Tuesday, 28 June 2011

In Armani Scrubs with a Stethoscope Tie

Jeff Gonsalves joins us again with one of his humorous hospital rants. Who knew a hospital could be so entertaining. (g)

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I've worked as a pediatric R.N. for over ten years. It's a nerve-wracking job, brimming with stressors, and often the only way to maintain my sanity is to keep a sense of humor and laugh at myself. Below are a few more "situations" that tweak my patience until I consider unlocking the narcotics drawer and stealing a few carpujects of intravenous Valium.

Situation #1: Get your Grubby Paws off my Earl Grey

The other night I entered the nursing station, searching for my cup of black tea. It was 2:00 a.m. and I was exhausted. I hadn't slept in twenty hours and the first half of my hospital shift was extremely frantic. Now I needed my "brain booster." I've sworn many times that if teenagers appreciated the energizing effects of black tea, they would stop spending hundreds of dollars a month on Red Bulls and Full Throttles. A couple mugs of Pekoe and my heart jackhammers, my cerebrum buzzes, and my fingers tremble. Everything you could want from taurine and more!

Anyway, I couldn't find my drink. I asked around and discovered that nurse "Gina" had thrown it away. I bit back my irritation and smiled.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because it didn't have a lid."

"Oh. Um, who cares?"

"Administration. There's a new policy saying that beverage cups at the nursing station must have a lid."

"So it doesn't spill? I mean, I can understand if it's steaming hot and tips over and burns someone. But my tea is cold."

"It's not sanitary."

"Oh. Should I pour bleach in it first? Or scrub the cup with Ajax?"

"It could have germs."

I laughed. "There's germs floating in the air. If they fall in my tea, they didn't spontaneously procreate. They were already there."

"If a beverage is sitting out, it can become colonized."

Suddenly we were entering the Theater of the Absurd. "It takes a long time for bacteria to colonize a drink. When was the last time you saw a yellow splotch of mold floating in a cup of coffee?"

"You don't have to see germs for them to be there."

"So the germs that fall into my drink will bounce back out and suddenly become lethal? Wow, is this radioactive tea or something? Does it have mutating abilities I don't know about? Call infectious disease, STAT!"

"Jeff, don't be a wiseass."

"Gina, I love being a wiseass. But just listen for a moment. My tea is flavored with Splenda, not sugar. There's nothing in the tea that provides a medium for rapid bacterial growth."

Gina was getting flustered. "Bacteria, viruses, whatever. It's an eyesore."

"Then put it in the back lounge where no one can see it."

"For God's sake, we have more tea in the drawer! You can make another cup!"

"It's the waste that bothers me, not the effort put into brewing tea (see Hospital Rant #1)."

Gina stormed off. "I'll buy you a jumbo ice tea from the cafeteria."

I smiled. "No thanks. I hear their tea is infested with fungal spores."

Situation #2: Mistaken Identity:

Because I have rudimentary Spanish-speaking skills, I often get called into a room to translate. One night a co-worker asked me to come with her and try to communicate with a middle-aged Hispanic woman.

"What do you want me to ask?" I said.

"I need to know if her baby had a bowel movement yesterday."

Nice. Reduced from Valuable Interpreter to feces-fixated snoop.

We enter the patient room. It's pitch black because a roommate is sleeping. I approach the woman, barely able to make out her hazy form in the dark.

"Hola," I say, proceeding to question her in gringo Espanol.

The woman frowns at me.

I inquire again whether her infant has soiled his diaper in the last 24 hours.

She scowls at me as if I am asking whether she has had a breast reduction.

Obviously I am not making myself clear. One more time: "?Su bebe tenia un panal sucio ayer?"

Her violent head shake makes me feel like an eavesdropper who is interrogating her about the brand of tampon she prefers. I smile awkwardly and scurry outside.

Looking at the census board, I check the last name of the patient's mother. Vang. I smack myself on the forehead. The woman is Hmong. I just spoke Spanish to a Hmong lady.

Which speaks volumes about racial profiling, since the nurse thought she was Hispanic the entire shift, but we'll save that for another rant.

Situation #3: Absent-Minded Doctors

Doctor Heston enters the nursing station. He has been a doctor at this hospital for 30 years. Little has changed in that 30 years. Everything is arranged almost exactly the same. Why then must we have this conversation? (My subconscious replies are listed in italics).

Heston (upon sauntering into the station): "Did I admit a patient last night?"

Me: "Yes. Actually, you admitted three patients."

Heston: "It was a kid with a scratched cornea. His hair scraped his eyeball."

Me: "That would be J. Bieber. His mother is with him."

Heston: "What room is he in?"

Me: "Dude, the census board with all the patients and bed numbers is ten feet from your head! Look at the damn thing!"

Heston: "Well, who's his nurse?"

Me: "Sally. It says so right next to the patient's name."

Heston: "Where's his chart?"

Me: "The chart rack is three feet to your left, sir. The chart is in slot number 4."

Heston: "Are his parents with him?"

Me: "Has your hearing aide misfired, sir? I helpfully informed you that his mother was there ten seconds ago."

Heston: "Where's his nursing binder?"

Me: "Um, you just placed your coffee cup two inches away from it. But if you'd like I can draw you a diagram replete with longitude/latitude coordinates."

Heston: "Can I borrow your stethoscope? I left mine in my Lexus."

Me: "Sure! As long as you promise to clean the wax out of your hairy ears first."

Heston: "Is there an ophthalmoscope in the room?"

Me: "Yes, sir. It's right next to the ambu bag, both of which have been bolted there for the last quarter century."

Heston: "I'm going to see the patient. Anything you need to tell me about him?"

Me: "No, Doctor Heston. You'd probably forget every word I say in five seconds anyway."

That's it for now. In Hospital Rant #3, an infant gets revenge on a hostile man who throws a chart across the nurses' station and almost knocks the baby out of it's stroller!

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When he's not guest blogging here, he can be found at his website, on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog. You can view the trailers for Fork in the Road to Apocalypse: A Subnorm Novel on YouTube.


Elliott Andersson is a disturbed young boy with a dangerous psychic talent. His mother believes that he can make a victim's worst fears materialize in times of stress, so she keeps him locked in her house for days at a time. In a fit of desperation, Elliott transforms her home into a fiery vision from Hell, drawing the government's attention. A frantic chase results in the crippling of federal agents and detainment of Elliott in a maximum-security seclusion tank.

Elliott's uncle Chuck is an operative working for the Genetics Bureau, the agency that has subdued his nephew. His job is to interrogate mutants to see if they possess lethal psychic abilities. When Elliott is imprisoned, Chuck embarks on a moral roller-coaster ride, uncertain whether to protect his nephew or society. His nonchalant attitude masks an innate desire to save Elliott at all costs--even if it means leaving casualties in their wake.

An interrogation proves that he can alter reality, and the government decides to evaluate Elliott for use in military combat. Frightened, but with a strong will to survive, he resists the hands twisting him into a weapon. He is reeling on the brink of despair when his uncle forms a band of renegade soldiers to smuggle Elliott out of the Genetics Bureau.

After this daring escape attempt, Chuck and a group of aberrants board a skim-cruiser headed into an uncharted wasteland. Pursued by the military, an android stalker, and a vengeful government agent, their only hope is to reach a leper colony that may not exist.

Shadowing every victory is the suspicion that Elliott cannot control his psychic ability, and is unconsciously using it against the people he loves most.

Chuck must determine whether Elliott can be saved, or whether his psychic ability must result in his own termination. But at whose hands?

I arrived at my sister's duplex in ten minutes. Elliott's agenda had detonated like a nuclear warhead, laying everything to waste. The lawn had been replaced by a volcanic ulcer of lava, neon orange and rippling sideways. Steam sprayed out of the fire hydrant, hovering in a scalding fog over the magma. The driveway was scorched black, paved with charred cinderblocks. His illusions seemed so realistic I found myself stumbling back even after a sludgy wave of lava failed to scorch my shoe.

Ash coated the roof, as if dozens of corpses had been cremated there. Withered trees trailed smoke into the sky. Flowers in the garden became hands clutching fistfuls of air, their wrists submerged in mud. Scarlet light spilled out the windows as though the duplex had been converted into a forge.

Perhaps the most striking feature was a monstrous, forked tongue protruding beneath the garage door, flailing like a bullwhip.

Elliott's doomed, I thought, reeling on the threshold of Hades.

The air around the house was hazy, singed by heat. The odor reminded me of burnt waffles, which is what Velma had told Elliott "Hell smelled like". Amazingly, my nephew was now capable of olfactory hallucinations. He could produce scents to accompany his illusions.

Defying his horrific mirage, I tiptoed across the lava, greasy fumes puffing up to liquefy my vision. Tortured banshees wailed in my ears, hinting at condemned souls torn apart in the netherworld. With each step, chunks of scree belched up and became stepping stones so I wouldn't plunge into the inferno. On the other side, a sooty beach washed up to the front door. The sand was littered with razored shells waiting to mutilate my feet. A raven perched on the duplex's gutter, a lock of Elliott's hair pinched in its beak. Beside it rested a nest made of bones, its pink, squalling bird fetuses eaten alive by maggots.

The living room, too, had been warped by Elliott's raging psyche. Contrasting the childish panorama of Hell, it was transformed into a mortuary. The windows were colorful stained glass, fashioned with images you would see inside a church. The brown carpet was now a plush purple, the sour odor replaced by incense. A flickering TV flashed images of veiled widows mourning the deceased. Watching them turn to face the screen, their faces were identical. Each bore the stern countenance of Ms Horner, a schoolteacher who disliked Elliott because he was an "aberration". Organ music groaned from a radio, casting a pall over everything.

In the center of the living room sat a coffin on an oval dais, a red satin cloth drawn over the casket. Massive holes had been gouged in the lid, the way Elliott might render a plastic box containing his pet lizard.

Chilled, I stepped forward and heaved open the lid. Inside, Velma lay cloaked in her wedding gown, a frilly, white, moth-eaten dress. Shovelfuls of dirt smudged the gown, as though gravediggers had tried to bury her with the coffin unsealed.

Velma's hands were crossed over her chest, clutching a vidpager. She gazed up at me through jittery eyelids. Her face looked grisly, powdered with mortician's attar.

"I can't move," she sobbed.

"Shhh, take it easy." Tears crept down her cheeks. "What happened?"

"Elliott got mad because I wouldn't let him play with a neighbor boy. He created the burning bush, and I told him to stop. He threw a tantrum, screaming that he was a bad boy and was going to Hell."

"Where's Elliott now?"

"A military patrol came by and saw my lawn on fire, so they smashed down the door. Elliott slipped out the back. He jumped on his bike and tore off down the road."

"He'll be okay, sis."

"The guards had rifles."

"They won't hurt him. They're instructed to contain a juvenile, not gun him down."

"I'm afraid I'll never see him again, Chuck."

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Fork in the Road to Apocalypse: A Subnorm Novel is available at Amazon.com link: http://tinyurl.com/4xn239p, Wild Child Publishing, and OmniLit.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Practical Jokes

Help us welcome erotic romance author Randi Alexander. She writes about cowboys. Apparently, she's into practical jokes and includes that humor in her books. A woman after my own heart. (grin)

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One sunny day, my husband were gardening, and I stuck a flower in my hair, over my ear. Hubby thought it was cute and found another flower to put over my other ear, then one in the bit of cleavage showing above my tank top. After about an hour, we needed to run to the garden center. He drove, or I would have noticed that both the flowers were still in my hair. And the daisy was still in my bosom.

Of course, it's a neighborhood store, so we ran into people we knew, and I couldn't figure out why everyone was smiling at me. And why hubby was smiling at me, too. Not his normal, 'Love 'ya babe!' smile, but a goofy old grin. In the truck on the way home, he burst out laughing. "Look in the mirror." I didn't have to. In that split second, I knew I'd forgotten about the flowers. I must have looked like a hippie to our friends. And the other shoppers. And the store employees. Hubby had a good laugh, and I did chuckle a little. So, Hubby-1, Wifey-0. But not for long.

After supper a couple nights later, hubby asked if we had any sweets. I pulled out the remaining Halloween candy, which was definitely the bottom of the bucket miscellany. He chose a blue sucker, something that came in the variety pack I'd bought. But he was happily slurping away on it.

Then he remembered he had to run to the drug store to get his prescription and asked if I wanted to go along for the ride. I turned to tell him I'd rather not when I noticed his lips were bright blue. Ah, I thought. That's why the sucker was shaped like a paintbrush.

Fighting to keep my wicked 'She's up to something!' smile from ruining this perfect opportunity, I jumped up, grabbed the truck keys, and said, "I'll drive." He shrugged, still working on that very blue sucker.

He finished it as we walked into the drug store, and we headed directly back to the pharmacy counter. We would usually split up, and I'd putter around, doing my little bits of shopping, but that night, I stuck to him like a thistle.

The pharmacist, jotting something on her pad, said, "May I help you?"

"Picking up a prescription for Alexander," he said.

"All right. Just a..." She glanced at him and did a classic double-take, then leaned in closer to examine the blue-lip phenomena.

Hubby stiffened, then smiled, unsure.

I gave it all away, though. With my hand over my mouth, I was holding back laughter, which always makes me snort like a truffle hog. And added to it, my eyes were watering with the pain of keeping it all inside.

Hubby looked at me, then back at the pharmacist. "What did she do now?" He was referring to the other ten or twelve dozen pranks I'd pulled on him during our short but interesting marriage.

She pulled out a little mirror and with a smile and a wink, she showed him.

While she was retrieving his prescription, he stood licking his lips madly, but the blue was pretty much on there for good. "I know what this is," he said between savage licks. "Payback for the flower-in-the-boobies thing, right?"

"Mm...hm. We're all tied up now. Hubby-1, Wifey-1." I love my husband.

~ ~ ~ ~


Country music superstar/actor Chase Tanner has yet to be denied anything-and he's never wanted anything or anyone more than gorgeous screenplay writer Reno Linden. So when the film they are working on is finally finished, Chase decides to turn up the volume on seducing Reno.

Reno Linden lived a quiet, rural life until she was thrust into the Hollywood scene when her book was adapted to film. Chase Tanner is larger than life, sinfully sexy and hell-bent on getting her into bed. Skittish after a failed wedding engagement, Reno risks the plunge into Chase's arms, and is surprised that her good girl self can keep up with bad boy Chase.

Though Chase returns to his cowboy roots often, and Reno cherishes the time spent with him on his ranch, the two find their careers pulling them in different directions. Will their attraction survive the glitz and stress of fame?

EXCERPT: Over 18 only

Chase's sports car sat in the driveway and after settling Reno in the passenger seat, he jumped in. He squealed the tires out of the driveway then slowed to cruise along the quiet neighborhood streets.

On a flat stretch, he took her hand. "Reno." His brow furrowed, but he didn't say more.

She watched his profile as they meandered past million dollar houses. The quiet time together was what she needed, yet so poignant it hurt. She'd miss him. Her phone beeped in her purse, and she sighed. "That's my reminder. I have to get to the airport."

He pulled over at a spot with a view of a canyon, and tightened his grip on her hand. "One more day, Reno. I promise I'll make it worth the cost of another plane ticket."

Chase gritted his teeth and fought the urge to steal her away. He wasn't ready to let her go.

Reno stared at him, her eyes sad and slightly red from her tears. Her hand smoothed over his cheek. "I wish I could. But the studio is flying me home in one of their jets. On their way to Canada to pick up some execs who are fishing, or hunting, or something."

He opened his mouth to say he'd arrange for another flight, but she cut him off.

"I have a meeting with my agent tomorrow morning. And..." She sucked in a choppy breath. "...putting it off is just going to make things harder. I need to get home."

"All right." He released her hand, drove to the airport, and found the studio's hangar. Both of them silent.

He wanted to argue. To swing a U-turn and kidnap her. To beg for one more day. But she was right. The closer they got to each other, the harder it would be for them to be apart.

He helped her out of the car and walked her to the plane's steps. This was tough. He didn't know how to say goodbye.

To celebrate the release of Chase and Seduction, I'm giving away, to one lucky *commenter, an e-copy of my novella Her Cowboy Stud. Just leave a comment today and we'll choose a winner tomorrow. *Commenter must be 18 years of age or older to win.

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I'm also giving away a cowgirl hat to one subscriber to my newsletter. For more details, and to sign up for this contest, please go to my website, RandiAlexander.com. And while you're there, you can read the first chapter of Chase and Seduction.

Good luck, and thank you!

Randi's site's:

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Define Lazy

Now,don't get me wrong. I completely admit to having my lazy moments. I have been known, when sitting in bed with the laptop humming and the t.v. on, to call a kid from another room and demand a fresh cup of coffee. But I totally maintain that as a mother's, hell, a parent's prerogative. What else's are kids for if not for a little judicious slave labour? These are life skills they need to have. (Both how to make a cup of coffee and knowing when it's in their best interest to just do what's required.)

So I'm not exactly innocent of being lazy. I know how to do as little as I can possibly get away with when I want to. It's a skill every teen learns and few adults outgrow. There comes a point, though, when being lazy is elevated to an art form.

Take, for instance, the bathrooms in our building: self-flushing toilets, automatic soap dispensers, taps and towel dispensers, as well as hand dryers on a sensor. The automatic doors, you have to actually push the button to make it work. I mean, heaven forbid you should actually grip the handle and have to pull! Now, I will concede that some people prefer the sanitary, no germs involved aspect of auto-everything, but what I witnessed just today blows even my...well, I was too lazy to go looking for socks this morning, but if I had socks on, they would have been blown off, I assure you.

This woman walking out of the bathroom ahead of me actually stopped at the closed door, turned around, shuffled back past me and muttered to herself: "Ooops. I forgot to push the button." At which point I had already pulled the door open with my own god-given feat of strength and daring, and left the room.

I don't know. Maybe there is some secret society of higher life forms that don't use door handles. Maybe I missed a memo or office email explaining the new rules for exiting the rest rooms, and by not following these rules, I have eliminated myself from the promotion pool.

Wait. That would actually explain some things around here, come to think on it....

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Well, What DO You Eat?

Karenna Colcroft, erotic author and "meat" connoisseur, joins us today. Please help us welcome her.

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People nowadays eat just about anything edible. If you watch certain shows on the TLC cable network, you'll find that sometimes people even eat things that aren't edible. Most people don't think anything of eating a triple hamburger with everything on it and a heaping order of fries, or eating shellfish right out of the shell.

But tell them you're a vegetarian, and that changes. People view vegetarians with amusement and sometimes even suspicion. I guess they think we're going to convert their salads and fruits to an inappropriate lifestyle.

Being vegetarian isn't easy. In restaurants, it's hard to find menu items that don't contain meat. My ex-husband once took me out to eat at a major chain restaurant, which will remain nameless. I read the menu and saw nothing without meat, other than onion rings and fries. When the waitress returned to take our order, I asked her whether there was anything without meat in it. She replied that they had a house salad. I asked what was in it. She listed several things, then added, "And bacon."

Okay...since when is bacon not meat?

Answering questions from people who don't understand the concept isn't easy either. Many times, people from an online dating site I belong to have asked me what I eat. And then gone on to list different meats, because apparently saying that I don't eat meat doesn't, in their minds, rule out every individual type of meat. I usually end the conversation by saying, "There's only one kind of meat I eat," with an expression that leaves no doubt to my meaning.

Of course, saying that to a single man from an adult dating site probably isn't the best idea.

The crowning bit of idiocy came from the aforementioned ex-husband, who threatened to take my kids away after I left him because I was vegetarian. Not because the kids were; they eat meat. But because I was, and, according to him, "Being vegetarian isn't healthy. You don't get any calcium if you don't eat meat." Someone seriously needs to educate him on minerals and vitamins and such.

In my upcoming M/M novel Salad on the Side, narrator Kyle Slidell faces some of the same questions and comments. He goes one step further than I did; he's vegan, which means not only doesn't he eat meat, he eats no dairy, no eggs, and no honey. Nothing that comes from an animal. Which is a slight problem for him when he's transformed into a werewolf. Even in wolf form, however, Kyle sticks to his principles and refuses to eat meat.

Except for that one kind...

Monday, 20 June 2011

What Colour is Your Grass?

Green, right? Probably greener than mine. Everyone's grass is greener than mine. And better trimmed. With pretty rose gardens and pink gravel pathways.

Am I complaining about my lawn? Not really. I love my lawn, and yes, it is wild, thank you. We planted trees on our little postage stamp of suburbia. We have twenty-two different tree species on our measly quarter acre of land. And yes, we are hippies, and proud of it. We mow around the stands of Philidelpia Flea Bane and Bee's Balm and Buttercups. On purpose.

Because that's what hippies do.

Hippies don't go out and get full time government jobs. They don't feel crushed when yet another  stuffed shirt tells them,  a popular author with decent sales, that they didn't pass the company's Effective Interactive Communications test. Again. They don't tear up because that means they can't apply for the full time position doing the same job they've been doing on contract successfully for the past five years because they don't qualify for that job. And no, I did not make a mistake writing that.

Let me recap. I have been working a contract job for the past five years. In order to get this contract again every year, I have to meet certain standards and quotas set by my employer to get rehired every year. The better my numbers, the more likely I am to get a decent contract. I've been working about eight months out of every year on this contract. Now they've decided to implement a new set of criteria in order to determine who they can hire full time.

One of the tests I have to write establishes my level of skill at effective interactive communication. I keep failing this test.

The real kicker? I don't even want to work full time. Not really. I want to write full time. OMG!!!!! Maybe I'm not qualified to be a writer!!!!!!!!!


Fuck that noise. Erm. I can say that here, can't I?

So, with that level of frustration established, let me introduce myself. My name is Jaime Samms. I write gay (and sometimes erotic) romance. Marci was my first ever publisher, Faith my very first editor. Tess has been a constant fount of information, advice  and encouragement over my career so far, and our lovely, departing Emmy (who's not really going anywhere, just getting busier) who's very fancy and extremely sexy stiletto heels I'm stepping into here at Four Strong Women has not only been an editor and beta reader for me over the years, but is also my fabulous writing partner in the guise of Sarah Masters. And man. That was a long sentence. Watch all the editors here cringe!!!! Lol!

To be offered a place as a woman of strength among these fabulous friends and mentors of mine is a huge honour. I plan to do my best to live up to it.  Thank you, Faith, Marci, Tess and Emmy, for all your support and belief in my skills. I'm very proud to be counted among you.

Okay. Y' all can come back, now. Mushy bit's over :D

Friday, 17 June 2011

Back away from the Mouse

Someone, who shall remain anonymous, sent this to me asking if this would be something we would like to use as a post on Four Strong Women. Upon reading it, it was unquestionably, 100% Four Strong Women. This person could be my twin, and her husband sounds like mine. Oh, anonymous guest blogger, you are welcome back any time. :)

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My husband--we'll call him Suffers the Wife With Grace, Suffers for short--has a bit of a dilemma with me, depending on the time of the month. For two weeks, maybe not even that, I'm easy going and approachable. If I ask him for help on my computer (my job is computer-based, so is his...uh-oh), he should know to judge what time of the month it is as to what kind of help he'll give me. Unfortunately, even after all these years of me being The Wretch for the same week every month, he still hasn't got it.


If I say I can't work a program out, 99% of the time he can fix the issue for me. Isn't that nice? During my two Perfect Wife weeks, I'm happy for him to fix it, glad I don't have to do it myself, and overjoyed when the master of solving computer glitches helps me out.

They are a blissful two weeks, where asking for help isn't a problem. We swim along in our sea of life, happily splashing, catching the sun's rays, and cooing at one another over our melting ice cream cones. I smile a lot, laugh a lot, and everything in life is just so darn peachy it's sickening. You get the picture. Idyllic, isn't it? Can you see it in your mind? Love is a beautiful thing, folks!

Then there are the other two weeks. The one right before THAT TIME of the month is the worst and comes along with a force so strong it's like I change with a click of the fingers. Usually Suffers' fingers, where I've clutched them so tight. Erase that beautiful image I gave you of the previous fortnight, because, ladies, it's all changed now! I have become a demon. Everything bugs the shit out of me. EVERYTHING. Even breathing bugs me--other people's breathing. I wish everyone would stop wheezing around me, because that's what it sounds like. People seem to eat loudly during The Week Before That Time too. Chomping, slurping, crunching... I want to kill.

Of course, I don't.

Honestly, I don't.

So then comes the inevitable time, like irritating clockwork (because by this time even that gets on my last nerve), when I can't work something technical out. During The Week Before That Time, I detest asking for help. I will press on with trying to work it out myself as though possessed, my sole intent to be the victor, accomplishing the task and knowing I did it alone. It becomes highly clear to Suffers that I need his aid. After all, I'm cursing, poking a finger at my monitor, and calling it names that would make my grandmother turn in her grave. My daughter just pats me on the back during these instances. This is okay. At first. Then I begin to feel like a dog, and I don't want anyone to touch me, to be near me, because I feel like I'm going to explode in a fit of rage.

Like a good citizen, I don't do that. No, I don't explode. Never have, really. I'm the kind who suffers behind a mask. I just grit my teeth, allow the patting to continue, and cringe when Suffers asks, "Do you want some help, love?"

Well, yes, I do, but I don't want you to do it. I want to do it by myself. At the same time, I do want your help, but just your advice. Scrub that. I actually don't even want that. I don't know what I want, and not knowing is also pissing me off. Maybe it's best you just listen to me ranting, nod sympathetically, make me a damn cup of tea, and leave me alone. Oh, and stop breathing so loud, you turd! You Know-It-All-Better-Than-Me. You...you... Oh, please leave me alone before I lose control, there's a good boy.

But he doesn't. He comes over, commandeers my mouse--please don't do that, fuckface--and proceeds to click many things on my screen that I really, really don't want him clicking. He might mess up what I've done, causing me to have to do all that work again. He might, God forbid, know how to fix it. I don't want him to, even though the problem is driving me insane. I want him to move away quickly and let me seethe in peace.

But he doesn't.

"Look, love, there's always an easy solution to these things. Always an answer, you know that."

Suffers smiles. I smile back. The kind of smile where I don't show my teeth. Where my lips are tight and my face feels like it's going to crack.

"Here," he says. "Just let me--"

"It's ok. I can do it."

This is warning #1. The warning he hasn't yet learned to heed. The words are said calmly enough--maybe too calmly--and I bet a glint shimmers in my eyes, the type that, to anyone else, says: Back. The. Hell. Away.

Oblivious, he clicks some more, maybe settles himself across my field of vision some more too, so I can't see wtf he's clicking without craning my neck and peering around him. It's useless. I can't see the screen, so I avert my gaze to his hand on my mouse. That finger pressing the button. Me not seeing the results of what that finger is doing.

Get. Off. My. Mouse!

He continues.

Inside, I'm boiling. It's not right to feel this way, is it? How can you be ok for two weeks, then an absolute bitch for a week, then a grumpy trollop for the fourth? I know this, I ask myself this when I have the urge to do something mean. Like jumping up because I can't bear to see him touching my mouse and clicking it any longer. Going into the garden and running around like a crazed loon just to get some of that negative energy out. Screaming to the heavens that, Sweet Baby J, he's messing with my STUFF and I DON'T LIKE IT!

But I still sit, with that tight smile, virtual steam coming out of my nostrils.

"Always an easy solution, love," he says again.

The easy solution is quite simple, LOVE: Get the frick away from my computer, from me, and let me wallow in my ineptitude. Let me swear, give you the impression I need your advice, and you just sit quietly because if you don't, I'll self-combust.

"Yes, love," I reply. That smile again. No teeth. AGAIN. Getoffmymouse. Getoffmymouse. Getoffmyfuckingmouse!

I'm actually itching to slap his hand. To grip him from behind and move him away from my computer. That mist, the one that was light pink, wavering in front of my face, is now bordering on becoming bright red. A crimson tide of ARGH that will engulf me if I'm not careful.

"So what's the problem again?" he asks.

I sigh. Warning #2. I explain again what's wrong.

So then he goes on to test everything I've already tested, even though he knows I've done it because I told him. Does he not believe I did it? Does he think by him doing it, it will work? Or maybe I didn't do it properly. Maybe I missed something.

Ya think? I know I missed something, because if I hadn't, I wouldn't have the bloody problem, but if he finds what I missed before I do...

I simply cannot allow that to happen. Not in The Week Before That Time. Oh, no. Move the hell away, buddy, before I bite your back through your clothes. Or something.

Yes, he's still there, leaning across my field of vision. Still clicking, still telling me there's a damn solution. An easy one. Love.

I don't even get to warning three. I can't bear it any longer.

"Look," I say. "Thanks for trying, but I have work to do, and you can't find the problem either, so I'll just go through it all again and sort it myself."

"Just a minute..."

Umm, he shouldn't say that. I'm behind him here, gnashers ready to gnaw a chunk out of his ass. He really ought to be careful.

I try again. "No, really. It's fine. Let me do it."

"I just want to help, to save you getting stressed."

I'm getting more stressed because you won't fuck off. Please. Remove yourself from my personal space bubble and go pick your nose or something. Release some gas and make yourself a sandwich. Anything but being near me, anywhere but here. It's safer that way. You'll thank me for it later. If you continue to CLICK THAT BLOODY MOUSE--OH, I'M GOING TO BLOW...I'M GOING TO BLOODY BLOWWWWWWWWWWWWW--I won't be held responsible for my actions.

"Let me just try this thing a minute," Suffers says. "Worked last time. Did you remember to try that from before?"

Yes, I did. I tried EVERYTHING. It's just not working. Your back is looking enticing. My mouth is watering at the thought of sinking my teeth into it. My fingers are itching to slap your hand so hard you shit your pants.

"Yes, love," I say. The smile isn't present this time. My face is hot. I'm doing this thing, screwing my face up, nostrils flapping. Absurdly, I want to cry. Whether it's from anger or knowing that when I'm in Perfect Wife mode again I'll feel guilty about these emotions roaring through me, I don't know. But in The Wretch mode, I don't give a shit. "Come on, I'll do it."

I pat him, making it clear he really should move now. He eases back slowly--too slowly--still touching my mouse as though it pains him to let it go. I know his main aim is to help me, to make everything ok again because that's the kind of man he is, but it doesn't figure for me now.

He moves in front of me again. "Maybe if you just--"

"No, no! It's fine. I'll do it." Voice very tight. Barely suppressed anger inside. I want to stamp my feet and yell, extremely loudly, for him to-- "Love. Please. I'll do it."

Finally, he moves. Hands up in surrender. "All right, all right, I understand. I'll leave you be."

He removes himself from my bubble. I let out a long breath. Relief, it swamps me. Until I look at my screen and see things have been moved. He touched stuff. He fiddled with it. He... Oh, no. That's it. I'm going to have to go into the garden. Run around like I said before. I can't...he's damn well... Oh, my GOD...

How dare he!

He fucking fixed it...

The rest of this post has not been written. The author self-combusted shortly after writing the above.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Teenage Fantasies and "Where did you get that idea?"

Author and book converter extraordinaire Moriah Jovan joins us today. I don't know about you, but I may not be sharing those fantasies either. (g)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It's a question a lot of people ask writers, but they aren't interested in the sausage-making details. They think surely there must have been one inciting thing that triggered your book (all 736 pages of it). Well, there probably was, but I couldn't pinpoint it for you. Ideas come from a lifetime of experience, learning, and random informational input--all mixed up together in a witch's cauldron. I usually just laugh and say, "Oh, hell, I don't know," because, well, that's mostly the truth.

But my first book--the one I started when I was 14 or 15 or thereabouts--I remember precisely when, where, and how I got the idea. And I remember the first time I was asked that question.

It was 1982 or 1983, I think. I had pulled together some vague teenage-fantasy visions of moonlight and nighttime adventure, a 1976 Stingray (electric blue) (with a T-top), my BFF (who happened to be a boy) (you know how that goes), my far-off acquisition of a driver's license, a lifetime of being the only girl in on the cool boys' real-life adventures--

And a Reader's Digest article on child pornography.

It was the shocking new thing and, the article coming from Reader's Digest, was short and not detailed enough to be sleazy, but it was detailed enough to give me the germ of the idea to pull all the above together into a plot.

I know. I was so ahead of my time. It was brilliant. To this day, I think it was brilliant.

The problem is, I don't know if it was brilliant because it's gone.

My dad found my first attempt at a query letter. (That was brilliant, too. I was 14-15 and knew what a query letter was and how to write one. Thank you again, Reader's Digest.)

He was furious. Child pornography?!

Well, Dad, it's fiction. Do we not get the idea of fiction? (I didn't say that part.)

(In retrospect, no, he didn't "get" fiction. His portion of the library was strictly reference and nonfiction. Mom's fiction was strictly from the library, and though she read a lot of it, it didn't stay on our shelves.)

Where did you get that idea?!

Reader's Digest.

He was speechless for a few minutes, visibly stunned, unable to process it. How could this innocuous little magazine spawn such an idea? Was I demented? Sick?

(Yes. I was a writer. Sick and demented comes with the territory.)

He demanded to read it or I could burn it. I chose burning, without hesitation.

You see, it wasn't the plot I was ashamed of; it was all the girlish fantasies I'd used to decorate it. I knew that if he read it, he would have fodder with which to ridicule me for months, if not years.

So I burned it.

Funny. I would have been willing to put it out for public consumption, but I wasn't willing to allow my dad access to the tender underbelly of my soul. After all, that's what pen names are for.

Seventy-five painstakingly typed pages, up in flames.

I'm still grieving.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Moriah Jovan is the pen name for Elizabeth Beeton, who created B10 Mediaworx to publish herself. Since then, she's put out three books of her own, The Proviso, Stay, and Magdalene, and assisted in the publication of Peculiar Pages titles The Fob Bible and Out of the Mount, with three more Peculiar Pages titles are coming in June, August, and October. She has since parlayed her self-publishing adventure into a thriving ebook formatting business (amongst other things).

At the moment, she's busy wading through Burke's Peerage to figure out the proper address of an Earl, devouring books on the American Revolution, and getting all tangled up in masts, sails, and rigging.


Blurb for The Proviso:

Knox Hilliard's uncle killed his father to marry his mother and gain control of the family's Fortune 100 company. Knox is set to inherit it on his 40th birthday, provided he has a wife and an heir.

Then, after his bride is murdered on their wedding day, Knox refuses to fulfill the proviso at all. When a brilliant law student catches his attention, he knows must wait until after his 40th birthday to pursue her--but he may not be able to resist her that long.

Sebastian Taight, eccentric financier, steps between Knox and his uncle by initiating a hostile takeover. When Sebastian is appointed trustee of a company in receivership, he falls hard for its beautiful CEO. She has secrets that involve his uncle, but his secret could destroy any chance he has with her.

Giselle Cox exposed the affair that set her uncle's plot in motion--twenty years ago. He's burned Giselle's bookstore and had her shot because it is she who holds his life in her hands. Then she runs into a much bigger problem: A man who takes her breath away, who can match and dominate her, whose soul is as scarred as his body.

Knox, Sebastian, and Giselle: Three cousins at war with an uncle who will stop at nothing to keep Knox's inheritance. Never do they expect to find allies--and love--on the battlefield.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Purchase Links:

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Disintegrating Underwear

And it ain't pretty. You see, the last time I visited my mom, we went shopping at Wally World. Well, every time we visit Mom, we go there. The closest one near us in is Compton. While Compton might be a perfectly nice town, it's not a particularly safe area, or at least that is its reputation.

I needed some new underwear. Some of my panties date back to, um, college. So, um, about (cough, cough) ten years ago--maybe more. (More. No doubt it's more. ;) ) Those panties are finally starting to disintegrate. It's hard to get rid of them, though. It's not easy to find Looney Tunes and Disney print any more for adults. This is very sad to me. I'm going to miss my Taz, Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, Tweety, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse undies.

I suppose it's time to grow up. (Nooooo!)

(These pairs from college, by the way, lasted ten years longer than the ones we purchased from Victoria's Secret. So, yeah, I purchased those like, um, two years go. Yeah, two years ago. Grin)

Having thrown away a third pair of underwear, and seeing that a few others were hanging on by a thread or falling off of me (if underwear needs a pair of pants to keep them on, it's time to let them go), I decided it was time to purge and pick up some new ones. I don't know about you, but I have issues paying $10 a pair, especially after the dismal performance of the Victoria's Secret panties. The $2 pair last just as long as the $10. Since we were going to Wally World anyway, I figured I might as well look there.

Buying underwear is nearly as frustrating as buying jeans. It's hard to find the kind I like. I don't want grannie panties, I won't wear thongs, I'm not into low rise, and I don't want French cut. (I've tried those. I just don't like underwear up around my waist. They might as well start just below my bra.) Just give me bikini or string bikini style. Apparently, everyone else in my size buys bikini as well because the pickings were slim.

After several minutes of searching, lo and behold, I found a package of six for $10, they were my size, AND they were Hanes "guaranteed not to ride up." As I am of the firm belief that thongs belong on feet and not covering my female parts, they sounded perfect. I bought a pack of a different brand as well. And, yes, they creep. Not too badly because they are the right size.

However, one pair of the new underwear is already starting to fray. One washing and it's fraying. Seriously? And it's the aqua blue, my favorite color of the batch. (sigh)

Now, the guaranteed not to rise pairs keep their promise, but--of course there's a "but"--they don't rise because the holes for your legs are so tight they not only prevent the panties from creeping, they cut the circulation off. Okay, it's not that bad. However, throughout the day, I feel like a man when I wear them because I have to make minor adjustments to relieve the pressure...on my legs, that is. (g) Which would explain why there were so many of the bikini cut in my size. (g)

BTW, when looking for graphics to accompany this post, instead of holey underwear, there were pictures of a really hairy back (Ack!), a dildo, a welcome to New Jersey cartoon, and this one:

Disintegrating underwear never looked so good. (g)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Picky Eater

I have been "blessed" with a picky eater. So picky, in fact, she only recently decided that cheese pizza is edible. As she grows older, her list of edible foods is growing. But this is a struggle for me. I ate whatever Mom put in front of me. There was never a question about whether it would be eaten. Now, I do remember the few times Mom served liver and onions (Gag! Gag! Gag!), after a few bites--of which I had to force down because I would chew and chew and chew until any flavor it may have had disappeared what seemed eons past, I suddenly had to go to the bathroom where I would hide for at least 45 minutes in hopes the food would disappear. It usually did. (And I think the only reason it did was because she didn't like liver any more than I did. Smart woman! Grin)

Even if I didn't like the food, I'd never say anything. However, everything, except for liver, I liked. Okay, maybe not the fish, but I ate it and said not a word.

Lily, on the other hand, is very vocal. Anytime I want her to try a few bites of something new (that is not cake, cookie, candy, or any sugar laden food), it's as if I have told her she has a choice between death or public humiliation. Take Sunday dinner, for instance. I spent two hours making marinara from scratch. She's tried it before and liked it. (Two years or so ago. Obviously, it's been too long.) That night, she was having none of it. Oh, my God! You would have thought I had asked her to swim with an anaconda. Actually, she'd probably do that more willingly than try something with vegetables in it. But I digress.

I have never met a person who can chew for as long as Lily can. Seriously. That child can chew one bite of food that maybe is one piece of strawberry for literally 5 minutes. She will chew it until it's a tasteless pulp. At which point, she struggles to swallow it. And she likes strawberries.

Well, gee, I wonder why.

All right, back to the story and Sunday night. Every bite of one bowtie pasta with the marinara sauce on it was chewed a good ten minutes. And if it had a piece of say bell pepper in it, add another 5-10 minutes.

You think I'm kidding.

I'm not.

And with each bite she took, she practically grabbed her throat and fell to the floor as if it was killing her. (My daughter the drama queen!)

By this time, Charlie and I are long past being done with our food. I got up and left the table. Charlie stayed, although he eventually got up, too. That left her alone at the table. Something she hates. She quickly decided that she was full after having maybe eaten ten bowtie pasta pieces and a small slice of garlic bread, which she, of course, devoured in five seconds. (sigh)

I suppose it could be worse. One of Charlie's friends had a child who ate nothing but macaroni and cheese or scrambled eggs for about four years, maybe more. Mine at least likes berries, bananas, apples, sugar snap peas, eggs, toast, anything with sugar (surprise), pasta with butter, carrots, and a few other things. It's not much, but it's better than that child.

Honestly, though, I don't remember that many picky eaters when I was a child. When did that change? Why did it change? Who are these beings inhabiting our children making life more difficult than necessary? Why can you just eat what I put in front of you? Argh!

I've heard that hunger is the best cure for this. There are days when I'm so frustrated that seems like a very viable option. (grin)

Any advice for this frustrated mom of a picky eater? Any one else in my position?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Murphy's Law

Jennifer Hart, author of the hilarious mystery series The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag, joins us today with some, um, adventures of her own. Adventures that all of us have had because, well, while Murphy isn't truly our friend, he's often an unwelcome visitor.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thanks so much to the ladies of Four Strong Women for having me! I've brought my usual baggage that even the airlines can't lose, including the dark cloud that hovers over my head known as Murphy's Law.

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I don't know whether or not you're familiar with this adage but I'll bet the concept rings a bell. Usually Murphy's Law tends to strike at the most inopportune moments. Example. This morning, I'm scurrying my boys out the door to school. We're running late. Again. What can I say, I was inspired by my work in progress, a sexy noir type mystery and had a hard time dragging my mind back to the reality of Pop Tarts, end of the year teacher gifts, lunch boxes and missing socks.

Plus I had laundry going. Not that that's breaking news or anything, there's always laundry to be done in this house. If I want to see the bottom of the hamper I'd need a diving mask and snorkel. But I digress.

So everyone's dressed, including me. One child's brushing his teeth, the other putting on his sneakers. The beach towels from last weekend are piled in a heap on the dining room table so I toss them into the washer, add the soap and turn that sucker on.

"Mom, I need to bring a beach towel."

I'm leaning against the counter with a handful of blue sunscreen because the kids aren't allowed to put in on at school. "For what?" I ask.

"Field day," the nine year old says. And then he sneezes into my handful of goop.

"Go blow your nose." Scurrying over to the sink, I wash the germy gunk down the drain. "Why do you need a beach towel for field day? Yesterday was beach day and you didn't need a beach towel." I've gotten past the point where I wonder why I'm hearing about this now when we are T-minus two minutes to the last bell and no one is in the frigging car yet.

"I don't know, my teacher said we need a beach towel."

Squeezing more sunscreen onto my hand I apply it all over his face, probably more forcefully than necessary. I can be a brute when I'm stressed. Or awake. Why can't they apply sunscreen at school? Did none of those weenie officials ever read the directions on a bottle of sunscreen? It says to reapply every two hours. The school day is six hours and forty five minutes, minus however many minutes late we are that day. I'd put them on the bus, but they'd just miss it and I'd have to drive them anyway. This is the easier way. Really.

But I digress again.

"I don't have any beach towels, buddy. I just put them in the wash."

"That's okay. I'll use a dog towel."

I make a face. For those of you who don't have a nine year old boy, this was a legitimate option in his mind, to take the stanky hole-filled towels covered in beagle funk and fir. He brings that to school for field day, for whatever lame ass reason they need it, and I'll have CPS up my ass and to the left.

"Get a towel out of the bathroom." I tell him as I grease up his brother.

"I can't. Dad's in there. I think he's pooping."

We have one linen closet in our house. Three bathrooms and one linen closet. Whose brilliant idea was that? Not mine, that's for damn sure.

A groan escapes. I don't ask why he thinks his dad is pooping. The stench is exhibit A. Some mysteries are not worth solving. The kids are gooked and good to go though we are still sans a towel.

The nine year old looks at me, those big blue eyes. "Mom, I really need a towel."

"Fine. Get in the car and I'll get it."

Darting up the stairs, as fast as a mother of two who spends the majority of her life sitting on her ass in front of a computer screen can dart, I enter the master suite.

"I'm in here!" my husband yells. Of course the dog has followed me in and is first to investigate the smell. Stupid creature.

I suck in a quick lungful of air and push onwards. "Sorry, the kids needed a towel."

"Get away from me, dog!"

Not sure which one of us he's talking to, I usher the beagle out and we scurry down the stairs.

I get in the car. "Here's your towel."

"Mom, I need a hat."

I turn the engine over and the radio up. "Sorry, I couldn't hear you."

Take that, Murphy, you sick bastard.

They say write what you know, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Murphy's Law shows up in my zany mystery series, The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag. In fact, I brought him into the first book in the series. To set the stage. My heroine, Maggie, has been burning the candle at both ends and overslept the day before Thanksgiving. She's got a million things to do and no time to do them. And it's her first Thanksgiving with the in-laws.

Excerpt: From The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag: Skeletons in the Closet.

Damn it all to the black depths of Hades! I'd never been able to master two things at once.

I pushed myself up from the carpet and continued my mad dash for the kitchen. There was a note on the counter from Marty, informing me he'd taken the boys to the park and that my mother-in-law had called. I faced the inventible and looked at the clock on the microwave. 3:46 p.m., the day before Thanksgiving, and I still hadn't done my shopping.

No time to lose. I grabbed my purse and my keys, jotted a quick note on the back of Marty's, and was out the door. A brisk wind slapped me in the face and tossed my unruly hair in my eyes, but I didn't slow. I climbed behind the wheel of the White Cloud of Death and shoved the key into the ignition. I turned and waited for the engine to catch.


Okay, self, don't panic. I turned it again, and still nothing. A third try came up nada. No revving of an ancient engine to indicate the beast was even trying. "She's dead, Jim," I muttered in my best Bones McCoy imitation. Murphy and his confounded law had struck again.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

He's a sneaky little turd, isn't he? Would love to hear survival stories from when Murphy's Law derailed your best laid plans.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Mr. Big Cock Strikes Again

Here is another installment of the Chicken Capers. If you missed the first one, you can read it HERE.

The renegade chicken is back. He rallied the hens and the younger cocks. For the past couple of days, I've heard banging and the creaking of wood and ropes under strain. Friday night, I heard them talking in chickenese. Yep, I can translate chickenese.

"Cl'ere clinished! Clee clill clegret clusing us as clootballs!"

I sat up in bed. Light bounced across the drawn shades. Flinging back the covers, I sprang out of bed and released the blind. Approximately fifty chickens milled about in the backyard. There, in the center of the lawn, where my flowerbed full of sweet william, gladiolas, and cosmos USED to be, sat a miniature catapult.

What the hell???

"I watched the hens turn their feathered butts to the catapult's ammo bucket. All the young cocks lined up and did the same action too before waddling to the end of the line to wait behind the hens again.

I squinted, but the light from their mini torches caused too many leaping shadows and distorted my view.

"Cleady!" squawked the renegade rooster. "Claim! Clire!"

The catapult released with a hollow thonk and something white splattered the side of the house. White and gray clumps slid down the window glass.

Fury ripped through me. That lousy Sunday-Roast-To-Be!

Racing downstairs in my tee shirt and panties, I reached the backdoor and threw it open. The chickens clucked their startlement and most of them ran for the coop. I stared at the renegade cock; he stared back.

"Clun, cloo, clree!" he squawked louder. "Clire!"

I ducked and chicken shit splattered my lovely glass patio door.

"You feathery peckerheads!" I screeched. "Go ahead, have your fun! I'm done with this...this chicken shit!"

I stomped back inside, thinking about which chicken soup recipe I liked best and even mulled over using that difficult, but scrumptious dumpling recipe my grandma gave me when I had setup my own household.

The following day, I burned down their coop, and then rounded up the chickens and ushered them into a fenced and wired POW camp out by the barn. The renegade chicken is under poultry arrest. The USDA is investigating him. The hens and young cocks told me that they're sorry, and that the Hitler Rooster won't be released for a couple of years.

Mr. Big Cock has filed an appeal.

Esther Williams Did it Better

Please welcome mystery author Heather Haven. Her love of sleuthing has outed Esther Williams secret to perfectly coiffed hair out of the pool. Will I be using it? No, but should I ever have the need, I will know what to do. (grin)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When I was a child, I remember seeing photos, magazines, and movies starring the beautiful film star and competitive swimmer, Esther Williams. I guess somewhere inside my nine-year old head, I knew she was gorgeous, with long legs and sexy bathing suits, but when you're a kid, you don't look at things the way the rest of the world does.

Besides, I was practically a junior Esther Williams, minus the gorgeous, long legs. Born and raised in southern Florida, I spent my youth in water of one form or another. Ocean, pool, creek, river, it didn't matter, I was there. I also competed in local swim meets until I discovered rock and roll at age twelve. Until that time, my life was spent in one bathing suit or another, practically year round. In fact, when we go through family albums, most of us knew what year it was by what swimsuit I was wearing.

But back to E.W. What impressed me about our glamorous mermaid wasn't all the fancy dives and breast strokes but how she could pop up out of the water with a sparkling smile and eyes wide open.

I mean, how, how, how? Have you ever tried opening your eyes coming out of either chlorine or salt water, not to mention wearing a smile? I could never do it and man, I have tried. My eyes would sting, get bloodshot, and blink like crazy. I would wind up grimacing and looking more like a character out of a Max Sennett's comedy rather than a glamorous film star. And forget smiling. Smile and your mouth fills with water. Okay, at the time I was a nine-year old missing a few teeth, but I still can't do it, complete choppers and all.

Then there was Esther's hair. In real life, if you're wearing a swimming cap, your hair is going to be lying flat against your head, dripping wet. Granted, there are some swim caps that can keep out a certain amount of water, especially if you don't dunk your head. These are the ones applied with a shoehorn, cause an intense headache, and a bright red line across your forehead. In truth, a swimming cap is merely worn to keep the hair off your face and out of the pool's water. Anything else is false advertising.

Minus the cap, when you come up out of the water you are going to be temporarily blinded by the hair plastered against your face and over your eyes. At least fifteen seconds will be spent spitting out water, rubbing eyes, and pushing back gobs of sticky, wet hair so you can see again.

Anyone remember our gal pal going through any of that in her movies? Of course not. Putting aside the smile and batting eyelashes, most of the time her hair was beautifully styled atop her head. This was even after she came up from a 20 Thousand Leagues Beneath The Sea dive. Every single hair was magically in place. In fact, it didn't even look wet!

It was a mystery that started me on my career of sleuthing. I have never found out how she managed to smile so brightly and bat those fake eyelashes -- maybe drugs? But, after years of research, probing, and heartbreaking toil, I happened upon an article revealing the secret of Esther's impossibly neat and dry coiffeur. Vaseline! Yes, petroleum jelly was the hush-hush ingredient, revealed by a hairdresser who is currently in the witness protection program.

I don't think I could have handled this revelation as a kid, so keep the news away from your children. Unless you are asking, who is this Esther Williams? Then all I have to say is, be still my heart; am I really that old? Thanks a lot and happy swimming.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Heather Haven is the author of the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery series. Book one, Murder is a Family Business, and book two, A Wedding to Die For, can be purchased at MuseItUp Publishing: http://tinyurl.com/3twffzm and other fine ebookstores. Visit Heather at her website: http://www.heatherhavenstories.com/


Follow Heather's blog at: http://tinyurl.com/4nensnp

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, doesn't think so. The 34-year old ½ Latina, ½ WASP and 100% detective has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.

Set in the present, Murder is a Family Business is the first in a series of humorous mysteries revolving around Lee Alvarez, a combination of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovitch’ Stephanie Plum, and the rest of Alvarez Family, detectives all. Completing the family is Lee’s Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day aristocratic mother, Lila; computer genius brother, Richard; beloved uncle “Tio;” and her energetic orange and white cat, Tugger. When this group is not solving murders, they run Discretionary Inquiries, a successful Silicon Valley agency that normally deals with the theft of computer software. Seemingly light and frothy on the surface, the novel nevertheless explores familial love, the good, the bad and the annoying.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Four Stages of Germaphobia - What is Your Color?

Children's author and illustrator Elizabeth Parkinson Bellows joins us today. I know some people in all of these categories. (grin) Having a child and growing up in country has made me a Level 3 kind of person, although snot from my own child doesn't really phase me. I had some neighbors in college who were definitely Level 4. (grin)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When it comes to germs and icky stuff in general, we seem to possess varying levels of tolerance before reaching total gross-out overload. Some of us wish we could float around in individual protective bubbles, while others will eat dirt on the off chance that it might be that missing piece of chocolate from two nights ago. I have been on both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes I wish I could put my kids in a bubble before leaving the house. As for the sampling dirt, I won't comment - except to say that pms chocolate cravings make you do sick twisted things. After some intense study and personal experience (I have a preschooler), I have divided germaphobia into four color-coded levels.

Level 1: Sparkling, crisp and clean white (almost transparent)...

Well, this is pretty self explanatory. We will call this guy "Mr. Clean". He wishes his pockets were big enough to hold a box of latex gloves. After a day of fist bumping coworkers to avoid direct contact and multiple hand washes, Mr. Clean drives home clutching his steering wheel coated with sanitizer. He scurries to the door avoiding any possible "gifts" on the walkway from the neighbor's poodle. Right in his foyer, he strips down to his skivvies wincing over the thought of Bob, his co-worker and "personal space invader" sneezing all over his uniform.

While I don't know anyone this extreme, I do have friends who take their work clothes off before entering the house to avoid contamination. Do you seal your TV remote or telephone with zip lock bags? You could be a level white/ transparent.

Level 2: Pure blue... No blending colors on this level

I think this is the level most first time parents are at. For this level we will use "Shirley" the proud new mommy. Hugs and hand shakes are welcome because Shirley keeps a compact bottle of hand sanitizer and wipes in her purse. She vacuums and wipes the counters at least three times a day. As for Fluffy the pet kitty; sorry, animals are no longer allowed on the living room rug, or couch... and definitely NOT the baby's room. Rose, the dear friend with a chronic runny nose is still waiting for that invite to afternoon tea. Rose, don't hold your breath.

We used to have a pet chicken. My son was born during the bird flu scare of 2006. You can probably guess what happened to Lucy (yes, we named the chicken Lucy). She went to a home where she would be loved by someone less paranoid.

Level 3: Rouge (everything is fine and rosie... until snot is present)

This level suits the average level-headed individual. The name "Jane" sounds pretty practical. Jane pushes elevator buttons (even the ones at the mall) and opens doors with out a second thought. She will fearlessly grip a shopping cart when the store is out complimentary antibacterial wipes. The "ten second rule" is stretched to about thirty seconds. Then the snot arrives. Jane pulls out an arsenal of Lysol wipes and spray. The house is quarantined and no one is allowed in or out. For a couple days Jane rethinks her philosophy; but the virus passes and the leniency resumes.

Having a preschooler has put me here. I've seen enough mucus to last me a lifetime; which forced me to loosen up. When my son tells me he would rather put his lips on the water fountain by the play ground at recess than his sealed, germ free juice box all can do is shake my head.

Level 4: Green... or brown if you want to go there (read with caution)

I don't even want to give this one a name, so I will call him "Level 4 guy". This is the bachelor who takes living alone too far. Toilet paper? What for? He has one set of sheets; which might have been white a few years back. He does his furniture shopping at a little place known as the neighborhood dumpster. Level 4 guy does not own a washer/dryer; so he visits the laundry mat down the street... once a year when his mom comes to visit. Level 4 guy's dog is not only a loyal companion; he also does a thorough job of licking the dishes clean. Who needs dish soap, right? Should I go on?

In my youth, I chewed A.B.C (already been chewed) gum off the street because I could never refuse a double dare. You would be amazed at how long "Bubble-Yum" holds its flavor.

Now that I have hit the gross-out button, if anyone is still reading this, I'm curious... what is your color?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Being the frizzy-haired tomboy with buck teeth gave her a slight case of shyness as a kid. A colorful imagination meant escape and adventure at the drop of a hat.

Over the years Elizabeth learned that the insecurities she carried around were a waste of time. She still prefers a football game to a manicure any day of the week. That indispensable imagination has found its way into my writing providing a sense of joy and a true purpose.


Alexander Drake is a curious young man. He lives in a drab, oversized mansion with his secretive father and spends his days playing alone. Where is his mother? And why is his father so tight-lipped about the past?

But secrets have a way of getting out. And a stay at his grandmother's cottage provides strange clues to his father's past. A past Alexander is determined to find out about.

With a mysterious key and several maps in his pack, he sets off on an innocent search for answers about his family.

The discovery of a secret passageway opens the door to dangers, and wonders, unimaginable. And each answer leads to more questions and the journey of his life.

Join Alexander for a thrilling adventure in Azra's Pith, a place of beauty and magic... but beware--something evil lurks in the shadows.

Available at Wild Child Publishing.com.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Hair We Go Again!

Since I'm going to be gone for most of today, I thought I'd post something that makes me laugh so hard I'm wiping tears away.

This came to me in email about three or four years ago. I kept it, and whenever I'm having a really bad day full of tears and anger, I pull this little comedy piece up and laugh.

Some of you may have already read it, but even if you have, it's still good for a belly laugh. I have no idea who the author of this is, so I'm posting it by anonymous.


All hair removal methods have tricked women with their
promises of easy, painless removal - The epilady, scissors, razors, Nair and
now...the wax.

My night began as any other normal weeknight. Come home,
fix dinner, play with the kids. I then had the thought that would ring
painfully in my mind for the next few hours: "Maybe I should pull the
waxing kit out of the medicine cabinet." So I headed to the site of my
demise: the bathroom. It was one of those "cold wax" kits. No melting a
clump of hot wax, you just rub the strips together in your hand, they
get warm and you peel them apart and press them to your leg (or wherever
else) and you pull the hair right off. No muss, no fuss. How hard can
it be? I mean, I'm not a genius, but I am mechanically inclined enough to
figure this out. (YA THINK!?!)

So I pull one of the thin strips out. Its two strips facing each other
stuck together. Instead of rubbing them together, my genius kicks in so
I get out the hair dryer and heat it to 1000 degrees.
”Cold wax," ( yeah...right!) I lay the strip across my thigh. Hold
the skin around it tight and pull. It works! OK, so it wasn't the best
feeling, but it wasn't too bad. I can do this! Hair removal no longer
eludes me! I am She-rah, fighter of all wayward body hair
and maker of smooth skin extraordinary. With my next wax strip I move
north. After checking on the kids, I sneak back into the bathroom, for the
ultimate hair fighting championship. Idrop my panties and place one foot
on the toilet. Using the same procedure, I apply the was strip across the right side
of my bikini line, covering the right half of my vagina and stretching
down to the inside of my butt cheek (Yes, it was a long strip) Iinhale
deeply and brace myself....RRRRIIIPPP!!!!

I'm blind!!! Blinded from pain!!!!....OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!
Vision returning, I notice that I've only managed to pull off half
the strip.


Another deep breath and RRIIPP!! Everything is swirly and
spotted. I think I may pass out...must stay conscious...Do
I hear crashing drums??? Breathe, breathe...OK, back to normal.
I want to see my trophy - a wax covered strip, the one that has caused
me so much pain, with my hairy pelt sticking to it. I want
to revelin the glory that is my triumph over body hair.

I hold up the strip!

There's no hair on it.

Where is the hair???


Slowly I ease my head down, foot still perched on the toilet. I see
the hair. The hair that should be on the strip. I touch. I am touching wax.
CRAP! I run my fingers over the most sensitive part of my body, which
is now covered in cold wax and matted hair.Then I make the next BIG
mistake...remember my foot is still propped upon the toilet?

I know I need to do something. So I put my foot down. DANG!!!!!!!!

I hear the slamming of a cell door.

Vagina? Sealed shut! Butt?? Sealed shut!

I penguin walk around the bathroom trying to figure out what to do and
think to myself "Please don't let me get the urge to poop. My head may
pop off!" What can I do to melt the wax? Hot water!! Hot water melts
wax!! I'll run the hottest water I can stand into the bathtub, get in,
immerse the wax covered bits and the wax should melt and I can gently
wipe it off, right??? WRONG!!!!!!!

I get in the tub - the water is slightly hotter than that
used to torture prisoners of war or sterilize surgical equipment - I sit.
Now, the only thing worse than having your nether regions glued
together is having them glued together and then glued to the bottom of
the tub...in scalding hot water. Which, by the way, doesn't melt cold
wax. So, now I'm stuck to the bottom of the tub as though I had
cement-epoxied myself to the porcelain!! God bless the man who had
convinced me a few months ago to have a phone put in the bathroom!!!!!
I call my friend, thinking surely she has waxed before and has some
secret of how to get me undone. It's a very good conversation starter
-"So, my butt and who-ha are glued together to the bottom of the tub!"

There is a slight pause. She doesn't know any secret tricks for removal
but she does try to hide her laughter from me. She wants to know
exactly where the wax is located, "Are we talking cheeks or hole or
who-ha?" She's laughing out loud by now...I can hear her. I
give her the rundown and she suggests I call the number on
the side of the box. YEAH!!!!! Right!! I should be the joke of someone
else's night. While we go through various solutions. I resort to scraping
the waxoff with a razor. Nothing feels better then to have your girlie
goodies covered in hot wax, glued shut, stuck to the tub in superhot
water and then dry shaving the sticky wax off!! By now the brain is not working, my dignity has taken a major hike and I'm pretty sure I'm going to need Post Traumatic Stress counseling for this event.

My friend is still talking with me when I finally see my
saving grace....the lotion they give you to remove the excess wax.
What do I really have to lose at this point? I rub some on and OH MY GOD!!!!!!! The scream probably woke the kids and scared the dickens out of my friend. It's sooo painful, l but I really don't care. "IT WORKS!! It works!!" I get a hearty congratulation from my friend and she hangs up. To my grief and despair....THE HAIR IS STILL THERE.......ALL OF
IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. So I recklessly shave it off. Heck, I'm numb by now. Nothing hurts. I could have amputated my own leg at this point.

Next week I'm going to try hair color......

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Day I Became The Creature from the Black Lagoon (A mini-memoir)

Barry, our Dos Equis Male and author of The Flight of the Sorceress, is joining us for a second installment of his unique brand of humor. He brought us funny, but poignant, post. This one is takes us back to a simpler time: childhood. Ah... Childhood! The stupid things we do... (grin)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

They were on a scientific quest in the heart of the Amazon and discovered a webbed, hand-like claw. They returned to the States to get more funding, victims, and a girl-friend for the hero. They came back to find that everyone they left in their camp got killed by an amphibious "gill-man" from the Black Lagoon, a paradise from which, inexplicably, no one had ever returned.

With a bunch of fresh scientific meat on the scene, the gill-man, who looks a lot like a humanoid amphibian dunked in used motor oil, gets a chance to kill some more. Conveniently, the girlfriend attracts the attention of the randy gill-man, so that the hero can rescue her, which he does by shooting up the place. It’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

I was among the hundreds of rowdy and sugar-dosed kids stampeding from the summer matinee as if it were the last day of school. Some got rides from waiting parents but the rest of us were simply loosed on the downtown. Pretending to be that creature, or the hero or the damsel in distress, we bumped into pedestrians, relishing our delinquency, the rebukes, the eye-rolls and disgust of the Saturday shoppers as we careened our way toward the bus stop. Little did I know that in just a few weeks, I would be cast into a more realistic version of the Creature, to the utter destruction of a dining experience.

I happened in late August. Hurricane Carol decimated the east coast of the United States, battering the North Shore of Massachusetts, where I grew up, with winds up to 110 mph and extremely strong storm surges. The spire of the Old North Church (Remember Paul Revere’s Ride?) was blown down. Most of the coast was left without power.

My parents decided it might be fun to check out all the destruction. So with my friend Donny, we hopped into our car and drove up the shoreline from Revere to Gloucester, dodging all manner of windswept detritus from broken tree limbs, parts of roofs and shattered glass, to dislodged power lines.

The ocean was luminescent. Roguish waves pounded the shores. The smell of sea salt permeated the air. Clouds swirled in the stormy gray sky. Boats of all kinds, broken free from their moorings, were awash, aground or drifting aimlessly. We stopped at a beach strewn with seaweed and flotsam where I scavenged a heavy brass porthole attached to a piece of superstructure from a sailboat that had been dashed against a cliff and smashed to bits. (As I write this that porthole is barely an arms length away.)

We became hungry. We searched in vain for an open restaurant, but with the blackout most were closed. Finally, we came upon The Big Wheel, a Formica and Naugahyde joint where the food and d├ęcor were in sync. Its red neon sign was blinking on and off. Its lot was full. The Big Wheel was open because it had its own generator.

The kids’ meals came quickly. The adult meals took longer. Relishing the opportunity to dine in peace, my parents released Donnie and me to our own devices. We were both nine— wild, troublesome and unruly. Odds were better than even that we’d be up to no good within minutes, but nevertheless, they took the chance. As we saw it they’d just given us a green light to make mischief.

We soon began pushing and shoving. I got the better of a shove and Donnie came after me. Both of us laughing, I began to run down the slope behind The Big Wheel, through tall un-mowed weeds. It was nearing dusk. Ahead, there looked to be a black paved path amidst the weeds about three feet wide and forty or fifty feet long. Why it began at weeds and ended at weeds, I never considered. I wasn’t processing improbabilities. I was intent on outrunning Donnie. A few strides along this clear path, I thought, and I’d get enough acceleration to blast up the slope on the other side of the restaurant. I’d be way ahead of him by then. He’d never catch me.

I raced onto the path. Plop. Oh! Oh! Plop. Plop. Ker-plop. In three steps, I was up to my neck in black slop. It wasn’t a path at all but some sort of un-fenced grease pit, or maybe, and I don’t like to dwell on this, a cesspool. So let’s call it a “grease pit.” But it was as black as the Black Lagoon and as thick as roofing tar —or a latrine full of shit. I was barely able to keep my mouth shut as the goo sloshed up around my face.

I don’t recall how I managed to extricate myself from this muck, but, according to memory, it was instantaneous. On moment I was nearly submerged, the next I was back in the weeds, covered, head to toe in dripping black gunk. When I held out my arms, foul black stalactites drooped all along their length. Others formed under my chin. Still others hung from my ears. My sneakers squeaked with the suction from this foul brew.

Donnie fell on his side, rolling in laughter. “Wow, you really stink,” he reported, lest I couldn’t smell it for myself. “You look just like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

“So what do I do now?”

“Well, I guess we ought to tell your parents.”

I trudged up the embankment, trailing ooze, Donnie behind me at a safe breathing distance, providing a Greek chorus audio of snickering. When we got to the front of the restaurant and I saw my reflection in a window, backlit by the flashing red neon Big Wheel sign, I couldn’t help but agree. I might just as well have been the star of that movie.

I now had two choices. I could wait outside in disgrace and embarrassment, totally humiliated, or I could play it up big-time. I chose the latter. What the hell.

I entered the restaurant dripping muck. Inside, the smell was quickly overpowering. The waitresses blanched. Customers’ eyes popped. Some held their napkins over their noses. Kids stopped jabbering and stared with disbelief. Babies cried. “I am the creature from the black lagoon,” I roared, gesturing with my goopy black limbs.

My parents’ faces melted to the floor.

“What the hell happened to you?” my father growled.

When I explained, my father turned on the proprietor. “What kind of place are you running here?” he yelled. “You have some kind of un-fenced cesspool right behind your restaurant, where a kid could get killed! What are we supposed to do now? There’s no power. No hot water at home. My son could come down with meningitis or something.”

The dispute went on for a while as I stood near the cash register foul of odor, dripping of muck. People began to vacate the restaurant in large numbers. At last, my parents found a beach blanket in the trunk and bundled me into it for a long and smelly ride home, windows all open. Fortunately, we were a bit behind the times. We still had a back-up water heater that used coal and once the thing got cranking could do about five gallons at a time, every twenty minutes or so. They poured bucket after bucket onto me for what seemed an eternity until the smell was gone. Incredibly, I never got sick.

Donnie did his utmost to make sure the story lingered on. For years kids in the neighborhood would jump out of hiding playing Creature From the Black Lagoon to remind me of my greatest cameo role.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

More about Barry Willdorf:

The Flight of the Sorceress blurb:

As the Roman Empire crumbles, the Catholic Church fills the power vacuum by launching attacks on classical culture. Books are burned. Women are restricted from traditional occupations. The lives of pagans and Jews are imperiled. The Dark Ages loom.

But two women, Glenys, a Celtic herbalist and healer, and Hypatia, teacher, philosopher, mathematician and the last librarian of the great library at Alexandria, resist. Though one is branded a sorceress and the other an idolator, they refuse to submit to the demands of the state-sanctioned religious leaders. Their struggle culminates in the cataclysmic events of Lenten week in 415 A.D.

Can anything be preserved?


Aquae Sulis (Bath), Britannia: Spring 410 A.D.

Glenys was roused from sleep by pounding at the door. It was well past midnight. Concerned that the tumult would awaken the old woman in her care, she gathered her bedclothes about her and stumbled barefoot across the drafty hut with only the light of stars and a waning crescent moon through an open window to guide her. Reaching the door, she pushed aside the hide that covered its peephole to spy the face of a man who had always viewed her with contempt. His ruddy nose glowed by the flickering light of the torch he held. Dank hair matted his forehead. Great beads of sweat clung to his eyebrows and moustache, like raindrops on the eaves of a hut.

His sour odor seeped through the cracks in the door, making her gasp. “What do you want?” she hissed. “It’s late and you’re waking the whole town.”

He was panting heavily and obviously had been running. “Are you Glenys? Glenys, who is the healer?”

“What if I am?”

“I hoped to find you at the baths but Ceallaigh told me to try here.”

“You’re breaching the peace, you know. What is it you want?”

“It’s me, the thatcher. My w…wife,” he sputtered. “Come quickly. She cannot…the baby…is stuck… Please, Lady Glenys, come. We need you.”

Glenys cautiously pulled back the bolt.

The thatcher pushed aside the door and clamped a powerful hand around her wrist. Instinctively, Glenys pulled back but was unable to free herself.

“We do not live far from here,” he blurted before she could protest. “We need your help right away.” Without awaiting her reply, he pulled Glenys down the alley and then through a maze of passages until the shrieks of the mother became audible. Women were standing in doorways, their hands over their mouths, shaking their heads and choking back tears. Men, bleary-eyed, peered over their wives’ shoulders looking worried.

“It’s just right over…here,” the thatcher stuttered, pointing with his torch to a cottage that boasted a door of polished planking and matching shutters, in distinction from those around it—signs of his prosperity. He set the torch in an iron cradle, pulled clumsily at the latch and burst in, Glenys still tightly within his grasp.

A circle of flaming torches illuminated a young girl lying naked on a bed of soiled sheepskins. Shading her eyes from the glare with her free hand, Glenys gazed into terrified blue eyes desperately pleading for succor. She gulped a breath, gagging on the acrid black smoke that hung in the low rafters like a prescient storm cloud and sniffed the sobering odors of urine and of broken water.

As her eyes grew accustomed to the light, Glenys observed that the girl’s tongue had become swollen, likely from dehydration, and now drooped to the side of her contorted mouth as if she were a shipwrecked sailor expiring of thirst.

Her thin child’s legs were splayed wide, knees fully bent, soles flat on the sheepskin. She shivered frightfully.

The image of her mother, who had lovingly taught her the contraceptive secrets of Queen Anne’s Lace and pennyroyal danced before Glenys’ eyes. Glenys unconsciously ran a hand over her mature hip. She’s no more than fourteen years of age. Hardly five years separates us, but it is all the difference.

A gray-haired crone with a misshapen skull and a face as deeply crevassed as the bark on an ancient oak ceased daubing the girl with a wet cloth and squinted at the newcomer. Licking her barren gums with a colorless tongue, she cocked her head and with a gnarled finger gestured at the girl’s vulva. “She’s a small one, she is.”

The girl shrieked.

A second woman, younger than the crone, the girl’s mother, Glenys guessed, put her hands to her temples and began to cry out, “Dear God, dear God.”

Glenys bit hard into her lip to keep from chuckling. The woman’s face appeared to her as an exaggerated pair of pendulous cheeks like sacks of the flour hung from the rump of the miller’s ass. Glenys felt a hot blush of guilt. I am a healer, and this is a matter of life and death. She regained her composure and plucked a torch from the circle.

Holding the fire as close as she dared, she knelt down to examine the girl closely, running educated fingers first along the cervix and then probing further inside. To no one in particular, she reported, “She is ready to deliver but the head’s not engaged. I’m feeling the baby’s rear. It’s breached, and the feet are caught. I’ll try to push the baby back and free its feet.”

The girl screamed again and the muscles of her abdomen tensed.

Glenys pushed away from the child and stretched to relieve her own cramping. She accepted a damp cloth from the old woman, wiped her hands and turned to the thatcher. “Your wife is very young and very small,” she explained. “Unless I’m able to relax her sufficiently so I can free the baby’s feet, they both will surely die.” Failing to make eye contact, she shook her head and addressed the mother. “Even then, I can’t promise success. The baby’s head will come out last. It may be too large for her. If that’s the case, the only thing to do is to cut the baby free.” Again she turned to the husband. “Your wife will certainly die if cutting must be done, but I cannot do it. Just three weeks ago, the vortigern prohibited all women from performing surgery. Perhaps you saw the edict nailed to the door of the old temple? You must summon the physician at once.”

The thatcher’s mouth opened and shut like a netted salmon. Balling his fleshy hands into ham hock fists, he pounded his temples. “The physician . . . cannot . . . be found,” he sputtered. “We looked for him before I came to you.” He fell to his knees and, looking up at the woman towering above, clasped his hands at his chest. “She is only fourteen, Lady Glenys. Only fourteen. Please help her, I beg of you.” The mother too was praying now, her hands pressed together, mouthing the words of a psalm.

Glenys had little hope. She wiped the perspiration from her brow with the sleeve of her nightgown and attended once more to the screaming girl, whose feeble attempts to writhe were being foiled by exhaustion. Absent a miracle, the young girl and her baby were both going to die. Taking an iron key that hung from a cord around her neck, she dangled it and addressed the thatcher, hardly sparing him another look. “How well do you know the baths?”

The thatcher glanced briefly at his mother-in-law before averting his gaze toward the rafters. “Not…”

“…well.” Glenys ventured. “But I am certain you will find it without difficulty. Be quick. This key will open the gate. Go to the great pool. At the far end there’s a hall. The first door you come to will be my treatment chamber. Inside you’ll see shelves. Upon the top shelf, in a blue basket, there you’ll find herbs. The one you are looking for has leaves of dark blue-green and the smell will remind you of a skunk. Bring me that basket in all haste!”

The thatcher snatched the key and rushed from the cottage.

“What herb is that?” asked the old crone.

“A rare herb,” said Glenys. “I obtained it from a Jew in Clausentium who trades with Palestinia. It should relax the girl so that I can manipulate her baby.”

The old woman fussed with the wattle beneath her chin. “From Palestinia, you say? I’ve heard of this herb. You will burn it, yes? The girl will breathe the smoke and lose her senses? Is this the herb?”

Glenys scrutinized the woman before responding. “Perhaps, I’ve not used it before. But this is an emergency and I’ve been told that in Egypt they use this herb for difficult childbirths.”

I hope it’s still there, Glenys prayed silently. With luck, Ceallaigh’s not gotten round to dismantling my chamber yet. But he’s become so erratic... Could it have been just three weeks? So much has changed since that night.

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