Surfing a Lighthouse

A little something inspired by Suzanne Burke’s “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!”  Week #7 .  

Here is the photo prompt that brought this to mind.


Of all the times they’d gone to the Outer Banks, they had never strayed far from shore. They snorkeled. They beachcombed. They took the sail board lessons but never hang gliding or parasailing. She wanted to try surfing.

“Not for me,” he said, “the channels and the sandbars constantly changing—too risky.”

“Don’t be a wuss, Eddy,” she laughed, “I’m doing it.”

“All right, you go. Just stay away from the fishing piers and the inlets.”

Lighthouses. They loved the lighthouses. Especially the one that had to be moved inland as the shore eroded. It’s the image he saw that reminded him. How she got careless. Careless at that rocky, dangerous shore. The sun between clouds and a high barrier dune, blinded her. She looked away—the wrong way, avoiding the sun’s glare only to catch the flash of the automated lighthouse. She veered too late. Out of the channel onto the rocks emerging at low tide.

#WATWB June 2020

We Are the World Blogfest

Yes, it’s the last Friday of the month, when bloggers unite to post some happy/good apolitical news. It’s all part of the We Are the World Blogfest.

As the catch-line and movie title from Monty Python ages ago said–“And now for something completely different.”

Some, in the negative camp, often say “no good deed goes unpunished.” A corollary might be, the bad guy always gets away with it. This year, a strange phenomena as occurred in America. Bad behavior IS finally being punished–or at least visible consequences are happening. At the same time, reforms from right-minded people are moving forward.

The US House of Representatives passed the George Floyd policing reform bill–on a party line basis. Meaning it’s doomed in the Senate. As anyone with any political sense knows, nothing will come in the way of police reform in Congress until 2021. BUT there is much happening in states and localities. That’s the good news of people finally making steps to remedy the abuses which have been visited on African-Americans for so long.

Here’s a clue: Black Lives Matter can better be understood among White folks (like myself) by adding the simple word TOO after it. All lives do matter, the problem is that up until recently, Black lives haven’t mattered as much or at all among the majority population.

On a different issue, the pandemic: All those governors (of Red States) who eagerly reopened their states from COVID-19 restrictions are reaping a whirlwind of rewards. The nonsensical barhopping, beach-going, partying no-mask folks who denied the existence of the pandemic or resisted restrictions on their freedom to get sick and die are learning they are on their way to non-fun hospitalization. Words and deeds sometimes do have consequences sooner than heaven, hell or the next lifetime. Sounds bad, but it’s a good thing, I believe–illustrating that following health and medical guidelines over economic and entertainment interests is the wiser choice.

NOTE: For those of you who may have missed my recent post of poetry (yes, I do occasionally venture there), it’s been updated to include some photos that may aid in your understanding. Here’s a link

This month’s hosts for the WATWB are: Sylvia McGrathSusan Scott Shilpa GargDamyanti Biswas, and Belinda Witzenhausen.

Senses That Trigger Place Memories

Ask me and I’ll tell you, I’m not big on poetry–reading it or writing it. I’ve been exposed to more lately. Made me think that maybe, just maybe, I should putter around with it now and then. 

We live high atop a New Mexico hill now. We lived and vacationed on the East Coast in days gone by. Do your senses take you to other places and times? Perhaps you don’t know what some of these things look like. We have added some images to aid you. 

Summer winds push pinion–rustle bear grass

Breezes bounce off prickly pear–chuck cholla

Gusty wind’s wake strikes my ear

Waves breaking on the shore

The Mid-Atlantic, not New Mexico

Avon or Buxton–the Outer Banks

Warm and breezy–here or there

Hours go by, chilly gusts come–damp with rain

Temps drop quickly–a passing front

A decade ago in Virginia–here

and now

Part of a Pinion pine
a pinion pine
A cholla cactus in the foreground, bear grass in the background
a cholla in front and bear grass behind
a prickly pear cactus in bloom
a prickly pear cactus blooming
Outer Banks beach with killdeer
Avon or Buxton beach

Mashup # 1

Something different—excerpts from Waiting for Westmoreland (WFW) mashed up with blog posts from here. Or, in this case, from an  unpublished story. Why, you may ask? It came to me in exercising on a treadmill one day—in the water. It’s an experiment–please tell me what you think.

Explore the shift in consciousness/perspective from 2007, when WFW was first published. Or better, the 10th anniversary edition from 2017. From memoir to fiction—scene to scene. Places and time. Events or feelings. Those posts, some of them, will wind up in a collection—maybe novella length. Something in the writing will link the WFW excerpt and the post—perhaps subtle, perhaps not. You will find it.

From WFW, Chapter 13 Love and Death, Here and There

Finally, on June 13, 1970, Jill and I went on our long-awaited first date, a Neil Diamond concert at the Minneapolis Auditorium. I picked her up at her home, still wondering whether I should be doing this and why she had picked me out of a university crowd. Despite my doubts, I couldn’t help being excited about it anyway. Nearly to the open car door, she turned back to wave goodbye to her husband Dave, an average-looking guy perhaps a few years older than she or I. He was standing in the doorway, leaning down a little to get a look at me, waiting behind the wheel. It would be 2:30 a.m. before I brought her home. While the agreement with Dave did not extend to sleepovers, apparently it didn’t preclude wild sex. In the face of my earlier self-doubts, Jill assured me that I had nothing to fear in future amorous adventures with women. How encouraging.

Then it was on to a summer of sex. It was the best sex I had ever had, not that I had had so much sex by the age of 23.

I even got comfortable going out together with both Dave and Jill or spending time with them at their home. Not that we all went to bed together, since none of us were into group sex. We all went to Wisconsin one weekend, to visit her family, including her parents, brother and sister. They introduced me as a friend of the family, which, of course, by then I was.

Life was good, too good. It had never been so good. Five years later, when I first heard the Brian Ferry sing, “Love is the drug,” my time with Jill immediately came to mind. Like a drug, my attachment to Jill was an intoxicating addiction. It left me in a state of withdrawal when I didn’t get my fix and made me willing to do whatever I had to, to get it. I surrendered control of my heart and my life to Jill, playing by her rules, keeping nothing of myself in reserve.

In October, Jill gave me the news, over coffee at Coffman Union. “It’s over,” she said.

“What do you mean, over?”

“I’m leaving Dave.”

“So,” I began, optimistically “Does that mean you’ll be spending more time with me?” Continue reading

Fencing the Sky

Back in 2013, James Galvin wrote a well-received western novel called Fencing the Sky. This post has only a slight connection to it–a writing prompt from a Zoom-hosted small group of local writers in southwestern New Mexico.

This will likely be the extent of it, but who can say.

Big Sky Country—where the well-off buy land to get away from it all. And to have great views. Views of mountain peaks and more. One would never think anyone would be concerned with air rights, the ability to add on stories to a house or have unobstructed views without interference from neighbors. Neighbors are mostly far away in Montana. Still, some folks might want to ensure they had unrestricted rights of that big sky over their acreage. That’s what popped into the head of one entrepreneur. Thus, was born BS Fencing.

“Look, Jane, there’s our fence—20,000 miles up in the sky over our ranch,” Bill was thrilled when he saw the gossamer fibers glistening in the morning sun.

Seriously, you can see the wires from here?” she shared his enthusiasm, though she doubted the reality of a nanoparticle-formed fence.

“Yes, right here on the screen. They have a feed from a ground station for all the landowners, tuned to each geolocation. Shows up shiny when the Sun’s overhead and little different at night, when the fence is illuminated through the optical fiber.”

“Wow, cool. Hard to believe they can put that orbital fence up from that space elevator transport station!”

“Well, that’s technology for you. For just $25 a month we can see our fence anytime. Anybody messing with our view, they’ll let them know it’s our space they’re violating. Course, it’s us that must take action on it. They don’t enforce the rights for us.”

“Yeah, I guess that could run some serious money with lawyers and all. But a warning should be enough.”

“That’s what I figured.”

The fence package was an addon that came with the Big Sky Country land package. Fifty-thousand acres subdivided into 50-acre parcels, with water, solar and satellite internet available for a reasonable fee. The agent said she didn’t make any commission on the fence package—it was just a special that the owner was offering.  All she knew was the name of the company—BS Fencing. She passed along the brochure—got a lot of takers too.

The landowner assembled the acreage for himself, planning on a combo preservation deal where he could have an easement to graze cattle where that worked and ski chalets on the mountain sections. After the people got tired of cow pies everywhere and rutty roads he gave up on that plan. The ski slopes were nothing like Vail or Aspen either. That’s when he broke the acreage back down and put the whole thing on the market. He planned on moving to Alaska—a bigger frontier.

BS Fencing—one might assume it stood for Big Sky. Not really. The entrepreneur that came up with it was a software engineer with a larcenous streak. Started out as a hacker but the Feds and the White Hats were always after him. Cybersecurity was a hassle even for hackers. That’s when he heard about the land package. He had an inspiration one night smoking some good stuff from neighboring Colorado. Knowing what he did about satellite tech, he knew he could produce the content. All he had to do is sell it.

No problem creating the feed. He made a deal with an orbiting communication satellite. Just like all the content providers, they could shoot his fence images to subscribers for a small piece of the monthly fee.  All he needed was a good brochure and a small, really small, sales staff.

It all went well until some retired engineer bought a parcel. He wasn’t taking the addon. He was calling them up though. He saw through the name right away—this is all a bunch of Bull he told the guy on the phone. He knew there was no way they could be doing what they said they were. BS Fencing soon was no more. Off to another scam somewhere else.

#WATWB May 2020–Recognizing Those Who Wear Masks

We Are the World Blogfest

It’s the last Friday of a month–the day to offer good news from the We Are the World Blogfest

There are so many people and organizations worthy of recognition during the pandemic sweeping the world. Frontline medical professionals. Support staff at hospitals or health centers. EMTs, food pantries, grocery store workers, delivery people and so many more. Most of which are often mentioned, if not featured on news shows. So, let’s consider others—the ordinary folks that are doing their best to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Those are the people who are wearing masks in public. The ones who are maintaining physical distance from fellow human beings. That signifies that they care enough about the well being of others as they do about themselves. The masks are to protect others from themselves—not the other way around. Yes, it’s frustrating not being able to freely enjoy time in restaurants and bars, socializing with friends. It’s bothersome having to sit or stand apart.

Freedom is not being able to whatever one wants whenever and wherever it suits you. Freedom comes with responsibility and respect. Respect for the health and safety of others. That’s why there are laws against driving vehicles while drunk. That’s why smoking tobacco is prohibited in stores, restaurants, offices and other buildings. Secondhand smoke is hazardous.

Asymptomatic people can spread the virus to others. One cannot assume that he or she is free from COVID-19. That’s why one is not free to go about without wearing a mask, risking spreading the disease to others. Others who may die.

So, I want to thank those people who endure a tiny impediment to their own freedom by wearing a mask and maintaining a safe distance. Those are not politically correct actions–they are ethically essential behaviors.

Your cohosts for this month are Eric LahtiSusan ScottDan AntionDamyanti Biswas, and Inderpreet Kaur Uppal. And if you want to read more uplifting articles, please visit the WATWB Facebook page here or the Twitter home page here to find links to other stories.

Harry and Sarah

A Dark Job

What will come of this? Something to build a story on. Sci-fi. Harry always took his coffee with cream and sugar. So what?

Sarah finished her black coffee as she always did—while still hot, before stepping out. Out into the cold night, she walked on leaden feet. Feet that felt only dread. Dread that Harry wouldn’t be back this time.

Time was, he’d go on a mission for a few days and return home. Home where the heart is, bringing small trinkets, worthless souvenirs. Souvenirs that she treasured not for their intrinsic value but for his love. Love that still smoldered after all the years. Years spent in end of the galaxy shacks but sometimes in luxurious penthouses. Penthouses paid for deeds he wouldn’t talk about except in sleep. Sleep that brought dreams better called nightmares.

He’d never been gone more than a week. Two weeks had passed since that call. It left him shaking his head, yelling no into the phone until going out into the barren wasteland—out of earshot. He sometimes talked about the jobs. Others, he told her little. She knew he didn’t want this one—a soul-blackening mission his time no doubt.

Ashen-faced when he left, Harry spoke softly, “I’ll be back soon as I can, Sarah,” looking away, “I—have to meet up with some other contractors that you don’t want to know about, out on the rim.”“Do you have to go on this assignment? I heard you yelling no,” Harry.

“Well, I’d rather not, but it’ll be OK,” he said, “I’ve been on worse—not recently, but this one’s worth ten regular runs.” Harry’s smile lasted but a moment as he headed off to grab his gear. He came back with his big duffel and carrying the heavy weapons case.

“You’re leaving right now? Why don’t you wait until tomorrow?

“I can’t—the job won’t wait. Don’t worry,” he said, giving her a nearly rib-crushing hug and a hard kiss before skipping down the stairs.

The icy wind blew cut through her coat, chilling her to the bone. Come back Harry! She had to get out. Out to the pub where she could be around people. People who worked in the mines, at the spaceport or—well, on jobs like Harry did. Did they know anything? Anything they could say would be better than staying home alone. Alone with her worries.

FREE–yes, Deep Down & Dirty Writing Secrets on May 6

A Treasure Trove of Writing Tips– FREE

From the Amazon blurb:

Writing advice that gets you started and keeps you going.

Wouldn’t you love to have authors reveal the secrets of their successes to you? You get that in this collection of essays, many by award-winning authors, and all of them fine practitioners of the craft. Their insights provide you with tools, tips, and encouragement for your own writing.

It’s already getting great reviews, don’t miss out on this helpful tool for writers.

Deep Down & Dirty Writing Secrets is FREE on Kindle on May 6th, 2020. If you miss the 6th, get it free again on May 20.

PS, Don’t confuse a free day with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited promo.

Talking to Your Characters–a Study Proves It

Majority of authors ‘hear’ their characters speak, finds study

Don’t usually do writing tips here–they usually come on the Views blog. But it’s been busy over there, so a change up. Just finished reading this interesting article in The Guardian. It confirms advice from writers to others:

Listen to your characters. Talk to them. 

Not sure how well I’ve been following that advice. I often do wind up having unfortunately extended dialogues at 4 am. Too bad it’s more often with those I want to call and engage on some semi-important matter having nothing to do with stories. “Oh, if only I’d said this.” Or more to the point getting the put down words just so.

Anyway, here’s a few snippets from the article. If you’re a writer, you’ll want to read it.

Researchers at Durham University teamed up with the Guardian and the Edinburgh international book festival to survey 181 authors appearing at the 2014 and 2018 festivals. Sixty-three per cent said they heard their characters speak while writing, with 61% reporting characters were capable of acting independently.

“I hear them in my mind. They have distinct voice patterns and tones, and I can make them carry on conversations with each other in which I can always tell who is ‘talking’,” said one anonymous writer. “They sometimes tell me that what I have in mind for them isn’t right – that they would never behave or speak that way. I don’t usually answer back,” said another.

What about you? Do you hear conversations with your characters? Maybe I do, while I’m writing dialogue. I must confess I do annoy my wife at times when I come up with the next line of a TV show or movie we’re watching (only at home of course–never on those rare occasions we were at theaters before COVID-19 closed them).

I probably do run what comes next in a story through my mind as Joe or Sally is about to speak. More so when I’m editing. But after reading this article, I must be missing out on a lot. One more snippet for you.

The bestselling crime novelist Val McDermid recognised the phenomenon, but explained that she is able to exert a measure of control. “They don’t just pop up out of nowhere,” she said. “But when I’m working on a novel, I have conversations in my head with them. When I’m out for a walk, there are all sorts of interrogations going on in my head and sometimes out loud. But if I’m not working with a character, silence.”

If you are in the majority of writers who do this, be assured–you’re fine. The report on the Guardian notes that the researchers didn’t find that any of those interviewed had any problem with mixing fiction with the real world.

After I post this, I’m printing the article and keeping it handy on my computer desk whenever I’m working no a story.

#WATWB for April–Serving the Pandemic Heroes from Pennsylvania

We Are the World Blogfest

Pandemic Heroes

EMTs, doctors, nurses, and countless other frontline health workers are treating patients and saving lives, many at the expense of their own. You see them on your local or national news, the newspaper or the web. They are the true heroes. There are so many more behind the scenes that make it possible for those on the frontline to continue what they are doing.

Here’s just one other bunch of people making an essential contribution.

Workers clocking out at Braskem Plant
Workers clocked out on Sunday after spending 28 days at the plant making material for PPE. Photo from CNN article.

As reported on the CNN website, more than 40 workers at a factory in Pennsylvania volunteered to stay at the plant for four weeks. They slept there, ate there and worked twelve hour shifts making polypropylene, a raw material for making N95 masks–as well as medical gowns and other PPE equipment.

Workers in Texas and West Virginia also did the live-in rotations.

We can appreciate and thank all the people doing what they can to deal with the pandemic–in our hearts and in our prayers, if not personally at this point.

The cohosts for this month’s WATWB are: Eric Lahti, Susan Scott, Dan Antion, Damyanti Biswas, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal.