7 Ways to Help the Homeless You Haven’t Thought About

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Black and white photo of a pair of shins leading into dirty white tennis shoes, laying down on a concrete street.
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” -Princess Diana

We all want to help. By nature, humankind are social creatures who experience empathy for others. It’s present when we watch the news, when someone in our office or school is sick or injured, and also when we walk by that disheveled person on the corner with the beat up cardboard sign that reads Anything helps.

There are a myriad of ways to help our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Some of them readily spring to mind: volunteerism and donations are probably the first two we think about. And they are important so we will touch on them briefly but they won’t really count toward our five. But, while they are important, there are other ways to get involved.

Volunteer. Let’s face it, time is precious in today’s insanely hectic world. Volunteering at the local shelter or kitchen isn’t always feasible. I do highly recommend trying to volunteer a few hours a year every year, however, to simply meet the people you want to help, have a minute to talk with them, learn their names. And I urge people to not just volunteer on holidays like Easter and Christmas. While those are great times to volunteer, many many many people dedicate their holidays to providing holidays for others. Most shelters and kitchens need help year round to keep things running smoothly, so volunteer during non-holiday times too.

Donation. We all dread Spring Cleaning, but love how we feel after. Donating the items you are no longer using is a great way to help those folks living without permanent roofs. Don’t just consider food and clothing, however, consider hygiene products, blankets, and housewares. Many shelters have re-homing projects (the act of transitioning a person into a permanent housing situation). Those new apartments need microwaves, knife sets, couches and chairs, even televisions to make them feel like a basic home. Consider donating some of those items instead of just food and clothing.

One other thing to consider donating is a pre-paid card to a grocery store. Many newly re-homed folks need to stock their pantries and refrigerators too. You’d be surprised how far $25 can go toward canned goods or fresh produce in some areas. For most of us, a measly twenty-five bucks won’t hurt us each month but can really help those trying to get settled back into the roof life.

Now onto the stuff you maybe hadn’t thought about before.

Educate. Let’s face it there are all sorts of negative stereotypes around being homeless. That makes it hard for people to sympathize with those who do need help. Education can be simple or big. Maybe all you do is correct a friend or coworker, or a random stranger on the bus, when they express a homeless stereotype. Maybe you make a phone call to a local city or county or state politician about the problems homeless people face. If you have children, start there with education. Take them with you if you do volunteer. Let them see first hand the hardships many people experiencing homelessness face.

Inform. The best effort is mass communication with small time efforts (because the better spent time would be volunteering at a shelter with actual homeless people).

Did you know that many people don’t really think about how many people are in homeless shelters or living on the streets in their communities? Unless they’ve had a specific run in with a person living without a roof, they just don’t think about it. Contact your local news source, maybe your faith-based or non-faith-based organization, editors of civic newsletters. See if any would be interested in running a weekly or even monthly listing of local services available to the homeless. Even if a person isn’t homeless, we’ve all know someone just down on their luck who needs the help of an extra food box now and again, or just can’t afford new school clothes for their kids this year. You never know who you’ll be helping out by just making information available.

Advocate. Write letters to the editor of your local news source to promote awareness and understanding. Heck, why you’re at it, just write to national publications too. Share information about the number of homeless people in your area (or country, if you’re writing to the national publication). Explain the different reasons why people become homeless. Wrap it up with suggesting ways that people in your area or even nationally can help people experiencing homelessness.

Support. Shelters, low-cost or free clinics, mental health services, low-cost housing initiatives, and even public libraries are all resources and services the homeless rely on for basic needs and care. You can show your support for these programs an initiatives in your city by voting for officials who back the programs and also writing and speaking to other politicians who have not backed the programs in the past.

Oppose. While many cities and towns don’t make being homeless a crime, they do enact laws that prohibit things associated with being homeless, such as: sleeping in public, urinating in public, loitering on public platforms, even possessing a blanket outdoors can be illegal. Many cities and towns have also outlawed private citizens from making homemade foods and giving it away to others in public spaces like parks and parking lots. Stand up against crimes that propose to protect people but unfairly hurt those in the most need.

Create. If you’re in a position where you can give a homeless person a job or a day’s worth of work, do it! Maybe you can just offer to train somebody with a job skill like filing or let them mow your lawn or paint the fence. The thing is that small acts like this can make a huge difference to a person experiencing homelessness. Just don’t take advantage of them. Pay a homeless person who works for you a reasonable and fair amount of money, just like you would anyone else.

Lastly, Smile. Many people avert their eyes and hustle by when they see a homeless person on the street, whether panhandling or not. If you don’t have money or food or just don’t want to give it, that’s fine. At least smile and say hello to the person. If you have the time, maybe talk with them for a minute or two. Seriously, you’d be surprised how much a little human contact and kindness is appreciated by people experiencing homelessness.

The fact is, there are literally dozens of ways to get involved with helping those in need outside of the traditional donation and volunteering. What it takes is for people to stop solely talking about the issue and to start helping. Since the person we can radically change/affect the most is ourselves, we’re a pretty good place to start with one of these seven ways.

Do you know of or have seen homeless people in your community? Do you volunteer or donate on a regular basis? What about other tips for people who want to get involved that I haven’t mentioned here? Chime in! Remember that there is never such a thing as too much information or too much kindness.

 

Image of a redheaded woman in a black leather jacket. She has her hands held up in the American Sign Language sign for 'I love you.'BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction ◘ Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories ◘ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

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Random Rant 82: Stay-cation

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I am a nose-to-the-grindstone person. Don’t get me wrong; I’m inherently lazy. I go to great lengths to ensure my leisure time. But I was raised by a workaholic, single mother who maintained a spotless house, kept matters well in hand, and never missed a day of work unless she was hospitalized. I’m not that psychotic, but I can admit to a certain amount of due diligence when it comes to “work”.

As many people know, on top of my writing and marketing, I freelance edit for fiction and non-fiction. I also copy edit for Arizona Sports and Lifestyle magazine. Plus I have a day job that works out to roughly 50 hours a week. Not easy to cram all of that into a seven-day work week, I know. Naturally there’s life as well – housework, cleaning, social times – to shoehorn in. Somehow I do it. Not always well and not always 100%, but shit gets done. Why? Because if I don’t do it (I learned at an early age) there may not always be someone who can or will pick up the slack.

What about the Doctor? He’s great. He helps a ton. But he also has his own adventures and is, perhaps, a little more whimsical than I am, able to overlook the dishes piling on the counter in order to try out a new bicycle or explore some weird looking crags in some distant landscape. 

Me? The dishes come first. In fact, while I can kick back to a certain extent, if when I look at the forecast for my days I see a distinct lack of time for the have-tos vs the want-tos, I will (sadly) choose the have-tos first. Why? Because, if I don’t, they will worry at the edges of my brain like a rat at a toilet paper roll. 

Why does me telling you any of this matter? Because, for the first time in untold years, I took a few days off from the Paycheck (what I call the day job) and did nothing

That’s right. I took ten glorious days off (in December) with nothing more planned than a day or two out of that vacation I was going to take a painting class with a friend. That’s it. Nothing planned. No pressing needs to do or places to go. For the first time in my life of taking vacation days, I got to stay home and do nothing except what struck my fancy at the moment.

I can certainly say it improved my demeanor. I brightened up and people were less terrified I was going to rip into them in some way. It was a much needed recharge that, oddly, I found left me with a ton of time to actually accomplish things and feel rested. 

Funny how things get done when you don’t plan them better than when you do, right? 🙂

***
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate

other writers through humor and simple instruction.

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Book Promo: Nightcrawler by Candy O’Donnell

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Title: Night Crawler 

Author: Candy O’Donnell

Release Day: September 28th, 2014


The past never stays where it belongs!
In Westwood, California, was where John Francis, the town’s priest re-encountered the beast. To his astonishment, horrifying events began unraveling before him. These unprovoked occurrences soon turned to fright when Sister Teresa’s body was found murdered. When Kathy Riego stepped into the Sister’s shoes she showed him a renewed identification for the word love. John began this new relationship with a masked reality as the horrid beast began showing him a long forgotten past that was supposed to be buried long ago.



Author Bio:
 Candy O’Donnell was born in Carmichael, California. At the age of twelve, she wrote her first mini book. Filled mostly with what took place with her mother and her long tedious bout with leukemia. It was a short story told as extra credit when she suffered a sprained ankle and had to be out of school for over two months. School officials refused to believe a word of what she had written until her grandmother, her guardian back then, entered the school with the truth. Everything she had written down was exactly what took place. Unfortunately her mother succumbed to the disease. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in History and Culture. After living with her aunt and uncle for over five years she wished to explore her uncle’s Native heritage and did so with vigor. She also has 6 Grad units in Criminal Justice.
Twitter: @Candyodonnell

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Meaty Characters

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Stories are easy. The world is full of millions and millions of tiny stories begging to be written. Settings are easy. The world is chocked full of scenes, places, and settings to choose. Twists; twists are easy. Have you ever known a story, one worth telling, that went exactly as planned? Of course not. 

What’s not so easy, when it comes to writing, are well defined, unique characters. People that make the reader suspend disbelief long enough to think maybe, just maybe, that voluptuous redhead in the story is a vampire AND a real person. There’s only one way to do that.

Well written characters.

How do you know, for certain, your characters don’t wind up flat, stale rehashes? Attention to detail and follow through.

Writing is hard work. That’s well known. Plucking plot, setting, characters, twists and turns all from thin air isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would write that novel they claim they’ve been meaning to write for years in an instant. It takes an attention to detail that most people lack. One of the most important things a writer can pay attention to is how they present their characters.

Know your world. By having a thorough knowledge of your world, how it works, and its ends and outs, you’ll find who will fit best in the world. They become a well fit puzzle piece, completing the picture you present readers.

Appearance. Keeping the details of your character’s looks is important. This can include anything from their hair and eye color, to birth marks, and even clothing choices. Let’s face it, there are only so many different hair and eye color combinations that can be made (not counting, I suppose, oddity choices like blue or pink or whatever). But staying away from stereotypes (think Gingers in leather, ugh! it happens so often, or raven tresses with blue eyes boring!) lends a reality to a character. It also means to take care that your characters’ appearances don’t suddenly change throughout the story, unless there is a damned good reason (for example: scars/wounds, tattoos/piercings).

Nuances. Also known as ‘tics’ or nervous habits, these minor details carry HUGE weight. These can be portrayed in any manner you choose – finger twitches while idle, slurring the letter ‘R’ in spoken words, twirls a lock of hair when thinking. They all lend depth. Adding customary habits to characters lends believability. Everyone has tendencies and habits, include fictional people.

Vocabulary. Speech is a defining trait. It’s hard to believe someone with a Jamaican accent in 1888 London in any realistic setting. Thus the reader trying to suspend disbelief that the Jamaican is also tracking a shape shifting Loch Ness monster through the streets might have a little trouble swallowing that tale.

World Role. This goes back to knowing your world. You wouldn’t bring a Tibetan monk into a technologically advanced post apocalyptic society and expect him to be the story’s hacker. Once you get to know how your world works then you can figure out what role your character is most likely to play.

History. Good writers know more back story for their character than they EVER put into the story. They know how their heroine got the scar on her cheek (a playground accident where she fell from a slide as a child), knows why the hero wears his hair short at all times (once got it caught in a machine at work and was nearly scalped in the process), or why the mage is terrified of water spells (accidentally drowned her pet rat with her first ever spell). Great writers, however, know when and what history to use in their stories. Is it relevant to use all that information? Probably not, unless it happens to get mentioned in passing how the heroine got her scar. The point is, it is vital to know a ton of information about each character. It is not correct to put ALL of that information in your story.

In short, it’s easy to come up with your character in five minutes. And there isn’t anything wrong with the fact you started a story with a character you thought about in five minutes. The injustice to readers and yourself is if you finish a story with that character the exact same way.


BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every bad deed in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate other writers through humor and simple instruction.

Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

She can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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New Release Spotlight: Full Throttle by Kerrianne Coombes

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      Full Throttle. Revved 1
       Kerrianne Coombes 

          Available from Evernight April 4th




    I am so excited to share this new book with you. Full Throttle is the first in my new Contemporary Romantic Suspense series (Revved) Coming from Evernight Publishing. 

    I love this story so much, and I cannot wait for you all to meet Josh and Sammy. I enjoyed every moment of getting to know them—I hope you do too. xx

Blurb



   When self professed geek and high school math teacher, Sammy Briars, decides its time to live life, she means it. Armed with determination and her life savings, 

   Sammy buys the motorbike she has always dreamed of.

   Excited by speed, fast engines and leather wearing men, Sammy finds herself in the company of people who know how to live.

   Desperate to ignore the mess her father has left behind in the wake of his death, Sammy sets off looking for adventure.

   When Josh Grieve agrees to take his elder brothers bike-touring group on a biking weekend, he expects to see the countryside from the perch on his favorite 
Suzuki and the chance to kick back from his busy schedule.

   What Josh doesn’t expect is for his life to be turned inside out by a timid, intelligent woman who rocks a set of bike leathers.

   Thrown together by fate, twisted together by lust. Will Josh be able to overcome his reluctance to commit before it is too late?

Excerpt

   “Have you even slept yet?” he asked, his gaze turning darker as he studied her face.

   Sammy swallowed and shook her head weakly. “No, not yet. I can’t seem to fall asleep.” She wondered how she could feel so tired, so weary, yet wide awake at the same time.

   Josh swore loudly and moved to her.

   Sammy watched as he climbed onto the bed, his big body making the mattress dip under his bulky weight. He threaded his arm under her neck slowly and drew her into his arms. At first Sammy was stiff and confused, but the more he stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head, the more Sammy found she relaxed. The pain receded slightly, freeing up her mind and Sammy was able to catch her breath again.

   “You don’t have to do this,” she said weakly, but Josh just tightened his arm around her, making sure Sammy rested her cheek on his chest. His heartbeat was a strong sound under her ear and Sammy reveled in the heat his massive body gave off. 

   They lay in silence for a couple of minutes, and Sammy would have thought it would be awkward, but the way he held her, gently, yet sure and strong, had Sammy sinking closer and closer to the comfort he offered.

   “When I was a kid, I broke my arm.” Josh began, breaking the lazy silence. His deep voice was a lovely rumble against her ear. Sammy smiled and closed her eyes as she listened to him speak, the sound of his words a balm to her nerves, a welcome distraction to her pain. “I was climbing trees with my brother, and as usual, Tony was faster and better at it than me.”

   Sammy chuckled at the image. Tony was a stocky, slightly overweight man, she couldn’t imagine him climbing a tree, let alone fast. Josh huffed a small sound and stroked his hand idly over Sammy’s arm. Sammy loved the feeling of his hot, calloused hand as it petted her, the feeling was comforting … nice. She stayed still and kept her eyes closed, and she hoped he wouldn’t stop talking, or stroking.

   “You might laugh, sweetheart, but in his day, before kids and a wife, Tony was the coolest lad in town.” Sammy smiled against his chest, her mind slowly relaxing, the pain less, and all she could concentrate on was the sound of Josh’s lovely, sexy voice. Especially when he uttered the easy word, sweetheart. No one ever used an endearment for her, and she found she liked it, a lot.

   “I heard how women ruin good men.” Sammy said teasingly, even as she yawned against his chest.

   “They certainly do.” Josh replied.

   Sammy heard the catch in Josh’s voice, and she suddenly remembered what she’d been told about him being jilted last year. The reminder sent a strange tense feeling through her body, leaving a cold pain in her lungs. But Sammy, selfishly, didn’t want to ruin the only time she had ever been comforted in such a nice way, so she changed the subject back to safer grounds.

   “So, how did you break it?” Sammy asked sleepily, eager for him to continue talking. She snuggled a little closer to Josh’s heat and sighed, contented.

   Josh cleared his throat, but continued his gentle stroking of her arm. He kissed the top of her head again and Sammy felt tiredness swarm her mind. She yawned and sighed deeply, sleepiness making her heavy and relaxed.

   “Go to sleep, Sammy, and I’ll tell you when you wake up.”

Find me and my other books… 

Facebook 

Blog 

Evernight 

Amazon

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Resolutions Be Damned

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New Year’s. And those damned resolutions.

A new year. The first day in what is supposed to be a promising opportunity to change your ways, do something positive with yourself or your life, really buckle down and focus on what is important to you.

We all make them – resolutions. Even when we promise ourselves we won’t. Even when we think we’re too non-conformist to cave to such antiquated notions. I’m no exception. I looked at things I wanted to improve. One such things was my writing.

What did I do? I made a list. Basically, a resolution to work on my writing by following that list daily (or at least 4 days a week). I started this in December, not wating to put off for tomorrow what one can do for today… yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.

What do you think has happened by January 1st?

I’ve failed already.
I couldn’t follow my own list, for a week.
Why couldn’t I follow it?
Why indeed? Probably because I’m lazy. But mostly because the mindset behind resolutions is wrong. We focus on things we want to be, instead of on the things we are.
I am a writer. I have been for ages. But lately I haven’t been acting like one. I’ve done nothing but lip service to the fact. Rather than say I’m going to work on writing more, I should be saying, “If I don’t write, I can no longer call myself a writer.” I, basically, need to nut up or shut up at this point.
It’s one thing to go through a dry spell, or take some time off to recuperate or a much needed vacation, or because you have something that absolutely keeps you from writing. It’s another thing to just be lazy and still claim the title.
So this is my New Year’s resolution: Resolutions be damned! It’s time to nut up or shut up. It’s time to be a writer, to be healthy, to just be. I won’t try. I will do or not, and I will forever hang up my crown as “writer” if I don’t.
I mean, it’s nothing big, right? Only like ripping my still beating heart from my chest.

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Summer Fun is a Writer’s Bane

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Summer. We’ve all looked forward to those beautiful, warm months without school, without responsibility, and chocked full of events, barbeques, and family gatherings since we were wee-high to a grasshopper. I have no friggin’ clue what that phrase actually means except I hear my family members use it a lot. And that’s all true. With the exception that, as adults, we continue to have responsibilities during the summer months, we look forward to the excitement of this season as much now as we did as kids. It means much of the same to us now and it did then – fun.

But all that extra activity, all that extra fun, can interfere with our writing. Big time! While planning extra activities filled with grills and family members, those long, lonely hours we spend behind our computer monitors or typewriters or notebooks is dipped into. The fun and happiness we experience from those get-togethers begins to draw from the satisfaction or straight up mania we feel in sitting down to write a new story or finish an old one. I don’t think it’s really necessary to mention how a vacation can take us away from our job of writing, just like it takes us away from any other job we might have.

Managing to continue writing productively during the summer season is often one of the hardest parts
about being a writer. It’s inherent in human nature to want to kick up our heels, have fun, and party instead of work. And writing, whether or not many people who don’t do it believe it, is work.

Balancing our writing life with, well, life is really hard. Especially when the last thing we want to be is cooped up indoors when the sun is shining and the people are people-ing…? Well, you get the drift. During these beautiful months of fun and sun, we have to remain ever vigilant and keep our fingers on the keys and our butts in our work chairs… At least most of the time.

-b

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When Is Formula Writing Acceptable?

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Indie authors have be prudent with their work. Being independent is more difficult. The likelihood of becoming a bestseller is astronomical (although not impossible) without the assistance of a dedicated marketing team and the contacts of a major publishing house. This means that the temptation to write to the market is ever pressing.

Sales are the lifeblood of every writer. Each of us want to be successful. We want our writing to become our full-time “this shit pays the bills” job. But what happens when we don’t write what the current market seems to be gobbling up?

Take, for instance, the vampire/shifter craze. While I personally grow bored the instant someone mentions a vampire or a shifter in their stories to me (I stopped reading that stuff in high school), there isn’t any denying the bloodsucking fiend and body-contorting rage of the day in the literary world.

No doubt any competent writer could sit down this instant and pen a passable vampire and/or werewolf story. It could probably be churned out in a decent amount of time as well. But when does the aspiration to write the next bestseller devolve into selling out one’s artistic integrity? Just where is that line drawn in the sand?

Experimentation vs Decision

Writers should experiment with their work. To remain rigidly static to only one form of writing is artistic suicide. For one reason, every author experiences genre burn out. Yet more reason to change things up is because the imagination is one bitch to stifle. Another is that, by delving into other genres and writing styles, writers evolve, their work improves, and the reader is benefited. So is the literature. Plus, not every writing style explored needs to or should lead to publication. Indeed, most of it should probably never see the light of day outside of a critique group to help you learn (find out how to select the best critique group for you here).

But when does that evolution take a turn for the worse?

Often it seems to be when an author makes the conscious decision, “Oh, look. The m/m werewolf books are flying off the shelves. I should write one of those next.” This is the precipice of the slippery slope. We’ve known werewolf books were selling well, but we haven’t written one to-date. We’ve entertained the notion, or even began tinkering with, writing a few m/m stories to-date. But, until the moment it crosses our minds to deliberately write a story based on those parameters simply because they are popular and will sell, we remain safe from “selling out”.

As indie authors we have to realize that, while it isn’t impossible to become an overnight success, it is unlikely. The road we travel to success and financial stability is likely to be long, hard, and winding with more than a few obstacles, detours, and break downs. I like to think of my writing like a beat up Volkswagon Rabbit convertible. They aren’t sleek or stylish. They aren’t awesome race cars. But they are dogged, dependable, and quirky. That’s what every author’s writing should be. It doesn’t need to be the top of the line most stylish out there, but it needs to get the author to the destination they truly want. Not just the destination that’s closest.

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A Peeksie

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People always ask, “Just what the hell are you doing between books?” My reply is usually simple.

“Drinking.” “Shooting bums.” “Having sex.” “Writing.”

I’m a multitasker. Gee, that sounds so awfully impressive and adult, doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s not that. I don’t like to be bored. And the Muse likes to fuck with me and heap tons of ideas on me at once in between long dry spells of inspiration. When that happens, I take the ideas and run with them.

As pretty much everyone knows I’m working on A Touch of Chaos, the third novel in my Champaign, IL.-based Abigail St. Michael novels. I’m also working on a spin-off from those novels called A Sight Unknown. It will feature a new heroine named Jillian DeWitt and will be set in St. Louis, MO.

Many others know I have a short story being considered for an upcoming anthology, and that one of the anthologies I’ve been included in in the past, Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, is undergoing revisions and rewrites, due for re-release.

So what else am I doing? I’ve submitted to several more anthologies, branching into the worlds of science fiction and fantasy. With a little luck I’ll be included in those. I have everything crossed! But my proudest item I’ve been tinkering with lately is a general fiction short story.

General fiction, BC?

I know, I know. My motto is “Because Weird is Good.” I hold to that credo. But sometimes it’s nice to be able to hold a mirror up to that weird. After a time, you become so apathetic to the strange and unusual that it no longers holds the same magic. This story is my attempt at 1) revitalizing the magic, and B) trying something new, attempting to stretch as a writer.

With that said, I thought I’d give you a peeksie at this story. I’m not saying it will be published in the future. I’m not saying it’s a project my readers should look forward to either. It may never be published; I may never write anything more than what is currently on it. But, with that said, I am rather proud of it. As many of you know, I don’t do general fiction. I’m usually unhappy with my writing if it doesn’t have a dragon, a murder, or a meta-human with funky abilities.

That said, I like Jane. I like her story. At least what I’ve written of it. I thought you might also enjoy a look at Jane and her tale.

**
Karaoke Jane

Twenty-six dollars. Twenty-six dollars and forty-two cents, to be exact.

Jane sighed as she stuffed the crumpled bills and weathered change back into her purse for the millionth time that night. Her purse in her lap, she leaned back. An errant spring from the broken down couch she slept on knifed her in the left kidney. She shifted but she’d learned early on that no amount of movement deterred that stubborn piece of wire. Certain she was bleeding internally from the shanking, she plunged her hand back into her purse and withdrew the money once more.

Magic had not happened. The bills hadn’t suddenly multiplied. Her troubles remained.

It had been eleven weeks since Ryan, her husband of fourteen years, had left, disappearing off the face of the planet, no explanation save for a note with the scribbled words: I don’t love you anymore. Don’t try to find me. I’m filing for divorce.

Eleven weeks and twelve hundred miles separated Jane from the moment in time when her world shattered.

He’d left her with nothing, had cleaned out their bank accounts, and had taken the one paid off vehicle and stuck her with the brand new pickup truck; the one he had wanted. Well, that wasn’t entirely accurate. He hadn’t left her with nothing; he’d left her with a car payment, a house payment, a stack of bills months past due, and absolutely no skills in a job field – she’d been stay-at-home like he’d asked.

The few friends they had in Colorado were his co-workers, and even they were surprised by his sudden disappearance. Jane’s last remaining family member, the grandmother who’d raised her after her parents’ car accident, lived in a nursing home that specialized in dementia and Alzheimer’s. On the last visitation day, her grandmother never once recognized Jane, as she hadn’t any other visitation day for the past six years. But Jane never missed the opportunity to see her. Even if it meant she had to drive from Colorado to Arkansas once a month to do so.

After Ryan had left, there weren’t many alternatives – stay and drown in debt in Colorado, or cut her losses and return home to Arkansas.

She traded in the new pickup for an older, rusted but mechanically-sound Buick, sold off everything they’d owned in a massive yard sale, and let the bank take the house. Packing up her pet rat, River, she hit the road with her trunk stuffed with shoes and clothes, a crate of DVD’s she thought to sell later when she needed more money, and three cases of canned tuna and canned pineapple, compliments of a generous clerk at the local food pantry.

Nine hundred dollars in her pocket and twelve hundred miles beneath her tires, Jane found herself parked along the shoulder of the highway, a sign reading Welcome to Emissary, AR before her. Below that, a smaller sign proudly proclaimed Home of 1963 Olympic Bronze Winner: Lucas Fontaine was nearly faded from existence.

Jane knew what it said, even if the rest of the world could no longer read it. She’d read it over and over in her youth. Emissary, Arkansas hadn’t left any other mark on the world except 1963 Olympic Bronze Winner, Lucas Fontaine.

Her husband leaving, and Jane didn’t cry. Forced to abandon her life and her home for the last fourteen years, Jane didn’t cry. Reduced to someone without a future and all their worldly possessions stuffed in the trunk of their crappy car, Jane didn’t cry. But standing beneath the sign of her home town, a place she never wanted to live again, Jane had dropped to her knees beneath the faded declaration of Emissary’s claim to fame and sobbed until, eyes red and swollen and snot dribbling down her face, she’d dragged herself back into the front seat of her car, slammed her fist down on the lock, and fallen fast asleep.
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Peeping Toms

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Writers are peeping Toms.

We unashamedly eavesdrop and gape into other people’s lives, squirreling away every tidbit we see/hear/smell to use as cannon fodder for our work.

I’m proud of being a peeping Tom. It geez, I fucking hope at least makes my work better, more realistic, to be based off real people/places/events. But all that spying comes at a price.

No, I’m not talking about people coming up to me afterward they’ve read my book, questions floating in the depths of their eager eyes, their lips practically smacking, frothed over at the corners, with queries. They want to know who/what in my stories are based on reality and what/who are pure fiction.

My answer? All and none.

Because it’s true. All of my characters are based on people I know/saw/heard; and none of them are. Same with the situations – all and none.

But my creepy observation is not the sole reason for my Rant today, although it is brought to you in part by it.

I enjoy walking to the dreaded Paycheck. Usually, on my way, I stop in the local market and pick up a bite to eat for lunch. I’m a sucker for fresh produce!

Today was no different from any other. I walked to the

grocery store, dutifully picked out some granola that looked yummy, and proceeded to the checkout. A group of college-aged guys were behind me in line. Only one checkout open and 800 shoppers in the store, of course. While I was trapped behind the old lady with six cases of assorted cat food and a coupon for each distinct variety, I was privy to the guys’ conversation. It went something like this…

Dude #1 (hence known as Blue Hat): “You go to Brit’s party Saturday?”
Dude #2 (hence known as Red Shirt): “Nah, Jenny was bein’ lame. Made me do a date-night thing. We saw Iron Man 3.”
Blue Hat: “Yeah? It any good?”
Red Shirt and Dude #3 (hence known as Holy Jeans): “Fuck yeah.” (This was said impressively, almost in unison.)
Blue Hat: “The party was kick ass! So much ass wandering around.”
Red Shirt: “Fuck; right?”
Blue Hat: “Made me wish I was a gyno!”

Screeching mental halt on my part here.

I know, I know. I know the gist of what these cretins young men meant. They wanted to dive into the glorious beauty of the female reproductive flower, savoring its velvety goodness and imbibing in its mouthwatering musk. Hence plucking the goodness of, well… her.


What popped into my mind was the conversation I had with a fellow female a few weeks ago.

Chick #1 (hence known as Aged Female/65-ish): “Who’s your doctor again?” (This is a continuation of a previous conversation wherein I was discussing my new gynecologist.)
Chick #2 (hence known as Me): “Heartland in Washington.”
Aged Female/65-ish: “Do you like him?”
Me: “Well, I see the nurse practitioner, not the doctor, but yeah. Why?”
Aged Female/65-ish: “I’m thinking of getting a doctor down here. I’ve still got that itch that keeps breaking out – sometimes it’s bad and sometimes it seems like it’s gone – but it’s been bothering me again. Seems silly to keep going up there when they have a new doctor every time I go in.”

Okay, I’m sure you can get the gist of the conversation here.


The guys behind me in line, while savoring the possibility of tickling the intimacies of hot, nubile chicks right and left, had forgotten one prevailant aspect of gynocology – women get old, and vaginas are moist, wet holes, perfect breeding grounds for funk and disease.

So while my in-line compatriots behind me behind the ancient women with the three thousand different varieties of individual, canned cat food visualized smoking hot women ready to spread their legs for them, I desperately wanted to turn to them, smile real big, and say, “You know, I’m pretty sure that God’s mom up here still has her vagina. Maybe you’d like to get a start on your medical career, give her a physical, and see if she has a raging case of herpes?”




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