stress yourself about goals. Write crap for the sake of a word count and pull out your hair during the editing process because you’re trying to polish something that looks like the literary depiction of what your cat threw up under your bed a week ago. This advice makes writing sound easy. The story will tell itself if you just put words on a page. Well, the truth is somewhere in that mess of advice. If you want to write, you need to write. How you do it is up to you. It’s not all bad advice, it just depends how you use it and if it works for you.

I wish I could say I had a favorite or one thing I found useful, I don’t. I have note books full of notes, copies of presentations, highlighted books, bookmarked articles and websites, and simple stored to memory advice from conversations with friends. All of these things are helping me to become a better writer.

What then would be my advice to others?

Never stop looking for advice.


My compliments to the following advice givers and their awesome shirts:

Jessica Jarman (Side note: I’ve been made aware there was some Jessica email confusion involving coloring pages. While the guilty party won’t be mentioned, here is a special coloring page so you don’t feel left out.)

Bronwyn Green

Gwendolyn Cease

Deelylah Mullin





Random Wednesday: Top 10 Lessons I learned from my Parents

Oh…this is going to be splendid.

The late 70’s was a weird time. Yes, this is how I am choosing to address why my parents are my parents and the decisions they made which leads to the lessons they shared.

The only good decision they made is me, if you want my honest opinion. Most of the decisions they made were pretty poor. Mom could have worn a bra in her wedding photos. Dad’s mustache never reached the epicness of Tom Sellecks though I give him credit for trying. Both could have curved the amount of marriages they had. But hey, it was the 70’s. Love, feathered hair, and polyester was in the air! Wise decisions, not so much.

Parent Lesson #1: Don’t listen to mom.
Mom quote, “Only single woman go to college. Girls like you, who have a boyfriend, don’t. Let him go to college and support you because I’m sure before too long you’ll be married. Then shortly after I’m sure there will be kids. Maybe some community college in the mean time. But I don’t understand why you need to go to college. You already have everything you need.”

Yeah, just don’t listen to mom. But the above quote is one of my all time favorites. One of the many times I asked, “Do you listen to yourself when you talk?” We realized neither of us do.

Parent Lesson #2: The only good cat is a dead cat. 
Dad said that one. A little dry piece of advice, I’ll admit, but cat’s are great when they aren’t yours.

Sorry Potter if you are reading this. You’re a cat, so you probably aren’t. But I’m sorry none the less.

Cats pee. They always pee. If you own a cat, you will find cat pee some place it doesn’t belong. No one will tell you this. No one wants to admit they have a cat pee issue. No one wants to be a cat pee person. But while dogs will change their behavior or have noticeable physical changes when there is an emotional or physical issue – cats don’t.

They communicate by pee.

Unless they are hungry. Then they will meow in random intervals to drive you crazy much like water torture.

Most of the time they just pee on something and it’s up to you to find it and then connect the dots that something is wrong. It could be an infection, could be a serious illness, it could be because they don’t like the brand of litter you bought three months ago that has since been long gone. Whatever the reason. Cats are assholes. Cute, cuddly, pee monsters.

Parent Lesson #3: It keep rabbits from eating plants, cut chicken wire and place it around the plant.
While I appreciate this piece of advice from my dad, I have just decided not to plant any flowers. If it comes to the point of chicken wire, just let the rabbits win and then don’t plant more. Rabbits: 1, Jessica 0.

Parent Lesson #4: Know the difference between a clove of garlic and a bulb of garlic.
Worst lasagna ever.

Parent Lesson #5: It’s okay to stretch the truth in a professional matter.
Like how my title says there are 10 things but really there are only 5. But you know what, I’m still going to give myself a little credit here because I made half a post which is saying a lot since I didn’t post in all of April.


Here are the other bloggers! I bet most of them have at least 10 items on their list. They are slightly more reliable.

Jessica Jarman

Kellie St. James

Bronwyn Green

Paige Prince

Deelylah Mullin



Random Wednesday: My Memoir

The question, “What would you title your memoir and why?”

I have thought about this for several days now and the answer is still, “I have no idea.” This is what I’ve roughed out so far.

My Family of Dicks: Not a Detective Story 

“Imperial Troops Have Entered The Base” and Other Phrases Spoken When Toddlers Interrupt Poop Breaks

Titty Sprinkles and Twitter, That Time I Should Have Thought Things Out More

Surviving In The STEM Field While Too Cheap To Buy A Graphing Calculator

Jessica, Jessica, Jessica, Jessica, Jessica and Other Popular Names of the 1980’s

Okay, I am sure if the day ever comes where I write a memoir, it will have purpose and be personal. I read Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist and I felt that sure, if I wrote what was happening at my life at the age of 19 it would have looked very much the same. A confusing world of love affairs and career paths. A perspective mixed of adult logic and complex new emotions. But everyone knows what it’s like to be 19. What made her memoir interesting is who the people were and what that career path turned into. Otherwise, it would have been a normal experience. Mostly. I haven’t read her others but I assume they are just as personal.

Currently I am reading Night by Elie Wiesel. Now, while I could read story after story and watch film after film about the Holocaust, I have not learned anything new in a long time. Every story is horrifying, heartbreaking, and amazing example of survival. Still, I read and watch all of it. It’s an obsession. These are stories meant to be told, read, and never forgotten. Even if you know exactly what you are getting into when you open the book.

What’s my contribution? Well, I’m a pretty average person. There are ups, downs, and some complexities but I don’t think that makes me unique or memoir worthy. For now, when it comes to memoirs I think I’ll stay the reader instead of the writer.

If there is ever a day I become famous enough for my memoir to be in demand, I will be sure to go into detail about having seven siblings of mixed biological parentage,  deciding to pursue a career in a heavily male dominated field, and why saying “Cowabunga Dude” to the pizza delivery guy does not actually get you a free pizza as much as your sister insists it does.


Thanks for reading and here are the other future memoir writers:

Bronwyn Green

Jessica Jarman

Deelylah Mullin

Gwendolyn Cease

Kellie St. James


Promptly Penned: Three More Days Of This

It’s that time of the month for Promptly Penned where myself and several others write a short story based off the same prompt. The prompt is “Three more days of this.”

This months authors are:

Bronwyn Green

Jessica Jarman

Deelylah Mullin

Kris Norris



She was on the phone talking to her boyfriend and didn’t know what was about to happen. Given, I didn’t know either but all the pieces presented themselves and I’m opportunistic at times of extreme boredom. By this point, I don’t know how long my sister had been on the phone or even how she was paying for the call. The payphone was in a room with a function yet to be determined, full of construction equipment, paint buckets, pieces of lumber, and dry wall. Beth had pushed some boxes next to the phone but her short legs didn’t quite get her butt to the top. She had to climb up to sit on her perch. Legs tangling below her kicking the box side as she talked. Her boyfriend was still at home up north in Michigan with the spring air and mud. We were stuck in Florida with thick wet air and suffocating heat. Not that it was really suffocating to those native to Florida. But for young Michiganders, it was insufferable and sticky.

“Now, isn’t this beautiful?” My Mom asked.

“Yeah, it’s nice.” We lied.

As an adult I would feel differently about Florida beaches. As a preteen kid, it smelled of dead fish and old people sweat.

Beth felt the same. She was excited to be in Florida at first, where I was more in the state of mind where I craved entertainment or home. There was no middle ground of relaxing, sun bathing, or reading a good book. That would come later in life. But Beth was more accepting to a new view away from home. Only a day if I had to put a time on it, just one single day. Then Beth became about as insufferable as the heat and the construction in the condo we were staying at. She would go into bouts of refusing to talk to anyone or whining non-stop. This happened due to her trying to get a tan to show off to her boyfriend at home and then getting sunburned to the point of turning into an angry red tomato.

Mom didn’t care much. She was there to enjoy herself. This meant while she was drinking pool side we were stuck in the condo listening to constant drilling and sawing while trying to watch local TV that seemed foreign and odd. It’s not as if other states don’t have car dealership commercials. It’s just Michigan commercials had better jingles than Florida. So while Beth lathered herself in aloe and watched strange TV, I wondered the building. This is both how I got stuck on the construction floor and found the payphone. The construction workers seemed very unsettled to see a child with extreme proportions of arms and legs with nothing else standing in the middle of a cloud of dust confused to how she got there and where the elevator went. The payphone, which I found on a different floor entirely, didn’t give me any odd looks.

I thought Beth would be excited to hear I found a payphone and I’m was pretty sure we could manage enough change between the two of us for her to call her boyfriend. I was right and she couldn’t wait to talk to him right away. She talked to him first and then let me talk to him for a few minutes too. You would have thought we were stranded on an island and he was our first human contact in years rather than, a days drive straight down I-75 and we’d only been gone for only two days at this point.

Beth called her boyfriend every night. My Mom was gone to hang out with her friends doing who knows what. I had nothing but sweaty armpits and a new smell I wasn’t used to before now. It wasn’t fair to be honest. I get this was suppose to be Mom’s get away. I get that Beth is homesick and boyfriend crazy. But what am I suppose to do?

Annoy my sister, obviously. And it just so happened that while Beth was on an endless phone conversation, she didn’t notice the lizard about the size of her forearm crawling on the ceiling above her. Nor did she notice that I happened to acquire a long piece of wood from the construction material just long enough to reach the ceiling. In fact, Beth was so engrossed in her, “I love you’s” and “I miss you’s” she didn’t see me gently nudge the lizard on the ceiling with the long piece of wood.

The lizard freaking out and falling from the ceiling was completely unplanned. I was just trying to get it to move enough to catch Beth’s attention. The lizard falling and landing on Beth was again an unplanned, but hilarious event. She screamed and screamed and screamed. I don’t know who was more upset the about the situation, the lizard or Beth because both ended up running around the room and bumping into boxes and buckets making a lot of noise. This was about the time in the vacation I thought, “You know, I could handle three more days of this.” Beth might not have agreed but, that’s her problem.

Random Wednesday: Organizing My Writing Life

If we’re going to talk about writing tips, tricks, and tools I use to organizing my writing life you’re going to be disappointed because I fell off the wagon miles back.

And I mean miles.

I haven’t written a single word this year for my WIP and it’s the end of February.

I also need to clean out my refrigerator.

For this exercise we’re just going to settle on the main point that I’m behind on a lot of things. I’m not a regular disappointment. Just an occasional one. Though, the fridge not cleaning itself is a regular disappointment.

We’re going to pretend for a minute that you (the reader who hasn’t written much yet) and I (I wrote a blog once) are not total slack offs and there is a reasonable explanation for why we suck at writing life.

  • Holiday hang over. Having seen people you don’t normally want to see for a month in a half sucked all the care out of you. Now you’re in a vegetative state hidden under a blanket watching Netflix documentaries until Spring. You’re like Punxsutawney Phil of writers. You poke your head out in February and if you see neighbors with their Christmas decorations still up you go back into hiding for six more weeks.
  • Heat is inadequate and fingers get cold while typing. No one likes cold hands. Best wait until Spring.
  • “The library has a Winter Reading Program and if you read six books you get a mug from Dunkin Donuts that entitles you to free coffee for the rest of 2017.” Even when you don’t like coffee all that much, but FREE is in front of  REST OF 2017 and then you’ve got a game changer. Screw writing, read all the books!
  • This is the time of year for illnesses and you’ve bathed yourself in hand sanitizer to no avail. Colds, random stomach bugs, and sore throats happen. Note, Sam’s Club has the best deal for $/oz depending on how big of a bathtub you use.

These are my suggestions to getting back on track.

  • Get out of the house. Seriously, go someplace else for an hour, two hours. A change of scenery is a great jump start. Especially if your a person like me looks outside and thinks, “It’s cold out there with snow and it’s dark.” Humans don’t hibernate. It sounds like a great idea but no – leave the house. It will help.
  • Set goals and reward yourself when you achieve them. Example: I got out of the house and wrote 1500 words. I’m going to reward myself with a huge latte on my way home for breaking free of Gobbler’s Knob.
  • Continue to set goals and make them gradual. Remember, writing is a mental work out. Don’t burn out by trying to accomplish too much too quickly. Failing on a lofty goal can set you back further then when you started by killing what motivation you had. Set goals you know you can succeed in.
  • Be part of a writing community whether that’s a writers group,  writer friends, bloggers, or twitter handles. It helps keep your ultimate goal in the forefront and makes it harder to push away and ignore, only to regret later when time has gone by and that lingering dream you never accomplished still remains.

I’m practicing what I preach. I’ll be spending a few days with some writers to get away from home and work on projects. I’m using this to jump start myself after winter which, wasn’t terrible long but, I really wish humans hibernated. Things would have been a lot easier if we did. For now, writing goals. I’ll work on becoming a bear in a future life.

And the awesome ladies:

Bronwyn Green

Gwendolyn Cease

Deelylah Mullin

Jessica Jarman

Random Wednesday: The Worst Place I Have Ever Been Stuck In

I’m breaking the rules.

At this point I have yet to post a picture of myself but I feel it’s necessary for this story.

This is me, seven years ago, stuck in a elevator.


The picture quality is potato but the phone being used to take this picture had fallen down the freight elevator shaft in the same building a few months before my unplanned residency in the front office elevator.

That’s a story in itself. If you’ve never ridden in a freight elevator, it’s exactly what you see in the movies. Several doors opening and closing top to bottom and a pulley system to move the elevator, stop the elevator, and people power to open the doors again. Lots of ropes for this, that, and the other thing. It was fun to operate but took some practice. One day I was taking the freight elevator when the door caught my phone and popped it off my belt. I would have had it in my pocket but, girl pants. No pockets of functionality to speak of. Myself and our maintenance guy were able to locate the phone in the basement at the bottom of the shaft where there was no entrance. We McGuyvered a tool using a broom handle, duct tape, wire, and an additional broom handle to flip the phone over, open the belt clip with one broom handle, use the wire loop we attached to other broom handle, and hooked into the belt clip. The retrieval was a successful and the phone was a little beat up but still in enough of a working condition to be useful later in the other elevator incident.

The building I worked in was downtown. It was a type of building that you admire as you drive by and wonder what living/working in one of those buildings would be like. Well, I’ll admit, it was pretty cool but it came with several drawbacks. The building was five stories including a basement. In the basement was our more, out of sight, items but for good reason. We had pallets full of tooling which was related to my job as the assistant print shop manager. Tools, or dies, are used for foil stamping, embossing, and diecutting. The presses performing these functions were the presses I was hired to install, run, and later manage as we hired other operators. There were hundreds of dies both delicate and heavy. Often made out of solid brass and copper scattered everywhere. It was a mess kept hidden and I was hired to fix it. Next to our tools and behind plastic sheets was the tallest, burliest, would not want to run into a dark alley kind of guy who ran our glitter press. You read that correctly. Glitter press. He didn’t mind at all but he was more brawn than brains. A fact he was not shy to volunteer. You ever wonder how glitter gets on Christmas cards? I’m sure you’re not picturing a biker with a small printing press and a bucket of glitter but, that’s really how it happens.

The first floor was my floor. Production had several presses and finishing equipment. And yes, the glitter still made it to the first floor no matter how hard we tried to keep it out. The second floor was the business floor. This was where partitions were put up to create offices and cubicles had full walls to keep phone conversations from being interrupted. On the third floor were the designers. They lived in a very large open space with half walled cubicles so they could pass ideas and projects back and forth. Projects that sometimes didn’t sell well and ended up in the store on the the fourth floor. The store was opened as a “warehouse sale” twice a year. I was fortunate to score a card and notepad set from one of the sales that I still cherish. Printed on the set was a woman standing in front of a cactus reminiscent of a old vacation photo. The caption said, “If I wanted to be around a bunch of pricks I would visit my family.” I made sure to send the card to my dad, he is the only one who would’ve appreciated it. The fifth floor was a former roller rink with high polished wood floors and faded 70’s era art on the wall. This floor was used for storage on occasion and once in a while I would have to dig out parts or tools from the fifth floor. The view of the city was amazing from there and looking back on it, I didn’t visit the fifth floor nearly enough.

Every floor had it’s purpose and, other than the forth and fifth floor, I was running all over the building every day to talk to designers, verify orders with the office team, or in the basement digging out dies and trying to avoid glitter. Most manufacturing plants are linear which is ideal for workflow but this building didn’t have a lot of space per floor requiring the workflow to be vertical. Stairs were both your friend and your enemy. Sometimes, it was the perfect break away from work. The, “No, it’s okay, I’ll take the stairs.” line. If anything, taking the stairs gave you a moment to breath. But again, this was an old building so the stair well was old too. The paint was cracking and the floor doors often would stick or lock unexpectedly. The doors were also out of the way. This meant knocking might not grab the attention of someone sitting near by, sitting on the other side of a wall or two, and you wouldn’t be let in. It’s a weird thing to say, the stairs were the most unreliable mode of transportation in the building because there were few doors that worked. You might not end up on the floor you were trying to but, no one got stuck on the stairs.

This probably makes the building sound like a disaster waiting to happen if there was a fire… We only had a couple and they were put under control quickly. I’ll explain thermographic printing in a different post. Therm = heat combined with printing paper and resins. Fires happen. It was fine though, we had tongs and a water bucket.

If you’re keeping count here, freight elevator – eats phones and takes physical strength to run. Stairs – the Russian Roulette of travel. That leaves the business or front elevator…

On this particular day I was working back and forth between the basement and the first floor. I had a new employee running the foil stamping press while I was taking inventory of dies for upcoming jobs to assist. By mid afternoon a question came up on a design. Instead of calling up to the third floor I decided I would take the front elevator to make a visit and explain in person the issue we ran into on press. This elevator is the first thing you see when you walk into the building and intended to be used by customers. However, in today’s business world, majority of the customers communicate via email or phone. It was used several times a day more often by employees than customers.

As I was on my way to the third floor the elevator just stopped. No bells, whistles, warnings, or screeches. Just stopped. I did what any logical person does. I randomly started hitting buttons. The doors didn’t open, or close. I mean, the doors were already closed but when I say “started hitting buttons” I mean all of them, just for good measure. Nothing even lit up for the floor numbers. I was simply standing in a non-moving elevator. From here I did what any one with my personality would do.I started laughing hysterically.

I was in disbelief. I was actually stuck in the elevator. The ONE good thing in the building and it crapped out. Luckily I had my phone with me which, after the freight elevator incident I had stopped carrying it with me on quick errands. I called reception located in the office area of the second floor and explained my situation and again, began laughing. The words coming out of my mouth sounded so silly.

“I’m stuck in the elevator.”

The receptionist started laughing as she realized she could hear my laugh, not on the phone, but coming through the wall nearest her desk. Not wanting to use up the battery on my phone and not knowing how long I was going to be stuck, most of the communication from that point forward was yelling through the wall. I was told they called a repair company and they were on their way. I just had to sit and wait.

Of course I took a picture of myself while waiting. There isn’t a whole lot to do when you’re stuck in an elevator.

I don’t recall exactly how long I was stuck. I want to say it was around an hour and a half but it went by quick to be honest. Every once in a while I would get someone asking, “How’s it going?” to which I would reply, “I’m fine. Not really going anywhere, but fine.” This always put my coworkers into giggle fits. Shortly after the repairmen were able to get elevator working again, I was freed on the third floor where everyone had shaken off the excitement and was back to work.

Now, I figured I would not live this incident down. I’d would become another story in the long list of over used titles, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl on the Train, The Girl on the Elevator…

But no. As it would happen, a few days later after my incident the president/owner got stuck in the elevator. I was not there the day it happened and had to get the follow up the next day.

“How long was he in there for?”
“Not nearly as long as you were. Maybe 40 minutes.”
“Oh, well that’s not so bad.”
“No. But…”
“But what?”
“Let’s just say, he didn’t take it as well as you did. It would be best not to mention the elevator in future conversations.”


And here are the ladies with all the other places you don’t want to go…

Bronwyn Green
Gwendolyn Cease
Kellie St. James
Deelylah Mullin
Paige Prince


Random Wednesday About A Random New Year


Looking back at 2016:

Well…it wasn’t my most productive year. I skipped a healthy amount of posts and my WIP is still a WIP. It will forever be a WIP at this point. But I’ve learned more about what works and what doesn’t for me. What type of writing I enjoy and what type I don’t. I also was gifted my first romance book and I don’t know what to do with it. I haven’t put it away yet and I told my husband I will read it. He doesn’t believe me. I don’t believe me either. I’m most certain based on my Netflix suggested movie list that Netflix thinks I’m a middle aged white man. My book choices also tend to lead that way too. Perhaps in 2017 we’ll address this issue and I’ll try to expand, a little. I promise to read more than kids books at least. But here are my two favorites from 2016:


Image result for drew daywalt books

Looking forward to 2017:

might read a romance book. If not, some lucky person is going to be re-gifted a next to new romance book. But my goals do involve writing more and getting back on track. The older the kids get the more spare time I have. That’s relative. As in, they mostly sleep through the night and have graduated to independent play. Except when music is involved, family jam sessions still happen.

I just feel a little less guilty opening a book when they are occupied by  building towers just to knock them down or using their toy vacuum to get that stubborn thread off the rug that just never seems to go away. One thing for me personally, is reading helps writing. That’s advice you’ll hear time and time again. “Read, read, read.” And it’s true for many reasons. For me, one reason is motivation. If I don’t have the time to read, I most likely don’t have time to write. Finding time to read after a year of maybe picking up 4-5 books, that’s a pretty big deal.

It’s going to be a good year, that’s how I feel. 2016 wasn’t a productive year, wasn’t a great year on many accounts but it might have actually done me a favor in regards to distractions. I have a feeling I’ll spend a lot less time reading the news, find social media less tempting, and have an easier time closing down to focus. I always knew my introvert skills would come in handy and based on how 2016 is ending, my introvert skills of avoiding media is going to be Olympic level.

Setting the bar high by setting one bar low. That’s how this girl is going to start 2017!

Happy New Year!

Bronwyn Green

Gwendolyn Cease 


Random Wednesday: Promptly Penned

That little blinking cursor of an asshole was staring at me and I was a loss. I’ve taken such a hiatus from writing, I’m not even sure where to start but yet, I’m eager to write something. I couldn’t decide what though. Should I be clever, witty, truthful, inspirational? How do I break the ice?

Then my email chimes and this was the picture someone (Jim, it was Jim) sent me:


Perfect timing and one hell of a segue to…

PROMPTLY PENNED! YAY! SHORT STORY TIME! As you might recall, for the promptly penned entries I’ve done once or twice before, we are given a prompt and must use this to create a short story.

If you want to read more qualified authors please visit Bronwyn Green and Kris Norris. Otherwise, just keep reading and I hope you enjoy.


It’s odd how life is rarely about those big important choices, but hinges on the small stupid choices you didn’t even realize were choices until it was too late.”

Liz dug through her center console and found a few bills, enough for a coffee without having to use her debit card. It’s not like Grandma wouldn’t have coffee at her house, Liz knew she would, but she only drank decaf. And who in their right damn mind drinks decaf?

Liz’s mother often told her, “You need to visit your grandmother more. She isn’t going to be around forever.”

Perhaps that was the first sign of her graceful fall from power. “Defcon 4. Grandma’s on decaf only. Suit up and stay alert to stay on the will.” Liz had joked. Her mother had not laughed. Dad did. Yet, she agreed to visit. At minimum, she could make sure her side walk was clear of the recent snow fall.

The car in front of her slowly rolled forward and she followed behind, trying to make her money look a little less crinkled when an overly cheerful voice spoke louder than expected over the speaker.

“Good morning! And what can I get started for you today?”

“Just a mocha please. Grande.”

“Extra shot of espresso?”

“No thank you.”

“Hot, iced, or frozen?”

“Hot.” Liz looked around at the size of the snow banks left by a snowplow lining the streets and considered the idea of a cold beverage on a day like to day foolish. Not as foolish as decaf but still…

“And what kind of bagel would you like?”

“Just the drink! Please, thank you.”

“And would you like whipped topping.”

Liz was starting to lose her patience. “No. I do not want whipped topping. And you said ‘whipped topping’ very carefully instead of whipped cream which makes me question a few things. No whipped topping. Thank you.”

“One grande mocha, hot, no whipped topping. We’ll have your total at the window.”

The line moved painfully slow but after fifteen minutes Liz was drink in hand and on her way. She turned on the radio and listened to all the school closings, church event cancellations, and postponed sports games. Local colleges were never on the list but that didn’t stop the professors from emailing the night before telling her and her classmates not to bother coming in. She wasn’t complaining about a day off from lectures though the roads didn’t seem that bad to her. Traffic was light and cautiously moving but moving none the less. The plows had been out and it was just warm enough for the salt and sand to be effective on the ice. Even if the roads had been impassible, Grandma would still be fine. She had more than enough non-perishable food and Sudoku books to last her until spring. The worst of the roads were only small patches of slush that pulled at the tires from time to time.

Grandma’s house was a small but picturesque 1950’s ranch in an older subdivision. The plows had already visited and it appeared a neighbor must have taken care of the sidewalk and the driveway before her early morning visit. Almost every house was dug out but for one or two. Grandma’s looked welcoming as always. She had her oversize wreath on the door and the Christmas tree lit up and decorated to perfection front and center in her living room picture window. Liz parked in the driveway but walked down to the street and checked Grandma’s mail box for good measure.  Inside she found a few mailer advertisements with coupons printed on them and a couple high quality envelopes. Liz recognized the sender addresses as distant relatives. The types that visited during family reunions, told the same stories, said they should visit more, and disappeared into the sunset until the next reunion five to ten years later.

Liz had only taken a few steps onto the walkway when the wreath on the door jingled with movement. “Oh, hi honey!” Grandma peeked her head around the door.

“Hi Grandma. I got your mail.”

“Oh yes, thank you. You look lovely. Did you color your hair again?”

Liz touched the top of her head instinctively. She hadn’t washed in days and she was badly overdue to visit to the salon, her highlights grown out by several inches. She had placed her hair in a knot on her head because it was easy and out of the way. Now she became aware that her dirty hair, workout pants, and boots with the separating soles were not the most presentable choices. Especially to Grandma who looked, without a doubt, classy in her festive green and red dress paired with sensible house shoes.

“No, I haven’t colored my hair.”

“Oh, well. It looks very stylish. I see a lot of the young ladies in the style magazines with hair like yours.”

She meant tabloids and unflattering paparazzi pictures of celebrities, Liz let it slide.

Grandma held the door open for her. Liz stepped in and removed her boots quickly. The fireplace had been lit some time before Liz arrived and the front sitting room was warm and inviting with the smell of burning wood and the sound of it crackling under the heat. Grandma took Liz’s coat and shuffled to a nearby closet.

“It looks like you got some Christmas cards in the mail. One from your cousin Tony out in Washington. That’s pretty far away from Michigan. When’s the last time he’s been out this way? Are there any Donahue’s even around here anymore?”

Grandma stiffened briefly and then she took down a hanger to hang Liz’s coat though she was sloppy and a shoulder slipped off. Liz thought she heard a muffled swear but once the coat was hung, Grandma closed the door and gave a smile that was a little too forced.

“Oh, I’m not sure anymore. I see you have a drink there. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll bring you out some cookies I made.” Grandma disappeared into the kitchen but kept talking. “I don’t make as many as I used to anymore. Not as many people come over to eat them and I was never one for a sweet tooth. I only enjoy them once in a while. But I do enjoy baking. Now I make them for church and the neighbors and save a few for when people visit from time to time.”

On her return she presented Liz with a tray of assorted cookies from sugar cookies with a little bit of green and red sprinkles on top to Liz’s personal favorite, peanut butter blossoms. But, Grandma did not sit down. On her hand she had a few pieces of tape stuck to her fingertips. She took the cards from Liz, opened them, and taped them to the arch separating the sitting room from the dinning room.

Liz already had half a cookie in her mouth. “Aren’t you going to read them first?”

“What was that dear?”

“Sorry, these cookies are really good.” Liz finished chewing and asked again. “Aren’t you going to read them first?”

“Oh. Well. I’ll read them later.”

“Grandma, I don’t mean to be rude but, I have a feeling you’re not going to read them later. So, why are you even putting them up?”

She took a step back from the cards and studied them for a moment. “It’s just tradition.”

“Do you read any of the cards?”

“Some of them. Some of them are very pretty to look at.”

“And the one from cousin Tony?”

Grandma didn’t answer. She only put her hands on her hips while she again looked at the huge arraignment of hanging cards. There had to be at least fifty Liz guessed. While Grandma scanned all of them, her eyes always ended on the same one.


“I sure do have a lot of cards. Do you send out Christmas cards?”

“No. Mom and Dad do but only a few and they don’t get as many as you do. I think they have maybe only four or five. But that’s not saying much. One of them is from the dentist.” The card from the dentist made Liz laugh. It had been a picture of Santa smiling, the front of the card diecut so when you opened it you realized the teeth were actually snowmen wishing you a Merry Christmas. Brush twice a day to keep those teeth white as snow. It was simple and clever.

Grandma sighed. “I shouldn’t be telling you this but, I think my cousin Tony is, well, needy. High maintenance. Perhaps a little arrogant. I don’t particularly have much to say to him but he always sends a card which is very nice. And in kind, I should really send one back. It would be rude not to.”

“But you don’t want to?”

“I’m getting old and tired. There are many other things I would like to do with my time than keep track of Christmas cards. It cost a lot of money to send out so many and I don’t enjoy it. However, I feel I should. It would be rude not to. There are just – ”

“So many? Can I tell you something I shouldn’t?”


“I only remember who Tony is because on the rare occasion I see him he is always a self righteous dick. I don’t think he is worth your time or a Christmas card.”

“Liz! Oh! I mean. He is what you said, but it’s not nice to say that word in that manner.”

Liz stood up from her chair and walked over to the Christmas cards and removed Tony’s from the wall and handed it to Grandma. Linking arms together, Liz walked her Grandma to the fireplace. “You can like who you like, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want. You always have a choice. You’re old enough, and maybe, oh I don’t know, cousin Tony’s card got lost in the mail.”

Grandma’s eyes lit up with life as she looked at the dancing flames and squeezed the card in her hand. She let out a small giggle. “Oh what the hell. Lost in the mail sounds about right to me too.” With a little toss, the card fell into the fire and was quickly consumed, twisting and turning until it was out of sight.

Before Liz registered Grandma had let go of her arm, she was back at the arch pulling off more cards.

“Grandma! What are you doing?”

“Aunt Linda is a, how did you put it, a dick too. And so is this fellow from church…”


“Winters are tough in Michigan. A lot of cards are going to get lost this year.” She turned and looked at Liz with a smile.

Random Wednesday: Promptly Penned Nursery Rhyme Addition

This month’s Promptly Penned is to take the first line of a nursery rhyme and make it your first line in a dark narrative.

I have small children and many of the nursery rhymes we learn and sing are pretty warm and fuzzy. We have a few books with rhymes but we also frequent Super Simple Songs and Mother Goose Club on YouTube. I don’t encounter many dark nursery rhymes now and I don’t remember too many from when I was a kid other than the fictional story behind Ring Around the Rosie. And no, Ring Around the Rosie is not about the plague.  (Edit for Jim: I’m talking about Ring a Ring o’Roses you weird Brit.) However, when talking about this blog assignment with Bronwyn – holy hell weird ass nursery rhymes! I never knew so many existed. The worst I knew was the maid in Sing a Song of Six Pence having her nose pecked off by a black bird. Well, Bronwyn showed me it gets a whole heck of a lot weirder when it comes to nursery rhymes. She texted me the lyrics to Goosey Goosey Gander and titled it “Bronwyn’s Childhood’s Greatest Hits.”

And this, blog readers, is why I never ask Bronwyn to babysit.

Here is my attempt at nursery rhyme darkness, enjoy.


Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.

The water splashed against the hull of the boat with a thud and pulled away in waves with a sucking sound, releasing the boat and rocking it gently side to side. The rocking is what makes people sick but I found it relaxing and dreamy. We couldn’t see the land anymore. Well, I couldn’t. Audrey was down below and she wasn’t seeing much those days. It didn’t take us too long to get into the bay with a casual speed and once there, I opened the Sea Ray up a little more. The wake behind us turned from a turning bubble to smooth defined waves as the boat cut through the water. Aubrey bumped below and this is when I realized I had not secured our belongings before heading out. A few books would fall of the table and the lamp in the upper berth would be on the floor. That lamp never stayed where it was suppose to anyway, even when it was secured. Aubrey had picked out that lamp and most of the decor of the boat. I picked out the boat myself. Paid for it with my money. Worked long days, spent weekends away from home in stuffy hotel rooms, shook hands with greasy clients, who would finally sign contracts after we negotiated almost all of our profit away. But still, I did it for Aubrey and she was the one who always got what she wanted. I picked up the speed of the boat even more and heard Aubrey roll again which made me smile.

Row, row, row your boat gently on the tide. Merrily, merrily, merrily to the other side.

The sailboats were the last to go out of sight. It was a beautiful afternoon and the breeze on the water was light and fresh. I slowed the boat down to a stop and I let her drift. The smell of the water was wonderful, not like the dead fish or musty water dreaded up in the marinas and river to allow big freighters to pass through. This was the smell of water, pure and clean. Exactly how I wanted to feel on that day and have felt every day since. I opened the doors to go below and saw the mess that had been made. One of the cabinets popped open and cans of vegetables were rolling with the waves on the floor. I picked them up and placed them back on the shelf, securing the cabinet knobs with an extra rubber band to keep it from opening again. Surprisingly, the books were still on the table where I had left them but not surprisingly, the berth lamp was on the floor. I left the lamp and the books were they were. Instead I focused on my dear Aubrey. She had fallen off the sofa and had rolled back and forth during our cruise out to open water. The plastic tarp was still secured tightly but she was only unconscious. I didn’t know if I let her be if she would recover or not. Asphyxiation is mysterious in that way. When I was angry I felt like I could crush her. Her, with all of her wants, needs, constant complaining, constant bickering, and telling me I’m no longer good enough? I felt I had to strength to rip her head off of her petite body but no. I waited. I planned. When the time was right, I no longer had the strength. She fought me but her legs weren’t strong and her arms were not long enough. I stopped when she went limp but I didn’t realize until later she was still alive. Getting her to the boat was no trouble at all in the early morning hours. My dock neighbors were accustomed to seeing me at the boat before they arrived in the morning for their weekend visit. While Aubrey laid on the sofa with shallow breaths they offered me breakfast of eggs and toast. For all they knew she had kicked me out of the house again, always fighting, always about money and her over spending. Now in the bay, I removed the tarp and brought Aubrey up and onto the swim platform. I didn’t make a ceremony of it. I simply untied the tarp and let her body roll into the water. She barely made a splash.

Row, row, row your boat gently back to shore. Merrily, merrily, merrily home for tea at four.

I didn’t bother to watch what happened to my Aubrey. I dragged the tarp on to the boat and folded it neatly, placing it in one of the storage areas under the seats. It was simple, more simple than I thought it was going to be. I imagined the water flooding into her nose and throat, seeping into her lungs, swallowing her body and weighing it down to the bottom feeders. There Aubrey can rest with her own kind. I loved her once and I did it all for her. I brushed my hand over the steering wheel and felt the smooth leather under my skin. This water was my freedom. This boat was my escape. From stress, from work, from anxiety, from anger. This boat is my escape from it all. Aubrey wanted to take it all away from me. Everything I worked hard for, she wanted it for herself and wanted to cut me out of it. Take me for every penny I earned and this boat, this freedom. I never thought the open water I loved so much would provide the happiest moment in my life, an escape from her. The water drifted the boat for some time but it was still early in the day when I decided to turn home. I had a full day head of me and it was just after noon.


Please visit the other writers today:

Bronwyn Green and her weird ass nursery rhymes

Deelylah Mullin