Saturday, December 25, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas at Walmart

I haven't updated the blog in a while, even though I have plenty to blog about.  Oh well, it will make it onto my New Year's resolutions.  In the mean time, here is my take on a holiday classic.

Twas the Night Before Christmas at Wal-Mart

‘Twas the night before Christmas at Wal-Mart, and all through the store,

Not a shopper was stirring; we chased them all out the door.

The last few hours spent helping customers on last-minute shopping sprees,

Hunting for video games and for big screen TV’s.

As closing pages were made, shopper’s faces filled with dread,

“Help me find a present for Great-Uncle Fred!”

The merchandise flew out the door with great speed,

Along with wrapping paper and food for the Great Christmas feed,

Panic showed in the faces of the last straggling few,

As they searched for a gift, not knowing what they should do.

The cashiers were ready; they knew what to say,

“A gift card will be welcome under the tree Christmas day.”

At last we were finished, the shoppers sent away,

The money locked in the safe, and the shopping carts rounded up, not leaving a single stray.

When in the lounge arose a cheer, one would wonder what was wrong,

But it was just me breaking the CD that played Christmas song after song.

One would think Christmas music playing would be so much fun,

But it’s been on since Halloween, and we’re glad that it's done!

As the last cashier and greeter waited for their ride,

My partner Dusty stepped back inside.

The registers lay silent, no bells and no beeps,

He let out a yell as he made his final security sweeps,

His voice echoed off of the now empty walls,

Not even a walkie-talkie answered his calls.

He punched in his alarm code, and looked at the clock,

Then hurried outside as I turned my key in the lock.

The alarm arming tone sounded as we drove away,

Dusty leaned in and said, “Aren’t you glad we aren’t working on the Big Return Day?”

A few snowflakes fell as I drove out of sight,

Merry Christmas to all, and from Wal-Mart, good night!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Setting your Babies Free

Tonight I read the ending of my newly-completed novella, "The Hunt," out loud at the Nebraska Writers Workshop.  There's something amazingly satisfying about reaching the end of a good story.  And something even more satisfying if it's the end of one of YOUR stories.  Now that's not to say I'm finished, there are still edits, submissions, and in this case, a screen treatment of the manuscript to undertake. 

I don't quite know how to explain the rush of emotions that a writer goes through with the completion of a mansucript.  When I wrote "THE END" on the page, I was sitting in a conference room at Mahoney State Park, as part of the NWW fall retreat.  I plowed my way through the big climactic fight scene, and tied up all the loose ends before centering my cursor for those final two words. "THE END".  So final.  The picture that comes into my head is the end of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.  "Ebeday, ebeday, ebeday, that's all folks." Cue the target circles closing, and the Looney Tunes theme song. 

You'd think the first thing I would do would be to spring from my chair and proclaim to the world my triumph.  After all, I was in a conference room with a group of WRITERS.  People who understand the strange affliciton of those posessed by a story, unable to yield to anything but the drama unfolding within our mind, until the words have poured themselves from the soul and onto the page. 

But I sat there, starting in shocked silence at the words in front of me.  "THE END."  I've grown attached to these characters.  I've dreamt their dreams, spoken their words, heard their thoughts.  And now it's finished.  I like these people, and a part of me feels like I've lost my best friends.  I know by those two little words on a page, I'll never view the world through these characters' eyes quite the same again.

So, instead of wanting to jump from my seat and proclaim victory, I felt more like throwing up.  An overwhelming sense of...loss.  I think to be a good writer, you need to love your characters so much that you do mourn the fact that starting now, you won't be spending all of your time with them anymore. 

So, I sat there, in my chair and stared off into space for a while, choked back some tears, then on October 16th, at 4:13 pm  typed, "First draft of 'The Hunt' is FINISHED" onto my facebook page. At 4:19, fellow NWW writer and friend Rhonda Hall types back, "Yeah, I'm sitting next to you, and this is how I find out?" 

It's an odd thing how we writers give birth to our stories.  Sometimes, we're yelling and screaming to the rafters.  Sometimes, the peck of computer keys is all we can get out.  It actually took a few deep breaths before I could announce it to the assembled room full of writers. 

A couple weeks have passed, and I've taken some time to rewrite portions of the story.  There is still much work to be done.  Polishing the gem takes a much gentler hand than mining the raw stone.  I think of editing as "head work," and the first draft as, "heart and soul work."  Tonight I read the ending aloud at the NWW meeting.  It's nice to hear a collective sigh of satisfaction as my fellow writers appreciate the end of a journey as well. 

Another of the retreat writers, the wonderfully talented Aaron Lloyd, read the ending of his novel right before me.  His journey with the characters of his novel has taken him over two years.   That's about the length of four Hollywood marriages.  Before we entered into the meeting room to share our endings, we talked a little bit.  For both of us, there was some trepidation, a sense of "Now what?" A lot of joy, and a little sadness, as we send our babies out into the world to stand on their own, to sink or swim on their own merits.     

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why do Writers LOVE Conferences?

October 1st and 2nd I attended the Nebraska Writers Guild annual Fall Conference in Grand Island, Nebraska.  Had an outstandingly amazing time, got to catch up with many friends in the Nebraska writing community, and made many more. 

For those who are not writers, or those who are forced to endure those of us who are writers, the question arises as to why we go to these things anyway.  I kind of understand the thinking, as I've endured my fair share of work-related conferences.  Boring, dull, and...and...and... Yeah, boring and dull. 

But here's the deal.  For the most part, writing is a lonely, solitary endeavor.  We writers spend hours staring at our computer screens, a splotch of paint on the wall, or out the window, trying to twist the thoughts in our head into the perfect combination of words on a page.  Trust me, it's not as easy as it seems.  If you'd like to try for yourself, National Novel Writing Month will kick off on November 1st, and I invite you to come join in for the fun.  But all in all, when I'm writing, it's me and the computer.

Writing conferences give me the opportunity to interact with other people who think the way I think.  Who else "gets" it but another writer?  I absolutely thrive on having the opportunity to join forces with other writers.  Usually, there is an opportunity for members to share readings from their various works-in-progress, or their latest publication.  I truly love getting to hear all these great stories.  It's broadened my literary horizon so much by getting hooked on stories I've heard read at a conference.  There's a huge validation when someone comes up and talks to you afterward about what you've read as well. 

We commisurate, lament, console, cajole, and generally encourage each other on our quest to the perfect agent/publisher/contract, and so on.  Haven't been applying the butt to the chair and actually putting words on a page?  You hang around enough writers, and they will kick that butt.  Which is a very good thing, I might add.  I write more when I'm going to a conference or writing group.  No way am I showing up empty-handed! 

Probably the most important reason to go is to recharge your writing battery.  I have yet to come away from a conference without at least one new idea.  And really, that's the most important thing.  A writer without an idea, is not writing much. 

Last night, a group of us stayed after the conference and hung out at the motel bar to socialize.  Loads of fun, lots of laughs, and great company. 

Until the wedding dance down the hall got out of control. 

The resulting melee spread from the room where the dance was held into the bar area where we were, and out into the motel parking lot.  It did not take more than a few seconds for the writers to break camp and disperse, either to their own motel rooms, or to their cars. 

As I drove from Grand Island to Lincoln, I had time to reflect on the situation.  First of all to feel a little sorry for the poor bride and groom.  No bride wants a brawl at their wedding dance.  But, I'm a writer, so of course, the plot-wheels start turning.  On the hour and a half drive back, I hatched a whole new plot. 

Six writers go to a bar...

More to follow~!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

9/11 Remembrance. A guest blog event

I posted a question on my facebook page.  What were you doing when you heard the news about the 9/11 attacks.  The responses were so touching, I've decided to share them as a blog.  So, thanks to everyone who commented, and it's not too late.  I'll post any additional comments, or you can add your comments directly after the blog.  We shall never forget.

Lisa Baucke Kovanda I was waiting to pick up my son Damian Cooper from the airport. He had just gotten back from a year-long deployment with the Navy in the Far East. I didn't have the TV on, and was cleaning house when I got a call asking me where I thought... Damian might be. I looked at my watch and said, "I don't know, Phoenix maybe?" She said, "Oh my God, turn on your television!" We didn't know where Damian was until almost 1am. The Shore Patrol rounded up the guys from his ship at the airport. They were still battle-ready, so back to sea they went.

Mindy Slater sitting in my room at college getting ready to go to my morning class and the girls across the hall came over and told us what happened.

Shelly Palmer I was getting ready for college classes and BFF's place. It was her birthday. I saw the news as I walked through the living room getting ready. I immediately got in my truck and SPED to school, broadcasting major you see. I continued to spend the next 12 hours searching for every detail on the event I could and broadcasting from the college radio station....

Sally J. Walker Waiting for lab draw at Cancer Center, watching TV coverage when second plane hit. Then waiting for radiation treatment watched coverage of the towers collapsing. Sobering horror all the way around.

Rhonda M. Hall First day back at work after attending the Maui Writers Convention. Riding my exercise bike & watched the news. Charlie Gibson voice broke when he said, he would never believe a pilot did it intentionally. Went to work, & security guards... searched our purses. A fellow employee was outraged & indignant. I thought, "Get over it- there's alot worse going on." All our work was cancelled. Qwest/USWest only allowed employees in their bldgs. So, no competitors could get their stuff done. Complete stand still. One employee's husband worked at Offutt. He called her & told her when President Bush arrived. Covered head to toe in bomb gear. He said you could only see his eyes. (That's never been on the news.) Chilling day, then when I drove home the streets were crazy. Every church I passed was packed. I went to my mom's & remembered 6 months b4 when I made reservations, they said stay the weekend come home on Tuesday, it's cheaper. I said no, my mom's birthday is the 9th. I thought she should be home for her birthday. I'm so glad.

Mark Schlamann It was about 7:45 when I heard of the first attack. I had the radio on by my bed and was contemplating getting up for the day. When I heard that the second plane had hit, I got out of bed and turned the TV on. I was living in North Dakota at the time, and since I had to get some work done in the study, I had KFGO on all day for updates

Rebecca McKillip at school scared for my brother who was in the Navy but he was safe and sound. They got send out to sea also.

Sandra Spidell I was at work at Earl May's, every cusomer who came in was in denial. "I dont believe, ... followed by, you should see..." So my boss and I closed the store, and walked next door to the hotel, who let us use a room to watch it on TV. By then both planes had hit, and about a half hour later we watched in horor as the first tower fell, later followed by the second. We did go back several hours later and opened the store, we both knew we had to, but we couldnt pry ourselves away from the TV.

Greg Hall Lived in Calif. at the time, so it was a little after 5:30 in the morning. On an elliptical machine at 24hr fitness in downtown Pasadena... a couple of the TV's were on the news. At first I thought it was some sort of commercial for a disaster movie, but it stayed on the screen & then the 2nd plane hit. Over the next ten minutes, all of the TV's in the gym switched to the coverage.

Caredy Pennington Hopped up on oxycodone and recovering from back surgery. Thought it was all a dream

Ashley Mitchell Sitting in English class they turned the TV on and we all watched the coverage. We saw the second plane hit and everyone was crying, screaming cursing, praying. We sat there and didn't move to the next class when the bells rang we just coul...dn't pry ourselves away from the TV.

One of my classmates got pulled out of class because her dad was in the Pentagon and worked in the section that had been hit. He was ok thank God.
It was like watching a bad movie. 9/11 was our Pearl Harbor and JFK we will never forget what happened and where we were.

Debra Christenson I was just waking up in a hotel room in Kansas City after moving there for my husbands new job. I turned on the TV shortly before the 2nd plane hit.

Lisa Baucke Kovanda I saw the second plane hit, and watched the towers fall. All I could think was "Where is my son??" At that moment he should have been mid-flight, and there were reports of planes missing all over the country. A moment of bad humor here, but it's been 9 years, and I still have to ask where my son is most of the time. (Damian, you could call, or leave a facebook message...)

Elizabeth Rodenburg Punko I was getting ready for work (Fairbury Walmart) when i heard it on the radio and thought it was a joke until i saw it on the tvs at work....

Bradley Mueller i was getting ready for class my room mate cane in said that class was cancelled and turned on tv to show me

Cathy Johnson Couch I was shopping in the old wal*mart in Seward and everyone was talking about it. I heard about the 2nd plane hitting on the radio while driving home.

Dave Scanlan I was getting ready to take my wife to the dentist and I turned on the tv and heard the news. It all seemed very surreal!

Dee Ann Williamson Monday went out of town for business-didn't have to go to work on Tuesday till 11 AM. Sat on the couch eating breakfast and was horrified when I watched the entire event unfold on the news. I went into work numb.

Mary Unger I was working at my desk at school. Rachel came blasting in upstairs shouting that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We didn't have TV reception at the school, so it was hard to get news until our para went home and brought back a little TV with an antenna. It was so horrible. I can still feel the gut-dropping feeling I felt then

Jennifer Brym- Bates I was teaching English to seniors in Elba, Nebraska when a girl came in and said a plane had hit the World Trade Towers. I figured she meant one of those small, two-seater planes and thought 'that's too bad, now let's get back to work'. Th......en the principal came around and told us what was going on. We only had one tv in the school (tiny k-12 school) so a secretary went across the street to her house and brought over another one. We spent the rest of the day in the two rooms with tvs, watching, while the principal, who had a friend in NYC gave constant emails about the situation. She later told about seeing bags of grapes from someone's lunch on the ground next to things I won't mention. It was a horrific day. One I'll NEVER forget.

Hilary Kassik I was a freshman in high school sitting in my world history class watching it on time flies but seems like just yesterday

Deb Soucek Was working in the Staplehurst bar making breakfast for 1 of the guys and someone come in and told us of a accident. We turned the t.v. on and couldn't beleive what we were watching and then the other 1 hit. We all knew it was no accident at that point!!!

Ronnie Slater I was in my Citizenship Issues class watching the morning news, when they broke in with the news. School stopped... everyone just sat there and watched in horror

Cara Heacock I was in seventh grade. I went from my second period shop class to my homeroom where the teacher had the TV on. The first tower had collapsed by then; the second was still burning. At first no one explained to me what was going on; I thought the Woodmen Tower in downtown Omaha was on fire. Then when I found out it was the twin towers in NYC, I had never heard of them anyway.

Lisa Lakin-Neff I was waking Stephan up for school when we lived in CA. My neighbor came up pounding on the door (Alberto) and told me. Then my mother called and told me to keep Stephan out of school for the day just in case. Then turned the TV on to watch it just in time to see the second plane hit! I cried and cried more when I saw the buildings fall.

Paula Markuson Working at my desk in downtown Omaha. No TV coverage there. It seemed so surreal until later in the day when I left to do a home visit. No planes in the sky except for Air Force One flying over on the way out of SAC. Saw the video at my client's house. Then it became gut wrenching.

Muffy Vrana I sat in my night clothes watching the television, thinking it was a rerun of Orson Welles and/or "War of the Worlds." It took quite a while to realize that this was REAL, this was NOW, and not some fiction. I still, to this day, have trouble realizing it was real, and that now my world (my safe world) has changed forever.
Connie Crow I was at work at an engineering firm when the first plane hit. All the staff gathered in the conference room to watch. When the second plane hit we all shuddered together. No one moved. The engineers started calculating how long the towers ...could stay up based on heat concrete etc. Then the first tower started down. Everyone just froze.

By the time the second tower came down the phones were ringing of the hook. Engineers from all over the country were contacting one another, trying to figure out why the towers came down. All other work in the office stopped. I was allowed to go home early. Driving home, they were guessing where the president was on the radio. I saw air force one on final to Offut (I live near there) I called the station and told them he'd just landed. They aired confirmation about 5 minutes later.
My thanks to everyone who took time to comment.  For the men and women who lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11, and those men and women who serve our country, we owe you a debt that can never be repaid.  --Lisa Kovanda

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fall: A Poem

I'm NOT a poet.  Let me start by saying that.  HOWEVER, I have an extreme respect for the way poets use words, gleaning the greatest amount of meaning from the fewest words possible.  So, I'm taking the lessons of poetry to heart, as having at least a rudimentary mastery of the concepts will make me a stronger novelist. 

In our last Nebraska Writers Workshop meeting, we talked about how a poem reveals a bit of the soul of the poet.  I find that is true of all writing.  I see bits of myself in so many of my characters.  But by the very stark nature of a poem, this is even more apparent.  There isn't the flowery prose or action to hide behind. 

So, here I go, baring a bit of my own soul.  Once again, keep in mind that I'm not a poet, but I am becoming a bit infatuated with poetry.


          Dark, bleak,
                 The shades of fall.
          Serve as a reminder,
                 The end comes for us all.

          Greens turn to orange,
                 Reds, browns fade to gray.
          Cold death of winter
                Night eclipses the day.

           I dream of pastel shades of spring,
          Hope and renewal,
                Creation filling the Earth.

          Patterns emerge,
                A cycle of life.
          Happiness exists,
                With anguish, pain, strife.

          A delicate balance,
                 I can’t control.
          But shows me,
                What’s important to let go, to hold.

          In the depths of despair,
                 I search for the sun.
          The battle is lost,
                 But the war can be won.

           I can’t see through the darkness,
                The reds, grays, the brown.
          Sorrow overtakes me,
                 Despair pulls me down.

          Paint me a rainbow,
                 Please send me a sign.
          Through the dark of winter,
                 Til spring comes again, 
          In  renewal,
                Joy can be mine.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

To Be, or Knot to Be...

Today has knot been my day. After working a thirteen hour day, I was getting my things to attend a writing seminar in the morning. (Sumsion Publicity Bootcamp, taught by Publicity Expert Extraordinaire, Sabrina Sumsion) I decided it would be a nice touch to wear the “healing crystal” bracelet I got as a birthday gift. However, the bracelet was knot designed for someone with quite petite wrists. (I wish the rest of me was as petite, but alas…knot so)

The bracelet is constructed with cord, rather like a hand-knotted pearl necklace, and an adjustable slide. Knot a difficult task to untie the knots, remove a couple of stone beads, retie the cord, and voila! Right??? (Cue evil laughter here)

Let us keep in mind that I grew up in the 70’s. Hell, I even remember part of the 60’s, unlike many who are actually older than me. I was a Girl Scout, and in 4-H. In those groups I think I attempted every sort of macramé project imaginable. I know how to knit, sew, quilt, and crochet. My grandmother even tried to teach me how to tat, which is nothing more than tying really thin cord into a series of knots, and making things like…oh, bedspreads, let’s say. Then I taught CCD, and Vacation Bible School, where it is a prerequisite for every student to turn a handful of beads, a length of cord, and a plastic crucifix into a rosary using a series of knots. The bottom line is, I should be quite comfortable tying a couple of knots.

So I grabbed a pair of scissors, a nice sturdy needle, and began to untie the first knot. I must mention at this point that one of the first lessons in knot-tying is knot to tighten the knot until you are very certain that the knot placement is perfect. Why? It is a royal pain in the ass to untie knots. I will say that the person who tied the knots on this bracelet was damned sure they were perfect! Holy cow! I needed to remove two stone beads, so this should be two knots. HOWEVER, the second stone is really pretty, so I wanted to keep it, and take out the third stone instead. So, make it three knots.

Here is the process.

Step one: Pick, pull, tease, untangle, swear under your breath, pull the light closer to the cord, go get your magnifying glasses, (the ones you wore as a joke for the Harry Potter book release event), pick and pull some more, swear louder, jab the needle into your finger, blame the dog for plopping on your foot right as you were stabbing the needle through the middle of the knot, make your fingers numb pulling at the cord, wiggle things around a bunch, pick, pull, and tease some more, swear louder when instead of pulling out the whole piece of cord, you manage to unravel a portion instead, and finally you will get it untied.

Remove the stone, and repeat the process.


Fast forward about 45 minutes, and you can restring the pretty green stone that you now hate with a passion. Might have been easier if you hadn’t unraveled half the cord, huh?

Step two: Discover that the needle will knot fit through the bead with the cord threaded. Trim the end of the cord, wet it by running it though your mouth (where did this awful custom originate??) get it halfway through the bead where it gets stuck. Use the blunt end of the needle to poke the now frayed cord the rest of the way through the bead. Jab your finger a couple more times, since the sharp end is facing the wrong direction. Swear some more. Ahhh, success.

Now you must reknot the cord. Remember the rule of knot tying? Don’t tighten the knot until you are SURE the position is perfect?


Go back to step one.

Repeat this process at least twice.

Now, thread the ends through the adjustable slide, and repeat the bead-threading process from step two, only with a much smaller bead.

Measure the cord and tie the final knot in the end. Measure it again. Does it match the other side? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Do knot pass go, do knot collect $200, instead descend to a brand-new inner ring of Hell, where you once again are forced to use your now bloody fingertips to untie and retie the same knot a few more times.

Are you happy with the way it looks? Do you really give a damn anymore? I didn’t think so. NOW you can go back and tighten all those knots. Really tighten them, because you sure as Hell don’t ever want to do this again.


So, if you see me tomorrow, I’ll be sporting a “healing crystal” bracelet that fits. If you comment that the stones do knot resemble anything from a crystal therapy book, (I am already aware of this fact, thank you very much), I will punch you square in the face. What do I have to lose? I’ve already been to the inner rings of Hell.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Villisca, Part II...Tarot and Explanation

Tarot after Dark...

I use tarot for many things, including personal exploration, and for character and plot development.  So, I'm actually a little surprised at myself that it took fellow writer and Villisca investigator Katie to suggest that I attempt a tarot reading in the Villisca Axe Murder House.  But, a brilliant suggestion!  I'm alone in a house where eight people were bludgeoned to death, and the crime has never been solved. 

I spent a few minutes with my eyes closed, just meditating about the murders.  I didn't really know what "question" to pose."  What I ended up asking was something along the order of, "Help me understand what happened here."

Here's what I got, and my interpretations.  Feel free to make your own conclusions.  Leave me your comments  :)

Spread:  Celtic Cross with clarification spread

Situation:  10 of Pentacles:  This card speaks of financial security and happiness.  At first, I thought this represented the Moores.  They owned a business, and seemed at least outwardly happy.  But as I got further into the reading, the more I became convinced that the meaning of this card was a motive.  This was a kill for hire.  The motive was MONEY.  The killer thought he'd get happiness and security, along with financial rewards.  A treasure chest.

Crossed by:  XIII  Death:  Normally, the death card signifies a sudden change, bringing about a new beginning.  In this case, I think the Death card means--well, death.  But, along the same lines as the situation, for the killer, I think that he sees this as a way to a new beginning. 

Subconscious/root of the situation:  XIX  Sun:  Now this card threw me.  The Sun is usually a really positive card.  It tells us to look for the positive in everything.  It took me a while to remind myself that this is the KILLER's subconscious.  And he does see a positive here.  He believes he will gain financial rewards.  Plus, most mass murderers crave the attention.  They want and NEED people to remember them.  To talk about them. 

Past Influences (relative to the crime):  8 of Wands:  In the year 2010, I would say that this means a sudden burst of energy, and most likely travel by air.  Not likely in 1912.  But, I think this card is saying that the person responsible for this crime arrived suddenly before the murders, and the closest thing to flying in Villisca in 1912 would be by train. 

Conscious thoughts about the situation:  III  Empress:  Ahh the archetypal mother card.  The killer is thinking about Sarah Moore.  Whether she is the intended target or not, this is what he's thinking about.  He did have a hiding place in the barn with a peep hole to spy on the family.  Perhaps he took more time watching Sarah Moore?  Then there are the theories that this was a killing for hire, perhaps a result of an affair of Mrs.Moore.

Future Influences:  (relative to crime):  Knight of Cups:  As an event, a romantic invitation or proposal of marriage?  Now this can go a couple of ways.  Either the killer was obsessed with Sarah Moore, or perhaps the affair was going to interfere with another relationship for whomever hired the murder out. 

This is how "you" view things:  9 of Wands:  He feels as though all of his energy has been spent.  He doesn't feel like he can go another step.  But he believes if he can stop and regroup, and persevere, he will win.  He can't come this far and stop now.

This is how the "others" will view you:  10 of Wands:  What once seemed like a good idea is now a heavy burden.  He's bitten off more than he can chew.  But, he hasn't given up. 

Hopes and Fears:  9 of Pentacles:  This indicates financial success and security usually attained through one's own means.  The figure in the card is depicted alone.  So, this could represent both hopes and fears.  He hopes for financial security, but fears being alone. 

Outcome:  XI  Justice:  Well, I'd like to think there was some kind of justice for the eight people murdered in Villisca on June 10, 1912.  If not in this life, certainly in the next.  Call it Divine Justice, Karma, the Wiccan Rede, Judgement...

 But since I sense that I'm reading the murderer's thoughts, this also speaks to the fact that he believes that somehow justice is being served by his actions.  I don't begin to fathom how someone can think that eight people deserved to have their heads bashed in with an axe.  But, since the estimates are that each person was struck in the head between 20 and 30 times, the math says the killer struck between 160 and 180 blows.  That's a lot of work.  There had to be something that kept him swinging. Maybe I'm just lazy, but this is serious overkill (pardon the pun).  This excessiveness, along with the other details of the crime (lamp chimneys placed on the floor, mirrors all covered, heads covered, bacon on the floor??? would indicate a serious level of obsessive-compulsive disorder as well.  The balance of the Justice card would also speak to the release of relieving those compulsions. 

I drew three clarification cards as well. 

Knight of Pentacles:  Very methodical approach to things.  In this context, it reminds me of a horror movie, where the victims are running, running, running, and no matter how fast they run, the killer is always right behind them, even when it's a plodding zombie. It kind of fits with Mr. OCD Killer.

7of Cups:  So many choices.  Who to kill first??? Who to kill next???  Once someone has committed a crime of this magnitude, it isn't likely that he will want to stop.  He'd continue to crave the high that can only be obtained by perpetrating even larger killing sprees. 

6 of wands:  Recognition for his accomplishments.  Now this seems really odd, until you get into the mind-set of a mass murderer.  This is a person who wants--no, make that needs--recognition.  And think about it.  Nearly a century later, we are still talking about him. 

Summation:  I'm seeing a murder-for-hire by a guy who has plenty of mass murder OCD tendencies (wouldn't he have to??)  Someone who came to Villisca right before the crime.  The reason is centered around Sarah Moore. And in case it wasn't apparent... he is nuts. 

The thing I haven't done as of yet is to listen to the audio recordings from our night in the Villisca Axe Murder House.  I had a digital audio recorder running the whole time I was doing this spread, so I'll update my findings if the spirits had anything to add.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Villisca, Part I

(L to R:  Beth Punko, Lisa Kovanda, Katie Cloran, Phyllicia Spidell, and Sandy Spidell.  Photograph courtesy of Punkography)

Villisca Axe Murder House...Part I

The Date:  August 3rd, 2010.  The Place:  Villisca Iowa, Scene of the Villisca Axe Murders.  The Event:  A group of five writers/colleagues/ and good friends take on an overnight investigation of the location Travel Channel lists as "#1 Most Terrifying Place in America"

The first question I got when I told people I was going to go spend the night in the Villisca Axe Murder House was, "WHY?"  To that, I say, WHY NOT?  In reality, I had my own paranormal experiences in the mid 1980's.  I can't explain what happened in that house, and I can't go there to investigate, as the house has since been torn down.  I'm also a writer, and much of what I write has paranormal elements.  In fact, one of my novels (Emmaline, completed, in revision) has a ghost hunter as a main character.  So, in a practical sense, this is all research for writing projects. 

Much deeper than the research aspect is a curiosity.  Among our group, we counted devout Catholics, Goddess spiritualists, agnostics, and apathetics.  All of us had our own questions about what the presence of ghosts or spirits means.  Is it proof of an afterlife?  Does it negate the traditional Judeo-Christian theories?  Is it residual energy?  Or, is it all a bunch of hogwash?

I won't pretend to have answers.  These are questions one must answer for themselves.  I think if you ask the five of us who went, you'll get five different answers about what it "meant" to us.  I also can't tell you what anyone else hoped to get out of the experience, although I do know through our many discussions through the night that all of us have had some level of encounter with the unexplained before coming to Villisca. 

One question that kept coming up through the course of the night was, "What do you hope to get out of this?  What do you hope/need to see or experience while you're here?"  For me, I've seen apparitions, had something touch me, and had things move on their own in ther past.  What I wanted from Villisca was something concrete and measurable to back up those experiences from the '80's.  An EVP, solid K2 evidence, or something caught on video or camera.  Beth said she wanted to be touched. 

Did I get what I was after?  Well, I have HOURS of audio and video to pour through, and a lot of photographs as well.  But as far as experiences from the night, I can't explain the K2 activity.  I can't explain the closet door, or getting my hair pulled.  Beth got touched, as did Phyllicia.  Could there be other explanations?  Will our evidence stand up to scrutiny?  I don't know.  But I do know that for the two of us who asked for specific things to happen, we got what we asked for. 

Another thing I was after on this trip was to challenge my own limits.  I didn't think I'd be able to go sit in a dark closed closet with the K2 meter flipping out.  I didn't think I could go hang out in a dank dark cellar where shadow people have been reported.  I didn't think I'd be able to sit all alone in the house and do a Tarot spread.  I did think I might panic if anything actually happened.  (Other than the one squeal when the big boom of thunder hit)  Guess what?  I did each and every one of the things I didn't think I'd be able to do.  WIN!

The other thing that is a WIN?  Having an adventure with four amazing friends.  We formed some bonds through this experience that will never go away.  I can sooo see the allure of ghost hunting.  Some of us are already talking about finding the next location!

Coming:  Evidence review; Tarot spread and explanations; Bloopers and Outtakes... and anything else you want me to talk about!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Top Ten List for How Not to Teach a STOP Class



The STOP program is a way you gain forgiveness for a minor traffic infraction by enduring an 8 hour defensive driving course...and pay $85 to take said class.  However, in this case, the fine was less than the speeding ticket, and has the added benefit of clearing the ticket so it doesn't accrue points on my driver's license, or report to my insurance company.  So it seemed like a win.  Until the day of the class...

I'm a writer.  I have a grand total of nine writing projects underway, and a myriad of writing groups I have obligations to.  So, before I even set foot in the classroom, my mind is already ticking away.  Fine-tuning the plot for the next chapter of my novel, planning out agendas, making lists of tasks I need to accomplish for the Critique Ladies meeting on Sunday...

Enter the instructor.  Nice lady.  Pleasant, personable, voice is easy to listen to, seems enthusiastic.  This might not be sooo horrible.  My twenty-six fellow captive students settle in and prepare to have our driving education enhanced...or not?

It quickly became apparent that all was not well in STOP-land.  I was faced with two choices.  One, being to doodle, and perhaps drool the day away as some of my hellmates, or being a writer, I could come up with something to actually write about.  Guess what I chose?

The first thing I came up with was a cast of characters.  Why not?  I'm going to be stuck in a room with these wonderful captives all day.  Seems fair and reasonable.  Just like in fiction, sometimes you blend several people together into one character.  And in this case, I'll do the same.  I promise, no twenty-seven character sketches.

The Know it All:  Has extensive "experience", and insists on sharing it at every possible opportunity.  Often by talking over the instructor. 

The Storyteller:  Like the Know if All, this lady has been there, done it all, and she relishes telling each and every sordid detail.  I think she has some hearing issues, as not even the collective groans of her cellmates--oh, make that classmates seems to actually make it to her brain.

The Debator:  Another of the more vocal members of the group, he insists on debating the legality or wisdom of each and every fact or law presented in the group. 

The Snoozer:  Well represented in this group.  Broken into sub sets.  The Snorer, The Head Bobber, The Head on Tabler, The Sunglasses Insider. 

The Brown-Noser:  You know who you are.  Enough said.  Who brings the STOP class teacher an apple?  really??

The Eye Roller:  Now I kind of like this guy.  He is paying attention, and like me, his eye rollings are in response to the above listed characters in our room.

Then there is me, The Writer/Observer.

Now, on to the class itself.  Boring, boring boring to rehash the class itself.  Plus, if you too must endure the thing, I'd hate to spoil the surprises.  Think of how long the day would be if I told you everything you could anticipate now???  So instead, I came up with a Letterman-esque Top Ten List!

Top Ten List of How Not to Teach a STOP Class

10:  Don't take time to familiarize yourself with the equipment.  No one will mind that it takes you endless minutes to fumble with the laptop, the projector, or the powerpoint presentations.  It also isn't important to have actually LOOKED at the powerpoint before class.  You might as well be surprised along with the rest of us.

9:  Continue to remind us how you like the "old" book better.  Or, as a variant, how you like the book you use to teach the teenagers in your usual Drivers Education classes.

8:  Use the same references and punch lines that you use to address a room full of fifteen-year-olds.  We can all use a flashback to Driver's Education and High School.

7:  Plan the break times around when you are most lost and confused, not when there is a break in the material... or in any logical time sequence relative to the length of the class.

6:  Speaking of those break times... Don't actually use your break time to consume anything.  No one will mind if you eat your breakfast cereal while you talk.  Really.

5:  Learn your students names.  Have them write their names in nice big letters on a table tents, then call them by other students' names, or repeatedly massacre the same pronunciation you've flubbed up the last fifteen times you've tried to say it.  Keeps the class on their toes.

4:  Make no attempt to control the resident disrupters in the class.  We all love the tangential discussions, debates, and random stories.  Maybe next time you can just make it an open-mic day?

3:  Know there is a test over the material that MUST be passed in order to successfully complete the course and get credit?  Keep it a surprise.  Everyone loves pop quizzes!  It is also irrelevent that you might have perused the questions in advance and made some attempt to ensure that all the material been covered in the actual lessons.  It's all important, dammit!

2:  Oh, and it is absolutely not important to give all the lectures and videos before the test.  Everyone learns more when there is that one section on the test where you've never heard the material before.  And think how much better they will retain the useless bit of statistics once they'd stared at the question, then made a random guess, only to find it discussed at length in the unit you cover AFTER they've taken said test!  Likewise, they love hearing "I didn't know this was on the test,"  when you review the questions and answers with  them.

And (drum roll please)  The Number ONE Top Thing Not to do When Teaching a STOP Class:

1:  Have absolutely NO idea what the prisoners--I mean students--need to do after the class to ensure their fines and tickets are cleared.  Make it an information scavenger hunt.  Don't have a clue who we need to call and ask either.  It adds to the fun.  It certainly isn't YOUR job to provide such information, after all.

Hmmmm now that I've written about the STOP Class, I wonder if it now becomes a writing research expense? 

I'm still disappointed that the red lights and handsome Trooper with the handcuffs, nightstick, and firearm wasn't an elaborate set up for a stripper gag for my birthday.  Just saying...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Reaching for the sky

I made a vow on December 31, 2009.  2010 was going to be MY year.

 I pinky swore on it. 

You see, even though my writing found greater success in 2009 than I imagined possible, other areas of my life were--and still are--in shambles.  The easiest and probably most comfortable course of action?  Take the safe road.  Don't rock the boat.  Maintain the status quo

Not good enough!

I'm a true Gemini in so many ways.  On one hand, I'm still the unsure, awkward kid who never felt that she "measured up." 

Adopted kid syndrome? 


Life hasn't always been easy either.  I grew up in a household filled with love, even though we didn't have a lot of money. My sister and I were both honors students.  My parents?  I remember the day I asked my mother to help me with my homework.  She pulled out her own report cards, and showed me. 

"I want to help you.  But I can't. I don't know how."

A Gemini understands how you can be both an intellectual superior to your parents, and yet a child seeking their wisdom.

My mother taught me to set my sights on a goal.  One so lofty I thought it could NEVER be achieved, and then find a way--any way--to ascend to the top.  She showed me that there were ways around nearly every road block in life, but that I needed to be willing to look for work-arounds.  Because of her I learned that the only true failure in life was to quit trying. 

That's good, because I've amassed quite a lofty list of failures.  Marriage?  Well, I have four beautiful children, and a wonderful assortment of step, half, and sorta-kids.  Some of them even seem to have mastered the art of marriage.  I applaud them!  Academia?  I spent a couple decades amassing a wide array of courses, degrees, and such.  Balanced classes with working a full-time job and raising said children.  At the end of the day, I failed to get the Medical School diploma I'd set my sights on.

The easiest thing in the world would be to let myself drown under the weight of the labels. 
Teenage parent.

But here's the deal. I'm a fighter. Nobody has handed me anything in life.  I don't expect it, and I don't want it.  Work-arounds are a life-style choice.  And life's most important work-around lesson is to face your fears. 

Writing involves an extreme amount of vulnerability.  For it to move me, I need to throw my whole being into what I'm writing.  Scars, weaknesses--all of it.  Then I need to face my fears and share it with other people.  Talk about a risk! 

There is nothing in the world like facing a fear, and accomplishing something you never dreamed you could do.  I've tried three times to climb the observation tower at Mahoney State Park.  Never managed to make it one step higher than the third landing.  I'm terrified, as in really, really afraid of heights.  So, as part of my "Claiming 2010 as MY Year" campaign, I decided it was a moral imperative to make it to the top of this tower.  My own personal Everest... 

No way would I have made it to the top alone.  It took having someone hold my hand, nudge me along, and knowing if push came to shove, that's exactly what would happen! 

Writing is the same way.  I belong to some fabulous writing groups.  I write.  I read what I've written, and shut my mouth to listen to the feedback.  Let people who's only goal is to help me reach my goal nudge me to success.  Even when my knees shake, and the last thing I want to do is walk up to the front of a room and pick up the microphone, I do it anyway. 

Has it worked? Let's see. I won a writing award this year. AND...

I'm still scared of heights.  And I'm sure my knees will still shake when I walk up to the podium, or stage to read something I've written.  But the victory is sweeter than I anything ever dreamed.  Plus, you gain some amazing friends along the way.  Love you all!

What's next?  On the writing front:  Submissions!  Conquering fears:  Oh, how about spending the night in the haunted house Travel Channel has named,"The Scariest Place in America?"  Coming Aug 3rd!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Quest for a Quest!

I've been struggling with a chapter of "Tales from Table Rock."  Which I find quite odd, since I KNOW the story.  I even have photographs of events from the trip.  So, why am I having difficulty getting this particular chapter to flesh itself out on the page? 

When I get stuck, I try a few different approaches.  First might be to put superglue in the chair and force myself to write.  (Not can play a lot of hands of Spider Solitaire waiting for a flash of inspiration)  Sometimes the perfect solution will appear in a dream. (With the Eclipse premiere less than two days away, my dreams seem to be filled with a rather buff,{Go Team Jacob!} underage werewolf.)  Sometimes I ignore it and hope it will go away.  (Nope, still there...)  Try writing another chapter?  (Dammit, all I can think of is *this* chapter!)  When all else fails... reach out to a trusted and sometimes captive friend to talk it through. (Okay, so it wasn't really my intent to talk it through, my intent was to complain about my  inability to write a coherent sentence.)

So, talking through the story, and a lightbulb went off.  It sounded like a "What I did on my Summer Vacation" essay.  BORING!  I know the story, but on some unconsious level, the reason I couldn't get this thing to come out, was that I had no reason for anyone else to care about it.  There was no conflict.  No quest.    Duh!

But... this is a historical novel.  It's not one of my Urban Fantasies, so I can't just kill someone to spice up the plot.  So, we talked out the plot from an internal standpoint.  Aha.... there IS conflict, and I now HAVE a quest for this trip.  A rather pivotal plot moment, if I do say so myself!  Oh I love it when this happens, I've got goosebumps just thinking about it! 

So, while I'd really love to stay and chat, I've got a chapter to write.  Pike's Peak, and Pacific Ocean, here we come!  Thanks, my captive friend... You know who you are!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Taking action in 2010!

2010 is nearing the half-way point, so I've been taking stock of my writing goals and thinking about course-corrections so I end up where I want to be by the dawn of 2011. Here's how it's going:

Goal: Finish "Tales from Table Rock," and start the publication quest.

Progress: Nearing completion of the manuscript, need some factual data to fill in the gaps. A short-story excerpt from the manuscript won the 2010 Bess Streeter Aldrich short-story contest, and I have a request for the full manuscript. WOOHOO! But, that leads me back to my goal of getting the damn thing done and out the door. So, what am I doing about it?

Action Plan: Ummm, write? Yes, I know this goes without saying, but it is really amazing how many times writers can sabotage themselves by not applying the butt to the chair and doing just that. I am no exception to this behavior. So, I add layers of accountability. I belong to three writing groups, The Critique Ladies, who meet about every two weeks, and do lots of e-mailing/cattle prodding if need be in between, the Nebraska Writers Guild, (the group many of my Nebraska literary heroes belonged to) and I recently added the Nebraska Writers Workshop, a group that will celebrate its 25th birthday on June 2nd. NWW meets weekly in Ralston, which is an hour away from Lincoln. Why do I belong to these groups? The reasons are many, but there are a couple of biggies. First of all, there is an exponential difference between good and great, so I depend on my fellow authors to provide an objective ear to polish the story. Another big thing for me is the accountability. I’ll be damned if I’m going to show up for a meeting without having something new written! (Back to the butt in the chair thing)

Research time and writing time are at a premium for those of us with families, and JOB’s, tend to get in the way. So as of 8 pm tonight, I am on a sabbatical. I’m using a week of vacation, plus my days off to give me a ten day block of time to focus on researching and writing. Yes, I’ll go cuddle the brand-new granddaughter while I’m off too, but I’m going to be trekking through Southeast Nebraska in search of history to fill the historical novel. Incredible, huh? I’ve even lined up some fellow-writerly assistance to help me ferret out information, and have a list of things I want to find out while I’m there.

The other important thing is to enjoy the ride. I’m quite goal-driven, and sometimes I forget to do this. So far in 2010, I’ve won an award for my writing. Held a book in my hands with my writing featured inside. Signed autographs. Done an interview with a reporter about my writing. Cashed a check payable to me as an author. Read a short story aloud to a packed room of fellow authors and had them gasp and laugh at all the moments I hoped they would. Read my name in a feature in the Broadside publication of the Nebraska Writers Guild, a publication that will end up at the Nebraska State Historical Society for perpetuity.

Wow. Even I’m pretty impressed writing that last paragraph. See, I told you I don’t usually take time to enjoy the ride. But trust me, I’m not ready to sit on my butt and do nothing. (Sitting on my butt to write, now that’s an entirely different thing…) I can see the finish line, which means it’s time to wrap up this goal, and start setting the next one. Revising and polishing the manuscript is a given,so I’ll use all the feedback from my writing groups to polish the prose until it leaps from the page and sears itself into a reader’s soul. Then on to marketing strategies. (I’ve already got some great ideas for this too) I’ve got seven other manuscripts awaiting my return, so we’ll start the whole process again.

Back to that accountability thing: I just told you all my goals and plans for the next six months. That means I give you permission to make sure that I’m holding up my end of the deal! Will it guarantee a book sale? Of course not. But it will mean I’ve done my part of making it happen, and that’s really what it’s all about.

There is a level of irony at play here. The woman who rolls her eyes and whines like a baby when told to write action plans at work just wrote an action plan—and even used that exact phrase! Okay, so maybe sometimes it does work…

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Hunt for Murrell Brannan

One thing about being an award-winning historical fiction author (yes, I still shiver when I think about that!) or for that matter, ANY historical writer, is that unlike pure fiction, this stuff is about real people.  Unfortunately, this entails a level of research, since it is somewhat--okay, REALLY important to actually research the details you put into the story.

Now, I am a Gemini.  This is the Zodiac's sign indicating those of us with tendencies that veer toward ADHD.  (Which also explains why I have EIGHT current manuscripts in progress.  Love those shiny new stories!)  Anyway, Gemini's do NOT excel at the tedium involved in historical research.  Nope, not my bag, I like to call the shots, and tell my characters what to do!

That brings me to the case of one Murrell Brannan.  One of the pivotal figures in "Tales from Table Rock," is the man my grandmother fell in love with.  The love that slipped through her fingers.  The man who she got misty-eyed telling me about when I was  young girl.

Unfortunately, while I know all about him from Grandma's stories, I had next to nothing to go on for actual facts about the man.  All I knew for sure was that his name was Murrell.  Or Merle, or Merrill... Last name Brannan, Brannon, Brandon... You get the point.  Date of birth?  Sometime at the turn of the century.  Birthplace?  Somewhere around Shubert Nebraska.  Or at least Southeast Nebraska.  Parents?  Kids?  Nope, I've got nothing.

Then, I got a packet of letters from my cousin Dan.  Grandma had written him some letters when he was away at college.  In them, she talked about Murrell, who in the twilight of their lives had re-appeared.  (I don't want to give all the story away.  You'll have to read the book!)  But, all Grandma called him was "Loverboy."  No help.  I tried Googling Loverboy.  Nope, not a thing to help me locate one Murrell Brannan.

I was lamenting my frustration in locating anything concrete about the man who was the love of my grandmother's life to my dear friend Sandra Spidell.  Sandy has put up with me since second grade, so she knows all about my fickle Gemini traits.  Lucky for me, she is a Sagittarius, and has a bit more tenaciousness than I will ever hope to possess.  I might also mention that Sandy is a Genealogy GOD!

Last night, while I was sitting at the computer typing some schedules at work, my smart phone buzzed letting me know I had an email.  Now, it doesn't take a Gemini to need distractions from writing schedules.  So, I snapped at the opportunity.  Here was a message from Sandy.  "Surprise, I found your Murrell Brannan."  She had a link to a genealogy site with all his family tree...and even a photograph of him as a young man.  About the age when he would have been sweeping my grandmother off her feet. 

I screamed.

Which brought half the store running to find out what I'd done--this time!  Literally, with tears streaming down my face, I read the information about him.  I now have dates, facts...(Noticed that he is four years younger than Grandma... I've always said my Grandma was two generations ahead of her time, and she was a cougar long before the term was coined... Go Grandma!) I know who his kids are.  (And, hell YES, I want to contact them!)

Then, I started looking at the information for his parents.  And their parents.  That's when I got chills down my spine.

You see, my OTHER Grandma?  She was born and raised in St. Deroin.  St. Deroin is now part of Indian Cave State Park, and the legends of St. Deroin get told every year as part of the Haunted Hollows hay-rack ride through the park.  I grew up hearing these stories.  Tales of half-breed Indians, polygamy, gunfights... real Nebraska lore.  I even have a file folder full of research on St. Deroin, and a first-draft of an article about the area.

Murrell Brannan is no less than the great-step-grandson of THE Joseph DeRoin of St. Deroin notoriety--and his great-nephew.  Like I said, there was some interesting polygamy, and wife-swapping that went on down there. 

I practically had Murrell Brannan in my files all along!  It only took the one missing piece to link everything together.

Now, all my stories about Joseph DeRoin getting shot over a disputed pig and getting buried upright astride his horse?  Yup, I get to use them all!

I would have written about Murrell in "Tales from Table Rock" whether I had ever "found" him or not, but oh boy, am I grateful for Sandy.  This is truly a story-tellers dream come true!  What a rush!  I might even foray into historical fiction again sometime in the future...but only if Sandy is willing to go along for the ride!

As for now, I have a manuscript to finish!

And my carpet is all nice and clean smelling.

What does the carpet have to do with Murrell Brannan?  Not a thing...but I am a Gemini...

Friday, March 26, 2010


You are now reading the blog of an award winning writer!  Wow!  I didn't know how wonderful it would feel to be able to say that!  It has been almost 12 hours since I opened the email congratulating me on winning First Place in the 2010 Bess Streeter Aldrich Foundation contest for short stories.  The glow still hasn't worn off, and I can still barely sit still long enough to force myself to type anything coherent. 

"Curls of Gold," is one of the stories my grandmother, Elsie Kovanda Baucke, told me when I was growing up.  It was one of my absolute favorite bedtime stories.  I've been compiling her stories into a novel, entitled "Tales from Table Rock."  I can almost smell the lilacs outside the window to the big front room where I would sleep in the huge sleigh bed when I stayed all night at Grandma's, and feel the patches on the quilts as she tucked them in around me as she asked me what story I wanted to hear before I went to sleep.  Grandma was a master storyteller--and I think she'd be proud today. 

My Aunt Aladeen told me about having to write a story for school.  Of course, Grandma helped her come up with a tale.  Aladeen got up and read her story to the class, and when she was done, her teacher crossed his arms, and commented, "I so love to hear your Mother's stories."

I agree!  And today is another step in bringing her storytelling to a new audience. 

Of course, I need to calm down enough to focus on writing! 

Award Winning.... It makes me shiver!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Plumbing the depths

2010 started off feeling rather like the doomsday predictions for 2012.  Borrowing from popular culture, my facebook status changed from "married" to "it's complicated."  That, combined with my granddaughter's ongoing battle with ITP, and my daughter's recent miscarriage I'm feeling raw, disjointed, and generally at odds with the world at large. 

Now, for a paranormal mystery ROMANCE writer, this is particularly discomfitting.  Venom and romance are not great bedpartners.  At least not in a traditional romance novel happy-ever-after way.  However, venom and romance do create a cauldron to brew some wicked horror.  I'm mid-write on a co-authored horror novel with an amazing writing partner, D. Anthony Brown.  Haven't heard of him?  Trust me on this one, you will.  My contributions to our co-authored "Forgotten Kiss" have most decidedly been adding the feminine romance touches to his dark horror.  Come to think of it, "Forgotten Kiss" is without a doubt at its core a romance gone horribly awry. 

But, I've never ventured out on my own into the horror realm.  Writers cope with life by--well by writing.  So, in that vein, I've been plumbing the depths of my pain and using it to fuel a series of short stories.  You know what?  I'm a writer.  Piss me off and you risk meeting a horribly slow painful demise in my next story or novel! 

What began as one short story for a challenge I issued to my writing group has grown into a series of short horror stories.  "Baby Steps to Perdition."  Isn't that how it always begins?  One bad judgement, followed by a series of progressively worse decisions, until whammo!  Think about it, in the aftermath of school shootings, terrorism, and domestic disturbances turned into bloodbaths everyone asks how it all began.  One baby step at a time.  That's how every heinous act begins.  One baby step followed by another, and another, and another, until the most horrible act seems like the only option.

I have no doubt that I'll go back to paranormal mystery/romances, and will finish "Tales from Table Rock," the historical creative non-fiction I've put on temporary hiatus.  And, I sense my writing will increase in depth for letting myself go to the darker parts of the human psyche. 

Thank goodness I write.  It beats the hell out of actually acting on all those dark feelings we all harbor from time to time.