The Art Of Breaking Rules

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I spent a sunny, eighty degree Saturday getting my prose on at the Wesleyan Writers Conference, pictured here with the incredibly talented Steve Almond.

We have so many rules that we function by.
Life has rules.
Prose has rules.
Heck, everyone I know have rules.
Rules have overtaken our lives. But we need rules, no? Maybe? Yes?
Where was I going with this?  Oh yes, I remember now … In college I was taught a specific way to construct a story. Certain elements needed to be present while others induce boredom. I am a rule breaker at heart so when a presenter shows how to break all I have lived by, all I can say is that I am in!
Being given the option is freeing!
Side note:  Maximum Trouble will take a little longer…

The Jig Is Up

Please note: I was able to keep this quiet until I posted a photo of me leaning on crutches to a social media site.  My latest revelation is one can be observant without being aware…

So here is my original “Back To The Blog” post:

So sorry for disappearing on you all. See I have been away… At rehab.

IMG_20180520_194914Not that rehab… not Hunter Thompson rehab for wayward authors… not Hemmingway’s serenity village…

I am going to rehab for a torn ACL (destroyed if you believe my surgeon). I did it skiing a few months ago and recently had the surgery to fix it. Prior to that I have no excuse.

Being unable to do simple things, like driving and walking, gives one a new perspective. On a high point I have been writing a lot! A new release for the end of the year is a real possibility. I am bringing back Zach Brady and Maxi Malone in a new adventure.

I am also working on a sappy romance… really sappy… super organic maple syrup sappy… It has been fun to get to meet a new group of characters who hang out in one of my favorite places.

More to come as they develop.

So, if I may make a few observations…

Too many people use the handicap stall when they don’t need it.

The folks running College Street in New Haven are incredibly accommodating of people on crutches.

Chair dancing is still fun.

Physical therapy hurts.

College campuses are not designed for people on crutches yet with a bit of gumption and upper body strength, one can get around.

Not driving is a real drag.

My husband is the best and I am surrounded by awesome people.

Ah… exercise time.

Feel the pain…

 

Snow Day Writing…

Scene: Feet up in a recliner, green, fabric. A gift from one of my parent’s friends because he liked his old chair better. Heat radiating off the blue soapstone wood stove in the corner. Cadenced breathing coming from a black lump on a brownish gray dog bed. Dim lights.

A gray day sits out my picture window. A “snow day” actually.

Except there is no snow. The thermometer reads 38 degrees. If the sun would peek out, it would be beautiful. Instead today is dreary.

My next book is slow coming. I debate every move to the point where I write dual scenes. For example, my latest has two prominent characters making a narrow escape from a psychopath. One should get shot… then again, she might not.

The other version has the dual getting rescued and the bullet piercing skin is definite.

Otherwise the scene would be expected… boring.

The rhythmic sounds of my dog snoring interrupt my characters dodging of objects that would cause some type of pain. I wonder if dogs could have a deviated septum? Would they need an operation to breathe better? Should I be concerned?

Silence. Oh yeesh… She’s looking at me with her big brown Lab eyes. This could mean almost anything except she doesn’t want to go out. She crawls right up on my lap when she wants to do that. She doesn’t want food because she’ll sit in front of me and make noise by bouncing her tail off the floor. Water bowl is full. Her purple bone is under her stomach, hedgehog is to the right, and her head is laying on her squirrel. No missing toys.

Why is she staring?

Oh… more snores. I guess she’s sleeping with her eyes open.

Kind of creepy.

It is starting to rain…

Disclaimer: I got up to get my camera and apparently this is code for “cookie”.  Adorable dog quickly becomes P.I.A.  Moment over…

State Of Bliss

I really hate to tempt fate here yet for the last week or so I have experienced what can only be described as a pure state of bliss. I can’t explain the smiles at nothing, the occasional break into song (Banana Pancake song by Jack Johnson in case you were wondering), or dancing in my kitchen more than normal.

This sensational feeling started right after Uncle Neddy’s released. I am almost ashamed to admit this is my first creative work since. I’ve tried, mind you, yet my state of being isn’t cooperating.

It had to be those damn mountains. For anyone out there who hasn’t experienced the beauty of The Continental Divide, put it on your bucket list NOW! Go in at Estes Park, Colorado and follow the road up. If you are lucky, though I haven’t been during all five of my trips, the road will connect around and take you to Grand Lake. I have never seen Grand Lake outside of photographs, the view stunning! As is the ride up. Beyond description (so I included a photo) … simply amazing!

A truly humbling experience. I can’t imagine anyone looking up and not getting a feeling of awe.

When I returned to sea level, the salt filled air greeted me with a smack to my senses like Frank’s Red Hot on egg whites; very familiar yet unique each experience. Maybe when the Rocky Mountain high wears off, my creative self will return, hopefully leaving the bad clichés behind…

Stay tuned for upcoming Blog Tour dates, fabulous prizes (Amazon gift certificates & books), along with the occasional Facebook Live blog. Summer 2017 Tour starts soon!

 

Read The First Chapter (or so)

UncleNeddys 3As promised, here is the first chapter, or two, of my new book Uncle Neddy’s Funeral, available now by clicking here. I hope you enjoy!

Uncle Neddy’s Funeral

Neddy took in a deep breath of air. A violent cough followed. Surrounded by darkness, he had zero perception, which, for him, was fortunate. His arms touched the silky sides, as did his legs. He tried stretching his feet to the end. It figured, where he didn’t need it or couldn’t use it, he had the space. His breath bounced back from the top. He could smell mama’s tomato sauce from breakfast. Leftover gnocchi and eggs made the perfect meal to get him through the day. With each exhale his heart skipped.

About an hour ago, the air became lighter, best he could tell. The stench had to be from his exhales. He tried not to smell, breathe. Leave it to Joe and Victor to come up with a plan that involved a disgusting odor. Those two could fill a room after one of mama’s meals. Not that mama’s meals were gassy, it’s just those two needed no incentives to let one loose. Neddy’s laughter broke into a coughing fit.

 “Ah, minor inconvenience,” he said. In the distance, he could hear hushed voices yet couldn’t make out the conversation. The voices grew louder as Neddy assumed, people came closer.

“Be careful with this one,” Victor’s brogue came through clearly.

“Why boss,” another voice spoke. “Ya think he can feel anything?” Laughter filled the room. Neddy strained to hear the paused conversation. A couple of awkward coughs filled the space.

“Just be careful,” Ah, Victor used his I am in charge voice. Neddy knew the tone. His crew isn’t following directions. Neddy smirked. “Think of this as precious cargo.” Footsteps followed, growing weaker by the clank.

“I think the boss is getting weird”

“In what way?”

“Well he’s worried about a corpse.” Neddy smiled. He curved his temptation to knock. As funny as he thought it would be to make whoever jump at the sound, he knew better. Victor Cuzzuto would kill him.

“Victor got his job. Our job is to move the sucker.”

“Well, if Victor had finished the last job we wouldn’t be here, now would we?”

“Not our problem.”

“When will the old guy retire…” Neddy banged into the side of the casket. His head bounced off the top.

“Ouch!” he exclaimed as he bit into his hand. The casket stopped moving.

“You hear something boss?”

“I ain’t heard nothing,” came a quick reply along with a jolt. “Let’s just finish this up. Place like this gives me the creeps.” 

Part One: The Funeral

“Brothers and sisters, we have come to say good bye to our brother, Giuseppe Vittorio Vaffanculo.”

“For crying aloud did this guy even know Neddy?” Gia hissed in her sister’s ear. The middle child of the Vaffanculo relations, Gia sat with arms folded across her satin black dress, in her opinion, a beautiful garment wasted on a funeral. Her eyes volleyed between the crowded sanctuary and the man standing at the podium. Her younger sister by a year, Amelia, stared at the priest with intent. Her eyes tearing at the mention of her favorite uncle’s name.

“Giuseppe was an exceptional man: father, brother, son…” as the priest paused a moment Amelia glanced over at her ninety-year-old grandmother who sat playing with her false teeth. She nudged her sister in grandma’s direction. Grandma, dressed in traditional funeral black, included the customary laced veil, now thrown haphazardly over her head. Grandma Lena swished her teeth around her mouth, popped them through her lips, then caught the full set in her hand. Not a bit of spit followed. Without missing a beat she’d place the choppers back in to start again.

“Oh, this is going to be entertaining,” Gia smirked.

“Giuseppe was a fine man who loved his wife…”

“Which is he referring to?” Amelia giggled.

“…Adored his children…”

“Only those he knew about…” without missing a beat Gia responded.

“…And was a wonderful son…” a “humpf” came from the direction of their grandmother. The girls watched their mother squat walk towards grandma. She knelt in front of her, rubs the old lady’s arm, as she whispered something in her ear. Grandma turned around and flicked her wrist in her daughter-in-law’s direction. The girls’ eyes grew wide.

“We would get slapped,” Gia pointed out to a nodding Amelia. Their mother just shrugged stood fully erect, walked back to her seat. Her face expressionless.

As the priest continued to extoll virtues her uncle never possessed, Gia looked around the crowded funeral home. Bright purple flower arrangements lined the wall then veered around the back of the casket. Family and friends sat, stood, and waited in the adjacent rooms, spilling outdoors under the canvass walkways to pay respects. She knew most of the folks around here all her life, some by reputation, most by some sort of relation.

“Giuseppe was a pillar in the community. He had a big heart…”

“Are you sure he’s talking about Uncle Neddy?” Amelia said.

“I don’t think this one had met him. He’s new. Remember, straight off the boat from the mothership,” The priest appeared to be moving around the alter to avoid stepping in something.

“Don’t you mean Mother Land?”

“Ship…Land…Tomato…Tomato… What is the difference? The guy knows nothing about our family or the person he is talking about.” Gia moved her right hand as she spoke, the same mannerism her mother and grandma used.

“Well he knows some stuff…”

“Yeah, what is on the script. Aunt Neddy the fourth wrote it up or do you think she’d let the fifth to be do the eulogy?”

“I think she’d rather be reading the fifth to be’s eulogy.” As both girls began to snicker Gia glanced up in to their mother’s warning glare. In silence Angela Victorio Cuzzuto Vaffanculo held up one finger. Gia nudged her sister. She gave a head nod towards their mother. Elegantly she raised a second finger. Her dark blue eyes never wavered.

Both Gia and Amelia gave a slight nod, leaned back in their chairs. Legs crossed at the knees they mirrored each other’s worried glances, unconsciously tapping their bottom foot. Angela relaxed a little in her chair. To her left, her husband Joe, snored quietly. Angela poked his arm. He would jump a little, smile at her, only to close his eyes again.

He held her left hand in his. Every so often she would feel a gentle squeeze. Ah, my Joseph, he works so hard at the restaurant. Still cleaning up his brother’s messes. She thought, so he’s napping. He is not disrespectful. It’s his brother’s funeral not mine. He’s better not nap at my funeral. A laugh escapes from her lips. Who am I kidding. I will bury him first. Here, a little nap hurts no one. Uhg – look at the line – I’m sure half are here because they love Neddy, the others want to make sure he’s dead. Her lips turned up into a discreet smile. Iksch – This is all good. All these people here. This will help us with our situation. I wonder how many know? She glances at her mother-in-law who now moved from playing with her teeth to eating what looks like a pignoli cookie. Now where did those cookies come from?

Crumbs float down the old lady’s face. Angela nudged a tissue into Enzo’s hand. She pointed towards the older lady. “Oh, for crying aloud,” he proceeded to float down the row to the matriarch’s side, causing as little commotion as possible.

“Mrs. V, you need to stop with the cookies,” he reprimanded in a hushed voice the people in the back of the room could hear.

“I’m ninety years old…”

“You are not ninety, you are only eighty-five.”

“The stunad caused me so much stress I aged five years.” Enzo bit the inside of his cheek yet the grin across his face gave him away.

“I understand, but still, it is disrespectful to be chowing down at Neddy’s…”

“What’s disrespectful is having this idiota talk about someone her never met!” As the word idiota came out of the old lady’s lips, all those in close vicinity did the sign of the cross. The gesture continued down the rows like the wave at a football game.

I Love VT

Hello and greetings from the wild winter wonderland known as the great state of Vermont. I am up here as a guest of When Words Count Writer’s Retreat and I am so delighted to share the new book, Uncle Neddy’s Funeral, will be ready for summer reading!

I finally wrote an ending you all will love. I am over the moon excited.

Currently the wind is gusting out my window. Two feet on snow has fallen so far with more to come tonight. I did get outside earlier, before the wind stirred up, to enjoy the quiet crunching of new snow under my feet.

It is gorgeous here. I am in the middle of nowhere Green Mountains with Killington Peak off in distance. Usually my trips to Vermont destinations involve ski lifts and slope-side pools.

This is different.

The retreat sits on a quiet country road. Gourmet meals and snacks are served throughout the day, usually signaled by the chime of a bell. Writers huddle on couches sitting in front of a roaring fire. Others sit at the dining room table or in the formal living room upfront. Rooms are named after famous authors.

(I am in the Bradbury room. The first night I removed a photograph of Ray from the opposite wall because it was “creeping me out” yet my accommodations are comfortable and homey).

This was a first but not a last. In the past I have limited myself to one-day workshops to hone my skills. This time I had three. For my artist friends, the opportunities are out there to practice your craft – take advantage.

I am going back outside to “play” in the fresh snow. Thank you When Words Count and the beautiful Vermont countryside. I am inspired…

Oh – and stay tuned. I will be releasing the first chapter or two and maybe a cover preview, to you my faithful readers. I hope you enjoy!